Friday, August 22, 2003

The desert of the real
The irony at the heart of Michael R. Taylor's commentary in Nature Biotechnology, discussed just below, is this, as he writes:
biotechnology will fulfill its full potential in a society only if it is freely chosen by that society. The United States should be on the side of empowering choice.
Indeed it (we?) should. But the logic of late capitalism requires the annihilation of the liberal democratic idealogy that is alleged to nurture it. We have to force people to eat food they don't want to maintain our system of agricultural subsidies, Monsanto's growth, our trade deficit, etc.

Slavoj Zizek discussed this in a great interview with Doug Henwood:

In years to come, the global capitalist 'system' will have to curtail democracy... The system will be more and more obliged to break its own rules.
This erosion of democracy is based on arguments from "neutral knowledge," "matters of security," and so on.
My eternal trump card is torture -- can you even imagine the topic of torture being considered legitimate 2-3 years ago?
[paraphrased from the audio]. There is an increasingly obvious disjuncture between what "the system" claims it stands for, and what it actually stands for. In Iraq -- regardless of the pieties raining down from Washington -- it is clear, and it always has been, that democracy would be disastrous for the national interests of the U.S.

Likewise, the maintenance of our agricultural false consciousness requires that we deny consumers the choice we claim to be giving them -- even requires, in Indra Vasil's astonishing demand below, that we abolish the very regulatory system that is the allegedly infallible guarantor of the desireability of the food that no one wants. "Neutral knowledge" no longer suffices.

Zizek thinks this might be a good thing, but I am not so sure. The WTO (which the US and EU are cynically trying to eviscerate even in the midst of their "disputes") is simply being replaced with even more punishing bilateral agreements -- see this entry and this one.

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