The New Realism

Daniel Avatar

How much of your work as an activist is tethered to the whims of keeping the status quo together? If we take the line of thought (which I do) that those who are seeking to preserve the status quo are the new idealists then we ought to check our so called idealism, and give ourselves more credit. Perhaps even identify our work of envisioning a new world the work of a new type of realism.

For example, it dawned on me recently, and someone could chart this empirically, that funding (from liberal charities) to promote tolerance and lessen backlash towards minorities and immigrants is directly tied to stabilizing the ebbs and flows of free range capitalism, and not towards promoting a more substantive shift in relations. i.e. How much of our work is seeking to stabilize the status quo vs. change it?

So there is a new kind of realism in one sense, not the kind of realism prevalent in international relations, but a kind of realism that operates on a theory of how social change occurs, not a realism that purports to encompass the ways in which human nature and systems ought to interact with one another. In the context of spontaneous uprisings, protests, and occupations of public spaces such as Occupy Wall Street, we frame these movements as led by dreamers and utopian.

As the French philosopher Alain Badiou argues, they are realist. The realist is the one who is continually pressing the system for a crack, a rupture, or break with the state of things as such, while the utopian idealists are the ones that insist on remaining with the status quo.

One response

  1. Dr

    As zizek has put it: they are the dreamers, they believe that the system can keep functioning the way it is.

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