The systemic crisis and the Sublime

As I have discussed in previous blog posts, there is a severe ideological crisis among the neoliberal right. Since neoliberal ideology is at the root of the present systemic crisis, the whole of the state needs to be under the looking glass alongside the liberals themselves.

A state, as a system doesn’t exist only as a physical structure of politicians, parliament, officials, authorities and bureaucrats. It also is to a significant degree a construct of ideology, which is shared by all who interact with it. In a foucaultian sense, we imprison ourselves inside the construct of the state.

It is important to note that the construct of state is perceived as one that has benefits for those who join in it. In pre-modern Nordic societies the worst judicial punishment was not capital punishment, but being outlawed, put outside the context of society which in effect made you a non-person in eyes of the authorities, the state and the law. It is important to note that this pre-modern state was far less oppressive and far less involved with controlling its inhabitants (inhabitants because the concept of citizen is one that did not truly exist.) Conversely, the modern state to significant degrees is a source of necessary services and welfare for those who inhabit it. The increased role of control has been accepted by almost all since the latter half of the 19th Century, because in an European context, there existed the recognition, even among conservatives such as von Bismarck, that the state does have a need to provide for its citizens, both to ensure the continued existence of the state and the continued privilege of those in power.

It could be argued that for the first time, the European states managed to then create a state truly inbued with the Sublime, elevating the construct of state beyond a simple machinery of open violence against the population. It did much to curb revolutionary tendencies, because not even the communists of the early 20th century who revolted against burgeoise authority all across Europe, saw that the state itself should be done away with.

The element of the Sublime present now made matters far easier for those in power, since it was the first time when even revolutionary forces often found themselves at odds with the benefits of the present condition. A pre-Welfare State provides no true benefit for its population, but now the state did do so. In many ways, post-WW2 Finland is a perfect example of this, where revolutionary communism remained a fringe phenomena, since for the most part, there was no great advantage to revolt and take a leap into the unknown.

Now, the situation has changed significantly. The events of 1989 and 1991 imbued the neoliberal right with an amazing hubris, where they saw themselves the only natural leaders of the state, along with the rest of the world, and proclaimed the End of History. Yet, history did not end. Instead, they managed to forget the earlier lesson of Bismarck and 1848: a state that does not provide any benefit for its citizens is fundamentally an unstable state. Note: from here on, I am discussing the specifics of the Finnish situation.

The Sublime element of the ideology of the state is what keeps discord in check, for now. When tens of thousands show up for protests and those in power do not need to fear them, it is the amazing power of the Sublime at work. When protestors outnumber the total amount of policemen in the entire state, only the power of the Sublime, which keeps them from acting out their desires, protects those in power. Yet, ironically, this power is not often recognized by those in power.

And naturally, the reason for that is that those in power have a rather less developed view of the state as an entity. In a neoliberal context, there exists no analysis of what the state is in itself, it is more viewed like a tool for those privileged few who control it. This is clearly shown when those in power privatize public property for the benefit of capitalist investors and themselves. Some partake in these politics for the sake of pure ideology, since they have no grasp of any viable alternative. Some do it for simple greed.

However, there is a systemic crisis at work, one that runs deep and one that cannot be prevented. Overall, the last 20 years have seen an utter collapse of party membership figures and political power in a parliamentary system always lies in the hands of the parties. Parties as mass movements do in themselves contain an element of the Sublime, since their legitimacy lies in representing vast swathes of the population. They might have always been vehicles for cronyism and in case of the Left, a system for reaping the benefits of Finnish state capitalism, but they were seen as legitimate actors.

The shrinking parties face a crisis they have no concept of, the collapse of the parties as legitimate actors. It is not happening today and not tomorrow, but it is almost certain that it will happen. Even now, basic party functions are plagued by the fact that there are not enough volunteers to get things done on a local level.

The neoliberal legalist morals are also undermining the legitimacy of the state, which is well seen in the racist handling of the refugee crisis and the cycle of criticism and counter-criticism against state policies towards refugees. The cycle goes thusly: the critics of the government say what you are doing is wrong and you are sending people to their deaths but the reply of the counter-criticists is always the same, We are doing what is legal and authorities have to obey the law. But now, something very interesting is happening. More and more people reply to that The law is wrong and recognize that there is no chance under the present system to change the law, since all parties are in favor of racist immigration laws. Some more and some less, but all are fundamentally in favor of those. The appeals of the opposition to vote for them instead of the parties in power sound hollow, because most of the opposition is in favor of strictly controlled immigration.

And as for the authorities, the blatant hypocrisy of the police is obvious to everyone not on the side of the government. Hate crimes go uninvestigated while the police claims to take things seriously, but even for the most conventional people, there is a tipping point where they realize that the police are not achieving anything, not because they try and fail, but because they simply do not care about crimes against common citizens. And so on and so on.

The ugly truth is that for neoliberal hubris, the time is running out, one way or another. The element of the Sublime can be introduced through the nationalist far right, but as of now, it has failed here because the far right are tainted by their association with government politics.

There is a frightening tendency to ignore a systemic crisis up until the absolute tipping point, when the crisis is fully realized. Unfortunately, the neoliberal ideology doesn’t actually offer a solution for its adherents, when the ideology fails to be embraced by an increasing plurality among the population. Thus, the ideological crisis where the neoliberals reject reality itself and try to appease their own inner desires by growing ever more neoliberal. Neoliberal ideology also does not even have the capacity to ask the question of can the system fail? 

Increasing austerity kills the benefits of taking part in the system of state, since the general population sees their possibilities of getting forward in life slipping away. They ask for better health care and better schools, but all they get is more privatization and less and less for the taxes they pay. So dies the element of the Sublime and with it the structure of the state.

What happens next is anyone’s guess, but all that is certain is that within the political system there lies no answers for the crisis.

The systemic crisis and the Sublime

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