Citations from Austerity Apparatus

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On the Austerity Subject; Anxiety

The austerity apparatus has produced its own subject. The austerity subject, the capitalist social being whose social consciousness is determined by the operations of the apparatus that called it into existence. The austerity subject accepts the state of anxiety as a fact of nature and believes that its solution is to be found either in emergency or social peace. The austerity subject is either fascist or social democrat. Page 83.

The austerity subject is not a total subject but only a facade that is cobbled together from the ideological detritus accumulated by the day-to-day functioning of the austerity apparatus. It is a subject position, rather than a subject that possesses complete unification between being and consciousness, that over codes other subjectivities that lurk within capitalism as a whole. Hence, it can be both the liberal and conservative subject, the rebellious and faithful subject, the would-be communist and the crypto-fascist. [...] The machine produces a normative subjectivation, but no subjection is total; there is always something within every human being that remains underdetermined. And the normative subjectivation of the austerity apparatus is even less complete than other subject-orders, because, at this stage in the capitalist state of affairs, it is becoming difficult for the entire system to maintain its hegemony. Page 84.

The subject position produced by the austerity apparatus is one that, if it does recognize the limitations of the entire system, will remain within the orbit of this machine despite its complaints. It is an austere position because it strictly limits its behaviour to the boundaries the austerity apparatus intends to protect. Page 85.

[...] The austerity subject is not inaugurated in the same manner as other subjects because its interpellation is caught within a vacillation between a state of social peace and a state of emergency. It is a subject unsure of itself; this is both its strength and its weakness. Page 86.

On the concrete level of class what is actually happening during this moment of crisis—the very thing the austerity apparatus intends to prevent by producing a particular subjectivation—is the possible reproletarianization of a first world working class. In order to prevent the masses from recognizing themselves as proletarian (that is, as a political class), the austerity subject is constructed and valorized. [...] capitalism has always had ideological apparatuses that functioned so as to prevent the working class from recognizing itself as a political class; it is an error to mistake these top-down subjectivations as proof of the non-existence of the proletarian-bourgeoisie antimony that forms the basis of revolutionary class struggle. Page 89.

The austerity subject, be it progressive or reactionary, seeks solidarity on the basis of austerity ideology. A subject requires solidarity so as to be a subject; it demands that others recognize the state of anxiety upon which its social being, and thus its consciousness, is dependent. Page 90.

With austerity proffered as the primary enemy, solidarity is understood as that which challenges austerity policies regardless of the politics of this challenge. Austerity becomes a stand-in for capitalism itself; the united front becomes the limit of radicalism. Page 90.

For the austerity subject who wears left clothing, the practice of militant politics is frightening. Anything that draws lines of demarcation so as to enforce a political order violates the solidarity of the same that the austerity subject, who is always a liberal subject, desires to enforce. Page 94.

[...] fascism, being its own radical political order (a radical political order of reaction) will also and militantly draw demarcating lines; this is why, when it is pursued by conscious fascist subjects, it is effective—it knows what it is doing, it pursues its politics in a committed and coherent manner. But fascism has also required liberal subjects who, in their desire to enforce a given state of affairs, are too anxious to combat it with anti-fascist militancy. Page 94.

Being an anxious subject, the austerity subject's fascist position is qualified as its social democratic position. Affected by a default liberalism it is only fascist insofar as it faces the fascist solution to the state of anxiety in which it finds its subjective meaning. Its fascism is apologetic, a pretence at not being fascist just as its progressive variant pretends it does not really endorse a state of social peace. Still worried by social commitments, concerned more with damage control than the endorsement of a coherent political line, the austerity subject who faces the state of emergency also claims that this position is one of realism, the only solution to the crisis-as-state-of-nature. Page 95.

The normative anxiety of the austerity subject is due to the fact that the age of austerity is simultaneously an age of anxiety. The state of anxiety is, after all, the state that capitalist machines enter during moments of crisis: the welfare state, dependent on imperialist equilibrium, suddenly discovers that its stability is not eternal and desperately desires stability to return despite a crisis that is revealing that its order is built on sand. The solution is either a return to the social democracy promised by welfare capitalism or the monolithic capitalism promised by fascism—both the state of social peace and the state of emergency are moments of capitalist stability. Page 96.

In this age of anxiety, commonplace at the imperialist metropoles experiencing crisis, the austerity subject is a cipher for liberal confusion. After decades of being socialized and disciplined according to imperialist privilege and the culture industry, anxiety emerges from the cracks opened by crisis. A worry that things cannot continue in the same manner, that something must be done to save the belle époque. Page 96.

Hence the austerity apparatus and its subjective order. The middle-ground between emergency and social peace is opened, a confused and vague epistemological universe where both fascism and welfare capitalism are equally possible and not-possible. A commitment to nothing but capitalism's destined austerity which can mean, simultaneously, a fight for a return to social peace or descent into emergency. If the austerity apparatus and its subjects attempt to keep this middle way hegemonic for as long as possible it is only because the state of emergency is slowly appearing more appealing the longer all attempts to reinstate social peace result in dismal failures. Page 97.

Out of anxiety, governments debate about if and when to institute procedures associated with states of emergency (i.e. surveillance and anti-terrorist laws, criticism of the police as 'hate speech'), and out of the same anxiety citizens hem-and-haw about the possible curtailment of civil liberties, but eventually the possibility of these laws creeps into the state of affairs. Anxious subjects complain but adapt. The austerity apparatus promotes the new normal; its subjects anxiously acclimatize. Page 97.

The root of the state of anxiety is the chaos implicit in this period of capitalist crisis. When this chaos, the result of capitalism's current state of entropy, is apprehended by the austerity subject the only response is anxiety. In some ways a return to the state of social peace is forbidden due to the point reached by capitalism's decay—such a state of affairs would be qualified, the environmental devastation will not allow such a perfect return. In other ways, the reactionary desire for a state of emergency will not resemble the fascisms of old: the contemporary states of emergency, an anxious possibility, will be armageddon fascisms, what Biel has called exterminism, where entropic chaos is embraced and a privileged few kept safe in gated communities. Page 98.

What is most significant about this state of affairs and its chaotic/entropic foundation is the denial that allows for the austerity subject to perceive chaos in an anxious rather than terrified manner. [...] Denial that capitalism possesses clear limits, that its logic demands environmental collapse, is part of the everyday functioning of the austerity apparatus: this is, after all, an apparatus that functions to deny the limits of capitalism by imposing limits on its subjects. Such a denial worms its way into the heart of the austerity subject who, faced with the obvious excess of capitalism, is being conditioned to apprehend capitalism's entropy as a moment of anxiety. Page 98-99.