Welfare Discipline: Discourse, Governance, and Globalization

By Sanford F. Schram | Go to book overview
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1 The Truth of
Globalization Discourse
A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

“[T]he moment one seriously questions the existing liberal consensus, one is
accused of abandoning scientific objectivity for the outdated ideological
positions. This is the point that one cannot and should not concede: today,
actual freedom of thought must mean the freedom to question the predominant
liberal-democratic postideological consensus—or it means nothing.… Lenin’s
wager—one that is today, in our era of postmodern relativism, more relevant
than ever—is that universal truth and partisanship, the gesture of taking sides,
are not only not mutually exclusive but condition each other. In a concrete
situation, its universal truth can only be articulated from a thoroughly partisan
position; truth is by definition one-sided.”

—Slavoj Žižek, “A Plea for Leninist Intolerance,” Critical Inquiry 28, 2 (Winter 2001):
542–66.

Avery capable student once reminded me that when she asked in class how I define “truth,” I lamely replied that the truth was at best… “mushy.” More than fifteen years later, the former student attended a lecture I gave at a university in the metropolitan region where she had moved. Her children now grown, she was seeking to reconnect to her academic past. Her attendance in part prompted my revisiting the truth question. I began by quoting Slavoj Žižek. Now the truth was no longer mushy but, perhaps no more reassuring, it had become… “one-sided.”

If anyone is looking for consistency in my thinking, I guess we can say that I remained against “truth,” at least as it is often characterized, as objective and independent of human intervention. (I recognize that this might not entirely be the case for Žižek, whose own version of Marx’s dialectical materialism is centered on an understanding of universal truth that finds, at its most profound level, the abyss to be, paradoxically, a real absence present in our lives.) Instead, the truth remains for me best understood as an artifact of discourse. In other words, truth, whatever it may be ultimately, is, for humans, apprehensible first and foremost as a discursive practice. Bracketing the ultimate nature of truth, I prefer to situate my truth-studies in the

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