Jodi Dean: Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies: Communicative Capitalism and Left Politics

By Neelakandan, Sanil Malikapurath | Capital & Class, October 2012 | Go to article overview

Jodi Dean: Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies: Communicative Capitalism and Left Politics


Neelakandan, Sanil Malikapurath, Capital & Class


Jodi Dean

Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies: Communicative Capitalism and Left Politics, Durham, NC, Duke University Press, 2009; 232 pp: 9780822345053 (pbk) 14.99 [pounds sterling]

Leftist assertions in different parts of the world are confronting capitalistic and imperialistic forces through their convoluted political interventions. The specificity of any leftist assertion is under question due to the resuscitating forms of identity politics which emerged through leftist inertia on the historicised understanding of exploitation based on gender, race, ethnicity, caste, sexuality and so on. At the same time, proliferation of communicative media, too, challenges the nature of the left in a significant manner. This book provides a reflexive take on the left in the USA during George Bush's regime and the global war on terror.

The first chapter is an interesting reading of the role of how communicative capitalism justifies neoliberal interests by propagating a culture of democracy. The 'left' in the USA, for Jodi Dean, failed to critically engage with the politics of the Bush regime and capitalistic crisis. According to Dean, this political crisis of the left is embedded within the electoral transitions that are driven by communicative capitalism, which includes the 'materialisation of ideals of inclusion participation in information, entertainment' and communicative technologies that accelerate 'global capitalism' (p. 2). She argues that the parts of the left that deployed communication media only achieved the circulation of the messages, failing to construct any message that was essential for the leftist critique, and that could transcend the media (p. 20). The change that is anticipated through this particular political practice is reduced to the field of the media. Thus, it resulted in 'deadlock democracy', which is incompetent in producing any major political insurrection (p. 22). Paradoxically, the ascribed and much celebrated revolutionary potentials of peer-to-peer publishing became vital in structuring forms of ownership (p. 27). It determines the 'technological fetish' through 'condensation', 'displacement' and 'denial' (pp. 38-41). Condensation, Jodi Dean writes 'occurs when technology fetishism reduces the complexities of politics--of organisation, struggle, duration, decisiveness, division, representation and so on--to one thing, one problem to be solved and one technological solution' (p. 34). The next form of displacement, for Jodi Dean, displaces the political will based on industrious mobilisation of people to that of 'networked communication strategies' (p. 40). This media-based dialogue with politics cannot replace the genuine energy of forging potential political solidarities and praxis. The final form is 'denial', which encompasses denial of the 'failure of democracy', 'inability to secure justice', and operates through the circulation of information and registering peoples' opinion. Thus, the internet, as a space of communicative capitalism, operationalises itself within the 'networked transactions' of global capitalism (p. 43). lt revives the 'global', and Dean asserts that this phase leads to the access of a privileged section of people to neoliberalism-driven media technologies; simultaneously, their appropriation and cultural capital related to those technological forms acts as an obstacle for the fruition of political determinations.

The second chapter, entitled 'Free trade: The neoliberal fantasy', probes the way neoliberalism produces inversions in the subject positions of leftist political practices. Drawing on a Zizekian reading of Lacan's psychoanalysis, Dean delineates the construction of the fantasy of free trade through the neoliberal ideology. She recovers the ideas of Zizek in a productive fashion. Thus the left, for Dean, is caught in a quandary that emerged out of the lack of collectivities related to problems that affect people and also share the retrogressive paradigm of 'there is no alternative' (p.

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