Critchley on Obama

Nov 16, 2008 by

Obama’s victory marks a symbolically powerful moment in American history, defined as it is by the stain of slavery and the fact of racism. It will have hugely beneficial consequences for how the United States is seen throughout the world. His victory was also strategically brilliant and his campaign transformed those disillusioned with and disenfranchised by the Bush administration into a highly motivated and organized popular force. But I dispute that Obama’s victory is about change in any significant sense.

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(h/t: Micah White)

  • jbraun

    A tad predictable – I was just waiting for folks to start writing articles like this. I mean, surprise, surprise, someone isn’t ‘left’ enough to be truly transformative. Politics turns out, once again, to be impossible. Blah blah blah. The appeal to Badiou is icing on the cake. All we need now is a Zizek article arguing with a characteristic Zizek twist that despite appearances, Obama will be more conservative than Bush.

    Where’s Rorty when we need him?

    (yes, I know he’s passed)

  • Daimon


    I think you’re missing the point. Both Critchley and Zizek are merely pointing out that despite Obama’s transformative approach to contemporary politics and his idealism, he won’t be able to change the ‘system’ radically enough for it to amount to any substaintual change.

    Rorty’s appeal to romanticism, is just that, idealism. Idealists cannot change the materialist conditions of society, even though they may believe in change, even though they may hold the idea of social change true to their hearts, they have to go further and change the system itself.

    So while many on the far left do critisize Obama in saying that he won’t be able to bring about any real-much needed material change, I think they’re right. Obama will do what he can within 4-8 years, but if he is serious about actual social change, he needs to realize that merely perpetuating the American Dream isn’t enough.

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