A few thoughts, prompted by the dispiriting act of choosing cosmopolitan austerity over nationalistic austerity in the UK referendum:
- Our perception of transformative possibilities is culturally constructed. Certain ranges of possibility are foregrounded and others backgrounded. Our sense of viability is the most cognitive dimension to this, informed by implicit and explicit ontological assumptions about how the social world works. But perceived transformative possibilities are also shaped by much less conscious factors, ranging from the cultural raw materials with which we conceive of the future to the futurity entailed by conditions of our everyday lives.
- Nonetheless, what concerns us are real possibilities inherent in actually existing states of affairs. The succeptabilty of social formations to transformative change reflects a complex constellation of causal factors: some serving to reproduce the existing social order and others latently contributing to its potential transformation.
- It’s because of this complexity that transformative horizons elude the ambitions of any one corporate agency. The very fact of different socially transformative and reproductive projects means that the social change that does occur is inevitably characterised by unintended consequences.
- This chaotic character of social change too rarely finds itself considered in the cultural construction of transformative horizons. Instead, we think and dream in terms of collective agents carrying forth projects of change, rather than of change as something resulting chaotically from the clashes between such collective agents in circumstances not of their choosing.
- Wilful withdrawl from this complexity can be read psychoanalytically as a refusal of the Real. What I’m describing (ontologically) as the chaotic nature of social change has its (epistemic) corollary in the fact that real horizons of possibility elude our capacity to fully symbolise or conceptualise them.
- This is why dreaming of possible worlds or refusing Utopianism is so psychically charged: we fall into a tendency to over symbolise or under symbolise Real horizons of change because of the affective dilemmas involved in a continual engagement with reality, negotiating between what is and what could be.
- The materiality of our action means that these negotiations between what is and what could be are themselves contributions to the reproduction or transformation of social formations. The landscape is continually changing as we are orientating ourselves within it.