Nomos Without Oikos

raphael-the-school-of-athens-detail-plato-aristotleThe language of ideology, as Althusser prophetically noted, is everywhere. It is not only in the dominant institutions, but also in the small private components of our society, those “private institutions” which according to the neo-classical and liberal tradition should assure the plurality of voices and freedom of expression within society.

Within. That’s precisely the point. Not without. The redundancy of the contemporary debate on ideology has only the effect of poisoning the individual’s perception and to make inextricable a very simple and basic concept: ideology is a way of preserving and reproducing the status quo. More specifically, as Althusser always remarks, a way to reproduce the social relations that are at the basis of the particular mode of production of a given society. Ideology is a practical matter that has little to do with ideas or, at least, only a part of it actually has to do with ideas.

Ideology is the code of the culture in which we all pronounce our enunciations; where the individual places him/herself either in conformity or in opposition. Either way, ideology is always presupposed and it actually functions as an operative device which determines the lexicon and the structure of our social, cultural, and economic relationships.

Ideology can not be talked about because it requires the stepping outside of the ideology itself. In this sense, there can be no science of ideology -and perhaps my own enunciation is now getting trapped in the natural redundancy of ideology- but only a sort of ideology of ideology.

This is only an apparent paradox. Ideology is a representation aimed at building a certain kind of subjectivity; a subjectivity capable of finding his dwelling in the existing relationship of production and reproduction of existence. Althusser claims that such a representation is not merely a metaphorical or symbolic translation of the current state of things, but rather the representation of how an individual imagines to relate to the current state of things.

The function of this imaginative work is practical and, from the point of view of ideology, absolutely not deceitful because it speaks in favor of itself. What is deceitful is how we build on the verbal reproduction of our own imaginative relationship to the ideological structure. As a matter of fact we are trapped into the Hegelian logic for which understanding means empowerment: the more we know, the freer we are. Yet, the language of understanding is the abstract language of the dominant ideology. The problem surrounding money -as instrument of the “hoax” of equation, and as false objective quantification- is the most glaring example.

Economy has become the search for a Nomos (law) without an Oikos (inhabit): economics has thus become the re-appropriation in abstract terms of a logic that does not pertain anymore to the existence of the individual.

The mistake that the majority of people make is to believe that, by explaining and to reduce to simple terms the complexity of the numbers of contemporary finance, the individual is empowered with understanding and becomes thus able to see by himself where the ship of the State should be steered. This is an illusion that helps only the dominant ideology to gain more power precisely because it speaks the same language.

The first important step is to refuse to understand in their own terms; to refuse to understand their own formulation of the problem.  One thing is to accept the terms of their formulation and counter them with a complete different language, another thing is to sit down, so to speak, and negotiate on the meaning of their language.

The dialectical method (the one closer to a trans-critique, rather than the one of Hegelian origin) is not a bargaining. The dialectical method -the only one possible today- is the one that opposes the oikos to the nomos, the dwelling of the existence to the abstraction of the notion. The dialectics should break economic as we know it today and reset its language. Only by finding a way out in the form of ideology we can begin exiting the dominant representation of social relations. We can’t be without ideology but we can exit one by dismantling the abstract apparatus that turns the concrete (i.e. what has empirical relations) in the passive acceptance of the nomos.

Knowing does not always require a demonstration, and demonstration does not always prove something to be true. We should rebuild an aesthetics as simple totality of the experiences, of the sensuous perceptions: a form of oikos, of dwelling, not understood as an art, but as a presence, as a factual position in the concrete relations of existence.


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