On Resisting Left Melancholy

The following is a series of notes on Wendy Brown’s 1999 article ‘Resisting Left Melancholy’.[1]

Page 19

“For the last two decades, cultural theorist Stuart Hall has insisted that the ‘crisis of the Left’ is due neither to internal divisions in the activist or academic Left nor to the clever rhetoric or funding schemes of the Right. Rather, he has charged, this ascendancy is consequent to the Left's own failure to apprehend the character of the age and to develop a political critique and a moral-political vision appropriate to this character. For Hall, the rise of the Thatcher-Reagan Right was a symptom rather than a cause of this failure.”

This is Wendy Brown’s interpretation of Stuart Hall's chief argument concerning the crisis of the left.[2] Is a pitfall of Hall’s thought the conflation of political critique and moralism? Is this too much a humanist concern or has Althusserian anti-humanism been consigned to the dustbin of ideas as too teleological, Hegelian, or ‘deterministic’? The assumption here is that there is a firm ethico-political bind at play in the very eidos of leftism. The emergence of Neoliberalism can be thought of a symptom of the left's failure, which can be agreed with even if one disagrees with Hall’s overall position.

Page 19-20

“The Left's dismissive or suspicious attitude toward cultural politics is for Hall a sign not of its unwavering principles but of its anachronistic habits of thought and its fears and anxieties about revising those habits.”

Now perhaps we see the reverse of this, the Left has a preoccupation with cultural politics by its intersection to identity. Oddly, perhaps, its lack of ethico-political vision, a requirement for the left according to Hall, was replaced with a heightened sense of Moralistic politics alone, which is fundamentally a different phenomenon to a fully considered ethico-political vision, whereby human emancipation sits at its forefront of aspiration and hankering. A certain turn onto a cultural axis, promoted by Hall and the cultural theorists at the end of the last century, ultimately came at the expense of any materialist political or economic consideration (be it dialectical or otherwise), throwing us into era of idealist and ideational politics whereby emancipatory concern is of a paralleled sort – of our ideational as opposed to material existence. ‘Those habits’ I believe is a signification to the economic, materialist approach of most classical leftists. The issue we now face is that the left cannot re-return to such a classical mode of leftist economic and materialist theorising without repeating the same failures, or of even escaping such failures within the leftist psyche and imaginary.

Page 20

“Indeed, he [Benjamin] had a well-developed appreciation of the productive value of acedia, sadness, and mourning for political and cultural work, and in his study of Charles Baudelaire, Benjamin treated melancholia itself as something of a creative wellspring. But left melancholy is Benjamin's unambivalent epithet for the revolutionary hack who is, finally, attached more to a particular political analysis or ideal-even to the failure of that ideal-than to seizing possibilities for radical change in the present.”

Here, Brown emphasises that Benjamin’s grasp of melancholia is as a critical theoretical and political force or emotional phenomenon. Once again, in Benjamin's analysis we see the inter-relation with time itself. In this case, it is the attachment to a particular mode of analysis, ideal or past potentiality (of slipping into idealism perhaps, even if it is a Marxian one), as opposed to seizing the present for the sake of future. I wonder the extent to which the notion of superabundance within the work of some postcapitalist, Left Automation and Accelerationist theorists, such as in the case of Bastani’s  ‘Fully Automated Luxury Communism’, is part and parcel, or rather just symptomatic, of such a melancholia?[3] Does Philip Cunliffe's ‘Lenin Lives!’ - discussing a counter-factual parallel world of 2017 whereby the Bolshevik dream came to fruition - signify a certain sense of left melancholy?[4] If this is so, does any pining reflection of the past constitute ‘left melancholy’? This for instance is something we only see superficially in the work Zizek (when he speaks about Stalin and The Soviet Union etc.), whereas, actually, in his discussion of 'the commons' in relation to contemporary technology, or even in relation to his grasp and skepticism of horizontalism, Zizek is firmly in the present, riding the tensions between a wholly vanguard-centric Leninism and the decentred, network character of horizontalism.

“It signifies, as well, a certain narcissism with regard to one's past political attachments and identity that exceeds any contemporary investment in political mobilization, alliance, or transformation.”

Brown discusses this in relation to Benjamin’s noted for The Arcades Project, published by Gary Smith in his edited volume on Benjamin.[5] Brown highlights several passages that are significant; I list them here in relation to their page number in the edited volume. Equally, for the sake of clarity, Benjamin’s words are placed in italics for emphasis alongside distinction from my own thoughts.

p. 49

“It isn't that the past casts its light on the present or the present casts its light on the past: rather, an image is that in which the Then (das Gewesene) and the Now (das Jetzt) come into a constellation like a flash of lightning. In other words: image is dialectics at a standstill. For while the relation of the present to the past is a purely temporal, continuous one, the relation of the Then to the Now is dialectical - not development but image [,] leaping forth (sprunghaft). -Only dialectical images are genuine (i.e., not archaic) images; and the place one happens upon them is language. *Waking*” [N 2a, 3]

pp. 51-52

“Can it be that awakening is the synthesis whose thesis is dream conscious ness and whose antithesis is consciousness? Then the moment of awakening would be identical with the ‘Now of recognizability,’ in which things put on their true - surrealistic - face. Thus, in Proust, the importance of staking the whole of life on its ultimate dialectical breaking point - the moment of awakening. Proust starts out with the presentation of the space of someone waking up.” [N 3a, 3]

p. 52

“In the dialectical image, the pastness of a particular epoch is always also ‘things as they always have been.’ As such, though, at times it comes into view only at a very specific epoch: that is, the epoch in which humanity, rubbing its eyes, suddenly recognizes the dream image as such. It is at that point that the historian takes on the task of dream interpretation.” [N 4, 1] Freud comes to the fore here as significant, engaging in the 'dream-work' - this is how it connects back to Mark Fisher’s work on both Capitalist Realism and Postcapitalist Desire.

“The irony of melancholia, of course, is that attachment to the object of one's sorrowful loss supersedes any desire to recover from this loss, to live free of it in the present, to be unburdened by it.”

Perhaps this is the task of the left, i.e., to learn how to overcome its past failings, as opposed to being defined by them in a melancholic sense, and this will allow for its unburdening, at least to some degree? This perhaps my only come to be through an ontological or epistemological rupture of sorts?

“In Freud's 1917 meditation on melancholia, he reminds us of a second singular feature of melancholia: It entails ‘a loss of a more ideal kind [than mourning]. The object has not perhaps actually died, but has been lost as an object of love.’”

Therefore, there is a distinction in Freud between 'death' and 'loss' as far as melancholia is concerned. Indeed, perhaps in this case, loss as an object of love is less traversable as an obstacle of melancholy than death is, because of its lack of finality and reality that death entails. ‘Loss’ entails within it the notion of the potential return, of 'the found', that outcomes can be adapted.

Page 21

“Now why would Benjamin use this term [left melancholy], and the emotional economy it represents, to talk about a particular formation on and of the Left? Benjamin never offers a precise formulation of left melancholy. Rather, he deploys it as a term of opprobrium for those more beholden to certain longheld sentiments and objects than to the possibilities of political transformation in the present.”

I think that Brown here presents an excellent explanative summary of Benjamin's 'Left Melancholy' in a single sentence, eschewing out the manner in which Benjamin sought its use.

“In his critique of Erich Klistner, a left-wing poet from the Weimar Republic, in which he first coins the phrase ‘left melancholy,’ Benjamin suggests that sentiments themselves become things for the left melancholic who ‘takes as much pride in the traces of former spiritual goods as the bourgeois do in their material goods’.”[6]

Here we see the left melancholic fetishism of 'the former' in a mirrored way that the Bourgeoisie fetishize commodities. Perhaps, in this way, this is part of the road to grasping the 'internal conservatism' quietly at rest in leftism broadly. This we see from Marx's concern that the Bourgeoisie enforce an exchange of wage for labour that does not conform to the Bourgeoisie's own capitalist laws of exchange and the lament that comes with this,[7] to the conservatism of Leninists who sought to 'protect the revolution',[8] to the Critical Theorists[9] and their bemoaning of what is lost to the capitalist Culture Industry in its attempt to recreate, what in strict Althusserian terms is known as, the Ideological and Repressive State Apparatus,[10] to even Fisher and the Postcapitalist thinkers, perhaps, who seek not necessarily a return but certainly a re-ignition of our capacity to imagine and dream an alternative; that another world is possible, a capacity that once existed and can be seen in the rhetoric that Fisher himself uses in the instance that he claims the throws of Neoliberalism brought this capability or capacity to an end, and so our task is to re-ignite the potential to imagine once again – if possible.[11] This is of course not the case if I have read Fisher correctly, and his claim is more descriptive than prescriptive, i.e. that such melancholy is to be avoided, that capitalist realism = the inability to dream beyond itself (descriptive alone) and that we must act/think/theorise in some manner so to regain our imaginative capabilities for the sake of another possible world coming onto the horizon (prescriptive).

Pp. 21-22

“Left melancholy, in short, is Benjamin's name for a mournful, conservative, backward-looking attachment to a feeling, analysis, or relationship that has been rendered thing-like and frozen in the heart of the putative leftist.”

Maybe, in relation to my comment above, this is not a trait of certain modes of leftism, but a central character of its very phenomenon?

P. 22

“And on the backs of these losses are still others: We are without a sense of an international, and often even a local, left community; we are without conviction about the truth of the social order; we are without a rich moral-political vision to guide and sustain political work. Thus, we suffer with the sense of not only a lost movement but a lost historical moment; not only a lost theoretical and empirical coherence but a lost way of life and a lost course of pursuits.”

Perhaps it is not the project that divides us, but the project of overcoming out melancholia? How we act in the future in relation to our past, this may be the dividing feature? This site is that of 'the dialectical image' according to Benjamin, and so this could be the root of left division in the world as it stands. Is a loss of movement always a loss of moment? Like a clock losing its motion, it loses its ability to 'keep time'. When a clock comes to an abrupt motionlessness, 'the moment' in time is unaccounted for, literally lost to potential record – both Kairos and Kronos dissolve.[12]

“But in the hollow core of all these losses, perhaps in the place of our political unconscious, is there also an unavowed loss - the promise that left analysis and left commitment would supply its adherents a clear and certain path toward the good, the right, and the true?”

This is perhaps the biggest loss of all: that the promise of emancipation either (a) dissipated in its failure on the levels of ethics, moral action, aesthetics and epistemology; and/or (b) slipped into the inverse of emancipation, forging further suffering to human development on both individual and systemic levels, being hijacked by a certain 'will to power'.

“And if this love cannot be given up without demanding a radical transformation in the very foundation of our love, in our very capacity for political love or attachment, are we not doomed to left melancholy, a melancholy that is certain to have effects that are not only sorrowful but self-destructive?”

This is an interesting observation. Political love and humanistic attachment perhaps doom the left to melancholy in the face of failure.

P. 23

“The first is a set of social and political formations variously known as cultural politics or identity politics. Here the conventional charge from one portion of the Left is that political movements rooted in cultural identity- racial, sexual, ethnic, or gendered - not only elide the fundamental structure of modernity, capitalism, and its fundamental formation, class, but fragment left political energies and interests such that coalition building is impossible. The second culprit also has various names-poststructuralism, discourse analysis, postmodernism, trendy literary theory got up as political analysis. The murder charges here are also familiar: Postfoundational theories of the subject, truth, and social processes undermine the possibility of a theoretically coherent and factually true account of the world, and also challenge the putatively objective grounds of left norms. Together or separately, these two phenomena are held responsible for the weak, fragmented, and disoriented character of the contemporary Left.”

These two phenomena, for the sake of commentary, are (a) Identity Politics - think the critique of this made by such left-wing critics as the Aufhebunga Bunga presenters and Paul Embrey[13] - and (b) Postmodernism/Poststructuralism and Postfoundationalism - for which there are a host of Leftist critiques of.[14]

“If Hall understands our failure as a Left in the last quarter century as a failure within the Left to apprehend this time, this is a failure that is only reiterated and not redressed by our complaints against those who are succeeding (liberal centrists, neoconservatives, the Right) or by our complaints against one another (antiracists, feminists, queer activists, postmodernists, unreconstructed Marxists).”

This is what we see coming to the fore slightly more so with the whole 'culture wars' phenomenon. Could one not critique Gramsci for the same, however? Or does the Gramscian project (via the thinking of Laclau and Mouffe, or even the Gramscians of the conservative variety) entail a seizure of the 'now' in cultural action based upon a certain mode of subject-centered agency, be either (a) the proletarian – in the case of the left Gramscian - or (b) the god and nation fearing citizen - in the case of the right Gramscian variety.[15]

Pp. 23-24

“In Hall's understanding, this failure is not simply the consequence of adherence to a particular analytic orthodoxy-the determinism of capital, the primacy of class-although it is certainly that. Rather, this failure results as well from a particular intellectual straitjacket - an insistence on a materialism that refuses the importance of the subject and the subjective, the question of style, and the problematic of language.”

How does this square with Mouffe and Laclau, who in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy seek to jettison a certain element of 'class essentialism' in favour of their 'chain of equivalency'? Would we have to shoe-horn them, wholly, into either the identity politics or 'poststructural/ postfoundational' threads as substitutive objects to engage with left melancholy affirmatively?

Equally, the claim that classical Marxism entailed: “an insistence on a materialism that refuses the importance of the subject and the subjective” is a flawed over-generalisation. By extension, one would have to assume that Materialism is, without question, teleologically deterministic. Now, it would be a stretch to claim that Historical Materialism is detached from teleological thought; this would put too much distance between Marx and Hegel. However, to claim that Materialism entails a jettisoning of the subject and thus agency, tout court, would be no less than assumption. This is even questionable within Marx’s own work, which, on a basic level, placed such a value on the agency of the proletarian subject through the mechanism of class consciousness. Sheer teleological determinism requires little action or agency from the revolutionary class, a stance not taken by classical leftists. By extension of this, for instance, we can see in Terry Eagleton's work ‘Why Marx Was Right’ a perfectly good retort to such a claim that Materialism jettisons the subjective agent in favour of determinism.[16]

P. 24

“Certainly, the course of capital shapes the conditions of possibility in politics, but politics itself ‘is either conducted ideologically, or not at all’.”

The interesting feature of this claim is the post-ideological one, that it is indeed possible to escape ideology and still engage with political action maintaining distance from ideology, i.e., "not at all". I am reminded of Zizek's point about ideology being inescapable, that the moment we consider it as such, we are within its eye, right at its centre.[17]

P. 25

“If the contemporary Left often clings to the formations and formulations of another epoch, one in which the notion of unified movements, social totalities, and class-based politics appeared to be viable categories of political and theoretical analysis, this means that it literally renders itself a conservative force in history-one that not only misreads the present but installs traditionalism in the very heart of its praxis, in the place where commitment to risk and upheaval belongs.”

Absolutely, but this brings us back to Kairos and Kairopolitics. This works only if 'the loop' is present, i.e., that now is indeed the moment x leftist group was waiting for and we can achieve what they wanted at this juncture, 150 years later. If 'the loop' is not present, i.e., the achievement of aims that can be grasped as aligned to those from 150 years ago but are updated or clearly tempo-normatively distinct, they may not be as conservative as thought - but still holding elements of conservatism none the less.

“The truth is that traditionalist ideas, the ideas of social and moral respectability, have penetrated so deep inside socialist consciousness that it is quite common to find people committed to a radical political programme underpinned by wholly traditional feelings and sentiments.”

I have to say that I agree with this quote of Hall’s that Brown recites, but only to a certain extent. This phenomenon is caused, perhaps somewhat simply, by the passage of time and the ossification of 'the radical' or 'radical-potential' to the usual or commonly encountered. Is Embrey not the best illustration of precisely this? This is then wrapped in the aesthetics of a 'true' working class, connecting back to the thought of Paul Embrey or to a section of Mark Fisher’s ‘Postcapitalist Desire’ wherein Nixon's hard hat working class becomes a central focus.

P. 26

“And when this traditionalism is conjoined with a loss of faith in the egalitarian vision so fundamental to the socialist challenge to the capitalist mode of distribution, and a loss of faith in the emancipatory vision fundamental to the socialist challenge to the capitalist mode of production, the problem of left traditionalism becomes very serious indeed. What emerges is a Left that operates without either a deep and radical critique of the status quo or a compelling alternative to the existing order of things. But perhaps even more troubling, it is a Left that has become more attached to its impossibility than to its potential fruitfulness, a Left that is most at home dwelling not in hopefulness but in its own marginality and failure, a Left that is thus caught in a structure of melancholic attachment to a certain strain of its own dead past, whose spirit is ghostly, whose structure of desire is backward looking and punishing.”

(1) This is what must be avoided at all costs by parts of the paleo-left, perhaps. That the left does not slip into an aesthetics of critique without critique of the status-quo itself. (2) Is Brown not here taking part in what she surveys others of doing in relation to (a) identity politics and (b) poststructuralism? i.e., engaging in and thus adding to the disunity of the left broadly? On the claim that the left has become more attached to its impossibility than its potential, I think that this is the saddest thing of all, as I agree. A left that seeks to campaign and advance a project that it claims itself is impossible, that it is drawn and attached to precisely due to its impossibility. This is the sheer sublimation into the purest of idealism and negative utopianism, centered always with a fixation on 'failure' as its most central or essential quality or feature. ‘Demanding the impossible’ should not be ‘demanding the defective’.

I do like how Brown here recalls that the etymological basis of a 'radical' politics sits with its Latin root Radix. It is the 'unsettling' as opposed to the transformative character of this that distinguishes it from other political modes. ‘Radical’ is not style of politics, but, in this case, it is a modality of approach or framework of thought to the edifice of socio-political organisation as it stands. Gluing oneself to tarmac is not radical, but merely bombastically defiant. The simple, polite, claim and consequent agency of Bartleby the Scrivener, that ‘I would prefer not to’, is radical. Radicality is not a style of politics, but a modality of casting and recasting the order of things by praxis.

P. 27

“My emphasis on the melancholic logic of certain contemporary left tendencies is not meant to recommend therapy as the route to answering these questions. It does, however, suggest that the feelings and sentiments - including those of sorrow, rage, and anxiety about broken promises and lost compasses - that sustain our attachments to left analyses and left projects ought to be examined for what they create in the way of potentially conservative and even self-destructive undersides of putatively progressive political aims.”

In the final lines of the piece, we see Brown's central thesis, alongside her theoretical point, purpose and prescription in relation to this short article. I could not agree more.

[1] Wendy Brown (1999) ‘Resisting Left Melancholy’. boundary 2, 26(3): 19-27.

[2] In this case, the chief work that Brown is responding to is: Stuart Hall (1988) The Hard Road to Renewal: Thatcherism and the Crisis of the Left. London: Verso.

[3] Aaron Bastani (2019) Fully Automated Luxury Communism. London: Verso. For other postcapitalist and accelerationist works, see: Robin Mackay and Armen Avanessian (Eds.)(2014) #Accelerate: The Accelerationist Reader. Falmouth: Urbanomic Media; Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams (2015) Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work. London: Verso; Peter Frase (2016) Four Futures: Life After Capitalism. London: Verso.

[4] Philip Cunliffe (2017) Lenin Lives! Reimagining the Russian Revolution 1917-2017. Winchester: Zero Books.

[5] Walter Benjamin (1989) "N [Re the Theory of Knowledge, Theory of Progress]" in Gary Smith (Ed.), Benjamin: Philosophy, Aesthetics, History. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. pp. 43-83.

[6] Walter Benjamin (1994) "Left-Wing Melancholy", in Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimendberg (Eds.), The Weimar Republic Sourcebook. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press. pp. 304-307, p. 305.

[7] For reference, see Marx’s discourse in the first volume of Capital concerning ‘The Working Day’, in the first section of Chapter Ten, entitled ‘The Limits of the Working Day’. Karl Marx (1976) Capital: A Critique of Political Economy – Volume One. London: Penguin Books. pp. 340-344.

[8] Although a somewhat reductive generalisation whilst tackling this notion from an increasingly Americanised and Liberal Republican standpoint, I do feel that Hannah Arendt rhetorically summarises such an internalised will to concretize a newly forged status-quo in her claim that: “The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution”. Hannah Arendt (September 12th 1970) ‘Reflections Civil Disobedience’, New Yorker, Available at: https://www.newyorker.com/ magazine/1970/09/12/reflections-civil-disobedience (Accessed 4th October 2022).

[9] Although figures such as Adorno and Horkheimer analyse the Culture Industry and what mankind loses by such an industrial advance through a plethora of modalities, both in tandem and alone, I do not think we see this more so than in their critique of popular music, manifesting then as Jazz, and in those productive material industries that recast and recreate the popularity of popular music. Adorno discusses this in his essay ‘The Schema of Mass Culture’: “Thus the technological changes which have been brought about with the advent of radio have inflicted a loss of history upon music. Even the performance ideal of serious music in the sense of a perfect account of the work that takes no risks, as this has developed under monopoly conditions, has fallen under an iron grip of rigidity despite the ostentatious appearance of dynamism: the performance of a symphony in which nothing can go wrong is also one in which nothing happens any more either.” Theodor W. Adorno (1991) The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture. London and New York: Routledge. p. 77.

[10] It must be said that there is a great distinction between the manner in which Althusser and the Critical Theorists grasped Capitalist Ideology, with the latter naturally emphasising a greater all-encompassing cultural role than the stricter and more formal socio-economics and political crystallisation of ideology that we see in the work of the former. Saying this however, Althusser does content in his work that capitalist ideology, through the ideological state apparatus, can manifest culturally in sports, whereby the so-called ‘competitive and entrepreneurial spirit’ of capitalism find mirror in the talent, skill and competition of sports. Perhaps, there is something to be said of this under-explored connection, given that even the philosophical defendants of Capitalist epistemologies explore such a bind, as in the case of Nozick and his famed ‘Wilt Chamberlain Argument’. For Althusser’s grasp of ideology, see: Louis Althusser (2020) On Ideology. Second Edition. London: Verso; (2014) On the Reproduction of Capitalism: Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses. London: Verso.

[11] Mark Fisher (2009) Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?. Winchester: Zero Books; (2020) Postcapitalist Desire: The Final Lectures. London: Repeater Books.

[12] For a discussion of Kairopolitics and leftism, see: Jason M. Adams (2013) Occupy Time: Technoculture, Immediacy, and Resistance After Occupy Wall Street. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

[13] Alex Hochuli, George Hoare, and Phillip Cunliffe (2021) The End of The End of History: Politics in The Twenty-First Century. London: Zero Books. Paul Embrey (2020) Despised: Why the Modern Left Loathes the Working Class. Cambridge: Polity Press.

[14] For instance, see: Frederic Jameson (1991) Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press; Alex Callinicos (1991) Against Postmodernism: A Marxist Critique. Cambridge: Polity Press.

[15] In reference to Mouffe and Laclau, I am implying a reference to: Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe (1985) Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics. London: Verso. By reference to a ‘right Gramscian’ there are two directions such a category may fall. In the first case, I am thinking of those ‘Gramscians of the Alt-Lite’; see: Angela Nagle (2017) Kill All Normies: Online culture wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right. London: Zero Books. In the second, I am drawn to the significant interrelation between Neoconservatism and Trotskyism; see: Seymour M. Lipset (1988) ‘Neoconservatism: Myth and Reality’. Society, 25(5): 29-37; William King (2004) ‘Neoconservatives and “Trotskyism”’. American Communist History, 3(2): 247-266.

[16] Terry Eagleton (2011) Why Marx Was Right. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

[17] “This is probably the fundamental dimension of 'ideology': ideology is not simply a 'false consciousness', an illusory representation of reality, it is rather this reality itself which is already to be conceived as 'ideological' - 'ideological' is a social reality whose very existence implies the non-knowledge of its participants as to its essence -that is, the social effectivity, the very reproduction of which implies that the individuals 'do not know what they are doing'. 'Ideological is not the false consciousness of a (social) being but this being itself in so far as it is supported by "false consciousness"'. Thus, we have finally reached the dimension of the symptom, because one of its possible definitions would also be 'a formation whose very consistency implies a certain non-knowledge on the part of the subject': the subject can 'enjoy his symptom' only in so far as its logic escapes him - the measure of the success of its interpretation is precisely its dissolution.”, and, “In the more sophisticated versions of the critics of ideology - that developed by the Frankfurt School, for example - it is not just a question of seeing things (that is, social reality) as they 'really are," of throwing away the distorting spectacles of ideology; the main point is to see how the reality itself cannot reproduce itself without this so-called ideological mystification. The mask is not simply hiding the real state of things; the ideological distortion is written into its very essence. We find, then, the paradox of a being which can reproduce itself only in so far as it is misrecognized and overlooked: the moment we see it 'as it really is,' this being dissolves itself into nothingness or, more precisely, it changes into another kind of reality. That is why we must avoid simple metaphors of demasking, of throwing away the veils which are supposed to hide the naked reality.” Slavoj Zizek (2008) The Sublime Object of Ideology. London: Verso. pp. 15-16, 24-25.