Agon Hamza: THE SPECTER OF IDEOLOGICAL APPARATUSES
In his “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” Louis Althusser writes about two forms of State Apparatuses; about Ideological State Apparatuses and (Repressive) State Apparatuses, through which the State materializes itself. Althusser names Ideological State Apparatuses “a certain number of realities which present themselves to the immediate observer in the form of distinct and specialized institutions.”1 He is very careful not to confuse or mix Ideological State Apparatuses with (Repressive) State Apparatuses. The first constitutive difference is that there is only one (Repressive) State Apparatus, while there is a multiplicity of Ideological State Apparatuses. The second constitutive difference resides in their functions within the social sphere: Ideological State Apparatuses belong (mostly) to the private domain, whereas the (Repressive) State Apparatus belongs entirely to the public domain. These constitutive differences are very important, but the essential distinction is based on their means of functioning: the (Repressive) State Apparatus functions “by violence,” whereas the Ideological State Apparatuses “function by ideology.”2 This is of key importance, as any dominant regime (class) cannot dominate only by repression – it is somehow insufficient; in order to dominate it needs ideology.
In this sense, ideology is the persuasive force for hegemonizing and appropriating the social realm. The Ideological State Apparatuses’ mediation presents the misrepresentation of the economic relations of individuals to their world. Precisely in that “world” does the reality of individuals have a material form. For Althusser, therefore, practice exists only in and by ideology. In this practice, the subject is constituted. That is to say, people’s every day life activity is constituted as social practice.
We can proceed further and repeat Althusser’s statement that “the notion subject is ideological.”3 According to Badiou, the “subject is not the name of a concept, but that of a notion”4 which is to say, it is a “mark of an inexistence.” He continues with stating that “there is no subject, since there are only processes.”5 Each institution is an Ideological State Apparatus, to which legal, class, religious, etc., ideologies correspond. The Ideological Apparatus enacts certain rituals, in the form of practice, that create the “material base” for the ideology to take place. Thereof, Althusser makes it clear that ideology is one and the same for the subject that cynically withdraws from “belief” and for a “fundamentalist” that effectively believes in ideology. The individual “adopts such practical attitudes” and participates in regular practices enacted by Ideological State Apparatuses, – and as we all know, these practices are regulated by rituals “in which these practices are inscribed within the material existence of an ideological apparatus.”6 But, one should recall Badiou’s reading of ideology, whose material is provided by the Ideological State Apparatuses for whom ideology “is a statist notion, and not a political notion.”7 For Badiou, the subject is a function of the State, thus “there will be no political subject, because revolutionary politics cannot be a function of the State.”8 In this line, one should recall Balibar’s interpretation of Althusser; according to Balibar, “the subject is clearly foregrounded as the category with which historical materialism must break, precisely in order to think its constitution.”9 It is only the dialectical materialism, or more precisely, the concept of “processes without a subject” onto which the “constitution of the subject” can have any meaning. One can grasp that a “process without a subject” is one of the central concepts of Althusser’s theory: class struggle. As Badiou writes, struggle has no object, whereas class has no subject. So, the place of the subject is, as Badiou writes, the place of ideology.
Taking this into account, I want to proceed further in analyzing the function of certain Ideological State Apparatuses in and about Kosovo. The civil society of Kosovo was created from outside, it was one of the neoliberal projects. It was created based on funding programs/projects from abroad, such as multicultural tolerance, human rights, co-existence between different ethnical, cultural, and racial groups, democratization, sustainable development, etc. The so-called needs of Kosovo’s society are being designed (mostly) by EU bureaucrats in Brussels; they design our needs, our future, and our demands. The people of Kosovo and of the Balkans in general are portrayed as an excessively violent, criminalized society, traumatized subjects, etc. The best example of this is the mission of SPANA in Kosovo, the embodiment of colonial racism. SPANA (Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad) is a charity organization from the UK that works in some of the poorest countries in the world. Its aim is to protect animals. But, as they state in their short description on their web page, “we’re not an ordinary animal charity – we know that working animals ensure that families can make a living.”10 The benevolent charity workers from SPANA are well aware of the crucial importance of animals in the lives of poor families in poor/underdeveloped countries. They’re again very precise: “when a working animal falls sick or becomes injured, there rarely is a qualified vet nearby. If there is one, most people cannot afford the treatment. And as the animal remains sick and untreated, it won’t be earning any money for the family. The family members will be going to bed hungry every night.”11 A SPANA veterinary team was also sent to Kosovo shortly after British troops arrived in the capital. But just like every other benevolent charity team, SPANA activists are not narrow-minded. They also worked with schools to encourage children to respect and care for animals that have been neglected. In one report in The Times in July 1999, SPANA activists claim that its experts came to Kosovo “to bring crucial help to war-traumatized animals.”12 And herein resides the problem. What we should do is analyze the very core of colonialist racism. As we all know, racism is a crucial constitutive part of every colonial regime. If we can learn anything from this project, it is that SPANA as such, in its ridiculously racist configuration, is the noble form of colonialism.
If one reads the Ahtisaari Plan as an ideological document, one wouldn’t encounter one explicit statement that the people of Kosovo are primitive, unable or incapable of governing themselves due the so-called lack of “state consciousness,” that we would probably find in some other documents from the classic colonial era. What we get from the Plan itself is something more refined; its technocratic language portrays us as a pathological society, and it doesn’t rely on the category of the subject (“primitive Albanians”) but on its social body being an excessively violent, criminalized society. Kosovo society is portrayed to be excessively violent, to the extent that, it is said, it doesn’t only present a threat for neighboring countries, but it is very dangerous for itself as well. We’re told that NATO troops in Kosovo (KFOR) are here to guarantee a peaceful, secure and stable environment for all people of Kosovo. That is to say, Kosovar society in itself is dangerous for itself, and therefore it has to be tamed. That’s why in all the cities of Kosovo, KFOR has billboards showing us how tolerance, respect and love are the only way forward. But for maintaining peace, security and stability, KFOR uses tanks, helicopters, and armed soldiers in their posters. Calls for tolerance, love, and respect (as ideological categories) show perfectly clear the European white racism at its purest; the political problem of the Albanian–Serbian question is transposed into a cultural one. The problems in and about Kosovo, from their racist optics, consist in cultural/ethnical intolerance. As a result, the EU and other international dominating structures see only ethnicities in Kosovo that are sublimated in Ahtisaari’s Plan.
Europeans think of us as a highly criminalized society. In many embassies of EU countries, among the huge pile of the requested documents, one of the requested documents is a certificate from the court, by which the applicant proves that he/she is not under investigations. If anything, this stands for racism at its purest. In the so-called democratic countries, the basic principle of every criminal trial is that the accused is legally innocent, until his/her guilt is proven. In Kosovo, this principle stands upside down: you’re presumed guilty until proven innocent. EULEX stands as a transnational penal state. Therefore, it means that Kosovo as a whole is criminal, and if I am able to prove my innocence, I’m not the rule, but an exception!
Along these lines, one should look at the new video clip released recently by a PR company contracted by Kosovo’s government: the clip is called “Kosovo: the young Europeans,”13 which will be aired on world’s biggest TV channels, and whose purpose is to “improve the image of the Republic of Kosovo.” It is 60 seconds long and it shows hundreds of young people in the landscapes, cities and villages of Kosovo manufacturing their future. And in the end, the Republic of Kosovo is manufactured, as a “member of the international community.” Explaining the slogan, the PR Company Saatchi&Saatchi said: “This is probably the very first national slogan which turns the spotlight on the people and the human spirit rather then the country, its natural marvels or history.”14 The clip as a part of a campaign shows that in Kosovo, there are NOT only criminals, but also young, normal people, manufacturing their country – and they’re manufacturing it the way that European or other Western neocolonial structures want it to be. For international colonial structures, Kosovo exists from 1999 onwards. Fanon says it is colonialists that write the history of the colonized. It is true, since Kosovo keeps on being colonized, and its history keeps on being re-written. Many NGO’s and institutes are engaged in projects such as “Branding the nation.” We want new Kosovars; interpolated subjects, people that fit within the ideological coordinates of the State; for Althusser, the subject is always the product of the State. The State is the limit of politics, the limit of the subject, so to speak. Following again Alain Badiou, politics organized as a political party is “the site of an arrogant incapacity.”15 The same holds true for the subject of the State.
Cultural studies are placed as the highest priority in Kosovo’s academia. The racists of cultural studies tell us that we need to study them in order to understand the ethnic struggles in the Balkans throughout the centuries. Many “critical” liberal scholars come to our countries and study us. They study our culture and they understand is as organic; culture as such is derivative. It belongs to certain classes. There is no such a thing as a culture. Racists of cultural studies reduce the class struggle into cultural differences; they examine history in its most primitive form – as an observation of certain events, based on some facts, data, etc. History as such is reduced to oral history, memory, etc. This is what history is for them. And through this, they want to demystify the history of the Balkans. This is what they think: we, the people of the Balkans, are caught in our thousands of years of myths, and in order to really understand the outburst of ethnic passions that happen every now and then in the Balkans, they, the outside cultural scholars, should demystify our myths. For example, in the so called inter-ethnical relations, it is certainly true that there is a “Serbian-Albanian question” (to say it in Lenin’s terms). But it exists on a political and class level, and not on a cultural or ethnical one, as we’re told. In academia, this “orientation” became very popular. The proper way of counteracting this racist orientation of “demystification of myths,” is to go one step further and propose the concept of “the necessity to demystify the demystification of myths.” This would be the proper emancipatory act.
Today when we talk about “toxic” phenomena as the poisonous elements of our ideal liberal-democratic systems, such as foreign workers/immigrants, religious and national “fundamentalists,” intolerance towards other ethnic or/and sexual orientation or religious groups, are we not effectively talking about the symptoms of the very essence of our liberal-democratic capitalism,16 which in order to exist, has to continuously produce new forms of apartheid, colonization, racism, new forms of exploitation, and so forth? This follows us everywhere, from politics (alienating real political and economic problems to cultural ones, the other level being that of reducing the idea of governance into administrating things, wherein people qua things/goods) to academia (recall the predominant disciplines in contemporary academia: memory studies, post–colonial studies, cultural studies and so forth). In these conditions, when all of us are obsessed with the idea of “how should we make global liberal-democratic capitalism more functional/effective” we are all caught in reactionary positions; those of accepting the existing order in all its wide and basic coordinates, while our concern is how to improve, refine or reform it. Along these lines, we cannot but insist even more on the effectiveness of the concept of ideological categories – or in Althusserian terms, we should insist more than ever on “scientific knowledge” against mystifications of so-called “ideological knowledge.” As Althusser writes apropos, the difference between art and science lies “in the specific form in which they give us the same object in quite different ways: art in the form of ‘seeing’ and ‘perceiving’ or ‘feeling’, science in the form of knowledge (in the strict sense, by concepts).”17 The point is, to abandon each and every approach that enables us only to “see” and “perceive” existing phenomena, rather we should insist on the right methodology, based on the right concepts (on the form of the scientific knowledge) in order to understand the opacity of our malevolent ideology. Therefore, academia became the centre of “ideological noxiousness,” whereas the political sphere became the centre of “ideological mystification” of our era. Our consciousness is continuously shifted away from our relations of production; therefore we address wrong and mistaken phenomena as the real cause of problems and intrusions in our liberal-capitalist heaven.
Our era requires serious questioning about the existing (political) system. We should ask radical political questions, as Marx knew, questions on/of POLITICAL ECONOMY, questioning the very existence of capitalism and acting directly against it. The whole point is not to return to Marx of the postmodern, liberal or cultural left, or to the melancholy of Marxism as a failed project, or Marxist theoretical enterprise as utopian dream, in the sense of “perfect in theory, materially impossible in practice.” If anything, this argumentation is what Marx was fighting throughout his entire century.
Agon Hamza, Phd candidate in Primorska Univerza, Philosophy and Visual Culture, graduated from Faculty of Law. He is a co-initator of DKS (Department for Social Critic) former activist/member of Vetëvendosje! Movement and KAN (Kosovo action network). He publishes articles in daily newspapers / section of politics, he is editor assitant of Kritika dhe Shoqëria magazine published by DKS.
1 Louis Althusser, Lenin and Philosophy and other essays, Verso, London/New York, p. 96. Here Althusser offers an empirical list of ISA. 2 Ibid. p. 97. 3 Louis Althusser, “Marx’s relation to Hegel,” in Politics and History: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Marx, Verso, London/New York, 2007, p.185. 4 Alain Badiou, Metapolitics, Verso, London/New York, 2005, p. 59. 5 Recall Althusser statement: “The concept process is scientific.” Philosophy is the “Theory of theoretical practice.” Or, another definition, in the letter to John Lewis: “Philosophy is, in the last instance, class struggle in the field of theory.” 6 Althusser, Lenin and Philosophy, p. 114. 7 Badiou, Metapolitics, p. 59. 8 Ibid. 9 Étienne Balibar, “Althusser’s Object,” Social Text, No.39, Duke University Press, p. 168. 10 http://www.spana.org/about-us/index.html 11 http://www.spana.org/the-big-picture/families-rely-on-animals.html 12 Quoted from Vanesa Pupovac, “Therapeutising refugees, pathologising populations: international psycho-social programmes in Kosovo,” the paper can be found at: http://reliefweb.int/rw/lib.nsf/db900si/LGEL-5FDDDM/$file/hcr-therapeurising-aug02.pdf?openelement 13 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqEUDeZJSCE 14 Many critical analysts and directors found out that the video clip is a plagiarism from another clip of the Orangen Planet. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTcSAUz_f6Q&feature=player_embedded 15 Alain Badiou, Infinite Thought: Truth and the Return to Philosophy, Continuum, London/New York, 2003, p. 127. 16 Another thesis has been proposed recently, that of Rastko Močnik, who says that capitalism does not need democracy; quite on the contrary, it is the authoritarian regime that suits capitalism better. According to Močnik, democracy is the precise ideological condition which is injected into countries that have tensions or conflicts. 17 Louis Althusser, On Ideology, Verso, London/New York, 2008, p.175.