III. Why Hegelian Dialectics Is Not a Vulgar Evolutionism
Which, then, is the dimension of the law that the law cannot admit publicly? The best way to discern it is through a logical paradox deployed by Jean-Pierre Dupuy in his admirable text on Hitchcock’s Vertigo:
An object possesses a property x until the time t; after t, it is not only that the object no longer has the property x; it is that it is not true that it possessed x at any time. The truth-value of the proposition “the object O has the property x at the moment t’ therefore depends on the moment when this proposition is enunciated.” 
One should note here the precise formulation: it is not that the truth-value of the proposition “the object O has the property x” depends on the time to which this proposition refers – even when this time is specified, the truth-value depends on the time when the proposition itself is enounced. Or, to quote the title of Dupuy’s text, ”when I’ll die, nothing of our love will ever have existed.” Think about marriage and divorce: the most intelligent argument for the right to divorce (proposed, among others, by none other than the young Marx) does not refer to common vulgarities in the style of “like all things, love attachments are also not eternal, they change in the course of time,” etc.; it rather concedes that indissolvability is in the very notion of marriage. The conclusion is that divorce always has a retroactive scope: it does not only mean that marriage is now annulled, but something much more radical – a marriage should be annulled because it never was a true marriage. And the same holds for Soviet Communism: it is clearly insufficient to say that, in the years of Brezhnev “stagnation,” it “exhausted its potentials, no longer fitting new times”; what its miserable end demonstrates is that it was a historical deadlock from its very beginning.
Perhaps, this paradox provides a clue for the twists and turns of the Hegelian dialectical process. Let us take Hegel’s critique of the Jacobin revolutionary Terror as an exercise in abstract negativity of the absolute freedom which cannot stabilize itself in a concrete social order of freedom, and thus has to end in the fury of self-destruction. However, one should bear in mind that, insofar as we are dealing here with a historical choice (between the “French” way of remaining within Catholicism and thus being obliged to engage in the self-destructive revolutionary Terror, and the “German” way of Reformation), this choice involves exactly the same elementary dialectical paradox as the one, also from The Phenomenology of Spirit, between the two readings of “the Spirit is a bone” which Hegel illustrates by the phallic metaphor (phallus as the organ of insemination or phallus as the organ of urination): Hegel’s point is not that, in contrast to the vulgar empiricist mind which sees only urination, the proper speculative attitude has to choose insemination. The paradox is that the direct choice of insemination is the infallible way to miss it: it is not possible to choose directly the “true meaning”, i.e. one has to begin by making the “wrong” choice (of urination) – the true speculative meaning emerges only through the repeated reading, as the after-effect (or by-product) of the first, “wrong,” reading. And the same goes for social life in which the direct choice of the “concrete universality” of a particular ethical life-world can only end in a regression to pre-modern organic society that denies the infinite right of subjectivity as the fundamental feature of modernity. Since the subject-citizen of a modern state can no longer accept his immersion in some particular social role that confers on him a determinate place within the organic social Whole, the only way to the rational totality of the modern State leads through revolutionary Terror: one should ruthlessly tear up the constraints of the pre-modern organic “concrete universality,” and fully assert the infinite right of subjectivity in its abstract negativity. In other words, the point of Hegel’s analysis of the revolutionary Terror is not the rather obvious insight into how the revolutionary project involved the unilateral direct assertion of abstract Universal Reason, and was as such doomed to perish in self-destructive fury, since it was unable to organize the transposition of its revolutionary energy into a concrete stable and differentiated social order; Hegel’s point is rather the enigma of why, in spite of the fact that revolutionary Terror was a historical deadlock, we have to pass through it in order to arrive at the modern rational State.
This is why Hegelian dialectics is not a vulgar evolutionism claiming that a phenomenon was justified in its own time, but deserves to disappear when its time passes: the “eternity” of dialectics means that the de-legitimization is always retroactive, what disappears “in itself” always deserved to disappear. Recall also the paradox of the process of apologizing: if I hurt someone with a rude remark, the proper thing for me to do is to offer him a sincere apology, and the proper thing for him to do is to say something like “Thanks, I appreciate it, but I wasn’t offended, I knew you didn’t mean it, so you really owe me no apology!” The point is, of course, that, although the final result is that no apology is needed, one has to go through the entire process of offering it: “you owe me no apology” can only be said after I DO offer an apology, so that, although, formally, “nothing happens,” the offer of apology is proclaimed unnecessary, there is a gain at the end of the process (perhaps, even, the friendship is saved). (A scene in Ernst Lubitch’s wonderful To Be Or Not to Be, a short dialogue between the two famous Polish theatre actors, Maria Tura and her self-centred husband Josef, playfully subverts this logic. Josef tells his wife: “I gave orders that, in the posters announcing the new play we are starring in, your name will be at the top, ahead on mine – you deserve it, darling!” She kindly replies: “Thanks, but you really didn’t have to do it, it was not necessary!” His answer is, of course: “I knew you would say that, so I already cancelled the order and put my name back on the top…”) There is a well-known joke about cooking which relies on the same logic: “How anyone can make a good soup in one hour? You prepare all the ingredients, cut the vegetables, etc., boil water, put the ingredients into it, cook it in not too hot water for half an hour, occasionally stirring the water; when, after three quarters of an hour, you discover that the soup is tasteless and unpalatable, you throw it away, open up a good can of soup and quickly warm it up.” This is how we, humans, make soup.
Is it not that, here also, one has to do it (offer an apology, choose terror) in order to see how it is superfluous? This paradox is sustained by the distinction between the “constative” and the “performative” dimensions, between “subject of the enunciated” and “subject of the enunciation”: at the level of the enunciated content, the whole operation is meaningless (why do it – offer an apology, go through terror – when it is superfluous?); however, what this common sense insight forgets is that it is only the “wrong” superfluous gesture which creates the subjective conditions which made it possible for the subject to really see why this gesture is superfluous. It only becomes possible to say that my apology is not necessary after I offer it; it only becomes possible to see how Terror is superfluous and destructive after one goes through it. The dialectical process is thus more refined than it may appear; the standard notion is that, in it, one can only arrive at the final truth through the path of errors, so that these errors are not simply discarded, but “sublated” in the final truth, preserved in it as its moments. What this standard notion misses is how the previous moments are preserved precisely as superfluous.
So the obvious critical approach “But is this idea of retroactively canceling the contingent historical conditions, of transforming contingency into Fate, not ideology at its formally purest, the very form of ideology?” misses the point, which is that this retroactivity is inscribed into reality itself: what is truly “ideology” is the idea that, freed from “ideological illusions,” one can pass from moment A to moment B directly, without retroactivity – say, that, in an ideally-authentic society, I can apologize and the other can say “I was hurt, apology was needed, and I accept it” without breaking any implicit rules; that we could get the modern rational State without having to pass through the “superfluous” detour of Terror. There is a well-known joke about cooking which relies on the same logic: “How anyone can make a good soup in one hour? You prepare all the ingredients, cut the vegetables, etc., boil water, put the ingredients into it, cook it in not too hot water for half an hour, occasionally stirring the water; when, after three quarters of an hour, you discover that the soup is tasteless and unpalatable, you throw it away, open up a good can of soup and quickly warm it up.” This is how we, humans, make soup.
How is this circle of changing the past possible without recourse to travel back in time? The solution was already proposed by Henri Bergson: of course one cannot change the past reality/actuality, but what one can change is the virtual dimension of the past – when something radically New emerges, this New retroactively creates its own possibility, its own causes/conditions.  A potentiality can be inserted into (or withdrawn from) past reality. Falling in love changes the past: it is as if I always-already loved you, our love was destined, “answer of the real.” My present love causes the past which gave birth to it. The same goes for legal power: here also, synchrony precedes diachrony. In the same way that, once I contingently fall in love, this love was my necessary Fate, once a legal order is here, its contingent origins are erased. Once it IS here, it was always-already here, every story of its origins is a myth, like the Swift story of the origin of language in Gulliver’s Travels: the result is already presupposed.
In Vertigo, it is the opposite that occurs: the past is changed so that it loses objet a. What Scottie first experiences in Vertigo is the loss of Madeleine, his fatal love; when he recreates Madeleine in Judy and then discovers that the Madeleine he knew already was Judy pretending to be Madeleine, what he discovers is not simply that Judy is a fake (he knew that she is not the true Madeleine, since he recreated a copy of Madeleine out of her), but that, because she is NOT a fake – she IS Madeleine -, Madeleine herself was already a fake – objet a disintegrates, the very loss is lost, we get a “negation of negation.” His discovery changes the past, deprives the lost object of objet a.
Are, then, today’s ethico-legal neoconservatives not a little bit like Scottie in Hitchcock’s Vertigo: in wanting to recreate the lost order, to make a new distinguished Madeleine out of today’s promiscuous and vulgar Judy, they will be sooner or later forced to admit not that it is impossible to restore to life Madeleine (the old traditional mores), but that Madeleine WAS already Judy: the corruption they are fighting in modern permissive, secular, egotist, etc. society was there from the beginning. It is like with Zen Buddhism: those who criticize the Westernized New Age image and practice of Zen, its reduction to a “relaxation technique,” as the betrayal of the authentic Japanese Zen, obliterate the fact that the features they deplore in the Westernized Zen were already there in Japanese “true” Zen: after WWII, Japanese Zen Buddhists immediately started to organize Zen courses for business managers, during the WWII their majority supported Japanese militarism, etc.
In true love, after discovering the truth, Scottie would have accepted Judy as “more Madeleine than Madeleine herself” (he DOES that just before the rise of the mother superior…): here Dupuy should be corrected. Dupuy’s formula is that Scottie should left Madeleine to her past – true, but what should he have done upon discovering that Judy IS Madeleine? Past Madeleine was an imaginary lure, pretending to be what she was not (Judy played Madeleine). What Judy is doing now in playing Madeleine is TRUE LOVE. In Vertigo, Scottie does NOT love Madeleine – the proof is that he tries to recreate her in Judy, changing Judy’s properties to make her resemble Madeleine. This is why the idea to clone a child to parents who lost him (or her) is an abomination: if the parents are satisfied, their love was not true love – love is not love for the properties of the object, but for the abyssal X, the je ne sais quoi, in the object.
In his Wissen und Gewissen, Viktor Frankl reports on one of his post-WWII patients, a concentration camp survivor who reunited with his wife after the war; however, due to an illness contracted in the camp, she died soon afterwards. The patient fell into total despair, and all Frankl’s attempts to drag him out of depression failed, till, one day, he told the patient: “Imagine that God would give me the power to create a woman who would have all the features of your dead wife, so that she would be indistinguishable from her – would you ask me to create her?” The patient was silent for a short time, then he stood up, said “No, thanks, doctor!”, shook his hand, left and started to lead a new normal life.  This patient did what Scottie, who precisely tried to recreate the same woman, wasn’t able to do: he became aware that, while one can find the same woman as to her positive features, one cannot recreate the unfathomable objet a in her.
There is a science-fiction story, set a couple of hundred years ahead of our time when time travel was already possible, about an art critic who gets so fascinated by the works of a New York painter from our era that he travels back in time to meet him. However, he discovers that the painter is a worthless drunk who even steals from him the time machine and escapes to the future; alone in today’s world, the art critic paints all the paintings that fascinated him in the future in made him travel into the past. Surprisingly, it was none other than Henry James who already used the same plot: The Sense of the Past, an unfinished manuscript found among James’ papers and published posthumously in 1917, tells a similar story which uncannily resembles Vertigo, and caused penetrating interpretations by Stephen Spender and Borges. (Dupuy notes that James was friend with H.G.Wells – The Sense of the Past is his version of Wells’ The Time Machine.)  After James’ death this novel was converted into a very successful play Berkeley Square, which was made into a movie in 1933 with Leslie Howard as Ralph Pendrel, a young New Yorker who, upon inheriting an 18th century house in London, finds in it a portrait of a remote ancestor, also named Ralph Pendrel. Fascinated by the portrait, he steps across a mysterious threshold and finds himself back in the 18th century. Among the people he meets there is a painter who was the author of the portrait that fascinated him – it is, of course, his own portrait. In his commentary, Borges provided a succinct formulation of the paradox: “The cause is posterior to the effect, the motif of the voyage is one of the consequences of this voyage.”  James added a love aspect to the trip into the past: back in the 18th century, Ralph falls in love with Nan, a sister of his (18th century) fiancée Molly. Nan eventually realizes that Ralph is a time-traveller from the future, and she sacrifices her own happiness and help him return to his own time and to Aurora Coyne, a woman who had previously rejected Ralph but would now accept him.
James’s story thus psychotically (in the real) mystifies the circle of symbolic economy, in which effect precedes the cause, i.e., retroactively creates it – and exactly the same holds for the legal status of the rebellion against a (legal) power in Kant: the proposition “what the rebels are doing is a crime which deserves to be punished” is true if pronounced when the rebellion is still going on; however, once the rebellion wins and establishes a new legal order, this statement about the legal status of the same past acts no longer holds. Here is Kant’s answer to the question “Is rebellion a legitimate means for a people to employ in throwing off the yoke of an alleged tyrant?”:
The rights of the people are injured; no injustice befalls the tyrant when he is deposed. There can be no doubt on this point. Nevertheless, it is in the highest degree illegitimate for the subjects to seek their rights in this way. If they fail in the struggle and are then subjected to severest punishment, they cannot complain about injustice any more than the tyrant could if they had succeeded. /…/ If the revolt of the people succeeds, what has been said is still quite compatible with the fact that the chief, on retiring to the status of a subject, cannot begin a revolt for his restoration but need not fear being made to account for his earlier administration of the state.
Does Kant not offer here his own version of what Bernard Williams developed as “moral luck” (or, rather, “legal luck”)? The (not ethical, but legal) status of rebellion is decided retroactively: if a rebellion succeeds and establishes a new legal order, then it brings about its own circulus vitiosus, i.e., it erases into ontological void its own illegal origins, it enacts the paradox of retroactively grounding itself – Kant states this paradox even more clearly a couple of pages earlier:
If a violent revolution, engendered by a bad constitution, introduces by illegal means a more legal constitution, to lead the people back to the earlier constitution would not be permitted; but, while the revolution lasted, each person who openly or covertly shared in it would have justly incurred the punishment due to those who rebel.
One cannot be clearer: the legal status of the same act changes with time. What is, while the rebellion goes on, a punishable crime, becomes, after a new legal order is established, its own opposite – more precisely, it simply disappears, as a vanishing mediator which retroactively cancels/erases itself in its result. The same holds for the very beginning, for the emergence of the legal order out of the violent “state of nature” – Kant is fully aware that there is no historical moment of “social contract”: the unity and law of a civil society is imposed onto the people by violence whose agent is not motivated by any moral considerations:
since a uniting cause must supervene upon the variety of particular volitions in order to produce a common will from them, establishing this whole is something no one individual in the group can perform; hence in the practical execution of this idea we can count on nothing but force to establish the juridical condition, on the compulsion of which public law will later be established. We can scarcely hope to find in the legislator a moral intention sufficient to induce him to commit to the general will the establishment of a legal constitution after he has formed the nation from a horde of savages.
What Kant is struggling with here is nothing other than the paradoxical nature of the political act. Recall, from the history of Marxism, how Lenin saved his utmost acerb irony for those who engage in the endless search for some kind of “guarantee” for the revolution. This guarantee assumes two main forms: either the reified notion of social Necessity (one should not risk the revolution too early; one has to wait for the right moment, when the situation is “mature” with regard to the laws of historical development: “it is too early for the Socialist revolution, the working class is not yet mature”), or the normative (“democratic”) legitimacy (“the majority of the population is not on our side, so the revolution would not really be democratic”) – as Lenin repeatedly put it, it is as if, before a revolutionary agent risks the seizure of power, it should get the permission from some figure of the big Other – say, organize a referendum which will ascertain that the majority supports the revolution.  With Lenin, as with Lacan, the point is that a revolution ne s’autorise que d’elle-même: one should assume the revolutionary act not covered by the big Other – the fear of taking power “prematurely,” the search for the guarantee, is the fear of the abyss of the act nicely rendered in the anecdote about the exchange between Lenin and Trotsky just prior to the October Revolution: Lenin said: “What will happen with us if we fail?” Trotsky replied: “And what will happen if we succeed?” Se non e vero e ben trovato… What is unimaginable within the positivist vision of history as an “objective” process which in advance determines the possible coordinates of political interventions is a radical political intervention which changes these very „objective“ coordinates and thus in a way creates the conditions for its own success. An act proper is not just a strategic intervention into a situation, bound by its conditions – it retroactively creates its conditions.
We can see where Kant’s weakness resides: there is no need to evoke “radical Evil” in the guise of some dark primordial crime – all these obscure fantasies have to be evoked to obfuscate the act itself. The paradox is clear: Kant himself, who put such an accent on the ethical act as autonomous, non-pathological, irreducible to its conditions, is unable to recognize it where it happens, misreading it as its opposite, as the unthinkable “diabolical Evil.” Kant is here one in the series of many conservative (and not only conservative) political thinkers, from Pascal and Joseph de Maistre, who elaborated the notion of illegitimate origins of power, of a “founding crime” on which state power is based; to obfuscate this origins, one should offer to ordinary people “noble lies,” heroic narratives of origins. One cannot but respect this brutal honesty of the first-generation founders of the State of Israel who in no way obliterated the “founding crime” of establishing a new state: they openly admitted they have no right to the land of Palestina, it is just their force against the force of the Palestinians. On 29 April 1956, a group of Palestinians from Gaza that had crossed the border to plunder the harvest in the Nahal Oz kibbutz’s fields; Roi, a young Jewish member of the kibbutz who patrolled the fields galloped toward them on his horse brandishing a stick to chase them away; he was seized by the Palestinians carried back to the Gaza Strip; when the U.N. returned his body, his eyes had been plucked out. Moshe Dayan, then the Chief of Staff, delivered the eulogy at his funeral the following day:
Let us not cast blame on the murderers today. What claim do we have against their mortal hatred of us? They have lived in the refugee camps of Gaza for the past eight years, while right before their eyes we have transformed the land and villages where they and their ancestors once lived into our own inheritance.
It is not among the Arabs of Gaza but in our own midst that we must seek Roi’s blood. How have we shut our eyes and refused to look squarely at our fate and see the destiny of our generation in all its brutality. Have we forgotten that this group of young people living in Nahal Oz bears the burden of Gaza’s gates on its shoulders?” 
Apart from the parallel between Roi and the blinded Samson (which plays a key role in the later mythology of the IDF), what cannot but strike the eye is the apparent non sequitur, the gap, between the first and the second paragraph: in the first paragraph, Dayan openly admits that the Palestinians have the full right to hate the Israeli Jews, since they took their land; his conclusion, however, is not the obvious admission of one’s own guilt, but to fully accept “the destiny of our generation in all its brutality.” i.e., to assume the burden – not of guilt, but – of the war where might will be right, were the stronger will win. The war was not about principles or justice, it was an exercise in “mythic violence” – the insight totally obliterated by the recent Israeli’s self-legitimization.
This brings us to today’s liberal idea of global justice whose aim is not only to bring out all past (acts which appear from today’s standards as) collective crimes; it also involves the Politically Correct utopia of “restituting” the past collective violence (towards Blacks, native Americans, Chinese immigrants…) by payment or legal regulations – this is the true utopia, the idea that a legal order can pay back for its founding crime, thereby retroactively cleansing itself of its guilt and regain its innocence… What is at the end of this road is the ecological utopia of humanity in its entirety repaying its debt to Nature for all its past exploitation. And, effectively, is the ecological idea of “recycling” not part of the same pattern as that of the restitution for past in justices? The underlying utopian notion is the same: the system which emerged through violence should repay its debt and thus regain ethico-ecological balance. The ideal of “recycling” involves the utopia of a full self-enclosed circle in which all waste, all useless remainder, is sublated: nothing gets lost, all trash is re-used. It is at this level that one should accomplish the shift from circle to ellipse: already in nature itself, there is no circle of full recycling, there is un-usable waste. Recall the methodic madness of Jeremy Bentham’s “Panopticon” in which everything, up to the prisoners’ excrements and urine, should be again put to use. For urine, Bentham proposed the following ingenious solution: the external walls of the cells should not be fully vertical, but lightly curved inside, so that, when prisoners will urinate on the wall, the liquid will drip downwards, keeping the cells warm in winter… This is why the proper aesthetic attitude of a radical ecologist is not the one of admiring and longing for a pristine nature of virgin forests and clear sky, but the one of accepting waste as such, of discovering the aesthetic potentials of waste as such, of decay, of the inertia of rotten stuff which serves no purpose.
IV. The Utopia for a Race of Devils
And, finally, this brings us to the core of the liberal utopia. For liberalism, at least in its radical form, the wish to submit people to an ethical ideal that we hold for universal is “the crime which contains all crimes,” the mother of all crimes – it amounts to the brutal imposition of one’s own view onto others, the cause of civil disorder. Which is why, if one wants to establish civil peace and tolerance, the first condition is to get rid of “moral temptation”: politics should be thoroughly purged of moral ideals and rendered “realistic,” taking people as they are, counting on their true nature, not on moral exhortations. Market is here exemplary: human nature is egotistic, there is no way to change it – what is needed is a mechanism that would make private vices work for common good (the “Cunning of Reason”). In his “Perpetual Peace,” Kant provided a precise formulation of this key feature:
many say a republic would have to be a nation of angels, because men with their selfish inclinations are not capable of a constitution of such sublime form. But precisely with these inclinations nature comes to the aid of the general will established on reason, which is revered even though impotent in practice. Thus it is only a question of a good organization of the state (which does lie in man’s power), whereby the powers of each selfish inclination are so arranged in opposition that one moderates or destroys the ruinous effect of the other. The consequence for reason is the same as if none of them existed, and man is forced to be a good citizen even if not a morally good person.
The problem of organizing a state, however hard it may seem, can be solved even for a race of devils, if only they are intelligent. The problem is: ‘Given a multitude of rational beings requiring universal laws for their preservation, but each of whom is secretly inclined to exempt himself from them, to establish a constitution in such a way that, although their private intentions conflict, they check each other, with the result that their public conduct is the same as if they had no such intentions.’ A problem like this must be capable of solution; it does not require that we know how to attain the moral improvement of men but only that we should know the mechanism of nature in order to use it on men, organizing the conflict of the hostile intentions present in a people in such a way that they must compel themselves to submit to coercive laws. Thus a state of peace is established in which laws have force. 
One should follow this line to its conclusion: a fully self-conscious liberal should intentionally limit his altruistic readiness to sacrifice his own good for the others’ Good, aware that the most efficient way to act for the common good is to follow one’s private egotism. The inevitable obverse of the Cunning of Reason motto “private vices, common good” is: “private goodness, common disaster.” There is in liberalism, from its very inception, a tension between individual freedom and objective mechanisms which regulate the behavior of a crowd – it was already Benjamin Constant who formulated clearly this tension: everything is moral in individuals, but everything is physical in crowds; everybody is free as individual, but a cog in a machine in a crowd. Nowhere is the legacy of religion clearer: this, exactly, is the paradox of Predestination, of the unfathomable mechanism of Grace embodied, among others, in a market success. The mechanisms which will bring about social peace are independent of the will of individuals as well as of their merits.
The inner tension of this project is discernible in two aspects of liberalism, market liberalism and political liberalism. Michea perspicuously links this to two meanings of “right”: the political Right insists on market economy, the politically-correct culturalized Left insists on the defense of human Rights – often its sole remaining raison d’être. Although the tension between these two aspects of liberalism is irreducible, they are nonetheless inextricably linked, like the two sides of the same coin.
Today, the meaning of “liberalism” moves between two opposed poles: economic liberalism (free market individualism, opposition to strong state regulation, etc.) and political libertarian liberalism (accent on equality, social solidarity, permissiveness, etc.) – in the US, Republicans are more liberal in the first sense and Democrats in the second sense. The point is, of course, that, while one cannot decide through closer analysis which is the “true” liberalism, one also cannot resolve the deadlock by way of trying to propose a kind of “higher” dialectical synthesis, or by way of “avoiding the confusion” through on a clear distinction between the two senses of the term: the tension between the two meanings is inherent to the very content that “liberalism” endeavors to designate, it is constitutive of this notion, so this ambiguity, far from signaling the limitation of our knowledge, signals the innermost “truth” of the notion of liberalism.
Traditionally, each basic form of liberalism necessarily appears as the opposite of the other form: multiculturalist liberal advocates of tolerance etc. as a rule fight economic liberalism and try to protect the rights of the unencumbered market forces, while market liberals as a rule advocate conservative family values, etc. We thus get the double paradox of the traditionalist Rightist supporting the market economy while ferociously fighting the culture and mores it engenders – with its counterpoint, the multiculturalist Leftist, fighting the market (less and less, it is true) while enthusiastically enforcing the ideology it engenders. (Half a century ago, the symptomatic exception was the unique Ayn Rand, who advocated market liberalism and full individualist egotism deprived of all traditional morality of family values and sacrifice for the common good.) Today, however, we seem to be entering a new era in which both aspects can be combined: figures like Bill Gates pose as market radicals and as multiculturalist humanitarians.
Here we encounter the basic paradox of liberalism. Anti-ideological and anti-utopian stance is inscribed into the very core of the liberal vision: liberalism conceives itself as a “politics of lesser evil,” its ambition is to bring about the »least evil society possible,« thus preventing greater evil, since it considers any attempt to directly impose a positive Good the ultimate source of all evil. Churchill’s quip about democracy as the worst of all political systems, the only problem being that all others are worse, holds even more for liberalism. Such a view is sustained by a profound pessimism about human nature: man is egotistic and envious animal, if one builds a political system which appeals to his goodness and altruism, the result will be the worst terror (both Jacobins and Stalinists presupposed human virtue). However, the liberal critique of the “tyranny of the Good” comes at a price: the more its program permeates society, the more it is turning into its opposite. The claim to want nothing but the lesser of evils, once asserted as the principle of the new global order, gradually takes over the very feature of its enemy it wanted to fight. The global liberal order clearly asserts itself as the best of all possible worlds; the modest rejection of utopias ends with imposing its own market-liberal utopia which will become reality when we will properly apply market and legal Human Rights mechanisms. Behind all this lurks the ultimate totalitarian nightmare, the vision of a New Man who left behind the old ideological baggage.
As every close observer of the deadlocks of Political Correctness knows, the separation of legal Justice from moral Goodness – which should be relativized-historicized – ends up in a stifling oppressive moralism full of resentment. Without any “organic” social substance grounding the standards of what Orwell approvingly referred to as “common decency” (all such standards are dismissed as subordinating individual freedom to proto-Fascist organic social forms), the minimalist program of laws which should just prevent individuals to encroach upon each other (to annoy or “harass” each other) reverts into an explosion of legal and moral rules, into an endless process of legalization/moralization (where “endless” refers to what Hegel called “spurious infinity”) called “the fight against all forms of discrimination.” If there are no shared mores that are allowed to influence the law, only the fact of “harassing” other subjects, who – in the absence of such mores – will decide what counts as “harassment”? There are, in France, associations of obese people which demand that all public campaigns against obesity and for healthy eating habits be stopped, since they hurt the self-esteem of obese persons. The militants of Veggie Pride condemn the “specism” of meat-eaters (who discriminate against animals, privileging the human animal – for them, a particularly disgusting form of “fascism”) and demand that “vegetophobia” should be treated as a kind of xenophobia and proclaimed a crime. And so on and so on: incest-marriage, consensual murder and cannibalism… The problem is here the obvious arbitrariness of the ever new rules – let us take child sexuality: one can argue that its criminalization is an unwarranted discrimination, but one can also argue that children should be protected from sexual molestation by adults. And we could go on here: the same people who advocate the legalization of soft drugs usually support the prohibition of smoking in public places; the same people who protest against the patriarchal abuse of small children in our societies, worry when someone condemns members of foreign cultures who live among us for doing exactly this (say, Gypsies preventing children from attending public schools), claiming that this is a case of meddling with other “ways of life.” It is thus for necessary structural reasons that this “fight against discrimination” is an endless process endlessly postponing its final point, a society freed of all moral prejudices which, as Jean-Claude Michea put it, “would be on this very account a society condemned to see crimes everywhere.” 
The ideological coordinates of such a liberal multiculturalism are determined by the two features of our “postmodern” zeitgeist: universalized multiculturalist historicism (all values and rights are historically specific, any elevation of them into universal notions to be imposed onto others is cultural imperialism at its most violent)  and universalized “hermeneutics of suspicion” (all “high” ethical motifs are generated and sustained by “low” motifs of resentment, envy, etc. – say, the call to sacrifice our life for a higher Cause is either the mask for a manipulation of those who need war for their power and wealth, or a pathological expression of masochism – and this either/or is an inclusive vel, i.e., both terms can be true at the same time). Another way to formulate Badiou’s insight that we live in a world-less universe is to claim that today’s functioning of ideology no longer relies on the mechanism of interpellation of individuals into subjects: what liberalism proposes is a value-neutral mechanism of rights etc., a mechanism “whose free play can automatically generate a desired political order, without at any point interpellating individuals into subjects.”  The nameless jouissance cannot be a title of interpellation proper; it is more a kind of blind drive with no symbolic value-form attached to it – all such symbolic features are temporary and flexible, which is why the individual is constantly called upon to “re-create” itself.
There is a problem with this liberal vision of which every good anthropologist, psychoanalyst, or even perspicuous social critic like Francis Fukuyama, is aware: it cannot stand on its own, it is parasitic upon some preceding form of what is usually referred to as “socialization” which it is simultaneously undermining, thereby cutting off the branch on which it is sitting. On the market – and, more generally, in the social exchange based on the market – individuals encounter each other as free rational subjects, but such subjects are the result of a complex previous process which concerns symbolic debt, authority, and, above all, trust (into the big Other which regulates exchanges). In other words, the domain of exchanges is never purely symmetrical: it is an a priori condition for each of the participants to give something without return so that he can participate in the game of give-and-take. For a market exchange to take place, there has to be subject here who participate in the basic symbolic pact and display the basic trust in the Word. Of course, market is the domain of egotist cheating and lying; however, as Lacan taught us, in order for a lie to function, it has to present itself and be taken as truth, i.e., the dimension of Truth has to be already established.
Kant missed the necessity of unwritten, disavowed, but necessary rules for every legal edifice or set of social rules – it is only such rules that provide the “substance” on which laws can thrive, i.e., properly function. (One can again imagine, along these lines, yet another version of the Kantian secret clause enjoining the states to always take into account the unwritten rules, without publicly admitting it.) The exemplary case of the efficiency of such unwritten rules is “potlatch”; the key feature that opposes potlatch to direct market exchange is thus the temporal dimension. In the market exchange, the two complementary acts occur simultaneously (I pay and I get what I paid for), so that the act of exchange does not lead to a permanent social bond, but just to a momentary exchange between atomized individuals who, immediately afterwards, return to their solitude. In potlatch, on the contrary, the time elapsed between me giving a gift and the other side returning it to me creates a social link which lasts (for a time, at least): we are all linked together with bonds of debt. From this standpoint, money can be defined as the means which enable us to have contacts with others without entering in proper relations with them. (Is the function of the masochist practices of bonding not (also) to supplement this lack of social bond proper, so that, in it, the foreclosed returns in the real – the suspended symbolic bond returns as literal bodily bonding?) 
This atomized society where we have contacts with others without entering in proper relations with them, is the presupposition of liberalism. The problem of organizing a state thus cannot be solved “even for a race of devils,” as Kant put it – that it can be is the key moment of the liberal utopia. One should link this Kant’s reference to a race of devils to another detail of his ethical thought. According to Kant, if one finds oneself alone on the sea with another survivor of a sunken ship near a floating piece of wood which can keep only one person afloat, moral considerations are no longer valid – there is no moral law preventing me from fighting to death with the other survivor for the place on the raft; I can engage in it with moral impunity. It is here that, perhaps, one encounters the limit of Kantian ethics: what about someone who would willingly sacrifice himself in order to give the other person a chance to survive – and, furthermore, is ready to do it for no pathological reasons? Since there is no moral law commanding me to do this, does this mean that such an act has no ethical status proper? Does this strange exception not demonstrate that ruthless egotism, the care for personal survival and gain, is the silent “pathological” presupposition of Kantian ethics – namely, that the Kantian ethical edifice can only maintain itself if we silently presuppose the “pathological“ image of man as a ruthless utilitarian egotist? In exactly the same way, the Kantian political edifice, his notion of ideal legal power, can only maintain itself if we silently presuppose the “pathological” image of the subjects of this power as “a race of devils.”
There is in liberalism, from its very inception, a tension between individual freedom and objective mechanisms which regulate the behavior of a crowd – it was already Benjamin Constant who formulated clearly this tension: everything is moral in individuals, but everything is physical in crowds; everybody is free as individual, but a cog in a machine in a crowd. Nowhere is the legacy of religion clearer: this, exactly, is the paradox of Predestination, of the unfathomable mechanism of Grace embodied, among others, in a market success. The mechanisms which will bring about social peace are independent of the will of individuals as well as of their merits – to quote Kant again:
The guarantee of perpetual peace is nothing less than that great artist, nature (natura daedala rerum). In her mechanical course we see that her aim is to produce a harmony among men, against their will and indeed through their discord.
This is ideology at its purest. One can claim that the notion of ideology was posited “for itself” only in the liberal universe, with its founding distinction between ordinary people immersed in their universe of Meaning, of (what appears from the properly modern perspective) the confusion between facts and values, and the cold rational realistic observers who are able to perceive the world the way it is, without moralistic prejudices, as a mechanism regulated by laws (of passions) like any other natural mechanism. It is only in this modern universe that society appears as an object of a possible experiment, as a chaotic field on which one can (and should) apply a value-free Theory or Science given in advance (a political “geometry of passions,” economy, racist science). Only this modern position of a value-free scientist approaching society in the same way as a natural scientist approaches nature, is ideology proper, not the spontaneous attitude of the meaningful experience of life dismissed by the scientist as a set of superstitious prejudices – it is ideology because it imitates the form of natural sciences without really being one. “Ideology” in a strict sense is thus always reflexive, redoubled in itself: it is a name for neutral knowledge which opposes itself to common “ideology.” (Even in Stalinist Marxism, which – in total opposition to Marx – uses the term “ideology” in a positive sense, ideology is opposed to science: first, Marxists analyze society in a neutral scientific way; then, in order to mobilize the masses, they translate their insights into “ideology.” All one has to add here is that this “Marxist science” opposed to ideology is ideology at its purest.) There is thus a duality inscribed into the very notion of ideology: (1) “mere ideology” as the spontaneous self-apprehension of individuals with all their prejudices; (2) neutral, “value-free” knowledge to be applied onto society to engineer its development. In other words, ideology always is (or, rather, appears) as its own species.
 Jean-Pierre Dupuy, “Quand je mourrai, rien de notre amour n’aura jamais existé,” unpublished manuscript of the intervention at the colloquium Vertigo et la philosophie, École Normale Supérieure, Paris, October 14 2005.
 For a more detailed elaboration of this line of thought of Bergson, see Chapter 9 of Slavoj Zizek In Defense of Lost Causes, London: Verso Books 2007.
 Viktor Frankl, Wissen und Gewissen, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1966.
 James was more interested in the contrast of mores between the near past and the present: the mechanics of time travel were foreign to him, which is why he wisely left the novel unfinished.
 Quoted from Dupuy, op.cit.
 Even some Lacanians praise democracy as the “institutionalization of the lack in the Other”: the premise of democracy is that no political agent is a priori legitimized to hold power, that the place of power is empty, open up to competition. However, by institutionalizing the lack, democracy neutralizes – normalizes – it, so that the big Other is again here in the guise of the democratic legitimization of our acts – in a democracy, my acts are “covered” as the legitimate acts which carry out the will of the majority.
 Quoted from Udi Aloni’s outstanding analysis of this case, “Samson the Non-European”(unpublished manuscript).
 Jean-Claude Michea, L’empire du moindre mal, Paris: Climats 2007, p. 145.
 The limit of this historicism is discernible in the way it coincides with ruthlessly measuring all the past with our own standards. It is easy to imagine the same person who, on the one hand, warns against imposing on the other cultures our Eurocentric values, and, on the other hand, advocating that classics like Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer – Huck Finn novels should be removed from school libraries because they are racially insensitive in their portrayal of Blacks and Native Americans…
 Jean-Claude Michea, op.cit., p. 69.
For a more detailed analysis of “potlatch,” see Chapter 1 in Zizek, op.cit.
Art: Les Helmers