Production and consumption of Politics in India

There is both production and consumption of politics all over the world.  The election season in India may be an opportune time to reflect on this complex chain of production and consumption.  Production is important Marxist category and has deep explanatory power.   But we have to note that It has been dumped by thinkers like Jean Baudrillard who think that it has been exhausted of its power of explanation.  Yet it  may be still regarded as an important notion as we can clearly discern that our society is organised around production and consumption models.  The productive force of politics is consumed in different degree by us and we need to examine its impact on society. Some say that because of British, we Indians have learnt to live on diet of political narratives.  As food gives us energy, political tales, events and formations also brings energy into our society. Maybe a Lacanian reading may assist us to understand our necessity of a political diet.  

Lacan points out those humans live in three registers, the imaginary, the symbolic and the real. An example of chess game might assist us to understand this inter-tangled triad.  The rules one has to follow to play make the symbolic. Thus, from the symbolic stand point of view the Knights, the Queen, the Bishops and the Pods can only make clearly defined moves within possibilities  permitted by the rules. Imaginary realm pertains to the way these different pieces are shaped and characterised by their names and it is easy for us to imagine a game  that can be played by the same rules but with different shapes of pieces with different names like runners or massagers etc. The real is the entire set of contingent circumstance that affects the course of the game like the intelligence of the players,  unpredictable intrusions that may affect one player or directly cut the game short. Lacan teaches that big Other operates at the symbolic levels. Now we may think that politics is also game.  It will be played at the three levels:  the imaginary, the symbolic and the real.  The imaginary makes for the different players in the production of politics (political parties, ideologies etc). The symbolic is the rules that they follow in the play. The symbolic acts like the yardstick against which the different players have measure up.  The play is complex but we can see it as triangular which includes the political parties and the people. It is the interplay of three that produces and consumes politics.   The real is too real and we fail to grasp it but it keeps affecting all the players. 

The big Other has great control over us. It produces a sense of being watched over. Its gaze becomes an imperative to fall into a role and plays it as if our life depended on it. This makes feel a lack, absence, loss or inadequacy. This sense of lack produces desire.  Note how the big Other calls a right-wing enthusiast to indulge in its politics. The right-wing nationalism denationalizes everyone including the  Hindus. All are not national enough. Hindus have to become sanskari Hindus to be national.  But the big Other is fragile. It can act as far as its subject act as if it exists.  It stays with one who thinks it is the horizon of the meaning of his/ her life.  This is why individuals from one ideological leaning can jump ship into another ideology. We can see this happening in Goa these days. Congress MLAs have become candidates of BJP, MGP MLA’s have emerged with BJP and become saffron. In one case the former Minister of BJP has become a Congress candidate. We seem to have entered a Post-ideological era. The symbolic order of decent political behaviour is ruptured in Goa.  But even when one violates the symbolic order one cannot get away from the of gaze big Other.  Thus, for instance, when it comes to the opinion of the other, it is never merely what I, you or other individual think but more so what the impersonal ‘ one’  thinks or when some violets decency it, we never simply do what majority of others do not do but We do what ‘ one’ does not do. We always feel an intimate other/ ‘ the one’  whose gaze never leaves us. Thus, acts of monkey jump that we have witnessed in Goa these days are also felt as unethical at the most intimate level by those who have indulged in them.  The big Other is a Kantian condition of possibility. It is transcendental and apriori . It marks and limits the scope of human practice. 

The big Other constrains or limits the possibilities.  Most humans follow the dictates of the big other without being fully aware of it. This is why politics grounded into ideologies is predictable. Ideology operates as the big Other that mark the domain of play within the scope of the ideology.  It is not just that the producers of politics that are bound to the ideology but we the consumers are also bound to ideologies by the way we expect political behaviour that is flowing from respective ideologies. When someone fails to meet our expectations, like those who jumped ship or those who aligned with a Party whose ideology repels us, we lose the social glue and find the politics unpalatable. This means we cannot digest the declarative dimension at is circulated by these disruptive political    acts.  A joke might illustrate what is may be called the declarative dimension of an act. It is said that three persons went to pray. One who was rich stood up and said: God I am nobody, I do not deserve your attention. The second who was also rich said: God I am no body, I do not deserve your attention. The third person was very poor. He too stood up and said: God I am nobody, I do not deserve your attention. Hearing him pray, the two rich persons began to murmur: ‘ look who is saying he is nobody’. Here we can see that the rich persons rejected the declarative intend of the poor man because they were governed by the big Other that placed the symbolic order where  only a rich or  one who is somebody can say that he/she is no body. There is a declarative dimension of the symbolic order and it deserves our critical attention.  Thus, we can see that the production and consumption of politics  is constrain by what Lacan calls the Big Other.  If we reflect deeply, even food in our country can provide us food for thought.  This is why we have to understand how the big Other afflicts us and reflectively generate emancipative response to free us and our society from its entanglements. 

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao