Politics in the sense of making things impossible

Heiner Müller once answered the old question WHAT'S TO BE DONE? with the formula: "making reality impossible!" If politics is the 'art of the possible', maybe art has to persue a 'politics of the impossible'?

In this confusion maybe the difference is helpful that Jacques Ranciere drew between politics and police. The police is a governing principle, measures taken to administer populations, the power not only to define what is right or wrong, legal or illegal, but also what is possible or impossible. Its tool is consent - a manufactured consent. Politics on the other hand is a permanent conflict-zone in which all of the above is put into question: right or wrong, legal or illegal, possible or impossible. Maybe this is why Müller once said that the only thing he still believed in was conflict. Everything else is taken care of by the police: agents of state-security, representatives of the moral majority or just your own super-ego.

So what does it mean to resist? What does the re- in resistance (or: revolution) refer to? Following Ranciere we would say that it means the withdrawal from the place that the police has laid out and to return to politics, to the conflict zone which precedes the order of things, the chaos before the differences are defined between this or that. What if the stage is that place? Or better said: should become that place in which this original turmoil takes place?

"Comrades, let's be realistic: Let's strive for the impossible!" (Che)


For a start

What does it mean to say something is political? There is much
political thought and art which somehow, despite it's best or worst
intentions, seems to only reinforce the status quo. How does one open
up a dialog with people on the other side? How does one open up a
dialog with neo-cons or fascists? It seems impossible but if no dialog
is possible then it is unlikely anything will change.

The American social and moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt identifies
the four foundations of moral sense, which he believes all cultures
share, as:

Aversion to Suffering, 2) Reciprocity, Fairness, and Equality, 3)
Hierarchy, Respect, and Duty and 4) Purity and Pollution. He goes on
to say that Western liberals make use only of the first two of these
moral bases while conservatives, as well as many other cultures, have
a tendency to adhere to all four. If true, this goes a long way to
explaining why it is so difficult to open up a dialog between the
right and the left.

Mark Fisher defines 'capitalist realism' and the idea that capitalism
is the only plausible mode of social organization available to us, the
fact that as a culture we find it completely impossible to even
imagine an end to capitalism. He identifies three areas through which
we should fight against it: 1) the environment, 2) mental heath, and
3) the fact that capitalism buries us in bureaucracy.

In every political thought or work of art there seem to be a paradox.
The idea is that we, artists, thinkers and viewers alike, know that
art is in many ways fundamentally reactionary and conservative, yet we
still want to believe that it is radical and revolutionary, and within
the space of this paradox there is room for a great deal to happen.

I am interested in politics as a spirit of resistance, as a desire to
open up possibilities. There is a sense in which this is also
paradoxical. Resistance, in order to remain resistant, must always be
unfinished, a work-in-progress, because if you win then you're in
power and somebody else has to resist against you. (I am wondering if
this paradox might ease the inherent frustration involved in any act
of sustained resistance.) Something similar might be said of opening
up possibilities: once they have been opened one had to move on. There
is something restless, unsustainable, about such modes of political

Jacob Wren