Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Guilt of the Oppressed

I thought this post of Richard Seymour's was interesting for the less-stressed point he makes about the broader idea of the guilt of the oppressed, which he highlights as important not merely in patriarchal structures but also in capitalist ones.  I'm not sure I fully grasped his psychoanalytic analysis of guilt, but to the extent that I did it seems he may be talking about the ways in which our attempts to move on from the ways that we are oppressed and abused, to put on hold or forget our desire to get revenge for or cope meaningfully with or fully address our pain and suffering, actually lead us to feel guilty, not so much because of what we did, but because of what we can never do in the world as it is.  This is interesting because I have never been abused, but I did have this painful work experience in our capitalist economy last year.  And it is genuinely hard to grapple with questions of whether I was to blame for the ways it went wrong or whether the workplace was, even as obviously the ultimate answer has to be both.  Logically, there are lots of good reasons to assign greater culpability to the workplace, but it is certainly true that in our capitalist economy that doesn't really matter very much, and I had to move on.  Although thankfully now it is less powerful than it is used to be, it's certainly true that a lot of what I was experiencing for the past year was guilt, a very strong guilt that had a major effect on how I lived my life.  I find Richard Seymour's perspective on this, then, to be personally interesting - to provide a new way of looking at my experiences for the past year and to consider the role of capitalism in constructing my guilt.

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