Parody or Rhetorical Space: Laclau on Butler’s Parodic Politics

If a parodic performance means the creation of distance between the action actually being performed and the rule being enacted, and if the instance of application of the rule is internal to the rule itself. Parody is constitutive of any social action. Of course the word ‘parody’ has a playful ring to it, but this is not essential. One can think of the very tragic parodies of universal dimensions, like the one of Greeks and Romans enacted in the course of the French Revolution. In fact any political action – a strike, a speech in an election, the assertion of its right by an oppressed group – has a parodic component, as far as a certain meaning which was fixated within the horizon of an ensemble of institutionalized practices is displaced towards new uses which subvert its literality. This movement is tropological inasmuch as the displacement is not governed by any necessary logic dictated by what is being displaced, and catachrestical inasmuch as the entities constituted through the displacement do not have any literal meaning outside the very displacements from which they emerge. This is why I prefer to speak not of parody but of the social organized as a rhetorical space – not only because in that way we can avoid misunderstanding based on the playful connotations of the term parody, but also because the latter unduly restricts the tropoi which could be constitutive of social identities” (78).

Ernesto Laclau in Contingency, Hegemony, and Universality: Contemporary Dialogues on the Left.

Although I think the triumvirate of Butler, Laclau, and Zizek are obtuse (this quote could be articulated in a much simpler means), I am beginning to really enjoy this book.

I am not sure if all political action is parody. I am not sure that the Tea Party Movement, anything original, for instance. They are merely a chimera of existing sentiments in the political establishment. Perhaps they are a parody of marches and populist sentiments because the movement, while appearing to be populist, is run by an already existing political establishment? Perhaps they are also a parody because marching on Washington generally denotes the governments ignorance of social realities, when their sentiments are long-held by many within the Republican Party (as well as some Blue Dog Democrats)?

Perhaps I need to stop thinking about the Tea Party Movement and perhaps I should start live bloging this book?


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