back to e-flux.com

A statement from Judith Butler.


#1

There are two questions that voters in the US from the left of center are asking themselves: Who are these people who voted for Trump? And why did we not prepare ourselves at all for this conclusion? The word “devastation” only starts to approach the widespread feeling of the moment among those I know. We did not know how widespread anger is against elites, how deep the anger of white men is against feminism and the civil rights movement, how demoralized by economic dispossession many people are, how exhilarated people are by isolationism and the prospect of new walls and nationalist bellicosity. Is this the new “whitelash”? Why did we not quite see it coming?

LIke our friends in the UK after Brexit, we are now skeptical of the polls: who is asked and who is not? Do people tell the truth when asked? Is it true that the vast majority of voters were white men and that many people of color sat this one out? Who is this angry and nullifying public who would rather be ruled by a mad man than a woman? Who is this angry and nihilistic public who blames the devastations of neo-liberalism and deregulated capitalism on the Democratic Party candidate? We have to think now about populism, right and left, and misogyny - how deep it really goes.

For better or worse, Hillary is identified with establishment politics. But what should not be underestimated is the deep-seated rage and anger against Hillary, partially the result of a rank misogyny and the revulsion against Obama, fueled by long simmering racism. Trump has unleashed pent up anger against feminists, figured as censorious police, against multiculturalism, viewed as a threat to white privileges, against migrants figured as a security threat. The empty rhetoric of false strength has triumphed, a sign of a despair more pervasive than we knew. But perhaps we are seeng a revulsion against the first black president coupled with a rage against the possibility of the first woman president on the part of many white men and some women. For a world that is increasingly mischaracterized as post-racial and post-feminist, we are now seeing how misogyny and racism overrides judgment and a commitment to democratic and inclusive goals - they are sadistic, resentful, and destructive passions driving our country.

Who are they, these people who voted for him, but who are we, who did not see their power, who did not anticipate this at all, who could not fathom that people would vote for a man with racist and xenophobic discourse, a history of sexual offenses, the exploitation of workers, disdain for the constitution, migrants, and a reckless plan for increased militarization?Perhaps we are shielded from the truth by our own isolated form of left and liberal thinking? or perhaps we believed in human nature in some naive ways. Under what conditions does unleashed hatred and reckless militarization compel the majority vote?

Of course, we do not yet know what portion of the population actually voted. But we are left with the question of how parliamentary democracy has brought us a rabidly anti-democratic president, and whether we now have to prepare to be more like a resistance movement than a political party. After all, at one Trump rally in New York tonight, the Trump supporters shamelessly revealed their exuberant hatred: " we hate Muslims, we hate blacks, we want to take our country back."


#2

In short, fiction finally hijacked reality. What’s becoming increasingly clear is that the same forces are at work within advanced neo liberal capitalist democracies which can be traced back to the effects of the financial crisis and what came after. The liquidation of the traditional identities in working class culture, polarised by increased wealth and the obvious failure of trickle down economics. Voters appear to fall for anyone who can identify the collective neurosis that lies at the heart of people’s lives, jobs, wealth, etc and offer a solution - the problem is that the solution is one of de-enlightenment that’s centred and sold on a twisted idea of nationhood which is encapsulated in the slogans ‘take back control’ ‘make America great again’. Now there’s a marketing seminar not just for the left of centre but for progressive politics as a whole to truly take stock if it’s ever to rebuild itself or locate an identity.


#3

quick warning that final quote comes from a fake twitter account


#4

I have so much respect for Judith Butler, but I have to point out that what she closes with – the assertion that Trump supporters were chanting that hateful slogan – actually comes from a “fake news” Twitter account. (https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/all-the-election-debunks?utm_term=.rrNrVRL6E&sub=4392539_9945772#.kt1p7wJYa)

I don’t even know where to start if Judith Butler is perpetuating false internet “news.”


#5

Very nice piece… What is a bit unsettling for me is however the persistent use of the Hillary’s first name, when talking about her, while ‘Obama’ and ‘Trump’ are always only called by their surnames. It’s not particularly surprising if people like Zizek do this, but it strikes me as a bit weird when perpetuated in a text attempting to address precisely the subject of rank and covert misogyny.


#6

This is misleading. I am suspicious Judith Butler wrote this. Where? It was posted by Anton?


#7

Perhaps the discord among the left wing comes from this talk of the misogynistic white male, while ignoring the 53% of white women who voted for Trump. Recently among the left has appeared a new kind of political activist who will hijack a righteous cause then promote guilt and insults, in order to dominate others using one’s political superiority. That is tyranny, not political activism; it appeals to baser passions just like Trump does, while reaping the political satisfaction of feeling superior to others. There’s also the racism of white privilege. Being curious, I went down to the welfare office and they were so apologetic, not knowing from the paperwork that I was white. Immediately my welfare checks went up to $100,000 /month and now I feel guilty. I’ll share that money with a non-caucasian as soon as the check comes in, which, I am told, is in the mail. Basically when you try to guilt others and identify as the holy one, then one should not be surprised if that moral stance is unconvincing to those we want to convert.


#8

Es normal que desde la academia no hayan visto lo que se venía. Este es tanto un problema del terrible sistema de educación que existe en EEUU, desde la educación inicial terminando en la academia que desde hace muchos años sólo se ve a sí misma. Mayoritariamente las ciencias sociales no han logrado aplicarse efectivamente. Muchos procesos quedan en planes pilotos al margen del sistema. Ya sea por antipatía al sistema o porque el sistema es incapaz de asumirlo. Las revoluciónes y el rechazo al sistema no han logrado concretarse un cambio real. La gente que votó por Trump son igual al sistema. Tantas décadas después no han aceptado que el mundo es todos, los desechos son de todos. En cierta forma el hombre blanco ahora es el otro al que hemos olvidado.


#9

Me parece un poco ingenua esta posición. Es normal que desde la academia no hayan visto lo que se venía. Este es un problema del terrible sistema de educación que existe en EEUU, desde la educación inicial terminando en la academia que desde hace muchos años sólo se ve a sí misma. Mayoritariamente las ciencias sociales no han logrado aplicarse efectivamente. Muchos procesos quedan en planes pilotos al margen del sistema. Ya sea por antipatía al sistema o porque es incapaz de asumirlo. Las revoluciónes y el rechazo al sistema no han logrado concretarse en un cambio real, no hay aún una alternativa al capitalismo. La gente que votó por Trump son igual al sistema. Tantas décadas después no han aceptado que el mundo es de todos, los derechos son de todos. En cierta forma el hombre blanco ahora es El Otro al que hemos olvidado educar.


#10

maybe it’s simply better than her husband’s name, if you know what I mean…


#11

I miss the source information! When and in which context did she say that? Was this statement recorded and transcribed, or is it based on notes? Please add the sources! (You should be aware of how important they are.)


#12

Hello. I really do not think Judith Butler wrote this piece which was posted by Anton. This is misleading.


#13

i checked with the friend who forwarded this to me and she says that rosi braidotti sent it to her directly from judy’s iPad.


#14

I just spoke to Rosi and seems she just want to use this for teaching purpose. You should ask the permission of Judith Butler or at least cite the authorized source of this. Butler has an authorized statement in German in the newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung; the same (authorized) piece was also published in both the Italian and the English version of the newspaper Il Manifesto. Please cite them or get the permission of Butler. It is a basic rule that should be respected, even online.


#15

thanks Anton for sharing and for clarifying that indeed this was written by Judith Butler. I heard her speak once and I passionately loved her arguments and magniloquence, and I normally agree with what she writes but here I am not so convinced. To me this statement looks too careless as much as it does acknowledge Hillary Clinton’s pitfalls as a democratic candidate, a candidate incapable of embracing any truly leftist ideas, nor any sustainable and responsible agenda. Of course, as i m not a citizen of the US I did not have the right to vote, and as I am not living there I may have a very distorted and partial perspective, but still I am sure that many as me have been very skeptical of her unconvincing and seasoned positions, especially when we think of international politics. People opted for the rule of a mad man over that of a bellicose woman, not a woman as any other. Hillary Clinton was not the right woman, or person for instance. I found myself supporting the very promising Jill Stein as I realized that I agreed with almost every single word I heard coming out of her mouth, and I was so happy to find a leader that represents me and satisfies my expectations. I assume that some self reflectivity on what led Clinton to failure as a candidate who was actually not left of center enough, would be more urgent than seething over the logics of any “angry and nihilistic public”.


#16

Hi there, Rosi sent this to Wietske Maas with an instruction: “Feel free to distribute it widely, to translate it and post it.” which is exactly what I have done on this platform. Perhaps Rosi should write to me if this is a problem. I was also not aware that it has been published elsewhere.


#17

I think Rosi means for private distribution. The original name of this article is “American election swamped by sexism and racism”.


#18

Hi again, we contacted Judith, she confirmed that the text is hers and is fine to circulate (she mentioned it was written in haste…) I hope this clarifies all the confusion.


#19

This from Talkpolitics:


#20

In Argentina I supported Cristina Fernandes de Kirchner, not because she is a woman, though I admired that so many in the stereotypical macho country could see the value of Kirchner’s vision and her willingness to clash with entities such as the hedge funds, the IMF, the local oligrachies and Washington. If I was Brazilian, I would have supported Dilma Rousseff despite her political shortcomings. Obama as well as HRC, to the contrary, endorsed the coup against the president of Brazil, who was replaced by the type of criminals who are more likely to relate to the antics of Trump. Butler does not seem to understand that many of those she calls the ‘’‘nihilists’’ who preferred to ‘‘sit it out’’ were not exclusively ‘‘white men’’, and may have included those most vilified by the Trump campaign. US citizens of immigrant origins may have felt paralyzed by the shock effect,and the coercion, having to choose either for the destruction promised by Trump, or for Mrs. Clinton whose policies on immigration, economics and militarism they remember from recent years. It is not simple to make choices at gun-point–either Clinton or fascism, no possibility of the more popular Bernie Sanders. Their response was not mechanical or rational when responding with passivity, the result of fear-mongering and demotivation. Why does Butler not speak out at the smear-campaigns and scapegoating against Jill Stein and Sanders?