Contesting realities

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Jessica Whyte


In 2004, an unnamed Bush adviser accused a senior Wall Street Journal reporter of belonging to the “reality based
community”—a community that believed solutions stem from the judicious study of reality. “We're history's actors, “ he told the journalist, “and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” Overwhelmingly, the response of those on the left, and of US progressives to this comment was to smugly deride the irrationalism and the arrogance of the Bush Administration. This paper, in contrast, will examine what is missed in the rush to accept membership of the reality based community. It will suggest that that the advisor's comments express something that was once a central tenet of the left: the belief that political action is capable of transforming reality. Today, on the left, this belief has been all but abandoned in the face of a seemingly unstoppable onslaught of free market capitalism and increasingly repressive state power. This paper will ask what it would mean today, to begin to re-imagine political action as capable of remaking the world.

Article Details

Articles (refereed)
Author Biography

Jessica Whyte, Centre for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies, Monash University.

Jessica Whyte is a doctoral candidate in the Centre for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies, Monash University. She is currently finalising a thesis on the political thought of Giorgio Agamben. She has recently published articles on Agamben, Ranciere, Benjamin, Immigration Control and Guantanamo Bay, in Law and Critique, Arena Journal, Conflitti Globali, and Ephemera and has published chapters in the collections Giorgio Agamben: Law, Literature, Life (2008) and Trauma, History, Philosophy (2008). She is a co-editor of the Theory and Event Symposium “The Beautiful Day of Life: Giorgio Agamben, Ontology, Politics” and of the Agamben Dictionary (Edinburgh University Press) (both forthcoming).