The Ideological Fantasies of Market Discourse
The Ideological Fantasies of Market Discourse
“DON’T THINK OF THEM AS TERRORIST STATES. THINK OF THEM AS TERRORIST MARKETS”
“Don’t think of them as terrorist states. Think of them as terrorist markets,” a cartoon stated recently in the New Yorker (May 12, 2003). It depicts a board room of some sort with people sitting around a table conducting a meeting chaired by the person at the head of the table. Through the window, outside of the board room one sees the dome of Congress, flying a flag. I find this cartoon funny and certainly fascinating, even if I am not sure whether I fully understand it. I take the sheer fact that this cartoon has appeared, that it is possible to express what it says and have it published, to be indicative of the condition of contemporary discourse. The fact that this cartoon and the joke it conveys can come into being, sheds light on the make-up or constitution of contemporary discourse, and in particular existing discourse about the market. That discourse namely forms the condition of possibility for producing this cartoon. This cartoon thus offers a singular view at the state of market discourse.
In looking closer and by unraveling what enables the performance of the cartoon, we can infer some features of this discourse. The joke of the cartoon is primarily enabled by the discursive displacement of two distinct if not opposing terms or signifiers: ‘state’ and ‘market.’ In essence, the operation of the cartoon consists of replacing ‘state’ with ‘market’ and it is this displacement that gives the cartoon its wit. Notwithstanding other aspects like the signifier ‘terrorism’ and whatever is contained in the drawing, the ‘state’-’market’ displacement is the core operation of the cartoon. I read it as that ‘the state’ is shifted or subsumed under ‘the market.’ Or, the notion of a ‘terrorist state’ is brought under that of ‘the market.’ What exactly is being displaced is nevertheless less determinate and forms the play that goes on in the cartoon.
In this paper, I use this cartoon as an entry to analyze the current state of market discourse. As it is central to the cartoon, I first examine the ‘state’-’market’ displacement. I propose to view this displacement as particularly distinctive of market discourse in the 1990s. Next, I argue that this displacement in fact amounts to an ideological form of discourse. Drawing on the accounts of ideology by Laclau (1996) and Žižek (e.g. 1989; 1990; 1991), I argue that this displacement exemplifies an ideological form of discourse, namely respectively that of an illusion of closure or a social fantasy.
However, what makes the cartoon particularly acute is of course its juxtaposition with ‘terrorism.’ It is only against the background of this signifier that the ‘state’-’market’ displacement becomes meaningful in the cartoon. The arrival on the scene of ‘terrorism’ or ‘9/11’ for that matter thus prompts a second set of questions for this paper. It invites the question of what the impact or effect is of the newly conceived terrorist threat on prevailing market discourse. It is often said, for instance by the commentator Thomas Friedman whose work I will analyze in the following, that the incidence of 9/11 brought an end to the roaring 1990s. If I am right in saying that the ‘state’-’market’ displacement is the hallmark of market discourse in the 1990s, than it is worth examining whether and how it might have been affected by the encounter with the new language of terrorism.
In what follows, I will first make plausible that the ‘state’-’market’ displacement is typical of market discourse in the 1990s and that it does so particularly through the notion of market democracy. To indicate some of the features of this displacement, I draw here on the work of two cultural and political commentators, namely Thomas Frank (2001) and Thomas Friedman (2000). The latter is interesting because after his free market and globalist, Lexus and the olive tree (2000), Friedman published Longitudes and Attitudes (2003) in which he accounts for the age of terrorism. This sequence gives me the opportunity to trace– albeit only within this particular context – the impact of the terror of 9/11 on market discourse in the second part of the paper. Before that, however, I spell out the particular ideological formation represented by the market democracy displacement. Subsequently I turn to considering the impact of the terrorist threat on market discourse, not only through the prism of Friedman’s discourse, but also by analyzing a brief but fierce outburst of discourse over the so-called terrorism market, as developed by the DARPA unit of the Pentagon. I will conclude with some general conclusions regarding the current state of market discourse.
Market Discourse in the 1990s: One Market under God?
The displacement that feeds the cartoon, the summons to think of some social activity not as state but instead as market may not appear too outlandish. The reason is that it has become common sense. It lied at that the heart of the neo-liberal discourses of deregulation, liberalization and, privatization, and as will become evident from Friedman’s Lexus and the olive tree, also drove globalist discourse. Especially in the nineties, after the fall of the Wall and while riding along with booming markets, the ‘state’-’market’ displacement seems to have become an instant truth and common trope.
It is worth considering, however, how it got this far. One of my entry points is One Market under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy (2001). In it, Thomas Frank offers a penetrating cultural critique of market discourse in the 1990s. Using a wide range of discursive sources, mostly from the business literature and (business) media, but also advertisements and speeches, Frank exhibits how American culture underwent a dramatic transformation during the nineties. Quotes from business gurus, stockbrokers, and business leaders like Tom Peters, Walter Wriston, George Gilder, and op-eds or other articles in media like Wired, The Wall Street Journal, and Forbes serve as an extended record of how a diverse play on the market as signifier subverted and transformed a wide range of discourses. The title, One Market under God acutely illustrates the cultural shift that took place. This shift, cleverly conveyed by a play on the pledge of allegiance to the flag replacing ‘one nation under God,’ entails the very displacement that also informed the cartoon. Frank documents the shift in which the conventional view of the political as some form of representative democracy is replaced with one based on the market. Via the notion of ‘democracy,’ ‘the market’ has become an equivalent of and replaces ‘the state’ in the discourse of the nineties.
But as Frank argues it implies a particular kind of democracy at best. The transformation consists of the rise of what Frank calls, market populism. Market populism is the view that the market is a more democratic, or at least a more popularly democratic system than say a representative democracy:
… I will call “market populism”: That in addition to being mediums of exchange, markets were mediums of consent. Markets express the popular will more articulately and more meaningfully than did mere elections. Markets conferred democratic legitimacy; markets were a friend of the little guy; markets brought down the pompous and the snooty; markets gave us what we wanted, markets looked out for our interests. (Frank 2001., xiv)
During the nineties, by means of all sorts of discursive interventions, the signifier ‘market’ has thus been redefined and to its purely economic meaning of exchange acquired an additional meaning, namely that of ‘popular democracy.’ ‘The market’ equals ‘the people:’
… the market represented the people, that it acted on the people’s behalf, that its spoke in the vox populi. Markets were not merely organs of exchange, they were a never-ending election that had, in Thomas Friedman’s phrase, “turned the whole world into a parliamentary system,” a place where people “vote every hour, every day through their mutual funds, their pension funds, their brokers, and, more and more, from their own basements via the internet. (ibid., 93)
Of course, the claim that the market equals popular democracy is not new, for it seems to be common sense among economists. What is new is that the ‘people’ started believing in it. Newsweek columnist, Robert Samuelson is quoted saying: “the Market ‘R’ Us.” and as a corollary to such a view, entrepreneurs become public servants and everything that is being produced the expression of popular desire – “the box office as the voting booth” – and free trade analogous to humanitarian aid (ibid., 69):
The market was a community. The market was infinitely diverse, permitting without prejudice the articulation of any and all tastes and preferences. Most importantly of all, the market was militant about its democracy. It had no place for snobs, for hierarchies, for elitism, for pretense, and it would fight these things by its very nature. (ibid., 29)
The market does not allow contradiction neither on charges of discrimination nor on any other political goals such as environmentalism or equality. Hence the clearest expression of an antagonism over the popular market is that anybody who dares to take issue with the popular market, is deemed ‘elitist’: “Don’t think about how to fix things, the new populists would counsel. Surrender your arrogant egotism and humbly heed what the market whispers” (ibid., 31). If the market represents the popular will, than ‘the elitist’ is its biggest enemy. Frank shows how regulators, governments, the media, France, intellectuals, and protesters all became icons of misguided snobbism.
About who was doing the persuading, Frank is straightforward. They are the corporate populists, whose interests are best served promoting the legitimacy of the market:
… the importance of business’s cultural battle cannot be overstated. This book is the story of how that argument was joined and won in the 1990s, of how the American corporate community went about winning the legitimacy it so covets, persuading the world that the laissez-faire way was not only the best and the inevitable way, but the most committed to the will and the interest of the people. (ibid., 22-23)
How the persuading took place requires a more complicated and divers account. Supplemented with the signifier of ‘popular democracy,’ the populist versions of market discourse seem to have been selling all by itself, just adding to an already existing sense of ‘triumphalism.’ Let it be noted that this is another form of triumphalism than the one based on the collapse of Communism. Market triumphalism of the nineties is largely the consequence of the booming stock-market, which is itself too a large extent stimulated by market populism. In short, it is a market populist boom:
And it was this notion of market democracy, amplified by the repetition of thousands of journalists and hundreds of books and magazines, by the words of the hopeful in online chatrooms, as much as any mundane factor like greed or earnings or growth, that propelled the averages up and up, on through the limits of the old bull markets, on into democratic ecstasies, unknown and uncharted. This was a magic boom … (ibid., 103)
The popular democratic reading of markets therefore cannot be seen in isolation from the ‘democratization’ or popularization of the stock-market. Calling it a “Democracy Bubble,” Frank therefore shows how the business literature, media and advertising enacted the popularization of the stock market. He points at the emergence of popularized forms of stock-brokerage, such as E*trade or Discover, a joint venture of Sears and J.P. Morgan. Major brokerage firms, like Schwab, Merrill and Lynch, and J.P. Morgan try to popularize their business by casting casually dressed everyday people in their advertisements instead of serious bankers in grey suits. Frank cites the annual report of E*Trade that emphasizes the social revolution it stands for likening it to the civil rights movement by printing a picture of black passengers at the back of the bus, with the caption “1964: They Said Equality Was Only For Some of US” (quoted in Frank, 91). This is than E*Trade’s social revolution: “In the 21st century it’s all about leveling the playing field and democratizing individual personal financial services” (quoted in Frank, 91-92). According to Frank the “moral fable of populism” is best told by means of the so-called Beardstown Ladies: a group of older ladies in a small town in the Midwest that runs a highly successful investment club and even publishes an investment guide. After the stock market burst, the fable proved to be a confabulation and as elsewhere rested on misstated results.
Publications like, The Millionaire Living Next Door, exemplify the change in the popular appreciation of the stock market by promoting the view that everyone can become rich on the stock exchange. Another of those populist icons, is the college drop-out, young punk, whose internet start-up made him a 23 year old, millionaire. Frank indicates how the middle class became more and more involved in the stock-market, not only through direct investments, but also through mutual funds, the issuing of stock-options as compensation for their work and the tying of their pension funds to the stock-market. Hence, the idea of market democracy spread out in every direction, affecting views on management, labor organization and the relation between company and consumer. The management literature is full of ‘revolutionary’ language in which business gurus compare themselves to Che Guevara. Market populism is brought to the shopfloor by Tom Peters saying: “blast[…] the violent winds of the marketplace into every nook and cranny in the firm” (quoted in Frank, 190) “Let them eat Stock” (ibid., 99), a hedge fund manager is heard saying as a response to lay-offs. Market populism’s solution to business restructuring is to offer stock to those who are being laid off in order to let them benefit from their own dismissal.
During the 1990s, all employers, employees, consumers, and pensioners gradually became convinced they were equal citizens of a democratic state called, the marketplace. “Don’t think of democracy as a state,” says the market populist trope of the nineties, “think of democracy as a market.” Frank’s analysis serves to show that by relying on a populist idea of democracy, the ‘state’-’market’ displacement was popularized during the nineties. Its biggest effort, however, is not that people became convinced of the simple exchangeability of state and market. It can be inferred from Frank’s account that, market populism furthermore entails the belief that the market is actually more democratic than really existing democracies. State operated democracies are not only the elitist enemies but if truth be told ought to be replaced by the far more democratic democracy of the market. Drawing on Frank, I maintain that the true revolution of the nineties is not the wholesale application of markets, but the widespread belief that the market displacement amounts to a far superior form of democracy.
In Lexus and the olive tree, Thomas Friedman tells a similar story with only slightly different terms as he is concerned with international relations. Where Frank’s account centered on the market in which the ‘Internet’ and ‘globalization’ served as auxiliary signifiers, Friedman’s story is one, whose central signifier is that of ‘globalization.’ Contrary to Frank’s it does start with the demise of the Cold War system. Friedman’s central thesis is that to understand the world of the 1990s, requires seeing that the world is no longer part of the Cold War system, but should be understood in terms of the system of globalization. The book is an extended attempt to fill in this signifier of globalization. Thomas Friedman uses all possible discursive means to thread together his message as for instance every chapter depends on a newfound metaphor or pun.
Friedman takes his cue from the very same genre of popularizing advertisements already cited by Frank, in his case a Merrill Lynch advertisement entitled “The World is 10 Years Old.” It states about globalization that:
It was born when the Wall fell in 1989. It’s no surprise that the world’s youngest economy – the global economy – is still finding its bearings. Many world markets are only recently freed, governed for the first time by the emotions of the people rather than the fists of the state. […] The spread of free markets and democracy around the world is permitting more people everywhere to turn their aspirations into achievements […] (cited in Friedman, xvi)
What is new about the current wave of globalization, according to Friedman, “is the degree and intensity with which the world is being tied together into a single globalized marketplace and village” (ibid., xvii). Thus already in the first few pages of the book, Friedman has laid down the well-known ‘state’-’market’ displacement as the foundation for his entire account of globalization. He presents a sequence that runs from the Fall of the Wall, via the ‘state’-’market’ displacement to the system of globalization. And despite attempts to describe globalization not purely as an economic system, but also as a cultural and political system, Friedman cannot avoid depicting globalization as the market writ large:
The driving idea behind globalization is free-market capitalism – the more you let market forces rule and the more you open your economy to free trade and competition, the more efficient and flourishing your economy will be. (ibid., 9)
Just like market-capitalism, globalization is perceived as having a logic of its own and it is Friedman’s endeavor to make this system understandable. He will argue that its logic is the inevitable outcome of a historical developments and both opponents and proponents do better to understand this logic, before they start tampering with it.
In order to make the system of globalization understandable, Friedman gratefully draws on the ‘state’-’market’ displacement, exploiting the metaphorical opposition between the Cold War system and that of globalization. Just like Frank noticed, Friedman inserts the notion of revolution into the accounts to describe the transformation. A political revolution brought us from the Cold War into a globalized world. He devotes a full chapter, entitled “Globalution,” the contraction of ‘globalization’ and ‘revolution,’ to describe the particular political revolutions that market writ large enables. And the metaphorical shift from a world of walls, to a global world of integrated webs, allows Friedman to replace all political relations with market relations: “To paraphrase German political theorist Carl Schmitt, the Cold War was a world of “friends” and “enemies.” The globalization world, by contrast, tends to turn all friends and enemies into “competitors” (ibid., 12). When states are replaced by markets, Friedman seems to argue, one is forced to rethink all possible political relations. Once powerful nation-states have been supplemented with “Supermarkets” and “Superempowered individuals” (ibid., 14).
Along the way of his eulogy filling in the meaning of globalization, Friedman introduces two new and powerful metaphors: the “Golden Straightjacket” and the “Electronic Herd.” The “Electronic Herd” is Friedman’s pet name for a boundless and boundary-less group of international consumers, investors, producers, stakeholders, and activists. It gathers its information, moves, and acts over the Internet and as such shapes affairs all over the globe. The electronic herd thus forces states, companies, other organizations, and consumers all over the world into a “Golden Straightjacket.” All of them will have to abide by the rules of the electronic herd if they are not to be punished by it. If for Friedman, globalization is the market writ large, than the golden straightjacket is the discipline inflicted by the invisible hand of the electronic herd:
The Electronic Herd loves the Golden Straightjacket because it embodies all the liberal, free-market rules the herd wants to see in a country. […] those that don’t put in on are disciplined by the herd – either by the herd avoiding or withdrawing its money form that country (ibid., 110).
The displacement of states by markets is also for Friedman founded on the idea of democracy of a populist kind. Globalization, the breaking down of walls, according to Friedman, is based on three instances of democratization: the respective democratizations of technology, finance and information. Technology made the world accessible for all and made goods, thoughts, and power, globally available. Similarly became information and knowledge globally spread: available to all and nobody can hide from it. Global finance made capital globally available and the world globally available for capital. It made finance more democratic by turning everyone into a capitalist:
Thanks to this democratization of finance, we have gone from a world in which a few bankers held the sovereign debts of a lot of countries, to a world in which a few bankers held the sovereign debts of a lot of countries, and finally to a world today in which many individuals, through pension funds and mutual funds, hold the sovereign debts of many countries. (ibid., 59)
The global market democracy of the globalization system is depicted as a peculiar yet ideal democratic system. First, is to note that its citizenry is a global constituency. The Electronic Herd forms the constituents of today’s global democracy that votes with its feet wherever and whenever it wants. Secondly, it appears as an instant democracy. It is a form of democracy in which plebiscites take place in realtime, 24/7 and as such impose a permanent democratic straightjacket on the leadership: “The Electronic Herd turns the whole world into a parliamentary system, in which every government lives under the fear of a no-confidence vote from the herd” (ibid., 137). Finally, this global market democracy is supposedly non-arbitrary. Because of its global constituency and the instant character of the democracy, no one can withdraw itself from its grasp. Moreover, since there are no apparent centers of power, its rule is impartial:
Globalization is not a choice. It’s reality. There is just one global market today, and the only way you can grow at the speed your people want to grow is by tapping into the global stock and bond markets, by seeking out multinationals to invest in your country and by selling into the global trading system what your factories produce. And the most basic truth about globalization is this: No one is in charge. […] But the global marketplace today is an Electronic Herd of often anonymous stock, bond and currency traders and multinational investors, connected by screens and networks. […] The Electronic Herd cuts no one any slack. No one. It does not recognize anyone’s unique circumstances. The herd knows only its own rules. But the rules are pretty consistent – they are the rules of the Golden Straitjacket. (ibid., 113)
Friedman has thus created the image of a global market democracy that is evidently of a popular kind. Just as Frank witnessed in the discourse of the 1990s, Friedman also provides an account of a global market that is more democratic than any existing democratic state. His imagery of the Electronic Herd and the Golden Straightjacket impart the vision of a global market as a sovereignless disciplining power more benign than any democratic state body can be.
Democracies vote about a government’s policies once every two or four years. But the Electronic Herd votes every minute of every hour of every day. Anytime you want to know, the herd will tell you exactly how you look in a Golden Straitjacket and whether it fits well or not. (ibid., 114)
Hence, also in Friedman’s ‘state’-’market’ displacement from Cold War states to the global market of the 1990s, hides a populist assumption of market democracy.
Market Democracy: Ideological Fantasy of the 1990s
The ‘state’-’market’ displacement contained in the cartoon and its proliferation in the 1990s is of course not unprecedented. Displacements using the ‘market’ have existed throughout modernity and one can perhaps even conclude that the market imaginary is distinctive of modernity (viz. Taylor 2002). Moreover, social institutions and thus the institution of the market require a fair dose of imagination as well. This is not to say however, that the market imagination does never overstretch itself. Market imagination is a well accepted form of social imagination, yet can also take pathological forms. Given that the market displacement is at its apex at turn of the century, it is worth examining its stakes. My argument is that during the 1990s and this carries on into the cartoon, the market imagination takes one of these pathological forms, namely that of an ideological fantasy.
The notion of a an ideological fantasy comes from Žižek (e.g. 1989; 1990; 1991) and fits in with contemporary, post-ideological accounts of ideology (e.g. Laclau 1996; see also Norval 2000). The theoretical challenge to contemporary theories of ideology is how to salvage ideology after the discursive turn (viz. Norval 2000). Many ‘ends of ideology’ have been proclaimed, yet as Norval put it, the “ubiquity of ideology” has prompted many to develop a post-ideological notion of ideology. Both Laclau and Žižek for instance share the assumptions of a discourse theoretic approach, but without yielding to the impossibility of ideology. The typical contention, namely, is that if everything has become discourse, there is no longer any way to determine how ideology is in any way more deceptive or illusionary than other, regular forms of discourse. For Foucault, for example, there is no longer any place for the notion of ideology, once you submit to analyses in terms of power-knowledge discourses (viz. Foucault 1980, 118). With Foucault one could for instance argue that there is no ground from which to determine that the market displacement is in any way more misleading or illusionary than any other discursive displacement. I turn to Laclau and Žižek because each seeks in their own terms a way to circumvent the impossibility of ideology.
Neither Laclau nor Žižek would deny the Foucauldian point that discourse and ideology have become analytically indistinguishable. Strictly speaking, ideological claims cannot attain any presence within discourse. Since in a discursive universe we do not have any access to the truth or reality without any discursive mediation, and hence the possibility of ideological distortion, all claims are equally ideological or non-ideological. This is the relativistic hammer that it can be said of every claim that is used to proof the ideological distortion of some other claim, that it is itself ideological. Both Laclau and Žižek search their way out of this ideological quagmire by suggesting that the ‘true’ ideological distortion is located in the constitution of discourse. For Laclau for instance, ideology is a form of constitutive illusion or distortion. It is not visible, cannot be expressed within discourse, but expresses itself through discourse. The consequence is that for Laclau as well as Žižek, our discursive reality is always already ideological. Both thus have to find a way to relate to this distorted constitution.
Laclau’s (1996) solution can best be characterized as post-structuralist in a literal sense in that he arrives at the ideological distortion by examining the structural limits of discourse. According to Laclau, the constitution of discourse is always a distorting process since it presumes an absent center. His approach is to say that if the discursive surface is itself a permanent play of the ideological distortion than it only reveals its ideological distortion when it itself suggests some form of extra-discursive closure. In short, this is when discourse betrays its own impossible foundation. It could be said that discourse overreaches in attempting to hide its own post-structural structure. The ideological concealment is not the hiding of some discursive entity, but instead “… the act of concealment consists in projecting on to that identity the dimension of closure that it ultimately lacks” (ibid., page number not available in electronic version).
This approach to ideology fits with Laclau’s departures from a structuralism. Post-structuralists, like for instance Derrida’s deconstructions, claim that meaning in discourse only exists at the mercy of a loss of meaning. Hence discourse, when pushed to its limits, will inevitably stumble upon its own impossibilities. Laclau thus seems to argue that ideological discourse deliberately attempts to conceal its own impossibilities by insinuating a center. It hence creates an “illusion of [extra-discursive] closure” and thus discourse makes itself self-sufficient. The typical way for discourse to go about this ideological function is when it attaches to one particular notion, or discursive content the full meaning of the entire world:
This is the ideological effect strictu sensu: the belief that there is a particular social arrangement which can bring about the closure and transparency of the community. There is ideology whenever a particular content shows itself as more than itself. (ibid.)
The typical way to do so is when the fullness of a particular signifier is depicted as also already containing the content of what prevents it from being full. As this is however finally impossible, Laclau concludes that “we will continue living in an ideological universe.” (ibid.)
Like Laclau, Žižek also puts the relation between what is distorted and what is undistorted in traditional approaches to ideology on its head. Žižek inverts the Marxian idea of ideology, claiming that the illusion is not contained in the illusionary account of social reality, but that social reality itself is illusionary: “The fundamental level of ideology, however, is not of an illusion masking the real state of things, but that of an (unconscious) fantasy structuring our social reality itself” (Žižek 1994, 316). The crux of Marx’s formula of ideology in “they do not know it, but they are doing it” is thus for Žižek that the illusion resides not in the knowing part, but in the doing part. Even for self-aware cynics, who speak about the illusions, the ideological operation is still located in the social reality in which they act. The social reality in which people act already contains the illusion of which they are not aware. For Žižek any non-post-ideological account of ideology, conceives of it as an ideological fantasy: the illusion that is structuring social reality. This illusion is truly ideological if that illusion cannot be discerned from social reality.
With this formulation, however, Žižek brings us back to the problematic of ideology. If ideology is the illusion inherent to our social, discursive reality, than all discourse is ideological. As Žižek states it, “this notion [ideology] somehow grows ‘too strong’, it begins to embrace everything, inclusive of the very neutral, extra-ideological ground supposed to provide the standard by means of which onc can measure ideological distortion” (Žižek 1994, 16). Žižek however argues that this position, “such a quick, slick ‘postmodern solution” (ibid., 17), is in itself again ideological. Thus for a critique of ideology, one has to go “Beyond Discourse Analysis” (Žižek 1990).
This is where Žižek takes a decisively Lacanian turn. For him the beyond of discourse should be understood psychoanalytically. To describe the ideological operation Žižek resorts to the psychoanalytical concept of a fantasy. The ideological appears in the guise of discourse acting out a fantasy. The defining feature of a fantasy is that it portrays a situation of bliss in which any obstruction is gone. It does so however, by first invoking its obstruction and next showing the overcoming of that obstruction. A fantasy is not the expression of a wish to be in a certain state, but is the expression to be in a state where the obstruction of that state is no longer present. Note that the difference is contained in the imagined presence of an obstruction. Ideology is hence a discursive operation that acts out the fantasy through imagining a triumph over a self-obstruction. It creates the impression of unfettered and uninhibited social forms and does so by first conjuring up the impediments of that social form.
It is hard to point out the differences between Laclau and Žižek. If there are any on a fundamental level, it would have to do with the ‘substance’ of the ideological beyond of discourse and discourse analysis. Faithful to a post-structuralism inspired by Derrida, Laclau resists naming the ideological beyond, and can only admit to a formal experience of the ideological biases from within discourse. In the Lacanianism of Žižek, the ideological beyond of discourse has the shape of an unconscious fantasy structuring our discursive social reality. Either formulated as the illusion of closure or as a fantasy of a full society, we witness a similar discursive pattern, namely one in which ideological closure is achieved through the overcoming of a self-imposed threat. Or as Glyn Daly has argued: “a central paradox of ideology is that it can not affirm a notion of unity without simultaneously producing the idea of a threat to that unity” (1999, 235).
With these accounts of ideology we can return to market discourse of the 1990s. There we witnessed an obsession with the idea of market democracy. With both Frank and Friedman, the ‘state’-’market’ displacement rested on a notion of a populist, market democracy. It fanatically argued that a market democracy would be more democratic than any other democracy. Whence this fascination with democracy? My claim is that it is a symptom of the presence of a particular ideological fantasy.
I argued that both with Frank and in Friedman, the ‘state’-’market’ displacement did not amount to a simple case of substitution or a changing of places. Instead, it appeared as a kind of transcendence. But what kind of transcendence? The ‘market’ did not displace the ‘state’ because it was better than the state at for instance supplying economic goods. It replaced the state because it was better in being a state than states supposedly are, namely in providing democracy. In these cases, the opposition of states to markets seems to have been included to prove the state wrong on being a good state in terms of democracy. The question however is whether democracy is at all what is at stake. The discursive play discussed by Frank and Friedman’s globalism is in the end not a discourse about democracy. Otherwise they would at least have attempted a fair discussion of the democratic merits of both states and markets in improving democracy. These are in the end stories about the ‘market.’
The ultimate aspiration of staging the opposition with states is to prove that states are no good markets while markets are. Market discourse of the 1990s, stages the state as a threat or its nemesis only in order to revel in surpassing this threat. To speak with Laclau, the inclusion of the ‘state’ and ‘democracy’ only serves to produce an ideological effect by creating an illusion of closure in market discourse. Through market democracy, the ‘market’ shows itself as more than itself, namely ‘state.’ Or else, to speak with Žižek, through the doctrine of market democracy, discourse acts out one of its ideological fantasies. This is a fantasy in which the market dreams of becoming an unfettered market, when it will finally overcome state intervention. Thus when Friedman brings in the Electronic Herd and the Golden Straightjacket in order to draw up an image of the global market and globalization as a democratic disciplining power, he is in fact fantasizing about a sovereignless sovereign power.
If we thus return to the cartoon in the New Yorker, it may be clear that it did nothing other than acting out this ideological fantasy of 1990s market discourse. Cartoons just like jokes or dreams for Freud, are outlets for repressed and thus unconscious wishes. And, to follow Freud’s notion of an “economy of expression,” the joke or dream work typically employs the technique of displacement and condensation to express these unconscious wishes (e.g. Freud 1905, 44). The cartoon said out loud, what market discourse could only say covertly garbed in the language of market democracy.
The Impact of ‘Terrorism’ on Market Discourse
The cartoon in the New Yorker, however only gets its full force from its juxtaposition with the signifier of ‘terrorism.’ Without the terrorist signifier, the cartoon would hardly have been witty. Even stronger, at this time no other signifier other than ‘terrorism’ would probably have been able to do the trick. This suggests that the impact of terrorism on market discourse may be of a peculiar kind. Friedman says for instance that “at 8:48 a.m. on the morning of September 11, 2001, the 1990s, and a lot of their silliness, officially ended” (2003, 339). Although Friedman will not have meant it, one could wonder whether the ideological fantasies of market discourse that plagued the 1990s were affected. And if so, how were they affected. For the remainder of this paper I consider, or rather speculate because the effects of 9/11 have hardly taken a final shape, what its impact might be. I will provisionally make use of two cases that may serve as indicator of any possible impact. These are the FutureMAP case and the progression in Friedman’s views as it is speaks from his subsequent book, Longitudes and Attitudes: the world in the age of terrorism (2003).
The obvious response to the issue of the impact of the ‘terrorist’ signifier on market discourse, is to state that there is no reason to expect an impact at all. In the new constellation marked by 9/11, market discourse and its whims have simply shifted to the background and yielded to a discourse on terror and its wars. For sure, this is what generally has happened. This does however not preclude the possibility that the terrorist threat might not also have had some substantive consequences, even if they will merely remain in the background. After all, the terror attacks of 9/11, forced one to get real. One could no longer keep on dreaming or fantasizing in market discourse and continue as if business was usual. Or could one?
FutureMAP: A market for terrorism
The cartoon was of course meant as a joke. The Pentagon however appears to have taken the lines of the cartoon literally, when it developed a futures market for terrorist threats. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) headed by ex-admiral Poindexter was about to introduce what came to be known as a “terror market” or “terrorism futures market.” Three days before its introduction, two senators, Dorgan (D, N.D.) and Wyden (D, Ore.) called upon the Pentagon in Congress to stop the program, saying: “It is unbelievably stupid as a public policy […] to think that you can replace real intelligence with a so-called market-based system in which presumably informed buyers and sellers would make bets, wagers …” (Congressional Record – Senate, July 28 2003). (ibid.).
The Pentagon program, called FutureMAP (Futures Markets Applied to Prediction) was developed by DARPA as a tool for intelligence information gathering and the assessment of this information. It was premised on the idea that market techniques could be a more reliable way to gather information than conventional methods. Together with partners (e.g. The Net Exchange in San Diego an venture of California Institute of Technology faculty, who would run the website), the Pentagon had developed an online futures market, called the “Policy Analysis Market” where qualified traders could trade futures contracts on possible events in the Middle East, such as whether Arafat will be assassinated. Holders of such contracts would be paid $1 per future if the event actually occurred and current futures prices would hence reflect the perceived probability of the traders, as to whether the event will happen. The economic rationale behind the program is that because every ‘investor’ has an incentive to act rationally on the basis of the information available to him or her, the market aggregates all that dispersed information and expresses it through the market price of the futures. Similar information or decision markets have already existed successfully for some time, such as the Iowa Elections Market run by the Iowa College of Business where people trade on the outcomes of every imaginable election in the US and where predictions turned out to be more accurate than those of polls.
After sustained criticism on the plan, Admiral Poindexter who was involved in the Iran-contra scandal and was already under attack for his “Total Information Awareness” program, and now responsible for the futures market project had to resign. After the two senators raised the issue in the Senate, criticism on the terrorism futures market came from every possible direction. If the displacement of state and market contained in the cartoon in the New Yorker afforded us a veiled look at an unconscious wish of market discourse, the consternation surrounding the Pentagon’s version of actually enacting the cartoon, laid bare the patterns of resistance to this wish. In fact, the similarities of the displacement between the cartoon and the experiment of the Pentagon are literally acknowledged. The connection with the joke is for instance intimated in the remarks of Senator Boxer (D, Calif.) who said: “I don’t think we can laugh off that DARPA Program. There is something very sick about it” (The Washington Post, July 30 2003). Also Senator Dorgan in his comment to the Senate, stated that he first thought the program were a joke: “I thought immediately, this clearly must be someone who went to the Onion and it is a spoof. No, it is not” (Congressional Record – Senate July 28 2003). However, not everybody saw it as a tasteless joke, as the operators of the market had been approached by many interested participants for the market.
Criticism leveled against the terrorism futures market falls apart in three broad categories. The first approaches the program largely from a technical point of view. Critics mostly point at the potentially adverse effects of such a market. Because prospective terrorists could gain from their own actions, a terrorism futures market would serve as “an incentive actually to commit acts of terrorism,” according to Daschle, the Senate Democratic Leader (). Or, potential terrorists could use the market to send misleading signals: “Why wouldn’t terrorists just hop online and start betting if they couldn’t either mislead American authorities about their plans or make money to fund more al Qaeda operations?”, wondered Senator Wyden (Wall Street Journal July 29, 2003). Besides manipulation by prospective terrorists, the market might fail for other technical reasons. How will it be able to draw out reliable information or information that is new? Todd Buchholz, a former White House economic advisor, argues that the Pentagon’s plan is flawed because “markets are not very good at setting prices for rare events.” These markets need to be sufficiently “deep and liquid,” i.e. have sufficient amount of traders with deep knowledge backgrounds.
This technical critique could of course count on a rebuttal from the experts. Two professors in economics, Wolfers and Zitzewitz argue in an op-ed in the Washington Post (July 31, 2003) that “the banished Pentagon program didn’t deserve this sort of treatment.” With textbook clarity they argue that markets also use the information from prospective terrorists to come to a clearer prediction and as markets provide an incentive to everyone, attempts by prospective terrorist to manipulate them would be off-set by the profit motives of those with the right information. Hal Varian, renowned economist and textbook author, in his economics column in the New York Times (July 29, 2003), said of the plan: “It was a good idea, killed by terrible public relations.” Given the existence of other, successful decision and information markets, Varian claims that the Pentagon plan was an experiment worth pursuing and that many of the objections were based on people not knowing what the plan amounted to. Financial incentives for traders with bad intentions were limited and insider trading could be detected and actually lead to potential terrorists. The pro-marketeers thus tried to save the market, while killing the criticism. Rumsfeld in his common quirky and paradoxical style: “… it was clear that even if it happened to have been a brilliant idea, which I doubt, it would not have been able to function in the environment that was created” (Wall Street Journal, July 31 2003).
The second class of criticisms of the plan are of a moral sort. They express the typical moral indignation with the market that has in fact not much to do with terrorism. As Wolfers and Zitzewitz (Washington Post, July 31, 2003) summarize the moral standing of the market: “Betting on human lives seems ethically questionable.” Nonetheless they continue: “Yet if it helps save lives, surely the moral questions are mitigated.” In their original critique, Senators Dorgan and Wyden, equated the market with its morally repugnant counter-image, that of betting and speculation, by stating that it is “effectively an Internet casino” (WSJ, July 29). The moral argument was voiced most clearly by Senator Clinton (D, N.Y.) who reportedly was appalled to hear of “a futures market in death.”(CNN July 29, 2003). Senator Wyden expresses a similar moral concern, namely that it is inconceivable that someone could profit from bets on attacks: “a federal betting parlor on atrocities and terrorism is ridiculous and grotesque.” (Fox News Channel, July 29, 2003) and “This is far-out stuff […] Trading on corn futures is real different than trading on terrorism and atrocity futures. One is morally fine and represents free enterprise, and the other one is morally over the line” (MSNBC, July 29, 2003). Similarly, Senator Daschle calls it “a plan to trade in death.” To repent for the moral wrongdoing, he asked the Bush administration to “issue a public apology, especially to the families of the victims of September 11” (Financial Times July 30, 2003). These moral critiques of the market are well-known and now employed by critics to voice their concern.
A third type of critique is a form of disconcert with the displacement already contained in the New Yorker cartoon and that motivated this program. People are not only outraged about actually having a market for terror and death, nor with its technical feasibility, but with the sheer fact that it was imagined, not as a joke, but for real. Senator Boxer, who said that one should not laugh away good initiatives, but should pursue those who have these foul thoughts: “… if it is going to end, I think you ought to end the careers of whoever it was thought that up.” (The Washington Post, July 30 2003). Also for Senator Pat Roberts (R, Kan.) terminating the program was not enough and he called for “hearings to “fully explore” how the idea came about” (Wall Street Journal July 30, 2003). Thus when Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz was facing the criticism, he said: “I share your shock at this kind of program. We’ll find out about it, but it is being terminated” (Washington Post July 30, 2003). For Wolfowitz attributes the emergence of the program to excess in creative thinking: “The agency that set this up can be very imaginative when we want them to be. It sounds like they got too imaginative in this area,” Wolfowitz said smilingly (Financial Times July 30, 2003; Fox News Channel July 29, 2003).
Much of the outrage is thus directed at the sheer thought, by means of imposing a imagined market to replace the anti-terrorism responsibilities of the state with that of the market. The terrorist threat should be met by the state and not the market: “Surely such a threat should be met with intelligence gathering of the highest quality – not by putting the question to individuals betting on an Internet Web site” said senators Dorgan and Wyden (Fox News Channel July 29, 2003). As the New York Times (July 30, 2003) reports “while some lawmakers said they understood the fundamental idea behind the project, they said it clearly crossed a line given the continuing effort against terrorism and the war in Iraq.” The Republican Senate majority leader, Bill Frist therefore claims: “I cannot conceive of any reason why the United States Government should be involved in a project of this nature” (New York Times, July 30, 2003). The thought to let a sovereignless sovereign power deal with intelligence gathering, terrorist anxiety and national security is not to be trusted.
The FutureMap case teaches us at least two things. First of all, it shows that the ideological fantasy behind the ‘state’-’market’ displacement is still firmly in place. Not only did it inspire DARPA officers to dream up radically innovative solutions to the problems posed by the terrorist threat. The initial response to dispose of the openly expressed ideological fantasy as an ill-conceived joke moreover suggests that people are familiar with its fantastic content. If it turns out however that it is not a joke, but that the Pentagon is for real, the secondary responses forthwith hasten to again suppress this fantasy and return it to the realm of the unconscious where it belongs. Nothing has changed, and let’s hope nobody, not the least the terrorists saw this moment of weakness.
Second, the juxtaposition of the terrorism signifier, however has altered the proper place for the ideological fantasy to express itself. It cannot touch terrorism. Terrorism and combating terrorism is a state issue. As regards terrorism the ideological fantasy will not win any terrain on the state. In the war on terror, the power is with the state and it will not yield to the ideological fantasies of the market. Even if the whole war has been subcontracted or outsourced to the market to accommodate the market fantasy, at least ideologically the state remains in control. How did the tide turn so suddenly? An analysis of how the ideological fantasy of market discourse fared with Friedman might provide a clue.
Friedman’s World in an Age of Terror
Friedman’s sequence of books from the Lexus and the olive tree (2000) to his most recent, Longitudes and Attitudes: The World in the Age of Terrorism (2003) in which deals with consequences of 9/11, offers an excellent case to chart the development in the ideological fantasies of the market and the impact the terrorist threat might have exercised over it. Lexus and the olive tree was obviously riding the waves of the widespread market euphoria of the 1990s. It is striking to see Friedman state in its introduction that his book is a response to the likes of Paul Kennedy, Francis Fukuyama, Robert Kaplan and Samuel Huntington. Confident about his globalism, Friedman is skeptical about for instance Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations:
Huntington saw cultural conflicts around the world and wildly expanded that into an enduring, sharply defined clash of civilizations, even proclaiming that the next world war, if there is one, “will be a war between civilizations.” I believe both Kaplan and Huntington vastly underestimated how the power of states, the lure of global markets, the diffusion of technology, the rise of networks and the spread of global norms could trump their black-and-white (mostly black) projections. (Friedman 2003, xx)
With 9/11 still to happen, Friedman has maneuvered himself in an awkward corner here. “[T]he lure of global markets,” among other things will avert future wars and mitigate ethnic, cultural, economic and political strife. With hindsight Friedman’s 1990s discourse sounds somewhat naive. What will Friedman’s response be?
Longitudes and Attitudes: The World in the Age of Terrorism contains the full sequence of Friedman’s columns for the New York Times starting a little before 9/11 and carrying on well into 2003. It ends conveniently in April 2003, when the US invasion of Iraq still appears flawless. For Friedman the Iraq war represents the bursting of a third bubble, namely one provoked by the terrorist threats, the first and second being the stock market and corporate misbehavior bubbles. With the Iraq war, the US has proven that it had finally dealt with its exuberances of the 1990s, regained itself after 9/11 and has started rebuilding itself and the world.
Friedman’s globalist euphoria of the 1990s has unquestionably been affected by the attacks of 9/11. As the language of bursting bubbles indicates, Friedman’s discourse has sobered up and been stripped of its overtly ecstatic overtones. Friedman will have to admit that the global interactions between nation states, Supermarkets and super-empowered individuals described in Lexus and the olive tree, might as well take less benign forms markedly different from the frictionless world of the Internet. Thus, in Longitudes and Attitudes, Friedman will have to account for understanding a world in which it has turned out that his super-empowered individuals, “unfortunately, are super-empowered angry men” (ibid., 6). Ironically, Friedman himself already foreshadowed these perverse possibilities of his globalist dream in the last few pages of Lexus and the olive tree, but is there confident that the world will continue to follow America as a model of a “healthy global society” (2000, 475). As 9/11 wreaked havoc on his image of the world, Friedman however has to confront the demons of his own dream and states that he has two concerns. First is to find out who they are, the terrorists, and second to “express, who we are – we America” (2003, xiii).
That the euphoria has been broken does however not mean that Friedman’s global market fantasies have died with it. At first sight, the market fantasy lost its central appeal. Quite naturally, with its euphoria undermined, the market fantasies fade quietly into the background. After 9/11, there are more pressing issues that demand the attention of the public mind, such as acquiring an insight into Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, understanding the Arab-Muslim world, homeland security and reassessing US foreign policy. While central to the events of the 1990s, the story of the market has simply lost its edge in a world marred by the terrorist threat. Hence we see Friedman shift attention to them and us, assessing the Arab-Muslim world vis-à-vis the US, seemingly abandoning his global market fantasies. The effect of 9/11 and the terrorist threat on market discourse is therefore one in which market fantasies certainly appear to have disappeared into the background.
As both the cartoon in The New Yorker and the case of FutureMAP indicate, even though it faded into the background, the market fantasy went far from extinct. It is more likely that under the impact of terrorism, market discourse and in particular the place of the market fantasy got reconfigured. Besides a mere loss of attention in being displaced from the center of public discourse, market discourse namely also underwent a substantive displacement. Friedman like everyone else is well aware that the planes hit the World Trade Center. On top of the concrete and gruesome horror inflicted by the attacks, the symbolic violence it entails might be just as pervasive. Not only as an icon of US hegemony, together with the Pentagon and the White House, the symbolic violence perpetrated through the trade centers attacks is nearly literal. It is the symbol of world trade that has been hit in its center. With the World Trade Center, market discourse and its fantasies had been under attack. Therefore, market discourse and its fantasies were forced into a reconfiguration vis-à-vis the sign of terrorism.
With Friedman, the shape of that reconfiguration is somewhat predictable. His interpretation of 9/11 is to view it as an attack on America and the civilization it stands for. In the diary part of Longitudes and Attitudes, Friedman describes his first feelings after 9/11:
… I would think of how great it was to live in a country that could come together to create the public goods and public spaces that make up the quilt and quality of American society. No matter how crazy the world was out there, America was my cocoon that I could always crawl back into, where my girls would always be safe.
That was what was violated on September 11, and it was violated by people who didn’t even know us.
That’s why the American in me was so angry. (ibid., 325)
This was not an attack on the United States as a sovereign country, but it is interpreted symbolically as an attack on America or what ‘America’ stands for, be it a “civilization,” a set of values or institutions or even a “civic religion.” Friedman’s columns following 9/11 can be read as a continuous effort to separate the US from ‘America’ in order to drive home his argument that 9/11 is an unjustified attack on “America,” irrespective of how legitimate any complaints about the US may seem.
On September 13, two days after the attacks, still using his language from Lexus and the olive tree, Friedman has started to pitch this point:
Does my country really understand that this is World War III. […] And this Third World War does not pit us against another world power. It pits us – the world’s only superpower and quintessential symbol of liberal, free-market Western values – against all the super-empowered angry men and women out there. (ibid., 33)
At the same time and part of the attack on “America,” Friedman has made a start with the discursive reconfiguration of market discourse. He repeats it the next day, while not even a week has passed:
The terrorists who hit the United States this week are people who pray to the God of Hate. Their terrorism is not aimed at reversing any specific US policy. Indeed, they made no demands. Their terrorism is driven by pure hatred and nihilism, and its targets are the institutions that undergird America’s way of life, from our markets to our military. (ibid., 37)
As part of framing 9/11 in terms of an attack on “America,” the “market” is subsumed under that very signifier “America.” While after 9/11, ‘America’ serves as the general denominator, the market is clearly identified as one of its components. Since 9/11, the market has become an exclusively American way of life:
The World Trade Towers were our Pyramids, built with glass and steel rather than stones, but Pyramids to American enterprise and free markets, and someone has destroyed them. (ibid., 44)
In the reconfiguration that has taken place after 9/11 the market was removed from its center on the global stage and retreated or rather was stored safely behind the new signifier, “America.”
To once more repeat Friedman’s phrase, the market is now reconstituted in ‘America’ being “the world’s […] quintessential symbol of liberal, free-market Western values.” The effects of this reconfiguration are still taking shape, but two are immediately clear from Friedman. Shortly after 9/11 the subsumption of the market under the signifier of ‘America’ already gave rise to Giuliani’s appeal to New Yorkers to continue with business-as-usual. Since the market has shifted under the heading of America, playing on the market has become a patriotic act. Wall Street opened on the Monday after the attacks, and Friedman similarly expresses his contribution to the resilience of America, by means of the market: “Heck, I even went out yesterday and bought some stock. What a great country” (ibid., 43).
Another implication of Friedman’s reconfiguration stems from the way in which ‘America’ is positioned in the world. America, as an exclusive symbol of the market, thus polarizes any representation into an ‘us’ and ‘them.’ Friedman’s obsession with trying to make sense of understanding ‘them’ and a wish to articulate ‘us,’ has as a consequence that since the market is part of ‘us,’ those who are against the market are also against ‘us.’ Accordingly, those who are against ‘us’ must by implication also be against the market. Such a representation, the equation of ‘market’ and ‘America,’ has thus grave consequences for the positions one takes in political debate.
“Don’t think of them as terrorist states. Think of them as terrorist markets.” In the cartoon, these two arbitrary phrases were linked. The phrases served to open the discourse of markets and furnished us with a view of some of the intricacies of contemporary market discourse. The sequence of phrases, immediately exposes what I have called the ‘state’-‘market’ displacement, a tendency in market discourse to whenever when it sees itself confronted with social issues, exchange the ‘market’ for the ‘state.’ I showed that this displacement is typical of market discourse in the 1990s. In itself, the strategy of the ‘state’-‘market’ displacement is however not at all a novelty. It has informed political economy ever since its incipience and been a standard policy recipe. Drawing on Frank and Friedman, I have attempted to show that its typical expression during the 1990s, however was peculiar.
In the 1990s, the decade that started with the fall of the Wall and in which neoliberal policies, Third Way politics and the Washington consensus gave way to a booming stock market and raving globalization, the market imagination fuelling the ‘market’-‘state’ displacement knew virtually no impediments. Thus, the market imagination tended to take on pathological shapes. Inspired by the analysis of Thomas Frank, which was replicated in the globalist accounts of Thomas Friedman, we witnessed that during the 1990s the market imagination was obsessed with the idea of ‘market democracy.’ Likewise, was the ‘state’-‘market’ displacement founded on this same notion of ‘market democracy.’ Yet, with the conviction that markets could be better democracies than state democracies – and hence the market a better state than the state – the market imagination tends to have overstretched itself with this idea of market democracy. Arguing with two contemporary, post-ideological theorists of ideology, Ernesto Laclau and Slavoj Žižek, I determined that through this particular configuration captured by the notion of market democracy, market discourse revealed one of its ideological fantasies. Following Laclau one can argue that the obsession with market democracy represents an ideological moment in market discourse, when it namely attempts to make itself self-sufficient by also claiming to be what from the outset had prevented it from being full. The same configuration comes back in Žižek, who claims that the only remaining way to think of ideology is in terms of a fantasy. A fantasy is the imagination of a state in which all perceived obstructions to that state are imagined to be absent. Market democracy again represents an ideological moment of 1990s market discourse, by imagining a triumph over a self-obstruction.
Obsessed with the ideological fantasy of market democracy, the cartoon in The New Yorker is hence another expression of the ideological fantasy of market discourse. It however no longer just represents this fantasy of the 1990s. Juxtaposition with the signifier of ‘terrorism,’ has placed this ideological fantasy in a radically new context, that of the world after 9/11. The cartoon is no longer just about the ideological fantasy but also gives an inkling of how it might have been affected. The fantasy is offered a reality check. The reality check of 9/11 however does not lead to such a disturbance or violation that the fantasy is outrightly being disbanded. As is often the case with fantasies, the fantasy remains largely intact – therewith only confirming its fantastic status – and gets reconfigured at best. The FutureMAP case illustrates that the fantasy is still alive and kicking when the Pentagon literally tried to release it for dealing with terrorism. Apart from the customary objections to the ‘state’-‘market’ displacement, responses to the program primarily showed that although the ideological fantasy is still firmly in place, its proper site for expression has shifted.
We learn from Friedman what this new position of the fantasy is. Despite the impact of the signifier of ‘terrorism,’ the fantasy remained intact. The reconfiguration that took place nearly overnight, now places the market fantasy in a new constellation constructed around the signifier of “America.” As a response to the attacks on America, in the new post-9/11 discourse, markets and their fantasies have been brought safely under the aegis of America. The implications of this shift still need to be examined, but specifically the market fantasy is siding with America and thus become further fortified. The fantasy has become a patriotic fantasy. The ‘state’-‘market’ displacement has become a patriotic act and hence one sees no constraints in outsourcing or subcontracting the war on terror. Conversely, those who take issue with it either within or outside the US, can count on a patriotic repudiation. Whoever is against the market, is against us.
In the end, a remarkable inversion has insinuated itself. What started of as an inquiry into the ‘state’-‘market’ displacement under the impact terrorism, now turns out to develop into a more comprehensive sequence. In a way, the signifier of ‘terrorism’ has put the ‘state’-‘market’ displacement on its head. Brought under the signifier of ‘America,’ we start seeing a displacement that runs from state, to market, to America, or in short a ‘state’-‘market’-‘America’ displacement. This rendering invites two thoughts. If we provisionally equate ‘America’ with the US as a state, we seem to have made a circular movement, from ‘state’ to ‘market’ and back to ‘state.’ I think this is a significant observation. It confirms the fantastic character of the ‘state’-‘market’ displacement. Irrespective of the fantastic desire to replace the state by the market, there is a remainder of the state that inevitably will re-insert itself into the equation. No matter how strong the discourses about the market, it will sooner or later encounter its losses.
A second thought pertains to how via the terrorism signifier, a US American aspect entered the sequence. We moved from ‘state’ to ‘market’, but under the influence of ‘terrorism,’ we exposed the distinctively American or US aspect of the sequence. We may have unearthed another fantasy, not only that the ‘state’-‘market’ displacement in the end has become an American displacement, but perhaps a more fundamental one. The ‘state’-‘market’ displacement was always already an American fantasy. And hence, the projects it gave rise to, such as neoliberalism and globalization were always already, US American projects.
The terrorist attacks of 9/11 may have shaken our ideological fantasies of the market, but not shattered them. Brought under the signifier of “America,” ideological fantasies of the market have acquired another layer of meaning, making it yet harder to deal with.
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