Legalize” Must make an activity lawful doesnt allow discretion to prohibit

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Wilderson- 2002

Frank Wilderson- The Prison Slave as Hegemony's (Silent) Scandal-Presented a t #Imprisoned Intellectuals # Conference Brown University, April 13th 2002

Civil society is not a terrain intended for the Black subject. It is coded as waged and wages are White. Civil society is the terrain where hegemony is produced, contested, mapped. And th e invitat ion to p articipate in hegemony's gestures of influence, leadership, and consent is not ext ended to t he unwaged. We live in the world , but ex ist out side of civil s ociety. This structurally impossible position is a paradox, because the Black subject, the slave, is vital to political economy: s/he kick-starts capital at its genesis and rescues it from its over-accumulation crisis at its end. But Marxism has no account of this phenomenal birth and life-saving role played by the Black subject: from Marx and Gr amsci we have con sistent s ilence. In taking Foucau lt to ta sk for a ssum ing a univ ersal s ubject in r evolt ag ainst d iscipline, in the same s pirit in which I have t aken Gr amsci to ta sk for as suming a u niversal sub ject, the subject of civil societ y in revolt a gainst capita l, Joy Jam es writes : The U.S. carceral network kills, however, and in its prisons, it kills more blacks than any other ethnic group. American prisons constitute an "outside" in U.S. political life. In fact, our society displays waves of concentric outside circles with increasing distances from bourgeois self-policing. The state routinely polices the14 unassim ilable in the hell of lockdow n, deprivat ion tanks , control units , and holes for political prisoners (Resisting State Violence 1996: 34 ) But this peculiar preoccupation is not Gramsci's bailiwick. His concern is with White folks; or with folks in a White (ned) enough subject position that they are confronted by, or threat ened by th e remova l of, a wag e -- be it monetary or social. But Black subjectivity itself disarticulates the Gramscian dream as a ubiquitous emancipatory strategy, because Gramsci, like most White activists, and radical American movements like the prison abolition movement, has no theory of the unwaged, no solidarity with the slave If we are to take Fanon at his word when he writes, #Decolonization, which sets out to change the order of the world, is, obviously, a program of complete disorder # (37) then we must accept the fact that no other body functions in the Imaginary, the Symbolic, or the Real so completely as a repository of complete disorder as the Black body. Blackness is the site of absolute dereliction at the level of the Real, for in its magnetizing of bullets the Black body functions as the map of gratuitous violence through which civil society is possible: namely, those other bodies for which violence is, or can be, contingent. Blackness is the site of absolute dereliction at the level of the Symbolic, for Blackness in America generates no categories for the chromosome of History, no data for the categories of Immigration or Sovereignty; it is an experience without analog # a past, without a heritage. Blackness is the site of absolute dereliction at the level of t he Imaginary for #whoever says #rape # says Black, # (Fanon) , whoever says #prison # says Black, and whoever says #AIDS # says Black (Sexton) # the #Negro is a phobogenic object # (Fanon). Indeed &a phobogenic object &a past without a heritage &the map of gratuitous violence &a program of complete disorder. But whereas this realization is, and should be cause for alarm, it should not be cause for lament, or worse, disavowal # not at least, for a true revolutionary, or for a truly revolutionary movement such as prison a bolition. 15 If a social movement is to be neither social democratic, nor Marxist, in terms of the structure of its political desire then it should grasp the invitation to assume the positionality of subjects of social death that present themselves; and, if we are to be honest with ourselves we must admit that the “Negro “ has been inviting Whites, and as well as civil society #s junior partners, to the dance of social death for hundreds of years, but few have wanted to learn the steps. They have been, and remain today # even in the most anti-racist movements, like the prison abolition movement # invested elsewhere. This is not to say that all oppositional political desire today is pro-White, but it is to say that it is almost always “anti-Black” which is to say it will not dance with death. Black liberation, as a prospect, makes radicalism more dangerous to the U.S. Not because it raises the specter of some alternative polity (like socialism, or community control of existing resources) but because its condition of possibility as well as its gesture of resistance functions as a negative dialectic: a politics of refusal and a refus al to affirm , a program of complete disorder. One mus t embrace its disorder, its in coherence and allow oneself to be elaborated by it, if indeed one's politics are to be underwritten by a desire to take this country down. If this is not the desire which underwrites one #s politics then through what strategy of legitimation is the word #prison # being linked t o the wo rd #abolition #? Wh at ar e this movem ent #s lines of po litical a ccount abilit y? There #s nothing foreign, frightening, or even unpracticed about the embrace of disorder and incoherence. The desire to be embraced, and elaborated, by disorder and incoherence is not anathema in and of itself: no one, for example, has ever been known to say #gee-whiz, if only my orgasms would end a little sooner, or maybe not come at all. # But few so-called radicals desire to be embraced, and elaborated, by the disorder and incoherence of Blackness # and the state of politica l movemen ts in A merica to day is ma rked by t his very N egroph obogen isis: #gee-whiz, if only Black rage could be more coherent, or maybe not come at all. # Perhaps there #s something more terrifying about the joy of Black, then there is about the joy of sex (unless one is talking sex wit h a Negr o). Perhaps coalitions today p refer to remain in- orgas mic in the fa ce of civilsociety # with hegemony as a handy prophylactic, just in case. But if, through this stasis, or paralysis , they tr y to do t he work of pr ison a bolit ion # that work will fail; because it is always work from a position of coherence (i.e. the worker) on behalf of a position of incoherence, the Black subject, or prison slave. In this way, social formations on the Left remain blind to the contradictions of coalitions bet ween worker s and s laves. T hey remain coalitions opera ting with in the logic of civil society; and function less as revolutionary promises and more as crowding out scenarios of Black antagonisms # they simply feed our frustration. Whereas the positionality of the worker # be s/he a factory worker demanding a monetary wage or an immigrant or White woman demanding a social wage # gestures toward the reconfiguration of civil society, the positionality of the Black subject # be s/he a prison-slave or a prison-slave-in-waiting # gestures toward the disconfiguration of civil society: from the coherence of civil society, t he Black subject beckons with the in coherence of civil war. A civil war which reclaims Blackness not as a positive value, but as a politically enabling site, to quote Fanon, of “absolute dereliction“: a scandal which rends civil society asunder. Civil war, then, becomes that unthought, but never forgotten understudy of hegemony. A Black specter waiting in the wings, an endless antagonism that cannot be satisfied (via reform or reparation) but must nonetheless be pursued to the death.

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