I was brooding over the two different strains of postmodern ethics/politics while walking home from the train station earlier this week, and this is what I came up with conerning the differences b/w the “Other” and the “Same”. From where did these two emphases come, and to which context are they addressed?
Sprouting amid the ruble of post-war Europe, the ethics of the Other (represented by Levinas and Derrida) is meant to protect us against totalitarianism, at least the overt fascist expression with its attempt to exclude and destory all the doesn’t conform (to the Same of the Party, Race, Gender, etc.). The ethics of the Other, therefore, stands against the totalizing effects of the Same (which might be the modern project) by reminding us of the irriducible and infinite obligation we have before the face of the Other, which never can be draw into our circle of understanding or sameness. So against the totalizing Same we must proclaim the Other.
However, within the soil of Easter European Communism and the emergence of global capitalism, comes the flowering ethics of the Same (Represented by Zizek and Badiou). This ethics, and its related politic, is meant to guard against a different totalitarianism, a more insidious exclusion and destruction based on the continual division and deterritorialization. Because of global capitalism’s continual production of difference, and therefore distraction through the endless procession of the “new”, the only way of standing against this fragmenting effect is to speak and promote the Same. Against the perpetually othering of capitalism, we must proclaim that we are all the Same.
So we can speak of two different politics, nurtured in two different soils, resisting two different locusts. Our question then is, which pestulance is the greatest? which plant will has the greatest chance to bear fruit? and, lastly, might we consider a variety within our diets?