The metaphysics of Brexit: are we all blinded by Neoliberal ideology?
I think it’s probably clear to anyone with the faintest semblance of common sense that the execution of Brexit has been a laborious, tiring and utterly perplexing political activity. The Government has acted with incompetence that I thought could only be attributed to government’s of corruption ridden oligarchies and has failed totally. Having said this, it isn’t all the government’s fault. By its very nature, the EU is an institution that is neoliberal, and being a neoliberal institution, it perpetuates itself through the Lacanian process of blurring the line between what is considered real and Real. This is the reason why the government has found it difficult to extradite the United Kingdom from the EU, because, from a metaphysical level, there is no alternative to the European Union.
Psychoanalysis is unfairly given the title of being a bullshit science and an enterprise for pretentious fools. While there are plenty that fit the bill, the vast canon of psychoanalysis is made up of insightful literature that has informed innumerate philosophical and political discoveries. Freud, Jung, Lacan and Derrida have come up with a lot of theories that seem like utter bollocks, but, within them, there is deep kernels of truth. Lacan comes closest to explaining how ideology perpetuates itself and it is within Lacan that we find the reason why leaving the EU has proven to be a task that is, in my opinion, at-least with our current political system practically impossible. At its heart, Lacan believes in the fact that man is alienated from himself fundamentally due to being alienated from the Real. The Real is the actual truth; the true nature of our existence that is unknown to man himself because of the way the self-conscious operates through the symbolic and the imaginative. The imaginative is our dreams and the symbolic is the reality we construct through language. All are distinct from The Real. What we perceive to be the real is no closer to The Real than The Lion King being a nature documentary. In essence, and I shall stop here before I bore you with more psychoanalysis, the critical thing with regard to the EU is what our perception of it is and what it is in Reality.
One does not have to look far to recognise that the way our political consciousness is built, at least for those that are in power currently, cannot see beyond the EU. There is a hilariously stupid attempt by both Labour and Tory MPs to maintain whatever links to the EU they can maintain within the current parliamentary system. This has included the absurd suggestion of joining the customs union (which solves none of the concerns surrounding the Irish Border and squanders any opportunities the UK would have to gain from Brexit) and the Kafkaesque confirmatory vote just to make sure the plebeians really want what they voted for the first time. There is a total inability to even entertain the idea that perhaps a form of politics exists outside the EU institutions such as the customs union, single market, Commission and Parliament. Everything is done with a stoic view towards holding EU institutions as if they were the one and only divine truth and the exercise of Brexit taken with a view to not leave the EU, but to rather maintain as close links to the EU as possible while not seeming to betray the democratic vote of June 2016. This is fundamentally because subconsciously, there is a form of reflexive impotence on the part of the politicians, the chattering classes and many of those that take part in the continuity remain campaign. There is a total lack of imagination; it is the classical definition of an ideology if there ever was one.
The EU then isn’t really a politico-economic construct. It may present itself as one, however, at its heart, the EU is an ideology as self-perpetuating and as ignorant of individual agency as marxism or neoliberalism. Ideology exists only to perpetuate itself and expands not through a reasonable dialectic but rather through an embarrassing, unrelenting process of making all alternatives to itself seem absurd. There is very little in the way of reasoned argument or debate; ideology works and is so powerful purely because it exploits the the Lacanian difference between the Real and the real by making it seem as if the ideology is the only true unrelenting Reality that is possible. In truth as Lacan discovered, there is no Reality that is discoverable through our consciousness. The EU then acts to perpetuate itself on a psychoanalytical scam. On a practical level, through the actions of EU leaders, this is even more obvious. ‘There can be no democratic choice against the EU treaties’ says Jean-Claude Juncker. The backstop is non-negotiable says Michel Barnier. ‘The Single Market is an amazing creation’ says Guy Vershoftwat. There is a desire to make every single bit of EU policy seem as if it were natural, so obvious that the only way you could be against it is as if you were a raving lunatic. This form of ideological perpetuation has wound itself clear to see in the British media. The condescension and the shock demonstrated by many when engaging with Leave voting politicians and voters is palpable and is not entirely their fault. What they see is not politicians or people taking differing views but rather is individuals rebelling against Reality itself. How dare they question the existence of something as self-evident as the colour of the sky or the heat of the sun? Of-course, Lacan and psychoanalysis tells us that reality is constructed and hence what reality to live in is a choice that is purely up to the agent.
This is what the EU and other neoliberal institutions are skilled at. They hammer and keep forcing this notion that their reality, the reality of the single market, the reality of the customs union, the reality of an unelected unaccountable European Commision making laws, the reality of austerity, the reality of the Euro and the reality of a grand ever-closer European Union as the only reality. It crushes hopes of a better reality by closing doors and making the agent feel powerless against the pressure of what seems like common sense. The agent begins to, as Havel saw it, ‘live within a lie’ because the lie itself becomes his truth. In the same way that capitalism feels inevitable, the EU has established itself as an inevitable and crucial part of the fabric of Europe. I reserve judgement on whether this is positive or negative but the sociological and psychoanalytical truth is clear that this is a process, not the Reality that the vast majority of British and EU politicians see to be true.
I’m not angry at the Brexit process; I would’ve been if I wasn’t able to see the obvious psychoanalytic situation our politicians and media establishment find themselves in. Brexit will not happen while the reality constructed by the EU ideology is replaced with something radically different, and, for the life of me, I can’t see this happening. Politicians should really cut the crap though. If they want to remain in the EU, it would be better for them to admit it than seeming as if they care about democratic legitimacy and the democratic process. The EU dialectic is in the process of eating itself and has morphed into an enfant terrible of crushing entire economies, encouraging social dumping, poisoning national democratic process and sharpening class conflicts that haven’t existed in Europe for at least four decades. With every broken Gilet Jaunes bone, with every democratic decision denied and with every legitimate concern batted away is ‘populist’ or ‘racist’, the people of Europe see that another Reality is possible to the one that is currently constructed. It’s a shame that the UK can’t lead the way, but, the genie is well and truly out of the bottle now.