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postmodern politics does not recognize socioeconomic inequality as the cause of gender, racial, ethnic inequalities. This approach depoliticizes class antagonism by emphasizing the discussion of its derivative issues (gender, racial, ethnic):

in so far as postmodern politics involves a "theoretical retreat from the problem of domination within capitalism," it is here, in this silent suspension of class analysis, that we are dealing with an exemplary case of the mechanism of ideological displacement: when class antagonism is disavowed, when its key structuring role is suspended, "other markers of social difference may come to bear an inordinate weight."3

The postmodern "ideological displacement," then, is the shift of the parameters of the political discussion from the ontological to the contingent, that is, from the primordial essence of inequality to its temporal symptoms. Postmodern and multiculturalist politics encourage the demand for concessions within a given system rather than the struggle to subvert the very foundations of that system. In other words, these approaches allow for the alleviation of inequalities, but not for their outright extirpation.

Affirmative action is a case in point. By establishing that blacks may not be discriminated against in employment, education, etc., this policy aims at equal opportunity in those areas. A black person with equal or better qualifications than his/her white counterpart, we are told, may not be denied a job on the basis of their color or phenotype. Affirmative action has undoubtedly led to more equality for blacks, but it can never, by itself, be the solution for prevailing

 


3. Zizek, "Class Struggle or Postmodernism?," 97 (original emphases). The inner quotations are from Wendy Brown, States of Injury (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1995), 14, 60.
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