Slavoj Zizek, my favorite Slovenian Lacanian theorist (yes, there are more than one), is up to his old Hegelian reversals in this piece about resistance. Somehow, I can't help but resist his notion of resistance, which feels more than a little smugly self-satisfied:
The big demonstrations in London and Washington against the US attack on Iraq a few years ago offer an exemplary case of this strange symbiotic relationship between power and resistance. Their paradoxical outcome was that both sides were satisfied. The protesters saved their beautiful souls: they made it clear that they don’t agree with the government’s policy on Iraq. Those in power calmly accepted it, even profited from it: not only did the protests in no way prevent the already-made decision to attack Iraq; they also served to legitimise it. Thus George Bush’s reaction to mass demonstrations protesting his visit to London, in effect: ‘You see, this is what we are fighting for, so that what people are doing here – protesting against their government policy – will be possible also in Iraq!’
The lesson here is that the truly subversive thing is not to insist on ‘infinite’ demands we know those in power cannot fulfil. Since they know that we know it, such an ‘infinitely demanding’ attitude presents no problem for those in power: ‘So wonderful that, with your critical demands, you remind us what kind of world we would all like to live in. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, where we have to make do with what is possible.’ The thing to do is, on the contrary, to bombard those in power with strategically well-selected, precise, finite demands, which can’t be met with the same excuse.
I.e., "The key is not to ask for too much, but just for something very specific." I don't know, Slavoj, really? I'm not sure there is any key to making resistance more pragmatic and goal-specific. Just because we have progressive and peace-related think tanks doesn't mean we've gotten any closer to ending this war. As usual, resistance needs to be both more quixotic and absolutist AND more specific and pragmatic. For the sake of resistance--to spur on dissent, to hearten the disheartened, to speak for those with no voice--as much as for any notion of political address.