The review continues with outlining the two mistakes of Hanson. The first problem lies in Hanson’s idea that the master status is abolished and that the term relationship removes the stigmatization of the single trait that defines the individual. However, it is by the individual identifying with the “transgression” ( “ I am physically disabled, mentally ill, homosexual, of an unidentified gender, etc.) that the trait is raised to the master status. The trait becomes the symbolic function that facilitates the fight for equality (recall the Black Power movement, “Black is beautiful”). In this way the master status is turned into a weapon used against the dominant discourse. Hanson in part ,correctly ends the essay by discussing the shifting paradigm concerning stigmatization; “ Rather, it (stigmatization) seems to be shifting its locus from the normal/abnormal axis to other, such as responsible/irresponsible, self-reliant/dependent, or even have/have-not” (p.3). All three dichotomous adjectives are correct, the description of the shift in the axis of stigmatization is correct, yet the important unifying structure remains absent. Although alluded to by Hanson in the above mentioned terms, the global structure that produced such antagonisms remains absent of criticism.
The structure in question here is not only Das Kapital but democracy itself. Pseudo-democratic institutions that masquerade as the embodiment of democracy. The new stigmas cited by Hanson are all under the of category of class struggle and false class consciousness. The responsible people are those work, are successful and do not question the current system. This is opposed to the irresponsible; the poor, the unemployed, the Walmart protesters fighting for better wages and work conditions or the young people involved in the Occupy movement. A similar description can be applied to self-reliant versus dependent, those who claim not to need the government and all the feds are capable of is “screwing up the free market” in comparison to the “dependent” single mother raising two children while working two jobs, whose free health care keep her barely a float. This is the dominant discourse, the antagonism fueling the production of stigmatization.
The labels come down to a simple three part opposition, those who use an unfair surplus to manipulate (“lobby”) the so-called democratic institutions and those that have no voice in comparison. The third part is the middle working class, those who have enough to survive and enough not to become politically engaged (for now at least). The middle class is accompanied with small pleasures ( a T.V., car, X box etc.) yet possess little influence in matters of government in comparison to the the owners of the major means of production. Slavoj Zizek reminds us that with the increasing rate of ecological exploitation, ominous looming financial crises and increasing fundamentalist violence threaten the small pleasures of the middle class, the Nietzschean last men (Nietzsche’s description of modern people, content with the small pleasures of their daily lives). Is this democracy? Hanson was correct to identify the shift in stigmas,however, he failed to recognize the totality of the composition. The totality is the structure that produces the antagonisms between gay and straight, Christian and Atheist, “mentally ill” and “mentally stable” and so on. Stigmatization is a part of false class consciousness employed by the dominant discourse to divide the people from the true enemy.
Hanson, F.A. (2003). Where have all the abnormal people gone. (p.1,3,4)
Zizek, S. (2001). Welcome to the Desert of the Real
Virtue without terror is impotent, terror without virtue is blind.