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Why are so many problems today perceived as problems of intolerance, rather than as problems of inequality, exploitation, or injustice? Why is the proposed remedy tolerance, rather than emancipation, political struggle, or even armed struggle? The source of this culturalization is defeat, the failure of directly political solutions such as the social-democratic welfare state or various socialist projects: ‘tolerance’ has become their post-political ersatz.
It is as if, in today’s permissive society, transgressive violations are permitted only in a “privatized” form, as a personal idiosyncrasy deprived of any public, spectacular or ritualistic dimension. We can thus publicly confess all our weird private practices, but they remain simply private idiosyncrasies. Perhaps we should also invert here the standard formula of fetishistic disavowal: “I know very well (that I should obey the rules), but nonetheless… (I occasionally violate them, since this too is part of the rules.” In contemporary society, the predominant stance is rather: “I believe (that repeated hedonistic transgressions are what make life worth living), but nonetheless… (I know very well that these transgressions are not really transgressive, but are just artificial coloring serving to re-emphasize the grayness of social reality).”