Political instability and desire

Brian Francis Culkin
3 min readSep 25, 2020


The looming violence hanging over American, and for that matter global society, could not be more different than the Civil War.

In the Civil War, there were clear geographical demarcations, clear divisions that we see even in the split between the Blue/Grey uniforms that served to unmistakably inscribe difference into the conflict.

The problem today is not so much irreconcilable difference as it is irreconcilable Sameness. The problem today is not so much the possibility of a new Civil War, a clear-cut battle of MAGA versus Woke-ness, but rather a very messy Hobbesian “war of all against all.”

The more the Democrats and Republicans try to assert their ideology differences and policy disagreements on the level of content, the more they show us that they are locked into a structural process of the Same

When two boys are having a fistfight in the schoolyard, what becomes most obvious, yet often overlooked by the spectators, is not how different they are, but rather how much the two boys mirror each other.


The question we are now approaching in the era of 21st century planetary capitalism is the question we have always approached since the very dawn of the human race:

Who will be the victim that allows society to function?

To see the impossible divide between liberals and conservatives in contemporary American society is to simply see where they stand on this question. Any other analysis, in my view, misses the point of what we are really dealing with.

Conservatives want to keep in place certain victim mechanisms that will allow the functioning of a dysfunctional society to remain as is, whereas liberals advocate for something that could be termed “absolute victimization” — a complete rupture in all historical hierarchical mechanisms so to democratize the logic of victimization, thus integrating the global population further into the computational matrix of Silicon Valley-Wall Street.

Of course neither party is remotely conscious of their position and what it even entails, they have no awareness they are effectively acting out a Biblical drama in the guise of 21st century global politics as they each lead us over the cliff in their own special way.


Violence does not emerge from difference or Otherness; it emerges from Sameness and the over-proximity of the Other’s desire.

An individual or society becomes violent not when clear differentials are known and respected, but rather when differentials begin to dissolve and fall apart; when “everything solid melts into air.” A society becomes violent when it wants what someone else has or when someone wants wants it has.

This is why people try so hard to “brand” themselves today, to constantly show us how “unique” and “authentic” they are: a society in which “Keeping up with the Jones” becomes the de-facto law of intersubjectivity.

The obsession with “authenticity” that grips the consciousness of late-capitalist, American society points to a looming crisis of political violence resulting from the over-proximity of the Other’s desire, too much of the Same brought forth by surplus competition and desire in the matrix of our consumer society.

The problem in America today is not “that we are all so different,” as we are often made to think, but rather the precise opposite: we are all becoming too much alike as we are controlled and mediated by the very same technological process; our desires are becoming socialized from the interrelated processes of global capitalism and computational power.



Brian Francis Culkin

writer, filmmaker, playwright, cultural theorist // author of 20+ books and writer/director of 3 films. www.brianculkin.com