Monday, November 3, 2008

Interpellation: What It Means To Me

While the US political system is in the throes of arguably the most important election since 1932, the Korean National Assembly began its five-day Interpellation session today.

Yeah, I never heard of it either.

I realize you didn't ask, but I'm going to tell you anyway. Interpellation is the constitutive process where individuals acknowledge and respond to ideologies, thereby recognizing themselves as subjects. At least, according to this page at the University of Chicago. Don't bother, I'll summarize: Suppose you are at a busy subway stop. Someone yells really loudly, "Hey! You there!" You assume it's a cop and turn your head. There ya go, you've been interpellated.

This idea was popularized (well, to the extent something no one has ever heard of can be said to be popularized) by a French Marxist philosopher named Louis Althusser.
Althusser emphasizes the ubiquity of ideology and interpellation by noting how subjects are consistently constituted by Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs) such as the family, educational institutions, and media such as literature, radio and television. The idea that an individual can be interpellated through various mediums would later be appropriated by theorists from diverse backgrounds such as cinema and media studies and cultural studies.--UChicago website

Hey! You there! No, I wasn't interpellating you, I was just trying to wake you up. In the more parliamentary sense, though, interpellation is the process whereby the legislature asks the executive branch to justify its policies and actions. Rather like what the British call 'Question Time'.

Big issues in this year's interpellation will apparently be pork barrel spending, partisan political investigations and raising moral issues to divert attention from their own missteps. Huh. I thought I wasn't going to be blogging about the US election.

In a nutshell, the Grand National Party, currently in power, is being questioned about "rice subsidies" which were intended to encourage small farms to grow ... rice (okay, call it rice barrel politics). Turns out, many politicos who own land in the countryside have been claiming the subsidy, even though they don't grow a single paddy of rice. Meanwhile, opposition Democratic Party flaks claim that state prosecutors are unfairly targeting their side to divert "public attention from the economic woes by underscoring the moral misdeeds of the past government," according to DP Rep. Kim Dong-cheol.

Sounds more like the US election with each passing paragraph. A GNP committee sent a "confidential" email to party lawmakers asking for budget proposals in their constituencies for "social overhead capital" projects--the textbook definition of an "earmark." According to a legislative aide quoted in a story in Dong-A Ilbo:
At a time when the government plans to speed up SOC projects, it will be in the interest of both the government and the ruling party to fund projects in the ruling party’s constituencies...The economic crisis obliges us to take caution, but such a practice has been customary for quite some time.

Still, the total amount, if granted, adds KRW 10 trillion, only about 2.5%, to the projected total outlay--not exactly a budget-buster. Of course, the Korean government doesn't run a deficit. So it's quite unlike Washington after all.

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