Brad Delong complains of the noise my dry bones make when they clatter. Then he sprints below decks and stands, in the boiler room, at the contact point, before the mast. (I'm relieved his metaphor's metaphorical: I would pity the crew quartered in the boiler room.) He says:
Over at The Valve, they are talking about the book Theory's Empire--and thus about the damage done by "Critical Theory" and its spawn on the American humanities over the past generation. But most of it is all too... theoretical. What work can you do with statements like...
...and then he quotes, among other things, the second half of the fourth paragraph of my contribution as an example of the bloodlessness of the Valve's critique of Theory. Now, DeLong is sharp on matters economic, but if his reading of my essay's typical of his analysis of all matters outside economics, then I applaud his decision to stick to his strengths. On what grounds, if not logical, would he have literary critics confront the excesses of more Theoretically-minded critics? My essay, as you know, fingers the decline of rigorous thought as the motive force behind the rise of Theory in the humanities. And I argue my point, if you please, rigorously.
But rigor and logic are bloodless, whereas invective is sanguifluous. In Timothy and Sean's posts, the streets run crimson as the life runs from the things which late were Theories. Those posts excel where mine fail: they make sweeping arguments designed to appeal to those who are already convinced of Theory's vacuity. In other words, they have the rhetorical flair which appeals to someone who, like DeLong, dismisses Theory as so much blather. And some of it is. However, no one who practices one or another of the regnant Theories will read Timothy or Sean's posts and reevaluate their life's work. They will recognize, in both, the hostility that they and theirs have (admittedly) earned. But it still reads hostile, and it's still likely to be ignored. Consider an example:
Sean and Timothy are Generals in the War Against Theory. All available intelligence points to a battalion of Bhabhatistas hiding in the Deconstructed Zone. On the eve of battle, General McCann delivers a rousing condemnation of the Bhabhatistas. General Burke follows suit. The troops, intoxicated by the rhetoric, grab their gear and prepare for the assault.
Sounds about right to me. But what would happen if Covert Operative McCann delivered that same condemnation to Bhabhatistas he bunks with? How long before the life begins running from the rapidly de-sanguinating body of poor C.O. McCann? Not long at all. So C.O. McCann, knowing his intentions and his audience, would probably choose to encourage defection by other means.
"We have the logic," he mouths to a bunk-mate.
"But, the Bhabha said..."
"Forget about the Bhabha!" he whispers with a vehemence belying volume. "The Bhabha lied. Logic is real..."
"...The Logic is The Real?"
"No," McCann mumbles. "Logic is real. As in 'it exists.'"
"Oh, I see, I see. It 'exists.'"
"Not 'it "exists."' C'mon on now!" Then patiently. "Look at me. See? No fingers. It. Ex. Ists. It. Ex. Iists. It. Ex. Ists."
"No!" Then hushed: "Not 'The Real'! Logic. Lo-gic."
"Is the Logic like candy?"
"Yes. It is. Exactly like candy. So you'll defect?"
"I suppose. But wait! You said 'the Bhabha lied'!"
"That's right. I said 'the Bhabha lied.' Now get some sleep. We have a lot to talk about in the morning."
From that point forward, C.O. McCann would tell him how the Bhabha denied the logic, but how his Che--the Derrida--did not. He would tell him about the logic and put to lie the lies of The Real. And that's pretty much what Covert Op. Y.T. did in his contribution.