Wednesday, 10 August 2005

Bulwark Against an Actual Empire, or another Maginot Line? I would like to inform everyone that Timothy Burke has christened me "Scott the Merciless." Really. He did. No he didn't. You caught me. He said: The deeper problem here is something Scott has been pretty merciless about at his own blog and The Valve: a meaningful reading of alliances made and alliances broken requires fidelity to those tools of analytic social science and historicism that theory (poststructuralist and otherwise) mostly abjures or uses in a mood of romantic bemusement. [...] What I'm referring back to is Scott's remarks about the mobility of a cultural studies/theory sense of the politics: its "left" is not any kind of socially incarnated left (save the social habitus of the constituencies drawn to the writing and consumption of theory, which is semi-effaced in the writing of such work). Its sense of left-ness is derived from a mutable, shifting search of representational space for transgression, liminality, culture-war, contestation, whereupon sides are taken, tents are pitched, and a left posture affirmed. Funny how anytime Burke says something it sounds so much more eloquent than when I do. But he has a point: I do think that. This whole conversation has me reliving the week I spent reading nothing but back issues of Critical Inquiry in preparation for the Theory's Empire event. As I moved through them, I found myself attracted to the theoretical stylings of that earlier generation of theorists, none of whom seemed stricken with the unthinking commitment to irrational positions I observe in contemporary theorists. For this reason, Alphonse van Worden's accusation struck me as willfully ignorant and particularly absurd: This may have something to do with rational, good old fashioned Discerning Consumption's loss of market share to faddish Theory. Poor shopwindow display. She describes "Discerning Consumption," a neologism whose wit sags with every flat iteration, as a desire for a return to something "rational, good old fashioned." Given my oft-stated position on Derrida (articulated in the essay to which I had linked once and mentioned linking to two other times in that thread) you would think someone interested in condemning it would bother to learn what it is. She didn't. The quickness to condemn despite a dearth of evidence and her determination to remain ignorant of the evidence despite my proferring it is what I've come to expect from self-identified theorists. Others have recently caused me to question the validity of this expectation. But even they sometimes slip into bad habits. Case in point: the current (and ongoing) conversation between Sean, Rich, Jodi and Matt in which I figure as someone who, contra Sean, attempts to take seriously the claims of all participants. Only I'm not "contra Sean." It's unfair to Sean to ignore his recent (and forthcoming) discussion of Derrida's apocalyptic thought, in which he engages with the text as seriously as Adam praised Abrams for engaging with Derrida's earlier work. Now, as Adam pointed out, there are problems with Abrams' interpretation of Derrida, and there may well be problems wtih Sean's....

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