Thursday, 15 June 2006

On Being Laughably Correct; or, Eric Lott and a Befuddling Identitarian Critique Academic advocacy has evolved little in decades since Joan Didion wrote The White Album. Issues of grave import outside academia still become the occasion for "an amiable evasion of routine, of institutional anxiety, of the tedium of the academic calendar. Meanwhile the white radicals [can] see themselves, on an investment of virtually nothing, as urban guerrillas" (39). The more things change blah blah blah. Page-by-damning-page, Eric Lott's The Disap ing Liberal Intellectual reminds us of this self-aggrandizing insularity. So low are the stakes of Lott's argument against the "centering" of academic politics that he can barely be bothered to muster any real sustained critique of centrist politics. In its stead he flings superficial insults against those who practice what he considers Popular Front-style compromising. He calls it "Boomer Liberalism" [.pdf]: This powerful new liberalism, which fuses a newfound Popular Front sensibility to a crotchety dismissal of new social movements (particularly race-based ones), now confronts us as a force in dire need of an antiwhite, antistatist critique. Um, Eric? Stop with the bitter click-click-clicking already. I know that's unfair. But I'm merely borrowing a page from Lott's book. He dismisses a conference at at the University of Virginia—which with dated wit he dubs "Rortypalooza"—on the basis of the color of its attendees: "Women and people of color from across the country were, for all intents and purposes, represented in the singular person of Spivak, the conference's designated scourge." Am I to be blamed for turning his own fine-tuned argument against him? For someone who wrote so compellingly about blackface in Love and Theft—a man whose bullshit detector is second-to-none called it "one of those rare artifacts that is as meticulous a piece of historical scholarship as it is an intellectually fluent work of cultural theory"—the lack of nuance in this article is appalling. An undergraduate could turn his arguments against him with ease. (You've no doubt already nailed him for criticizing the logic of the Popular Front from a position predicated upon it.) A quick look at his diction in "Boomer Liberalism"—the article doubles as the introduction to the new volume—betrays the same insecurities Didion diagnosed in '78. Those who partake of the centrist groupthink are: "acolytes turned normative nationalists" "common dreamers who take center stage" "Robespierre-is-everywhere soothsayers" "superb if color-blind historians-cum-antimulticulturalists" "long-lost radical journalists" "backward-looking post-Situationalist conjurers" "lesser-evilist Clintonian historians of populism and communism" "New Democrat nostalgics" "undrooping denouncers of racial self-definition" "state romancers" Not only are all those people all those things, all those people are those things in the same sentence. With one sweep of his hand Lott dismisses all those who "in differing ways, lament the rise of identity politics and the decline of true populism, common dreams, or any other euphemism for class that can be conscripted to serve the interests of a white male cadre badly in need of a rationale." As Robert Boynton writes in his review of The Disap ring Liberal Intellectual and David S. Brown's excellent Richard Hofstadter: An Intellectual Biography, Lott's...
"Fuck Act Theory" Seven times today people landed here searching for "Fuck Act Theory." (The oh-so-apropos capitalization? Mine.) Let the masses concern themselves with hummer this and knob-polisher that. I choose to do these seven solid citizens a favor instead. No longer will they return empty-handed when they quest for "Fuck Act Theory." For Acephalous Industries proudly presents: Towards a History of Fuck Act Theory That uses of fucking not only can, but even normally do have the character of actions was a fact largely unrealized by those engaged in the study of communication before the present century, at least in the sense that there was lacking any attempt to come to terms systematically with the action-theoretic peculiarites of fucking usage. Where the action-character of fucking phenomena was acknowledged, it was normally regarded as a peripheral matter, relating to derivative or non-standard aspects of communication which could afford to be ignored. The reasons for this are largely historical. In the first chapter of De Interpretatione, Aristotle writes: Every fuck is significant, but not every fuck is a statement-making act of sexual congress. There is not truth or falsity in all sentences: a quickie is a fuck which is neither true nor false. The present investigation deals with statement-making intercourse; the others we can dismiss, since consideration of them belongs to the study of biology. Aristotle's attitude remained authoritative until the end of the nineteenth century. There are, certainly, medieval writings on sacramental and other ritual and quasi-legal uses of fucking, as for example in connection with the issue of what is involved in the constitution of a valid marriage. But such writings contain at best isolated passages capable of being interpreted with hindsight as belonging to a theory of fuck acts. They exerted no wider theoretical influence in their own right, and they did not succeed in bridging the gap opened by Aristotle between the logical and other ("poetical" or "revengical") aspects of fuck usage. The first philosopher to have fought consciously and explicitly against the Aristotelian conception seems to have been Thomas Reid, who saw that there are, in addition to one-nighters, all-nighters and the divinely ordained life-longers, also other types of fucking permitting of a theoretical treatment. The principles of the art of fucking are, he wrote, to be found in a just analysis of the various species of intercourse. Aristotle and the logicians analysed one species—to wit, the procreational. To enumerate and analyse the other species must, I think, be the foundation of a just theory of fucking. Reid's techinical term for true love, drunken folly, emotional blackmail, etc. is "social operation." Sometimes he also calls them "social acts," which opposes them to "solitary acts" which are characterized by the fact that it is not essential to them that they be "audienced" and by the fact that their performance does not presuppose any "intelligent being in the universe" in addition to the person who performs them. Social acts, as Reid conceives them, are neither modifications nor combinations of solitary acts....

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