Monthly Archives: February 2012

Poetics of Theory: Maxims 2

Obscurantism and over-generalization as well as false clarity is counter-revolutionary regardless of its source. (In other words, I need to speak more clearly but never falsely. Consider this ideological self-criticism).


I just find it interesting that we often end up debating things endlessly over positions that are barely even opposed because of differing sets of jargon or load-language. Sometimes this masks real differences, and sometimes it creates false divisions. THis is the hazard of our hobby-description though. What I worry about is turning this into psuedo-activity. It’s a funny thing that people miss: Theory itself can become psuedo-activity. It can become a form of the actionism it critiques. It’s actionism of the mind.   In this sense the leftist academican is the shadow of black bloc and vice versa: they both have a repetition complex in which they cannot emerge.In simple terms, when you do the same thing despite it not working in the past and the context that generated it no longer exists: you are acting like a paranoid obsessive.The long march through the academy has already happened, and it created a generation of rhetoricians and p.r. students.

A poetics of theory: Maxims 1

The dialectic is a war in that no matter who wins, both sides are changed. This is what is meant by sublation into concreteness. The wreckage, be it mental or physical, or be it symbolic, imaginary, or real, has changed the landscape. This is both a metaphor and not a metaphor.

(Clarity vow number 1: I speak more clearly like a poet than a philosopher, while both jargon and metaphors can be  used to obscure or illuminate, metaphors have power beyond words: they signal the gap between the signified and signifier in the complex we call a sign.  Jargon hollows this out and makes the signified and signifier seem like an infinite regress of air).

The graveyard of theory: literary theory as corpse and corpus.

I say this as a person who works in literary theory, but literary theory is where critical theory goes when it is either rejected in its original field or loses its radical implications. It’s basically the elephant’s grave-yard of theoretical framework: one can see this as when structural linguistics lost clout in its field, it was moved into literary and cultural theory as well as Freudian psychoanalysis. Hence the continual push to place Marxism in it. Cultural Marxism is thus a sort of placement of Marxism as a relic.

Something being rendered into the category of literary theory that does not originate in it does not invalidate, but it does show that either it has reached a shelf-life on its own accord or by hositility in other disciplines.   So any attempt to render a critical theory merely as an aesthetic theory or a literary or cultural theory is to kill it, or even try to remove its trace.

There was a point that Baudrillard made that turns me cold: That the best understanding of critical theory is not in leftist politicians but in advertisers. I think there is a said truth that. They understand the generation of consciousness in far subtler ways than most Marxists sectarian or otherwise do.

Combating Liberalism to Save Liberalism: Honest Liberals versus dishonest liberals

One of the more difficult claims I regularly make is that the failure of political liberalism is tragic, but liberalism in current must be combated because it maintains itself at the expense of its own principles. The claim that one needs to out dishonest liberals (liberals pretending to be radicals on one hand, thus deluding the left critique and liberals who are apologists for regressive elements that empower liberal regimes on the other) is driven by the belief that some of historical liberalism had a progressive character.  But this acceleration of these contradictions has done little to nothing to fix the overall problem at hand.

The first thing one must to do is not let liberals lie themselves.  The second thing is not to think anything that is anti-liberal is progressive anymore than anything that is from a liberal regime is.

Questions of the Subject of Revolution:

Today I was asked: “What do we make of the political rather than simply analytical concept of the PROLETARIAT today (as the practical subject of history/liberation/revolution, as the “people of the people”)?”

To which I could only respond with more questions:

Questions: Why was early proletariat the subject of revolution: it was disciplined, organized, and educated comparably to peasants. IS this true today?  The slave in the master/slave dialectic in Hegel had the power of position prior to the emergence of a disciplined working class, but slaves could not coordinate nor discipline themselves to the level of fighting their oppressors.  If the working class no longer has the same discipline due to a mixture of de-socialization and relative declines in education compared to the few who are not proletariat  is this still a meaningful category?

Why is the lumpen proletariat seen as generally counter revolutionary: it expliots the proletariat itself terrorizing withing the class when criminalized, and it is not disciplined. Does it lacking revolutionary possibility? No, at least, according to Fanon and many Maoist. Yet what have we seen happen to groups that make the Lumpen it’s primary stock-and-trade of the subject?  Well, the FARC and Shining Path largely de-evolved into drug-running and terrorism, and the lumpen in Germany and Italy tended to vote for revolutionary fascists.

If the proletariat approaches universality? Can be it conscious of itself? An undifferentiated totality has no cognitive or mathematically comprehensibility. Badiou’s theory of the subject is key here. If majority of people no exist as wage-labor regardless of their skill set and discipline requirements? Is this a political subject?  If the sociological definition of the proletariat renders it universal within capitalism can it be said to have one class interest to which to be conscious?

The answers to questions greatly complicate Marxist theory, and Marxists who fail to look at this because of vague notions of “the people” or the “working class” or the “multitude” or the “masses” at the end of the day are using definitions and phrases to mask the hard social logics of figuring out who best is a revolutionary subject. Or even various competing revolutionary subjects.

Stuff from my two favorite Badiou translators: Tascano and Bosteels




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