||[May. 13th, 2002|06:20 pm]
Recent lengthy conversation with new-found (I found? you found?) friend woodydespair has again gotten me thinking about where it is exactly I claim to speak from. What is my "position"? How do I fit into that huge, overblown hot air balloon of directionless particles labelled "academic thought"? I say again, although this particular epistemological question gets asked inside my head several times a day. |
You see, this is a particular problem for an academic (or even worse for an aspiring one); partly because people outside these "ivory towers" - and therefore immune to their divine tendency towards
bullshit obfuscation - are always asking for explanations in clear, direct language (is this really such a chore?) for what it is I "do". What do I think about? What do I think, about X? What are my solutions? What did Foucault really mean by "we are all ruled"? Answering these kind of questions in slippery, "professorial" language is not only irritating, it's also dishonest: giving someone an answer they cannot understand is to not give them an answer at all.
Even amongst your peers, from within "the machine", it seems that your success as an academic - rather like your success as a pop star - seems to depend heavily on your ability to come up with thoughts, ideas and narratives which can easily be classified; neatly parcelled and labelled as belonging to one of the pseudo-scientific "-ism's". Like some horrendous, clanking 1950's supercomputer, stamping and branding everyone with a nice, neat little moniker on a crisp piece of bleached paper:
Deleuze? Derrida? Post-structuralist. Ka-Ching!
Badiou? Eagleton? Marxist Phenomenologist. Ka-Ching!
Rorty? Harvey? Lyotard? Postmodernist. Ka-Ching!
Mawk? Mawk? Come in, mawk, your number is up...
[I'm just waiting for my stamp. It's coming. Wait 'til I publish something. I'll let you know what I get.]
So what am I going to be today? Which hat shall I wear? People want to know! And, believe me, the temptation to just throw in the towel, sign up on the dotted line, is ludicrously tempting. "Fuck it. I'm a post-structuralist. Was all along. Look, I wrote a piece on intangible sexual consciousnesses when I was 20. Which way to Foucault's grave?" Once you "come out" as a Marxist, a neo-liberal, a Blairite, a postmodernist, an eco-warrior, your identity is chosen; your "centre of thought" is fixed, and you don't have to chug along writing quasi-angst-ridden pieces about your abject confusion in your online journal (and believe you me, "abjectly confused" I most certainly am). Suddenly, all the other young Althusserian post-structural realists - or what have you - in the world are your best mates; you can talk for hours about the coming of the informational economy fulfilling Marx's prophecy that "all is solid melts into air" over bottles of Chardonnay and a fat spliff.
And oh, how I ache to be able to do this. To put my guard down when people start talking philosophy or politics... to be able to shout "YES! I agree with you!" rather than immediately getting people's backs up by raising a counter-argument I most likely have even less sympathy with. To have a vibrant young Marxist professor take me under her wing and teach me the mysteries of M' = C + C'. To go to parties full of anti-globalisation demonstrators and not get all huffy and irritated when they decry the evils of all multi-national institutions. Yes, that would all please me greatly; I reckon that just about all my problems in life would instantly be solved.
[how I wish that sentence was really as flippant as it sounds]
But I will not do it. I am so deeply suspicious of any body of thought, any single person's project, which inspires slavish, even occasionally farcical adoration and imitation that it has even started to drive me away from Bourdieu, despite the astonishing, fundamental honesty of the man's own work. His death seems to have incited an explosion of rabid, fatuous, arse-kissing interpretations by academics across the world, desperate to sell books by either speciously faulting or obsequiously praising his entire oeuvre. [Wankers! Give me back my integrity!] Now, we're being told that Marx's work has been unfairly dismissed, that socialism really has a future if we just read it differently: properly , this time. Little information-age Marxists spring up h e r e, there and everywhere with their clever, well-researched theses telling us that, really, nothing's changed since 1845 and we're still waiting for the glorious revolution. I respect Marx deeply: he truly is the greatest intellectual drug dealer that ever lived, to have mixed a brew of journalese, politics, pseudo-economics and cod psychology that academics just can't stop knocking back like it's going out of fashion. And I will not partake, if only because I'm a contrary fucker.
And so, I will continue to stay awake at night poring over volumes of statistical data about the acceleration of the world, thinking about how to simultaneously embody diversity and monism in a single paradigm (one which people can actually understand, you crazy Deleuzians), how to right the wrongs of ignorance, fight the good fight, overstep the boundaries of pretension and precociousness already well stepped-over by self-righteous young academics and activists across the world, etc., etc.
But if you still really, really want to read my barcode, my McParadigm, then you can. I'm going to steal an idea from a very clever man and tell you straight - no bullshit - that I am an anti anti-postmodernist.
Thanks for your time.