File spoon-archives/baudrillard.archive/baudrillard_1994/baud.May94, message 20

Subject: Re: interpretation and praxis
Date: Mon, 23 May 94 17:15:07 PDT
Cc: (me)

Baldwin writes:

	At the risk of having someone ask "what would Baudrillard
think" (because I'm not too interested in what the man, Baudrillard,
would think), I'd like some critical feedback from members of
this community on what seems to be the hyper overinterpretation
of words. 

     There are of course those who might respond by asking how 
     you propose to move beyond this "interpretation of words" or
     indeed which mechanisms you propose to decide when we have
     arrrived at the *correct* amount of interpretation.

 Obviously, we can all use a dictionary, but any good
lexicographer will tell you that denotations are based on usage
and are subject to constant and rapid change as long as a language
lives.  Most of us don't use words like "strategy," "resistance,"
"emancipation," etc., to refer to military struggles.  These
words have assumed new connotations.

     Neither you nor anyone else though who has been speaking of these
     "new connotations" has really offered much in the way of a
     description of what you intend.  Nor have you or others offered much
     to lead me to believe that what you intend by these words is somehow
     radically divorced from the meanings I have mentioned.  If you want
     a 'resistance' based upon 'common sense' or 'properly interpreted
     words', one would imagine you mightn't be too upset about having
     someone ask just what that 'common sense' consists of.

	It's all very interesting on a psycholinguistic level, I 
know, but do you think we're interpreting to death -- avoiding

     I've stifled myself several times with mere smirks as this word
     "praxis" has appeared seemingly several hundred times in the
     past week or so.  Am I permitted to ask for a definition here?
     Or would that constitute "hyperoverinterpretation"?  Is it just
     one of those much used 'radical' words which everyone is
     supposed to know intuitively?  Has your use of it anything to 
     do with the Marxian notion, with all its materialist and 
     dialectical baggage?  
     One other question:   If you're so interested in "praxis" and if
     in your view talking about "psycholinguistics" and such is merely
     "avoiding praxis", why does it make sense to criticize the
     "nihilists" for "avoiding praxis" via e-mail when you might be 
     better spending your time out "praxis[ing]" and "emancipating"?  
     What sort of "praxis" is likely to get done in your view on the

  I'm personally concerned as a teacher and a scholar
about postmodern nihilism.  Do we have to avoid individual or
social praxis, values deliberation, or even lively conversation
because we can't get beyond semantics and interpreting one another's

     The fact that you apparently see these ("praxis" and
     "interpreting") as so readily separable perhaps says much for your 

	When Madeley speaks about a theory's "emancipatory
potential" to promote critical thinking, or about how one might
"proceed" or "succeed," do we have to ask "proceed where" and
"succeed at what"? 

     Well, perhaps it's all clear to you where MADELEY wants us all to go
     and what we're all supposed to be succeeding at--I'm not so 
     certain and indeed I do think we "have to ask" such questions
     unless we're content to go marching off to save a world which
     hasn't even asked us to save it.  It isn't hard for me to 
     imagine a version of "critical" thinking which might perhaps
     take as one of its more important 'tasks' interrogating just
     such vague and charged calls to "praxis".
 Praxis is always informed by theory or some
ilk; but individuals and communities decide for themselves what
the praxis will be.  "At what" and "where" will be different
for different groups and individuals.

     And do those "individuals and communities" get the option of
     rejecting your utopia altogether, or do they just get to choose
     which track they'd like to go hustling after it on?

  As people interested
in what Baudrillard has to say (rather than in what he might
think, approval-wise), let us talk about "how" his theory
informs our praxis. 

     You may of course talk of this all you like.  You should
     however perhaps not wonder so much when someone asks a few
     questions about the particulars of this wonderful new world you
     apparently want to march us to.



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