Date: Fri, 30 Mar 2001 08:19:49 +0100 Subject: Re: What Would Lyotard Do? Eric I have been thinking about your relations to post-modernity and perhaps even recent post-68/69 political practice. I’ll start from the post-modern statements and move onto identity politics… The version of post-modernism defined below is one which it is necessary to reject. Post-modernism as defined here can be understood as having been derived from the ‘counter-revolution’ that the right engaged in during the 70s, was finally triumphant with neo-liberal economics and which mutated into the ‘globalism’ which has become a fascinating political driftwork as capital ‘brings it all back home’ (sorry couldn’t resist the quote). It does no harm to repeat that globalised capital has no geography to define as outside. However the issue here is different – with the personal and intellectual defeats deriving from the counter-revolution of the period - leftists and those who would ordinarily have been in alliance with the left – accepted the thought of Glucksman, Rawls, Popper, Rorty and Habermas that the answer lay in some form of humanism. Intellectuals having been persuaded of the correctness of capitalism and parliamentary democracy, Socialism and communism were redundant perspectives and those anti-humanists from Lyotard through Foucault, D&G, Heath, Lacan, Kristeva and uncountable others were ultimately surplus to requirements. All of whom had declared in there ways the ‘death of man’. The counter-revolutionary fellow travellers also accepted the virtues of humanist individualism over the constraints that are necessary within collective endeavours. The assertion of the globalising notion of human rights, along with free trade and new colonial peace actions and wars. (The anti-humanists sang along with Robert Wyatt as he sang Elvis Costello’s song ‘shipbuilding’ the first antiwar song of the globalised era.) We have reached the 21st C and the cracks are appearing in the triumphal logic of globalism. Post-modernity as a zeitgeist – as defined below is represented by the hopelessness that was felt by the left as the counter-revolutionary thoughts gained a position of transcendence. (Pessimism of the intellect and pessimism of the will.) However the version of post-modernity is partial and works as an acceptance of the dominant western society. (I confess having somewhat freely interpreted this account). This account seems to work only if you simply observe the superficial zeitgeist of the age and do not think the connection between intellectual activity and the economic and political. Post-modernity is a term that denotes the shift from the modern era of capitalism into the post-modern globalised economy. (see two or three emails back for a definition of this). The critical difference between the post-modern and previous eras of capital is the all-inclusive geography of capital. It this which gives post-modernity its particularity and which supplies us with a reason why the concept, the phrase ‘the post-modern’ has maintained its specificity and purchase. Identity politics: Politics is an experimental activity because one can never know in advance how things will turn out nor predict the effect’s of ones actions. One of the results of the anti-humanist work of the 1960s and 1970s work Lyotard and Foucault amongst others was identity politics. This derives from ‘the death of man’, the end of the integrated subject, the ‘I’ which stands at the centre of the dominant conception of the western subject. What emerges with identity politics is an attempt to rework what constitutes a human subject and as such is direct challenge to WESTERN HUMANISM. The unified subject is the same subject who exists in all the apparatuses of administration as the abstract legal subject of individual rights, responsibilities and obligations. As such the recipient of the social technologies of normalization. Identity politics is directly attacked because it represents a failed attempt to refute and change the subject. Anti-humanism rules… Best as ever sdv Mary Murphy&Salstrand wrote: > In terms of labor, postmodernism gives voice to a deterritorialized, > intellectual class, suffering from anomie and nostalgic for home, > feeling a sense of rootlessness in the contemporary world. The pursuit > of postmodern elan is a pleasant form of distraction which siphons off > a more dysfunctional discontent. > > Identity politics are a form of managed identity that keeps groups > separate and therefore malleable by the local state. > > In "The Differend" Lyotard makes the claim that he is arguing for a > political philosophy. To reduce Lyotard to the popular notion of the > postmodern is to betray this philosophy. However, the reality is such > that this is precisely how Lyotard has usually been received. > > Issues and interests and discussions are difficult. This is not a forum > that can hope to change the world directly. Its scope is limited. The > focus is on Lyotard. Not that this means no other topics can be > discussed here, but the reality is that any discussion is sporadic and > the participants few. > > For me Lyotard means a certain attempt at a political understanding or > it is worthless. The question of articulating what this political > philosophy might mean in the light of contemporary events need not be a > fruitless one. As some have argued, praxis does not consist in action > alone. Thinking itself must be conceived as a form of action and > therefore a necessary component of praxis. > > No matter how hopeless the situation currently seems, a cynical or > pessimistic response remains inappropriate. > > The first step is to create awareness. The second is to resist. > > To be postmodern in Lyotard's sense means to bear witness to what might > otherwise remain unsaid - to feel what the words betray and then to act > otherwise, always otherwise.
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