File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0103, message 114

Date: Fri, 30 Mar 2001 08:19:49 +0100
Subject: Re: What Would Lyotard Do?


I have been thinking about your relations to post-modernity and perhaps
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
reject.  Post-modernism as defined here can be understood as having been
derived from the ‘counter-revolution’ that the right engaged in during
70s, was finally triumphant with neo-liberal economics  and which
into the ‘globalism’ which has become a fascinating political driftwork
capital ‘brings it all back home’ (sorry couldn’t resist the quote). It
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
– accepted the thought of Glucksman, Rawls, Popper, Rorty and Habermas
the answer lay in some form of humanism. Intellectuals having been
of the correctness of capitalism and parliamentary democracy, Socialism
communism were redundant perspectives and those anti-humanists from
through Foucault, D&G, Heath, Lacan, Kristeva and uncountable others
ultimately surplus to requirements.  All of whom had declared in there
the ‘death of man’. The counter-revolutionary fellow travellers also
accepted the virtues of humanist individualism over the constraints that
necessary within collective endeavours. The assertion of  the
notion of human rights, along with free trade and  new colonial peace
actions and wars.  (The anti-humanists sang along with Robert Wyatt as
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
gained a position of transcendence. (Pessimism of the intellect and
pessimism of the will.)  However the version of post-modernity is
and works as an acceptance of the dominant western society. (I confess
having somewhat freely interpreted this account). This account seems to
only if you simply observe the superficial zeitgeist of the age and do
think the connection between intellectual activity and the economic and
political. Post-modernity is a term that denotes the shift from the
era of capitalism into the post-modern globalised economy. (see two or
emails back for a definition of this). The critical difference between
post-modern and previous eras of capital is the all-inclusive geography
capital. It this which gives post-modernity its particularity and which
supplies us with a reason why the concept, the phrase ‘the post-modern’
maintained its specificity and purchase.

Identity politics:
Politics is an experimental activity because one can never know in
how things will turn out nor predict the effect’s of ones actions. One
the results of the anti-humanist work of the 1960s and 1970s work
and Foucault amongst others was identity politics. This derives from
death of man’, the end of the integrated subject, the ‘I’ which stands
the centre of the dominant conception of the western subject. What
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

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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