File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0103, message 27

Date: Wed, 07 Mar 2001 20:21:25 -0600
Subject: A Non-rebuttal to Todd's earlier comments


With your last post, you have established that you are not a market
fundamentalist, Christian conservative or Republican cowboy. Let me
acknowledge that despite possible my appearances of becoming Hayek,
neither am I and in times like these we probably share more in common
than what divides us.

I invoked Hayek in my last post for a number of reasons. In the first
place, even though it was clear to me that you wanted intellectual
property laws, it wasn't clear why.  As a precautionary move, I assumed
you were arguing from a strong free market position and tailored my
argument to fit the genre.  

Another reason I wanted to invoke Hayek was sheer perverseness. 
Economics today has become a very strange mixture of theology and
pseudo-science with pundits on the right invoking figures like Hayek and
von Mises as though they had established in a very necessitarian and
deterministic way the pristine purity of the market as a natural and
ecological structure.

Such a market functions symbolically, I believe, in contemporary culture
as an analogue to the "will of God" and serves as an intellectual
underpinning for Christian values now that the Bible as a sacred text
has been exploded by biblical scholarship.  This explains the strange
marriage of Ayn Rand with Jesus Christ which has spawned that strange
child, the libertarian Christian, for whom the old and new tablets, the
law of Agape and the law of greed are reconciled in the Mystical Body of
the consumer marketplace.  ("Toy guns that spark and flesh colored
Christs that glow in the dark" - Dylan).

It also seems clear, however, if the basic concepts that underwrite the
current hegemony are tweaked just a little, then the argument of Hayek
and others becomes one of anarcho-libertarianism which can then be
turned against the implicit values of the semi-fascist multinational
corporate state.  (If this be heresy, let's make the most of it.)

I also find it interesting that underneath the economic rhetoric, Hayek
is really arguing for a sublime object of self-organizing complexity. 
In this respect, part of what Hayek is saying is very close to Lyotard
and his implicit view of the postmodern.  This creates (for me at least)
the possibility of taking these arguments and moving them in the
direction of justice and equalitarian issues in ways that undermines
their reified assumptions that a socially constructed market is the
apotheosis of individual liberty is an a-historical fashion.  

This brings round to what I see as the real dog-bone of contention
between us and it is one that may surprise you - the meaning of the
I am certainly concerned with current political issues, but I am also
concerned with developing a political philosophy that can bridge the
various archipelagos.  For me, Lyotard's concept of the the differend
offers this promise.

I believe, however, Lyotard limited this concept unnecessarily because
of the way he framed it in his book  "The Differend".  By using the
Holocaust as his test case for the differend, an historical event that
could only be witnessed but not adequately presented, he left himself
open to the interpretation that the differend was only concerned with
issues of this kind of tragic magnitude.

Instead, I believe the differend can also be interpreted in a dynamic
way that reveals the gaps between a restricted and a general democracy -
between what is desired and what is permitted.  

In this sense my main point was that the current situation with Napster
is a differend because it involves the clash of two heterogeneous genres
- the commodification of information as intellectual property versus the
demand for free information. 

If you agree that this situation is ia differend, then this very
acknowledge must transform your perception of the event.  No longer is
it a question of justifying your position in a universal and
intellectual sense.  Rather it must be seen historically and dynamically
as a conflict with differing stakes, endlessly deferred until the basis
of the antagonism is resolved into a new event.   In this sense, the
differend has strong family resemblances with autonomist Marxism. 

Thus, the current court decision is merely another move in the game,
like placing a knight on square D3.   What is interesting and political
about this move is that others will make new paralogical moves in
response to this which unlike chess will take place on various planes

One of these factors is that currently five companies supply close to
90% of the world's recorded music and despite the court's decision, the
technological basis that brought about this dominance has now been
undermined.  I would expect to see more artists eliminate the middle-man
and go directly to their audience in different ways.  Some may choose to
make their music free to gain exposures, established artists may do a
Stephen King and make music available a per-pay basis.  There may be
individual sites that cater to certain tastes on a subscription basis. 

On the basis of differend, I am more interested in looking at the
situation in a fluid manner like this, in terms of possibilities rather
than taking a position.  I also worry that the infrastructures you
describe as not as neutral as you appear to think they are.

Eric (please don't blame my wife Mary for these various rants)


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