File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0104, message 28

Date: Sun, 15 Apr 2001 11:26:59 -0500
Subject: Re: Differend

Happy Pagan Easter Everyone!

I have been reading with some interest the recent posts on the differend
and while I tend to agree with Reg's view of the matter, I have also
been struck with the other participants lack of familiarity with the
text or lack of a copy. ("In the next century there will be no more
books. It takes too long to read, when success comes from gaining time."

Lucky pagan that I am, I do have a copy available - underlined passages,
bent pages and everything else.  I would like to go back to the very
beginning - The Preface Reading Dossier where Lyotard cleverly gives us
the cliff notes version of the book, so the dear reader doesn't need to
raise any valuable time, puzzling out the entire philosophical
sketchbook that A. (Lyotard) has left behind.

Here is what A. states as the major Problem that book addresses:

"Given 1) the impossibility of avoiding conflicts (the impossibiity of
indifference) and 2) the absence of a universal genre of discourse to
regulate them (or, if you prefer, the invevitable partiality of the
judge): to find, if not wat can legitimate judgment (the "good"
linkage), then at least how to save the honor of thinking."

And what are the stakes involved?

"To defend and illustrate philosophy in its differend with its two
adversaries: on the outside, the genre of economic discourse: (exchange,
capital); on its inside, the genre of academic discourse (mastery). By
showing that the linking of one phrase onto another is problematic and
that this problem is the problem of politics, to set up a philosophical
politics apart from the politics of "intellectuals" and of politicians.
To bear witness to the differend."

Thus, even though it is possible to use the language of the differend to
describe the recent affair between the US and China, it seems to me the
main thrust of "The Differend" is different.  It is engaged in the
exploration of a micropolitics beyond the macro level of electoral
politics and the conflict of "subjects"("to refute the prejudice
anchored in the reader by centuries of humanism and of "human sciences"
that there is "man," that there is "language," that the former makes use
of the latter for its own ends.")

Instead, "The Differend" sees politics as always already embedded in the
phrase, that which presents itself, with the problem that it must always
link with other phrases and each linkage is political because no
tribunal exists to justify such linkage.

Thus, even though Lyotard uses as paradigms of the differend such
examples as Holocaust victims versus Nazi revisionists, communist
workers versus the state, capitalist workers versus the state, the locus
of the differend is at more fundamental level. "Politics, however, is
the threat of the differend.  It is not a genre, it is the muliplicity
of genres, the diversity of ends, and par excellence the question of
linkage." (190)

I would also add, IMHO, the chief and hidden differend in the text
concerns the organization of time - temporality.  "Reflection requires
that you watch out for occurences, that you don't already know what is
happening.  It leaves open the question: Is it happening? (Arrive-t-il)"

This is opposed to the organization of time under capitalism as
discounted cash flows, accountable or countable use of time.  "Time is
at its fullest with capitalism. But if the verdict, always pronounced in
favor of gained time, puts an end to litigations, it may for that very
reason aggravate differends." (252)

"The only insurmountable obstactle that the hegemony of the economic
genre comes up against is the heterogeneity of phrase regimes and of
genres of discourse."

The differend is reborn from the very resolution  of supposed
litigations, It summons humans to situate themselves in unknown phrase
universes, even if they don't have the feeling that something has to be
phrased.  (For this is a necessity and not an obligation.) The Is it
happening? is invincible to every will to gain time." (263)

Easter as the unexpected occurence (anarchist miracle) rather that the
Easter that is linked to the Tax Man!


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