File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0108, message 40

Date: Mon, 06 Aug 2001 21:58:56 -0500
Subject: Re: An Idea whose time will never come

Steve wrote:

An analysis of the social founded on the construcution of a new
subject, read section 4.3. The political subject they are suggesting is
simply another variant of the revolutionary subject (proletarian)
from Marx and Hegel. The implicit refusal of the postmodern 'end of
history', the end of the grand narrative of human liberation is
- mostly because of the nerve it has hit - quiescence is once again

in other words it does not allow for the diverse ways in
which such theories have been used - predominantly of course the
which start from a perspective of cirticism rather than 'the end of
history'. The latter of course is much closer to Lyotard's own late
counselling against an historical consideration of modernity and

Lyotard's entire late writing derives from a relationship to political
defeat - the pessimism of his late writing implies this most clearly.
at the 'postmodern fables' - by default they argue that politics had
into a form of 'system management', a pessimistic fable indeed.


I don't want to cherry pick your statements.  You raise a number of
issues and I want to respond to a few of them here in order to keep the
conversation moving along.

In the first place, let me say this.  I think you and I are mostly in
agreement on "Empire."  I also see it as a good political synthesis that
integrates many contemporary approachs into an powerful countermodel
that effectively undermines what little intellectual capital
neo-liberalism has. (The posse has come to hunt down the sheriff.)

That being said, I think the main difference between our interpretations
is two-fold. In the first place, I don't think this represents a return
to Marx.  I think it is giving us Marx beyond Marx, pushing Marx with a
certain amount of violence into new and unanticipated directions. 
Certainly, you must be aware conventional Marxists have been far from
positive or enthusiastic in their reception of the book.  They tend to
interpret it as the same kind of liberalism which you accuse Lyotard of

Second, maybe it is just my own idiosyncratic way of reading Lyotard,
but I don't see him as being guilty at all of the charges you are
making. If anything, I see his philosophy as being isomorphic with the
views that Negri and Hardt are pushing.  This seems hardly surprising to
me, given that they are all operating from a postmodern perspective.

I certainly don't think the philosophical points Lyotard was making in
his many writings can simply be reduced to a mood of pessimism.  This
attempts to undercut the philosophical points Lyotard was making by
dealing with them in an ad hominid fashion.  Clearly, in his later
writings, Lyotard was always very careful to frame his remarks as
stories or fables.  They were, if you will, cautionary tales regarding
certain tendencies.  Negri and Hardt's countermodel is in many respects
very close to Lyotard's.  However, in their version, to speak crudely,
the good guys(and cybergals) win.  

To present the argument in this way,however, is to misstate both
positions.  None of these writers operate from a simple
optimism/pessimism axis or an end of history perspective either - (in
Lyotard, from despair; in Hardt and Negri from the eschatological
triumph of the earthly city at the end of time. Hello, St. Augustine!)

This would belie the immanance contained in these writers and the
critique of transcendence they make, and, yes, I see Lyotard's critique
of metanarratives as a critique of transcendence in this very sense. (no
emancipation through speculative transformation!)  

However, I also think Lyotard would have agreed with the point N&H make
that it is not longer representational, but constituent activism that is
needed today - creative resistance.  This seems to me to be Lyotard in a
nutshell and it certainly echoes his own critique of the intellectual.

I also see Lyotard's concept of the differend as very compatible with
the Marxist sense of class struggle, except that for Lyotard the
differend is not limited to class.  It is far closer to Negri's concept
of the autonomous social worker, except that Lyotard also critiques
autonomy itself as still being too transcendental.

You refer to 4.3, but what is that section if not a political program. 
It is utterly lacking in a sense of dialectical materialism with the
dialectical outcome of overcoming alienation.  N&H speak of a
proletariat, to be sure, but this proletariat has little to do with the
working class.

The program consists of three points:

1. Global citizenship
2. Guaranteed income
3. Reappropriation

In line with Hugh's "new criticism" suggestion that we confine ourselves
more to the text, perhaps it would be better to unpack these points to a
greater extent before saying this is Marxist and not Lyotard or vice

For one thing, despite your objections to the Lyotardian concept about
keeping information free, that is clearly what N&G seem to be implying
as well in this section.  It underlies their concept of immeasurable
time (which again has a certain resonance with Lyotard's own conception
of temporality) and it also seems to be implicit in the very conception
of reappropriation and biopolitics.

N&H end their book saying: "against the misery of power, the joy of
being."  Despite what you say against Lyotard, this sounds like the
affirmative intensity of libidinal politics to me.



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