Political Impotence under Postmodernity

A ball is not an ordinary object, for it is what it is only if a subject holds it. Over there, on the ground, it is nothing; it is stupid; it has no meaning, no function, and no value. Ball isn’t played alone. Those who do, those who hog the ball, are bad players and are soon excluded from the game. They are said to be selfish. The collective game doesn’t need persons, people out for themselves. Let us consider the one who holds it. If he makes it move around him, he is awkward, a bad player. The ball isn’t there fore the body; the exact contrary is true: the body is the object of the ball; the subject moves around this sun. Skill with the ball is recognized in the player who follows the ball and serves it instead of making it follow him and using it. It is the subject of the body, subject of bodies, and like a subject of subjects. Playing is nothing else but making oneself the attribute of the ball as a substance. The laws are written for it, defined relative to it, and we bend to these laws. Skill with the ball supposes a Ptolemaic revolution of which few theoreticians are capable, since they are accustomed to being subjects in a Copernican world where objects are slaves.

- Michel Serres

For advocates of social justice the problem of postmodernity is generally seen in terms of political impotence, specifically a subjective, individual impotence. The conditions of postmodernity are allegedly such that the pre-emptive co-option of social action into the reproduction of capital is assured. Capital, despite creating first and foremost its own gravediggers, has somehow 1. achieved hegemonic dominance, 2. circumvented the creation of alternative productive modes, and 3. completely subjugated the site of resistance, the working class, into its reproductive program.

1. is undoubtedly true, as I will demonstrate. Capitalism is, of course, dependent on humanity's productive power for its reproduction. The reproduction of capital requires not simply labor power but real, living labor which it translates into abstract labor, exchangeable on the commodity market. Dipesh Chakrabarty in Provincializing Europe explains the significance of this point:

Marx’s critique of capital begins at the same point where capital begins its own life process: the abstraction of labor. Yet this labor, although abstract, is always living labor to begin with. The “living” quality of the labor ensures that the capitalist has not bought a fixed quantum of labor but rather a variable “capacity for labor,” and being “living” is what makes this labor a source of resistance to capitalist abstraction. The tendency on the part of capital would therefore be to replace, as much as possible, living labor with objectified, dead labor. Capital is thus faced with its own contradiction: it needs abstract but living labor as the starting point in its cycle of self-reproduction, but it also wants to reduce to a minimum the quantum of living labor it needs. Capital will therefore tend to develop technology in order to reduce this need to a minimum. This is exactly what will create the conditions necessary for the emancipation of labor and for the eventual abolition of the category “labor” altogether. But that would also be the condition for the dissolution of capital: “[C]apital . . . —quite unintentionally—reduces human labour, expenditure of energy, to a minimum. This will redound to the benefit of emancipated labour, and is the condition of its emancipation."

This living labor, by definition resistant to capitalist exploitation in its livingness, is a required input to reproduce capital. In other words, without living labor inputs, capitalism has nothing to abstract and therefore nothing to exchange on the market, and thereby no way to reproduce itself. The social categories "capital" and "labor" which constitute capitalism cease to exist.

Postmodernity remains fertile soil for social revolution by virtue of its capitalist productive mode. It can not be both capitalist and have resolved the need or capacity of social revolution: social revolution is intrinsic to capitalist relations. In re-asserting the site of social revolution within capitalism itself, the problem of anti-capitalist impotence under postmodernity is rearticulated as an ideological concern, not a "real" one. The problem is not located, as the apocalyptics argue, in some innovation of the social relations that rendered social revolution obsolete or negated the capitalist contradiction, or in some theoretical tangle that played out in the 20th Century Communist projects that refutes the theory of capitalist contradiction. The dominant contemporary social relations remain capitalist: social production and precapitalist productive modes are co-opted for reproduction of capital, and the contradiction of capital has yet to resolve. We are therefore firmly within a capitalist hegemony, and the project of social revolution remains a political priority.

The problem of political impotence then must be located in ideology, since it is clearly not a question of the productive mode's potential for revolution. This is not simply to say that the Left is lacking self confidence in the face of the collapse of progressive alternatives to capitalism, or that we require a new, better theory, that Marxist theory is outdated, etc. Capitalism produces ideology in its own image, and under scrutiny, just as the examining the material relations reveals the material contradictions that make the potential and need for social revolution real, examination of the ideological relations will reveal the ideological contradiction, and dispel the political impotence that masks the potential for social revolution inherent in postmodernity.

What is ideology, in Marxian terms? Ideology is embedded in the social relations, and as "real" as any other product of social production. Ideology is not a matter of will or free intellect, but of social organization. Ideology necessarily represents the social relations that produce it, just as the social classes do. That there are conflicting and contradictory positions within postmodern ideology does not reflect that one position is true to the exclusion of the other, but that the capitalist contradiction at the productive center of the contemporary social mode is indeed at work. That reactionaries and revolutionaries ideologically coexist is not indicative of theoretical error: they are siblings of a kind, sharing the same maternal origin in the productive mode, but they are not twins. The contradiction of capitalism gives the productive mode its revolutionary dynamic, which produces not only the agents of revolution, but the agents of reaction: to have one without the other is nonsensical, for the revolution must revolt against something. Capitalism produces the bourgeoisie and its gravediggers, and just the same it produces their ideological analogue in political reaction and its executioners.

Let's then examine subjectivity as it was viewed by Marx in this light. Dipesh Chakrabarty in his earlier work Rethinking Working-Class History: Bengal, 1890-1940 can once again help us here:

Marx places the question of subjectivity right at the heart of his category “capital” when he posits the conflict between “real labour” and “abstract labour” as one of its central contradictions. “Real labour” refers to the labor power of the actual individual, labor power “as it exists in the personality of the labourer”—that is, as it exists in the “immediate exclusive individuality” of the individual. Just as personalities differ, similarly the labor power of one individual is different from that of another. “Real labour” refers to the essential heterogeneity of individual capacities. “Abstract” or general labor, on the other hand, refers to the idea of uniform, homogeneous labor that capitalism imposes on this heterogeneity, the notion of a general labor that underlies “exchange value.” It is what makes labor measurable and makes possible the generalized exchange of commodities. It expresses itself . . . in capitalist discipline, which has the sole objective of making every individual’s concrete labor—by nature heterogeneous—“uniform and homogeneous” through supervision and technology employed in the labor process. . . . Politically, . . . the concept of “abstract labour” is an extension of the bourgeois notion of the “equal rights” of “abstract individuals,” whose political life is reflected in the ideals and practice of “citizenship.” The politics of “equal rights” is thus precisely the “politics” one can read into the category “capital.”

Chakrabarty identifies modernity (and the modern "economic" mode of capitalism) as a program of abstracting from real life universals which permit translation and exchangeability, and problematizes the legitimacy of these universals in Provincializing Europe. The managerial-parasitical status of modernity over premodernity parallels the functions of capital: in encountering precapitalist production, capital translates that real, living labor into universally exchangeable abstract labor in order to reproduce itself. In the same way that capitalism contains a self-obviating contradiction at the site of translation from real labor to abstract labor, modernity contains an analogous contradiction in the translation of the premodern singular into the modern universal. Modernity seeks to minimize as much as possible the premodern through the process of abstraction, but simultaneously requires the premodern in order to sustain itself. Without the premodern, modernity would would resolve itself.

A note on the term "precapitalist": "precapitalism" does not mean prior to capitalism in some stage-developmental, teleological sense. The relationship between modern and premodern, capitalist and precapitalist, civilized and uncivilized are always co-contemporary. One exists in relation to the other, and because of the other, and is dependent on the other for its reproduction. The advent of modernity and capitalism produced alongside the category of civilization and its universal political projects (democracy, secularism, etc.) the category of the uncivilized, a condition attributed to real social life as it exists prior to translation and reconstitution according to modern categories. In essence, premodernity is attributed to those social modes that lack reference to the universal exchangeable categories posited by modernity.

In We Have Never Been Modern, Bruno Latour grapples with this question of modernity and premodernity. He articulates modernity as something distinguished primarily by its "purification" of two categories it posts: Nature and Culture. Nature is that which is historically contingent, that which is prior to human civilization (geography, for example). Culture is the social product of humanity, and is reconfigurable. He describes the modern constitution by a set of affirmations it makes:

1) "even though we construct Nature, Nature is as if we did not construct it"

2) "even though we do not construct Society, Society is as if we did construct it"

3) "Nature and Society must remain absolutely distinct: the work of purification must remain absolutely distinct from the work of mediation"

4) God does not intervene in Nature or Society, but is nevertheless there, personal, and useful

Modernity thus exists as a form of critique, and institutionalized politically this critique becomes a managerial function, re-ordering and re-valuing social relations according it its constitution. In the premodern world, societies ordered singularly within themselves and in plurality with others. Modernity revolutionizes this order with a claim to universality, i.e. a program of translation and exchange through certain social categories.

Modernity itself earns its managerial status because it becomes invincible to any critique by assigning the critique to the category of the premodern. Modernity views premodern life's Nature and Culture to be mixed or confused, however that distinction between the contingent and the constructed (Nature and Culture) that is so significant to modernity as a program of managerial critique becomes void in the organization of real social life into abstract universal categories. For example, while elements of traditional Islamic life can be critiqued by modernity in this way, judging some elements of the "religion" and "culture" (two universal categories produced by modernity) to be contingent and others socially constructed, once translated the distinctions are lost: once Islam is a "religion" and Persian a "culture" or "race", their elements sifted for what is contingent to a particular historical circumstance and what is socially constructed and therefore substitutable, tradable, they become politically exchangeable with other "religions" and "cultures". At this point the "religion" or "culture" is no longer a source of Nature-Culture, but a category in itself. "Islam" as "religion" allows "Islamic dress" because that which is Nature and that which is Culture has been identified. The singularity of the social is disrupted, and the egalitarian plurality of premodern histories is unified into a single history glued together by the categories of modernity.

Whatever they do, Westerners bring history along with them in the hulls of their caravels and their gunboats, in the cylinders of their telescopes and the pistons of their immunizing syringes… In Westerner’s eyes the West, and the West alone, is not a culture, not merely a culture.

- Bruno Latour

However, modernity is not obedient to its own constitution. In positing itself as a universal program, modernity defies its own disciplining of the categories of Nature and Culture. Until postmodernity, modernity itself occupied that invisible space outside of Nature-Culture. As Latour notes above, modernity violates its own laws, in that by positing universals it is violating the segregation of Nature and Culture. That which is universal is both Culture-socially constructed in its specificity (e.g. democracy, citizenship, labor) and Nature-historically contingent in its universal character (human rights). Modernity obscures its historical origins by leapfrogging self-critique in order to establish universal categories. Though modernity has its own history, and has its own Nature-Culture dynamic to be mined, it does not do this as a rule in order to maintain managerial status.

The resolution to this is to identify modernity as a European "premodernity", i.e. to historicize modernity, and I believe that this has probably already been accomplished within postmodern ideological hegemony, dislodging modernity from its managerial post. In doing so, this both sanctifies the modernist project of universalization (in using its own categories and parameters of universalization) but also confronts its contradiction. If the modern categories themselves are historicized, then their status as universals can be upheld in plurality, singularity and in universality. If the translation of the premodern annihilates their singular (which is to say their internal) and plural (which is to say their external) relations to other premodern histories, the subjection of modernity to its own critical program projects the universal back into the singular and the plural.

This provides us with a possible explanation of the subjective impotence felt under postmodernity: it is the impotence of the critical program resolved, a modernity that has become self-aware of itself as a "premodern" condition and the completion of its historical mission -- now a postmodernity. However, postmodernity is then not a condition of political impotence, but a necessary condition for social revolution in that it is the completion of modernist universalization at the ideological level, and a stage for the critical program of modernity has to be pushed further. To go back to Chakrabarty on Marx (Provincializing Europe) once again:

[Marx] uses the vision of the abstract human embedded in the capitalist practice of “abstract labor” to generate a radical critique of capital itself. He recognizes that bourgeois societies in which the idea of “human equality” had acquired the “fixity of popular prejudice” allowed him to use the same idea to critique them.

A social revolution within postmodernity must then mobilize an analogous program that the social revolutions of modernity achieved. Previous revolutions accomplished the political implementation of modernist universality in confrontation with premodernity's singularity and plurality. A postmodern social revolution must achieve a combined political singularity, plurality and universality by projecting back these universalized modern histories into their singular and plural mode. What this means in practice is that rather than abolishing that which appears to the modern eye to be premodern, a postmodern social revolution will recover from the modern what is premodern -- premodern in the sense of real social life, constitutively resistant to abstraction. The impotence that arises from a view that sees in postmodernity a wasteland of modernity populated by premodernities sees precisely the exciting potential of social revolution inherent within it, if only mobilized properly towards that revolution.

Discussion of Political Impotence under Postmodernity on tHE r H i z z o n E:

MS: I am a professor, and when I give a lecture, in the beginning I am Michel Serres, I am the real person who speaks. I must make a seduction for my students. I may begin with a joke, for example. After that I must disappear as a person on behalf of the message itself. The problem of disappearing as myself to give way to the message itself is the ethics of the messenger. Do you see what I mean?

HK: So you reduce your own subjectivity

MS: Yes, the reason why angels are invisible is because they are disappearing to let the message go through them.
[account deactivated]
it seems to me that the impotence of radical social movements is not temporal, but geographical. movements for radical social change are not universally impotent, but are highly dependent on the relation of a society to the rest of the world. this impotence seems to mainly be in the exploiting countries (US, western europe, etc), there is a long historical trend of the labor aristocracy being impotent at implementing radical social change unless it sides with the most oppressed and exploited.

babyfinland posted:
Capital, despite creating first and foremost its own gravediggers, has somehow 1. achieved hegemonic dominance, 2. circumvented the creation of alternative productive modes, and 3. completely subjugated the site of resistance, the working class, into its reproductive program.

J Sakai makes a great point in When Race Burns Class

EC: Speaking of white workers, another criticism I have heard is that you are denying that there even is a white working class in the United States. Would you say this is an accurate reading of your work, or are people missing the point?

JS: Now, there obviously is a white working class in the u.s. A large one, of many, many millions. From offshore oil derricks to the construction trades to auto plants. But it isn't a proletariat. It isn't the most exploited class from which capitalism derives its super profits. Far fucking from it. As a shorthand i call it the "whitetariat". These aren't insights unique to Settlers, by any means.

Unfortunately, whenever Western radicals hear words like "unions" and "working class" a rosy glow glazes over their vision, and the "Internationale" seems to play in the background. Even many anarchists seem to fall into a daze and to magically transport themselves back to seeing the militant socialist workers of Marx and Engels' day. Forgetting that there have been many different kinds of working classes in history. Forgetting that Fred Engels himself criticized the English industrial working class of the late 19th century as a "bourgeois proletariat", an aristocracy of labor. He pointed out how you could tell the non-proletarian, "bourgeois" strata of the English working class – they were the sectors that were dominated by adult men, not women or children. Engels also wrote that the "bourgeois"sectors were those that were unionized. Sounds like a raving ultra-leftist, doesn't he? (which he sure wasn't).

It's necessary to tease the proletariat out from the general working class of the first world. the proletariat is the revolutionary subject, the people who have nothing to lose but their chains. without making this distinction, then it wrecks all kinds of havoc on political analysis, because we have understand why peasants in Colombia and India are busy creating radically new social orders while the sections of the working class with the most time, money, and security to do so are choosing to revel in their impotence by banging on drums for hours a day.

the revolutionary movements across the thrid world tend to be far more modernist in structure than postmodernist as well.

the source of impotence is not rooted in ideology itself, but the material relationship between the labor aristocracy and the rest of the world and the ideology that relationship creates.

i'm not very knowledgable about philsosophy, so how does the nature-culture dynamic manifest itself when it comes to postmodern structures? taking harvey's chart as an example:

it doesn't seem like nature/culture is the main ideological issue here

Edited by pogfan1996 ()

one of the top political stories in canada today is:

"Mackay posts wedding photo on Facebook"
we all want to love and to be loved

sosie posted:

we all want to love and to be loved

I read this and understood none of it, and I'm gonna have to read it again in a universe where I'm not avoiding doing work on a monday morning. Also something about Federer representing modernist hegemony within Tennis, who must be historicized by retirement (as you put it, become premodern) before less successful players (postmodern culture) can step forward and meaningfully fight for dominance as they did before Federer's reign.

cleanhands posted:

I read this and understood none of it, and I'm gonna have to read it again in a universe where I'm not avoiding doing work on a monday morning. Also something about Federer representing modernist hegemony within Tennis, who must be historicized by retirement (as you put it, become premodern) before less successful players (postmodern culture) can step forward and meaningfully fight for dominance as they did before Federer's reign.

excellent. i must ruminate. here i leave a brief string of associations for future me. vanishing mediators, "the wasteland grows", "but where danger is, grows the saving power also"
vanishing mediator is michel seres's angels. i just ordered his book so Maybe I Can Scan

btw im not ignoring you pogfan ive just been brewing up a response that will hopefully make the OP more comprehensible as well
[account deactivated]

Critchley: "Coming from a background in phenomenology, I'd like to ask you about you relationship with modernity." Serres: "Maturnity! Why do you ask me about that?" What better way to deal with a phenomenologist than to creatively mis-hear one of his most beloved buzzwords. The audience got the joke and Critchley's question was left, not unanswered, but suffocating in the dust.

But in what kind of historical framework are we to place the relationship between angelology and current philosophical endeavour? "There are three steps," Serres explains. "In the beginning our parents, our ancestors, were working with physical energies, with the body, with their muscles, as - these are figures of the first type of work. The second step is transformation of metals by engines and machines - the industrial revolution. I use three words which are the same word: form, transformation, and information - the three steps. In the first step this form was solid as a statue - Atlas, the caryatid. In the second it is involved that the metal becomes liquid. In the third step we are living in the volatile transmission. This word 'volatile' is angelic form. The transmission of message, of code, of signal is volatile. We say now about money that it is volatile, it is turning into the transmission of codes, of messages." It is history conceived as changes in relative speeds, rather than as Marxist-Hegelian progression. For Serres, the basically feudal structure of society has persisted almost up to the present day, only having recently been supplanted by a new world made up of "gods" and "mortals." It is an understanding of society as fundamentally global, urban, and two-tiered. There are those who travel through the air, who have access, who adorn magazines and who flow through shops; there are those who live on rubbish heaps, who die of hunger, who subsist and who make up the majority. For Serres the epoch of bourgeoisie/proletariat never crystallised; rather the millenia-long aristocratic substratum has morphed - along the flight lines of increased international communication - into a distributed society that resembles the Greek legends or Dante's Divine Comedy more than Das Kapital.

There is no origin, no point of departure for Serres. "We have always been travelling. I think that the human species is always travelling - we are the Dasein in the sky, not in the land. Do you see what I mean? We are wandering. We are nomads. This is not a new state of things. It is a very ancient state of things. I think the Dasein is in the atmosphere."



The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.


Thus, just as production founded on capital creates universal industriousness on one side -- i.e. surplus labour, value-creating labour -- so does it create on the other side a system of general exploitation of the natural and human qualities, a system of general utility, utilizing science itself just as much as all the physical and mental qualities, while there appears nothing higher in itself, nothing legitimate for itself, outside this circle of social production and exchange. Thus capital creates the bourgeois society, and the universal appropriation of nature as well as of the social bond itself by the members of society. Hence the great civilizing influence of capital; its production of a stage of society in comparison to which all earlier ones appear as mere local developments of humanity and as nature-idolatry. For the first time, nature becomes purely an object for humankind, purely a matter of utility; ceases to be recognized as a power for itself; and the theoretical discovery of its autonomous laws appears merely as a ruse so as to subjugate it under human needs, whether as an object of consumption or as a means of production. In accord with this tendency, capital drives beyond national barriers and prejudices as much as beyond nature worship, as well as all traditional, confined, complacent, encrusted satisfactions of present needs, and reproductions of old ways of life. It is destructive towards all of this, and constantly revolutionizes it, tearing down all the barriers which hem in the development of the forces of production, the expansion of needs, the all-sided development of production, and the exploitation and exchange of natural and mental forces.

But from the fact that capital posits every such limit as a barrier and hence gets ideally beyond it, it does not by any means follow that it has really overcome it, and, since every such barrier contradicts its character, its production moves in contradictions which are constantly overcome but just as constantly posited. Furthermore. The universality towards which it irresistibly strives encounters barriers in its own nature, which will, at a certain stage of its development, allow it to be recognized as being itself the greatest barrier to this tendency, and hence will drive towards its own suspension.



But the regional tales published in Blackwood's also exhibit a complicated engagement with Enlightenment thought, and in this they challenge the notion that Romanticism in Scotland was constituted by a cultural breach with Enlightenment. As I will suggest below, postcolonial instruments can help account for this discrepancy--and in such a way that does not fold Romanticism into the longer sweep of the eighteenth century. Drawing upon the work of Dipesh Chakrabarty, whose book Provincializing Europe (2000) emphasizes the importance of Enlightenment categories for understanding postcolonial thought and historical difference, I argue that while the regional tales published in Blackwood's were a vital part of its oppositional identity, they nevertheless do not reject outright or wholeheartedly the Enlightenment historicism against which this identity was posited. Rather, they provincialize it, in Chakrabarty's sense of the word. That is, in these tales the progressive-historicist categories of Enlightenment thought are shown to be both real and necessary for describing the contemporary moment. At the same time, Blackwoodian regional tales highlight the limitations of these categories for understanding what Chakrabarty calls the "heterotemporality" of that very moment. (5)

To talk in terms of "heterotemporality" is to understand "modernity" as a plurality of times coexisting in the common space of the present. It is too see, in other words, "... the plurality that inheres in the 'now', the lack of totality, the constant fragmentariness that constitutes one's present" (Chakrabarty 243). This is not quite the same thing as what has been called "uneven development," a theory, as James Chandler has shown, that originated in the philosophical histories of the Scottish Enlightenment and that continues to inform Marxist-inflected analyses of historical change. (6) Uneven development, like internal colonialism, implies separate "stages" of society--a higher and a lower--sharing a common moment but divided across space. According to Michael Hechter, "he spatially uneven wave of modernization over state territory creates relatively advanced and less advanced groups" (Internal Colonialism 9). "Heterotemporality" does not presuppose such a separation between the advanced and the less-advanced, the modern and the pre-modern. Instead, it points to the unevenness of a modernity that is itself "out of joint" (Chakrabarty 16).

This difference has important implications for postcolonial criticism, and, more particularly, for understanding how Scottish writers in the Romantic period engaged with an Enlightenment history that tended to see Scotland as less advanced than its neighbor to the south. What it suggests is that modernity is not merely something against which colonies--and internal colonies--can be defined, but is rather a product of colonial encounter. The fragmentation or micro-historical plurality that is often attributed in postcolonial criticism to colonized peoples thus becomes an indispensable tool for understanding the colonizer nations of Europe; it helps make visible the "disjuncture" at the heart of "advanced" or "modern" societies. (7) At the same time, colonial and postcolonial histories should not--indeed, cannot--be understood separately from the universalizing categories of Enlightenment, even though these categories "... bear the burden of European thought and history" (Chakrabarty 4). Enlightenment categories remain necessary for understanding how subaltern cultures are both part of and distinct from a globalized economy of capital and of signs. To be sure, historians of the subaltern must adopt a complicated stance toward such categories: to use them uncritically is to give way to a bland chronology--the "homogeneous empty time" of uneven development, whereby Europe achieves something first and the community, nation, or people in question achieve it later. But to highlight the limitations of this chronology, even while insisting on its descriptive necessity, is to reground "Europe." (8) It is to see the plurality that "inheres" in what is often taken to be a monolithic category.

Chakrabarty, though, does not read Marx as a historicist. Or rather, he does not read him as just that. In Marx's Capital, Chakrabarty finds an alternative to the internal colonialism model and to the uneven development upon which so many Marxist histories themselves have depended. In Marx's Capital, says Chakrabarty, two different kinds of history are highlighted simultaneously. History i is the prehistory of capital. It is universalizing and "analytical"--its "abstracting categories ... eventually tend to make all places exchangeable with one another" (71). History 2s, on the other hand, are not fully separate from capital. They do however "interrupt and punctuate the run of capital's own logic" (64). These histories are "affective"; they are "life-worlds" native to specific locales, rituals, and traditions. Such life-worlds are integral to but not fully commensurate with the progress of capital. That is, they cannot be fully accounted for in any history of capital: when translated into a transition narrative like the one that usually accompanies discussions of capitalism or modernity, the local life-worlds will leave traces of "that which cannot be enclosed" (93) by any claim to universality. Thus "provincialized" history, the meeting of history 1 and history 2s, will have a "split" (93) running through it--a seam to mark the "irreducible plurality" of modernity.


[account deactivated]
sorry for all these quoteposts, im just putting everyting in one place

The construction of civilizational difference is not exclusive in any simple sense. The de-essentialization of Islam is paradigmatic for all thinking about the assimilation of non-European peoples to European civilization. The idea that people's historical experience is inessential to them, that it can be shed at will, makes it possible to argue more strongly for the Enlightenment's claim to universality: Muslims, as members of the abstract category "humans," can be assimilated or (as some recent theorist have put it) "translated" into a global ("European") civilization once they have divested themselves of what many of them regard (mistakenly) as essential to themselves. The belief that human beings can be separated from their histories and traditions makes it possible to urge a Europeanization of the Islamic world. And by the same logic, it underlies the belief that the assimilation to Europe's civilization of Muslim immigrants who are--for good or for ill--already in European states is necessary and desirable.

Talal Asad


does chakrabarty talk about indigineity

shennong posted:
does chakrabarty talk about indigineity

in what respect

i guess what i mean is, i read some of the extract you posted, i forget where, and my kind of mental distillation was that there's this ongoing dialectic between capitalism and ppls indigenous cultures w/ this sort of teleological western view about progress colouring the frames that are normally used to discuss that dialectic. i dunno if i got the right msg out of it, can u post the link to it again? i think it was in another thread
[account deactivated]

shennong posted:
i guess what i mean is, i read some of the extract you posted, i forget where, and my kind of mental distillation was that there's this ongoing dialectic between capitalism and ppls indigenous cultures w/ this sort of teleological western view about progress colouring the frames that are normally used to discuss that dialectic. i dunno if i got the right msg out of it, can u post the link to it again? i think it was in another thread

oh yeah this is his "history 1" and "history 2"

i didnt post any excerpts about it but maybe you saw this? http://books.google.com/books?id=tjsiqfZo3zwC&pg=PA280&lpg=PA280&dq=zizek+chakrabarty&source=bl&ots=IuWB4hzAGC&sig=F0UwbjiQyf90yBo0QnpmbI-coR8&hl=en&sa=X&ei=_NIRT-OrO-ijiQKF4onRDQ&ved=0CCgQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

i liked this article and mitt romney's penis, thanks everyone , great job

How Western are the conventional and ‘universal’ categories of discrimination? Recently in Germany a woman took a case of discrimination to the courts. The reason: she had been able to obtain the documents she had submitted for a job application to a university post. Stamped across the front page in large red letters was the word ‘Osten’ – east. And then throughout the document every single one of her qualifications was circled, for they had been obtained in universities in the former East Germany. Obviously, she had been denied the job because she was from Communist East Germany. The problem the courts faced was that the anti-discrimination legislation had no category that related to her situation. Gender discrimination – tick. Racial discrimination – tick. Discrimination of the basis of sexual orientation – tick. Age discrimination – tick. Political discrimination against former communist countries – nowhere to be found. In other words, the very framework of anti-discrimination legislation is determined by Western, capitalist assumptions. And since you certainly can’t challenge these ‘natural’ and ‘universal’ categories, she lost her case.


Care to share your thoughts? Sign up for tHE r H i z z o n E and Post your heart out, baby!