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March 30, 2005


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Thank you for the your response. I appreciate you trying to grapple with the same sorts of issues that really trouble me. I think your skepticism regarding a "rhizomatic politics" is well founded. When dealing with the big issues it just does not seem to work.

Regarding the imitation of political philosophy, I originally encountered this idea years ago reading Heidegger. At the "end of metaphysics," when all of its possibilities have been "exhausted," Heidegger believed that we are left with mimesis, a regathering of latent elements within the tradition. His hope was to set the ground for a new beginning. Of course he was a hopeless romantic (and a Nazis to boot). But I have always been intrigued by that possibility, that philosophy could go on as a certain repetition of its previous self, a shadow of philosophy, if you will. I never really developed it further than that.

I just read the introduction to "Publicity's Secret." It really seems to be touching on the same issues as you are discussing here. It sounds like you are trying to think of a politics without a public sphere. I have to admit that I have never thought of that possibility. It is very intriguing.

chris robinson

For theorists in the epic tradition, it was democracy and toleration that were opposed to theorizing. In this version, theorizing could occur only from a position of exile on the periphery of political society. This position could also be expressed as an epistemologically privileged vantage apart from the corruption of the city.
This does not strike me as the problem faced by theorists in this age. Our problem is that our subject is gone. Politics, as a kind of order, has been supplanted by bureaucracy. Where political space survives or arises is as a result of dissenting performatives. It is a moment of political freedom against emotionless formalism. How do you theorize this without imposing antiquated notions of order? This is just another way of asking your question whether political theory is possible. The enterprise and the vocabulary we use has to be re-thought.



I like the phrase "dissenting performatives." I think you are right that it captures what is left of political space. But how to think otherwise?

Perhaps the strategy of overidentification that Jodi has mentioned is a possibility. Should a "Culture of Life" not apply consistently to those who are tortured, on death row, or those whose medical insurance is about to run out? It would be a strict adherence to the statements of the right, to hold them accountable for their own rhetoric.

Invisible Dan

But don't you, today, want to be careful about putting too much importance on "some sort of prior agreement on what counts as a valid argument, on what a reasonable position looks like"? "Globalization" isn't an academic theory - it means lots of different people with totally different values traversing the world; in this country alone, how can you expect this prior agreement? Even at the time of the constitution's writing, that can hardly be considered the fruits of such an agreement - at least not one including even a substantial minority of the population (e.g., consider the status of slaves and women); which brings up the basic critique of liberalism, right, that politics is not about consensus but imposition. Now, if you want to resurrect liberalism or save it from that critique (this agreement sounds something like the "veil of ignorance") I think there is nothing wrong with trying (though it's not my gig), but there is no point of considering Deleuze/Negri/Foucault in that effort, because if your foundation for politics/theory is going to be some set of shared understandings, etc., you've really got to disregard most of their important insights (Deleuze wants nothing to do with shared understandings or common sense - but yet, importantly, his theory is politically engaged...).

And by the way, are we in the age of "copies," or originals, or, the irrelevance of that difference? The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction wasn't just about art, after all....


Invisible Dan

You are certainly right not to emphasize a prior agreement before a politics or a community may commence. But for any sort of discourse to proceed, there must be some minimum sense of a shared space, of inhabiting the same world. That does not mean I necessarily want to resurrect liberalism, but I would like to envision the possibility of discourse, fully embracing its imperfections and implications of power. My point is simply that this possibility seems precluded today.

And the whole schtick about copies is just something I am taking from Heidegger's "The End of Philosophy and the Task for thinking." Since it has been many years since I have read it, I am not even sure that Heidegger suggests such a practice or I made it up. I am just merely suggesting that since the political seems to be undergoing some sort of displacement, theory needs to do something similar in order to make sense of it.


Chris, thanks for the way you posed the question re epic political theory. That's super great. I love the idea of dissenting performatives, too. There has to be something we can do with it.

Ok--globalization is lots of different things, as Invis D says. I might but it as there is no common frame that gives meaning to globalization. But, is that really true? What if globalization is the common frame and that the key to moving past or through myriad performances of dissent is confronting globalization. Zizek's wager is that Capital is Real. That is, that the globalization of capital that we experience today structures everything--including our sense of multiplicity, indeterminancy, openness, etc. And, then, here, one doesn't look for a consensus on this. Rather one acts in fidelity to this truth. But, is this political theory? It might be--in might be trying to do it differently--even with a combination of old elements. Like Invis D suggested--reassembling copies can be original.

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