Monday, December 10, 2012

On never completing essays

I have been meaning to go back and complete the two essays on politics, but I realize I am at an impasse.  I have moments of seeming clarity and then I attempt to write them and it does not go so well.  At those moments I retreat into other areas, usually some form of escapism of a relatively tawdry and undemanding nature.  All I can do then is let the aspects of the impasse stew in my mind, and come at them sideways.

I have a problem dealing with the political as I always have a sense of being caught between the Scylla of politics and the Charybdis of anti-politics.  I am in general agreement with the anti-political argument as put forward in differing aspects by Insipidities/Letters Journal, Robert Kurz (see especially the recently translated "Socialism of the Producers as Logical Impossibility"), and Jehu @RE: The People.  And yet there is something to it that feels deeply inadequate, not in the sense that they miss the chance for some positive political practice, but a failure to engage with the tension between law and ethics best developed by Gillian Rose, Jacques Ranciere, and Gaspar M. Tamas (and I think well developed in this review by Marcus Pound of the book-length argument between Slavoj Zizek and John Milibank.)

I can't quite express what it is, but I think it is captured in a piece by Marcel Stoetzler on the anti-Semitic origins of sociology, but it is also contained in Marcuse's important essays in Negations: Essays in Critical Theory.)  I will do more with this section, starting with pasting it in, and then we can move on from there.

"On Bataille and Caillois, see Falasca-Zamponi, ‘A left sacred or a sacred left?’; Dan Stone, ‘Georges Bataille and the interpretation of the Holocaust’, in Dan Stone (ed.), Theoretical Interpretations of the Holocaust (Amsterdam and Atlanta, GA: Rodopi 2001), 79 / 101;  Michael  Weingrad,  ‘The  College  of  Sociology  and  the  Institute  of  Social Research’,  New  German  Critique,  vol.  84,  2001,  129 / 61;  and  Richard  Wolin,  The Seduction   of  Unreason:   The   Intellectual   Romance   with   Fascism   from   Nietzsche   to Postmodernism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press 2004). Bataille and Caillois
also started out on their exploration of ‘the sacred’ as constitutive of politics as part of an effort to understand and fight fascism, but the solutions they came to recommend were so vehemently and undialectically opposed to ‘utilitarianism’ and democracy that they ended up in the vicinity of the left wing of fascism (at least temporarily and without ever thereafter having been able to take account of the problem satisfactorily). The  fact  that  radical  but  undialectical  rejections  of  democracy  and  ‘utilitarianism’ remain the principal inroad for fascism into left-wing anti-hegemonic movements is what  lends  urgency  and  contemporary  relevance  to  the  otherwise  ‘academic’ discussion  of  whether  it  was  wise  for  Durkheim  and  his  students  to  join  in  the reactionaries’ polemics against ‘Spencer and the economists’. What is at stake here is the old question of whether ‘the left’ can afford even the slightest ambiguity in its stance towards ‘the right’ while struggling against liberalism. I think it cannot."


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  2. Very pleased to see you revive this blog as I have not been able to keep in touch with your thoughts since the discontinuation of PD. I have written a response to this, at my place. No need to read of course, and still less respond, it is all done for my own pleasure. Thanks, for being so stimulating.