Saturday, 1 September 2007


What an incredibly lucid, and moreover, incredibly necessary rejoinder, to possibly a great deal of the so-called "debate" conducted in universities, and sometimes it seems, even in other forums, such as blogs. I nominate Paul Bowman's comments as indispensable, alongside David Stove's remarks cited on the sidebar of this blog, for understanding the larger structural, institutional issues to do with the kind of infernal machine that keeps cranking these characters out. Why do they recur so often? It has a lot to do, it seems, with what is at stake in such contexts. It might even be suggested that the "unity in dissensus" propounded by social epistemologists, concerned as it is with devising a means for adjudicating claims, subjecting them to a fair hearing, is one means of taking up a responsibility to a future form of knowledge subject to considerable contingency. While it is of course commendable that even the most offensive claims can be examined out in the open in a democratic manner, one should still not lose sight of the cynical double standard of many of such figures whose greater aim, should they subsequuently gain the influence, is to restrict such procedures of accountability. It is not clear how much of this would be endorsed by Bowman, but I suspect he would find little objectionable in its modest proposals. I can't help thinking it applicable though in many telling ways to my own recent dispute with a philosopher on this very blog:
"But what about this; what about myself? What about my own implication and imbrication in this? Am I so bloody pure, less violent, and holier than thou? Of course not. Which is precisely why what is necessary is to inscribe oneself within the circle of write-offs, put-downs, ridiculous simplifications and violent reductions that it is always possible to see and denounce and diagnose in others. For, surely, seeing ourselves and our closest acquaintances, most contiguous neighbours, and diametrical disputants within this very reflex metaphysical schema ought to oblige and authorise a different step, different responsibilities, a different engagement. . . . Or shall we just enjoy writing off the others, polemically, again, and again? This kind of activity is precisely what Marcuse called 'scholarshit': intellectual work 'built upon the model of war and unconditional surrender, designed primarily to eliminate one's opponent',32 which proceeds by 'mistaking polemic for its own sake for resistance as such'.33 But this is 'repeating without knowing',34 'submission to a law'35 of 'disciplinarity'; the power of correction, of policing, of the institutional production, regulation, distribution and spacing of 'docile' and 'disciplined' subjects".36

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