Thursday, 17 June 2010

Envisioning Real Utopias

Erik Olin Wright has featured on this blog before. I argued that his approach makes a refreshing change from the focus on "the political", rather than "politics". In the time since, it's been confirmed repeatedly that the former is the mandate of those in the blogosphere and the academy for whom cultural studies is equal parts a literary and (Continental) philosophical practice. More often than not, this becomes a licence for theory to consciously align itself against sociology. In practical terms, this means the importance of institutionalisation as a means of situating radical imaginary significations is neglected. It's the classic vice of Zizekians and the most affirmative postmodern thinkers (as per my critical response to Steven Shaviro's trumpeting of the Ballardian Brigade, which I argued hit some very odd notes). A lamentable state of affairs to be sure, but I'm equally wary of the danger of drifting too far in the opposite direction where "politics" is reduced to the vulgar materialism of bloggers such as kenomatic (as I recall, his blog is now either moribund, or he's pulled up the drawbridge so that it is for "invited readers only", to defend himself once his targets started responding in kind).

It's not necessary though to get too hung up on personalities, as it is the conventions of particular networks that ultimately determine subject positions. This explains the linkage patterns crosscutting the blogosphere and the academy. But given their formative influence, it seems strange to me how the potential of a Cornelius Castoriadis or a Raymond Williams to mediate between these extremes gets lost. Both clearly foregrounded the importance of institutionalisation, while remaining equally attentive to the creativity of radical imaginary significations; their inherent power to realise new forms on a collective level. When I reflect on all the blogosphere theory I've seen in the past few years, the only person I know of to even mention Williams is Joshua Clover.

I'm confident though that if it is not happening in the blogosphere, political sociologists will grow more excited by the possibility of reading Wright along with Williams and Castoriadis. Until that eventuates, we have this lecture to enjoy:

Envisioning Real Utopias from West Coast Poverty Center on Vimeo.

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