Day 149: Revolution, Humanism, Universalisms–Good or Bad Totalities

Dear all,

there has been a very interesting discussion going on between Joanna and myself regarding revolution, humanism, the potential value of universalisms etc. You can find the discussion here: Day 140. I am sure there are some of you who might have valuable opinions to offer. Let me suggest several approaches:

a) the question of totality–there are several ways to talk about this (e.g. Zizek’s defense of Hegelianism, the reliance upon ideas such as “deliberative democracy” regarding, say, the 3rd generation Frankfurt School, neo-Habermassians, etc. [see e.g. Seyla Benhabib, or Iris Marion Young]–in this respect we could also look toward people like Jean Luc Nancy [esp. the “being singular plural” idea]–as well as Kantian liberalism as the basis for speculations regarding cosmopolitanism, hos(ti)pitality, human rights, tolerance and peace as represented by e.g. Derrida’s later writings)

b) the question of totality and universals as raised by Agamben’s recent work

c) the question of universals, esp. as represented by Badiou’s work on St. Paul (and obviously in Being and Event)

d) Deleuze and recent versions of Deleuzian rhizomatic models, schizo-analysis and ideas of de-territorialization, which are combined with Italian anarchism/operaismo and liberation theology to form a seperate idea of universals/totalities (de-territorialized and multiple, yet still “total” in their democratic nature)–obvious examples here: Hardt and Negri, or Virno

e) questioning the idea of/necessity for/alternatives to teleologies as such (in terms of devising a political program that avoids replicating previous paternalistic structures of order much like described by Fanon [a tendency within postcolonial situations])

f) completely non-academic and non-jargon-filled ideas that may be more helpful than any of the above suggested models.

Let’s try to continue this discussion–I agree with Joanna that this is a VERY important issue to discuss, especially regarding the frequent confusion of people who would like to partake in progressive political movements until the point at which they realize that the channels that are being offered to them have no answers, or that these channels have dangerously reactionary answers to our problems (in which case we need to be happy that at least some people are smart enough to realize the dangerous nature of such pseudo-answers [as you can tell, I am trying to avoid naming political organizations at this point–we can get into that later, but I fear that this might easily make this discussion digress into a People’s Front of Judaea vs. Judaean People’s Front pissing contest]).

Oh, I have also been tagged by anaj and need to come up with 8 random things about myself, as well as tag 8 other people (not sure which one’s more difficult)–I think I need a little more time for this.

Oh–and here is what I mean by PFJ vs. JPF:

P.S.: the “New Seven Wonders of the Worlds” were announced (number one, I believe, is the fact that Al Gore was able to organize a worldwide music-event but was unable to launch a decent presidential campaign). Get the list here: http://www.cnn.com/2007/TRAVEL/07/06/seven.wonders/index.html , or look up the campaign’s website here: http://www.new7wonders.com/. Not sure what the point of this was (except for making egomaniac Bernard Weber more famous and potentially boosting tourism). Maybe someone can explain it to me. Should there be an election for the “New New Seven Wonder of the World” I would already at this point like to nominate as one of the candidates the fact that people vote for shit like this but not for, say, the next president of the US, because, let me tell you, this is an occasion of great wonder to me.

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4 Comments

  1. Why is the question “Do you have noting else to worry about?” missing in the FAQ section of the http://www.the7hottesttouristtrapsonearth.com website? The easter island head sculptures still puzzle arceologists and they vote for the tajmahal palace in india. Guys if you give me the money and slave labor that this lazy indian guy wasted on his palace, I promise to turn around the gulf stream.

  2. m, for your 8 reandom things: you can smoke a pack a day and still jog 3 miles without breaking a sweat. is this still true? it used to fascinate me. in fact, i nominate it as one of the new 7 wonders. as for the Revolution, Humanism, Universalisms–i’m not as up on the theory behind all of this, but the pollyanna in me has to say that anytime we find ourselves using isms, it always seems to be in an attempt to set up some sort of binary–this ism is not that ism, therefore this ism is defined by what every other ism isn’t. if we’re really talking about totalities and revolution don’t we have to look beyond definition and move into a realm of action?

  3. albert: you may not need lots of slave labor to do that–we are so close to rapid climate change that a few additional hummers might do the trick as well. 🙂

    shannon: I have been jogging the past few days but even minutes after getting back into my apartment I still sweat so much that I saw it fit to clean my hardwood floors with disinfecting wipes yesterday night. There goes that wonder, I guess. 🙂
    Regarding action vs. theory: I would like to point toward the first Linklater movie here (generally a very pretentious piece of shit), in which a few grad students who constantly discuss PoMo/political theory walk past a lamppost. Looking up they see an old man with a beard who has climbed the lamppost and is just hanging around up there. They ask him: “what are you doing up there?” “I don’t know,” he replies, which sparks the comment on part of one of the grad students: “wow, he’s the complete opposite of us: no theory and all action.” My point here is that neither theory nor action can obviously exist in isolation from each other–especially in an increasingly complex political climate (and an increasingly complex capitalist base) it becomes necessary to rigorously critically analyze the true problems we are facing, which demands a high level of theoretical discourse. Sure, there are stupid theories and stupid actions. Just going to any anti-war protest we can see at least ten different examples of groups that want to be “progressive” but are terribly misguided–but I do think this can be fixed by rigorous critical analysis. This, however, brings us back to the problem of a political program (and to ‘isms’) and the question: does a teleological narrative built upon a form of totalization (and the word ‘totalization’ is not meant negatively here) necessarily have to be a bad thing? If not, how do we indeed avoid the replacement of one meta-narrative with another? Is there any way to truly avoid it (is the whole operaismo stuff really a basis for political action?)? Should we even try to avoid it? On a very basic level: don’t we like such universal teleologies? (Meaning: isn’t our conception of pleasure directly tied to such universals, contradicting Deleuze and Guattari?)

  4. Oh, just to make this clear: I was not really referring to Linklater’s first movie (which was called _It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books_–which actually relates to our discussion here and which is a statement I would like to contest), but to Linklater’s first rotoscoping movie _Waking Life_.


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