I began here with a committment to thinking about the politics of the now (or as I may yet call it more coinsistently the Now, with that lovely Germanophilic capital at its start - all zigzagged and cross) . I have since then been somewhat proccupied with those Germans and Austrians that made me and continue to make me, with Kafka, Beethoven, Marx, Mahler and Hegel...
But this now, THE Now requires a more intense folding of their texts and others into each other - not as so many literary games or jeux de pensée - but as refusing a crude historicism of their texuality and, indeed (or especially), of our textuality. In this sense, I begin with a blasphemy that runs as deep as any I can think of - to think of the Now, is as much to think of how that now is constituted by bringing it into encounter with what it is not (in line, perhaps with what Zizek calls 'historicity' in For They Know Not What They Do), as it is to sketch out its core ontology.
[addition today: 26th April at 12.33]
Zizek's 'historicity' is the name he gives to a way of doing history that holds on to what he terms the ‘ahistorical kernel of the Real’:
The paradox is thus that historicity differs from historicism by the way it presupposes some traumatic kernel which endures as “the same”, non-historical; and so various historical epochs are conceived as failed attempts to capture this kernel.
What is crucial here, it seems to me, is that neither present nor past has a stable specificity; they circle round each other in a dedaly dance of portents, swooping down on each other like great black harbingers of the other's demise. The mutual reproach is the point here: Nowness cannot engage the political without some sense of its own limits, its own precariousness, but a precariousness that points up the places where it has to marshal other resources, materials from beyond.
There is a traditon, the so-called classical poststructuralist tradition, which I still find somewhat seductive that has tended to want to obliterate the Now, to mark it out as in some sense metaphysical, romantic, a marker of a devastatingly naive presentism. This is a view of Now that makes sense. Indeed one could almost call it 'common sense' - and that's the problem.
We don't need Gramsci to note that so-called 'common sense' has been the quality of discourse of a certain 'rigidity', the 'folkore of the future' as Gramsci puts it. I want therefore to be always suspicious of the denigraters of the Now; and yet I don't thereby want to slip back into a critique of its detractors that would rely on a similarly common sense orientation.
The modality of engagement here is thus dialectical, but much messier than that might at first suggest. Common sense is part of the fabric of naturalisation, somatisation, of making material, manifesting what comes from nowhere, what is made with a whim and what then becomes fixed, held together by force. The Now is always its refusal...
I want to think my way into the Now by thinking not just about events, happenings, discontinuities and islands of experience, but as a political instanciation, to draw on a terminology I know spurious would know and use, a political mytheme that makes action not only possible but absolutely necessary.
This Now sits between reflection and raw materialism, between historicism and presentism, refusing over and over (with the stubborn resolve of a pious and stoic victim of political and discursive violence) the bland impossibility of folding being into doing. Writing into the world, then, being in it as text, for text, is not really what this is about.
It is about insiting on the agency of the writing, of its incursive, rude, impudent, squalid and sometimes cumbersome scrambling into the public, the open and closed spaces of cities, homes, offices, places that have been rudely disconnected from activism.