Driven , inexorably driven we say. I am here because I must be here, and yet that is not true of course. We dip and twist as if caught in an exquisite paradox, as if held here in this elegant ‘interminable’ deadspace, as if twisting in the wind of some awful faceless conspiracy. It is not so. And since it not so, we dream, wait and hold onto the agony of the as if since it alone allows us to weep without knowing it.
What are the coordinates of theory? This is a question that
has been pressing itself on me for some time now. I ask the question not least
because I find myself in an ever more hostile political and epistemological
environment in which the backlash against theory has not only taken up its
place in those ‘post-theoretical’ rhetorics of well known well-trodden high-profile
debates (Eagleton, et al) but the backlash has become absolutely generalised: to theorise, it now seems,
is to leave oneself open to the distinction of mere crass generalisation.
I am, to be sure, perplexed by the wholesale academic
abandonment of theory in my own discipline. But it is not localised there, of
course. My discipline’s falling out of love with theory is, inevitably, a
falling out of love with the idea of thought as having a kind of ‘power’ as Simon
Critchley has put it. For some, the decline of philosophy into theory is the
beginning of the problem, but for me that moment marked a particular fecundity
in the idea that the given-ness of the world is available to radical question.
In a recent presentation to my own department, a rather
surly and unfocussed ‘question’ (I use the word most generously here) from a
colleague raised the question as to my own location in the theoretical edifice I
was trying to elucidate: his intervention was based, it seemed to me, on the erroneous
notion that any theoretical observation must begin from an obsessive empirical
elaboration of the speaker’s voice in it, as if to defuse fromthe start any claim it might therefore be
able to make to having any effect on the world around it. I was ‘cherry picking’
my examples, I was trying to negate my own investment in the world. The
question was followed by an incomprehensible testament to the ‘reality’ of
political action in Greece
and other recent events in the world as if to dare to think at all is always already to turn one’s back on them.
This kind of question, and many like it, rather than seeking
to engage the world in a radicalising way (in developing . that is a strong
trajectory) points to a certain poverty in our ambition in engaging the world:
we are prisoners of the new Taleban of empiricism. Theory is the blasphemy that
questions the reality principle, that will not quieten its distrustful
mutterings about ideology and unspoken truths.
Theory is, I have always believed, and believe it even more
strongly than ever, precisely about a turning
towards the world, a head-on tackling of the brutal and deadly challenges
it poses and a wilful nay-saying to the grey orthodoxy of detail, of
historicism and of ethnography.
These, then, are the dealiest of orthodoxies, because they live and breath as if they were in touch with the world, as if the deadening quagmire of its passive avoidance of ideology critique were in some sense a priveleged site from which to get close to the world. This is mere sophistry. Theory requires always that the world be not taken as if presented, but as always already mispresented, as hidden, coded, displaced and and misaligned through the supreme act of hegemony. There is no common sense other than the sense of dying, of giving oneself up to the world in a kind of masochistic play of representations. What theory does, at its best, is not merely show this, but relive it, dramatise it. Make it palpable. Theory is materialism.
interesting new blog: definitely one to watch. below is an excerpt from the first post:
This blog will begin soon by writing of the past and pondering the
future by writing in the absence of presence or rather in the presence
of absence, for it will be a trace of the past and a marking of the
future by simultaneously being neither/nor.
In the last four days I have been inundated by number of time-consuming and deliberately vexing comments (bordering on the trollish) from right-wing blogggers and so, once I can work out how to do it, I am going to close down comments for a while.
This is a matter of some regret to me since I have firmly believed that, even with the most bone-headed conservative, it is always possible to find a way of holding a conversation. I have always believed that, if only the manner of engagement could be got right, that that conversation could be had. I still believe it, but I am now more cautious about engagement. Today I have responded to 15 comments, but have not published them. Yesterday, I responded to 20 comments and on Friday I responded to 40 comments. The comments were spread all over my blog - attached to any number of differently themed posts and infuriatingly oblique, glib or down-right offensive.
Part of me is thrilled, of course, to feel under attack - gosh they think I'm important enough... but I don't really think that vision of me as martyr here is sustainable.
I think what has happened is that a few conservative mates from literature lovey redneckville got together and decided to waste my time.
Fine, but it stops here and now.
I wonder what they hoped to achieve by this? What precisely is it about my blog that they find so objectionable. If only I knew, I would do it more...
I know that some of these are the theory-hating me-creatures that stalk the dark and dismal edges of the blogosphere; knowing it and experiencing it are two different things...
I look forward to the time again when I can just write and get feedback from readers who really read...
The nature of discourse (a term,
perhaps, more exhausted now than many) is such that it replicates
itself; discourse has a will to survive, to reproduce, to take up
space and to do so in ways that intervene malignly in the life of
other discourses. If this sounds Darwinian, it surely is; to see it
as such, however, is not to seek to embrace that dismal view of the
world (itself an instance of discourse), but to recognise something
about the life of discourse that is dirty, not wholly ethical, or
fair, or smart or even conscious. The underworld of discourse is its
cruelty, its never ending jibing, spiking and hating. Discourse is
war. Discourse is superego.
Yet the discourse model seems to be on
its way out: indeed one could say that the current demise of
discourse about discourse (the marked slow-down in Foucauldian and
Foucault-inspired modes of analysis) mirrors the structure of that
first rise in the late 50s and early 60s of discourse analysis itself
in the face of the demise of ideology critique: when ducks became
rabbits, as Thomas Kuhn puts it, the revolution is already well over.
In the place of discourse, which must surely fall as did ideology,
then, what have we now? It seems that blogging has itself contributed
to a new kind of order – a writing that deals in effects, splashes,
ripples and noises. The squelch of the blogger is the new dampness in
the face of viral writing, a contagion that levels, distorts, throws
open and destroys with a highly politicised jouissance,
a sticking, a messy end to the sanctity of discourse. I like it
because I do, you are wrong because I say so, there is no authority
in what you say, you have no balls, you don't get it. Chains of
hyperbole, symptoms, spasms.
The character of
all this is difficult to pin down: we do not yet have the
disciplinary technologies in place to be able to announce anything
but the most playful and open-ended pronouncements on blogging. I
have suggested in another post that blogging is in its late phase;
but I also intimate in response to that post that blogging is, as it
were, always already late. But if that is so, if the blogging
community can be said to engage in practices that are characterisable
or generalisable at all, than lateness itself might be the key to
understanding what it is we think we are all doing. What, to be clear
about this question, is blogging for? And whom does it address?
I think I am done
with the Utopian claims about blogging: we cannot make claims to
Blogostan as an ideal space when blogging itself always wants to free
itself from the mundane worn out channels of everyday (formal)
political discourse and wants also, often, perhaps more often than
not, to free itself from most forms of political discoursing
altogether. The squelch of blogging, then, its damp insidious
superfluity, is a refusal of the utopian altogether. It is resolutely
If we are after
discourse, or perhaps at the beginning of something we cannot yet
grasp, will there be a moment when it becomes clear, when the viral
damp dries, the messy upheaval settles and the lines of ordinance become clear? I think, to revisit
the logic of the always-already-late, the owl of Minerva only
now takes flight in order to hunt!
I have been reading again Spurious's great posts on Fink's A Clinical Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis. What strikes me about the Lacanian universe, as I re-read those posts again, is that, although it speaks openly and often of the unconscious, it seems to almost disavow that specifically Freudian notion, abandoning, as it were, the core apparatus of psychoanalysis, the unconscious as a kind of zoo in which wild beats prowl about. I do not want to suggest that there is no unconscious in Lacan, but that it is radically different than in Freud. Lacan is differently ill, we might say. We are all familiar with the notion that the unconscious is "structured like a language", but I wonder what we are to make, specifically, of this disavowal of Freud? What, specifically, of that textual relation? And what are the politics that motor it?
A post is no place for this kind of rumination, but I'll have a quick stab at it: there are two distinct approaches to Lacan's theory of the unconscious that characterise recent scholarship. The first is a textually conservative one which seeks to read Lacan closely and to elaborate the body of work on its own terms and within its particular milieu as a kind of system. The second is an appropriative modality that takes Lacan up and moves him onto ground his work only intimates. It is here, I suggest, that the most productive approaches to Lacan are found. This second modality is critical and open-ended, playful and radicalising.
In refusing the coherence of Lacan, we are, as it were, replaying the Lacanian disavowal of Freud: what motors that disavowal is the desire not just for a new space (not just for an Oedipal shudder) but for an engagement. This is how Lacan seems to want to work with Freud...
In an interesting and challenging short chat in the pub with L yesterday, we got talking to a certain book, written by someone we know. We both think it a very fine book, but L seems to think that the kind of modality I am outlining here - that of critical reopening and engagement - is always doomed to being, in the end, a kind of parasitism (I am deliberately over-characterising his much more nuanced point here).
L wants originality, I think, or perhaps he wants a mode of engagement that is less concerned with citation than current practices in philosophy. It may be that his concerns about our friend's book are specific to a philosophy-related crisis, or it may be that his critique is actually in the end the soundest and the most damning: you have written a very interesting book in which you apply someone else's ideas. ouch!
Lacan's unconscious is certainly no re-run of Freud's; his 'take' on Freud, his engagement, is open-ended, meaningful but, crucially, it goes beyond application and builds something else without complete abandonment; critiques without obliteration, works without violence. If that is what L wants, then I am with him...
Is there a kind of struggle with the master that is not Oedipal?
To write in fragments: this is the mode du jour of the late blog style. It is a hysterical, overwrought and supercharged style, symptomatic of the anxiety that attends anything in its late phase. The late style stinks of death, wreaks of an institution in terminal decay, but also holding that end off, keeping it all alive with a supreme effort of will, a willfulness that is written across every prosaic spasm; the late modality, then, is a sysyphian modality.
My friends recently gave a beautiful and challenging talk at my university about the late and posthumous voice. What strikes me in this juxtaposition (late and posthumous) is just how unstable the juxtaposition is, and therefore how intriguing, how gloriously productive. Italian Germanist Massimo Cacciari's Dallo Steinhof, translated into English as Posthumous People, opens with Nietzsche’s famous Maxim: ‘It is only after death that we will enter our life and come alive, oh, very much alive, we posthumous people!’ Nietzsche’s textual self-projection into an abstracted reader-reception after his death touches on a ubiquitous process that had been under way in the Hapsburg lands since the 1850s and which continue right into our own predicament of the late modern – the careful reorganization of education around homogenized standards of reading and an immersion of students into and out of tradition: a kind of gentle dipping motion, like sheep in need of a good barrier against the pests and diseases of the vernacular. Cacciari’s complex but beautiful account of the intellectual and artistic world of fin-de-siècle Vienna points in essence to the observation, metaphorically cast from the Steinhof (a hill above the metropolis on which stands the church of Sankt Leopold designed by Otto Wagner), that tradition and innovation are here ranged against each other, in productive but deadly conflict:
The symmetrical, repetitive rhythm is accentuated from the outside by a revetment of thin marble blocks. The iron clamps and bolts that keep them in place, rimmed with copper leaf borders, give a sense of motion to these walls, yet without any monumental emphasis and without any concession to ornament. Inside, the building’s perfect measure of basic forms is joined, without contrast, by the multicoloured clarity of light that streams through the stained glass windows. Here is the meeting, never realised so well, of the principles of tradition and quotation on the one hand and the Nervenleben [vitality] of the Secession Movement’s images and colour on the other.
In these two juxtapositions (late and posthumous and tradition and innovation), which refuse absolutely to coincide or resonate with each other, we can detect something of what seems to be at stake in the blogging moment (and it is a moment: this too will pass), a provocative and yet utterly hopeless questioning of the extent to which speaking and writing might have an intimate connection.
I do no want to emblamatize the writing/speaking binarism or link the two poles to a simple presence/absence oscillation. It is better, it seems to me, to think of medialities, the materializations that each allows and forbids: when one dose this, their relation is not binaristic, but differentiated along a line of medial fields (channels, ruts, dikes) and speaking and writing are close, very close, but not structurally summative, not able to grasp the full complexity of the late modern imagination of what it is possible to mean.
The late and posthumous voices are thus fragments, parcels of symbolic material hat have broken off and set adrift in a free from reign of terror, of joy, of agony.
This is the logic of the fragment: to run free in chains, to play in strict discipline, to tarry and to leave, to conjure and to bury.
In the tradition of rhetorical
hyperbole, I want to make an assertion: in the West we are, I
suggest, living after music.
That is to say, our engagement with
music, our consumptions of it and the ways in which we understand and
distribute it have 'come to constitute' (in the sense of adding up to
something bigger than the sum of its parts) a very radical shift in
musical ontology. At one time, (and especially since the
Enlightenment) there was a clear (material) relationship between both
individual and collective authorships and agency: authors (whether
numerous, collective, or working 'alone') could count on something
like a public marking, a naming of their work (or labour), and where
such namings tended to be more fluid (as in the case, for example, of
traditional musics) there was, nonetheless, always the possibility of
that naming, always, in tune writing, in collecting, in performing, a
kind of staged agency that made itself felt as, in some sense, having
Music since the Enlightenment, then,
might be said to have channelled something like a materialised
subjectivity, an unfolding of praxis in time, a performance of
passing, of changing or marking time. And that changing or marking is
where the sense of agency was always grounded, always held in place
according to an elaborated, but essentially Cartesian, fantasy. To
mark or change, so that fantasy goes, was always to guarantee some
kind of ill-fit of subject to object; from that mismatch comes the
very possibility of the subject, his agency, his way in and out of
the world. In short, that subject had always o constitute an excess
to a mere flow of semiosis.
And so the stories always seemed to
have gone; but when the key elements of that fantasy come under
critical scrutiny (from biology, deconstruction, radical
collectivisms, feminisms, cyber-romanticisms and other forms of
acted-out political hostility to the enthroning of the subject), then
the agency that always seemed to drive it, as that mismatch, that
sticking out of and marking of time, turns into a kind of playful
automatism. It would seem that there are no longer any singular
points of agency from which political and social action can flow. No
longer are we able, without irony or without seeming to cast
ourselves in the role of court jester, to hold onto that myth of
And in the ways we listen, that shift
is already very clearly articulated. Indeed, we are at a place now
where what Anahid Kassabian has termed 'ubiquitous
listening' has come to stand for this new symptom:
As we enter the
second century of the disarticulation of performance and listening,
new relations are developing that demand new models and approaches.
It is easy to see that the industry is changing. It is perhaps harder
to hear the changes in music, in listening and in subjectivity that
all of this portends. Yet musics, technologies, science fiction,
social relations and subjectivities have been fermenting these
changes throughout the twentieth century. At least in the metropolis,
listening to music is ubiquitous, and it forms the network backbone
of a new, ubiquitous subjectivity.
Kassabian is making both a startling
and yet demonstrable assertion, that the modes of listening and
consumption that have dominated our imagination of music (or, rather,
our imagination of those modes of listening) are under radical
(perhaps even malign?) erosion, and that erosion is both a symptom
and trace of a way of being that is in some sense after the
subject. It is particularly in the changes that mark our consumption
of music that we are most clearly able to see these changes, and this
is a quality that has been ascribed to music before, most notably by
Attali. There is here, though, something particularly useful in
the claims Kassabian is making – her point is not that music as a
set of textual traces is necessarily to be privileged over material
practices but that the ways in which we encounter texts, especially
musical texts such as recordings, performances (even scores) helps us
understand some of the ways in which our culture marks and maintains
the line between text and context. In other words, although this is
not the substantial point of this article for Kassabian, there is in
the analysis of the distribution and consumption of musical texts the
potential for something much more far-reaching than that analysis
might at first seem to offer: it is not simply about mapping where
goods flow to or what hey say about class, race, gender and so on.
All that is fine, but it does not capture the nub of the issue at
I would say that, beyond the
demographic and harder sociological analyses of musical consumption,
it ought to be possible, as Kassabian also seems to be saying, to get
to something of the texture of how we imagine ourselves in the world:
if these forms of 'listening' (if that is the right term) mark
something profound or even momentous in our imagination of
subjectivity, then I think here are a few questions we would need to
ask before proceeding to a characterisation of the new situation.
The question as to the ethics of this
situation is, of course, particularly fraught: what are we to make of
a situation in which the agency of musical labour becomes ever more
routinely curtailed or even obliterated altogether? What sense is
there to make here of the ever more distended and complex copyright
battles, of the intensification of litigation in he light of he
putative decline of such agencies? How, in that light, are we to
understand the overwhelming popular distrust of corporate structures
alongside a booming music industry? What, in short, are the prospects
for a level of radical engagement if agency is now always already
These politico-ethical questions
(forgive this clumsy hyphenated hybrid), centre around the hegemonic
justaposition of political conscious action and, to adapt and
elaborate Kassabian's term, ubiquitous unconscious inaction.
This has always been the hegemonic logic of political theory, is sees
to me: to link citizenship, democracy, social and civic
participation to some notion of individual and collective agency
which, to shorthand it rather crudely, is always to be linked to a
certain notion of action, and therefore to a certain model of
the subject, a Cartesian subject (meant here of course in the
broadest of terms). When agency fails, it is because citizens,
agents, slump (or are made to slump) into a kind of generalised
apathy, a ubiquitous sloping off into automatism, into unconscious
half-dead state of blind and dull obedience.
looks something like this where the symbol || represents a
fundamental impossibility in the sequence.
Here, then, citizenship is that which
guards against slavery.Or, to put it in more abstract and
and, therefore, ubiquitous listening must inevitably
constitute a kind of slavery.
But what if, contrary to this broadly
Cartesian logic of exception and sovereignty we are all so familiar
with in Carl Schmidt, we were able to rethink agency and ubiquity as
part a continuous (or connected) sphere of action? What if, in
short, ubiquity were a kind of distributed agency?
This prospect is one which I have only
just started to think though, but it does seem to me that there are a
number of ways in which the notion of musical agency might help here.
We would inevitably begin with a thorough-going critique of the
'simple' notion of authorship: of course this has been done to death
(so to speak) and I o not propose to waste time here revisiting that
question so systematically rehearsed by he likes of Bathes, Foucault
and Chartier. Suffice it to say, beyond that delicious moment in the
60s, that the patrilineality of the authorial economy is that which
is also its undoing. I think the more interesting set of issue to
rehearse here are those that centre around the pairing
conscious/unconscious. If ubiquity can be said to work as a kind of
unconscious (and I am not accepting that proposition as it stands,
but just test-driving it here) then to bring ubiquity into the orbit
of agency would be to question profoundly the status of the
unconscious as in some sense anti-conscious. In other words, both the
conscious and the unconscious as such could be seen to represent
modalities of consciousness that are part of a continuum. One doesn't
simply flip from one state to the other but is in constant engagement
with both states (if, indeed here are only two).
In other words, thinking ubiquity and
agency together means recasting the very terms on which we might be
said to be subjects. The political unconscious, then is not an
oxymoron, as Žižek
and other Freudian leftists before him have shown quite elegantly,
but an essential element of he ideological life of action. We
similarly think this in terms of ubiquity as, in some sense, a
crucial element of exception, as in some sense continuous with
action, with citizenship with sovereignty.
In this sense, the ethics of ubiquitous
listening begin to look very promising indeed: background and
foreground listening can come to stand for moments in the polotical workshop of
Occasionally (very rarely, in fact) I am caught short by the extraordinarily intense mark of intention that makes itself felt in my writing. It is not that I seek this out or look to say, say and say in a way that is of or for 'me', but that, sometimes, very rarely, I am surprised by the strong impression of encountering myself talking back to me from the 'page'.
Quite why one passage should strike me like this and another doesn't is extremely difficult to ascertain. In such moments I am called to question the popular wisdom in enlightened liberal educational institutions that characterises the programme of education as enabling students to find their own voice.
This emphasis on the search for that singular vocality in writing, for that indelible trace that cannot and will not unhinge itself from the acousmêtre of the author, is grounded in a notion hat the best of writing is always the most original, the most unique, the most individuated.
And yet, those moments that seem to 'speak' to me of me, those intensely reflexive turns in the written prose that speak back are precisely those things I dislike in my writing, Only when I am able to write as if in control of the materials – only as if unfolding an idea in full and erudite spontaneity, as if in short, I were someone else – only then do I feel that the writing is good, secure. In shot, writing is always for me a kind of effacement.
I want to purge those embarrassing Northern vowels, that mark of suburbia, of the Midlands, of bland, safe lower bourgeois, poorly educated autodidact. I want to write as if I were from a glorious and aristocratic generation of emigré Jews, of dissident Palestinians, of Hungarian violinist, of African rebels, or Cuban guerillas; of Clarissa Furtwangler, Szagylyn Passmaker, Hyacinth Smortlyna, Mahmoud Kobal, Cruella Rozhdestvinsky. Wouldn't it be great to be that, to be other than this white, bland, suburban bore?
When students begin to write critically, intelligently, creatively, perhaps the last thing we should do is encourage to write as themselves. Who on earth wants to do that? Why not encourage them to write as if.
AND YET.... In this tendency to efface ourselves is precisely located the operation of a certain power at its most unmediated, in this feigning of boredom with oneself, with the routinely quotidian white. To play act as if in turmoil with oneself, to march endlessly through the detritus of one's average life in search of something else, something new, something Other, is the act of a class terminally ensnared in luxury, in excess without telos, without suffering. It is the feigning, the colonising , the ruthless appropriation even of the pain this class inflicts as if to say – we cause you harm and yet we maintain the right to own your suffering, to colonise it with our soft and whining pettinesses.
Here then is precisely the burden: to rage against self is to play act as if powerless; and yet to valorise the care of that same self is to enact that brutality of a self-obsession in the face of the cruelty inflicted on others.
No way out. No way out???
In that encounter with the self, as if speaking back to oneself from the written page, then, one experiences a moment of extraordinary uncanniness when the promise of some kind of way out is glimpsed if only for a moment: the self becomes performative, split, epistemologically impossible, the creepy doppelgänger that promises both a death and a rebirth.
I am you, speaking back to to you. Who do you think you are?
Is there something in blogging that is
inherently redundant? We repeat ourselves, certainly, and go round
and round the same topics; but that is not quite what I am asking
here. By redundancy, I mean precisely that which cannot be taken up
in the flow of argument, cannot be taken up and made part of the
exchange, the movement, the shudder. Or, to put it another way, is
there something in this practice of writing for a highly dispersed
and often anonymous audience something left after all the
reading, re-reading and exchanges that can often follow a smart or
contentious post? In short, to put this precisely the way I should
perhaps have put it to start with, is there an excess or remainder to
blog practice that is in some sense surplus to the requirements of
Theoretical paradigms since Levi
Strauss and the so-called structuralist turn make much of the figure
of excess, surplus, remainder, kernel, nugget. They are not simple
synonyms, of course, and I don't want to reduce them to a simple
Zeitgeist, but perhaps there
is in these notions something quite useful, however open to he
charges of trendiness or opportunism they might at first appear.
What strikes me here is the extent to which asking this kind of
question brings the critical turn full circle and insists on a
certain theory of place, space or territory, insisting perhaps on the
primacy (however critically) of scapes, vistas, panoramas to set up
In short, the
question might be reworked here to speak that which it really wants
to speak – what are the limits, boundaries, horizons of this thing
that we do when we log on to post another post?
If we ask this
question in terms of excess, the answer inevitably embraces the
radically contingency of blogging: to blog, so this answer might go,
is to perform the excess hat cannot perform itself elsewhere, cannot
open up itself to the demands of other discursive practices. Here is
the first answer then, that that which is surplus to blogging is that
which blogging does not seek (or need) to find an arena for.
If we ask the
question in terms of the kernel or the nugget, then the answer will
inevitably seek to articulate that which blogging does not speak or
say, but on which it relies, over which it is built, through which it
realises itself and under which it labours: to blog, so this answer
might go, is to speak in both a concious and an unconscious
I have been
thinking about this notion for some time now since one of my most
erudite and radical colleagues asked the question as to how the
notion of the unconscious might live outside the psyche: he was
talking in particular about Radio 3's Late Junction and was
wondering how the hidden, the unspoken of this
collectively-authored/-curated radio programme might be read. The
notion of an unconscious 'outside', of course, is not altogether new
and versions of the notion have existed in some form for 100s of
I think what is
interesting about asking this question in terms of blogging is that
it points up the radical openness and indeterminacy of agency in the
blogosphere. Or, at least, it shows how that indeterminacy
is played out in the blogosphere in a particularly intense and
The questioning of
agency has many authors and its radicalisation in the last 20 years
or so has been quite remarkable: gaming theory, theories of fields,
institutions, habitus and, even, the sinthome – all these new
theorisations have pulled the rug from under the Romantic
construction of agency as in some sense always traceable to a small
number of sources and addressing an ideal addressee.
(for want of a better word) of such notions is perhaps the place
where the left has had most difficulty – a strong theory of
political action is difficult under such circumstances, political
engagement much more complex and the terms and scope of any kin of
offensive action always much more difficult to determine.
What strikes me as
potentially useful, though, at least for a short while, might be
precisely the blogosphere's disavowal of simple (mono-directional)
agency and its broader engagement with citing, pointing, referencing
and quoting. One only has to subscribe to a small number of smart
blogs like I cite, K punk or larval subjects, to get a sense of the
radical potential for this kind of practice.
And, perhaps, the
dreadfulness of the right's blogs does not have so much to do with
its ideological underpinnings, but, precisely, with the extent to
which the blogosphere is, dare I say it, ontologically at odds with
modes of thought that seek to reduce, simplify or moralise the social
field. At its best, blogging can and continues to hold the promise of
refusing that kind of hectoring modality.
Of course blogging
encourages a rather full-on and belligerent style of writing
sometimes, and often, if one leaves comments completely open, one can
be deluged with heaps of mean-spirited or even obscene comments. But
this is inevitable if something is to try to maintain a contentious
relationship with mainstream journalism and pubic opinion.
Of course, the
blogoshpere does not guarantee anything and we must in the end take
responsibility for is shape and contest its colonisers and censors;
and even then, of course, there is no guarantee that these kinds of
engagement will of themselves make the difference we want them to.
But agency has a way of biting back, of digging in just when you
think its all over, and it often does so when a number of ideas
authored over a large time period are drawn together as a uniform
resource: the blogoshpere might form a large part of that resource.
So does the
blogosphere have an unconscious? And what might that look like? It is
undoubtedly structured, undoubtedly disparate and undoubtedly marked
by a radical incoherence. An yet, we all know what blogging tends
towards: we have all said it many times before – he egoing, the
self-analysis, the unbearable drabness of meing that makes up much of
the blogosphere is at least testament to its commitment to a certain
discursive tone, a to a certain politics of the ego, to a certain
figuration of confession as productive. And although this will
undoubtedly have to change quite radically if anything like a radical
political unconscious is to emerge, its does at least point up the
flaws in the arguments that the blogosphere is hopelessly fragmented.
Look at me, no me,
no me.... The ubiquity of that confessional tone is what in the end
disturbs it – he performative becomes ever more visible in the
repeated claims to speak if/as/for self and it is there that he end
might be seen...
unconscious of the blogosphere might yet show itself to have made
something new and something gloriously radical. Hope springs eternal.