Sunday, March 11, 2007

Red residue.

Yesterday, Ron Silliman posted the entirety of his 1989 response to Baudrillard's Missoula lecture, as promised. It's a lucid critique, as fresh and raucous today as it was almost 20 years ago.

It's not even necessary to know what Baudrillard said that night to appreciate the essay. Essentially, Silliman is responding to the entire project of "French 'theory'" which was at that time invading the republic of American "Letters."

Baudrillard never became a philosopher in the sense of Derrida, Deleuze, Foucault, Lefebvre, etc., and, by that time he was writing purely delerious books like, AMERICA. So he was something of an easy target. I think that's why some of us felt a little sorry for Baudrillard that night. Silliman points out that Baudrillard is no more a real philosopher than a transvestite is a real woman. Power and capital are real, no matter how MATRIX movie-like the world has become. Baudrillard, the supposed exposer if poseurs, turns out to be a poseur, himself.

I think Silliman was right to "out" Baudrillard that night. Sure, it was a little embarrassing, a bit impolite. But Baudrillard's glib dissolutions of the world into pure theory do present a serious distraction to committed social activists.


Meanwhile, back in Helena at that time, we formed the ironically titled Baudrillard Study Group. Actually we devoted our time to reading, paragraph by paragraph, aloud, THE SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE, by Guy Debord. This process lead to many evenings of lengthy discussion, and probably would be as interesting to pursue today as it was then.

Remarkably, the world has become even more "spectacle-driven" than Debord's radical 1960's imaginings. Baudrillard's writings, while being derivative of Debord's critique, never expanded upon or even made use of Debord's more substantive, historical analysis.


What is the modern nationstate? How does it use and modify "power?" By what means does it commingle with capital to transmogrify the "means of production?"

Silliman seems to be onto something in 1989 when he writes: " . . . we have failed to sufficiently recognize the state as an instrument of power. Where once it served to protect capital by providing a wall of nationhood around its markets, now it serves a very different function: to limit the potential of anyone, including the state, to threaten capital."

Today we call this "privitization." Which means that the "owners of the world" will not be satisfied until they also own what is now owned by "the public."


Blogger john hanson said...

like a raging sea of blood
sloshing up against
the windswept sands
and the sky in torment
for background

so my perceptions
link themselves
like blood
to my memory

1:08 PM  
Blogger john hanson said...

i'm coming to this social critique
from the french neo-positivist
deconstructionist view rather late
i gave up on derrida
i gave up on foucault

i've been mulling over debord
of late and find his view
quite intrigueing
but also rather dead ended

i've been going over the comments on time
how since we've lost time
to the ongoing momentum of
commercialized capital
and have lost cyclical time
all but completely
we are propelled into a
sort of suction tube of
never recurring experience
we are carried on in the myth of the ever improving future

and here is where the ignorance
is deduced
both mine and debords'

the church has retained
quite deliberatley the
experience of cyclical time
we march through a Liturgical year
every year
the high points and the low points
always coincide and balance
and we follow an extremely involved
and complex weave of narrative and thematic/poetic information
with the deliberate intent to move the mind
beyond the fetid limitations offered in this world of ours

and this follows the seasons of
the northern hemisphere
some australians take issue with this but it's hard to be universal
and always fair i guess

and that sense of cyclical liturgical time sets a catholic at least
apart from the mayhem and the
ever increasing intensity of
inane spectacle
in service to money

there is profound tension in the church these days because
we have been given the time
over the past forty years or so
to struggle with the world
on the worlds terms
i suppose this is a good thing
but the messages that people pick up from the prevailing trends in social thought
such as half baked feminism
and the freudian categories
sets up a rhetorical impass

few can recognise the
very humane intellectual working out of the human mystery
by great catholic thinkers
like henri de lubac

once thomas was dismissed
all hell broke loose

but the holy father is asking some
provacative questions of his own
he is holding out for reasonable faith
that the expereince of mankind as a whole
can be placed into dialectical context and the insights of religion can be brought to bear
sensibly with everything

i concur that the french schools of social theory are rather dense
and fall rather predictably into
the farcical stagings of social commentary or as silliman notes
a sort of cynical standup comedy act

but these "social philosophers" do see something
they have their senses tuned into the chaos and degradation
as well as the fascination of the ever new the kalaidescope of culture

where i question both baudrillard
and debord is the notion that reality is no longer accessible

my position as a devoted aristotelean/thomist
is that whatever we are picking
up with the senses is real
even if it is surreal
or two dimensional tv screened

this position states that we cannot deny reality
it is always before us
always presenting itself-
and the mind instictively
seeks to deal with it
or not to it's own pathetic demise

the phenomenist relativist positivist deconstructionist linguist nominalist and pragmatist schools all start at the wrong point

aristotle insists that
being and the science of
knowing and describing it
is first philosophy
and that this is a metaphysical principle
not an idea
but a hard nosed principle
that says an egg is an egg
the road is the road
the paint is paint
the soft touch of a lover is just that
being is being
and we know it
or we seek to know it in terms of what we already know
or strive to find the means by which to know
and this is the adventure of the mind
most five year old children are unabashed realists

the trick as i see it
is to always be mindful
of knowledge of the transcendent
what "goes beyond"

to disregard classical metaphysics
is to find ourselves
commenting on the headspinning swirl of social effects

perhaps we need to look again at the stagarites' politics
or plato's republic
(an inferior work in many ways)

i like sillimans' quick handed dismissal of postmodernism
as a sort of gratuitous allowance that social critiqs have given themselves

it seemed to me that silliman was being fairly gracious in complementing baudrillard even while grappling with aspects of what must have sounded inane and deliberately absurd in order to provoke
posing as a psuedo philosopher
like a man posing as a woman
like a dancer spraying her oglers

these are the techniques of the modern spectacle we see everywhere
and this is why i take debord rather seriously

but i cannot help but wonder about the intentions of the 19th century positivist school "atheistic humanism" in france august comte and crew
who more or less cast away
except for descartes and hegel
and sought to replace it with
sociology and psychology
for these were seen and understood to be the reasonable approaches
to organizing humanity
and most philosophy was regarded as too obtuse to matter

i think the positivists won big
and this saddens me

wisdom would hold that it takes quite an effort to stand aloof
from the mediabombardments and hyped up provocations of imagination
a wise parent/teacher should be vigilant
in helping young people to be severe in criticism of the culture
to think beyond the information
to seek knowledge as an end in itself
and to ponder with the great resources presented to every mind

but i think at some point the philosopher has to leave social commentary behind
perhaps it is all better stated by the poet anyway
this at least was the belief of jacques maritain

the mind i feel
naturally inclines beyond
the limitations of created experience
even while remaining fascinated with the wonders of creation

without some access to take us beyond even our own well formulated concepts
we are left with sartre's jail cell
with the stench
that does not deserve much commentary
even though
after the fact it is also very real


11:08 PM  
Blogger borneman said...

while primitive
the liturgical seasonal approach
time is far over-shadowed by the concept of a "genesis"
in the old text
and "armegeddon" in the sequel

9:56 PM  
Blogger john hanson said...

i take your last comment seriously

as we approach the easter celebration
christians of the catholic and orthocox bent
go through a series of readings
which echo forth every year at this time
which is the reworking of the texts of salvation
from genesis to the resurrection
and the casue for our hope
is focussed there
not on some apocalyptic
end time

we do not knw the hour or the day or the time
or the way or anything

my point is simply
that we maintain that
cyclical awareness
on a yearly basis
and it is more than a spectacle
it is more than the
sequence of sporting events
and the championships
and the commercialization
which superficializes the whole mess

10:13 AM  

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