Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Pure Theory

A previous post reports on Israeli military personnel quoting Deleuze and Guattari as useful to their strategy. "Furthermore, they used none of the city’s streets, roads, alleys or courtyards, or any of the external doors, internal stairwells and windows, but moved horizontally through walls and vertically through holes blasted in ceilings and floors". This is bollocks. Tunnelling through walls has long been a tactic of military organisations fighting urban warfare. It needs no Deleuze or Guattari to come up with any of this this stuff. But the gratuity needs interpreting. The invocation of D&G is an obscene supplement. A display of supposed theoretical elan flaunted in the face of homes and human beings detroyed. Talking about this process as if was some kind of spatial puzzle - ‘the reorganization of the urban syntax by means of a series of micro-tactical actions’. The actual horrific violence is both denied and doubled by the the symbolic violence of talking about it in these terms.

But it struck me that this isn't too removed from how a a lot of Theory is used i today's academia. It redescribes a reality that is already in fact perfectly visible, leaving that reality completely untouched while somehow making it seem more 'interesting'. There's a surplus of enjoyment that comes from this redescription, and this mistakes itself for some kind of radical analysis. More later,..

6 comments:

dave said...

To call something "theory" is to condemn its failure as praxis, to describe it as revolution tangled up in means.

I wonder if any theoreticians still think they're doing actual critical/political work, or everyone has resigned themselves to theory-as-spectacle, a tool to pacify their own dissent into an ideology entirely divorced from action (as if thinking ever made a revolution!)

I explored the idea of theory-as-failure via 'critical' mainstream cinema in a post I wrote in April.

catmint said...

this happened in the Asturias war in 1934, and I think Mexico before then

catmint said...

I found your blog a stylish crystallisation of dissent into spectacle - in that respect, well done

Gog said...

er,thanks cat.

Dave - is Theory which doesn't feed into political work automatically 'Theory as spectacle'?

catmint said...

"crystallisation of dissent into spectacle"

I'm just messing with this - its not a commodity if you give it away, or something

dave said...

Gog,
Not necessarily.

When theory masquerades as 'feeding into' political work, but instead takes the role you describe at the end of your post ["leaving that reality completely untouched while somehow making it seem more 'interesting'"], it is "theory-as-spectacle." It spectacularizes itself by commodifying its dissent in a purely intellectual realm. Because the realm is purely intellectual, the work puts itself in active opposition to its own ostensible position.