[PEN-L:3830] Re: Postmodernist Marxism

Carrol Cox cbcox at ilstu.edu
Thu Feb 25 07:01:04 PST 1999

Doug Henwood wrote:

> Louis Proyect wrote:
> >Two of
> >the better-known post-Marxists are Laclau and Mouffe, who I've never taken
> >the trouble to read[...]

[For lbo readers: I have quoted Doug's post in its entirety. No snipping.]

Two points.

1. Lou has got to back off from pulling the Butler trick of argument through the invention (or echoing others' inventions) of utterly empty categories. I probably would agree with the substance of most of what Lou has to say about the world, but his weird insistence on arguing not against identifiable and substantive positions but against will-o-the-wisps such as "postmodernism" will destroy him politically if he can't break the habit. His use of "pomo" is as incontinent as is Paul Rosenberg's current use of it on lbo to attack anyone who dares suggest that Buffy, like any other element of u.s. culture, may have its weaknesses or oddities.

2. That said, the position Doug is implicitly and explicitly advancing in these exchanges would, if really accepted, make any kind of human intercourse, political or intellectual, utterly impossible and reduce us all to the mystic silence at the end of the Tractatus: Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must be silent. And of course the "whereof" includes everything that ever has been said or ever will be said. Following Doug's advice we would have no alternative but to retire to a Trappist monastery to attempt to read everything that had ever been scribbled on a wall. For Doug, Swift and Pope lived and wrote in vain.

Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall,

And universal Darkness buries all.

Lou's incontinent use of the label "pomo," as stupid as it is, is far less intellectually damaging than Doug's implicit position that we can't say anything until we have read everything, and his apparent refusal to work out in any detail the principles by means of which we can decide what we won't read.


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