Impossibility of 'Auto-Critique' (was Re: Irony, or, theImportance of Being Earnest)

rc-am rcollins at
Sat Mar 20 05:06:07 PST 1999

>>>I think that 'auto-critique' fundamentally works to preempt
(expected and unexpected) critiques by others. One criticizes oneself in the secret hope that one won't be (badly) surprised by becoming an object of others'
>criticisms. In other words, 'auto-critique' protects our fragile ego
from becoming wounded. In this sense, 'auto-critique' is a defense mechanism one
>develops in order to manage the fear and shame of having one's own
>(inescapably) partial vision exposed in front of others. It is what
we do so as not to get 'caught with our pants down,' so to speak. It is a sign of the lack of solidarity (or of trust in our friendship/comradeship with others). That is why I heavily discount the value of navel-gazing about 'privilege.' It is not just an impossible task; it is also a smarmy gesture.<<<

sure, it is this. but in order for this to anchor itself as a generalised practice, it would also entail a certain introjection of the other as critical. there are numerous difficulties with this, but I think it might come down finally to how you define the self in the first place. if you define the self as enclosed and constitutionally monadic^, then sure, self-critique would also be doing little more than unpacking and repacking one's own baggage. hence, it might well be more accurate to say that auto-critique does not repel the wounding of the self by others but rather restages the wound that the self is predicated through.

the precondition of narcissism then is not whether the object of critique is oneself, but whether or not the self is seen (by my self) as self-sufficient, complete, etc, wherein my relations to others is immediately aggressive. this is what you describe above in part. (it may also be that an aggressive self is promoted by capitalism, but that would not be anywhere near saying it is guaranteed.

it may well be that you don't define the self in this way, but there is a tendential hint of doing just this from a previous post, where you wrote:

>>However, irony works differently, even for progressive purposes,
when knowledge in question concerns _real social contradictions_, not simple logical contradictions within statements or incongruities between statements and implied knowledges of enunciators. <<

a different topic to be sure, but here, there is a sense in which you separate contradictory utterances from real social contradictions (where the latter must be somehow defined as not including contradictions of speech or writing in order for the distinction to make any sense), whereas in the above you separate the self from its constitutive relation with an other (big and otherwise). i think the neat distinction does not quite make it.


^anyone have any ideas on the debate between singularities and dialectics (a la deleuze for instance)? a complex discussion to get into, but it might be more pertinent to this particular discussion.

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