War as a happening thing

JKSCHW at aol.com JKSCHW at aol.com
Sun Jan 23 10:25:18 PST 2000

I expressed puzzlement over Angela's comment, to my cryptic, that pomo-bashing is a way of implicitly asserting that nothing has changed since the 30s. She rexplains as below, by saying (1) pomo reflects in a idealistic way real changes, and (2) you better get used to it because those changes have made marxism obsolete. Or anyway, atht is what I think she says..

Well, of course I agree that the world has changed since the 30s. I agree that pomo is one way it has changed, one of the ideological forms in which we become aware of those changes and fight things out. I agree, too, that intellectually Marxism has been largely dead in the water for a decade, roughly ever since analytical Mraxsim ran out of steam (not because it wasn't a good idea, I think, but because its leading practioners were nonplussed and dispirited by the changes we have seen, mainly the fall of Communism). I even agree that pomo has insights to offer that might help revitalize Marxism in some ways, as long as it is taken with a boatload of salt.

None of that means that it is not proper to bash the reactionary, wilfully obscurantist, jargon-ridden, poorly written, appalling argued, self-indulgent claptrap that most pomists churn out. Not all. Nancy Fraser and Iris Young are good writers and goiod thinkers. Rorty and Cornell West are at least good writers. But for the most part pomo deserves every bit of the drubbing it gets from Marxists and liberals, exhausted as _their_ perspectives are.

And don't start on about technical language to express complicated points: I have been a philosophy prof, I know all about that. There's technical language to aid with an argument and then there's incomprehensive gobbledy gook to mask the lack of it. I have been around enough pomo as a professor and a lawyer--pomo in law is called Critical Legal Studies to see that almost all of it is worthless--worse, actively harmful. It reduces otherwise promising young people to chanters of jargon that might be churned ouyt by a machine, and who think that taking the PC stances is what passes for argument.

Baudrillard may have been making some sort of subtle ironic point about how modern Westerners are too tuned into their TVs to know that the bombs are really dropping, I wouldn't know. I doubt it, but I concede the point arguendo. But if there is irony being missed it is being missed the majority of pomists, like that poor woman I mentioned for whom the assassination of Romero is just a text, whatever that means, and there was nothing extralinguistic at the back of the texts.


In a message dated 00-01-23 01:27:01 EST, you write:

<< I've argued a number of times that postmodernism is another way -- an

aestheticised and/or idealistic way -- of talking about changes to the mode

of production, for which we might look to concepts such as real and formal

subsumption as a way of indicating and talking about those changes. Those

who bemoan 'pomos' really enact a similar aestheticisation by rendering it

as a cultural choice, philosophical brand-name, or job competitor in

litcrit depts -- ie., whilst some folks complain that 'pomo' is not

marxism, they can't manage to deliver a marxist analysis of what this might

be. Implicit here is the assertion that nothing has _really_ hanged (by

which 'really' is taken to mean actual practices, the ways in which life is

produced and reproduced, etc), and hence that 'pomo' comes from the skies,

someone's head, the world of ideas -- merely (!) ideas. >>

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