lunedì 16 maggio 2016

McKenzie Wark: The Sublime Language of My Century @ Public Seminar, May 14, 2016

The Sublime Language of My Century

(...) Another way to tackle this would be impute some meaning to Marx’s famous remark to the effect that he was not a Marxist. What if what he meant by that is that he was not one of those who simply took a language and a rhetorical form extracted from his texts as a given? He was, to the contrary, the one who had constructed that language with a quite particular purpose in mind: to understand the situation of his times from the labor point of view. So: what if we kept the commitment to understanding, not his times, but ours, from the labor point of view, whatever that might mean now — and bracketed off the rest?
That makes a certain sense to me. I really am puzzled by why we should use blocks of linguistic material from his time again to understand our time. Why use the fashionable philosophy, the popular science, the political tracts, or the technological metaphors of the mid-nineteenth century? When poets or novelists do that, we immediately think its dated and quaint. But somehow we want our great narrative to be about capitalism, even if it is dated and quaint.
Of course different genres of text have a different relationship to tradition and innovation, and at different moments in their development. They aren’t always in synch. And of course there’s generally a culture industry in which the texts get pulped into sameness, and an avant-garde trying to do something else. If you are trying to write an interesting, rather than merely successful, novel or poem, you want to change things at the formal level, rather than ship your wine in the same old bottles. The thing is, where readings and rewritings of Marx are concerned, they seem to me to belong to the culture industry. Its a commonplace now to read Capital as a work of philosophy or an epic novel, but to do so very conservatively. And indeed could there be anything more conservative now that the tradition of continental philosophy? (...)

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