NXRB

The State of Scripts

In Uncategorized on June 6, 2014 at 10:07 am

Manchester Left Writers review the state of scripts on the left. 

We want to provide a picture of what is wrong with ‘radical’ or ‘left wing’ academic writing, because we feel that it needs to be rescued from itself. What we have identified collectively are elements of ‘scripts’ that we fall back on when we are not utilising the full potential of our resources in the here and now. Scripts are all resources from the past. Scripts are always half bad style and bad meaning, ruts of lazy thinking which have congealed into dead literary-academic modes.
‘The left’ needs to reoccupy the present and future, actually, physically, and politically, but to do this we need to recalibrate writing so that it is symbolically fit for the scale of the task. This is the first utopian step. ‘Utopia’ is the unwritten no-place we have to move towards, but to do that we have to identify as many of the elements of the bad scripts as possible, the lazy, default modes of writing.
Otherwise, how can we write this no-place, how will we inscribe it with all the changes we desperately need? Scripts only allow us to produce something because the ego needs gratification. Scripts are not about exploring the representation and politics of life in 2014, in a new, risky or tentative way, because what is being produced has not yet been tried, and so is a little frightening. Scripts are about making ego-capital.
We wondered if we might get these reflections on scripts published in a ‘radical’ journal or philosophy magazine, but decided that most of them are probably far too enslaved by the lazy mental habits being described below. We are cynical about work being produced by a washed-up, London-centric, mediocre middle-class ‘autonomist’ scene. To get us started, here are some elements of bad academic scripts that we have identified, strung together as a loose narrative:

1. The Sanctimonious Style: a classic discourse of ‘traditional intellectuals’. An academic star system breeds noblesse oblige: ‘Here I am, fulfilling my “progressive” duties’, but in a self-indulgent windbag fashion, bound up with position and status. In fact, the tone of this script is produced by status, and a life essentially spent on a reservation. Ironically, this script is often replicated by admirers without that power. We can perhaps add to this the ‘Left Worthy’, where writers start to designate ‘the good socialist’. When this happens, be sure that all thinking has stopped. Some elements of this script reveal its emptiness, including…
2. The Tenuous Theoretical Inversion: ‘Aha! But is that the case? If we turn Habermas’s notion inside-out we get…’ not very much, usually. Inverting the ‘notions’ of others usually means that you have few of your own left.
3. The Abstract Expression: This has a long pre-history in leaden macro-Marxism, where everything is covered in ash, as thick curtains of theoretical fog obscure everything. We can include in this the excesses of Frankfurt School ‘totalizing’, and macro ‘up in the clouds’ views of vast swathes of countries and cultures. This leaves us with…
4. Opacity: The residual afterglow of texts that are meant to be complex, compressed, portentous, poetic or ‘deep’, but are actually just opaque. Some of us think that Calvino’sInvisible Cities falls into this category for much of the time, and is so celebrated that people shy away from describing it as such. We will add to this…
5. The Spurious Psychogeography: Accounts of vague wandering, accompanied by photographs of fetishised, aesthetic urban ruins, pierced by striking solipsistic outbursts, emptied of all politics.
6. The Foucauldian Cauldron and Deleuzian Eel Barrel: Power is everywhere and therefore nowhere, it is ‘between’. Everyone is oppressor and oppressed at the same time. This is correct in many ways, but nobody in this murky soup is ever prepared to identify ‘the enemy’, because nobody in it can actually see one. There is a related, but opposite risk here, in writing which posits all identities as ‘spectral’ on ‘our side’, yet ‘over there’ is a big slab of oppression called Capitalism, The Patriarchy, et cetera. These ‘slabs’ of oppression derive in part from Foucauldian and Althusserian anti-humanism. It was once said that Foucauldian theory is a giant ‘spider web without a spider’. If we’re just bearers of the structure, points of intersection, then the spectral spider becomes an abstract oppression, rather than something human beings do to each other (and some more than others). We need to identify the spider and pull its legs off. Then Deleuze arrived, and everything is unstitched, in a state of permanent exodus or ‘becoming’, nothing is one thing, everything is between states, or ‘problematic’ if it isn’t…

Post continued at MLW – The State of Scripts

 

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