Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Say what you see

The meaning of a representation can be nothing but a representation. In fact, it is nothing but the representation itself conceived as stripped of irrelevant clothing. But this clothing can never be completely stripped off; it is only changed for something more diaphanous. So there is an infinite regression here. --Umberto Eco, The Limites of Interpretation

Umberto Eco some essays, and a book on the matter of over-interpretation, that argue, crudely paraphrased, that observers who've divorced themselves from a need to act upon their judgments on things and events have no recourse but to keep discoursing, interpreting, giving things and events even newer, subtler descriptions until the chatter isn't about what ought to be done in order to effect the way we live but rather about how can we continue to contrive more speech for its own sake.

There was an idea, formerly, that critical theory would describe and diagnose a particular set of problems, and then would prescribe a slate of actions that ought to be done to rid the world of the defined problems: there was a tacit agreement to stop theorizing and to start implementing the radical remedies. Revolutions do not happen by those who hover over the water cooler or  yell at their unblinking tv sets.

Praxis, theory into practice, from Gramsci. Praxis, though, is something the left has forgotten about, gun shy perhaps with advancing any set of ideas that might somehow be construed by the politically sensitive as racist, ageist, sexist, and so on. The ability to name the world in front of us contained the possibility to rename it as well, and then change it. Our theoretical left has taken refuge in poetry and novels and refuses even to discuss what their objects are talking about in the author's terms, exhibiting a convenient nihilism.  

The right isn't afraid to name, nor to advance their cause. There is a living embodiment of political will behind their description of the current situation, and it would be Post Modern Tragedy that we've theorized ourselves into submission.

WHAT I'VE BEEN READING

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Ted's bookshelf: read

The Tortilla CurtainU.S.!: A NovelSlaves to Do These ThingsCrackpots: A NovelThe Incentive of the MaggotFrantic Transmissions to and from Los Angeles: An Accidental Memoir

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