Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Judith Butler, On Futurity

I realize that it's been a month since I last posted here. Chalk it up to the demands of teaching, writing commitments elsewhere, a frustrating cold that Eric and I have been trading back and forth for weeks, and an unusually stubborn and abiding wrestle with autumnal melancholy that is not yet over. In the spirit of setting the discursive machineries in motion once more, though, I thought I'd offer up this lovely quote from Judith Butler's recent book Undoing Gender, which I stumbled upon while preparing notes for teaching this week. In this passage, Butler tentatively conjures up the possibility of "a modernity without foundationism" and the "politics of hope and anxiety" that would attend it. It is a vision of futurity I find very congenial and which connects up nicely with my last post to the blog, weeks ago:
The desire to foreclose an open future can be a strong one, threatening one with loss, loss of a sense of certainty about how things are (and must be). It is important, however, not to underestimate the force of the desire to foreclose futurity and the political potential of anxiety. This is one reason that asking certain questions is considered dangerous. Imagine the situation of reading a book and thinking, I cannot ask the questions that are posed here because to ask them is to introduce doubt into my political convictions, and to introduce doubt into my political convictions could lead to the dissolution of those convictions. At such a moment, the fear of thinking, indeed, the fear of the question, becomes moralized as a defense of politics. And politics becomes that which requires a certain anti-intellectualism. To remain unwilling to rethink one's politics on the basis of questions posed is to opt for a dogmatic stand at the cost of both life and thought.