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

Monday, March 22, 2010

yay Redux

Is anybody following the surreal exchange under the post yay?


jared s. said...

It's great. Surreal but visceral, for me; my eyes were rapt. As a rookie in the theoretical left--in fact, as a soon-to-be graduate of Rhetoric (& Eng.) who has never taken a class of yours but has been reading your blog for some months and thinking I could really improve on being pragmatically theoretical in favor of being theoretically pragmatic (think 'pragmatics'="schizoanalysis") and thus (as a necessary first step) diagnosing theoretical self-indulgence or delusion while also thinking that a lot of sound critical questioning of theoretical work is part of my being such a novice pragmatic theoryhead and that really there are still probably more insidious hasty dismissals than histrionic disciples of post-structuralist constructions (maybe 'pragmatics'="schizoanalysis", etc., I'd have to read more) AND that contorted but comprehensible syntax is often a healthy symptom of the self-critically critical writer or theorist I am happy to emit--I thought your comments were delightfully incisive. Your performance packed a lot more pragma than the performance artiste's (though her (tragicomic) relief was necessary to bring it out).

(But, though I am a relative novice in this sub-terrain, it seems a bit harsh to call Zizek a court jester. He may be a blogger without a blog, but his 'blogs' are than amusing, for me at least. Could he be a Socratic jester? Not ironic really, sure, but still a thoroughly pessimistic critic in the global agora whose inversions of liberalist commonsense sometimes really cut, really provoke. Again, I ought to read more, but this holds so far...)

George said...

I saw the first part of the exchange earlier, and didn't know it was continuing. I have a couple of comments, even though I know that your dreaded Tuesday approaches.

If Khephra had explained more about why this was a bad bill, I could have followed their argument. But some argument has to be made. As it is I feel like I've missed the first two-thirds of some debate I didn't even know was happening. My best guess is that the complaint is that this reform is mere reformism from which no further progress could be made, a viewpoint I would listen to if it had been explicated.

Which leads me to a question for you, Professor. You may have already written this on Amor Mundi and it wouldn't surprised me if I forgot the particulars. (I'm still only up to the middle of 2005 in the archives.) It seems to me that your criticism of technological superlativism can transpose to criticism of socio-political superlativism. That is, you appear to have little patience for people who describe either kind of "the" perfect future but don't push for the individual baby-steps which move us in that direction today. Is this an accurate observation?

I also wonder if Khephra thinks that things need to be truly awful for the people to organize for an improvement in their conditions. Under what circumstances does that work? And, on the other hand, when does a step-by-step approach maintain motivation and activity?

Dale Carrico said...

Chomsky has written that he would have voted for HCR but held his nose in doing so. That seems to me very reasonable. Given the real fears we should all have about cost-containment without single payer efficiencies or even a PO and worries about enforcement mechanisms in the absence of real competition and given the intact anti-trust exemption and the millions who remain without coverage or who remain tied to crappy coverage it isn't hard to see why it is necessary to celebrate an unprecedented game-changing victory but not to mistake a point of departure for the prize. We need a hard push from the left, but a delusive blindness to incomplete accomplishment achieved against extremely high odds and with enormous effort provides the opposite of that push -- it deranges and demoralizes the left. It is one thing to recognize that where we are is not where we want to be, it is altogether another thing to pretend that until we arrive at where we want to be we are nowhere at all.

I happen to celebrate HCR even in the form that has arrived for the many people it will help who would not have been helped before -- I think indifference to this outcome is surreally out of place in a person of the left -- but I also believe that all of the flaws which I designated above are now separate problems capable of separate address by activists directing themselves to the improvement of a comprehensive healthcare framework that already concedes their premise that healthcare is a human right and so is now differently susceptible of redress through arguments about efficiency, enforcement, and cost containment.

That is a radically different world for single payer advocates to live in, both in terms of what is becoming available for real but also what is freshly and differently available for reformers and activists in the direction of real justice ahead.

Dale Carrico said...

As far as futurism and superlative futurology go, I have often heard my views on that topic assimilated to my pragmatic-but-(nonetheless?-)radical political critiques more generally.

I'm sure there is some truth in that, you know, as just a matter of temperament or what have you. But I will say that for me there are real differences that make differences afoot here.

My critique against superlative futurology lives in the same place among my preoccupations where my crusty atheistical critique of religious faith is also located.

I'm not a person who believes in god(s) -- hence "a-theist," without god -- but I don't think it's my place exactly to disapprove of those who do so believe or who practice spiritual, faith-based, esoteric mystical, moral communities of faith lifeways. I think this is so for the same reasons I don't disapprove of those whose educational, aesthetic, sexual, prosthetic, sub-cultural efforts at self-creation differ from my own, and hope my own weird aspirations and practices will be likewise respected in their place.

I only disapprove when religiosity as what I take properly to be a warrantable mode of aesthetic rationality misdirects its aspirations and criteria of reasonable warrant onto different modes of rationality -- especially mistaking faith-claims for instrumental claims or for political claims.

Science is tested, published, falsifiable, coherent within a net of warranted instrumental descriptions likewise believed, and so on. Faith is not and need not be any of these, at any rate not in the same way or in the service of the same ends (prediction and control, to be blunt about it).

Politics is the interminable reconciliation of the infinite diversity of aspirations of stakeholders in a finite shared world.

I disapprove, as readers well know, of political idealisms that would impose the policing of continence proper to most modes of moral belonging onto the ongoing reconciliation of diversity demanded by political rationality in a project of finalizing or imperializing moralization. So too I disapprove the assertion of aesthetic judgments (which are indifferent to approval of what is valu-ed by the judge so long as they are conceded as valu-able) onto the ongoing reconciliation of diversity demanded by political rationality -- a project that in its specifically democratizing variation (an ethical-political project, but this is already getting too complicated for a brief comment) demands the provision of nonviolent alternatives to the violent adjudication of disputes via securing a legible scene of substantiated consent for this ongoing reconciliation of diversity demanded by political rationality. This is even further complicated by the instrumental coloration efforts at reconciliation can assume in circumscribed policy contexts in ways that can be degenerate either to aestheticism or reductionism to the cost of sense. In this context it is crucial to recognize that one can progress toward greater democratization but that democracy itself is not progressive, strictly speaking, but an interminable process of reconciliation going nowhere and an end in itself that we denominate freedom.

Dale Carrico said...

--continued from above:

To make a long story short -- too late, I know -- I think futurism/futurology as a general matter is the quintessential discourse of neoliberal ideology in an epoch of financialization-externalization-precarization, and I disapprove of it as an anti-democratizing discourse of the right, often trying to stealth itself as an emancipatory discourse of the left. Superlative futurology is a particularly extreme variation of futurology more generally, something of a reductio of futurism, in which the immaterialism/fraud of neoliberal futurism takes on the specific coloration of theocratic subcultural discourses/practices, wish-fulfillment fantasies of transcendence and so on. This is why my critiques of subcultural and superlative futurology tend to decry their false promotion of themselves as either scientific or public policy discourses when they are neither, but also to cut the superlative futurologists slack when what they really amount to is just geeks who are fond of science fiction and do not confuse an aesthetic salon or fandom with some kind of political movement or scientific project.

Superlative futurology in its superlativity does come in for some added critique from the atheist in me for the worst of its new age pretensions and it also comes in for some added critique from the radical/social democrat in me for the reactionary structural entailments that connect it to the corporate-militarist politics of scientism authoritarian-design technocracy industrialism and neoliberal developmentalism more generally. But these last two critical impulses are separable from the others, and the fact that I skip from one to the other day to day probably has yielded some measure of confusion about my critique here and there. A book would no doubt be better than a blog to rectify these confusions.

Dale Carrico said...

As for Zizek -- he bugs me, he really does, but I do keep reading him, after all, and I have also profited by formulations of his, especially when I'm looking for pithy crystallizations that can lodge in student-brains at opportune moments -- usually there are as many as three or so useful nuggets in every book of his, which is more than I can say for many others, but also not enough to justify all that deforestation.

Nato Welch said...

Oh, my.

I see Khephra's found you, probably through me. I've known him for a few years on Livejournal, and I'm hosting a wordpress blog for him now.

jared s. said...

Diagnosis 1: That was a bit of a frivolous performance on my part. More a reflection than an engagement. Apologies.

Pragma Postulate 1: Less is more. Aim small.

Khephra said...

@ George: Here's an elaboration that should be more accessible (

"I also wonder if Khephra thinks that things need to be truly awful for the people to organize for an improvement in their conditions. Under what circumstances does that work? And, on the other hand, when does a step-by-step approach maintain motivation and activity?"

I don't have any idea how bad things have to get before more organized opposition occurs. But along these lines, you might see this consideration of Zizek's ideas for reinvigorating the left (

As for incrementalism, in general, I think it's a wise approach. But I don't see American society as incrementally progressing (within certain sociopolitical contexts, anyway) - I see it as incrementally declining, much like the collapse of Rome.

Dale Carrico said...

Incrementalism is championed as wise, except when it actually happens, whereupon it provides occasion instead, as we have seen over the past few days, for endless insistences that something in failing to be everything amounts to nothing, followed now by precious declamations about generalized civilizational decline (a staple, as we well know, of the conservative right, but no doubt this is co-incidental, given Kephra's declared left radicalism).

Despite the fact that none of these endless complaints about the flawed but progressive health care reform outcome (complaints invariably well understood by those who nonetheless celebrate the achievement of the reform as an epochal step in a generations-long ongoing struggle with few comparable accomplishments to show for itself), nor do these hankerchief sniffing narrativations of decline and fall actually connect to any specified tactical or even broadly organizational strategies at all, the lack of "organized opposition" is then also decried.

The only practical recommendation forthcoming -- if that is what it is -- is that we all read more Zizek (although one awaits, as usual, in vain for specifics about this recommendation, any actual analysis or contextualization of the recommended text).

Thank you, Kephra, for this latest indispensable contribution to your ongoing education of us all in political radicalism as an underspecified aspirational leftism cashing out primarily in the mode of personal attention-seeking and self-congratulation. You are, as no doubt you already well know, a real credit to the Revolution.

Khephra said...

Wow. I really was spot-on - you're completely full of yourself. But I'd bet I'm not the first to point that out...

Dale Carrico said...

Do let me know the address to which I should send a check in exchange for this helpful bit of therapeutic reportage. As it happens, I don't doubt that a measure of conceit drives any writer to fancy their writings worthy of note on a blog or elsewhere (you included, most humble Kephra).

More to the point, you are publishing observations and claims to the hearing of the world. I am one of those to whom you are offering up these observations and claims directly. If you don't want to expose yourself to criticism, and even ridicule should you be thought to merit it (as I do), I recommend that you not bloviate in other people's salons.

There, some helpful advice right back atcha. Forget about the earlier offer of a check, after all, I daresay we are more than even.

I notice that in response to a host of actual claims made in response to yours, you choose not to provide any reasons to actually agree or disagree with any of the actual claims on offer, but spit out the equivalent of, yer mama dresses you funny! That you regard this as a sign of my conceit or your substance is pretty much what I would have expected from our limited but drearily predictable acquaintance.

By the way, unless you manage in future to say anything I regard as useful or interesting by my lights further comments from you will be deleted at my discretion from my blog. I should have warned you that not only am I full of myself but I am a eeeevil tyrant. That means for you it's all over except for the crying.

Best of luck to you, Kephra