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

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Kafka's "Give It Up!"

It was very early in the morning, the streets clean and deserted, I was on my way to the railroad station. As I compared the tower clock with my watch I realized it was already much later than I had thought, I had to hurry, the shock of this discovery made me feel uncertain of the way, I was not very well acquainted with the town yet, fortunately there was a policeman nearby, I ran to him and breathlessly asked him the way. He smiled and said: 'from me you want to learn the way?' 'Yes,' I said, 'since I cannot find it myself.' 'Give it up, give it up,' said he, and turned away with a great sweep, like someone who wants to be alone with his laughter.
This is my favorite variation of the scene of interpellation, the one that prefigures most perfectly and painfully in its apparent inversion the actual scene that would play out for Althusser the murderer in the streets of Paris rather differently than it did in his imagination for Althusser the theorist. When hails ring out from the crowd in all directions, echoing off the walls and in our imaginations, we turn and turn and turn and find ourselves more dizzy than docile... Kafka gives us Althusserian ideological apparatuses as a funhouse mirror stage. And, yes, it's much later than you think.

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