People operate with diverse systems of belief and we can live with this incoherence - Political Theology: Four New Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty - Page 118 - Paul W. Kahn - 2011 - Preview - More editions In the postmodern world, the...1 month ago
Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.
In view of the fact that multiple anonymous comments in a thread make confusing reading and it becomes difficult to track who is telling what and to whom, only comments bearing some name/pseudonym/identity will appear in future. [TNM 011110 SEOF]
Tuesday 24 April 2007
In terms of the reading group’s recent selections, some elements of Mannheim’s Ideology and Utopia experiment with articulating this form of normative standard - pointing to the historical process as a sort of normative benchmark, and suggesting that forms of thought and practice can be judged by their adequacy to the dominant historical trend of the moment. Mannheim thus suggests (in some sections - the text as a whole is, I believe, somewhat contradictory) that forms of thought and practice that fall behind - but also forms of thought and practice that point ahead - can be criticised for not embodying fully the potentials of their historical moment.
Such positive theories have suffered over the course of the 20th century for many reasons - not least of which is the historical disappointment that set in, as it was recognised that the targets of early Marxist theory could be overcome, without the result being emancipatory - that the institutions of private property and the market could be superceded by conscious planning, without greater freedom resulting as the intrinsic and inevitable counterpart of this transformation. The concept of critical theory in its Frankfurt School sense emerged through these theorists’ confrontation with this historical experience, as they began to wrestle with the notion of what immanent and self-reflexive critique might mean, if it did not entail the alignment of critical ideals with some existent or trending element within the context. Their question of how to conceptualise critique as determinate negation - determinate in the sense of being in some way immanent to a particular context, and negative in the sense of not expressing the standpoint of some privileged element or totality - proved a complex and vexing one.
In terms of the reading group’s recent selections, Adorno’s contributions to The Positivist Dispute - which revolve around the notion of how certain things can be “real” or “objective”, without thereby being “facts” - are orbiting around this question. Adorno asks, in effect, how we can render immanent Popper’s understanding of science as an ever-restless “critical tradition”, how we can understand the forms of subjectivity Popper expresses, but in a self-reflexive way, by grasping the associated forms of perception and thought in their determinate relation to a specific context. Adorno argues, in effect, that the sort of restless critical perspective Popper identifies with science - which Popper frames as an intrinsically counter-factual ideal that could never be achieved - suggests the existence of something counter-factual about the context itself. Adorno then criticises Popper (I’ll leave aside for present purposes whether this critique is correct) for denying the possibility that something non-factual might also be “objective” - a criticism that hits home, for Adorno, precisely because Popper shares a largely compatible vision of the critical process as a form of negation - missing only the analysis of why even this type of eternally restless and counter-factual critique is not a pure negation, but a determinate one - one that can be analysed immanently and self-reflexively in its relation to a specific context.
Adorno suggests that, for such a counter-factual critical ideal to seem plausible, something counter-factual must exist - not only as some kind of subjective ideal or conceptual abstraction, but as an “objectivity” in our shared context. In some sense, this objectivity itself must be something that cannot be characterised or captured purely in terms of “facts” and “givens” - our context must have something intrinsically counter-factual about it, which this vision of critique then expresses. Yet how to capture, how to grasp, the reality or objectivity of a counter-factual? Adorno suggests that dialectics is required - and yet, in this and other writing, also suggests that dialectics is no longer adequate to this task: the critique of Popper thus crashes into the very point where the first generation Frankfurt School theorists themselves ran aground. For this generation - armed primarily with conceptual tools related to concepts of class domination - never quite grasps, conceptually, what it nevertheless also argues must exist: something restless, ceaseless, churning through time, at the very heart of our context - something that can dispense with concrete social institutions and practices - something that is itself a kind of “real” counter-factual - a counter-factual that instantiates itself through transformations of concrete social institutions in time. The first generation Frankfurt School theorists mean, but can never quite get their theories to say - to grasp - how a particular vision of critique can be inspired immanently by such a restless context, with its intrinsic, but ever-shifting, contradictions between what has been factually realised, and the counter-factual restlessness that smashes through all such realisations in the end. They thus never quite fulfil their own self-reflexive standard. This failure itself points to how this tradition fails to grasp the determinate character of the context - a pessimistic impasse that the first-generation Frankfurt School theorists acknowledge, but never overcome.
Habermas sees, and then recoils from, this precipe, seeking his counter-factuals elsewhere, on firmer ground - I’ve criticised his position in detail elsewhere, and won’t revisit the issue here. The reading group may look at his work later in the year, and can discuss the pros and cons of his approach at that time, if it seems appropriate to revisit this issue.
For present purposes, and in conclusion, I want to step back a bit from the sort of sketchy (and necessarily oversimplified) intellectual history I’ve tossed out above, to return to the reading group question that motivated this post: why not simply posit the standards of immanence and self-reflexivity as arbitrary ideals - as axioms, if you will - and move on from there? Leaving aside pedantic and purist concerns with logical consistency, what would be the “payoff” from trying to “close the loop” by exploring how these ideals themselves might be consistently grasped?
What I have tried to suggest - very incompletely - above is that, if the concepts of immanence of self-reflexivity are valid, then these concepts actually provide important substantive clues about the nature of our context - about what our context is. This means, among other things, that our inability to grasp such concepts - to relate them in some determinate way to our understanding of what the context is - provides an important feedback mechanism - a form of theoretical double-entry bookkeeping ;-P - to let us know that we may have another think coming, that we may need to go back to the drawing board to see what we’ve overlooked - or at least to follow the first generation Frankfurt School theorists in acknowledging openly the existence of an impasse we don’t currently know how to resolve...11 Responses RECENT COMMENTS Counter-Factual Immanence (11) N Pepperell, Tusar N. Mohapatra, N Pepperell, N Pepperell, Sinthome [...]