Archive for November, 2011

John Dewey “The Public and Its Problems”

November 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Dewey, John 1991 [1927]. The Public and its Problems. Athens: Swallow Press: Ohio University Press.


Search for the Public

If one wishes to realize the distance which may lie between „facts“ and the meaning of facts, let one go to the field of social discussion. (3)

It is mere pretense […] to suppose that we can stick by the de facto, and not raise at some points the question of de jure: the question of by what right, the question of legitimacy. And such a question has a way of growing until it has become a question as to the nature of the state itself. (6)

The more sincerely we appeal to facts, the greater is the importance of the distinction between facts which condition human activity and facts which are conditioned by human activity. In the degree which we ignore this difference, social science becomes pseudo-science. (7)

To explain the origin of the state by saying that man is a political animal is to travel in a verbal circle. (9)

We take then our point of departure from the objective fact that human acts have consequences upon others, that some of these consequences are perceived, and that their perception leads to subsequent effort to control action so as to secure some consequences and avoid others. […] When indirect consequences are recognized and there is effort to regulate them, something having the traits of a state comes into existence. (12)

The distinction between private and public is thus in no sense equivalent  to the distinction between individual and social, even if we suppose that the latter distinction has a definite meaning. Many private acts are social; their consequences contribute to the welfare of the community or affect its status and prospects. (13)

The public consists of all those who are affected by the indirect consequences of transactions to such an extent that it is deemed necessary to have some consequences systematically cared for. (15-16)

Existence of a multitude of contradictory theories of the state, which is so baffling from the standpoint of the theories themselves, is readily explicable the moment we see that all the theories, in spite of their divergence from one another, spring from a root of shared error: the taking of causal agency instead of consequences as the heart of the problem. (19-20)

Individuals still do the thinking, desiring and purposing, but what they think of is the consequences of their behavior upon that of others and that of others upon themselves. (24)

Thus man is not merely de facto associated, but he becomes a social animal in the make-up of his ideas, sentiments and deliberate behavior. What he believes, hopes for and aims at is the outcome of association and intercourse. (25)

For the essence of the consequences which call a public into being is the fact that they expand beyond those directly engaged in producing them. […] Government is not the state, for that includes the public as well as the rulers charged with special duties and powers. The public, however, is organized in and through those officers who act in behalf of its interests. (27-28)

To form itself, the public has to break existing political forms. This is hard to do because these forms are themselves the regular means of instituting change. The public which generates political forms is passing away, but the power and lust of possession remains in the hands of the officers and agencies which the dying public instituted. This is why the change of the form of states is so often effected only by revolution. (31)

By its very nature, a state is ever something to be scrutinized, investigated, searched for. Almost as soon as its form is stabilized, it needs to be remade. (31-32)

[…] the state is the organization of the public effected through officials for the protection of the interests shared by its members. (33)

And since conditions of action and inquiry and knowledge are always changing, the experiment must always be retried; the State must always be rediscovered. (34)

Now follows the hypothesis. Those indirectly and seriously affected for good or for evil from a group distinctive enough to require recognition and a name. The name selected is The Public. This public is organized and made effective by means of representatives who as guardians of custom, as legislators, as executives, judges, etc., care for its especial interests by methods intended to regulate the conjoint actions of individuals and groups. Then and in so far, association adds to itself political organization, and something which may be government comes into being: the public is a political state. (35)

What is needed to direct and make fruitful social inquiry is a method which proceeds on the basis of the interrelations of observable acts and their results. (36)

Discovery of the state

In short, the hypothesis which holds that publics are constituted by recognition of extensive and enduring indirect consequences of acts accounts for the relativity of the states, while the theories which define them in terms of specific causal authorship imply an absoluteness which is contradicted by facts. […] The only constant is the function of caring for and regulating the interests which accrue as the result of the complex indirect expansion and radiation of conjoint behavior. (47)

[…] temporal and local diversification is a prime mark of political organization, and one which, when it is analyzed, supplies a confirming test of our theory. A second mark and evidence is found in an otherwise inexplicable fact that the quantitative scope results of conjoint behavior generates a public with need of organization. (47)

A third mark of the public organized as a state, a mark which also provides a test of our hypothesis, is that it is concerned with modes of behavior which are old and hence well established, engrained. […] We, to be sure, live in an era of discoveries and inventions. Speaking generally, innovation itself has become a custom. […] For an innovation is a departure, and one which brings in its train some incalculable disturbance of the behavior to which we have grown used and which seems “natural”. (57-58)

When, however, a mode of behavior has become old and familiar, and when an instrumentality has come into use as a matter of course, provided it is a prerequisite of other customary pursuits, it tends to come within the scope of the state. (60)

A fourth mark of the public is indicated by the idea that children and other dependents […] are peculiarly its wards. (62)

The lasting, extensive and serious consequences of associated activity bring into existence a public. In itself it is unorganized and formless. By means of officials and their special powers it becomes a state. A public articulated and operating through representative officers is the state; there is no state without a government, but also there is none without the public. (67)

The net import of our discussion is that a state is a distinctive and secondary form of association, having a specifiable work to do and specified organs of operation. (71)

The all-inclusive nature of the state signifies only that officers of the public (including, of course, law-makers) may act so as to fix conditions under which any form of association operates; its comprehensive character refers only to the impact of its behavior. (72)

The Democratic State

Singular persons are the foci of action, mental and moral, as well as overt. They are subject to all kinds of social influences which determine what they can think of, plan and choose. The conflicting streams of social influence come to a single and conclusive issue only in personal consciousness and deed. It arrives at decisions, makes terms and executes resolves only through the medium of individuals. They are officers; they represent the Public, but the Public acts only through them. We say in a country like our own that legislators and executives are elected by the public. The phrase might appear to indicate that the Public acts. But, after all, individual men and women exercise the franchise; the public is here a collective name for a multitude of persons each voting as an anonymous unit. (75)

By our hypothesis all governments are representative in that they purport to stand for the interests which a public has in the behavior of individuals and groups. (76)

The essential problem is that of transforming the action of such hands [individual] so that it will be animated by regard of social ends. (82)

But one of the meanings [of democracy] is strictly political, for it denotes a mode of government, a specified practice in selecting officials and regulating their conduct as officials. (82)

We have insisted that the development of political democracy represents the convergence of a great number of social movements, no one of which owed either its origin or its impetus to inspiration of democratic ideals or to planning for the eventual outcome. (85)

Popular franchise and majority rule afforded the imagination a picture of individuals in their untrammeled individual sovereignty making the state. (101)

The idea of a natural individual in his isolation possessed of full-fledged wants, of energies to be expended according to his own volition, and of a ready-made faculty of foresight and prudent calculation is as much a fiction in psychology as the doctrine of the individual in possession of antecedent political rights is one in politics. (102)

Associated behavior directed toward objects which fulfill wants not only produces those objects, but brings customs and institutions into being. (106)

Instead of independent, self-moved individuals contemplated by the theory, we have standardized interchangeable units. Persons are joined together, not because they have voluntarily chosen to be united in these forms, but because vast currents are running which bring men together. (107)

In a word, the new forms of combined action due to the modern economic regime control present politics, much as dynastic interests controlled those of two centuries ago. The affect thinking and desire more than did the interests which formerly moved the state. (108)

The Eclipse of the Public

An inchoate public is capable of organization only when indirect consequences are perceived, and when it is possible to project agencies which order their occurrence. At present, many consequences are felt rather than perceived; they are suffered, but they cannot be said to be known, for they are not, by those who experience them, referred to their origins. It goes, then, without saying that agencies are not established which canalize the streams of social action and thereby regulate them. Hence the publics are amorphous and unarticulated. (131)

It is not that there is no public, no large body of persons having a common interest in the consequences of social transactions. There is too much public, a public too diffused and scattered and too intricate in composition. And there are too many publics, for conjoint actions which have indirect, serious and enduring consequences are multitudinous beyond comparison, and each of them crosses the others and generates its own group of persons especially affected with little to hold these different publics together in an integrated whole. (137)

Politics thus tends to become just another “business”: the especial concern of bosses and the managers of the machine. (138)

How can a public be organized, we may ask, when literally it does not stay in place? (140)

Search for the Great Community

From the standpoint of the individual, it [democracy] consists in having a responsible share according to capacity in forming and directing these activities of the groups to which one belongs and in participating according to need in the values which the groups sustain. From the standpoint of the groups, it demands liberation of the potentialities of members of a group in harmony with the interests and goods which are common. Since every individual is a member of many groups, this specification cannot be fulfilled except when different groups interact flexibly and fully in connection with other groups. (147)

Regarded as an idea, democracy is not an alternative to other principles of associated life. It is the idea of community itself. It is an ideal in the only intelligible sense of an ideal: namely, the tendency and movement of some thing which exists carried to its final limit, viewed as completed, perfected. Since things do not attain such fulfillment but are in actuality distracted and interfered with, democracy in this sense is not a fact and never will be. But neither in this sense is there or has there ever been anything which is a community in its full measure, a community unalloyed by alien elements. (148)

In its just connection with communal experience, fraternity is another name for the consciously appreciated goods which accrue from an association in which all share, and which give direction to the conduct of each. Liberty is that secure release and fulfillment of personal potentialities which take place only in rich and manifold association with others: the power to be an individualized self making a distinctive contribution and enjoying in its own way the fruits of association. Equality denotes the unhampered share with each individual member of the community has in the consequences of associated action. (150)

But no amount of aggregated collective action of itself constitutes a community. For beings who observe and think, and whose ideas are absorbed by impulses and become sentiments and interests, “we” is as inevitable as “I”. but “we” and “our” exist only when the consequences of combined action are perceived and become an object of desire and effort, just as “I” and “mine” appear on the scene only when a distinctive share in mutual action is consciously asserted or claimed. (151-152)

A community thus presents an order of energies transmuted into one of meanings which are appreciated and mutually referred by each to every other on the part of those engaged in combined action. “Force” is not eliminated but is transformed in use and direction by ideas and sentiments made possible by means of symbols. (153)

But in fact, knowledge is a function of association and communication; it depends upon tradition, upon tools and methods socially transmitted, developed and sanctioned. Faculties of effectual observation, reflection and desire are habits acquired under the influence of the culture and institutions of society, not ready-made inherent powers. (158 – individual is not ready-made and self-sufficient, born in a community)

No man and no mind was ever emancipated merely by being left alone. Removal of formal limitations is but a negative condition; positive freedom is not a state but an act which involves methods and instrumentalities for control of conditions. (168)

Communication of the results of social inquiry is the same thing as the formation of public opinion. (177)

Without coordination and consecutiveness, events are not events, but mere occurrences, intrusions; an event implies that out of which a happening proceeds. (180)

In fact, both words, individual and social, are hopelessly ambiguous, and the ambiguity will never cease as long as we think in terms of an antithesis. (186)

Categories: John Dewey, poliitika, sotsiaal

Ladislav Holy & Milan Stuchlik “Actions, Norms and Representations”

November 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Holy, L.; Stuchlik, M. (1983). Actions, norms and representations: foundations of anthropological inquiry. Cambridge University Press.

[…] though a given society might be conceived of as consisting of permanent discrete groups, such a conception represents the notional level of reality: it is a model the members (or the anthropologist) have of their society. The manifestation of the groups in actual interactional situations cannot be assumed to follow automatically from their existence at the notional level; to present it as such would lead to a considerable simplification of our explanatory models. (113)

[…] the relation between social facts and the actions of individuals is not intrinsic and logical and hence it is problematic. We conceive of the social world not as composed of ’things’, as being an ’objective’ reality sui generis, but as a set of intersubjectively shared notions. Since individuals are at the same time assumed to behave in such a way as to attain their specific goals, the problem is that of how the purposive, or goal-oriented activities lead to the emergence and recreation of this intersubjectively shared world. (116)

The assumption of the intentionality of behaviour is not then an obstacle to studying the social consequences of this behaviour. Quite the contrary, it makes it possible to give meaningful accounts of how these consequences emerge, how they are combined into sets of limiting conditions for subsequent actions and how they become perceived by the actors themselves as being external to them and having an existence independent of them. (117)

[…] any analysis of social life has to begin by studying specific social encounters from the viewpoint of how they are constituted and how, as a result, social reality is created. (119)

In a way, social structure is a foreign element in the world we are studying, insofar as no member of society indulges in statistical descriptions, but it is legitimate since we do not propose that is should be used either as explanatory or as an analytical tool: merely as a description of the field of study. (120)

[…] this concept of social structure has several important advantages. In the first place, it permits us to conceive a multitude of concrete social encounters as a field with a non-random distribution of elements. In the second place, it permits us to locate encounters, and thereby the corresponding knowledge, in which the degree of consent, or of sharing of the knowledge, is less intensive and therefore the scope of individual manipulation easier. […] And in the third place, since such social structure is always anchored in time, i.e. describes the social world as it is at the moment when the statistics were made, it permits us to identify specific changes. (120)

[…] the anthropologist is not explaining social reality as it exists in the only meaningful possible sense, but through his explanation creating it. Since social reality exists only as a meaningful reality, it is through creating meaning that social reality itself is created. (121)

Quentin Meillassoux “History and Event in Alain Badiou”

November 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Meillassoux, Quentin 2011. History and Event in Alain Badiou. – Parrhesia 12: 1-11

I will thus attempt to explain a nodal and seemingly paradoxical thesis of Badiou’s: that there is only a history of the eternal, because only the eternal proceeds from the event. In other words: there is only a history of truths insofar as all truth is strictly eternal and impossible to reduce to any relativism. (1)

To be, in the most general and fundamental sense, is to be a set, and therefore a multiplicity. Hence Badiou’s ontological thesis: being is multiplicity—and, we should add: nothing but multiplicity. In other words, being is multiple to the strict exclusion of its opposite—namely, the One. (2)

The event is thus for Badiou a multiple belonging to itself: a reflexive multiple counted among the number of its elements. (2)

Let us wager the following formulation: the event is that multiple which, presenting itself, exhibits the inconsistency underlying all situations, and in a flash throws into a panic, their constituted classifications. The novelty of an event is expressed in the fact that it interrupts the normal regime of the description of knowledge, that always rests on the classification of the well known, and imposes another kind of procedure on whomever admits that, right here in this place, something hitherto unnamed really and truly occurred. (2)

[…] the subject is thus the name of the faithful operations of an evental trace, i.e. having wagered on the existence of the event, and having decided to follow out its consequences. (3)

The subject is thus the invention of a fidelity to that which, might have, taken place, in such a way as to produce partially, by a sequence of finite operations, a truth whose being is, in relation to the subject, always infinite. (3)

A truth is such an infinite multiple, always coming and making a hole in knowledge, the result of a fidelity concerned with the unlimited consequences of an event. Emancipated society, mathematized science, love subverting sexual difference by inventing a new bond between men and women, artistic discipline calling for the revolution of a form: such are the four types of truths—produced by the four procedures of politics, science, love, and art—that may create, albeit rarely, a subject capable of making an exception to the ordinary regime of knowledge, opinion, egoism, and boredom. (3)

There is no truth, as new as it may be, which does not claim to be realizing an idea that was not already germinal in a largely unknown, or misinterpreted past. (4)

This is why truths are eternal and historical, eternal because they are historical: they insist in history, tying together temporal segments across the centuries, always unfolding more profoundly the infinity of their potential consequences, through captivated subjects, separated sometimes by distant epochs, but all equally transfixed by the urgent eventality that illuminates their present. (4)

In themselves, ontological multiples lack the order that the empirical given manifests for us: they are only multiples made of other multiples. […] It is always the count that introduces the One: a house, a brick, a molecule are one because they are counted as one. (4)

Now, according to Badiou, who is in this respect a materialist, the subject is never constitutive, but constituted. As we have seen, the subject is rare, generally non-individual (the political subject can be a party, a revolutionary army, the subject in love is the couple, etc.); it is sequential (temporally finite), and it always depends on the taking place of an event that it itself cannot produce. (5)

The central question of LW will then be to show how a truth appears in a world—and in particular how the same truth—transhistorical, transworldly, and ultimately eternal—can appear in distinct worlds. This appearance of a truth in a world, Badiou calls a subject-body: a mode of appearance in a world determined by a subject that has developed its fidelity to the trace of an event. (5)

[…] “There are only bodies and languages, except that there are truths.” These truths that Badiou always calls “eternal” are admittedly made only of bodies and languages, but regardless of what the relativists say, the infinite being of a truth always exceeds the perishable existence of material by which it is comes to light. (6)

The form of the faithful subject consists thus in the subordination of the split body to the trace of the event by which it constitutes, point by point, a new present. (7) (The term “points” should be understood as that which confronts the global situation with a choice in which4 a “yes or no” is at stake … (6))

Thus, we can see the outline of what Badiou calls the three possible “destinations” of the subject: the faithful subject organizes the production of the evental present, the reactive subject, its denial, and the obscure subject its occultation. (7)

The event in its strong sense, is what Badiou calls a singularity: the proper criteria of which is, as I said, to bring about the intense appearance of a being that up until then was invisible in the situation, though its being was already present. (7)

[…] according to Badiou, being is static: it is made up of multiples always dispersed to infinity. […] It is this eternal inconsistency of being that rises, as it were, to the surface with the event, along with its its capacity to overturn the classifications and well ordered consistent distinctions of ordinary knowledge. Appearance, on the other hand, is that which, as diffracted in an infinity of conjoined and fragile aspects, never ceases to multiply in diverse worlds where it is locally identifiable. The same being (identical in its multiple-being) can thus appear in multiple different worlds in very different and equally fragile ways. (8)

The intensity of the appearance of a being in a world is what Badiou calls existence. Contrary to being, the specificity of existence consists in the fact that it admits of infinite variations between one world and another. The same multiple will be able to exist maximally in one world and very weakly in another, where it will be practically effaced. In this way Badiou captures the fact that the same being exists in a more or less intense way as a function of the contexts where it appears. (8)

Thus, Badiou aims to show that the novel is not so much the creation of something new out of nothing, but rather the intense manifestation of something that was already there. (8)

A world without any event is not a fixed world, but a world that follows the ordinary course of things and their modification. (9)

The first type of evental change, is that of the weakest scope: the fact. This is an event whose appearance in a world is of weak intensity, and whose consequences in this world are trivial and seen as null. […] As opposed to fact, the strong singularity is an event of maximal intensity, that brings into existence the inexistent proper to the site that supports the event. […] Finally, between the two, weak singularities are events whose scope is intermediate: for example, according to Badiou, the foundation of the Third Republic, that was supported by a real popular movement, but that was rapidly arrogated by established politicians of the time in such a way that the inexistent proper to the site-object (the political capacity of the worker) was not brought to light. (9)

Todor Hristov “Making Difference Work”

November 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Hristov, Todor 2010. Making Difference Work: Post-Socialist Biopolitics through the Lens of Rey Chow. – Social Semiotics 20:4: 425-439

The objects of biopower were always defined as populations, rather than (as was the case with disciplinary or juridico-political power) as individuals, enemies or other governments. And its object was not only what we are used to calling ‘‘the population’’, but also multitudes like the poor, the aged, the peasants, and so forth. (426)

The invention of this [post-socialist] narrative of captivity, which shaped the dominant political language of the media in the 1990s, confronted the public with the choice either to speak it or to display itself as unable to speak the political language, and therefore unable to speak politically. Yet if the public chose to speak the language of captivity, then protests became unproductive  because the post-socialist narrative of captivity justified the curtailment of social rights as being the price the Bulgarian population had to pay for its emancipation. (429)

If […] one decides to protest not against his or her past captivity, but against the reforms, then one takes the side of the past against the present, and once again ends up in the position of self-inflicted captivity. (430)

Indeed, many of the so-called universal values operate in a similar way. They are embedded in arguments to which one cannot say ‘‘no’’ if one means what one says, and therefore even if one nevertheless chooses to say ‘‘no’’ one cannot mean what one says; take, for example, the irresistibility of the arguments advocating military intervention in the name of universal humanity. (430)

The narrative of captivity comes to be self-referential, because the discriminated populations are described as captive in the very process of their emancipation from captivity. (431)

[…] being intolerant is perhaps the most effective way to forfeit one’s rights, to put oneself in the situation of a person unable to exercise his or her freedom without infringing on the freedom of the others, a person who therefore does not deserve tolerance and should be subjected to competent guardians like the government (Chow 2002a, 11). (433)

The constellation of the post-socialist narrative of captivity, semiotics of abnormality and intolerance articulates a situation comparable with ethnicity, in which one is refused an equal treatment – for example, by being exposed to poverty, exploitation, and disease – and at the same time is unable to protest without displaying oneself as intolerant and therefore undeserving of equal treatment. (434)

The weak interpretation claims that a sign is self-referential if it does not stand for a referent. Of course, this does not mean that self-referential signs refer to nothing, but rather that their reference cannot be reduced to a referent; that is, to an entity, to one (in the sense of Alain Badiou). […]The political language developed by the post-socialist biopolitical agents is self-referential in that weaker sense because the reference to the excluded from the governmental concern with life is supplemented with captivity, emancipation, abnormality, and ethnicity. […] Self-referentiality in the weak sense examined by Rey Chow is founded on a comparable discursive mechanism that suspends the law of the excluded middle; that is, makes one unable to say whether it does or does not refer to something. (435)

The crucial political advantage of the self-referential language of discrimination developed by the post-socialist biopolitical agents comes precisely from the fact that one is unable to say what it does not refer to, and therefore one is unable to say ‘‘no’’ to it without putting oneself in the position of a loser. Therefore it allows the biopolitical agents to treat any population as ethnic, to expose its life to poverty or disease while channeling its protests into more government, or in a word to do to majorities what the modern governments used to do to minorities. (436)

Dave Holmes & Blake Poland “Celebrating Risk”

November 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Holmes, Dave; Poland, Blake 2009. Celebrating Risk: The Politics of Self-Branding, Transgression & Resistance in Public Health. – Aporia Vol. 1 No. 4: 27-36

[…] the branding of oneself arises  from  a  need  to  display  one’s  “transgressive”  identity with  the  ultimate  (intended)  goal  of  defying  the  dominant public health discourse. Marking one’s own body becomes a means of taking possession of it in order to use it as a locus not only of suffering but also of pleasure and rebellion. (28)

[…] we argue, branding the self, as an act of defiant resistance, also necessarily, if unwittingly, serves to consolidate the imbrications of the self in the social, perpetuating some of the same power relations transgressors seek to challenge and disrupt. (28)

We  deliberately  chose  the  expression  branding  as  opposed to  body  transformation  to  underscore  that  we  do  not  see  a radical  break  from  use  of  wearing  of  brand  logo  clothing, and other means of displaying physical capital, but rather a continuum  of  possibilities  for  the  construction  and  display of  identity,  aesthetics  /  politics  of  the  self. (29)

Contrary  to  aesthetic  affirmation,  branding  could  mean extreme  dissidence  from  society  or  be  a  reflection  of  an extreme form of resistance to social directives. In this way, the  body  is  intended  to  be  a  surface  on  which  to  display markings that also show a radical refusal of the conditions of existence (skinheads and punks, for example). (32)

Desires and pleasures, like power, constitute  a  positive  force  that  can  be  expressed  under  the form  of  resistance.  Deleuze  and  Guattari[48]  suggest  that social  norms  attempt  to  exercise  their  power  by  marking (mapping) and shaping the body. In this schema, the body is not a collection of organs, but an inscriptive body. Much like a political map, where most geological realities of the area are  obscured  to  the  mercy  of  political  borders,  the  body  is a ‘political surface’ on which laws, social values and moral predicaments are inscribed.[49] (32)

The  body  and  its  surfaces  are  a  medium  where  identity  is both enacted as well as socially patrolled. Branding practices respond to and are shaped by the larger social context that shapes the bodies in question. (32)

One of the paradoxes of a risk-averse  (and  safer)  society  therefore  is  a  growing  (albeit minority) segment of society that increasingly feels the need to seek out ever more dangerous risks. It is in the flirting with death that some feel most fully alive. (33)

The question is how a reflexive public health can best deal with the  phenomenon  of  resistance,  so  as  to  not  unnecessarily feed it. […] If the exertion of power inevitably produces resistance which in turn ‘produces’ reactions from the  authorities,  is  there  any  way  out  of  the  vicious  circle? (33)

In terms of Public Health practice, a shift from moralistic (and often stigmatizing) intervention designs (campaigns) toward an approach of solidarity (understanding and acceptance of the other), is, we feel, imperative if we wish to avoid pushing resistance to further extremes. (34)

Slavoj Žižek “Resistance Is Surrender”

November 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Žižek, Slavoj 2007. Resistance Is Surrender: What to Do about Capitalism. – London Review of Books Vol. 29 No. 22. (

The big demonstrations in London and Washington against the US attack on Iraq a few years ago offer an exemplary case of this strange symbiotic relationship between power and resistance. Their paradoxical outcome was that both sides were satisfied. The protesters saved their beautiful souls: they made it clear that they don’t agree with the government’s policy on Iraq. Those in power calmly accepted it, even profited from it: not only did the protests in no way prevent the already-made decision to attack Iraq; they also served to legitimise it. Thus George Bush’s reaction to mass demonstrations protesting his visit to London, in effect: ‘You see, this is what we are fighting for, so that what people are doing here – protesting against their government policy – will be possible also in Iraq!’

The lesson here is that the truly subversive thing is not to insist on ‘infinite’ demands we know those in power cannot fulfil. Since they know that we know it, such an ‘infinitely demanding’ attitude presents no problem for those in power: ‘So wonderful that, with your critical demands, you remind us what kind of world we would all like to live in. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, where we have to make do with what is possible.’ The thing to do is, on the contrary, to bombard those in power with strategically well-selected, precise, finite demands, which can’t be met with the same excuse.

Roger Chartier vs Hayden White

November 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Chartier, Roger 2000. Neli küsimust Hayden White’ile. – Vikerkaar 8/9: 76-87

[…] minu esimene küsimus: kas on võimalik ilme tõsiste vasturääkivusteta ühendada Saussure’i-järgset lingvistikat ja ajaloolase kui loovkirjaniku vabadust? (81)

Tema [Hayden White’i] taotluseks pole niisiis kirjeldada või käsitleda klassikalise retoorika reegleid; ja ma arvan, et eksived need, kes süüdistavad teda viimase lihtsustamises või reetmises. White’ile on oluline miski muu: tuvastada need baasstruktuurid, millest lähtudes on võimalik produtseerida kõiki võimalikke figuraalseid diskursusi, see tähendab klassikalise ja uusklassikalise retoorika nelia troopi. (81)

Niisugune [tropoloogiline] lähenemine on otseselt formalistlik […], eeldades invariantsete mentaalstruktuuride olemasolu, mida võib tekstides tuvastada sõltumatult viimaste loomisajast ja –keskkonnast (kuna nende kultuuriruum [Lääne] on kord juba määratletud). Selles mõttes on ajaloolise kujutluse ja laiemalt igasuguse figuuriloome tropoloogiline ülesehitus täielikult lahutatud retoorika kui kõne- ja veenmiskunsti ajaloolistest vormidest. (81)

Siit minu teine küsimus: kas on õigustatud kasutada keelelise ja poeetilise prefiguratsiooni mudelit, arvestamata retoorika ajalooliselt väga muutlikku tähendust ja eri autorite erinevat lähedusastet selle kõnekorrastusviisiga, mis renessansist 19. sajandini ei ole püsinud sugugi ühtse ja muutumatuna. (82)

Lähtudes […] vähem kitsast „teaduse“ määratlusest kui Hayden White’i oma, teeb de Certeau ettepaneku pidada ajalugu teadmisi produtseerivaks „teaduslikuks“ praktikaks, kuid selliseks „teaduslikuks“ praktikaks, mis nagu kõik teisedki on sõltuv tehniliste võtete muutumisest, sotsiaalse situatsiooni ja teadmiste institutsiooni poolt tingitud piirangutest ning samuti reeglitest, mis paratamatult mõjutavad ajaloolase kirjutust. Määratleda ajaloouurimise „teaduslikkust“ kui võimalikult suurt vastavust referentsiaalsele tegelikkusele ei tähenda eitada tema põhjapanevalt narratiivset loomust […] (83-84) (kolmas küs: kuidas hinnata, kui ajalugu ei erine ilukirjanduslikest teadmistest?)

Kas pole ajalookirjutuse uurimise eesmärgiks tuvastada, kuidas ajaloolased kasutavad igal konkreetsel ajalooperioodil uurimistehnikaid ja kriitikaprotseduure, mis tagavad, olgugi ebavõrdsel määral, nende diskuruse „aususe“ ja „objektiivsuse“? (87) – White üritab „mööda minna aususe, referentsiaalsuse probleemist“

White, Hayden 2000. Vastused professor Chartier’ neljale küsimusele. – Vikerkaar 8/9: 88-97


1)      […] ma ei näe mingit västurääkivust ühelt poolt idee vahel, et antud kultuuris ringlevad (keelelised ja muud) koodid seavad piirid sellele, mida on võimalik ütelda, ja idee vahel, et koode saab enam või vähem vabalt, enam või vähem teadlikult valida. Ma olen kõnelenud diskursusest, mitte kosmosest. (88)

2)      […] see tropoloogiateooria, mida olen kasutanud iseloomustamaks käsitletavate ajaloolaste erinevaid figuratsioonistiile, oli Lääne kultuuris dominantne hilisrenessansist kuni modernismini. 20. sajandil on seda vahelduva eduga taaselustatud, revideeritud ja rakendatud diskursuste analüüsimisel. Olen kasutanud seda teooriat mudelina, et iseloomustada erinevaid strateegiaid […] käsitlesin neid […] „poeetilise loogika“ alusena, mis suunab diskursusi palju otsesemalt kui ükskõik milline süllogistliku loogika variant. (88-89)

3)      Reaalset sündmust, isikut, protsessi, suhet või mida tahes ei saa teisendada diskursuse „funktsiooniks“ ilma teda „fiktsionaliseerimata“, mille all ma pean silmas sündmuse „figuuristamist“. Reaalsuse aine ülekandmine diskursuse aineks ongi fiktsionaliseerimine. (90) […] paljud neist „vaevarohketest ja nõudlikest toimingutest“, millest kõneleb Chartier, kuuluvad õpetatuse ja eruditsiooni „teatri“ juurde: sellel on rituaalne funktsioon, mis peab andma tunnistust ajaloolase heausksusest ja meenutama midagi tõsiteadusliku protseduuri taolist. (90) Kuid sedasorti „ausus“ ja „objektiivsus“, millele pretendeerivad ajaloolased, on seotud erudeeritud õpetlastöö konventsioonidega, mis kehtivad teatud ajas ja kohas erinevate õpetlaskollektiivide eriomastes valdkondades. Ühesõnaga ajaloolaste „objektiivsus“ ja „ausus“, nagu nende edastatavad „faktidki“, sõltuvad nende tegutsemise ajas ja kohas valitsevatest kultuuriideaalidest. (92)

4)      Ma ei arva, et vastutustundlik relativism viiks nihilismi. Ma ei usu, et kõige kohta saab öelda, „mida aga soovitakse“. Ma ei usu, et keel determineeriks sündmusi, kuid ma arvan, et need tähendused, mida me sündmustele anname, on produtseeritud keeles ja keele poolt. Seda sellepärast, et ma ei arva, nagu oleksid tähendused sündmustele […] seesmiselt omased. (93)