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I don't find myself fundamentally wedded to the concept of critique either. However, as I do find the concept to be of some importance I think it's worth trying to figure out what it is and what it could be. That is most definitely not because I believe that there is some "ever truer Critique just over the horizon" but just because we should try to generate a concept of critique that is worthy of all the time, attention and energy that it receives. I'm just not sure that 'critique,' at present, deserves its status as master signifier.
Toggle Commented Jun 22, 2012 on Critique at I cite
But what IS critique? Naysaying capitalism? This is what I mean about people being uncritical about critique. It's treated like it's sacrosanct but it's not particularly clear what people even think that it is.
Toggle Commented Jun 21, 2012 on Critique at I cite
Absolutely. There is no concept in the academy that is taken as uncritically as 'critique' itself. I've thought and written about this a bit myself recently, albeit in a less cutting and succinct fashion! Etymologically (my dictionary informs me) 'critique' and 'critic' derive from both Greek and Latin words for 'judgement,' with literary associations. The Greek 'krinein' means to separate or decide and is also the root of 'crisis.' I think it also helps to associate critique with two other meanings of 'critical' -- that is, ‘unstable’ and ‘important.’ On this basis we can say that to engage in critique is (or should be) to exercise incisive judgement to render unstable things that are questionable, or to separate, judge and better understand things that are in crisis. Such an endeavour is critically important. Unfortunately, ‘critique’ itself has become the least incisively judged, the least unstable and perhaps even the most pointless of academic endeavours. It’s not even clear just what the word means much of the time. For some it seems to be little more than saying damning things about the state, or capitalism, or war, or patriarchy or whatever, which is all well and good as far as it goes but it doesn't go far enough. When discussed theoretically it usually turns out to be some half-baked admixture of Kant, Marx and Derrida, usually avoiding specifics by taking the opportunity to assassinate ‘uncritical’ straw men instead. Being 'critical' has become more of a pose or a demeanour than anything substantial. It's a social signifier, a territorial marker, a pin badge, a way that people identify with a particular kind of academic self-identity. I don't entirely agree with Latour's essays on critique but he's been saying something similar for a number of years. (e.g. his essay 'Why has critique run out of steam?'.) His basic point is that critique has become too easy, too cheap. It's like it's been 'miniaturised' and is now embedded in everything. The problem we face today is not a lack of critical mindedness or a lack of cynicism. On the contrary, we have a hyper-abundance of both, within the academy and without. But it is an unfocused, aimless, fetishised critique that does no one any good at all. Everyone knows that politicians are corrupt and businesses are selfish and men treat women badly and the powerful suit themselves and subvert others. But this knowledge is politically paralysing rather than rabble-rousing or invigorating because the misery just seems too monolithic and impenetrable to ever be challenged. Critique as practiced at present tends to reinforce this impression as it finds power and manipulation everywhere, under every rock, behind everyone’s back, insinuated into every nook and cranny of our lives. People, quite reasonably, conclude that they might as well make the best of what they’ve got since, well, what’s the alternative? More and more critique-for-its-own-sake won’t help this state of affairs; it won’t render these affairs critical. It may even make matters worse. That said, we mustn’t abandon the concept or throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater; we must reconstruct the concept and reclaim what is of value in the critical tradition. Critique is no longer critical in three senses of that word: with respect to questioning itself, rendering things unstable or being important. We need to address all three of these failures, in order. And perhaps it’s time to question whether the university is the best setting for these projects. After all, most good critiques were written either from prison or from poverty. Philip.
Toggle Commented Jun 19, 2012 on Critique at I cite
"Imagine, Lloyd Blankfein depends on lots of people to do his dirty work. What happens when lots of them stop? When no one will drive him anywhere? When no one will tell him his schedule? When no one will prepare his food or take out his trash or fix his furnance? What if everybody is too busy occupying everywhere?" The first rule of fight club is...
I'd be very interested to hear something more specific about neuroscience as the post-political Freudianism. While I am not in the least bit hostile to the train of thought, it certainly isn't immediately obvious to me why neuroscience is to Freud what neo-liberalism is to Marx. is now following The Typepad Team
May 16, 2010