August 18, 2004

Boredom-mongering epistemonauts and RMV

Just to bring together a few thoughts coalescing in the comments boxes:

What the Humanities Academy (I limit this to the Humanities because I think the situation is more complex with science) is in the business of propagating is Representational Mind Virus (RMV).

Its trick is so simple and subtle that it can often be easy to miss it.

An example.

Deleuze-Guattari talk about machines.

The RMV lockdown move is to then say, 'Deleuze-Guattari's image/ metaphor of a machine'.

Why is this bad?

Well, because RMV systematically moves the issue away from practice - 'what can we do with this?' - to representation - 'what does this mean? how might it change the sort of language and images that we privilege in our discourse?'

Obviously a representation of a remorseless gleaming terminator is no more machinic than a representation of a cuddly toy.

When D/G talk about machinic analysis, they simply mean: don't deal with representations, representations only function as Fuzz; treat things, not as objects, still less as aesthetic objects, but as (decomposable) assemblages of potentials and affects.

(That incidentally is why they are both anti-popist and anti-rockist Lol).

Posted by mark at August 18, 2004 01:34 PM | TrackBack

I'm showing my ignorance here, but... I thought "old fashioned" humanities tried to, in your example, deal with "the machines" as described by D&G directly... then critical theory came along and focused on the representation of "the machines"... so it seems to me that you're now asking us to go back to trad humanities that deal with the essence of the subject rather than its semiotics... no?

Posted by: paul "the mover" meme at August 18, 2004 03:22 PM

It's a classic double pincer --- in philosophical terms, the empirical (we just know what things are) versus the transcendental (we must continually worry about what the conditions of possibility for what x or y are) ---- e.g. empirical: that's a chair, transcendental: how is it possible for us to know what a chair is? ...but IN BOTH CASES it is about representation --- in the case of empiricism, how do we represent x or why thing or process, in the case of the transcendental arguments of structuralism and post-structuralism (and their various somewhat less than rigorous progeny in Cult Studs) a kind of meta-representationalism: what forces allowed x set of representations to emerge.
Problem in both cases is that they are not sufficiently abstract and they are not asking what things DO....

Posted by: mark at August 18, 2004 04:13 PM

This reminds me of something i read a long while back saying that the crucial modern to postmodern shift occurrs simultaneously, or maybe as a result of, the academic segue from epistemological questioning (in what ways may i know this world) to ontological questioning (which world, of all possible worlds, is this?). i suppose one way of looking at this kind of shift is in terms of an the increasing pacification of the subject - the thinker becomes the onlooker in a process which incrementally subsitutes interrogation of empirical reality for aestheticisation of possible reality.

However, whether or not it's the academy that pushes forward this type of shift, it seems to me that there's also a problem with searching for some kind of prelapsarian (or utopian!) ideal of things as 'doing things', as mechanistic drivers of change. aren't there some connotations with utilitarianism here, which is, i guess, what you're left with when you abandon all thoughts of transcendentalism? i'm not properly familiar with the wider k-punk/ccru thesis so sorry if this sounds at all reductive...

Posted by: Jay at August 18, 2004 05:09 PM

(blub blub blub... sound of me going in over my head)...

But isn't "asking what things DO" pretty much the same as "how do we represent x or why thing or process"? (The "why thing" -- lovely neologism!)

(Give up Paul, you'll never pass philosophy O-level...)

Posted by: paul "the mover" meme at August 18, 2004 08:59 PM

OK, back to the post itself:

RMV systematically moves the issue away from practice

Now this I think I get. From a magickal viewpoint, it's the shift from meditational contemplation to operative magic, to active engagement with nature / the forces / The Old Ones / Lady Luck etc. (However there is a spectrum of engagement from meditation to magic and back again if you do it right, rather than a dichotomy.)

I can just see how academe could collapse the active engagement bit.

Posted by: paul "the mover" meme at August 18, 2004 09:05 PM

Jay, you shd join the collective --- email me if you want a log in to post here....

The postmodernist thing of epistemology to ontology is I think in McHale's brilliant book Postmodernist Fiction.

I wrote about it here....

Thing is, you have to go all the way round with it. Outside RMV, everything is 'doing something' ---- even RMV. That is the white magic of representation: it is obv doing something to people: i.e. producing this fake level of transcendence that disconnects words from any effective power/. affective power.

As for mechanistic drivers of change: from the POV of the Cold Rationalism Ray Brassier, Infinite Thought, Robin Undercurrent and myself are pushing, you can never be too mechanistic. Mechanism just means the thought that everything has a cause. What has to be ruthlessly hunted down is the belief that some things are just like that or can't be analysed or subjected to reason. But this isn't utilitarianism, or needn't be. For a Spinozist, utilitarianism is too teleological. Spinozism, or punk, is about starting from where you are and doing what is immediately effective. Utilitarianism is about making complex calculations about possible futural outcomes and basing your current behavioiur on such unsubstantiable speculations. Do what is effective here now, that's Spinozism.

Posted by: mark at August 18, 2004 10:56 PM

Er, actually the above post should've gone into the "Speaking of the Fuzz" comment box, but you know what I mean.

Posted by: CarterM at August 19, 2004 12:47 AM