Re: The dialectic must be broken

Or one could, as I was at least to my own mind doing, put forth a broken
dialectic. To think dialectically is not necessarily to propose a
dialectic (of reason, consciousness, history, relations of production,
master and slave, and so forth). To think dialectically, as I meant it,
is to confront an opposition (both sides of which have some sort of
impact or attraction for one) and find a third term which neither accepts
nor negates the initial opposition. It is the kind of work one does, for
instance, when one believes in the deconstruction of
certain distinctions but finds oneself in a position in which this sort of
distinction must be made. This third term, in my dialectic, is not, as
it was for Hegel, a higher plane, but is an expansive move;--latteral
rather than upward, different rather than higher. Heidegger's term,
Verwindung, is close.

To think dialectically, as I mean it, is to refuse to get caught in the
situation in which one protects his or her theories or beliefs from any
sort of contamination, compromise, and complicity.

It is to apply ideas or concepts into situations which were formerly
unimaginable, which seems to disrupt an imaginary but fiercly defended
conceptual immaculateness--so altering and reforming one's ideas, even
oneself, because of contact with the opposite or contrary.

To think dialectically does not mean that everything should not, as
Derrida put it, be "strategic and adventurous."


On Wed, 24 Jan 1996, flannon wrote:

> On Tue, 23 Jan 1996, Erik D Lindberg wrote:
> > I guess what I am trying to move toward
> > is some sort of dialectical understanding. Any dialectic does not leave
> > the initial sides intact. But you know what, THAT'S OKAY. My
> > Foucauldianism can use some growth (Foucault would approve); social
> > policy can use some redirection, even if preceeded by the disorienation
> > that an encounter with a Foucauldian might bring.
> >
> > dialectically yours,
> >
> > Erik
> >
> >
> I find this nostalgia for the return of the dialectic kiind of
> interesting, and jsut a bit disturbing. I first came across this
> attitude a couple of years ago when Fredrick Jameson was in town to give
> a lecture. In the lecture he characterized the 70's as a time when the
> dialectic had been broken and he specifically attributed this effect to
> Foucault. He then went on to say that today the dialectic had been
> reconfigured and re-invigorated, but he gave no indication of how this
> miraculous renewal might have occured. So afterwards I went up and
> asked him just how this happened and he blew me off with some fascile
> non-sense that now we have the historical perspective to be dialectical
> again and he still wanted to hold to his account that Foucault had indeed
> disrupted the dialectic in some fundamental fashion. More recently
> there's been quit a bit of talk, both on this list and on the marxism
> list as well as in the popular academic press, about the death of
> post-modernism and the return of the dialectic. In general I'm puzzled
> by all of this and I find it particularly odd here. After all, there is
> a consistent attempt in Foucault to assault dialectical positions and the
> closer they imply. As but one example here's a bit from "What is
> Enlightenment", " [does not have] to be "for" or against the
> Enlightenment. It even means that one has to refuse everything that
> might present itself in the form of a simplistic and authoritarian
> alternative: you either accept the Enlightenmetn and remainwithin the
> tradition of its rationalism (this is considered a positive term by some
> and used by other, on the contrary, as a reproach); or else you criticize
> the Enlightenment and then try to escape from its principles of
> rationality (which may be seen once again as good or bad). And we do not
> break free of this blackmail by introducing "dialectical nuances while
> seeking to determine what good and bad elements there may be in the
> Enlightenment."
> So I guess my question is -- is the nostalgia for the dialectic the
> symptom of an inability to deal with Nietzsche, or maybe not an
> inability but a desire not to want to have to deal with Nietzsche as he
> occures in Foucault; or, on a broader plain, a desire to maintain a
> certainty and an easy clarity within the history of philosophy which just
> doesn't stand in the face of Nietzschean implications?
> Flannon

Erik D. Lindberg
Dept. of English and Comparative Lit.
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Milwaukee, WI 53211
email: edl@xxxxxxxxxxx


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