Re: R: postmodernism and liberalism

Thanks for the bibliography.

>> >Hence the Gulf War becomes more
>> > important as a media spectacle than as a reality etc, etc.
>> And that would be Baudrillard, no?
>Yes but I've put it badly. Obviously its legitimate to argue that an event
>is more important as spectacle than reality but it's highly problematic to
>imply or in some way treat it as only a spectacle.

I would agree.

>> I think the end of colonialism is up for debate -- of course again that
>> depends on how one defines "colonialism"
>> >end apartheid,
>> as above
>Sure. And this is one of the reasons why Fanon (liberation as a process
>etc) is so important here in Africa. But that doesn't change the fact that
>ending formal, explicit apartheid/colonialism etc is a very welcome first

Of course.

>> >But it also seems pretty clear that postmodernism isn't doing much for
>> >victims of the new holocausts (including the majority of the world's
>> >population that is, quite literally, getting poorer ever day).
>> What IS doing much for these peoples?
>Well as usual when things happen people do it themselves. But there is
>clearly a lot of emperical work (eg Anthony Richmond) and more abstract
>theory that does make a valuable contribution. Especially some of the work
>being done under headings like Post-colonial, post-development,
>Africanism, critical theory, post-marxism etc, etc.

But here is where you move from practice into theory. I'm not convinced
that "abstract theory" -- anyone's, any discipline's, any field of
thought's -- is capable of making much of a "valuable contribution" to the
"victims of the new holocausts."

I can't help but think of the controversy surrounding Kathie Lee Gifford's
clothing line at Wal-Mart of awhile back when it was revealed that
sweatshop laborers manufactured the clothes under appalling and underpaid
conditions. What did "theory" have to say about that? And how stupid are
Americans -- and Kathie Lee -- to think that they can buy a shirt for $15
at Wal-Mart and not exploit people in the process?

>Theorists ranging from Fanon to Craig Calhoun, Hountondji, Chomsky
>and Said are of direct and immediate relevance

To the ongoing victims of exploitation, "the new holocausts"? How? In
what sense? I remain unconvinced.

>and theorists like
>Foucault, Bourdieu etc are often applied very usefully to these sorts of

Yes, in the Ivory Tower. But my question remains, what real impact does
the work of this range of theorists have on these "victims"?

>(For example people have critqued the whole aid industry in
>terms of pastoral care etc)
>I can give plenty of concrete examples of work that has been valuable in
>this sphere. For example Mahmood Mamdani's Citizen and Subject (Princeton
>1996) has taken on and furthered Fanon's project in very valuable ways.
>One of the arguments in this book is that in Africa ethnicity has been
>both the form of colonial control and the form of the revolt against this
>control and it contiunes to be both a form of (postcolonial) control (as
>in 'traditional authority' and state nationalism) and a form of
>resistence. eg as with progressive peasant movements like the Ruwenzurur
>in Uganda, the Sungusungu in Tanzania etc, etc. He goes onto develop some
>very useful principles for evaluating stuggles waged in the name of

Yes, that's very interesting -- intellectually, theoretically, academically
-- as well as assisting us to understand our world from our own privileged
positions of power in the West -- but how relevant is it to those involved
in the resistance?

>I take your point about postmodernism being a very broad school of thought
>and of course its caricature to assume that, for example, Derrida and
>Rorty are both simply anything goes relativists. (And, as has often been
>noted eg by Norris, Calhoun etc its equally true that postmodernists have
>often given a reductive caricatured account of the Enlightenment)

Good point. A useful reminder.

>But even
>though I accept that (this broad and contested) field of postmodernism
>contains much of value the reality is that it is, in my experience, a set
>of theories that is often used to defend privilege and deligitimise broad,
>popular or macro-struggle. Even if none of the original theorists intended
>this it is still a real problem worthy of attention.

Yes it is -- but again, to flog the dead horse, what role does any
"abstract theory" have in the reality of human experience?

>I've got a lot to learn about Foucault but my feeling right now is that he
>was, in some ways, bring some Marxist concerns up to date in a European or
>Western context. That's a hugely valuable project in itself but he does
>seem blind to, or disinterested in the neo-colonial relationship between
>the West and Rest. That's fine - we can't all deal with everything - but
>if it is the case then people should be aware that this is an area which
>requires attention. (And postmodernism doesn't see to provide much help
>here. I'm quite sympathetic to Craig Calhoun's argument that despite all
>the rhetoric about alterity PoMo ultimately trivialises the Other.)

"We can't all deal with everything"

>And while I can easily accept that Nietzsche's epistemology was essential
>to Foucault's project I'm wondering if Foucault hasn't possibly taken on
>some of Nietzsche's aesthetic aristocraticism. If this is the case it
>would be seriously problematic for someone who wanted (at a subjective
>level) to try and take seriously Marx's principle that "The free
>development of each should be the condition of the free development of
>all." After all you can't be a dandy when you're hungry or working in a

Of course not. Witness Kathie Lee -- and Regis :)

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