Voyou Désœuvré

A few months ago Roger Ebert poked video game players with a stick, arguing that computer games could not possibly be art. His argument was stupid, as he himself has since realized, because he quite literally did not know what he was talking about: he had not played any of the games he was discussing, and so hadn’t had the kind of experience necessary to form a judgment on them. Dismissing computer games on the basis of video clips is, at best, like dismissing cinema on the basis of reading screenplays; the entire dimension in which the medium’s distinctive aesthetic effects work is absent. Ebert’s ignorance of computer games explains why he produces such a weak argument; this gives him an alibi which the editors of n+1 don’t have. Read more↴

Why insist, against all hope, on the communist idea? Is such insistence not an exemplary case of the narcissism of the lost cause? And does such narcissism not underlie the predominant attitude of academic Leftists who expect a theoretician to tell them what to do?—they desperately want to commit themselves, but not knowing how to do so effectively, they await the answer from a theoretician. Such an attitude is, of course, in itself false, as if a theory will provide the magic formula, capable of resolving the practical deadlock (Žižek, First as Tragedy, then as Farce, 88).

There were a number of excellent papers at the Waiting for the Political Moment conference in Rotterdam last month, among which were keynotes from Benjamin Noys (which he’s put on line) and Jodi Dean (some of the key arguments of which are in this blog post). These two papers are interestingly read together, I think. Jodi argues that our concern about complexity and the difficulty of knowing enough functions as a kind of theoretical alibi for political inactivity: Read more↴

Reading an excellent article from Nina on the possibility of a more just educational system, which makes a determined attempt to enlist Rancière in this project. As it happens I’ve been reading a chunk of Rancière for my dissertation of late, which has sharpened my skepticism towards him, and I’m more convinced than ever that Rancière is of no use in thinking about liberatory education. Maybe this is a result of differences between francophone and anglophone intellectual cultures, but the “mastery” Rancière attacks seems absurdly anachronistic, a model of education swept away at least by the late 60s (indeed, rejected by progressive educators since the 20s). Not to belittle the importance of these reforming projects, but not only is Rancière’s advocacy of an exploratory and democratic education, as against a directive and hierarchical one, rather pushing at an open door, it’s pushing at an open door that has proved to be a plausible entry point for neoliberalism. Indeed it’s worse than that: Rancière’s ignorant schoolmaster is, it seems to me, the perfect figure of neoliberal authoritarianism. Read more↴

Chantal Mouffe is quite interesting on the museum as a political space; it’s nice to see her descend from the heaven of the political to say something about some specific politics. But consider:

Similar considerations could be made with respect to the role of the state, which, after years of being demonized, has recently been reevaluated.

Capital was able…to neutralize the subversive potential of the aesthetic strategies and ethos of the counterculture…. To this hegemonic move by capital, it is urgent to oppose a counterhegemonic one.

In other words: once upon a time capital was in favor of the state, so the left was against it; now capital is opposed to the state, so the left should be for it. This tells us a lot about why Mouffe’s conception of hegemony is so wrong.

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