Phil Graham on Tue, 22 Feb 2000 01:26:48 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Wark, Criticism, Democracy


I am familiar with your work (despite misspelling your name), which is
quite far-ranging. Some I like, some I do not. For instance, I liked your
contribution on the Communist Manifesto in the book edited by Rachel Parker
et al, but dislike the vulgar relativism you expounded in your argument
with Peter Smyth in the Australian Rationalist a couple of years ago,
which, incidentally, made much of racism. Your position shifts and has
shifted, quite clearly, which is fine. 

My response to you was informed by a recent article you wrote in the AFR,
which was unambiguously pro-Third Way and seemed to be anti-everything
else, especially criticism. I had just finished writing a response to Geoff
Mulgan at the time about his Marxism Today article and the rhetoric was
almost identical as far as I could discern.. It had nothing to do with "you
aren't A so you must be B". I have spent far too long looking at the
fragmenting of the Left-Right divides to be so naive.

Whether or not your intention was to silence anybody, your post certainly
said: "criticism is a waste of time, so shut up!". That is what I was
critiquing. While you make much of the "old left's infantilism", you have
not provided a coherent critique of the Third Way, even though you may have
played with it. While we can trace it's etymological history to Augustine,
it's modern history is entrenched in the discourses of New Labor in Britain
and most of the parties who are using the term. This modern history is a
perversion of Sorel, Le Bon, etc, and a naive use of Galtonian and
Spencerian Eugenics (ie biological and economic forms), as well as an
operationalised form of Heidegger's "Dasein" which is fascist to the core,
despite all exhortations to the contrary. 

The "binary political landscape" vanished from the west over 30 years ago.
Even then, each country had its own conception of right and left.
Labourism, Liberalism, Progressivism, Conservatism, etc etc etc ... (I have
no time, to list all ... excuse me) have all disappeared in pure form, if
they ever existed as such. Left and Right were always illusions in any
case. As Ralston Saul points out, they just never completed the circle in
the stables during the first French revolution, perhaps because they ran
out of seats.

And I agree with you about the similarity between the Austrian Freedom
Party and One Nation here. They are similar reactions as far as I can see.
That is why it will be so harmful if people ostracise Austria at this
stage. Haider then gets to say: "see, I told you so, we have no right to
power here".

As for argument by categories, we humans have noumenous and autonoumenous
minds, that is what defines us and how we define our world - by categories:
no categories, no language; no language, no argument; no argument, no
future. But categories are flexible over time, and new ones emerge
constantly. So we need to be careful about how we define our world so that
others can join in the conversation, whether they be critical or
argumentative or otherwise. 

I appreciate the graciousness of your response.

Phil Graham

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