McKenzie Wark on 26 Feb 2001 01:40:32 -0000

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Re: <nettime> In Defence of a Modest Proposal

Dialectical thinking is clearly not as dead as one might wish. in
arguing that the political significance of, say, Debord is
over rated, i don't mean to imply that i have some great and
grand alternative to put in its place. Rather, its a question of
refusing the intellectual meglomania to which Debord is an
eccentric subscriber. One's role is modest and tangential to
politics. The world is not there to be remade in our image.

The Napoleonic grandeur of radical thought from Marx to
Debord has an intrinsically anti-democratic cast. Its a question
of making the masses into a tool for a mission not of their
making. People's actual wants and desires are to be discounted
in favour of what the intellectual desires that they desire.
Of course there is always a 'theory' or a 'method' to legitimate
this divergence on the part of the self-appointed vanguard
from any notion of consensus in politics.

One would think after a century of folly and disaster flowing from
one radical scheme after another one would not need to point this
out. At best, detournment; at worst, the gulag. No, we really must
concentrate all our critical intelligence and rhetorical derision in
attacking social democracy. Universal health care -- what a bad
idea! Free school education -- terrible! Unemployment
benefits -- bah! Child care and maternity leave -- tosh! Consumer
protection legistaltion -- who needs it! State funding for the arts
-- never!

It all counts for nothing without a philosophy of history more
grand than taking your chances, and getting the best out of a
conjuncture for as many of one's constituencies as one can.

It is history itself which is incoherent, Ted, a situation theory
cannot remedy.

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