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Re: <eyebeam><blast> net criticism

Sjoukje van der Meulen asked:

"How useful, for example, would be the work of Barthes and Derrida as a
starting point for analysing hypertext? What is the importance of
Deleuze & Guattari's influential idea of the rhizome as a philosophical
framework for the web?"

Having studied with J-L Nancy and translated texts by him and other
deconstructionists, I share a passion for the thought that emerged from
France in the sixties and seventies. But I'm struck by the operations of
what Raymond Williams calls the "selective tradition." It seems to me
that figures like Barthes, Derrida and Deleuze/Guattari conceived their
writing tactically, in response to the rigid disciplinary structures
that governed intellectual and social life in sixties France. Plus they
had very different positions - Barthes beginning very close to the
Communist Party, Brecht, Russian formalism, and so on, Deleuze more
Maoist, encouraging transgressions of the rationalized body, what he
called "becoming-animal,"  Derrida maintaining a philosophical respect
for the gulf between the disseminating letter and the absolute,
unattainable, never-embodied or knowable Law. In their different ways,
each sought a confrontation with a powerful alterity. But it's as though
a kind of selection had operated in the eighties, particularly in the
American universities. The divergent positions are now conflated into
celebrations of a free-floating textual indeterminacy which banishes any
form of agency, subjective or otherwise. And the infinite permutations
of semiotic combinatory systems or the restless prowling of
schizophrenic desire fit in perfectly with contemporary capitalism's
need for the constant proliferation of short-lived, magnetically
attractive symbolic products, tailored for highly individualized
consumption... Perfectly adapted to the anti-disciplinary transmission
structure of the internet.

Against that backdrop, the brilliant and bitter realism of Adorno stands
out today, not as a model - because Adorno's totalizing critique of
capitalist reason leads to a total impasse - but as a touchstone of
ethical exigency. Adorno seems not to have been selected by the
postmodern period. Maybe that's a clue for us.

Brian Holmes

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