Chomsky on Zizek, Lacan And Derrida

It has not been possible for me to find time to write about the essays in the Derida book Limited Inc as I promised. However I won’t put it away for good, maybe I get the chance to sit down with it in the christmas holiday. In the meantime let’s check out something Noam Chomsky have said about Derrida and others. It is thought provoking and interesting. If it is true as Paul Watzlawick write in his book How Real Is Real? that there are two ways of doing research, the empirical way and the more anecdotical, exemplary way, it’s pretty clear to me that Chomsky is a representant of the first, and Derrida, Zizek and Lacan the last. Let’s keep that in mind. This is from Open Culture (the link in the first line will take you there):

Chomsky: «What you’re referring to is what’s called “theory.” And when I said I’m not interested in theory, what I meant is, I’m not interested in posturing–using fancy terms like polysyllables and pretending you have a theory when you have no theory whatsoever. So there’s no theory in any of this stuff, not in the sense of theory that anyone is familiar with in the sciences or any other serious field. Try to find in all of the work you mentioned some principles from which you can deduce conclusions, empirically testable propositions where it all goes beyond the level of something you can explain in five minutes to a twelve-year-old. See if you can find that when the fancy words are decoded. I can’t. So I’m not interested in that kind of posturing. Žižek is an extreme example of it. I don’t see anything to what he’s saying. Jacques Lacan I actually knew. I kind of liked him. We had meetings every once in awhile. But quite frankly I thought he was a total charlatan. He was just posturing for the television cameras in the way many Paris intellectuals do. Why this is influential, I haven’t the slightest idea. I don’t see anything there that should be influential.»

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Only The Paranoid Survive – Derrida’s Lack of Application to Military Strategy

derrida meme

One of the interesting things about Derrida and deconstruction is the resistance towards power agencys who wants to use theoretical percpectives in order to increace power, domination etc. This is not only a literary phenomen, but relevant for some of our biggest conflicts nowadays too, like the Israel-Palestine conflict or the war on terrorism in Iraq. This is from an article on frieze.com:

“The Israeli Defence Forces have been heavily influenced by contemporary philosophy, highlighting the fact that there is considerable overlap among theoretical texts deemed essential by military academies and architectural schools

(…)

By training several high-ranking officers we filled the system [IDF] with subversive agents […] who ask questions; […] some of the top brass are not embarrassed to talk about Deleuze or [Bernard] Tschumi.’10 I asked him, ‘Why Tschumi?’ He replied: ‘The idea of disjunction embodied in Tschumi’s book Architecture and Disjunction (1994) became relevant for us […] Tschumi had another approach to epistemology; he wanted to break with single-perspective knowledge and centralized thinking. He saw the world through a variety of different social practices, from a constantly shifting point of view. [Tschumi] created a new grammar; he formed the ideas that compose our thinking I then asked him, why not Derrida and Deconstruction? He answered, ‘Derrida may be a little too opaque for our crowd. We share more with architects; we combine theory and practice. We can read, but we know as well how to build and destroy, and sometimes kill.’”

Appropriation About The Blog Readers

The blog readers, which has never been very bourgeois and which is scarcely any longer working-class, is now recruited almost entirely from a single social stratum, though one that has been considerably enlarged — the stratum of low-level skilled employees in the various “service” occupations that are so necessary to the present production system: management, control, maintenance, research, teaching, propaganda, entertainment, and pseudocritique. Which suffices to give an idea of what they are. These readers that still click on blog posts also, of course, includes the young of the same breed who are merely at the apprenticeship stage for one or another of these functions.

From the realism and the achievements of this splendid system one could already infer the personal capacities of the underlings it has produced. Misled about everything, they can only spout absurdities based on lies — these poor wage earners who see themselves as property owners, these mystified ignoramuses who think they’re educated, these zombies with the delusion that their votes mean something.

Debord 1978

Since the blog readers needs more than anything to face these bitter truths, which concern it so intimately but which are so widely repressed, it cannot be denied that a blog that for once renders it the harsh service of revealing that its problems are not so mysterious as it imagines, nor even perhaps so incurable if we ever manage to abolish classes and the hyper capitalism — it cannot be denied that such a blog has at least that one virtue. It will have no other.

This public, which likes to pretend that it is a connoisseur of everything while it in fact does nothing but justify everything it has been forced to undergo, passively accepting the constantly increasing repugnance of the food it eats, the air it breathes and the dwellings it inhabits — this public grumbles about change only when it affects the blogs to which it has become accustomed.

Appropriation.