Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Imaginary blog

Jorges Luis Borges believed nothing said in 500 pages could not be expressed in 5. In this spirit, nothing written in a blog could not be expressed as a comment underneath.

It prompts a worrying thought. If this entry is in, its form, a comment, then what was written to inspire it is not yet written. We must presume a future webpage. It may contain a digression on the narratology of knitwear, or a diagrammatic how-to guide for provoking pandas into writing minimalist haiku. We cannot be sure. There may be no working backwards, or an infinite profusion of possible future pasts.

What I know is this: if the above is funny, or truly annoyed you, or you thought of Kurt Godel at any point, or you know what the word neoplatonic means, you are exactly the right person to be reading this blog.


ofcourseicare said...

Pierre Bourdieu was famously cantankerous. A sociologist who stood at the forefront of that discipline’s forging of its own identity, he had a strong hand in pushing it even further. At the base of his thought was his sense that democracy functions to disguise the hereditary transmission of privilege, by allowing success and failure to be presented as the innocent vagaries of merit. He conducted investigations across a wide range of social groups, for instance analysing French school records. He noted that the language used to describe a child’s attainment often varied with their parent’s educational level (their occupation was recorded next to the comments on each transcript), so while the children of plumbers were frequently described as ‘clumsy’, ‘servile’, ‘awkward,’ the children of barristers and doctors were awarded ‘mastery’, ‘cultivation’, or ‘ease’. The correlation was depressingly flagrant, their parents’ ‘cultural capital’ being shunted quietly down the line. He also looks at the May 1968 protests, and points out that the prime movers and protesters were often members of the upper-middle class who had not succeeded as their parents did. This ‘failure of cultural capital’, Bourdieu suggests, was part of their anger. Perhaps it points to this ‘failure’ as being a catalytic element in their sympathies with other classes, the oppressed, but this begins then to say something depressing about the left-wing in general, that it’s lead by disenchanted members of higher orders, and seldom by those who rise from within.
This is a reformulation of an issue seminal to Bourdieu reading, namely his own social movement. Though he comes from rural working stock himself, and has become one of France’s most celebrated academic figures, he believes such movement is uncommon, even designed against. His theories are attacked on this ground. Must they then be untrue? I do not believe in exceptions proving rules, but prefer the idea that cultural capital operates silently (that cloaks itself in specificity?), to bring it out into the open necessarily provokes anger from those who feel they are suddenly complicit. The question is how many of his opponents’ qualms actually devolve to reasonable objections, and how many to ad hominem attacks? Are they being provoked by a vaguer, perhaps unconscious social instinct to preserve the fictions that nourish us? Of course, they resent his rise. If he is correct, those who ride with the ‘C.C.’ would regard him as very unwelcome indeed. At the end of his thoughts, there seems to be no reality to, for instance, the scientific endeavour, as the plaudits we present to distinguished scientists are mediated by a culturally-capitalised system, in which excellence is designated by the same process that confers competence.
This strikes me as going to far. ‘Habitus’ (being the structured and structuring environment of ‘social’ existence) does not transcend the subj/obj divide, and does not stand so far away from the maul that it can safely speak as though it were exempt from these flaws. It is just as possible that Bourdieu serves some stranger purpose within that same system, perhaps reinforcing it with his opposition, or stirring the embers. That would move from the paralysis of irony to the mordant health of absurdity.

My thought pattern is very simple: look twice. All things are politicised. It is simply a matter of looking long enough to estimate a clutch of causes. No-one is above the muck. Everyone is reacting to something. Representing some conception of the good life. If only as myself, some future-proof world in which information and knowledge is so acute that, perhaps, we make some great act of synthesis which nudges our species onward. A leap of enlightenment that, as Hegel says, is at first liberating, then constricting.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, very clever. Sooooooo po-po-mo right there. why don't you just go out and take all the leaves off a tree and glue them to the ground, you fucking geek-dick loser??????

David Large said...

Anonymous comments are so so po-po-mo.

Letizia Álvarez de Toledo has observed that this vast commentariat is useless: rigorously speaking, a single link would be sufficient, a link of ordinary format, printed in nine or ten point type, containing an infinite number of meta refresh tags leading ever onwards. (In the early seventeenth century, Cavalieri said that all solid bodies are the superimposition of an infinite number of planes.) The handling of this silky vade mecum would not be convenient: each apparent fresh, anonymous comment would unfold into other analogous ones; the inconceivable middle html location would have no beginning or end.

Personally, I'd like to hear more about Britney Spears’ garish divorce playing out like the murmur of a hotwater heater in the bathrooms of our prurient souls. Glueing leaves to the ground beats my writing sonnets to juvenilia, anyway. Oh, my Aiken head...