The Problem of Post-Modernity
Today it’s no different, the same discipline is required of an individual to call themselves a Marxist, they must read and read closely and read carefully and read intelligently the full three volumes of Das Capital. And in fact those who wish to call themselves Capitalists must do the same. Otherwise how can we begin to understand the problem of Post-Modernity?
What is the problem of Post-Modernity? If I was to ask you who was the most influential figure of the 20th Century, you might facetiously say “Homer Simpson,” then you might think about it a bit and say it was “Henry Ford” then you might really think about it and say “FDR” and before long you might convince yourself that the most influential figure of the 20th century was Hitler. I doubt very much that you would say Jack Kerouac or Jacques Derrida. I doubt very much that you would even say it was Henry Kissinger or George Soros. But, despite the enormous impact each of these figures has had on the 20th Century I don’t think any of them really account for the shaping of history in the same way that Karl Marx did.
Our continuous eternal question of the 21st century is the question of Marxism. Marxism broke a dichotomy wide open and also created a new dichotomy in the process. Dichotomies are always dangerous and rarely absolute, yet with the split between East and West, between Capitalism and Communism the dichotomy plays as closely to reality as a dichotomy ever can. One of the major problems we have today with Marxism and why it has endured as far as it has is that it take on an individual level an enormous amount of work to understand what he means. As such, in the same way that Hegel and Nietzsche and Freud have been distilled propagandistically by those who wish to extract power through their work, Marx too is susceptible to easy and inappropriate interpretations.
The Need to Read Carefully After the Author has Died
What Foucault demonstrates in his own writing is the level of attention to detail that is truly required to grapple with complex social ideas. The responsibility an individual must take in their own engagement is extreme. Take for example my work on Society Must be Defended and the need to really break down each paragraph and examine what it means in the context of the broader idea being portrayed. I argue that one of the vectors Foucault was enacted by writing in such an incoherent and obfuscating manner is that he was attempting to demonstrate how incoherent his contemporaries were. Therefore, he was signalling a call to action, I may be dead, the post-modernists may have killed me (in the sense of the author’s intention) and now you have been born as the reader so read very carefully and take the task seriously. What does that mean? What does it mean to read carefully and seriously? I propose it means that you have to read on multiple levels simultaneously. If no longer there exists an intention that we can draw upon from the author then the message as a whole and the individual words that construct that message have no inherent meaning.
In other words, we as readers, must first grasp the message as a whole in a low resolution form – for example: Discipline and Punish is a book which demonstrates the manner in which we have not become more, but rather less, humane in our treatment of the excluded members of society. However, our task doesn’t end with that, we have to rip apart, screw up, shred twist and perform a sort of “convolution” on the very establishment of the argument. We need to settle for ourselves why this is laid out in the order: Torture, Punishment, Discipline, Prison. We have to contemplate why the Panoptic model makes so much sense in the context that Foucault puts forth and then wrestle with his fallibility as an author and consider whether it actually makes sense or whether we are being pursued.
Post Modernity Requires Active Reading
We must then determine how Foucault has represented his influences. Has he actually taken Bentham on appropriately. So does that mean we need to read Bentham? And if we do, how are we to read Bentham? The same way! So now the task of reading is far more complex than simply absorbing the words as they lay on the page. No longer is it a passive exercise but requires a deep engagement with a set of ideas that juxtapose the concepts being presented. Well FUCK! Who has time for that anyway?
Worse! Who has time for that in World War 1 when there are enemy armies marching forward and ready to kill you. This is the problem with Marx, it is too easy to reduce his oeuvre to sound bites:
Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks
The theory of Communism may be summed up in one sentence: Abolish all private property.
From Each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.
The Power of Das Capital
The economic pressures across Europe were real, were evident and as Rage Against the Machine state so eloquently “Hungry people don’t stay hungry for long.” So it becomes a matter of survival who you are going to listen to. It was a major matter of life and death what ideas you considered, and in the early 20th century the less ideas you had to consider the better. Today it’s no different, the same discipline is required of an individual to call themselves a Marxist, they must read and read closely and read carefully and read intelligently the full three volumes of Das Capital.
And in fact those who wish to call themselves Capitalists must do the same. In fact the task is even more difficult. You need to read the full three volumes of Das Capital in German. Who has the time or the inclination for that? So we face a huge conundrum, because when that task isn’t undertaken earnestly the seductive power of the veneer can be overwhelming. The charasmatic voices that speak it far too alluring:
“A fairness for all and a responsibility from all”
Responsibility From All?
What does that even mean? What are you talking about Obama. A responsibility from all could mean that each and every person in the set of “all” has responsibility. Or it could mean that Obama’s vision will alleviate you from the burden of any responsibility. What does the word “Fairness” mean? What is the particular etymology that Obama is enacting when he speaks this word? You can see already how difficult it is to think in the shadow of Marx (and for that matter Kant, Descartes, Aristotle, Plato) and how easy it is to abandon that responsibility that you have in coming to terms with what these messages are. Coming to terms of course being a pun here. However, if you abandon your responsibility, you have abandoned your ability to respond.
I can’t foresee that people are going to heed this message, that there will be a critical mass of people on either the Left of the Right who will go and read the German version of Das Capital and face the gargantuan task of distilling it into their own lives. But it is crucial to understand that this is at least the task. It is crucial to understand that this is the root of the problem of Post-Modernity. What we desperately need then is a figure who can diminish the impact of Marxism. What we desperately need is a figure who is so large and renowned that they can present a knock down argument against Marxism and then settle some of the dust. What we need is a hero, in the mythical sense. We need a figurative Hercules to take on this task for us.
Academics and Post Modernity
Steven Hicks may have highlighted the problems of post modernity twenty years ago but he was twenty years ahead of his time.
John Taylor Gatto may have identified the major employment opportunity was security guard fifteen years ago, but he was fifteen years ahead of his time.
Jordan Peterson may have become to deconstruct the problems with tyrannical government in Maps of Meaning revised 10 years ago, but he was 10 years ahead of his time.
And Brett Veinotte, Steven Hicks, Jordan Peterson, and many others are speaking out about the Humanities and Social Sciences at University now, but they too may be two or three years ahead of their time.
None of these figures are that hero, Foucault wasn’t that hero. Derrida, Fromm, Marcuse, Reich, Wittgenstein, Zizek the list goes on – are not that Hero. They may be considered prophets to begin to mix metaphors, but they are not the Savior. We need St. George to go and find the fire breathing dragon and slay it, to continue to mix metaphors. I am not that figure either. What is the cost here? To what level of sacrifice are we expecting this Savior to submit? Is it that, like Neo at the end of the Matrix Trilogy, like Jesus on the Cross, they must dies for our academic and intellectual sins against the Father? It’s no joke to start to put Marx in the mix with words and concepts like Anti-Christ. It’s only a very serious wonder why Mein Kampf was thrown away culturally speaking but The Communist Manifesto still persists.
We Need a Hero
Jordan Peterson, who I talk about a lot, regales his students with a story of his nephew and how he had to face a dragon in his nightmares. First there were trolls, mean nasty little trolls hell bent on destruction and turmoil, then the dragon came into view. This is an important story and you need to hear it spoken by Peterson himself. I wish only to point out the enthralling image that’s presented in this tale – that being of the trolls formation: The trolls are formed from the embers of the fire that the Dragon breathes. The trolls are infinitely reoccurring and will only start to dissipate once the dragon is slayed.
If Post-Modernity is the dragon then social justice warriors are the trolls. Now it is unfair to say, and I am not saying, that there is a one to one correlation. Put another way, I am not suggesting that all social justice warriors are mean and nasty little trolls. But they do represent the problem with seduction. Once they have been seduced by the doctrine, there is no point in defeating them on an individual level, you need to defeat – impossible task, we can only ask for a diminishment of influence – the doctrine itself.
Unfortunately, communism has two or three hundred years left to run before it is relegated to a form of subjugated knowledge. Perhaps by the 24th century we as a people (if we survive) will look back and wonder with astonishment why people abdicated their responsibility so freely. Why people accepted their enslavement so willingly. Two or three hundred years of history can see an almighty amount of bloodshed though. So yes! We are still ahead of our time. We haven’t located the lair this dragon calls Post Modernism hoards it’s gold. And there is gold in Post Modernity worth rescuing. We also haven’t found our St. George who is willing to sacrifice themselves in order to slay this beast. But we have some clues. We have a rough understanding of the terrain.
I ask you to consider reading the English version of Das Capital, at the very least open the first few pages. I will struggle to do the same. Perhaps we can create the environment from which St. George can emerge.