Scattered Thoughts on Critical Theory

We in the Western world are now succinctly defined by “our never-ending quest to outsource all our socialities to web 2.0 apps” (R. Coleman). Call this the unrelenting emergence of a network sociality, where everything exists as either superfluous commentary or shameless functionality. The irony of web 2.0 and the blossoming of communicative technologies is that, ironically enough, people are more alone than ever before. We are the full embodiment of Reisman’s lonely crowd. Yet the irony is that we have convinced ourselves that our fragmentary, isolated selves somehow constitute an improved lifestyle.

I have been alienated from this linked-in world for too many years now. I am too good for this shit. I have seen more than enough to firmly conclude that the whole enterprise is irredeemable bankrupt. The postmodernists will argue that we no longer have recourse to evaluations of good or bad. I would argue that this avoids the fundamental issue, which is that nobody much cares for such evaluations anyway. Ours is the age of exhaustion.

Thus, it is not that critical analysis is no longer possible, but that for all intents and purposes, it has become altogether unwanted; untimely meditations are long since out of style. This is the age of perpetual celebration, an age that is diametrically opposed to the slow pace of interpretation. Postmodernists would do well to acknowledge this–it would make their arguments all the more tenable. There is obviously a strong temporal dimension to all of this, although it would take too long to explain it.

Critical theory does not deal exclusively with timeless standards of Truth or Beauty, which is what the postmodernists would falsely have us believe. Critical theory–when it avoids dogmatism–is at home in the world of contingency and indeterminacy. In fact, it is precisely in this world where critical theory becomes most necessary. But why even discuss all of this? Even though I have just begun to mount a defense of critical theory–and as though to prove my own thesis correct–I really don’t care one way or anther.

Forget Foucault. If you want to do your part to further the movement, start living.

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~ by Sean Best on January 15, 2008.

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