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Re: <nettime> Robert C Thomas: Whatever Intellectuals: Th
Pit Schultz on Sun, 30 Jan 2000 23:46:23 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> Robert C Thomas: Whatever Intellectuals: Th



At 21:57 27.01.00 EST, you wrote:
>Pit:
>
>Sorry, I don't get it.  It's a long essay . . . and I read it all . . .

right. its too long. i guess that's why i posted it. on both sides the
activist/journalist front and the academia/intellectualist camp there is a
tendency to stick to the secure issues in redundant forms, with the well
known flat and epic effect of getting stuck in a lot of stuff but not
knowing what to think anymore. sorry if this essay was misleading.

>What does it say that we haven't heard over and over?

nothing but ambiguity. i thought this text might trigger some response. 
the problem it represents, is this in-between state of (intellectual) 
criticism, not only between two poles, but too many options, rules,
seductions, the result: networking. if it leads to a kind of academic
canonisation of correct critical thought, a clusterisation of clubs and
clans, an establishment of imaginary command chains, or simply the
accumlation of 'good' books and references, there remains one interesting
factor: the US import esthetics of 'euro theory' resulting in a 'blended'
and anti-aliased product: PoMo jargon.  It might combine an adolescent
dream of independency with the desire of an intact urban life (leftist
bohemia), some kind of true fight - but i do not want to be cynical here,
i'm myself in an ambigous position. 

in short this text represents its own the crisis of 'globalized'
intellectualism and its relation to a kind of control which is hard to
adress and externalize without getting part of it. As Peter Lamborn Wilson
wrote somewhere, in a functioning culture industry nothing makes a real
difference. We watch Matrix or fight club and think its's cool, but its
just about about our own pityful modes of existence.

>After WW I, there was a tremendous outpouring of *correct* sentiment that it 
>was no longer possible to be an "intellectual" in any positive sense.  I was 
>just reading about Paul Valery's 1919 "The Crisis of the Mind."  I also know 
>this from following the details of the "Vorticists" during the period.

i do not know since when, but intellectualism if understood as
"progressive"  as well as "conservative", usually has a productive
relation to 'crisis'. the whole concept of (post) modernity is based on
that. cultivation and extension of the crisis, salvation in a new, modern
man... 

often resulting in a split between 'thought' and 'action', by extending
the moment of decision in endless differentiation and on the other side,
creating an impossible idealism, an 'imago' of 'radical action'. this is
very much the basis on which culture industry and (underground) pop are
working. But, even if the social sideeffects of gaining power and making
profits, the rethorics, the jargon, the symbolic capital, the 'hidden
grounds' tend to dominate today, there is still a lot of interesting 'old'
stuff to be found to understand what's happening right now. 

the pity is that public intellectuals more or less fail today linking
their knowledge to ongoing events whithout falling into stereotypes.
adressing the right enemy, keywords, catch phrases, and be sure you belong
to the right camp and get enough of attention seems to be more important
then thinking about something in a new way.

if the goal is identity production, or just a kind of careerism, it is a
legitimate social activity to reduce complexity by producing redundany.
but, since kosovo i am confused about the use of email lists. humanity?
based on which concepts? we westerners are still secularized christians.
for many it is better to say the same thing all over then to fall off,
loose faith and become a victim of the evil. this is the theater of
humanitarianism (and introduce free markets), the brutality of radical
pragmatism. 

as said so often, the problem is not what has been said, but the way the
discourse is organized, the form of it corrupts the message. or what is
the message of media activism applying mcluhan other then pure symbolic
activity? on the other hand what can a college student write about power
in the academic apperatus of 'critical studies'. in the best case he can
map out certain dispersed references, stating the obvious.

about using old stuff:  what is happening with the mergers and
'consoliditation' for example was described in the 50ies already by Th.
Adorno, G. Anders, Enzensberger and many others. Today german
intellectuals are more interested in keeping their jobs, or fuilletonistic
fame, and function within an environment which is hostile to critical
thought. the urge to pragmatise and move over to the fields journalism and
activism didn't help either as the connection to the 'friends of thought'
got lost. the text above rather quotes french/italian post-marxists which
are fashionable in certain college circles in north america, but it is
especially this 'cargo' effect which might be interesting to study a bit
more.

>After WW II, it only got worse.  Much worse.
>
>Some blame Marx.  In the sense that "ideology" problematizes thinking.

and ome blame Hegelian idealism. the ideal of a perfectly functioning 
mega machine. the y2k frenzy showed this again. 

>Others blame the general shift from thinking-as-thinking to
>thinking-as-politics of any sort. 

this is maybe more interesting. the power issue. this text tries to map
whatever intellectuals might have to do with power today. as consulters,
bureaucrats, cultural workers they fit perfectly what Gramsci described as
the organic intellectual, kinds of servants working on the improvement of
the hegemony of dominant cultures.  i do think that a lot of criticism and
activism takes place here. the 'virtual' intellectual, the allday textual
content producer, is very often busy producing light, short-term,
journalistic snippets out of so called insider knowledge. this is at least
a trend i see for a long time now. everything posting becomes potential
'news'. the medium, its own personal or economic infrastructure is then
not questioned anymore. 

>You've read enough "good" stuff to know that media themselves have a great 
>deal to do with all this.  Electric media environments wipe out our higher 
>nervous functions.  Humanity "dis-appears."

well, that's the McLuhanite perspective. and therefore difficult to grap. 
what is the result? the appearence of a new super class? those who left
the media to control it? McLuhan is quite good in observation and
prognosis, but it is difficult to find anything which leads to action.
it's the classical intellectual distance isn't it? 

Clearly the concept of Humanity is in a deep crisis. But this has been
said for long now. there is a new kind of collective productivity of
thought and subjectivity, a planetary mode, but it is questionable how
much the idea of a unified humanity is compatible with the classical
concept of a free human beeing, on which so much of our extisting laws and
modes of organisation are based on. 
 
no matter what clinton says, the devide between rich and poor is
unbridgeable, and needs a whole technology of governing and organising
desire: new media as mind control. how much nettime, how much academia,
how much journalism, or media activism is part of this theater? i simply
don't know. 

>But, this essay shows no sensitivity to any of the really important issues.  
>Does it?

in a very ambigous way it does very well. context and content collide. 
what is do be done? the author asks... 

i do think that Machiavelli, Carl Schmitt, Max Weber, Foucault all have to
be put on the table too. not only Marx. and then applied not to the
production of a 'new' enemy, like 'e-commerce' but the very own modes of
organisation. surely such lengthy textes just exemplify the difficulty of
'critical' academic production in our circles. but this doesn't mean that
it isn't worth to try. 

>I can understand you posting a piece -- in the modern, 
>pretty-stupid-but-current-anyway idiom -- that says a weak version of all 
>this over again . . . if you're upset that there is no "intellectual"
life on 
>(or off) nettime . . . I guess.

the idiom, the rethorics and identity politics it includes is indeed the
main problem. [ which brings us the the redundancy within this list. i do
think it's not good to go into meta mode *here*. it needs an extra list
where one can speak about nettime. ]

that's what i tried to show. but there must be in good tradition a
productive and positive approach to the crisis of intellectual life, on
nettime as well as in academia. people go onto the street in davos,
seattle, north london, but what do they have to say? what do they think?
what do they read? and how, if ever, can they relate to the stuff posted
on a mailinglist?

>But, what are you actually hoping to accomplish? 

a kind of dialogue? 

/pit




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