Okay, I wanted to write a wizbang post on this issue and probably will in the future when my thoughts settle a bit more, but in the tradition of Nate who has sadly been rather absent lately due to his paternal bliss, I have to ask, what in the hell is up with French continental philosophy’s obsession with the subject. Now please understand, when I ask this question I’m not asking it seriously. I know that the question of the subject has somehow come to be seen as the crucial and burning question of how change is possible. But to be quite honest, after going through all my Lacanian, Zizekian, and Badiouian escapades, I have to confess that I’m left scratching my head as to how the question contributes anything to producing change beyond providing a sort of pep rally for demoralized leftists living in a neoliberal world.
What sort of theory produces theoretical change? When I reflect on this question the answer seems to be cartographic theory or that form of theory that either provides the tools to or that actually do map collective assemblages. Here I have in mind work like that of Foucault, Marx in Capital, Latour, various feminist thinkers, Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello. The point is that it’s very difficult to do anything if you don’t have a map of how things are put together, and it’s very difficult to strategize action without knowing the basins of attraction that tend to pull human bodies into particular patterns. It’s difficult to see what the category of the subject really contributes to any of this. And indeed, it seems that preoccupation with the subject actively draws attention away from such work.