At long last I’m finally home. In response to my post on networks this morning, Matze writes the following:
Well I think I can grasp your criticsm on Zizek now. And why he is – according to Jan Jagodzinski – allegedly “inferior” to Deleuze.
It’s about puerile enjoyment of play (“play instinct”) undisturbed by the mother (“politics”).
Observing thoughts on “Units” and “Networks” on this blog it however comes down to males’ play i.e. theorizing for fun, enjoyment of machine construction, computers, games, which I sum up as enjoyment of technology creation (“puzzling”).
Is OOO pure philosophical technology? Since technology is (mostly to males) a fetish it’s obvious what has been foreclosed in it.
I’d thought about not posting this comment– I’ve generally found Matze’s comments to be rude, lacking in generosity or charity, uninformed (he she is apparently completely unfamiliar with OOO or my work), and belligerent so I see no reason to give him/her a forum on my blog to speak –but Matze’s comment is good an example as any of what I like to call a vole.
Voles are legendary for their exceedingly poor vision. As Marie Winn puts it,
If small rodents such as the common vole, Microtus pennsylvanicus, had good eyes that could see at a distant (sic.), hawk spotting by the prey animals might be factor. But I can assure readers that it’s not a factor. Voles are exceptionally nearsighted, with tiny eyes that are focused on small seeds and grass blades within the narrow tunnel runways they create in grassy or herbaceous environments. I have seen this time after time with my hunting red-tail, Savanna, perched on my fist.
Within the context of the world theory and academia, voles are people who are so deeply in the grips of a theory that they confuse, as Bateson liked to put it, the map with the territory. In other words, they treat their little map as being equivalent to the world itself. As a consequence, voles treat one small slice of the world, with exhausting all the beings of the world itself. In the case of Matze’s comment, there is a confusion surrounding the claim that Zizek is limited with the rejection of Zizek altogether.
This is the problem with voles. Because they have such poor eyesight, they confuse pointing out a limitation with rejecting something altogether. They can’t imagine that there are other slices of reality that play every bit as crucial a role and that we should adopt a pluralistic mode of theorization that strives, to the best of its ability, to take these other things into account. No doubt, in Matze’s case, the world is exhausted by desire, drive, objet a, transference, signifiers, the Other, and what Lacan calls the real. As a consequence, the role played by technologies, the inorganic, the organic, and so on, disappears from view. See this is just it, OOO is not trying to limit the available analytic tools, but to expand them so a variety of techniques can be deployed in the analysis of any particular phenomenon. This move, however, requires us to abandon the idea of a single agency as the ground of all others and to instead think in terms of heterogeneous compositions with a variety of qualitatively different actors.
We can sense that Matze’s seeks an ultimate ground because s/he can only imagine talk about technologies as talk about fun little gadgets that men like to play with, rather than as talk about components of our world that play a crucial role in how people are brought together, how they are kept apart, how they are dominated, how new possibilities are afforded for them, and so on. S/he can’t imagine a world where both technologies and signifiers are agencies in much the same way that a pasta sauce both has garlic and tomatoes. Debates with folks like Matze are the equivalent of debates over whether the pasta sauce is really made of tomatoes or really made of garlic. The OOO theorist wrinkles her nose and says “it’s made of both“. It’s that both and then some that is the mark of OOO thought. What Matze can’t imagine, because s/he is a vole, is the possibility of a form of theory that can both integrate the sorts of things Zizek teaches us and take into account technologies, the inorganic, the organic, and a host of other actors. And this, no doubt, is because Matze, like every other vole, yearns for a God-term or master-signifier that quilts everything else together in a simple fashion. For Matze, no doubt, this would be the real, the signifier, and the subject.
But Matze is not to be blamed. Being a vole, Matze suffers from tunnel vision. But here’s the twist, voles aren’t even aware that they’re suffering from tunnel vision. So identified are they with their limited theoretical framework, it turns out that they are unable to see that they cannot see. Returning to Marie Winn’s discussion, the vole cannot imagine what the vision of a hawk is like because the vole has always suffered from myopia and tunnel vision. Voles don’t see that they are only attending to a very limited fragment of the actors that populate the world. They thus find themselves wondering why their theoretical proposals and critiques don’t produce the social and political change they desire and conclude that this is because people are duped and don’t have an understanding of their theory. In other words, change isn’t produced because others aren’t voles like them. It never occurs to the vole that perhaps change isn’t produced because they’re only engaging with a small component or fragment of the actors that organize situations in the way situations are organized.
Now don’t get me wrong, of the bestiary that is proposed by OOO– gray vampires, trolls, minotaurs, moles, and voles –I believe that voles and minotaurs are the least objectionable. Minotaurs often teach us a lot about texts as a result of their fetishization of the history of philosophy and theory. They’re always bringing obscure little nuggets into relief that no one would have otherwise noticed. The world needs minotaurs even if they can be irritating in a philosophical discussion. Likewise, voles, because of their narrow focus on a single fragment of reality– say signs, signifiers, genetics, etc. –often make profound discoveries in these areas. One can’t do everything at once and therefore it’s always necessary to be a little volish.
However, voles can often be a deep impediment to any discussion by virtue of their myopia. Generally voles are the ones that charge others with “technological determinism”, “linguistic determinism”, “biological determinism”, “economic determinism”, “environmental determinism”, etc. Voles love to claim that others are falling into a particular deterministic fantasy. This is because voles have an extremely difficult time recognizing that there are other slices of reality that one can work on, and because they seem to have an especially difficult time recognizing that we can only talk about a non-linear world in linear terms (i.e., the linear structure of texts) and therefore cannot talk about everything at once. As a consequence, the vole confuses someone who is talking about the role that technologies might play within our lives as someone who rejects the idea that signifiers play any role in our lives. It is really at this point that voles become obnoxious and imperialist rodents. When one accuses someone else of technological determinism I take it that this is generally code for “you’re not talking about what I like to talk about!” The proper response here is probably to say “we can talk about what you want to talk about on another occasion, for the moment I wanted to take a look at the role played by this ingredient.”
At any rate Matze, if you’re really worried that I’m rejecting Zizek and Lacan, I invite you to do a blog search using the search engine in the sidebar. You’ll literally find hundreds of posts. Additionally, you can find two of my articles on Zizek online over at The International Journal of Zizek Studies. I think you’ll find that I’m deeply sympathetic to and influenced by both of these thinkers. I just think they’re limited, that’s all. And sense you’ve seen fit to accuse me of a masculinist bias that forecloses the maternal (here I wonder if you’re familiar with Lacan’s fourth seminar), I would suggest that the desire to see Lacan and Zizek as uncastrated– the subtext of all the pronouncements you’ve tried to post here –is the most masculinist attitude of all. However, I would remind you above all that Lacanian practice is, if anything, an ethics of learning how to listen. The fact that you’ve jumped into the middle of discussions that have here unfolded for years and seen fit to attribute all sorts of rather ugly motives and political positions to me without taking the time to learn anything about that of which you speak suggests that you’ve missed the fundamental point of Lacanian practice and engagement and have the desire of a dictatorial master or are engaged in the discourse of the university, wishing to subsume everything within the framework of your volish vision so that you might own it. This is wild analysis in the worst sense. All that aside, I’ll never understand why people online come in behaving like royal assholes and then expect to be received kindly.