It seems to me that there’s a certain way of citing (and in this I include the very style or method of citation chosen), a certain fetish for jargon, a certain style of writing abstracts and composing sentences in philosophy and the humanities that very much reminds me very much of bureaucratic speech and administrator-speak; especially with respect to the jargon we find in various forms of the education reform movement. This style simultaneously functions as a shibboleth, defining insiders and outsiders, while also making a pseudo-claim to clarity and precision. Perhaps this style is independent of the content of what is written and argued, but I’m not so sure. It seems to me that this style already expresses an entire worldview, an entire system of values, an entire teleology or set of goals functioning as a machine or an apparatus of capture.
It is a writing similar to that of the accountant– but without as much pizzaz –that aspires to be objective, universal, univocal, and without the interference of the passions. In its style of citation (Rawls 1997; 4:17), it has the structure of a fetish; not for the figures it cites, but for the style of citation itself. The form of this style seems to rebound on the content, seeking an erasure of all difference and alterity, functioning to capture everything in its net. Any singularity, any difference, is implicitly and unconsciously encountered as an affront. Even where its surface level intentions claim another set of aims, perhaps even emancipatory aims, the form of the style and the fetish for shibboleths belie those surface level enunciations. It is here that the paradox of this style reaches its core, for this style claims to distance itself from all effects of poetry, from all “literary effects” (and this style, in philosophy at least, is legendary for reducing poetry and literature to meaningless “emoting), yet everywhere with this style we find a libido at work. Like the priest that everywhere will denounce sexuality, lust, and any form of passion even in the space of marriage, while simultaneously having found a new form of libido, of sex, a new way of getting off through the law, the regulation, the denunciation, and the discipline; this style that denounces the singular, differential, and literary is itself a style of literature– yes, there’s even a poetry of the tax form and the latest article in the analytic journal –and everywhere in this style we sense the libido at work: a fetish for a style of citation, for a certain apparatus of jargon, for a certain way of constructing sentences. For this style even the abstract is a form of foreplay, a form of desire. And what a strange desire this is, with its abbreviations, its love of jargon, its claim to be clear (though in a way befitting of Kafka), its claim to be free of the idiosyncrasies of emotion and particularity! For it is simultaneously masochistic and sadistic, yet without being a sado-masochism. It is a masochism in the manner in which it requires a complete submission and abnegation of the author, but it is a sadism in how it wishes to capture and subdue. Is it just to denounce something on the basis of style alone? Probably not. But how else is one to respond to those who would bring the bureaucratic image of thought into thought itself? How else can one respond to those who have made a norm of the form for all other forms of thought? The style itself is objectionable and reflects a form of power, of thought, of sovereignty.