Posts Tagged ‘ideology’

First, a quick excerpt from one of the blogs in the sidebar, Larval Subjects:

However, having witnessed twenty years of critiques of ideology I’m led to wonder what critiques of ideology have ever done to really change anything. The conception of politics as ideology critique seems to largely result among bookish academics that believe it is books and discourses are the primary real and who are therefore persuaded that change takes place through books and discourses. Like the obsessional– who might this obsessional be? –who talks endlessly precisely to avoid saying what really should be said, this conception of the political endlessly dissects various narratives and cultural formations to create the illusion of acting without ever hitting the real. Indeed, there’s a very real sense in which those literary studies types so delighted by Zizek seem to be more motivated to find a justification for writing about their favorite movies and television shows rather than changing social organization in any significant way. [full post here]

I remember being told by one of my undergrad mentors that critical theory evolved out of the frustration of people who saw the energy of the ’68 era, taught it to their students with fervor, and then discovered they’d produced a generation of smug middle-managers.  Something was wrong; agency and social innovation wasn’t happening; the revolution had been pre-empted [and this was before the tech boom!].  Something new had to be sorted out, or at least, the reasons why “NEW” was so difficult needed to be sorted out. Okay, fine.

In graduate school, critical theory morphed into cultural studies, and it can be a fun game to play, but I sympathized more with the rusty Marxists who were doing actual archeology over in the remnants of the steel mills, sifting through records and interviewing whoever was left who remembered the mills in their prime.  I wanted a closer relationship between the talking about and the making of things.  Let’s talk about the steel, the RotoVap, the wings on a fruit fly.

Much more recently, I was on a search committee, and could hear colleagues speaking the critical/cultural theory language again, and it was like looking through a haze, or into a Turner painting.  I kept thinking: there might be a ship in that painting somewhere, or the echo of a ship, or an cluster of ideas that people have agreed in the past to fit the concept “ship”…..if there was a ship, there would be people working on it, setting sails, adjusting the rigging to best make use of the wind. And all the theorizing about ship-ness would’t matter one jot to the people just trying to get their work done and get home.

Second, go see an expert at work: Angry lets the light dawn upon a student: if you haven’t bothered with a class, don’t expect its prof to help you graduate!

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Y’know, if you can’t tell fish from mammals, I’m not sure you’re capable of knowing whether a creature [of either kind] is being treated “ethically” or not.  And if your only recourse to change people’s behavior is re-branding fish as “sea kittens”, I think you’re scraping the bottom of the rhetorical barrel.australianfish

As several bloggers have noted, real kittens are quite fond of eating real fish.  That’s not ideology that’s bi-ology.  Other genuine members of the great family Felidae would also eat you if you happened to be unattentive and available.

One wonders whether PETA could improve their rhetorical standing by spending their money on chloroplast research.  Specifically, now that we’re making progress on keeping insulin-producing cells from being destroyed by the immune system [which could change the lives of many people with Type I diabetes], maybe some sparky person could devote themselves to creating genuinely green people.  Then the PETA folks could opt out of eating entirely AND we could see them coming.

[pause] Of course, to maximize their photosynthetic potential, they might have to be nude much of the time.  Perhaps we don’t want to go there.

Disclosure: I am an omnivore.  My cats are obligate carnivores; it would be unethical to pretend otherwise.

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