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It skips around, but don't expect Žižek any time soon
May 27, 2014 8:19 PM   Subscribe

In Theory is a column in Ceasefire Magazine that introduces and reflects on major figures in cultural/political/literary theory (Agamben 1 2; Althusser 1 2; Amin 1 2; Appadurai 1; Aristotle 1 2; Badiou 1 2; Bakhtin 1 2; Bakunin 1 2 3; Barthes 1 2 3 4 5 6; Baudrillard 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14; Benjamin 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8; Deleuze 1; and Marcuse 1) in addition to discussing general topics such as anarchism, asymmetrical war, autonomism, commodity fetishism, global cities, local knowledge, peacekeeping, and precarity.
posted by Monsieur Caution (12 comments total) 105 users marked this as a favorite

 
It'll take me a bit of time to get through these. (Nicely organized post and good tagging, thank you! *takes notes for future FPP*)

I guess I'll throw some questions out there to get some conversation going.

1.) Monsieur Caution, do you have any observations to share regarding the column and/or publication, such as strengths, weaknesses, theoretical underpinnings, etc? (Like, do they tend to favor one interpretation of Bakunin over another, etc.)

2.) How would you compare Ceasefire to Jacobin, New Left Review, N+1, or anything in a similar vein?

I've spent the better part of this past year delving into this general subject area, and I'm always looking for interesting journals to follow. It's been educational, for example, to see the reviews that certain Jacobin articles get elsewhere on the web. I'm always left wondering, what are the current media and political factors behind how each of these journals 'frame' their editorial work, and additionally, if there's someone out there doing it better than Jacobin or Ceasefire, what or whom might that be? It's definitely a lot for someone relatively new to the field to digest.
posted by cardinality at 9:24 PM on May 27 [2 favorites]


Monsieur Caution, do you have any observations to share regarding the column and/or publication, such as strengths, weaknesses, theoretical underpinnings, etc? (Like, do they tend to favor one interpretation of Bakunin over another, etc.)

The blurb about the author of these articles, Andrew Robinson, says he's a political theorist and activist, and I think that comes through clearly, not least when he's talking about folks who aren't. People write books about some of these figures without once mentioning any connection to politics or activism, but these columns do a decent job talking about more general cultural/literary stuff, and the connections they make to political theory generally seem warranted or at least meaningful. Political theory is not my thing, though. I'm a cultural anthropologist by training, so I haven't escaped reading empirical stuff in the same ballpark (Pierre Clastres, James C. Scott, etc.), but when it comes up in some of these summaries, I can't help noticing it's not what I'd have focused on.

A link somewhere to the recent columns on Badiou is what initially caught my attention because I pretty much stopped reading theory around the time Badiou started becoming Kind of a Big Deal. The last thing I remember was that his comments on Heidegger in his book on Deleuze seemed bad, but as problems go, that's pretty common and not necessarily serious. Then, I flipped through Being and Event once, and it seemed weird and retro to me--like, um, oblivious to what a ruined landscape it was built on and maybe that bad reading of Heidegger actually was a problem that mattered. I can't really defend that thought without reading more Badiou though, and I had hoped a sympathetic introduction to his stuff would show me why I was wrong. Unfortunately, I still can't see it. But I was glad to read an overview that gave some footing to what I remembered, and I'll probably read the upcoming columns on him, hoping for some surprises. Or maybe someone here will stand up for him--I won't argue.

I appreciated the intro to Agamben for similar but happier reasons. I really didn't get much from The Coming Community when I read it in the early 90s. I understood the quodlibet ens in a number of respects that seem borne out in this summary of it, but honestly, I didn't even remember the overall drift of the book. When Homo Sacer came out, I didn't bother trying. And the summaries of Agamben here do a plausible job, from my point of view, showing me what I missed. I wouldn't suppose that the most general points in it are as generalizable as they're made to sound, but I could see them being inspirational for more careful observations somewhere.

I'm on firmer ground with other folks on the list, especially Baudrillard, Barthes, Benjamin, and Appadurai (the one anthropologist on the list--I was assigned his "Disjuncture and Difference ..." within days of it coming out), so they were reference points I mostly skimmed to gain more faith in these columns after reading the ones I was curious about. I especially liked the extended effort to explain Baudrillard, but I guess with regard to your question about Andrew Robinson's POV I'd say it's remarkable that he can get through fourteen columns covering Baudrillard's whole oeuvre without mentioning Nietzsche, whereas the coverage you get of his career as a post-Marxist is pretty solid--not surprising, given the positioning of these summaries though.

How would you compare Ceasefire to Jacobin, New Left Review, N+1, or anything in a similar vein?

I'm sure I've only read the Jacobin and N+1 articles linked on MeFi and not all of those. I'm a noob with Ceasefire too.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:24 AM on May 28 [3 favorites]


If you want a good introduction to Badiou, why don't you try Christopher Norris's book Badiou's Being and Event. I was bit sceptical about him before I read this book (basically because I found his book on Deleuze a bit irritating and didn't read anything by him after that). After reading Norris's book, I was convinced that he was worth reading, which of course doesn't mean that I agree with everything Badiou says.
posted by wlarge63 at 1:03 AM on May 28 [2 favorites]


Ceasefire is a very good magazine and regularly discusses political issues that mainstream newspapers neglect, as well as offering interesting criticisms of mainstream news reporting.
posted by leibniz at 1:50 AM on May 28 [3 favorites]


Just read through the peacekeeping column, it seems pretty spot on to me; I'm sold. Now on to Bakhtin and precarity...
posted by jrb223 at 8:02 AM on May 28


A link somewhere to the recent columns on Badiou is what initially caught my attention because I pretty much stopped reading theory around the time Badiou started becoming Kind of a Big Deal...

I was curious for the same reason and started to the read the overview you linked to... but couldn't get past the "set theory is ontology" thing. such a wrong-headed step backward for philosophy that i can't imagine anything else is worth reading it relies on the utter credulity of the theory crowd wrt science and mathematics.

How would you compare Ceasefire to Jacobin, New Left Review, N+1, or anything in a similar vein?

Is this where we diss the new crop of leftist web-publications?

I started out hopeful about Jacobin, but I found the intellectual level pretty low... +1 for nice design values, but -10 for undergraduate level political consciousness. N+1 is the sterile academic wing of Jacobin, graduate students pushing words around. new left review = old left review, but occasionally showcases how erudite the old people are in comparison to their children.

But i'm still listening for new things.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:03 AM on May 28 [3 favorites]


You had me at Aristotle. You lost me at Baudrillard.
posted by panglos at 8:22 AM on May 28


That's some of the clearest writing on Deleuze I have ever seen; I think I'm hooked.
posted by linear_arborescent_thought at 8:32 AM on May 28


Many thanks. How I missed this column I do not know.
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 9:50 AM on May 28


Just read through the peacekeeping column, it seems pretty spot on to me;

I read it and came to the opposite conclusion. Maybe I've chugged the social science kool-aid, but peacekeeping works. It saves lives, lowers the chance of future violent conflicts, and helps rebuild societies. This has been demonstrated empirically in the social science literature, and he seems to be completely ignorant of this. For Anthony Robinson, anecdata trumps all, and the more important matter is that peacekeeping resembles colonialism, so it must be condemned and avoided.

For example, he says:

"When underlying causes, including the systematic deprivation of these core conflict areas, are not addressed, top-down peace approaches simply ‘behead’ a conflict, driving it underground. This may soften its most visible manifestations and produce an appearance of peace for awhile, but the conflict will often re-emerge later. "

This isn't actually true. At all. The conflict will most often NOT re-emerge.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:52 AM on May 28


I read (well, skimmed in some stretches) the pieces on Bakhtin, and when he's not inserting his own ideas about the political significance of it all, it seemed pretty accurate; this is a nice summary of an important point (and a major reason I like Bakhtin):
Dialogism is not simply different perspectives on the same world. It involves the distribution of utterly incompatible elements within different perspectives of equal value. Bakhtin criticises the view that disagreement means at least one of the people must be wrong. Because many standpoints exist, truth requires many incommensurable voices. Hence, it involves a world which is fundamentally irreducible to unity. It denies the possibility of transcendence of difference (as in Hegel; this is a major difference between dialogics and dialectics). Separateness and simultaneity are permanently with us. There is no single meaning to be found in the world, but a vast multitude of contesting meanings. Truth is established by addressivity, engagement and commitment in a particular context.
I'll bookmark this for when I feel like checking out some of those theory guys I always tiptoe warily past. Thanks for the post!
posted by languagehat at 12:28 PM on May 28 [2 favorites]


Wanted to drop back in and say thanks to Monsieur Caution for the reply, and thanks to everyone else for the comments and/or recommendations for further reading.

I'm seconding languagehat...definitely bookmarking this and am going to plow throw these when I have time. Lots of food for thought in this post!
posted by cardinality at 10:25 AM on May 31


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