Monday, September 10, 2007

Management Speak

I've started coursework for my MA. I doubt I'll be blogging about the experience as I go along; Elusive Lucidity is a place for me to write about things I don't really get to talk about in my day-to-day life, and school (like work) gets as much play as it needs. This post serves only as a reminder to myself, to keep trying to pull myself out of too-easy thought patterns, to keep thinking--which is a challenge never surmounted, only battled to a truce and judged on one's satisfaction--even when other parts of scholarly life might come easy. The lure of certain kinds of speech can sometimes blind us like a shiny object for a raccoon ...


The Viacom Corporate Responsibility Council seeks to provide company-wide guidance and support to pro-social programs governed by our brands. While nurturing each business unit's distinctive identity, the Council collaborates on Company-wide pro-social efforts, as well as, projects at the business unit level. The Council educates employees and audiences about key pro-social issues to inspire, enlighten and ignite action in both the public arena and within our own employee family.

... Or there are always the groupings of three (via Time Warner, whose "businesses strive to gain competitive advantage from opportunities for constructive collaboration"):

Whether measured by quality, popularity or financial results ... Entertainment maintain unrivaled reputations for creativity and excellence as they keep people informed, entertained and connected. ... We are innovators in technology, products and services. ... a focus on growth, engagement and monetization. ... Most important, our people’s leadership at every level — their creativity, talent and commitment to excellence — ensures that Time Warner continues to provide the high-performance service, trustworthy information and enjoyable entertainment our audiences, members and customers expect.

(That last sentence is so beautifully vacuous, squaring itself with a hat trick of trios, "ensuring to continue to provide," boldly pushing the oxymoronic "leadership at every level" ... four stars!)

If I felt less gauche doing so I'd quote an even longer passage from Chabert, but if you'll excuse me, here are three quite substantial paragraphs from some months ago that I found illuminating:

Frederic Jameson wasn't the first but was perhaps the most eloquent and observant to explain how/why postmodern aesthetic product works on delivering an illusion or facsimile of content. (The first stage of this perhaps was the treatment of content as mere simulacra of content, which was actually the - unspoken- ideological posture of New Criticism.) Without the goblins, the ghosts, the fabulous plot, the fantasy, low-genre or pastiche elements - the vulgar post-modern phenomenology - we have empty, coat-hanger texts, texts which entirely refuse, indeed shrink from, the traditional material referents of the image constellations and narrative paraphernalia they marshall. (There are exceptions, of course).

Did I say vulgar? That is precisely the wrong - the most insulting - word. It is the vulgarity of social reality ('vulgarity' has beome a synonym for 'materiality' or 'reality') whose urgent suppression and avoidance (as above all a rude, inescapably uppity and frightful incongruity which artistic imagination must, like a phalanx of private security guards, close out from the privileged spaces where the sheer lavishness, the conspicuous costliness and profitability, of the capitalist mass culture's artifacts are displayed) - whose inadmissibility (theoretically bumped up in class to unknowability), then, inspires all this density of simulacral reference.

In this sense one has to class (you should pardon the expression) Spectres of Marx in this genre. If it had been forty times or so more widely read one might be tempted to accuse it of influence on something. Derrida was a very inventive, stupefyingly erudite, and more importantly kind and generous man, but where where does a person in his economically and socially elite minority find the chutzpah, really, to declare the concept of class pernicious, shameful and requiring obliteration on the grounds that it is metaphysical? The Telltale Heart of this ambivalent, and ambivalence generating, work - introducing the new figure, Spectrology/Hauntology (which in the decade since its English translation's release has been more successful than any other new figure of its kind in its target niche), this recursively monstrous changeling- is the drumbeat of denouncement of vulgarity as part of the tireless self-dramatising as a just-baptised bumpkin in a pristine white terry robe, perpetually emerging from the cleansing steams, performing that obsessive and at this point supersititious warding off of the evil materialist eye described by Timpanaro as characteristic and obligatory for all Marxisms or 'Marxian' inquiries, running through the entire work, and punctuating its episodes of textual explication. It is rare for Derrida to make positive, plain language proposals, but curiously it seems about half of the few occurrences of such unhesitating statements in his entire oeuvre appear in his reading Marx; here, confronting Marx - confronting "the philosophy of praxis", confronting an argument which among other things suggests that this fantasy Derrida promotes* of the role of bourgeois sages and administrators is both bogus and insidious - deconstruction transforms from an operation which coaxes into bloom the reticent and stunted seeds of the text, which obeys its object in the obstinate pursuit of a tendentious poetical purpose, to an old fashioned, if tactically and lexically newfangled, rhetorical refutation. This unaccustomed podium-produced debunking - with all the characteristics of the feared vulgarity except clarity - is not occulted so much as minced and scattered over the deconstructive stew as garnish, not stirred in, remaining visible and available for gleaning. The refutation, buoyed up to a level of respectability by the stew below with its strong flavouring of commitments to an undeconstructible justice, is confined to a certain aspect of Marx, that is, to that aspect for which Marx has remained an important thinker for people outside the academy and a troublesome, quarantined and habitually mangled one within, namely, to his critique of capitalism. What is allowed to pass in the purported celebration of the Marxian legacy is Marx' critique of some clerks' text-product. If that is a celebration, who needs stonings?

* * *

On the masking of content there is little I can say. ('I hope to redefine, reimagine, and reinterrogate the notion of masking in the interstices of social, spatial, and ideological arenas.') The enemy here is not difficult language, it is not Continental philosophy, it is not some "outmoded" Marxism. The vigil stands to watch for apologetics for a dominant order; the apologists are often unwitting wolves in sheep's clothing. Enjoy the clips.

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