Sunday 21 March 2010

On Latour's Reflections on Critique

Denunciations of ‘fact’ may fall into the same trap as their opponents – they regard a ‘critique’ of a ‘fact’ as a significant event. Both sides seem unable to see facts as something produced rather than in/adequated, though the critical camp stray closer to this terrain.

Bruno Latour points out that a physics paper that would, if widely read, revolutionise its field will have no effect if, as is the fate of most scientific papers, it remains entirely unread. It contains, then, no truth that transcends its particular emplotment in space, time and matter; if read it might be hailed as the new Truth, but unread, devoid of any and all alliances it can be no such thing. Does not the drive to critique fall into this same trap? To submit an ‘essentialism’ to critique is seen, in some quarters, as an inherently valuable event. ‘Take that substance metaphysics!’ But if this critique has no effect – if no one reads it – what critique (as a kind of event rather than a theme or genre of literature) has actually occurred? Does a largely unread critique have more, less or the same existence as a largely unread fact? If being is an effect of language and language alone can the relative expediency of an unread critique or fact over a read one be ascertained?

Plainly, to switch from a demand for adequation to a demand for inadequation is insufficient. Hitherto ‘critical scholars’ have just ‘critiqued’ the world; the point is to change it (I thought we all knew this by now).

"Mark Fisher and Mike Watson: Dialogue on Free Education, Capitalism, and its Alternatives"

Mark Fisher at Indieoma

For years, workers in education have been bullied by a management telling them that they are in an ivory tower, protected from the hard realities of business, and that educational institutions really ought to be run more like businesses. Now we have seen that businesses can’t be run as businesses – and we in public service will have to pay the price.

"Strategising the Free University"

Nina Power at Indieoma

The free university must build on the trials and errors of earlier attempts to perform similar roles: the twenty-first century must not be simply the era of fees, cuts, admin and the betrayal of learning.