Immanent Critique and the Argument from Authority

Pastiche - which, as Jameson notes, is characteristic of postmodernism - is difficult to overcome.  It is difficult even to imagine overcoming it.  This is one aspect of the larger problem that it is less difficult to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. How can one overcome pastiche?  Only through immanent critique.  (The immanent critique of pastiche itself - that is a fascinating and provocative proposition.)

It is an understandable misunderstanding to assume that immanent critique is characterized by a sarcastic attitude. Might one provisionally accept the methodological presuppositions of that which one is critiquing?  Perhaps.  Does this necessarily entail some amount of irony?  Maybe.  But for immanent critique to work, it demands a profound seriousness and dedication taken all the way to the end and beyond.  One must "play it straight."

For that reason, the danger of miscommunication lies in the opposite direction from sarcasm. The more thoroughly one accomplishes immanent critique, the more closely it will resemble the argument from authority.  So much so that it can, on occasion, be difficult for the reader to distinguish between the two.

Foucault did much to revive the reference to the name of the author, examining the "author-function" and describing its many facets, its necessary multiplicity and heterogeneity.  We can add to this story the myth of immanent critique: if Beckett asks, "What does it matter who is speaking?" and what does it matter which author wrote what, we may reply: even if this author is dead, an entire living regime of discourse carries on their practice under the sign of this name.  If I cite a name, or use the characteristic vocabulary of this discourse, it is not to give myself precedent and an air of authority, but precisely to undermine this very authority, from within. 

To overcome Ayn Rand, I adopt her method and show how she fails her own principles.  I do the same to overcome the methodology of Austrian economics.  And I do the same with the founders of the United States and its Constitution.  I have never been a Foucauldian, or a Jamesonian, or a Hegelian.  Nor, at any point, have I ever been a Marxist.  I quote from Marx to show why a commitment to Marx's own method forces us to go beyond Marx. 


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