all this, a riff on an incredibly heady set of questions from minx, and subsequent comments.
we all agree that at some level, art, culture and politics are arbitrary (not meaningless) signifiers; i will now presume that, as discussed, our understandings of each of these terms depend upon our understandings of the others, as part of a sign-chain. art, for example, must be understood to some degree as ‘not politics,’ and vice versa. i want to talk about this sign-chain and its conditions of possibility, without presuming that we could or should overthrow it.
consider my gripe with ‘cultural politics.’ the problem for me, as stated previously, is that the seeming merger of ‘culture’ and ‘politics’ represses the material reality of culture as politics, politics as culture, etc. it implies that there are moments when politics isn’t cultural, and vice versa. very problematic, this, for obvious reasons. let’s consider the ‘politics = not art’ distinction for example. there is always a cultural or political story to be told about how a painting got into a museum even if it’s not the most interesting version. i’m going to assume nobody really falls out with me on this? i am saying that we’re living with a fiction, half-aware of its fictitiousness – but that is not taken to be a diss. we might as well be at home with our constructions, since constructing is what we do. (i think there’s a lot to be said for making sure we don’t confuse our constructions with ‘essences’ or universals, though. but this is well known, this problem of mine.)
frances mulhearn’s pretty goddamn essential work, metaculture, spends a lot of time on modern British and German ideas of culture and cultural critique, arriving at the conclusion that even the righteous, marxist cultural studies of stuart hall fails to prove pop culture houses ‘politics as such,’ thus exposing the limits of the discipline and its concept. part of the reason cultural studies cannot achieve its political agenda stems from the fact that ‘culture’ is ultimately barred from our core understanding of ‘the political.’ mulhearn’s ensuing debate with franco moretti – to the tune of whether attaining ‘politics as such’ could or should be the province of (even public) intellectuals – is fascinating and highly recommended. but this canny rejoinder from david simpson is even hipper. i make it available to you, as tribute to the heady times and hip conversations we’ve had so far, and as prelude to the bloggy decades ahead. aside from the ever-present, often pretentious-seeming claim that one’s life’s work is meant to overthrow this and that and blah-blah, i’ll submit that i value the opinions and interlocutions of no intellectual public more than this one. but who didn’t know that already?
i’ve done a lot more blogging than indexing today. shame, shame.