Tag Archive: poststructuralism

I recently mentioned my belief, or hope, that the humanities and sciences are working their ways toward a post-constructivist synthesis, a paradigm in the making with the potential to become a powerful player in twenty-first century public discourse. “Post-constructivism” says little, and “post-representationalism”, “post-anthropocentric humanism,” and “post-Kantianism” — the other terms I used there — don’t help much. So I feel obliged to articulate in more detail what I mean by this assertion. If it is a trend, it is not one that can be demonstrated with quantitative evidence: no matter how many names or schools of thought one can list, there will have been no exhaustive survey done of how these names and schools stack up against all the others that continue to generate knowledge in our academies and in the other intellectual spaces of the world (including emergent ones like those found on-line).

This claim, or belief of mine, is just a reading — and not a disinterested one — of those fields that I cover in my own everyday reading, browsing, research and teaching practice. Its components include the following:

1) There has been a clear shift away from a strict “social constructionism,” or “constructivism,” in the humanities and social sciences to something more cognizant of the complex relations between the social and the non-social, a category that includes the material, the bodily, the affective and emotional, and the biological.

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There’s a wealth of material in post-marxist and poststructuralist political philosophy to be found at the After 1968 web site, which documents a series of seminars and lectures held in Maastricht over the last few years. You can find texts by Agamben, Deleuze, Badiou, Ranciere, Baudrillard, Negri, Derrida, Nancy, and others there, though it will take some scrolling, clicking, and poking around to locate them.

One of the more interesting finds there is a link to the translated notes from a lecture by Deleuze on Spinoza’s concept of affect. It’s arguably this concept and its transmission through Deleuze, together with the more recent upsurge of research in the neuroscience of affect and emotion (by people like Antonio Damasio), that underlies the fairly dramatic upwelling of interest in all things ‘affective’ in recent social and cultural theory.

The site also provides links to Deleuze’s last published piece of writing, the brief, lyrical “Immanence: A Life…”, and to Giorgio Agamben’s insightful, meditative dissection of it (which, thankfully, is only slightly marred by Agamben’s own obsessions with sovereignty, “bare life”, biopolitics, etc.). Agamben spends three whole pages analyzing the punctuation – colon, ellipsis – of the title alone, and though that may sound overindulgent, it’s well worth reading.

Deleuze’s notion of immanence changed over the years and, as Christian Kerslake argues, left questions and inconsistencies in its wake. But it remains very evocative and, in this final version at least, sounds to me completely resonant with the (Madhyamika) Buddhist ontology I’ve been exploring.

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