The Theory Industry

by rsbakker

So I’ve been struggling with politics the way I always struggle with politics.


Here’s what I think is very likely a waste of intellectual resources:

1) Philosophical redefinitions of ‘freedom.’ So you’ve added to the sum of what there is to disagree about, induced more educated souls to opine as opposed to act, and contributed to the cultural alienation that makes anti-intellectualism cool. Who do you work for again?

2) Conceptual delimitations of what David Roden calls ‘Posthuman Possibility Space.’ Humans are not exempt from the order of nature. Science has had no redemptive tales to tell so far, so why should we think it will in the future?

3) The fetishization of art. A classic example of the ‘man with a hammer’ disease. Transgressing outgroup aesthetic expectations for ingroup consumption amounts to nothing more than confirming outgroup social expectations regarding your ingroup. Unless the ‘art’ in question genuinely reaches out, then it is simply part of the problem. Of course, this amounts to abandoning art and embracing dreck, where, as the right has always known, the true transformative power of art has always lain.

4) Critiques and defenses of subjectivity. Even if there is such a thing, I think it’s safe to say that discoursing about it amounts to little more than an ingroup philosophical parlour game.


Here’s what I think is not as likely to be a waste of intellectual resources (but very well could be):

1) Cultural triage. WE NO LONGER HAVE TIME TO FUCK AROUND. The Theory Industry (and yes I smell the reek of hypocrisy) is a self-regarding institutional enterprise, bent not so much on genuine transformation as breath mints and citations–which is to say, the accumulation of ingroup prestige. The only lines worth pursuing are lines leading out, away from the Theory Industry, and toward all those people who keep our lazy asses alive. If content is your thing, then invade the commons, recognize that writing for the likeminded amounts to not writing at all.

2) Theoretical honesty. NO ONE HAS ANY DEFINITIVE THEORETICAL ANSWERS. This is an enormous problem because moral certainty is generally required to motivate meaningful, collective political action. Such moral certainty in the modern age is either the product of ignorance and/or stupidity. The challenge facing us now, let alone in the future, is one of picking guesses worth dying for without the luxury of delusion. Pick them. Run with them.

3) The naturalization of morality and meaning. EMBRACE THOSE DEFINITIVE ANSWERS WE DO HAVE. Science tells us what things are, how they function, and how they can be manipulated. Science is power, which is why all the most powerful institutions invest so heavily in science. The degree to which science and scientific methodologies are eschewed is the degree to which power is eschewed. Only discourses possessing a vested interest in their own impotence would view ‘scientism’ as a problem admitting a speculative or attitudinal solution, rather than the expression of their own crisis of theoretical legitimacy. The thinking that characterizes the Theory Industry is almost certainly magical, in this respect, insofar as it believes that words and moral sentiment can determine what science can and cannot cognize.


Any others anyone can think of?