David Garcia on Fri, 14 Aug 2020 21:14:15 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> notes on cancel culture

Thanks Gary,

for critically pulling me up on an un-problemtized use of a variety of liberal bromides. Particularly telling is your last point about the danger of unwittingly putting myself at odds with the legitimate rage of oppressed groups whose tactics have been pilloried by both liberals and the right under the generalised rubric of "cancel culture". I am sorry Alice Yang you are absolutely right I accept I was not paying enough attention to the context and struggles within which term is used and mis-used. (including the Harpers Magazine letter)





Thanks for your post on William Davies’s recent contributions to the London Review of Books. Enjoyed it.

The mention of Carl Schmitt brings to mind another critic of liberalism, Chantal Mouffe, and her philosophy of hegemony and antagonism, itself greatly influenced by Schmitt’s account of the friend/enemy relation. For Mouffe, the political is a decision that is always ‘taken in an undecidable terrain’. This is because social relations are not fixed or natural, but rather the product of hegemonic articulations: that is, of contingent yet temporary decisions involving power and conflict. (Which has the advantage that these hegemonic articulations can be disarticulated, transformed and rearticulated as a result of struggle between opponents.)

Now, I realize this may seem a rather counter-intuitive question to ask - particularly for readers of the London Review of Books! But I do worry, is there a risk that using terms and concepts like ‘argument’, ‘careful judgement’, ‘knowledge’, ‘democracy’, ‘public’ as datum points in this way is itself a form of affective politics that ‘“precedes debate, precedes argument, precedes speech”’? Might it, too, be a ‘decisionism’, “an acting out or performance of some prior act of identification”’ - one in which the question of what it is to be political, especially in relation to ‘cancel culture’, is not taken in an undecidable terrain, but is rather decided in advance of intellectual questioning?

Here’s a less subtle (and less philosophical) version of the concern that’s troubling me and that I'm not expressing as well as I'd like: How do we as ‘net critics’ avoid coming across - especially to certain of those progressive or marginalized voices who may have found themselves associated with cancel culture - as merely activist/artist/geek versions of the liberal signatories to the Letter on Justice and Open Debate that appeared in Harper’s Magazine at the beginning of July and that Geert also refers to in his piece on cancel culture?

Cheers, Gary
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