Descent into Discourse: The Reification of Language and the by Bryan Palmer

By Bryan Palmer

Severe thought isn't any alternative for ancient materialism; language isn't really lifestyles. With this assertion, Bryan Palmer enters the talk that's now reworking and disrupting a couple of educational disciplines, together with political technological know-how, womenOCOs stories, and heritage. concentrating on the ways that literary or severe idea is being promoted in the box of social heritage, he argues forcefully that the present reliance on poststructuralismOCowith its reification of discourse and avoidance of the buildings of oppression and struggles of resistanceOCoobscures the origins, meanings, and results of old occasions and procedures. Palmer is worried with the emergence of language as a significant concentration of highbrow paintings within the 20th century. He locates the implosion of thought that moved structuralism towards poststructuralism and deconstruction in what he calls the descent into discourse. Few historians who champion poststructuralist proposal, in keeping with Palmer, delight in ancient materialismOCOs capability to handle discourse meaningfully. Nor do the various advocates of language in the box of social background have an sufficient grounding within the theoretical making of the venture they champion so ardently. Palmer roots his polemical problem with a view to introduce historians extra absolutely to the theoretical writing that many are alluding to and drawing from particularly cavalierly.Acknowledging that serious thought can give a contribution to an figuring out of a few elements of the prior, Palmer however argues for the centrality of materialism to the undertaking of historical past. In particular discussions of ways severe thought is developing histories of politics, category, and gender, he strains the improvement of the descent into discourse inside social background, mapping the restrictions of contemporary revisionist texts. a lot of this writing, he contends, is undertheorized and represents a difficult retreat from earlier histories that tried to handle such fabric forces as financial buildings, political energy, and sophistication struggle."Descent into Discourse"acounters present highbrow type with an eloquent argument for the need to research and get pleasure from lived adventure and the constructions of subordination and tool in any quest for ancient which means. a"

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Myth deprives the obj ect of which it speaks of all History. . We can see all the disturbing things which this felicitous figure removes from sight: both determinism and freedom. Nothing is produced, nothing is chosen : all one has to do is possess these new obj ects from which all soiling trace of origin or choice has been removed. "54 This was a curiously voluntarist reading of language's capacities to step resolutely outside of the determinations of class relations, conve­ niently innocent of the extent to which producerism, as an ideology, 19 was capable of masking class antagonisms at particular historical stages of development.

55 Along with Barthes's rather wooden posturing con­ cerning the right's monopoly on myth, this kind of blind spot undercut the analytic power of Mythologies, leading J. G. Merquior to claim that the Barthes of this period "breathes the air of the bien-pensant left . . a blinkered believer in the most conventional revolutionary socialism . . "56 Be that as it may, Barthes's kind of social criticism was rare in the Parisian structuralist circles of the late 1 950s and has been resisted ever since.

III Some, to be sure, resisted, but for the most part their politics collapsed into an uncritical Maoism, a short-lived flirtation with the dialectics of contradiction and cultural revolution that, as with the crowd gathered around the Parisian journal of poststructuralism Tel Que], all too quickly degenerated into euphoria for mysticism and things Ameri­ can. 1 1 2 Jacques Lacan, with characteristic acerbity and ambiguity; deliv­ ered the ultimate message to a Vincennes student radical in 1 969: "What you as a revolutionary aspire to is a master.

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