New Criticals

The problem with such a broad, sweeping critical position is not only that it’s wrong or too general, but equally that it promotes either nihilism or the unnuanced, largely counter-productive earliness of insurrection. In other words, once Adorno’s yarn is fully played out, it ends in either meta-theoretical navel-gazing, cultural pessimism, or in propagande par le fait. Lack of historical care and respect for social nuances in critical cultural appraisal thus lends itself (at best) to radical, spectacular responses that exhaust their energy before founding or linking up with larger, more organized forms of social struggle. For this reason, thought that attempts to extrapolate a revolutionary strategy by starting from the thesis of a totally alienated, totally problematic, or otherwise doomed society, if it every overcomes abject pessimism, likely commits itself to an absolute faith in the powers of spectacular, radical insurrectionary negation. Despite our ability to see where it comes from, the insurrectionary position is ultimately untenable for the following related reasons: