Saturday, January 10, 2004

One Good Turn Deserves Another

In response to this post, dedicated to me as it is, I in turn dedicate this article to Pat.

A teaser:

Theory is a way of problematizing, of wondering about what we are saying and doing, about what we think we are saying or doing, and whether that is what is really being said or done, or whether something else has silently crept over us and turned it into something else altogether. In theory of the deconstructive sort, one could put "quotation marks" or "scare quotes" around each and every word or fragment or sentence, practice or institution, and problematize it, ruminate over it, worry over it. The trick lies not in knowing when to do that—you always can—but to know when not to do that. It depends upon a Socratic demon that warns us to leave this or that alone for the time being because it would represent a more strategic intervention to worry about something else instead.

Theory is endless suspicion and mistrust. But it is not the jaundiced eyed mistrust that believes nothing and does nothing and that slanders everyone who tries, but the kind of felicitous mistrust that somehow finds a way to cohabit with faith, which mistrusts the present in the name of the future. Theory, and the theory astir in deconstruction in particular, doubts the present because of its faith in the future, its love of the à venir, of what is always and structurally to come, so that the Messiah never actually shows up, since if he does, then he is no longer what is to come. What deconstruction will have done, and the way that it will live on, after Derrida, after deconstruction itself, lies in its insistence on the future, on what is coming, and on the courage it takes to keep the future open. Theory is the endless problematizing of our beliefs and practices, the bottomless suspicion that our current beliefs and practices are unworthy servants of the future, unfaithful to the open-endedness of the future, the anxiety that the present tends to ensconce itself in its presence and to close off what is coming. If there were no theory, there would be no future, just the endless repetition of the same. Resistance to theory is reactionary. To resist theory is to resist the future in order to cling to the present. Theory pries the present open to the future, making possible the coming of the impossible, in the name not of doubt but of faith, not of contempt but of love. To understand the future of theory would require understanding the future of love.

I will, later this week, write a bit more about this.