Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Chomsky Not a Fan of Theory

“When I said I’m not interested in theory, what I meant is, I’m not interested in posturing–using fancy terms like polysyllables and pretending you have a theory when you have no theory whatsoever. So there’s no theory in any of this stuff, not in the sense of theory that anyone is familiar with in the sciences or any other serious field.”
— Noam Chomsky


WilliamWarrenG said...

Consider Morozov’s declaration in his recent interview with Terry Winograd: we have too many priests and not enough jesters. Insightful enough, funny as all hell, and pointing right to the role of Zizek, “the deadly jester” according to Adam Kirsch. We must maintain the wisdom to discriminate between Zizek the philosopher and Zizek the Jester. As for theory? Zizek is not a good example. (I cannot offhand think of one!) It does seem he provides a hypothesis, and a description, but never settles on a particular hypothesis to ground his thought as “theory.” He thinks as though his mind lives in an ever-widening gyre.

Zizek read as offering descriptions and analysis.
Zizek read as providing a literary-like (quasi grand?) narrative.
Zizek read as a hilarious (or ugly) lunatic.

This final description is what his critics most often see, I think. And what if this jester is hilarious & ugly?

What if he misleads fools into dangerous ideologies but points towards unusual insights for those who read past his “posturing”?

Ted Burke said...

I worked for years to get inside a particular cluster of theories in order to both understand how these notions in turn aid me in understand what is at work in and outside a text, and to sound like I was a bright fellow who trafficked in big ideas. The benefit of getting older is that you recognize the waste of time invested in the abstruse (in contrast to the honestly abstract) and to become interested in those working critical principles that allow a means to engage a text in ways that make things like literature , art, poetry, useful in our daily lives; criticism should, in Harold Bloom's remark, aid is allowing us to think about ourselves not in degenerate solipsism, but within a world we have less power over than we might think. The Greeks had a strong notion of this. What has passed for theory for the last few decades has been a maddening prophylactic against comprehension, to cite Robert Hughes. It is a moment of clarity when a smart man like Chomsky calls BS as he sees it.