A Critique of Critique

Criticism itself does not even need to be concerned with this matter, for it is already clear about it. Criticism is no longer an end in itself but simply a means. Its essential pathos is indignation, its essential task denunciation. – Karl Marx, Towards a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

Now that I actually have some time on my hands this week, I intend to churn out a few posts due to the wealth of information I’ve taken in through my intensive readings throughout the last two weeks.

Here, Marx articulates my essential problem with postmodernist thought itself. If we return to Plato’s earlier works, we can see that the Socratic Method is merely questioning for the sake of questioning. In his later works, Plato endeavours to fill this vacuum by finding the answers in his Republic. In Hardt & Negri’s Empire, the same problem is posed: the negative culmination of modern thought passes into a new era of postmodernist thought. That is, it is a critique of everything the modern theorists have tried to fill in the vacuum left after the struggle between the religious and the scientific.  Critique consistently creates a greater and greater vacuum to fill as theories become deconstructed or nullified. What is so important to remember is that critique should only be a means to an end, the end being truth (for the sake of argument and consistent with the aims of these posts).

Politics must include two components: the theoretical (philosophy) and the material (praxis or science). Now only must we theorize of the utopia of the social, but also how the politicized individual must act (in many ways, tied to ethics). Postmodern theories of politics must find their redemption in the ethos of their theories, not only by pointing out the moral aporias in current political structures, but also defining the scope of action (resistance in the Foucauldian sense) for the individuals caught in such aporias. For instance, Giorgio Agamben is quite adept at outlining the ethical aporias in state sovereignty, but he puts forward no modes of resistance or courses of actions against such structures like the camp and biopower. Previous political theories have always posited solutions: Conservatism:  tradition and reactionary caution, Liberalism: emancipation and the rights of Man, Marxism: communist revolution, Political anarchism: revolution and spontaneous community, Fascism: national militarism, corporatism, and social Darwinism, Socialism: social equality and distribution of wealth, and the list goes on.  Until postmodern theory is able to dictate the scope of political action for the individual and the community, its political clout will continue to be limited to the theoretical realm.

The ability of theory to withstand any critique should be the true proof that it is worth something to look at and employ in the political praxis. The recognition that Mill’s The Subjugation of Women and the horrors of capitalist exploitation of the worker in Marx and Engel’s Communist Manifesto have withstood the test of time is an indication of the value of these concepts in finding new and innovative ways to address current day political problems. To say that they have all been solved by Fukuyama’s End of History-styled liberal capitalist democracy is an understatement. The one useful concept that postmodernist IR theory has brought to the table is the critique of state sovereignty. In this regard, political theory must now endeavour to fill the critical gap using both old and innovative abstractions to solve the gap in political praxis of the sovereign state.

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