FREDRIC JAMESON VALENCES OF THE DIALECTIC PDF

London: Verso, , pp. The bracing early chapters of Valences of the Dialectic return to us the useful Hegel, not the thinker of the One of teleology, of identity, of the ultimate return of every difference into the monotony of the same , but rather the unrelenting and almost impossibly rigorous thinker of the Two, of the fundamental unrest and instability neither the yin and yang of complementarity, nor the static field of binary opposition, nor yet the aporetic abyss of the antinomy, each one of these being rather a disguise for the thought of the One that dissolves every certainty in contradiction and propels it forward into something else which is not, from its own perspective, conceivable. Of course, these two Hegels, the thinker of the One and of the Two, are the same Hegel, viewed under different and contradictory aspects. The key moment here is that of structuralism and the discovery of binary opposition as a generative principle of meaning and, in a negative corollary, as the very form of ideology and error. This then permits a new staging of the emergence of the dialectic.

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London: Verso, , pp. The bracing early chapters of Valences of the Dialectic return to us the useful Hegel, not the thinker of the One of teleology, of identity, of the ultimate return of every difference into the monotony of the same , but rather the unrelenting and almost impossibly rigorous thinker of the Two, of the fundamental unrest and instability neither the yin and yang of complementarity, nor the static field of binary opposition, nor yet the aporetic abyss of the antinomy, each one of these being rather a disguise for the thought of the One that dissolves every certainty in contradiction and propels it forward into something else which is not, from its own perspective, conceivable.

Of course, these two Hegels, the thinker of the One and of the Two, are the same Hegel, viewed under different and contradictory aspects. The key moment here is that of structuralism and the discovery of binary opposition as a generative principle of meaning and, in a negative corollary, as the very form of ideology and error.

This then permits a new staging of the emergence of the dialectic. In Hegel, opposition was to be derived from something else, namely Verstand or the law of noncontradiction. In a first approach, the problem can be avoided by returning to a conception of the dialectic as purely reactive, as a practice of disruptive guerrilla raids on Verstand, reified thinking, common sense.

And indeed, as with the two Hegels above, the thought of the Two cannot function without the thought of the One; the dialectic presumes common sense; if the latter were really defeated, the former would have nothing on which to operate. The complication is, to get ahead of ourselves, that Verstand is not stable but is rather itself implicated in the movement of the dialectic. But this guerilla dialectic begins to look both familiar and harmless; it has become a matter of rediscovering some old tools, providing a new genealogy and perhaps a gratifyingly militant tone for the deconstructive attitude.

The difference between the dialectic and this attitude — a difference which becomes obvious in Marx — is, however, already fully present in Hegel, in his insistence that the dialectic was already an operation in the object itself, leaving noumenal squeamishness to the Kantians.

The dialectic does not attack appearances in the name of an essence that lies outside them; nor does it attack them in the hopes of merely loosening their hold on thought; rather, it takes hold of them from the inside in the name of another appearance that is already immanent in them. The dialectic, the dereification of thought, is also the dereification of the world, the edifice of facts turned into a tissue of potentialities.

We are really talking here more about making space dialectical than about making the dialectic spatial; the point is to outfit the dialectic for a moment when space is a conceptual dominant, for reasons that are entirely historical in the strong sense. Still, one has only to remember that Phenomenology of Spirit itself is far from straightforwardly chronological to realize that the dialectic is there already spatial.

And, of course, once we move beyond Hegel Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg, Cardoso, Amin… , a spatial dialectic, not named as such but already specifically global, begins to emerge as a mode of thinking in its own right.

It has yet to be isolated and theorized under its own name, and Jameson does the former but not yet the latter here. The second chapter is equally stimulating but more difficult to summarize. Essentially, it is a guided tour of the Encyclopedia Logic, organized through the itinerary of vulgar understanding or Verstand, which itself is no stable term but rather assumes various forms as the Logic unfolds. That is, the movement from one contradiction to another in the text is not so much to be thought of as a movement higher in some absolute space though Jameson cannot expunge the vertical metaphor altogether , but rather wider with reference to the moment that preceded it.

One is treated in this staging to a series of defenses of the dialectic against some of its most worthy opponents, while later engagements with some of the same thinkers will assume a more dialectical form.

But while these engagements take the form of a series of arguments, sometimes clearly exasperated ones, a later chapter on Derrida, which responds to Specters of Marx, is both more generous and less direct; indeed much of it is given over to explication and to chasing down the resonances that situate spectrality as central to the Derridean corpus.

On this account, Derrida becomes a symptom of a situation that affects all Left thinking today in one way or another, non-Marxist and Marxist alike. Once such an antinomy has been produced, it becomes, as we have seen, ripe for the dialectical picking. We turn, then, to Part III the long initial chapter having received a Part of its own , and to familiar material. Jameson singles out feminist science studies as the principal example, and Fanon stands in, one presumes, for a whole range of insights which continue up to the present day one thinks, for example, of the very different projects of Roberto Schwarz and Paulin Hountondji ; the challenge has also been explicitly taken up for queer theory by, among others, Kevin Floyd in a book reviewed in this issue.

My sense is that, more than two decades later, something has changed in that one can argue with that Zeitgeist, which is to say that it is no longer quite our Zeitgeist, that the aversion to Totality is no longer as hegemonic for the intellectual Left as it once was. This reversal would, in turn, have to be approached as a symptom, a project which Jameson does not undertake here — though it would be entirely plausible to relate it to the closure of the world market, which has entered the Zeitgeist in the allegorical figure of the globe as an ecological or economic totality.

Jameson is not a pedagogue in quite this way, and there is something jarring about seeing dialectical ideas laid out in nondialectical form. The notes are all there, but the breathing is wrong. Jameson divides the question into several parts, essentially: What is Marxism today, and what is it not? What is socialism today, and what is it not? What is revolution today, and what is it not? What was communism, and what was it not?

And, what is capitalism today, and what does Marxism present as a response? The idea is to find a perspective, or produce one, from which an object can be narrativized into an allegory of a transformed world. There are cases when this perspective is given to us with the object itself a painting by Van Gogh ; we have only to look over the shoulder of the allegorizer.

With other cases this perspective is only arrived through our own allegorical effort. In the case of Wal-Mart, it is largely a matter of highlighting its unique place in the economy: to simplify drastically, the fact that its enormous size and power in relationship to its industrial suppliers can condense complex and, in the long view, untenable relationships between sectors into a single figure.

With the multitude, it is on this account Paolo Virno who is doing the allegorizing; we are looking on as he changes the valences of the traditional conservative critiques of modernity and turns them into harbingers of the future.

One remembers that Utopianism used to be an insult on the Left, referring to radical postures with no practical political program essentially, no Party in the abstract sense of a mediatory collective behind them.

Its only other is on the Right, in the insistence that any radical alternative is either impossible on its face or destined for totalitarianism. The minimal precondition laid out in this form may be misleading, however. What Jameson does not say here, but which is implicit everywhere else, is that Marxism is not Utopian in only this sense, but in another one which already goes beyond it to find a mediating link Party being only one possible mediation between the Utopian and the actual.

We might translate it into our own historical moment as: no matter how long the march, it must start here. I will not be able to do justice to it here, but it seems to me that this chapter really a short book in itself strikes out for radically new territory. The first chapters of Valences are dedicated in the main to a certain explication of the dialectic and a demonstration of its persistence; this requires taking account of all kinds of new phenomena and situations, but does not itself reach beyond the dialectic as Jameson finds it.

On the other hand, time itself will be made to emerge as an effect of something else. Though it is not invoked here, something similar happens in Phenomenology of Spirit, where time does not arise as a problem precisely because it emerges as the solution to another problem.

Heidegger had, in a typical move, translated it in such a way as to prioritize a phenomenal horizon. These latter terms already presuppose a concept of time: is always too late to talk about time.

A privileged example, which foreshadows the concerns of the second part of this chapter, will be the three temporalities that govern Braudelian historiography. This only gets Jameson half as far as he wants to go: history does not automatically appear alongside time. What is history, and how does one make it appear?

The processes themselves are of course multiple and shifting, as it is still a critical commonplace to insist. But to do justice to these processes in their radical particularity is not enough to make history appear; rather, the conflict between temporalities has to be narrativized, and this requires a process of totalization to put them into determinate relations with each other.

This is, indeed, where Jameson parts company most decisively with Ricoeur. The latter collapses history into narrative by privileging the scale of human action.

The illustrations that accompany these conceptual enlargements are fascinating in themselves, but I will pass them over to emphasize the key category of pathos, which is an even more complex matter than the discussions of peripeteia and anagnorisis that precede it. This may be stretch, but Aristotle is no longer at stake here. It is, then, a kind of reification of history, a way in which multiple trajectories intersect to produce something that can be assembled into a single narrative.

Simplifying a great deal and leaving out at least one fundamental complication, it appears that two modes of such totalization are essential here: history as system and history as event. The first of these is the unification of diverse actors and motives, some of them deeply antagonistic and contradictory, into a massive homeostasis that results at most in a creeping expansion or hardening.

The second is also a unification of diverse series, contingencies, and accidents, but here in the mode of will and action; at the limit, of revolution. In fact, both are separations as well as unifications: the homeostatic system is an array of forces in tension, and the revolutionary event is their precipitation into antagonism.

Thus, System assembles separation under unification, and Event precipitates unification under separation. But it is not enough to produce either one of these totalizations alone. The grounding of historical thought undertaken in this final section is not just a defense, an explication, a deployment, or an elaboration of the dialectic; it is a profound contribution to dialectical thought. It is curious that neither Hegel nor Marx questions the being of History in this way. But then Hegel and Marx lived in historical times and did not face the task the Jameson has set himself: to make history appear.

The acknowledgments page gets the title and publication information wrong for this essay, which appeared in New Left Review 4 : As is hardly uncommon, the index and copyediting could have been a lot better.

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This controversial article, which Jameson later expanded into a book, was part of a series of analyses of postmodernism from the dialectical perspective Jameson had developed in his earlier work on narrative. Jameson viewed the postmodern "skepticism towards metanarratives " as a "mode of experience" stemming from the conditions of intellectual labor imposed by the late capitalist mode of production. Postmodernists claimed that the complex differentiation between "spheres" or fields of life such as the political, the social, the cultural, the commercial , and between distinct social classes and roles within each field, had been overcome by the crisis of foundationalism and the consequent relativization of truth-claims. Jameson argued against this, asserting that these phenomena had or could have been understood successfully within a modernist framework; the postmodern failure to achieve this understanding implied an abrupt break in the dialectical refinement of thought.

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