February 27, 2006

difference and repetition

Let me first state my question as succinctly as I can and then add a few qualifying comments.

What repetition has as its correlate the maximum difference?

1. I was not sure if this question fit under the category of hegemony. The question is something that really interests me in that I would like to know about the (ontological) nature of change, its conditions of possibility, the formal expressions it assumes, etc. I was thinking of this question after last class when we were discussing how symbolic change happens through a specific process of iteration and repetition. It seems that in historically-linguistically different circumstances a signifiers iterability suggests the possibility for a repetition that may cause the signification as such to "slide" or glissage away from a hateful usage to a more "benevolent" one or something like that [deluca talks about this with "black" in Jamaica following Hall, Butler talks about "queer" and such things. So this seems like a key thing for rhetoricians to think through. If we agree that the structure of language as such is that iteration forces repetition w/ chance for difference, what kind of difference are we talking about? Is it just that things can mean differently? No doubt, this must be significant because for one thing to mean otherwise an entire chain of signifiers must also shift along with that one thing. ---still! Saussure says this happens only by accident, yes? if that then are we ultimately theorists of accident? surely we are not talking about self-identical subjects strategizing about how a word could change its meaning, or are we?---

2. There must be different kinds of difference, kinds we cannot imagine. I like this (derridean inspired from Brian Lain) example (iteration):

Follow this procedure to see maximum difference:
1. Look at the words below
2. Look away
3. Look at the word again

--Cellar Door--

The word has changed, why? The word has changed again. Each iteration must include within itself the maximum quantity for difference. So is it that the most precise repetition has as its correlate the maximum amount of difference? Some ways this makes sense: as difference in kind--bergson/deleuze/happy here--the word may only differ, truly differ, in its difference from itself not from another word or a thing from another thing for that matter. So this then is about potential rather than possible. There are any number of possible differences like cello door or cellar dook or cellar doors or anything, but the maximum potential for difference must be within and from the word itself, yes?

3. I guess I'm wondering how the butler stuff fits in with my thoughts about difference in kind rather than difference in type.

February 17, 2006

Process of Hegemony

Hegemony is a concept that has been popping up all over in readings for other classes…but an interesting use of it is found in Steven Buechler’s Social Movements in Advanced Capitalism. He describes “cycles of hegemony that define such very different political climates? and that there are 4 specific stages that associated with the rise and fall of hegemonic power (p. 67) associating that with a rise, maturity, and decline of hegemonic power. For him, these cycles are tied to changing economies and how states take advantage of economic opportunities (thus starting a hegemonic cycle). Obviously here, he is not pulling from Laclau and Mouffe (his citation is Gramsci), and that the hegemony is giving as example is the US military-industrial system and its forms/stages from 1900-present (and assuming that this is a dominant/influential world force)—clearly some material evidence with the type of production and economic system at a given time. But I was interested in seeing if a “life cycle? of hegemony fits with the process that Laclau and Mouffe outline.

Given that articulation/disarticulation is a process, then life cycle might fit. There would be, arguably, some evidence for the movement of the frontier and/or strength of the rearticulation/current articulation (how fragmented or contested it would be). Using Ron’s example from class, would it be fair to suggest that marriage between man/woman was strongest when there was no recognition or terminology for homosexuality? And that at this point we might be at the emerging phase of rearticulating the concept of marriage/traditional concept of marriage in decline? Perhaps gauging the strength of given concepts by forms of text or discourse and how these concepts are referred to? If we can say that articulation processes can be thought of as a life cycle, it might also be possible to think that there would be certain strategies that can be employed at different times of that life cycle for rearticulation to be more or less successful. In thinking of the war example (Matt’s use of Cloud, Greene, and DeLuca articles), would it be a matter of the peace movement making itself known or targeting specific articulation targets at given points along the way? For example, the peace movement was ineffective because they were acting at the height of the changeover (when the dominant was most defensive of the current articulation) so needed to lay other groundwork (like the other rearticulations that Ron suggested) to have effect on their specific target with military in America and combating the yellow-ribbon press. Although Laclau and Mouffe might not have intended their version of hegemony to be used as a tool for the oppressed (but do suggest rethinking?), with our discussion in class on the peace movement, we were leaning towards utility and action with this concept…hence my thinking here.

There are problems with thinking about hegemony as a life-cycle, so I am not certain that this makes sense given what we talked about in class. My concern would be:
1. How does one tell at what point of the life cycle you are at?
2. Can we really strategize with these practices? As Ron suggested, with the other issues that are connected/need to be rearticulated as well, how can we access those decisions or change some things given the material reality it is connected to?
3. Is there a level of consciousness that has to be gained about these hegemonic forces—do some act subconsciously (again, making it hard to determine life cycle or our ability to rearticulate)?

Lots of questions here, but wondering if it is a worthy place to push the process of hegemony in this way and what that might lead us to.

February 8, 2006

The Project of Hegemony

This is a response to the Laclau talk discussion, as well as a new question --

Perhaps there really is no demand 1, or at least the rhetoric of demand 1 is not really a begining point for hegemonic articulation. That is, if demand 1 is thought of as an entirely localized and self-birthed demand. The way Laclau constructed a diagram during the talk of demand1, d2, ect orginally in horizontal relation to one another suggested that conception of d1. However, I think the kind of hegemonizing HSS calls for is a task that can only take place when an articulator is reacting not only to a local instance of injustice (as per demand 1) but is rather reacting to a richer matrix of previously stated demands and injustices. It may be the original articulation of such injustices may make it more or less easy for a hegemonic articulation to start to construct a logic of equivilence with that demand and others (ie it may easier to bring together poor native workers and underemployed immigrants if, for instance, the workers articulate their demands in terms of corporate exploitation instead of xenophobia). But it seems that the hegemonizing articulations must come after (in response to) local demands that have already been voiced.

While I'm not very familiar with the circumstances of the Kiaros document, it seems like it does come at such a momement when previous demands had already been made and the task had begun of producing both an equivalence among those demands, as well producing what Laclau and Mouffe call "a set of proposals for the positive organization of the social" (189).

What seems to be strikingly absent in HSS are examples, like Kiaros or the Palestinian Declaration of Independence perhaps, of democratic hegemonizing articulation (there are obviously much less cumbersome ways to talk about this, but when in Rome . . .) My question is, why are such examples are absent in the book? Do they not believe such articulatory practices occur as organic responses to contemporary conditions? Is the call for such a project, which they seem to assign to an entirely future status both at the end of the book as well as the 2000 introduction, a project for an intellectual vanguard? Is their claim really their post-structuralist analysis is needed to announce the conditions of possibility for such a hegemeny project, and only then can it begin? What's the status of the intellectual vanguard for radical democracy?