The following is a guest post by Brett Neilson, blogger at the irregular Life During Wartime.
1. ‘Triumphant global finance capital/world trade can only be resisted with irony.’ I am simultaneously drawn and worried by this claim from Spivak’s 2000 essay ‘From Haverstock Hill Flat to U.S. Classroom, What’s Left of Theory.’ Perhaps this is because the work of irony is never done. Reaching on the one hand toward insubordinate refusal and on the other toward an unbearable ontological lightness, irony holds forth a promise it cannot keep. As such, it provides no chart of programmatic action--no twelve steps for overcoming global capitalism. Its tactics are inevitably polluted with ideological longings that, as Spivak’s teacher Paul de Man points out, it can know but never quite overcome.
Irony divides the flow of temporal experience into a past that is pure mystification and a future that remains harassed forever by a relapse within the inauthentic. It can know this inauthenticity but can never overcome it. It can only restate and repeat it on an increasingly conscious level, but it remains endlessly caught in the impossibility of making this knowledge applicable to the empirical world
Is this precisely the impossibility that drives Spivak to rewrite her observations on reading Marx after Derrida so many times?