[-empyre-] Meta-

sdv at krokodile.co.uk sdv at krokodile.co.uk
Mon Apr 27 17:33:02 EST 2009


It always interests me how when people write of Lyotard's understanding 
of the post-modern they write as if his writings of 1979 remain and were 
accurate. As if the death of the meta-narrative of human liberation 
meant the death of all meta-narratives. But actually as the past month 
has demonstrated this is not the case.

The Meta-narratives that have survived and proposed during the past 30 
years since Lyotard's post-modern condition was published are broadly 
speaking those which can be grouped under the heading 'theories of 
liberal governance' , the internal arguments being around the subject of 
how things should be governed - the critical one being neo-liberalism 
with it's libertarian overtones. Given its existence I don't see how the 
acceptance of the misreading of the 'passing of grand-narratives' is 
really that helpful. That the postmodern stopped believing in the 
narrative of human liberation did not finally mean that the liberal 
narratives of human governance went away,  it mean rather they were 
never stronger. So that when Michael writes of meta-N passing he was 
ignoring our actual history to maintain a particular theoretical 
understanding which at its best could only address the passing of one 
set of enlightenment discourses but not the one that we most need to 
critique that of 'liberal governmentality'.


joseph tabbi wrote:
> The transcendence of Meta-Narrative as itself a Meta-Narrative?
> Logically, Michael, that makes sense. I suppose it's a question of
> where one situates oneself. Lyotard, after all, made the absence of
> meta-narratives into a narrative of a new, emergent period, a
> 'post-modern' era defined by the loss of faith in the grand narratives
> of modernity. Freud, Marx, and Durkeim, once so powerful and capable
> of explaining so much, with the passing of time could be seen as
> expressive of the hopes, aspirations, oppressions and (consequent?)
> repressions of a certain /period/. The fact that the old explanations
> failed to convince, or failed to convince in ways that could inspire
> widespread dedication to a cause, was an indication that society had
> reached a different moment. The transformation in sensibiity occurred,
> palpably, whether or not the post-modernists were paradoxical or
> contradictory in how they described the occurrence.
> It does seem to be the case that, by Lyotard's time (1970s, '80s), the
> only narratives to attain an (admittedly restricted) power, were those
> that admitted their own contingency, their dependence on a particular
> subject position, their construction of a situated identity. If there
> were not so many actual 'petit histoires' on offer, in the cultural
> domain, the meta-narrative of postmodernity would not have been
> persuasive (at least, not for as long as it was persuasive).
> (for as long as it has been persuasive?)
> But maybe there's another way to look at this. Michael's observation
> expresses a paradox: the observation of the passing of grand
> narratives is itself a grand narrative. Right. But what if we simply
> recognize the development /as/ a paradox? and then take this paradox
> as a starting point? as a way of legitimating the proliferation of
> mini-narratives? an acknowledgment that our time is derivative, not
> likely to have a dominant narrative of its own any time soon?
> Deflation of grandiosity certainly is the rhetoric of the day. "Yes we
> can" is about as grand as we can hope for, these days. Yes, /we/ can -
> even if Big Government, that mythical grandee, purportedly can't. (Can
> I be forgiven for thinking back with nostalgia  to 'nothing to fear
> but fear itself,' a slogan from long before I was born?  If the Obama
> team really wants to jump-start the economy, the President's
> speachwriters might consider the power of paradox and the logic of the
> bootstrap.... )
> An admission of paradox (not as a problem in logic but as a starting
> point) is in fact the approach taken by Luhmann, when he inaugurates
> an alternative to the 'petit histoires' of postmodernity, and when he
> attempts to replace talk of "cultures" with descriptions of
> "functional systems." I'm away from my library, but I recall Luhmann's
> opening an early major work, with something like the sentence: "We
> assume there are systems." An essay that I can look up now, online,
> opens with a similar move (the systems theorist was nothing if not
> consistent):
>   "No one, I think, will dispute the fact of a global system."
>    http://www.generation-online.org/p/fpluhmann2.htm
> I cited that once, in an email conversation with Stefanie Strickland,
> and Stef responded (immediately): '/I/ dispute it!'
> But the point is not, really, whether a global system exists or not.
> There are certainly narratives of globalization that many people
> believe in, or we act as though we do. If people believe in a system,
> a  description, or a narrative, then that belief offers a starting
> point, something to build on. (Not a foundation - that only comes
> later, after the system establishes itself, after a sufficient
> investment in the system is established, and belief in the system
> becomes widespread and self-sustaining.)
> "We don't do grand narratives anymore." That's what society tells
> itself nowadays. But this mode of self-understanding doesn't have to
> be a contradiction; it can be a way of seeing the grand
> meta-narratives of the past for what they are, and marking our own
> society as /different/.  We don't do foundations or universals, we
> deflate anyone who attempts a grand claim. Or history does the job of
> deflation for us: "Mission accomplished" is unlikely to be remembered,
> even ironically, for long. Maybe 'You're doing a heckuva job,
> Brownie,' will fare better as ecological crises pick up.
> We've gotten over 'grand,' That is what makes our current systems
> powerful and also democratic (so we can tell ourselves). Those small
> acts of resistance cited by Marc Herbst, "the glorious miasma of
> identities [having] the capacity in little and big ways to tilt at
> windmills" - what are these, if not elements in a current
> counter-narrative to those bygone grandies. Instead of revolution
> orchestrated by the state, we have resistance in the everyday,
> unorganized and emergent. These acts of resistance are observable,
> certainly, for those who know where and how to look for them (in
> Ithaca and everywhere, every day). But the notion that these small
> acts can add up to something, that they can effect a change or affect
> a system in beneficial ways - that is a matter of belief, plain and
> simple.
> To observe a system (a former grand narrative), and to use that
> observation as a way of marking our own difference: that is a kind of
> /re-entry/ (another key term in systems theory). Once we can mark our
> difference, the old narratives become no more, or less, grand than the
> stories we tell ourselves about  our own place in, solidarity with,
> and/or resistance to, the current world system.
>> On Tue, Apr 21, 2009 at 10:27 PM, Michael Angelo Tata, PhD
>> <mtata at ipublishingllc.com> wrote:
>>> I am reminded of Rorty: contingency and irony as a basis for solidarity.
>>> Despite pomo-ism, have we transcended the meta-N, or is a meta-N of no
>>> meta-N a meta-N after all?
>>> *******************************************
>>> Michael Angelo Tata, PhD  347.776.1931-USA
>>> http://www.MichaelAngeloTata.com/
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