Marxism and art

Jon Beasley-Murray jpb8 at
Mon Jul 10 11:56:42 MDT 1995

Santiago Colas wrote the following:

In the POlitical Unconscious (p. 22), FRJ, quotes from D and G,
Anti-Oedipus, p. 109, where, to excerpt, they assert that "The
unconscious poses no problem of meaning, solely problems of use.  The
qestion posed by desire is not 'What does it mean?' but rather 'How does
it work?'"  To this Jamesons responds:
	"From our present standpoint, however, the ideal of an immanent
analysis of the text, of a dismantling or deconstruction of its parts and
a description of its functioning and malfunctioning, amounts less to a
wholesale nullification of all interpretive activity than to a demand for
the construction of some new and more adequate, immanent or
antitranscendent hermeneutic model, which it will be the task of the
following pages to propose" (Political Unconscious, p. 23).


This is definitely an instance of what I (admittedly hyperbolically)
called Jameson's "desperate" defence of interpretation in _The Political
Unconscious_.  I guess its not so much desperate as supremely strange to
me.  Who and why "our" present standpoint?  Why does he decree it
"amounts less to" blah and rather to what Fred's been wanting to do all
along?  Smacks of pronouncements from Olympian heights for no good
reason, as far as I can see.

Santiago: <<<
Beyond that, I'm wondering about the opposition
between "meaning" and "function/effect/work" on which D and G's assertion
rests.  It seems to me that Fred's reply attempts to challenge that
opposition.  What do you think?

Now this is more to the point--but not, it seems, the point Jameson wants
to make (or if it is, he's too busy magisterially eliding it).  Moreover,
of course, this concerns much more than "art" (as we have it in the
subject heading here), but at the very least almost any cultural
phenomenon.  I think it also relates to the parallel argument on the uses
of a discursive model of society.  D&G are definitely opposed to such a
model, I think in ways quite similar to those in which people oppose
Laclau and Mouffe.

Put another way (and I admit this is a bit of a rush back to authority,
but this is a marxism list, rather than a deleuze-guattari list), Marx
nowhere seems particularly interested in the "meaning" of capitalism.
What would such a question--"What does capitalism mean?"--itself either
mean or function for?  Rather Marx, and marxists, are concerned with how
capitalism *works*... and yet not neutrally, not without any concern with
*ethics* (ie. not in order to increase capitalism's efficiency or patch it

It is this *immanent ethics of critique* that interests me, in art, in
culture, and elsewhere.  And this is also what we should be discussing on
seminar-14, but that's another thing.

BTW, good to have you back around.



Good to be back.

Take care


Jon Beasley-Murray
Literature Program
Duke University
jpb8 at

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