Half-Life & After-Life of Postmodernism – Part 5

Naked Snake: Emperor’s New Clothes

Swedish cultural journals, such as Fronesis, and book publishers, such as Tankekraft förlag, spit out profusely translations upon translations of Continental Post-Thinkers – from the Archpostmodernists such as Foucault and Deleuze to Paolo Virno, Agamben, Mouffe and Negri. The craze for the latter gives a clear indication of the relatively strong position of Post-Marxism in Sweden.

The French Theory–laced continued theory-building about “power” in Hardt’s & Negri’s Empire (2000) leads to a political analysis that makes it clear that “power” has no centre, that the United States no longer is a hegemony, that imperialism is past history and that the nation-states have been rendered obsolete: the Proletariat and the People dissolve in the swarm-like “Multitude”. In the words of the Italian philosopher Domenico Losurdo, “Empire’s” pro-American attitude demonstrates “the self-destruction of Western Marxism”. According to Timothy Brennan, Hardt’s & Negri’s theories about “Empire” are the Emperor’s new clothes, consisting of one-third of popularized Deleuze, another one-third of references of and allusions to European political philosophy yet another one-third of futurological speculations.

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Post-Marxism has, from its status as the actual, explicit left-wing of Post-Thought, effectively contributed to the sad fact that decades of system-critical Marxist discussion lively abroad is de facto virtually unknown in Sweden. The neglect of this anti-Capitalist intellectual tradition means that the field is left free for Neoliberalism to act as common sense and the very framework for and “prolegomena” to all ideology in areas that Post-Thought finds unimportant – such as actually existing socioeconomics. Like all other ‘Post-Ideologies’, Post-Marxism mixes up a principally non-dogmatic approach with an unprincipled theoretical eclecticism – an attitude whose ‘openness’ tends to make critical and serious scientific debate impossible to just about the same extent as the dogmatism it was constructed as a methodological alternative to.

On one hand, the idealistic Post-Thought has no hegemonic position within the cultural sphere in a broad sense, and hardly represents any real threat to Neoliberalism as independent ideology or “metanarrative”. On the other hand, as it dominates in some key fields of the public debate – whole academic institutions, disciplines and certain genres of cultural journalism – Post-Thought maintains indirectly an ominous ideological function. It marginalizes and blocks knowledge of and insights on historical contexts and processes, structural social analyses and sociomaterial explanations. Post-Thought’s fascination for aesthetics, its one-sided culturalism and fundamentally apolitical focus on identity politics deviates from a rational analysis and critique of Neoliberal Capitalism, and undermines the championing of social rights and an expanded democratic public sphere.

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