Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wilber’s specific debt to Hegelian thinkers (Sri Aurobindo, Gebser, Theilhard)

"Such a Body We Must Create:" New Theses on Integral Micropolitics
Daniel Gustav Anderson
INTEGRAL REVIEW December 2008 Vol. 4, No. 2
Anderson: New Theses on Integral Micropolitics

For Marx, the specific matter of religion is a survival—a functional fossil from an earlier socioeconomic order—and but a specific case of the tension he explores between private initiative and political contingency. To anticipate a later point in this thesis, Raymond Williams’ observation that one can transform one’s devotions into a functionally oppositional practice, specifically renouncing one’s will-to-capital and instead working for the benefit of the totality (p. 122), a position Williams simply proposes without elaborating, should be taken in this context. [...]

A Hegelian, for the purposes of Althusser’s argument, would look to subdue a given formation regardless of its determination from its contextualized historical specificity into Spirit—the outcome of this dialectic is assumed before the start, literally taken on faith, such that in a vulgar but real way the contradictions of race relations among late-capitalist producers are made out to be a gesture of Providence, specifically a Hegelian’s providential pen (see Thesis Seven).

Not so for the Marxist working in good faith. Althusser recognizes that the specific overdetermination of social relations in Russia, for instance, made revolution possible under Lenin, but conditions in the overdetermined totality of Wilhelm’s Germany prevented the same (p. 106). Methodologically, this means it is indeed possible to think a totality without doing necessary violence to any specific contingency, but it is also possible to botch it, to see a New Age dawning where there is none, or to ideologically foreclose a transformation that might be possible (see Thesis Seven). The terms of open-ended empirical inquiry if rigorously applied prevent this, which is why Althusser emphasizes that in Marxist method "the material life of men explains their history; their consciousness, their ideologies are then merely the phenomena of their material life" (p. 107), regardless of the gender-specific language of Althusser’s presentation. [...]

There are two transitions in any successful attempt to make something, according to Blake’s (1996) Gurdjieffian analysis. "In the one," Blake asserts, "the action of making is set free from the laws of the mechanical world from which it starts. In the other, it is made an integral part of the purposeful world in which it ends" (p. 57). Much follows from these observations on production and productivity.

In The Encyclopedia of Stupidity, which is in the last analysis an inquiry into intelligence and intelligent action, van Boxsel (2003) describes the accrued development of a culture in the same way that Blake describes the production of something useful. Culture, intelligence, and theory are "but the result of a series of more or less unsuccessful attempts to come to grips with stupidity" (van Boxsel, 2003, p. 23), where stupidity is defined first as "automatic responses" (p. 37) and second as "the talent for acting unwittingly against your own interests" (p. 29). This is the obverse of the dialectic of conditions and consciousness posited earlier, where knowledge is made (see Thesis One);78 here, accurate and useful knowledge is shown to be dialectically occluded, on one side by an inscrutable object and on the other side by an incompetent subject, both reifying each other into a repetitive, mechanical, and at best boring pattern.79

In order to accomplish anything novel, to transform something old into something new, one must work against the constraints of the mechanical regime-world, which subjects one to reification both as stupidity and as lack of control—automatic responses—to bring forth a contribution to a purposeful world for which one can be responsible, in which one really works to advance one’s best interests, which at bottom coincide with those of the socius in which one is embedded and the sum total of animated life. The subject is transformed from a produced articulation, bound to "repeat the same dull round over again,"80 subordinated to the control of another regime, to a self-directed articulation, with a degree of real (not compelled or coerced) control over itself and its activities. [...]

One conspicuous and relatively contemporary instance of theory in bad faith would be Fukuyama’s (1992) declaration that the world has come to the "end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of western liberal democracy as the final form of human government" (p. 3)—meaning that our work in the world is over, for the New Age of unfettered capital is begun85 (see Thesis Seven).

For Nizan (1971), among the first to examine the problem posed by positions such as Fukuyama’s, this is the critical question: is a particular theory of use to those who oppress, or to those who seek to transform oppression into justice? This distinction in practice corresponds to that between Sein (being) and Schein (appearance):

When the philosophers discuss Mind and Ideas, Ethics and the Sovereign Good, Reason and Justice, but not the experiences, the misfortunes, the events, the ‘daily grind’ of which life consists, those who fall victim to these misfortunes, who bear the weight of these events, who undergo these experiences, who endure this daily grind—in a word, those who must endure this life—find this style of philosophizing arrogant and repugnant. (p. 14)

For Nizan, big-Being questions addressed uncritically (in this case by the positivists he critiques) can occlude real problems and by this means help prevent meaningful inquiry into apparent matters in the world of sensation and causation (see Thesis Two). Nizan’s solution is to become a theorist responsible for the subaltern, on behalf of and for the benefit of the oppressed and deluded masses, one who "will not be a dispenser of illuminations or an artificer of myths or a wizard" (p. 139) or indulge in make-believe.

Aglietta (2000) explains how this connection Nizan posits between positivist spiritual speculation and, in the last analysis, the expression of capital’s imperatives through violence was implemented historically:

The ideological institutions of capitalism absorbed intellectuals originating from all social strata; bourgeois representations of the world were constructed without resistance; the juridical principles of the state took on a sacred and eternal character. Any questioning of free enterprise was perceived as a threat to the integrity of the nation. (p. 74)

Fanon (1965) extrapolates Nizan’s critique of European idealists into the postcolonial field, presenting an intervention of his own that remains relevant (my use of "mimicry" in the present inquiry finds its origin in Fanon’s groundbreaking work).

50 It is worth remembering in this context that, according to Habermas (1994), recognizably postmetaphysical thinking arises in history as an intervention into Hegel’s positions and practices by the generation of Marx, Feuerbach, and Bruno Bauer (p. 39).

51 I provisionally claim that Wilber’s holarchy is one such Hegelian organizational principle (a spatial one), and that Aurobindian evolution is another (of chronology). Wilber’s specific debt to Hegelian thinkers (Aurobindo, Gebser, Theilhard) and Hegel himself remains an open question for future inquiry, as is the applicability of this critique of Hegel to post-Hegelian integralists such as Wilber and his claimed sources (see Anderson, 2006). In many instances, this question will produce complex answer, due to the complexity of some integral projects.

For instance, the real contribution of Sean Kelly’s integration of Hegelian dialectics and Jungian archetypes on the ground of complex holism in my view is the very useful concept of complex holism Kelly himself puts forward (Kelly, 1993)—which is to say, while Kelly’s complex holism as "dynamic complemantarity" (p. 106) may have arisen from his reflections on Hegel and Jung, its applicability may extend beyond the problems that may inhere in Hegelian and Jungian thinking, demand comparison to the ecological Marxist holism Burkett (1999) proposes, and may in part and in metaphysical diction anticipate my argument in Thesis One.

62 I am using this specifically in the sense Bhabha develops in his analysis of Fanon’s (1960) interventions into the psychology of the postcolonial situation; William Blake’s fragmentary epic The Four Zoas dramatizes a broadly analogous critique of mimicry under empire two centuries prior, and in recognizably holographic terms, presenting what must be among the first integral macropolitical theories responsive to industrial capital.

63 What I call theory in bad faith has as its program, according to Nizan (1971) (skillfully employing another "consumption" metaphor): "to gain universal acceptance for the established order by making it palatable, by conferring upon it a certain nobility, and by furnishing rationalizations for its every aspect" (p. 91). [...]

78 Merleau-Ponty (2003) presents this rather poetically: "It is true that we carry with us, in the shape of our body, an ever-present principle of absent-mindedness and bewilderment" (p. 31).

79 Svendsen (2005) offers a useful analysis of the relationship between the recurrence of boredom and the perceived need for self-realization as a condition of modernity.

80 William Blake (1982), "There is No Natural Religion [B]." Blake anticipates Nietzsche’s speculations on the eternal recurrence of the same here, but in a way that connotes not only a mathematically infinite boredom but more directly a manifold of infinite bindings, affectively in Blake (as in his poem "London") and also in later attempts to represent said recurrence by means of arithmetic, which Borges (1999, pp.14-122) and Ouspensky (2001, pp. 329-340) attempt to perform. This interpretation of eternal recurrence contrasts with Kelly (2008), which reterritorializes Nietzsche’s position into a Hegelian framework. 10:08 AM 9:33 PM 9:35 PM 8:30 AM

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