Academic Theory-Speak Strikes Again

Academic theory-speak suddenly gained an outlet in the Occupy Wall Street protests. The result was not pretty, says Thomas Frank in The Baffler:

And dear god why, after only a few months of occupying Zuccotti Park, did Occupiers feel they needed to launch their own journal of academic theory? A journal that then proceeded to fill its pages with impenetrable essays seemingly written to demonstrate, one more time, the Arctic futility of theory-speak?

Is this how you build a mass movement? By persistently choosing the opposite of plain speech?

It is an old complaint, directed decades ago against Post-Modernists, and before that against the High Theoreticians of Marxism. But that does not make it untrue.

An occupier tract goes on about

… dominant forms of subjectivity … social and political crisis … the indebted, the mediatized, the securitized, and the represented … masked or mystified. … Movements of revolt and rebellion … repressive regimes … subjectivities … figures of power

The gist of this is that debt, media, security, and representation are oppressions that need to be overthrown. But saying it plainly makes it immediately less enchanting and much more questionable. Its an old truth that Theory-Speak is a pre-emptive strike against criticism.

No wonder the Occupy movement was evanescent.

(h/t Normblog)


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