Intellectual Celebrityhood – As Such

The revolutionary critique of all existing conditions does not, to be sure, have a monopoly on intelligence; it only has a monopoly on its use. In the present cultural and social crisis, those who do not know how to use their intelligence have in fact no discernable intelligence of any kind. Stop talking to us about unused intelligence and you’ll make us happy. Poor Heidegger! Poor Lukács! Poor Sartre! Poor Barthes! Poor Lefebvre! Poor Cardan! Tics, tics, and tics.  And Now the SI

Some might argue that Michel Foucault was a cut above the average quality of current thinkers. After all, he didn’t engage in the kind of out-and-out intellectual fraud of an Alain Badiou, who peddles mathematics to philosophers, calculating in a parallel fashion to Debord’s conman who hopes that “Someone who knows his wine may often understand nothing about the rules of the nuclear industry…”.

Now, the case of Foucault is hardly reassuring given his willingness to use his considerable prestige to offer what was effectively material support to Ayatollah Khomeini. The main thing, however, is that the situation is not really a matter of the goodness, the quality, the skill, etc of the intellectual. The question is whether they are on our side or on the side of spectacular capitalism. In saying that, we should outline the conditions of the present order, conditions that nearly everyone is aware of but which most attempt to various degrees to blot out of their awareness. That is; the world, just for one, is dominated by lies and not simply by a static set of lies but by a constant battle between lies and their liars. This situation is itself part of a perhaps larger situation that the relationship of wage labor, commodity production and capital prevail everywhere. The majority sell their labor power, their creativity and other ability, to buy back survival on a pure quantitative scale. In this situation of dispossession, the elite intellectual laborer still competes like a prole, having nothing to sell but his or her wits. We reach the level of spectacle when the domination of these capitalist relations reaches such a level that they suppress any language for describing the situation. At this level, the intellectual elite competes even harder but it competes on the level of surface, on the level of attaching to single grand gesture that is the spectacle. That is, a wide variety of interesting and even insightful ideas are produced by present day intellectual celebrities but they fall-back from describing the overall conditions of a society, a society which forms more and more of a single, integrated system; Slavoj Žižek flirts with revealing the universality of ideological deception but then deflates his critique by suddenly selling some especially commercial product like perfume or Stalinism. Žižek’s admirers are morons not because Žižek has no insight but because they give up the potential for a full critique of present when they broadcast insight mixed with bullshit as the ideal of revolutionary theory. And so it goes.





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