On Theory and Practice

June 20, 2019 at 12:42 pm (Uncategorized)

It is not the purpose of the critique of value to furnish direct pointers for immediate action. This refusal often occasions a certain amount of disappointment on the part of those people eager for radical social critique, but who immediately raise the question of what the practical application of this fine theory might be. It is necessary, however, for critique to avoid succumbing to the demand that it always provide concrete immediate solutions. Although it is legitimate to expect that a critique of capitalist society should also be able to reveal a possible praxis  of supersession, there are good reasons to insist on the necessary autonomy of theory. Indeed, were its corollary in immediate action the only thing allowed to govern everything thought or said, the very formulation of radical theory would no longer be possible. The “categorical break” that forms the background to the critique of value cannot be turned instantly into a political strategy, as is the case for example with theories of the “multitude” or of “alter-globalisation”; nor is instantaneous application to one’s personal life within its gift. On the other hand, conceptualising a break with the basic categories of capitalist socialisation, even if such a break cannot be realised in the here and now, enables a focus to be maintained which goes far beyond the countless proposals in this day and age that seek to change the present without having to change anything.

Anselm Jappe

Preface to The Writing on the Wall

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