Sunday, November 20, 2016
There are various intellectual trends that are increasingly seeing the world as a plurality of worlds, realities or ontologies, such as 'the ontological turn' in anthropology. I think that those who see this trend as a mere 'intellectual choice' or 'fashion' with no basis in reality are really mistaken. The popularity of the ontological has to be itself explained ontologically, not epistemologically. Or at least to put it in a Marxist language it has to be explained materially not idealistically.
This is not unlike the way Marx regarded the upside down nature of the reality of the commodity as an ontological issue not an epistemological one. It was a situation where, as Godelier put it, 'It is not the subjects deceiving themselves it is reality that is deceiving them'. Likewise, we can say it is not the analytical subject increasingly opting for ontological difference it is reality that is increasingly presenting itself as ontologically differentiated.
To continue flirting with Marxist analogies, perhaps it is only in the era of dynamic capitalist accumulation that 'All that is solid melts into air'. when this dynamic stalls, all that is melting into air slowly becomes solid.
Like a volcano emitting it's lava capitalism has been burning every thing that is in its way. Now that its 'driving heat' is slowing down the lava is becoming solid turning to rock. Cultures that were being transformed are solidifying mid-way through their transformation. To a certain extent western multiculturalism reflects the cultural beginning of this stalling of the transformative/assimilationist drive that was western/capitalist modernity. It marks the rebirth of culturally essentialist 'resistance' in the face of a stalling processes of capitalist globalisation. The french essentialism of Le Pen and the Islamic essentialism of ISIS are both 'Lava rock formations': evidence of the cooling down of the melting (pot?) processes that fuelled and drove capitalist modernity.
This also links up with the work I have done on stuckedness (see Alter-Politics): for example, the processes of people identifying themselves as 'middle class' in the US relied on the existence of some minimal upward class mobility which kept the belief in the possibility of such a mobility alive. Once this social mobility despite its minimal nature actually stops, the belief in its possibility dies, people experience themselves stuck and their social cultural world becomes frozen. What was a process of social transformation and change comes to a halt and people feel imprisoned in their social locations. Is that not one defining characteristic (needless to say, among many) of the ontological reality that is the Trumpist life-world?