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The Falsehood of Multiple Modernities

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"On White" by Wassily Kandinsky

While talking to local San Francisco transnational feminist activist (and resident bad ass), Pia, she told me she really liked my blog The Excerpt Mill.  So that got me thinking I need to start posting more stuff on their since I’ve been reading a lot of good material lately.  So, here we go.

In his book The Parallax View Slavoj Žižek is seeking to restore certain edifices to the now maligned (but still relavent and constantly overlooked) Marxist theory of historical materialism.  Part of the way he does this is to attack certain modes of poststructrual belief such as the idiotic claims of “multiple modernities” not connected to any type of universal aspect.

The significance of this critique reaches far beyond the case of modernity–it concerns the fundamental limitation of nominalist historicizing.  The recourse to multiplication (“there is not one modernity with a fixed essence, there are multiple modernities, each of them irreducible to others…”) is false not because it does not recognize a unique fixed “essence” of modernity, but because multiplication functions as the disavowal of the antagonism that inheres to the notion of modernity as such: the falsity of multiplication resides in the fact that it frees the universal notion of modernity of its antagonism, of the way it is embedded in the capitalist system, by relegating this aspect to just one of the historical subspecieis…

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