Tuesday, April 22, 2014

But I won't throw the baby out with the bathwater

....er, the three horizons out with one problematic line.
 So, after mentioning it last class, I realized that my blog post didn't show up...better late than never. (I hope)

From the opening lines of The Political Unconscious, Jameson abjures us to “Always Historicize!”. . .and spends a good amount of time and energy explaining how this might be accomplished. Specifically, we might move past Althussarian critiques of totality which hinge on the general autonomy of the various “spheres” of social life. Instead, we must see the interrelatedness of these spheres.

Jameson posits a hermeneutic that allows us to unpack a given artifact or phenomenon. The first horizon is essentially political,  approaching the text as a symbolic act (see Kenneth Burke). The second horizon situates the text in regard to the class struggle that produced it. The third, and by far the most sweeping, pushes the analyst to understand the artifact as a production of a confluence of modes of production, emergent and residual.

While perhaps useful in theory, some of Jameson’s comments prove a bit problematic, specifically in regard to the divide between feminism and Marxism. Jameson notes explicitly that these horizons can be used to “short circuit” this debate in regard to the primacy of gender or class. He argues that sexism is “the sedimentation and the virulent survival of forms of alienation specific to the oldest mode of production of human history, with its division of labor between men and women” (p. 85). Because socialist revolution will do away with alienated modes of production, there is no conflict. I believe such argument glosses over significant bodies of work that context this point, transferring contemporary gender relations to non-capitalist (or even non-class?) societies. Such claims push me to question the place Jameson considers sexism to have within capitalism—with others (Ahmed) noting that Jameson tends to dismiss marginalized voices throughout his work--I am a bit afraid he might write it out altogether. 

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