Glen’s comment on my last entry prompts me to dig up the following thoughts about interdisciplinary initiatives and the uses of culture…
Our aim should be to prevent any recourse to expediency, to the easy platitudes and naïve appropriations implicit in the notion of “making use of culture.” But the challenge is to prevent such an aim from becoming itself a programme, and so to avoid descending into the cynical and self-serving expediency of the non-expedient, of the notorious “academic game” as analyzed by Pierre Bourdieu: a refusal to take up a position that is itself a position-taking, whose disinterest is only an all the more effective, if deferred, investment in future interest.
Alberto Moreiras has addressed precisely this issue. In our drive to innovation and interdisciplinarity, can we be sure we are not simply reinforcing the tendencies implicit in the new, corporate university, governed by the neoliberal logic of profit accumulated in exchange perpetuated and extended across now vanishing institutional borders? In Moreiras’s words:
That question, how to evaluate the present, how to come to terms with the professional everyday and take a close look at the present and the future in order to determine the best directive, the best course of action, the best or most profitable way of administering our knowledge as well as our relationship with non-knowledge–when the question is asked we are already becoming subjects of calculation, and we are allowing our labor time, our laboring or professional identity or subjectivity, to be predominantly or tendentially defined by calculation, by calculative ratio. [. . .] We need to wonder then how far or how close that must be from neoliberal rational-choice economics, and thus how far or how close the very question about the critical effectivity of critique is from becoming a functional part of current constraints on immaterial labor, of the constraining ideology of immaterial labor at the time of globalization.
The question of “our laboring or professional identity or subjectivity” is more pressing than ever. Precariously weaving between contending impulses towards discipline or control, the most urgent problem for the academy, at least, concerns negotiating between the uselessness of use and the use of uselessness.