Monday, November 19, 2012

Reconfiguring Unachievable Ideals

Like any good self-aware/self-critiquing member of academia, the interplay between Theory and Practice/Praxis (proper nouns, yes) has been more prominent on my than this structurally passive sentence would suggest. I’ve approached these through various strategies over the years: reading law as literature and literature as law and trying to make sense of the space between the two, dutifully trudging through research methods courses, delving into deep-ish discussion of the topic throughout different academic departments.

In my mind eventually I would learn to feel how linked theory and practice might move together, the way that eventually one learns to feel when a sentence ain’t right [sic] or when to use the subjunctive tense in a foreign language, etc. There would be a nice end point, and I would feel comfortable. I could maybe even someday critique Derrida on losing sight of a big abstract/government structure (democracy) as a practice, so long as I prefaced the whole entire piece with a full paragraph's worth of disclaimer.

(Joking. I’m no Ranciere.)

And then I read the Rafael, which stated that “[justice] is a gathering that greets those whose arrival is never fully completed and which forbears a coming always deferred…and that is [why it is effectively] free from any particular sociotechnical determination.” Justice has no end point. And then I read the Ranciere. And then I read it again. And then I acknowledged that I wasn’t going to get everything right off the bat, and I actually got to read it. It included that “[‘democracy to come’] can never ‘reach itself,’ catch up with itself, because it involves an infinite openness to that which comes – which also means an infinite openness to the Other or the newcomer.”  Democracy in Ranciere’s most dynamic, fullest sense  of it as going far beyond a simple governmental structure may be fundamentally untenable.

Cast in these constructive lights, the inherent inachievability of justice and democracy as they move over and through unstable sociopolitical terrain is not reason to lose faith in all things political and is not a marker of democracy’s/justice’s irreconcilable futility.

Accept the impossibility of a world as tidy in practice as it is in theory. This is not a call to resign oneself to indifference. Rather, it moves in the direction of Berlandt (learn to be comfortable with discomfort, and embrace that as a strength) and Terrenova in moving us forward to live more compassionately, somewhere between and inclusive of the value-oriented dreamers and policy-oriented pragmatists we learn about in Ranciere’s piece…and all the “others” except those who really threaten the system or those with whom there is just no mutual respect.

Not-super-directly related question:  I was struck by Colla’s saying that “originality counts, but only if presented in the form of familiarity.” In speaking on complex topics, how do you (yes, that “you”, which is whatever you you wish to read) determine where to place yourself in navigating between accessibility/familiarity, precision, and concision?  

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