The Persistence of the Negative: A Critique of Contemporary Continental Theory

The Persistence of the Negative: A Critique of Contemporary Continental Theory

The Persistence of the Negative: A Critique of Contemporary Continental Theory

The Persistence of the Negative: A Critique of Contemporary Continental Theory

Synopsis

Through a series of incisive readings of leading theoretical figures of affirmationism - Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, Bruno Latour, Antonio Negri and Alain Badiou - Benjamin Noys contests the tendency of recent theory to rely on affirmation, and especially an affirmative thinking of resistance. He reveals a profound current of negativity that allows theory to return to its political calling.

Excerpt

The aim of this book is simply stated: to rehabilitate a thinking of negativity through an immanent critique of contemporary Continental theory. This could appear to be a deliberately quixotic gesture. If we consider contemporary theory as polarised between the antithetical figures of Alain Badiou and Antonio Negri – an austere Platonism versus a joyous Spinozism – this apparent antagonism conceals their shared commitment to affirmation. In very different forms they both affirm the creation of unashamedly metaphysical ontologies, the inventive potential of the subject, the necessity for the production of novelty, and a concomitant suspicion of the negative and negativity. Beyond these two figures, and unnoticed in all the disputes, debates and metaphorical wars that have wracked contemporary theory, this ‘affirmationism’ constitutes a dominant and largely unremarked doxa. Outside of high theoretical positions a more dispersed affirmationist consensus operates in the contemporary humanities and social sciences. Although proclaiming its opposition to the supposed abstractions of high theory, this ‘low affirmationism’ does so in the name of affirming historical density, complexity and materiality – thereby simply replacing one form of affirmation and construction with another, that is supposedly more nuanced. The result is that any rehabilitation of negativity faces an inhospitable environment, in which it is at best condescended to as the sign of the last remnants of a paleo-Hegelianism, or at worst regarded as the endorsement of nihilistic destruction. Reifying negativity into the negative, which is treated as synonymous with what is outdated or purely destructive, these ideological mystifications serve their purpose in blocking any thinking of negativity as a practice.

We can easily adduce internal reasons for the hegemony of affirmation: the persistence of a dispersed quasi-Nietzscheanism and neo-Spinozism, a continuing fear of the supposed totalising effects of dialectical thought, and a general turn to historicism, especially the historicisation of difference. A more speculative answer also suggests . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.