by James Pate on Nov.28, 2011
In the past few months, there have been some comments, both on this blog and in other places, that montevidayo is nihilistic, even quasi-fascist. It has even been called “satanic” by one commentator. And one of the frequent reasons for this has, I think, been the “no future” ethos taken up by some of the writers on this blog. Doesn’t skepticism toward the future imply lack of hope and a lack of political will? Doesn’t it imply a fashionable fatalism?
But the problems that arise with “future” thinking are the same problems that arises from utopian thinking: 1) they both imply an essentialist notion of human nature, since any utopia is premised on the idea that in the near or far future the “true” elements of human nature will be able to be brought forth, in all their supposed unwavering immediacy and transparency, and 2) they frequently don’t realize one person’s utopia is another person’s hell, and that what might seem humanly essential to X or Z might seem unbearable to F or E.
Contrary to the future, I would side with Foucault, who argued for a constant move toward liberation, but with no end point in sight, no grand totalizing synthesis. And with an emphasis not on the liberation of some notion of “human nature” but on the creation of new ways of thinking, new forms of experience, new ways of moving through the world.
Along these lines, I recently came upon an essay by The International Necronautical Society called “The Declaration on the Notion of ‘The Future.’” It was published in The Believer late last year. Here’s an excerpt.
5. The INS rejects the Enlightenment’s version of time: of time as progress, a line growing stronger and clearer as it runs from past to future. This version is tied into a narrative of transcendence: in the Hegelian system, of Aufhebung, in which thought and matter ascend to the realm of spirit as the projects of philosophy and art perfect themselves. Against this totalizing (we would say, totalitarian) idealist vision, we pit counter-Hegelians like Georges Bataille, who inverts this upward movement, miring spirit in the trough of base materialism. Or Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus, who, hearing the moronic poet Russel claim that “art has to reveal to us ideas, formless spiritual essences,” pictures Platonists crawling through Blake’s buttocks to eternity, and silently retorts: “Hold to the now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past.”
6. To phrase it in more directly political terms: the INS rejects the idea of the future, which is always the ultimate trump card of dominant socioeconomic narratives of progress. As our Chief Philosopher Simon Critchley has recently argued, the neoliberal versions of capitalism and democracy present themselves as an inevitability, a destiny to whom the future belongs. We resist this ideology of the future, in the name of the sheer radical potentiality of the past, and of the way the past can shape the creative impulses and imaginative landscape of the present. The future of thinking is its past, a thinking which turns its back on the future.
7. As Walter Benjamin correctly notes in “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” contemplating Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus—a floating figure who stares intently at something he’s moving away from—the angel of history faces backward. “Where we perceive a chain of events,” writes Benjamin, “he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet.” What we call progress, Benjamin calls “the storm.”