Reading through the comments from my last post (and thank you all so much for sharing your thoughts!), I feel there is a need for me to sharpen and clarify my thoughts by using more precise language.
First of all, it’s become obvious to me that using the word “new” came with too loaded of a connotation. Even so, I do not want to give up the word. I would rather redefine it. “New” to me does not mean that something lacks rootedness in a tradition or in the past or in a community. New means a fresh outlook, it means an opening up to potentialities yet to be explored, it is an interpretation yet to be made (and we all know that good interpretations involves what has been given and are as rooted in the past as in the present). What is new should break out of the old but that doesn’t mean it breaks from it. That is the definition of “new” at work in my own theories.
I must admit that my critique of the Occupy Wall Street movement was lazy. I used inaccurate language, I see now how detrimental that was. To be honest, I was using it more as a jumping point to express other thoughts than a complete thought itself. In a sense, I was in a hurry to skip ahead to “the good stuff” and in the process made a mess. I agree with my commentator who stated that, “The problem with OWS [Occupy Wall Street] was that it was resentment towards an anonymous power, thus no possibility for justice.”
For me, OWS represents a trend I’ve noticed in academia and society to be overwhelmed by disgust or disillusionment without pushing forward to a clear understanding of where problems are arising from/what the actual problems are and then doing the challenging but exciting work of constructing visions in response. That was what I was referring to when I said there was a lack of “unified vision.” Clearly, that wasn’t the best wording to convey that thought.
What I was most excited to share with you all in my last post was PRD. One of the commentators asked if it wasn’t really just a complicated term for deconstruction. That comment provoked a big smile because, if I’m honest, I kind of think of it that way. As if it’s my Dummy’s Guide to how to use deconstruction productively by breaking it up into steps. Step 1) Take into consideration your positioning, local and global, personal and communal, cultural and traditional, etc. Step 2) Engage in critically and creatively read and writing your systems, institutions, communities, etc, in dialogue with your positioning. Step 3) Engage in the work of constructing your positional, deconstructive institutions, systems, etc in such a way that they meet the needs of the present and are open to the future.
But the truth is the PRD is myinterpretation of deconstruction (definitely influenced by my CU education) and how it should be used. The more I studied and engaged with deconstruction across disciplines, the more I realized how much my definition of deconstruction departs from Derrida and the vast body of people utilizing it. Most deconstructionists aren’t constructive. They tend to grieve positioning more than embrace it. Derrida himself does not use deconstruction as positively as he described it at Villanova. Running throughout his writing is a deep sense of despair that modernity’s objective, static, perfection isn’t possible. Caputo puts more hope into deconstruction but even with him that disillusionment lingers.
So could I just drop the term PRD and talk about deconstruction but always clarify how I’m using it? I could. But by just using Derrida’s term that could so easily devolve into a pissing contest of who is interpreting Derrida more accurately. I have no interest in that, especially because I know I’m adding to what he has done. Since I’m adding to it, why not add to the term to denote this?
Whole Foods isn’t a perfect example. I believe I did say that Mackey doesn’t go far enough in his deconstruction of capitalism. He certainly doesn’t. But he is also from an older generation; he is so much more heavily influenced by modernity and by its optimism. Personally, I cut him some slack because it is a good start. Also, I think it’s important to realize that his industry is by its very nature consumptive, right? Food isn’t like a piece of clothing or electronics or something else that could be made to last, that could have a less consumptive purpose. We consume food. That’s a fact. I think their stores do put an effort into making even a naturally consumptive act more purposeful and meaningful. So I don’t think the critique from Žižek is very profound or meaningful.
Personally, though I find some of Žižek’s thinking useful, overall I’m not very impressed by his critique of capitalism. More importantly, I’m not very impressed by his understanding of what it means to be human, human motivations/desires and what are meaningful aspects of living. That plays a huge role in this conversation. His view of humanity is pretty ugly. No wonder, his interpretation of capitalism is entirely ugly. Honestly, he embodies in his critique what is and has been wrong with capitalism. I use Mackey and Whole Foods to demonstrate that capitalism doesn’t have to be entirely ugly if it operates with a more robust, more beautiful understanding of what it means to be human, human motivations and human’s responsibility to self, community and the Other. I believe that this positive foundation or motivation or interpretation is the key to constructing communities, systems and institutions that support and cultivate human and ecological flourishing.