The omnipresence of criticism, its dominance in the form of themes, behaviors, and avowals, is a first sign of the absence of critical thought.
Academic circles are currently dominated by a veritable inventory and archiving of criticism, a studious administration of the critical household effects. Here we encounter all many of relevance-checkers and executors, who separate the useful from the useless and keep an eye on who’s part of the family. Criticism ossifies because in their hands it’s often nothing more than the random object of an encyclopedic interest. This unemotional curiosity, driven by no impulse or affect, knows nothing worth loving or hating. On the other side apparent opponents come to the fore, claiming to be able to debunk criticism as a purely evaluative and optimizing undertaking. Here we have to do not with authenticators and custodians but with juvenile rebels and rowdies. With anti-academic acrobatics that originate inside the academy, and only have any effect within its orbit, they announce an apparently new epoch devoid of criticism.
If on the other hand we direct our attention to the political sub-scenes (the reactionary main social tendencies don’t interest us here), we will certainly encounter other figures, but the situation isn’t therefore any more agreeable. With all those who devote their political work to the checkered game of life forms, who understand politics as the differentiated expression of newly created identities, the identification of the world’s evil along with the simultaneous assertion of the benignity of one’s own lifestyle frequently represents the depleted form of critical thought. In their circles what was once criticism has sunk to the inverted logic of respect, to the banalization of communication and language, and ultimately to the replacement of politics by morals. Opposite them are the last upstanding fundamental critics, who want nothing to do with the whole business and even understand their withdrawal as an achievement. Pulling back to the authority of the forward thinker, they grumpily proclaim the irrefutable truth of the critical insights that they conserve.
In the light of these tendencies the first act of critical thought consists in a double repudiation: of both the academic pseudo-debates and the political-moral looking-glass skirmishes. We have to disengage from both the self-sufficient interest in the tradition of criticism and the only apparently innovative attempts to scrap critical thought. Unfortunately we also need to steer clear of the political groundskeepers, who either...
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