Archive for February, 2018

The following is a draft for a footnote from a paper on transnational law I am working on. In the footnote, I am proposing that one of the two main social phenomenological approaches, that of that Austrian banker, is not useful (the other one would be Luhmann’s systems theory, which is useful only within limits, i.e. to describe, a posteriori, formal organizations).

Along those lines, one can add that Gephardt, to do his due diligence as was necessary in terms of national disciplinary canon in sociology in the 1990s, dedicates a chapter to a hobby social philosopher, the Austrian banker, Schuetz, only to find that in the banker had no use in his works for norms, values, and law: As far as we can see, Schütz embarks on an attempt to constitute societal reality without taking into account values and norms, and definitely without law. (1993: 58, my translation of: “Soweit wir sehen konnten unternimmt Schütz den Versuch gesellschaftliche Wirklichkeit ohne Rückgriff auf Normen und Werten und schon gar nicht Recht zu konstituieren.”)

This is all somewhat non-surprising for an elitist, neoliberal person such as Schütz who conducts scholarship as white collar person’s a past-time. Gephardt (59) correctly mentions that Parsons’s, of course, saw through Schütz from the start in a their correspondence which was fueled by Schütz’s misunderstanding (according to Gephardt, although it’s more a mix of Schütz’s limitations as a scholar on the one had, and a stubborn, typical elitarian refusal to acknowledge Parsons’s polite attempt at signaling that he’s just not interested in the kind of empirics- and reality-freed– or as Parsons calls it fictional – philosophy, that Schütz is dabbling in. Schütz thinks that while it is “possible to think” someone’s orientation could be guided by norms/values (following in Gephardt’s depiction, ibid.), Schütz then dissuades such an approach with the following – no less, inherently normative, for giving a normative evaluation of the value of values and norms – statement (in: Schütz, Parsons, Grathoff 1978: 31):

“In other words, if the concept of normative value is interpreted from a strictly subjective point of view, no reason can be discovered why the choice between means (goals) and ends ruled by a normative value should differ from any other choice that is not ruled by a normative value.”

In, again, different words: Schütz wants us to accept (something that is actually impossible, namely) a flat (social) epistemology. And this is understandable, for it fits nicely with neoliberal ideology. Schütz, we should recall, is not only a banker, but a follower of von Hayek (who, by the way, himself ridiculed Schütz’s “intellectual” efforts behind his back) as well as a member of the neoliberal and libertarian Mont Pelerin society of which, for example, billionaire Charles G. Koch is a member. The denial of the existence of social epistemic privileges that bankers and billionaires have and continue to enjoy requires, to truly work at least on a theoretical level, a to suppose a flat (social) epistemology (and consider the distribution of wealth and social capital as social ontologically given); respectively the subject cannot be produced through subjectivation as Foucault would critique (something that would be perfectly intelligible for Parsons). One can imagine the acrobatics that Berger/Luckmann had to conduct in order to create something sociologically productive, while suggesting they were standing on the (intellectually rather tiny) shoulders of Schütz – who would, probably and rightfully so, be utterly forgotten had it not been for Berger/Luckmann. However, since intellectually we can already do not only the same but even better with Weber and Husserl proper, it’s time to pack away the banker and rid us of this crypto-neoliberal theorizing.

[Note for clarification: I think the problem with flat epistemology here is that (a) Schütz conflates flat epistemology with flat social epistemology; and (b) normatively imputes flat epistemology and then hides this normative imputation through reification and committing other fallacies. While the idea of a flat epistemology in general in the theory of science seems like a wishful idea (McKenzie Wark in his critical account of Timothy Morton proposes such an avenue [http://www.publicseminar.org/2015/12/from-ooo-to-poo/]), due to the info-order problem alone it’s impossible. It is debatable whether, on the other hand, ontologies can be flat (following Roy Bhaskar’s critical realist polemics but through a twisting it into becoming serious, Manuel DeLanda through a Deleuzean reading, seems to think so; whereas Graham Harman argues that ontologies cannot be entirely flat [“….not all translations are equal.” (2011)]). In a more in-depth discussion, we would also have to address Peter Unger’s work. Let’s only add this here: one critical issue is that serious proponents of a general flat epistemology (I do not include as to be taken seriously Schütz, because his evocation of epistemological flatness in general serves the purpose of flattening social epistemology in order to create a warrant for [epistemic and social] privilege that need not for it cannot be justified but can merely rest its claim on entitlement as simply being the “present way things are” due to a sort of anti-realist structure, which Schütz inherently shares with neoliberal legal scholarship of the economico-juridical Chicago School and the so-called Originalists among interpretants of the US constitution such as the late Judge Scalia) like McKenzie Wark, and, implicitly perhaps Timothy Morton and Levi Bryant, are poised towards a connection with flat ontology or near-flat ontology (à la Harman) as a sort complement or compensatory necessity, however, it would be wrong to conduct the simpleton “Hegel-synthesis” and claim that these made for onto-epistemology; on the contrary, onto-epistemology is neither synthesis nor hybrid or aggregate, but stands as a genuine Third. And, one must say, that the attribute of a “flatness” may not make any sense for onto-epistemology, or at least not in the way it would for ontologies or epistemologies (nor can epistemologies flattened only in order to be used to create a flattening criterion for ontologies – this was roughly the point of Bhaskar’s criticism of flat ontologies being flattened as to privilege the human point of view in a way similar to what Haraway exposed as the god-trick), because – if anything – onto-epistemology is not flat in this way but would help us understand how “flatness” is done/performed. In addition, with Bhaskar and critical realism, we are also enabled renounce the likes of Schütz, since the kind of “flatness” Schütz and his ilk evoke, is effectively put out of service by Bhaskar who directed his act of deposing “flatness” against it as being a feature of positivism; thus we can say it applies against legal positivism and also against privilege-/privi-legal-positivism. For transnational law, especially in regard of “extraction”, Bhaskar’s rejection of flattenings and, subsequently the respective positivisms, in particular alerts us to the conclusion that agents and actors entangled in extraction and/or in transnational legal practice and law are not all of them (perhaps not even most of them) human.

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“We need to get over Foucault.” I say this as someone who is a declared Foucauldean. And what I mean is not that we “forget Foucault” or that he was wrong. What I mean is that many of the critical tools and ideas he introduced are still currently valid. For a thinker, who insisted on the geographical, t(r)opological, and temporal situatedness of his own scholarship and of intellectuals as specialized intellectuals in general, that his scholarship is still so current, pertinent, and useful (and seems that it will be for the foreseeable future) is horrifying. We should already have gotten over Foucault, because his tools, his analyses, his politics, and his problems should no longer be our own, contemporary ones. We should already have gotten over them, and thus gotten over Foucault. Therefore, it is time that we get – perhaps with Foucault – over Foucault.

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