GABlog Generative Anthropology in the Public Sphere

February 14, 2020


Filed under: GA — adam @ 10:23 am

I’ve written this post in response to the following comment on the Absolutist Neoreaction reddit page:

I’ve noticed that even in your recent articles there’s something still off. That’s in regards to GA and mechanics.

It’s fair to say that liberalism has an obsession with the self and super-sovereignty in general. I don’t see how focusing on these pragmatist mechanisms is really actually transcending that. It seems like all we’re building is just some superior version of Gentile, which isn’t going to actually solve anything.

We, ourselves, can’t fall into this trap of evaluating liberal mechanics. As you’ve put forward there needs to be a direct scenic participation; however, I dont see how anything less than embodying paradox will solve this issue. Rather than speaking about paradox (predicate) we should speak paradox (subject).

When I say paradox I speak about asymmetry, first-ness, outside-ness, paranirvana, etc.. All of these are great examples of this emerging paradox that GA elucidates.

If we focus and bring a further awareness of what we’re even talking about, it becomes obvious that this is GAs true calling card. In order to properly transcend liberalism in toto, we can’t just simply focus on design even.

Rather than a flat rejection of super-sovereignty we should be gathering threads of older imperatives in history in order to develop a constantly evolving praxis. We’re only ever actually going to get anywhere if we can participate fully, ultimately that’s what’s going to make us different. Not evaluation of ‘why these are bad’ or ‘inquiries into language’, but rather the focus is the most direct participation available.

Now to address the morality issue of simple charisma and unifying centers. This, once again, is part of the same issues. There needs to be a recognition of unity in dissonance. Embodying and speaking anthropological and moral paradoxes. It really can’t be distilled so easily to static and even dynamic charisma vs transgression. We need to further pick apart moral agency even, with that focus on paradox/asymmetry. Ultimately we shouldn’t be unifying to distill into one bigger center, but rather recognizing that we can turn centers themselves (paradoxically) into larger grander ones, simply by digging down (backwards in history).

I should add before I conclude, that what I’ve typed is by no means fully formed or all that probably has to be said. I’m open to being wrong but I hope I got my point across.

To conclude, don’t speak about asymmetry, embody it to generate praxis.


Since this message is a call for praxis, I’m in a bit of a double bind because my response here can hardly be anything more than speaking about all of the above. I certainly wouldn’t know how to begin to speak about something like strategy or logistics in this context. The question of flatly rejecting super-sovereignty might be a good place to start. In a sense we shouldn’t be flatly rejecting anything—all language is language we can inhabit. Participation is first of all participating in another’s language. If you surface the paradoxes constituting the other’s discourse, then you’re embodying paradox. A good place to begin is making explicit the distinctions and boundaries implicitly established in the other’s discourse. You find a way to represent some position that both can’t and must exist in the other’s discourse. A simple example: I’ve noted that if you listen carefully to certain victimary discourses, especially on gender and race lines, you can, with very minor adjustments in the feminist’s or anti-racist’s discourse, show them to be essentially confessing the inadequacy of women or blacks to fully participate in a modern social order. Too much offends them, too much frightens them, too much disables them, too many minor obstacles for others are insurmountable stumbling blocks for them, etc. You can learn to simply read this off the other’s discourse and enact it, without making any overt argument of your own. You can then, not present yourself as the real anti-racist who is quite confident that the victim group in question is quite capable of meeting all the rigorous demands of modern life, but, rather, initiate a discussion of institutional and social design. The feminist or anti-racist might be stymied—if you perform well—but I think my notion of the “sovereign imaginary” could be effective here in laying out some of the governing prerequisites for meeting some of the other’s explicit and implicit demands. What kind of state are you imagining such that it could do what is necessary to address what you want addressed?

I’ve been experimenting with a kind of “vocabulary reform” within my anthropomorphic version of GA. I’ve been working with the concept of “mistakenness” for quite a while now, and it’s one of the concepts that some seem to have found the most interesting and useful. I want to first of all emphasize that this concept is derived directly from Gans’s analysis of the succession of language forms from ostensive to imperative to interrogative (which has still not quite gotten its due) to the declarative. The imperative derives from an “inappropriate” ostensive, which the interlocutor tries to rescue by actually producing the demanded object. The declarative, in a more complex way, derives similarly from an inappropriate imperative. What leads to the rescue of the inappropriate gesture or utterance in each case is the desire for what Gans calls “linguistic presence,” and which we can perhaps simply call “presence,” because what would a non-linguistic presence be? The need for maintaining or restoring presence itself derives from the originary scene—we can say, a little anachronistically, that preserving linguistic presence is the first imperative of the center. And what it meant first of all was that each member on the scene ensure that his sign was the same as that issued by others. A sign that wasn’t the same would be a marker either of an intent to resume the approach to the center or to cease defending the center along with the others—either possibility would threaten the collapse of the group.

So, from the start we have this basic dialectic of mistakenness-presence. My hypothesis is that this dialectic can do all the work of what I have increasingly come to find to be the clumsy and imprecise concepts of “desire” and (especially) “resentment.” With “resentment” in particular, not only do I not see it attain a stable meaning in Gans’s work, but it’s the kind of term that impedes praxis or “participation.” Once you call the other “resentful” you disqualify him as a participant—he really has no choice but to throw the same epithet back at you. My “bet” is that anything we refer to as a marker of resentment could just as illuminatingly be referred to as an instance of mistakenness—an imperative from the center has been obeyed “inappropriately.” The most stable meaning of “resentment,” I think, is that it involves accusing another of receiving more from the center than he “deserves,” which in turn is an at least implicit accusation directed toward the center—the substance of that accusation being that the center is insufficiently central, since a genuine central would distribute benefits “appropriately.” But since the center always distributes appropriately, this accusation must be mistaking the command of the center as one to point out this insufficient centrality. The restoration of presence on the part of the other participants on the scene then involves obeying that command in such a way as to ensure that both the accuser and accused have “something to do,” and a more explicitly named (not necessarily better) status within the community. Insofar as the center was insufficiently central, that deficiency lay in some failure in our obedience to its commands. In scriptural terms, the problem is that we were “of little faith.”

If you were determined to prove to another that he was acting resentfully (not just prove to others who, like yourself, might be too prepared to convict), what would be the best way to go about it? It seems to me you’d have to construct a scene upon which his resentments were acted out without any “objective correlative” to those resentments in the scene itself. If you, for example, suspect someone of resenting his friend’s success, while he in fact believes he has a perfectly good reason for criticizing that friend (e.g., he’s a “sell-out”), then you’d need a situation in which that friend is demonstrably not selling out but the criticism gets triggered all the same. This is essentially a comic, or satiric, episode. You’d then be able to point to how the “resenter” acted, and what he responded to, and help him see the incommensurability, or “inappropriateness.” If it’s done well, and he’s at all willing and able to see, then he will. But the best person to be at the center of this enactment would be the friend himself, which is to say the person who actually elicits the resentment. So, “participation” here means being willing to put yourself forward as the “trigger” for resentments that you could then expose, elucidate and find some way to share and thereby dissolve.

But I said that I don’t want to speak in terms of “resentment”—or, at least, I want to not have to do so. That makes things easier—rather than proving that the other is mistaken, you create presence and prove it by canceling the mistake. And we’re all always mistaken within some frame. You can think about mistakenness as someone making a move that would be appropriate in some actual or possible game, but not in the game everyone else happens to be playing at the time. Since the person presumably wasn’t making the mistake on purpose (in that case it wouldn’t be a mistake), they were making a move that can be seen as “analogous” in some way to moves that would be proper within the ongoing game. In that case, someone can find a way to revise the game so that move would now be a proper (but not necessarily winning) one. But this also means that someone could stumble into a new move which renders all the appropriate ones inappropriate, i.e., turns the entire game into a new one (it would have to be a strong move to enact its own mistakenness so insistently).

If we’re focused, in this way, on countering and building on one another’s moves, with the main goal being to keep the game going, make it more inclusive, more productive of better moves and new kinds of coordination, then we never have to step outside of the game to question someone’s motives or whether they are the bearer of feelings or “states” like desire and resentment. Whatever we need to know about them will be exhibited in their moves. So, this is a kind of paradox to be embodied: knowing it’s a game—or, really, the more open-ended “play”—while simultaneously taking it completely seriously. The more self-referential the play, the more each move points back to and repurposes previous moves. The existence of the play, and the increasing density of the “traditions” of moves embodies an adherence to the center around which we revolve, however unevenly; meanwhile, the ongoing play provides opportunities for the players to occupy centers by making moves that create “temporary monopolies” (a term of Gans’s) of attention—all on the condition that no one steps outside of the play into a meta-language (super-sovereignty) that would claim to codify the rules from outside of the play. (Any attempt to do so would be treated a mistake and recouped within the presence of the play.) Such temporary monopolies would be, within this analogy, “governance,” and one possessing such a monopoly would govern so as to sustain that position as a node within the field, that others could subsequently occupy, insofar as they model themselves on the present occupant and make that region of the field especially productive and “corporal” (that is, involving all its members).

Wherever you are, whether thinking or acting, someone has just made a move for you to translate into the first in a sequence of moves, governed by rules that will become more explicit while generating more tacit rules along the way. There’s even a practice of composition here, as you can counter and build on your previous “mistaken” moves, creating structures that contain a margin of mistakenness acknowledging their own historical limitations, and making implicit requests for saving presence from participants yet to come.

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