Saturday, March 17, 2007

Gibberish watch

Via Butterflies and Wheels, an excellent source of links to post-modernist gibberish, comes this specimen:

In critical international relations theory, the idea that we need to move away from an exclusively human-centred politics is gaining ground. But what would it mean to theorise the international without a human subject at its centre? This workshop invites papers that critically explore the implications and possibilities of a post-human international.

Questions that could be considered include: Is a post-human international politics possible? What might this new international look like? How would a post-human focus raise new questions about international security, responsibility and ethics? What implications might a post-human imaginary have for questions of citizenship, rights and democracy? How does a post-human condition alter the relationship between self and other, inside and outside? Does it offer a different way of theorising the relationship between the domestic and the international? How can liminal figures such as the cyborg illuminate our categories of nature, culture, technology and society? How would a post-human focus alter the way we consider our relationship to animals, artificial intelligence, and the environment? If the idea of "man" is dead, then is the international already a post-human space? And finally, do these moves in international theory represent another attempt to rescue the modern subject, or do they offer new possibilities for an alternative international relations?
It's hard to pick a favourite sentence from that, but if I had to I think I'd choose: 'If the idea of "man" is dead, then is the international already a post-human space?'

The critical line, though, is this: 'But what would it mean to theorise the international without a human subject at its centre?' For the uninitiated, it would mean that a bunch of post-Marxist academics would have managed to construct a flimsy rationale for their pre-existing belief that their general world view can legitimately be imposed onto the field of international relations, however irrelevant its components might be to that field.

Incidentally, connoisseurs of sentences like 'The postpositivist approach can be described as incredulity towards metanarratives' should read the Wikipedia entry for critical international relations theory.

UPDATE: I wrote this in a hurry, but realise I should point out the full beauty of the sentence I chose as my favourite. The phrases 'post-human space' and 'the idea of "man" is dead' are both meaningless and equivalent. Post-human space is what you get if the idea of "man" is dead, in the intention of the writer. Yet, although they sound as though they might, and are syntactically correct, neither of these phrases has any meaning whatsoever. In other words, this sentence manages to be both devoid of content, and tautological at the same time.

Anyone who has studied post-modern language realises that this is the ideal, the pinnacle of achievement. Language should be as dense as possible, completely devoid of meaning and yet capable of being reduced to the triviality of 1=1. I can only salute the (anonymous) author.

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