I've been struck this week (and, it could easily have been any other) by currents of dogmatism. Dogmatism most dramatically appears in mainstream politics. So, we've had the nomination of Aito, a bone thrown to right wing domatists. And, finally the Democrats got some backbone and put the Senate in closed session. (I realize that this sentence reinforces the myth that the Democrats are in some way an opposition party.)
We expect dogmatism in the blogosphere. So, I won't link to the usual suspects but consider the less usual, generally more nuanced and thoughtful bloggers who have of late urged a kind of dogmatism in the name of thinking and ethics. Scott and Matt (in the comment thread), in different way, have urged dogmatism for the sake of intellectual seriousness, the former, and ethical responsibility, the latter. Scott, writes:
theory should fit the facts it purports to explain; instead, the facts chosen for explication are chosen because they fit the theories the critic intended to flatter all along. This situation saddens me more than anything else. If my tone seems combative, understand that when I see such wanton manipulation I want to scream my cords raw and tendons bloody . . . to invent the next generation of sanguineous parasynthetics.
When it comes to Stalinism generally (considering also a certain historical context, and as it relates to Nazism in particular), I happen to think this condemnation is called for, if one is to be responsible. And this *duty* to condemn, unconditionally, should not be taken lightly.
I should clarify maybe and say I don't think this "unconditional condemnation" is at all a prerequisite for discussion, but speaking loosely, insofar as many discussions--generally, commonly--begin *and end* with this (for lack of a better word) "moral word"--it is therefore useful and often necessary to point out how it isn't mutually exclusive with more nuanced analysis.
And, to add one more twist, I'll mention that I've been reading a book manuscript and reviewing an article this week that follow Deleuze in rejecting the dogmatic image of thought. Friends and colleagues of a similar persuasion have written eloquently on the importance of generosity and responsiveness.
I am rarely persuaded by arguments for generosity, affirmation, and responsiveness in political theory. I prefer the political edge we get from, guess who, Zizek when he says that we need more political hatred (Fragile Absolute). Yet, I wonder if there is a difference between dogmatism in politics and other kinds of dogmatism, say intellectual and ethical dogmatism?
Or, maybe the matter should be approached differently. Maybe dogmatism is inherently, essentially, political. A dogmatic assertion is a move of power, an attempt to close off, to establish a limit. For the dogmatic, such a limit is necessary. It is necessary to get things done, to move on, to clear out a space. And, there is nothing about this limiting or clearing that says it is done without proper consideration or once and for all, irrevocably.
Really? if the dogmatic had her way wouldn't it be the case that imposed limit would be, if not absolute, then at least, solid, that it would hold, that matters would continue along the course, within the frame, established by the limit? And, that even challenges or contestations would be of that limit, so shaped an informed by it? So, the dogmatic assertion is a political attempt to form and affect, to direct even when one is fully aware that the attempt will be challenged, will exceed the intentions behind it, and will be necessarily incomplete.
Understood as a political move, rather than an intellectual or ethical one, dogmatism can make sense. It can be an effective and necessary political tactic. But, it shouldn't be confused with anything like seriousness or responsibility. Such a confusion is what installs in dogmatism a drive for purity. Purification comes to function as some kind of guarantee or justification, some kind of big Other, that gets the dogmatic off the hook, that places their dogmatism in the service of a higher end. Then the dogmatic are merely tools, instruments in the service of thought, reason, and morality. And this is what makes dogmatism dangerous, this bone of perversity.