The following is a guest post by Keith, blogger at the under-read Metastable Equilibrium.
So I have moved into another text, outside of the main text under consideration (detour has been my M.O. as of late). And besides, how can one concentrate on just one text, when so many other texts are woven into it? Interestingly Spivak only informs the reader of just what place Value holds in her theory within the pages of A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: it is a Derridian "lever of intervention"--the lever of transgression and bafflement with which to turn the text.
Hoping then, that this will not appear too off-topic but fold into the on-topic, I want to begin with Spivak's treatment of an exchange between Deleuze and Foucault as a "site of betrayal." Their problematic dismissal of representation (to which I must attend to my own re-readings of certain passages in The Order of Things) through a "postrepresentationalist rhetoric" utilizes what Spivak perceives--correctly to some degree--as a "vocabulary [that] hides an essentialist agenda" (A Critique of Postcolonial Reason 271). So she will then "spend some time with the hegemonic radicals" (248) in order to unpack the problematic in the full knowledge of her precarious position.
Using the form of the conversation to "glimpse the track of ideology" (249), Spivak maintains that
Some of the most radical criticism coming out of the West in the eighties was the result of an interested desire to conserve the Subject of the West, or the West as Subject. The theory of pluralized “subject-effects” often provided a cover for this subject of knowledge. (CPR, 248)
"Intellectuals and Power" was a conversation that happened in March of '72--and Spivak seems to miss the relevance of the time of this exchange (four years after May '68). She therefore misses the larger textual weave of those statements by Deleuze and Foucault, implicated as they are in the revolutionary desire of oppressed groups--even if--part of the problem--only in France--that began to speak for themselves (even if there was no speech, but the speaking manifested itself in the struggle). Spivak might criticize Deleuze for positing unicity at the level of the worker--as in the workers' struggle. But she misses the problem of organization that is here implied, that Deleuze does engage with ideology, but will have nothing to do with the value, the desire, that would manifest itself in any "ideology of the proletariat" (organization through leadership vs. self-organization). Thus it is not Deleuze and Foucault, or the fault of this critique of subjectivity, that posits an "undivided subject." They themselves are not necessarily responsible for this, but rather those who have used them in their wake (Spivak's work must have its own consequences, of course). Spivak seems to be reprimanding them for not deconstructing properly (if at all, since they weren’t "deconstructionists"), for not being careful enough (and incidentally I must indicate that I do not myself feel as though I am being careful enough with Spivak’s text), that they were somehow being irresponsible theorists.
Yet, it might also appear that Spivak’s reading here is itself somewhat irresponsible - that by way of her accusations, and the positions they imply, she must disregard that “larger textual weave” so as to miss in Deleuze the place of Science (thermodynamics, chaos…) that she grazes with McCluhan and Lyotard, the significance of a theory of the event (Spivak does however elsewhere acknowledge not being well equipped for such exposition), or the play and importance of major/minor distinctions (such as take place in ATP) and the concept of multiplicity (of importance when considering Foucault as well).
But then, there is always the realization that this particular kind of engagement might run directly against the form of analysis Spivak is putting forth as ("simply") a literary critic, being too eclectic and perhaps actually providing a cover for the unacknowledged subject of knowledge. Do Foucault and Deleuze then, really remain "incapable of dealing with global capitalism" (250)? Or do they truly "ignore the international division of labor" (250)? While duly noting the points Spivak is making here, I must in partial defense of their exchange posit my own answer to these questions as "no."
So why is it that Foucault and Deleuze might fall victim to the kind of valuing that Spivak is able to avoid? Well, she makes the reader aware of her complicities, of course. Spivak is seduced by cappuccinos, by Commes de Garçla;on, 100% artist-woven cotton, and a position at Columbia University along with the comforts it provides (that she can't seem to say enough about--if only to reveal the complicities of the University itself, of course); she is after all, a real New Yorker. These points in her text, as she would say, are salutary.
But then just when dismissed, Deleuze returns, brushed off but still of some use--no different really, from the treatment he receives in “Scattered Speculations on the Question of Value”, as Jon has already pointed out. The Anti-Oedipal gesture, it seems, has done some service toward the questioning of Value after all. The flows of "desiring-production" are recognized as a working out of the possibilities of the theory of value, marking the point where value and desire are nearly synonymous in their "nominalist catachresis," since
Just as "value" itself is a misleading word because, strictly speaking, it is catachrestic, so is “desire’ misleading because of its paleonymic burden of an originary phenomenal passion – from philosophical intentionality on the one hand to psychoanalytic definitive lack on the other. (CPR 105)
And the question that keeps returning: what kind of value? Aesthetic, subjective, otherwise? There is the "valuing" of individuals within regimes of communication, such as Foucault would point to. There is also Value's role in canon-formation (the problem of choice, indecision, undecidability). (And if literary critics such as Spivak have faced such difficulties in seeking alternative canon-formations, for artists and art historians or critics, it has been no different. The question most asked today when confronted with major art historical texts or survey exhibitions is “what’s been left out?”, and inevitably there is always something, always an axe to grind, since a politics is always at work.)
Nate has already mentioned in comments that it is not worthwhile to consider value as substantial, and this I think makes the invocation of Deleuze even more relevant, since perhaps value can be thought not as something substantially existing in time, but rather through time, as a movement and becoming. In the expanded field, value becomes parasitic, a parasite on use-value as Spivak notes. Adorno already recognized a consequence:
The more inexorably the principle of exchange value destroys use value for human beigns, the more deeply does exchange value disguise itself as the object of enjoyment. (The Culture Industry 39)Or yet again, Spivak:
In the broad stroke, the economic is the most abstract and rational instance. It is among the visible aggregative apparatuses whose irreducible constituents are the heterogenous pouvoir/savoir field, where the total or expanded form of value is incessantly coded, affectively, cognitively, and in ways that, by being named, are as much effaced as disclosed. (CPR 104)
In passages that follow, Spivak warns to keep political avant-gardism at bay when considering affective labor--hence the "apocalyptic tone" invoked toward the end of "Scattered Speculations on the Question of Value" and its shearing of any utopianism. More problematic still are interest and intention, as all decisions have consequences (our complicities) such that our intentions are often those through which the road to a hybridized postmodern postcolonial multiculturalist globalization are paved. She warns as well that in placing ourselves within this textuality we not conflate and confuse "culture" and "power" (the words are comparable, but not the same--as she warns that shifts in the determinations of capital must not be seen as merely the effect of changes in culture). We should also beware of the lurking "epistemic violence" in theory, where the dangers of elitism are not trivial, since often theory can become just another way to differentiate oneself from the underclass. Spivak makes a not to be ignored suggestion that "we must learn to be responsible as we must study to be political" (CPR 378), and that any "radical art" with a claim to politics must also be responsible if that claim to politics is to truly be implicated in the expanded field of its definition outside of the "simple" politics that merely inheres in aesthetics. (And for what its worth here, the "radical artist" that Spivak attacks in CPR, and so cunningly avoids naming, is Alfredo Jaar.) Every victory is a warning, she says. Caution, vigilance, distance, postponement. . . Value, class, culture, power. . . It is here that another warning, this time by Ranciere, comes to mind: "The most deceptive words are evidently the ones most frequently used."*
I'll end, then, on the open-ended, with the following from Spivak:
As far as I can understand it, my agenda remains an old-fashioned Marxist one. Marx attempted to make the factory workers rethink themselves as agents of production, not as victims of capitalism. They advanced their labor, the capitalist repaid them only partially. Their claim to the rest was their claim to socialism (tone it down: the welfare state; dress it up: civil society). Today in the old metropolitan countries, the capitalist is the benefactor "creating jobs," and the worker is systematically deprived of welfare because it is a "free" gift. Suppose we analogized globally. Today in the psot-Soviet world, privatization is the kingpin of economic restructuring for globalization. It means a broadstroke change in the global economic pattern--"a new attempt to impose unification on the world by and through the 'market.'" It is now more than ever impossible for the new or developing states--the newly decolonizing or the old decolonized nations--to escape the orthodox constraints of a "neo-liberal" world economic system that, in the name of Development, and now, "sustainable development," removes all barriers between itself and fragile national economies, so that any possibility of social redistribution is severely damaged. In this new transnationality, "the new diaspora," the new scattering of the seeds of "developing" nations so that they can take root on the developed ground, means: Eurocentric migration, labor export both male and female, border crossings, the seeking of political asylum, and the haunting in-place uprooting of “comfort women” in Asia and Africa. By analogy with the Marxian project above, the hyphenated Americans belonging loosely to the first and the fourth groups might rethink themselves as possible agents of exploitation, not its victims; then the idea that the nation-state that they now call home gives "aid" to the nation-state that they still call culture, in order to consolidate the new unification for international capital, might lead to what I call "transnational literacy" [referring to a command of a diversified historical and geographical information system]. Then our multiculturalism, or our sense of the word "culture," will name different strategic situations from only our own desire to be the agent of a developed civil society. Which we need not give up; but let us want a different agency, shift the position a bit. I have been consistent in my insistence that the economic be kept visible under erasure [in Scattered Speculations]. What good will it do? Who knows? Marx’s books were not enough and the text of his doing remained caught in the squabbles of preparty formation and the vicissitudes of personal life. You work my agenda out. (CPR 357-358)
* The Names of History 34; also on that page is the following: "Social designates the nonrelation as a principle. It designates the gap between words and things or, more precisely, the gap between nominations and classifications. The classes that name themselves, and that are named, are never what classes must be, in the scientific sense: sets of individuals to which it is possible to attribute rigorously a finite number of common properties." Deleuze knew this perfectly well when he made the statements to Foucault that Spivak has such malaise with.