update: some people whose opinion I respect criticised the initial version of this post as unfair and homogenising. I have changed the title and slightly modified the first paragraph. May the conversation prove fruitful!
I do not like the term “para-academics” as it suggests a mere neighbouring but parallel postion in relation to academia, as if the ghetto were isomorphic with the official hierarchy and seeking merger. I find myself in agreement with R.Scott Bakker’s Wake-up Call, but I have this minor terminological quibble with his call to the “para-academic shadow” to manifest itself against the hegemony of the cronies. The problem is that lurking in that shadow are those who are isomorphic to and commensurable to the institutions stratifications and who seek to profit from the confusion at the expense of those who are individuating on a radically different model.
Commensurable cronies are both like-minded and in-group-identified. That means you need a conversion and an initiation (which some have called a “degradation” ceremony) to enter into intercourse with them. There’s nothing wrong with such groups as such, the more affinity-groups the merrier. The problem is unequal access to institutionalised respect, power, money, charisma ie to social, intellectual, and financial capital. Such groups tend to be closed and closed-minded and so blind to what others are on about. I am blind, because I have already been converted but conversion allows me to “see”. You can’t see anything without conversion, and there’s the problem: the world would just be an overwhelming chaos.
Conversion makes us blind to everything else, it makes us stupid. This is why I have been going on about “synchronic” ontologies, and synchronic understanding in general. “Synchronic” is shorthand for a vision of the world based on being blind to its (ie both the vision’s and the world’s) constructed nature and being blind to other constructions. (Note: this is also what David from http://www.inthesaltmine.com/ calls construct awareness). The group-individuation has become a group-synchronisation and produced a rigid set of stereotypes and associated roles.
Cronies are the opposite of individuals. They are the fish not only unconscious of the water they swim in, but also unconscious that this water is just one puddle and there are lots of others. They don’t even know they are fish, and find the others “fishy”. The few deconstructionists I met were very constructed in their personalities (self-satisfied hegemonic narcissists only begins to capture it) and very concentrated on and adept at constructing their careers.
Writing across ingroup boundaries is very desirable. However even the most committed transversal pluralist can only open up to just so many multiple simultaneous or successive conversions. The rest is barter, compassion, hospitality and sympathetic magic (or the opposite). Deleuze called such cross-group cross-construction intercourse a conversation, as opposed to a discussion between social and conceptual cronies. Cronies are into redundance and repetition, where innovation is more of the same. Cronies are synchronies.
I have already recounted how I was squeezed out by the Althusserians and the Lacanians. But I did my own thing and one day managed to show my writing to Lyotard and his recommendation got me a scholarship to go and study with him in France. I will never forget the day I ran into a Lacanian joiner and she asked me condescendingly, for I deserved no respect in those people’s eyes, what I was doing and I said I was going to Paris for 3 years to study (this was in Sydney, the other side of the world). Instead of smiling or congratulating me, she was furious. She snapped at me “Well, I’m certainly not going to Paris!” and the conversation was closed. She had been a very supportive sub-crony in a clique of lacanian feminists and received nothing for her pains. Those who succeed do so on a huge pile of little helpers who are not received into the light.
So I don’t like in-group discussions or meetings of cronies, but I am willing to converse with all sorts of people. And I am ready to help out or to contribute, but I am noone’s helper. That’s a mug’s game, even when the mug succeeds and becomes a Big Mouth.
I agree that the internet potentially changes the game and allows a new dialectic of exposure and response, an opening or widening of the conversations is possible.
(Note: Mikhail Emelianov has some very interesting reflections on the life of the “post-academic” here).