In the introduction to her new book, CUT OF THE REAL, Katerina Kolozova invokes the need to “traverse the postmodern and poststructuralist limits of thought” as the motive for a new sort of thought, which she identifies, strangely enough with the title of “speculative realism”. These limits of thought are the shadow side of the postulation of a limitless plasticity of the real (dissolved under the endless chains of the signifier), the subject (dissolved into the endless play of self-invention), and politics (dissolved in the endless subversions of power). The discourse based on this limitless plasticity speaks of openness and freedom yet ends up enclosing us within language and preventing change. The result is a philosophy that is unable to realise its interpretative, individuative, and transformative ambitions, and that degenerates into a dogmatic, disindividuated and static monism.
What is interesting is that this diagnosis corresponds almost exactly to my own diagnosis of Graham Harman’s OOO. Kolozova talks of the postmoderns and the poststructuralists, yet she cannot mean Deleuze, Derrida, Foucault or Lyotard, as each of these thinkers made exactly these sorts of critiques in the 70s. What Kolozova is describing is rather a trend towards linguistic idealism and political passivism within the realm of “Theory” and of Continental Philosophy that is in regression compared to these thinkers, and that is based on the weakening of their thought and its incorporation into some sort of groovy eclecticism.
This groovy eclecticism would seem to be the parody of the post-structurlaist thought of Derrida, Deleuze, Foucault, and Lyotard that arose from the attempt to cling to Lacan at all costs, and to combine his thought with the philosophy of those who explicitly critiqued its linguistic idealism. This post-Lacanianism is the shadow that the deconstructor projects, as described by Bernard Stiegler:
“the deconstructor … would be unable to reduce the pharmacological condition that he deconstructs, which means that he himself projects lures and casts delusions that he is not himself able to see” (What Makes Life Worth Living: On Pharmacology).
Stiegler includes among these shadow effects of deconstruction those delusions that paralyse and imprison us, that are “hyper-limiting or hyper-inhibitors”. The seeming limitlessness of deconstruction results in hyper-limitation.
We can see that this post-Lacanian travesty is the real problem for Kolozova by referring to her related discussion essay, where she rejects the ” static idea of the “Negative,” of “the constitutive lack” or “absence” as conceived by postmodernism and epistemological poststructuralism”. Once again this talk of constitutive lack or absence has nothing to do with the post-structuralist philosophers, but with the post-Lacanian syncretists.
No doubt an attempt to step beyond such post-Lacanian problematics may seem to be revolutionary, for it is indeed a necessary step. But this step was already taken 40 years ago, and in a far deeper and more thorough fashion than Kolozova’s discussion of Quentin Meillassoux would lead us to believe. The idea that Foucault in DISCIPLINE AND PUNISH (1975) was caught in the “correlationist circle” and needed Meillassoux to free him from the enclosure in language is ludicrous.
So while I agree with Kolozova’s desire to escape from the hyper-limitation generated by “postmodern” (in the sense that ignores Lyotard’s analyses) philosophical thought, I cannot agree with her periodization. I am willing to concede that Quentin Meillassoux and Graham Harman represent a step beyond post-Lacanian linguistic idealism, but that still does not constitute as decisive a step as she seems willing to believe. It brings them into that strange nebulous zone that I call “demi-post-structuralism” that misrepresents the history of philosophy to create a deceptive tableau foregrounding their own systems of thought, and eclipsing those thinkers that have gone further.