Deconstructing Jan Rehmann’s NEO-LOSURDIST MARXO-ANTI-NIETZSCHEANISM (7): on the value (and price) of public philosophy


For me the price analysis is central. I paid 30€ for Badiou’s IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS (700 pages), 39€ for Laruelle’s TETRALOGOS (600p), 29€ for Bourdieu’s MICROCOSMS (700 p), 26€ for Latour’s INQUIRY INTO MODES OF EXISTENCE (500p), etc. etc. – all by major creative thinkers.

Badiou, Laruelle, Latour are published directly in paperback form for a price that is 10 times cheaper than the Historical Materialism Book Series books, they address a general audience, and although they are difficult they are not inaccessible for the lay reader.

I consider myself to be a lay reader, belonging to the targeted general audience. François Laruelle has done a good job making explicit what such a lay audience and its mode of reading are like in his book A BIOGRAPHY OF ORDINARY MAN.

I was a senior high school English teacher for three decades, living in Nice, and I certainly wasn’t paid, or accorded much time, to read and meditate these texts and to blog about them. Before that I was living in Paris and I attended the courses of Gilles Deleuze, Jean-François Lyotard, Michel Serres, and Michel Foucault, and believe me those classes were packed! Most of the attendance were genuinely interested non-students and had no time for sub-noetic relativistic language-games. They were there for substantial conceptual content.

There was a real thirst for concepts then, and I don’t think it has gone way!

This thirst for concepts has not gone away, it is not limited to France, but it is not served by such bullies of bloat as Losurdo and the smug « radicals » that have been promoting him. I am only at the beginning of my reading of Rehmann’s book, but I can provisionally class him among the de-concepted ideologues.

Over and beyond the relative price and the presence of philosophy in the school curriculum I think this market is larger in France because the books are offering something more, more « conceptual charge » than the corresponding Anglophone derivatives. Nonetheless, this conceptual charge is not a static thing and the work of assimilating French post-structuralism is heightening that charge, while academic debunkings such as Rehmann’s book strive for entropic flattening.

In sum, these books are not the narcissistic products of esoteric mind-games and linguistic exhibitionism

i – these French thinkers aim at and are read by a general audience,

ii – the price of their books is affordable for such an audience,

iii – French readers who have been to senior high school have studied philosophy for one year,

iv – French due to its Latinate roots has a more abstract vocabulary when seen through Anglophone eyes, and is less esoteric than it may appear in English translation,

v – far from justifying some élitist sort of textual purism, these considerations suggest that these thinkers are getting better with time in the English-speaking world.

vi – What the French gain in explicit abstraction they tend to lose in implicit limitation of scope, and these limits can be exploded in English. (I am no purist!)

vii – in conclusion, public philosophy is not some special concession but a widely felt common need.

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