June 17, 2009

Read difficult books, not flattering feel-good ones

Nonviolence of Nonmetaphysics
An Interview with Daniel Gustav Anderson
Daniel Gustav Anderson is presently a graduate student in Cultural Studies at George Mason University. His interests include critical theory, ecology, and European and South Asian traditions of dialectical thinking. He is the author of "Of Syntheses and Surprises: Toward a Critical Integral Theory" and "Such a Body We Must Create: New Theses on Integral Micropolitics", which have been published in Integral Review.

DGA: Yeah, I've left more than a few questions unanswered. One of them: what should integralists be doing now in a practical sense, after all this stuff on method and methodology? I'll suggest three things, but they're interrelated. In a way these follow from the fourfold prescription for responsibility and becoming-responsible I lay out in the micropolitics paper.

First: read more. And I mean read, with care. Read difficult books, not flattering feel-good ones. Three particularly useful ones for what I've been talking about here: Kosik's Dialectics of the Concrete, Bloch's The Principle of Hope (especially on "anticipatory consciousness") and Trungpa's Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. Get thee to the library.

Second: Cultivate a hermeneutics of suspicion. Don't just consume ideas and "theorists" like you would Prell shampoo or Ford cars (to borrow a Deleuze-Guattarian trope) and identify with them. Examine this stuff, test it, make it your own. This is not a process of faith, it is a practice, a craft. An analogy might be that of a carpenter examining the work of another carpenter, looking first for the qualities and weaknesses of the work, and also looking for new techniques or lines or other compelling features to incorporate into one's own practice but critically, not mechanically or mimetically. To make sure I'm not being misunderstood, I'll word this one differently. Let's cultivate a practical refusal to be flattered, particularly by advertising and public relations (apropos of Habermas and the public sphere, given Wilber's claims on Habermas). Certainly the appeal of joining a movement that claims to represent the cutting edge of Divine expression evolving in this world of forms by buying a book or a seat at a conference has tremendous promotional appeal. It sells itself, in the patois of salespeople. Let's not be flattered into believing that buying this novel, the one that claims it "will set you free," or that $200 "starter kit," or this or that meditation retreat, will in and of itself fulfill the promise of the promotional rhetoric. A hermeneutic of suspicion is in order at a minimum. I would say that best practice would be a Great Refusal or Big No to these kinds of patterns.

Alternatively, even if the advertising is true and you are "second-tier" and on the cutting edge of evolving Spirit (I won't rule it out, it might be true after all), try not to be an ass about it. Try to be humble, because you're claiming to be a spokesmodel for Spirit and you wouldn't want to misrepresent That as being tolerant of pompous, arrogant, narcissistic, megalomaniacal behavior. Right?

Third, and this follows from the second: Put your work in the public domain, and restrict your integral activities to not-for-profit organizations and research materials readily available at public institutions. Stop buying shit because it has the word "integral" on it, unless you feel it appropriate for your guru and your idea of Spirit to be working as prostitutes such that you need to keep paying and paying for intervals of integral embrace. We call this "voting with your wallet" and it's the only kind of critique that works in some corners of neoliberalism. It may be the only form of criticism that Integral Institute will respond to at this point. Monkeywrench the flattery machine by not buying into it. Instead, one can help democratize and socialize the integral project, becoming an active participant rather than a passive consumer of content as it were.

Fourth of three: Above all, remember that if you have the means to participate in this conversation, you are in a position of great privilege: social and material privilege I mean. At this moment, the petroleum window has not yet closed (one can fly and drive and get cheap imported goods), but most of the world still lives in abject poverty, the kind where it is a daily struggle to find clean water, for instance. How do you justify this privilege, how do you redeem your debt to the others who get such a small slice of the pie compared to yours, while you eat their share of the resources and in some ways benefit from their underpaid labor, while you eat the habitat of countless species? Pursuing one's own fulfillment for its own sake as a kind of hero's journey, a journey on the throats of the world's population, seems rather self-indulgent in this context. Better in my view at least to devote your efforts, your material privilege, to the welfare of all other beings without exception and into the future as best you can. Better to be a servant than a "wizard" and not only because the costume is cheaper.
I heard somewhere that love ain't for keeping.
Selected Works Cited
Agamben, Giorgio. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998.
Anderson, Daniel Gustav. "Of Syntheses and Surprises: Toward a Critical Integral Theory." Integral Review 3 (2006): 62-81.
—-. "
Such a Body We Must Create: New Theses on Integral Micropolitics." The Integral Review 4.2 (2008): 4-70.
Beck, Don, and Christopher C Cowan. Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership, and Change: Exploring the New Science of Memetics. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Business, 1996.
Berlant, Lauren. The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997.
Bloch, Ernst. The Principle of Hope. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1986.
Bourdieu, Pierre. Homo Academicus. Trans. Peter Collier. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1988.
van Boxsel, Matthijs. The Encyclopedia of Stupidity. Trans. Arnold Pomerans & Erica Pomerans. London: Reaktion Books, 2003.
Butler, Judith. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. New York: Verso, 2004.
Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. Trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith. New York: Zone Books, 1995.
Deleuze, Gilles, and FĂ©lix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.
—-. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, & Helen R. Lane. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983.
Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Revised Edition. Trans. Myra Bergman Ramos. New York: Continuum, 1993.
Greenberg, Clement. The Collected Essays and Criticism: Perceptions and Judgments 1939-1944. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1988.
Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri. Labor of Dionysus: A Critique of the State-Form. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1994.
Harvey, David. Spaces of Hope. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000.
Hebdige, Dick. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. London: Methuen, 1979.
Henderson, Bobby. The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. New York: Random House, 2006.
Herbert, Frank. Dune. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1984.
Illouz, Eva. Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 1997.
Jameson, Fredric. The Critical Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern, 1983-1998. New York: Verso, 1998.
Joyce, James. Ulysses. New York: Random House, 2002.
Kosik, Karel. Dialectics of the Concrete: A Study on Problems of Man and World. Trans. Karel Kovanda & James Schmidt. Boston, MA: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1976.
Lem, Stanislaw. Microworlds: Writings on Science Fiction and Fantasy. Ed. Franz Rottensteiner. New York: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1986.
Macdonald, Dwight. Against the American Grain: Essays on the Effects of Mass Culture. New York: Vintage Books, 1965.
Marcuse, Herbert. An Essay on Liberation. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969.
Meyerhoff, Jeff. "
Bald Ambition: A Critique of Ken Wilber's Theory of Everything." Integral World. 27 May 2009. http://www.integralworld.net/meyerhoff-ba-toc.html.
Ong, Walter J. Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue: From the Art of Discourse to the Art of Reason. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.
Ranciere, Jacques. On the Shores of Politics. Trans. Liz Heron. New York: Verso, 1995.
Ross, Andrew. Strange Weather: Culture, Science, and Technology in the Age of Limits. New York: Verso, 1991.
Suvin, Darko. Positions and Presuppositions in Science Fiction. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1988.
Trungpa, Chogyam. Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. Ed. John Baker & Marvin Casper. Boston: Shambhala, 1987.
Wilber, Ken. Boomeritis: A Novel that will Set You Free. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc, 2003.
—-. Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution. Revised Edition. Boston: Shambhala, 2000.
Ziporyn, Brook. Being and Ambiguity: Philosophical Experiments with Tiantai Buddhism. Chicago: Open Court, 2004.

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