By Martin Jay
During this account of a few of the vital strategies in glossy lifestyles and idea, Professor Jay investigates how language can't fail to alter and mediate event. the subjects he treats variety from "theory" and "experience" to the that means of "multiculturalism" and the dynamic of "cultural subversion", and one of the thinkers he engages are Bataille, Foucault, Adorno, Walter Benjamin and Lyotard.
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To do so, we need to understand the everyday as a contested terrain with complicated links to the distant currents in the history of the period, not a refuge of innocence unsullied by that larger history. In short, we have to recognize that the connection between an interest in everyday life in a totalitarian era and the apologetic normalization of that era is contingent rather than necessary. Still another issue that bears stressing is the question of whose everyday life is to be examined. In a film like Heimat, the focus is on the rural or small town life of a Germany not yet fully modernized.
These historians, to be sure, tend to concentrate on topics that may have less obvious contemporary relevance than Nazism, the French for example doing most of their work on medieval or early modern problems. But they have been able to discern in the everyday lives they have examined far more than the "normality" which has apparently so preoccupied the German practitioners of Alltagsgeschichte. One need only think of their explorations of the topsy-turvy world of carnival to realize how abnormal and indeed potentially disruptive the everyday can be.
Theory, to summarize our argument so far, must be situated in a semantic network with its multiple others: objects that defy subsumption, practices and experiences that are prereflexive or the posterior test of a theory's validity, hermeneutic arts such as reading, looking, and listening that resist universal generalization, the unique intelligibility of narrative, and the community and institutions of theorists who do the theorizing. With all of these counterconcepts to theory available to challenge its putative primacy, and there are probably more that could be adduced, is it any wonder that theoreticism has become one of the leading deviations of our time, and not only for the dwindling band of Althusser's acolytes?