Tom, please explain this sentence in the context of your description of how the cycle between domination and emancipation has become the standard future-discourse of the Traditional Progressive Left. Pretend (or think) that I am stupid, so be thorough.
@Dadabase There is a particular form of writing(?) that has thrived and been particularly useful in the tradition of the Benjaminian left, as you posit it; the "postwar Western leftists... who mistrust science, technology, and planned progress... with a nostalgic desire to move backwards into the future" (NB: I think a special place must be reserved for post-colonial theory in this narrative, for the way it posited anti-universalism as a new universal norm, but PWL's will serve for this discussion).
I want you to speak about this form and perhaps name it: in some ways, one of the primary ways in which it has been refined has been on the pages of e-flux. As someone who is dedicated via this platform to building a community around discussion, the question of how we should talk and write to each other is no doubt on your mind.
This form gets made fun of at a surface rhetorical level as "artspeak", or general humanities dissertation material: perhaps a fondness for neologisms/certain names, a dependence on the construction, "A both [verb]s and is [verb]ed by B", and careful attendance to the law of three (see what I did there?). The general effect of this rhetoric is to make argument impossible. Perhaps this is also the proper effect of contemporary art. As @Victoria puts it in the Day 3 thread,
"contemporary art's metaphorical condition operates as a poetic imaginary for futures that we could construct but shouldn't be so foolish as to think we should actually construct them because that would basically amount to fascism."
This operates as a parallel to the way that (note that the word "parallel", because it flattens relationships and elides causality is a typical marker of such discourse)
"ontological liberalism "aids and abets" the current liberal formation because it so conveniently preserves the right to individuality while making it indeterminate. I suppose, to go back to more classical forms of liberal theory, ontological liberalism makes negative freedoms inalienable while positing positive rights as an overreach."
What is the relationship between everything-is-connectedism ("All the World's Futures" is very much in this vein) and this political position?
On a related note, Amanda Anderson has written with a determination that was important to me on the value of argument. A good review of her The Way We Argue Now points out an inescapably "meta" problem that I think you too are situated in: you are arguing that others are arguing against argument, when they might deny (without denying) that they are arguing at all. Why did you raise your voice? (I copied that from Bruce Robbins.)
In one section, she draws on her previous work on the Victorian liberal tradition (which via Arnold would later become in the American context institutional liberalism of, say, Lippman, Drucker and Wiener, which has, frankly, one of the most energetic defenses available of collectivity as the route to individualism) and in particular, the development of "forms of distance" (whether in telepathy, analysis, or aesthetics):
part of what defines the peculiarly Victorian response to the disenchantments of modernity is the attempt to imagine the methods of modern science, critical reason, and cosmopolitan detachment in terms of exemplary or heroic characterology: in this way, what we might call early antifoundationalism was underwritten by ethos, and thereby imbued with value, achieved or earned through practices that could successfully take on a human face.
She has argued very emphatically for character (she is coming out of novel studies, where character has frankly disappeared with the interest in narrative) as an appropriate and robust response to the critique that "everything is constructed": yes, how encouraging, let's "build character," then.
So this has lead me, without planning, to a criticism, Mohammad. I can hardly fault you for not mentioning this, that and the other. But: the Theses' critiques (and the inheritors, Aranda and Pinto among them) derive their energy from a normative ethics (that can never be formally described (why?)) that is implied usually through reference to historical conditions like precarious labor (Amazon Turk) or fascist states (the end of the interbellum). A proper refutation of such a position would require an alternate historical narrative, or the careful sifting of significant connections from incidental ones--which you are doing nicely, but also an idea of the good:
How should we go about thinking betterment? Where do we turn to, what traditions and what resources? You have mentioned cybernetics, which I don't think has a fully-developed ethics; it's a mechanics with perhaps an implicit ethics, but that still needs to be made explicit. I have mentioned Victorian liberalism and its inheritors in American corporatism/managementism (which is closely tied to cybernetics) and should note also Mou Zongsan and the other modern Chinese philosophers that I came to by way of Reza Negarestani.
PS I will note that I could have described the implicit ethical norms in the Theses critique as being another person inside the Turk, but I didn't. That's because not everything is connected equally.