'No doubt the molecular labour of theory is less visible than it was previously. It has no master-thinkers comparable in renown to the old ones. It is also wanting in dialogue with a political project capable of assembling and combining energies. But it is probably deeper, more collective, freer, and more secular. And hence richer in future promise.'Daniel Bensaid, A Marx for Our Times (p.xvi)
Fredric Jameson often remarks that postmodernity, as cultural condition of 'late' capitalism, requires a 'decline' from high modernist masters and avant-gardes, but that this might open a 'plebeianization' of culture, a democratic opening of the 'postmodern' he associates with Brecht. Linking this to Bensaid's argument could we, or perhaps only I, imagine a plebeianization of theory? No masters, but rather collective working, not in a false collapse of community (where some seem to do the work for others), but a 'community' that might take seriously this possibility to develop such a means of working with theory.
Of course we live still with a constant fetishisation of prospective masters or movements, a seemingly relentless demand for authority coupled with an iconoclasm that 'dates' a thinker, or returns them, by whim, while providing plenty of material for 'epigone critiques' for anyone foolish enough to take a thinker seriously.
In this 'project' of plebeianization I think there are a place for scholarly virtues (as I still find them): citation of revelant research, including so-called 'secondary' research; argument rather than vatic pronouncement; engagement with sincerity rather than false and malign 'debate'; an ability to try and grasp history, including very recent history, w/o a 'historicism' that would block change; simple accuracy; submission to referees (when done properly); publication of good work rather than work by X 'famous' person; and so on.
In this 'theory', lower case 'T', submits to discipline, and not the discipline of the market, the discipline of wealth or cultural capital (which so often run together - a dearth of proletarian masters...), but the discipline of thought and expression in proper research and rigour. I'm certainly not claiming I live up to this, however I do try, and I think some real articulation here might be necessary.