Friday, 19 February 2010

Start with the 'Good New'?

Protesting my reserve towards them, Ginzburg advocates Brecht’s motto that it is better to start from the bad new things than from the good old ones. I’ve always been puzzled by the popularity of this dictum on the left. Why should we restrict ourselves to this simpleminded pair – what about the bad old things and the good new ones?
Perry Anderson

Although he only elaborates the point in a critique of Ginzburg's method, Anderson's request we think beyond the couplet 'bad new v. good old' (something I've quoted more than once), resonates with my wider, and undeveloped, project to try and re-think an 'immanent' or 'constructed' rationality in the historical / social processes, rather than abandoning this to the oscillations of evental ruptures or axiomatic demands (as in Badiou, often).

The striking example from Anderson is, of course, the achievements of feminism. On this, of course, see Nina's work, and we might also consider the depth of regression in this rationality - as only reported to me, the terribly depressing debate about rape on This Morning. The pitifully low conviction rates, and the fact public discourse still rotates around 'short skirts', 'asking for it', and if you're drunk that permits rape (what about if you're in a coma? Then you can see the hyper-distasteful Kill Bill), all indicates the implicit social sanctioning of rape as mechanism of 'discipline and punishment' for supposedly unruly female (and of course male) bodies.

Of course that might seem to undermine my point, but once articulated and put into practice these forms of rationality are the 'good new' against which existing 'irrationality', or simple value-reproduction 'rationality', can be assessed and critiqued. This is the power of both Nina and Mark's book: they generate a sense of recognition, the transformation, in Gramscian terms, of 'common sense' to 'good sense', by drawing out implicit forms of rationality we have got so used to ignoring, ideologically dismissing, or living as 'irrationality'.

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