Andrew Iliadis


In this day and age of Žižekian rock star theorists and overly-abstruse philosophers, the institutional study of cultural theory can be understood as firmly entrenched in two camps. The first, pandering to the leftovers of the MTV generation and readers of Totem Books’ Introducing series, are engaged in what can be called a type of theoretical bricolage; why shouldn’t one be able to reference Lacan’s borromean knot in a discussion of early nineties Norwegian blackmetal or 4G cellular wireless technology (from a Marxist perspective, of course)? The other camp, which often adheres to a strict nomenclature so esoteric that only those at the graduate level can penetrate their meaning, enjoys a certain performativity of the text; the form of their work, unlike the relatively straightforward and at times journalistic style of the former group,attempts to structurally mimic the logic of their thought. It could be called a type of philosophical, meta-textual performance art. This group would argue that essays have anaesthetic autonomy (see Theodor Adorno’s “The Essay as Form”). Each camp exists on one side of an invisible line that can be called the continental/analytic divide, and if we push this sensible difference further we can justifiably say that, in the last analysis, the difference is one of“positive” and “negative” thought; between a positivist logic founded on the necessity of presuppositions (the logic of word games, game theory, etc.) and a thought that is intrinsic,parasitic even, to thought itself (deconstruction, Gadamerian hermeneutics, etc.). One group envisions a need for answers while the other seeks to identify problems. This difference has been and might always be one of contentious debate, and it is certainly the locus of one of the chief frustrations permeating the theoretical realm of this ephemeral thing we call “Cultural Studies”.

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