In the Marketplace of Illusion (book chapter)

From the opening chapter of Global Academe: Engaging Intellectual Discourse, published January 31, 2012, by Palgrave Macmillan

In the Marketplace of Illusion: The Public Intellectual in a Landscape of Mediated Humanness.

The question of what role the intellectual should play in society has evolved into an automatic controversy that summons the simplest answers and the most entrenched prejudices. The passion for showing off democratic tendencies while not devoting adequate energies to their exercise has led to an ingrained hostility toward successful thinkers who work to channel their energies into the production of analyses that might make evident the subtle truths the rest of us are living, that—by extension—means they issue to us an ethical summons, a call, a reminder of the commonness and the humanness of our special human frailties, of our obligations and of what would constitute a better social expression of our selfhood. […]

The full and integrated self must be successfully concrete and also successfully intangible, an abstract potential actualization, filtration, flirtation or implementation matrix, a complex of complexes, a visionary accomplice capable of honest self-seeing and authentic self-propagation. “Conscious reflection is the doubling over of this dynamic abstraction on itself. The order of connection of such dynamic abstractions among themselves, on a level specific to them, is called mind” (Massumi 32). But how can one live the details, the would-be facts of the everyday, and also face the haunting existential crisis of coming to grips with the self as an insubstantial substance, the mind as a groundless ground? […]

One important proposed—and widely practiced—solution is to simplify the design of the crisis—of how it is imagined—so as to escape the need to resolve it. This practice does not aim to achieve a truly simpler landscape of evidence, but rather to pose as true by making simple, by excluding the inconvenient. If true selfhood is somehow the absence of concrete selfhood, and facts in the realm of the concrete must be translatable into the realm of the insubstantial, to be viable as facts, then liberty can be redefined as absence—absence of protocols, absence of demands, absence of responses to an ever-absent summons—, and the self we seek need not achieve full and free expression of its paradoxical truth in a way that is both concrete and virtual. […]

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