Enigma of revolt reprise: Storming the castle

Derek Gregory, who blogs at Geographical Imaginations has some thoughts on Andy Merrifield’s essay in Adbusters on Kafka, public space and revolt here. Dr. Gregory is more sympathetic to Merrifield’s argument than I was in my earlier post, where I wasn’t sold on the idea that there are no shared lampposts for action and that we live ‘naked lives’.

Derek Gregory posts more directly on the spatial dimension of a scene where Joseph K. (the main character in Kafka’s The Trial) attempts to breach a castle; which stands as a symbol for a certain kind of bureaucratic rationality that is fortified against internal dissent. Gregory throws this idea of spatial politics into contrast with Merrifield’s remarks on Occupy, which focus on a set of external confrontations with the logic of the systems Occupiers presumably have in their sights (i.e. capitalism).

I remain unconvinced. In part, because the idea of ‘internal’ and ‘external’ rationalities to different political spaces sets out a fairly straightforward set of relationships. Either you submit to the internal logic of bureaucracy or you do not. If you don’t, good luck changing it. If you do, no issues arise. Or, if you seek a form of public space with an external logic then you open up the possibility of new external spaces. Merrifield wants the to-and-fro between internal and external logics of space to set out the domain in which things are ‘enigmatic’. But I tend to think that Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter’s analysis in The Rebel Sell is still a good rejoinder. Like many, I wouldn’t agree wholly with that book, but that is primarily because I don’t see dichotomies between inside/outside, internal/external as offering a compelling alternate vision of social space or its possibilities. So I would perhaps be partial to an alternate set of critiques. Nevertheless, their ideas for why the culture can’t be jammed when it itself provides the safety net for alternate visions of society, seems plausible to me. Heath just received a Trudeau Fellowship, a prized Canadian award for scholars across the social sciences and humanities.

Anyways, to me those sorts of dialectics of internal/external and so on, and the assumptions about the world they embed, represent (to use Richard Rorty’s phrase) a world well lost. I am at present using some of Rorty’s ideas in a new paper; so will return to this on-going engagement again.

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