Chapter 1 After Theory: Politics against the Police?

In: Policing Literary Theory
Vladimir Biti
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My point of departure is Rancière’s distinction between the police (la police) and politics (la politique), the first meaning an institutional order that establishes the borders of the political and the second an operation that persistently reconfigures this order in the name of equality. I interpret theory as the conflictual meeting ground of the consensual orientation of the police and the dissensual orientation of politics. It simultaneously precludes and enables emancipation, although it consistently denies the preclusion. This is why the policing dimension of its activity comes to the fore only retroactively. The case in point is ‘the death of Theory’ around 2000, which was accompanied by the discovery of its ‘terrorist character.’ As the first genealogies that followed this ‘death,’ Compagnon’s Le Démon de la théorie (1998) and Rabaté’s The Future of Theory (2002), point out, the fascination with it from 1965 to 1980 was induced by its revolutionary spirit. Yet both Compagnon and Rabaté, as if cautioned by the failed burials of modernism and the literary author that were proclaimed several decades ago, refuse to speak of the passing of theory by suggesting instead its reconfiguration. Elliott and Attridge in their volume Theory after ‘Theory’ (2011) claim that post-theory re-emerges precisely through the challenging of intellectual stances that were characteristic of Theory. Does this challenge imply the abandonment of Theory’s revolutionary stance too? Or should this stance be resumed in post-theory? If so, how can post-theoretical politics resist the post-theoretical police? I argue that post-theory ought to avoid the consensual manner of the police that aims at the sovereignty of the theorist and/or the subject of his/her interest by following the dissensual manner of politics that insists on the mutually dependent freedom of both constituents.

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