Saturday, June 03, 2006

specific discontinuities

It is not that I'm uninterested in or unsympathetic to the concern for finding and elaborating discontinuity, flows, ruptures, etc. I am just concerned that these don't turn into generalizable categories in their own right; I am interested, that is, in the specific application of discontinuity, the specific facts (historical, material) of rupture.

Foucault:

We must ask ourselves what purpose is ultimately served by this suspension of all the accepted unities, if, in the end, we return to the unities we pretended to question at the outset. In fact, the systematic erasure of all given unities enables us first of all to restore to the statement the specificty of its occurence, and to show that discontinuity is one of those great accidents that create cracks not only in the geology of history, but also in the simple facts of the statement; it emerges in its historial irruption; what we try to examine is the incison it makes, that irreducible--and very often tiny--emergence. However banal it may be, however unimportant its consequences may appear to be, however quickly it may be forgotten after its appearance, however little heard or however badly deciphered we may suppose it to be, a statement is always an event that neither the language (langue) nor the meaning can quite exhaust. It is certainly a strange event: first, because on the one hand it is linked to the gesture of writing or to the articulation of speech, and also on the other hand it opens up to itself a residual existence in the field of a memory, or in the materiality of manuscripts, books, or any other form of recording; secondly, because like every event, it is unique, yet subject to repetition, transformaton, and reactivation; thirdly, because it is linked not only to the situations that provoke it, and to the consequences that it gives rise to, but at the same time, and in accordance with a quite different modality, to the statements that precede and follow it. (28 The Archeology of Knowledge).

1 comment:

JustinP said...

But one could say the same thing about the dialectic: one must guard against the dialectic becoming a "generalizable category" that ignores or transcends a specific time and place. It's not just flows and breaks that (may) have this problem.