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B o ok R ev iew s brings it back from the space of the geometrist to that of the citizen, obliges us to reconsider the most unconscious axioms of political thought and practice. If the citizens are not in­ discernible, if they are, for instance, both symmetrical in relation to a point (the center, which is the law) and nevertheless non-superimposable on one another (as we know is the case for the owners or bureaucrats of capital and the sellers of labor power, as we know is the case for men and women, for whites and ‘people of color,’ for urbanites and provin­ cials, for young people and adults), then your representation of political space is very em­ barrassed. And if you haven’t despaired of your life on the pretext that all justice was lost when incommensurability was lost, if you haven’t gone running to hide your ignoble distress beneath the authority of a great signifier capable of restoring this geometry, if on the contrary you think, like YOURS TRULY, that it’s the right moment to render this geometry totally invalid, to hasten its decay and to invent a topological justice, well then, you’ve already understood what a Philistine could be doing searching among the little notes and improvisations of Duchamp: materials, tools, and weapons for a politics of incommen­ surables” (27-28). T im o t h y M u r r a y CornelI University Jean-Francois Lyotard. P e r e g r in a t io n s : L a w , F o r m , E v e n t . New York: Columbia Uni­ versity Press, 1988. Pp. 112. Because of its graceful style and accessibility as published lectures intended to “ define [his] position in the field of criticism and the path which led to this position” (4), Peregrina­ tions makes an excellent introduction to the more difficult Lyotard of The Differend, on which it draws for some of its arguments. (Both English translations appeared in 1988, but publication of Le D ifférend preceded the 1986 Wellek Lectures by three years.) The book starts with a narrative account of young Lyotard hesitating among three career choices: monk, painter, or historian. But he soon abandons the narrative mode, returning only occasionally to relate the biographical experience of Economie libidinale, say, or the Algerian war to the delineation of his current position. The opening incident thus does and does not represent a program for the book: Lyotard was to become neither monk, painter, nor historian; yet an abiding interest in law, form, and event informs his critical activity and provides an informal structure for the three lectures/chapters that follow. The switch from narrative to “ expository” prose illustrates Lyotard’s assumption here (and the claim underlying major works from The Postmodern Condition [1979] to The Differend [1983] and beyond) that among and even within disparate discourse genres which no universal law can homogenize, “ all linkage between phrases is open” (8). This insistence on the heterogeneity of the discursive and social universe fuels Lyotard’s ambivalence with respect to Marxism, argued at length in a 1982 memorial essay dedicated to his erstwhile Sociaiisme ou Barbarie comrade Pierre Souyri, and appended to the lectures here. The greatest threat to discursive diversity is capitalism itself: “ there are several incommensurable genres of discourse in play in society, none of which can transcribe all the others; and nonetheless one of them at least—capital, bureaucracy—imposes its rule on the others. This oppression is the only radical one. . . . It is not enough to understand i t . . . one must also destroy it” (72). Yet to the extent that Marxism sees absolutely everything in terms of class struggle, it too claims to “ be able to transcribe all genres” (53) and thereby betrays their primordial incommensurability. Forever sensitive to the disparity of discoursegenres (or language-games, in the idiom of Wittgenstein and The Postmodern Condition), Lyotard thus found himself unable to inhabit the totalizing discourse of Marxism, accept­ VOL. XXXI, NO. 1 167 L ’E spr it C r éa teu r ing many of its critical diagnoses without subscribing to its claim to universality and utopian revolutionary programs...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 167-168
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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