The Return of the Subject After Postmodernism

I find this text very congruent with what I have written in the past on p2p subjectivity.

Excerpted from Simone Stirner:

“Over the last ten years, quite astonishing changes have happened, for instance in terms of discussing subjectivity in academia. Across a variety of disciplines – literary studies, philosophy, political theory and even psychology – calls for a rethinking of subjectivity can be heard. Publications dealing with “The return of the subject” or “The Self beyond the Postmodern Crisis“, suddenly become ubiquitous.

But also in literature, film, arts and political agency, we can witness a paradigm shift. The subject reappears and it comes with other dismissed categories such as trust, belief, coherence and even love. I would suggest that it reappears in a confined space that Peter Sloterdijk in his “Spherology” describes as a “Bubble” – an artificially created space, where in a human, intersubjective experience, the outside forces exposed by postmodern thinkers can be temporarily shut out.

In Performatism or The End of Postmodernism, the literary scholar Raoul Eshelman depicts a new kind of subject that establishes itself in spite of disruptive forces in an act of belief. This subject is a coherent self that re-introduces the possibility for identification, affection and selfhood, although not in a naïve, unreflective way.

Similarly, Karen Coats assures that there is no way the Cartesian Ego can return after all that was learned from Postmodernism – only to then sling the slogan “I love, therefore I am” into the arena of debate, calling for a rethinking of the concept of the Self, acknowledging the role of love in its construction. The writings of Lebanese-French author Amin Maalouf ask for a rethinking of the concept of identity describing it as an act of positive affirmation, which can include an attachment to a religion or land or ethnic group, while acknowledging the instability of identity as such. And even the great evangelist of postmodernism, Ihab Hassan, suddenly calls for an “Aesthetic of Trust”, where in a “world flow of ultimate mysteries”, the relation between subject and object can be redefined in terms of “profound trust”.

As others have documented on this webzine, in literature as well as film or television, too, we suddenly come to meet characters who masquerade as coherent subjects. They are innovative figures who step into the scene with a quirkiness that, perhaps precisely because of their idiosyncratic authenticity, renders possible a new relation between literary hero and recipient. Furthermore, we experience a shift considering political agency: Wasn’t the subject of Postmodernism (as Slavoij Žižek doesn’t cease to remind us), essentially powerless in the workings of global capitalism? Then the symbol of the OccupyWallStreet-Protests, the fragile, yet brave and daring ballerina on top of the iron bull, definitely proves a new kind of political agent.

The reemerged subject is not the old modern one. It contains no transcendental justifications. Concepts of identity, selfhood and subjectivity can always be dismantled and deconstructed. But while the awareness about this still rightfully persists, new times call us to acknowledge that the subject nevertheless appears, in moments of intersubjectivity, in reciprocal spaces of believe, trust and love.”

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