October 12, 2006

Charles Bernstein: 'Three or Four Things I know About Him'

Content’s Dream: Essays 1975-1984, LA: Sun and Moon Press, 1986.

Epigraph: ‘The task of history once the world beyond the truth has disappeared, is to establish the truth of this world’ -Karl Marx

‘5. Comic Interlude

It is the imperialism of the bourgeois psyche that demands a reduction in the number of words able to assume the weight of depicting the word picture. Nouns because of their proletarian pristineness as least distorted by the invasion of bourgeois consciousness into the language, as in fact the claim goes, repositories of the object residue of material existence, are the principal word type favored [sic] under this assumption. Viz : classicism, ruling class, third world, exploitation revisionist, capital, profit, worker, means of production, alienation. ‘Verb’ al forms emerge mainly in the application of this – uberhaupt – principal structure – ‘exploiting’, ‘profiting’ and also ‘struggling’. Individual actions are depicted as reified instantiations fixed by the inter section of a variety of theses . It is then, our thesis that political writing becomes disorientated when it views itself as description and not discourse: as not being in the world but about the world. The hermeneutic indicts the scientist with the charge that it has once again subverted the dialogic nature of human understanding with its behavioro-empiricism.’ (20)

’...the composition of reality is supra-personal: the mistakes & plain takes of a person are not an essential part of reality’s composition. Standardized spelling, layout and punctuation enter into a world of standardization – clocks & orbit &speed of light. A social science epistemologically self-conceived on the model of the natural sciences becomes possible &grammar becomes a social science. Language is this removed from the participatory control of its user &delivered into the hands of the state.’ (26)

‘Failure to produce appropriate language is regarded not as misperception, but as error. The understanding begins to be lost that we are each involved in the constitution of language-that our actions reconstitute change-reality.’ (26)

Bernstein notes that there is a gap between our ‘private phantasies’ and ‘meaningful action’. For Bernstein, the Marxist aesthetic fails because it fails to recognize that the gap is not another part of our illusory commodity lives. Language creates ‘commonness’, yet Bernstein recommend a move from descriptive, common language to a language based on ‘its wordness, its physicality, its haecceity (thisness)’.

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