Another in the ‘last post of the month’ series which is analytical and philosophical instead of leading with description. In other words, thinking about Take 2 and what it’s trying to achieve, rather than doing a double take on the news of the day.
A few days ago, at a seminar on ‘the new materialism’, I had been explaining the duality which, as it seems to me, is necessarily entailed in literary composition; hence it’s also true of the way I am trying to ‘compose the news’. By ‘duality’, I mean the way in which the words that refer to a real world thing also refer to another, textual world of similar things and relevant descriptions of them. Also, that the more a composition is indeed literary rather than being for information only, the more it resonates with these further meanings.
Listening to this, a friend of mine hrrrumphed and said he’d heard all this Lukacsian stuff before; didn’t want to hear it again. My riposte: regardless of whether anyone wants it or chooses to respond to it, the duality I described, simply is. As any commodity is both use and value, at one and the same time, the singular thing which it can be used for, and also its relatedness – its commensurability – with everything else that is part of the social product (produced for other people to use), so it is in the use of language. As in the world of things, there is no escaping the duality of the word which exists at once in respect of a particular thing, while at the same time that same word exists in respect of everything else related to it, including other things and other usages.
Moreover, whereas in previous societies this duality only really existed in special institutions such as the Church or the Roman Empire – institutions requiring constant maintenance in order to maintain their social character, in the commodity producing society of the past 200 years – a society predicated on production for exchange, such duality occurs spontaneously. It is a constant, instead of an exception requiring repeated re-introduction.
In these circumstances, the level of composition required to realise such duality in writing, cannot be taken for granted, since this quality can only be formulated in the work of individual writers, and there’s no guarantee that either these writers or their work will come into existence automatically.
But the potential for achieving such duality does occur spontaneously. At a time when the commodity forms much of the character of society, the possibility of formulating the social character of our existence in words, becomes a necessary feature of that existence.
There is always the possibility of making our social being more explicit by putting it in writing.