Dr. J K Gayle has added to my apology for deconstruction, by questioning exactly where does “author-ity” come from?
Defending deconstruction and the problem with problematizing problems.
A week ago, I started my Fridays with Fanon series.
Today, I bring to you the initial Fridays with Foucault post.
“I believe that one’s point of reference should not be the great model of language [langue] and signs but, rather, to that of war and battle. The history that bears and determines us has the form of a war rather than that of a language–relations of power, not relations of meaning.” (page 116, from ‘Truth and Power’)
Yes, Michel Foucault made the claim that the author was dead, in fact, he argued that, “homme est mort” or “man is dead.” What he meant by that is not that human beings do not exist, but that the human subject is historically constructed; what we believe about ourselves is completely contextual. Authorship, for example, Pauline authorship of Pauline and Pseudo-Pauline letters, is an idea fostered by Enlightenment notions of the self and Lockean concepts concerning the ownership of property; it is of vital importance for some Christians to believe that the apostle Paul, wrote, for example, Ephesians, because he is the owner of the text, the subject that imparts wisdom, and therefore he owns it, and he belongs to the apostolic tradition and therefore Paul’s writings are inerrant because Paul wrote them (Paul being the subject/author, which Foucault said was “dead”). Why is it important for Paul to be the author? Because of our own concepts of ownership, which remain foreign to the Greco-Roman project of writing, which includes secretaries such as the one Paul uses in his their letter to the Romans.
But all this reverts back to a propensity for scholars to ignore power struggles and conflicts, to mask power differentiations, by appealing to “the great model of language and signs” such as those involved in semiotics, narrative theologies, as well as scholars invested in postliberal and postconservative religious projects, where language games are supposedly played on some neutral field. Far from throwing an immature temper tantrum, deconstruction is useful to help us see how history is made of winners and losers; questions need to be asked and power analysis need to be made in order to enable those of us who desire change to the status quo to best discern society’s problems. If it were not for some form of deconstruction, prosperity gospellers and false prophets would get off the hook, SCOTT-FREE! To be honest, there are too many power-hungry Christians who abuse their authority for deconstruction NOT to be used. Deconstruction aids Christians to not only criticize power relations between human beings; it also enables them to see envision another possible world. Deconstruction and revision go hand in hand. The reason why many deconstructionists such as Foucault do not offer us solutions to our problems is because they want to leave that up to us, as individuals and communities, invested in the world, to invent new responses to new questions.
Finally there are those who would ask, “Is problematizing a problem a problem in and of itself?” I will say, yes, and no. To say that something is problematic may be subjective and all of that, but at the same time, to realize that there is a problem, a sin problem, perhaps a greed problem, a gender problem, or a race problem, is to only begin to search for one among many answers. When a person discovers a problem, she/he has a couple of choices: either revert back to nihilism and apathy, or begin to join a struggle. I think I would rather choose the latter.
Truth and Peace,