Monday, April 16, 2007
(2:00 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Permission Mondays: A New Weekly FeatureEarlier today, I had the following IM conversation with Bitch PhD:
Bitch PhD: is it reasonable to feel all washed out and tired after feeling nauseated most of yesterday?For years now, in a blog tradition that is rivalled in its longevity and its enduring human relevance only by Friday Cat Blogging, I have been offering absolution to the tortured souls of the blogosphere. Offering permission seems like a natural compliment, and as I will argue in this post, it is grounded in an authority that I have already tacitly claimed as the sole authorized voice of the symbolic order -- that is, as the big Other's representative.
me: I think so.
Bitch PhD: so it's okay if i take a nap?
me: I hereby give you permission to take a nap, in my capacity as official representative of the social order as a whole.
Bitch PhD: i really appreciate that. it's sad, but true.
Bitch PhD: that would be an awesome blog idea.
me: Just giving people permission?
Bitch PhD: yeah!
First of all, I have been granted all relevant forms of symbolic recognition. I am a native-born citizen of a recognized nation-state -- indeed, the nation-state. I am a native speaker of a recognized national language (English), which is at the same time fast approaching the level of a universal language. Beyond that, my writings have been published in peer-reviewed academic publications, in the popular press, and in the blogosphere. All of this means that my participation in the symbolic order is, at least on a formal level, fully recognized and unchallenged.
It is my belief that, in principle, any human being who is recognized by the symbolic order may function as a stand-in for the big Other. But in point of fact, it is precisely I, Adam Kotsko, who so function. On one level, that is simply a matter of "dibs," itself one of the originary functions of the symbolic order. But even though the final argument in favor of my office is simply my own claim to hold it, there are nevertheless good reasons why it should be me in particular, which I will gladly outline for you now.
First, it seems appropriate that the stand-in for the big Other would be a blogger. While the "public sphere" is a widely variegated phenomenon, a broad concensus is arising that the blogosphere is a "public sphere" in a privileged sense -- to such a point that one could argue that what we call "blogosphere" is now simply identical to the concept of "public sphere" as such. For the blogosphere touches upon all other forms of public discourse and, perhaps paradoxically, grants them their own existence. A news article, an opinion piece, even a journal article, somehow fails to "count," to register, if it does not appear in the world of the blog. Hence, at least in our historical moment, a blogger has privileged access to the symbolic authority to ratify.
It is not seemly for "just any" blog to take on this function. But we have long known that, as the blogosphere just is the concept of the public sphere, so also The Weblog, precisely as the particular blog it is, is immediately identical to the concept of blog. In founding The Weblog, I retroactively founded and ratified the blogosphere itself, and thereby the public sphere as a whole. ("I saw the world-spirit, posting on a blog....") Someone had to do it; that "someone" happens to have been me.
The very fact that I have been offering absolution -- based not on the authority of any church or religious institution, but implicitly in the name of the social order as such -- and that such absolution has been so manifestly effective is ample proof that, whether you accept the arguments in favor of my right to said authority or not, I do, de facto, possess it. But it should also be clear that I only claim and exercise this power for the good of humanity as a whole.
I am but a servant -- the Lord's own notary public, if you will. My power only exists if you avail yourself of it. All those troubled souls who have committed an act whose relationship to the social order is ambiguous -- blogging when they were supposed to be reading, taking a nap, etc. -- have found reaffirmation of their basic humanity in the Friday Afternoon Confessional. But why wait until after the fact? Why should anyone be deprived of the confidence of knowing, as an absolute fact, that their course of action is fully endorsed by the big Other?
This being established and duly noted, I hereby open comments for those seeking permission for their actions, which I will grant or deny as appropriate.