Low Theory

In an interview about his latest bookMcKenzie Wark discusses his preference for “low theory”:

The American university is where so-called ‘French theory’ was actually invented, and not in philosophy departments but via comparative literature, other literature departments, sometimes media studies, and various other places. So you couldn’t quite call it philosophy—it got called ‘theory’ and sometimes ‘high theory’. You end up with this construct, based essentially around the reception of Derrida into the Anglophone world through these centres of intellectual power in the US. And this is interesting, but it occupies a certain kind of terrain, a certain space. It requires a certain training.

I’ve always been much more interested in something else: The self-conscious attempt to construct conceptual practices outside of formal settings. That is what Marx did, it’s what Freud did, it’s what Benjamin did; I’d even say it’s what Nietzsche did, because of course he’s on ‘permanent leave’ when he’s writing all these amazing books, when he’s already losing it. Somehow, these guys are all now ‘high theory’, but that’s not where they came from whatsoever. Marx is not a philosopher, Freud is not a philosopher, Benjamin is not a philosopher; I’d even say Nietzsche is not a philosopher. They’re all doing ‘low theory’, and I’m trying to tell stories that fit into that tradition, maybe not at that level, but as a whole other way of thinking about the practice of knowledge in everyday life. This puts on the table the question of the politics of knowledge in a way that can’t be directly asked, or answered, in the space of the university.

Yeah, me too.

2 responses to “Low Theory

  1. And yet, here we are at universities Have you invented any good hacks for that yet? ;-)


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