On Sarcasm…

Rovati does mention this, which I take issue with:

When sarcasm becomes the systematic shortcut for analysis, I doubt that philosophy remains (as Negri writes in the opening of his pamphlet) ‘that critical activity that allows one to grasp one’s time and orientate oneself in it’

I wish I had a better, more sarcastic rejoinder to this. But bullshit. Sarcasm is wonderful–it often cuts to the core of something, devastates it, and leaves the scene before one has barely noticed. It’s the court joker to presumptions of philosophical sovereignty. There’s a lot written recently (Cindy Willet’s great book on this comes to mind) on politics and humor, and I think there’s a generation of people that think “snark” and “sarcasm” are inherently bad, rude even. Oh Onion and Daily Show–what would the Bush years have been like without you? This is often turned against various bloggers by mainstream editorialists in the states.  As if we have a philosophical or political of code of conduct that we all agreed to … and as if Nietzsche never picked up a pen and said, “truth is a woman.” Ok, not the best example. But if truth is a woman (and I, of course, dear reader, mean this in the fully post-Derrida’s Spurs sense), then sarcasm is the wonderful transvestite who reminds you that truth doesn’t always come in the mode of normalized codes of conduct… and then doesn’t just do the “critique” (since it’s not just Butlerian parody) but also has a living, breathing life beyond that…

And why no shortcuts? For me, one of Zizek’s best analyses is in the Parallax View. I don’t have it in front of me, but he has this great paragraph on Heidegger’s reading of Fug, which he spends forever on in the Introduction to Metaphysics, as a translation for the Greek dikê. He spends forever on the etymology, on how it means both way and harmony and so on… But as Zizek points out, it’s also the root of the word “fuck.” And so he concludes—and here’s a great shortcut to Zizek’s whole reading of Heidegger as wanting to cut out any notion of desire from ontology—why didn’t Heidegger just write about the “great fuck of being”? (I’m ruining the line.) Or better, the “poetic harmonizing engaged by the thinker in the face of the great fuck of being?”

Now that’s a great fuckin’ shortcut.


  1. Somewhere in his late seminars– I think Seminar 23, Le Sinthome –Lacan remarks that psychoanalysis proceeds entirely through the agency of the equivoke and homonym, or equivocation and puns. Through the equivocation and the homonym, the signifier is displaced from its rigid connection to a particular signified, opening it up to new signifying possibilities. Seems to me that humor and sarcasm play a similar role in politics and philosophy. Sloterdijk’s Critique of Cynical Reason comes to mind. Sometimes engaging at the level of argument is entirely useless because the cards are stacked from the outset and the interlocutor has already framed the scope of the debate or its constraints. At that point it is more appropriate to just belch loudly.

  2. Belching loudly. Good idea. I will have to try this. But not just because I don’t like the bastard and its fun to giggle about it with my friends, but rather because I protest his framework.

    The Daily show is clearly sarcasm for entertainment but it was also clear at particular moments, that you were caught in a serious framework protest that you did not expect to be in.

    Political sarcasm for entertainment, like all sarcasm is very serious in its own right, but does this necessarily make it a protest of the political framework making fun of? I say no, the joke instead is on the person laughing. Political sarcasm for entertainment is more a protest of the one being entertained. Sarcasm cuts both ways and so like Nietzsche’s “truth is a woman., if you cannot unravel others without her, then you cannot unravel yourself with her. Unless you really love her, in which case you will let her unravel you.

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