Tuesday, March 28, 2006

"That of the empty signifier"

The latest in clear writing, from University of Virginia professor Eric Lott, as he tries to sum up the work of another leftist academic:
Its most important move is to argue that the only acceptable political notion of the universal--and therefore of the organizational imperative--is that of the empty signifier, not a present, given, or essential fullness waiting for troops but an impossible ideal whose very emptiness and lack create a pluralized, difference-based competition on the part of various particularisms in a democratic social-symbolic field to assume the position of the universal organization.
Um, right. Crystal.

It comes from Lott's new book, The Disappearing Liberal Intellectual, as excerpted in a review in The Nation. The book apparently argues that the current American left is not nearly far enough left.

Not that I was likely to read the book anyway--when The Nation says a book is too far left to be relevant, that's saying something--but with prose like that, is anyone going to read it?