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Phenomenology of Reflection

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Phenomenology of Reflection

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  • October 2011
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Phenomenology of Reflection

Each time an individual rediscovers revolt he remembers his previous experiences of it, which all come back to him like a sudden memory of childhood. We know that “whether the subject sinks into madness, practices theory, or participates in an uprising . . . the two poles of daily life — contact with a narrow and separate reality on one hand and spectacular contact with the totality on the other — are simultaneously abolished, opening the way for the unity of individual life” . Now, madness has its drawbacks and an uprising is not available every day; but the practice of theory is constantly possible. Why, then, is theory so little practiced? Of course, a few ill-informed people here and there don’t know about it yet. But what about those who do? What about those who have found practical-critical activity, all its undeniable difficulties notwithstanding, to be so often fun, absorbing, meaningful, exhilarating, funny — something after all not so easy to come by — How does it happen that they forget, that they come to imperceptibly drift away from the revolutionary project, going to the point of utter repression of the moments of realization they had found there? The inexperienced will wonder why we engage in this strange activity in the first place. But to those who know why, what is strange is that we do it so little and so erratically. The moments of real excitement and consequence come to us almost exclusively by accident. We lack the consciousness of why we haven’t done what we haven’t. Why is it that we don’t revolt more? Marx understands practical-critical activity as “sensuous human activity,” but he doesn’t examine it as such, as subjective activity. The situationists understood the subjective aspect of practice as a tactical matter. (“Boredom is counterrevolutionary.”) They posed the right question. It’s about time we looked into this activity itself. What does it consist of? What does it do to us who do it? Whereas the...