I'm not really all that mysterious

deconstruction and democracy

Yes, I agree, it’s a little too facile to connect the stance of eminent intentionality with fascism, but I look at eminent intentionality as the antithesis of deconstruction, the bread and butter of post-modernist and post-colonial literary criticism.

And the fact is that deconstruction democratizes text. By giving parity to the receiver, it allows for a negotiation of the text’s meaning.

One of the common responses to the idea of the multiplicity of meanings is derision. Some hardliners will ask the question, “How can text have more than one meaning?” Others will take the pragmatic standpoint and ask “What’s the point of discussing something if everyone has a different interpretation—if the there are as many readings of the text as there are readings?”

Let me explain with a parallel process that occurs in modern science.

We live in a world where the standard theory of quantum mechanics is accepted as fact (as much as anything can be accepted as fact in this day and age) One of the possible interpretations of this model is that there are many actual realities, the extreme form of which is known as the Theory of Many Worlds. (The antithesis of this, which kind of parallels eminent intentionality, is the idea of a single underlying reality, incidentally espoused by such noteworthies as Einstein, who, turns, appears to be wrong about certain, tangentially-related aspects in this regard) Now, only one of these worlds is experienced by any particular observer. This also can lead to the apparent chaos of having as many versions of reality as there are observers. But the fact of the matter is, because quantum mechanics specifies probabilities that a certain event will be observed, there will be a certain subset of realities that are extremely similar among a similar group of observers.

In other words, while it is possible that no one’s interpretation of reality, or of the text, will agree with another 100%, chances are you gather together enough interpretations and you will come up with some kind of common ground.

From this common ground you can have some kind of fruitful discussion.

In theory, this is how democracy works. The politics hacks and extremist elements of society will have you believe that “it’s my way or the highway,” but I think that if you are pragmatic and don’t grasp onto unprovable dogmatic dictums, most people can come to a certain understanding of reality.

These same extremist elements will find such “compromise” unacceptable, but it’s not really compromise. It’s accepting the version of reality that most sane people also accept. The problem is that our culture’s idea of discussion and debate focus so much on polarization that the assumptions that underlie the common ground (and there is always common ground, otherwise it would be completely impossible to talk at all) are never made explicit.

That’s what I think is the beauty of deconstruction: you have to make what is assumed explicit. With eminent intentionality, there is no real way to do this. You are forced to accept the author’s intent as the final word, when frequently, the author is sometimes unaware of their hidden influences and biases. (As an example, people of color frequently discuss the unconscious assumptions that white people have as the evidence of ongoing racism. Sure, it’s not the same as getting a hose turned on you, or getting lynched, or being sold as chattel, but it’s still there, and ignoring it won’t make it go away.)

From this standpoint, you can see why it’s possible to make the conceptual leap that eminent intentionality is compatible with fascism. If you are forced to accept text, meaning, messages, from on high without being able to gainsay, interpret, or reframe them, if you are constantly being told what to do and not to ask questions, is this not totalitarianism? I mean, I agree, it’s not a one-to-one correspondence between critical theory and the practice of politics, but you’ve got to be able to see the connection there. Is not the whole democratic process dependent on deconstruction? When you see a television campaign ad, aren’t you forced to try to figure out what the guy is saying, where he’s coming from, what’s he really mean? When a Republican like Brian Bilbray is buoyed by negative attack ads against his Democratic opponent Francine Busby, and Bilbray states deadpan that he has nothing to do with these ads, they are funded by a separate organization, he does not condone them, and yet he does nothing to stop them from airing, are you going to take the stance of an eminent intentionalist and take him for his word?

I’m sure politicians with dictatorial aspirations would appreciate the eminent intentionalist stance. I think a working democracy needs a little bit more critical thought, though.

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