Post on the Rhetorics of Post-(Fill-in-the-Blank)

So I’m in this Deleuzian reading group right now and it’s generating some really fascinating conversation. Lots of the discussion so far has been around the metaphor of the rhizome (click here for a quick break-down of what a rhizome is and sketches on how it might work as a methodology; also, feel welcome to post on Schizophrenic Summer, our group blog). Anyway, one of the problems that Deleuze and Guattari have with the majority of philosophy and more generally the whole of scholarly inquiry, is that it is overwhelmingly and detrimentally obsessed with linear history. Their goal is to fix points of origin and show how things are related in a straight-forward cause-and-effect line.

I bring this up because I’ve been thinking about the rhetoric of Post-Marxism. Or Post-Structuralism. Postmodern. And I just finished reading an article about social movements and “post-identity.”

All these “Posts” retain the rhetoric of modernism’s sense in progress — in an end destination, a final point of accomplishment, whether that’s Utopia, Communism, or Whatever.

Think about all the other places it continues to pop up: Neo-conservatism. Neo-liberalism. Neo-Neo-Post-Post.

What type of rhetorical detritus remains when “post” or “neo” is attached to an “older” concept? Why is our society sporting so many of these “post” movements? What is the atmosphere that cultivates these, um, neologisms?

We want to move beyond, but the “post” implies we haven’t . . .


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1 thought on “Post on the Rhetorics of Post-(Fill-in-the-Blank)

  1. This is a fascinating question, at least in part because the variety of prefixes carries nuances of meaning.

    Latour’s answer to the Post-Modern question was that “we have never been modern,” and we should, I think, bracket the Post part.

    But neo-, as in neo-Aristotelian, refers to something like, but not quite, what is being described. Neo-Aristotelian criticism isn’t quite Aristotelian, but it looks a lot like it, right, inflected with the contemporary.

    My own fascination, of course, is with “New.” Ezra Pound calling, always, to make it New, at the same time that Richards, Toulmin, Perelman, etc. were developing the New Rhetoric. Unlike Neo-, which glances back to describe today, New starts at a rupture. It severs from the past or defines in opposition to it (Barthes: “The Old Rhetoric: An Aide Memoire”).

    At least, that’s my guess.

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