Theory


“My friend told me Chomsky said something very sad. He said that today we don’t need theory. All we need to do is tell people, empirically, what is going on. Here, I violently disagree: facts are facts, and they are precious, but they can work in this way or that. Facts alone are not enough. […] I’m sorry, I’m an old-fashioned continental European. Theory is sacred and we need it more than ever.”

—Slavoj Žižek, interview in New Statesman, 29 October 2009

Nice quotation, but Chomsky isn’t completely against theory (spotted this thanks to a comment at NS):

QUESTION: Do you think intellectuals should free themselves from theory, from visions, such as Zapatistas, and Marcos?

CHOMSKY: Marcos’s own thoughts were interesting, but there is no such thing as an “absence of theory”, I mean, you always have a commitment to some set of beliefs, goals and visions and so on, or to some kind of analyses of society. That is true whether you are expressing your views on torture, or freedom of speech, or in fact any issue beyond the most utterly superficial.

See also:

[…] when I said I’m not interested in theory, what I meant is, I’m not interested in posturing – using fancy terms like polysyllables and pretending you have a theory when you have no theory whatsoever. So there’s no theory in any of this stuff, not in the sense of theory that anyone is familiar with in the sciences or any other serious field. Try to find in all of the work you mentioned some principles from which you can deduce conclusions, empirically testable propositions where it all goes beyond the level of something you can explain in five minutes to a twelve-year-old. See if you can find that when the fancy words are decoded. I can’t. So I’m not interested in that kind of posturing. Žižek is an extreme example of it. I don’t see anything to what he’s saying. Jacques Lacan I actually knew. I kind of liked him. We had meetings every once in awhile. But quite frankly I thought he was a total charlatan. He was just posturing for the television cameras in the way many Paris intellectuals do. Why this is influential, I haven’t the slightest idea. I don’t see anything there that should be influential.


One thought on “Theory”

Comments are closed.