Canada, Politics

Canada and Postmodernism

Monday, 9th January 2017

From Jan. 9, 2017

I posted this comment on someone else’s thread (h/t Ross Emmett) and I thought it might be worth posting here.

The article has a kind of standard transcendental argument, by which I mean that the metaphor being used for the nation is the person, and in particular a person with a defining soul (and, presumably, the good soul, that is, the soul that is in the image of God). It’s hard, if you start from that metaphor, to think about anything alternative. The other option is dissolution. Or, in Koyzis’ argument, a kind of mechanistic materialism that lends itself to technocrats (his “government to manage all this diversity if it gets out of hand”). His version of materialism is the kind that most theists have, which is a “god of the machine” without the god. What he doesn’t mention is the equal danger of those speaking on behalf of that god, as if they are the priests of the god (cue Nietzsche, I guess).

The postmodernist idea Ross sketches out here is solid [nb: this refers to a comment that Ross made – I’ll put it in the comment section here] – it’s exactly right that there is a complicated version of federalism because of First Nations / Indigenous political concerns. Deleuze’s issues is different from that, though. Both the transcendental idea of nation and the transcendentalist’s version of materialism are both representational. They both work with a model. What if that model isn’t there? The American system is modernist in part because it has a model (the Constitution), and its hermeneutic is one of figuring that model out. One version of Canadian postmodernism is that its model lies in its future, to be earned rather than recovered. But another version is that there is no model at all, that it is more like an ant colony or some other complex system, in which the players behave by some basic rules, but in which the results of their behaviour is autopoietic, that is, it creates order out of chaos in a non-transcendental manner. So, the ant colony doesn’t operate because there is a queen giving orders. There are no orders, there are just simple rules that every ant lives by. And, we get complex and surprising behaviour. Same with starling murmurations, same with weather systems, same with markets, same with consciousness. And, one could argue, same with a nation. We could try and model it, but that’s always playing catch-up. So we might want to say that Canada is postmodern not because its model lies in front of it, but because it’s coming to terms, however dimly, with the idea that it is a complex system that models will never do justice to. The US – not even close to that realization, at a public level.

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