Arthur Schechter Augusto/SCSO1800 2/26/12

Visvanathan’s assessment of the socio-global problems of Western technoscience in Knowledge, Justice, and Democracy shows at their heart to be a distinctive way of not seeing, acknowledging, or accounting for the cognitive faculties, or indeed the welfare of the cultural “others” of the tradition itself. That is to say, the top-down administration of technological alterations in a given material context relegates to a sort of position of externality and abjection, whatever practical and really lived repercussions of those cognitively underrepresented people may come to pass. The extent to which the theoretical virtues of a potential technological undertaking abstracted a priori are discernible in the practical end results of its execution, is the myopic gaze of cognitive monism which is technoscientific bureaucracy. Any actual human ills which arise contrary to or despite the stated theoretical nature of an “improvement” remain unseen and unrepresented. Suffice it to recall Marx’s eighth thesis on Feuerbach: “Social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which mislead theory into mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice.” This outlook is shatteringly critical, but any threat of alterations to the existing, power-inflected operational combinations of technoscience and technoscientific culture is put down by the annulling Western Gaze. When cognition which comprehends the inhumanity or unsustainability of certain real relations first hand, it goes necessarily and categorically unrepresented, sacrificed to the maintenance of the symbolic cohesion of bureaucratic mandates. If a project whose purported nature is the improvement of the real social relations in a population, cognitive justice such as Visvanathan describes is the only way to level real critique and actualize the most positive results possible for people. The notion of “plural visions” as even anything out of the ordinary speaks to the narrow gaze of power-relations governing technology transfer. We would do

well to turn to Marx’s critique of state-formalism and bureaucracy in Hegel. State formalism remains untainted by the bothersome variability and complexity of real social affairs by, quite simply, disavowing actual knowledge. Quote Marx, “The bureaucracy is a circle from which no one can escape. Its hierarchy is a hierarchy of knowledge… Actual knowledge seems devoid of content, just as actual life seems dead; for this imaginary knowledge and this imaginary life are taken for the same thing.” In (post)colonial context, this rift between imaginary and actual is rent wider than perhaps Marx ever imagined, where the mandate of progress exists almost exclusively as a sublimated idea (and sees any notion of improvement as necessarily falling into its temporal rubric). Cognitive representation seems to be what Marx saw as the antidote to bureaucracy, namely, “the general interest actually,” which, when fully actualized, would necessarily lead to a new schematization of knowledge whose vocal composition would necessarily be plural, such that each activity could be comprehended in itself, and not in an alien form or in any way which sacrificed practicality for the completeness of a theory; rather, practical ruptures form the bulk of the real, social life of a theoretical concept, which one ought always to strive to understand better. It is actual plurality, or the plural actuality of nature which the reified, Western bureaucratic form fundamentally (and necessarily) fails to see, a formulation which seems relatively unchanging in its truth and continuing emergence.

Sources: Marx, Karl, Friedrich Engels, and Robert C. Tucker. "Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right." The Marx-Engels Reader. New York: Norton, 1978. 24-25. Print. Marx, Karl, Friedrich Engels, and Robert C. Tucker. “Theses on Feuerbach” The Marx-Engels Reader. New York: Norton, 1978. Print.

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