Recently, I looked up this link for one of my students. I read the book when it came out and remembered that Verso published an interview with Wark at the time to promote it. Watching it again, I was struck by her observation that when language fails to do the work, we should start to get suspicious. Giving the example of neoliberal capitalism, she rightfully observes there’s a modifier modifying a modifier. And that’s just bad poetry. In a disciplinary context, it is interesting to think about when our respective languages, be they visual, acoustic, written, performative or otherwise, fail us. When our language becomes insufficient, doesn’t fit, or just lousy poetry, then perhaps that’s a sign to shake things up a little bit.
Wark also raises the question of the limits of the humanities and social sciences in grappling with various conundrums we currently face. And the same can be said of the arts. Wark speaks of a need for a collaborative labour of understanding that reaches across all of the kinds of work that are involved in making this world to even be able to analyze it… so there is a kind of comradely production of knowledge that’s required now to even understand what is novel and distinctive about the dominant mode of production of the times. Of course, Wark is working from a Marxist tradition, or what she calls vulgar Marxism, with a specific remit. Nonetheless, there is a lot to be gleaned from her approach to understanding complex systems and language or for that matter disciplinary hacking. I also thought a couple of words she uses can be useful when thinking about the potential of transdisciplinarity.* I especially like the phrase a comradely production of knowledge. It gives me a soft fuzzy feeling, but with a few prickly spikes to keep me from getting too lulled into comfort.
* I say potential knowing that it’s one of those buzzwords that should be used sparingly and handled with a degree scepticism. In other words, I want to avoid any hint fetishization. No tool or approach is the Swiss Army knife solution – the disciplinary, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary each have their pros, cons, and dare I say potential ; )