[Extract. Appeared in New Left Review 25, January-February 2004]
Abstract: The philosophical basis for social action, as recast in Kojin Karatani’s striking Transcritique. On Kant and Marx. Slavoj Žižek investigates the irreducible antinomies of production and circulation—or economics and politics—as envisioned from the gap in between.
In today’s English, ‘pig’ refers to the animals with which farmers deal, while ‘pork’ is the meat we consume. The class dimension is clear here: ‘pig’ is the old Saxon word, since Saxons were the underprivileged farmers, while ‘pork’ comes from the French porque, used by the privileged Norman conquerors who mostly consumed the pigs raised by farmers. This duality, signalling the gap that separates production from consumption, is a case of what, in his formidableTranscritique. On Kant and Marx, Kojin Karatani refers to as the ‘parallax’ dimension.1 Best known as the most striking Japanese literary critic of his generation—his Origins of Japanese Literature presented to the English-speaking world by Fredric Jameson—Karatani has moved from subsequent reflections on Architecture as Metaphor to one of the most original attempts to recast the philosophical and political bases of opposition to the empire of capital of the current period.2 In its heterodox theoretical ambition and concern with alternative revolutionary traditions—here principally anarchist—Transcritique might be compared with Roberto Unger’s trilogy Politics, a work out of Brazil. But Karatani’s thought-world is closer to that of Marx, and behind him to the heritage of classical German philosophy.
- See Kojin Karatani, Transcritique. On Kant and Marx, Cambridge, MA 2003. Henceforth TKM.
- Origins of Modern Japanese Literature, Durham, NC 1993; Architecture as Metaphor: Language, Number, Money, Cambridge, MA 1995. For Karatani’s position within the Japanese critical field, see Asada Akira, ‘A Left within the Place of Nothingness’, NLR 5, September–October 2000, pp. 24, 35–36.