More Adaptive Networks! A Summary of Polysystem Theory

All this talk about complexity and adaptive networks reminded me of my brief, but fruitful foray into the work of Itamar Even-Zohar, a cultural/literary theorist at Tel Aviv University who developed Polysystem Theory in order to deal with dynamics, diversity and change in cultures. In addition, following from the broad Polysystem Theory, Even-Zohar is also fairly well known for his work on “culture making” and cultural repertoires, two issues that have concerned him in the last decade. Much of Even-Zohar’s work (in English and Hebrew) can be found here on his website.

Polysystem Theory, as developed by Itamar Even-Zohar, emerged as a response to the overwhelming positivist discourses circulating during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Instead of a static, a-historical text-based approach to literature and culture, Even-Zohar posits a dynamic structuralism or put differently, a dynamic functionalism. This static approach is best exemplified by de Saussure wherein structuralism is a science that attempts to uncover all of the structures that underlies all of the things we do, think and even feel. Saussure then, proceeds with a synchronic study of language. As a brilliant procrastination strategy I spent a few hours yesterday and this morning re-reading and thinking through some of Even-Zohar’s essays, so here’ a bit of a summary/commentary of Polysystem Theory (most of the quotes are from Even-Zohar’s essay “Polysystem Theory.” I’m far too lazy to cite properly since I just cut and pasted the quotes I liked from his text–hey, it’s a blog after all!) Continue reading

More Points of Interest: Foucault Beyond Foucault

Foucault Beyond Foucault
Power and Its Intensifications since 1984

Jeffrey T. Nealon

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Preliminary Table of Contents

Todd May has written a rather interesting review Nealon’s book over at the NDPR. Here’s an excerpt:

There is a witless, though common, interpretation of Michel Foucault circulating these days. It is an interpretation that seeks to declaw Foucault’s political radicalism and bring him into the liberal fold. On this interpretation, Foucault abandoned the analysis of power constructed during his genealogical period (false) because it had a totalizing character that left no room for resistance (false) in favor of a sort of individual self-construction that he found in the ancient Greeks (false). If Jeffrey Nealon had done no more than recall to us the vapidity of this interpretation, he would have performed a service. However, he has done much more than this. In his slim volume on Foucault, he has offered a fascinating interpretation of Foucault’s work, one that brings to light previous neglected elements of his thought. Although the stated motivation for Nealon’s discussion is to counter the current interpretation of Foucault’s ethical works, the result is one of the most interesting interpretations of Foucault to emerge in many years. Continue reading