This essay is one of three published in response to Casper Bruun Jensen's article “Experiments in Good Faith and Hopefulness: Toward a Postcritical Social Science” (Common Knowledge 20, no. 2 [Spring 2014]: 337 – 62), which concerns the “postcritical” work of Richard Rottenburg, Hirokazu Miyazaki, and Helen Verran. Rottenburg's response clarifies the key argument of his book Far-Fetched Facts (2002 in German, 2009 in English), situates it in a biographical and political context of despair and hope, and extends it in ways stimulated by Jensen's article and by reading in the sociology of critique that Rottenburg has done since writing the book. He here reformulates the main argument of his book as concerning the indispensable necessity of what Nietzsche calls “legislated language,” along with its performative effects and insurmountable fallibility. By situating that argument in a biographical and political context that the book does not emphasize, and by explaining the “plot” of the book, Rottenburg emphasizes that Far-Fetched Facts was intentionally and principally written from a perspective that does not allow the maintenance of a clear-cut distinction between fact and value and that, therefore, is a contribution toward a methodology of hope. This essay moreover indicates ways in which Far-Fetched Facts is linked to developments in the French pragmatist sociology of critique, which offers a compatible and, at the same time, well-established language to make similar points. This sociology starts from the assumption that practices of ordering depend on the establishment of forms for commensuration, classification, qualification, valuation, and calculation of equivalence that imply reference to realities “out there” and to perceived common goods. A convention (or the element of a “metacode”) is a temporarily established, dynamic, and reflexive material-semantic form that enables interpretation and evaluation. By raising expectations of how things must be done in order to pass as appropriate, valid, and legitimate, conventions facilitate cooperation, yet at some stage in their lives conventions become controversial and need to be replaced. In order to communicate and to coordinate actions, conventions and metacodes are as indispensable as they are fallible, Rottenburg argues, and instead of being replaced by “good faith” and “hope,” conventions and metacodes actually depend on them.
Richard Rottenburg; EXPERIMENTAL ENGAGEMENTS AND METACODES. Common Knowledge 1 August 2014; 20 (3): 540–548. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-2733087
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