This is written in asemic horizon‘s usual vatic, evasive style; but it’s, in reality, a sales pitch. I have mouths to feed, man.
- What is theory?
In this website, we say that “theory is the theory of generic structure” (emphasizing the recursive call: the theory of the theory of the theory….), but this may be too dependent on how it grew around the idea of General Axiology. Then: one of the points of the I/we voice split procedure is that we believe firmly in this website’s conceit, but I will disavow and defend different parts of its conceptual apparatus.
Maybe Gilles Grelet’s simple “theory is waiting” is more potent a formula. The point that we have been lately trying to evade about asemic horizon is that it grew out of Jairwave — out of intensely focusing on a glimmer of something around the rise of Jair Bolsonaro rather than proceeding to eviscerate him. Then: we waited and waited; in the process, we developed a whole toolkit for doing theory. Eventually the brute pachydermic dynamics of presidential politics outpaced us. A failure of theory? Only insofar it reaches for impossibility.
In any case, and even from the point of view of theory, this is the wrong question.
2. What can theory do for me?
A theory that can do something for you is nothing like theory in the sense that emerged out of asemic horizon. It may, or may not salvage some of its tools, but it takes place somewhere else. asemic horizon was an “us”: I and theory. We were willing to follow wherever theory went — and, in the absence of any real constraints, it often got “high on its own supply”, driven by euphoria in the absence of goals.
Adding you to the equation produces its Vicky Cristina Barcelona aspects, but (even in cases where it plays a merely catalytic role) the market mechanism induces a functional role for theory. At the same time, it takes theory to uncover what, precisely, is this function. Theory becomes, then, the theory of the goals of theory.
Surely getting into this requires a leap of faith, not unlike (and no larger than) what’s required to go on therapy. Yes, more concrete approaches should be tried when such exist: maybe you don’t need social theory, just social network analytics.
3. Who needs theory?
If theory is the theory of the goals of theory, then the goals of theory should be very large. The unique promise of theory is, after all, that it thrives in very low-oxygen environments. What is needed to effect large transformations is a change in how targets read their world — their interpretation. But we don’t know what is read yet; there’s a disjunction between the diegetic setting where the world is changed and the extradiegetic trickery with which people make causal sense of their experiences.
In short: the first mark of needing theory is that you should have immense, almost unconfessable ambitions; the second mark is — you don’t know where to start. The third mark, of course, is that you’re intrigued about all of this, to begin with. No one who hates the smell of gunpowder should hire a hitman; no one who thinks their problems can be solved by pragmatic attitudes and conventional thinking should seek theory.
4. How can I get started?
We talk, man. We talk and we talk and we talk. In traditional consulting that’s called “goal alignment”, but we need a less cold approach that allows you and I both to realize the immense scope and near-impossibility of our task