Is pointlessness subversive?
I'm really enjoying and learning a lot from After Theory, but there are bit when it annoys me beyond words:
Students of culture quite often tend to be politically radical, if not easily diciplined. Because subjects like literature and art-history have no obvious material pay-off, they tend to attract those who look askance at capitalist notions of utility. The idea of doing something purely for the delight of it has always rattled the grey-bearded guardians of the state. Sheer pointlessness is a deeply subversive affair.
How do we know students of culture tend to be politially radical? Or is this just another thing we're asked to take as given?
Is life satisfaction "no material pay-off"? I see his point though: if you take a subject that leads to no obvious career it's in your interest to construct a narrative where money isn't important. Even though it is, because rent. And utility != money.
Who are these grey-bearded guardians? They are figures of hyperbole, surely?
The study of culture is not pointless, as of course Eagleton knows. And something that is pointless, such as staring at a wall, is entirely neutral. Everything else has some purpose, some utility to the individual, or if it doesn't and they do it anyway then it's a mental illness. And now I realise that he's gone from a serious point, an iffy explanation of left-wing radicals studying culture, to what I can only assume is comic over-statement. Obviously he doesn't think cultural studies is pointless, so has he tried to embody the voice of conservatism in the latter part of the paragraph? How else does this sentence make sense?
Clarity is not optional. Clarity is not for simpler-minds. Clarity is the thought itself, and it is harder than complexity.