. . . Recognize the Limits of Critique and Potential T ransformation
The fifth task that Davies notes is that we have to recognize the limits of any critique or potential transformation. Central to this is developing a reflexive awareness of ourselves as sentient beings and the place of language and meaning in the production of feeling. In this respect Lankshear et al. (1997: 83) describe how fast capitalist texts promote visions of ‘“enchanted workplaces” where hierarchy is dead and “partners” engage in meaningful work amidst a collaborative environment of mutual commitment and trust’. Central to this are discourses of empowerment and self-direction that work on the subject to produce similarly enchanted employees. While critical literacy is concerned to develop skills and knowledges that enable us to at least recognize enchantment when it occurs, Moi’s (1999) comments remind us about the difficulties of freeing ourselves from the pictures and mirages that hold us captive. Moi reflects on her earlier published work Sexual/ Textual Politics and comments that there are ‘many traces of the metaphysics I now want to escape’ (ibid.: xiv). She comments:
I appear to believe that there is something intrinsically wrong with being part of a binary opposition (on what evidence? I ask myself today), I am quite insufficiently nuanced about when essentialism is a bad thing and when it doesn’t matter, and I spend too much time using words like ‘signifier’ when ‘word’ would have been quite adequate. (ibid.: xiv-xv)
More contemporarily Moi is ‘concerned with the ordinary and the everyday. I now see poststructuralism as a form of thought that is too eager to lose itself in metaphysics. . . In short, the two new essays collected in Part I show why I would now challenge the mindset that produces the need to place scare quotes around words such as ‘‘reality’’ or ‘‘social beings’’’ (ibid.: xiv). However, she notes that these new essays ‘also show how hard the task of justifying this feeling intellectually actually is’ (ibid.). Nevertheless, this does not stop Moi from attempting such a task. Thus, impossible though it may be to forsake new metaphysical mirages for the ordinary unless we constantly strive to ‘move beyond the intellectual pictures that hold us captive’ (ibid.) we will neither understand the power of linguistic forms nor develop the capacity to use them well (Davies, 1994; 1996; 1997a; 2000).