The Synecdoche of Poiesis


Symposium describes a synecdoche in Greek usage, in which a particular poiesis, the making of verses set to music, stands in for the generality of poiesis, production in its entirety. This passage provides Jean-Luc Nancy with a necessary premise for what he calls “the enigma of our time”: poiesis and/or techne. But contrary to Socrates’s warning, this trope continues to distort our contemporary understanding of production. Nancy inadvertently dramatizes this distortion by mistranslating Plato’s account in a manner compatible with the Heideggerian contrariety, but incompatible with Nancy’s convictions regarding the labor theory of value. By tendentially foreclosing philosophical consideration of productive relations, and condensing their antagonisms into a universalized mastery, this contrariety tends to frame problems in a manner that avoids politics and elides intersecting asymmetries of power founded on class, race and sex.

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