On Slice (demographic, pizza, etc.): a response to educated ice

This is a response to educated ice’s previous post. And, the title is totally a pun on this Kanye West song.

I’ll preface with a little story. I bought some shoes today. The style name is “Edwardian,” and the shoes are described as very “rock n roll.” Only after I purchased the shoes did I realize the pun in the name: basically I bought latter-day Teddy Boy shoes. (Teddy Boys were a postwar British male youth subculture, sort of like the mods, who dressed in Edwardian style (hence “Teddy”).)

Teddy Boys feature prominently in sociologist Dick Hebdige’s famous and canonical Subculture: The Meaning of Style. This book is a sociology of style; it describes the politics of style in late 1960s and 1970s Britain, especially among male music subcultures like Teddy Boys and punks. Hebdige’s work, with its sociological thinking about style, might be another way to think about the dialectical relationship between “style” and “sociology” that EI talks about in hir post:

…if the divide is merely stylistic or sociological, then this is not an indictment of the substance of the work; style, and/or the sociological condition of the development of these differing styles, is/are seen as external to the content of the work itself. Great! Even for those of us (like feminists perhaps? philosophers of art? critical theorists? continental philosophers?) who have called into question the very distinction between form and content, substance and style, this interpretation of the divide is much better than other possible interpretations, such as “analytic philosophy simply doesn’t exist, it is known as ‘philosophy,’ whereas ‘continental philosophy’ is simply ‘not philosophy.’”

So saying that differences between philosophical traditions are merely stylistic or sociological is supposed to function as a moderate rejoinder to extremist views on either the CP or the AP (but never the feminist or the Africana or other, minoritarian tradition) side. I think EI is absolutely correct to question this supposedly moderate gesture. Like all good liberal moderate views, this one allows us to treat philosophy’s “diverse practitioners” problem as “external to the work itself,” that is, as a bug in an otherwise well-functioning discipline, not a feature of a white supremacist, patriarchal, and otherwise oppressive one.

So, two points or questions: (1) Is style how white supremacist, patriarchal implicit knowledges get reproduced in philosophy/various philosophical traditions? (2) How do sociological factors become expressed or performed by what Hebdige calls “the rhetoric of style”? In other words, how are philosophy’s stylistic norms the effect of sociological patterns and practices? Hebdige argues that style is a way youth subcultures negotiated class and race politics (Angela McRobbie extends his framework to gender). Style is, for Hebdige, fundamentally political.

But back to the first point: Style is a way of reproducing implicit knowledge. Just think about how early Green Day records feature Billy Joe Armstrong singing with a heavy Strummer-and-Jones style British accent. Listening to The Clash, he internalized their accents; their musically style included implicit knowledge governing speech. By practicing specific styles of philosophical engagement, we reinforce established bodies of implicit philosophical knowledge. We can’t remedy the implicit knowledge problem without addressing the style problem, which is also a sociological problem. You’re not going to learn about implicit-knowledge level “diverse practices” without being around and interacting with “diverse practitioners.” This is why Mariana Ortega argues that philosophers who don’t spend time with women philosophers and male philosophers of color remain within epistemologies of ignorance. All this is just another way of reinforcing EI’s point that “style” and “sociology” are internal to the content of philosophical work, not external, merely formal properties.


I would like to push EI to say more about this:

Is there any connection between the normalization of (some) continental philosophy and the re-inscription of the marginality of (feminized) French philosophy, work that has been hugely influential in the development of feminist and queer theory? Or is this merely sociological?

Also, the “Who does the work?” of bridging and translating can’t be emphasized enough.