Postscript: On Abstraction

  • Jeff Wallace


‘One contemporary belief likely to stupefy future generations’, writes N. Katherine Hayles, ‘is the postmodern orthodoxy that the body is primarily if not entirely a linguistic and discursive construction.’ While a certain version of the cybernetic posthuman strips information of its body, the linguistic turn in the humanities, for example in Michel Foucault’s archaeology of knowledge, spins the body into a ‘play of discourse systems’.1 Hayles argues that such ‘beliefs’ or ideas can only be arrived at through a process of abstraction; her narrative of cybernetics in postwar America demonstrates ‘how much had to be erased in order to arrive at such abstractions as bodiless information’. Similarly, while far from anti-Foucauldian in her own thinking, Hayles feels that general systemic concepts such as that of the Panopticon lead Foucault to construct the ‘body’ as an abstraction which diverts attention away from ‘actual bodies’ and their specificities, as well as their modes of resistance to power.


Discursive Construction Tributed Cognition Dialectical Thinking Commodity Fetishism Russian Writer 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 4.
    ‘Typically modernist’ may be an exaggeration. Lawrence’s strategy is nevertheless reminiscent of T.S. Eliot’s account of impersonality in poetry. Poetry, Eliot explains, is neither a turning loose of emotion nor an expression of personality. But, ‘of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things’ (my emphasis). ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’ (1919), in Peter Faulkner (ed.), A Modernist Reader: Modernism in England 1910–1930 (London: Batsford, 1986), p. 91.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    See Nancy Katherine Hayles, ‘The Ambivalent Approach: D.H. Lawrence and the New Physics’, Mosaic 15:3 (September 1982), 89–108.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    Alfred Sohn-Rethel, Intellectual and Manual Labour: A Critique of Epistemology, trans. Martin Sohn-Rethel (London: Macmillan, 1978), pp. 19Google Scholar
  4. 12.
    Catherine Gallagher, ‘Raymond Williams and Cultural Studies’, in Christopher Prendergast (ed.), Cultural Materialism: On Raymond Williams (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1995), pp. 315–17.Google Scholar
  5. 13.
    Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1986), p. 4.Google Scholar
  6. 15.
    A.N. Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1927), p. 250.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Jeff Wallace 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeff Wallace

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations