ÖZP 2007/1 S.57-66
IMPURE THEORY. On the Practice of Political Theory Formation on the Online-Medium Nettime
Keywords: Political theory, new media, media history, legitimacy, internet, performance
This essay addresses the question of political theory formation from a media-theoretical perspective, using the mailing list Nettime as an example. It argues that the question of social legitimacy of political theory should be considered in relation to the media employed in its production. Under the pressure of proving its usefulness, so it is suggested, political theory tends to seek refuge either in the metaphysical or in the empirical, curtailing its potential. The predicament both tendencies involve are described in terms of their respective "media aprioris”, i.e. of the relationship between the validity of theoretical claims on the one hand, and the nature and control of media employed in their production on the other. Contrasting with both these tendencies, the theory production on Nettime is described as one that actively engages in making its media apriori explicit, criticising and developing its own media base. With reference to media history and theories of Brecht and Benjamin, the essay describes the resulting political theory as one that is a politicised theory rather than a theory of the political: such a theory, it concludes, is "impure” in so far as it is practical, amateurish, transdisciplinary, and tactical. Nettime is a street theatre performing political theory.