If there were a yearly contest for best example of that species of academic passive-aggression involving this-hurts-me-more-than-you diffidence just as one attempts to twist the knife deeper, then surely Peter Gratton would take the first, second, and third prizes for I don't know how many years in a row. I remain in awe of his powerful jujitsu.
Luckily, one need not read his blog or go to his SPEP talks to witness the trope in all of its glory. Consider the conclusion of his new NDPR review of Gert-Jan van der Heiden's Ontology after Onto-theology: Plurality, Event, and Contingency in Contemporary Philosophy.
Pace van der Heiden, though in admiration for what is an important book, I think the contingency of thought and being, as he lays it out, requires thinking from out of our temporalization and emplacement, from which an epochē is only ever a denial of the conditions of possibility for thought in the first place, along with the processes of patriarchy, racialization, economization and so on, that are its conditions, too, and cannot be suspended so easily as one is said to do with the past in these pages. Such an epochē, then, risks becoming an alibi for a type of philosophizing we have seen too much these past years, pretending a neutrality while not negotiating with traditions that it nevertheless repeats in often insidious ways.
You sam, even though van der Heiden and by implication Arendt, Badiou, Nancy, Derrida, Meillassoux, etc. are writing books that Peter Gratton deems "important" (and this is why it's so doggone sad that they don't measure up in the end) they nonetheless comprehensively misunderstand that which they assay through failure to really think out "the conditions of possibility of thought." So it is with a heavy heart that we must together realize that a result of this failure metaphysicians and high church phenomenologists alike "insidiously repeat" a set of genuine evils ("patriarchy, racialization, economization and so on") that would be substantively improved if only every last scrap of academic philosophy contributed to the already sizeable pile of journal articles, books, and blog posts criticizing such evils.
Whew! That was a hard thing for us to admit. But we can move forward with relief and resolve now.
Seriously, given the Eddie Haskell* nature of Gratton's more-in-sorrow-than-anger schtick the above is likely to be wrongly parsed by analytic philosophers unaware of the nature of this dispute among continental philosophers. The following kind of sensible and important meta-philosophical point is not what is at issue: epistemology should contain as a proper part of it research the way that heuristic biases lead to sexism and racism, ethics and political philosophy must contain concrete investigations into how oppression is legitimated and decreased, the metaphysics of value is a part of metaphysics, etc. etc. etc.
Rather, what's going on is the devolution of the tradition known as the "hermeneutics of suspicion" (Nietzsche, Marx, Freud) into an all-purpose club by which 95% of philosophy in the Eastern and Western traditions can be dismissed. To see how this works, pretend that you are Texas A&M's Robert Garcia,** minding your own business while trying to tease out whether a trope theoretic account of universals affects the debate between bundle theorists and substance-attribute theorists. You may be interested in all sorts of political issues, and indeed may even philosophize about them sometimes, but your current project with respect to tropes just doesn't have very much to do with politics. One can imagine Gratton lauding Elizabeth Barnes for her work in feminism while getting into Bill Clinton squinty eye territory while sadly dismissing all of her metaphysical work as politically retrograde.
According to a universal hermeneutics of suspicion, pursuing something independently of its political implications (or rather basis) is the height of politically retrograde bad faith. At best you are actually just working as an alibi for sexism, racisim, economism and whatnot, because the very idea that one can bracket the political in philosophy is itself a political act legitimating the suppression of political speech by the oppressed. At worst, we can do a deep reading of your work to show how, for example, your metaphysical "individuals" are implicated in neo-liberal individualism that justifies colonialism as well as all of the depredations of late capitalism. Instead of working on trope theory you must now proceed to the reprocessing center where you learn that philosophers have thusfar only interpreted the world, whereas the point is to write books about changing it.
I'm only exaggerating a little bit. The bit about individuals is homologous to an unreasonably widely accepted attack (made most clearly by Alexander Galloway) on Object-Oriented Ontology. Check out poor Levi Bryant patiently explaining for the nth + 1 time why such attacks are risible.*** And please read Donkie Hottie's characteristically entertaining discussion as well. The club used to beat up on OOO is perfectly general, and it's no surprise that it's being wielded against Derridean phenomenologists now. Any one bit of philosophy that isn't directly applicable to slacktivist blog posts can henceforth be pummeled into submission.
According to the traditional hermeneutics of suspicion, a given discourse is undermined by providing an explanation of why people engage in that discourse, an explanation that doesn't rely on the truth of substantive claims made by the discourse's participants. Take Nietzsche. According to (a comic book version of) him, people make moral claims because they are too weak to do anything about the things that irritate them. When the weak person takes something as wrong, she is really just enlisting the universe to get a kind of psychic revenge against those complicit in the weak person's weakness. Now if this really were to explains all moral discourse, there is very little reason to take moral discourse at all seriously. The explanation of "what's really going on" when people engage in the discursive practice ends up undermining that very practice. Marx's critique of ideology worked very similarly, as did Freud's explanations of most of our psychic life.
We see an universalization of the hermeneutic strategy in people like Gratton and Galloway, the application of the Nietzsche/Marx/Freud inference to any pretenses of objectivity. Any discourse other than slacktivist-ready political posturing is a form of Marxist ideology. I think I'm philosophizing about tropes, but what I'm really doing is perpetuating oppression, either because the conceit that there can be non-slacktivist discourse is itself a tool of oppression, or because various linguistic/conceptual tropes I employ cannot be separated from tropes used by oppressors. But the former criticism is a non-sequitur, and the latter is merely a not that much more sophisticated version of the "You know who else was a vegetarian? Hitler!" undergraduate argument. Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud are turning in their graves.
I forget where Wittgenstein pens some remarks on Freud, but it goes something like this. He'd told a Freudian about a very vivid dream involving some rose bushes and oak trees with these fantastic long branches (of the sort we have on the LSU campus), and the Freudian said, "Aha! You were' really dreaming about vaginas and penises!" Wittgenstein was too polite to ask the Freudian what he was really dreaming about when he dreamed about vaginas and penises. Rose bushes and trees?
If everything is political, then nothing is.
When the ethical egoist tells you that you are really doing what you really desire when you think you are doing something noble, the proper answer is "So what?" If there is a useful psychological notion of "desire" such that my deeper desires involve overcoming desires to help myself at the expense of others, then that's irrelevant to the morally relevant notion of "desire." When a skilled hermeneut of suspicion tells you that every speech act is really political, the same bait and switch is happening. Just as one can deny one's desires in the morally relevant sense, one can engage in non-political discourse in the sense actually relevant to emancipatory politics.
What is the point of politics? To produce a polity where all that exists is political slacktivism? No. That's entirely self-defeating. As William S. Burroughs used to say in a different context, a truly emancipatory politics seeks to make itself unnecessary. Is this place beyond politics merely utopian? Or are there numinous places in the here and now that give us an intimation of a place beyond politics. At least as far as I parse him, Adorno thought that art had to be such a place. For anyone properly sympathetic to Hegel metaphysics (broadly construed to include David Lewis as well as what the late Heidegger and Derrida were up to is to) is also such a place. We can envision a utopian ideal when matter becomes spirit, genuinely self-aware, even though we are nowhere near there (in part due to oppression). As we develop our understanding of matter, we participate in this process and for brief times inhabit these numinous places. These places are a far, far distance from the vulgar utilitarianism that the hermeneutics of suspicion have devolved into.
Finally, it should be clear that such vulgar utilitarianism is itself bad politics. Yes one must break eggs to make omelets, but that doesn't justify a system where everybody is just breaking eggs all the time and never enjoying the omelets.
[*"You hair looks wonderful today, Mrs. Cleaver. My Mother says you must spend every day in the beauty shop."
**Who gave a fantastic paper at the Southwest Conference in New Orleans a few years ago.
***As Bryant notes, "Walnuts resemble testicles. Therefore walnuts are phallocentric" simply isn't a very good argument. Harman makes a similar claim in this brief post about Galloway's actual argument that Badiou is politically harmful because he talks about mathematics, which is used by capitalists you sam. The fact that Harman and Bryant should have to even explicitly say these things shows one just how badly the hermeneutics of suspicion fell in the intervening century.]