One of the prevailing assumptions in identity studies or cultural studies or performance theory or any of the associated alterities one can lay handle to is the premise that human beings are shackled by what for lack of a better term we could call “reactive determinism”. The thumb nail sketch: language is unstable, constitutional governments are grievously flawed,and all organized social productions are insufficiently capable of sustaining individuals.
The idea that human beings are deprived of sustainable value(s) is drawn from Marxist theory which is to say that any idea is a commodity and all manufacture (whether one is writing a symphony or a treatise on water supplies for Africa) is flawed by its allegiance to whatever value system produced the work in question.
The taxonomy of this cognitive architecture is seldom questioned by cultural theorists. The reason for this is two-fold: if all literary or cultural productions are flawed then they require theorists to complete them; and secondly there’s a latent despairing formation that asserts and reasserts that middle class values are to be eschewed at all costs. The second attitude is the most egregious since it is nothing more than a reprise of mid 19th century socialism minus any noticeable “communitarian” values.
My claim is that few if any contemporary academic cultural theorists are capable of producing work that incites anything other than antithetical deconstructions of rhetorical objects. And in turn my fear is that this has largely claimed the youthful field of disability studies.
If creating value systems–whether we’re talking about building clinics in Africa or assisting developmentally disabled young adults to live and work on their own–if these kinds of enterprises are viewed by academics as being further instances of flawed social production than the field of disability studies cannot by definition reach out and educate a rising generation of young social workers, nurses,doctors, police, school administrators, or architects that people with disabilities have complex and alternative skills and talents that should make them worth hiring.
Indeed one looks largely in vain for a progressive analysis of how people with disabilities present substantive cultural value. The reason for this is simple. By adopting the reactionary determinism of the academic left disability studies is affecting a position that labors as antithesis alone.
Me? I lose sleep over these matters. I don’t look to any social construction for my entire list of cognitive or spiritual nutrients.