Figure11thenexusofrelationsofpoverty 6

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Unformatted text preview: ‐like” silliness springs from a failure to understand the nature of signs and the discursive‐material nature of reality. Poststructuralists don’t deny the material reality of objects—that, too, would be silly. But we cannot interact with the material world without the 14 words we use to describe, talk, and think about objects. As soon as we attach a word to the object, the object enters the realm of discourse. It acquires not only a word‐sound, but also a multiplicity of mediating concepts. In short, the very real material object ceases to be in any coherent, intelligent way only material. It is now a discursive‐material formation. Everything is, in fact, a discursive‐material formation in this sense: from the ground beneath Sokal’s window to a Mack truck. Complex systems such as poverty, race, capitalism, and the economy are also discursive material formations—they are aggregations of an infinite number of simple and complex signs. The conceptualization that everything is a combination of word, concept, and object—a discursive‐material formation— helps us to avoid the endless philosophical arguments between materialists and idealists; it also shows that poststructural constructivists do not deny the existence of a material world. I therefore use the term “discourse” in the Foucaldian sense of “discourse/practice” or “discursive‐material.” 3. The nexus of relations To describe the form of a discursive‐material formation I employ a concept called “the nexus of relations.” This is the idea that 1) every object is defined by multiple attributes, 2) each particular attribute of an object depends upon other attributes of that object, and 3) each one of these attributes is a discursive construction. For example, the object we call a house, has little meaning in and of itself. A house is best viewed standing in the middle of a nexus consisting of say, technical, social, economic, cultural, political, and ecological relations. The dimen...
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