Radical Subjectivity

Do I need a license to combine words?
I was surprised to find this term when I dipped back into my 1986 Ellul paper, A New Language. In the '80's I used radical subjectivity to mean simply what Jacques Ellul (hereinafter JE) recommends doing - trying to maintain one's radical analysis while also being totally and personally present in the situation one is analyzing.

I do not limit myself to describing my feelings with cold objectivity in the manner of a research worker reporting what he sees under a microscope. I am keenly aware that I am myself involved in technological civilization, and that its history is also my own. I may be compared rather with a physician or physicist who is describing a group situation in which he is himself involved. The physician in an epidemic, the physicist exposed to radioactivity: in such situations the mind may remain cold and lucid, and the method objective, but there is inevitably a profound tension of the whole being.
- JE in The Technological Society, author's foreward to Revised American Edition

Writing to Christians in The Presence of the Kingdom, JE argues that followers of Jesus Christ ought to live constantly and fully in the kingdom of God, and at the same time live fully and constantly in the world... and not attempt to soften the contradictions and tensions this causes, but work them out in our own lives, with the help of the Holy Spirit. JE thought dialectically; whether his methods have produced any new levels of synthesis in my own life is definitely open to question. However, JE's recommended approach of plunging into the chaos of the world is what we at the J.E.L.L. mean by "radical subjectivity."
Soon there'll be a longer discussion of this on the A New Language page.

More Established Meanings Of The Phrase?
Since 1986 I've learned there are formal philosophical and Situationist meanings of the term "radical subjectivity." Perhaps I should stop using it for the stance I've described; I don't know whether the complex shadings added by the presence of the other usages help or hinder communication. Your comments are welcome.
If you're willing to try to help me decide, here are some related links.

Jean Heriot's delightful kaspahRASTER franked in Raoul Vaneigem's Creativity, Spontaneity and Poetry, which uses the term extensively.

Joseph Baldacchino: "radical subjectivity: the belief that there is no compelling standard set above the individual..."

Here's a more extended quotation from an essay by Larry Law:
"There is an old Jewish saying, 'If you have only two alternatives, then choose the third'. It offers a way of getting the subject to search for a new perspective on the problem. We can give the lie to both sides of a false conflict by taking our 'third choice' -- to view the situation from the perspective of radical subjectivity.
Being conscious of the third choice is refusing to choose between two supposedly opposite, but really equal, polarities that try to define themselves as the totality of a situation."
This meaning seems close to an approach Ellul would have agreed with, tactically. At least in some of his moods and humours.

original material copyright 2000 by Julianne Chatelain
last updated 19 June 2000