Reaction, Repetition, and Time
Whether considered within the registers of
physics, physiology, or politics, ‘reaction’ is a time-structured notion. It follows an action or stimulus, which it reaches back through, in order to annul or counteract a disequilibrium or disturbance. Whilst subsequent to an action, it operates in alignment with what came before: the track, or legacy, that defines the path of reversal, or the target of restoration. It therefore envelops the present, to contest it from all sides. The Outside of the dominant moment is its space.
Reaction forges, or excavates, an occult pact between the future and the past, setting both against the present, in concert, and thus differentiating itself from progressivism (which unites the present and future against the past), and conservatism (which unites past and present against the future). Its bond with time as outsideness carries it ever further beyond the moment and its decay, into a twin horizon of anterior and posterior remoteness. It is a Shadow Out of Time.
There is a far more immediately practical reason for reaction to involve itself in the exploration of time, however: to take steps to avoid what it could scarcely otherwise avoid becoming — a sterile orgy of disgruntlement. Finding nothing in the present except deteriorated hints of other things, reaction soon slides into what it most detests: an impotent micro-culture of vocal, repetitive protest. This isn’t right, this isn’t right, this isn’t right quickly becomes white noise, or worse (intelligible whining). Even when it escapes the ceaseless, mechanical reiteration of a critical diagnosis (whose tedium is commensurate to the narrowed times it damns), its schemes of restoration fall prey to a more extended repetition, which calls only — and uselessly — for what has been to be once more.
If the New Reaction is not to bore itself into a coma, it has to learn to run innovation and tradition together as Siamese twins, and for that it needs to think time, into distant conclusions, in its ‘own’ way. That can be done, seriously. Of course, a demonstration is called for …
[Note: ‘physics’ deleted from the first line to pre-emptively evade a righteous spanking from enraged Newtonians insisting upon the strict simultaneity of actions and reactions within classical mechanics]