The Night Shift is all about fusing theory with practice. What I’d like to do in this post is to open up a discussion as to how we might go about defining those terms. Instinctively, ‘theory’ is something you do whilst reading books, thinking and writing – conceptualising various problems and analysing them philosophically. It is fundamentally passive. ‘Practice’, on the other hand, is doing something: acting, moving, physically changing one’s environment. It is fundamentally active
But does this distinction hold up? Firstly, ‘thinking’ as a concept implies the opposite of ‘passive contemplation’; it suggests mental agency (or what certain philosophers might call ‘negativity’): does this not count as practice? Reading, surely, is something we do physically by moving our eyes and turning the pages of a book: is this not practice? The same holds for writing, too.
Similarly, is moving or physically changing my environment really devoid of theory? Do I not begin an act with a certain end in mind towards which I guide my body? What would a practice look like that didn’t have some kind of theory bound up with it? Is a thoughtless act even possible?
So it would seem that the distinction between theory and practice is not as clear-cut as we first imagined. How else, then, might we go about defining the difference between the two? Perhaps in terms of the effects of our thoughts and our acts? Perhaps a practical act – now comprehending both theorising and physical activity – generates a certain type of effect. What might that be? Well, here, at The Night Shift, we would have to think about what defines a genuinely political act. It would be an act which forged a path towards universal emancipation; but how do we define universal emancipation?!
I don’t have the answers to these questions, but between us it seems to me that we must confront them if we want to claim a rigorous justification for what we’re even doing here.