For me, the inspiration of the richest modern critical thought comes from authors like Nietzsche that have proceeded to a systematic deconstruction of many of the Enlightenment dogmas.
The Enlightenment ideals were intrinsically paradoxical: in their desire of universality, in their cult of reason, in their obsession for Order, abstraction and totality, they have inherited some of the characteristics of former oppressive regimes of power and thought; therefore, they have open the way to all modern forms of fascism, from the public to the private life of humans.
That fascism, so to speak, started to be the domination of the absolute State, and later become the domination of the Market. It left us with no other values than spectacle, success, competition and ultimately money.
Archaeology is part and parcel of this “transparent” society where everything shall come to light, everything shall emerge from the inside to be exposed and become the commodified object of our contemplation. This regime of “truth” and “transparency” is the pornographic regime of the image striped of all its impurities, where everything may be dissected and watched, cleared from any inquietude.
Thus, to rethink the modern context in which archaeology has emerged is necessarily a political project, a project of putting aside every trial to tell a definitive narrative of the origins and development of mankind, and to try to excavate and expose not the past, not the origins, not the process of development, but the very foundations of this insane drive for the quest of origins, of fundaments, that aim at recuperating a theology, but this time based on human reason by opposition to the logic of Creation, to the Order of God.
When a critical archaeology will emerge, the fundaments of the present state of affairs will also enter into ruin, sooner of later. In that sense, archaeology may contribute to a real knowledge oriented by one goal: the overcoming of the ideology that supports the obscene state of affairs that is impoverishing the world and conducting life on earth to a point of disaster, with generalized violence and the absence of a universal law that may control and contain the system that promotes a continuous escape to common interest and well being.
Archaeology must be in that movement, in that quest for a way of cutting this spiral, or else it is just one of the entertainment industries that helps, by the cult of the (imaginary) past, to reinforce an indecent present.
“(…) Le savoir n’ est pas fait pour comprendre, il est fait pour trancher.”
M. Foucault apropos of Nietzsche, in “Nietzsche, la généalogie, l’ histoire”, Dits et Écrits, vol. I, Paris, Galimard, col. Quarto, 2008, p. 1016.
[“knowledge is not made to understand, it is made to cut.”]