Friday, December 27, 2013

Fuck the constitution.

"Having continuously upped the ante with scepticism and criticisms of the pretensions of metaphysics, we have ended up according all legitimacy in matters of veracity to professions of faith - and this no matter how extravagant their content. As a result, the struggle against what the Enlightenment called 'fanaticism' has been converted into a project of moralization: the condemnation of fanaticism is carried out solely in the name of its practical (ethico-political) consequences, never in the name of the ultimate falsity of its contents. On this point, the contemporary philosopher has completely capitulated to the man of faith. For thought supplies the latter with resources that support his initial decision: if there is an ultimate truth, only piety can provide it, not thought. Whence the impotence of merely moral critiques of contemporary obscurantism, for if nothing absolute is thinkable, there is no reason why the worst forms of violence could not claim to have been sanctioned by a transcendence that is only accessible to the elect few."

"Contemporary fanaticism cannot therefore be simply attributed to the resurgence of an archaism that is violently opposed to the achievements of Western critical reason; on the contrary, it is the effect of critical rationality, and this precisely insofar as - this needs to be underlined - this rationality was effectively emancipatory; was effectively, and thankfully, successful in destroying dogmatism." - Quentin Meillasoux, After Finitude

Thursday, November 14, 2013

"According to Marx's basic materialist conception, intellectual production like any other production requires a specific, concrete raw material to be transformed into thought. [...] Even in thinking, the only way to produce a real 'material' product of thought is by applying the power of thought to a material of thought which can be worked on by it. This means that Marx did not proceed to criticize the Gotha Programme by revealing the false and superficial general principle that clearly underlies all its particular sentences and demands, and then simply counterpose the truer and deeper principle of his materialism to it, in an equally general form. He proceeds inversely, by criticizing in the greatest detail each individual passage in the Programme. [...] Marx takes what at first appear to be quite harmless passages from the draft, and extracts from them all the fundamental vagueness, the timid indecision, the wordy nullity and futility contained within them. This reveals most clearly, but in a mediate way, the abysmal falsity of the basic principle underlying all these passages. This means that the fundamental conflict between the Marxist-materialist and the Lassallean-ideological conceptions of history is never stated in a general form anywhere in the letter, although from the start it governs every particular statement in it." - Karl Korsch, "Introduction to the Critique of the Gotha Programme"

Saturday, October 26, 2013

"Those who urge us to 'think different' [...] almost never do so themselves. [...] Creativity, they all tell us, is too important to be left to the creative. Our prosperity depends on it. And by dint of careful study and the hardest science — by, say, sliding a jazz pianist’s head into an MRI machine — we can crack the code of creativity and unleash its moneymaking power.

"That was the ultimate lesson. That’s where the music, the theology, the physics and the ethereal water lilies were meant to direct us. Our correspondent could think of no books that tried to work the equation the other way around — holding up the invention of air conditioning or Velcro as a model for a jazz trumpeter trying to work out his solo." - Thomas Frank, "TED talks are lying to you."

Monday, September 23, 2013

"At last, as the rain stopped, he slept, but dreamed that something hovered at his window, a great angelic thing with the face of a bumble-bee." - T. E. D. Klein, "Nadelman's God"

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Happy Anniversary (soon)

"King, Randolph, and Rustin may have tailored the tactics and goals of the March for Jobs and Freedom to political realities.  But they did not pander to opponents to their right. In fact, these civil rights activists actually organized the march over the objections of influential liberals, their alleged allies, including President John F. Kennedy.  March organizers ultimately refused to capitulate to the President's requests to call off the rally for two reasons.  First, they understood what Frederick Douglass articulated so eloquently more than 150 years ago, 'power concedes nothing without a demand.'  Second, King, Randolph, Rustin and the march they helped organize were all part of an extant insurgent political movement.  This meant that their political base was beyond the control of the Democratic Party's apparatus, empowering them, if you will, to press their demands in the face of opposition from both their enemies and their putative friends." - Touré F. Reed, "Obama and the Legacy of the 1963 March on Washington"

Friday, August 2, 2013

"Conventionally, attempts among progressives to make sense of the relative roles of race and class in American politics have erred by approaching the question from an analytical vantage point that is too abstract and ahistorical. Both those who emphasize the class pole and those who emphasize the race pole tend to proceed from a notion of capitalism as an ideal-typical system defined by generic economic categories. There are two crucial problems with this idealist view. First, there is no generic capitalism, only discrete capitalist systems that evolve within historically specific matrices of social relations. From an historical perspective it is no overstatement to say that capitalism exists not because of willful efforts to create a system that conforms to a set of abstract characteristics; it is the summary product of pragmatic struggles by individuals and groups to pursue concrete material interests and to improvise institutional frameworks that facilitate their pursuits. (These systems, of course, may be imposed willfully from without, as in colonialism, but even under those conditions their specific character is embedded in local patterns of social relations and institutions.) At best, ideal-typical formulations of capitalism abstract away from the historically specific features of the regimes resultant from those struggles to identify formal characteristics that such systems share; at worst, they function as theological postulates that steer debate into scholastic arguments over which systems or patterns of social relations genuinely deserve the capitalist label. Ideal-typical formulations of capitalism's features and logical tendencies can have heuristic value, certainly, but they cannot help to clarify the relation of race and class in a given society. This is so partly because reliance on such reified notions of capitalism yields an interpretive reflex that approaches the social and political dynamics idiosyncratic to the society in question from a Procrustean frame of reference, that gives short shrift to their integrity and significance in defining what capitalism is in that society and how it is reproduced concretely. 

"Thus those who emphasize the class pole of the debate tend to see racial ideology as ephemeral to capitalism's fundamental dynamics and to construe it as an irrational, or exogenous, force cultivated by the ruling class as a device to divide the ruled. Those who stress the race pole also tend to accept the ahistorical, ideal-typical view of capitalism, often because it is rhetorically convenient for prior ideological or interpretive dispositions to see race as an autonomous force that transcends historical and social context and that shapes social relations independently.

"Neither of those formulations can capture effectively the complex ways that racial and class identities and consciousness have been shaped and have evolved mutually.

"The second problem is related to the first. Also because they abstract away from the idiosyncratic features of actual capitalist societies, ideal-typical constructions tend to disregard the role of political institutions and systems of civic hierarchy in defining the terms on which specific capitalist social orders cohere and are reproduced. [...]

"Although the specific forms of class identity and practice that emerge and operate within capitalist social structures may vary in idiosyncratic and unpredictable ways over place and time, they originate from an essential, materially demonstrable foundation that can be generalized across social contexts - the social organization of labor on more or less coercive bases for the production of privately appropriated value.

"This cellular reality is what sustains the tendency to simplistic, economistic interpretation and endows it with a modicum of verisimilitude. Race, on the other hand, like other categories of ascriptive status, has no such essential foundation; its concrete features, characteristics, meanings and significance are entirely bound by the specific social context within which it is deployed. Contrary to flippant, often disingenuous objections to the assertion, this is the insight underlying the constructionist claim, not that race isn't a social reality or has no substantive importance or consequences for the lives of people thus categorized.

"The pertinent implication is that, insofar as they abstract from the discrete, mundane institutional and civic dynamics of specific societies and their histories, general theories of capitalism's race/class relations are overwhelmingly likely to produce accounts that are, from the standpoint of a concern to understand the workings of any particular social order, unhelpful and no better than trivially true." - Adolph Reed, Jr., "Unraveling the Relation of Race and Class in American Politics."

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Ideology Pt. IV

"[W]here is the place of ideological illusion, in the 'knowing' or in the 'doing' in the reality itself? At first sight, the answer seems obvious: ideological illusion lies in the 'knowing'. It is a matter of a discordance between what people are effectively doing and what they think they are doing - ideology consists in the very fact that the people 'do not know what they are really doing', that they have a false representation of the social reality to which they belong (the distortion produced, of course, by the same reality). Let us take again the classic Marxian example of so-called commodity fetishism: money is in reality just an embodiment, a condensation, a materialization of a network of social relations - the fact that it functions as a universal equivalent of all commodities is conditioned by its position in the texture of social relations. But to the individuals themselves, this function of money - to be the embodiment of wealth - appears as an immediate, natural property of a thing called 'money', as if money is already in itself, in its immediate material reality, the embodiment of wealth. Here, we have touched upon the classic Marxist motive of 'reification': behind the things, the relation between things, we must detect the social relations, the relations between human subjects.

"But such a reading of the Marxian formula leaves out an illusion, an error, a distortion which is already at work in the social reality itself, at the level of what the individuals are doing, and not only what they think or know they are doing. When individuals use money, they know very well that there is nothing magical about it - that money, in its materiality, is simply an expression of social relations. The everyday spontaneous ideology reduced money to a simple sign giving the individual possessing it a right to a certain part of the social product. So, on an everyday level, the individuals know very well that there are relations between people behind the relations between things. The problem is that in their social activity itself, in what they are doing, they are acting as if money, in its material reality, is the immediate embodiment of wealth as such. They are fetishists in practice, not in theory. What they 'do not know', what they misrecognize, is the fact that in their social reality itself, in their social activity - in the act of commodity exchange - they are guided by the fetishistic illusion." - Slavoj Žižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology
Reblogged from coreyrobin.com:

"Imagine a noted scholar of religion, who happened to be Jewish, writing a book on the historical Jesus. Then imagine him appearing on a television show, where he is repeatedly badgered with some version of the following question: 'What’s a Jew like you doing writing a book like this? Raises questions, doesn’t it?' And now watch this interview with noted scholar Reza Aslan, who happens to be Muslim, and tell me that Islam is not the 21st century’s Jewish Question."

Also, it's clear that the people at Fox News have just as much difficulty with the presentation of Jesus as an enemy of the state as they do with Aslan's faith. I'll let Klaus Kinski speak for Jesus on this subject:

"I am not your superstar who must keep playing his role on the cross for you and whom you hit in the mouth when he falls out of character. And who therefore cannot call out to you: I’m sick of your show and your rituals! Your incense disgusts me! It stinks of burnt human flesh! I can no longer tolerate your holy festivals and celebrations! You can pray as much as you want I will not listen! Keep your idiotic honors and praises! I’ll have nothing to do with them! I don’t want them!
I am also not the support of peace and security!
The security and peace that you achieve with tear gas! With rubber truncheons! I am also not a guarantee of obedience and order! Obedience and order of correctional institutions prisons penitentiaries asylums! I am also not a guarantee of success savings property! I am the homeless with no fixed abode! Who always and everywhere causes unrest! I am not the official Church-Jesus who is acceptable to police bankers judges hangmen officers evil clergymen politicians and similar representatives of violence! I am the caller! The instigator! The outcry! I am wanted by the police because you can’t argue with me that the existing order is collapsing! I am the hippie dropout Black-Power Jesus-People!"

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Ideology Pt. III

"If the dominant ideology must work beyond the experience or ‘world’ of the rulers to become ‘normal’ (and normative) in society, it must be universal in some strong sense. We are led to the following question: which is the (imaginary) experience that can be universalized, that is both generalized and idealized in society? Contrary to the common assumption of most sociological theories of legitimacy and hegemony, it cannot be primarily the ‘lived’ experience of the rulers, but only the ‘lived’ experience of the dominated masses, which – as Marx said of religion – involves at the same time an acceptance or recognition and a protest or revolt against the existing ‘world.’ We reach the paradoxical thesis that in the last instance there is nothing like a dominant ideology of the rulers (for example, a dominant ‘capitalist’ ideology). The dominant ideology in a given society is a specific universalization of the imaginary of the dominated: what it elaborates are such notions as Justice, Liberty and Equality, Effort and Happiness, etc., which draw their potential universal meaning from their belonging to the imaginary of the individuals who live the masses’ or the people’s conditions.

“We must understand that there is no ‘illusion,’ no ‘alienation’ here (if only because the basic discourse of the dominant ideology is not to present justice or happiness as already realized, but rather as common values and objectives for which to continuously strive). The mystification lies only in the denegation of a structural antagonism between the dominated and the dominant. But for this very simple reason there is a high degree of ambivalence. Just as the accumulation of capital is made of ‘living labor’ (according to Marx), so the oppressive apparatuses of the State, Churches, and other dominant institutions function with the popular religious, moral, legal and aesthetic imaginary of the masses as their specific fuel. And just as there is a latent contradiction in exploitation, there is a latent contradiction in ideological domination. When the dominated take seriously the universality of their own imaginary, which has been returned to them ‘from above,’ more precisely, when they collectively undertake to act according to the calling of their own imaginary, they don’t any longer accept the existing order, but revolt against it. And when in given historical conjunctures the contradiction of exploitation and ideological revolt meet, you can call it a revolution (successful or not). No class is the absolute ‘Subject of History,’ but there is no doubt that only the masses really ‘make history,’ i.e., only they can produce political changes." - Étienne Balibar, "The Non-Contemporaneity of Althusser"

Ideology Pt. II

"Ideology is best understood as the descriptive vocabulary of day-to-day existence through which people make rough sense of the social reality that they live and create from day to day. It is the language of consciousness that suits the particular way in which people deal with their fellows. It is the interpretation in thought of the social relations through which they constantly create and recreate their collective being, in all the varied forms of their collective being may assume: family, clan, tribe, nation, class, party, business enterprise, church, army, club, and so on. As such, ideologies are not delusions but real, as real as the social relations for which they stand.

"Ideologies are real, but it does not follow that they are scientifically accurate, or that they provide an analysis of social relations that would make sense to anyone who does not take ritual part in those social relations. Some societies (including colonial New England) have explained troublesome relations between people as witchcraft and possession by the devil. The explanation makes sense to those whose daily lives produce and reproduce witchcraft, nor can any amount of rational 'evidence' disprove it. Witchcraft in such a society is as self-evident a natural fact as race is to Richard Cohen of the Washington Post. To someone looking in from outside, however, explaining a miscarriage, a crop failure, a sudden illness, or a death by invoking witchcraft would seem absurd, just as explaining slavery by invoking race must seem absurd to anyone who does not ritually produce race day in and day out as Americans do. Ideologies do not need to be plausible, let alone persuasive, to outsiders. They do their job when they help insiders make sense of the things they do and see - ritually, repetitively - on a daily basis. [...]

"Ideology is not the same as propaganda. Someone who said, 'Anti-slavery ideology infiltrated the slave quarters through illicit abolitionist newspapers,' would be talking rather about propaganda than about ideology. The slaves' anti-slavery ideology could not be smuggled to them in alien newsprint. People deduce and verify their ideology in daily life. The slaves' anti-slavery ideology had to arise from their lives in slavery and from their daily relations with slaveholders and other members of slave society. [...]

"To insist that ideology and propaganda are not the same is not to suppose that they are unrelated. The most successful propagandist is one who thoroughly understands the ideology of those to be propagandized. When propagandists for secession before the American Civil War emphasized the danger that the Northerners might encroach upon Southerners' right of self-determination, they emphasized a theme that resonated as well with the world of non-slaveholders as with that of planters, even though the two world differed as night from day. 'We will never be slaves' was good secessionist propaganda. 'We must never let them take our slaves' would have been poor propaganda and the secessionists knew it [...]

"Neither is ideology the same as doctrine or dogma. Pro-slavery doctrine might well hold, for example, that any white person's word must take precedence over any black person's. But the push-and-shove reality of any planter's business would tell him or her that some situations call for accepting a slave's word over an overseer's. After all, overseers came and went, but slaves remained; and the object was to produce cotton or sugar or rice or tobacco, not to produce white supremacy. The perfect subordination of the slaves to the overseer, if coupled with poor production, would spell disaster for a planter. Thus, the ideology of a planter - that is, the vocabulary of day-to-day action and experience - must make room for contest and struggle (perhaps couched in paternalistic or racist language), even if doctrine specified an eternal hierarchy. Doctrine or dogma may be imposed, and they often are: dissenters can be excommunicated from a church or expelled from a party. But ideology is a distillate of experience. Were the experience is lacking, so is the ideology that only the missing experience could call into being. Planters in the Old South could have imposed their understanding of the world upon the non-slaveholders or the slaves only if they could have transformed the lives of the non-slaveholders and slaves into a replica of their own.

"An ideology must constantly be created and verified in social life; if it is not, it dies, even though it may seem to be safely embodied in a form that can be handed down." - Barbara J. Fields, "Slavery, Race, and Ideology in the United States of America"


Ideology Pt. I

"It will suffice to know very schematically that an ideology is a system (with its own logic and rigour) of representations (images, myths, ideas or concepts, depending on the case) endowed with a historical existence and role within a given society. Without embarking on the problem of the relations between a science and its (ideological) past, we can say that ideology, as a system of representations, is distinguished from science in that in it the practico-social function is more important than the theoretical function (function as knowledge). [...]

"Human societies secrete ideology as the very element and atmosphere indispensable to their historical respiration and life. Only an ideological world outlook could have imagined societies without ideology and accepted the utopian idea of a world in which ideology (not just one of its historical forms) would disappear without trace, to be replaced by science. For example, this utopia is the principle behind the idea that ethics, which is in its essence ideology, could be replaced by science or become scientific through and through; or that religion could be destroyed by science which would in some way take its place; that art could merge with knowledge or become 'everyday life', etc. [...]

"So ideology is not an aberration or a contingent excrescence of History: it is a structure essential to the historical life of societies. Further, only the existence and recognition of its necessity enable us to act on ideology and transform ideology into an instrument of deliberate action on history.

"It is customary to suggest that ideology belongs to the region of 'consciousness'. We must not be misled by this appellation which is still contaminated by the idealist problematic that preceded Marx. In truth, ideology has very little to do with 'consciousness', even supposing this term to have an unambiguous meaning. It is profoundly unconscious, even when it presents itself in a reflected form (as in pre-Marxist 'philosophy'). Ideology is indeed a system of representations, but in the majority of cases these representations have nothing to do with 'consciousness': they are usually images and occasionally concepts, but it is above all as structures that they impose on the vast majority of men via a process that escapes them. Men 'live' their ideologies as the Cartesian 'saw' or did not see - if he was looking at it - the moon two hundred paces away: not at all as a form of consciousness, but as an object of their 'world' - as their 'world' itself. [...]

"So ideology is a matter of the lived relation between men and their world. This relation, that only appears as 'conscious' on condition that it is unconscious, in the same way only seems to be simple on condition that it is complex, that it is not a simple relation but a relation between relations, a second degree relation. In ideology men do indeed express, not the relation between them and their conditions of existence, but the way they live the relation between them and their conditions of existence: this presupposes both a real relation and an 'imaginary', 'lived' relation. Ideology, then, is the expression of the relation between men and their 'world', that is, the (overdetermined) unity of the real relation and the imaginary relation between them and their real conditions of existence. In ideology the real relation is inevitably invested in the imaginary relation, a relation that expresses a will (conservative, conformist, reformist or revolutionary), a hope or a nostalgia, rather than describing a reality.

"It is in this overdetermination of the real by the imaginary and of the imaginary by the real that ideology is active in principle, that it reinforces or modifies the relation between men and their conditions of existence, in the imaginary relation itself. It follows that this action can never be purely instrumental; the men who would use an ideology purely as a means of action, as a tool, find that they have been caught by it, implicated by it, just when they are using it and believe themselves to be absolute masters of it."- Louis Althusser, "Marxism and Humanism"

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"As a political precept, tolerance has unimpeachably anti-democratic credentials, dividing society into persons entitled to claim respect as a right and persons obliged to beg tolerance as a favor. The curricular fad for 'teaching tolerance' underlines the anti-democratic implications. A teacher identifies for the children's benefit characteristics (ancestry, appearance, sexual orientation, and the like) that count as disqualifications from full and equal membership in human society. These, the children learn, they may overlook, in an act of generous condescension - or refuse to overlook, in an act of ungenerous condescension. Tolerance thus bases equal rights on benevolent patronization rather than democratic first principles, much as a parent's misguided plea that Jason 'share' the swing or seesaw on a public playground teaches Jason that his gracious consent, rather than another child's equal claim, determines the other child's access." - Barbara J. Fields, "Of Rogues and Geldings"

Monday, July 15, 2013

"Obama and a handful of other economically and politically successful Black individuals are often held up as a vindication of American democracy. In his last run for president, Obama was fond of saying, 'My story is only possible here in America--the belief that here in America, if you try, you can make it.'

"This narrative about the American Dream and the wonders of U.S. democracy isn't some folksy tale about self-empowerment and the rise of a Black president. It's a legend designed to redirect attention from structural inequality, racism, imperialism, genocide and all of the other ingredients that constitute the real story of America. Obama is held up as a prime example of how it's possible to advance under American democracy--and those who fail to rise and become successful are therefore told it's their own fault.

"The Zimmerman trial confirmed this when Trayvon Martin was systematically blamed for his own death. That ugly scapegoating is connected to the way African Americans are regularly blamed for all sorts of things--their unemployment, or disproportionate levels of poverty, or higher levels of imprisonment, or harassment at the hands of police, or higher levels of foreclosures and evictions, or the mass closures of the schools they send their children to. It's always the individual's fault--and never the system that creates and perpetuates inequality." - Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor, "The verdict on American racism"

"Underclass constructions revise the old nature/culture dichotomy, in which 'culture' stood for the principle of human plasticity and adaptation - in the old, Enlightenment view, the agency of progress. Instead, the power of the underclass idea derives from its naturalization of 'culture' as an independent force that undermines adaptability and retards progress.

"Culture-of-poverty ideology resuscitates the idea of cultural lag, itself a vestige of antique notions of racial temperament.

"The underclass image proceeds from a view of class in general that strikingly resembles Victorian convention. Victorians often used 'class' and 'race' interchangeably; each category was seen as innate. Class and race essences generally were thought to include - in addition to distinctive physiognomy - values, attitudes, and behavior. Thus, Victorian fiction fiction commonly featured characters in humble circumstances who, though unaware of their true, genteel natal origins, always felt ill at ease or out of place among their coarse fellows, as well as other characters whose base derivations, unknown even to themselves, nonetheless brought them low in polite society." - Adolph Reed, Jr., "The Underclass Myth"

" 'Race' is purely a social construction; it has no core reality outside a specific social and historical context. That is not to say that it doesn't exist or that it is therefore meaningless, but its material force derives from state power, not some ahistorical 'nature' or any sort of primordial group affinities - the nineteenth-century racist mush that has never lost its appeal as a simpleminded journalistic frame. Racial difference is not merely reflected in enforced patterns of social relations; it emerges exclusively from them." - Adolph Reed, Jr., "Skin Deep"

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

It's late.

"The widely held truism that all dreaming is the scrambled, disguised expression of a repressed wish is a colossal reduction of the multiplicity of dream experiences. The readiness of much of Western culture to accept the general outlines of such a thesis is merely evidence of the thoroughness with which the primacy of individual desire and want had penetrated and shaped bourgeois self-understandings by the early twentieth century. As Ernst Bloch and others have argued, the nature of wishes and drives has gone through enormous historical changes over the last 400 years. This is not even to address a much longer time frame during which the notion of 'individual desires' may have been meaningless. Over a century later, it is not difficult to see the irrelevance of some of Freud's proposals. It is impossible now to conjure up an individual wish or desire so unavowable that it cannot be consciously acknowledged or vicariously gratified. Now, during waking hours, reality shows and websites indifferently detail every conceivable 'prohibited' family romance or antagonism, while web pornography and violent gaming cater to any previously unmentionable desire. The unavowable now, in this milieu, is any wish for a collective overturning of omnipresent conditions of social isolation, economic injustice, and compulsory self-interestedness." - Jonathan Crary, 24/7

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ignore warning.

"Every representation of myself is the fictional imposition of a unity upon infinite component multiples. There is no doubt that this fiction is generally held together by interest. But since the components are ambiguous (they are also the ones that serve to link my presence in a fidelity), it can happen that, under the same rule of interest, the fictional unity is organized as such around the subject, around the Immortal, and not around the socialized animal." - Alain Badiou, Ethics

Monday, June 24, 2013

A long one.

"Immediately following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, intellectuals, politicians, and pundits - not on the radical left, but mainstream conservatives and liberals - breathed an audible sigh of relief, almost as if they welcomed the strikes as a deliverance from the miasma Buckley and Kristol had been criticizing. The World Trade Center was still on fire and the bodies entombed there scarcely recovered when Frank Rich announced that 'this week's nightmare, it's now clear, has awakened us from a frivolous if not decadent decade-long dream.' What was that dream? The dream of prosperity, of surmounting life's obstacles with money. During the 1990s, Maureen Down wrote, we hoped 'to overcome flab with diet and exercise, wrinkles with collagen and Botox, sagging skin with surgery, impotence with Viagra, mood swings with anti-depressants, myopia with laser surgery, decay with human growth hormone, disease with stem cell research and bioengineering.' We 'renovated our kitchens,' observed David Brooks, 'refurbished our home entertainment systems, invested in patio furniture, Jacuzzis and gas grills' - as if affluence might free us of tragedy and difficulty. This ethos had terrible domestic consequences. For Francis Fukuyama, it encouraged 'self-indulgent behavior' and a 'preoccupation with one's own petty affairs.' It also had international repercussions. According to Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, the cult of peace and prosperity found its purest expression in Bill Clinton's weak and distracted foreign policy, which made 'it easier for someone like Osama bin Laden to rise up and say credibly "The Americans don't have the stomach to defend their interests. They are morally weak."' According to Brooks, even the most casual observer of the pre-9/11 domestic scene, including Al Qaeda, 'could have concluded that America was not an entirely serious country.'

"But after that day in September, more than a few commentators claimed, the domestic scene was transformed. America was now 'more mobilized, more conscious and therefore more alive' wrote Andrew Sullivan. George Packer remarked upon 'the alertness, grief, resolve, even love' awakened by 9/11. 'What I dread now,' Packer confessed, 'is a return to the normality we're all supposed to seek.' For Brooks, 'the fear that is so prevalent in the country' after 9/11 was 'a cleanser, washing away a lot of the self-indulgence of the past decade.' Revivifying fear eliminated the anxiety of prosperity, replacing a disabling emotion with a bracing passion. 'We have traded the anxieties of affluence for the real fears of war.'" - Corey Robin, The Reactionary Mind

"In 1940, when Petain became the French leader, he explained the French defeat as the result of a long process of degeneration of the French state caused by the liberal-Jewish influence; so, according to Petain, the French defeat was a blessing in disguise, a shattering and painful reminder of one's weaknesses and thus a chance to reconstitute French strength on a healthy base. Do we not find the same motif in many a conservative critic of today's permissive-consumerist Western societies? The ultimate threat does not come from out there, from the fundamentalist Other, but from within, from our own lassitude and moral weakness, loss of clear values and firm commitments, of the spirit of dedication and sacrifice.... No wonder that, in their first reaction, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson claimed that, on September 11, the USA got what it deserved. What, then, if exactly the same logic sustains the 'war on terror'? What if they true aim of this 'war' is ourselves, our own ideological mobilization against the threat of the Act? What if the 'terrorist attack', no matter how 'real' and terrifying, is ultimately a metaphoric substitute for this Act, for the shattering of our liberal-democratic consensus?" - Slavoj Žižek, Welcome to the Desert of the Real

"Over the past year, there have been a number of headline-grabbing legal changes in the U.S., such as the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, as well as the legalization of same-sex marriage in a growing number of U.S. states.

"As a majority of people in these states apparently favor these changes, advocates for the U.S. democratic process cite these legal victories as examples of how the system can provide real freedoms to those who engage with it through lawful means. And it’s true, the bills did pass.

"What’s often overlooked, however, is that these legal victories would probably not have been possible without the ability to break the law.

"The state of Minnesota, for instance, legalized same-sex marriage this year, but sodomy laws had effectively made homosexuality itself completely illegal in that state until 2001. Likewise, before the recent changes making marijuana legal for personal use in Washington and Colorado, it was obviously not legal for personal use.

"Imagine if there were an alternate dystopian reality where law enforcement was 100% effective, such that any potential law offenders knew they would be immediately identified, apprehended, and jailed. If perfect law enforcement had been a reality in Minnesota, Colorado, and Washington since their founding in the 1850s, it seems quite unlikely that these recent changes would have ever come to pass. How could people have decided that marijuana should be legal, if nobody had ever used it? How could states decide that same sex marriage should be permitted, if nobody had ever seen or participated in a same sex relationship? [...]

"We can only desire based on what we know. It is our present experience of what we are and are not able to do that largely determines our sense for what is possible. This is why same sex relationships, in violation of sodomy laws, were a necessary precondition for the legalization of same sex marriage. This is also why those maintaining positions of power will always encourage the freedom to talk about ideas, but never to act." - Moxie Marlinspike, "Why 'I Have Nothing to Hide' Is the Wrong Way to Think About Surveillance"

Friday, June 21, 2013

"Hey Commander! I am talking about people who wipe the tears of street dogs while they themselves are under attack. They are not doing this for '3-5 trees' anymore. But it is obvious that you are not doing it for a shopping mall, either. So why do you tell so many lies Commander? Why do you still keep marching your angry little soldiers on us, telling lies about us drinking in the mosque, having sex in the tent? You want us to die, don't you? We die and you feel relief, don't you? People dying just make more people rally to the cause, but you know better. They stand tighter when they are humiliated; they get stronger when they are threatened. You know better, of course. Do you think that these people have less pride than you? Ask your slaves and they will show you the footage. Look at the faces of those children. Look at whom you try to kill. See what suns set in the name of your shopping mall, in the name of your power, see it, Commander!"

Letter to Erdoğan.
"In an outstanding reading of Walter Benjamin's 'Theses on the Philosophy of History', Eric Santner elaborates Benjamin's notion that a present revolutionary intervention repeats/redeems past failed attempts: the 'symptoms' - past traces which are retroactively redeemed through the 'miracle' of the revolutionary intervention - are 'not so much forgotten deeds, but rather forgotten failures to act, failures to suspend the force of social bond inhibiting acts of solidarity with society's "others"':

symptoms register not only past failed revolutionary attempts but, more modestly, past failures to respond to calls for action or even for empathy on behalf of those whose suffering in some sense belongs to the form of life of which one is a part. They hold the place of something that is there, that insists in our life, though it has never achieved full ontological consistency. Symptoms are thus in some sense the virtual archives of voids - or, perhaps, better, defenses against voids - that persist in historical experience."
-Slavoj Žižek, Welcome to the Desert of the Real

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

???

"Time and again, when questioned or interviewed, one is asked about one's hobbies. When the illustrated weeklies report on the life of one of those giants of the culture industry, they rarely forego the opportunity to report, with varying degrees of intimacy, on the hobbies of the person in question. I am shocked by the question when I come up against it. I have no hobby. Not that I am the kind of workaholic who is incapable of doing anything with his time but applying himself industriously to his task. But as far as my activities beyond the bounds of my recognized profession are concerned, I take them all, without exception, very seriously. So much so, that I should be horrified by the very idea that they had anything to do with hobbies - preoccupations with which I had become mindlessly infatuated merely in order to kill the time - had I not become hardened by experience to such examples of this now widespread, barbarous mentality." - Theodor Adorno, "Free Time"

"Those influenced by Adorno and Horkheimer came to believe that no political response was possible to a regime of rational and enlightened domination - a totally administered society. Instead they sought to avoid personal incorporation into an industrialized culture through the 'aesthetic philosophical intensification of subjectivity'. Those who believe that 'Enlightenment is totalitarianism' seek consolation in a 'private' life of detailed and energetic discrimination. Adorno's Californian exile, with its air-conditioning, classical music and homesickness, provides a romanticized model for this disastrous retreat into the 'aesthetic' sphere. The rigorous distinction between a 'private' life of culture and refinement and a 'public' life of compromises conducted in an ironic style disguises the extent to which such a form of life embodies total subordination to the logic of corporate production. In such cases, common in modern business, the exercise of independent intelligence provides a restorative holiday from 'the real world' of work. It does not engage critically with it. The discerning, civilized self survives as a strictly recreational identity. The old ideal of intellectual and artistic autonomy degenerates into a lifestyle, a set of choices about one's leisure activities, a form of 'power-protected inwardness'." - Dan Hind, The Threat to Reason

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Anti-anti-determinism.

"The interpellation of the individual as subject, which makes him an ideological subject, is realized not on the basis of a single ideology, but of several ideologies at once, under which the individual lives and acts his practice. [...] What results is a play and a space of multiple interpellations in which the subject is caught up, but which (as contradictory play and as space) constitutes the 'freedom' of the individual subject, who is simultaneously interpellated by several ideologies that are neither of the same kind nor at the same level; this multiplicity explains the 'free' development of the positions adopted by the subject-individual. Thus the individual has at his disposal a 'play of manoeuvre' between several positions, between which he can 'develop', or even, if you insist, 'choose', determine his course, although this determination is itself determined, but in the play of the plurality of interpellations." - Louis Althusser, letter to Fernanda Navarro, 8 April 1986

 "Each of us belongs to a class, but also to a particular section or stratum of it. Each of us belongs to a family, i.e. to a micro-social entity which often presents major discontinuities with respect to society's general degree of development. Each of us lives in a society in which the classes stand opposed to one another but also influence one another and have periods of partial 'collaboration' in which one exercises hegemony over the other. Through the medium of culture, each of us (even without being specifically an intellectual) undergoes influences which come from afar both temporally and spatially. Each of us can become a part of a class different from his or her origins (either as a result of an actual change in socio-economic status or through a transfer of allegiance dictated by 'ideal' considerations), without for that matter ever being able to erase the traces of the past. Each of us under the influence of mystifying ideologies, can feel a national, religious or racial solidarity which overlays class solidarity. The list could be continued. A Marxist theory of the person must confront this entire complex of problems [...] and must attempt at least to sketch the general outlines of a materialist ethics." - Sebastiano Timpanaro, On Materialism
"Whatever relates to the essential gratuitousness of intellectual activity, being both difficult and illuminating, should be supported and honoured in its very essence, against the norm of profitable technological application." - Alain Badiou, The Meaning of Sarkozy

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"[T]here are cruelly destructive forms of surplus as well - as when culture, our creative surplus over Nature, fails to ground itself in the finitude of Nature and the material body and [...] fantasizes that humanity is infinite."

"What is infinite about humanity is desire; and communism, as I have argued, is about the conversion of desire in its 'linear', unstoppable sense, which has a lordly way with the particulars, to an unending exploration and enjoyment of the world for its own sake. What the transcendence of material need accordingly frees us from is, paradoxically, the immaterial. It is the immateriality of ceaseless acquisition which it seeks to rebuke. The transcendence of the material thus returns us to the material, in the sense of freeing us from those wants and practices which prevent us from savouring the sheer material use-values of the world. Only through communism can we come to experience our bodies once again." - Terry Eagleton, "Communism: Lear or Gonzalo?"

Fuck the EDL.

"After the Boston Bombing a few weeks ago, a CNN anchorman asked a so-called expert whether there was anything in the background of the alleged bombers that might help to explain their actions. Unsurprisingly, the expert didn't reply: 'Yes, there is, actually, it's called western foreign policy.' Instead, he jawed on about the possibility of early childhood trauma. If political motives are inadmissible then psychological ones will have to do instead. Maybe these two young Chechnyans were dropped on their heads as infants, or rudely yanked from the breast."

Terry Eagleton on the Woolwich murder.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Never work.

"The later Leopardi, while he did not believe that the growth of knowledge would produce a growth of happiness (and in this sense he was not and never had been an Enlightenment thinker, at least in the more narrowly defined sense of the term), was nevertheless convinced that it was necessary, against the Italian and European 'moderates', to develop a materialist and pessimistic culture for all. That it was necessary to cease 'pacifying' the masses with the opium of religion, and instead to found a common morality, based on the solidarity of all men in the struggle against nature: a struggle that is, in the final analysis, a desperate one, but which alone can make all men brothers, outside all paternalist hypocrisy and all the foolish pride of those who will not acknowledge that men 'are no more than a tiny part of the universe.'" 
- Sebastiano Timpanaro, On Materialism

The noble nature is the one
who dares to lift his mortal eyes
to confront our common destiny
and, with honest words
that subtract nothing from the truth,
admits the pain that is our destiny,
and our poor and feeble state;
who shows he's great and strong in suffering 
and doesn't add his brother's hate or anger,
worse than any other evil, to his ills
by blaming man for his unhappiness,
but assigns responsibility
to the truly guilty: she who is
mother of mortals when she gives us birth,
stepmother ruling us.
Her he calls his enemy, and believing
the whole human company
arrayed against her,
as they are in fact,
considers all men allies from the outset
and embraces all of them
with true love, offering
and expecting real and ready aid
in the alternating dangers and concerns
of our common struggle. But to take up arms
against a man, or set a trap
or make trouble for his neighbor
seems to him as stupid as,
surrounded by hostile soldiers
during the heaviest fighting on the field,
to forget your enemies
and battle fiercely with your friends,
inciting your own men to run
by threatening them with your sword.
When such ideas become
known to the populace as they once were,
and the fear
that first joined mortals in a common pact
against unholy nature
shall be revived to some extent
out of real wisdom, then an honest,
just society of citizens
and right and piety will take root
from something more than vain mythologies;
and on this foundation
the people's probity may stand as firm
as something based on error.


-Giacomo Leopardi, La Ginestra (The Broom)