Wednesday, October 04, 2017

A repeat from 2012

Guardian
If some of the foreign fighters in Aleppo were callow, others such as Abu Salam al Faluji boasted extraordinary experience. Abu Salam, a rugged Iraqi with a black keffiyeh wrapped around his head, said he had fought the Americans in Falluja when he was a young man. Later he joined al-Qaida in Iraq and spent many years fighting in different cities before moving to Syria to evade arrest. These days he was a commander of the one of the muhajiroun units.

I found him watching a heated debate between the Syrian commanders about how to defend the buckling frontline.

The government attack had begun as predicted and mortars were exploding in the streets nearby, the sound of machine-gun fire ricocheting between the buildings. The mortars were hammering hard against the walls, sending a small shower of shrapnel and cascading glass, but Abu Salam stood unflinching.One Syrian, breathing hard, said that he had fired three times at the tank and the RPG didn't go off.

"Don't say it didn't go off," Abu Salam admonished him. "Say you don't know how to fire it. We used to shoot these same RPGs at the Americans and destroy Abrams tanks. What's a T72 to an Abrams?

"Our work has to focus on IEDs and snipers," he told the gathering. "All these roofs need fighters on top and IEDs on the ground. You hunt them in the alleyways and then use machine-guns and RPGs around corners.

"The problem is not ammunition, it's experience," he told me out of earshot of the rebels. "If we were fighting Americans we would all have been killed by now. They would have killed us with their drone without even needing to send a tank.

"The rebels are brave but they don't even know the difference between a Kalashnikov bullet and a sniper bullet. That weakens the morale of the men.

"They have no leadership and no experience," he said. "Brave people attack, but the men in the lines behind them withdraw, leaving them exposed. It is chaos. This morning the Turkish brothers fought all night and at dawn they went to sleep leaving a line of Syrians behind to protect them. When they woke up the Syrians had left and the army snipers had moved in. Now it's too late. The army has entered the streets and will overrun us."

He seemed nonchalant about the prospect of defeat.

"It is obvious the Syrian army is winning this battle, but we don't tell [the rebels] this. We don't want to destroy their morale. We say we should hold here for as long as Allah will give us strength and maybe he will make one of these foreign powers come to help Syrians."

The irony was not lost on Abu Salam how the jihadis and the Americans – bitter enemies of the past decade – had found themselves fighting on the same side again.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

fantasies and fantasists

"Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy", again and again and again.

1
Farah Mendlesohn, a long time friend of Crooked Timber, writes:
I had to withdraw my book on Heinlein from the original publisher due to length. As I explored other options it became clear that no academic publisher could take it without substantial cuts, and no one who read it, could suggest any. In addition, the length would have pushed up the price for an academic publisher beyond what people could afford. Unbound, a crowdsourcing press, have agreed to take the book and have been able to price it at £12 for the ebook and £35 for the hard back.
The crowd-funding site is here. I’ve read and loved two of Farah’s previous books on f/sf (and have been contemplating a reply to her analysis of Neil Gaiman’s The Wolves in the Wall for several years) – I’ve no doubt this is going to be great.
"The foundation to technocratic liberalism: the ambiguities of life lived mean nothing next to the light of pure and puritan reason. But the word "puritan" gives it a subtext that reason itself does not allow. And the only art acceptable to reason is children's fantasy, because fantasy doesn't undermine the law of non-contradiction, and "literary" fiction breaks it constantly, as we do in our own lives."
2
I’ve a new piece up at Jacobin...
Revolutionary Possibility: China Miéville’s October depicts the transformative hope of revolution.
...The hope that revolution promises can never be realized by us as we are now. More profoundly, the hope that it actually embodies is unimaginable, since to be able to imagine it is to have undergone it. From this side, we cannot see what the other side looks like. The promise of revolution is inevitably a lie, right up to the moment when the revolutionary transformation occurs, because the person making the promise cannot possibly understand that to which she is committing.

Understanding this is the key to understanding Miéville’s October. Like the thought of Walter Benjamin, Miéville’s Marxism is shot through with what can only be described as faith. Benjamin notoriously never finished reading Capital, and was attracted by the socialist utopians whom Marx reviled and disparaged, because he saw in them an unrealized hope for a world that would be radically transformed. Thus, the promise of the October Revolution remains with us, like Miéville’s imagined, frozen train, not as an inevitability but as a possibility, which has never properly arrived but may break through at any moment. As Benjamin described it, every second of time is the gate through which the Messiah may enter. The world that the Messiah brings is in principle unknowable to us, yet if we do not hope and work for this now-unimaginable redemption, we will never find it.

It’s superficially easy for more prosaic socialists to sneer at these ideas when they are presented so baldly. We do not live in an age that seems to lend itself to radical transformation. Moreover, such efforts at radical transformation as we have seen in the last century have largely failed, and often failed in terrible ways. Yet it is also true that we have seen enormous transformation in the past, and have no good warrant to believe that we’ve arrived at the end of transformative history.
Looping back from a post-communist romance with libertarianism, to begin again.

3 Scholasticism continues to wither.
The growing mismatch between jobs for philosophers and what the leading PhD programs emphasize, or, the so-called "core" is dying.
PhilJobs is starting to fill up with ads, though not as many ads as one would like to see (at least not yet). But what is striking is the pattern in areas of interest: lots of value theory and history of philosophy (esp. early modern, but also a fair bit of 19th-century), some currently "trendy" areas like philosophy of race and gender, but very little "core analytic" (as the Stanford ad puts it), i.e., very little philosophy of language and mind, metaphyscis & epistemology, the latter being the historical "prestige" trackers in the profession for the last half-century. But as I've remarked before, what is prestigious and central at the top PhD programs may no longer bear much relationship to most of the jobs that exist. ...
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"Indeed..."

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A repeat from 2013, updated
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flickr and Reuters/NSA
Gursky's nihilism, and Alex Rosenberg's determinism; anti-humanism and E.O. Wilson's ants.
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Ahmed Mater. I saw the work awhile ago and didn't get around to it. Today I found someone using an image of one of his pieces, in an article on magnetism, without a reference to the piece itself. The pieces aren't on Mater's website and a lot of references on other sites have been removed. He may have gotten into trouble.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Philosophers are idiots
A university must tolerate, and even welcome, those who follow evidence and argument to conclusions that are false or unpalatable; but it may reject those who seek a platform for hatred or deception. That is why it counts counts against Middlebury College when its shouts down Charles Murray but it counts in favour of Berkeley when it excludes Milos Yannopoulos [sic].
Universities would deserve criticism for rejecting a presentation by the authors of the Nuremberg Laws, but would be right in rejecting a speech by a rabble-rousing journalist who promotes them.

Similar from Farrell
The way that the Kennedy School used to think about fellowships, as Elmendorf describes it – which I think is the only sustainable way for it to think about them – is as no more and no less than a way to facilitate debate and conversation. This is one of the things that universities are supposed to do – bring a diverse group of people into debate, reflecting a broad set of constituencies. That Chelsea Manning is anathema to other fellows like Morell should be neither here or there – the job of the university is to provide opportunities for both people like Manning and people like Morell to participate in public debate, without necessarily feeling the need to pronounce on the merits of either.
The only reason Manning was invited was that he/she has a large constituency among the educated elite. The diversity celebrated only exists with those limits.

The academy is conservative by definition. That's not a bad thing, unlike hypocrisy.

again, and again, and again...
2007 Commentary Magazine,
An exchange between Charles Murray and readers on his April 2007 piece, "Jewish Genius."
To the Editor:

Charles Murray is on safe ground in testing the Cochran-Hardy-Harpending hypothesis of high Jewish IQ by seeking evidence beyond the Ashkenazim in Europe and going back past the Middle Ages to antiquity. In a review of nearly 100 studies of South Asian/ North African IQ, Richard Lynn has shown that although IQ scores of Sephardi Jews are lower on average than those of Ashkenazim, they are higher than those of the populations that surrounded them historically. Clearly we are dealing with something deeply rooted in the Jewish past.
J. Philippe Rushton
University of Western Ontario
London, Canada

Charles Murray replies 
Richard Lynn’s review of studies of Sephardi IQ as cited by J. Philippe Rushton offers a potential strategy for exploring the vexed question of non-Ashkenazi Jews: compare their scores with non-Jews who have surrounded them historically. That work could be extended by calculating not raw IQ means, but ratios of Jewish to non-Jewish IQ’s within culturally meaningful geographic areas. Doing that calculation accurately presents many methodological difficulties, and good data may be too sparse, but the intriguing hypothesis to be explored is that the ratios will be roughly the same everywhere. The estimated Ashkenazi mean of 110 translates to a ratio of 11:10 in Europe and the United States. If non-Ashkenazi Jews with a mean of 100 were historically surrounded by a people with a mean of 91, the ratio would be identical. Since the IQ means of the non-Jewish populations of North African and Middle Eastern countries are estimated to be well below 100, the hypothesis is not implausible on its face.
1995 FAIR Racism Resurgent
Nearly all the research that Murray and Herrnstein relied on for their central claims about race and IQ was funded by the Pioneer Fund, described by the London Sunday Telegraph (3/12/89) as a “neo-Nazi organization closely integrated with the far right in American politics.” The fund’s mission is to promote eugenics, a philosophy that maintains that “genetically unfit” individuals or races are a threat to society. 
The Pioneer Fund was set up in 1937 by Wickliffe Draper, a millionaire who advocated sending blacks back to Africa. The foundation’s charter set forth the group’s missions as “racial betterment” and aid for people “deemed to be descended primarily from white persons who settled in the original 13 states prior to the adoption of the Constitution of the United States.” (In 1985, after Pioneer Fund grant recipients began receiving political heat, the charter was slightly amended to play down the race angle—GQ, 11/94.)

The fund’s first president, Harry Laughlin, was an influential advocate of sterilization for those he considered genetically unfit. In successfully advocating laws that would restrict immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, Laughlin testified before Congress that 83 percent of Jewish immigrants were innately feeble-minded (Rolling Stone, 10/20/94). Another founder, Frederick Osborn, described Nazi Germany’s sterilization law as “a most exciting experiment” (Discovery Journal, 7/9/94). 
...Lynn has received at least $325,000 from the Pioneer Fund (Rolling Stone, 10/20/94). He frequently publishes in eugenicist journals like Mankind Quarterly—published by Roger Pearson and co-edited by Lynn himself—and Personality and Individual Differences, edited by Pioneer grantee Hans Eysenck. Among Lynn’s writings cited in The Bell Curve are “The Intelligence of the Mongoloids” and “Positive Correlations Between Head Size and IQ.”

...Murray and Herrnstein describe Lynn as “a leading scholar of racial and ethnic differences.” Here’s a sample of Lynn’s thinking on such differences (cited in Newsday, 11/9/94): “What is called for here is not genocide, the killing off of the population of incompetent cultures. But we do need to think realistically in terms of the ‘phasing out’ of such peoples…. Evolutionary progress means the extinction of the less competent. To think otherwise is mere sentimentality.”

Elsewhere Lynn (cited in New Republic, 10/31/94) makes clear which “incompetent cultures” need “phasing out”: “Who can doubt that the Caucasoids and the Mongoloids are the only two races that have made any significant contributions to civilization?”

...Rushton was reprimanded by his school, the University of Western Ontario, for accosting people in a local shopping mall and asking them how big their penises were and how far they could ejaculate. “A zoologist doesn’t need permission to study squirrels in his backyard,” he groused (Rolling Stone, 10/20/94).

Rushton’s creepy obsessions intersect with the ugliest sides of politics: A 1986 article by Rushton suggested that the Nazi war machine owed its prowess to racial purity, and worried that demographic shifts were endangering our “Northern European” civilization. Rushton co-authored a paper that argued that blacks have a genetic propensity to contract AIDS because of their “reproductive strategy” of promiscuous sex (cited in Newsday, 11/9/94). The other author was Bouchard, the author of those amazing twin studies celebrated in mainstream news outlets.

It’s not surprising that Murray and Herrnstein would defend Rushton, writing that his “work is not that of a crackpot or a bigot, as many of his critics are given to charging.” But it’s startling that a science writer for the New York Times, Malcolm Browne, would actually endorse Rushton’s book (10/16/94). Echoing The Bell Curve, Browne respectfully concludes his summary of Rushton’s bizarre theories with: “Mr. Rushton is nevertheless regarded by many of his colleagues as a scholar and not a bigot.” (“Browne doesn’t identify these ‘colleagues,’ but I expect he means Professor Beavis and Professor Butthead,” the Toronto Star‘s Joey Slinger wrote—10/20/94.)

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Leiter
The strategic reasons the ACLU embraced "free speech" for Nazis in the 1930s

Interesting bit of forgotten history courtesy of my colleague Laura Weinrib. Given the pathologies of American political culture, however, I'm not confident a different approach would end happily.
Weinrib: "The ACLU's free speech stance should be about social justice, not 'timeless' principles"

Weinrib, HUP 2016: The Taming of Free Speech: America’s Civil Liberties Compromise

Using google books I searched the text for references to the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee and found nothing. I found a review by Samuel Moyn in the WSJ. He'd linked to it on twitter, and almost a year later I replied.

"Seems no mention of the NECLC. If so it begs the question of 'principle' and destroys the book's argument."

"The book ends before WW II; NECLC from after"

"But that makes my point. NECLC stood for principle during the cold war. It had a big effect on ACLU. Seen as a dark period in ACLU history"

My final reply has one like: Samuel Moyn.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

A repeat from a few years ago. I'm still tired:
Pedantry is a form of immaturity, but pedants by definition see themselves as the most serious of serious adults. Though their opinions adapt, the pedantry is constant; the illusion of consistency is all that matters.

I forget how many times I've said this. Weimarization begins with an elite isolated from the experience of the larger community: one part openly corrupt, concerned with wealth and power, the other engaged with intellectual formalisms, earnestly but as a result of the arbitrariness of their constructions -the foundations are contingent- with the same concern as their peers for power politics, on a much smaller scale.

America and technology have spread the neotenization of the elite to the broader middle class. Our new sophisticates have the arrogant provincialism of the petty bourgeois.

Academics as a group are the most unobservant, unintellectual, anti-intellectual people I know, and yet they see themselves as justified in leading. The academicization of intellectual life, bureaucratic reason from Max Weber to the Frankfurt School, is the proximate cause of the rise of the radical right. If technocracy is authoritarian rationalism, the governing of individuals as tokens, as the mass, irrationalism becomes the only model for life as individual experience. Anger is the only agency that's left.

Weber was a model of technocratic anti-humanism. Adorno was a petulant, moralizing, self-hating adolescent. Benjamin was a child. They were the confused children of technocracy.

If you live for ideas then you're living for the next test. Every experience must fit into one or another narrow predetermined category, living life by inches, or by millimeters. Mechanistic authoritarianism is fundamentally perverse, and it dumbs you down.

Art schools and degrees in creative writing: the academic study of ourselves by ourselves is a prescription for brittle mediocrity. Film schools are still trade schools; that saves them from the worst of it.

I'm tired of being right. I just want to enjoy my life.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

addendum

The humanist against vulgar universalism
Arendt to Scholem,  in Arendt, The Jewish Writings. 
To come to the point: let me begin, going on from what I have just stated, with what you call "love of the Jewish people" or Ahahath Israel. (Incidentally, I would be very grateful if you could tell me since when this concept has played a role in Judaism, when it was first used in Hebrew language and literature, etc.) You are quite right–I am not moved by any "love" of this sort, and for two reasons: I have never in my life "loved" any people or collective–neither the German people, nor the French, nor the American, nor the working class or anything of that sort. I indeed love "only" my friends and the only kind of love I know of and believe in is the love of persons. Secondly, this "love of the Jews" would appear to me, since I am myself Jewish, as something rather suspect. I cannot love myself or anything which I know is part and parcel of my own person. To clarify this, let me tell you of a conversation I had in Israel with a prominent political personality*  who was defending the–in my opinion disastrous–nonseparation of religion and state in Israel. What he said–I am not sure of the exact words anymore–ran something like this: "You will understand that, as a Socialist, I, of course, do not believe in God; I believe in the Jewish people." I found this a shocking statement and, being too shocked, I did not reply at the time. But I could have answered: The greatness of this people was once that it believed in God, and believed in Him in such a way that its trust and love toward Him was greater than its fear. And now this people believes only in itself? What good can come out of that?–Well, in this sense I do not "love" the Jews, nor do I "believe" in them; I merely belong to them as a matter of course, beyond dispute or argument.

We could discuss the same issue in political terms; and we should then be driven to a consideration of patriotism. That there can be no patriotism without permanent opposition and criticism is no doubt common ground between us. But I can admit to you something beyond that, namely, that wrong done by my own people naturally grieves me more than wrong done by other peoples. This grief, however, in my opinion is not for display, even if it should be the innermost motive for certain actions or attitudes. Generally speaking, the role of the "heart" in politics seems to me altogether questionable. You know as well as I how often those who merely report certain unpleasant facts are accused of lack of soul, lack of heart, or lack of what you call Herzenstakt. We both know, in other words, how often these emotions are used in order to conceal factual truth. I cannot discuss here what happens when emotions are displayed in public and become a factor in political affairs; but it is an important subject, and I have attempted to describe the disastrous results in my book On Revolution in discussing the role of compassion in the formation of the revolutionary character.
*This "personality" was Golda Meir, then foreign minister and later prime minister of Israel. At Scholem's urging, Arendt deleted her name and changed the feminine pronoun when the letters were first published. -Ed.
"I have never in my life 'loved' any people or collective."
Universalism is for law; law is impersonal. Love is intimate. Mixing the two is barbarism, of one sort or another.

Why not: a tag for Brighouse, a well-meaning pedant.
Mark Thoma in 2013, going on as usual after his wife's death, and then tweeting (approx) "It's too much. I can't go on" before going on, not mentioning it again. He deleted the tweet.

Note the uptick since 2000. Should I telegraph that it's not in pedantry but in awareness?
Change is slow.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Which came first, the effect or the cause?

updated
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Leiter:
Religious toleration and identity politics
Philosopher Paul Russell (British Columbia/Gothenburg) comments, arguing, rightly I think, that religion is more like politics than race.
Leiter agrees, or thinks he does, that religious belief is more like political belief than it's like variations in human morphology.

The limits of tolerance
A religious worldview cannot expect the same kinds of tolerance as racial, gender, or sexual identities. Here’s why
...Race, gender and, more recently, sexual orientation are forms of identity that have been especially prominent in politics during the past century. What is striking about these forms of identity is not only that they are generally unchosen, but that they are not based on any ideological or value-laden set of commitments of a political or ethical nature. Of course, the significance and interpretation of non-ideological identities, the ways in which they can be viewed as threatened or disrespected, is itself an ideological matter; but the identities themselves are not constituted by any ideological content (systems of belief, value, practices, etc), and the groups concerned could vary greatly in the particular ideologies that they endorse or reject.

For this reason, there is no basis for criticising a group (or individual member of it) on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation. It would, for example, be absurd to praise or blame Martin Luther King Jr for being black, or Margaret Thatcher for being a woman. There is no ideological content to their identity to assess or debate – the relevant identity is an inappropriate target for praise or blame, since there are no relevant assessable beliefs, values, practices or institutions to serve as the grounds of such responses. The identity of the group turns on natural qualities and features that cannot be discarded in light of critical scrutiny or reflection of any kind.
"What is striking about these forms of identity is not only that they are generally unchosen, but that they are not based on any ideological or value-laden set of commitments of a political or ethical nature."

If you're punished for a form of identity that's unchosen or that you perceive as unchosen, the first reaction, when and if you have the strength to respond, is to take that label as a badge. And "gender identity" is no more or less a choice than the choice, or the need, to believe in a god. To have a cock and say "I am a woman" is a statement of belief not biology.
Philosophy professors and politicians are fans of their own authority. If you take ideologies as ahistorical, examining them to see whether they're "true according to their own criteria", [etc]  you really miss the fucking point.
Societies, even slave owning societies, do not exist to oppress but by way of oppressing, at the same time existing as cultures that their citizens, as opposed to their victims, enjoy. When critical culture sees society simplistically as a series of absolute forces it recreates those forces (fighting an imaginary fire with fire) in an esthetic of totalization and universalization that becomes a parody of the past, as Fascism in its attack on bourgeois values is bourgeois parody of Monarchism; as the art of the Salon is precursor to the art of the Third Reich and to Stalin's Socialist Realism. All cultural groups exclude others, but by assuming that they exist for that purpose, as Fascism and Communism assumed. or as many on the “critical” [read: academic] left still do the issues are willfully occluded. Our "project" should be to understand this process, and to overcome the irrational fear of otherness, not to desire an absolute, unified, reified innately narcissistic 'one'.
The answer to the confused identity politics of the Right is not an identity politics of the Left.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

The first paragraph of Trump and the Trumpists, by Wolfgang Streeck
Strange personalities arise in the cracks of disintegrating institutions. They are often marked by extravagant dress, inflated rhetoric, and a show of sexual power. The first Trumper of the postwar era was the Danish tax rebel, Mogens Glistrup, the founder of the nationalist Progress Party, who, having put his principles into practice, went to prison for tax evasion. Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Boris Johnson in England are hairstyle Trumpers. Pim Fortuyn and Jörg Haider were both dandies. They died in their finery. Beppe Grillo, Nigel Farage, and Jean-Marie Le Pen, are each one third of a full Trump.
At CT, commenter "Engels" quotes Streeck
Nations are imagined communities. Nation building entailed the creation of formal institutions extending previously informal, communal bonds of solidarity to all co-nationals. Globalization favors the equal access of everyone to worldwide markets. It has no use for national citizenship or national citizens. Another moral system is at work. Cultural reeducation is required to erase traditional solidarity and replace it with a morality of equal access and equal opportunity regardless of status (such as “race, creed, and national origin”). Justice is served as soon as market access is equalized. The replacement of class solidarity by status rights demands flexible adjustment to changing market conditions. The morality of marketization entails a categoric delegitimization of distinctions. Empathy and benevolence become moral duties with respect to everyone, rather than one’s neighbor. Social rights are displaced by civil rights, a process which, as Hannah Arendt saw clearly in 1948, inevitably dilutes to near-invisibility any system of effective social protection.

For the domestic politics of a nation-state undergoing neoliberal redefinition, this has profound consequences. Classes struggling over the correction of markets give way to status groups struggling over access to them. At issue are not the terms of exchange and cooperation between conflicting class interests, or the limits of exploitation of one class by another, but status groups with established market access excluding status groups without it from competition. Political morality lies in opening up competition by removing barriers to entry, not in containing it through institutionalized limits to commodification. For groups that already have market access, this means a moral duty, in the name of equality, to allow themselves to be challenged by newcomers, whoever they may be—fellow citizens, immigrants, or residents of other countries—at the risk of being outcompeted and having their lives disrupted as a result. ...
Bertram replies
are you commending that Streeck piece to us or just noting it? I had thought of posting something here about it. Streeck imagines the American working class, or rather “the silenced majority of a disorganized class” in a highly racialized way. He only sees the whites. In fact this is quite explicit in the same paragraph, because they are the ones “deprived of an accessible identity”, (unlike black American members of the working class). One might say that this is all purely descriptive, but to my mind the piece oozes solidaristic compassion with a racially-typed group. So of course the question arises, why feel that towards this particular group but then explicitly sneer at liberal concern for other groups? I’m sure Streeck doesn’t think of himself as racist, but his social typology, transferred across from his writings on Germany, counterposes a national working class with the immigrant other. That’s already problematic enough to my mind, but in the context of the US it is disastrous.
Engels responding to another commenter
I’m not sure I understand exactly what Streeck is saying in the statement about ‘civil rights’ vs ‘social rights’

Teh ‘pedia: 
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals’ freedom from infringement by governments, social organizations, and private individuals. They ensure one’s ability to participate in the civil and political life of the society and state without discrimination or repression.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_and_political_rights
Economic, social and cultural rights are socio-economic human rights, such as the right to education, right to housing, right to adequate standard of living, right to health and the right to science and culture.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic,_social_and_cultural_rights
Bertram goes so far as to disemvowel a comment that accuses him of intellectual dishonesty in his response to an obvious point. Someone else links a critical review of Steeck's recent book by Adam Tooze in the LRB

Teh ‘pedia, but not Immanuel Kant. So much has been lost.

The inability to think beyond the individual: the British model of "humanism", technocratic Benthamism. White liberals feel contempt for poor white trash and pity for minorities, but both are objects of concern from above. Poor and lower middle class whites sense the difference, see themselves shut out, as Palestinians do by the the earnest, guilty and thus self-regarding concern of otherwise anti-Semitic whites for the new Jewish state.

Objectivity is a claim to authority by those who already have power.  The powerful choose who and what deserves support, secure in their own bourgeois moralism. "It is quite obvious" they say, "that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism."

Streek. "Social rights are displaced by civil rights, a process which, as Hannah Arendt saw clearly in 1948, inevitably dilutes to near-invisibility any system of effective social protection."

Bertram, "Engels" et al. have no understanding of social rights because they have no understanding the social.

The end of the first edition of The Origins of Totalitarianism.
How great our calamity actually is can be gauged from the fact that to achieve even so simple a task as the prevention of murder, we are forced to doubt the unchallenged existence of the basic tenets of morality upon which the whole structure of our life rests and which none of the great revolutionaries, from Robespierre to Lenin, ever seriously questioned. We can no longer believe with Lenin that “people will gradually become accustomed to the observance of the elementary rules of social life that have been . . repeated for thousands of years” (State and Revolution) and we must therefore try for what Burke’s great common sense deemed impossible: “new discoveries . . . in morality . . . or in the ideas of liberty” (Reflections on the Revolution in France). The trouble is that if we do not attempt this, there are plenty of indications that the mob, which more than once during the last fifty years has proved its superior ability to read the signs of the times, will take over and destroy where we were unable to produce. For the first disastrous result of man’s coming of age is that modern man has come to resent everything given, even his own existence – to resent the very fact that he is not the creator of the universe and himself. In this fundamental resentment, he refuses to see rhyme or reason in the given world. In his resentment of all laws merely given to him, he proclaims openly that everything is permitted and believes secretly that everything is possible. And since he knows that he is a law-creating being, and that his task, according to all standards of past history, is “superhuman,” he resents even his nihilistic convictions, as though they were forced upon him by some cruel joke of the devil. 
The alternative to this resentment, which is the psychological basis of contemporary nihilism, would be a fundamental gratitude for the few elementary things that indeed are invariably given us, such as life itself, the existence of man and the world. Neo-humanists, in their understandable yearning for the stable world of the past when law and order were given entities, and in their vain efforts to re-establish such stability by making man the measure of all things human, have confused the issue, which is the choice between resentment and gratitude as basic possible modern attitudes, and increased the fear of Man, this most unknown and most unpredictable being on earth. Generally speaking, such gratitude expects nothing except – in the worlds of Faulkner – one ’s “own one anonymous chance to perform something passionate and brave and austere not just in but into man’s enduring chronicle . . . in gratitude for the gift of time in it.” In the sphere of politics, gratitude emphasizes that we are not alone in the world. We can reconcile ourselves to the variety of mankind, to the differences between human beings – which are frightening precisely because of the essential equality of rights of all men and our consequent responsibility for all deeds and misdeeds committed by people different from ourselves – only through insight into the tremendous bliss that man was created with the power of procreation, that not a single man but Men inhabit the earth.

Only a consciously planned beginning of history, only a consciously devised new polity, will eventually be able to reintegrate those who in ever increasing numbers are being expelled from humanity and severed from the human condition. The recognition of the crime against humanity will, by itself, achieve neither liberty nor justice, for these are the concern of the daily strife of all citizens: it can only secure the participation of all men in the strife. The concept of human rights can again be meaningful only if they are redefined as a right to the human condition itself, which depends upon belonging to some human community, the right never to be dependent upon some inborn human dignity which ipso facto,  aside from its guarantee by fellow-men not only does not must but is the last and possibly most arrogant myth we have invented in our long history. The Rights of Man can be implemented only if they become the pre-political foundation of a new polity, the pre-legal basis of a new legal structure, the, so to speak, pre-historical fundament from which the history of mankind will derive its essential meaning in much the same way Western civilization did from its own fundamental origin myths.

In the meantime, it may have been useful to find the origin, and to contemplate the forms, of those new movements which pretend to have discovered the solution to our problems, and whose fantastic claims to having founded thousand-year empires and Messianic ages are believed, despite all evidence to the contrary, because they respond, albeit in a radically destructive way, to the terrible challenge of the century. This, certainly, cannot establish a new law on earth, but it is one way toward a new form of universal solidarity.

For those who were expelled from humanity and from human history and thereby deprived of their human condition need the solidarity of all men to assure them of their rightful place in “man’s enduring chronicle.” At least we can cry out to each one of those who rightly is in despair: “Do thyself no harm; for we are all here.” (Acts, 16:28)
addendum

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Banality, Boredom, Determinism, Liberals Make Nihilism Attractive, Make it Idiot-Proof, Naturalism, Pedants and Children, Philosophy, Politics, 
This discussion, here and at Crooked Timber, is a waste.
It's not hard to undermine the illusions of Protestant liberalism (individualism); Liberalism begets Libertarianism, which ends in the tyranny of the powerful. At least now we've gotten to the point where Libertarians admit the obvious. You could call it the Weberianism of the Oxbridge/Davos set which all of you represent, embody (or hope to).

The argument against all of this crap is the argument for Republicanism. A Republic is not an "open society". "A free people" is singular and plural, P and ~P; adults get the joke. Pedants and children do not.

Virtue ethics exist only in practice; theory comes after the fact. Begin with a distaste for vulgar extremes of self-interest and go from there.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

updated below
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Banality, Boredom, Culture, Determinism, Feminism and Post-Feminism, Mannerism and The Gothic, Naturalism, Philosophy, Politics, Sexuality,
Before the 19th century, "glamour" referred to a spell cast by a witch to cause people (generally men) to see things or people (usually the bewitcher herself) as the enchantress wished. She could create an irresistible impression on the minds of men in order to weaken them and lead them to perdition. Usually via sex.

The medieval and modern concepts of glamour meet in The Love Witch, L.A.-based feminist filmmaker Anna Biller's stunning second feature, which follows the havoc being wreaked by a love-obsessed witch and crafter (seriously, she makes soaps and candles) named Elaine. She arrives in a California town like a Hitchcock heroine and immediately begins casting spells on all the men in her path; she's a sexual Goldilocks trying to find one who's just right.

Biller's carefully constructed imagery is dazzling: colorful sets, detailed props (many of which are either handmade or authentic antiques), spot-on casting of character actors with looks seldom seen in contemporary cinema, and a lead actress (newcomer Samantha Robinson as Elaine) made up and styled to mesmerizing effect. 
...Having a deep love and understanding of classic Hollywood glamour made Biller a misfit among her self-serious, mostly male, Stan Brakhage–influenced classmates. According to the director, her very aesthetic was controversial. The artifice of acting and emoting, anything theatrical, was considered vulgar by the art-film establishment.

That she's a woman wasn't trivial, either. Like many film students of the era, Biller was influenced by Laura Mulvey's groundbreaking essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," with its critique of the pervasive "male gaze."

As a writer, Biller has studied the dynamics between the genders and says it's where she gets her psychological material. "There is the danger of falling in love and becoming destroyed by it," she says. "I think that this is why men avoid it: They're afraid of it, they want it to be more playful and just about sex because they don't want to be destroyed by love." Elaine's power is that she is better than men at love and certainly more dominant — she can just rip their hearts out.

Biller's domestic partner is, in fact, also an expert on a different kind of "love witchcraft": She's in a relationship with Robert Greene, author of corporate management/inspiration best-seller The 48 Laws of Power — and also of erotic advice best-seller The Art of Seduction.
Robert Greene on his 48 laws of power: 'I'm not evil – I'm a realist'

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Strange personalities arise in the cracks of disintegrating institutions. They are often marked by extravagant dress, inflated rhetoric, and a show of sexual power.... 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

After the German historian Rolf Peter Sieferle took his own life last September at age 67, Süddeutsche Zeitung, the country’s progressive paper of record, called his erudition “breathtaking.” For three decades Mr. Sieferle had applied the old traditions of German social science to new preoccupations, from ecological sustainability to social capital. He was among the pioneers of German environmental history. He wrote on Marx, German conservatism around World War I and the end of Communism. He advised Angela Merkel’s government on climate change.

But last month, a posthumous collection of Mr. Sieferle’s observations on Germany’s political culture, “Finis Germania” (the title plays on a phrase meaning “the end of Germany”), hit No. 9 on the prestigious Nonfiction Book of the Month list — and a scandal erupted. Certain passages on Germany’s way of dealing with the Holocaust horrified reviewers. Die Zeit called it a book of “brazen obscenity.” The Berliner Zeitung wrote of Mr. Sieferle’s “intellectual decline.” Süddeutsche Zeitung retracted its earlier praise. The Nonfiction Book of the Month list was suspended until further notice.

The book-buying public reacted otherwise. As critical anger rose, so did sales. Soon the book was selling 250 copies an hour, according to its publisher, and ranked No. 1 on Amazon’s German best-seller list, a position it held for almost two weeks, until the publisher ran out of copies.

What exactly had Mr. Sieferle said? Was this a betrayal of his intellectual legacy, as critics claimed? A vindication of it, as his sales suggested? Or had he simply gone off the rails at a time when public opinion was doing the same?

...Mr. Sieferle neither denies nor minimizes the Holocaust. He describes it as a “Verbrechen,” or “crime.” Nor does he traffic in any obvious kind of anti-Semitism. In a letter he wrote three weeks before his death to the blogger-novelist Michael Klonovsky, who is close to the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party, he warned the party to keep its distance from the anti-Semites (“a delusional, irrational and ignorant ideology”) who would inevitably gravitate to it.

But Mr. Sieferle is critical of Germany’s postwar culture of Holocaust memory, which he argues has taken on the traits of a religion. The country’s sins are held to be unique and absolute, beyond either redemption or comparison. “The First Commandment,” he writes, “is ‘Thou shalt have no Holocausts before me.’ ” Hitler, in retrospect, turns out to have done a paradoxical thing: He bound Germans and Jews together in a narrative for all time. In an otherwise relativistic and disenchanted world, Mr. Sieferle writes, Germans appear in this narrative as the absolute enemies of our common humanity, as a scapegoat people. The role is hereditary. There are Germans whose grandparents were not born when the war ended, yet they, too, must take on the role.
Snyder's speech is almost unbearable. Lecturing people about their responsibility, trying to make them understand. It proves Sieferle's point, or marks it as the obviously predictable reaction.

"Deutschland ist kein Einwanderungsland" Germans are racist, but they're not going to get over it being lectured by earnest moralists. So earnest: Snyder loves Germans. He wants them to be more than they are. Everything he's done has just delayed the change that's needed.

Back to Sebald and Grass, On the Natural History of Destruction and Crabwalk.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Every so often along 99 between Bakersfield and Sacramento there is a town: Delano, Tulare, Fresno, Madera, Merced, Modesto, Stockton. Some of these towns are pretty big now, but they are all the same at heart, one- and two- and three-story buildings artlessly arranged, so that what appears to be the good dress shop stands beside a W.T. Grant store, so that the big Bank of America faces a Mexican movie house. Dos Peliculas, Bingo Bingo Bingo. Beyond the downtown (pronounced downtown, with the Okie accent that now pervades Valley speech patterns) lie blocks of old frame houses—paint peeling, sidewalks cracking, their occasional leaded amber windows overlooking a Foster's Freeze or a five-minute car wash or a State Farm Insurance office; beyond those spread the shopping centers and the miles of tract houses, pastel with redwood siding, the unmistakable signs of cheap building already blossoming on those houses which have survived the first rain. To a stranger driving 99 in an air-conditioned car (he would be on business, I suppose, any stranger driving 99, for 99 would never get a tourist to Big Sur or San Simeon, never get him to the California he came to see), these towns must seem so flat, to impoverished, as to drain the imagination. They hint at evenings spent hanging around gas stations, and suicide pacts sealed in drive-ins. 
By the time I get to the last line I'm almost on the floor, laughing.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

distinctions without differences LLC

John Quiggin,  professor of agnotology  (etc.), speaks out forcefully against epistocracy (ditto).

And then a followup.

The last two paragraphs.
I just saw this review of The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters by Tom Nichols which is obviously relevant. A crucial requirement for a successful defence of expertise is that we avoid defending authority based on mere punditry.

I’ll leave it to readers to discuss which areas of public policy discussions are dominated by expertise, which by punditry, and which by conflict between the two.
You can't make this shit up