Sunday, September 06, 2009

Ideas are not "things"

"Scialabba is mostly talking about literary intellectuals, who don’t overlap all that much with economists."

"The concept of 'civil society' was in the ascendancy after 1989 and was everywhere in the social sciences and political talk by the late 1990s. Livesey’s book argues that the idea has roots in the defeated provincial elites of Scotland and Ireland, as a way for them 'to enjoy liberty without directly participating in the empire’s governance' "

"Civil Society" is not civil society. Oxford is not Sweden: the idea of socialism is not the fact of it. Does the focus on the mean and the mediocre act as reinforcement for the values of the mean and mediocre? If you're a realist about others are you free then to be a realist about yourself? The social sciences should be on guard against the confusion of ideas with facts. Scholars and experts should be willing to ask themselves at any given time what they value, and by and large of course they aren't.

Literature as art is the discussion of values as manifest in actions. That the actions are fictional is irrelevant.

Those who engage culture are always one step behind those who produce it, but at their best they're able to interpret what others only precisely represent. This is the reciprocal relation of artist and critic. Bright people who neither make culture by vocation -since we all do by default- nor choose to follow it, lag behind in understanding both the world and themselves: in a culture of bureaucracy functioning blankly but well. Remember that CT reads Scialabba out of affection and pity. An ex-member of Opus Dei and a fan of Edge.org he's the sort of conflicted romantic bureaucrats feel safe around. He's a melancholic version of themselves. He defends intellectuals who read fiction, not the people who write it.

The idea of socialism is not socialism, the idea of civil society is not civil society, the idea of literature is not literature.

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