Sunday, September 18, 2011

Two links from commenters at CT's discussion of Graeber.

Richard Seaford on money TLS, and a review of his Money and the Early Greek Mind at NDPR. Amusing comments in the review:
Overall, Seaford’s book is interesting, insightful, and combines expertise in ancient sources with careful reasoning. It certainly offers an invaluable discussion of the origins and cultural contexts of early Greek philosophy. But Seaford’s concern with the historical explanations of Greek philosophy suggests that his book may not appeal to scholars interested exclusively in the philosophical content and argumentation of Presocratic texts. The author often explicitly minimizes intellectual explanations of a philosopher’s views in favor of socio-political, religious, and psychological factors (219; 253–4; 273). In fact, he insists that comprehending the relevant cultural factors is necessary for understanding Presocratic metaphysics. We must, he maintains, avoid treating ancient philosophy as if it were created in a “historical vacuum” (10), even if this threatens most Presocratic scholars’ “control of their subject and the autonomy of ’doing philosophy’“
My disagreements with Graeber go back 25 years, to school days and after, and have less to do with his historical research than the arguments he makes from it. Socially and politically, (and regardless of his claims) he's a vanguardist, and vanguardists are exceptionalists. He shrugged off my questions about violence and the adolescent black bloc with the smile of an indulgent father.

A degree of exceptionalism is a fact of culture, of the subjective hierarchies of social interaction. As an ideology it's anti-humanist. Seaford, as -in a sense even ideologically- a humanist, is a conservative by comparison to both Graeber and the professional philosopher who wrote the review for NDPR, both of whom share a preference for rule-giving over observation and description. And Graeber of course is a student of Bourdieu.

Ignore my commentary at the link and read nothing more than the quotes from Bourdieu and Clark. It's clear enough.

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