Tuesday, December 31, 2013

one more
Slight return, and an apology. I almost never see red flags where there aren't any, but these days often I see dozens where there are only two or three, and the name Bourdieu makes me see red for days. But if I'm attacking moralists its best not to sound like one. It's a good post and good discussion. My grumpy indignation was uncalled for, so in a more polite, and useful, tone I'l add one more comment.

That empathy, as Einfühlung, originated in the discussion of esthetics is poetic justice, since Bourdieu's use of Habitus originates in Erwin Panofsky. I've said that before but this discussion makes the relation clear. We need to return the irony that Bourdieu and others have stripped from it.

To surgeons as tight-rope walkers and hospice workers as prostitutes, add war correspondents as adrenaline junkies and defense lawyers who defend war criminals because its necessary, and because its fun. On the other side of the equation put nurses who hide their fear and self-pity in obsessive service to the sick, bureaucrats who imagine order as justice, economists who see economics as formal science, librarians who conflate filing systems with literary criticism, artists who equate abstraction with representation, and performers who think they need to be miserable to communicate sadness. And remember that Bourdieu drew his arguments also from Clement Greenberg.

Emotionalism and formalism (two sides of the same coin), or irony and responsibility.
This is the good stuff. This is where it gets heavy. This is where it gets fun. 
Happy New Year.
Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 29, 2013


I found this on the twitter feed of a young proudly high-brow literary academic who makes carefully thought-out, precise distinctions between "good" and "bad" postmodernism, and good and bad elitism. He drops a lot of names but he's read them all, many in the original. He's not pretentious because he's not pretending; his erudition isn't fakery, but he wants it to carry more weight than it does.

The video is filed under "good". I've watched it 5 or 6 times, laughing every time; that doesn't answer the question of how it came to be, what categories it fits in, and why.

Actors: Grahame Edwards, at Casting Call Pro  and IMDB, Eryl Lloyd Perry, at Casting Call Pro and IMDB, Anthony Sergeant, Casting Call Pro, IMDB.

Edwards had a few lines in one scene in The Dark Knight.
The producer, who came up with the idea, is Adrian Bliss. One of his videos, here.

abbrev. from Casting Call Pro:

Lloyd Perry
1962, Honours English Language and Literature
St Peter's College, Oxford 
About me
"I am a fit. Welsh-speaking septuagenarian who jogs and works out and can act anything over 60 (and perhaps just a little below that, too). I particularly enjoy Shakespeare, classical drama and voice-over, but will go anywhere, do anything so long as it's acting and legal." 
General Singing Skills: Solo
Specific Singing Skills: Baritone
General Dance Skills: Ballroom
Organisation Membership Equity
Driving Licences: Standard
Facial Characteristics: Beard, Moustache
Perform nude?: Only Professionally
Edwards
Stage trained, with extensive experience, West End and Number 1 tour and particularly, classical theatre and Shakespeare.
Extensive screen experience, from major American feature film, to independent and corporate film.
Strong neutral RP voice. 'Sophisticated', 'Learned', 'Philosophical', qualities.

Accents (UK): Birmingham, Black Country, Cockney, Lancashire, London, Northern England, Northern Working Class, RP, Scottish, Standard, South London, Southern England, Welsh, Standard, Yorkshire
Accents (North American): Californian, General American, Midwest Farm & Ranch, New York City, Southern American

BA Hons in Fine Art
Post Grad Diploma Stage Design
PGCE Teaching Qualification.
Adult & Further Ed Teaching Qualified

Artist: painter, sculptor, theatre stage designer.
Sergeant
Scholarship to RADA.
Worked extensively in theatre - Royal National, Glasgow Citizens, Sheffield Crucible, Theatre Royal, Windsor. Numerous fringe shows. 
Also trained as teacher. 
Have played Gaugin, Debussy and William Burroughs. 
Accents (UK): Cockney, Dorset, Gloucester, Lancashire, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Northern England, Northern Irish, RP, Scottish, Standard, Somerset, South London, Southern England, Welsh, Standard, Yorkshire
Accents (North American): Californian, New York City, Southern American, Texas, Upper-Class Massachusetts
Accents (International): Australian, Dublin, French, German, Irish, Italian, Polish, Russian
Languages Spoken: English, French, Italian

General Singing Skills: Advanced
Specific Singing Skills: Baritone
General Dance Skills: Contemporary
Organisation Membership: Equity
Stage Combat Skills: Yes
Driving Licences: Standard, Motorcycle
Facial Characteristics: Beard
DBS  ["Disclosure and Barring Service"] checked: Yes 
Edwards, LLoyd Perry, Bliss, Sergeant

Friday, December 27, 2013

Another comment at Savage Minds, repeating arguments about Bourdieu, with quotes.

Thursday, December 26, 2013


The video linked, not uncritically, at Savage Minds. Not uncritically is not enough.

My [three] comments
I found the animation almost unwatchable. The meanings of words change over time. The word the author wants to use is not sympathy which is a broad term, but “pity”. It’s that word and its history that allowed Mother Teresa to say that the sufferings of the poor are God’s way of teaching the powerful the importance of pity. The doctrine is Gothic, literally. And pity in this context is a form of contempt.
I’ve met a lot of Irish Catholic nurses. Their brand of intimacy with their patients gives me the creeps. And the politics is grotesque.

On the rest, I have to argue as always against the bureaucratization of intellectual life, the arguments for false -pseudo- objectivity and neutrality that makes life easier by dumbing down, or numbing, our capacity for experience. I don’t blame Bourdieu for this, but I shouldn’t have to point out that he had the genius of a brilliant file clerk,a moralizing petit bourgeois.

My favorite response going back 25 years is Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity, but any other tragedy will do, works made to short circuit the emotive responses of their viewers: sympathy, empathy, pity, voyeurism, judgment, moral condemnation: it’s all there in one package, true as life.
1. Perspective taking, recognizing that someone else’s perspective is their truth.
That would includes the truth of heroin addiction. And you can’t do it: that’s the contradiction that’s unavoidable.
2. Staying out of judgment
To avoid judgment is to pretend to avoid loyalty to your own perspective; to attempt to want to be a machine. Andy Warhol said he wanted that, but his art was about the attempt. not the fact.
3. Recognizing emotion in other people and then communicating that
Recognizing emotion is not having it. How do you acknowledge kinship, or equivalence, and otherness? To show respect is also to admit that you do not feel the pain of someone else’s terminal cancer, but that you will bear the responsibility for their care as they suffer.
4. Feeling with people.
The theater of concern is still theater. 
I wrote this 8 years ago, during the last week of my mother’s life.
There’s a difference between caring for someone, in the sense of emotional attachment, and being attentive to them, to their wishes or their pain. Pain itself is lonely and expressions of sympathy are often theater used to hide incomprehension and fear.
I’m watching the old watch their friend die. They have become professionals at this. They are honest actors: the most aware both of the distances between people, and the similarity of their experience.
---

I made it all the way through the animation. The choice she’s describing is between sympathy/empathy and indifference with a few words tacked on.

Professional caregivers are battle-hardened, but the good ones are good at their jobs. Pity is one way to keep a distance.

My mother died at home. The hospice worker who stayed up all night so that we could get some sleep was cool as a cucumber; she had the friendly smile of a hooker. She was gorgeous and she was a pro. Sex and death are intimate experience. She watched people die for a living. She was watchful and aware of our mother’s needs and we were grateful.

I was at a bar and met an ER surgeon. She loved her job. I made my usual comments about nurses and added that surgeons have to acknowledge that they enjoy cutting people open.The high wire act is a rush. “You feel like a god, until you kill your first patient.” Her eyes widened and she looked at me, surprised. “You understand”.

Moral responsibility is hard to describe because it’s hard.
---

Stephen Greeenblatt argued in The Improvisition of Power that our modern sense of empathy comes out of the Renaissance and that it’s tied to the expansion of empire. Iago understands others’ weakness. Manipulators and con-men weren’t a product of the 15th and 16th centuries, but Machiavelli was.

The lack of an understanding of empathy is an aspect of our fixation on predetermined ideas, data points and the logical manipulation of supposedly known quantities.
Mathematics and formal logic are neat. It’s an engineers’ joke that an architect is someone who didn’t know enough math to become an engineer, but their clean fetish means the engineers skew towards the right when in comes to politics. See Gambetta and Hertog on engineers and terrorism.
Platonism in the world is fascism. Democracy and moralism don’t mix.

One the of great tropes and failures of Modernism was the engineered society; the new popular trope is the hot-house anarcho-capitalism of the market: if authoritarian communitarianism failed we now must be self-interested monads. In both, individual human beings are replaced with idealized representations. The only measure is the aggregate. But who’s the measurer, the new master of mediocrity?

It makes life much less painful to see things simply. It would be a simpler world if all the conflicted emotions of Double Indemnity made no sense to the audience in the theater. It would be a simpler world if the surviving victims of a regime dedicated to creating an ethnically pure state did not themselves set out to create an ethnically pure state. It would be a simpler world if groups linked to both groups would not out of loyalty and guilt take the side of that new state, even as it created a sea of refugees who ironically enough, are genetically at least the closest kin to their new conquerers. It would be nice if this behavior, given what we know about humanity, were not entirely predictable,

It would be a simpler world if college professors were always on the forefront of political and moral progress, but they’re not. Mostly they play catch-up. Read Bourdieu on the importance of the leadership of intellectuals. He and those like him remain the arbiters.

Once something becomes articulated as an idea, a named specific thing, the thig itself has been around for a while. Outside of purely technical activities, there are few “discoveries” in intellectual life. Mostly its the articulation of tendencies that already exist. Practice precedes theory; the fact of bureaucracy spawns arguments in its defense.

Pico Ayer has a nice piece in the NYRB Blog.
The beauty of Proust is that he ventures into the farthest reaches of self-investigation and reflection on subjectivity, but brings his understandings back into language and archetypal episodes that anyone can follow. “So long as you distract your mind from its dreams,” the painter Elstir tells the narrator at one point, “it will not know them for what they are; you will always be being taken in by the appearance of things, because you will not have grasped their true nature.”
If you don’t understand your own preferences, your own habits, your own weaknesses, your own innate conservatism, you’ll end up confusing your supposed concern for others with concern for yourself. And those others will notice it.

If Proust was an observer and a connoisseur, he was also a diagnostician. A diagnostician is a connoisseur by definition. Jerome Groopman explains why doctors need to examine patients themselves, not just look at the charts. Measuring as a human being with all the moral weight that applies to that term means measuring in the finest detail you’re capable of, not by a yardstick they gave you in grad school. Life is a continuum; we break it up into categories in order to function. It’s the mistake of Modernism that the biggest generalizations are the most important because they’re the most universal. But being the biggest makes them the most banal. Masters of ideas are masters of bureaucracy. We need a return of connoisseurship because we need to become better diagnosticians of ourselves and others.

Sorry for the second rant. I have a manuscript of Sahlins’ desk, recommended by the editor of U Chicago Press. I’m spending my days pacing. I don’t want to go on Craigslist looking for carpentry jobs any more. I’ve got 20 years to go till I can dig into my parents TIAA-CREF accounts and I have to pay the rent. One little book, a succès de scandale, and I’ll be able to take my show on the road. I’ve been making this argument for 25 years. Maybe. Just maybe, some respect. For once.

And the woman who did the animation should spend more time with Miyazake, whose depictions of empathy are as powerful as they are because even with all the stock effects of studio animation, they’re detailed and specific. The sense of intimacy we feel is the result of great artifice.
Moretti has become Bourdieu as parody: from the sociologist as data scientist of culture, to the librarian as scientist of filing systems. The rise of anti-humanism is the return of the moralizing petit bourgeois, mocking the pretensions of poetry and literature and defending rules as rules, even now the strictures of anarchism. Back again to Aaron Swartz and Kroeber's daughter.

Moretti, Bourdieu and Kraftwerk, who had a sense self-awareness and thus irony.

"I love the melancholy poetry of reactionary homosexual Fordist anti-humanism, even as I understand that it's founded in pain and self-hatred."

Klub Kid Kommandos I'm alone. I'm everyone.

Daniel Davies on Israel. And Cory Robin comments without realizing what he's taking part in.
You're either in favor of equal rights for Palestinians in Israel, or you're not. The reason for the endless arguments is that friends are implicated: Zionism logically -irrefutably- is bigotry, but "my friends cannot be bigots", because "I can't be a bigot", so Zionism cannot be bigotry.

It comes down to self-preservation, the preservation of self-image. To challenge that is to challenge the logic of individualism, the intellectual and moral primacy of the individual consciousness, to accept the primacy of relations: the primacy of culture.

Individualists cannot admit to fundamental error without undermining everything they stand for.

The thread has dissolved into discussion of vanguardism. It would be fun if they'd let me post, but they won't. John Brown was a vanguardist, Martin Luther King was not. The Wisconsin protests were not vanguardist. Many defenders of the Occupy movement use the rhetoric of vanguardism. The Muslim Brotherhood is vanguardist, but the protests before, and again now are a mix. Israel was founded on vanguardism. All very complex, and all very interesting, but mediocrity is mediocrity.
...but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
Bassem Youssef: "I criticized the MB Gov for thirty episodes and they didn't stop me. The current  government stopped me after one."
---

A reminder of the history of discussion of academic freedom at CT.

Farrell
I’ve suggested that academic freedom is a good thing on pragmatic grounds, but also made clear that it fundamentally depends on public willingness to delegate some degree of self-governance to the academy. If the public decides that academic freedom isn’t working out in terms of the goods it provides, then too bad for academic freedom. 
Rauchway
If Kramer’s report is accurate, you can see why the Columbia faculty got frustrated. They wanted Bollinger to offer a traditional defense of academic freedom, which goes something like this: Academic freedom predates free speech…. 
[Perhaps Bollinger] knows the history and sources of academic freedom, but he thinks it uncongenial to assert them in this anti-elitist day and age. ...
Bertram on free speech. (some duplication from the link above). All repeats of repeats.
The right frame, in my view, is to think of the state as “we, the people” and to ask what conditions need to be in place for the people, and for each citizen, to play their role in effective self-government. Once you look at things like that then various speech restrictions naturally suggest themselves.
A confused mess.

Monday, December 23, 2013

so fucking obvious. so fucking bored. see the previous fucking post.
We order the world according to our preferences. The forms that Bourdieu’s impersonal (not intimate) empiricism takes, in language, in graphing, in statistics, constitute themselves as forms of desire. The preference for synchronic analysis of diachronic form itself manifests a set of values. Synchronic form is multiplex and simultaneous. Narrative form is an arc, with a beginning and an end. As value systems they are moral opposites. Synchronic form is timeless, eternal. Narrative assumes instability and death. Objects are inert, our categories give them life, including moral life. The central categories of modernity in the period where Modernism was dominant were synchrony/atemporality, objectivity, the ideal, and truth. The politics, left right and center, were idealist and authoritarian. Bureaucracy, bureaucratism, the empiricism of structures before people, is an authoritarian ideology. For Bourdieu to call out “the imperialism of the universal” is beyond hypocrisy. And for him to call on intellectuals to lead is to undermine all his claims to humility. Bourdieu is a concerned schoolmaster and bureaucrat. Like all Modernists in idealizing himself and his concern, he blinds himself. But in many ways this is the response these days of academics qua academics, to literature. 
and again. file under self-promotion.
A few years ago, at a gallery opening I got into a conversation with an astrophysicist from Caltech; we were mutual friends of the curator. He felt slightly dragged along. He was game but said he didn’t understand art. The conversation drifted, and he mentioned a book he was reading, a biography of Sandy Koufax, the great pitcher for the Dodgers, in Brooklyn and LA. He said what he liked most was the way the author wrote not only as an observer, a professional sportswriter, and fan, but as a woman, an outsider in the world of male athletics, and as a Jew writing about Koufax, another Jew and outsider in the gentile world of professional sports. He said her description of those relations was really interesting. I asked him if he could have described any of it as she had. He said no. I told him he understood art.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

If Ben-Gurion’s remark about “the connection between Nazis and some Arab rulers” was pointless, his failure to mention present-day West Germany in this context was surprising. Of course, it was reassuring to hear that Israel does“not hold Adenauer responsible for Hitler,” and that “for us a decent German, although he belongs to the same nation that twenty years ago helped to murder millions of Jews, is a decent human being.” (There was no mention of decent Arabs.) The German Federal Republic, although it has not yet recognized the State of Israel presumably out of fear that the Arab countries might recognize Ulbricht’s Germany - has paid seven hundred and thirty-seven million dollars in reparation to Israel during the last ten years; these payments will soon come to an end, and Israel is now trying to negotiate a long-term loan from West Germany. Hence, the relationship between the two countries, and particularly the personal relationship between Ben-Gurion and Adenauer, has been quite good, and if, as an aftermath of the trial, some deputies in the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, succeeded in imposing certain restraints on the cultural-exchange program with West Germany, this certainly was neither foreseen nor hoped for by Ben-Gurion. It is more noteworthy that he had not foreseen, or did not care to mention, that Eichmann’s capture would trigger the first serious effort made by Germany to bring to trial at least those who were directly implicated in murder. The Central Agency for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes, belatedly founded by the West German state in 1958 and headed by Prosecutor Erwin Schüle, had run into all kinds of difficulties, caused partly by the unwillingness of German witnesses to cooperate and partly by the unwillingness of the local courts to prosecute on the basis of the material sent them from the Central Agency. Not that the trial in Jerusalem produced any important new evidence of the kind needed for the discovery of Eichmann’s associates; but the news of Eichmann’s sensational capture and of the impending trial had sufficient impact to persuade the local courts to use Mr. Schüle’s findings, and to overcome the native reluctance to do anything about “murderers in our midst” by the time-honored means of posting rewards for the capture of well-known criminals.
The results were amazing. Seven months after Eichmann’s arrival in Jerusalem - and four months before the opening of the trial - Richard Baer, successor to Rudolf Höss as Commandant of Auschwitz, could finally be arrested. In rapid succession, most of the members of the so- called Eichmann Commando - Franz Novak, who lived as a printer in Austria; Dr. Otto Hunsche, who had settled as a lawyer in West Germany; Hermann Krumey, who had become a druggist; Gustav Richter, former “Jewish adviser” in Rumania; and Willi Zöpf, who had filled the same post in Amsterdam - were arrested also; although evidence against them had been published in Germany years before, in books and magazine articles, not one of them had found it necessary to live under an assumed name. For the first time since the close of the war, German newspapers were full of reports on the trials of Nazi criminals, all of them mass murderers (after May, 1960, the month of Eichmann’s capture, only first-degree murder could be prosecuted; all other offenses were wiped out by the statute of limitations, which is twenty years for murder), and the reluctance of the local courts to prosecute these crimes showed itself only in the fantastically lenient sentences meted out to the accused. (Thus, Dr. Otto Bradfisch, of the Einsatzgruppen, the mobile killing units of the S.S. in the East, was sentenced to ten years of hard labor for the killing of fifteen thousand Jews; Dr. Otto Hunsche, Eichmann’s legal expert and personally responsible for a last-minute deportation of some twelve hundred Hungarian Jews, of whom at least six hundred were killed, received a sentence of five years of hard labor; and Joseph Lechthaler, who had “liquidated” the Jewish inhabitants of Slutsk and Smolevichi in Russia, was sentenced to three years and six months.) Among the new arrests were people of great prominence under the Nazis, most of whom had already been denazified by the German courts. One of them was S.S. General Karl Wolff, former chief of Himmler’s personal staff, who, according to a document submitted in 1946 at Nuremberg, had greeted “with particular joy” the news that “for two weeks now a train has been carrying, every day, five thousand members of the Chosen People” from Warsaw to Treblinka, one of the Eastern killing centers. Another was Wilhelm Koppe, who had at first managed the gassing in Chelmno and then become successor to Friedrich-Wilhelm Krüger in Poland. One of the most prominent among the Higher S.S. Leaders whose task it had been to make Poland Judenrein, in postwar Germany Koppe was director of a chocolate factory. Harsh sentences were occasionally meted out, but were even less reassuring when they went to such offenders as Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski, former General of the Higher S.S. and Police Leader Corps. He had been tried in 1961 for his participation in the Rohm rebellion in 1934 and sentenced to three and one half years; he was then indicted again in 1962 for the killing of six German Communists in 1933, tried before a jury in Nuremberg, and sentenced to life. Neither indictment mentioned that Bach-Zelewski had been anti-partisan chief on the Eastern front or that he had participated in the Jewish massacres at Minsk and Mogilev, in White Russia. Should German courts, on the pretext that war crimes are no crimes, make “ethnic distinctions”? Or is it possible that what was an unusually harsh sentence, at least in German postwar courts, was arrived at because Bach-Zelewski was among the very few who actually had suffered a nervous breakdown after the mass killings, had tried to protect Jews from the Einsatzgruppen, and had testified for the prosecution at Nuremberg? He was also the only one in this category who in 1952 had denounced himself publicly for mass murder, but he was never prosecuted for it.
There is little hope that things will change now, even though the Adenauer administration has been forced to weed out of the judiciary more than a hundred and forty judges and prosecutors, along with many police officers with more than ordinarily compromising pasts, and to dismiss Wolfgang Immerwahr Fränkel, the chief prosecutor of the Federal Supreme Court, because, his middle name notwithstanding, he had been less than candid when asked about his Nazi past. It has been estimated that of the eleven thousand five hundred judges in the Bundesrepublik, five thousand were active in the courts under the Hitler regime. In November, 1962, shortly after the purging of the judiciary and six months after Eichmann’s name had disappeared from the news, the long awaited trial of Martin Fellenz took place at Flensburg in an almost empty courtroom. The former Higher S.S. and Police Leader, who had been a prominent member of the Free Democratic Party in Adenauer’s Germany, was arrested in June, 1960, a few weeks after Eichmann’s capture. He was accused of participation in and partial responsibility for the murder of forty thousand Jews in Poland. After more than six weeks of detailed testimony, the prosecutor demanded the maximum penalty - a life sentence of hard labor. And the court sentenced Fellenz to four years, two and a half of which he had already served while waiting in jail to be tried. Be that as it may, there is no doubt that the Eichmann trial had its most far-reaching consequences in Germany. The attitude of the German people toward their own past, which all experts on the German question had puzzled over for fifteen years, could hardly have been more clearly demonstrated: they themselves did not much care one way or the other, and did not particularly mind the presence of murderers at large in the country, since none of them were likely to commit murder of their own free will; however, if world opinion - or rather, what the Germans called das Ausland, collecting all countries outside Germany into a singular noun - became obstinate and demanded that these people be punished, they were perfectly willing to oblige, at least up to a point.
Chancellor Adenauer had foreseen embarrassment and voiced his apprehension that the trial would “stir up again all the horrors” and produce a new wave of anti-German feeling throughout the world, as indeed it did. During the ten months that Israel needed to prepare the trial, Germany was busy bracing herself against its predictable results by showing an unprecedented zeal for searching out and prosecuting Nazi criminals within the country. But at no time did either the German authorities or any significant segment of public opinion demand Eichmann’s extradition, which seemed the obvious move, since every sovereign state is jealous of its right to sit in judgment on its own offenders. (The official position of the Adenauer government that this was not possible because there existed no extradition treaty between Israel and Germany is not valid; that meant only that Israel could not have been forced to extradite. Fritz Bauer, Attorney General of Hessen, saw the point and applied to the federal government in Bonn to start extradition proceedings. But Mr. Bauer’s feelings in this matter were the feelings of a German Jew, and they were not shared by German public opinion; his application was not only refused by Bonn, it was hardly noticed and remained totally unsupported. Another argument against extradition, offered by the observers the West German government sent to Jerusalem, was that Germany had abolished capital punishment and hence was unable to mete out the sentence Eichmann deserved. In view of the leniency shown by German courts to Nazi mass murderers, it is difficult not to suspect bad faith in this objection. Surely, the greatest political hazard of an Eichmann trial in Germany would have been acquittal for lack of mens rea, as J. J. Jansen pointed out in the Rheinischer Merkur [August 11, 1961].)
There is another, more delicate, and politically more relevant, side to this matter. It is one thing to ferret out criminals and murderers from their hiding places, and it is another thing to find them prominent and flourishing in the public realm - to encounter innumerable men in the federal and state administrations and, generally, in public office whose careers had bloomed under the Hitler regime. True, if the Adenauer administration had been too sensitive about employing officials with a compromising Nazi past, there might have been no administration at all. For the truth is, of course, the exact opposite of Dr. Adenauer’s assertion that only “a relatively small percentage” of Germans had been Nazis, and that a “great majority [had been] happy to help their Jewish fellowcitizens when they could.” (At least one German newspaper, the Frankfurter Rundschau, asked itself the obvious question, long overdue - why so many people who must have known, for instance, the record of the chief prosecutor had kept silent - and then came up with the even more obvious answer: “Because they themselves felt incriminated.”) The logic of the Eichmann trial, as Ben-Gurion conceived of it, with its stress on general issues to the detriment of legal niceties, would have demanded exposure of the complicity of all German offices and authorities in the Final Solution - of all civil servants in the state ministries, of the regular armed forces, with their General Staff, of the judiciary, and of the business world. But although the prosecution as conducted by Mr. Hausner went as far afield as to put witness after witness on the stand who testified to things that, while gruesome and true enough, had no or only the slightest connection with the deeds of the accused, it carefully avoided touching upon this highly explosive matter upon the almost ubiquitous complicity, which had stretched far beyond the ranks of Party membership. (There were widespread rumors prior to the trial that Eichmann had named “several hundred prominent personalities of the Federal Republic as his accomplices,” but these rumors were not true. In his opening speech, Mr. Hausner mentioned Eichmann’s “accomplices in the crime who were neither gangsters nor men of the underworld,” and promised that we should “encounter them - doctors and lawyers, scholars, bankers, and economists - in those councils that resolved to exterminate the Jews.” This promise was not kept, nor could it have been kept in the form in which it was made. For there never existed a “council that resolved” anything, and the “robed dignitaries with academic degrees” never decided on the extermination of the Jews, they only came together to plan the necessary steps in carrying out an order given by Hitler.) Still, one such case was brought to the attention of the court, that of Dr. Hans Globke, one of Adenauer’s closest advisers, who, more than twenty-five years ago, was co-author of an infamous commentary on the Nuremberg Laws and, somewhat later, author of the brilliant idea of compelling all German Jews to take “Israel” or “Sarah” as a middle name. But Mr. Globke’s name - and only his name - was inserted into the District Court proceedings by the defense, and probably only in the hope of “persuading” the Adenauer government to start extradition proceedings. At any rate, the former Ministerialrat of the Interior and present Staatssekretär in Adenauer’s Chancellery doubtless had more right than the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem to figure in the history of what the Jews had actually suffered from the Nazis.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Leiter "Another academic freedom catastrophe at the University of Colorado, Boulder"
If this description is accurate, then Dean Leigh, who is a biological anthropologist by academic training, is the one who should be summarily fired from his post as Dean. 
It is perhaps worth noting that Colorado is a state where Republican politicans have repeatedly pressured the University on a variety of issues; the consequences are now clear: administrators are doing the "dirty work" before it rises to the level of political controversy. What a disgrace.
Everyone involved is a disgrace.
Patricia Adler stunned her students in a popular course on deviance Thursday by announcing that she would be leaving her tenured position teaching sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

...Adler said that the lecture in question has been part of her course for years, without incident. "It's the highlight of the semester in my signature course," she said.

She uses prostitution, she said, to illustrate that status stratification occurs in various groups considered deviant by society. She seeks volunteers from among assistant teaching assistants (who are undergraduates) to dress up as various kinds of prostitutes -- she named as categories "slave whores, crack whores, bar whores, streetwalkers, brothel workers and escort services." They work with Adler on scripts in which they describe their lives as these types of prostitutes.

...She said that Leigh told her that there was "too much risk" in having such a lecture in the "post-Penn State environment," alluding to the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Adler said that she was given the choice of accepting a buyout now, or staying but not teaching the course, and not giving the prostitution lecture, and to be aware that she could be fired and lose her retirement benefits if anyone complained about her teaching in the future.

The ultimatum stunned her, Adler said. She said it was a violation of her academic freedom to be told that she couldn't teach the lecture or the course. But she said she feared the impact of losing her retirement benefits if she stayed and got fired later. "This is health insurance my family depends on," she said.
Adler said that the incident showed that if a lecture makes anyone uncomfortable, the university will ignore common sense and worry more about "the risk" someone might be offended than whether this is information professors have a right to teach, and students have a right to learn.

"It's a culture of fear. It's the bureaucratization of the university," she said.
My one comment
Acting class as sociology and sociology as acting class; the students are the subjects of their own experiments. Does Boulder have a theater department?  Did the professor send any of her students out to talk to prostitutes? I hope at least they read transcripts of interviews. Acting students would do both. I knew a few who'd turn tricks as part of their research for a role. 
Academic "freedom" is a misnomer. It's not freedom if you wouldn't get the job. There were no academic classes in deviance in 1923.  
Academic independence means that once you're in, it's very hard to get rid of you just for being stupid. It's an important part of the academy, and necessary for any democracy.  But reading posts like this what I sense more than anything is the anger of an elite whose titles allow them permission to indulge in silliness. The academy is a bourgeoise institution. "Deviant studies" seems to imply I can't be a member in good standing of the demimonde without a graduate degree in decadence. I can't be a leftist without a Ph.D.  Adler may want to condemn "the bureaucratization of the university" but her career documents the academic bureaucratization of life.
This is just hilarious.
Peter Ludlow: Well, I think that ‘philosopher’ is an honorific term that we hand out to people whose thinking about foundational issues we admire and approve of. It’s like putting a gold star next to someone’s name. I guess your question then is this: When did I decide to try and get the gold star? I started college as a business major, but existential trauma propelled me into courses on Kierkegaard and so forth. Those courses didn’t help with the existential trauma but they did help my GPA. After my junior year I took a summer school graduate course at the University of Minnesota. It was taught by Herbert Hochberg and it was all about Quine and then Kripke. That’s when the existential trauma lifted. That’s also when I gave myself the gold star.
"‘philosopher’ is an honorific term that we hand out to people whose thinking about foundational issues we admire and approve of. It’s like putting a gold star next to someone’s name. ...I gave myself the gold star."

And he's given himself and the rest of us permission to read fiction. It's more than the reinvention of the wheel, or the "the discovery of Sweden." Amazing.

Leiter again
$2.2 Million for project on "Nature and Value of Faith"...
… with philosopher Jonathan Kvanvig (Baylor) as the Principal Investigator.  There is more information about the award and the project here and here.
A philosophical essay can be called an investigation, but so can a poem; poets and novelists are not called investigators. The return of metaphysics has given new life to pseudoscience. How many angles can dance in the mind of a pinhead?

I must have been aware that the National Science Foundation funded political science.

If we've given up on the fantasy of a science of history, how can there be a science of politics?  If there's no science of the past, how is there a science of the present?

Historians use statistical and chemical analysis; they work with scientists and technicians, but history is not a science.

The fourth time I've reposted this exchange. It will never get old until it's answered.
QS 06.03.12 at 9:58 am
You’ve turned sexual harassment into an intellectual game, that is where the “creepiness” originates. How do you moderate that? You don’t. You realize that your ability to treat the issue so dispassionately, playing the game of Find the Universal, probably has something to do with your maleness and position outside this particular terrain.
Sexual harassment was banned not because we found the Universal Principle Against Harassment but because women and men who believed it to be wrong fought successfully for prohibition. These people were likely motivated by a variety of ideas and experiences. The way we keep the libertarians marginalized is not by abstract philosophical games but by appealing to this concrete history. 
Chris Bertram 06.03.12 at 10:06 am
QS: your latest tells me that you see political philosophy as it is usually practised as involving a profound mistake. You are entitled to that opinion. It is not one that I share.
Liberal Zionism is the climate denialism of American liberalism. American academics have not led the way. As always they've followed, some slightly ahead of the pack, most well behind it.
---

And again from another post at Leiter's, asking for recommendations for the best writing of the year.
commenter Joe Hatfield [here's a  good guess]
More Than Just War: Narratives of the Just War and Military Life, by Charles Jones (Routledge). 
In short: this highly original book does to the "Just War" tradition what Nietzsche's "On The Genealogy of Morals" did to moral theory. Jones calls into question the dominant "Just War" tradition in the ethics of war, such as the approach put forward by Michael Walzer in his classic "Just and Unjust Wars." 
Jones exposes this approach as: assuming the vantage point of the state over the individual, assuming a stereotypical definition of war, as rule-oriented (ignoring character), depending more upon revival than cumulative coherence for its claims to being a "tradition," and as more wed to its historically religious contexts than secular authors today admit. 
An alternative tradition of military ethics, whose truths about actual military experience have been expressed most frequently in film and literature, emerges from Jones' analysis.
Permission to read fiction, permission granted in the passive voice; predictable, predicted; reinventing the wheel; discovering the obvious. After Plato, Aristotle. I'm so fucking bored.
---

2/11/14
According to the suit, filed Monday, Ludlow bought the student alcohol and ignored her repeated requests to return to Evanston, taking her to his apartment where she lost consciousness. The student said she regained consciousness early the next morning in Ludlow’s bed.
Rationalists rationalize; power corrupts. It's impossible to institutionalize humility but it's very easy to institutionalize arrogance.
note taking. two recent comments (mine) @ the NYRB.
The links added here

Andrew Butterfield Trapped in Vienna
"The place was a cockpit of magnificent art and appalling kitsch, glutted with waltzes, whipped cream, chocolate cake and high culture. The grimmer the political climate grew, the more relentlessly frivolous the city became. “In Berlin”, remarked the Austrian satirist Karl Kraus, “things are serious but not hopeless. In Vienna they are hopeless but not serious.” Terry Eagleton 
But there was no magnificent art; all of it was over-designed or aggressively -desperately- the opposite. The whole culture was marked by a manic passivity, the most extreme example of a Mannerist culture imaginable. The author describes the show as focusing the lesser figures of the scene but here are no major artists from fin de siècle Vienna. The relevant theme is less the emptiness of art than its inadequacy: the inadequacy of the merely beautiful in the face of the intelligent, and the result is like makeup on a corpse. 
It's high time we come to terms with the decadence at the heart of a lot of Modernism, Schoenberg and Adorno included. 
Reading Fintan O'Toole on Pinter I thought of Brecht, and then was almost ashamed I hadn't seen the obvious. We still have a lot to learn about the recent past.
Tim Parks on the academy, Literature and Bureaucracy
The humanities, or humanist culture, as practiced by people who write and read books, essays, articles, stories, fiction and non-fiction, who make movies, have an ambiguous relation to bureaucracy; academies are bureaucratic by definition. Librarians aren't necessarily humanists, and librarians have become the model, from Borges to Franco Moretti. 
The academy has devolved into a self-contained, self-supporting ghetto, promoting pseudoscience in imitation of the real thing. Bureaucracy has become its ethos, formal integrity as parody. I'm still trying to figure why decades after the collapse of the dreams of a science of history we still give degrees in the science of politics. But history, economics, and politics are not science, and WVO Quine is to philosophy what Milton Babbitt is to music. The end of Modernism is the waning of the Middle Ages as farce. 
Faith in the primacy of theory requires the illusion of control. But what historian, novelist or playwright writes from the primacy of theory? What artist we still look at began with anything other than the primacy of observation and then practice? The contemporary academy follows the assumption that Sophocles read Aristotle. 
Art begins with observation, but the term now is "creative". The academy treats most of humanity as simple objects of study, things to be graphed, while fostering a culture for its own predicted on their own freedom. That's the worst of it. 
Tim Parks is a translator, in practice a transliterator. There's a respected argument in contemporary philosophy that claims that if you can't translate something from one language to another then there's nothing to translate. Words are treated like numbers in an equation. It's an example of following the requirements of formal rigor to the point of it being intellectually useless.
It's scholastic anti-intellecualism. And that's where where the academy is at.
Butterfield's an old-school scholar-dealer  He was the player behind the sale the the Bernini Modello. He was also involved in bringing Verrocchio's  Christ and St. Thomas to the Met, or at least he wrote the catalogue.  I talked to him at Salander and had a bit of fun complaining that the curators had placed the sculpture on a low platform so that I had to get on my knees to see it as it was designed. At it's proper height, moving to the left side of the pair, your eye-line follows Thomas' right forearm like the view behind an arrow of its target. And the image that results is openly sexual. At the Met you were able to see more of the piece but made it harder to read, so I ended up crawling around the statue on my knees, looking up.  I asked him why they'd done it. "Democracy?" His eyes widened. "Oh… no!" His secretary laughed.

Stand a little more to the left of where the first photograph was taken and the folds in the fabric on Thomas' forearm seem to spiral inwards. You can see the foreshortening, but from the right angle the tapering effect becomes dynamic; all of the forms swirl around the central image of the wound. The second photograph shows more the intimacy of the relations of the two figures, something that might be harder to see from far away.


This post, and I coin a phrase, "Premature Anti-Zionist"

Another discussion of painfully earnest judges arguing with angry prosecutors, without an advocate for the Palestinians. endless repeats.

Bernard Knox also helped Izzy Stone with his Greek, and wrote a nice blurb for The Trial of Socrates. It dovetails nicely; classicists read ancient philosophers in the original, and they also read the playwrights and poets.  Most philosophy professors read the philosophers in translation and nothing else.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


"Yes but the point is, surely… This is the point of blank verse, "The lady shall speak her mind freely, or the blank verse will halt for it."  Hamlet says this. You don't have to think; you think after the line, not before it, or not during. The line is the thought. This is the point of iambic pentameter."

Friday, December 13, 2013

Amsterdam or thereabouts, are you a person or a bot?
Just curious.
dg
repeat
Corey Robin writes again about "disruption" and the moral, philosophical, and esthetic culture of capitalism. I tried somewhere to remind him, without disagreeing, that disruption is a central tenet of modernism.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

updated at bit.

I guess I could call this low-hanging fruit, but there's something so pathetic about it and yet par for the course. The kicker is the MFA.
My research and publication has primarily focused on one of the most culturally important and globally influential genres of the postwar United States: science fiction. In my work I seek to establish science fiction as a cornerstone for literary study and critical theory, as well as speak to larger questions about the role of the imagination in political and cultural life. My study of science fiction reveals a paradigm that fundamentally structures the way we think about the world; where once the hegemonic language of the future was religious eschatology, I believe it is now predominantly the speculations of science fiction that frame our collective imagination of our possible futures. In our moment, it is science fiction that attempts to articulate the sorts of massive social changes that are imminent, or already happening, and begins to imagine what life on a transformed globe might be like for those who will come to live on it.

Duke University, Durham, NC
Ph.D. in Literature (2012)
Dissertation: Theories of Everything: Science Fiction, Totality, and Empire in the
Twentieth Century
Dissertation Directors: Fredric Jameson and Priscilla Wald
University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC
M.F.A. in Creative Writing (2004)
Thesis: Happy Few: Short Stories
Thesis Directors: Lee Zacharias, Michael Parker, and Fred Chappell
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH
B.A. summa cum laude in English (with departmental honors) and Philosophy (2002)
repeats and repeats
This volume will convince readers that the swift ascent of the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons to worldwide popularity in the 1970s and 1980s is “the most exciting event in popular culture since the invention of the motion picture.
The academic study of the present fantasizes an authority over our lives that experience and history demonstrate we've never had, and from that fantasy, by implication, fantasizes also an authority of the elect over the lives of others. Technocracy, the focus on invention, "creation" as opposed to observation, "communities of choice", ignoring the only community that really matters: the one we're stuck with. The banality of earnest liberalism.  And then the academy institutionalizes art training for the same reason. One more for the shitpile.

Art is observation, not design. If it deals with the past or future, it describes our relation to them, thus describing the present. The hip philosophers who now defend the arts defend them as forms of innovation and discovery. They see artists as they want to see themselves. But Diderot had Greuze; Deleuze had the Beats; Americans have Asimov, Tolkien, and Lovecraft, and Zizek has Udi Aloni.
All evidence enough they miss the point.

Also something on Ranciere I'd forgotten to post.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

After Hersh's piece the next thing to read is by Patrick Cockburn in the Independent, on the Saudis.

Elliot Higgins "Brown Moses" in FP  focuses on side issues as if they were central. Same for Dan Kazeta. And both are sloppy with their handling of what Hersh actually wrote.

Higgens on Twitter: "I can't really comment on one side of what he wrote…", the most important side: the WH manipulation of the data available at the time.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

The Golden Age Of Television
Obviously most TV sucks, as do most movies, but for whatever reason movies have long been respected as art while TV has long been rejected a lesser medium.

I like TV more than movies, especially now that we have nice HD wide screen teevees, because I'm not a big fan of short stories. Movies are basically short stories. (Any novel has to be cut to shreds to be turned into a film). They have a beginning, a middle, and end, and it all has to play out over about 2 hoursish. TV has the capability of showing longer stories, of genuinely being long form literature. Not that it is usually great art, of course, but it actually has the greater promise of being so.
Atrios is right about the rise of television as a long form medium, but as usual, and regardless of subject, he generalizes from his own experience both about the present and the past. Film is a specifically visual medium.
For me, there is nothing that anyone has written on cinema that is more moving than Kracauer’s recollection of the first motion picture he saw, as a young boy in the early twentieth century: “What thrilled me so deeply was an ordinary suburban street, filled with lights and shadows which transfigured it.”
Several trees stood about, and there was in the foreground a puddle reflecting invisible house façades and a piece of the sky. Then a breeze moved the shadows, and the façades with the sky below began to waver. The trembling upper world in the dirty puddle—this image has never left me.
The change of medium and scale, from projection to glowing box, changes the focus from picture to story. The French New Wave, as literary filmmakers, were also filmmakers for the age of television. Interesting to watch Altman, who started in television, arguing in the early 70s that film has not come of age is an independent form. Flaubert as Angelino. Interesting that he's full of shit, for the same reasons.
Pilger
I had asked him why the pledges he and the ANC had given on his release from prison in 1990 had not been kept. The liberation government, Mandela had promised, would take over the apartheid economy, including the banks - and "a change or modification of our views in this regard is inconceivable". Once in power, the party's official policy to end the impoverishment of most South Africans, the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), was abandoned, with one of his ministers boasting that the ANC's politics were Thatcherite.

"You can put any label on it if you like," he replied. "...but, for this country, privatisation is the fundamental policy."

"That's the opposite of what you said in 1994."

"You have to appreciate that every process incorporates a change."

Few ordinary South Africans were aware that this "process" had begun in high secrecy more than two years before Mandela's release when the ANC in exile had, in effect, done a deal with prominent members of the Afrikaaner elite at meetings in a stately home, Mells Park House, near Bath. The prime movers were the corporations that had underpinned apartheid.

Around the same time, Mandela was conducting his own secret negotiations. In 1982, he had been moved from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison, where he could receive and entertain people. The apartheid regime's aim was to split the ANC between the "moderates" they could "do business with" (Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Oliver Tambo) and those in the frontline townships who led the United Democratic Front (UDF). On 5 July, 1989, Mandela was spirited out of prison to meet P.W. Botha, the white minority president known as the 'Groot Krokodil' ('Big Crocodile'). Mandela was delighted that Botha poured the tea.
People worship heroes to celebrate their own failures.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

I supported NATO intervention in Libya because I supported the right of Libyans to free themselves from dictatorial rule. I made no predictions about what would follow. 
...I don’t presume to suggest what anyone should want and if a population has acquiesced to dictatorial rule, that’s their choice."
Just depressing

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Just when Jacobin does something right, republishing Asa Winstanley's piece on Syria,
they follow it with a snobbish attack on vulgarity, ("two aspects of the same thing" Panofsky)
On the one hand, government lavishes unprecedented economic and social privileges on its elites, taking an axe to programs benefitting those who fall behind. At the same time, the distinction between high and low artistic culture having been erased, the result has been a single standard for qualitative judgments derived from the commercial marketplace.
One reference to Jazz, in discussion of Adorno.
It's not even worth taking both arguments apart. The debate itself is dumbed down.
The Jacobin link is from Leiter.  Again: the original name of Milton Babbitt's essay "Who Cares if you Listen" was "The Composer as Specialist".

Panofsky etc
While it is true that commercial art is always in danger of ending up as a prostitute, it is equally true that noncommercial art is always in danger of ending up as an old maid. Non commercial art has given us Seurat's "Grande Jatte" and Shakespeare's sonnets, but also much that is esoteric to the point of incommunicability. Conversely, commercial art has given us much that is vulgar or snobbish (two aspects of the same thing) to the point of loathsomeness, but also Durer's prints and Shakespeare's plays. For, we must not forget that Durer's prints were partly made on commission and partly intended to be sold in the open market; and that Shakespeare's plays -in contrast to the earlier masques and intermezzi which were produced at court by aristocratic amateurs and could afford to be so incomprehensible that even those who described them in printed monographs occasionally failed to grasp their intended significance- were meant to appeal, and did appeal, not only to the select few but also to everyone who was prepared to pay a shilling for admission.

It is this requirement of communicability that makes commercial art more vital than noncommercial, and therefore potentially much more effective for better or for worse.
His description of masques and intermezzi fits well what what became "performance art", which developed as a form of formalized theatricality in the context of high art: anti-narrative as a rear-guard defensive maneuver. Same with Babbitt, to music what Quine is to philosophy: a promoter of decadent scholasticism.  I said it before, Schoenberg was terrified of turning into Korngold. So the author of the piece at Jacobin represents the opposite end of the same decadence seen in the piece he's attacking.

The Jacobin piece also links to Doug Henwood, as a cultural critic. again: "There's a Marc Jacobs boutique in Ho Chi Minh City??". Still a recent quote from Henwood and still shocking.
---

Changing the subject.

"I supported NATO intervention in Libya because I supported the right of Libyans to free themselves from dictatorial rule. I made no predictions about what would follow."

That was offered up by someone as a defense, not an apology. Narcissism.

Sunday, December 01, 2013


"Heydrich's facial expression as he died betrayed an 'uncanny spirituality and entirely perverted beauty, like a renaissance Cardinal,' according to Bernhard Wehner, a Kripo police official who investigated the assassination."

He's off by a few years, in both directions. But again, there's a difference between a mannered pose or work of art and a mannered life.  Repeats: A standard definition of kitsch is to be "more Catholic than the Pope." So I guess this makes it explicit that I'm continuing from the previous post.


Jean Fouquet, Etienne Chevalier with St. Stephen, left half of the Melun Diptych c.1454
According to his Wikipedia pages Wehner had a rich career after the war, and was chief of criminal investigations for the Dusseldorf police dept. from 1954-70. It's unsourced in the english, but sourced in German.

Later discussion of Paul Feyerabend

Friday, November 29, 2013

Two photographs from the Auschwitz Album, images of people on the way to their death. I'm going to use them to discuss art.


I'm tired of people defending art because of something they want it to be. I'm tired of defenses of art as a means of "truth", and the use of that term without irony. The image on the left is made of pixels, as the original is silver halide on paper. And the child depicted was no more or less deserving of concern than the other figures in these photographs. If it's the most affecting image, the most painful to look at, if the child draws our sympathy more than the others, it's because of the presentation: the isolated figure, lagging behind, the slightly oversized head turned away,  the turn making us need to imagine a face, hands in pockets and small legs, an image of adulthood in childhood. If this is the figure we're drawn to, if this is the child we most want to help, whose loneliness in her fate fills us with rage, it's got everything to do with art and nothing to do with justice, or justice as fairness, but the reflex and the anger are part of being animal, and human. We've chosen her as we would choose our own child, because art has given us the illusion that she's close. And the others may mean less to us, or more than they would without her reflected light. Either way, there's no justice. Justice is impersonal; it's blind.

Humanity is in particularity and partiality; the universal is literally inhuman, and there's no way to resolve the contradiction without sacrificing one or the other. The unreflective unity of the particular and universal in the name of religion, the unity of art and science, is barbarism. The contemporary intellectualized and fantasized unity of art and life is fascism. Nietzsche knew the difference, though he didn't always face it, and when he did it was only with words. But unlike Borges who didn't knew the difference, or learned it very late, he left the library at least often enough to die of syphilis. People now confuse barbarism and fascism as they confuse humanism, which allows for contradictions, with anti-humanism, which doesn't. The Enlightenment as it's come down to us is more associated with the latter than the former.

It's inhuman to deny intimacy, even the illusory intimacy of art.  Yet if we communicate only through forms and gestures, the difference between communication of the dead and living and of the living amongst themselves is a difference only of degree.  Good artists know that art's defined by irony because they know that communication itself is defined by it, and it's hard to con a con. And art may be a lie, but it's less of one than claims of artlessness. Art is commitment limned by irony; camp is irony as art; kitsch is camp without irony.

Another example of art, another image that claims our sympathy, of a child with the burdens of adulthood. And the odds are very strong, though still not strong enough, that this girl is still alive.


Only a tiny minority of Israeli Jews fit the description of Nazis, and the state though founded on the ideology of blut und boden, blood and soil, does not fit the description of a Nazi state. But Israel is founded on the ashes and the memories of the survivors of Auschwitz. The victims of extremist particularity, without irony, have themselves become ideological particularists, arguing that irony regarding their own lives is an insult to their memories and to their dead. Israel is founded on particularity as justice, denying the contradiction between particularity, partiality, and universalism. In the minds of most Israelis Israel is just by definition.

Barbarism needs no defense, it simply is; it's dynamic because it's honest, violent because it can be, not because it needs to be. Israel is founded not only on conquest but on the erasure of that conquest, even in the memories of those who committed it. If they could have shrugged it off the state and the society would be stronger than it is, but it was too late: a colonial enterprise in the era of decolonialization was bound to fail.  Fascism was a pedant's parody of monarchy, after the age of monarchy was over. Culture without the possibility of irony is kitsch. The lie of "liberal" Zionism has done more damage to Israel and Zionism than all the attacks and protests of the Palestinians combined.

art and Reinhard Heydrich

2015,  Alan Kurdi

Thursday, November 28, 2013

When it rains it pours.
JPost, yesterday
Report: London is mediating indirect secret talks between US and Hezbollah 
The US and Hezbollah are in secret indirect talks managed by London dealing with the fight against Al-Qaida, regional stability and other Lebanese political issues.
Tagged, "determinism", because it was predictable, assuming that the US leadership would sooner or later choose rational action (and that Israel and Saudi Arabia would not).

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

https://twitter.com/PatrickKingsley/status/405736305641795584

For holding balloons

At Sotheby's a few weeks ago I saw paintings by Norman Rockwell, in the flesh, maybe for the first time, tucked in a corner a few yards away from a much larger, and very large, Warhol.  Silver Car Crash [Double Disaster], from 1963, had a room to itself.  Even estimated as among the more valuable things on offer the Rockwells were treated with a touch of embarrassment, but along with the Warhol they've stuck in my head more than anything else there. The Warhol went for $105M at the Evening Contemporary auction on Nov 12th,  and the Rockwell is estimated at $20M, going under the hammer on Dec 4th, as American Art. [It sold for $46M]

Since I'd never stood in front of a Rockwell before I had no idea how they were made; I'd seen them only as images, in reproduction. And that's why they're famous. But their power is in the handling of material. I was surprised and embarrassed that I hadn't wanted to look before. I wasn't prepared for their physicality because I'd never thought of them as paintings.

Dumbo and Fantasia are major artworks of the 20th century, and Capra and Spielberg are given at least grudging respect, why wouldn't Saying Grace deserve a look?  Films are moving images, ephemeral, and the ephemeral nature of film helps to explain why literary critics in the age of film have made good film critics, but not good art critics. A painting in reproduction is like a novel in translation, and then only for events and plot, without even the approximation of the descriptive language. And Rockwells as images never interested me. And they still don't. But he was a compelling craftsman, and the craft gives the works' sense of empathy a depth and irony a bite that reproduction flattens out. Warhols work both as objects and reproductions, but Rockwell is the opposite of Fantin-Latour, whose works are physically mundane but gain a depth and darkness, a Seurat-like mechanical melancholy, when photographed and printed on glossy paper.  Fantin-Latour is (almost) better as an imaginary late 19th century Parisian painter than as a real one. And Rockwell was a very good painter, maybe even a brilliant one, hiding in plain sight behind the job of magazine illustrator.


I stopped reading Dave Hickey before he started defending Rockwell. I linked it to his fanboy praise of Ed Ruscha. And he's a music and literary critic who writes about art, so my comments above apply. But he's smart.

I remember reading Alexander Cockburn's review of Robert Hughes' American Visions. I've always wanted to call it, telegraph it, the best piece I ever read on art in The Nation, but it may not have been there.  Cockburn describes Hughes as struggling to extol the greatness of American art but that clearly his heart isn't in it. The greatness of Anglophone and thus American culture is narrative and linguistic not physical. Cockburn chides Hughes by describing the Mississippi panorama of John Banvard, saying Hughes had missed the chance to write a richer book, among other things on the origins of Hollywood. I'd never heard of Banvard, and I'd since forgotten his name, but I never forgot the story.

Christgau on Hickey.
And as a Perry Mason fan who boasts in this very essay that he helped convince Warner Bros. to sign Funkadelic, he must understand that strange and wondrous things sometimes happen to the hugely successful. Designed for mass consumption, Roots and Roseanne, E.T. and Superman III would feel altogether more commonplace if they weren't. Megasales didn't normalize Prince, whom he seems to like, and never playing to fewer than 3000 spectators defined Led Zeppelin's music, which he probably considers inferior to Aerosmith's. Well, too bad for him. 
But all this is simply to afford myself the opportunity of arguing with a rather large kindred spirit, which Hickey rightly identifies as one of the signal pleasures of democracy. His book survives this divagation, and indeed takes up a variant on the looky-loo argument in a more convincing finale called "Frivolity and Unction" before embarking upon an obscure envoi about a fictional Spaniard with whom Hickey discusses bean counting while attempting to collect a gambling debt. I wish I believed the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is quaking in its boots--it ought to be. Given how he feels about therapeutic institutions, do you think Hickey would turn down a National Book Award? My guess is that this old freelancer would cash the check. Here's hoping we get the chance to find out.
Robert Boynton in the New Yorker on Hughes, and Cockburn
When he wasn’t in the kitchen, Hughes was often riding his Honda CB-750, showing up at openings out-fitted in leather. At other times, he would have a macaw perched on his shoulder-“my Long John Silver period”-or display outrageous plumage of his own. The writer Alexander Cockburn recalls the time when he and Hughes pledged to finally pay their taxes. “Jason Epstein told us to see The New York Review of Books’ accountant,” Cockburn says. “When I met Bob with my shopping bags full of crumpled receipts, he was dressed in this incredibly dashing velvet suit.” As the pair approached the accountant’s desk, he eyed them warily and asked, “Will you be filing separately or jointly?”
The post below is wrong. I didn't read more than a few sentences of Lance's post; I judged it mostly from its title, which is a misnomer. His argument isn't against the fetishizing of procedures but the fetishizing of design. cf. the absurdity of Rawsliana, and Sandy Levinson's obsessions (and here).

Lance
There is, of course, an enormous literature - in philosophy, economics, political science, decision theory, etc. - on the rationality of voting procedures. And while focus on procedural matters is not universal in any of these disciplines, it is surely fair to say that such considerations dominate the intellectual discourse. But such a focus requires ignoring one very simple, uncontroversial, and devastating fact: No voting procedure, nor any other definable procedure for arriving at a group decision is guaranteed to be rational.
No shit.
The fundamental point here is that these things are not to be fixed by obsessing on procedures. Procedures are merely tools, and in the hands of vicious craftsmen - to steal a phrase from Ani Difranco - every tool is a weapon if you hold it right. If philosophers and others want to contribute to more rational deliberative bodies, they need to stop obsessing with problems that can be formalized, and turn to messier issues of moral education, the socialization of habits of rationality, even, dare I say it, the cultivation of care and perhaps a beloved community (to steal from another social visionary.) Again, I am aware that there is literature in this area, but I don't think anyone will claim that the cultivation of Aristotelian civic virtue is a dominant thread in the academic discussion of collective rationality.
Rather than spending our time designing 9 string guitars and new varieties of sousaphone, we should learn to play the instruments we have. If all the world's a stage, maybe we should become better, more aware, more intelligent actors. But the focus on rationality is still there, and that undermines his argument. We need structures to manage irrationality, which is in itself inevitable. But Lance is too in love with himself to imagine his own irrationality as something that would ever need management.

Virtue ethics means the end to "technical" philosophy, a move away from the "creation of concepts", and outgrowing dungeons and dragons.  Better craftsmen and better critics, better citizens thus better politicians, better lawyers, fewer philosophers and fewer "visionaries".

The original post:

Leiter and Mark Lance: Against Democracy.

There's no other way to describe it. Justice in a democracy is procedural: if the cops bust down your door on a whim and find evidence of a crime, the evidence is inadmissible in court. It doesn't matter if the evidence is a dime bag or a dead body. That's procedure. "Truth", as it pertains to any single case, is irrelevant.
The "nuclear option" is a term of art referring to a tradition; no more, no less. And the change in rules also followed rules of procedure.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

general notes, to refer to. partial repeat
11
MPAVictoria 07.09.13 at 5:58 pm
...Your impressions about how aristocratic they can be differ from mine. I have sat in on dinner parties where every single person there (besides me) arrived in an expensive German vehicle and listened to them complain about the gall of cashiers asking for 12 dollars an hour. So naturally your impressions made me curious.

12
Rakesh Bhandari 07.09.13 at 6:06 pm
Well that complaining does not seem very aristocratic to me, more petit-bourgeois.

13
Henry 07.09.13 at 6:09 pm
Rakesh – look up the etymology of the word aristocrat (‘aristoi’+'kratein’= …)
'Aristoi' - The best, the most noble.  Aristotle, Politics,  Book 4
The distribution of offices according to merit is a special characteristic of aristocracy, for the principle of an aristocracy is virtue, as wealth is of an oligarchy, and freedom of a democracy. In all of them there of course exists the right of the majority, and whatever seems good to the majority of those who share in the government has authority. Now in most states the form called polity exists, for the fusion goes no further than the attempt to unite the freedom of the poor and the wealth of the rich, who commonly take the place of the noble. But as there are three grounds on which men claim an equal share in the government, freedom, wealth, and virtue (for the fourth or good birth is the result of the two last, being only ancient wealth and virtue), it is clear that the admixture of the two elements, that is to say, of the rich and poor, is to be called a polity or constitutional government; and the union of the three is to be called aristocracy or the government of the best, and more than any other form of government, except the true and ideal, has a right to this name.
Programmatic liberalism, even that calling itself leftism, focuses on technical means of regulating behavior. Laws are seen as replacing the need for noble behavior as such. [See G.A. Cohen, Brighouse et al.]
Aristocratic "nobility" in modern practice: the military; education (teachers as opposed to researchers); medicine (practitioners, again as opposed to researchers); an ethic not of freedom but service to others.  Beyond that, the ethic of committed craftspeople who serve their craft.  Artists in this sense are not "free"; they study a tradition (whichever one) of which they hope to play a part.  Fiddle players serve their instrument, not the other way around. Ask one.

Broch, beauty etc.
---

jumping forward: Montesquieu,"the republican state, which has virtue for its principle", and Lefebvre.
How many of the Jews were denounced to the police?” I asked.

“None,” he said.

“So did everyone in Malzieu want the Jews to be there?”

“Not at all,” he said. “Some were anti-Jewish.”

“Why didn’t they denounce the Jews, then?” I asked.

“They may have had resentful thoughts, but they didn’t act on them. They would not act against the feelings of their community.”

So even the anti-Semites, through their silence, aided the resistance.

Recently, the Israeli government offered Robert the medal of the “righteous,” honoring Christians and others who saved many Jewish people. But Robert refused it. “I did nothing special,” he said, “Just the minimum that was my duty. And what we achieved, we did together, as a community.”
The first comment  by repeat commenter "js" on the most recent post by Corey Robin
(Around the time that I started commenting here, ~4-ish years ago, I remember being told that there was an informal avoidance of Israel/Palestine issues around here. I can imagine 15 very good reasons for such a policy, but I’m also glad you’re helping kick it right out the window, so to speak.)
Of course no one around is able -willing- to model the various changes in the Anglosphere that made this possible. People have been given permission to say things they would not have said in the past. A paradigm in the US has shifted; the situation of the Palestinians has not, etc.  "Value free science", "The disenchantment of the world", "Agnotology", The irrationalism of others,  ad infinitum

Robin gets into an argument (compressed here)
R--As someone who identifies as Jewish—who periodically goes to shul, celebrates some if not all of the holidays, and tries at least some (ahem) of the time to get off the internets for shabbos— 
MCJ--Since you mentioned it, may I ask, respectfully: ...are you a believer? 
R--The fact that you’ve since gone on to say that I am a believer — without me ever having said a damn thing about what I do or don’t believe of the Jewish faith — only confirms my initial impression of you (not just on this issue but several others): you assume you know more than you do.
Why not just read Philip Roth and Marx? "...get off the internets for shabbos."
What do you say to someone so confused about himself, and his motives for anything?

more comments, in order but unrelated except in their stupidity.
Roy Belmont- The point was that Polish anti-Semitism might have some real-world causes – not justifications, causes.

Robin- As for whether observant equals believer: the reason I don’t want to get into that is that in my experience many people come to that discussion with a lot of baggage about the relationship between ritual and belief, baggage that I think has its roots in Christianity.
Robin- To this Jew, when I hear that kind of talk — you’re a race, you’re a gene, you’re a this, you’re a that — I feel a bit like what I imagine some women feel like when men start talking at them about things they (men) know nothing about or at least know far less about than the women they’re talking to at the moment. Not a perfect analogy, but I hope you get the point.
Mattski- My perspective is shaped by being raised by parents, one from a Jewish lineage and the other Catholic, both of whom soundly rejected their religious traditions. But I have a lot of Jewish relatives and friends. So, how to understand? It is more of a community, or a tribe, and less a question of what you believe. Indeed, the whole belief fetish seems to me mostly a Christian thing.
MatF- Zionism… it’s pretty much a paradigm case of 19th century nationalism– particularly with inventing a new language…
Christianity was not the first religion to spread beyond its culture of origin, and Modern Hebrew is not Esperanto, but Jews don't proselytize. That's one of the reasons Judaism maintains not only a cultural but genetic continuity.  My father was bothered by the fact that the state would not allow him the option of claiming Jewish or Semitic as ethnicity. As it is he had to describe himself as white. Arabs now make the same complaint, except for those who can call themselves African American.

Robin's focus on religion is the result of his appearance; the remnants of faith are his only relation. In my own experience I've never met a non-religious Jew who worried about following specifically religious tradition. And Robin renders Judaism as Sheilaism, with added defensiveness and pedantry. Watching him I'm realizing he knows white people don't understand the Jewish experience, as they don't understand the black experience.  Whatever he'd said I'd never  really thought of him as Jewish; now I see his fear.

Zionism is Garveyism. Robin's insecurities make him sympathetic to fundamentalist nationalism but he can't allow himself to follow it. His moralism papers over his conflicts, but moralism is conservative by definition.  Hypocrisy creeps in. There's nothing religious about studying Yiddish, or even the Talmud. "The history of nonsense is scholarship." Robin wants think of himself as a humanist but he's too full of fear, and the pride that covers it like scar tissue.

Remembering an article I read by a religious writer who toured various immigrant religious organizations in NYC and became worried that the people he met and the communities they were a part of were isolated from the larger inter-ethnic community.  But of course he met people in temples and churches, not restaurants and bars.

Repeats of repeats of…  "The role of belief in religion is greatly overstated, as anthropologists have long known."

One mention in the post of the Palestinians as such. Four polite references to "Israel/Palestine".

Atrios has been on a tear recently. "I know almost nothing about Iran." He really is an amazing character.  A citizen of the most powerful nation in the history of the world and a proud know-nothing.
The posters and commenters at Crooked Timber would never be even that honest.

And the settlement expansion Netanyahu cancelled two weeks ago is back on.