Sunday, January 23, 2005

The piece made me smile but I wasn't going to comment on it, but now Michael Froomkin reminds me that I already have.

Technocrats have no interest in time as medium or methodology. Modernism itself denies its relevance. But the difference between the intellectual life of the 19th century and the 20th, as I've said a thousand times, is the difference between narrative and ideology. One describes, the other prescribes. In the guise of narrative even bitter rivalries become ritualized, as in a tennis match or a court of law. So why is it now that people spend more time inventing new games than playing them? Is mere performative activity somehow more passive? Is it less intellectual? Every day more games get invented and others get tossed. Why not play chess? But chess, like law, is not about rules but ambiguities: How do you play the game: for surprise, with risk, or do you move slowly, patiently? Do you attack, or trap? Kasparov or Karpov?

That's my brother on the right (click on the pic).

One of the thing's that fascinated me when I was young was the tendency of bourgeois anti-bourgeois intellectuals to attack the idea of mastery of a skill, by way of their supposed mastery of their own consciousness. Craft was looked down upon, while intellectual arrogance was celebrated, and celebrated as somehow of the left. I never meant my comments as a critique of the experiments of the 60's -until very recently I wasn't much interested in craft- or even of academic snobbery, but monarchist asceticism has a long enough history for people to recognize the contradictions don't you think? Still, intellectuals, unlike the rest of us, say what they mean and mean what they say, and they're very smart; so maybe there's no contradiction after all.


  1. I wish I knew what you meant by monarchist ascetism. I generally associate Monarchists with ostentation.


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