Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Scialabba  see previous

My 3 comments [all comments on the site have since been removed]

I'm not going to go off on the narcissism of the 70's and on, on the relations of camp to kitsch, to fascism, or how the hippies became yuppies. The record's clear enough. The man responsible for some of the 'classic' ad campaigns of the 70s credits Woodstock and Acid. And did you ever go to Jerry Rubin's Networking parties at The Paladium? I didn't think so.

But here's the question, since you're the favored literary critic at Crooked Timber, and you defend their politics, as social scientists and intellectuals. How is it that Henry Farrell's favorite band is named "My Bloody Valentine"? The hypertrophied self is a "reaction formation" of the "Iron Cage". How's them for buzzwords?  How do you respond, as a moralist, to Farell's taste in decadence? You and Gornick are arguing from two sides of the same coin. What is that coin?

With all the back and forth no one offers an alternative to technocratic reason. I've never seen Reisman, or Bell or Lasch saying anything but the obvious, obvious at least to an outsider. And in its moral passivity the sociological or 'scientific' analysis of common behavior reinforces it. Measuring to the mean puts downward pressure on the mean. Conservatives would say "everybody does it", but technocrats can say "it's the science", and down we go. Scialabba's jeremiads are celebrated by technocratic readers only because they won't change a thing: technocracy wins regardless. There's a nastiness behind that, a hidden nihilism, their bloody valentine to the humanities that can offer nothing in return.

In the years I've followed the technocratic web, of political theoreticians and philosophers, I've been advised that actual politics is not their business. If "Freshwater" economists are mocked for admitting that they can't predict a thing, why aren't political theorists mocked as well? And why the pretense at political "science" when there is no longer a pretense at a science of history? How do you explain technocrats mocking Jonah Goldberg for writing Liberal Fascism, 40 years after the publication of Discipline and Punish? It's doesn't matter if it's a lousy book; can they at least make the connection? But they're so blind to their own assumptions even as fans of Max Weber, that they can't recognize the moral conservatism, laced with irony, aristocratic and anti-bourgeois, that justly mocks them.

Given their pretense at engagement, would it help to introduce anyone above to Helena Cobban? She is after all an editor at this journal. But I've tried and it gets nowhere. I don't have to point to her religious convictions to point out that her moral convictions precede any interest in ideas as such. That would render her a conservative. Cobban was charged by the Israelis with telling a moderate non-aligned political figure in Gaza that he'd get whacked and his family would be in danger if he joined a Hamas led government. Odd gig for a pacifist. But Cobban admits her priors; she builds from them consciously. Her moral superiority is evident, but unlike Scialabba she doesn't make claims for herself.

Logically I'd think the question now should be not how best to study mediocrity but how best to give the world more Helena Cobbans. Sadly that's beyond the scope of liberalism.

Narcissism in the US?
In spades.
The banality of jeremiads by authoritarian schoolmasters?
Puritans and drunks?
Pedants and children.
Few and far between.

When I said above that Cobban was "charged" I meant it in the sense that she was "given the job" or "tasked". She was the messenger of a threat of assassination. She tells the story in a comment here. [link updated] I'll add that though Cobban fit the bill here perfectly, whenever I'm talking about Israel to white people and Jews, I've found it's best to defend my points by referring to the opinions of other white people and Jews. I'd say that's the result of a "scientific" analysis but not one that resolves to the sort of certainty that liberals demand. Quite the opposite. But irony in the liberal technocratic imagination is something directed only at others. Self-awareness is deprecated as non-technical.

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