Saturday, June 28, 2014

Lefebvre, The Coming of the French Revolution
The great majority of nobles either did not know how, or did not wish, to get rich. The great majority of younger sons had no desire to "derogate." They sought the remedy elsewhere, in a growing exclusiveness. Some held that the nobility should form a body like the clergy and be constituted as a closed caste. For the last time, in stating grievances in 1789, they were to demand a verification of titles of nobility and the suppression of automatic creation of nobility through the sale of offices. Likewise it was held that, if the king was to count on "his loyal nobility," he should recognize that they alone had the necessary rank to advise him and to command in his name; he should grant them a monopoly of employments compatible with their dignity, together with free education for their sons.
"The great majority of nobles either did not know how, or did not wish, to get rich."

I've been so lazy.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

I actually hope they keep doing it periodically, it's a useful reminder of the actual intellectual level and limitations of that field.
"that field" is physics. And the piece itself is awful.

Leiter does it again
This is an effective takedown of Krugman's unwarranted complacency.
The link's to Alex Rosenberg.
Wind the clock back about 40 years and the shoe was on the other foot. Back then, the very same IS-LM models that Keynesians had developed and Krugman has recycled, were giving more or less the wrong answers. This was the period of “Stagflation” in the ‘70s when the economy refused to behave the way Keynes’ models told us it would—increasing unemployment together with increasing inflation.

Back then it was the New Classical macrotheory that gave the right answers and explained what the matter with the Keynesian models was.
Krugman in 2009. It didn't take long to find. See also Dean Baker.
I had a brief exchange of emails with Rosenberg; his responses were not reassuring. He gives himself permission to cut corners for the sake of scoring points.

Mark Thoma links to Simon Wren-Lewis and Thoma's commenters link to Krugman, all responding to Rosenberg.

I don't have to like Krugman much or think of economics as a science -even a "historical science"- to defend him against lazy arguments of someone who's claimed elsewhere that history is bunk.

Gabriel Kolko was a historian.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

repeats for idiots, for the third time and for the thousandth.
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.
Now Eric Rauchway recommends Jill Lepore
The word “innovate”—to make new—used to have chiefly negative connotations: it signified excessive novelty, without purpose or end. Edmund Burke called the French Revolution a “revolt of innovation”; Federalists declared themselves to be “enemies to innovation.” George Washington, on his deathbed, was said to have uttered these words: “Beware of innovation in politics.” Noah Webster warned in his dictionary, in 1828, “It is often dangerous to innovate on the customs of a nation.”

The subtitle of of Robin's book is "Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin", and he won't shut up

Permanent Revolution and "disruptive dissensus". So fucking obvious

Above: Larry Gagosian by Robert Longo, 1979, and a tag I should have added awhile ago: The Pictures Generation
Torn between idealism and something other, the politics no more than a manifestation of confusion, honest in the sense that art requires honesty. Larry Gagosian posed for one of the figures in Men in the Cities; and I was there when Longo gave the fascist salute during a performance, with Rhys Chatham, at one of his openings in the mid 80s.
Longo's now married to Barbara Sukowa. I told the story to Hoberman somewhere.

Deleuze and Ranciere, neo-modernists as neoliberals. The poetry of insane technocracy is still the poetry of technocracy, because the answer to individualism and atomization is not more of the same.

The radicalism of Manet's Olympia is in the honest depiction of the boredom of a whore. Like Kafka, it's symptom and diagnosis, not cure.

update: Quiggin responds twice, mostly through an accident of timing.

Reverse engineering Ross Douthat
Corey Robin would say that this has always been the true function of conservatism. I’m more inclined to believe that a genuinely conservative approach to politics has some potential merit, not realized in actually existing conservatism
The 100 Years War
More fundamentally, despite 100 years of brutal and bloody evidence to the contrary, the idea that war and revolution are effective ways to obtain political ends, rather than catastrophic last resorts, remains dominant on both the right and the left.
Given the Robin and Rauchway quotes above it would have been better for Quiggin to call them out for their confusion, but Quiggin's as confused as they are, since to him art remains "an enemy of the people".  It's true for all of them, in varying degrees.

Various repeats below, with something new at the end.

It is indeed remarkable how all the places inhabited by the super-rich (Kensington, Mayfair, much of Geneva, the XVI arrondissement …) are really crushingly dull. At least little of real value will be lost when we burn them down.
 Bertram, again
I’m sympathetic, I really am, to the idea that people should work and consume less and that we should attend more to real life quality. But this doesn’t seem very realistic in my own life for two reasons: first, even if my employer were sympathetic (unlikely) I feel very hard pressed now to produce the level of research output necessary for me to stay competitive with other academics (not just in the UK, but elsewhere)…. Second, it is all very well Juliet Schor telling us to transition to a low hours/lower consumption economy. I’m cool with consuming less. The problem is that I, and just about everyone else, has taken out huge mortgages and bank loans to pay (in part) for the consumption we’ve already had. Hard to reduce the hours unless (or until) the debt goes away. Third, there was distressingly little discussion of the politics of this. 
Henry Farrell makes the case for ignorance.
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.

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

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.
SE: "Arguments for the nobility of greed are a recent development" 
Bertram: "If, by 'recent' you mean 1705, you may be right."
Lefebvre, The Coming of the French Revolution
The great majority of nobles either did not know how, or did not wish, to get rich. The great majority of younger sons had no desire to "derogate." They sought the remedy elsewhere, in a growing exclusiveness. Some held that the nobility should form a body like the clergy and be constituted as a closed caste. For the last time, in stating grievances in 1789, they were to demand a verification of titles of nobility and the suppression of automatic creation of nobility through the sale of offices. Likewise it was held that, if the king was to count on "his loyal nobility," he should recognize that they alone had the necessary rank to advise him and to command in his name; he should grant them a monopoly of employments compatible with their dignity, together with free education for their sons.
"The great majority of nobles either did not know how, or did not wish, to get rich."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The American has got to destroy. It is his destiny.


"You must look through the surface of American art, and see the inner diabolism of the symbolic meaning. Otherwise it is all mere childishness....

Always the same. The deliberate consciousness of Americans so fair and smooth-spoken, and the under-consciousness so devilish. Destroy! destroy! destroy! hums the under-consciousness. Love and produce! Love and produce! cackles the upper consciousness. And the world hears only the Love-and-produce cackle. Refuses to hear the hum of destruction underneath. Until such time as it will have to hear.

The American has got to destroy. It is his destiny."
I haven't seen it in a long time, but I remember laughing till I couldn't breathe.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Added to the previous post
Another answer to the banality of political life "at court", or any bureaucracy, would be to retire to the monastery, or the library, or the woods. "Is that a scroll he carries? He must by now be immensely Wise, and have given up earthly attachments, and all that." But following the bureaucratic imperative, the modernist imperative of specificity -specialization- your title is your truth, and retirement means death. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Consider a discipline such as aesthetics. The fact that there are works of art is given for aesthetics. It seeks to find out under what conditions this fact exists, but it does not raise the question whether or not the realm of art is perhaps a realm of diabolical grandeur, a realm of this world, and therefore, in its core, hostile to God and, in its innermost and aristocratic spirit, hostile to the brotherhood of man. Hence, aesthetics does not ask whether there should be works of art.
The fact that more women, and men, want to fuck George Clooney than fuck George Bush "is given for aesthetics". As to the significance of "diabolical grandeur" and "hostile to God", I'd have to talk to a shrink, but there's your Protestant Ethic right there.

Memory jogged, things fall into place.  Quiggin, again and again (click through the continuation for the source)
The claims about Art criticised in Art, an Enemy of The People, are very similar to those made by most religions, namely that there is a special category of people (prophets or artists) and a special category of activities (Religion or Art) which yield transcendent insights into the human condition, and which should be accorded special privileges over other people and other ways of finding meaning and enjoyment in life.
I never imagined Weber was so stupid, but then again he'd have to be, to have his 'science' work at all.
Finally, let us consider the disciplines close to me: sociology, history, economics, political science, and those types of cultural philosophy that make it their task' to interpret these sciences. It is said, and I agree, that politics is out of place in the lecture-room....
To take a practical political stand is one thing, and to analyze political structures and party positions is another.
The can be no science of communication because no science of experience can replace experience itself. No science of bias will remove the fact of bias. "It is said, and I agree, that politics is out of place in the lecture-room." Politics is implicit on the lecture room and everywhere else; it's either implicit, or explicit. Weber's bourgeois mannerisms are the superstructure, the esthetic, of his sensibility. But since we respond to manners, superstructure, and esthetics -for animals, more often than not the proof is in the presentation- there's no way out. "Ideas" are just another aspect of superstructure. It's a shame that in the era of bureaucratic reason, even psychology became bureaucratized. etc. etc.

Mediocrity at its worst; Corey Robin quotes Tocqueville
"Let me say, then, that when I came to search carefully into the depths of my own heart, I discovered, with some surprise, a certain sense of relief, a sort of gladness mingled with all the griefs and fears to which the Revolution had given rise. I suffered from this terrible event for my country, but clearly not for myself; on the contrary, I seemed to breathe more freely than before the catastrophe. I had always felt myself stifled in the atmosphere of the parliamentary world which had just been destroyed: I had had found it full of disappointments, both where others and where I myself was concerned."
Liberals are torn because their first imperative, freedom, is inseparable from their second, self-interest. The banality of parliamentary politics is the banality of people pursuing their own private interests through public means. The best answer to monarchist ideals of nobility is a democratic ideal of nobility, but that's not something liberals can get their heads around. It's far easier to blame others, anyone but themselves. Easier than reading Hannah Arendt and actually learning from her.

Another answer to the banality of political life "at court", or any bureaucracy, would be to retire to the monastery, or the library, or the woods. "Is that a scroll he carries? He must by now be immensely Wise, and have given up earthly attachments, and all that." But following the bureaucratic imperative, the modernist imperative of specificity -specialization- your title is your truth, and retirement means death. And Tocqueville's view of aristocracy is the memory and myth-making of of the high bourgeois. He's a creature of the 19th century, not the 18th.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Various repeats, connected.
This was covered here
It’s called post-humanism, or pre-humanism redux.
What Salmon is referring to is the boy at Starbucks with a coffee bean tattooed on his forearm, a member of the "Barista tribe." 
As I wrote on his page:
It’s the public proclamation of loyalty to a subculture; documenting the need to belong; atomization and the rise of pathologically over-determined imagined communities etc.
 etc. etc. It’s the sociality of baroque individualism.

We now have food geeks as well as science geeks, all with the moral philosophy of Asperger’s patients: so fixated on their mania for [tube amps/Pouilly-Fuissé/Ducati two-stroke engines] that you’d be a fool not to hire them for your [high-end audio store/restaurant/Soho motorcycle salon]. Why be a well rounded adult when you can be an eternal [pre]adolescent and expert, and a happy cog and servant?
etc. etc. and again.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Obvious before it was written, and now inevitable?
etc. etc. Fucking idiots.

Friday, June 13, 2014

samplers "are not merely stunting their own intellectual development or disappointing their listeners. By disguising the fact that they are not speaking in their own voices, [they] diminish our belief that their voices are original and worth listening to.”

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Working Title: Avant-Garde is Kitsch

In Brasil for the month.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A repeat, from June, 2003. A little rough.
If we assume that economic relations are the primary means and end of social activity it makes sense to regulate such activity. And when we regulate the private sphere, when we say that private social organizations must be nondiscriminatory if they have some impact on the public, the effect is to weaken, in the name of economic liberty and forced civility, the ideal of the private sphere itself. What begins with a critique of economic relations as based on the inequality of specific non economically defined subgroups becomes a defense of the economic relations as a determinant of social function.

I'll do this quickly, since what I am going to say is something I've been writing about for 20 years, and I'm not in the mood to go into it much. One of the mistakes in the academic left critique of culture is to confuse the result of an activity with its justification. Southern slave holders did not maintain their economy in order to keep slaves, they maintained a culture and a social order by means of slavery. The rich and powerful do not exist in order to keep the poor at the bottom of the heap, poverty is merely the result. The rich mostly think about money and golf. Men are not sexist because the spend all day finding ways to maintain sexual and political superiority over women, though that is the result of their actions. In all these cases the interest is in social, and in some but not all cases financial, continuity. The reaction as such of the powerful, in the form of conscious attempts to maintain the status quo, comes only as a result of pressure from below.

So what should become the defining logic of that pressure? What form does its argument take? For the victims of a social order, or more specifically the intellectuals who flock to their cause, it's logical to see what they want as what the powerful take for granted; it's logical to see economics as the prime mover. Marx saw that, but saw also that economics per se was the means to an end, even for the powerful. Marx had the advantage of being a 19th century humanist, and he understood that economics and culture were, or had been, two different things, but that capitalism was in the process of making them one and the same. He hoped that in the long run, after a revolutionary transformation, economic considerations would fade in importance. That hasn't happened, and liberals and economic conservatives are continuing the process of consolidation of all social activity under the rule of 'competition' and the public market.

As the market expands and inner life, both private and collective, becomes assimilated to it, regional and folk traditions, from Sam Heldman's fiddle music to the small town provincialism that created and supported it, are being ground to dust. Any attempt to create a justification for existence that is not bound by the market is redefined as mere metaphysical indulgence useful only as entertainment and of no philosophical importance. And those who fight against this reduction of life to mechanical processes as often as not fall into the trap, and end up defending 'spirituality' or some other such absurd or shallow construct as an alternative, as if religion were ever more than a metonym for society itself, for rules of collective activity, of language and community. Gods in fact serve only one purpose, that of rhetorical devices used to hold communities together. To use myths to defend against the logic of the market is to use magic to defend yourself from bullets. The only defense against instrumental reason is the argument for of and about democracy itself. The defense of democracy, as a defense of indecision and therefore of curiosity, is a defense of the ability to choose one's fate. My defense of the rule of law is a defense of process as opposed to outcomes. To say that the market should precede all, as Posner apparently does, is to limit both curiosity and freedom in the name of greed.

My defense of the rule of law as a self sustaining rhetoric, as an epistemology of doubt, has all the hallmarks of those things which the religious defend, without the requirement of metaphysics. It's logical and rational and yet is not, in fact can never be, programmatic. After all, it's a defense of argument not victory. It's simple: any practicing lawyer who enjoys his job will understand its basis. And it's the description of an order built not on greed but on its opposite. If you move the notion of economic freedom from the central position to the periphery, as many societies have found ways to do, it's amazing how easy it is to resolve many of the conflicts that arise. But modern liberalism, no less than modern conservatism, puts economic man at the center of the universe, and yet claims to speak for something else, without explaining what it is. The least I can do is ask once again for someone who believes in this something to tell us what it is.

This post will go the way of all the others, which is fine. They all began with an article on anti-narrative and modernist esthetics. "Modernism Parody and the Denial of Narrative," retitled "Parody and Privacy" and mangled by the editor, was published in ARTS in 1987. A longer piece, "Modern Esthetics and Social Ideology" has never seen the light of day. Be that as it may, I'm not humble. These last few posts on law and ideology, together with a few others I've put up over the past year, notwithstanding grammatical errors and mistakes in terminology, are among the best things that any of you have ever read on the subjects. 

Top two from Harry Brighouse, the third is from the episode of The Comic Strip Presents that made me realize something was up.  I haven't watched the whole thing in years, but I'll never forget the shock, of recognition I guess, for lack of a better word. I wish Brighouse the philosopher paid more attention to the the sense of awareness or understanding shown by Brighouse the person.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Dan Savage: About That Hate Crime I Committed at University of Chicago
Let's play let's pretend, shall we? (I realize we played let's pretend earlier this week, Slog, but indulge me.)

Let's pretend that I'm standing in line at Starbucks with a straight friend and we're having an animated conversation. There are two trans activists standing in line behind us—let's pretend they're trans activists with a social media presence—and they overhear me tell my straight friend that I met a trans person earlier that same day at a seminar. "I got into an argument with it," I say to my cishet friend. "It was so full of shit. It insisted that I was in the wrong and you should've seen the look on its face when I tried to engage it in a conversation about the point it was making. Because, man, it had its head up its ass."

In less time than it would take me to order tea the two trans activists behind me would be tweeting out quotes and launching an online petition condemning the hate speech they were overhearing me use in line at Starbucks. Because referring to a trans person as "it"—not he or she or zim or zer or them or their, but it, a thing, an object—is the worst thing you call a trans person after "tranny." Some would argue that "it" is worse than "tranny" because "tranny" is sometimes used by trans people affectionately or ironically. (When I posted this picture of me in drag on Instagram, for example, Kate Bornstein, the trans activist, author, icon, and a "Savage Love" guest expert for nearly twenty years (!) wrote this in the comment thread: "Aw, see? You ARE a dear tranny!") I've heard shock jocks and bigots and bashers dehumanize trans people by calling them "it," but I have never in my life heard a trans person refer to another trans person as "it"—not in jest, not as a putdown, not once, not ever.

So "it" is an anti-trans slur and it's arguably the worst anti-trans slur. Got it? Okay, hold that thought....
Sarah Kendzior is betwixt and between, as uncomfortable in the world at large as she was in the academy.
I got an email last week from a woman from Uzbekistan who is now living outside the country. She had read my Atlantic article about Gulnara Karimova, liked it, and decided to post it on her Facebook page. She then got an email from her brother, who was about to go back to Uzbekistan, asking her to take it down so he wouldn’t get into trouble. The woman wasn’t sure what to do, so she wrote to me and asked what I thought. I told her to take down my article for her brother’s safety.

It is strange and sad to recommend that someone censor your own work.
No. It's simply the obvious decision to make.

She's very good on the economics of hipsterism, but like most academics, not so good on culture:
Gentrifiers focus on aesthetics, not people. Because people, to them, are aesthetics.
She wears the blinders of a moralist.
repeats and repeats.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Two photographs of men who espouse some version or other of "performative" anti-sexism/racism etc. Aaron Bady goes by "Zungzungzu" and Elon Green's secondary twitter handles have included both "Not all Men" and "Jacob Fappington IV".

"Hi, If you don't mind, please remove my photo from your website. Thank you."

The corollary of "Bro" is "Babe". Below: the performative sexuality of Rachel Rosenfelt and Natasha Lennard, from their twitter profile pics. Bady writes for The New Inquiry. Rosenfelt is the publisher and founding editor. Lennard, captioning a pic with her mother, wrote that she "sets international standards for glamour and wonderousness". I'm not a moralist or a spelling fetishist, and I'm not opposed to glamour as such. The questions lie elsewhere.

Monday, June 02, 2014

repeat from last year
A conversation with a non-academic well-versed in the western canon, though less so anything contemporary, at least in terms of academic political theory. I tried to explain ongoing arguments about liberalism and conservatism. He kept stopping me to say he didn't know what those words meant without more explanation. "The meanings have changed so much over the past 200 years." I said that's the problem I was having, since the people I argued with seemingly had no knowledge that the old aristocratic right was anti-capitalist, being based on land not business. The old model of conservatism accepted self-interest as a given but nonetheless saw nobility, humility and self-sacrifice as an ideal.  Modern conservatives are merely aping the mannerisms of those they'd defeated, and liberals are similarly individualistic. "That's what all the French are on about".  He looked at me with the expression of someone pleasantly surprised to know I understood the obvious, but he didn't want to take my word regarding the opinions of anyone he hadn't met or read. Finally in frustration I blurted out that if I make the point that the supposed mystery of the Cambridge spies can be explained by seeing them as monarchists striking back against the barbarism that destroyed the world they knew or claimed to know, the response from liberal academics almost always is not even disagreement or amusement but incomprehension.  He shrugged. He understood.
He's a Priest.
Arguments for the nobility of greed are a recent development.
"If, by “recent” you mean 1705, you may be right."
repeat, since Holbo's back at it.
Modern liberalism begins in universalism, treating various people's interests as equal or equivalent. But the global view of individuals as actors has given us an asocial model of morality:

"If her interests have the same value as his, then my interests must have the same value as yours."
In a short conversation with a libertarian a few months ago, I said my disgust begins with their opposition to democracy, since democracy is founded on individual responsibility, not individual freedom.  He agreed that libertarians don't  like democracy,  but said he was impressed that I would argue against freedom. "Most liberals aren't so honest" I said they can't face their contradictions, and that I'm not a liberal.
another repeat (or maybe not) and another priest, on neoliberal sex.
As it happens, this vision fits rather well in a society built around consumption. If Savage’s ethical guidelines—disclosure, autonomy, mutual exchange, and minimum standards of performance—seem familiar or intuitive, it’s probably because they also govern expectations in the markets for goods and services. No false advertising, no lemons, nothing omitted from the fine print: in the deregulated marketplace of modern intimacy, Dan Savage has become a kind of Better Business Bureau, laying out the rules by which individuals, as rationally optimizing firms, negotiate their wildly diverse transactions.

Classical liberalism, however, may prove just as inadequate in the bedroom as it has in the global economy, and for many of the same reasons. It takes into account only a narrow range of our motivations, overstates our rationality and our foresight, downplays the costs of transactions, and ignores the asymmetries of information that complicate any exchange of love or money. For society as a whole, it entails a utopian faith in the capacity of millions of appetites to work themselves out into an optimal economy of sex—a trading floor where the cultural institutions of domesticity once stood. And for the individual, it may only replace the old sexual frustrations with new emotional ones. People who think they are motivated only by lust may end up feeling love; people who forswear any strings may feel them forming; and perfect transparency may prove an ideal no less unattainable than perfect monogamy. I think of a heartbreaking letter in 2010 that illustrated many of these problems at once. A man who saw a woman every other week for four months heard from her, two months after ending things, that she had gotten pregnant and had a miscarriage. Savage was all but certain that the woman’s story was false. But regardless, he said, “your emotional obligations to her ended when the relationship did, and your financial obligations ended with the miscarriage.” Savage’s advice may have been practical, but it had all the warmth of a legal waiver of liability.