Sunday, November 29, 2020

American liberals are so fucking confused

The bleak irony of American life is our boastful and hyperbolic national conception of liberty has left us as one of the most unfree peoples on the globe. There can be no freedom without government, a lesson currently being inscribed in blood, and stacked up in the mobile morgues that are overflowing with corpses in more cities around the country every day.

Individual freedom is life without government, community or family.

Joseph Raz, sociopaths; "a free people" is plural, etc. 

Cooper refers to "my home city of Philadelphia". He's from Colorado Utah; he's been living in Philadelphia for a year, a single white male who bought a house in a place he's never lived. He calls for higher population density but his action is decreasing it. He's a lone eagle, a gentrifier, and an apartment wasn't big enough. Freedom is his model because he doesn't even know what community is. 

I grew up in a neighborhood. It made me. Cooper can't imagine himself the product of anything. He imagines he's free. 

And on Obama, the white liberal still blind to the meaning of race.

I've said it all before. My arguments haven't changed since the 80s. The liberals of 1992 who became the liberals of 2002 now are the socialists of 2020. And they still don't know what it means to be social.

In the early 90s a neighbor had friends who lived in an empty floor of a factory building: 4 people in 12,000 feet. The building had a security system and one night there was a break-in. I went over with her.  3 in the morning and a man from ADT was there. He was young, from Harlem; he'd left the military a year before and he was stuck on the night shift. He was tall, handsome, a church-goer, and polite, and incredulous listening to nervous 30 year olds white people who sounded like teenagers, and at single futons in the middle of 3000 foot rooms. He was offended by the indulgence. He said that, politely, to me, when no one else was around. I didn't argue.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

In re: Roman Catholic Diocese Of Brooklyn v. Cuomo

repeats: liberals arguing that there's a moral and legal difference between a church and a movie theater.

Then Andrew Koppelman in 2010

In two recent papers, Brian Leiter argues that there is no good reason for law to single out religion for special treatment, and that religion is not an apt candidate for respect in the “thick” sense of being an object of favorable appraisal. Both arguments depend on a radically impoverished conception of what religion is and what it does. In a paper I’ve just posted on SSRN, I explain what Leiter leaves out, and offer an hypothesis about why. I also engage with some related reflections by Simon Blackburn and Timothy Macklem, both of whom influence, in different ways, Leiter’s analysis.

And now 

 "Cheap Speech" etc.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Miyazaki hates otaku and I hate geeks.

Social Science vs the Humanities, Technocrats vs Lawyers.

Conlaw is literary interpretation. Rather than China alone, Weber was wrong about Jews, and the humanist tradition that was "dying a painful death".

Read the below with that in mind.

Stephen P. Turner, "Blind Spot? Weber’s Concept of Expertise and the Perplexing Case of China", in Max Weber Matters: Interweaving Past and Present, Edited By David Chalcraft, Fanon Howell, Marisol Lopez Menendez, Hector Vera, Routledge 2016 (orig. Ashgate 2008)

When Weber talked about the problem of the role of knowledge in society, he used a vocabulary in which the terms ‘experts’ (Experten) and ‘specialists’ (Spezialisten) are more or less interchangeable. His normative ideas on this subject were central to ‘Science as a Vocation’, where he argues that: 

only by strict specialization can the scientific worker become fully conscious, for once and perhaps never again in his lifetime, that he has achieved something that will endure. A really definitive and good accomplishment is today always a specialized accomplishment. And whoever lacks the capacity to put on blinders, so to speak, and to come up to the idea that the fate of his soul depends upon whether or not he makes the correct conjecture at this passage of the manuscript may as well stay away from science. ([1919]1946, 135) 

This reflected his attitude toward literary intellectuals peddling Weltanschauungen, but it was continuous with his hostility during the value-freedom debate in the Verein für Sozialpolitik (cf. Simey 1966, cited in Turner and Factor 1984, 57–58) toward the claim of the economists of the historical school to provide ‘scientific’ policy advice and his hostility to professorial prophets, both of whom, he claimed, mixed value choices, which were inherently non-rational, with the claims they could legitimately make as ‘scientists’. When these texts were written the ideal of universal knowledge and of intellectual leaders such as Goethe who could claim universal knowledge was dying a painful death. It was still upheld in literary circles and in the thought of such philosophers such as Heidegger. An underlying theme of these texts is scorn for literary intellectuals’ ambitions to be political guides. These struggles of his last decade provided the highly fraught context for Weber’s writing on China ([19201]1951). 

In Weber’s discussion of Confucianism in historical Chinese society, he was faced with a bureaucracy and a judiciary which was produced by a system of examinations on what he characterizes as literary subjects. His repeated use of the term ‘literary’ is revealing. In a sense, the Confucian tradition represents the fulfillment of the fantasies of his literary critics: a stable functioning order ruled by the literati on the basis of literary expertise. For Weber this model was necessarily one which could not achieve or eventuate in rationality, and the non-rational character of this tradition and of Chinese civilization became his theme in the text. There are many peculiar issues around his conclusion which raise questions about the status and meaning of the notion of expertise itself. The issues are whether the category of expertise and the category of expert knowledge are categories with a kind of universal significance or rather merely socially variable categories for which there are fundamental possible alternatives, and whether ‘specialist’ and ‘expert’ are interchangeable concepts. The Chinese case represents a powerful example through which these questions can be considered.

‘Western Rationality’

Weber, in the series of studies of which his book on China was a part, was concerned with the problem of the development of modern western capitalistic economic rationality that resulted in the rationalization of the world of work, which then carried over into the rest of life. There is, however, a strong element of circularity in Weber’s general account of this problem, because of his growing insistence in his last writings, especially his lectures on world economic history ([1927]1961), that the rational organization of works was a wholly distinctive historical phenomenon. Circularity arises because the various forms of rationalization that Weber argued are the conditions for modern capitalism are not quite what they might appear. 

In the last resort the factor which produced capitalism is the rational permanent enterprise, rational accounting, rational technology and rational law, but again not these alone. Necessary complementary factors were the rational spirit, the rationalization of the conduct of life in general, and a rationalistic economic ethic. ([1927]1961, 260)

But Weber speaks of them also as ‘the distinguishing characteristics of western capitalism’, and even follows this with ‘and its causes’ ([1927]1961, 232), thus confirming the muddle.

The issue, however, runs even deeper than this particular confusion over causes and definitions: it reappears at the core of his project, in relation to rationalism itself. In his late introductory essay to the Religionssoziologie, which Gerth and Mills titled ‘The Social Psychology of World Religions’ ([1915]1946), Weber wrote that the sources of modern rationality in the West turn out to be distinctive elements of rationality that were always there in the West and were either absent or very incompletely present (and consequently never fully developed) elsewhere (1958, 13–15). There is a strong sense that Weber in this project never in fact found the differentiating causes that led to western rationalism, but merely found fundamental differences reaching back to prior differences of more or less the same kind.

He could enumerate these differences, but not explain their appearance in history. It is striking that when he attempted to do so, he was caught up in problems over the rationality of the actions to be explained. His explanation of the relative unimportance of magic in the West, which is crucial to his comparison with China, was given in his discussion of ancient Judaism in the same series of studies. There he argued that more or less accidental peculiarities of the Jewish use of oracles resulted in the absence of magic and the development of ‘rational methods’:

The Levitical oracle required something quite different: the question had to be correctly put in order that the facts and God’s substantive will be determined simply by lot. Everything depended on the way that the question was put, thus, the Levite had to acquire a rational method to express problems to be placed before God in a form permitting answers of ‘yea’ and ‘nay’. Complicated preliminary questions had to be settled before they could be placed before God and, in many instances, this arrangement hardly left anything to be determined by oracle. ... Particularly for private needs, the oracle inevitably became less and less important as against the rational case study of sins, until the theological rationalism of Deuteronomy (18:9-15) in substance discredited lot casting altogether, or at least ceased to mention it. ... The oracle by lot is mentioned by Ezekiel (21:21) for Babylonia, but it had, as far as is known, long since disappeared from priestly technique. It was not replaced by rational Torah teaching but by the collection and systematization of the omina and by expert priestly interpretation. (1952, 179, 180)
The idea that small events have large consequences is not unique to Weber. But in this case the explanation seems to presuppose the rationality it purports to explain: Without a ‘rational’ or non-magical attitude to these rituals, in this case a kind of literal legalism, the Levites would not have ‘had to acquire a rational method to express problems’. Nor would they have extended the rituals in a non-magical way, and would not have excluded alternative ‘magical’ rituals from their religious practice, as they apparently did. So rationality comes first, before the thing that explains it, here and generally.
This becomes especially apparent in his discussion of China, in which one particular form of thought produces difficulties for Weber. The form is Confucianism, especially Confucianism in its role as the basis of the conduct of officials in the classical Chinese bureaucracy. In the face of this Weber was reduced to something that looked suspiciously like name calling with a series of references to nonrationality. Thus he says...
1 Original publication 1915. Gerth translation is of revised 1920 version.

I thought about adding a tag for Weber but many of the posts where his name appears are already over the limit for tags. For obvious reasons. 

I should probably add a discussion of this to the manuscript, but I'm just so tired of this shit.

Friday, November 20, 2020

"I am not sure why you sent this to me. I'm a philosopher not an art critic." Noël Carroll
He read more than a few pages. 

The British Journal of Aesthetics 

Living in an Artworld, Noël Carroll, Evanston Publishing.  2011. PP.  388. $22.50 (PBK).
James R. Hamilton

This book contains a collection of fifty-nine essays of varying lengths, dating mostly from early in his career, long before Noël Carroll became one of the leading figures in aesthetics of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Some of the essays appeared in academic journals of the kind with which many readers of this journal will be familiar. But most did not. Most, in fact, and especially those on dance, theatre, and performance, were short reviews written for popular arts and news publications between 1973 and 1985. Some of those publications may no longer exist.  

I began writing criticism in the early seventies as a dance and performance reviewer for Artforum. At that time, Artforum was expanding its coverage beyond the gallery proper into fields like film, photography, and video as well as dance and performance, not only because various gallery stars, like Robert Rauchenberg and Robert Morris, were experimenting with alternative media, but also because concerns related to reigning gallery aesthetics were also shaping adjacent artforms. One could justifiably apply the conceptual frameworks of minimalism, for example, to dance, as Yvonne Rainer did explicitly. 

NDPR  [see previously, 2011]

Noël Carroll, On Criticism, Routledge, 2009, 210pp., $19.95 (pbk), ISBN 9780415396219.
Reviewed by Alan H. Goldman, College of William & Mary

Noël Carroll's latest book contains what we have come to expect from him: above all, clarity of exposition and argument directed at the fundamental issues in the topic under discussion. His topic here is art (construed broadly) criticism, and he lays out for us in greater detail than before his positions on the interpretation and evaluation of works in different genres. Carroll is one of the major figures in aesthetics, and anyone interested in the field will have to know and address his views.

 Pop Matters 

On Criticism by Noel Carroll
by Rachel Balik

The front cover of Noel Carroll’s newest book, On Criticism, portrays Andy Warhol’s famous box of Brillo pads. The cover artwork is intended to remind us of the moment when the meaning of art was entirely upended. The image implicitly warns us that just because the definition of art is no longer something we can take for granted, it doesn’t mean that critics have any less obligation to execute their roles with rigor and consistency.

Ironically, the publication of Carroll’s book coincides with a reshuffling of the definition of journalism. In months after Carroll’s book came out, the role of the critic has been implicitly questioned almost as much as the role of art was during the Warhol era. Many newspapers eliminated their book review sections in the months immediately following the October 2008 publication date. The role of the modern critic seems now to be that of introducing people to art. One might wonder whether audiences truly want evaluation, or simply explication.


On the Front-Lines of the Account-Based Marketing Revolution
Rachel Balik & Nimbus Goehausen

Like many other Bay Area tech workers, Nimbus and Rachel worked at a company that appropriated the rhetoric of political movements to sell stuff. Their first encounter was working on a firmographic database (Nimbus as engineer, Rachel as product manager) that they were promised would change the world of marketing technology forever. 

Nimbus was surprised by Rachel’s enthusiasm for a project that would widely be considered very boring. He even felt compelled to join her in the trenches and put in extra effort when Rachel spent a weekend diving into a “critical” spreadsheet.

Rachel's first impression of Nimbus was that was he was insufferably arrogant, but her heart started to soften when he invited her to a Democratic Socialists of America event. There, he demonstrated that he knew the difference between a political revolution and a software revolution. And, he admitted to her that he *also* thought he was arrogant, showing her that maybe they did have something in common.  

It was too good to pass up.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020


To repeat the point, an aristocracy of adequate breadth and political tradition does not exist in Germany. Its most likely home was in the 'Free Conservative' Party and the Centre Party (although this had ceased to be the case there too), but not in the Conservative Party. Equally important is the fact that no distinguished German social form exists. Despite the occasional boasts of our littérateurs, it is quite untrue that 'individualism', in the sense of freedom from conventions, exists in Germany, in contrast, so it is alleged, to the conventions governing the 'gentleman' in English-speaking countries or salon life in the Latin countries. Nowhere are more rigid and binding conven­tions to be found than those of the 'colours student' which, directly or indirectly, rule the lives of as large a fraction of the next generation in Germany's ruling circles as do the conventions of any other country. Except where the conventions of the officer corps hold sway, these are 'the German form'! This is because the experiences in the colour-corps subsequently determine to a large extent the forms and conventions of the most influential sections of German society, namely the bureaucracy and all those who wish to be admitted into the 'society' that is dominated by it. However, one cannot call these forms 'distinguished'. What is more important as liu as national polit­ ics are concerned is thE' fact that, in contrast to the conventions in England and the Latin countries, these conventions are wholly unsuited to serve as a model for the whole nation, right down to its lowest levels, and thus to make its gesture uniformly that of a self­ assured 'nation of masters' (Herrenvolk), entirely confident in its outward manner, as has happened with the English and Latin conven­tions. It is a grave error to believe that 'race' is the decisive factor in the striking lack of grace and dignity in the outward bearing of the Germans. Despite the fact that he is of the same race, the public demeanour of a German from Austria (whatever other weaknesses he may have) is not marred by these qualities, for it has been thoroughly moulded by a real aristocracy.

The forms governing the behaviour of people in the Latin coun­tries, right down to the lowest strata, are produced by imitating the 'gesture of a cavalier' as this evolved from the sixteenth century onwards. The conventions of English-speaking countries, which also shape the behaviour of society down to the lowest stratum, derive from the social habits of that section of society which set the tone from the seventeenth century onwards, a stratum which developed in the late Middle Ages from a peculiar mixture of rural and urban bourgeois notables - 'gentlemen' [English in original] who were the bearers of 'self­ government'. The important thing was that in all these cases the decisive features of those conventions and gestures could be imitated readily by all, and were therefore capable of being democratised. By contrast, the conventions of prospective German officials with their academic diplomas, and of the strata influenced by them, particularly the habits inculcated by the colour corps, were and are, as we have said, patendy not suitable for imitation by any circles outside those taking university examinations and certainly not by the broad mass of the public. They were therefore not capable of being 'democratised', despite the fact, or rather precisely because, they were in their essence profoundly plebeian and not the manners of the man of the world or aristocrat. The Latin code of honour, like the very different English one, was susceptible of being democratised to a great extent. The specifically German concept of 'being qualified to give satisfaction', on the other hand, cannot be democratised, as will be plain to anyone who thinks about it. Yet it is of very great political importance. What matters from a social and political point of view is not, as so many believe, the validity of the so called 'code of honour' in the strict sense within the officer corps, where it is quite properly at home. The politically important fact is that a Prussian district superintendent (Landrat) absolutely must be able to 'give satisfaction' in the sense understood by students if he is to command the respect necessary to carry out his function, as must any other administrative official who can easily be discharged or transferred, in contrast m the independent stipendiary judge (Almtsrichter), say, who is socially declassed in com­parison with the Landrat precisely because of his independence. The concept of the ability to give satisfaction and all the other conventions and forms which are supported by the structure of the bureaucracy and by the honour of the German student which exercises so much influence on it, formally represent caste conventions because they are inherently not susceptible of democratisation. In substance, however, because they lack any kind of aesthetic dignity or distinction, their character is plebeian rather than aristocratic. It is this inner contradic­tion which makes them such a political liability and an object of scorn. 
The Germans are a plebeian people – or, if people prefer the term, a bourgeois (bürgerlich) people, and this is the only basis on which a specifically 'German form' could grow.

Max Weber, "Suffrage and Democracy in Germany", in Weber: Political Writings, ed. Peter Lassman, trans. Ronald Speirs, Cambridge, 1994. pp-119-121 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Corey Robin et al. and the German idea of democracy. 

The professor and the politician are a dyad of perpetual myth. In one myth, they are locked in conflict, sparring over the claims of reason and the imperative of power. Think Socrates and Athens, or Noam Chomsky and the American state. In another myth, they are reconciled, even fused. The professor becomes a politician, saving the polity from corruption and ignorance, demagoguery and vice. Think Plato’s philosopher-king, or Aaron Sorkin’s Jed Bartlet. The nobility of ideas is preserved, and transmuted, slowly, into the stuff of action. 
The sociologist Max Weber spent much of his life seduced by this second fable.... His “secret love,” he confessed to a friend, was “the political.”...
On the page, Weber told a different story. In the last years of his life, which ended in 1920, he delivered two lectures in Munich, one on the vocation of the scholar and the other on the vocation of the politician.... In Weber’s hands, the professor and the politician are not figures to be joined. Each remains a lonely hero of heavy burden, sent to ride against his particular foe: the overly structured institution of the modern mind, the overly structured institution of the modern state. (Weber assumed both of his protagonists were male.) Neither has much probability of success; in part because of that improbability, each is possessed by a great determination to prevail....
Education and government, said Freud, are two of the world’s “impossible professions.” Weber had a theory as to why. Every effort of the professor and the politician is haunted by the spectre of its disappearance. As a scholar, the professor wagers his soul on getting “this specific conjecture exactly right about this particular point in this particular manuscript.” The smaller the question, the larger the devotion—a “strange intoxication,” Weber concedes, “mocked by all who do not share it.” That is the poignancy of the scholar’s vocation: to demonstrate his worth by taking on a task that no one believes is worth doing, and in which “success is by no means guaranteed.” Even if he is successful, the scholar must face the fact that his work will produce new questions. Those can be answered only by new scholarship, which, one day, will surpass his. It is the “destiny,” and even the “point,” of the scholar’s work to be “left behind.”...

Weber delivered the first of the two lectures, on the scholar’s work, on November 7, 1917, the day of the Bolshevik Revolution. One year later, a wave of revolution and counter-revolution swept across Germany. It didn’t break until after Weber delivered his second lecture, on the politician’s work, on January 28, 1919. Weber makes occasional, if oblique, reference to the swirl of events around him, but the dominant motif of both lectures is neither turbulence nor movement. It is stuckness. The particles of academic and political life have slowed to a halt; all that was air has become solid.

Weber’s complaints will sound familiar to contemporary readers. Budget-strapped universities pack as many students as possible into classes. Numbers are a “measure of success,” while quality, because it is “unquantifiable,” is ignored. Young scholars lead a “precarious quasi-proletarian existence,” with little prospect of a long-term career, and the rule of promotion is that “there are a lot of mediocrities in leading university positions.” Every aspiring academic must ask himself whether “he can bear to see mediocrity after mediocrity promoted ahead of him, year after year, without becoming embittered and broken inside.” The “animating principle” of the university is an “empty fiction.”

The state is equally ossified. Most people lack the time or wealth to devote themselves to politics. Those who have the resources see politics as business by other means. There’s no way that politics can be “institutionally organized to correspond to any kind of ‘higher calling.’ ” For Weber, the only place where “unconditional, ruthless political idealism” is to be found is “among the classes who own nothing.” They don’t participate, except in a revolutionary period, which Weber doesn’t believe he is in. The events of 1918 and 1919 are a “carnival being dignified with the name of ‘revolution.’” 

The spectre haunting Weber is neither bureaucracy nor capitalism (although capitalism does play an under-remarked role in these lectures). Instead, it’s an ancient tension between hero and fate, transposed to modern life. Where classical tragedy sees the hero felled by a destiny that he resists, the nemesis of the Weberian actor is absorption in the institutions that he’s meant to oppose. Society is a siren, forever tempting us to forsake our tasks and seek the smaller goods of reputation and status. The scholar becomes a scribe; the politician, a hack. The danger is not defeat of the opposing self from without but corruption of the self from within, where the self’s diminishing desire to oppose comports all too well with society’s needs....  

It’s tempting to see Weber’s theory as an empirical description of the modern world, particularly as the engines of social movement have slowed, and after we’ve elected a President whose appeal, as a candidate, was the promise of blank stability. 

As the political theorist Steven Klein argues in his enormously clarifying study, “The Work of Politics: Making a Democratic Welfare State,” Weber had a suspicion, almost a fear, of the realm of everyday needs, particularly material needs. A need or want demands gratification. Sometimes, that demand sets the stage for revolutionary leaders who transform society, whether with a social contract or a worker’s republic. Even capitalism, according to Weber, was once the work of a charismatic cohort of schismatics. But while unmet needs may elicit acts of extraordinary creativity, both moral and political, met needs limit our capacity to experience suffering, and to generate meaning from that suffering. When fulfillment replaces frustration, social structures degenerate into flattened planes of existence, free of friction. For Weber, capitalism and socialism, the market and the welfare state, firms and social movements, economics and politics—all spell the same end: people getting what they want. With that satisfaction comes the retirement from striving, the disappearance of tragedy, and the loss of the tutelage of suffering.

In an age of deep polarization, neoliberalism, and global warming, Weber’s vision can seem like an appealing one. (The fact that he died at the tail end of a pandemic, which may have taken his life, and in the midst of a street battle between left and right, only adds to his aura.) His spirit of melancholy—a word often heard on the academic left—registers a desire for something different without committing us to the confidence that collective action requires. Yet for all the potency of that vision, Klein’s reading suggests the perils of overstating the vice grip of the material world and underestimating the possibilities of political action—possibilities not for the tragic elevation of the self or the sadness of social movements but for the collective transformation of the world. 

Needs, after all, can and should be met. If the last half century’s struggles over the economy have taught us anything, it’s that the provision of comforts will always be contested; social democracy will always need defending. We needn’t worry too much about the end of con!ict or an abundance of ease. When Weber constructed his theory, it was less a description than a prayer, a desperate bid to $nd friction in a world supposedly smoothed by structure. He was hardly the only social theorist to over-structure reality, to mistake the suspended animation of a moment for the immobilisme of an epoch. Tocqueville suffered from the same malady; Marcuse, Arendt, and Foucault shared some of its symptoms as well. But Weber needed the malady. The question is: Do we? 

"who codes as". The language of tech geeks, statisticians and pedants.  And the last paragraphs... as if Weber's melancholy were anything but conservative, or in fact reactionary.

Klein, The Work of Politics.
From the Introduction.

This book is about the dilemmas and possibilities that the social welfare state presents to political movements aspiring to enact democratic transformations. By democratic transformations, I mean a mode of politics that brings critical scrutiny upon previously unchallenged and rigid forms of domination and that thereby seeks to change not just the distribution of material goods or the electoral fortunes of a particular party but the basic structure of social relation- ships. As a confrontation between the first modern, nation-wide social welfare institutions and a movement seeking such democratic transformations, the clash between Bismarck and the SPD distills the questions I address: Can democratic political movements use social welfare institutions to achieve lasting change in society? Or will participation in hierarchical state structures inevitably dissipate the transformative aspirations of such movements?

In response to these questions, I advance a theory of democracy and the welfare state that rests on two fundamental pillars. The first is a reconceptualization of the means of social democracy: the democratic welfare state. I develop a theory of welfare institutions that shows how they can function, not as bureaucratic, passive-client-creating entitlements, but as mechanisms for collective democratic empowerment and participation. The second is a reconceptualization of the goal of social democracy. Against the idea that the purpose of welfare institutions is material equality, redistribution, or social rights, I argue that social democratic movements have and should aspire to transform entrenched structures of social domination through participatory welfare politics. Together, these two threads provide a reconceptualization of social democracy as a political theory and historical political project, one that emphasizes the democratic rather than merely protective dimensions of welfare politics.

This is a work of historically grounded political theory. I develop its central arguments by moving between concrete historical examples and reflection on the conceptual categories through which political theorists interpret democratic politics in the welfare state. As a result, my method is dialogic and diagnostic rather than deductive: I search, not for higher-level normative principles that could justify welfare institutions but for the theoretical concepts that can illuminate the traces of past transformative and utopian movements embedded in our current political practices and institutions. I examine three of the most influential twentieth-century theorists of democracy and the welfare state – Max Weber, Hannah Arendt, and Jürgen Habermas – to diagnose the theoretical deadlocks behind current approaches to the welfare state and to develop my own positive vision of transformative politics in the welfare state. In each case, I unearth the basic philosophical and socio-theoretic concepts animating their respective thoughts. However, I view these concepts not as self-contained, philosophical edifices, but as always-partial efforts to make sense of our common world and the political events contained within it. Connecting this analysis up with the history of political mobilizations in Bismarck’s welfare institutions and the postwar Swedish welfare state, I show that they can illuminate concrete political dynamics of democratic world-making in the welfare state.

Most briefly, my argument is that democratic theorists are unable to articulate the participatory aspects of welfare politics because they inherit the horizon of political possibility generated by Max Weber’s thought.... By accepting Weber’s assumptions, democratic theorists reduce welfare institutions to state mechanisms of mastery and calculation, thereby foreclosing possibilities for popular democratic participation in those institutions.

I turn to Arendt’s thought for an analysis of the relationship between democracy and the welfare state that overcomes Weber’s socio-theoretic categories. Against the widespread view that Arendt was irredeemably hostile to “the social question” – that is, to using democratic state power to address economic or social injustices – I recover unappreciated elements of her thought that prove vital for thinking about democratic politics in the welfare state. Developing her implicit dialogue with Weber, I use elements of Arendt’s thought to develop a view of the welfare institutions as what I call worldly mediators between calculable material needs and non-calculative, political judgments. I show that once political theorists understand welfare institutions to be the result of democratic world-making – the lasting, worldly objects produced in the course of political struggle – they can better see opportunities for democratic participation and engagement that welfare institutions create. 

Weber pissed me off so much as a "social scientist" that I treated him only as that, to play him off others I read as writers. "Fachmenschen ohne Geist, Genußmenschen ohne Herz", "hollow men,"  torn between positivism and irrationalism, and also in his case with fantasies of Übermenschen. So now he's being read a a writer, but still for his model-making as if the models weren't another form of art. I was so fucking lazy. Weber is closer to Adorno, but unlike Adorno he refused to rebel.

The stupidity of all of the theory of democracy shit is explained by Krieger.

Better to watch a Wiseman film than read Klein. Democracy is sport, not romantic poetry. More than that it's team sport, not for pedants.

I'm not done with this one.


I’m being unfair to Weber. He contradicts himself, as writers do. He’s torn between romanticism and positivism. He’s perfectly capable of discussing Rembrandt’s art[i] or the “plebian” German people[ii], and aesthetics as inseparable from ethics, in those other than himself. And then this, from the same lecture quoted above.


After Nietzsche's devastating criticism of those 'last men' who 'invented happiness,' I may leave aside altogether the naive optimism in which science--that is, the technique of mastering life which rests upon science-–has been celebrated as the way to happiness. Who believes in this? –aside from a few big children in university chairs or editorial offices.


Weber’s pessimism is founded in irrationalism, an irrationalism he nonetheless champions, defending an inevitably authoritarian bureaucracy in the absence of the justifications of an almighty god. He mourns the death of heroes. So much for disenchantment; who needs gods when you have ghosts?  But for the sociology and political science of the children of university chairs, the source of the argument needed to be forgotten. 


Stephen A. Kent in 1983


Ideas formulated by Nietzsche were major sources of Weber’s inspiration for the last, pessimistic section of The Protestant Ethic (Mommsen, 1974: 106-, see 79). Those of us who know Weber’s work primarily through Parsons’ translation fail to realize this because, once again, of deficiencies in Parsons’ rendering of a crucial and revealing phrase.[iii]


Earlier Kent had discussed the mistranslation of stahlhartes Gehäuse, and now it’s “last stage” for “last men” Kent quotes Parsons’ translation adding the original where needed.


No one knows who will live in this cage (Gehäuse) in the future, or whether at the end of this tremendous development entirely new prophets will arise, or there will be a great rebirth of the old ideas and ideals, or, if neither, mechanized petrification, embellished with a sort of convulsive self-importance. For of the last stage (die 'letzten Menschen') of this cultural/development it might well be truly said: 'Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved.' 


The translation problem is clear: in the original German Weber referred to Nietzsche’s “last men” as those who would be “‘specialists without Spirit, sensualists without heart.’” He even put letzten Menschen in quotation marks, so that his readers would be certain to pick up the Nietzschean allusion to Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Parsons’ translation of the German phrase as “the last stage,” not to mention his omission of the quotations around it, inarguably misrepresents what Weber tried to convey. The “specialists without spirit” quotation that Weber offered was not taken verbatim from Nietzsche. Rather, Weber himself constructed it with the tenor of Zarathustra in mind. [iv]


Kent sprinkles the text with sources and I’ve removed them for simplicity. His source for the last claim is Wolfgang Mommsen, in 1965.  Anthony Giddens, in his introduction to the Parsons translation in 1976, refers without reference to it as a quote from Goethe.[v]  


Franz Kafka published “The Metamorphosis” ten years after Weber published The Protestant Ethic. In 1905 Kafka was a student of Weber's younger brother; In the Penal Colony is now assumed to have lifted images and phrases from Alfred Weber's essay, “Der Beamte,” (“The Official” or “The Bureaucrat”)[vi],  so it’s safe to say Kafka had read Die protestantische Ethik. Even with debates over the Parsons’ translation, the first reference to Kafka I’ve found is from 2001, and stahlhartes Gehäuse translated simply as “shell as hard as steel”.[vii]


By the time anything becomes known as an idea, it’s been around for awhile. Concepts come late to the game. Sensibilities predate their clear articulation. Most serious scholars of Eliot and Kafka, and the literature from the period have read Weber, and know the connection. The reverse is less common, at least in English.  This isn’t a matter of taste or aesthetics but error, the mistake Weber himself makes, though he was a broadly literate man in a time when it was assumed a man in his position would be. It’s a mistake all philosophers make in imagining themselves an unmoved mover, the cause but not the product, imagining their own freedom even as their arguments describe, and prescribe, the lack of it for others. Their followers, in their role as followers compound this, smoothing out the conflicts their masters’ works describe. 


We need, finally, to separate Modernism from modernity. They are not synonyms. 

[i] Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Translated byTalcott Parsons, Introduction Anthony Giddens (1976), George Allen and Unwin Ltd. p.169

[ii] Max Weber, "Suffrage and Democracy in Germany", in Weber: Political Writings. Edited by Peter Lassman. Translated by Ronald Speirs, Cambridge University Press, 1994. pp-119-121

[iii] Stephen A. Kent, “Weber, Goethe, and the Nietzschean Allusion: Capturing the Source of the ‘Iron Cage’ Metaphor.” Sociological Analysis, vol. 44, no. 4, 1983, pp. 297–319.

[iv] ibid

[v] Weber, The Protestant Ethic, trans. Parsons, Introduction by Giddens (1976), pp. vii-xxvi.

[vi] Austin Harrington, “Alfred Weber's essay `The Civil Servant' and Kafka's `In the Penal Colony': the evidence of an influence”, History of the Human Sciences, August 2007 20: 41-63

[vii] Peter Baehr, "The "Iron Cage" and the "Shell as Hard as Steel": Parsons, Weber, and the Stahlhartes Gehäuse Metaphor in the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism." History and Theory 40.2 (2001): 153-69.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

A federal judge in New York City on Saturday said Chad Wolf has not been acting lawfully as the chief of Homeland Security and that, as such, his suspension of protections for a class of migrants brought to the United States illegally as children is invalid.
More unelected "elders", etc.
If you want to question judicial review, where do you draw the line?

It's all politics. The question is whether you want to divide government into direct, immediate politics and something slower. 

Monday, November 09, 2020

All the screaming about the Times as if it's about censorship and free speech and not the borders of the  mainstream.

"I don’t recall anyone questioning the right of the NYT for example not to publish things the editors don’t like."  Chomsky's such an idiot.

Our new "contrarians" hate liberals and are unwilling to admit that they're reactionaries.  Moralism is reaction. It's boring to repeat the obvious.

Michael C Moynihan for VICE, on Nov 2nd. 

Steve Bannon is perhaps the most influential political strategist of recent times. In the leadup to perhaps the strangest election in US history we met with Mr. Bannon — along with powerbrokers, voters and experts — to ask how disinformation, chaos and confusion are shaping the American political landscape of the nation. 

Bannon was important once, but those days are long gone. He's a fascist, a racist, an anti-Semite, an idiot, and as of the past year he's a joke. There's nothing wrong with interviewing fascists as long as you don't cater to them, and Moynihan was still puffing Bannon on the day he called for Trump to cut off Fauci's head. He mocks the existence of white privilege while indulging it. That's more than contrarianism.

The second video is a repeat

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Nov 5, 2008
Obama Speech 
I think this is a dream.
Atrios 00:02

Liberals in the US and the old European Colonial powers are ecstatic; American blacks are celebrating; immigrants to this country and many former colonial subjects are impressed. Those who could still be said to fit that description: Iraqis, Afghans, and Palestinians (along with their neighbors) are less sanguine. The best description of my immediate response is relief.

The obvious irony is that as Obama moves to the right he'll be helping to ease racial tensions much more than if he remained loyal to his base. But his options in that direction may be limited by the situation itself. George Bush was forced into partial nationalization of the banks –and we're just lucky that wasn't left for a new Democratic administration, which would have been made to pay for such "radical" and "unnecessary" actions– so the Democrats could choose to see their job as being to stabilize the new reality.  They won't choose to see their job that way however, and will lead a retreat. 
But how far? 

The fact that a black man was elected is not shocking. It's a milestone, but a milestone is only a marker. It's not a leap forward, it's just a step, and one that was going to happen sometime soon. It didn't have to happen now, though it did.

Nov 8, 2020

Vice President Kamala Devi Harris 
It s a big fucking deal. One can take the benefits of representation for its own sake too far - while we will not have full equality until horrible women can succeed as easily as horrible men can, I am not sure that Vice President Palin really would have been a step forward for women - but it is still a big fucking deal. 
The big deal isn't just the success, though it is that of course, it's that there's general cultural acceptance that a woman VP is not actually some sort of freakishly weird thing, even if all the barriers to that have not been removed. I grew up in an era when it was. Sure Mondale had Ferraro, but coverage then was always LOOK, A WOMAN! HOW WEIRD! (also, Ferraro was bad).

I have no idea how it would have impacted the campaign, but I was surprised that Trump and associates didn't go full metal racism-and-misogyny on her. Even the conservative C-listers seemed to mostly not go there. I was almost frightened to mention her at times (irrationally), as if one little push could send the whole thing into a dark disgusting place.

Atrios 14:00 

 It's from her Senate run, but he's never stopped being a fan.

Saturday, November 07, 2020

I'll fix it later, or not.


The leftism of the educated bourgeoisie.  

when a dem loses it's because voters fear leftism.
when a dem wins it's because that dem rejected leftism.
when a dem wins but not by a ton it's because voters fear leftism but only by so much.

The working class is not "intersectional". They're on their own. 
"Tom Scocca was the “Off the Record” columnist and media editor for The New York Observer before decamping for Beijing. Before that, he was an editor and writer for Washington City Paper and Baltimore’s City Paper. A Baltimore native, he is settling in New York with his wife and son (a Beijing native). He writes the “Scocca” blog for Slate, and his byline appears regularly in the Boston Globe and The Awl."
repeats: "It's not only how much money you make, it's how you make your money." 

Arnade's greatest theme is his own self-pity.  He's rich; his photographs are poverty porn, and his book is blurbed by fascists. And electricians make more than adjuncts. Last year I spent an hour at my coffee shop chatting with an Ecuadorian electrician who'd just come back from 2 months in Italy, with his wife and 2 kids. In Venice he called a cousin in Naples. Then they went to Naples. He works his ass off and then takes a break. I remember when a Thai waiter I knew bought his first Mercedes, used, but clean. 

Cops are working class. Impoverished theologians are not. Every job I've ever had has been blue collar and I'm still not working class.

Liberals who backed the Clintons 15 years ago now call themselves socialists. They ignore their own history of mocking the proles.

In a hardware store a few blocks from my apartment, listening to a plumber curse to the man behind the counter about working on new apartments he can't afford, in the neighborhood he grew up in. The man behind the counter is a character with a history. Hipsters would worship him he wanted them to.

The best thing about the "The Squad" is their connection to community, too Burkean for Corey Robin.  

Of course it's all a mix of moralizing narcissists and the unpretentious, idealistic individualists singing "solidarity forever", and people who have ties to more than ideas. But as I've said a dozen times, Occupy Wall St is remembered and the Wisconsin protests are forgotten. The successes in this election have more to do with family restaurants than the people happy to burn them.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

NY Magazine, March 3,  2019. It didn't look good then and it's aged badly.
Pinkos Have More Fun: Socialism is AOC’s calling card, Trump’s latest rhetorical bludgeon, and a new way to date in Brooklyn.
It’s the Friday after Valentine’s Day. The radical publishing house Verso Books is throwing its annual Red Party, an anti-romance-themed banger. Like a lot of the best lefty parties, it takes place in Verso’s book-lined Jay Street loft, ten stories above cobblestoned Dumbo. The view of the East River is splendid, the DJ is good, and the beers cost three bucks.

The roster tonight is heavy on extremely online political-media types. The podcaster and performer Katie Halper tells me she’s a fourth-generation socialist from the Upper West Side who used to attend a summer camp once affiliated with a communist organization called the International Workers Order. The hosts of the leftist podcast Chapo Trap House are not here, but Eli Valley, the gonzo artist who illustrated their book, is, as is Dave Klion, a ubiquitous Twitter pundit recently seen feuding with CNN’s Jake Tapper. Nearby, Sarah Leonard, who, at 30, is a veteran of the lefty-journalism orbit, tells me she’s launching a Marxist-feminist glossy called Lux, named for Rosa Luxemburg.

The guests of honor tonight are the creators of Red Yenta, a new DIY dating platform: Marissa Brostoff, 33, a grad student at CUNY, and Mindy Isser, 28, an organizer in Philly. “I was complaining about how socialist men don’t date socialist women and it really bothers me,” Isser says. Online, there wasn’t a good way to filter for someone’s politics. Sample bio: “Labor activist and aspiring historian/sci-fi writer looking for friends/open relationships. Tell me about your student debt and let’s cry together.

Election roundup.

Etc. etc.

New research on : Brahmin Left vs Merchant Right: Rising inequality and the changing structure of political conflict. In order to understand the rise of "populism", one first needs to analze the rise of "elitism".

Calling for the abolition of police was a romance of the youth brigade of Piketty's Brahmin Left, defending its self-image and self-interest as both enlightened and radical. Calling for abolition while defending riots and looting makes it even more absurd.

The publishers and writers for Jacobin and Current Affairs are not Jacobins; they're moderate reformers who pretend to themselves that vanguards bring revolutions rather than ride them. I mocked Robinson for playing a leftist Tom Wolfe and he took it as a compliment. I'm not going to go over all of it again. 

Again: The scolds against identitarianism are Zionists. Jilani retweets Zionists, racists and anti-Semites too:  Razib Khan, who used to write for Taki when his page was edited by Richard Spencer. Jilani writes for Haidt, another fan of race science, and editorial censorship.* He defends Zionists who lie about defending freedom of speech, but he won't mention Beinart, who was willing in his own words to sacrifice his liberalism for the Jewish State [The Atlantic has shortened the piece and removed the passage. now] but has finally come around to accepting democracy. That's too much for for Bari Weiss and therefore for Jilani, who needs to stay in the middle: the good immigrant. 

I'm still the only person I've found who's made the obvious point that the 1619 Project extended The NY Times' bad, self-serving, history of Jews and Zionism to a bad self-serving history of black Americans and racism. Buppies are a sign of progress. Buppies,  Killer Mike and Bernie Mac.
Verso 2017

*The Haidt link is to Jonah Gelbach, on Haidt and Amy Wax. Leiter and Gelbach, in 2017.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

American liberals mock Chatterton-Williams for commenting on on the overt performative sexuality of a fashion model, for saying that it contradicts her desire to be taken seriously, and for writing about it like a pretentious lech. His American defenders take it as a liberal attack on performative sexuality liberals otherwise condone. The French would mock him for pointing out the obvious, for being intimidated by her sexuality, and simply for being rude. 

Fashion models are one step up from hookers; they make a living off the desires of men. If Williams were capable of acting like an adult, and if he were the intellectual he claims to be, he'd have been direct and challenged her to her face, without anger or hidden aggression, and he'd know he has no reason to feel intimidated. He can fuck all the models he wants. He's handsome and connected, and a little indifference goes a long way. Or he could just shut up about it and do the interview he was paid to do for a fashion magazine. But he couldn't. He's as insecure as she is. 

Martha Nussbaum and Charlotte Rampling are both beautiful women. If Nussbaum walked into a lecture, braless, with her shirt opened to the waist, her peers would think it was a bit much. Judith Butler would make grand claims. Kristeva might be amused. American liberalism is founded on the false distinctions.

From 2016. I hope it's not a repeat. If it is, I'll blame liberals again. I always will.
The federal judiciary is on the brink of mandating voter suppression—even in states that don’t want it.
The Supreme Court consistently upholds states’ voter suppression schemes—stringent ID lawsextreme partisan gerrymanderingracist redistrictinglimits on voting by mail—despite clear evidence of disenfranchisement. The court has rolled back long-standing federal protections for equal suffrage by dismantling the Voting Rights Act’s most important provision, spurring mass poll closures, voter purges, and cuts to early voting that disproportionately affect minority communities. SCOTUS did all this in the name of states’ rights, shielding states’ election laws from the overreaching arm of the federal government. These decisions rested on the principle that federal courts should defer to states’ judgments about how to run elections.

But there is now a growing movement within the federal judiciary that would turn this principle into a one-way ratchet. Conservative judges have begun to argue that federal courts must stand down when states suppress voting rights—and intervene when states try to expand them. These judges claim a constitutional obligation to overrule a state’s own determination that voting should be easy, safe, and reliable during a pandemic. And they seem to be advancing this theory now because they know they have a receptive audience in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Judicial review of judicial review. Small-time anti-democratic elite meets Big-time anti-democratic elite, or something.