Friday, July 23, 2021

A historian at Oxford. More of the thread, my highlights 

-I’m sharing this bc how schools treat their staff hugely impacts their students -

-(sorry this is quite a long thread but please stick with it if you can!)

-a bit of context: anyone who knows (or sees) me irl will know that I have historic self harm scars on my arms and legs. It’s fairly obvious what they are, but I’ve become less self-conscious about them over time. Nowadays, I barely even think about them, let alone cover them up -

-during the January lockdown, I was in school every day supervising the vulnerable & key worker kids. One day, a kid asked about my scars + I explained that they were from a time I was unwell. As per school policy, I reported this conversation to a safeguarding lead &

-asked for support with future conversations of this nature. 

Below is a selection of the responses I received from members of the school’s senior leadership team:... 

The medicalization of deviance, of discourse, and the bureaucratization of everything. She submitted to it, asking to be policed, and complains at the result. The woman above should have trusted herself and her "lead" should have trusted her to be able to communicate her history to the kids going through the same struggles. She chose to be weak and regulated by authority. Passivity as behavior reinforces itself. On the other other side of the same coin: the earnest acceptance of self hatred as body and gender dysphoria.

Thug life is barbarism. It needs no written philosophy. It needs no defense. It's not opposed to art. As I've said more than once, maybe not here, if art were about morality, killers wouldn't know how to dance.

The philosophical, academic and intellectual defense of barbarism, the theory of barbarism, is no longer barbarism. It's fascism.

That's for Dembroff. Jenner is merely an idiot narcissist, a misogynist playing dress up. Drag is the equivalent of gender Orientalism, a fetish for the other.

The ubiquity of "leads", and "lead investigators" 

Professor Insole is the Lead Investigator for a major five-year programme, called ‘Redeeming Autonomy: Agency, Vulnerability, and Relationality’, funded and hosted by the Australian Catholic University, with co-investigators Dr David Kirchhoffer (ACU), Professor Jennifer Herdt (Yale), Professor Kristin Heyer (Boston), and Professor Yves De Maeseneer (Leuven).

Professor Lambert is internationally renowned for his scholarly writings on critical theory and film, the contemporary university, Baroque and Neo-Baroque cultural history, and; especially for his work on the philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Derrida. He has lectured internationally and was recently invited as a Visiting Distinguished Professor at Ewha University, Seoul National University, and in the winter of 2010 was appointed as the BK21 Visiting Distinguished Scholar at Sungkyunkwan University, South Korea.

He has also served as a lead investigator of several other major multi-institutional research and interdisciplinary initiatives in addition to the Humanities Corridor Project, including the Trans-Disciplinary Media Studio (with SU School of Architecture) and The Perpetual Peace Project, a multi-lateral curatorial initiative partnered with Slought Foundation (Philadelphia), the European Union National Institutes of Culture, the International Peace Institute, and the United Nations University.
"Research" in philosophy. "Doing philosophy". The empirical study of hot air. 

Related: liberals, including the liberals who call themselves leftists, screaming about covid denialists, anti-vaxxers, while ignoring their own history of decrying neoliberal pseudoscience. Trump or "Objectivity" and "Truth". We're back to the liberal fantasies of a reality based community.

The hip young literary editor of The Nation
Too bad for Arendt but likely the checkers on her pieces made them better and I can think of a couple others that might have also been improved with a bit more checking...
contra Arendt,  Dwight Macdonald and Alfred Kazin.
This piece could be worse.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

The Legitimacy of the Middle Ages: On the Unwritten History of Theory

This collection of essays argues that any valid theory of the modern should—indeed must—reckon with the medieval. Offering a much-needed correction to theorists such as Hans Blumenberg, who in his Legitimacy of the Modern Age describes the "modern age" as a complete departure from the Middle Ages, these essays forcefully show that thinkers from Adorno to Žižek have repeatedly drawn from medieval sources to theorize modernity. To forget the medieval, or to discount its continued effect on contemporary thought, is to neglect the responsibilities of periodization.
I'm so fucking bored.

I shall make a poem out of [about] nothing at all:
It will not speak of me or others,
Of love or youth, or of anything else,
For it was composed while I was asleep
Riding on horseback.


To the world when it was half a thousand years younger, the outlines of all things seemed more clearly marked than to us. The contrast between suffering and joy, between adversity and happiness, appeared more striking. All experience had yet to the minds of men the directness and absoluteness of the pleasure and pain of child-life. Every event, every action, was still embodied in expressive and solemn forms, which raised them to the dignity of a ritual. For it was not merely the great facts of birth, marriage and death which, by the sacredness of the sacrament, were raised to the rank of mysteries; incidents of less importance, like a journey, a task, a visit, were equally attended by a thousand formalities: benedictions, ceremonies, formulae.

Calamities and indigence were more afflicting than at present; it was more difficult to guard against them, and to find solace. Illness and health presented a more striking contrast; the cold and darkness of winter were more real evils. Honours and riches were relished with greater avidity and contrasted more vividly with surrounding misery. We, at the present day, can hardly understand the keenness with which a fur coat, a good fire on the hearth, a soft bed, a glass of wine, were formerly enjoyed.

Then, again, all things in life were of a proud or cruel publicity. Lepers sounded their rattles and went about in processions, beggars exhibited their deformity and their misery in churches. Every order and estate, every rank and procession, was distinguished by its costume. The great lords never moved about without a glorious display of arms and liveries, exciting fear and envy. Executions and other public acts of justice, hawking, marriages and funerals, were all announced by cries and processions, songs and music. The lover wore the colours of his lady ; companions the emblem of their confraternity ; parties and servants the badges or blazon of their lords. Between town and country, too, the contrast was very marked. A medieval town did not lose itself in extensive suburbs of factories and villas ; girded by its walls, it stood forth as a compact whole, bristling with innumerable turrets. However tall and threatening the houses of noblemen or merchants might be, in the aspect of the town the lofty mass of the churches always remained dominant

The contrast between silence and sound, darkness and light, like that between summer and winter, was more strongly marked than it is in our lives. The modern town hardly knows silence or darkness in their purity, nor the effect of a solitary light or a single distant cry.

All things presenting themselves to the mind in violent contrasts and impressive forms, lent a tone of excitement and of passion to everyday life and tended to produce that perpetual oscillation between despair and distracted joy, between cruelty and pious tenderness, which characterize life in the Middle Ages.

One sound rose ceaselessly above the noises of busy life and lifted all things unto a sphere of order and serenity: the sound of bells. The bells were in daily life like good spirits, which by their familiar voices, now called upon the citizens to mourn and now to rejoice, now warned them of danger, now exhorted them to piety. They were known by their names: big Jacqueline, or the bell Roland. Every one knew the difference in meaning of the various ways of ringing. However continuous the ringing of the bells, people would seem not to have become blunted to the effect of their sound.

Throughout the famous judicial duel between two citizens of Valenciennes, in 1465, the big bell, "which is hideous to hear," says Chastellain, never stopped ringing. What intoxication the pealing of the bells of all the churches, and of all the monasteries of Paris, must have produced, sounding from morning till evening, and even during the night, when a peace was concluded or a pope elected.

The frequent processions, too, were a continual source of pious agitation. When the times were evil, as they often were, processions were seen winding along, day after day, for weeks on end. In 1412 daily processions were ordered in Paris, to implore victory for the king, who had taken up the oriflamme against the Armagnacs. They lasted from May to July, and were formed by ever-varying orders and corporations, going always by new roads, and always carrying different relics. The Burgher of Paris calls them " the most touching processions in the memory of men." People looked on or followed, " weeping piteously, with many tears, in great devotion." All went barefootted and fasting, councillors of the Parlement as well as the poorer citizens. Those who could afford it, carried a torch or a taper. A great many small children were always among them. Poor country-people of the environs of Paris came barefooted from afar to join the procession. And nearly every day the rain came down in torrents.

Then there were the entries of princes, arranged with all the resources of art and luxury belonging to the age. And, lastly, most frequent of all, one might almost say, uninterrupted, the executions. The cruel excitement and coarse compassion raised by an execution formed an important item in the spiritual food of the common people. They were spectacular plays with a moral. For horrible crimes the law invented atrocious punishments. At Brussels a young incendiary and murderer is placed in the centre of a circle of burning fagots and straw, and made fast to a stake by means of a chain running round an iron ring. He addresses touching words to the spectators, "and he so softened their hearts that every one burst into tears and his death was commended as the finest that was ever seen." During the Burgundian terror in Paris in 1411, one of the victims, Messire Mansart du Bois, being requested by the hangman, according to custom, to forgive him, is not only ready to do so with all his heart, but begs the executioner to embrace him." There was a great multitude of people, who nearly all wept hot tears."

When the criminals were great lords, the common people had the satisfaction of seeing rigid justice done, and at the same time finding the inconstancy of fortune exemplified more strikingly than in any sermon or picture. ... 

Every age yearns for a more beautiful world. The deeper the desperation and the depression about the confusing present, the more intense that yearning. Towards the end of the Middle Ages the ground tone underlying life is one of bitter despondency. The note of an assertive joy of life and of a strong confidence in an individual’s powers, which permeates the history of the Renaissance and that of the age of Enlightenment, is barely audible in the French-Burgundian world of the fifteenth century. Was life really more unhappy then than usual? It may, at times, seem to be the case. Wherever one looks in the sources of that period, in the chronicles, in poetry, in sermons and religious tracts and even official documents—with few exceptions, only the traces of strife, hatred and malevolence, greed and poverty seem to have survived. One may well ask, was this age incapable of enjoying nothing but cruelty, arrogant pride, and intemperance? Is joyfulness and quiet happiness nowhere to be found? To be sure, the age left in its records more traces of its suffering than of its happiness. Its misfortunes became its history. But an instinctive conviction tells us that the sum total of happiness, serene joy, and sweet rest given to man cannot differ very much in one period from that in another. The splendor of late medieval happiness has still not completely vanished; it survives in folk song, in music, in the quiet horizons of landscape paintings and in the sober faces seen in the portraits.

But in the fifteenth century, it is tempting to say, it was not yet customary, it was not in good taste, to loudly praise life and the world. Those given to the serious contemplation of the course of daily events, and who subsequently pronounced judgment on life, were accustomed to dwell on only suffering and despair. They saw time coming to an end and everything earthly inclining to ruin. The optimism that was to rise beginning with the Renaissance, and to fully bloom during the eighteenth century, was still unknown to the French mind of the fifteenth century. 


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? 

I'll quibble with Haskell, and with Huizinga. The Renaissance was lost to the Enlightenment. Descartes was an anti-humanist; Huiizinga was a humanist. And "Baroque" individualism was the wrong term. I was using Jason Stanley's definition against him, but scholasticism is not Baroque. 

For, though the word Humanität had come, in the eighteenth century, to mean little more than politeness and civility, it had, for Kant, a much deeper significance, which the circumstances of the moment served to emphasize: man’s proud and tragic consciousness of self-approved and self-imposed principles, contrasting with his utter subjection to illness, decay and all that implied in the word ‘mortality.’ 

Monday, July 19, 2021

Against nature is fascism

For utopia, is anti-politics

The clueless narcissism of the American bourgeoisie.

WHEN I FOUND MYSELF in Chicago, I used to meet Lauren Berlant for a drink. I asked Lauren to pick a place, and the place they chose was a bar in a Whole Foods grocery. This is one of the thousands of things I learned from my intellectual hero Lauren Berlant: in Chicago, the Whole Foods has a bar.

It’s not what I would call a charming bar, but Lauren seemed to appreciate the genericness. Genre was one of their favorite topics, after all, and anyway why should we pretend to be people who would never set foot in Whole Foods? Lauren told me they liked to write here. The supermarket was crowded and fluorescent; I think it was a hideout, too.

I drank beer. To tell the truth, I would have preferred a cocktail, but I wasn’t sure whether this bar would serve me one, and I wanted to get my drink quickly, inconspicuously. I didn’t want any fuss. On this point, it turned out, my philosophy differed from Lauren Berlant’s.

I remember Lauren asking for a sparkling water with bitters. It wasn’t on the menu. It disturbed the flow of our transaction at the Whole Foods bar. In fact Lauren tried to engage the bartender in a whole conversation about bitters. What flavors were available? Any unusual ones? The bartender didn’t have very much to say on the topic, but Lauren kept at it. The exchange turned awkward a long time before it ended. At least once, Lauren and I exited the bar and walked out into the grocery part of the Whole Foods, where there were more bitters to choose from. 

And this was hilarious

Berlant clarified the relationship between the “commons” and sensibility, challenging the normie “structure of feeling” framework that pervades much cultural Marxism,...

"Cultural Marxism!"  And on and on.

THE FIRST TIME I met Lauren Berlant a bottle of Diet Sprite exploded in their hands.  

Friday, July 16, 2021

Hamid is a putz. For the rest it's the radical international hereditary PMC, with no sense of self-awareness.  I don't want to have to fucking add this: Bella Freud is the daughter of Lucian Freud and the great granddaughter of Sigmund. 
Omar's review of the Said biography, and of Said, is good, but again, blind. And now that he's at UCD Omar gets to indulge a romantic, aestheticized, mix of anti-colonial nationalisms and leftism. It's all very 20th century. Focusing on Israel, US and UK makes it easy. He doesn't say much about Iran, Lebanon or Syria, where romance fails. If I choose Assad over Saudi there's nothing romantic about it.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Recommended by John McCormick

There is a long history of controversy concerning the best way to vindicate democracy as a desirable and legitimate and/or authoritative political regime.1

1 Political legitimacy and authority have a complex relationship. In democratic theory, most scholars take the two to be related: John Rawls refers to the ‘legitimacy of the general structure of authority’ (1993, p. 136); Tom Christiano, following Joseph Raz, explicitly states that ‘the idea of legitimate authority as a right to rule to which citizens owe obedience gives each citizen a moral duty to obey, which it owes to the authority’ (2008, p. 242); Fabienne Peter uses legitimacy to qualify the notion of political authority, which under democratic institutions belongs to the people—‘democratic legitimacy thus qualifies the right of the democratic constituency to impose laws and regulations on itself’ (2009, p. 56); according to Philip Pettit, authority and legitimacy go together (2012, p. 149). However, some are more resistant to tying up the two. Allen Buchanan famously distinguishes political legitimacy from authority, claiming that the latter concept is dispensable (2002, p. 703) and he takes democratic decision- making to be a condition for both legitimacy and obligation (2002, p. 714). Daniel Viehoff refers only to ‘genuine authority’ and avoids talk of legitimacy altogether (2014, p. 340). David Estlund (2008) and Niko Kolodny (2014a, b) distinguish between legitimacy, which identifies moral permissibility of coercion, and authority, which constitutes the moral power to issue authoritative commands. For the purposes of this article, however, no distinction is required.

—What exactly is the definition of a "long" history? 
—Legitimate, to whom?
The university belongs, like the church and the military, to the social institutions that are situated at a considerable distance from democracy and adhere to premodern power structures.

Democracy doesn't need the vindication of philosophers, of John Rawls, Joseph RazDavid Estlund, John Roemer, or Chiara Destri, never mind Locke or Mill. Democracy doesn't reduce to a "truth". It's an amalgam, cobbled together by participants in a vulgar theater philosophers claim to rise above.

Googling Destri I found a video with Jan-Werner Mueller. It makes sense.

Following academics, the whole thing becomes depressing. I used to defend Jadaliyya but it still ends up the elite pretension to leftism without irony, because academics now are incapable of it.

I've met two men who came to the US from Europe at the beginning of WWII, got off the boat, signed up and returned to fight. One was a director of Wildenstein and Co. and the other was Leo Castelli. The director of Wildenstein was a third generation dealer; he sold to the rich but was bourgeois to the core. He told me his history while standing in the hallway of the building.  He raised his foot on an antique chair and leaned on his knee. "This country has been at war almost continuously since 1945". He shook his head. The American revolution was one of the few that hadn't devolved into tyranny, and this is what it had become.  He was an antifascist because like the tattooed and scarred Parisian pimp, he "understood", but he despaired at Cold War militarism. He was a high bourgeois anti-anti-communist.

The first time I met him I'd walked in off the street and he'd come out of an office. He said they didn't get much traffic without appointment, but it was a public gallery. He was smiling. Anyone who knew enough to want to be there should be welcome. I asked him the next time I saw him if he was a Wildenstein. His eyes widened "Oh no!". It seemed less a denial of wealth than of vulgarity.

It's a little embarrassing that I have to add links to every name. Reading a reference by a writer for The Nation to "the critic Hilton Cramer" reminded me how little people know these days about even the recent past. Being famous for fifteen minutes means being forgotten fifteen minutes later.

I've said it before: idiots who call themselves socialists now would have been Clintonites in 92, with the same enthusiasm of the present.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Something new at the end of this.

Another example of the same argument, the product of the same drift, without the scholastic's need to separate philosophy from literature, pretend theory precedes practice. In both the religiosity is just under the surface, but rationalism is always the religion of mandates, looking down, and the metaphysics of empiricism looks out and up: iconic/hieratic vs narrative/demotic.

Monday, July 05, 2021

updated once or twice
Nwanevnu responds: Parklife! Lindsay replies, and then:
A lot of the fears and phobias of the American "intellectual right", are founded in their willingness to take the "intellectual left" at their word: "materialist Hermetic gnosticism" for "apocalyptic radicalism", then and now

Syka's response is pretty good—"...we are contingent products of our culture and times, which therefore means we don't actually have agency"—confirming Lindsay's point. But "demongodkid" identifies as "Progressive. SocDem" while his header is from Beat Takeshi's one attempt at American success. The kid's more than a little confused.

Determinism and free will recently... and... back to Kant: repeats  and repeats.
Nwanevu the liberal, and "leftists' whining about attacks on "Cultural Marxism." etc....  etc....
nothing's changed. Looking for Neiwert, who was popular once,  I also found this.