Thursday, January 20, 2022

An assistant editor of HamasMag in the New Left Review, and two months later in Foreign Policy.

Mills felt that in key respects the bourgeois task of abolishing non-economic hierarchies had not yet been accomplished in either country. Both were riven by deep inequalities that were inseparable from the racial form in which they were manifested. In 1970s Jamaica not one top firm was controlled by black people, despite their making up ninety percent of the country’s population. For the young Mills however, this entanglement of race and class did not justify a move away from socialism, but merely proved that the cultural domain was also a material one. In ‘Race and Class: Conflicting or Reconcilable Paradigms?’, a magisterial essay published in 1987, he sought to explicate the oft-quoted dictum of Stuart Hall that race is the modality through which class is lived, arguing that Hall did not mean to suggest that there was a perfect correlation between the two categories. Rather, racial classifications were the result of conflicts between social groups and represented different relations to economic and political power. On this basis, Mills concluded that ‘the ideologies and cultures of resistance that develop in the Caribbean will be most strikingly characterized by the reciprocal valorisation of blackness, whether in the form of Garveyism, Rastafari or Black Power.’

The dominant forms of Anglo-American Marxism however largely did not exhibit the subtlety of thinking about culture that Mills believed was necessary to navigate the relationship between class and race. Much of his early career was spent wrestling with conceptual matters – questions of history, ideology and morality – which he felt that this work had misconstrued. Analytical Marxism, which took as its starting point G.A Cohen’s Karl Marx’s Theory of History: A Defence (1978), aimed to apply a scientific rigour felt to be lacking in the interpretations emerging out of France and Germany by borrowing the tools of analysis developed by economics and logic to address issues of agency, class interests, and the relationship between base and superstructure. The concept of ideology however – the subject of Mills’s thesis – presented serious problems for this paradigm, since it seemed to suggest that an essential component of Marx’s theory was a rejection, on epistemological grounds, of the autonomy of social practices and morality.

Foreign fucking Policy

There exists a strand of social thought, stretching from Georg Hegel in the 19th century through to Max Weber in the early 20th and Juergen Habermas in the postwar era, that insists that a hallmark of modernity is the differentiation of forms of human knowledge. The sophistication of culture is defined in part by the autonomy of science, morality, and art from religion, and their mutual incommensurability. Any undoing of this development, according to these thinkers, would mean regression to a less sophisticated form of culture.

What then is to be made of “theory,” a term that became en vogue among English-speaking intellectuals in the second half of the last century? Defined not by a focus on a specific subject domain—biology, say, or sociology—but instead by its commitment to producing concepts that could then be applied to different forms of thought, theory became a catch-all phrase for whole swathes of (primarily French) philosophy and cultural criticism from the late-1960s on. There were, however, some unifying features of the genre, including the commitment on the part of its most famous practitioners—Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze—to breaking out of the confines of orthodox Marxism, often in ways that mirrored the criticisms put forward by uncritical defenders of the free market.

...Unlike the socialist political economy and philosophy of the early 20th century, postwar theory was propelled not by any kind of practical engagement but by a constant demand for innovation and newness, needed to keep up with a postwar political landscape that was thoroughly fragmented. The social transformations theory attempted to make sense of—disillusionment with communism, anti-colonial movements, women’s liberation, the existence of an underclass, the continued existence of capitalism—undermined so many assumptions about the world held across the political spectrum that it was hard to see how any overarching ideas could synthesize them, or whether theorists’ inability to do so should be considered a failure.

The contradictions make your head spin.
Mills: from  "liberalism is racist", to "deracialized liberalism"; from Tolkien to Fanon to Black John Rawls. Arguing with G.A. Cohen is even more of a waste of time than reading him. 
But John-Baptiste Oduor is a fan of Geuss, the fan of Fanon and "Ghandi", while Arendt "was certainly not a philosopher at all,... nor "a particularly good practitioner of her chosen profession of historically oriented political journalist." Violence or non-violence, as long as it's pure: pure Jesuitical sleaze. 

And the NLR publishes puff pieces by the same author about makers of luxury commodities—$1,575,000 at Sotheby's—because "fine art" is like "philosophy", and now the "fine artist" is black and a woman. Here she's chatted up in Vogue. The last time I made this point it was Christie's; the philosopher was a woman and the artist was a man, also touted in Vogue.  I guess "the bourgeois task of abolishing non-economic hierarchies" has been accomplished. Where does that leave John-Baptiste Oduor, the New Left Review, and HamasMag? Perhaps theorists' inability to synthesize a response should be considered a failure.

The prices for Yiadom-Boakye's paintings have no relation to anything beyond the bubble—or bubbles within bubbles—of the market, and are only slightly less absurd than the valuation of an NFT.  But what do I know? I'm just a sociologist from Mars.

12 years ago a gallery director offered to help me pitch the drapery project to Massimiliano Gioni—a name mentioned in Vogue, not the NLR—but when he read what I'd written he backed off. I've never blamed him for it.  And this was the same man who saw me at an auction at Christie's and gasped "What are you doing here! This is evil!" We both laughed. He's player, a cynic and survivor, but he loves the art he loves, and he defends it, which is why he was at the auction. But I'm not a player; I can't pull it off. I wish I could. But since timing is everything, here's one post about the project.

Pseudo leftists aren't what they were. They celebrate Hollywood liberalism and now preadolescent fantasies of communism—the womb or the hive—proclaim the end of intellectual conservatism while praising a "scholar of the demimonde". Geuss at least still understands the obvious, that communism and monarchism, taken seriously, have a lot in common
Martin Scorsese is a conservative. Tarantino is a conservative. Stephen Frears calls himself a "Queenist"
And on and on.

Liberalism is a fucking disaster. And innocence in adulthood is a form of decadence.
repeat and update: the Teddy Roosevelt statue is gone.  And Hammons is represented by Bob Mnuchin, father of Steve. His connections to Goldman, financial and social, date back decades. The MoMA show was great, but as always, and as any dialectical materialist should know, the medium is the message, and Hammons is a conservative.  

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