Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Koppelman, then and now. [both SSRN]. His theory of religious exceptionalism has bitten him in the ass.

At Balkinization he sends us to the libertarian shitshow at Volokh

The First Amendment provides in pertinent part: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." In Employment Division v. Smith (1990), the Court read this provision narrowly, holding that burdens on religion do not in themselves create any presumptive right to exemption from generally applicable laws. However, the Court later explained in Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. Hialeah (1993), "the protections of the Free Exercise Clause pertain if the law at issue discriminates against some or all religious beliefs or regulates or prohibits conduct because it is undertaken for religious reasons." Lukumi held that, although religion is entitled to no special privileges, it is protected from discrimination.

Since then, the Court has construed that protection with increasing breadth. It now embraces what has been called the "most-favored-nation" theory (hereinafter MFN), which holds that the denial of a religious exemption is presumptively unconstitutional if the state "treats some comparable secular activities more favorably." That made sense in the context in which it was originally formulated, but the theory has mutated.

"the theory has mutated." That's what they do. It's how language works. And that's the reason for not opening the fucking door. 

And again the stupidity of saying that SCOTUS tells us what the Constitution says, rather than that it defines the legal definition for the present. Decisions are a matter of law not truth.  To say that the court "later explained" makes it seem like the court is consistent and that decisions are additive, and result are cumulative.  You have to take politics seriously to take law seriously.  This shit is why he has a tag. The history is there.

Lawyers who read too much philosophy: Milhiser should know better; Feder, of Jones Day, sat happily on a stage with Gorsuch  

Milhiser: "In retrospect, it was the eight day of law school, when I learned about the “reasonable person” test, when I started to realize how much of law is fake"

The only response:

"Former friends have recounted that Loughner had a fixation for grammar and words, saying that he challenged Giffords at a previous public meeting with the impenetrable question: 'What is government if words have no meaning?'"

Law is "fake" because words have only the meanings we agree on as a community. Money is fake too.

Well it is a vertiginous realization isn’t it? That money is not backed by “anything.” I’ve shocked year after year of smart college students by forcing them to face that reality. There are always a significant minority who cling to some version of the gold standard. They actually do believe that when you “take the note to the central bank,” you will get “something” in exchange. It’s not an easy idea to give up. It’s not unlike the vertiginous feeling that is engendered by realizing that language is not “backed” by anything. We are familiar with solutions to this problem. Create a physical object that can be used as a reference for a word, a definition, a standard, etc.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Fiona Hill and Angela Stent, in Foreign Affairs 

Despite calls by some for a negotiated settlement that would involve Ukrainian territorial concessions, Putin seems uninterested in a compromise that would leave Ukraine as a sovereign, independent state—whatever its borders. According to multiple former senior U.S. officials we spoke with, in April 2022, Russian and Ukrainian negotiators appeared to have tentatively agreed on the outlines of a negotiated interim settlement: Russia would withdraw to its position on February 23, when it controlled part of the Donbas region and all of Crimea, and in exchange, Ukraine would promise not to seek NATO membership and instead receive security guarantees from a number of countries. But as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated in a July interview with his country’s state media, this compromise is no longer an option.

"this compromise is no longer an option." And why is that? 

repeats:

Following the arrival of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Kyiv, a possible meeting between Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin has become less likely. 

---

Hill and Stent 

CORRECTION APPENDED (AUGUST 29, 2022)

An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that Putin said he was prepared to fight to the last Ukrainian. He instead stated that the West was prepared to fight to the last Ukrainian.

Sept. 3, 4

Branko Marcetic with support from Ishchenko

Monday, August 29, 2022

Fata Morgana

Adolph Reed: "Women's Studies as a Class Project" 

Inattentiveness to sexual inequality’s embeddedness in capitalist political economy links directly to the fact that feminist discourse posits “misogyny”—rather than historically specific political-economic and legal institutions, relations, and practices—as the causal source of (unjust) inequality affecting women past and present. Misogyny, however, notwithstanding efforts to represent it as something more concrete via modifiers like “structural” or “systemic,” is an abstract idea, an attitude or belief, and is therefore incapable of causing anything.

I switched out a few words. Of course it's a class project. The bourgeoisie is a necessary step towards liberation, freedom, etc. whatever those words are supposed to mean.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

"Technocracy cannot be dismissed as a mere specter of the paranoid populist imagination."

Technocrats against technocracy, in the Boston Review 

What exactly are we talking about when we talk about technocracy? Though deployed as a term of criticism today, the idea traces its origins to a utopian proposal for government. During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Enlightenment thinkers such as Nicolas de Condorcet and utopian socialists such as St. Simon and Auguste Comte anticipated a predictive science of society that would allow for the perfection of government as a rational system of administration. The idea of surpassing politics with technical-scientific rationality such that the “the government of persons is replaced by the administration of things” is often associated with St. Simon, but the originator of the phrase, in fact, was German philosopher (and frequent coauthor of Karl Marx) Friedrich Engels, who believed that the communist state would be an overseer of production rather than a referee of political conflicts. It is in this context that Engels famously anticipates the “withering away” of the state form itself.

 Quinn Slobodian recommends Hari Kunzru, recommending Quinn Slobodian

On May Day 2000, I participated in a “guerrilla gardening” action in London, digging up Parliament Square to plant crops. It was a utopian gesture—one of many made in those years by people opposed to the so-called Washington consensus—intended to reveal a glimpse of the beach beneath the street....

Deep ecology, localism, and opposition to genetically modified food were and still are sometimes associated with a story about natural order threatened by unnatural forces. As the son of an immigrant, working as a freelance technology journalist, I had little interest in back-to-the-land nativism. I carried no intellectual torch for the “natural,” which seemed to me a marketing word, slippery and prone to misuse. All the same I could feel that the culture around me was shifting, that instead of a citizen nurtured from the cradle to the grave, I was expected to be an entrepreneur of the self, striving to respond to market signals. Orthodox opinion held that anything impeding the efficient transmission and reception of those signals was backward and had to be removed. Forms of life that had profound meanings for their participants were to be sacrificed in the name of a capitalist apotheosis, a global market in which we would all engage, blissfully free of non-economic desires and attachments. This seemed to me a sinister kind of perfection.

Precarity and stress were the visible signs of what we were just learning to call neoliberalism, an ideology that for many years I thought of as purely disintegrative, the acid of financialization eating into the social body. Recently, while reading Globalists, Quinn Slobodian’s history of the subject, I began to appreciate the extent to which neoliberalism has also been an institution-building project. Though it seeks deregulation at a national level, the movement has tried to create regulation at the global level, in the form of an economic framework that insulates the market from what its adherents see as its greatest enemy: democracy.

As first articulated in the middle of the last century by economic philosophers such as Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, the neoliberal agenda never aimed to “unfetter” the market, as if it were some Promethean agent separate from human a"airs. Neoliberals have always understood the market as a global set of relationships that they want to protect by redesigning laws and institutions—and even states—to prevent the “politicization” of economic decisions. The ideal is pure technocracy. The hyper-rationality of the price signals that emerge from a perfectly noiseless market has to be insulated from the irrational clamor of popular sentiment.

“For the liberal,” Mises wrote, “the world does not end at the borders of the state. . . . His political thinking encompasses the whole of mankind.” 

...So is another world possible? Can you be a globalist without being a cuck for the Davos class? Nationalists wrap themselves in flags and warn of a one-world state, but some problems really are unavoidably global: climate change, pollution, pandemics. Under the current dispensation, some priorities are considered technical, walled off from democratic control. Others are political, part of the hubbub outside. There’s no reason those priorities should not be redefined. What if environmental costs were not abstracted away as externalities, if the plumbing of the international financial system were redesigned to circulate money through different channels, if offshore tax havens were shut down, sending billions of dollars toward infrastructure and social programs?

As the design theorist Benjamin Bratton puts it in The Revenge of the Real, a book about global governance during the pandemic, “It is necessary for a society to be able to sense, model, and act back upon itself, and it is necessary for it to plan and provide for the care of its people.” Pace Hayek, networked wisdom does not preclude planning. It does not preclude setting goals or changing them. We just need to remember that this is something we can do.

The rule of the designers, still without any sense of ironic self-awareness. Hari Kunzru is an entrepreneur of the self. Three years after his guerrilla gardening, he got a £1.25 million advance on his first novel, and his blurb—as the author of that novel—appears across the top of his wife's.  Their bios read like characters of a Rushdie novel from the Bono years: jet-setting heroes and heroines negotiating the twists and turns of life from Zurich to Zanzibar. And not white, but not the same ethnicity either, because capitalism knows no race or creed. If it did, as I've said more than once, white people would still rule the world. 

Benjamin Bratton, the preface for The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty (Software Studies)
This book is both technical and theoretical. It is unapologetically interdisciplinary in its perspective and its project; it is a work of political philosophy, and architectural theory, and software studies, and even science fiction. It draws links between technologies, places, processes, and cultures that may exist at different scales but which are also deeply interrelated. In this crisscross, we observe that “computation” does not just denote machinery; it is planetary-scale infrastructure that is changing not only how governments govern, but also what governance even is in the first place. Computation is a logic of culture, and so also a logic of design. It is both how our culture designs and is itself that which we need to design better, but to do that we need to take a step back and view an emerging big picture that is different from what has been predicted. We may glimpse that another model of political geography is cohering before our eyes. What can we do with it? What does it want from us? The answers depend on our theories and tools, on our models and codes.
Series Preface
Software is deeply woven into contemporary life—economically, culturally, creatively, politically—in manners both obvious and nearly invisible. Yet while much is written about how software is used, and the activities that it supports and shapes, thinking about software itself has remained largely technical for much of its history. Increasingly, however, artists, scientists, engineers, hackers, designers, and scholars in the humanities and social sciences are finding that for the questions they face, and the things they need to build, an expanded understanding of software is necessary. For such understanding they can call upon a strand of texts in the history of computing and new media, they can take part in the rich implicit culture of software, and they also can take part in the development of an emerging, fundamentally transdisciplinary, computational literacy. These provide the foundation for software studies.

Software Studies uses and develops cultural, theoretical, and practice-oriented approaches to make critical, historical, and experimental accounts of (and interventions via) the objects and processes of software. The field engages and contributes to the research of computer scientists, the work of software designers and engineers, and the creations of software artists. It tracks how software is substantially integrated into the processes of contemporary culture and society, reformulating processes, ideas, institutions, and cultural objects around their closeness to algorithmic and formal description and action. Software studies proposes histories of computational cultures and works with the intellectual resources of computing to develop reflexive thinking about its entanglements and possibilities. It does this both in the scholarly modes of the humanities and social sciences and in the software creation/research modes of computer science, the arts, and design. 
The Software Studies book series, published by the MIT Press, aims to publish the best new work in a critical and experimental field that is at once culturally and technically literate, reflecting the reality of today's software culture.

The worst of it is the pretense that the technocratic elite wants to defend democracy, when the goal is to manage it. And it's not that they're lying to others but that they're lying to themselves. How can you talk to someone who doesn't know what they are? What's the point of arguing with pathology? How could you expect them to be good managers?

As I wrote in an email today (to an Oxbridge ass pushing the first article in the Boston Review) the difference between a bureaucrat and a technocrat is a sense of irony. No one wants to be a bureaucrat. It's a job. But technocrats are godlike. Irony at its best is humility. If democracy's a sham I'd prefer the rule of bureaucrats. The link's to Weber which makes me laugh.

For Slobodian, start here
Design as Crime, a tag I don't use often enough. And Saint-Simon.
--- 

I was bombarded over the past week texts and phone calls telling me to vote for the "socialist" and today the DSA is celebrating the "People's Republic of Astoria." 

The replacement of communities of obligation formed out of necessity, with fantasies of a community of intention, of isolated individualists desperate to belong, with no sense of anything beyond their own idealism. The comparison of Astoria in 2022 to Milwaukee in 1913, by a writer for Politico, is absurd.

Streeck, again, late to the game. 
"In the order that seems to be emerging, social bonds are construed as a matter of taste and choice rather than of obligation, making communities appear as voluntary associations from which one can resign if they require excessive self-denial, rather than as ‘communities of fate’ with which one either rises or goes under."

Bertram and Tooze, on Streeck. Neither come off well.

I few years ago I saw two young men on the subway platform at Queensboro Plaza, wearing matching t-shirts with "Astoria Social" written across the chest, to make up for the fact that they were neither from Astoria nor social. At an Irish cop bar, with white locals, Mexicans, and Bangladeshis—the same bar where I'd gotten trashed with a former finance minister—an earnest kid asked a man at the bar where he lived and after the mumbled reply blurted "I live there too! I just moved in last week." Everyone at the bar turned toward the kid. One of his friends, taller, a little older—they all looked like they'd just gotten off the bus from Portland—understood the mistake and managed a shit-eating grin.

Cobb later deleted the tweet.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Saturday, August 20, 2022

updated
---

old, and new, and old, and old.

Paul Schrader,

I recently watched a demonstration by the guys from Rockstar Games who did the Western video game Red Dead Redemption. They said that all new technology is essentially run by techies. And then at some point, somebody comes in from another field and makes it universal. And they were hoping that we were getting to that point with video games. We’re not there yet. It’s still in the realm of the techies.

Interview at the NYRB, with Gabriel Winslow-Yost, of the NYRB, published alongside his essay/review of/on the game The Stanley Parable. The NYRB interviews itself: the interviewer, Daniel Drake, is interviewing his boss. 

...I’ll sidestep the question, as you do in your essay, of whether or not video games are art to ask instead: What dimension do video games act along that elevates them above other games, or makes them an art? I typically find, after playing a game, even my favorites, that I come away less interested in the world and more interested in the game and the obsessive reward-seeking it fosters.

I didn’t mean to sidestep it so much as take it for granted: they are obviously art! But I also think that making arguments about why they are is kind of a mug’s game—if you believe they are, you’re better off by just demonstrating it, taking games seriously by talking about them the way you would any other artwork.

I do think playing many of them can feel all-consuming, and sometimes that can be pretty gross. Video games have access to compulsion—that kind of deep-seated slot-machine feeling—and the mindless cleaning-up-the-kitchen zone-out in a way that other art forms don’t. But I think that’s also one of the things that makes them especially interesting, when it’s deployed well. A good game can turn compulsion and mindless acquiescence in interesting directions: forcing you to disobey, as something like The Stanley Parable does, or forcing you to go along with something obviously objectionable, as a number of games have done. (Things like Spec Ops: The Line, say, which pretended to be a run-of-the-mill macho military shooter, but then made “your” character commit a war crime and descend into madness.)

"that can be pretty gross." the language of preadolescence. There's no question that games are an art form; it's a question of what sort, and of maturity. 

More generally, video games are better than books or movies or whatever at depicting feelings related to your own actions: compulsion, triumph, regret, unease.

The discovery of the other, not in infancy but the cusp of adolescence. I'll take what I can get.

I'm remembering something from years ago. I thought it was Rosalind Krauss, ("Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism") but it isn't. Or maybe I was extrapolating and arguing with the essay? A treatment for narcissism involving the patient sitting in front of a monitor with a video camera above it—now it would be your computer. The image of is no longer a reflection, and the disconnect forces a break. 

Winslow-Yost is describing the same process. Again: Robert Wilson, T.S. Eliot etc. The gradual acceptance of the physical body, of the self among others, of time, of death. The discovery of experience. And it all goes back to my essay from 1987. And it's all here.

repeats: Addiction by Design

As recently as the mid-1980s, machine gamblers who wished to continue play when they ran out of money were required to leave their machines, make their way to an automatic teller machine (ATM) on the casino floor to acquire cash, and finally, purchase rolls of coins from cashier cages or change attendants roving the floor with coin carts, before returning to play.

...By 1997 it had become possible for players to directly access their checking accounts from the machines, transferring up to $1,000 per day in the form of play credits. Nevada deferred approval for this technology in 2003, for it came too close to violating a state law that bans the merging of ATM functions into slot machines (on the reasoning that this might facilitate “impulse play” and exacerbate problematic gambling behavior). But given the numerous jurisdictions without this legal obstacle, gambling technology companies have continued to develop systems that allow direct access to finances from machines.


I was in Las Vegas in 2008 working a trade show with some friends. On the last night we went out. I told Natasha years later that on that night I loved Vegas. Around the high rollers and their servants and hangers on, I almost forgot the misery I'd watched for four days. For the first time I felt no pity: I was free.  The dealers. the bartenders and the strippers were all top shelf and well-paid. It brought me back to childhood and the Here-You-May-Do-Anything Inn. In Mahagonny the only crime is to be broke.

We started out at at tourist bar on the strip. It was depressing. J's brother asked the bartender where he went to drink. "The biggest room in the house." He drank at home. J spent the time playing blackjack on the built-in screen under his shot glass at the bar. He was glassy-eyed, focusing inward, calculating, "wired in". We knew not to interrupt. After a half hour the bartender payed him and we left. 

Click the fucking links. 

Drake's first paragraph.
The New York Review of Books expanded its purview beyond books almost immediately, with a pointed review of “non-books” by John Hollander in the very first issue,...

Hollander 

The “non-book” has been a successful commodity for a long time. It now appears to have become a genre as well. The class of non-books includes the whole range of coloring books, photographs of infants, animals, or Famous Paintings being forced to say things by means of captions or balloons, the doctored news photographs, etc. Picture prevails over text in the non-book, and yet the result is not a book of pictures. It may have originated in the bound volumes of cartoonists’ work and the “grown-up” comic strip collections (Barnaby, Pogo, Peanuts), but it does not contain cartoons. It is a gimmick in book format. There are often non-books on the best-seller lists, and lately they have been appearing for children as well.

It is a deplorable tradition. And yet,...

"It is a deplorable tradition." The "non book" predates the "book" by years, if not decades. From snobbery to slumming, but slumming is snobbery. 

Winslow-Yost has the look of an Aspie who's beginning to outgrow his childishness, but only just. The New York Review of books or movies or whatever... 

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Fucking with this. I'm lazy, or busy doing other things.
---

Found on twitter. Shklar to Rawls. So stupid. 

The one issue that does puzzle me is the basic assumption on which you build you[r] edifice: the implicit values of an actual political society. The task you then set yourself is to draw out these intimations and make them explicit. The burden of historical proof then becomes very heavy. You cannot evade the demand for demonstrably accurate historical evidence to show that these are indeed the latent values. How latent? How widely shared? How deeply held and by whom at what times? In peace and In war, in secure and insecure times? Remember that most of your fellow citizens just now think that the Declaration of Independence is too radical for them. And while this is a good time for the First Amendment, It is not always so. One can say that only religion is safe, because no one cares about it that much any longer, and that in a way what is left is all Protestant anyhow. Finally your account of the conflicting beliefs that can overlap may be be out of date. It is not religion and even ideology that now separates us us, but race, language gut-loathing and ethnic incommunicability. Does your model fit that reality, or only one in which tolerance of creedal diversity was in question? My point is simple. If you base you[r] case on history, then contemporary history, which is what the best social science is, must provide you with a far less speculative ground to start from. Those latent values have to be accounted for every bit as much as more overt ones.


The Papers of John Rawls, Box 41, Folder 14. "Shklar, Dita, memorial remarks [1992]". Harvard archives.
Remove yourself from the world in order to think about it, and then you worry about the result.  The refusal to participate in the political world is a political act, and an anti-political act. The letter and its subject are formed out of denial.

Someone once described art history from its beginnings as Jews teaching Catholic theology to Protestants. It's an old quote and I don't remember the source. But now with Shklar, and Moyn, and the rest, the humor and irony are gone. Jewish scholarship, and Jewish liberalism, which was still Jewish even when it was secular, has become Protestant pedantry.

"contemporary history, which is what the best social science is,..." The history of the past is not a science, so neither is the study of the present. But the spread of the "research model" into everything means now that everything can be—and needs to be—academic. This is how we've ended up with "Auto(erotic)ethnography"—the link's from 2012; it's not the new one. It explains why we have PhDs in creative writing, and J School, and reporters holding back important information to use later in books, betraying their obligation as hacks and ambulance chasers to play at being historians—out of pretension or for money—and why people need the state to validate and justify their fantasies.  Passivity and the need to be guided, the end of agency. The need to the elite to grant permission and the need of the masses to be granted it. Corruption is weakness; weakness breeds corruption. 

This was a good one. 

---

Moyn, again living down to expectations.

More of the same from Andrew Koppelman
Forced pregnancy is totalitarian. It involves the kind of bodily control that America imposed on slaves before the Civil War. Criminal restrictions don’t do much to lower the abortion rate, but endanger all pregnant women by limiting doctors’ ability to treat them.... 

But I just said all that without so much as mentioning my opponents’ motives or treating religious support for a law as a kind of contaminant that makes otherwise legitimate laws invalid.
Forced pregnancy is totalitarian but I'm not calling you a totalitarian. That would be rude.

If you can't articulate your normative commitments in the language of the community it should play no role it law. 

As I reminded him in an email exchange: politics is a schoolyard before it's a seminar. The schoolyard leads; the seminar follows: Women's Studies programs are the result of feminism not the cause. etc.
Intellectual history is academia as self-justifying narcissism. All repeats.

Adding this, from Moyn at the link above—"expectations"—because people don't click, and  Koppelman's piece really is more of the same.

Koppelman now has a tag. It goes back to 2010.
Ahmari can exist only as parody. You could imagine Moyn referring to his "friend" Dinesh D'Souza

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Mada Masr, Interview with Trevor LeGassik,  

HG: Ahmed Amin in Fajr al-Islam (The Dawn of Islam, 1928) and Taha Hussein were interested in writing about this period in the modern way of studying and writing history.

TL: Yes of course, and you know how it all started? It was Mohamed Hussein Heikal Pasha, who was a lawyer, novelist and a senate, and who on holiday in Luxor found Washington Irving’s book about the Prophet Mohamed and it blew him away, because in the 1930s in Cairo and in all the Arab world there was no easy way to find anything much about the Prophet Mohamed. Everyone knew the Quran and serious scholars knew classical manuscripts like Ibn Kathir, but they were not easily accessible or understandable, and so he wrote his own Hayat Muhammed (Life of Mohamed). Curiously then, it was Irving’s writings — who was an American author appointed ambassador to Spain — that inspired all these writers in Cairo in the 1930s, and if it wasn’t for him, it would have taken decades to produce accessible books about the Prophet. Who has time to read four volumes of Ibn Kathir?

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

no one expects the spanish inquisition.

It's hard to know what to say, other than what I've said before. Varieties of decadence, and they're all so earnest. But still...

The Decadents knew that Catholicism pairs well with transgression. The Metropolitan Museum of Art knows it, too: It held an exhibition titled “Heavenly Bodies” in 2018, a show that juxtaposed liturgical iconography with high fashion and BDSM paraphernalia. Catholicism embraces the give-and-take between sin and repentance, formalizing it in the sacrament of confession. 

An open defense of Catholic decadence from a young "senior editor" at First Things.  Homosexuality, and other fun, are welcome, as long as you confess your sodomy on Sunday morning.  John Waters read this and he's laughing; and a lot of others too, all older than Julia Yost and Matthew Schmitz.  Richard John Neuhaus would be horrified. But what about his goddaughter? And Yost name checks Nick Burns (same link).  

Another recent trip down memory lane, because the liberals mocking her are equally so utterly clueless. Left right and center, it's all cosplay. 

Just for fun: Three posts on Alexander McQueen and Giovanni Bellini 


Also, Bronzino, who now has a tag.

In the larger sense I've been describing this for decades—the origins of the reactionary politics of truth. What I didn't predict was a literal return to the Church. I've quoted the popular definition of kitsch as something or someone being "more Catholic than the Pope", and now here we are! 
Also tagged Vermeule
 

Lorentzen has a series of podcast interviews he labels "Truth & Beauty".
The focus on aesthetics in a time of crisis, the false equivalence with "truth", the mix of puffery and denial, irony hiding sincerity, as if we don't have access to the history.  
Milanovic rt'd a friend on why he didn't listen to stupid podcasts: the directness of listening to the voice as opposed to reading, the insecurity and fakery becomes obvious and almost unbearable.

Sunday, August 07, 2022

"Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired".

For scholars​ of heartbreak and trepidation, the Dolly Parton songbook is a core text. No other singer would say ‘please’ when begging Jolene not to take her man. In Country Music, Ken Burns’s recent documentary series, Parton insists a great song is like an heirloom or a keepsake, essentially a piece of storytelling. A well-written song can dramatise a wonderful character or bring back a singular voice, and in these senses, among others, the siren of East Tennessee is better than most poets. There’s a giggle and a teardrop in her voice, an unmistakeable set of attitudes about life, and I was looking forward to her novel the way lovers of chocolate might look forward to Easter. It was going to be Eudora Welty, Tom Wolfe, Reese Witherspoon and Tammy Faye Bakker in a wild Southern barn dance. It was going to be a roof-raising, hello God hoedown, a complete riot of personal faith, the sentences glinting with rhinestones and Southern Gothic, all of it secured by a narrative raised on sweet tea and Moon Pie. On her own, Dolly can do no wrong, but like many country heroines she sometimes gets into bad company.

Once upon a time I had plenty of admiration for ThĂ©rĂ©sa. It seemed as if, in that huge voice with its low-pitched notes, there vibrated the soul of the people. She stirred me and made me shiver; more than once she brought tears to my eyes. In the last two years I have gone to her comeback performances as if to visit an old friend, searching for that impression of the past which she cannot reawaken. Her fine diction, so strong and clear, is spoilt now by pretentiousness, pomp, and solemnity. No doubt she imagines she is now a social force, and that each word she drops will have repercussions in the world. She adopts without discernment songs which are inept, and tries to colour their empty words with a redundant sentimentality and a false picturesqueness. Instead of the brutal and sincere art which used to delight me, the singer displays a procedure which has grown uniform and a search for violent effects. 

 There's a lot there, but I'm not going to do your work for you.

The liberals who now call themselves socialists and who accuse others of denying their own pasts are denying their own pasts again.

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

This interview is getting a lot of attention among leftist academics. They're linking it and recommending it. They're surprised. It's new to them. All the books they read and they don't know what it was like to be an adult and a leftist-bourgeois-intellectual-blablabla, 50 years ago, or 70. And these are the same people who debate whether Foucault was a conservative.

On that note, one of them, Jäger, retweets Markus Rediker

When I was in graduate school (1979), I wrote a letter to Michel Foucault to ask a question about one of his books. I expected no response. Imagine my astonishment when, ten days later, a pale blue envelope appears in my mailbox, from “MF,” Collège de France.

I was reviewing vol. I, *The History of Sexuality* which said on its back cover that it was the first of six volumes on the subject. I asked, what were the other volumes? He said he had just made that up about six volumes, but added that he was writing *Pleasures of the Self*.

I also asked, how can you deny the existence of conscious, knowing subjects in your work and then use military concepts like “strategy” and “tactics” of power, which imply conscious, knowing subjects? He answered, that is a real contradiction in my thought, I have no answer.

He continued, I just thought we might progress by trying to think about power in a different way. His responses were funny, modest, and honest, genuinely illuminating, although not very satisfying either politically or intellectually.

He answered, that is a real contradiction in my thought, I have no answer. 
The only honest answer. Only a pedant without imagination could think otherwise. 
...not very satisfying either politically or intellectually. 
I haven't read much Foucault, but I understood I wasn't reading the Anglo-American academic model of a thinker who writes; I was reading a writer who thinks. Back to Eliot; it's almost too perfect.
James in his novels is like the best French critics in maintaining a point of view, a view-point untouched by the parasite idea. He is the most intelligent man of his generation.
And the writer Foucault was responding to the preconceptions described in the interview above.

Branko makes the argument against reading Branko
I am of the opinion that if one wants to learn more about a current problem, one should never read books published now b/c they just reproduce all commonplaces we believe now.
In the next tweet he recommends Milosz. I won't argue. Recently I told him he wasn't a historian and that perhaps he should stop pretending. Maybe he's taken my advice. In re: the interview above, he wrote this only recently

Now, almost half-a-century later, as I was writing about the war, I realized how Marxism in that case really fulfilled the essential functions of a religion.

NFS means No Fucking Shit.  But as I reminded him years ago—and he agreed—he didn't grow up under communism; he grew up under Tito. And as a friend put it: "The Poles came to us to go shopping. We went to Milan"

From the interview above 

AP: The tensions within the party were between a small orthodox group linked to the Soviet Union who strongly opposed the Union of the Left. The main issue in the 1970s was nationalizations. I was in charge of the “Nationalizations and Industrial Policy” department and it’s true that we overplayed the issue of nationalizations. We argued that nationalizations, provided they reached a significant threshold, would allow us to structurally change our economic system. The socialists, opportunists that they often are, adopted our views. I had a friend who was having marital difficulties who was convinced that if the left came to power, her marriage would be fixed. This was the degree of people’s belief in politics.

My slogan was, “Where there is property, there is power.” And that is the primary idea which motivates me to this day. But at the time, we thought public property had a mythical capacity to change everything. The socialists only agreed to nationalize because they saw it as a condition of preserving the Union of the Left. They were ideologically overpowered. Internally, the debate was around the scale and the industries. The socialists were against, for example, nationalizing the banks and financial sector completely. They thought it was enough to nationalize 51 percent—just enough to give us the majority. But we insisted on 100 percent. And given the internal discussions, I was surprised with how far Mitterrand ultimately went....

MA: Maybe we can go back to the history of the party, particularly in 1968. What was the relationship like between the student movement and the labor movement? And how did those conflicts play out in the party’s policy positions?

AP: Until 1968, the Communist Party was influential in the labor movement and among intellectuals. For the latter, the theory of state monopoly capitalism gave us a lot of intellectual capital. I remember getting a drink with Georges Séguy and Georges Marchais right before the adoption of the Common Program, and Marchais informing us that the CGT had just recruited its three-millionth member. Today there are fewer than 300,000. So we had a lot of hope, but we were also distrustful of the socialists (due to their position on the Algerian War and the Suez Affair, among other things) at the same time as we sought a union with them. The events of 1968 bear the mark of these contradictions. We participated in the events at the same time as we witnessed meetings between Mitterrand and Mendès-France and understood that the situation was hopeless. I remember once going to a meeting at the Place du Colonel Fabien and seeing the head of the Economic Section tearing up piles of paper, so as not to leave a trace in case the Gaullists retaliated.

There was also a cultural shift with the emergence of the so-called bohemian bourgeoisie, who pushed the boundaries of morality, sexuality, and so on. The communists didn’t identify with that. Culturally, we were rigid: when you got married, you got married. You never bought your house, you always rented. If you bought a car, it was from Renault, because it was the national company.

Teenagers vs Communists (as moralizing petty bourgeois.)

repeats: Eric Rohmer 

"I wasn’t hostile to May ’68, but whereas the people who participated in it saw it as a beginning, I saw it rather as an end. May ’68 was the first stone thrown into the pond of Marxism. The ideological collapse of Marxism began in ’68. Because I believe that May ’68, paradoxically, cured many people, including perhaps me, of communism and anticommunism. I think that the kind of Marxist fever that took place after May ’68 carried within it its condemnation and its end, it was a last flare-up. That’s how I saw May ’68, and that is why, personally, I remained absolutely indifferent, serene, with regard to what might happen. I continued with my work." 

The same idiots link to a new book of essays.

Where the standard story sees neoliberalism as right-wing, this book points to some left-wing origins, too; where the standard story emphasises the agency of think-tanks and politicians, this book shows that other actors from the business world were also highly significant. Where the standard story can suggest that neoliberalism transformed subjectivities and social lives, this book illuminates other forces which helped make Britain more individualistic in the late twentieth century.

If you follow the link to Rohmer and continue, you'll find these. I'm so bored.

"What has happened politically, economically, culturally and socially since the sea change of the late ’60s isn’t contradictory or incongruous. It’s all of a piece. For hippies and bohemians as for businesspeople and investors, extreme individualism has been triumphant. Selfishness won."

"Perhaps more than an ambiguity, it was an irony of history. The real legacy of May ’68, as we see in France today, is individualism, the rejection of civic sense and ideology, the rehabilitation of the idea that personal and financial success is a worthy pursuit — in short, a revival of capitalism. To borrow an expression of Lenin’s, we were useful idiots. Indeed, the uprising was more a counterrevolution than a revolution."

And all this is why Streeck and the rest have me "banging my fucking head against the wall"

In the order that seems to be emerging [sic!], social bonds are construed as a matter of taste and choice rather than of obligation, making communities appear as voluntary associations from which one can resign if they require excessive self-denial, rather than as ‘communities of fate’ with which one either rises or goes under.   

These people are embarrassing. 

If I'm telling stories I should talk about the night at dinner in the early 70s when my father found out to his chagrin that he was a hero to the local CP. The son of an old friend was in town and staying at the party office. They had places to crash. My father called at the end of dinner and the kid on the line interrogated him: "Who are you? What do you want?" My father gave his name.  "Oh,Yes sir! Yes, Mr Edenbaum. I'll get him sir." Sitting at the table I watched my father move the phone away from his ear, incredulous.

Panofsky, Galileo As A Critic Of The Arts, the original, not the shortened one. The first section.

footnotes—which take up almost as much space as the text—stripped for simplicity, though they're no less fun to read. Greek words marked (...)

The greek passion for debate, legal or not, produced, as early as the fifth century B.C., a peculiar genre of literature, called (... ) in Greek and altercatio, concertatio, dialogus, disputatio or conflictus in Latin; in English, something like "contest" or "debate" would seem to be the most appropriate equivalent. What we witness is, as a rule, not an internecine battle between absolute good and absolute evil (as in the struggle between the Virtues and the Vices, Reason and Lust, Faith and Heresy); rather it is a competition for superiority between two—or, occasionally, more than two— relative values, a competition that may end with a reasonable compromise or even a happy reconciliation.

The contestants may be Virtue and Pleasure but also The Cook and The Pastry Baker, Homer and Hesiod, or Poetry and History but also Lentils Boiled Whole and Lentils Pureed. And in the Hellenistic age, when Plato's theory of ideas was reinterpreted so as to glorify rather than disparage the "imitative arts", the arena was entered by Painting and Sculpture. In Lucian's Dream, Sculpture (...) wages, but loses, a battle against Refined Culture (...); in Dio Chrysostom’s Olympic, Phidias, claiming for sculpture the ”power of the symbol” (...) and the ability to produce ”what cannot be compared to any mortal human being”, wins an imaginary argument with Homer; and in the Introduction to Philostratus’ Imagines we hear the echo of a debate between Sculpture and Painting, the author deciding in favor of the latter. 

In the Western Middle Ages, contest literature was passionately cultivated  in Latin as well as in the vernacular languages, and the number and kind of contestants were varied ad infinitum. Wine competes with Water or Beer; Winter with Summer; The Mountain with The Valley; The Swan with The Crow; The Cleric with the Layman, Peasant or Knight; Worldly Glory with Pious Renunciation; Fortune with Philosophy; The Body with The Soul. Even the case of natural love vs. what the State Department calls "deviationism"—outlined in Plato's Phaedrus and circumstantially developed, from opposite points of view, by Plutarch and Lucian—was kept alive and was amusingly restated in a rhymed debate between Helen of Troy (supported by Nature) and Ganymede (supported by Philology), which ends with the betrothal of the disputants. However, what disappeared from the scene of mediaeval contest literature were the visual arts. Once painting and sculpture had been demoted to the status of artes mechanicae (which adjective was held to derive from Latin moechus, bastard, rather than from Greek (...), their rivalry with each other was no longer of interest while the possibility of their competing with their aristocratic sisters, the liberal arts, was excluded on principle: the Bataille des Sept Arts was a tournament in which mere burghers were not permitted to participate.

It was not until about 1400—when Brunelleschi and Ghiberti competed for the bronze doors of the Baptistry, when Donatello was an apprentice, and when Masaccio was born—that Cennino Cennini came forward with the contention that painting had a legitimate claim to recognition as a liberal art. His reasoning was rather naive: the painter, he says, is equal to the poet in that he can produce imaginary beings as well as reproduce real ones. But his position, expressing a fundamental change in attitude, came to be generally accepted. The privilege obtained by painting was gradually extended to what was later to be called the "Fine Arts"; and for a sixteenth century thinker  it was, again, more natural to illustrate the meaning of Plato's ideas by "that image of a perfectly beautiful body" which lives in the mind of an artist than by the archetype impressed upon the mind of a philosopher.

No sooner, however, had painting and sculpture been promoted to the rank of Art with a capital "A" than they began to fight each other for superiority. In the North, not as yet inclined to theorize about the arts, a certain rivalry between painting and sculpture may reflect itself in those simulated statues which challenge the genuine productions of sculpture in the altarpieces of the Master of FlĂ©malle, Jan van Eyck and their followers. In Italy, it came into the open about 1430. Leone Battista Alberti, the first art theorist in the full sense of the word, clearly alludes to it when he suggests that sculpture and painting, though different in means and aims, were equal in rank and should keep the peace,  and thereafter the competition between the two sister arts remained the favorite topic of contest literature in many lands and for several centuries. A climax was reached in Leonardo da Vinci's "Paragone" where painting carries the offensive deep into the territory of the liberal arts, claiming to be superior not only to sculpture but also to music and poetry. And by the middle of the sixteenth century the discussion about the relative merits of painting and sculpture, by now a kind of intellectual pastime, even gave rise to what is perhaps the earliest public opinion poll: in 1546, preparatory to two lectures published three years later, a Florentine humanist, Benedetto Varchi, elicited statements from a great number of important artists, including  Michelangelo, Benvenuto Cellini and Pontormo, each of them loyally defending his own profession. 

This "Paragone" literature has some importance in that it fomented such notions as "sculptural" and "pictorial," "volume" and "space," "one view composition" and "multiview composition," notions which, when the quarrel for superiority had subsided in favor of a calm appraisal of possibilities and limitations, were to become the basic concepts of what we call "stylistic analysis." But on the whole texts of this kind cannot be said to make inspiring reading. Few l~ter writers went beyond the arguments put forward by Leonardo da Vinci, adopting and, very rarely, amplifying them when they were painters or friends of painting, attempting to refute them when they were sculptors or friends of sculpture. There is, however, one glorious exception: a letter of no less illustrious an author than Galileo Galilei.