Friday, January 27, 2023

Martha Nussbaum 

It simply is not among the goals that make up the form of life of these creatures to be eaten by predators. Their form of life is their own, and they seek to live it undisturbed, just as we do, even though at times we too are also prey for aggressors. These species would not have survived if they were not pretty good at escape. To say that it is the destiny of antelopes to be torn apart by predators is like saying that it is the destiny of women to be raped. Both are terribly wrong, and demean the suffering of victims.

Yes, it's stupid, but par for the course.

Nussbaum in 1999, attacking Judith Butler. 

Feminist thinkers of the new symbolic type would appear to believe that the way to do feminist politics is to use words in a subversive way, in academic publications of lofty obscurity and disdainful abstractness. These symbolic gestures, it is believed, are themselves a form of political resistance; and so one need not engage with messy things such as legislatures and movements in order to act daringly. The new feminism, moreover, instructs its members that there is little room for large-scale social change, and maybe no room at all.

and 2007

I do not plan to discuss the specific facts concerning boycotts of Israeli academic institutions and individuals. There are three reasons for this silence. First, I believe that philosophers should be pursuing philosophical principles—defensible general principles that can be applied to a wide range of cases. We cannot easily tell whether our principles are good ones by looking at a single case only, without inquiring as to whether the principles we propose could be applied to all similar cases.

Butler defended Ronell. Stock defended Tuvel.

It's amazing what you're able to rationalize sitting alone in a room.

The unfairness of caring for your own children

These relationships appear inegalitarian in deep ways. The parties to partial relationships may exclude others from the mutual benefits their association yields and have special responsibilities to one another that give them the right, and sometimes the duty, to further one another’s interests in ways that may interrupt equality. Scheffler calls this observation (when made in an appropriately hostile manner) the ‘distributive objection’ to special responsibilities: ‘the problem with such responsibilities is ...that they may confer unfair benefit. ...special responsibilities give the participants in rewarding groups and relationships increased claims to one another’s assistance, while weakening the claims that other people have on them’.4 Indeed, participants in these protected relationships benefit twice over. They enjoy the relationship itself, and they enjoy the claims that it enables them legitimately to make on one another, to the exclusion of those outside the relationship.

A new one: In all my ignorance I had no idea Jameson was this stupid. It still amazes me that subtle readers of the past, or present, can be desperate babbling idiots about the future.

Specifically military fears include issues of violence, of hierar­chy and discipline, of regimentation, and ultimately of aggressiv­ity itself, as that is fantasized to be a fundamental feature of human nature or the human "essence" (feminism has thematized this conception of aggressivity as patriarchy or male violence). It is worth reminding the reader that the universal army here proposed is no longer the professional army responsible for any number of bloody and reactionary coups d'etat in recent times, whose ruth­lessness and authoritarian or dictatorial mentality cannot but inspire horror and whose still vivid memory will certainly astonish anyone at the prospect of entrusting a state or an entire society to its control. Removing such justified and visceral fears would certainly be the first task of any utopian therapy, were it not for the situation of dual power from which the new universal army emerges, which begins life as a parallel force alongside the state and its official army and finds its first tasks, and indeed its vocation, in the fulfillment of neglected social services and in a coexistence with the population of a wholly different type. The "nation at arms" which emerges from this situation is above all a general population in which everyone participates and a principled reac­tion against just such enclaves which enjoy Weber's "monopoly of violence" and have come to lead an autonomous life independent of society in general. (Current American reactions against isolated police forces present ready-made analogies.)

An American Utopia, edited by Zizek. Zizek's a clown and I like him as a clown. He's a liberal trying to give liberalism a foundation in faith of something better. I've always ignored his religious shit, but unlike Americans he's a social animal.


In fact, the possibilities for utopian thinking were always bound up with the fortunes of a more general concern, not to say obsession, with power. The meditation on power was itself an ambiguous project. In the 1960s this project was a utopian one: it was a question of thinking and reimagining societies without power, particularly in the form of societies before power: here Levi-Strauss's revival of Rousseau gave rise to the utopian visions of early Baudrillard, of Marshall Sahlins in his Stone Age Economics, of Pierre Clastres, and of that supreme utopian vision, The Forest People by Colin Turnbull.

Turnbull's book wasn't a vision, let alone a supreme one; it was a description, maybe oversimplified, of a culture where individualism was suppressed, perhaps because it was unnecessary. It's the closest thing I've ever read to a description of actual utopia, but its the opposite in every way of modern individualism. 

From the book that includes his essay on Fukuyama, Perry Anderson's review of Marshall Berman:

Any compressed reconstruction of its general scheme must sacrifice the sheer imaginative sweep, the breadth of cultural sympathy, the force of intelligence, that give much of its splendour to All That Is Solid Melts into Air - qualities that over time will make it a classic in its field. Let us simply say at the outset that a stripped-down analysis of the principal case of the book is no adequate measure of the importance, and attraction, of the work to hand.

Berman's visionary argument starts as follows: There is a mode of vital experience—experience of space and time, of the self and others of life's possibilities and perils—that is shared by men and women all over the world today. I will call this body of experience "modernity" To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world—and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are. Modern environments and experiences cut across all boundaries of geography and ethnicity of class and nationality, of religion and ideology: in this sense, modernity can be said to unite all mankind.

A friend loaned me Berman's book in the 90s. She loved it and reminded me she wanted it back. We had a falling out a few months later and I've had it ever since. I hated it. And I realized reading through it that she misunderstood my arguments about almost everything we'd ever talked about. But that was because she misunderstood or refused to face her own preoccupations. She was deeply conservative. She loved Kubrick, and Warhol's films. 

Berman celebrated individuality and individualism. It's stupid. This goes back to Graeber's asocial, pseudo-social, anarchism, the loneliness that craves community only if it controls it, and the culture of illustrated fantasy.

Streeck wrote this in 2014, reviewing Mair. I was watching it in the 70s in high school, thinking about the fucking hippies. I was raised by their teachers.

Streeck, years too late. Someone should get the joke.

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.

And that link is the one that includes Streeck and Eric Rohmer.

Philosophers write about freedom vs egalitarianism or "freedom and equality." The actual issues are freedom and obligation. Equality, as a noun, is passive, saying nothing about how that relation might come to be. It can be imposed by others. Obligation describes a relation of active participants in a situation imposed not by others like us but by gods or nature: the fact of our limits and the limits of the world. The culture of the Mbuti in the Ituri forest is conservative. The only option given the fact of our own individualism—the modern condition, and irreversible—is a willed conservatism. Most people accept that; they themselves as part of a community. Berman's Americanism is a fantasy and a disaster.

The arts are Burkean. I'm with Eisenstein and Antoine Vitez, the communist from the Comédie-Française. 

The end of politics is the end of argument, the end of conversation. Wishing for the end of politics is like wishing for immortality.


Cultural acts, directed from within culture, engaging their embeddedness, address the other by definition. "Craft" is always addressed from and to the community. Speech as craft engages both reception and the gap between speaker/author/maker and receiver. Can the vanguard as vanguard ever engage the other? Has it ever engaged craft as communication? If it breaks the bonds of language how can it reach back to the community it left behind? When has a vanguard ever made a new community? The best it's been able to do is teach by failure. All political thinkers should read Eisenstein. The last 20 years of my thinking ended up in that paragraph.

Carlo Ginzburg

Let’s start by quoting the magnificent words of the Sinologist Marcel Granet: ‘The method is the path once you have travelled it.’ Microhistory was the result of a convergence and a common discussion among a group of Italian researchers, but each one arrived at it with different experiences. For me, it was the case study. When I was ten years old, my mother [the writer Natalia Ginzburg, 1916-91] regularly brought me the books published by Einaudi. One day I came across The Film Sense by Sergei Eisenstein. I understood very little of the book’s content, but the impression it made on me was immense, even though I had not yet seen Eisenstein’s films. Then I read his text on the close-up, which became very important for me.

Working on a case in an analytical way is close to this. But, of course, you also have to take into account the off-screen, otherwise the close-up would not make sense. This implies that in any close-up the global perspective is implicit. Every singular case assumes the possibility of a generalisation, and there is a back and forth between the one and the other. 


My contempt for utopianism goes back as far as I remember. I associate with with Christianity. I was raised a secularist with the understanding that Judaism focused on the responsibilities in this world, not dreams of another, making it relatively easy to sacrifice the religion itself and keep the burden. 

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