Monday, May 29, 2023


This publication is a place for thoughtful discussion around writers’ work. Substack is also founded on the belief that writers and their work deserve respect.

We ask that writers keep conversations civil in the comments of this publication and other Substack spaces where we gather writers, such as events. That means respecting one other’s perspectives and life experiences in your conversations, and refraining from cruel or derogatory language. It is not a place for irrelevant rants or off-topic digressions.

As such we are disabling comments on this post. You can read more about our approach to the comments and community interactions in this publication here:

These Community Guidelines only apply to spaces that we manage, like our company publications, events, and programs, and are completely separate and distinct from the Substack Content Guidelines, which outline what is and is not acceptable on the Substack platform as a whole as part of our hands-off approach to moderation that puts writers and readers in charge -

Hanif Kureishi 


I had the good fortune earlier this week to be visited here in Rome by an ex-student who was brought up in Nigeria and has been working on a novel set there. I’ve only read the beginning of the book and have been unable to read more. (At the moment I can’t read much because I haven’t figured out how to scroll down though documents without the help of Isabella.) Anyhow, when the student had written a considerable amount of the book, she decided to show it not to an editor, friend, publisher or agent, but to a so-called ‘sensitivity reader’. She was concerned about whether her work would be politically correct or considered offensive to some or other reader; she was worrying about whether the book would even get past an agent, let alone to a publisher. This is a trend I’ve noticed with other students and also with editors at publishing houses: whether their work will be condemned for sexism, racism, cultural appropriation and so on. This is the contemporary anxiety for young writers today.

Some people are turned on and excited by the power of controlling others’ speech and freedoms. There is an element of the left which is bursting with aggressive self-righteousness and is puritanical and self-defeating. The writers I prefer, the ones I grew up with, are the wild ones, the demented ones, the rude ones who don’t give a damn. I can give some names and will present a mere handful: Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Plath, Rhys, Celine, Burroughs, Miller, Baldwin. I could add many more and it would be a list of some of our greatest and most admired writers. They are artists who write without fear or inhibition; writers who may or may not be offensive to someone or other, writers who have been condemned or even prosecuted for their work. Think of what the great Salman Rushdie has been through in the name of free speech. The fatwah, in February 1989, was the first time I was aware that there could be real-life consequences for attacking tyrannous institutions and regimes. After the fatwah I know there were writers who were afraid to speak freely about the politicised version of Islam, or even about Muslims in general.

It has to be part of the writer’s job to be offensive, to blaspheme, to outrage and even to insult. I believe Kafka says in one of his notebooks that ‘Art should be an axe to smash the sea frozen inside us’. Art should not be safe or complacent; it should frighten, alarm and make us want to throw the book across the room. I don’t want to live in an atmosphere of fear and inhibition where writers are afraid of expressing their true selves for fear of offending someone or other. It is the work of great writers to turn the world upside down, to present opinions which go against the prevailing trends. It is not our job to please but to challenge, to make us think differently about our bodies our sexuality, politics and normativity.

Would these writers have passed the test today when it comes to political correctness? What would a ‘sensitivity reader’ have made of the work of D.H. Lawrence or William Burroughs? One of the things I’ve noticed about my students is that they are already inhibited. A student of mine wrote a good thriller from the point of view of a promiscuous American lesbian and was thoroughly criticised by his tutor for even thinking from this angle. How could he imagine for a moment that he was American, let alone a lesbian? The writer then got himself into a terrible tangle about who can write what and from which perspective. He re-wrote the book and made it much worse having been made to believe he was committing a literary crime by entering the mind of someone other than himself.

When I began my first novel, The Buddha of Suburbia, I was determined to write the book with as much disinhibition and freedom as possible. I would make it as dirty and funny as I felt my mind to be. I wouldn’t hold back or hesitate to say anything I truly felt. It wasn’t my job to deliberately shock but to tell the story in the most candid way.

Before this I can recall working on the script of My Beautiful Laundrette in the early Eighties with my friend the director Stephen Frears. Stephen is not keen on script development but his note to me when I began the rewrites was to make it ‘dirtier, outrageous and more shocking’. I felt liberated by his remarks and this script was the first thing I felt I had written in my own voice, something that was truly my own. I wonder with these early works of mine – My Beautiful Laundrette, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, The Black Album and Intimacy – what a ‘sensitivity reader’ would have made of them and what butchery would have gone on; whether I would even have a career now. I’m relieved not to be a young writer today working in this atmosphere of self-consciousness and trepidation, this North Korea of the mind. The Buddha is full of racial insults and lewd, politically incorrect language, it being written from the point of view of a dirty minded seventeen-year-old mixed-race kid.

My youngest son, who is twenty-four, tells me of what an environment of apprehension and reserve he lives in when it comes to speaking and creativity. We should not forget that the insult can be an indication of friendship and admiration; that we call one another cunts and arseholes out of fondness rather than cruelty.

I believe this over-corrected behaviour has been created by the right to make us lefties and liberals seem foolish and petty with our silly disputes about language and point of view. The work of those of us in political opposition is not to fight amongst ourselves but to create a world in which there is no inequality or structural racism.

Our business is not to provide fuel to the right over minor disagreements but to continue as artists who are brave, bold and push the boundaries of what can be said and thought.

There's plenty to quibble with.  Shakespeare never wrote "without fear or inhibition". 

Kureishi misses the point, or actually two points. For the first, I'll use an example I'd forgotten about—not the de Maistre, which I've used often enough, but the source I used only once:

Andre Gide quotes Joseph de Maistre: "Whatever constricts man strengthens him." The context is a note on Calvinism and English literature. A few pages earlier he writes
I believe that never did the "rules"' embarrass any genius, neither that of the unities in France nor that of the three actors in Greece, and that Racine and Corneille as well as Aeschylus have sufficiently proved this. (That moreover they have no absolute value and that any great genius masters them, whether be finds support in them or negates them - and that to come along and claim that this or that great man was embarrassed by them is just as ridiculous as if a painter said that when painting he is embarrassed by his frame and exclaimed: "Oh if only I could spread out a little farther!" and that those who protest against them are like Kant's dove, which thought it would fly better in a vacuum.)

In general insubordination with regard to the rules comes from an unintelligent subordination to realism, from a misunderstanding of the ends of art, from that specious insinuation of empiricism which aims, through a scandalous generalization, to scoff at art by attacking it only where it has become artifice, and to label as factitious all supernatural beauty.

The second point is clear in the words of the Substack censors above, who want to foster a polite, safe conversation, safe from the vulgarity of the street, and the real world of social and political life, and which they can bleed for profit. Kureishi is attacking individual passivity but not the forces that encourage it or in fact mandate it.

Cultures opening out and cultures closing down. The difference between renaissance and mannerism, or monarchism, democracy, and fascism. Iranian and Israeli film. I always have to repeat this shit. 

Modern ideologies discount cultures as systems fostering stability and see them only as based on teleology: derogating means for ends. Democracy is as theatrical as monarchy. Fascist theater is something else entirely.

Science is the study of facts and philosophy the study of values. Conflating the two in favor of facts, values become assumed. Values assumed all questions are seen as those of expertise. Expertise as the goal terms of measurement are assumed. Curiosity is defined by the frame, values by the frame moral worth by the frame.  

Democracy is undermined as a value and then as a goal.

I wrote that years ago. I was reminded of it a week ago reading Leiter

Scientists are useful people, but there is more to philosophy than being useful to science or solving "social problems," although I do think philosophy could do a lot more of the former, and has done almost none of the latter.  Genuine philosophers are legislators of value, as one 19th-century German observed,..

He means Nietzsche, of course, who wasn't much for democracy.

Values are the product of the community, formed and reformed over time.  High art has the relation of low art that haute cuisine has to generations of grandmothers. All of this for me goes back decades, but here 2008 will do: on the history of law, food, and beer. The absurdity of Fukuyama, Perry Anderson, and anyone who follows them, is that Schmitt and Kojève have the relation to Hegel that Shostakovich has to Beethoven. It's all riffing on the themes and structures of the past European tradition. But these assholes pretend, (and this continues from yesterday).

The history of events merely provides a series of pegs to hang the history of ideas on, and it is the latter that is of real interest. So, the time has come to turn to that history of ideas.

From the manuscript, posted here in 2015. 

The history of modern intellectual life, more even than the history of modernity itself, if it were to be written now would need to need to be written by a historian from Mars, someone so far removed from the events of the past century that their biases are wholly other. Objectivity does not exist; the sociological history of the present describes the present no more than cognitive science describes the mind. You can’t pretend to describe yourself and call it science. Skinner was right to call cognitive science “the creation science of psychology”. There’s no scientific study of ideas as ideas; there’s no scientific study of metaphysics. They’re what we are as persons, as people with experiences, desires, and names. Once you’ve acknowledged yourself as “Rudolf Carnap” any hope of the end of metaphysics is gone. It was never there to begin with. 

But this is perfect: "the authentic world of the Bildungsbürgertum". von Karajan at the Machine:

Sunday, May 28, 2023

On a recent rainy night in Manhattan, more than a hundred people gathered at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery to celebrate the launch of Parapraxis, a new magazine about the century-old practice and theory of psychoanalysis. The party, co-hosted by the journal n+1, primarily consisted of writers, academics, and analysts, most of them young. You could identify some of the analysts by their clothes (fleeces, button-downs) and their jokes (“How many dollars per hour are they charging for this?”). Alex Colston, the 31-year-old deputy editor of Parapraxis, who is training to become a clinical psychologist, set a stack of glossy magazines on a scarred wooden table near the door.

The source is Nick Burns, via Jäger. Both of them must have a very short memories. Click again for context, but read it all. It's no fucking end of annoying that I'm a mathematically illiterate "artist" and I'm with Blyth and Streeck, Piketty, and Milanovic, while these assholes are drowning in narcissism. 

But no, it makes perfect sense. I'm with Streeck, Piketty, Milanovic, Gary Indiana, and Warhol: all of us watching narcissists. The pic above is styled after a Polaroid for Interview from 1978.


That culture might be powerless to affect the movement of history was a perception Viennese society held in abeyance for half a century, by endorsing every avant-garde that appeared in its arts and literature.

"In American cultural and intellectual life, New York City sets the tone....Who wins in New York’s clash of cultures is high-stakes for the future of American political culture." 

"To be present at the creation is why one lives in America and in New York specifically." 


The history of events merely provides a series of pegs to hang the history of ideas on, and it is the latter that is of real interest. So, the time has come to turn to that history of ideas. 

I can't help laughing.

It's all an absolute farce

Mid East Eye. Turkey elections live: Erdogan wins five more years in power 

With 99.43 percent of the votes counted, the board’s chairman Ahmet Yener says we have:

Erdogan: 52.14 percent

Kilicdaroglu:  47.86 percent...

Big drop off in Kurdish vote

...Places that did see a large decrease, however, were Turkey’s Kurdish-dominated areas.

Majority Kurdish areas always tend to have a lower turnout than the rest of the country, with some residents complaining of marginalisation, repression and a lack of representation.

In the first round, Kurdish-dominated areas had 81.70 percent. That dropped to 75.74 percent today.

Mardin’s turnout dropped from 82.76 percent to 78.60; Van went from 78.62 to 72.13; Batman fell from 84.93 to 80.17; and in Agri we saw 72.86 plummet to 65.72, according to Anadolu Agency.

That won’t come as a massive surprise to people following the reluctant way Kurdish parties endorsed Kilicdaroglu again for the runoff.

The opposition candidate made a tacit alliance with the pro-Kurdish HDP before the elections, who supported him from outside his Table of Six coalition. Erdogan used that Kurdish support against him, however, calling the opposition “terrorist” due to the HDP’s ideological links with the PKK armed group.

Ahead of the runoff, Kilicdaroglu won the support of the Turkish ultranationalist Victory Party, who signed an agreement with him that promised to maintain a system of choosing trustees in municipalities that Kurdish parties complain is discriminatory...

Ogan voters appear split two ways 

One of the most anticipated questions ahead of the run-off was how those who voted for third-placed ultranationalist, anti-refugee candidate Sinan Ogan in the first round would vote this time.

Ogan endorsed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan days before the second round. Ogan's ultranationalist, anti-refugee ally Umit Ozdag and his Victory Party, on the other hand, endorsed the opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Ozdag's party got 2.2 percent of the votes in the parliamentary elections. 


You brought more than 10 million refugees in,” he shouts, addressing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, over footage of young people climbing through barbed wire and through dusty tracks next to grassland. “I hereby declare that I will send all refugees back as soon as I come to power.”...

When polled, a large majority of voters say the country’s harsh economic crisis is their main concern, but surging far-right elements have scapegoated immigrants, harnessing anti-refugee sentiment across the country and trumpeting racist discourse on immigration in a way that has been taken up by the mainstream and appears set to stay long after the election ends.

Rather than provide alternatives, both presidential candidates have sought to harness support from the ultranationalist right – with both gaining the support of one of the two leading figures in the Victory party. A week after the first-round vote, Oğan said he was backing Erdoğan. Days later, Özdağ declared an alliance with a smiling Kılıçdaroğlu at a press conference. The Victory party leader said he had backed the opposition leader because he believed Kılıçdaroğlu was more likely to enact his policy of immediately deporting refugees. 


Venezuelan refugees are a bigger and bigger issue in Colombia and elsewhere. Migrants from Zimbabwe are threatened in South Africa. I've heard nothing, ever, from Bertram and his ilk about the rights of Palestinian refugees, long term residents in Lebanon and Jordan, or about Syrian refugees in those states now. Bangladesh is struggling with the Rohingya. Oxbridge, or European, technocratic universalism is a form of exceptionalism. 

In retrospect Bertram's argument was always a highbrow version of "abolish the police".

Saturday, May 27, 2023

" Nothing ends, Francis...."

I'm embarrassed I never thought of it before. It was always obvious.

Prescription vs description, speculation vs observation, theory vs history, faith vs scepticism, scholasticism vs popular culture, philosophers vs artists/comedians.

"It doesn't end. Never will it end." Gunter Grass, Crabwalk

Fukuyama now has a tag

Aaron Ross Powell and Brian Albrecht

Powell: I’m disappointed to see Substack giving prime promotional real estate to Robert Reich. Reich is probably best characterized as the progressive Ben Shapiro. He sounds smart and persuasive to partisans, and they like to think he’s “destroyed” the views of people they don’t like, but his arguments are thin, almost always misleading, and people with a deep understanding of the issues he’s talking about, even those sympathetic to his positions, generally view him as an unserious thinker. Progressives can do a lot better.

Albrecht: I’ve been thinking a lot about this. I wonder to what extent it is reasonable to expect Substack to know the difference. They see who generates readers and subscribers. Can I really expect them to independently identify experts across fields?

P: Not in every case, no. But there are obviously cases where one really ought to know if someone purporting to be an expert in fact isn’t. “How could we have known RFK Jr. isn’t actually a well-regarded expert on vaccines?” But I don’t know how or where to draw that line. I was mainly expressing broader frustration at how many people don’t know that Reich is a charlatan.

A: That’s my frustration too.

Substack Speaks, defending Robert Reich 

This publication is a place for thoughtful discussion around writers’ work. Substack is also founded on the belief that writers and their work deserve respect.

We ask that writers keep conversations civil in the comments of this publication and other Substack spaces where we gather writers, such as events. That means respecting one other’s perspectives and life experiences in your conversations, and refraining from cruel or derogatory language. It is not a place for irrelevant rants or off-topic digressions.

As such we are disabling comments on this post. You can read more about our approach to the comments and community interactions in this publication here:

These Community Guidelines only apply to spaces that we manage, like our company publications, events, and programs, and are completely separate and distinct from the Substack Content Guidelines, which outline what is and is not acceptable on the Substack platform as a whole as part of our hands-off approach to moderation that puts writers and readers in charge -

Leighten Woodhouse is concerned: "Can someone at Substack explain why so many comments here were removed? I’m open to there being a good reason but on its face it looks a bit alarming." 

Specialist writing for a general audience at best is writing for an audience as you would like to imagine it, while trying not to be esoteric, obscure, needlessly technical or consciously high-brow.  Writing for profit can become writing for fans. It's amazing how much conversation on Substack revolves around either claims of censorship or bragging rights.

Artists are better than academics at negotiating the politics of popularity. Not that they don't mostly fail, but pedants fall hard. DeLong and Noah Smith are unbearable. Reich and Krugman are political figures and it's useless to pretend otherwise. But it's equally useless to pretend Substack isn't a publisher and that all the competition for hits is about impressing the techbro editors above. And it's interesting or not how much racial-rationalism tecbros approve. The moral indignation of Lorentzen and Taibbi are more related than one of them at least might want to admit. 

Ganz writes a piece on right-wing nostalgia for left-wing authoritarianism. 

"First off, Compact itself exists to peddle this sort of hybridization of Left and Right themes, which I have elsewhere called an “unholy alliance.” (As a quick aside, in a recent piece, Slavoj Zizek, who sadly is a contributor to Compact, used this very term in a recent essay, writing, “We live in an era of unholy alliances, a combination of ideological elements which violate the standard opposition of Left and Right.”)

As I point out in that piece, the attempt to find such a Left-Right synthesis is an old and dishonorable tradition."

You'd hope he'd have learned something by now—and this still makes me laugh. I reminded him that Sohrab Ahmari is a fan of Mike Davis.

...I devoured City of Quartz, and then I read everything else Davis had written up to that point, and I was left wanting more.
Ganz replied that he was too, which, after all was my point. I quoted T.J. Clark (see the link) and said as I always do that apocalyptic romance is where radicalism meets fascism, adding that if he read Davis as more than a passive writer of elegiac prose he would have at least when he was living in Bushwick spent some time at the end of a night in the back of a bodega with a last beer and a couple of tacos sitting with workers home from a late shift, or smoking a cigarette with a bakery worker on a break. But he's admitted that he has no social ties outside his scene. 

Ganz writes for dollars communing to his followers. Journalists write on Substack as a way to get things out and make some extra cash. They bring their own readers. I'm not quibbling. Milanovic just posts like an academic blogger, without a paywall. But this is what Substack was made for. Found via a "thank you!" from a writer recommended by Lorentzen.
A European monarch once awarded me a medal for extraordinary service, an oil baron unknowingly gave me millions of dollars to do some focus groups, and a Pulitzer Prize winner convinced me to buy a trailer park.

Oddly, the thread that ties these random random facts of my life together is a weird junior high school I went to that mashed 6th, 7th, and 8th graders together, didn’t have formal subjects, and emphasized writing as a tool to understand the world.

I didn’t realize how much I missed that experience until I started sifting the sands of Substack, unearthing writing that dissolved the boundaries that I thought existed between me and the world. 

My goal with my Substack is to help you feel more peaceful, more understood, and more human, by recommending my favorite Substack articles. I also hope that, perhaps once a year, something that I write will bring you bliss.

Pablum and happy talk, from and ex-congressional staffer now at the Pew Charitable Trusts. 


Van Bavel’s key idea is as follows.  In societies where non-market constraints are dominant (say, in feudal societies), liberating factor markets is a truly revolutionary change. Ability of peasants to own some land or to lease it, of workers to work for wages rather than to be subjected to various types of corvées, or of the merchants to borrow at a more or less competitive market  rather than to depend on usurious rates, is liberating at an individual level (gives person much greater freedom), secures property, and unleashes the forces of economic growth. The pace of activity quickens, growth accelerates (true, historically, from close to zero to some small number like 0.5% per year) and even inequality, economic and above all social, decreases. This is the period so well recognized and analyzed by Adam Smith. Van Bavel, in a nod to Braudel, shows that very similar “essors”  have existed in the pre-medieval Iraq (then the most developed part of the world), medieval Central and Northern Italy (Florence, Venice, Milan, Genoa..) and on the cusp between the late medieval Europe and early modern period in the Low Countries.

But the process, Bavel argues, contains the seeds of its destruction. Gradually factor markets cover more and more of the population: Bavel is excellent in providing numerical estimates on, for example, the percentage of wage-earners in Lombardy in the 14th century or showing that in Low Countries wage labor was, because of guilds, less prevalent in urban than in rural areas.  One factor market, though, that of capital and finance, gradually begins to dominate. Private and public debt become most attractive investments, big fortunes are made in finance, and those who originally asked for the level playing field and removal of feudal-like constraints, now use their wealth to conquer the political power and impose a serrata, thus making the rules destined to keep them forever on the top. What started as an exercise in political and economic freedom begins to look like an exercise in cementing the acquired power, politically and economically. The economic essor is gone, the economy begins to stagnate and, as happened to Iraq, Northern Italy and Low Countries, is overtaken by the competitors.*

As this short sketch shows, Bavel’s theory has many links, or can be juxtaposed, to several contemporary views of economic history. Bavel is dismissive of a unilinear view that regards the ever widening role of factor markets, including the financial, as leading to ever higher incomes and greater political freedom. His view, although not fully cyclical (on which I will say a bit  more at the very end of the review) is “endogenously curvilinear”: things which were good originally, when they hypertrophy, become a hindrance to further growth. It is thus a story of the rise and fall where, like in Greek tragedies, the very same factors that brought the protagonists grandeur, eventually hurl them into the abyss.

...It is not only the plausibility of the mechanism of decline that gives strength to Bavel’s thesis; it is also that he lists the manifestation of the decline, observable in all six cases. Financial investments yield much more than investments in the real sector, the economy begins to resemble a casino, the political power of the financiers becomes enormous. The richest among the financiers either directly or indirectly enter politics, they become patrons of arts,  sponsors of sports and education,  and we witness simultaneously (1) oligarchic politics, (2) slower growth and lower level of real investments, (3) higher inequality, (4) domination of finance and (5) artistic efflorescence.  What the ancient writers describe as “decadence” clearly sets it, but, as Bavel is at pains to note, it is not caused by moral defects of the ruling class but by the type of economy that is being created.  Extravagant bidding for assets whose quantity is fixed (land and art) is a further manifestation of such an economy: the bidding for fixed assets reflects lack of alternative profitable investments as well as the expectation that, as inequality increases, there would be some even crazier and richer investors who would pay even more for a work of art, thus enabling the realization of a capital gain. 

I'm torn between nodding and saying no fucking shit, but it's a good description of the economic origins of apocalyptic romance.  Materialism is the least romantic worldview imaginable, but that's why a passive romanticism attaches itself. And though it should be obvious, that includes Gerhard Richter. 

I'm not immune, but I'm not immune to anything I've ever written about. Nothing human is alien to me. That's the point right? The last thing I said to Ganz is that I'm torn between art and politics. Art usually wins, but that makes me a bit cranky.

I really hate Lorentzen. His world is petty and pathetic. This is just sad. But he's managed to remind me that I shouldn't have turned down the job with David Salle in 1986—I didn't want to move the the Hamptons and I'd decided to go back to school. Lorentzen is nostalgic for a decadence that I'm closer to than he can ever be. But I kept my distance at the time, and what's replaced it is worse. I have so many regrets. I missed my chance. I missed a lot of fun. Then again I'd never had had the patience. And Salle's work was never what he thought or pretended it was.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

in re:the last two posts

Her only piece of writing advice, if it can be called that, is: “If it’s not a risk then it’s nothing.”

What's the relation between those who want risk and those who want to be left the fuck alone?  Or those who've acclimated to risk and those who haven't? I'm not sure Annie Ernaux has thought that far ahead. She's an alienated individualist, in the sense of dedicating her life to the recording of her own experience, but she uses others as material only in the production of words. She instrumentalizes people from her past, expressing her superiority as an author controls characters, at the same time defending people as a whole, as a community, against those who would instrumentalize them in life in the service of wealth. Her life is dedicated to noblesse oblige. It's the moral superiority of a whore. "Better a victim than a victimizer" as my mother used to say. And my mother had a deep respect for whores. Leftism, Iris Murdoch and The Story of O. 

"No idea's original, there's nothing new under the sun"

Monday, May 22, 2023

The Tactical Notebook, a Substack page, "recommended" by Adam Tooze. 
The author's bio at the Modern War Institute at West Point

Bruce Ivar Gudmundsson is an historian who studies innovation in contemporary land forces and the way that the armies of the last two centuries have dealt with the challenges and opportunities of radical change. His books on this subject include Stormtroop Tactics, On Artillery, On Armor, and (with John English) the second edition of On Infantry. Dr. Gudmundsson is also the author of a pair of books about the British Expeditionary Force of the First World War, Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 4: Logistics, and the concept paper Operational Maneuver from the Sea. His most recent major article, “The Education of the Enlightened Soldier,” is the first in a planned series on the use of the applicatory method in professional military education.

“The Education of the Enlightened Soldier”
The whole page is a fucking disaster.

repeats, as always.
And here's some tasteful but sophisticated mainstream left-liberalism from 1965, that's no longer mainstream, tasteful, or left-liberal

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Jäger rt's Mona Ali

How many of you well-versed in the Lucas paradox knew this? Man, the stars were aligned for his ex.

Six years before Professor Lucas won his Nobel, his estranged wife expressed great faith in his future. Her lawyer inserted a clause in their divorce agreement stipulating that she would receive half of any Nobel money he might receive if the honor was awarded before Oct. 31, 1995. He received the prize barely three weeks before that deadline.

A screen-grab. the source.

The Lucas 'paradox' doesn't exist. Wall Street invests in the American South and Louisiana isn't rich. European empires built infrastructure because it was necessary to extract wealth. Lucas married a native, a servant, a subaltern—an American college girl, in 1959and she used his laws against him. Investment is extractive; it's as cheap as it needs to be. But people being social animals things get messy.

"Man, the stars were aligned...." Economics is shallow, but sexism runs deep.

In an agenda with conservative implications for economic policy, Professor Lucas maintained that government spending that supplants private investment is counterproductive; that the money supply is what matters most; and that policies to reduce inequality by redistributing income, though “seductive,” are “in my opinion the most poisonous” to sound economics.

He also favored eliminating taxes on capital gains, or on any income derived from capital. And he embraced supply-side economics, which calls for increasing the supply of goods and services while cutting taxes to promote job creation, business expansion and entrepreneurial activity.

“The supply-side economists,” he said in a 1993 interview, “have delivered the largest genuinely free lunch that I have seen in 25 years of this business, and I believe we would be a better society if we followed their advice.”

What an ass. 

Saturday, May 20, 2023

It is precisely in this conclusion, however, that the analytical shortcomings of Welfare for Markets come into view. Can this metaphysic of money do the explanatory work that Jäger and Zamora ask it to do, given that social life has been principally mediated by money and markets in the Global North for several centuries now? After all, as the authors remind us with the book’s first epigraph, Karl Marx already offered a trenchant critique of the “cash nexus” by the 1840s—nearly a century before the height of the solidaristic politics whose downfall the book justifiably laments. If the monetary mediation of life is really so singularly corrosive, one might wonder how the New Deal emerged at all in a country where life insurance has been a mass industry since the Civil War. It is necessary to push deeper since, as Alyssa Battistoni observed in her political reading of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own (1929), money is first and foremost a means to life itself. When Woolf marveled at the transubstantiation of the physical money in her hands after a small bequest left her a fixed allowance for life, her elation was entirely unrelated to the possibilities of individualized consumption. “It is remarkable,” Woolf observed, “what a change of temper a fixed income will bring about. No force in the world can take from me my five hundred pounds. Food, house and clothing are mine forever.” 

Battistoni, (Harvard/Barnard/Jacobin/Utopia), is in the middle.

I'm bored.

The great majority of nobles either did not know how, or did not wish, to get rich. The great majority of younger sons had no desire to "derogate." They sought the remedy elsewhere, in a growing exclusiveness. Some held that the nobility should form a body like the clergy and be constituted as a closed caste.

New gen European intellectual historians: "You can't give people free money. It's turn them into vulgar materialists!" The new gen American historians. "Well..."  The corollary to the Americanization of the world.

Back to the review.

Jäger and Zamora, both Belgian, are historians of modern political thought... 

Zamora’s puckishly framed The Last Man Takes LSD: Foucault and the End of the Revolution (2021), co-written with Mitchell Dean, ruffled feathers by exploring what it took to be Michael Foucault’s alleged late career dalliance with the libertarian undercurrents of neoliberal and Californian thinking.

Again too perfect. Back to Baudelaire.

This habitude of military metaphors denotes minds not military, but made for discipline, that is, for conformity, minds born domesticated, Belgian minds, which can think only in society. 

Foucault was a libertine. The demimonde is always full of monarchists. The "ruffled feathers" belong to moralists. Genet opposed prison reform because prison made him what he was. It's almost bizarre that I even have to say this shit.

In his mid 30s my brother quit his job, left his apartment and moved into a homeless shelter to work on his chess game. The man on the right is the Representative of the Dutch Ministry of Finance and self-described paleo-libertarian. My brother works as a proofreader. He won the game, winning the tournament and two weeks in Russia.

All of the writers above live lives dedicated to work, competition, argument, posing, and climbing. People who aren't interested in any of those things shouldn't be forced to suffer all the consequences. Oxbridge philosophs and Oxbridge bankers are cut from the same cloth: they like to win and rule. 

Give people free money and legalize bloodsport. Bring back politics and stop teaching its theory. Teach history from second grade and leave philosophy as an elective in college. France is different. The relation to the Netherlandish and the Anglosphere is an interesting topic.
Torracinta (Boston Review) again
One might expect to encounter this perspective in the words of transfer recipients themselves. Yet in perhaps the biggest shortcoming of the intellectual historical orientation of Welfare for Markets, such voices are entirely absent. Firmly ensconced in the world of planners, economists, utopians, technocrats, philosophers, and the occasional activist, the book notably overlooks the views of the poor, who are portrayed in precisely the same abstract fashion that Jäger and Zamora explicitly decry when it comes to economic theory.
more on Jäger and Zamora
Torracinta, here second row left

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

update at the top. It just gets worse.

Jäger: "Oh buddy"

Fukuyama: “the invasion of Ukraine was such a shock bc in our lifetimes we’ve never witnessed one country militarily invading another.” 

Chris Hayes: “Well, Iraq.”

Fukuyama: “Yeah but…well, ok” 

Jäger: "We should just cryogenically preserve the Fukuyama of 1991 and not listen to the other versions." 

Fukuyama hasn't changed. And they're not talking about the Iran Iraq war. The Israeli invasion of Lebanon doesn't' count. A lot of invasions don't count. Wikipedia has a list.


Jäger rt's a pic of a text of Alexander Kluge, with images by Richter. The passage fits every argument I've ever made about the Gothic anti-humanist logic of modernism. It's almost too perfect.

A transcription of texts (just as if evolution had been tinkering with their DNA texts) doesn't only create lines to new, future texts. It can also be reconstructed in the direction of paradise. The way there leads through indeterminacies. (Nearer, my God, to Thee’ was the music played by the orchestra on board the Titanic as the ship went down. But  it is also the working instructions to copyists of all countries, who are driven from the omphalos of experience into the parallel world (heterotopia), the pre-world (history) and the future world (the world of our children, who are so attached to life). For copyists, all images are NOW—TIME.

The medieval world of monastic copyists, of the memorization as opposed to interpretation of the Koran, the Talmud, the Bible, or any religious text. Allegiance to dogma: the innocence of the eternal present.

And he rt's this

In order to give to divine Spirit the fullness of being, it is necessary to situate divine Spirit within the World, to conceive of it as the “entelechy” of the World. Now, to conceive of it [215] in this way is to conceive of it as worldly, that is to say, human Spirit, and no longer as God. In short, Man who seeks to understand himself fully and completely as Spirit, can be satisfied only by an atheistic anthropology. And this is why the Schicksal, the Destiny of every Theology, of every Religion, is, in the final analysis, atheism.
And this documents how fascism and other forms of ideologically committed authoritarianism in the 20th century could be "a-theistic". It's all interesting as a matter for history and sociology, but with these idiots we're back to Fukuyama, and the moral imperatives of faith, in ideas, in the word, in a metaphysical reality.

Before that he rt'd Loren Balhorn's sad emoji for the last playlist of Ryuichi Sakamoto, avatar of ironic kitsch pop. Sakamoto was wishfully pretentious, but he had a light sad sense of irony and an awareness his own limitations. And he didn't pretend to be a leftist. Jäger can be good with facts; he says he prefers ideas, but his real preference is fantasy. All of them indulge the waking dreams of people who've watched too many movies 
There's an attitude in Godard, despite the assertions of wanting to converse, that says, Don't argue or cross me about such things. And this book does not alter the notion of his brilliant immaturity. The most fascinating point of all applies more broadly than to Godard; it reaches out to anyone who believes that film is more important than the world. Maybe film is not the great new language of engagement with the world that Bazin hoped it would be. Perhaps it is, instead, a vehicle more suited to dreaming, sensationalism and not wanting to grow up. Perhaps language--the construct of words--was always subtler, deeper and more humane.

All art relates to dreams; film is the nearest art to dreaming itself. It's the nearest thing to a drug: that's its weakness. No other art makes it so easy to deny the fact of artifice, but every great film, one way or another puts artifice out front. The corollary is that bad films try to replace reality. "Trash cinema" is credited with giving the lie to smooth commercialism but wouldn't exist without it. It's dependent. Negative dialectics is the sincerest form of flattery.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

repeats, from 2008 and 12: NYT, Religion and Class in Turkey

ISTANBUL : When two women in Islamic head scarves were spotted in an Italian restaurant in this city’s new shopping mall this month, Gulbin Simitcioglu did a double take.

Covered women, long seen as backward peasants from the countryside, “have started to be everywhere,” said Ms. Simitcioglu, a sales clerk in an Italian clothing store, and it is making women like her more than a little uncomfortable. “We are Turkey’s image. They are ruining it.”

As Turkey lurches toward a repeal of a ban on head scarves at universities, the country’s secular upper middle class is feeling increasingly threatened.

Religious Turks, once the underclass of society here, have become educated and middle class, and are moving into urban spaces that were once the exclusive domain of the elite.  

and 2022: From polarization to pluralism 

April 20,

The man seeking to dislodge Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as Turkey’s leader has shaken up next month’s presidential elections by declaring his identity as an Alevi — a member of the country’s main religious minority, which has often suffered discrimination.

The statement by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the joint presidential candidate backed by six opposition parties, came in a Twitter video viewed almost 20 million times in less than 24 hours. The tweet itself was viewed some 70 million times.

While most Turks have long known that Kılıçdaroğlu hails from the Alevi minority, his decision to stress his identity is being widely viewed as a plea for pluralism and tolerance, and an attempt to strike a contrast with Erdoğan, who has based much of his political career on his mainstream Sunni identity.

As always: Fuck Dani Rodrik.


If you think neoliberalism at its peak (20y ago) ideologically meant globalization (in danger now as trade blocs are being formed), privatization (which has been discontinued), no industrial policies (which are being reintroduced), no export controls (which are making a comeback)

no attention to workers' rights (see Jake Sullivan recent speech), development investment in institution-building (which both BRI and US AID now deride), no price controls (which are being introduced), it is not clear to me how it has not been rejected.

A good reply

Neoliberalism is also deeply connected to financialization, i.e. the proliferation of financial relationships (e.g supermarkets selling insurance, small farmers' incorporation into global financial networks) and the political power of financial actors, both of which continue now 
A better one


For those of you who have been with us so far, you'll know that we've been thinking and talking a lot about how the First Amendment should adjust to the new challenges of the platform era.

Varieties of technocratic authoritarianism.  "Looping back from a post-communist romance with libertarianism, to begin again."

Friday, May 12, 2023

George, in good times, and bad.

I have long been interested in classifications of people, in how they affect the people classified, and how the affects on the people in turn change the classifications. We think of many kinds of people as objects of scientific inquiry. Sometimes to control them, as prostitutes, sometimes to help them, as potential suicides. Sometimes to organise and help, but at the same time keep ourselves safe, as the poor or the homeless. Sometimes to change them for their own good and the good of the public, as the obese. Sometimes just to admire, to understand, to encourage and perhaps even to emulate, as (sometimes) geniuses. We think of these kinds of people as definite classes defined by definite properties. As we get to know more about these properties, we will be able to control, help, change, or emulate them better. But it’s not quite like that. They are moving targets because our investigations interact with them, and change them. And since they are changed, they are not quite the same kind of people as before. The target has moved. I call this the ‘looping effect’. Sometimes, our sciences create kinds of people that in a certain sense did not exist before. I call this ‘making up people’.

What sciences? The ones I shall call the human sciences, which, thus understood, include many social sciences, psychology, psychiatry and, speaking loosely, a good deal of clinical medicine. I am only pointing, for not only is my definition vague, but specific sciences should never be defined except for administrative and educational purposes. Living sciences are always crossing borders and borrowing from each other.

Emergence is about the past, yes, but it is subtitled A Philosophical Study. I never called it history. It was the first long piece of writing, in any language, that captured, adapted and applied “the new kind of analysis that Michel Foucault called archaeology. At the time, few readers who came across the book were familiar with his work. Today his achievements are almost too well known, beloved by some, loathed by others. I continue to be a fan, but I have no intention of writing about Foucault. I continue to use him in my own way, with no thought about whether I am faithful to the traditions he began. 

From idealism to mannerism (negative idealism) to humane irony. That's how it works. I'm too much of a determinist to be impressed by the obvious. And the thought of Foucault beginning a tradition is annoying. 

"...the impersonal in art and technocracy, though the product of the same events are very different things."

"[Weber's] value-free science is as much the product of an age as he was."

Panofsky, Auerbach, et al.

Inbox 5/1 HRW: Joint Statement: UAE Human Rights Record Ahead of COP28 

Authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) continue their sustained assault on human rights and freedoms, including targeting human rights activists, enacting repressive laws, and using the criminal justice system as a tool to eliminate the human rights movement. These policies have led to the closure of civic space, severe restrictions on freedom of expression, both online and offline, and the criminalization of peaceful dissent.

For more than 10 years, UAE authorities have been unjustly detaining at least 60 Emirati human rights defenders, civil society activists, and political dissidents who were arrested in 2012 because of their demands for reform and democracy or their affiliation with the Reform and Social Guidance Association (al-Islah). Some from this group, which are commonly known as the "UAE 94" because of the number of defendants in their mass trial, were subjected to enforced disappearance, torture, and other ill-treatment. They were sentenced to between 7 and 15 years in prison during a trial in 2013 that failed to meet minimum fair trial standards.

More than three-quarters of these prisoners have completed their sentences yet remain in arbitrary detention to date. UAE authorities refuse to release them, alleging that they continue to pose a "terrorist threat," based on vague laws that allow their indefinite detention, in flagrant violation of international human rights law

Taken Hostage in the UAE. Modern slavery

Inbox 5/10, from Artforum. Must See: The Sharjah Biennial 

AT THE DAWN OF THE CENTURY, no special sign presaged Sharjah’s rise to its present status as an artistic incubator and arguably today’s most influential hub of research and creation focused on what is now called the Global South. Yes, its ruler, Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, launched the Sharjah Biennial in 1993. But in its early editions, the exhibition was relatively staid, presenting neo-modernist art from Arab and Muslim countries on the national-pavilion model. Compared with glitzy Dubai, the city of Sharjah, capital of the eponymous emirate, was (and remains) low-rise and conservative despite the influx of wealth from oil and gas.

In 2002, Hoor Al Qasimi, the sheikh’s youngest daughter, who studied at London’s Slade School of Fine Art and Royal College of Art, visited Documenta 11 in Kassel, which Okwui Enwezor curated. That exhibition was decentralized, with earlier programs in Vienna, New Delhi, Saint Lucia, and Lagos all feeding into the main show. It embraced collectives and research-based practices. It afforded each artist space to articulate their vision rather than imposing a tightly sequenced curatorial narrative. And although it included white European and North American artists, its roster leaned hard toward what Enwezor called the “postcolonial constellation,” with its diasporic tendrils....

Every artist expresses a subject position within Enwezor’s “postcolonial constellation,” and if you miss white Euro-American perspectives, you are welcome to seek them elsewhere. 

Woke authoritarian mercantilist capitalism. Israel and the US approve: The Abraham Accords

Inbox today from Artforum,

Sculptor Tom Sachs today wrote to the New York Times to offer a public apology regarding his alleged treatment of staff. The apology arrived in the wake of Nike’s confirmation that it was “not working with Tom’s studio at this time and [has] no release dates planned.” Sachs, whose work investigates the various intersections of fashion, consumerism, science, and the military, had since 2012 collaborated with the footwear giant to create sneakers. The shoes were so sought after that they often achieved several times their original price on the resale market.

The New York–based contemporary artist, whose works have commanded gallery prices of $300,000, saw his empire rocked after the February publication of a help-wanted ad on the website of the nonprofit New York Foundation for the Arts sparked contempt, criticism, and, perhaps worst of all, conversation. The ad, posted anonymously by an “Art World Family” seeking an executive personal assistant, was reposted by Emily Colucci on her blog, where it drew attention for its excruciating and lengthy description of the many tasks required of the person who would “make life easier for the couple in every way possible.”

 “‘We want you to be a personal assistant, we want you to be an executive assistant, but we also want you to do all kinds of liaising with our staff,’ which sounds to me like three jobs,” painter Emily Mae Smith told the Times a few days after the ad went up. “Oh, and babysitting?”

“That’s a job where, if you’re hired, it’s a countdown to being fired,” poet and performer Soren Stockman, an executive assistant, told the paper. “This person wants to never be affected by anything irritating. There’s no way to fill that need for someone.”

"Research" and "investigation". Sachs was the first artist I knew to get a PR person. But again this is the time when art was becoming fashion, and "conceptualism" was becoming design. The Sharjah Biennial is less art than style sold on money and lies. Without either there'd be only a smaller regional audience, and who knows what you'd find under the surface.  Film festivals in Iran are more serious, because more local, and because films, like books, aren't luxury commodities, so conspicuous consumption is effect not cause.

The politics of design is either conservative—fashion and furniture—or reactionary. "The research model" is reactionary. 

Picasso in 1923

I can hardly understand the importance given to the word research in connection with modern painting. 

And 1927

...Moreover. this feeling for exactitude is one I have always held onto in my researches. 

The beginning of his slide into kitsch.

"The Design Economy"  

"...poet and performer Soren Stockman, an executive assistant,"

Soren Stockman's LinkedIn page

Award-winning poet with over a decade of high level administrative experience supporting the top professionals in their field in New York City and beyond. Organized events attended by thousands on three continents featuring today's most celebrated and accomplished artists and executives. Excels at front facing work as well as managing an office's internal operations. Intuitive and anticipatory to the needs of others, as well as to the needs of a given task or project. I am precise and sensitive in both verbal and written communication. I'm a people person.  

Executive Assistant Ares Management Corporation

Krugman in 2010, late to the game: "Pretty soon, we’ll be having serious, completely un-self-conscious discussions in major magazines about the servant problem."

Crooked Timber in 2007: 24 hour nanny service for college professors, linked in 2012.
More from 2012: a list, including the above, and another.
Most of the people I've known who've made the choice to be servants extend the logic of servant and master to their political morality. People who like to serve want to be cared for. The worst snobs are not the masters but the direct servants of the powerful. George Will and David Brooks have the arrogance not of rulers but of their attendants. Their anger is directed mostly at this who refuse to serve.


Historically, cosmopolitanism is an assumption of universalism only as overlaying the particular. It's the acceptance of contradiction, not the assumption that it can, will, or even should be overcome. Technocracy cannot value the particular. It couldn't function if it did, and overdetermined particularism as narcissism is blowback. 

Related from 2016, Zadie Smith, novelist for bankers, and Remains of the Day.

From 2005, Didion, her servants, and the scene Lorentzen likes to memorialize.

The post just below, the servant Stangl.

Sachs was the worst of an extended crew that included Peter Dinklage, who no doubt now has servants. It's a job. The choice as career is something else.

An amazing photograph; so much there if you choose to make the effort. Self-identifying as a thinker or anything else is meaningless.

serendipity. The secret to comedy. But nobody gets my jokes.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Ganz: Madam Prime Minister...
 Lily Lynch in the  NLR

Finland is gripped by wartime mania. News reports show mothers baking celebratory NATO cakes, online sales of NATO flags are soaring, and a Savonlinna-based brewing company has recently rolled out a NATO-themed beer, Otan olutta (the first word is a play on the French acronym for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; the full name means ‘I’ll have some beer’ in Finnish). The outgoing Social Democratic Prime Minister Sanna Marin has repeatedly emphasized the similarities between the 1939 Finnish–Russian War and today’s conflict in Ukraine. Hundreds of Finns, including the former chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, have paid to have personalized messages inscribed on Ukrainian artillery shells fired at Russian forces.

The discourse reached fever-pitch last week when Finland officially entered NATO, almost exactly 75 years after declaring its policy of neutrality. Some 78% of the population supported the move, but this was a recent development. In 2017, that figure stood at only 21%. The newfound Atlanticist fervour has been spearheaded by Marin, whose status as the world’s youngest Prime Minister and penchant for clubbing in Helsinki had already attracted international attention, netting her a luminous profile in British Vogue. Her tough line on Russia later consolidated her stardom. In March she visited Kyiv and laid flowers at the grave of Dmytro Kotsiubailo, a leading figure in the far-right Pravyi Sektor. She also called for heavier arms shipments to Ukraine and backed the construction of a 124-mile fence along Finland’s eastern border, replete with barbed wire to stop Russian men fleeing conscription.

Marin’s Natophilia transformed her into a beacon of hope for Europe’s new progressivism. Light on substance but eminently Instagrammable, this political tendency bases its appeal not on a coherent ideological outlook but on a feel-good millennial relatability. Its modernizing ethos owes more to the New World than the Old; it is just as at home at the Bilderberg Group annual meeting and the WEF stage as it is at the nightclub or pride parade. Under Marin, it has used the moral capital of Nordic pacifism – and the associated traditions of feminism, neutrality and social democracy – in order to destroy it.

...The far right’s rising fortunes have been met with curiously muted concern in foreign media outlets, perhaps mindful not to damage Finland’s standing as it enters NATO. In the days after the election, Atlanticist think-tankers and commentators were quick to point out that Marin’s loss did not signal a rejection of the military alliance. In a narrow sense, they are correct. Yet the fact remains that, following the electoral defeats of North Macedonia’s Zoran Zaev in 2021 and Sweden’s Magdalena Andersson in 2022, Marin is the third European social democrat to have brought their country into NATO before losing the next election to the right. What does this pattern tell us? Perhaps that a single-minded focus on Euro-Atlantic integration has deprived such parties of their historic purpose and neglected more pressing matters.

The Odeon was the hotspot bistro in TriBeCa in the 80s to the 90s. It was great place to come in after midnight, covered in dust after a long day for a martini, some oysters and a steak. It's still around. The last time I was there late it was dead, and not good. And coming in covered in dust isn't acceptable in bistros in Manhattan anymore, or anywhere else in NY for that matter. Amusing that Ganz picked The Odeon and not Balthazar, which I heard bad things about at its height: the food sucked, though the bakery was great. But the Odeon has value as nostalgia, the decadence of the past, and Balthazar is decadence of the present. McNally lost the Odeon to his wife in the divorce.

In related news, the deputy editor of Foreign Policy doesn't know the history of American foreign policy.

9/9/23, Euronews: "Finland's former PM Sanna Marin leaves parliament for Blair foundation"

Sunday, May 07, 2023

updated a few times by now

John Ganz got into a twitter feud with a wise-ass, who turned out to be an asshole, but it started when the asshole made a point that was obvious to Panofsky 90 years ago, though the asshole overstated his case. It wasn't obvious to Ganz so I paid my 5 dollars and subscribed again, just so I could use the quotes I have for years. I riffed a bit on Richter and the art world, told stories and name-dropped. After that I cancelled my account. I don't think Ganz knows it was me. He liked the comment. Or maybe deleting it might have been difficult. Or maybe he'll still do it. If Shadi Hamid can like and delete, why not Ganz? 

Film art is the only art the development of which men now living have witnessed from the very beginnings; and this development is all the more interesting as it took place under conditions contrary to precedent. It was not an artistic urge that gave rise to the discovery and gradual perfection of a new technique; it was a technical invention that gave rise to the discovery and gradual perfection of a new art.

From this we understand two fundamental facts. First, that the primordial basis of the enjoyment of moving pictures was not an objective interest in a specific subject matter, much less an aesthetic interest in the formal presentation of subject matter, but the sheer delight in the fact that things seemed to move, no matter what things they were. Second, that films—first exhibited in “kinetoscopes,” namely, cinematographic peep shows, but projectable to a screen since as early as 1894—are, originally, a product of genuine folk art (whereas, as a rule, folk art derives from what is known as “higher art”). At the very beginning of things we find the simple recording of movements: galloping horses, railroad trains, fire engines, sporting events, street scenes. And when it had come to the making of narrative films these were produced by photographers who were anything but “producers” or “directors,” performed by people who were anything but actors, and enjoyed by people who would have been much offended had anyone called them “art lovers.”

The casts of these archaic films were usually collected in a “café” where unemployed supers or ordinary citizens possessed of a suitable exterior were wont to assemble at a given hour. An enterprising photographer would walk in, hire four or five convenient characters, and make the picture while carefully instructing them what to do: “Now, you pretend to hit this lady over the head”; and (to the lady): “And you pretend to fall down in a heap.” Productions like these were shown, together with those purely factual recordings of “movement for movement’s sake,” in a few small and dingy cinemas mostly frequented by the “lower classes” and a sprinkling of youngsters in quest of adventure (about 1905, I happen to remember, there was only one obscure and faintly disreputable Kino in the whole city of Berlin, bearing, for some unfathomable reason, the English name of “The Meeting Room”). Small wonder that the “better classes,” when they slowly began to venture into these early picture theaters, did so, not by way of seeking normal and possibly serious entertainment, but with that characteristic sensation of self-conscious condescension with which we may plunge, in gay company, into the folkloristic depths of Coney Island or a European kermis; even a few years ago it was the regulation attitude of the socially or intellectually prominent that one could confess to enjoying such austerely educational films as The Sex Life of the Starfish or films with “beautiful scenery,” but never to a serious liking for narratives.

Today there is no denying that narrative films are not only “art”— not often good art, to be sure, but this applies to other media as well—but also, besides architecture, cartooning, and “commercial design,” the only visual art entirely alive. The “movies” have reestablished that dynamic contact between art production and art consumption which, for reasons too complex to be considered here, is sorely attenuated, if not entirely interrupted, in many other fields of artistic endeavor. Whether we like it or not, it is the movies that mold, more than any other single force, the opinions, the taste, the language, the dress, the behavior, and even the physical appearance of a public comprising more than 60 percent of the population of the earth. If all the serious lyrical poets, composers, painters, and sculptors were forced by law to stop their activities, a rather small fraction of the general public would become aware of the fact and a still smaller fraction would seriously regret it. If the same thing were to happen with the movies the social consequences would be catastrophic.

I also added something because the asshole made a comment about Ganz' connection with Zwirner. Ganz is now writing for Artforum and has a piece on Richter. 

Fine art is a luxury commodity. Galleries are luxury boutiques, not bookstores. And of course you're connected to Zwirner. When you were an "artist" in Bushwick did you have any friends who were born there? Any social connection at all to the working class other than as idea? In 1993 Zwirner told me with a shrug to me that there was no difference between art and fashion anymore. Art is now style, and HBO has more art than Chelsea. Panofsky was right. Fine art and couture are vestiges of the old regime. Art for the rich. The connection to philosophy is tied to that and the lie that philosophy is superior to fiction, as theology concerns "truth" and fiction is lies.

All of the above is obvious in 2023, except to pretentious American liberals who call themselves leftists: Ganz and the Brooklyn Institute. I have friends born in Bushwick and I've known Zwirner for 30 years. Ganz the earnest gentrifier doesn't talk socially to art dealers, art collectors, or the working class. The only union members he knows are grad students, or maybe WGA, probably not even even IATSE.  He stays in his bubble, and that's never good. Now I'm wondering if the Richter show I mentioned is the one where I told Roberta Smith that she had her head up her ass writing about late Picasso. Saltz was there too. About Richter he asked me "Do you really think this is art for the ages?" I said, of course not, but I was sympathetic. I should have asked him if he thought Donald Judd was art for the ages, but that would have started a whole new fight, with his wife.

Everything above is a repeat, except some of the name-dropping.

...and this development is all the more interesting as it took place under conditions contrary to precedent.  It was not an artistic urge that gave rise to the discovery and gradual perfection of a new technique; it was a technical invention that gave rise to the discovery and gradual perfection of a new art.

But Panofsky is wrong.  If we want to be optimistic, the relation of art and and technology is reciprocal. Pessimism—or materialism—says art follows technology: secularization and the printing press, painting on walls or wood panels that can be bought and sold, theater and the novel, the rise of the middle classes, democracy. We're back to free will and determinism, which goes back to Richter and HBO and the Nolan brothers, WestworldDevs, Tenet, The Dark Knight. But as a teacher of mine said about Gursky, "he used to be a nihilist, but he sold out". Another old story. The same is true for Richter. 

But that's why the asshole was wrong. It's not that the "fine" art is meaningless, only which forms give us the most compelling description of the present.

I can't make a living at any of this—art or criticism—only because I'm always best at pissing people off. Talking to a woman at Christie's a few years ago I said only billionaires could be honest talking about what they liked and why, but that I was raised to behave as if I were a billionaire. She looked back at me and smiled sweetly. "Then you're free." I guess I am. The rich and the poor can be honest. Everyone else lies to themselves first, and then everyone else.

Ganz helped to gentrify a working class neighborhood, admitting he formed no social connections to people who lived there; he writes about romanticism, the sublime, and hope, as manifest in multi-million dollar baubles on display in a luxury boutique, and with earnest moral fervor about the killing of a homeless man on the subway, all without the slightest sense of self-awareness.

Richter's work at best is a notch above kitsch, describing a desperate need for cheap sentiment to be more than it is. Modernism is full of that, and I have a sympathy for it. He's fighting his own numbness. Ganz by comparison is earnest, shallow, callow, self-absorbed, self-serving, and on down the list. From my grandfather's job as a hired killer to my father's essay on Hammett, I have him cold. It doesn't matter.

I remember walking around the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, sitting in on crits, and one student's video, or it might have been a film, which was nothing but him on a beach yelling at the sea, shouting his name at the top of his lungs at the surf, demanding to be recognized: an over-the-top, absurd, derivative but full-throated performance, an expression of humility.

If a character in a novel lights a cigarette, the cigarette is part of a work of art. In a play the cigarette is a prop. In the older definition of art objects the craft supplied a formal logic internal to the piece. The iconography supplied a formal logic external to it. For relics as opposed to artworks the logic was external only: absent its place in a narrative a thighbone is a thighbone, a cigarette is just a cigarette, a madeleine... etc.

Duchamp has a tag. click it.