Monday, February 28, 2005
(5:58 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Carl Schmitt, Political TheologyAfter months of looking for the book in the title, I discovered these wonderful institutions where you can gain access to all manner of obscure books as long as you promise to return it to said institution within a defined period -- a "library," from the Latin for "book" (get it?). This particular library was run by Unitarians; I chose the Unitarian library because of the almost excessive irony of borrowing Carl Schmitt from the Unitarians. Anyway, here's a little chunk:
De Maistre and Donoso Cortés were incapable of such "organic" thinking. De Maistre showed this by his total lack of understanding of Schelling's philosophy of life; Donoso Cortés was gripped by horror when he was confronted with Hegelianism in Berlin in 1849. Both were diplomats and politicians with much experience and practice and had concluded sufficiently sensible compromises. But a systematic and metaphysical compromise was to them inconceivable. To suspend the decision at the crucial point by denying that there was at all something to be decided upon must have appeared to them to be a strange pantheistic confusion. Liberalism, with its contradictions and compromises, existed for Donoso Cortés only in that short interim period in which it was possible to answer the question "Christ or Barabbas?" with a proposal to adjounrn or appoint a commission of investigation. Such a position was not accidental but was based on liberal metaphysics.I resist the reaction of many leftists, or disaffected liberals who want to get shit done, whereby Schmitt becomes a guide to how to assume power "realistically." What I do like about Schmitt, however, is his whithering scorn, his absolute intolerance of anything that is less than completely rigorous.
I eagerly await Žižek's next book, called The Universal Exception. My call: he will fully endorse Schmitt (ooh! daring and paradoxical!) and proclaim him a closet Hegelian. I just wanted that to be on record. (Earlier this year, I accurately predicted, almost word for word, that Derrida would proclaim that in a certain sense, there are no rogue states, and in another sense, there are nothing but rogue states. Academic prognostication is sadly not a growth industry; if it were, I would be filthy rich.)
Sunday, February 27, 2005
(8:19 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Fund-raising IdeaWe all know that there's a big deficit that's not going away any time soon. We also know that our current overlords are determined to minimize the role of taxation in producing government revenue. Finally, we know that there exist many citizens who harbor a great deal of hostility toward the current president and that many of those citizens are conveniently concentrated into major urban areas.
Thus, I propose that President Bush do a dunk-tank fund-raiser. For a nominal fee, citizens who wish to express their negative opinion about the president's policies can get an opportunity to throw a baseball at a target that, if hit accurately, would plunge our brave leader into an ice-cold dunk tank. It is more practical than a bake sale, and more in keeping with the participatory spirit of the world's oldest democracy. Working together, we can get rid of our nation's budget shortfall -- and have a great time in the process!
(5:06 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Don't blog angryI'm not angry. Seriously. Whiny, yes. I stayed up late last night, for the Monica Bennett Birthday Extravaganza, in the suddenly much closer Milwaukee. A good reunion, with some nice new additions to the crowd. Of course, I woke up, completely and irrevocably, at 8:30AM, just like I do almost every day. So yeah, I'm driving down the expressway, and this guy is driving slow in the left lane and I'm the moron who is stuck behind him -- again -- getting passed like I'm the problem here, when really I hate this guy even more than any of my fellow drivers. And so, out comes the whiny, "Come on." Same thing, say, when I was at the house they were trying to kick me out of, and the garage door opener wouldn't work, and I'd say, "Come on." I had just gotten back from a long commute, after a full day of work and then class, and I wasn't ready to deal with it. Same thing with the toilet just now, taking "forever" to refill. The sound of the toilet refilling was almost more than I could bear. Or that one day last week when the drain in the shower was kind of slow, so I developed this major body of water in the tub, and I said, "Come on" and poked furiously at the drain with my toe, because that can fix things.
Anger -- that would be a kind of righteous fury. A vengeful wrath with a goal. Anger is something that would stir up fear -- it's not really anger, though, if the average witness would be more inclined to laugh at the poor guy who thinks the garage door opener is out to get him, or for whom the humiliation of a dozen cars passing him because the guy in front of him -- not my fault, people! -- is going too slow might be the last straw, the tipping point between the full dignity of manhood and the spiteful self-loathing of a crushed spirit.
And wouldn't you know it! I woke up this morning, all stuffed up, again. Sometimes I'm like, if I have to blow my nose one more time, I'm seriously going to snap. And I do, and nothing comes out, and I just -- throw the tissue across the room! Or sometimes, the burden is just too great, and I want to just give up. I need a good cry. I just need to let loose -- but I'm too alone in the world for that! Who understands me? Whom can I trust with these tender emotions? Oh, the struggle of sinus congestion! Why did God choose me, out of all the billions of people in the world, to have this chronic malady? It's embarrassing! I've had women complain -- "I don't understand how anyone could ever share a bed with you." I can't help it! That's so unfair. Here I am, just trying to be, you know, the kind of man you need me to be -- but yeah, sometimes I sniffle in the middle of the night. Sometimes, admittedly, my scalp itches. What am I to do? How long can a man resist the urge to scratch? Oh, woman, if you only knew what I deal with on a daily basis!
A daily basis! And now, I just know it -- I'm going to push "publish," and this stupid thing is going to take forever to publish because it always does on Sunday, and that just pisses me off. Come on!
Saturday, February 26, 2005
(11:36 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Two Things That Are Bothering Me[UPDATE: I have finished a first draft that is likely to be remarkably similar to what I will present at the Wesleyan conference next week.]
- I just got my rejection letter from Vanderbilt. I'm frankly not as upset about this as I would have been, say, a month ago, but it is upsetting in terms of reducing my options for places to study. I'm still waiting to hear from New School, DePaul, and U of C Div School. I have already gotten into a couple places (Nottingham and CTS), so any comments to the effect of "I'm sure you'll get in somewhere" are unnecessary.
New School sent me a small envelope a couple weeks ago, but it was just confirming that they had received my full application and were going to review it. The policy of sending out such letters strikes me as unnecessarily stress-inducing.
- Rumor has it, Olivet bought my house in September. I only found out about it by accident in December because Richard's uncle was the former owner of the house. I assume that Richard's uncle was just passing the rent money along to them, but apparently once we found out about the underlying reality of the situation, they purposely decided not to contact us so that they could kick us out for non-payment of rent. I set up my old phone number to have a message telling people to call Jesse's mom, since he had some resumes out that he thought people would be calling on, and apparently Olivet is now calling pretty frequently, looking for "Adam... Kat..ski? Jared Sinclair, or Jesse Bridges."
This does sound a little cynical even for Olivet, but I recall a party at which an Olivet employee was sitting in a golf cart at the corner, just watching, and an occasion when the police were called despite the fact that everyone was of legal drinking age and no one was being especially noisy. They supposedly send enforcers into the bar across the street from the school, and having a private residence just around the corner where Olivet students were regularly enabled to violate the Lifestyle Covenant was probably something of a standing insult for them.
It doesn't particularly bother me or surprise me that they wanted us gone -- in fact, at a certain point, I seriously thought about buying the house in order to gain some control over the situation and hopefully to gouge Olivet when I moved away and they inevitably wanted to buy it. Sadly, I did not have the financial means, so it never became more than a "Hey, what if I..." type of thing. What does bother me is that their way of handling the situation was so thoroughly Nazarene. Last night I read a summary of the Nazarene Church's century-long difficulties of maintaining and rendering intelligible their distinctive doctrine of "entire sanctification" as a second work of grace, but if they're worried about distinctiveness as such, I think I've found their solution: nowhere else in the world are such passive-aggressive, dishonest methods used to get rid of undesirable people. Direct confrontation is impossible -- instead, the offending person is made to feel uncomfortable using a variety of indirect ways, until they leave "of their own free will." Usually, the relevant authorities are even able to get a more or less official statement from the offending person that he or she is leaving voluntarily, even though anyone who's been paying any attention at all knows that that was not really the case. (I can give a couple examples in comments or via private e-mail if anyone cares.)
Gossip, far from being "worthy of death," as Paul declares in Romans 1 (a very important chapter for some of the other sins it reportedly "condemns"), becomes a powerful tool for institutional administration. Note the first line of this story: "Rumor has it...." The only way for the truth to come out is through rumors, through off-the-record remarks. The official story is usually a work of such massive obsfuscation as to verge on outright falsehood. In fact, I had a personal conversation with the president of Olivet about changes in the religion department, a matter of personal concern to me since I had been prepared to invest another chunk of my life in Olivet getting a master's degree in that department, and while I can't fairly accuse him of lying outright, he made several unequivocal statements that later turned out to have been false. The intention of the conversation seemed clear -- since I was something of a public figure on campus, with notable influence over many of the religion students, I was being recruited as a potential ally in the quest to get people to assume a "wait and see" attitude toward the changes in the department. And in pursuit of that goal, some misleading, "technically true" statements were much to be preferred instead of frankness.
So I'm not surprised. How could I be, based on how I had seen others treated? Based on how I myself had been treated time and time again? I'm not even going to try to get the straight answer from the relevant authorities -- it would be impossible. The Nazarenes have an unshakable devotion to their policy of decision-making through gossip, indirection, and passive aggression. To ask them to abandon that would be to abandon what is apparently the entire reason for the Nazarene Church's existence.
I am studying John Wesley right now and loving it. I think that if Christianity is going to make a real difference in the world, it's going to have to look a lot like what John Wesley was doing. I can't imagine how completely different my life would be right now if I had seen Wesley's teachings practiced while I was devoting a good chunk of my life to the Nazarene Church. I'm sincerely grateful for the friends I've made and for the education I received. I also understand that there are undeniable pressures put on those who have to maintain institutions and that it's not as though anyone was covering up for child molestation here. It's just that, based on the official teachings, based on the specific traditions out of which it grew, I've always somehow expected better. But now it's official: I don't anymore. I wish nothing but the best for those who still do, but I don't.
Friday, February 25, 2005
(11:30 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Notable Internet ReadingRobert "KC" Johnson has done it again, blazing trails in the battle for the new political correctness. His defense? He's all for dissent... as long as it happened in the past and every sane person now agrees that the dissenters were correct. Not quite "my country, right or wrong," but more like, "my country... well, the jury's still out." When Tim Burke feels he needs to step in because your criticism of the far left has gotten out of hand -- well, that should tell you something, Robert "KC."
Meanwhile, Matthew Yglesias reminds us of why making nice with the right-wingers is useless: they'll just hate us anyway. Michael Schaefer once summed this up nicely: "The Republicans were elected on a platform of vengeance." Michael Bérubé's ongoing discussion of David Horowitz's utterly ridiculous and slanderous Discover the Network site provides a nice case-in-point for Mr. Yglesias's argument: the reason that Roger Ebert is grouped with Islamic jihadists is because leftists (read: enemies) control Hollywood, just like enemies control the Islamic jihad movement. What all the members of this "network" share is their status as non-rightwingers and therefore, obviously, the active or passive "agenda" of doing things other than what rightwingers want (or, in the case of those Democrats who, for instance, supported the Iraq War, doing things that the rightwingers want while not actually being rightwingers!).
I'm also really liking Bitch, Ph.D., lately. In all my ventures in emancipatory studies lately, feminism is an area I have neglected, and the discussion of the Larry Summers shit and the recent flap over Kevin Drum's question about "why women don't talk about politics" has provided a nice opportunity to discuss why this stuff is so infuriating and why women are always put at a huge rhetorical disadvantage in such conversations.
I also like Ralph Luker's post about our non-Christian constitution.
An unrelated remark: A couple nights ago, Anthony and I listened to the complete Godspeed You Black Emperor, straight through. I enjoyed it so much that I'm doing it again this afternoon, while writing about the necessity of intertwining politics with love. That's my take on Wesley: out with holiness language, but in with "perfect love." In fact, I would love to have a temporary moratorium on the use of such phrases as "the sanctity of human life" or "human beings are of sacred worth" or especially of the language of "sacrifice." Love and other such theological language (joy, peace, etc.) can be used, but only if it is allowed to range over the whole terrain of our life together -- the limitation of "love" to dyadic relationships or to families goes hand in hand with the "sanctity" (set-apartness) of every human being. That is, the "sanctity of human life" is a religious way of talking about what Norm Geras calls the contract of mutual indifference. Insofar as Badiou segregates love from the political in his "quad," I think his politics are bound to be inadequate; and if Dave is right that Badiou is wrong about Paul insofar as he ignores Phillipians, I would emphasize that he is wrong insofar as he ignores the intense passion of 1 Thessalonians. In this sense, even if Hardt and Negri don't seem to offer as much of a model for "getting shit done," I would choose their political theory over Badiou's.
(9:20 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional
I confess that I only do fun little time-wasty things like play video games or watch TV in the context of some larger project in which I am procrastinating. Thus, on those rare occasions, such as yesterday, when I somehow completed the amount of work I had set out to do, in a reasonable amount of time, I had no idea what to do.
I remember a comment thread once where someone said (not to me), "You follow blogs at home? Come on, this is something you definitely need to be getting paid to do." I think that's basically right -- blogging, commenting, etc., at least for me, is always a secondary thing, a way of integrating some necessary procrastination into my larger "real" work. That's why my blogging productivity, as well as my comment whoring and my IMing, is always significantly greater during those times (such as now) when I am "officially" writing a paper and when that project establishes a totalitarian regime over my life. Since I had decided that yesterday I would produce five pages and actually produced six, the regime was overthrown. So what were my thoughts? Do I go out to the living room and watch TV with Hayley, or see if she wants to play Nintendo? No, that wasn't what came to mind for me. I was thinking, "Maybe I could read some Kant or Hegel" or "Maybe I should give learning German another try." Instead, I wrote a lengthy e-mail to a friend asking what's wrong with me that I constantly beat myself up if I'm not working and only do entertaining things as part of the rhythm of working -- then read a good chunk of Hegel's Philosophy of History.
It's not simply that I'm not working in a traditional labor-for-wages relationship. That is part of why I sometimes feel bad if I don't do "enough" (meaning a little bit more than I'm actually doing -- bad infinity!) -- I remember back when I was working thirty hours a week, had a longer commute to school, and was taking a full-to-overflowing classload of Karl Barth, Jacques Derrida, Empire, and Systematic Theology, all of which added up to about 500-600 pages a week of reading, and I only had to take one incomplete, in the class in which everyone took an incomplete.
I confess to using the song "Magazine" by Pedro the Lion as a way of deflating every round of self-criticism that comes my way. I first stumbled across this particular usage when I was dealing with some serious jealousy problems in a relationship in which I never felt like I had much control over anything at all. Part of the problem: how can you be so casual when I've told all my friends how excited I am about you and when my parents know about our relationship and....? Yeah, I guess I try to run my life by public opinion polls, believe it or not. All this jealousy, and the anger that came with it, was based on the pride that worried I was going to look like a fool in front of "all those people." The same pride tells me I'd better damn well succeed in this academic route I've chosen, before the encouragement of "You're so smart I'm sure you could succeed in anything" becomes the reproach "You're so smart! You could have succeeded in anything!"
It's a pattern I learned early in the battle of childrearing -- isolate my parents or other potential critic by performing every task set to me promptly and well. I'd get my homework done during class, do all the housework I was assigned right after school -- all my former roommates, you wonder how it is that I not only complain about the messy house, but compulsively do something about it, why I embarrass you by doing your dishes for you? I was folding laundry for my whole family long before I met you, and I was the one who single-handedly trained the damn dog, etc.
I'm oversimplifying the pattern here; I wasn't really perfect -- but the general idea was to fully execute my duty, depriving any possible critics of any leverage, getting everyone else on my side. I'm not saying that it was an unproblematic strategy or that my parents never had valid complaints -- I'm just saying that I was trying to stack the deck in my own favor, trying to stave off the possibility of a real encounter with another person, an encounter that could change something. It's what Pedro calls the "holy quest to be above reproach," and whether he intended it or not, "holy" is especially appropriate there -- "set apart." My noble, solitary approach to owe no one anything.
I thought that I didn't really do pieces like this anymore. I suppose I only have one more thing to confess: last night, during dinner, we all three sat and watched a show on Fox called Stars without Make-up. About halfway into it, I felt like I needed a real-life church confession.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
(7:32 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
What is called "creepiness"?We all know creepy when we see it, but what is creepiness? What does it mean for an action to be creepy? For a person to be creepy? For a cultural artifact to be creepy? What is the relationship between sexuality and creepiness?
(This is a discussion thread.)
(10:47 AM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Call for Posts: Sovereignty Week Update.As of 10 minutes ago we have four of the seven days booked (I don't know why I went Monday to Monday, so the actual dates are going to be March 7th-13th). I still need three more commitments. I haven't heard anything from the folks at Vanderbilt, à Gauche, or from any of our friends in England. Get with it people! It is a privilege to be asked to post here. We have, literally, hundreds of people coming here everyday!
Sign up in the comments below.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
(7:28 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Wednesday Night Commercial Blogging: The Subway Toasted SubsThere are multiple flaws in this advertising campaign. Let's just take one commercial, the one in which the woman puts the sandwich on the roof of her snow-covered car while she looks for the ice scraper (Anthony and Hayley have contributed substantially to my critique). First of all, why would one put a hot sandwich into the snow at all, unless one were an idiot? Secondly, would she not notice the snow's disappearance before getting out of the car, due to increased light and drippage on her back? Thirdly, if the sandwich so quickly melts snow, how was she able to handle it without sustaining major injuries?
The same basic complaints apply to the one where the cops find two guys sitting in a steamed-up car eating sandwiches -- if it were so hot as to fog up the entire car on an apparently mild day, how could they eat it? A more realistic commercial would show the cops approaching the car in a panic, hearing blood-curdling screams.
A recent addition to the cycle shows a young girl sabatoging her friends' snowman by placing the hot sandwich in its arms. My question: how could it simultaneously melt so quickly, but also melt so selectively? A dwarf snowman remains after only a few seconds, but it does not melt further. Combining this with the first commercial analyzed, are we to conclude that the sandwich always applies its heat selectively, and thus be comforted in our anxiety that the heat will burn our mouths? But what is the mechanism of this selectivity? Obviously, in the first two commercials mentioned, it cannot be the conscious intention of the consumer, although perhaps it is arguable that the sandwich is picking up on the manifest intention of the woman to clear off her car and the nascent homoerotic tension between the two young men. Perhaps only children, with their supposedly more direct connection with their emotions and desires, can control the sandwich's fearsome might consciously. But would this not mean that the sandwich is magical, perhaps even sentient? What are the long-term health effects of eating a magic sandwich, or the ethical implications of eating a sentient one?
In short, this ad campaign raises more questions than it answers, ultimately distracting the viewer from what is, in the final analysis, the most important question: hasn't Subway always had hot subs? What's the big deal?
(4:42 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
WealthWhat are the basic necessities of life? How much more than that does one have to have before one counts as "wealthy"? In a previous post, I asserted that I consider being wealthy immoral, and yet my position as a white, middle class American citizen makes it very difficult to avoid either hypocrisy or a self-serving definition of wealth.
I'll try an initial listing of necessities:
- Food and water
- Medical care
- Social interaction
- Aesthetic enjoyment
So should I sell my vehicle (which was given to me as a gift) and give the proceeds to the poor? If I am accepted to a graduate program with full funding, should I decline the honor and ask that the money be given to a promising inner-city student who otherwise could not afford college? Should I sell my cell phone (given to me for free with the plan) and buy phone cards for poor families? What if the cell phone plan is the cheapest phone plan I can get? Would these equations change at all if I knew 100% for sure that I would be living in Chicago for the next several years rather than in a more suburban or rural area (and thus that I wouldn't need to buy another car within a year, wouldn't have easy access to pay phones any longer, etc.)?
I'm asking here, for real. I try to buy durable things that will last a long time so as not to contribute to consumerism (hence the more-expensive Bose radio instead of a succession of disposable, shitty CD players whose cost would probably have added up to the same cost as the Bose itself over the number of years I've had it). But do I need a CD player at all? Or how about my huge number of books? Or the CDs I never listen to? Or...
The frustration about this discussion is twofold:
- No matter what I conclude here, I seriously doubt my behaviors are going to change in any serious way.
- I feel like this soul-searching by a jobless grad student (or, if applicable, a working stiff browsing this page) is somewhat ridiculous when there are many, many people out there who could single-handedly feed an entire nation, for a generation, and yet they just sit on their capital so that it can collect more capital, even though they could never even begin to make direct use of that money themselves in their lifetime or in the lifetime of twenty generations of descendants. I know there is always an instinctive "healer, heal thyself" thing whereby if I say Bill Gates should give away his fortune, I will immediately be cornered and ask why I don't reduce myself to indigence -- but I really do think that Bill Gates's wealth (or Dick Cheney's, or whoever else's) is so much more morally problematic that the comparison is obscene.
UPDATE: Even more frustrating is that I'm treating this as an arbitrary "moral" issue when really the problem is that certain people hording possessions is directly tied to other people being deprived. Not all of us can live like Donald Trump, and the evidence points to a necessary connection between children starving to death and a limited number of people being able to live like Donald Trump -- so I say, no more Donald Trumps, period. Whatever end is served by the massive starvation that happens every day on earth -- "motivating people to work," "rewarding those who are talented and inventive," or whatever else -- cannot possibly be worth the cost.
Feel free to mock my empty idealism, which will certainly be destroyed once I enter the adult world, in the comment box below.
(10:42 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Wednesday Book Recommendation: Reading FrenchFollowing the instructions on this page will not teach you to speak French, nor to write it -- only to read it. If you're a grad student or just a lover of literature, that should be good enough.
Karl Sandburg and Eddison Tatham, French for Reading
I can't imagine how a language-instruction book could be better formatted than this -- it requires no separate notebook for writing out exercises and no flipping through the dictionary at early phases. Each lesson takes about a half hour to forty-five minutes, and as long as you're conscientious about following their directions, you'll come out the other side of this as a confident beginning reader of French. It also has a nice little collection of extra readings at the end. This would also work as an intensive review for those who squandered four years in high school French and have forgotten it all.
Cassell's French Dictionary
It's not the best dictionary in the world, but it's good enough. The chart of irregular verbs in the back, greatly hyped by my teacher, really is a great thing. If you're just reading, it should basically meet your needs, but I wouldn't rely on it for translation work intended for public consumption. For that, you really need to move up to this beast:
Harper Collins Robert Unabridged French Dictionary
I'm torn about whether the idioms are better laid out in this or in the Cassells. The Robert categorizes them, but sometimes it's quicker to have them alphabetized, as in the Cassells.
Alain Badiou, Manifeste pour la philosophie
The real key, once you get the infrastructure in place, is to set aside some time each day -- even as little as a half hour -- to actually read French. Neither an exercise book nor a class can achieve this task for you. The Badiou isn't the text I initially used, but it's relatively short and easy to read. Badiou's French as such isn't difficult (as in overly idiomatic), even if the ideas he is working with are, so his shorter works in general seem like a good first stop for reading material -- plus, you'll be on the cutting edge of contemporary philosophy. I tried to use Bergson's book on religion at first, and that was just a bitch for some reason, so I don't recommend that. Late Derrida is probably a good choice, too, because he stopped being so aggressively complex in his writing style.
And now, I ask the Internet at large: Is there a similarly useful text for "Reading Italian"? I was thinking of doing Italian this summer. Hopefully it will go a little more quickly since I have a pretty firm grip on French and still have some vestigial Spanish floating around in the back of my mind. If there isn't a good Italian book out there that meets my needs (and I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't, actually), I'll just do German instead, but German kind of scares me, to be honest.
Or maybe I'll just ditch the whole thing and play the latest Grand Theft Auto every night instead.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
(9:34 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
A Note to All Bush FansThe powerful do not need your help. You should not be expending your energy writing apologetics for people who are going to do whatever they want regardless.
My general guideline is to default toward opposing anyone with political power and great wealth, making exceptions for those who use their power and wealth to benefit those who are helpless. So, for example, I support Hugo Chávez, because he is using the apparatus of the state to redistribute wealth to the poor. If that is bad for the economy, then fuck the economy. By my standard, "the economy" does not deserve my support, because it is a codeword for the interests of wealthy people. I am not a wealthy person, and I hope never to be a wealthy person, because I believe that being wealthy is morally wrong. I know that the commonsense position is to recognize that rich people sign my paycheck and to be thankful for the existence of rich people -- because, I mean, you like paychecks, right? I am glad that people get paychecks and are able to work (which is a good in itself, apart from monetary compensation -- something our economic system continually causes us to forget), but the fact that wealthy people control the flow of labor and of money is not something for which I am grateful, but instead a problem that should eventually be corrected.
If it is argued that Bush himself helps the helpless by liberating them from a brutal tyrant, I would need to see some proof that the only way to help those people was by killing 100,000 of them. This is a case where the cure was likely worse than the disease -- and that's the only example where it's even remotely arguable that Bush was helping the helpless.
Therefore, I repeat: President Bush does not need or deserve your support. You would be better off spending your time in other pursuits. He will fight whatever wars he wants, cut whatever taxes and social spending he wants, etc., regardless of whether you support him. So go read a book. Listen to some music. Learn to cook. Pick someone up at the bar. Bush can take care of himself. You have a life to live.
(7:09 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Tuesday Night Commercial BloggingSo, "Hootie" is now the spokesperson for Burger King? And where exactly are The Blowfish?
(6:04 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Call for Papers: Sovereignty Week.The topic of sovereignty keeps coming up so we might as well devote some time to it. I'm thinking about a week long, with at least one new post a day. We just need some people to commit to a day. I think it is fair to say this is a broad topic so we can have all sorts of different ways of coming at this (i.e. theological, philosophical, psychoanalytical, geographical, etc.)
I'm thinking we could do March 7th-14th to give us all enough time to come up with something. I'll take that Wednesday. If you aren't already on the authorized posters list, Adam will take care of you after you commit to a day.
So, sign-up in the comment box.
(3:26 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Dear Freud: Dreams about graduate school.
It's like that too. I'm trying to bluff these graduate committees. Sure, I'm relatively intelligent compared to the general population of the United States, but when that's your relative model it's nothing to brag about. The truth is I don't even understand the basic rules of grammar, and furthermore when I get frustrated with a logic problem I'm more inclined to give up and check this damn blog or go to sleep than will to power through it. I'm a hack.
It's no wonder than that I've been having dreams about this whole process. The other night, in dreamland, I received my acceptance letter and full tuition remission/stipend from Syracuse University. It was really exciting and guess who wrote the acceptance letter? Slavoj Žižek himself who is apparently an adjunct in the Religion Department at Syracuse, in dreamland. The letter, in a particularly dreamtime only move, was actually a duffle bag full of plastic cups and other college gift shop junk emblazoned with the Syracuse University logo.
While I was excited, I was hoping to hear back from Villanova instead. Unfortunately they didn't send me a duffle bag/acceptance letter. No, from Villanova I received a very cryptic bill for $500 and some odd change. I still can't figure out if that meant I was accepted to the program but owed them $500 and some odd change, or if that was my fee for rejection.
Dr. Freud, what could all this mean?
(2:53 PM) | F. Winston Codpiece III:
Restaurant Review: "Pepe's," near 53rd and Woodlawn, ChicagoMr. Kotsko has graciously invited me to take a rest from the back-breaking labor of single-handedly maintaining some degree of credibility at The H is O. Here, I have the freedom to pursue my true passion: cuisine. And so you can expect me to pop in from time to time, making and breaking the careers of restauranteurs who come my way. Mr. Kotsko has asked me to focus on the Chicago area so that he can better make use of the advice that I am so graciously deigning to give the readers of this humble blog -- teetering, as it does, between "Flappy Bird" and "Adorable Little Rodent" in the blogging ecosystem -- and accordingly, I have opted for a restaurant that is near Mr. Kotsko's current academic "stomping grounds."
My first impression of Pepe's was a positive one. Located a few doors down from the Kimbark Shopping Plaza, home of such delectable destinations as Cedars of Lebanon and one of the approximately 20,000 Chicago Leona's locations, it is a humble, unassuming eatery, sharing parking with the Plaza. I had taken the Green Line, in a not-to-be-repeated attempt to take in some of the local color, but I would imagine that the ample parking of said Plaza would provide a much-needed relief from the unrelenting horror of squeezing into a parking spot on the street, only to come back and find one's windshield broken, tires stolen, and driver's seat urinated upon.
The sign was promising; that is, it promised "Wonderful Mexican Food." I'm not sure if I'd have grounds for a false advertising lawsuit per se, but this announcement was surely out of the normal bounds of advertisarial exaggeration. I ordered a beef and bean burrito, for which the clerk heartily thanked me. I then selected a seat, waited a few moments for my food to be prepared, and took the food, for which the clerk heartily thanked me. Opting for thematic unity over strict chronology, I will remark that the clerk also heartily thanked me when I threw away my trash. Such overblown gratitude seems to me to betoken a certain desperation in a restauranteur and, in short, created an atmosphere of uncomfortable formality and overfamiliarity at the same time.
I was eager to "dig in." My meal, I noted with glee, came fully equipped with tortilla chips and dipping sauce, as well as the extraneous lettuce and tomato that seems to serve as a garnish in Mexican restauarants. After eating a few chips, I picked up my burrito and was shocked to learn several facts all at once. For convenience, I will enumerate them:
- No cheese had been included in my burrito.
- No lettuce or tomato was included inside the actual burrito; apparently I was supposed to open it up and re-roll it, as part of some hackneyed attempt at fostering greater customer participation.
- The thing was so loosely rolled that it began to fall apart almost immediately.
In a futile attempt to find a silver lining, I thought that the meat that had fallen out would serve as an attractive dipping resevoir for my chips, but the whole affair was so bland that I would have prefered to take my chips plain. I hurriedly finished my meal, threw away my garbage (see above for details), and went on my way, receiving my perfunctory divine blessing from the busker outside, entertaining the ungrateful masses with the soulful sounds of inverted buckets.
Once again, I thank Mr. Kotsko for the chance to expand my blogging horizons beyond The H is O and hope you'll tune in next time for my continuing series of "Restaurant Reviews." Thank you, and good night.
Monday, February 21, 2005
(9:24 PM) | Robb Schuneman:
Jim GaffiganThis will be short, this will be easily scrollable, this will be revelatory.
Ladies and Gentlemen - no wonder my life is going nowhere. Jim Gaffigan has stolen my face and sexy body. Evidence:
There is hope in all this, however. Apparently, someone who looks as goony as me can have a succesful character acting/stand up comedianing career. In addition, we who have this affliction can apparently hook up with moderately attractive women:
On a closing note - whomever registered me at largefriends.com as a handicapped, overweight, gay african american male - thank you very much. I've been getting offers for gay large-people pity sex in my mailbox the last two weeks. I'm so gonna score.
For your entertainment, here is what the person identified only as "hashbrown" put in my profile:
About me: (Headline: Naughty liaisons only) Huaghty intellectual with a clear understanding of what I need and want. Can and will travel for a taste of excitement and naughtiness. Indeed a lust for life and adventure. Please don't let me down.
About my match: Should be open to new encounters. Should also have a desire to try and do new things. Poor, rich, it doesn't matter. Quality counts. Pick me.
This is great, but unworthy of its own post. Apparently a small label is putting out a jazz tribute to Pavement, everyone's favorite band. The piano cover of Trigger Cut show an immense amount of potential. It's here at Brown Brothers Recordings.
(5:39 PM) | Travis Young:
Good night, sweet [quotable] prince
Poppied hills around the world wept when gonzo journalist, explosively psychotropic author, and enigmatic counter-culture demigod Hunter S. Thompson fatally shot himself in the head on Sunday.
Why eulogize? He would call himself one of God's own prototypes. He was some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.
“I wouldn’t recommend sex, drugs, or insanity for everyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”
“Bill Clinton does not inhale marijuana, right? You bet. Like I chew on LSD but I don't swallow it.”
“It is all well and good for children and acid freaks to still believe in Santa Claus.”
“In a nation run by swine, all pigs are upward-mobile and the rest of us are fucked until we can put our acts together: Not necessarily to win, but mainly to keep from losing completely.”
“If there were any such thing as true justice in this world, his rancid carcass would be somewhere down around Easter Island right now, in the belly of a hammerhead shark.”
On the Media:
“The press is a gang of cruel faggots. Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits - a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage.”
In accordance with what we think your dying wishes might well have been, we commit your final mortal remains to the bosom of the blogosphere, which you loved so well.
UPDATE: Marty Beckerman just posted a notable interview he had with Thompson concerning Bush, Nazis, and other Kotskoesque issues.
(10:47 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Causing NazismWe have it on good authority that the liberal theologians of the Nazi period were unable to resist the temptation to join the Nazi party because of some theological inadequacies. To oversimplify somewhat, they were Nazis because they were not Karl Barth and did not have his same theology. Never mind that many members of Barth's own theological circle became Nazis -- that can be explained away by the fact that they weren't "for real" in terms of believing along Barthian lines. Never mind that Roman Catholics, whom Barth viewed as being severely theologically disadvantaged, were also among those who resisted the Nazis. And finally, never mind that Paul Tillich, who is very much a liberal theologian, resisted the Nazis. Nope -- even though in point of fact, the rag-tag group of resisters to the Nazis came from all walks of life and held all different kinds of beliefs on a variety of issues, the real problem was that certain theologians did not jump onto the Barthian train quickly enough. And therefore, theologians who stray too far from the narrow Barthian path are in danger of coddling the next group of insane thugs who somehow manage to take control of a weak, ravaged state.
I say, bull-shit. I have a deep and abiding love for Barth, but come on. It's the same with all those who blame philosophy for the Holocaust. If we're going to do a political analysis, let's do a fucking political analysis -- but as of this writing, I have never seen a convincing account of the causal mechanism that leads from espousing the theology of Schleiermacher to joining the National Socialist Party, or from a careful study of Hegel's Science of Logic to sending people into ovens.
If there is some book that lays bare the actual causal mechanism of how one gets from Aufhebung to Auschwitz, then I'd be glad to hear about it, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that there probably is not such a book, nor is such a book possible. Instead, what we get is a highly nuanced and erudite version of the old Usenet truism known as Godwin's Law: "As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one." The side who first deploys the Nazi comparison is effectively invulnerable to all future disproof -- after all, they hold in their hands the ideas that, if implemented in time, would have prevented Nazism! And those who argue against them certainly don't like Nazis, do they? Well?
It's ridiculous. I refuse to dignify jingoistic, racist, genocidal nationalism by treating it as a set of ideas in direct competition with Schleiermacher, or Hegel, or Barth, or any serious thinker. I refuse a moralization of thought that marks out acceptable territories and labels the rest as "Here there be Nazis." I agree with Derrida, Benjamin, Agamben, and so many others who count freedom of thought as a necessary condition of any future political order that would be worth the trouble, and while thought is not important on the same level that preventing Nazi-like extermination campaigns is important, it is important enough to resist hamstringing it through an arbitrary association with horrible crimes.
Saturday, February 19, 2005
(9:14 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
The Lack of Political Space in the City and the Out of Place Polis in the Heartland.
Deleuze, commenting on Foucault’s work, later suggests that we have entered a time of control societies. In a control society foundational institutions like the family and the prison are no longer are sites of discipline and in fact are breaking down. In this new age things have become digital. This means that the prison is no longer the model, but rather the ankle bracelet that decides when and where you go. This effectively follows Adorno and Horkheimer in their analysis that the current incarnation of capitalism (it is a spirit) focuses on controlling the distribution of things, or in Deleuzian terms controls the flows and stop-flows.
Deleuze recognizes that his own reading of the current situation as a society of control is not the only mode taken by the socius. I think one could say that the American city does operate on this model, such that money and commodities are moved in the virtual realm and the poor are separated off from the rich through control of the means of human exchange, public transit. This creates certain areas where people are cut off from the political space that the city (qua polis) is supposed to embody. These people are, of course, free of the institutional discipline that comes with schools and the like (and you only have to look at the lack of funding for inner-city schools to see that society has given up on that idea here), but they are controlled from overflowing into areas of society that could be harmed by their presence. The city, by its very schizoid nature which resists all discipline, can only control and cut off the political space to certain groups of people while making others obsess over that space (the guilty liberals).
The opposite model seems to be at work in the heartland of America. It is in these spaces that people feel most under watch. In the city you can effectively get away with acting a little crazy on the street or committing social unacceptable acts, either by losing yourself in the massive flux of people (subjectification) or jumping from one grouping to the next (objectification). This is simply not the case for small towns because the small town is always watching over itself. Gossip, as a form of moral control, is a technique of discipline. Perhaps even more so than the sign "God Is Watching" that Foucault mentions, the citizens of a small American town fear their neighbor.
Thus when these two types of people meet, they meet as two types of oppressed people. The city folk bored or envious of the paranoiac nature of the country folk, and the country folk scared or intoxicated by the seeming wildness and freedom of the city. This separating of models helps to keep the two types of people even more separated than the differences in place due to geography. Furthermore, this separation allows antagonisms to form, like our current Blue state/Red state dichotomy, that closes off the more national political space through cultivating apathy and refocusing attention away from the matters of most importance and towards trivial, but controversial, issues like gay marriage.
(11:02 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Missing Out / Derrida-ed OutApparently, while grappling with the world-historical significance of Pauline exegesis, I have missed out on a few interesting theory related threads out there in Blogland. First, I of course cite Jodi Dean, part of whose process of recovering from Habermasianism is a rejection of democracy. She also uncovered this critique of Left populism, particularly the replacement of principles by cynicism, with reference to The Daily Show. Matt has some incisive remarks on the article at Pas Au-Delà:
But keen observers are those who recognize a red flag (as they say) whenever the word "failure" is invoked as self-evident, beyond all doubt (as in the "failure of Theory," "failure of Communism," "failure of the 60's," etc.) Such phrases often betray an entire host of common, clichéd prejudices--in short, a worldview--whether they intend to do so or not. And the phrase "failure of the left" is not always untouched by this tendency. As the film Control Room concludes, on a Howard Zinnian note, the tragedy is in people remembering only one thing: Victory (whether "History" or disengenuous, attempted performative utterance).Matt also has several posts on Derrida, which I won't link individually, unless he wants me to artificially inflate his Technorati numbers. Mark Kaplan's continued attention to the theme of so-called "anti-Americanism" is interesting as usual, as is his Žižekian analysis of the "position of enunciation" of a blog -- a rather familiar type, which announces itself as left wing while fully embracing every arbitrary criticism from the right. Žižek may be right to say that we need less dialogue (Organs Without Bodies [Routledge, 2004]: p. 1).
Last night's Northwestern event on Derrida was something of a disappointment -- a brief symposium at which four professors, one graduate student, and one undergraduate (!) offered short reflections on the greatness of Derrida. The most interesting paper by far, in my opinion, was Penelope Deutscher's, which asked some very probing questions about Derrida's conflicted relationship with feminism -- if he professed such admiration for feminism, why did he never undertake a deconstructive reading of a feminist text, for example? She even offered an example of a text that would have been very productive for a Derridean reading,
In any case, in a completely unprecedented fashion, this academic event ended with a failed attempt at a Q&A session. Part of the problem may well be that so many of the participants had also attended Peggy Kamuf's excellent (and much more substantial) lecture earlier in the day, where the Q&A session found Samuel Weber asking if Peggy had recently looked over "the Bataille essay" (meaning the essay on Bataille and Hegel in Writing and Difference -- she hadn't) and further inquiring as to why Bataille simply "drops out" in later works, especially in Given Time, in which Bataille's economic analysis would have been clearly relevant. Michael Naas recalled a conference (in Portugal) where Derrida had gotten the same question, and it turns out to be a strategic choice to dissociate his concept of unconditionality from both sovereignty and freedom (as opposed to Jean-Luc Nancy -- and I'll admit that among this highly French-oriented crowd, I was at first confused when Sarte's La nausée seemed to be coming up so often, especially since "Jean-Luc" for me is Marion, not Nancy -- who attempts to rehabilitate freedom, and whom Derrida critiques in Rogues). I wanted to note that Bataille does play some role in the footnotes to Politics of Friendship, but I was frankly somewhat intimidated by the fact that I was in the very nerve-center of Derrideanism and didn't know if I could really make the case that my remark was relevant to the conversation at hand. All this to say: perhaps people were simply Q&A'd out and just wanted some damn wine.
I have gotten a huge helping of Derrida over the past few days, so I am looking forward to this week, when I plan on hammering out my Wesley/Badiou project. (I should probably also look into getting some damn plane tickets to Seattle -- since CTS isn't coughing up any money for me to go represent their sorry asses with my sheer brilliance, perhaps a web-based fundraiser would be in order. But in order for that to work, I suppose I would have had to make more of an effort to cultivate an audience not entirely made up of poor grad students.) With all due apologies to the Vanderbilt School, I plan on taking a materialist approach to Wesley, because -- again, with apologies to the Vanderbilt School, and to Søren Kierkegaard -- I think that materialist analysis is less incompatible with the gospel proclamation than is any other intellectual framework. At least that's my working hypothesis. Bill Brower "called" that materialist analysis of religious texts was going to be huge once this Paul thing really took root, and I think it's at least plausible. He said that the materialists would get ahold of Barth and never let go; I figure I might as well offer up Wesley as well. The guy's a total economic radical, and -- this is important -- not one of those medieval-fetishizing early socialists like Ruskin. In short, what we get in Wesley is a thoroughly non-obscurantist, though fragmentary, critique of capital.
Okay, but no more spoilers! You're just going to have to come to Seattle to hear more.
Friday, February 18, 2005
(11:31 AM) | Angela:
Too much talk.It's odd how one can be so self-contradictory and hypocritical just by making a suggestion, but I've just one to make.
I would entirely approve if anybody that has anything to do with the Anglican 'communion' right now refused to contact anybody else within that communion except by face to face contact, only attainable by boat (no engine allowed) or horse or on foot or by bicycle. In an emergency, a letter might be allowed, but the delivery service would only be allowed to use the above methods of transport too.
That way, we might be allowed to discover and receive our different practices over a greater length of time, instead of constantly jabbering away by telephone and the internet, telling tales on everybody else. Also, we might be able to develop /local/ practices, and receive the gospel into our cultures, instead of trying to achieve this univeral worldview approach. Not that I don't think the universal worldview is impressive, it just seems to me to be quite unsustainable in the long-term without allowing a greater variation of local practice (eg. most westerners ignore the ban on contraception). At the moment, the universal worldview (or appearance of one) is achieved by one set of (usually) richer authorities wielding power over the poorer set, and by consciously 'ignoring' practices (eg. the co-existence in Africa of marriages involving multiple partners).
If my proposal was accepted, one would really have to make an effort to communicate, and would only bother over matters of substance. And when you or the messenger had left, you'd have no idea what people were up to when you weren't there.
Now, I'd like to suggest that a start be made by refusal to use the telephone or internet or any kind of text-services for the next year. But it's not going to happen because I, for one, am not going to do that. Also, probably, the internet isn't the best place to make the proposal.
However, I'm tired of global culture.
(10:03 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon ConfessionalI confess to still drinking the last two nights, even though I was (and am) sick. I confess that I very rarely do what is necessary to get better when I'm sick, so that I always have these lingering illnesses.
For a while, I was having a pretty reliable annual breakdown, usually in mid-summer, when I could do absolutely nothing other than sleep for two days straight. Okay, actually it wasn't "for a while," because I distinctly remember that it happened the last two summers in a row and might have happened the previous one, too.
I confess that you'll never guess who just accepted an invitation to The Weblog. (No, not Al Gore.)
Non-confession: You guys should probably go to this event at Northwestern, featuring lectures by such renowned scholars as Peggy Kamuf. She is also lecturing at DePaul at 2:00 today, but I can't find a web page about that. Perhaps Anthony could tell people where it is, in the comments.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
(10:15 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
The snifflesSometimes, when my nose is already completely raw and I still have to blow my nose every 37 seconds, I like to trade up to paper towel, instead of Kleenex. It lasts longer.
UPDATE: Have you guys seen this thing floating around about how Roger Ebert and Fidel Castro are both linked in with Islamic fundamentalism? It's set up by the same guy who brought us the "conservatives in academia" faux-controversy. I'm starting to think that derisive laughter is the only possible response to right-wing arguments at this point -- attempting any kind of discussion is simply missing the point. More specifically, here is the kind of sequence I would like Democrats to take. I'll use the Iraq example:
BUSH: I want to go to war in Iraq to stop terrorism.
DEMOCRATS: HA! You've got to be kidding.
BUSH: No, I'm not kidding.
DEMOCRATS: Oh, well, that's stupid. We're not doing that.
Here's how they should approach Social Security:
BUSH: I want to solve Social Security's fiscal problems by expending a huge amount of money to implement a new system that is almost certain to lead to decreased benefits.
DEMOCRATS: HA! You've got to be kidding.
BUSH: No, I'm not kidding.
DEMOCRATS: Oh, well, that's stupid. We're not doing that.
Rinse and repeat. Democrats need to get over their habits of excessive "fair-mindedness" and of hallucinating ideas of "what the American public will like" rather than just trying to do what makes sense.
That's what I like about Illinois governor Rod Blagojovich. (I happen to hear his speeches a lot on NPR.) Sure, it's annoying that he's always bragging about streamlining government and about how he didn't even raise taxes, but he seems to be coming up with some decent solutions to problems that actually seem to exist. Brey, am I totally misunderstanding the guy?
SECOND UPDATE: I just received one of the two rebates by which I was suckered into buying my current computer. There were two: one for $50, one for $150. I received the latter.
My only complaint is that apparently our mail carrier has decided to stop putting the mail into each individual mailbox, opting instead to drop all of the mail for the building into the mail slot, so that it gets mixed in with the ad mailer shit that (up until a couple minutes ago) littered our entryway. That, to me, is unacceptable.
Translation update: I am finally sitting down and reading through the Derrida translation, after finishing it Sunday. I was very frightened of what I would find, but it actually isn't too bad. Today I should be able to get a more presentable draft put together, then hopefully someone with a little more French experience will look over it to make sure I don't make any grave, embarrassing errors. The responsibility for all remaining errors would, of course, remain my own.
Also, I'd like to add that living with a cat who's in heat is a new thing for me. I wish I could help her, but alas! Perhaps I should ask Senator Rick Santorum what options are available.
Let it never be said that I hastily scroll down fellow participants' posts!
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
(10:29 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
I don't read good.I'm sick of seeing all the profit Adam makes off this blog. The kid is rolling from his shiny new City of Chicago parking decal to his fancy ass new Agamben book. I want in on the action.
It's become somewhat of a meme that I am a kid who don't read good. I hope to correct that and I think you can help. See, I've been doing this blogging thing for awhile and haven't gotten much out of it except the occasional sexual advance from Patrick or the common insults.
These simply are not helping me to read good.
I hear that practice makes perfect so you can help by gifting me with some practice material. I've even made a list. If you think I don't read good then ought you give me new material practice on.
That link again (for the list).
(11:20 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Wednesday Book Recommendation: Two Books You Have to Read TwiceThis week I was so busy with my translation that I had very little time to read anything new. Therefore, I'm going through the archives for two books that I only "got" the second time through. They are also somewhat related to the general Pauline/ecclesiological questions floating around on The Weblog:
Slavoj Žižek, The Fragile Absolute
This is still his best book on "Christianity," although the bulk of it is apparently about either Heidegger or Star Wars. Only on the second read does it become clear that he is actually critiquing our contemporary situation in terms of racist/nationalism and paganism (both literal and figurative) -- more laying the groundwork for the need for a Pauline intervention than actually implementing it. I suspect that one would get a similar effect from reading The Puppet and the Dwarf a second time, but I haven't gotten around to doing so -- though the influence of Ted Jennings in my life has meant that I am currently on my third read through Badiou's St. Paul. Before long, he'll just be including that book on every damn syllabus, and the United Church of Christ will become a collective of militant cells.
Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49
The most important work of materialist ecclesiology of the last two centuries -- perhaps three. Again, I only "got it" on the second read through; the first time was taken up with a frustrating attempt to get all the obscure symbols to line up (similar to the experience of reading Eliot's Waste Land). I really feel like you guys are going to have to take my word for it and just plow through the first time.
You'll note that if you buy both of the books, that's only around $20. To qualify for free shipping, you'd need to get one more thing. To that end, I recommend the following:
T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets
The idea that I have to closely study St. John of the Cross to understand this stuff is slightly ludicrous -- but I don't have to understand. What a beautiful series of words. He has far surpassed the tackiness of the bit about the "smoke" at the beginning of "Prufrock," and come as close as he could to sublating his tendency toward over-allusiveness.
So there you go: should be $25 and some change. Treat yourself.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
(10:03 PM) | Dave Belcher:
Žižek and Badiou: Paul Without Paul[THIS IS A REALLY LONG POST]
For a Christian believer, the fact that he does not do certain things is based not on prohibitions (which then generate the transgressive desire to indulge precisely in these things) but the positive, affirmative attitude of Love which renders meaningless the accomplishment of acts which bear witness to the fact that I am not free. (Žižek, Ticklish Subject, 150)
While Žižek and Badiou can both agree on a revolutionary politics through Pauline “universalism,” the way this universalism gets articulated is a point of contention. Let’s take a brief look. For Badiou, the ontological realm is always characterized by “a Law defining a specific community at the expense of excluding the members of other ethnic, etc. communities, while Divine Grace is truly universal, that is, non-exclusive, addressing all humans independently of their race, sex, social status, and so on” (paraphrased by Žižek in TS, 147). The truth of the Event of Resurrection in Badiou is connected with something like a non-ontological realm of “immortality” (non-ontological because it takes place retrospectively, since the event isn’t true until the decision has been made to be faithful to the event, and thus it is in some sense “transcendent”) through a graced fidelity to that event (graced because a shred of the real punctures the symbolic order, creating the possibility for something new). The ontological, on the contrary, is the realm of death—the Law brings death, and the truth-event beyond the Law is the opening of a universalism that moves beyond death and the particularity of the Law. Notice the language: “Divine Grace is truly universal, that is, non-exclusive, addressing all humans independently of their race, sex, social status, and so on.” This is precisely where Žižek departs.
Badiou, according to Žižek is still hanging on to an Ideal outside the Symbolic Order. And, this is precisely Žižek’s critique of communism, and specifically the specific brand of communism espoused by Deleuze and Guattari. Žižek’s problem with Badiou, then, is that he is still caught up in the Kantian “spurious infinity”: “for Badiou, the ultimate goal of political activity is to achieve presence without representation, that is, a situation no longer redoubled in its State” (TS, 170n.32). Which is to say that, for Žižek acceptance of the death drive—particularly the sacrifice of the simultaneous executioner and executed Christ—opens up “the domain of Love beyond Law” (TS, 153). His universalism is particular to those who accept the death drive: the death of Christ is the condition for the possibility of the Truth-event, or Lacan’s “act.” Or, as Žižek puts it in Tarrying with the Negative, Christ's death is his resurrection. It is at the moment when Christ is raised from the dead, when--in unmatched Hegelese--the community of the Spirit is founded, that Christ dies. Thus, Christian love is the transgression of the Law (the death of the Law) that restricts the freedom of the political subject; love is the creation of a free subjectivity—free from the binding of the Law, and thus the guilt incurred by sin through the Law, and free for pure action not from the State (which is "Law," for Žižek in the sense of "Symbolic Order), but against it.
Both Badiou and Žižek can agree, however, that the resurrection did not need to take place in order for the event to be true. Thus, whether the truth-event is pre-ontological (Žižek) or non-ontological (Badiou), the event itself—whether or not Jesus’ dead body was raised from the tomb—is a moot point. Thus, the eschatological dimension of Christianity, and particularly of Paul, then, is flattened out. The move beyond the Law for both Žižek and Badiou is the move into the immanent plane where everything has always-already happened. Just as there is no sin previous to the Law (Spinoza)—since the Law is the introduction of sin ontologically for Spinoza—the transgression of the Law also leaves sin in its wake. With the removal of both the Law and sin all that is left is the apparent “subversive kernel” of an antinomian Christianity. But, this is completely contrary to Paul’s thoroughly eschatological gospel, as we shall see below.
Let’s begin with Paul’s statement, for example, in 1 Corinthians 15:12-20:
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.
The fact that neither Žižek nor Badiou believe the Resurrection actually happened is not merely incidental, but is a result, rather, of their immanentization of Paul’s eschatology. For Paul it really does matter that Christ has been raised from the dead, not because this event opens up the possibility for transformation of the political order, but because this event points to the coming of God—the new creation of all things (which will result in “transformation” of the political order—if by transformation you mean decimation—but not without the destruction of everything else that is opposed to Christ). Look at verses 17-19: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” If there is no end, for Paul, if “everything has always-already happened” (Žižek On Belief, 125), then all is futile. This is made even clearer in verses 28-31: “God will be all in all. Otherwise, what will those people do who receive baptism on behalf of the dead? ... And why are we putting ourselves in danger every hour? I die every day!”
The “danger” Paul speaks of here is martyrdom. Death is not to be feared for those who have been baptized into Christ’s death as long as there is an end, as long as death really will be destroyed by the coming of God. Otherwise, all is vain. Otherwise, we may as well say “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:32). But, because Christ has been raised from the dead, and because the Lord indeed is near, dying a death like Christ’s is in fact the fulfilling of the Law. This is not the destruction of the Law, however, as for Badiou, nor even the dialectic of Law-Gospel, wherein the Law must always die. Instead, we should highlight the tension that simultaneously holds apart and holds together Law and gospel—Jew and Christian. The best analogy for the holding together while holding apart is Heidegger's notion of "dif-fer-rence." The Law in fact remains because the specificity of Jewish redemption, pointing to the coming of the Messiah, depends upon the Law, though now by faith. The Christian tradition does not break with this specificity, but it does have its own specificity which is not Jewish. The Law still persists because it has an eschatological direction, and is not truly surpassed even in the end when God will be all in all, because the old and new covenants are held together in this dif-fer-rent tension; which means that the now out-dated logism “Judeo-Christianity” needs to be revived. Isn’t this how we are to understand Romans 9-11?
Thus, the hope of the end is not for the debunking of the symbolic order, but, instead for the coming of the kingdom of God. Žižek and Badiou do not grasp this aspect of the Law for two reasons: first of all, they immanentize Paul’s eschatological language; and, secondly, in order to have a revolutionary politics, they have to conflate Judaic Law and Roman law. We have already demonstrated that Paul’s eschatological language is essential for understanding his discourse about the Law. But, even if we concede that Paul is conflating Judaic and Roman Law, which he is not (and in my mind no manner of inductive reading will give you that conclusion), there is still an eschatological element such that the Law persists.
As Paul says in Romans 13, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom 13:1). Those who have been baptized into the community of the cross of Christ are to submit themselves to the Law (assuming, again, that there is a conflation of Judaic and Roman Law) which will inevitably lead to their death—or to the realization that their entire existence is death prior to the day of the Lord! This notion of martyrdom is made even clearer in the preceding verses in chapter 12: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (verses19-21)? Until the coming of the Lord, Paul urges his communities to subject themselves to the Law, which issues in their death. But, this is not the end. For death will have been swallowed up, and has no sting. As I said before (in my first post), far from offering a “radical” politics worked out by the Church (Milbank) on the one hand, or a universalism of love (Žižek and Badiou) on the other, Paul offers us the apocalyptic action of God, who is making all things new.
The immanentism of Žižek and Badiou results in two disastrous mistakes: first, the illusion that there is nothing left to be done, since everything has always-already happened; and secondly, the illusion that the human and the divine can be transposed, such that, because the Father must always be dead (at least for Žižek)—due to the Lacanian necessity of the Oedipal death drive—and because there is always a primordial excess of jouissance to life itself, we are God. What is needed in addition to an honest reading of Paul is an ecclesiology where the transformation of the world and the Church happen not around the question, “What has God done?” but, rather, “What is God going to do next?” And, for this reason, Žižek and Badiou still cannot have Paul, and their persistency to lay claim to Paul is not evidence of the possibility for revolution, but instead, the perpetuation of sin as espoused by both global capitalism, and its Siamese twin, liberalism.
 In outlining his revolutionary politics of “love beyond the Law,” Žižek offers a Lacanian critique of Deleuze and Guattari’s clinging to Communism “as a formation which sets free the deterritorializing dynamics of capitalism, liberating it from its constraints” (OB, 18): “the critics of Communism were in a way right when they claimed that Marxian Communism is an impossible fantasy—what they did not perceive is that Marxian Communism, this notion of a society of pure unleashed productivity outside the frame of capital, was a fantasy inherent to capitalism itself” (OB, 19). Žižek’s Lacan sees this in 1968: “we start with the stable symbolic Order; we proceed to the heroic suicidal attempts to break out of it; when the Order itself seems threatened, we provide the matrix of permutations which accounts for how the revolt itself is just the operator of the passage from one to another form of the social link; finally, we confront the society in which the revolt itself is rendered meaningless, since, in it, transgression itself is not only recuperated, but directly solicited by the system as the very form of its reproduction” (OB, 31). The only way out of this cycle, for Žižek, is not the undoing of the inherent contradictions of capitalism, as for the neo-Marxists, but to recover that precious emerald of Marxist-Leninist revolutionary politics at the heart of Christianity, i.e., Pauline love. “Here enters the ‘good news’ of Christianity: the miracle of faith is that it IS possible to traverse the fantasy, to undo this founding decision, to start one’s life all over again, from the zero point” (OB, 148). Love, then, is the opening of a universal politics, for Žižek, that can “traverse the fantasy” of a “society of pure unleashed productivity outside the frame of capital.”
 “[T]he teaching of Paul…acknowledges that previous to the law—that is, so long as men are considered of as living under the sway of nature, there is no sin” (Spinoza, A Theologico-Political Treatise, 201).
 Philippians 4:5-7: “The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
(4:10 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
I'm Not Much For Beauty.I work for A/V at DePaul University. Sometimes we find old slides in the projectors that usually get set aside. I always love when I happen to find one of these forgotten images, usually of some city projects or pieces of art (I don't know why the Art and Sociology departments are the only ones who still use slide projectors). I stumbled upon an amazing slide the other day, and luckily the teacher had written the title on the cardboard frame, Germany: A Winter's Tale.
The artist is George Grosz and his paintings exemplify what I find to be good art. Obviously his work can't be called "beautiful" as such, but this style of painting has always functioned as an intensifier of thought more so than anything ever done by the impressionists. Some would argue that this style of art is inferior to the artwork of more abstract artists, because this work can act as a signifier and thus has a meaning outside of itself. I can't argue with that, except to say that I enjoy this kind of painting more.
(1:54 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
24 BloggingFrank Rich's recent article (thanks to Brad for the link) said that the show 24 knew more about terrorism than the Bush administration does. I wrote a letter to the New York Times last year in which I criticized Douglas Feith's contention that one of the lessons of 9/11 was that the terrorists want to get ahold of weapons of mass destruction. That's ridiculous, though -- the lesson is that there are plenty of potential "weapons of mass destruction" laying around in the US, and all it takes is a little imagination and ingenuity to get ahold of one of them and cause major havok. The current situation on 24 is the kind of thing that should have leapt immediately to mind -- although the "override" thing is somewhat outlandish, the idea of terrorists striking nuclear power plants, rather than getting nuclear weapons-grade material from the North Koreans by way of Pakistan...., is much more in line with the techniques used on 9/11. Rich's recent post at Infinite Diablogue notes that the issue of "first responders" is another lesson one could have immediately drawn from 9/11 -- that is, how to get the people who can help to the people who need help. Again, 24 shows the dangers of not having adequate personnel and planning in the event of an evacuation, and one could not help but think as they mentioned the use of National Guard units, "Huh, if that kind of thing really happened, it would really suck for a big chunk of our National Guard units in Iraq."
This is what resolute leadership looks like apparently: pick a crisis, real or imagined, and use it as an excuse to push through a plan that you had already decided to implement in any case and that therefore has nothing to do with the reality you're actually confronting. Social Security is turning out to be the exact same clusterfuck as Iraq -- although thankfully the Democrats are not just rolling over this time.
UPDATE: To continue my habit of putting random links at the end of posts, here is something from Slacktivist on the need to establish an outpost for true American values.
Monday, February 14, 2005
(10:39 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Paul and anti-SemitismI'm taking a course on the New Testament Epistles; this week it's 1 Thessalonians. I've been spending a lot of time reading and re-reading, and I'm a little unsure what to do with this passage (2:13-16):
We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers. For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you suffered the same things from your own compatriots as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out; they displease God and oppose everyone by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. Thus they have constantly been filling up the measure of their sins; but God’s wrath has overtaken them at last.The idea that this was a later interpolation seems a little too convenient. I'm no philologist and don't even read Greek, but from the rationales I've seen, this is supposed to be a later interpolation because of content, because it doesn't match up with what Paul says in other letters. That is perhaps a post hoc argument to reach the conclusion that a passage that appears anti-Semitic was in fact inauthentic.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that while I agree that anti-Semitism is a terrible thing, I don't actually think this passage is anti-Semitic. First of all, though Paul does dwell on his struggles with the Jewish authorities more than the context strictly demands, he does so in the context of addressing Gentile readers who are experiencing the same thing from their own people. He mentions the fact that the Jewish authorities killed Christ and other prophets, which has been used as an anti-Semitic trope, but in Paul's context, that was a vivid historical reality -- the Jewish authorities of his day collaborated with the Romans to have Jesus killed. And when it comes time for Paul to address the Roman authorities directly in his letter to Rome, he discusses it at greater length, with much stronger language.
Speaking as a Jew, he talks about the opposition his counter-cultural mission has faced from his fellow Jews, in order to draw a parallel to the opposition the Thessalonian group is experiencing from their fellow Gentiles. Presumably, had Jesus been born a Thessalonian, he would have been killed by Thessalonians -- but he was in fact born as a Jew. The point is not that Jews are somehow uniquely evil -- in fact, in the early chapters of Romans, Paul is taken up in part with explaining the fact that there are some Gentiles who act justly, thus working with the assumption that Jews naturally would be more just in their dealings. When he's talking about Jews in general, Paul is very positive; when he's talking about the ones who are explicitly opposing his mission and who opposed Jesus's mission as well, he is very negative -- just as someone today could hold Jews and Jewish culture in very high esteem, or could, like Paul, actually be a Jew, but find the actions of Jewish political authorities appalling.
The line is not difficult to draw here. There is a clear and distinct difference between (a) essentializing Jews as the sickness of the human race and as a pollution in the pure Aryan nation and (b) criticizing those Jews with considerable political power who misuse that power. It's the difference between saying, (a) "Oh, yes, the particular Jew who lives next door seems like a decent chap; it's just Jews in general who make me uncomfortable," and saying, (b) "Oh, yes, the Jews in general are an intelligent, hardworking people with a rich cultural and religious tradition; it's just the slaughter of the Palestinians that I object to." In camp (a), the point is not the specificity of Jews at all, but rather attaching an abstract, negative idea to the name "Jew." (In this sense, attempts to guard against anti-Semitism by disallowing any criticism of any Jews, e.g. of those Jews who make policy for the state of Israel, are still working within the basic logic of anti-Semitism, although such a position is of course not identical with anti-Semitism.) I would put Paul in camp (b) -- an atypical example of a camp (b) position, but still within those basic parameters.
(12:23 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
I hate Nicholas KristofYeah. I think I might take David Brooks over him.
(10:36 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Valentine's Day TributeOn Saturday, I went to mass at the cathedral downtown, kind of to see if things could still work out between me and God. Anthony went with me, which turned out to be a great idea because the CTA route planner web site doesn't have an option for "Don't fucking drop me off on a corner with three liquor stores, broken liquor bottles all around the bus stop, and guys with white around their lips from smoking crack" (that last observation was contributed by Anthony). In any case, the priest was pretty over the top. Apparently it's a tradition "here at Holy Name Cathedral" (a phrase he used more often than "Amen") to honor all married couples the Saturday before Valentine's Day. He had everyone stand up, based on how long they'd been married -- there was one couple there who had been married sixty years. Very impressive. They renewed their vows, and then the awkwardness was over -- we went back to having mass rather than an idiotic circus.
After mass, Anthony remarked that the marriage stuff was a little overdone. I suggested that we should have stood up at one point and pretended to be a couple. I had already remained silent when the intercessions included the fervent hope that government leaders would have the wisdom to protect the sanctity and integrity of family life -- maybe I should just be Episcopalian.
Saturday, February 12, 2005
(10:20 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Media CriticismWhy the fuck does the media always report damning information about the Bush administration after the damage has been done? Is it that they worry about being "political" by reporting actual facts that may have some bearing on political decisions? Or is it just that the Bush administration is good enough at controlling the flow of information that the decisively damning information doesn't get out until they've achieved whatever goal they were going for? Some combination of the two?
UPDATE: Jodi Dean has written another great post, and it happens to be sufficiently closely related to this post that I am linking it here.
ANOTHER UPDATE: This one's not related, but m2 of The H is O has written the ultimate tribute to troll du jour.
A SOMBER UPDATE: The Young Hegelian is retiring.
"HE JUST KEEPS UPDATING!": This is probably the best blog post ever. (via Bob of Unfogged, which now has a new blogger-with-ovaries. She's not nearly as cool as Angela or Tara, though, and she cannot possibly beat Tara in the infrequent posting department. The Weblog remains The Weblog, the very form-of-blog. Everyone blogs -- only we blog in the World of Forms.)
Friday, February 11, 2005
(1:00 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
You need to use TrillianA while back, Fontana Labs posted about one of the primary problems with AOL's Instant Messenger client: a new window can pop up at any time, without your noticing it, and you might end up continuing to type and pressing enter before you realize you've unintentionally shared some sensitive information. I have recently noticed, however, that Trillian solves that problem: it pulls up a new window to the front, but your cursor remains where it was, so that if you continue typing without noticing the new window, your text still ends up where you intended it to go. It also offers what I like to call an "Away Message tunnelling" feature, whereby you can talk to one person while displaying an away message for everyone else. I wanted that feature within the first week of using AIM, back in college. There are a couple of drawbacks -- namely, the file sharing and chat room features are somewhat flaky still, but I keep a copy of the normal AIM client for when I want to use those features. But in the end, it's a really well-done program that contains no ads and does not pop up random windows at you.
Alright, back to the Bible!
(9:16 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: British EditionI confess that although the confessional is almost always posted in the morning from the point of view of my American readers, for my readers in the UK, it is posted in the afternoon. Thus, it is accurately named.
I confess that I fed the troll over at Infinite Thought's site, right when there was some hope that he was bored and would go away on his own. This stands in direct contradiction of my own extermination policy from last week.
I confess that I will not be joining Old and Discard at Duke next year, due to my abject failure to live up to their standards of excellence (or, alternatively, my failure to win a coin toss between me and an equally excellent student -- it's hard telling with these things).
I confess that the City Sticker system, wherein the burden of proof is on you to prove that you're not buying it late, is ridiculous. And I'll further confess that it's ridiculous that the city clerk's office didn't tell Hayley that we'd need a lease to document the day we moved in when they told her that we had a 30-day grace period. It's basically ridiculous that so much seems to hang on who happens to answer the phone when you call.
I think I might be able to finish the first draft of my translation by the end of the day, assuming that I don't just goof off on the computer until 2:00.
UPDATE: Haven't quite focussed yet, but here's a link to a satirical piece by Dan Green of The Reading Experience, the blogosphere's foremost literary literary blog.
UPDATE: I confess that I look out the window every twenty mintues to see if I've gotten another parking ticket. I have the form for a permit to allow me to park on the street like a normal person, and it says that I have to pay all parking tickets on file before I can get the permit. I am contesting three of them (two for parking a truck in a residential area, which I will probably have to pay, and one for not having the city sticker, which I will probably not have to pay since I'll hopefully be able to document that I was within the grace period), but I'd almost be willing to just pay them all so that I could get the permit and no longer have to worry about potentially getting a ticket every single motherfucking day. Or at least I'd be willing to pay the two that probably won't get repealled.
I also think you should probably read this interview with Alenka Zupančič, uncovered by Jodi Dean.