Sunday, December 31, 2006
(9:31 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
New Year's ResolutionsI'm starting to wonder if last year, George W. Bush said, "I resolve to kill Saddam this year -- and I really mean it this time."
As for me, I can't think of any good resolutions. It's a process I'm not very good at, similar to giving things up for Lent -- something I had already given up on a couple years after becoming Catholic. Maybe I can resolve never to think about the idea of New Year's resolutions again.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
(11:15 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Um, is this the message you want to send?Doesn't this image from the New York Times seem weirdly commemorative?
It doesn't help that the filename is literally "hussein_promo_b."
Friday, December 29, 2006
(8:42 AM) | Brad:
Friday Morning ConfessionalI confess that I unnecessarily lie to my employer and that these lies are getting more extravagant and exhausting, requiring more and more preparation and perpetuation. Two examples. (1) A few months ago I needed a day off to finish a writing project, but instead of simply asking for the day off, as any normal person would do, especially in light of my employer's generosity in such matters, I made up a story about my car breaking down the previous evening on a highway somewhere outside a major Midwestern metropolitan area some 110 miles away. I had unknowingly (at the time) laid the groundwork for this lie by going into detail for several weeks previous about how rickety and crippled my car is, and have since had to remember this particular horror story in all subsequent reports on the status of my car and its repairs. (Postscript: To insure the "truthiness" of this lie, after finishing my writing project that afternoon, I drove around the outer loop of my metropolitan area for about 100 miles, in hopes that the car might break down.) (2) A couple of weeks ago the wife & I decided our Christmas gift to one another would be a weekend away in a wilderness cabin. Again, I had plenty of time to simply ask for the two days off. But, again, no. Instead, I said that I had a job interview five hundred miles away. My boss, being very supportive of the fact that I have actual professional aspirations, was more excited than I'd anticipated -- even visiting the prospective employer's website to check the place out, wishing me luck for four consecutive days before I "hit the road," and providing a bottle of wine as consolation for "not getting the job." "They're loss," he said so sympathetically I wanted to cry. Nevertheless, unswayed by the guilt (until now), and upon further inquiry about the position I did not receive, I then said that I know the woman who got the job, and that while she deserves the job more than I because of her publication record, her work is very uninspired and teaching atrocious. In the week that followed, this woman has taken on a nearly mythical quality. (Postscript: To be fair, I had a particular woman in mind when I sexed my opponent, so, you know, no symbolism or sexism intended. Though, now that I think of it, the woman I had in mind is also still without a job, so perhaps I should I am not so much a sexist as am I just a dick.)
Unrelatedly, as I finish season three of The Wire, I can confess pretty that, despite critical opinion, neither Bubbles nor Omar Little are the most interesting characters in the show (up to this point -- I've not seen season four yet). It has to be Stringer Bell. Supportive or contrary arguments are of course welcomed. (Postscript: this particular confession is unrelated, I think, to the one above, except for the fact that Stringer Bell is also an ambitious liar whose lies, even though many were done with the best of intentions, at least from the perspective of a criminal mastermind intent on safely selling copious amounts of heroin, inevitably catch up to him. My lies, I should point out, have very little to do with heroin.)
Thursday, December 28, 2006
(10:53 PM) | Amish Lovelock:
Discrepant experiencesSome (incoherent) thoughts and nothing more.
K-punk, in his posts on hauntology, often evokes a book called Kindred by the science fiction writer, Octavia Butler. In that book the main character, Dana, is brought back in time repeatedly by her slave-owning grandfather, Rufus, at times when his life is in danger. Each time, Dana chooses to save Rufus because she knows that if she doesn’t a free-born black woman will not be raped by him and become her maternal grandmother. Later in the book she even attempts to personally persuade her grandmother to be raped by Rufus to ensure her birth. K-punk comments,
"The 'founding trauma' of the Black Atlantic involved the shattering of linear time: Apocalypse now (and forever). X marks the spot where identity was permanently erased; what is left is the absence, the memory loss, that is constitutive of Black Atlantean subjectivity as such. (Butler's Kindred remains one of the most powerful explorations of the bind whereby, for the modern Black Atlantean, wishing away slavery means wishing away oneself.)"
The discussion concerning Levinas’ racism in the comments to my post/link below reminded me of this post (and this too). It made me wonder whether or not he might be located on the reverse side of this existential bind: What if wishing away Levinas' racism means a wishing away of Levinas himself? Or, is the opposite to “Have I a right to be and at the cost of whom?,” “Do you exist and if so what proof do you have?” (see here).
In response to this fact there should be no demands for retrospective righting of the philosophical archive. Shouldn't we be having an “explicitly political” engagement with racism beyond reducing it to the level of personal prejudice?
(11:35 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
St. Gerald FordI'm not sure I follow the logic by which Gerald Ford became a Great Benefactor of Humanity. From the news coverage, you'd think that pardoning Nixon was tantamount to curing both cancer and AIDS while simultaneously ending poverty worldwide -- whereas one would intuitively think that it amounted to giving a free pass to one of the most criminal administrations in our nation's history. Ah, the mysteries of "national healing."
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
(9:05 PM) | F. Winston Codpiece III:
Codpiece in LoveDearest readers of the website devoted to my greatest creation, Adam Kotsko -- I have something I need to share with the world: I am in love. In fact, I am engaged. I know this will take many of you by surprise, and I regret having kept my relationship from you, but we decided early on to keep things quiet so as not to attract the paparazzi. That's right: as you may have already guessed, my fiancée is none other than actress Anne Hathaway, star of The Devil Wears Prada, together with The Princess Diaries and its inspired sequel. An image of this radiant beauty follows:
And -- why not? -- another one:
Before meeting me, darling Anne was indeed fed up -- with her good-girl image, with its subsequent tarnishing (not safe for work -- to her shame!), but most of all with meaningless relationships with dead-end losers. I changed all of that. In a series of romantic dates, highlights of which I will soon make available in montage format, I helped this tomboy to blossom into a seductive woman by making her conscious of her natural beauty. Despite some initial skepticism on my part, I have come to the conclusion that she is indeed ready to be my bride -- at the very least, she looks equally lovely in (despite everything) white:
Doubtless on our wedding night, she will find me to be very much a bucking bronco.
Further updates to follow -- watch this space!
(5:18 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
A Simple QuestionHave you ever heard of the mystery of the Incarnation being referred to as "spirit becoming flesh"?
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
(12:25 AM) | Marta:
Tuesday Hatred: Monday Picture Blogging editionI hate that there hasn't been any Monday Picture Blogging for several months now. I want it to come back. I also hate the following:
Picutres of Babies Dressed Up as Something Other than Babies
Anyone who posts additional picture-hatreds in the comments will earn my modest admiration. Hate!
Monday, December 25, 2006
(11:04 PM) | Amish Lovelock:
The point, however, is to change it...
"We find ourselves in a theoretical deadlock with our preeminent postmodern theorists. Deleuze and Guattari and Foucault can effectively describe our current condition in the academy; their models can even anticipate structural changes that show how their own work enters its classrooms. However, they offer us little in the way of prescribing change due to the fact that subjectivity remains a theoretical blind spot in their thinking."
Ooh, ooh, oogh...
Saturday, December 23, 2006
(11:24 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Happy Holidays from The WeblogIn a couple hours I'm going to get on the train that will take me to the very heart of Flint. I can't guarantee that I'll be able to survive my trip to the rust belt, much less blog, and so I thought I would take this opportunity to wish happy holidays to all my friends. Whether you're a Christian celebrating the birth of Santa, a Jew celebrating the exploits of mighty Judas Maccabee, a pan-African celebrating the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense, a Muslim taking the Hajj or just celebrating Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice Ishmael, or a Deleuzian celebrating the impossible possibility of the thought of pure immanence as incarnated in Spinoza, I wish you a very happy holiday, filled with a resurgence of long-buried family neuroses, with ill-informed political and religious debates, with gluttony and crass consumerism, and with tacky songs sung through gritted teeth.
Personally, I hope to spend much of my time either playing ping-pong or helping my cousins build their new Lego sets -- perhaps a board game or two, ideally not one disrupted by an overly energetic and curious dog. It should be pretty good.
And of course, as always, donations are welcome, should the spirit of Christ, Moses, Dr. Maulana Karenga, Muhammed, or Spinoza compel you.
Friday, December 22, 2006
(12:08 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: Holly JollyI confess that there is too much good stuff to watch on TV on weeknights. How did we ever live without South Park and Family Guy reruns on every night? Oh, right -- we probably went out with friends, or read more, or took up hobbies other than blogging.
I confess that this photo is pretty impressive (via Unfogged).
I confess that I was pretty happy to get proofs for a long-delayed article this week. I confess that a book review of mine also became available this week, but I am waiting to link to it until the publication in question is "officially" out. This closes out my "forthcoming" list for the moment.
I confess that on Tuesday I cleaned the apartment so thoroughly that it still looks notably clean today.
I confess that the owner of the local convenience store works so hard and takes such obvious pride that it kind of depresses me to go in there.
Finally, I confess that this is late.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
(11:37 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Beyond the Religious Right DebateI think it's safe to say that the conversation on the religious right -- assuming it ever happened to begin with -- is breaking down. When the liberal-democractic procedure of "dialogue" falls apart, where does one go? The only place you can go: objectifying discourse that attributes motives to one's opponent which the opponent obviously would never acknowledge. So I concede in advance: dearest colleagues, you are going to feel like I am mischaracterizing you. Deal with it.
What touched off this debate was a post that falls into a fairly common genre on left-wing blogs. The format is as follows:
- Quote some news story about the religious right
- Offer no analysis aside from asserting that it's really terrible
- Invite everyone to engage in a ritual denunciation of the religious right
Still, as I have been reading Gramsci's prison notebooks, I have been struck more and more by the sense that we can do better than the panic/ritual denunciation and in fact that it's urgent that we do better. I have been denounced recently for downplaying the impact of the religious right, but I won't downplay their importance as a part of the alliance that is keeping a really dangerous and toxic politics in place -- a politics that is not the fantasy used to fleece some hick preacher, but that is very real and making large strides day by day. It's important to analyze the ways that the religious right is brought on board with this, but it's also important not to let our natural disgust at the religious right blind us to what's really going on -- we get stuck at the level of "Oh my God we're heading for theocracy!" and think the work is done. Well, left-wing Americans: encore un effort.
Part of the problem seems to me to be the doctrinaire atheism of many left-wingers. It's not the atheism that's the problem -- it's the uncritical atheism. It's the kind of atheism that acts like if people could just embrace atheism, all of society's problems would be, in principle, solved. (Of course no one out there is going to admit that they think this -- as I said, this is the kind of discourse that happens when conversation breaks down. The time is past when "you're mischaracterizing my position" is a relevant response.)
Marx said that the critique of religion is the beginning of all critique, and I think he's right. The problem comes from the impression that somehow that critique is already, in principle, accomplished, and we can move on. This strikes me as a very undialectical and ultimately un-Marxian position. It also strikes me as implausible that the critique of religion was accomplished so easily by Feuerbach in a handful of books, while the critique of political economy was a vast undertaking that Marx couldn't have completed in four lifetimes. Gramsci seems to me to move beyond this position, influenced in part by Max Weber -- but it doesn't seem to have trickled down to most left circles.
Thankfully, in the mainstream press, there has been some progress on this front. The coverage of the religious right in Harper's in recent years has been absolutely first-rate, escaping from the "report, denounce, panic" routine and giving us genuine analysis. We need more stuff like that in blogs now. Perhaps I'm going to have to start doing it -- up until now, I definitely have not been modeling what I have set out in this post.
But in any case, I grow weary of the "report, denounce, panic" crowd and of the insinuations they hurl at anyone who wants to break out of that tired paradigm. I hate the religious right as much as or more than anyone here. At a certain point, though, you have to move beyond knee-jerk anger and take a look at what's really happening.
(8:50 AM) | F. Winston Codpiece III:
The "Adam Kotsko" HoaxMany of you already know that Adam Kotsko is a fraud. But few seem to have discerned the precise type and degree of the hoax that has been perpetuated on you for nearly three and a half years. Simply put: the "Adam Kotsko" you think you know, the graduate student characterized by extreme emotional neediness, self-indulgence, and reliably middle-brow tastes, does not really exist. "Adam Kotsko" is not simply a pseudonym, but a fictional character made up out of whole cloth.
First, let's look at the name itself. While "Kotsko's" frenetic blogging activity has effectively buried the evidence, in 2001 anyone searching for the name "Adam Kotsko" on the Internet would have found this image:
It is a picture of the only real Adam Kotsko to have lived. This true Kotsko, a Ukrainian student, was tragically killed in 1910 by Polish rioters at the University of Lviv. His death became a cause célèbre in the Ukrainian nationalist movement, and eventually there arose a theatre troupe named after him. It was apparently this theatre aspect that drew our "Kotsko" to use this name, sullying the real Kotsko's brave sacrifice and retroactively endorsing the brutality of the malevolent Poles.
Once the origin of the pseudonym is revealed, the rest of the façade collapses as a matter of course. The Chicago Theological Seminary? Clearly a pseudonym for the University of Chicago Divinity School, which would never admit someone of our "Kotsko's" limited talents. The Church of the Nazarene? Obviously a made-up sect, probably something out of a Pynchon novel. And his entire personal life can be pieced together from episodes in John Irving novels.
The question now is: Who would do such a thing? Who would perpetrate such a hoax on the blogging public? Who do we know who is brilliant enough, not only to create this tortured anti-hero, but to sustain the act over more than three years of daily posts?
There is only one possible answer, an answer that most of you have probably figured out by now: "Adam Kotsko" is a fictional character created by me. I initially developed the pseudonym as a way of giving reign to my deepest libidinal impulses through blogging, but soon the character began to take on a certain ontological consistency that was beyond my control. I was eventually forced to assert myself in the blogospheric realm, as it were, "in person" -- and ironically, my own creation soon became my arch-nemesis. Suddenly I had a lot of sympathy for this "God" person.
Long story short: while I would love to retire the "Kotsko" pseudonym altogether and begin blogging in earnest in my own name, that unfortunately will have to wait until I can afford a health insurance plan with psychiatric coverage.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
(8:16 AM) | Marta:
Tuesday Hatred: real short, straight to the pointI hate that, the other day, when something truly inflamed the fires of my hatred, I forgot to take note of what it was.
I hate having given my Finnish friend reason to suspect that I am just another ignorant American by inquiring about the quality of the road between Turku and Helsinki.
I hate the lingering odor of tea tree and umeboshi plumb douche that I sometimes encounter in my bathroom.
I hate my asthma medicine, particularly the steroids.
I hate that my formerly mad skills at blowing my nose over my shoulder while riding my bicycle, but without taking my hands off the handlebars or getting snot either in my hair or on my jacket, have diminished.
Monday, December 18, 2006
(8:38 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Meanwhile...As I wallow in misery, Jodi Dean and Sinthome are talking about the religious right. Anthony and I are both involved in their respective comment threads; though I haven't been following it in detail, this is a long-standing debate between Anthony and Sinthome.
I'll let Anthony speak for himself. The main point I'm trying to make is that the jump from a denunciation of the religious right or the various "fundamentalisms" to a denunciation of religion tout court is illogical. Secular critics of the religious right claim that it's not their job to define who has the "true" Christianity, and it certainly isn't -- but they almost always implicitly approve of the fundamentalist claim to represent the "true" form of a given religion and view other forms of that religion as irrelevant equivocation. This is a case of a broadly anti-religious bias leading one to shoot oneself in the foot. There are plenty of Christians who, precisely as Christians, are outraged at the religious right.
Another point is that we really need to analyze religion more on the superstructural level, especially in the modern world. In most cases, religion is mobilized for propaganda purposes, but it does not stand at the origin of the plan being proposed. A great example would be the Iraq War. There was nothing distinctively Christian about this war, unless we want to lean back on stupid slurs about how it was "faith based" or "based in theology." Fundamentalist Christians formed a significant, though hardly unique, base of support for this war, and it was because they were fleeced -- if the fundamentalists had really been in charge, invading Iraq would not have been on their agenda.
In fact, the religious right is "influential" only insofar as they are susceptible to the "bait and switch" of the Republican Party. They may determine a good chunk of the rhetoric, but they're not actually setting the policy. Similarly with Hitler: he played lip service to Christianity, and Christian anti-Semitism predisposed people to go along with shipping the Jews off, but no one can seriously argue that he based his agenda on Christian principles. Analyzing this use of religion for propaganda purposes is a very good and important thing to do, but "religion" does not stand at the root of the problem in the majority of cases -- even in the US. Money, not religion, controls things. Was this ever really in question?
Getting all bent out of shape about how Pat Robertson "wants theocracy" makes just as much sense as living in constant fear because bin Laden "wants theocracy." The relevant question isn't what they want, but what they're capable of. Pat Robertson is no more likely to become a major advisor to the president than bin Laden is. Sure, someone like Dobson may get brought in, but it's all for show. If you'll recall, he once went to the White House and came out as a strong partisan for the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court -- surely an obvious case of being manipulated into supporting something the president had already decided to do for other reasons. And incidentally, the bin Laden example shows how the Right is adept at using both religion and fear of religion to advance their agenda; the Left, such as it is, generally limits itself to the latter, with the impressive results we can all see.
Anyway, I suppose I'm implicitly an apologist for the religious right now. Sorry.
(3:11 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
What Heaven Will Be LikeSomething is not working. For close to three weeks now, I've been sitting idle, just doing what I have to, skipping everything else. It could be the Christmas season, or it could be environmental factors, or it could be simple burn-out. In any case, I'm bored, lonely, and depressed. I assume this period will end, presumably once I've slept off my traditional New Years despair, but I don't have any concrete idea of what it would look like for it to end. It really feels like I could indefinitely continue to barely slide by -- work enough to pay the bills, have a decent social life but no prospect of a relationship, competently make my way through the PhD program (probably at a slower pace), and otherwise just sit around. No alarms and no surprises, as they say -- I could even continue to listen to the same old music over and over.
Heaven will not be like that. I had a discussion of this the other day. My interlocutor thought that heaven would be like a party, etc., which wouldn't be bad. Sometimes I think that I could go a long time just going out with friends every night and sleeping it off. But for me, heaven would be somehow internal to this life that I've led -- a retracing of this same life. Not everyone can say this, since there are some things that really are unredeemable, but I've been spared that -- and maybe that makes this cheap and trite. (In fact the image that comes to mind is something that all of us people of good taste have "outgrown," the death scene in American Beauty.)
My image of heaven would be a repetition of my life, "just a little different" -- the minimal difference being perhaps even merely the formal difference of being a repetition, of holding it a little more loosely. This is the kind of redemption that I would want. Even in terms of "this world," my ideals are not ideals in the traditional sense -- they have all been actualized. My ideal of feminine beauty is not a list of properties, but an actual person I have known. My ideal relationship is something that I have already experienced, at least for a moment.
But here we come to this strange disjuncture in my life -- on the one hand, I've arranged basically everything around "career" concerns, but on the other hand, the only thing that seems to me to have any real meaning is love. Not family, not even marriage -- the intensity of the one-on-one. Sometimes, even though it's ridiculous, I think that I've already had that, reached my quota -- and so the finding of a girlfriend or a wife could become a simple utilitarian affair (Do we get along? Are our domestic habits compatible? Do we have similar goals?).
In my moments of weakness, I keep aspiring to be the knight of infinite resignation -- but really, I want the "just a little different" now. I want things to shift a fraction of a millimeter. Or at least sometimes I do -- sometimes I want very much not to want that.
(9:06 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Hurray for the Global South!Christians in the Third World are making their totally unique and non-Western voice heard by -- scapegoating gays! I'm so glad that we have all these heroic African bishops willing to take a stand on this, because it never would've occurred to any Westerner to call "the growing acceptance of gay relationships a 'satanic attack' on the church."
And of course, the true sign of a stalwart defender of the church is to poach another bishop's parishes, since the sacraments don't "work" if they're performed by someone you disagree with -- or even someone who is institutionally connected with someone you disagree with. Or wait, no: actually that's Donatism. But if you think about it, isn't Donatism a good thing? Hell of a nice name for a movement. Rolls off the tongue.
Maybe we can finally establish officially what everyone is clearly thinking: that God became human, died on the cross, and rose from the dead so that we wouldn't be gay. We can rewrite the Nicene Creed to include this topic, preferably in the first line. "We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things seen and unseen, except the demonic homosexuals whom he hates." And although apparently the "condemnation" of gays is the single most obvious thing in the entire fucking Bible, maybe we could clarify and somehow add an entire new book that could go into exquisite detail about how much "God hates fags." Perhaps this could be called "The Epistle to the Faggots."
In fact, once we got that under control, we could just delete the whole rest of the Bible, except for a couple verses in Leviticus, so that no Christian would ever be distracted by ... um, that other stuff that Christianity is about. I know that one would normally list examples here, but I've already forgotten all of them. Anyway, here's the important thing again: God became human so that he could walk around beating up gay people. That could work for a creed, too -- short and easy to remember, and it cuts to the core of the gospel message.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
(9:25 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Year With No ChristmasOver at Unfogged, I had a stroke of genius. Someone mentioned being miserable and depressed, and thinking of what makes me miserable and depressed, I naturally thought of the solution: cancelling Christmas. This may seem radical, but let's look at the effects of Christmas.
First of all, it leads our children into a depraved orgy of consumeristic lust. I recently saw a commercial that showed two children in ecstasy over the undoubtedly shoddy and over-priced product that their parents went deeper into credit card debt to purchase for them, and I was horrified. Children should never be that happy; they'll never learn that way.
Second of all, Christmas invariably makes adults feel inadequate -- no fiancee to bring home for Christmas, nothing non-controversial to talk about at the dinner table, always getting everyone the wrong thing. Even the much-lauded "real spirit of Christmas," far from being an impetus for real-world action, serves only to increase that sense of inadequacy, as one's pathetic attempts to buy a child's love pale in comparison to all the wonderful deeds one could be doing (having a homeless man over for dinner, shovelling a shut-in's driveway, etc.).
So I think that's pretty well established: Christmas is the invention of the antichrist. How do we abolish it, though? The most obvious route would be to begin negotiations with the pope. But Ratzinger is a very clever man, doubtless a tough negotiator -- and besides, we have less than two weeks to pull this off. We need a man of action, a man with quick decision-making skills -- obviously, we need George W. Bush. Although our goal would be to abolish Christmas forever, we could probably tell him it was only for this year, since he has something of a penchant for making open-ended commitments that are sold as easy "in and out" affairs. One might think that it would hurt his poll numbers, but (a) he has nowhere to go but up, and (b) most of the country would probably be secretly relieved if Christmas was abolished.
Yes, you read that right: I'm willing to help Bush's poll numbers if need be. It's that serious a matter. I'm sure you all agree.
(12:56 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
An Open Letter to the History of Christian Thought ClassMost of you are doing very well on the "short identification" section. I just have one quibble with the way that most of you are answering the question on the Council of Nicea. The number of bishops present there was not 300, as so many of you think. There were in fact precisely 318 fathers at that most august and holy council. (Mnemonic device: three persons, one nature, and... um, Christ rose on the eighth day of the week.)
I'm letting it slide, especially since everyone knows that it met in 325, but I'm just saying -- let's have some precision here.
Friday, December 15, 2006
(7:24 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: Just a little differentI confess that I am tired all the time lately. Left to myself, I sleep up to eleven hours a night. Yesterday I was all set to be a Productive Individual, but I ended up taking a long nap. If I could go back in time for this semester, one of the two things I would change would be the amount of sleep I got -- namely, more. None of these morning classes. But now classes are over, at least for a couple weeks.
I confess that I am suffering from a general malaise. I confess that I need more money. I confess that I should've just sold my damn truck this summer. I confess that I have a lot of exams to grade this weekend. I confess that I feel needy -- I'm checking my e-mail too often, always looking at the phone to make sure that it didn't somehow ring without my hearing it.
I confess that I'm having trouble sustaining my own interest in this post, so I can only imagine what readers are dealing with. Hopefully the comments will be better.
(1:18 AM) | Amish Lovelock:
Toward a World Republic
This is from the abstract to a talk Karatani did in Zagreb - and is more or less a digested translation of a part of his new book Toward a World Republic (at present in Japanese only). The whole thing can be read here.
"I came to understand why state-socialism was born out of Marxism. It was not because Marx was a statist, but because he was an anarchist and believed that the economic solution of class society will abolish the state. Both Proudhon and Marx lacked the understanding of the state. For them, the state was nothing but a political superstructure, which is placed over the civil society or economic structure. In a word, Proudhon and Marx saw the state from within alone and consequently thought of abolishing it from within or below alone. Today, Negri and Hardt assert that the true democracy of the multitude will abolish the state. In fact, this is Proudhon’s view, which overlooks that the state presupposes the other state (enemy). You cannot abolish the state, as far as other states remain. Of course, Marx was aware that socialism would not make sense on the level of one nation. Thus, he emphasized the simultaneous world revolution. But it was and will be infeasible. The state and capital will bar the revolutionary movements from being unified. (That was what really happened to the 2nd International in the face of the First World War.) We must seek to contain the state not only from “below”, but also from “above”. How is this possible? I found the key to this question in Kant’s idea of world republic. Usually this is romantically referred to concerning the permanent peace or something like that. And his idea is actually realized as the League of Nations and The United Nations. However, I want to stress that what Kant called the world republic is nothing other than the Aufhebung of the state and capitalist economy. Also, Kant’s project for the permanent peace (Zum ewigen Frieden) can be read as the strategy for the gradual but simultaneous world revolution. The counteraction against the capital and the state in each country can be effective, only when it is linked to the containment of the state and capital from “above”. To be more concrete, empowering the United Nations and NGOs will be indispensable."
Thursday, December 14, 2006
(6:45 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The CTA and Stockholm SyndromeThis evening as I was on my way home, I found that the Red Line was running on the Loop tracks. This meant that all the people who would normally be underground were now swarming above the surface. The station was packed. Every single Brown Line that came through was packed. Inexplicably, approximately 47 nearly empty Green Lines came for every Brown or Red Line.
I waited through four packed trains, before finally deciding to take a Green Line to Clark and Lake, then switch to Blue, then take the bus north. It was a nice blast from the past for me, waiting at the same station where Anthony and I used to wait after our night shifts at the data entry sweat shop.
A lot of people get mad about this kind of thing, which seems to happen more and more. I try to minimize it. If I start believing that the CTA is in a downward spiral, then I'll have to give in and start driving again. This blissful period, free of road rage and car insurance payments, will be over. I don't think I can go back. I can endure. I know many alternate routes. I'll bring a book, and it'll be fine, no matter how long it takes.
(1:18 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Blogger BetaDoes anyone find this "Blogger Beta" thing to be annoying? The Weblog is apparently "too big" to be switched at this time -- but that doesn't stop them from showing a big message encouraging me to switch every time I sign in.
Is anyone using the new one currently? Is it really better and more reliable? (I suppose it would almost have to be more reliable, just statistically.) Even if I were able to switch, I would be reluctant to do so because I'm not sure how it would affect the sign-in process for co-bloggers.
This has been a shit and garbage post.
(9:35 AM) | Brad:
Lunchtime AdventuresI wanted only a pizza, a greasy lunch during a boring shift. I got instead a Christmas tree whose xylophonic renditions of holiday favorites consisted of the eternally recurrent looping of their first lines, and their first lines alone. Its lights, I think, were supposed to blink in time to the festive dinging, but their dance throughout the plastic tree seemed arbitrary to me. It did not help that my pizza order was forgotten, and that I had to wait an extra fifteen minutes. Fifteen more minutes to ignore the book I'd brought with me, to stew over how loud an otherwise empty pizzeria had become because of a Christmas tree, and finally to slip into a catatonic state from which only sausage and pepperoni could rescue me. By hour's end, I was more disheveled than normal; no longer hungry, but disoriented, dull ache in the back of the head and shirt stained with drool. What happened, I wondered. And then, thanks to a dwarfish four-foot-tall Santa, complete with motion detector, I remembered -- while at the very same moment he announced, loudly enough for me to think he was being a little gratuitous, "Merry Christmas," and then crooned a disturbing lounge-singer version of "Little Drummer Boy."
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
(9:13 PM) | Brad:
Rerun Movie: Songs from the Second FloorJust finished watching, for the third time now, Songs From the Second Floor. What a great film. Between the visual comedy of a crucified Christ swinging like a pendulum because of the inadequacy of the icon's nails, to the greatest depiction of Nietzsche's vision of God's murder in the market (i.e., the heaving of Christ, repeatedly, seemingly endlessly, into the garbage heap, because he no longer sells), to the cinematic allusions to Godard's Weekend and Bergman's Seventh Seal, to the disturbing effect of a stationary camera, to the best director's commentary ever, the film rarely misses a beat. Possibly a little overt in its experimentation -- but just as possibly the best movie I've seen in the past two years.
Plus, it never hurts when a movie is inspired by, and perhaps we could even say embodies, a poem I'd not heard before but have never forgotten since.
"Stumble between two stars," by César Vallejo
There are people so wretched, they don't even
have a body; their hair numbered,
their wise grief, low, in inches;
their manner, high;
don't look for me, the oblivion molar
they seem to come out of the air, to add up sighs mentally, to hear
bright smacks on their palates!
They leave their skin, scratching the sarcophagus in which they are born
and climb through their death hour after hour
and fall, the length of their frozen alphabet, to the ground.
Pity for so much! pity for so little! pity for them!
Pity in my room, hearing them with glasses on!
Pity in my thorax, when they are buying suits!
Pity for my white filth, in its combined scum!
Beloved be the sanchez ears,
beloved the people who sit down,
beloved the unknown man and his wife,
my fellow man with sleeves, neck and eyes!
Beloved be the one with bedbugs,
the one who wears a torn shoe in the rain,
the one who keeps vigil over the corpse of bread with two matches,
the one who catches a finger in a door,
the one who has no birthdays,
the one who lost his shadow in the fire,
the animal, the one who looks like a parrot,
the one who likes like a man, the rich poor man,
the extremely miserable man, the poorest poor man!
the one who is hungry or thirsty, but has no
hunger with which to satiate all his thirst,
nor thirst with which to satiate all his hungers!
Beloved be the one who works by the day, by the month, by the hour,
the one who sweats out of pain or out of shame,
the person who goes, at the order of his hands, to the movies,
the one who pays with what he does not have,
the one who sleeps on his back,
the one who no longer remembers his childhood; beloved be
the bald man without hat,
the just man without thorns,
the thief without roses,
the one who wears a watch and has seen God,
the one who has one honor and does not fail!
Beloved be the child, who falls and still cries
and the man who has fallen and no longer cries!
Pity for so much! Pity for so little! Pity for them!
(1:13 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
2008 Strategies for the Democrats2008 is looking to be one of the most crowded presidential fields in memory. Clearly there is a certain amount of momentum behind both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and if the Democrats wanted to embrace the Kotsko "corruption shows they're serious" path, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich[*] would be an obvious pick.
But what if we were to think "outside the box," if you will. The nation is tired of career politicians, with their compromise-riddled history and penchant for equivocation. What this country needs is a man of action, a man unafraid of making hard choices and taking responsibility. What this country needs, then, is Kiefer Sutherland.
Think of it! "Jack Bauer '08." Even better "Bauer/Palmer '08." In the vice-presidential debate, Dennis Haysbert could bring down the house with a wry self-depricating reference to his ubiquitous commercials: "Strength abroad, responsibility at home -- that's Allstate's stand." Future historians would all agree that that would be the joke that decided the election.
[UPDATE: He could also offer a free Jack Bauer messenger bag to everyone who voted for him.]
[*] Incidentally, I ended up having lunch today at the restaurant where
(9:04 AM) | F. Winston Codpiece III:
Perhaps the best New Yorker cartoon everTurn with me, if you will, to pg. 58 of the December 18, 2006, issue of The New Yorker. For those who do not have a copy on hand, I will set the scene for you. People are standing in line at airport security. In order to enter an area known only as "Concourse E," they must first go through an oversized wringer, the type used for laundry by our primitive ancestors. The image shows a man in the middle of going through this wringer, apparently looking at the guard as if to ask, "Are you done yet?"
Let me explain why this is funny. As many of you know, the English language has a rich repertoire of set idiomatic expressions or "clichés." One of the best is "being put through the wringer," which refers to enduring a very difficult situation -- such as, for example, the rigors of airport security in our Age of Constant Fear. The center of this cartoon's comedic effect is what amounts to a pun: "What if you literally had to be 'put through the wringer'?" But the true twist isn't so much the visual gag as the biting social commentary for which New Yorker cartoons are famous -- after the initial shock of seeing a human being treated as laundry, we note that our fellow Americans are still showing the same Stoical endurance that has characterized their response to previous security measures. One is left gazing into the distance, pondering the razor's-edge that separates a healthy detachment from complicity with torture.
This isn't just a throw-away gag. This is art in the truest and deepest sense of the word.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
(10:55 AM) | Marta:
Tuesday Hatred: Advent editionI hate having been assigned the hatreds for December, as it feels wrong somehow to talk about hate during Advent. I hate that I apparently have no problem with hating during the other 11 months of the year.
I hate that the following is all I can muster in this season of holiday joy:
- I hate how crappy the public radio broadcast schedule is on weekends. I especially hate "Piano Jazz". That show sucks.
- I hate decorating Christmas trees.
- I hate how mean and judgmental I was on Saturday night regarding a friend of a friend, whom I don't even know at all.
- I hate that the comparative adverb is not formed by changing the 'y' to an 'i' and adding '-er'. I hate that I can't ride my bike quicklier than you.
- I hate that my schoolwork is ruining the sweet anticipation I would otherwise be feeling for the next couple weeks.
I hate to admit it, but that's all I have, and now I have to punt. Hate away!
Monday, December 11, 2006
(3:20 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Begging the QuestionHave we just reached the point where "to beg the question" means "to immediately prompt one to ask the question" rather than "to attempt to get one's opponent to accept as a shared assumption what is actually precisely the question at issue"?
If we have, that's okay -- no need to be a prescriptivist bastard. But if the battle is still going on, I'm going to throw my vast influence behind the traditional meaning.
TWO UNRELATED REMARKS:
- Obviously playing Windows Hearts at this late date is intrinsically depressing; what's even more depressing is sucking at it -- specifically, coming to understand that one's ability to keep track of which cards have been played is only kicking in when it's a matter of knowing for sure that one is inevitably going to lose.
- Does it seem safe to say that no one on earth has listened to Thom Yorke's solo album more than three times through?
FOR FUTURE GAMES OF "SIX DEGREES OF KEVIN BACON":
In the Prison Notebooks, Gramsci makes a passing reference to Paul de Man's uncle, Henri de Man.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
(6:10 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Believing stuffLast year, I read a lot about demons -- like the demons who harrassed St. Anthony. It was interesting to me, the kinds of physical properties they have. They're not omnipresent, for instance, but they are extremely fast. I hadn't intended to do serious research on demons, but picked them up along the way of my guided tour of the history of Christian thought. Apparently for a long time, the "mainstream" of the tradition thought it very important to deal with demons, or as they say nowadays, really "believed" in demons. It was a topic that came up naturally, not an established theme that one must deal with for the sake of thoroughness.
I'll admit that I can't get inside the viewpoint from which it was possible to talk, in all seriousness, of demons -- but I also can't get inside the viewpoint from which it is possible to contemplate moving out into the desert and hoping for the best. But on the other hand, I also can't get inside the viewpoint from which it is considered possible -- or even potentially interesting -- to talk about St. Anthony's experiences in terms of psychological states, etc. The reductive scientific viewpoint absolutely fails to grab me. Somehow I understand and am sympathetic to someone like St. Anthony, whereas I don't even know what a reductive scientist thinks they're going to accomplish or why it's desirable.
Yet this rejection of reductionistic scientism does not seem to have a positive counterpart -- I don't know what it would mean to really "affirm" traditional theism or classical Christian orthodoxy. I've said it many times before: I would formally affirm classical Christian orthodoxy in a situation that demanded it. It seems like as good a set of beliefs about God as we're likely to get, and I also find it to be intellectually interesting, perhaps the very strangest thing people have ever tried to say. It'll probably never come to that, though -- when will anyone ask me to sign a statement affirming the Nicene Creed or the definition of Chalcedon? Would I feel differently if it weren't hypothetical?
Perhaps I'm tired of converting. I do feel right about having left the Church of the Nazarene, and I'm glad that I chose to enter into something that would make me weird, instead of just becoming a boring secular liberal. Or more precisely: maybe I don't trust my "converting-to" instincts at this point. Maybe I don't want to try to get inside some other viewpoint, so I just stick with the last one I tried to arrive at, held somewhat loosely, unsure what function it's performing or even supposed to perform.
The pose of free-floating loyalty to "reason" as such -- reductive scientism, let's say -- strikes me as really obnoxious just on an aesthetic and interpersonal level. I mean, I like the English as much as the next guy, but I like the impractical traditionalistic side of the English much better than the industrious no-nonsense side. Not the Englishness of crystaline prose, but the Englishness of decadence and squalor -- more along the lines of the early T. S. Eliot.
Is this a good way to select "beliefs," aesthetic appeal?
Yes, yes it is.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
(7:30 PM) | Amish Lovelock:Sublime, in the strict Kantian sense of the word.
(3:56 PM) | F. Winston Codpiece III:
Help Me Help the Sick and DyingI have only recently gotten out of the hospital and have been deluged with massive medical bills. In order to help me meet some of these financial obligations, I have started a black-market organ harvesting business, using Craigslist to solicit potential donors.
If you could help me to fine-tune my ad, I would be much appreciative. I've had some moderate success with it, but I know I can do better:
Statuesque 22yo blonde seeks unemployed d/d-free male for casual sexual encounter. Non-drinkers preferred.(I worry that the non-drinker aspect means that I'm missing out on a lot of potential candidates, but that's the only way I can get any money for their livers.)
(11:27 AM) | John Emerson:
Why Adam Kotsko is a DestinyWorkaholism and an adored Lou Salome figure are red-flag warning signs of terminal Nietzschification. Does Adam put his feet in a bucket of icewater to keep himself awake while studying? Does he use chloral hydrate as a sleeping potion?
Despite their seeming normality, William James and Max Weber also went temporarily nuts for reasons identical to Nietzsche's: The Protestant Seriousness. The major pre-Protestant thinker Thomas Aquinas went nuts too, while writing his second
The Superman was Nietzsche's solution to the dilemma of all successful self-improvement programs. If all you know how to do is improve yourself, what do you do once you're completely improved?
What you do is set yourself an impossible and imaginary ever-receding standard so you can still fail. Nietzsche was the über-bourgeois, rejecting faith but not works -- but the works could never be quite enough, and he insisted on refusing absolution for the guilt of having been born.
Jaroslav Hašek's far superior solution was to dabble in three or four mutually-contradictory revolutionary movements, write gutter journalism, and drink 20-30 beers a day. Borges and Kafka invented imaginary animals, but Hašek put imaginary animals in a real children's science encyclopedia sold on the market. Hašek made his Dadaist contemporaries look like poseurs (Satie always excepted).
As the world becomes increasingly Holy Roman, with hereditary lunatic rulers starting civilization-destroying wars for no intelligible reason, it will become increasingly clear that Seriousness itself is the enemy and that Švejkismo is our only valid option.
(9:39 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
What happenedYesterday, I did nothing. I filled my time, certainly, but for me, "doing something" (properly so called) must be academic in nature -- or, secondarily, involve making money in some way. I was totally exhausted due to my newly active social life, so I slept late and also took a nap. I read A Softer World. I watched Robot Chicken episodes on YouTube. I returned the movie we watched the night before and bought some milk, two bottles of Gatorade (one to drink yesterday, one to keep on hand for future emergencies), and an ice cream sandwich. I picked up Middlesex again, having let it lay dormant for probably close to three years now -- earlier this week I had finished my first novel in several years, Philip Roth's Plot Against America (good, not superlative).
I had some mild insomnia last night, probably due to having slept so much during the day. I was told that one way to cure insomnia is to actually get out of bed and watch some mindless TV until I started to fall asleep, but I never manage to pull that off. The best I can do is to get up and go to the bathroom, hoping The New York Review will calm me down. The only thing I "need" to "do" in the next week, aside from sitting there and watching the students in History of Christian Thought take their exam, is to study for my philosophy final. That's not until Thursday, so it doesn't feel urgent. In fact, ever since I got back from the AAR, that has been basically my only fast-approaching task -- a nice coincidence.
So much free time all of a sudden -- I even went to see a movie last week, in the theater. I've probably been going to the movies less than twice a year lately -- the only one I remember clearly was the one I mentioned to the person I was with this time: my "friend from Milwaukee" (as the ladies from work called her) was having some kind of leg-related problem, and she wanted to stay at my house for a week. She said it was because there were too many stairs at her house, but I tend to believe it's because she knew that I adored her and would wait on her hand and foot. That's what she said one time when -- because she was sick, presumably -- she simply showed up at my door, that she knew that she could come over and feel taken care of.
When I picked her up at Union Station at the beginning of this week of convolescence, sitting silent in the car for a while to allow her space to get over her embarrassment at having imposed on me in this way, she asked if we could go to the Indian restaurant in Orland Park, a place we'd been a couple times. We went there. Then she asked if we could go to the movies. It was in the middle of the summer, oppressively hot -- the movie options were pretty bad. We watched The Manchurian Candidate, the remake -- the only people in the theater (2 in the afternoon on a Monday or Tuesday) aside from an elderly couple who thought we were the cutest thing in the world. Little did they know that we weren't even a couple.
After a couple months, I "broke it off," started seeing someone else almost immediately. After a series of breakups and reunions, the person who had initially seemed to be the "rebound girl," the person I cautiously held at a distance, turned out to be a vastly more important and better person for me. But I still think of them as a pair, even though they never met, even though the latter would probably want to kill the former -- those two are my history, the history that actually happened, that had some effect outside of my own racing mind.
I've seen the friend from Milwaukee a few times, and it never really goes well. The last time I saw her, I felt very irritable -- I blamed it on the stomach troubles I was experiencing at the time, but that wasn't it at all. I wanted her all to myself. It wasn't even a matter of sex -- I just didn't want to share her. That was how I knew her, just me and her, the house to ourselves, the long drives to Union Station or Milwaukee or Kalamazoo or Iowa -- just me and her. It still seems wrong to me that that kind of thing can't last, or that we can't somehow recapture that, just this one time, just for a couple hours -- but it would never be long enough. | Main Page
Friday, December 08, 2006
(8:02 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: Legionnaires with 2x4sI confess that I have become a fan of Robot Chicken. Thankfully, this isn't a very time-consuming thing, as one could easily watch the entire series in a couple hours. I confess that I'm a sucker for slapstick comedy.
I confess that the semester is ending, but it's not going to feel like much of an ending at all -- I have a directed reading, an exam to study for, possibly an article to put together... Plus, you know, some me time. At a spa or something. I'll go sit in a sauna and relax, then be rushed to the hospital since I'm in such a constant state (yes, I'll confess it) of dehydration. All those years working for a chiropractor, for naught.
I confess that I can see the appeal of having sliced cucumbers on my eyes and whatever that green stuff is on my face. I confess that I'm not worried that this makes me gay, because I've been told that the one infallible sign of gayosity is noticing shoes, and I never do that. (You can have sex with men and stuff, but it's not until you start noticing shoes that you are really and truly gay.)
I confess that I need a haircut, but I'm not going to get one. I'm going to remain in a perpetual state of haircut-needing, hoping that it somehow morphs into a discernable "style" and the need thus dissipates. I confess that I spent much of this week hovering between insomnia and narcolepsy -- a "zone of indistinction" opened up, and I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I confess that I'm not going to take the Weber and Simmel course because it's too focused on religion. I confess that I don't think that religion exists as a discrete object of inquiry, even though for academic-disciplinary reasons I am able to categorize certain things as "religious." I'm thinking about taking Marion's course on love, but if any Chicago-area grad students know of interesting courses being offered in the spring (either winter or spring quarter), I'd be glad to learn of them. It doesn't have to be anything "religious."
I confess that Marta will be taking over Ben Wolfson's role as hater, effective this coming Tuesday.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
(5:00 AM) | Amish Lovelock:
Worst Post EverIn light of the fascinating revelations about Derrida's penis in a comments section below I thought it might be nice to fall to a completely new low and discuss who, in the history of ideas and philosophy and all that jazz, has/d the largest and who has/d the smallest penis? My prediction is that the French will score high, the Germans low. If this goes well we could go one better and ask who d'you think could pee the highest? Fantastic!
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
(9:34 PM) | Dominic:
Winning the Brother for Christ (ii)Winning the Brother for Christ (ii): Person and Individual
In one of the key arguments of Silence and Honey Cakes Rowan Williams draws on the theology of Vladimir Lossky to establish a distinction between "the individual" and "the person". This is essentially a distinction between the chooser and the chosen: between this or that volitional agent milling about in the crowd, and the uniquely interpellated subject of a vocation. The individual "has choices", but exercises them in conformity with both his own nature, as a needy creature of appetite and emotion, and the state of affairs in which a given range of choosable options is laid out. The plight of the individual is appropriately exemplified by the figure of the rebellious teenager:
...[T]he problem is that we are actually so naive about choices, forgetting that this world of maximal choice is heavily managed and manipulated. The rebellious teenager has a ready-made identity to step into, professionally serviced by all those manufacturers who have decided what a rebellious teenager should look like: advertising standardizes our dreams. Our choices are constantly channelled into conformist patterns, and when we try to escape, there are often standard routes provided by the same market...
The desert-within-the-desert of the monastic cell represents one possible halting point for the restless sifting of alternatives that characterises the individual's pursuit of spiritual satisfaction. It is not at all a satisfying place to be; rather, it is the place where akkedia seriously starts to bite, and where one may have to sit in silence and contemplate its fangs. It is also a place where the "heavy burden" of individual self-justification may be laid down, and where the person "created, loved and healed" by God may begin to emerge.
It is not simply the case that "the individual" is the human animal considered in isolation from his fellow human animals, and "the person" that being which exists in personal relationship to other beings. On the contrary, "the individual" is already intensely, even pathologically, social, involved in myriad relationships of projection in which individuals seek to find their identities reflectively confirmed by others:
To solve the stress by not fleeing, by resorting to "human company", is to blur the sharp edges of responsibility and to imagine that you can arrange your situation to your comfort. Change the furniture, change the scenery, and you can change your inner landscape; talk to others and manipulate their reaction to you, and you can soften or share out the guilt you feel and fear. Someone has offended or hurt me, accused me of something, pointed out something I'd rather not recognize; the attractive way through is to talk to someone else and get them to reassure me that I'm wonderful and (ideally) that my critic is not worth listening to. But this is as useful in the long term as drinking salt wayer; I shall have to work very hard indeed at silencing the critical voice, and it can become an obsessive search for absolution.
Self-justification is not the hidden, sustaining vice of a private conscience, but the continuous symbolic labour of public selfhood. Conversely, personhood is not simply a matter of belonging to the community of persons, of being addressed as "thou" by others whom one in turn addresses as "thou". Personhood has an inexorably secret dimension, which cannot be reduced to the reciprocal exchange of tokens of respect and recognition. Perhaps a better word than "secret" would be "discrepant". In Orthodox Christology, as Williams points out, much is made of the discrepancy between the notions of "will" and "person": for the Eastern Church, it was possible to speak of two natures (and thus two wills) in one person:
To have a "will", for the Orthodox theologians of that era, was to have a set of dispositions that went with your nature: if this is the kind of being that you are, this is the kind of thing you're likely to want. Choosing among the kinds of things you're liable to want is on this account a "natural" activity. So, for Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the human will is active, and the human will, like all human wills, wants to survive and rebels against the thread of not surviving...But the human will is not the human person, and all this is quite abstract when considered apart from the person who activates the willing...Persons do the deciding; and when you have a person who is wholly self-consistent, whose identity is completely bound up in the calling to live in unreserved intimacy with God as Father, there is, as we say, no choice.
Decision is the domain of the person as choice is the domain of the individual: the person is that person who decides, in such a way as to leave no choices open. This does not make sense if we regard decision as a form of judgement, the exercise of a discriminating faculty which evaluates choices and selects the most advantageous option. But decisiveness is predicated of persons in the same way as it is predicated of a contingency which comes to determine the course of events: a person's decision is a function of what he is, not (or not exclusively) what he thinks.
When, finding ourselves unable to know what to do for the best, we complain of our own indecisiveness, it is not a failure of evaluative strategy we are bemoaning (since we are often faced with options between which there is little to choose) but our inability to act, in spite of this failure, in such a way as to resolve the situation. This inability to act decisively points to a failure of self-consistency: a failure to be, qua person, the deciding factor in our own actions. This view of human agency and its vicissitudes is specifically opposed to what Williams has called the "false anthropology" of Thatcherism, at the heart of which is a vision of the individual as a rational agent bent on maximising benefit to himself and participating, through the local evaluation of cost and benefit, in the vast information-processing apparatus of the Market. This rational agent turns out to be a kind of failed person, a person enslaved by choices and incapable of decision (and hence of any determinate project). It is one of the hallmarks of Williams's style of argumentation that while he almost never resorts to explicit polemics, even his most apparently abstruse and technical discussions often have a considerable, if veiled, polemical force.
(11:33 AM) | Adam R:
Ch 3[So it's been forever, too long. I know. I'm remiss. You can read chapter one here and chapter two here. Or read below for the three-second summary. And I'd like to promise it won't be as long until chapter four unravels. And I'd like to warn you(finally) that this chapter is mostly expository, so after last chapter's nailbiter, you may have been waiting all this time for nothing.]
The story until now:
Adam Robinson is intent on writing a movie, or a play, he's not sure which. But he figures the best way to get started is with a plot structure, which he has been trying to sketch out in a narrative about Adam Robison, a young man who lives in a shady Baltimore neighborhood and works for a mutual fund corporation in the city's glittery Inner Harbor. Adam Robison dreams of being a culture critic. In Chapter Two we are introduced to a mysterious character named Robby, who arrives in Baltimore on a ship. He is in an amnesiac state when he meets a sardonic bum named Bill.
Adam Robison, saddened by his lack of writing ability or stick-to-itiveness, sat in his cubicle on the 25th floor and wondered what he was supposed to do. In the last few days he had sent emails to the editors of a handful of Internet magazines where he thought some of his writing on pop culture would fit in well, but he hadn’t heard back from any of them. That was okay, he figured, because he didn’t have any writing on pop culture. He was certainly interested in becoming the white Cornel West, and wanted desperately to amass a formidable amount of work on subjects as diverse as a pop diva’s wardrobe and the affects of big-box bookstores on literary publishing - but he did not want to write these essays for nothing; he wrote much better when he had been commissioned for a piece (as he was in limited measure on topics such as Christian rock).
So, floundering, Adam dug into his bag for the book by Theodor Adorno that he had recently purchased (at full price) and thumbed through it when no one was looking. This was an ineffective way to read anything, especially such dense theory that he wouldn’t have been able to understand had he been in an oak-paneled library, or if he'd been listening to a whatsit, an etude. Still, he was inspired by the material. He had shelves full of books that he only understood peripherally - Paul Bowles, Hegel, Jackson Mac Lowe - and he kept them more for their tactile reminder to work hard than for reference. Tiffany just received copies of her new poetry chapbook in the mail. She inscribed a copy for him and he shelved it in a place that would inspire and impel him. Her prodigious output flung him for ceaseless loops. And yet - a Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary sat on the corner of the floor nearest his computer uncracked. And he had wanted an OED for over a decade, shopped for them everywhere, until he found one a few months earlier at a church tag sale. It cost him a buck. He used it once to define the words “impel” and “prodigious.”
Marxism, fetishism, popular music. Gotcha. When he sat down to write, Adam cracked his knuckles in six languages. Struggling in his career, he signed up to take some graduate courses, and one of his assignments was to spend thirty minutes a day walking around. The idea was to quiet his spirit, he guessed, which seemed a daunting task. In fact, when the assignment was delivered, Adam said to himself, “Well, I can see myself not doing that,” and decided he would simply ignore the syllabus. But he recognized the lameness in something like that, and so every day during his lunch break Adam moseyed around the shining harbor, trying busily to slow himself down.
What finally stopped him on the first day was a group of window-washing ninjas repelling from the roof of a skyscraper with buckets and squeegees. Immediately he reconsidered his career path. The men would push themselves thirty feet from the building and drop to the floor below. They timed their trajectory so that when they swung into the window they could deftly affix a plunger to the glass and halt their movement. Then, in seconds, they would have the glass scrubbed and dried and were flying again. It was marvelous to watch, but looking up made Adam’s neck sore, and he kept thinking he would fall over. He propped himself up on a parking meter and scooted into a man he had not seen.
“Excuse me,” Adam offered.
“No sweat, brother. Can you spare some change?” He was a tall bum with tired skin and gray-streaked hair. What’s more, he was a bum with a dog, an eager but extremely calm, crusty Collie. Adam remembered when he was in China. There was a toothless peasant there with a monkey. He was not a nice man but the monkey was a laugh-riot, and after playing with the animal briefly it was no problem giving the peasant a few yuan. So Adam patted the dog’s head and forked out a dollar. It is absolutely true that Adam Robison is a dog lover.
But occasions for meeting pets downtown are rare, so after a few weeks Adam gave up his walks. Instead, he stood in front of his office window for several minutes and looked out over the city while his soup heated in the microwave. He listed the things he saw. Initially, he pointed the harbor out to himself, and the buildings surrounding it. After a couple days of this he noted the water in the harbor, and that there were trees set among the buildings, and people walking around, and cars and bicycles, too. He saw an expansive bridge that let cars onto route 95, which would take them to Washington DC and points south. Then he realized there were ripples on the water in the harbor, and boats out there. He didn't invent stories for the details, didn't imagine lovers in the paddleboats. He simply looked closely and listed what he saw, and found that the lists themselves were fascinating.
The next day Adam saw that the water was primarily three different colors, and the wake behind the boats was white. He studied the whiteness and realized it was actually steel gray. Looking more closely, he could tell that the buildings were comprised of windows and steel and rocks and air conditioning units. Pedestrians were reflected off the shiny glass of a hotel. The pedestrians wore dark clothes. He paid attention to the bridges one day, and from his great distance could tell that they were made up of concrete slabs set upon girders, held up by massive concrete posts. Baltimore's business district was an intricate place.
Adam tried to subject the neighborhood around 1818 to the same scrutiny, but everywhere he looked he could only see trash. He stood by his front door and looked down the street to see rows of rowhouses and potato chip bags whirling in the air. Even their brand name sounded grimy: Utz. He noted that the houses were charmingly distinctive in their appearance, painted varying shades of red or crumbling with a false brick veneer. He liked that. But as hard as he looked he could only see knotty trees, trash, and rat offal. Perhaps I could appreciate this better from higher up, he thought, and then he remembered that he could climb on his roof. He had, in fact, spent long hours on his roof in the past several weeks, trying to keep water from leaking through it. So he retrieved his ladder and set it up against the building.
Tiffany had placed a strict ban on going up the ladder without anyone to hold it, as there was a four foot gap between the ladder's tip and the the bottom edge of the roof. But Adam knew he was skillful at climbing. He was an adept climber. When he was six he fell from a jungle gym and broke his arm. At eight he fell out of a tree and broke his other arm so completely that the bone pierced the skin and fell out into the grass. While biking in the Northwoods of Wisconsin in his middle twenties he announced to his friends that he had a plan. "I'm going to climb that pine tree," he said, "hold on to the tip, and ride the tree as it bends to the ground."
"Like an elevator?" Homer asked.
"I hope so," Adam said from the top of the tree. It bent slightly, but it was an old pine, thirty feet tall and regrettably brittle. It bent only slightly, then cracked. Disappointed, Adam fell through the branches to the ground below, landing with his head only inches from a gnarled stump. "Oof," he asserted. Then the top of the tree landed on him.
"Oof," Homer said this time. It could be that Adam said it once more as well, before slipping out of consciousness.
While he was under, Adam dreamt he was in a crowded, noisy bar, trying to capture the bartender's attention. He wasn't trying to get the bartender's attention for a drink, he was literally trying to capture her attention. He wanted to use it to babysit his dog, Lightning, while he went away for a few days. He thought this would be possible by staring and inhaling slowly, but someone tapped him on the shoulder. In Adam's half-wakefulness, he knew it was the Holy Ghost, and that one of them was drunk. He said, "I dreamed I saw the Holy Ghost, standing drunk at the bar," as Homer laughingly shook him back into the present reality, which was not that bad.
So Tiffany's ban was more of a suggestion, he thought, and started up the rungs. When he lived with his grandparents he was given the task of straightening the antenna on the roof. "Have grandpa hold the ladder for you," his Aunt said, "but under no circumstances should you let him climb it." And no sooner did they have the ladder leaning in place than was the old man scampering across the roof like Anne of Green Gables. And then Adam was on his own roof in Baltimore, scanning the neighborhood for his story.
Eugie came by while he was up there. "Hey," he called up, "sport me a dollar." Adam pretended to ignore him, but it was easier to pay attention to another human then the streets of his neighborhood, so when Eugie called up again, he said okay and started to the ladder. Climbing down was always the hardest part. He had to close the gap between the roof and the tip of the ladder with boldness and blind strength of character. "So Schopenhauer," he said as threw his leg off the roof, his belly resting against the tar. "Will and idea." His foot found the top rung too hard, though, and the ladder slid across the side of his house and slowly, slowly fell to the ground.
Now Adam was holding to the roof's edge with just his arms, his face red with exertion and (it's not too much to admit) fear. He hoped Eugie would be sensitive to his predicament, but Eugie was already around the corner, talking to James. Their language was objectionable, and Adam thought the conversation was not entirely worthwhile. He focused his attention on his own situation, instead. Now was not the time to solve inner-city education problems. But when was the time? If the city continued to deprioritize preventative solutions, how could they expect real, lasting change? Adam accepted his own point, there was no reason to delay working toward a good cause. As he hung from the roof of his house, thirty feet high, he thought about praying.
"Dear Jesus," he said aloud, "please lay your guiding hand on the inner city of Baltimore, so that my neighbors can go to college and not get shot in the leg. And, Lord, if --" his arm slipped a bit off the roof. "If you can use your other hand to sort of scoop me back onto solid ground, that'd be great too. Lead me into the perfect center of your will, Adam." He chuckled. It had been a long time since he last prayed. "I mean, Amen."
It was a nice day. Birds were chirping in the litter. One bird, Adam noticed, had its wing stuck open, and he could only walk around in circles. That is, he could only pivot around his wing; he wasn't actually making circles. This was especially evident when the bird meandered over to a round drain cover that Adam hadn't seen before. "That's interesting," he thought. And suddenly the ladder was touching his feet again. It pushed up against his legs, forcing his knees up to his chest. Adam pushed back with his weight and was happy, really truly happy, that the ladder supported him. He let go of the roof and started his descent.
"Schopenhauer," he said at each rung. And when he was on the ground he saw the face of God, and God was Eugie, and Eugie had moved from the ladder to the wounded bird, and was chasing it in circles. | Main Page
(7:31 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Tuesday Hatred: Curse You, Wolfson!I hate not being able to fall asleep until 3 am.
I hate getting a grocery cart with a messed-up wheel.
I hate the smug self-satisfaction of a doctrinaire atheist.
Monday, December 04, 2006
(6:29 PM) | Amish Lovelock:
A Picture of British Intellectual Life TodayTake a look at this all you one-paragraph-wonders (=bloggers).
(1:41 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Translation Assistance.So, I'm trying my hand at translating again. This time just a short article by Isabelle Stengers called "Faire avec Gaïa: pour une culture de la non-symétrie". Though it's been pretty easy going so far I've hit a sentence that I just have no idea how to translate. Perhaps stupidly I just can't figure it out.
"Julien nous dit qu’elle est née à la fois contre des récits fabuleux (le « n dit que » qui relatent ce que l’on trouve très loin mais aussi contre la magie, c’est-à-dire la possibilité d’agir par des moyes magiques sur le monde."
I assume Julien, who she has made reference to a few times in the course of the paper, is someone else at this particular conference who presented on the lack of a correlation between Western languages and Chinese with regard to the concept of nature. This is my attempt at a literal translation, but it's a mangled mess that makes no sense:
"Julien told us that it [nature] was born both against fabulous descriptions (the "it is said that") which reports what we find very far but also against magic, what is called the possibility of acting by magical means on the world."
Now I could also try it this way:
"Julien told us that it [nature] was born both against fabulous descriptions (the "it is said that") which suggests that it is against magic or very far from what is called the possibility of acting by magical means on the world."
Does that make sense? Is it a proper translation?
(8:00 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Snow does not existI have a friend who came to CTS this year after living in Florida for nearly her whole life, so this winter has held a lot of firsts for her -- the first time seeing leaves fall from the trees (this seemed weird to me), first time driving home in a snowstorm of world-historical proportions, first time waking up to see the world covered in a blanket of snow, etc.
Talking with her about this has highlighted the fact that snow, ice, and bitterly cold weather generally is a total non-issue for me. For many years, in fact, I didn't have a proper winter coat -- I got by with just a leather jacket, a scarf, and a hat, and I would often wear a t-shirt underneath. I was cold, certainly, but it seemed to me to be totally unremarkable.
For this rare gift of cold-weather endurance, I have two factors to thank: the cruelty of my parents and the strange atmosphere of Olivet's dorm culture. Under the first column, we have the fact that from first through eighth grade, I walked to and from school basically every single day. Given that I was living in Michigan at the time, this obviously entailed a lot of snow; and given that I was living in a deteriorating neighborhood, this also entailed walking over a lot of sidewalks that were complete sheets of ice. A fearful and distrustful child , I had a lot of motivation to learn to walk quickly on the ice -- and so even today, I probably walk faster in icy conditions.
That was not enough to allow me to survive sub-arctic conditions in a spring jacket, however. For that, I needed to spend four years at Olivet. The first year in particular was pivotal -- the freshman guys' dorm is very close to the building where most classes were held, meaning that it felt like a "bother" to actually wear a coat while walking to class. (Women did not develop this "toughness" their freshman year since they had to walk approximately twice as far from the freshman girls' dorm to the same building -- though nursing students may be an exception to this, now that I think of it.) Even as we moved progressively further from the center of campus through the course of our Olivet careers, many of us maintained the attitude of regarding a bulky coat, gloves, scarves, etc., as a "hassle."
Finally, I have Olivet to thank for my near-suicidal willingness to drive long distances during snow storms. The "lake effect" is real! I know because I drove through "lake effect" snow (sometimes twice or three times a year), probably four or five consecutive winters -- often driving either a decade-old Geo Metro or a pickup truck in the back of which I had glibly forgotten to put any weight, or a shovel, or (in at least one case) a proper ice scraper.
One particularly awesome trip home involved a severe snow storm, a resulting traffic jam, and being told by a passenger in a neighboring car that my car "was smoking" -- because I had forgotten to put the cap back on after putting oil into the thing, leading to a humorous series of events that culminating in us (of course I had a passenger) periodically stopping to buy more oil until we could find a store that sold the appropriate replacement cap, something that's a little hard to come by in the far southwest regions of Michigan. Also, I didn't have a cell phone at this time, so to call my dad and ask what the hell to do, I had to use the phone card built into one of my credit cards, which charged something like 50 cents a minute.
I've gotten somewhat off-topic here. In fact, now I'm wondering if there was really any snow involved in that last incident at all. Anyway: stay tuned six months from now for the post about how I wait for it to get near-fatally hot before I will turn on the air conditioner and I never wear shorts.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
(11:20 PM) | Amish Lovelock:
Indigenous Rights Revisited
So, on 28th November the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly refused to adopt the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples due to a vote on resolutions put forward by Namibia and the African Group to allow for more time for individual states to consider the Declaration - something they claimed they had not had time to do when the Declaration was adopted by the Human Rights Council this June. Of course, Australian, New Zealand and Canadian "big state" lobbying lay behind the African resolutions. The resolutions were adopted and another year of "open, inclusive and transparent discussions" has begun.
Of course, it is the state monopoly of violence and the ability to decide the exception has always been the reason behind refusal of the Declaration. The Declaration will "weaken states" was the argument pounded out repeatedly by the African representatives. This is why Paul Patton argues that "the recognition of native title involves a becoming-indigenous of the common law to the extent that it now protects a property right derived from indigenous law; and a becoming-common law of indigenous law to the extent that it now acquires the authority along with jurisprudential limits of the common law doctrine of native title." In other words, that it is a process of Deleuzian becoming.
What gets me though is that self-determination within states does sound a lot like an opportunity for deterritorialization and "imperialism without colonies." How long will it be before States realize that "Iraq" might work in the indigenous world too? How will these two forces play out?
(8:58 PM) | F. Winston Codpiece III:
Possible Show Idea for FoxSince The War at Home is obviously well on its way to cancellation, Fox is going to need a new Sunday-night show. After hours of hard work, I have come up with precisely the concept that they need to inject a dose of variety and innovation into their weekly line-up: a cartoon show featuring a father who is a complete sociopath.
(10:51 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Go Terrorists!Matt Ygelsias got 96%, but I got an even 100!
Saturday, December 02, 2006
(12:34 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Don't Read The WeblogRead this stuff:
- A White Bear, Tuesday's guest hater, has several good posts up. I especially like the one about the ethics of blogging in relation to one's personal life -- should you tell friends from the biosphere about your blog? How should you deal with the knowledge that a person reads your blog? It's awkward, and IT's situation reminds me that my current solution of just assuming that no one reads my blog unless they explicitly state otherwise (and even then not assuming they read any particular thing on it) may not work.
- My favorite new blog is currently Voyou Desoeuvre, which I think I may have been reading since even before the first post. So join me in reading it.
- Dominic's new blog Necrotic Toxicity is hilarious. The current top post also indirectly introduced me to the joys of Cockney rhyming slang, of which the post's keyword "berk" is a prime example.
- And finally -- against all expectation, Melville seems to be everywhere lately.
Friday, December 01, 2006
(9:06 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: World-Historical ProportionsI confess that I'm a little relieved that we've finally had our customary "snow storm of world-historical proportions" for this year, because I was starting to get a little bit freaked out by the extremely warm weather. I confess that I was thinking about heading down to CTS to put in a few hours of work, but it would probably take me 14 hours to get down there at this point.
I confess that last night I watched the second and third Matrix movies, because we are supposed to discuss them in "Philosophical Thought" this week. I confess that I did not watch the first one because I think it's kind of dumb -- though I am in the minority, I will say that insofar as the Matrix trilogy is worth watching, it's only because of the second and third ones. The best being, of course, the second. I confess that this light-hearted activity is likely meant to give us time to study for our final, for which we just received our practice questions -- mine being, "Write a Deleuzian commentary on Plato's Timaeus, with particular focus on the chapter in What is Philosophy? entitled 'The Plane of Immanence.'" That sounds like a hard question to me.
I confess that I need to stop getting in pointless arguments.
I confess that this confessional is late.