Sunday, 5 December 2004

From "Paradise & Method"

By Bruce Andrews.

The task, beyond coding and decoding particular messages, is also one that raises the question: "what is the code?" How is it that these codes are constructed? I think this suggests a way to explore these larger frames, the "limits of the normative" -- by foregrounding not only the shape of different stylistic traditions but also the shape of linguistic structure, of utterance structure, of discourse structure, and of the social codes which are also providing the limits for all of these.

It helps give an understanding of the limits as well as the building blocks of those social codes. Its contextualizing and reshaping and contesting are what I'm calling totalizing. Beyond form's maximizing of act, this would be a parallel maximizing of context, or of paradigm. More than just a pluralizing of voices and traditions within some taken-for-granted whole, and more than adding to the multiplicity of voices all situated within a system of social sense which is ungraspable, these would be ways of revealing the socially coded nature of larger units of language and of language as an overall system, and of politicizing them by implicating their place within one or another ideological bloc -- which is a social bloc, some constellation of different social forces and social values outside.

Wednesday, 24 November 2004

From "The End of All Songs"

By Michael Moorcock.

Relishing the delicate touch of her arm against his rib, Jherek wondered if a police inspector and seven aliens could constitute the "society" Mrs Underwood claimed as the influence upon the "morality" and "conscience" thwarting the full expression of his love for her. He felt, in his heart, that she would so define the group.

Sunday, 17 October 2004

From "Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres"

By Hugh Blair.

Sound is a quality much inferior to sense; yet such as must not be disregarded. For, as long as sounds are the vehicle of conveyance for our ideas, there will always be a very considerable connection between the idea which is conveyed, and the nature of the sound which conveys it. Pleasing ideas can hardly be transmitted to the mind, by means of harsh and disagreeable sounds. The imagination revolts as soon as it hears them uttered. "Nihil", says Quinctilian, "potest intrare in affectum quod in aure, velut quodam vestibulo statim offendit" [Nothing can enter into the affections which stumbles at the threshold by offending the ear]. Music has naturally a great power over all men to prompt and facilitate certain emotions: insomuch, that there are hardly any dispositions which we wish to raise in others, but certain sounds may be found concordant to those dispositions, and tending to promote them. Now, language may, in some degree, be rendered capable of this power of music; a circumstance which must needs heighten our idea of Language as a wonderful invention. Not content with simply interpreting our ideas to others, it can give them those ideas enforced by corresponding sounds; and to the pleasure of communicated thought, can add the new and separate pleasure of melody.

Tuesday, 12 October 2004

From "The Division of Labour in Society"

By Emile Durkheim.

[…] in the industrial societies that Spencer speaks of […] social harmony comes essentially from the division of labour. (Principles of Sociology, 3, pages 332 following). It is characterised by a cooperation which is automatically produced through the pursuit by each individual of his own interests. It suffices that each individual consecrate himself to a special function in order, by the force of events, to make himself solidarity with others.


Since it is spontaneous, it does not require any coercive force either to produce or to maintain it. Society does not have to intervene to assure the harmony which is self established […] The sphere of social action would thus grow narrower and narrower, for it would have no other object than that of keeping individuals […] from disturbing and harming one another […]

The hypothesis of a social contract is irreconcilable with the notion of the division of labour […] For in order for such a contract to be possible, it is necessary that, at a given moment, all individual wills direct themselves toward the common bases of the social organisation, and, consequently, that each particular conscience pose the political problem for itself in all its generality […]

Nothing, however, less resembles the spontaneous automatic solidarity which, according to Spencer, distinguishes industrial societies, for he sees, on the contrary, in this conscious pursuit of social ends the characteristic of military societies.

Such a contract supposes that all individuals are able to represent in themselves the general conditions of the collective life in order to make a choice with knowledge.

Wednesday, 14 July 2004

From "Lolita"

By Vladimir Nabokov.

Now I wish to introduce the following idea. Between the age limits of nine and fourteen there occur maidens who, to certain bewitched travelers, twice or many times older than they, reveal their true nature which is not human, but nymphic (that is, demoniac); and these chosen creatures I propose to designate as "nymphets".

It will be marked that I substitute time terms for spatial ones. In fact, I would have the reader see "nine" and "fourteen" as the boundaries -- the mirrory beaches and rosy rocks -- of an enchanted island haunted by those nymphets of mine and surrounded by a vast, misty sea. Between those age limits, are all girl-children nymphets? Of course not. Otherwise, we who are in the know, we lone voyagers, we nympholepts, would have long gone insane. Neither are good looks any criterion; and vulgarity, or at least what a given community terms so, does not necessarily impair certain mysterious characteristics, the fey grace, the elusive, shifty, soul-shattering, insidious charm that separates the nymphet from such coevals of hers as are incomparably more dependent on the spatial world of synchronous phenomena than on that intangible island of entranced time where Lolita plays with her likes. Within the same age limits the number of true nymphets is strikingly inferior to that of provisionally plain, or just nice, or "cute", or even "sweet" and "attractive," ordinary, plumpish, formless, cold-skinned, essentially human little girls, with tummies and pigtails, who may or may not turn into adults of great beauty (look at the ugly dumplings in black stockings and white hats that are metamorphosed into stunning stars of the screen). A normal man given a group photograph of school girls or Girl Scouts and asked to point out the comeliest one will not necessarily choose the nymphet among them. You have to be an artist and a madman, a creature of infinite melancholy, with a bubble of hot poison in your loins and a super-voluptuous flame permanently aglow in your subtle spine (oh, how you have to cringe and hide!), in order to discern at once, by ineffable signs -- the slightly feline outline of a cheekbone, the slenderness of a downy limb, and other indices which despair and shame and tears of tenderness forbid me to tabulate -- the little deadly demon among the wholesome children; she stands unrecognized by them and unconscious herself of her fantastic power.
Furthermore, since the idea of time plays such a magic part in the matter, the student should not be surprised to learn that there must be a gap of several years, never less than ten I should say, generally thirty or forty, and as many as ninety in a few known cases, between maiden and man to enable the latter to come under a nymphet's spell. It is a question of focal adjustment, of a certain distance that the inner eye thrills to surmount, and a certain contrast that the mind perceives with a gasp of perverse delight. When I was a child and she was a child, my little Annabel was no nymphet to me; I was her equal, a faunlet in my own right, on that same enchanted island of time; but today, in September 1952, twenty-nine years have elapsed, I think I can distinguish in her the initial fateful elf in my life. We loved each other with a premature love, marked by a fierceness that so often destroys adult lives. I was a strong lad and survived; but the poison was in the wound, and the wound remained ever open, and soon I found myself maturing amid a civilization which allows a man of twenty-five to court a girl of sixteen but not a girl of twelve.

No wonder, then, that my adult life during the European period of my existence proved monstrously twofold. Overtly, I had so-called normal relationships with a number of terrestrial women having pumpkins or pears for breasts; inly, I was consumed by a hell furnace of localized lust for every passing nymphet whom as a law-abiding poltroon I never dared approach. The human females I was allowed to wield were but palliative agents. I am ready to believe that the sensations I derived from natural fornication were much the same as those known to normal big males consorting with their normal big mates in that routine rhythm which shakes the world. The trouble was that those gentlemen had not, and I had, caught glimpses of an incomparably more poignant bliss. The dimmest of my pollutive dreams was a thousand times more dazzling than all the adultery the most virile writer of genius or the most talented impotent might imagine. My world was split. I was aware of not one but two sexes, neither of which was mine; both would be termed female by the anatomist. But to me, through the prism of my senses, "they were as different as mist and mast". All this I rationalize now. In my twenties and early thirties, I did not understand my throes quite so clearly. While my body knew what it craved for, my mind rejected my body's every plea. One moment I was ashamed and frightened, another recklessly optimistic. Taboos strangulated me. Psychoanalysts wooed me with pseudoliberations of pseudolibidoes. The fact that to me the only objects of amorous tremor were sisters of Annabel's, her handmaids and girl-pages, appeared to me at times as a fore-runner of insanity. At other times I would tell myself that it was all a question of attitude, that there really was nothing wrong in being moved to distraction by girl-children.

Thursday, 1 July 2004

From "The Plural Psyche"

By Andrew Samuels.

It is very difficult to hold a pluralistic attitude. Pluralism may seem utopian in that the simple and reliable mechanism of right or wrong has to be suspended without being completely discarded. Further, it is very hard to feel passionate about being tolerant, to be a radical centrist in depth psychology, to go for what the parliamentarian Walter Bagehot called "animated moderation". Does pluralism condemn us to losing the excitement of breakthrough ideas, which are more likely to be held with a passionate conviction? Boredom  would be as great a problem as tyranny. My view is that such a worry rests on a misunderstanding and an idealization of the cycle of creativity. New ideas emerge from a pluralistic matrix and are reabsorbed into that matrix. Ideas do not come into being outside a context; nor does the new necessarily destroy the old but often co-exists with it. Ideological conviction therefore arises from a context of pluralism.

Tuesday, 29 June 2004

From "The Well-Beloved"

By Thomas Hardy.

Next morning, when dressing, he heard her through the rickety floor of the building engaged in conversation with the other servants. Having by this time regularly installed himself as the exponent of the Long-pursued -- as one who, by no initiative of his own, had been chosen by some superior Power as the vehicle of her next début, she attracted him by the cadences of her voice; she would suddenly drop it to a rich whisper of roguishness, when the slight rural monotony of its narrative speech disappeared, and soul and heart -- or what seemed soul and heart -- resounded. The charm lay in the intervals, using that word in its musical sense. She would say a few syllables in one note, and end her sentence in a soft modulation upwards, then downwards, then into her own note again. The curve of sound was as artistic as any line of beauty ever struck by his pencil -- as satisfying as the curves of her who was the World's Desire.

The subject of her discourse he cared nothing about -- it was no more his interest than his concern. He took special pains that in catching her voice he might not comprehend her words. To the tones he had a right, none to the articulations. By degrees he could not exist long without this sound.

From "Syntactic Structure"

By Noam Chomsky.

Second, the notion "grammatical" cannot be identified with "meaningful" or "significant" in any semantic sense. Sentences (1) and (2) are equally nonsensical, but any speaker of English will recognize that only the former is grammatical.

(1) Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.
(2) Furiously sleep ideas green colorless.

Similarly, there is no semantic reason to prefer (3) to (5) or (4) to (6), but only (3) and (4) are grammatical sentences of English.

(3) have you a book on modern music?
(4) the book seems interesting.
(5) read you a book on modern music?
(6) the child seems sleeping.

Such examples suggest that any search for a semantically based definition of "grammaticalness" will be futile.

Sunday, 13 June 2004

From "Why Doesn't Batman Kill the Joker?"

By Mark D. White.

One way to state the difference between the utilitarian and the deontological approaches is to look at the types of rules they both prescribe. Utilitarianism results in agent-neutral rules, such as "Maximize well-being," and utilitarians couldn't care less who it is that will be following the rule. Everybody has to act so as to maximize well-being, and there is no reason or excuse for any one person to say "I don't want to." By contrast, deontology deals with agent-specific rules -- when deontologists say "Do not kill," they mean "You do not kill," even if there are other reasons that make it look like a good idea."

Wednesday, 9 June 2004

From "Paradise & Method"

By Bruce Andrews.

[...] I find it troublesome to hear "politics" being instrumentalized -- as for instance it is in neo-populist discussions; or to think that the whole notion of politics involved with writing is being narrowed down to specific struggles toward change, while the contexts that are actually directly implicated in the use of writing are ignored. Because this can corrupt our conception of what the public realm looks like by bringing with it, or even valorizing, manipulation or a kind of "means justify the ends" point of view about what to do, how to proceed, and what's at stake. I'm suggesting instead that politics can also bring to mind the older sense of community good or public good, not just specific struggles. The idea of politics as, for instance, a matter of arranging community matters needs to be reinstated.

Tuesday, 8 June 2004

Sunday, 6 June 2004

From "Paradise & Method"

By Bruce Andrews.

Conventionally, radical dissent & "politics" in writing would be measured in terms of communication & concrete effects on an audience. Which means either a direct effort at empowering or mobilizing -- aimed at existing identities -- or at the representation of outside conditions, usually in an issue-oriented way. So-called "progressive lit". The usual assumptions about unmediated communication, giving "voice" to "individual" "experience", the transparency of the medium (language), the instrumentalizing of language, pluralism, etc., bedevil this project. But more basically: such conventionally progressive literature fails to self-examine writing & its medium, language. Yet in an era where the reproduction of the social status quo is more & more dependent upon ideology & language (language in ideology & ideology in language), that means that it can't really make claims to comprehend and/or challenge the nature of the social whole; it can't be political in that crucial way.

Saturday, 29 May 2004

From Blake's annotations to Reynold's Discourses

Blake: Reynolds's opinion was that Genius May be Taught, and that all Pretence to Inspiration is a Lie and a Deceit, to say the least of it. For if it is a Deceit the whole Bible is Madness. This opinion originates in the Greeks calling the Muses Daughters of Memory.

The Enquiry in England is not whether a Man has Talents and Genius! But whether he is Passive and Poetic and a Virtuous Ass, and obedient to Noblemen's Opinions in Art and Science. If he is, he is a Good Man: if Not, he must be Starved.

To: "After so much has been done by His Majesty, &c."

Blake: 3 Farthings.

To: "Raffael, it is true, had not the advantage of studying in an Academy but all Rome, and the works of Michael Angelo in particular, were to him an Academy. On the sight of the Capella Sistina, he immediately from a dry Gothick, and even insipid manner, which attends to the minute accidental discriminations of particular and individual objects, assumed that grand style of painting which improves partial representation by the general and invariable ideas of nature."

Blake: Minute Discrimination is not Accidental. All Sublimity is founded on Minute Discrimination.

I do not believe that Eafael taught Mich. Angelo, or that Mich. Ang. taught Rafael, any more than I believe that the Rose teaches the Lily how to grow, or the Apple tree teaches the Pear tree how to bear Fruit. I do not believe the tales of Anecdote when they militate against Individual Character.

To: "I would chiefly recommend that an implicit obedience to the Rules of Art, as established by the practice of the Great Masters, should be exacted from the young Students. That those Models, which have passed through the approbation of ages, should be considered by them as perfect and infallible guides; as subjects for their imitation, not their criticism."

Blake: Imitation is criticism.

(On a page on the importance of directing the studies of youth at first to what is substantially necessary for their artistic knowledge, lest they should pick up brilliant and superficial tricks early on, and not have the courage to go back afterwards, and learn essentials.)

To: "A facility in composing ... a masterly handling ... are captivating qualities to young minds."

Blake: I consider the following sentence is Supremely Insolent, for the following Reasons: — Why this Sentence should begin by the words, A Facility in composing, I cannot tell, unless it was to cast a stigma upon Real Facility in composition by assimilating it with a Pretence to and Imitation of Facility in Execution. Or are we to understand him to mean that Facility in composing is a Frivolous pursuit. A Facility in composing is the Greatest Power of Art, and Belongs to None but the Greatest Artists, the Most Minutely Discriminating and Determinate.

(To the next pages which are about the "useless industry" that makes executants of mere boys with mechanical facility, about its danger as a source of corruption and error as shewn in Foreign Academies, about frivolousness of the ambition of a student who wants to show dashing effect, not to attain exactness — and about a warning against the impetuosity of youth seeking short paths to excellence, and needing to be told that labour is the price of fame, and that however great their genius, there is no easy method for them to become painters.)

Blake: Mechanical Excellence is the only Vehicle of Genius.
This is all False and Self-Contradictory.
Execution is the Chariot of Genius.
This is all Self-Contradictory; Truth and Falsehood Jumbled Together.

To: "When we read the lives of the most eminent Painters, every page informs us that no part of their time was spent in dissipation. They pursued their studies ..."

Blake: The Lives of Painters say that Rafael Died of Dissipation. Idleness is one Thing and Dissipation is Another. He who has Nothing to Dissipate Cannot Dissipate. The Weak Man may be Virtuous Enough, but will Never be an Artist. Painters are noted for being Dissipated and Wild.

To: "When they (the old masters) conceived a subject, they first made a variety of sketches, then a finished drawing of the whole; after that a more correct drawing of every separate part, — head, hands, feet, and pieces of drapery; they then painted the picture, and after all re-touched it from the life."

Blake (after underlining): This is False.


To: "A Student is not always advancing because he is employed; he must apply his strength to that part of the art where the real difficulties lie. The Students, instead of vying with each other which shall have the readiest hand, should be taught to contend who shall have the purest and most correct outline."

Blake: Excellent.

To: "I must beg to submit to Visitors a matter of very great consequence. The students never draw exactly from the living models which they have before them drawing rather what a figure ought to be than what it appears. This obstacle has stopped the progress of many young men ... I very much doubt whether a habit of drawing correctly what we see will not give a proportionable power of drawing correctly what we imagine."

Blake: This is Admirably Said. Why does he not always allow as much.

To: "He who endeavours to copy nicely the figure before him not only acquires a habit of exactness and precision, but is continually advancing in his knowledge of the human figure."

Blake: Excellent.

Friday, 28 May 2004

From "The Case For Working With Your Hands"

By Matthew B. Crawford.

Contrast the experience of being a middle manager. This is a stock figure of ridicule, but the sociologist Robert Jackall spent years inhabiting the world of corporate managers, conducting interviews, and he poignantly describes the “moral maze” they feel trapped in. Like the mechanic, the manager faces the possibility of disaster at any time. But in his case these disasters feel arbitrary; they are typically a result of corporate restructurings, not of physics. A manager has to make many decisions for which he is accountable. Unlike an entrepreneur with his own business, however, his decisions can be reversed at any time by someone higher up the food chain (and there is always someone higher up the food chain). It’s important for your career that these reversals not look like defeats, and more generally you have to spend a lot of time managing what others think of you. Survival depends on a crucial insight: you can’t back down from an argument that you initially made in straightforward language, with moral conviction, without seeming to lose your integrity. So managers learn the art of provisional thinking and feeling, expressed in corporate doublespeak, and cultivate a lack of commitment to their own actions. Nothing is set in concrete the way it is when you are, for example, pouring concrete.

Wednesday, 26 May 2004

Thursday, 20 May 2004

From Ian Hamilton Finlay

In conversation with Nagy Rashwan.

I really wanted to write concrete poetry but I didn’t know what it was — I had never heard of it.

Saturday, 15 May 2004

From "Traditional and Critical Theory"

By Max Horkheimer.

The internal difficulties in the supreme concepts of Kantian philosophy, especially the ego of transcendental subjectivity, pure or original apperception, and consciousness-in-itself, show the depth and honesty of his thinking. The two-sidedness of these Kantian concepts, that is, their supreme unity and purposefulness, on the one hand, and their obscurity, unknownness, and impenetrability, on the other, reflects exactly the contradiction-filled form of human activity in the modern period. The collaboration of men in society is the mode of existence which reason urges upon them, and so they do apply their powers and thus confirm their own rationality. But at the same time their work and its results are alienated from them, and the whole process with all its waste of work-power and human life, and with its war and all its senseless wretchedness, seems to be an unchangeable force of nature, a fate beyond man's control.

Wednesday, 12 May 2004

From "Negative Dialectics"

By Theodor Adorno.


How objects can be unlocked by their constellaiton is to be learned not so much from philosophy, which took no interest in the matter, as from important scientific investigations. The scientific accomplishment often ran ahead of its philosophical comprehension, ahead of scientivism. And we certainly need not start out from a work's own content, in line with such metaphysical inquiried as Benjamin's "Origin of German Tragedy" which take the very concept of truth for a constellation [...] We must go back to a scholar of so positivistic a bent as Max Weber, who did -- quite in the sense of subjectivist epistemology -- understand "ideal types" as aids in approaching the object, devoid of any inherent substantiality and capable of being reliquefied at will. But as in all nominalism, however insignificant it may consider its concepts, some of the nature of the thing will come through and extend beyond the benefit to our thinking practice -- not the least of our motivations for criticizing an unreflected nominalism! -- so are Weber's material works far more object-directed than the South-West German methodology would lead us to expect.

Actually the concept is sufficient reason for the thing [...] insofar as the exploration of a social object, at least, is falsified if confined to dependencies within its domain, to dependencies that have established the object, and if its determination by the totality is ignored. Without the supraordinated concept, those dependencies conceal the most real among them, the dependence on society; and this dependence is not to be adequately compensated by the individual res which the concept covers. Yet it appears through the individual alone, and thus the concept in turn is transformed in specific cognition. When Weber, in his treatise on Protestant ethics and the spirit of capitalism, raised the question of defining capitalism, he -- in contrast with current scientific practice -- was as well aware of the difficulty of defining historical concepts as previously only philosophers had been: Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche. He explicitly rejected the delimiting procedure of definition, the adherence to the scheme genus proximum, differentia specifica [...] and asked instead that sociological concepts be "gradually composed" from "individual parts to be taken from historic realit. The place of definitive conceptual comprehension cannot, therefore, be the beginning of the inquiry, only the end."

[...] Whether such a definition is always necessary at the end -- or whether, even without a formal definitory result, what Weber calls "composing" can be equal to his epistemological goal -- remains unsettled. Definitions are not the be-all and end-all of cognition, as popular scientivism holds; but neither are they to be banished. A thinking whose course made us incapable of definition, unable even for moments to have a succinct language represent the thing, would be as sterile, probably, as a thinking gorged with verbal definitions. More essential, however, is that to which Weber gives the name of "composing," a name which orthodox scientists would find unacceptable. He is indeed looking only at the subjective side, at cognitive procedure; but the "compositions" in question are apt to follow similar rules as their analogue, the musical compositions. These are subjectively produced, but they work only here the subjective production is submerged in them. The subjectively created context -- the "constellation" -- becomes readable as sign of an objectivity: of thte spiritual substance.

What resembles writing in such constellations is the conversion into objectivity, by way of language, of what has been subjectively thought and assembled. This element is not one of Max Weber's themes, but even a procedure as indebted as his is to the traditional ideal and theory of science does not lack it. The most mature of his works seem at times to suffer from a glut of verbal definitions borrowed from jurisprudence, but a close look will show that these are more than definitions. They are not mere conceptual fixations. Rather, by gathering concepts round the central one that is sought, they attempt to express what that concept aimms at, not to circumscribe it to operative ends. The concept of capitalism, for instance, which is so crucial in every respect is emphatically set off by Weber from such isolated and subjective categories as acquisitiveness or the profit motive -- in a manner similar to Marx's, by the way. In capitalism, says Weber, the oft-cited profit motive must take its bearings from the principle of lucrativity and from the market chances,; it must utilize the calculation of capial and interest; organized in the form of free labor, with household and business expenses separated, capitalism necessitates bookkeeping and a rationalistic legal system in line with its pervasive governing principle of rationality at large.

The completeness of this list remains in doubt. We have to ask, in particular, whether Weber's stress on rationality, his disregarding of the class relation that reproduces itself by way of the barter of equivalents, will not as a mere method equate capitalism too much with its "spirit" -- although that barter and its problematics would certainly be unthinkable without rationality. But the capitalist system's increasingly integrative trend, the fact that its elements entwine into a more and more total context of functions, is precisely what makes the old question about the cause -- as opposed to the constellation -- more and more precarious. We need no epistemological critique to make us pursue constellations; the search for them mis forced upon us by the real course of history. In Weber's case the constellations take the place of systematics, which one liked to tax him with lacking, and this is what proves his thinking to be a third possibility beyond the alternative of positivism and idealism.

From "Negative Dialectics"

By Theodor Adorno.

We can no more reduce dialectics to reification than we can reduce it to any other isolated category, however polemical. The cause of human suffering, meanwhile, will be glossed over rather than denounced in the lament about reification. The trouble is with the conditions that condemn mankind to impotence and apathy and would yet be changeable by human action; it is not primarily with people and with ethe way conditions appear to people. Considering the possibility of total disaster, reification is an epiphenomenon, and even more so is the alienation coupled with reification, the subjective state of consciousness that corresponds to it. Alienation is reproduced by anxiety; consciousness -- reified in the already constituted society -- is not the constituens of anxiety. If a man looks upon thingness as radical evil, if he would like to dynamize all entity into pure actuality, he tends to be hostile to otherness, to the alien thing that has lent its name to alienation, and not in vain. He tends to that nondientity which would be the deliverance, not of consciousness alone, but of reconciled mankind. Absolute dynamics, on the other hand, would be that absolute action whose violent satisfaction lies in itself, the action in which nonidentity is abused as mere occasion.

Monday, 10 May 2004

From "It's the Spork Valley All-Stars"

By Chris Goode.

For fifteen years I cut the clothes
off young offenders who wouldn't consent to be
strip-searched. Daily I checked their rectums for
contraband, swabbed their intimate mouthparts
for traces of DNA. All this
without one syllable of thanks, despite
these interventions being strictly speaking
without my remit as a dance instructor.
On a Tuesday morning when the crows were high,
and the milk was fresh from the cow, and all
was serene and buxom and bountiful,
I died of the Traveling Wilburys.

Clouds the colour of buttermilk. Watercress
grass and indistinct bluebirds and no
sweat and a load of stuff that I think was
Muji, maybe. But something was calling me
back. A voice, a thread. A hunch. Not
yet, it said. Not yet.

So I wasn’t dead. But the next day, just my
luck, I died again, of a sudden clap.
And the day after that it was yellow adrenal
vanity. Then it was princess lesions.
Penitent bargepole. Humpty the Huggable
Cod. I died of everything I thought of.
I wonder if I’ll die of the planks. Oh I have. Oh,
something’s calling me back. I died
of widdershins limb. I died of the creeping
vague. I died of the lark in the clear
air. I died of kerching. I died of the plopsy.

I died and I died, I died and died
and I died and I died and died.
And my dog died. And I died and I died
and I died and I died, and my wife was poorly.
Dying at last, I died, and the following
morning, parting the curtains and smelling
the Bovril, I found my life and my appetites
quite restored, and went for a brisk
emphatic stroll, and died twice. And I died
and died, and I grieved for my dog, who I think
I’ve already mentioned had died, and I too
died, and my wife was vomiting, vomiting.
I, poor sap, could barely keep up
with my deaths, it was so repetitious, I died
and I died, God’s knob, I was bored. I hiccupped
and died. And my wife ascended to doggy
heaven, all covered in sick and marrow,
though she was not quite dead, but by this time
we were all way past caring.

The Communication Workers’ strike was entering
its fifteenth day, and the oceans boiled in their cups.

Sunday, 9 May 2004

From "One-Dimensional Man"

By Herbert Marcuse.

Is it still necessary to denounce the ideology of the "managerial revolution?" Capitalist production proceeds through the investment of private capital for the private extraction and appropriation of surplus value, and capital is a social instrument for the domination of man by man. The essential features of this process are in no way altered by the spread of stock-holding, the separation of ownership from management, etc.

Saturday, 8 May 2004

From "A Fragment on Government"

By Jeremy Bentham.

36. As to the Original Contract, by turns embraced and ridiculed by our Author, a few pages, perhaps, may not be ill bestowed in endeavouring to come to a precise notion about its reality and use. The stress laid on it formerly, and still, perhaps, by some, is such as renders it an object not undeserving of attention. I was in hopes, however, till I observed the notice taken of it by our author, that this chimera had been effectually demolished by Mr HUME. I think we hear not so much of it now as formerly. The indestructible prerogatives of mankind have no need to be supported upon the sandy foundation of a fiction.

37. With respect to this, and other fictions, there was once a time, perhaps, when they had their use. With instruments of this temper, I will not deny but that some political work may have been done, and that useful work, which, under the then circumstances of things, could hardly have been done with any other. But the season of Fiction is now over: insomuch, that what formerly might have been tolerated and countenanced under that name, would, if now attempted to be set on foot, be censured and stigmatized under the harsher appellations of incroachment or imposture. To attempt to introduce any new one, would be now a crime: for which reason there is much danger, without any use, in vaunting and propagating such as have been introduced already. In point of political discernment, the universal spread of learning has raised mankind in a manner to a level with each other, in comparison of what they have been in any former time: nor is any man now so far elevated above his fellows, as that he should be indulged in the dangerous licence of cheating them for their good.


13. I now put an end to the tedious and intricate war of words that has subsisted, in a more particular manner during the course of these two last chapters: a logomachy, wearisome enough, perhaps, and insipid to the reader, but beyond description laborious and irksome to the writer. What remedy? Had there been sense, I should have attached myself to the sense: finding nothing but words; to the words I was to attach myself, or to nothing. Had the doctrine been but false, the task of exposing it would have been comparatively an easy one: but it was what is worse, unmeaning, and thence it came to require all these pains which I have been here bestowing on it: to what profit let the reader judge.

Friday, 7 May 2004

From "Late Capitalism or Industrial Society?"

By Theodor Adorno.

A dialectical theory of society concerns itself with structural laws, which condition the facts, in which it manifests itself and from which it is modified. By structural laws we mean tendencies, which more or less stringently follow the historical constitution of the total system. The Marxist models for this were the law of value, the law of accumulation, the law of economic crisis. Dialectical theory did not intend to turn structures into ordered schematas, which could be applied to sociological findings as completely, continually and non-contradictorily as possible; nor systemizations, but rather the procedures and data of scientific cognition of the already-organized system of society. Such a theory ought least of all to withhold facts from itself, to twist them around according to a thema probandum.


The fetishism of the facts corresponds to one of the objective laws. Dialectics, which has had its fill of the painful experience of such hegemony, does not hegemonize in turn, but criticizes this just as much as the appearance that the individuated and the concrete already determine the course of the world hic et nunc. It’s very likely that, under the spell of the latter, the individuated and the concrete do not even exist yet. Through the word pluralism, utopia is suppressed as if it were already here; it serves as consolation.

That is why however dialectical theory, which critically reflects on itself, may not for its part install itself domestic-style in the medium of the generality. Its intention is precisely to break out of this medium. It too is not immune before the false division of reflective thinking and empirical research. [...] Reified consciousness does not end where the concept of reification has a place of honor.

Wednesday, 5 May 2004

From "Paradise & method"

By Bruce Andrews.

The political dimension of writing isn't just based on the idea of challenging specific problems or mobilizing specific groups to challenge specific problems; it's based on the notion of a systemic grasp -- not of language described as a fixed system but of language as a kind of agenda or system of capabilities and uses.

Tuesday, 4 May 2004

From "Adorno: A Critical Introduction"

By Simon Jarvis.

When thinking comes to halt with an abstract appeal to history, or society, or "socio-historical material specificity", or any other form of givenness, it might as well stop with God.

Saturday, 1 May 2004

From "Adorno: A Critical Introduction"

By Simon Jarvis.

For Adorno dialectic is thought's repeated experience of its inability finally to identify what is non-identical to it. So far from being an experience which is only made possible by "the identity of identity and non-identity", as Adorno's imaginary [Hegelian] objector protests, this in an experience which is only made possible by the non-identity of identity and non-identity [...]

Saturday, 24 April 2004

From Blake's annotations to Reynold's Discourses

To: "When the Artist is once enabled to express himself ... he must collect subjects for expression amass a stock of ideas ... learn all that has been known and done before ... perfections which lie scattered amongst various masters united in one general idea ... to enlarge his imagination."

Blake: After having been a Fool, a Student is to amass a Stock of Ideas, and, knowing himself to be a Fool, he is to assume the Right to put other Men's Ideas into his Foolery.

From "Negative Dialectics"

By Theodor Adorno.

In a sense, dialectical logic is more positivistic than the positivism that outlaws it. As thinking, dialectical logic respects that which is to be thought -- the object -- even where the object does not heed the rules of thinking. The analysis of the object is tangential to the rules of thinking. Thought need not be content with its own legality; without abandoning it, we can think against our thought, and if it were possible to define dialectics, this would be a definition worth suggesting. The thinker's equipment need not remain ingrown in his thinking; it goes far enough to let him recognise the very totality of its logical claim as a delusion. The seemingly unbearable thesis that subjectivity presupposes facts while objectivity presupposes the subject -- this thesis is unbearable only to one so deluded, to one who hypostatizes the relation of cause and effect, the subjective principle to which the experience of the object fails to bow.

Friday, 23 April 2004

From "My Forty Years with Ford"

By Charles E. Sorensen.

Today historians describe the part the Ford car played in the development of that era and in transforming American life. We see that now. But we didn’t see it then; we weren’t as smart as we have been credited with being. All that we were trying to do was to develop the Ford car.

Sunday, 18 April 2004

From "Philosophy as Cultural Politics"

By Richard Rorty.

I agree with Habermas when he says, "What Rawls in fact prejudges with the concept of an 'overlapping consensus' is the distinction between modern and premodern forms of consciousness, between 'reasonable' and 'dogmatic' world interpretations." But I disagree with Habermas, as I think Walzer also would, when he goes on to say that Rawls "can defend the primacy of the right over the good with the concept of an overlapping consensus only if it is true that postmetaphysical worldviews that have become reflexive under modern conditions are epistemically superior to dogmatically fixed, fundamentalistic worldviews -- indeed, only if such a distinction can be made with absolute clarity."

Habermas' point is that Rawls needs an argument from transculturally valid premises for the superiority of the liberal West. Without such an argument, he says, "the disqualification of 'unreasonabl' doctrines that cannot be brought into harmony with the proposed 'political' concept of justice is inadmissible."

Such passages make clear why Habermas and Walzer are at opposite poles. Walzer is taking for granted that there can be no such thing as a non-question-begging demonstration of the epistemic superiority of the Western idea of reasonableness. There is, for Walzer, no tribunal of transcultural reason before which to try the question of superiority. Walzer is presupposing what Habermas calls "a strong contextualism for which there is no single 'rationality.'" On this conception, Habermas continues, "individual 'rationalities' are correlated with different cultures, worldviews, traditions, or forms of life. Each of them is viewed as internally interwoven with a particular understanding of the world."

I think that Rawls' constructivist approach to the law of peoples can work if he adopts what Habermas calls a "strong contextualism." Doing so would mean giving up the attempt to escape historicism, as well as the attempt to supply a universalistic argument for the West's most recent views about which differences between persons are arbitrary. The strength of Walzer's Thick and Thin seems to me to be its explicitness about the need to do this. The weakness of Rawls' account of what he is doing lies in an ambiguity between two senses of universalism. When Rawls says that "a constructivist liberal doctrine is universal in its reach, once it is extended to [...] a law of peoples," [...] he is not saying that it is universal, but universal validity is not. It is the latter that Habermas requires. That is why Habermas thinks that we need really heavy philosophical weaponry, modeled on Kant's - why he insists that only transcendental presuppositions of any possible communicative practive will do the job. [...] To be faithful to his own constructivism, I think, Rawls has to agree with Walzer that this job does not need to be done.

Saturday, 17 April 2004

From "A political constitution for the pluralist world society?"

By Jürgen Habermas.

Hobbes interpreted the relationship between law and security in functionalist terms: the citizens, subjected to law, obtained from the state the guarantee of protection in exchange for their unconditional obedience. By contrast, for Kant the pacifying function of law remains intertwined conceptually with the freedomgenerating function of a legal condition that the citizens recognize as legitimate. Kant no longer operates with Hobbes’ empiricist concept of law. For the validity of law is based not only externally on the threat of sanction by the state, but also intrinsically on the reasons for the claim that it deserves recognition by its addressees. However, with the idea of a transition from state-centered international law to a cosmopolitan law Kant also set his work off from Rousseau’s approach.

He bids farewell to the republican conception that popular sovereignty finds an expression in the external sovereignty of the state, in other words that the democratic self-determination of the people is conceptually linked to the collective self-assertion of a corresponding form of life, if necessary with military means.

Kant recognizes the fact that the democratic will is rooted in the ethos of a people. But that is not sufficient evidence for the conclusion that the capacity of a democratic constitution to bind and rationalize political force be constrained to a specific nation state. For the universalistic thrust of the constitutional principles of a nation state points beyond the limits of national traditions that shape, of course, the local features of particular constitutional orders.

Wednesday, 14 April 2004

From "Paradise & method"

By Bruce Andrews.

We hear occasionally about "the death of meaning" within society, not just within certain schools of poetry. Meaning clearly didn't die. But it's possible that instead of remaining as a content that's relatively freely and easily appropriated, it's become the limits of method within a social order, that it's relocated itself within certain fixed modes, and that these need to be confronted with a more social or totalizing perspective: one that recognizes the point of those fixed modes, those fixed blocs, as something that is public.

Plot of "I Love You, Man"

From Wikipedia, 12/04/09.

Peter Klaven just got engaged to Zooey Rice. She’s ecstatic and calls her closest friends, but Peter does not seem to have anyone special he’d like to share the good news with. At Peter's parents’ house, it comes out that Peter is actually a “girlfriend guy” and his guy friends when he was growing up 'fell by the wayside.' After overhearing Zooey's friends tell her that they are concerned Peter does not have any friends, he realizes he needs to find some friends to have a best man for his wedding. Peter seeks the advice of his younger, gay brother Robbie on how to meet platonic guy friends and how to take them on a man-date.

Peter's first attempt is to hang out with Barry, Denise's husband, for poker night with the guys. It ends horribly when, after chugging too many beers, Peter projectile vomits all over Barry. Robbie tries to help Peter by sending him out with a guy from his gym for a soccer game. That does not last long, since the man is angering fans at the game and has a very high-pitched voice. Peter's mother tries next by sending him to dinner with a guy that just moved to L.A. Against Robbie's advice, Peter goes to dinner with Doug and afterwards it ends awkwardly with a deep tongue kiss. Peter tries for himself online and finds Mel, who is actually an old man.

With all these failed attempts, Peter decides to give up, but during an open house at Lou Ferrigno's, he meets Sydney Fife. They instantly hit it off when Sydney correctly gives a play-by-play of a potential buyer farting. Because of Sydney's honesty, they exchange business cards. When Peter calls Sydney he leaves a very embarrassing voice mail, but when Sydney calls him back they decide to go out for drinks.

After a nice night, they hang out again for lunch and afterwards Sydney shows Peter the man cave. They start playing musical instruments together and hanging out a lot more. Zooey finally meets Sydney at the engagement party where Sydney makes a very awkward speech hinting that Zooey needs to give Peter more oral sex.

Peter convinces Sydney to go golfing with the girls and it ends with Haily storming off the green. Right after that, when Peter is suppose to be watching HBO Sunday programming with Zooey, Sydney calls and talks Peter into going to see Rush instead. At the concert Zooey feels ignored while Peter and Sydney are really enjoying the concert. During tuxedo shopping, Sydney asks Peter why he is marrying Zooey and asks Peter for an eight-thousand dollar loan. Doug coincidently shows up and confronts Peter, calling him a whore because he thinks he is with Sydney. Peter finally comes clean to Sydney telling him that he was searching for friends before meeting him and that he will loan him the money.

Zooey is not psyched about Sydney being the best man and after Sydney gets in a fight with Lou Ferrigno and is probably losing exclusive rights to the property they have a talk. Peter tells her that he lent Sydney money and asks her if she knows why they are getting married. Zooey is angry and leaves to stay at Denise's house.

When Peter leaves for work that next morning he sees several bill boards that Sydney put up using the loan. When he confronts Syndey, he decides to end their relationship as friends because of the conflict. After he patches things up with Zooey explaining to her that he is nervous but ready to get married. Peter discovers that the ads worked; he starts receiving more clients and offers on the Ferrigno house.

While Peter feels bad about confronting Sydney now that the Ferrigno house is sold, he doesn't re-invite Sydney to the wedding. Before the wedding, Zooey sees Peter upset about the loss of Sydney, so she calls and invites Sydney (who is already on his way) to the wedding. Just before the vows are to be taken, Sydney makes a dramatic entrance, they explain their platonic love for each other, and Sydney assumes the role of best man.

Tuesday, 13 April 2004

From "Doublespeak"

By William Lutz.

First Kind of Doublespeak

There are at least four kinds of doublespeak. The first is the euphemism, an inoffensive or positive word or phrase used to avoid a harsh, unpleasant or distasteful reality. But a euphemism can also be a tactful word or phrase which avoids directly mentioning a painful reality, or it can be an expression used out of concern for the feelings of someone else, or to avoid directly discussing a topic subject to a social or cultural taboo.

When you use a euphemism because your sensitivity for someone's feelings or out of concern for a recognized social or cultural taboo, it is not doublespeak. For example, you express your condolences that someone has "passed away" because you do not want to say to a grieving person, "I'm sorry your father is dead." When you use the euphemism, "passed away," no one is misled. Moreover, the euphemism functions here not just to protect the feelings of another person, but to communicate also your concern for that person's feelings during a period of mourning. When you excuse yourself to go to the "rest room," or you mention that someone is "sleeping with" or "involved with" someone else, you do not mislead anyone about your meaning, but you do respect the social taboos about discussing bodily functions and sex in direct terms. You also indicate your sensitivity to the feelings of your audience, which is susually considered a mark of courtesy and good manners.

However, when a euphemism is used to mislead or deceive, it becomes doublespeak. For example, in 1984 the U.S. State Department announced that it would no longer use the word "killing" in its annual report on the status of human rights in countries around the world. Instead, it would use the phrase "unlawful or arbitrary deprivation of life," which the department claimed was more accurate. Its real purpose for using this phrase was simply to avoid discussing the embarrassing situation of government-sanctioned killings in countries that are supported by the United States and have been certified by the United States as respected the human rights of their citizens. This use of a euphemism constitutes doublespeak, since it is designed to mislead, to cover up the unpleasant. Its real intent is at variance with its apparent intent. It is a language designed to alter our perception of reality.

The Pentagon, too, avoids discussing unpleasant realities when it refers to bombs and artillery shells that fall on civilian targets as "incontinent ordnance." And in 1977 the Pentagon tried to slip funding for the neutron bomb unnoticed into an appropriations bill by calling it a "radiation enhancement device."

Second Kind of Doublespeak

A second kind of doublespeak is jargon, the specialized language of a trade, profession, or similar group, such as that used by doctors, lawyers, engineers, educators, or car mechanics. Jargon can serve an important and useful function. Within a group, jargon functions as a kind of verbal shorthand that allows member of the group to communicate with each other clearly, efficiently, and quickly. Indeed, it is a mark of membership in the group to be able to use and understand the group's jargon.

But jargon, like the euphemism, can also be doublespeak. It can be -- and often is -- pretentious, obscure, and esoteric terminology used to give an air of profundity, authority, and prestige to speakers and their subject matter. Jargon as doublespeak often makes the simple appear complex, the ordinary profound, the obvious insightful. In this sense it is used not to express but impress. With such doublespeak, the act of smelling something becomes "organoleptic analysis," glass becomes "fused silicate," a crack in a metal support beam becomes a "discontinuity," conservative economic policies become "distributionally conservative notions."

Lawyers, for example, speak of an "involuntary conversion" of a property when discussing the loss or destruction of property through theft, accident, or condemnation. If your house burns down or if your car is stolen, you have suffered an involuntary conversion of your property. When used by lawyers in a legal situation, such jargon is a legitimate use of langauge, since lawyers can be expected to understand the term.

However, when a member of a specialized group uses its jargon to communicate with a person outside the group, and uses it knowing that the nonmember does not understand such language, then there is doublespeak. For example, on May 9, 1978, a National Airlines 727 airplanes crashed while attempting to land at the Pensacola, Florida airport. Three of the fifty-two passengers aboard the airplane were killed. As a result of the crash, National made an after-tax insurance benefit of $1.7 million, or an extra 18c a share dividend for its stockholders. Now National Airlines had two problems: It did not want to talk about one of its airplanes crashing, and it had to account for the $1.7 million when it issued its annual report to its stockholders. National solved the problem by inserting a footnote in its annual report which explained that the $1.7 million income was due to "the involuntary conversion of a 727." National thus acknowledged the crash of its airplane and the subsequent profit it made from the crash, without once mentioning the accident or the deaths. However, because airline officials knew that most stockholders in the company were not familiar with legal jargon, the use of such jargon constituted doublespeak.

Third Kind of Doublespeak

A third kind of doublespeak is gobbledygook or bureaucratese. Basically, such doublespeak is ismply a matter of piling on words, of overwhelming the audience with words, the bigger the words and the longer the sentences the better. Alan Greenspan, then chair of President Nixon's Council of Economic Advisors, was quoted in The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1974 as having testified before a Senate committee that "It is a tricky problem to find tha prticular calibration in timing that would be appropriate to stem to acceleration in risk premiums created by falling incomes without prematurely aborting the decline in the inflation-generated risk premiums."

Nor has Mr. Greenspan's language changed since then. Speaking to the meeting of the Economic Club of New York in 1988, Mr. Greenspan, now Federal Reserve chair, said, "I guess I should warn you, if I turn out to be be particularly clear, you've probably misunderstood what I've said." Mr. Greenspan's doublespeak doesn't seem to have held back his career.

Sometimes gobbledygook may sound impressive, but when the quote is later examined in print it doesn't even make sense. During the 1988 presidential campaign, vice-presidential candidate Senator Dan Quayle explained the need for a strategic defense initiative by saying, "Why wouldn't an enhanced deterrent, a more stable peace, a better prospect to denying the ones who enter conflict in the first place to have a reduction of offensive systems and an introduction to defensive capability? I believe this is the route the country will eventually go."

The investigation into the Challenger disaster in 1986 revealed the doublespeak of gobbledygook and bureaucratese used by too many involved in the shuttle program. When Jesse Moore, NASA's associate administrator, was asked if the performance of the shuttle program had improved with each launch or if it had remained the same, he answered, "I think our performance in terms of the liftoff performance and in terms of the orbital performance, we knew more about the envelope we were operating under, and we have been pretty accurately staying in that. And so I would say the performance has not by design drastically improved. I think we have been able to characterize the performance more as a function of our launch experience as opposed to it improving as a function of time." While this language may appear to be jargon, a close look will reveal that it is really just gobbledygook laced with jargon. But you really have to wonder if Mr. Moore had any idea what he was saying.

Fourth Kind of Doublespeak

The fourth kind of doublespeak is inflated language that is designed to make the ordinary seem extraordinary; to make everyday things seem impressive; to give an air of importance to people, situations, or thins that would not normally be considered important; to make the simple seem complex. Often this kind of doublespeak isn't hard to spot, and it is usually pretty funny. While car mechanics may be called "automotive internists," elevator operators members of the "vertical transportation corps," used cars "pre-owned" or "experienced cars," and black-and-white television sets described as having "non-multicolor capability," you really aren't misled all that much by such language.

However, you may have trouble figuring out that, when Chrysler "initiates a career alternative enhancement program," it is really laying off five thousand workers; or that "negative patient care outcome" means the patient died; or that "rapid oxidation" means a fire in a nuclear power plant.

The doublespeak of inflated language can have serious consequences. In Pentagon doublespeak, "pre-emptive counterattack" means that American forces attacked first; "engaged the enemy on all sides" means American troops were ambushed; "backloading of augmentation personnel" means a retreat by American troops. In the doublespeak of the military, the 1983 invasion of Grenada was conducted not by the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, but by the "Caribbean Peace Keeping Forces." But then, according to the Pentagon, it wasn't an invasion, it was a "predawn vertical insertion."

Monday, 12 April 2004

From "First Date and Still Very, Very Lonely"

By Brenda Shaughnessy.

An exception to the usual
poor me, poor me!

I'm not poor and I'm not me.
I remember both
states as soon ago as last week.

Thursday, 8 April 2004

From "Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle"

By Stewart Lee.

Somewhere along the line, as a society, we confused
the notion of home with the possibility
of an investment opportunity.
What kind of creature wants to live in an investment opportunity? Only man.
The fox has his den,
the bee has his hive, the stoat has a, a stoat hole.
But only man, ladies and gentlemen,
the worst animal of all,
chooses to make his home in an investment opportunity.
Mmm, snuggle down in the lovely credit.
Oooh all warm.
In the mortgage payment.
But home is not the same as an investment opportunity.
Home is a basic requirement of life,
like food,
and when a hamster
hides hamster food in his hamster cheeks,
he doesn’t keep it there in the hope that it will rise in value;
and when a squirrel hides a nut
he’s not trying to play the acorn market;
and having eaten the nut,
he doesn’t keep the shell
in the hope of setting up a lucrative sideline making tiny hats for elves;
and when a dog
buries a bone, he doesn’t keep that bone buried until the point where it has reached
its maximum market value,
he digs it up when he’s hungry.
And if exchange agents were dogs burying bones
not only
would they leave those bones buried until they reached their maximum market value,
but they would run around
starting rumours about imminent increases in the price of bones,
in the hope of driving up the market,
and they’d invite loads of boneless dogs to view the bone at the same time,
in the hope of giving the impression there’s a massive demand for bones,
and they’d photograph the bone in such a way as to give the impression that it’s much more juicy than it realy was,
airbrushing out the maggots, and cropping the rotten meat.

From "Identity\Difference"

By William E. Collonny.

Some of the contingent elements that enter into your identity are susceptible to reconstitution, and others remain highly resistant to it, even if you desire to transform them and even if there is cultural support for doing so. Let us call the latter branded or entrenched contingencies, to emphasize how they are both contingent formations and resistant to modification once consolidated. A branded contingency is a formation that has become instinctive, even though it may not be reducible to instinct as a biological drive. Indeed, the term "contingency" as used here in no way implies that a contingency is always something that can be changed through will or decision. There are obdurate contingencies [...]

Tuesday, 6 April 2004

From "Negative Dialectics"

By Theodor Adorno.

Auschwitz confirmed the philosopheme of pure identity as death. The most far out dictum from Beckett's End Game, that there really is not so much to be feared any more, reacts to a practice whose first sample was given in the concentration camps, and in whose concept -- venerable once upon a time -- the destruction of nonidentity is ideologically lurking. Absolute negativity is in plain sight and has ceased to surprise anyone. Fear used to be tied to the _principium individuationis_ of self-preservation, and that principle, by its own consistency, abolishes itself. Waht the sadists in the camps foretold their victims, "Tomorrow you'll be wiggling skyward as smoke from this chimney," bespeaks the indifference of each individual life that is the direction of history. Even in his formal freedom, the individual is as fungible and replaceable as he will be under the liquidators' boots.

From "Agonistic Pluralism"

By William E. Collonny.

To embrace publicly a nontheistic source of ethical inspiration without claiming universality for it is to support an active pluralization of ethical sources in public life. It is to propel another source into the public and political life without claiming that everyone must affirm it. It is thus to break both with a secularism that seeks to confine faith to the private realm and a theo-centered vision that seeks to unite people behind one true faith. It is to bind ethico-political life to negotiations and settlements between chastened partisans more than to common confession of a universal faith or a consensus forged by the putative power of the better argument.

Sunday, 4 April 2004

From "Introduction: Criticism and/or Critique"

By Drew Milne.

Rather than providing a critique of knowledge claims so as to ground knowledge in a secure foundation by revealing the transcendental condition of all possible knowledge, Hegel retraces the experience of thought as a self-critical and sceptical journey which is both historical and logical. Critique in Hegel's thought combines immanent critique with metacritical reflection. This combination is constitutive of dialectics, but it is central to Hegel's thought that dialectics is not a method or some external "standpoint" or detached perspective. The knower and the known cannot be separated formally.

Marx's critique of Hegel's dialectical "method" nevertheless accuses Hegel of developing a dialectic of pure thought which idealizes the power of logic and its abstraction from the material conditions of thought. For Marx, thoguht does not develop immanently out of its contradictions but reflects social antagonistms. In this sense, Marx's dialectical method involves a version of Hegelian metacritique, showing how thought and consciousness cannot legislate for their relation to the historical and material conditions of social being. In effect, Marx and Marxism develop a metacritical conception of the social and political unconscious. Marx's practice as critical reader of the texts of political economy nevertheless puts less emphasis on the metacritique of knowledge, than on the immanent critique of scientific attempts to describe political economy. This practice of immanent critique works less as a critique of fundamental grounds than as a way of testing particular knowledge claims, probing the inconsistencies, contradictions and aporia within both texts and reality. The key difference is in the way Marx's reading seeks to tease out contradictions which are ideological, rooted in the social and political distortions of thought rather than in the pure conditions of thought's abstractions.

The tension between Hegelian metacritique and Marx's immanent critique of political economy is fundamental to the development of the Critical Theroy of the Frankfurt School and the work of Adorno, Marcuse and Habermas. This tension can be seen in Max Horkheimer's essay "Traditional and Critical Theory", a key essay in the definition of the critical programme of the Frankfurt School. Horkheimer defines critical activity as "human activity which has society itself for its object@, citing the dialectical critique of political economy as a model [...] The task is to develop the Marxist model into a theory of society which is critical of dogmatic forms of Marxism, revisiting aspects of philosophy Marx wrongly thought he had transcended, though the exact terms of the implicit critique of Marx remain somewhat obscure. Frankfurt School critical theory seeks to develop the emancipatory dimension of the Marxist project without regressing to dogmatic conceptions of science or retreating into foundational philosophy. As Habermas later puts it: "through its reflection of the conditions of its own appearance, critique is to be distinguished both from science and from philosophy. The sciences ignore the constitution of their objects and understand their subject matter in an objectivistic way. Philosophy, conversely, is too ontologically sure of its origin as a first principle." [...] Critique seeks to transcend modern divisions of thought by developing critical theories of society with practical consequences [...]

From "Adorno: A Critical Introduction"

By Simon Jarvis.

In the Introduction to the Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel shows that no attempt to point to a sensuous particular can wholly free itself from universal categories [...] For Hegel, dialectic is the repeated experience of this implicatedness or "mediatedness" of whatever is offered up as something pure, "immediate" or self-sufficient.

This indicates why one prevalent conception of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit -- that it presents a triumphal progress from sense-certainty to absolute knowing -- needs qualification. Dialectic, for Hegel, is not simply a progress, but at the same time a working-back, an uncovering of the ways in which what is apparently certain and immediate already contains presuppositions. Hegel took this kind of working-back to demonstrate, in particular, that apparently purely logical or perceptual identifications were already tied up with political, social and cultural patterns of recognition. This is why Hegel feels obliged to offer in the Phenomenology of Spirit what has often seemed to philosophers with a more strictly limited conception of philosophy's task a bewildering combination of philosophical, historical, aesthetic and scientific reflection. For Hegel, these questions are not arbitrarily added together in the Phenomenology; rather, a consideration of the most elementary judgement necessarily demands a consideration of its conditions of possibility, conditions which are not only transcendantal but also empirical-historical. In giving such an account the Phenomenology comes to question the finality of the very distinction between the transcendental and the empirical itself.

[...] Dialectical thinking lies not in an attempt to purge thinking of all misidentification, but in the recognition of the insufficiency of any given identification [...] This is the first sense in which dialectic is "negative" for Adorno. [...] Dialectic shows up the mutual implicatedness of concepts and objects, thought and being. As soon as it is wholly given up to thought (method) or to being (world-picture), it is no longer dialectic at all, but only a new kind of classifying schema, and a wholly arbitrary one at that. The title Negative Dialectics, then, does not promise a portable method which could then be taken away and applied at will to an inert "material"; nor does it offer a dogmatic world-picture; instead it intends to name what happens in Adorno's thought itself.

From "Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times"

By the Earl of Shaftesbury.

All Politeness is owing to Liberty. We polish one another, and rub off our Corners and rough Sides by a sort of amicable Collision. To restrain this, is inevitably to bring a Rust upon Mens Understandings.

Thursday, 1 April 2004

From "Theses on Speed"

By Keston Sutherland.

Audiences of cinematic and political routines have for a long time been herded into an ideological enclosure in which it's declared that speed is nothing but emergency reactions, the bluff or brawny refusal of the angst implicit in liberal speculation, coffined typically in the dictum "_____ first, ask questions later." This "speed" belongs to the man-of-action: seine Eigentum. The reward for his quick-unthinking is of course that the questions "asked later" are not really questions at all, but a set of superficially negative justifications for precipitous action.

[...] post-modern anti-foundationalist philosophy [...] the first to exclaim that there must be no "there" to get to, no "what to come [...] is still a matter of sequence and not velocity. In perfect and reassuring conformity with the falseness of our times, sequence-making is not eradicated but, on the contrary, extended: pseudo-apriorism now comes before apriorism [...]

Wednesday, 24 March 2004

From "Horace III.1"

By Time Atkins.

or lost winters

at the pilings of stoke, well-

borne forever

there is gravy on my flag
with enviable pillars
it is too wet to fly
& I cannot suck it

Tuesday, 23 March 2004

From "The Reinvention of Politics"

By Ulrich Beck.

Whatever a man or woman was and is, whatever he or she thinks or does, constitutes the individuality of the individual. That does not necessarily have anything to do with civil courage or personality, but rather with diverging options and the compulsion to present and produce these "bastard children" of one's own and others' decisions as a "unity."

Wednesday, 3 March 2004

From "Samuel Johnson and the Aesthetics of Complex Dynamics"

By Mark Wildermuth.

Emerging from his own turbulent yet organized monadic cosmology is Pope's vision of society as a fractal—a pseudorandom schema where individuals naturally assume their proper place in the hierarchy via the attractive principles of the system's dynamic. Societies organize themselves locally according to the same global principles that create and sustain the cosmic plenum. For Pope, "All nature is but art unknown to thee; / All Discord, Harmony, not understood; / All partial Evil, universal Good."

From "The Federalist Papers"

By Publius.

Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.

From "Naturalised State of Emergency"

By Frances Kruk.

that hell quack boot stomp again
kitchen shakes sprays filth water & cat parts what. What
what is the end Of rolled bubbles, shot eyes, every sharp-slip in the sink
hideous, calm.
what object wants to always fly. what's the biggest angry. what's the most Hurricane yes roll again the tantrum for what. there was no sound - what
should have been known


hears & thinks I have spoken
something other than gangrene I
say my lips are peeling & it hurts
to tear the skin. simple rot is
this the utopian sweetbreath the
ladyfighter must ooze or else
could it be! she is only her & what
is without is without is why it hurts
to Say, what am I to say beyond the head
"Drink this & be saved


for while I sleep
at bones the slathered pillowcase
my greasy habit hell be silent
for the salt. one drip, two
for wet spots on the nice wall
my shake is quiet, the wound sound
I have no hate I have no hate
I'm sugar with an angel's zero mouth

Tuesday, 2 March 2004

From "Leviathan"

By Thomas Hobbes.

When the Fairies are displeased with any body, they are said to send their Elves, to pinch them. The Ecclesiastiques, when they are displeased with any Civill State, make also their Elves, that is, Superstitious, Enchanted Subjects, to pinch their Princes, by preaching Sedition; or one Prince enchanted with promises, to pinch another.

The Fairies marry not; but there be amongst them Incubi, that have copulation with flesh and bloud. The Priests also marry not.

The Ecclesiastiques take the Cream of the Land, by Donations of ignorant men, that stand in aw of them, and by Tythes: So also it is in the Fable of Fairies, that they enter into the Dairies, and Feast upon the Cream, which they skim from the Milk.

Monday, 1 March 2004

From "The Plural Psyche"

By Andrew Samuels.

Psychological jargon does have living entities locked up in it -- sometimes people, but often daimons, animals, or gods. even the most scientistic classical Freudian will talk of the ego being strong or weak and of the relations between ego, id, and superego as if they were three personages. The reason for this is that psychology theory-making doesn't seem possible without that kind of implicit personification. Jung was the arch exponent of this; his whole psychology takes the form of an animation of inner personages.

Tuesday, 24 February 2004

From "To Iceland: On Improvisation During The Fall"

By Robin Purves.

The third claim in many treatises on improv that I want to distance myself from is the notion that it is politically significant. The idea comes in a variety of modes including the tentative and vague suggestion that improvised music has a content which do not correspond to or revel in the prerogatives of the present day philosophical/political hegemony. This claim, that a radically ambiguous, sometimes utterly disarticulated and ad hoc ‘language’ is oppositional in a progressive and meaningful way requires more proof if it is to be convincing. To say that it doesn’t reflect or celebrate dominant ideologies suggests only that improv, in its own opinion, stands serenely apart from them. Ben Watson’s admirable avoidance of the tentative and vague sweeps him along to a more unhinged set of slogans, that “Free Improvisation [...] is the manifestation of socialist revolution in music,” or that it is “no more recuperable by class society than revolutionary Marxism.”

Monday, 23 February 2004

From "Negative Dialectics"

By Theodor Adorno.

One of the mystical impulses secularized in dialectics was the doctrine that the intradmundane and historic is relevant to what traditional metaphysics distinguished as transcendence -- or at least, less gnostically and radically put, that it is relevant to the position taken by human consciousness on the questions which the canon of philosophy assigned to metaphysics.

Saturday, 21 February 2004

From "Negative Dialectics"

By Theodor Adorno.

Even the steps which society takes to exterminate itself are at the same time absurd acts of unleashed self-preservation. They are forms of unconscious social action against suffering even though an obtuse view of society's own interest turns their total particularity against that interest. Confronted with such steps, their purpose -- and this alone makes society a society -- calls for it to be so organized as the productive forces would directly permit it here and now, and as the conditions of production on either side relentlessly prevent it.

Saturday, 14 February 2004

From "Ethics and Dialogue"

By Allbrecht Wellmer.

The obligations of rationality concern themselves with the recognition of arguments, the obligations of morality with the recognition of persons. It is a requirement of rationality that I acknowledge the argument of an anemey, when it is good; it is a moral requirement to let those people speak who don't yet have good arguments. In summary: the obligations of rationality are concerned with arguments, without regard to persons, and moral obligations are concerned with persons without regard to their arguments [...] only from an imaginary "ultimate point of view" of an ideal community of communication can it appear as though both ultimately coincide.