Ktismatics

9 May 2008

Decoding Reality on The Wire

Filed under: Culture, Movies — ktismatics @ 12:01 pm

Recently I put up a post about Vertov’s Man with the Movie Camera as seen through the interpretive lens of Jonathan Beller’s The Cinematic Mode of Production. Vertov recognized that producing a film isn’t just another kind of industrial commodity: by turning the camera on its own producers, a film can illuminate the process of industrial production itself. As Beller says, it is cinema that confers self-awareness upon a humanity embroiled in and scaled by industrialization… Cinema is the becoming-conscious of social relations — literally, the relations of production.

Captivated by the image — the sleek design, the slick packaging, the entertaining TV ad campaign, what Beller calls “the sheen of the commodity form” — the consumer loses sight of the human labor that goes into making and distributing a commodity in the marketplace. Through packaging the mode of industrial production is repressed, sealed off beneath the image of the object like an unconscious. In probing the quotidian bustle of 1930s Odessa, Vertov functions like a psychoanalyst, turning his camera on the scenes taking place behind the image, detecting traces of repressed industrial processes and focusing our attention on them, making them conscious. In contrast, most commercial cinema is a work of stagecraft, emulating and exemplifying the commercial enterprise, using theatrics and editing tricks to hide the work of production behind the spectacular image. Beller describes Vertov’s “communist decoding of reality”:

It was because the acted cinema mystified the relations of production — leaving them in the obscure world of the director’s fantasy — that Vertov detested it so profoundly. Political economy, as a set of necessarily unthought relations, is the unconscious of the objective world dominated by capital. Like the political economist, the psychoanalyst, and the author in modernist literature, the camera breaks apart the objective world and enters into it in order to bring forth the repressed or the unconscious elements and bring them to the level of consciousness… In Vertovian cinema, the objective world is revealed as frozen subjectivity; it is seen to be composed of historically sedimented, subjective practices and activated by subjective application. Thus, as Benjamin notes, “By close-ups of the things around us, by focusing on hidden details of familiar objects, by exploring commonplace milieus under the ingenious guidance of the camera, the film, on the one hand, extends our comprehension of the necessities which rule our lives; on the other hand, it manages to assure us of an immense and unexpected field of action.” With Benjamin, Vertov’s film theory utilizes scientific precision and “the dynamite of the tenth of a second” in an effort to liquidate the aura or, what in mass production will evolve intensively as the fetish character that accompanies objects in modern bourgeois society, despite Vertov’s efforts…

By unpacking the object and revealing it as an assemblage of individuated processes, the subjectivity impacted in its form comes to life. The visual analysis that is tantamount to a de-reification of the object and therefore of the objective world is the unique content of Vertov’s phrase “I see.” …What we learn from Vertov is that the image is constituted like an object — it is assembled piece by piece like a commodity moving through the intervals of production… the endeavor to de-reify the commodity necessarily reveals the general commodity-structure of the image. Vertov articulates from a Marxist standpoint an implicit relationship between images and objects under modern capital.. The image as a social relation is a direct consequence of advances in the industrial production of objects.

Modern life is mystifying and alienating; it passes before our gaze without our being able to process it consciously. The spectacle of the manufactured world functions like an external unconscious: it has a structure that we’re unable to formulate consciously, it affects us without our being aware of it. Overwhelmed by the totality of the spectacle, we lose sight of the individual objects and people, as well as their codified interrelationships. The concept of totality, says Beller, is the specter of capitalism. Vertovian cinema offers what Beller calls a strategy of re-mediation: his cinematic interventions slow the world down so we can pay attention, bringing at least part of its unformulated and mystifying flux into conscious awareness. Beller relates Vertov’s visual destruction of reification to Lukacs’s project of recognizing that the totalizing image of everyday life occludes the “simple and sober ordinariness” of “the whole of society seen as a process.” Lukacs says that only consciousness “confers reality on the day-to-day struggle by manifesting its relation to the whole. Thus it [consciousness] elevates mere existence to reality.”

Previously I put up two scenes from the television series The Wire: the first one shows two Baltimore police investigating the scene of a homicide; the second, a drug lord evaluating and adapting to local marketplace conditions. Both scenes show people undertaking a conscious detailed analysis of specific social processes that contribute to the mystifying totality of the world. While creator David Simon frequently explores the drug underworld from the producers’ perspective, the program concerned itself primarily with the police’s efforts to understand production in order to undermine it.The name of the program refers to the electronic surveillance equipment police use to piece together the drug distribution network from encoded telephone conversations between anonymous bosses and suppliers and with neighborhood distributors. Police on rooftops watch the street action through long-lens cameras, photographing dealers making phone calls in order to match voices to bodies; photographing dealers’ face-to-face interactions with customers, subordinates, suppliers, and bosses in order to piece together the mechanics of the drug operation. The camera shows us what the police see, using stop action and long-angle focus to zero in on the nodes and synapses in the world’s neural matrix that continually produce the totalizing image as an epiphenomenon. In short, The Wire exemplifies Vertov’s cinematic strategy of decoding reality.

In producing this demystifying probe of the drug trade is Simon operating within Vertov’s Marxist framework? In a way he is: although the inner city drug gangs operate in a secondary countercultural economy, they run their business just like any other capitalist endeador. Simon also shows us the connections between organized crime and legitimate society: the payoffs to stevedores who unload contraband from ships and bypass the official tracking systems in order to transfer the product to the suppliers; the schemes for laundering drug money through legitimate businesses; the investments in real estate development facilitated by “campaign contributions” to politicians. The drug trade is embedded in the larger economic system, its very illegality adding monetary value to its operations.

At the same time, the illegality of the drug trade provides an arena in which legitimate society gets to demonstrate its power. The very politicians who take the kick-backs are also mounting re-election campaigns built around getting tough on crime. Police top brass, charged with cleaning up the streets, rely on the perpetuation of criminality to justify their manpower demands and budgets and thus their power in the city. As one of the police captains observes, antidrug enforcement isn’t really a police operation, the purpose of which is to ensure the safety of ordinary citizens; rather, it’s more like a state of perpetual war being waged in part to justify the covert surveillance and overt control that the state exercises against the citizenry. (The episode in which this insight is presented was originally produced shortly after GW Bush won his second term in office.)

As we watch the police watching the criminal underworld, we also watch the police assembling their surveillance and control systems, operating them in order to obtain information and to secure arrests. But this kind of surveillance works only if it remains covert, undetected by the subjects under scrutiny, disguised behind mystifying screens and charades. At the same time the drug gangs maintain constant vigilance, trying to detect the eyes and ears hidden behind the ordinary surfaces of the world. The work of surveillance and counterintelligence unfolds like a chess game, with each player responding to his opponent’s last move while at the same time trying to anticipate the next one.

For Vertov, showing objects and states as processes creates sites of potential action. He depicts all moments of social production as both part of a conscious process and part of a process becoming conscious… Thus are previously individualized consciousnesses — the people who work on their products and who formerly disappeared into them, as well as the people who enjoy the use of aspects of the social product — seen in the theater by the audience and producers alike in their collective interdependence.

By probing the details of the quotidian social spectacle and subjecting it to conscious understanding, the producers of The Wire aren’t just demystifying the social relations of capitalist production in order to dismantle the system. They’re demonstrating that the owners of the system employ these very same tools to build and maintain the system and to hide it behind a totalizing spectacle. Those who would undermine the system succeed to the extent that they adopt the strategies and tactics employed by the owners of the system.

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67 Comments »

  1. This is fantastic stuff, Ktis. And finally, I think I’ve I’ve diagnosed the ostensible gaps of the blockbuster Iron Man:
    “For Vertov, showing objects and states as processes creates sites of potential action. He depicts all moments of social production as both part of a conscious process and part of a process becoming conscious… Thus are previously individualized consciousnesses — the people who work on their products and who formerly disappeared into them, as well as the people who enjoy the use of aspects of the social product — seen in the theater by the audience and producers alike in their collective interdependence.”
    It’s not so much that Debord or Baudrillard (or Marx or whatever) don’t fit the film’s various affixations, but the undercut the various lengthy, absurdly enjoyable sequences of alteration, physical/mental concoction…jumping right to the panoply, undermining the “codified interrelationships.” Kudos for that supplement.
    I like the particular tangent you’re pressing at, particularly if we suture the conflating, apposite material worlds of something like the Wire and Vertov’s feature. Remind me tomorrow when I’m sober to follow these up.

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    Comment by Seyfried — 10 May 2008 @ 12:29 am

  2. So you’re saying that Iron Man does show the alterations that transform him from an ordinary Joe into a spectacular superhero? I love that sort of shit as well, Seyfried, even if the transformative processes themselves become the source of mystification rather than “true” explanation. Then we’re in the rhizomatic gnostic world of Deleuze, say, where the trajectories of becoming-super congeal in certain lucky recipients of the force.

    Out of curiosity, does becoming-drunk turn you into another sort of being? And does this mean you’ve finished all your finals for the semester?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 10 May 2008 @ 9:44 am

  3. The final line of the film is essentially redeclaration – like Zidane in the World Cup. Tony Stark is never presented as having a lack of agency of any sort, other than the beasts of his own financial mis-ventures. But those “transformative processes” are a matter of almost demystification or proxied self-checking. Downey’s florid behavior is fabulous, I must say, and he never seems on board with the philanthropy (and neither does the screenplay) like most re-formed Superheros.

    “Out of curiosity, does becoming-drunk turn you into another sort of being? And does this mean you’ve finished all your finals for the semester?”

    I would hope so. And I’m sure you have some drunken Charlottesville/Monticello stories amidst the pursuit of your dissertation.

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    Comment by Seyfried — 10 May 2008 @ 10:55 am

  4. Btw, watch Miami Vice (2006) next. Like bread and butter with this post.

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    Comment by Seyfried — 10 May 2008 @ 10:58 am

  5. Seyfried I note in passing how America’s turned the whole world into a superhero comic book (that’s kind of like Godzilla or the Cloverfield going out for a walk)so now we’re growing up with this black-and-white scenario in our heads – winner or loser. Then everyone is surprised and the Democrats taken aghast by Bush’s proclamation, while it is merely a somewhat untactful proclamation of a very well-known and everyday fact of culture.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 11 May 2008 @ 1:31 am

  6. “like Zidane in the World Cup”

    I watched this game in the old town of Antibes. All the cafes had set up TV sets outside so the al fresco diners could enjoy the game, and big crowds of flaneurs stopped to watch as well. Antibes is about an hour’s drive from the Italian border, and a lot of Italians were in town for the weekend — so the crowd wasn’t entirely behind Le Bleu of France. Had this been an American scene, everybody would have been getting drunk and rowdy, but here it was the usual subdued and affable cafe scene, people sipping their wine rather than swilling it down, but nevertheless intensely engaged in watching the game. At one of the cafes a drunk young Frenchman was standing next to the tv set directing obscene remarks and gestures toward the referees and the Italian players, but it was all in good fun. When Zidane did the now-famous head-butt and got ejected near the end of the game, the crowd murmured among themselves more puzzled than incensed. The tie-breaking free kicks seemed like kind of a let-down after the intense play (in which France was clearly the superior team, except for that great Italian goalkeeper), and when Italy won a few Italians cheered but mostly the French either wandered off or continued their conversations. The mood was a sort of fatigued melancholy tempered by the easy camaraderie of the weekend nighttime promenade. By now it was pretty late so I went home. Through the early morning hours I heard the occasional Italian celebratory car honking its way through the streets. There were no riots, no trashing the streets.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 11 May 2008 @ 5:35 am

  7. PC the comparisons between the war on drugs and the war on terrorism are occasionally drawn in the Wire. One of the police captains, close to retirement, adopts a different strategy from the usual ongoing battle between police patrols and street corner hustlers. He establishes 3 free-trade zones in his district (one of which the locals call Hamsterdam), where people can buy and sell drugs with impunity as long as there’s no violence. For awhile Hamsterdam becomes a cesspool of multivalent corruption, but soon the do-gooders set up shop there as well, offering condoms, VD tests and treatment, organized sports activities for the kids, etc. Meanwhile the rest of the district is cleaned up: no drug dealers and junkies on the corners, no intergang violence, no police harassment of the neighborhoods. The police don’t swoop down on neighborhoods in occasional heavily-armed and reinforced drug busts; now they walk their beats like the good old days, chatting with the residents, serving more to protect the neighborhoods and the people rather than to intimidate and alienate. The crime rate goes down and relations between police and civilians is improved. This experiment, not surprisingly, is shut down by a sensationalistic press and cover-their-ass politicians who portray it as a cut-and-run concession to the criminals implemented by a lone incompetent who had lost his bearings. Hamsterdam is shut down in a massive shock-and-awe push and it’s back to war as usual.

    Now this hypothetical alternative policing scenario might well be regarded as a Democratic version of how to subdue Baghdad. But I think the producers’ intent is to show that the American politicians are exporting to Iraq a failed strategy that has already turned American cities into war zones, attracting crime and violence rather than dispelling it, reinforcing alienation between classes, where the police become the protectors of moneyed interests and oppressors of those who are already beaten down and isolated by poverty.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 11 May 2008 @ 6:07 am

  8. politicians are exporting to Iraq a failed strategy that has already turned American cities into war zones, attracting crime and violence rather than dispelling it

    precisely the Political Lesson of the Parody Center which none of the bottom tranny Marxists want to hear: this is what happened in Serbia, then that strategy was exported to other places (Bosnia, Croatia…) and vice versa. And why I think it will end in: nationalist and particularist conflict, tribal-type war between gangs, and a situation resembling The Day of the Dead in the end. Here in Europe it’s still slightly better but Europe being under American economic tutelage we will be hit as well. It has little to do with Marxism I think even with the mechanics of Capitalism and more to do with the global Ghost of Malevolence.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 11 May 2008 @ 7:10 am

  9. This automatic self-perpetuating winkie is INCREDIBLY irritating

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    Comment by parodycenter — 11 May 2008 @ 7:11 am

  10. “It has little to do with Marxism I think even with the mechanics of Capitalism”

    David Simon, the creator and head writer of The Wire, thinks it has to do with the mechanics of capitalism. Here’s an interview Simon did with a Baltimore reporter last year, in which he says “I believe ‘The Wire’ is a show about the end of the American Empire”:

    “I didn’t start [out] as a cynic…,” Simon underscored, “but at every given moment, where this country has had a choice…its governments…institutions…corporations, its social framework…to exalt the value of individuals over the value of the shared price, we have chosen raw unencumbered Capitalism. Capitalism has become ‘our God…’ You are not looking at a Marxist up here…But you are looking at somebody who doesn’t believe that Capitalism [can work] absent a social framework that accepts that it is relatively easy to marginalize more and more people in this economy…[Capitalism] has to be attended to. And that [this attending] has to be a ‘conscious’ calculation on the part of society, if that is going to succeed…”

    It’s an open question whether it’s the spirit of malevolence that incites people to make these dehumanizing decisions, whether having money and power just enables people to exercise their malevolence with more efficacy and impunity. Does the spirit of malevolence create these inhumane and oppressive societal structures, or do the structures generate the malevolence as a necessary engine to perpetuate the system? I’m not that fond of unfettered human nature, and maybe “unencumbered Capitalism” gives more free rein to the individual expression of rhizomic malevolence.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 11 May 2008 @ 8:24 am

  11. “This automatic self-perpetuating winkie is INCREDIBLY irritating”

    It’s time to start decoding the winkey reality: Herewith a series of empirical tests to see which situations result in winky:

    1. (parenthetical text ending in a letter or number) — I predict no winkie.
    2. (parenthetical text ending in a comma,) — I say winkie.
    3. (ending in semicolon;) — yes
    4. (ending in ellipsis…) — yes
    5. (ending in exclamation!) — probably no
    6. (ending in question mark?) — no

    Now let’s submit the input to the algorithm and evaluate the output…

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    Comment by ktismatics — 11 May 2008 @ 8:34 am

  12. Uh huh, pretty good confirmation of hypotheses. Experiment 3 eliminated the semicolon altogether, or rather transformed it into the ; winkie eye symbol. Experiment 4 retained the 3 dots but inserted a winkie anyhow. the ,) structure, which might be called a Cyclops or Polyphemus winkie, isn’t recognized by the algorithm as winkie input.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 11 May 2008 @ 8:38 am

  13. Dejan, I see that the pro-Western party won the recent elections in Serbia. Are you surprised?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 11 May 2008 @ 3:28 pm

  14. Dejan, I see that the pro-Western party won the recent elections in Serbia. Are you surprised?

    In his infinite and repugnant arrogance, the Emperor has been portraying Serbs as racist, nationalist and schauvinist pigs for a decade, and yet if you look at the facts, most previous elections have been won by Democrats of various sorts, while the Radical Party never ruled Serbia, and Milosevic was never either a nationalist or a radical.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 12 May 2008 @ 9:13 am

  15. Clysmatics I finally realized where ”Clysmatycs” comes from: it comes from this phenomenal Brian Yuzna film THE DENTIST, of which the sequel is even better than the original, where a cognitive-rational, decent and optimistic dentist goes mad when he realizes his wife is cheating with the gardener. The black parody combined with clinical horror is quite unique, and the character’s disbalance/manic-depressive mood shifts captured with unparalleled brilliance by the actor:

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    Comment by parodycenter — 13 May 2008 @ 10:18 am

  16. Jesus, this is my clysmatized persona? I need to put together a new business card.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 13 May 2008 @ 10:59 am

  17. I mentioned this to tell you that I find it continuously fascinating how reality imitates art in the hypermediated world. I of course haven’t lived with you in reality so I don’t know to what extent this would tally with your personality in the ”real” dimension, but your written communication on the blawg does suggest a very similar personality structure (in the film it’s given in exaggerated form, of course).

    The latest Zizek outing demonstrates quite clearly that he is not only an Eurocentric racist (as Lenin and Chabert underline) but that his nationalism stems from the Slovenian nationalist policy in the past decade.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 14 May 2008 @ 4:45 am

  18. “your written communication on the blawg does suggest a very similar personality structure”

    Yes doctor, I am prone to outbursts of rage when my desires are thwarted, which is also related to not being desired, to being ignored as inconsequential. My revenge fantasies usually don’t involve the use of precision instruments of torture — more along the lines of beating people over the head with a baseball bat, over and over and over…

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    Comment by ktismatics — 14 May 2008 @ 6:52 am

  19. “The latest Zizek outing demonstrates quite clearly that he is not only an Eurocentric racist (as Lenin and Chabert underline) but that his nationalism stems from the Slovenian nationalist policy in the past decade.”

    This is the piece quoted on I Cite? It seems that Jodi doesn’t believe that Zizek really wants a human face on Western capitalism, that he’s being ironic. Of course it’s hard to tell, but in our (catastrophic, nightmarish) discussion of Hardt & Negri some blogger who called him/herself Zizek put a link to Zizek’s review of Empire. In that paper it seemed to me that Z was arguing, obliquely, that capitalism isn’t just inevitable, but desirable in the Lacanian sense. As I understood him, Z contended that le petit objet a of capitalism, the fetish value, the intangible desirable that continually slips off the commodity once you’ve acquired it, only to reappear in the next commodity offered for sale — this is equivalent to the capitalist’s share, the profit in excess of labor that capital takes off the top and accumulates. This cumulative profit is also what makes capitalists desirable. Get rid of the capitalist class, get rid of profit, and consumers’ desire to buy goes away also. Get rid of consumerism and the desire to work, to pay for one’s acquisitions, also dies. And so the whole economy, top to bottom, slides to a standstill. This is strong justification for capitalism from Zizek.

    I’ve noted the recent revival of interest in Empire on a couple blogs. During that prior heated “discussion” on Ktismatics, one of the commenters provided THIS LINK to a paper by Samir Amin, a Marxist and an Egyptian. In the last section of his paper Amin critiques the multi-culti ethos that leads, for example, to the dismantling of Yugoslavia:

    The fashion today is “culturalism,” a vision of human plurality founded on some supposed cultural invariants, particularly religious and ethnic. The development of “communitarianism” and the invitation to recognize “multiculturalism” are the products of this vision of history. Such a vision is not that of the historical materialist tradition, which attempts to articulate the class struggles of modern times with the forms and conditions of the participation of peoples affected by the system of globalized capitalism. The analyses produced within the context of these questions make it possible to understand the variety of paths traveled by different nations and to identify the specificity of the contradictions that exist within the societies in question and at the level of the global system. These analyses, then, revolve around what I call the formation of the political cultures of the peoples of the modern world.

    The question I pose here concerns the political culture underlying the writings of Hardt and Negri. Does it lie within the historical materialist tradition or in that of culturalism? I proposed in my book The Liberal Virus (Monthly Review Press, 2004) a reading of two itineraries “European,” on the one hand, and American, on the other, forming the political cultures of the peoples in question. I will only very briefly recall the broad outlines of my argument here.

    Amin then contrasts European cultural heritage with American Empire:

    The formation of the political culture of the European continent is the product of a succession of formative great moments: the Enlightenment and invention of modernity; the French Revolution; the development of the workers’ and socialist movement and the emergence of Marxism; and the Russian Revolution. This succession of advances certainly did not ensure that the successive “lefts” produced by these moments would assume the political management of European societies. But it did form the right/left contrast on the continent. The triumphant counterrevolution imposed restorations (after the French and Russian Revolutions), a retreat from secularism, compromises with aristocracies and churches, and challenges to liberal democracy. It successfully induced the peoples concerned to support the imperialist projects of dominant capital and, to this end, mobilized the chauvinistic nationalist ideologies that experienced their greatest glory on the eve of 1914.

    The succession of moments constitutive of the political culture of the United States is quite different. These moments are: the establishment in New England of anti-Enlightenment Protestant sects; control of the American Revolution by the colonial bourgeoisie, in particular by its dominant slave-holding faction; the alliance of the people with that bourgeoisie, founded on the expansion of the frontiers that, in turn, led to the genocide of the Indians; and the succession of waves of immigrants that frustrated the maturation of a socialist political consciousness and substituted “communitarianism” for it. This succession of events is strongly marked by the permanent dominance of the right, which made the United States the “surest” country for the unfolding of capitalism.

    Today one of the major battles that will decide the future of humanity turns around the “Americanization” of Europe. Its objective is to destroy the European cultural and political heritage and substitute for it the one that is dominant in the United States. This ultra-reactionary option is that of the dominant political forces in Europe today and has found a perfect translation in the project of the European constitution. The other battle is that between the “North” of dominant capital and the “South,” the 85 percent of humanity who are the victims of the imperialist project of the triad. Hardt and Negri ignore the stakes in these two decisive battles.

    The ill-considered praise that they make of American “democracy” strongly contrasts with the writings of analysts critical of North American society, rejected up front because their “anti-Americanism” disqualifies them (in the eyes of whom? the American establishment?). I will cite here only Anatol Lieven’s America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism (Oxford University Press, 2004) whose conclusions largely coincide with mine despite our different ideological and scientific starting points. Lieven links the American democratic tradition (the reality of which no one would contest) to the obscurantist origins of the country (which is perpetuated and reproduced by successive waves of immigrants). U.S. society in this respect ends up resembling Pakistan much more than Great Britain. Further, the political culture of the United States is a product of the conquest of the West (which leads to considering all other peoples as “redskins” who have the right to live only on condition of not hindering the United States). The new imperialist project of the U.S. ruling class requires a redoubling of an aggressive nationalism, which henceforth becomes the dominant ideology and recalls the Europe of 1914 rather than the Europe of today. On every level, the United States is not “in advance” of “old Europe,” but a century behind. This is why the “American model” is favored by the right and unfortunately by segments of the left, including Hardt and Negri, who have been won over to liberalism at the present time.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 14 May 2008 @ 7:24 am

  20. This is the piece quoted on I Cite?

    No the piece quoted on Chabert and Qlipoth. He’s basically saying that we should drop the multicultural society in favor of nationalism, and this is what he’s been saying under various guises, from Communist to media theorist, since the beginning of his career, and what he revealed in that sinthomatic moment with Zack Snyder’s 300. I have to study the Samir more carefully, but while I agree that multi-culturalism as offered by neoliberalism is shit, I do think we have to live together SOMEHOW.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 14 May 2008 @ 10:14 am

  21. I’ll try to track it down. In this piece Samir Amin advocates localized nationalistic hegemonic resistances to the multiculti American-led Empire. But does “nation” consist of an ethnically purified People like Slovenia or Kosovo, or is national alliance based on something more principled that transcends ethnic identity? I think Amin sees one sort of principle emerging from Enlightenment Europe, one that a “good” Marxist nationalism can be built on, versus the American anti-Enlightenment religious separatism that turns national identity into the basis for world dominance. Though Amin rejects the propertied individualistic chauvinism that’s intrinsic to Yerup, he thinks it offers a more fecund cultural heritage on which to build resistance to the neoliberal Empire. By the way, the link for this article came from Chabert.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 14 May 2008 @ 10:31 am

  22. he thinks it offers a more fecund cultural heritage on which to build resistance to the neoliberal Empire.

    yes I think so too, which is why I’ve always been reluctant about moving to the States, despite it being the capital of movies and animation

    one that a “good” Marxist nationalism can be built on, versus

    for me it’s like this: a good nationalism would mean that you fully acknowledge and respect your neighbour’s specificities and idiosyncracies, while retaining your own identity. Under American hegemony, Euro nations like the Dutch have been almost entirely erased. And I think all of world’s evils, Communism as well as Neoliberal Capitalism (two sides of the same coin) rested on the underlying assumption that you should try to make the Other like yourself – a kind of a narcissism elevated to the political principle. Multiculturalism only pretends that it’s about coexistence, but it’s about putting everything under market laws, which means erasing difference and replacing it with ”universal difference”. For me psychoanalysis is still valuable because it tells you that to love someone, your neighbour, means to not want to turn him into yourself. Live and let live would be the motto. And I think when you get down to it this is what Christianity is also about, even though through various religious distortions it may appear that it’s about putting things under an Universal Law.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 14 May 2008 @ 10:48 am

  23. I read the Zizek interview, or at least most of it. I have to acknowledge that what’s obvious to some readers is sometimes hard for me to discern. Zizek says this:

    Or we speak about global world? Yes, commodities can circulate, but more and more we are moving towards gated communities and so on, and we should be very clear here. Here, I will even propose a conservative topic, which is that if you don’t have a basic patriotic identification—not nationalism, but in the sense of “we are all members of the same nation and so on”—then democracy doesn’t function. You cannot have a living democracy in this pure multiculturalist liberal dream: we have just different lifestyle and a totally neutral legal framework, which allows them to interact. No, you need more. That more is threatened, not by leftist multiculturalists, but by capitalist development itself. I think we are more and more approaching new forms of gated communities.

    This is what the TV show The Wire is looking at: gated communities within the multicultural America. This isn’t the external threat of the Asian or communist devils, but the underclass inside America. “Let’s respect the black urban culture” becomes justification for ghettoizing the blacks, pushing organized crime into these unicultural inner cities to protect the affluent suburbanites from the pollution within. So when I read Zizek’s remark it doesn’t sound like he’s against multicultural unity; rather, he’s against using cultural distinctiveness as justification for insulating and excluding specific underclasses from full participation. So the nation has to be bigger than either a single ethnicity, or even a tolerance for different ethnicities, but some sense of saying we’re all beneficiaries of the same political-economic scheme regardless of ethnicity. Sounds okay to me.

    I think Amin’s argument against American multiculturalism in particular is that it has this will to absorb everything into itself. H&N accept that totalizing premise of American multiculturalism, which seems to leave only the variegated and uncoordinated efforts of the Multitude to find places of freedom inside the Empire. And the American brand of multiculturalism also contains an us-versus-them ideology, which is what Zizek somewhere describes as the “obscene surplus” of Christianity: universalism is characteristic of Christianity, but for Christians it means that the one true universalism can be found only inside Christendom. Everybody outside of the Christian sphere is the wrong sort of universalism: Islam, Communism, Orientalism, whatever — these are the devil’s multiculti manifestations. The same argument holds sway for Eurocentrism I think: just because there’s a multiculti variant of Western Enlightenment doesn’t mean that anything outside the European sphere is a failure or a threat or subhuman.

    Amin is looking for nationalistic implementations of real communism to combat the multiculti Empire. These nations could be unicultural or multicultural, but they don’t have to be positioned inside the American-Western Empire to offer resistance. The Empire isn’t such a total world force that there isn’t room to maneuver outside of its sphere.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 14 May 2008 @ 12:49 pm

  24. So the nation has to be bigger than either a single ethnicity, or even a tolerance for different ethnicities, but some sense of saying we’re all beneficiaries of the same political-economic scheme regardless of ethnicity.

    Nonsense. He’s calling on a completely abstract entity (what is this imaginary all-encompassing ”nation”), very similar to Josip Broz Tito’s brotherhood and unity of all nations, as a way of barely disguising his nationalism, which you can deduce not only from his ethnic origins and his participation in the dismantling of Yugoslavia, which Chabert rightly points out irrespective of the courtisanne’s other crimes, but also, from his sympathies for the Phallic Law and the ”Perverse Core of Christianity” which he reads in an unmistakably Calvinist key. These are all justifications for Eurocentrism.

    hich is what Zizek somewhere describes as the “obscene surplus” of Christianity: universalism is characteristic of Christianity, but for Christians it means that the one true universalism can be found only inside Christendom. Everybody outside of the Christian sphere is the wrong sort of universalism: Islam, Communism, Orientalism, whatever — these are the devil’s multiculti manifestations.

    Yes and the reason dr. Zizek understands this so well is that he is one of the Eurocentrics; no better way to excuse yourself than to speak ”against” your boss’s language

    Like

    Comment by parodycenter — 16 May 2008 @ 5:10 pm

  25. Okay, PC, I’ll accept what you and Chabert have said about Zizek and his leadership in the ethnic cleansing of Slovenia. I’ll also accept that the Slovenian nationalists wanted to shift their larger allegiance from Russia to Western Europe. So Slovenia positions itself as what, a particular ethnic manifestation of a more all-encompassing Western ethnicity that feels more compatible than the ethnicity of Eastern Europe?

    At least one other interpretation is that the nationalism disguises an economic basis for Slovenia’s changed allegiances. You’ve pointed out that Slovenia was the wealthiest province or whatever of the old Yugoslavia and that its leaders resented making transfer payments to the poorer provinces, so they hooked into the relatively wealthier grouping of nations in the West. The internal ethnic cleansing would likewise be economically motivated, if those groups which were expelled weren’t just poorer on average but more likely to be on the dole. Ethnicity gets conflated with economic class, as is the case in the US inner cities which suburbanites view as poor and black, as if these terms were synonymous.

    So is Western Europe really an ethnic affiliation that excludes everyone else as intrinsically different/inferior? Or is it an economic affiliation that’s willing to play ball with any nation or province if the cost-benefit calculations are favorable? Or are the dominant principles that emerged from the Enlightenment — rationalism, individualism, humanism, republican democracy, capitalism — the basis for affiliation, such that new EU members really do have to establish internal policies consistent with these shared principles? These principles may be regarded by the Western bosses as prerequisites for sustaining and expanding the capitalist engine, but they’re explicit and not based on ethnicity or even on nationality. What do you think?

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 17 May 2008 @ 6:04 am

  26. So Slovenia positions itself as what, a particular ethnic manifestation of a more all-encompassing Western ethnicity that feels more compatible than the ethnicity of Eastern Europe?

    Clysmatics, Slovenia practically doesn’t have a history outside of the various federations it joined with Serbia; in all these cases Slovenia instigated the joining THEMSELVES in order to escape Austro-Hungarian power and oppression. Make a simple experiment and wikipedia Slovenia, then compare to a wiki of Serbia, and then count how many writers, painters, politicians the two have in comparison. I know this sounds ”nationalistic”, but the point is not to assert Serbian nationalism, rather to emphasize that Slovenians cling to nationalism because they do not really have any history or identity. This is what causes their ambivalent relationship to the Master. As for the current situation, the economic calculus is simple: Serbia is the BIGGEST SLOVENIAN MARKET. Slovenian produce, which is mostly in the service sector, is entirely uncompetitive on the Western market, and without Serbia, or the funds that the EU probably pumps as ”development”, they’d go destitute.

    the basis for affiliation, such that new EU members really do have to establish internal policies consistent with these shared principles?

    Yes I think there is an unholy set of principles, analogous to ”brotherhood and unity” in self-management, a set of adumbrations, Esperanto-type abstractions, that is supposed to ”bring the world together” and I think this operates even outside of any economic concerns, as genuine madness. The Masters of the Universe in other words really think they have stolen the fire from the Gods, that they know the secret of life and possess the formula for a happy united world.

    Like

    Comment by parodycenter — 17 May 2008 @ 10:48 am

  27. If Serbia is Slovenia’s main market, was their objective in seceding from Yugo to keep from having to return profits to the rest of the federation? I presume from what you’ve said before that that’s true. Your comments about Slovenia not having a national identity remind me of French people’s remarks about Belgium.

    “The Masters of the Universe in other words really think they have stolen the fire from the Gods, that they know the secret of life and possess the formula for a happy united world.”

    Dionysus Stoned lives in South Africa; he writes posts about post-apartheid government consultants and World Bank lending personnel advising on implementation of “best practices” to maximize economic growth. These practices are imported whole-hog from capitalistic countries, without empirical evidence to support their efficacy in different sociocultural contexts, and without concern for whether the local populace really wants to plug itself into the Matrix. The globalist bankers want return on investment if they’re going to be called upon to help build infrastructure.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 17 May 2008 @ 1:13 pm

  28. Your comments about Slovenia not having a national identity remind me of French people’s remarks about Belgium.

    yeah so what? Have you been to Belgium – it’s the world capital of blandness. But that’s not the point, the point is that Belgium didn’t exactly fall on their knees asking Netherlands to save them from the conquistadors, which is what Slovenlia did repeatedly all throughout history. The smurfs at least have their pride. There is further not one historic incident of Serbian oppression in Slovenia, it’s all a recent fabrication having to do with the Slovenlian desire to partake of the EU funds. And yes, I think the Slovenlies sensed that with Communism disappearing they’d have to find a better-endowed boss; the Serbs were just too poor to satisfy their GREED. Then in the 80s and in the 90s ideologues appeared like Zizek who started yearning for the Alps and the lost Slovenlian Austrian identity. It’s actually too sickening for words.

    Like

    Comment by parodycenter — 17 May 2008 @ 4:55 pm

  29. I liked Belgium actually, but that’s another matter. I grasp your contention that Slovenia’s self-serving greed motivates their politics, as well as that of Zizek. This contention is related to Rabbit Eater’s most recent post commending cold political cynicism. I believe the original Cynics contended that everyone is presumed to act from motives of self-interest, and the philosopher’s job is to discover the self-interest hidden beneath the rhetoric and ideological protestations. As best I can tell from experience hanging out on the blogs, this sort of principled cynicism is also characteristic of Marxist analysis. (I’m still baffled by the bourgeois Marxist cynic — what good does a proletarian revolution do them?) This core cynical presumption I do not share. I have no urge to defend either the Slovenian government or Zizek, except to the extent that I make them objects of my own projections. So if they say they have principled reasons for what an outside observer can recognize as self-interest, I’m more prepared to think they aren’t sufficiently self-aware about their own mixed motives than that they’re consciously hiding their true motivations. So am I being a bumpkin, or is my bumpkinhood merely a pose disguising my efforts to defend myself, Zizek, Slovenia…

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 17 May 2008 @ 5:33 pm

  30. Immediately I feel the pressure to recant my last comment, not just because I don’t fully believe it but also because I sense the disdain with which it will be met by anyone who reads it. So: I do believe that governments come up with self-serving tactics as well as idealistic rhetorical flourishes designed to disguise the true motivations. But people also fool themselves — it’s easier to lie to someone else if you believe your own lie. That’s part of what the unconscious does for us — it keeps us from confronting ourselves too directly. I suspect even George Bush believes at least part of the bullshit he slings. To say that isn’t to justify him or to reveal myself as a closet Bush supporter. I gotta go, but maybe that’ll do for now.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 17 May 2008 @ 5:49 pm

  31. Immediately I feel the pressure to recant my last comment, not just because I don’t fully believe it but also because I sense the disdain with which it will be met by anyone who reads it.

    As well you should! Because now I have to comment and say that I understand perfectly well, and am glad you pressed Submit Comment before you didn’t say what you thought. I thoroughly don’t disdain you, but you have every reason to think that everybody else who has ‘magically captured’ you on your own blog will do so! It’s no different from when you and DionysusStoned were talking about who you most identified with in the Coetzee book.

    Don’t make the mistake of getting caught in this Marxist trap, and Dejan is perfectly willing to use any ploy he can get his hands on to force anybody’s hand toward talk of Endless Greater Serbia and the discussion of Slovenia as if it were no more legitimate than fucking Israel! They are all insidious, and will do anything and ally with absolutely anybody when it is convenient to get their Communist ends fulfilled. Dejan is himself a Communist who pretends not to be.

    Like

    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 17 May 2008 @ 6:27 pm

  32. http://limitedinc.blogspot.com/2008/05/phantoms-of-ideology.html

    You’ve probably been following this repellent spewing of airlessness and suffocation. Mlle. Arpege is gasping for the air to continue worshipping at the Church of Marx while pretending it is not a church. This is the one thing she tries to conceal, and is the most precious. It is like the identification with all the most exclusive cults–it pretends to be ‘real’ as opposed to being a cult, and strips away all trappings usually associated with cults, but it convinces only the masochists.

    Arpege herself, as most thorough embodiment of a Marxism gone completely and totally insane, provides the most obviously unassailable reason to reject Marx and all his destruction: She herself is this very thing. She cannot bear any veering from the most vulgar part of her Marx Church, and acolytes such as Amie are supposed to be thrilled when she makes a minor apology for something about ‘unpacking something Derrida and Nazi and Heidegger’, so that Roger’s show of erudition has no substance whatsoever, given that it is Mlle. Arpege and Mlle. Arpege alone who knows how to explain ‘negroidity’ as in Hegel, as she has previously been kind enough to explicate ‘negritude.’ Amie has to keep saying ‘LCC, you know what a fan of you I am…!’ and Arpege sets in again, puffing her ciggies and beating up her keyboard.

    The only substantial posts are by the sublime and quizzical Northanger, who has for years appeared with Nick Land at Hyperstition. She is a most special lady and is not nearly as upset about various verbalized bullshits as Arpege is.

    I used to think the crudest pop phrases were ‘get a life’ and ‘you have no life’, but Arpege has proved that you, too, can have no life if you will just accept the unforgiving, hateful, disgusting, unfair, and Ruling-Class-of -the-Smelly Church of Karl Fucking Marx. Every new thing she writes about Marx makes me know how little I am convinced of that Bastard Bloom of a little man.

    Like

    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 17 May 2008 @ 6:57 pm

  33. This last was in response to this:

    “(I’m still baffled by the bourgeois Marxist cynic — what good does a proletarian revolution do them?)”

    Are you going to please try to be a little less naive with these people and a lot less on the defensive (because I was for a couple of years, till I just went ahead and shoved the NYTimes straight up their beastly asses)? OF COURSE what’s in it for them is that they will then be part of the fucking superstructure! That, of course, is the Communist form of Ruling Class. They know they can’t make it in Hollywood or Paris or Park Avenue. Not that they will even talk about what would specifically be in it for them: According to them, they are going to be willing ‘to give up’, and they will even submit to being forced to do so–just not, as in Arpege’s case, to Anthony Paul Smith (a brat, but still, he’s impoverished and does celebrate May Day like the little leftist half-wit he is). Arpege has said many times that these capitalists will have to be forced to give things up, and she will have to be forced to give some of her things up too. One will note in passing, though, that she would like to see someone else set an example before she does…

    I even read, in an article about Yuri Andropov just before his ailing one year as Soviet president, that he ‘owns a fine television.’

    I fully believe Arpege is going to be able to reduce her bourgeois accumulation of televisions to ‘one fine television’ and even outmode classical ballet, despite its extraordinary proliferation under the filth of the Soviet Union–because the Soviets were not really very interested in whether ballet was something Derrida and Heidegger might like more than Marx. Like all capitalists, the Soviets knew ‘what would sell’. They had ballet in their culture, and so to hell with ideological purity–this could make them look good at state dinners held in Moscow with bugged rooms for foreign guests. Arpege will not talk about the evils of all the Communist regimes, because she is an evil internet Communist, and should be sent to Siberia–to the fucking salt mines and goddam labour camps.

    Like

    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 17 May 2008 @ 7:08 pm

  34. Dejan is himself a Communist who pretends not to be.

    Darling YOU and POLITICS is sort of like Paris Hilton and Mathematics – a match made in HELL. I really think you should give it up in order to fully embrace the artsy woman in yourself.

    I underline that Arpege isn’t lying about dr. Zizek and Slovenlia; she’s been there and scanned the situation far better than Jodianne or anybody else in the blawgosphere. That doesn’t improve her reputation or lighten up her malevolent dossier, but it would be unfair to say that she is lying, when she isn’t.

    Like

    Comment by parodycenter — 18 May 2008 @ 4:13 am

  35. I think actual existing capitalism sucks. Maybe it’s the long-term repressive effects of McCarthyism, maybe it’s the Cold War ideology that equated Russian military power with its economic system, but communism in actual existing American politics is almost nonexistent. I read the platform of the Socialist Party USA and agree with most of it — more so than with the Democratic platform. But in the last presidential election the Socialist candidate got something like 5,000 votes nationwide — Homer Simpson probably did better. I’d rather see companies owned and controlled by the workers than by the investors. I think there are legal precedents, and maybe even legislation, specifying that corporate management has to base its decisions in accord with the best interests of the stockholders. Not the workers, not the customers, not the product, not society — the stockholders.

    Academia is the closest thing to socialism I can think of in American society. The marketplace for the typical academic journal article consists of maybe a dozen scholars working in the same arcane area of study. What pays for this work is government grants and the reallocation of student tuition income from education (which is what the students are paying for) to research (which is what the faculty want to do instead of teach). It’s paradoxical: both socialistic and elitist. And I think it’s a good scheme. I wish music, literature, artes plastiques, and other “cultural products” were financed the same way: a collective pool of money distributed by experts to recipients based not on popularity but on excellence. This is an idealized picture of academic funding to be sure, and one of the main reasons I didn’t pursue an academic career was that the money rewarded “hot topics” more than excellence. But I think research really is valuable to a society beyond what the marketplace demands, and a socialistic scheme is superior to capitalism in funding this sort of elite labor.

    For academics there is self-interest in perpetuating what amounts to a socialistic source of financing for their bourgeois work. What’s odd is that, despite the complaints of academics that they’re not commensurately rewarded for the importance and quality of their work in comparison to private-sector bourgeois professions, the cost of a university education in America has gone through the roof, doubling and tripling the rate of cost inflation in the economy at large. So the academy has become an ever more elite enclave for kids of wealthy parents. And there’s empirical evidence supporting the idea that a university education is a “good investment” regardless of what one learns, inasmuch as the degree brings good return on investment in the form of higher pay relative to the non-degreed worker. So the academy, that bastion of socialized intellectual labor, becomes one of the biggest perpetuators of the ever-widening split between rich and poor in this country. This is partly an artifact of less government money being spent on higher education, but it’s certainly the case that at the expensive universities the professors spend maybe 20 hours a week on work the students are paying for.

    I tend to think that, for university professors, doing research really is a more worthwhile activity than teaching. Generalists can teach most undergrad classes at least as well as the research specialists can. Most of what gets taught in classes can be learned at least as well, and more quickly, by reading the books. And the jobs people take after finishing university depend more on learning the praxis of that particular job and the workings of the specific industry than on anything one learns in school. But I think tax money really should be spent on scholarship and research, rather than creating some mystified aura around university intellectual work that says the student’s tuition really ought to pay for non-educational faculty work.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 18 May 2008 @ 5:07 am

  36. I got distracted by self-interested intellectual socialism. Back to worker-owned industry — I don’t think this would eliminate the stupid desires to buy and own inferior crap, nor would it eliminate marketing efforts to intensify demand for this kind of crap. But I’d like to see what would happen if profits went entirely to enhance worker pay, to reduce costs, or to increase tax revenues supporting causes deemed valuable to the society, rather than going into the pockets of the big investors and the grossly overpaid CEOs who serve as their agents.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 18 May 2008 @ 5:13 am

  37. A friend of mine has a consulting gig that’s related to the original subject of this post, which is inner city capitalism and getting behind its mystified image. He’s been hired by a big cable TV/internet/phone company to figure out how to tap into the underdeveloped market of inner city poor people. To subscribe to cable you need not only to be able to pay the monthly bill: you also need a checking account or credit card with which to pay it. A lot of inner-city people don’t have these convenient means of separating themselves from their money, so they can’t sign up for cable. The idea behind the consulting project is something like this: get local businesses in the inner city to offer a cable-specific credit account service. Customers would pay into this account when they have the cash on hand, and the cable credit manager would accumulate this cash in the person’s cable account in order to pay the next month’s bill. Of course the local business that manages these cable accounts would need to be compensated for their time and trouble, so the cable company would pay them a monthly fee per customer per month. Of course this added cost of doing business would be rolled back to the customers in the form of higher fees. I think the cable company ought to consider just going ahead and using the drug dealers to offer this service — after all, they’re used to managing exactly this sort of transaction on a wide scale.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 18 May 2008 @ 5:34 am

  38. Darling YOU and POLITICS is sort of like Paris Hilton and Mathematics – a match made in HELL. I really think you should give it up in order to fully embrace the artsy woman in yourself.

    Since you delete remarks on your fruity blog that you deem ‘psychotic’, I will therefore take advantage of John’s largesse to ask you not to refer to me as either ‘darling’ or ‘your parody correspondent.’ I have no intention of ever writing a single word on your FruitBlog again, you either leave them all or you get none–and that’s what you’ve earned. Arpege has never been to Slovenia, but rather Romania (where she ‘felt sorry’ for some hotel employee for not making but 1% or so of what you made), but going there, even if she had, is hardly reason for her to know anything about it. She is an internet junkie like you, and in your infinite gluttony you’ve lost me but got her. The irony is that she’s not going to pay any attention to you either.

    Like

    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 18 May 2008 @ 8:55 am

  39. “or so of what you made”

    should be

    “of what she made.”

    The girl probably made about the same you make.

    Like

    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 18 May 2008 @ 8:57 am

  40. John, you should read Thomas Powers’s ‘Intelligence Wars’, a collection of reviews on the CIA and related intelligence agencies. You find out more about why McCarthyism was only bumbling IN ITSELF, it is not that there were not Soviet spies all through out the U.S.–in other words, McCarthy was instinctively correct, just not competent. The spies that were caught prove that. You just have to be able to decide which hypocrisy is least bad and the best symptom is that you chose your own instead of the impossible conundrum of choosing someone else’s, like Arpege and her idiots do. Because if you choose ‘the other’ that you never even have any contact with, you still chose your own in practice.

    The attraction to socialism is usually guilt-oriented, and the ideas and practices of Socialism are, in fact, luxuries that can be put into place only by the most capitalist countries, in the sense of rich like all the Scandinavian countries, Holland, Switzerland, Canada.

    “it’s the Cold War ideology that equated Russian military power with its economic system,”

    And, pray tell, why would these NOT be equated? They were based on the same oppressive, uneducated bumpkins running things–the military to scare the world, the economy full to scare the citizens shitless. There was an enormous black market in the USSR, and these things are never talked about in the Communist rhetoric.

    The U.S. is primarily backward in health care, which is why the Democratic health plans are worth voting for Obama as well as some of his foreign policy, even if I would have preferred Hillary as the smarter politician (winning based on little caucuses and mostly black vote in certain primaries is not particularly impressive if one admits it fully, but I don’t require liking a president personally (not liking a one I can think of except Carter, and he was a pitiful president.) But there isn’t anything in the big full Communist countries that can be pointed to except a down-freak’s dream of nightmare for everyone. This is what Arpege wants, not because she likes the drabness and dullness (which she claims are not necessarily there, but this has only been proved by China’s move from a real Communist state into an authoritarian one with enormous success in Capitalism–China is hardly Marxist when it comes to the all-important Kapital). That is why people are still talking about Marx, who hasn’t a thing to do with the fantastic phenomenon of today’s China. China IS a capitalist nation, and proves the impotence of all Marxist discourse, which is getting nowhere fast). And China is not a dull bore the way the Soviet Union was, even though the individual freedoms are severely limited.

    “But I’d like to see what would happen if profits went entirely to enhance worker pay, to reduce costs, or to increase tax revenues supporting causes deemed valuable to the society, rather than going into the pockets of the big investors and the grossly overpaid CEOs who serve as their agents.”

    Of course, but this does not mean countenancing Marxists as the solution and alternative. They are useless. Health care is the place to start emulating the enlightened European states, and though the Clinton plan sounds somewhat better than the Obama one, his is also worthwhile, and perhaps she’ll manage to pull of being Veep, this could be a good combination, maybe that’s why Edwards said no to it, or partially, but decided to go ahead and endorse.

    Anyway, and what you did not address, is that the bloggers in their Marxist utopias of Nowhere are all interested in deflecting all attention away from anything mainstream. If it isn’t pure Marxist ca-ca, better to put up with the pure evils of the right-wing, because that actually propagates Marxists more than the even-more-hated ‘neoliberalism’ they’re are always decrying. In other words, your own voice is what they are interesting in squelching, so you can let them, I suppose. They’re totally brutal, of course, and coarse to boot.

    Like

    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 18 May 2008 @ 9:48 am

  41. One common characterization of realism is this: there is something in or about the world that makes our utterances or assertions or thoughts true when they are true, whether or not we have the power to determine their truth. – Donald Davidson.

    Here’s a hypothesis about how one form of realistic cynicism might work in interpreting someone’s statements: The general truth is that everyone acts exclusively out of self-interest, whether they realize this truth about themselves or not. Therefore it’s possible to understand the truth of someone’s statement by identifying the self-interest that’s served by the statement and what it refers to. This truth stands behind the statement in the same way that the truth of the real world stands behind any statements we might make about the world. Intentionality or self-professed beliefs of the speaker/writer are irrelevant in uncovering the truth of what they say/write. The self-serving truth is available to the objective observer and does not require access to the inner mental state of the speaker/writer. Statements that claim personal motivations other than self-interest are rejected tout court as false, and perhaps as intentionally deceptive.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 18 May 2008 @ 9:57 am

  42. “The general truth is that everyone acts exclusively out of self-interest, whether they realize this truth about themselves or not”

    Yes.

    ‘Statements that claim personal motivations other than self-interest are rejected tout court as false, and perhaps as intentionally deceptive.’

    By whom are they rejected? By majorities. They do form a small cult of ‘unselfishness talk’ that the slightest request for as much as a ball-point pen will meet with severe and stern disapproval.

    Like

    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 18 May 2008 @ 10:02 am

  43. Healthcare — I once appeared before a subcommittee hearing on HillaryCare during Bill’s administration. My area of purported expertise was “managed competition” — using data from outcomes studies and use of evidence-based best practices to identify excellent quality of care and so to move consumers toward more informed decisions. This sort of apparatus is sort of socialistic in the sense I alluded to about other bourgeois offerings: a centralized source of expertise judging quality rather than lame crap like “patient satisfaction” that too often tends to reflect whether the doctor has polished shoes or not.

    I agree, Jonquille, that socialized single payer-healthcare is a good idea. Neither Hillary nor Barack gets there. This is socialistic in the sense that the government serves as a centralized negotiator of services and costs on behalf of the citizenry. Doctors can still work as independent practitioners, pharmaceutical companies can stay in business, but they all have to deal with the organized purchasing power of the state as purchasing representative of the public.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 18 May 2008 @ 10:06 am

  44. I don’t subscribe to this form of realistic cynicism. What someone SAYS s/he means ought not to be dismissed as irrelevant in figuring out what s/he REALLY means. At the same time, people do fool themselves, believing in their own altruism despite evidence to the contrary. Nonetheless, I think it’s possible to move in the direction of altruism without necessarily ever getting all the way there, just as it’s possible to offer a gift without it being a pure gift or to approach excellent art without fully discounting the approval of the audience.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 18 May 2008 @ 10:11 am

  45. Davidson isn’t an antirealist, but he doesn’t subscribe to this form of realism either. Extrapolating his point, Davidson says that unless cynical realists can specify what it is about the world that makes them so sure that self-interest really underlies all motivation, then “the result is that realists are left holding the concept of truth, but can’t explain how reality accounts for it.” So someone can assert that I’m “truly” a neoliberal bourgeois despite what I claim about myself, but such an assertion would rely on the invariable reality of invariable self-interest that cannot be established. Of course this characterization of cynical realism might be way off, but I do get the sense that there are practitioners of this sort of hermeneutic who claim to know more about what a person means than the person himself does, and what this person “really” means is nearly always something detestable even to the person himself.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 18 May 2008 @ 10:29 am

  46. Good remarks, all of these last.

    “What someone SAYS s/he means ought not to be dismissed as irrelevant in figuring out what s/he REALLY means.”

    Of course not, until it’s been demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt not to be the same, and the same old whirring robot keeps up its fax-machine chug-chug-chugging, forget the whining fax-machine siren.

    Like

    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 18 May 2008 @ 10:48 am

  47. Arpege has never been to Slovenia, but rather Romania (where she ‘felt sorry’ for some hotel employee for not making but 1% or so of what you made), but going there, even if she had, is hardly reason for her to know anything about it.

    She did go to Slovenia and worked there for some PR company, that’s how she knows that the American company Rudder-Finn was hired to create ”the greater Serbian monster”, all of which you can see in the ”Avoidable War” documentary at the Parody Center. This does not make her a Mother Theresa at all, more like Mother Medusa, but I was responding to your sudden and psychotic claims that I am engaged in some greater Serbia project and am in this sense twisting reality to Communist ends. I don’t agree with Communism at all but that has nothing to do with what Slovenlia did. They would have done it in Capitalism as well.

    She is an internet junkie like you

    So you haven’t dropped the ”internet junkie” shtick, accusing me endlessly of nerdism when you know well that noone’s nerdier in this respect than Comrade Fox. Until you have dropped it you don’t even HAVE TO come back bitch because I’m not going to waste time elaborating your senile confabulations.

    Like

    Comment by parody center — 18 May 2008 @ 11:34 am

  48. Until you have dropped it you don’t even HAVE TO come back bitch

    Good, because I am not going to ‘drop it’, and John’s, apropos of something else, “there are practitioners of this sort of hermeneutic who claim to know more about what a person means than the person himself does”, applies to you in saying I ‘don’t HAVE TO come back’, meaning that you granted me the freedom to imagine that I might be able to choose that for myself. Just as Arpege telling Dominic about one of his remarks ‘that phrase doesn’t mean anything to you.’

    Well, I’m certainly glad the protection is built-in, because thinking you’re not a nerd is not going to happen.

    Like

    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 18 May 2008 @ 11:44 am

  49. ‘don’t HAVE TO come back’, meaning that you granted me the freedom to imagine that I might be able to choose that for myself.

    well working for the Parody Center does imply a kind of a pathological enmeshment with sadomasochistic undertones, but you knew that when you accepted the contract, which means that now you’re playing false – and all because I don’t particularly get off on Kirov ballet, I suppose. Using the positive-cognitive Clysmatics as some kind of an arbiter in this work conflict is beyond even your current low level, Jonquille, it’s COWARDLY.

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    Comment by parody center — 18 May 2008 @ 12:07 pm

  50. Clysmatics as some kind of an arbiter in this work conflict is beyond even your current low level, Jonquille, it’s COWARDLY.

    I’m not using John, I wrote it here so you’d understand things as they are, whereas you delete them over there; and even if you read them first, you just re-interpret and re-appropriate them as you wish. You don’t listen to what someone says, but decide what they meant by it. You even do that in emails, which is fairly remarkable.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 18 May 2008 @ 12:17 pm

  51. You don’t listen to what someone says, but decide what they meant by it.

    Well OK let’s start with the assumption that that’s what I’m doing, here’s your chance to issue your complaint and I promise I will both read it carefully and won’t interpret it a priori.

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    Comment by parody center — 18 May 2008 @ 12:21 pm

  52. A theoretical interlude… The traditional view of self-awareness is that I know my own mind better than other people do — I have privileged access to my own inner states, compared to others who can only watch what I do and listen to what I say. Marx proposes a theory of false consciousness, so that what I think has been programmed into me by the dominant class: what I think isn’t what I REALLY think; it’s only what I THINK I think. For Freud and Lacan, what I think is comprised at least in part of disguised repressions, images, the internalized voice of the Big Other, etc. Again, what I think isn’t what I REALLY think. All that is fine, but the problem comes when somebody else claims to know what it is I really think behind all the self-deceptions and poses. Maybe the main difference is that Lacan doesn’t claim to know what I really think, whereas Marx presumably does.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 18 May 2008 @ 1:21 pm

  53. Clysmatics it’s been noted before that I have the talents of a witch – I CAN see what you think, mostly – and this has been what attracted me to psychology as well as drawing (primarily character design). But Jonquille, who is also gifted intuitively, is right, this can flip over into sadism and the desire to impose my own view on other people’s. I have to walk a fine line, not to let this talent destroy me or hurt others. It will either make me famous, or completely fuck me up.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 18 May 2008 @ 1:29 pm

  54. “I CAN see what you think, mostly”

    This would make an interesting topic in its own right; i.e., is it possible to know what someone else is really thinking even when he doesn’t know it? If so, how is it done: empathy, careful attention to detail, witchcraft? And how do you know whether you’re discovering the other’s thought or creating it? Another time perhaps. Meanwhile, I think that Freud was more likely than Lacan to say that he knew what other people were really thinking.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 18 May 2008 @ 2:46 pm

  55. “All that is fine, but the problem comes when somebody else claims to know what it is I really think behind all the self-deceptions and poses. Maybe the main difference is that Lacan doesn’t claim to know what I really think, whereas Marx presumably does.”

    That’s very good, or I think I think it is. It seems possible that in Marx’s understanding of someone else’s ‘false consciousness’, the result of all real Marxist states have had a huge police presence. This points to a justification of secret police in the service of this high cause of ‘fairness’ that you are supposed to get in Marx, which is usually the keen pleasure of some country-hick ashram at best. And yet Marxists are quickest to notice ‘police states’ in all democratic-liberal states even when they are in their most incipient state. The most extreme ones like warszawa are simply incredible when in the 2006 midterm election he said ‘who said they [the Democrats, or as he called them ‘the Democrapic Party’, which kind of talk is related to redneck pronunciation, as is Arpege’s Yerup] will be allowed to win?’ Of course, he answered no questions after the voting process had not been fraudulent–at least we knew that Diebold was not full of software designed for the wish-fulfillments of 9/11 truthies–that cheap rhetoric was not useful unless the Democrats had lost.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 18 May 2008 @ 2:58 pm

  56. “I CAN see what you think, mostly”

    About this, Derrida is better, in ‘A Taste for the Secret’. The secret is all of what makes the person inaccessible to another, because they would have to be identical. In his usual unhappiness, Derrida says something about you can realize that it is a secret, but still it is a secret. I believe Lyotard is incapable of such determined unhappiness, and realized that in the knowing that both are secrets, there is as well something beyond the secret. A true taste for the secret is a kind of excluding elitist attitude, which is very commendable for the majority of time, but goes too far in its resistance to any kind of sharing–there has to be some reason people want to share and not be lonely, and no reason to think everybody has to live the curse of Derridean anhedonie.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 18 May 2008 @ 3:03 pm

  57. When I said what I said I wasn;t so much referring to either Derrida or Lacan, simply that people in my life often noted I can ”read” them quickly, whether by means of picking up their signals or by drawing them… capturing their psychology on paper with just a few strokes. If you want the Parody Center was a success largely because the people recognize themselves in the parodies (whether accurate or not, factually speaking, they pick up the fact that I picked up their ”aura”, as it were). On the net it’s more difficult because language is slippery and you can pretend, or write in somebody else’s style, but in real life you’d be surprised at my shall we say intuition. This is a bit of a curse as well because I have lots of difficulty relating to insensitive people, and they are mostly like that in the business world, where I am supposed to be picking up my money from.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 18 May 2008 @ 3:49 pm

  58. Clysmatics I think you’re wrong about Freud and Lacan: if they claimed they could read what you were really thinking, they would be doing the Jungian shtick (presupposing that there is a ”dictionary of universal symbols”) but I think their point was precisely that no accurate reading was ever possible because the Unconscious endlessly shifts (in meaning). Also remember that in analysis, you let the analysand interpret HIS OWN DREAM. The job of the analyst is more that of a translator, a witch is something else – a witch can read thoughts over distance. This is what I noticed I can do sometimes, and it just comes of its own accord, perhaps when I’m especially attuned to a person’s desires or personality.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 18 May 2008 @ 3:52 pm

  59. ‘who said they [the Democrats, or as he called them ‘the Democrapic Party’…] will be allowed to win?’

    I suppose this is a reference to Bush’s having stolen the election. It was a cheat especially the first time, but it couldn’t have happened if the election results hadn’t been so close. Besides, the Democrats have proven that achieving majorities in both houses of Congress, based largely on antiwar sentiments, still didn’t give them the resolve to pull the plug on war funding. I don’t see much change in policy at all during the last two years, which makes it harder I think for voters to get too excited about prospects for change this time around either.

    When we were getting ready to move back to the States an elderly German couple we’d befriended were worried about what would await us on our arrival. Both had been children during the Nazi era and teens during the post-War occupation: she in the American zone of Berlin, he in Halle in East Germany. Based on their life experiences, both were concerned that, because of our having lived in “anti-American” France, the US authorities would regard us with suspicion, possibly taking us into custody. We sympathized with their concerns, but it just seemed unthinkable that such a thing would happen to us as US citizens. Perhaps we’re lulled into complacency and that totalitarianism is just around the corner, but daily life in America just doesn’t feel that different compared to the pre-Reagan era.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 18 May 2008 @ 7:09 pm

  60. “The secret is all of what makes the person inaccessible to another”

    Derrida persistently pursued the theme of difference, which following Levinas includes the idea of the impenetrable otherness of the other. I suppose if one was of a mind to, one could make the argument that this extreme differentiation and separation of individuals is just the kind of anti-communal ideology that the neoliberals promote. I think, though, that Derrida pursues this sense of unattainable purity: no matter how well we might know one another, there always remains the inaccessible portion. Just because a gift can’t be pure doesn’t mean Derrida doesn’t believe in gifts; just because there’s unbreachable separateness doesn’t mean Derrida doesn’t believe in common causes.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 18 May 2008 @ 7:18 pm

  61. “a witch can read thoughts over distance. This is what I noticed I can do sometimes, and it just comes of its own accord, perhaps when I’m especially attuned to a person’s desires or personality.”

    Really? You mean you have an intuition of what someone is thinking even when you’re not talking with them? That really is phenomenal.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 18 May 2008 @ 8:24 pm

  62. ust because a gift can’t be pure doesn’t mean Derrida doesn’t believe in gifts; just because there’s unbreachable separateness doesn’t mean Derrida doesn’t believe in common causes.

    Of course, but his true love is clearly to emphasize the lack, the incomplete, the death, etc. It was an interesting number, but it’s been done. You can almost see happiness and unhappiness being weighed on a scale, and Derrida teaches that unhappiness is surely a bit more worthy of endless discussion than it actually is. He no longer interests me at all, I infinitely prefer Lyotard, who had a lot more vitality and his ‘evil book’ Libidinal Economy is the best of all these books by all that bunch of Frenchies, maybe also Mille Plateaux, both are very reckless, Lyotard is not precious like Derrida.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 18 May 2008 @ 8:30 pm

  63. Here’s something I didn’t know about before — the South Koreans executing over 100,000 Korean leftists early in the Korean War.

    I’ve read only a little bit of Lyotard. This Libidinal Economy supposedly succeeds at what Deleuze & Guattari attempted in Anti-Oedipus — in the same vein anyhow. I kind of like Bataille on libidinal and other excesses.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 18 May 2008 @ 8:43 pm

  64. Oh, yes…Bataille can be great!

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 18 May 2008 @ 8:59 pm

  65. Libidinal Economy is where Lyotard goes on and on about ‘Little Girl Marx.’ Naturally, it is my favourite book besides Proust’s ‘Recherches’…and I brought it up to Mlle. Arpege every chance I got!

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 18 May 2008 @ 9:02 pm

  66. Definitely compatible with my article; complementary is actually the better word. And no, it didn’t make me lose my appetite. Yours does a better job of defining how the owners wield the mechanisms of control and domination. Mine is probably not complicated enough, but I think it can–even though, again, I don’t elaborate enough to successfully do it–explain how change and modulation happen. That is, I operate under the assumption that states and capital are bad at innovation and rely on separate, though never fully autonomous subjects to give impetus to new techniques, which the former adopt to contain the latter, techniques that include both technologies and the recruitment of personnel. Also, I think exodus and resistance play a larger role in that than obedience does.

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    Comment by Eric — 14 November 2013 @ 3:15 pm

  67. Thanks for taking the time, Eric. I agree with your assessment of complementarity.

    “rely on separate, though never fully autonomous subjects to give impetus to new techniques, which the former adopt to contain the latter”

    That’s a provocative contention in the context of collective resistance but I think it’s valid. Is there evidence to support the assumption? What come to mind are the studies showing that, in response to a given prompt, individuals working separately come up with more ideas, and more good ideas (don’t recall the judgment criteria), than do brainstorming groups. There’s little doubt that capital relies heavily on encouraging individual innovators as a cheap source of new ideas without hiring them in-house, while the entrepreneurs serve as a cheap means of winnowing those ideas through a kind of artificial selection mechanism. Then the big money buys out the winners.

    “exodus and resistance play a larger role in that than obedience does.”

    A larger role for what purpose? Arguably capital relies on exodus and resistance of the innovators and the entrepreneurs, for whom autonomy proves far more fertile ground than does corporate ass-kissing. It would be nice if there were some organized, supportive, and momentum-generating collective into which the resisters could exit, joining forces in exile, forming critical mass for more just and libidinally exciting extensions of the good new techniques.

    I might have to re-watch The Wire to see what I think about it now. I thought the seasons focusing on the drug gangs were more interesting than organized labor and the schools, though maybe it because gangstas are more entertaining than union bosses and teachers.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 14 November 2013 @ 8:10 pm


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