Dr. Causabon scribbles a bit more in his notebook

J'devrais penser
à m'forger un moral en acier trempé
ne plus m'ronger
mon vernis bleu cyber nacré
m'sentir en sécurité
sous protection à indice élevé
faudrait pas stigmatiser
pas compliqué c'est pas compliqué
j'trouve pas ça tell'ment sorcier
bien décidée

mes idées se sont arrêtées
–Ysa Ferrer

William Lilly, the astrologer and antiquary, left an autobiography. The beginning of his real life, outside of school (where he learned to speak Latin as well, he claims, as English) went like this:

My father had one Samuel Smatty for his Attorney, unto whom I went sundry times with letters, who perceiving I was a scholar, and that I lived miserably in the country, losing my time, nor any ways likely to do better, if I continued there; pitying my condition, he sent word for me to come and speak with him and told me that he had lately been at London, where there was a gentleman wanted a youth, to attend him and his wife, who could write, etc.

I acquainted my father with it, who was very willing to be rid of me, for I could not work, drive the plough, or endure any country labour; my father oft would say, I was good for nothing.”

These storms about Marx that have lately raged through LI have done me a world of good. I was reminded of the broad outline of elements at play in the construction of the happiness culture, one of which looms largely: the opening up of the positional economy. As I wrote, Marx’s suggestions about “mental products” were, unfortunately, off-tracked by his materialism, ending up giving us a very unsatisfactory picture of mental production. But if we dispense with the idea that there intellect somehow operates on top of a society, as an epiphenomena, a mist rising from the surface, unable in itself to do anything but operate as a distributor for the ideas of the ruling class, or – most pernicious of metaphors – a mirror reflecting ideas - and instead look at Marx’s much more radical analysis of labor as necessarily compounded of ideas and ‘matter’, than we can start to understand mental production as horizontal to other forms of production, which allows us to look at its scope and effects as taking many forms in the social: as a means of social ascent, or descent; as the creator of life styles; as a necessary factor in the creation of the techno-industrial structure, etc. The early modern era in Europe saw the opening up of the positional economy – or, in other words, the lessening of feudal barriers to social mobility – due, in great part, to print culture. Sad young men like Lilly, alien among the corn, were not uncommon in the seventeenth century. They became the ranters, secretaries, natural philosophers, lawyer’s clerks, astrologers, poets, actors, etc. that wove a certain narrative, the adventure narrative, in Europe itself, in tandem with the adventure narrative in the New utopias of the New World. This was the beginning of the third life as a distinct social entity. The techno-industrial structure central to capitalism simply could not have existed without this third life. Similarly, the reshaping of the passional norms was dependent on the effects of the third life – the breaches and cracks it made within the social hierarchy.

A note to the side, this. I still haven’t translated Theophile’s encounter with the possessed woman of Agen. I’m halfway through it, but… this has simply been a busy week. And here I am, Memorial Saturday (on this weekend that we forget the violence that has made America great and make great sacrifices of petroleum to the sky god), behind on my reviewing. Oh, LI is so sorry for himself!


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