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Showing posts from January 23, 2005
First part Enlightenment does not begin with the question, “what is the truth?” It begins with a consideration of the interplay between two questions: a. what is the truth? b. and: what do we want the truth to be? To understand the Dialectic of the Enlightenment, it is crucially important to keep this in mind. LI’s experience of doing posts on philosophical topics is that it creates the sounds of people leaving the room. So we will not dwell on this too long. Don’t worry. We are going to confine ourselves to three or four more posts on Sade, Kant, and atrocity in the Dialectic of Enlightenment. Tops. Promise. Okay. The ‘excursus’ entitled “Juliette or Enlightenment and Morality” forged a conjunction between Sade and Kant that, while unheard of when the Dialectic was published in 1947, has become a standard trope in cultural studies. Partly it owes this fame to its shock value. While A and H diagnosed the fascist politics of shock, they were not immune to its al
Fist The Dialectic of the Enlightenment is a notoriously knotty text. LI would recommend this article: Language, Mythology, and Enlightenment: Historical Notes on Horkheimer and Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment by James Schmidt, in the 1996 Social Research. Schmidt isn’t a particularly nimble thinker or writer, but he does present a nice reconstruction of the writing of the text. We like the fact that, in spite of Adorno’s contemptuous and semi-racist view of jazz, not to speak of pop music, A and H’s book started out in garage rock style: “What eventually would become the Dialectic of Enlightenment first entered the world in December 1944 as a mimeographed typescript of over three hundred pages distributed to friends and associates of the Institute for Social Research. Printed on the brown pasteboard cover was the original rifle: Philosophische Fragmente. Theodor Adorno provided an explanation of sorts for the work's peculiar mode of dissemination in one of the aph
When George Bush declared war on Iraq in 2003, the Stop the War movement was, de facto, defeated. It was no longer a question of stopping the war from happening; and so, logically, a whole field of new questions were posed. Unfortunately, since then, the international movements that have coalesced in the stop the war movement have clung to the idea that the War in Iraq has two sides: the Americans, and the insurgents. In this, they have, unconsciously, collaborated with the Americans. Thus, progressives have continually foreclosed on doing what Marx did, surveying the ruins of the revolutionary movements in 1850: creating a side. Instead, they have been all too satisfied with the one they have been given. Consequently, I have never seen a progressive movement wielding such popular support secure so little power to shape events as has happened with the relation between opponents of the war in Iraq and the war itself. Besides acres of trees and thousands of manhours of download
The radio, right now, is talking about the crimes happening in Darfur. We are very used to hearing about genocide or mass murder in terms of crime. This has been the consensus since the human rights movements of the seventies. It is a comfortable and pragmatic perspective, but from the point of view of critical philosophy, it is a huge lie. Philosophy that is critical does not abolish particular and contingent structures under the principle of sub species eternatatis, but, like a detective pondering the dog that didn’t bark in the night, inquires into the very possibility of the historic fact. A crime, then, requires not only a perpetrator and a victim, but a third power – embodied in the state – that judges what is and what is not a crime. How that power gains obedience – how a crime becomes a non-crime, and a non-crime a crime – is the really important categorical question posed by philosophy outside of the Enlightenment. Take, for example, what happened on June 11th, 1942.
The Dialectic of the Enlightenment was the first in a series of post-war books that variously attacked the Cold War consensus on both sides. I’d include, in that list, Galbraith’s Affluent Society and New Industrial State, Djilas’s New Class, Medvedev’s Let History Judge, and Foucault’s The Words and the Things (translated as The Order of Things) and Discipline and Punish. Intellectual history went into the streets for a historical moment in 1968, a moment that is preserved with marmoreal heaviness by many a museum hearted lefty prof. However, beyond the nostalgia of the ex hippies, there was a real core to that moment – which extended, actually, to the end of the Bretton Woods agreement and the first oil embargo. It created a cultural prototype that has gradually immersed in its presuppositions, for good and ill, a capitalist system that has ground the bones of proletarian culture into the service economy and removed all trace of the protest of labor from its 24 hour cultural industr
Actually time is neutral. It can be used either destructively or constructively. I am comingto feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right. – Martin Luther King, Letter from the Birmingham Jail Sixty years ago, the Soviets were overrunning the concentration and extermination camps. Majdenek was reached in July, 1944 by the Soviet Army, which then overran the remains of Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka. Auschwitz wa
Idiot wind There’s no better time to float a war scare than during inauguration week. Thus, the stories in the papers about stopping cold the Iranian ambition to weld nuclear weapons. This gallant devotion to non-proliferation synthesized well with the Presidential challenge to spread freedom anywhere except in those places specified in the small print (Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan, Venezuala, Liberia, Angola, All Arab peninsula states, all former Central Asian Soviet Republics, and any other recipients of American military aid hereinafter to be known as de facto democracies). Yes, the heady ozone of freedom coming out of Bush’s mouth does have a few holes in it – but this is an administration that rather likes holes in the ozone, so it all makes sense. Meanwhile, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has a nice little historical piece on the (apparently aborted) South Korean effort to manufacture atomic weaponry. The article’s authors (Kang, Ju