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Showing posts from September 18, 2005

The importance of being Vivian

In 1889, Oscar Wilde published the Decay of Lying, a dialogue between Cyril and Vivian. Cyril is given the earnest lines, like the cutout in a Socratic dialogue, and Vivian is given the witty and visionary ones. The theme of the dialogue attaches, at points, to the very old theme of mimesis in art. Is an art to be judged on how well it copies reality? And what would it mean for a fiction to copy reality? Vivian explores the problems of mimesis from an angle taken from everyday life: the lie. The lie, after all, is a lie insofar as it doesn’t copy reality. However, it works as a lie insofar as it seems to copy reality. Thus, in the successful lie there must reside some special genius, and for that genius to work, we must look at another standard than that of truth or falsity. We must shift to the field defined by intensity: “One of the chief causes that can be assigned for the curiously commonplace character of most of the literature of our age is undoubtedly the decay of Lying as an ar

LI hearts hindsight

Every once in a while, one should engage in the bitterest hindsight. Hindsight is always something that the powers that be disparage, since the critical analysis of the past lays bare the lineaments of present oppressions. In the week that the President of Afghanistan, Karzai, called for radical American troop retrenchment, that Sheehan’s caravan is stopping in D.C. for an anti-war protest that the mainstream media will ignore and distort in various tired ways, that Basra is revealing the extent to which the “peacefully” occupied areas are peaceful in the sense that Afghanistan in 2000 was peaceful – it might be a good idea to ask about what alternative there was to this particular occupation. This question is, of course, bound up with the question of the reasons for invasion itself, but there is only one strand of that question that will concern me here: the lack of any counter-force to the Americans in the invading “coalition.” That lack was designed by the Department of War. It allo

a rule for reading newspapers

David Mamet’s convoluted op ed in the LA Times makes the valid point that the Democratic Party is not only cowardly, but unlikely to benefit from its cowardice. But I think that the point is undermined by the assumption that, given different circumstances, we would have a different Democratic party, boldly bringing us peace and universal health care. In LI’s opinion, this confusion of the Democratic Party with liberalism has no warrant. A far better way of examining both the Democratic and Republican parties is to view them as two factions of one Court – Court in the royal, Byzantine sense. To quote Warren Treadgold about factions in Constantinople: “This lack of ideology has long been hard for modern scholars to grasp. For instance, most have looked for an ideological significance in the Byzantines' two factions, the Blues and the Greens, whose official function was to organize sports and theatrical events, mainly chariot races and performances in which women took off their cloth

notes on the continuing atrocity

There are so many reasons to be horrified at what is happening in Iraq that it shows a certain mad myopia to focus on last weeks Galloway/Hitchens debate. It rather irritates me to read so many blogs about the debate, since, in my opinion, the space taken up by commentary about the debate is space stolen from rational discussion about the war. That kind of burglary serves the pro-war forces. That these two old troopers managed to network up a posse of publicity from their friends for the thing is depressing, in one way – the debate has the effect of giving us a very cockeyed view of the pro- and anti-war stakes – and in another way it quietly illuminates the irreality that infests discussion about the war in this country. Galloway, trailing a dubious past as a political jester who will say anything to make a name for himself, is disreputable and plain dumb enough that he seemingly can’t question Hitchens about his real role in the war. Since Galloway, on some accounts, was under the d


Readers of LI: I've been sending out the following sheet to academic journals, advertising my editorial services. Anybody who knows a journal, a list serve, or a person that I should send this (or a modified version of this) to should please drop me an email at Thanks r.g. ... I am writing to inform you of an editorial service especially designed for the needs of faculty and graduate students. I have talked to editors of academic journals and have been told that many journals do not have off site editors to whom to refer authors of those papers that are in need of revision. At the same time, the rate of submissions is increasing, and editors and readers at journals are straining to keep up. My service fills this gap. I charge a competitive rate for editing. I specialize in humanities and social sciences. In the past year, RWG Communications projects have included: substantive editing of an article on macroeconomics; substantive editing of a book on process

The German election

It isn’t often that I agree with Anatole Kaletsky, the Thatcherite economist. But his column about the election in Germany is the best analysis I’ve seen so far . As we have often said around here, the change in conservative doctrine post Thatcher is that it has merged with the radically Keynesian project of pumping up demand by all means possible. This means, in effect, liquidating savings to the extent that this is possible. The old fashioned Tories would be appalled to see what the new fangled Tories are up to. In Germany, this hasn’t happened. The CDU has adopted those portions of the Thatcherite program that are straight out class warfare – making the template for all legislation the penalizing the poor and the rewarding the rich. However, while it is true that the Anglo-American rightwing penalizes the bottom economic percentile, the story is more complex as consumer power increases. Shifting the responsibility for welfare to the individual, that longterm, invisible project, woul

the Ampel election

PS -- The following was written before the results started coming in. Astonishing: the CDU actually managed to lower its percentage of the vote. We will see how the CDU godfathers treat Merkel; conservatives in Germany, as in the U.S. in 2000, are coming into power as the minority. LI wanted to have its say on the Ampel [stoplight] election in Germany. The consensus view is that the worst thing of all would be a grand coalition between the CDU and the SPD. We think that, of all the grim options, it would be the best thing. In this, we disagree with figures we usually trust, like Claudia Roth, the Green candidate in Bavaria. Roth is a shrewd commentator. She is correct, we think, that Lafotaine’s supposed Linksopposition party is disturbingly reactionary. Her comment that “Lafontaine is operating on the lines of a graceless Right Populism” is essentially correct. And her concern about a coalition also makes sense. In Roth’s words: “We remain by our clear position that the party of s