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Showing posts from April 15, 2007

enlighten the troops - we have lost in Iraq and you are being played for suckers

LI has read, on many a liberal site, immediate complaints that whenever somebody prominent like Senator Harry Reid says we are losing the war, conservatives immediately claim that this damages the morale of the troops. Here’s Talking points memo getting indignant with CNN. The push back is always vaguely about supporting the troops. Actually, I have no idea why liberals should complain about this. I fucking hope it damages the morale of the troops. I would hope that, eventually, the volunteer forces that trusted their country to use them wisely, instead of as an array of crash test dummies, would revolt. I hope they strike. I hope they increasingly refuse to serve. I hope they link up with the Iraqi population and say basta! We need to leave this country, and fuck our leadership and fuck yours for not making that possible, but increasingly putting us in a hole. I hope they have gone past discouraged to a righteous, revolutionary anger that would sweep away the whole sick and senile wa

where's friday when you need him?

In one of the most famous, or at least one of the most written about, chapters of Capital I, THE FETISHISM OF COMMODITIES AND THE SECRET THEREOF, Marx makes a snarky detour through the Robinson Crusoe myths so dear to the classical economists of the 18th century. The chapter deals with both the capitalist system and the sense-making that goes on within it – for, as a human system with human actors, it requires explanations to work. Marx has a bone to pick with those explanations – a complaint that allows us to catch a glimpse of the Wiccan Marx, who, like Michelet’s witches, has discovered the power of the negation of the negation, the power of saying the Lord’s Prayer backwards: “Man’s reflections on the forms of social life, and consequently, also, his scientific analysis of those forms, take a course directly opposite to that of their actual historical development. He begins, post festum, with the results of the process of development ready to hand before him. The characters that

idle fellows as I am

The Enlightenment has been subject to an odd and schematic misreading over the past ten years. The colonialist mentality that appears at the end of the period, and that takes a very sharp and harsh look at enlightenment figures has been moved backwards in time, and the sharp and harsh look well nigh forgot. This reading derives from taking Kant’s notion of the enlightenment as a sort of official goodhousekeeping seal on the whole enterprise, thus skipping over, specifically, the disagreements that were expressed with Kant’s whole philosophical stance by his contemporaries, such as Lichtenberg, and more generally, the reality of enlightenment literature and its preferred forms over the period from, say, the Glorious Revolution to the French Revolution. LI doesn’t want to get into Kant’s bent for universalist prescriptions here, but simply note how odd it is that no justification seems to be needed, lately, for reading the Enlightenment through Kant’s essay on the Enlightenment. We su

Things about the Arabick influence on John Locke and Daniel Defoe my first year philo class never taught me

In messing around in the vaults – the vaults under the surface of history and literature, as per the posts of last week - LI recently came across an article that piqued our curiosity. The article, by G.A. Russell, claims that an eleventh century Arabic philosopher, Ibn Tufayl, influenced both John Locke and Daniel Defoe through a book of philosophy he wrote which contains a parable about a boy who was raised by a gazelle on a desert island. Hayy Ibn Yaqzān was translated by the remarkable Edward Pococke in 1671 into Latin. Pococke gave it the wonderful title, Philosophus Autodidactus. Since the Paul Bermans of the world are so hot on the trail of fascism in the intellectual history backgrounding Al Qaeda, I think it is intriguing that an ‘Arabick’ tale could show up in the background of two writers who so shaped the conjunction of the early capitalist ethos and democratic political theory. The story goes like this. Pococke, as Robert Irwin points out in his recent book on Orientalism

Is this the promis'd end? or image of that horror?

I think it is done. I think I have finished all that needs doing on my preface, and on correcting the text. Silja Graupe’s The Bashō of Economics will be coming out from Ontos Verlag next month. I think next month. Translated, with a preface, by Roger Gathman. I have seen the cover. I have seen the inner sheets. My preface needs a spot or two of editing, and oh Lord ... through bramble and brier I have finally come out, limping and panting but still alive! I have that Julie Andrews feeling, boys - buy me a fuckin drink! O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done; The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won; The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting, While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring… Which grim and daring vessel I’m gonna be hyping as soon as it gets out. Tell your Ma, tell your Pa, tell your librarian: the revolution is now!

the virginia tech massacre

Yesterday, LI just couldn’t leave the news from Virginia Tech alone. We were transfixed. There’s a famous story in the Fourth book of the Republic. Socrates and Glaucon are discussing the soul and its vagaries, with the aim of trying to anatomize it. Socrates suggests that the soul is composed of a rational part and an irrational part. The irrational part, characteristically, desires – Socrates uses the example of the desire to drink. Thirst might not be irrational in itself, but it gains its power from the irrational part of the soul. However, that desires are not enacted immediately is, for Socrates, evidence that something - and Socrates tries to show that it is the other part of the soul, reason - impinges on the irrational part: “S: And the forbidding principle is derived from reason, and that which bids and attracts proceeds from passion and disease? G: Clearly. S: Then we may fairly assume that they are two, and that they differ from one another; the one with which man reasons,

the monument to a lack of a monument

LI was going to spend this week threading through the crimes of classical liberalism. Heavy emphasis, in other words, on the famine in Ireland, which served as a template for the series of famines in India. This is how we were going to start: with that most familiar of strangers in a strange land, the Martian. If a Martian were to make a quick visit to D.C.’s National Mall, what information would he gather about the U.S.? He’d see that the U.S. had a pharaoh named George Washington; a great white father, Abraham Lincoln; that the U.S. was very concerned about the crimes of German history; and that some kind of disaster or war happened named Vietnam. From our monuments, the Martian would never know that there was such a thing as a black American. And he would certainly never know that there was such a thing as slavery in the U.S. It has long been a sort of joke that the American government is much happier exploring the horrors visited by Germany on the Jews than the horrors visited upon

Natasha Wimmer

There are some who say that LI, underneath a surface pretentiousness, is just the kind of redneck who is going to end up sprawled in the gutter someday, another victim of cleaning fluid intox. But here’s some au contraire evidence! Readers may remember that LI threw a party for itself last December at the 7b bar. Among the attendees was the talented and beauteous Natasha Wimmer, who was coming off of translating Roberto Bolano’s The Savage Detectives. The Savage Detectives is the best novel of the year – I’m pretty confident that nothing this year is going to upset that statement. And – abracadabra – here’s her book, gracing the front page – did I say front page – yes, front page of the Sunday New York Times! Reviewed by the Man, James Wood no less, who writes: The pleasure we take in this, as readers of English, owes everything, of course, to the book's talented translator, Natasha Wimmer, who repeatedly finds inspired English solutions for what must be a fiendishly chatty and sl

A mystery

LI has often been puzzled by a double thread that seems to run through pro-war discourse. I wish someone would explain it to us. If a man came up to you and said: “you are a pig and a jackass. I hate your religion. I hate the way you spend your money. I am afraid of you, because you are psychopathic. I don’t think anybody would blame me if I killed you.” And then the man said: “I am only here to help you. I definitely think you ought to let me take care of your security. Furthermore, I insist that you follow all my advice about what you should do with your money. And I also think my friends should live in your house for a while.” Surely the sensible response would be: “go away, or I’m going to call the police.” However, this seems to be the inevitable message of the pro-war commenters, bloggers and pundits I see around the Net. The denunciation of Islam, Arabs, and anything that smacks of Arabic culture is standard. More than that, there is a rivalry as to how extreme the language of