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Showing posts from August 5, 2007

feeding a meme

LI is amazed that this freakonomics blog post hasn’t set the blogspore on fire: “The Science of Insulting Women” Melissa Lafsky has actually had to the stomach to watch a VH1 show called the Pick Up Artist, which apparently was taken from a book the secrets of picking up women. It is quite the mystery, but there are guys out there willing to unlock it, and aren’t we all blessed by their pointy headed presence. Anyway, one pick up artist on the show advocates something called “negging” – please, strangle this word in its cradle – which is “a move that involves interjecting an insult during an initial conversation with a woman.” Lafsky relates this to a recent study of men insulting women by psychologists Steve Stewart-Williams and William F. McKibbin, published in the July Journal of Personality and Individual Differences. “Their first set of data consisted of a survey of 245 men with a mean age of 25.8, all of whom had been in heterosexual relationships for a mean length of 43.1 mont

the feeling tone of the interzone

LI has seen, from the comments so far about our emotions project, that a certain part of that project is obscure. It isn’t the purpose of our project to promote negative feelings. It is, rather, to promote the idea that the positive/negative classification of feelings is wrongheaded. This part of the story we are telling is pretty simple, actually. Classification in science is not simply a random ordering. Given a well formed classification system, finding the location for a species or a thing in the classification system should tell you something about it. What the principle is can be disputed, of course. And folk classifications do make some sense. It is, for instance, true that the majority of complex organisms swimming in the ocean are fish – or may have been at one time, before nurdles, overfishing and fertilizers. But it is a misnomer to think that whales and dolphins are therefore fish. To decide that happiness and mildness are positive and sadness and anger are negative is a s

the jitters

In his book, Capitalism, Social Privilege and Managerial Ideologies, Ernesto Gantman cites a story told by the pioneering organizational psychologist, Elton Mayo, who is associated with the famous Hawthorne experiments in which workers were encouraged to form self organizing units in a Western Electric factory – the seed of the teamwork idea that has crept like kudzu over the work environment. Mayo was very concerned with anomie, and puzzled over the very existence of such repulsive things as Leftists and unions. In one of his books, he tells about an experience he had with some union members who opposed the adult educational initiative of the Workers Educational Association in Australia: “The greater opposition always came from a particular group of individuals, affiliated to a Leftist party, and Mayo affirmed that he came to know them well enough to be able to outline their psychological profile. According to him, they lacked friends, except at the party level; they seemed unable to

Memo from the minister

Hey, I haven't begged for contributions to LI in a while. I sorta forgot. Here's a begging post - if you have some spare bread and you feel particularly charitable, check the paypal thing you'll find on this page. August is the cruelest month for yours truly - apathy spreads among the academics, nobody wants editing, and the reviewing work dwindles down. So now, if ever, is a good time to fork over the ready.

emotional custom

In Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation, one of the key early chapter is entitled Habitation and Improvement. The chapter title is taken from a letter about the enclosures of common land in England. Polanyi takes this as an archetype of economic transformation: the enclosing of the commons by the Lords and, later, by the bourgeoisie in the Tudor period meant destroying old forms and destroying, literally, old houses, the huts of the tenantry. Polanyi grants that, in the end, the wool industry did develop England. Looked at purely in terms of economic growth, this was a triumph. But, as Polanyi points out, looked at from the viewpoint of the uprooted peasants, it was a disaster. However, the state, or the Crown, mitigated that disaster by slowing the process. But the state could not play a similar role in the Industrial revolution. It could only play an opposite role, tearing down old laws to allow laissez faire free reign. Why? Polanyi claims that the machinery needed to produce com

Notes on the worldfuck

And now for ... some of the larger features of my ongoing essay. LI took the paragraphs below from a post we did in March. It is one of my good posts – we mean it, man. (and there’s no future … in England’s… dreaming). There is a pleasing and systematic dovetailing of notions , here, as those who read LI with the religious fervor of the early martyrs of the Church will surely notice: to describe the development of that total social phenomenon, the triumph of happiness as a norm, is to trace one songline in a map that shows how the total system – the industrial system, the epiphenomenal ideologies, and the war culture – came together in one gigantic worldfuck. Let others worry about world lines and world view – us sentries on the borderline between the present and the Last Things are permanently worried about the worldfuck. So here is what I wrote in March: Left and right did not define the twentieth century. The century was defined, in our view, by two things: first, the treadmill of

LCC is back

Le Colonel Chabert is back from the dead - a in-joke for Balzacians that she will, I think, enjoy. I'm glad to see her back, although she was immediately summoned to battle on her first post, with the usual vaudevillian thread. I'm hoping she will continue to do some of her slooowly sloowly posts, as well as the usual flash of the dagger things. I am really hoping one day she does a post about Victoria de los Angeles, because I just interviewed a man who was de los Angeles' great friend, who wrote a portrait of her for the New Yorker - and I, a true putz when it comes to opera, god damn it, had never heard of her before. My knowledge goes about as far as Kiri ti Kanawa and then stops. Disgraceful, I know. Not that I let on! The man I interviewed - James McCourt - has written a cult opera novel that was re-issued by the NYRB press, Mawrdew Czgowchwz, with a preface by Wayne Koestelbaum. Now Voyagers, coming out in October, is the Ulysses of camp Manhattan.

eine kleine pedantry

A little note to myself about the emotions. Remember, o readers of mine, that I would like comments, if you have any, about the 'negative' and 'positive' emotions. In the early modern period, there were three points of view that determined the discourse of the passions. Firstly, there was the medical view, based on a system of four internal humors. Second, there was the characterological view, which projected a gallery of different human types: the miser, the jealous man, the hypocrite, the clown, etc. A disposition and a role, from this point of view, were tightly bound. And thirdly, there was the religious view, which impressed upon the emotions a certain moral order. As the social foundations for this three fold view changed - as a new system of production and a state assisted free market arose - the discursive modes changed: for instance, the Galenic physicist gave way to the physiologist, just as – as a creator of character types – astrology gave way to physiognomy

the fall of the zipless war - a heartfelt lament

In Revelations, the Lord says to the Laodecian church: "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth.” After reading Michael Ignatieff’s apologia for his pro-war beliefs in the NYT Magazine this Sunday, LI'd recommend that the demiurge try projectile vomiting with the liberal hawks. The essay is full of the kind of witless, quoteladen prose by which Ignatieff rose under the wing of his mentor, Isaiah Berlin, from one edition of Bartlett’s quotations to the other. Now, Berlin’s moderation in all things often led to essays that said all things, or quoted all the people who said all things, before drifting to a crashingly inane point – but there was a glint and edge in his best essays, for instance about the Romantic tradition in Russia. Ignatieff is a different story. His learning is mostly balderdash, and his reputation has been garnered in that