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Showing posts from January 27, 2008

the year of cooling the mark out

And Burn my shadow away… Erving Goffman wrote an often referenced paper in 1952 entitled On Cooling the Mark Out . To understand this election year, LI advises our readers to read it. The paper begins by describing the confidence game, which involves roping a mark, getting him to invest, financially, in some scheme or game, and clearing him out. At this point, the confidence gang has the option of simply leaving the mark behind. But… “Sometimes, however, a mark is not quite prepared to accept his loss as a gain in experience and to say and do nothing about his venture. He may feel moved to complain to the police or to chase after the operators. In the terminology of the trade, the mark may squawk, beef, or come through. From the operators' point of view, this kind of behavior is bad for business. It gives the members of the mob a bad reputation with such police as have not. yet been fixed and with marks who have not yet been taken. In order to avoid this adverse publicity, an addit


Ernst Kris was a Viennese art collector, historian, and psychoanalyst who taught Freud to the great Ernst Gombrich. When he died in 1957, he left behind a large reputation. Even in the seventies, when his papers came out, a review came out in the New Republic. One of his papers, from 1956, left a phrase that has been lifted, since, by many - especially Jungian analysts: the personal myth. “Kris found that certain patients when routinely probed about their pasts were able to respond with detailed, fluent, and highly consistent autobiographies embracing all their past history. Now this is somewhat unusual because most people do not usually have ready access to a well worked out autobiography in which themes of different lifetime periods are highly consistent with one another and smoothly extend across the lifespan. During the process of analysis, Kris determined that these personal myth autobiographies were in fact being employed as part of the process of repression to keep from conscio

Fun for the whole family

Ah, things LI loves! There’s nothing like the smell of the laissez faire lollipalooza collapsing in the morning! Here’s an advertisement for a service that is roiling the business blogs . Here’s an interview with some people who are walking away. Of course, the interview, from 60 minutes, is all this is so immoral. Not a story they would ever run about a company that fired a mass of workers for no other reason than that the company wasn’t making a profit. Or a big enough profit. That, of course, is good clean fun! All the style sections of papers and mags have had so much fun for the past decade with how we can now all act like millionaires that people are starting to act like millionaires – is that cool or what? Act like a bank and ‘write down’ your debt. Write it down on a piece of paper, scotch tape the key to the house you can no longer afford, and send it to the bank that holds the mortgage with best wishes on selling the sucker. Last night, CBS' "60 Minutes" too

the aristocrats, the plutocrats, and other rats

From the perspective of the nineteenth century worker, there is something mocking, something a little satanic about freedom, as it was presented in the establishment discourse. Freedom, of course, comes with contracts – but what contracts! On the one side, the employer was in the position of seemingly having no limit to the things he could require of the laborer. On the other side, the laborer was blamed for not adhering to every tittle and jot of the employer’s dictate. From the perspective of the intellectual, society was making a Faustian pact with technology and industry. From the perspective of the worker, it wasn’t Faustian at all, but reeked of sulfur in the old, old way: the devil required infinite pain in this life, on penalty of losing life altogether without him. In the Position of the Working Class, Engels indicts the order of life required of the laborer in the factory by giving examples of the rules he or she had to follow, under threat of fine or dismissal: “What a time

Take your hypnopaedia like a good robot

A post about Utopia at Culturemonkey, that does a nice rundown of some late nineteenth century utopias and the thread prompted by the post has made me think a bit about utopias. Obviously, the intersection between my project - tracking the triumph of happiness – and utopia is inevitable, but I have not mapped that out by any means. I’ve been thinking about this all the more as I have been looking at Brave New World, lately. In fact, the review I just did of Comfortably Numb, a book that does a nice job of muckraking in the druggy ventricles of the Prozac Nation, begins with a Brave New World quote about soma. Flipping through Brave New World again, it is funny how certain things startle the innocent, 2008 reader. For instance, this marvelous prediction of our computer game culture: “The Director and his students stood for a short time watching a game of Centrifugal Bumble-puppy. Twenty children were grouped in a circle round a chrome steel tower. A ball thrown up so as to land on the

notes from the ice age

In the Postulates of the Political Economy, William Bagehot writes: 'In the Athenian laws,' says Demosthenes, 'are many well-devised securities for the protection of the creditor; for commerce proceeds not from the borrowers, but from the lenders, without whom no vessel, no navigator, no traveller could depart from port.' Even in these days we could hardly put the value of discounts and trade loans higher. But though the loan fund begins so early in civilisation, and is prized so soon, it grows very slowly; the full development, modern banking such as we are familiar with in England, stops where the English language ceases to be spoken. The peculiarity of that system is that it utilises all the petty cash of private persons down nearly to the end of the middle class. This is lodged with bankers on running account, and though incessantly changing in distribution, the quantity is nearly fixed on the whole, for most of what one person pays out others almost directly pay in


In Engel’s introduction to his The Situation of Labor in England, he gives a brief history of the displacement of the old, ‘detached’ rural farming and artisan system brought about by the new system of industrial production: “The felt comfortable in their quiet plant life, and would never, save for the Industrial revolution, have been taken out of this clearly very romantic-cosy, but yet, for humans, unworthy existence. They were not humans, but simply working machines in the service of the few aristocrats, which up until now have lead history. The Industrial Revolution has thus only carried through the consequence of this when it made the laborers completely into a mere machines and took away the last remnant of independent activity from under their hands; but in doing so drove them to thinking and to the claims of a human situation. What politics effected in France, in England was effected by industry and the movement of bourgeois society overall; it pulled the last classes to be mi