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Showing posts from August 3, 2008

Five theses on the state of the art in inequality

1. Inequality isn’t the result of contingent trajectories driven by an indifferent marketplace. Like everything else, inequality is a moneymaking proposition. 2. There’s a polite fiction, maintained across the political spectrum, that all of us are concerned about inequality and conservatives and liberals both want to lessen it. This is, of course, the ripest bullshit. 3. The rich will always use part of their wealth to maintain their socio-economic position. Strategies for doing this are various. For instance, there is the creation of various barriers to entry to block social mobility (which operate in many dimensions – for instance, denying dental care to the children of the poor and the lower middle class is an excellent way to mark them, physically, with a burden that will be hard to lift as they try to advance in life). For surprisingly cheap sums, the wealthy can buy a contingent of scholars whose careers are dedicated to defending the current position of the wealthy – and this

the october surprise in august

The october surprise came early this year. Did you notice it? Well, it began when it became apparent that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac might go belly up. In a sense, we can mark that as the end of the era of Cheney. It was at that moment that the money men, via the Treasury secretary, pulled the plug on the vanity next-war-in-the-making: Iran. LI tries to remove himself from the painful spectacle of election year politics because, well, everything about it hurts. This year, in particular, we’ve watched the Dems watch the price of oil skyrocket. We’ve watched the press speculate endlessly about the cause of this, in one section of the paper, and report, in another section of the paper, about this or that statement or action implying that Israel or the U.S. is about to attack Iran. We’ve watched the crime in action, and we've watch the feebs that represent the opposition sit on their hands and seal their eyes. Did the Dems make a peep? Did they use this as a case study of the virulen

Gundling, saint and martyr of all tenure track positions

On her blog, IT has often complained about the how academic departments are sliced, diced, roasted and toasted until all inspiration and genius are squeezed out of them and a tepid mediocrity, suitable for children and all future consumers, can be safely served up in Intro class dollops. On the way back from Chicago, we were reading The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, and we came upon the story of Jacob Paul von Gundling. Gundling should surely be the patron saint of all oppressed assistant professors, lecturers and grad students, as he died for y'all's sins. So here is his story. Gundling had worked himself up to a pretty sweet position as the official historiographer for Frederick I, a man who loved nothing more than French ceremony. Alas, when Frederick died, he was succeeded by his son, the surely half mad Frederick William I, Frederick the Great’s Pa, who hated culture and all its accoutrements. Gundling scrambled, being in debt there in Berlin, and Frederick Willia

Es sind nicht alle frei, die ihrer Ketten spotten.- Lessing

Mirror in the bathroom Lichtenberg again. From the history of culture jamming, here is an amusing sidenote. At midnight on January 6, 1777, Lichtenberg, with the help of his posse, consisting of a few amused officials and a bookstore owner named Dietrich, who later wrote an account of it, plastered Gottingen with posters that were supposedly written by a showman/magician, Philadelphus Philadelphia. Philadelphia had been raising money by subscription for his act – and claimed that he would unveil marvels if he could get 100 people to pitch in a Louis D’or a-piece. (Amazingly, wikipedia actually has a translation into English of Lichtenberg’s “avertissement ” – I don’t have to translate it!) You will notice that this is the kind of action which forms the basis of “ The Trolls among us” , an article in last week’s Sunday NYT magazine which article shows zero knowledge of popular acts of “wild justice” – which range from practical jokes to charivaris to pograms – which have existed

Solzhenitsyn

LI bought the NYT in Ohare yesterday, and the first thing we thought about Solzhenitsyn’s death is – no headline? Truly, we survivors of the Cold War are slowly being forgotten. Of course, I figured the obituary would be cast in the usual triumphal anti-communist speak. For liberals, Solzhenitsyn posed problems that weren’t apparent at the time the Gulag Archipelago came out. Liberals expect that the exposers of systems, the revealers of mass murder, will be liberals. For a liberal like myself, the Medvedev brothers were the perfect dissidents. Solzhenitsyn, on the other hand, was obviously a reactionary of a certain type – as Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a socialist legislator in France, impoliticly pointed out . But no one is made to be a hero for all occasions. Solzhenitsyn, supporter of the U.S. in the Vietnam war, supporter of Pinochet and nuclear missiles, was politically a disaster. But this doesn’t discredit what he did. That the Soviet government of the Brezhnev era felt that their r

the return!

I’m back (said he, having dealt with a private matter in a dark corner). LI’s first encounter with Chicago was a hit and miss affair, punctuated by mucho traffic, communications breakdowns between all the bossier members of my family, a fiesta of pink satin dresses, tan shoulders, blondness, tuxedos and priests at the wedding of my nephew, and my famous Puck dance at the reception – which consists of an attempt to fly to the bodacious rhythm of “Magic Stick” . The highlights of the trip were: the astonishing Field Museum, which puts the American Museum of Natural History to shame – my two astonishing nephews, with whom I renewed acquaintance – my afternoon with my friend Janet, a perfect rendez vous, ending, as all such things do, in wine and seafood – and the Indiana Dunes, where my bros, on my insistence, shot a photo of me climbing up one of the dunes on my belly, because I thought it would look like a classic New Yorker cartoon and make LI’s readers laugh. See how I think of y’all