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Showing posts from January 11, 2009

The lying image of happiness

”We have here reached the fundamental question, which is no longer related to the point of departure. The general question would be this: Can the existing relations of production and the relations of distribution which correspond to them be revolutionized by a change in the instrument of circulation, in the organization of circulation? Further question: Can such a transformation of circulation be undertaken without touching the existing relations of production and the social relations which rest on them?” – Marx, Grundrisse At the end of the essay on the relationship between the art of the state and happiness, Forster uses a rather strange metaphor. He surveys the “secret workshop” of history, that which is at the center of all the rises and falls of all the world empires – which is human nature. And within human nature, one thing remains the same: reason. Reason is the binding universal, in the end. Which leads him to this paragraph: We want to leave it to speculative philosophy to

Universal history begins on the Moon

“America changed the moon forever…” (152) - Mary Campbell, Wonder and Science At some time in the year 1648, there was a party in a house in Paris owned by M. de Cuigy le fils. The conversation turned to the full moon, which was particularly brilliant that night. Everyone expressed some opinion or joke about the moon – for instance, that it was really the sun, which was peaking at the earth from a hole in the heavens to see what was going on behind its back, so to speak. One man was standing by rather moodily, silent. This man, Cyrano de Bergerac, was finally asked what he thought: “And me,” I told them, wishing to mix my enthusiasm with yours, I believe, without entertaining myself with the sharpended fantasies by which you are tickling time to make it go quicker, that the moon is a world like this one; to which our serves as its moon.” Some of my friends regaled me with a great howl of laughter. “And just like this,” I said, “they may be mocking now, on the Moon, at somebody who is

Spinoza takes a hit

I’m surprised that this sad, sad blow to Spinoza’s reputation hasn’t been spinning around the theory blogs. I’m talking, of course, of Sarkozy’s endorsement of Spinoza. This is from Le Monde’s (excellent) literary blog (written by Pierre Assouline), reporting on Sarkozy’s speech at Nimes: le président veut encourager le tournage des films en Corse, et réhabiliter Spinoza aux dépens de Descartes. Si si, “le” Spinoza, non sans avoir précisé pour nous éclairer sur cette initiative ébouriffante :”l’intelligence humaine est avant tout le produit des émotions, et ce serait une très grave erreur de centrer les enseignements sur les disciplines cérébrales en marginalisant celles qui font appel à l’intelligence des émotions et à l’intelligence du corps“. Il n’y a pas à dire, la France est vraiment le pays de l’exception culturelle. “… the president wants to encourage the making of films in Corsica, and to rehabilitate Spinoza against Descartes. Yes yes yes, ‘the’ Spinoza, not without having pre

The politics and anthropology of happiness

LI promised in a previous post to outline Forster’s little read essay, “The relation of the art of the state and the happiness of mankind”, written in Paris in 1793. As we pointed out, Forster begins on a satiric note: he points to Russia’s justification of its recent conquest of Poland as motivated by concern for the “happiness” of the people, and remarks that all political arrangements seem, now, to base themselves on the happiness of the people. But what is happiness? And is there such a thing as the happiness of the people, or even happiness of mankind? “But in what does the happiness consist which one wants so industriously to serve up to the human race? Common sense binds a concept with the word and I don’t know what general feeling transforms it into the object of the striving of all of those who are of one origin and similar education with us. Habituated from youth onward to regard the circumstance of comfort and the consciousness of pleasant impressions as basic, or with oth

Bernhard - attacked

The lovegermanbooks blog (yes, as in the niches for sexual tastes in Fourier’s utopia, in the world of blogging, every obsession and interest must eventually find its blogger) there was a reference to Maxim Biller’s review of Thomas Bernhard’s posthumously published book, My Prizes. In the U.S., from time to time, fights erupt about snark in reviews. The New Republic and the Atlantic both try to sneak a little gunpowder in their usual reviews of fiction – although in the Atlantic’s case, the hatchet man, B.R. Meyers, is so unbelievably tasteless that he is continually blowing himself up, and leaving his targets unscathed. But Germany is undergoing something weird, lately. Call it the Lady Bitch Ray phenomena: insult, cacophony and obscenity have become a much larger part of the staid German scene. This is the first paragraph of Biller’s review: “The asshole Thomas Bernhard, and I say this, although I don’t like to speak ill of the dead, the asshole Bernhard has almost certainly only

Marx and Forster

“Post history is inhabited by men who believe in “good causes”, in “man”, in “society”, in many other hypostases. But, it is ruled by a mocking (and perhaps transcendental) being for whom all is material, interchangeable, exploitable – a perpetual manipulator who invents forms and throws them away, who quickly tires of common materials and is always looking for untried ones, who excavates the rain forest of the Amazon and drills pack ice to add flavor, an exotic aroma, to the kykeon, the broth served in the Mysteries.” Roberto Calasso, The Ruins of Karsch, 249 In the chapter on History Experiments, Calasso makes a run at the great theoretician of “universal history”, the moment when man overthrows god – the theoretician named Marx. Marx is the most explicit exponent, Calasso thinks, of the modern moment, which consists of the recognition that there are no limits to man’s domination over the world. This is the moment of universal solidarity. And whether it is the capitalist system or

The Reindustrialization Bank of America

Unfortunately, the reporting about Obama’s ‘stimulus” in the Press has concentrated overwhelmingly on the price tag. This is the kind of thing that is catnip to the economists, who love a number and a model the way a kitten loves a ball of yarn. It is also a way of shirking the occasion. No number will bind up the economy. No number will produce out of its pocket the road back from the abyss for the U.S, still the most powerful nation in the world. The abyss is not just getting fewer video games for the kids at Christmas. It involves a worldwide environmental crisis, as well as a nationally limited one – the drought in the West – that is getting bigger every year. It involves a worldwide cultural crisis, as thirty years of dumbing have put us all on the day shift of endless pantysniffing idiocy, strangling the capacity to daydream and replacing it with various forms of porno. It involves the decline and fall of the war system – Hitler’s triumph, the system has been used for sixty years