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Showing posts from January 18, 2009

A note on our last Marx post

"But the greatest and the deepest of all the historians of the Slavs is without contradiction Count Jan Potocki. He belonged to the generation of Stanislas-Auguste’s epoch, of whom we have told the tragic end. Having survived the fall of the Republic, he tried to console himself in researching the origins of the history of his country. To this end, he made long trips in Asia, Africa, and tried to penetrate into China. He left behind, it is true, only essays, studies and informal notes. We don’t see the general plan, the final ideas. But he was the first of all the historians of modern Europe to recognize the importance of the oral tradition. Niebuhr asked peasants and old women to explain the story of Romulus and Remus on the steps of Rome. Long before him, Potocki, in the huts of the Tartars, meditated the history of the Scythes.” –Adam Miskiewicz, Les Slaves, 124 That we are trying to read Marx not simply over, in a sense, the system he describes, but horizontal to it – horizo

Marx and the devil 2

Wendelin: “The devil is not the worst by far, I can deal better with him than with many people. He honors the elderly, his grandmother stands high in his regard, and that is a fine character trait. When he shakes hands he means it, one can see that he has had much to do with knights; he fills his end of the contract much more promptly than many an earthly dirty dealer. Of course, afterwards, on the delivery date, then he comes on the very minute. On the stroke of twelve, he grabs his soul and goes, with beautiful regularity, with it back to to his house in hell. He’s really a proper businessman, he is.” Pfrim: I am too old, a satanic pact wouldn’t do me any good now, but when I was as young as you – my soul, I didn’t know what to do with my soul. -Nestroy, Hollenangst – “Just as exchange value, in the form of money, takes its place as the general commodity alongside all particular commodities, so does exchange value as money therefore at the same time take its place as a particu

Marx and the devil

“He’d sell his soul for gold, and he’d be right, for he’d be exchanging dung for gold” – Mirabeau on Tallyrand. The great myth under which modernization understood itself in Germany was an old chapbook tale about an obscure professor selling his soul to the devil – an old story indeed. The professor, Faust, was taken up by Goethe and placed at the center of a poem which touched the thoughts of every German intellectual in the 19th century, including, certainly including, Karl Marx. Meanwhile, as we pointed out in our last post on this topic, Michael Taussig found that the introduction of a fully monetized exchange value economy in the rural community in Colombia that he chose to study in the 1960s was interpreted by the myth of selling a soul to the devil. Why this convergence of sense-making narratives? Taussig suggests that we can use Marx’s notion of commodity fetishism to explain how, spontaneously, a “primitive Marxism” springs up among the people. One wonders, however, if th

Another one bites the dust

The zona landed at my place this afternoon. I may have to interrupt Limited Inc for a bit, although I hope not. My landlord wants 450 dollars in back rent which, long story short, I didn’t know I owed. Possible eviction looms – but such,such are the breaks! It will be hard to plug in this laptop into a sapling in a field. However, while I’m still electrified: LI readers should check out the discussion between James Surowiecki and John Quiggin about nationalizing banks, since it gets to the heart of a matter that has been obscured by the thousandfold murk of pundits and University of Chicago economists. Surowiecki starts things off by putting all his cards on the table: “Like Kevin Drum, I think that as the “nationalize now” meme has taken hold in the blogosphere, people are talking about nationalization “awfully casually.” One way this manifests itself is in the argument that the only reason people are skeptical of nationalization is because it’s “un-American,” when, in fact, I

the Zona, Marx and the necessity of universal prostitution

Ah, I’ve been tearful all day – that was a beautiful speech by Obama. Those were beautiful crowds. But where are the ghosts of some half a million Iraqis? And what is the sound at our backs – the scuttle of rats in the alley? The fall of the market? The zona, phase 2? Yes, yesterday the zona quietly settled in the UK. The Royal Bank of Scotland basically declared insolvency. This will (prediction prediction/here’s my malediction) be bigger, in the end, than the Lehman brothers. However, the oligarchy seems to be proceeding, robot-like, as though the financial sector could, somehow, be restored, like Dorothy waking up in Kansas. You were there! And so was my yacht! And my trophy wife! And the 40 room pad in Greenwich, Connecticut! And I never want to leave home again! Of course, the problem is not that the banks aren’t loaning money to homeowners – it is that the homeowners incomes have been frozen or gone down since 2000. You don’t have to use a complicated equation to see what happ

The Era of the Great Fly, 2000-2008

Amie suggested I write something about the inaugural. Which I am watching among tears – for relief for the end of the era of the Great Fly, and actually naïve delight in Obama, or rather, the crowd gathered hopefully to listen to him. "For in that day every man shall cast away his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which your own hands have made unto you [for] a sin." Here’s the playlist for Social Democracy: Higher Ground Jammin The Message You gotta Serve somebody Evolution Revolution Love Walls come tumbling down Rebel Girl Bongo Bongo Sinnerman where you gonna run Tupelo

From the caterpillar factory to the extinction of the glowworm

First things first - on MLK day, who'd you rather read than yours truly on the Dream speech? Okay, perhaps I am n. 45 million on that list, but if you want to, here I am in the statesman on Eric Sundquist's book. Now, onto our show... This is Pasolini, analyzing Italian history: Since I am a writer and I write polemically or at least polemicise with other writers, let me give a poetico-literary definition of the phenomenon which occurred in Italy about ten years ago. This will help to clarify and sum up what I have to say (and perhaps make it more easily accessible). In the early 1960s, owing to the pollution of the atmosphere, and especially in the countryside because of the pollution of our waterways (the blue rivers and limpid springs), glow worms began to vanish. The phenomenon was sudden and devastating. In a couple of years there were no more glow-worms. (They are now a rather distressing relic of our past: an old man who recalls them can’t recognize in the boys of

Biggie and Robert Burns

I’m working on a little review of a Robert Burns biography. And, by one of those coincidences that strolls over to you and puts its muzzle in your palm, looking for the sugar, Biggie’s biopic is out. Notorious. You say, where’s the coincidence? In your pants? I say, Burns is, with two centuries difference, so so recognizable in the rap star persona. So let’s lay this down. Burns is, for one thing, a big cocksman, and proud of it – although my biographer is, as they all are, too apologetic about it to look at it. Burns had perhaps six, seven bastards by various women, which on the one hand is a great curse on the women, and not excusable even back then – contraception was by no means unknown of. On the other hand, lets not pretend that in the cauld cauld age of patriarchy, there was an infinite difference in the treatment the married woman and the single mother could expect, or that the children who'd been routed into this world through the good and proper channel of a Calvi