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Showing posts from January 24, 2010

Mephistopheles and the image of the limited good

And the devil sings dut, da dut, dut ta dut dut da dut… In the first act of the second part of Faust, the King opens his court to the complaints of his followers. Complaints, doleances, Goethe’s seen a few. While the second part of Faust is written in the midst of the reactionary years, the years of legitimacy, Goethe is well aware of the weakness of the whole schema of legitimacy, within which the advances of the bourgeoisie were – according to the best laid Burkean plans – to be absorbed into the organic tissue of a society based on tradition, religion, respect. Goethe himself has advanced into the elite of a very small state, and of course his genius – and even his vanity - is large enough to judge how small. There is a thesis, advanced by Arno Mayer, that claims that the nineteenth century was not, as we sometimes like to think, the time of the Great Transformation – but rather saw only the gradual withering of the ancien regime. Although it may appear that Mayer’s thesis is contr

Transmigration of the fool

The Money. The narcissism. The Artificial human. All these themes, and so little time to go through the woods. After a preface, we begin, in Act one of the second part of Faust, in the throne room of the Imperial Palace. The king greets his retainers who have come from far and wide, but notices one is missing: where is the fool? And here a substitution happens which is not simply a routine from stock theater. It is one of those substitutions that will become symbolic for the nineteenth century playbook, one of those gestures in which Mann saw Goethe the wizard. As one secondary character tells another, the old fat fool – Fett-Gewicht – collapsed on the steps, drunk or dead, and was carted away. And on those steps a new fool has appeared – this one dressed richly, and not fat at all – a stave, someone says, to the old fool’s barrel – although this skinny fool is ‘fratzenhaft’ – full of pranks. A skinny fool is a sinister fool. We cycle through the transfigurations from Sancho Panza t

the grimoire of political economics

Damn - in an earlier version of this, I didn't notice that the stuff I wrote didn't copy to the blog. Sorry sorry sorry! The only thing that copied was the translation I made from Marx. Damn. Anyway, this is what the post is supposed to look like. In the section of the Grundrisse that Marx’s editors – I believe entitled, The Method of Political Economics, Marx asks what it means to look at a nation from the political economic viewpoint. It seems to be correct to begin with the real and the concrete, thus, for example, to begin, in economics, with the population, which is the foundation and the subject of the entire social act of production. Yet by a nearer observation this appears to be false. The population is an abstraction if I leave aside the classes of which it consists. These classes are an empty phrase when I don’t know the elements out of which they are made, for instance, wage labor, capital, etc. … For example, capital is nothing without wage labour, without val