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Showing posts from March 14, 2010

the face of necessity: competition

“The true mystificator seeks not to appear to be one, but to be one. On the contrary, Mallarmé is paradoxically conscientious about appearing to be a mystificator in order not to be one. One has already seen this in relation to his obscurity. Imbued with that truth that the highest art is accessible only to the very few, he did as he wanted to by intentionally emphasizing the hermetic side of his genius, sparing the public the pretention to understand him, the error to suppose that they did understand him.” – Thibaudet on Mallerme But the affair here has yet another background. With insight into the nexus collapes, long before the practical collective collapse, all theoretical belief in the permanent necessity of existing conditions. Thus, it is in the absolute interest of the ruling classses to eternalize thoughtless confusion. And why otherwise would the sycophantic pundits (Schwätzer – enthusiasts) be paid, that are able to play no other scientific trumpcard, as that one ought no

Necessity in History II

That's the way it's done up here yeah, the boss, the boys, the fight up here that's the way it's done up here. In 1877, Marx wrote a letter to the editor of the journal, Otechestvennye Zapiski in response to an article about him by Nikolai Mikhailovski. Marx didn’t like Mikhailovski’s praise – which he felt was based on a misunderstanding. Marx himself compressed his work in the chapter on primitive accumulation in Capital to that of delineating an episode in the history of Western European society in which “the capitalist economic order had emerged from the entrails of the feudal economic order.” He did not think that the same process would necessarily occur in the same way in Russia. And he was moved to remark about the whole notion of historical ‘necessity” “Now, what application to Russia could my critique make of this historical sketch? Only this: if Russia tends to become a capitalist nation in the wake of the nations of Western Europe – and during the last few

The end of the story part 1

Continuing from my post last night. I resist the teleological interpretation of Marx – that all of Marx is there in every text, and if a text seems to say something that contradicts all-of-Marx, then we just have to either categorize Marx’s works to shunt it to the side – it was polemical! – or decide that it was an unfortunate collateral gesture. On the other hand, I’m not sure that my idea of Marx as constructing his all-of-Marx-ness in his text really purges the teleological impulse completely. Take the issue of the notebook, or the draft. We have these things. They were preserved. But the facile notion that Marx, too, having these things, goes back over them suffers both from lack of proof and automatic assumptions about research and writing that I have found, both in my personal experience and as an editor of others, to be false. I have found, instead, that one’s vital discoveries tend to fade and change and be renewed – that old intentions get submerged by new ones. Yet charact

on the new society that forms within the old one

In Ma Nuit chez Maud , Jean-Louis, the Catholic engineer, bumps into an old college friend of his, Vidal, who is now a philosophy professor. Jean-Louis confesses that he is still an observing Catholic; but, he says, he has his own ideas about Catholicism. For instance, he recently read Pascal and felt that if Pascal’s rigorism was Christianity, he would rather be an atheist. Vidal, on the other hand, claims that, as a Marxist, Pascal has a peculiar meaning to him. His choice of Marxism, he claims, was decided by something like Pascal’s wager about the existence of God. As Vidal sees it, there are two ways of looking at history. Either it doesn’t make sense or it does. If the first view, A, has an 80 percent sense of being true, and the second a 20 percent chance, it is still rational to bet on the second view – as it fills one’s life with meaning. I doubt that there are many Marxists today who would say, with Vidal, that Marxism is identical to the decision to see a meaning in hist

drowning,not waving

From the perspective of mainstream economics, Marxism is hopelessly out of date. Where are the models? From the perspective of Marxism, mainstream economics is hopelessly naïve. It is still engaged in creating creatures behind its own back which bite them in the ass. A case in point is the causes of the current crash. The NYRB features a review, by Roger Alcaly, of two books, Getting Off Track: How Government Actions and Interventions Caused, Prolonged, and Worsened the Financial Crisis by John B. Taylor and The Fundamental Principles of Financial Regulation by Markus Brunnermeier, Andrew Crockett, Charles Goodhart, Avinash D. Persaud, and Hyun Shin, which is a beautiful instance of the blind reviewing the blind. All participants are acolytes of the Great Moderation principle that the economists have invented a magic machine, the Central Bank, that creates the best of all possible worlds once it is correctly tuned up. This belief rests, of course, on a host of other barbarian supe

Marx and his darling

Marx is an altogether slippery subject for biography; the reason lies with the biographers. On the subject of Marx, libidinal investment is always just below the surface. Do you want a demon? Fritz Raddatz’s supposed “political biography” of Marx, written during the Cold War, is a hit job by a ‘leftist’ who has been blinded – in the midst of the 1970s – by the brilliant truths of Bakunin. Politics, in other words, as an infantile disorder, which made Raddatz a tool for the Springer media types. He went on to pathographies of Heine, etc. Of the biographies I have picked up so far, I’d recommend Jerome Siegel’s for its judiciousness. Wheen has written a popular biography which makes good points as well. So often, as in the case of Raddatz, one feels like one is reading a flea with rabies – the manic biting into poor dead Karl’s hide is an itchy business. Of course, the other, hagiographic tendency was its own curse – censoring letters, providing infinite defense lawyer explanations f

Leap into the void - the critique of Say's law

It is said – I think by John Kenneth Galbraith in his book on money – that Keynes, rejecting Says law, did not know Marx had been there before him, because Keynes found Marx’s writing repellently obscure. Joan Robinson – the Oxford economist [note - Cambridge economist, as Luke gently reminds me in the comments] and Keynesian – wrote: Keynes could never make head or tail of Marx…But starting from Marx would have saved him a lot of trouble.” [Quoted in Claudio Sardoni, Marx and Keynes in Jean Baptise Say: critical assessments of leading economists, vol. 2, 112] Say’s law is usually conveniently abridged as the idea that markets will always clear. Sardoni defines it as “underemployment from insufficient effective demand is impossible.” Sardoni sums up Keynes position as follows: Keynes held that Say’s Law could apply only in an economy with characteristics far removed from those of a capitalist economy. In order for the law and all its corollaries to apply, the analysis must imply