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Showing posts from April 3, 2011

on translating the preface to Daybreak

All of the English translations of the preface to Daybreak begin with a simple decision that concerns the first sentence, “In diesem Buche findet man einen "Unterirdischen" an der Arbeit, einen Bohrenden, Grabenden, Untergrabenden.” This has been translated by Hollingdale as: In this book you will discover a 'subterranean man' at work, one who tunnels and mines and undermines.” The simple decision here is to add “man” to Unterirdischen. This is a standard practice in translating from German to English, as the former language nominalizes certain adjectives that the latter language wants to return to the modifier/modified form. And yet here one feels that something has been slightly lost. For in the course of this paragraph, it is not at all clear that the Unterirdische starts out as a man, although he, or it, is definitely subterranean. It is impossible, really, not to show one’s hand in translating this sentence, if you translate Unterirdischen as the Subterranean, yo

The Chiders and the Chidden

The Western world embarked on an experiment about thirty years ago, during the era of Reagan and Thatcher. After eighty years of a movement to mitigate the excesses of nineteenth century capitalism by putting in place a Guarantor state – which Karl Polanyi called the second movement in the history of capitalism, the first one being the installation of an industrial system linked to a market driven economy – the third movement began. The third movement consisted, frankly, of a politics that, while keeping in place the Guarantor system, deregulated industries – notably, the financial services industry – and lowered taxes for the wealthy in an effort to, as it were synthesize the Gilded Age with the Great Society. Although privatisation and the crushing of labor movements were the surface phenomena of this third movement, it did not simply reprise the nineteenth century. Far from it. For one thing, the social movements of the sixties were transfigured, not erased, by churning ever more pe

the killers and the non-killers: the animal underground

“Let’s remember the implicit code: in the abattoir, everybody does not kill, and this brings it about that there are a set of categorial disjunctions and tacit spatial ones. This code distinguishes the first two groups, the “killers” and the “non-killers” (the administrative personnel and the cleaners), and, at the heart of the group of killers, three sub-groups: the “true killers”, the “occasional killers”, and the “non-killers”. This is divided into different norms or implicit rules: the killers and the non-killers have each their own space; they enter the building by different doors; they never mix in the course of morning breaks; there can be mixed spaces, but the dirty section is forbidden to non-killers: the non-killers are not supposed to look at the slaughter; the killers are not supposed to penetrate into the working areaof the non-killers, etc.” - From Catherine Remy, When the Implicit Norm is the motor of Normal Activity: deviance and social reactions in an abattoir Catheri

where I am now

I had a discouraging day yesterday, surveying the supposedly coordinate pieces of The Tears of Homo Economicus and asking myself, where’s the coordination? Jesus. My original idea was simply to carve a small book out of my Human Limit project, but over the last four months I’ve made certain small and major changes in the potential book, all of which are driven by my flinching the stylistic norms native to the humanities, in which thesis, argument and example unroll with the monological inflexibility of an alarm clock going off. I am not that kind of writer. The demon of the lateral is always at my ear. In the preface to his dissertation, The Origin of German Tragic Drama, Benjamin compared the nineteenth century compulsion to write within the form of a system to the original energies of the tractate, which, developing at the same time as the mosaic in the West, shared with the mosaic and the stained glass window the same principle of representation: a number of pieces – which congeale

Deviance and the Underground

The discussion of deviance, in the sociology of the Cold War period up to the eighties, was burdened by a vice squad rhetoric and tone, as if the sociologists in question were busy raiding an opium den and kicking the sleepers. Thus, the categories of the academics and the voice-overs in those admonitory films shown in school classrooms to warn young white people against the temptation of various and sundry lurking dangers of the real world, from accepting rides with strangers to sex and drugs, seem retrospectively built out of the same cultural assumptions, under the bulking presence of the same missile system. Deviance as a sociological concept came out of the 19th century discussion of decadence. Durkheim proposed deviance as a contrast to norms; later, in the 1950s, it was usefully associated with linguistic rituals – both in the way Becker saw how the labeling process works to distinguish the deviant from the ‘non-deviants’ outside of, although not uninfluenced by, the instit