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Showing posts from November 20, 2011

the naked and the busy: Rousseau2

In Kleist's essay, On the Marionette Theater, Kleist presents a dialogue between himself and a marionette master concerning theater and the relation of the marionette to the human actor. The master voices the idea that even human actors display their souls not in their voices but in the bodies and their movements. "Just look at that girl who dances Daphne", he went on. "Pursued by Apollo, she turns to look at him. At this moment her soul appears to be in the small of her back. As she bends, she look as if she's going to break, like a naiad after the school of Bernini. Or take that young fellow who dances Paris when he's standing among the three goddesses and offering the apple to Venus. His soul is in fact located (and it's a frightful thing to see) in his elbow." These examples are not neutral - they gather and explode in his next passage: " Misconceptions like this are unavoidable," he said, " now that we've eaten of the tr

In which an Icelandic prole shocks a member of the 1 percent...

John Lancaster’s review of Michael Lewis’s book is as disastrous as, alas, Michael Lewis’s book. Lancaster is very impressed by nominal debt. He is very clueless about wealth inequality. And he is a classic upper class type. His first story is about an Icelandic waitress he meets in Rejkavik. Now, the first thing to notice about this meeting is that Lancaster is in Iceland. He apparently finds that harmless and decent, since he apparently finds his position in the top 1 percent worldwide just a fact of natural history. But this waitress! Why, during the boom, she tells him, she used to go and fly to Milan and shop. Now, how often the waitress flew to Milan and shopped is anybody’s guess. After hearing from the serf, no doubt after being served his meal, Lancaster is all agog. The story is exactly worth what he paid to find out if it is true. Zero. But given a mindset so blind to the system that puts the herring in his belly, Lancaster is all set up for Lewis’s book, which strings

Solving all our problems before lunch (U.S. edition)

Okay, okay. It’s time to solve the deficit problem, in one paragraph. Here goes: restore Clinton’s tax rates, save for capital gains (raise it to 45 percent), and the marginal rate on top earners (those making 500 thousand or more), which should slide between 50 and 70 percent. Shrink defense expenditures in total to 100 billion dollars a year. Stir, wait a decade, bingo. Of course, many would disagree with this course of action – including myself. I think EITC should be raised to 50,000 per year, thus pretty much knocking out the lower 50 percent from any income tax, and I think all corporate loopholes should be closed and the corporate income tax should remain the same. In the meantime, I think the U.S. should transform the post office into a post office bank, with which people could open up tax free savings accounts for retirement, education and health that would take the place of 401ks. And I think the money so generated could be used, for one thing, to buy U.S. T notes. In the e

Rousseau, the solitary: 1

Let’s jot down a highly speculative suggestion concerning the different angle of vision that separates Hume from Rousseau, and – more generally – separates the culture of Britain and its white colonies from the ‘Continent’. The difference between Hume and Rousseau is found, textually, in the way each envisions the present in which they are writing. Hume, as we have seen, envisions that present as an endpoint along a line of intellectual and, in general, cultural progress, from which it is possible to look back and judge the past. Rousseau, on the other hand, does not see the present in terms of historical ‘success’ – and he does not see the past in terms of one unilateral progress. Famously, with Rousseau, the notion of rupture enters history. A historical region – say, the region encompassing ‘primitive man’ – can be described, outlined, and even phenomenologically analyzed – but the total social fact that counts, in that region, is not whether it tends towards the present. The pres