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Showing posts from December 11, 2011

Hitchens RIP

Hitchens once jokingly explained that terrorism, in American Govspeak, is an incoherent term that means anything from combatant to “swarthy opponent of American foreign policy.” That was in the eighties, when Hitchens had a grasp of the linguistic cunning that makes for the politics of reaction. In the 00s, when Hitchens became famous, that grasp had slipped. It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that Hitchens ruined his prose when he, too, decided that terrorism is defined by “swarthy opponent of American foreign policy,” for in that decision he both rubbished his own ability to understand the nexus of power and definition that makes for propaganda, and he became one of the fruitier of the right’s propagandists, an atheist Bob Novak. Slate, at the moment, is in official mourning for Hitchens, who was a columnist there after he jumped ship from the Nation. This is rather like John Wilkes Booth donning mourning for Abe Lincoln. Slate’s infinitely meretricious reporting-plus

Merit and dreams

(from here ) I looked, last night, for a passage in Cioran where, as he discusses what he sees as the decline of Europe into bourgeois comfort (he is writing in the fifties), he makes a passing remark that we are all equal in our dreams. I couldn’t find the exact words, but as I remember the passage, he is speaking literally: while our waking lives may be structured by numerous and overwhelming inequalities, there is neither wealth, fame, nor competition in dreaming: we dream alone. And in this sense, radical egalitarianism is not a political credo so much as a natural historical fact about human beings. A good third of our lives, our lives when asleep, are equal. Cioran does not go any further with this idea; but it seems to me that it deserves more than to die in that undiscoverable passage, another philosophical “crack” that one forgets. Rather, I think it gives us an angle on the strange career of egalitarianism in our time. I would develop the idea by matchin

water pistol Juntas

When looking at the story of capitalism and the rise of the European powers, it is striking to see forms of organization appear on the periphery before they migrate to the center. For instance, the work discipline of the factory in 19th century England seems to replicate forms of work discipline created for the sugar 'factories' in the West Indies of the 17th century. In 19th century England, the work discipline was imposed on 'free labor', and in Jamaica, it was imposed on slaves. Yet, if we look away from the changes implied by this transformation of the working agent, we see a continuity of form, or at least the production of an organizational form that can be transposed.  And, unlike serf labor in Central Europe, for instance, this slave labor is relatively free of the codes that define its rights and hedge in the transmission of property and title by the owners. A similar movement from the periphery to the center seems to be happening in the counter-revolution th