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Showing posts from February 5, 2012

public opinion - a prehistory

P.S. is a 42-year-old man who has been affected by paranoid schizophrenia since the age of 20. At the onset of his psychosis, he was trying in various ways to compensate for his difficulties in getting in touch with other people. He had no secure ground to interpret the others' intentions. He lacked the structure of the rules of social life and systematically set about searching for a well-grounded and natural style of behavior. For instance, he was busy with an ethological study of the "biological" (i.e., not artificial) foundation of others' behaviors through a double observation of animal and human habits. The former was done through television documentaries, the latter via analyses of human interactions in public parks. An atrophy in his knowledge of the "rules of the game" led him to engage in intellectual investigations and to establish his own "know-how" for social interactions in a reflective way. – Giova

America's guild culture

One of the odder things about class stratification in the U.S. is that, on the one hand, you have an enormous number of people hollering to keep the government out of the economy, bemoaning statist health care and just aching and shaking for that moment when government finally becomes small enough that we are all as free as butterflies - and on the other hand, when one looks at how these people make money, a majority of them, one can reliably hypothesize, rely on Government poking its nose into our business and licencing and regulating. The doctor who, on the one hand, bitches about socialized health care is, on the other hand, apt at the drop of a hat to argue that doctors must be licenced, because, uh, the state, uh, has an interest in the healthcare, uh, of its citizens. Of course, the mind in contradiction to itself is has long been noted as one of the banal wonders of modern politics; but it still provides chuckles for the off line critic, watching the train wreck of the plutoc

Back to the pin factory!

With bows to some earlier posts... “A savage admires a nail and he is right to do so. It is in Paris that the observant man sees how much art has required combination, experiment and caretaking. Thirty hands and thirty tools are necessary for the formation of a pin, and you can have a thousand for a dozen sous.” Sebastian Mercier is writing a decade after Adam Smith made the pin factory emblematic of the efficiencies produced by the division of labor. Smith, in turn, probably took his example from the Encyclopedia. Mercier, however, adds the gawking savage, to seal the deal: the new European economy will have, as an audience (and victim), the bystanding non-European. Who admires the very craft that is being turned against him. I have referenced the pin before, being one of those fascinated by its riddles, its magic power.   How many economists dance upon the head of a pin? You know the answer – all of them. Ho ho. In the 1760s, there was a controversy in Britain about

Juan de Mairena

There is a certain kind of book I love. It doesn’t have a genre label. Some of its authors call their books novels, others fragments, others reflections. Often, the authors are really editors. It extends from the Scratch books of Lichtenberg to the Notices of Ludwig Hohl, and includes Rozanov’s Waste paper books and Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet. A leading theme, here, is the scratching, the hastily scribble gloss, the note one finds in one’s pocket and throws out. Waste paper is paper that has been used and lost its use, and perhaps aggressively wadded up. It is paper on the way to the waste paper basket. That is the social situation of these books – they are caught somewhere between the desk and the garbage. At least, in the imagination. The waste book has a strong relation with the philosophical novel – and certain of the latter, such as Paul Valery’s M. Teste, go over the line. Perhaps the reason is that ideas in themselves – ideas in their natural setting – have as limited a p