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Showing posts from April 15, 2012

wanker moments: hommage a Eschaton

Recently, the Eschaton blog warmed my heart by publishing alist of the ten top wankers of the past decade – the ten years during whichDuncan Black had run the blog. I took an unhealthy interest in guessing the honorees, partly because I, too, suffered on both the intellectual and personal level during the Bush era. Personally, I plummeted into poverty on the strength of a novel I could not get published, and a series of increasingly insane freelance jobs for newspapers and mags that imposed harsh deadlines on my product and soft constraints on my pay – paychecks would appear an easy six months after they were promised. Meanwhile, I was increasingly plugged in, as all Internetians were, to the daily doings of the American culture. They were delivered to my wondering eyes in realtime. They were, from top to bottom, rotten, cretinous, and homicidal. I took part in the moronic inferno by blogging. Like Eschaton, I have accumulated plus ten years of blogging posts – I’ve preserved in the

a history of rat races

The search for the origin is, to borrow the title of a Gerald Genette book, a   voyage to Cratylie, that is, to the mythical moment in which the powers over things and thoughts first emerged from chaos and commenced their scheming. Of course, we’ve come a long way from Cratylus, baby – or so all the scientists say. Still, what is more fun, and what gives one more a sense of peaking into some secret corner of the public consciousness, than tracking down the origin of great catchphrases? To do this properly is not simply a matter of dredging up some obscure reference from the world’s archives, although I am sure that is how they do it at the OED, and quite right too. But to make the voyage interesting, one has to go beyond the obscured fact. The mystery here concerns something with a total social meaning – with all that implies of the acids of psychosis, the collective ecstasy, the secret runs of dopamine in the individual’s Piranesian brain   that were   encoded in the word choice.

How the new got detached from the future

In “ Accélération du temps, crise du futur, crise de la politique” (2011), Carmen Leccardi spelled out the paradox that infests the supposed age of acceleration in which we, a certain we, live: while logistics and information in the global market now travel at speeds that approach that dream of Capital as outlined by Marx (where circulation time is reduced to zero), the future as a collectively envisioned social time becomes ever less imaginable, except under the sign of fear. In the 19 th and 20 th centuries, of course, the future weighed heavily on the popular consciousness, and influenced every social movement and every political utterance. But the collapse of  any serious alternative to the world market, which has been coeterminous with the ‘accelerated’ rate at which we (the middling we, the symbol pushers, the agents of circulation, the educated, the numbed child) receive and process information, has undermined the credibility of the notion that the future could offer some va

false consciousness - recycled

A post I am recycling from 2007 We all know that false consciousness can be manufactured by the yard, like ribbon. We have merely to pick up a newspaper or see a movie to confirm this belief. In fact, the most popular story about false consciousness, Hans Christian Anderson’s The Emperor’ New Clothes, uses thread as the emblem of false consciousness – for in its essence, false consciousness is that nothing at all for which someone gets paid. And haven’t we seen them sewing the invisible thread? What was Tarp, what was the Iraq war, but the work of the tailors? Who wove justifications through which it was quite easy to see – it was quite easy to see that Iraq, a country that had been crippled by ten years of sanctions, couldn’t even properly attack its breakaway Northern half, much less threaten a power that spends more on the military each year than the rest of the world spends in five years. Just as it was quite easy to see that the middle and working class, hit by a business cy

On the prison industry

In the Utopia of Userers, Chesterton, that curious mixture of Catholic anti-semite reactionary and anti-capitalist critic, launched an all out assault on the “ small-minded cynicism of our plutocracy, its secrecy, its gambling spirit, its contempt of conscience…” But even Chesterton could not have dreamt of the extension of the Utopia to prison itself. Only in the U.S., where we have joined together peanut butter and chocolate, and coca cola and rum, would it occur to anybody to join together the two great tastes of libertarianism and the Gulag. But so it happened! Here’s the story from the very downloadable Justice Policy Institute report, Gaming the System: “A prime example of the influence underscoring the private prison industry is the development of Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). CCA cofounder, Tom Beasley, then-chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, had served on a committee tasked with choosing a new state corrections officer. 28 Beasley‟s resea