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Showing posts from May 6, 2012

Benjamin's shock

“The intentional correlate of living experience has not remained the same. In the nineteenth century it as “the adventure”.In our days it appears as Fate. In fate is hidden the concept of the ‘total living experience’ that is completely mortal. War is its unsurpassed prefiguration. (That I was born German, then I must die for it – the trauma of birth contains already the shock that is mortal. This coincidence defines Fate.” “That which is “always the same thing” is not the event, but what is new in it, the shock that pertains to it.” “Empathy comes about through a declic, a kind of gear shift. With it, the interior life erects a pendent to the shock of sense perception. (Empathy is alignment in the intimate sense).” [My own translations] I take these three comments about shock from Benjamin’s Arcades book. Like so many of Benjamin’s sentences and phrases, they carry a systematic hint, although the system into which they would fit was never constructed. To that exten

a little manifesto, maestro, if you please

It is a bright day out. The remodeling of our apartment is almost finished - thank God! And as I gaze about, I am thinking: isn't it time I issue a manifesto? A man must occasionally issue a manifesto. Johnny Cash said that. Or at least he might have. But he was too cool to say it out loud. So  here it is: It is a sure bet that the last thing a socialist government will do, coming into power, is institute socialism. In the neo-liberal era, we have gotten used to socialism meaning a conservative defense of the social welfare system as it was constructed in the heroic post-war era. Partly this is due to the historic experience of the vast failure of actually existing socialism, as it actually rotted, in the Eastern Block and in China. In the end, the only optimistic and efficient economic organization in the Soviet Union was the informal world of thieves, and they naturally took over the corpse once Yeltsin pulled the trigger and put the system out of its misery. In 1980, when social

Singing the body electric

How does animal stimulus and mechanical motion hook up? The exploration of this question formed a good deal of the research program of nineteenth century psychology. The mediating element was electricity,   which operated as a discursive image more than as a physical object up until the neurological advances of the early twentieth century. In a sense, what happened in the early Enlightenment was a kind of coincidence of programs in the sciences. As electricity and the physics of shock, or collision, became clearer, so, too, did at least one element in physiology: there were no animal spirits. The entire two thousand year old structure of humors and animal spirits collapsed in the 18 th century, a Götterdämmerung not unlike the end of paganism – or, perhaps, a codicil to the end of paganism. The wood and river spirits that were exorcised by Christianity were followed by the spirits of the liver, the heart, and the lungs exorcised by physiology. The interior forest was vacated.

the no alternative crowd: more ludicrous than ever!

There is something comic about a politican standing up before God and man and free will and mouthing the phrase “no alternative”. Except in the case of Moses and the ten commandments (and even then the first draft was broken on the way down from the peak of Mount Sinai), no politician in history has ever mouthed anything, ever represented anything, except an alternative. No politician has ever produced the inevitable.   And so it is with the wrecking crew of Austerians in Europe.             The no alternative line goes back to the end of history line in the nineties. In those days, with the wall down (which made Iggy Pop want to sing Louie Louie), oil prices low,and shock therapy turning a totalitarian communist state into a funloving mafia state, specializing in exporting prostitutes and oil, neoliberalism was celebrating its springtime. Its pamphleteer and poet,   Tom Friedman, came up with one of an image struck out of the poetry of the business inspirational racket (which is

collision versus shock

The afterlife of Robert Whytt is a comparatively muted thing. In James Buchan’s recent history of the Edinburgh Enlightenment, for instance, he is mentioned only in passing as the Professor of the Theory of Physic at Edinburgh’s University. Whytt does figure in more   specialized histories – for instance, Kurt Danziger devotes quite a bit of space to him in an article on the “pre-history’ of the notion of stimulated motion in animals. This is because Whytt branched off from the physiology that was dominated by Descartes’ idea of dualism, without adhering to the 18 th century school of materialism. Danziger has corrected the notion, floated in the nineteenth century by T.H. Huxley, that the behavioralist school of psychology owes its rise to reducing Descartes two forms of behavior – one actuated by reason, the other by sheer mechanics – to the latter alone. Whytt, according to Danziger, did not want to make the rational soul responsible for what Descartes had called mechanical m

on the election of Hollande, 1

Nietzsche took a satiric pleasure in quoting one of the Church fathers, Tertullian, whose idea of the cosmos built by the God of Love included box seats in heaven for the saints to look down and savor the screams and tortures of the damned in hell. However, Tertullian had a point: as he might well have replied to Nietzsche, who can resist so holy a temptation? The pale inheritors of the cosmos planned for love are surely the socialists. As a sometimes member of the flock of the left, I, like Tertullian, take delight in the screams of the vanquished when I can. Those screams have shifted venues from the abode of eternal darkness to the comments columns under news stories and opinion pieces. You can tell a pleasure that is corrupted by temptation from one that isn’t by the fact that the former is never pure: yes, you go to hear the screams of the vanquished partisans of the right, and before you know it you are getting angry, scandalized, and not at all in the mood of savoring a

wanker moment 6: superfuckmeovereconomics

Out of my usual 00 motives – disgust with all mankind, disgust with myself, and just a teaspoonful of disgust for the 10 trillion living creatures on the ten billion planets throughout the cosmos – I wrote a parody on my site, Limited Inc (LI) February 19 2006 about profitmaking solutions to global warming. It went like this: "money makin' ideas for the AEI to consider Being broke at the moment, LI has been in search of a surefire source of revenue. And then it occurred to us: what kind of pro-active, pro-business response to global warming would warm the hearts of rightwing moneybags and bring in the checks? Surely the thing to do is controlled volcanic management! We keep our cars, SUVs and coal generated plants going along at full carbon tilt, toss in a few atom bombs into the crater of some isolated volcano every year or so, and get the wonderfully cooling effect of pumping “sufficient amounts of ash into the air.” This package has everything: major manipulatio