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Showing posts from June 24, 2018

stalactites versus stalagmites at the end of history

There was a fad, in the eighties, for comparing the French Revolution unfavorably to the American Revolution. In that illwind of a decade, the reasoning was reliably coldwar-ish: the French Revolution led straight to the Gulag, whereas the American revolution led to: America! In hindsight, and even then, one could see what was bogus about this judgment. For instance, its in your face racism. Black people simply didn’t count for the Francois Furet kind of historian. For another thing, the genocide necessary to create a white nation on the North American continent didn’t count. And finally, the judgment was really not about the Gulag, but about the great countervailing egalitarianism of the post-war years. It was that egalitarian that the cold war historians were particularly eager to dismantle. Of course, this dismantling was never put so crudely. In fact, a synthesis between in-egalitarianism and egalitarianism was established, under the aegis of neo-liberalism. Here, the des

Homo Economicus, perspectivism, and Blake

  I have two theses about modernity and economics. Here they are.   The first is that there is a multiplicity of matrixes of exchange even within modernity – and that the seeming hegemony of the money matrix, to the extent that it even defines the economic as opposed to the non-economic, is a phenomena that has certainly penetrated other matrixes – such as the complex gift and barter relationships of family, friendship and alliance – without fundamentally ‘commoditizing’ them. In one sense, my whole thesis is that there is a dialectic structure that governs the degree to which the hegemony of money, as reflected in the character of homo economicus, can actually dispense with other matrixes, since its survival is threatened by its monopoly of all spaces of exchange.  The other thesis is that rationality, as the economists define it, is linked to a realism that denies perspectives as anything other than representatives of ‘parts of reality’. Myself, I am a perspectivist of the ‘hard

materialism and superstition

The positivist line in the history of the sciences can always be distinguished by one general assumption, which is that the present state of the sciences represents some kind of natural division of labor. In other words, the sciences as now constituted really do cut at the joints, so that we have clearcut, naturally founded divisions that are entailed by the subjects that the sciences study: astronomy is the result of studying the stars, economics is the result of studying exchange, psychology is the result of studying the mind, etc. Given this viewpoint, there is a certain teleology that organizes the whole narrative: astrology is the predecessor of astronomy, alchemy the predecessor of chemistry, etc. Against this idea, the non-positivist looks at the sciences as defined by their social environment. Instead of looking at astrology as the study of the stars, it looks at astrology as a compound of the study of the stars, the study of the temperaments, and the study of governanc

the extempore monument

“It sounds a peculiarly Romantic theme—a man's genius goes into notes and extempores and sketches towards some classical monument, which in the end turns out to be superfluous.” – Eric Rhodes This is from a review of a rather obscure work by Humphrey Jennings, a British filmmaker, one of the co-founders of Mass Observation, and poet: Pandaemonium: 1660-1886 The coming of the Machine as seen by contemporary observers. It was written, as it were, in the thirties, at the same time that Benjamin was collecting his notes for the Passages work. Although Jennings didn’t, I think, know Benjamin, they were both moved by a strong Marxist impulse to understand the formation of class structure under capitalism by creating a vast citational structure – bringing, as it were, the production of the imagination, its collective factory of images, connections, and types, to the surface. I think Rhodes is right that this is a very romantic theme: in fact, one could think of it as a conjunction