Skip to main content


Showing posts from May 10, 2020

War and Taxes: Marx plus Pynchon

Marx, in the Grundrisse, makes an interesting remark about war: War was developmentally prior to peace. The way, through war and armies, etc., certain economic relationships, such as wage labor, machinery etc. are developed earlier than in bourgeois society, Even the relationships of productivity and commerce are particularly visible in the army. Still, Marx clung to the bourgeois imagining of war as something that is not itself a system: “War is self evidently to be understood as though it were immediately economically the same as though the nation through a part of its capital into the water.” In other words, Marx ultimately sees war as non-productive – even as he sees that it can be developmentally prior to peace. In his list of war’s innovations, one notices that he does not include credit and taxation. As is well known, Marx did not have a developed sense of credit, which he saw as parasitic on productivity. It is, and it isn’t. A parasitic relationship is not necessar

x men and america

So I saw an X man movie with Adam. X men: the something something something. It is the one where some group finds a “cure” for the mutants. And Dr. Nematode (I know, not his real name. I joke!) leads a mutant revolt against these here States. Meanwhile, the core of the plot is classic: boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy kills girl for her own good. Myth, quoi! Wolverine falls for Rebecca, who conceals two souls within her breast, one of whom is some monster who not only wants to fuck – thus seducing Wolverine – but also doesn’t respect anything. For instance, she psychokinetically destroys a house that, from the look of it, would easily go for 2 million in the hot L.A. real estate market. And incidentally kills kindly Captain Picard, who in this movie is Doctor something or other, the Gandhi of the mutants. Then this Rebecca chick teams up with Captain Nematode and they attack Big Pharma island, costing beaucoup in FX, and then she gets mad, her monster is unleashed,


The patsy in his lonely fabuloso builds a home out of a homecoming, his lifeline out of a lifelong nostalgia. Later, out and about in the top-feeder city holding a crumpled brown sack full of bread crumbs, he finds the usual park bench. They always find him, wingbursts, the convention Of their dull gray and street ragged bodies Juddering heads, automaton legwork, injuries - b-but, but loved, these dead eyed bottom feeders as though their back ally flights foretold the shamanic instant beyond his coil.


In his book, Bad Medicine, David Wootton makes an interesting remark about the symbolism of the stethoscope. It was invented in 1816 by René Laennec out of a problem in gender politics: the norm for female patients of the all male doctor fraternity was to be examined with their clothes on. Thus, the doctor could not lay his head against the chest of the patient and listen to the sound of what was going on inside. Laennec was concerned with phthisis, a nosological category that has now been subsumed as tuberculosis. The stethoscope was a true advance: doctors became much better at diagnosing phthisis. But therein lies the historical burden of Wootton’s book: “Phthisis no longer exists as a disease: we now call it tuberculosis because we think of it as an infectious disease caused by a specific micro-organism. The same sounds in a stethoscope that would once have led to a diagnosis of phthisis now leads to tests to confirm tuberculosis. But there is an important difference between o

the end of virtue

In the eighteenth century, certain ‘total concepts” were believed by the philosophers – for instance, that the republic as a political form depended on virtue as the glue that bound the populace together. As Catherine Puigelier has pointed out, the Enlightenment consensus was that the whole discussion of whether man was born good or bad was falsely constructed: virtue was always and everywhere a product of sociability, of the social. Although – me here, not Puigelier -   it was not just one of many products: the social cannot exist without virtue. The social contract only held, only made sense, if there was an ethos of virtue that enforced contracts – not with violence, but with reasoned agreement.   In this sense, it is what might be called an emergent property. Voltaire in his Philosophical dictionary – and don’t we need a new translation of the whole unabridged thing? And isn’t this a case for the NYRB classics publisher? – mocks the notion of a sovereign good, of a ultimate sta

Notes on Mike Davis's Monster at the Door: the Global Threat of Avian Flu

the reason the doctor knows everything is because he’s been everywhere at the wrong time and has now become anonymous. - Djuna Barnes, Nightwood So I went into this pandemic with my eyes closed. I had no real notion, save from some rare reading, what a pandemic was, what it meant, how it worked.   Since, I’ve looked up things, I keep up with the world-o-meter every day about infections and deaths, I rage against the stupidity in the U.S., and in the E.U., I think about the fact that under fucking Sarkozy France had a more rational stock of medica materia for use in epidemics than it does even now (Sarkozy! I’ve long despised Hollande, but to get nostalgic for Sarkozy you have to be driven mad by circumstances), I’m your regular horsefly caught in a jam jar. But I have only begun to understand the modern ecology of the pandemic by reading Mike Davis’ Monster at the Door: the Global threat of Avian Flu. The first two chapters of the book should clue you in: this was a mass deat