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Showing posts from October 4, 2020

Happiness, 2020

  I’ve been thinking about a long ago abandoned project lately. In 2007, I was suddenly struck with a vision – or a trifecta of visions. The first vision was that happiness, in Western culture, was a total social fact – the name Marcel Mauss gave to concepts that pervade social relations and social representation in a given culture. Happiness, like mana (the primal power spoken of by Polynesian people, which served as the object of Mauss’s study in The Gift ) was located in three conceptual places: as an immediate feeling – I am happy about some x; as a judgement about a whole life or collective institution – for example, in survey questions about whether the respondent is “happy”, which elicits a life judgement – and finally as a social goal against which social systems should be judged – the well-being promised, for instance, by market-oriented economists. This threefold set made me wonder how it was all connected – for these were not simply different definitional aspects of happi


  Blues On a bleak day I lay in the bleak sheets Eight stories above the puddles in the streets Where the rain jumped, and the cars were ill: Everybody in Paris swallowed some kind of pill In the hope that what the doctor said was just because He was a sort of negative Santa Claus. Our anxiety, our numerous internal disasters Would surely be repaired by duly applied plasters. And chemistry – for wasn’t this the age of belief In time released, targeted relief? I peered out the window, I stretched my eyes to see Something that didn’t strike me as old or filthy (sometimes it is like that. A girl’s education In cleaning up extends at times to the whole nation). Another party girl, I thought, goes down the drain -I’d feel oh so much better if it wasn’t for this rain! Karen Chamisso

The Machine Stops

  Michael Kammen’s 1980s book about the Constitution in American culture had one of those great titles, the kind of thing that Bob Dylan might appropriate for a song lyric: The Machine that would go of itself. Kammen took the title from a lecture given in the 1880s by James Russell Lowell: “After our Constitution got fairly into working order it really seemed as if we had invented a machine that would go of itself, and this begot a faith in our luck which even the civil war itself but momentarily disturbed.” Oh these machines! Russell’s phrase gives us that shock of recognition which is something akin to   deja-vu – it is one of those phrases that seem already to have been written or spoken somewhere, to be on the tip of the collective tongue.. A machine that would go of itself is what the classical liberal and the neo-liberal dream of the social is all about – a machine for governance, a market machine, a rational choice machine in the consumer’s head, etc. They are not “turned on

Lord Rochester

“Such sweet, dear, tempting devils women are” - of which your hands were by phantoms fathom’s full Who cursed cunts for coyness but couldn’t dull your blade to live in any way but as the harmful ham without ‘em. What is it in your natural history that makes misogyny the answer to the mystery? As though drownded dead in some punk’s bawdry curse You ended, as they all do, dangling and disgorged Your proud sword all (ha ha,) unforged. “Bad boys bad boys whatcha gonna do?” Peerless peers, your society is hella boring Going to the devil, fucking and snoring. Lord Rochester, highchurch atheist, didn’t you see That Bunyan had you in his slough of despond And God was all the cunt where you were lost and found. - Karen Chamisso Like Comment Share