Showing posts from April, 2024
    I mostly disagree with Chris Cutrone.  He thinks that Marxism can and should only offer a critique, that the working class will always have a political movement, and this movement will always have interests, and demands, and that the function of Marxism is to critique those demands.  I think, for the most part, the working class has not had a political movement, and when it has, it has not had clear interests or demands.  I think it's wrong to simply assume, as Cutrone does, that a working class movement does exist, and will exist.  (I think this is a Foucauldian assumption on Cutrone's part.  Like Foucault, Cutrone simply assumes that resistance will always arise.  I think mostly it does not.  Humans rarely resist.)  I think we desperately need utopianism.  We are woefully insufficiently utopian (or, as I like to call it, atopian), and for most of the last few centuries, there has been no working class movement to speak of.  (Perhaps there was one, briefly, from about the
    Haz is a Maoist the way Andy Warhol was a Maoist.  Andy Warhol put up paintings of Mao and Haz puts up Maoist memes.  It's very postmodern, or postpostmodern - the play of signifiers has become completely detached from any signified.  (It's the logical next step of what Jodi Dean called "Lenin cat memes".)  Haz has a little more commitment to the bit of Maoism, and I respect him for committing to the bit. Walter Benjamin famously said that Marxists politicized aesthetics, whereas fascists aestheticized politics.  You have to give it to him: Haz has very successfully accomplished the aestheticization of politics (as did Zizek, before him).   Of course, Walter Benjamin could have been wrong, and I think he was wrong, ultimately.  To aestheticize politics doesn't automatically make you a fascist.  Or at least, that's not really what separates fascism from Marxism.  Ironically, and paradoxically, that's a very aesthetic way of distinguishing between Marxis

Benevolent Irreverence towards Capitalism

    I suppose one of the differences that might separate me from some members of the left is that, by and large, I don't feel seething hatred for the capitalist class, capitalist institutions, capital, capitalism, or its commodities.  I certainly can understand why people might feel that kind of hatred, of course.  I remember when 9/11 happened.  I was surprised I didn't see more people expressing happiness that the twin towers of the World Trade Center had been destroyed - after all, the twin towers, in the popular imagination, represented, as Daniel C. Dennett put it, "Mammon and Plutocrats and Globalization".  I had, myself, been fairly active in the counter-globalization protests before then, such as the protests in Quebec City against the proposed "Free Trade Area of the Americas".  And I'm still a fan of the hip-hop group, The Coup, whose 2001 album "Party Music" was originally planned to feature an image of two members of The Coup, DJ Pa
    People see Hegel as imposing this all-encompassing, totalizing system on reality, which they want to "break free" from (I'm thinking of Kierkegaard, etc.).  But that's not how I see Hegel at all.  That's almost the opposite of how I see Hegel. I see Hegel as pesky, clever, troublesome... perhaps mischievous? I see Hegel this way especially in comparison with Spinoza (kind of in comparison with Kant, too - but let's stick with Spinoza for now). I see Hegel as doing a kind of running commentary on Spinoza.  Part of this has to do with how I see Spinoza, and how it's the opposite of how many people see him.  Some people see him as an atheist, or even a materialist.  But I see Spinoza as the greatest mystic in the European tradition.  To me, Spinoza (not Hegel) is the great system builder.  To read Spinoza is to see the entire universe as a kind of diamond, a shining, luminous jewel, in which every part reflects every other part, and it all fits together i

Derrida as Mystic

  In my opinion, Jacques Derrida was comparable to Walter Benjamin, Emmanuel Levinas, and others (perhaps Martin Buber? Gershom Scholem?).  That is to say, he was a mystic.  And that's fine.  I have no problem with mystics.  Of course, Derrida managed to finesse this mysticism into a very successful academic career, wearing clean, pressed, unbuttoned shirts and expensive designer suits to match his famously coifed hair, and wound up in films - indeed, films were made about him.  He was a movie star.  So that's one difference between him and Walter Benjamin.  Walter Benjamin was no movie star.  Perhaps, had Walter Benjamin lived a little later, he would have been a movie star. But to me, Derrida's famous statement that "There is nothing outside of the text" is a slight variation on the statement from Be'ur Eser S'firot 3, that "There is nothing outside of God."  Anyone who studies sacred scripture deeply enough, having reached the level in which t
  Debord was the most rigorous, consistent Marxist theorist of the 20th century.  Every word in "Society of the Spectacle" is placed with the utmost care and precision.  I would compare "Society of the Spectacle" to the engine of a racecar, in which every component has been delicately placed in position to maximize efficiency and power.  It is nothing like the sloppy meandering prose of a Benjamin or a Gramsci or even of Debord's brilliant and admirable teacher, Lefebvre - and it is directly opposed to Debord's moronic adversary, Althusser. Debord was working through two difficult questions.  Was Hegel an idealist?  Of course, in a way, we can answer that question briefly and somewhat dismissively, by saying that categories are stipulative - that "words are our servants, not our masters" as Humpty Dumpty says.  That is, we can simply give the glib answer that "It depends on what your definition of idealism is."  We can use the word "
There's no word in English that makes me as angry as "qualia".  It's a bad term, worse than useless - actually deceptive - espescially when people ask how "qualia" are "added" to perceptions.  No, that's not what happens, that's not how it works, and when anyone who even entertains this thought, I have to question whether or not they are a human being who has ever experienced anything.  What I hate most about the word "qualia" is its plurality.  People act as if there were certain "characteristics" of a thing that can only be experienced by a conscious being - as opposed to other "characteristics," which can be recorded by a videocamera, say.  But that's missing the point completely, and getting us way off track.  We have a great mystery to solve, and these idiotic dabblers are getting us bogged down in pointless distractions. There are no qualia.  There is only consciousness, singular.
  I'm not a Husserlian phenomenologist.  I'm not even sure what a Husserlian phenomenologist is.  But fundamentally, what I take to be the great lesson, the great hope of phenomenology is the human capacity to be always astonished.  In other words, it is not up to the world to astonish us; we are not mere passive spectators waiting for this to happen.  It is up to us.  Anything and everything can astonish us, if we look at it carefully enough.  I would even dare to say this is the spiritual hope of phenomenology.  This is no moral doctrine - it is not commanding that we "should" be astonished - or that we should pretend to be astonished, for some imagined overseer.  Nor is it saying that that which astonishes us is necessarily "good". Anyone can walk around with an attitude that says, "I've seen it all.  I was here first.  I'm not impressed.  Nothing surprises me."  Such people may feel that they are part of an elect - the experts, the so