And by a prudent flight and cunning save A life which valour could not, from the grave. A better buckler I can soon regain, But who can get another life again? Archilochus

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Usurping Populism

Rules for Spotting the "Globalist Approved" Populist Leader:

Rule #1: If someone isn't openly socially conservative, then they aren't really conservative.

Rule #2: If a person does nothing to truly advance conservative or right-wing politics there's no reason to trust them.

(FJ Rule #2a: If a person isn't proposing steps to disrupt and replace the economic status quo by rolling back economic globalism, he's likely a NEO-conservative globalist.)

Rule #3: If it looks like someone isn't taking any real risks when speaking out, their motives should be questioned.
They stole the Radical Paris Spring of '68. You can bet they'll usurp today's populism as well. As Jacques Lacan told the '68 radicals, "Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss."
The speech police – they criticize what I said
The speech police – they stuck a knee in my head
The speech police – they're coming to correct me – oh no!

You know that talk is cheap
But in truth there's a price
And though it's called free speech
I don't think they'll provide – the right the right

'Cause they're way too PC for losers like me
Every single right they'll try to re-explain
And then assign my blame

The speech police – they redefine what I meant
(Redefine what I meant)
The speech police – as something mean and violent
(Something mean and violent)
The speech police – they're coming to correct me – oh no!

Well, I'm scandalized
For my Christian beliefs
And then they call for peace
Blame their violence on me
Yeah, right – denied!

'Cause they hate to believe the Book that I read
Every single line they'll try to re-explain
And vilify my name

I try to speak, they lie in wait, then moan at me and groan
It doesn't pay to take the bait and so I just leave 'em alone
In spite of me, they try to find a quote and read it wrong
They curse the truth we share and rush in fury on the Lord
Ha ha ha -- ha ha ha -- ha ha ha

Yes, Isaiah agrees – just look and you'll see
In Isaiah 5 – verse 5:20 is plain
So let it guide my way

The speech police – they live to silence the rest
(Live to silence the rest)
The speech police – they want the freedom oppressed
(Want the freedom oppressed)
The speech police – they're coming to correct me
The speech police (police, police)
The speech police (police, police)
The speech police (police, police)
The speech police (police, police)
The speech police (police, police)
The speech police (police, police)

Sweeping Out Some Cobwebs...

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Cinderella Story

Progressives who are inclined to lash out at the monarchy and have fired their vitriol at the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex may be missing the point.

Leftist critics were right about Britain’s recent royal wedding, but for the wrong reason. They conceded how Meghan Markle is a sympathetic figure - a feminist and a mixed-race woman - but they opposed the form of monarchy that was celebrated (if we ignore a few complaints about taxpayers’ money being spent).

What these critics failed to perceive is the emancipatory dimension of this form itself, of the big public ritual which socially links a community. To explain this point, we should go back to Novalis, the key figure of German Romanticism, who is usually perceived as a representative of the conservative turn of Romanticism, but his position is much more paradoxical.

Monarchy is the highest form of republic, “no king can exist without a republic and no republic without a king”.

Or, to quote Nathan Ross’s resume: “the true measure of a Republic consists of the lived relation of the citizens to the idea of the whole in which they live. The unity that a law creates is merely coercive. … The unifying factor must be a sensual one, a comprehensive human embodiment of the morals that make a common identity possible. For Novalis, the best such mediating factor for the idea of the republic is a monarch. … While the institution might satisfy our intellect, it leaves our imagination cold. A living, breathing human being … provides us with a symbol that we can more intuitively embrace as standing in relation to our own existence. … The concepts of the Republic and monarch are not only reconcilable, but presuppose one another.”

Guessing Game

Novalis’ point is not just some banality such as how social identification should not be merely intellectual (the point also made by Sigmund Freud in his Mass Psychology and Ego Analysis).

Instead, the core of his argument concerns the “performative” dimension of political representation: in an authentic act of representation, people do not simply assert through a representative what they want, they only become aware of what they want through the act of representation.

So, Novalis argues that the role of the king should not be to give people what they think they want, but to elevate and give measure to their desires: “the political, or the force that binds people together, should be a force that gives measure to desires rather than merely appealing to desires.”

There is an important insight given here: politics is not just about pursuing one’s interest. At a more basic level, it is about offering a vision of communal identity which defines the frame of our interests. As for the obvious reproach that such massive rituals were practiced by Hitler (not to mention Stalin), one should never forget that, in organizing the big Nazi performances, Hitler copied (and changed, of course) Social-Democratic and Communist public events. So, instead of rejecting this idea as proto-Fascist, one should rather look for its Leftist antecedents and associations.

And one doesn’t have to look far. Just recall the staged performance of "Storming the Winter Palace" in Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg), on the third anniversary of the October Revolution, on 7 November 1920. Tens of thousands of workers, soldiers, students and artists worked round the clock, living on kasha (the tasteless wheat porridge), tea and frozen apples, and preparing for the performance at the very place where the event "really took place" three years earlier; their work was coordinated by army officers, as well as by the avant-garde artists, musicians and directors, from Malevich to Meyerhold.

Although this was acting and not "reality," the soldiers and sailors were playing themselves - many of them not only actually participated in the event of 1917, but were also simultaneously involved in the real battles of the Civil War that were raging in the near vicinity of Petrograd, a city under siege and suffering from severe shortages of food.

A contemporary commented on the performance: "The future historian will record how, throughout one of the bloodiest and most brutal revolutions, all of Russia was acting"; and the formalist theoretician Viktor Shklovski noted that "some kind of elemental process is taking place where the living fabric of life is being transformed into the theatrical."

This was not a performance of actors for the public, but a performance in which the public itself was the actor.

We should therefore shamelessly assert intense immersion into the social body, a shared ritualistic performance that would put all good old liberals into shock and awe by its “totalitarian” intensity – something Wagner was aiming at in his great ritualistic scenes at the end of Acts I and III of Parsifal.

Like Parsifal, the great concerts of the German hard-rock band Rammstein (say, the one in the arena of Nimes on July 23, 2005) should also be called, as Wagner called his Parsifal, Bühnenweihfestspiel (“sacred festival performance”) which is the vehicle for the collectivity’s affirmation of itself.

All liberal-individualist prejudices should fall here – yes, each individual should be fully immersed into a crowd, joyfully abandoning their individual critical mind. Meanwhile, passion should obliterate reasoning.

Thus, to conclude, and circle back to the marriage of Meghan and Harry: criticize it as much as you want, but don’t forget to look for a radical emancipatory version of what this spectacle achieved.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Britain’s royal wedding had an emancipatory subtext"

Philosophy Gets a Bad Rap

Friday, May 18, 2018


Picasso's "La Celestine" (1904)

from Wikipedia:
While chasing his falcon through the fields, a rich young bachelor named Calisto enters a garden where he meets Melibea, the daughter of the house, and is immediately taken with her. Unable to see her again privately, he broods until his servant Sempronio suggests using the old procuress Celestina. She is the owner of a brothel and in charge of her two young employees, Elicia and Areúsa.

When Calisto agrees, Sempronio plots with Celestina to make as much money out of his master as they can. She rewards him with Elicia. Another servant of Calisto's, Pármeno, mistrusts Celestina because he used to work for her when he was a child. Pármeno warns his master not to use her. However Celestina convinces Pármeno to join her and Sempronio in taking advantage of Calisto. His reward is Areúsa.

As a seller of feminine knick-knacks and quack medicines, Celestina is permitted entrance into the home of Alisa and Melibea by pretending to sell thread. Upon being left alone with Melibea, Celestina tells her of a man in pain who could be cured by the touch of her girdle. When she mentions Calisto’s name, Melibea becomes angry and tells her to go. But the crafty Celestina manages to get the girdle off her and to fix another meeting.

On her second visit, Celestina persuades the now willing Melibea to a rendezvous with Calisto. Upon hearing of the meeting set by Celestina, Calisto rewards the procuress with a valuable gold chain. The two lovers spend the night together in Melibea's garden, while Sempronio and Pármeno keep watch.

When the weary Calisto returns home at dawn to sleep, his two servants go round to Celestina’s house to get their share of the gold. She tries to cheat them and in rage they kill her in front of Elicia. After jumping out of the window in an attempt to escape the Night Guard, Sempronio and Pármeno are caught and are beheaded later that day in the town square. Elicia, who knows what happened to Celestina, Sempronio, and Pármeno, tells Areúsa of the deaths. Areúsa and Elicia come up with a plan to punish Calisto and Melibea for being the cause of Celestina, Sempronia, and Pármeno's downfall.

After a month of Calisto sneaking around and seeing Melibea at night in her garden, Areúsa and Elicia enact their plan of revenge. Calisto returns to the garden for another night with Melibea; while hastily leaving because of a ruckus he heard in the street, he falls from the ladder used to scale the high garden wall and is killed. After confessing to her father the recent events of her love affair and Calisto's death, Melibea jumps from the tower of the house and dies too.
Picasso, "Self Portrait" (1971)

Monday, May 14, 2018

Stylish Rambeeno

Not through your nipple, your ear, or your nose,—
Your sphincter's the place where your sphincter ring goes!

- Sam Hain, "The Latest Craze" (9/2015)

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Artistic Essences

Pablo Picasso, "Woman Throwing a Stone" (1931)
This “truth of Plato” received its clearest formulation in one of the great anti-Platonic works, Gilles Deleuze’s The Logic of Sense, where Deleuze begins by “inverting” Plato’s dualism of eternal Ideas and their imitations in sensuous reality into the dualism of substantial (material) bodies and the pure impassive surface of Sense, the flux of Becoming which is to be located on the very borderline of Being and non-Being. Senses are surfaces which do not exist, but merely subsist: “They are not things or facts, but events. We cannot say that they exist, but rather that they subsist or inhere (having this minimum of being which is appropriate to that which is not a thing, a nonexisting entity).” The Stoics, who developed this notion of “incorporeals,”
were the first to reverse Platonism and to bring about a radical inversion. For if bodies with their states, qualities, and quantities, assume all the characteristics of substance and cause, conversely, the characteristics of the Idea are relegated to the other side, that is to this impassive extra-Being which is sterile, inefficacious, and on the surface of things: the ideational or the incorporeal can no longer be anything other than an “effect.”
This dualism is the “materialist truth” of the dualism of Ideas and material things, and it is against this background that one should envisage a return to Plato. Let us take an unexpected example: A Woman Throwing a Stone, a lesser known painting by Picasso from his surrealist period in the 1920s, offers itself easily to a Platonist reading: the distorted fragments of a woman on a beach throwing a stone are, of course, a grotesque misrepresentation, if measured by the standard of realist reproduction; however, in their very plastic distortion, they immediately/ intuitively render the Idea of a “woman throwing a stone,” the “inner form” of such a figure. This painting makes clear the true dimension of Plato’s philosophical revolution, so radical that it was misinterpreted by Plato himself: the assertion of the gap between the spatio-temporal order of reality in its eternal movement of generation and corruption, and the “eternal” order of Ideas— the notion that empirical reality can “participate” in an eternal Idea, that an eternal Idea can shine through it, appear in it. Where Plato got it wrong is in his ontologization of Ideas (strictly homologous to Descartes’s ontologization of the cogito), as if Ideas form another, even more substantial and stable order of “true” reality. What Plato was not ready (or, rather, able) to accept was the thoroughly virtual, “immaterial” (or, rather, “insubstantial”) status of Ideas: like sense-events in Deleuze’s ontology, Ideas have no causality of their own; they are virtual entities generated by spatio-temporal material processes. Take an attractor in mathematics: all positive lines or points in its sphere of attraction only endlessly approach it, without ever reaching its form— the existence of this form is purely virtual; it is nothing more than the form towards which the lines and points tend. However, precisely as such, the virtual is the Real of this field: the immovable focal point around which all elements circulate— the term “form” here should be given its full Platonic weight, since we are dealing with an “eternal” Idea in which reality imperfectly “participates.” One should thus fully accept that spatio-temporal material reality is “all there is,” that there is no other “more true” reality: the ontological status of Ideas is that of pure appearing. The ontological problem of Ideas is the same as the fundamental problem addressed by Hegel: how is meta-physics possible, how can temporal reality participate in the eternal Order, how can this order appear, transpire, in it? It is not “how can we reach the true reality beyond appearances?” but “how can appearance emerge in reality?” The conclusion Plato avoids is implied in his own line of thought: the supersensible Idea does not dwell beyond appearances, in a separate ontological sphere of fully constituted Being; it is appearance as appearance.
—Slavoj Zizek, "Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism"

Saturday, May 5, 2018


Donald Trump should not receive the Nobel Peace prize. But will he? The French have a beautiful expression, "voyons voir," which can be roughly translated as "let's wait and see what happens."

Four US presidents have already been awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize: Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter (after leaving office), and Barack Obama in 2009 for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people." Now, this explanation was complete fakery, and it merely expressed the hope that Obama would act like that going forward.

As unbelievable as the proposal for Trump to get the Nobel Peace Prize is, we should nevertheless react to it in three ways.

First, we should bear in mind that the great compromise which enabled the breakthrough towards a peaceful resolution of the Korean crisis was made not by Trump but by Kim Jong-un. It was Kim who made the key concession, which means any prize should be directed to the pair jointly. And the weakness of this idea is obvious – it would invite ridicule to hand the Nobel Peace Prize to the head of arguably the most oppressive regime in the world.

Second, remember how, a little while ago, Trump was competing with Kim about the buttons to trigger nuclear missiles that they have at their disposal, with the American claiming his button is bigger than that of his counterpart in Pyongyang.

As such, the extreme oscillations in the public perception of the Korean crisis are significant. One week, we are told we are on a brink of nuclear war; then there is a week of respite, then the war threat explodes again.

Different vibes

When I visited Seoul in August 2017, my friends there told me there is no serious threat of a war because the North Korean regime knows it cannot survive it. Yet, the South Korean authorities have often prepared their population for a nuclear war.

And, lately, our media has reported on the more and more ridiculous exchange of insults between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump. But the irony of the situation is that, when we get (what appears to be) two immature men letting go of their rage and hurling insults at each other, our only hope is that there is some anonymous and invisible institutional constraint preventing their rage to explode into a full-on war.

Usually, we tend to complain that in today's alienated and bureaucratized politics, institutional pressures and constraints prevent politicians from expressing their personal visions. But, in this case, we hope such constraints will prevent the expression of all too crazy personal visions.

Thus, should Donald and Kim really be rewarded just for performing a sudden U-turn and not acting as crazy as we feared?

Third, the unpleasant truth (for leftist liberals) is that, far from being just the bellicose crazy US leader, Trump hasn't turned out so bad in comparison with Hillary Clinton.

Indeed, asked by The Guardian whether she truly believes Clinton would be more dangerous than Trump, the actress Susan Sarandon responded: "I did think she was very, very dangerous. We would still be fracking, we would be at war [if she were president]. It wouldn't be much smoother.

"Look what happened under Obama that we didn't notice. She would've done it the way Obama did it, which was sneakily. He deported more people than have been deported now. How he got the Nobel Peace Prize, I don't know," she added.

Indeed, we should thus always bear in mind that, at his worst, Trump is mostly just continuing the politics of his predecessors.

Close shave

Who, then, really deserves the Nobel Peace Prize? Probably, those who, for sure, will never get it. Try to recall a frightening detail from the Cuban missile crisis: only later did we learn how close to nuclear war we were during a naval skirmish between an American destroyer and a Soviet B-59 submarine off Cuba on October 27, 1962.

The destroyer dropped depth charges near the submarine to try to force it to surface, not knowing it had a nuclear-tipped torpedo. Vadim Orlov, a member of the submarine crew, told the conference in Havana that the submarine was authorized to fire if three officers agreed. The officers began a fierce shouting debate over whether to sink the ship. Two of them said Yes and the other said No.

"A guy named Arkhipov saved the world," was a bitter comment of a historian on this accident.

Do we not all silently count on something similar in the heated exchange between the US and others – that, at a decisive moment, a single individual will find strength to cut short the mad circle of nuclear threats and counter-threats?

A similar act, much less known, was also committed in the Soviet Union in an even darker time. Sophia Karpai was the head of the cardiographic unit of the Kremlin Hospital in the late 1940s. Her (accidental) misfortune was that it was her job to take twice the electrocardiogram of Andrei Zhdanov, on July 25 1948 and on July 31, days before Zhdanov's death, due to heart failure.

The first ECG, taken after Zhdanov displayed some heart problems, was inconclusive (a heart attack could be neither confirmed nor excluded), while the second one surprisingly showed a much better picture (the intraventricular blockage disappeared, a clear indication that there was no heart attack).

Doctor's plot

In 1951, she was arrested on charges that alleged, in a conspiracy with other doctors treating Zhdanov, she falsified the data, erasing the clear indications that a heart attack did occur, thereby depriving Zhdanov of the special care needed by a victim of cardiac arrest. After harsh treatment, including a brutal beating, all the other accused doctors confessed. "Sophia Karpai, whom her boss doctor Vinogradov had described as nothing more than 'a typical person of the street with the morals of the petty bourgeoisie,' was kept in a refrigerated cell without sleep to compel a confession. However, she did not confess." (Jonathan Brent and Vladimir P. Naumov, Stalin's Last Crime, New York: HarperCollins 2003, p. 307) And the impact and significance of her perseverance cannot be overestimated: her signature would have dotted the 'i' on the prosecutor's case on the "doctor's plot," immediately setting in motion the mechanism that, once rolling, would lead to the death of hundreds of thousands, maybe even to a new European war (according to Stalin's plan, the "doctor's plot" should have demonstrated that the Western intelligence agencies tried to murder the top Soviet leaders, and thus served as an excuse to attack Western Europe).

She persisted just long enough for Stalin to enter his final coma, after which the entire case was immediately dismissed. And her simple heroism was crucial in the series of details which, "like grains of sand in the gears of the huge machine that had been set in motion, prevented another catastrophe in Soviet society and politics generally, and saved the lives of thousands, if not millions, of innocent people." (Op.cit., p. 297)

This simple persistence against all odds is ultimately the stuff true heroes are made of. We learn about such cases only sometimes and only years later. So, if there is to be a minimal justice in who gets the Nobel Peace Prize, it should be given neither to active politicians for their present acts (i.e., for just no being as brutal as one expected them to be) nor to politicians for their future expected acts; the prize should be given retroactively, to nameless heroes like Arkhipov and Karpai.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Should Donald Trump get the Nobel Peace Prize?"


SOCRATES: Then let us seek the true beauty: not asking whether a face is fair, or anything of that sort, for all such things appear to be in a flux; but let us ask whether the true beauty is not always beautiful.

CRATYLUS: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And can we rightly speak of a beauty which is always passing away, and is first this and then that; must not the same thing be born and retire and vanish while the word is in our mouths?

CRATYLUS: Undoubtedly.

SOCRATES: Then how can that be a real thing which is never in the same state? for obviously things which are the same cannot change while they remain the same; and if they are always the same and in the same state, and never depart from their original form, they can never change or be moved.

CRATYLUS: Certainly they cannot.

SOCRATES: Nor yet can they be known by any one; for at the moment that the observer approaches, then they become other and of another nature, so that you cannot get any further in knowing their nature or state, for you cannot know that which has no state.


SOCRATES: Nor can we reasonably say, Cratylus, that there is knowledge at all, if everything is in a state of transition and there is nothing abiding; for knowledge too cannot continue to be knowledge unless continuing always to abide and exist. But if the very nature of knowledge changes, at the time when the change occurs there will be no knowledge; and if the transition is always going on, there will always be no knowledge, and, according to this view, there will be no one to know and nothing to be known: but if that which knows and that which is known exists ever, and the beautiful and the good and every other thing also exist, then I do not think that they can resemble a process or flux, as we were just now supposing. Whether there is this eternal nature in things, or whether the truth is what Heracleitus and his followers and many others say, is a question hard to determine; and no man of sense will like to put himself or the education of his mind in the power of names: neither will he so far trust names or the givers of names as to be confident in any knowledge which condemns himself and other existences to an unhealthy state of unreality; he will not believe that all things leak like a pot, or imagine that the world is a man who has a running at the nose. This may be true, Cratylus, but is also very likely to be untrue; and therefore I would not have you be too easily persuaded of it. Reflect well and like a man, and do not easily accept such a doctrine; for you are young and of an age to learn. And when you have found the truth, come and tell me.

CRATYLUS: I will do as you say, though I can assure you, Socrates, that I have been considering the matter already, and the result of a great deal of trouble and consideration is that I incline to Heracleitus.

SOCRATES: Then, another day, my friend, when you come back, you shall give me a lesson; but at present, go into the country, as you are intending, and Hermogenes shall set you on your way.

CRATYLUS: Very good, Socrates; I hope, however, that you will continue to think about these things yourself.

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Discourse that Ate Post-Modernism

We no longer ‘really believe’ religion but more of us follow its rituals than ever before because of ‘culture’. This obsession with culture and breaking of identities was foreseen in Marx’s texts
There is a delicious old Soviet joke about Radio Yerevan: a listener asks: “Is it true that Rabinovitch won a new car in the lottery?”, and the radio presenter answers: “In principle yes, it’s true, only it wasn’t a new car but an old bicycle, and he didn’t win it but it was stolen from him.”

Does exactly the same not hold for Marx’s legacy today? Let’s ask Radio Yerevan: “Is Marx’s theory still relevant today?” We can guess the answer: in principle yes, he describes wonderfully the mad dance of capitalist dynamics which only reached its peak today, more than a century and a half later, but… Gerald A Cohen enumerated the four features of the classic Marxist notion of the working class: (1) it constitutes the majority of society; (2) it produces the wealth of society; (3) it consists of the exploited members of society; and (4) its members are the needy people in society. When these four features are combined, they generate two further features: (5) the working class has nothing to lose from revolution; and (6) it can and will engage in a revolutionary transformation of society.

None of the first four features applies to today’s working class, which is why features (5) and (6) cannot be generated. Even if some of the features continue to apply to parts of today’s society, they are no longer united in a single agent: the needy people in society are no longer the workers, and so on.

But let’s dig into this question of relevance and appropriateness further. Not only is Marx’s critique of political economy and his outline of the capitalist dynamics still fully relevant, but one could even take a step further and claim that it is only today, with global capitalism, that it is fully relevant.

However, at the moment of triumph is one of defeat. After overcoming external obstacles the new threat comes from within. In other words, Marx was not simply wrong, he was often right – but more literally than he himself expected to be.

For example, Marx couldn’t have imagined that the capitalist dynamics of dissolving all particular identities would translate into ethnic identities as well. Today’s celebration of “minorities” and “marginals” is the predominant majority position – alt-rightists who complain about the terror of “political correctness” take advantage of this by presenting themselves as protectors of an endangered minority, attempting to mirror campaigns on the other side.

And then there’s the case of “commodity fetishism”. Recall the classic joke about a man who believes himself to be a grain of seed and is taken to a mental institution where the doctors do their best to finally convince him that he is not a grain but a man. When he is cured (convinced that he is not a grain of seed but a man) and allowed to leave the hospital, he immediately comes back trembling. There is a chicken outside the door and he is afraid that it will eat him.

“Dear fellow,” says his doctor, “you know very well that you are not a grain of seed but a man.”

“Of course I know that,” replies the patient, “but does the chicken know it?”

So how does this apply to the notion of commodity fetishism? Note the very beginning of the subchapter on commodity fetishism in Marx’s Das Kapital: “A commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties.”

Commodity fetishism (our belief that commodities are magic objects, endowed with an inherent metaphysical power) is not located in our mind, in the way we (mis)perceive reality, but in our social reality itself. We may know the truth, but we act as if we don’t know it – in our real life, we act like the chicken from the joke.

Niels Bohr, who already gave the right answer to Einstein’s “God doesn’t play dice“(“Don’t tell God what to do!”), also provided the perfect example of how a fetishist disavowal of belief works. Seeing a horseshoe on his door, a surprised visitor commented that he didn’t think Bohr believed superstitious ideas about horseshoes bringing good luck to people. Bohr snapped back: “I also do not believe in it; I have it there because I was told that it works whether one believes in it or not!”

This is how ideology works in our cynical era: we don’t have to believe in it. Nobody takes democracy or justice seriously, we are all aware of their corruption, but we practice them – in other words, we display our belief in them – because we assume they work even if we do not believe in them.

With regard to religion, we no longer “really believe”, we just follow (some of the) religious rituals and mores as part of the respect for the “lifestyle” of the community to which we belong (non-believing Jews obeying kosher rules “out of respect for tradition”, for example).

“I do not really believe in it, it is just part of my culture” seems to be the predominant mode of the displaced belief, characteristic of our times. “Culture” is the name for all those things we practice without really believing in them, without taking them quite seriously.

This is why we dismiss fundamentalist believers as “barbarians” or “primitive”, as anti-cultural, as a threat to culture – they dare to take seriously their beliefs. The cynical era in which we live would have no surprises for Marx.

Marx’s theories are thus not simply alive: Marx is a ghost who continues to haunt us – and the only way to keep him alive is to focus on those of his insights which are today more true than in his own time.
- Slavoj Zizek, "200 years later, we can say that Marx was very often right – but in a much more literal way than he intended"

Post-Modernism: A Primer

from Wikipedia
Following the perceived limitations of the modern era, emerged postmodern theory.[7] Postmodern theorists rejected modernist claims that there was one theoretical approach that explained all aspects of society.[8] Rather, postmodernist theorists were interested in examining the variety of experience of individuals and groups and emphasized differences over similarities and common experiences.[9]

In contrast to modern theory, postmodern theory is more fluid and allows for individual differences as it rejected the notion of social laws. Postmodern theorists shifted away from truth seeking and instead sought answers for how truths are produced and sustained. Postmodernists contended that truth and knowledge is plural, contextual, and historically produced through discourses. Postmodern researchers therefore embarked on analyzing discourses such as texts, language, policies and practices.[9]

French social theorist Michel Foucault developed a notion of discourse in his early work, especially the Archaeology of knowledge (1972). In Discursive Struggles Within Social Welfare: Restaging Teen Motherhood,[14] Iara Lessa summarizes Foucault's definition of discourse as "systems of thoughts composed of ideas, attitudes, courses of action, beliefs and practices that systematically construct the subjects and the worlds of which they speak." Foucault traces the role of discourses in wider social processes of legitimating and power, emphasizing the construction of current truths, how they are maintained and what power relations they carry with them." Foucault later theorized that discourse is a medium through which power relations produce speaking subjects.[9] Foucault (1977, 1980) argued that power and knowledge are inter-related and therefore every human relationship is a struggle and negotiation of power.[15] Foucault further stated that power is always present and can both produce and constrain the truth.[9] Discourse according to Foucault (1977, 1980, 2003) is related to power as it operates by rules of exclusion. Discourse therefore is controlled by objects, what can be spoken of; ritual, where and how one may speak; and the privileged, who may speak.[16] Coining the phrases power-knowledge Foucault (1980) stated knowledge was both the creator of power and creation of power. An object becomes a "node within a network." In his work, The Archaeology of Knowledge, Foucault uses the example of a book to illustrate a node within a network. A book is not made up of individual words on a page, each of which has meaning, but rather "is caught up in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences." The meaning of that book is connected to a larger, overarching web of knowledge and ideas to which it relates.

One of the key discourses that Foucault identified as part of his critique of power-knowledge was that of neoliberalism, which he related very closely to his conceptualization of governmentality in his lectures on biopolitics.[17] This trajectory of Foucault's thinking has been taken up widely within Human Geography.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Remembering King Tamanend, May 1st, 2018

"Ask ye for hamlets' peopled bound,
With cone-roof'd cabins circled round?
For chieftans proud- for hoary sire-
Or warrior, terrible in ire!

Ye've seen the shadows quit the vale-
The foam upon the water fail-
The fleeting vapour leave no trace,
Such was their path, that faded race!"

When struggling long, at last with pain
You break a cruel tyrant’s chain,
That never shall be joined again,
When half your foes are homeward fled,
And hosts on hosts in triumph led,
And hundreds maimed and thousands dead,
A sordid race will then succeed,
To slight the virtues of the firmer race,
That brought your tyrant to disgrace,
Shall give your honours to an odious train,
Who shunned all conflicts on the main
And dared no battles on the bloody plain,
Whose little souls sunk in the gloomy day
When virtue only could support the fray
And sunshine friends kept off—or ran away.
-Philip Morin Freneau