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

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Happy New Year!

Interview w/ Byung-Chul Han

Sophie Douala for Noema Magazine, "All That Is Solid Melts Into Information"
The torrent of accelerated time without narrative is disorienting our society and fragmenting community, says philosopher Byung-Chul Han. Art can help put the pieces back together.

Nathan Gardels: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once commented that: “When eras are on the decline, all tendencies are subjective; but, on the other hand, when matters are ripening for a new epoch, all tendencies are objective. Each worthy effort turns its force from the inward to the outward world.”

By that definition, ours is an era of decline that has turned from the outward to the inward obsession with identity and “authenticity,” both personal and tribal, fueled by digital connectivity. Paradoxically, social media in this sense is antisocial, leading to the disintegration of community through a kind of connected isolation.

What is the dynamic and what are the mechanisms behind what you call “the crisis of community?” What are the consequences for how we feel and live in our daily lives?

Byung-Chul Han: The inwardly turned, narcissistic ego with purely subjective access to the world is not the cause of social disintegration but the result of a fateful process at the objective level. Everything that binds and connects is disappearing. There are hardly any shared values or symbols, no common narratives that unite people.

Truth, the provider of meaning and orientation, is also a narrative. We are very well informed, yet somehow we cannot orient ourselves. The informatization of reality leads to its atomization — separated spheres of what is thought to be true.

But truth, unlike information, has a centripetal force that holds society together. Information, on the other hand, is centrifugal, with very destructive effects on social cohesion. If we want to comprehend what kind of society we are living in, we need to understand the nature of information.

Bits of information provide neither meaning nor orientation. They do not congeal into a narrative. They are purely additive. From a certain point onward, they no longer inform — they deform. They can even darken the world. This puts them in opposition to truth. Truth illuminates the world, while information lives off the attraction of surprise, pulling us into a permanent frenzy of fleeting moments.

We greet information with a fundamental suspicion: Things might be otherwise. Contingency is a trait of information, and for this reason, fake news is a necessary element of the informational order. So fake news is just another piece of information, and before any process of verification can begin, it has already done its work. It rushes past truth, and truth cannot catch up. Fake news is truth-proof.

“Bits of information provide neither meaning nor orientation. They do not congeal into a narrative.”

Information goes along with fundamental suspicion. The more we are confronted with information, the more our suspicion grows. Information is Janus-faced — it simultaneously produces certainty and uncertainty. A fundamental structural ambivalence is inherent in an information society.

Truth, by contrast, reduces contingency. We cannot build a stable community or democracy on a mass of contingencies. Democracy requires binding values and ideals, and shared convictions. Today, democracy gives way to infocracy.

As you suggest in your question, another reason for the crisis of community, which is a crisis of democracy, is digitalization. Digital communication redirects the flows of communication. Information is spread without forming a public sphere. It is produced in private spaces and distributed to private spaces. The web does not create a public.

This has highly deleterious consequences for the democratic process. Social media intensify this kind of communication without community. You cannot forge a public sphere out of influencers and followers. Digital communities have the form of commodities; ultimately, they are commodities.

“Today, we no longer have any narratives that provide meaning and orientation for our lives. Narratives crumble and decay into information.”

Of course, there was information in the past, too. But it did not determine society to such a degree as today. In antiquity, mythical narratives determined people’s lives and behavior. The Middle Ages were, for many, determined by the Christian narrative. But information was embedded in narration: An outbreak of the plague was not pure, simple information. It was integrated into the Christian narrative of sin.

Today, by contrast, we no longer have any narratives that provide meaning and orientation for our lives. Narratives crumble and decay into information. With some exaggeration, we might say that there is nothing but information without any hermeneutic horizon for interpretation, without any method of explanation. Pieces of information do not coalesce into knowledge or truth, which are forms of narration.

The narrative vacuum in an information society makes people feel discontent, especially in times of crisis, such as the pandemic. People invent narratives to explain a tsunami of disorienting figures and data. Often these narratives are called conspiracy theories, but they cannot simply be reduced to collective narcissism. They readily explain the world. On the web, spaces open to make experiences of identity and collectivity possible again. The web, thus, is tribalized — predominantly among right-wing political groups where there is a very strong need for identity. In these circles, conspiracy theories are taken up as offers for assuming an identity.

Friedrich Nietzsche once said that our happiness consists of the possession of a non-negotiable truth. Today, we no longer have such non-negotiable truths. Instead, we have an over-abundance of information. I am not sure that the information society is a continuation of the Enlightenment. Maybe we need a new kind of enlightenment. On a new enlightenment, Nietzsche noted: “It does not suffice that you realize the ignorance in which humans and animals live, you also have to have the will to be ignorant and learn more. You need to comprehend that without this kind of ignorance life would become impossible, that only on condition of this ignorance can what lives preserve itself and flourish.”

Gardels: As you wrote in your most recent book, societal rituals once created that objective narrative bond that held societies together. They “stabilized life” as you put it.

Now such rituals are under assault by the wrecking ball of deconstruction as nothing more than the designs of the privileged who had the power to impose them in the past. In today’s horizontal world, with no legitimate value hierarchy, subjective projection steps in to fill the vacuum.

Out of these ruins of an objective order, how can stabilizing anchors of ritual ever be reestablished? On what basis? On whose authority? What will life look like if that is not possible?

Han: I would not promote a reactivation of past rituals. This is simply not possible because the rituals of Western culture are very closely associated with the Christian narrative. And everywhere the Christian narrative is losing its power. There is little left of it beyond Christmastime.

Rituals found a community. Contrary to the suggestion in your question, it is not inevitable that rituals solidify existing power relations. Quite the opposite. During Carnival, power relations are reversed, so that the slaves can criticize and even mock their masters. Often, roles are exchanged: The masters serve their slaves. And the fool ascends the throne as king. This ritualized temporary suspension of the power structure stabilizes the community.

“After the pandemic, what is most in need of recovery is culture.”

In a world that is completely without rituals and wholly profane, all that is left are consumption and the satisfaction of needs. It is Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” in which every want is immediately gratified. The people are kept in good spirits with the help of fun, consumption and entertainment. The state distributes a drug called soma in order to increase feelings of happiness in the population. Maybe in our brave new world, people will receive a universal basic income and have unlimited access to video games. That would be the new version of panem et circenses (“bread and circuses”).

I am, however, not completely pessimistic. Perhaps we shall develop new narratives, ones that do not presuppose a hierarchy. We can easily imagine a flat narrative. Every narrative develops its own rituals for the purposes of making it habitual, embedding it in the physical body. Culture founds community.

After the pandemic, what is most in need of recovery is culture. Cultural events such as theater, dance and even football have a ritual character. The only way in which we can revitalize community is through ritual forms. Today, culture is held together solely by instrumental and economic relations. But that does not found communities — it isolates people. Art, in particular, should play a central role in the revitalization of rituals.

“Rituals stabilize life by structuring time.”

What we need most are temporal structures that stabilize life. When everything is short-term, life loses all stability. Stability comes over long stretches of time: faithfulness, bonds, integrity, commitment, promises, trust. These are the social practices that hold a community together. They all have a ritual character. They all require a lot of time. Today’s terror of short-termism — which, with fatal consequences, we mistake for freedom — destroys the practices that require time. To combat this terror, we need a very different temporal politics.

In “The Little Prince,” the fox wants to be visited by the little prince always at the same hour, so that his visit becomes a ritual. The little prince asks the fox what a ritual is, and the fox replies: “Those also are actions too often neglected. … They are what make one day different from other days, one hour from other hours.”

Rituals can be defined as temporal technologies for housing oneself. They turn being in the world into being at home. Rituals are in time as things are in space. They stabilize life by structuring time. They give us festive spaces, so to speak, spaces we can enter in celebration.

As temporal structures, rituals arrest time. Temporal spaces we can enter in celebration do not pass away. Without such temporal structures, time becomes a torrent that tears us apart from each other and away from ourselves.

Gardels: You have said that you look to art as “the savior” from the conditions you’ve been describing, since philosophy today lacks the transformational quality it once had. What did you mean by that?

Han: Philosophy has the power to change the world: European science began only with Plato and Aristotle; without Rousseau, Voltaire and Kant, the European Enlightenment would be unthinkable. Nietzsche made the world appear in an entirely new light. Marx’s “Capital” founded a new epoch.

Today, however, philosophy has completely lost this world-changing power. It is no longer capable of producing a novel narrative. Philosophy degenerates into an academic, specialist discipline. It is not turned toward the world and the present.

“Art is nearer to the heart of creation than philosophy.”

How can we reverse this development and make sure that philosophy regains its world-changing power, its magic? My feeling is that art, as opposed to philosophy, is still in a position where it can evoke the glimmer of a new form of life.

Art has always brought forth a new reality, a new form of perception. All his life, Paul Klee said: “Immanently, I cannot be grasped at all. Because I live with the dead, just as I live with the unborn. A bit nearer to the heart of creation than is usual. And not near enough at all yet.”

It is possible that art is nearer to the heart of creation than philosophy. It is therefore capable of letting something entirely new begin. The revolution can begin with as little as an unheard-of color, an unheard-of sound.

Still Alive? The Coming Technocratic Idiocracy...

Friday, December 30, 2022

RU Getting Hungry?

Slavoj Zizek, "Eating the Last Cannibal"
Generally, a state that wants to claim to represent "civilization" will take pains to obscure its original sins and keep its barbaric dark side classified and in the shadows. But the dangerous new trend among right-wing leaders is to "courageously" dispense with this charade and openly embrace criminality.

JUBLJANA – Recall the story about the explorer who encounters an aboriginal tribe for the first time. “Are there cannibals among you?” he asks. “No,” they reply, “We ate the last one yesterday.” To constitute a civilized community by eating the last cannibal, the final act must be called something else. It is a kind of original sin that must be erased from memory.

Similarly, the transition to a modern legal order in the American “Wild West” was accomplished through brutal crimes and the creation of myths to cover them up. As a character in the John Ford western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance put it, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

But the “facts” that are born of legends are not verifiable truths. Rather, they are social artifacts: shared ideas that form the basis of the actually existing sociopolitical order. If enough people were to reject them, the entire order would disintegrate.

These social artifacts allow a society’s original sins to remain in the background, where they continue operating silently because modern civilization still relies on barbarism. Recall how the legal apparatus of power was used to sanction the extralegal practice of torture by calling it “enhanced interrogation.”

Yet now, a new type of political dispensation is emerging. As the philosopher Alenka Zupančič observes in her new book, Let Them Rot (on which I rely here extensively), we increasingly have leaders who take pride in their crimes “as if it amounted to some kind of fundamental moral difference or difference of character, namely, ‘having the courage,’ ‘the guts,’ to do it openly.” But, Zupančič hastens to add,
“what may appear to be their courageous transgression of state laws by avoiding the ‘hypocrisy’ that those laws sometimes demand is nothing more than a direct identification with the obscene other side of state power itself. It does not amount to anything else or different. They are ‘transgressing’ their own laws. This is why, even when they are in power, these leaders continue to act as if they are in opposition to the existing power, rebelling against it – call it the ‘deep state’ or something else.”
Obviously, this description summons up images of Donald Trump, who just this month called for the “termination” of the US Constitution. But, of course, appearances have also been disintegrating in Russia. For ten months, President Vladimir Putin insisted that there was no war in Ukraine, and ordinary Russians risked criminal prosecution for suggesting otherwise. But now, Putin has broken his own rule and acknowledged that Russia is at war.

Likewise, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Putin crony, long denied that he had anything to do with the Wagner Group of Russian mercenaries. He has, however, now admitted that he founded the group, and that he has interfered in US elections and will continue to do so.

For political figures like Trump and Putin, courage is redefined as a willingness to break the state’s laws if the state’s own interests – or their own – demand it. The implication is that civilization endures only if there are brave patriots who will do the dirty work. This is a decidedly right-wing form of “heroism.” It is easy to act nobly on behalf of one’s country – short of sacrificing one’s life for it – but only the strong of heart can bring themselves to commit crimes for it.

Hence, in 1943, Heinrich Himmler, the architect of the Holocaust, spoke of “a chapter of glory in our history which has never been written, and which never shall be written.” The question was what do with Jewish women and children. “I decided here to find a completely clear solution,” Himmler told a gathering of SS officers. “I did not regard myself as justified in exterminating the men … and to allow the avengers in the shape of the children to grow up for our sons and grandchildren. The difficult decision had to be taken to have this people disappear from the earth.”

But in today’s Russia, the idea that atrocities “never shall be written” is increasingly out of fashion. Far from ignoring the eating of cannibals, such acts are being enshrined into law. On December 14, the Russian Duma (legislature) adopted a bill stating that any atrocities committed in Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson before those Ukrainian regions’ annexation “will not be considered a crime punishable by law” if they are deemed to have been “in the interest of the Russian Federation.”

How this determination will be made is unclear; but it is safe to assume that all the torture, rape, murder, looting, and vandalism committed by Russian forces will be excused – even celebrated. One is reminded of the paradox in Sophocles’ Antigone, where it is riskier to obey morality than to become complicit in criminality.

“Russian culture,” the historian Timothy Garton Ash observes, has become “a collateral victim of Putin’s self-devouring cannibalism.” Accordingly, “The time has come to ask whether, objectively speaking, Vladimir Putin is an agent of American imperialism. For no American has ever done half as much damage to what Putin calls the ‘Russian world’ as the Russian leader himself has.” Offering a similar analysis, Kazakh journalist Arman Shuraev recently excoriated Russia’s bullying ambassador to his country: “Russophobia is all that you have achieved with your stupid actions. … You are idiots. You are cannibals who eat themselves.”

Paradoxically, Russia’s exercise in false transparency makes the mystifications of state power even more dangerous, by eroding our moral sensitivities. It shows why we need figures like WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange more than ever. Assange is our Antigone. For years, he has been kept in an undead, isolated state, awaiting extradition to the United States for serving as a spy for the people, making public just one small part of the obscene dark side of US policy. Although Assange may have done some very problematic things, my wish for the New Year is that President Joe Biden will show true courage and drop the charges against him.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

How Objects Lost Their Magic...

Byung-Chul Han, "How Objects Lost their Magic"
For the philosopher, our postfactual stimulus culture is one that edges out time-consuming values such as loyalty, ritual and commitment

The other day I accidentally dropped a silver art-deco teapot, which has been my constant companion for the past 20 years. The dent was huge, and so was the measure of my grief. I suffered sleepless nights until I found a silversmith who promised me she could fix it. Now I find myself waiting impatiently for its return, filled with dread that, when it arrives, it will no longer be the same. And yet the experience leaves me wondering: why have I unravelled in this way?

‘Things are points of stability in life,’ the South Korean-born, Swiss-German philosopher Byung-Chul Han writes in his new book, Undinge (Nonobjects), which is just out in German. (As is the way of things with philosophy books, English-language readers might need to wait some time for its appearance in translation). ‘Objects stabilise human life insofar as they give it a continuity,’ Han writes. Living matter and its history bestow on the object a presence, which activates its entire surroundings. Objects – especially well-designed, historically charged objects, and which are not necessarily artworks – can develop almost magical properties. Undinge is about the loss of this magic. ‘The digital order deobjectifies the world by rendering it information,’ he writes. ‘It’s not objects but information that rules the living world. We no longer inhabit heaven and earth, but the Cloud and Google Earth. The world is becoming progressively untouchable, foggy and ghostly.’

This type of critical stance towards the present, written in clear, zenlike sentences, is a feature of all Han’s books. From The Burnout Society (2010) to The Disappearance of Rituals (2019), he describes our current reality as one in which relations to the other – whether human or object – are being lost; as one in which the tap of finger on smart- phone has replaced real contact and real relationships. The fleeting quality of virtual information and communication, which obliterates, through amplification, any deeper meaning or stillness, displaces the object – whether it be the jukebox in the author’s apartment, or the telephone receivers of Walter Benjamin’s childhood, famously ‘heavy as a dumbbells’ – in whose physical presence resides a humane component, or even an aura, that makes the object mysterious and alive.

Information on the other hand does not illuminate the world, according to Han. It deforms it, levelling the boundary between true and false. ‘What counts is the short-term effect. Effectiveness replaces truth,’ he writes here. For Han, our postfactual stimulus culture is one that edges out time-consuming values such as loyalty, ritual and commitment. ‘Today we chase after information, without gaining knowledge. We take note of everything, without gaining insight. We communicate constantly, without participating in a community. We save masses of data, without keeping track of memories. We accumulate friends and followers, without encountering others. This is how information develops a lifeform: inexistant and impermanent.’

Han speaks of an infosphere, which has settled over the objects. The atmosphere that develops in real space through relations to others and to, as he puts it, ‘things close to the heart’ disappears in favour of fleeting swipes on screens, which suggest brief, disembodied experiences. It’s these types of positions that have earned Han the reputation of being a cultural pessimist – of being a moaning, reactionary romantic who loves to quote himself. Yes, naturally the ‘Like’ button, the ‘Hell of Sameness’ and Martin Heidegger as the earthbound antithesis to our affirmative, virtually defined world are topics he returns to here. These mantras – there is almost a meditative quality to his writing, providing insight and understanding without forcing the reader into higher spheres – have to be understood as anchors, binding you to the basic concept, leaving the horizon to expand as you read.

As a nonnative German speaker and writer, Han manages, in a fascinating way, to dissect the cumbersome semantics of Heidegger, the Black Forest philosopher, in his analysis of the contemporary and to carve out words in such a way that they appear to have the kind of physical quality that almost allows them to become objects in themselves. Indeed, many artists are attracted to Han’s work precisely because of this elision of form and meaning: the pictorial, minimal- existential language he deploys so pointedly, in much the same way as art manages to do when it’s at its best. It’s worth noting too that Han didn’t need to wait for a pandemic to describe how we are voluntarily tied to our laptops, how we exploit ourselves in the neoliberal home-office mode, how this makes us feel creative, smart and connected while we cover up our feelings of precarity with swipes and likes; he did that more than a decade ago.

Now he has reached the stage of addressing commitment and responsibility, quoting famous phrases from The Little Prince (1943): ‘You become responsible forever for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose,’ as the fox tells our royal hero. And, ‘One sees clearly only with the heart.’ Moreover, Han does so in such a disarming way that you can understand why other philosophers snub him. In a discipline that revels in overt complexity and a lack of contact with reality, someone like him cannot be allowed to score points. Yet we should note that while those who stoically grasp the nettle have always been stung, more often than not their actions have been ultimately proved to be right.

Time as Space

Byung-Chul Han, "The Round Dance of the World"
Scent of the pine trees –
A lizard scurries
Across the hot stone.

In 1927, Le Temps retrouvé [Time Regained] was published in Paris. The same year saw the publication of Heidegger’s Being and Time in Germany. There are numerous similarities between these two works, which, at first glance, seem so different. Like Proust’s project on time, Being and Time sets itself against the increasing disintegration of human existence, against the decay of time into a mere sequence of point-like presences. Contrary to Heidegger’s aspiration that Being and Time represent a phenomenology of human existence of timeless validity, his work is in reality a product of its time. Historically specific processes and time-independent characteristics of human existence are intermingled in it. Thus, Heidegger offers a problematic explanation of the ‘destruction of the everyday world’1 through acceleration, which he says is the result of a ‘tendency towards nearness’ that is intrinsic to Dasein’s essence:
Dasein is essentially de-distancing. As the being that it is, it lets beings be encountered in nearness … An essential tendency towards nearness lies in Dasein. All kinds of increasing speed which we are more or less compelled to go along with today push for overcoming distance. With the ‘radio’, for example, Dasein is bringing about today a de-distancing of the ‘world’, which is unforeseeable in its meaning for Dasein, by way of expanding and destroying the everyday surrounding world.2
To what extent is ‘de-distancing’ – as a mode of being of Dasein , which I use as a means for spatially opening up my surroundings – related to that unleashed acceleration which steers towards the suspension of space itself? Apparently, Heidegger does not realize that the age of the radiophonic, even the entire ‘age of haste’, is based on forces far greater than the ‘tendency towards nearness’ intrinsic to Dasein’s essence, and which make Dasein’s orientation in space possible in the first place. The total removal of space is something altogether different from that ‘de-distancing’ which affords Dasein a spatial existence.

The new media abolish space itself. Hyperlinks make pathways disappear. Electronic mail does not need to conquer mountains and oceans. Strictly speaking, it is no longer something ‘ready-to-hand’. Instead of ‘hands’ it immediately reaches the eyes. The age of the new media is an age of implosion. Space and time implode into a here and now. Everything is subject to de-distancing. There are no longer any sacred spaces which one may not ‘de-distance’, i.e. spaces whose being set aside [Ausgespartsein] is part of their essence. Spaces with a scent hold their appearance in reserve [sparen ihr Erscheinen]. An auratic distance is inherent in them. The contemplative, lingering gaze is not de-distancing. In his later writings, Heidegger himself turned against the unlimited de-distancing of the world. Thus, origin is something which ‘halts in its withdrawal, and holds itself in reserve’.3 It does not exhaust or divest itself. According to Heidegger, the ‘nearness to the origin is a nearness which still holds something back in reserve’ [sparende Nähe].4

The ‘they’, which Heidegger generalizes into an ontological constant, is in reality a phenomenon of his time. It is, in a manner of speaking, a contemporary of Heidegger’s. Thus, the temporal experience of the ‘they’ corresponds exactly to the ‘cinematographic’ time which, according to Proust, characterizes the ‘age of haste’. Time is dispersed into a mere sequence of point-like presences. The ‘they’ ‘is so little interested in the “matter in question” that, as soon as it catches sight of it, it already is looking for the next thing’.5 The ‘they’ zaps through the world. Thus, Heidegger speaks of a ‘dispersed non-lingering’ and of a ‘never dwelling anywhere’ [Aufenthaltslosigkeit].6

Heidegger realized early on that the emptiness of being goes hand in hand with the acceleration of life. In his lecture course of 1929/30, he says:
Why do we find no meaning for ourselves any more, i.e. no essential possibility of being? Is it because an indifference yawns at us out of all things, an indifference whose grounds we do not know? Yet who can speak in such a way when world trade, technology, and the economy seize hold of man and keep him moving?7
Heidegger explains the general haste in terms of the inability to perceive silence, the long-lasting and slowness. Where there is no duration, acceleration, in the sense of a purely quantitative intensification, sets in, in order to compensate for the lack of duration, even for the lack of being:
Acceleration [Die Schnelligkeit] … not-being-able-to-bear the stillness of hidden growth … purely quantitative enhancement, blindness to what is truly momentary, which is not fleeting but opens up eternity.8
Heidegger’s philosophy of time is connected to his times. Thus, his critical comments regarding time, for instance about the permanent shortage of time, are also aimed at his times:
Why do we have no time? To what extent do we not wish to lose any time? Because we need it and wish to use it. For what? For our everyday occupations, to which we have long since become enslaved…. This not having any time is ultimately a greater being lost of the self than that wasting time which leaves itself time.9
Heidegger invokes ‘what is essential in Dasein’ and what ‘cannot be forcibly brought about by any busyness or mad rush’.10 ‘Essential existence’ is ‘slow’. Heidegger explicitly turns against the ‘modern’, which is characterized by point-like presences and discontinuity.11 As a characteristic manifestation of modernity, the ‘they’ only perceives the narrow tip of the actual. Thus, it rushes from one presence to the next.

The decay of time also takes hold of the identity of Dasein. Dasein is ‘dispersed in the multiplicity of what “happens” daily’.12 It is ‘lost in the making present of the today’,13 and thus loses the continuity of its self. The age of haste is an age of ‘dispersion’. This awakens the need ‘to pull itself together [ Zusammenholen ] from the dispersion and the disconnectedness’.14 But narrative identity only establishes a connection, while Heidegger’s strategy regarding the question of identity is to aim for the extraction of ‘the primordial stretching along of the whole of existence, which is not lost and does not need a connection’, namely ‘a steadiness that has been stretched along – the steadiness in which Da-sein as fate “incorporates” into its existence birth and death and their “between”’.15 This ‘fatefully whole[,] stretching’,16 namely history , is more than a story which establishes a connection. It is not a narratively constructed picture, but a pre-narrative framing which encloses ‘birth and death and their “between”’. Dasein assures itself of itself independently of a narrative construction of identity. Heidegger’s strategy regarding time and identity is a response to the narrative crisis of his times. The strategy formulates a notion of identity which would still be viable in an age of general de-narrativization.

Being and Time is based on an insight that is specific to its times, that the loss of historical meaningfulness leads to the decay of time into an accelerating sequence of isolated events, that because of a lack of gravitation or an anchoring in meaning time rushes off without hold or aim. Heidegger’s strategy regarding time consists in a re-anchoring of time; in giving it significance, a new hold; in enframing it again within a historical line [Zug], so that it does not disperse into a meaningless, accelerating succession of events. Against the threatened end of history, Heidegger emphatically invokes history itself. However, he knows very well that the gravitation, the historical meaningfulness which is meant to set time right again, cannot be of a theological or teleological kind, and he therefore opts for an existential concept of history instead. The historical traction now originates from the emphasis on the self. Heidegger concentrates time by integrating the temporal horizons by way of their relation to the self. History as directed time protects time against decay, against its dispersion into a pure sequence of point-like presences. In this, it is the self that provides the direction. The ‘constancy of the self’, this essence of authentic historicity, is duration, which does not pass. It does not elapse. The one who exists authentically has time always, so to speak. He or she always has time because time is self, and does not lose time because of not losing him- or herself:
Just as the person who exists inauthentically constantly loses time and never ‘has’ any, it is the distinction of the temporality of authentic existence that in resoluteness it never loses time and ‘always has time’.17
The shortage of time, on the contrary, is a symptom of inauthentic existence. Dasein in its inauthentic existence loses its time because it loses itself to the world: ‘Busily losing himself in what is taken care of, the irresolute person loses his time in them, too. Hence, his characteristic way of talking: “I have no time”.’18 Ultimately, Heidegger’s strategy regarding time consists in transforming ‘I have no time’ into ‘I always have time.’ It is a strategy based on duration, an attempt at regaining the lost mastery of time through an existential mobilization of the self.

In his later writings, Heidegger moves further and further away from the historical model of time. The place of history is taken by the seasons or other figures of repetition:
In the pathway’s seasonally changing breeze this knowing gladsomeness … thrives … Along its trail winter’s storm encounters harvest’s day, the agile excitation of Spring and the serene dying of Autumn meet, the child’s game and the elder’s wisdom gaze at each other. And in a unique harmony, whose echo the pathway carries with it silently here and there, everything is made gladsome.19
The ‘silent harmony’ of the seasons and its echo, which continues, even renews itself in the ‘here and there’, suggest duration. The world is an acoustic space with its own natural oscillation, in which nothing fades away or elapses. The ‘gathering play’ which surrenders nothing to disappearance or dispersion creates a fulfilled duration:
In the coolness of the autumn day, the fire of summer finishes in cheerful serenity … The cheerful serenity of the autumn coolness, which harbors the summer within itself, drifts about this country path every year with its gathering play.20
Again and again, Heidegger uses the trope of the ‘back and forth’21 as a counter-trope to historical time. In the movement of the back-and-forth, time comes to stand still [zum Stehen], so to speak. A duration a-rises [ent-steht] Heidegger’s poem ‘Time’ goes:

How far?
Only when it stops, the clock,
with its pendulum swinging back and forth,
only then do you hear: it goes and is gone and goes
no more.

Already late in the day, the clock,
only a faint track toward time,
which, near finitude,
a-rises from it.22

The ‘back and forth’ produces duration within cyclical change. Heidegger’s Pathway is itself constructed like a pendulum clock. The text sets out with the words: ‘It runs from the park gate towards Ehnried’. And towards the end of the text, we read: ‘From Ehnried the way turns back to the park gate.’23 The back-and-forth of its course makes the pathway a figure of repetition and gathering. Nothing progresses without returning. All Forth is caught by a Back, as if by an echo. This back-and-forth is also reflected in the play of children:
Out of the oak’s bark the boys carved their boats: equipped with rudder and tiller they floated in Metten brook or in the school fountain. The world-wide journeys of these games reached their destination [Ziel] easily and found their way back to shore again.24
Nothing is lost to indeterminacy. And nothing is subject to change. The country path is a silent place of eternal repetition. Everything remains gathered: ‘The pathway gathers in whatever has its coming-to-presence [sein Wesen] along the way; to all who pass this way it gives what is theirs.’25 Everything rests in the timelessly valid ‘coming-to-presence’, in an eternal presence. The pathway’s back-and-forth silences the world into the ‘Same’. In the pendulum strokes of its back-and-forth, the world a- rises. The pathway represents a clearly delineated world of duration with its own natural oscillation. Everything stands within the simple lustre of a perspicuous order. Nothing escapes the eye and hand of the mother: ‘The eye and hand of the mother surrounded their world [i.e. that of all things]. It was as if her unspoken care protected all that came to be [alles Wesen].’ 26

The country path does not strive towards a goal [Ziel]. Rather, it rests in itself in contemplative fashion. It illustrates a via contemplativa. The back-and-forth frees it from having a goal without exposing it to destructive dispersion. A peculiar gathering is intrinsic to it. It does not follow a course towards … but lingers. It silences the directed, spasmodic time of labour into duration. As a place for contemplative lingering, the path symbolizes a dwelling that does not need a goal or purpose, one that can do without a theology or teleology.

The world is a ‘round dance’ of ‘earth and sky, divinities and mortals’.27 The ‘round dance’ is at the same time a temporal formula, an eternal circling in itself which prevents any spatio-temporal dispersion. Everything remains gathered in the ‘ring’ of the world, in the ‘radiance of their [i.e. of the fourfold’s] simple oneness’.28 The ‘sky’, too, is a timeless circling in itself, an eternal up-and-down. It is the ‘path of the sun, the course of the changing moon, the wandering glitter of the stars, the year’s seasons and their changes, the light and dusk of day, the gloom and glow of night, the clemency and inclemency of weather, the drifting clouds and blue depth of the ether’.29 At the temporal level, the strictly symmetrical structure of the world creates the impression of a time that stands still. The symmetry of the world, which suggests an immovable, uniform order, extends into language. Heidegger even emphasizes it with special figures of speech. His philosophy consists not only of arguments, but – problematically – also of verses. Types of syntax and rhyme patterns are intentionally employed to create, for instance, the feeling of an eternally valid order. Thus, the beautiful, symmetrical order of the world, the ‘fouring’, is invoked,30 in a poem that is, not coincidentally, made up of two stanzas of four symmetrically composed lines. The ‘radiance of their simple oneness’30 is completed in the metrical radiance of ‘mist diffuses/blessing muses’ [Regen rinnt/Segen sinnt].

Forests spread
Brooks plunge
Rocks persist
Mist diffuses 
Meadows wait
Springs well
Winds dwell
Blessing muses31

1. Transl. note: The German text has ‘Zerstörung der alltäglichen Welt’, whereas Sein und Zeit (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2001), p. 105, has ‘Zerstörung der alltäglichen Umwelt’, i.e. ‘environment’ rather than ‘world’. The English translation opts for ‘everyday surrounding world’. The difference between ‘Welt’ and ‘Umwelt’ is relevant in light of Heidegger’s presentation of the animal’s poverty in world, and his references to Uexküll’s notion of ‘Umwelt’, in The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, trans. William McNeill and Nicholas Walker (Bloomington/ Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1995), where this serves the purpose of distinguishing animals and human beings. Animals are suspended in an environment, while man is world-forming and has a world.

2. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. Joan Stambaugh; revised by Dennis J. Schmidt (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2010), pp. 102f.

3. Martin Heidegger, On the Way to Language, trans. Peter D. Hertz (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), p. 66.

4. Martin Heidegger, Elucidations of Hölderlin’s Poetry , trans. Keith Hoeller (New York: Humanity Books, 2000), p. 43.

5. Heidegger, Being and Time, p. 331.

6. Ibid.

7. Martin Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude, transl. by William McNeill and Nicholas Walker (Bloomington/Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1995), p. 77.

8. Martin Heidegger, Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning), transl. by Parvis Emad and Kenneth Maly (Bloomington/Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1999), pp. 84f. [Transl. note: ‘Acceleration’ translates Heidegger’s ‘Schnelligkeit’ (speed, rapidity), see Beiträge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis) (1936–1938) (Frankfurt/ M.: Klostermann, 1989), p. 121.]

9. Heidegger, Fundamental Concepts, p. 129.

10. Ibid., p. 130.

11. Heidegger, Being and Time, p. 372: ‘Awaiting the next new thing, it [i.e. the ‘they’] has already forgotten what is old…. Inauthentic historical existence, on the other hand, is burdened with the legacy of a ‘past’ that has become unrecognizable to it, looks for what is modern.’

12. Ibid., p. 370.

13. Ibid., p. 372.

14. Ibid., p. 371.

15. Ibid.

16. Ibid., p. 391. [Transl. note: The passage runs: ‘Existence defined by the Moment [augenblickliche Existenz] temporalizes itself as fatefully whole, stretching along in the sense of the authentic, historical constancy of the self.’ The German reads: ‘Die augenblickliche Existenz zeitigt sich als schicksalhaft ganze Erstrecktheit im Sinne der eigentlichen, geschichtlichen Ständigkeit des Selbst.’ (Sein und Zeit, Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2001), p. 410, i.e. it is the stretching that is fatefully whole.]

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid.

19. Martin Heidegger, ‘The Pathway’, trans. Thomas F. O’Meara (revisions: Thomas J. Sheehan), in Listening. Journal of Religion and Culture 8 (1973): 32–9; here: p. 37 (emphasis restored). { p. 71 }

20. Martin Heidegger, Country Path Conversations, transl. Bret W. Davies (Bloomington/Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2010), p. 2.

21. Transl. note: The German is ‘hin und her’ which suggests spatial or temporal movement. The English translation has ‘here and there’.

22. Martin Heidegger, Gedachtes/Thoughts, transl. Keith Hoeller, in Philosophy Today 20/4 (1976): 286–90; here p. 287. ‘Wie weit?/Erst wenn sie steht, die Uhr,/im Pendelschlag des Hin und Her,/hörst Du: sie geht und ging und geht/nicht mehr./ Schon spät am Tag die Uhr,/nur blasse Spur zur Zeit,/die, nah der Endlichkeit,/aus ihr ent-steht.’

23. Heidegger, ‘The Pathway’, p. 33 and p. 37. { Man and Thinker, p. 69 }

24. Ibid., p. 35 (emphases added by B-C. H.).

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid.

27. Martin Heidegger, ‘The Thing’, in Poetry, Language, Thought, trans. Albert Hofstadter (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), pp. 163–84; here: p. 178.

28. Ibid. [Transl. note: The context is Heidegger’s discussion of the fourfold of earth, sky, divinities and mortals.]

29. Martin Heidegger, ‘Building Dwelling Thinking’, in ibid., pp. 141–59; here p. 147.

30. See ibid., p. 148.

31. Martin Heidegger, The Thinker as Poet (Aus der Erfahrung des Denkens), in ibid., pp. 1–14; here p. 14. ‘Wälder lagern/Bäche stürzen/Felsen dauern/Regen rinnt. // Fluren warten/Brunnen quellen/Winde wohnen/Segen sinnt.’

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Is "Wokeness" the Price of Admission to America's New Elite Surplus Salaried Bourgeoisie?

Reporter Aaron Sibarium talks to Quillette podcast host Jonathan Kay about his recent scoops concerning the campaign against anti-woke Princeton classics professor Joshua Katz, and the unsettling radicalism of student activists at Yale Law School.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Wokeness: A Manifestation of Welfare for the Non-STEM Graduates in a Surplus Salaried Bourgeoisie

Well-educated progressives wield institutional power to impose a new political and social order.

It can be easy to forget how new our political and culture-war conflicts are. Ten years ago, critical race theory was something you’d encounter only online or in academic settings, Democratic politicians were still talking about civil unions for homosexual couples, and the media and federal government were busy pointing out how far America had come in repairing the broken race relations of the past. Today, little remains of that old order. Just how fast has this transformation unfolded? Consider a simple measure of how frequently the word “racism” appears in the nation’s four largest newspapers: after staying basically constant from the 1970s to 2010, its usage explodes around 2012, with the Washington Post and the New York Times leading the charge.

Though this “Great Awokening” has scrambled political coalitions and upended widely held truths, wokeness itself remains a muddled concept. The obvious definition—that it is a belief system, what writer Wesley Yang has dubbed “the successor ideology”—has considerable merit. But as American polarization increases, it becomes clear that wokeness is also a social, economic, legal, and political phenomenon; it cannot simply be reduced to the ideas inside people’s heads. If wokeness is an institutional force, a comparative analysis can help describe it. Most Europeans can remember when America was considered stodgy and conservative, compared with progressive Western Europe. And yet, in 2022, the United States is experiencing deeper levels of polarization and social strife than other Western countries. Polls suggest a rapid loss of faith in public institutions. Americans identifying with either political party increasingly see the other party as a threat to democracy itself.

Why is it, then, that people in traditionally progressive countries—my native social-democratic Sweden being a prime example—can believe the same things, read the same books, and propound the same ideas as their American counterparts, without their societies experiencing the same sort of catastrophic polarization afflicting the United States? Why is it that capital seems to have gone woke in the United States more than in the rest of the West, with large companies intervening directly in political battles in a way that would be unthinkable in the Nordic countries? If this behavior were simply a product of neo-Marxist or socialist ideology, one would think that it would be more prevalent in a country like Sweden, where the ruling Social Democratic Party still sings “The Internationale” at its congresses.

The Managerial Revolution

The core thesis of James Burnham’s 1941 The Managerial Revolution helps explain what is happening in the West today. A former Trotskyite who later became a leading figure in postwar American conservatism, Burnham argued in that book that Western society would not see the collapse of capitalism and its replacement by socialism. Instead, he maintained, America would likely see capitalism replaced by a nonsocialist successor—one dominated not by capitalists in the classical sense but by a class of managers that would come to control the real economy, regardless of formal ownership status. This distinction—between ownership of, and control over, capital—was a topic of some discussion in the interwar years, with early analyses noting that apparatchiks in the Soviet Union had appropriated control over public resources.

In the United States, Burnham’s prophecy of a new managerial order came against the backdrop of the New Deal, which had coincided with a (somewhat understandable) loss of faith in capitalist ideas. The balance of power was shifting from property rights to a steadily increasing category of human rights, and Americans were becoming more accepting of state planning and control over larger parts of society. Burnham saw America in the early 1940s as being in a somewhat transitory phase. The old, capitalist order was clearly ailing, and managers were steadily growing their power at the owners’ expense. Still, the process of forming a new rulership class was by no means complete. While “control over the instruments of production is everywhere undergoing a shift” toward managers, wrote Burnham, “the big bourgeoisie, the finance-capitalists, are still the ruling class in the United States.” New Dealism was not yet a “developed, systematized managerial ideology” that was capable of fully replacing capitalism.

But if Burnham were alive today, he might see wokeness as exactly that: a systematized, managerial ideology capable of standing on its own as a claim to rulership over society on behalf of the new class of managers. Indeed, many of the dynamics that worried or fascinated thinkers like Burnham during the interwar and New Deal era seem to reappear today in hypertrophied form. Let us return to the question of ownership versus control. Here, wokeness serves to abrogate property rights, as seen in many controversies taking place in the business world. Consider the fate of the video-game behemoth Activision Blizzard, recently bought by Microsoft. After various ex-employees leveled allegations of workplace mistreatment and a frat-boy culture at its California offices, the company found itself under siege from multiple directions. First, the state of California sued it. Then, the media started covering the story with fervor. Various NGOs and activist organizations jumped into the fray, and the Securities and Exchange Commission launched an investigation. Though the original accusations against the company had to do only with sexual misconduct in the workplace, the list of demands made on Activision Blizzard quickly expanded beyond the original crime. Firing the offending workers or instituting mere workplace reform wasn’t good enough; rather, Activision Blizzard would need to open up its internal hiring and firing decisions to some sort of public review to ensure that it met various “diversity” targets.

If one reads between the lines of the controversy, it becomes clear that the owners of a company now must subject their hiring process to review by other managerial institutions. The main practical demand that wokeness places on society is a massive expansion of managerial intermediation in previously independent social and economic processes. With Activision Blizzard, a controversy regarding the workplace environment quickly metastasized into a struggle to implement new, alternative human-resources structures that corporate leadership would not control, and to which it would have to pay, in effect, a kind of ideological protection money. In real terms, this represents a nontrivial abrogation of property rights: you may still own your company, but don’t expect to be free to run it as you see fit without the “help” of outside commissars.

Another example of creeping intermediation can be seen in the Hollywood trend to hire so-called racial equity consultants to ensure that characters from various minorities are sufficiently represented in movies and TV. Time was when a screenwriter would conceive of a plot and populate it with characters, drawing upon crude, inequitable instruments such as empathy and imagination; this is less and less permissible. Populating stories with various minority characters is not just encouraged but demanded—and one must do so only after employing intermediary consultants. Writing now requires intercession from a class of moral managers.

Institutional Prerogatives and Access to Resources

Seen in this light, wokeness is not a mere scholastic ideology. Indeed, the woke tend to be uninterested in any form of Socratic dialogue regarding their suppositions. In 2017, the feminist philosophy journal Hypatia descended into massive controversy after a writer, Rebecca Tuvel, published an argument that transracialism ought to enjoy the same sort of philosophical status as transgenderism. Tuvel appeared to make her argument sincerely, in an effort to explore the philosophical implications of people who transcend social categories, but the effort rendered her a pariah. If woke ideology has little use for academic discussions, it is quite adept at asserting control over institutions. One cannot separate woke controversies from struggles over hiring and firing privileges inside institutions. What appears to be a fight over principles is simultaneously a fight over institutional prerogatives and access to resources.

Like the managerial ideology that Burnham anticipated, wokeness both asserts a wide variety of rights that supersede ownership and insists upon the creation of a permanent caste of managers to monitor the implementation of these rights. This tendency toward intermediation now extends to almost every facet of modern society, including in areas previously seen as foundational to the political system. Democracy, for instance, is now seen as needing various forms of intermediation so as to function properly. Without the input of managers, the thinking goes, the raw expression of the popular will can lead to aberrations, such as the election of Donald Trump or Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. Calls are increasingly being made to impose a layer of experts qualified to judge just what political questions and issues could be safely left to purportedly benighted voters to decide.

The instinct to resort to expert guidance and thereby remove contentious issues from the realm of public debate takes many forms. Consider Extinction Rebellion, a radical environmental group of marginal prominence but one that has nevertheless articulated a vision for fixing our supposedly broken political systems along these lines. Extinction Rebellion envisions the introduction of “citizens’ assemblies” consisting of a representative portion of the population that would form a “mini-public.” This mini-public would then receive information selected by a caste of experts and formulate various recommendations based on it. The experts would listen to the mini-public’s (nonbinding) recommendations before making their own decisions about what was best.

The American Exception

But why has America become more woke than its European counterparts?

After all, many planks of progressive ideology, such as legal same-sex marriage, were achieved in Europe much earlier than in the United States. The ideas are fairly similar on both sides of the Atlantic. In my view, the material insecurity of the American managerial classes, whose numbers, as Peter Turchin argued, have grown too large to be absorbed by society in ways commensurate with their lofty economic expectations, helps account for this development.

Consider Sweden, which is far less polarized and enjoys a much more sedate cultural environment than the United States. It operates a massive government machine to furnish the scions of the managerial class with all sorts of work. My own municipality, Uppsala, a city two-thirds the size of Reno, Nevada, employs almost 100 people as “communicators.” Their official workload mostly consists of managing the municipality’s social media accounts and writing policy documents. The communications department is notoriously dysfunctional; the municipality hired an outside consultancy to find out what all these employees do all day. But in at least one sense, it does what it is supposed to do: provide make-work jobs for university graduates who would otherwise risk going unemployed—and become potential social agitators.

Sweden is rife with various taxes, carve-outs, fees, and other accommodations that together form a massive patronage machine employing artists, bureaucrats, gender studies majors, activists, curators, mindfulness consultants, environmental advocates, and much more. The state aggressively pays for art, education, NGOs, and even journalism—most major newspapers in Sweden depend heavily on subsidies to stay in the black. Perhaps the best illustration of the Swedish political economy is that Swedes pay in the neighborhood of $9 per gallon for gas. This massive cost difference owes almost entirely to taxes and fees, which fund social work. At first, the gas tax was intended primarily to pay for the maintenance of roads. Today, people argue for raising gas taxes to fund environmentalist causes. The managers running these causes are trying to fund themselves by imposing regressive taxes on their blue-collar countrymen.

Swedes, it’s worth observing, aren’t knocking down monuments of Carl Linnaeus. Even as the frenzy of iconoclasm and statue-toppling swept America, Swedish activists were content to launch an online poll on the subject of statue removal and give up, once it was clear that they didn’t enjoy majority support. Statue-toppling is less attractive when the municipality that owns the statues is likely to be your employer. Even if they were not designed with this purpose in mind, the social-democratic welfare states of Europe as a whole have been adapted to provide a new form of welfare for the college-educated, aspirational managerial classes. Aggressive tax policies once enacted to eliminate disparities between workers and owners have now been altered so that, in practice, they hit hardest against rural small-business owners and workers, while funding various subventions and tax breaks for residents in the comfortable urban cores. As environmentalism furnishes these urban-dwellers with a plausible excuse for ever-increasing intermediation in society, it is no accident that the base of green parties throughout Europe is almost uniformly wealthy, urban, and highly credentialed.

In the United States, by contrast, while some public-sector sinecures exist, it is hard to imagine such a pervasive culture of make-work ever taking hold. Deep-seated cultural assumptions weigh against it, as do other practical considerations. The scope of the U.S. welfare state is narrower (though it has always been understated and, indeed, is more redistributive than its European counterparts).

Further, the United States remains more federalist, meaning that large, state-driven projects shifting resources from one segment of the population to another are more difficult to implement. In Europe, managerial dominance in the economy can be justified as a natural outgrowth of the responsible welfare state. The woke rarely have to lower themselves to highway robbery—they can merely call for additional gas taxes to fund whatever managerial initiatives need funding. In America, woke managerial intermediation resembles a crude shakedown against private corporations and institutions. What is the future of the managerial society? Will the European response continue unabated? Will the U.S. overcome its unique idiosyncrasies and produce a uniform system in which tax collection—or perhaps tribute extraction—funds the expansion of the managerial state, overcoming the constitutional design? Probably not.

In Europe, managers are now facing a backlash as disillusionment with the welfare state grows. Regressive taxes have ignited fuel protests in Sweden, Finland, Ireland, and, most dramatically, in France. There’s no particular reason to expect Europe to be spared from large-scale conflicts between classes and political factions in the years ahead. If anything, the gilets jaunes’ rebellion prefigured a growing dynamic in European countries. In the meantime, scenes from both the United States and Canada suggest that workers operating outside the managerial structures of big unions are starting to resist intermediation by experts.

Leftists were always taught that workers, once robbed of leadership and organization from a well-educated vanguard, would devolve into an inert mass of potatoes with no political agency or ability to make their voices heard. This has proved wrong, and the future promises more conflicts between workers and the managers seeking to impose further restrictions on them. What about the owners of capital themselves? The old assumption on the radical Left— that small-business owners are the faithful incubators of reaction and thus will always end up on the opposite side of working people—may be disproved in the years ahead. Insofar as the petty gentry of capitalism is concerned, the managerial regime offers little in the way of carrots, while the ever-growing requirements of the expanding caste of bureaucrats and commissars places an unsustainable financial burden on them.

The dismal fate of Activision Blizzard also hints that, even for very large companies, the relationship between capitalists and managers isn’t necessarily one of happy symbiosis; it is increasingly becoming one of strife and parasitism. In short, woke managers want to impose a new political and social order. Managerialism requires intermediation, and intermediation requires a justifying ideology. Wokeness has accomplished what New Dealism never set out to do in the 1940s: it serves as a comprehensive, flexible, and ruthless ideology that can justify almost any act of institutional subversion and overreach. But already, the cracks are starting to show. With gas prices now rising precipitously and inflation running wild, the contradictions inherent in managerialism are likely only to sharpen in the days ahead. If wokeness is indeed the “highest stage”—to borrow from Lenin—of the managerialist society that Burnham saw coming nearly 100 years ago, then one needn’t be a revolutionary to ask: How long can it really last?

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Zizek Programing...

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Time for Another Moral Lesson from Our Better's....

Slavoj Zizek said that (ex)-Communists like the Chinese or the Russians make such good neoliberals because they were brought up to hate the bourgeoisie (meaning, the middle-class), and neoliberalism allows them to wage war against this despised class.

- Clarissa's Blog: "Why Communists Make Good Neoliberals"

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Light Emitting Dark Matter? Axion Decay?

An axion (/ˈæksiɒn/) is a hypothetical elementary particle postulated by the Peccei–Quinn theory in 1977 to resolve the strong CP problem in quantum chromodynamics (QCD). If axions exist and have low mass within a specific range, they are of interest as a possible component of cold dark matter.

Quantum Physics Stinks!

Dr. Subhendu Kar (Oct 2015), "QUANTUM SOLACE."

Curve of tangent brims on rune of cosmic quantum,
as sparkling rays reel through dew drops at dawn,
for green to enlighten creation by bounty of joy,
meadow grass seems to tumble drinking solace,
resonance of love sprees like beauty of blossom.

speckles of white crystal repose in home of blue,
eyes bespeaks of ethereal exist to seek beyond,
sun awakens earth to uplift from sheath of night,
as if hale of eternity expands to abound beyond ,
petal draws portrait of spark to inflame fragrance.

silence quells grief of soul to emblazon by the journey,
for each drop of tear to absolve guilt of own delusion,
light of love wakes heart to disown from quailing grace,
cry of call genuflects at foothill of warmth to yield unity,
synergy of art evolves to form by sanity of confluence.

Innocence blushes like cadence of hope to run a muck
quest still falters to know very principle of uncertainty
mystery baffles truth of reason to reason out belief
as tendered mellow soft weaves to gather web of love
yet don't we need to learn theory of quantum solace?.

Self-Assembling Structures And Chicken v. Egg Theories

An Evolutionary Paradox...

"Evolution, by favoring fitness, drives truth to extinction." - Donald Hoffman

"Trust isn't about content, it's about process" - Macomb Gladwell
Evolutionary biologists use the word fitness to describe how good a particular genotype is at leaving offspring in the next generation relative to other genotypes. So if brown beetles consistently leave more offspring than green beetles because of their color, you’d say that the brown beetles had a higher fitness. In evolution, fitness is about success at surviving and reproducing, not about exercise and strength.

Of course, fitness is a relative thing. A genotype’s fitness depends on the environment in which the organism lives. The fittest genotype during an ice age, for example, is probably not the fittest genotype once the ice age is over.

Fitness is a handy concept because it lumps everything that matters to natural selection (survival, mate-finding, reproduction) into one idea. The fittest individual is not necessarily the strongest, fastest, or biggest. A genotype’s fitness includes its ability to survive, find a mate, produce offspring — and ultimately leave its genes in the next generation.

Caring for your offspring, producing thousands of young — many of whom won’t survive — and sporting fancy feathers that attract females are a burden to the health and survival of the parent. These strategies do, however, increase fitness because they help the parents get more of their offspring into the next generation.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

The Liberal Mistake - the Symptomatic Universality as a Hegemonic Universal

Julian de Medeiros
The lecture today is going to be dedicated to the idea of what Zizek calls symptomatic universality. And if you've followed this lecture Series so far, you'll know that the main theme is the idea of the spurious infinity.  And spurious Infinity is code for what Hegel calls a false Universal. And it's an accusation that he makes against ficta that Victor has spurious Infinities. As I already said in a previous lecture, Zizek also accuses certain post-modern thinkers and post-Marxist thinkers of falling into the Trap of what he calls spurious at Infinities within Identitarian politics. 

 So it's a really like interesting nut to crack and if that sounds abstract I'm going to try to like explain it in a way that is hopefully intuitive and enjoyable too. In fact, I thought that we should begin by addressing the elephant in the room. And we should talk about that Infamous Kanye interview that took place the other day on Infowars. You know what I'm alluding to, yes, so the infamous Kanye interview in which ye, formerly known as Kanye West, made the remark that he loves all people, especially Hitler. And of course this is a hugely offensive outrageous claim, and we should immediately say that we stand against all forms of anti-Semitism, no ifs, no buts. And yet what's interesting here is that in Kanye's statement that he loves Hitler and his other anti-semitic outbursts, we see a kind of spurious Infinity, a logical conclusion that is reached from within liberalism itself from within the false Universal of liberalism itself. 

Now, what is one of the false universals of liberalism is the idea of universalized love, the idea that we love everybody that you should love everybody. This is also how you should interpret Zizek's critique of love where he says that love, rather than being a universalizing agent, love is a very particularizing agent. That love differentiates. That if you were in love with somebody, and they said ,"what do you love about me?" And you say, "well I love everybody". That wouldn't be love. In fact, that would be precisely hate. That would not be love. Love is a particularizing differentiating affection: "I love you above other people". This is like something that I really like from Hana Arendt, where she says that one of the signs that you're in love is that you don't want to be with others, that whereas friendship blossoms in the company of others love Withers. That love fundamentally is something that isolates you. It's like a video I made a while back about the Hilkian maxim, that to be in love is to guard each other's Solitude. You become a world unto yourself.

Now those of you who followed my lecture on love have already heard of all about this, and yet the idea of a universalizing Love, a "Love of All", a love of everything, is thereby a false Universal. It means almost the exact opposite, which could be a kind of hate. And it's also why he never loves the world. That the ethical attitude of "loving the world" is disingenuous. That he fundamentally starts by saying "I hate the world I find, the world a miserable place of abject misery and suffering.  And it's precisely against the background against the Horizon of that kind of pain that you find something worth living for, something worth fighting for. That love is a kind of resistance against the abyss. It's how you crawl out of it. It's like a rope ladder. It's not something that is a universalizing substance as such.

Of course, what we see with Kanye, if you follow his argument (if you can call it that) is that he loves everyone, even and especially Hitler. Now why would Hitler, according to Kanye, be worthy of Special Love? Well according to Kanye, Hitler should be worthy of special love because he is hated by so many others, thereby Hitler, suddenly finds himself as the true minority, the person who is the voice of the voiceless. And we find near an incredibly sick and twisted inversion, what Hegel called difficult, or the world upside down, where Hitler suddenly presented as the lost soul who is deserving of our love.  It's interesting here because obviously what where Kanye is coming from is from what he believes to be a Christian ethic of universal love. And yet the Christian ethic is unconditional love, not Universal Love.  Now what is the difference between unconditional love rather than Universal love? isn't "I love everybody," but it's "I love you above everybody else, I love you no matter what against everybody else." It's a singular instance of particularized Love that therein becomes Universal. 

I'll give you an example here the famous passage where Christ says, or Jesus, at this point says "in order to love me you have to hate your family". It's an incredibly difficult passage to understand, and to grasp, because usually we would think loving your family would be something virtuous and something a good Christian would do. So why would Jesus pose it, that you should hate your family in order to love him? Well think about the Fast and the Furious series. Think about how in the Fast and the Furious,  the idea of family becomes elevated to a kind of spurious Infinity. In each and every movie we have additional cast members who are included in the family. In fact, even the villains are eventually wrapped back into the family. Family thereby is like the identitarian Plus (+) at the end of the lgbtq sequence, that if you expand the sequence long enough, everyone can be included.

Here we find exactly the accusation that Hegel made. Remember what I said in the previous lecture, that Hegel accused Ficht of being someone who "embraced Spurious Infinities" because, he said, "the ideal lies Beyond the Horizon like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow". And that as long as we simply keep searching for it, we thereby find an infinite progress, an infinite "Arc towards Justice", towards the absolute good.  And Hagel said that as soon as you elevate the idea of the infinite into this this never reachable space, you don't have a true Universal, you simply have a delayed Universal, a universal that will never arrive. Here we also have a difference, for example, between Judaism and the Abrahamic faith, or not Abraham, okay, the Christian faith. Sorry, within Judaism the event of Christianity hasn't taken place. In a sense, it's disavowed Judaism is in a Perpetual state of waiting, of anticipation, of setting the table, as it were, for the arrival of the Messiah. It's within Christianity with that we have the much more traumatic encounter, that the event has already happened, that it has already taken place. The revolution within the logic of the Old Testament that now is the New Testament. Namely, the idea of the community of the faithful, the Trinity spirit, and so on has already taken place. It's like you're not setting the table, it's you've had the dinner party and now you're cleaning up afterwards. This puts Christianity in a fundamentally different position. Ironically, it's the Doom mongers, the apocalyptic evangelicals, who thereby revert to the less traumatic stance of the judaic faith. Namely, Christ wasn't the real event, Christ was simply the warm-up act for the true event which will be. The resurrection is the the real Reckoning. Exactly and thereby, we find ourselves within this Evangelical moment in a kind of Spurious infinity. Right, you can live in a sort of Perpetual preparation for the apocalypse thereby lending a kind of infinite immediacy to your present moment, and therein lies a certain false Universal again, or spurious Infinity.

Now to go back to Kanye, when Kanye thereby argues that Hitler is deserving of love because he is so universally hated, we find The Logical trap that lies within liberalism.  Namely the idea that everyone is equally deserving of Love, thereby we should love, in particular, those who are considered by the majority as being not worthy of love and so, in a totally messed up contrarian fashion, it's Kanye who represents himself as the figure of universalized love. That he has the courage to love the very sad thing to watch unfold of course how these contradictions that are imminent and implicit to liberalism themselves come into fruition here 

We should look a little bit closer at which it calls a symptomatic Universal.  And in order to do so, we could look at how Zizek critiques liberalism. So Zizek essentially argues that the two dominant polls of liberalism today tend to be what you might call the "liberalism of Democrats of the United States" and the "liberalism of Republicans." The liberalism of Republicans usually tends to be economic liberalism, with emphasis on free markets, emphasis on individual liberty, resistance against tyranny, government control, and so on and so forth. Democratic liberalism, which also Embraces the tenets of the free market, however argues that you require a government that ensures the rights and the Civic Liberties of individuals, and of minorities. In other words, we tend to have an egalitarian emphasis within the idea of "democratic liberalism," if you will, which for some is "Progressive liberalism", and which can also be "identitarian liberalism", versus the Republican, more conservative and sometimes reactionary emphasis on the idea of a anti-government liberalism, of something that easily becomes a kind of libertarianism.

Now Zizek argues that rather than trying to discern which side of this divide is the true liberalism, whether it is the liberalism of ensuring the equality of individuals through government action, or whether it is the liberalism of protecting the sovereignty of the individual against government. That, rather than trying to decide who on which side of this divide has the "truer liberalism" we should argue, or we should conclude that the central identity of liberalism is precisely that it cannot be reconciled except by abstracting into these dual polls, that these two sides of irreconcilable liberalism is the truth of liberalism. That there is no "true liberalism" behind the mask of these two antagonistic versions, hence also, why we should go back to one of the liberal platitudes today namely the complaint about tribalism. And we realized that this complaint about tribalism falls prey to the exact same as the spurious infinite, namely, the problem with Society is that we don't get along. If only we could find a universal frame through which we could experience Society thereby not succumbing to two tribes. And yet, the Logical Paradox implicit in this argument is that it's the very same.  Liberals who argue against tribalism, who insist on the infinite of the spurious infinite of particularizing identity whether it's sexual identity, ethnic identity, religious identity, and so on and so forth. And so thereby we have this Melting Pot of identities in which everyone is supposed to be able to exercise their own individual lifestyle through the lens which is thereby the disavowed symptomatic lens. Namely of a liberalism that is underpinned by global capitalism. 

And here we can see again, to go back to Kanye.  Where Kanye veers in the wrong direction what starts as a critique of capitalism ends up in an Anti-semitic tirade against the idea of a Jewish scientist plot meant to undermine the virility of men, and the engagement in society through true family values and so on and so forth.  This is the pseudo-revolution that is always offered by fascism. The idea that there is an enemy 'other' that thereby is trying to undermine the true Universal of the nation, of the Fatherland, of the faith of the family, and that as long as we fight this enemy through reactionary, namely anti-liberal means, we will return to the true Universal. 

Here you see again the problem with this idea of a false Universal masquerading as a true one.  The idea of the family, the idea of the faith, the idea of the Fatherland that has to be protected against an enemy, that is thereby elevated to a universal substance, namely the idea of the Jew, capital J. When the reality is, of course, that the Jew doesn't exist, that and this, is to argue over, over, and over again is the Anti-semitic fantasy. And the accusation about the Jew has nothing to do with lived, real Jewish experience. It is entirely a universalizing of an abstract reactionary fear predicated upon upholding the empty core, the ontological Emptiness, within the idea of the nation, which is itself a false Universal, and so in order to mask, or uphold this false Universal, it requires the antithesis of another false Universal of the idea of the Jew, the enemy the enemy of the people, and so on and so forth. And so here we have the problem with what Heil calls a "spurious Infinity" is that in order to sustain the illusion that it is not in fact a false Universal, but a true one, it requires a kind of reactionary positing of either something that cannot be reached, that lies perpetually Over the Horizon some Arc of justice that will never end, or the positing of an antithetical reactionary enemy that will thereby eliminate your "true Universal" unless you eliminate it first. And that is a trap, that we find within the the link from liberalism towards Kanye's Outburst about "loving Hitler."