Thursday, December 30, 2010
There is a faint echo of the feminist analysis –a lip service paid to it– in the inclusion of so called “affective labor” in the range of work activities qualifying as “immaterial labor.” However, the best Negri and Hardt can come up with is the case of women who work as flight attendants or in the food service industry, whom they call “affective laborers,” because they are expected to smile at their customers.
But what is “affective labor?” And why is it included in the theory of immaterial labor? I imagine it is included because –presumably– it does not produce tangible products but “states of being,” that is, it produces feelings. Again, to put it crudely, I think this is a bone thrown to feminism, which now is a perspective that has some social backing and can no longer be ignored.
But the concept of “affective labor” strips the feminist analysis of housework of all its demystifying power. In fact, it brings reproductive work back into the world of mystification, suggesting that reproducing people is just a matter of making producing “emotions,” “feelings,” It used to be called a “labor of love;” Negri and Hardt instead have discovered “affection.”
The feminist analysis of the function of the sexual division of labor, the function of gender hierarchies, the analysis of the way capitalism has used the wage to mobilize women’s work in the reproduction of the labor force–all of this is lost under the label of “affective labor.” - Silvia Federici, "Precarious Labour and Reproductive Work"
*Marx of course didn't actually ignore this but sets it out quite plainly in Capital:
When treating of the working day, we saw that the labourer is often compelled to make his individual consumption a mere incident of production. In such a case, he supplies himself with necessaries in order to maintain his labour-power, just as coal and water are supplied to the steam-engine and oil to the wheel. His means of consumption, in that case, are the mere means of consumption required by a means of production; his individual consumption is directly productive consumption. This, however, appears to be an abuse not essentially appertaining to capitalist production.
The matter takes quite another aspect, when we contemplate, not the single capitalist, and the single labourer, but the capitalist class and the labouring class, not an isolated process of production, but capitalist production in full swing, and on its actual social scale. By converting part of his capital into labour-power, the capitalist augments the value of his entire capital. He kills two birds with one stone. He profits, not only by what he receives from, but by what he gives to, the labourer. The capital given in exchange for labour-power is converted into necessaries, by the consumption of which the muscles, nerves, bones, and brains of existing labourers are reproduced, and new labourers are begotten. Within the limits of what is strictly necessary, the individual consumption of the working class is, therefore, the reconversion of the means of subsistence given by capital in exchange for labour-power, into fresh labour-power at the disposal of capital for exploitation. It is the production and reproduction of that means of production so indispensable to the capitalist: the labourer himself. The individual consumption of the labourer, whether it proceed within the workshop or outside it, whether it be part of the process of production or not, forms therefore a factor of the production and reproduction of capital; just as cleaning machinery does, whether it be done while the machinery is working or while it is standing. The fact that the labourer consumes his means of subsistence for his own purposes, and not to please the capitalist, has no bearing on the matter. The consumption of food by a beast of burden is none the less a necessary factor in the process of production, because the beast enjoys what it eats. The maintenance and reproduction of the working class is, and must ever be, a necessary condition to the reproduction of capital. But the capitalist may safely leave its fulfilment to the labourer’s instincts of self-preservation and of propagation. All the capitalist cares for, is to reduce the labourer’s individual consumption as far as possible to what is strictly necessary, and he is far away from imitating those brutal South Americans, who force their labourers to take the more substantial, rather than the less substantial, kind of food.
Hence both the capitalist and his ideological representative, the political economist, consider that part alone of the labourer’s individual consumption to be productive, which is requisite for the perpetuation of the class, and which therefore must take place in order that the capitalist may have labour-power to consume; what the labourer consumes for his own pleasure beyond that part, is unproductive consumption. If the accumulation of capital were to cause a rise of wages and an increase in the labourer’s consumption, unaccompanied by increase in the consumption of labour-power by capital, the additional capital would be consumed unproductively. In reality, the individual consumption of the labourer is unproductive as regards himself, for it reproduces nothing but the needy individual; it is productive to the capitalist and to the State, since it is the production of the power that creates their wealth.
From a social point of view, therefore, the working class, even when not directly engaged in the labour process, is just as much an appendage of capital as the ordinary instruments of labour. Even its individual consumption is, within certain limits, a mere factor in the process of production
- Marx, Capital, vol 1, chapter 23
The Bronx Slave Market! What is it? Who are its dealers? Who are its victims? What are its causes? How far does its stench spread? What forces are at work to counteract it?
Any corner in the congested sections of New York City’s Bronx is fertile soil for mushroom “slave marts.” The two where the traffic is heaviest and the bidding is highest are located at 167th street and Jerome Avenue and at Simpson and Westchester avenues.
Symbolic of the more humane slave block is the Jerome avenue “market.” There, on benches surrounding a green square, the victims wait, grateful, at least, for some place to sit. In direct contrast is the Simpson avenue “mart,” where they pose wearily against buildings and lampposts, or scuttle about in an attempt to retrieve discarded boxes upon which to rest.
Again, the Simpson avenue block exudes the stench of the slave market at its worst. Not only is human labor bartered and sold for slave wage, but human love also is a marketable commodity. But whether it is labor, or love that is sold, economic necessity compels the sale. As early as 8 a.m. they come; as late as 1 p.m. they remain.
Rain or shine, cold or hot, you will find them there – Negro women, old and young – sometimes bedraggled, sometimes neatly dressed – but with the invariable paper bundle, waiting expectantly for Bronx housewives to buy their strength and energy for an hour, two hours, or even for a day at the munificent rate of fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, or, if luck be with them, thirty cents an hour. If not the wives themselves, maybe their husbands, their sons, or their brothers, under the subterfuge of work, offer worldly-wise girls higher bids for their time.
Who are these women? What brings them here? Why do they stay? In the boom days before the onslaught of the depression in 1929, many of these women who are now forced to bargain for day’s work on street corners, were employed in grand homes in the rich Eighties, or in wealthier homes in Long Island and Westchester, at more than adequate wages. Some are former marginal industrial workers, forced by the slack in industry to seek other means of sustenance. In many instances there had been no necessity for work at all. But whatever their standing prior to the depression, none sought employment where they now seek it. They come to the Bronx, not because of what it promises, but largely in desperation.
Paradoxically, the crash of 1929 brought to the domestic labor market a new employer class. The lower middle-class housewife, who, having dreamed of the luxury of a maid, found opportunity staring her in tee face in the form of Negro women pressed to the wall by poverty, starvation and discrimination.
Where once color was the “gilt edged” security for obtaining domestic and personal service jobs, here, even, Negro women found themselves being displaced by whites. Hours of futile waiting in employment agencies, the fee that must be paid despite the lack of income, fraudulent agencies that sprung up during the depression, all forced the day worker to fend for herself or try the dubious and circuitous road to public relief.
As inadequate as emergency relief has been, it has proved somewhat of a boon to many of these women, for with its advent, actual starvation is no longer their ever-present slave driver and they have been able to demand twenty-five and even thirty cents an hour as against the old fifteen and twenty cent rate. In an effort to supplement the inadequate relief received, many seek this open market.
And what a market! She who is fortunate (?) enough to please Mrs. Simon Legree’s scrutinizing eye is led away to perform hours of multifarious household drudgeries. Under a rigid watch, she is permitted to scrub floors on her bended knees, to hang precariously from window sills, cleaning window after window, or to strain and sweat over steaming tubs of heavy blankets, spreads and furniture covers.
Fortunate, indeed, is she who gets the full hourly rate promised. Often, her day’s slavery is rewarded with a single dollar bill or whatever her unscrupulous employer pleases to pay. More often, the clock is set back for an hour or more. Too often she is sent away without any pay at all.
- Ella Baker and Marvel Cooke, “The Slave Market” From The Crisis 42 (Nov. 1935).
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Laurie Penny expresses her abhorrence of sectarianism in her characteristic witty and aphoristic style:
Of course, the old left is not about to disappear completely. It is highly likely that even after a nuclear attack, the only remaining life-forms will be cockroaches and sour-faced vendors of the Socialist Worker.
It's true the left/communists=cockroaches image is a bit tattered and tired, not even freshly retro since it's become a Glenn Beck favourite, but this doesn't significantly detract from Penny's bracing, piercing, mind-expanding brilliance of insight and analysis when she applies her theoretical powertools to received ideas. According to Penny, it is not necessarily, as the standard wisdom would have it, high income high net worth white baby boomers who commit acts of vandalism during street protests and throw rocks at mounted police. No in fact her investigations have uncovered that teens from the most materially deprived communities who come from social spheres saturated with violence are in fact the culprits.
Every sentence is a work of staggeringly original, brave and courageous thought of this type.
As for the cockroaches, one can only hope one day for them to adopt a sense of humour about themselves and learn to read in a less egoist and paranoid style:
Jennifer Izaakson-Jones Laurie, if you have political disagreements with democratic centralism and essentially, Leninism, then write political analysis about it...but that's not what you did. You compared SWP members to cockroaches. Maybe I missed the joke.
Laurie Penny I didn't compare you to cockroaches! The only similarity is you'll still be around after the nuclear holocaust. I'll be disappointed if not. Say anything about the SWP, your tenacity is endearing.
Friday at 2:53pm
Of course the official SWP line now is that Jenny and Laurie, being both female, have no subjective dimension at all, no moral, rational or egoic agency after years of self-commodification. They're putes hawking more than a nasty dirty newspaper as they walk the streets. Also they cannot converse with one another in a non-hostile manner on any topic other than their boyfriends, babies, vibrators or cosmetics. Perhaps Izaakson-Jones was constrained by this dictate to rebuke Penny rather than congratulate her with appropriate gushing on another brain-meltingly enlightening column.
If you come within a yard of these folks' prose, sarcasm just invades and overwhelms you.
Apart from reminding us that reds are roaches - which Guardian readers have surely not forgotten - Laurie Penny's article might give the impression that what she defines as the networked youth movement without organization has achieved something beyond media attention.
It put me in mind of an unofficial visit paid to a Vico seminar I attended at University by the great Umberto Eco. He was lamenting then the fading of certain interpersonal levelling or democratisation that had been adopted in American higher education over the sixties and seventies and the return of the daily rituals and customs of traditional hierarchy. Today we see all this podium use and speaker/authority addressing polite and attentive auditors established and reproducing the hierarchies of unmerited authority even more intensely and effectively than before the disruption. That is, the typical scene of pedagogy in the 50s university was more democratic and egalitarian than the scene today, with a slavish deference afforded to mere celebrity and the podium's status alone. I was also reminded of Zadie Smith complaining to Charlie Rose about how her American students at Harvard - not elementary school kids, but undergraduates - addressed her as Zadie not Miss Smith, and how she found this disconcerting. This last feeble vestige of a (then judged highly compromised by the military-indutrial complex) mildly democratic culture irked her as informal and disrespectful, denying her the emotional benefits of her ("earned", I suppose) superiority. She made this observation even while performing her self-abnegation as a beginner, mere apprentice in her profession, etc.. - that is, her desire to sneer down the ladder was accompanied by a display of eagerness to grovel up. This startlingly reactionary posture was apparently invisible to its producer, its critique imaginable of course but only as a familiar blurr in the course of being waved by with the stanchly self-satisfied liberal's yes, but. It is impossible to imagine earlier literary wunderkind behaving quite like this, but White Teeth had hit chick lit level sales and a mini-series adaptation. Smith's politics, small scale and large, harmonize perfectly with her wealth and the status of such wealth in this historical moment (a moment of historically low capital gains tax and asset bubbles guaranteeing the rapid growth of such fortunes and the rapid immiseration of those without them, supplying those with them with an environment of fawning and servility).
It is difficult no doubt for those Laurie Penny's age to grasp what a profoundly democratic culture and democratic social interactions are really like, and so they mistake mere disorganization and the loose assemblages of "fans of" (what those who sell to them call "markets") for something both excitingly new and in itself democratizing, egalitarian, "revolutionary". Even a shallow thinker taking the question serious can see this is not at all the case, and the most comical aspect of Laurie Penny is how contentedly ignorant she is of how old a cliché her delusion is.
To supply the lack of negotiated goals and strategy for achieving them, a belief in the efficacy of some mystical unity of purpose is to suffice to ensure the success of the release of benevolent energies. The swarm is passionate and good and therefore must succeed in overcoming evil. The disgust for the Socialist Worker expresses not only age old liberal revulsion at those Reds, infestations of tenacious vermin whom even Nazis can't seem to exterminate, but a newly ferocious loathing of newspapers because they suggest that this adoreable naïve passion and goodness is not enough, that dancing and crying in the streets and tweeting about it is only a small part of the struggle to overthrow the ruling class and transform the society into one of cooperation providing justice, liberty, security and abundance. Laurie Penny works at her liberal msm publications to undo what remains of the press' function as historical record, a function still performed by an older generation (Monbiot, Younge for example) but which is not being replaced by youth. She is one of many young pundits working under the direction of savvy planners to transform these publications into stages for the entertaining self-display of personalities like blogs and facebook which distill the pleasures of Friends and Sienfeld, settings for the striking of rhetorical postures justified, if at all, by the shortest possible term efficiency (wouldn't it be more fun and entertaining and better for our brands if we just salute 'Violence' instead of trying to explain a complex thing like the difference between repressive and liberatory action? Doesn't my column seem edgier if I play up the proximity of tough boys and exaggerate their menace rather than be boringly accurate and decline to exploit all that delicious energy of racism available for use with such subtlety one has not the least obligation to avow it?) and utterly indifferent to accuracy, depth, coherence and all the criteria by which once judged both reportage and opinion journalism.
Laurie Penny has no conception of how doggedly traditional and hierarchical her milieu is, an environment in which the capitalist mass media has all the power to shape and prioritize, because she is an historical ignoramus. But her publishers understand this, and she is chosen for her suitability to their plans. What she thinks she is doing or wants to do could not be less relevant to the effects of her product.
She is on the one hand an exemplar, the youth colmumnist. She has a position then comparable to the one which began Naomi Klein's career in Toronto. The comparison is instructive. While reporting on youth and campus based politics for the Globe and Mail, Klein wrote No Logo which chronicled an evolution in student activism in Canada and the US mainly from the identity politics skewed toward issues of recognition and representation to altermondialist challenges to the power of expanding private tyrannies that are the multinationals. This turned out in fact to be a tale of an internationalisation and a convergence of student and academia-dominated cultural politics in the imperial core with international struggles against exploitation and expropriation by the same blocks of capital that were issuing that spectacle which so absorbed the attention of the dissident elites working in culture industries. Klein discovered and analysed patterns of organisation, strategy and tactics and how they reflected the developing political analyses and convictions of altermondialist militants.
As the voice and observer of dissident youth and now youth in revolt, Penny is like a degraded facsimile of Klein, borrowing a lot and mixing it with bits of intellectual roach poison, fan gushings for cocaculture shit, throwback gender discourses, blithely self-satisfied white solipsism, etc.. And in place of Klein's somewhat subtle and empirically scrupulous representation of altermondialist activism, Penny is engaged in embarassing exaggerations for self-dramatization and childishly fetishises the absence of an infrastructure binding the tweeted flashmobs into a militant movement and of collectively legitimized authorities which allow her to seize for herself a position of prominence and insert herself between the militants she is observing and the msm audience. In part she is celebrating as a revolutionary feature an absence of social relations around human nodes which is only an artifact of the recentness of this coordination of people. But to display this pedestal-perched improvisation in the Guardian as a value distinguishing "youth" who don't read newspapers (she doesn't seem to understand this is due to brain damage from new media - the same brain damage, or mind damage at least, which accounts for her own inability to grasp the difference between the celebrity of the protests and their success) from an old left of vermin whom the most advanced weapons devised by science for capitalists have yet to eradicate, is work in the service of an ever intensifying liberal media effort to obstruct and prevent radicalisation of imperial core populations as the transformation to neo-feudal plutocracy accelerates. The bourgeoisie really does worry about a resurgent revolutionary communist humanity; they believe, with reason, that the success of any vast social movement will require the participation of strata of political, culture and telecom indusry professionals. They consequently zealously promote perky pundits who will stir hatred in youth for the greedy fat pampered "baby boomers" with their nearly paid off mortgages, their pensions and winter heat subsidies and christmas turkeys and yearly holidays in Ibiza, all things too luxurious for sinful humanity. There's not enough suffering in the world! To divert the fury of downwardly mobile populations the liberal msms will sow divisions of every kind but especially seek to vilify and defame the possessors of the fruits of popular victories and the knowledge of struggle founded in success. To this end they will promote pundits who see in the successful struggles and their protagonists and participants rivals rather than models, competitors rather than comrades. They will promote new "feminist critics of feminism" to denounce feminism as encouraging women to lead a "race to the bottom" with men leading to everyone's ruin. They will promote the prophets of post-racial society who declare the entire working class, apart from white men, enemies and dividers of the working class and betrayers of their own struggle whose victories are defeats in disguise. And they will naturally love pundits who explain it was through the wicked sacrificng of their own babies to the devil that those fat greedy vibrator addict "baby-boomers" got their lazy retirement and their heated rooms in winter, their dvds and their days of rest, their malt on the weekends and their comfy chairs, and all the vile self-indulgences their shallow depraved natures covet. If instead of organizing they had networked and tweeted, they wouldn't be so soft and warm today, so secure and sure of their health care and their morphine to ease their way out of life, such fat parasites!
It is worth remarking that Marx' language is never more richly figurative than when he sees himself stripping away the veils of market relations. Figures of the player, the alchemist, the vampire suddenly appear on the stage of his thought. Commodities betray their thoughts in that language in which they alone are familiar and cast "wooing glances," in the form of prices, at money - money which circulation "sweats...from every pore." All told the imagery points to a sphere of life in which the categories of animate and inanimate, natural and artificial, are fundamentally confused, if not inverted. It is a rhetorical caricature of capitalist contradictions.
Yet even as the profusion of Marx' metaphors draws the reader more deeply into the complexities of the market - its antithesis of values, it paradoxes of accumulation, its inversion of causality - there lingers the suspicion that Marx' own "language of commodities" is itself a veil behind which lie concealed the hard-edged historical realities of production and class-conflict.Capital never makes entirely clear, in fact, where the market as a mode of organization ends and the market as a mode of mystification begins; where the analysis of capitalist production leaves off and the critique of political economy resumes.
For Marx, of course, no fixed line is possible between one sort of analysis and the other because the rise of capitalist production is inseperable from the forms of mystification by which its characteristic system of surplus-extraction is concealed. Moreover, the forms of mystification (or fetishism) are neither arbitrary nor capricious but are in a sense symptomatically related to the mode of production they seem only to obscure. What commercial crises reveal retrospectively, Marx' analysis - with its diagnostic kit of metaphors - aspires to demonstrate beforehand: that within the market-place, the production of commodities and the fetishism of commodities define and in effect empower one another. Marx' spectral imagery reproduces the animism implicit in the categories of 19th century political economy but in such a way as to display its spuriousness, its mystification. His figurative language operates, in effect, as a literary antidote, countering with its own selective incongruities the misdirections of market culture.
Don't be silly. It's their evil witch welfare queen mothers.
You can hear that white managerial class and courtiers squealing with glee at this. It's a brilliant critique of capitalism! An antidote to that other dull, moralising conspiracy theory.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Footage recorded on a mobile phone by an Oxford University postgraduate student shows protesters shouting and screaming "there's no room" and "there's no space" as police try to push them back with riot shields.
Someone, believed to be a protester, can be heard shouting: "You're going to fucking kill someone tonight."
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Today I am going to talk about how we might reform the university and establish it as a venue for promoting the public good. Whether we like it or not we are in the midst of a massive global crisis. I think we need to be thinking about solutions to that crisis, as well as resisting the Coalition’s crazed austerity measures.
The university, as we know, focuses on education and research. It provides a technical education or a grounding in the humanities, for a minority of the population. And it develops specialist knowledge in science and the humanities.
A quick word about the educational role of the universities.
In normal times university education prepares young people for a privileged position in society – as ideological workers in journalism, public relations and advertising, as lawyers and doctors, corporate managers, financiers and so on.
When historians look back at 2008-10, what will puzzle them most, I believe, is the strange triumph of failed ideas. Free-market fundamentalists have been wrong about everything — yet they now dominate the political scene more thoroughly than ever.
Why on earth would the ruling class implement policies in its own interests when it has the power to do so? Paul Krugman asks. It's inexplicable.
Monday, December 20, 2010
CHRIS HEDGES: The collapse of the pillar, the primary pillars of the liberal establishment, those liberal institutions—the press, labor, public education and, in particular universities, culture, liberal religious institutions and the Democratic Party—that have been under assault.
And I speak a lot about World War I and the rise of the Committee for Public Information, the Creel Commission, which was the first system of modern mass propaganda, very closely studied by the Nazis, used to sell an unpopular war to an American public, but also used to crush populist, radical, progressive anarchist, Socialist, Communist movements that had frightened the power elite on the eve of World War I. And they employed for the first time the techniques of mass crowd psychology studied by figures like Le Bon, Trotter and Sigmund Freud. They understood that people were moved or manipulated not by fact or reason, but by what Walter Lippmann calls the "manufacturing of consent" in his 1922 book Public Opinion. And we’ve never recovered ever since.
So the assault and destruction of these populist or radical movements, which kept liberal institutions honest, and then the purges within liberal institutions, especially the anti-Communist purges of the 1950s. And many people who were expelled from these institutions were no way Communist, figures like I.F. Stone, arguably our greatest journalist of the 20th century, couldn’t even get a job at The Nationmagazine and ends up a pariah. He’s not alone—thousands and thousands of people. So that with the rise of neoliberalism and the corporate state under Clinton, these—we lost the radical movements, and we lost the liberal institutions that normally make possible incremental or piecemeal reform within the formal mechanisms of power.
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, there was—of course, one of the most egregious examples occurred here in New York City when Rockefeller went after City University. What they did is they destroyed the capacity for people outside the power elite to get great education. City University at one time was one of the great universities in the country and educated, you know, a huge swath of mostly first-generation immigrants. The corporatization of universities is far advanced now. You have a withering of the humanities, destruction of philosophy departments. Departments must raise not only their own research and grant money, but often their own salaries. Well, you know, who’s going to pay for that?
And so, what we’ve turned our universities into are essentially vocational schools. If you go to a school like Princeton, then you will become a systems manager and go to Goldman Sachs. If you go to an inner-city dysfunctional public school in a place like Camden, you are trained vocationally to stock shelves in Walmart. It’s a kind of solidification of a very pernicious class system, and one that doesn’t train students anymore to think but to fill slots.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
The free play of the mind has been managerialised. Holding our way of life to account has yielded to accountancy. The logic of the commodity has now penetrated into the sphere of human needs and nurture, breeding pathological symptoms there. In universities, as in transnational corporations, a largely disaffected labour force confronts a finance-obsessed managerial elite.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Sunday, December 12, 2010
When the reporter tries to investigate, they respond by attacking him and his cameraman, "within view of the police, who failed to intervene":
Only a quarter of all graduates will pay off loans
The rest in debt for life as Government's own figures suggest new university fees system is unsustainable.
By Brian Brady
Independent, Sunday, 12 December 2010
Only one in four graduates will pay back the full cost of their tuition fees under the coalition's new system for financing higher education in England.
Internal government figures, seen by The Independent on Sunday, reveal that a small minority of students paying fees of up to £9,000 a year are expected ever to pay them off in full. Ministers believe most graduates will spend their whole working lives making monthly payments to cover their loans and interest – without ever being able to settle their debts.
And they have the audacity to complain about "violence"! Well, they ain't seen nuthin' yet.
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Inevitably, and vomit-inducingly, the BBC hacks are condemning those protestors for their so-called "violence" (against windows and walls), yet no one mentions the brutal structural violence* of condemning an entire generation of human beings EITHER to gigantic and probably unpayable debt OR to a future with no formal education beyond the age of sixteen and a gruesome underpaid McJob or no job at all to follow.
This particular qlipoth (aka Anonymous) is heartened and inspired by what happened in London today. He supports it fully, especially the destruction of so-called "property" (it's stolen property: it's the former commons; it includes Government buildings). Good on those courageous, righteously angry and wise people for trashing, graffiti-ing and attempting to enter those government buildings. Good on them for defying the armed and armoured defenders of the corporate state and the brutally sanctimonious hacks who defend it no less. Good on them for understanding very clearly what the horribly-depleted BBC, the repugnant Aaron Porter and the fucking so-called Labour Party would love to obfuscate: that "peaceful" protest is worth considerably less than two shits.
Good on them, finally, for breaking the car windows of the heir-to-the-throne and putting the fear of god into him. And good on them, too, for neither killing nor injuring nor even slightly hurting him. (Who says they have no self-control? Who dares to call them VIOLENT?)
Today's London protests were the first battle in the international War on Thieves and Liars.
* one "Seventies" term that badly needs reviving. Babies should not be thrown out with bathwater.
Thursday, December 02, 2010
Authoritarian regimes give rise to forces which oppose them by pushing against the individual and collective will to freedom, truth and self realization. Plans which assist authoritarian rule, once discovered, induce resistance. Hence these plans are concealed by successful authoritarian powers. This is enough to define their behavior as conspiratorial.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
"Children are, in fact, reacting to the broader collapse of the nurturing conditions needed for their healthy development."
There is a new diagnosis called Oppositional Defiant Disorder which again has to do with behaviors and poor impulse control.
DR. GABOR MATÈ : Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. There are about half a million kids in this country receiving heavy duty anti-psychotic medications. Medications such as those are usually given to adult schizophrenics to regulate their hallucinations. But in this case, children are getting it to control their behavior. So what we have is a massive social experiment of the chemical control of kids’ behavior with no idea of the long-term consequences of these heavy duty anti-psychotics on kids.
I know that Canadians statistics just last week showed that within last five years, 43% increase in the rate of dispensing stimulant prescriptions for ADD or ADHD, and most are going to boys. In other words, what we are seeing is an unprecedented burgeoning of the diagnosis. I should say, really I’m talking about- more broadly speaking- what I would call the destruction of American childhood, because ADD is the template, or just an example of what’s going on. In fact, according to a recent study published in the States, nearly half of American adolescents now meet some criteria for mental-health disorders. So we’re talking about a massive impact on our children of something in our culture not been recognized.
DR. GABOR MATÈ: The situation with fathers is that increasingly now, there was study recently that showed increasing numbers of men are having postpartum depression as well. And the main role of the father, of course, would be to support the mother. But when people are stressed emotionally... The cause of postpartum depression in the mother it is not intrinsic to the mother. Not intrinsic to the mother. What we have to understand here is that human beings are not discrete, individual entities, contrary to the 'free enterprise' myth- that people are competitive, individualistic, private entities. What people actually are are social creatures very much dependent on one another, and very much programed to cooperate with one another when the circumstances are right.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Krugman, China, Finance
Here’s the quandary that the U.S. economy is in: The Fed’s quantitative easing policy– creating more liquidity so that banks can lend more – aims at helping the economy “borrow its way out of debt.” But banks are not lending more, for the simple reason that a third of U.S. real estate already is in negative equity, while small and medium-sized businesses (which have created most of the new jobs in America for the past few decades) have seen their preferred collateral (real estate and sales orders) shrink. How can banks be expected to lend more to re-inflate the economy’s asset prices while wages and consumer prices continue to drift down? The “real” economy as a whole therefore must shrink.
What has made the argument over Fed policy so important over the past week is a series of exchanges between Republicans and Democrats. The deteriorating situation prompted a group of Republican economists and political strategists to publish an open letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke criticizing the Fed’s policy of Quantitative Easing (QE2), flooding the economy with liquidity spilling over into foreign exchange markets to push the dollar’s exchange rate down. True enough, as far as this criticism goes. But it only scratches the surface.
Enter Paul Krugman, one of the most progressive defenders of Democratic Party policy. His New York Times op-eds usually rebut Republican advocacy for Wall Street and corporate interests. But he also indulges in China bashing. To “blame the foreigner” rather than the system is normally a right-wing response, yet Krugman blames China simply for trying to save itself from being victimized by the Wall Street policies he normally criticizes when labor is the prey. By blaming China, he not only lets the Federal Reserve Board and its Wall Street constituency off the hook, he blames virtually the entire world that confronted Obama’s financial nationalism with a united front in Seoul two weeks ago when he and his entourage received an almost unanimous slap in the face at the Group of 20 meetings.
In a primetime TV interview last night, the French president took the out-of-character step of analysing his mistakes and apologising as he tried to present a more humble side of his personality before the difficult battle to be re-elected in 2012.
Sarkozy said he had given up on the terminology "national identity", saying he was personally responsible for the fact it had "sparked misunderstanding" and created tension. It was a remarkable U-turn on one of his ideological cornerstones.
Wielding clubs, guns and chainsaws, several hundred villagers converged on the cottage in a clearing in the beech forest with a simple demand. "Zig raus [Gyppos out]," they called in German, deliberately echoing Nazi racist chants. "Bomb the Gypsies."
It was the last Saturday of last month, when the mob terrorised the extended family of more than 30 Roma, half of them children, into fleeing their clearing a mile over the hill from the farming village of Ambrus in eastern Slovenia.
"They were building bonfires on our land and shouting that if we don't move out, they will bomb us and crucify our children," recalls Mr Strojan, 30.
Zizek's defence of the pogrom:
As expected, all liberals condemned them as racists, locating racism into this isolated small village, while none of the liberals, living comfortably in the big cities, had any everyday contact with the Roma (except for meeting their representatives in front of the TV cameras when they supported them). When the TV interviewed the “racists” from the town, they were clearly seen to be a group of people frightened by the constant fighting and shooting in the Roma camp, by the constant theft of animals from their farms, and by other forms of small harassments from the Roma. It is all too easy to say (as the liberals did) that the Roma way of life is (also) a consequence of the centuries of their exclusion and mistreatment, that the people in the nearby town should also open themselves more to the Roma, etc. – nobody clearly answered the local “racists” what they should concretely do to solve the very real problems the Roma camp evidently was for them.
Replying very recently to criticism of his championing the armed racist mob and the expulsion and terrorism suffered by the Strojan family, Zizek - typically - blames "the working class" for his own bourgeois racism (anti-racism is anti-working class since "capital is multicultural and tolerant"), simultaneously displaces his own white supremacism onto other members of the "liberal intelligensia" who at the same time serve as the "hypocritical" foils for his admirably "honest" venting of racist myth and malice and cynical promotion of neo-Nazi phantasmagoria, and reiterates his insistence that the Strojans were the aggressors and the villagers who terrorised them and drove them from their home just defending themselves:
When they say “lie lie lie”, I tried to do something, not to protect or justify them, but I tried to do something which one always has to do, I tried to imagine to put myself into the skin of those local people there. Were they anti-immigrants, yes, but, here comes the but, which is not from the right wing media, but I was lucky that the baby sitter whom I hire to take care of my small monster son and with whom I have good relations much more than just paying her, she also worked a long time as a social worker precisely with those gypsies, Roma. Incidentally they themselves slightly prefer to be called Gypsies so fuck you when you tell me this use the term is wrong - it’s the same as you know 'African-Americans' no? But – at least some of them. But what they she told me of course don’t idealize them. At a certain level it is of course true. They are living there in the camp which has no legal status, their main income is trading stolen cars, they definitely do steal from the fields around and so on and so on, so….
It’s nice to defend the Roma when they are far away….if you are so tolerant with them, you can have them there [near some swank villas Zizek claims someone proposed relocating the Strojans to] You can imagine how immediately no one even wanted to talk - he serious problem here is the following one. This is the limit of multicult - this is the limit of this liberal multiculturalism which what I wanted to draw attention to is and that’s the tragedy of multiculturalism, how the whole space is constructed with a clear class dimension. It’s always upper middle class or at least middle class [it’s not clear whether he is identifying the Strojans as upper middle or middle class] who is blaming the poor redneck ordinary guys for being racists to enjoy their privilege – nobody, the moment I mention this class aspect which is clearly here, I become a protofascist right winger or whatever or whatever. No. I mean again the problem when we fight racism is the same as the Israeli settlers [whom he has earlier in the talk portrayed as mostly Eastern European immigrants, poor victims being used by the State], you know, see the whole picture, identify the real culprits; Don’t focus on the poor confused guys there whom I understand. It’s so easy for an upper class liberal living in the rich part, not to see, I’m not saying; I repeat it for the third time;, I’m not saying they are not right. I’m not saying they are not guilty also in a way. But imagine a typical modest guy from that village. His son comes often beaten. Not too often, but there is this fear, occasional fights with Roma children, things are stolen from the field, and so on and so on, there even was a murder in that gypsy settlement, and what was offered to these people? Nothing, just culpabilising them.
You really have to listen to get how vile he is, the venomous spitting out "fuck you" and the oozy sneering of his expertise in "what they all really like" (Oh, at least some of them!). The fans are a little quiet through this but finally undisturbed, ready to accept the narrative of true Slovenes defending themselves with virtuous bold violence against the evil depraved violent foreigners, who may have been born and raised in Slovenia, and be Slovene citizens, but for Zizek remain "immigrants" due presumably to bloodlines alien to this Slovene soil. Ready to accept the "liberal intelligensia" - those like Zizek and his Lib Dem party who carried out the administrative ethnic cleansing targeting Roma and Muslims and continued to fight for years against survivors' restitution and reparations claims - as the fiendish sponsors of alien Roma threats to "ordinary" "local people", and to accept anti-racism as nothing but the liberals' hypocriticial conspiracy against the people of the nation.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Saturday, November 13, 2010
"Do you know that awful movie The Reader?" asked Mr. Zizek. "Did you know that Nicole Kidman was supposed to play the lead?"
"It was played by Kate Winslet," said The Observer.
"Right, Kate Winslet," said Mr. Zizek. "Ralph told me Nicole Kidman turned down the role because they demanded three conditions in the contract. First, no ..." He gestured to his lips.
"Botox," said a man sitting on the stage.
"Stop using botox," said Mr. Zizek, "because her lips are supposed to look thin like a withered Nazi. She said O.K. Second, gain 15 kilos. O.K. Third, because there is a scene of full frontal nudity, no this—" Mr. Zizek made a shaving motion in the area of his crotch and laughed. "This she refused. Insanity!"
(Variety reported that Ms. Kidman dropped the role when she became pregnant.)
The man with the video camera stood up and moved directly in front of Mr. Zizek. "What do you think of the Palestinian situation?"
"I'm pro-Palestinian," said Mr. Zizek, "but I don't think it's the worst situation in the world. Any man in Congo would sell his mother into slavery to move to the West Bank.
"But I like Israel. Israel is the most atheist state in the world. I like them for that. But at the same time as a majority does not believe in God, they assert that God gave them the right to the land."
(Bill Van Auken and Adam Haig have just had it up to here with the left's indulgence of this creep.)
Friday, November 12, 2010
If socialism aimed at creating a new human nature within the limits of the old society it would be nothing more than a new edition of the moralistic utopias. Socialism does not aim at creating a socialist psychology as a pre-requisite to socialism, but at creating socialist conditions of life as a pre-requisite to socialist psychology.
Surely Aaron Porter is a future top Labour Party politician? And surely he knows it.
[Also despicable: Paxman. But that goes without saying.]
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
#1 More than 42 million Americans were on food stamps during the month of August. That is a new all-time record, and that number is 17 percent higher than it was one year earlier. In fact, the number of Americans on food stamps is up more than 58 percent since August 2007.
#2 The number of "persons not in the labor force" in the United States has set another new all-time record. The United States has not had such an extended bout of mass unemployment since the Great Depression. The "official" unemployment rate in the United States has been at nine and a half percent or above for 14 consecutive months.
#3 More than 1000 people now live in the 200 miles of flood tunnels that exist under the city of Las Vegas. Once one of the most prosperous cities in the United States, Las Vegas is now little more than a shiny, glittering corpse that it rapidly decaying.
Sunday, November 07, 2010
Through democracy, tolerance, in an authentic sense, means that you simply cannot say certain things publicly. You are considered—you know, like if you say publicly an anti-Semitic, sexist joke, it’s unacceptable. Things which were unacceptable ten, fifteen years ago are now acceptable.
clearly in great part his accomplishment at least in his niche. And he went on to explain, excitedly, his method in another propaganda effort:
The typical rhetorical trick here is in two moves. First, you of course condemn the far right—"no place in our developed democracy." But then you add, "But they are addressing the real worries of the people," and so on and so on. So, in precisely—that’s the dirty sophistic trick—in order to prevent hatred outbursts, we have to control the situation.
But even more striking is this interview with Paul Mason, who should know better:
Toward the end Zizek is tripped up by a question and with his characteristic evasive manoeuvre changes the subject to his self-definition, performing the "Robespierre" Zizek, that is, the Robespierre of Burke's imagination, declaring himself the crazed bourgeois reformer who is indifferent to human suffering and fixated on his "brutal theory" which must "have priority". It would be his nightmare, he says, to be taken for someone who is compassionate and concerned about human suffering. What then could possibly be his objection to the status quo? What can a rich famous man have to complain about about the present? We are left to understand he is this "type" of insane demagogue of liberal ideology, a madman possessed of an Idea, in thrall to a Vision, a loon lusting after power for its own sake.
Then he closes the interview by saying to Mason: "so, I will see you in hell or communism."
A viewer sympathetic to the Marxist tradition he claims commitment to of course will note this is a kind of inexplicably crass rewording of the choice before us now very urgently as phrased once famously by Luxemburg: Socialism or Barbarism. But the tape of the interview keeps running to a little moment of the "after" where the formal pose is broken and interviewer, interviewee are laughing together and speaking toward the crew/producer offstage. And it is a truly remarkable moment in which Zizz hastens with childish impatience to his confession to the conscious performance of his Colberttian persona which I have been explaining against such obstinate resistance. We see Zizek's excitement; he cannot help but boast of what he has just done, and he explains that this very remark was directed at the "right winger" in the audience to inspire the thought or reminder "but they are the same!" See see, if you are a right winger, he says breathlessly, his speech impediment suddenly cured, you will say "but they are the same!"
He's said something like We must choose between communism or hell, socialism or barbarism, but - he is thrilled to confess and eager to recieve the consequent admiration for - only to convey the message, to the "right winger" (or anyone not enamoured of the genocidal Nietzschean macho tyrant figure he performed) that Communism is Hell! Socialism is barbarism! He can hardly contain himself he is so proud of the ruse; he's squirming in his chair with delight at himself, waving his arms to encourage applause.
He speaks for to speak against, and at this point he has done so well, there is such a nightmarish explosion of white supremacist misogynist fascistic aggression and he has made such crucial contributions to imperial apology and reactionary cultural politics to interfere with the (urgent) development of a serious public discourse about the real transition from capitalism to something else, (real catastrophe and real possibilities for transformation to the understanding of and confrontation with which Hollywood movies and corporate tv and endless attention to them only distract from and hamper) that he cannot contain his desire for credit, his yearning to take his bow for the brilliance of his histrionics, to be admired for his cleverness and the object of gratitude for his services to the bourgeoisie.
But unlike Dustin Hoffman he need not be shot for this. Because it doesn't matter. The fanaticism is so intense because he has not really fooled his audience but been complicit with them, given them their white supremacist patriarchal pleasures and politics and their alibi. They want to applaud him and recognise the genius of it as much as he wants to be applauded. Not too openly of course, but the pleasure of flaunting one's impunity - a white supremacist patriarchal pleasure - and the use of this flaunted impunity to intimidate and terrorise, requires more and more flashing.
Saturday, November 06, 2010
Erika Lopez could not have known she was releasing her raucous, racy and hilarious breakthrough novel Flaming Iguanas at the end of an era. It was 1998, and despite the 1990s being a decade of riot grrls and Manic Panic, a time when girls had rock goddesses like PJ Harvey, Sleater Kinney, Hole and Bikini Kill to emulate rather than rock gods to fawn over, it was all about to disappear.
Post-pubescent pop stars took over, the 'zine culture died off and Courtney Love became plastic surgery roadkill. Suddenly, Lopez — a performance artist and cartoonist as well as novelist — was out of fashion, her spunky, prickly, foul-mouthed writing style and tales of booze, men (and women) and motorcycles did not fit in with the current milieu of pre-packaged stardom and yoga spirituality.
"'Erika Lopez is an American original!.... Lopez won't have to worry about food stamps in the future!'" read one Flaming Iguanas review. Twelve years later, in her new The Girl Must Die: A Monster Girl Memoir, Lopez responds: "Well, not only do I have to worry about food stamps again, I just had to go and add welfare. Welfare."
[T]his "ugly race," in his words, afflicted by an "earthbound pedantic spirituality" and "puce-faced, finger-jabbing, spittle-flecked politics," a people "impervious to fondness, sympathy or attraction" and susceptible to "a Pooterish yearning for a Fascist order."...
....the central thesis of his book — that anger is the defining characteristic of the English people — feels more like a contrarian conceit than an earnestly held belief. Gill never says what the English might be so angry about, never comes up with any good examples of their fury, never explains why the country's "default setting is anger: lapel-poking, Chinese-burning, ram-raiding, street-shouting, sniping, spitting, shoving, vengeful, inventive rage."
...The loss of empire "broke England's heart," Gill writes, "but it couldn't tell anyone": The English experienced "what everyone who has been dumped experiences — a cataclysmic, middle-aged stumble of self-confidence, and nostalgia came to the rescue."
..."It's a great English conceit that their past is written in granite, whilst pretty much everyone else's is written in sand," he declares. "Having lived this long with the English reverence for the gay pageant of time, I'm always astonished by how little the Europeans make of history and with what ease they will, and indeed can, discard the trappings and links to the past to make way for the convenience and comfort of the present. They seem so cavalier with it, so spendthrift. For the English, discarding the past is like spending capital. Eating seed corn. In England, changing the shape of a telephone box evokes a fury that might be justified by grave robbing."
The feminist blogosphere in April of 2008 was busy unveiling the torrent history of feminist-identified white women writers and presses co-opting and adopting the work of women of color writers, and ignoring the lines of power and oppression between women. Or, in other words, it was about the long history of white women acting as the authority on subject matter that clearly were out of their lines of experience.
The dispute led Lisa Factora-Borchers to introduce the feminist blogosphere to the idea of Kyriarchy, which she adapted from the feminist theologian Elizabeth Schlusser Fiorenza. The term has met predictable hostility and sneering in circles dominated by white men, but beyond those enclaves it was the object of great interest and discussion itself and has been widely applied to clarify the reproduction of oppressive social structures necessary to exploitation. Factora-Borchers was pleased with the reception of her work. But:
two months ago, I received a link to a recently published article inThe Guardian entitled, “The Patriarchy is Dead, But the Kyriarchy Lives On,” by Nichi Hodgson. After reading it, two questions immediately popped in my head: “How is this article covering the emergence of kyriarchy in the feminist sphere with not one attribution and where had she learned it from?” and “What have I done?”
...Hodgson pats kyriarchy down to a nice and quasi-intelligent term that relegates the freedom to complain about oppression to include The Men, too. It turns a highly flexible academic term by a feminist theologian into a pop cultured meat loaf: a soft, feel good term that everyone can chew and swallow....
...And then Hodgson makes a common and dangerous jump about kyriarchy and contemporary feminisms in general:
It helps us to recognise the interconnection of education, class and eating disorders such as anorexia, and of domestic violence and poverty, rather than encouraging us to indiscriminately blame men.…
It helps to explain how women themselves can in some cases morph into the supremacist bully, when paranoid mothers pass on anxieties about food and bodies to their daughters, ground down themselves by years of trying to live up to constructed notions of beauty.
The purpose and measure of kyriarchy – and feminism in general – is not to increase our time at the microphone so we can more accurately assign BLAME. The purpose and measure of kyriarchy is to further understand the power and crippling tendencies of the human race to push, torture, and minimize others. It is in our nature to try and become “lord” or “master” in our communities, to exert a “power-over” someone else. Kyriarchy does not exist to give us tools to further imprison ourselves by blaming our environment, upbringing, or social caste. It is the opposite. Kyriarchy exists to give us tools to liberate ourselves by understanding the shifting powers of oppression. It is not about passing the megaphone to men so they can be included in the oppression olympics. Simply check-marking our gender, sex, race, ablity, class, citizenship, skin color and other pieces identity will not free us from the social ills of our stratified society. Kyriarchy is not the newly minted alarm clock to wake us up to what’s wrong. It exists to radically implement our finest strategies to deconstruct our personal and political powers for the liberation of self and community. For self AND community.
Which is why I so vehemently disagree with Hodgson who believes that the most helpful piece of kyriarchy is “its emphasis on individual liberation…”
Please indulge my own theory-making right now: There’s no such thing as liberation if the word ‘individual’ precedes it.
As for where Hodgson gathered her article's content from, Factora-Borchers eventually received a reply to her email in which Hodgson cited Shira Tarrant's book which explains Factora-Borchers' work explicating, enlarging on and disseminating a concept she learned from Elizabeth Schlusser Fiorenza. Hodgson apologized and hoped Factora-Borchers didn't feel "plagiarized."
“Felt plagarized?” What I found most ironic is that I was brought back to 2008, to the originating circumstances of what drove me to introduce kyriarchy to the US feminist blogosphere: the blantant and irresponsible disregard for (at minimum) thorough research and (at best) moral and ethical journalism. But, for me, this incident just tacked itself in the ongoing practice of appropriating, ignoring, and assuming authority on and of the work of women of color by feminist-identified white women.
There seems to be almost no scruple about appropriations of this kind which erase the intellectual productivity of women and especially women of colour. Old myths that women and poc have never produced "real thinking" and cannot produce intellectually except under the guidance and borrowing the original intellectual products of celebrity intellectuals of the superior caste require the routine erasure of the origins of ideas and analyses and turns of phrase and information tagged by the appropriator class as their private property. It is becoming more and more common for white mediocrities to run little cheap culture commodity rackets resembling the white supremacist revisionist fantasy in Back to the Future where Michael Jay Fox's suburban adolescent "every(white)man" teaches Chuck Berry to rock and roll.
In the comments to this post labouring effortfully to explain to another white feminist why she should not rebuke groups of people for not doing what she is simply ignoring they are doing in order to set up the occasion for her self-dramatisation as advisor and sage Tarzana Queen and saviour of the Savages, (trans savages in one case, black savages in the other), "piny" opened a comment with this observation:
Mandy, you’re starting from the assumption that you have something to offer, and that the problem is how best to facilitate you. You’re begging that question here.
That struck me as very well put and insightful about the posture of white supremacy in expanded and accelerated comment/opinion-commmodity production. It doesn't occur - it cannot occur - to Mandy that if she is indeed not allotted enough space under her byline in this one instance, as she complained in excuse, to do anything other than misrepresent those she claims to champion in a demeaning and contemptuous way, assert her superiority and crown herself Emperor over them, then rather than accept that space and that byline, she might instead leave it to someone capable of using it constructively. When the white feminist pundit feels the value of her product will benefit from her exploitation of transgender issues or from seeming to take a critical dissident pose toward black feminist participation in high traffic sites, appearing to deplore a "digital colonisation" or "unwitting complicity" while really just using racist contempt to cast aspersions on rival, higher visibility culture producers depicted as helpless passive vessels of a plundered natural resource of some sort, white entitlement and white solipsism and the hierarchies of white supremacist patriarchy are crucial to overcoming any hesitation one might reasonably feel regarding the usurpation of voice and self-appointed role of both proxy and leadership. The priority of self-promotion is unquestioned, and the white feminist pundit accepts no responsibility either to factuality or to respect that can override her individual right to publicise herself and enhance her brand.