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Archive for June 2005

Switching Crisis II

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Looks like the republicrats are starting to steer the ship of state away from the Washington Beijing Consensus…

The bid by a state-run Chinese oil company to swallow a U.S. competitor “threw gas on the fire,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who has coauthored legislation that would impose a 27.5 percent tariff on Chinese imports unless China allows its currency to rise in value.

“Fighting back is not protectionism,” Graham told Greenspan and Snow. “No more saber-rattling. We want results.”


This is a shit spot for our elected representatives, now isn’t it. After years of balls out effort to maximize profits on behalf of oil company shareholders, up to and often including imperialistic invasion, interminable landwar, whatever they need, now they have to turn on a dime and reject share price inflating international free trade…

An object lesson to pair with the free market/nationalism stuff that Reason Thunders has been working on lately…

Does force us to reexamine the old cliche, we are “run by the oil companies,” doesn’t it? What would happen if said oil companies are not just administated by the Chinese, but by the CCP?

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June 24, 2005 at 2:13 am

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Spurious, Capital, Parentheses, the University

OK, I see that I’m not the only one (scroll down into the comments a bit…) who’s noticed what’s happening over here…

Planet of Stupidity: “But all along we are orbiting the planet of our stupidity, I said. The planet of Capital, I said, from which are born the ghostly correlates of what we take to be the work of our creativity. What I produce does not matter, I said. It is not anti-production, it is not the gift that breaks with the economy of production, it is simply a bad book in the great streaming of bad books, I said. That’s what we’ll be known for, I said: bad books.
The dream is ending, I said. Soon, books will count for nothing. Only income generation will count, I said. Monographs will cease to be of any importance, I said. What will matter is research funding, I said, the flood of money the government releases for academics to bid for, I said. Even in philosophy, I said. Especially in philosophy, I said. Philosophy will be a way the State returns to itself and confirms itself, I said. There will be only State Philosophy, I said, building elaborate new space stations to orbit the great planet of stupidity, I said.”

(Via Spurious.)

If I might be allowed to respond on an entirely inappropriate level: the funny thing is, the sort of stuff that Spurious is talking about, this stables-sweeping and performance review, the form-filling work that entropizes what we’d like to believe, as S. puts it, is “a little negentropic island in the midst of general decay” – all this, to the eyes of this US academic, is part and parcel not of the hot breath of Capital on the university but rather of socialism, what’s left of it everywhere but here…

Back in January, one of the places that invited me to give a job-talk, was a large urban research university in Canada… Wasn’t prepared for the abrupt change – change that felt as tangible as a sudden drop in barometric pressure…

As part of my day on campus, the department actually put me in a room with one of these creatures that S. references in one of his posts – one of the “administrators expert at translating poorly written funding proposals into sleek and efficient funding proposals” – who sat next to me on a couch reviewing my “materials,” tsk-tsking at the slimness of the publication column, asking if I had anything “in the pipeline…” If we were to work together, he informed me, we’d have a lot of work to do very quickly, and as it was, I would only be eligible for the most trifling of governmental grants… A lot of work…

I interjected at one point (only because I’d been informed that this person – this Dean’s – opinion would have no bearing on the decision to hire me, “well, where I come from, the idea usually is to publish well, not just to publish anything…”

“Of course, of course, that’s the idea here as well…” But it wasn’t…

The system in the US is entirely different – at once paradoxically much more mysterious and altogether lucid… The system I encountered in Canada seemed like the system Spurious is describing – but it also seemed like the opposite of capitalism, at least to these American eyes…

I didn’t get the job, in the end… But during that trip and after, I was a little bit shocked – a little bit scandalized – at just how American I felt… How the faculty at this place seemed nice enough and intelligent enough but also sheepish and quiet, almost a little naive…

And it felt as though this sheepishness and naivete was very much the output of the socialized soil in which these people were planted. Not having written the dissertation with health insurance for yourself and your unborn child on the line, not finding a way to survive an unprecedented real-estate bubble on a grad school stipend… Instead: forms to fill out, stables to sweep, grants to be gotten… And if you don’t get a job, you simple linger on in the department, teaching the same classes you’d teach were you to get a job… (At the place I just left, they more or less slam the door after 5 or 6 years, wash their hands of you…)

At any rate – I wonder what there is to be said about the connection between the bureaucratic rationalized irrationality that Spurious describes and the flattening out that comes of a (more) egalitarian system…

(I can’t remember the exact figure, but the parents of the average student at the place I just left, one of the jewels of the US system, bring home more than $250,000/annum…)

So, in short, I wonder if it’s really Capital that Spurious is talking about. I guess I’d call it a deeply ambiguous modernity, bureaucratic rationality…

And how does Spurious’s affiliation with Tarkovsky’s Solaris work in this light?

I feel like one of the scientists on the space station orbiting Solaris, I said. Orbiting round and round and round the planet of my stupidity, I said. Round and round I go until I’m bored.

In a certain way, it’s a film as anxious about the status of the parenthetical in a world busy rationalizing it out of existence… But where do capital and socialism fit into the rubric there?

(BTW – I think what Spurious is up to is fantastic… Don’t be confused by my questions on this point…)

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June 22, 2005 at 12:29 pm

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Why not?

Sometimes it does seem as if they’re rubbing it in a bit, doesn’t it?

Halliburton to build new $30 mln Guantanamo jail – Yahoo! News: “A Halliburton Co. unit will build a new $30 million detention facility and security fence at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the United States is holding about 520 foreign terrorism suspects, the Defense Department announced on Thursday.”

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June 16, 2005 at 10:22 pm

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Eagleton on the Blueprint


Worthwhile piece by Eagleton in the Nation a little ways back – a review of Russell Jacoby’s Picture Imperfect: Utopian Thought for an Anti-Utopian Age.

Eagleton engages in a bit too much of the point/counterpoint stuff – annoying tic found in much of his “journalistic” stuff… But I found this “on the other” very useful:

Nor is the opposition between the blueprinters and the visionaries as absolute as Jacoby imagines. Like most of us, he is attracted by the kind of utopian thought that sees the future in terms of sensuous luxury rather than Spartan virtue; but he does not see that sensuous fulfillment can be planned for by, say, shortening the working day or other highly practical measures. We must indeed beware of arid blueprints; but the truth is that conservatives dislike utopia because they find the whole idea of social engineering distasteful, in contrast to spontaneous social growth; and leftists need to insist that social engineering can undoubtedly be progressive. Blueprints are not always symptoms of a primly hygienic rationalism. Charles Dickens poked fun at the utilitarian social engineering of his own day, but it did a great deal more for the Victorian poor than his own Romantic spontaneity.

And sometimes, I think, the world could even use some primly hygienic rationalism… When the fester of insanity is creeping up the walls, rotting out the supports… PNAC and so much else, spectral contradictions in flight, heading home to roost.

In my own work – work that owes quite a lot, nearly everything to the “Jewish, poetic, ‘iconoclastic’ utopian tradition” that Eagleton discusses quite eloquently later in the piece – Benjamin, Adorno, Derrida, etc.. – in my own work, I feel myself heading in the other direction. What can actually be said, planned, clearly and distinctly articulated? What would a blueprint of egalitarian society look like today… I am deeply unsettled by a sense that “spontaneous social growth” is exactly both what we have and what we hope for…

But where does literature, and the study of literature, enter into this? It’s half clear what poetry might have to do with visionary (blank) utopianism – but what about the blueprint? More difficult to see, to say…

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June 16, 2005 at 10:18 pm

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Primate Cities

From the Times today, an article on the housing bubble and globalization:

“The Fed and other central banks encouraged this boom so that the wealth lost in the stock market was replaced by housing,” said John Llewellyn, the global chief economist at Lehman Brothers in London. “And the housing boom has stimulated demand around the world.”

The biggest globalization lift in house prices has been in what urban economists call “primate cities.” These are the places where the world’s well-off want to live or visit regularly for business or culture like London, Paris, New York, Boston, Shanghai, San Francisco, Miami, Sydney and Vancouver.

They are the most cosmopolitan of locales, often coastal cities and tourist hubs. They experienced the largest spikes in housing prices and pull up the national averages, while inland cities lag – the tourist coast of Spain outpaces Madrid, San Francisco outdoes Milwaukee.

Such a breathtaking transition, from when I was a kid (not all that long ago) till today. When, if Manhattan had an elite, it was composed of the aging scions of dwindling fortunes… Holdovers, quite literally, from another era.

Such a breathtaking transition, from when I was a kid (not all that long ago…) to today. Back then, America’s elite (technocracy definitely wasn’t the word – they were simply “management,” right?) preferred the suburbs. The preference for suburbs – for New Jersey (where I grew up) or worse, actually their indifference about the place that they lived, itself an index of the state and nature of production at the time.

If you managed those who made cars, you lived in Michigan. If you managed those who managed the machines that rolled tobacco into cigarettes, you lived in a suburb of Richmond, Virginia or Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The list of places that we very nearly moved when I was a kid: Wichita, Kansas; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Columbus, Ohio…

But now, something different – due to a confluence of processes, one of which this Times article addresses: the globalization of finance markets, the availability of cheap money… Still doesn’t quite explain why “primate cities” are the primary site of this bubble,, the taste issue…

Real estate aesthetic / transformation in the dominant genre of production / increase in the supply of cheap money.

The important thing is the hinge between each part of the three. Where the aesthetic touches the financial, where the productive feeds back into the other two…

To live today outside of the “primate cities” is to appear at turns comic and hideous, a left behind, the missing link of the history of production – what ought to have been incinerated by creative destruction – a blacksmith, a phrenologist, someone who eats with their fingers or keeps animals in the garage or puts out embroidered delicacies for sale on ebay…

Or is the “primate city” effect simply a massive spending-down of the fruits of the last great period in western economic history, before the shit hits the fan, children spending their partents hard earned? Or both? I vote both…

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June 13, 2005 at 1:11 am

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The End of the End

CHN-Shanghai-PBchina_art3.jpgIn case you’re interested, in the last few days I’ve posted a series of pieces on Long Sunday dealing with utopia, the end of history, Rem Koolhaas, Benjamin, Jameson, Fukuyama, and thinking in images…

Here’s the sequence:

“My thoughts have been replaced by…”

The End of the World

End of the End of History

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June 7, 2005 at 10:51 am

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Por Ahora

R2157456581.jpgBBC on Chavez today at the OAS summit:

But Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accused the United States of seeking to impose a “global dictatorship.”

“So, they’re going to try to monitor the Venezuelan government through the OAS, they must be joking!” he said, speaking in Caracas shortly before the conference opened on Sunday.

“If there is any government that should be monitored by the OAS, then it should be the US government,” he added.

And in other news from greateramerica, the NY Times runs another in its series of Lula puff pieces.

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June 5, 2005 at 10:28 pm

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