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Archive for March 2008

socialism and the human animal

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From the NYTimes today:

Although Enrique Del Risco knows what has happened on the island where he was born 40 years ago, he still gets odd looks from college students when he tries to explain Cuba’s reality. He left Cuba in 1996 and settled in New York two years later, teaching Spanish at New York University.

“I grew up believing in the system,” he said. “Quite a believer. My parents, too.”

He, too, thought there would be change during the late 1980s. Instead, he found himself slowly suffocating, with his writings earning him reprimands.

“I was more scared of surrendering than being put in jail,” he said. “I was scared that I would stop being myself. I was someone who thinks independently and expresses that.” Yet to try and tell that to some of his students, he said, was like talking about extraterrestrial life. He knows to expect a dual riposte — yes, but what about universal health care and education?

“At the root of that is a great belittling of Cubans,” he said. “It’s like we are some sort of little animals who only need a veterinarian and someone to teach us tricks and we’ll be fine.”

Somewhat per the Badiou article I linked to the other day, it is amazing to note, when you at time step back a bit from the shuffle, how insistently if quietly we’re still negotiating this now only spectral question…

Is there a name for the rhetorical form that supplies answer upon answer to questions that can’t be (permitted to be) asked?

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March 10, 2008 at 10:55 am

city as satire

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NYT on a new and enormous Koolhaas project in Dubai.
(We’re all going to have to start thinking and talking about Dubai one of these days, aren’t we?) Apparently, though we don’t have all that much to work on and Ouroussoff gives us very little, this is meant to be something like an materialization of the “generic city” idea from Koolhaas’s S/M/L/XL.

I know I have a lot to say about this “generic city” business, which is a concept as complex and ambiguous as the ad without products (whatever that is…) and in perhaps just the same ways. But my copy of S/M/L/XL is in storage and won’t be available to me till I move into my fractional piece of this not-quite-generic place where I am now. Soon enough…

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March 6, 2008 at 12:29 pm

pundit theory of value

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George Will in the Washington Post today:

Having no market, which is an information-generating mechanism, communism cannot know what things should cost.

Hmmm……. hmmmm…..

(By the way, interesting stuff here….)

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March 6, 2008 at 11:04 am

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the communist hypothesis

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Badiou in the new issue of the New Left Review:

At this point, during an interval dominated by the enemy, when new experiments are tightly circumscribed, it is not possible to say with certainty what the character of the third sequence will be. But the general direction seems discernible: it will involve a new relation between the political movement and the level of the ideological—one that was prefigured in the expression ‘cultural revolution’ or in the May 68 notion of a ‘revolution of the mind’. We will still retain the theoretical and historical lessons that issued from the first sequence, and the centrality of victory that issued from the second. But the solution will be neither the formless, or multi-form, popular movement inspired by the intelligence of the multitude—as Negri and the alter-globalists believe—nor the renewed and democratized mass communist party, as some of the Trotskyists and Maoists hope. The (19th-century) movement and the (20th-century) party were specific modes of the communist hypothesis; it is no longer possible to return to them. Instead, after the negative experiences of the ‘socialist’ states and the ambiguous lessons of the Cultural Revolution and May 68, our task is to bring the communist hypothesis into existence in another mode, to help it emerge within new forms of political experience. This is why our work is so complicated, so experimental. We must focus on its conditions of existence, rather than just improving its methods. We need to re-install the communist hypothesis—the proposition that the subordination of labour to the dominant class is not inevitable—within the ideological sphere.

We do – I do – suffer from a certain amount of confusion when it comes to the question of the right way to work as a left intellectual. By “right way to work,” I don’t so much mean the specific frame of engagement, whether to work in the academy or in the papers or on the streets or make art etc. Rather, I am confused about the bearing of the work that I should be doing within the practical framework that I have chosen (or which has chosen me). I mean, would it be best to plan, to advertise, or to design? Are the most useful answers at this point practical or conceptual or ethical? Should one be a hauntologist, a pragmatic engineer, or a philosopher of the question itself?

Badiou, as we might expect, decides in this piece. And while there is something unsettling about the fact that the sort of work that he decides in favor of is exactly the sort of work for which intellectuals are best suited by aptitude, inclination, and situation, I find this piece very encouraging (en-couraging?)

(xposted to Long Sunday)

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March 5, 2008 at 1:29 pm

Posted in socialism