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hell 4: discontents and its civilisation (the ruling classes)

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A distinction we don’t make enough, when we think about the ruling classes, is the vital distinction between those who have to work for their power and money and those who don’t. At a slightly earlier stage of historical development, this distinction would have been at the forefront of our minds, but certain changes have occurred to distract us from the central issue at play. And since these types, both types, have so much to do with the organisation of our world, it’s structures and excesses, its pains and pleasures, rewards and penalties, there would be lots of things less valuable than an understanding of how their various clocks tick.

We have neither our Dante nor our Machiavelli, neither our allegorized hell of the powerful nor our demonic realism of realpolitik and its discontents.

One might well start with the difference between the brand of despair that comes of the early realisation that one can have whatever one likes but one can never truly earn what one gets and, on the other hand, the despite that comes of the also early realisation that one must always keep working, never even take a sniff of the gotten gains, lest one lose the whole lot through a moment of apathetic withdrawal. Both are hellish; on margin, the second is undoubtedly worse, if easier to handle psychologically-speaking.

Of course, aristocratic nihilism and technocratic deferral often arrive together, in amalgamations mixed by the vicissitudes of class and the way classes manage their sons. I have been thinking lately that there is something to be written about Bush, about what it means to be a scion of the sort of family that he was a scion of, but nonetheless to do an MBA, which is a degree that scions of old families really don’t need to do. Remember, he wanted, at least at the start, to be known as the MBA president, which only partly means, I suppose, not my father nor Prescott either.

Our previous president, this aristocrat with an MBA would, I am sure, make a fine Chief Executive Officer of one of the middle levels of hell. The aristocratic mock-withdrawal from aristocracy itself, the staged drawl, the vulgar drunkenness, the assumption of a narrative line whose essential falsity indexes the meritocratic pseudoreality of our time – it seems ever clearer that it wasn’t all simply a cynical come-on. The evil trauma of hitting triple cherries with every pull, but having to pretend that somehow you’ve earned it – this is one of the dominant mythemes of our blighted time.

Written by adswithoutproducts

August 11, 2009 at 8:00 am

Posted in hell

2 Responses

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  1. Niccolò would be senior advisor to the President, these days, wouldn’t he? One could base a passable satire of contemporary politics on that gimmicky premise.


    August 14, 2009 at 6:18 am

  2. Contemporary American politics, I mean. Who more than POTUS can stand in for M’s Prince?


    August 14, 2009 at 6:28 am

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