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Archive for March 2011

demophobia (and aggregation)

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One more thing, for now, from the Perry Anderson article about Brazil:

The ferocity of the ensuing campaigns against Lula could not have been sustained, however, without a sympathetic audience. That lay in the country’s traditional middle classes, principally but not exclusively based in the big cities, above all São Paulo. The reason for the hostility within this stratum was not loss of power, which it had never possessed, but of status. Not only was the president now an uneducated ex-worker whose poor grammar was legend, but under his rule maids and guards and handymen, riff-raff of any kind, were acquiring consumer goods hitherto the preserve of the educated, and getting above themselves in daily life. To a good many in the middle class, all this grated acutely: the rise of trade unionists and servants meant they were coming down in the world. The result has been an acute outbreak of ‘demophobia’, as the columnist Elio Gaspari, a spirited critic, has dubbed it. Together, the blending of political chagrin among owners and editors with social resentment among readers made for an often bizarrely vitriolic brew of anti-Lulismo, at odds with any objective sense of class interest. (italics mine…)

Demophobia might well be one word for what this aggregate fiction idea that I keep banging on about might take up, address, attempt to moderate, etc…. I am guessing what the critic mentioned above is talking about is specifically the fear of masses of the poor. But one wonders if there isn’t a fear of number in general, an anxiety addressed by the conventional form of the novel (and its off-shoots) by what I am starting to call protagonism, the focalization of the novel through a single character, the engagement with background groups and masses but only in a restrained, self-immunizing sort of way…

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March 29, 2011 at 10:56 am

Posted in aggregate, americas, anxiety

indiscernability

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(video and punctum via the Verso blog):

Check out this video from the BBC news from around 5:45 and keep your eyes on the clump of yellow cops at the center right. Watch as one of the “Black Bloc” flashes his badge and moves through the police line. A plant, a (very) plain-clothes man. Almost looks for a second that he’s about to duck into a phone booth for a Clark Kent moment to reemerge be-yellowed and be-batoned.

But given the fundamental idea behind the Black Bloc – that is, the indiscernability of one participant from another made possibile by wearing identical clothing – doesn’t the fact that the cops were participating in this manner call into question the provenance of each and every act of vandalism committed on Saturday? At least given the absence of positive identification of actual Blocists behind the acts?

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March 29, 2011 at 8:45 am

Posted in protest

the thick now of modernity

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Modernity is the name that a culture gives to itself (its period as a metonym for itself as a whole) when it experiences the present thickly. It names itself in terms of an infinitely expandable, yet blank, present periodicity rather than any non-abstract referent.

Just how thick modernity is is captured elegantly by the appearance of phrases such as “post-modernity” or “late modernity,” which suggest a now so thick that it has phases or even outlives its own end. If something ended in order to give on to postmodernity, it is something not much more than the now that precedes our present even thicker now.

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March 28, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Posted in temporality

what’s the alternative? counter-cyclical action not cuts, obviously

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From Perry Anderson’s absolutely massive – and incredibly interesting – piece in the LRB on Lula this week:

When, midway through his second term its test came, he handled it with aplomb. The crash of Wall Street in 2008 might be a tsunami in the US, he declared, but in Brazil it would be no more than a ‘ripple’ – uma marolinha. The phrase was seized on by the press as proof of reckless economic ignorance and irresponsibility.

But he was as good as his word. Counter-cyclical action was prompt and effective. Despite falling tax revenues, social transfers were increased, reserve requirements were reduced, public investment went up and private consumption was supported. In overcoming the crisis, local banking practices helped. Tight controls, holding multipliers of the monetary base well below US levels, and greater transparency had left Brazilian banks in much better shape than those in the US, protecting the country from the worst of the financial fall-out. But it was concerted, vigorous state policy that pulled the economy round. Lula’s optimism was functional: told not to be afraid, Brazilians went out and consumed, and demand held up. By the second quarter of 2009, foreign capital was flowing back into the country, and by the end of the year the crisis was over. As Lula’s second mandate came to an end, the economy was posting more than 7 per cent growth, and nature itself was smiling on his rule, with the discovery of huge deposits of offshore oil.

The point of course is to increase consumer demand by increasing, not cutting, public spending in a crisis. Demand leads to growth, growth to jobs, jobs to more demand, more growth, whatever. Not all that complicated. As long as we’re going to be playing the capitalist game with its episodic crises, there’s only one way to handle the dips and it’s this one…. that is, the one we’re not doing.

Thus we’re on the streets…

UPDATE: Would love to hear what my few but treasured Brazilian readers think about the article as a whole, if they have time enough and interest to read it. And one particular point of idiosyncratic interest… Where can I find out more about the following?

In the arts, explosive forms continue to be produced, though they are now far more liable to neutralisation or degradation into entertainment: Paulo Lins’s novel Cidade de Deus reduced to cinematic pulp by an expert in television ads…

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March 28, 2011 at 11:58 am

Posted in americas, crisis

the politics of parrots

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Was just reminded that Felicite never would have gotten her parrot in Flaubert’s “Un Coeur simple” if it weren’t for the 1830 Revolution.

Years passed, all alike and marked by no other events than the return of the great church holidays: Easter, Assumption, All Saints’ Day. Household happenings constituted the only data to which in later years they often referred. Thus, in 1825, workmen painted the vestibule; in 1827, a portion of the roof almost killed a man by falling into the yard. In the summer of 1828, it was Madame’s turn to offer the hallowed bread; at that time, Bourais disappeared mysteriously; and the old acquaintances, Guyot, Liebard, Madame Lechaptois, Robelin, old Gremanville, paralysed since a long time, passed away one by one. One night, the driver of the mail in Pont-l’Eveque announced the Revolution of July. A few days afterward a new sub-prefect was nominated, the Baron de Larsonniere, ex-consul in America, who, besides his wife, had his sister-in-law and her three grown daughters with him. They were often seen on their lawn, dressed in loose blouses, and they had a parrot and a negro servant. Madame Aubain received a call, which she returned promptly. As soon as she caught sight of them, Felicite would run and notify her mistress. But only one thing was capable of arousing her: a letter from her son.

This is a strange business, sitting here in my office trying to foment in myself a work burst in order to finish the book by… repoliticizing it in accordance with the demands of the UP that I’m working with. Odd….

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March 21, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

revolution and repetition (Flaubertian crusty)

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A guy on the barricades during the first pages of the third section of Flaubert’s L’Education sentimentale:

J’ai fait mon devoir partout, en 1830, en 32, en 34, en 39. Aujourdhui on se bat! Il faut que je me bat!”

 

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March 21, 2011 at 1:18 pm

taking its course

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From Glen Newey at the LRB blog:

Last week, Keele University announced plans to shut down its philosophy programme, in the name of ‘efficiency’ savings. It’s beside the point here that the methodology underlying the calculations is flawed and its specific application to philosophy very suspect. The 27-page document presented for consideration by the Senate on 23 March is a fully fledged statement of the post-Brownean credo, apart from the latter’s insistence on student demand as a touchstone of academic worth. Philosophy at Keele doesn’t enrol enough students to make money; but then, it is subject to a cap imposed by the government: there are fewer than 60 places this year. You break somebody’s legs then complain that they can’t keep up.

“You break somebody’s legs then complain that they can’t keep up.” Yes… Just about every internal political and bureaucratic wrangle I’m involved in at the moment follows the selfsame logic. Take what is fit, starve or mangle it for a bit, set it back into the wild, watch it struggle, watch it starve… then deliver with a shrug the aperçu about the wonders of natural selection, the sublimity of nature taking its course, that you had prepared well before the start of the entire process.

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March 21, 2011 at 12:07 pm