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From Hobson’s Imperialism of 1902:

It is not too much to say that the modern foreign policy of Great Britain has been primarily a struggle for profitable markets of investment. To a larger extent every year Great Britain has been becoming a nation living upon tribute from abroad, and the classes who enjoy this tribute have had an ever-increasing incentive to employ the public policy, the public purse, and the public force to extend the field of their private investments, and to safeguard and improve their existing investments. This is, perhaps, the most important fact in modern politics, and the obscurity which it is wrapped has constituted the gravest danger to our State.

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Written by adswithoutproducts

August 7, 2006 at 12:22 am

Posted in empire

a date which will live in infamy

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Crossposted from Long Sunday. It’s a follow up to Jodi Dean’s recent post at LS on desire and 9/11, and the comments below it.

The concluding paragraph of Benjamin’s Work of Art essay:

Fiat ars – pereat mundus,” says Fascism, and, as Marienetti admits, expects war to supply the artistic gratification of a sense perception that has been changed by technology. This is evidently the consummation of “l’art pour l’art.” Mankind, which in Homer’s time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, now is one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order. This is the situation of a politics which Fascism is rendering aesthetic. Communism responds by politicizing art.

Relatedly, think back to the summer before the attack, the Pearl Harbor trailer. Christ – the damn thing actually ran for about a year before every single movie that made it to the theater. I must have seen it thirty times.


Think back to FDR’s speech that runs as a voiceover, as we watch the kids pretend to be fighter pilots, soliders screw nurses, women hang out laundry. The everyday.

How long is America going to pretend that the world is not at war?

From Berlin, Rome, and Tokyo, we have been described as a nation of weaklings and playboys, who hire British or Russian or Chinese soldiers to do our fighting for us.

We’ve been trained to think that we are invincible. But our people think Hitler and his Nazi thugs are Europe’s problem. We have to do more. Does anyone think that victory is possible without facing danger? At times like these we all need to be reminded of who we truly are – that we will not give up.

December 7th, 1941. A date which will live in infamy. The United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the empire of Japan.

We are war. Tell that to the soldiers who today are hitting hard in the far waters of the Pacific. Tell that to the boys in the flying fortresses. Tell that to the Marines.

Toward the end of the trailer, subtitles appear on screen:

it was the end of innocence and the dawn of a nation’s greatest glory.

Think of how focus-grouped and wideband market-prepped this movie was. The trailer in particular. Think about what secret or not so secret desires the producers were touching, titillating, conjuring?

The contemporary reviews were on message:

Ninety minutes into this massive movie the attack commences, and the spectacular images come hurtling like fireballs. This is, let’s be honest, what we’re here for, and what most Jerry Bruckheimer-produced movies serve up best: the poetry of destruction (Newsweek).

The picture is nearly painstaking in its traditionalism, a tale of love, war, and valor in which nostalgia for ”simpler times” gets mashed together, almost fetishistically, with nostalgia for old movies and for the spirit of knightly self sacrifice during World War II (Entertainment Weekly)

Telepathy, for sure. If we have to know anything, it is that the causes of things aren’t always as straight and clear as Occam’s Razor might suggest.

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Written by adswithoutproducts

July 4, 2006 at 11:54 pm

an idea at the back of it

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Precedent suggests that it is wise to worry whenever we encounter the formulation “not quite empire.” While naming can itself be a form of domination, when the names slip away and the workers of empire continue to operate provisionally, exceptionally,as it were, we know that we are nearing the darkest heart of the matter.

Robert Skidelsky in the New York Review of Books:

The main conclusion which emerges from Maier’s study, though it does not seem to me that he spells it out explicitly, is that between the two poles of “empire” and “independence” there are a large number of intermediate positions which exhibit different mixtures of independence and subordination. It is the fiction that there are only two alternatives—a fiction which is the joint product of Wilsonian idealism and anti-colonialism—which causes most of the current confusion. Any exertion of power by the strong is called “imperialist” by its opponents, while the imperialist has to pretend that his actions are fully consistent with national independence.

Yet while this disguise may offend simple souls who crave sharp contrasts, it may also be a sign of progress. There is some evidence that forms of rule have been growing softer, more subtle, and more humane; being less transparent, they are harder to define. Despite the mass killings and other atrocities that still disfigure parts of the world, the systematic “imperial” brutality of Hitler or Stalin which Dallas documents is past history. They tortured and killed millions; now a relatively small number of violent deaths, of “human rights” abuses attributable to imperial efforts, arouses universal condemnation—partly, but not wholly, because of the difficulty of keeping violence off the airwaves.

Proudly, I am, perhaps, one of those “simple souls” offended by the blur, as it causes me to recall Marlow’s circumlocution in Heart of Darkness:

“Mind,” he began again, lifting one arm from the elbow, the palm of the hand outwards, so that, with his legs folded before him, he had the pose of a Buddha preaching in European clothes and without a lotus-flower–“Mind, none of us would feel exactly like this. What saves us is efficiency–the devotion to efficiency. But these chaps were not much account, really. They were no colonists; their administration was merely a squeeze, and nothing more, I suspect. They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force–nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others. They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind–as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness. The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretense but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea–something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to. . . .”

It is a bit uncanny, isn’t it, how similar the structures of the arguments are… We can see what Marlow either 1) cannot see or 2) can see, but forces himself to go on anyway. That the indefinability of the “idea,” the way it functions only to fill a gap in his argument, his comparison, to keep the sentences rolling out. It cannot be defined, for definitions are, in many cases, inefficient

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Written by adswithoutproducts

June 27, 2006 at 9:57 am

Posted in conrad, distraction, empire, war