Voyou Désœuvré

 Listening to Lily Allen’s “Littlest Things,” it occurs to me that her mildly urban beats are all a smokescreen; what she really wants to do is become a chansonnier. And why not? London could do with a female Jacques Brel; well, maybe more of a calypso Peter Sarstedt, but either way I approve.

Unlike Adam, I’ve been quite enjoying the police investigation sub-plot on House; but I’m worried that at this point they’ve given themselves nowhere to go. After last week’s episode, it seems inevitable that House will have to “learn” something from the experience, and thereby doubtless “grow” as a “person.”

If there’s one thing I don’t want from House, it’s learning and growth, which completely misunderstands what is so compelling about House as a character. House of course is very unhappy, but it would be quite wrong to take the pop-Platonist-therapy route of saying that this is because of ignorance on his part. On the contrary, House knows exactly why he is unhappy, and continues to do it anyway, precisely because if he ceased to do that, he would no longer be him. There is no “real” house separate from his depression and pain. I’m reminded of Deleuze’s gloss of Nietzsche: “The eternal return says: whatever you will, will it in such a manner that you also will its eternal return.” It’s hard to think of a more consistent, a more terrible, or a more cheering, self-knowledge.

 In other House news, it appears (from the faith-healer episode repeated last night) that Dr Cameron is a Spinozist. How splendid.

I had intended to return to a more regular blogging schedule with one or more tremendously scholarly posts about silent films. Obviously, the problem there is that I then don’t write anything at all until I’ve got time to discuss the finer details of Hegel’s relationship to Buster Keaton. So, thanks to Rachel for tagging me with a so-called “meme,” a blog-related obligation which can obviously not be passed up. Read more↴

So, Walter Benjamin and Michel Foucault are in some kind of critical theory afterlife. They get talking, and at some point Foucault asks Benjamin, “Do you think sex is boring?” Benjamin grins and nods, and says, “Yes, if you do it right.”

One of the disadvantages of studying political theory in the US is the fact that Hannah Arendt is, rather inexplicably, taken very seriously. I never felt the slightest encouragement to read her before I moved here, but now I have to read her, and I rather wish I didn’t. Perhaps I’m missing her vital insights, but I’m too put off by her asinine methodology. What do you do with someone who can write:

Each of them, and again none more than Marx, found himself in the grip of certain genuine contradictions. It seems to lie in the nature of this matter that the most obvious solution of these contradictions, or rather the most obvious reason why these great authors should have remained unaware of them is their equation of work with labor, so that labor is endowed by them with certain faculties which only work possesses. This equation always leads into patent absurdities.

Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition

So “patent absurdities” apparently follow from failing to respect a distinction Arendt invented about ten pages earlier, giving little justification of its validity and certainly no explanation as to why it might be relevant to Marx. I’m reminded of fundamentalist Christians, who insist that there is such a thing as a “literal” reading of the bible. This seems like an extraordinarily stupid faith in the fixed meaning of words, as if there is one set of concepts divorced from time and place, that Marx must have been working with the same concepts as Arendt. “The loneliness of the laborer qua laborer is usually overlooked…” Perhaps it’s not “overlooked”? Perhaps those who don’t think the laborer is “lonely” actually disagree with Arendt, and perhaps they disagree with her because she is wrong. Arendt seems incapable of thinking that someone might have a substantive disagreement with her; any divergence is explained by a failure to appreciate the timeless truths Arendt has so generously uncovered for us. This kind of narcissistic insulation from criticism is sometimes put forward as a fault of something called “Theory.” Unusually, this appears to actually apply in Arendt’s case (Arendt isn’t, as far as I know, generally considered part of the amorphous blob of Theory), along with other criticisms that get leveled at the same target: superficial engagements with texts; grand, content-free generalizations; a refusal to give reasons for any of her assertions. I’m a little shocked, actually; I can’t remember the last time I read a respected work which is as bad as The Human Condition.