Lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living

“Kant gets something right but then shackles all of being to mind”

I haven’t been following the recent blog discussions about speculative realism, but I did happen to see this interesting suggestion on Larval Subjects of an alternative to readings of Deleuze that posit the virtual and actual as opposites:

My strategy, by contrast, is to affirm that there are nothing but actualities and that when we speak of the relation between the virtual and the actual we are not referring to something other than the actual, but rather other actualities, such as genes, as they relate to a different actuality.

This is great, and captures a kind of materialism that also came up in something else I read this week, Poulantzas’s State, Power, Socialism. Read more↴

“An imperialism that spreads out and puffs up”

The world of Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire is in no way the world of the Manifesto of the Communist Party in which we were “compelled to face with sober senses” overwhelming objective developments taking place or unfolding before our very eyes. This world is replaced in short order…by a world inaccessible to our “sober senses,” a world where illusions exert real force and are in fact the conditions on which action is based…. The external world no longer carries any obvious meaning; we are faced instead with the inscrutability of images that are impenetrable to the underlying reality to which they are supposed to refer, or which they purport to represent (Paul Thomas, Alien Politics: Marxist State Theory Retrieved, 101).

Benjamin quotes a contemporary opinion that the crinoline represents the "spread out and puffed up" imperialism of the Second Empire This description of the Second Empire as a world of masquerade and appearence reminds me of Benjamin’s Arcades; but it also reminds me of Marx’s description of the state in On the Jewish Question. Read more↴

On Shia LaBoeuf and the Big Other

screenshot1 I saw Eagle Eye on the plane back from England; it’s not as good as Singh is Kinng, which I also watched, but it’s not bad (except for Shia LaBoeuf’s acting; he’s like an ugly Keanu Reeves). I thought there was something kind of interesting about the central premise, which involves the Boeuf receiving orders from some mysterious agency that appears to have complete control of all electronic systems; sending text messages, looking through security cameras, derailing trains. The falsehood of this premise is pretty obvious; there is no homogenous system of “electronic equipment,” but a vast range of unconnected and incompatible electronic systems. The vague category of technology provides a materialization of the paranoid fantasy that is the traditional support of the conspiracy thriller, but it’s not less (and, I would imagine, no less obviously) a fantasy for all that. Read more↴

Bureaucracy and biopolitics

The English people today are addicted to the rhythms of their own industrial and imperial valediction: they like saying goodbye to the past, and saying goodbye to the past is the single biggest thing they can’t say goodbye to.

screenshot-jamies-ministry-of-food-learn-to-cook-pass-it-on-jamie-oliver So wrote Andrew O’Hagan in the Guardian last weekend, and he was accurate at least as regards his own article. He’s unfortunately not alone in expressing regret about a supposedly backwards-looking working class by looking back nostalgically to the future-oriented proletariat of years past. There may be something right about his description of today’s working class cut off both from their commonality and their common history (although the exact time of this common past seems unclear; was it the ’70s, or some time before George Orwell?); but nostalgia, I think, is always and necessarily false. Read more↴

“The possibility of something happening…”

Tang Hall in the sunset Ascending from Gormire to Sutton Bank Remains of a dry stone wall

The English countryside was soporific. Cary didn’t agree with those who said it was boring. Certainly, it lacked the variety of a mountain vista, or even the romantic touch of a coast over the sea, but if you made an effort there was a certain fascination in the succession of identical ploughed fields, cottages and rows of trees. There was the possibility of something happening, especially when the fog came down like the dry ice that conjurors use to make their performances more spectacular. Any kind of situation could come out of the top hat (Wu Ming, 54).

New year, same terrible Guardian journalists

I don’t usually read the Guardian‘s music coverage, so I’d forgotten how incompetent a music writer Alexis Petridis is. I was reminded more forcefully than I would have liked by today’s review of Lady GaGa’s album, a six paragraph review that contains, generously, four sentences that mention music. Even those don’t rise above the level of “the tune of Paparazzi takes up residence in your brain and refuses to budge.” OK, fine, but why? What is it about that track that’s catchy? It isn’t, anyway, the tune which sticks in your head so much as the way the little catch in her voice plays against the cocooning buzz of the bass, and how that ambiguously anaesthetized melancholy fits with the bizarre fantasy of glamor that Lady GaGa attaches to the word “fashion.” But to get in to that would require describing music in some other way than through vague references to other artists, which appears to be the limit of Petridis’s skill.

Seriously, who is Petridis and where did he come from? Back when I lived in the UK and read the Guardian‘s music coverage regularly, I remember him appearing out of nowhere as their music editor; but I don’t remember him ever writing anything even minimally interesting.

In other “terrible things in the graun” news, Simon Jenkins appears to have written the apotheoisis of broadsheet opinion journalism: a smug, anti-intellectual column about why people should be smug and anti-intellectual.