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

Now this is a story all about how my ideology got flip turned upside down…

…and I’d like to take a minute just sit right there I’ll tell you how I came to advocate a liquidationist position in the Communist Party of Great Britain.

Harry Pollitt, looking suspiciously like Mikhail Gorbachev After I’d stopped laughing at Rowenna Davis’s description of Martin Jacques as a “credible leftist advocate,” I realized the story of the erstwhile Marxism Today section of the CPGB is not really very funny.  When Tony Blair and people decided that an electable social democratic party would have to make some rapprochement with neoliberalism, they, eventually, ended up in government. Martin Jacques made the same ideological move, and ended up writing newspaper columns tailing whatever New Labour had just done. So little reward for such ideological upheaval.

The other interesting thing in that article is the way it depends on constructing two fantasy figures of “the left.” Read more↴

Finches and cyborgs

charles_darwin I was reading Donna Haraway’s Simians, Cyborgs, and Women today; I’ve read her Cyborg Manifesto before, but not the rest of the book, which, it turns out, is absolutely fantastic. The much more detailed engagement with the recent history of science is extremely useful, particularly her discussion of the shift in epistemes in biology from a pre-war approach based on engineering, to a post-war approach based on cybernetics and information theory. I find the idea of cybernetics as the post-war episteme particularly interesting because of the vital but frequently occluded importance of cybernetics to the development of political science as an independent discipline in the 50s and 60s. Read more↴

The post­mod­ern­i­za­tion of drug pro­d­uc­tion

marlo_snoop1 A while back, I was flipping through the channels and came across a cop show with the now de rigeur shaky camerawork, which I assumed to be Law and Order or CSI (though I realized it wasn’t CSI from the lack of unwatchably saturated colors). But it turned out to be a repeat of Homicide: Life on the Streets. It was an interesting illustration of the way in which the signifiers of “realism” can so easily be appropriated by content that is anything but realistic.

Which is why, “realistic” though it may be, The Wire‘s brilliance doesn’t lie in a realism of form. Read more↴

Joan of Arc, Machiavelli

Describing Joan of Arc, Dworkin writes that her “story is not female until the end, when she died, like nine million other women, in flames.”1 To be female, that is, is to be subjected, indeed to be killed. For Dworkin, Joan of Arc is a hero because of her refusal to accept this subjection, a refusal to accept subjection that makes Joan a subject in her own right, autonomous and self-determining. But for Dworkin, these two sides, of subject and subjection, never seem to connect to one another. She endorses a particular conception of subjectivity, a form of subjectivity traditionally associated with men but denied to women, but does not consider that this model of subjectivity might depend on subjection (the subjection of somebody: in particular, women) for its coherence. “To want freedom is to want not only what men have, but what men are,”2 Dworkin writes, and I will contend that this is true in a more fundamental sense than Dworkin herself realizes: this construal of freedom is not something merely appropriated by men, but is fundamentally masculinist, implicated in systems of male dominance. Thus, “feminist revolution” requires a rethinking of the notion of subjectivity. Read more↴

Democracy is not for sale

Chomo on Democracy Now the other day said:

Just take a look at the funding for his campaign. I mean, the final figures haven’t come out, but we have preliminary figures, and it seems to be mostly financial institutions. I mean, the financial institutions preferred him to McCain. They are the main funders for both—you know, I mean, core funders for both parties, but considerably more to Obama than McCain.

There are a couple of ways of taking this. Read more↴

“I shall prefer to believe with the cheerful Fourier in all these stories rather than in the realm of the absolute spirit, where there is no lemonade at all”

The utopia, doctrinaire socialism, subordinates the total movement to one of its elements, substitutes for common social reproduction the brainwork of individual pedants and, above all, in its fantasy dispenses with the revolutionary struggle of classes by means of small conjuring tricks or great sentimentality; fundamentally it only idealizes the existing society, takes a picture of it free of shadows and aspires to assert its ideal picture against the reality of this society. (Karl Marx, The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850)

This passage sums up what I think is Marx’s most interesting criticism of utopianism: that utopias, far from being too fanciful, are, as products of the existing society, far too conventional. This is certainly true of Michael Albert’s Parecon, which a friend of mine described as being like a Sorelian myth in reverse, a concerted delibidinization of socialism. Read more↴