@voyou If we're going to base our politics on Tumblr memes, put me down for "Can't even communism" 13 Jun 19 Reply Retweet Favorite

On a very bad blog post about a pretty bad episode of Mad Men

I thought this week’s episode of Mad Men was one of the weakest the show has ever done – this season has often been a bit obvious, but this episode went beyond that to be genuinely clunky: the heavy handedness of the episode’s insistence that prostitution is bad (a simplicity which undermines the show’s previous, much more interesting, awareness of the way in which, for women in the 60s, all choices were bad choices); the strange insistence on presenting Don as a “good” person; the blindingly obvious parallels between Joan’s storyline, the ad campaign they are working on, and the subplot involving Megan. So I’m annoyed by this post, which praises the episode for all the things that make it clumsy, in the service of a moralizing critique of capitalism which, because it ties that moralism to women’s bodies, also manages to be sexist. The key line, regarding the supposed ethical superiority of Don and Peggy:

They are free to act ethically because they are not trying to find a way to belong, and they understand themselves as having nothing to lose…. Thus, they are not simply good capitalist subjects in the fashion that, say, Pete Campbell is. They are ambitious in wanting to work the system but also understand the impossibility of obtaining the object that would provide complete inclusion.

That is, they make an ethical choice to resist being “included” in the capitalist system. Read more↴

Non-speaking beings

W. is impressed by my stammer.—‘You stammer and stutter’, says W., ‘and you swallow half your words. What’s wrong with you?’ Every time I see him, he says, it gets a little worse. The simplest words are beginning to defeat me, W. says. Maybe it’s mini-strokes, W. speculates. That would account for it.—‘You had one just there, didn’t you?’

Perhaps, W. muses, my stammering and stuttering is a sign of shame. W. says he never really thought I was capable of it, shame, but perhaps it’s there nonetheless.—‘Something inside you knows you talk rubbish’, he says. ‘Something knows the unending bilge that comes out of your mouth’. (Lars Iyer, Spurious)

Equality is a central term for Rancière, but it is quite a circumscribed equality, the equality specifically and only of speaking beings. Which immediately raises the question, what about non-speaking beings? Read more↴

Googie apocalypse

As I have my finger on the pulse of pop culture, I watched Wall-E on ABC Family yesterday, and I’m glad I did; with the 50s aesthetic and the social system based on laziness, it’s pretty much the film version of this blog. There’s an interesting aesthetic choice, which it shares with another 2008 cultural product, Fallout 3. The intro of each introduces the post-apocalyptic landscape accompanied by a soundtrack that recalls the pre rock and roll music of the 50s (actually, Fallout uses an Ink Spots track from the 40s,  while Wall-E uses a song from 60s musical Hello Dolly; the post-war, pre-neoliberalism “long 1950s,” as it were). Read more↴

Terrifying and insane, or, coalition government

I’ve recently returned from a month in coalition Britain, and I’ve been trying to figure out how, if at all, the general ideological tenor of the country has changed. Certainly Radio 1 is much more reactionary than it used to be; I think it’s managed to get worse every time I go back to the UK, but, now, with a new Tory government, it seems to be on a full-bore rush back to the DLT-days of the 80s. Well, actually, that’s not quite right, and the truth is possibly more disturbing: the Radio 1 of the 80s was about DJs in their 40s and 50s broadcasting for their patronizingly imagined younger audience, but today’s Radio 1 is built around young people patronizing themselves (and I know pop music isn’t that exciting at the moment, but surely there’s no excuse for Biffy Clyro).

Even as emotionally invested as I am in Radio 1, though, the reactionaryness of the coalition is obviously more worrying, although it does occur to me that there is a way in which New Labour was more neoliberal than the coalition are. Read more↴

The melancholy of post-Marxism

In the excellent “Neoliberalism and the End of Liberal Democracy,” Wendy Brown writes:

Put simply, what liberal democracy has provided over the last two centuries is a modest ethical gap between economy and polity. Even as liberal democracy converges with many capitalist values (property rights, individualism, Hobbesian assumptions underneath all contract, etc.) the formal distinction it establishes between moral and political principles on the one hand and the economic order on the other has also served as insulation against the ghastliness of life exhaustively ordered by the market and measured by market values. It is this gap that a neo-liberal political rationality closes as it submits every aspect of political and social life to economic calculation.

This is right, but phrased this way it risks idealizing liberal democracy in just the way Brown wants to avoid. Read more↴

“There is no big lie”

I didn’t watch Mad Men when it first started, which in hindsight is surprising, as I’m a big fan of both the advertising industry and the style of high Fordism. However, all the buzz I heard at the time amounted to a shocked “OMG THEY SMOKE AND ARE SEXIST,” and there are few things less interesting than minor differences between contemporary and past mores, the ruffs and fardingales of the past.

On the strength of Adam’s recommendation, I’ve been making my way through the show over the past month. Although from the beginning it was clear that the show looked beautiful and was marvelously acted, some of my initial concern remained: was the show’s 1960s setting anything other than window-dressing? Read more↴