I realized the area I’d moved into was further along in gentrification than my old neighborhood when I went out to get some food and quickly came across a smart-looking cafe with only two items on its menu: soup and grilled cheese. This is probably a good thing; personally (the soup/grilled cheese combo was quite tasty) but also ethically. As a white guy who doesn’t have a huge income but has quite a lot of, for want of a better term, social capital, gentrification is my essence, quite independent of my will in the matter; so, better to live somewhere that’s already pretty much gentrified, rather than assist in kicking off the process in some new area.
I say “ethically” rather than “politically,” because centering your analysis around anti-gentrification leads to moralism and bad politics. Read more↴
That Jameson quote that Zizek loves, about it being easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism, is often mentioned in the context of our (I mean, late capitalist culture in general’s) love of apocalyptic scenarios. But the phrase also reminds us of something perhaps more important: that capitalism itself is necessarily incapable of imagining its own end. As Marx writes:
As representative of the general form of wealth—money—capital is the endless and limitless drive to go beyond its limiting barrier. Every boundary is and has to be a barrier for it. Else it would cease to be capital—money as self-reproductive. (Grundrisse)
This is, rather unexpectedly, one of the main themes of recent computer game Portal 2. Read more↴
Adam Curtis’s All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace (part 1, part 2, part 3) is pretty excellent. It puts forward an ambitious and interesting thesis, which I think deserves more engagement from the anti-authoritarian left than this rather defensive response at New Left Project. To try and compress Curtis’s already over compressed argument into one thesis, he identifies the idea of a self-regulating homeostasis as a widely accepted common sense of our times, and one which makes it difficult for us to think about changing the world, either about what such a change would mean or what the role of power would be in accomplishing such a change. That New Left Project response is right to point out other traditions which influence the anti-authoritarian left and have more to say about power and radical change, but this doesn’t negate what I think Curtis is trying to do. The ideological assemblage he puts together has a certain coherence, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be exhaustive, I don’t think he’s denying that there are other elements which could be assembled in other ways.
This does, though, raise a problem with the documentary, and indeed with Curtis’s work more generally. Read more↴
Interesting article by Joel Schalit on the role of a fantasized Israeli identity for certain American right-wingers (which I heard about on Doug Henwood’s Behind the News). Schalit discusses the prominence of online commenters who claim to be Israelis bringing the realities of Israel’s precarious situation to an ignorant US left audience, who on investigation turn out in fact not to be Israelis or indeed Jews, but conservative American Christian zionists. A fantasy about Israel as a hard-headed reality serves a particular function in justifying American foreign policy. Read more↴
Last week, John Boehner found himself in the position of having to defend tax subsidies to oil companies; he agreed that subsidizing the massive, and massively profitable, oil companies was perverse but, he pleaded, what about all the small, struggling oil companies? This is a particularly amusing instance of the appeal to an imaginary petit bourgeoisie, which you also see in claims that people getting paid half a million dollars are “small business owners.” This is, perhaps, a central feature of bourgeois ideology, which imagines that capitalism is based on individual “property as the fruit of a man’s own labour, which property is alleged to be the groundwork of all personal freedom, activity and independence” (Marx), rather than being a whole system of social production. This particular aspect of bourgeois ideology does seem to be undergoing a resurgence of popularity at the moment, perhaps as a kind of protective reaction to the increasing visibility of the structures of capitalism in the wake of the financial crisis. Read more↴
The coverage was almost entirely predictable. It was predictable because it was in important respects stage managed by the police…. The state seeks to manipulate the media in order to protect the status quo from serious challenge. (Dan Hind, VersoBooks.com)
I do think this focus on police infiltrators risks overemphasizing the agency of the state, and concomitantly underemphasizing the possibilities for resistance. Read more↴