Thursday, February 09, 2006

from The Arcades Project, etc.

    Baudelaire on the child raised in the company of the Pagan School: "His soul, constantly excited and unappeased, goes about the world, the busy, toiling world; it goes, I say, like a prostitute, crying: Plastique! Plastique! The plastic–that frightful word gives me goose flesh." Baudelaire, L'art romantique (Paris), p.307


Blogospheric conjectures: The 'solidarity!' meme is fine and necessary. The 'dude' meme just may needs to stop itself already. The 'wife world' meme, probably ok..

Elsewhere, Marcos Piason Natali writes, bringing a smile to my lips:
    With the peculiar spin Marx would give Hegel’s principle of perfectibility, the yearning for the past dismissed by both Kant and Hegel was no longer primarily an intellectual shortcoming; it became an explicitly political problem—an obstruction to social justice. For Marx, the world was not only moving towards greater individual freedom and scientific development but, more significantly, towards a more just society. Such a perception would lead Marx to thunder famously in 1852: “Let the dead bury their dead” (Reader 597), and the phrase haunts various currents of leftist thought to this day. The message it holds—that those interested in promoting social justice should not focus on the past—transformed nostalgia into a sort of political crime, causing well-intentioned leftists of several varieties to flee even the appearance of any connection to nostalgia. The very word traditionally used to refer to the left in English and other European languages—variations of “progressive”—emphasizes commitment to the future, while the words that describe the left’s adversaries—“conservative” and “reactionary”—suggest devotion to the past.2 As many of us within and outside of Europe at one point learned from Marx, that which was coded as the past was precisely what needed to be overcome and any desire to preserve it was highly suspect...

    A close reading of “The Eighteenth Brumaire,” however, reveals that the brunt of Marx’s critique is directed not at what has passed—that is, after all, to be ignored by the living—but at what has remained. Marx’s concern is with those who cling obstinately to ways of being that he defines as part of the past, like the peasants cited above who sought to defend their existence from extinction. Within bourgeois society itself, these elements from earlier social formations will be found, although in “stunted” or “travestied” form, as “unconquered remnants” of the past (Reader 241).
    Those who inhabit such spaces are walking dead; they are “alive as if they were dead,” to use the phrase Cuban author José Lezama Lima used to describe himself (Vitier 533). They are akin to those Dipesh Chakrabarty called the “living dead in our midst,” those who wait “for death to realize in a physical form the ‘fact’ of their obsolescence” (“Marx” 64)...

    If the burial of the dead is to be ignored, then, it is the chilling idea of the burial of these living dead, the not-yet truly dead, that Marx calls us to perform.
    The fact that these metaphorical burials are seen as not only necessary but also inevitable is what Michel Rolph-Trouillot, after François Furet, calls the “second illusion of truth”—that is, the idea that “what happened is what must have happened” (107). Kant, Hegel, and Marx sought to convince their readers precisely of the inevitability of their historical narratives. Furthermore, as I have argued, for all three thinkers not only was what happened—or, and this is crucial, what would happen—inevitable, it was also desirable. Thus, any critical potential contained in sentiments such as nostalgia becomes immediately suspect, and eventually both capitalists and their fiercest critics could be seen embracing different forms of the idea of progress...

    However, the survival of affectionate attachment to the past in the second half of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century upset Marx’s narrative, and as late as 1915 it was still deemed necessary to formulate a similar critique of nostalgia, though with another vocabulary. In that year Freud published “Mourning and Melancholia,”...


    This essay has attempted to demonstrate that for the term nostalgic to be used as critique, as it so often has been in modern thought, certain conventions have to be in place. It is because of the twin beliefs in the promise of the future and the irreversibility of time that nostalgia can be seen as harmful to an individual’s well-being and to a collectivity’s welfare. It is only if history is understood as necessarily emancipatory, progressive, and rationally comprehensible that affect for the past can be immediately condemned as an irrational obstacle hindering the pursuit of social justice; it is only if the past is thought of as forever lost and death is seen as final that a desire for repetition can be seen as unrealistic. Likewise, it is only after historiography becomes the dominant means of approaching the past that nostalgia may be faulted for its inaccuracy. These were the preconditions for the critique of attachment to the past as politically counter-productive in nineteenth- and twentieth-century thought.
    Caught in such a web, many good leftists have found themselves in a quandary difficult to solve...

4 comments:

CR said...

Nice find, in so many ways... Unbelievable that Baudelaire even had the word...

Reading Benjamin, are we?

Matt said...

Both B's, tonight.

Matt said...

or morning, as the case may be.

spurred on, you might say. this quote reminds me of Martin Amis on porno, for some reason.

Anonymous said...

http://www.poetry-archive.com/b/beauty.html