Friday, March 31, 2006

New International (iv)

Parts one through three being here, here (since edited) and here .

From "Not Utopia, the Im-possible", in Paper Machine:

THOMAS ASSHEUER: You have yourself demonstrated very well, in Specters of Marx, that Francis Fukuyama's thesis of the end of history was refuted from the moment of its propagation, and even before. Liberal societies, which he praises, cannot resolve their social problems. What is momre, "globalization" creates serious social problems in the world. Once again, then, the most important question is that of justice. Looking particularly at the global situation, what might be the contribution of philosophy? In Specters of Marx you speak of the "New International." Could you specify some ideas and political projects linked to this New International?

DERRIDA: I am thinking of a worldwide solidarity, often silent, but ever more effective. It is no longer defined like the organization of the socialist internationals (but I keep the old term International to recall something of the spirit of revolution and justice that was meant to unite the workers and the oppressed across national boundaries). It is not recognized in states or international organizations dominated by particular state powers. It is closer to nongovernmental organizations, to some projects called "humanitarian"; but it also goes beyond them and calls for a profound change in international law and its implementation.

Today this International has the figure of suffering and compassion for the ten wounds of the "world order" that I enumerate in Specters of Marx. It shouts about what is so little spoken of both in political rhetoric and in the discourse of "engaged intellectuals," even among card-carrying champions of human rights. To give a few examples of the form of the macrostatistics we so easily forget about, I am thinking of the millions of children who die every year because of water; of the nearly 50 percent of women who are beaten, or victims of violence that sometimes leads to murder (60 million women dead, 30 million women maimed); of the 33 million AIDS sufferers (of whom 90 percent are in Africa, although only 5 percent of the AIDS research bubget is allocated to them and drug therapy remains inaccessible outside small Western milieux); I am thinking of the selective infanticides of girls in India and the monstrous working conditions of children in numerous countries; I am thinking of the facdt that there are, I believe, a billion illiterate people and 140 million children who have no formal education; I am thinking of the keeping of the death sentence and the conditions of its application in the United States (the only Western democracy in this situation, and a country that does not recognize the convention concerning children's rights either and proceeds, when they reach the age ofo majority, to the carrying out of sentences that were pronounced against minors; and so on). I cite from memory these figures published in major official reports in order to give some idea of the order of magnitude of the problems that call for an "international" solidarity and for which no state, no party, no trade union, and no organization of citizens really takes responsibility. Those who belong to this International are all the suffering, and all who are not without feeling for the scale of these emergencies–all those who, whatever civic or national groups they belong to, are determined to turn politics, law, and ethics in their direction. (Derrida, 125-126)

-Paper Machine, 2005, translated by Rachel Bowlby

Thursday, March 30, 2006

fresh blog

• exhale, upon re-reading this.
• and the post below has been re-edited.
• Mark Kaplan on The Enlightenment, a meme whose time has come, here and here (with links upon links to follow at your Eurocentric leisure, and perhaps depending on how much coffee you've had, &c.)
Alasdair Gray joins good company on the sidebar (via Splinters).

Monday, March 27, 2006

I first read Leonard Cohen in a book of poetry

The internets have turned all rock an' pop lately (though, thankfully, not only this). Oh, and there was the Tronti thing. Once Fresh Hegelians may now be rolling themselves even deeper graves.

I don't really know about this "quest" business (that was always sort of necessarily tongue-in-cheek), but Ellis Sharp returns a few friendly barbs, as one can only expect and hope he would, in his further response to the "philosophy of pop" debates, long may they run (so long as we may also roll our eyes at ourselves, from time to time, and still nurture an inner monologue and melody, and shed tears, and such). I believe the gripe with Mark Greif's article for n+1 has now been refined to an originary essence, or at least to a point where it may be difficult to disagree. That said, I am willing to try. It's a bit scattershot, Ellis' post, so mine will probably be likewise. Plus, frankly, I'm fucking wiped (the gentle reader will please notice the time-stamp).

Ellis begins by establishing some vague druthers about writing style:
Some of the worst modern non-fiction written is to be found in the pop music section of bookshops. (I own a book about Van Morrison which winsomely begins “This book is dedicated to purity”.)
Alright, no argument there. How may cant-begging be anything but selfconscious in pop criticism? Or a resignation to embarrassment, maybe, that hides (or rather fails to hide) its vulnerability behind a strut. Better to acknowledge the vulnerability or sense of embarrassment one faces with such a topic up front, and move on (as Greif does). (If by some chance the strut is unselfconscious, then it is just plain pretentious, of the sort critics of pop are usually quick to detect (there must have been some reason to buy the book!...or if it had said "the will to purity" well, that might have been another story.))

Ellis really begins this way:
In the case of pop music it’s true that there isn’t much around in the way of critical theory, let alone something as all-encompassing as a philosophy. But I retain my scepticism that a pop philosophy is particularly desirable or, if achieved, would be particularly illuminating. Illuminating for who? Consumers of pop music? Creators of pop music? Where commentary is concerned, I prefer theory that relates concretely to praxis. But for the artist too much theory has a tendency to kill the creative impulse.
To which I imagine being forced to sit in a room with someone who insists on quoting Adorno or Benjamin, or Nietzsche on Wagner everytime a Radiohead song comes on the, er, you know. This person should probably have books thrown at their head. Big books. Anthologies, even, provided they are dispensable.

And yet...why not think about the aesthetic rhythms that frame our waking and sleeping moments, now more than ever? And why not wonder if such philosophical meditations (or vomitting, in Nietzsche's case) on opera and classical music as informed the social theory of the past may still be made, somehow, to ap-ply? Is it because we're so deluded as to think our humming of "Mr. Jones and Me" really constitutes a genuine artistic creation in its own right, any more than mere melodic company and self-comfort? Surely not! The question is really one of self-renewal, isn't it? And of reminding oneself, in an indirect, inherently semi-forgetful or semi-absentminded manner of a way of being, with part of oneself held stubbornly in reserve, or in potential. Ex-posed a little, you might even say. As Greif suggests, maybe even living something of a reminder of that originary moment, so long ago, when we first realized we should resist (though resisting nothing in-particular).

Did I mention S. was on the Appalachian Trail? She has mentioned to me, a few times now, the specific refrains of Caetano Veloso that keep her company. It's difficult to hike without a song, or melody. But it could certainly be worse (she could be stuck on Wagner). Thoreau he resorted to examining the galaxy contained in slabs of birch bark, or counting the tiers of limbs in blueberry bushes. But today, in this the age of ipods and commercials, we have pop lyrics and melodies, as any Outward Bound instructor or Peace Corps student, or anyone who's had to confront extended periods of relative silence from bombardment by the zeitgeist will readily inform you. It's not necessarily a good or bad thing, and the potential to examine birch bark with genuine Transcendentalist or pantheistic wonder still exists, but it's a fact. Why not think about it?

And yet, pop music also nurtures boredom, and even though it's an engaged sort of fortifying, reanimated, ironic and resistant boredom, there's something potentially calcifying, therapeutic and habitual in it too. The pop aesthetic may just as easily water-down our lives and facilitate to keep us stuck, sticks in the mud and comfortably numb, or as Greg Brown wonders about that guy "in his thump thump car / smug as some commentator on NPR." Just as there is both pervasive, comforming irony and...well, the problem of irony taken seriously, or negotiated as a step toward something else. But then this would still be the age of irony, after all. Despite the best attempts of surging fundamentalisms Islamic or Bushisctic, nothing as paradigmatic or capturing of the imagination has yet come along to replace it, particularly.

In short, Ellis does seem almost determined to miss Greif's argument, and the wonderful ways in which it opens up onto thinking, albeit speculatively and gently, this moment in our (rather hyper) extended modernity, and if anything perhaps deepens one's appreciation for the experience of one's time, through music. The apparent "traditional rock criticism" that Mark more or less self-consciously engages in, I take to be merely laying the foundation for this further critique and opening. But in any case, the experience of art may all be secondary to either the act of creating art, or the work itself, yes, that's very likely. But at the same time there is no art without the experience of art, even if in the end this experience is only to provoke fresh trembling. "Art is primarily the consciousness of unhappiness, not its consolation." Blanchot, of course. And the role of philosophy in all this is not easily pinned down. Here's Ellis again, betraying what I daresay is the real obvious sore, or sticking point, for him:
Let’s turn again to a much cited statement by Mark Greif:

And all of us lovers of music, with ears tuned precisely to a certain kind of sublimity in pop, are quick to detect pretension, overstatement and cant about pop—in any attempt at a wider criticism—precisely because we feel the gap between the effectiveness of the music and the impotence and superfluity of analysis. This means we don’t know, about our major art form, what we ought to know. We don’t even agree in what sense the interconnection of pop music and lyrics, rather than the words spoken alone, accomplishes an utterly different task of representation, more scattershot and overwhelming and much less careful and dignified than poetry — and bad critics show their ignorance when they persist in treating pop like poetry, as in the still-growing critical effluence around Bob Dylan.

I think Greif has a bit of a nerve to knock Dylan criticism when he himself goes on to rave over Radiohead’s OK Computer in these terms: “The dread in the songs is so detailed and so pervasive that it seems built into each line of lyric and into the black or starry sky of music that domes it.” I detect the soft sloppy gush of critical effluence in those last twelve words.
Still harping on the Dylan comment! I suppose it's a bit pedantic at this point to reiterate, but Greif is not knocking Dylan criticsm tout court, but rather only those who would flatter themselves by elevating their subject to the status of a poet. But a barb of orienting contention, no less, nestled in what may well be a deliberate and biting aside (on Greif's part). Alright, so Ellis does goes on to label this "sloppy gush" part of Mark's article the "traditional rock criticism" component, and he also mentions that it is in fact of "the kind [he] enjoy[s] reading." And he admits finally, I think, that Dylan is more song and dance man than he is poet, which I applaud. (And the waxing evocative on the part of Greif is a little warm, for being allegedly in the service of finally risking certain intellectual claims. But do his descriptions ever falter? Why should an article be boring, and who trusts a critic who doesn't also love?) Ellis also criticizes Greif for not analyzing movies and novels:
I’m not happy with Greif’s identification of pop as “our major art form”. To me that’s like saying apples are our major fruit. Better than bananas? No, just different. I’m more inclined to think that the three major art forms of our time (‘our’ only in the first world sense, which is not a distinction Greif makes) are pop music, movies and novels. Each one has inherent aesthetic advantages over the other two, but each one has its deficiencies too. But all three have mass appeal in a way that live theatre, art, opera and poetry don’t.
Indeed, how true. That claim made me pause as well. One can only surmise, I suppose, that this was after all an article specifically on popular music, seeking to steer clear of platitudinous generalities as much as possible. That it appears in a literary journal currently devoting an issue to the state of American fiction, and with articles on independent film, might provide ironic comfort of some sort.

But do places other than the "first world" belong to a different "time", truly? Do people in the "third world" not listen to music or watch movies? Last time I was there, they did. At least those with the luxury of time to do more than just survive, can't seem to join the pop zeitgeist fast enough. One could certainly criticize this becoming-homogeneous of art, however, yes. And in more ways than David Spade poking fun at ipods...

Just for the record Ellis is right about Counting Crows, in every respect. I don't know why I said that. Out of embarrassment, perhaps. Their first album was something truly wonderful, and fragile (not to mention paying tribute to a certain suspender-wearing character of Dylan's). (There were of course others from that era too; how truly sad and tragic that what came after makes them look so impossible, if not rendering them virtually unlistenable now).

Last but not least. You know, I really love Infidels, and not just because of the incredible band he was playing with then. Maybe it's primarily the time in my own life that it evokes by association (something Greif remarks upon as well–indeed, one might even go so far as to call it rather central to his argument). But I also admire its melodic qualities, and what might be called, with some accuracy, the saccharine Dylan, particularly on tracks such as "Sweatheart Like You" and "I and I." And yet without the other Dylans, I'm not sure I would, if that makes any sense. The lyrics to "Jokerman" and "Man of Peace" move and amuse me, for reasons having nothing to do with Israel. And I'd like to keep it that way. And I think Ellis is letting a politicizing passion get in the way of hearing a song. Nothing wrong with that, it's just unfortunate. There is a love present in those songs that transcends any prescribed or delimited political context about which one may have a wholesale opinion, that can then only be mechanically repeated. Maybe it's romantic, but when a Beat poet goes through a born-again phase, I don't judge it as harshly as I otherwise might. Just as I am more intrigued than self-riteously, morally appalled by Blanchot's early nationalism and contribution to right-wing publications, or the questions of deMan's or Heidegger's "politics." After all placing blame, particularly with the privilege of 20-20 hindsight, can be a very useless exercise, as Dorris Lessing used to say. Which is hardly to excuse anything, only to recognize and resist the tendency to resolve complex, mutually contaminated histories into pat antagonisms, if not also something of what real forgiveness may entail. In any case, as always with any story-teller, it would be a mistake to confuse Dylan's narrators with the author (standin for the man) himself. A man will always be more than an author or the sum of his creations, no? It's an album full of good tunes, and way higher on the list of desert island disks than any of those pre-marijuana, mantric provincial pretty boy "I wanna hold your hand" numbers, anyday. Just kidding, mostly. Maybe I'm not in an early Beatles phase, right now.  Maybe it's the political climate.

The remainder of Ellis' post, like the parts I've skewered somewhat unfairly above, is thoughtful, informed and interesting, even if I suspect "vipers" is a reference to drug-addicts or some such and not snakes, &c. But when he says:
Dylan may have embraced evangelical Christianity but he did it here with wit and good humour. It’s a song which laughs at itself. Which is why the crazy right-wing Born Again Christian Dylan is to be preferred to the crazy right-wing Zionist Dylan – for sound musical reasons...
I can only cringe.&mbsp; The humour of the Born Again Dylan always struck me as painful, as trying very hard and failing to be cute.  And to be honest, I'd like to think the "Zionist" Dylan may not be much of a Zionist at all.  (It would be curious to hear an argument for this.)  But I may be wrong.   Ellis writes:
And, where ‘Neighborhood Bully’ (on Infidels) is concerned, a philosophy of pop would be a very questionable one if it discussed this song to the complete exclusion of itstrue context.

Perhaps. But when, in the course of describing Dylan's period of having "lost the plot" during the notorious eighties, he remarks:
‘Born in Time’ is a great song but you’d barely realise it from its feeble debut on Under the Red Sky. Whereas the version on Bob Dylan Live 1961-2000 is dazzling. (If you don’t know this last album, by the way, it’s because it was only released in Japan. And the accompanying booklet is in Japanese. Thanks, Bob.)

I realize that I am rather hopelessly out of my league.  Which is why, for my part, I would be inclined to say again, let's maybe put the questions of high fidelity to taste and fandom aside, as much as possible, when trying to approach a subject with the self-consciously grand title, "the philosophy of pop."  In fact, I think Mark Greif is absolutely right about this.  The obstacles to advancing any halfway objective claims are just too high.  Because otherwise we are left with somewhat sentimental gestures–not that Ellis is at all guilty of this, but it is I think the danger– forever groping for a profundity that isn't quite there, but could be (both less profound, and more solid) if only they didn't cling so much to their precious object, in the singular.

It hardly has any bearing on the question, then, but despite issues of evocative cover design, I will still take Smog to the Babyshambles anyday.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

well shit sweet

Old things sometimes fail to reappear. Now there's one empty box, paid for, and one free one filled with things, and he more inclined to get rid of both than either. The past, well it always seems like it's putting on airs
of being present anyway. Update: No! Comments are all back!

Welcome back, comments.

(This is just a blog about Haloscan. But Adam Kotsko is a funny man. And I wonder if Ellis has been reading this guy, or Michael Bérubé. For interesting things on popular music, Dylan and Neil Young, you may click on those.)

Friday, March 24, 2006

la vache qui dit

ici. It grows on you.

Oh sure, and happy belated birthday, to me. Off to examine (for I want to get a better historical sense of Blanchot's peculiar Nationalism. And it is peculiar...)

Still, without signifying all that much, High hopes, because the other one, the later one, sometimes it made me feel like this

if, granted, also this

Thomas sat down and looked at the sea.

It is certainly satisfying (too satisfying) to think that, solely because something like these words, 'he – the sea', with the exigency that results from them and whence also they result, are written, somewhere there is inscribed the possibility of a radical transformation, even if only for a single person, that is to say his suppression as a personal existence. The possibility: no more. (Le pas au-delà, 8)


Literature for Blanchot is thus neither a retreat from the real nor a bulwark against it. It is rather the only remaining mode of subjectivity in language open to him in the face of what the real has become...(Holland, 12)


A blog also, looks interesting.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

re fusal

There ought to be a program for those who edit their blogs more than twice. Bad blogs get written. Decent blogs get reviews. Sometimes decent blogs respond to reviews by re-over-editing themselves back into bad blogs. Very rarely, and verging on neurosis, such born again bad blogs are finally rendered better, or at least decent blogs, again.

In yesterday's post on the new international (since updated and, one hopes, clarified a bit), it was neglectful not to mention what is fast becoming a truly splendid and varied critical engagement with Mario Tronti, on a Long Sunday. And in light of which, wondering about again:
"At a certain moment, in the face of public events, we know that we must refuse. The refusal is absolute, categorical. It does not argue, nor does it voice its reasons. This is why it is silent and solitary, even when it asserts itself, as it must, in broad daylight. Men who refuse and who are tied by the force of refusal know that they are not yet together. The time of joint affirmation is precisely that of which they have been deprived. What they are left with is the irreducible refusal, the friendship of this certain, unshakable, rigorous No that keeps them unified and bound by solidarity." (Maurice Blanchot, Friendship, 111)

A new issue of BOOKFORUM features this review, among other interesting things.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

go now

and read Scott McLemee

(then come back, of course, and comment on the post(s) below)

elsewhere, one wonders why this is news, and the question/balk 'n sneer portion of this would be enough to radicalize anyone (if only they could be convinced it was worth the trouble (via Atrios–and yes, that struck me as a telling, if unoriginal, stream-of-consciousness-under-duress-aside (to papa, mebbe?) revealing Bush's default cynicism/utter failure as an actor, too. Our "President" is haunted by the big Other in a whole new way. (Infantile neurosis makes sense, and is warranted you know, because the whole world changed.) as, quite simply, Bush's way of apologizing for having to be such an ass (it comes with the job, you see). A man whose defining (if not solitary) feature, the banal need to be liked, has never beeen more transparent.)

new International?


Which is to say, tentatively, that I agree with Mark's (and Angela's, and D&G's) descriptions...while I remain somewhat uncertain as to the status of their apparent prescriptive leaps.

Mark writes:

"There is indeed, no opposition to be drawn between capitalist progressivism and reactionary nostalgia. Let's be clear: there is no capitalist progressivism. But that is not to say that there aren't 'progressive' tendencies within capitalism, tendencies that are, by the very nature of capitalism, necessarily and inevitably blocked and inhibited. Which is to say: capitalism is defined by - is in many ways nothing more than - the tension between progressive and reactionary tendencies; the progressive elements can only be liberated from the reactionary ones when capitalism is destroyed."

And I agree with everything he says, only remain wondering about the best way to proceed, toward this "destruction." It may sound naive, but in short: why not encourage (or exploit) the "progressive" elements as much as possible, specifically in articulating and implementing new institutional formations (and not just in hastening destruction), in laying some provisional, maleable foundations that may yet help serve the cause of a more open-ended future? Toward a 'communism', in some new sense, perhaps. Why cross off internationalism and inter-nationalism (though I prefer the concept of 'globality') in one hasty sweep, tout court? (Or maybe I have misunderstood the status of this hyphen?) What of the benefits of a radically self-critical and adapting, new international law? Such strengthening, or clearing, for a new international needn't be understood as merely in the nostalgic service of the crumbling (and becoming-obsolete) formal nation-state; on the contrary. (I must say, that Derrida's speculations on what 'philosophy' fails to mean, if not this critical praxis, strike me as very apt indeed.)

Finally, what is called "globalisation" is in itself not purely evil. For example, the fact that English is becoming, increasingly, a universal language as a site of (albeit impoverished) translation, perhaps as code (as Kristeva might have said), also means: that when it is used as an affectively neutral, mediating language between people, it allows them to further escape the trappings of nationalism, oftentimes in a manner formerly impossible due to the insidious ways in which nationalism remains so embedded (within languages). Neither is this to reduce 'globalisation' to one language, certainly. And on something of a tangent, there are indeed good reasons to defend language diversity (though this word, 'diversity' is often enough assumed, simplistically, a sort of panacea in itself), not least of all in practical terms of defending biodiversity, and good science.

In any case, here is the specific impetus, you may have guessed, I have in mind:
...The 'international' I think is looking for its own place, its own figure; it is something which would go beyond the current stage of internationality, perhaps beyond citizenship, beyond the belonging to a state, the belonging to a given nation-state. And I think that today in the world a number of human beings are secretly allying in their suffering against the hegemonic powers which protect what is called 'the new world order'. So that is what I meant by 'the new international', not a new way of, let's say, associating citizens belonging to given nation-states, but a new concept of citizenship, of hospitality, a new concept of a state of democracy - in fact, it's a new concept of democracy, a new determination of the concept, the given concept of democracy in the tradition of the concept of democracy. Now, having said this - again, very simply, in words which are too simple - I think we don't have to choose between unity and multiplicity. Of course, deconstruction - that was its strategy up to now - insisted on not multiplicity for itself but insisted on the, let's say the heterogeneity, the difference, the dissociation which is absolutely necessary for the relation to the other but disrupts the totality.

What disrupts the totality is the condition for the relation to the other. The privilege granted to unity, to totality, to organic ensembles, to community as a homogenized whole - this is the danger for responsibility, for decision, for ethics, for politics. That is why I insisted upon what prevents the unity to close itself, to be closed up. And this is not only a matter of description, of saying what is, the way it is, it's a matter of accounting for the possibility of responsibility, of a decision, of ethical commitment. For this you have to pay attention to what I would call similarity, and similarity is not unity simply, it is not multiplicity. Now this does not mean that we have to destroy unity, all forms of unity wherever they occur. I have never said anything like that. Of course we need unity, some gathering, some configuration and so on and so forth. You see, the pure unity or the pure multiplicity are synonyms of death. There is only death when there is only totality or unity and when there is only multiplicity or dissociation...

I can't reach the other, I cannot know the other from the inside. That is not an obstacle, that is the condition of love, of friendship - of war too - it's a condition of the relation to the other. This dissociation is the condition of community, the condition of any unity as such. So a state - to come back to the state - a state in which there will be only 'unum' will be a terrible catastrophe, and we have unfortunately had a number of such experiences. So a state without 'pluribus', without plurality and the respect for plurality, would be first either a totalitarian state... it's a terrible thing, it doesn't work, we know that it doesn't work, it's a terrible thing and doesn't work; and finally it wouldn't even be a state, it would be like... a what... a stone, if you like, a rock. So a state as such must be attentive as much as possible to the plurality... of what... of people, languages, cultures, ethnic groups, persons and so on and so forth, and that's the condition for a state.

How could any reader of Specters neglect to mention this (insistence on pragmatic unity)? And at the same time, rapport sans rapport.

more here...

Monday, March 20, 2006

Fresh Light

"A philosopher...would be one who seeks a new criteriology to differentiate between "comprehending" and "justifying."

Alain's prompted this.

Alain who is again posting pictures, as is his wont, of the unavoidably repellent on Long Sunday. Or is that the repellent unavoidables. (And here I am, always google-scouring for horizons, pretty sunsets and poetic vistas...By the time we're both done, half the technorati profile will consist of illicit hotlinks from either proud wingnuts, or boring conservation, tourist blogs. Be that as it may.) But even if I don't share Alain's particular fascination, I appreciate the impetus.

And I suspect he would agree, that discussions of Fukuyama and B-Henri hardly do the subject justice. Which is the way I prefer to read his concluding remarks, in any case.

That subject being, broadly, the social and political role of philosophers, and even more broadly their relation to the question of Europe.

As to the former, Alain cites those two repellents distinguishing strictly between "government" and "private life", and "realistic" and "idealistic" intellectual labor. As Alain, and a savvy commenter do not fail to note, neither of these sets of bins are very helpful, or even all that relevant.

Rather, and in a manner that overlaps a great deal with John Emerson's recent forays into questions of philosophical ethics, global citizenship and intellectual responsibility in "analytic" vs. "continental" circles, one might more usefully distinguish, following Giovanna Borradori, between models of social and political commitment aligned with either a "liberal" or "Hegelian" lineage.

I would like to return to this Hegelian lineage in a moment.

Of course Zizek is not the first to imagine or so theorize about a counter-balancing future Europe, and from an assumed position (or in Zizek's case maybe a more presumed authority, largely sloganeered from others) more nuanced and philosophical, in a certain sense, than the knee-jerk hyperbole that characterizes so much popular political rhetoric, and especially, if one dares to say it, on the part of what passes these days for a hard or "leninist" left.  Neither is he the most interesting, in my humble opinion.  And it's true that issuing forth from him, such generalized and (as always) somewhat calculatedly sloppy and provoking pronouncements may risk coming across at least, as simplistic if not outright racist endorsement of a merely reactionary euro-centrism or new nationalism.

But moving more slowly: what is meant by "a counter-balancing Europe"?  This has been a serious question for more than a few important thinkers for quite some time now.  Is it first and foremost a resistance of some sort to the current USian, or neoliberal "free-trade"-for- offshore-cartels, silencing,-debt,-prison-and-polution-for-everyone-else model of international capitalism?  It seems, quite obviously, not enough to either oppose the Euro to the dollar, or to simply resist the Euro as such.  Rather there are both more and less resistant potential (for instance constitutional) frameworks in which the Euro may some day represent one site of resistance, and on the way toward something else.  That is, not in any idealist sense of course, but rather in political terms.  In fact Derrida states it like this:

Humanity is also what I have called the horizon of a "new international."   It reaches beyond that Europe that all the competing discourses still present within the rhetoric of sovereignty:  "loss of sovereignty" fears "Pasqua" for instance; "gain in sovereignty," rather (in the competition with the United States) replies, for instance, "Strauss-Kahn":  the same language, basically–always the theo-logic of sovereignty.  The "new international" reaches even beyond cosmopolitanism–which still, via citizenship, assumes sovereignty of the nation-state type–even beyond the schema of fraternity.  As regards the Europe that is currently in the process of formation, a criticism of the market that is conventional, magical , and incantatory, a straightforward denunciation of European monetary union, seems pretty inadequate.  Sometimes it sounds childish and animistic.  No denial will be weighty enough:  there exists and there will exist the market, the euro, the banks, and capital.  Another kind of left-wing expertise is therefore necessary, and new skills.  They are still rare; you don't hear them often in politicians' rhetoric.  ("My Sunday 'Humanities'")

However without new international organizations and institutions (that is, not themselves tied or bound specifically to any particular nation-state), without new appropriate orientations and priorities for these organizations, and without seriously strengthening those with genuine potential already in existence, one does wonder if such a project–namely that of a "New International", doesn't go exactly nowhere.  Call it crypto-liberal anti-communism if you absolutely must, but on the contrary, such would be a 'Europe' crucially open to the demise of capitalism, which is to say, perhaps, to a future conditioned by this very openness itself.  Without a doubt, the global south is already engaged in such resistance. It's high time that Europe lent a hand.

Then again, Zizek inviting this particular criticism, that of Eurocentrism, is hardly news. Polemicizing is just what he does, and judging by the blogosuffix at least, it's been having a not altogether negative impact, at least among the unlikely to be converted. (Which, let's face it, is the only way to read anyone with any diligence, but especially to read Zizek.)   But it seems to me true that genuine self-critique on the part of the (both fundraiser and radical) left is often these days sorely lacking.

Some stronger examples may be needed, if we are to polish the lens on two positions that seem to be emerging, and in order to better understand the texture of the silence or gulf between. Namely, and somewhat crudely, that between the 'Said' or 'Chomsky left' and the 'Arendt' or 'Hegelian left.' A representative example of what I take to be (an over-zealous student of) the former is probably in order, though I hesitate to link to it.  Betraying what is something of a unfortunate and fashionable tick, striking endlessly against The Man would appear not to be in the cards for Piyush Mathur, who concludes a rhetorically stinging but utterly substanceless review of Philosophy in a Time of Terror with the following remarks (one may need to read the whole thing, which is not without its charm, certainly, to get a fuller sense):

The drama of this entire intervention, however, actually points up the duo's erstwhile neglect of vital and long-standing issues in global politics as played out within the public, activist, and journalistic spheres. So, at best, these two individuals make an arduously late pop-up on the effective global public stage (contrast them, for example, with Noam Chomsky and Edward Said); at worst, they are academic tigers now determined to get out of their jungle.

For all that, I am not so confident of Derrida's confident responses to Borradori's questions related to the role and place of philosophy in a time of terror. The philosophizing of terror and terrorism - their sophisticated defining and redefining - took place elsewhere and was done by a whole host of other intellectuals, writers, activists and politicians.

Dating back to the 1960s are of course the political and strategic analyses - an elaborate contention against standard notions about terror and terrorism - by Chomsky and Said. In addition are Ashis Nandy's direct and rather insightful reflections on terrorism in the early 1990s - well before bin Laden was picked up by the press - as is his brilliant essay in the wake of the September 11 attacks in "The Romance of the State" (2002). Likewise, James Der Derian provided cogent theoretical formulations on the topic in his book Antidiplomacy: Spies, Terror, Speed, and War (1992). In most ways, Vandana Shiva's ecofeminist exposes, dating back to the 1980s, are de facto philosophical treatises on various kinds of terrorism as are the political tracts brought out more recently by Arundhati Roy - and, far prior to that, by Hannah Arendt.

Then, we have such political stalwarts as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr and Aung Sang Su-Ki, to mention just a few. Almost each one of the above has directly "questioned" terror and terrorism. However, Habermas and Derrida - unlike Chomsky, Said and Nandy (also academics) - do not even acknowledge them as such and the cosmopolitan traditions of thought and action of which many of them are a part.

So long as Habermas and Derrida - and their associates - stick to their intellectual provincialism and academic and textual purism, they shouldn't expect to make much more than the "embarrassing" splash of a latecomer through such occasional public interventions as the present one.

The author is not a complete numbskull, for certain. He has a lot of names. He cites them freely, and to combat vague "associates" on the other side. He prides himself on being, if not quite absolutely modern, surely more contemporary than everybody else. And to be fair, while his reading is uncharitable in the extreme, it does seem an extreme the book anticipates, and so implicitly dignifies, in a way.

Still, only someone swaggering habitually out of their league would dare to call Derrida an intellectual "provincial."  This is just ridiculous (one might read Counterpath, for starters).

Another review, this one by Thomas Elk, takes up the question and provides more substance:

Borradori poses a more general question first: How does the philosophical endeavour deal with the question of politics?

She makes the distinction between philosophers who are political activists, i.e. their body of work is more or less separate from their political work, and philosophers active in social criticism. Bertrand Russell and Noam Chomsky are examples of the former and Hannah Arendt, Jurgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida of the latter. Arendt argued that the task of philosophy was to reflect on human laws and institutions, i.e. the governing principles that humans use to be able to coexist with one another, and how these change during the course of history. According to Borradori, this view has influenced Derrida and Habermas both and there is ample evidence to that effect.

Let's examine that distinction more closely, in Borradori's own words, from which I quote at some length. It's a useful introduction, though one may well object to some of it:

In the twentieth century, the evaluation of the relation between philosophy and the present has had a crucial impact on how philosophers have interpreted their responsibility to society and politics. I would like to distinguish between two different models of social and political commitment, roughly aligned with the liberal approach and the Hegelian lineage: I will call them political activism and social critique. British philosopher Bertrand Russell and German émigré to the United States Hannah Arendt, respectively, embody them. Both of these figures have engaged politics to the point of becoming public intellectuals. However, I suggest, each of them understood the relation between philosophy and politics from opposite ends. While Russell tood political involvement as a matter of personal choice on the ground that philosophy is committed to the pursuit of timeless truth, for Arendt philosophy was always historically bound, so that any engagement with it carries a political import...

Russell's public profile was that of the political activist, because he understood public involvement as his personal contribution to specific pressing issues. The political activist, in the sense that I am trying to demarcate here, may freely choose whether to be politically involved, which causes to intervene in and fight for or against. Presupposing the availability of all these choices is to endorse the liberalist "live-and-let-live" conception of freedom and deliberating beyond social constraint.

A condition for Russell's political activism is that philosophy be granted the same negative freedom by history that the individual citizen is granted by society. By binding knowledge to experience, empiricism seemed to him to be the only orientation that secures philosophy its independence from historical pressures. "The only philosophy that affords a theoretical justification of democracy in its temper of mind is empiricism." "This is partly because democracy and empiricism (which are intimately interconnected) do not demand a distortion of facts in the interest of theory"...

For a political activist on the Russellean model, the specificity of a philosopher's contribution lies in sharing with the public her analytic tools, helping it think lucidly about confusing and multifaceted issues, sorting good from bad arguments, supporting the good ones and combating the bad ones. In more recent years, Noam Chomsky's public engagement, which includes a short book on 9/11, continues in this Russellean tradition of political activism...

If for Russell philosophy's first commitment is the pursuit of knowledge over and beyond the impact of time, for Arendt, philosophy's first commitment is to human laws and institutions, which by definition evolve over time. Such laws, for her, designate not only the boundaries between private and public interest but also the description of the relations between citizens. In her two major books, The Human Condition (1944) and The Origins of Totalitarianism (1958), Arendt underlines the need for philosophy to recognize the extreme fragility of human laws and institutions, which she sees dramatically increased by the onset of modernity...she understood her philosophical responsibility in terms of a critique of modernity–an evaluation of the peculiar challenges presented to thought by modern European history. In it, the concept of totalitarianism features as the ultimate challenge.

[...]For Arendt, Habermas, and Derrida, philosophy's first commitment is to human laws and institutions as they evolve through time. This belief marks them as post-Holocaust philosophers. Their common challenge has been, necessarily, how to give a positive turn to the intellectual depression into which the generation of their teachers had fallen after the experience of personal exile and the horrors of the 1930s and 19403...The problem for [Habermas] is not that the Enlightenment has failed as an intellectual project but that its original critical attitude toward history got lost, opening the way for political barbarism. On the other hand, Derrida believes that universalism is what republican institutions and democratic participation struggle toward in their infinite quest for justice. This quest is ensured only if we are open to considering the notions of republicanism and democracy, institution and participation, not as absolutes but as constructions whose validity evolves with time and are thus in need of constant revision.

...Derrida's endorsement of hospitality in place of tolerance is a sophisticated reworking of a key text by Kant, who first posed the question of hospitality in the context of international relations. Those who interpret Derrida as a certain kind of postmodernist–a counter-Enlightenment thinker with a leaning toward relativism–would use his deconstruction of the universal reach of tolerance in support of their argument. To the contrary, for Derrida, demarcating the historical and cultural limits of apparently neutral concepts of the Enlightenment tradition such as tolerance expands and updates rather than betrays its agenda..(Borradori, 1-22)

All straight forward enough, but nevertheless perhaps where the conversation must still start, if it is to start at all.

As for furthering the project of any more responsible Europe, well, it's hard to tell where that is going...cynicism is understandable if cheap, and leaders capable of articulating a nuanced vision for which it would be worth the fight do seem in short supply...


Thursday, March 16, 2006

more recommends

Mark Thwaite continues his superb interview series with none other than Gabriel Josipovici

• An accessible and straight-forward review/summary of Philosophy in a Time of Terror, and another more critical of Derrida here (excerpts here)

• Scott McLemee writes on "Big Love," Milton and polygamy

• Sunday Update: I don't usually link to the NYTimes, and tonight is no exception.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


This article by James Griffith: "To Blanchot", is worth revisiting (via).

A fascinating blog-exchange between Steve and Ellis (again) and Mark, regarding Paul Celan and Heidegger. (I agree with the commenter who says, "ES's piece contains appalling equivalences.")

Some new blogs, at least on my horizon: fugitive ethical; ads without products; accursed share; mountain 7; Maxims and Reflections; Metablog .

fugitive intellect

You know, I'm sort of glad S was never going to take any digital devices on the trail. My persistent half-hearted coaxings were happy to remain half-hearted. "But what will happen, dear S, if we suddenly forget, for lack of iteration, that everything is profound?" A horror too complex to even contemplate, surely. She does have proper thoughts of sitting down afterwards and writing the book to replace Bill Bryson on everyone and their grandmothers' tongues, however.

In the meantime, of course, I'll be sitting here obsessing over yahoo weather reports and other people's pictures on the interweb (though don't worry, Jonathan).

Monday, March 13, 2006

Culture Machine

on Textual Communities and more
also Borderlands

Google Mars, let's send McCain there.

Someone interested in embarrassing (insta-hack) Michelle Malkin should really purchase this and make the whole thing free. Nothing quite like alma mater love.

Sex Pistols mutter something or other, no doubt quaintly endearing to USian ears, about "urine in wine."

Sunday, March 12, 2006

death, and death

Ti Jean would be 84 today. With a transplanted liver.

Bill Cardoso has nearby just passed away.

A link

Friday, March 10, 2006

Well that's quite enough Gertrude Stein for one blog

Here's an article on Roy Haynes, man in pursuit of a silence you didn't know was there. Also incorrigible hipster, fashionable dresser and all around lover-of-life. Which matters somewhat less.

Here is Deleuze on Whitehead, and on the animal.

Here is great Scott McLemee on the latest and least interesting McCarthy-wannabe farce. Scott happily displaying what is known / unjustly derogated, as class:
Is there a lesson to be learned from the experience of recent days? Why yes, there is. It is adequately summed up by an old saying: "Don't get into a pissing contest with a skunk. Even if you win, you won't win."

And here are pictures of women with extremely long hair (via mefi). I'd say I'm in mourning, because S. chopped hers for the Appalachian Trail (five month saga which she starts tomorrow) but that would sound strange, in link-context. Because I'd rather chopped than trench coat, really. One forgets what an erotic object is the head. Still though I miss the hair. The stately silvery ones especially, mixed in as they were with midnight browns and sun-blonded curly ends. Only a few hours since we said goodbye but I miss her as if in degrees appropriate to months of absence. Also, there are dreams of powdered measuring cups, cornucopia of crumbs on carpet, of endless meadows of dried food spilling into zip-lock baggies. Must remember to mail a new book every week, just to make her laugh. Been a while since the bachelor life. Hard times ahead.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Noam Chomsky bores us, Michael Albert bores us

Apparently continuing to prop up the Observer, RSB carries an interview with Chris Knight (via, via, via):
Today's most imaginative and effective political activists are constantly engaged with the findings of environmental scientists, earth scientists, economists, anthropologists, historians and others. Could we even imagine today's environmentalist movement without the brilliant environmental science which lies behind it? Against this background, it is positively uncanny to find how little science appears in Chomsky's writings as a political critic. We find no economic analyses, no sociological analyses, no application of theories or findings from any part of the social sciences or humanities. All we find are quotes from newspapers or reports of various kinds, telling a journalistic story. I personally tend to find Chomsky's stories accurate - more accurate than most. I admire his political integrity and courage. But I am suspicious about Chomsky's overall role. My view is that the ruling class are perfectly happy to have Chomsky writing this kind of thing. It doesn't frighten them in the least because it doesn't threaten them - Chomsky goes out of his way to construct and represent himself as a lone voice. In particular, when wearing his activist hat, he ostentatiously removes his scientific one. What would upset the ruling class would be the reverse strategy. What would upset them would be for the world community of scientists to become active while the activists became scientific. Our two communities might then hope to converge on a shared language of self-emancipation and revolutionary change. Chomsky has devoted his life to obstructing any such development. This is why I think he should be overthrown.

Hardly news of course. See for example Zizek way back when, popularizing/plagiarizing Derrida, as was and is his wont:
Martin Heidegger said that philosophy doesn't make things easier, it makes them harder and more complicated. What they can learn is the ambiguity of so many situations, in the sense that whenever we are presented by the big media with a simple opposition, like multicultural tolerance vs. ethnic fundamentalism, the opposition is never so clear-cut. The idea is that things are always more complex. For example, multiculturalist tolerance, or at least a certain type of it, generates or involves a much deeper racism. As a rule, this type of tolerance relies on the distinction between us multiculturalists, and intolerant ethnic others, with the paradoxical result that anti-racism itself is used to dismiss IN A RACIST WAY the other as a racist. Not to mention the fact that this kind of "tolerance" is as a rule patronizing. Its respect for the other cannot but remind us of the respect for naive children's beliefs: we leave them in their blessed ignorance so as not to hurt them...

Or take Chomsky. There are two problematic features in his work — though it goes without saying that I admire him very much. One is his anti-theorism. A friend who had lunch with him recently told me that Chomsky announced that he'd concluded that social theory and economic theory are of no use — that things are simply evident, like American state terror, and that all we need to know are the facts. I disagree with this. And the second point is that with all his criticism of the U.S., Chomsky retains a certain commitment to what is the most elemental ingredient of American ideology, individualism, a fundamental belief that America is the land of free individuals, and so on. So in that way he is deeply and problematically American.

Recalling also the rather humorous debate between Chomsky and Foucault, back in 1971.


From a recent review of David Foster Wallace's Consider the Lobster:
You also wonder if television could really have squandered the ironic self-consciousness that was supposed to be Wallace's spiritual inheritance from the postmodernists. But there is not much point in denying Wallace his passion, his outraged sense that he has arrived much too late in history. For it is Wallace's nostalgia for a lost meaningfulness — as distinct from meaning — that gives his essays their particular urgency, their attractive mix of mordancy and humorous ruefulness...Happily, Wallace's dazzling powers of description often redeem his bloggerlike tendency to run on. Here, for instance, is his description of a New York Times reporter on the McCain campaign: "A slim calm kindly lady of maybe 45 who wears dark tights, pointy boots, a black sweater that looks home-crocheted and a perpetual look of concerned puzzlement, as if life were one long request for clarification."

From David Foster Wallace, "The Suffering Channel:"
Many of Style's upper echelon interns convened for a working lunch at Chambers Street's Tutti Mangia restaurant twice a week, to discuss issues of concern and transact any editorial or other business that was pending...

They often liked to get two tables squunched up together near the door, so that those who smoked could take turns darting out front to do so in the striped awning's shade. Which management was happy to do–conjoin the tables. It was an interesting station to serve or sit near. The Style interns all still possessed the lilting inflections and vaguely outraged facial expressions of adolescence, which were in sharp contrast to their extraordinary table manners and to the brisk clipped manner of their gestures and speech, as well as to the fact that their outfits' elements were nearly always members of the same color family, a very adult type of coordination that worked to convey a formal and businesslike tone to each ensemble...

...At one point during the lunch, an editorial intern in a charcoal gray Yamamoto pantsuit related an anecdote of her fiancé's, with whom she had apparently exchanged every detail of their sexual histories as a condition for maximal openness and trust in their upcoming marriage. The anecdote, which the intern amused everyone be trying at first to phrase very delicately, involved her fiancé, as an undergraduate, performing cunnilingus on what was at that time one of Swarthmore's most beautiful and widely desired girls, with zero percent body fat and those great pillowy lips that were just then coming into vogue, when evidently she had, suddenly and without any warning...well, farted–the girl being gone down on had–and not at all in the sort of way you would minimize or blow off, according to the fiancé later, but rather 'one of those strange horrible hot ones that are so totally aweful and rank.' The anecdote appeared to strike some kind of common chord or nerve: most of the interns at the table were laughing so hard they had to put their forks down, and some held their napkins to their mouths as if to bite them or hold down digestive matter. After the laughter tailed off, there was a brief inbent communal silence while the interns–most of whom were quite intelligent and had had exceptionally high board scores, particularly on the analytical component–tried to suss out just why they had all laughed and what was so funny about the conjunction of oral sex and flatus. There was also something just perfect about the editorial intern's jacket's asymmetrical cut, both incongruous and yet somehow inevitable, which was why Yamamoto was generally felt to be worth every penny. At the same time, it was common knowledge that there was something in the process or chemicals used in commercial dry cleaning that was unfriendly to Yamamoto's particular fabrics, and that they never lay or hung or felt quite so perfect after they'd been dry cleaned a couple times; so there was always a kernel of tragedy to the pleasure of wearing Yamamoto, which may have been a deeper part of its value. (Oblivion, 260-3)

Too bad that some people still don't understand him.

is about, madness, or; in defense of auto-critique

This thread could use a soundtrack. Now it has one. Question: would counting the logical fallacies, or attempting to quantify the auto-choreographical leaps in the following amount in the end to much the same? Or would it amount to something less? Both, perhaps?
...that's what my work is about, the collapse of everything, of meaning, of language, of values, of art, disorder and dislocation wherever you look, entropy drowning everything in sight, entertainment and technology and every four year old with a computer, everybody his own artist where the whole thing came from, the binary system and the computer where technology came from in the first place, you see? I can't even go into it, you see that's what I have to go into before all my work is misunderstood and distorted and, and turned into a cartoon because it is a cartoon, whole stupified mob out there waiting to be entertained, turning the creative artist into a performer, into a celebrity like Byron, the man in the place of his work when probability cam in and threw that whole safe predictable Newtonian world into chaos, into disorder wherever you turn, discontinuity, disparity, difference, discord, contradiction, what they're calling aporia they took from the Greeks, the academics took the word from the Greeks for this swamp of ambiguity, paradox, perversity, opacity, obscurity, anarchy the clock without the clockmaker and the desperate comedy of Kierkegaard's insane Knight of Belief and even Pascal's famous wager in a world where everyone is "so necessarily mad that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness" where the artist is today, the artist and real artist, Plato warned us about...

[...for the full and copy-edited version of this scrivener's post see LS...]

...For me an image slumbers in the stone, who's that, Nietzsche? Probability, chance, disorder and breakdown here's that punched paper roll holding the the, damn! Getting blood all over these pages of ads for what I just said didn't I? Whole thing turns into a cartoon? an animated cartoon? Chance and disorder sweeping in and this binary system digital machine with its all-or-none paper roll holding the fort yes it was the fort, whole point of it to order and organize to eliminate chance, to eliminate failure because we've always hated failure in America like some great character flaw what technology's all about, music entertainment counting, counting, seventy years ago one great pianist cutting a roll coordinating his hands and pedaling within a fiftieth of a second 1926 one company cut and sold ten million rolls whole thing turns into a cartoon, mob out there crash bang storming the gates seeking pleasure democracy scaling the walls terrifying the elite who've had a corner on high class entertainment back to Marie Antoinette storming the Bastille with here yes, here's one yes, here's a German ad 1926 holding the line for the class act against here they come, here they come, "a still alrger class of people whoe cannot successfully operate the usual type of player, because they lack a true sense of musical values. They have no 'ear for music,' and for that reason they play atrociously upon pianos equipped even with high grade player actions" talking about the class act? about defending these elitist music lovers? Not here no, taking about what we're always talking about. Sales!

-Willaim Gaddis, Agape Agape, 4-14

Further reading.

Monday, March 06, 2006


notes in sound
•"Maybe close reading would get a better rap if we called it PSI: Poetry Scene Investigation. Of course, that would mean treating the poem as a crime, but maybe it is: a crime against mass culture."
•The first situationist analysis of the new left. No, Mr. Burke, it was not written by The Happy Tutor (nor was it written by Greil Marcus).
•See also Guy Debord's "The Sick Planet" (courtesy of)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

the political climate

"It would have been funny if it hadn't been so terrifying, being in the power of these people who actually believed their own fantasies."

Bush goes to India. Gallant that he is.

There was some more "groovy street theater."

One 14-year-old boy even "died."

(Police estimated the crowd at 100,000. More photos here)

I can understand why people may have intially thought that the guy just had to be smarter than he appeared in public because well.. nobody that dumb could possibly be president. It just defied reason. It wasn't long, however, before it became clear that the Republican Party had insulted our collective intelligence beyond our wildest imaginings by using sophisticated marketing techniques and every lever of institutional power at their disposal to install an idiot manchild in the oval office. (I came to believe they did it just to prove they could.)

After it was revealed that he had ignored the terrorism threat until 9/11 and then he continued to screw up everything that came after, any sentient being should have been able to see that what you saw in public was real: an arrogant, spoiled inarticulate man who didn't have a clue about how to run the most powerful country in the world...

Bush's entire life had consisted of trading on his father's name and failing at everything he touched. That is the legacy of this failed presidency as well.That John Dickerson is only now beginning to realize that Bush is exactly what he appears to be is nothing short of mind boggling.
This isn't entirely accurate. George also uses the dumb act as a Nietzschian umbrella. And as a signal of solidarity with cool kids (and members of his higher education generation) which appearing too studied and readily smart, much less proud of one's intelligence in its own right, is a serious faux-pas...also everyone loves an underdog, etc. But listen to Bush speak candidly to an audience of potential donors, and his easy eloquence is quite remarkable, if equally revealing of a committed ideologue (or an ideologue deserving to be committed, if you prefer).

The dialectics of Bush's acting were no doubt hard-wired since birth; that playing boring and dumb, rather than bearing one's ideologitry in one's eyes and smirk was far easier to make resonate with voters is hardly a revelation. It might as well be called the first rule of politics.

Steve wonders what an entire book of mistakes would be like.

Impeach this "President."

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Standards of Responsible Scholarship: Ends of Politics

Marc Froment-Merice: From (Within) Without (2001):

...To start with (or without), I confess that I am still at odds with the title of this conference: "Deconstruction Reading Politics." For me, politics looks like an impossible place: too close and too far, forcing me in the weird position of being without position, in a de-position that would not even be able to turn into another position, a solid and impregnable fortress. Something that no one in my family of male politicians could understand, since they cannot get what makes politics impossible: its retrait from within its "essence," its being-without-being. They still believe that you can be a politician, do politics, whereas politics can only undo anyone who wants to appropriate it all as a family business; while they claim to serve the State or the community, they represent what Hegel said of women: "the irony of community"...

So "without" is to be understood as out of at home, and thus as the same as the "ex" of existence or of exile. But it is not the mere contrary to immanence, and it is not simply transcendence. You can get it in the French for "homeless," sans-abri, "without shelter." To be homeless is neither to be immanent nor to be transcendent. Maybe it is not even to be. Both transcendence and immanence share this common characteristic: they are both at home, be it the self or the other.*21 They are sheltered in the here or the beyond, a beyond that is always conceived as another home, or the home of an Other. On this level, any ontology, whether it be of immanence or transcendence, comes down or back to—precisely returning to—the self like or as to the other, the self being the other, each one at home in being. It is true that this turn of the return seems unavoidable, even with the "without" (which should exclude any return to the self, being without return because without being), insofar as in departing from, it seems to come from, out of, and thus reaffirms an origin, even as absent. Or let us say that the "without" reinstitutes the being (of the) "with" as that out of which it is without. To think a parting without starting point, a parting with "without" as a step out of any starting point, as pas-de-départ, is what I attempted in inventing this word, "départenance." It is not the mere opposite of "appartenance," belonging. Départenance does not belong, not even to itself, being itself only by being without self. We shouldn't even name it, since every name implies identification, and thus appropriation...

Here again, you may understand it in two ways: first, that politics is basically always apolitical; politics has never reached the heart of the political, politics was always apolitical for want of being able to be really political. This would be the radical, extremist, eschatological way: the promise of the political was forgotten by politics, the being-with has foreclosed itself precisely for having constituted itself in a one being-with, i.e. in a being-with, that never could conceive of the "with" with its inner "without"...(more)


(image courtesy of ANABlog)

SteveAudio on Django Reinhardt: While My Guitar Gently Weeps (post complete with video clip of Django playing!––via Crooks and Liars):
But there is one thing he had that is missing from the repertoire of many of today's otherwise fine players: line. Melody line.

Since the development of blues playing and all its descendents, there has been a tendency to play "positions" or "forms." Blues, based on simplistic Pentatonic scales, provided plenty of variation for most guitarists, while allowing the use of standard fingerings and positions, and "licks" or "riffs.". Upon learning some basic vocabulary of licks and riffs, guitarists could solo in any key merely by moving the riffs up or down the fretboard. Play at the 3rd fret, it's in the key of G. Move to the 8th fret, you're playing in C.

Nothing wrong with this. Listen to Stevie Ray, Jeff, Eric, Jimi, Jimmy, and even today's Pentatonic devotees like Slash, Jack White, or even Prince, and there are plenty of spine tingling riffs to absorb. But listening to Reinhard, who played with a freedom dictated by complete grasp of melody and chords, one is struck by his very inability to play from within positions because of only being able to only use two fingers. He had to move to where the notes were that he was hearing inside his head, rather than play the notes that fell under his position-based fingers.

In other words, Django was oddly forced, into having something to say, (to refer loosely back to comments made here, and here).

• Derrida on Joyce, (impromtu, briefly).

• Mechanization, inevitably, "currupts the pure and reduce[s] the sacred to the profane". Some merely resist it (and cliché) more reflectively than others; the earned discomfort from within is what marks their poetry, and art.

from Pomes Penyeach

Ecce Puer

Of the dark past
A child is born;
With joy and grief
My heart is torn.

Calm in his cradle
The living lies.
May love and mercy
Unclose his eyes!

Young life is breathed
On the glass;
The world that was not
Comes to pass.

A child is sleeping:
An old man gone.
O, father forsaken,
Forgive your son!