Month: September 2010

Rancière on What’s Left of Racism

Or, rather, via Devin Shaw, a certain French racism on the Left. The title, actually, goes quite well with some work I’m now developing, namely calling it a “passion from en haut,” which links it to a certain sovereigntism. In the last ten years, we’ve seen increasingly reactionary, coded “republican” and so-called “leftist” tomes from the likes of the usual suspects, but also Stiegler and Kristeva, both of whom celebrate Europe and its “culture of revolt,” which they argue is being overthrown by the marauding, media-focused hordes. I’ve touched on this before, but I’d like to use Stiegler’s notion of “noopolitics,” his not-so-pretty term for the politics of thought, against those who would champion it—it’s really an awful elitism that is the another vestige of sovereigntism (what Rancière calls “statism”), a third tranche after theo-politics and bio-p0litics. And what’s notable is exactly this passion from “on high,” from the sovereign heights over those whom one presumes to speak for (and against). It’s this “passion” that marks well something like what Agamben champions as the hedonê of Aristotle’s thought thinking itself, which I’ve written about in the fourth chapter of my sovereignty book (I promise it’s really coming out…). It’s the noo-political pleasure of a thoughtful self-presumption of those who talk about critique and the power of thinking, but then just repeat age-old depictions of the democratic hordes, updated to utilize the racialized language of modern biopolitics.

This noopolitics is not “radical,” and Rancière’s short talk is worth reading on these points (though one has to read his notion of the state much more widely than the formal state apparatus). Moreover, he’s exactly right that for too long, in France, the right-wing’s virulent nationalism has been an alibi for the supposed softer bigotry of so-called leftists:

Elles [modern racisms] ont été conduites par une intelligentsia qui se revendique comme intelligentsia de gauche, républicaine et laïque. La discrimination n’est plus fondée sur des arguments sur les races supérieures et inférieures. Elle s’argumente au nom de la lutte contre le «communautarisme», de l’universalité de la loi et de l’égalité de tous les citoyens au regard de la loi et de l’égalité des sexes. Là encore, on ne s’embarrasse pas trop de contradictions; ces arguments sont le fait de gens qui font par ailleurs assez peu de cas de l’égalité et du féminisme. De fait, l’argumentation a surtout pour effet de créer l’amalgame requis pour identifier l’indésirable: ainsi l’amalgame entre migrant, immigré, arriéré, islamiste, machiste et terroriste. Le recours à l’universalité est en fait opéré au profit de son contraire: l’établissement d’un pouvoir étatique discrétionnaire de décider qui appartient ou n’appartient pas à la classe de ceux qui ont le droit d’être ici, le pouvoir, en bref, de conférer et de supprimer des identités. Ce pouvoir a son corrélat: le pouvoir d’obliger les individus à être à tout moment identifiables, à se tenir dans un espace de visibilité intégrale au regard de l’Etat.

3-D Printing

I was fascinated enough by this idea when it was just for prototypes. But the future is near (and clearly there’s some dream of the end of labor involved):

A California start-up is even working on building houses. Its printer, which would fit on a tractor-trailer, would use patterns delivered by computer, squirt out layers of special concrete and build entire walls that could be connected to form the basis of a house.

It is manufacturing with a mouse click instead of hammers, nails and, well, workers. Advocates of the technology say that by doing away with manual labor, 3-D printing could revamp the economics of manufacturing and revive American industry as creativity and ingenuity replace labor costs as the main concern around a variety of goods.

Husserl’s Politics

Here is a review from Symposium (in French) of the following:

Yves Mayzaud, Personne, communauté et monade chez Husserl. Contribution à l’étude des fondements de la phénoménologie politique. Paris, L’Harmattan, 2010; 219 p. ISBN 978-2296123670.

Mayzaud cherche toutefois à faire ce que Husserl n’a pas réussi : être fidèle à la notion d’Ineinandersein. Il s’arrête ainsi sur le chemin d’une intentionnalité sociale ou communautaire et refuse toute idée d’une classe ou d’une nation pour revenir à la personne. Pour ce faire, il retrace trois sortes d’intentionnalité chez Husserl : la visée d’un objet, intentionnalité primaire; la visée du vécu et du courant de conscience même, menant à l’auto-constitution, intentionnalité secondaire; et une intentionnalité tertiaire, où à la formule célèbre « toute conscience est conscience de quelque chose » nous devrions ajouter « avec quelqu’un ». Husserl présuppose, erronément selon Mayzaud, qu’une harmonie serait déjà en train de s’établir entre les consciences et qu’ainsi les expressions de la subjectivité, qui se développent ainsi, seraient bonnes ou mauvaises selon qu’elles viseront cette harmonie ou non. Cette harmonie se trouverait dans sa forme la plus développée dans la communauté des philosophes qui font face à la tâche infinie de l’humanité de se connaître elle-même. Sur ce modèle, la collectivité se trouverait alors être la ré-expression de la monade divine. Cependant, pour Mayzaud, l’intentionnalité communautaire demeure celle de la subjectivité et n’est pas celle d’une personne communautaire, d’une classe ou d’une nation, ou encore de la monade divine….

More on Mark Taylor’s Syndrome

I know it’s beating a dead horse, since I discussed it several weeks ago, but here’s an instructive review on Mark Taylor’s screed against tenure, less about Taylor than how bad ideas make for good book contracts. (To be clear, books on the future and the politics of academia are quite welcome. But wanting to pull away what makes academia unique simply to make it another corporation? Where to begin?)

The syndrome has become all too common. A provocative op-ed piece appears in a major newspaper (for preference, The New York Times). Its logic is fragile and its evidence is thin, but the writing is crisp and the examples are pungent, and the assault on sacred cows arouses a storm of discussion (much of it sharply critical, but no matter). It goes viral. And almost immediately, publishers comes calling. “This should be a book,” they coo, and the author, entranced by a bit of sudden fame (not to mention, perhaps, a decent advance), eagerly agrees. He or she sets to work, and soon enough the original 800 words expand to 50,000. But far from reinforcing the original logic and evidence, the new accretions of text only strain them further, while smothering the original provocations under thick layers of padded anecdote, pop sociology and oracular pronouncement. Call the syndrome Friedmanitis, after a prominent early victim, the New York Times columnist Tom Friedman.

Mark C. Taylor’s unbelievably misguided book provides an almost textbook example. In April, 2009, he published an incendiary New York Times op-ed entitled “End the University as We Know It,” which denounced graduate education as the “Detroit of higher learning,” demanded the abolition of tenure, and called for the replacement of traditional academic departments by flexible, short-lived “problem-focused programs.” Widely criticized (by me, too, in this magazine), the piece stayed at the top of the Times’s “most e-mailed” list for a cyber-eternity of four days. Enter Alfred A. Knopf. … Recounting a lengthy anecdote about a course he taught partly via video conferencing, Taylor remarks, “That was the Aha! moment in which I knew the world had changed.” (The world is flat!) Abandoning his earlier facile comparison of higher education to the auto industry, Taylor now likens it with equal facility to the financial sector, and speaks in doom-laden tones of the “education bubble.”

Hannah Arendt CFP

The Department of Philosophy and the Don Shula Program in Philosophy at John Carroll University in Cleveland, OH will be hosting the fifth independent conference for the Hannah Arendt Circle, April 8-10, 2011.

As in past years, we invite individual submissions for papers on any aspect of Arendt’s work, including critiques and applications of her thinking.

This year’s conference will also include a panel on Arendt and pedagogy for which we are seeking individual paper submissions.

Please send an abstract of the paper (750 word limit) as an email (“.doc”). Abstracts should be formatted for anonymous review and submitted to the program committee chair, Stephen Bloch-Schulman on or before Saturday, December 18th, 2010.  Please indicate “Arendt Circle submission” in the subject heading of your email message.

Program decisions will be announced by January 10th, 2011.

Program Committee:

Stephen Bloch-Schulman, Elon University
Dianna Taylor, John Carroll University
Sarah Louise MacMillen, Duquesne University

They Give Awards…

If you’re in San Diego, tomorrow at Balboa Theater there’s an excellent mix of awards ceremony and hip hop and other musical dance performances at 7:30 pm. Rush tickets are now only $10,  and I’d only request that you embarrass Freelancer Extraordinaire by screeching really loudly when she gets her award for her volunteer and other service work.