Posts Tagged ‘Žižek’
* In the light of such an absolute and irretrievable failure, I think we need to revise the slogan about it being easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. It’s as though we collectively were given a choice of which we would choose, and we chose to end the world. See, you know, also.
* More Wes Andersony than Wes Anderson: Cosmonaut survival kit.
* Crazy story: Princeton weighs whether to offer meningitis vaccines.
* Wheeeeeee: Wisconsin GOP pushes new voting restrictions.
Q: How many male novelists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: His alcoholism was different, because someday he was going to die.
* Like Reinharz, many other college presidents across the country are negotiating huge exit packages when they step down, which critics say is emblematic of schools’ unrestrained spending on everything from administrative salaries to elaborate new buildings that drive up the cost of higher education.
* MOOCs were supposed to be the device that would bring higher education to the masses. However, the masses at San Jose State don’t appear to be ready for the commodified, impersonal higher education that MOOCs offer without the guidance that living, breathing professors provide to people negotiating its rocky shores for the first time. People need people.
* Game Play Has No Negative Impact on Kids, UK Study Finds. 11,000-kid, decade-long study.
* Well they closed down the video store in Philly last night… Requiem for Blockbuster in the key of Springsteen.
* Laugh and cry in a single sound: San Francisco turns into Gotham City for Batkid.
* And communists seize Seattle! Could Portland be next?
* Over a longer time span, say a decade, we would expect about 19 spill incidents with an aggregate spill volume of about 8,000 barrels, enough to fill about half of an Olympic-sized swimming pool. We would expect about 1.3 of these spills to be “large,” which means that on average we would expect a “large” spill to occur about once every 8 years or so. Clearly, based upon reported historical industry performance, spills in general and large spills in particular would not be a rare occurrence for the proposed pipeline.
* Elsevier’s behavior is so egregious that it has provoked a boycott from academics who refuse to write or review papers for its journals. But to focus on one malefactor elides a larger question: Why should academic knowledge — largely produced by academics at public and nonprofit universities and often with government grants — be turned into private property and kept from public dissemination?
* Piranhas are a very tricky species: On Gift Horses and Trojan Horses: The Proposed Aquatics Center.
* Tumblr of the day: Little Girls Are Better at Designing Superheroes Than You.
* Women Writers take heed, you are being erased on Wikipedia. It would appear that in order to make room for male writers, women novelists (such as Amy Tan, Harper Lee, Donna Tartt and 300 others) have been moved off the “American Novelists” page and into the “American Women Novelists” category. Not the back of the bus, or the kiddie table exactly–except of course–when you google “American Novelists” the list that appears is almost exclusively men (3,387 men).
* Feds spend at least $890,000 on fees for empty accounts. That’s a crushing 0.000025% of the federal budget going to WASTE.
* And the new $100 is awful. Good thing I’ll never actually have one.
* Merit and the academy. Challenging, thoughtful post from Timothy Burke.
* The Atlantic argues the student loan crisis ain’t no thang. I suspect they’re quite literally cribbing from Adam.
* What could possibly go wrong? Utah considering bill to allow the carrying of concealed weapons without a permit.
* According to the Times, the ACLU compiled a 5,000 page report on the SAO, a group of former Minutemen and other right-wingers and violent home-grown fascists, for the benefit of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, “alleging the Federal Bureau of Intelligence recruited a band of right-wing terrorists and supplied them with money and weapons to attack young antiwar demonstrators.”
Dr. Lewandowsky’s survey results suggested that people who rejected climate science were more likely than other respondents to reject other scientific or official findings and buy into assorted fringe theories: that NASA faked the moon landing, that the Central Intelligence Agency killed Martin Luther King Jr., that the AIDS virus was unleashed by the government, and so forth.
This piece of research appeared in a specialized journal in psychological science, but it did not take long to find its way onto climate skeptics’ blogs, setting off howls of derision.
A theory quickly emerged: that believers in climate science had been the main people taking Dr. Lewandowsky’s survey, but instead of answering honestly, had decided en masse to impersonate climate contrarians, giving the craziest possible answers so as to make the contrarians look like whack jobs.
* Forget it, Jake, it’s Pretoria: The South African police replaced the lead investigator in the Oscar Pistorius homicide case on Thursday after embarrassing revelations that he was facing seven charges of attempted murder himself.
* A potentially explosive report has linked the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI to the discovery of a network of gay prelates in the Vatican, some of whom – the report said – were being blackmailed by outsiders.
* A sea change for mass culture: Nielsen Ratings Will Add Streaming Data For Fall 2013.
* Tumblr of the day: Shit Rough Drafts.
* Slavoj Žižek vs. capitalism, round 200. This is almost literally a full rerun.
* Ezra Klein: Obamacare is winning.
* The average prison sentence of men who kill their women partners is 2 to 6 years. Women who kill their partners are sentenced on average to 15 years, despite the fact that most women who kill do so in self-defense.
* World’s greatest Venn diagram: Chemical Elements vs. US States.
* The NCAA, an organization with such open-decision making practices and clear accountability as to provide lessons to the mafia, is forcing a University of Minnesota wrestler to give up his music career or be declared ineligible for profiting off his own image.
* From the too-good-t0-check files: Young Japanese Women Rent Out Their Bare Legs as Advertising Space.
* And we’re going to burn every drop of oil and destroy the future. Gleefully. Enjoy your weekend!
* It’s official: J.J. Abrams will ruin Star Wars (more).
Imagine a documentary that depicted the Holocaust in a cool, disinterested way as a big industrial-logistic operation, focusing on the technical problems involved (transport, disposal of the bodies, preventing panic among the prisoners to be gassed). Such a film would either embody a deeply immoral fascination with its topic, or it would count on the obscene neutrality of its style to engender dismay and horror in spectators. Where is Bigelow here?
* Anti-war activism at the University of Wisconsin, c. 1940.
* Stunning read on living as a victim of child abuse from the New York Times: The Price of a Stolen Childhood.
* David Foster Wallace and depression, in the Los Angeles Review of Books.
* Steve Benen and Maddowblog has been all over the Republican vote-rigging scheme, even going so low as to cite one of my tweets. What The 2012 Election Would Look Like Under The Republicans’ Vote-Rigging Plan. Scott Walker, of course, is rigging-curious. And a delicious little bit of schadenfreude.
* It is a sin against the new world of mediocrity to be distinct or distinguished. We are in the chain-store, neon-lighted era. Almost every city looks the same. The same people all dress the same – kids as Hopalong Cassidy, men with loud sportshirts and Truman suits, women in slacks. Sometimes you can tell whether a trousered individual is a man or a woman only by the width of the buttocks. Only a few cities have individuality. They are the seaports, New York, New Orleans and San Francisco. Boston reeks of decay, and is not genteel. The rest are all Cleveland.
Would you believe me if I told you that President Obama is in constitutional trouble—with hundreds of decisions of the National Labor Relations Board from the last year now potentially invalid—over the meaning of the word the?
* So we’re going to destroy the world: Australian shale oil discovery could be larger than Canada’s oilsands.
None of these past challenges compares with the one under way now. While other humanities disciplines—philosophy, linguistics, and modern languages, for example—have relied upon a range of foundational practices at the modern mass university, many English professors have depended on literature (narrowly defined), written discourse, and the printed book as the primary elements in teaching and scholarship. But hidebound faculty members who continue to assign and study only pre-computer-based media will quickly be on their way toward becoming themselves a “historical” presence at the university.
That’s why I specialized in iPad-2-era Twitter-based fan-fiction, and frankly I’ve never looked back.
* Open, New, Experimental, Aspirational: Ian Bogost vs. ”The Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age.”
* New research indicates tuition has little correlation with educational outcomes.
* If markets are efficient and if markets make things better, then there is no explanation for why we have the worst media in the world rather than the best. The problem is that markets don’t really make things better or more efficient. They make things cheaper and they’re responsive. That’s why we get the news we want rather than the news we need.
* Defending freedom: A St. Paul man who recently purchased an assault rifle out of fear of an impending gun ban threatened his teenage daughter with it because she was getting two B’s in school rather than straight A’s, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday.
* Adam Mansbach: My fake college college syllabus.
* Debunkng the “the Soviets used a pencil” gag. The more you know!
* New Mexico Bill Would Criminalize Abortions After Rape As ‘Tampering With Evidence.’ Republicans, honestly, we have to talk.
* Seriously, though, I could fix the whole damn system if they’d listen to me.
* And a little something just for the Harmenians: “I wanted a memorable Harmontown show in Kansas City, and for my sins they gave me one.” Dan Harmon predicts pain.
‘To Truly Address Ralph’s Complaints Would Require a Total Overhaul of the Social Order; Or, a Revolution, a Re-Programming of the Ideological Code That Generates Their Reality’
In Wreck-It Ralph as in Toy Story, during the night when the arcade is closed, the arcade game characters are conscious, living beings who are aware of their position in the world as game characters. They are able to leave their games and visit others by traveling through the machines’ electrical cords which are connected through a power strip.
But despite this knowledge of the real world, the staged antipathy between Wreck-It Ralph and the Nicelanders continues even once the lights in the arcade have been turned off. In a nice example of Žižek’s theory that ideology continues to function even when you don’t believe it, the Nicelanders adore Felix as a hero and despise Ralph even though they see through the game’s “official ideology”. They know it is only a game, and although this is never really stated, logically we have to conclude that the Nicelanders know that Ralph is not really a bad guy.
They treat him as if he was a villain not because they believe he is, but because they suppose an Other who really believes. Or as Michel De Certeau puts it in his essay What We Do When We Believe, “it is a belief in the belief of the Other, or in what one makes believe that he believes”, a version of the Lacanian subject supposed to believe. For the Nicelanders, this Other is clearly the children who come into the arcade every day with their quarters. “Children are in a way the basis for the belief of adults,” says De Certeau. The innocence of this Big Other is assumed, and it must be maintained if the system is to function.
Finally, the way the characters invoke the phrase “going Turbo” as an ever-present, threatening possibility reminds me of Jodi Dean’s thesis that while the left seems resigned to defeat and the impossibility of really changing things, the right betrays their belief in the necessity and imminent possibility of radical change in their frantic paranoia that everyone and everything is communist:
In the US, we are reminded daily that radical change is possible, and we are incited to fear it. The threat, or specter, is communism, right-wing radio and blogs scream, and if we don’t do something, we will be under the communist yoke. The right, even the center, regularly invokes the possibility of radical change and it names that change communism. Why does it name the change communism? Because extreme inequality is visible and undeniable.
The right believes in communism as the solution to capitalism because of how frequently they invoke it to silence even talk of reform. In the same way, the characters in Wreck-It Ralph invoke the specter of going Turbo in response to the antagonisms and contradictions in their universe of which they are well aware.
Chad Black and Scott Eric Kaufman (1, 2) have done a great job publicizing the now-famous “No Olds” ad at CSU English, to the point where the ad has now been revised and the MLA Executive Council will take up the matter for discussion at its next meeting. What I hope won’t be lost in all this is the extent to which—regardless of the actual, unknowable intentions of the CSU search committee, and the thorny question of whether this particular ad meets the legal standard for age discrimination—explicitly posting the criteria by which the decision will be made can easily be seen as a kindness to applicants from a search committee that knows how bad the market is and wants to be as honest and transparent as possible.
From this perspective the real “crime” of the CSU ad looks like Žižek’s ideology—the crime is not in doing the thing but in accidentally admitting it, saying it out loud. The crime, in other words, is really at the level of the utterance, and the “punishment” (such as it is) is being forced to retract the utterance.
But nothing has happened that will stop CSU or any other search committee from continuing to make decisions on any secret, unpublicized criteria they like, legal or illegal; what has happened is that committees will be less inclined to be similarly honest and transparent about their decisions and their real criteria in the future. That’s not much of a victory if the process ends here, because it encourages more mystification, not less, in the market.
So my hope is that when the MLA Executive Committee takes this up they do so at a level that pierces mere utterance, and attempts to gather real, concrete, material data about actual hiring practices, including this and other “secret criteria” for jobs that are being enforced without being announced. Then we can begin to talk with real specificity about what’s going on, and the consequences of this arcane and mystified process for the profession as a whole.
These contradictions don’t show that ideology is “irrational” — the problem is exactly the opposite, that there are too many reasons supporting their views. Žižek argues that these piled-up rationalizations demonstrate that something else is going on.
A similar sense that something else is going on always strikes me when I read a review of Žižek’s work in the mainstream media. (A recent example is John Gray’s review of two of Žižek’s books in the New York Review of Books, to which Žižek has responded.) Now academics are always ill-used in the mainstream press, particularly if they deal in abstract concepts and refer to a lot of European philosophers. Yet there’s something special about the treatment of Žižek. In what has become a kind of ritual, the reader of a review of Žižek’s work always learns that Žižek is simultaneously hugely politically dangerous and a clown with no political program whatsoever, that he is an apologist for the worst excesses of twentieth-century Communism and a total right-wing reactionary, both a world-famous left-wing intellectual and an anti-Semite to rival Hitler himself.
The goal is not so much to give an account of Žižek’s arguments and weigh their merits as to inoculate readers against Žižek’s ideas so they feel comfortable dismissing them. To find left-wing thinkers and movements simultaneously laughable and dangerous, disorganized and totalitarian, overly idealistic and driven by a lust for power is to suggest: there is no alternative.
Adam Kotsko spins some recent blog and Twitter observations into review-essay gold in the Los Angeles Review of Books with “How to Read Žižek.”
Žižek does not hold out the utopian hope of eliminating all conflict — in fact, he believes our supposedly “post-ideological” era is blinded by the truly utopian hope that all genuine conflicts might be resolved, allowing the system of liberal-democratic capitalism to go on more or less forever. What Žižek hopes for, in tracking down the contradiction at the heart of our society and identifying with the class that embodies it, is not that the world will no longer suck, but that it will no longer suck in this particular way, that we will no longer be stuck in this particular vicious cycle, that we can somehow find a way to stop frantically grasping at rationalizations for our self-destructive fixations and do something else — in short, to jolt us into the realization that there is an alternative.
* ‘This is why, back to The Dark Knight Rises, the only authentic love in the film is Bane’s, the “terrorist’s,” in clear contrast to Batman’: Žižek (or someone claiming to be Žižek) reads The Dark Knight Rises.
* What everybody gets wrong about Jekyll and Hyde. Bracket that “everybody” and it’s a decent reading of the novel.
* After Wade Michael Page, the suspect in the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting, was fired from a Harley Davidson shop in 2004, he left behind an application to join the Ku Klux Klan. What’s on the KKK application form?
* And July was the hottest month ever recorded. Enjoy your apocalypse.
Greece is not an exception. It is one of the main testing grounds for a new socio-economic model of potentially unlimited application: a depoliticised technocracy in which bankers and other experts are allowed to demolish democracy.
Žižek in LRB: Save us from the saviours.
Aaron suggested on Twitter the other day that David Graeber was threatening to eclipse Žižek as the go-to theorist of the revolutionary left. We’ll have to see about long-term sustainability—is there a Graeber bubble?—but in the short term at least it definitely seems possible. Today, he’s talking to Rebecca Solnit in Guernica.
Communism is the basis of all sociology and it’s the basis of cooperation. Within a capitalist corporation, someone says, “Lend me a wrench,” and someone asks, “Yeah, what do I get?” You assume that the idea of each according to his or her abilities, each according to his or her needs—in solving a problem—is actually the only thing that works. And in situations of disaster, there are often communistic notions of improvisation, where you basically exchange hierarchies and all of a sudden all those things that are luxuries that you can’t afford, you have them in an emergency. So I think we need to think of capitalism as a very bad way of organizing communism. Much of what we do is already communism, so just expand it.
But how do we get to “communism” via someone who doesn’t like Marxists and doesn’t really want to talk about Marx?
A frightened man came to the KGB and said, “My talking parrot disappeared.” KGB: “This is not our case. Go to the criminal police.” Man: “Excuse me. Of course I know that I have to go to them. I am just here to tell you officially that I disagree with that parrot.”
Q: Will there be KGB in communism?
A: As you know, in communism, the state will be abolished, together with its means of suppression. People will know how to self-arrest themselves.
Stalin reads his report to the Party Congress. Suddenly someone sneezes. “Who sneezed?” Silence. “First row! On your feet! Shoot them!” They are shot, and he asks again, “Who sneezed, Comrades?” No answer. “Second row! On your feet! Shoot them!” They are shot too. “Well, who sneezed? ” At last a sobbing cry resounds in the Congress Hall, “It was me! Me!” Stalin says, “Bless you, Comrade!”
* What’s killing us all today? More on the lost Russian space probe. Isn’t this how Night of the Living Dead started?
* At least NASA says we’re safe from solar flares. Ironically, in the wake of this official declaration of safety I’m more worried about killer solar flares than I have ever been.
* Trailer for new Werner Herzog documentary on the death penalty: Into the Abyss.
* In Harper’s: Six Questions for Slavoj Žižek.
* Penn State in context: “Connect the Dots Between Child Abuse and The Sexual Assault of Women on Campus.”
At the end of his book, Graeber does make one policy recommendation: a Biblical-style “jubilee,” a forgiveness of all international and consumer debt. Jubilees are rare in the modern world, but in ancient Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt under the Ptolemies they were a regular occurrence. The alternative, rulers learned, was rioting and chaos in years when poor crop yields left lots of peasants in debt. The very first use in a political document of the word freedom was in a Sumerian king’s debt-cancellation edict. “It would be salutary,” Graeber writes, “not just because it would relieve so much genuine human suffering, but also because it would be our way of reminding ourselves that money is not ineffable, that paying one’s debts is not the essence of morality, that all these things are human arrangements and that if democracy is to mean anything it is the ability to all agree to arrange things in a different way.”