Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Good Writing from Other People

with 2 comments

I have a few projects I’m desperately behind on at the moment, so here in lieu of actual content is good writing from people who aren’t me:

* My friend Lisa on the intellectual proletariat.

* Aaron Bady on Franzen’s Freedom and the project of unfinished realism. (Having actually read Freedom [it’s all right, even pretty good] instead of done the things I was supposed to do I may post about it someday soon myself.)

* Socialism and/or Barbarism on Swamp Thing, scarcity, and “green politics.”

* Easily Distracted on what it might mean to really take responsibility.

* And Crooked Timber, against Malcolm Gladwell, on blogs, bullets, and bullshit.

2 Responses

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  1. I think the social critique of the Socialism and/or Barbarism essay illustrates everything that is wrong with the Easily Distracted essay. While the former is interested in the inevitable human/psychological undercurrent in material critique, the latter is only interested in aimless moralism.

    Still, it is worth mentioning, regarding the Socialism/Barbarism essay, that there is a gesture here we should explicitly recognize. Part of the reason why green/red has such a difficult time coalescing is that each sees itself as dealing with, to riff on a phrase that came up last night, “primary contradictions” of society – the one issue that subtends all others. For the green movement, we have to concern ourselves, above all and no matter what the tactics we choose to employ, with the survival and regeneration of the earth, and all that that implies. For the red movement, no matter what else happens, we must abolish capitalism, and only then will the other pieces of the puzzle be able to fall into place. There seems to be a bit of bad faith on both sides: for the greens, the idea that we might be acting for people is coupled with a failure to recognize what precisely that means. For the reds, the idea that communism and every other form of liberation are natural partners seems to go without saying, as though abolishing patriarchy, creating a sustainable living system, ending racial prejudice, and so forth, were simply waiting for the demise of capitalism for their fulfillment. I think two basic questions should be asked – and some of the more interesting leftist writers, David Graeber and J.K. Gibson-Graham among others, are asking them – namely, What is an economy? And, What is a society? If we want to understand the relationship between red and green, then we’d better attempt to understand those two questions. Self-critique, while not the end-all be-all of political action, has a place: after all, I see nothing to make me believe that communists can’t be just as narcissistic and ungenerous to others (while permitting faults in themselves) as green activists.


    September 30, 2010 at 7:22 pm

  2. I’m not sure how much science fiction you can tolerate, but elaboration of the (very important) green/red divide you’re describing is a big part of why I like Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy so much.


    September 30, 2010 at 10:34 pm

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