Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘definitive takedowns

What to a Blogger Is the 5th of July?

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* By request, I made a Storify (my first!) of our conversation about Louie 3.1.

* Next up in the “definitive takedown” series that has made An und für sich so rightly famous and so terribly feared: the ontology of Aaron Sorkin.

One could criticize Sorkin’s ontology for lacking depth and nuance and view the family structure as artificial and forced, but that is not a flaw so much as the entire point. Every Aaron Sorkin show starts from the same radical subtraction and carries the same basic axioms to the same absolutely rigorous conclusion. Sorkin’s universe is one in which a repeated reassertion of a rudimentary structure is the sole alternative to absolute chaos. Given the absolute lack of inherent “character traits” or “motivations,” their stereotyped relationships are the only thing keeping the “characters” from descending into a total — albeit clever — glossolalia.

Pennsylvania looks to disfranchise 10% of its population to prevent voting fraud it can’t prove has ever happened. Why not just have the military install Romney as king and get this over with? It’d be quicker and more honest.

* I’m an academic, I don’t do it for the money: In Defence of Unpaid Academic Positions. Note: not actually a defense!

What this means is that in graduate school we get used to working for nothing, even as we’re expected to invest heavily in expensive professional development activities. By attending conferences, we pay for the opportunity to present our work to our (future) peers, who are the primary “gatekeepers” to academe. This system helps to perpetuate privilege because only “those who have afforded to work for free will get jobs. The vicious circle is maddening” (Ernesto Priego, July 2, 2011, Twitter).

* Of course, there are perks: Drunk professor forces students to sit through 23-hour-long science exam.

* Another study shows for-profit university students earn less, default more.

San Diego accidentally sets off all its fireworks at the same time, creating a wormhole and/or the Eye of Sauron.

* This time our New Four Horsemen–who claim to be market-oriented Republican justices–struck at an approach supported by the market-oriented Republican presidents who appointed them, thought up by market-oriented Republican ideologues to be the market-oriented Republican approach to keeping the market-oriented health insurance system from collapse. Fred Rodell understood that supreme court justices are for the most part moral and political actors first and text- and precedent-oriented legal technicians second. 

Fred Rodell would have been astonished by judges who are for the most part neither precedent- and text-oriented legal technicians nor moral and political actors, but mere partisan weathervanes.

* Here come the new Obamacare challenges.

* Inconceivable! States Bucking ‘Obamacare’ Are Among Those With Highest Rates Of Uninsured.

* And on the actually-existing-media-bias beat: just don’t mention the science.

The Philosophy Beat

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Speaking of definitive takedowns, Alex Galloway may have just posted one for speculative realism/OOO at An und für sich.

I cite this as a textbook example of the liberal bourgeois position that people from the likes of Zizek to Carl Schmitt have called “depoliticization and neutralization.” It shows Harman’s anti-political position quite clearly. Today we might even call this an anti-badiousian position (although Harman of course has no interest in being badiousian in the first place!). The reason is because he has no opposition to the state of the situation. By his own admission, he only expresses revulsion *after* the confrontation with the state has taken place, after he witnesses the excesses to which the state will go to hold on to power. That’s a classic case of liberal neutralization (“don’t rock the boat,” “we just need to go along to get along,” “this is the best of all possible worlds,” “ontology shouldn’t be political,” etc.). This is thus not a political desire of any kind, merely an affective emotional response at the sight of blood. But such palpitations of the “sensitive” bourgeois heart, no matter how reformed, do not a politics make.

By contrast, Badiou’s position is so useful today because he says that it’s all about the *first* antagonism, not the last. To be political means that you have to *start* from the position of incompatibility with the state. In other words the political is always asymmetrical to the state of the situation. The political is always “trenchant” in this sense, always a “cutting” or polarization. Hence the appeal of Badiou’s “theory of points” which forces all of the equal-footed-objects in OOO into a trenchant decision of the two: yes or no, stop or go, fight or retreat. Hardt and Negri say something similar when they show how “resistance is primary vis-a-vis power.” For his part Harman essentially argues the reverse in this interview: ontology is primary (OOO “is not the handmaid of anything else”), power is secondary (Mubarak), resistance is a tertiary afterthought (the Arab Spring). Yes we should applaud the Spring when it arrives, Harman admits, but it’s still just an afterthought that arrived from who knows where.

If you’re still skeptical just use the old categorial imperative: if everyone in Cairo were clones of Harman, the revolution would never have happened. That’s political neutralization in a nutshell. In other words there is no event for Harman. And here I agree with Mehdi Belhaj Kacem’s recent characterization of Tristan Garcia’s ontology, modeled closely after Harman’s, as essentially a treatise on “Being Without Event.”

The Education Beat

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Scenes from the class struggle in Manhattan:

At a time when the city’s schools have had their financing cut by an average of 13.7 percent over the past five years, the money has buffered these schools from the hard choices many others have had to make. In a system where many parents’ associations raise no money at all, these schools have earned a special name among parents and school consultants: “public privates.”

“Many now have amenities that can compete with private school offerings,” said Emily Glickman, the president of Abacus Guide Educational Consulting, a private-school admissions company, on the Upper East Side.

Meanwhile, Freddie deBoer has part one in what may be the definitive takedown of crisis rhetoric in American education.