Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Michael Hardt

Monday Monday Links!

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* The EdgeEffects year in review includes my interview with Kim Stanley Robinson from last spring. Check it out if you missed it then!

* Well, the reviews are in! Jaimee’s latest published poem, “The Utopologist’s Wife.”

I have covered sports in New Jersey for a decade, crisscrossing the state for as many incredible stories as I can find. But for all the tales that made their way into my notebook, one stayed elusive, even though it seemed to stand above all the others. The 1990 Montclair-Randolph game.

* Very extremely cool site: The Deep Sea.

Keynes was wrong. Gen Z will have it worse.

* CFP: Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations Beyond the Anglocentric Fantastic, 28th-29th May 2020. CFP: Special Issue of the Journal of Fandom Studies on Archives and Special Collections. CFP: Creature Features & the Environment. CFP: Hindsight is 20/20: How Popular Culture Writes, Rewrites, and Unwrites History.

Ghosts of the future. What Green Costs. Congressional Democrats’ last, long-shot attempt at climate progress this year. Greenland’s ice losses have septupled and are now in line with its highest sea-level scenario, scientists say. Last Remaining Glaciers in the Pacific Will Soon Melt Away. The Arctic didn’t used to emit carbon. Something like 14% of public housing in this country is at risk from sea level rise. Young people can’t remember how much more wildlife there used to be. Climate change and depression. Irreversible Shift. Even Greta Isn’t Radical Enough. Just ask Goldman Sachs.

* It’s 2071, and We Have Bioengineered Our Own Extinction.

Scientists Are Contemplating a 1,000-Year Space Mission to Save Humanity. Would be nice if someone look at the next 25 years, too.

* U.S. Army Worries Humanity is Biased Against Deadly Cyborg Soldiers Because of Movies Like Terminator.

* How William Gibson Keeps His Science Fiction Real.

* San Francisco’s Sci-Fi Renaissance.

* The allure of science fiction.

* Beyond Gender.

* What was one work of speculative fiction—book, game, movie, tv show, whatever—that profoundly imagined a new future during the last decade and that is likely to have a lasting impact?

This Professor Was Accused of Bullying Grad Students. Now He’s Being Banned From Teaching. Followup on ‘I Was Sick to My Stomach’: A Scholar’s Bullying Reputation Goes Under the Microscope.

Harvard Faculty Have a Rare Chance to Act in Solidarity With Striking Student Workers. ‘The Administration Is Assuming That We Are Going to Do Their Dirty Work.’

Grad school is worse for public health than STDs.

No, Humanities Degrees Don’t Mean Low Salaries. The Humanities Must Go on the Offensive.

* These Students Want to Create a Required K-12 Racial Literacy Curriculum.

* Fall Enrollments Still on the Decline.

* Against Critical Thinking.

‘Adulting’ is hard. UC Berkeley has a class for that.

* One-book classes have been some of the best I’ve taught. I love it as a model and it works so much better than the cram-it-all-in method I started out using.

* Perhaps the greatest free speech mystery of them all: Trump Targets Anti-Semitism and Israeli Boycotts on College Campuses.

* The Decade Comic Book Nerds Became Our Cultural Overlords. Why do they have to be such sore winners?

* Speaking of Disney there’s a pretty good discussion on this episode of Podcast: The Ride about Disney claiming all cinema in a way I haven’t seen discussed anywhere — literally going back and rebranding Fox properties like Miracle on 34th Street as Disney’s Miracle on 34th Street.

* What’s Up With J.J. Abrams Seemingly Shading The Last Jedi? The Last Jedi didn’t break Star Wars. It Saved It. John Boyega just having an incredible week.

* A People’s History of Lube Man. If HBO makes a second season of ‘Watchmen,’ it should be about Vietnam.

So, when thinking about “Blue Monday” in context of the genre/format New Order basically helped found (i.e., post-punk and modern rock), the sixteenth-note/machine gun trope recalls the fact of lots of bad, imperialist things the U.S. did in the 80s and early 90s. But the whole point of this trailer is to provide audiences with the image or feeling of an American-ness that is actually grounded in something like truth and justice. Setting up a not-at-all-thinly-veiled ersatz Donald Trump as the film’s villain, this trailer gives audiences a scapegoat for the nation’s present and past wrongs: then as now, the problem lies in a really dastardly bad apple, not the system itself. 

* Pete Buttigieg makes his Jacobin debut.

How consulting companies like McKinsey optimized American inequality.

Joe Biden Still Can’t Answer Basic Questions About Hunter and Burisma.

* Self-help gurus all the way down: on Elizabeth Warren.

Why Trump’s path to reelection is totally plausible. On Depoliticization. Et Tu, U.K.? I’m Crying, You’re Crying. But Our Day Will Come. No False Consolations.

Finland forms government of five parties all led by women, with youngest prime minister in world.

Trump’s children must undergo mandatory training to learn how to avoid defrauding charities.

* People in the U.S. Are Buying Fish Antibiotics Online and Taking Them Themselves. Congress can’t get its act together on lowering drug prices or eliminating surprise medical bills. Insurance companies aren’t doctors. So why do we keep letting them practice medicine? AOC compares average paid family leave in US to time dogs stay with puppies. And this is a little on the nose.

* You’d think after a story like this the adults involved would simply die of shame.

These 91 companies paid no federal taxes in 2018.

House Democrats To Rich People: We Love You.

* Always money in the banana stand.

These moderators help keep Google and YouTube free of violent extremism — and now some of them have PTSD. TikTok Admits It Suppressed Videos by Disabled, Queer, and Fat Creators. Artificial intelligence will help determine if you get your next job.

Understanding The U.S. Economy: Lots Of Rotten Jobs.

People in Japan are wearing exoskeletons to keep working as they age.

* Stealing the election in plain sight: 234,000 voter registrations get tossed in Wisconsin after Republican lawsuit, overwhelmingly in Milwaukee and Madison. Whatever shall I do with this power?

* You don’t know Bernie.

* Mario Maker is a blessing we never deserved.

Perhaps the best example of how radical and reactionary horror tropes sprout from one another is John Carpenter’s 1988 classic They Live. In the movie, John Nada (Roddy Piper), a virtuous, optimistic, working-class protagonist, discovers that cadaverous aliens are living among us, controlling us with television messages that turn us into obedient, consuming drones. The movie is widely considered a critique of Reagan-era neoliberalism, and it is that. But it’s also a story about the virtues of genocide. A white guy discovers aliens who don’t look like him living in his town, and his first impulse is to murder them. Foreign shape-shifting immigrants, like vampires, are a standard anti-Semitic stand-in for Jews, and They Live can be read as a fascist conspiracy theory, in which brave working Americans finally recognize their racial oppressors, and respond with righteous cleansing violence.

Boots Riley Critiques ‘Joker:’ “These Superhero Movies are Cop Movies.”

* Another trainwreck behind the scenes of American Gods.

* Millennials Are Leaving Religion And Not Coming Back. False Idol — Why the Christian Right Worships Donald Trump. The Evangelical Mind.

* Shocking slander of a female reporter in the Richard Jewell movie.

* Second verse same as the first.

* Second verse same as the first but in a good way.

* UNC’s self-inflicted humiliation just gets worse.

Stephen Miller is a white supremacist. I know, I was one too.

* No one could have predicted: Charter Fraud And Waste Worse Than We Thought.

* The age of Instagram face.

* Ectopic Pregnancies Are Not Viable Pregnancies, Period.

* Hardt and Negri: Empire, Twenty Years On.

What we know about you when you click on this article.

* U.S. lab chimps were dumped on Liberia’s Monkey Island and left to starve. He saved them.

52 Things Learned in 2019.

I’m Honestly Fed Up With All The Bad News, So I Illustrated 50 Of The Best Ones From 2019.

* You like doing this?

* Focus on a different kid every time you watch.

* And The Atlantic presents The Year in Volcanoes.

Written by gerrycanavan

December 16, 2019 at 2:26 pm

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Sunday Reading at 10,000 Feet

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* Someone put Istvan Csicsery-Ronay’s keynote from ICFA this weekend on YouTube. The “Empire” ad Istvan plays from Computer Associates is amazing.

* Highest-ranking administrator at Marquette abruptly resigns.

* No! No! I won’t believe it! It’s impossible! Bottom line shows humanities really do make money.

* The other college debt. Revenue at Any Cost: Institutional Debt and the Crisis of U.S. Higher Education. And from the archives: “The University and the Undercommons: Seven Theses.”

* The first issue of Porn Studies is available online.

* Re-Imagining the Place and Time of Communism Today: Between Hardt’s “New Love” and Jameson’s “Citizen Army.”

* Kim Stanley Robinson will be in Madison the first week in April for “Imagining Possible Worlds.”

* Hobbit hole playlet, a steal at a mere $3000.

* Marching on: marriage equality in Michigan.

* Police officers in Hawaii are lobbying lawmakers not to repeal a statute that allows them to …. wait for it … have sex with prostitutes during the course of legitimate investigations. Repeating my joke from Twitter, “legitimate” in that sentence is working so far it should be allowed to have sex with prostitutes while on duty…

* Race, cash, and the drug war in Florida.

* Black Preschoolers Face An Epidemic Of Suspensions.

* Autopsy shows Texas cop fired fatal shot from close range into sarcastic student’s back. The officer is currently on administrative leave.

* It should be no surprise that when law enforcement agencies investigate themselves, they find no wrongdoing—especially since a study of the FBI’s internal investigations found that they cleared themselves of wrongdoing in 150 out of 150 fatal shootings. With that track record, the public can’t be confident in the integrity of an investigation with this predictable outcome.

* Duke Energy Caught Intentionally Dumping 61 Million Gallons Of Coal Waste Into North Carolina Water.

* The comforts of dystopia.

* HBO In Talks with Lisa Kudrow to Bring ‘The Comeback’ Back for Season Two. I want to see that.

* I’m addicted to my job.

* CNN, still the absolute worst of all time.

* Ideology at its purest? Why not just believe the things bisexuals say about themselves?

* The Town That Turned Poverty Into a Prison Sentence.

* My dementia.

* “Plot idea: 97% of the world’s scientists contrive an environmental crisis, but are exposed by a plucky band of billionaires & oil companies.”

* And killjoy scientists strike again.

Wednesday Night Links

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* David Graeber in the Baffler: Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit.

* Brian Thill: “Drone-Strike the Jobless.”

It would be foolish indeed to have invested so much in these technologies only to watch them molder as mere weapons of war-force and terror. Like all modern technological artifacts, at rest they are value-neutral; it is only the uses to which they are put that defines them. In sum, to strike the jobless from the common ledger is, in its way, to aim for benevolence. The enormous costs to build, upgrade, and maintain ready fleets of drones of all manner and variety will be more than offset by the broad economic health benefits to be derived by purging the state of significant portions of its jobless population. In fact, if we might be permitted a moment of utopian thought, the likely growth in demand for these services (offered perhaps to interested parties along subsidized or graduated rate scales) will necessitate a process of vigorous hiring and training for remote-pilot operators, which may in appropriate instances be drawn from the ranks of the jobless themselves, thereby solving the problem of joblessness even more swiftly and decisively. Rather than a salaried position, however, these hires might best be negotiated as much needed ‘work experience’ and accordingly organized as internships of various types. This internment might even provide a stepping-stone toward their being struck themselves in turn more quickly. Remote piloting centers that will happen to have fallen victim to inflated overhead or health care costs, or the vagaries of local real estate crises, might themselves be recast as new targets for drones whose home bases are elsewhere.

* Wisconsin postmortems from Josh Eidelson, Doug Henwood, and LGM,

* Earth Is Headed for Disaster, Interdisciplinary Scientific Review Concludes. NB: That’s the actual headline. More climate apocalypticism via MetaFilter.

* Three Ways Climate Change Could Impact The Game Of Baseball. NB: Each of these will tend to increase people’s enjoyment of baseball. Forget I said anything!

* Voter Fraud Extremely Rare In Florida: ‘More Likely To Get Hit By A Bolt Of Lightning.’

* Florida Governor Rick Scott Officially Defies Justice Department, Vows to Continue Voter Purge. Someone should really tell him there’s actually no crisis!

* The last days of MF Global.

* Michael Hardt on WUNC’s The State of Things.

* Mom Locked Up For Cheering Too Loudly at High School Graduation.

* The trailer for Tarantino’s Django Unchained is out. The film itself looks fine, but that final tag—”Django is off the chain”—is simply unforgivable.

* And In Focus catches Transit-of-Venus mania (and there’s only one cure).

Quote of the Night

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“The prison and the military are poisons, but perversely, the sick body must keep ingesting them to survive, making itself constantly worse. Prison creates a society that needs prisons, and the military creates a society that needs militarism.” -Hardt and Negri, Declaration

‘This Is Not a Manifesto’

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An excerpt from Hardt and Negri’s 99-cent pamphlet on occupation and encampment movements, Declaration, is now available at Jacobin.

Movements of revolt and rebellion, we find, provide us the means not only to refuse the repressive regimes under which these subjective figures suffer but also to invert these subjectivities in figures of power. They discover, in other words, new forms of independence and security on economic as well as social and communicational terrains, which together create the potential to throw off systems of political representation and assert their own powers of democratic action. These are some of the accomplishments that the movements have already realized and can develop further.

To consolidate and heighten the powers of such subjectivities, though, another step is needed. The movements, in effect, already provide a series of constitutional principles that can be the basis for a constituent process. One of the most radical and far-reaching elements of this cycle of movements, for example, has been the rejection of representation and the construction instead of schemas of democratic participation. These movements also give new meanings to freedom, our relation to the common, and a series of central political arrangements, which far exceed the bounds of the current republican constitutions. These meanings are now already becoming part of a new common sense. They are foundational principles that we already take to be inalienable rights, like those that were heralded in the course of the eighteenth-century revolutions.

Everything Is Sad on Tuesday Night

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* Oh, Carolina, you’re better than this. Durham County results: For 22359 (30%), Against 51591 (70%).

* But perhaps that’s not depressing enough for you tonight.

“I think that one of the greatest mistakes America made was to allow women the opportunity to vote,” Peterson says. “We should’ve never turned this over to women. And these women are voting in the wrong people. They’re voting in people who are evil who agrees with them who’re gonna take us down this pathway of destruction.”

* My new city becomes ground zero for the Walker recall.

Gay Teen Who Fired Stun Gun in the Air to Scare Away Menacing Bullies Expelled from School. True confession: When I was thirteen I hid a kitchen knife by the front door in case some other kids followed me home from the bus stop like they’d promised they would. I was hopeless, alone, and didn’t know what else to do.

Schools that defend bullies and punish their victims make me want to homeschool my kid.

* A Maurice Sendak profile. Spiegelman and Sendak.

* Atrios has your news from 2022.

The last time the an administration did the supposedly responsible thing, the fiscal “hawks” suddenly decided that the worst possible thing was no longer a deficit, but a surplus, and that therefore it was necessary to have massive tax cuts for rich people.

And they will, of course, do it again.

Nobody cares about the deficit. Those who claim to the most care the least.

* The Comics Crier: 36 Pages of Comics That Aren’t Comic.

* Hardt and Negri have a new electronic pamphlet out on occupation and encampment. So does Chomsky.

When Illness Makes a Spouse a Stranger.

The Politics of Competitive Board Gaming Amongst Friends.

* “Spoiler,” a police procedural that takes place post-zombie apocalypse.

* And Paul F. Tompkins has a new web series on what appears to be the world’s worst website. Check it out anyway.

‘I Often Talk about Love as One of the Few Places Where People Actually Admit They Want to Become Different’

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Written by gerrycanavan

December 2, 2011 at 11:28 am

‘The Need for Dissatisfaction Is Implicitly Recognized by Keynesian Economics, Which Sees the Capitalist System as Threatened by the Possibility of Individual or Collective Satisfaction, Manifest as a Demand Shortfall’

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Depression is the iconic illness in this respect. Indeed, we might say that if ‘immaterial’ labour is now the hegemonic form of production, depression is the hegemonic form of incapacity. Typically, depression is characterized by a lack of any clear clinical definition; indeed it is often defined as anything that can be treated with anti-depressants. [5] Depression is just sheer incapacity, a distinctly neo-liberal form of psychological deficiency, representing the flipside of an ethos that implores individuals to act, enjoy, perform, create, achieve and maximize. In an economy based in large part on services, enthusiasm, dynamism and optimism are vital workplace resources. The depressed employee is stricken by a chronic deflation of these psycho-economic capacities, which can lead him or her to feel economically useless, and consequently more depressed. The workplace therefore acquires a therapeutic function, for if people can somehow be persuaded to remain in work despite mental or physical illness, then their self-esteem will be prevented from falling too low, and their bio-psycho-economic potential might be rescued. Many of the UK government’s strategies for reducing incapacity-benefit claims and health-related absence focus on reorienting the Human Resources profession, such that managers become better able to recognize and support depressed and anxious employees. Lifting the taboo surrounding mental illness, so as to address it better, has become an economic-policy priority.

William Davies, “The Political Economy of Unhappiness.” Via Marc Bousquet.

Optimistic theorists of cognitive capitalism, such as Hardt and Negri, believe that the positive externalities or spill-over effects associated with immaterial production create the conditions for a new commons. Efforts to measure and privatize human, intellectual and cultural resources must ultimately fail; the hegemonic character of immaterial labour means that the most valuable economic resources are becoming socialized, despite the best efforts of capital to prevent this. The proposition I wish to investigate here is in some ways the inverse: while policy-makers, doctors and economists seek to contain the negative externality of unhappiness as a measurable psychological deficiency and economic cost, it has inherently political and sociological qualities that lend it critical potential. One contradiction of neo-liberalism is that it demands levels of enthusiasm, energy and hope whose conditions it destroys through insecurity, powerlessness and the valorization of unattainable ego ideals via advertising. What is most intriguing about the turn towards happiness amongst political elites and orthodox economists is that it is bringing this truth to the fore, and granting it official statistical endorsement. Even a cursory examination of the evidence on unhappiness in neo-liberal societies draws the observer beyond the limits of psychology, and into questions of political economy.

Written by gerrycanavan

November 6, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Hardt and Negri on Occupy Wall Street

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At CNN: If the forces of wealth and finance have come to dominate supposedly democratic constitutions, including the U.S. Constitution, is it not possible and even necessary today to propose and construct new constitutional figures that can open avenues to again take up the project of the pursuit of collective happiness? 

Written by gerrycanavan

October 11, 2011 at 11:13 pm

‘The Very Fact That People Are Willing to Work for Free at the Beginning of Their Career Erodes the Need for People in Those Cushy Jobs at the End of the Career’

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First, a strike has been called by legitimate unions. You might disagree with tactics, or even, as Yglesias claims, think that it’s counterproductive to the interests of the unpaid bloggers, but scabbing a picket line (even a virtual one) is a serious deal. Unless you have damn good reasons, you should always trust the workers who have called a strike. I don’t see how anyone can call themselves on the Left if they proudly cross a picket line.* And its one thing to do that in private, or because you were unaware of the picket line. Its another to publically advocate scabbing while taking money and publically representing a (supposedly) progressive organization like the Center for American Progress.

Second, It’s easy to overthink the complexity of an issue like this. Stepping back it is, like every other strike, a matter of class loyalties. Do you side with unpaid information-age workers, or AOL, one of the biggest information conglomerates in the world? There is no way that poorly paid information workers will ever get a fair deal unless they organize and fight. You either side with them (like Erik Loomis does) or you side with the faceless multinational corporation (like Yglesias does, whether he intends to our not). There’s no neutral ground in cyberspace.

Wiz at Ph.D. Octopus, building off a pair of widely circulated posts from Eric Loomis, calls out Matt Yglesias and the progressive blogosphere more generally for failing to support information laborers during the union-called HuffPo strike. Thanks to the incomparable @zunguzungu for the pointer.

This World Is Still Possible, Maybe

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By request, now up at the Polygraph website: Michael Hardt’s “Two Faces of Apocalypse: A Letter from Copenhagen” from Polygraph 22.

This conceptual conflict between limits and limitlessness is reflected in the seemingly incompatible slogans of the movements that met in Copenhagen. A favorite rallying cry of anticapitalist social movements in recent years has been “We want everything for everyone.” For those with an ecological consciousness of limits, of course, this sounds like an absurd, reckless notion that will propel us further down the route of mutual destruction. In contrast, a prominent placard at the public demonstrations in Copenhagen warned “There is no Planet B.” For anticapitalist activists this too closely echoes the neoliberal matra popularized 30 years ago by the Margaret Thatcher government: “There is no alternative.” Indeed the struggles against neoliberalism of the past decades have been defined by their belief in the possibility of radical, seemingly limitless alternatives. In short, the World Social Forum motto, “Another world is possible,” might translate in the context of the climate changes movements into something like, “This world is still possible, maybe.”

Written by gerrycanavan

April 28, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Say Yes to Thursday

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* More Americans who identify themselves as struggling economically are worried about the affordability of higher education than about any other financial stress, according to a report, “Struggling in America,” released Thursday by Public Agenda.

300 Years of Fossil Fuels in 300 Seconds.

* Michael Hardt in the Guardian.

* Neal Stephenson: What the strange persistence of rockets can teach us about innovation.

Biz Dev Guy: We could make a preposterous amount of money from communications satellites.
Engineer: It will be expensive to build those, but even so, nothing compared to the cost of building the machines needed to launch them into orbit.
Biz Dev Guy: Funny you should mention that. It so happens that our government has already put $4 trillion into building the rockets and supporting technology we need. There’s only one catch.
Engineer: OK, I’ll bite. What is the catch?
Biz Dev Guy: Your communications satellite has to be the size, shape, and weight of a hydrogen bomb. 

* Why Your Grandparents Don’t Find The Office Funny.

* Why Nielsen Ratings Are Inaccurate, and Why They’ll Stay That Way. I actually missed becoming a Nielsen family by just a few months; my old apartment recently received an invitation. Alas, alas…

Still More Copenhagen

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Grist’s David Roberts and Duke’s Own Michael Hardt™ have two more Copenhagen round-ups. Here’s Michael:

Outside the official summit in Copenhagen, in fact, at the second scene of struggle over the common, one of the most interesting strategies of the activists and social movements was to act on a division between the powers inside the meetings. The primary concept of the “Reclaim Power” coordinated actions on Wednesday 16 December was to link “walking in” with “walking out.” In other words, protesters, attempting to break the restricted perimeter, as they have at summit meetings for over a decade, were to be met by dissatisfied delegates and participants who would express their objections by walking out. Together these two groups would then hold a “people’s summit.” The Danish police, through mass arrests and other tactics, made sure that the two sides did not actually meet, of course, but they did get to within about 100 yards of each other, close enough to wave across the fences and police lines. The conceptual significance of the effort, however, was clear to all involved, since “walking in” / “walking out” not only opens up the decision-making process but also highlights the kinds of alliances that are possible within and outside the structures of global governance—alliances that have the potential to create real alternatives.

We should keep in mind that the basis of such alliances rests on some fundamental conceptions of the management and institution of the common. For example, the primary mechanisms to address climate change promoted by the dominant forces, such as “cap and trade,” involve transforming the common into private property and, specifically, transforming carbon emissions and pollution rights into commodities and establishing markets in which they can be traded. Such strategies are indeed consistent with neoliberal ideology and its belief that privatization always leads to efficiency. The various opposition groups that can potentially form alliances advocate a variety of different solutions, but they all agree in their hostility to the neoliberal strategy and the privatization of the common.

Written by gerrycanavan

December 21, 2009 at 12:15 pm

#2

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#2: culture!

* How HBO changed TV.

* Is Sarah Connor canceled?

* Europe names crew for simulated mission to Mars. Devotees may remember that this is strikingly reminiscent of the first episode of The Twilight Zone.

* Examined Life is your crash course in contemporary philosophy.

I’m not suggesting that Taylor set out to sandbag or ironize her subjects in “Examined Life.” In fact, I’m quite sure she didn’t. But as with Taylor’s previous film, “Zizek!” (whose subject, the Slovenian madman Slavoj Zizek, appears here at a London garbage dump, claiming that mankind isn’t alienated enough from the natural world), the movie has a philosophical element of its own that is not free of guile. By conducting her conversations in public spaces, and removing her interlocutors from desks and offices and book-lined studies and other appurtenances of intellectual authority, Taylor introduces a degree of playfulness and unpredictability that becomes the movie’s M.O. Trying to rehabilitate the concept of revolution while rowing in the Central Park lake, post-Marxist philosopher Michael Hardt literally runs aground on a half-submerged boulder. I’m far more sympathetic to Hardt’s intellectual project than I should admit, but, really, what can you say?

* The great American novel v. women. (Or maybe that’s the other way around.)

* Alan Moore v. comic book films. More Moore here and here.

* How they marketed Watchmen: a look back at the original solicits from 1986.

* Gary Westfahl: Why Science Fiction So Often Fails to Predict the Future. Another thing Suvin makes clear in his very good book on science fiction is that if you’re expecting science fiction to predict the future you’re asking the wrong questions.

* The Indy just announced the winners of their 2009 poetry contest, and once again Jaimee was one of the judges.

* And Neil sends along some optical illusion fun.

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On the plane I got a chance to look through Hardt and Negri’s follow-up to Empire (blogged previously), Multitude, which I enjoyed quite a bit. In terms of what I sometimes loosely imagine to be my project, the first chapter (“War”) is clearly the most helpful, and not coincidentally the bit I read most carefully:

War really became absolute only with the technological development of weapons that made possible for the first time mass and even global destruction. Weapons of global destruction break the modern dialectic of war. War has always involved the destruction of life, but in the twentieth century this destructive power reached the limits of the pure production of death, represented symbolically by Auschwitz and Hiroshima.

If you’ve talked to me about my thoughts of apocalypse before, you know that I think of these as two importantly distinct figurations central to the way the world has been spatialized in late capitalism—Tribulation and Rapture—though for Hardt and Negri’s purposes that distinction isn’t necessarily all that important at the moment.

They go on:

The capacity of genocide and nuclear destruction touches directly on the very structure of life, corrupting it, perverting it. The sovereign power that controls such means of destruction is a form of biopower in this most negative and horrible sense of the term, a power that rules directly over death—the death not simply of an individual or group but of humanity itself and perhaps of all being. When genocide and atomic weapons put life itself on center stage, then war becomes properly ontological.

War thus seems to be heading at once in two opposite directions: it is, on the one hand, reduced to police action and, on the other, raised up to an absolute, ontological level by technologies of global destruction. These two movements, however, are not contradictory: the reduction of war to police action does not take away but actually confirms its ontological dimension. The thinning of the war function and the thickening of the police function maintain the ontological stigmata of absolute annihilation: the war police maintain the threat of genocide and nuclear destruction as their ultimate foundation.

What’s most important, I think, about the impulse Hardt and Negri are identifying is that in either case the specter of Tribulation/Auschwitz/genocide or Rapture/Hiroshima/nuclear war wind up motivating Empire always in the same direction, that is, the repeated and “necessary” application of bios-preserving violence in the post-colonial spaces it has incorporated into itself but yet still keeps perpetually at a remove.

The later chapters about the Utopian possibilities of the networked multitude are interesting, though it’s probably this first chapter that I’ll most need to return to at some point.

Written by gerrycanavan

September 7, 2007 at 7:52 pm

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