Now we are faced with the daunting task of wrapping our minds around the Palin memoir Going Rogue, appearing atop a bestseller list near you. Millions of copies will be sold of a book written by someone who can’t write, intended for an audience that doesn’t read, about the thoughts of a person who doesn’t think. God is dead.
A good history of Epicureanism in early modern thought would be a welcome addition to the existing literature. Unfortunately, this is a gap that Wilson’s book does not fill. It suffers from a number of problems — some systemic and some detailed — that undermine its reliability. Her view of seventeenth-century issues is blinkered because she restricts her analysis to an account of philosophers who hold a place in the modern canon of the history of philosophy. This limitation coupled with a tendency to make anachronistic judgments prevents her from examining the abundance of alternatives that competed with Epicureanism in seventeenth-century philosophy. Further, she neglects to consider other traditions — such as late Scholasticism, alchemy, Renaissance humanism, Copernican astronomy, and Galileo’s new science of motion — that contributed directly to the development of a corpuscularian philosophy and an empirical and experimental approach to natural knowledge. Her own patently intolerant attitude towards theology prevents her from understanding that theological presuppositions were virtually axiomatic for most of the philosophers of the period.
That’s pretty rough, don’t you think? “She neglects to consider other traditions” is the most annoying move in the above citation – the book clearly limits itself to Epicureanism, therefore the charge that one neglects other traditions is preposterous, but let’s read on. Continue reading →
Here is a rather cynical, but amusing (if not simultaneously depressing and horrifying) take on academic (capitalist) life (unless of course it’s merely intended as some sort of satire, then it’s even more amusing to me):
I recently defended my dissertation in English at a land-grant institution in the Midwest. Our department’s national reputation plunges every year as the new hires get weirder and their expertise more esoteric. Ph.D. degrees from our department, unless you’re female or a minority, don’t provide much value in the marketplace. Even if you do fit into one of those desirable categories, you’re probably screwed and headed to a $40,000-a-year job — much less if you get one of those stunningly low-paid, visiting-professor gigs.Most professors in my department express nothing but contempt for both graduate students and undergraduates. In a recent faculty meeting, professors lamented that the number of graduate students in the department had dipped below acceptable levels. Faculty members faced the prospect of canceled graduate seminars and the horrific likelihood of having to teach two (count ’em!) undergraduate courses a semester. Tsk, tsk. Literary scholarship as we know it might cease to exist, plunging the world into postapocalyptic chaos. Meanwhile the casualty rate of the department’s graduate students on the tenure-track job market approaches that of the British at the Somme. Continue reading →
The conference was happily free of dogmatism. No one on the stage was there to represent a particular party or doctrine. There were disagreements, but at heart was a simple proposition. Communism is an idea that has been with us in different forms for thousands of years, as Terry Eagleton pointed out. The task is now to think what the concepts of egalitarian voluntarism, self-organisation, common ownership of common means of production, abolition of class-structured society, and freedom from state power can mean today.
It’s a bold statement, declaring oneself a communist. The cultural revolutions of 1968 were the beginning of the end of the party-state, when programmatic communism was replaced by a more postmodern, abstract idea of “the left”. Freedom of thought and nomadic thought undid the old certainties of Marxist political knowledge. No one has quite figured out how to replace them, and this perhaps more than anything else can account for the current weakness of the left, even as capitalism is in crisis: what is to be done?
First, the question of the role of the state and the economy remains open. While Judith Balso, Toni Negri and Alain Badiou insist on creating new political movements at a distance from the state, Zizek and Bruno Bosteels point to the experiences of Bolivia and Venezuela as contemporary proof that by taking power, a progressive radical movement can survive even against overwhelming reactionary forces. For Zizek, to reject the idea of a revolutionary state in the absence of a clear alternative is a cop-out.
However, such considerations all seem to beg the question of how to organise. It is difficult to imagine a new Communist party, but without one, the idea of communism remains just that: a quasi-religious article of faith. This was perhaps Eagleton’s point when he observed that it is not so difficult to imagine a communism of scarcity, foisted upon us by disaster rather than rapture. Continue reading →
Or rather: 1. Announcement 2. A Response to a Little Academic Pretension 3. Some “Speculative” Texts. Anyway, this announcement has been floating around at various sites, but I thought I’d throw it up here anyway. It’s an interesting new series that may just be able to break the monotony of academic pageantry (I’m quite optimistic this evening, it would seem, but the proposal does specifically ask for “gamblers”).
Series editors: Graham Harman and Bruno Latour
The world is due for a resurgence of original speculative metaphysics. The New Metaphysics series aims to provide a safe house for such thinking amidst the demoralizing caution and prudence of professional academic philosophy. We do not aim to bridge the analytic-continental divide, since we are equally impatient with nail-filing analytic critique and the continental reverence for dusty textual monuments. We favor instead the spirit of the intellectual gambler, and wish to discover and promote authors who meet this description. Like an emergent recording company, what we seek are traces of a new metaphysical “sound” from any nation of the world. The editors are open to translations of neglected metaphysical classics, and will consider secondary works of special force and daring. But our main interest is to stimulate the birth of disturbing masterpieces of twenty-first century philosophy. Please send project descriptions (not full manuscripts) to Graham Harman, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Open Humanities Press is an international Open Access publishing collective. OHP was formed by scholars to overcome the current crisis in publishing that threatens intellectual freedom and academic rigor worldwide. All OHP publications are peer-reviewed, published under open access licenses, and freely and immediately available online through www.openhumanitiespress.org. Continue reading →