Sunday, September 14, 2008

Around the Horn to the Left

  • I am indulging in Jameson on Jameson, as of yesterday. "We could say, following the initial Frankfurt School account of the "Culture Industry," that capital is in the process of colonizing the most remote part of the mind - the aesthetic - that traditionally seemed to resist its logic (being governed, as a classical aesthetics taught us, by "purposefulness without a purpose"): on Mandel's account, then, consumer society would be a thoroughgoing push into this area of the mind - culture the unconscious, whatever you want to call it - and a final rationalizing, modernizing, industrializing, commodifying, colonizing, of the non- or precapitalist enclave left surviving there. But that does not mean the "end" of culture: on the contrary, it might just as plausibly be argued that the conquest of culture and its traditional spaces and instruments by capital now determines an enormous expansion in culture proper - its semi-autonomy lost, its isolation a thing of the past (neither praxis nor knowledge, Kant told us), it now becmoes coterminous with the social field as a whole, and everything becomes in that sense "cultural" - politics, economics, law, ideology, religion, daily life, sexuality, the body, space, et cetera, et certera. "
    • Doug Henwood revieiwing Robert Kuttner's The Squandering of America. Henwood does not give Kuttner an easy time, and wonders aloud just who, exactly, Kuttner is writing to. This is a relevant question, given the "socialist Democrat" posture some people sometimes assume:
    Kuttner nonetheless imagines that a full-throated populist appeal could win the Dems millions of votes. The only things stopping them are their timidity and their donors. Unlike many liberals who complain about the Democrats’ alleged lack of spine, Kuttner is fully aware of the influence of big money on their vertebral integrity. But he repeatedly forgets that influence to land in some kind of unspecified hope that the party will just come to its senses. And like many liberal analysts, he underestimates the appeal of laissez-faire economic policies to many white Protestants, who view the market as an admirable and tireless system of punishment and reward, perfect for a fallen humanity given to shirking and freeloading.

    It’s not clear who the audience for this book is. At times it reads like it was written for policy wonks (who really cares about the second take on the Basel Capital Adequacy standards?—and I count myself as someone who should). At others it seems pitched to Democratic strategists. The liberal netroots maybe? But they’re less ideological than Kuttner and they don’t read books anyway. Some inchoate popular formation? A popular formation organized around what?

    • The excellent left blog Kasama has continually caught my attention with self-effacing, searching criticism of the (mostly Maoist) American "far left." The blog also has a whole crowd of readers and commentors who span the ranks of the american left. En particulier I'd point you to these two seminal discussions on 1) the Far Left Parties en general and 2) the Persistence of "Trotskyite" as an in-crowd perjorative lobbed between factions like so much facepaint. Kasama also led me to related recent engagements on the topic of red-baiting within the 'NEW" SDS. Again, this makes me wanna wonder aloud as to whether or not any of the grad employees among us have engaged with SDS at all....what say you?
    • I'm glad and sorta surprised (, sorta not) to see that International Socialist Review is still doing lengthy treatments on the Russian Revolution. What could possibly be more relevant for socialism in the United States than that? But you know me, I'll read anything that mentions Trotsky.

No comments: