Here are my introductory comments to the 2010 documentary Waste Land, delivered yesterday at the Fleming Museum in Burlington and shown in connection with the exhibition High Trash, which runs until May 19.
Tag Archive: capitalism
If climate scientists (and climate change modelers) are correct that the burning of more than a small fraction of the world’s available fossil fuel reserves will trigger changes that will induce paroxysms of preventable suffering, then prudence, honor, and justice dictate that we should act to prevent that from happening.
It riles me up when intelligent people whose work I respect a lot say ill-considered, if not outright indefensible, things. Jodi Dean’s post arguing that communism “worked” strikes me as such a thing. I’ve provided a lengthy counter-argument on her blog, the gist of which is that the political projects that were actually carried out (rather than merely dreamed) under the flag of “communism” were colossal failures, for a whole host of reasons. This is thoroughly documented, and anyone who has spent much time in the former Soviet Union, or I imagine in China, has encountered the many levels of failure: social, economic, ecological, and, perhaps most disturbingly, a kind of deep spiritual failure.
Gilles Deleuze argues that what we need are artistic and philosophical experiments that would revive our belief in this world. (That’s what this blog has argued since its inception.) While the Soviet experiment did produce such a belief in its earliest stages — and these are worth learning from — it lost it rapidly and decisively. Whether we date that loss to the long slow decline after Khrushchev, or to Stalin’s ascent and totalitarian takeover in the 1920s (and the killing fields that followed), or to the suppression of leftist dissent (such as the Kronstadt Rebellion of 1921, or others even earlier), is all a matter for debate. View full article »
It’s probably inappropriate to review a book about four films when one has only seen one, and by far the shortest (it’s a music video), of the four. So this isn’t a review so much as an appreciation of Steven Shaviro’s Post-Cinematic Affect, along with some half-digested notes I made while reading it, but which I haven’t been able to synthesize into what would constitute a proper review. Due to time constraints (which will continue for a while), I’ll share them as is. (I would also recommend Chris Vitale’s response to the book.)
I’ve been a fan of Shaviro’s work since a web search for “Dhalgren” led me directly to Shaviro, who it turned out was a fan of the book by Samuel Delany that was formative in my early intellectual development. I was 13 at the time I read Dhalgren, and I hadn’t read anything quite like it until then (or much like it since). I had come across Shaviro’s writings earlier, but I’ve followed them more diligently — and been inspired by his writing on science fiction, films, music, politics and culture over the years (his Stranded in the Jungle provides a great snapshot of how widely his tastes range) — since chancing onto his site. His turn to Alfred North Whitehead in the book Without Criteria accompanied a move in my own thinking toward Whitehead’s process-relational understanding of the universe. Since then, Shaviro and I have found ourselves on the same side of the process-objects debates that have been staged here and on other blogs.
Post-Cinematic Affect is a short work. Much of it appeared as an extra-length article in Film-Philosophy, and most of the rest is readable here and there online, but I would urge you to buy the book to support Zero Books’ laudable effort to make philosophy affordable. Its shortness, however, and the small sampling of films it discusses, belies a depth of argumentation that generates rich insights on media, capitalism, affect, allure, celebrity culture, and much more. View full article »
Quick thought after listening to Tom Ashbrook’s “On Point” today about the estate tax:
Any system, as a coordinated set of actants and relations, will disproportionately favor those of its members who know how to work it for their own benefit. A pragmatic egalitarianism will attempt to minimize the opportunities for such disproportionate favoritism, without creating worse problems in the process.
As a system oriented toward the monetization (commodification) of things, i.e.,the conversion of things into capital, and the accumulation of such capital through the means made available for that, capitalism disproportionately favors those who know how to squeeze money out of things. Progressive taxation, estate taxes, and other such means of regulatory management work to reduce such systemic favoritism so as to better support socially valued goals (such as social cohesion, equal opportunity, fairness, etc.).
The question is whether we want to live in a capitalist society characterized by vast discrepancies in wealth and power, or a democracy in which capitalist and/or market relations have a place but do not dominate all relations. In 1900, 1% of Americans controlled 50% of the wealth in the country. By 1970, as a result of progressive social and economic policies brought in by the presidential administrations of Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and others, that percentage had declined to 20% and a large middle-class had emerged. Today the percentage controlled by the wealthiest 1% is back up to 33%, and climbing.