Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Nostalgic for Nothing: Industry and Affect


this is not a picture of me

The dominance of intellectual property in film is driven by one central affect, or affective composition, nostalgia, the sense that something about the past was once better. It is unclear, however, if this mood is oriented towards the actual films of the recent past, or childhood itself. What is it we are nostalgic for? 

Monday, August 21, 2023

Year Three: Four Ideological Conditions for the Covid Crisis


Picture of me practicing aikido in a mask 
(seemed appropriate)

As we look at another surge, another variant, and another school year of Covid, it might be worth thinking about the conditions that made this situation possible. The conditions are, as is so often the case, multiple, including the nature of the virus itself, technological, and economic conditions. What I would like to focus on briefly are the ideological conditions, or the way in which the virus took advantage of social contradictions as much biological weakness. 

Monday, August 14, 2023

Other Scenes: The Ideology of the Economy/The Economy of Ideology

One of the most pernicious effects of the Marxist schema of base and superstructure is that it posits the economy and ideology as two separate and distinct levels. The base is where the economy does its work, silently and materially, and the superstructure does its work reproducing the relations of production by remaining entirely separate and distinct from the economy, by addressing morals, religion, the nation, everything but economic necessity. This rigid division makes it difficult to think of the ideological dimension of the economy and the economic dimension of ideology. 

Sunday, August 06, 2023

Barbies Amongst Themselves: Or, What Happens When You Make a Film about a Commodity


Watching Barbie reminded me of two essays that I had not read in a long time, Luce Irigaray's "Women on the Market " and "Commodities Among Themselves". In those essays Irigaray considers to what extent Marx's theory of the commodity form can be used to make sense of the status of women in society. Irigaray's texts takes as its start the idea of a society founded on an exchange of women, an idea integral to structural and psychoanalytic theories of kinship. From this it is possible to posit that relations among women would have the fantastic character of Marx's brief foray into describing the world of commodities amongst themselves. 

Tuesday, August 01, 2023

Fallen Kingdom: Living in the Anthropocene with Spinoza and Marx


Bento in the Anthropocene 

Humanism, and the debates for and against it, is less a perennial philosophical question, returned to again and again, than a moving target, one that reflects the different political, cultural, and economic situation of the moment. The humanism of the renaissance is not the same humanism that was at the center of debates about Stalin and Marx in the sixties. Moreover, I would argue that the question of the human now is profoundly transformed by the Anthropocene, by the awareness that human impact has had an ecological and geological impact on the planet, transforming it for the worst. This does not mean that old debates and discussions of different humanisms in the history of philosophy are relegated to the dustbin of history--just that they take on a different sense and meaning today. Spinoza and Marx's debates with the humanism of their time take on a different sense today. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

A Useful Tool: Trolling History


Troll is a fairly entertaining movie (but that is not what this post is about)

To repeat something I have said before, if,  as it has often been claimed, philosophy begins with Socrates then it also begins with its particular antagonism, its particular anti-philosophy in the sophist and sophistry. It seems to me that if one wanted to read the history of philosophy in this way, with a founding event and founding antagonism, then one might want to consider who is our anti-philosopher today, who is the contemporary equivalent of the sophist? The answer would seem to have to be the troll. 

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Who Can Criticize Capitalism: Or, When Can We Eat Salmon Mayonnaise?


Given that Bob Iger is in the news (and maybe the executive named below)
I thought that I would use this image from the Disney Strike of 1941

One of the strange contradictions of living in a country where union membership is so low, something like six percent in the private sector, is that some of the professions that we associate with fame and fortune are unionized; major league baseball, NFL, and actors and writers for Hollywood all have unions. This combined with the fact that there is very little labor reporting in this country means that most people will no more about strikes of the (supposedly) and famous than any other labor actions--an entirely different sense of labor aristocracy. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Which Marx/Which Spinoza: On Althusser and Fischbach

How it started/how it is going

Louis Althusser is most known for his argument regarding an epistemic break between the young and mature Marx. According to Althusser the works of the eighteen forties, most significantly The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, are burdened by a humanist and idealist conception of history that Marx inherited from Feuerbach and Hegel. In this conception capitalism alienates humanity from his or her productive essence. Marx breaks with this influence over the course of the eighteen fifties, eventually developing his own, anti-humanist and materialist philosophy in Capital. Marx broke with his focus on humanity and the human essence to focus on capitalism as a system of relations of exploitation. Althusser in part borrowed this notion of a break, a division between ideology and science, from Spinoza’s understanding of the division between the first and second kind of knowledge in the Ethics. Althusser equated the first kind of knowledge with ideology, with the imagination, and the second (and third), with science. That Althusser relied on Spinoza’s epistemology to drive a wedge between the young and the old Marx has, as its perhaps unstated corollary, that Spinoza is to be identified with the late Marx, with Capital.

Thursday, July 06, 2023

The Franchise Lives On: Scream and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

I will begin with a story. When I was in graduate school I returned to Hampshire twice to teach as part of the Jan Plan. The college was interested in elevating its January term, which up until then had been a free for all of student led courses. I was looking to get out of Binghamton for a few weeks. Even in the bitter cold of January, Amherst has more to offer than Broome County. I saw the first Scream during one of those Januarys, and the next January I taught it.

Sunday, July 02, 2023

Making Up a Guy to Get Mad At: The (Completely) Imaginary Institution of Society


One fact stands out in the recent Supreme Court Decision 303 Creative LLC vs. Elenis and that is that the web hosting company in question has yet to sell wedding websites (see the passage from the dissenting opinion below). There is also news that the plaintiff, Lorie Smith may have fabricated a gay couple who supposedly enquired about web hosting.  I believe that this little bit of legal trivia reveals something fundamental about our current era, it is one in which the fears and fantasies of the powerful are taken more seriously than the realities of the dispossessed.