Monday, January 29, 2024

How to Do Things with Hegel: On Gray and Johnson's Phenomenology of Black Spirit


Because actual history is rarely linear, let alone teleological, I read the repudiation of Hegel before I ever read Hegel. I had read arguments and polemics against Hegel in Althusser, Deleuze, and Foucault long before I had every cracked Hegel's books. A funny thing happened once I started reading, writing, and teaching Hegel, is that I started to warm up to him. It was not the idea of spirit that appealed to me, or even the dialectic as some overarching logic, but the more limited, finite dialectics of the different figures and moments of consciousness. 

Friday, January 19, 2024

Our Cultural Revolution: Or, the Enshittification of Culture

Thanks to Ron Schmidt for this image 

In John Maynard Keynes essay "Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren" one can find the following formulation of the cultural transformation of post-capitalism:

"I see us free, therefore, to return to some of the most sure and certain principles of religion and traditional virtue-that avarice is a vice, that the exaction of usury is a misdemeanour, and the love of money is detestable, that those walk most truly in the paths of virtue and sane wisdom who take least thought for the morrow. We shall once more value ends above means and prefer the good to the useful. We shall honour those who can teach us how to pluck the hour and the day virtuously and well, the delightful people who are capable of taking direct enjoyment in things, the lilies of the field who toil not, neither do they spin. 

For a least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to every one that fair is foul and foul is fair, for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still. For only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight."

Sunday, January 07, 2024

It is All Subjective: Marx, Spinoza, and Subjectivity


Anyone who has ever taken or taught a philosophy class is familiar with the claim "[Blank] is subjective" in which the [Blank] in question could be anything from literary interpretations to ethical norms. This response effectively ends any and all cultural and philosophical discussion, which is why it is so aggravating. One response is to argue against this claim, to point out that not every interpretation of a poem, novel, or film, is authorized, that there are better or worse interpretations, with respect to cultural version. With respect to the ethical or political arguments it is tempting to point out that the very existence of ethics, of society, presupposes norms that are shared as well as debated and challenged.