Friday, July 31, 2020

The Use and Abuse of Blockbusters for Life: Movies and Memes in the Age of Viral Collapse





Lately, I have been considering a hopelessly naive question, namely: What is popular culture for? Or, more to the point how does it function for us as culture, as a way to make sense of the world and express our desires. I have been prompted by this question by two unrelated events. First, I am currently preparing a Freshman Seminar on Politics and Culture which has me reviewing some of the classic arguments about the use and abuse of culture from Williams to Adorno and De Certeau. Second, and more immediately, when I am not working on this course or doing anything productive I am doing what nearly everyone is doing and that is trying to figure out what movie or TV show might pass the time of lockdown.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

A Habitus for the Rest of Us: Lantoine on Spinoza and Disposition



Jacques-Louis Lantoine's L'Intelligence de la pratique: Le Concept de disposition chez Spinoza is a contribution to what I have called Spinozist Social Thought. Social thought here is understood as distinct from but not entirely separable from the political, social thought is more concerned with social relations, imitation, affect, and habits, rather rights, powers and states. The book is a dissertation completed under the guidance of Chantal Jaquet and Frédéric Lordon (among others), two of the thinkers at the center of this turn to the socio-political in and after Spinoza. It is also a follow up to Lantoine's Spinoza Après Bourdieu: Politiques des Dispositions.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

The Most Dangerous Myths: On Ready or Not and The Hunt





Hollywood B pictures often come in twos. Somehow, almost inexplicably, we get two movies about undersea monsters, Leviathan and Deepstar Six, Volcanoes, Dante's Peak and Volcano, and asteroids hitting Earth, Armageddon and Deep Impact. Last year, in the brief interregnum between blockbusters and prestige pictures we got two pictures about people hunting people for sport, or at least we were supposed to.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Anti-Racist Noir: On Odds Against Tomorrow


For Ted Stolze

A few weeks into the pandemic lockdown I went through a brief noir phase. It was somehow easier to watch films from a very different time than have the uncanny experience of watching people inhabit a world that looked like the present but was governed by very different social norms. Watching people walk around and go to bars and restaurants unmasked and unaware of social distancing was a bit too much, it was easier to watch people wear fedoras and ties, make calls from pay phones, and live on a diet of alcohol and coffee. A world long gone was easier to watch than a world that had just disappeared.

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Work and Production: On Fischbach's Après la Production



One of the common criticism of Marx is that his thought is dominated by production. Philosophers from Jean Baudrillard to Hannah Arendt have criticized Marx for the way in which his thought is dominated by production, with its corollaries of instrumentality, teleology, and mastery of nature. All of these different critiques have taken on added salience and importance in the anthropocene which has exposed the limitations of ideal of production as Promethean overcoming of the limits of nature. Infinite productivity confronts the limits of finite planet and its resources

Monday, May 18, 2020

Writing Rifts: On Balibar's Écrits I and II


Anyone who has read this blog knows that I am influenced by the work of Etienne Balibar. His work has profoundly shaped my published work. I have even considered writing a book on Balibar, and have dedicated a few notes to what the book would entail. A provisional title of this book is Etienne Balibar: A Study of the Unity of his Thought. The title is stolen from Lukács’ book on Lenin.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Everybody Loves Kim: Breaking Bad on Better Call Saul




Breaking Bad and its spinoff/prequel Better Call Saul began with a premise that is familiar to nearly everyone. A mild mannered chemistry teacher moonlights as a producer of crystal meth in order to save his family from being bankrupted from his cancer diagnosis. However, as the title suggested it was initially a show about, well, breaking bad. This is particularly true of the first season in which Walter White is between two deaths, liberated from his life as a chemistry teacher, he not only cooks meth he also does all those things that we dream of but never do. He confronts someone who is bullying his son and blows up the car of an obnoxious lawyer.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Right Workerism: Or, Class Struggle in Reverse


I had played with the concept of idea of what I called "right workerism," the way in which work, and the value of work, became not a critical perspective on capitalism but its justification previously on this blog.  The protests against lockdowns in various states has provided the opportunity to reflect on its meaning again.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

We Other Monsters: Living in the Interregnum with Citton and Rasmi


Yves Citton and Jacopo Rasmi's book Générations Collapsonautes: Naviguer par temps d'effondrements either arrived at the best time or the worst time.  It showed up in my campus mailbox in the week before spring break. Under different circumstances this would be a great time to get a surprise book. However, this year, the week before spring break was also the week that I learned that my campus would be closed after break, and all classes moved online, it was also the beginning of social distancing, and a week in which I did many things, visit friends, go out to eat, practice aikido, for the last time. In other words, I received it as the world began to collapse.