“until the early 1970s the Stasi used to monitor the angle of people’s antennae hanging out of their apartments, punishing them if they were turned to the west. Later, they gave up: the benefits of soporific commercial programming apparently outweighed the dangers of news bulletins from the free world.”—Anna Funder, Stasiland.
“Technology is always much weaker than its advocates seem to believe. In truth this weakness is concentrated in this belief. In 1795, when the French Revolution had gone over to the side of restoration the Marquis de Sade wrote a tract extolling his fellow countrymen: ‘Frenchmen, one more effort please if you would become Republicans’. Sade offered a new radicality to what it meant to ‘become Republican’, to follow this ‘desire’ right to the end. Without this, he declared, the real ‘murderers and thieves’, the state and the wealthy, would keep on getting away with it. The rhetoric of the MOOC, of its educational capacity, despite the animate desire of its most wide eyed proponents, only delivers this new technique over to the hands of those in the position to continue to get away with determining for all what education is. Despite what such technological innovations can do, what possibilities they suppose, MOOCs and their like will remain inscribed in the vicious, expansive circle of capitalist or state logic, replicating and repeating, modifying over and again the subjective incapacity this logic demands. The weakness of technology, shackled to this logic, is that it never actually does do what is claimed, that its subjectivisation is actually of a bastard kind—it engenders what it does not want and wants what it cannot engender. Beneath all the fanfare of its arrival, its result—the intensification of the procedures of the pedagogy that already exists—commands only new rounds of cynicism, fatalism, defeatism: in the last instance and at best an emergent ecstatic nihilism supported by a hybrid humanism-vitalism which is destined to merely repeat, with difference to be sure but without the very possibility of the new. Such is why the rhetoric of the MOOC is so fervent, so desperate, so hollow: the symptom, nevertheless, of a real desire which demands to be taken up.”—A.J. Bartlett on Education, Technology and ‘Innovations in Incapacity.’
“[Snowden] had access to NSA data as a contract worker employed by the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, and the degree to which US intelligence agencies now rely on contract workers is now causing alarm.”—
One monster of neoliberalism (outsourcing) eats another (the permanent state of exception).
“One can recall a time around the dot-com crash of 2000 when a number of books dealing with the topic of the attention economy appeared in bookstores. Economists suddenly became aware of the simple fact that in a semiocapitalist world, the main commodity becomes attention. The 1990s saw an era of increasing productivity, increasing enthusiasm for production, increasing happiness of intellectual workers, who became entrepreneurs and so forth in the dot-com mania. But the 1990s was also the Prozac decade. You cannot explain what Alan Greenspan called the “irrational exuberance” in the markets without recalling the simple fact that millions of cognitive workers were consuming tons of cocaine, amphetamines, and Prozac throughout the 1990s. Greenspan was not speaking of the economy, but the cocaine effect in the brains of millions of cognitive workers all over the world. And the dot-com crash was the sudden disappearance of this amphetamine from the brains of those workers.”—Franco Bifo Berardi | http://www.e-flux.com/journal/time-acceleration-and-violence/
The problem with Google’s vision is that it doesn’t acknowledge the vital role that disorder, chaos, and novelty play in shaping the urban experience. Back in 1970, cultural critic Richard Sennett wrote a wonderful little book—The Users of Disorder—that all Google engineers should read. In it, Sennett made a strong case for “dense, disorderly, overwhelming cities,” where strangers from very different socio-economic backgrounds still rub shoulders. Sennett’s ideal city is not just an agglomeration of ghettos and gated communities whose residents never talk to one another; rather, it’s the mutual entanglement between the two—and the occasionally mess that such entanglements introduce into our daily life—that makes it an interesting place to live in and allows its inhabitants to turn into mature and complex human beings.
Google’s urbanism, on the other hand, is that of someone who is trying to get to a shopping mall in their self-driving car. It’s profoundly utilitarian, even selfish in character, with little to no concern for how public space is experienced. In Google’s world, public space is just something that stands between your house and the well-reviewed restaurant that you are dying to get to. Since no one formally reviews public space or mentions it in their emails, it might as well disappear from Google’s highly personalized maps. And if the promotional videos for Google Glass are anything to judge by, we might not even notice it’s gone: For all we know, we might be walking through an urban desert, but Google Glass will still make it look exciting, masking the blighted reality.
“Austerians point to sustained deficits and debt levels as evidence that austerity has not been practised. The reality is precisely the opposite: The stubbornness of deficits and debts is the result of austerity that was implemented energetically and failed spectacularly – as predicted.”—Yanis Varoufakis | ‘Defining Austerity’
“Had a poll been taken in the midst of Europe’s Black Death pandemic, a majority of Europeans would have blamed the plague on prior sinful living and would have, most likely, accepted the established view that deliverance from the disease demanded self-flagellation and collective punishment. While we should always be keenly interested in public perceptions, we should not allow polls to cloud our judgment.”—Zing! Yanis Varoufakis.
“what is realised in my history is not the past definite of what was, since it is no more, or even the present perfect of what has been in what I am, but the future anterior of what I shall have been for what I am in the process of becoming.”—Lacan
“Leibniz would have been wearing his trademark wig, an elaborate traveling coat, and the kind of ornate vest, knee-length breeches, and silk stockings that were then the latest fashion in Paris. “It is so rare for an intellectual to dress properly, not to smell, and to understand jokes,” the Duchess of Orléans noted approvingly.”—Matthew Stewart, “The Courtier and the Heretic.”
“The end goal of feminist revolution must be, unlike that of the first feminist movement, not just the elimination of male privilege but of the sex distinction itself: genital difference between human beings would no longer matter culturally.”—Firestone, quoted in the New Yorker essay by Faludi.
“Thatcher was the first woman Prime Minister but had little sympathy for the suffragettes (and the women’s movement in general) that broke the barriers to women’s progress, thus allowing her to rise up. She wanted to liberate Britons from the state but ended up granting Whitehall (Britain’s London-based functionaries) hitherto unheard of authoritarian powers. She sought to impose libertarian values, only to discover that she needed an autocratic state in order to do so (which explains nicely her fondness for, and defence of, General Pinochet). She preached judiciousness, on matters economic, and thrift, yet her government built the ‘British Miracle’ on the twin bubbles of real estate and the City created by spivs who worshipped her. She was keen to see the end of the old Etonian ruling circle but, unwittingly, created the conditions for the resurgence of that aristocratic clique (just take a look at the present cabinet). She championed a ‘share owners’ democracy’ but delivered a Britain in which ownership of businesses (and wealth) is more concentrated in the hands of a minority than at the time she became Prime Minister. She campaigned against totalitarianism in Moscow while insisting that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist who deserved to languish in gaol. Above all other contradictions, she argued passionately about a return to the Victorian moral life but gave rise to a regime in which it was impossible to imagine anything good being done for its own sake (as opposed to for profit).”—http://yanisvaroufakis.eu/2013/04/09/farewell-mrs-thatcher-in-spite-of-everything-you-are-being-missed-already/
The Soviet writer Andrei Platonov is different. He describes Stalinism as a failed project, but not for the reasons you’d expect. We have a common narrative about writers, particularly dissident writers in repressive countries. They write to express themselves, to escape falsehoods for the sake of personal freedom. Platonov is an anti-utopian who isn’t a liberal humanist….
He is asking something more alien to our sensibilities. What exactly is the point of private life when great works are in progress? How could a reader be interested in daydreams and random strangers when an entire society, the likes of which the world had never seen, was being built at breakneck speed all around them?
Can’t remember if I’ve posted this link already, but it was this fine article which got me to read Platonov’s excellent Happy Moscow (also, it’s funny what great lengths the notes in the NYRB Classics edition go to to read the book as just this kind of liberal humanism).
“If I can do anything in this book, what I want to do is reclaim that history in which Hole and Nirvana were both prominent, and in which feminist critique interrupted–or erupted out of–pop culture as it has done very few times before or since. I’m fed up with people not taking Courtney Love seriously because she was Kurt Cobain’s wife, and because all her subsequent troubles have happened in the public eye. Hole achieved something with Live Through This that deserves to be honored. And I feel like that achievement has been lost even from mainstream pop criticism.”—Anwyn explains her Hole proposal. Excited by the book — eager to read it!
“In this respect, most art-world projects centering on decaying places like Detroit are melancholic monuments to capital, in the sense of depicting both the devastation left in its absence but also the politics it provoked. Detroit was home not only to one of the great triumphs of capitalist manufacturing but also to one of the great compromises between capital and labor. To be upper middle class and melancholic about Detroit is to firmly fix one’s political responsibilities to a now absent past; mourning Detroit is a gesture that simultaneously evidences one’s social conscience and testifies to its absolute impotence.”—Martha Rosler Culture Class: Art, Creativity, Urbanism, Part III http://www.e-flux.com/journal/culture-class-art-creativity-urbanism-part-iii/ (via arionomous)
“Reagan’s 1987 visit to Berlin had been a diplomatic near-disaster, marked by rioting young westerners angry about the cruise missile deployment, and about US policy in central America. The president’s call to tear down the Wall seemed generic at the time — every western political leader who passed through said much the same thing — and had no discernible effect on either the East Germans or the Soviet leadership. Far from giving Reagan a hero’s welcome on his return, Berliners ignored him; he spoke to row upon row of empty seats.”—http://lareviewofbooks.org/article.php?id=1169&fulltext=1
RW: A related question: How would you say the Soviet project relates to the modern period? Do you think there’s any sort of link between what’s understood in the West — perhaps wrongly — as “postmodernity” and the collapse of historical Marxism in the 1970s and, after 1989, the dissolution of the Soviet Union? Is there any correlation between the post-Soviet moment and the general onset of postmodernity?
BG: Just as I don’t believe in “postmodernity,” I don’t believe in the “post-Soviet” situation either; rather, we are experiencing an intermediate moment between two periods of wars and revolutions. Today we live under the illusion of peace and free markets, just like people did during the nineteenth century, before the First World War. Our current mode of existence is very similar to the second half of the nineteenth century: there is mass culture, entertainment instead of high culture, terrorism, an interest in sexuality, the cult of celebrity, open markets, etc.
Before the rise of Imperial Germany, everybody in the West believed it was interested in capitalism, although in Germany everyone understood it was about war. That is what will happen again in the foreseeable future. In fact, it is already beginning to happen, in that we are actually witnessing a return to a state and military infrastructure. Just as after the French Revolution, there is the reversion to antiquity, and then a new medievalism with Romanticism, the infrastructure of our epoch will be contested, and this will start a new period of war and revolutions. At that point, we’ll remember the Soviet Union, and many other phenomena.
”—Ross Wolfe interviews Boris Groys. Intrigued by this.
“Asylum for the homeless. – How things are going for private life today is made evident by its arena [Schauplatz]. Actually one can no longer dwell. The traditional dwellings, in which we grew up, have taken on the aspect of something unbearable: every mark of comfort therein is paid for with the betrayal of cognition [Erkenntnis]; every trace of security, with the stuffy community of interest of the family. The newly functionalized ones, constructed as a tabula rasa [Latin: blank slate], are cases made by technical experts for philistines, or factory sites which have strayed into the sphere of consumption, without any relation to the dweller: they slap the longing for an independent existence, which anyway no longer exists, in the face. With prophetic masochism, a German magazine decreed before Hitler that modern human beings want to live close to the ground like animals, abolishing, along with the bed, the boundary between waking and dreaming. Those who stay overnight are available at all times and unresistingly ready for anything, simultaneously alert and unconscious. Whoever flees into genuine but purchased historical housing, embalms themselves alive. Those who try to evade the responsibility for the dwelling, by moving into a hotel or into a furnished apartment, make a canny norm, as it were, out of the compulsory conditions of emigration. Things are worst of all, as always, for those who have no choice at all. They live, if not exactly in slums, then in bungalows which tomorrow may already be thatched huts, trailers [in English in original], autos or camps, resting-places under the open sky. The house is gone. The destruction of the European cities, as much as the labor and concentration camps, are merely the executors of what the immanent development of technics long ago decided for houses. These are good only to be thrown away, like old tin cans. The possibility of dwelling is being annihilated by that of the socialistic society, which, having been missed, sets the bourgeois one in motion towards catastrophe. No individual person can do anything against it. Even those who occupy themselves with furniture designs and interior decoration, would already move in the circle of artsy subtlety in the manner of bibliophiles, however opposed one might be against artsiness in the narrow sense. From a distance, the differences between the Viennese workshops and the Bauhaus are no longer so considerable. In the meantime, the curves of the pure purposive form have become independent of their function and pass over into ornaments, just like the basic shapes of Cubism. The best conduct in regards to all this still appears to be a nonbinding, suspending one: to lead a private life, so long as the social order of society and one’s one needs will allow nothing else, but not to put weight on such, as if it were still socially substantial and individually appropriate. “It is one of my joys, not to be a house-owner,” wrote Nietzsche as early as The Gay Science. To this should be added: ethics today means not being at home in one’s house. This illustrates something of the difficult relationship which individual persons have vis-à-vis their property, so long as they still own anything at all. The trick consists of certifying and expressing the fact that private property no longer belongs to one person, in the sense that the abundance of consumer goods has become potentially so great, that no individual [Individuum] has the right to cling to the principle of their restriction; that nevertheless one must have property, if one does not wish to land in that dependence and privation, which perpetuates the blind continuation of the relations of ownership. But the thesis of this paradox leads to destruction, a loveless lack of attention for things, which necessarily turns against human beings too; and the antithesis is already, the moment one expresses it, an ideology for those who want to keep what is theirs with a bad conscience. There is no right life in the wrong one.”—Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia. Dennis Redmond translation.
There are still remarkably strong differences in women’s preferred and actual work-family arrangements in the new and old federal states. In fact, because many of the differences are seen among young people, there is every reason to see gender norms and identities as being transmitted across generations and institutionalized as parts of the local collective identities of both women and men.
For example, by 2000 an absolute majority of all births in the ex-GDR occurred outside of marriage (52 percent versus 19 percent in the West) and in the new states 15 percent of women aged twenty-five to twenty-nine lived in non-marital unions with children (only 3 percent in the West did). The reasons that women in the ex-GDR give for putting off children remained notably different from those in the West too—the former emphasizing the difficulty of achieving sufficient financial security and finding a husband who will participate in childrearing and the latter naming a desire for travel, fun and self-realization. Women in the ex-GDR continued to prioritize getting a job and supporting themselves over being married, and they make decisions—like deferring births—that help them to fit children into that model….
…The idea that wifehood and motherhood are just two sides of the same coin—an idea that was characteristic of the West but not of the GDR—has also not exactly caught on in the East, even among the younger generation. Germans under age thirty in 2000 who had been raised in the East were less likely to consider having a child together as a reason to marry (24 percent versus 38 percent). In 2000, there were higher proportions of four to six year-olds in full-time daycare (56 percent versus 20 percent), infants in any out of home childcare (34 percent versus 7 percent), and higher levels of husbands’ participation in housework (sixteen hours versus twelve weekly) and childcare (10.5 hours versus 8.5) in the new [east] states than in the old ones….
….Even as one generation is replaced by another, the collective element of a distinctively Eastern set of gender norms remains visible, not only in women’s and men’s stated attitudes but in the family arrangements of the generation that came of age in an ostensibly unified Germany. As individual as these decisions might seem to those who make them, they add up to a different approach to gender[.]
”—Myra Marx Ferree. “Gender Politics in the Berlin Republic: Four Issues of Identity and Institutional Change.” German Politics & Society 28, no. 1 (2010): 189-214.
“After all, not least among the reasons there had not been as large a feminist movement in East Germany as in the West was due to the state-sponsored advantages East Germany had offered women. So many of the desiderata West German feminists had been fighting for since the 1970s—abortion rights, childcare facilities, economic independence, and professional respect—were things which East German women already by that point could largely take for granted. In addition, in the West, consumer capitalism functioned to a large degree via the (always distorted) representation of female sexuality, while the small amount of pornography available in the East, either in the monthly centerfold of Das Magazin or as surreptitiously circulated contraband, was typically remarkably tame compared with representations in the West.”—Dagmar Herzog. “Post Coitum Triste Est…? Sexual Politics and Cultures in Postunification Germany.” German Politics & Society 28, no. 1 (2010): 111-40.
“Rather than staying in undesired marriages or partnerships for the sake of the children or for economic support, women in the [GDR] felt free to break up with unsatisfactory male partners specifically because they possessed economic independence and because theirs was a social environment that treated single motherhood as utterly acceptable and feasible—and no barrier to further relationships. Indeed, a funny and telling thing that happened to me a few years ago (2006) was that several East German men (born 1961-62, so at that point in their mid forties) confided that it was really annoying that East German women had so much sexual self-confidence and economic independence. Money was useless, they complained. The few extra Eastern Marks that a doctor could make in contrast with, say, someone who worked in the theater, did absolutely no good, they explained, in luring or retaining women the way a doctor’s salary could and did in the West. “You had to be ‘interesting.’” What pressure. And as one revealed: “I have much more power now as a man in unified Germany than I ever did in communist days.”—Dagmar Herzog. “Post Coitum Triste Est…? Sexual Politics and Cultures in Postunification Germany.” German Politics & Society 28, no. 1 (2010): 111-40.
“If we posit a definition of politics as ‘collective action, organized by certain principles, that aims to unfold the consequences of a new possibility which is currently repressed by the dominant order,’ then we would have to conclude that the electoral mechanism is an essentially apolitical procedure.”—Alain Badiou (via inalldirections)
“If history is an arena for the projection of ideal selves, it can also be a means of undoing and questioning them, offering more disturbing accounts of who we are, and where we come from than simple identification would suggest.”—Raphael Samuel, Island Stories: Unravelling Britain
“So naming, I think, is a powerful thing. The Lacanians have two expressions. First, Lacan in the Rome Discourse said “the word kills the thing”. By this he meant that an abstract kind denoted by the signifier can never capture the singularity of a thing. As Hegel joked in a way that only psychoanalysts and philosophers can appreciate, “you can’t eat ‘fruit’”. You’ll never get the object of your desire because the object of your desire is an abstract type delineated by the signifier, not a singular thing. That’s the tragedy of desire (there are other tragedies of desire as well; not least of which is that it’s never about what you want). But the psychoanalysts also like to say that “to name it is to own it.” I won’t get into all of the Freudian “thermodynamics” on this thesis, but the idea is that by narrating these things we dissipate their power and begin to take some control over them. We negate the power of the thing in the name of the signifier. This is why Lacan, in one of his early seminars, handed out elephant (memory) figurines at the end of one of the years.”—
“His lesson, and it is a sobering one, is simply this. When governments say doing the right thing is ‘too hard’, what they are really saying is that it is more lucrative, or expedient, to do the wrong thing. Our forebears preached protection of native people and the blessings of Christ while they largely destroyed a people and a way of life.
So if you ever walk quietly along Robert Hoddle’s wide boulevards or along the banks of the Yarra, tamed to look like an English river, listen carefully. You may hear the weeping of the Kulin – betrayed, dispossessed, but not yet quite forgotten.”