Tuesday, 22 November 2011

21.11. Levi-Strauss and Structuralism

Levi-Strauss: The Scope of Anthropology

Bororo village from Tristes Tropiques

Friday, 18 November 2011

17.11. Walter Benjamin

Walter Benjamin:

Central Park 1.

Laforgue's hypothesis about Baudelaire's conduct in the bordello draws into correct light the whole psychoanalytical perspective which he wishes to confer on Baudelaire. Such a perspective is in step, piece for piece, with the conventional "literary-historical" one. The particular beauty of the openings of so many of Baudelaire's poems: their emergence from the abyss. George translated Spleen et Ideal with "Trubsinn und Vergeistigung , " capturing thereby the essential meaning of Ideal in Baudelaire. If it can be said that for Baudelaire modern life is the foundation of the dialectical images then included therein is the fact that Baudelaire confronted modern life in a way comparable to that in which the 17th Century confronted antiquity.  ...

Central Park 2.
Spleen as a dam against pessimism. Baudelaire is no pessimist. And he is not, because for him there is a taboo on the future. It is this which distinguishes his heroism from that of Nietzsche. In Baudelaire's work there are no reflections on the future of bourgeois society and that is, in view of the character of his intimate notes, astounding. From this one circumstance can be gauged how little he counted for the endurance of his works on their effect and to what a great extent the structure of the Fleurs du mal is a monadological one. ...

Central Park 3.
The "appreciation"or apology strives to cover over the revolutionary moments in the course of history. For it, what matters is the reconstruction of continuity. It lays stress only on those elements of the work which have already become part of its influence. What escapes it are the rough outcrops and jagged prongs which call a halt to those who wish to go beyond. ...

Central Park 4. 
The decisive ferment which, entering the taedium vitae transforms it into spleen, is that of self-estrangement. Of the infinite regress of reflection, which in Romanticism simultaneously expanded living space in ever expanding circles and reduced it within ever more narrowly defined boundaries, all that remains in the Trauer (sorrow) of Baudelaire is the tete-a-tete sombre et limpide (face-to-face, sombre and limpid) of the subject with itself.  ...

Central Park 5.
... Spleen is that feeling which corresponds to catastrophe in permanence. The course of history as represented in the concept of catastrophe has no more claim on the attention of the thinking than the kaleidoscope in the hand of a child which, with each turn, collapses everything ordered into new order. The justness of this image is well-founded. The concepts of the rulers have always been the mirror by means of whose image an "order" was established. - This kaleidoscope must be smashed. ...

Central Park 6. 

... The motif of the perte d'aureole (loss of the aura or halo) is to be brought out as a decisive contrast to the motifs of Jugendstil ... 

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

10.11. The Frankfurt School and Theodor Adorno

The Task of the Institute: Horkheimer:
"Not just within social philosophy in the narrower sense, but in sociology as well as in general philosophy, discussions concerning society have slowly but ever more clearly crystallized around one question which is not just of current relevance, but which is indeed the contemporary version of the oldest and most important set of philosophical problems: namely, the question of the connection between the economic life of society, the psychical development of individuals, and the changes in the realm of culture in the narrower sense (to which belong not only the so-called intellectual elements, such as science, art, and religion, but also law, customs, fashion, public opinion, sports, leisure activities, lifestyle, etc.)." Max Horkheimer, The Present Situation in Social Philosophy, and the Tasks on an Institute for Social Research.

Adorno on cultural industry:
"THE sociological theory that the loss of the support of objectively established religion, the dissolution of the last remnants of pre-capitalism, together with technological and social differentiation or specialisation, have led to cultural chaos is disproved every day; for culture now impresses the same stamp on everything.

Films, radio and magazines make up a system which is uniform as a whole and in every part. Even the aesthetic activities of political opposites are one in their enthusiastic obedience to the rhythm of the iron system. The decorative industrial management buildings and exhibition centers in authoritarian countries are much the same as anywhere else. The huge gleaming towers that shoot up everywhere are outward signs of the ingenious planning of international concerns, toward which the unleashed entrepreneurial system (whose monuments are a mass of gloomy houses and business premises in grimy, spiritless cities) was already hastening. Even now the older houses just outside the concrete city centres look like slums, and the new bungalows on the outskirts are at one with the flimsy structures of world fairs in their praise of technical progress and their built-in demand to be discarded after a short while like empty food cans.
 Interested parties explain the culture industry in technological terms. It is alleged that because millions participate in it, certain reproduction processes are necessary that inevitably require identical needs in innumerable places to be satisfied with identical goods. The technical contrast between the few production centers and the large number of widely dispersed consumption points is said to demand organisation and planning by management. Furthermore, it is claimed that standards were based in the first place on consumers’ needs, and for that reason were accepted with so little resistance. The result is the circle of manipulation and retroactive need in which the unity of the system grows ever stronger. No mention is made of the fact that the basis on which technology acquires power over society is the power of those whose economic hold over society is greatest. A technological rationale is the rationale of domination itself. It is the coercive nature of society alienated from itself. Automobiles, bombs, and movies keep the whole thing together until their leveling element shows its strength in the very wrong which it furthered. It has made the technology of the culture industry no more than the achievement of standardisation and mass production, sacrificing whatever involved a distinction between the logic of the work and that of the social system.

This is the result not of a law of movement in technology as such but of its function in today’s economy. The need which might resist central control has already been suppressed by the control of the individual consciousness. The step from the telephone to the radio has clearly distinguished the roles. The former still allowed the subscriber to play the role of subject, and was liberal. The latter is democratic: it turns all participants into listeners and authoritatively subjects them to broadcast programs which are all exactly the same. No machinery of rejoinder has been devised, and private broadcasters are denied any freedom. They are confined to the apocryphal field of the “amateur,” and also have to accept organisation from above.
Even the technical media are relentlessly forced into uniformity. Television aims at a synthesis of radio and film, and is held up only because the interested parties have not yet reached agreement, but its consequences will be quite enormous and promise to intensify the impoverishment of aesthetic matter so drastically, that by tomorrow the thinly veiled identity of all industrial culture products can come triumphantly out into the open, derisively fulfilling the Wagnerian dream of the Gesamtkunstwerk – the fusion of all the arts in one work.
Real life is becoming indistinguishable from the movies. The sound film, far surpassing the theatre of illusion, leaves no room for imagination or reflection on the part of the audience, who is unable to respond within the structure of the film, yet deviate from its precise detail without losing the thread of the story; hence the film forces its victims to equate it directly with reality.
Like its counterpart, avant-garde art, the entertainment industry determines its own language, down to its very syntax and vocabulary, by the use of anathema. The constant pressure to produce new effects (which must conform to the old pattern) serves merely as another rule to increase the power of the conventions when any single effect threatens to slip through the net. Every detail is so firmly stamped with sameness that nothing can appear which is not marked at birth, or does not meet with approval at first sight.
The most intimate reactions of human beings have been so thoroughly reified that the idea of anything specific to themselves now persists only as an utterly abstract notion: personality scarcely signifies anything more than shining white teeth and freedom from body odour and emotions. The triumph of advertising in the culture industry is that consumers feel compelled to buy and use its products even though they see through them."
The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception. In Dialectic of Enlightenment by Adorno and Horkheimer

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

8.11. Karl Marx

"The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind." Communist Manifesto

"The result of the capitalist production process is neither a mere product (use-value) nor a commodity, that is, a use-value which has a certain exchange-value.  Its result, its product, is the creation of surplus-value for capital, and consequently the actual transformation of money or commodity into capital— which before the production process they were only in intention, in their essence, in what they were destined to be.  In the production process more labour is absorbed than has been bought.  This absorption, this appropriation of another’s unpaid labour, which is consummated in the production process, is the direct aim of the capitalist production process; for what capital as capital (hence the capitalist as capitalist) wants to produce is neither an immediate use-value for individual consumption nor a commodity to be turned first into money and then into a use-value.  Its aim is the accumulation of wealth, the self-expansion of value, its increase; that is to say, the maintenance of the old value and the creation of surplus-value.  And it achieves this specific product of the capitalist production process only in exchange with labour, which for that reason is called productive labour.Theories of Surplus Value; Addenda D to Part I.

"The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as "an immense accumulation of commodities,” its unit being a single commodity. Our investigation must therefore begin with the analysis of a commodity." Capital, Volume I, Chapter 1.
"It is a definite social relation of the producers in which they equate (gleichsetzen) their different types of labour as human labour. It is not less a definite social relation of producers, in which they measure the magnitude of their labours by the duration of expenditure of human labour-power. But within our practical interrelations these social characters of their own labours appear to them as social properties pertaining to them by nature, as objective determinations (gegenständliche Bestimmungen) of the products of labour themselves, the equality of human labours as a value-property of the products of labour, the measure of the labour by the socially necessary labour-time as the magnitude of value of the products of labour, and finally the social relations of the producers through their labours appear as a value-relation or social relation of these things, the products of labour. Precisely because of this the products of labour appear to them as commodities, sensible-supersensible (sinnlich übersinnliche) or social things. ... As opposed to that the commodity-form and the value-relation of products of labour have absolutely nothing to do with their physical nature and the relations between things which springs from this. It is only the definite social relation of people (der Menschen) itself which here takes on for them the phantasmagoric form of a relation of things. Hence in order to find an analogy for this we must take flight into the cloudy region of the religious world. Here the products of the human head appear as independent figures (Gestalten) endowed with a life of their own and standing in a relation to one another and to people. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of the human hand. This I call the fetishism which clings to the products of labour as soon as they are produced as commodities and which is therefore inseparable from commodity-production. " Capital, Volume I, Chapter 1.

"The capitalist system presupposes the complete separation of the labourers from all property in the means by which they can realize their labour. As soon as capitalist production is once on its own legs, it not only maintains this separation, but reproduces it on a continually extending scale. The process, therefore, that clears the way for the capitalist system, can be none other than the process which takes away from the labourer the possession of his means of production; a process that transforms, on the one hand, the social means of subsistence and of production into capital, on the other, the immediate producers into wage labourers. The so-called primitive accumulation, therefore, is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production. It appears as primitive, because it forms the prehistoric stage of capital and of the mode of production corresponding with it." Capital, Volume I, chapter 26

Short notice on how to work during the course

Originally I gave instructions to form teams for the final assignment. Now I propose and ask you to form those teams beginning from now, and start discussing the readings and lectures in the teams already. Like this:

1. Form teams - recommended min 3 persons (as three is many).
2. Read the recommended readings and attend the lectures.
3. After each lecture, meet and discuss the readings and the lecture.
4. For next time, bring to me on piece of paper, written by hand or printed, at least one point you have discussed - something you liked, didn't like, didn't understand, thought was cool, surprised you, confused you, made you think of something etc.

5. Keep the team for the final assignment - then choose a substantial text to read and discuss. As soon as you encounter a thinker or a text you feel would be it, start on it!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

3.11. Nietzsche and Freud

“Such texts are traversed by a movement that comes from without, that does not begin on the page (nor the preceding pages), that is not bounded by the frame of the book; it is entirely different from the imaginary movement of representation or the abstract movement of concepts that habitually take place among words and within the mind of the reader.” -Deleuze, Nomad Thought - why read Nietzsche?

Nietzsche: On the Genealogy of Morals

Good and Evil, Good and Bad

"I was given a hint of the right direction by this question: What, from an etymological perspective, do the meanings of “Good” as manifested in different languages really mean? There I found that all of them lead back to the same transformation of ideas, that everywhere “noble” or “aristocratic” in a social sense is the fundamental idea out of which “good” in the sense of “spiritually noble,” “aristocratic,” “spiritually high-minded,” “spiritually privileged” necessarily develop—a process which always runs in parallel with that other one which finally transforms “common,” “vulgar,” and “low” into the concept “bad.” The most eloquent example of the latter is the German word “schlect”[bad] itself—which is identical with the word “schlicht” [plain]—compare “schlectweg” [quite simply] and “schlechterdings” [simply]. Originally these words designated the plain, common man, but without any suspicious side glance, simply in contrast to the nobility. Around the time of the Thirty Years War approximately—hence late enough—this sense changed into the one used now. 

The Latin word bonus [good] I believe I can explicate as “the warrior,” provided that I am correct in tracing bonus back to an older word duonus (compare bellum [war] = duellum [war] = duen-lum, which seems to me to contain that word duonus). Hence, bonus as a man of war, of division (duo), as a warrior. We can see what constituted a man’s “goodness” in ancient Rome. What about our German word “Gut” [good] itself? Doesn’t it indicate “den Göttlichen” [the god-like man], the man of “göttlichen Geschlechts” [“the generation of gods]”?"

Freud: Psychopathology of Everyday life

Forgetting Proper Names

"In the example which I selected for analysis in 1898 I vainly strove to recall the name of the master who made the imposing frescoes of the "Last Judgment" in the dome of Orvieto. Instead of the lost name -- Signorelli -- two other names of artists -- Botticelli and Boltraffio -- obtruded themselves, names which my judgment immediately and definitely rejected as being incorrect.
I must recognize in this process the influence of a motive. There were motives which actuated the interruption in the communication of my thoughts (concerning the customs of the Turks, etc.), and which later influenced me to exclude from my consciousness the thought connected with them, and which might have led to the message concerning the incident in Trafoi -- that is, I wanted to forget something, I repressed something."