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Posts tagged with ‘A. Brady’

Rush Limbaugh attacked Sandra Fluke, in short, because her voice threatens to reconstitute the nature of the American public: if she were heard — if the specificity of woman’s health were publicly speakable in the hallowed halls of Congress — then we could no longer pretend that this is simply an abstract and legalistic question of “religion,” “government,” and “medicine.” It would suddenly be apparent that the female public and the male public actually have different interests and concerns when it comes to issues like sex and contraception, that contraception means something different to people with different reproductive organs. The fact that (heterosexual) men’s enjoyment of consequence-free sex is dependent on the privilege of those consequences being borne by someone else might become thinkable, if those “someone else’s” had a public platform to speak about it.

On Privatization and Brutalizing Campuses

Last November, a few days after videos of riot police beating Berkeley student protestors were blowing up on youtube, an article in the New York Times announced that UC-Berkeley’s Chancellor Robert Birgeneau had been travelling to establish a satellite campus within the intimate confines of Shanghai’s Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park. Because Birgeneau had been in Asia during the entirety of the week leading up to and following the events of that day, he had had very little to say about what was happening on his campus, with the exception of two extremelytin-earedand downright offensive emails. We knew he was out of town while campus police were brutalizing their campus, but that’s all we knew.

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But Santorum’s hypocrisy is boring. What’s interesting to me is the fundamental shift in philosophy he has to make between the two rhetorical moments, between a speech in front of Tea Party types in Michigan and a conversation with a Democratic talk show guy in Washington. For example, in phrases like “Not all folks are gifted the same way” and “Some people have incredible gifts with their hands” he’s calling on a specific kind of Christian discourse, one that indexes a quite non-liberal vision of the human. It’s not explicit, but it’s there: in contrast with the secular language of individual accomplishment and self-determination that he uses with Stephanopoulos (e.g. “skills and desires and dreams”), talking about “gifts” takes us to something like the parable of the talents, and to the moral responsibility that gifts bring to use them to the ends which the Giver intends.

The Earnestness of Being Grantham

That’s what real class antagonism is, the relatonship between the powerful who use their power to benefit themselves and the weak whose subjection to it makes them objects of exploitation. In industrial capitalism, this antagonism is the exploitation of labor; in agricultural economies, it’s based around rents and debt peonage. But the principle is similar enough, and in both cases, the antagonism flows out of real – and violent, when necessary – relations of power. It is because the aristocracy needs its victims that it violates them into submission and consent, producing – in the mind of the master – the Hegelian master-slave dynamic by which the master is actually, apparently paradoxically, dependent on the slave for his position. But it isn’t a paradox; the industrialist needs the laborer, and the lord needs the peasant, and because they need them, they use force to keep them.

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David Graeber’s Debt: My First 5,000 Words

In the final lines of his introduction to Debt: The First 5,000 Years, David Graeber writes that “[f]or a very long time, the intellectual consensus has been that we can no longer ask Great Questions.” And as he put it in a guest post over at Savage Minds:

The aim of the book was to write the sort of book people don’t write any more: a big book, asking big questions, meant to be read widely and spark public debate…[T]he credit crisis —and near collapse of the global economy in 2008—afforded the perfect opportunity. In the wake of the disaster, it was as if suddenly, everyone wanted to start asking big questions again. Even The Economist, that bastion of neoliberal orthodoxy, was running cover headlines like “Capitalism: Was It A Good Idea?” (my italics)

Debt is a “big book,” in other words, because he wants to re-open a set of questions that had come to seem closed “for a very long time,” the questions of “what human beings and human society are or could be like—what we actually do owe each other, what it even means to ask that question.”

To be more specific, Graeber’s starting point is the Grand neoliberal orthodoxy that regards Debt as the worst possible thing, the argument, for example, that austerity measures like an end to state subsidies of public libraries in California are preferable to the moral crisis of going (deeper) into debt. This has been a bipartisan consensus that dominated the Anglo-American political and media discourse up to somewhere around the beginning of Occupy Wall Street, and which still dominates – perhaps a little more quietly, now – our political class’s actions. It may not be desirable to cut pensions or eliminate what used to be essential social services – goes the argument – but it’s better than going into debt.

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