Monthly Archives: April 2015

Stamani in un urna d’acqua

It is true, professors are flowers and have to have sun, water, nice soil and time to read. You cannot jail someone below ground, sentence them to sacrifice and penitence, set them on a time-clock and expect a good result, even if the advisors say that is what is needed.

I caught a glimpse of what it would be to be here in Maringouin, right here at Vichy state, but in a department whose customs did not include ill will and where one had autonomy but also collegiality. I caught a glimpse of what it would be to have that, and at the same time not carry so much guilt about having been research oriented and done the Ph.D.

About that: my father did not think it was a good idea in general, and also did not think I, in particular, would be able to “live in snow” (Ann Arbor, Madison) or publish. I was always tentative about the degree for this reason. But for my mother it was much more traumatic because it meant I was not doing at all what she wanted, was not the kind of person she wanted. She really tore herself apart over this. And I hurt them so much by having the interests I had. In some later years I thought of them hourly with guilt and pain.

If I could do things over again the one thing I would do is turn down my aunt’s offer to pay for college. (This is not about graduate school now, but about college.) I had about $2,000 from another relative, that I later used for study abroad, but I could have taken it and run away to trade school. With the trade in hand, I could have paid myself to go to the very college I went to — it was quite inexpensive. Then my mother would not have had grounds to say I had taken money that should have been hers, and my father would have respected me because I would have paid for college myself.

And the family would not have hated me then, and I would not be considered to have hurt them. I would feel very different now if I had had the presence of mind to do these things, to protect myself at the outset from the years of recrimination.

Axé.

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Wendy Brown

Still, if we are slipping from liberalism to fascism, and if radical democracy or socialism is nowhere on the political horizon, don’t we have to defend liberal democratic institutions and values? Isn’t this the lesson of Weimar? I have labored to suggest that this is not the right diagnosis of our predicament: it does not grasp what is at stake in neoliberal governmentality—which is not fascism—nor on what grounds it might be challenged. Indeed, the left defense of the welfare state in the 1980s, which seemed to stem from precisely such an analysis—“if we can’t have socialism, at least we should preserve welfare state capitalism”—backfired from just such a misdiagnosis. On the one hand, rather than articulating an emancipatory vision that included the eradication rather than regulation of poverty, the Left appeared aligned with big government, big spending, and misplaced compassion for those construed as failing to give their lives proper entrepreneurial shape. On the other hand, the welfare state was dismantled on grounds that had almost nothing to do with the terms of liberal democracy and everything to do with neoliberal economic and political rationality. We are not simply in the throes of a right-wing or conservative positioning within liberal democracy but rather at the threshold of a different political formation, one that conducts and legitimates itself on different grounds from liberal democracy even as it does not immediately divest itself of the name. It is a formation that is developing a domestic imperium correlative with a global one, achieved through a secretive and remarkably agentic state; through corporatized media, schools, and prisons; and through a variety of technologies for intensified local administrative, regulatory, and police powers. It is a formation made possible by the production of citizens as individual entrepreneurial actors across all dimensions of their lives, by the reduction of civil society to a domain for exercising this entrepreneurship, and by the figuration of the state as a firm whose products are rational individual subjects, an expanding economy, national security, and global power.

That is here. In a book from Princeton. And she has a new book.

Axé.

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How to work and live

Everyone advises and pontificates, and what they say is wrong from the point of view of anyone with any discipline, any hedonism, any love for life and any sophistication. So I will give the anti advice.

Advice: don’t read, write. Truth: reading is research. Do not try to produce without doing research.

Advice: only work is important, it matters not where you live. Truth: it does. Live where you like and how you like, and change jobs to do it.

Advice: only academic jobs are worth doing. Truth: they are not. Most academic jobs are like K-12 or community college jobs, not like the jobs your professors have. If you want a job like theirs and do not have it in academia, you should work for a research organization, go into publishing, things like that.

Advice: work is not really important, living and surviving and having Fun are. Truth: if you got into this kind of work, then yes work is important. It is the most important thing after setting, pleasure, love. Do not let people tell you otherwise — don’t let them tell you that it is “perfectionistic” to be interested in your best work, for instance.

Advice: House cleaning and yard work are forms of procrastination — like so many other basic activities. Truth: They are not. They come first. Just because you are a professor does not mean you do not deserve a pleasant and calm environment.

Advice: When you work, set timers and rush. Truth: If that is how you feel, perhaps you would prefer to get onto an assembly line. I keep track of time, of course, but I have a clock, not a timer; I am not an oven.

Axé.

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“Malicious, intentional destruction, guided by ill will”

It is what is done to my field and research in my field by the university, and from a much broader point of view there is this.

Axé.

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Subjects of neoliberalism

What is the core of neoliberal ideology? Firstly, that you are alone, that you are an individual competing with everybody else. Secondly, that the real distinction among human beings is between winners and losers, right? There’s no more stable class identity, no more stable political identity – the real divide is between neoliberalism’s winners and losers.

There is more to this.

Axé.

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“Grotesque incompetence,” “Threatening,” “Malevolent,” “Evil,” “Ill will”

Those were some words and phrases the Emeritus Professor used tonight in response to my description of some activities of the upper administration.

Axé.

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On subjectivity, language and the body

I am plagiarizing this post from the Facebook page of a colleague, and hope that is all right. Look:

Correspondences:

Adorno on Benjamin:
“Despite extreme individuation […] Benjamin seems empirically hardly to have been a person at all, rather an arena of movement in which content forced its way, through him, into language.”

Jim Siegel on Clifford Geertz:
“Geertz lectured with an intensity I had never before seen…Geertz to me was not a person but an image of the flow of words through a human body…Geertz, more than anyone else I met as a student, showed me that words need not stay inside the head even if one has no method. All you had to do was connect the parts of your body with them.”

Axé.

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