Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Modernists Are Snootified Typographers

Has anyone seen that Family Guy where Chris' English teacher says something like "So basically, Orwell was saying, give a little, get a little?" Anyway, This is Noah and I talking a little about Frederioc Jameson and post-Marxism.


I guess this is what you have to do if you're a marxist, but he basically just dismissed folks who are concerned about Stalin as reactionaries and blames counter-revolutionaries for making the revolution violent.

Maybe I'm just a wishy-washy liberal, but I really don't think that's adequate. Sneering at 1984 is fine, but the thing about 1984 that I've been discovering recently is that it actually isn't as horrific as reading memoirs from the Stalin period. There's nothing in 1984 that's as hideous as the Ukrainian famine. Orwell basically seems to say that the Moscow Trials were the absolute worst thing about Stalin. I really don't think that's the case


I don't think Zizek dismisses Stalinist mass murder. Jameson is neck-deep in academic Marxism though, Lukacs vs. Althusser etc. He illustrates, despite Zizek's best efforts, that Marxists are classic idealists- and thus somewhat fascists.


Yeah...it's hard to imagine Zizek downplaying Stalin, isn't it?
Anything that apocalyptic he'd like to make the most of.

I've hardly read any of the academic marxist debates, so when Jameson
gets into it at the end it was a bit of a shock. He spends a bit of
time arguing that representations of struggle interfere with the
struggle, and he means the media but it's hard not to wonder how it's
possible that his own endeavor never crossed his keyboard. He's great
and really smart, but to the extent that he thinks he's advancing the
revolution (and he definitely thinks that to no small extent) he's
kind of a clown.

Which is why people make fun of academic Marxists, I guess. Zizek and
Eagleton both manage to be public intellectuals, which makes their
pretensions to actually be talking to somebody less absurd.


Yeah, exactly! Zizek says Stalin was a bloodthirsty criminal, and then goes on at length to talk about how interesting he was. It would mean something different to utilize Hitler in that way.

Zizek and Eagleton are also less serious-- they're less modernist. They may not reject the revolution-- nay, they may in fact pine for it-- but they are more or less willing to talk about it as a miracle on par with the Second Coming, rather than the thing that will put all of this silly capitalist nonsense to rest for good.


It's interesting...I think that they're Christianity is actually part of their populism, isn't it? The revolution is a spiritual need, which everybody has; it's about people's souls. Whereas with Jameson — he's really insightful and smart, but the revolution never really rises above the level of a technocratic, academic fix. It's not about souls, it's about Althusser.


Althusser would agree (about himself being the revolution, that is). Which is why Ranciere rebelled against him and said that modernists were all just snootifed typographers.


Hah! I don't even know who Ranciere is! That makes him even more postmodern I think.


Also unlike Eagleton and Zizek, by the way, Jameson actively sneers at scholars who take up religion as part of a philosophical/theoretical perspective.

And you've heard me talk about Ranciere before-- he wrote that Politics of Aesthetics book I've talked about. He had a great Flaubert quote about how Flaubert wasn't interested in the poor, he was interested in the lice infesting their bodies.

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