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Archive for July, 2010

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Siddharth Kara on Human Trafficking in India

Siddharth Kara, the author of Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery, continues his CNN series on human trafficking with an interview with Becky Anderson.

In the interview Kara discusses human trafficking in India and shows pictures of its victims as well as the shanty towns many slaves are forced to live in. The interview concludes with Kara discussing the persistence of sex slaves and human trafficking:

One thing that I’ve learned across ten years of research is that business is business, and that slavery is a business.

And wherever I go, there are certain things that are almost always the same. A certain deception or ruse is used to pray on the desperate or the poor, there’s a virtual ease of re-allocating people from just a village to a town or all the way around the world.

And then they’re put in a situation where they’re not free to leave, they’re forced to work often under threat of violence, or threats against family members. And they’re almost never paid or if they are paid it’s only a small amount. And these, sort of, key factors, are true across all the countries I’ve been to on six continents and across industries — it’s not just construction, but commercial sex, agriculture, mining, leatherwork’s, fishing, what have you. Business is business and slavery is no different.

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Peter Maguire on Cambodia’s Troubled Tribunal

Peter Maguire, Facing Death in CambodiaIn yesterday’s New York Times, Peter Maguire, author of Facing Death in Cambodia, examines the upcoming war crimes trials of four former Khmer Rouge political leaders. Maguire argues that given that these figures only gave orders and did not carry them out it will be more difficult for the court, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), to convict them.

Further muddying the issue is the role of Cambodia’s present and “all-powerful” ruler Hun Sen, who has openly stated that he hopes the ECCC fails. Fearing that the trials will jeopardize peace in Cambodia, Hun Sen and the Cambodian government have interfered with the administration of justice at the ECCC.

Maguire concludes his op-ed by speculating on what’s at stake in the trials and what it means for the Cambodian people:

The biggest problem facing the ECCC is living up to it’s own hype. Claims that such trials lead to healing, closure, truth and reconciliation are speculative at best. How does one measure “healing, closure and reconciliation”?

While most Cambodians would like to see the Khmer Rouge leaders punished, they’ve grown used to seeing common thieves and their government’s political opponents suffer far worse punishment than that meted out to Duch [a low-level Khmer Rouge official]. Bou Meng, a survivor of the Tuol Sleng prison, described Duch’s sentence to reporters as “a slap in the face.”

The U.N. legal experts and their cheerleaders in the human rights industry have lost sight of a basic fact: No matter how procedurally perfect the ECCC is, if it outlives the people it was supposed to try, it cannot be judged a success.

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Interview with Clayton Crockett on Hegel and the Insurrections Series

HegelDr. Clayton Crockett, associate professor and director of Religious Studies at the University of Central Arkansas, is co-editor of the Columbia book series Insurrections: Critical Studies in Religion, Politics, and Culture along with Slavoj Žižek, Creston Davis, and Jeffrey Robbins. His interview sheds light on the series’s forthcoming volume Hegel and the Infinite: Religion, Politics, and Dialectic. This book will be a pivotal work that sparks debate among scholars about Hegel’s relevance to our century and current political situation. It is slated for publication in spring 2011. For more on the book you can read Zizek’s preface.

Question: What brought Creston Davis, Slavoj Žižek and you together to start this project and co-edit this book?

Clayton Crockett: It was Creston’s idea, really, he wanted to put together a special issue for a journal focusing on new readings of Hegel in relation to religion and politics, and it really grew from there. Once we started the Insurrections Series at Columbia (the three of us along with Jeffrey W. Robbins), we realized that was the perfect place for the book.

Q: From the title we know this will be a tour de force on Hegel; what debates do you want to spark among readers?

CC: In Theology and Religious Studies, there’s been this return to Paul, sparked largely by Badiou’s book Saint Paul. We wanted to help mark a similar return to Hegel. The major issue has been the stereotypical postmodern view of Hegel as a totalizing thinker who suppresses all differences. But this interpretation of Hegel has been shown to be problematic by thinkers like Zizek and Catherine Malabou. We wanted to include people and positions that were closer to the original postmodern suspicion of Hegel as well as bring in the more recent views.

Q: On his blog Creston Davis wrote about the book, “This volume argues among many things that Hegel needs to be reclaimed in order to break out of the deadlock of our political situation.” What is timely about Hegel’s work and how could his perspective help the current state of politics?

CC: It’s really Zizek who has put Hegel to work in terms of politics in a post-Marxist, post-Lacanian context. It was Hegel whose philosophy enabled Marx to really understand the workings of capital. And even if some aspects of Hegel’s political views and life seem bourgeois, he’s much more radical than is often appreciated—for example, Susan Buck-Morss has shown how Hegel’s reading of newspapers about the Haitian Revolution directly informed his master-slave dialectic in the Phenomenology of Spirit.

Part of the problem with managerial capitalism—this is in business, government and academics—is the hyper-specialization that occurs and the micro-segmentation not only of markets but problems and ideas as well. Gillian Rose wrote a great book, Hegel Contra Sociology, where she shows how so much of twentieth-century understanding is done from a neo-Kantian framework that completely misses the radicality of what Hegel (and Kant) grappled with. This neo-positivist, neo-Kantian framework still holds sway in so many ways, and Hegel’s philosophy is one way (although not the only way—there’s the Hegel-Lacan-Zizek-Badiou tradition and then there’s the Spinoza-Nietzsche-Deleuze-Negri tradition, among others) to challenge all that.

Q: Scholars and supporters of Hegel’s dialectic feel that he has been marginalized and misunderstood; what about his philosophy has been misconstrued and how will your book set the record straight?

CC: After World War II, Hegel was cast as the thinker of totality in European thought, and a genuine philosophy of difference had to break with Hegel—this is the perspective of Deleuze, Derrida and Levinas. Of course, this is a simplification and distortion of Hegel, as Zizek and Malabou, among others, have shown. The logic of the dialectic has been read as progressive and accumulative, it’s this engine that swells up and subsumes all distinctions, differences and singularities. Malabou and Zizek, influenced by deconstruction and post-structuralism, have convincingly demonstrated that the Hegelian dialectic “works” by not working, by breaking down and exposing the gap that persists between reality and our ideals. It’s not that the dialectic gets reality to become our ideal; it’s that the dialectic shows how reality IS the irreducible gap within our ideals themselves.


Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Peter Sloterdijk and David Barash Look Back on Anger

Peter SloterdijkIn a recent issue of The Chronicle Review, three commentators explored the phenomenon of rage which seems to be a more dominant characteristic of American society than ever before. In his article Look Ahead in Anger: Hyperbolic rhetoric threatens to swamp our politics, Sasha Abramsky argues that movements on both the right and left are motivated by rage rather than constructive anger, making rational change or even discussion impossible.

In exploring how disillusion with Obama has fed anger in the United States, Abramsky cites Peter Sloterdijk and his new book Rage and Time: A Psychopolitical Investigation. Sloterdijk writes about how disillusion leads to anger in society, “In addition to resignation and a cynical turning away from yesterday’s illusions, these waves often lead to momentous formations of rage.” The pervasiveness of rage in public discourse or the national mood is of course nothing new and Abramsky looks at such periods as 1970s England as a precursor to the contemporary United States. Again, Abramsky turns to Sloterdijk, who comments on the centrality of rage in history, “Are not all civilizations, either openly or in secret, always archives of collective trauma?”

David Barash, author of the recently published How Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So Stories: Evolutionary Enigmas, takes a different perspective on the subject by looking at the ways in which claims of unfairness in society are feeding the anger in our society. In his article, Hey, Wait a Minute! Biological roots of today’s anger, Barash looks at evolutionary factors and the idea of a fairness instinct to understand our anger about bailouts, assistance to imprudent homeowners, and executive pay.


Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Michael LaSala: Coming Out, Coming Home

Michael LaSalaMichael LaSala has just begun Gay and Lesbian Well-Being, a blog on the Psychology Today website. In his first post, LaSala outlines some of the key lessons learned from the many interviews he conducted with families with gay or lesbian children for his new book Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child.

While adjusting to a child’s coming out can cause stress and potentially harm familial relationships, “parents can go from feeling rejecting, guilty, mournful, and frightened to not only accepting but prizing their gay or lesbian child—and for kids, especially gay kids, nothing feels better than to bask in the warm glow of a parent’s love and approval.”

LaSala outlines some of the behaviors that did not help in allowing for a smooth coming-out process. These included having the parent attribute any problems the child might be having to their sexual orientation. Additionally, when children acted “too gay,” parents often “worr[ied] that their children will be targets of discrimination, hostility, even violence, and this can get in the way of their adjustment and acceptance.”


Friday, July 23rd, 2010

(Sylvia) Beach reading continued

Sylvia BeachWe continue our focus on Fernham’s focus on Sylvia Beach and The Letters of Sylvia Beach with an excerpt from the second part of what will be a four-part interview between Anne Fernald, who writes the blog, and Keri Walsh, editor of The Letters. (Here are part one and part two.)

In the interview, Fernald and Walsh discuss among other things Sylvia Beach herself, Paris in the 1920s, Virginia Woolf, and working in archives. The whole discussion is fascinating but here is Keri Walsh on the remarkable relationship between James Joyce and Sylvia Beach:

Beach shared Joyce’s love for language, and she took pleasure in playing around with words. Her earliest letters show her punning with advertisements, just as Joyce would do in the Aeolus section of Ulysses. And they both liked to kid around with Shakespeare. Ulysses includes some funny burlesques of Hamlet, and Stephen Dedalus is a bit of a comic Hamlet. The first thing that bonded them when they met at a Paris party was Joyce’s amusement at the name of her bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. He took out a pen to write down the name of the shop, and he came by to visit the next day.

In addition to their shared comic sensibility and her tremendous admiration for his writing, Beach did understand that there were professional advantages in being associated with Joyce: “Ulysses is going to make my place famous,” she predicted in a letter, and it did. The daily presence of Joyce at Shakespeare and Company created an aura around the shop, and that aura drew other writers and creative people. His faith in Beach consolidated her status as a taste-maker and champion of the avant-garde.

So there were some idealistic and some practical reasons why Beach went out of her way for Joyce: her earnest desire to help an artist she believed in, one who was having difficulty getting his work to print, and the status he conferred on her business. But ultimately, it’s still difficult to explain just why she handed over her life to Joyce for ten years, putting herself in constant financial risk and exacerbating her migraines with all the demands attendant upon publishing Ulysses: the huge, constantly-changing manuscript; the fact that to fund the book she needed to get subscribers in advance; the lack of copyright protection in England and America which meant that she also had to fight against the piracy of the book; Joyce’s poor health; the needs of his family. She never put herself on the line for any other writer in this way. Many biographers and memoirists have mentioned Joyce’s personal charisma—his manner of speaking, his beautiful eyes, his good manners and his slightly antique formality (they always called each other “Mr. Joyce” and “Miss Beach”) and the reputation that preceded him as the author of Dubliners and Portrait—and so maybe, at a certain point, we have to appeal to that “Joyce Effect.” Sylvia Beach wasn’t the only person to go out of her way for him. He inspired loyalty and love, in spite of his many trying qualities.

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Sylvia Beach Week!

Sylvia Beach

The always interesting and entertaining blog, Fernham has dedicated the week to Sylvia Beach. In conjunction with its celebration of legendary bookstore owner and publisher, Fernham will be featuring The Letters of Sylvia Beach, edited by Keri Walsh.

Yesterday, Walsh contributed a post describing the Adrienne Monnier, Sylvia Beach’s partner in business and life. Here are some excerpts from Walsh’s post and you can read the entire post here.

Sylvia Beach said that she had three loves: Shakespeare and Company, James Joyce, and Adrienne Monnier. Of this trilogy, it’s Adrienne Monnier we tend to hear least about, but Monnier was the most influential person in Beach’s life. Though she was half a decade younger than Beach, Monnier taught her how to run a bookstore, how to deal with French bureaucracy, how to manage cantankerous people: Beach never made an important decision without first consulting her, relying heavily on Monnier’s good judgment and canny grasp of human psychology….

Adrienne Monnier wrote personal essays on a range of subjects from Beowulf to André Breton. When reading her work I’m always struck by how well she knew herself, what confidence she had in her taste, the subtlety, wit, and depth of her remarks. Though she was a reader of the most difficult and esoteric works, she was also free from snobbery, ranking Josephine Baker or a virtuoso trapeze artist alongside Shakespeare. There’s a playfulness and shape to the argumentation of her essays that recalls Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own: Monnier charts the movement of her thought, considering and reconsidering points, airing objections and then meeting them. She also has a sly wit, a sort of parody of the dry reviewer, when she talks about her “duty” to see the nude women in all of Paris’s different cabarets. Her sensibility is eminently unpuritanical, always seeking aesthetic pleasure, revealing herself as a connoisseur, but never shying away from ethical or political concerns.

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Eliot Wolfson’s Open Secret reviewed in Tablet

SchneersonIn an article in Tablet about Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the former Lubavichter leader of the Chabad movement, Adam Kirsch discusses Eliot Wolfson’s new book Open Secret: Postmessianic Messianism and the Mystical Revision of Menahem Mendel Schneerson.

Kirsch, who calls Wolfson’s book “a brilliant new study of the Rebbe’s mystical thought,” looks at Schneerson’s continuing presence in the Chabad movement, evident in Youtube videos and the high esteem many continue to hold him. Claims by many of his followers that he was the Messiah continue to give Chabad a prominence in the Jewish world out of proportion to its actual membership.

However, Schneerson’s own claims about his being the Messiah are ambiguous. Wolfson, as Kirsch points out, “bases his book on the hypothesis that Schneerson not only didn’t think he was the Messiah, he didn’t even believe the Messiah was coming at all.”

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Siddharth Kara on the Trail of Human Trafficking

Siddharth Kara
Siddharth Kara, author of Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery (now available in paper), has begun a weekly column for CNN.com that will document his trip around South Asia, looking at issues of forced labor, trafficking, and child bondage.

His trip to South Asia is one of three he will be taking over the next year to examine modern slavery (he will also be going to Africa and Latin America). While in South Asia, he will explore a variety of sites of exploitation, including children working in the fishing industry and the forced labor that was used for construction projects related to the upcoming Commonwealth Games in New Dehli.

In describing his approach to understanding human trafficking, which emphasizes both the human costs and the economic reasons behind the phenomenon, Kara writes,

There is much I am proud of as a man of Indian descent, but some have argued that India’s record on protecting the weak, poor, and downtrodden is far from pride-worthy. I hope my approach to the issue of forced labor — predicated on documenting the human pain of this exploitation while also understanding the business and economic forces that drive it — will lead us to a more effective response.

Kara concludes the post by citing the words of Jawaharlal Nehru who hoped for a future of justice and equality and free of exploitation:

This is the future that beckoned all of South Asia more than sixty years ago, on those first days of freedom from tyranny and exploitation. Yet this promise remains deeply elusive for hundreds of millions of poor who scrape by on one dollar per day in income, and even more so for the millions of slaves in this region, who remain oppressed by tyranny and bondage, praying each night to break free of exploitation and achieve the “fullness of life,” that is their human birthright.

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Interview with Gary Cross, author of Men to Boys (now available in paper!)

Men to Boys: The Making of Modern ImmaturityGary Cross’s bestselling cultural history Men to Boys: The Making of Modern Immaturity is now available in paperback. Here is an interview we conducted with him when the book was first published.

Question: Why did you write a book about men becoming “boys” at this time?

Gary Cross: I am an historian who asks questions of the past by observing the present. So when I saw evidence everywhere of how growing up male has changed and how increasingly maturity is mocked and denied in the popular and commercial culture, I was compelled to explain it historically. All this not only profoundly impacts the many (especially women) who have “boy-men” in their lives, but it has led to much confusion among men of all ages about who they should be and what they should want. As important, the boy-man has shaped contemporary culture in many, often undesirable, ways.

Q: How is your approach different from others who explore the issue of male maturity?

GC: I agree with many who explain these trends in psychological or sociological terms, as consequences of changing child rearing methods or new economic and social realities that have reduced the authority and responsibilities of men, but I take a different approach. I try to show how delayed marriage and careers, denial of childrearing responsibilities etc are related to wider changes in male culture over the past three generations. I look at the transformation of men’s hobbies, tastes in magazines, movies, and TV, and dress and attitudes toward aging, for example, to plot how and why men became boys.

Q: Are you saying that today’s men have fallen from the standards of a golden age of male responsibility and that we need to return to the “good ol’ days”?

GC: Not at all. A lot about the manhood of say the World War II generation was rigid and far too authoritarian. There isn’t one best way of being a “grown-up.” We should celebrate trends toward greater informality between generations and more playful ways of being a man. Moreover, the Father Knows Best ideal is as unattainable now as it was in the past. The problem is that over the past half-century, we have rejected the old standards of manhood without fully developing new, more appropriate ones. There are many reasons for this, but I for one stress how the commercial culture has reinforced our tendency to delay responsibility and encouraged us to cling to a thrill culture and often empty rebellion against aging. As a member of the senior class of baby boomers, I’ve been long fascinated with how growing up has changed between the generation of my father and that of my sons and what role us boomers in the middle played in that change.


Friday, July 16th, 2010

The Economist Reviews Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism

Sayyid Qutb

The Economist reviewed John Calvert’s new book Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism, calling it a “rich and carefully researched biography [that] sets Qutb for the first time in his Egyptian context, rescuing him from caricature without whitewashing his radicalism.”

Qutb is regarded by many as one of the key figures, who inspired today’s global jihad. However, as the review points out, Calvert’s book shows other sides to Qutb’s life and thought without denying his role in the development of radical political Islam.

The biography traces Qutb’s journey from his Egyptian roots and his time spent in the United States to his involvement in the Muslim Brotherhood and his subsequent imprisonment. The experience in jail and the torture he endured made Qutb into an embittered and impassioned revolutionary. However, as The Economist writes,

Mr Calvert does not disguise the crudely Manichean character of Qutb’s worldview. He believed in an all-out global struggle between a noble vanguard of true Muslims and the massed ranks of jahiliyya. He depicted Islam’s external enemies as an insidious alliance of “Crusaders and Jews”—the same phrase that is used by al-Qaeda and the global jihadists of today.

But he was not, as has been suggested, an “Islamo-fascist” or an advocate of indiscriminate violence. Qutb opposed the killing of innocents and would have been appalled by what his followers, from the Egyptian radicals of the 1970s and 1980s to the current jihadist groups, have carried out in his name.

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

The Editors of Gastropolis on the Perfect NYC Summer Meal

GastropolisWith summer fully upon us and with the recent publication of Gastropolis: Food and New York City, we were reminded of an interview on Serious Eats with the editors of the book, Annie Hauck-Lawson and Jonathan Deutsch.

The authors were asked to describe their “dream New York meal.” Their answer offers a perfect evening for these summer months:

Go to the Rockaways on a warm summer early evening with family and best friends. Bring: bathing suits, towels, beach blanket, boogie or surfboards, Katz’s hot dogs, hot dog rolls, good bread and a warm cooked rice dish, big salad from lettuces and tomatoes that you grew at Floyd Bennett Community Garden at the end of Flatbush Avenue (dressed in olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt), ice cold beer, seltzer and a thermos of hot coffee.

… And a surf casting rod. Swim. Cast out in to the ocean. Cross your fingers. Catch a tuna (preferably) or a snapper. Gather drift wood. Make a fire. Clean and filet the fish, grill it, serve with all the other food and drink and enjoy.

For more on the book, you can browse, read the chapter Fusion City: From Mt. Olympus to Puerto Rican Lasagna and Beyond, or test your knowledge of New York City food.

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

A Chronology of George Steinbrenner

George SteinbrennerWith yesterday’s news of George Steinbrenner’s death, we thought we would highlight some of the highlights (and lowlights) from his remarkable run as owner of the New York Yankees. The dates and events are taken from The Greater New York Sports Chronology, edited by Jeffrey Kroessler:

1973: On January 3 a syndicate formed by forty-two-year old Cleveland businessman George Steinbrenner, owner of the American Ship Building Company and part-owner of the Chicago Bulls, purchased the Yankees for $10 million from CBS ($3.2 million less than CBS had paid for the team in 1964….”It’s the best buy in sports today. I think it’s a bargain,” said Steinbrenner.

1973: Frustrated by George Steinbrenner’s meddling, Yankee manager Ralph Houk resigned after the season.

1977 and 1978: The Yankees win the world series.

1979: With the Yankees struggling George Steinbrenner dismissed Bob Lemon and brought back Billy Martin on June 17…. On October 28, five days after Martin brawled with a businessman in a Bloomington, Minnesota, hotel, George Steinbrenner fired him.

1980: Gene Michael became manager, the seventh in eight years under George Steinbrenner.

1980: On October 25, after the Yankees lost their third straight [World Series game] in Los Angeles, a pair of drunken Dodger fans approached George Steinbrenner in his hotel elevator. They called his team “chokers” and New Yorkers “animals.” Steinbrenner responded with an obscenity and, in a brief brawl, landed two rights and a left, sending both men to the floor. At a press conference in his hotel room the Boss said, “I clocked them. There are two guys in this town looking for their teeth, and two guys who will probably sue me.” The men never surfaced.


Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

John Major on translating the Chinese classic Huainanzi

In a recent guest post on Frog In A Well John Major, one of the translators of the recently published Huainanzi, a classic Han dynasty work on statecraft and philosophy, talks about the process and difficulties of translation.

One of the more unusual aspects of the translation of this work was the highly collaborative team effort the translators took. Here, Major talks about how they approached it:


Monday, July 12th, 2010

William M. Klepper on tough love between Corporate Boards and CEOs

William Klepper, author of The CEO’S Boss: Tough Love in the Boardroom, recently posted an article on Boardmember.com on how corporate boards can better improve their relationships with their business’s CEO through tough love.

In the article Klepper explains that “The board’s commitment to the CEO is ongoing and must be approached deliberately and with a dedication to providing tough love in the boardroom. At its core, tough love demands ongoing feedback. A productive partnership between the CEO and the board distills down to teamwork. Teamwork doesn’t happen by chance any more than does an effective partnership.”

For additional information visit the author’s website.

Friday, July 9th, 2010

“New York is the most Latin American city in the world.”

Claudio Remeseira

The above quote from a Daily News article is from Claudio Remeseira, editor of Hispanic New York: A Sourcebook.

The article which calls the book “an imposing testimony to the sheer vibrancy of the city’s Hispanic community,” describes the book and its documentation of the many Hispanic influences in the city and its history. The first Spanish speakers came to New York in 1645 and by 1741 there were already three Spanish newspapers.

The article cites Walt Whitman’s “The Spanish Element in Our Nationality” as one of the most revealing texts. In it, Whitman hopes that the Spanish character would bring its values to the “composite American identity of the future.”

For more on the book and the continuing place of Latinos in the city, there is Remeseira’s excellent blog the Hispanic New York Project.

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Avner Cohen on Israel’s “Secret” Nuclear Arsenal

Earlier this week, NPR’s All Things Considered interviewed Avner Cohen author of the forthcoming The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb.

In the interview Cohen discusses Israel’s policy to never publicly acknowledge that it has possession of nuclear weapons. He also analyzes the ways in which Obama has accepted the policy of Israel’s opacity about the issue.

He describes how a tacit consensus developed among other nations that allowed Israel to have the bomb in light of the Holocaust and their situation in the 1960s. When pressed by Siegel whether “a policy … with deep roots in the postwar history” still made sense, Cohen responded:

Israelis believe so, and I think it’s a great deal a matter of habits. I think it’s time to start looking afresh on this, slow, responsibly to try to find a way to normalize those issue and to find a better way for Israel to come clean with it.

I think the world is ready, even most of the Arabs are ready. So I think that ultimately Israel with the rest of the world, it would be nice not to have nuclear weapons, to be part of the vision of a world without nuclear weapons. But I think the time has come to think in a responsible way how for Israel to come clean, to come with putting its nuclear weapons on the table.

To listen to the full interview:

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Zizek on Hegel

“The time of Hegel still lies ahead – Hegel’s century will be the XXIst.”—Slavoj Zizek

The Web site Objet Petit A offers a sneak preview of the forthcoming 2011 book Hegel and the Infinite by publishing Slavoj Zizek’s preface, “Hegel’s Century.”

Zizek calls for a reinterpretation of Hegel and makes a case for his continued relevance. While a strict adherence to Hegel’s thought is impossible (“To act like a full Hegelian today is the same as to write tonal music after the Schoenberg revolution”), his influence even in a “post-Hegelian” world is undeniable. Zizek writes:

One should approach the post-Hegelian break in more direct terms. True, there is a break, but in this break, Hegel is the “vanishing mediator” between its “before” and its “after,” between traditional metaphysics and post-metaphysical 19th and 20th century thought. That is to say, something happens in Hegel, a break-through into a unique dimension of thought, which is obliterated, rendered invisible in its true dimension, by the post-metaphysical thought.

In the concluding passage, Zizek speculates on Hegel’s relevance on crucial contemporary debates:

What would Hegel have made of today’s struggle of Liberalism against fundamentalist Faith? One thing is sure: he would not simply take side of liberalism, but would insisted on the “mediation” of the opposites.

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Psyched Out — A Review of Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari: Intersecting Lives

Gilles DeleuzeScott McLemee’s recent review of Francois Dosse’s Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari: Intersecting Lives in Bookforum (registration req’d but it’s free!) praises the joint biography for making the academicized Deleuze “mysterious again.”

The review also looks at the biography in light of the reception of Deleuze and Guattari in the United States and within the context of intellectual developments over the last thirty years. McLemee writes:

“There is a history of thought that cannot be reduced to games of influence,” Deleuze said in a late interview. “There is a whole becoming of thought that remains mysterious.” For all its tireless unearthing of texts and contexts, Dosse’s biography isn’t reductive, nor does the book try to interpret its subjects using their own conceptual idiom (creating a pastiche that domesticates ideas while pretending to radicalize them). For twenty years, we’ve had an academicized Deleuze—the totem symbol of a safe anarchism that would never do any thing too crazy. In these pages, he’s paired up again with his co-conspirator, a strange figure who haunted all kinds of revolutionary circles and manic gatherings. Staid as he is, Dosse makes Deleuze and Guattari mysterious again.

McLemee also singles out Dosse’s biography for shedding more light on Guattari, whose reputation frequently lies in the shadows of Deleuze’s:

Dosse’s reconstruction of the network of youth hostels, Trotskyist factions, and offbeat discussion circles adds a great deal to our understanding of the tone of Guattari’s work, as well as of its implications…. The usual ’60s antinomian he wasn’t. He could recognize the realities of suffering and vulnerability; the revolutionary project involved opening oneself to the possibility of solidarity across vast differences in experience, with schizophrenia as an extreme. Guattari also seems to have been a calming influence on some of his violence-prone comrades—working quietly, behind the scenes, to persuade them to explore more creative options than armed struggle.

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Michael Mauboussin on the Big Think

Michael Mauboussin, author of More Than You Know: Finding Financial Wisdom in Unconventional Places (Updated and Expanded), was recently featured on Big Think.

In the interview, Mauboussin, who is also the Chief Investment Strategist at Legg Mason Capital Management, argues that humans are hard-wired to make bad investment decisions. We tend to follow trends and we should always relying on the “inside view,” which tends to be too optimistic about our futures. Instead, we should look for the outside view to dampen any optimism that might have been unduly generated.

Mauboussin also looks at the impact of the media on our investment decisions as well as considering whether or not the financial crisis has made us more risk averse. Here’s the interview: