On change

“Bien regarder, je crois que ça s’apprend.”
–Emmanuelle Riva in Hiroshima mon amour.

“Change comes first at the societal level, not at the level of the individual. You work to change society, change the relations of production, and this work changes you.” My Marxist boyfriend said this one day in Berkeley during Reagan’s second presidential term, when we were exasperated at the vagaries of the hippies. That was long ago but I remember it because it was true.

I forgot for a long time because of learning to survive the university as it took its entrepreneurial turn, while we were trying to earn tenure in the belief that things still were as they had been. (The vocabulary was still the same, and policies and practices were changing but on their face the changes were small, and most of us lacked the perspective necessary to accurately interpret the shifting panorama.) The cant was that we should work on ourselves, and manage this regardless of circumstances, since the real relations of production had to be irrelevant to rising stars. One was not to recognize the obvious truth that such advice–liberal/conservative propaganda, actually–was only appropriate in situations where the real relations of production were working, at least adequately, for you.

Similarly, change at the individual level does not come from changes in habit: that, again, is liberal/conservative propaganda. Changes in habit flow naturally from deeper change. Deeper change is change in relation to self, in relation to the means of production, in relation to meaning.

All of these things are deeply and definitely true.

Axé.

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2 Comments

Filed under Banes, Da Whiteman, News, Resources, Theories, What Is A Scholar?, Working

2 responses to “On change

  1. Z

    Stokely Carmichael on change:

    “And it is nonsensical for people to start talking about human relationships until they’re willing to build new institutions. Black people are economically insecure. White liberals are economically secure. Can you begin to build an economic coalition? Are the liberals willing to share their salaries with the economically insecure black people they so much love? Then if you’re not, are you willing to start building new institutions that will provide economic security for black people? That’s the question we want to deal with.”

  2. Z

    Et regardez: self-improvement is not institutional change.

    https://www.thenation.com/article/the-romance-of-reform/

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