Category Archives: ALFS presentation

Neoliberal and other subjects

General broadcast: you have to have a self and self-respect every day, and treat yourself as well as you do your pets and children. I constantly forget to do this, and it does not set the best example.

I tend not to have enough ego because in Reeducation I withdrew so far, I could not think. I dreamed at the time that I was having myself frozen so I could live inside a metal box, until it was safe to come out again. The alternative still seems to be sometimes the role Hattie diagnoses in one Meg:

She insists on falling apart, because she is trapped by all those crazy, murderous male egos, her brothers, and their manipulative guilt-tripping alcoholic mother. . . .

And Henry Giroux struggles when he writes and gets depressed over the state of the world, and I find it helpful that he says this. He is struggling in his study, and we can struggle, too.

What kind of world can we imagine? Hobsbawm knows. He also published his last book at 94, never left the Communist Party, and was yet another person who, as a child, was a German-speaking Jew, before events intervened. The Right is the enemy, but liberalism is the problem, he says.

Another person who talks about the relationship between the subject and the neoliberal state is Wendy Brown. Here is the text. The state is a market state, the university is a market university, and we are market subjects (formed by the market and the market state, furthermore). Read:

…neoliberalism normatively constructs and interpellates individuals as entrepreneurial actors in every sphere of life. . . . A fully realized neoliberal citizenry would be the opposite of public-minded; indeed, it would barely exist as a public. The body politic ceases to be a body. . . . Other evidence for progress in the development of such a citizenry is not far from hand: consider the market rationality permeating universities today, from admissions and recruiting to the relentless consumer mentality of students as they consider university brand names, courses, and services, from faculty raiding and pay scales to promotion criteria.Or consider the way in which consequential moral lapses (of a sexual or criminal nature) by politicians, business executives, or church and university administrators are so often apologized for as “mistakes in judgment,” implying that it was the calculation that was wrong, not the act, actor, or rationale.

Of course, one of my papers has to do with the formation of subjects by the state. This article on free speech and liberal society has something to do with state and subject, that I might articulate.

Liberalism sees racism as something political, and therefore contestable. It is not. It is a systemic and historical fact with material consequences, whether they be economic or threats of bodily harm — something at the core of Taylor’s book and research. But liberalism operates in a world of ideals, not material reality, and it cannot help but conceive of racism in terms of free speech. It’s something that can be mitigated through reason or debate, that is, through the central tenets of free speech and the marketplace of ideas. But just as neoliberals mystify government complicity in and control over markets, liberal idealism mystifies racism via free speech, and obscures the fundamental fact that there are limits to free speech.

Let us see: racism has material origins and is constitutive of the state, not a blemish upon it or an idea up for debate. It is a systemic fact. My paper is not on free speech, or on speech — or is it? The problem seems to be that one important role of liberal discourse is to obscure race as systemic fact.

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Spain in the Holocaust

This would be an interesting course to give, by the way, and an interesting topic for a freshman seminar. There are all these people and materials I did not know about, like Francisco Boix the photographer of Mauthausen. There was an exposition on him, and there is a book. Another point of interest is Xavier Güell’s novel Los prisioneros del paraíso, on the many composers of Theresienstadt. One could read this book and listen to the music, which is widely recorded. Related is the propaganda film on Theresienstadt that one can see, and I am sure there are many more works of art and documents.

I found all of these and related things in part because various of my distant cousins, who I thought were Christian but were not, turned out to have died in camps, and also because I read W. G. Sebald’s novel Austerlitz and followed up. Then I rediscovered Viktor Frankl, whom you can observe here. Meaning, he says we need.

In research-related news, Nazi Germany used the segregated United States as its model. Race has to do with land and space; you need Lebensraum for the Aryans. And we, the United States, are on the road to tyranny.

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Encore des articles

I told you I should have been a conservationist. I kept saying, this is urgent, and you think I should study the history of western civilization and piano playing so I can become a genteel wife?

Russia as a moderate fascist state.

Actual diversity work. And more diversity work.

Betsy de Vos calls discrimination and segregation “school choice.”

Rachel Dolezal and race in Brazil.

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That languishing article

It is hard to write. One of the reasons for this is the number of directions in which it leads. Something I notice in real life, that people do not realize, is in fact how the neo-liberalization works. So we accept “bringing money into the university” as a good thing, without realizing what sponsored research really does to budgets.

That is why I should be talking about the neoliberalism itself, as well as the rhetoric that functions to cover it.

Axé.

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Lire, écouter

Robert Reich on Trumpy’s bankers.

Silvia Federici, again. This conversation explains more about your problems than any analyst could. We are asked to see everything but the movement of capital. Federici is a genius and will give your life meaning.

Olivia Goldhill on the psychological importance of wasting time.

Lamar White, one of the only people who actually loves Louisiana and the United States, points out that we should have statues of Tubman, Stowe, and Northrup, not Davis, Jackson and Lee.

James Kirylo on the overtesting of students. On television, too. And in the NYT, an article on how school vouchers work to produce lower test scores.

Corporate “diversity.”

Caetano Veloso in LARB.

Academia.edu has been more completely monetized. I knew it would be, but the article is still interesting.

Anya Kamenetz on critiques of course evaluations. And another piece, less interesting, but still worthwhile.

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Henry Giroux Today

Having a bad day today. Maybe the hangover from being denied tenure by the right-wing stooge John Silber, the then president of Boston University, in 1981 still stings. Since those dark days, I have always had some hope in the university, recognizing that it was an important site of struggle and filled with contradictions. I am losing that hope. I consistently meet administrators who are not only unimaginative but cowardly and incapable of supporting programs whose value cannot be reduced to cost-efficiency metrics. These people do not just lack a vision, they constitute a kind of academic walking dead, albeit with the ever present smile on their faces–a kind of sickening embrace of civility. They are truly incapable of providing support and resources for faculty fighting for economic and political justice, faculty who take risks, join hands with those colleagues who have been reduced to Wal-mart workers, and act in solidarity with students who refuse to be reduced to customers. Where are the administrators from the ranks of the humanities and liberal arts? In too many instances we have dead-beat administrators drawn from the empirically based disciplines who do not have a clue as to what scholarship is about and increasingly reward the most unfit people with university awards, academic positions, and committee assignments–all the while making clear that qualified people should not apply. Rigorous and courageous scholarship has now gone the way of typewriter. Faculty are rewarded for committee work, grants, and a general attitude that can only be viewed as supine. Even worse, these individuals organize themselves in clicks exercising power that represents the worse form of cronyism. They barely publish, have no international reputations, and feed on gossip and innuendo, reproducing themselves in hires who mimic their own idiocy. I am sure there are exceptions in North America, but dark side of neoliberalism has just about killed the university as a democratic public sphere. All that is left is the detritus, filled with losers and dead beat careerists.

Axé.

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The muse of history

I. CLIO
“let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth”

The past’s fantasia cannot hold or let
us go. Flycatcher catching itself in
the pool’s glint gaze, Samarkand where Tamerlane
hewed his bloody thread, unspooling across
the hacked-to-pieces field, a triple axle
splitting Clio’s cataract, muddy then
clear, the opal of a rain-sheened open
eye that looks at nothing but yet holds
our look.
Euterpe, my head is in my hands.
Flies speckle the field. The sizer, hissing,
straps dynamite to a waist no bigger
than a fly’s wing span, but the daughters
of Babylon do not tarry—the road flares
burn blue, bog irises, erect, quivering.

The poem has five parts, and that was the first. I liked it and wanted to study it, but wrote on my copy of it that I must see about deadlines for the ERIP conference in Morelia, and remember to find the book Lower Education. So I am studying the poem here.

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