Kommie karaoke

by CarlD

The Pinocchio Theory offers a nice post-mortem of the Communism at Birkbeck conference. Apparently, as long as nothing embarrassing like political economy or materiality of any kind comes up, today’s A-list marxists are good to go with all sorts of inspiring romantic emancipatory speculation. It’s all about thinking and acting right. In short, we’re back to the good old Young Hegelians, again or yet again depending on how you count Lukács; unless we’re even farther back to Kant.

To demonstrate the power of collective will, Zizek proposed concluding the event with a rousing group rendition of “The Internationale.” Sort of like Paul Henreid in “Casablanca,” I imagine. PT reports very few takers, but speculates this was because no one knew the words. Alex in the comments agrees and notes

There was huge projector at the conference – with two second Zizek could have probably arranged the words to be projected there. In terms of a positive and uniting end to the conference, as well as a spectacular media stunt, it would have been great.

Great indeed. Nothing like a mass karaoke night by the fearsome commies to teach those dirty capitalist swine a lesson they won’t soon forget.

Advertisements

18 Responses to “Kommie karaoke”

  1. Carlo my hero and cyberpunk icon is just great, which is why dr. Sinthome made a special effort to underline that his new book on Whitehead will be published by MIT press ”NO LESS”. The cat is pretty egalitarian, but knows the distance between Texas and Massachusetts.

    As for materiality, the gracious host of the Birkbeck parody repressed it a long time ago – after all, he NEVER NEEDED those luscious federal budget funds that Tito put in the Slovene basket. All he needed was the Revolution.

  2. Haha, wow. Do these people think that by rebranding “communism” to mean “that political idea where everyone is equal and is not in any way related to Stalinism, nope, we swear, trust us,” they’ll magically regain some kind of credibility? I mean, they could redefine it to mean “delicious honey-glazed pork chops” and no one would care. The historical moment of communism has passed.

  3. Greg, I’ve never been clear on why communism was supposed to happen instantly when capitalism took hundreds of years to eat out the insides of feudalism. Even then the process was incalculably accelerated or even flat enabled by the contingent discovery of the Americas. And although one must admire the gambler’s flair of that generation of revolutionaries in the early 20th C who thought maybe steps could be skipped and the timetable could be moved up, for massive structural reasons they failed miserably. I certainly wouldn’t call what they built communism, any more than I’d call the liberal-capitalist state democracy.

    So what I think is not that the historical moment of communism has passed, but that the historical moment of whatever it is that will replace capitalism has not arrived. I don’t think we’re even close to where we could see what that might be, because I think capitalism still has plenty of string to play out. And yes, all of our images of communism are unfilterably polluted by its grim stillbirths.

    It’s not that I have a better option than those Berkshire handwavers. It’s that I know a bad hand when I see one, and smart money folds bad hands.

  4. No, I don’t think Marxism-Leninism equals communism. But neither do I have any reason to believe that what comes at the end of the capitalist rainbow will be communism rather than theocracy, feudalism, or Mad Max anarcho-capitalism–or even that capitalism will be replaced by anything at all. What I mean by the historical moment of communism having passed is that the word “communism” and its associated vocabulary no longer has the ability to inspire people to put it into practice. Maybe eventually it’ll be reborn into something large masses of people can be moved by, but for now it’s utterly irrelevant.

  5. Agreed. Meanwhile let’s go with “delicious honey-glazed pork chops.”

  6. Carl: “Greg, I’ve never been clear on why communism was supposed to happen instantly when capitalism took hundreds of years to eat out the insides of feudalism.”

    Kvond: In part, the need for instantaneous transformation is the need to take over the punctuated, putting-on-Christism of Christianity. History itself must be marked by a rupture, and the life of the “true believer” as well. The “god” must enter history.

  7. No doubt, Kvond. I’ve wondered if this theophilia is a primary drive (related, perhaps, to the generalizing subroutines that allow us to plan and to imagine) or just a bad habit that got installed back in the early days of exploitive theocracy (next-world theodicy) and has kept working ever since.

    I never got this training, so for me the homophony of eschatology and scatology is decisive.

  8. Carl,

    Perhaps this is picked up in Zizek’s new book with Milbank, The Monstrosit of Christ. I hope to go and see him at the Harvard Bookstore. From my point of view the theophilia really is an expression of the “one world” metaphysics that is implicit in all coherent communication and community. But it gets “installed” at any number of mythological levels, including the myth of the State, and the myth of The People.

  9. Kevin, I think Zizek will be at Brattle Theatre, not the bookstore itself – it’s sponsored by the bookstore…

  10. Thanks M.E. There is the phone number you linked. I was going to call that. (But are you sure. My wife tells me that she saw Temple Grandin speak there, literally at the Harvard bookstore. It was packed and you had to look up at TV screens as you could even see her. It would be very nice if it is in a theatre.)

  11. Carl,

    What is interesting is not only the “theophilia” but also the unique way in which Christianity (Nietzsche makes this argument) transformed time from cyclictic to linear, setting the conceptual place for the unique temporal break. This is something more than theophilia, something endemic to the modern conception of temporality.

  12. This is a good point but I wonder if this narrative is itself a little too linear. Compare this paragraph from my chapter on Gramsci and Machiavelli, in which universality vs. contingency looks like the important way to box up approaches to time:

    In The Machiavellian Moment J.G.A. Pocock argues that medieval and Renaissance political thinkers were constrained in the way they were able to account for irrational conduct and historical indeterminacy by a conceptual language in which timeless universals were the basis of any assessment of rationality. He suggests that “…the late medieval and Renaissance intellect found the particular less intelligible and less rational than the universal; that since the particular was finite, it was local both in space and time, so that time became a dimension of its being and consequently shared in the diminished rationality and intelligibility of the particular.” Thus, early modern republican theory must be seen in the context of an “emerging historicism,” so that the Machiavellian moment “…is a name for the moment in conceptualized time in which the republic was seen as confronting its own temporal finitude,as attempting to remain morally and politically stable in a stream of irrational events conceived as essentially destructive of all systems of secure stability.” “Consequently, a vital component of republican theory — and, once this had come upon the scene, if no earlier, of all political theory — consisted of ideas about time, about the occurrence of contingent events of which time was the dimension, and about the intelligibility of the sequences (it is as yet too soon to say processes) of particular happenings that made up what we should call history.” With the revival of republicanism during the late Renaissance, politics explicitly became the art of managing and controlling contingency.

    This is all about a Christian setting, of course, but I’m not seeing apocalyptic linearity as the dogmatic essence. In fact it was emerging as such at this time in secular political theory, suggesting that Christianity had not supplied it there previously – as you say, a modern conception so not something we can blame on Christianity. Remember too Father Jorge in Eco’s Name of the Rose from an earlier moment: there is no new knowledge, only “sublime recapitulation,” which looks not merely cyclical but static. One of the secrets of Christianity’s scope and durability is its flexibility – folks can and have fit all manner of crap under that big tent.

  13. Carl: “This is all about a Christian setting, of course, but I’m not seeing apocalyptic linearity as the dogmatic essence. In fact it was emerging as such at this time in secular political theory, suggesting that Christianity had not supplied it there previously – as you say, a modern conception so not something we can blame on Christianity.”

    Kvond; I have to say that I am unclear about the idea that just because there is a “Machiavellian moment” conception in the development of republicanism, you read this as somehow un-Christian. Christianity is not marked by its apocalyptic linearity, I would argue, but rather with the punctuated sense that here and now (a few decades around 0 AD or thereabouts), time is pierced through by the Universal (the Logos), which becomes fully carnate without any diminishment, and this event breaks the linearity of time in half. No longer is it composed of seasons which return on end. I don’t see how the quote in any way suggests that this particular political manifestation, the confrontation of finitude, had already been inscribed as a possibility within the Christian conception. This is also the primary conception behind Badiou’s event-love subjectivity.

  14. Cool. I think I’m understanding your point a little better now.

    I get the piercing of time by the Universal and how that relates to (what I understand of) Badiou, not to mention plenty of other theophilic marxists. But isn’t Christian apocalyptic precisely about a re-piercing of time at the end, requiring a confrontation of finitude (albeit one that initiates in turn a steady-state eternity of salvation or damnation)?

  15. Carl: “But isn’t Christian apocalyptic precisely about a re-piercing of time at the end, requiring a confrontation of finitude (albeit one that initiates in turn a steady-state eternity of salvation or damnation)?”

    Kvond: I can see how the apocalyptic can be read as a re-piercing, but it strikes me as inessential to the fundamental Christian conception (just as the real reaching of Communism, which will never come) isn’t necessary for Marxist revolution and critique. The pre-rupture itself sets history into a new configuration which is never reached. Yes St. Paul could say and think a whole lot of things because he thought that Christ was returning within his lifetime, but Christianity as a wholesale historical conception of punctuated time does not require this impending end, at least such that it is taken to be just around the corner. The confrontation with infinitude happens now, right now, on the road to Damascus.

  16. I should say, “confrontation with finitude,” but it is more or less the same thing.

  17. If you want to read a reader’s feedback 🙂 , I rate this post for 4/5. Detailed info, but I have to go to that damn msn to find the missed bits. Thank you, anyway!

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: