Long Sunday, a group blog initially announced here at the weblog in jest as portending our doom, is back up and running after a year or so hiatus. Currently the first post is up for a reading symposium on Axel Honneth’s Pathologies of Reason: On the Legacy of Critical Theory. Honneth is a third generation Frankfurt School philosopher. The book is a 2009 English translation of a collection of disparate essays, united in arguing that what brings Frankfurt philosophers around the table together across generations is the conviction that capitalism produces societies that pathologically deform reason.
A year and a half ago I made a list of my top 25 movies. Last week’s selection, The Third Man, came in at #19. A while back I previewed #16, I’m Not There, over at Long Sunday. This week’s pick is #23 Viridiana. Below is the trailer for the movie. You’ll have to ignore the obnoxiousness of the write overs promoting the picture. Viridiana, in my estimation, is as good at cinematic psychoanalysis as the very best of Hitchcock. And since it’s Buñuel, it’s also very much influenced by Marxism. The creative power just shy of pure chaos of my workplace of late has recalled for me the final scenes of this movie. I could have included a clip with the final ten minutes, but I think it best to encounter the sheer radicality of the scene that makes Dan Brown’s take on The Last Supper look like the intellectual fluff that it is only at the end of a viewing of the rest of the film. Catholic sensors were duly scandalized. Though in my view it is hard to find any fault with it in terms of theological orthodoxy. It’s more like one particular bishop’s take on Pasolini’s Matthew - “that’s not what the Gospel of Matthew says!” He then is compelled to read it and winds up saying, “Oh.”
Orson Welles as Harry Lime in The Third Man ad libs an unforgettable line at the end of the following clip. Lime is a killer, a black market medicinal drug dealer in post-War Vienna. He cuts product in for extra profit.
The Burning Plain continues the dazzling run of Mexican New Wave Cinema. It premiered in Paris this past Tuesday and opens in London this coming Friday. Screenwriter and first time director Guillermo Arriaga has garnered a measure of fame for his role as the pen behind Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel (all directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu), and the The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones).
There are a handful of reasons why the movie didn’t appear in time for this year’s Oscar season. Read more »
Cliff and Donna are very good friends of mine and I’ve been helping to connect them with CBC. Full story here. As you can tell by the story and some of the atrocious comments, racism is alive and well here in the true north strong and free. More as the situation develops.
Adam has written to ask if I might post in answer to the titular question here. While the first blush of intrigue was enough to make U.S. news, the resolution apparently didn’t rise to the level of newsworthy stateside (though the NYT did have this bland article on new Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff earlier this week).
The short of it is this: After the elections this past fall, former Liberal leader Stephane Dion announced his resignation as expected. When Conservatives, who received less than 38% of the popular vote nationally, put forward a ridiculously Conservative budget (lots of tax cuts for the wealthy, an attempt to defund the other parties), the Constitutional crisis you heard about came to pass with the three parties to the left of the Conservatives agreeing to form a coalitions. QEII’s rep agreed to suspend, or prorogue, parliament until the New Year when Conservatives could propse a new budget. So, were a month into the 2009 and two big things have meant that the coalition is dead in the water.
First, in a party-elites-only decision, Liberals tapped Ignatieff, who was only ever tepid at best on the coalition, as their new leader. His main competition was his former UoToronto roomate Bob Rae who would have likely won if it had been an all party member decision. Second, Conservatives absolutely loaded the new budget with big public spending projects. MacLean’s cover this week read “The End of Canadian Conservatism: How Harper Sold Out to Save Himself.” Last week Ignatieff agreed to support the Liberal budget so long as they added language requiring quarterly updates to parliament, subject to confidence votes, on how the money from the budget is being spent (the Conservative trick in adding all the public spending to the budget was to make it all subject to so much red tape that many think the money will never actually get spent). So, voila, no more constitutional crisis. Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party, has rightly pointed out that what has happened is an alternative coalition between the Liberals and the Conservatives. Conventional wisdom has it that Ignatieff wants to be Prime Minister on his own right, without coalition partners, and is biding his time to allow Conservatives to take a lot more pounding over the economic crisis before he makes his move.
… where I might have recently seen a quote to the effect that realism is just an idealism of the present, as if things could go on the way they are now indefinitely?
I stumbled across this somewhere in the last month or so; I thought maybe somewhere in the blogs I frequent. But, alas, no dice in finding it. I’ve used the idea a half dozen times or so since I found it and now want to use it in a paper. Just can’t for the life of me remember where I might have seen it.
(Full text at the Toronto Star here)
While Americans have turned to Barack Obama to thoroughly repudiate George W. Bush’s agenda, Canadians are saddled with a Prime Minister and now his potential replacement as well who have both been Bush cheerleaders.
Arguably, the Liberal leader has been even more so than his Conservative counterpart.
As is well-known, Ignatieff supported the war in Iraq, a position he only semi-retreated from last year, in Year 4 of the botched occupation. Even then, he argued that he had been wrong for the right reasons (saving the Kurds from Saddam Hussein), while opponents of the war may have been right for the wrong reasons (ideological opposition to Bush).
He also supported the use of such harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects as sleep deprivation and hooding, even while saying he opposed torture.
He was also an advocate for American exceptionalism in defiance of international law.
Ignatieff’s supporters argue that he was merely thinking aloud as a public intellectual.
That won’t wash. He was an active participant in the American public debate both preceding and following the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was among those liberals – a professor of human rights at Harvard, no less – who provided intellectual cover for Bush’s neo-conservative policies.
Ignatieff’s positions were the exact opposite of where a majority of Canadians stood on issues that are a point of differentiation between Canada and the U.S.
So Canada is the land of socialized medicine, gay marriage as the law of the land, boobs on network television in prime time, and free injection sites in Vancouver. People I know from both sides of the border often assume that means that Canada is more progressive in almost every way. A common exchange in this regard might go something like this:
A: You know, the conservative party has won the last two elections in Canada and as a result has a Prime Minister who has been buddy, buddy with Bush.
B: Yeah, but aren’t Conservatives in Canada, like, somewhere off to the left of Democrats in the U.S.
No, not at all. Conservatives in Canada are basically the same as Conservatives in the U.S., they can just get away with less because the multi-party parliamentary system means they have gained and held on to power with just thirty some percent of the vote. Here’s ten ways Canada is less progressive than the U.S.
Read more »
Why? Because it is fundamentally a narcissistic rather than a political art. It’s primary aim is to figure out why we act, why I, why she or he or Stalin acts in a certain way, makes certain decisions, is overcome by particular outcomes. Its allergy to history prevents it from such thinking. It gathers from too few particulars, develops an overarching theoretical narrative (the oedipal, the four discourses), and seeks to impose that template on stories and histories that cannot be contained within such narrow confines.
Tonight, I made the mistake of watching large chunks of Zizek’s The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema before attempting to fall into a desperately needed sleep. Now it’s past 2:30 in the morning and I’m up writing a diatribe in response to the question recently reposed over at I Cite.
Zizek treats Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, the biopolitical film a better than which cannot possibly be conceived, in passing and with utter ineptitude. Basically Zizek’s sole remark is that the entire film can be summed up and explained by Strangelove’s uncontrolled arm gesture near the end of the movie. Zizek doesn’t attempt to provide such a summation, though anyone with passing familiarity knows what he’s after. But the movie’s brilliance can no more be boxed in by the breakthrough of the real than the bomb’s spread can be stunted by international non-proliferation covenants.
Jodi’s post, in describing Suzanne Barnard’s contribution to the question, suggests that “[w]hat psychoanalysis contributes, then, to biopolitics, is a sense of unproductive, undisciplined bodies spotted by enjoyment … a biopolitics counter to the productive, desiring biopolitical multitude of Hardt and Negri.” This would not be a contribution at all, but rather a developmental regression. Biopolitical analysis begins in the moment when Foucault finds a few critical paragraphs standing on their head in Max Weber’s Sociology of Religion and sets them running on their feet in his dissertation:
But it was felt necessarily to organize charities systematically for those incapable of work, such as orphans and cripples, for the greater glory of God. This notion often resulted in such striking phenomenon as dressing institutionalized orphans in uniforms reminiscent of fools attire and parading them through the streets of Amsterdam to divine services with the greatest possible fanfare … In any case, charity itself became a rationalized enterprise, and its religious significance was therefore eliminated or even transformed into the opposite significance.
It was Foucault’s anti-psychoanalytic investigations into unproductive, undisciplined bodies from Madness and Civilization to The History of Sexuality p. 1 and Society Must Be Defended that resulted in the very coining of the term biopolitical. What Hardt and Negri are up to with their version of the biopolitical can only be understood against the background of the Deleuzian transfer of the term and Negri’s background in the refusal to work of autonomia. Now, when I raise that suggestion in the comments over at I Cite along with the question of history, Sinthome thinks I’m on to something. He, however, has written an article on this for a forthcoming issue of Zizek Studies, and insists that something is missing in biopolitical analysis that only Lacanian theory can provide. Without quoting Sinthome at length, he thinks several things, including that for Foucault “the subject is an *effect* of these mechanisms of biopower, a fold of power inward, rather than the perpetual failure of biopolitical closure.”
I simply don’t read Foucault that way. I think the mistake in Jodi/Suzanne Barnard and Sinthome’s thinking is to assume a reading of Foucault that thinks of the biopolitical as a totality that is always already immediate and prior to the formation of the subject. This is simply not possible according to Foucault’s historical methodology. While he may have seen the result of the historical process as leading to a totalizing monstrosity that produced docile bodies, he most certainly held out hope for ‘a perpetual failure of biopolitical closure’ (perhaps better, since he saw the Nazis and the nuclear situation as a kind of ultimate biopolitical closure, for a resistant remainder), in the dandy, the pervert, the Iranian Revolution, and in his version of the Enlightened Kantian individual.
The problem is that biopolitical discourse grew out of two specifically anti-Lacanian figures – Foucault and Deleuze. It has now been taken in a dozen or more different directions, and I’m not sure any of them are any kind of improvement on Foucault, though they may have contributed certain lesser felicities to the overall project. If any of them are an improvement, in my view, it could only possibly be Hardt and Negri’s, though as far as I am aware no one has quite filled in the gaps between what they are doing with biopower and Foucault’s analysis. At this point, I’m only willing to say that a post-nationalist, reMarxized version of the biopolitical which gives it a positive spin may be a possible way forward that fully takes into account the splendor of Foucault. Other versions of biopower with which I am familiar to date, either just don’t get Foucault (I included Agamben here, though he may just be intentionally ignoring him), or they get him, but don’t seem to me to offer anything like a radical advance (discard has pointed me to Mario Lazzarato, whom I think fits into this category).
The sad thing is that the term biopolitical has become so plastic that it is now almost meaninglessly passe. A partisan, Foucauldian ‘review of the literature essay’ is most definitely in order.