Monday, November 15, 2010

Unintended consequences of Maoism

‌‌Zizek is an outgrowth of a reactionary anti-Marxist and anti-materialist tradition that descends from the irrationalism of Schelling, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Heidegger. He eclectically draws on the neo-Nietzschean and neo-Heideggerian thought of 1960s French post-structuralism, having adopted the ideas of its leading intellectuals—especially the post-Heideggerian psychoanalysis of Jacques Lacan—when he was a graduate student…
Besides irrationalism, post-structuralism and psychoanalysis, a more recent influence on ‌‌Zizek has been the septuagenarian French philosopher Alain Badiou, an admirer of Mao, who advocates the petty-bourgeois concept of “politics without party” and maintains the voluntarist notion that “we must go from politics to economy and never from economy to politics.”[1]
‌‌Zizek has expressed similar-sounding ideas and also adopts Badiou’s mystical concept of the Event—a self-relating and self-inclusive phenomenon that appears to those who see themselves in its call, as it is characterized in ‌‌Zizek’s The Parallax View (2009).[2] …
That a charlatan and anti-Marxist like ‌‌Zizek is promoted as an important philosopher by a whole range of ex-radicals is a troubling symptom of the deep intellectual and political disorientation of this social milieu.
Curiously the Maoists had missed out on 1968 itself. Blinded by dogmatism, they assumed that an event led by students could not be serious…
There are no Maoists left now except for the unrepentant – but now bizarrely fashionable – philosopher Alain Badiou, who is still willing to defend the Khmer Rouge with Mao's chilling comment "the revolution is not a dinner party". But Wolin's book is not just about a strange few years of political folly. He argues that by a process of unintended consequences Maoism allowed a generation of French political activists to rediscover the language of human rights. This is not a totally original argument, but Wolin expounds it effectively. The Maoists might live with "China in our heads", as the saying went, but their political activism also caused them to explore what French society was really like.
Following Mao's dictum that "one must get down from the horse in order to pluck the flower", many idealistic young Maoist radicals went to work in factories. In the same spirit Foucault helped to found the Prison Information Group (GIP) to investigate and denounce the conditions in French prisons. This experience led him to substitute Sartre's idea of the all-knowing "universal" intellectual with that of the "specific" intellectual who comments only on concrete cases that he knows about. In another curious twist of history, it was through a Maoist-influenced group called Vive la Révolution that homosexual liberation first entered French radical politics in 1971.
For Wolin, then, if France is today less authoritarian than it once was, with a more active associative life where many people are engaged in causes such as the defence of sans-papiers – illegal immigrants – that is one of the legacies of the strange Maoist moment. If that's true, no wonder Sarkozy dislikes May '68 so much. Julian Jackson's books include France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944(Oxford).
Religions decline and proliferate Jakarta Post - Amika Wardana - Nov 11, 2010
It has been three decades since the secularization thesis predicted religion's role would decline in human sociopolitical life.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

How values shape human progress

Good Topic - Falls Short of Aim, August 6, 2010 By  Doug Norton See all my reviews This review is from: Moral Markets: The Critical Role of Values in the Economy
Economists gravitate toward explanation by incentives; but, values also constitute motivations for action. The premise of this book was to investigate the values-based explanations and demonstrate the "Critical Role of Values in the Economy". Sadly, if that was the aim of this book it was a disappointment. While the diversity of disciplines provides alternative perspective on values (their transmission, acceptance, evolutionary basis) the feel of the whole book is disjointed. There were, however, a few bright spots amidst several misguided articles. The particulars of the basis for my critique are below, but, overall I would still recommend the book as a first cut at a discussion about morality and markets. […]
This book on "the critical role of values" pursues only evolutionary explanations of values and disregards the role of religion in values formation. Sometimes this disregard is not merely from absence but is rather flippant. For example, Goodenough writes, "Where does the capacity for such internal commitments come from? Some look to religion, and indeed a divine, designing power would have good reason as a matter of mechanism design to put such a capacity into humans, a gift as essential to their eventual well-being as sight and locomotion. But such a divine gift is not the province of science; we rely on that wonderful mechanism for bootsrapping adaptive design: evolution." Not a peep about religion and the formation of values. What makes this more interesting is that this project was funded by the Templeton Foundation! […]
There is a sense that some of the authors begrudgingly admit that markets are overall a "good thing". This is captured well in Charles Handy's final chapter ". . . the urgent question now is how best to retain the energy produced by the old model without its flaws."
The authors are willing to admit that capitalism provides a dynamic environment in which innovation is allowed with greater incentive, but, they seem reluctant to embrace the outcomes of capitalism. One might think that the authors would say, "Yes, indeed we are reluctant to embrace capitalism ---look at all the cowboys out there screwing everything up!" (this book was being written in the midst of all the financial scandals). But, what is the alternative? More regulation?
The reliance of government would present plenty of public choice problems. Then, we must point to the importance of values in the political process! The critique is meant to elucidate the fact that human beings are flawed people and since humans comprise government, business, and other organizational structures those same problems will persist in all contexts unless values are strong.