Below is the preface to Hindi edition of the book, The Nights Labor: the workers’ dream in 19th century France. It is written by Jacques Ranciere.
Here’s an excerpt (the entire preface follows below):
… [The] idea of time always places a hierarchy upon beings and objects.
…For me, this belief legitimizes the knowledge that decrees what is important and what is not, what makes or does not make history. It is thus that the social sciences have declared that these little stories of workers taking an afternoon walk, or straying far from the solid realities of the factory and the organized struggle, have no historical importance. In doing so they confirm the social order, which has always been built on the simple idea that the vocation of workers is to work – and to struggle – good progressive souls add – and that they have no time to lose in wandering, writing or thinking.
Guy Debord is a French philosopher, filmmaker, and author who died at the end of the 20th century. Debord is perhaps best known for his theory on a society of spectacle, “a social relation between people that is mediated by images.”
Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, in their book ‘Empire’, describe Debord’s theory of the spectacle as “an integrated and diffuse apparatus of images and ideas that produces and regulates public discourse and opinion. In the society of spectacle, what was once imagined as the public sphere, the open terrain of political exchange and participation, completely evaporates. The spectacle destroys any collective form of sociability – individualizing social actors in their separate automobiles and in front of separate video screens – and at the same time imposes a new mass sociability, a new uniformity of action and thought.”
Below is a film by Debord based on his book ‘Society of the Spectacle’. The film is in French, with English subtitles.
The ebook in HTML format of Italian political philosopher Antonio Negri’s ‘The Savage Anomaly: The Power of Spinoza’s Metaphysics and Politics.’
Read it here.
This is a video of a lecture by the philosopher Manuel DeLanda, discussing politics and power, economics, and military discipline. He ties these three subjects together in a concise and well referenced thesis reinterpreting economic history. DeLanda stresses the importance of abandoning a binary logic of political study in recognition of the heterogeneous nature of socio-political networks.
There is a clear correlation here with Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari‘s theory of rhizomatic assemblage (see the book A Thousand Plateaus), as well as Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri‘s interpretation of political power through the interrelated network of the multitude (see the book Empire). DeLanda introduces the subject by quoting from Fernand Braudel‘s ‘History of Economic Systems’ to support his argument. The lecture brings together the theories of diverse historians, economists, and political philosophers in an attempt to reframe our understanding of political history and economic power.
DeLanda states that a unitary understanding of economics, such as seeing capitalism as a homogeneous system is simplistic and faulty. He presents the works of some institutional economists, such as John Kenneth Galbraith, as sometimes more discerning, and he explains that we must realize that the market and capitalism are not one and the same. He argues that a multiplicity of economic systems have coexisted within European and Western history, and that it is not useful to view economic history as a migration from one homogeneous system to the next (such as from feudalism all the way to monopoly capitalism).
Furthermore, DeLanda explains the impact of military discipline on contemporary industrial and economic discipline. As an example, he states that management science taught in business schools is an extension and translation of earlier theories from military operations research.
Here are some related readings to learn more about the subject:
Manuel DeLanda, ‘A new philosophy of society‘
Fernand Braudel, ‘On History‘
Fernand Braudel, ‘Civilization & Capitalism: 15th-18th Century‘
Fernand Braudel, ‘The Mediterranean: Volume II‘
Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, ‘A Thousand Plateaus’
Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, ‘Empire’
Michel Foucault, ‘Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison‘
Immanuel Wallerstein, ‘Time and Duration: The Unexcluded Middle‘
Thorstein Veblen, ‘Conspicuous Consumption‘
There has got to be more to reconstruction than war.
Since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, the focus often drifts to the ongoing fighting, the continued war, the minute military failures and successes of the Afghan security forces, the US, ISAF-NATO, and the Taliban. A state, and an economy cannot be constructed out of, or sustained within a policy framework that is monopolized by an interest in military strategy. Economies are built on the backs of tax laws, property laws, and national infrastructure. A people’s health is tied to education, to sanitation, and clean water. Security is also tied to this: a person who is happily employed, is well nourished, has not suffered the trauma of political imprisonment, or witnessed the violent death of loved ones is certainly less likely to raise a hand against the government.
Assistance in state building has been a prominent component of US action in Afghanistan, though a relatively underfunded one. Knowing that economic development priorities are vital to the social and political stability of Afghanistan, it’s important to examine the American efforts in this dimension as at least of equal value to that of combat strategy.
Ann Jones’ investigation into US reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan is a clear warning of policy failure. The aid programmes appear to be mismanaged at best, and in great part infected by deep corruption. Corporate profiteering has become the prime motive behind much of the development efforts while Afghanistan itself suffers from the loss of continued war and deprivation.
From Ann Jones’ article, The Afghan Scam, published at TomDispatch:
Take one pertinent example. When the inspectors general of the Pentagon and State Department investigated the U.S. program to train the Afghan police in 2006, they found the number of men trained (about 30,000) to be less than half the number reported by the administration (70,000). The training had lasted eight weeks at most, with no in-the-field experience whatsoever. Only about half the equipment assigned to the police — including thousands of trucks — could be accounted for, and the men trained were then deemed “incapable of carrying out routine law enforcement work.”
The American privateer training the police — DynCorp — went on to win no-bid contracts to train police in Iraq with similar results. The total bill for American taxpayers from 2004 to 2006: $1.6 billion. It’s unclear whether that money came from the military or the development budget, but in either case it was wasted. The inspectors general reported that police incompetence contributed directly to increased opium production, the reinvigoration of the Taliban, and government corruption in general, thoroughly subverting much ballyhooed U.S. goals, both military and political.
…There are other peculiar features of American development aid. Nearly half of it (47%) goes to support “technical assistance.” Translated, that means overpaid American “experts,” often totally unqualified — somebody’s good old college buddies — are paid handsomely to advise the locals on matters ranging from office procedures to pesticide use, even when the Afghans neither request nor welcome such advice. By contrast, the universally admired aid programs of Sweden and Ireland allocate only 4% and 2% respectively to such technical assistance, and when asked, they send real experts. American technical advisors, like American privateers, are paid by checks — big ones — that pass directly from the federal treasury to private accounts in American banks, thus helping to insure that about 86 cents of every dollar designated for U.S. “foreign” aid anywhere in the world never leaves the U.S.A.
Ann Jones was in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2006 as an aid worker, and has written, Kabul in Winter, a book on many of her findings.
Barnett R. Rubin, an expert on modern Afghanistan, has in his studies revealed that Afghanistan’s central governments have had a long relationship with foreign aid. He argues that, over the decades, foreign aid has distorted the country’s politics and has served as a disincentive in building a broad consensus between its peoples. This is because the central government of the day can supply a significant portion of its revenues from foreign sources, bypassing the immediate need for domestic reforms and the elements of power sharing required to legitimate the government’s rule. In modern history, foreign backers have become a vital part of the government’s ability to survive, sometimes surpassing the very need for broad national support. This not only reduces the need for domestic reform, erodes the government’s legitimacy in the eyes of its people, but also makes the state dependent on foreign powers for its economic and political security. Rubin claims that this long-term dependence on foreign aid threatens to reduce the country’s central government to the status of a client or rentier.
Rubin writes in his book, The Fragmentation of Afghanistan:
Afghanistan became a weak rentier or allocation state. From 1958 to 1968 and again in the 1970s the state financed over 40 percent of its expenditures from “revenue accruing directly from abroad,” including both foreign aid and sales of natural gas to the USSR. Unlike oil states, however, which can control their sales volume (though not price), Afghanistan had no control over foreign aid, which declined sharply after 1966, causing a state financial crisis.(Barnett R. Rubin. The Fragmentation of Afghanistan, Yale University Press, 2002, p. 65)
Britain’s Lord Salisbury wrote the following to Sir Henry Layard on 25 of June 1878:
In a scheme of reform, I believe your attention will be far more usefully directed to person than to paper institutions. Good officers, well selected for a length of time, will create suitable traditions of administration which will gradually harden into institutions, and, made this way, reformed institutions will regenerate people. But if they are merely written in a pretentious law, they will have no effect but to disturb the few traditions that are left and to give perpetual subject-matter for diplomatic wrangling.
BOOK REVIEW : Asia’s awesome threesome – Rivals by Bill Emmott. Any friendship between China, India, and Japan is a facade, argues Bill Emmott in his new book on the inter-state rivalry and its consequences for the world. Asia’s “Big Three” are prone to suspicions and jealousies due to their highly competitive and strategic environment and this has led to a complex “new Asian drama”. Emmott’s yen for futurology yields interesting speculations but his premise of a is illogical and bypasses the impact of Russo-American tensions. (Sreeram Chaulia, Asia Times)
India’s perch ruffles China’s feathers. After 43 years, India has re-opened an airfield, the highest-altitude air base in the world, that overlooks China’s Xinjiang province and the Karakoram Highway to Pakistan. Delhi says the move is in response to Chinese incursions, and should be seen as a clear sign that it is fed up with being bullied on the Sino-Indian border. (Sudha Ramachandran, Asia Times)
Japan Seeks to Outbid China in Quest for African Support. Two reports follow on the vast, and vastly expensive, Tokyo International Conference on African Development designed to showcase Japan’s aid to Africa. The conference, held in Yokohama with the presence of 51 of 53 African nations, was attended by 40 Presidents of African nations. The first report by Ramesh Jaura concentrates on the proposed Japanese aid package, as Japan proposes to double both trade and investment in Africa within five years. The second report by the Yomiuri Shimbun’s Kawakami Osamu highlights the real stakes for Japan: the effort to outbid China whose burgeoning trade, investment and presence in Africa is a cause of Japanese, and the continued pursuit of the chimera of a Japanese UN security council seat. Neither report mentions either oil and energy or military strategic issues. (Ramesh Jaura and Kawakami Osamu, Japan Focus)
China’s Thirst for Oil. China’s need for energy is growing faster than any other country’s. Record economic growth results in demand that outstrips domestic supply, leading Beijing to look outward to ensure growth and stability. Concerns about the global oil market have led state firms to buy stakes around the world, often in countries shunned by Western firms. The investments are an important factor in Beijing’s foreign policy. They also drive concerns that China’s actions fuel or exacerbate conflict in the developing world and cause tensions with other major oil-importing countries as it locks up energy resources. (International Crisis Group)
Lloyd A. Wells reviews Carla Yanni’s book, The Architecture of Madness. Below is an excerpt from metapsychology:
Yanni is an architect who has written this book about the architecture of hospitals for the mentally ill. It is a topic which was widely treated in the psychiatric literature of the nineteenth century but which is more quiescent now.
She basically discusses four topics in the 160 pages of text, starting with a consideration of the linkage between moral treatment, a major theme in the psychiatry of the late eighteenth and entire nineteenth century, and the architecture required to conduct it. Pinel, the founder of moral treatment, asserted that insanity was treatable and that the mentally ill should be able to walk the beautiful grounds of the Salpetriere. Tuke, in England, had good results with such a model. She then considers the influence of Dr. Thomas Kirkbride, who had very specific ideas about the structure of asylums — ideas which were greatly respected and implemented throughout the United States and to some extent in Europe. Hospitals based on these models had beautiful grounds and a structure of pavilions, connected to each other and arranged in a “V” shape. Kirkbride believed that 90% of the mentally ill were curable. Soon, however, Tuke’s model of 30 patients in an asylum was converted to 600 patients, and then more — often thousands, which placed a strain on both the treatment and the architecture!. Yanni then considers an opposing plan which developed a bit later, the “cottage” plan, in which there were multiple, smaller buildings. Butler and Olmsted were advocates of this approach. Finally she considers various architectural styles of hospitals which developed after the Civil War, ranging from the “hospital architecture” style of Johns Hopkins to styles which appeared like colleges, to a rather motley array of buildings adapted for use as hospitals for the mentally ill. In the era of miasma theory, there was much discussion of cross-ventilation as a desideratum. She concludes with four fascinating appendices on terminology, the occupations of patients in 1850, the construction costs of many of the hospitals, and the sizes of these hospitals between 1770 and 1872.
The author examines the relationship between architecture and treatment in psychiatric hospitals over several centuries.
Edward Skidelsky writes in Prospect:
For 60 years, Nicholas Mosley has written novels that are widely admired but not always understood. Rejecting realism, his work addresses symbolic truths—notably the idea that good and evil are inseparable. It’s an approach that has put him at odds with the literary establishment.
Virginia Rounding reviews Chris Bellamy’s book, Absolute War. Below is an excerpt from The Independent:
Chris Bellamy’s aim in Absolute War is to provide “in one volume, a modern history of the greatest and most hideous land-air conflict in history”: that between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia on the eastern front of the Second World War between 1941 and 1945. His volume is, unsurprisingly, a large one, as is his achievement with this tour de force.
Making use of a massive amount of archival information which has become available since the break-up of the Soviet Union, Bellamy re-examines many old certainties – or myths – about the Great Patriotic War, as the Russians call it. He is also able to present many details previously concealed, most notably the staggering levels of Soviet casualties. Absolute War is full of such details – of facts, figures, maps and plans – but is also eminently readable.
One of the myths Bellamy is keen to dispel is that Stalin was completely unprepared for the German invasion, Operation Barbarossa, of June 1941, despite having received ample warning, and that he fell to pieces when it happened. Krushchev was behind the latter allegation, which new evidence shows to be completely false. Far from collapsing and hiding away, Stalin held 29 meetings with his senior officials in the course of the next day and managed with even less sleep than usual. As for his lack of preparedness, Bellamy demonstrates that the truth is more complicated and subtle than previously thought.
Stalin knew quite well that Hitler was no real friend and would one day attack the Soviet Union. His mistake was not to realise how soon the attack would come. The Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact of August 1939 had represented a playing for time. Stalin knew as well as anyone – having largely created the situation through his purges of top personnel – that the Soviet fighting forces were not ready for a major war effort.
Erich von Dietze reviews Steven D. Hales’s book, Relativism and the Foundations of Philosophy. Below is an excerpt available in metapsychology:
his book is a dense and carefully argued defense of relativism. I had once thought that I had sorted out my views on relativism but this book has made me think again, and much more carefully.
The introduction gives a guide to the shape of the overall argument. Without this overview in mind, it would be easy to become sidetracked at various points.
It must be underscored that Hales is defending a very specific sense of relativism, namely that “philosophical propositions are true in some perspectives and false in others” (p.1-2). This is not the form in which arguments about relativism are commonly written. Hales’ position depends on a theory of intuition. He contends that philosophers have long founded their arguments on various forms of intuition (p.13-14) but the notion of intuition itself remains philosophically unclear at best. He suggests that there seem to be two sorts of intuition “One kind of intuition is scientific or physical intuition, and the other is philosophical or rational intuition” (p.12). Physical intuition is a hunch, based on experience, about how we think the world works. Physical intuition can (potentially) be verified or falsified by future experiences. Philosophical intuition is more about ‘thought experiments’ which challenge or progress our thinking. This tradition largely has its origins in Descartes, but its genesis can be traced back to the ancient Greek philosophers. Based on Descartes conception, Hales states:
1) Intuition is of propositions
2) The propositions known through intuition are necessary truths
3) Intuitive knowledge is foundational
4) Intuitive knowledge is indubitable” (p.15)