I don’t know, a lot and yet nothing going on. I think the only thing I really have to say at the moment is that I’m sort of over lush reds for the time being, which basically puts me completely off the new world. I guess it was inevitable.
Something reminded me recently of how annoying I find the “information science” definition of ontology. For one thing, there is already a word (taxonomy) for this process of putting everything in order, and furthermore it’s a word that describes an epistemological process, so ontology don’t really enter into it. During my grumbling, however, I remembered that people would abuse “ontology” in a similar way at Hampshire to describe a theorist or philosopher’s overall understanding of the universe. The point of this coinage was basically to avoid attributing a cosmology (which was what people meant when they used the word in this way) to thinkers who were too contemporary for such tomfoolery. This made the whole thing feel a bit whimsical, so now I don’t mind the abuse of language as much.
(Here’s what does still annoy me: in computer terms, “synchronous” and “asynchronous” mean the exact opposite of what they do in real life.)
I’m pretty sure that The Human Condition is about the reasons that modern people aren’t as fulfilled as the ancient Greeks, but what I am absolutely sure about is that it’s a big fat apologetic for slavery. I read the “Labor” chapter which basically ends up concluding that working people are a bunch of disgusting cretins.
A hundred years after Marx we know the fallacy of this reasoning; the spare time of the animal laborans is never spent in anything but consumption, and the more time left to him, the greedier and more craving hist appetites.
Along the way, Arendt claims that Marx
predicted correctly, though with an unjustified glee, “the withering away” of the public realm under conditions of unhampered development of the “productive forces of society,” and he was equally right, that is, consistent with his conception of man as an animal laborans, when he foresaw “socialized men” would spend their freedom frmo laboring in those strictly private and essentially worldless activities what we now call “hobbies.”
and then, as if it supports her position, she quotes the passage from The German Ideology in which Marx claims that people in a socialist society would be free to
Do this today and that tomorrow, who hunt in the morning, go fishing in the afternoon, raise cattle in the evening, are critics after dinner, as they see fit, without for that matter ever becoming hunters, fisherman, shephards or critics.
(N.b.: Not sure what’s going on w/ the plurals there; in My Tucker Marx-Engels Reader all of the professions in the last sentence are singular, but whatever.)
Now the first problem here is that Marx does not, with of without glee, predict the withering away of the public realm. Instead, the final accomplishment of socialism is the withering away of the state. In a society free from oppression there would no longer be a need for an external apparatus the regulate behavior. The goal then is human interaction with fewer sources of mediation and regulation.
Reading through The Human Condition it’s hard to escape the conclusion that this conflation is based entirely on contempt for working people. It takes a pretty strong sense of indifference to the needs of those whose pants aren’t as fancy as one’s own to think that we live in a laborer’s society and that the mechanisms used by the people who live off of the sweat and blood of the animal laborans to keep their subjects in the dark are somehow an indictment of the character of those subjects. Like the Helenes she clearly idolizes, she assumes that someone’s status as a laborer allows her to understand their essence completely, and condemn them without qualms to serving her so that she might contribute to the public realm rather than soiling her own hands taking care of herself.
I made some vague allusions to reading only “the musicology,” but in truth I only read the infamous “Perennial Fashion — Jazz” essay. Luckily, this was not out of laziness, but because I found it more intriguing than I remember it being. This is not to say that it isn’t still hilarious (because boy howdy), but there is something interesting to it.
The upshot of the piece is that jazz is quite shit, and also boring and repetitive. For the most part, he seems to be talking about commercial/big band jazz which, to be fair, is awful and banal. Still there is a lot of snobbery at work here, and Adorno is always talking about “real music” and the degree to which jazz isn’t it. To give you a little context that may explain what he means by that, I’m pretty sure that Adorno would have called Schoenberg the greatest musician of all time. Take that how you will.
So aside from simple snobbery, Adorno is concerned with letting you know that enjoying a commercial product in a non-critical way makes you prone to fascistic thought. There’s a lot of stuff about how dancing to syncopated rhythms is one (dance) step away from marching at a rally. It is tempting to greet this with a facepalm, but he presumably had musical numbers in films in mind when he wrote this, and it’s hard to say that there is nothing there. Further, Adorno makes much of a commercial product’s ongoing effort to efface history in order to present recycling as innovation.
Also, the article ends comparing the victims of commercial culture to “one of those Russians, accused of a crime, and who, although innocent, collaborates with the prosecutor from the beginning and is incapable of finding a punishment severe enough.” Presumably this is a reference to Bukharin, who will be making at least one appearance later in this process.