Saturday, December 3, 2011

Two Philosophy Books of Interest

Just finished reading two brief philosophy books:

Towards A New Manifesto by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer (Verso, 2011)and One-Dimensional Woman by Nina Power (Zero Books, 2009).

A New Manifesto is, as one of its blurbs has it, "A philosophical jam session." It's comprised of transcripts of exchanges between Adorno and Horkheimer in 1953 as they attempted to formulate something akin to a new Communist Manifesto. They're trying out ideas, thinking out loud.

This sort of thing is really in my sweet spot. I love exchanges that are based in true inquiry and aren't about position or besting someone. This passage was of particular interest to me:

Adorno: Philosophy exists in order to redeem what you see in the look of an animal. If you feel that an idea is supposed to serve a practical purpose, it slithers into the dialectic. If, on the other hand, your thought succeeds in doing the thing justice, then you cannot also assert the opposite. The mark of authenticity of a thought is that it negates the immediate presence of one's own interests. True thought is thought that has no wish to insist on being in the right.

One-Dimensional Woman is philosophically based cultural criticism at its best. This passage needs quoting:

The jokey male hypothetiical question to lesbians ('don't you spend all day playing with your breasts?') has literally come true. They are 'assets' in the physical and economic senses simultaneously and as much use as possible is to be extracted from them -- their role in breastfeeding is perversely secondary to their primary function as secondary sexual characteristics.

What the autonomous breasts and the concommitant becoming-CV of the human means is that the language of objectification may not be useful any longer, as there is no (or virtually no) subjective dimension left to be colonized. The language of objectification demands on a minimal subjective difference, what Badiou quaintly identified in the realm of personal relations as 'the intangible female right ... to only have to get undressed in front of the person of her choosing.' In the realm of work we could call this the right not to have to lay bare one's entire personality and private life. In effect, this is what the world of work increasingly demands --that one is always contactable (by email, by phone), that one is always an 'ambassador' for the firm (don't write anything about your job on your blog), that there is no longer any separation between the private realm and the working day (Facebook amalgamates friends and colleagues alike). The personal is no longer just political, it's economic through and through.

I'm struck over and over again by how fucking much I don't know. But I do know this:
if we can't as human beings find a way toward something like concern for the others we don't know, then we, ultimately, have no regard for ourselves. Think critically. Act on the behalf of others. Try to love one another (right now).

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