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Thread: Questions for CJ

  1. #21
    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    What are your thoughts on Foucault's works, and how do they stack up with the likes of Castoriadis?
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

  2. #22
    Administrator RevForum Administrator CornetJoyce's Avatar
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    I probably had a few complaints about his Order of Things and the Archeology of Knowledge but I thought they were admirable works. I found his book on torture and execution more confirming than instructive.

    I thought of him as interesting but not terribly important- a man of the Left in search of a Left to be a man of- and was somewhat surprised by his elevation to the post of master thinker, in whose hands the postmodern displaced the modern and the postLeft displaced the Left. Castoriadis more or less sums up my own evaluation of postmodernity:
    >
    The value of postmodernism as "theory"is that it mirrors the prevailing trends. Its misery is that it simply rationalizes them through a high-brow apologetics of conformity and banality. Complacently mixed up with loose but fashionable thought about "pluralism" and "respect for the difference of the other," it ends up glorifying eclecticism, covering up sterility, and providing a generalized version of the "anything goes" principle...

    Postmodernism, the ideology adorning them with a "solemn complement of justification," is the latest case of intellectuals abandoning their critical function and enthusiastically adhering to that which is there just because it is there.

    >
    Einstein on marxology:
    "In the realm of the seekers after truth there is no human authority.
    Whoever attempts to play the magistrate there founders on the laughter of the Gods."

  3. #23
    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Have you read his Lectures at the College de France? In my view that contains some of the most interesting stuff he's written/said.

    I generally agree with your estimation of the works you've mentioned, but I find that description of postmodernism, while probably necessary at the time as a 'counterweight', to be too loose in today's world, wherein the term has lost all meaning that it never really had to begin with (except as a stand-in for 'relativism and things I dislike relating to it'). I don't believe any of that description accurately reflects all or even much of Foucault's work (his notion of episteme serves the same function as Castoriadis' notion of the imaginary serving as an 'underlying rational principle'), Habermas' claims to the contrary notwithstanding. Incidentally, if we go by that kind of a definition of postmodernism and Habermas' standards, Castoriadis was one too.
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

  4. #24
    Administrator RevForum Administrator CornetJoyce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amoeba View Post
    I find that description of postmodernism, while probably necessary at the time as a 'counterweight', to be too loose in today's world, wherein the term has lost all meaning that it never really had to begin with (except as a stand-in for 'relativism and things I dislike relating to it').
    The world changes over a generation but I regularly bump into the same comments on postmodernism that Castoriadis made when it was new. Chomsky has been known to grumble about it, and about Foucault.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjQA0e0UYzI


    Quote Originally Posted by Amoeba View Post
    I don't believe any of that description accurately reflects all or even much of Foucault's work (his notion of episteme serves the same function as Castoriadis' notion of the imaginary serving as an 'underlying rational principle'), Habermas' claims to the contrary notwithstanding. Incidentally, if we go by that kind of a definition of postmodernism and Habermas' standards, Castoriadis was one too.
    I don't go by Habermas' standards but I agree that the Foucaultian episteme and Castoriadian imaginary are at least related if not identical. For Castoriadis, though, the "point" was autonomy.

    I haven't read Zamora's book but it seems to be close to my view of Foucault's politics.
    https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/12/foucault-interview/
    Einstein on marxology:
    "In the realm of the seekers after truth there is no human authority.
    Whoever attempts to play the magistrate there founders on the laughter of the Gods."

  5. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by CornetJoyce View Post
    The world changes over a generation but I regularly bump into the same comments on postmodernism that Castoriadis made when it was new. Chomsky has been known to grumble about it, and about Foucault.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjQA0e0UYzI
    Chomsky is an avowed analytic philosopher who'd likely say the same if not worse about Castoriadis if he were familiar with him and his work, if only based on his use of certain concepts/language.

    The whole Sokal reaction to postmodernism was a in my view necessary phenomenon of the 90s and early 2000s to counter the absurd excesses of continental theorizing that's now mostly relegated to irrelevant segments of academia that no one serious takes seriously. Now that kind of framing has become a conservative trope used by analytic types to dismiss any kind of theorizing that goes beyond the banalities they spew, which is just as abstract and error-prone except its covered up with boring 'matter of fact' prose mixed in with natural sciences jargon.

    I don't go by Habermas' standards but I agree that the Foucaultian episteme and Castoriadian imaginary are at least related if not identical. For Castoriadis, though, the "point" was autonomy.
    I wouldn't entirely dismiss the interpretation that autonomy was the point for Foucault too, as comes through pretty clearly in some of the lectures. He's certainly more pessimistic about the possibility of it being realized, though.

    I haven't read Zamora's book but it seems to be close to my view of Foucault's politics.
    https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/12/foucault-interview/
    I haven't read his book either, but if his various articles on Foucault are anything to go by it seems like the cliched hard left critique of him that was already uttered shortly after he shot to 'intellectual stardom' in the 70s, only a cheap version of it as it's produced by a lesser intellect than the likes of Baudrillard, Rodinson (PDF), and a host of others where it concerns the topic of neoliberalism specifically.

    It's a nice way to make a career for yourself among the hard left crowd though. Bashing the specter of 'postmodernism' Sokal-style and pointing out the sins of the likes of Foucault is an excellent move if that's the market you're trying to break into, which he assuredly is as a boring analytic-type sociologist PhD candidate.

    Another clue, Chibber recommends the book highly and gave it a blurb. Chibber, the hard left crusader against 'postmodernism' made flesh. Chibber, whose views are an embarrassingly shallow repetition of some sketches Engels wrote in one of his notebooks.
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

  6. #26
    Administrator RevForum Administrator CornetJoyce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amoeba View Post
    Chomsky is an avowed analytic philosopher who'd likely say the same if not worse about Castoriadis if he were familiar with him and his work, if only based on his use of certain concepts/language.
    As you know, Lacan and Castoriadis were allies who split, but the latter continued to regard psychotherapy as an augmentation of Aristotelian paideia. and subsequently became a therapist himself. In those days, the Freudian Left occupied an enormous space on the Left.
    I would guess that Chomsky is not the psychotherapeutic type, and neither am I. Nor does Chomsky willingly endure Foucault's opaque theorizing, and neither do I.

    Quote Originally Posted by Amoeba View Post
    The whole Sokal reaction to postmodernism was a in my view necessary phenomenon of the 90s and early 2000s to counter the absurd excesses of continental theorizing that's now mostly relegated to irrelevant segments of academia that no one serious takes seriously. Now that kind of framing has become a conservative trope used by analytic types to dismiss any kind of theorizing that goes beyond the banalities they spew, which is just as abstract and error-prone except its covered up with boring 'matter of fact' prose mixed in with natural sciences jargon.
    The heady, expansive days of postmodernity have passed away and have settled into routine, but Sokal hides in the bushes, prepared to dispense justice to postmodern evildoers.

    Quote Originally Posted by Amoeba View Post
    I wouldn't entirely dismiss the interpretation that autonomy was the point for Foucault too, as comes through pretty clearly in some of the lectures. He's certainly more pessimistic about the possibility of it being realized, though.
    As 1968 receded into memory, Castoriadis is said to have lost his optimism as well.


    Quote Originally Posted by Amoeba View Post
    I haven't read his book either, but if his various articles on Foucault are anything to go by it seems like the cliched hard left critique of him that was already uttered shortly after he shot to 'intellectual stardom' in the 70s, only a cheap version of it as it's produced by a lesser intellect than the likes of Baudrillard, Rodinson (PDF), and a host of others where it concerns the topic of neoliberalism specifically.
    I am unacquainted with Zamora but I gathered from the locus of publication that he's a holdover from the comintern. That doesn't bother me at all.
    He reminds us that Foucault favored Friedman's negative income tax proposal, which we have discussed a bit on the forum. He sees that proposed redistribution of income as a move to do away with the welfare state, which is exactly how Friedman (and Nixon) framed it. The tax mechanism, however, could have been effected without touching the welfare state. In my view, the Left should have tried to keep that idea alive.


    Quote Originally Posted by Amoeba View Post
    It's a nice way to make a career for yourself among the hard left crowd though. Bashing the specter of 'postmodernism' Sokal-style and pointing out the sins of the likes of Foucault is an excellent move if that's the market you're trying to break into, which he assuredly is as a boring analytic-type sociologist PhD candidate.
    I am reminded of Phillips' retort at being accused of "ambition."
    "I assure you that ambition chooses a smoother path then Abolition."
    Einstein on marxology:
    "In the realm of the seekers after truth there is no human authority.
    Whoever attempts to play the magistrate there founders on the laughter of the Gods."

  7. #27
    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CornetJoyce View Post
    As you know, Lacan and Castoriadis were allies who split, but the latter continued to regard psychotherapy as an augmentation of Aristotelian paideia. and subsequently became a therapist himself. In those days, the Freudian Left occupied an enormous space on the Left.
    I would guess that Chomsky is not the psychotherapeutic type, and neither am I. Nor does Chomsky willingly endure Foucault's opaque theorizing, and neither do I.
    Chomsky doesn't endure any opaque theorizing, particularly if they're of a Marxian flavor, and his threshold for considering something so is such that Castoriadis would pass it with flying colors.

    He reminds us that Foucault favored Friedman's negative income tax proposal, which we have discussed a bit on the forum. He sees that proposed redistribution of income as a move to do away with the welfare state, which is exactly how Friedman (and Nixon) framed it. The tax mechanism, however, could have been effected without touching the welfare state. In my view, the Left should have tried to keep that idea alive.
    The point was that you don't need to be reminded of that as it's already been widely publicized for decades now. Giving an interview with a hard left magazine with the title 'Can we criticize Foucault?' is calculated, tabloid-style marketing, and it's so transparent that it's rather amusing that the hard left types have fallen for it so easily. Many a shares and many a digital ebook downloads have followed, as was the aim.

    Foucault had a lot of terrible ideas, including many Chomsky did not seem to be aware of even though they're much worse than writing opaquely or repeating what others have already said much earlier and much better, like his views on Iran as exposed in the Rodinson (PDF) piece I linked to.

    But lots of interesting thinkers had lots of terrible ideas, and much worse, yet they are valuable in their own right for what they said otherwise. I'm sure you'd agree someone like Nietzsche belongs in that category, and also Heidegger, though I'm not sure if your dismissal of opaqueness is such that it extends to him as well.

    As for Foucault's own response to these kinds of charges -- he didn't really care that much, as captured in a passage I'm sure your familiar with:

    'Aren't you sure of what you're saying? Are you going to change yet again, shift your position according to the questions that are put to you, and say that the objections are not really directed at the place from which you, are speaking? Are you going to declare yet again that you have never been what you have been reproached with being? Are you already preparing the way out that will enable you in your next book to spring up somewhere else and declare as you're now doing: no, no, I'm not where you are lying in wait for me, but over here, laughing at you?'

    'What, do you imagine that I would take so much trouble and so much pleasure in writing, do you think that I would keep so persistently to my task, if I were not preparing - with a rather shaky hand - a labyrinth into which I can venture, in which I can move my discourse, opening up underground passages, forcing it to go far from itself, finding overhangs that reduce and deform its itinerary, in which I can lose myself and appear at last to eyes that I will never have to meet again. I am no doubt not the only one who writes in order to have no face. Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same: leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order. At least spare us their morality when we write.'
    https://www.marxists.org/reference/s...r/foucaul2.htm
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

  8. #28
    Administrator RevForum Administrator CornetJoyce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amoeba View Post
    Chomsky doesn't endure any opaque theorizing, particularly if they're of a Marxian flavor, and his threshold for considering something so is such that Castoriadis would pass it with flying colors.
    His Imaginary Institution is about as opaque as a book gets, and I don't regard that as one of CC's virtues. The reader must always estimate the effort of deciphering a book and measure it against the rewards of that decipherment.

    Quote Originally Posted by Amoeba View Post
    Giving an interview with a hard left magazine with the title 'Can we criticize Foucault?' is calculated, tabloid-style marketing, and it's so transparent that it's rather amusing that the hard left types have fallen for it so easily. Many a shares and many a digital ebook downloads have followed, as was the aim.
    Books about Foucault and books by Foucault alike are marketed. I bought a few of the latter and none of the former, so I am innocent.


    Quote Originally Posted by Amoeba View Post
    But lots of interesting thinkers had lots of terrible ideas, and much worse, yet they are valuable in their own right for what they said otherwise. I'm sure you'd agree someone like Nietzsche belongs in that category, and also Heidegger, though I'm not sure if your dismissal of opaqueness is such that it extends to him as well.
    As I say, I've always regarded Foucault as an interesting writer. I think of Heidegger as worth the effort of decipherment but Being and Time have long resided on a top shelf accessible only by ladder.
    Einstein on marxology:
    "In the realm of the seekers after truth there is no human authority.
    Whoever attempts to play the magistrate there founders on the laughter of the Gods."

  9. #29
    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    There's an interesting point to be made about the distinction between form and content, and whether they can be distinguished or separated as neatly as one would like, or at all, without it destroying the one or the other.

    I don't think Imaginary Institution would have been quite the same if it had been written in prose you see common in analytic political philosophy; the fact that you don't see any works of that kind in terms of content indicates that the two are inextricable from one another. That is why while I used to be attracted to the analytic way of writing and argument with respect to 'clear speaking' (which is in fact not very clear at all; just read some Rawls), I soon realized that it was based on a fundamental error common to all forms of scholastic thinking: the universalization of one's own being at the expense of others, which are presented as degenerated or inferior in one way or another. You see the same in the obverse where it concerns continental types, who dismiss all analytic writing/thought as inherently inferior to their own opaque ways of writing and thinking.

    Only people who have learned to develop an appreciation for nuance and complexity and the intertwined nature of content and form can transcend these artificially constructed and maintained dichotomies, which primarily arise out of institutional and social requirements (the politics of academia, publishers, catering to certain audiences, etc.).

    Fortunately there are some from both sides who have taken this to heart, breaking out of the isolated cocoon of their own corner of academia. Incidentally they produce some of the more interesting stuff in my view, like Habermas.
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

  10. #30
    Senior Voting Member hierophant's Avatar
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    Here is a question for CornetJoyce: who/what are your top 5 favorite deities of recorded history we know of?

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    I agree that Imaginary Institution would not have been possible in the prose of analytic political philosophy. The analytic and continental traditions are not easy to bridge, and translations are often more moat than bridge. Indeed, I seldom think of the two modes as inhabiting the same reality and addressing the same questions..
    Einstein on marxology:
    "In the realm of the seekers after truth there is no human authority.
    Whoever attempts to play the magistrate there founders on the laughter of the Gods."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Astarte View Post
    Here is a question for CornetJoyce: who/what are your top 5 favorite deities of recorded history we know of?
    Prometheus of course- the patron of Revolution
    Athena- patroness of Democracy
    Dionysus- patron of Tragedy and Comedy as well as wine
    Sappho's Aphrodite
    and any number of goddesses
    Einstein on marxology:
    "In the realm of the seekers after truth there is no human authority.
    Whoever attempts to play the magistrate there founders on the laughter of the Gods."

  13. #33
    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Apropos the thread I just made, what are your thoughts on Vidal and Buckley, and did you see their debates live in 68?
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

  14. #34
    Administrator RevForum Administrator CornetJoyce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amoeba View Post
    Apropos the thread I just made, what are your thoughts on Vidal and Buckley, and did you see their debates live in 68?
    I saw most of them, including the climax. Buckley was accustomed to outarguing the likes of Mailer and Galbraith, who matched his literary power but not his oral debating skill. He and Vidal were a sort of dream matchup for the network.


    I suppose the political and cultural views of each speak for themselves. At the time, they spoke for millions. Anticommunism had lost a bit of its edge but not enough to end the slaughter in Indochina.
    Einstein on marxology:
    "In the realm of the seekers after truth there is no human authority.
    Whoever attempts to play the magistrate there founders on the laughter of the Gods."

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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    What are your favorite novels per the following countries: US, France, UK/England, Germany, Russia.
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

  16. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amoeba View Post
    What are your favorite novels per the following countries: US, France, UK/England, Germany, Russia.

    US: Look Homeward Angel (and the now available original version, O Lost), Of Time and the River, and of course Moby Dick and Huck Finn

    UK: 1984, Ulysses and Finegan's Wake

    France: Les Miserables, The Stranger, Germinal

    Germany: The Trial, Buddenbrooks and The Magic Mountain

    Russia: Dead Souls, The Brothers Karamazov and Demons
    Einstein on marxology:
    "In the realm of the seekers after truth there is no human authority.
    Whoever attempts to play the magistrate there founders on the laughter of the Gods."

  17. #37
    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Thanks for that, my reading list has expanded somewhat.

    For the US I expected you to also mention Dos Passos' USA trilogy. As regards Russia, I'm more Tolstoy-leaning.
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

  18. #38
    Administrator RevForum Administrator CornetJoyce's Avatar
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    The Dos Passos books are certainly high on my list ( or would be if I made lists), as are works by Steinbeck, Hemingway, Faulkner and others. Faulkner- by whose prose I am awed- rated himself second among 20th century American novelists with Dos Passos, Steinbeck and Hemingway filling out his top five. He awarded first place to Wolfe- a decision I cannot gainsay.

    Likewise, I omitted War and Peace as well as Zhivago, The Master and Margarita and Fathers and Sons in the interest of brevity. I admire the virtuosity of Karenina but it's not among my favorites.
    You've probably read The Hedgehog and the Fox. I don't think I have a strong predilection toward either mindset, but I probably do lean toward Dostoyevsky.
    Einstein on marxology:
    "In the realm of the seekers after truth there is no human authority.
    Whoever attempts to play the magistrate there founders on the laughter of the Gods."

  19. #39
    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    What are your favorites of Latin American literature? I expect some Marquez to be in there.

    And does your reading span the broader non-Western world, specifically the Middle-East, Africa, and east-Asia? What are your favorite for those places?
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

  20. #40
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    One Hundred Years of Solitude to be sure, but I'm fairly Eurocentric. Where I grew up, 19 European nationalities were represented by first or second generation immigrants but none were Spanish let alone Hispanic. I've never been at all competent in Spanish and I've never read a satisfactory translation of Don Quixote. I did eventually learn a little Spanish but mostly as an aid to understanding Lorca and Unamumo.

    Among African novelists I mainly know the obvious white ones- Gortimer and Coetzee. However, I did like Nkosi's Underground People. The only Middle Eastern novel I know is Livanelli's Bliss but I regard it as a great work.

    The only East Asian novel I read was Water Margin, which Mao had loved when young and later renounced when he declared for Legalism and against Confucianism. The book became a crucial issue during the cultural revolution. I didn't follow the cultural revolution closely but I liked the book and its Robin Hood theme. .
    Einstein on marxology:
    "In the realm of the seekers after truth there is no human authority.
    Whoever attempts to play the magistrate there founders on the laughter of the Gods."

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