Category Archives: Doxa
[I found this excellent chart in an obscure little book called Modernity & Identity, which is about modernism & postmodernism and how these permeate into different areas of culture. Rather than having it be lost, perhaps forever, I feel that it deserves some affection.]
(a) Progressive evolutionist, development of self and society and world. Deviations from this life-strategy are classified as pathological or as just plain underdeveloped and infantile, in the sense that all non-modern states are ultimately reducible to a lack of the necessary means to achieve modernity: intellectually, technologically, motivationally.
1 modernism, can be expressed in general cultural terms; in terms of political institutions conducive to democratic solutions and efficient moral governance; in terms of economic growth; and social modernization, that is, modern institutions.
(a) political debates in modernist discourse focusing on variant interpretations of the implementation of the modernist strategy; for example whether social democracy is more efficient and fair than liberalism, the role of the private vs. public sector, marxist vs. other approaches, etc.
2 Asian modernism displays most of the basic characteristics of the Western model, the main difference lying in the role of the individual as an instrument of the group rather than as an autonomous agent.
In the decline of modernist identity:
(a) cynical distancing from all identification, but an acute awareness of the lack of identity
(b) consumptionist: narcissistic dependency on the presentation of self via the commodity construction of identity. Highly unstable and can easily switch over to religious of ethnic solutions.
1 variation on the above is the consumption of roots as commodities, the creation of a life space reminiscent of a nostalgic vision or pastiche of eras based thereupon.
(a) solution to lack of identity, the failure of the modern project. The individual feels the acute need to engage himself in a larger project in which identity is concrete and fixed irrespective of mobility, success and other external changes in social conditions.
1 traditionalist refers to the general aspect of this strategy, the emphasizing of concrete values and morality, social rules and cultural practices.
(a) religious: usually traditional, fundamentalist in form, sometimes tied to ethnicity.
(i) local based, community oriented
(ii) international, mankind oriented, anti-ethnic yet concrete, i.e. species oriented
(b) ethnic: the constitution of concrete regional of historical-linguistic based identity-not so much connected to a value system as to a set of distinct cultural practices and beliefs.
2 closely connected with the traditionalist strategy is the ecological or green strategy. If the former bases itself in culture the latter bases itself in nature: the correct relation between man and the ecosystem. The overlap is clear and occurs in the evolutionist cosmology where traditional = close to nature = adapted to nature (that is, ecologically sound)
3 Third World – strategy of attracting wealth flows, strategy of attachment and dependency:
(a) state-class ranking system with chains of client in which sumptuary consumption plays a central role in defining position.
(b) strategy is unequivocally oriented to the centre as a source of wealth, and to the modern as the form of power to be appropriated and in the rank-strategy described above.
(c) strategy is thus pro-development defined not in terms of infrastructural growth but in terms of the consumption of modernity or its products that function as symbols of prestige and, as such, power.
4 Fourth World – strategy of exit from the system, the formation and/or maintenance of culturally organized communities that are self-sufficient and politically autonomous:
(a) strategies usually take the form of cultural movements for the re-establishment of formerly repressed identity and lifestyle.
(b) strategies usually reject all forms of modernity and especially the notion of universal development. They are traditionalistic, and attempt, further, to establish a functioning social order based on particular world-views and/or religious schemes.
(c) tendency to egalitarianism, since there is no basis for ranking in such movements: often local history is re-envisaged so that an original state of existence without any form of social hierarchy is posited at the beginning of time. If leadership is posited, it is invariably in the form of the charismatic leader who is the saviour or father or mother of his/her people and is the embodiment of their values.
Lash, S. & Friedman, J. (Eds.). (1993). Modernity & Identity. Massachusetts: Blackwell, in the essay ”Narcissism, roots and postmodernity” by Jonathan Friedman
[I wrote this a couple of years ago for a sociology class I took, and it has been my best ideological film interpretation to date. Though AMX is somewhat dated now, perhaps this will allow a more detached perspective for readers unaccustomed to ideological critique, allowing them to notice details that would otherwise have been taken for granted. Each section (separated by the picture) was an answer to a separate question, the latter being a 'reflective' question, hence the autobiographical elements, which I leave in because I imagine that the mindset I display is fairly general. I still have not studied racial politics extensively, but as I eventually delve into postcolonialism and Fanon, the topic will likely pop up here more often. On the whole, this critique serves as an excellent prelude to my more long-term study of differing types of libidinal economies and the social conventions which instantiate them.]
Though the film made very clear its message of hatred being “baggage”, the film also contains the implicit message that instead of hating people because of their race, people should vent their hatred upon more socially acceptable targets, namely, promiscuous women, the obese, and the elderly. In the opening scene of the film the viewer immediately sees Stacey engaged in coitus, passive except for her continual yelps of pleasure. The viewer is immediately repulsed by her and continue to be throughout the film, as they are as well with the unnamed “blond girl” who is introduced to the audience as dirty, drunk, and begging for Danny. Secondly, the character Seth is deliberately portrayed as repulsive; as well as his bigotry, the director induces comedy by having him beg to be fed as well as pouring a bowl of jellybeans into his mouth. Seth has absolutely no positive qualities; he is childish, vulgar, disloyal, et cetera; in essence, the audience’s negativity is displaced onto him, presumably in order to help viewers to forget the atrocities that Derek performed in the beginning of the film.
Finally, the character Cameron Alexander is the main human antagonist of the film, being the leader among the neo-Nazi subculture in the story’s setting, as well as a (former) father figure to Derek and his comrades. Furthermore, he is portrayed as an embodiment of evil, with absolutely no sympathetic nuances to his character; the audience becomes convinced that he is rigidly set in his ways, fossilized into an outdated mindset which has thankfully been abandoned by the mainstream, with such atavistic blights as Cameron being the only obstacle to genuine progress. The negativity of these characters cannot be denied, nor can the fact that much of this negativity plays off of existing stereotypes about promiscuous women, the obese, and the elderly: Stacy is shown as having being blindly accepting of whatever Derek says, but later on is shown to have absolutely no loyalty to Derek when he abandons racism; Seth is shown as having absolutely no sense of self-control, as is seen with the jellybeans, as well as incapable of having any real feelings, most notably when he instantly turns a gun on his Derek, his best friend, because Derek no longer wants to participate in racial hatred; Cameron is a shameful remnant of America’s segregationist past, incapable of seeing beyond the scope of his outdated values, and bringing nothing to the younger generation but corruption of values which could be used in much more productive ways (as seen in the case of Danny’s well-researched book report). Racial hatred has been passé since desegregation; the film urges its viewers to ‘get with the times’.
The film is certainly extremist, in that the vast majority of viewers can in no way directly identify with its content. I am genuinely concerned about the ideological biases that have been instilled into my perception of others, and try, though I have had little opportunity, to place such paradigms within conscious control. I found it interesting that the film managed to posit an entirely hedonistic reason for not discriminating; its concept that ‘hatred is only baggage’ presented the notion of bigotry to each individual in a manner that is, to be frank, entirely self-concerned. This method is extremely fitting when considering the moral state of the contemporary world; externally imposed commands (Thou shalt not…) are, if followed, done so either grudgingly or unthinkingly. In order to instill the film’s moral within its audience, the directors have felt it necessary to present a moral solipsism—individuals are not asked to try and empathize with those who are discriminated against, nor are they asked to go out of their way in any form, they are simply asked to ‘look out for number one.’ I personally find it interesting that such methods as the solipsistic morality mentioned above are the lengths to which people must go in order to acquire a veneer of morality. As much as I would like to gloat over my moral superiority, I cannot help but wonder whether my own attempts at acceptance of diversity are any different. After all, I care very little at this point in my life about most ethnicities, except for abstract nuances such as Asian collectivism, predispositions provided by language toward viewing the world a certain way, and intellectual & political histories of specific nations. Even if I wanted to, I simply cannot learn enough about each culture to be sufficiently able to empathize with them, therefore it seems that solipsistic morality will have to suffice for now until I can find a better method of empathy.
[Edit: Draper's point has been disputed by Mike Ely: see his comments below.]
Given the concern with changing conditions in rural society in much of this issue (as represented by the work of Amin and William Hinton) we thought that readers would be interested in the origin of a misunderstanding that surrounds Marx’s thoughts on rural life. One often hears the criticism that Marxism was from the beginning an extreme modernizing philosophy that looked with complete disdain on rural existence. Did not Marx himself in The Communist Manifesto, it is frequently asked, refer to “the idiocy of rural life”? Here a misconception has arisen through the mistranslation of a single word in the authorized English translation of the Manifesto. This issue is addressed in Hal Draper’s definitive, though little known work, The Adventures of the Communist Manifesto (Berkeley: Center for Socialist History, 1998)an expanded version of his earlier work, The Annotated Communist Manifesto. Draper’s Adventures includes a new English translation of the Manifesto, together with paragraph-by-paragraph annotations, and the most detailed history currently available of the various editions of the Manifesto in major European languages.
In Draper’s translation the phrase “the idiocy of rural life” in paragraph 28 of the Manifesto is replaced with “the isolation of rural life.” His explanation for this correction is worth quoting at length:
IDIOCY OF RURAL LIFE. This oft-quoted A.ET. [authorized English translation] expression is a mistranslation. The German word Idiotismus did not, and does not, mean “idiocy” (Idiotie); it usually means idiom, like its French cognate idiotisme. But here [in paragraph 28 of The Communist Manifesto] it means neither. In the nineteenth century, German still retained the original Greek meaning of forms based on the word idiotes: a private person, withdrawn from public (communal) concerns, apolitical in the original sense of isolation from the larger community. In the Manifesto, it was being used by a scholar who had recently written his doctoral dissertation on Greek philosophy and liked to read Aeschylus in the original. (For a more detailed account of the philological background and evidence, see [Hal Draper], KMTR [Karl Marxs Theory of Revolution, New York, Monthly Review Press, 1978] 2:344f.) What the rural population had to be saved from, then, was the privatized apartness of a life-style isolated from the larger society: the classic stasis of peasant life. To inject the English idiocy into this thought is to muddle everything. The original Greek meaning (which in the 19th century was still alive in German alongside the idiom meaning) had been lost in English centuries ago. Moore [the translator of the authorized English translation] was probably not aware of this problem; Engels had probably known it forty years before. He was certainly familiar with the thought behind it: in his Condition of the Working Class in England (1845), he had written about the rural weavers as a class “which had remained sunk in apathetic indifference to the universal interests of mankind.” (MECW [Marx and Engels, Collected Works] 4:309.) In 1873 he made exactly the Manifesto’s point without using the word “idiocy”: the abolition of the town-country antithesis “will be able to deliver the rural population from the isolation and stupor in which it has vegetated almost unchanged for thousands of years” (Housing Question, Pt. III, Chapter 3).
Marx’s criticism of the isolation of rural life then had to do with the antithesis of town and country under capitalism as expressed throughout his work. See also John Bellamy Foster, Marx’s Ecology (New York: Monthly Review Press), pp. 137-38.
This is fascinating. This point serves as an excellent support of Exchange Value‘s essay regarding misquotations of Marx by prominent business magazines in order to make him seem like he celebrates the bourgeoisie. As well, this quotation is apparently “often used by Greens to mischaracterize [Marx & Engels] as relentless modernizers.” Retranslating the sentence gives it an intriguingly collectivist resonance, and I urge Marxists and non-Marxists alike to readjust their conceptions of Marx accordingly.
The tragic predicament of such intellectuals [as Lacan] is that, driven by terrifying feelings of emotional emptiness and insecurity, they mistakenly conclude that intellectual truths can be an adequate substitute for emotional warmth. Convinced that difficult or abstract intellectual formulations can alone fill the void they feel within them, they develop a voracious appetite for such formulations, anorexically judging their goodness by the degree of difficulty or abstraction they possess. Believing that what they have devoured is intrinsically nourishing and failing to grasp the poverty of the diet they have adopted through their own self-denying ordinances, they now feel impelled to share their ‘truths’ with others. Indeed they are driven by their own generosity to do so. Like a starving man who compels others to eat the diet of stones he believes has saved him, they give abundantly of their poverty out of a genuine conviction that they are enriching others. Because their own most generous impulses have become inextricably entwined with their impulse to self-denial they are unable to discriminate between generosity and cruelty and unable to understand that by compulsively sharing with others (or compelling others to share) their own chosen form of intellectual or spiritual wealth they are merely disseminating their poverty.
Webster, R. “The Cult of Lacan“
[The above is the only thought-provoking paragraph of an otherwise disappointing essay.]
Trying to Get Immanence Out of a (Philosopher’s) Stone: Archetypes, Sociobiology, & Harry Potter, And What They Have To Do With The UK Riots
[This is too late in the game to do anyone much good, I realize, but I feel that I still ought to put in my two cents regarding the August riots in the UK. I wrote this during my breaks at work when I was on 12-hour shifts, so all that I had time to do when I got home was to read blog entries about the riots; nobody hailed the end of them, so I (amusingly) did not realize they were over until the 23rd, after reading the Wiki page. To my credit, at least, I successfully predicted its outcome (though I feel silly in saying that); I will therefore leave the tense unaltered. In order to make my linking of Harry Potter to the Tottenham riots seem less farfetched, I recommend readers to first peruse this.]
There are a number of popular (i.e. non-academic) intellectual movements whose objective is to find an immanent basis for the meaning of signifiers. One such example is Jungian archetypes, which states that various symbols are innate in the human mind, and thus that symbols are “universally recognizable.” As well, the sociobiology of Desmond Morris seeks to ground social phenomena in biological instinct (once again, innate), e.g. he ascribes the tradition of women coloring their lips red to the fact that when a woman becomes aroused, her lips become engorged with blood, appearing fuller and redder; thus lipstick is a display of availability for mating, just as is the peacock displaying its feathers. A third, more contemporary instance of this tendency can be found in the Harry Potter series. In Hogwarts, students of witchcraft & wizardry are taught combinations of signifiers (e.g. a “swish & flick” of one’s wand combined with the words “Wingardium Leviosa” pronounced in a specific way) which are somehow inherently connected to their magical function. There is no talk of ‘inventing’ spells; presumably experimental wizards merely spout out Latin-sounding words in hopes that they’ll bring a result connected to their etymology. This essay will outline the three views described above; show how meaning is in fact not immanent, but for the most part purely arbitrary; and show how this immanent treatment of signifiers resonates within the UK riots, perhaps to the point of precluding any significant cultural change.