Day 338: Mediations Journal

I will also quickly do my part to advertise the grand inauguration extravaganza of the second series of Mediations, the journal of the Marxist Literary Group. Issue 23.1 is a dossier of contemporary Marxist thought from Brazil. Mediations is published bi-annually. The Fall issues are dossiers of non-U.S. material of interest; the Spring issues are open submission and peer reviewed. Mediations has circulated in various forms and formats since the early 1970s, and is now available free on the web. Both a web edition and a print edition, downloadable in pdf format, can be accessed at Featured authors in the current issue include Luiz Felipe de Alencastro, Paulo Arantes, Ina Camargo Costa, Francisco de Oliviera, Milton Ohata, and Roberto Schwarz (!).


Day 329: False Consciousness and Grad Student Dating

These are two issues that have very little to do with each other. The former interests me at present, while the latter seems to be a problem friends of mine are increasingly interested in. Evidently, there are books with tips that help real world people date us (grad students). There are things that puzzle me about both concepts.

False consciousness:

it is a concept in Marxist theory that is central to traditional Marxist thought but that has been widely challenged since the second half of the 20th century, initially and most notably by Althusser (formulating a theory of ideology that breaks with Marx and moved us toward Baudrillard and other post-Marxists). There are, however, Marxist theorists that maintain that there is value in the concept of false consciousness (such as Marcuse and Bloch–well, and some weird contemporary orthodox Marxists who shall remain unnamed). Let’s get at this logically: if false consciousness is defined as bourgeois ideology that supports the division of labor, the problem critics of this conception of ideology have is that it posits a Real and a way of stepping outside of ideology (Althusser broke with this in favor of a psychoanalytic model that limits itself to switching ideological positions). However, if class is assumed to be a special aspect of the division of labor (see Marx on class), then the corresponding form of (class) consciousness is indeed also an aspect of the division of labor and the definition of ideology becomes not structurally but merely semantically different. Hence, we can replace “false” with “conservative, bourgeois, capitalist, regressive” or other words and oppose to this progressive/liberating consciousness the way Marcuse does. This change in terminology, however, does nothing to change the logical structure of the conception of ideology itself and hence to me changes nothing about the initial problem of consciousness. Hence my question: is the assertion that false conciousness posits the idea of correct/real consciousness not a misreading of Marx’s account of ideology?

grad student dating (apparently this is a problem that transcends the limits of our English department):

from The Stanford Daily:

Eight simple rules for dating a grad student

It has come to my attention that despite our towering intellects, foraging skills and incredible resilience, grad students are not being asked out in droves by our younger counterparts.

At first I thought this was due to insurmountable differences, but recently it’s occurred to me what’s really needed is some kind of guide — a simple primer on how to capture the heart (or some other part) of your favorite graduate student.

One thing before I start: My use of male / female pronouns stems from my particular inclinations — feel free to mix things up, the same principles apply.

So here we go, in homage to W. Bruce Cameron, eight simple rules:

1) I’m sure you’ve heard that the fastest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Now that’s not actually true. There are faster ways, but I’m afraid they’re all NC-17.

Having said that, grad students are easily lured with food. Especially when it’s free. We don’t get care packages anymore, and we miss them.

Remember — it doesn’t matter if that best you can come up with is a sandwich. You still won’t find a more enthusiastic response to anything you do . . . and I do mean anything.

2) Don’t mock the cycle helmet. One day you’ll care about your head too.

3) Let us talk about work. As much as they may profess not to, a typical graduate student loves to talk about his work. More than any other topic, we want to explain what we do.

Whether this is because of our passion for our subject or because of some deep-seated need to justify our existence is open to debate . . .

4) Don’t be surprised if you don’t get to meet many of his friends. It’s not because you’re embarrassing — though that may still be true — rather, we don’t know that many people.

5) Be nice to aforementioned friends. Like I said, we don’t have that many, and we can’t afford to lose them. I understand that it’s difficult to communicate with people like me, as we tend to labor under the impression that everyone is as equally concerned with the missing minus sign on the third line down of the day’s calculation. Just nod and smile.

6) Offer constant reassurance that we’re not wasting our time. We’ve chosen poverty over jobs, school over growing up, and we constantly live in fear that we’ve made the wrong choice. Please massage our egos . . . and anything you else you choose.

7) Don’t go on about the crazy fun you’re having with your classmates. I’m sure that last night’s dorm party was loaded with the kind of crazy antics that wouldn’t look out of place in “American Pie 4: American Divorce,” but we don’t want to be reminded of how much fun life used to be.

8 ) Don’t keep us out too late. We’re old, and we need our beauty sleep.

Day 169: Gary Busey’s Teeth


A four day blogging break. Wow. I just realized that I have indeed not blogged for four days. I will give you two possible reasons for this and you can choose the one that is more to your liking: a) I have been lying on a beach, getting a tan, doing some occasional surfing and spending the rest of the day being fed seedless grapes by Donald Rumsfeld, or b) I have been so stressed out during the last few days that I did not have the nerve to write something, since I have been pulling all-nighters in order to meet writing deadlines and each and every word I would have posted would have been pissy.

>No, Donald, I am writing a blog entry. Be quiet, go sit over there and stop telling other people how much smarter you are when it comes to the correct way of feeding grapes to people in a foreign country. I’ll tell you when I’m ready for my foot massage. NO! That’s a BAD Donald!<

Sorry. It’s so hard to find good staff these days. As I was saying, I have been writing a lot of stuff lately, which makes this suposed vacation quite exhausting. I’m glad when the semester finally starts again and I can relax while grading papers.

What else has happened? Let’s see: they ruined the Tour de France for me (well, at this point it has become quite funny, actually–in an insane laughter, “we’re all going to die!” kind of way)–I gotta say: all of this doping-witchhunt weirdness should be stopped and they should legalize it. Then it would just be up to a few weenies left who fetishize being “clean” (treehuggers on bikes, basically–and we all know never to trust a hippie) to step up and get with the doping business. Yes, your testicles will shrink but from the limited bicycling experience I have I believe it is safe to say that those things are a nuisance in that sport anyway. So, there we go. Problem solved.

Hmmm… maybe that was too sarcastic. Sorry. I also generally like hippies, despite the John Lydon dictum. I even saw my first jogging hippie a while ago. That again was disappointing. The long hair and beard swaying in sync with the rythmic flow of the siren-like music of the ultra-commodifier called body cult. Sad. But strangely energizing.

Huh… not a lot else happened. Oh, I can share with you a line from yesterday’s chapter, or rather the claim that sets up the discussion of the second half of the chapter (hyper-vague summary: class and race throughout US history). Maybe that line is worth discussing:

“upward-bound class mobility is anti-American.”

Do with this what you will.

Finally, I would like to come back to the Tom Cruise post from a few days ago and to some of the comments made in response to it, stressing one aspect of the post that did not get enough attention: Gary Busey. He is fantastic. He acts. Well. He smiles. Like a God. I want his teeth. Once I can afford to get them, I will singularly sleep in 30-minute increments for the rest of my life, just so that I can brush my teeth more often before and after bed. Gary Busey. Wow.

Also: I miss The Deadliest Catch. I haven’t had TV for almost two months now. Surprisingly, I survived. Now I think I am starting to be scared of my TV. Since yesterday I am also scared of giraffes–well, the rear half at least. Not sure why. Everything from the shoulders on (in direction of the giraffe butt) is scary.

And: today I decided not to like hydroculture potting soil/stones. They are too light when you pick them up. This confuses me and I really cannot afford to become any more confused than I am at this point. Oh, and just to make sure that bunny isn’t losing sleep: I like AAA batteries again.

Day 146: Too Little Writing! (and freegans)

As much as I enjoyed the last few days of hanging out with friends and only doing a few hours of work a day, I woke up this morning with one hell of a guilty conscience for not having done any writing. I did read a little over the first half of this week but my chapter/articles have remained untouched. Not a good situation. This means that from now until the 16th I need to get tons of writing done (which is when I will be leaving for a short trip to Germany–well, actually I already made my peace with the fact that I will need to take a lot of work there–my grandparents bought me a ticket home for my 30th birthday–as was true for pretty much all of my birthdays for the last decade or so, I will not be able to celebrate it, however, since my actual birthday will be the first day of teaching for me this semester–yay!–I haven’t really celebrated my birthday for a long time (i.e. party, or with a group of friends/family) and I was initially planning on doing something for my 30th but after thinking about it I realized that I am sort of over the whole “king for a day, fool for a lifetime” idea of birthdays–in any case: it was so nice of my grandparents to give me a ticket, even though I will not even be able to be at home for my actual birthday–they are such great people–always willing to give and help without having a lot themselves). But to make a long story short: I need to start writing some shit!

Oh, and then this: freegans. I have been talking about this with a friend over the weekend and I still have serious reservations regarding the logic and politics of this approach (even as just a thought-experiment–e.g. consider a comparison between freegan and homeless person and what this distinction contains in terms of social and political force fields, as well as what the freegan’s choice means for the non-choice of the homeless person). Those of you who read Kim Stanley Robinson know about this but for the uninitiated, see this site:

To partake in the fun, here a listing of “urban foraging sites” in your local areas (“dumpster directory”):


Oh and just to further illustrate my reservations about middle-class dumpster-diving and waste-recycling as a means of arguing that we can easily survive that way (so why the hell are homeless people begging for money??? the freegans seems to be fine) this picture: yes, it is freegan-chic (I apologize for the bad pun in the picture as used here but this struck me as the perfect representation of a freegan)!


Day 96: Zombies and Painful Philanthropy


Today a random assortment of weird things–a quilt of strangeness, if you will.

Remember my coffee-related problems? Caribou phased out my favorite, which was especially devastating, since it did not only taste good, but was also organic, fair-trade coffee, certified by the rainforest alliance. After this I tried a medium-roast for breast cancer, a dark-roast for the rainforest and a french roast that, I think, supported David Beckham in the anticipation of the demise of his carreer that awaits him in L.A. Yesterday, Chicago opened its Farmer’s Market season and I went to Daley Plaza to do some shopping (for non-Chicagoans: Daley Plaza is the setting for the climactic ending of Blues Brothers–the place with the large Picasso). Apart from some greens (which I am pretty certain are poisonous to me after this long absence of any kind of vitamin in my body) I bought a coffee that is shade-grown, rainforest alliance approved, fair-trade certified and is sold by and supports the Chicago coalition for the homeless. Seriously, how can you not buy that one? Also, the fact that this is the official Mother Theresa of coffees almost makes you forget that it tastes like crap. Ah well, that may be the trouble with philanthropy (apart from its basic ideological confusion that renders it powerless well known to Hegelians, or its tendency to work in unison with the welfare state that appeases the masses to avoid a revolution and true, equal assistance for all of us).

Here the homophobic, offensive part of today’s quilt: wondering if you’re gay? Take the test:

My favorite part of the ad for this is this logic: wondering if you’re gay? You don’t need a blood test–just take this handy quiz? I am no doctor, so can someone explain to me what this blood test is that tells you if you’re gay?

Also, about a month ago anaj found a little blog-value-calculator, which tells you how much your blog is worth. In about a month my blog seems to have accumulated roughly another $1000 in value. Again: I am not just confused by how this happened, but also as to where I can sell my blog to pay for my summer. The Chicago Farmer’s Market, maybe? Check out how valuable I am! Nothing like alienation via the commodification of the immaterial, digital expression of your self. Finally I know what I am worth. Yay!

My blog is worth $7,339.02.
How much is your blog worth?

Don’t you just love the capitalist ideology that is included in this little gadget? How much are YOU worth? Let’s make it a competition in alienation!

Finally: more zombies. I am always happy when a new zombie movie comes out (while I am waiting for Gigli II). In the recent past there have been some really fun experiments with the genre that often change the ways in which the zombie as subject signifies. Enter Fido, a zombie-comedy showing us the beauty of a society in which zombies are kept as pets and work the crappy jobs no one wants (aahhh–a continuation of the “zombie as global third estate” idea–while this is fun, here my question: why do we have to go to zombies as one of the only popular ways to represent class distinction and exploitation these days? Tells us something about our willingness to talk about this issue today, doesn’t it?). Anyway, here the info:

Day 90: The 2007 MLG Institute on Culture and Society (June 20-24, 2007)

Dear all, instead of useless personal ramblings today the following announcement:

we just finalized the program for this year’s Marxist Literary Group Institute on Culture and Society. After being held at Georgetown University for the last two years the Institute returns to the University of Illinois at Chicago this year. Apart from presentations it will feature an intensive reading group on Capital I, which will be led by Nicholas Brown, Richard Daniels, Neil Larsen, and Ronald Strickland.

All events are open to the public–so if you are in the area, feel free to stop by (my apologies for the formatting–can’t be bothered to fix it right now).

***EDIT: ok, after several failed attempts I’ll try this one more time–crap! remains all messed up–sorry, I’m out of time–this will have to do for the moment:
* * *WEDNESDAY, 20 JUNE* * *
9:00 –10:15 Panel

Kevin Floyd
On neoliberalism, Queer Studies, and the question of totality

Stephen Healy
On the economy of non-all and the politics of health care reform

Heidi J. Nast
On neoliberalism and pet-love
10:30 – 12:00 Panel

Peter Gardner
What Class War? “This hyar is the War o’ Races!”

Anna Kornbluh
On the isomorphism of capitalism and Victorian realism

Kat McLellan
On seventeenth-century contract theory

Harvey Partica
On Frank Norris’ dialectical monsters
12:00 – 1:15 LUNCH
1:15 – 3:00 Reading Group: Capital I, Chapters 1, 6, and 7
3:30 – 4:30 Panel

Grover Furr
On falsifying Soviet history of the ‘Stalin’ period

Pat Keaton
On Argentinean documentary films
5:00 – 6:15 Panel

Akin Adesokan
On CLR James and Marxism in Africa

Richard Iton
On coloniality and diaspora

Joseph Keith
On labor and the Limits of citizenship in C.L.R. James

* * *THURSDAY, 21 JUNE* * *
9:00 – 10:15 Panel

Robbie Lieberman
On African American radicals and the Cold War

Brian Thill
On Frederick Douglass, Black Power and the Frankfurt School

Aaron Winslow
On Amiri Baraka’s political poetry
10:45 – 12:00 Panel

Natascha Müller-Hirth
On the issue of partnerships and neoliberal governance in Africa

Michael Ralph
On Marxism in Africa and Senegalese (im)mobility, post 9/11

Mark Estante
On labor discipline and the maintenance of apartheid in Coetzee’s Life &
Times of Michael K
12:00 – 1:15 LUNCH
1:15 – 3:00 Reading Group: Capital I, Chapters 2-5
3:15 – 4:30 Panel

Christian Dogbe
On Ahmadou Kourouma and Marxism

Aisha Karim
On the movement of political desire in African literature

Allison McGuffie
On Eisenstein and African film
5:00 – 6:15

Ato Quayson
On dialectic and failed synthesis in the drama of Wole Soyinka
Presented by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s African-American
Studies Department

* * *FRIDAY, 22 JUNE* * *
9:00 – 10:15 Panel

Laura Hudson
On Marxian species-being and the anthropological machine

Erin Paszko
On historicizing political violence through Leila Khaled’s My People Shall

Michelle Yates
On an ecological contradiction within capitalism
10:45 – 12:00 Panel

Paul Smith
On Boltanski’s _The New Spirit of Capitalism_

Ariane Fischer
On critical theory and the concept of ideology

Ed Wiltse
On scientific certainty and criminal justice in Sherlock Holmes stories and
12:00 – 1:15 LUNCH
1:15 – 3:00 Reading Group: Capital I, Parts Seven and Eight
3:15 – 4:30 Panel

Neil Larsen
On the unique difficulty of reading Capital volume I, chapter 1

Eleanor Kaufman
On poetic surplus in Badiou

Reiichi Miura
On singularity and postmodern pluralism
5:00 – 7:00

Peter Hitchcock
On the failed state and the state of failure

* * *SATURDAY, 23 JUNE* * *
9:00 – 10:15 Panel

Jeff Carr
On capitalism, socialism, and labor in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

William Q. Malcuit
On the resuscitation of history in McKay

Todd Thompson
On irony and heritage in the Harlem Renaissance
10:45 – 12:00 Panel

Lee Medovoi
On Marx, Foucault, and the current conjuncture

Mathias Nilges
On the work of art in the age of cognitive capitalism

Myka Tucker-Abramson
On the labour history of deindustrialized literature
12:00 – 1:15 LUNCH
1:15 – 3:00 Reading Group: Capital I, Appendix
3:30 – 5:00

Walter Benn Michaels
On praising famous (white) men
5:15 – 7:15

Fredric Jameson
On the Dialectic

* * *SUNDAY, 24 JUNE* * *
9:00 – 10:30 Panel

Melissa Tandiwe Myambo
On (un)writing diaspora and the route(lessness) of capitalism

Bimbisar Irom
On reification, totality and the agony of the radical novel

Ann Mattis
On domestic service and kinship in Gertrude Stein’s “The Good Anna” and “The
Gentle Lena”

Wesley Sims
On incarceration in Gayl Jones’ Eva’s Man
10:45 – 12:15 Panel

Jolan Bogdan
On denial and ideology: the Romanian example

Steve Macek
On Marxism and the media reform movement

Joe Ramsey
On Babouk and revolutionary spectacle

Laura Sullivan
On television and the spectacle of giving
12:15 – 1:30 MLG Business Meeting / LUNCH
1:45 – 3:15 Roundtable: Labor and Memory

Courtney Maloney, Jamie Daniel, Carol Stabile, and Joel Woller
3:30 Susan Willis / Don Hedrick responding
         On playing the penny slots

Day 81: Happy May Day!!!


Go out and march, everybody, because today we celebrate the international worker’s movement–the May Day of the Proletariat (and all the facets this term includes in today’s capitalism). So check online what kind of marches are held in your vicinity, attend, show some solidarity, sing “Die Internationale,” and stick your tongue out at some capitalists.

Today’s ‘Marcuse for the Day’ comes from the “Political Preface to Eros and Civilization, 1966“:

The system has its weakest point where it shows its most brutal strength: in the escalation of its military potential. This tendency seems reversible only under strongest pressure, and its reversal would open the danger spots in the social structure: its conversion into a “normal” capitalist system is hardly imaginable without a serious crisis and sweeping economic and political changes. Today, the opposition to war and military intervention strikes at the roots: it rebels against those whose economic and political dominion depends on the continued (and enlarged) reproduction of the military establishment, its “multipliers,” and the policies which necessitate its reproduction. These interests are not hard to identify, and the war against them does not require missiles, bombs, and napalm. But it does require something that is much harder to produce–the spread of uncensored and unmanipulated knowledge, consciousness, and above all, the organized refusal to continue work on the material and intellectual instruments which are now being used against man–for the defense of the liberty and the prosperity of those who dominate the rest.