Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

UPDATED: Zandria Robinson Fired From University of Memphis for Saying Obviously True Things About Racism in America?

I agree with Zandria Robinson that there is no substance to "whiteness" apart from white supremacy. I say so in my classes and I won't stop saying so.

If, like me, you are legible as a "white" person in terms of the irrational rationality of race in America, you can be anti-racist but you cannot be not-racist: you are a beneficiary of white supremacy and positioned by whiteness to incarnate racist biases. There is no way to be "white" and also "right" when it comes to race in America -- this is a demanding and uncomfortable and often quite heart-breaking recognition -- but surely you will have noticed that to be "black" in white-supremacist America is also demanding, uncomfortable, and heartbreaking? There is no way to be right under racism. Racism is wrong. And the wrongness hurts.

It is surely a measure of white-privilege to fancy that you could opt out of racism in a way that would not cost you something, that you could simply decide your way out of racism by understanding it a bit better. You better believe that black people understand racism a whole lot better than white-allies do, and you certainly don't see that understanding rendering them immune to racist violence, exploitation, and bias. This sort of thinking is almost as bad as would-be anti-racist white folks who seem to expect to be petted and praised for trying to do what they say is the right thing, rather than simply trying to do the right thing because it is the right thing, or who expect special immunity from criticism when they fail to do the right thing because they say they are trying to do the right thing, rather than simply trying harder to do the right thing because they say they are trying to do the right thing.

Robinson's recent comments about the Confederate and US flags are easy for me to sympathize with as well -- I said some roughly similar things in public here. Nothing I am saying now is the least bit original or exemplary on my part. I try to be an ally to people of color in white-racist America but I cannot say that my efforts have ever been worthy of attention or are the least bit extraordinary. They are at best a matter of common decency with a bit of historical awareness thrown in. I don't expect to get fired for saying these sorts of things in teaching contexts -- as I very regularly do -- and nobody should. I don't expect to get a lot of grief for pointing these things out in writing here and there, though this is not the emphasis of my work or my politics.

As far as I can make out, it is nothing but obscene that Zandria Robinson has lost her job over her unpopular but useful public critiques, if that is what has happened here. I can't see that many people have even been paying attention to this apart from a lot of howling reactionaries (anti-civilizational Daily Caller and David Horowitz witch-hunting and book-burning for free-dumb types) who decided to organize to attack a vulnerable academic in anti-intellectual America for trying to teach her students to question their worldviews a bit in the service of equity-in-diversity. I hope she is supported by academic and activist communities and rises to new heights from this attack to continue her work.

UPDATE: The University of Memphis is now saying that Robinson was not fired but has left for a better position -- but their earlier announcement seemed to be shaped in response to right-wing pressure in a way the lead much of the right-wing to celebrate her leaving as a great victory. There would appear to be more to the story than we know now. I sure do hope Robinson was not fired and that she is already moving on to do better things with more support.

Teaching, Suetonius and Seneca

The emperor Claudius becomes a gourd and Caligula badly misbehaves later today in "Patriarchal Conventions and Convictions in Greece and Rome." These pieces are usually a lot of fun but I'm just crawling toward the finish line at this point.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Janelle and Jidenna Perform

Janelle and Jidenna of Wondaland at the BET Awards. To be honest, I worry that "Yoga" is awfully derivative for Monae (it has it's moments, tho, Monae's genius can scarcely help THAT)) and that "Classic Man" indulges problematic respectability politics. But I can't lie, I like both tracks, rather like I still liked 90s Janet, and both of these performances are good and infectious.

Teaching, Octavia Butler

I'll be teaching Kindred in "What Is Compelling?" today. My lecture centers on the literal and the figural in the novel, opening onto the larger theme of the surviving-woman as against the more conventionally sfnal "efficacious-man" in Butler's work. The lecture only takes us about halfway through our three hours -- I plan to open the floor to student discussion in order to allow the richness of the novel to have its play. This is a bit risky this late in the term -- if they haven't read the material the talk will go dead pretty quickly, I'm counting on the quality of the novel to have grabbed them through to the end however busy they were otherwise. We shall see.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Guilty Pride Pleasures

Something I have been doing at Amor Mundi for several years now...

"Is This A Dream?"

"I've Been Angry And Sad About Things That You Do"

"Blood. And Brains. And Buzzazz."

The Parade Passes By

I re-post variations of the following bit of grousing more or less every year on Pride Weekend, and it is if anything more relevant than usual in the aftermath of Friday's Supreme Court decision to mandate marriage equality in all fifty states on a day of mourning for the massacre in Charleston in the aftermath of a long couple years of too long delayed too long denied public recognition of systematic white-supremacist police brutality and terrorist violence stratifying any easy legibility of meaningful pride celebration for lgbtq folks of color and all queer allies and fellow-citizens in our vital cities, our fraught refuges, our diverse havens...

As readers of Amor Mundi know, my partner and I have been together for over thirteen years now. But we aren't gay married because we disapprove of marriage as a vestige of human trafficking and as an irrational acquiescence to damaging Hallmark card fantasies of romantic completion. And yet we both fought for marriage equality and are cheered by its successes because our exclusion from the institution damages the lives of queer folks who feel differently than we do (even if for bullshitty reasons), and because that exclusion remains an injustice supporting other worse injustices, and also simply because it seems more forceful politically to oppose norms from which you are not already excluded and the refusal of which costs you something.

Appalled by the deathly demoralizing anti-democratizing energies of corporate-militarism as I am, I grasped nonetheless the indispensability of ending the Clintonian gargoyle "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and the ban of queer folks from serving openly in the military for reasons similar to those that make marriage equality victories good -- but, again, I cannot say the jingoist cadences inevitably framing the victory felt particularly enlivening to me personally. Ending employment discrimination against queer folks seems to me a more substantial goal that will help many truly precarious people in this country while imposing a constraint on many truly pernicious people in this country -- and hence I cannot say that I am surprised to find it the assimilationist goal that still most stubbornly resists accomplishment. I don't like kids enough to wallow in gay adoption victories, and while I am all for Families We Choose, I wonder why the Chosen Families we celebrate must always be so drearily conventional.

But even if, as I say, I fully recognize the indispensability of demanding the availability of legibility on conventional institutional terms, lest illegibility marginalize so many of us in ways that literally ruin and end lives, I personally believe that a life more fully lived demands selves made of both prose and poetry, freedom requires both answerability before the eyes of power as well as the questionableness out of which different worlds are made (read Fanon if that doesn't make sense to you yet).

Yes, I am one of those grumps you hear about who think that having too much Pride in assimilation to the institutional norms of reprosexual corporate-militarism is more than a little fucked up. While Pride originated in the righteous impulse to defy the hurtful shame imposed on wanted queer lifeways by mean, fearful, ignorant majorities, I think there is plenty to be ashamed of in the complacency, conformism, and consumerism Pride celebrates.

Especially now that I'm pushing fifty I more or less want Pride to get off my lawn. It is like a crowd of vacant consumers and squalling kids hard to distinguish from a food court in a Tornado Alley suburban mall even with the interchangeable shirtless guys and sequins shorn of their magic by too much sunlight. I do know that there are plenty of older folks who draw a real measure of strength and support from Pride, and yet I do think Pride is something youthful at heart, and in a way that registers both the fabulousness and foibles that can characterize youth in dumb overgeneralized stereotypical ways I won't make many friends getting into in any depth. But the hazy ambivalent fondness I still feel for Pride, while feeling at once quite contented that Pride is no longer the thing for me, is something like the hazy ambivalent fondness I feel for my own time of youthful adventuring.

I marched with my friends in Queer Nation in the Pride Parade in Atlanta half a dozen times at least, in the early nineties, and that really felt like something. Perhaps it was because we didn't seem quite as respectable as the Pride tag insisted we should be aspiring to be, for one thing. I marched in San Francisco's Parade just once, the summer after I moved here, in 1996, and it already felt terribly belated and pro forma. I wasn't really part of any movement anymore, and that left me feeling like I was at a County Fair cruising a loud crowd for dick and funnel cakes. That's been nearly twenty years ago now. I must say I felt quite a lot of sympathy for the Occupride moment in 2012 -- but I heard about it on the news after the fact. There was some political alchemical spark there, some joyful noisy resistance, some futural opening onto elsewhere that felt truly queer. To connect with that kind of queer futurity, I might even drag my tired old unrepentant queer ass onto the street again one day.

Rally In My Head

The New Economy Is the Old Plutocracy
"The Tech Future" Is Feudalism
Disruption Is Reaction
Big Data, Small Minds
Luddite Is All Right
Digitality Meet Dustbin

My Higher Power

Although I do not believe in God, I do believe in a power greater than myself. I believe in history. History is a gravity that beggars individual agency, history is the change pressured by collective work, history is unknowable, unpredictable, and yet history yields its measure of grace. That and beauty and the struggle for equity-in-diversity are more than enough faith for me.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Working on the Weekend

Grading a pile of student writing right now and also prepping a new lecture on Octavia Butler's Kindred this weekend for Monday, so the relentlessness of these summer intensives at Berkeley have really only continued to amplify as the weeks have accumulated... but only one week remains and freedom's prospect is palpable. Teaching has played havoc on my blogging this summer, I know. I hope I haven't completely lost my small but loyal readership...

CNN Is ON the ISIS Dildo Menace Story

Friday, June 26, 2015


Workshopping final papers again, this time for "What Is Compelling?" Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for these summer intensives at long last. One week to go, then a mountain of grading, then a real summer break.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Free As In "Free, Just Pay!"

Do please enjoy the micromoment of microlife afforded by this micropayment.


This afternoon we will be workshopping the final paper for "Patriarchal Conventions and Convictions in Greece and Rome." They'll be brainstorming thesis claims, sharpening them up, anticipating objections to the claims, coming up with key textual supports, thinking through terms on which they depend strongly enough to require explicit definitions. The workshop has many separate steps, involves moving around into many changing small groups and requires them to explain their paper's project so many times to so many people that many of them will actually know what they are doing by the end. Most of my work happens up front. No rest for the weary, tho', I'm grading, grading, grading in free pockets of time -- and still behind. How long, how long will this purgatorial passage persist!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Tex Lex


Long Teaching Day, Arendt and Quintilian

This morning we have arrived at the Arendtian lecture in my "What Is Compelling?" course -- natality against mortality, power as potentia rather than capacitation, violence and instrumentality, redemption from the deaths/drives of the human condition, forgiveness as deed, why Eichmann should/shouldn't hang -- and then later in "Patriarchal Conventions and Convictions in Greece and Rome" we have arrived at the rhetorical summit, Quintilian's pedagogical overcoming of the Socratic complaint against sophistry, politics as play, child-centered learning, an inkling of feminism, and a fully contemporary account of the figural. Will be on campus teaching forever. Will end as I now begin, dead tired.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Done In

You might be "done" with voting for imperfect Presidents, but the Presidency is not done acting in your name and impacting your life.


America's neo-confederate rump is farting.

Fermi's Truism?

There are no signs of terrestrial civilization despite the abundance of apparently intelligent humans on earth.

The Things

The aspiration as well as the work of "The Internet of Things" has never been otherwise than to mediate the reduction of people to things.

More Futurological Brickbats here.

Too Old To Be "On"

"Off" feels altogether more apt and soothing.

Teaching Juvenal

Teaching the Roman satirist Juvenal today in "Patriarchal Conventions and Convictions" at Berkeley -- Caesar's imperial revolution has prevailed over Cicero's republican revolution and the critical/rhetorical public has been driven underground to flower in perverse ridicule. Less than two weeks remain of these summer intensives, and yet preparing for and psyching myself up to and delivering these relentless daily multi-hour lectures is like slogging through a swamp. I haven't performed this incessantly since I was a musical child-star in the dinner theatre circuit in Kentuckiana (ask me sometime).

Monday, June 22, 2015

Confederate Flag/US Flag Twitterscrum

When people respond to demands to take down/protest the Confederate Flag with demands to take down/protest the US flag I am troubled. The gesture reminds me too much of those who respond to #BlackLivesMatter by piously intoning "all lives matter." That is to say, it feels like a reactionary circumvention of a vital protest in the form of a pretense to greater radicalism, an evacuation of specificity through the ascent to a self-congratulatory universality. Of course there's plenty to protest about the domestic abuses/rights violations and foreign wars/imperialism waged beneath the US flag, but the US flag is an ambivalent signifier, invested in a history of protests, that include taking it up in demands to redress legitimate grievances. The Confederate flag is an unambiguous signifier of white supremacy, however, very much including when it is a signifier of "heritage." Take down the Confederate flag and take up the US flag, if only to burn it in public, I say. The difference makes a difference.


This morning in "What Is Compelling?" I will be lecturing on Fanon's "Concerning Violence" and Ta-Nehisi Coates' "The Case for Reparations." Raced bodies as bearers rather than sites of representation, zoology and history, Manichean de-politicization, the architecture of white supremacy (walls and redlining), the colony-qua-concentration camp (beyond Foucauldian disciplinarity), some ambiguities of redemption, and Fanon's ambivalent humanism. I'll be handing back their graded mid-terms as well. Back home this afternoon, I have to get right back to grading papers again, I'm afraid. The avalanche pours on.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Failing Some Pretty Basic Tests

GOP candidates on climate change: "I'm not a scientist."
GOP candidates on white-supremacist violence: "I'm not a human being."

For Charleston


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Heaven's Not A Place On Earth

"The Future" of the futurists has nothing to do with history. "The Future" is Heaven. "The Future" is Hell. "The Future" is Eden. "The Future" is Rapture. "The Future" does not, nor will it ever, exist.

More Futurological Brickbats here.

Teaching, Grading

It's the weekend, but I'm grading mid-term exams and short student papers today and tomorrow. Summer intensives never let up, if anything the work accumulates and amplifies from beginning to end. Four weeks behind, two weeks to go. Last week was especially tough, as I was working through a bone-wearying head-stuffing cold, but I am feeling the burst of energy that follows when you shunt off a bug, and I am arriving at the place in my syllabi when I am teaching Fanon, Arendt, and Ta-Nehisi Coates in one class, and Quintilian and Roman satirists in the other, work that I care about so deeply, and so, buried under a snow-drift of grading and reading as I am, tired and strung out as I am felling, I can't deny that there is some real exhilaration around here. Blogging low to no, tho, for a while still.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Teaching, Atheism and Nonviolence

The least study of the theory and history of nonviolent resistance turns up its conspicuous connection to religious belief. Some of the earliest formulations of the notion appear in foundational Buddhist and Christian texts, the examples of nonviolence readiest to hand tend to have religious movements in tow, Tolstoy, Gandhi, King, Day, Nhat Hanh, and on and on.

The premise of my Berkeley summer intensive course "What Is Compelling?" is that persuasive discourse is a site for the nonviolent adjudication of disputes, not because it is an "outside" to violence -- the naive distinction of persuasion and violence disavows, after all, both the threat of violence that inheres in so much persuasion as well as the deeper trouble that any testimony to violation secures its legibility as such only through a circumscription of norms that constitutes an epistemic violence of its own, rendering other possible testimonies to violation illegible -- but because rhetoric, with its definitive focus on the traffic between literalization and figuration in signification attends to the terms on which these legibilties are conferred and volatized and hence provides the opening for dispute over the ongoing constitution of violence and hence competing claims in dispute that would be nonviolent.

This premise is, whatever else, separable from questions of theology. For me personally, as an atheist and both a scholar and activist of nonviolence, this separability is hardly surprising, but for me that doesn't quite get at the connection at hand, because my interest and commitment to nonviolence was not only preceded by my arrival at atheist conviction but was provoked and shaped by that atheism. Obviously, mine is not the only path to nonviolent commitment -- nor, would it seem, the usual one -- but it is my path, and hence a possible one. For me the arc of the moral universe does not bend toward justice, but bends from just us: that the world is what we make of it and that all we have is one another seems as firm a foundation for nonviolence and the democratization with which it is connected as any faith to my eyes.

That is why it is striking to me how rarely this connection is elaborated in such terms. The Levinasian distinction of discourse from violence (with which the influence of Judith Butler has given me affinities) is leveraged explicitly on the Biblical injunction "Thous Shalt Not Kill"; the Arendtian account that has (unsurprisingly) long been an influence is a formalism (I take quite seriously, on literally her terms, her assertions that "nonviolent politics" is a redundancy and "violent power" a contradiction in terms), regard her assimilation of violence to instrumentality useful but incomplete, and note that when the account is fleshed out, things get theological quite soon after all: forgiveness is a "miracle," political action "redeems" political cycles of retribution, natality resonates with its Augustinian genuflection to "a child is born unto the world," and Eichmann must hang. The Foucauldian supplement of productive power is still mucked in the red thread of disciplinarity, the repressivity of which is (at least chronologically) continuous with the formulation of the power without a Kingly head (it got chopped off, you know). Zizek's little book on violence is some help, perversely enough, but his usual glib recourse to "Lacan" is, I don't know, Jesuitical.

We take up some of these questions in class today, but in a way that reflects my frustration, reading essays claiming pretty much everything but what I would want to myself: various religious believers asserting that atheism supports and implies violent politics, various atheists asserting that religious belief supports and implies violent politics, and strategists of nonviolence who circumvent questions of faith in a way that also divests nonviolence of an ethical dimension.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

White Supremacy Is A Ruling Ideology Not A Mental Illness

Teaching, Terence and Another Cicero

Today in "Patriarchal Conventions and Convictions in Greece and Rome" we devote another day to Cicero -- but this time it's his brother Quintus we're hearing from, the Commentariolum Petitionis, his delightfully scathing advice for his famous brother as he seeks election as consul of Rome. We also take up Terence's Eunuchus, a comedy less funny than, but quite as fascinating as, a Euripidean war refugee tragedy. Knock wood, the cold seems to be in eclipse.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Long Teaching Day

This morning in "What Is Compelling?" we are screening and discussing Cronenberg's film "A History of Violence" (an allegory of post-911 American murderousness which also critiques filmic representations of violence more generally) and then later today in "Patriarchal Conventions and Convictions in Greece and Rome" we continue our readings of Cicero, turning to his De Oratore. My cold is somewhat diminished but I'm quite tired and the day will be long -- here's hoping I don't exhaust myself into a relapse.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Lowered Expectations

"Progress" is definitely not the word I would use to describe the replacement of the Space Age with the Cyberspace Age.

Teaching, Cicero

In "Patriarchal Conventions and Convictions in Greece and Rome" today in Berkeley we are leaping forward centuries from Aristotle's Athens to Cicero's Rome. Tomorrow we will take up Cicero's "Ideal Orator" but today we begin with the real orator, Cicero's jeremiads against Verres, against Cataline, and against Antony at the key moments in his political career.  I truly love teaching this material (teaching Cicero and Quintilian seems to me easily as indispensable as Plato and Aristotle for rhetoricians but I don't think the feeling is widely shared), and it pisses me off that I'm still sick as a dog and will not likely be able to draw up the energy and clarity to communicate my passion for these texts this week. Honestly, I'm hoping my voice can actually hold up at all, gravelly and stuffed and quiet as it is now. So frustrating! 

Monday, June 15, 2015

All Hail the Upward Fail of the Libertechbrotarian Predator Gods!

"Technology" is the magic word that turns progressive feelings into reactionary dealings.

Over and over and over...

There's nothing like a tech demo to reveal there's a sucker reborn every minute.

Back to Teaching

The hits keep coming. Late Saturday I felt a summer cold coming and now I find myself aching, raw, coughing, sniffling, with my head stuffed with straw. Usually when this happens I crawl into bed for a few days and sleep through the whole thing, coming up for the occasional microwaved theraflu or what have you till the thing passes. But the relentlessness of summer intensives knocks that plan right on its caboose. I've got to find the energy somehow for five days of long, book-burdened walks to the bus-stop, high-energy pep-rallies shepherding concerned students through valid anxieties, and long, focused lectures day after day after day, however I'm feeling. Not sure where all this clarity and energy is supposed to come from. A long week ahead, I fear.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Priestly Futurists

"Elias Altvall" commented elsewhere in the same Moot I mentioned in the last post, "I see futurologists like priests." To this observation I responded:
This analogy is definitely clearest in the guru-wannabe layer of the organizational archipelago of robocultic sects. But I tend to think the more apt analogy is the crass salesmanship of the middle-managers and PR-glad handlers, barking on cellphones and laser-pointing at PowerPoint slides the latest line in BS.
Consumer capitalist marketing is an endless peddling of stasis as novelty and crap as wish-fulfillment. And I think futurological discourse is just a slightly amplified variation of that dance of death. That most futurologists likely disdain or at any rate fail to grasp their kinship with their more prevalent middle-brow discursive cousins just goes to show that they aren't exactly very sensitive or bright, even as they congratulate themselves on their superior scientificity and visionary genius. No doubt there are plenty of banksters with the same delusions of grandeur.
Neither is it surprising on these terms to see that futurologists so readily fancy themselves parts of futurist "movements" -- eugenic transhumanism, history-shattering singularitarianism, greenwashing geo-engineering, the various techno-immortalisms, plastic/nuclear/nano/3Dprinter-cornucopisms, and so on -- after all, consumer fandoms around Apple gizmos fancy themselves movement no less. In No Logo, Naomi Klein described a company exec declaring Diesel Jeans "a movement."
Think of those self-esteem hucksters and the authors of management technique best-sellers, offering up their vapid but lucrative consolations in packed Vegas auditoriums -- they are the same sort of guru-wannabes some lucky TED-talking futurologists manage to become, spouting slogans and neologisms and offering up their desperately hyperbolized advertorial promises, sex and success, like every empty ad shouting its lies on every screen.
"The Future" -- that would-be heaven of certainty and satisfaction and youthful skin -- is the faith that suffuses our catastrophically stupid society, its deceptive, hyperbolic norms and forms distract and derange us on our way to death as we destroy the world and the weak for no good reason any one of us can say, corrupt priests and dumb postulants all the way down.

Stimulation Via Simulation

An observation upgraded from the Moot:
I have always assumed the so-called "simulation argument in its futurological form was something of a scam: futurologists pine for better-than-real immersive virtualities that never arrive, so they pose as a thought experiment that reality itself might be just such a virtuality to lend credibility to the endlessly deferred promise of the techno-utopian fancy they pine for.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Teaching, Nietzsche

In "What Is Compelling?" this morning at Berkeley we are taking up figurative language in some depth, and then turning to Nietzsche's early polished gem, "On Truth and the Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense."

Non-Existence Poofs

As AI, drextech, immortality meds stubbornly persist in non-existence, futurologists trot out consoling "existence proofs": brains! cells! jellyfish!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Teaching, Aristotle

In "Patriarchal Conventions and Convictions in Greece and Rome" today we are taking up Aristotle, the Rhetoric with some Topics and Poetics thrown in for good measure. Aristotelian reasonableness as mask for a paranoid defensiveness in which character is reduced to expertise, everyday speech is suffused with syllogisms, emotions convey logical propositional content, art is reactionary medicine, and figures are not so much subversions of literality as shorthand for it. Hectic life has intervened to make what would normally be an enjoyable subject a bit of a slog. How these summer intensives crawl, how they claw! Conversations in the Moot will have to wait for the weekend to resume, I fear. And the long ghost-arm of mid-term grading already beckons with its bony heavy chain-laden hand.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

No Beginnings: More on Anarchist Pre-Politicism

A couple of days ago I posted a throwaway observation the glibness of which was sure to cause trouble:
Anarchism means "No Beginnings," from archein, "to begin, to rule": There is no need for a word "archism" because "politics" is that word.
In the Moot to that post friend-of-blog "Elias Altvall" made some reasonable objections:
Actually no. Anarchism is derivations from anarchy which is anarchos which translates to without rulers. I understand the decreipt state anarchist movement is in America with the so called "lifestyle" and libertarians but your always your weakest when you desperately tries to make all anarchists and especially historical anarchism (socialism) into the samething. If archism means rulers then why is politics that word. I atleast thought politics original etymological meanings, especially in its aristotelian meaning, was active engagement with ones community structures and decision making. Yet politics as has been referred to since 16th century has always meant the rich and powerful decision making not the peoples, so to speak.
I am pleased to use the occasion to further elaborate my point, especially since the demands of summer teaching intensives seem to rob me of the capacity for original longform posting on topics outside my lectures these days, but conversation still works. Upgraded and adapted from the same Moot:
archon, ruler, derives from archein, to begin, to rule. My point is not to deny the familiar derivation but to point out that beginning is inherent in that ruling, which is less familiar and provocative. That sense is conspicuous in, for example, our "archetype," a comparable derivation, which is the origin/master/model from which subsequent variations/copies arise.
The nature of such rule is citational and reiterative in a performative account of the political of the kind one discerns in works by Hannah Arendt and Judith Butler (which I have always found congenial), in which norms and institutional forms are enacted in an ongoing way, a matter of improvisation within constraints. What matters to me in proposing politics to be in some sense an "archism" is that it highlights the performative character of ruling as acting-in-public, even -- perhaps especially -- in democratizing contexts.

Yes, of course you are right that politics derives from polis, and names the values/experiences emerging from the state of plurality in which one is immersed in settlements/cities. That plurality is the condition in which Arendtian action -- a matter of beginnings or at any rate interruptons introduced into the given with unexpected consequences -- and the performative rematerialization/refiguration of Butler's forceful but flexible public norms. There is nothing desperate, I hope, about this proposal or weak about its premises, tho' of course it may turn out to be wrongheaded like anything one thinks through so theoretically, but it is just meant to be illuminating if unfamiliar.

I do continue to think anarchist theory misses much that is indispensable to a proper conception of the political, and in its evocations of "spontaneous order" -- whether in the market pieties from its right or in the consensus pieties from its left (I leave to the side the unfortunate Propaganda of the Deed and recurring insurrectionist strains, that cannot be wished away, and tend to exhibit the limitations of spontaneism even more forcefully still) -- anarchism tends to be a reactionary disavowal of the contentious plurality recognition of which is the point of departure for political thinking.
This error sometimes yields bad politics on the ground, and definitely yields some terrible sloganeering, but I still think that anarchist-identified activists are often congenial and indispensable allies in democratizing politics practically speaking, usually in spite of the anarchist notions in the name of which they think they are acting (at their best, which is often, activist and artist anarchists are doing vital democratizing work in my view).

Finally, let me note that the querelle des anciens et modernes in its political face is the distinction of a politics conceived as providing occasions for the excellence of the few as against amelioration of hardship for the many. I am not one to deny the abiding reality of plutocratic power throughout history, but surely what is interesting about politics since the 16th century is precisely the democratizing and sometimes revolutionary insurgencies of people-power?

UPDATE: This exchange has continued on in the Moot linked above. Feel free to join in.


This morning at Berkeley my argumentative thinking/writing intensive is taking up an abbreviated tour of propositional analysis, formal and informal fallacies. I fear my students will be a wee bit terrorized by the demands of this analytic mode and a flood of new terminology, but it is one of the few times I really get to flex the muscles I acquired from my first graduate degree from the long, long ago, from an analytic philosophy department, prior to my travels in rhetoric and literary theory.

I Ask You

What's literality without a little glitterality?

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

I'm not just saying that because I'm a feminist.

If you play rock, scissors, penis, penis always loses.

I Gave Up God For Lent

This year like every year since 1983.

(Added: And come to think of it, every year since 1992 whenabouts I discovered the extropian transhumanoids I've made a point of including the Robot God in that congenial relinquishment.)

Teaching, On Plato

Today at Berkeley in my "Patriarchal Conventions and Convictions in Greek and Roman Rhetoric" we take up Gorgias and Phaedrus (with Protagoras Socrates' key anti-sophistical trilogy, though the Platonic constitution of philosophy through the disavowal of rhetoric of recurs deliriously throughout the dialogues). Inching our way toward mid-term already, and it looks like whatever sleep disorder made the first two weeks of these intensives a hellscape is sorting itself out at last.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Situation Normal, FUBAR

Predatory finance is the worst looting, austerity is the worst vandalism and abuse, racist policing is the riot that goes on and on and on.

No Beginnings

Anarchism means No Beginnings, from archein, "to begin, to rule": There is no need for a word "archism" because "politics" is that word.

Back to Teaching

This morning at Berkeley in "What Is Compelling?" we'll be discussing articles on anarchism and nonviolence, the pathologization of the politics of urban rioting, the politics of unsustainable immiserating slums, the terrorism of the Afghanistan war, and the mythology of war in popular culture -- taken together these works provide an occasion for us to talk through the relation of violence and government.

Sunday, June 07, 2015


Nothing is more deranging to foresight than the pretense that it has anything to do with that impoverished imaginary object, "The Future."

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Catching My Breath

So, my summer intensives are one third through already and I haven't even gotten everybody's names straight yet. Clearly the long slog will be doable but tremendously exhausting is the verdict. Definitely I will try to distribute intensives over two separate sessions in years to come -- I simply never have time to catch my breath on this relentless doubled-up schedule. I plan to spend the rest of this day binge watching the fourth season of Call the Midwife and scrounging the cabinets for alcohol. Tomorrow prep begins anew. Blogging is just going to suffer for a few more weeks from the look of things. I have a sweet, sweeping clearing of free time opening up after these intensives, tho, and I've got some pent-up anti-futurological ranting to do.

Friday, June 05, 2015

W Redux

Those recalling a Bush blatantly lying us into a catastrophic war over WMDs he claimed existed have not been consoled to observe a Bush blatantly lying his way through a Presidential run he denied existed.

Ioway Goaway

Given the uncompetitive Democratic primary and another Republican killer clown car, it is looking like the kingmaking status of 10,000 farmers over 250,000,000 urbanites is seriously on the wane.

Teaching, On King

This morning in Berkeley in my "What Is Compelling?" intensive we have arrived at Rogerian Synthesis, a less-antagonistic counterpart to Wednesday's Toulmin Scheme as a model of argumentative rhetoric, and after that we will grapple with King's "Letter from the Birmingham City Jail," a text that so many genially genuflect to rather than reading it closely enough to grasp its radicalism, seems to me.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Rachel Maddow on Hillary Clinton Calling for Automatic Universal Voter Registration and Calling Out Racist Republican Disenfranchisement


The rich take everything, but they can't take a joke.

More Dispatches from Libertopia here.

Younger Days

Back when I was still dating I used to want to take out a billionaire. Alas, I never got close enough to kill.

Deep Unlearning

Computation, whether networked or not, raises a host of complex problems and possibilities that demand critical analysis and serious policy deliberation, to be sure, but not one of these has ever been nor will ever be clarified by the customary recourse to the deceptive, deranging figure artificial intelligence or its various promotional repackagings, of which the latest -- and one of the worst -- is the frankly insulting "deep learning."

Teaching, More Plato and Aristophanes

This afternoon at Berkeley I'll be talking Aristophanes' Wasps and then my favorite Platonic dialogue The Symposium. My cursed insomnia didn't plague me last night, so I'm more rested than usual and rather looking forward to teaching these queer pieces.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Newsworthy Tantrums

Much more media attention to media attention about Clinton inattention to media is sorely needed.


Vile gangster Dick Cheney's recent embrace of popular attributions to him of a Darth Vader moniker finally resolves the question whether the stupid evil Cheney is more stupid or more evil.

Long Teaching Day

This morning in "What Is Compelling?" at Berkeley I'll be introducing Stephen Toulmin's schema for analyzing argument and taking the Schema out for a spin in a workshop, while later in the afternoon in "Patriarchal Convention and Conviction in Greek and Roman Antiquity" we take up those philosophical blue chips the Apology and then the Republic.  A long day ahead, and unfortunately, once again, a short fitful night's sleep behind.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Fake the Future!

Futurists sure do love to claim they are Making "The Future"... as they reassure and rationalize incumbent elites in the present.

Tuesday Teaching

Got some sleep, thankfully. Today in "Patriarchal Convention and Conviction in Classical Greece and Rome" it's Euripides' mater dolorosa Hecuba and then Plato's Protagoras, in which Socrates loses by winning.

Monday, June 01, 2015


Capitalism is like a cum facial that never ends.

Week Two, Weak, Too

The second week of Berkeley summer intensives begins this morning in "What Is Compelling?" Today, four habits of argumentative writing, The Declaration of Independence, a wee bit on performativity, and then it's time for an in-class debate. Insomnia is wreaking the usual havoc.