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Showing posts from 2009

Herodotus: As Seen On the Train.

Croesus remembers Solon's point: Call no man happy until he is dead.

Plato on Love.

Aristophanes, the Athenian comedic playwright is famous for lambasting politicians during the Peloponnesian war. But also according to Plato’s “Symposium” he put forth a theory of love, in a short mythopoeic narrative. Expressing the idea that human-beings are inherently incomplete, wanting for another individual who represents their other half. This theory was counterpoised with several other conceptualizations of what constituted love. Socrates in the “symposium’’ also postulated a conception of love advocating that love constituted the “desire for perpetual possession of the good”. The purpose of this paper will be to render an account of both Aristophanes and Socrates account of love in more detail. Furthermore discussing the contention between the two theories and critically evaluating which if at all these theories adequately elucidate the nature of love.

The story delivered by Aristophanes started with the idea that originally human-beings had three genders (Plato, 2005, p 26)…

Book Chat: 'A Moveable Feast'.

The first time I tried to read Hemingway I ended by throwing the book across the room. It wasn’t until I read ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ that I started to appreciate Hemingway’s work. ‘A Movable Feast’, unlike ‘A Farewell to Arms’, didn’t end up in the far corner of the room. There is a certain emotional authenticity in his sketches of Paris between the wars. I particularly enjoyed the anecdotes and observations made of Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald, which are the most developed characterizations of the memoir. The notion of “the lost generation” and Hemingway’s meditation upon Stein's point was enjoyable and Fitzgerald’s problems with measurement left me in stitches.

This new edition contains a lot more than earlier editions, but is not without controversy as to certain editorial alteration. Supposedly, some remarks that are uncomplimentary to Hemingway’s first wife Hadley have been removed. Nevertheless, this is still a great and evocative read.


Žižek on Cultural Studies.

“Some moths before writings this, at an art round table, I was asked to comment on a painting I had seen there for the first time. I did not have any idea about it, and so I engaged in a total bluff, which went something like this: the frame of the painting in front of us is not its true frame; there is another, invisible, frame, implied by the structure of the painting, and these two frame do not overlap – there is an invisible gap separating the two. The pivotal content of the painting is not rendered in its visible part, but is located in this dislocation of the two frames, in the gap that separates them. Are we, today, in our post-modern madness, still able to discern the traces of the gap? Perhaps more than the reading of a painting hinges on it; perhaps the decisive dimension of humanity will be lost when we lose the capacity to discern this gap…to my surprise, this brief intervention was a huge success, and many following participants referred to the dimension in-between-the-tw…

The “New Capitalism” and The “Dialectics of Failure”.

In recent years there has been a spate of news reports on the ‘new economy’, the shifts in corporate structure and the resultant transformations in the nature of employment. Richard Sennett, in a series of works on the culture of “new capitalism”, has attempted to map the connection between large-scale trends in corporate structure and the employee’s experience of work and self. The operational logic of this new capitalism isn’t new; for Sennett (1997, p. 161) the novelty lies in the innovative organizational structure of business, which seemingly flouts Marx’s thesis that the concentration of production goes hand-in-hand with the concentration of capital. In the world of new capitalism, once stable corporate bureaucracies have become increasingly “flexible” and “highly mobile” enterprises, ultimately less secure in their position (Sennett, 1997, p. 161). In turn, Sennett argues, work has become subject to recurrent metamorphoses, engendering more uncertainty and instability in the w…

Punk-Style and Sub-Cultural Theory.

The role and significance of sub-cultural style and its relationship to mainstream culture, moreover its political connotations have been an area of contention within sub-cultural theory. A seminal account of sub-cultural dynamics was postulated by Hebdige who drew on theories from disciplines diverse as Semiotics and Anthropology. Hebdige considered sub-cultural style to be grounded in the re-appropriation and subversion of the mainstream cultural order by alienated groups. This implies that style itself has a political dimension and that sub-cultural style is innately politically challenging (effectively or not) within the power relations of society. The task of this paper will be to shed further light on Hebdige’s theory of sub-cultural style as a form of re-appropriation and insubordination, building up from the theoretical antecedents to an application of the theory to punk subculture. Additionally, I will evaluate Hebdige’s thesis on the nature of sub-cultural style and its pol…

European Cultural Hegemony and Australian Aboriginals

The relationship between the indigenous people of Australia and their native lands are essential to their traditional culture. The colonization of their nations by Europeans has lead to a destruction of this relationship and therefore of indigenous cultural practices and norms. This process was predicated upon European cultural norms and established a cultural hegemony of European culture over indigenous culture. The effects of this cultural hegemony by mainstream Australia can be observed through a series of social indicators. Therefore these social indicators can be used to demonstrate the nature of cultural hegemony on the indigenous peoples of Australia.

Cultural hegemony is a concept designed by the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci (Ganguly-Scrase, 2003:55). Gramsci argued that a dominate group, could not retain power by threat of physical coercion alone, but also needed to retain control of the superstructure, i.e. of Ideology and belief systems (Gramsci, 1988: 193-4). The Europ…

Liberalism and Colonialism.

The first major wave of European colonization was initiated after the discovery of the Americas by Columbus in the late 15th century. The Colonization of these new lands was at first justified by the catholic nations as their duty to proselytize Christianity. Therefore their domination of the indigenous population was alleged to be of a great service to them, saving their souls from eternal damnation. This ‘Civilizing’ project was also used in an adapted form by British liberal political philosophers to justify their nation’s own colonization and empire building. Liberalism is a political philosophy that developed during the age of Enlightenment, noted for its ideals of individual freedom and rights. Two of Liberalism’s most prominent advocates; John Locke and John Stuart Mill supported the practice of colonialism. The rationalization of colonialism by Locke has been argued to represent the bankruptcy of western liberalism and its purported universal respect for human rights. To asce…

The Latin War and Rome's Expansion.

Rome was forged in violent struggle. Wedged between often hostile cities and civilizations from the Etruscans in the north, to Hellenistic cities of the south, Rome seemed to be forever poised between conquest and destruction. Aristocrats of the late republican period lauded their ancestors for their military discipline and glory. The frugality and duty of Cincinnatus appointed dictator and invested with Imperium while plowing his field, was held in great esteem by Cicero in the first century before the Common Era . This nostalgic conception of early Rome may not be too far removed from actuality. Roman history was dominated by almost perpetual warfare, but Rome’s might came not from mere force of arms. Tactical alliances and integration of defeated enemies provided the manpower necessary for empire. This strategy, which established and perpetuated Roman hegemony, was in large part developed by the political settlements enforced after the Latin War of 340-338 BCE. These settlements t…

A Quick Take on Ricardo’s Theory of Comparative Advantages.

Adam Smith’s famous analogy of the “invisible hand” was first articulated in regard to the superiority of the market in comparison with import tariffs to protect and augment the national economy. However, Smith’s discussion of the benefits associated with free trade between nations was limited to the theory of absolute advantage. Put simply, if another nation can produce a commodity more efficiently than your own, it is more advantageous to trade then to continue on with inefficient industry. It wasn’t until David Ricardo developed his theory of comparative advantages that free trade between countries came to be considered beneficial in a wider number of contexts. Even if there is no complementary absolute advantage, in terms of inverse production superiorities, Ricardo argued, it can still be more profitable for both parties to trade. The theory of comparative advantages, given its wider applicability, is often taken to be the strongest liberal argument in favour of free trade. Thos…

"After The Orgy"

"The orgy in question is the moment when modernity
exploded on us, the moment of liberation in every
sphere. Political liberation, sexual liberation, liberation
of the forces of production, liberation of the forces of
destruction, women’s liberation, children’s liberation,
liberation of unconscious drives, liberation of art. . . .
This was a total orgy—an orgy of the real, the rational,
the sexual, of criticism as of anti-criticism, of development
as a crisis of development. . . . Now everything has
been liberated, the chips are down, and we find ourselves
faced collectively with the big question: WHAT
we can do is simulate the orgy, simulate liberation."
- Jean Baudrillard, in "The Transparency of evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena".

It has to be said, Baudrillard is terribly flippant.

"Seeing is Believing"

The first University essay I ever wrote, for open foundation at the University of Newcastle midway through 2006. Enjoy:

Recommendation: “The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism”

This is a very timely book and Bacevich manages to pack it with a substantial amount of well organized information. His main themes, as evidenced by the title, are the limitations of power projection through military force and the ideology of American Imperium. He traces the history of the National Security State, its organizational apparatus and the friction between various departments and the ideology of National Security which provide the rationale for the projects of political elites. His analysis situates the Bush administration within a tradition of ideology that spans back to the early days of the Cold war. Whilst also demonstrating its discontinuities; above all, the Bush doctrine’s concept of “preemptive war”. For Bacevich, this policy is both morally indefensible and pragmatically inept. He attempts to give both a description of the current crises (the crisis of profligacy, the political crisis and the military crisis) and prescriptive advice on how to readdress past mistak…

The Colonial System and Algerian Nationalism.

“[A]nd each day hundreds of new orphans, Arabs and French, awakened in every corner of Algeria, sons and daughters without fathers who would now have to learn to live without guidance and without heritage” – Albert Camus, ‘The First Man’.

In the early months of 1958, Hneri Alleg’s La Question was published in France and caused an immediate scandal for its first-hand description of torture by the French military in Algeria. For Alleg, the scourge of institutionalized torture not only afflicted the native Algerians, but functioned as “a school of perversion for young Frenchman”. In the long course of the war (1954-1962), dehumanization of the enemy led to increasingly brutal manifestations of violence. Albert Camus bemoaned the war for its extreme tactics and for severing two interconnected communities. However, these two communities, the indigenous and the European, had never constituted an organic whole. Part of the strategic logic of Nationalist terrorism was to provoke a heavy-hande…

Ideology and Symbolic power: Between Althusser and Bourdieu.

Western Marxism has often laid considerable stress upon the ideology of modern capitalist societies. This focus upon ideology stems from the failure of proletarian revolution to have either occurred, or establish socialism within Western Europe. The exact nature and function of ideology became paramount in Marxian explanations of the continued stability of Western capitalism after the Great War and Great Depression. Marxian conceptualizations of symbolic domination (under the notion of ideology) remain in the realm of consciousness and intellectual frameworks. Pierre Bourdieu developed a paradigm for understanding symbolic power and domination through his theory of dispositional practices that breaks with the concept of ideology and it basis in the tradition of ‘Kantian intellectualism’. This theoretical model both deepens and broadens the sociological understanding of symbolic power and domination, through the acknowledgment of non-intellectual and bodily elements in the dynamics of…

Neoclassical Economics and the Problem of Realization.

The Neoclassical School of economic theory emerged from a dissatisfaction with classical political economy and the labour theory of value. Critics of capitalism, from the Marxian tradition, had hijacked the precepts of the classical school to analyze the historical tendencies of capital accumulation and the stumbling blocks inherent within the process. In a maneuver which ostensibly undermined the Marxian conception of exploitation and therefore capitalism, the neoclassical school sought to explain economic systems in terms of markets and the arbiter of economic allocation, the price mechanism. From this focus, the neoclassical economists developed the theory of general equilibrium, under which the price mechanism (within a condition of perfect competition) is conceived of as self-regulating, self-adjusting and therefore a stabilizing apparatus. In diametrical opposition, the Marxian tradition of political economy characterizes capitalism in terms of instability, structural contradic…