Spontaneous rebellion alone is not sufficient.
January 3, 2009 12:52 PM   Subscribe

This just strikes me as profoundly selfish and dogmatic. It's good to read, however, because in the process of rejecting it, I think about the beliefs I hold in new ways, and solidify the reasoning behind them.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 1:08 PM on January 3, 2009

But despite the changes in this edition, the central thesis of this essay remains unchanged: that all genuine revolutionary impulses and activities stem directly from the desires of individuals, not from any ideologically imposed sense of "duty" with its attendant guilt, self-sacrifice, and self-deadening "shoulds."

Thank you for posting this.
posted by jason's_planet at 1:14 PM on January 3, 2009

I've been playing Bioshock recently, so I'm reading all this page in the voice of Andrew Ryan. It seems to suit the text. For example:
Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow?

No, says the man in Washington; it belongs to the poor.
No, says the man in the Vatican; it belongs to God.
No, says the man in Moscow; it belongs to everyone.

I rejected those answers. Instead, I chose something
posted by JDHarper at 1:32 PM on January 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

In an ideal world, someone would read and explain this article to me.
posted by terranova at 1:32 PM on January 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

"Christian Marxism" is not an oxymoron. It may not be popular, it may not reflect the greater historic narrative of the Church itself, but it is by no means contradictory to the Gospels themselves, nor especially the Book of Acts.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:44 PM on January 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Wow, this is great.

For me it really dovetails into Foucault and his 'Culture of the Self', specifically the notion from antiquity of Taking care of oneself.
posted by kuatto at 1:44 PM on January 3, 2009

This is a manual for those who wish to think for themselves, a manual for creation of a personally (rather than ideologically) constructed body of critical thought for your own use, a body of thought which will help you to understand why your life is the way it is and why the world is the way it is.

Pretty hard to think for yourself by following a manual.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:45 PM on January 3, 2009 [11 favorites]

I rebel against....this ideology.

So much 'revolution', 'rebellion', 'think for yourself by doing what I tell you to do'---it's like some kind of neo-Marxism.
posted by eye of newt at 1:50 PM on January 3, 2009

I have a hard time with this kind of smug dogmatic writing thinking. Heavy on big statements meant to be taken at face value, thin on boring evidence or actual analysis.
posted by swift at 1:59 PM on January 3, 2009

I am not sure that I agree with everything in this essay. Why rip on the
situationists for not having a clear path from "the society of the spectacle to the free society"?

Who has a clear map showing how to successfully and completely transform society? More realistically, any "roadmap" is simply a discourse on policy that results from the critical analysis of the 'spectacle' or what have you.
posted by kuatto at 2:02 PM on January 3, 2009

Nihilists constantly feel the urge to destroy the system which destroys them. They cannot go on living as they are. Soon, most realize that they must devise a coherent set of tactics in order to transform the world.

Yeah, I saw this in a movie once.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:19 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Christian Marxism" is not an oxymoron.

I'm not surprised that there are Christian "Marxists", since picking and choosing the bits of an ideology that don't contradict what you already believe and then claiming that ideology as yours are pretty the Christian tradition.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:24 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think this essay is conflating two separate goals:

1) The basic exposition on the self. How the self is realized through introspection and careful study. and 2) Discussion of critical theory with some revolutionary goal in mind.

In my opinion, it would do the authors well to clearly separate these goals.

Every day people are denied (and deny themselves) an authentic life and are sold back its representation.

This idea of a 'authentic life' and its shallow representation, the life as an extension of a global mechanism could be considered 'new' in some sense. However this idea was well understood and discussed even in ancient Greece as the unity of politics, aesthetics, and the individual. To Americans the Greek polity is a schizophrenic sensation. We cannot internalize a notion of an individual's primal role in a beautiful political union. Even if we could, the dimensions of a larger society, communication and media, ease the top-down control of the self. This method of control abrogates the individual's obligations to the self and removes choice, in effect shattering the possibility of a real political union.

This lack of choice results in a dimming of possibility.
posted by kuatto at 2:27 PM on January 3, 2009

I enjoy this essay. Deoxy has a lot of great stuff. Thanks for posting.
posted by Curry at 2:29 PM on January 3, 2009

Paradigm Shift? Shmaradigm Pfft.
posted by pwally at 2:40 PM on January 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

More realistically, any "roadmap" is simply a discourse on policy that results from the critical analysis of the 'spectacle' or what have you.

Are you kidding?
posted by OmieWise at 2:49 PM on January 3, 2009

Any system of ideas with an abstraction at its center--an abstraction which assigns you a role or duties--is an ideology.

the self is an abstraction - the ideology is hedonism and consumerism - helped along with a great deal of self-deceiving double talk
posted by pyramid termite at 2:54 PM on January 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Why rip on the situationists for not having a clear path from "the society of the spectacle to the free society"?

Pretty sure that the author/s were either a situationist subgroup or one of the many, many people who pissed off Debord and so fell from favour.

In short, archetypal 1960's left factionalism.

Here's an earlier, and IMO, more interesting version.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:20 PM on January 3, 2009

the self is an abstraction...

This always sounded strange to me, but I've been doing a lot of reading on this topic lately and it's starting to make sense. One interesting take on it is that the self is a fictional entity that has proven to be pragmatically useful, in the same way that the center of gravity of an object is fictional but useful for prediction and explanation. Dan Dennett, though he makes assertions based on this that I don't find convincing, wrote an interesting article about the idea: The Self as a Center of Narrative Gravity.
posted by voltairemodern at 4:04 PM on January 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

>More realistically, any "roadmap" is simply a discourse on policy that results from the critical >analysis of the 'spectacle' or what have you.

Are you kidding?

hehe..not really.

of course the substance of my assertion is non-existent. What do you think a plan for complete societal transformation looks like?

I was arguing that often these "plans" turn out to be a watered down set of policy initiatives. The revolutionary impetus, perhaps derived through some critical philosophy (i.e. analysis of the spectacle), encounters political will and equivocation sets in.
posted by kuatto at 4:07 PM on January 3, 2009

I'm too into myself to bother to read it.
posted by matty at 4:20 PM on January 3, 2009


That is a very interesting and provocative idea.

One question that I find myself asking is:

In adopting a new analogical framework (such as Center of Gravity) with which we can reason about the Self, don't we end up just replacing one label with another? It seems to me that we are still talking about the same thing, whether we call it "Center of Gravity" or something else.
posted by kuatto at 4:21 PM on January 3, 2009

A center of gravity is just an abstractum. It's just a fictional object. But when I say it's a fictional object, I do not mean to disparage it; it's a wonderful fictional object, and it has a perfectly legitimate place within serious, sober, echt physical science.

There is some reasoning here like in thermodynamics. Perhaps there could be a theory of the Self as some thermodynamic state.
posted by kuatto at 4:25 PM on January 3, 2009

In adopting a new analogical framework (such as Center of Gravity) with which we can reason about the Self, don't we end up just replacing one label with another?

That's technically true, but sometimes a lot can be accomplished by swapping labels. I think the point is that terms like "self" and "my self" have certain valences when conceived as substantive things, and these valences tend to lead us to be perplexed about pseudo-problems. For instance, if the self is a sort of substance or object, we might worry about how it could possibly be maintained through time -- after all, we're constantly changing in both body and mind. But if we instead think about the self as a fiction that is useful in certain contexts, but poorly-defined in others, we won't get caught up in such puzzles.
posted by voltairemodern at 4:35 PM on January 3, 2009

When you smarter folk have figured this out, please tell me how to be more true to myself. TIA.
posted by maxwelton at 5:29 PM on January 3, 2009

voltairemodern, I agree completely. There is a utility in altering our analogies to elicit truth. In the hallowed halls of science, this sort of 'succesful' relabeling (and consequent proliferation of knowledge) is how we gauge progress. However I too have some reservations.

If we consider any particular thermodynamic state, we have a statistical distribution that maps to an infinity of possible states. Similarly, with the Self described as a center of gravity, the problem lies in mapping back to a particular distribution of 'self. We end up with an infinite-dimensional, let's say spherical, distribution of some density of mass, that is "Self".

The center of gravity of this spherical 'mass' then maps to an infinite array of arbitrary shapes, each with an identical center of gravity. Of course, we don't have to choose a sphere, we could choose any of the other arbitrary shapes.

The problem is that, for a given real object, there is exactly one distribution of mass. there is only one "me".

Media, Business, ad gurus, have all taken this idea and reversed it.

There are some generic set of categories of the Self (like hipster, housewife, 18-34 etc), which the impulses of modernity seek to unify. Like different levels of granularity in a sifting process, these impulses corral people into something that approximates 'their' category. This is how people identify their roles etc. in society.

This is what I find highly irritating about the endeavors of Modernity, that these roles people find themselves in do not reflect the needs and desires of the Self, rather they reflect the needs and desires of the Multi-National corporations and Institutions. The question is, whose interest do you serve?

maxwelton, you can be true to yourself by examining what is "you", and then acting accordingly.
posted by kuatto at 6:07 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Stirner run amok.
posted by 3.2.3 at 6:31 AM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

All the mind's a stage,
And all the thoughts and feelings merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one thought in its time plays many parts,
posted by wobh at 7:01 AM on January 4, 2009

Despite the author's claims of stripping out the arcane language of previous editions, and the text's claim that it seeks to move past ideology, I think that the prescribed political activity (i.e. a movement towards syndicalism) only makes sense in the laboratory of the mind. First of all, I don't think a good job has been made of showing how freedom and authenticity are so strongly linked. But for my money, what always leaves me cold about notions of radical freedom is how we deal with large scale modern problems like, say, nuclear weapon proliferation. What is to stop all these syndicates from descending into dysfunctional mayhem? How can a syndicalist nation muster an effective military against one with a more centralized government? The devil is in the details, and I feel like prescriptions like these don't make sense when you throw in a few specific practical considerations. But then, my understanding of syndicalism is pretty weak, so if anyone can enlighten me, I'd appreciate it.

The part about self-realization and moving past ideology is pretty stirring, though, if a bit vague.
posted by Edgewise at 6:38 PM on January 4, 2009

Can't believe nobody here, and the essay, didn't quote this one yet:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
-- George Bernard Shaw
posted by DU at 8:42 AM on January 5, 2009

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