Radical media, politics and culture.


"Fear and Loathing in Globalization"

Fredric Jameson, New Left Review

Reviewing William Gibson, Pattern Recognition

Has the author of Neuromancer
really ‘changed his style’? Has he even ‘stopped’ writing Science Fiction, as some old-fashioned critics have put it, thinking thereby to pay him a compliment? Maybe, on the contrary, he is moving closer to the ‘cyberpunk’ with which he is often associated, but which seems more characteristically developed in the work of his sometime collaborator Bruce Sterling. In any case, the representational apparatus of Science Fiction, having gone through innumerable generations of technological development and well-nigh viral mutation since the onset of that movement, is sending back more reliable information about the contemporary world than an exhausted realism (or an exhausted modernism either).

jim writes:

"Notes on the Politics of Software Culture"

Andreas Broeckmann

[written for the Next5Minutes4 reader; first posted on Nettime]

Software has, over the last few years, increasingly come into view as
a cultural technique whose social and political impact ought to be
studied carefully. To the extent that social processes rely on
software for their execution -- from systems of e-government and
net-based education, online banking and shopping, to the organisation
of social groups and movements --, it is necessary to understand the
procedural specificities of the computer programmes employed, and the
cultural and political 'rules' coded into them. The 'killer apps' of
tomorrow may, as Howard Rheingold claims, not be 'hardware devices or
software programs but social practices'. Yet, these social practices
will increasingly be determined by software configurations of the
available infrastructure and the degrees and types of latitude that
they offer.

Anonymous Comrade submits:

On Saturday, August 30, the Canadian book Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril by Judith Merril and Emily Pohl-Weary scooped the only non-fiction category of the Hugo Awards at the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon).

The award came as a complete surprise to co-author (and Merril's granddaughter) Pohl-Weary, who completed the book posthumously. "We re-write history when we tell the stories of women whose lives were important to us," said Pohl-Weary, when she accepted the award. "I encourage everyone to record the lives of women they admire."

"Where the Twain Should Have Met"

A Review of Edward Said's Orientalism,

Christopher Hitchens

The cosmopolitan Edward Said was ideally placed to explain East to West and West to East. What went wrong?

I first met Edward Said in the summer of 1976, in the capital city of Cyprus. We had come to Nicosia to take part in a conference on the rights of small nations. The obscene civil war in Lebanon was just beginning to consume the whole society and to destroy the cosmopolitanism of Beirut; it was still just possible in those days to imagine that a right "side" could be discerned through the smoke of confessional conflagration.

Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation was in its infancy (as was the messianic "settler" movement among Jews), and the occupation itself was less than a decade old.

Egypt was still the Egypt of Anwar Sadat — a man who had placed most of his credit on the wager of "Westernization," however commercially conceived, and who was only two years away from the Camp David accords. It was becoming dimly apprehended in the West that the old narrative of "Israel" versus "the Arabs" was much too crude. The image of a frugal kibbutz state surrounded by a heaving ocean of ravening mullahs and demagogues was slowly yielding to a story of two peoples contesting a right to the same twice-promised land.

"The Triumph of Exegesis over Praxis and History"

Marvin E. Gettleman

A Review of Gramsci and Education,

Carmel Borg, Joseph Buttigieg, and Peter Mayo, eds. Culture and Politics Series. Lanham and Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002. ii + 335 pp. Notes. $75.00 (cloth), ISBN 0-7425-0032-2; $34.95 (paper), ISBN 0-7425-0033-0.

Marvin E. Gettleman is Emeritus Professor of History, Brooklyn Polytechnic University.
This review was first published by H-Education (July, 2003)

The fifteen essays comprising this book have been written mainly by radical educational scholars from seven countries in Europe and the Americas. The book's editors (who also contribute essays) hail from Notre Dame University in the United States and the University of Malta. Their common aim is to explicate the educational views of the Italian Communist scholar-activist Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) and to link his teachings to present-day political and pedagogical issues. Most of Gramsci's writings on education consist of fragments (Quaderni del carcere) written during his decade-long confinement in a fascist prison. There is inevitable overlap and duplication in many of the essays in Gramsci and Education.

Anonymous Kumquat submits:

"A Study in

Bob Black

Murray Bookchin’s Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism was an
apocalyptic, and apoplectic, polemic against post-leftist forms of
anarchism. So closely did it approach self-parody that it escaped
suspicion on that score only because of the certain fact that Bookchin has
no sense of humor. No such certainty attaches to "Nihilism U.S.A.
McAnarchy in the Playpen" by someone calling himself Timothy Balash.
A shapeless knockoff of SALA, NUSA will find few beginning-to-end readers
except those engaging in an egoscan – fandom jargon for skimming a zine
looking for your own name. No one has ever heard of Balash, which is
probably the pseudonym of someone whose real name, if known, would be a
source of discredit, like Bill Brown or Stewart Home. But if NUSA is a
debut effort, it is indeed a Titanic one: sunk on its maiden voyage.

The Politics of Language

Like George Orwell and Theodor Adorno, I believe there is a
relationship (but not, of course, a one-to-one relationship) between good
writing and true writing. For me to say so is, I admit, self-serving, but
what do you expect from a convicted Stirnerist? If there is any truth to
this proposition, then there is hardly any truth to NUSA. To read it is to
experience genuine suffering. Every known violation of the English
language is well represented, as well as abominations so singular as to
be, as H.P. Lovecraft might say, unnamable. There are nonexistent words:
"abolishment," "exploitive," "rompish,"
"busking," "meritous." Mixed metaphors are the norm.
In the very first sentence, anarchism, "a dizzying banquet,"
"has failed to make itself heard." By not burping? In this
rompish, busking, but not very meritous vision, one might be "crushed
between, on one side, a dress rehearsal" and – well, what
difference does it make what’s on the other side? Then there is the
"collage of mirrors" and the "cable-fed cloisters."

Necessary words are omitted – "comes [ ] a little surprise"
– the reader soon wishes for more of this particular mistake.
Disagreement of subject and verb is nearly normative. "Many a hippy .
. . missed most of their opportunities"; "Lest the reader . . .
suspect they are beginning to detect"; "Fetishization . . . are
as cliched and commonplace as" (whatever); and then there’s
"the runaway phenomena of the single (and usually impoverished
female) parent."

jim submits:

"Yes, Orwell Matters — But Does Christopher Hitchens?"

Bill Weinberg Reviews Christopher Hitchens, Why Orwell Matters

Basic Books, New York, 2002, 211 pp., $24

(Published in the UK as Orwell’s Victory, Penguin, London, 2002)

Here is a little exercise in historical ironies.

Few seem to remember it now, but in the 1980s, forgotten little Nicaragua
was one of the last front-lines of the Cold War. When I was there in
those years, one of many idealistic gringos who came to witness the
besieged revolution, the right-wing opposition was distributing a Spanish
translation of a classic parable of revolution betrayed. This was a
probable element of the CIA "psychological operations" campaign aimed at
subverting the revolutionary Sandinista regime, which also included
distribution of the notorious "dirty tricks" manual advocating sabotage
and assassination. The regime responded by denouncing the parable as a
counter-revolutionary polemic written by a reactionary pro-imperialist
writer. The work, of course, was Animal Farm by George Orwell.

Rob writes "Said on why "Orientalism" is as relevant now as it was 25 years ago.

 Nine years ago I wrote an afterword for Orientalism which, in trying to clarify what I believed I had and had not said, stressed not only the many discussions that had opened up since my book appeared in 1978, but the ways in which a work about representations of "the orient" lent itself to increasing misinterpretation. That I find myself feeling more ironic than irritated about that very same thing today is a sign of how much my age has crept up on me. The recent deaths of my two main intellectual, political and personal mentors, the writers and activists Eqbal Ahmad and Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, has brought sadness and loss, as well as resignation and a certain stubborn will to go on.

In my memoir Out of Place (1999) I described the strange and contradictory worlds in which I grew up, providing for myself and my readers a detailed account of the settings that I think formed me in Palestine, Egypt and Lebanon. But that was a very personal account which stopped short of all the years of my own political engagement that started after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

"The Ripe Fruit of Redemption"

Toni Negri Reviews Giorgio Agamben's The State of Exception

Giorgio Agamben's latest book is dedicated to the State of Exception,
the condition that now invests each power structure and radically
empties any experience and definition of democracy. Despite being a habitual reader of Giorgio Agamben, so far I have only
reviewed one of his books, entitled Language and Death and
published in 1982 [1].

Language and Death was a proper introduction to philosophy and
proposed the method of analysis that was to mark his future work: to
critically build, digging at the margins the existential and the
linguistic, a road of redemption on the terrain of being: a fully
immanent redemption that never forgets the mortal condition.

Anonymous Kumquat submits:

Luther Blissett's Novel Q,

William Heinemann, 2003

Reviewed by McKenzie Wark

Q is a terrific read, an epic from "the bowels
of history."(517) The story follows two main
characters. One wants to overthrow the
social order. The other is a spy in the service
of the forces who want to maintain it.

Q is the spy, in the pay of Father Carafa, an
ultra conservative figure, rapidly rising up
the hierarchy of the Catholic church. The
other main character is a radical protestant,
who sets himself against both the corrupt
power of the Catholic church, and also
against Luther's Protestant reformation. For
the more radical protestants, Luther is a
political tool in the hands of a rising
mercantile class, not a friend of the peasants
and artisans. His is just a new kind of
authority, which is "putting a priest in our
souls" (353)


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