Radical media, politics and culture.


"Why they Hate America So Much"

Anirudh Deshpande, H-Asia

Reviewing Karl E Meyer, The Dust of Empire: The Race for Mastery of the Asian Heartland.
New York: Perseus Books, 2003. xvii + 252 pp. Maps, photographs, notes, select bibliography, index. $26.00 (cloth), ISBN 1-58648-048-0; $15.00 (paper), ISBN 1-58648-241-6.

Why Do They Hate America So Much?

This book must be read in the context of Iraq, which is threatening to become not another Vietnam but the Operation Barbarossa of the United States. It is an objective, unrelenting critique of Western imperialism which will equally surprise the communist and capitalist admirers of modern Western civilization. And by Western imperialism, Karl Meyer does not mean only Anglo-Saxon attitudes of superiority but, as a brilliant chapter on Tsarist and Bolshevik Russia proves, also Russia from the period of Ivan the Terrible until the ill-fated Soviet military adventure in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989. This book attributes the widespread opposition to the West in many countries to the exploitative relationship the Western powers have historically imposed on them. It is also a scholarly rejection of the erroneous beliefs entertained and repeated meaninglessly by imperialists like George Bush and Tony Blair in the name of freedom and liberty. The United States, Britain and Russia are under attack today, as Meyer conclusively demonstrates, not because many people dislike liberty, but precisely because these powers have denied freedom to millions across countries in their quest for foreign resources and empire since at least the nineteenth century.

"Creating Anarchy"

O. Katz

Reviewing Ron Sakolsky, Creating Anarchy. Liberty, TN: Fifth Estate Books, (2005)

The descriptor “eclectic” is overused, but I’m afraid there’s no better means for assessing the depth and breadth of Ron Sakolsky’s sustained personal history of involvement with libertarian theory and practice. Free-radio activism, radical musical expression, non-coercive educational strategies, Fourth World indigenous struggles, surrealist cultural experimentation—Sakolsky has submerged himself into all of these subjects (and more) over the years, and he has done so in the most open-minded and nonsectarian of ways. His smash-and-grab freestyle philosophies eschew rigid dogma in favor of what can most deliciously scratch the most insatiable itch. In this light, Sakolsky’s writings recall for me the ingenious and approachable do-it-yourself ethos of garage-band punks, tenement-yard turntablists, basement-workshop mad scientists, and the rest of Babylon’s most resourceful shipwreck survivors.

Creating Anarchy is a compilation of twenty of Sakolsky’s essays crisscrossing the last ten years. Most of the writing here has been reconsidered, rewritten and remixed with an eye peeled and an ear cocked for the latest mutations in the New World Order’s war of terror against terrorism, from post-9/11 compulsory consumerism and the state-sponsored mass media persecution of “un-American” teachers to the silly liberal ballot-box melodramas of the last two US presidential campaigns. But all this is not to say that Sakolsky’s thinking is just an enraged reaction to the toxic neo-puritanism and babbitry of what he calls “Fortress America fundamentalism.” Never self-righteously angry or haughtily prescriptive, Sakolsky’s solutions are simultaneously sensible and seductive, and they are grounded in the best sort of critical thinking and informed reflection that only comes from decades of experience fighting on the side of liberty and mutual aid.

Nietzsche's Vicious Circular Corps/e

Douglas Kellner

Reviewing Pierre Klossowski, Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle,
Chicago, University of Chicago Press,1998, xx + 282 pp.

and Geoff Waite, Nietzsche's Corpse/e.

Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1996, xii + 564pp.

The translation of Pierre Klossowski's Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle finally provides an English-speaking audience with access to one of the most influential texts in the French Nietzsche tradition.

First published in France in 1969, Klossowski's text consummated over three decades of intense work and discussion on Nietzsche's most enigmatic and original ideas. Working with Bataille and the famous College de Sociologie, Klossowski published a series ofimportant studies of Nietzsche culminating in Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle which Foucault described in a letter to Klossowski as "the greatest book of philosophy I have read" in addition to Nietzsche himself. Deeply influencing Deleuze, Lyotard, and other major Nietzscheans, Klossowski's work remains a seminal text of the contemporary French reading of Nietzsche.

Eugene McCarthy: 1916–2005
Jon Wiener, The Nation

Wiener, a columnist for The Nation, teaches history at the
University of California, Irvine; his latest book is Historians in
Trouble: Plagiarism, Fraud and Politics in the Ivory Tower
(The New
Press, 2005). This article, a review of Dominic Sandbrook's biography of Eugene
McCarthy, was first published in 2004.

Eugene McCarthy has always been a mysterious and frustrating figure.
Nothing he did before 1968 hinted that he would become the liberals'
antiwar leader and challenge an incumbent Democratic President;
nothing he did after 1968 accomplished much of anything. Dominic
Sandbrook skillfully conveys the events and the experience as well as
the arguments of that year. Although he is a Shropshire lad born in
1974, Sandbrook argues like my father, born in Duluth in 1921 and a
good Minnesota Democrat: He insists we focus on how the story of 1968
ended. The split among Democrats led by McCarthy ended up with Nixon
in the White House. Nixon kept the war going for another five years,
during which 15,000 more Americans were killed, and — we might add
— during which Americans killed something like a million more
Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians.

"Back to Utopia"

Joshua Glenn

Reviewing Fredric Jameson's Archeologies of the Future.

In 1888, when Massachusetts newspaperman Edward Bellamy published his science fiction novel Looking Backward, set in a Boston of the year 2000, it sold half a million copies. Never mind the futuristic inventions (electric lighting, credit cards) and visionary city planning; what readers responded to was the transformation of a Gilded Age city of labor strikes and social unrest into a socialist utopia (Bellamy called it ''nationalist") of full employment and material abundance.

By 1890 there were 162 reformist Bellamy Clubs around the country, with a membership that included public figures like the influential novelist, editor, and critic William Dean Howells; and from 1891-96, the Bellamy-inspired Nationalist Party helped propel the Populist Movement. The Bellamyites fervently believed, to paraphrase the slogan of today's anti-globalization movement, that another world was possible.

But during the Cold War — thanks to Stalinism and the success of such dystopian fables as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four — all radical programs promising social transformation became suspect. Speaking for his fellow chastened liberals at a Partisan Review symposium in 1952, for example, the theologian and public intellectual Reinhold Niebuhr dismissed what he called the utopianism of the 1930s as ''an adolescent embarrassment."

Anonymous Comrade writes:

"Cultural Criticism at the Crossroads"

Not Bored!

Reviewing Greil Marcus' Like a Rolling Stone

"The development of capitalist concentration, and the diversification of its function at the global level, have produced the forced consumption of the abundance of commodities, as well as the control of the economy and all of life by bureaucrats, through their possession of the State; or direct or indirect colonialism. Quite far from being the definitive response to the incessant revolutionary crises of the historical era begun two centuries ago, this system has now entered into a new crisis: from Berkeley to Varsovie, from the Asturians to Kivu, it is refuted and combatted." — Guy Debord, "Summary of 1965"[1]

"In the dime stores and bus stations

People talk of situations

Read books, repeat quotations

Write conclusions on the wall" — Bob Dylan, "Love Minus Zero/No Limit," Bringing it all back home [2]

Greil Marcus must know that he leaves himself open to a predictable objection when he refers to Guy Debord in most recent book of music criticism, Like A Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan At the Crossroads. An explosion of vision and humor that forever changed pop music (Public Affairs Books, 2005). In the middle of a quotation from a detective novel that uses comfortable, pre-riot Watts as its psychogeographical backdrop, Greil tells us,

as the critic Guy Debord wrote of Watts from Paris, "comfort will never be comfortable enough for those who seek what is not on the market."

The quote is from Debord's strategic analysis of the Watts riots, "The Decline and Fall of the Spectacular-Commodity Society," which — as Greil notes in his list of works cited — was first published clandestinely in America, in an English translation, in December 1965 by the Situationist International and later published in French in Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

In Like A Rolling Stone, Greil is only interested in the Watts riots to the extent that they chronologically preceded the release of Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" as a single on 20 July 1965. Unlike, say, Frank Zappa's 1966 song "Trouble Everyday," Dylan doesn't refer to or try to comment upon those riots. In the same way that Greil doesn't really need the riots to tell the story of "Like a Rolling Stone," he doesn't really need Guy Debord ("from Paris") to tell the story of the riots. Thus, Greil can afford to call Debord "a critic" and leave it at that; to neglect to tell his readers that, in Lipstick Traces on a Cigarette: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century (Harvard University Press, 1989), he'd written extensively (and very productively) about Debord's writings, theories and relevance to rock 'n' roll music.[3] But some readers might have benefited from this knowledge: just like Like a Rolling Stone, Lipstick Traces is a risky, rarely undertaken adventure: an entire book — footnotes, an index, a discography with its own internal digressions and asides — about a single great rock 'n' roll song (the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK" in the case of Lipstick Traces).[4]

Nietzsche in the Streets

Ruud Kaulingfreks

Reviewing I Am Not A Man, I Am Dynamite! Friedrich Nietzsche and the Anarchist Tradition

originally published in ephemera 5.4 (November 2005)

When is an anarchist a real anarchist? When his thoughts are in line with the teachings of Proudhon, Kropotkin, Bakunin and the like? When he engages in direct political action behind a black flag? Or when his thoughts are clearly libertarian? Anarchism has always struggled with the impossibility of becoming a movement. In a sense it fits Groucho Marx’s famous paradox of not wanting to become a member of a club who would like to accept him as a member. By its own principles, becoming an anarchist is a kind of paradox - that is as long as one thinks in terms of movements or affiliations. Libertarianism, freedom for man to choose his own rules (and definitely not the so-called democratic freedom for man to accepts his ruler) and be master of his own destiny in a society without private ownership goes against affiliation. The struggle against all forms of authority and the permanent revolt against institutions that coerce freedom make it quite difficult – if not impossible - to define somebody as an anarchist. In a sense the last thing an anarchist accepts is being pinned down as such. He will probably deny it.

Does a philosopher who preaches the transvaluation of all values, who defines mankind as a sick animal in need of a herd, and as full of resentment because he is not able to live by himself qualify as an anarchist? Can a philosopher that writes in almost every line about the old adagio “ni dieu ni maitre” (nor god nor master) and pleads for a morality of laughing and mocking at all moral precepts to the point of attacking social movements all together still be considered a libertarian? Would this thinker who wanted us to live and dance and not to be preoccupied with the oughts and don’ts but who was realistic enough to realize that this is an impossible task to ask from this weak animal called man so he had to invent a new name for it: Overman, be pleased with the qualification anarchist? Can we still ask the question if the writer of Zarathrustra, the preacher of the strong will, of living beyond moral precepts, of being able to invent ones own life and not to be submissive to anything at all, the most libertarian of all philosophers, Friedrich Nietzsche, is an anarchist?

Makhno writes:

"Anarchist Modernism"

Neala Schleuning, Social Anarchism

Reviewing Allen Antliff, Anarchist Modernism:
Art, Politics, and the First American Avant-Garde

Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Allen Antliff has written a rich and engaging book exploring early twentieth
century American art and politics from an anarchist perspective. The study
focuses on the linkages between American modernism and American
individualist anarchist theory. Traditionally, art historians portray
modernism — including the various styles known as expressionism, cubism,
futurism, Dadaism, and surrealism — as a European phenomenon, but Antliff
highlights the unique "American" aspects of modernism.

"James Burnham, Modern Machiavellian"

Paul Mattick

Reviewing James Bumham, The Machiavellians

John Day Company, New York, 1943. (270 pp.)

James Burnham's second attempt*) to purge himself of the misunderstood Marxism of his earlier years is slightly more successful than his first effort, The Managerial Revolution. In the latter book, he still tried to explain the problem of power in economic terms, although no longer from the social point of view of Marx but from that of the technocrats. Nevertheless, he insisted that not the politicians, but those who control the means of production directly, are the real rulers of society. In the present book he finds that in addition to the economic there are several other modes of analyzing events, that one can reach approximately the same conclusions about history from any number of quite different approaches. This, of course, does not reconcile his former opinion that power must be explained in technical-economic terms — that economics is the determinative of politics — with his present Machiavellian point of view, which deals with the struggle for power in purely political terms.

Burnham begins his exposition of power politics with Dante in order to demonstrate what the Machiavellians are not. In Dante's writing he discovers a divorce between its formal and its real meaning. Although the real meaning is there, it is rendered irresponsible since it is not subject to open and deliberate intellectual control. High-minded words of formal meaning are used to arouse passion, prejudice and sentimentality in favor of disguised real aims. This method cannot serve the truth, yet throughout history and down to the present it is consistently used to deceive people in the interests of the mighty.

The Truth About Networks

Between the total hell of networked, salaried labor and the promises of the

by Trebor Scholz

In short succession the first two in a series of publications called "DATA
browser" were just released. Both start out with historical texts to search for
effective contemporary models of cultural production that merge
socio-technological with artistic critique. "DATA browser 01" takes Theodor
Adorno's and Max Horkheimer's notion of the culture industry (1944) as a departing
point. "DATA browser 02" links to Walter Benjamin's essay "The Author as Producer"
(1934). Let's start with Brian Holmes' essay "The Flexible Personality," which
contributes a rare meditation on today's network society and sketches out an
intellectual history of anti-systemic movements that becomes the critical backdrop
for both volumes of "DATA browser." Here, the Paris-based art critic, activist,
and translator Holmes leads us into a social landscape of total network hell.
Together with the social theorist Maurizio Lazzarato, Holmes is not on board when
it comes to the techno-utopian celebration of the networked life style. Lazzarato
thinks that new networked techniques are even more totalitarian than the assembly
line. Brian Holmes includes a reference to Adorno's notion of the authoritarian
personality (1950), which is defined by its rigid conventionalism, submission to
authority, opposition to everything subjective, stereotypy, an emphasis on power
and toughness, destructiveness and cynicism, and an exaggerated concern with
sexual scandal. Holmes criticism of networked labor is sharp - he argues that
distributed, casualized labor is based on the ruthless pleasure of exploitation
and soft coercion that the laptop as portable instrument of control affords. The
Italian philosopher Paolo Virno places questions about idleness, leisure and the
refusal to work at the center of the discussion about contemporary production.


Subscribe to  Reviews