This Post Is Way Too Modern?

Two juxtapositions of ‘texts in space’ found at the Times Literary Supplement.

From ‘Postmodernism is dead. What comes next?‘ by Alison Gibbons:

‘At the same time, our culture retains many of the themes and concerns that exercised writers of earlier generations; there is little sign of a radical literary avant garde sweeping away the old to make way for the new. Postmodernism might not be as emphatically over as some critics like to claim, but it does seem to be in retreat. Its devices have become so commonplace that they have been absorbed into mainstream, commercial and popular culture. Postmodernism has lost its value in part because it has oversaturated the market. And with the end of postmodernism’s playfulness and affectation, we are better placed to construct a literature that engages earnestly with real-world problems.’

From ‘The relentless honesty of Ludwig Wittgenstein‘ by Ian Ground:

‘Wittgenstein was hostile to modern philosophy as he found it. He thought it the product of a culture that had come to model everything that matters about our lives on scientific explanation. In its ever-extending observance of the idea that knowledge, not wisdom, is our goal, that what matters is information rather than insight, and that we best address the problems that beset us, not with changes in our heart and spirit but with more data and better theories, our culture is pretty much exactly as Wittgenstein feared it would become.’

Goodness, this is messy.  As previously posted:

Repost-Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism And Truth’

Maybe if you’re defending religion, Nietzsche is a problematic reference: Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy…

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Related: From Darwinian Conservatism: Nietzsche-Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?

*******And mostly, but not entirely unrelated, you can make your own Tom Friedman columns at home.  Is Tom Friedman a bot?

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Denis Dutton suggested art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth…the money and the fame) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Robert Conquest At The Hoover Institution: ‘When Goodness Won’

On Andrei Sakharov:

‘The events of the long struggle in the Soviet Union between the despots and the “dissidents,” in which Andrei Sakharov played such a great role, were well described in his Memoirs, which appeared in English in 1990, and in the accounts of his valiant wife, Elena Bonner. But here we have the other side of the story: the long secret records kept by the KGB and submitted to the state and party leadership. And these documents are skillfully put into the larger context by an extensive and useful introduction by Joshua Rubenstein.’

and:

‘Another large misapprehension about the nature of the Soviet and similar regimes was that the “planned economy” meant something real. There was also, among progressives in the West, the idea that the “bourgeoisie” were a natural enemy of the forward-looking, adolescent intelligentsia, and that the “capitalists” were the natural enemies. There is a historical context for these sinister myths. British ambassadors to Russia in the late eighteenth century had noted that entrepreneurs had to seek the quick ruble because at any moment the state might confiscate their investments. And at the opposite pole of Russian society, the peasantry was fixed on the need to deceive the authorities to whom they were subservient—up to, and provoking, violent rural risings.’

As previously posted:

Ha!:

“Those teach who can’t do” runs the dictum,

But for some even that’s out of reach:

They can’t even teach—so they’ve picked ’em

To teach other people to teach.

Then alas for the next generation,

For the pots fairly crackle with thorn.

Where psychology meets education

A terrible bullshit is born.’

Many people still can’t handle how bad Communism was on the ground, and fewer these days are looking to keep the ideology up in the air, partly thanks to Conquest and his labors:

Henry Kissinger At CapX: ‘Chaos And Order In A Changing World’

Full piece here.

A rundown on global politics led by a comparison with what was facing British leadership under Margaret Thatcher, as applied to Russia, China, and the Middle East.

Kissinger:

‘She put forward challenges which, in their essence, are even more urgent today:

  • Should Russia be regarded as a potential threat or a partner?
  • Should NATO turn its attention to “out of area” issues?
  • Should NATO admit the new democracies of Central Europe with full responsibilities as quickly as prudently possible?
  • Should Europe develop its own “defense identity” in NATO?’

Click through a brief analysis of each of the ‘out of area’ players.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

He finishes with:

If the West stays engaged without a geo-strategic plan, chaos will grow. If it withdraws in concept or in fact—as has been the temptation over the past decade—great powers like China and India, which cannot afford chaos along their borders or turmoil within them, will gradually step into the West’s place together with Russia. The pattern of world politics of recent centuries will be overthrown.

Kissinger has been consistent in applying a lifetime of experience in diplomacy and the halls of power, profound Kantian-influenced idealism, and high ambition in providing grand visions and strategies of world players and events.

As he points out, each ethnic group, nation state and civilization has its own history, character, internal struggles and challenges.  It would serve American decision-makers well to have some awareness of who we’re dealing with, as many of these players have interests in direct conflict with American, Anglosphere and Western interests.

Imagine you are getting the daily intel briefings describing Russian meddling and constant attempts to destabilize American institutions (Cold War games go on, comrade), or the constant state-sponsored Chinese attempts to probe and hack American business and national defense interests.  It’s par for the course and everybody does it!

Imagine someone’s advising you of Iranian regime-support of nuclear black-market technology-swapping and terrorism against American assets and interests throughout the Middle-East (wow, there are some nasty people in Tehran).

The Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment West is probably still in an export phase of influence, but others do not necessarily think as we do, and the world can be a pretty dangerous, lawless and challenging place.

As previously posted: On Niall Ferguson’s new Biography (Kissinger’s probably such a bogeyman to some on the Left because he has an aroma of the heretic, or someone who broke with the ideals, or compromised)- ‘Kissinger: Volume I: The Idealist.1923-1968:’

FT review. 

The Economist

Previously on this site:

Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft here, long before any Iran dealing:

A good background and synopsis of American/Iranian diplomacy, and of the Iranian regime’s likely aims to become a Shia-led, anti-American/Western Islamist Republic dominating the Middle-East with deliverable nukes:

‘Some adjustments are inherent in the inevitable process of historic evolution. But we must avoid an outcome in which Iran, freed from an onerous sanctions regime, emerges as a de facto nuclear power leading an Islamist camp, while traditional allies lose confidence in the credibility of American commitments and follow the Iranian model toward a nuclear-weapons capability, if only to balance it.

Future generations’ prospects and American blood is still on the line.

Robert Kagan At Brookings: ‘The Twilight Of the Liberal World Order’

Some thoughts on Fukuyama and Leo Strauss: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Francis Fukuyama uses some Hegel and Samuel Huntington…just as Huntington was going against the grain of modernization theory…:Newsweek On Francis Fukuyama: ‘The Beginning Of History’Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest Online: ‘Political Order in Egypt’

How does America lead or pursue its interests in this new landscape?:  We need to confront the rise of Islamism and the realities of many Muslim societies through our policy.  Putting women’s rights and international institutions front and center when you’re dealing with Al Qaida and the Taliban, assorted enemies, a suspicious China and a weaker adversarial Russia has serious problems …Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill…Daniel Deudney tries to build a global raft partially upon Kant’s idealism and says the global institutions we’ve got are better than nothing: Repost-Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: ‘Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy’

Tyler Cowen At Bloomberg On Automation And Displacement

In A Robot Economy, All Humans Will Be Marketers

Cowen:

‘This shift toward marketing, in the broad sense of that term, isn’t just about bank tellers. More legal work is done by smart software, but cultivating client relationships has never been more important. Some functions of medical assistants are being automated, but hospitals and doctors are still trying to improve the patient experience and reach new customers. Amazon Inc. warehouses use robots to pull goods down off the shelves, but someone has to persuade consumers to buy the stuff.’

I’m sure this will strike some people as deeply unfulfilling, others as threatening, and others as just fine.

I think automation is the key word, here.  Many tasks you do are repetitive, and the hardware and software is being developed to automate many of these tasks depending on complexity, feasibility and profitability where big business and technology meet (current revenue streams are directed by big players into areas where it’s too expensive and too costly not to compete (or try), and by start-ups trying to enter markets and disrupt).

This innovation shows up in our daily lives bit by bit, as consumers, as users, and as employees, but also in more personal and intimate ways (finding love online, suddenly having access to a book that changes your life etc.)

We already live within thousands of years of good and bad design all around us, and that is continuing, just perhaps more rapidly at the moment.

As to personal, social and political consequences, I’m reminded that old ideas die hard.  Many I see as worth conserving.

It’d be nice if Americans were competing more robustly with India and China in producing people ready to hit the ground running in STEM fields, but we’re doing alright.

It’d be really nice if American universities’ humanities and social science departments weren’t dealing with the postmodern and ideological problems of radical liberation politics.

Ah, well.

Hold on, keep learning, and don’t lose sight of the important things.

 

Trying To Club Your Club To Death, Fictional British Towns & Mars-Some Links

Imagine trying to ban all the Moose Lodges, Elks’ Clubs, Little Leagues, and Girl Scout Troops across the nation in the name of fairness (if these clubs and civil associations can’t be ‘equal’ according to the loudest voices demanding ‘equality’, then nobody’s going to have any clubs).

Of course, many of the same individuals and orgs seeking to influence everyone’s behavior at Harvard are also seeking to do so through the Federal Government.

Some people seem locked in [a] kind of slavish ideological dependency on the institutions they seek to either control or destroy.

From FIRE.org: ‘Harvard’s Steven Pinker on proposal to ban social clubs: ‘This is a terrible recommendation

‘Members of the Harvard University community are reacting to news yesterday that a faculty committee recommends the Ivy League institution eliminate all exclusive social clubs. The ban would effectively shutter any Harvard-connected off-campus clubs, including all fraternities and sororities, by the year 2022 — despite Harvard’s continued promises of unfettered freedom of association for its students.’


Via kottke.org: ‘Fictional Names For British Towns Generated By A Neural Net

Two miles from Brumlington, as the crow flies, deep in the moor past Firley Binch, lieth Fuckley….

I recommend Simon’s blog for photos and text of the English Countryside.

Mick Hartley’s blog is pretty good, too.


Five years on Mars can be boiled down to 1 1/2 hours of discussion.  The data is telling a story, so how is that story being told?:

Did Mars harbor life?

Could it have harbored life?

What does this new data mean for Earth and our story?

From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

A very Harvard affair: The Spelke/Pinker debate-The Science Of Gender And Science

Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?

Harvey Mansfield At The City Journal: ‘Principles That Don’t Change’

Via Youtube: ‘Curiosity’s First Year On Mars’

Edward Feser on David Mamet’s ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ And More Modernist Commentary

This blog welcomes lenses with which to view works of modern art.

From Edward Feser: ‘Aquinas Watches Glengarry Glen Ross’

Feser:

‘Clarity: As I’ve said, the movie abstracts from concrete reality certain general character types, purges from them the nuance and complexity in which we find these general patterns embedded in everyday life, and re-embodies them in extreme characters so that we might more carefully consider those types.  Just as we know more clearly what it is to be a triangle by abstracting from particular triangles (red ones, green ones, triangles drawn in ink, triangles drawn in chalk, etc.) and considering the general pattern, so too does the movie allow us to see more clearly what it is to be a desperate man, a cruel man, a weak man, a dishonest man, a broken man, and so on, by way of its skillful caricatures.

So, in its integrity, proportion, and clarity, Glengarry has the marks of a beautiful thing, despite its grim subject matter.  One need not admire and approve of Satan in order to admire and approve of Dante’s or Milton’s literary representations of Satan, and one need not admire or approve of the sorts of people represented in a film like Glengarry in order to admire and approve of the representation itself.’

Glengarry Glen Ross‘ has become something of a cultural touchstone for many; maybe this generation’s ‘Death Of A Salesman

You call yourself a salesman you son-of-a-bitch?:’

For those who’ve ever had a real job, and seen people at their best and worst, or been reasonably honest about their own motivations and willingness to be do right by others under duress, well, there’s a lot of truth to be found in this particular work of art.

Like boxing gyms and MMA matches, or call-centers full of debt collectors, or daily life on public city buses, the stuff of humanity is pretty much the same as anywhere else, just more raw and closer to the surface.

On fuller display, perhaps.

Feser provides some reasonable context, here, the kind that forms the backbone of a good Catholic education, and which this blog considers to have enriched the debate.

For those who didn’t ask!:

As this blog sees things, the modernist project is not explicitly ideological, but it is extremely ambitious:  Make it new.  Start from the ground up, or go back to the foundations and take a really good look, and have the individual genius start building his own, new foundations (alone or in contact with others, such as the Bloomsbury Group).

It takes really talented individuals to pull this off; often individuals with previous exposure to tradition; young practitioners with enough talent and perseverance, as well as enough of a pedagogy to inherit and rebel against should they choose.

As this blog has noted, it’s not hard to witness a string of causation between high modernist aims and a lot of the modern and postmodern aimlessness we see all around us.  There sure are a lot of poseurs and would-be artists bobbing in the postmodern stew, left to sort out the entire world and their relation to it alone, or upon a stage (as alone and not alone as one can be).

They write these f**king art blurbs before they have any art!  What the f**k is this lady doing?:

From the comments on this piece:

‘The most useful definition of modernist fiction I’ve encountered comes from Brian McHale’s Postmodernist Fiction. He says modernist fiction tends to “foreground epistemological questions” such as “How can I interpret the world I’m part of? What is there to be known? Who knows it? What are the limits of that knowledge?” In contrast, postmodernist fiction tends to “foreground ontological questions” such as “What is a world? What kinds of worlds are there and how are they constituted? What happens when…boundaries between worlds are violated?’

The above can invite all manner of despair and isolation, and perhaps a deeper cynicism we see in this generation’s rather pervasive desire for fame and recognition.

The above can also exacerbate the spiritual and meaning-making demands individuals place upon the Marketplace, the Church, and in The Media and The Academy (where an authoritarian/totalitarian radical Left seeks to control institutions, institutions where a kind of Western secular humanism and standard-issue political idealism often dominates).

As I see it, I cannot call myself a believer in the questions the Catholic Church claims to to be able to answer, but many modern political and politico-philsophical movements are incomplete at best, and dangerously wrong at worst.

Ah well…there’s my two cents.

There’s good art to be found, of course, but like most well-made things, good art is relatively rare, its ultimate value and quality endlessly disputed, but perhaps, enduring.

Enduring…I like the sound of that.


Because you really didn’t ask:

Another video included at the link.

David Mamet underwent a conversion to conservatism in rather dramatic and public fashion a few years ago.  In leaving his liberal views behind, he’s no doubt become a heretic to some.  At the link, he hosts an interview at Il Forno in Santa Monica with Uncommon Knowledge’s Peter Robinson.

Here’s my take, for what it’s worth:

Born and raised in Chicago, Mamet seems pretty old-school and pretty tough.  He reminds me a bit of Norman Mailer, verbally pugilistic and combative, though unlike Mailer he’s taken a different turn into ju-jitsu, instead of boxing, as well as into a different set of motivating principles.  Alec Baldwin’s Death-Of-A-Salesman-on-steroids speech from Glengarry Glen Ross is a well-known example of Mamet’s work (demonstrating the kind of balls-out truth-telling dialogue from which Baldwin has possibly not recovered).  I’m guessing Mamet grew-up back before anti-bullying campaigns and excessive political correctness became the norm.

Mamet also cites Chicago School Of Economics neoclassical thinkers’ Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell and Austrian economist/political philosopher Friedrich Hayek as central to his conversion.  Hayek’s rather tragic view of limited resources and opportunity costs being the natural state of affairs for mankind is clearly an influence. This would generally lead one to eschew the Statist/rationalist idealism and socialist utopianism typically associated with many Left and liberal Left movements.

***As I understand it, Thomas Sowell, after becoming a young Marxist eventually became a young ex-Marxist, embracing a hard-bitten empiricism regarding outcomes and results, not the intentions, of economic and social policies.  See him discuss his later vision of human nature and political organization in a Conflict Of Visions.

Mamet cites the Bible, but mainly the Talmud as a source of wisdom and knowledge to draw upon as a guide for flawed human nature. Jewish folks in the U.S. have traditionally formed a reliably liberal/Democratic voting bloc, so unlike many Christian religious conservatives, they aren’t necessarily voting Republican.  There are no doubt many reasons for this, but to be sure, there are also many tales of neoconservatives ‘mugged’ out of the social sciences and policy-making halls of the liberal establishment into doubt and skepticism, some chased away by the New Left.  There is also a conservative Christian/Jewish pro-Israel alliance which has traditionally been strong on national defense (some fundamentals of that American/Israeli relationship may be changing).

Religious belief can ground one in a kind of traditional and tragic view of human nature.  This, say, as opposed to human nature understood as simply a blank slate or existentialist absurdity, or by some political movements as human clay to be molded with the right knowledge and right people in charge of our social institutions (they always seem to nominate themselves).  As Mamet discusses in the video, there are distinctions to be made between Talmudic justice and social justice.

I’m guessing he might agree there are distinctions to be made between abstract equality and equality under the law (the exception of Civil Rights and black folks held under the civil laws is discussed).  I’m also guessing he’d argue there are distinctions to be made between life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on one hand, and liberation theology and/or individual freedom granted by a rights-based cohort in charge of government on the other.

Mamet also touches on the fact that the arts aren’t a political endeavor.  If writing a play is simply a didactic enterprise and/or a vehicle for deploying a political philosophy (Ayn Rand?), then I think the artist has probably failed in some fundamental way to show the audience/reader a unique truth which only that work of art has to show.  Didactic art can come across as clunky at best, pure propaganda at worst.

Personally, I tend to believe that politics, religion, convention and popular thinking all have trouble with the arts.

Anyways, this is just a brief summary.  Any thoughts or comments are welcome.

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.

A Bleak, Modern House-Four Poems

No thanks to living in planned communities upon someone else’s overall vision.: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’…Cities should be magnets for creativity and culture? –From The Atlantic: Richard Florida On The Decline Of The Blue-Collar ManFrom Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

A structure in the desert…not even a city Update On LACMA, Michael Heizer And The ‘Levitated Mass’-Modern Art And The Public;..where is modernism headed? Via Youtube: Justin, The Horse That Could Paint

Denis Dutton suggested art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth…the money and the fame) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Via Another Reader-Christopher Caldwell On Europe & Immigration-It’s Much Better When Things Are Discussed Openly

Caldwell filters conceptions of how a society should [be] through a Burkean lens.-‘Reflections On The Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam & The West

From the Mark Steyn show:

There’s a sober realism, reasonable use of statistics, and deeper analysis I find appealing:  The number of immigrants each country can absorb is ever in flux and dispute, but it likely has limits.  When problems of immigration are backed into as they have been for a few generations (cheap labor, post WWII exhaustion and colonial guilt), harder choices and worse outcomes loom.

European birth rates are low, European economies are relatively more static and weaker than ours, and the political ideals and sentiment at work in Europe seem capable of uniting only to produce many of the problems at hand.

Political leaders frequently elide questions of basic security (Islamic/ist terror), numbers (of immigrants and incentives), as well as the shortcomings and failures of large, top-down bureaucratic institutions to develop legitimate authority and properly allow individuals to mediate their own challenges locally.

Douglas Murray’s ‘The Strange Death Of Europe: Immigration, Identity & Islam‘ is reviewed here.

What say you?

Addition: Or as a friend puts it: ‘How much of this is true?’

Interview with Caldwell at Der Spiegel, from a while ago.

See Also On This Site: A review of Caldwell’s book:  From The NY Times: Review Of Christopher Caldwell’s Book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West”

Are secular humanism and the kind of political freedoms we enjoy in the West really incompatible with Islam?:  From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism

Are we becoming more like Europe, or is this too a false premise?:  Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People

Ayan Hirsi Ali is a Muslim immigrantto Europe, who seems quite populist and anti-Islam:  Ayan Hirsi Ali At The CSM: ‘Swiss Ban On Minarets Was A Vote For Tolerance And Inclusion’