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First as Tragedy, Then as Farce: How Marx Predicted the Fate of Marxism

A few months ago, I was surprised and disappointed to learn that Marx’s famous statement, the title of this essay and a rejoinder to Hegel’s supposed remark—“that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice”—had been appropriated by the contemporary Slovenian Marxist and psychoanalytic theorist Slavoj Žižek, for the title of one of his books. I was disappointed because I had considered using the title myself. I was surprised because, not having read Žižek’s entire oeuvre, I hadn’t known of his appropriation. Further, quite apart from my own intended (and past casual) use, I was astonished to see how unselfconscious and lacking in intentional irony Žižek had been in naming a book about capitalism First as Tragedy, Then as Farce (2009).

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On the Origins and Character of “Social Justice”

One of the great ironies of Western political history involves the term “social justice.” Although a core idea within liberalism and socialism for at least 175 years, the background and origin of “social justice” was a cultural and political conservatism. The irony of the “cultural appropriation” of social justice by liberalism and socialism has recently redoubled. Suggestive of a seemingly undeniably intangible good—that is, of just, fair, well-ordered, and harmonious social relations—social justice is now implicated in fierce and sometimes violent antagonisms. Social justice crystallizes in two words some of the most contentious issues roiling North American politics today. Contemporary social justice bears little resemblance to the original social justice or even more recent movements that have gone by the same name.

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Why Political Correctness Is Incorrect

The term “politically correct” is one of the most incendiary phrases of contemporary political jargon. Advocates for values deemed politically correct — anti-racism, anti-misogyny, anti-transphobia, and so on — suggest that being politically correct is simply that: correct. Why would anyone want to be anything else — unless, that is, they are motivated by bigotry, or something worse?

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Trigger Warnings, Safe Spaces, Bias Reporting: The New Micro-techniques of Surveillance and Control

A singular orthodoxy has infiltrated the discursive parameters of U.S. and other universities and colleges. This orthodoxy now constitutes the ethical vocabulary of academia. Adopted from feminism, anti-racism, and LGBTQ theory and practice, the language, doctrines, and mechanisms of this orthodoxy now dominate academia's policies, procedures and handbooks. The terminology has become the vernacular among the swelling ranks of administrators, especially the relatively new cohort of chief diversity officers, directors of diversity, associate provosts of diversity, assistant provosts of diversity, diversity consultants, and so on and so on. I refer not merely to the orthodoxy of "diversity," but in particular to "diversity" initiatives as they are currently administered, using a particular set of policies, procedures, and mechanisms: trigger warnings, safe spaces, bias reporting, and the like.

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The Construction and Deconstruction of Science in Middlemarch

The fictionalizing of science happens to be a meta-theme in Middlemarch, and one which, I will argue, Eliot sets out consciously and masterfully to interrogate. In the process, I hope to show that Eliot's use of science is far from naive or merely syncretic. To the contrary, I will venture to argue that in Middlemarch Eliot actually anticipates a greater discursive shift in scientific theory of which Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (l962) is the watermark in the philosophy of science, and which Michel Foucault marks and notes in his various archaeologies of knowledge. In Victorian Web. 1 December 2008.

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An Apprentice’s Appreciation: Learning and Growing as a Poet, With Allen Ginsberg for a Guide: A Eulogy for Allen Ginsberg

In the fall of l979, I received a missive from Allen Ginsberg, scribbled in typical Ginsbergese, rife with ampersands and dashes, his response to a 19-year-old's small batch of poems. It was as if I awoke to a dream to which I'd suddenly become accustomed, a feeling that came to characterize most of my experience of him. in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 20 April 1997.

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