Every morning I wake up on

The wrong side of capitalism

Boum! L’astre du jour fait boum

My hosting here at 34sp.com is about to run out, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to make myself a new website. Doubtless the content will remain broadly the same, but with a shiny new look; very much like capitalism’s incessant “innovations” in that respect.

As I say, huh.34sp.com will cease to exist in about ten days, so if you have links or bookmarks, please update them (and my @huh.34sp.com e-mail address will stop working - new e-mail address at the new blog). The undead remains of the Wrong Side of Capitalism will remain to haunt my new blog at a new address.


Dear 9/11 truth movement

Your theories are not, in fact, so shocking that our squaresville minds can’t handle them. Indeed, precisely the opposite is the case. The problem with your theories is that they are far too banal. Oooh, the US government killed civilians for political purposes; how unexpected. Why go to all the trouble of constructing a conspiracy theory to uncover a crime that would be almost insignificant compared to the ones the government doesn’t even bother to deny? Please get back to me when you’ve constructed a theory blaming 9/11 on a group of rogue templars out to hide the secret alien hatcheries under Manhattan.


In his homeboys’ whips like he got mad cars

Exciting new blogs:

  • Rachel (of this parish) has been bullied by goths into setting up a livejournal (of course goths).
  • Ignorant Schoolmaster at Look For Me in the Whirlwind is teaching English and learning Bolivarianism in Caracas.
  • Last and certainly least, I’ve set up a blog for my academic persona, predominantly to dislodge a page I wrote when I was 16 from the top of the google results for my name.

There should be some exciting blog news about this blog shortly, as my hosting here runs out. The urge for destruction is also a creative urge!



It’s easy to forget how great the Soviet Union was:

A Negro, in the opinion of Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher and sociologist of the 19th century, is by his nature incapable of abstract thinking. [Footnote: This viewpoint, which justified inequality and and social oppression, has long since been refuted by life: young people from many Asian, African, and Latin American countries studying the the Soviet Union are making good progress in all subjects, philosophy included.]

This is from What is Philosophy? by Galina Kirilenko and Lydia Korshunova, a book published by the USSR’s foreign propoganda arm, Progress Publishers, in 1985. Marred as it is by Stalinist third-periodism and a rather simple-minded cod-Hegelian dialectical materialism, it’s still an incredibly good introduction to philosophy. I like its relative anti-Eurocentrism (we don’t start with the pre-Socratics, but with a survey of the “almost simultaneous emergence of the first philosophical doctrines in ancient India, China and Greece,” not forgetting the Aztecs). Even more, though, I like its situating of philosophy as an activity:

What is philosophy? It is a world outlook, it is a view of the world—of nature and society. and of man’s place in it—and an analysis of the possibilities of understanding and transforming it. But it is also a conviction, a belief in the necessity for action on the base of this acquired knowledge. It is a blend of knowledge and assesment, knowledge and conviction, the emotional and the rational. So, philosophy is a special form of theoretical knowledge, involving not just an objective generalisation of of the entire human experience, but also the identification of moments in that experience which are of particular significance for man.

The Marxist definition of philosophy as a form of theoretical knowledge resolving the most general issues relating to world outlook, is essentially different from all former ideas about the tasks of philosophy, as well as from its modern bourgeois interpretations.

Me, having Merleau-Ponty's concept of philosophy explained to me In the picture, you can see me having Husserl’s concept of philosophy explained to me by Ken Knies, who had delivered a very interesting paper on the topic [PDF] the previous day. It took me a while to grasp it, and I realized that was partly because it goes against a group of presuppositions so deeply ingrained I hadn’t fully realized I held them. The idea of philosophy as purely self-contained, as subordinate only to itself, is almost incomprehensible to me. This is why I’m so impressed with Badiou’s insistence that philosophy is never freestanding, that it is always conditioned. Badiou rightly rejects the historicist view that the product of any philosophy can only be of value to its time; but he emphasizes the fact that there is no task of philosophy, instead the tasks of philosophy are always intimately tied to developments outside of philosophy (he says, events in art, science, politics, and love).

This has always been how I have undertaken philosophy: one of the life changing books I’ve forgotten is Bryan Macgee’s Men of Ideas, a set of irritating and often wildly misleading interviews with leading philosophers of the ’70s, and the first philosophy book I ever read. My dad pointed me towards it after overhearing one too many irritatingly ungrounded adolescent discussions of politics between me and my friends, and somewhere that initial impetus remains. Philosophy only makes sense to me when animated by some need external to philosophy, a context which whatever philosophy I’m studing can inhabit. This approach is particularly significant in my response to the moralizing that today so often passes as political thinking. To some, dismissal of a discussion on some issue with the question “but how can we act?” is seen as the height of immorality. To communists, the opposite must be the case: a consideration of philosophy in terms of the particular problems we face is a precondition of acting, and so necessarily a precondition of acting morally. Or, in the words of Galina Kirilenko and Lydia Korshunova:

Even the issue of the preconditions of philosophy, seemingly far removed from the current problems, involves ideological struggle.


Noam Chomsky hates the working class

Proof: He refuses to go to Burning Man.

You don’t think this is some kind of subtle viral marketing campaign from Burning Man, do you?  “If you have never been to Burningman, this year is the year to attend. Seriously consider spending some time with true potential,” which was in the original Indymedia post, sounds an awful lot like a PR agency came up with it.


End times

There’s been a certain amount of amusement in liberal circles about the eagerness with which the Christian right have greeted the war in Lebanon as a sign of the apocaplypse. And fair enough, it is pretty funny. But just laughing, I think, misses the mark somewhat. Think about it: not just the Middle East, but the freakishly hot weather of the last month (which isn’t over yet, as we’ll see the effects on hurricanes in the Autumn), or the latest security alert madness (the fact that its now just obvious to assume a terrorist alert is more or less manufactured for political purposes is terrifying). Isn’t the really funny thing that maybe the Christians are right?

Well, not entirely right about the coming of the rapture. But isn’t Christian apocalypticism a particularly sharp example of Žižek’s claim that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism? Imperialism, global warming, the security state: these aren’t simply fated, and on one level of course we all know that. But I wonder if we know it well enough.


Thank-you, Officer Siddhartha Gautama

I guess you know you’re in Berkeley when even the police are hippies (and you know the revolutionary potential of hippiedom is truly exhausted when it’s possible for the police to be hippies).

So, we had some stuff stolen from our house yesterday; I got off pretty lightly, as they didn’t take my (fairly new) desktop computer, just my laptop, which is pretty old and knackered.  The police came round to take down our details (why, I wonder, do I have to give the cops the number of my state ID when I report a crime?), look at the house to see how the people got in, dust for fingerprints, harass the neighbours, and generally do the things they do when there’s a burglary.

I imagine all this activity on their part is more or less ineffective, but the police officer who came round was quite pleasant, sympathetic and polite (terrifying-looking nightstick notwithstanding). As she was about to go, she asked us, “what have you learnt from all this?” Expecting a bit of a lecture on home security, I grumbled, “well, I guess we should make sure to check all the windows are closed whenever we leave the house.” She looked like she hadn’t expected that answer, and took a moment to mull it over. Then said, “and, you know, you should probably try and be less emotionally invested in material posessions.”


Who don’t count

You know when you’re playing Snakes and Ladders as a child, and you roll a number that would take you to a snake, and you say “oh, that roll was an accident, it didn’t count,” and roll again? There you have the civilized Western defense of warfare: “Oh, we don’t kill civilians, except when we do, but that’s an accident and it doesn’t count.” Or rather, in the terrifyingly cheerful words of Don Shepperd on CNN this morning:

The problem is those weapons can malfunction. You can make fat-fingered typing errors. There are still mistakes in warfare. And that’s where you get those trenches full of bodies, Kyra.

Trenches full of bodies. But, you know, Israel didn’t mean it, so it doesn’t count. The “pedantic, casuistic jesuitry” of a “useless and barbaric ruling class.”


If you’ve seen one melting skyskraper, you’ve seen them all

Or so I thought. I’d seen a few of Frank Gehry’s buildings in the form of pictures or models, and perhaps in the flesh from a distance, and, while they’re undeniably attractive, they also seemed perhaps a little pointless. With the technological ability to produce buildings where the external form is more or less unconstrained by the builing’s purpose, I didn’t see any reason for him to choose the forms he actually uses, except for a kind of bland rococoism. But I had the chance to walk around his Music Center when I was in Los Angeles last week, and I’ve rather changed my mind. The way in which the petals of the structure open up to include a park, or to hide a Children’s Amphitheatre in a nook, or to reach out towards the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles, or the strangely growing pillars that support the interior of the concert hall itself are both beautiful and, in surprising ways, functional.


Hi and Ken Loach

Hello, I, er, haven’t posted here for ages. I post so rarely now, that I feel I ought to re-introduce myself every time I do. Anyway, I’m still at Sussex , but I’m back in Cambridge at the moment, working.

I just saw the film, “The Wind That Shakes the Barley.� I won’t attempt to write a review here (for more information see here), but I’d just like to make one point. I liked that the film puts even some of the extremely harsh actions of the Irish republicans in context. The film is not a straightforward glorification of the republicans. It shows, that the old IRA did some fairly unpleasant things (for instance, the killing of someone who really only informed on them out of fear). However, these things are not shown to be simple atrocities. We see why the characters think that these actions are necessary, in the context of a war against the British. The film starts with a young man being beaten to death by the Black and Tans for refusing to say his name in English. The characters feel that they must be brutal against an enemy like that. Although I am certainly not a pacifist, I dislike that kind of brutality (even if the killing of the rather frightened and repentant informer helped them tactically, it still would not be justified, in my view), but it was good to see it contextualised.

I do have more to say about this film, but I will need to do a bit more research first. I intend to post more frequently now that I’m not studying.