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PHILOSOPHER CHANGES

COURSE OF CANADIAN
HISTORY BY INFORMING
RECENT SUPREME
COURT ASSISTED-DEATH
DECISION
In 2011, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) filed a lawsuit claiming that physician-assisted dying should be
legal. That case ended up before the Supreme Court of Canada last fall, and on February 6, 2015, the BCCLA won
their case. The landmark decision overturned the Supreme Court’s 1993 ruling that physician-assisted suicide is illegal.
The court has suspended its decision for 12 months to give lawmakers a chance to write new laws that reflect the
ruling.

Wayne Sumner, University Professor Emeritus in the Department of Philosophy, offered to help the BCCLA with their
case in 2011 and became directly involved in their efforts. He used arguments he developed in his book, Assisted
Death: A Study in Ethics and Law (2011), to provide expert testimony that played a significant role in the Supreme
Court’s decision. Sumner spoke to A & S News about the decision and his contribution to it.

This has been called a landmark ruling. What is the significance of the Supreme Court’s decision?

It is historic. It changes the landscape in Canada in pretty profound ways. Up to this point there have been a variety of
things that can be done for patients experiencing significant suffering in the last stages of their lives, including a
number of things that would actually hasten their deaths, such as honouring a patient’s refusal of further life-sustaining
treatment, terminal sedation, and the use of painkillers to the extent that it might compromise life. All of these were
legal and widely regarded as ethical, but the law had drawn a firm line between them and any form of physician-
assisted death, whether it’s physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia. What this judgment does is to cross that line.
Competent adults who are able to make a clear request and who experience intolerable suffering from an irremediable
disease will now have a right to physician-assisted suicide and physician-administered euthanasia. The judgment
makes options available to these patients that they didn’t have before.

It is rare for an academic philosopher to contribute to a case before the Supreme Court. How did you come to
be involved?

I’ve been teaching and writing in bioethics for a long time. In the 1990s, I started teaching courses specifically on end-
of-life issues and developed my own views on physician-assisted dying. When I retired from teaching in 2008, I
decided to put together the views that I wanted to defend on these questions, so I wrote Assisted Death trying to

systematically provide a case that physician-assisted death is ethical and should be legal. Those were the two aims of
the book. At just about the time the book appeared, in 2011, I learned that the BCCLA was mounting a challenge to the
constitutionality of the Canadian laws covering assisted death. I wrote an email to tell them that I had just published a
book on this very question and that I would be delighted to help out in any way I could.

Joseph Arvay, the lead council for the BCCLA, asked me to serve as an expert witness in ethics in the case before the
B.C. Supreme Court. Expert witnesses are usually expert on facts — it’s usually scientists of various kinds who are
recognized by the court. Joe didn’t know of any case in which anyone had ever been recognized by a Canadian court
as an expert witness on an ethical issue, so this might have been a first.

Part of my contribution was to write an ethical opinion that condensed material from my book. I argued that there are
no significant ethical differences between assisted death and various other end-of-life treatment options that can have
the effect of hastening death. The argument established that the legal distinction between physician-assisted death and
other end-of-life treatments is not grounded in the ethics of these practices. This is what they used at the B.C. Supreme
Court trial. Madam Justice Lynn Smith ended up agreeing with us, concluding that there was no ethical difference
here.

So that was my role. I was an expert witness for the plaintiffs on ethics. My testimony, my evidence was incorporated
into the B.C. trial judge’s decision and all of her findings, including my arguments, went forward to the Supreme Court
of Canada.

What is it like to make a significant contribution to a Supreme Court ruling as an academic philosopher?

I think it’s just super-cool. I have always held the view that philosophers should try to make a difference in matters of
public policy, that we have skills that we can bring to the table and that it’s a shame if we don’t do that on whatever
issue happens to animate us. I’ve advocated that for a long time, but I never dreamed that I could be part of anything as
momentous as this decision. This is a high-watermark of my career as a public intellectual.

What do you make of the public discourse responding to the decision?

I think in one respect the actual reporting of the case has been misleading, by emphasizing physician-assisted suicide.
The 1993 Supreme Court case challenged only the prohibition of assisted-suicide. This time the challenge was also to
the provision in the Criminal Code that prohibits someone from consenting to their own death, so laws that were struck
down had to do with both physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia.

The upshot for legal and medical practices seems huge. Where do we go from here?

Obviously this decision is not one that the Harper government is keen to act on. I hope that they take the conditions
that the court laid down seriously and write them into the law. But even if they do, there are still going to be many
questions about how provincial ministries of health should operationalize these practices. Do you require a second
opinion as a matter of law? How do you ensure that the patient is competent and able to make his or her own
healthcare decisions? All of these questions are up in the air. There is the initial euphoria that the old laws have been
struck down and then you wake up the next day and wonder how we’re going to get it right.

Nostalgia Just
Became a Law of
Nature
New theories have mixed perception and knowledge into the
hardest of sciences.

J ohn Ruskin called it the pathetic fallacy: to see rainstorms as passionate, drizzles

as sad, and melting streams as innocent. After all, the intuition went, nature has no
human passions.
Imagine Ruskin’s surprise, then, were he to learn that the mathematics of perception,
knowledge, and experience lie at the heart of modern theories of the natural world. Quite
contrary to his stern intuition, quantitative relationships appear to tie hard, material laws
to soft qualities of mind and belief.

The story of that discovery begins with the physicist Ludwig Boltzmann, soon after
Ruskin coined his phrase at the end of the 19th century. It was then that science first
strived, not for knowledge, but for its opposite: for a theory of how we might ignore the
messy details of, say, a steam engine or chemical reaction, but still predict and explain
how it worked.

Boltzmann provided a unifying framework for how to do this nearly singlehandedly before
his death by suicide in 1906. What he saw, if dimly, is that thermodynamics is a story not
about the physical world, but about what happens when our knowledge of it fails. Quite
literally: A student of thermodynamics today can translate the physical setup of a steam
engine or chemical reaction into a statement about inference in the face of ignorance.
Once she solves that (often simpler) problem, she can translate back into statements
about thermometers and pressure gauges.

through something called the Fluctuation Dissipation Theorem. Vortices and whirlpools appear. By the opening of the 21st century. a new relationship between the dissipation in a system (the amount of work we do on it that is wasted and lost) and what we know about that system. 45 years after Boltzmann’s death. But slam it inward. the original patterns dissipate and the work that went into their arrangement is lost forever.1 Still and her collaborators showed how dissipation is bounded by the unnecessary information a system retains—information irrelevant to the system’s future behavior. but we do not know it. thermodynamics appeared to operate on glacial scales. With an admirable poetry of mind. and no hidden order could remain. however. for all of these evanescent and improbable structures to fade away. Over time. they referred to this as nostalgia. and the rules change. a science based on a theory of inference and prediction had entered a renaissance. were we able describe how small adjustments that kick a system ever so slightly out of equilibrium vanish in time. the piston stutters and may even stall. Only in 1951. It was there that Still announced. streams and counter-streams. Your work will be dissipated in the useless creation and destruction of superfluous patterns.Yusuke Endoh How that law works itself out—how waste occurs in the real world. the . as waves and stream become splashes and puddles. but which threw up surprise after surprise for decades. Jam the piston and much of your effort will be for nothing. My crash course in the new thermodynamics came from a lecture by Susanne Still of the University of Hawaii in 2011. beyond the ideal— was unavailable to Boltzmann. that assumption can fail. with her collaborators. however. INTO TURBULENCE Water collapses into turbulence in an ASCII fluid simulator written by Yusuke Endoh. Push a piston extremely slowly. But in a world out of equilibrium we know there is something more to know. and Boltzmann’s method works well. Even in the simple world of pistons and gases. Non-equilibrium thermodynamics was unexplored territory for many years. must happen. neither of which were subjects until the time of Boltzmann’s death. Our ignorance in the equilibrium case is absolute: We know that there is nothing more to know. Compared to quantum mechanics or relativity.The ignorance that Boltzmann relied upon was maximal: Whatever could happen. driven in part by rapid progress in machine learning and artificial intelligence. The thermodynamics of the 19th century needed to wait for equilibrium to return.

a childhood room packed into boxes. the irrecoverable details of an afternoon drizzle. England’s work seems to explain why. We can invert this result: Dissipation is connected to how hard it is to recover what a system used to look like. rather than its nostalgia. nostalgia carries a penalty. our ecosystem turned into a giant green solar panel.2 Focusing on the irreversibility of a system. It is only over time. irreversibility.memories of the past that are useless for the future. and dissipation are elaborate. Those memories trace a past that no longer matters. In order to rewind. one needs to retrodict. What they showed is that the nostalgia of a system puts a minimum on the amount of work you will lose in acting on it. He described the ways in which evolution might drive organisms not only to make use of the free energy in their environments. but to do so in a maximally dissipative fashion. as they become increasingly unpredictable to you. in this interpretation. to predict backward— and complete retrodiction is impossible when nostalgia means that many different pasts are compatible with the same future. that the work that went into their creation is lost. they tell us a story of loss. and threaten to consume our present. While Still’s work connects nostalgia to dissipation and loss. if we’re not careful. specific. The exact mathematical relations between nostalgia. feeding towers of herbivores and predators as part of a natural process that smears out the energy of the sun. as they break apart and become unknowable. one can jitter the piston back to recover their energy. too. Brought to our attention. One of the more remarkable contributions to the new thermodynamics in recent years has been by Jeremy England of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. England put together an account of the biological world. Quite literally. over 3 billion years. and always a bit of a surprise when they fall out of the equations. Beings like us exist . We exist. England’s work seems to say that life itself is brought into being by the demands of dissipation. appearing quite literally in physical law. work: Whirlpools set up when you jam down a piston are not (yet) lost— with careful tracing. released the year after Still’s group. In physics. because we dissipate as reliably as possible the massive source of work at the center of our solar system. Here is the melancholy of a forgotten memory.

de singulier dans la situation présente. si l’on veut comprendre le phénomène du terrorisme djihadiste. but it may also underwrite our existence. SOI-DISANT CALIFE Phénomène paradoxal qui s’enracine dans l’Islam. . Il convient en effet de distinguer ce dispositif de pouvoir qu’est le djihadisme et ce dispositif de croyance qu’est la religion musulmane. celui du capitalisme prédateur ». il laisse entendre que les tueurs n’auraient fait que répliquer à une agression préalable. social— and tear them down faster than the alternatives. tous feraient partie de la même « pièce historique en trompe-l’œil » . ces chiens de pornographes de Charlie Hebdo qui ne faisaient « qu’aboyer avec ces mœurs policières dans le style 'amusant' des blagues à connotation sexuelle » Une telle complaisance envers des meurtriers ne nous étonnera guère. Le philosophe et le djihadiste Par Jacob Rogozinski Dans une récente tribune (Le Monde. Badiou en vient ainsi à renvoyer dos-à-dos les assassins et leurs victimes. qu’un dispositif de croyance devienne un foyer de résistance au pouvoir. si bien que la République le « totem républicain ». biological. Peu importe que les tueurs se soient réclamé Al-Qaida et de Daech. tout en le défigurant. Alain Badiou qualifie de « crime fasciste » l’assassinat des journalistes de Charlie Hebdo et des Juifs de l’hypermarché casher. Entre eux. Obstination qui le rend sourd et aveugle à ce qu’il y a de nouveau. voire dans certains cas fusionner . Selon le dogme archéo-marxiste auquel il se cramponne. Ils l’avaient bien cherché. mental. venant d’un homme qui a longtemps fait l’apologie des Khmers Rouges et persiste à célébrer la « révolution culturelle » chinoise. 28 janvier). ces deux types de dispositifs peuvent s’étayer. C’est ce qu’ont compris les foules innombrables qui ont manifesté pour le dénoncer. En insistant sur les brimades policières dont sont victimes les jeunes de banlieue. Cette posture en ni-ni revient en fait à prendre partie pour l’une des deux forces en présence. ainsi que le montre l’histoire des hérésies et des dissidences religieuses. Il importe d’écarter ces œillères stalino-maoïstes. avec ses persécutions et ses massacres.ne vaudrait guère mieux que ceux qui l’attaquent. Nostalgia may be bittersweet. au même titre que les autres religions. Il s’obstine en effet à ressusciter le vieux nom sanglant de « communisme » et à désigner comme « fasciste » ce qui lui fait obstacle. Certes. notre philosophe n’y voit que du « fascisme ». mais il arrive que leur conjonction se défasse. le fascisme n’est qu’un simple avatar de la domination capitaliste : les « bandes armées meurtrières » et les démocrates qui se mobilisent contre leurs crimes « appartiennent au même monde. se conjoindre. comme l’un des plus glorieux événements du XX° siècle. chemical.precisely because we create our worlds—physical. sans jamais s’en prendre à l’Islam comme tel. peu importe qu’ils aient donné à leur acte une signification religieuse (« nous avons vengé le Prophète ! ») : comme si rien n’avait changé depuis les années 1930. aucune opposition réelle : leurs intérêts « sont partout les mêmes » .

victimes du chômage. à brandir le totem du « communisme » pour dénigrer le combat nécessaire contre le dispositif de terreur. En captant la révolte. C’est le point où la fin rejoint les moyens et se confond avec eux ». à les intensifier ou les modifier. de leur relégation dans des quartiers déshérités. Les affects qui animent un grand nombre de jeunes. un même dispositif de terreur peut user indifféremment de ces deux modes d’action : selon les circonstances. contre toutes les formes d’oppression et de ségrégation .Pourquoi affirmer que le djihadisme est un dispositif de pouvoir ? Parce qu’il vise la conquête du pouvoir souverain. voilà qui témoigne d’un profond aveuglement. Certains choisissent des cibles déterminées. différentes sortes de dispositifs de pouvoir : dispositifs d’exclusion. Il faut ajouter à cette liste des dispositifs dont l’unique vocation consiste à anéantir les sujets dont ils font leur cible : des dispositifs de terreur.K. assassinats et attentats cessent d’être de simples moyens au service d’une fin : l’exercice de la terreur devient lui-même le but de l’action. Dans la stratégie du djihadisme. le terrorisme djihadiste opère tantôt par des assassinats ciblés. Foucault nous l’a appris. du racisme. du pouvoir d’État. BRANDIR LE TOTEM DU « COMMUNISME » Ce qu’exprime parfaitement l’une de ses références majeures. patiemment. les dispositifs de terreur les exacerbent. dispositifs de sécurité et de contrôle. sont des sentiments de révolte contre l’injustice : l’indignation. Comment empêcher le djihadisme d’exploiter une rébellion légitime ? En luttant concrètement contre l’injustice qui l’engendre. s’impose la plus large alliance possible de toutes les forces qui lui résistent. En fait. Malik : « Frapper de terreur le cœur de l’ennemi n’est pas seulement un moyen. un « domaine de la guerre » où ses réseaux peuvent frapper où bon leur semble. la colère. Il y a. Cet affect mortifère est la haine. En atteste le nom même du plus puissant de ses réseaux . l’indignation. bien que ses objectifs fondamentaux restent les mêmes. Comment se fait-il cependant qu’un tel dispositif parvienne à s’implanter en Occident. Seule une politique d’émancipation qui . La force et la vérité du mot d’ordre "Je suis Charlie" tient à cela : il ne s’agissait pas seulement de manifester notre solidarité avec toutes les victimes de l’attentat. de ses fantasmes. Pouvoir qui excède cependant les limites territoriales d’un État au sens traditionnel : le premier geste du soi-disant calife. aura consisté à abolir la frontière entre l’Irak et la Syrie. à les infléchir en les orientant vers certaines cibles. à re-fonder un projet d’émancipation qui aura tiré la leçon des désastres du XX° siècle. tantôt par des attentats aveugles. il faut que celui-ci soit parvenu à capter certains de ses affects. comme pour montrer au monde que son pouvoir a vocation à s’étendre de manière illimitée en faisant de la Terre entière un dar ul harb. après la prise de Mossoul. les font virer à la haine et donnent à cette haine des cibles contre lesquelles se déchaîner. alors que d’autres s’efforcent de faire le plus grand nombre de victimes. la colère.et le titre de « calife » que s’est arrogé son chef. Face à l’offensive du djihadisme. mais aussi en travaillant collectivement. Persister à opposer les « rouges » et les « tricolores ». de ses désirs. c’est aussi une fin en soi (…). mais vise uniquement à détruire son objet. de normalisation disciplinaire. le Pakistanais S. Il arrive toutefois qu’une juste colère se transforme en un autre affect qui ne tient plus aucun compte du juste et de l’injuste. mais aussi d’affirmer que n’importe qui peut devenir la cible du dispositif de terreur. dans certaines franges de la jeunesse ? Foucault ne s’est pas assez interrogé sur ce qui incite les individus à adhérer aux dispositifs de pouvoir. Pour qu’un homme accepte de se soumettre à un dispositif.« État islamique ».

The mere fact that the American government uses a statistical construction.D. it seemed. Even the Founders. Man could look at the world around him only as a man might look at a department store. again in the most powerful global empire ever to grace the Earth. and a calculus there. In the 19th century. as a measure of its progress is telling. While students of history today might consider utilitarianism a somewhat dated way to view the world. The quantum as utility. Happiness remains a potential category for fulfillment but our present history ignores its accounting. For the slave-holding bourgeois legalists of the 18th century. thought the pursuit of happiness –– let us quote the Declaration –– was coincident with private property.Capital will continue to co-exist with capital because capital cannot behave otherwise than as antagonism. man became the man-hour. subordinating all qualities to quantities (with certain exception such as the pleasures of high literature or other pursuits favored by their respective bourgeois milieu). Even pleasure became a quantity under the utilitarians. the will to marxism: need we work in an economy of abundance? By Jeremy Brunger. Little did capital know that it would never quite hear the end of that book. which man first had invented. In the process of capitalist development. exempting nothing in nature from the purview of human endeavor. supporting his family with the scraps given to him by a communist in the guise of a factory boss. . it was utterly revolutionary for its time. had invented man and converted him into its religion. whereby in tandem they mathematized the world according to their vision of liberal capitalism. English philosopher John Stuart Mill revamped Jeremy Bentham’s philosophy of utilitarianism. property from which one man could exclude another. whose mythos compares to the founding myths of every empire. the monetary return on investment rules us all. which began to subtly invade man’s interior cognition in the 18th century and came to dominate it in the 19th. though it was not proletarians who produced it but rather a poor Ph. seeing a price here. no matter that money was first put into circulation by human hands. Instead.saurait « tirer sa poésie de l’avenir et non du passé » pourra parvenir à briser la logique de la haine. and capital came to represent the very summit of Western achievement and Enlightened progress. that is. Mother Nature became the sum of the square footage of ground rents. A century and a half later over half of the population of America lives at or around subsistence level. even in the most powerful global empire ever to exist then: the England of Karl Marx’s Capital. erasing the measures of quality from the social sphere –– mankind became reduced to a series of numbers. actual human happiness was another matter entirely. man became immiserated. It quantifies in order to exploit and kills what it cannot. who conceived it as a measure of utility. for its imperial-progressive march towards the infinite neither dares to account for nor declares the happiness of its people. the GDP.

at least in such intensive work spaces. it seems. Such intensive economies hardly disappeared during the 20th century. unique to man alone. would emancipate the human race from the grinding horror of animal life (for Marx was fanatic about Darwin’s biology. The technology Marx saw in his time ruled man and made him a sort of machine. when cultural revolution seemed on the brink of a eschatological dawn. There has been much talk in the last 150 years about communism working only in theory. What work was done then.Karl Marx. the production line. one was still enslaved to the structure of his politics. It would. was done not for the man who performed it. as if any other comparable theory has worked in practice. be created by man rather than foisted upon him by Nature at large. Most certainly. disciplined even. Marx’s thoughts on the working day had it that it neither be ten to fourteen hours — as it was in industrial England — nor be so intensive if work still had to be done in his envisioned communist society. The more we knew. It should not take a world-historical thinker to advise the world that it can enjoy its products once its labor has succeeded output with its harvest. who at once acted as priest. on the stocks. indeed. or the registry list in a call center. ensuring that no matter how much abundance one had at home. despite his current retro-perspective image as a Victorian patriarch and anti-modern voodoo economist. be difficult to enjoy the fruit of one’s exponentially more productive labor if one has no time or energy with which to do so. oil-changing marts that follow the same process. We still have grocery stores that command their cashiers to labor according to mathematically standardized speed scores that split to the second how much they sell with how much they take to give their customers back their cash. and the death camps of health insurance that would sooner have a homeless population than a healthy one. yet appear trained. prostitutes. and urchins begging to eat the soles from his shoes. he desired a new machine. Yet. it was not the capitalist class who decided to end child labor as “Rule Brittannia” resounded from the port cities. which 19th century wage-slave industrial economies –– the principle object of Marx’s ridicule –– at once stoked and artificially repressed by virtue of the grueling work hours and minuscule wage compensation they imposed. This was the central travesty of progress. to think it necessary to earn a living despite our historically unique largesse. It was done in the service of his accountant. one that at once liberated man and allowed him to approach the fellows of his species as equals. Marx witnessed the same theft in his own 19th century even as he presaged ours. by definition. Our humanism has not been sold. the men (and women and children) who by their sweat and blood built the English empire inwardly and outwardly. it has been stolen. gas stations that forbid their clerks to accept less than a penny’s cost of the merchandise consumed. pure capitalism included. There is no difference between the cotton loom. He believed the evolution of technology would free mankind from the toil of labor and that this technology would. The strange capacity of techne. god. government bureaus that count heads instead of faces. and employer lest he find himself in a debtor’s prison. even going so far as to try to dedicate Capital to him). or on streets lined with coal-dust. through his sacrifice of time and flesh. even as technological innovation thrived in the private and public spheres alike: Ford Motor Company gave us the mass-produced automobile along with the mass-produced man and the US government in contract with other governments and domestic private companies ushered in the information age. This is the chief paradox of modernity: we have so much material and intellectual abundance. the more we worked. Thus was the stranglehold that the industrial bourgeoisie of Marx’s era had over its subjects. people often worked harder than ever: the protestant work ethic was supreme up to the 1960s. was really a special breed of technocrat much ahead of his contemporaries. managerial rubrics that rule not according to human interview but to imagined cost-effectiveness. Forges of steel or lives reduced to a cold and insane mathematics: this is not a choice. But never before has . Yet the concept of the individual was still subsumed under the cloak of religious ideality. Man’s liberation would lie in his creativity. which were and are all ran by human beings who would rather not do what need not be done.

when material abundance was so massive that the only thing halting human progress was humanity itself and not the technological innovations it came to wield. our access to the world outweighs our hunger for such access. A brave new world indeed: both the material resources of man’s dominion and the intellectual curiosity of his mind are thriving in the 21st century. nor more educated. Furthermore. At least in the developed world. and proponents of other theories (and practical examples) of human society abound on the internet. arguably the greatest novel in the American canon. The watershed will leave its marks. and upon it. because of how such equivalent distribution would affect the reigning price mechanism of foodstuffs. of course. there is. mainstream social- capitalist theories of development. It persists despite itself. we now have — as we had then — the material resources to behave as though we do not require the signaling vehicle of cash to refer to material commodities in order to purchase them for our consumption. For once. One especially interesting development in economic theory subsequent to Marx’s anthropology of the deprived English is that of “the post-scarcity economy. saying that we are lagging behind the times of our own futurity. Diverse anarchists. when human life was defined not by what it had. that creation of the sovereign nation-state in league with private capital. The labor pool has never been larger. a novel about African American migration towards the North and their discontent subsequent to being proletarianized. the economic structure of our own neighborhoods. as the inroads of that thriving lay bare our shortcomings in understanding our histories both particular and general. Now. . We have thus far only straddled this gulf. history is a palimpsest so easily dissected that we need only click a button to view its inner details. but by what it did not have: thus scarcity was identical with history. Marxists. Farrell’s A Note on Literary Criticism to Paul Laurence Dunbar’sThe Sport of the Gods. But the practical reality of it lies firmly in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. when even centuries after Gutenberg’s great leap forward we still had access to information at a snail’s pace. We live within the horizon of that gulf. Among such a bounty of ideas. Such a modal object of value-storage is a survival of the “good old days”. until the 20th and 21st centuries. John Steinbeck in his The Grapes of Wrath.an economic base been poised to marry the intellectual monuments built from. or a whole host of economic theory after Adam Smith first philosophized on the dialectics between the moral and the material. much conflict. too afraid of what we might accomplish on the other side. Our money economy is a direct descendent of the economy of scarcity that defined all of human history until quite recently — again. Other literature of the 1930s and 40s abounds with such themes. The fact we confuse cash for accounting only tells on us to our higher intellects.” The idea is at least as old as the 19th and perhaps even the 18th century. Catholic distributionists. such as the reason why Jesus moved to Jerusalem or why the horrific Stalin approved of the discipline of sociology despite its bourgeois roots in French and German academic discourse. which is to say it is a priestly phantom that nevertheless controls our lives by directing and reflecting our motivations. from James T. when Thomas Paine in Agrarian Justice was promoting a sort of proto-socialism against the property-adoring Enlightenment thinkers of his milieu. Such diffusion was not possible before the information age. lambasted the misfortunes of the dismal science of orthodox economics that saw fit to destroy food rather than distribute it to the victims of the Great Depression. finance is all fiat. the mathematical parallels between popular music and the Icelandic saga. Now. we can use the internet to examine Marx’s England. were we only ready to forge the bonds in order to unite them now that our intellect compares to our materials.

It is our insistence on using the same structure that served our misery in the past that continues our misery into the present. therefore. of course. since their proper concerns are budgetary in nature. whether you. wholly political: there is no political decision that does not cohere towards an economic result.” to overdetermine to “super-limit. Ludwig Wittgenstein. massive labor forces. all the while supposing our negative consent. from the server of grits and ham to the chief executive officer. only signifies labor that is backed by the structural violence of the state.” The way we think is overdetermined by the past. would have abhorred a police state intent on protecting private property even at the cost of human liberty. are a conservative who believes poverty is a moral problem. The dollar is not a proper representative of value but a bead on the abacus of social control. The greatest philosopher of the World Wars. or rather its most pernicious aspect. He just did not know he had unearthed the secret of modern human enslavement. Somewhere along the line the process inverted and turned man into a commodity. Without real material limits. technological abundance. or that human life simply does not operate according to the same guidelines in the 21st century that it might have operated in accordance with in the 1st. for forcing their antagonistic co-operation. but by their hyped-up successors: the postmodern financial . The United States. we are still limited. food. Five hundred years ago the West entered early modernity. a subject of the government. no matter the language games of property that compete in claiming it for one interest group or another. The massive profit margin of international business is largely a loophole of this process rather than the end result. clothing.” Cash. as are capital’s highest employees — the reification of the abstractions we human beings have produced over the centuries has fitted itself as our designated master. the objects themselves are there: the housing. with all its capital stocks. or whether you are a liberal who believes that poverty is the direct result of economic warfare against labor. predatory immigration policies. which monopolizes violence in order to monopolize human regulation. along with the legislature that produced it. of which the dollar (along with its prices) is a subordinate tool. Nevermind that we needn’t work. The abundance is tethered by a legal and cultural superstructure which we call America. and so on are there in the physical world but are prevented from being distributed by this language game we call “legal tender. ushering in the marriage of scientific inquiry and humanism we enjoyed for so long. The government could do this without even having to remold the behavior of its citizens. utility be damned. We might even consider Congress to be largely the legislative arm of capital. by its determinant historical scarcity. stumbled onto a great fiction with his philosophy of the human tongue and all the perils it entails. any cash symbol that makes man see his neighbor as a potential predator in the realm of plenty. The material abundance is there in time and space. clothed as it is in the dollar which seems to be more socially powerful than the people themselves who actually constitute civil society. not by our lowly origins as in Darwin’s biology. The transmogrification of man into rent continues its onslaught through the centuries. standing contracts dating back centuries. Regardless of the ideological bent of its people. Money is merely an engine for controlling human beings.” quite without reason. or that agrarian mores ought not be the same as urban mores.All that is fiscal is. has enough resources to end domestic poverty tomorrow. which bore both our greater and our lesser habits into the present. John Stuart Mill. despite his excesses. In the eyes of capital we are little more than labor rents. The dollar is a magic symbol that can motivate an army of pediatricians to treat adolescent pancreatic cancer or drive horrific genocides. for convincing them of scarcity. The average citizen attains that legal tender by performing what we moderns call “work” and what the poet Dante called “Hell. The word “determine” means “to limit. The most obvious symbol of this transformation is the dollar. or rather.

morally necessary (keeping in mind the suggestion that others must work for things not necessary to society already smacks of slavery)? Why work for nothing save the satisfaction of a political minority intent on subjugating the poor. resolves its contradictions. when liberal capitalism made its brutal return under the triumphant neoliberal regime and the tentacular spread of the IMF’s loan programs. despite their detestation of it. or unconscious. Simone de Beauvoir once asked her audience “Must We Burn Sade?” We have not burned Greece. according to divine and natural warrant. despite its being a slave-owning republic built on the selfsame principle of brutal exploitation.economy coupled with the cynicism of a corrupted political structure that conceives of itself as lasting for centuries more. more theoretical today than practical tomorrow –– this fact cannot be denied. If not this. this is work that people are already doing rather efficiently). The same criticism pervades Andre Gorz’s classic Critique of Economic Reason. a legal one –– for we have invented them all by virtue of our participation. or denature back into nothingness. It will either resolve. the original foundation of most of our philosophy. because their environment offered them no other choice? Why demand others perform busy work even if it is not economically necessary. In general we call this already-existing figure of . Most of this participation is barely conscious. After all. Its people are the agents of this crossroads. Need we work as if we are but Sisyphus on the mountainside rather than crowded around Prometheus as he shows mankind how to kindle our way out of the primeval darkness? Why grind corn when you can mass-produce it with a few men and a few machines? Why insist on sweating by the toil of your brow when you are already in the land of milk and honey? Why pretend the moral sphere of modern life is comparable to the bronze age.” or “the way we do things now is consonant with the natural world. A structural revolution presupposes. the maintenance costs of stores and storage facilities. but first it must ask itself some hard and pointed questions: it must self-criticize. The idea that misery was dignified was not grassroots — it was corporate. as all reigning behavioral and political regimes do: “there is no other way. both collective and individual. We are enslaved only as long as we do not think we are enslaved. the idea of the “dignity of labor” originally came not from laborers but from those who profited from their misery. If the theory were practiced one would still need to figure out the logistics of national distribution stemming down all the way to the local field. not in the manner of reciting a catechism. who themselves always have comprised the majority of humankind? Most of these questions could be fallaciously answered in a response that naturalizes work. What continues is what is allowed. as the French social theorist Louis Althusser had it in his On the Reproduction of Capitalism. especially as it was expounded by the Church Militant (not coincidentally. in the great age of human artifice. a system of caste that convinces its adherents that horror is joy. provided it is not first recognized as an evil we only co-opt. wherein the principle of liberty. Capitalism is a pyramid scheme. as some suppose. only. but in the manner of a free people who despise hypocrisy and the hollow ideals of empire. and trumps.” But all of these answers ring as false now. as they did when the first builders of the ziggurats convinced the common man to give his surplus to the ruling class. then decline. of course. and joy horror. the Catholic church still uses the language of corporate expansion to describe itself). Such probing questions are. and so on (of course. dating from the 1980s. when most people worked. Neither need we burn ourselves in heaving America toward its inexorable summit.

if it doesn’t kill us. the wastelands of the highway states. and if we as human beings could re-open our eyes and judge the material world around us. would allow us to recognize the role that signifiers –– such as money –– play in our everyday lives once we were freed from the false consciousness of exchange-value. A more radical approach to this is one of demystification: the dollar means nothing more than “the nation” in liquid form. still entirely dependent on using the dollar as a replacement for labor. Blind slaughter never solved anything. In 2015 few American children can expect to attain adulthood in any degree of wholeness or stability. for once. one we politically produce? The social and historical trends of the upcoming century will no doubt re-insert themselves from the 19th century into the 21st century. Our confusing and confused web of language. who held the world in their arms and decided to let it fail because of circumstances they chose to ignore. Meritocracy. he would have to question why so many people make so little in compensation for their labor when they seem so intent on chasing the dollar — why they do not recognize that money economies function almost mystically as mechanisms of social control rather than as systems of real value regulation. the new normal of the precariat whose families cannot expect any stability save that of imprisonment –– with this last spreading across the entire country. and in the mood to inquire into mankind’s industry. is the great lie of the bourgeois era: it has never truly existed. or if you will. We will have no choice but to live through them.logistics “the free market. when in fact labor is the true force behind the dollar’s successful interpolation of our collective consciousness. which separates man from his desires: Marx himself called it a pimp between man and his relations of need and object in his early humanist Manuscripts of 1844. There was a great epistemological and practical break between what Marx thought of the world and what the Marxists did to the world. But questions harass any utopia. the black-market edging its way towards the Southwest states. Seattle. But it will not do to discard our visionaries because the blind who followed them began to see the world through jaundiced eyes. Detroit. but hoarded. Dallas. The largess is not designed to be distributed. we would see nothing but the material world in all its splendor. Were God real. who think it right that a minority should decide whether or not a majority lives in penury or pleasure? Why should a particular mode of market-capture undermine our ability to seek philosophy and self-understanding rather than the economic bottom line. least of all the problem of human liberation. Chicago. if not merit itself. which.” but it is. That realpolitik question “who gets what” is meaningless when everyone can get enough simply because there is enough to get. the homeless crowding around the Capitol. One such important question that will be on everyone’s mind in the coming decades is: why should an American work a 10 hour day for less than a living wage if the country is already the wealthiest in the world. yet one which features some of the worst standards of living seen in the first world? Think of inner city Nashville. Why should a 3 hour working day be considered more insane than an 8-10 hour working day or a fifth of the population put in jail? Why should the sane submit to the insane. certainly won’t follow us to the short-faring graves that await us all. it is that the structure of our societies implicitly forbids their democratic distribution. this question is the critical eye of Marxism unperverted by the barbarism of the 20th century Soviet experiment. such a misery should not be blamed on such an abstraction as “the economy” rather than the mis-dealings of the men and women who have come before them. What will prove our grit is how well we provide the . even among those who most vocally express its reality. which devolved from the sonnet into the labor contract. even one that admits to not promising utopia. And the most common and most powerful form of that labor contract is the dollar. the death-rattles of industry resounding loud in the North. This question is identical to contemporary Marxism. Trenton. the drug-addled counties of the South and the Southeast. It is not that we do not possess resources that border on the infinite. touched-up by the mysticism of political and economic language. as such. even those few who manage to profit? Why slave for the dollar when the dollar is itself a slave –– our slave.

” (8) “Are we. But it tends to be troubled by the current stage. Cognitive Capitalism There are broadly three ways of thinking historically about capitalism. But Boutang wants to step back from post-situationist thought. Hence it speaks of post-Fordism. of the utility or scarcity of resources. An excellent example might be Yann Moulier Boutang’s Cognitive Capitalism (Polity Press. Its appearances may change but its essence is always the same. such as post or neo or late. Marxism is not a drop-out culture: it is a culture of opting in. History bears the straight story: to impoverish is to radicalize. but merely saying that it is like or not like another. The world’s measure of utility is not man’s servitude to man. Thomas Piketty. now that we have only our worse to support us. Ought we weep for that joyful science which is not economics? We have already wept for our better functions. Its attention is on “new vectors of the production of wealth” (135) This is a challenge. and its strong commitment to the point of view of living labor. his jumping off point is Marx’s Grundrisse. whether than of Baudrillard or others. wherein restriction is defined as farce and human freedom as the only universal imperative? I suspect if we do not use our time to pursue freedom wisely. In general. and there are no new ideas.” This is dry academic jargon: what it means is the poor reclaiming from the rich through brute force. Perhaps this too can be avoided.” Shall we call his bluff or prove it true in our will to Marxism. going to remain obstinately stuck to the perspective of the value of working time. The third approach is to try and define the specificity of the twenty-first century social formation. “cognitive capitalism is a paradigm. for whom capital becomes an absolute. discussed a predictive concept economists call “general appropriation. Perhaps Francis Fukuyama was right. when change is described via modifiers. from the peasant revolts of the Middle Ages to the brink of popular immiseration on which we now stand. like that of Terranova. Dr. The second is able to think more historically. each of which are qualitatively different. force decides. especially the ‘Fragment on Machines’.” (113) It no longer takes Fordism as the norm. one is not really thinking the specificity of an historical period. he might find . in his recent Capital in the 21st Century. even as the GDP increases along with the suicide rate. which can only be described negatively as lacking the attributes of the last.answers to these questions. and it certainly does not get bogged down in theories of eternal capital. in order to measure a wealth that depends on the time of life and on the super-abundance of knowledge?” (4) Boutang’s method is. Marx opened his chapter on “The Working Day” in Capital with one of his most famous observations: “between equal rights. just comedies and tragedies of repetition. shaped by the Italian workerist tradition. an avid reader of Darwin. the American experiment in freedom is dying. We ride the tides of this history whether we like it or not. someone else will sell it out from under us. “a kind of small defrag program for Marxism’s mental hard drive. or a coherent research program. If Marx were to appear by time-machine in today’s California. after all. 2011). until the revolution. and particularly the concept of the ‘general intellect’. a book which presents in English the results of a research program that has been going on in French for some time. in particular. As Boutang says. What cannot endure. Marx was. or enslaved to circumstances beyond the control of the society we decide to constitute. as not even capitalism’s biggest fans seem to have much of a clue how to describe it. The Soviet experiment in freedom is dead. of examining the real conditions of our mutual existence and striving towards a world in which neither you nor I are miserable. In this version capitalism has stages. For example the regulation school came up with a convincing portrait of what it called the Fordist regime of regulation. exploited. that poses an alternative to post-Fordism. and all of politics foreclosed: “is this capitalism so absolute?” (3) Perhaps it calls rather for a fresh analysis. which strange to say never comes. One draws on Marx’s value theory and pretty much treats capital as eternal. will not endure. Like them.

Boutang follows Lazzarato in speaking of “immaterial labor” (31). Cognitive capitalism is not limited to the ‘tech’ sector. As I argued in Telesthesia(Polity Press 2013).” (37) Like the Italian workerists. Finance both predicts and actualizes futures in which private companies extract value from the knowledge society. is the problem of the network effect. for example. information changes the way one thinks about what the ‘matter’ in materialism might be. or the intangibles of managing the aura of brands and product lines. Financialization is a response to that complexity. There’s a story here about power and hegemony.” Those are the problems cognitive capitalism appears completely unable to solve. Boutang is more interested in the features of what replaced it. because it has to deal with collective cognitive labor power. which is so often used now as a kind of linguistic operator to describe by contrast what this era is supposed to mean. fixed exchange rates. this is not a simple story of the exogenous development of the forces of production. What it did solve. low or even negative real interest rates. It is interesting. But perhaps there’s a more thorough rethinking of the role of information in production that is really called for here. Immaterial labor is supposed to be an updating of Marx’s category of abstract labor. price inflation. It is a time of “the revenge of externalities” and the predation of the “bio-fund” (20) when “the city turns into a non-city. not just pure linear tech growth. and the contours of the company became unclear. There has been another ‘great transformation’. This is not a revival of the ‘information society’ thesis of Daniel Bell and others. although not quite for the same reasons as some of Boutang and Lazzarato’s other critics. “We call this mutating capitalism – which now has to deal with a new composition of dependent labor (mostly waged) – ‘cognitive capitalism’. Ours is a time in which we witness the crash of unlimited resource extraction against limits. however. but that of invention power. after a fashion. and no longer simply with muscle power consumed by machines driven by ‘fossil fuel’ energy. as Karl Polanyi might call it. Financialization is a way of assessing the value of production when production is no longer just about labor and things. living labor. if one looks at the top Fortune 500 companies. the aggregate of concrete labors that make up socially necessary labor time. Boutang thinks that in its advanced centers – what the situationists called the overdeveloped world – a new form of capitalism has emerged. foreign labor importation. or logistics. a term I never liked. The explanation is an interesting one. it is striking how much all of them now depend on something like cognitive labor.that at least some of the work being done there is no longer explainable via recourse to scarcity and physical labor. and wage rises in line with productivity. Industrial capitalism at its peal – what the regulation school calls Fordism – was characterized by cheap energy. a theory which shied away from the complexities of capitalism. work dematerialized. Indeed. With the conversion of intellectual activities into tradable assets. I think it is important to hang on to the materiality of information- based sciences and technologies. for whom it is always more or les the same thing. on complex processes. Boutang is rather sparing with the term ‘neoliberal’. following Marx. Moreover. to watch a billion dollars or more being spent on American elections. capitalism has changed in that “the essential point is no longer the expenditure of human labor- power. Value creation now relies on public goods.” (22) The global urban crisis – what Mike Davis calls the Planet of Slums (Verso 2006) – is a witness to the exhaustion of positive externalities upon which capital has depended. But rather than concentrate on the break-down of that system as the regulationists do. . Cognitive capitalism has its problems. where the boundaries of who ‘owns’ what can never be clear. Which would be another way of figuring what Paul Burkett. cheap raw materials.” (32) Now the potential for future innovation is incorporated into pricing of future possibilities. The rise of finance is what has to be explained. so that new kinds of tech intensive capital does not render it all obsolete. or that labor time whose value is realized in exchange value when commodities are successfully sold. the emphasis is on living labor. whether in the form of R+D. with the twist that for Boutang cognitive capitalism comes to be more dependent on it. and things that it is very difficult to price. full employment. Boutang points towards a more complex way of understanding ‘capital’ than the Italians. to try to keep the fossil fuel industry’s state protections and subsidies. After mercantilist and industrial capitalism comes cognitive capitalism. For Boutang and Lazzarato. sees as the resources both natural and human that capital uses “free of charge. but for Boutang neither economic ideology nor financial speculation is causative. and always purely reaction to labor’s struggles to make value for itself. The rise of finance is clearly a key feature of our times.

I would have liked to know more about the science + labor alliance policy that Boutang attributes to the French Communists in the postwar years. Knowledge-work is the way information is made. Never has there been so much talk of property rights. Perhaps after an era of ‘primitive accumulation’. California ideology.” (54) It is certainly helpful. the counter-arguments quickly default to one or other ideological tropes. one might subscribe to some version of the California Ideology. They seem to have a hard enough time with Boutang’s thesis that it is in a new stage. if the concept of ‘capitalism’ is ever to be a valid historical one.” (49) He attempts to inventory them. Hence I am skeptical of one of Boutang’s key themes: “… the novelty we are witnessing is the centrality of living labor that is not consumed and not reduced to dead labor in mechanism.Boutang also wants to separate knowledge from information. companies have. It points rather to the poverty of imagination of todays (pseudo)Marxists that can only imagine capital to eternal. it understands the problem as not one of new kinds of labor. of the living and of the conditions of life on earth. and for the purpose of extracting more information. rather than to submit in advance to bourgeois categories. Boutang is not one of those who thinks the ‘new economy’ is somehow magically ‘weightless’. but the least settled part of attempts to think the current mode of production seem to me to be questions of the classes it produces and which in turn reproduce it. “Not only are the parameters of space and time being radically altered. Boutang takes a lively interest in the evident fact that in certain parts of the over-developed world. to focus on knowledge as a kind of work. Boutang also takes his distance from the state-led schemes of the regulation school. of the producer. However. I question why it has to be thought as labor at all. which became private property rights. I wonder if it might not be the case that just as the dead labor congealed into fixed capital overtook living labor. Cognitive capitalism affects all sectors. In Britain this was called ‘Bernalism’. this has now been subsumed into the mature form of I-K-I’. as well as concepts of producing. so too the dead cognition reified into information systems might not have taken over from the living labor of knowledge workers.” (48) While Boutang does not go there. but the very thing accumulation aims at. based on the circuit K-I-K’. The complexity of markets means increasing efficiency can’t just be solved by economies of . This might be what the era of ‘big data’ is really about. But why does thinking one thing has ended automatically mean one must believe it was succeeded by something else? That does not follow at all. Given how different Boutang finds cognitive labor to be to physical labor. One is that if one thinks this is not capitalism. its post effective advocate. Across the board new tech increases the power of immaterial. Whenever one suggests such a thing. Boutang is aware of this: “One of the symptoms indicating that both the mode of production and the capitalist relations of production are changing is the importance assumed nowadays by institutional legal issues. where one would speak of ‘intellectual capital’ without wondering where and how it was made. What I find useful in that tradition is that. and yet they have “discovered and invented the new form of value. so needless to say the thought-experiment in which something else succeeds it is literally unthinkable. Hence I would press even harder than Boutang on this: “does this not bring immediately into question the capitalist mode of production as a whole. by way of contesting them as well as by way of redefining them. Boutang at least canvasses this possibility. who hanker for a return to something like an industrial world with Keynsian regulatory tools. after J D Bernal. but something worse? I think it is a necessary thought-experiment. an which were extended to cover an ever-wider range of information products. He points out that it does not eliminate material production so much as re-arrange it in space and time. rather than as the social activity of a quite different class. I- prime. and be oneself a dupe of various new age Powerpoint-slingers. and not just the dominant system of accumulation?” (115) But I digress. Value production comes to depend on social cooperation and tacit knowledge. but the radical overhaul of representations that is underway affects the conception of acting and of the agent/actor doing things. so-called ‘intellectual property’. I will: what it was not just a new stage of capitalism but a new mode of production? What if this was not capitalism. But tech change is no longer an exogenous resource. where information systems shape living knowledge production to their form. unlike in Boutang and others.” (47) Perhaps one could press this even further. but of labor’s potential alliance with a quite different class – what elsewhere I called the hacker class. and to avoid making a fetish of the latter. I think. Of course. This is salutary. in mentioning Franco Berardi’s idea of a “cognitariat” (97) and Ursula Huws of acybertariat. and for whom finance can only be rent-seeking. The symptom of this for me is the emergence of new kinds of property relation. We need to have a sense of the conditions under which it could be said to have transformed into something else entirely.

The values of creativity only become capable of being exploited by an intelligent capitalism to the extent that they were promoted as a value. Not that traditionally ascribed to labor. as there is another kind of value production that is all about the leaky and indeterminate way in which social knowledge gets turned into products. Cognitive capitalism looks for spatial and institutional forms that allow it to capture value from things other than traditional labor. but also with drugs and increasingly with sophisticated manufactured goods. but not one entirely consumed with petit bourgeois dreams. Even so. not of labor per se but of one’s capacity to hack. And yet there’s a tension here. Perhaps one could even open up the question of whether the tensions within the ruling class point toward the formation of a different kind of ruling class. and for whom tech is just a means to get into business. (But is it still labor?) What motivates this new kind of (non)labor besides wealth or power is libido sciendi. The passions might be a broader question. as a third organizational form alongside the market and hierarchy. but as Gabriella Coleman has shown. Many will discover that there is now a kind of second degree exploitation. As Pekka Himanen showed already in The Hacker Ethic. in parallel with attempts to capture positive externalities by successful firms. Information now manages production cycles in realtime. at least in part. while start-up culture is designed to shape a kind of petit-bourgeois personality. which was the basis of Asger Jorn’s very prescient situationist critique of political economy. There are new spatial forms. It might be better to say that one of the things today’s economy is about is the productive use of all twelve of those passions. autonomy and inventiveness. Who knows? Some might even question the split that this emerging mode of production forces between labor and creation. which is why in The Spectacle of Disintegration I went back to Charles Fourier and his theory of the twelve passions. and what I called the hacker class. One part of the ruling class really insists on the enclosure of information within strict private property forms. including all of those things that writers from Terranova to Trebor Scholz call non-labor or digital labor. “Work comes to dress itself in the clothes of the artist or of the university. of which libido sciendi – or Lyotard’s parology – might be just one. the actual ethnography of hackers reveals a more complex ideological field. There is a crisis of property rights. libertarian or otherwise. One could frame this as an instability for a ruling class which does not know which of these is more important. attention and care are what are scarce. Networks are quick to identify resources when time. Hence the rise of the network. Or whether it is even a split between . Consumption has become a productive and part of research and development. They might at times be motivated by libertarian ideologies. there’s a quite different relation to both time and desire at work in what Boutang calls cognitive labor. ‘Labor’ becomes about connectivity. product of elite American universities who studied programming rather than go to business school. to invent. including new kinds of labor. One part has lost the ability to produce information goods strapped to physical objects and charge as if they were just physical objects. Following Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello. while another part does not.”(88) Hence. or the desire to know. Boutang sees the development of work after Fordism as being about coopting the rebellion from work’s alienated form. For Boutang this new division is like that between the ‘free’ worker and the slave in mercantilist capitalism – which I must point out is a division between two different classes. There’s a plurality of inputs into most productions. first experimentally and then as a norm of living. and is hard to measure such labor in time units. You can buy a pretty good knock-off of an iPad now for a fraction of the price. not everyone drinks that kool-aid.” (90) This might not however take full account of the rose of the ‘Brogrammer’. including the clustering of production systems.scale. The ethnographic realities of class are always complicated. responsiveness. or whether both tendencies can really occur at once. “in cognitive capitalism we are witnessing the emergence of the systematic exploitation of a third passion – or desire – as a factor of efficiency in human activity deployed in an enterprise… What I am referring to here is the libido sciendi – the passion for learning and the taste for the game of knowledge. This is the case not just with things like movies or music. “the ‘hacker’ individual is closer to the creative artist and the ivory-tower professor than to the risk-taker or the possessive individualist. to transform information.” (76) Béatriz Préciado has a quite interesting critique of what she sees as the anti-corporeal and masculinist bias of such a way of thinking about what drives the contemporary economy.

” (139) The value of companies has become intangible. the privatization of social cooperation is a regression. and where “getting the multitude to work for free is the general line of cognitive capitalism” (133) Cognitive capital both depends on the pollinating efforts of a knowledge society built on a social-democratic pact and yet undermines it at every turn.different kinds of ruling class: one still dependent on extracting surplus labor power and selling commodities. Financial markets are themselves part of long term capture of publics as a resource. The military origins of Silicon valley tend to be a bit invisible in Boutang’s account. Cognitive capital is based on knowledge society. Hence: “Cognitive capitalism reproduces. one dependent instead on asymmetries of information and commanding the processes of social creation themselves. the old contradictions described by Marx. between the socialization of production and the rules of appropriation of value. These days it is not the commodity that is the fetish so much as the great man of business. but it now creates real ‘class’ divisions….” (112) Perhaps there are fissures between them that can be worked in the interests of the dispossessed peoples of all kinds. who could only recharge his strength by keeping his feet on the ground. even if it introduces new factors of instability…” (136) Hence “In the cognitive capitalism school of thought. the markets act as multiplier and vector for values produced by other means. Finance is a way of assessing and capturing the value of the externalities on which companies actually rely. (150) For Boutang. “The real challenge us thus to minimize as far as possible this phase during which cognitive capitalism and industrial capitalism can build anti-natural alliances in order to control. one looking for ways to commodify knowledge in the form of information to sell on the market. but is only just figuring out how to capture the value of their efforts at “pollination. Boutang understands value creation as taking place off-stage. One could I think press further on this than either I or Boutang have done. on an enlarged scale.” (117) What Boutang calls the knowledge society underlying cognitive capitalism is precisely that pollination. and made invisible by a kind of market fetishism. The entrepreneur is a surfer who does not create the wave.” (131) So far the only way of governing this mess that even partly works is. Here. There’s a tactical value in seeing cognitive and industrial capital as distinct. and accounting rules don’t quite capture the value of knowledge contained in the firm. of which the stock market public is not the least. cognitive capitalism. that practice of collaborative effort between humans and non-humans to make worlds. Boutang talks about a ruling class that has figured out how to capture the productive labor of its worker- bees when they make honey. “Like the giant Anteus. (173) “The only thing that our magicians. In Boutang. whose purpose is to produce value (and not commodities or use values). finance. but is not the same thing.” (108- 109) Entrepreneurial intelligence is now about converting social networks into value. flexible production and financialization are both seen as being subordinate to the achievement of permanent innovation (the substance of value). “One could even argue that one of the main activities of cognitive capitalism is the production of different kinds of publics. In a lovely metaphor. like Marx. “Knowledge becomes the raw material. restrain or break the power of liberation of the knowledge society. As if the world just issued fully formed from Steve Jobs’ brain. Particularly given the “urgency of the environmental question” one has to ask about the priorities of a mode of production that seeks more power over externalities for which it does not pay. Boutang understands the precarity that arises out of the current. paradoxically enough. rather disorganized stage of the class struggle. “Finance can be said to be the only way of ‘governing’ the inherent instability of cognitive capitalism. Price is formed by forming opinion among traders. the other doing the same thing but producing military products for sale exclusively to the state. but poverty of social organization…” (149) The “human cyborg” comes into being as cognitive capitalism acquits power over life itself. needs to multiply its points of contact with a society that is in motion. In a concluding ‘Manifesto for Pollen society’. pirates and conquistadors of finance have forgotten is that pollination requires the existence of bees!” (189) Yanis Varoufakis: How I became an erratic Marxist .” (145) This is an original and provocative thesis. I talked about the two-sided nature of this emerging mode of production. Boutang notes that there is now “Wealth in society. with living activity.” (120) In ‘Escape from the Dual Empire’.

Europe’s present situation is not merely a threat for workers. The financial crisis set off a chain reaction that pushed Europe into a downward spiral that continues to this day. wrote this searing account of European capitalism and and how the left can learn from Marx’s mistakes Yanis Varoufakis.Before he entered politics. Illustration by Ellie Foreman-Peck Yanis Varoufakis In 2008. Yanis Varoufakis. the iconoclastic Greek finance minister at the centre of the latest eurozone standoff. for . capitalism had its second global spasm.

I share the view that this European Union is typified by a large democratic deficit that. This criticism. while extinguishing the hope for any progressive moves for generations to come. Europe’s crisis is far less likely to give birth to a better alternative to capitalism than it is to unleash dangerously regressive forces that have the capacity to cause a humanitarian bloodbath. the raison d’être of which is to replace European capitalism with a different system. squarely defeated. No. For this view I have been accused. And I also bow to the criticism that I have campaigned on an agenda founded on the assumption that the left was. I confess I would much rather be promoting a radical agenda. In the late 1980s. back in 1982. hurts. Europe’s current posture poses a threat to civilisation as we know it. indeed. and remains. has put Europe’s peoples on a path to permanent recession. for social classes or. If my prognosis is correct. should be avoided at all costs. the answer is clear. the question that arises for radicals is this: should we welcome this crisis of European capitalism as an opportunity to replace it with a better system? Or should we be so worried about it as to embark upon a campaign for stabilising European capitalism? To me. for the bankers. and we are not facing just another cyclical slump soon to be overcome. the implicit contract between myself and the departments that offered me lectureships was that I would be teaching the type of economic theory that left no room for Marx. I was hired by the University of Sydney’s school of economics in order to keep out a leftwing candidate (although I did not know this at the time). And it hurts because it contains more than a kernel of truth. later on. When. as a lecturer in mainstream economics departments. I confess. Yet my aim here is to offer a window into my view of a repugnant European capitalism whose implosion. in combination with the denial of the faulty architecture of its monetary union. . Why a Marxist? When I chose the subject of my doctoral thesis.the dispossessed. despite its many ills. It is a confession intended to convince radicals that we have a contradictory mission: to arrest the freefall of European capitalism in order to buy the time we need to formulate its alternative. I embarked on an academic career. I deliberately focused on a highly mathematical topic within which Marx’s thought was irrelevant. of being “defeatist” and of trying to save an indefensible European socioeconomic system. by well-meaning radical voices. nations.

To accept the mainstream’s axioms and then expose its internal contradictions. Papandreou’s party not only failed to stem xenophobia but. why bring up my Marxism now? The answer is simple: Even my non-Marxist economics was guided by a mindset influenced by Marx.” This was. One way is by means of immanent criticism. erratic in one’s Marxism. If my whole academic career largely ignored Marx. in other words. causing the return of Nazis to the streets of Athens. To say: “I shall not contest your assumptions but here is why your own conclusions do not logically flow on from them. As the whole world now knows. I threw my lot in with the future prime minister George Papandreou. you may be puzzled to hear me call myself a Marxist. After a few years of addressing audiences with whom I do not share an ideology. in truth. and turned into his government’s staunchest critic during his mishandling of the post-2009 Greek implosion. in the end. To explain why. Advertisement Given all this. I always thought. indeed. from my childhood to this day. Marx’s method of undermining British political economics.Yanis Varoufakis: ‘Karl Marx was responsible for framing my perspective of the world we live in. Even though I resigned as Papandreou’s adviser early in 2006. He accepted every axiom by Adam Smith and David Ricardo in order to demonstrate that. Karl Marx was responsible for framing my perspective of the world we live in. A radical social theorist can challenge the economic mainstream in two different ways. in the context of their assumptions. unwittingly. and my current policy recommendations are impossible to describe as Marxist. my public interventions in the debate on Greece and Europe have carried no whiff of Marxism. But. from my childhood to this day. I think it is important to resist him passionately in a variety of ways. This is not something that I often volunteer to talk about in “polite society” because the very mention of the M-word switches audiences off. The second avenue that a radical theorist can pursue is. To be. .’ Photograph: PA After I returned to Greece in 2000. capitalism was a contradictory system. presided over the most virulent neoliberal macroeconomic policies that spearheaded the eurozone’s so-called bailouts thus. a need has crept up on me to talk about Marx’s imprint on my thinking. hoping to help stem the return to power of a resurgent right wing that wanted to push Greece towards xenophobia both domestically and in its foreign policy. But I never deny it either. of course. while an unapologetic Marxist.

were quite Marxist. the passage from the bronze age to the iron age sped up history. Today. capitalists. My first encounter with Marx’s writings came very early in life. neoclassical economists is the demonstration of the internal inconsistency of their own models. as a result of the strange times I grew up in. I had no alternative but to fall back on the Marxist tradition which had shaped my thinking ever since my metallurgist father impressed upon me. for instance. What caught my eye was Marx’s mesmerising gift for writing a dramatic script for human history. the most conspicuous poverty. and how silicon-based IT technologies are fast-tracking socioeconomic and historical discontinuities.the construction of alternative theories to those of the establishment. My view on this dilemma has always been that the powers that be are never perturbed by theories that embark from assumptions different to their own. the crisis in the United States and the long-term stagnation of Japanese capitalism. how the discovery of steel greatly accelerated historical time. It dissolved the paradox of an age that generated the most remarkable wealth and. indeed for human damnation. officials and scientists who were history’s dramatis personae. from the very beginning. turning to the European crisis. unleashing demonic forces that usurped and subverted their own freedom and humanity. How. and the eager eye with which Marx discerned the potential for change in what seemed to be the most unchanging of social structures. The only thing that can destabilise and genuinely challenge mainstream. They recognise the mountain of debts and . contrary to their intentions. where everything is pregnant with its opposite. I had no alternative but to fall back on Marxist tradition When called upon to comment on the world we live in. It was for this reason that. I chose to delve into the guts of neoclassical theory and to spend next to no energy trying to develop alternative. the effect of technological innovation on the historical process. I submit. Marx created a narrative populated by workers. helped me to grasp the great contradictions of the capitalist era. most commentators fail to appreciate the dialectical process under their nose. Marxist models of capitalism. that was also laced with the possibility of salvation and authentic spirituality. hoping that they will be taken seriously. with Greece exiting the nightmare of the neofascist dictatorship of 1967-74. in the same breath. My reasons. When called upon to comment on the world we live in. They struggled to harness reason and science in the context of empowering humanity while. This dialectical perspective. when I was still a child.

From my first steps of thinking like an economist. Their bodies are shells that used to contain a free will and which now labour. the alien force does not attack us head on. And there’s the rub. and ii) labour as a quantity (eg. Indeed. HG Wells’s The War of the Worlds. people are taken over from within. until nothing is left of their human spirit and emotions. capitalism will perish. prospective employees go through the wringer in an anxious attempt to commodify their labour power. Employers use all their ingenuity. This is an insight without which capitalism’s tendency to generate crises can never be fully grasped and. A differentiation- cum-contradiction that political economics neglected to make before Marx came along and that mainstream economics is steadfastly refusing to acknowledge today. Meanwhile. and that of their HR management minions. Marx’s script alerted us these binary oppositions as the sources of history’s cunning. It was the discovery of another binary opposition deep within human labour. Science fiction becomes documentary In the classic 1953 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Between labour’s two quite different natures: i) labour as a value-creating activity that can never be quantified in advance (and is therefore impossible to commodify).banking losses but neglect the opposite side of the same coin: the mountain of idle savings that are “frozen” by fear and thus fail to convert into productive investments. an insight that no one has access to without some exposure to Marx’s thought. A Marxist alertness to binary oppositions might have opened their eyes. of growth and unemployment. nature. Both electricity and labour can be thought of as commodities. unlike in. of wealth and poverty. If workers and employers ever succeed in commodifying labour fully. contradictory. indeed of good and evil. say. That is what distinguishes labour from other productive inputs such as electricity: its twin. to write and rewrite their CVs in order to portray themselves as purveyors of quantifiable labour units. both employers and workers struggle to commodify labour. it occurred to me that Marx had made a discovery that must remain at the heart of any useful analysis of capitalism. to quantify. Instead. also. numbers of hours worked) that is for sale and comes at a price. and function as human simulacra “liberated” from the unquantifiable essence of human nature. A major reason why established opinion fails to come to terms with contemporary reality is that it never understood the dialectically tense “joint production” of debts and surpluses. measure and homogenise labour. This is something like what would have . go through the motions of everyday “life”. to this very day.

transpired if human labour had become perfectly reducible to human
capital and thus fit for insertion into the vulgar economists’ models.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Photograph: SNAP/REX

Every non-Marxist economic theory that treats human and non-human
productive inputs as interchangeable assumes that the dehumanisation of
human labour is complete. But if it could ever be completed, the result
would be the end of capitalism as a system capable of creating and
distributing value. For a start, a society of dehumanised automata would
resemble a mechanical watch full of cogs and springs, each with its own
unique function, together producing a “good”: timekeeping. Yet if that
society contained nothing but other automata, timekeeping would not be a
“good”. It would certainly be an “output” but why a “good”? Without real
humans to experience the clock’s function, there can be no such thing as
“good” or “bad”.

If capital ever succeeds in quantifying, and subsequently fully
commodifying, labour, as it is constantly trying to, it will also squeeze that
indeterminate, recalcitrant human freedom from within labour that allows
for the generation of value. Marx’s brilliant insight into the essence of
capitalist crises was precisely this: the greater capitalism’s success in
turning labour into a commodity the less the value of each unit of output it
generates, the lower the profit rate and, ultimately, the nearer the next
recession of the economy as a system. The portrayal of human freedom as
an economic category is unique in Marx, making possible a distinctively
dramatic and analytically astute interpretation of capitalism’s propensity to
snatch recession, even depression, from the jaws of growth.

When Marx was writing that labour is the living, form-giving fire; the
transitoriness of things; their temporality; he was making the greatest
contribution any economist has ever made to our understanding of the
acute contradiction buried inside capitalism’s DNA. When he portrayed
capital as a “… force we must submit to … it develops a cosmopolitan,
universal energy which breaks through every limit and every bond and posts
itself as the only policy, the only universality the only limit and the only
bond”, he was highlighting the reality that labour can be purchased by
liquid capital (ie money), in its commodity form, but that it will always carry
with it a will hostile to the capitalist buyer. But Marx was not just making a
psychological, philosophical or political statement. He was, rather,
supplying a remarkable analysis of why the moment that labour (as an
unquantifiable activity) sheds this hostility, it becomes sterile, incapable of
producing value.

At a time when neoliberals have ensnared the majority in their theoretical
tentacles, incessantly regurgitating the ideology of enhancing labour
productivity in an effort to enhance competitiveness with a view to creating
growth etc, Marx’s analysis offers a powerful antidote. Capital can never win
in its struggle to turn labour into an infinitely elastic, mechanised input,
without destroying itself. That is what neither the neoliberals nor the
Keynesians will ever grasp. “If the whole class of the wage-labourer were to
be annihilated by machinery”, wrote Marx “how terrible that would be for
capital, which, without wage-labour, ceases to be capital!”

What has Marx done for us?

Almost all schools of thought, including those of some progressive
economists, like to pretend that, though Marx was a powerful figure, very
little of his contribution remains relevant today. I beg to differ. Besides
having captured the basic drama of capitalist dynamics, Marx has given me
the tools with which to become immune to the toxic propaganda of
neoliberalism. For example, the idea that wealth is privately produced and
then appropriated by a quasi-illegitimate state, through taxation, is easy to
succumb to if one has not been exposed first to Marx’s poignant argument
that precisely the opposite applies: wealth is collectively produced and then
privately appropriated through social relations of production and property
rights that rely, for their reproduction, almost exclusively on false
consciousness.

In his recent book Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste, the historian of
economic thought, Philip Mirowski, has highlighted the neoliberals’ success
in convincing a large array of people that markets are not just a useful
means to an end but also an end in themselves. According to this view,
while collective action and public institutions are never able to “get it right”,
the unfettered operations of decentralised private interest are guaranteed to
produce not only the right outcomes but also the right desires, character,
ethos even. The best example of this form of neoliberal crassness is, of
course, the debate on how to deal with climate change. Neoliberals have
rushed in to argue that, if anything is to be done, it must take the form of
creating a quasi-market for “bads” (eg an emissions trading scheme), since
only markets “know” how to price goods and bads appropriately. To
understand why such a quasi-market solution is bound to fail and, more
importantly, where the motivation comes from for such “solutions”, one can
do much worse than to become acquainted with the logic of capital
accumulation that Marx outlined and the Polish economist Michal
Kaleckiadapted to a world ruled by networked oligopolies.

Neoliberals have rushed in with quasi-market responses to climate change,
such as emissions trading schemes. Photograph: Jon Woo/Reuters

In the 20th century, the two political movements that sought their roots in
Marx’s thought were the communist and social democratic parties. Both of
them, in addition to their other errors (and, indeed, crimes) failed, to their
detriment, to follow Marx’s lead in a crucial regard: instead of embracing
liberty and rationality as their rallying cries and organising concepts, they
opted for equality and justice, bequeathing the concept of freedom to the
neoliberals. Marx was adamant: The problem with capitalism is not that it is
unfair but that it is irrational, as it habitually condemns whole generations
to deprivation and unemployment and even turns capitalists into angst-
ridden automata, living in permanent fear that unless they commodify their
fellow humans fully so as to serve capital accumulation more efficiently,
they will cease to be capitalists. So, if capitalism appears unjust this is
because it enslaves everyone; it wastes human and natural resources; the
same production line that pumps out remarkable gizmos and untold wealth,
also produces deep unhappiness and crises.

Having failed to couch a critique of capitalism in terms of freedom and
rationality, as Marx thought essential, social democracy and the left in
general allowed the neoliberals to usurp the mantle of freedom and to win a
spectacular triumph in the contest of ideologies.

Perhaps the most significant dimension of the neoliberal triumph is what
has come to be known as the “democratic deficit”. Rivers of crocodile tears
have flowed over the decline of our great democracies during the past three
decades of financialisation and globalisation. Marx would have laughed long
and hard at those who seem surprised, or upset, by the “democratic deficit”.
What was the great objective behind 19th-century liberalism? It was, as
Marx never tired of pointing out, to separate the economic sphere from the
political sphere and to confine politics to the latter while leaving the
economic sphere to capital. It is liberalism’s splendid success in achieving
this long-held goal that we are now observing. Take a look at South Africa
today, more than two decades after Nelson Mandela was freed and the
political sphere, at long last, embraced the whole population. The ANC’s
predicament was that, in order to be allowed to dominate the political
sphere, it had to give up power over the economic one. And if you think
otherwise, I suggest that you talk to the dozens of miners gunned down by
armed guards paid by their employers after they dared demand a wage rise.

Why erratic?

After his death. was worse. since he forged these tools! No. So how come he showed no concern that his disciples.Having explained why I owe whatever understanding of our social world I may possess largely to Karl Marx. the scholar who elevated radical indeterminacy to its rightful place within political economics. inconsistent Marxist. they eventually became an almost extinct species. ie from a variable that can never be well-defined mathematically? Of course he did. in order to abuse other comrades. he coveted the power that mathematical “proof” afforded him. might use the power bestowed upon them. Marxist economists wasted long careers indulging a similar type of scholastic mechanism. naturally. hoping against hope to evince from these equations some additional insights about capitalism. in which labour units were. How could Marx be so deluded? Why did he not recognise that no truth about capitalism can ever spring out of any mathematical model. This was the worst disservice he could have delivered to his own theoretical system. he was the same person who ended up toying around with simplistic algebraic models. and Marx had a sense of its power. via Marx’s own ideas. It was his assumption that truth about capitalism could be discovered in the mathematics of his models. as the neoliberal juggernaut crushed all dissent in its path. Why did Marx not recognise that no truth about capitalism can ever spring out of any mathematical model? . to build their own power base. to gain positions of influence? Marx’s second error. one of them an error of omission. these mistakes still hamper the left’s effectiveness. Marx committed two spectacular mistakes. I shall outline why I am by choice an erratic. people with a better grasp of these powerful ideas than the average worker. Even today. In other words. the reason for his error is a little more sinister: just like the vulgar economists that he so brilliantly admonished (and who continue to dominate the departments of economics today). the one I ascribe to commission. Fully immersed in irrelevant debates on “the transformation problem” and what to do about it. especially in Europe. the other one of commission. His theory is discursively exceptionally powerful. The man who equipped us with human freedom as a first-order economic concept. however brilliant the modeller may be? Did he not have the intellectual tools to realise that capitalist dynamics spring from the unquantifiable part of human labour. I now want to explain why I remain terribly angry with him. fully quantified. Marx’s first error – the error of omission was that he failed to give sufficient thought to the impact of his own theorising on the world that he was theorising about.

less capable of producing a convincing progressive agenda and. painfully different. automatically. Errors and authoritarianism that are largely responsible for the left’s current impotence as a force of good and as a check on the abuses of reason and liberty that the neoliberal crew are overseeing today. the final word. more significantly. Mrs Thatcher’s lesson I moved to England to attend university in September 1978. Watching the Labour government disintegrate. to give the left a chance to create a fresh. under the weight of its degenerate social democratic programme. led me to a serious error: to the thought that Thatcher’s victory could be a good thing. Marx knew what he was doing. or model. that a comprehensive theory of value cannot be accommodated within a mathematical model of a dynamic capitalist economy. That they were permanently provisional. lead to a renaissance of the left was just that: hope. sharp shock necessary to reinvigorate progressive politics. delivering to Britain’s working and middle classes the short.” As life became nastier. that recognition would be tantamount to accepting that his “laws” were not immutable. progressive politics. meanwhile. however. aware that a proper economic theory must respect the idea that the rules of the undetermined are themselves undetermined. It proved. This determination to have the complete.If I am right. The hope that the deterioration of public goods. that some capitalists can extract more from a given pool of labour or from a given community of consumers for reasons that are external to Marx’s own theory. Even as unemployment doubled and then trebled. shorter. I continued to harbour hope that Lenin was right: “Things have to get worse before they get better. I have no doubt. and thus the profitability. In economic terms this meant a recognition that the market power. six months or so before Margaret Thatcher’s victory changed Britain forever. the working . With every turn of the recession’s screw. the left became more introverted. of capitalists was not necessarily reducible to their capacity to extract labour from employees. Alas. that his pronouncements could not be uniquely and unambiguously correct. is something I cannot forgive Marx for. it occurred to me that I was tragically in error: things could get worse in perpetuity. the spread of deprivation to every corner of the land would. for many. therefore. radical agenda for a new type of effective. or had the capacity to know. more brutish and. closed story. He was. without ever getting better. authoritarianism. He understood. The reality was. the diminution of the lives of the majority. responsible for a great deal of error and. under Thatcher’s radical neoliberal interventions. He would have to concede to competing voices in the trades union movement that his theory was indeterminate and. after all.

yielding a seriously recessionary surplus region east of the Rhine and north of the Alps. while the rest of Europe is would be in the grip of vicious stagflation. indeed. and to undermine the European Union of the cartels and the bankrupt bankers. of the European Union itself. The lesson Thatcher taught me about the capacity of a long-lasting recession to undermine progressive politics. the xenophobes and the spivs? I have . indeed itself? A Greek or a Portuguese or an Italian exit from the eurozone would soon lead to a fragmentation of European capitalism. it rendered impossible the very notion of values that transcended what the market determined as the “right” price. as part of its class war against organised labour and against the public institutions of social security and redistribution that had been established after the war. Photograph: Nils Jorgensen/Rex Features Instead of radicalising British society. But. is one that I carry with me into today’s European crisis. the most important determinant of my stance in relation to the crisis. Margaret Thatcher at the Conservative party conference in 1982. to dismantle the awful eurozone. the fetishisation of housing and Tony Blair. progressive politics in Britain. What good did we achieve in Britain in the early 1980s by promoting an agenda of socialist change that British society scorned while falling headlong into Thatcher’s neoliberal trap? Precisely none. permanently destroyed the very possibility of radical. when European capitalism is doing its utmost to undermine the eurozone. the recession that Thatcher’s government so carefully engineered. My hope that Thatcher would inadvertently bring about a new political revolution was well and truly bogus. the European Union. Who do you think would benefit from this development? A progressive left. What good will it do today to call for a dismantling of the eurozone. the triumph of the shopping mall over the corner store. no. the assorted neofascists. that will rise Phoenix-like from the ashes of Europe’s public institutions? Or the Golden Dawn Nazis. All that sprang out of Thatcherism were extreme financialisation. It is the reason I am happy to confess to the sin I am accused of by some of my critics on the left: the sin of choosing not to propose radical political programs that seek to exploit the crisis as an opportunity to overthrow European capitalism. I would love to put forward such a radical agenda. Indeed. I am not prepared to commit the same error twice. It is.class was being divided between those who dropped out of society and those co-opted into the neoliberal mindset. Yes.

This may be what we must do. I. in the end. to creep up on me. Atavistically. find insightful. If this means that it is we. Not out of love for European capitalism. lessening the sadness from ditching any hope of replacing capitalism in my lifetime by indulging a feeling of having become agreeable to the circles of polite society. . ugly. the left must admit that we are just not ready to plug the chasm that a collapse of European capitalism would open up with a functioning socialist system. reinforces only the bigots. well meaning Europeans who have been lured by the sirens of neoliberalism. And what a non-radical. corruptive and corrosive sense it was. First. to put forward an analysis of the current state of play that non-Marxist. for Brussels. nor its implications for the future of European civilisation. who must try to save European capitalism from itself.absolutely no doubt as to which of the two will do best from a disintegration of the eurozone. The sense of self-satisfaction from being feted by the high and mighty did begin. surreptitiously. nor its implications for the future My final confession is of a highly personal nature: I know that I run the risk of. to follow this sound analysis up with proposals for stabilising Europe – for ending the downward spiral that. they are choosing to plunder the diminishing stocks of the weak and the dispossessed in order to plug the gaping holes of the financial sector. What should Marxists do? Europe’s elites are behaving today as if they understand neither the nature of the crisis that they are presiding over. I shall not pretend to be enthusiastic about it. while I am happy to defend as genuinely radical the pursuit of a modest agenda for stabilising a system that I criticise. First. Yet with Europe’s elites deep in denial and disarray. Europe’s elites are behaving as if they understand neither the nature of the crisis. for the eurozone. on occasion. but I am sad that I shall probably not be around to see a more radical agenda being adopted. for one. so be it. under the present circumstances. refusing to come to terms with the unsustainability of the task. but just because we want to minimise the unnecessary human toll from this crisis. Second. or for the European Central Bank. Let me now conclude with two confessions. the suitably erratic Marxists. am not prepared to blow fresh wind into the sails of this postmodern version of the 1930s. Our task should then be twofold.

He was confident that a popular revolution would occur and bring a communist system into being that would be more productive and far more humane. for strategic purposes. how easy it was for my mind to be infected with the sense that I was entitled to bypass the hoi polloi. more and more people are starting to think Karl Marx was right. brings us up against the risk of becoming co-opted. The great 19th Century German philosopher. The trick is to avoid the revolutionary maximalism that. from itself. If we are to forge alliances with our political adversaries we must avoid becoming like the socialists who failed to change the world but succeeded in improving their private circumstances. tired and with several flights under my belt. of shedding our radicalism through the warm glow of having “arrived” in the corridors of power. On my way back home. Marx welcomed capitalism's self-destruction. A Point of View: The revolution of capitalism Karl Marx may have been wrong about communism but he was right about much of capitalism. and over the longer term it was bound to destroy itself. Marx was wrong about communism. I was making my way past the long queue of economy passengers. though in this regard he was far more perceptive than most economists in his day and ours. to get to my gate. It had a built-in tendency to produce ever larger booms and busts. I realised how readily I could forget that which my leftwing mind had always known: that nothing succeeds in reproducing itself better than a false sense of entitlement. Radical confessions. helps the neoliberals bypass all opposition to their self-defeating policies and to retain in our sights capitalism’s inherent failures while trying to save it. Where he was prophetically right was in his grasp of the revolution of capitalism. . John Gray writes. like the one I have attempted here. as I think we should do to stabilise Europe today. are perhaps the only programmatic antidote to ideological slippage that threatens to turn us into cogs of the machine. with horror.My personal nadir came at an airport. Forging alliances with reactionary forces. in the end. Suddenly I noticed. economist and revolutionary believed that capitalism was radically unstable. It's not just capitalism's endemic instability that he understood. Some moneyed outfit had invited me to give a keynote speech on the European crisis and had forked out the ludicrous sum necessary to buy me a first-class ticket. As a side-effect of the financial crisis.

the middle-class way of life. slave cultures for almost as long and feudal societies for many centuries. Negative return The trouble is that among the things that have been destroyed in the process is the way of life on which capitalism in the past depended. But as capitalism evolves. Marx anticipated a change in the way we live that we're only now struggling to cope with. No more will people struggle from month to month to live on an insecure wage. With the growth of democracy and the spread of wealth. Capitalism has been described as a process of creative destruction. In fact. its defenders say. But when he argued that capitalism would plunge the middle classes into something like the precarious existence of the hard-pressed workers of his time. and there can be no doubt that it differs radically from those of previous times. The Marxist terminology of bourgeois and proletarian has an archaic ring. capitalism transforms everything it touches. They lived by selling their labour and when markets turned down they faced hard times. the US and many other developed countries over the past 20 or 30 years. they will be able to plan their lives without fear. Job security doesn't exist. Defenders of capitalism argue that it offers to everyone the benefits that in Marx's time were enjoyed only by the bourgeoisie. Everybody can be middle class. Fulfilling careers will no longer be the prerogative of a few. In contrast. Companies and industries are created and destroyed in an incessant stream of innovation. In 19th Century capitalism most people had nothing. the . Marx understood how capitalism destroys its own social base . the opposite has been happening. the settled middle class that owned capital and had a reasonable level of security and freedom in their lives. Hunter-gatherers persisted in their way of life for thousands of years. and no- one can deny that it has been prodigiously productive. He viewed capitalism as the most revolutionary economic system in history.More profoundly. a house they own and a decent pension. It's not just brands that are constantly changing. while human relationships are dissolved and reinvented in novel forms. Protected by savings. an increasing number of people will be able to benefit from it. no- one need be shut out from the bourgeois life. in Britain. Practically anyone who is alive in Britain today has a higher real income than they would have had if capitalism had never existed.

Whatever their age. and not many have significant savings. It's the person who borrows heavily and isn't afraid to declare bankruptcy that survives and goes on to prosper. and the uncertainty in which we must live is being worsened by policies devised to deal with the financial crisis. you'll have to go into debt. If people have any wealth it's in their houses. When savings are melting away being thrifty can be the road to ruin. For many. but house prices don't always increase. capitalism has made the type of person that lived the bourgeois life obsolete. Since at some point you'll have to retrain you should try to save. but if you're indebted from the start that's the last thing you'll be able to do. Middle-class people used to think their lives unfolded in an orderly progression. Our incomes are far higher and in some degree we're cushioned against shocks by what remains of the post-war welfare state. At the same time as it has stripped people of the security of bourgeois life. In the 1980s there was much talk of Victorian values. Zero interest rates alongside rising prices means you're getting a negative return on your money and over time your capital is being eroded. Risk takers As capitalism has advanced it has returned most people to a new version of the precarious existence of Marx's proles. In the process of creative destruction the ladder has been kicked away and for increasing numbers of people a middle-class existence is no longer even an aspiration. they can be stagnant for years. But the larger fact is that the free market works to undermine the virtues that maintain the bourgeois life. the prospect facing most people today is a lifetime of insecurity.trades and professions of the past have largely gone and life-long careers are barely memories. In order to acquire the skills you need. women and the poor for example. A dwindling minority can count on a pension on which they could comfortably live. with little idea of what the future may bring. But it's no longer possible to look at life as a succession of stages in which each is a step up from the last. More and more people live from day to day. . When credit is tight as it is now. The situation of many younger people is even worse. these Victorian values could be pretty stultifying in their effects. and promoters of the free market used to argue that it would bring us back to the wholesome virtues of the past. But we have very little effective control over the course of our lives.

traditional values are dysfunctional and anyone who tries to live by them risks ending up on the scrapheap. and sudden ruin can happen at any time.When the labour market is highly mobile it's not those who stick dutifully to their task that succeed. In Victorian times the seriously rich could afford to relax provided they were conservative in how they invested their money.the Manifesto was published in 1848 . it's people who are always ready to try something new that looks more promising. Whatever happens. Marx wrote in The Communist Manifesto: "Everything that is solid melts into air".a process that is bound to be painful and impoverishing for many. or even of capitalism. where everyone's life is experimental and provisional. In a society that is being continuously transformed by market forces. For someone living in early Victorian England . Whatever politicians may tell us about the need to curb the deficit.it was an astonishingly far-seeing observation. This state of perpetual unrest is the permanent revolution of capitalism and I think it's going to be with us in any future that's realistically imaginable. A century and a half later we find ourselves in the world he anticipated. A tiny few have accumulated vast wealth but even that has an evanescent. on an even bigger scale. Almost certainly they will be inflated away . along with parts of the financial system we believed had been made safe. When the heroes of Dickens' novels finally come into their inheritance. Vast wealth Looking to a future in which the market permeates every corner of life. The gyrations of the market are such that no-one can know what will have value even a few years ahead. The risks that threatened to freeze the world economy only three years ago haven't been dealt with. Currencies and governments are likely to go under. But it won't be the end of the world. At the time nothing seemed more solid than the society on the margins of which Marx lived. They've simply been shifted to states. debts on the scale that have been run up can't be repaid. we're still going to have to learn to live with the mercurial energy that the market has released. . Today there is no haven of security. We're only part of the way through a financial crisis that will turn many more things upside down. almost ghostly quality. The result can only be further upheaval. they do nothing forever after.

Affluence and Morality" – an argument that strongly influenced my thinking when I first read it as an undergraduate (more years ago than I care to remember). Therefore. the bourgeois world has been destroyed. we have a moral obligation to give money to those who would die of poverty-related illness. But it wasn't communism that did the deed. the problem with this objection is that there are non-profit organisations like Give Well that analyse a huge number of charities for their efficiency and effectiveness. $300. To establish this moral obligation. We all judge that it would be wrong not to save the life of the child. but this fact alone makes no moral difference. which cost. So the view is that we as affluent people have a moral obligation to donate a percentage of our income to charities that have been proven to be highly effective. The first objection is that donations to charity can't make the different that people would like them to. and to alleviate poverty-related suffering. The Life Saving Analogy asks us to imagine walking past a pond. who would otherwise die of poverty-related illness. because our money would actually make a difference – that's the effective part of effective altruism – and because our lives would not be any worse off in any significant sense. The fiery German thinker hated the bourgeois life and looked to communism to destroy it. and that the cost of the shoes doesn't have any moral significance in comparison. 1. For example. I'll quickly rebut three common objections to the effective altruist view. and if you . have a moral obligation to help those who are far worse off than we are. but not save a person who's far away. THE PHILOSOPHICAL FOUNDATIONS OF EFFECTIVE ALTRUISM by Michael Lopresto We. However. Give Well have shown that if you donate $10 to the Against Malaria Foundation. where we happen to see a child drowning. but in the process would ruin our new pair of shoes.Capitalism has led to a revolution but not the one that Marx expected. as members of an affluent society. It's capitalism that has killed off the bourgeoisie. I'll use Peter Singer's Life Saving Analogy from his seminal (1972) paper "Famine. because charities invariably have massive overheads and administrative fees that prevent your money getting to those who need it. when it's within our ability to do so. since it's inconsistent to accept that we ought to save the drowning child in front of us. and still strongly influences me today. at least $7 goes to those who need it. And yet – and this is the analogy – we are in a position right now where we could save someone's life for exactly the same cost. It sparked off a movement known today by the name Effective Altruism. And just as he predicted. say. The only difference is that we can't directly see the person we would save. We can safely and easily save the life of the child.

And furthermore. Thinking about the moral demands of affluence elucidates many other closely related issues and questions. and give rise to ugly forms of nationalism. and there's no one around to save her. Furthermore. being a great spatial distance away from someone in need does in fact make a moral difference. But. so there must be a problem with accepting the Life Saving Analogy. You see a child fall into the pond. goes the objection. However. I don't have a principled answer to this objection. if everyone in affluent societies gave 10% of their income. Technology transforms the ways in which we can exercise our moral agency. via CCTV. Imagine being a security guard watching a pond that on the other side of the world. To see that this objection doesn't work. Many of us have a strong intuition that we have moral obligations. $9. but you know you'll be up for a water bill of $300. Another philosophical question that's elucidated for me concerns the nature of morality itself. You can push a button that will instantly drain the water from the pond. first and foremost.25 per day. This money makes a huge difference to those living in extreme poverty. but I do have a pragmatic answer: for anyone who lives a comfortable life in an affluent society. the abundance of very cheap mobile phones makes it easy for organisations for Give Directly to keep in touch with recipients. For example. this leads to an absurd outcome. to our loved ones. The third objection is perhaps the most serious. friends and those in our own community. many people feel the need to hold on to a healthy form of partiality. 2. one of the most reliable indicators of poverty. As I said. we ought to perform that action. a charity like Give Directly is only made possible by current technology. saving the child's life. These intuitions can obviously go too far. and its availability and cost effectiveness. The second objection is that contrary to the Life Saving Analogy. that would make massive difference. and I must admit that I don't have a principled answer to this objection like I do the previous objections. such that the further away you are from someone. we could be giving that money to someone in desperate poverty. on less $1. 3.10 goes to those who need it.donate $10 to Give Directly. So there's no question of spatial distance having absolutely no moral significance. we can imagine a different scenario. it's nearly always the case that instead of buying tickets to the movies or paying for our child's violin lessons. and that the $300 you'll have to pay is insignificant in comparison. However. we'd say of course you should. This forcefully raises a fundamental question about the nature of . Should you push that button? Again. If we're ever in a position to make a different in the life of someone who lives in extreme poverty. It says that accepting the Life Saving Analogy leads to extreme demand. and perform moral actions that have effects on the other side of the world. the less moral obligation you have to them. giving around 10% of your income to those in desperate need won't make your life any less comfortable. Part of their process is to satellite imagery to identify places where people live in thatch roofs.

This one wakes us up to the long years we’ve been travelling… 3:AM: What made you become a philosopher? Daniel Garber: When I began as an undergraduate at Harvard in 1967. kin selection and group selection. Pascal’s wager. then an assistant . about Hobbes and Spinoza. My father wanted me to become an engineer. in which case they would be extended little or no moral consideration). is to consult our best moral theory. we only ever had to make moral decisions about people we knew intimately (unless if it was someone from an out-group.morality. And our best moral theory says that morality is impartial. that's how they live their everyday lives (that's certainly how I live mine). The only problem is that this conclusion is somewhat at odds with human nature. but physics was close enough for him. Or at least. He thinks about the history of seventeenth century philosophy. I thought that I was going to become a physicist. still less people we never see. about the metaphysical schemes of the time. I found the new Chomsky transformational grammar fascinating. obligations to family and stranger alike. impartial. So far so good. about the importance of Kant to our conception of the early moderns. It makes absolutely no moral difference whether or not it's our child drowning in the pond. Evolution has made our moral intuitions profoundly unreliable. about Descartes and Galileo. history from the early modern philosophers Interview by Richard Marshall. Are moral obligations partial or impartial? That is. about what makes the early moderns modern. and about x-phi and comparing our present context with the early mods. I also became interested in linguistics. and the mechanisms of human evolution were gene selection. do moral obligations to our friends and loved ones override the moral obligations we have to strangers? Most people believe that they do override the obligations we have to strangers. The best way to our intuitions back on track. about Leibniz. Throughout our evolutionary history. or someone else's. So our moral intuitions were never designed to think about larger numbers of people. And for most of human history. When I began at Harvard. George Lakoff. I was also very interested in music. humans lived in groups of no more than 150. We have the exact same. This is because our moral intuitions are the product of evolution. about the giants of the time and what we learn from studying the lesser known ones too. Daniel Garber knows philosophy makes some parents go silent and it’s broad enough to encompass everything worth while. it seems to me. in composition and in conducting. about contrasts between Leibniz and Descartes and Spinoza. But he Life Saving Analogy teaches us that they don't.

But it was also because I realized early on that I could pursue virtually all of my interests within Philosophy: the subject was broad enough to encompass all of the things that interested me about physics. That edition contained excerpts from some of Descartes’ scientific writings. I ended up writing a dissertation in epistemology with Roderick Firth and Hilary Putnam. Physics had become somewhat dull. about language. And before long I found myself spending a great deal of my time doing historical work. and that I had no business being there. which are still read and still regularly refuted. in turn. I got a “C” on my first course in Philosophy—Locke. there was a strange silence at the other end of the telephone…) In part it was the experience I had with the one course. and have never regretted it. I was assisting in a course where we were reading Descartes. I took Dreben’s famous seminar in the history of analytic philosophy. So I chose history. That made me wonder how Descartes himself thought of the relation between his scientific writings and his philosophy: how could someone who framed laws of motion and did work in optics be anything but a Quinean naturalist? So I began working on that. drew me into the Philosophy Department.) So I signed up for Philosophy. It was then that I first developed a taste for work in the history of philosophy. which is roughly Europeanphilosophy of the seventeenth century isn’t it? I guess the shorthand sketch of this crucial time goes something like ‘move aside Aristotle we’re going to build everything like a machine’. I could do very well without really making an effort. From another direction. When I first read his famous essay. But I did make an effort in my Philosophy class. and got a poor grade. I was a grad student. Quine. taking it for distribution. In my senior year in college. it was studied by virtually every educated person in Europe. still at Harvard. I wrote on Russell and his early papers on philosophical analysis. My first years I was doing pretty straight Harvard analytic philosophy. (When I called home to tell my parents. ironically. I decided that I had to make a choice: I couldn’t continue to do both and do both well. After my tenure decision. As such. “Epistemology Naturalized. and Hume.professor in Linguistics drew me into his circle. Berkeley. I am very proud of the papers I published in that area. Aristotelianism in one form or another was the common culture of the period: it was the philosophy generally taught in all of the schools. But the treatment of Descartes struck me as curious. What would you say made the early moderns modern? DG: Your characterization of the early moderns is not inaccurate. 3:AM: You’re working primarily in studies of the early moderns. Maurice Mandelbaum’s work on Locke and Boyle made me wonder about his thought. particularly epistemology. one of my teachers. And I was hooked. It seemed to me that there was obviously more depth in Philosophy than in Physics. But what took me back to the seventeenth century was. a philosopher who split philosophy off from the natural sciences. And many (though not all) who rejected the Aristotelian philosophy . In my years as an assistant professor at Chicago I continued to work in epistemology. (I later discovered that most of the others in the Philosophy class were grad students. and more. The edition used was that of Anscombe and Geach. That. But during that time I found myself working more and more on the history of early modern philosophy and science. Descartes was the villain of the essay. But at the same time I was reading that. switching over to the Bayesian program. about music. I discovered Philosophy through a course in on the Enlightenment and the French Revolution in the History Department. The interest in Russell took me forward to the Vienna Circle and Logical Positivism.” I was completely hooked at the idea of naturalizing philosophy and making it continuous with the natural sciences.

the Descartes that shaped his philosophy was a seventeenth-century Descartes that can only be found by reading the lesser-known figures who read him. . something that was widely called into question after Newton and the theory of universal gravitation. it seems essential to step outside the short list of major figures. the church. But it’s also just really interesting to immerse yourself in a different world. then. There was also the emphasis on mathematics in understanding nature. For me. made the early moderns modern? Interestingly. At very least one would have to add figures like Bacon. as well as many other lesser-known contemporaries. nor were these always shared by those who rejected Aristotelianism. Antoine Arnauld and Malebranche. Spinoza and Leibniz. On the other hand. and explore the larger intellectual geography. In the late sixteenth century there were figures like Telesio and Patrizi. d’Espagnet. including Basson. to explore an exotic intellectual landscape. Margaret Cavendish. Anne Conway and others. such as Clauberg or de La Forge or Rohault: they help us understand what Descartes really meant. the university—and the development of the idea that knowledge advances through the free exchange of new ideas and the competition among people who attack problems from different perspectives. and how his central doctrines were understood by those who shared an intellectual context with him. There was the new experimentalism and natural history. and fought with him. shaped the philosophical landscape more than Henry More. including Elisabeth of Bohemia. Fludd. Gassendi. Newton. for example. it is generally acknowledged that you have to understand Descartes and Descartes’ influence. and many. Locke. Gorlaeus. the Cambridge Platonists Henry More and Ralph Cudworth. not the mechanical philosophy. Galileo. to understand Spinoza. But to my mind. to put yourself into the intellectual world before it was known who would emerge as the important thinkers. and commentator on Descartes. Spinoza’s Descartes. But there were more new strands than the mechanical philosophy. what was striking and important and original to his contemporaries. (In fact. Hill. If we only knew these six would we be able to understand the options that were being worked out at this time or would we be missing crucial elements? I suppose another way of framing this question would be: had these not come along were their lesser known contemporaries who’d have taken us in a different direction? DG: These six were certainly important. And there were a slew of others even less known today. but for his materialistic conception of the world). And the list is constantly growing. then. correspondent. but they weren’t the only ones. But there are also a number of others who are not so well known. Recently there has been a surge of interest in women philosophers in the period. which is something a bit different from the mechanical philosophy. it was probably Telesio who was considered the father of modern philosophy!) Later in the seventeenth century there were other important figures like Mersenne. and who would sink into obscurity.adopted some version of the mechanical philosophy. they provide the context for the larger figures who have entered the canon. commented on him. But to understand what Descartes really meant. What. And these didn’t always coincide in the same figures. when Descartes was working. the early- modern emphasis on experiment and mathematics in many quarters still resonates with us. 3:AM: I guess the giants of this period are Descartes. But Spinoza’s Descartes was not our Descartes: his readings were shaped by the readings that other contemporaries made. Huygens. What do we learn from studying these lesser-known figures? In a way.Berkeley and Hume. shape and motion and the collision of bodies. the idea that everything can be explained through size. the ancients. Now. There is no question that Descartes. Hobbes (not only for politics. what was most modern was the rejection of authority—the authority of the schools. There was also a resurgence of interest in atomism. many others. why he was singled out among his contemporaries you have to understand More as a reader.

Substance. Is he your favourite from this period? What’s the appeal? DG: I adore Leibniz. Furthermore. My not-so-hidden agenda in the conference I did with Beatrice and in Kant and the Early Moderns. and Spinoza. Kant’s interests were not historical: he was interested in his great predecessors as philosophers. Reason. He saw the efforts of the early moderns as reasons ruined edifices. I’m working less on Leibniz and more on other figures. who saw the Kantian philosophy as putting together these two great traditions. but he is only one among a number of favorites in the period. his physics was probably more salient than anything else. and saw themselves as anti-Cartesians. the struggle among the new philosophies and the debates over the value of novelty. and differed profoundly from Locke on those basic questions.” conceived of as schools of thought or coherent traditions were not part of the intellectual geography of the early modern period. among his contemporaries. he introduced distortions that have colored our historical understanding of the period ever since. he is best read as a follower of the Cartesian Malebranche. shared a great deal with Descartes’ views on mental substance. such as . On the other hand. It is hard enough exploring our world without worrying about other distant possible worlds. Leibniz: Body. including many figures now virtually unknown. both of whom differed profoundly from him. usually listed among the empiricists. was very important to Descartes. for example. I’m also working on a project on the new philosophies (in the plural) that sought to replace Aristotelianism. the book that came out of it was to undermine the distinction. and to think about some of these characters as they thought of themselves. Monads? What are they? And why would anyone as smart and sensible as Leibniz seems to have been proposed something so apparently outlandish? They seem particularly outrageous when you reflect on the fact that Leibniz was a serious physicist. in his view. But in reading the history in the way in which he did. he wasn’t driven mainly by epistemological questions. I was initially attracted to Leibniz precisely because I found him so difficult to crack. such as Bacon. Berkeley. And it is somewhat strange to link Descartes in a school with Spinoza and Leibniz. 3:AM: An interesting exercise you undertook with Beatrice Longuenesse was to look at the achievements through the lens of Kant’s transcendental philosophical approach to metaphysics. 3:AM: You’ve done a lot of work on Leibniz. Hobbes. unsuccessfully. I find Leibniz fascinating. Kant read the history of philosophy as the prelude to his own philosophy. “Rationalist” and “Empiricist. Did Kant read the moderns correctly or did he distort and mislead? How important is Kant to how post Kantian philosophers like ourselves have read the early moderns? DG: I think that Kant was very important to our conception of the early moderns. But still. who attempted to deal with the same problems that interested him. It is generally thought that the standard distinction between Rationalists and Empiricists that has shaped both pedagogy and research in the period derives from Kant and his followers. A number of conservation laws we now accept—the conservation of inertia and his conservation of what we now call energy—first appear in his writings. as it is usually drawn. In many ways.What would the world have been like if the big guys hadn’t been there? Who knows? It would have been so much different from the world that we live in that I have real trouble conceiving it. I wanted to see if I could figure out where monads come from. Part of the answer comes in understanding the views that he was opposing. but he also recognized the importance of the senses and was an important experimentalist. Now that the book. Monad is out. Now.

and adopt the theory of monads. so far as we know. The ‘Monadology’ was only published in 1720 and 1721. it is entirely missing in the ‘Monadology’. Instead. he took the request seriously. in German and Latin translations. both published and unpublished.the Cartesian conception of body as extended substance. I would claim. And what is extraordinary is that the theory of monads barely appears in the published writings.and late 1690s. he believed in a world of corporeal substances. When in 1714 he was asked to explain his theory. Why did he write it? My conjecture is this. he was involved in many. What motivated this metaphysics was the basic commitment that the world had to be made up of genuine individuals. and metaphysics was just one of his many interests. when Leibniz was around 40 years old. it was also in part because he wasn’t entirely satisfied with it. (It is important to note here that ‘Monadology’ was not Leibniz’s own title for the work. Remember here that Leibniz was not a professional philosopher. like de Volder or Des Bosses. in response to their questions and to the demands of the moment. Leibniz had discussed monads with some of his correspondents. But sometime in the mid. The large gap in the ‘Monadology’ is the relation between the world of monads and the world of bodies. Leibniz’s metaphysical thought had evolved considerably since the last attempts at systematic development in the 1690s. and freely mix them when we are interpreting his thought. But this is just a conjecture. My first surprise was the discovery that he didn’t always believe in a world of monads. The theory of monads did not emerge full blown from his philosophical imagination. and I suspect that he took this opportunity to set out his thought in a systematic way. including the years in which he wrote the ‘Discourse on Metaphysics’ and the Correspondence with Arnauld. But. they were lucky enough to engage Leibniz in extensive correspondence. over the years that followed its original introduction in the late 1690s Leibniz spent considerable effort working out the details of the monadological metaphysics. and produced two writings: the ‘Monadology’ and the ‘Principles of Nature and Grace. But his contemporary readers had only the published texts. I suspect that he felt reluctant to make his theory public until this problem was resolved. How the editors got the manuscript is still something of a mystery. most notably de Volder and Des Bosses. at the request of some correspondents who were very confused about the theory of monads. but in a sort of unsystematic way. but I honestly don’t know. but it was only the latter that was sent to anyone. This is still controversial. I suspect. And why did he choose not to publish either? No doubt in part because he thought that the theory was so distant from common sense that it would not be accepted. many other projects of all sorts. We now have a great number of Leibniz’s texts. But much of the answer comes from understanding how he came to posit them. understood like tiny animals. something largely missing from the Cartesian world of extension. but it seems evident to me that during much of his career. While this is an issue that is taken up in some of the correspondences. monads were not in the picture.) Why did Leibniz choose to distribute the ‘Principles’ and not the ‘Monadology’? There are lots of conjectures.’ Neither was published during Leibniz’s lifetime. unless. 3:AM: Leibniz never published his ‘Monadology’ and seemed to have kept it well hidden didn’t he? What he was attempting to do in this work? And why do you think he didn’t publish it? DG: The ‘Monadology’ was written in 1714. . living things that were composed of body and soul. I find it fascinating to watch it grow and develop. considerations around the idea of what it meant to be a genuine individual forced Leibniz to give up corporeal substances as the basic building blocks.

Students are often sent to the ‘Discourse on Metaphysics’ or ‘Monadology’. which meant that all knowledge must be grounded in knowledge of the true underlying causes. and perhaps shaped by it. indeed. and the grounding of physics in matter. And both were published in learned journals. which treated the real causes. 3:AM: This period was full of great metaphysical schemes and some. politics. A David Lewis may well have a larger systematic view in mind when publishing a journal article. For him it was mathematics that was primary. including medicine. borrowed from what he had learned at school. material. but the idea of foundations was. But this mathematical description was not physics. if we know what is the . he was following a path within earlier scientific thought different from the one Descartes chose to follow. Leibniz did think that everything fits together. And so. time. at the same time. Unlike Descartes. offering focused development of a portion of his thought. and formal that govern the world. In this respect. physics. In a way. Descartes rejected Galileo’s account of free fall because Galileo was ignorant of the real cause of the free fall of heavy bodies. he didn’t claim to know the nature of body. presented in such a way that they can be accepted piecemeal. Was Descartes’ view the typical approach to physics at the time? DG: Yes and no. I think you say he had a go at Galileo for being remiss on this. but these are not really comparable to the canonical writings of other contemporary philosophers: both were withheld from publication. mathematics. Good examples of that are the ‘New System’ and the ‘Specimen Dynamicum’. and never articulated anything he called a law of nature. logic. physics. A physics of heavy bodies could only be done. and the other outlines features of his dynamics. the life sciences. on the other hand. Galileo sought to display the mathematical structure in nature. form and privation. In his Two New Sciences. Descartes’ idea that physics needs grounding was a reflection of what was going on in the schools. geology. In the Aristotelian manuals of natural philosophy. which included positional astronomy. but nevertheless. It is very significant that Leibniz began writing at just the moment that the learned journal was invented. and there is reason to think that he was not entirely satisfied with either. and virtually all of his publications in philosophy. Descartes was a natural philosopher or physicist. He sounds like an early version of the modern intellectual landscape of specialization where even if there is an assumption of a single world there’s no obligation to have to know everything to be able to study some of its parts in isolation. which included metaphysics. and mathematics were in such journals. Leibniz’s writings tend to be shorter and focus on bits of his system. like Descartes. and on and on and on. But. This is. he never wrote a single work that can be said to represent the canonical statement of his views. in a sense. for example. optics. and he criticized Galileo for that reason. such as Descartes’Meditations or Principia. Descartes’ metaphysical foundations were not the same as the Aristotelian foundations. music and mechanics. history.3:AM: I think you argue that Leibniz was unlike Descartes and Spinoza in that he wasn’t someone who thought you had to build a totalizing system but rather he worked in all sorts of different domains and areas. though. final. Descartes thought. his articles are focused on certain well-defined points and can be appreciated independently of the larger framework into which they may be fit. without having to accept his whole framework. one always began with general truths about space. Galileo took a very different view. or Spinoza’s Ethics. The one argues for the hypothesis of pre- established harmony. both published in 1695. efficient. attempted to give a mathematical description of nature without descending to the level of physics. alchemy. thought that you had to have this grounding in order for physics to work. Is this right? Could you say something about this aspect of Leibniz? DG: There is some truth to that. motion. and that there is a kind of harmony among the many different parts of his world view. His way of working was very well suited to that form. Mixed mathematics. the theory of force in physics. for Descartes. something that resonates with contemporary philosophy.

For Galileo what was important was mathematical structure. He was quite satisfied with the causal story he could tell about free fall. Hobbes did indeed think that politics was grounded in physics. in many ways Hobbes and Spinoza are quite similar. what we might now call epistemology. For Descartes. Descartes thought that he had the true cause of heaviness and free fall—the motion of a vortex of subtle matter surrounding the earth. Spinoza’s system is not altogether different. we do miss something important in Descartes if we don’t understand the way in which his thought embraces a certain view of the physical world and certain methodological views about the relation between physics and metaphysics. and the Cartesian approach informs Leibniz’s. though perhaps not for some time. In the end. grounds a politics in part IV (and in . that was even better.true cause of gravitation. and that was doomed from the start. inspired more by Hobbes than by Descartes). in turn. a physical object of particular interest. that failed. This. his system begins with physics or natural philosophy. so was Galileo’s rather different and incompatible program. The physics. and how it contrasts with Spinoza’s vision? DG: Actually. grounds a theory of the human being. If you could get a causal story as well. This is the project of De homine. Hobbes and Spinoza are important but contrasting figures you’ve written about. in turn. Was this was down to its too wide a scope. This is the project of his De corpore. on the other hand.) After a preliminary essay on logic. but secondary to the mathematics. But they had incompatible epistemic values. But both Newton and Leibniz were live programs well into the eighteenth century.” It was a reasonable program to undertake at that moment. there is the politics of De cive. Indeed. compared to Galileo and Newton? Why do you think that despite all this rather damning summary we miss something important if we don’t see each of his arguments and doctrines within the full context of his system? DG: I wouldn’t say that Descartes’ program was doomed “from the start. his system begins in part I of the Ethics with metaphysics. the Galilean program seemed to win out over the Cartesian program. it was the causal story that was important. 3:AM: As well as metaphysics and physics the period is also important in what it developed in terms of morality and politics. (The Galilean program informs Newton’s physics. But unfortunately. And finally. and it didn’t concern him so much that he couldn’t give a mathematical account of free fall. it wasn’t obvious which of these two incompatible programs should be adopted. where we discuss how human beings come together to form the commonwealth. But very quickly we are in the territory of the human being and its affects in parts II and III. properly speaking. While there is an element of physics (in my view. you are right. the causal account was too complicated for him to be able to derive a mathematical account of the relation between time and distance fallen when a heavy body falls. Descartes and Galileo could perfectly well understand what one another were doing. Hobbes thought physics grounded ethics and politics didn’t he? Can you say something about Hobbes’s materialism and his idea of human nature. in Descartes and Galileo we have a lovely instance of what Kuhn should have recognized as incommensurable paradigms.) At the same time. But then. From the point of view of a contemporary. an account of human cognition and the passions that owes a great deal to Hobbes’s account. though. (There is a significant debate over whether Hobbes had an ethics. there was no incommensurability in that sense. God or nature. 3:AM: You write about Descartes program for philosophy as a dead end. The Leviathan is a popular presentation of the system.

the ultimate goal is a stable commonwealth. I actually think that it is better than many do. This is something that goes beyond anything in Hobbes. This will make you believe naturally and mechanically. he has little to say beyond that. There are important differences. … Follow the way by which they began: they acted as if they believed. in the history of probability. But even so. Suppose you are convinced. what he calls beatitude or intellectual love of God. God’s creation of the best of all possible worlds sets the balance of good and bad in the world. Even Hobbes finds that he has to discuss God: the whole second part of the Leviathan is about God and the Bible. and recognizes a domain of the eternal distinct from that of the temporal. I’m sure that if you follow his advice. While it is connected with my historical interests. an exploration of belief and reason. you will come to belief. But that’s not the argument of the book. One might say that God is omnipresent. but even so I find myself drawn to Pascal’s wager argument. So it is not so surprising that I would want to take up one of the central figures in religious thought in the period. 3:AM: You also wrote a little book about Pascal. I used to work in probability and decision theory. in Leibniz. had masses said. and who now wager all they have. though. In Descartes.the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus as well) that is obviously inspired by the contractarian politics Hobbes advanced. the imprint of Hobbes can be seen through much of what Spinoza wrote. belief is not voluntary: one can’t simply decide to believe in God and then do it. How do you do it? Contrary to what Descartes seems to have held. For Spinoza. The wager is one of the very first attempts to take probabilistic reasoning outside of the relatively orderly domain of games of chance and apply it to something else. Connected with this difference is the fact that Spinoza recognizes a domain of thought distinct in some ways from that of extension. The early modern period filled with talk about God. I am not a believer. But should you trust it? Is it just a matter of self-deception? Or rather. and agree that it would be a good thing to believe in God. but in many ways it fits nicely with the larger issues that interest me. God guarantees clear and distinct perceptions and grounds the laws of nature. Pascal’s wager has always been of special interest to me. For Hobbes. this project is more epistemology than history. the formation of the civil state is a stepping stone toward ultimate salvation. I know that there are some standard objections to it. This seems rather different from the other things that you have written in the history of philosophy. And Pascal knows that. I think that Pascal is very astute here psychologically speaking. took holy water. and the belief will come: Learn from those who were bound like you. In the end I am not convinced to take the step Pascal recommends. What he advises instead is that we should play the part of the believer. How does it fit in? DG: In a way it is different. is it that by following this procedure you will eliminate your prejudices and come to appreciate truths that had escaped you before? This is what I explore in the book. What intrigues me even more is what happens after the wager. in Spinoza God is at the foundation of everything. What Happens After Pascal’s Wager: Living Faith and Rational Belief. The wager argument tries to convince the reader that believing in God is a better bet than not: you will win whether or not God actually exists. of course. and connected with that. and many consider it hopeless. etc. and I remain an .

Physics. there are still lines to cross. but even so. and a specific part. as a grad student and as a young faculty member. including Mathematics. in a way. historians. And there was also the program of History and Philosophy of Science (HPS). Astrophysics and Anthropology. this is not exactly like it was in the early modern period. which included cosmology. and active participants from a variety of the sciences. In some ways you can see a distinction between philosophy and the sciences emerging in Locke or Berkeley. metaphysics. Quine. or Law. perhaps it didn’t fully emerge until later in the eighteenth century with Hume and Kant. politics. issues in epistemology or metaphysics or ethics or politics. When a Descartes or a Leibniz did philosophy. Physics included a general part. Is this something you’d agree with? How do you assess the state of philosophy at the moment and how does it compare with its state in the early modern times? DG: It’s complicated. and natural philosophy or physics. Philosophy generally had four parts: logic. there was significant cross-disciplinary work. This. They didn’t exist in the early modern period. animals. Medicine. and privation. who saw Philosophy as a part of a larger intellectual whole. an amalgam of philosophers. the years preceding specialization in Theology. which is where Philosophy fit. I was there in the 1970s.unbeliever. say in the seventies. departments and so on that guard their special authority. terrestrial physics. they didn’t limit themselves to what modern philosophers thought about. form. I immediately joined the Committee on the Conceptual Foundations of Science. Unlike modern philosophers. But there is still a ways to go. in both humanities and sciences than it was in the near past. there were many of us. even back then in the Dark Ages. was continuous with the Logical Positivist tradition out of which he came. ethics. which sought to integrate philosophy of science with history of the development of the sciences. Philosophy seems less isolated from the rest of the academy. Leibniz and Newton. philosophy of mind etc etc. ethics. as a discipline with an identity distinct from that of the sciences. but unlike Quine. in a way. It was a lively group. logical knowledge. matter. they didn’t have to take what experts in the sciences give them and work within its parameters: they could and did dabble in all branches of systematic knowledge. Though there were some isolationists. history. X-phi didn’t exist then. there is a sense in which there are different professional expertises that we have to recognize. whom I mentioned earlier. When I arrived at the University of Chicago in the fall of 1975. They also thought that all real knowledge was scientific. and humans. The entire world—including what we think of as the scientific world—was part of their domain. More generally. they recognized a special kind of knowledge. Though philosophers have learned to cross the lines. In a way. . including plants. 3:AM: Contemporary philosophy seems to be much more like these early moderns in that withxphi and cross disciplinary work in physics. Philosophy as we now practice it. had his program for epistemology naturalized. even with the new interdisciplinarity. professional associations. and living things. which treated of notions like space. did not exist then. But in an important sense. Biology. It is hard to say exactly when that changed. logical positivism without the analytic/synthetic distinction. This is an important difference from philosophers today. law. with the new interdisciplinary spirit of philosophy we are working our way back to what we had in the days of Descartes and Galileo. he argued that philosophy was continuous with the natural sciences. Quine was. But I am not as confident as some of my philosophical colleagues that there is decisive evidence against the theological perspective and that it is positively irrational to believe. Philosophy was at the center of the curriculum for students in the “arts” curriculum. time.

Gottfried Benn. reflecting poorly upon today’s publications and editors." as Russell Jacoby defined them near the start of this culture war. Alongside those novices. PR had the cream of Europe. Leslie Fiedler. . Jean Genet. Beauvoir. are simply "writers and thinkers who address a general and educated audience. It gave readers the first glimpse of much of what would form the subsequent syllabus of midcentury American literature. "Public intellectuals. the journal has been a venerable stalking horse recruited into a minor culture war. culturally sophisticated. Hannah Arendt. though it was notoriously underfunded and skeletally staffed. not incidentally.S. the sphere in which "public intellectuals" used to thrive. Auden. Clement Greenberg. awkward. the undigitized gem of American journals had beenPartisan Review. in translation or English original: Sartre. But Partisan Review has indeed mattered in more recent decades for its position in a debate to which its absence from view has been altogether relevant. insofar as its format remains hard to use. in collections by contributors who met as promising unknowns: Mary McCarthy. It was said to be both more usefully influential and more rigorous than any forum we have now. More than any other publication of the mid-20th century. Some of its mystery has been preserved. The strife concerned what’s awkwardly called "public intellect"—that is. Eliot.What's Wrong With Public Intellectuals? By Mark Greif F or years. its long- lasting decline). unacademic readership. Even in its new digital form it retains a slightly superior pose. Karl Jaspers. Elizabeth Hardwick. Partisan Review obtained the first work of the up-and-coming and often the best work of the famous. Saul Bellow. Camus. The legendary items that first ran in its pages can be found in any good library. Stephen Spender. Orwell. Last year its guardians finally brought it online." The customary sally was that PR exemplified a bygone world of politically strenuous. plus T. because it was addressed to a broad. or Susan Sontag. and hopeless for searches. Ernst Jünger. in 1987.Partisan Review stood as the phantom flagship of "what we have lost" since the late 1960s (the period in which the magazine began. The great importance of Partisan Review did not arise recently from its inaccessibility. and intellectually exacting argument standing in opposition to the university.

it was impossibly good. I read to two purposes besides curiosity. It especially differed from the supposed appeal to public-mindedness or a "general reader" as people understand it today. from Winter to Fall (when it was quarterly) or January/February to November/December (when it was bimonthly). This has complicated much more for me the sense of "what we have lost"—to a degree that still confuses me.Something has gone wrong in our collective idea of the "public. was starting the small magazine n+1. for a month or two. What about intellectual life after the turn of the 21st century? Wasn’t ours still the same world. I had begun research that would later ground a book it took me 10 years to get into shape—an alternative intellectual and literary history of the mid-20th century." Maybe a younger generation could intervene? Both my library research and our creation of n+1 hid efforts to test the times. as a graduate student. I completed the issues from 1934. There are yearlong streaks one could enter in which every article in every issue is compelling. The other purpose. a twenty- something who was otherwise agitated by the imminent Iraq invasion and eager to interrupt his studies to Google news from CNN. the year of its founding." A dozen years ago. Foremost was the academic. It was better than I expected or could have imagined. I had been something of a sucker for those calls for revived public intellectualism. rich with possibilities? What had we lost? The discovery that most stayed with me from that naïve first reading ofPartisan Review was that. The Nation. I sat down and started to read through the run ofPartisan Review on paper in the Yale library’s periodicals room. or "outreach" or "engagement. when it started to lose energy." could ever get back. or ever. My co-founders and I—all of us planning together this unfunded magazine—imagined a joke headline to express where things were heading: "Solution to Intellectual Crisis: Senior Scholars Write Op-Eds. to 1955. And yet: The precise ways in which it was excellent seemed very different from what was commonly said about it. yes. 12 years ago. retaining a taut momentum for a score of years—powerful enough to engulf. Yet I knew how unsatisfactory their resolution had become. It was a thing of wonder. The New Republic. and at least one or two items in each number would be masterworks. And whether we have lost anything that mere will. or what nostalgists supposed. maybe the best American journal of the century. .

from proletarian ones. as refugees in the orbit of New York or Hollywood. The magazine began as a youth-club publication of the party’s New York bureau. of course. Second was the equalizing power of the Great Depression. and two editors. took Partisan Review independent. As William Phillips wrote in an early issue: "Most of us come from petty-bourgeois homes. Freed from the party. Internationalism had been a fixed principle already. just without Stalin. the editors championed Soviet dictates for proletarian writing. From 1934 to 1937. which intellectual historians have most admired in PR. educated at Yale or Vassar. or simply antifascist scholars and artists were on American shores. when so many." Then. Political independence for Partisan Review in 1937 still meant revolutionary socialism. more practically. leftist. near-starvation existence. Philip Rahv and William Phillips. This eruption pitched intellectual Europe into the New Yorkers’ laps.I f you ask the conditions that allowed Partisan Review to reach greatness—broaching an inquiry into what is necessary for the creation of "public intellect" in general. The golden age of radicalism in politics. high modernism in aesthetics. But one expected the most important changes to occur on the Continent and its greatest minds to stay put there. A 21-year-old contributor went on maternity leave. Most were eager to meet any American group that would commit to them the same high opinion and intellectual interest they felt for themselves—and the "New York Intellectuals" were Europhiles. and the editors praised her effort "to produce a future citizen of Soviet America. though. and arrogance above all. young and old. But the gravity of the economic crisis has leveled most of us (and our families) to meager. a lot of free time. a change in cultural policy led the party to roll up its youth clubs. in the mid-20th century past—you face some unruly historical particulars. was launched by this combined demographic. the bulk of established European Jewish. With global capitalist collapse came expectation of socialist reconstruction and. Then. like Dwight Macdonald and Mary McCarthy. First was the stimulus of the Communist Party USA. Though the editors of Partisan Review split internally in 1940 over U. some. and the house tone bore the weight of party cant. from 1937." The editors held open houses to workshop fiction and poetry on weekday afternoons. were underemployed and fractious. World War II. By the early 1940s.S. its first-generation Jewish founders linked up with young American intellectuals. access to the ruin of Europe made them uniquely . who brought in money and connections to keep the magazine afloat. entry into the war (with the renegades going to two new journals. politicsand Commentary).

" W hen The Chronicle Review invited me. undamaged by specialization and professionalism. PR gained a kind of establishment support. It also made the magazine institutionally potent. with unknown Jews from the Bronx. And yet—oddly enough—these latter eulogies focus specifically on freedom from the university. Something has gone wrong in our collective idea of the "public. in 2015. was a rare alloy." But had the house organ become a consensus mouthpiece? All of this has been well chewed over by those who gnaw on the period. Hail. and its State Department sought to woo a rebuilt Europe away from the Soviet alternative. a new birth of public intellect just as great as that of the earlier period. this metal came increasingly into demand.") Personally. Some mourn PR’s radicalism. I’m led elsewhere. It justified the juxtaposition of big names. And as the United States emerged as the lone Western superpower. The combination of knowledgeable. brave ghosts who address a "public" of "educated general readers" on a sunlit plaza of the mind. with the spur of Partisan Review’s digital reappearance. . "we face the rise of a new intellectual class using a new scholasticism accessible only to the mandarins. had become a "house organ of the American intellectual community. who have turned their back on public life and letters. I do not think that any of these old conditions or attunements preclude." reflected Russell Jacoby on more recent times. by their absence in our own time. all hammered together through American literary and artistic networks in the great metropolis. Nor do I think "the university" is to blame for the change that does exist. it was as if the recalcitrant stuff of critical thought had been weaponized. I confess my heart sank. If I try to say what really does seem meaningfully different in our moment.strong. To critics. internationally. left-wing anti-Communism with firsthand possession of a European émigré inheritance. but I sometimes think. while others mourn its supposed liberal Americanism and patriotism. This source of its success has been regretted by historians as often as the magazine’s outsized authority has been saluted. to compare it with the "state of polemic" now. Often what is said is that the Partisan Review’s writers and commentators had a courage and freedom that we do not. The establishment link marks the somewhat uncomfortable side of Richard Hofstadter’s famous statement in 1963’s Anti- Intellectualism in American Life that Partisan Review. pretension and ideology! ("Not to be overly dramatic. against much philistinism elsewhere.

Hannah Arendt spent her career at the New School. At the arrival of the Great Recession. is that one need not always water down stringent politics to be taken seriously by power. with F.W. better to be superior and truthful on all fronts and let compromisers come to you. Dupee. Saul Bellow much of his at the University of Chicago. well-intentioned arguments about "public writing" and polemic now are misguided. On the contrary. The magazine itself wound up supported in later years by Rutgers and then Boston University. seems quite new (and perilous)—not at all the situation in evidence in 1945 or 1960. So: Here are some of those things that nostalgists get wrong aboutPartisan Review.S. and both Sidney Hook and William Barrett were at NYU. Our much newer solipsism. It’s true that it ceased to be Trotskyist. A more democratic layer of intellect meant fewer thinkers with "independent means"—which meant that nearly everybody eventually had to teach. has no other geographical place to look up to and emulate. at least in its major phase from the 1930s through the 1950s. in which American thought. predominating globally. but it still retained a vision of future socialism that would make The New York Times’s hair stand on end. I think. Yet I do feel certain that quite common. while even poor Delmore Schwartz taught creative writing everywhere he could. war against the Nazis. Lionel Trilling was already at Columbia. and the United States as the true source of authority and world thought. and it is so hard to distinguish in your own time what is temporary rubble and what is bedrock once you get the historical jackhammer whirring. though most complicated. This might have been true among wealthy belles- lettrists and little magazine modernists of 1920. Even PR’s editors.Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. had been surprisingly good for intellect." coming to think of its aspirations as nationalistically American. I ruefully reminded friends and students that the Depression of the 20th century. I . First is that it deradicalized or became merely a political vehicle of the Establishment. Third. The point. and the university-baiting is annoying. Second is that it wholly "Americanized. despite its miseries. Leslie Fiedler at the University of Montana. And this is not unrelated to the ways elegists are wrong about Partisan Review. it was not true by 1950. Philip Rahv and William Phillips. Europe remained the other world—the greater world—which the New York Intellectuals continued to view as the Olympus they must try to live up to and steal fire from. is the idea that Partisan Review and its thinkers and theorists made their lives outside of the university. Irving Howe became a professor at Brandeis. and it supported the U. Daniel Bell at Harvard. moved into teaching. in 2007-8.

whether they were tenured professors or not. ever since the GI Bill. Confusingly. I don’t know anyone’s bookshelf without its Marx and Wollstonecraft. Which leaves the question of the university. when we look at our America—and the classes of writers. But that may be a subject for another occasion. drew parts of their livelihood from periodic university teaching. But. gathered in many local physical centers. as I’ve suggested. and novelists. have indeed even been flattened and equalized a bit. and temporary passers- through. A large pool of disgruntled free-thinking people who are not actually starving. Another was the progress by which more writers. and it has been replaced by music-centered subculture as the main beacon for the organizing (and self-organizing) of youth. Maybe they need to be flattened even more. and observations of the corruption in the present order on the other. even cultural criticism) . The thing we’ve lost is really party politics. arguers. and economic inequality we need. Quite the opposite. injustice. dreamers. I think. to truly take the measure of popular life in America. the "universitization of intellect" names overlapping changes. And yet the philosophical and moral effect of "universitization" remains. (This had clearly begun already by the "golden age" of public intellect. I don’t mean that we don’t know the demographic shifts or historical causes. I mean that we don’t have convincing speculative histories or insightful accountings of the qualitative effects on ideas. The most important yet underappreciated was the process by which nearly all future writers of every social class came to pass through college toward the bachelor’s degree. We have enough statistics. poets. The economics of higher education in the contemporary moment may be bad for many of us—teachers. and who possess 24-hour access to research libraries. might be the most publicly argumentative the world has known. the most poorly explained phenomenon of intellect from the late decades of the 20th century up till now. students. reviewers. in their salaries and prospects. Scratch through the surface of any little magazine of the last 30 years and you’ll find the inspiration of ’zines and DIY punk rock (hip hop may serve a parallel function through different channels). was the vocational integration in which formerly independent literary arts (fiction. teachers. as well as critics and historians and social scientists.) The third.think we have all the dislocation. including journalists. poetry. "petty bourgeois" or proletarian. in the 1940s to 1960s. its Chomsky and Naomi Klein. As for depoliticization: Students stew in philosophies of radical social change on one side. whose vocation leads them to amass an enormous quantity of knowledge and skill in disputation. again—this should not be a priori bad for public intellect or public debate. But the outrages on offer are surely outrageous enough. a corollary.

I. our conception anticipated. by sticking difficult argument in the public eye— keeping it elevated. "the real world. has thus been to be much more encompassing and yet seem to matter less to that ultimate phantasm. remains a compulsory conceit for maintaining or resuming a place in commercial work. The distaste for academia. the seriousness.A.F. and nobility of the university did not therefore get communicated back outward. beautiful birds! . and more dangerous." "Matter. a blemish on the face of literature. Our task is to make "the public" more brilliant. intensity. We founders were in our late 20s. Just think of the ranks of assistant professors. Nevertheless. or pride of tone or university style—whenever university skills (and salary) facilitate extra-university utterance.came to be taught as for-credit courses and degree-granting programs—with a credentialing spiral whereby newly minted critics and intellectuals needed to have taken those courses and degrees in order to pay rent by teaching them. (This does not answer what sorts of unconscious influences and determinations of art and ideas may be happening underneath. among us). striking a chord among under.A. M.’s. judging it essentially compromising to writers’ and critics’ practice. Here’s a personal confession. for one. but unfattened by "literature reviews" and obeisances to mentors— junior professors would flock to our banner and create classic public-intellectual provocations like those of yore. superior. throwing caution to the wind and freeing these doves and falcons from their cages. One must simultaneously differentiate oneself from the university spiritually and embed oneself within it financially. Fly free. even newly tenured associates. more disobedient.appreciated academics." that is.’s. more skeptical. and even one M. all possessed of backlogs of fierce critical arguments (with bankers’ boxes of research). The university remained an accident. in authority of open expertise in the arts and humanities. visibly—to identity. Looking upward to those who had gone further. I’d venture that the long-term trend of the university.Phil.) But this was never a foregone conclusion. for culture. in fact depended upon. was certain that if we recreated a classic public-intellectual mode. but not jobs. We had graduate degrees (fistfuls of M. all frustrated. At the start of n+1. the languishing professoriate’s reservoir of erudite rage seemed a natural resource waiting to be unlocked. through writers’ remaining ties to the commercial sphere.

though." and Partisan Review. in some way. did much better forn+1. and university subsidies. in short—even with the most innocent intentions. leapt into colloquial language with both feet. friendly." And this conceit. and critical than themselves. jargon. When these brilliant people contemplated writing for the "public. The embarrassing truth was rather the opposite.The huge personal disappointment—and it puzzled me for a long time—was that junior professors did not. talked about TV. the "inability" to address a nonacademic audience. Please don’t blame the junior professors. I hasten to say. The collective conceit called that space. It conjectured a province that had supposedly been called into being by the desires. sideways description of the old public intellectual idea. And it is certainly true that even in many supposedly "intellectual" but debased outlets of the mass culture. I knew their professional work was good. But the culture it made scrubbed away all marks of university affiliation or residence. added unnatural (and frankly unfunny) jokes. The public signified fun. Writing for the public awakened the slang of mass media. in fact. The public. by parts of that "real world" itself. This was emphatically not what the old "public intellect. as they do still. charitable foundations. (Graduate students.) S uppose we try a different. by the readers. even the "general reader." seemed to mean someone less adept. and even "official" institutions of government and civil society. took on a tone chummy and unctuous. It delivered them to readerships and subscriberships largely of teachers and affiliates of universities—in quarterly journals funded by subscriptions. was needed and ultimately embraced on all sides—by the writers. and even political ideas that were discussed in universities more than elsewhere. were absolutely not those of academic stereotype—not esotericism. in the brilliant shared conceit of a purely extra-academic space of difficulty and challenge. Yet the problems I encountered. . These were brilliant thinkers and writers. by and large. by the subsidizers—even. of "the real world. ingenious. frothy. It drew up accounts of the sorts of philosophical. They dumbed down. derivative media. meaning bits of commerce. politics. specialization. give us work I wanted to print." it seemed they merrily left difficulty at home. it must said. or illusion. into being. had addressed to the public. aesthetic. "Public intellect" in the mid-20th century names an institutionally duplicitous culture. talking down to readers in a colorless fashion-magazine argot is such second nature that any alternative seems out of place. and demands.

The GI Bill. ran the thought. always just slightly above the Partisan Reviewwriters themselves. on all sides. how ideologies of the "public" have changed drastically from the older conception. with the nation’s global rivals. The national indifference. This citizenry would fight for the nation. the many. be better than you are—and that naturally you want to be better than you are. or should. more electric tenor of intellect they wanted to join. had stretched themselves to attention. Even the worst elitists could agree to that. It would compete. Those of us attached to universities can feel.But the additional philosophical element that made this complicated arrangement work." but a public that wanted to be better. After all. were of "the public. also. and the worst. Hence the midcentury consensus that higher education should "make. was an aspirational estimation of "the public." Aspiration in this sense isn’t altogether virtuous or noble. and the expansion of access to higher education after 1945. from the top down. in vocational rationales for the humanities and the state’s lost interest in public higher education. where shared belief often just is reality)." or shape. too. in a challenge to the public and themselves—thus becoming equals who could earn the right to address this public. from the 1970s to the present. gone up on tiptoe. as we use "aspirational" now. the intellectuals. My sense of the true writing of the "public intellectuals" of the Partisan Review era is that it was always addressed just slightly over the head of an imagined public—at a height where they must reach up to grasp it. but also dangerous and unstable in its unimproved condition. The aspiration of civic elites was also always to instruct the populace. alarmed dimension in the postwar period. to the mass. Nor is it grasping and commercial. and higher. balancing. But the writing seemed." Both fascism and Sovietism had been effects of the masses run wild (so it was said). by pursuing difficulty. funded by the state. the public. And it must hold some "democratic" vision and ideology to preserve stability. it’s on the basis of this increasingly servile. depended on an idea of the public as necessary to the state and nation. and the profound belief that sustained the fiction. They distinguished themselves from it momentarily. technically and economically. and antinational vision of "the public" that universities are being politically degraded. expresses a late discovery that the old value and . from that time. and will spend some effort to become capable of growing—and that every worthy person does. to make them citizens and not "masses. "citizens" for a "free society"—which one hears from the best voices. to become worthy of the more thoughtful. They. mostly about the branding of luxury goods. the citizenry. improving. Aspiration also undoubtedly included a coercive. and made it "real" (for we are speaking of the realm of ideas. as strongly as anyone. They. The public must be made better or it would be worse. It’s something like a neutral idea or expectation that you could. contemptuous.

fearsomeness of the public had been erroneous. when it comes to education. more skeptical. the public was no longer needed for military service. or needed. than about restoring the highest estimation of the public. seemed to arise in the late 1960s from a mass national education that put students and professors together too comfortably in the universities. would design all the new technological and financial instruments that could keep U. we ought to try to set it the right way round. A small elite of global origin. more disobedient. even as it was left behind for the sake of the new order. the many. goods appeared. All the American public. or the forms of communication that flattered the public as if we liked to be dumb and powerless. right now. as labor was exported. were needed for was as continuing consumers—as long as that demand did not place too much burden on the state for support—and this could be accomplished in the short term by loose credit. If all that’s so. But the public must not be anyone less smart and striving than you are. Nor would the rest of the public rise up and make trouble. it might be to participate in making "the public" more brilliant. us when we were children. The idea of the public intellectual in the 21st century should be less about the intellectuals and how. The mass public was no longer threatening. though distributed unequally. as an all-volunteer army would fight for pay without inspiring protest. underpriced fruits of globalized labor. dangerous to the idea that universities . or Hollywood. A scary and capable democratic public would not find a voice in TV. more capable of self-defense. nowhere coercing it with intellectual aspiration. you can choose the exemplary moment you like. growth and GDP high in aggregate. and more dangerous again—dangerous to elites. I am only recounting a history that we have all learned to experience as cliché.S. Public intellect is most valuable if you don’t accept the construction of the public handed to us by current media. there’s little enough that intellectuals in any location can undo immediately with a flourish of rhetoric or a stroke of a pen. Intellectuals: You—we—are the public. in the form of new. not stability. (And it would be wise for intellectuals to stop being so ashamed of ties to universities. their miraculously low costs to be put onto Visa and MasterCard. it’s cowardly. and often irrelevant. Protest. The public was no longer needed for mass production. but funneled through American private universities. After Vietnam. But insofar as a debate about priorities—and ideals—will continue anyway in our little corner of the world. before the orgy of learning. It’s us now. as in California. they ought to come from vocationally. or where. however tight or loose. or us when we will be retired. especially at the best of the public systems. It’s probably best that the imagined public even resemble the person you would like to be rather than who you are.) If there is a task. And even as wages stagnated. and dangerous to stability.

superior and dominant—that will take efforts from all sides. and a defeat for the most reactionary capitalists who depended on slavery and racial oppression. In some resonant and complex paragraphs. decided to forward the “Address” to Washington. rather than the public. Lincoln and Marx The transatlantic convergence of two revolutionaries. as president. the signatures of several prominent British trade unionists as well as French socialists and German social democrats.” drafted by Karl Marx.” He thanked them for their support and expressed his conviction that the defeat of the rebellion would indeed be a victory for the cause of humanity everywhere. and hostile to the creeping sense that American universities should be for the global rich rather than the local or nationally bounded polity. congratulated Lincoln on his reelection for a second term. Lincoln saw only a tiny selection of the avalanche of mail he was sent.should be for the rich. The Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863 had made this task much easier. the “Address” heralded the world-historical significance of what had become a war against slavery." and call that world what it is: stupid. by Robin Blackburn A braham Lincoln. But it is perhaps up to the intellectual. employing several secretaries to deal with it. It is not up to the public intellectual alone to remake "the public" as a citizenry of equals. He declared that his country would . The “Address” carried. to face off against the pseudo-public culture of insipid media and dumbed-down "big ideas. chose to reply to an “Address” from the London-based International Workingmen’s Association. but there were still many sections of the British elite who sympathized with the Confederacy and some who favored awarding it diplomatic recognition if only public opinion could be brought to accept this. beside that of Marx. an affirmation of free labor. The “Address. But the US Ambassador in London. The “Address” declared that victory for the North would be a turning point for nineteenth-century politics. The Ambassador wrote to the IWA. explaining that the president had asked him to convey his response to their “Address. Charles Francis Adams. Encouraging every sign of support for the Union was central to Adams’s mission. if anyone.

and eventually nearly two hundred thousand German Americans volunteered for the Union army. publisher of the Tribune. His famous essay on “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon” was first published in New York in German. What path would world history have taken if Marx had become a Texan? We will never know.” The appearance of the names of several German revolutionaries would not have surprised him. first met Marx in Cologne in 1848 at a time when he edited the widely read Neue Rheinische Zeitung. were promoted first to the ranks of Colonel and then to General. patriotic songs. Lincoln may have recognized the name Karl Marx when he read the IWA “Address. and they derived new encouragement to persevere from the testimony of the working men of Europe. they helped to broaden the distinctly Puritan culture of Republicanism. but eighty-four appeared as unsigned editorials. Hundreds of these pieces were published under Marx’s name. There was an affinity between the German democratic nationalism of 1848 and the free labor doctrine of the newly-established US Republican Party. Dana invited Marx to become a correspondent for the Tribune. Charles A. going so far as to apply to the mayor of Trier.abstain from “unlawful intervention” but observed that “The United States regarded their cause in the present conflict with slavery-maintaining insurgents as the cause of human nature. both former members of the Communist League. Not all German émigrés were radicals. He wrote on a global range of topics. With their beer halls. They had been educated to despise slaveholding. At an earlier date — in 1843 — Marx himself had thought of immigrating to Texas. Joseph Weydemeyer and August Willich.” Lincoln would have wished to thank British workers. so it is not surprising that a number of Marx’s friends and comrades not only became staunch supporters of the Northern cause but received senior commissions. especially those who supported the North despite the distress caused by the Northern blockade and the resulting “cotton famine. What we do know is that Marx remained in touch with many of the exiles. . Dana. sometimes occupying two or three pages of a sixteen-page newspaper. and kindergartens. his birthplace. for an immigration permit. In 1852. the most influential Republican newspaper of the 1850s.” since Marx had been a prolific contributor to the New York Daily Tribune. but many were. the defeat of the 1848 revolutions in Europe had swelled the flood of German migrants arriving in North America. Over the next decade he wrote — with some help from his friend Engels — over five hundred articles for the Tribune.

Marx was confident that the clash of rival social regimes. would sooner or later surface as the real issue. a destination for many new immigrants. and instead sketched out an alternative account — subtle. British observers who claimed to deplore slavery yet backed the Confederacy were simply humbugs. In Marx’s eyes. and political — of the origins of the war. As the Northwest Territory matured into free states. But some European liberals with no direct link to the slave economy argued that secession by the Southern states had to be accepted because of the principle of self-determination. He was particularly impressed by Phillips’s speeches in 1862 calling to strike down all compromises with . even though Lincoln initially refused to make emancipation a war goal. Marx insisted that secession had been prompted by the Southern elite’s political fears. He attacked the visceral hostility to the North evident in the Economist and the Times (of London). based on opposing systems of labor. the North was loath to recognize any new slave states. buying huge quantities of slave-grown cotton.Once the Civil War began. widely heard in European capitals. Marx rebutted their arguments in a series of brilliant articles for Die Presse. The South was losing its tight grip on federal institutions because of the dynamism of the Northwest. that slavery had nothing to do with the conflict. They attacked the North’s option for war and its failure to repudiate slavery. The slaveholders had alienated Northerners by requiring them to arrest and return fugitive slaves. he wrote that the Union would only triumph if it adopted the revolutionary anti-slavery measures advocated by Wendell Phillips and other radical abolitionists. Marx wrote several pieces for European papers explaining what was at stake in the conflict and contesting the claim. structural. Important sections of the British and French elites had strong commercial ties to the US South. While consistently supporting the North. which caustically demolished their economic determinism. yet they knew they needed the wholehearted support of their fellow citizens if they were to defend their “peculiar institution. US newspapers lost interest in foreign coverage unless it directly related to the war. They knew that power within the Union was shifting against them. These papers claimed that the real cause of the conflict was Northern protectionism against the free trade favored by the South.” Lincoln’s election was seen as a deadly threat because he owed Southerners nothing and had promised to oppose any expansion of slavery. the South found itself outnumbered. Marx gave full support to the Union cause. a Viennese publication.

if not above. .” These themes became central to the politics of Marx’s followers in America. But. Dana may have noticed that Grant had reached the same conclusion by instinct and experience. Weydemeyer had launched an American Labor Federation in 1853 which backed these objectives and which declared its ranks open to all “regardless of occupation. since he was not a slave. . Capital is only the fruit of labor . He approvingly quoted Phillips’s dictum that “God had placed the thunderbolt of emancipation” in Northern hands and they should use it.” Lincoln believed that in America the wage laborer was free to rise by his own efforts and could become a professional.” Instead. or even an employer. “labor is prior to and independent of capital. language. but from today’s perspective they shared something important: they both loathed exploitation and regarded labor as the ultimate source of value. he insisted. Lincoln criticized the “effort to place capital on an equal footing with. Marx and Lincoln had very divergent opinions on business corporations and wage labor. Labor is the superior of capital. labor in the structure of government. In his first message to Congress in December 1861. and that only a handful could succeed in acquiring economic independence. Marx continued to correspond with Dana and sent him his articles (Dana was fluent in German). Marx argued in Die Presse in March 1862 that the Union armies should abandon their encirclement strategy and seek to cut the Confederacy in two. Dana became Assistant Secretary of the War Department. say. The Proclamation would make it difficult for the British or French governments to award diplomatic recognition to the Confederacy. the free worker could organize and agitate for. For Marx. In 1863. Marx was delighted when Lincoln — emboldened by the abolitionist campaign and a radicalization of Northern opinion — announced his intention to issue an Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863. the wage worker was only partly free since he had to sell his labor to another so that he and his family might live. and deserves much the higher consideration. It also allowed for the enrollment of freedmen in the Union army. By this time Dana had left the world of journalism to become Lincoln’s “eyes and ears” as a special commissioner in the War Department. a shorter working day and free education. or sex. Marx held that this picture of social mobility was a mirage. . color.slavery. touring the fronts and reporting to the White House that Ulysses Grant was the man to back.

inflexibly pressing on to his great goal. . South Carolina. the IWA welcomed the appearance of a National Labor Union in the US. . was the modesty of this great and good man that the world only discovered him a hero after he had fallen a martyr.” Radical Republicans soon came to the same conclusion.” Within the space of a year. neither color nor sex.Lincoln’s assassination led Marx to write a new “Address” from the IWA to his successor. eight different Northern states adopted the eight-hour day for public employees. and hotels. . never compromising it by blind haste. In 1867. The call for an eight-hour day had emerged as a key demand in several US states. In Tennessee. never retracing them . Marx was putting the finishing touches on Capital: Volume I in 1866–67. . schools and universities. the tragic loss could not prevent Northern victory opening the way to a “new era of the emancipation of labor. formed to spread the demand as a unifying goal.” Marx and Engels were both soon troubled by the actions of Andrew Johnson. the International attracted much interest and support in the United States. in six months all the old villains of secession will be sitting in Congress at Washington. On 15 July 1865. The regions of the United States offered very different possibilities for political action. If things go on like this. and included a new section at this late stage on the determinants of the length of the working day. . Marx described Lincoln as “a man neither to be browbeaten by adversity. the new president. no west. In this text. trains. from terrorizing the freedmen. there were black congresses that drew up a “Declaration of Rights and Wrongs. many of them Confederate veterans. and Louisiana. on the question of the rights of labor. indeed.” However. Engels wrote to his friend attacking Johnson: “His hatred of Negroes comes out more and more violently . Without colored suffrage. slowly maturing his steps. Only the presence of Union troops in the South prevented white vigilantes.” insisting that freedom would be a mockery if it did not entail equal access to buses. In the immediate aftermath of the war. no east. with a fulsome tribute to the slain president. Such. nor intoxicated by success. no south. At its first conference the NLU declared: “The National Labor Union knows no north. doing his titanic work as humbly and homely as heaven-born rulers do little things with the grandiloquence of pomp and state. and thanks in part to the publication of the IWA addresses. nothing whatever can be done there.

In the North and West. In December 1871 the IWA in New York organized a seventy-thousand-strong demonstration of sympathy with the victims slaughtered in the suppression of the Paris Commune. The end of slavery certainly validated the momentary alignment of Lincoln and Marx. A wave of corruption scandals sapped Republican morale. undivided federal government. The throng prominently featured a black militia called the Skidmore Guards. with its expensive occupation of the South and its bold affronts to racial prejudice. to impose moral leadership all undermined or compromised the promise of an authoritative. the chaos and reaction of the Johnson presidency. however. Lincoln had hoped to build a strong and authoritative federal government in Washington. Marx was not surprised by the emergence of “robber baron” capitalists. Lincoln’s assassination. and there were many black elected officials. In Marx’s eyes. and the failure of Ulysses Grant. introduced by the Lincoln administration in 1862. During Reconstruction (roughly 1868–76). and thus obtain respect for the rule of law throughout the restored Union. was . These hopes were dashed. and a contingent marching behind the Cuban flag. But by the early 1870s Northern support for Reconstruction. by the late 1860s there were about fifty sections and a membership of perhaps five thousand. lingered on in the weakness of the federal power. Victoria Woodhull and the feminist leaders of Section 12. But something of the conservative spirit of the antebellum republic. the boldest radicals organized sections of the International. there were gains for the eight-hour movement and the first attempts to regulate the railroad corporations. In the North. his successor. freedmen could vote. their children could go to school. was beginning to ebb. was that the Republican program had come apart at the seams. progressive taxation. Lincoln would have built the sort of “bourgeois democratic republic” that would have allowed for the emergence of a labor party dedicated to free education. an Irish band. many trade unionists with their banners. Many of the unions founded at this time included the word “International” in their name. as was the Northern bosses’ ability to crush strikes by deploying thousands of special constables and Pinkerton men. But the failure of the federal state to impose its authority on the South was another matter. nor by the bitter class strife they unleashed. and an eight-hour work day. the Supreme Court declared that the progressive income tax. In an ominous development. He had expected — indeed predicted — as much. The real problem. with its aversion to federal taxation.

To many. democratic. the myths of the American frontier.” The direct result of this decision was to make it far more difficult for federal or local authorities to regulate corporations (the ruling is still in force). Reconstruction ended with a deal between Republicans and Democrats that resolved the deadlocked Electoral College of 1876 by confirming the fractured authority of the state. purpose and commitment. you might have missed the sesquicentennial of one of the greatest German scholars of the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. an eighteenth-century manuscript. the genius of the US Constitution. and Eugene Debs (Socialist). but in a relatively short life. founder of the IWW). he never wrote a big book. the many truths of Italy – and much more. the further exploits of Patrick Leigh Fermor. neither founded nor had any interest in founding a school. This gave free reign to the lynch mobs. This deal allowed the candidate with fewer votes to enter the White House while requiring the withdrawal of all federal troops from the South. which is available every Thursday in print and via the TLS app. is staggering. This week’s issue also features Schiller’s Joan of Arc. The defeat of Lincoln’s vision of a unified. since they were also deemed to enjoy the status of “persons. Not for the last time. Lucy Parsons (syndicalist. paying for the war would be much harder and future redistribution impossible. from agrarian history to rationality and music. Max Weber was born in 1864 and died in 1920. was to frustrate the plans of progressives. and never cared about the accoutrements of academic fame even as those around him . syndicalism made more sense than the labor party that Marx and Engels advocated. nineteenth-century Iceland.unconstitutional. Grant himself complained. Yet apart from academically necessary early qualifications that required the production of weighty tomes. from abstract methodological pronouncements to the workings of the stock market. with its multiple checks and balances. the federal troops that had been prevented from tackling the Ku Klux Klan were sent against the railworkers during the Great Strike of 1877. though Marx’s penetrating analysis of capitalism still had an impact on people as diverse as Samuel Gompers (founder of the AFL). suppressing it at the cost of a hundred lives. American workers fought back tenaciously. feminist. the sheer bulk of what he wrote about with seriousness. In the past year of major anniversaries. Without the income tax. from the major world religions to war and revolution. but often on a regional or state-by- state basis. Why Max Weber matters DUNCAN KELLY Peter Ghosh We hope you enjoy this free piece from the TLS. and authoritative republic was a defeat for the socialists too. Within a few months. Another retrograde step was a Supreme Court ruling that construed the promise of equal treatment of “all persons” in the Fourteenth Amendment of 1868 — a measure introduced to protect the freedmen — as offering protection to the new corporations.

and was diagnosed as a neurasthenic. shortly after his death. And conceptual abstractions like asceticism. Du Bois (whom he tried to recruit for the Archiv). These self- conscious methodological “utopias” would polemically highlight or sideline certain aspects of reality at any one time in order to permit the construction of specific genealogies. E. particularly in the West. Ghosh undercuts a relatively recent scholarly consensus that Weber both played a central role in the drafting of a new editorial policy. 2009). Not for him the “riotous gallimaufry” of psychosexual explanation. For Ghosh this is the supremely Weberian text. the freedom this provided allowed him space to pursue a wide array of interests. For he was an engaged. to show instead how central Weber was to the networks involved in the sale. such as that published by Weber’s widow Marianne. He took over joint editorship (with the flashy personality Werner Sombart and the wealthy younger scholar Edgar Jaffé) of the leading social scientific journal in Germany. fares when examined by an absolutely historicist intellectual historian who focuses on a text that was absolutely “not an historicist construction” of the past. So Ghosh reconstructs Weber’s work through a history of his texts. (She had always wanted him to write the sort of “fat” book that she produced. and even dallied with the anarchist communities in Ascona. polemical essay bringing together all his major interests to date in capsule form. It has meant (ironically given Weber’s sense of the limited time horizons of academic relevance) that his work has had serious longevity. The first considers how Weber could have come to write such an account. concerned to illuminate the historical development of “tendencies” that created new realities. reckoning it would secure him academic fame and personality. as Peter Ghosh says in this stylish and extraordinarily detailed new intellectual history. Although an intense historical sensibility undergirds Weber’s work. purchase and revised editorial and contributory make-up of the journal. and gloriously revisionist in overturning most established scholarship. It was his “summit”. Weber had a scholarly annus mirabilis. Interested in the power derived from the “economic” way of looking at things. even capitalism and rule (Herrschaft). Ghosh’s answer to Weber’s uniqueness is beguilingly simple. Ghosh’s “twin histories” entail a game of two halves. often suffered from depression. Personality-focused or biographical approaches seem inappropriate to understand a man so concerned with the power of the impersonal Personality-focused or biographical approaches seem inappropriate to understand a man so concerned with the power of the impersonal.) Instead. aged forty. They form a pivot around which Ghosh’s narrative turns. all of the rituals of his self-consciously “bourgeois” class and status. were then pressed into service to structure his developmental claim about a contemporary Kultur whose “magic” had been progressively stripped away by rational and impersonal forms of conduct that originated in an earlier “ascetic Protestantism”. self-diagnosis and drugs. it also laid the foundations for nearly all his future work. outlined in a recent study by Joachim Radkau (and reviewed by Ghosh in the TLS. He thought her a “silly goose” in such matters. Weber also published a seminal methodological essay (again in the Archiv) roughly translated as “The Objectivity of Social Scientific and Socio-Political Knowledge”. His claim. Unsurprisingly. whose ideas came as often through a good cigar in the evening as through anything else. B. Weber’s celebrated essays which were later published together as The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism first appeared in the Archiv. affiliated with the World’s Fair at St Louis. He went through the usual arrays of spa treatments. but he would surely have been amused to hear the many echoes in Ghosh’s prose of his own pugnacious style and intellectual tenacity. In 1904. Weber himself was most definitely “not an intellectual historian”. theArchiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik. Nor the intellectually limited if personally interesting biography. It is a study of how the historically minded Weber. and out of which certain contemporary problems could be put into sharp relief with appropriate conceptualization. without having to conform to the norms of disciplinary fields (“I am not a donkey and do not have a field”. as he famously remarked). vocation (Beruf). he quickly manoeuvred himself into a position where he would become central. This was his original and most fully elaborated claim about the importance of constructing “ideal types” as a solution to the problems of relativism that historicism might fall prey to. From the backroom. He was touchy. It was there that he met W. Such terms structure Ghosh’s . and. Despite its avowedly limited focus. so that although the impact of his nervous disorders meant he had to resign from teaching commitments. His training in the great traditions of Roman and commercial as well as private law provided him with exquisite tools for such high-level conceptual abstraction. is that around 1904. Nevertheless he remained intellectually uncompromising. Weber also took up an invitation to speak on rural societies to an audience at the Congress of Arts and Sciences. a synthetic. though away for several months. very baldly restated. then. producing “ideal-type” social and historical models or frameworks. while the second shows its presence in nearly everything that came after. June 19.recognized his presence and power. One example was his conceptual use of “asceticism” versus “mysticism” to highlight the religious foundations that lay behind modern constructions of “rational” conduct. Weber might have disapproved of intellectual biography per se. so to speak. modern thinker. and that this explains something crucial about Weber’s ideas. he worked by a mechanism of “causal regression”.

“democratic”) could either be explored in world-historical perspective. But as a verifiable “fact”. Weber tried to fix the position of capitalism in his mind. and although early bits appeared. complete his voluminous masterwork Die Soziallehren der christlichen Kirchen (The Social Teachings of the Christian Churches). utilitarianism was the heir to seventeenth-century asceticism. therefore. Weber took on new and Herculean labours. Frustrations with that meant that much of his own contribution would end up in the multilayered treatise that we now know as Economy and Society. and whether through familial contact (his uncle Carl David Weber’s linen mill in Oerlinghausen was close at hand). we find Weber talking about capitalism and “character” inThe Protestant Ethic. to signify another unique attribute of modern WesternKultur. He had discussed the effects of capitalism on agrarian forms of economic organization much earlier. Weber’s twin interests clearly coalesced in a concern with the fate of politics and religion as the two oldest and noblest “human ideals”. if not fully elaborated. Weber’s many letters to his publisher suggest the usual sorts of authorial prevarications in response to polite cajoling. Weber was quite the idealist in this regard. concerned first and foremost with getting ideas straight. and his struggles to do so form another pivot for Ghosh’s text. Perhaps unsurprisingly. The sheer bulk of what Weber wrote about with seriousness. And most of this was achieved despite the intervention of a world war. the difference between formal and material “rationality” was implied. That sort of conduct. in tandem with his focus on capitalism. the psychological dynamics of those effects remained of interest. the existence of something called “capitalism” was intensely insecure – perhaps (Ghosh speculates) indicating a “failure” of method on Weber’s part. He had also taken on the task of radically updating and editing a major and massive multi-author handbook on political economy. but it stands on the “uncertain frontier” between religion and politics. and strict historical accuracy when discussing ideas seemed unimportant. in the process. Similarly. Here. purpose and commitment is staggering Similarly. would ultimately find genealogical affinity with the sort of economic and calculating action necessary for the development of “bourgeois” capitalism. to show how it was gradually overturned by utilitarianism. working towards a new sociology of religion (broadly complete by 1913) alongside an account of the economic ethics of world religions in comparative perspective. and the importance of the “sectarian idea” within them. Indeed. rational-legal. legal disputes (with colleagues among others) and fraught personal relationships. Calvinist theodicy was an asynchronous. he concluded. He saw his problem everywhere though. nervous exhaustion. Thus outlined. modern conduct applicable to Benjamin Franklin’s injunction that “time is money”. on occasion. and help to buttress his account of what Weber meant when he said that Kultur is a “secular substitute for Christianity”. For Ghosh. the historian of religion. . The latter would come to be seen as historically conditioned by the transformation of religious “sects”. by modern capitalism. but whose configurations had been changed. which appeared in early 1912. Weber remains a frontiersman in the quest for a peculiarly “bourgeois” (read Western) form of capitalism. even when their material histories were crooked. their nourishing of radical individualism and heterogeneous values made the sects distant cousins of modern ideological divisions. and changed utterly. before becoming the sort of fully fledged. Weber’s view of the formalistic legality of the Puritans and their substantive concern with natural law was that it led them towards a legally derived conception of “rational” behaviour. also has no singular “essence”. Weber traced the radical Calvinist origins of such a vision. but capitalism. making possible the separation of legal from bureaucratic and economic forms of rationality. charismatic and. but also contain hints of his struggle to find out again and again how much he could “bear” or “stand” both in and of his own personality. and this had something to do with the relationship between capitalism and law. Recognizing practical overlays but conceptually fixing points of transition along the tracks. In order to explain their new co-ordinates. “sacralized version of Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand”’. Early on. he used the idea of an “elective affinity” between different elements to help structure his argument.individual chapters. His account of the sects was originally supposed to issue in a third essay in the Protestant Ethic series. During this time. Weber was trying to move beyond Marx to think of capitalism as something more profound than just a capitalist mode of production. Each in turn has its different types of Herrschaft. or through individual projects on the psychophysics of industrial labour. but the latter already had a “utilitarian character”. or. For him. full discussion had to wait because Weber allowed himself the luxury of letting his close friend and colleague Ernst Troeltsch. Weber was grateful (though his publisher was not) for the chance to postpone re-engagement with Protestant Ethic-style questions until an acknowledged expert had had a chance to work out if he was onto something or not. like politics and religion. Troeltsch the expert became his “authoritative vindicator”. Weber also aligned his discussion with a historical account of the rise of the city in European history. and elsewhere engaging critically with contemporary economic theories of capitalism as rational and acquisitive behaviour. The forms of authoritative rule that most interested Weber (traditional.

Given at the height of major interest and political unrest in 1917 and again in 1919 in Munich. they display breathtaking command and control. Yet Weber’s account of the values behind German politics since Bismarck was deeply unflattering. or power politics without content. rather than in public. This made it clear to him that “reaction” and public retribution. And both vocations have deep roots in ideas first presented in The Protestant Ethic. and for trying to talk about the end of realpolitik in the dream world of socialist utopia. Now. one of Ghosh’s major points is that politics for Weber. as he described his usual student lectures. the balance sheet is clear. when copy was much in demand. his was a “multicultural” world. and made little difference to his politics at all. where he had travelled in 1915 as an unofficial political consultant following the German invasion of Belgium. Weber worried about the fate of personality and responsibility in what has infamously (if incorrectly) come to be known as the “iron cage” of a rationalized and . in a perspicacious essay realistically assaying the prospects of Germany against the European world powers during the war. that’s because in Ghosh’s eyes Weber was never properly a “nationalist”. Weber suggested that his own “bourgeois” class in Germany lacked the political education for power for which its economic predominance should have been preparing it. For both scientist and politician. again contrary to the prevalent view of Weber as a committed German nationalist. when it was too often just for show. and that would have to take place in diplomatic back channels by “responsible” statesmen. but in his work. His “probability” theory about when peace would come and the possibilities of German victory was as ruthlessly realistic as anything else he wrote.In fact. it meant nothing more or less than earthly Herrschaft. in part because they have different means at their disposal. In the darkness personality could really count. Though suitably huge. Weber’s history of the present found its denouement in the famous conclusion of The Protestant Ethic. Noting that economic dominance normally. where he wrote that although the Puritan “wanted” to follow a “calling”. For example. and Weber attacked Left and Right for trying to valorize the past. He self- consciously recused himself to his publisher. As the war went on. Germany was actually quite successful at this when seen in comparative perspective. was immortalized in two panoramic lectures on the vocations of science and politics. violence and state power versus intellect and scholarly integrity. as one would expect. he engaged in several passionate affairs. Subtler and more “responsible” policy was required if long-term success was to be achieved. so that there were only so many ways one could talk about its development. sociology and general economic history. for proposing organic visions of the German nation as a collective personality. Weber’s well-known refrains about the dangers of a politics of national vanity (Eitelkeit). Years later. Partly. This made it difficult to deal with real problems. the Reich was simply bureaucratic politics without either charisma or responsible leadership. made most famously in his lecture on the vocation of politics. from fully continuing with his epic academic projects under the circumstances. Weber had always been a superb political analyst. and socialism was simply code for the “bureaucratization of the economy”. Politics still mattered. and went between universities in Munich and Vienna lecturing on the state. Weber refused to descend into propaganda. War couldn’t and didn’t change the realistic background of political choice in his mind. what might such compulsion mean? In a key interpretation. but where resolution was to be found neither in relativism nor resignation. Ghosh’s claims will be hard reading. translates into political power. Rather. but rather in a principled “objective” commitment to taking the measure of what we conventionally render as value pluralism. On Ghosh’s account of Weber’s priorities. Yet if objectivity in the midst of war set him apart. although a grand human ideal. has become a new and steely sort of housing for everyone. Whether in The Protestant Ethic or in his later essays and lectures on politics. his focus on the relationship between the strictly internal demands of the individual personality ( Persönlichkeit) and the objective requirements of particular orders of life (Lebensordnungen) that personality might choose and which would fix its outward ethical form. or think about its valences. he once more stated his belief that “objective politics” was not a “politics of vanity”. Both combinations take different forms. but one whose actions necessarily took place in the shadows. But part of the problem with seeing him as a straightforward nationalist was that even incandescent rage about national shame was allied to a profound understanding of geopolitics and political responsibility. a point amplified recently by Adam Tooze in The Deluge: The Great War and the remaking of global order(2014). he also collected several of his essays from the Archiv on world religions for quick publication. had been on the decline for centuries as the crucial arbiter of human conduct. were futile modes of engagement. Unable to find regular war work in Brussels. in the crucible of war and revolution. like many of his colleagues. hot passion and the sense of a calling must be aligned with a cooler demand for objectivity and responsibility. Weber was trying to move beyond Marx to think of capitalism as something more profound than just a capitalist mode of production As Ghosh notes. these public displays were definitely not “drivel”. again. and his engagement with the conditions of a peace settlement was unblinking. Ghosh finds that the war principally offered Weber a welcome break from debilitating academic work on Economy and Society. But while he took up a position as a hospital orderly when he could. but particularly in the last few years of his life. were in fact extant in his writings from the start. where an originally religious “cosmos” which framed the Puritan world of ethical conduct. For those who hold fixed ideas about Weber the political animal. governed by conflicts over values. religion occupies nearly three times as much space. today we are simply forced or compelled to. though not automatically.

hardened and retooled. In later work. and the danger was that we might simply fail to notice. near-pathological boredom and disaffection with mainstream politics. and tensions driven by religion have if anything become more rigidly crippling than ever. In order to guard against these dangers. inner personality had to be focused. In our own age. made able to resist superficiality in its own engagement with the impersonal force of fate. such environmental imagery had turned into a worry about the future as a polar night of icy darkness. . he wrote that perhaps the mechanization of life would continue unchallenged until the last ounces of fossil fuel had been used up. Max Weber looks a more profound guide than we might care to think. where borderlands between environmental crisis.bureaucratized modern world. In The Protestant Ethic.

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