Welcome to Bookmarker!

This is a personal project by @dellsystem. I built this to help me retain information from the books I'm reading.

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3

The danger is that the critical insights of what was called “critical sociology” have been repurposed as the status-quo thinking of “concerned liberalism”—the very thing that it set out to subvert. Thinking of everything as a scripted game show hasn’t led to change. Instead, sociological thinking has hypostatized and celebrated the script. Or to put it another way: hate the players, love the game. Even the sinister David Brooks managed to use (and only partly travesty) Bourdieu, when he suggested that the rise of “bourgeois bohemians” had largely solved the titanic conflicts of the Sixties. In such instances, sociology, which intended to explain in order to criticize the glacial stability of bourgeois society, has passed almost seamlessly into the hands of those wanting to justify that society.

—p.3 Too Much Sociology (1) by n+1 1 year, 6 months ago

The danger is that the critical insights of what was called “critical sociology” have been repurposed as the status-quo thinking of “concerned liberalism”—the very thing that it set out to subvert. Thinking of everything as a scripted game show hasn’t led to change. Instead, sociological thinking has hypostatized and celebrated the script. Or to put it another way: hate the players, love the game. Even the sinister David Brooks managed to use (and only partly travesty) Bourdieu, when he suggested that the rise of “bourgeois bohemians” had largely solved the titanic conflicts of the Sixties. In such instances, sociology, which intended to explain in order to criticize the glacial stability of bourgeois society, has passed almost seamlessly into the hands of those wanting to justify that society.

—p.3 Too Much Sociology (1) by n+1 1 year, 6 months ago
4

Arguing that an epiphenomenon of an unjust society exists to rationalize that society’s injustice: it’s a silencing maneuver that cultural sociologists have perfected, making them unbeatable on their own terms. The ordinary person, genuflecting before his unfreedom, cries “uncle”—which the sociologist reads as a cry for more sociology. The form of this move can be glimpsed in Guillory’s explanation for the rise of French theory during the period he covers. Theory, according to Guillory, was perfectly in keeping with a “technobureaucratic” turn in intellectual work itself and in the economy overall: “The emergence of theory,” he writes, “is a symptom of a problem which theory itself could not solve.” Well, if theory can’t solve this problem, nobody can. But wait — who’s that tweedy figure in the sky, with his WebCASPAR data sets, coming to save us?

Being no closer to a society free of domination, injustice, and inequality than we were in 1993, we may ask whether the emergence of cultural sociology is a symptom of a problem that sociology itself cannot solve. Anyone who’s spent some time soaking up the discourse can point out that access to critical sociology is now one of the goods people purchase with their tuitions at elite institutions of American higher education. Of course the question and the observation that leads us to ask it turn out to be framed in sociological terms.

not exactly unpretentious but i love it

—p.4 Too Much Sociology (1) by n+1 1 year, 6 months ago

Arguing that an epiphenomenon of an unjust society exists to rationalize that society’s injustice: it’s a silencing maneuver that cultural sociologists have perfected, making them unbeatable on their own terms. The ordinary person, genuflecting before his unfreedom, cries “uncle”—which the sociologist reads as a cry for more sociology. The form of this move can be glimpsed in Guillory’s explanation for the rise of French theory during the period he covers. Theory, according to Guillory, was perfectly in keeping with a “technobureaucratic” turn in intellectual work itself and in the economy overall: “The emergence of theory,” he writes, “is a symptom of a problem which theory itself could not solve.” Well, if theory can’t solve this problem, nobody can. But wait — who’s that tweedy figure in the sky, with his WebCASPAR data sets, coming to save us?

Being no closer to a society free of domination, injustice, and inequality than we were in 1993, we may ask whether the emergence of cultural sociology is a symptom of a problem that sociology itself cannot solve. Anyone who’s spent some time soaking up the discourse can point out that access to critical sociology is now one of the goods people purchase with their tuitions at elite institutions of American higher education. Of course the question and the observation that leads us to ask it turn out to be framed in sociological terms.

not exactly unpretentious but i love it

—p.4 Too Much Sociology (1) by n+1 1 year, 6 months ago
4

IT SEEMS THERE’S NO WAY out of sociology; nevertheless sociology cannot provide us with internal reasons for its ever-rising prestige. Surely we want to be able to say that the sociology of culture is valuable because it’s true or insightful. However, a culture that blithely accepts a sociological account of itself is one that appears to have foundered in the straits that have always bedeviled sociology: the attempt to negotiate the relations between structure and subject, or society and agent. How to account for human freedom and also the determining power of the social world? Can we no longer really provide good-faith reasons for our cultural preferences, reasons rooted in private and idiosyncratic experience but articulated in a common language, and therefore also capable of noncoerced, voluntary change?

In spite of the strenuous attempts by sociologists to preserve some autonomy for the acting subject — Bourdieu’s “habitus,” Latour’s “actor-network” theory — popularization has inevitably resulted in more weight being thrown on the structuring side of things, the network over the actor. The only quantum of freedom left then belongs to the sociologist himself. It is the sociologist who is uniquely qualified to provide explanations for us, which have to do with feelings of status or desire for recognition, sublimated self-interest. [...\

—p.4 Too Much Sociology (1) by n+1 1 year, 6 months ago

IT SEEMS THERE’S NO WAY out of sociology; nevertheless sociology cannot provide us with internal reasons for its ever-rising prestige. Surely we want to be able to say that the sociology of culture is valuable because it’s true or insightful. However, a culture that blithely accepts a sociological account of itself is one that appears to have foundered in the straits that have always bedeviled sociology: the attempt to negotiate the relations between structure and subject, or society and agent. How to account for human freedom and also the determining power of the social world? Can we no longer really provide good-faith reasons for our cultural preferences, reasons rooted in private and idiosyncratic experience but articulated in a common language, and therefore also capable of noncoerced, voluntary change?

In spite of the strenuous attempts by sociologists to preserve some autonomy for the acting subject — Bourdieu’s “habitus,” Latour’s “actor-network” theory — popularization has inevitably resulted in more weight being thrown on the structuring side of things, the network over the actor. The only quantum of freedom left then belongs to the sociologist himself. It is the sociologist who is uniquely qualified to provide explanations for us, which have to do with feelings of status or desire for recognition, sublimated self-interest. [...\

—p.4 Too Much Sociology (1) by n+1 1 year, 6 months ago
8

[...] the unparalleled success of South Asian immigrants is largely the consequence of a famous peculiarity in subcontinental emigration: a quota system that tended to favor professionals has made the drain from South Asia (chiefly India) almost entirely brain. Both education and capital emigrated to America (though they frequently flew back home to visit); this has meant that the brown people who arrived here were not even very brown in their mother countries. They were often high-caste (if not upper-class) Hindus fluent in English. Unless they were Punjabis whose world had been scythed by Partition, they barely registered the passions and arguments of the independence struggle, knowing only the misery of the subcontinental poverty they had to escape. When they left India, the immigrants fled politics as well as joblessness. When they arrived in cold war–era America, they were prepared to play it safe.

not exactly the same as for east asians (regional specificities), but there are definitely parallels

—p.8 White Indians (6) by n+1 1 year, 6 months ago

[...] the unparalleled success of South Asian immigrants is largely the consequence of a famous peculiarity in subcontinental emigration: a quota system that tended to favor professionals has made the drain from South Asia (chiefly India) almost entirely brain. Both education and capital emigrated to America (though they frequently flew back home to visit); this has meant that the brown people who arrived here were not even very brown in their mother countries. They were often high-caste (if not upper-class) Hindus fluent in English. Unless they were Punjabis whose world had been scythed by Partition, they barely registered the passions and arguments of the independence struggle, knowing only the misery of the subcontinental poverty they had to escape. When they left India, the immigrants fled politics as well as joblessness. When they arrived in cold war–era America, they were prepared to play it safe.

not exactly the same as for east asians (regional specificities), but there are definitely parallels

—p.8 White Indians (6) by n+1 1 year, 6 months ago
11

[...] all new left-wing cultural-political analyses share an old question: is this or that cultural object shoring up an unjust society, or undermining it? The question applies not just to novels, TV shows, new diets, and social media platforms, but also, more uncomfortably, to the essays and books that we left intellectuals write about these things.

The best general formulation of the problem may still be Herbert Marcuse’s essay “The Affirmative Character of Culture” (1937). For Marcuse, even when art or entertainment didn’t flatter power outright, culture as such tended to affirm, rather than negate, the existing social order: the very foretaste of a happier life offered by one kind of art, or the commiseration over present-day reality offered by another kind, helped people to endure the way things were. A dialectician, Marcuse did allow that culture could also, sometimes, negate, and seduce or incite you toward revolution — but his emphasis fell on culture as accommodation to the status quo. And this dominant pessimism about the capacity of culture to do the work of politics, occasionally relieved by a hesitant optimism, could be said to characterize the whole tradition of so-called Western Marxism to which Marcuse and the rest of the Frankfurt School belonged, many of whose unfinished projects and unresolved questions came to be inherited, knowingly or not, by French critical sociology and American cultural studies. Western Marxism (not just Marcuse, Adorno, and Benjamin but Lukács, Sartre, Althusser, et cetera) paid special attention to culture and ideology and correspondingly neglected the issues of political strategy and economic analysis that so preoccupied earlier generations of Marxist thinkers. As Perry Anderson pointed out in Considerations on Western Marxism, this cultural turn, beginning in the ’20s and in full swing by the ’30s, took place amid political disappointment: the defeat of working-class revolt in Germany, the hardening of the Soviet Union into Stalinist deformity, fascist victory in the Spanish Civil War, and so on.

Cultural considerations wax as political hopes wane. [...]

—p.11 Cultural Revolution (10) by n+1 1 year, 6 months ago

[...] all new left-wing cultural-political analyses share an old question: is this or that cultural object shoring up an unjust society, or undermining it? The question applies not just to novels, TV shows, new diets, and social media platforms, but also, more uncomfortably, to the essays and books that we left intellectuals write about these things.

The best general formulation of the problem may still be Herbert Marcuse’s essay “The Affirmative Character of Culture” (1937). For Marcuse, even when art or entertainment didn’t flatter power outright, culture as such tended to affirm, rather than negate, the existing social order: the very foretaste of a happier life offered by one kind of art, or the commiseration over present-day reality offered by another kind, helped people to endure the way things were. A dialectician, Marcuse did allow that culture could also, sometimes, negate, and seduce or incite you toward revolution — but his emphasis fell on culture as accommodation to the status quo. And this dominant pessimism about the capacity of culture to do the work of politics, occasionally relieved by a hesitant optimism, could be said to characterize the whole tradition of so-called Western Marxism to which Marcuse and the rest of the Frankfurt School belonged, many of whose unfinished projects and unresolved questions came to be inherited, knowingly or not, by French critical sociology and American cultural studies. Western Marxism (not just Marcuse, Adorno, and Benjamin but Lukács, Sartre, Althusser, et cetera) paid special attention to culture and ideology and correspondingly neglected the issues of political strategy and economic analysis that so preoccupied earlier generations of Marxist thinkers. As Perry Anderson pointed out in Considerations on Western Marxism, this cultural turn, beginning in the ’20s and in full swing by the ’30s, took place amid political disappointment: the defeat of working-class revolt in Germany, the hardening of the Soviet Union into Stalinist deformity, fascist victory in the Spanish Civil War, and so on.

Cultural considerations wax as political hopes wane. [...]

—p.11 Cultural Revolution (10) by n+1 1 year, 6 months ago
12

[...] it doesn’t seem too great a stretch to see the American reception of Bourdieu, over the last dozen years or so, as the darkening into starless despair of the gloomy mood typical of Western Marxism: has complaining about the effects of American capitalism merely been our way of amassing cultural capital, meanwhile bolstering capitalism itself?

i like "the darkening into starless despair"

—p.12 Cultural Revolution (10) by n+1 1 year, 6 months ago

[...] it doesn’t seem too great a stretch to see the American reception of Bourdieu, over the last dozen years or so, as the darkening into starless despair of the gloomy mood typical of Western Marxism: has complaining about the effects of American capitalism merely been our way of amassing cultural capital, meanwhile bolstering capitalism itself?

i like "the darkening into starless despair"

—p.12 Cultural Revolution (10) by n+1 1 year, 6 months ago
15

Is there a way to make toward these summits from the neoliberal foothills of today?

We are witnessing and sometimes personally experiencing a sharp de-classing of intellectuals. Our precious credentials are increasingly useless for generating income and — let us hope — social prestige, too. This should mean that most intellectuals view ourselves as sinking, economically, into the lower-middle or working class, and that “meritocratic” markers — the contents of our bookshelves and iPods; our degrees — accord us less and less social status in our own and others’ eyes. Not to say there won’t remain a self-protective cultural elite hoarding its prestige: the hostility to criticism among mutually appreciative writers, artists, and academics — an aversion to meaningful disputes — is contemporary evidence of such a siege mentality. But we can also hope for something else: perhaps intellectuals’ increasing exposure to socioeconomic danger will give a new political dangerousness and reality to what some of us produce. Might the continuing commitment of de-classed left intellectuals and radical artists to their vocations, in spite of withered prospects and eroding prestige, give our work an antisystemic force, and credibility, it has lacked?

"neoliberal foothills" is great

—p.15 Cultural Revolution (10) by n+1 1 year, 6 months ago

Is there a way to make toward these summits from the neoliberal foothills of today?

We are witnessing and sometimes personally experiencing a sharp de-classing of intellectuals. Our precious credentials are increasingly useless for generating income and — let us hope — social prestige, too. This should mean that most intellectuals view ourselves as sinking, economically, into the lower-middle or working class, and that “meritocratic” markers — the contents of our bookshelves and iPods; our degrees — accord us less and less social status in our own and others’ eyes. Not to say there won’t remain a self-protective cultural elite hoarding its prestige: the hostility to criticism among mutually appreciative writers, artists, and academics — an aversion to meaningful disputes — is contemporary evidence of such a siege mentality. But we can also hope for something else: perhaps intellectuals’ increasing exposure to socioeconomic danger will give a new political dangerousness and reality to what some of us produce. Might the continuing commitment of de-classed left intellectuals and radical artists to their vocations, in spite of withered prospects and eroding prestige, give our work an antisystemic force, and credibility, it has lacked?

"neoliberal foothills" is great

—p.15 Cultural Revolution (10) by n+1 1 year, 6 months ago
16

The ongoing proletarianization of intellectuals prompts any number of further questions. Should we abandon the corporate publishers before they abandon us? So far we haven’t done so, but we’ve tried — as have many others — to fill the gaps left by the industry’s consolidation and caution. In our own work, should we tend toward more “accessible” language and popular forms — or take the increasing hopelessness of making a living from writing as license to experiment? In search of cheaper rents and fertile ground for new institutions, should we leave Brooklyn and make for the provinces? (Will we cross our displaced academic friends fleeing the other way?) Or do we stay and fight for rent control and the right to the city? And how to reply to the familiar reproach: If you want to change and not just interpret the world, why not give up writing and become an organizer or activist? Part of the answer, at least, is that learning to organize, like learning to write, takes years, and you can’t just substitute one job for the other — we will have to be amateur activists. Another part is that if activists are indispensable, so are intellectuals. The words of Adorno in “Sociology and Empirical Research” (1957), arguing for the Frankfurt School’s own version of critical sociology, come to mind: “Not only theory but also its absence becomes a material force when it seizes the masses.” Just this — for theorists and the masses alike — has been our problem.

These tentative answers to the whole perplex of culture and politics can also be taxed with vagueness and no doubt confusion. We’re trying to figure what to do from an unstable position amid crumbling institutions and generalized crisis. More than one variety of brave and honest, necessarily incomplete response to the dilemma can surely be offered, and still more varieties of evasive bullshit: a good ear will know the difference. We can’t bring ourselves to cheer the failure of institutions that have sustained us — but we can at least be grateful that the collapsing structures are carrying out a sort of structural rescue of meaningful individual choice, in politics and culture. Bobo or ProBo? Siege mentality (“We writers are in this together!”) or sorties beyond the walls: “We’re in this with almost everyone!”? Reform existing institutions, or replace them, or cultivate your own garden, or retire to your Unabomber cabin? Join the traditional intellectuals and seek patronage among think tanks, foundations, rich individuals, and multinational corporations, or do something for cultural revolution? Not that the old Marxist jargon matters too much, adopted or abandoned. What counts is history asking us a question — about our content or purpose in a society of accelerating insecurity, including our own — that one way or another we need to formulate as sharply as possible, since we answer it with our lives.

ahhhhhhh

—p.16 Cultural Revolution (10) by n+1 1 year, 6 months ago

The ongoing proletarianization of intellectuals prompts any number of further questions. Should we abandon the corporate publishers before they abandon us? So far we haven’t done so, but we’ve tried — as have many others — to fill the gaps left by the industry’s consolidation and caution. In our own work, should we tend toward more “accessible” language and popular forms — or take the increasing hopelessness of making a living from writing as license to experiment? In search of cheaper rents and fertile ground for new institutions, should we leave Brooklyn and make for the provinces? (Will we cross our displaced academic friends fleeing the other way?) Or do we stay and fight for rent control and the right to the city? And how to reply to the familiar reproach: If you want to change and not just interpret the world, why not give up writing and become an organizer or activist? Part of the answer, at least, is that learning to organize, like learning to write, takes years, and you can’t just substitute one job for the other — we will have to be amateur activists. Another part is that if activists are indispensable, so are intellectuals. The words of Adorno in “Sociology and Empirical Research” (1957), arguing for the Frankfurt School’s own version of critical sociology, come to mind: “Not only theory but also its absence becomes a material force when it seizes the masses.” Just this — for theorists and the masses alike — has been our problem.

These tentative answers to the whole perplex of culture and politics can also be taxed with vagueness and no doubt confusion. We’re trying to figure what to do from an unstable position amid crumbling institutions and generalized crisis. More than one variety of brave and honest, necessarily incomplete response to the dilemma can surely be offered, and still more varieties of evasive bullshit: a good ear will know the difference. We can’t bring ourselves to cheer the failure of institutions that have sustained us — but we can at least be grateful that the collapsing structures are carrying out a sort of structural rescue of meaningful individual choice, in politics and culture. Bobo or ProBo? Siege mentality (“We writers are in this together!”) or sorties beyond the walls: “We’re in this with almost everyone!”? Reform existing institutions, or replace them, or cultivate your own garden, or retire to your Unabomber cabin? Join the traditional intellectuals and seek patronage among think tanks, foundations, rich individuals, and multinational corporations, or do something for cultural revolution? Not that the old Marxist jargon matters too much, adopted or abandoned. What counts is history asking us a question — about our content or purpose in a society of accelerating insecurity, including our own — that one way or another we need to formulate as sharply as possible, since we answer it with our lives.

ahhhhhhh

—p.16 Cultural Revolution (10) by n+1 1 year, 6 months ago
41

I had made no conscious decision to be single, but love is rare and it is frequently unreciprocated. Because of this, people around me continued to view love as a sort of messianic event, and my friends expressed a religious belief that it would arrive for me one day, as if love was something the universe owed to each of us, which no human could escape. I had known love, but having known love I knew how powerless I was to instigate it or ensure its duration. Whether love was going to arrive or not, I could not suspend my life in the expectation of its arrival. So, back in New York, I was single, but only very rarely would more than a few weeks pass without some kind of sexual encounter.

What even to call these relationships? Most of my friends had slept with one another and I had slept with many friends, too. Sometimes years separated sexual encounters. Things thought buried in the past would cycle around again, this time with less anxiety and greater clarity, in a fluid manner that occasionally imploded in horrible displays of pain or temporary insanity, but which for the most part functioned smoothly. We were souls flitting through limbo, piling up against one another like dried leaves, circling around, awaiting the messiah.

pretty

—p.41 What Do You Desire? (27) by Emily Witt 1 year, 6 months ago

I had made no conscious decision to be single, but love is rare and it is frequently unreciprocated. Because of this, people around me continued to view love as a sort of messianic event, and my friends expressed a religious belief that it would arrive for me one day, as if love was something the universe owed to each of us, which no human could escape. I had known love, but having known love I knew how powerless I was to instigate it or ensure its duration. Whether love was going to arrive or not, I could not suspend my life in the expectation of its arrival. So, back in New York, I was single, but only very rarely would more than a few weeks pass without some kind of sexual encounter.

What even to call these relationships? Most of my friends had slept with one another and I had slept with many friends, too. Sometimes years separated sexual encounters. Things thought buried in the past would cycle around again, this time with less anxiety and greater clarity, in a fluid manner that occasionally imploded in horrible displays of pain or temporary insanity, but which for the most part functioned smoothly. We were souls flitting through limbo, piling up against one another like dried leaves, circling around, awaiting the messiah.

pretty

—p.41 What Do You Desire? (27) by Emily Witt 1 year, 6 months ago
64

“You have to love dancing to stick to it,” Cunningham once said. “It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.” Cunningham’s own archive argues the contrary, and the institution that tends to his legacy offers more than a semblance of permanence; the Capsules do give something back, as outlines for potential reconstructions. But Cunningham may have meant that these things are just placeholders, mementos. Cage once described Cunningham’s work as “less like an object and more like the weather.” One is no less present than the other; both are tangible. But an object is good at sticking around. The weather, on the other hand, passes on.

i like this

—p.64 The Merce Cunningham Archives (53) missing author 1 year, 6 months ago

“You have to love dancing to stick to it,” Cunningham once said. “It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.” Cunningham’s own archive argues the contrary, and the institution that tends to his legacy offers more than a semblance of permanence; the Capsules do give something back, as outlines for potential reconstructions. But Cunningham may have meant that these things are just placeholders, mementos. Cage once described Cunningham’s work as “less like an object and more like the weather.” One is no less present than the other; both are tangible. But an object is good at sticking around. The weather, on the other hand, passes on.

i like this

—p.64 The Merce Cunningham Archives (53) missing author 1 year, 6 months ago