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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

While the established pundits struggled to make sense of the world, a new cohort of activists and writers emerged with a scavenged explanation: class conflict. The reason no one could figure out if America was in crisis or out of one is because its effects were uneven, and by design. This was heresy in a twenty-first-century America, where socialism had been disproven. We were taught to locate ourselves near the end of history's long arc toward justice, a "You are here" dot sliding along the asymptote between the way things are and the best we could hope for them to be. And yet, stuff kept happening.

—p.3 Introduction (3) by Malcolm Harris 3 years, 6 months ago

While the established pundits struggled to make sense of the world, a new cohort of activists and writers emerged with a scavenged explanation: class conflict. The reason no one could figure out if America was in crisis or out of one is because its effects were uneven, and by design. This was heresy in a twenty-first-century America, where socialism had been disproven. We were taught to locate ourselves near the end of history's long arc toward justice, a "You are here" dot sliding along the asymptote between the way things are and the best we could hope for them to be. And yet, stuff kept happening.

—p.3 Introduction (3) by Malcolm Harris 3 years, 6 months ago
23

American institutions are used to measuring risks only to bury them under a pile of equations and hedge bets that are supposed to synthesize certainty. The risks one accepts to engage in acts of resistance can't be offset, but if it's any consolation, the risk management models haven't worked very well anyway, certainly not for carbon emissions or the housing market. And if we're not shielded from those risks - ecological catastrophe, economic collapse, etc. - the way we thought we were, then the equation changes. There is no safe baseline for comparison. Life becomes a question of what kind of risk we'd rather take: the frying pan or the fire.

Count my vote for the fire. I can think of no life more cowardly and dishonorable than one spent shoving and piling other, poorer people between me and the rising tide. Compared to the certain knowledge that that is what is required from Americans in the twenty-first century, what is there to risk? Status quo. "Out of the frying pan, into the fire" makes the first step to liberation sound like a pointless exercise, but there's no other route on offer, and the alternative could easily be just as bad depending on who you are, even in the short term. Better to risk it.

i like the bravado, and i also like how this is similar to a passage from my own book lol

—p.23 And Into the Fire (2019) (11) by Malcolm Harris 3 years, 6 months ago

American institutions are used to measuring risks only to bury them under a pile of equations and hedge bets that are supposed to synthesize certainty. The risks one accepts to engage in acts of resistance can't be offset, but if it's any consolation, the risk management models haven't worked very well anyway, certainly not for carbon emissions or the housing market. And if we're not shielded from those risks - ecological catastrophe, economic collapse, etc. - the way we thought we were, then the equation changes. There is no safe baseline for comparison. Life becomes a question of what kind of risk we'd rather take: the frying pan or the fire.

Count my vote for the fire. I can think of no life more cowardly and dishonorable than one spent shoving and piling other, poorer people between me and the rising tide. Compared to the certain knowledge that that is what is required from Americans in the twenty-first century, what is there to risk? Status quo. "Out of the frying pan, into the fire" makes the first step to liberation sound like a pointless exercise, but there's no other route on offer, and the alternative could easily be just as bad depending on who you are, even in the short term. Better to risk it.

i like the bravado, and i also like how this is similar to a passage from my own book lol

—p.23 And Into the Fire (2019) (11) by Malcolm Harris 3 years, 6 months ago
78

It’s this language that found purchase nationally, despite (and no one should be confused, it is despite) finding its direct antecedents in fringe radical theory. No matter what the pseudo-official pronouncements out of the occupations say, the encampments haven’t been about prefiguring a better society. Few occupiers are so naïve as to really think a ramshackle group of tents in a corporate non-park in the middle of New York City’s financial district could or should function like a post-capitalist biodome. Occupation is one kind of action a group with no self-perceived leverage takes. It’s a tactic based on a tension at the very root of governmental power: Bodies take up space, and if those limbs are determined not to move, it takes force to move them.

The sort of hopeless debt sketched out earlier reduces its holders to bodies stripped of assets, including the agency that is supposed to come with being a free laborer. For a sizable portion, these bodies don’t even own their own bodies insofar as the products of their future work are already promised.

—p.78 Arms and Legs (2012) (74) by Malcolm Harris 3 years, 6 months ago

It’s this language that found purchase nationally, despite (and no one should be confused, it is despite) finding its direct antecedents in fringe radical theory. No matter what the pseudo-official pronouncements out of the occupations say, the encampments haven’t been about prefiguring a better society. Few occupiers are so naïve as to really think a ramshackle group of tents in a corporate non-park in the middle of New York City’s financial district could or should function like a post-capitalist biodome. Occupation is one kind of action a group with no self-perceived leverage takes. It’s a tactic based on a tension at the very root of governmental power: Bodies take up space, and if those limbs are determined not to move, it takes force to move them.

The sort of hopeless debt sketched out earlier reduces its holders to bodies stripped of assets, including the agency that is supposed to come with being a free laborer. For a sizable portion, these bodies don’t even own their own bodies insofar as the products of their future work are already promised.

—p.78 Arms and Legs (2012) (74) by Malcolm Harris 3 years, 6 months ago
98

When Clara calls to tell Lucy that she’s been hired for some jobs, for which she’ll be paid exorbitantly, she cautions Lucy not to treat the income as stable. “Think of it as a windfall,” Clara says. “Pay off some student loans.”

There’s a remarkably open acknowledgment here that Lucy is in debt to a third party. The modern labor relation is not supposed to include employees’ consumer debt; whether they have credit cards is not the boss’s concern. A worker’s indebtedness is supposed to come up as a source of employer leverage only in shady criminal dealings when it’s owed to the boss: drugs and immigrant smuggling, or in the sharecropping fields and company towns we learn about in history class. But with student debt so prevalent, young workers are assumed (known) to have loans they’re compelled to pay, making them even more vulnerable on the market.

about the 2011 film sleeping beauty which i now want to watch

—p.98 Working Beauty (2012) (97) by Malcolm Harris 3 years, 6 months ago

When Clara calls to tell Lucy that she’s been hired for some jobs, for which she’ll be paid exorbitantly, she cautions Lucy not to treat the income as stable. “Think of it as a windfall,” Clara says. “Pay off some student loans.”

There’s a remarkably open acknowledgment here that Lucy is in debt to a third party. The modern labor relation is not supposed to include employees’ consumer debt; whether they have credit cards is not the boss’s concern. A worker’s indebtedness is supposed to come up as a source of employer leverage only in shady criminal dealings when it’s owed to the boss: drugs and immigrant smuggling, or in the sharecropping fields and company towns we learn about in history class. But with student debt so prevalent, young workers are assumed (known) to have loans they’re compelled to pay, making them even more vulnerable on the market.

about the 2011 film sleeping beauty which i now want to watch

—p.98 Working Beauty (2012) (97) by Malcolm Harris 3 years, 6 months ago
102

If our conception of what it means to be a worker relies on having a bargaining place at the table with the boss — that is, with certain classical notion of workers’ power — then Lucy isn’t a worker. She isn’t a worker, even though all she ever does is work, as in the four stills from the film above. She’s not going to unionize her coffee shop, nor her fellow sex workers, nor the assistants at her office (from which she’s fired), nor the other medical subjects, and certainly not the students. If she tried, she’d be terminated or worse: Clara threatens her with vague but menacing consequences if she misbehaves. And what does the doctor care if she goes on strike? He’ll pay someone else and stick a tube down her throat. A strategy of resistance against precarious wage labor can’t be “unionize your Starbucks,” as valiantly as the Wobblies have tried.

I don’t know exactly what a successful strategy looks like, but I think it has something to do with the penultimate shot in Sleeping Beauty. Lucy wakes prematurely after a dangerous drug interaction to find an old man’s naked corpse in bed with her — a client who paid to die there. She opens her eyes with a kiss of CPR breathing from Clara, and sits up like the princess from whom the film draws its name.

She opens her eyes and she screams and she doesn’t stop.

—p.102 Working Beauty (2012) (97) by Malcolm Harris 3 years, 6 months ago

If our conception of what it means to be a worker relies on having a bargaining place at the table with the boss — that is, with certain classical notion of workers’ power — then Lucy isn’t a worker. She isn’t a worker, even though all she ever does is work, as in the four stills from the film above. She’s not going to unionize her coffee shop, nor her fellow sex workers, nor the assistants at her office (from which she’s fired), nor the other medical subjects, and certainly not the students. If she tried, she’d be terminated or worse: Clara threatens her with vague but menacing consequences if she misbehaves. And what does the doctor care if she goes on strike? He’ll pay someone else and stick a tube down her throat. A strategy of resistance against precarious wage labor can’t be “unionize your Starbucks,” as valiantly as the Wobblies have tried.

I don’t know exactly what a successful strategy looks like, but I think it has something to do with the penultimate shot in Sleeping Beauty. Lucy wakes prematurely after a dangerous drug interaction to find an old man’s naked corpse in bed with her — a client who paid to die there. She opens her eyes with a kiss of CPR breathing from Clara, and sits up like the princess from whom the film draws its name.

She opens her eyes and she screams and she doesn’t stop.

—p.102 Working Beauty (2012) (97) by Malcolm Harris 3 years, 6 months ago
139

Despite what you may have heard, Marxists recognize that people exist. But unlike liberals (in both red and blue flavors), we don’t understand the world via the existential individual’s relationship to society. Recorded human history is the history of class conflict, and every child is born into a specific historical moment and into a specific position within that specific moment. Societies, we Marxists believe, have their characters determined by their relations of production, sometimes called society’s “base.” Feudal society was feudal, and capitalist society—under the first truly global mode of production—is capitalist. That means, in the simplest version, that the conflict between workers and owners is what structures the rest. “It is as though light of a particular hue were cast upon everything,” Marx writes, “tingeing all other colors and modifying their specific features.” Upon everything.

nice summary

—p.139 Fidel Castro's Naked Leg, or Notes on Political Correctness (2019) (135) by Malcolm Harris 3 years, 6 months ago

Despite what you may have heard, Marxists recognize that people exist. But unlike liberals (in both red and blue flavors), we don’t understand the world via the existential individual’s relationship to society. Recorded human history is the history of class conflict, and every child is born into a specific historical moment and into a specific position within that specific moment. Societies, we Marxists believe, have their characters determined by their relations of production, sometimes called society’s “base.” Feudal society was feudal, and capitalist society—under the first truly global mode of production—is capitalist. That means, in the simplest version, that the conflict between workers and owners is what structures the rest. “It is as though light of a particular hue were cast upon everything,” Marx writes, “tingeing all other colors and modifying their specific features.” Upon everything.

nice summary

—p.139 Fidel Castro's Naked Leg, or Notes on Political Correctness (2019) (135) by Malcolm Harris 3 years, 6 months ago
146

Liberals find the idea that anything is more important than the individual, well, offensive. But does the world treat us as individuals? Is that what you tell a boss who has just laid you off? “I’m sorry the stockholders took a hit, but I need this job, and as you know nothing is more important than the individual.” Do we each wander a lonely path, advancing next to but separate from the people around us according to a mix of skill and luck, like a board game token? Does the world conform to our judgments, or is truer to say we mostly get what we get? Is it all-against-all or class-against-class? If the answer is the latter—and it is—then whose side you’re on precedes your individuality in importance. The individual only comes out when the authorities are looking for a distraction, a scapegoat, or an excuse.

The significant objective fact is that we live in a class society, and until we don’t anymore, that will continue to be the significant objective fact. To be PC is to acknowledge that truth as found, to recognize that we don’t each of us need to go rummaging through the bargain basement of ideas to understand society. The task for communists is to work with constancy and rigor in our thought and action toward a revolutionary break with class society. It’s only there, on an earth where people are not grouped for exploitation, where we can speak meaningfully about the individual. We’re looking forward to it.

—p.146 Fidel Castro's Naked Leg, or Notes on Political Correctness (2019) (135) by Malcolm Harris 3 years, 6 months ago

Liberals find the idea that anything is more important than the individual, well, offensive. But does the world treat us as individuals? Is that what you tell a boss who has just laid you off? “I’m sorry the stockholders took a hit, but I need this job, and as you know nothing is more important than the individual.” Do we each wander a lonely path, advancing next to but separate from the people around us according to a mix of skill and luck, like a board game token? Does the world conform to our judgments, or is truer to say we mostly get what we get? Is it all-against-all or class-against-class? If the answer is the latter—and it is—then whose side you’re on precedes your individuality in importance. The individual only comes out when the authorities are looking for a distraction, a scapegoat, or an excuse.

The significant objective fact is that we live in a class society, and until we don’t anymore, that will continue to be the significant objective fact. To be PC is to acknowledge that truth as found, to recognize that we don’t each of us need to go rummaging through the bargain basement of ideas to understand society. The task for communists is to work with constancy and rigor in our thought and action toward a revolutionary break with class society. It’s only there, on an earth where people are not grouped for exploitation, where we can speak meaningfully about the individual. We’re looking forward to it.

—p.146 Fidel Castro's Naked Leg, or Notes on Political Correctness (2019) (135) by Malcolm Harris 3 years, 6 months ago
159

A world where women dominated Wall Street would have had to be so completely different from the actual world that to describe it wouldn’t tell us anything about the actual world. Thousands of years of history would need to be rewritten in order to lead up to the hypothetical moment that an investment bank named Lehman Sisters could handle its over-exposure to an overheated American housing market.

a quote from Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner?

—p.159 Mom's Invisible Hand (2016) (158) by Katrine Marçal 3 years, 6 months ago

A world where women dominated Wall Street would have had to be so completely different from the actual world that to describe it wouldn’t tell us anything about the actual world. Thousands of years of history would need to be rewritten in order to lead up to the hypothetical moment that an investment bank named Lehman Sisters could handle its over-exposure to an overheated American housing market.

a quote from Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner?

—p.159 Mom's Invisible Hand (2016) (158) by Katrine Marçal 3 years, 6 months ago
160

In short, self-contained chapters, Marçal moves through the contradictions and errors flowing from Smith’s mistake. Although Marçal’s target is economics, her critique applies to social contract theorists and any philosophy that starts with the individual, as in the thought of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes. Only a man, she suggests, would imagine independence rather than dependence as the basis for the human condition. Individualists make the mistake of economic thinking: They forget about their mothers. “No one reads books about childbirth in order to understand human existence,” Marçal writes. “We read Shakespeare. Or one of the great philosophers who write about how people spring from the earth like mushrooms and immediately start drafting social contracts with each other.” To the idea that human society begins with men negotiating for their individual security, Marçal replies, “Hardly.”

—p.160 Mom's Invisible Hand (2016) (158) by Malcolm Harris 3 years, 6 months ago

In short, self-contained chapters, Marçal moves through the contradictions and errors flowing from Smith’s mistake. Although Marçal’s target is economics, her critique applies to social contract theorists and any philosophy that starts with the individual, as in the thought of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes. Only a man, she suggests, would imagine independence rather than dependence as the basis for the human condition. Individualists make the mistake of economic thinking: They forget about their mothers. “No one reads books about childbirth in order to understand human existence,” Marçal writes. “We read Shakespeare. Or one of the great philosophers who write about how people spring from the earth like mushrooms and immediately start drafting social contracts with each other.” To the idea that human society begins with men negotiating for their individual security, Marçal replies, “Hardly.”

—p.160 Mom's Invisible Hand (2016) (158) by Malcolm Harris 3 years, 6 months ago
186

But to think about American slaves merely as coerced and unpaid laborers is to misunderstand the institution. Slaves weren’t just workers, the Sublettes remind the reader—they were human capital. The very idea that people could be property is so offensive that we tend retroactively to elide the designation, projecting onto history the less-noxious idea of the enslaved worker, rather than the slave as commodity. Mapping 20th-century labor models onto slavery spares us from reckoning with the full consequences of organized dehumanization, which lets us off too easy: To turn people into products means more than not paying them for their work.

—p.186 A Future History of the United States (2016) (185) by Malcolm Harris 3 years, 6 months ago

But to think about American slaves merely as coerced and unpaid laborers is to misunderstand the institution. Slaves weren’t just workers, the Sublettes remind the reader—they were human capital. The very idea that people could be property is so offensive that we tend retroactively to elide the designation, projecting onto history the less-noxious idea of the enslaved worker, rather than the slave as commodity. Mapping 20th-century labor models onto slavery spares us from reckoning with the full consequences of organized dehumanization, which lets us off too easy: To turn people into products means more than not paying them for their work.

—p.186 A Future History of the United States (2016) (185) by Malcolm Harris 3 years, 6 months ago