Welcome to Bookmarker!

This is a personal project by @dellsystem. I built this to help me retain information from the books I'm reading. Currently can only be used by a single user (myself), but I plan to extend it to support multiple users eventually.

Source code on GitHub (MIT license).

39

A number of times, some of which I hardly remember, all of which I try to forget, I left an apartment where I had a sexual encounter and things had happened that made me feel violated. Though I had also felt lust, or pretended to—the difference between being and pretending is not always easy to gauge. Perhaps I had wanted not to want, and the lust came from feeling myself outside myself, from the lewdness of ceasing to be an agent. Was I giving him the impression that I wanted it? Did I want it? Perhaps there are two selves in me: one wants, the other doesn’t. Perhaps there are more than two.

Even if I mostly adhere to my perplexed disjunction, I can see why claiming a grievance can be empowering. It marks the moment when self-doubt subsides. No. I did not want it. The clarity of grievance constitutes a Cartesian moment; a new, unified and resolute subject emerges. In completely negating the event, I own myself. I was wronged, therefore I am.

I like this writing

—p.39 Blame the Victim (39) missing author 3 weeks, 2 days ago

A number of times, some of which I hardly remember, all of which I try to forget, I left an apartment where I had a sexual encounter and things had happened that made me feel violated. Though I had also felt lust, or pretended to—the difference between being and pretending is not always easy to gauge. Perhaps I had wanted not to want, and the lust came from feeling myself outside myself, from the lewdness of ceasing to be an agent. Was I giving him the impression that I wanted it? Did I want it? Perhaps there are two selves in me: one wants, the other doesn’t. Perhaps there are more than two.

Even if I mostly adhere to my perplexed disjunction, I can see why claiming a grievance can be empowering. It marks the moment when self-doubt subsides. No. I did not want it. The clarity of grievance constitutes a Cartesian moment; a new, unified and resolute subject emerges. In completely negating the event, I own myself. I was wronged, therefore I am.

I like this writing

—p.39 Blame the Victim (39) missing author 3 weeks, 2 days ago
81

Hansen argues that her lack of awareness about America’s role in the world was structural, intentional—an ignorance that many Americans, particularly white Americans, wear like mental armor, allowing them to believe, against all evidence, that our political and military interventions abroad are always necessary, successful and well-intentioned. “I would never have admitted it, or thought to say it,” Hansen explains, “but looking back, I know that deep in my consciousness I thought that America was at the end of some evolutionary spectrum of civilization, and everyone else was trying to catch up.” Hence, she assumed that in Istanbul, she would assess how well Turkey was meeting certain U.S. standards (“democratization,” “modernization”); she would also think about “solutions” to Islam, because “that’s what Americans always do.”

Hansen occasionally mentions The Fire Next Time (1963), in which Baldwin describes the willful, violent blindness of white Americans, and their determination not to face “reality—the fact that life is tragic.” Baldwin himself left America for France and Turkey because he found life there false and unbearable, a physical and psychological assault. At least African Americans, he wrote, possess “the great advantage of having never believed the collection of myths to which white Americans cling: that their ancestors were all freedom-loving heroes, that they were born in the greatest country the world has ever seen, or that Americans are invincible in battle and wise in peace.” Hansen read this passage long before moving to Turkey, but one of her points is how often we can know something but not really accept it. She writes: “Even when I disagreed with America’s policies, I always believed in our inherent goodness, in my own.”

From Istanbul, Hansen traveled to report from Greece, Egypt and Afghanistan, only to discover from wry, patient locals that the crisis each country is currently undergoing can be explained by a history in which U.S. intervention figures prominently. [...]

—p.81 Innocence Abroad (79) missing author 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Hansen argues that her lack of awareness about America’s role in the world was structural, intentional—an ignorance that many Americans, particularly white Americans, wear like mental armor, allowing them to believe, against all evidence, that our political and military interventions abroad are always necessary, successful and well-intentioned. “I would never have admitted it, or thought to say it,” Hansen explains, “but looking back, I know that deep in my consciousness I thought that America was at the end of some evolutionary spectrum of civilization, and everyone else was trying to catch up.” Hence, she assumed that in Istanbul, she would assess how well Turkey was meeting certain U.S. standards (“democratization,” “modernization”); she would also think about “solutions” to Islam, because “that’s what Americans always do.”

Hansen occasionally mentions The Fire Next Time (1963), in which Baldwin describes the willful, violent blindness of white Americans, and their determination not to face “reality—the fact that life is tragic.” Baldwin himself left America for France and Turkey because he found life there false and unbearable, a physical and psychological assault. At least African Americans, he wrote, possess “the great advantage of having never believed the collection of myths to which white Americans cling: that their ancestors were all freedom-loving heroes, that they were born in the greatest country the world has ever seen, or that Americans are invincible in battle and wise in peace.” Hansen read this passage long before moving to Turkey, but one of her points is how often we can know something but not really accept it. She writes: “Even when I disagreed with America’s policies, I always believed in our inherent goodness, in my own.”

From Istanbul, Hansen traveled to report from Greece, Egypt and Afghanistan, only to discover from wry, patient locals that the crisis each country is currently undergoing can be explained by a history in which U.S. intervention figures prominently. [...]

—p.81 Innocence Abroad (79) missing author 3 weeks, 2 days ago
85

“American innocence never dies,” Hansen writes in the book’s final pages. “That pain in my heart is my innocence. The only difference is that now I know it. If there was anything fully shattered during my years abroad, it was faith in my own objectivity, as a journalist or as a human being.” In the end, for Hansen the relationship between the U.S. and the rest of the world boils down to how one American feels, which may be the most American move of all.

hahaha

—p.85 Innocence Abroad (79) missing author 3 weeks, 2 days ago

“American innocence never dies,” Hansen writes in the book’s final pages. “That pain in my heart is my innocence. The only difference is that now I know it. If there was anything fully shattered during my years abroad, it was faith in my own objectivity, as a journalist or as a human being.” In the end, for Hansen the relationship between the U.S. and the rest of the world boils down to how one American feels, which may be the most American move of all.

hahaha

—p.85 Innocence Abroad (79) missing author 3 weeks, 2 days ago
89

Hansen argues that American prosperity and identity are based on imperialism abroad as much as on racism at home. I agree, yet I have trouble seeing how most Americans prospered from the invasion of Iraq. Instead, I wonder at how much the fraudulent freedom we export abroad resembles the version we extol at home—a freedom that is undercut by economic bondage, by a barely concealed determination to disenfranchise so many.

At the same time, to explain everything through the lens of American power is to explain less. One ends up reflecting back the mirage of American omnipotence instead of the reality of U.S. blundering, blindness and internal dissent, of our inability to address the most basic needs of our own society (gun control, health care, an end to police brutality, economic inequality), let alone to confront global challenges such as climate change. One also risks turning all non-Americans into pawns, vassals and victims. Conspiracy theories that ascribe everything to American power diminish the responsibility of local regimes and elites, and the autonomy of people who have staked their own claim to the United States’ proclaimed principles, challenging it to live up to its rhetoric.

—p.89 Innocence Abroad (79) missing author 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Hansen argues that American prosperity and identity are based on imperialism abroad as much as on racism at home. I agree, yet I have trouble seeing how most Americans prospered from the invasion of Iraq. Instead, I wonder at how much the fraudulent freedom we export abroad resembles the version we extol at home—a freedom that is undercut by economic bondage, by a barely concealed determination to disenfranchise so many.

At the same time, to explain everything through the lens of American power is to explain less. One ends up reflecting back the mirage of American omnipotence instead of the reality of U.S. blundering, blindness and internal dissent, of our inability to address the most basic needs of our own society (gun control, health care, an end to police brutality, economic inequality), let alone to confront global challenges such as climate change. One also risks turning all non-Americans into pawns, vassals and victims. Conspiracy theories that ascribe everything to American power diminish the responsibility of local regimes and elites, and the autonomy of people who have staked their own claim to the United States’ proclaimed principles, challenging it to live up to its rhetoric.

—p.89 Innocence Abroad (79) missing author 3 weeks, 2 days ago
91

For all his hard-bitten clarity, Baldwin expressed hope that America could see itself and could change “in order to deal with the untapped and dormant force of the previously subjugated, in order to survive as a human, moving, moral weight in the world.” He argued for what I think of as a sort of useful idealism, one that acknowledges reality as it is but does not accept that it has to remain so. He wagered that people could be better than they are: “We are capable of bearing a great burden, once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is.”

How do we come to that realization? One way is through books, which can lure us to foreign lands in the first place, and can share with others the wonders and terrors we have discovered abroad. Sometimes they can be as deep of an experience as travel itself, fundamentally rearranging our perspective.

—p.91 Innocence Abroad (79) missing author 3 weeks, 2 days ago

For all his hard-bitten clarity, Baldwin expressed hope that America could see itself and could change “in order to deal with the untapped and dormant force of the previously subjugated, in order to survive as a human, moving, moral weight in the world.” He argued for what I think of as a sort of useful idealism, one that acknowledges reality as it is but does not accept that it has to remain so. He wagered that people could be better than they are: “We are capable of bearing a great burden, once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is.”

How do we come to that realization? One way is through books, which can lure us to foreign lands in the first place, and can share with others the wonders and terrors we have discovered abroad. Sometimes they can be as deep of an experience as travel itself, fundamentally rearranging our perspective.

—p.91 Innocence Abroad (79) missing author 3 weeks, 2 days ago
93

For over a century, the United States has wielded extraordinary economic and military power. That power has shaped the world, and us. Abroad, it has often been used in ways that reveal our most undemocratic, exploitative, racist tendencies. But that we have betrayed our principles and hoarded our liberties does not make them empty—they are still worth claiming. Just as there are elements of our national culture worth admiring and cherishing.

But why is it so hard for us to admit that as human beings and moral agents, Americans are just like everyone else? Our lives and desires do not rank higher or lower; our motives and methods are not unique. The insistence on American exceptionalism as a personal birthright is not so much childish as adolescent: the desire to be declared inherently special, regardless of one’s actions, and the nagging fear that one is not.

Perhaps the way for Americans to truly enter the world, as equals and adults, is not to take our power for granted or to renounce it, but to treat it, while we have it, as the historical contingency and the responsibility it is.

At one point, Sarat is asked whether she would take the chance to escape to safety. She declines. “Somewhere in her mind,” writes Akkad, “an idea had begun to fester—perhaps the longing for safety was itself another kind of violence—a violence of cowardice, silence and submission. What was safety, anyway, but the sound of a bomb falling on someone else’s home?”

—p.93 Innocence Abroad (79) missing author 3 weeks, 2 days ago

For over a century, the United States has wielded extraordinary economic and military power. That power has shaped the world, and us. Abroad, it has often been used in ways that reveal our most undemocratic, exploitative, racist tendencies. But that we have betrayed our principles and hoarded our liberties does not make them empty—they are still worth claiming. Just as there are elements of our national culture worth admiring and cherishing.

But why is it so hard for us to admit that as human beings and moral agents, Americans are just like everyone else? Our lives and desires do not rank higher or lower; our motives and methods are not unique. The insistence on American exceptionalism as a personal birthright is not so much childish as adolescent: the desire to be declared inherently special, regardless of one’s actions, and the nagging fear that one is not.

Perhaps the way for Americans to truly enter the world, as equals and adults, is not to take our power for granted or to renounce it, but to treat it, while we have it, as the historical contingency and the responsibility it is.

At one point, Sarat is asked whether she would take the chance to escape to safety. She declines. “Somewhere in her mind,” writes Akkad, “an idea had begun to fester—perhaps the longing for safety was itself another kind of violence—a violence of cowardice, silence and submission. What was safety, anyway, but the sound of a bomb falling on someone else’s home?”

—p.93 Innocence Abroad (79) missing author 3 weeks, 2 days ago
99

I had learned about the literary magazine n+1 while I was still at the Center, having stumbled one day across a webpage so hideous I could only assume the ugliness was politically motivated. In the opening “Intellectual Situation,” the unattributed section at the beginning of the magazine, the editors of n+1 took aim at two publications that back then I would have said I admired. Dave Eggers’s McSweeney’s “was a briefly significant magazine,” the editors wrote, which had sunk into obsolescence as it prioritized “the claims of childhood” over the workings of intellect. Leon Wieseltier’s highly acclaimed books section in the New Republic suffered from the opposite problem: its self-seriousness had hardened into a vulgar decadence. For a book of Lionel Trilling essays he was editing, Wieseltier had chosen the title The Moral Responsibility to Be Intelligent. “The moral responsibility is not to be intelligent,” the n+1 editors chided. “It’s to think.”

The editors were expressing a sentiment, I realized as I read it, that I shared but hadn’t yet been able to articulate to myself: a disappointment, or irritation, with the existing intellectual alternatives. Also a reminder that there was such a thing as thinking, and that you could fail to do it. Sometimes you could fail to do it even though it looked to everyone around you like you were doing it. I reflected on this as I sat at my desk at the think tank, reporting on progress. Then I subscribed to n+1.

Not long after, I attended the magazine’s first release party in Manhattan. By the time I arrived, several hundred people were gathered in the dimly lit Lower East Side gymnasium. Here were the “younger left intelligentsia” that the historian Russell Jacoby, in his 1987 book The Last Intellectuals, had hoped would one day be roused from their academic slumbers. Had they been roused by the Iraq War, the magazine’s trenchant analysis of late capitalism, or the cheap drinks? Did it matter? They had gone to the same schools as my colleagues at the think tank, and studied many of the same subjects (a bit more Derrida here, a bit more Schlesinger there). But whereas at the think tank everyone was hunched anxiously forward, imparting an air of professional intensity (or panic; the line was thin), the partygoers arched away from one another as if steadying themselves on skis, their postures connoting a carefully calibrated alienation. We held our $2 beers in one hand and our $10 maroon magazines in the other, and waited for the band to play.

n+1, founded in 2004, turned out to be the first of many “little magazines” that would be born after the end of history, after the end of long form, and after the end of print. The New Inquiry, Jacobin, the Baffler (v. 2.0), Pacific Standard and the Los Angeles Review of Books, as well as refurbished versions of Dissent and the Boston Review, all followed over the next decade. (The Point was founded in 2009.) These magazines would go on, despite minuscule budgets and peripatetic publishing schedules, to produce or support a high percentage of the most significant cultural critics and essayists of the next decade. You know their names if you read any of the legacy magazines or the New York Times, all of which now regularly poach writers and editors from their talent pool.

Like the New York intellectuals who had clustered around Commentary and the Partisan Review in the Sixties, and partly in conscious imitation of them, the writers and editors of the new magazines blended art, criticism, philosophy and self-examination in the confidence that these activities would all be, when carried out with a sufficient level of clarity and insight, mutually re-inforcing. Indeed the appeal of n+1 was, for me, not merely due to its ability to articulate my dissatisfaction with literary culture. The magazine took for granted that the failure to think was responsible all at once for the sorry state of the American short story, our manic relationship to exercise, and the complicity of liberal elites in the invasion of Iraq. Reading it, one had the feeling that, in fact, the entire country had stopped thinking—or had grown satisfied with a false form of thought, just as it had grown satisfied with false forms of so many other things. This was a phenomenon that had to be tracked down in each and every area of our experience. My favorite early essays in n+1 were about Radiohead, Russian literature, the rise of the “neuronovel” and the psychology of the Virginia Tech mass shooter. Another was about taking Adderall. These were not topics that would have been considered of great political importance at a place like the Center. I was not sure that my own interest in them was primarily political. But the passionate intensity with which they were treated undoubtedly owed something to the sense that they were not of merely subjective significance: square by square, the magazine was filling in a map of contemporary experience, and that map would show us where to go next, not to mention what (if anything) was worth taking with us when we went. The project was political primarily in the sense that it pointed in a direction, indicated by the magazine’s title. “Civilization is the dream of advance,” read a note from the editors in the first issue. We were not merely going to report on progress; we were going to make it.

It was exhilarating to try and live this way. It invested what might seem like trivial everyday decisions with a world-historical import. At least that’s how it felt to me for a little while. Eventually, I began to notice in myself a tension that also existed at the heart of the project of n+1, and of many of the other little magazines. My aesthetic and cultural tastes, the reflection of a lifetime of economic privilege and elite education, did not always, or often, match the direction the magazines were trying to take me politically. This had not troubled me before, because I had never considered that—as the little magazines echoed Fredric Jameson in asserting, or at least implying—“everything is ‘in the last analysis’ political.” But now I had come to see that politics were not just an activity that people engaged in at certain times: when they voted, or protested, or wrote newsletters for think tanks. It was something that could be said to infuse every aspect of one’s experience, from which big-box store you shopped at for your year’s supply of toilet paper, to what restaurants you chose to eat at, to who you chose to sleep with. This was what it meant not just to engage in politics but to “have a politics”—a phrase I probably heard for the first time at that n+1 party, and that was often brandished as if it legitimated one’s entire way of life. What it meant for everything to be in the last analysis political, I came to see, was that everything I did ought to be disciplined by my politics. But what if it wasn’t? Should I then revise my politics, or myself?

I was coming to appreciate an old problem for the “intellectual of the left.” This problem is so old, and has been addressed unsuccessfully by so many very smart people, that we are probably justified in considering it to be irresolvable. To state it as simply as possible, the left intellectual typically advocates for a world that would not include many of the privileges or sensibilities (partly a product of the privileges) on which her status as an intellectual depends. These privileges may be, and often are, economic, but this is not their only or their most consequential form. Their chief form is cultural. The intellectual of the left is almost always a person of remarkably high education, not just in the sense of having fancy credentials, which many rich people who are not cultural elites also have, but also on account of their appetite for forms of art and argument that many they claim to speak for do not understand and would not agree with if they did. They write long, complicated articles for magazines that those with lesser educations, or who do not share their cultural sensibilities, would never read. They claim to speak for the underclasses, and yet they give voice to hardly anyone who has not emancipated themselves culturally from these classes in their pages.

One of the things that made n+1 such a compelling magazine is that their editors, instead of pretending, as many left intellectuals do, that this was not a problem, agonized openly about it. In the Intellectual Situation entitled “Revolt of the Elites” (2010), they called for an education system that would close the cultural gap between themselves and the rest of society, thereby making their high education the norm rather than a privilege. In “Death by Degrees” (2012), they offered to burn their Ph.D.s in protest of the unequal system that had produced them (if only they could torch their understanding of Bourdieu!). In “Cultural Revolution” (2013), they imagined a future where the “proletarianization of intellectuals” would lead to an increase in the “antisystemic” force of their critique. None of these proposals, however, addressed the central issue in the present: anyone writing, editing and reading articles in n+1 or any of the other magazines that had grown up with similar politics in its wake—anyone trafficking knowingly in terms like “proletarianization” and “antisystemic”—was engaging in an activity that, if it didn’t actively exacerbate the gap between cultural elites and the rest of society, certainly didn’t look like the most direct way of addressing it. How could the elitism that is intrinsic to the institution of the little magazine be squared with the urgent importance their writers and editors attached to the subversion of elitism?

—p.99 Tired of Winning (97) by Jon Baskin 3 weeks, 2 days ago

I had learned about the literary magazine n+1 while I was still at the Center, having stumbled one day across a webpage so hideous I could only assume the ugliness was politically motivated. In the opening “Intellectual Situation,” the unattributed section at the beginning of the magazine, the editors of n+1 took aim at two publications that back then I would have said I admired. Dave Eggers’s McSweeney’s “was a briefly significant magazine,” the editors wrote, which had sunk into obsolescence as it prioritized “the claims of childhood” over the workings of intellect. Leon Wieseltier’s highly acclaimed books section in the New Republic suffered from the opposite problem: its self-seriousness had hardened into a vulgar decadence. For a book of Lionel Trilling essays he was editing, Wieseltier had chosen the title The Moral Responsibility to Be Intelligent. “The moral responsibility is not to be intelligent,” the n+1 editors chided. “It’s to think.”

The editors were expressing a sentiment, I realized as I read it, that I shared but hadn’t yet been able to articulate to myself: a disappointment, or irritation, with the existing intellectual alternatives. Also a reminder that there was such a thing as thinking, and that you could fail to do it. Sometimes you could fail to do it even though it looked to everyone around you like you were doing it. I reflected on this as I sat at my desk at the think tank, reporting on progress. Then I subscribed to n+1.

Not long after, I attended the magazine’s first release party in Manhattan. By the time I arrived, several hundred people were gathered in the dimly lit Lower East Side gymnasium. Here were the “younger left intelligentsia” that the historian Russell Jacoby, in his 1987 book The Last Intellectuals, had hoped would one day be roused from their academic slumbers. Had they been roused by the Iraq War, the magazine’s trenchant analysis of late capitalism, or the cheap drinks? Did it matter? They had gone to the same schools as my colleagues at the think tank, and studied many of the same subjects (a bit more Derrida here, a bit more Schlesinger there). But whereas at the think tank everyone was hunched anxiously forward, imparting an air of professional intensity (or panic; the line was thin), the partygoers arched away from one another as if steadying themselves on skis, their postures connoting a carefully calibrated alienation. We held our $2 beers in one hand and our $10 maroon magazines in the other, and waited for the band to play.

n+1, founded in 2004, turned out to be the first of many “little magazines” that would be born after the end of history, after the end of long form, and after the end of print. The New Inquiry, Jacobin, the Baffler (v. 2.0), Pacific Standard and the Los Angeles Review of Books, as well as refurbished versions of Dissent and the Boston Review, all followed over the next decade. (The Point was founded in 2009.) These magazines would go on, despite minuscule budgets and peripatetic publishing schedules, to produce or support a high percentage of the most significant cultural critics and essayists of the next decade. You know their names if you read any of the legacy magazines or the New York Times, all of which now regularly poach writers and editors from their talent pool.

Like the New York intellectuals who had clustered around Commentary and the Partisan Review in the Sixties, and partly in conscious imitation of them, the writers and editors of the new magazines blended art, criticism, philosophy and self-examination in the confidence that these activities would all be, when carried out with a sufficient level of clarity and insight, mutually re-inforcing. Indeed the appeal of n+1 was, for me, not merely due to its ability to articulate my dissatisfaction with literary culture. The magazine took for granted that the failure to think was responsible all at once for the sorry state of the American short story, our manic relationship to exercise, and the complicity of liberal elites in the invasion of Iraq. Reading it, one had the feeling that, in fact, the entire country had stopped thinking—or had grown satisfied with a false form of thought, just as it had grown satisfied with false forms of so many other things. This was a phenomenon that had to be tracked down in each and every area of our experience. My favorite early essays in n+1 were about Radiohead, Russian literature, the rise of the “neuronovel” and the psychology of the Virginia Tech mass shooter. Another was about taking Adderall. These were not topics that would have been considered of great political importance at a place like the Center. I was not sure that my own interest in them was primarily political. But the passionate intensity with which they were treated undoubtedly owed something to the sense that they were not of merely subjective significance: square by square, the magazine was filling in a map of contemporary experience, and that map would show us where to go next, not to mention what (if anything) was worth taking with us when we went. The project was political primarily in the sense that it pointed in a direction, indicated by the magazine’s title. “Civilization is the dream of advance,” read a note from the editors in the first issue. We were not merely going to report on progress; we were going to make it.

It was exhilarating to try and live this way. It invested what might seem like trivial everyday decisions with a world-historical import. At least that’s how it felt to me for a little while. Eventually, I began to notice in myself a tension that also existed at the heart of the project of n+1, and of many of the other little magazines. My aesthetic and cultural tastes, the reflection of a lifetime of economic privilege and elite education, did not always, or often, match the direction the magazines were trying to take me politically. This had not troubled me before, because I had never considered that—as the little magazines echoed Fredric Jameson in asserting, or at least implying—“everything is ‘in the last analysis’ political.” But now I had come to see that politics were not just an activity that people engaged in at certain times: when they voted, or protested, or wrote newsletters for think tanks. It was something that could be said to infuse every aspect of one’s experience, from which big-box store you shopped at for your year’s supply of toilet paper, to what restaurants you chose to eat at, to who you chose to sleep with. This was what it meant not just to engage in politics but to “have a politics”—a phrase I probably heard for the first time at that n+1 party, and that was often brandished as if it legitimated one’s entire way of life. What it meant for everything to be in the last analysis political, I came to see, was that everything I did ought to be disciplined by my politics. But what if it wasn’t? Should I then revise my politics, or myself?

I was coming to appreciate an old problem for the “intellectual of the left.” This problem is so old, and has been addressed unsuccessfully by so many very smart people, that we are probably justified in considering it to be irresolvable. To state it as simply as possible, the left intellectual typically advocates for a world that would not include many of the privileges or sensibilities (partly a product of the privileges) on which her status as an intellectual depends. These privileges may be, and often are, economic, but this is not their only or their most consequential form. Their chief form is cultural. The intellectual of the left is almost always a person of remarkably high education, not just in the sense of having fancy credentials, which many rich people who are not cultural elites also have, but also on account of their appetite for forms of art and argument that many they claim to speak for do not understand and would not agree with if they did. They write long, complicated articles for magazines that those with lesser educations, or who do not share their cultural sensibilities, would never read. They claim to speak for the underclasses, and yet they give voice to hardly anyone who has not emancipated themselves culturally from these classes in their pages.

One of the things that made n+1 such a compelling magazine is that their editors, instead of pretending, as many left intellectuals do, that this was not a problem, agonized openly about it. In the Intellectual Situation entitled “Revolt of the Elites” (2010), they called for an education system that would close the cultural gap between themselves and the rest of society, thereby making their high education the norm rather than a privilege. In “Death by Degrees” (2012), they offered to burn their Ph.D.s in protest of the unequal system that had produced them (if only they could torch their understanding of Bourdieu!). In “Cultural Revolution” (2013), they imagined a future where the “proletarianization of intellectuals” would lead to an increase in the “antisystemic” force of their critique. None of these proposals, however, addressed the central issue in the present: anyone writing, editing and reading articles in n+1 or any of the other magazines that had grown up with similar politics in its wake—anyone trafficking knowingly in terms like “proletarianization” and “antisystemic”—was engaging in an activity that, if it didn’t actively exacerbate the gap between cultural elites and the rest of society, certainly didn’t look like the most direct way of addressing it. How could the elitism that is intrinsic to the institution of the little magazine be squared with the urgent importance their writers and editors attached to the subversion of elitism?

—p.99 Tired of Winning (97) by Jon Baskin 3 weeks, 2 days ago
101

Probably any leftist magazine’s dynamism depends on its ability to balance its elitism with its anti-elitism: a tension that also expresses itself in the eternal conflict between the intellectual’s desire to interpret their society and their desire to play a part in improving it. The balance is liable to be upset by events: ironically, precisely the kind of events that the intellectual has been called a useless idealist for predicting. In 2011, inspired by the activists having finally turned up at the right place (not to mention this place being a short subway ride from their offices), the staffs of n+1 and the New Inquiry, along with assorted other magazine editors and the leftist academics they dated and debated, all wrote about Occupy Wall Street as if they had at long last arrived at the reignition point of history. The early reports from Zuccotti Park were exuberant and hilarious—drum circles to see who would do the laundry!—and suffused with an antiquated academic vocabulary that the writers wielded like rusty axes. The Occupiers were not just occupying space; they were democratizing, communizing and decolonizing it. They had determined that “the process is the message.” They were committed to horizontality and praxis. Never mind the calls for higher taxes on Wall Street, or the forgiveness of student debt; this was a time to “attack dominant forms of subjectivity.” It was the moment to inscribe and to re-inscribe.

In a 2012 review of several collections of writing on Occupy, subtitled “how theory met practice … and drove it absolutely crazy,” Thomas Frank blamed the academics and little magazine writers for failing to convert the energy in the streets into political power as the Tea Party had done on the right. Four years later, when the democratic socialist Bernie Sanders became a credible candidate for the American presidency, Frank’s judgment appeared premature. Perhaps the theory had ultimately aided practice; at the very least, it does not look as if it suffocated it. But Frank’s article, itself published in the Baffler, the little magazine Frank had helped to found, did reveal something about what had by then become the dominant criterion for judging this form of intellectual activity. In one of their Intellectual Situations from 2013, the n+1 editors reported that they were often being asked a question: “If you want to change and not just interpret the world, why not give up writing and become an organizer or activist?” The defensiveness of their answers (we’re too old to become good activists, they complained, then quoted Adorno) showed how far the scales had tipped. The little magazines, contending to become the vanguard of the energies behind Occupy, increasingly demanded that the interpreter be hauled before the tribunal of the activist. Those twenty-somethings I had seen in the gymnasium, who had taught me how to “have” a politics; they had no time for parties anymore. They were busy organizing marches and movements.

They were also reading a new magazine. Jacobin had been started just prior to Occupy, in 2010, its name evoking the most radical and brutal leftist political club during the French Revolution. To its credit, it did not describe itself as a journal of ideas, which would have been false advertising. It was, quite self-consciously, a journal of ideology, whose editor, Bhaskar Sunkara, gleefully promised to put all of his considerable energy into hastening the arrival of democratic socialism. Initially, at least, the magazine did not throw many parties, though it did host a lot of panels, where you could hear young faculty from top universities speak very authoritatively about the ethics of ride sharing in the age of eco-catastrophe. Having grown by far the fastest of the little magazines, Jacobin can also claim, by virtue of its role as the de facto party paper of the Democratic Socialists, to have achieved the most direct political impact. It has solved the problem of left-intellectual elitism simply by ditching the pretense of there being any other role for the intellectual than to aid the activist. Just as for my colleagues at the Center for American Progress, for Jacobin’s contributors there are questions of strategy, but not of substance: writing just is a form of messaging. Introducing a recent interview with Bernie Sanders, the magazine shows its appreciation for its favorite American politician by applauding his ability to remain “on message for more than half a century.” The moral responsibility is no longer to think; it is to advance, as Sanders has, “like a slow-moving tank rumbling through enemy lines.”

[...]

There have always been intellectuals who have chosen to become such tools, for good reasons as well as bad ones. Intellectuals are also citizens, and it is impossible to say in advance when might be the proper time for them to subjugate their intellectual to their civic responsibilities, or predict when those two responsibilities may become indistinguishable. History does show that intellectuals have often been mistaken about their ability to contribute meaningfully to social and political movements—and then, in the rare cases when they have actually taken power, about their capacity to lead them. But from the perspective of today’s New York intellectuals, the danger of making such a choice is not (whatever Katie Roiphe might think) of our becoming Stalinists, or Maoists, or even Bannonites. We do not have enough power to be any of those things; and anyway, we hate guns. The danger is that, in attempting to discipline our desires to our political convictions, we might allow our ideology to overrun our intellect. When everything is political, everything is threatened by the tendency of the political to reduce thinking to positioning.

—p.101 Tired of Winning (97) by Jon Baskin 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Probably any leftist magazine’s dynamism depends on its ability to balance its elitism with its anti-elitism: a tension that also expresses itself in the eternal conflict between the intellectual’s desire to interpret their society and their desire to play a part in improving it. The balance is liable to be upset by events: ironically, precisely the kind of events that the intellectual has been called a useless idealist for predicting. In 2011, inspired by the activists having finally turned up at the right place (not to mention this place being a short subway ride from their offices), the staffs of n+1 and the New Inquiry, along with assorted other magazine editors and the leftist academics they dated and debated, all wrote about Occupy Wall Street as if they had at long last arrived at the reignition point of history. The early reports from Zuccotti Park were exuberant and hilarious—drum circles to see who would do the laundry!—and suffused with an antiquated academic vocabulary that the writers wielded like rusty axes. The Occupiers were not just occupying space; they were democratizing, communizing and decolonizing it. They had determined that “the process is the message.” They were committed to horizontality and praxis. Never mind the calls for higher taxes on Wall Street, or the forgiveness of student debt; this was a time to “attack dominant forms of subjectivity.” It was the moment to inscribe and to re-inscribe.

In a 2012 review of several collections of writing on Occupy, subtitled “how theory met practice … and drove it absolutely crazy,” Thomas Frank blamed the academics and little magazine writers for failing to convert the energy in the streets into political power as the Tea Party had done on the right. Four years later, when the democratic socialist Bernie Sanders became a credible candidate for the American presidency, Frank’s judgment appeared premature. Perhaps the theory had ultimately aided practice; at the very least, it does not look as if it suffocated it. But Frank’s article, itself published in the Baffler, the little magazine Frank had helped to found, did reveal something about what had by then become the dominant criterion for judging this form of intellectual activity. In one of their Intellectual Situations from 2013, the n+1 editors reported that they were often being asked a question: “If you want to change and not just interpret the world, why not give up writing and become an organizer or activist?” The defensiveness of their answers (we’re too old to become good activists, they complained, then quoted Adorno) showed how far the scales had tipped. The little magazines, contending to become the vanguard of the energies behind Occupy, increasingly demanded that the interpreter be hauled before the tribunal of the activist. Those twenty-somethings I had seen in the gymnasium, who had taught me how to “have” a politics; they had no time for parties anymore. They were busy organizing marches and movements.

They were also reading a new magazine. Jacobin had been started just prior to Occupy, in 2010, its name evoking the most radical and brutal leftist political club during the French Revolution. To its credit, it did not describe itself as a journal of ideas, which would have been false advertising. It was, quite self-consciously, a journal of ideology, whose editor, Bhaskar Sunkara, gleefully promised to put all of his considerable energy into hastening the arrival of democratic socialism. Initially, at least, the magazine did not throw many parties, though it did host a lot of panels, where you could hear young faculty from top universities speak very authoritatively about the ethics of ride sharing in the age of eco-catastrophe. Having grown by far the fastest of the little magazines, Jacobin can also claim, by virtue of its role as the de facto party paper of the Democratic Socialists, to have achieved the most direct political impact. It has solved the problem of left-intellectual elitism simply by ditching the pretense of there being any other role for the intellectual than to aid the activist. Just as for my colleagues at the Center for American Progress, for Jacobin’s contributors there are questions of strategy, but not of substance: writing just is a form of messaging. Introducing a recent interview with Bernie Sanders, the magazine shows its appreciation for its favorite American politician by applauding his ability to remain “on message for more than half a century.” The moral responsibility is no longer to think; it is to advance, as Sanders has, “like a slow-moving tank rumbling through enemy lines.”

[...]

There have always been intellectuals who have chosen to become such tools, for good reasons as well as bad ones. Intellectuals are also citizens, and it is impossible to say in advance when might be the proper time for them to subjugate their intellectual to their civic responsibilities, or predict when those two responsibilities may become indistinguishable. History does show that intellectuals have often been mistaken about their ability to contribute meaningfully to social and political movements—and then, in the rare cases when they have actually taken power, about their capacity to lead them. But from the perspective of today’s New York intellectuals, the danger of making such a choice is not (whatever Katie Roiphe might think) of our becoming Stalinists, or Maoists, or even Bannonites. We do not have enough power to be any of those things; and anyway, we hate guns. The danger is that, in attempting to discipline our desires to our political convictions, we might allow our ideology to overrun our intellect. When everything is political, everything is threatened by the tendency of the political to reduce thinking to positioning.

—p.101 Tired of Winning (97) by Jon Baskin 3 weeks, 2 days ago
119

Our tradition impels us and gives us confidence quite simply because our souls look back in wonder; because we are endowed at birth with that special vertigo inherited from our foremothers and fathers; how they got over; how they came through “the blood-stained gate”; how they made a way out of no way; what it cost to be alive; to be unbroken in spirit; to know the value of freedom; to know one another’s beauty in a world ceaselessly mocking and denigrating its dignity; and yes, to laugh like Zora and sharpen our oyster knives: the price of the ticket paid.

A little over a century ago, W. E. B. Du Bois prodded white America: “Your country? How came it yours?” He continued: “Around us the history of the land has centred for thrice a hundred years; out of the nation’s heart we have called all that was best to throttle and subdue all that was worst.” That “we” is a proud black people whose labor and indomitable determination made the very notion of American greatness possible.

pretty

—p.119 Black Fire (111) missing author 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Our tradition impels us and gives us confidence quite simply because our souls look back in wonder; because we are endowed at birth with that special vertigo inherited from our foremothers and fathers; how they got over; how they came through “the blood-stained gate”; how they made a way out of no way; what it cost to be alive; to be unbroken in spirit; to know the value of freedom; to know one another’s beauty in a world ceaselessly mocking and denigrating its dignity; and yes, to laugh like Zora and sharpen our oyster knives: the price of the ticket paid.

A little over a century ago, W. E. B. Du Bois prodded white America: “Your country? How came it yours?” He continued: “Around us the history of the land has centred for thrice a hundred years; out of the nation’s heart we have called all that was best to throttle and subdue all that was worst.” That “we” is a proud black people whose labor and indomitable determination made the very notion of American greatness possible.

pretty

—p.119 Black Fire (111) missing author 3 weeks, 2 days ago
125

There are no public intellectuals really in the real sense of the word, which implies a kind of intellectual and spiritual integrity that is rare in the public sphere. There are opinion-makers, security experts, hacks, ambitious academics and most of them are compromised by their proximity to political power.

quote from not sure where, 2006

—p.125 Enlightenment Idols (121) by Pankaj Mishra 3 weeks, 2 days ago

There are no public intellectuals really in the real sense of the word, which implies a kind of intellectual and spiritual integrity that is rare in the public sphere. There are opinion-makers, security experts, hacks, ambitious academics and most of them are compromised by their proximity to political power.

quote from not sure where, 2006

—p.125 Enlightenment Idols (121) by Pankaj Mishra 3 weeks, 2 days ago