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).

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on The Dark Knight Rises. a masterpiece imo

Graeber, D. (2012, October 08). Super Position. The New Inquiry. https://thenewinquiry.com/super-position/

[...] These “heroes” are purely reactionary, in the literal sense. They have no projects of their own, at least not in their role as heroes: as Clark Kent, Superman may be constantly trying, and failing, to get into Lois Lane’s pants, but as Superman, he is purely reactive. In fact, superheroes seem almost utterly lacking in imagination: like Bruce Wayne, who with all the money in the world can’t seem to think of anything to do with it other than to indulge in the occasional act of charity; it never seems to occur to Superman that he could easily carve free magic cities out of mountains.

Almost never do superheroes make, create, or build anything. The villains, in contrast, are endlessly creative. They are full of plans and projects and ideas. Clearly, we are supposed to first, without consciously realizing it, identify with the villains. After all, they’re having all the fun. Then of course we feel guilty for it, re-identify with the hero, and have even more fun watching the superego clubbing the errant Id back into submission.

Politically speaking, superhero comic books can seem pretty innocuous. If all a comic is trying to do is to tell a bunch of adolescent boys that everyone has a certain desire for chaos and mayhem, but that ultimately such desires need to be controlled, the implications would not seem especially dire, especially because the message still does carry a healthy dose of ambivalence. After all, the heroes of even the most right-leaning action movies seem to spend much of their time smashing up suburban shopping malls, something many of us would like to do at some point in our lives. In the case of most comic book superheroes, however, the mayhem has extremely conservative political implications. To understand why requires a brief digression on the question of constituent power.

by David Graeber 1 month, 1 week ago

[...] These “heroes” are purely reactionary, in the literal sense. They have no projects of their own, at least not in their role as heroes: as Clark Kent, Superman may be constantly trying, and failing, to get into Lois Lane’s pants, but as Superman, he is purely reactive. In fact, superheroes seem almost utterly lacking in imagination: like Bruce Wayne, who with all the money in the world can’t seem to think of anything to do with it other than to indulge in the occasional act of charity; it never seems to occur to Superman that he could easily carve free magic cities out of mountains.

Almost never do superheroes make, create, or build anything. The villains, in contrast, are endlessly creative. They are full of plans and projects and ideas. Clearly, we are supposed to first, without consciously realizing it, identify with the villains. After all, they’re having all the fun. Then of course we feel guilty for it, re-identify with the hero, and have even more fun watching the superego clubbing the errant Id back into submission.

Politically speaking, superhero comic books can seem pretty innocuous. If all a comic is trying to do is to tell a bunch of adolescent boys that everyone has a certain desire for chaos and mayhem, but that ultimately such desires need to be controlled, the implications would not seem especially dire, especially because the message still does carry a healthy dose of ambivalence. After all, the heroes of even the most right-leaning action movies seem to spend much of their time smashing up suburban shopping malls, something many of us would like to do at some point in our lives. In the case of most comic book superheroes, however, the mayhem has extremely conservative political implications. To understand why requires a brief digression on the question of constituent power.

by David Graeber 1 month, 1 week ago

IV.

Costumed superheroes ultimately battle criminals in the name of the law—even if they themselves often operate outside a strictly legal framework. But in the modern state, the very status of law is a problem. This is because of a basic logical paradox: no system can generate itself.

Any power capable of creating a system of law cannot itself be bound by them. So law has to come from somewhere else. In the Middle Ages, the solution was simple: the legal order was created, either directly or indirectly, by God. God, as the Old Testament makes abundantly clear, is not bound by laws or even any recognizable system of morality, which only stands to reason: if you created morality, you can’t, by definition, be bound by it. The English, American, and French revolutions changed all that when they created the notion of popular sovereignty—declaring that the power once held by kings is now held by an entity called “the people.”

“The people,” however, are bound by the laws. So in what sense can they have created them? They created the laws through those revolutions themselves, but, of course, revolutions are acts of law-breaking. It is completely illegal to rise up in arms, overthrow a government, and create a new political order. Cromwell, Jefferson, and Danton were surely guilty of treason according to the laws under which they grew up, as surely as they would have been had they tried to do the same thing again twenty years later.

So, laws emerge from illegal activity. This creates a fundamental incoherence in the very idea of modern government, which assumes that the state has a monopoly of the legitimate use of violence (only the police, or prison guards, have the legal right to beat you up). It’s okay for police to use violence because they are enforcing the law; the law is legitimate because it’s rooted in the constitution; the constitution is legitimate because it comes from the people; the people created the constitution by acts of illegal violence. The obvious question, then, is: how does one tell the difference between “the people” and a mere rampaging mob?

There is no obvious answer.

The response, by mainstream, respectable opinion, is to try to push the problem as far away as possible. The usual line is: the age of revolutions is over, except perhaps in benighted spots like Gabon or Syria, and we can now change the constitution, or legal standards, by legal means. This of course means that the basic structures will never change. We can witness the results in the US, which continues to maintain an architecture of state, with its electoral college and two party-system, that—while quite progressive in 1789—now makes us appear, in the eyes rest of the world, the political equivalent of the Amish, still driving around with horses and buggies. It also means we base the legitimacy of the whole system on the consent of the people despite the fact that the only people who were ever really consulted on the matter lived over 200 years ago. In America, at least, “the people” are all long since dead.

by David Graeber 1 month, 1 week ago

IV.

Costumed superheroes ultimately battle criminals in the name of the law—even if they themselves often operate outside a strictly legal framework. But in the modern state, the very status of law is a problem. This is because of a basic logical paradox: no system can generate itself.

Any power capable of creating a system of law cannot itself be bound by them. So law has to come from somewhere else. In the Middle Ages, the solution was simple: the legal order was created, either directly or indirectly, by God. God, as the Old Testament makes abundantly clear, is not bound by laws or even any recognizable system of morality, which only stands to reason: if you created morality, you can’t, by definition, be bound by it. The English, American, and French revolutions changed all that when they created the notion of popular sovereignty—declaring that the power once held by kings is now held by an entity called “the people.”

“The people,” however, are bound by the laws. So in what sense can they have created them? They created the laws through those revolutions themselves, but, of course, revolutions are acts of law-breaking. It is completely illegal to rise up in arms, overthrow a government, and create a new political order. Cromwell, Jefferson, and Danton were surely guilty of treason according to the laws under which they grew up, as surely as they would have been had they tried to do the same thing again twenty years later.

So, laws emerge from illegal activity. This creates a fundamental incoherence in the very idea of modern government, which assumes that the state has a monopoly of the legitimate use of violence (only the police, or prison guards, have the legal right to beat you up). It’s okay for police to use violence because they are enforcing the law; the law is legitimate because it’s rooted in the constitution; the constitution is legitimate because it comes from the people; the people created the constitution by acts of illegal violence. The obvious question, then, is: how does one tell the difference between “the people” and a mere rampaging mob?

There is no obvious answer.

The response, by mainstream, respectable opinion, is to try to push the problem as far away as possible. The usual line is: the age of revolutions is over, except perhaps in benighted spots like Gabon or Syria, and we can now change the constitution, or legal standards, by legal means. This of course means that the basic structures will never change. We can witness the results in the US, which continues to maintain an architecture of state, with its electoral college and two party-system, that—while quite progressive in 1789—now makes us appear, in the eyes rest of the world, the political equivalent of the Amish, still driving around with horses and buggies. It also means we base the legitimacy of the whole system on the consent of the people despite the fact that the only people who were ever really consulted on the matter lived over 200 years ago. In America, at least, “the people” are all long since dead.

by David Graeber 1 month, 1 week ago

V.

What does all this have to do with costumed superheroes? Well, everything. Because this is exactly the space that superheroes, and super-villains, also inhabit. An inherently fascist space, inhabited only by gangsters, would-be dictators, police, and thugs, with endlessly blurring lines between them.

Sometimes the cops are legalistic, sometimes they’re corrupt. Sometimes the police themselves slip into vigilantism. Sometimes they pursue the superhero, sometimes they look the other way, sometimes they help. Villains and heroes occasionally team up. The lines of force are always shifting. If anything new were to emerge, it could only be through such shifting forces. There’s nothing else, since, in the DC and Marvel universes, neither God nor The People really exist.

Insofar as there is a potential for constituent power then, it can only come from purveyors of violence. The supervillains and evil masterminds, when they are not merely indulging in random acts of terror, are always scheming of imposing a New World Order of some kind or another. Surely, if Red Skull, Kang the Conqueror, or Doctor Doom ever did succeed in taking over the planet, there would be lots of new laws created very quickly, although their creator would doubtless not himself feel bound by them. Superheroes resist this logic. They do not wish to conquer the world—if only because they are not monomaniacal or insane. As a result, they remain parasitical off the villains in the same way that police remain parasitical off criminals: without them, they’d have no reason to exist. They remain defenders of a legal and political system which itself seems to have come out of nowhere, and which, however faulty or degraded, must be defended, because the only alternative is so much worse.

They aren’t fascists. They are just ordinary, decent, super-powerful people who inhabit a world in which fascism is the only political possibility.

i love the structuring of this essay. the last sentence in this section has such a powerful buildup

by David Graeber 1 month, 1 week ago

V.

What does all this have to do with costumed superheroes? Well, everything. Because this is exactly the space that superheroes, and super-villains, also inhabit. An inherently fascist space, inhabited only by gangsters, would-be dictators, police, and thugs, with endlessly blurring lines between them.

Sometimes the cops are legalistic, sometimes they’re corrupt. Sometimes the police themselves slip into vigilantism. Sometimes they pursue the superhero, sometimes they look the other way, sometimes they help. Villains and heroes occasionally team up. The lines of force are always shifting. If anything new were to emerge, it could only be through such shifting forces. There’s nothing else, since, in the DC and Marvel universes, neither God nor The People really exist.

Insofar as there is a potential for constituent power then, it can only come from purveyors of violence. The supervillains and evil masterminds, when they are not merely indulging in random acts of terror, are always scheming of imposing a New World Order of some kind or another. Surely, if Red Skull, Kang the Conqueror, or Doctor Doom ever did succeed in taking over the planet, there would be lots of new laws created very quickly, although their creator would doubtless not himself feel bound by them. Superheroes resist this logic. They do not wish to conquer the world—if only because they are not monomaniacal or insane. As a result, they remain parasitical off the villains in the same way that police remain parasitical off criminals: without them, they’d have no reason to exist. They remain defenders of a legal and political system which itself seems to have come out of nowhere, and which, however faulty or degraded, must be defended, because the only alternative is so much worse.

They aren’t fascists. They are just ordinary, decent, super-powerful people who inhabit a world in which fascism is the only political possibility.

i love the structuring of this essay. the last sentence in this section has such a powerful buildup

by David Graeber 1 month, 1 week ago

The economy collapsed. Not because of the manipulations of some secret society of warrior monks, but because of a bunch of financial managers who, living in Nolan’s bubble world and sharing his assumptions about the endlessness of popular manipulability, turned out to be wrong. There was a mass popular response. It did not take the form of a frenetic search for messianic saviors, mixed with outbreaks of nihilist violence: increasingly, it took the form of a series of real popular movements, even revolutionary movements, toppling regimes in the Middle East and occupying squares everywhere from Cleveland to Karachi, trying to create new forms of democracy.

Constituent power had reappeared, and in an imaginative, radical, and remarkably non-violent form. This is precisely the kind of situation a superhero universe cannot address. In Nolan’s world, something like Occupy could only have been the product of some tiny group of ingenious manipulators who really are pursuing some secret agenda.

by David Graeber 1 month, 1 week ago

The economy collapsed. Not because of the manipulations of some secret society of warrior monks, but because of a bunch of financial managers who, living in Nolan’s bubble world and sharing his assumptions about the endlessness of popular manipulability, turned out to be wrong. There was a mass popular response. It did not take the form of a frenetic search for messianic saviors, mixed with outbreaks of nihilist violence: increasingly, it took the form of a series of real popular movements, even revolutionary movements, toppling regimes in the Middle East and occupying squares everywhere from Cleveland to Karachi, trying to create new forms of democracy.

Constituent power had reappeared, and in an imaginative, radical, and remarkably non-violent form. This is precisely the kind of situation a superhero universe cannot address. In Nolan’s world, something like Occupy could only have been the product of some tiny group of ingenious manipulators who really are pursuing some secret agenda.

by David Graeber 1 month, 1 week ago

IX

If there’s supposed to be a take-home message from all of this, it must run something like: “Yes, the system is corrupt, but it’s all we have, and anyway, figures of authority can be trusted if they have first been chastened and endured terrible suffering.” Normal police let children die on bridges, but police who’ve been buried alive for weeks can employ violence legitimately. Charity is much better than addressing structural problems. Any attempt to address structural problems, even through non-violent civil disobedience, really is a form of violence, because that’s all it could possibly be. Imaginative politics are inherently violent, and therefore there’s nothing inappropriate if police respond by smashing protestors’ heads repeatedly against the concrete.

by David Graeber 1 month, 1 week ago

IX

If there’s supposed to be a take-home message from all of this, it must run something like: “Yes, the system is corrupt, but it’s all we have, and anyway, figures of authority can be trusted if they have first been chastened and endured terrible suffering.” Normal police let children die on bridges, but police who’ve been buried alive for weeks can employ violence legitimately. Charity is much better than addressing structural problems. Any attempt to address structural problems, even through non-violent civil disobedience, really is a form of violence, because that’s all it could possibly be. Imaginative politics are inherently violent, and therefore there’s nothing inappropriate if police respond by smashing protestors’ heads repeatedly against the concrete.

by David Graeber 1 month, 1 week ago