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TSE  January 2010

TSE January 2010

Subject:

Re: Eliot's poetry: the medium & the message

From:

Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Fri, 15 Jan 2010 14:03:09 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (145 lines)

Diana Manister wrote:

>
> There is nothing disembodied about thought. When Russell said
> "thoughts occur" he meant they self-create and self-regulate, like
> breathing and pulse, which are not Platonic or abstract.
>
> Likewise when Foucault and Blanchot say we are spoken by circulating
> discourses, they mean that these pass automatically among members of a
> culture. No self consents to receiving them.
>
> I see positive value in admitting that we are more determined than we
> would like to admit; we are implicated in the ideologies we criticize.
> Foregrounding our ideological conditioning can only increase
> awareness. As Martha Stewart says, "It's a good thing."

(I have nothing to say about the age-old and futile wrangle on free will
vs determinism; it's a bore.)

On Foucault: Last March there was a lengthy thread on lbo-talk re
Foucault, under the subject line "Marx without quotation marks." One
could not discuss Derrida, for example, under the same subject line. My
objection, then, is not necessarily to your specific propositions but to
your habit of grabbing a piece of Foucault here, of Derrida there,
several others, mixing them into a mash named "postmodernism," which you
then send out into the world pronouncing various half-baked aphorisms.
Agents may or may not have thoughts, but ISMS sure as hell do not,
especially when the ISM in question is, as I say, an Irish stew of
suspicious parentage.

Now, I too deny the existence of the "isolated - abstract - human
individuals," actiing prior to and autonomously of all social relations
(Margaret Thatcher's little myth of a world in which society does not
exist, only individuals and families). As does Foucaultl Here is just
part of the context he takes for granted however:

<quote>
****The main point here is this: In all these forms -- in which landed
property and agriculture form the basis of the economic order, and where
the economic aim is hence the production of use values, i.e. the
reproduction of the individual within the specific relation to the
commune in which he is its basis -- there is to be found: (1)
Appropriation not through labour, but presupposed to labour;
appropriation of the natural conditions of labour, of the earth as the
original instrument of labour as well as its workshop and repository of
raw materials. The individual relates simply to the objective conditions
of labour as being his; [relates] to them as the inorganic nature of his
subjectivity, in which the latter realizes itself; the chief objective
condition of labour does not itself appear as a product of labour, but
is already there as nature; on one side the living individual, on the
other the earth, as the objective condition of his reproduction; (2) but
this relation to land and soil, to the earth, as the property of the
labouring individual --who thus appears from the outset not merely as
labouring individual, in this abstraction, but who has an objective mode
of existence in his ownership of the land, an existence presupposed to
his activity, and not merely as a result of it, a presupposition of his
activity just like his skin, his sense organs, which of course he also
reproduces and develops etc. in the life process, but which are
nevertheless presuppositions of this process of his reproduction -- is
instantly mediated by the naturally arisen, spontaneous, more or less
historically developed and modified presence of the individual as member
of a commune -- his naturally arisen presence as member of a tribe etc.
An isolated individual could no more have property in land and soil than
he could speak. He could, of course, live off it as substance, as do the
animals. The relation to the earth as property is always mediated
through the occupation of the land and soil, peacefully or violently, by
the tribe, the commune, in some more or less naturally arisen or already
historically developed form. The individual can never appear here in the
dot-like isolation [Punktualität] in which he appears as mere free
worker. If the objective conditions of his labour are presupposed as
belonging to him, then he himself is subjectively presupposed as member
of a commune, through which his relation to land and soil is mediated.
His relation to the objective conditions of labour is mediated through
his presence as member of the commune; at the same time, the real
presence of the commune is determined by the specific form of the
individual's property in the objective conditions of labour. Whether
this property mediated by commune-membership appears as communal
property, where the individual is merely the possessor and there is no
private property in land and soil -- or whether property appears in the
double form of state and private property alongside one another, but so
that the latter appears as posited by the former, so that only the
citizen is and must be a private proprietor, while his property as
citizen has a separate, particular existence at the same time -- or
whether, finally, the communal property appears only as a complement to
individual property, with the latter as the base, while the commune has
no existence for-itself except in the assembly of the commune members,
their coming-together for common purposes -- these different forms of
the commune or tribe members' relation to the tribe's land and soil --
to the earth where it has settled -- depend partly on the natural
inclinations of the tribe, and partly on the economic conditions in
which it relates as proprietor to the land and soil in reality, i.e. in
which it appropriates its fruits through labour, and the latter will
itself depend on climate, physical make-up of the land and soil, the
physically determined mode of its exploitation, the relation with
hostile tribes or neighbor tribes, and the modifications which
migrations, historic experiences etc. introduce. The survival of the
commune as such in the old mode requires the reproduction of its members
in the presupposed objective conditions. Production itself, the advance
of population (this too belongs with production), necessarily suspends
these conditions little by little; destroys them instead of reproducing
them etc., and, with that, the communal system declines and falls,
together with the property relations on which it was based. The Asiatic
form necessarily hangs on most tenaciously and for the longest time.
This is due to its presupposition that the individual does not become
independent vis-ā-vis the commune; that there is a self-sustaining circle
of production, unity of agriculture and manufactures, etc. If the
individual changes his relation to the commune, he thereby changes and
acts destructively upon the commune; as on its economic presupposition;
on the other side, the alteration of this economic presupposition
brought about by its own dialectic -- impoverishment etc. In particular,
the influence of warfare and o f co nquest, which e.g. in Rome belonged
to the essential conditions of the commune itself, suspends the real
bond o n which it rests. In all these forms, the reproduction of
presupposed relations --
Grundrisse
[NOTEBOOK IV
mid-December 1857- 22 January 1858, continued

<http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/ch09.htm>

Or, the same thing more pithily:

"Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please;
they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under
circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The
tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains
of the living."
18th Brumaire

But we don't need either Marx or Foucault for a key part of this. Wayne
Booth, asuredly not a "postmodern," mentions casually in one of his
books that he does not believe in immortality beccause he does not
accept the atomic individual presupposed by that doctrine. That is, for
me as for Booth the propositon, "Cox is immortal," is uintelligible
because Cox does not _have_ a history, Cox _is_ a history. Which of the
indefinite series of Coxes is supposed to be immortal. The words I'm
typing now are an aspect of that history or process. (See Whitehead,
Process & Reality.)

Now someone could argue against that, and I could argue back, and so on.
That's how the conversation of humanity proceeds. But as soon as you
reify spooks like Postmodernism and give them a voice, the converation
bogs down and goes nowhere.

Carrol

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