Judith Butler and Slavoj Zizek, who are both very active and in some respects in the prime of their careers. Judith Butler started her carier with the work on French Hegelianism and her dissertation had to do with the status of Hegel in modern France. She moved on to work on gender and sexuality in a book called Gender Trouble which really was a game changer in the field of women’s studie gay and lesbian studies and queer studie as it came to be called later.

To understand gender as a historical category, however, is to accept that gender, understood as one way of culturally configuring a body, is open to a continual remaking, and that ‘anatomy’ and ‘sex’ are not without cultural framing. Undoing Gender

If gender is a kind of doing, an incessant activity performed, in part, without one’s knowing and without one’s willing, it is not for that reason automatic or mechanical. On the contrary, it is a practice of improvisation within a scene of constraint.

[Humankind] The Law of Religion. Part 4

Humanism is the belief that Homo sapiens has an unique and sacred nature which is fundamentally different from the nature of all the other animals and of all other phenomena in the universe. Humanists believe that the unique nature of Homo sapiense is the most important thing in the world and it is this that determines the meaning of everything that happens in the universe.

Liberal Humanism which believes that humanity is a quality of individual humans. According to Liberals, the sacred nature of humanity resides within each and every individual Homo sapiens. And therefore, the supreme values of the world is the liberty of individuals.

Socialist Humanism believes that humanity is collective and not individualistic. Socialists hold as sacred not the inner voice of each individual, but the species Homo sapiens as a whole, seeks equality between all humans. Inequality is the worst blasphemy (богохульство) against the sanctity of humanity, because inequality privileges peripheral qualities of humans over their common universal essence. For example, when the rich are given privileges which are withheld from the poor, it means that we value money more than we value the universal essence of all humans which is similar for everybody, for rich and poor alike.

Evolutionary humanism (the most famous representatives were the Nazis). Nazis too believed in the sanctity of humanity. They had a different defenition of humanity than the Liberals and the Socialists. The Nazis were deeply influenced by the theory of evolution, believed that humankind is not something universal and eternal and unchanging. Rather, they believed that it is a specie of animals which can evolve or degenerate in accordance with the theory of evolution. The main ambition of the Nazis was to protect human kind from the generation extinction and encourage the evolution of human kind into super men.

[Humankind] the Law of Religion. Part 2

A religion that recognizes the legitimacy of other faith, implies either that its god is not the supreme power of the universe or that it reveived from the one and only god, only part of the universal truth. “If our religion is true no other religion can also simultaneously be true.”

Dualistic religions - are religions that believe in the existence not of one supreme Good but of two opposing powers, good and evil. Dualism believes that evil is an independent power, which is not created by the good god and is not subordinate to it.

Wars, plague, death, suffer - this is God’s way of allowing for human free will. If there was no evil in the world, humans could not choose between good and evel; and hence, there would be no free will.

[Humankind] the Law of Religion. Part 1

We already read about the role of money and of empires, on this week we will focus on religion. Religion can be defined as a system of human laws and values, which is founded on a belief in a super human order. Religion must believe in a super human order which is not the product of human whims, of human agreements.

Animism is the belief that the world os populated not only by humans but also an abundance of other beings. Each of them having their own personality, needs and desires. Like trees, rocks, fairies, ghosts, demons.

Polytheism also tends to believe in all these holy rocks and trees with demons and fairies, but it also believes very importantly, in very powerful entities which they call goods. Rain god, sun god, moon god.

[Modernart] the Postmodern Everyday

When people think they’re pursuing sexual freedom, they create new categories for how you should pursue sexual freedom. New forms of identity to which you should conform even if that identity is liberatory, is outside of the main stream. But you create a new mode of being that you then have to conform to. This is Foucault’s great subject. How we, in a way, police ourselves. How we dominate ourselves by saying, oh, I am going to be a radical. And now, I have to act like the radicals act.

In other words, you conform to the image of radicalization. Some might you say, well, I am not a diseased person because I like to have sex with people of my own gender. No, no, I am not that, I am free, I am gay, or I’m a homosexual or I’m a lesbian. I am free. And Foucault says, yeah, you’re free, but now notice how we start to have to conform to being gay, being lesbian.

Why do we need always to find a new mode of conformity? A label for our freedom that comes then to repress us.

Modern man, for Baudelaire, is not the man who goes off to discover himself, his secrets and his hidden truth; he is the man who tries to invent himself. This modernity does not “liberate man in his own being”; it compels him to face the task of producing himself.

[Modernart] the Postmodern Everyday. Part 3 [Humankind] Imperial Visions. Part 3

The urge to rescue the past as something living, instead of using it as the material of progress, has been satisfied only in art, in which even history, as a representation of past life, is included. As long as art does not insist on being treated as knowledge, and thus exclude itself from praxis, it is tolerated by social praxis in the same way as pleasure.

Culture can provide us the reminders, pleasurable reminders of alternatives to this totalitarian picture generated by the Enlightenment.

Art too is used by the forces of domination.

The regression of the masses today lies in their inability to hear with their own ears what has not already been heard, to touch with their hands what has not previously been grasped; it is the new form of blindness which supersedes that of vanquished myth.

But a true praxis capable of overturning the status quo depends on theory’s refusal to yield to the oblivion in which society allows thought to ossify (костенеть).

Foucault who was a historian, a philosopher wrote about art and literature, he was an activist, he participated in the French Postmodernism, in fact was a leader of French Postmodernism. He didn’t want to find the really real, he didn’t want to find a total dialectic. He wanted to do in his work was to tell the story of progress in such a way that we would see how what we thought of was progress was actually a form of greater social control and homogenization (make uniform or similar).

Imperial Visions

When you look at the world today, how the world today in being run. You see that the world in the early 21st century is not being governed and run by a particular state of government, but by a global caste of business people, engineers, people in the academia, in arts, in the universities and so forth. These people who run the world, they increasingly have the same interests and viewpoint about the world, the same culture.

[Modernart] From Critical Theory to Postmodernism [Humankind] Imperial Visions

Human beings purchase the increase in their power with estrangement from that over which it is exerted. Enlightenment stands in the same relationship to things as the dictator to human beings. He knows them to the extent thaat he can manipulate them. Horkheimer and Adorno

Knowledge becomes the ability to manipulate things. And that, will eventually sew the seed of our own destruction. They actually see modern technology being used for mass killings, for effectient murderd, for control of people against their interest.

I really can understand, because I can manipulate. It is a big victory of enlightenment. If you can only show you understand something by your power of manipulation understanding is linked to tyranny.

Each human being has been endowed with a self of his or her own, different from all others, so that it could all the more surely be made the same. But because that self never quite fitted te mold, enlightenment throughout the liberalistic period has always sympathized with social coercion. The unity of the manipulated collective consists in the negation of each individual and the scorn poured on the type of society which could make people into individuals.

Their point is that the persistent pursuit of equality actually creates the grounds for more coercion.

The actual is validated, knowledge confines itself to repeating it, thought makes itself mere tautology. The more completely the machinery of thought subjugates existence, the more blindly it is satisfied with reproducing it. Enlightenment thereby regresses to the mythology it has never been able to escape. Michael Foucault

Scitistic ways of approaching the world are only validated by mirroring the world as it is. Rather than trying imagining the world as it might be, rather than taking critical perspective on the status quo, the positivists quantitatively orientated an enlightened mode of thinking.

Imperial Visions

Sapience instinctively divide humanity, divide its own specie into two parts, there is we and they, everybody else.

It’s very problematic to argue that empires are purely evil because empires are responsible, not only for the unification of humankind, but also for much of our culture today all around the world. Indeed, the very values that prompt many people to criticize empires, values like himan rights and democracy and self-determination, these very values were spread around the world by the empires, by the European empires.

[Modernart] From Critical Theory to Postmodernism [Humankind] Imperial Visions

Horkheimer and Adorno writing in the Nazi period what problem are they trying to address? What issue are they trying to explain?

They are trying to understand the attractions of fascism and Nazism, why the working classes don’t rebel against their owners of capital, why they don’t rebel against the massive corporations or the political parties that feed them.

They saw this really nefarious (гнусный, бесчестный) globalization as a product of enlightenment. They asw modernity and enlughtenment joining hands to create a new universal myth that entrapped us with its appeal while controlling us and diminising our freedom at every step.

Englightenment, understood in the widest sense as the advance of thought, has always aimed at liberating human beings from fear and installing them as masters. Yet the wholly enlightened earth is radiant with triumphant calamity. Enlightenment’s program was the disenchantment of the world. Horkheimer and Adorno

Techonology is the essence of this knowlegde. It aims to produce neither concepts nor images, nor the joy of understanding, but method, exploitation of the labor of others… What human beings seek to learn from nature is how to use it to dominate wholly both it and human beings. Nothing else counts.

Imperial Visions

What empire is? It is a political order which has two very important characteristics:

  1. rules over a significant number of distinct peoples, each possessing a different cultural identity and a separate territory.

  2. It has flexible borders and a potentially unlimited appetite.

It’s very common today to hear that in the long run, it is not possible to rule effectively over a large number of conquered people, that empires are doomed to failure and to collapse. The second main objection to empires is not only that they don’t work, but also that they are evil.

Empire has been the world’s most common form of political organization for the last 2500 years. Emires are a very stable, irrelatively, when compared to other form of goverments, empire is very stable form of government.

Most empires have been collapsed either because of external invasion of external enemies or because of a split within the ruling elite itself.

The standard imperial toolkit with which you build and maintain an empire includes war, enslavement, deportation and genocide.

[Modernart] the Postmodern Everyday

By playing with new devices, you understand how to us it.

We got to know the nature of calculating by learning to calculate. Ludwig Wittgenstein

A meaning of a word is a kind of employment of it. For it is what we learn when the word is incorporated into our language.

Words get meaning through use.

Is there a why? Must I now begin to trust somewhere? That is to say: somewhere I must begin with not-doubting… Wittgenstein

The difficulty is to realize the groundlessness (необоснованность) of our believing.

[Modernart] the Postmodern Everyday

Even while we celebrate individualism, we have this tendency to create a situation where individualism results in everybody trying to be an individual in the same way. It creates even more conditions for conformity. Emerson is the enemy of conformity, he is the enemy of imitation.

Insist on yourself; never imitate.

Finding yourself throught action rather than thought a process that aims to discover a foundation or some goal for you entire life. You are free to recreate every day. In fact by recreating yourself every day you have this opennes to experience of that can be extraordinarily powerful and conform to no onse else at all.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

How language really works when someone’s asking for objects in a contruction project and also how we learn languages, how to understand the ways in which our words get meaning.

From its seeming to me - or to everyone - to be so, it doesn’t follow that it is so. What we can ask is whether it can make sense to doubt it. Ludwig Wittgenstein

[humankind] The Direction of History

People do their work or exchange their goods to money when they trust the figments of the collective imagination. Trust is the real raw material from which all types of money in history have been minted.

Money is the most universal and most effictien system of mutual trust ever devised by human beings. How to create trust in money?

The first coins in history, as far as we know, were struck around 640 BC by Kind Elliotus of the kingdom of Lydia (western Turkey).

Religion wants us to believe in something like in God, money doesn’t ask us to believe in anything in particular. Money simply asks us to believe that other people believe in something.

Universal principles of money:

  • Universal convertivility
  • Universal trust

[Modernart] the Postmodern Everyday

Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

We don’t have to wait for something big to happen in our lives, our everyday lives should enliven, should bring the world to life for ourselves and for those around us.

The great gift are not got by analysis. Everything good is on the highway.

Don’t try to analyse whether people are real, whether this experience counts, whether I am authentic, whether I am honest, take to the road, take to life. This notion that everything good is on the highway will inspire American travelers from Woody Guthrie to Jack Kerouac who see that the best thinking is not done behind a desk or in a library, in front of a computer. Everything good is on the highway.

Life has no memory. That which proceeds in succession might be remembered, but that which is coexistent, or ejaculated from a deeper cause, as yet far from being conscious knows not its own tendency.

Learning from the past is a way of avoiding the present.

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, - that is genius.

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

Our housekeeping is mendicant, our arts, our occupations, our marriages, our religion, we have not chosen, but society has chosen for us. We are parlour soldiers. We shun the rugged battle of fate, where strength is born.

If you don’t live ever in a new day, because if you don’t live that way, if you are encumbered by your memory, if you are encumbered by the crowd, what will happen is that your will over time become conform more and more to someone else’s way of life. You will conform more and more to either the status quo or the dominant majority or even a aggressive minority, but you will be conforming to someone else’s mode of life.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.

[Human Kind] The Direction of History

History of money

Initially human had no money. Each band hunted and gathered and manufactured almost everything it needed (meat, medicine, sandals and so on). Just on the basis of our personal relationship assuming that one day he will be in trouble or he will need something from me then I will repay the favor which I got from him. It can be also done by simple barter.

Some villages began specializing in producing only one kind of product, let’s say olive oil. This had bigger advantages because every village could concentrate on what was the ideal products given its location and climate and topography. Specialization also create new problems.

The main problem when different people specialize in different tasks is how exactly to manage exchange of goods and services between all the different specialists.

Barter can never form the basis for a really complex economy. Even if you manage to calculate and to agree how many apples are worth a pair of shoes, barter is not always possible because afterl all, in order to make a barter deal, each sides have to want what the other has got to offer.

Money was created many times in many places in history. It was a purely psychological revolution, the invention of monuments simply the creation of a new imagined reality, of a new inter-subjective reality that exists only in the shared imagination of many people, because money is not coins and money is not bank notes. Money is anything that people are willing to use, in order to represent the value of other things for the purpose of exchanging goods and services. The value of money depends only on our imagination.

In 2006, the sum total of money in the world was estimated at about $473 trillion and more than 90% of all the money in the world that appear in our bank account, they exist only on computer screens and servers.