Friday, April 02, 2004

Have you ever heard of this man? Joel Kuszai gave a talk partly based on his writing and work today at a pedagogy forum at Cornell. I'm becoming quickly fascinated by him. There's something about his version of anarchism (as I glean from the tantalizing opening pages of his strange, strange book Against His-story, Against Leviathan) that reminds me of some of my notions of pastoral as a space of what I want call counter-power and counter-production that poets open up—most obviously poets like William Blake (as beloved to Perlman as he is to Ronald Johnson), but also as I keep positing a presence in what are otherwise anti-democratic poems of a new Leviathan. Verrry innerestin'.

Am I the only poet-blogger with a hankering to see Hellboy?

Finally: fellow Cornell poet Sean Serrell weighs in on the discussion Mike and I and others were having about markets and Marxisms and poetry and so on. He electrifies the blue guitar to good effect. My main reservation comes from Sean's interpretation of evolutionary biology as it applies to the ways human society is or should be constructed, a reservation built on little more than the suspicion that Steven Pinker (whom he cites approvingly) is just another cultural conservative debunking possibilities of progress in favor of a fixed biological nature. I don't know much about neurobiology, so it would be easy for Sean to shut me up with a flurry of facts; but I am inclined to point out that the existence of some universal baseline of "human nature," while not something I deny, has not stopped humans from inventing all sorts of vitally important constructs whose value cannot be inferred from their initial biological stimulus: romantic love, clearcutting of forests, democracy, Halliburton, etc. Terry Eagleton is very good on the subject of a fundamental universality in his newish book After Theory, but this does not cause him to abandon his longstanding Marxian critique of capitalism. Actually, I wish Sean could have come to Joel's talk; we could have chatted afterward, and I think that as a genuinely cross-disciplinary person he would be interested in Perlman's view that the public university today "will probably be expected to implant in its students a critical, innovative approach to the physical universe and an apologetic, adaptationist approach to the social universe." This is from his only published academic essay, "Critical Education," which I'm hoping Joel will make available over at Factory School one of these days. Here is a paragraph that critiques the creation of knowledge professionals or "intellect workers" (as opposed to generalists, intellectuals, or simply, the educated):
The intellect worker must be taught that anyone who focuses his attention on the constraints of social institutions has a profound personal problem, and that any critical appraisal of prevailing institutional arrangements is an "ideology." Since "ideology" has been brought to an end by the intellect worker, his training does not enable him to concentrate on the rationality of the whole, but only on the rationality of the particular task to which he is assigned. Thus his knowledge can be considered essentially bureaucratic in that it implants in its practitioners a trained incapacity to control the consequences of their actions: microrationality can thus be practiced in a context of macro-madness.
So I guess my suspicion of someone like Pinker stems from my sense (garnered from reviews—I haven't read the book, so there's another way to shut me up if you want to) that he is applying the micrometer of his speciality to a social whole that fails to be explained—better, evaluated—by it. Which doesn't mean that purely macrometric thinking is the way to go, either. All I know is that my exposure to Marx and those who follow in his thought (Eagleton, Jameson, Althusser, Williams, Marcuse, Adorno, etc., et al) has raised enormous questions that always begin, and never end, with statements (made by anyone on any subject whatsoever), "That's just the way it is."

We should probably add Bruce Hornsby to that list of names.

And finally finally, I am pleased to note that Amazon has finally put a graphic of my book's cover up here.

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