Happy Thanksgiving

November 26, 2009

Make sure to click the link w/in the link to hear this Great American hypnotically read his work.




November 21, 2009


Teaser – Strike as Symptom

November 19, 2009

Here’s a few of the opening paragraphs from the Gorgon that I’ve been creating about the strike at York (carefull, you may return to stone, Freud styles):

What you aspire to as revolutionaries is a master. You will get one. – Lacan

What if democracy, in the second sense (the regulated procedure of registering the “people’s voice”) is ultimately a defense against itself, against democracy in the sense of the violent intrusion of the egalitarian logic that disturbs the hierarchical functioning of the social system, an attempt to re-functionalize this excess, to make it part of the normal running of things? – Žižek

Mid-way through our recent struggles a member of 3903 sent an email across a departmental list-serve pleading people to come to their senses and bring the strike to an end, and in so doing admonished people for getting-off “on this labour action stuff.” There were people who called this statement belittling, while another asserted that it needed to be acknowledged that there were in fact people who “got off” on striking. Rather than so quickly dismiss the possibility that “getting off” on political action is productive it is worthwhile considering in what way, in the context of the recent strike, “enjoyment is a political factor.”

Recognizing enjoyment in its political dimensions is, of course, the basis of the work of Slavoj Žižek. Rather than seeing it as an impediment to effective politics, as an obstacle to making rational decisions, he attempts to understand it in both its productive and destructive capacities – capacities that are not as contradictory as they may seem.

For Žižek the ethics of the political culminate in “enjoying one’s symptom.” At one point he evokes an episode from Rysard Kapuściński’s The Shadow of the Sun as an example of this logic. Driving to Onitsha, Nigeria to visit its market, Kapuściński encounters a traffic jam that stays his progress. Stepping out of his car to follow the line of vehicles that waits ahead of him Kapuściński finds the source of the problem: a gaping hole has opened in the road. The only way to continue is to wait to have someone drag each vehicle down into, and then up out of, the muddy crater. Along with the hole, however, he finds a bustle of activity: newly painted hotel signs, vendors and people gathered to simply socialize. Žižek writes that “the hole had become an institution. …a ridiculous contingent and meaningless obstacle triggered a swarm of social activity; people started to enjoy their symptom” (Žižek, 2002, 254).

It’s not hard to see parallels in the recent strike: around the gap that separated us from the administration (and ourselves) arose a social and administrative institution: a new office with new “staff” (i.e. rank-and-file members); large plywood shacks constructed at each of the university’s seven entrances; food and coffee service; pick-up and tear down crews; frequent internal and external communications; radio-banter (who stole the cookies?); collections of media-vans at the main gate; the York is Us collective and the Unit 2 communications group; musicians, actors and a mime that traveled from line to line; the writing and performing of two short plays about the strike; frequent and well attended General Membership- and Steward’s Council-meetings; members of the community delivering doughnuts and stopping to talk (or, it must be admitted, threatening us with knifes, bottles and cars); and last but not least, the creation of new friendships and the continued presence, post-strike, of red felt-squares on the coats and bags of strikers that identify people as members of a political community. As for the hole itself, it should be noted that the York campus was largely empty – the strike was coupled with a lockout, where all classes were cancelled.



Do you believe this?

November 17, 2009

I saw this in an ad on a subway train this morning:

God Loves You. He made you for the pleasure of loving you and knowing you. Do you believe this?

This is clearly an hysteric’s view on God: God is out there trying to enjoy me, and I resist.

I’m not sure what to do about the question at the end. Somewhere Zizek writes that every question is an accusation, at which we feel quilt no matter how not-guilty we may be. I think he means this is the sense that the person to whom it is posed is supposed to know the answer (I don’t know where he says this, however). Perhaps the last sentence here is just such an accusation: you already knew this, didn’t you!?

Spontaneous Philosophy?

November 10, 2009

I found this in the front window of a newspaper-dispenser on University Ave. I’ve stuck to its caps and formatting.


What is it?

The answer you get to that question depends on who you ask. If you ask a capitalist, you get one answer. If you ask a Communist dictator you get almost the opposite answer. So which on of them are you going to believe?

Capitalists and Communists also have something in common. Both will tell you that: your happiness depends on having material things. It is also undeniable that we can’t be happy as long as we don’t know where out next meal or rent is coming from. These facts can’t be denied, but they can be distorted. Linda McQuaig in her ALL YOU CAN EAT tells us that money alone is not all there is to it. She says on page 104 that this “supposedly reality based concept… turns out to be a distortion.” And this “distortion” is what Capitalism and Communism have in common. The capitalists claim that the ideal government is the one of the capitalists in which the decisions are made by the capitalists and, therefore, they are for people (who are capitalists). Karl Marx has used Hegelian dialectics to show that Communism is the best government possible. Ideally it is the government of the people in which the decisions are made by the people and, therefore, they are for the people. This is the why the former East Zone of Germany was called DDR (Deutshe Demokratishe Republik), the German Democratic Republic. The idea has sold very well but the reality was not what Marx had in mind. But, even then, a real democracy can’t be based on the assumption that the belief in materialism is the only valid one.

In Hegelian dialectics, the thesis is: Power to the capitalist, its antithesis is: Power to the people and their synthesis is: Power to materialism and greed. In both systems, unlimited access of the natural resources of our planet is central.

Linda McQuaig shows us, among other things, that: To go where the capitalists are leading us is heading for disaster. This is why establishing a government, by means of which we can save our planet, has become a matter of life and death. Millions are already dying, partly because of capitalist policies.

Linda McQuaig and Michael Moore, in his movie on CAPITALISM, are right on, in revealing what is wrong with out government(s). But which one do we need, and HOW can we establish it?

See PetersTao.blogspot.com file#4

Z in NYPost

November 9, 2009

A new opinion piece in the NYP…

Psy and Marx… at UPEI???

November 9, 2009

This is a little too surreal. From my home province:


Call For Papers
Marxism and Psychology Conference
The University of Prince Edward Island

August 5-7, 2010

Submission Deadline: January 15, 2010

In the history of social thought, it is difficult to find a more divisive figure than Karl Marx. For many, the mere mention of his name conjures up images of totalitarian regimes dominating nearly every aspect of an individual’s existence. Yet for others, Marx’s critique of the capitalist mode of production draws attention to the fact that our beliefs, thoughts, and desires inevitably emerge against the background of specific cultural, historical, and social practices.
The purpose of this conference is to bring students, scholars, and activists together to discuss exciting issues at the intersection of Marxism and Psychology. While it is clear that a number of organizations are making important contributions to this area of study, we believe that the time is right to open up a space for students, scholars, and activists from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds to reflect on the role that Marxism can play in psychological theory, research, and practice.
In bringing together scholars at the forefront of research in Marxism and Psychology, we also hope to give new students and activists an opportunity to interact with individuals who have made significant contributions within this area. By organizing an impressive collection of plenary participants, we hope to foster an environment where students, activists, and scholars can identify potential graduate advisors, research assistants, and participatory investigators.
This year, confirmed plenary participants include:
John Cromby
Raquel Guzzo
Lois Holzman
Gordana Jovanovic
Joel Kovel
Athanasios Marvakis
Morten Nissen
Ian Parker
Carl Ratner
Hans Skott-Myhre
Thomas Teo
Biographical information for the plenary participants can be found on the conference website.
We welcome submissions for individual papers and panel sessions. For individual papers, please submit an abstract (150-200 words) no later than January 15, 2010. For panel submissions, please include an abstract (150-200 words) for each paper as well as a brief description of the panel (150-200 words). Please submit all materials tomarfken@upei.ca. Abstracts should either be in the body of the email or sent as an attachment (DOC or PDF format).
While the conference poster is available at the conference website, we also have color posters that need to be distributed widely. If you are interested in receiving some posters, please send us an email (marfken@upei.ca) with your mailing address.
For further information, please visit the conference website:
Michael Arfken, PhD.
Director, Marxism & Psychology Research Group (MPRG)
Department of Psychology
University of Prince Edward Island