Posts Tagged ‘May 68’

Chapter 3: Environmentalism and the Politics of Technology

March 13, 2007

Feenberg draws his philosophy out of the late 60s-early 70s social movements. A couple years ago this documentary about Bruce Haack made evident the culture of experiment that existed in those far gone days. A real possibility of something new was just beyond the veil if only we could do something magic to lift it. “Thank you America for raping the only dream we had left.” I’m quoting from (often faulty) memory there, Burroughs’ Thanksgiving Day Prayer. When the pointlessness of the moon landing (or any other product of that culture of experiment) slowly revealed itself, “you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

The May Events of 1968 “enlarged the field of the possible.” Three years later Barry Commoner “proposed transforming modern technology “to meet the inescapable demands of the ecosystem.” (“Be realistic. Demand the impossible.” Who said that? Now when I said in my notes on chapter two I was going to finish reading the book before I continued to review it chapter for chapter because there was something I didn’t understand it was this.) How could a free thinker not see in technology a legislative possibility? Isn’t that what Nader’s Raiders were doing? Am I misunderstanding the philosophy in this book if I see that organization as getting democratic on the technocracy? Is Feenberg drawing the philosophy out of this political action as well? Theory goes both ways, right? You can put theory into practice, apply theory (are they synonyms?), but what do you call it the other way? You can extract philosophical concepts out of political action?(I’ve read something like that somewhere before) Is that what’s happening here?

And some notes:

“Commoner’s contrary view depends on a nondeterminist philosophy of technology which admits the possibility of radical technical transformation”(p.47)

“Keep America Beautiful, Inc. proclaimed: “People start pollution. People can stop it.” Hundreds of millions of dollars of free advertising space were devoted to diverting environmental pressures away from business and toward individual action.” (p.61)
“The business men who sponsored this campaign… hoped that the political energy mobilized by the increasingly articulate critics of capitalist environmental practice could be focused on private options, leaving basic economic institutions unchanged.”(p.62)

“the environmental movement must choose between repressive policy of increasing control over the individual, or a democratic policy of control over the social processes of production (and, I would add, culture.)” (p.69)

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Technocracy and Rebellion: The May Events of 1968

February 21, 2007

This chapter… some notes. Feenberg “argues for subjecting technology to democratic debate and reconstruction.” That’s from one of the blurbs in the front of the book. I’m going to read through to the end of the book before I touch another chapter. There’s something happening here in the first part of this book that is completely disconnected from anything I understand.

This chapter is supposed to “open a window on the revolution in thinking about technology that continues to this day.” But again, not being much of a reader, and born after May ’68, I haven’t been much influenced by the thinking before this revolution. The essentialism and determinism explained in chapter 1, I don’t know, maybe being born after ’68 the thought of being creative in the world has just always existed.

And I don’t mean creative in the sense of free and easy artists. Maybe determinism comes from an inability to see our own selves. Perhaps it’s a belief in God, or a desire to believe in an authority, because the superficial message we get is not our people’s. The perfect example comes around every year. Each November 11 we’re reminded of the state’s role in securing our rights and freedoms. I grew up in a union home. The change in our standard of living didn’t come from the government. A dying generation created my situation. They literally had to fight the state(complex) to improve our lives.

Once you’ve seen it in your life, you recognize it in history. Civil rights, women’s right, Gay rights, no one in standard issue uniform went to war for their rights.

The ’68 student movement creates a new politics, “challenging capitalism in new ways.”(p.21)

Feenberg “reconsiders” the May events along four themes.

  1. logic of student revolt
  2. student/worker relations
  3. middle strata’s ideological crisis
  4. new libertarian image of socialism

“[the students] refuse to become professors serving a teaching system which selects the sons of the bourgeoisie and eliminates the others;”(p.25) They rejected their “role in the process of social reproduction.” While Feenberg alludes to a complex “c” conservatism in the university(p.23), the students’ writing claim the revolt was not about the situation in the university.

Society “pretends to be based on knowledge.” The students called for workers’ self management and for a transformation of daily life and culture.

The middle strata sided with the people.

“workers would set there factories back in motion on their own account.”(p.39)

Sartre wrote, the events of May ’68 “enlarged the field of the possible.”

“In the domain that interests us here, these movements were precursors that announced the limits of technocratic power”(p.43)

Love in the Days of Rage: some notes

February 20, 2007

The connections that can be made when reading books simultaneously are interesting. There is the event of May 1968, even more interesting is the historical perspective. Sloterdijk deals with the event in 1980, Feenberg in 1999 and Ferlinghetti in 1988. I might come back to this after reading The Critique of Cynical Reason. There are also issues of self that come up in LITDOR that I’m thinking through Siddhartha. That said I’m going to write notes on what I’ve read so far and then after all the writing I’ve set up for myself I’ll work on one book at a time. Reading wildly in the odd time that I have is easy and enjoyable, but it complicates thinking and writing.

some notes:
In defense of the beats… Ferlinghetti is more famous for his bookstore, press and isolated cabin than he is for writing. Those 3 beat writers had their moment. That didn’t stop them from writing beyond it. This novel is written twenty years after Kerouac’s death, in the same long meandering poetry-for-sentences that made On The Road what it is. I pull phrases out of those sentences… Some ideas…

identity/self and proof
There’s something here, something… like The Apology which starts with a couple sentences that erase the idea of self…

The co director of the theatre says, “I approve of your movement, but why occupy the Odeon?”(p.78) She defends the theatre against any idea that it is bourgeois, but the students vote permanent occupation.

Annie says to Julian, “I don’t believe you — believe in you.”(p.58) Julian later says, “I see myself pretty clearly.”(p.59)
“She a supposedly “dissident” artist, the daughter of old Lefties, what was she doing here now, in love with this rich official of the French banking system who claimed to be some kind of anarchist yet seemed to do nothing but go to his bank, eat well. live will, talk revolution, and make love to her?”(p.57),
“still intent upon persuading Annie that he was indeed on the right side”(p.27)

Annie never really knows who Julian is.

“…a great unblinking eye that left no place to find one’s private self…”(p.8)

collective weight
“Freed yourself?” interposed Annie. “But what about everyone else still hung up in it?”(p.67), “…the anarchist and the Trotskyists and the communists who hated everyone else…”(p.54)

fascism
“what kind of antifascism were we working for anyway?”(p.59)

bread
What’ve you got to eat besides fancy words?”(p.64),

revolution
“It’s a long time since my student days, yet it still hasn’t happened, the real ‘revolution’ hasn’t happened yet, it’s the same old story, the students divided against themselves as before, and the anarchists and the Marxists still on the same side but still violently opposed to each other, the students and the workers together but not together, each still unable to really understand the other, still with wildly different goals, even though they come together against the state…”(p.32)

anarchy
“The idiot anarchist…”(p.66), “If they wouldn’t be real anarchist, then I would continue on my own”(p.64), “They wanted ‘liberty’ for everyone, in the abstract, but they couldn’t give full liberty to anyone to act on his own!”(p.64),”Working separately we’d all be separately free”(p.63)

underground
(p.62) They talk here about the underground, it just reminds me how misused the word is. People took their freedom underground because they had to. Today’s underground music and art scenes…

real world
“back into the real world, Paris 1968, where everything was about to happen.”(p.14), Growing up in Castelo Branco, Portugal “once in a while I came upon a magazine that gave me some inkling of the outside world, of real life.”( p.35)

middleground
“there is no middle ground anymore.”(p. 58)

consciousness
(p.88) new consciousness
“.., his ancient land where he had known the consciousness of birds, …”(p.105) bird consciousness/bat consciousness “If, someday two brains could be joined what would be the result?… …Or might a human someday be joined to an animal, blending together two forms of thinking… …a philosopher might after all come to know what it is like to be a bat…”(Larissa MacFarquhar, The enigma of consciousness, The New Yorker, Feb.12, 2007)

hindsight
The novel was written in 1988, twenty years after the event. This bit echoes a chapter in Questioning Technology:

It was a new consciousness, or an ancient consciousness rediscovered. And it was a new feminist consciousness, the Gaia hypothesis, based on what was being called the New Physics, the earth seen as Mother Earth again, ancient source of all, and man raping that mother, beginnings with Blake’s “dark, satanic mills” and roaring forward to the dark atomic mills, the nuclear mills with their undisposible radioactive wastes. This whole new view a part of the rebellion of the sixties everywhere, a kind of “youthquake” against everything artificial and unnatural in modern life, and the French student revolt a part of the general worldwide cry of youth against the dehumanization of the human animal more an more separated from its animal roots, from the earth itself, the green earth. The spirit of ‘sixty-eight was the first halting cry of what twenty years later would burst forth in a great new political movement, a new green movement, Green Power, which would have little to do with all the old political labels like Marxist, Maoist, communist, Trotskyite, anarchist, Republican, Democrat, or whatever. It would be a whole new ball game, and it would sweep the world. It was a game that Julian could hardly know, even Annie was only dimly able to articulate it herself. It would sweep the world, into the twenty-first century.”(p.88-89)

good stuff
“…the students speaking in chalk and spray paint: ” (p.44) this is followed by a number of slogans. (Somewhere out there Andrew Feenberg has a digital collection) This says something about voices. What?

Love in the days of rage (notes)

February 20, 2007

The connections that can be made when reading books simultaneously are interesting. There is the event of May 1968, even more interesting is the historical perspective. Sloterdijk deals with the event in 1980, Feenberg in 1999 and Ferlinghetti in 1988. I might come back to this after reading The Critique of Cynical Reason. There are also issues of self that come up in LITDOR that I’m thinking through Siddhartha. That said I’m going to write notes on what I’ve read so far and then after all the writing I’ve set up for myself I’ll work on one book at a time. Reading wildly in the odd time that I have is easy and enjoyable, but it complicates thinking and writing.

some notes:
In defense of the beats… Ferlinghetti is more famous for his bookstore, press and isolated cabin than he is for writing. Those 3 beat writers had their moment. That didn’t stop them from writing beyond it. This novel is written twenty years after Kerouac’s death, in the same long meandering poetry-for-sentences that made On The Road what it is. I pull phrases out of those sentences… Some ideas…

identity/self and proof
There’s something here, something… like The Apology which starts with a couple sentences that erase the idea of self…

The co director of the theatre says, “I approve of your movement, but why occupy the Odeon?”(p.78) She defends the theatre against any idea that it is bourgeois, but the students vote permanent occupation.

Annie says to Julian, “I don’t believe you — believe in you.”(p.58) Julian later says, “I see myself pretty clearly.”(p.59)
“She a supposedly “dissident” artist, the daughter of old Lefties, what was she doing here now, in love with this rich official of the French banking system who claimed to be some kind of anarchist yet seemed to do nothing but go to his bank, eat well. live will, talk revolution, and make love to her?”(p.57),
“still intent upon persuading Annie that he was indeed on the right side”(p.27)

Annie never really knows who Julian is.

“…a great unblinking eye that left no place to find one’s private self…”(p.8)

collective weight
“Freed yourself?” interposed Annie. “But what about everyone else still hung up in it?”(p.67), “…the anarchist and the Trotskyists and the communists who hated everyone else…”(p.54)

fascism
“what kind of antifascism were we working for anyway?”(p.59)

bread
What’ve you got to eat besides fancy words?”(p.64),

revolution
“It’s a long time since my student days, yet it still hasn’t happened, the real ‘revolution’ hasn’t happened yet, it’s the same old story, the students divided against themselves as before, and the anarchists and the Marxists still on the same side but still violently opposed to each other, the students and the workers together but not together, each still unable to really understand the other, still with wildly different goals, even though they come together against the state…”(p.32)

anarchy
“The idiot anarchist…”(p.66), “If they wouldn’t be real anarchist, then I would continue on my own”(p.64), “They wanted ‘liberty’ for everyone, in the abstract, but they couldn’t give full liberty to anyone to act on his own!”(p.64),”Working separately we’d all be separately free”(p.63)

underground
(p.62) They talk here about the underground, it just reminds me how misused the word is. People took their freedom underground because they had to. Today’s underground music and art scenes…

real world
“back into the real world, Paris 1968, where everything was about to happen.”(p.14), Growing up in Castelo Branco, Portugal “once in a while I came upon a magazine that gave me some inkling of the outside world, of real life.”( p.35)

middleground
“there is no middle ground anymore.”(p. 58)

consciousness
(p.88) new consciousness
“.., his ancient land where he had known the consciousness of birds, …”(p.105) bird consciousness/bat consciousness “If, someday two brains could be joined what would be the result?… …Or might a human someday be joined to an animal, blending together two forms of thinking… …a philosopher might after all come to know what it is like to be a bat…”(Larissa MacFarquhar, The enigma of consciousness, The New Yorker, Feb.12, 2007)

hindsight
The novel was written in 1988, twenty years after the event. This bit echoes a chapter in Questioning Technology:

It was a new consciousness, or an ancient consciousness rediscovered. And it was a new feminist consciousness, the Gaia hypothesis, based on what was being called the New Physics, the earth seen as Mother Earth again, ancient source of all, and man raping that mother, beginnings with Blake’s “dark, satanic mills” and roaring forward to the dark atomic mills, the nuclear mills with their undisposible radioactive wastes. This whole new view a part of the rebellion of the sixties everywhere, a kind of “youthquake” against everything artificial and unnatural in modern life, and the French student revolt a part of the general worldwide cry of youth against the dehumanization of the human animal more an more separated from its animal roots, from the earth itself, the green earth. The spirit of ‘sixty-eight was the first halting cry of what twenty years later would burst forth in a great new political movement, a new green movement, Green Power, which would have little to do with all the old political labels like Marxist, Maoist, communist, Trotskyite, anarchist, Republican, Democrat, or whatever. It would be a whole new ball game, and it would sweep the world. It was a game that Julian could hardly know, even Annie was only dimly able to articulate it herself. It would sweep the world, into the twenty-first century.”(p.88-89)


good stuff
“…the students speaking in chalk and spray paint: ” (p.44) this is followed by a number of slogans. (Somewhere out there Andrew Feenberg has a digital collection) This says something about voices. What?

Raging Consciousness

February 15, 2007

I’m slowly working on an entry about reading. Love in the days of rage a novel by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, illustrates what reading is for me, or at least why I read. I picked the book out of a bargain bin years ago, in a fit of Beat reading, but never made it past the first sentence, which has to be one of the more poorly constructed first sentences in the history of the novel. So the slim book sat on my travelling shelf for years, until recently the subject of Paris 1968 surfaced in my reading. Feenberg devotes a chapter to that historic moment in Questioning Technology and in a blurb on the back cover of Peter Sloterdijk’s Critique of Cynical Reason Jürgen Habermas writes, “Inasmuch as he explains the aftermath of the shattered ideals of 1968 with means he borrows from philosophical history, he gleans from the pile of rubble a piece of truth.” So before devoting the next six months of my reading life to Sloterdijk, I read, over a few nights, Love in the days of Rage.

Chapter 13: Unteachable Students

January 12, 2007

I don’t know if I’m going to read any more of this book anytime soon. This is the pattern I’ve followed for years. I read a chapter that interests me, an introduction or preface, and then put the book down for another. I have a hard time reading books like this. Books that are literally summed up by their title. I am, however, well into Questioning Technology, although I’ve yet to write a word, I am enjoying it. Coincidentally, A Critique of Cynical Reasoning came in the mail yesterday, and from the initial flip-through, it also deals with the events of Paris 1968. Connections like that excite me. Just as an aside, the preface of Questioning Technology is all you really need to read to understand where Feenberg is going with his argument, but I haven’t stopped reading yet, and I’m sure it’s because there’s a depth in Questioning Technology’s argument that just isn’t there in Hold on to your kids. I’m also going to write up a couple chapters from the Education Reader. Another book I don’t think I’ll finish. Maybe I will. I am thinking about something here. I react strongly to certain ideas. I just turn away in frustration. Like in some paper this week sometime, there was a headline, something like How Canadian Are You? Under the headline there were two portraits. I can’t go into any more detail, because I don’t have anymore. The sight of this was enough. It’s an involuntary response. Some sort of thought exists on my part I’m sure, but I don’t bring myself to the point of confronting “How Canadian Are You? Under headline … two portraits.” The same thing happens with books like the Education Reader, that’s the word — confrontation. Maybe I should confront these ideas. I don’t have the time. I mean I’m already about 6 chapters behind in my write-ups here. You see I’m thinking out loud. … … I’ll add another book to the list, another parenting/education book. I think it’s called Kids are worth it. If I find that How Canadian are you? article, maybe I’ll write about that too. I don’t know what I’d write, I’m serious about the frustration. It’s a wordless reaction. Of the same sort I get looking through the Education Reader. Hold on to Your Kids and Kids are Worth it, are a different sort of frustration. If I read a chapter here and there, while reading other more enjoyable books between, I’ll eventually get through them. There’s something there in the struggle to read these books. I’m hoping. I read Kids are worth it over 4 years ago and couldn’t today tell you one thing about the book. That’s not completely true. It is a parenting/teaching book. I mention this because Hold on to your kids is the same genre. As someone who’s been a classroom teacher and who plans on once again teaching in a classroom, I’ve seen that these books make their way, or at least one idea makes its way around teachers lounge. And that’s the idea that parenting and student success are linked. Teaching in the best of situations is never easy. (That teaching is situational says something) But sometimes it is tougher than others, and when it’s real tough, parents aren’t much help. The problem with these parenting/teaching books is that they set the preparation for learning in the home. And when kids fail, the parents have failed.

In Chapter 13: Unteachable Students we read that a “shift in the attachment patterns of our children has had profoundly negative implications for education.” The authors go on,”Until relatively recently teachers were able to ride on the coattails of a strong adult orientation engendered by culture and society.” Now the title of this chapter names a category of student that doesn’t really exist (All children are teachable.), and that’s troublesome. It’s troublesome that our schools do nothing, read that they can do nothing for children so categorized. There are books written for everyone. Whatever you believe you can find validated in print. And here in Chapter 13 of Hold on to your kids teachers can validate their feeling that some kids are unteachable. They can read that they are not totally responsible for the education of children, because parents and all other adults who come in contact with children and shape society are also responsible. The way of thinking, the concepts out of which Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté create concepts are so simple they can’t possibly be mapped onto any reality. There’s a kind of defeated idealism at work here. Maybe I’ll come back to this later.