May 25, 2013
May 21, 2013
“If the unconscious escapes from a given normative injunction, to what other injunction does it form an attachment? What makes us think that the unconscious is any less structured by the power relations that pervade cultural signifiers than is the language of the subject? If we find an attachment to subjection at the level of the unconscious, what kind of resistance is to be wrought from that?” Judith Butler, The Psychic Life of Power
May 16, 2013
When historians look back and write about the collapse of the university, they will point to the precise moment we started giving credit for these.
Aaron Bady at The New Inquiry has a great piece on the MOOC phenomenon. Read it. MOOC fear has become such a universal fear in the academy that I forget most people don't know what's about to happen. I usually get the incredulous look when I talk about the collapse of the university model over the next couple decades. How could a hundreds of years old system actually collapse over a single invention? Same way a single instrument called a derivative can crash a finance market- it was always primed to be taken advantage of. Now the technology to kill it off is finally here.
California has a three-tier system for higher public education: UCal, Cal State, and city colleges. The city college network is meant to turn out associate's degrees and/or be an inexpensive two-year GenEd period where students complete the IGETC requirements guaranteeing transfer into Cal State or UCal schools. Only it doesn't quite work that way. I know this because before she recently transferred to Pepperdine my wife dealt with the bureaucratic mess that kept many of her peers in the city college system for 4 years or more (again, to get only half a BA). The problem is too few classes, which in turn is a result of budget cuts that eliminate teachers. It's a big problem throughout California. The simple solution would be to fund the colleges. But why do that when a corporation lobbies to make a profit off desperate students?
State Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-CA) has sponsored SB 520 to allow students to receive credit for MOOC course produced by for-profits like Coursera and Udacity. It's a terrible thing disguised as a half-way decent thing. It's solving a problem that we created via funding cuts in order to shift public capital to private corporations (not to mention the price could justify cutting thousands of professors in the process- PhDs on food stamps!). Adorno and Horkheimer call this a staged theater. It's a con, a distraction, a solution to keep things basically the same. In this case, same is where a capitalist economy simply has no mechanism to reward humanities disciplines (or thought in general), and so it shifts to generating STEM degrees. We just need to generate STEM students or else [something about southeast Asia].
As California goes, so goes the nation. Public and private universities are scrambling to rethink traditional online courses (which differ in giving credit to small sets of students already enrolled at that institution) into pre-filmed, YouTube length lecture snippets that can be served up day and night for potentially millions (yes, millions) of students (NB: a student is a commodity that generates loan revenue for a university). Classrooms on autopilot. "Peer-grading" is the leading edge for the "but how will we grade papers?!" question, which is what you are asking if you still think the system is going to care about measuring quality.
Daphne Koller: What we're learning from online education
I'm not at all opposed to online education per se. I'm opposed to credit. I learn as much listening to iTunes U lectures from Yale as I do listening to my profs lecture at Claremont. Podcasting lectures is a great workaround, particularly for humanities students who already have to know hundreds of authors. Combine that with my interests spread across multiple disciplines, and I have serious limits. I realistically only have time to read around 150 books per year, which is well short of what I need to cover in the 7 year MA/PhD process. So online audio/video options are great for filling in gaps. But there are no replacement for real professors, strenuous reading, and conversations over drinks with colleagues after class- which is where actual learning happens. I'm as much a TED Talk fan as the next academic. Here is one I listened to discussing peer-grading. I listened to it last summer on my cross-country drive back to Los Angeles to begin my PhD program. I distinctly remember being in some godforsaken desert in New Mexico, the bleak environment an ironic background for the prophecy of my future.
By the way, if you are tenured Harvard prof earning well-above-average salary and you film a MOOC for a couple thousand dollars- knowing full well your actions could mean the end of hundreds or even thousands of young prof's careers- you are a deplorable person.
This is the way the critically-thinking world ends
Only one thing is putting the breaks on any of this: course credit. If the Harvard/MIT venture edX offer cheap or free courses, it will be "democratization of education" until it isn't- until course credit is given at which point nobody in their right mind wants to pay actual money for not-Harvard/MIT. But the brand- how will they protect their elite prestige?!- no, no, I'm sure Harvard/MIT will have no trouble creating a two-tiered system where its clear who the poor kids on YouTube were. But as for Neverheardofit State, which now has to compete with Harvard/MIT's free program, you can bet on credit for pre-recorded lectures. When that happens, the university collapses into nothing but another commodity factory.
I though giving up teaching - teaching! - to grad students eliminated so many tenured jobs that universities would think through the ramifications of doing something a hundred times worse? Sure, because good intentions and noble goals can defend against capital, right?
Doesn't that mean even the senior professors at MOOC-recording schools are jeopardizing their own future? This is a catastrophe is moving fast, but it will still take a decade or two- most of those tenured profs will have checked out by then, no worries.
Doesn't this mean more learning for more people? If you think watching YouTube clips is the same as a university education...
And most importantly: isn't creating a system where more and more people are incentivized to take cheap, easy degrees until they are thirty+ while simultaneously slashing the jobs available to them afterward by converting public funds into private capital and then crushing those same students with debt repayments that keep capital out of the economic flow and confined within Wall Street accounts and Sallie Mae- isn't that a bad thing? What a worthless and irrelevant question- you ask that like you think you can do something about it.
May 12, 2013
When we go to hell for our sins against others, Jesus will tell us "the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath" had implications beyond sabbath rules.
Entrenchment has no use for imagining the origins of the sacred taboo or the ethical horrors wrought through repetition. When Meister Eckhart prayed, “God, rid me of God,” God probably retorted, “I tried, usually on a sabbath- it didn’t take.” The concrete universal did not appreciate our abstract particularities. The only thing worse than Hegel's master of a slave is Lacan's master’s discourse that dreams of the day the slave will set the master free. But in an economy of debt, somebody else definitely has to pay. So we had better find something to scapegoat. Repetition, repression, reification, repetition.
One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
- Mark 2:23-7, TNIV
May 11, 2013
The good people at Ebook Collective have posted Jacques Lacan's Écrits: A Selection. Ebook Collective is a fantastic site for leftist literature and they continuously disseminate texts that are either already on my bookshelves or on my bucket list. Download the pdf of Écrits here or connect with them on facebook here. They also have Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle, but if you are really interested in learning Freud I recommend his slightly more mature text The Ego and the Id.
The English Écrits is significantly shorter than the French version, but its still a massive volume. The greatest frustration with studying Lacan is that so few of his seminars have been translated. And most of the material I'm interested in regarding psychopathology is trapped in french only, which means non-french-speakers like myself have to rely on far to many secondary texts. Only 3 seminars (XI, XVII, and XX) are translated from his years in which he truly developed his mature theory. XVII is one of the best political documents I've ever read. I'm rereading Seminar XI for a doctoral seminar at CGU this Fall, so I'm looking forward to getting reacquainted.
May 10, 2013
Comrades, take a break from your term papers on dead German philosophers:
May 4, 2013
“I know who made the environment and he’s coming back and going to burn it all up. So yes, I drive an SUV.” -Mark Driscoll at recent Catalyst Dallas conference.
I always get this incredulous look from liberals who have a hard time understanding that one reason climate science doesn't seem to matter is that 41% of the US literally believes Jesus will come back to destroy the world before 2050. I have even discussed this with college-educated pastors who tell me that slowing climate change could be seen as working against god. Driscoll may be a charlatan and an extremist, but let's keep in mind he reflects the sentiments of nearly half of America.
And that is why we can't have nice things.
Here are the stats:
May 3, 2013
I read a lot of Freud in the past few weeks, and a couple of his works - specifically Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality and The Ego and the Id - have been phenomenally helpful in my understanding of pathology and cathexis in relation to (de)conversion.
Pete Rollins claims it’s usually those who believe too much (rather than not enough) who experience a cascading loss of traditional religious beliefs. And those who remain dogmatic almost never believe with the consistent integrity that they imagine themselves to epitomize:
"This is why fundamentalist communities are not threatened by the anemic liberal claim that they believe too much. This is what they want. This is the fantasy that sustains them. Rather the truly radical claim is not that they believe too much but rather that they don't believe enough. That their belief is sustained by a disavowed unbelief." - Pete Rollins
My experience loosing dogmatism produced an all-too-common conversation script when reengaging the more traditionally religious. Wording ranges from disinterest to concern to hostility, but usually the questions imply theology has “liberalized” (that seems to be the only category, so...)- I have the wrong facts. And the more dogmatic the faith of the interrogator, the more likely they are to label difference as “pathological.” This used to frustrate me quite a bit (it is insulting, after all), but psychoanalysis gave me a language to work out what was really happening.
Who knows whether St. Paul was an obsessional or hysteric neurotic, but I’ve always liked his pretentious Pharisee-of-Pharisees claim. I think he cracked because he over-identified with his code. It was only a lack of integrity that allowed his former comrades to remain Pharisees. A kind of apostasy is actually the normal route for obsessives, but it isn’t for hysterics and perverts. In psychoanalytic terms, the ego redirects id-libido and appropriates its as narcissistic libido, selecting a cathect-object which the super-ego attacks. The ego deploys repression to quiet the super-ego, but repression hits limits where the ego cracks and rebels. Martin Luther is a clear case of this obsessional neurosis - I’ll return to this below.
My theory is that social systems tend to drift toward hysteria over time. Hysteria is disposed to be the tool of someone’s ideology because it, as Freud says, represses anxiety specifically to keep conflict unconscious. Hysterics may genuinely feel no anxiety over abuse as long as they feel their relationship to the Other is secure. This schema is roughly what is happening when women happily submit to norms of patriarchal dominance or LGBT citizens feel they don’t deserve full marriage. Usually the ego represses in order to satisfy the (social/religious/moral taboo) demands of the “harsh taskmaster” super-ego, but hysteria seems best at keeping anxiety unconscious. Obsessives rebel against the harsh super-ego once repression becomes overwhelming.
Martin Luther did not ignite a Reformation because he rationalized his way out of Catholic teachings. Instead, his fidelity overwhelmed the limits of repression. His severe ego-identification with doctrine created a narcissistic object-cathexis which his superego proceeded to assault: “Luther, you are not righteous enough; you will suffer my wrath for forgetting to confess!” Luther even exhibited what we call “negative therapeutic reaction” - a resistance to healing due to feeling the distress is deserved - which is often the penultimate step to therapy’s beneficial conclusion.
“In certain forms of obsessional neurosis the sense of guilt is over-noisy but cannot justify itself to the ego. Consequently the patient’s ego rebels against the imputation of guilt and seeks the physician's support in repudiating it. It would be folly to acquiesce in this, for to do so would have no effect. Analysis eventually shows that the super-ego is being influenced by processes that have remained unknown to the ego. It is possible to discover the repressed impulses which are really at the bottom of the sense of guilt. Thus in this case the super-ego knew more than the ego about the unconscious id.” - Freud, The Ego and the Id, V.
The neurotic ego either frees itself or becomes more enslaved to the super-ego. The ego of the obsessive tends to revolt once the repression becomes too much to handle. “I once was found but now am lost”- we loose beliefs because we believed too much. The stories are painfully similar because they tend to come from the same obsessive psych profile.
May 1, 2013
"I guess the trouble was that we didn't have any self-admitted proletarians. Everyone was a temporarily embarrassed capitalist." - John Steinbeck, 1960
Apr 29, 2013
Clayton Crockett and Jeffrey W. Robbins, "Becoming a Brain: The New Materialism and the Challenge of Liberation," Union Theological Seminary. Responses from Cornel West and Mark Lewis Taylor.
And thanks to Bo Eberle for helping make this event happen.