Fw: From_telos-forum: Telos Newsletter

Michael Pugliese debsian at SPAMpacbell.net
Wed Nov 3 04:55:40 MST 1999



By coincidence after I sent my screed on Stratfor, Telos, and other
ramblings, the Telos forum newsletter was another dozen or so messages away.
Michael Pugliese

----- Original Message -----
From: Ahmet Çiðdem <acigdem at turnet.net.tr>
To: <telos-forum at icsun.ithaca.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, November 02, 1999 5:12 PM
Subject: Re: From_telos-forum: Telos Newsletter


> >From =?iso-8859-1?B?QWhtZXQgx2nwZGVt?= <acigdem at turnet.net.tr>
>
> Dear Sir,
> Thank you very much indeed.
> I am an admirer of you, and a faithful follower of Telos.
> your sincerely
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: <Telospress at aol.com>
> To: <telos-forum at www.ithaca.edu>; <adelfini at iona.edu>;
> <abotwini at vm.temple.edu>; <marcbass at mailserver.unimi.it>;
> <jbenders at atlas.vcu.edu>; <JB83E8 at PANAM.EDU>;
<christina.spellman at nyu.edu>;
> <juan.corradi at nyu.edu>; <conversi at ceu.hu>; <emrnpa at nature.berkeley.edu>;
> <gottfrpe at etown.edu>; <jrf3 at cornell.edu>; <rickj at morgan.ucs.mun.ca>;
> <gabor.rittersporn at cmb.hu-berlin.de>; <skim at siue.edu>;
<at323 at columbia.edu>
> Cc: <hgb56 at hotmail.com>; <cjp15 at hermes.cam.ac.uk>; <antinavs at hotmail.com>;
> <rweissbe at uiuc.edu>; <Wolfgang.Palaver at uibk.ac.at>
> Sent: Wednesday, November 03, 1999 1:21 AM
> Subject: From_telos-forum: Telos Newsletter
>
>
> Dear Fellow Editors and other Interested Parties:
>
> The following newsletter may not comer out in full as an e-mail. If it
does
> not, I have attached two files of it, in PDF and RTF format. You should
have
> no trouble opening either one or both of them:
>
>
> Nov. 1, 1999
>
> Dear Fellow Editors and other Interested Parties:
>
> Before Telos # 115 is mailed out, it may be helpful to bring you up to
date
> concerning what is going on with details which, given our geographical
> spread, we have been unable to discuss collectively, i.e., questions
> concerning directions, policies, plans, etc. Obviously, we are very late,
> despite the fact that, following the ancient Romans when their calendar
went
> out of whack with reality, last year we made the necessary administrative
> adjustments. Unlike the usual "leap year," where there is actually no
"leap"
> but, instead, a day is added on, we actually did leap, all the way over
> 1997.
> It did not help. It has taken us over seven months to prepare the present
> issue, and the next one does not appear to be gestating all that fast.
Maybe
> we should follow D'Amico's advice and stop pretending we can put out four
> good issues per year. That, however, creates a whole different series of
> bureaucratic problems too long to go into here, but which should be
avoided
> at all costs.
>
> There is not any particular problem one can point to. Besides
> run-of-the-mill
> burn-out, running out of gas, and simply becoming interested in other
> things,
> most of the editors and collaborators do not seem to be clear any more
about
> what it is we should be doing and why. The fact that we have been unable
to
> meet recently has not helped. Long gone are the days when universities
were
> breeding grounds for movements like the New Left - whose assumption that
it
> was a matter of changing the world, rather than understanding it,
justified
> our efforts to try to help them understand it before trying to change it.
> Far
> from breeding new ideas or even making sense out of old ones, universities
> have managed to evolve into decrepit institutions not all that different
> from
> the old, labor-intensive Russian factories, which keep clogging along
simply
> because no one seems to have any idea as to what to do with them. As
Jacoby
> put it, the only significant political struggles in universities today are
> over things such as the assignment of parking spots.
>
> Since we never assumed that LSD was the path to Nirvana or that eventually
> the glorious working class would redeem us all, the failure of what became
> of
> the New Left and the progressive collective cretinization of the
> intelligentsia never had much of an impact on our project to make sense
out
> of our predicament by, first of all, having a very clear understanding of
> what has been said and done before. This is why we began by attempting to
> resuscitate Western Marxism and Critical Theory against the opposition of
> both "end of ideology" and Marxist ideologues. From the beginning, the
> journal's name, Telos, sought to capture what that project was about: the
> search for a sense of direction which seemed not only to have been lost,
but
> dismissed outright as unnecessary metaphysical baggage. Those who think
> there
> has been some sort of "right-wing" involution during the last few years in
> rethinking traditions, federalism, the Enlightenment, liberalism, the
nature
> and function of religion, the foundations of Western culture, etc. never
> really understood what Telos was all about. We began within the New Left
> simply because it so happened that in the late 60s the only people that
> seemed interested in dealing with collective cultural amnesia and
> reactivating "traditional American values" to oppose the Vietnam War were
> those involved with the New Left. We naively assumed that they meant it.
> When
> all is said and done, it is the New Left that has changed, not us.
>
> Least this begins to sound like an apology for intellectual paralysis, it
> does not mean that we have been stuck in some fixed ideology or in
defending
> any particular positions. If anything, we have moved too fast - so fast
that
> even some of our editors are no longer quite sure where most of us are
these
> days. Unfortunately, this has not led to any systematic discussion, which
> could have clarified and sharpened some of these views, but, at best, to
> simply reiterating individual positions, independently of any potential
> Aufheb
> ung. This was particularly obvious in the "Murray debate," where we could
> not
> even agree on what the issue was: to "legitimate Nazism," or to begin
> treating it as a closed historical chapter calling for a real
understanding
> as part of the broader process of disintegration of Enlightenment ideology
> and modernity rather than to keep on fulminating moral invectives against
it
> - a strategy which, ironically and a-historically, presupposes its
lingering
> viability. In this, we were not all that different from the general
American
> public that, e.g., is now suddenly shocked by Buchanan's pedestrian claims
> about the marginality of the Nazi threats to US realpolitische interests,
> and
> interprets them as sympathies for Nazism - as if the discovery that Hitler
> had no immediate plans to invade the Eastern US would somehow make Nazism
> any
> more acceptable or morally viable.
>
> The same thing has happened with Critical Theory. Although most of us
accept
> it as our intellectual legacy, real discussion concerning its status has
not
> gone anywhere. As a result, when not dismissed altogether as old hat, this
> heritage usually ends up either embalmed as something sacred to be kept
pure
> and unchanged, which means that we never get beyond the aporias that
stunned
> the original founders, or it is mainlined into predominant modernist
> discourse, turning the whole thing (after minor details having to do with
> "gender, race and class" are taken care of) into another subtle apology
for
> the status quo.
>
> In this issue, Pan takes Adorno to task for ultimately lacking a real
> critique of modernity and capitulating to the very ideology he otherwise
> attacks. What is most provocative about David's piece is that he follows
the
> logic of Dialectic of Enlightenment to its bitter end, beyond the limits
> Adorno himself was unwilling to transgress in Negative Dialectic and
> Aesthetic Theory, to pose the question of myth and of the foundations of
> Critical Theory squarely on the agenda. Spinoza's dictum that "omnia
> determinatio est negatio," works both ways: negations are simultaneously
> affirmations having significant consequences - at least this is the way
> negative theology has constituted cultures for the past few millennia.
> Wasting almost four decades negating around can only lead one to the Hotel
> Abyss, on the brink of mundanity and meaninglessness. Celebrating the
> opprobrium of modern art and the soft-core pornography of psychoanalysis,
> while suffering through Schönberg's incubuses, in search of an
authenticity
> which could not even be identified as such (since Heidegger had already
> copyrighted the notion) was no substitute for confronting the real
problems
> they had run up against. Unencumbered by the kind of political correctness
> required of WWII German refugees, David asks the tough questions. Why is
> Enlightenment anti-myth mythology any more legitimate than other
varieties,
> if ultimately they have no better foundation and their acceptance is a
> function of particular decisions by particular people living within
> particular cultures? And how is the transposition of science for Truth sic
> et
> nunc more justifiable than other run-of-the-mill religious dogma,
predicated
> precisely on formally identical pragmatic considerations ("science works"
> vs.
> "belief in God gets me to Heaven")?
>
> Since neither science nor any of the various versions of God are
immediately
> obvious, based as they are on whether they can marshal a particular
cultural
> consensus for their acceptance, on what basis do we accept one over all
> other
> options? If it is not a simplistic choice between rationality vs.
> irrationality - both of which exhibit similar axiological foundations
(since
> the choice to be rational cannot itself be a rational choice) - then it
may
> be time to start thinking seriously about what we mean by "emancipation"
and
> "Truth," beyond standard modernist answers such as "a chicken in every
pot"
> or "what is," especially since it is agreed that the ob-jectivity
> hypostatized as "what is" turns out to be a culturally constituted
> mundanity,
> which has already fallen pray to identity logic. This approach should
> checkmate out of the picture pathological Adornoites, such as Bob Kantor,
> who
> spend hours agonizing over how to render in English Adorno's usage of
"die,"
> "
> der," or "das," without any idea of why T.W.'s ideas cannot in any way be
> reconciled with his otherwise conformist liberalism, or even challenge
more
> sophisticated people such as Jacoby and Bokina to ask to what an extent
> Marcuse's spectacular "Great Refusal" was ultimately a fraud, not because
> historically it simply turned out to be the "Great Capitulation," but
> because
> of fundamental philosophical flaws.
>
> At any rate, it is this type of unavoidable metaphysical meandering that
> eventually leads one back to reconsider the question of religion,
understood
> not as a longing for some "Big Daddy" up in the sky, but as a search for
> meaning and Truth. All that revolution in the traditional Marxist sense
was
> meant to bring about were the socio-economic conditions allowing everyone
to
> confront, and satisfactorily solve, these questions. It was never a matter
> of
> dismissing them outright (well, OK, nitwits such as Engels, Kautsky and
> Bernstein might have meant something else) on the ground that, as Marx
> insisted, without preliminarily meeting these conditions, religion and its
> functional equivalent turn into legitimating ideologies for existing
> relations of domination. This is why, as Berman shows in his article on
> Brecht and Schleiermacher, when it came to choosing between mundane
nihilism
> and religion, some of the smarter Marxists, such as Brecht, invariably
opted
> for the latter - despite the fact that liberal sensibilities automatically
> exclude religion as a topic for legitimate discourse.
>
> At any rate, here is the full table of contents of the next issue, which
> should reach you within the next couple of weeks:
>
> Articles:
> David Pan: Adorno's Failed Aesthetics of Myth
> Russell A. Berman: From Brecht to Schleiermacher:
> Religion and Critical Theory
> Rick Johnstone: Ethnic Purges and Neighborly Pacts:
> Reflections on a Swiss Statue
> Anthony King: Legitimating Post-Fordism:
> On Anthony Giddens' Later Works
> John W. Tate: Posting Modernity to the Past?
>
> Notes, Documents and Commentaries:
> Simon Oliver: Theology as a Pseudo-Ecology?
> Reply to Manussos Marangudakis
> Kaveh L. Afrasiabi: On "Civilizational Parallelism"
> Benoist & Champetier: The French New Right in the Year 2000
> Peter Schneider: Intervention in Kosovo
> Rick Johnstone: The Lessons of Auschwitz and the Lessons of Uri
>
> Reviews:
> G. L. Ulmen: Dialectic of Enlightenment and the "Dark Continent"
> Paul Piccone: The Obsolescence of Utopia
> Catherine Pickstock: Civil Society and its Discontents
> John Bokina: Heidegger Again, but with a Difference
> Sophie Berman: Back to Sanity
> Curtis L. Hancock: Transcendental Sophistry
>
> When you go through it you will see why we are having so much trouble
> putting
> these issues together. One of the unexpected new obstacles has been the
> confusion our most recent issues has caused not only within whatever
remains
> of the Left (which sees the journal as having hopelessly dead-ended within
> the conservative fold), but also within the Right (which makes the same
> mistake). Thus, our libertarian defense of particularity, independently of
> whether or not it conforms to what liberals deem to be politically
correct,
> has been misunderstood as outright support for some of these very
positions
> whose legitimacy we have upheld, independently of however distasteful they
> may otherwise strike some of us. So, many of these people have been
> submitting material which has had the unintended consequence of reminding
us
> why we were all "lapsed" something - whether Catholic, Protestant, Jews
etc.
> This material proceeds from standard realist perspectives, which take the
> facticity of the given to be unproblematic, and proceed to articulate an
> incredibly naive (and conservative) worldview ultimately predicated on the
> revelation of a divine power guaranteeing a necessary metaphysical
> correlation between the mental and the physical. While today it so happens
> that such perspectives generate critiques of existing practices and social
> relations much more incisive than anything coming out of the comatose
Left,
> it ultimately presupposes the legitimacy of a status quo ante, which
> initially led most of us to become "lapsed" something. Most of these
> critiques entailed a shift from the frying pan into the fire, even though
> the
> fire was not always immediately obvious. Since some of this material was
> commissioned and could not be rejected outright, we had to go through
> editorial hoops to make this not immediately obvious dimension even less
> obvious. We have succeeded, but it has taken a toll in time and effort.
>
> In addition to this, even the usually reliable material remains
problematic.
> Look at Johnstone's article. Having developed a very well written and
> rigorously argued piece vindicating the Swiss system against the
predominant
> national model, he ends up shooting himself in the foot with a defense of
> "human rights," even after having convincingly shown how the Swiss were so
> successful without any recourse to "human rights" to live civilly and not
to
> kill each other, as in all the other places where "ethnic cleansing" is
now
> in fashion. Although this argument has been going on for over a decade,
> there
> is no way to make him understand how today "human rights" are ideological
> props for hidden foreign policy agendas. There is nothing transcendental
> about them, since they are but another instance of particular cultural
> values, and they are enforced only selectively, when they serve particular
> extraneous interests. There is a big difference between believing that
> people
> ought to be treated as ends in themselves and postulating the untenable
> claim
> that this is done on the basis of universally valid values anyone is
obliged
> to accept. As Johnstone shows, the Swiss did exceedingly well without
them,
> and one could argue that they were so successful precisely because they
did
> not buy into any Enlightenment universalist ideology (since their system
> goes
> back to the 13th century!).
>
> This human rights business keeps hounding us, since in the Kosovo
symposium
> most participants ended up supporting NATO, while rejecting the silly
White
> House justification predicated on guaranteeing human rights. Originally we
> had planned an expanded symposium on the question the Kosovo crisis
raised,
> but the whole thing fizzled out with Milosevic bailing out, well before we
> could come up with anything substantial. The few pieces that did come in,
> responding to the original symposium in Telos #114, kept confusing our
> various positions, generally in favor of "No more Holocausts!" rather than
> "No more intervention!" with the official American apology, reiterating
all
> the silly arguments about American imperialism, the need to test new
> weapons,
> exploitation of Kosovo resources, keeping Europeans in place, etc. which
> none
> of us had adduced to justify support for NATO. Since it made no sense to
> debate views none of us ever held, we simply decided to publish two pieces
> we
> were committed to publish and to leave it at that. At any rate, that most
of
> the animus behind the "Europeans want Peace!" had to do less with Kosovo
> than
> with the usual French anti-Americanism can be seen by the lack of any
> substantial opposition to the Russian slaughter of the Chechens. Here is a
> case of genuine raw imperialism, having to do with petro-politics pure and
> simple, entailing the subjugation of a population which has tried to get
the
> Russian out of their land almost forever, and no one seems to care. So
much
> for Euro-honesty.
>
> This discussion of international law, the meaning of self-determination,
the
> status of nation-states, etc. is only being postponed. We will probably
> confront these questions as soon as we publish the English translation of
> Carl Schmitt's Der Nomos der Erde, which provides the most exhaustive
> account
> of the history of international law and throws considerable light on the
> current chaos surrounding international relations. The book should be out
> next year, at which time we will try to hold a symposium about it, with
> particular emphasis on whatever New World Order may be in the offing. This
> will be a good opportunity to re-examine the role of the UN, the
> desirability
> and implications of one-world government, the concept of national
> sovereignty, the obsolescence of the nation, the future of regionalism and
> localism, and, most of all, the meaning of globalization, a notion that
has
> generated more nonsense than anything else since communism bit the dust in
> 1989.
> Such a discussion would warrant a conference, which we should probably try
> to
> organize if the Telos Institute ever manages to come together.
> Unfortunately,
> there does not seem to be anyone willing to figure out how to organize its
> financing - something that requires considerable effort and time, not to
> mention particular skills. I would ordinarily take on such a task, but
since
> my ability to pull off any PR is non-existent, not much has taken place on
> this front. There has been an attempt to reorganize a working group in
> Ithaca
> to do this, but since I have not had the time to pursue it, there has been
a
> stall. Maybe I'll get back to it as soon as I can get most of my desk
> cleared. It is difficult to believe that, in the present situation, with
> foundations having money coming out of their ears as a result of the stock
> market boom and intellectuals having practically nothing to say, we cannot
> secure any financing for the kind of projects we have been prefiguring.
> Maybe
> something will eventually pan out before the end of the next millennium. .





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