"Brave New World" or "the Soul of Man under Socialism"? (was Re:Desire & Scarcity)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at SPAMosu.edu
Sat Jan 29 23:19:37 MST 2000


>>I suppose some people think that the world without Scarcity as neoclassical
>>economists define it is _dull_ and _without enjoyment_.  Never mind whether
>>it is possible, since both Doug & Eric think it's _undesirable_.  I, on the
>>other hand, think that Scarcity makes us unable to enjoy what we can and to
>>develop new needs & desires that are incompatible with capitalism.
>You are conflating political economy and psychology (an incredible thing
>considering your hostility toward the latter). I commented on what seemed
>to be the psychic and emotional barrenness of *your* postscarcity world; I
>said nothing about whether a world without scarcity was desirable or not.
>Of course I think it is. (I'm sure Doug does too; it should be obvious to
>any attentive reader that what he called "undesirable" in his post was "an
>institutionally unspecified planning regime" not a world without scarcity.)
>There, now I'm on record as being against scarcity. Let me also say that I
>am unwaveringly opposed to nuclear holocaust, genocide, and overpriced
>prix-fixe menus.
>>BTW, I have never thought of the world without "jealousy" to be "dull and
>>horrible" as Eric puts it.
>Well, probably just dull. Seriously, I didn't think it was necessary to
>qualify the jealousy part. I should have known better. Btw, I notice you
>didn't address the other items on my list, passion, joy, &c. Does that mean
>that I was right--you think they will simply become outmoded concepts? You
>haven't mentioned how those irrational things might disrupt your sensual
>and sexual paradise, with its lasting friendships.

Why do you imagine a world of "emotional barrenness" when you hear someone
say that communism might make possible "the beginning of pleasant surprises
& lasting friendships"?  When I wrote the phrase, I was thinking of my
favorite writer Oscar Wilde's "new Hellenism" in his essay "The Soul of Man
under Socialism" in particular, and more generally Marx's remark in the
Communist Manifesto: "an association, in which the free development of each
is the condition for the free development of all."  I also like Foucault's
suggestions concerning friendship, since I agree with him that the modern
notion of "sexuality" as the "truth of the self" is a problem:

*****   Another thing to distrust is the tendency to relate the question of
homosexuality to the problem of "Who am I?" and "What is the secret of my
desire?"  Perhaps it would be better to ask oneself, "What relations,
through homosexuality, can be established, invented, multiplied and
modulated?"  The problem is not to discover in oneself the truth of sex but
rather to use sexuality henceforth to arrive at a multiplicity of
relationships.  And no doubt that's the real reason why homosexuality is
not a form of desire but something desirable.  Therefore we have to work at
becoming homosexuals and not be obstinate in recognizing that we are.  The
development towards which the problem of homosexuality tends is the one of

They [homosexuals] face each other without terms or convenient words, with
nothing to assure them about the meaning of the movement that carries them
towards each other.  They have to invent, from A to Z, a relationship that
is still formless, which is friendship: that is to say, the sum of
everything through which they can give each other pleasure....[The image of
homosexuality that people have today] annuls everything that can be
uncomfortable in affection, tenderness, friendship, fidelity, camaraderie
and companionship, things which our rather sanitized society can't allow a
place for without fearing the formation of new alliances and the tying
together of unforeseen lines of force.  I think that's what makes
homosexuality "disturbing": the homosexual mode of life much more than the
sexual act itself.  To imagine a sexual act that doesn't conform to law or
nature is not what disturbs people.  But that individuals are beginning to
love one another -- there's the problem.   "Friendship as a Way of Life,"
_Foucault Live_   *****

Now, Foucault may be "mistaken" or "utopian" in the above, if his remarks
are applied to the way gay men or lesbians relate to one another at
present, since they are not, nor can they afford to be, free from "sexual
identities" (or "sexuality" as the truth of the self).  However, Foucault's
suggestions -- friendship as creative work & a way of life -- are worth
taking very seriously once we become free from capitalism, and in a society
free from gender oppression, his suggestions do not have to be confined to

It's possible that you think of the ideas of Wilde, Marx, Foucault, etc. as
"emotionally barren."  None of them thought, however, that working on
friendship as a way of life in a society where you are free to enjoy
pleasant surprises (since you are much less dominated by unpleasant
surprises when you are free from unemployment, lack of health care, etc.)
is "dull."  So, your disagreement is not with me, but with Wilde, Marx,

I wonder, however, where your interpretation of communism as a world of
"emotional barrenness" comes from.  Perhaps your inspiration is Aldous
Huxley's _Brave New World_:

*****   A SQUAT grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main
in a shield, the World State's motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY....

...Their wanderings through the crimson twilight had brought them to the
neighborhood of Metre 170 on Rack 9. From this point onwards Rack 9 was
enclosed and the bottle performed the remainder of their journey in a kind
of tunnel, interrupted here and there by openings two or three metres wide.

"Heat conditioning," said Mr. Foster.

Hot tunnels alternated with cool tunnels. Coolness was wedded to discomfort
in the form of hard X-rays. By the time they were decanted the embryos had
a horror of cold. They were predestined to emigrate to the tropics, to be
miner and acetate silk spinners and steel workers. Later on their minds
would be made to endorse the judgment of their bodies. "We condition them
to thrive on heat," concluded Mr. Foster. "Our colleagues upstairs will
teach them to love it."

"And that," put in the Director sententiously, "that is the secret of
happiness and virtue-liking what you've got to do. All conditioning aims at
that: making people like their unescapable social destiny."...
<http://www.ddc.net/ygg/etext/brave.htm>   *****

Perhaps in your view, (1) "the beginning of pleasant surprises & lasting
friendships" =  (2) "mindnumbing happiness forcibly made 'free' from fear,
jealousy, anger, sorrow, etc." = (3) the Brave New World.  I don't think
that the first equals the second and the third, nor do I think that
"happiness" (work of art) is dull or mindnumbing.


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