[Marxism] New book
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Feb 24 11:29:58 MST 2007
"Lenin Reloaded" is a rallying call by some of
the worlds leading Marxist intellectuals for
renewed attention to the significance of Vladimir Lenin.
Contributors. Kevin B. Anderson, Alain Badiou,
Etienne Balibar, Daniel Bensaïd, Sebastian
Budgen, Alex Callinicos, Terry Eagleton, Fredric
Jameson, Stathis Kouvelakis, Georges Labica,
Sylvain Lazarus, Jean-Jacques Lecercle, Lars T.
Lih, Domenico Losurdo, Savas Michael-Matsas,
Antonio Negri, Alan Shandro, Slavoj i ek
For reasons I don't quite understand, Lenin has
become fashionable again within certain circles
of the academic left. Zizek has had a lot to do
with this, since he has written numerous essays
in defense of Lenin over the past few years and
actually organized a conference on Lenin some
time ago. I wrote a commentary on a Zizek article
about Lenin that appeared in "In These Times" a while back:
Some of the contributors sound like they might
have something interesting to say. Others I don't know.
Badiou, for example, is one of those French
theorists about whom Alan Sokal probably had
something mischievous to say. Of course, that
might be in Badiou's favor now that I think about
it. Here's Badiou on Lacan, another person whose
name starts with "L" and ends in "n":
"How are we to characterize this peculiar
balancing of the 'grandiose' and the 'innocent'?
The grandiose aspect lies in the conviction that
the question of the Real is commensurable with
that of language; the innocence is in not having
carried this conviction as far as its true
principle, which is mathemati-zation. You will
recall that Lacan holds mathematization to be the
key to any thinkable relation to the Real."
I myself hold no brief against mathematization.
How in the world could I make sure that I was
getting the proper change at Gristede's without it?
I do have to admit a certain consternation at
seeing Toni Negri as contributor. I think that
Sebastian and company would have been better
advised in including Toni Braxton, the very fine
jazz-pop stylist. Only 5 years or so ago, Negri
and Hardt wrote a thoroughly silly book that
dragged Lenin's name through the mud. Only the
other day I was startled to learn that the poet
laureates of the "multitude" were trying to
amalgamate Madisonian checks and balances with
Lenin. Certainly, the dead Russian deserves better.
Fredric Jameson, of course, is the big name
literary theorist in the USA who won first prize
in Denis Dutton's "Bad Writing Contest" in 1997.
Dutton called attention to this snippet of Dutton's prose:
"The visual is essentially pornographic, which is
to say that it has its end in rapt, mindless
fascination; thinking about its attributes
becomes an adjunct to that, if it is unwilling to
betray its object; while the most austere films
necessarily draw their energy from the attempt to
repress their own excess (rather than from the
more thankless effort to discipline the viewer)."
Once again, as is the case with Sokal, I might
tend to line up with whoever Dutton is attacking,
although this might be a toss-up when it comes to Dutton versus Jameson.
Daniel Bensaid and Stathis Kouvelakis are members
of the French LCR, while Callinicos is a British
SWP'er. I can never figure out if Budgen is in the LCR or the SWP. Maybe both.
Unfortunately, except for Lih--I believe--just
about everybody else approaches Lenin from the
standpoint of philosophical, social or political
theory. Kevin Anderson, who is an interesting
thinker despite his News and Letters connection,
wrote a good book on Hegel's importance to Lenin.
Not that there is anything wrong with making such
a connection, but I don't think that studying
Hegel--the subtext of the book--is very useful.
You would be better off studying oil markets,
like Mark Jones did at the London Library in the years before his death.
It is not that Lenin was adverse to theoretical
questions. He did grapple with philosophy when it
was necessary to do so, particularly with the
challenged mounted by Bogdanov. But theorizing
for the sake of theorizing seems inimical to everything that Lenin stood for.
At any rate, in the favor of " Lenin Reloaded:
Toward a Politics of Truth" is the price of the
paperback version, $23.95, a relief from the
extortionist prices of past ventures Budgen has
been associated with. Not in its favor is the
title "Lenin Reloaded". The Wachovsky brothers ain't cool anymore.
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