The New Yorker

One of the things I was particularly amused by in the "New Yorker" article
titled "The Return of Karl Marx" was the author's attempt to paint Marx as
incomprehensible. This rhetorical tact is, of course, familiar from
popular treatments of postmodernism. Here's what John Cassidy, the author
of the article, says about Marx.

[Marx's] favorite mode of argument was, as he put it, "coquetting
with modes of expression peculiar to Hegel," and many of his
expositions are practically bereft of meaning. (Try deciphering
this sentence from "Surplus Value": "The determinate social
character of the means of production in capitalist production--
expressing a particular producton relation--has so grown
together with, and in the mode of thought of bourgeois society
is so inseparable from, the material existence of these means
of production as means of production, that the same
determinatenes -- categorical determinateness -- is assumed
even where the relation is in direct contradiction to it.")

The above reminds me of Sokal's tactic in his ironic, bemused, critique of
postmodernism when he quotes a particular passage from Derrida. Of course,
neither passage makes any sense treated this way. Notice how the author
(Jeff Cassidy) has so little respect for intellectual matters that he just
throws this incredibly long quotation in parentheses. Incredible.

But anyway.

An even more valuable topic from the recent "New Yorker" from a
Foucauldian perspective is the one about "The Social Police" (in the Oct.
20 & 27, 1997 issue). The subtitle of this article is "Following the laws,
because you'd be too embarassed not to." I won't try to recreate the
article here, but it's a very interesting read about using the law in a
much more psychologically discerning way so as to achieve certain moral
objectives. For instance, instead of arresting drug dealers in a poor
neighborhood in Chicago, on the theory that people dealing drugs were a
bigger source of the problem, police started to arrest the white, suburban
drug buyers. All of a sudden, the social shame associated with driving to
a ghetto to pick up drugs resulted in the drying up of the drug market in
the ghetto!

But anyway, check out the article.


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