Month: September 2019

Backstreet Boys

I don’t want to spend a lot of time on campus, nobody does unless they’re a dean of something, and my teaching schedule validates this desire.  Being a professor is a pretty cool gig because most of the work you’re expected to do—read and write books—happens off campus, outside the classroom. Wednesdays are the exception, when department meetings happen. Then I’m there all day, from 9:30 AM to 7:30 PM.  I get home around 10:00.  Ah, poor me, gotta work for a living, and part of that work is dealing with the colleagues, in meetings.  But this is not what I imagined!  Precious me, I thought the life of the mind exempted me from tiresome routine. I was wrong about that, of course.  The life of the mind just is a tiresome routine.  You rehearse what has been said, and then you try to say something new, but the rehearsal is everything. G. L. S. Shackle—now there’s a name—honored this captivity in The Years of High Theory: Invention and Tradition in Economic Thought, 1926-1939, a wonderful, unreadable book that traces a revolution in economic theory, from Piero Sraffa, who made sure that Antonio Gramsci’s book orders got placed, and Joan Robinson, who made sure that Michal Kalecki got taken seriously, on toward John Maynard Keynes, who made sure that Say’s Law got displaced.  All Cambridge alum.  Beautiful trouble. Here’s...

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Explaining Evangelicals’ Support for Trump

Explaining Evangelicals’ Support for Trump David Shumway Ever since Donald Trump emerged as a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination, people have been scratching their heads over the support he received from evangelical Christians. Some prominent Evangelicals were early Trump supporters, and in the general election he received overwhelming support from Evangelical voters. That support has remained constant throughout his presidency, and in fact it seems to have solidified. But how can people who seem to spend a great deal of time criticizing the sins of others overlook the obvious immorality of Donald Trump? Why does his corruption,...

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“Unbelievable”– Scenes from a structure

“UNBELIEVABLE”–Scenes from a Structure ANONYMOUS   Watching the new Netflix series Unbelievable has made me remember some things I’d forgotten, or maybe I tried to forget them. I now recall when I first heard the word “manipulative”. It is a word I – and my parents, who were not fluent English speakers – learned from my older brother and sister who accused my mother of being manipulative. She was. I am sure I just overheard it that first time in some conversation that did not include me, since I was the youngest by far in the family. I recall...

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Slave Play

Last night my girlfriend and I saw “Slave Play,” the sensational new work by Jeremy O. Harris from the Yale School of Drama (at least four other alumni are in the cast).  With excruciating forensic detail, it shows how race and sex have always gone together in this part of the world, in ways that make us sick, and suffer, and try to recover from what the therapists call “desire disorder.”  Also in ways that might heal us.  I read no reviews before seeing it, and I haven’t read any since.  It’s the kind of theater you want to experience first-hand, so that no audience or critic comes between you and the performance.  This is a mistake, of course, because there’s no such thing as pure experience—it’s always raw material; waiting for the retrospect, the narrative, that might, just might, make sense of it. That’s the lesson psychoanalysis taught us.  Freud, Ferenczi, Laplanche, and Lacan also taught us that each stage of childhood development doesn’t displace its predecessors—instead it changes their cognitive status and their social or political consequences.   They remain as durable residues, constantly detaining and deforming those who make it to adulthood.    “Slave Play” works like a shrink would, in this sense, probing the antecedents for narrative clues, not causative conditions, and indeed its second act—but there’s no intermission—is a group therapy session run by two...

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