Tagged Capitalism

Truth and the Individual in Robert Musil’s Blackbird

In The Analysis of Sensations, physicist Ernst Mach at once shatters the realist’s conception of the world and the self. Polemicizing against Rene Descartes’ dualism, and classical rationalism in general, Mach reduces all of reality to localized, yet fully relativized complexes of sense data.[1] His universe is one in which the permanent is illusory and “facts” are mere descriptions of the relations between dynamic connections of sensations. There is no “I”, no ego, no Truth—at least not in any tangible sense. Robert Musil and his Austrian contemporaries warily absorbed Mach’s theory. It ripped the stable metaphysical rug from beneath their…

Fast Trip, Long Drop as Video Support Group

You have to tell your own history to make it advance. And so the point, I think, of remembering is to reinvent ourselves. –Jean Carlomusto in Fast Trip, Long Drop   Video never blossomed into humanity’s emancipator. It did not connect people by their nervous systems, eclipsing modern woes with a collective “global village.” Instead, video in its “guerilla” form fell victim to the machinery of the capitalist system—the very monolith it vowed to tackle. At least, that’s the narrative underlying many writers’ works on the subject in the 1980s.[1] These authors, though varying in degree of pessimism, maintain a…

Surpassing the Impasse of Racism in Derrick Bell’s And We Are Not Saved

Derrick Bell argues in And We Are Not Saved that racism courses thickly through America’s blood. Majoritarian at its core, the country’s democratic capitalist society precludes equality in any true sense of the word. Indeed, Bell guides his readers through a bleak, sobering tour of the undergirding subjugation of black Americans—the dominant system’s very sustenance. Unraveling these depressing details throughout the book’s Chronicles, Bell concludes with a chapter titled, “Salvation for All: The Ultimate Civil Rights Strategy.” Here, Bell capitalizes on his literary methodology, guiding his readers to an aporetic state in order to point towards a potential light at…

Individualism as Illness and Antidote in Guinier’s The Tyranny of the Majority

In The Tyranny of the Majority, Lani Guinier lays a foundation for bottom-up empowerment in electoral and legislative systems. Rigid adherence to winner-take-all majority rule contorts and rips at the seams of an intrinsically organic and fluid structure. That is, humans comprise the body politic; not only is forcing amorphous interests, identities, and experiences into a rectilinear mold absurd, it is dangerous and oppressive, especially for historically marginalized minorities. Implicit in the majority’s electoral strategy is wholesale attachment to individualism that reigns over group- and community-based interests. Righting the wrongs of the current “I win, you lose” system requires a…

Epistemology of Empathy in Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy

In Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson lays bare the inherent error in judgment that plagues the criminal justice system. Blinded by slavery’s legacy, prosecutors, lawyers, and judges seek colorblind principles of “justice” and “freedom” at the cost of any true sense of the words. Racism, like a cancer, spreads to every corner of the nation’s formal framework, weighing heavily on its collective consciousness. Stevenson shows that black and poor people now experience inordinate pain and suffering amidst slavery’s newest form, mass incarceration. An increasing number of children, women, and men live and die in cages, while many Americans buy into “get…

Ineluctable Modality of the Empathetic: Extra-Linguistic Empathy in Joyce’s Ulysses

“What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.” -Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus James Joyce’s Ulysses points up language’s limits and empathy’s extra-linguistic nature to lay the ground for a robust understanding of human relationships. Intersubjective connections remain conspicuously ambiguous throughout the novel, in content and form, exposing the flaws inherent in looking to language as a sufficient communicative link between people. Empathy serves as a nebulous bridge, attaining a status that transcends Joyce’s work by virtue of its intertextuality and ambiguity, working to unite the disparate parties involved in all aspects of the modern novel. Two chapters, “Proteus” and…