Dead Situationist Watch, #6

Guy Debord, author of The Society of the Spectacle. Shot himself, 30 November 1994.

Chris adds [11.30.2002]: The excellent, anarchist Daily Bleed provides these useful Debord links:

1994 — Guy Debord dies, Champot, Upper Loire, France.Member of the Situationist International, writer, filmmaker, critic of Spectacular, Too-Late Capitalism, best known for his book The Society of the Spectacle, popularized with the May Uprising of 1968.

In the decor of the
spectacle, the eye meets only
things & their prices.
— graffiti, May 1968

In a society
where modern
conditions of
prevail, all of life
presents itself
as an immense
accumulation of

Everything that was directly
lived has moved away into a

We are all “undesirables”.

Then appeared for the first time the disquieting figures
of the “Situationist International”. How many are there?
Where do they come from? No one knows.

— Le Républicain Lorra

Nick writes [30.11.2002]: Not so, in my experience. I buy a new pair every couple of years, and that’s plenty to be getting on with. There’s no need for an “immense accumulation”, especially as my prescription changes (albeit slowly); also, the old specs are pretty grotty by the time I need to replace them.

Akademgorodok Stakhanovites

While I’m in sports mode, I’m delighted to report that the Akademgorodok Stakhanovites have been resurrected for the 2003 Fantasy Baseball season. Afficianados will remember that they first appeared in a tournament in 2000, where they were roundly beaten by, among others, the London Underground and the Bellevue Baristas. Next year they’ll be in a completely different competition, whose rules I barely understand, up against, among others, the Dalston Ground-Rule Doubles and the Docklands Hound Dawgs. They will lose, of course: ex-Soviet Fantasy Baseball franchises are still in a very bad way. (I’m always tempted to call a Fantasy Baseball team the Boston Red Brigades, but this time around I think I’m going to stick with the Stakhanovites).


A so-called Australian so-called friend has just sent me a page of jokes. The highlights appear below:

Q. What would Mark Waugh be if he were an English batsmen?
A. In form.

Q. How dominant is Australia’s No. 1 fast bowler?
A. Most people in England think their opening batsman’s real name is Atherton B McGrath.

Q. How bad is the English batting?
A. Well, the selectors are thinking of moving Extras up the batting order.

Q. Why are the England players demanding increased match payments?
A. Someone has let on that Ashes Tests sometimes go to a fourth day.

Q. What is the height of optimism?
A. An English batsman applying sunscreen.

Q. What is the English version of a hat-trick?
A. Three runs in three balls.

Cruel, cruel, but not wholly unfair. The complete collection is available on request. The second is just a variant of one of my favourite jokes, which is Billy Connolly’s claim that he always thought his local football team was called Partick Thistle Nil.

Dead Socialist Watch #5

The Virtual Stoa is taking a rather morbid turn, isn’t it? Still…

On 26 November 1911, Laura Marx and Paul Lafargue arranged their joint suicide.

Paul Lafargue’s socialist classic, The Right to be Lazy is usefully discussed by Dave Renton here (which is the basis, I believe, for a chapter in his new book — yes, another new book from Comrade Dave! — on Second International Marxism).

John Rawls, RIP

John Rawls has died, peacefully, at 81.

As an undergraduate, I remember not enjoying Rawls’s work that much. We had to read A Theory of Justice, of course, and write about it, but it never especially grabbed my attention, and while I went on to concentrate on the history of political thought as a graduate student, though I continued to read widely in contemporary political philosophy, my interest was never especially focussed on the arguments that gripped the Rawlsians, about distributive justice, or the nature of political liberalism, or what we had to “bracket” when we entered the public sphere.

Everything changed in the 1999-2000 academic year. I was attached to Harvard’s Center for Ethics and the Professions, and that year I enjoyed a series of long conversations with people who had, over the years, got a lot more out of reading Rawls than I ever had managed to do — the remarkable quintet of Pratap Mehta, Alyssa Bernstein, Nancy Kokaz, Arthur Applbaum and Sharon Street — and they weaned me back onto the work of this odd, difficult writer. I wasn’t much interested in why he defended the particular conclusions that he did, but his books, especially Theory, were suddenly a lot more interesting as exemplifying a certain approach to doing political philosophy, and the more I learned about nineteenth-century economic thinking (mostly), the more I enjoyed going back to Rawls. And then the remarkable volume of his lectures on the history of philosophy were published, which delighted me no end.

So I have an unusual set of Rawls interests. But in the end I came to agree that he was as important as everyone said he was — if perhaps for different reasons — and, which is even odder, I came to find a certain joy in reading his prose.