Rank #1: Pop the Left #6: Historical Materialism
Historical materialism is a methodological approach to the study of society, economics, and history, first articulated by Karl MarxÂ (1818â€“1883) as "the materialist conception of history". Historical materialism looks for the causes of developments and changes in human society in the means by which humans collectively produce the necessities of life.
The question becomes this: Â have we reached a point wherein we simply do not have a materialist basis for emancipation? Â Or is the trouble ideological?
Also, this week marks the beginning of Douglas Lain's "Think the Impossible" Kickstarter campaign to fund his upcoming podcast and book tour.
The book is entitled "Billy Moon." It is due out from Tor Books in August, and tells the story of an adult Christopher Robin Milne, the man known best for his childhood relationship with a stuffed bear, and entirely fictional involvement in the French general strike of May, 1968.
The podcast, entitled Diet Soap, is a weekly interview show focusing on philosophy, surrealism, and what I think of as the problem of Late Capitalism.Â Guests on the program have included Penelope Rosemont of the Chicago Surrealist group, the radical author Michael Parenti, and Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping, and many others.
The title of the tour, the imperative to "Think the Impossible" relates to both the podcast and the novel.Â In May 1968 one of the slogans spray painted on the streets of Paris was this:
"Be realistic, demand the impossible."
Jun 06 2013
Rank #2: Pop the Left #5: More Thoughts on Zerzan
John Zerzan is an American anarchist and primitivist philosopher and author. Â He is a critic of civilization and especially agriculture and he wants to return to a more primitive collective life. Â He advocates the nomadic life of prehistoric hunters and gatherers as a potential future.
Zerzan was the guest on Pop the Left #4 where we discussed the idea of reification and took a close look at Zerzan's own notion of nature. Â This month on Pop the Left C Derick Varn and I speak briefly about the Zerzan interview.
Clips from an interview with Steven Vogel on the radio program Against the Grain, of George Bush singing an REM song, and from Monty Python's Life of Brian can be heard in this one, and Varn and I discuss potential future guests.
Nicholas Pell is again absent, but plans to return for a future episode wherein we'll discuss historical materialism.
You can now leave a voicemail message for Pop the Left and participate in the show. Â Just head to speakpipe.com/poptheleft and leave us a message.
May 03 2013
Rank #3: Pop the Left #4: The Zerzan Reification
This month both C Derick Varn and Nicholas Pell are missing and instead there is a special guest. John Zerzan is an American anarchist and primitivist philosopher and author. Â He's fairly well known, especially in the Pacific Northwest where I am, and his books about Green Anarchism have been influential. Â But we don't really talk about the environment, agriculture, or civilization, but rather I try to explain what I think is Zerzan's conceptual or philosophical mistake.
For Zerzan civilized life is a mediated or alienated life that isn't worth living and his solution is to return to directly lived experience. What I try to point out in my conversation with him is that his solution is a part of the problem. Â That is, while he wants to overcome the problem of reification his solution doesn't manage to avoid that mistake.
The word reification means to mistake an abstraction for a physical or empirical object. A reification is not when we see an example of an abstraction in the world, it's not when we take a rubber ball and think of it as an example of roundness, but rather when we take an abstraction to be its own example. Â That is, when we think that an abstraction can exist on its own without an example.
There are many ideas that are founded on this mistake. Â God, for instance, is the kind of idea that is a good example of a reification. Nature is, similarly, the same kind of idea.
Again, my conversation with John Zerzan wasn't about prehistory or hunters and gatherers or the current ecological problems that are facing us, but was aimed at his concepts. Â It was aimed at his idea that we might be able to escape concepts, which I think is his fundamental mistake.
Mar 20 2013
Rank #4: Pop the Left #3: The Conspiracy Conspiracy
C Derick Varn and Douglas Lain return for the third episode of Pop the Left, a podcast dedicated to moving beyond the impasse in Left politics. Â This week we take a look at conspiracy theories, the psychology behind them, and the Left's inability to cope with the prevalence of this approach to politics. Does the bourgeois left benefit from conspiracy thinking? Â Can we get beyond our own tendency to blame conspiracies for our ideological and political failures? Â Was 9/11 an inside Job? Â Did we ever land on the moon? Â What about entryism?
Three years out of the Zero years and the attendant Bush administration, are we finally ready to face up to the how the Left turned over radical politics to the likes of Alex Jones and David Icke?
Next time on Pop the Left Nicholas Pell will return. Possible subjects to mull over: Â What is Historical Materialism? Â What should we make of the Arab Spring? Â Marxist Humanism and the Self Thinking Idea.
Feb 27 2013