A Month of Unusual Things

Today I started a month of doing one unusual thing every day. It’s my birthday month, so it seems like the perfect time to shake things up and get out of a rut.

So today’s unusual activity was to set up a donation ask on FB. Posting anything on FB is rare for me, and something like this is what I’d simply never done before.

I have something REALLY unusual planned for tomorrow. Stay tuned to find out what it is.

Psychopolitics, Part 5

In chapter 7, Byung-Chul Han smacks down Naomi Klein’s fun but idiotic book The Shock Doctrine, and I love him for that. The problem with it, aside from the book contributing to the conspiracy genre, is that, once again, the author is missing the ways in which neoliberalism differs from the primitive stage of capital accumulation. We are not in grave danger of violent psychiatric interventions by a repressive state apparatus. We are eagerly and willingly doing the work such an apparatus did in the past on ourselves.

You know how the Soviets put dissidents in loony bins and pumped them full of Seroquel and crap to make them more compliant? We are now putting the Seroquel and Co into our own bodies with the same goal. Nobody is making us. Nobody is dragging us off to the dungeons to do that.


For my upcoming birthday, I posted one of those Facebook fundraisers to get money for The Ocean Cleanup. Immediately, people started asking if it’s an April Fool’s prank because it’s impossible to imagine me caring about oceans.

I mean, if I tried to raise for PETA or Autism Speaks, yeah, that would be weird. But why wouldn’t I care about the oceans? I think it’s a cause anybody can get behind. I don’t go around advertising when I donate and to whom but this is my favorite cause. Because I love oceans and marine life.

Psychopolitics, Part 4

Here is a good quote to illustrate the previous point:

The body no longer represents a central force of production, as it formerly did in a biopolitical, disciplinary society. Now, productivity is not to be enhanced by overcoming physical resistance so much as by optimizing psychic or mental processes. Physical discipline has given way to mental optimization. (25)

Just think about all the productivity planners we so love on this blog. Han is clearly right.

And by the way, look at how accessible Han’s language is. This is very rare in thinkers who write in German, like he does.

OK, so what’s the problem with endless self-optimization now that the exploited part of the human being is not the body but the mind? Just like physical breakdown and exhaustion haunted the industrial workers’ bodies, we now face mass-scale mental breakdowns and exhaustion.

Trying to eliminate every painful experience and every negative emotion makes human lives not fully human. The terror of negativity, exclusion, true difference, triggers, and so on comes from the fear of humanity and the desire to turn human beings into nothing but completely efficient machines.

Everybody hates long posts, so I’ll stop here.

Psychopolitics, Part 3

The greatest contribution of Han’s book is that he tears into the fashionable concept of biopolitics. He says that when Foucault first came up with the term, it was already starting to get outdated. Today, when everybody is suddenly into it (just go to any academic book fair and look at recent releases), it’s completely dead.

Why? Because biopolitics is all about capitalism managing human bodies to make them more productive. Automation and the digital revolution, however, destroyed the need for large numbers of physically productive bodies in post-industrial societies. Today it’s all about the obesity of sedentary bodies and not about the physical exhaustion of the lean, muscular ones. And I’m glad if you have a muscular body but are you manufacturing many goods with it?

Neoliberalism doesn’t care about disciplining physical bodies because “it has discovered the psyche as a productive force” (25).

I don’t detest Foucault – there would be no Bauman without him, after all – but I’m so glad somebody is finally taking apart the idea that biopolitics is something we need to discuss in relation to the events after the 1970s.

You folks all know how I hate the narratives based on not noticing that the world economy has changed dramatically since then. And Han is one of the people who hates them, too. The tone of his writing gets downright acerbic when he gets to this point.

Note, by the way, that this is only page 25, and I already got 3 posts out of them. Han’s books are all tiny. But he’s very anti-fluff, so the books are very densely packed. He’s not one of those people who feel the need to quote Aristotle, Hegel and Derrida for 200 pages to prove they are well-read until they finally deign to make a point. I like authors who are sure of themselves and can just say what they fucking mean already, without dancing around the issue forever.

The Allure of Sociopathy

I could never understand people who want to marry clear sociopaths:

Alleged fake blood test grifter Elizabeth Holmes has a busy schedule this year. In addition to attending her upcoming trial for 11 criminal felony counts, she’s getting married! The lucky groom-to-be is William “Billy” Evans, scion of the Evans Hotel Group fortune.

Holmes is obviously a horrible person. Who’d want to marry that? Evans is obviously not lacking in marriage prospects. I don’t get it.

When Is It Time to Stop Blogging?

Blogs were great for folks who were doing something new and challenging: grad school, new faculty, new jobs, new positions, new hobbies, and so on. The day to day of most peoples’ lives, once they’ve gotten pretty good at whatever they’re doing, is less interesting to write about and read about, both. There’s less to process day to day, and often, more mundane stuff keeping one busier.

I don’t have enough self-awareness to notice, so help me out here. Has my blog gotten boring since I got tenure and sailed into a more established, staid, mundane life? Do I need to add more pizazz? What would that be?

I need to know when it’s time to let it go.