Zero Squared interview with Pam Nogales on 1848 Revolutions

Pam Nogales stops by the Zero Books podcast to discuss the revolutions of 1848 and the leftist tradition.

Zero Squared interview with Pam Nogales on 1848 Revolutions

Pam Nogales stops by the Zero Books podcast to discuss the revolutions of 1848 and the leftist tradition.

Exhibition Review: Ernest Cole Photographer

Images of South African apartheid (1948 – 1994) are not part of the living memory of today’s New York University students. To those of us that can recall, a pin attached to Bill Cosby’s memorable sweaters provided one of the only clues to apartheid’s gruesome existence during our childhood. Thankfully, Ernest Cole Photographer, the current exhibition at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, is an infinitely more complex introduction to this episode of modern barbarism. The first solo museum exhibition of Ernest Cole’s photojournalism, Ernest Cole Photographer is a guided tour of racial and labor divisions as experienced by black men and women, witnessed by the eye of one of South Africa’s first black photo journalist.

Exhibition Review: Ernest Cole Photographer

Images of South African apartheid (1948 – 1994) are not part of the living memory of today’s New York University students. To those of us that can recall, a pin attached to Bill Cosby’s memorable sweaters provided one of the only clues to apartheid’s gruesome existence during our childhood. Thankfully, Ernest Cole Photographer, the current exhibition at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, is an infinitely more complex introduction to this episode of modern barbarism. The first solo museum exhibition of Ernest Cole’s photojournalism, Ernest Cole Photographer is a guided tour of racial and labor divisions as experienced by black men and women, witnessed by the eye of one of South Africa’s first black photo journalist.

Review: Ideology and the American Revolution

The empire-wide political crisis of the 1760s, generated in great part by the success of British commercial and political ambitions, forms the backdrop to the American Revolution. While the end of the Seven Years War in 1763 marked a defeat of France by the British Empire, domestic opposition within Britain reached a new height. The empire’s territorial gains, a growing imperial debt, and a greater bureaucratic centralization of the military commercial empire intensified tensions in the already-existing continental opposition. The political culture of the 1760s and 1770s was driven by debates over the nature of government and its dealings in commercial affairs. Country Whigs in England looked with “great nostalgia to when men of independent means controlled the destiny of Parliament” (Bailyn, Origins of American Politics, 50), while a new voice of radicalism, the adopted son of the colonies, Tom Paine, blamed the regressive conditions of the Old World for stifling liberty.

Review: Ideology and the American Revolution

The empire-wide political crisis of the 1760s, generated in great part by the success of British commercial and political ambitions, forms the backdrop to the American Revolution. While the end of the Seven Years War in 1763 marked a defeat of France by the British Empire, domestic opposition within Britain reached a new height. The empire’s territorial gains, a growing imperial debt, and a greater bureaucratic centralization of the military commercial empire intensified tensions in the already-existing continental opposition. The political culture of the 1760s and 1770s was driven by debates over the nature of government and its dealings in commercial affairs. Country Whigs in England looked with “great nostalgia to when men of independent means controlled the destiny of Parliament” (Bailyn, Origins of American Politics, 50), while a new voice of radicalism, the adopted son of the colonies, Tom Paine, blamed the regressive conditions of the Old World for stifling liberty.

Literature Review: The Reconstruction of the North

In an astute observation, Cohen writes that the history of liberal politics is “a tale of relationships, most important, of the triangular struggle for power between liberals, conservatives, and socialists.” All three ideological forces were active in the conflicts of the postwar era. And while the transformation of objective conditions were guided by forces more extensive than domestic Republican policies, the subjective conditions of political transformation where shaped by responses to social unrest by laborers and Southern freedmen. The legacy of this transformation in American politics has provided the direction of liberalism (or “liberal reform”) well into the twentieth century.

Literature Review: The Reconstruction of the North

In an astute observation, Cohen writes that the history of liberal politics is “a tale of relationships, most important, of the triangular struggle for power between liberals, conservatives, and socialists.” All three ideological forces were active in the conflicts of the postwar era. And while the transformation of objective conditions were guided by forces more extensive than domestic Republican policies, the subjective conditions of political transformation where shaped by responses to social unrest by laborers and Southern freedmen. The legacy of this transformation in American politics has provided the direction of liberalism (or “liberal reform”) well into the twentieth century.

Review: The Education of Booker T. Washington

Washington often talked about the embrace of manual labor as a virtue — in opposition to the fetishization of education as providing an “easy way out” from the hardships of a newly attained freedom. Here perhaps there could have been a more solid intervention by West: this presented an opportunity to investigate how concepts of industriousness and social independence throughout labor (although not labor in the cities) animated Washington’s political imagination. West writes that Washington was inconsistent about his portrayal of the black race as most industrious, or less industrious etc. (97), but in his very telling (and damning) quote that “notwithstanding the cruel wrongs inflicted upon us, the black man got nearly as much out of slavery as the white man did,” Washington seems to imply that slavery served as a kind of labor-training for American blacks (a notion he also contradicts in other statements).

Review: The Education of Booker T. Washington

Washington often talked about the embrace of manual labor as a virtue — in opposition to the fetishization of education as providing an “easy way out” from the hardships of a newly attained freedom. Here perhaps there could have been a more solid intervention by West: this presented an opportunity to investigate how concepts of industriousness and social independence throughout labor (although not labor in the cities) animated Washington’s political imagination. West writes that Washington was inconsistent about his portrayal of the black race as most industrious, or less industrious etc. (97), but in his very telling (and damning) quote that “notwithstanding the cruel wrongs inflicted upon us, the black man got nearly as much out of slavery as the white man did,” Washington seems to imply that slavery served as a kind of labor-training for American blacks (a notion he also contradicts in other statements).

Review: Origins of the New South

Woodward’s cast of characters is dizzying at first glance. At the beginning of the conflict are the “Redeemers,” these latter-day Whigs gained political power on a platform of restoring “home rule” and overthrowing the legacy of corruption left by the Radicals. They were extremely distrustful of legislatures, and espoused a program that conveniently aligned with factory owners, railroad men, and merchants of Charleston, Columbia and other cities. In the end, this plan did little to promote the growth of an indigenous, and independent, Southern capitalist class; the introduction of new Southern economic development was subject to the leadership of Eastern capital interests, thus, Redeemers were the middlemen in a process that pinned Eastern capital interests against the “unredeemed farmer” and the Southern freeman.

Review: Origins of the New South

Woodward’s cast of characters is dizzying at first glance. At the beginning of the conflict are the “Redeemers,” these latter-day Whigs gained political power on a platform of restoring “home rule” and overthrowing the legacy of corruption left by the Radicals. They were extremely distrustful of legislatures, and espoused a program that conveniently aligned with factory owners, railroad men, and merchants of Charleston, Columbia and other cities. In the end, this plan did little to promote the growth of an indigenous, and independent, Southern capitalist class; the introduction of new Southern economic development was subject to the leadership of Eastern capital interests, thus, Redeemers were the middlemen in a process that pinned Eastern capital interests against the “unredeemed farmer” and the Southern freeman.

Review: Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South

Adam Rothman’s Slave Country sharply presents the making of the Deep South, i.e., what we now know as Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. He argues, in agreement with Davis and Blackburn, that the structure of politics in the United States amplified the Southern planters’ power, and in so doing, augmented the influence of slavery over national politics. Rothman provides a careful description of both the cotton and sugar plantation economies in the region and their intersection with territorial expansion in the early nineteenth century.

Review: Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South

Adam Rothman’s Slave Country sharply presents the making of the Deep South, i.e., what we now know as Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. He argues, in agreement with Davis and Blackburn, that the structure of politics in the United States amplified the Southern planters’ power, and in so doing, augmented the influence of slavery over national politics. Rothman provides a careful description of both the cotton and sugar plantation economies in the region and their intersection with territorial expansion in the early nineteenth century.

Review: American Crucible: Slavery, Emancipation and Human Rights

Blackburn’s American Crucible contains a thorough review of Atlantic historical scholarship with an emphasis on Atlantic Revolutions, slavery and abolitionist thought. He revisits Eric Williams’s famous thesis on the role of modern slavery as key to the development of industrial revolution, spearheaded by the British. Blackburn concludes that while slavery was key to the relative political dominance of Britain, the expansion of industrial capitalism could have happened without the system of slavery.

Review: American Crucible: Slavery, Emancipation and Human Rights

Blackburn’s American Crucible contains a thorough review of Atlantic historical scholarship with an emphasis on Atlantic Revolutions, slavery and abolitionist thought. He revisits Eric Williams’s famous thesis on the role of modern slavery as key to the development of industrial revolution, spearheaded by the British. Blackburn concludes that while slavery was key to the relative political dominance of Britain, the expansion of industrial capitalism could have happened without the system of slavery.

Review: Mockingbird Song: Ecological Landscapes of the South

While presenting a detailed account on the transformation of the natural environment in the South, the book is less successful at coming to grips with the nature of human interaction with nature. Kirby portrays modern social relations as the shadows of the abstract force of “Modernity,” a term that despite making a recurring appearance is not well-defined in his narrative. At time, modernity appears as an extension of “European imperialism,” at other times it is the force behind the post-Civil War transformation of the Southern landscape.

Review: Mockingbird Song: Ecological Landscapes of the South

While presenting a detailed account on the transformation of the natural environment in the South, the book is less successful at coming to grips with the nature of human interaction with nature. Kirby portrays modern social relations as the shadows of the abstract force of “Modernity,” a term that despite making a recurring appearance is not well-defined in his narrative. At time, modernity appears as an extension of “European imperialism,” at other times it is the force behind the post-Civil War transformation of the Southern landscape.

Review: Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life

Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life argues that the invocation of “race” obscures the nature of social inequality, masking problems of an economic and political nature under the guise of race and racism. Fields & Fields argue that despite the inadequacy of the term, race has become a real abstraction, i.e., an ideology. Key to their understanding of the emergence of race is the role that it played in justifying — and rationalizing– the system of American black slavery.

Review: Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life

Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life argues that the invocation of “race” obscures the nature of social inequality, masking problems of an economic and political nature under the guise of race and racism. Fields & Fields argue that despite the inadequacy of the term, race has become a real abstraction, i.e., an ideology. Key to their understanding of the emergence of race is the role that it played in justifying — and rationalizing– the system of American black slavery.

Review: Steven Hahn and Kate Masur

As a whole, Hahn presents a genealogy of black political consciousness as wholly apart from nineteenth-century bourgeois radicalism. Distancing himself from what he has labeled as “liberal approaches” to Reconstruction, Hahn’s work aims to provide an independent history of black experience and black politics. Although a scholarly work with innumerable contributions, Hahn’s approach problematically treats American blacks as a monolith. And even though Hahn himself recognizes that, for example, black politicians in the rural South pursued “goals of a nascent black bourgeoisie,” he does not explore the implications of these emergent class divisions, but, rather, asserts that even these politicians had come to “see their destinies as inextricably linked to those of the rural masses.”

Review: Steven Hahn and Kate Masur

As a whole, Hahn presents a genealogy of black political consciousness as wholly apart from nineteenth-century bourgeois radicalism. Distancing himself from what he has labeled as “liberal approaches” to Reconstruction, Hahn’s work aims to provide an independent history of black experience and black politics. Although a scholarly work with innumerable contributions, Hahn’s approach problematically treats American blacks as a monolith. And even though Hahn himself recognizes that, for example, black politicians in the rural South pursued “goals of a nascent black bourgeoisie,” he does not explore the implications of these emergent class divisions, but, rather, asserts that even these politicians had come to “see their destinies as inextricably linked to those of the rural masses.”

Review: Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History

The problem with Buck-Morss’s argument is that in replacing freedom with “humanity” (unfreedom with “inhumanity”), and political judgment with “moral judgment” the link between political consciousness and history is severed. In this way, the politics of “resistance” has a depoliticizing effect. The defense of “humanity” throughout time as the guiding beacon for historiography falls short of addressing the problem that, historically, has been at the center of political revolutions the world over: how can humanity be transformed?

Review: Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History

The problem with Buck-Morss’s argument is that in replacing freedom with “humanity” (unfreedom with “inhumanity”), and political judgment with “moral judgment” the link between political consciousness and history is severed. In this way, the politics of “resistance” has a depoliticizing effect. The defense of “humanity” throughout time as the guiding beacon for historiography falls short of addressing the problem that, historically, has been at the center of political revolutions the world over: how can humanity be transformed?

Review: For Cause and Comrades

Behind the lines of North and South, “honor” was defined along different political commitments: While Union men fought to uphold the honor of the nation and punish the rebel states, Confederate troops were livid about the attempted subjugation of the South by “Northern Yankees,” and fought to recover the honor of their home states. Both definitions hinged on a particular interpretation of the founding myths of the American Republic. Northerners saw themselves as defending “the experiment of self-government” by protecting the existence of the Union, and in this way upholding the guiding principles of 1776. With the same revolutionary history in mind, Southerners fought to challenge the “tyrannical force” of the North, which—in quotidian parlance—would turn the South into the “slave” of the North.

Review: For Cause and Comrades

Behind the lines of North and South, “honor” was defined along different political commitments: While Union men fought to uphold the honor of the nation and punish the rebel states, Confederate troops were livid about the attempted subjugation of the South by “Northern Yankees,” and fought to recover the honor of their home states. Both definitions hinged on a particular interpretation of the founding myths of the American Republic. Northerners saw themselves as defending “the experiment of self-government” by protecting the existence of the Union, and in this way upholding the guiding principles of 1776. With the same revolutionary history in mind, Southerners fought to challenge the “tyrannical force” of the North, which—in quotidian parlance—would turn the South into the “slave” of the North.

The Memory of Eric Hobsbawm

Past and Present has made the following articles available online to all: The Machine Breakers (1952) The Crisis of The 17th Century—II (1954) The General Crisis of the European Economy in the 17th Century (1954) Twentieth–Century British Politics (1957) Discussion of H. R. Trevor-Roper:

The Memory of Eric Hobsbawm

Past and Present has made the following articles available online to all: The Machine Breakers (1952) The Crisis of The 17th Century—II (1954) The General Crisis of the European Economy in the 17th Century (1954) Twentieth–Century British Politics (1957) Discussion of H. R. Trevor-Roper:

Review: B. Rushforth, W. Jordan, E. Morgan, S. Smallwood

Throughout the book, Morgan highlights commonalities between English opinions of the poor, and colonial opinions of slaves. He shows how these similar dehumanizing perspectives helped define the conception of the industrious Englishman. In the end, it was because slaves were not seen as men but as “laboring property” that Republican ideas of liberty could develop with such vehemence in the slave society of Virginia.

Review: B. Rushforth, W. Jordan, E. Morgan, S. Smallwood

Throughout the book, Morgan highlights commonalities between English opinions of the poor, and colonial opinions of slaves. He shows how these similar dehumanizing perspectives helped define the conception of the industrious Englishman. In the end, it was because slaves were not seen as men but as “laboring property” that Republican ideas of liberty could develop with such vehemence in the slave society of Virginia.

Lincoln: “Get up, you hussy!”

“It would astonish if not amuse, the older citizens to learn that I (a stranger, friendless, uneducated, penniless boy, working on a flatboat at ten dollars per month) have been put down here as the candidate of pride, wealth, and aristocratic family distinction.”

Lincoln: “Get up, you hussy!”

“It would astonish if not amuse, the older citizens to learn that I (a stranger, friendless, uneducated, penniless boy, working on a flatboat at ten dollars per month) have been put down here as the candidate of pride, wealth, and aristocratic family distinction.”

Morton Feldman: Trio (1980)

Performed by Aki Takahashi, piano, Rohan de Saram, cello and Marc Sabat, violin. from atonality.net   More by and about Feldman on Ubusound

Morton Feldman: Trio (1980)

Performed by Aki Takahashi, piano, Rohan de Saram, cello and Marc Sabat, violin. from atonality.net   More by and about Feldman on Ubusound

Alexander Kluge: Brutalität in Stein

Film stands before a challenge, its material will always remain perceptions; montage allows us, however, to construct concepts. The smallest units of films, the parts called ‘shots,’ correspond to associations. In a film, the attempt by Joyce in Finnegan’s Wake or by Hans G. Helms to decompose words into their associative components and recompose them anew, would not fail because of problems of comprehension; it [film] is in any case assigned the task of producing at every moment new units of meaning by the editing together of perceptions …. Film has methods similar to polyphony of organizing material relationships. Not only can it set movements of speech and image in opposition, film can also produce in the tense spaces between speech and image still another movement in the spectator’s brain (not materialized in the film) which can furthermore stand in contrast to the film’s movements, and so forth.

Alexander Kluge: Brutalität in Stein

Film stands before a challenge, its material will always remain perceptions; montage allows us, however, to construct concepts. The smallest units of films, the parts called ‘shots,’ correspond to associations. In a film, the attempt by Joyce in Finnegan’s Wake or by Hans G. Helms to decompose words into their associative components and recompose them anew, would not fail because of problems of comprehension; it [film] is in any case assigned the task of producing at every moment new units of meaning by the editing together of perceptions …. Film has methods similar to polyphony of organizing material relationships. Not only can it set movements of speech and image in opposition, film can also produce in the tense spaces between speech and image still another movement in the spectator’s brain (not materialized in the film) which can furthermore stand in contrast to the film’s movements, and so forth.

Liberalism and Marx: An interview with Domenico Losurdo

PN: Concerning the radical inspiration for the framework you set up between Toussaint and the French Revolution, the striking thing about the Haitian Revolution is that it caused a division within France. It was not simply Toussaint versus the French liberals; the Haitian Revolution actually caused the French liberals to split and led to disarray. It raised another problem: Insofar as France could militarily continue to defend itself from counterrevolutionary forces in Europe, at this particular moment, it still depended on colonial production. It therefore seems to me that the Haitian Revolution posed the problem of the radicalism of liberalism straightforwardly and there were a number of responses. Is it possible to call Toussaint a liberal because he believed in the promises of liberalism?

Liberalism and Marx: An interview with Domenico Losurdo

PN: Concerning the radical inspiration for the framework you set up between Toussaint and the French Revolution, the striking thing about the Haitian Revolution is that it caused a division within France. It was not simply Toussaint versus the French liberals; the Haitian Revolution actually caused the French liberals to split and led to disarray. It raised another problem: Insofar as France could militarily continue to defend itself from counterrevolutionary forces in Europe, at this particular moment, it still depended on colonial production. It therefore seems to me that the Haitian Revolution posed the problem of the radicalism of liberalism straightforwardly and there were a number of responses. Is it possible to call Toussaint a liberal because he believed in the promises of liberalism?

Two Steps Back

Imagine the composition of the more than twelve hundred member audience, on a March evening in 1950, packed into New York’s Webster Hall to hear a public debate on the subject “Is Russia a socialist community?” The event, organized by the Eugene V. Debs Society, was chaired by the then thirty-three year old sociologist, C. Wright Mills, and pitted Earl Browder, deposed General Secretary of the Communist Party, still a staunch Stalinist, against the leader of the Trotskyist Workers’ Party, Max Shachtman. This event is a fascinating relic of American radical politics and an exemplary one, considering how little interest there is on the Left today in engaging in public debate.

Two Steps Back

Imagine the composition of the more than twelve hundred member audience, on a March evening in 1950, packed into New York’s Webster Hall to hear a public debate on the subject “Is Russia a socialist community?” The event, organized by the Eugene V. Debs Society, was chaired by the then thirty-three year old sociologist, C. Wright Mills, and pitted Earl Browder, deposed General Secretary of the Communist Party, still a staunch Stalinist, against the leader of the Trotskyist Workers’ Party, Max Shachtman. This event is a fascinating relic of American radical politics and an exemplary one, considering how little interest there is on the Left today in engaging in public debate.

Marx after Marxism: An interview with Moishe Postone

MP: I think what Marx is trying to do is delineate a form of social relations that is fundamentally different from that in pre-capitalist societies. He maintains that the social relations that characterize capitalism, that drive capitalism, are historically unique, but don’t appear to be social. So that, for example, although the amazing intrinsic dynamic of capitalist society is historically specific, it is seen as merely a feature of human interaction with nature. I think one of the things that Marx is trying to argue is that what drives the dynamic of capitalist society are these peculiar social forms that become reified.

Marx after Marxism: An interview with Moishe Postone

MP: I think what Marx is trying to do is delineate a form of social relations that is fundamentally different from that in pre-capitalist societies. He maintains that the social relations that characterize capitalism, that drive capitalism, are historically unique, but don’t appear to be social. So that, for example, although the amazing intrinsic dynamic of capitalist society is historically specific, it is seen as merely a feature of human interaction with nature. I think one of the things that Marx is trying to argue is that what drives the dynamic of capitalist society are these peculiar social forms that become reified.

Chavela Vargas, dead at 93

Chavela Vargas, b. April 17, 1919 – d. August 5, 2012 and lover to none other than Frida Kahlo.

Chavela Vargas, dead at 93

Chavela Vargas, b. April 17, 1919 – d. August 5, 2012 and lover to none other than Frida Kahlo.

Miami Beach

Miami Beach 06.14.12

Miami Beach

Miami Beach 06.14.12

in New York

in New York June, 2012

in New York

in New York June, 2012

Review: Nick Nesbitt

Nesbitt notes that the Bossale community never reached a consensus as to how it might sustain itself in the face of the capitalist world-system. Throughout a century and a half it was able to survive by “passive and (occasionally) active resistance to the liberal world-system, in a strategic withdrawal of maronnage to the Haitian hills” (Nesbitt, 174). How would this “Bossale vision of an anarchist, multifundia-based freedom” have been able to sustain itself? Here is where is where Nesbitt is conceptually stuck (one could say also, politically stuck). How could have these egalitarians means achieve a total eradication of the social order?

Review: Nick Nesbitt

Nesbitt notes that the Bossale community never reached a consensus as to how it might sustain itself in the face of the capitalist world-system. Throughout a century and a half it was able to survive by “passive and (occasionally) active resistance to the liberal world-system, in a strategic withdrawal of maronnage to the Haitian hills” (Nesbitt, 174). How would this “Bossale vision of an anarchist, multifundia-based freedom” have been able to sustain itself? Here is where is where Nesbitt is conceptually stuck (one could say also, politically stuck). How could have these egalitarians means achieve a total eradication of the social order?

Review: Jeremy Popkin

In order to support the claim that the journée of June 20 was a “turning point” in history, Popkin provides ample evidence that neither Sonthonax nor Polverel went to Saint-Domingue with the intention of abolishing slavery in one blow (Popkin, 167). While committed to the gradual eradication of slavery, both were, initially, most preoccupied with reintroducing stability to the colony and went to great lengths to do so. Throughout this process however, the political divisions between the freemen of color, the whites with property (grand blancs) and those without any (petit blancs) came to a head. The situation in St. Domingue had a substantial impact on the decisions made by the commissioners—Popkin’s observation stands, in this respect. But it was their allegiance to ideas of freedom and equality that proved decisive in the face of conflict.

Review: Jeremy Popkin

In order to support the claim that the journée of June 20 was a “turning point” in history, Popkin provides ample evidence that neither Sonthonax nor Polverel went to Saint-Domingue with the intention of abolishing slavery in one blow (Popkin, 167). While committed to the gradual eradication of slavery, both were, initially, most preoccupied with reintroducing stability to the colony and went to great lengths to do so. Throughout this process however, the political divisions between the freemen of color, the whites with property (grand blancs) and those without any (petit blancs) came to a head. The situation in St. Domingue had a substantial impact on the decisions made by the commissioners—Popkin’s observation stands, in this respect. But it was their allegiance to ideas of freedom and equality that proved decisive in the face of conflict.