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January 27, 2013

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Alex

You do it with bureaucracy.

Leonard Hatred

Sorry, no, not having that. "Bureaucracy" is exactly the point at which he lost me (first faltering was when he mentions getting all gushy at the idea of Obama originally).

Cian

after only a few months of occupying Zuccotti Park, did Occupiers feel they needed to launch their own journal of academic theory?

They didn't. He's referring, very obliquely, to Jacobin magazine. Which did a special OWS issue and gave it away for free in Zucotti park (the quote is from a Negri article). Tom Frank knew this, but wrote that passage anyway.

The rest of the piece is no better. This is how left wingers end up like Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens wasn't the first, and Frank won't be the last.

nick s

He's referring, very obliquely, to Jacobin magazine.

Which has said rude things in turn about Frank and the re-reincarnated Baffler.

I think Quinn Norton does a better job of summing up Occupy from her position as a kind of embed for Wired.

Chris Brooke

I assumed the journal to which he was referring was the Journal of Occupied Studies, but maybe it wasn't.

Cian

You could be right Chris. The quote was taken from Jacobin, though.

However, I see little evidence that it was particularly central to anything happening at OWS, or elsewhere. The contributors are a bunch of academics, most of whom do not seem to live in NY.

Cian

Nick, the Baffler piece first went on the web in October. The Jacobin article was responding to Thomas Frank.

Phil

I think you're both right - "a pamphlet clearly intended as a sort of Common Sense for the age of Occupy" refers to the Jacobin special issue, "their own journal of academic theory" refers to the J Occ Stud.

I haven't read the Frank piece yet, but as a rule of thumb anyone insinuating that an anthology can be typified by the contribution by Toni Negri is being deeply dishonest. Nobody writes like Negri - Zizek is Hemingway by comparison. We put up with it from Negri because sometimes there's a point in there that can't be made any other way. (Not always.)

Richard J

I can't help but notice that the Jacobin response seems to be about 50% ad homs against Thomas Frank, 35% shifting the topic onto the area you've prepared for, 10% rhetorical glue, and 5% conceding his point.

As a display of metaphorical squid ink, it's fairly impressive; as a rebuttal, I'm not so convinced.

Leonard Hatred

Jacobin and Frank going up against each other is one of those Alien vs. Predator scenarios. Whoever wins, etc. etc.

Alex

The contributors are a bunch of academics.

errr, really, you don't have to be Thomas Frank to have noticed that there were a hell of a lot of academics in OWS and all of them seem to have published about it.

I remember thinking this at the time. I also said (at CT) it would have been well worthwhile if there was an OWS caucus in two years' time, explicitly comparing it with the 'baggers.

ajay

I also said (at CT) it would have been well worthwhile if there was an OWS caucus in two years' time, explicitly comparing it with the 'baggers.

But as it is, there's...what? What can anyone point to and say "there, that's the difference that Occupy Wall Street made"?

Barry Freed

But as it is, there's...what? What can anyone point to and say "there, that's the difference that Occupy Wall Street made"?

Arguably, the spotlight on income inequality - (the whole 1% vs. the 99%) helped to create a space within which the Obama campaign could effectively trap Romney and win the election. Which was not exactly the goal that most OWSers had in mind but there you go.


The whole Frank vs Jacobin thing blew up to horrifingly fascinating effect on David Graeber's twitter a few days ago where he came across (yet again) as a thin-skinned asshole with a hair-trigger temper. I like the guy and his work but he really should give up twitter, it's not doing him any favors.

Cian

errr, really, you don't have to be Thomas Frank to have noticed that there were a hell of a lot of academics in OWS and all of them seem to have published about it.

That's certainly how it seemed from afar (which is where Thomas Frank was commenting from). I have no idea what proportion of OWS were academics, and neither does Frank. However, if you look at the list of contributors to that journal, most of them are based in other countries. They can't have been that active during term time.

Chris Williams

"it is clear that the basic support of the movement comes from academic circles. Yet, because of the nature of their work, their position in our society and their way of thinking, scholars seem to me to be those least capable of purposeful action. They are very willing to 'reflect' but extremely reluctant to act."

Anyone want to guess the source? Googling is cheating.

dsquared

"purposeful action" and sentences beginning with "Yet" always say "translation from Russian" to me for some reason so I'm going with Lenin.

ajay

It's a very good translation, if it is one, but still stilted, so I'd go with an English-speaking academic.

I'm going to google it now.

Phil

I googled straight away, and I'd never heard of the blighter.

At college my Director of Studies laid on a screening of Kuhle Wampe - quite a big deal at the time; this was before videos, never mind DVDs. "Kuhle what?" some of us asked him. He replied, "I'm not responsible for your ignorance."

In thirty years I've never found a good occasion to use that line. I guess you've either got it or you haven't.

Chris Williams

I'd not heard of him (Andrei Amalrik) either until I saw a book with the essay title on it poking out from a bookglacier in Gould's last week. Anyone who's writing an article called 'Can the USSR survive until 1984?' in 1969 seemed to be worth half an hour of my time. The 'academics' line then popped out at me. I thought that Ken had read it, given that it has a footnote on the transported worker who developed a Marxist critique of the USSR solely from the only allowed works in the camp library: 40 volumes of Lenin. <-_Sky Road_ reference.

Chunk of essay is here: http://www2.stetson.edu/~psteeves/classes/amalrik1.html

PS - Occupy taught _me_ where to source cheap solar power kit, deep-cycle batteries, and LED-based lighting, and also some more about the tyranny of structurelessness and the nature of conspiracy theory. Capacity-building, it was.

Martin Wisse

Sounds more like capicitor buying, he said punningly.

Amalrik I have heard off, or at least the description Chris gives above; hasn't Ken MacLeod talked about him?

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