Commentary on the recent Venezuelan referendum, particularly among foreign observers, has turned into a rather tiresome to and fro between self-satisfied opponents of Chávez, who like to think that the Bolivarian revolution has been stopped in its tracks, and equally self-satisfied supporters, who think they have refuted the claims of Chávez's dictatorial tendencies.
The referendum has also been interpreted as a weathervane for the region's Left Turns as a whole. With the Bolivian constitutional process also stymied, Lula quiescent, Bachelet unpopular, and the Kirchners apparently reinstating Peronist husband-and-wife politics as usual, have we reached the high water mark for Latin America's renascent left movements?
But in all this discussion, the central point has been lost: that the process of setting constitutions registers a balance of forces between constituent and constituted power.
In "The Failure of Political Theology", a review essay for Mute of Forrest Hylton's Evil Hour in Colombia and Achille Mbembe's On the Postcolony, Angela Mitropoulos (aka s0metim3s of the archive) skewers the assumptions of "failed state" theory.
She points out, on the one hand, that the notion of "failed states" presupposes the norm of the "successful" state as a more or less harmonious instance of the social contract at work. This is a presupposition shared by liberalism and by Gramscian hegemony theory alike. And obviously enough I thoroughly agree with her assessment of hegemony theory as no more than "a variant of social contract theory with Marxian pretensions." Indeed, as Mitropoulos's reading of Hylton's book shows, if anything so-called progressives are more wedded to the social contract (and so to the repression of the state's founding and ongoing violences) than are liberals. The (populist) demand to refound the state by means of an organic representation of subaltern classes is a ruse of the state's feigned self-cancellation.
Naked Punch Magazine is looking better every quarter, I must say (they even have a very decent new blog!). Warm welcomes all around. From some of the front matter, here is a funny bit by Nadim Samman in the latest issue:
Nietzsche rightly points out that 'what makes people rebel against suffering is not suffering itself, but the senselessness of suffering'. If suffering is given a 'sense', or justification, then it is easier to bear–and may even be sought out–provided that the justification is powerful enough. Our mustachioed friend claimed that 'early man' invented gods to perform this function. The gods acted as 'divine audience' or witnesses to the spectacle of mankind's torments, redeeming them through their regard. What is the Curriculum Vitae if not a secular god, bearing witness to the misery of the Intern?...
I plead with you, recognize the will to power–the pseudo-employer's 'sense of function'–in the exhortations 'It'll be good for your career', 'It'll be good for your CV', and 'It'll be good experience'. Remember that an exhortation is not the same as promise, or a contract. Beware! Such exhortations are calculated appeals to vanity.
...the Intern should be characterized as someone undergoing internment–detention. By detention I mean separation from 'good' where you are. In the realm of pseudo-employment 'good' is elsewhere; deferred. Such is the ascetic–life-denying, career-denying–principle of work experience...
If you must suffer, let your 'good' elsewhere be something other than a list–mere sheets of paper. Let your 'divine audience' reflect your deepest sense of function.
When we started LS, we spent quite awhile batting around possible names. One suggestion was por ahora. Here's the back story.
Guerrero started supporting Chávez in 1992, on that fateful day when the then-unknown 37-year-old colonel launched a failed coup of his own. When defeat appeared imminent, Chávez surrendered. To avoid a bloodbath he went on television and asked his compatriots who were still holding two cities to put down their weapons.
During that short live broadcast Chávez did two things that electrified the Venezuelan imagination. First, he took personal responsibility for the botched coup. This seemed to many viewers like a significant break from the standard political tradition of lying and blaming others for failure. Then, in explaining the defeat, Chávez said, "For now, the objectives that we have set for ourselves have not been achieved."
During the next two years, while Chávez was in prison studying, that key phrase--"for now," or por ahora in Spanish--became a rallying cry, a slogan of defiance painted on walls, a talisman of hope in an otherwise
squalid and corrupt political landscape.
Today, we find on Planned Obsolescence the following:
To the Pomona College community:
On Tuesday, March 7, Miguel Tinker Salas, Arango Professor of Latin American History and Chicano Studies, was visited in his Pearsons Hall office by two men from the Los Angeles County Sheriff/FBI Joint Task Force on Terrorism. To avoid rumors, I wanted the Pomona College community to be aware of the facts.
The agents asked Professor Tinker Salas a number of personal questions as well as questions about the Venezuelan government and the Venezuelan community in the U.S. During the meeting, they told him that he was not a subject of investigation. The tone and content of the questioning, however, troubled him deeply. He was also troubled by the fact that the agents reportedly questioned some of the students outside his office while waiting to see him.
Miguel, as all of you know, is a superb Wig Award winning teacher and a fine scholar on Latin American history, politics, and culture who is sometimes asked by the news media to comment on topics related to his research, including Venezuelan politics. The College supports him and his scholarly work without reservation.
I am extremely concerned about the chilling effect this kind of intrusive government interest could have on free scholarly and political discourse. I am also concerned about the negative message it sends to students who are considering the pursuit of important areas of international study, in which they may now feel exposed to unwarranted official scrutiny.
The College is currently consulting with legal advisors about the most effective way to register a strong official protest about this intrusion into our scholarly and educational activities, and we will take appropriate action as soon as their advice is received. We are also asking for their help in assuring that all members of the College community are fully informed about their rights and their options in such situations.
And Kathleen Fitzgerald asks the right questions:
-- If Venezuela is in fact the subject of official anti-terrorist scrutiny, how much of that scrutiny really has to do with terrorism? How much has to do with the threat of socialism? How much has to do with oil?
"Por ahora" has suddenly taken on a whole new - and wholly dark - new meaning. For if we have been waiting for the other shoe to drop - "they're interested only in terror, in the middle east - they're not interested in me and what I say or think or write...For now, things will be OK..." - it is becoming increasingly clear that por ahora has already become just plain ahora...
Crossposted from Posthegemony, as this bears, dare I say it, on some earlier discussions concerning politics, performativity, and the New Left. But I'll let others draw whatever morals or conclusions they will.
I've mentioned Douglas Oliver's Diagram Poems (1979) before, following a discussion of Deleuze's concept of the diagram. And I remember somewhere, sometime reading an essay about, or simply mentioning, these poems--I had thought that it was in Marshall Blonsky's On Signs, but no. Then Oliver came up again in a conversation last year with my friend Carol Watts. So I felt I should track this book down.
Yesterday we went out to Joshua Tree. Heads full of U2 songs, we posed for album cover pictures. And snapped the last rays of the sun over the Cholla cacti that have found themselves just the right place in the sweeping bowl of the desert.
A national park, the place is managed with precision and your visit is guided and chaperoned by roadside exhibits, opportunities for learning. Much of the park is federally-sanctioned and mandated wilderness: a parcel of how we imagine the real. But the real is elsewhere.
We went out to Deep Cove this afternoon. This is mostly just a quaint little tourist trap with some fairly stunning views. But it's also near here that Malcolm Lowry lived for many years, squatting in a shack he and his wife built down by the shore. And it's here that Lowry wrote much of his masterpiece, Under the Volcano.
The shack no longer exists. The good people of Deep Cove and environs hardly seem to have had much affection for Lowry while he and it were there: they were rather busier trying to evict him. Since then, of course, they've somewhat ruefully installed a small plaque near the site, praising Lowry and by implication also praising themselves by invoking his great love of the place.
But while holed up in this cold (and in his case, inhospitable) part of the world, Lowry was imagining the warmer climes of Mexico: conjuring up another drunk, quietly going to seed, not fully fitting in, not fully comfortable with either himself or his environs. Here he is, in semi-drunken semi-delirium:
The instant the Consul saw the thing he knew it was an hallucination and he sat, quite calmly now, waiting for the object shaped like a dead man and which seemed to be lying flat on its back by his swimming pool, with a large sombrero over its face, to go away. So the "other" had come again. And now gone, he thought: but no, not quite, for there was still something there, in some way connected with it, or here, at his elbow, or behind his back, in front of him now; no, that too, whatever it was, was going: perhaps it had only been the coppery-tailed trogon stirring in the bushes, his "ambiguous bird" that was now departing quickly on creaking wings, like a pigeon once it was in flight, heading for its solitary home in the Canyon of the Wolves, away from the people with ideas.[Update: a nice little note on "Evictions" from Geist, which also points us to Foucault Bluff.]
"Damn it, I feel pretty well," he thought suddenly, finishing his half quartern. (96)