Sunday, July 31, 2005

Bone-deep solipsism

Here are two items on "the mundane indignities and brutalities of class."

I got the first of them from blogdex. It's a newspaper article about the district manager of the Wal-Mart in Pensacola removing the paper's vending machine from local stores. The cause: unhappiness over a piece that points out how Wal-Mart is subsidized by government in the sense that its employees get paid enough to afford medical care and the like. A nice quote from the newspaper: "Pensacola should be more than the Wal-Mart kind of town we're becoming - cheap and comfy on the surface, lots of unhappiness and hidden costs underneath." The AP is now reporting that the local manager has backed down and the papers are again available at the stores.

The second item comes from Arts & Letters Daily. Their squib reads: "You’re in the religion biz and you discover one day that your company’s oldest, most trusted product doesn’t actually exist. What do you do?... "

It's from the July/August issue of Books & Culture, A Christian Review:

The Confidence Man

Meet Mark C. Taylor, the virtuoso of Nietzschean boosterism.
by Eugene McCarraher

My favoritie paragraph is this one, noting the absence, in the book under review, of any awareness of those who are not primary players in the dominant activities of the global economy:

This bone-deep solipsism, increasingly endemic to the suburban middle class, follows directly from an inability to acknowledge our humble and fragile materiality, the substance of which involves us, on this side of paradise, in painful and exploitative bonds as well as connections of felicity and flourishing. As Barbara Ehrenreich has observed, "to be cleaned up after is to achieve a certain magical weightlessness and immateriality." Such indifference to the world without quotation marks enables palaver about the capitalist economy as an "information-processing machine" of "complex adaptation." In the same vein, exotic pedantry about the joy of untrammeled desire conceals the coercive nature of capitalist markets and workplaces; marvel at the insubstantiality of money deflects attention from the commodification of activities once performed without pecuniary exchange; pabulum about "webs" and "processes" camouflages the mundane indignities and brutalities of class, power, and war.

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