January 17, 2013

The aim should be understanding of being and the world

This has been the fifth year running that communication and political science students from the American University of Paris have been coming to Auroville for their undergraduate practicum. Also for the past few years they have been joined by students from Linneaus University in Sweden. Auroville provides a perfect platform for the students with all the different projects and activities they can get involved in. To round of their 2-3 week visit they all gave a presentation of the work they have been doing in Auroville.
Auroville Integral Sustainability Institute shares the experience of hosting 2 different groups of visiting planning students from Queens University, Canada & CEPT, Ahmedabad - ‘It was very enriching for all’, says Lalit, Programme coordinator. Auroville being an inspiring & interdisciplinary learning field provided very conducive environment to experience a different way of life which gave them a very real life glimpse of integral life & sense of purpose.

“The Party” from Larval Subjects Jan 17, 2013
Among Heideggerians, for example, Heidegger research becomes an end in itself, whereas the aim should be understanding of being and the world.  Among the democratic party, perpetuation of the democratic party becomes an end in itself, rather than representing the interests of the people.  The first question we need to ask of any form of organization– and this is why we need anarcho-communism as a regulative ideal –is that of how we can insure that parties, groups, and organizations remain “complex, adaptive systems”, rather than becoming ends in themselves and machines of alienation.  How can we organize in a way that remains responsive to the alien and singular?
The second problem with group structures is of greater concern and has darker implications.  As I have argued for a number of years now, group identification has the structure of masculine sexuality (the left side of the diagram to the right).  I will not rehearse the intricacies of Lacan’s graph of sexuation here (readers who are curious can consult chapter 6 of The Democracy of Objects or my article “The Other Face of God“, .pdf)… Such was Zizek’s conclusion regarding the function of the symbolic figure of the Jew in anti-semitism.  Anti-semitism has nothing to do with real Jews, but is instead a fantasy structure designed to explain why the organic and harmonious communities dreamed of by conservative ideologies fail (today the figure of the Jew has been replaced by leftists and Middle Easterners).   

Martin Heidegger, a major practitioner of the phenomenological and existentialist approaches in philosophy, buddy of the Nazi (the well! what the well!), and a top competitor with Derrida for most obscure philosophical writer of the 20th century. He talked a lot about Being (and Time).

Eric Schliesser follows last week’s ‘Philo of Economics’ with this week’s on “Foucault and the Invisible Hand”. Eric refers to Michel Foucault's treatment of Smith in “The Birth of Biopolitics”. While commenting on Smith's use of "invisible hand" in the Wealth of Nations (hereafter WN), Foucault insists that Smith is committed to the claim that:
Everyone must be uncertain with regard to the collective outcome if this positive collective outcome is really to be expected. Being in the dark and the blindness of all the economic agents are absolutely necessary. The collective good must not be an objective... Invisibility is not just a fact arising from the imperfect nature of human intelligence which prevents people from realizing that there is a hand behind them which arranges or connects everything that each individual does on their own account. Invisibility is absolutely indispensable. It is an invisibility which means that no economic agent should or can pursue the collective good” (Foucault 2008: 279-80).
I am not going to comment on Foucault’s general reasoning on Adam Smith’s use of the IH metaphor in this post.  His reasoning tends to be obscure. To argue that “human intelligence prevents people from realizing that there is a hand behind them which arranges or connects everything that each individual does on their own account” is a strange way of putting it. The “hand behind them which arranges or connects everything that each individual does on their own account” is either saying that “human intelligence” stops them fantasising about an IH that actually exists or prevents them fantasising about one that does not exist.  That is what makes philosophy such a tormented subject; it’s never really clear as to what they mean except by engaging in constant “deep thinking”. Those excellent teacher’s of philosophy (such as Eric Schliesser) are unfazed by textual ambiguity and are among the brightest and best of social scientists.  They are always stimulating when listened to in conversation or in seminars and stretch their student’s critical faculties…
I suggest Hayek’s defiant conjecture (Fatal Conceit) that knowing every action of 7 billion of people about matching possible choices among billions of products and services (36 billion choices in New York alone each minute of the day – only a few dozen choices for gatherer-hunter upper Amazonian tribes) is well beyond human comprehension or understanding, let alone practical even in a Providential fantasy of the imagination. Surely it is an extreme theological idea, even as a figure of speech. A Must Read New Book on Friedrich Hayek Eamonn Butler: “Friedrich Hayek: the ideas and influence of the libertarian economist

I am a fully paid-up member of the Karl Polanyi fan club. In the past few years I have published, with my collaborators, a collection of essays on the significance of The Great Transformation for understanding our times (Blanc 2011, Holmes 2012) and have made him a canonical figure for my versions of economic anthropology, the human economy and the history of money. I have also published two short biographical articles on him. I have contributed in this way to the recent outpouring of new work on Polanyi to which this book is a significant addition. I am a believer, but some believers also have doubts. I still have reservations about a Polanyian strategy for achieving economic democracy and these are linked to his historical vision of “market society”.  Theories are good for some things and not for others and, in my view, the plural economy would be best served by a plural approach to theory and politics. But first let me summarise what I most value personally in what I have learned from Polanyi.
Most anthropologists take their lead from the academic work done by Polanyi and his collaborators at Columbia University after the war… Polanyi falls within this anti-market camp since he acknowledged Aristotle as his master and considered “the self-regulating market’s” contradictions to have been the principal cause of the twentieth-century’s horrors. A less apocalyptic version of socialism in the tradition of Saint-Simon acknowledges the social damage done by unfettered markets (what Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction”), but would not wish to do away with the wealth they produce… John Maynard Keynes produced the most impressive synthesis of liberalism and social democracy in the last century. Much recent writing on Polanyi would place him within this tendency rather than as a card-carrying anti-marketeer. He did recognize a role for the market and lined up with those who sought institutional means to correct capitalism’s ills… In either case, the post-war turn to social democracy or “embedded liberalism” – the apogee of national capitalism – was hardly anticipated by The Great Transformation. We should not repeat this error when we draw inspiration from Polanyi in the struggle for economic democracy today.   

Regarding a passage in Savitri in which Sri Aurobindo describes the universe as a play between He and She. "This whole wide world is only he and she," He, the Supreme in love with her, her servitor; She, the creative Force.
As one too great for him he worships her; … This whole wide world is only he and she. 
What a marvellous work! He goes into a completely different region, so much above thought! It's constant vision, it isn't something thought out—with thought everything becomes flat, hollow, empty, empty, just like a leaf; while this is full, the full content is there, alive.

To begin with, any successor must be someone who will swear personal loyalty to Manoj Das Gupta as against Sri Aurobindo. Some of the names being ...

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