Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Against the stream

This blog may have been becalmed in recent days, as its proprietor sees off the flu, but the rest of the blogosphere has buzzed on merrily, I'm sure. I’ve been informed by a reliable source – ie, by the guy who has to come over and repair my computer every time the weight of the music files on my hard drive crashes the whole intricate mechanism - that a new blog is created every second. I know it makes me sound middle-aged and otiose, but I must admit to being pleased by the thought that I will probably never have the time to see, much less read, the vast majority of these sites.

I have never been much of a technophile - it’s hard to follow the lead of Marinetti and Gates and worship at the altar of the machine when you can never even seem to figure out how to use a video player - but I did go through a stage of believing, or at least wanting to believe, that the internet might improve standards of intellectual discussion and political debate. A year or so of trawling through the websites of pseudo-scholars who believe that New Zealand was settled by Celts, that Jews were behind 9/11, and that Hitler was really quite a nice chap has put paid to that fantasy.

Even in the relatively sane sections of the blogosphere, there is a distressing tendency for blogs to become circus arenas where partisans of one opinion are treated to whoops of delight and shouts of encouragement as they endlessly perform the same rhetorical acrobatics in defence of some favoured orthodoxy. (I’ve noted in the past that, in New Zealand at least, the left side of the blogosphere is as afflicted with circus acts as the right.) Occasionally, though, bloggers with an unfashionable commitment to rational, open-minded enquiry and ecumenical discussion appear on my radar.

Tim Bowron must be the worst nightmare of Jared Davidson, the ferocious young anti-art activist who turns up occasionally on this blog to implore those of us foolish enough to look at paintings or read poems to give up our bourgeois ways and dedicate ourselves to political activism. Bowron is no stranger to activism – he has been a delegate for two unions, a national organiser for the far left Workers Party, and a socialist candidate for the office of Mayor of Dunedin – but early this year he announced that he was suspending his political activity, and devoting himself instead to the study of obscure Latin American modernist poets, like the Chilean avant-gardist Vicente Huidobro.

Bowron’s retirement announcement was, it turns out, a little disingenuous: alongside fascinating readings of Huidobro and other exotic scribblers his Fatal Paradox blog has featured some very fine commentary on political affairs in New Zealand and overseas. Bowron’s reflections on the state of the far left in New Zealand are particularly interesting.

Having stepped back from the hurly burly of week-to-week activism, Bowron is able to generalise about the strengths and weaknesses of Kiwi socialism with a detachment that is clear-eyed without ever being piously Olympian. His dissection of the reasons why so many far left outfits in New Zealand end up dissolving into feuding factions – a process famously satirised by the ‘People’s Front of Judea’ scene in Monty Python's The Life of Brian – is especially worthwhile, because it avoids cheap shots and focuses on the ways that sociology can shape the behaviour of even those people most determined to reorganise society. As any reader of this blog’s comments boxes will know, Edward Ashby has been an indefatigable fighter against the sort of pseudo-historians who specialise in destroying archaeological sites, stealing ancient bones, and vandalising the internet with websites promoting their bizarre theories. Ashby is a working archaeologist who grew up in Dargaville, and therefore had to put up with the activities of local pseudo-scholar Noel Hilliam, who thought nothing of tearing up ancient urupa in search of non-existent evidence for his theory that white people settled this country thousands of years ago.

After demolishing the pretensions of Hilliam and other pseudo-scholars in the comments boxes of this blog, Ashby has launched two websites of his own that help continue the good fight. With its posts on subjects like Ancient Celtic Supermen and the Round Earth Conspiracy, The Uncritiqued is a savage exercise in satire; Archaeology Aotearoa, on the other hand, is a highly serious explanation of the realities of twenty-first century archaeological research. Both sites deserve to be read.


Blogger Jared Davidson said...

Scott, you really need to let it go my friend... not only do you still not understand the perspective I was putting forward at the time (ie not simply to give up art, but to open art up to everyone and to everyday intent) but your diggs at me personally are no better than the rhetoric you so deplore.

Again, I've repeatedly given you my email to have a chat, and I will do so again (you may find I'm not the raving 'activist' you make me out to be).

garage.collective (at) gmail.com

Sorry to not comment on the post at hand (Tim's blog is quite good).


6:58 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what Maps? A modern Christian theocracy would be preferable to a secularised human rights regime administered by the high priests of gobbledegook and equality.

7:29 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Maps - I side as you know (although not totally) with Jared - in some of his ideas) I feel you are right to attack these Nazi nut cases such as Doutre etc who bring up conspiracy theories and deny the Holocaust( I mean really bad conspiracy theories - I am still rather fond of my: " 9/11 was an inside job theory"! But my conspiracy theories are good ones...); but swiping at Jared achieves nothing.

Jared is o.k. from what I can gather he is "doing politics" ..you are of course probably right we need galleries etc but sometimes I myself despair of them and the art world...

In fact...do we need art galleries?
Do we even need art?

Who would rather have - the arch Capitalist Davis (and he seems very anti Maori also - as in - "Maori haven't done any original art since te Kooti" (or words of a similar import - where he down plays Shane Cotton)- or something such on his site somewhere..)) or Jared?

O.k. there is perhaps no connection, but surely Jared's impulse to actionate politics is primarily good: even if his methods and ideas might be dubious, if they are or can be definitely seen to be so...

I think that attacking him - a typical example of infighting amongst the Left as in The Life of Brian or the last days of the CP of NZ as I saw it - distracts from your polemics against the Weirdos.

I really felt that artist you saw in Hamilton was not very interesting BTW...you were reading things into his art ... he didn't care about Maori or history.

7:52 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maps you stupid,

JARED is NOT saying smash ALL art, just useless BOURGEOIS ART that doesn't have any contribution to the struggle. Dead art. Dead artforms like painting and your precious little poetry books. Books that no-one reads. Like your book!

And Jared is not saying ban that art just...let it die. Which it is anyway. No need... to intervene. Let the poets dwindle to a tiny useless bunch of poseurs totally cut off from the real world of struggle. Workers struggle. The world of tomorrow.

Lets face it 99.9% of people and 100% of WORKERS IN STRUGGLE would not care if poetry and painting DIED OUT TODAY!

I am sure there are surveys about how charitable artists have been, how open the galleries have been to dialogue etc.

Fuck who cares. Art is BORING if it doesn't contribute to STRUGGLE.

PS I recognise there are de-programmed ARTISTS who are just as respectful of workers as non-artists.

9:03 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Richard wrote:

'In fact...do we need art galleries? Do we need art at all?'

Anon wrote:

'JARED is NOT saying smash ALL art, just useless BOURGEOIS ART that doesn't have any contribution to the struggle. Dead art. Dead artforms like painting and your precious little poetry books. Books that no-one reads.'

Well, no one can say that Richard and anon haven't summed up the divide between my thinking and Jared's thinking.

Jared's brave new world of art has no room for a lot of what I value about art: no room for institutions like galleries, no room for whole art forms like canvas painting, no room for artists who reject direct political engagement, no room for states of mind like indeterminacy.

There's actually not an awful lot of difference between the attitude of Jared and the attitudes of the neo-liberal right, when it comes to institutions like galleries and notions like the right of the artist to refuse easy interpretation.

Before Richard cites Leigh Davis as a supposed contrast to Jared, Richard, he should read Davis' 1994essay for Midwest magazine 'Where Am I In Relation to the Market?'.

In that text Davis argues that art has to deliver outcomes like every other service, and that the market was a more rational way of measuring outcomes than the tastes of critics and curators. His text expresses quite well the ethos of the neo-liberal right which tried with some success to take over the arts sector in the
'90s and early nougthies, and which still threatens some institutions today.

Sure, Jared and the neo-liberals stand at opposite poles of the political spectrum. But what they have in common is an *instrumental* attitude to the arts. They see an artwork or performance as a *means to an end* which can be measured and discussed in non-artistic language.

The neo-liberal bureaucrats who have besieged our galleries and museums talk of 'commercial outcomes'; Jared demands a quantifiable political outcome. He dismisses a Ted Bracey painting which made me think about the nature of Pakeha identity, for instance, by reflecting that a 'workshop on the Treaty' could have conveyed the same message much more efficiently. He has nothing but contempt for art which refuses to take any stance at all on the good old struggle.

Of course, Jared doesn't have the power to stuff our art galleries and other arts institutions, whereas neo-liberal ideologues do. That's why I generally give the lad a little dig in the ribs, rather than a proper serve.

9:32 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

Ahh Scott, round and round we go...

To save repeating, I'll post the link to a reply here:

Also, try reading the book I link to, you may get a perspective of other perspectives...


9:58 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Maps and Richard Taylor are both idiots.

You must be using an obscure meaning of the word “art” of which I was not previously aware.

In my opinion, people who are intelligent and knowledgeable are a credit to blogs; if the likes of Maps and like minded people disappeared then I feel this site could attract more commentators who would also be useful.

I find it ironic that I appear to be a damn sight more progressive than Maps. Heck, I’m probably a damn sight more progressive and liberal than 90% of the people here on this blog, commenters or posters.

But I don't like art so I must be a moron.

I am an Atheist, I work in one of the scientific specialities, I am indeed head of my particular little kingdom and I see all religions including your religion of art through the same, if you like, biased eyes, of my “belief” in the trueness of science, a belief founded on the reasoning of “proof” a verifiable, experimentally reproducible, and in most cases irrefutable proof.

Ideology for me, any ideology be it religious or political has just as many positive aspects as negative aspects when you take more than just a cursory look at it and adherents to a particular ideology always, it seems to me to, do not want to listen to any other “version” of their firmly held beliefs, they certainly don’t wish to hear of the bad bits, the crimes, the atrocities because that hits them where it hurts, and lets be honest they all have their skeletons in their ideological closets.

So why not question your religion of art? Or your religion of anti-art?

Indeed; it’s for lazy and inarticulate people who are more interested in venting their internal frustration and aggression than they are in having a discussion.

Sort of a throwback to the class dunce who, when trapped by the English teacher and asked to give an opinion, uses the word ’shit’ to describe a Shakespeare play, then looks around the class sniggering and seeking approval.

Well, YOU are the clown. Both of you.


10:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A short poem methinks is in order to lighten the gloome of this 21st Century conversation. Tooo heavy guys!

Jared was waxing lyrical, an eclectic
whilst Scott
was talking arty farty rot.

Artists from millenia past
were mouthing Blast!
Realising all their angst and suffering had been in vain. Again

A whiff of politics? Something's rotten in the anarchist state! Out damn Scott.

I didn't say it would be a goode poeme.

7:09 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We could perhaps by way of diversion draw up a list of stupid or unpleasant things believed in by professional academics over the years:
1. Existence of phlogiston, the element of fire (Robert Boyle).
2. That all the major problems of physics had been resolved by the end of the 19th century (Kelvin).
3. Eugenics, compulsory sterilisation, breeding a superior human race
(Sir Francis Galton).
4. Steady state universe (Sir Fred Hoyle).
There’s no particular reason why we should genuflect to academics.

8:29 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ASIDE: I may be wrong but I think the most famous partisan "circus act" of teh blogosphere in recent years is one from the left of the political spectrum, namely Daily Kos.

Kos, already an echo chamber, fragmented further when Hillary supporters were obliged to leave en masse after being derided by Obama supporters.

12:16 pm  
Blogger Edward said...

Hey Scott just wanted to say thanks for including me in that post, I really appreciate it. I just hope my ranting and venting will be of some use to someone.

As for the above comments I am inclined to agree with Maps re: supporting the art (and other) institutions, but we have all been down this path before. As for Jared, we seem to come to a point where we agree to disagree, but I enjoyed our previous exchanges.

The first anon is suffering from taking-things-for-granted-syndrome when they assert that 99% of the population wouldn't miss it if art and poetry died. The death of cultures by a thousand cuts is indeed something that many populations many times over have lemented. Besides, these things are part of what makes us human. You cannot subdivide human behaviour into purely functional, utilitarian sections where emotive modes of communication can be removed. These things may not seem superficially to have a direct advantage in terms of 'fitness' or "strugle" (aka worth apparently) but if you peel the onion layers back you find that they actually do. After all, what is politics? What is the use? this question makes as much sense as that about art. It is simply what we do.

As for the seccond anon, you seem to be suffering slightly from delusions of grandeur. For someone who is "more progressive than 90% of the people here" you sure do appear to like to blow your own trumpet alot. I too share your love of science and work in a scientific field, as well as being a default atheist, but your terminology of "usefullness" disturbs me to the point where you come across as a lover of scientism. I count myself as an empiricist, but I do not think that means that art is 'useless' or a lesser beast so to speak than science. Science is the brain, art is the heart. I do agree with you that we should all question our own ideologies, be that art or whatever, but I think you are comparing apples with oranges here. At any rate, perhaps you should take your geeky superiority complex derived from years of being the "quiet child prodigy who always got bullied but got his own back in the end by becoming the head of his own kingdom" some place else. I for one have heard it all before at Uni from those who do not know how to humble themselves.

The fourth anon, you're right of course. No one should have to genuflect to academics, but that doesn't mean one should take for granted all that academia has contributed to human society or take a relativistic approach whereby no one can be an expert in an area simply becuase theories change over time. Theories should change, that is the point, or at least be added to. It means that academics are asking questions of thier interpretations and testing the evidence.

1:55 pm  
Blogger Country Lane said...

I love academics. Academics are paid to think. Not just hold opinions but actually think - look at the evicence, find ways to experiment to test their hypothoses and interpret the results.
You only have to look at the wasteland that is the current government's front benches to see what happens when people in power don't listen to the peeople who actually do the thinking. Endless decisions based on some Minister's opinion or idea even when the evidence points to another, better option.
Academics?" Thank god for them ;-)

2:38 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

most artists and academics hate workers . thats why when workers seize state power they feel the need to discipline academics and artists. mao and bin lao found a good solution during the cultural revolution - liquidate the exceptionally rotten ones and send the recyclable ones to the country to labour.

4:02 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

There is equal value for both those with knowledge and expertise, and those who put those ideas into practice. I like the line from 'Solidarity Forever':

Without our brain or muscle not a single wheel would turn...


4:03 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(fifth Anon here)

Actually other Anons, you're all wrong. You seem to be conflating the work (making art, engaging in an institution of learning and teaching) with its function under consumer capitalism.

They're not the same thing, and it's only by mixing them up that you can come up with stupid ideas like thinking workers and artists can't be the same people.

As for supporting cultural genocide, wtf. Move to PRC.

6:27 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mao Zedong on the bourgeois dungheap:

'The intellectuals left over by the old society have to be transformed, something to which we did not pay much attention in the past.

Who will overcome whom? Will the capitalist class overcome the proletarian class, or will the proletarian class overcome the capitalist class? This problem has not been solved yet. Some people do not understand this. Khrushchev is one of them. You see, the Soviet Union has existed for forty some years, and now capitalism has been restored there. The party that was established by Lenin, and the Soviet Union that was established by Lenin, after forty some years, have become capitalist, and have adopted revisionism. We have tried only for fifteen years. In the future, Marxism-Leninism will win. How to educate the young people is a big question. If we lose our vigilance and fall asleep, thus becoming self-satisfied, the capitalist class will emerge to grab political power, and capitalism will come back. If Marxism fails to overcome revisionism, revisionism will overcome Marxism, and, as a result, capitalism will be restored. Under the signboard of Communism to carry out policies of capitalism, you know, this is a problem which is difficult to resolve in a decade or several decades.

When you return to your own country, please report to your Central Committee that hope is on our side. Khrushchev is not a good person. But he also has helped us. He has helped us to understand the Soviet Union—how the first socialist country has deteriorated into revisionism. Not only has he helped the Chinese, but also he has helped you and has helped revolutionary people all over the world. There are three types of bad guys in the world: the imperialists, the revisionists, and the reactionaries in various countries.'

6:58 pm  
Anonymous Keri Hulme said...

Kia ora Maps- it is so good to see sane, quietly scientific (subject to peer review!)opinions persisting in the blogosphere. I truly enjoy this aspect of the net, and this site-

Richard Taylor: frankly, I given up reading your twaddle- you're very self-involved arnt you? "I knew" this one and "I talked" with that one-get a life mate-

I find all the Jared Davidson/marxist stuff - nothingness.

I've met these fellas (almost always fellas) over the past 40+ years- NONE of them have created anything of lasting worth.

I am leftwing/Labour with a Green tinge- simply because that is the only political viewpoint that fits with being a humane human.

Jared - your folks actually workers?

All mine were, self included - and are (self included.)

I resent your artsy-ponsy crap about what & who workers are and do- fuck off, mate (or, said in a reasonable voice, NEVER come round a river I am baiting on-)

9:00 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Keri Hume

You are too kind.

You write a "higher" level of twaddle than me...

Thank you for your lovely comments and support

Yours forever,

loving you eternally


9:18 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Oops! - I forgot to say Keea Ara

9:20 pm  
Anonymous Keri h said...

O? Cant spell either? Par for course Richard-

9:27 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

Hi Keri,

You mean my parents? Yes, my parents work. Do I work? Yes, I work. But that has limited resonance to most real analysis. To be a worker or working class does not simply mean being chained to a factory bench for 12 hours a day. It means being forced to participate in the production of profit for a minority whatever you do.

This would include those not working for a wage (housework, mothers, unemployed etc), and even to what we do in our leisure time — shopping, our consumer culture, and often, our artistic or cultural pursuits — these still contribute to the circulation of capital and the generation of profit for someone else, and perpetuate the relations of productions in capitalism (ie the few control the many).

I'm sorry if wanting to change this situation NOW with my co-workers, my flatmates or my local community doesn't fit into your nice wee labour/green tinge box.

PS You can continue to make 'lasting worth' (whatever that is) for all I care, but don't lump me in with the Marxist lot please. If you want to know more about Libertarian Communism (or anarchist communism) or whatever label suits you, then get in touch, or check out www.anarchistfaq.org.


10:10 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:10 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Keri Hulme

Good on ya!

Thanks for that correction - I will act on your advice.

Keep up the good work, and again thanks for your kind comments.

You are so nice!!


10:37 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a pretty broad definition of 'worker', Jared. Seems like you're saying that nearly everyone is a worker.

11:09 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

To this post my:

"Do we need art" etc were rhetorical questions - I think Maps knows that.

My point re Jarrad was not that I supported him to the hilt or at all - but that I do see the passion he feels - he may well be "wrong" but that isn't the point here - but that he should be let to say what he has to say - I mean he hadn't even commented before Maps included him in his post - which I felt was not a good idea... after all the post was about the redoubtable Tim Bowron -

- but knowing Maps - sorry Keri but I do know Maps personally!! - he wanted action on this Blog here - par for the course shall we say - to use a recent Keriism...
and brought Jarred in - and I don't feel he is totally hostile to Jarred. After all he got a mention!

Comrade Bowron answered the call with great gusts of gusto as befits man of the political cloth...

Art and art galleries? In the end we do need them - thorns and all - - but my doubts remain and Maps's point re Davis is interesting...

And sorry Keri - but I HAVE heard him read! Now - hmm - he read from his Willy's Gazette - now at the time - this was about 1992 or so -I actually thought he was quite a nice fellow. And intriguing - and an interesting writer...his thing on his Jacks Books site about Maori art etc is also insightful - but strange - it is meant to be about Shane Cotton but talks about Giotto and other stuff and it is actually very interesting...but I was perplexed by it.

Undoubtedly it is flawed. Maps doesn't like him (or his ideas or ideology - if he can be said to have one) as he is some kind of big time Capitalist. But I don't know him well enough to pass judgment (on him personally).

But the raw utilitarian argument is wrong I feel [Rogernomics - well I copped that monstrous disaster as did many others]; and yes, art cant be subsumed too (formulaically? arbitrarily?) into Revolution - but I feel maybe the art scene etc needs rejuvenating and criticising - I have a feeling of unease shall we say about the art world...

This is where, while I feel he (Jarred) "goes too far", I feel,
I share some of the ideas or concerns, or at least the feelings about art etc or art consumption etc that Jarred has. I am also interested in anarchism. Not that I want to BE an anarchist! Hearing or seeing the word Anarchist I always think of Conrads's "The Secret Agent"...

Actually Communism IS Anarchism - as in it's final stage the State itself is meant to "wither away" - hence no Government - hence Anarchy by definition. Or this can be argued.

But I still like being able to read about art and go to art galleries and so on - I am more attached to art and literature and reading etc than I am to revolution if it wants to destroy all art (or tell me what kind of art I should do or what art should do - Art in the general sense I use here) - I know this isn't quite the argument (of all the anarchists) - but while I feel revolution etc can generate new forms of art and art practice - it also needs not to destroy art that already exists - the question: "Do we need art" is the same as: "Do we need pleasure"

Certain academics certainly need re-educating (as China's great leader, Mao Tse Tung quite rightly did in the 70s to many very Bourgeois academics and many evil Revisionists backsliders) - but that aside - we need academics as much as we need dentists, farmers, bakers or electricians...even accountants and financial advisers...

11:59 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

"That's a pretty broad definition of 'worker', Jared. Seems like you're saying that nearly everyone is a worker."

Yes, and it's not just my own. Even Marx said that 'Capital, first and foremost, is a social relation'. From 'The Bolsheviks And Workers' Control' by Maurice Brinton):

"We hold that the 'relations of production' - the relations which individuals or groups enter into with one another in the process of producing wealth - are the essential foundations of any society. A certain pattern of relations of production is the common denominator of all class societies"

So obviously class is upheld through power relations: some having more control over the relations of production, or simply the control over another's life.

According to anarchistfaq.org, there are two classes, the working class and the ruling class, with a whole lot of grey areas within them. Obviously the ruling class is made up of those who control the relations of production, and this relates to both capitalism and state socialism/communism. For the working class in particular, I think this means that class is more than simply those who work and those who don't, but could include anyone who does not control the relations of production talked about above, inside and outside of the workplace.

I'd be interested to hear your definition of 'worker' anon.


9:30 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So...are the police workers?
And soldiers?

9:51 am  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

Well that's a hard one, as individually, most police are probably from a working class background — yet as an institution, the police hold a position of power that serves to uphold capitalist relations.

Most successful uprisings and revolts throughout history have managed to get police and army on the side of the oppressed. To write off all police as simply 'the enemy' negates the fact that institutions are made up of individuals, individuals who can make choices — and when it comes down to it, whose side they are on at the crunch is what will matter.

I'm no expert on these things, that's simply my opinion. And don't take it as an apology for police action! I just don't see it in such plain terms as 'all police=bad'.


9:58 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But don't all workers help uphold capitalism...workers in arms factories...workers in freezing works...workers in schools that indoctrinate...so if members the police and army aren't workers because they help maintain capitalism what about everyone else? are there any workers?

I think a worker is someone who serves their labour power to survive. Therefore groups like shoppers and students are not workers.

1:06 pm  
Blogger maps said...

'there are two classes, the working class and the ruling class, with a whole lot of grey areas within them. Obviously the ruling class is made up of those who control the relations of production'

Isn't this just a tautology, Jared?

If the 'relations of production' means the social relation between the ruling class and the working class, as you seem to suggest it does, then aren't you simply saying 'the ruling class is made up of those who are in the ruling class'? You don't seem to be supplying any new information about the ruling class by saying 'it controls the relations of production'.

I also think it's a mistake to assume that the force which 'controls the relations of production', ie the force that keeps society stable and keeps the proles in line, is always the same as the ruling class.

It's been quite common, historically, for 'Bonapartist' leaders and their followers - people who come from outside the traditional capitalist class - to take over the state and run society, and even oppress members of the capitalist class, without becoming capitalists.

Some analysts have suggested that the current regime in Iran is Bonapartist. It is headed by a thuggish crank who comes from outside the sophisticated circles of the Iranian bourgeoisie, and it finds its support in the army and in the various paramilitary groups that give ambitious thugs something to do.

Many members of the Iranian bourgeoisie, which supported the candidacy of Mousavi at the recent rigged election, are currently being persecuted by the Iranian state. Yet that state continues to uphold property relations, and to make sure that capitalism functions smoothly.

It's possible that the thugs who have control of the Iranian state at the moment might succeed in wresting control of the economy from the old bourgeoisie - their privatisation programme is geared towards this end - but at the moment they are not a capitalist class.

Who, then, are the ruling class in Iran today? If you were to conflate the bourgeoisie with the people who control 'relations of production', then you would find this question hard to answer. (You could, of course, simply lump Armoureddinnerjacket and his mates together with Mousavi and the traditional bourgeoisie and say 'they're all one class - they're all bastards', but this wouldn't help you to understand the current crisis in Iran.)

1:50 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

"You don't seem to be supplying any new information about the ruling class by saying 'it controls the relations of production'."

I don't understand? Where was I asked to provide anything new? Is this homework? Are you marking me? If it seems repetitive it's because I was explaining my opinion on class to anon (see above).

Scott, I also stated earlier that there are a lot of grey areas. As you say, "I also think it's a mistake to assume that the force which 'controls the relations of production', ie the force that keeps society stable and keeps the proles in line, is always the same as the ruling class."

Power, in terms of hire/fire and investment decisions, is the important thing. Ownership of capital as a means of determining a person's class is not as useful as once was, since even many working-class people now own shares (although not enough to live on or to give them any say in how a company is run) and since most large companies are owned by other large companies, through pension funds, multinationals, etc. Hence we now have a situation in which the people who have massive power may technically be "salary slaves" (managing directors, etc.) while, obviously, they are members of the ruling class in practice.

Class can be objectively defined: the relationship between an individual and the sources of power within society determines his or her class. We live in a class society in which a few people possess far more political and economic power than the majority, who usually work for the minority that controls them and the decisions that affect them. This means that class is based both on exploitation and oppression, with some controlling the labour of others for their own gain. Whether this 'some' is capitalist, Bonapartist or Marxist-Leninist (as history has shown) is not as important as the fact that class will always exist while hierarchy and power relations continue in their present state.

Like I said, I'm no expert.

And anon, students are not the ruling class, therefore they would fit in the working class (albeit with a lot more privilege than most). Like I said above, cto ontribute to the circulation of capital and the generation of profit for someone else is to perpetuate the relations of productions in capitalism. We can't escape it! Well not yet anyway!


5:13 pm  
Blogger maps said...

'Class can be objectively defined: the relationship between an individual and the sources of power within society determines his or her class.'

Well, once again, no. It's not as simple as that.

What I was trying in my gentle way to suggest Jared is that your whole mindset is wrong. Instead of trying to create these enormous generalisations and make sweeping judgements, whether about art or the structure of human society, take a look at some concrete instances, whether they be Ted Bracey or present-day Iran.

If you read Marx, you'll soon find that he doesn't bother with a static definition of working class, or of anything else for that matter. In Capital, for instance, he talks at one point about 'capitalist classes', at another point about a 'capitalist class', and another point about 'the class of bankers'. How he defines class depends on what angle he is looking at his subject from.

There's no need to tie yourself up in knots about whether police or students are workers. In a certain context - if you were calculating the effect of the credit crisis and consequent declines in state revenue on the ability of the government to pay public employees, for instance - cops would most certainly be workers. In another context - if the CTU was calling a general strike, and the police were being mobilised to keep the buses running - they wouldn't.

These big clumsy definitions you come out with are the intellectual equivalent of drawing on the back of a postage stamp with a crayon. If we're interested in understanding a particular society in its complexity we have to avoid them.

6:05 pm  
Anonymous Keri H said...

A fascinating conversation -truly- may it continue-

In my opinion, there is an innate human drive to create art. whether decorative (the earliest kind we have physical evidence for) or illustrative (e.g.Chauvet, with possibly shamanistic overtones - who knows at this distance of years?) or whatever. It cannot be channelled only for political ends. Humans just dont work like this.

Richard Taylor - I was probably testier than usual yesterday evening (toothache) but most of my posts stand.

Anyway Edward - have bookmarked your sites & look forward to reading more from them-

6:23 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

No knots here bud, just half-decent class analysis (which, by the way, is not mine, but a tradition of thought pre-dating Marx — ie anti-authoritarian socialism). I was merely trying to illustrate my point for anon.

Where did I say these definitions were static? Do you read my posts? Did I not mention the grey areas twice when talking about my opinion? They should be seen as a valid perspective on understanding present (and yes, complex) society.

I don't feel confident enough to comment on Iran, only that to me, it seems that what is taking place is a bitter confrontation between opposing factions of the Iranian bourgeoisie, ach lined up behind one of the presidential candidates. This doesn't mean it may not take on more working class demands: (from www.libcom.org)

"this movement started as a protest about cheating in the elections and protesters were originally mobilised in support of Mousavi. However, the slogans quickly became more radicalised. There is a huge difference between Mousavi’s feeble protests to the supreme leader about the ‘unfairness’ of the elections, and the crowd’s chants of “death to the dictator and the regime.

While the development in Iran today is a welcome development for revolutionaries around the world, we sholud be cautious of the danger that the working class will succumb to the factional infightings between the two major factions of the ruling class in Iran and in the mystifications of democracy and "clean" elections. As of now, the main character of the protest movements in Iran is inter-classist and very much influence with democratic mystifications."


7:37 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Keri - thank you - I do ramble on and I am pretty self-centred but that is me (my excuse!) maybe I should de-ramble a bit... I sometimes get sick of myself.

If you think is bad outside for you: think what it's like inside!

"It's hell in here!" (Neddy Seagoon, 'Goon Show" about 1956)

8:04 pm  
Anonymous Keri h said...

Richard Taylor - O! Seagoon!
I really believe children should be exposed to the vast range of human humour - not - forfend!- taught it. Just shown it- from the Goons to M*A*S*H (bleakest & benighted) to Simpsons to Billy T to Fred Dagg to - o goodness, we all have our humour-pantheons. If kids were given the option of partaking/viewing/being involved in examples of humour, they'd learn a whole lot more about being human*

*including the very cruel sides - ridicule & shaming & belittling-

8:35 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Jarrad and Maps

I want to wade into this class debate thing -

Marxism defines the ruling class almost exactly as Jarred says - the ruling class - the Bourgeoisie, who were originally artisans etc who became the manufacturers etc and thus eventually the Capitalists of today - so they are what was once called the Middle Class (Bourgeoisie) are now the 'Top Class'.

They are by definition those who who own the means of production.

Of course they don't "run everything" as if the were puppet masters pulling strings - it's very much more complex - market forces, and various contradictions, shall we say, operate.

But in most of the world they are very powerful.

However even in very "advanced" industrialised societies with "democracies" as they are termed - the ruling classes are not only in constant class struggle with the working class (this "struggle" takes complex forms and it is hard to see how it works at all times as the working class itself is also a complex*): but also there is a struggle between (or within) themselves - both inside any particular nation and between nations and sometimes there are degrees of cooperation between them.

In general the capitalists cohere - especially ideologically.

But there are many other aspects -
religion etc

In Iran (as in other nations, but perhaps less so than in Iran) religion (or 'ideology') conflicts with the need for certain Bourgeoisie and other parts or classes in Iran who want a different way of operating. (As in China where the Tianmen Square Massacre is now under increasing fire from people). Here the avrious strata of the Top Class or "becoming" Top Class ally with students and liberals, more secular people, and so on...

While the U.S. Imperialists normally back such States as Iran: they play a double game all the time. Iraq was set up then smashed when suitable as they did in many other parts of the world. They both promote and "attack" drug running and so on...

They set nations and individuals up. But they also divide. "Divide et Imperum"

but there are other complicating factors - religion and philosophy. Ideas of freedom and culture (of all kinds) and art (its place and what it is and so on) in fact.

Theoretically it would suit them for Iran to "advance" to being more "modern" and secular - as the result is more consumers.

But not all of "them" in the US have cynical agendas and many feel - rightly or wrongly - that Iran is more dangerous than the US as there is no long tradition of democracy etc. This is debatable of course. Is the present ruler really that much worse than the long list of US Presidents? Which country in the world has been the only one to use WOMDS?

And many of "them" in the US (or "The West" (of whatever class)) really do want Iran to progress and become more liberal (as do many in Iran it is clear).

9:02 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

But I feel that Iran needs to have a more progressive attitude toward religion. But I don't advocate imposing that...the Iranians have to settle their own struggles.

But market and other forces militate against too many nations having too high a standard of living as that means the Top Class (ultimately) lose power. Why continue a class system of any kind when everyone has all they want?

And as a class in power the Top Class psychologically and historically want that power totally. This goes deeper than Marxism. It goes to genetics.

There is lot more to it but it would take massive essay to explicate this issue.

Jarrad I see as being sincere - he is not alone in not understanding the complexities of the class struggle however. I still find it very confusing.

But I have "a mind like an enormous ice cream" so that's not surprising!

But that they, the "ruling class", are the "owners of the means of production" (this term "means of production" needs to be rigorously defined though); is a good starting point...these "owners" includes all the big companies you can name who are basically in league with the military, and most branches of the state and so on.

The people - even in a capitalist nation - do have quite a degree of input into the State. But the most powerful group are the Top Class.

De facto the governments work for the capitalists. But in places such as Iran the Top Class (Big Business, basically) have less direct power than say in the U.S.

This is not to say we cant say that Iran might not become "evil" as Nazi Germany did. It is unlikely as they aren't militarily or economically very powerful - but it could happen.

At the moment however the US generally act more like a kind of cowboy version of Nazi Germany than most other countries...but that said no country is without taint.

*The Police are working class but they basically work for the Top Class. But we in NZ and in say the US have a much more complex relationship to the police. They can assist us or be our enemies and they themselves are not of course one block (there are times when the police in fact take revolutionary action against the state as do (or can do) as do the military); and this pattern repeats in all social sectors or clsas "levels".

9:02 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

There - I've done it again! If everyone is confused - so am I!

It needs someone to rigorously define these theoretical terms such as "class", "class struggle", "means of production" and so on...someone much better versed in all this than I...

..my brain is crumbling...

9:06 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

Don't forget race and gender — they also blurr class struggle within the classes...

Hey all, thought you might enjoy this (it's the zine that started the whole art debate stuff). Download it below.

Maps, you may be shocked to see Mark Derby as a contributor... yes, we are friends and work together on Labour History stuff. Obviously that doesn't mean we share the same views, but maybe it will stop you as writing me off as some mere abstraction of praxis...

Garage Collective presents the fourth and final installment of RIVET, with a special focus on ideas around 'art'. Filled with the usual graphics, quotes and opinion you'd expect from someone with complete control of the production process... download here.

There has been a lot of great debate around concepts of artistic practice and consumption over the last couple of months, and while the original concept for RIVET 4 was to validate the use of artistic praxis in struggle, it's turned into a sort of reader of anti-art ideas. While some have thought these ideas were purely mine, RIVET 4 shows that there is a wide tradition of thought that I merely plundered (often to my detriment).

So I hope you enjoy the readings and ideas put forward within. The publishing of RIVET 4 marks the laying to rest of these topics on my behalf as I look to put the ideas herein into practice.

THE SCREAM — Edvard Munch.
THE TERM ART — Stewart Home.
THE WHOLE ART THING — Clifford Harper.
MAIL ART — Stewart Home.
ART AS DIALOUGE: MORE DIALOGUE ON ART — Rivet Rhetoric and Replies.
SMILE/NEOISM — Art Press Review. ART STRIKE 1990-1993 — Scott Macleod/Karen Elliot.
YAWN #7/JERRY DREVA — Jared Davidson.

RIVET, 2007 - 2009. RIP.

9:13 pm  
Blogger Richard said...


Yes I loved all those humorists - Billy T James was a bloody genius!

Yes - humour can be cruel. I hate that kind. I hate people who mock and belittle. (Except that I never hate anyone for very long)...

Humour is great if it is meant well.

I loved Dad's Army, Are You Being Served, and Taxi.

I remember as child loving The Three Stooges (I still like them!)
and Laurel and Hardy etc

9:13 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Maps him Evil! "Drawing on the back of a postage stamp with a big crayon"!! Evil!!!

Jarrad - you not worry - me know Him Maps - him not Big Bad - Him on Big Brainy Warpath...!

Me make Him Heap Big Powerful Art Magic Poetry Medicine to help You!

My Magic Stronger than Him Maps His Doctor Magic!

Maps him Naughty!

9:26 pm  
Blogger Edward said...

Cheers Keri,
If you or anyone else has any good references you'd suggest (be they web links or books/articles) let me know as the archaeology aotearoa blog is very much a work-in-progress which I have seldom had a chance to edit thoroughly. I created it as a very basic source for which I cut-and-paste to other online discussion forums where pseudo's raise thier heads (yahoo politcs discussion board is one in particular)..saves me repeating myself all the time.

3:23 pm  
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6:36 am  

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