Keith Hart on Sun, 10 Nov 2002 17:50:03 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> From Tactical Media to Digital Multitudes

I always pay particular attention to messages from Kermit Snelson and Brian
Holmes because I like where each of them is coming from.  I have pursued
this sense of an affinity with each of them off the list. So when Brian
takes umbrage at Kermit's last post in this thread, I feel compelled to
enter the fray.

Max Weber wrote two great essays called "Science as a vocation" and
"Politics as a vocation". He argued that  a scientist must privilege
reason, but good scientists are usually ethusiasts; whereas politicians
move people by passion, but their arguments are more persuasive if they are
reasonable. Despite this overlap, it is hard to be both a scientist and a
politician at the same time. Weber was chief organiser of German sociology,
a failed Liberal MP and an adviser to the Kaiser's wartime cabinet. He was
also a depressive who knew about the psychological presures of trying to
unify the two sides of his personality.

What I like about Kermit's messages is their intellectual clarity. It is
true that there is scholarship in them, but what impresses me is their
quality of reasoning. It does not seem fair to me to ask him to justify
these interventions in terms of a logic of political activism. I know that
the politics of Karl Marx and Walter Benjamin are long dead, unrealised.
But their contributions to the ongoing human conversation about a better
world still inspire us. Do I care about their skills in mobilising people
to man the barrivcades? Not really. It is the quality of their thinking
that is moving.

Maybe that makes me an intellectual more than a political activist. But it
is clear that the people who matter were motivated by both concerns. I
can't imagine that Kermit would be on this list unless he cared about the
political troubles of our day, whether or not he goes out into the streets
to get people committed to a cause. Equally, having read and studied all of
Brian's contributions to this list, I find his intellectual and political
visions equally inspiring. He wants things to get better soon, but he has
put in some spadework on how to think about that. Maybe there is more
feeling in his posts than Kermit's. But surely there is room for all of us
in this game. Why attack a blatant intellectual for saying that he sees
some  flaws in the arguments of Geert and Florian?

I should add a footnote on Polanyi, since Brian brought him up, not for the
first time. This is not just a scholastic intervention. Polanyi, in The
Great Transformation (1944), said that land, labour and capital were
fictitious commodities. A commodity is something produced and sold. But
nature, humanity and society (money) are not produced and therefore cannot
be sold. If they are, something terrible happens to the relationship
between society and nature, as formulated by Aristotle when he said that
man is a political animal. The self-regulating market, as an utopian idea,
ijnevitably inflicts damage on nature, humanity and society. Particular
classes express resistance to that general damage.

What this has to do with multitudes and mobs I cant guess. I prefer English
words of one syllable (expressing the idea of mobility) to Latin words of
three syllables (expressing the poetry of an intellectual class).

Keith Hart

Nettime-bold mailing list