Philip Alcabes – No Peace of Mind in Psychiatry

Link to a review by Philip Alcabes of the book Mind Fixers: Psychiatry’s Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness (2019) by Anne Harrington:

“No Peace of Mind in Psychiatry”

 

Bonus link: “Élisabeth Roudinesco Interviewed on the 30th Anniversary of Jacques Lacan’s Death”

Michael Hudson – Food Blackmail, the Washington Consensus and Freedom

Link to an interview of Michael Hudson summarizing his essential books Super Imperialism and Trade, Development and Foreign Debt, conducted by Bonnie Faulkner:

“Food Blackmail, the Washington Consensus and Freedom” and

“De-Dollarizing the American Financial Empire”

 

This interview provides an excellent summary of many of the main points of Hudson’s books.  For a latter-day treatment of a portion of these topics, see also The Global Minotaur and “Imperialism in a Coffee Cup.”

Marcie Smith – Gene Sharp, the Cold War Intellectual Whose Ideas Seduced the Left

Link to an interview of Marcie Smith, conducted by Branko Marcetic:

“Gene Sharp, the Cold War Intellectual Whose Ideas Seduced the Left”

 

Bonus links: Non-violence: A History Beyond the Myth and War and Revolution: Rethinking the Twentieth Century and Violence and “Things That Can and Cannot Be Said” and Crowds and Party and The Idiot Pool and Walter Benn Michaels on Neoliberalism and The State and Revolution

 

Bonus quotes:

“rich and powerful men engage in what the writer Kevin Roose has called ‘anarchist cheerleading,’ in keeping with their carefully crafted image as rebels against the authorities. To call for a terrain without rules in the way they do, to dabble in the anarchist cheerleading, may be to sound like you wish for a new world of freedom on the behalf of humankind. But a long line of thinkers has told us that the powerful tend to be the big winners from the creation of a blank-slate, rules-free world.

“The self-styled entrepreneur-rebels were actually seeking to overturn a major project of the Enlightenment– the development of universal rules that applied evenly to all…”

Anand Giridharadas, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World (2018)

“The assumption is that the fight against these excesses should take place in the familiar liberal-democratic frame. The (explicit or implied) goal is to democratise capitalism, to extend democratic control over the global economy, through the pressure of media exposure, parliamentary inquiries, harsher laws, police investigations etc. What goes unquestioned is the institutional framework of the bourgeois democratic state. This remains sacrosanct even in the most radical forms of ‘ethical anti-capitalism’ – the Porto Allegre forum, the Seattle movement and so on. ***

“Badiou was right to say that the name of the ultimate enemy today is not capitalism, empire, exploitation or anything of the kind, but democracy: it is the ‘democratic illusion’, the acceptance of democratic mechanisms as the only legitimate means of change, which prevents a genuine transformation in capitalist relations.”

Slavoj Žižek, “Democracy Is the Enemy”

Civilisations

Civilisations

Civilisations [Civilizations] (2018)

BBC Two, PBS

Director: Tim Niel (possibly others)

Main Cast: Simon SchamaMary BeardDavid Olusoga, Liev Schreiber (USA version only)


The BBC produced an art history mini-series entitled Civilizations that reprised a series called Civilisation from decades earlier.  The series title was spelled Civilizations for its modified version aired on PBS in the USA, in which different narration is used and possibly other changes were made.  This review focuses on the version aired in the USA.

The early episodes discussing ancient civilizations written by Mary Beard are the best. They offer nuanced discussions of ancient art that has survived to the present, along with hypotheses about how the societies that produced that art were structured.  The later, recent-era episodes written by Simon Schama and David Olusoga are troubling. Those later episodes engage in a politically reactionary “university discourse” (Jacques Lacan’s term) that sets up a highly reductionist (and biased) binary, which can fairly be called liberal blackmail: modern industrial capitalism vs. new age paganism. Scrupulously avoided in the series is any positive (or even neutral) depiction of art from communist countries or communist artists, or anarchist ones, which would allow viewers to see an alternative to both the art of industrial capitalism and the art of various indigenous cultures and remnant monarchies. If this absence of communist-leaning art seems accidental, it isn’t. There is one episode (written by Schama) in which a Chinese artist is profiled. Who was the Chinese artist? One condemned by the Chinese government and praised by the (anticommunist) West.  It is a framing that overtly revels in highly partisan cold war politics.  And when modernism is discussed, the focus is on innovations in the techniques of painters and in the selection of subjects for paintings (analyzed through a lens of liberal identity politics), ignoring, for instance, one of the founding works of modernism: Kazimir Malevich’s “Black Square” (1913) painting (a similar work from another, more recent artist without any connection to the former Soviet Union is instead featured in one episode, and in the final episode Piet Mondrian is discussed as the founder of modernism, a view contrary to that of numerous other art historians). The goal here is clear, and it is anti-communist propaganda in furtherance of political liberalism that benefits the bourgeoisie and reactionaries who want to “try to roll back the wheel of history.” (Because “the abstract and conceptual art of Malevich’s Black Square (1915) and Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917), . . . tried to challenge the entirety of ‘bourgeois’ culture.”)

My spouse was waiting for the show to profile the likes of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.  But I knew the show would omit avowed communist artists like them.  Kahlo and Rivera were in fact not featured in the series, nor were any artists remotely like them.

Viewers may gain much from watching the Mary Beard episodes but skipping the Schama and Olusoga ones and substituting, say, Sister Wendy’s Story of Painting (1996).  Yes, a show hosted by a nun is less dogmatic and less biased than those by Schama and Olusoga!  Another good supplement would perhaps be Ways of Seeing.