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This business about section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is sickening. In their quest to prove that Founders hagiography constitutes the Absolutely Correct View on Everything, the Republican-appointed justices seem willing to engage in a breathtaking act of judicial activism by striking down portions of the landmark 1965 law that first provided effective tools for challenging “literacy tests” and other segregationist dodges intended to keep blacks “down on the farm”. The Bizarro Warren Court finds the cudgel of disenfranchisement charges aesthetically displeasing, as it proves a reminder that not every social ill is solved by faith-based charity and freely willed contract; but Barack Obama is not the only black person in America, and race prejudice is alive and well (at least here in the North — perhaps Bubba Sparxxx put an end to it in Dixie). More proof that “originalism” is a failed philosophy of law that merely embodies a certain, blinkered political perspective. Say no to stoned Republicans, OK?

Obama is on the warpath about equality; this ultimately may be something like a mid-life crisis, as Barry O. tries to prove to his early supporters that he’s still “cool” after years of drone warfare — but it is at least leftoid, and worth considering a little bit. Verso had a book from Negri out a couple of years ago called Political Descartes, a hatchet job on “possessive individualism” as a result of the familiar externalist litanies. But what if there really was more to political equality than meets the philosophical eye?

“I have never understood the passion for equality”, said Peirce’s friend Oliver Wendell Holmes. Yet waves upon waves of metaphysical anti-individualism have done little to disturb the importance of droits de l’homme, even if Simon Blackburn takes it as ‘obvious’ that some people have the worth of others many times over. Perhaps pragmatism was a first inkling of something that appeared full-blown in Chomsky’s theoretical writings, the idea that the equality of abilities among human beings is, roughly, empirically verified by enlightened measures.

In a surprisingly comic line, Adorno doubted that running a trust was ultimately more complicated than reading a meter; and perhaps once the still-existing left gets over a Deleuzist fascination with flows and flesh and all that rhizomatic jazz the early-modern era will appear like something more than a time when “the rich were so mean” — the structures of capitalism yield political equality as a matter of something more than ‘onto-theology’, more than denatured Christianity, but rather as a corollary of modern praxis.

It’s been a while since I’ve been attending to the blog. In the meantime, I’ve seen that there are a number of much-needed translation projects that have come to fruition — things I had dreamed about translating myself. There is a “vernacular” translation of Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy and a more careful and accurate translation of Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception. But what I want to talk about is the initial volume of Luhmann’s Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft out in English. The title alone must have given people nightmares: “The Society of Society” says less in English than it does in German due to our diminished genitive, and following the format of the other “—- der Gesellschaft” translations and making it Society as a Social System would mangle the point of the book. So, instead we have Theory of Society, vol. 1, from one Rhodes Barrett.

Luhmann’s world stature as a sociologist has only continued to grow since his death in 1999, shortly after the publication of this 1200-page behemoth. But people who have dipped into Love as Passion or Observations on Modernity and fear a brain-melting stew of second-order cybernetics and Parsonsonian structural-functionalism can relax. Luhmann learned much since the hauteur of Social Systems, and the explication of the concept of society — the boundary our communications cannot transgress, since to adapt Derrida there is nothing outside society — is more genial and concrete. Especially valuable is Luhmann’s discussion of “symbolically generalized communications media”, otherwise known as ideology; his analyses of truth, money, love and power as structuring forces in our social interaction is far more “materialist” than the common run of Marxists. A must-have for the socially minded.

Minutemen, “History Lesson Part II”, live

From We Jam Econo