Wednesday, April 30, 2014


"Order is a kind of compulsion to repeat which, when a regulation has been laid down once and for all, decides when, where, and how a thing shall be done, so that in every similar circumstance one is spared hesitation and indecision." (Freud 46) 
Fascinating idea: that reason emerges from compulsion to repeat. That reason is a form of neurosis?

Summary on Arendt Chapter 9

1) The newly created nation-states were unsuccessful because they lacked homogeneity of population and rootedness.

2) Minority Treaties were a failure

3) Stateless people lose there basic human rights

4) nation-state cannot exist once its law of equality has been broken down. Without the legality of quality the state becomes an anarchic mess.

5) Q: Is there a way to solve the issue concerning stateless people? Without uprooting everyone.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Jordan Scott - Freud reading

What does the common man understand by his religion? Freud tries to figure out what it is that so much of the population holds onto and is connected by -- something he has never felt the pull or allure of. He says that on the one hand religion explains the world to man with 'enviable completeness' or basically tells him the meaning of his existence on this earth during this time. Simultaneously, by buying into religion, man is assured to be watched over by some higher power, and will compensate him wherever his soul goes next depending on the life he lived on earth. I notice that Freud always uses 'him' and not 'her' or just a gender neutral description of humans that live religiously -- coming back to feminism, of course. I think that Freud's brilliance in science and philosophy and thought is what hinders him from understanding what he so desperately wants to learn - which is how the majority of the world thinks and lives and why they do what they do. Being unable to relate to something so universal and timeless like religion, must have been a real challenge for him.

Universal Love Response

I was thinking that religions advocated this universal love because it is something that people think they should be able to do (even if they do not feel like they do). He talks about how religion is so unrealistic, so this is an example of that. On page 39 he mentions that only a few people will be able to rise above the idea that living by the rules that religion provides is actually tangible. I think it goes back to the idea that human beings feel helpless and need this father figure to tell them how they should act. Since it is not attainable, it is possible that because of this, they are able to convince people that they need a higher power to get to that point. Religions could be using this to show reinforce that idea that people are not self-sufficient.

Thinking about Freud

I love reading this dude!
I never thought of life being "too hard for us" (41). I always thought that we needed to look for meaning in life, which is what we need religion for, but I did not think it was because we always feel helpless. It was so interesting that Freud says that the two highest achievements of man, art and science, can be replaced by religion and that art gives satisfactions that "are illusions in contrast with reality" (41). Are human beings only capable of achieving things that provide artificial satisfactions to deal with life? Even our highest achievements are differentiated from reality? Why isn't religion considered a high achievement?

I also really like his explanation that we are only content with very pleasurable moments as opposed to living without pain (42-43). "Nothing is harder to bear than a succession of fair days" (43). I always thought that fair days weren't bad at all. I actually enjoy a bunch of fair days more than a bunch of horrible days. Do you guys think that is weird? Is it really easier to suffer through pain because it can one day change, and escaping from that pain will give a relief or excitement that will be worth suffering over? Regardless of people wishing to be happy, do people want to suffer a bit too? I will admit that sometimes I wanted my life to be more dramatic so that my life could be more interesting. So, is it that fair days are worse because they are uneventful?

Universal love

After reading the chapters in Freud's Civilization and its Discontents I found it interesting to see how he talks about the two different ways to pursue happiness, either by obtaining pleasure or by avoiding unpleasure. One of the primary ways that we receive happiness is through social relations with one another. The only way to participate in a community is to establish a civilization. However, we also have the problem of trying to avoid unpleasure or suffering which is what happens when we attach ourselves to another person and then lose the person. Freud's solution to this is that a few people have the ability to love/admire a multitude of people so that we don't become attached. Are we truly capable of having a universal love/friendship with others? Freud suggests that we simply do not like everyone, so trying to love a multitude isn't possible. If so, why have many religions advocated for this universal love?

The Trouble With "Normal"

In our discussion last week on Feminism we addressed the issue of defining a human being as a man, and defining a man as having a penis, therefore leaving the definition of woman as dependent on man, and relying on a lack of something (namely, a particular sex organ). Initially this reminded me of the issue of gender expectations, in that assigning particular characteristics to each gender, and then implying that a particular characteristic is superior to another is where the issue lies. The video below definitely communicates this issue better than I do:

Furthermore, our discussion on the issue of women fighting for equality, or rather, to be treated as a man - but even this presents an issue, as it implies that man is superior. Women tend to attempt to identify with men in order to escape the oppression of their gender. This aspect of the issue drew my mind to the problem of "normal," best discussed, perhaps, by Michael Warner in his work, The Trouble With Normal. In this piece, Warner discusses an issue that I feel to be very similar to the issue faced by feminists - Warner asserts that the fight for the right to marry by Queer rights activists is counterproductive. His argument is that this fight for marriage suggests that marriage, the normal/standard, is also the correct way; therefore, those that decide not to marry or that partake in a different sort of relationship are wrong. In the end, there is still an inferior. 
I feel this connects in that, if strong women fight to be treated like men, they are still giving a superiority to males and suggesting that women are indeed inferior. 

Civilization and Its Discontents I - IV

- Man's Ego, or sense of self, is gradually developed from youth, and all stages of physical development remain in the memory alone. 
- Religion is illusory, and provides an 'oceanic' feeling of oneness that is ultimately a delusion. 
- Purpose of life is empirically unanswerable, however Freud's pleasure principle dictates that the goal of mankind is to "become happy and remain so." 
- Civilization is the cause of human misery. Eros and Thanatos. Society values beauty, cleanliness, and order. 
- The need for human relationships arises from the need to work for property and to find and remain with one's sexual object. 

Considering David and Women

I'm going to bring up again David's comment at the end of our Beauvoir class. He quoted a book and said something along the lines that women are the stabilizing core of society. Men go off on adventures, confident their wives will maintain the society they left. I'm not taking a side on this point, but I think it's an interesting perspective that doesn't deserve all the negative retaliation David received. Do some societies function in this way? Some women? I don't really know. But I realized this perspective isn't alien to that one book, and relates to reading I've done in my Chinese cinema class. In one of the most widely known texts to those who study Chinese cinema (and healthily criticized as well), Rey Chow's Primitive Passions, she writes, "women are always the places where primitive passions are cathected" (44). When we read her work, we looked at the big shots of Chinese Fifth Generation filmmakers (who's audience is larger outside China than within) and considered whether or not these directors were feeding to a Western view of China, using women protagonists as the centerpiece. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Freud Questions

-How is Freud's account of primal/savage man different from that of Rousseau's?
-What is Freud's perspective on religion and the ways in which it can lead to an individual's happiness? Does he view religion as a positive gateway to happiness?
-What does Freud mean when he states "on the one hand love comes into opposition to the interests of civilization; on the other, civilization threatens love with substantial restrictions" (83)?
-In what ways do relationships between family members and women restrict the development of civilization?
-How does the economic structure of society alter the amount of sexual freedom in society?

NYU Students Simulate Israeli/Palestinian Conflict in Dorms

I thought the timing of this coincided pretty nicely with our class discussion. Excellent planning professor.

Even though I know it's super tempting to open the article and read it, I'll summarize briefly. On April 24 "NYU-Students for Justice in Palestine" spread 2,000 fake eviction notices through two NYU dorms. A quote from the website explains the thought behind the action:

"since 1967, approximately 160,000 Palestinians have received similar notices, only to witness their homes destroyed by Israeli forces shortly after. The purpose of this action, led by New York University’s Students for Justice in Palestine, was to draw attention to this reality Palestinians face daily."

The eviction notices were clearly labeled "NOT REAL", but the act has been hailed as anti-Semitic by some. In any case, the event has sparked a debate that goes beyond NYU and has been featured in other local news cycles.

What are your guys' opinions on this? Did any of you get a flyer under your door? What are your thoughts on this as an effective or offensive way of raising awareness?

Editing partner

Hi everyone. I hate to post this on the blog, but does anyone still not have a partner to edit the research paper? If you are interested in partnering with me, my e-mail is Thanks!

Arendt on the Deprivation of Human Rights and Humanity

According to Arendt there is a crucial difference between human rights-- which are given in a political society-- and the humanity, even more basic than these political freedoms--which is access to a political society in itself (296). Stateless people are deprived of their human rights but on an even more basic level they are deprived of their humanity because they are barred from entry into a political society, thus they are barred from entry into humanity and the human rights that could come after. Political society makes one human because it keeps you in a place where you opinions and actions matter (296). When excluded from political society, views and actions don't matter. Stateless people are unable to even fight for their freedom because their "opinions are insignificant" and their "actions are ineffective" (296). Because we have deprived stateless people of their humanity we have submitted them to savage-like conditions and we have reverted them back to savages in our fully-civilized world (302). So not only have we exiled these people from society but we have created a group of barbarians outside of our civilized world which will only threaten our own political structure (302).

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Rights of Man . . . and Beast - NYTimes

These are the kinds of "border issues" that make the questions of human rights interesting.  FYI.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

More Fanon Thoughts

Fanon’s assertions that the economic slavery of colonialism makes its subjects stronger than their overlords echoes the discussion we had in class about similar assertions made in Mamandi’s piece. The discussion focused on how slavery makes the overlords weak and completely dependent on their subjects; in a way, the overlords become the epitome of what they took the slaves to be.

Furthermore, this piece reminds me of issues discussed in my Human Communication & Culture class, in that we often touch on the role that oppression plays in the psychological being of an individual. Fanon, in this piece, seems to remind us that alienation, poverty, and marginalization are responsible for many of the social and psychological ills of our time. Being that this was written in 1961, it may be a bit outdated – though I don’t think that it can be challenged that Fanon’s ideas can still be applied to society today, though perhaps to different aspects of society.

(This is my 2nd Fanon Blog Post to make up for a late blog post last time)

Race vs. Ethnicity in Colonialism (Mamdani)

When the colonizers colonize another state, they distinguish themselves as a superior race to the the colonized (25). They separate between the native and the nonnative in a hierarchy that politically constructs race identity. Within the native race, the inferior race, the colonizers construct ethnic groups through the imposing of customary laws (25). Colonialism enforces racial and ethnic divides among what were previously nation-states (more or less) and then when the colonial power leaves, the divisions are still in place making it difficult to reconstruct a nation-state, which Mamdani considers to be the most fitting form of  government. In order for the colonized state to regain its status as a nation-state it must first un-divide ethnic lines and then un-divide race lines in a system that has already adjusted socially and economically. In Rwanda the untangling of these colonial-imposed divides becomes especially hard because the race and ethnic divides overlap, making it impossible to go about un-dividing ethnicities and races in the prescribed way.

In Honor of Easter Sunday: Time to Write Something Inflammatory about Religion

I tried to briefly make a connection between racism and religion in class the other day, and after being quickly shut down I decided to reread the material (Mamdani) and take another stab at it from a slightly different perspective. I kept being reminded of historical events catalyzed by religion while reading and discussing Mamdani's propositions about race and genocide. I think, after further consideration, that the comparison I'm really trying to make is between religion and political identities. Mamdani argues that political identity is often said to be a mere derivative of cultural identity but is in fact its own separate identity (21). I would argue that religion is the yet another "forgotten" identity, often linked to culture and overlooked as its own entity. Along with political, cultural, and market identities, religious identities have their roots in the way we have chosen to organize ourselves. Where political identities are a "direct consequence of the history of state formation" (22) and cultural identities are based in the "development of communities that share a common language and meaning" (22), religious identities are a product of the many different sects, denominations, etc. that form, and by nature of forming, also separate from one another. Mamdani also goes on to say that cultural and political identities are different in that the former is rooted in a "common past" and "historical inheritance", where the latter seems to have a "common project for the future". I believe that religion is a combination of these two, of past history and future plans, but also of culture and politics––and it is all the more powerful for that.  (Here begins my inflammatory section, as promised) Religion, with its strong ties to both the past, present, and future, is a driving force in a lot of what goes on in the world (to quote Marx it's "the opiate of the masses"). Like all of these identities––cultural, political, market––religion has the power to unite a great many and has often incited some of the bloodiest events in history. I would even go so far as to argue that it is the most powerful of all the identity types in it's ability to cause discord. The other identities usually adopt one religion, but can and have been in the past divided by religion too. I have to wonder why Mamdani makes no reference to religion in his discussion of identity here.

Response to Kyra

From my point of view, it seemed that most of the scenarios explained did not have simply a short-term affect. Sure the symptoms and severity of the problems decreased as time went on, but they will never completely go away. For the Algerians and the Europeans, the "war" changed them in an irreparable way. The daughter that lost respect for her father will be affected by that, and the man that tortured Algerians will also be affected by that. The European police inspector acknowledged that he was not able to torture Algerians without feeling guilty and taking it out on his family. Although the colonizers are somewhat in control they are still human beings, and they are still bound to react to the torture they are inflicting.
I think that it is difficult to say if there are long-term effects to the colonizing country simply because the effects are only really felt by the colonizers in the colonized country, so France, for example, as a whole, wouldn't be expected to be affected by the colonization in the same way.

Psychological War

It's very interesting reading the different accounts of individuals affected by imperialism-induced war. Not that it can compare to the colonized country's state, but are there negative long-term effects to the colonizing country? Could one country's imperialism in one country be enough to shake the populous of its own? One French girl, who's father was a torturer, had psychological results due to the guilt and embarrassment she felt for her fathers actions--but she had some first hand experience herself. The population of effect peoples is probably too small to have enough weight in the home country.

It seems, based on Fanon's patient accounts, that the psychological effects of war and imperialism push and exhaust patients to look past the liberation of their cause and just hope for mental rest. How can a colonized nation paralyzed by war move past to achieve liberation?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Fanon Discussion Questions

1.) What is Fanon's perspective on the Algerian stereotypes he presents? How must the colonized free themselves from the common stereotypes?
2.) When does colonization succeed, according to Fanon?
3.) What does Fanon mean when he states, "it is the consciousness that needs help" (229)? How does an individual's "consciousness" allow them to either give into oppression or liberate themselves from it?
4.) Does Fanon justify violence? In what circumstances, and how?
5.) Why does the colonized individual eventually pit himself against his neighbor? Is this just? How does Fanon utilize historical examples to justify crime as a tactic for survival?
6.) Does Fanon successfully show that oppression harms the mental and behavioral tendencies of individuals across all ages, genders, nationalities, social classes, etc.?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Questions on Mamdani from your noble leader

What does it mean to say, as Mamdani suggests some do (7), that genocide had no history?

Why must genocidal violence be "thinkable," if not is agreed not to be "rational" (8)?

Why is political economy inadequate to explain post colonial political violence (19)?

What differentiates cultural and political communities (23)?

What are the bases for race and ethnic differences in Rwanda?

What is a subject race?  Who is the subject race in Rwanda?

Mamdani Discussion Questions

1. What are the characteristics of a political identity?
2. What are the differences between direct and indirect rule?
3. Why was there a shift away from direct rule to indirect rule?
4. What is a virtual citizen?
5. Why are there two kinds of citizens in a postcolonial society?
6. How are the Hutus and Tutsis an example of how political identities change according to how the state changes?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Continental Imperialism: Pan-Movements

Discussion Questions:

How are Arendt's views of imperialism different from Lenin's?
What is the difference between continental imperialism and overseas imperialism?
What is tribal nationalism?
What are the differences between pan-German movement in Germany and that of Austria?
Two-party English system vs. Multiple party continental system.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Origins of Totalitarianism-- Race-Thinking

In Hannah Arendt’s work, The Origins of Totalitarianism, she tries to pinpoint where racism originates.  She goes on to say that racism was an adaptation from its previous form, race-thinking.  Race-Thinking is said to be a German intervention established in the early 18th century also known as, “German thinking”.  It was originally invented to unite the German people against foreign domination. A later example of this theory was how England told the new American Colonies to unite amongst one another.  This theory was necessary for the new colonies because they were separated from their mother country (England) by thousands of miles of ocean.  Race-thinking was taking place during the same times in Germany, France, Prussia, and England.  Some say that race thinking was developed as a weapon for nationalists; others say it was an instrument of internal division.  What ever it may be, race-thinking evolved to create a monster, racism.  “A racist constantly denies the principal of equality for all people guaranteed by the idea of mankind”(Arendt 161).

Sunday, April 6, 2014

I know we haven't studied Communism yet, but I find it interesting that Lenin spends so much time talking about the negative aspects of monopolies, which he admits, "is the exact opposite of free competition" (243). Assuming Communism is where his critique is headed, it makes me wonder how he supposes the controlled market in this alternative government will not transform in the negative fashions of Capitalism. I guess it's something I'll keep in mind.

I'm curious about his section on banks. He writes twelve years before the great stock market crash in America, but in his discussion of bank's monopolizing power he states this is due in part, "by decline in the importance of the Stock Exchange" (215). Was the economic environment in Germany much different than in America when he wrote? Or was he off on his claim?

Lenin Imperialism Thoughts

"Imperialism is the eve of the social revolution of the proletariat" (210). Lenin chooses to leave us with this sentiment before he describes how imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism. His idea of the labour aristocracy, or workers-turned-bourgeois, is interesting. He calls them a social prop. Meaning they don't even truly understand what they're being used as in the large scale of things, to make people pick "Versaillese" over "Communards" without understanding why they're picking it.
The way that Lenin discusses other authors, publications, newspapers, etc. usage of the word 'imperialism' really proves that he thinks the media had a huge (incorrect) sway over the public, and he has to right that wrong. He explains why the transformation of competition into monopoly is the biggest and most important phenomena of the modern capitalist economy. He uses a lot of numbers to prove that almost all of the money is going to a tiny sliver of the highest up people, and not the millions working for them. He makes a good point, but so far he isn't giving any suggestions as to how to change that, other than complete social reform where there is no competition - which I still believe would create more chaos and destruction in the long run. It's our basic human instinct to compete and be better than others - why else would we notice our property, enter a state of war and then enter civil society? In every situation, that's where we end up. We can't curb that basic human intuition.

Lenin Presentation Questions

Why is Lenin writing this pamphlet?
What has capitalism become according to Lenin?
What is the Proletariat supposed to do to end "universal ruin"?
What does Lenin claim to be one of the most characteristic features of capitalism?
How does concentration of production and combination of production lead to monopoly?
What is the role of banks in relation to monopolies?
What has happened, according to Lenin, to the stock exchange and its importance?
When was the moment that Lenin claims that old capitalism shifted to new capitalism?

Gawker repost: NPR's prank on non-reading obsessive commenters

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Questions on Lenin's "Imperialism"

-Lenin states that monopoly stems from economic competition (pg. 213). What exactly does he mean when he claims that  "progress in the socialisation of production" (213) is a result of monopolization?
-As a result of the formation of monopolies and increased concentration, Lenin argues that we are able to make better estimates of a country's resources and the capacity of markets (213). Is this estimate of capacity determined by the division of labor? Is it the division of labor that creates this "new social order" (213) that Lenin mentions?
-By categorizing banks as "powerful monopolies" (214), and by stating that "the industrial capitalist becomes more completely dependent on the bank" (217), is Lenin endorsing the rise in power of large banks, and more generally, "new capitalism?" (217).