zaterdag 23 februari 2013

Le soleil brillera toujours

[Those being the closing words of the Internationale in the French original;
now hard to read unironically]

woensdag 20 februari 2013

Ondanks de muziek

Eerder vandaag op

Als u regelmatig leest, is de kans reëel dat u zichzelf omschrijft als componist en/of musicus. Dit is een misverstand. U bent een creative experience provider.

Dat wil zeggen, volgens het Europese rapport The Entrepreneurial Dimension of the Cultural and Creative Industries uit 2010 maakt u eenmalige creatieve producten en diensten, meestal op contractbasis en met behulp van subsidie, die in de regel uw intellectueel eigendom zijn. Het verdient aanbeveling uw zelfbeeld overeenkomstig bij te stellen. Want dit is niet een uitwas van Brusselse bureaucratie, dit is een afspiegeling van een beleidsverschuiving die in het Verenigd Koninkrijk al een decennium geleden heeft plaatsgevonden en die nu in een groot deel van Europa navolging vindt: de verschuiving van cultuurbeleid naar Creative Industries-beleid. In Nederland ook wel bekend van het ‘cultureel ondernemerschap’ en de ‘Topsector Creatieve Industrie’.

zondag 10 februari 2013

Love to hate the modern world (2005)

Paper I gave in November 2005. It still makes sense.

'A young American called Eliot called me this p.m. I think he has some sense...'
'He has actually trained himself and modernized himself
on his own.The rest of the promising young have done one or the other but never both (most of the swine have done neither). It is such a comfort to meet a man and not have to tell him to wash his face, wipe his feet, and remember the date (1914) on the calendar.' 


[Ezra Pound to Harriet Monroe, 22 and 30 September 1914][1]

Something seems to have changed. Half a century after Baudelaire died syphilitic and paralyzed, the Great War breaks loose, and the two key figures of modern English poetry meet. One is a neat and shy young man writing a philosophy thesis, the other an avant-garde extravagant with a grand aristocratic aspect. To be up with the times, by then, has been an imperative for so long that it has devaluated; like everything under capitalism, the avant-garde has become cheap and messy. To be modern, for Pound, is a matter of decency: to be trained and modernized go together. Civilization has become scarce, and must be kept up. The portrait is telling: there is hardly anything about the face that is not imperative.

maandag 4 februari 2013

Snor zonder Proust

The Context Dogma

"Context is everything", Robert Darnton recently said. Meaning & Context was the title of the collection of Quentin Skinner's seminal essays on intellectual history, and the series Ideas in Context at Cambridge University Press that followed in its suit now runs to 102 titles. Closing the Communities of Knowledge conference in Oxford last September, Noel Malcolm said that he was glad to have heard so many illuminating case studies rather than three days of theoretical reflections because "it is the contingency of historical facts that always comes first". There was no protest. [I was too shy to speak up.] Contextualism, rather than being a position in the debate on historical interpretation, seems to be an article of pride that forms an essential part of the modern historian's professional ethos. A historian is someone who can "see things in context". On the other hand, "whig history" is one of the worst kinds of invective that historians can hurl at each other short of using the -uck word, and what incenses the profession at large most about the work of Jonathan Israel is his completely decontextualized, anachronistic notion of Enlightenment.

Context is everything. That neatly sums up the problem. You cannot explain anything by an appeal to everything. To be sure, everything has a context; but to make context an all-encompassing notion robs it of all explanatory power. The principle known as "Ockham's razor" teaches us not make any more assumptions than are needed to prove your thesis, and in particular not to "multiply unnecessary fictional entities". But contextualism, in its current shape, massively overgenerates entities to be taken into account - namely, all that is part of the "context" - and in particular creates one immense fictional object - "The Context". Contextualism, in short, has become The Context Dogma.