minor vices: series

Series: Double-bind⇒reproach ⇒ self-justification
We have explored double binds from time to time. We have noted that they are almost always saturated with unequal power relations. We remarked that the best way to deal with them is to focus on the power relations; either by reversing or minimizing their asymmetries or at least by producing a narrative about them for others to see.

Excellent sheep

A much praised graduate student in anthropology, attended the first labinar session.
People from five different disciplines introduced themselves and what they were working on.
A brief introduction to our mode of work ensued. The first week is a short one.
The much praised one did not return: he was quoted as saying that he did not understand and it was all new to him.
This young man has a stellar career ahead of him: but perhaps not in thinking

Little Foxes and Trespass

אֶֽחֱזוּ־לָ֙נוּ֙ שֽׁוּעָלִ֔ים שֽׁוּעָלִ֥ים קְטַנִּ֖ים מְחַבְּלִ֣ים כְּרָמִ֑ים וּכְרָמֵ֖ינוּ סְמָדַֽר׃

(Song of Songs 2.15)

the most grievous weight to bend your back

You shall leave everything you love most dearly: 

that is the arrow that the bow of exile 

shoots first. You are to know the bitter taste 


Admissions to graduate school used to be done in a Saturday meeting by the whole faculty.
In recent years this democratic and collegial procedure has been stripped down and finally eliminated.
Some claimed that the passionate pleas and special pleading were "violent."
The new system replaces the public special pleading with behind the scenes special pleading.
And--the final vote of the committee has been kept secret as of today from the rest of the faculty.

Gossip mongerers: Berkeley is quiet and under control. Send us your excellent sheep.

Militant petit bourgeois

Thirty years ago, Leo Lowenthal, last member of the original Frankfurt School, remarked to me concerning some colleagues
that they were: militantly petit-bourgeois. They sought to be respectable. They were submissive in practice although they wrote
about critical thinkers. They dressed like provincial professors and their houses were furnished in the same manner. They were
polite in person. They circulated gossip. They climbed the proverbial ladder. They served.

In light of Franco Moretti's book, "The Bourgeois," we have been wondering what figures follow the bourgeois.


Teaching Foucault's "Savoir et Pouvoir" strangely translated as "truth and power," I realized that Berkeley students
would have no idea of what the hegemony of the French Communist Party and Marxism could mean. So it occurred to
me that our current political correctness was an equivalent. There is a great deal of evidence to support this intuition.
Perhaps it is worth exploring the mechanisms?


Two poles of exclusion: ostracism and pariah-ness.
There has been a multi year effort in our department to ostracism the most senior and productive faculty.
As this is illegal and as the most senior faculty are also by far the most productive faculty, these efforts have stalled.
This has not stopped the gossip and rumor mill: a colleague at UCSF was quoted as saying the senior faculty were dead wood and "in the way." When this was made public the usual denials and back-tracking occurred.


We recall what Foucault drew out from Baudelaire's reflection on and characterization of Constantin Guys as the painter of modern life, his close attention to the depravity of the human animal combined with the maxim, "you have no right to despise the present."

Fifteen Diseases of the Roman Curia

In his Christmas greetings, Pope Francis named fifteen diseases which weaken the body of the Curia. While reading the papal address I was immediately reminded of our ongoing conversations and inquiry into the minor vices.