The cunning of reason

I’m starting to think that my liberation theology course is being haunted by the ghost of Hegel, because every time I think that I’ve explained the dialectic to them, the next book we read overturns what I’ve said.

(It makes me think that I need to read Jameson’s Valences of the Dialectic, and indeed if any of my readers are journal book review editors who could hook me up with a copy in exchange for a review, you know how to contact me.)

25 thoughts on “The cunning of reason

  1. When was that cover featured on the Glenn Beck show?

    I’ve started to watch that asshole on a semi-regular basis because I never ceased to be dumbfounded. Last week he was trying to do some kind of architectural interpretation and comparing candidates with buildings. It was the quintessence of face-palm.

  2. That makes sense, Anthony. I remember watching Keith Olberman mock that sequence, and that was the first time I was exposed to Beck at length (not that I was watching Olberman. In fact I think someone posted that to a blog I was reading).

  3. Hence I thought this was some obscure reference to the fact that Glenn Beck supposedly debated about Hegel on his show — there was some column about how he was saving the intellectual rigor of the conservative movement, etc.

  4. Talking about Hegel and the dialectic, has anyone read Ernst Bloch’s book on Hegel, Subjekt-Objekt? I am a recent convert to Bloch and I know he’s much bigger in Germany than here (I am reading Metz and he is deeply influenced by Bloch), but I wonder if folks on this blog have worked on Bloch at all. I have read the Hegel book and I think it’s quite good. My favorite read so far of his is Natural Right and Human Dignity.

  5. I have read a lot of Moltmann and some of Metz, but never Bloch directly. I believe my advisor studied with Bloch in Germany, but that might be incorrect. Anyway, I should but have not. Perhaps the book on Hegel is a good place to start. At this point, I’m starting to think that a good pedagogical goal is simply to get my students to think dialectically — and to that end, I’m tempted to use my self-chosen “elective” for the spring to do a class entirely on Phenomenology of Spirit. (That way I wouldn’t be distracted by students.)

  6. I just recently read Bloch’s work on Atheism in Christianity. I would recommend checking it out if you have the time. His project is to find liberating atheistic aspects of the Bible that refuse submission to the tyrannical overlord.

  7. That’s been on my “to read” list for years. Since starting this job, I’ve made approximately no progress whatsoever on any outside reading — just trying to keep up with class, job applications, and the bare bones of other professional obligations (translation mainly, also a couple articles and this conference paper). Hopefully if I get something more long-term this time around, the job application factor won’t be such a factor next year — such a huge time drain, and perhaps the least rewarding process imaginable.

  8. I was saying I thought you were referring to the reality of Glenn Beck’s Hegel studies (second page):

    The case of Glenn Beck, Time magazine’s “Mad Man,” is more interesting. His on-air weepiness is unmanly, his flirtation with conspiracy theories a debilitating dead-end, and his judgments sometimes loopy (McCain worse than Obama?) or just plain counterproductive (such as his convoluted charge that Obama is a racist). Yet Beck’s distinctiveness and his potential contribution to conservatism can be summed up with one name: R.J. Pestritto.

    Pestritto is a young political scientist at Hillsdale College in Michigan whom Beck has had on his TV show several times, once for the entire hour discussing Woodrow Wilson and progressivism. He is among a handful of young conservative scholars, several of whom Beck has also featured, engaged in serious academic work critiquing the intellectual pedigree of modern liberalism. Their writing is often dense and difficult, but Beck not only reads it, he assigns it to his staff. “Beck asks me questions about Hegel, based on what he’s read in my books,” Pestritto told me. Pestritto is the kind of guest Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity would never think of booking.

  9. This is anecdotal, but my experience with conservative scholars has been that they are always anti-intellectual as a fallback position. My former advisor (a history prof, Phd) is one of the most blatant anti-intellectuals I’ve ever met. He could conduct a good lecture, and I learned some things from him, but after he put in his notice that he was leaving our school, his classes degraded more and more into ideological hackjobs, or just simply not-classes (as in, we would show up for class and he would show some movie clips or youtube videos, make some jokes, and then let us go early). I always knew that he was way more conservative than I could probably tolerate, but I lost any respect that I had for him during those weeks. I quit preparing for class at all, never studied for a single exam or quiz the rest of the semester, and half-assed the term paper and still got an easy A. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t even read some of the assignments.

    My point in telling this story is that I doubt that conservative intellectuals exist – at least conservative intellectuals in the same sense that someone like Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity is conservative. If I were conservative and intellectual, I would have to distance myself from that anti-intellectual, fearmongering bullshit; Beck’s consistent incoherence should be enough to overturn any assertion that someone wants to make regarding him being connected with some kind of intelligent anything. To take just one example of his batshit insanity, he routinely collapses the difference between fascist and socialist on his show. No one with any shred of intellectual integrity could take such a formulation seriously, but he does, as do people like Goldberg, whom Hayward also lauds as some kind of conservative intellectual. I’m not buying it.

    Has anyone actually read this Golberg book “Liberal Fascism?” Maybe we should do a fucking book study on it. I’m not kidding.

  10. Doesn’t it also follow that IF Beck and/or those connected to him, “conservative intellectuals,” are indeed intellectuals, then they are intellectuals in bad faith, because they invert to an anti-intellectualism in practice all of the time. I don’t see any conclusion other than the fact that this supposed new group being lauded by Hayward is anything but calculating, manipulative assholes.

  11. Anger at conservatives is natural and proper. It is also something that can become all-consuming and should therefore be indulged only with the greatest caution. A detailed study of Goldberg’s book would be incautious in this regard.

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