Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Category Archives: Current Events

Egypt – Signal Boost

Just reposting the link to a blog set up by regular commenter John, which has been publishing content from the uprising in Egypt. As of the present moment, the internet connection that had been enabling updates has been cut off, but the following was phoned in:

Tomorrow we will march on the palace

The last remaining internet connection in Cairo (the one we have been using to update this blog) has just been shut down (11pm Egyptian time). Sources say all the mobile phone lines will again be cut off tonight.

But despite the media blackout a million man march has been organized for 9am tomorrow morning, from Tahrir square to the presidential palace.

Spirits remain high, everyone knows that the time of this regime is over.

– Phoned in from Cairo, 11:10pm

Middlesex Philosophy

Updated 11 June – just to say that my ill-at-ease reaction to the partial resolution to the Middlesex situation has been posted in the comments over at Perverse Egalitarianism.

Just signal boosting the bizarre story most of you will have already seen on other theory blogs, about the inexplicable decision by Middlesex University to cut its Philosophy Department:

Earlier this afternoon all staff in the Arts and Education section of Middlesex University received the following email:

Dear colleagues,

Late on Monday 26 April, the Dean of the School of Arts & Humanities, Ed Esche, informed staff in Philosophy that the University executive had ‘accepted his recommendation’ to close all Philosophy programmes: undergraduate, postgraduate and MPhil/PhD.

Philosophy is the highest research-rated subject in the University. Building on its grade 5 rating in RAE2001, it was awarded a score of 2.8 on the new RAE scale in 2008, with 65% of its research activity judged ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. It is now widely recognised as one of the most important centres for the study of modern European philosophy anywhere in the English-speaking world. The MA programmes in Philosophy at Middlesex have grown in recent years to become the largest in the UK, with 42 new students admitted in September 2009.

The Dean explained that the decision to terminate recruitment and close the programmes was ‘simply financial’, and based on the fact that the University believes that it may be able to generate more revenue if it shifts its resources to other subjects – from ‘Band D’ to ‘Band C’ students.

As you may know, the University currently expects each academic unit to contribute 55% of its gross income to the central administration. As it stands (by the credit count method of calculation), Philosophy and Religious Studies contributes 53%, after the deduction of School admin costs. According to the figures for projected recruitment from admissions (with Philosophy undergraduate applications up 118% for 2010-11), if programmes had remained open, the contribution from Philosophy and Religious Studies would have risen to 59% (with Philosophy’s contribution, considered on its own, at 53%).

In a meeting with Philosophy staff, the Dean acknowledged the excellent research reputation of Philosophy at Middlesex, but said that it made no ‘measurable’ contribution to the University.

Needless to say, we very much regret this decision to terminate Philosophy, and its likely consequences for the School and our University and for the teaching of our subject in the UK.

· Professor Peter Hallward, Programme Leader for the MA programmes in Philosophy,
· Professor Peter Osborne, Director, Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy,
· Dr. Stella Sandford, Director of Programmes, Philosophy

Infinite Thought reposts (from Peter Hallward) a useful list of people to contact to contest this decision.

As you might expect we’re scrambling to put together a response, and to begin with we’re asking colleagues and friends to send a brief email or letter about the closure to the University administrators who have made this unexpected decision. If you have time to write such a message, please feel free to extract some points from a draft letter that is being sent to Times Higher Education, below.

The four people to write to are as follows:

Vice-Chancellor of the University, Michael Driscoll,;

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Enterprise, Waqar Ahmad,;

Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic, Margaret House,;

Dean of the School of Arts & Education, Ed Esche,

(The full set of emails is;;;

If you are able to send such an email, it would be helpful if you blind copied (BCC) it to our campaign email,

Wearing the Juice: A Case Study in Research Implosion

[Ed. 9 September: Now that events are unfolding a bit more slowly, and people have had a chance, for the most part, to learn about the basic facts, I’ve moved my on-the-fly updates to the bottom of the post, so that the original text is easier to find. I will try to update all the broken links next week.]

Original Post

A couple of people have sent me the link to this debacle of two researchers attempting to study what they call the “Cognitive Neuroscience of Fan Fiction” (further historical background here and here, collated links there, and information about the original research (which somehow doesn’t get around to mentioning that the research is designed – not for academic publication – but for a popular book whose working title is Rule 34: What Netporn Teaches Us About the Brain) in the researchers’ background information).

As someone looking on from outside the fan communities directly involved in this mess, the whole thing unfolds something like a live action version of the phenomenon Justin Kruger and David Dunning discuss in their “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments” (1999, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 77, No. 6., p. 1121-1134).

Kruger and Dunning are interested in whether, below a certain level basic competence, it becomes very difficult for people to improve their skills – because they are, in fact, too incompetent to be able to tell the difference between competence and incompetence in the first place. They take as their point of departure the story of hapless bank robber McArthur Wheeler who – some of you will remember from my previous post on this article – robbed two banks in broad daylight without any disguise and, when arrested almost immediately based on the bank security footage, burst out: “But I wore the juice!” Mr. Wheeler was evidently under the impression that, by rubbing lemon juice on his face, he could conceal himself from security cameras (Kruger and Dunning 1999: 1122).

Assuming this mess is not some sort of elaborate research-themed performance art, or the result of a revenge-fuelled identity theft, researchers Ogi Ogas and partner Sai Chaitanya Gaddam are trying their best to demonstrate to the world that they are something like the academic research equivalent to Wheeler. They have blundered into an online community whose members write and read, among other things, erotically-themed fan fiction, and have presented community members with a poorlydesigned questionnaire (now taken down, but for a while being modified on the fly as people lined up with complaints about the research design – participants have posted screenshots and a text version of the survey after its initial modifications – note that a number of the final option responses and some other warnings and qualifications seem to have been added in response to criticisms of the survey in its original form – the modifications are often palpably different in style from the original text).

Among many other problems, the questionnaire asks respondents to provide sensitive information about sexual habits, desires and fantasies, in a setting where the questionnaire could be accessed by minors, without – as far as I can tell – having vetted the research design with their university’s IRB (the researchers are currently being hounded across several websites with demands to answer the question of whether they did, in fact, submit the project for ethics review – while answering other questions, they have steadfastly ignored this one: quick suggestion that, if the researchers don’t mean to imply the answer is ‘no’, then they should probably address this question very explicitly, very soon). [Side note: there’s a nice critical discussion of the limitations of IRB’s that’s been sparked by this whole mess: here.]

In the ongoing discussions now sprawled across a number of sites, the authors continue to dig this initial hole deeper by using terms regarded as offensive by members of the community (and, in one case, defending this because these are the terms that are standard in the sex industry – as Marx might say: !!!), by blithely demonstrating their own participation in widelycriticised assumptions about sexuality and presuppositions about gender, by demonstrating ignorance of basic facts about the community that could be gleaned from a quick skim of community sites, and by insisting on knocking back well-reasoned and absolutely on-target critiques by arguing that they are not doing “social research” and are not actually interested in the community anyway, other than as an example of a much more general phenomenon (these last, the researchers seem to believe, get them off the hook on ethical and basic research design requirements).

I’m not going to write my own critique of this mess: the community has already done this, eloquently, thoroughly – and, given the circumstances, with admirable patience. I am always warning my students when I teach research methods that something like this can happen – that this is why I’m so harsh on their research designs. Welcome to my new case study. I’m serious. I’m thinking of assigning parts of this trainwreck when I teach research methods next term.

I’m posting on this mainly because I’m wondering why the researchers have not apologised far more abjectly for having blundered into a community so ill-prepared – and possibly having ignored basic legal requirements and professional ethical standards governing their research. I am wondering if they are simply failing to register how devastating are the critiques being made of their work – perhaps because they are assuming these critiques have arisen defensively, due to strong affective attachments and loyalties within this particular community – or perhaps because they have “othered” this community so much that they aren’t sufficiently open to how badly they are being schooled here. Sai Gaddam’s university website suggests a potential vulnerability in this regard – let me quote from the source (apologies: I owe a poster in the original discussion a hat-tip for drawing attention to this, but unfortunately I’ve lost track of the comment – if you want to make yourself known, I’ll add a link):

My research interests have evolved over the years I have spent in the Ph.D program, but my derision for my subjects remains a constant. Well, not really, but this quote does make me smile.

The individual I chose as my principal subject for the experiments … was an old toothless man, with a thin face, whose features, without being absolutely ugly, approached ordinary triviality, and whose facial expression was in perfect agreement with his inoffensive character and his restricted intelligence.

The Mechanism of Human Facial Expression — Guillaume de Boulogne

So, for what it’s worth: I don’t belong to this community, but the criticisms being made of your ill-conceived research are excellent. Listen to them. You have tried wearing the juice. They’ve seen through it. It wasn’t the disguise you hoped it might be.


[Ed. 7 September: Still no time to update the broken links below, but wanted to point to the discussion at metafilter, for those interested. ETA: and Neuroanthropology weighs in! – Twice!]

[Ed. 4 September: If people aren’t aware, Ben Goldacre from Bad Science has referenced SurveyFail on Twitter, linking here and also to Alison Macleod’s fantastic overview at The Human Element. Rushing at the moment – apologies for not responding yet to comments.]

[Ed. 4 September: Another day, a few more broken links. Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam seem to have had their websites removed from Boston University – not surprising, given the report that they are not affiliated with the university for purposes of this research project. Gaddam’s blog has also been made private. The links I have below off their names therefore no longer point anywhere. Again: my schedule’s too hectic to fix this right now, so just noting the problem. Some limited information about Ogas is included in his Wikipedia page, as a backup link… If the old Boston University pages end up being included in any of the screencaps collections currently being collated online, I’ll restore links to those once I have time.

For folks interested in legs, this post has been picked up at Josh Jasper’s blog at Publisher’s Weekly, as well as at Alison Macleod’s the human element. Macleod’s blog has a very clear overview of how the whole thing unfolded, as well, for folks new to this whole mess and trying to get a sense of what happened.

Broken link clean-ups still days in the future, I’m afraid…]

[Ed. 3 Sept: Folks, just a note that the researchers have taken down their site – after an amazingly offensive final blowup that, honestly, must be seen to be believed… This will break a lot of the links I’ve posted below. I’ll try to clean these up later, but for the time being, there’s are a number of good summaries of the whole incident – now christened SurveyFail – see especially Yonmei’s post at, as well as a report of a response from the IRB at their university, which has disclaimed any affiliation with the project and asked the researchers not to use their uni emails or web addresses in conjunction with this activity. (My favorite part of the linked IRB discussion was the report that, when the IRB office was contacted directly: “Their exact words ‘I had a feeling it would be about that.'”) Links cleanup might have to wait a couple of days – schedule is awful at the moment…]

Harvey on the Stimulus – and DeLong

Just a quick pointer for those who haven’t seen the exchange: David Harvey has a new post up giving a critical appraisal of the US stimulus package. DeLong responds, invoking Reagan to say “under such a huge pile of *(@^ there must be an argument somewhere”. Not surprisingly, Harvey is less than impressed.

Apologies that the thesis has left me with no time to blog on issues of substance, but thought at least the pointer might be of interest…

Worker Bees

I have to admit, I’ve never particularly thought about the industrial organisation of crop pollination, until I read this column from the New York Times discussing possible responses to Colony Collapse Disorder – the mysterious plague that causes adult bees to desert their hives, leaving honey and larvae behind. I found this image particularly striking:

…it is important to add that, here in the United States, the majority of our crops are pollinated not by wild bees, or even by honeybees like mine, which live in one location throughout the year, but by a vast mobile fleet of honeybees-for-rent.

From the almond trees of California to the blueberry bushes of Maine, hundreds of thousands of domestic honeybee hives travel the interstate highways on tractor-trailers. The trucks pull into a field or orchard just in time for the bloom; the hives are unloaded; and the bees are released. Then, when the work of pollination is done, the bees are loaded up, and the trucks pull out, heading for the next crop due to bloom.

Many Fragments on the Centrality of Wage Labour

Too long – and too sketchy – therefore below the fold with everything but the first paragraph (with the warning for readers tempted to click through that the hidden content does not do justice to the apparent theme)…

Why does Marx maintain that wage labour is central to capitalism? Praxis points out in a recent post that there are at least a couple of potential ways that capitalism could be defined in dialogue with Marx’s work: as a runaway process of production become an end in itself; and as a process of production centred on wage labour. Marx seems to think these two definitions are mutually implicated – in historical factuality, if not in conceptual or practical necessity. How, though, does Marx understand this mutual implication? Read more of this post

Fragment on Crisis, Contradiction and Critique (Updated)

Once again, very very tangentially related to discussions of the current crisis. And deeply underdeveloped.

My contention is that Marx understands the “standpoint” of his critique to be potentials that could be released by a reconfiguration of the “materials” that we have made available to ourselves in constituting a particular aspect of our present form of collective life. It is not incidental to his critique that he understands it to be possible to grasp core aspects of the present form of collective life in terms of contradictory social forms, nor is it incidental that he understands the present form of collective life to be crisis-prone. Neither contradiction nor crisis per se, however, directly provides Marx with a standpoint of critique. Instead, contradiction and crisis tendencies are presented, in his analysis, as distinctive qualitative characteristics of the process by which capital is reproduced.

Marx makes the point that contradictions and crises are characteristic of the reproduction of capital, rather than phenomena that by themselves point beyond capital, in various places. I’ll archive two quotations on the subject here – from Marx’s discussion of the means of circulation in chapter 3. First on contradiction:

We saw in a former chapter that the exchange of commodities implies contradictory and mutually exclusive conditions. The further development of the commodity does not abolish these contradictions, but rather provides the form within which they have room to move. This is, in general, the way in which real contradictions are resolved. For instance, it is a contradiction to depict one body as constantly falling towards another and at the same time constantly flying away from it. The ellipse is a form of motion within which this contradiction is both realized and resolved. (198)

Then on crisis (and the relation between the possibility for crisis, and the contradictory character of the form, is particularly clear in this quotation):

Circulation bursts through all the temporal, spatial and personal barriers imposed by the direct exchange of products, and it does this by splitting up the direct identity present in this case between the exchange of one’s own product and the acquisition of someone else’s into the two antithetical segments of sale and purchase. To say that these mutually independent and antithetical processes form an internal unity is to say also that their internal unity moves forward through external antitheses. These two processes lack internal independence because they complement each other. Hence, if the assertion of their external independence proceeds to a certain critical point, their unity violently makes itself felt by producing – a crisis. There is an antithesis, immanent in the commodity, between use-value and value, between private labour which must simultaneously manifest itself as directly social labour, and a particular concrete kind of labour which simultaneously counts as merely abstract universal labour, between the conversion of things into persons and the conversion of persons into things; the antithetical phases of the metamorphosis of the commodity are the developed forms of motion of this immanent contradiction. These forms therefore imply the possibility of crises, though no more than the possibility. (209)

Crisis figures here as the violent assertion of the underlying unity of antithetical moments of a social relation. Crisis is implied by the qualitative characteristics of that relation itself. In and of itself, neither the contradictory character of the relation, nor the crisis tendencies through which that contradictory character sometimes manifests itself, point beyond this relation.

This point is separate from the question, now being discussed at a few other blogs, of whether a historical period characterised by crisis is ripe for the development of a movement oriented to emancipatory social change. My personal opinion is that this latter question cannot productively be discussed abstractly, because I don’t see how the answer is amenable to generic theoretical determinations: theoretical analysis can cast light on how a particular kind of crisis could represent, not a breakdown of a social system, but rather a distinctive mode of social reproduction for a peculiar form of collective life; this is a far less complex question than whether some particular historical juncture might provide a fertile ground for the right kind of political struggle.

Updated to add: Reid Kotlas from Planomenology has a nice post up, discussing the cross-blog conversation on crisis, contradiction, and possibilities for transformative political practice. Among other things, the post picks up on elements of the comment above, linking these reflections to some of the concepts I’ve outlined earlier. A quick excerpt:

What would Bartleby politics look like for us, here on the ground level of the economy? Nicole at Rough Theory weighs in on the debate concerning crisis and change, and her response is quite instructive for our problem. She reminds us that the crisis and contradictions generated by capitalism are, for Marx, not necessarily elements of its collapse or overcoming, but rather, only part of the reproduction of capital. The question of emancipatory change, which for her is bound to the standpoint of critique, the genesis of a position capable of really breaking with the logic of capital, cannot be posed abstractly; it is not a question of ‘is this the right time?’ or ‘what kind of conditions does it require?’. It is a practical question of bringing about such positions through the reconfiguration of the ‘materials’ of social being – the ‘social but non-intersubjective element’ that she has previously discussed, which I would not hesitate to identify with the Symbolic order itself, or rather, the way subjects are bound up in it through organizations of jouissance. By intervening directly in the organization of collective praxis, which is to say, arrangements of enunciation and production, we can engender such a critical standpoint.

Or maybe I can put this another way. It is not that we must figure out some more radical form of organization, so as to bring about a break with capitalism. The question is how to organize collectively in line with a break that is already structurally presupposed in capitalism (the proletariat position), but that is at the same time rejected from assumption or possession, that is dis-inherited or foreclosed. It is not a question of bringing about a critical standpoint, but of enacting the necessary exclusion of its possibility, through the circulation of praxicals (indices of collective praxes, constellations of discursive and productive arrangements) that do not point toward capital as a pure possession of productivity, as the fullness of the yield of production. This latter notion is probably quite enigmatic at the moment, but it is what I am attempting to develop in my thesis (which is complete and will be posted here soon), and in my preliminary formulations of a practical model of schizoanalysis, which is, for me, a collective reorganization of the social/non-intersubjective materials of symbolic structures and relations of production.

Keep an eye on Planomenology, then, to see how these points are elaborated and developed. (Apologies for lack of a more detailed comment on these points – buried away working at the moment, but will hopefully resurface again soon.)

Crisis Archive

Apologies again for the lack of posting recently – I’ll try to join the fray again very soon, and am particularly keen to pick up on elements of the discussion currently unfolding in relation to my last post: soon.

In the meantime, I just wanted to archive a few introductory reference links on the crisis. First, if folks haven’t noticed it, there is a useful collection of orientational links on the crisis being collected at a new blog titled The Money Meltdown, which is geared to non-specialist readers trying to make sense of the crisis. Lumpenprof has recently raised the question of how to discuss elements of the crisis with undergraduate students – I had suggested the Giant Pool of Money episode from This American Life was an accessible and interesting way “in” to the crisis for undergraduates – I haven’t had a chance to look at the transcript to the more recent follow-up episode, but would guess that wouldn’t be a bad bet either. Some useful historical notes on the crisis can be found in this piece by R.D. Congleton.

I’ll do something less… referential very soon. Unfortunately, since I can’t really pull myself out of thesis space right now, my comments will most likely be more abstract and non-specific to this particular situation than I would like to make them. If others have links they’d like to recommend on the crisis, please feel free to post them here – with a quick indication, if you could, of what the linked material discusses and why you would recommend it.

Many thanks…

Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists

The final paragraph from Luigi Zingales critique of the Paulson plan reads:

The decisions that will be made this weekend matter not just to the prospects of the U.S. economy in the year to come; they will shape the type of capitalism we will live in for the next fifty years. Do we want to live in a system where profits are private, but losses are socialized? Where taxpayer money is used to prop up failed firms? Or do we want to live in a system where people are held responsible for their decisions, where imprudent behavior is penalized and prudent behavior rewarded? For somebody like me who believes strongly in the free market system, the most serious risk of the current situation is that the interest of few financiers will undermine the fundamental workings of the capitalist system. The time has come to save capitalism from the capitalists.

Following – more loosely than I would like – the reporting of the financial crisis, I have found myself recurrently distracted by the ways in which capitalism is described – as an ideal and as an object of critique – and the ways in which the current crisis is being framed against the models provided by previous crises. I won’t be able to get at the things that have been interesting me – mostly likely not until the PhD goes in, at which point I wouldn’t mind tackling this situation systematically for a postdoctoral project.

But just to comment inadequately and in passing, several of the things that have caught my attention are expressed in the conclusion to the Zingales piece. One is a sense that – in a rough and inexact way – I don’t want to overstate the similarities, but they are there, and I can’t help but be struck by them: this same sort of framing might well have been used early in the 20th century, to set up for a critique of capitalism. The question “Do we want to live in a system where profits are private, but losses are socialized?” – in the quotation above, this sets up for the desired conclusion: no, we want a system where everything is privatised. Turn back time, and it could well have been the opening volley in an argument that everything should be social.

Saving capitalism from the capitalists – the language of gambling, of speculation, of irresponsible and reckless individuals – it’s all over the coverage. There are historical resonances here too – framings that were once used to push through the reforms of the welfare state. I’m also interested, though, in this specific distinction between “capitalism” and “capitalists” – this is a distinction that was, I think, quite important in Marx’s work: individuals as bearers of economic roles – individuals as beneficiaries and as more or less wilful and abhorrent exploiters of social circumstances – but capitalism itself having an ontological status that is in some meaningful sense externalised in relation to those individuals whose actions nevertheless perform the reproduction of capital. For Marx – and I’ll try to write more on this in the future – this externalisation opens up some important options for critique and transformation, while at the same time, and within current circumstances, operating as a form of domination of the collective consequences of social action over the actors. The passage above treats the externalised entity capitalism as distinct from its imprudent bearers – and this entity also becomes an ideal that must be preserved, at the expense of those bearers if needed. The capitalists can go – capitalism, no. The bearers are more contingent that the process they bear – the process is taken to carry, not simply hard force, but a distinctively normative power.

All of this needs more analysis than I can provide at present… But one interesting dimension of the current crisis is the rendering manifest of these distinctions in much more popular discussion than we’ve seen for some time, I think… Articulations can have their own hard power – as well as normative force: large-scale public discussion of capitalism – what it is, what it should be – has now opened up on a massive scale. What is articulated now will likely define a space of possibilities for the sorts of actions that lie ready to hand in the decades to come… Opening some potentials… Placing others farther out of reach… This is a time when theorising structural possibilities becomes… unusually impactful… The previous major structural transformation opened an experiential and interpretive gap into which flooded the interpretive systems and policies that have led us here. The question when confronting present and future transformations is how to open the potential for something other – for something that holds onto emancipatory promises that can otherwise be easily drowned out in reactive responses, conditioned by an environment primed to be receptive to ideals of capitalism as an end in itself…

Fragmentary Thoughts on Anger

I’ve been pausing for the past few days over the thought of writing something on Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech. I’m not skilled at writing on such things, and there has certainly been no lack of commentary on this speech from other fronts. In any event, as always seems to be the case with current affairs, my thoughts are at a tangent to much of what – even I would agree – is more important to discuss about this speech… Just a few brief words then, tonight, since this tangent keeps nagging at my thoughts…

What struck me at the time I listened to the speech, and what has kept returning to mind over the past few days, are two themes: the discussion of anger, and the role subterranean anger plays in politics; and the more tacit conception of political transformation as a process that does not emerge from a “pure” space, where good or bad, ideal or regressive, impulses exist in some form untouched by their opposites. Trauma and transformative potential, while not identical, are intertwined legacies of contemporary historical dynamics – the possibility that we could be other and more, is part of what constitutes the traumatic, scarring experience of what, in practice, we are. Those who would effect transformation emerge from this complex crucible – scars and hopes, trauma and creation, interpenetrate. There is no untainted space from which politics begins. What distinguishes transformative politics is the commitment that something transcendent already does reside within our imperfections – that part of what we already are, is the possibility to become something better and more – that our present situation, in and through its imperfections, is not our fate or some kind of static given, but the seed around which as-yet-unrealised possibilities can crystallise. The movement here is very complex – a strange, difficult combination of acceptance and acknowledgement of our starting point, with collective self-criticism that refuses to accept that this starting point must also be an end. Obama’s speech touches on such issues – and also suggests that, absent the active assertion of the possibility for transformation, scarring and anger remain as forces that can be tapped and mobilised against transformative practice.

The problem may be even more complex. As I’ve written in relation to Adorno’s work before, there is a sense in which active participation in transformative projects aggressively confronts us with the non-necessity of our own scars and traumas – forces us to surrender the reassurance that our lives had to be the way they have been – compels us to give up the notion that nothing could have been done. Asserting the possibility for a different future involves the direct confrontation with the loss of that past that could have been ours – that past that now never will be – while at the same time we assert our own potency in effecting change. Adorno suggests that the psychological demands here are both high and conflictual, pulling in different directions. Particularly in circumstances in which transformative politics seem all too likely to fail, one risk is the temptation to retreat from what can be an unbearable recognition that history could have taken a different course: to endorse retroactively the necessity for our own loss by imposing a similar loss on others, to identify with and become part of what has created our own scars. The issue of what we do with our anger – of how we acknowledge and open a space for anger over sacrifices that have by now become constitutive of us, and that can therefore no longer be rescinded – is therefore a central political question…

Apologies for not being able to develop these thoughts in a more adequate way. There is a sense in which this constellation of issues – the hybridity of people and of our times – the inadequacy of abstracting individuals or situations into clearcut categories – is always very close to me, too close to enable effective writing… There is something about the simultaneous practice of a kind of fundamental acceptance, combined with a refusal to link acceptance with a passivity in the face of the given – something about the need to bind a fundamental empathy together with a relentless critique – that strikes me as central to the practice of transformation. Perhaps some day I’ll be better able to express what I mean…