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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Baudrillard Reading Himself Through Nietzsche

 It is the terrorist model to bring about an excess of reality, and have the system collapse beneath that excess. - Baudrillard  

Following Nietzsche's advice, we might sound out concepts with a hammer. This might perhaps be a good way of conducting our interviews. Nietzsche, whose searing words accompanied you through adolescence. (Baudrillard - Fragments p 1)

It was a relationship that went in fits and starts, so to speak, and there was an enormous period of eclipse in it. I was a great devotee of Nietzsche. I read him very early, in the sixth form. I was even lucky enough to have him in both the written and oral German agregation exams, though that was my undoing, as the examiners didn't agree at all with my reading; Nietzsche took his revenge there, unless we take the view that he did me a favor by preventing me from passing the exam. After that I stopped reading him entirely. I held him in a kind of quasi visceral memory, but I'd only retained what I wanted to. I would remember particular aspects of his thought, or find aspects of it emerging in a more or less aphoristic memory. There was a long eclipse, but I was already on the ecliptic. All in all, Nietzsche was never, strictly speaking, a reference for me, but an ingrained memory. 

Nietzsche is in me in the mode of the unzeitgemass as he puts it himself, the mode  of the untimely

In talking with you about Nietzsche, I was thinking tn particular of the genealogical method which enables us to uncover what lies hidden behind ideas, to see their real basis. (Francois L'Yvonnet in Fragments - Baudrillard p.2)

That was the method I followed, but my material came from worldly affairs. There are no other ways of thinking, it seems to me. In this sense, Nietzsche really is a unique thinker. I don't see any other like him. 

Perhaps one only ever studies one philosopher seriously, just as one has only one godfather, as one has only a single idea in one's life. Nietzsche is, then, the author beneath whose broad shadow I moved, though involuntarily, and without even really knowing I was doing so. I've quoted him at times, but not often. And I've never even thought of mobilizing or adapting him for my own ends. If I come back to him now, this is doubtless because I'm going back to the aphoristic form, in writing and photography. Though Nietzschean aphorisms are often of such scope that they're perhaps something other than aphorisms.  At any rate you can use Nietzsche aphoristically, and not philosophically or ideologically.  (Baudrillard - Fragments p. 2)

Fragments is one of his last books. He died in 2007 and his thought was still changing up until his death.

Ayn Rand  read Nietzsche also at an early, impressionable age. It is my belief that she was thoroughly steeped in Nietzchean thought so much so that Nietzsche permeates all the fiction she ever wrote. And like Baudrillard, I believe Nietzsche was IN HER. Nietzsche, like Lovecraft, enters your mind and influences it, if not for all time, for a very long time, and is terribly difficult to shake off. That is, if you even want to. As is known about Rand, she was incredibly capable of extreme denial. Baudrillard, of course, is too sophisticated a scholar to not know this about himself and he identifies it. Rand was totally occupied with writing fiction that cut into the Dominating Discourse of America and changed the way we think in many areas. I also believe that her great influence has to do with Nietzsche seeping  through the interstices of her mind into ours. 
Number 1 in Notes: Journal of Ayn Rand Studies , Vol 10 number 2 p 340 

1. One indication of the degree of Nietzsche’s influence on Rand can be 
gleaned from the fact that, as Rand related to Barbara Branden (1986, 45), “The first

book I bought myself in America was an English version of Thus Spake Zarathustra,
and I underscored all my favorite sections.” Not only did Rand have many favorite
sections in this work, but she underscored them all in an English-language edition
even though “her English was halting and uncertain” at that time (68). She must
have known the work extremely well.

This is my point.



Foucault, Nietzsche, Genealogy - A Method: End To Interpretation

In talking with you about Nietzsche, I was thinking tn particular of the genealogical method which enables us to uncover what lies hidden behind ideas, to see their real basis. (Francois L'Yvonnet in Fragments - Baudrillard p.2)
link to goodreads
The Foucauldian genealogy is an unmasking of power for the use of those who suffer it. It is also directed against those who would seize power in their name. As Francois Ewald pints out, there are three, not two, parties to every power struggle: not only those who exercise power and those who would exercise it in their place, but also those on whom it is exercised. Because one speaks against power, one does not necessarily speak with those who suffer it. Hence Foucault's concerted attack on all forms of interpretation and representation: on the use made of the linguistics of Saussure and Jakobson, on psychoanalysis, on Marxism. For the interpreter, things are never what they seem. People never say what they mean or mean what they say; they never know  what they want or what they are doing.

For Foucault interpretation is reduction, repression, obliteration of fact, discourse, and desire. It is a technique of knowledge; it is also a technique of power. Interpretation requires specially qualified interpreters, representatives.  The dialectic is an interpreter's weapon for the seizure of power.
The regime of 'truth' gave the intellectual, whose business truth was, a certain 'universal' status. The 'disinterested' intellectual represented the conscience of society as a whole. 

But Foucault shows that truth does not exist outside power, still less in opposition to it.  Each society has its own regime of truth: the types of discourse accepted as true, the mechanisms that make it possible to distinguish between truth and error. ... The will to the power of truth is a pitiless tyrant; it requires a singular and total devotion.  It is a service that has tempted the European mind since Plato. Nietzsche gave the first signs of its possible end; he also provided a way out, which is called genealogy.  Genealogy was a 'grey' activity, but it was also a gay science, a science of the hypothetical. That gaiety, that love of hypothesis, pervades all Foucault's work. He is the reverse of a guru, a teacher, a subject who is supposed to know, though he would, in all modesty, be flattered if, without excessive seriousness, he were compared to a Zen master, who knows nothing.  For him uncertainlty causes no anguish:...

A love of hypothesis, of invention, is unashamedly, a love of the beautiful. What drew Foucault to the case of  Pierre Riviere was not the mass of official documentation, but the beauty of Riviere's memoir, a beauty that shamed the dreary prose of the educated experts who busied themselves around him. It was a daring, provocative remark,  suggesting that beauty of expression in an indication that what is being said is worth listening to. The question of Foucault's own style is not insignificant. It is not so much that Foucault writes well _...It is rather that he writes  with ostentatious brilliance: his writing betrays a quite shameless delight in its own skill that calls to mind the sumptuous prose of our own pre-classical period....To write in this way is no affectation or self-indulgence.  It is, if it requires justification, functional. Like all style, it is both natural and cultivated:a natural mode of expression for a writer striving to renew contact with a pre-rational world of communicating Reason and Folly and a conscious rejection of the language of Reason that seeks by its grey, measured, monotonous tones to give an impression of authority, objectivity and truth. (221-4)
All of the above is a quote from Alan Sheridan's Foucault The Will To Truth (p. 219-224)

For a genealogy of the movie Eclipse see here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Reading Ayn Rand Through Nietzsche

1957 Edition
Jorge Luis Borges

“A book is more than a verbal structure or series of verbal structures; it is the dialogue it establishes with its reader and the intonation it imposes upon his voice and the changing and durable images it leaves in his memory. A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships.”

Arthur Schopenhauer

Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.”

An Object does not exist until and unless it is observed. - William Burroughs

“The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody has decided not to see.”
Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead 

She meant it. Her diaries from that time, while she worked as a receptionist and an extra, lay out the Nietzschean mentality that underpins all her later writings. The newspapers were filled for months with stories about serial killer called William Hickman, who kidnapped a 12-year-old girl called Marion Parker from her junior high school, raped her, and dismembered her body, which he sent mockingly to the police in pieces. Rand wrote great stretches of praise for him, saying he represented "the amazing picture of a man with no regard whatsoever for all that a society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul. … Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should." She called him "a brilliant, unusual, exceptional boy," shimmering with "immense, explicit egotism." Rand had only one regret: "A strong man can eventually trample society under its feet. That boy [Hickman] was not strong enough."

So Rand has been tarred with writing this about Hickman for all her life and even now after her death. See the full article at Slate. It also indicates her study of Nietzsche at the time and her particular emphasis on his thinking and writing. 

Here we see how Rand has been interpreted through Nietzsche by everyone who has written about her. They all start trudging through the swampy sewer of psychological interpretation. And more than just Nietzsche. Freud too is called upon to  have words and quotes torn out of his mouth. 

I am also including her two recent biographers, Jennifer Burns and the much better Anne Heller. But perhaps another time for them.

What Rand wrote with the killer William Hickman was akin in feeling to what Foucault did with Pierre Riviere in the book compiled of Riviere's account of his crime. I, Pierre Riviere, Having Slaughtered My Mother, My Sister, and My Brother.... Foucault's team in a seminar at the College de France spent a year on Riviere's crime, studing the crime , the memoir, the court documents and all the court records including the medical reports by the leading figures in contemporary psychiatry and forensic medicine: Esquirol, Marc, Orfila, etc and an urban physician in charge of a large asylum. They all differed.  Pierre Riviere was twenty years old and by his own admission was almost illiterate. The beauty of his account captured Foucault and students of his at the College de Paris undertook the study of Riviere and his crime as it intersected in time with the criminal system and the increasing foray of the medical profession into crimes of this sort in 1836. The prevailing Discourse, the Dominating Discourse, was the focus. 

The fact that Hickman cut up the body of the child and sent it in pieces to the police authorities links these two crimes.

Foucault's interest in these bizarre crimes were highlighted in his genealogy Discipline and Punish, a genealogical study of crime, discipline and punishment during approximately 300 years of history, up to the modern, in France specifically. Foucault's debt to Nietzsche was Nietzsche's A Genealogy of Morals, which said that God was dead, in which the master genius laid out an original way of re-seeing history discontinuous from chronology. Foucault then continues with discontinuity, the end of linear time, the end of progressive history, and his detailed study of discourse as the dominating factor. He goes on to the grid of power/knowledge in The Archeology of Knowledge, and the dominating role of the prevailing discourse in determining who, what, how, where,when,and the why of saying what will be said and written and thought. in any given era.

Rand changed the Dominating Discourse. No Atlas Shrugged was not a literary masterpiece. It was a "cut" in the Dominating Discourse of political, economic, psychological and aesthetic discourses. Just as Warhol changed the Dominating Discourse 
of art history by breaking with it, and Schoenberg and Stravinsky in music. I have been maintaining that Meyer's Twilight (Tristan and Iseult) has been another such cut in sexual rituals. The far more literary Tristan and Iseult was written by Updike in Gertrude and Claudius, the back story of Hamlet, but it did not affect the Discourse at all.

All this is preliminary to undoing the prevailing discourse concerning Ayn Rand. What lies in the folds of the discourse is hidden until the archivists happen to dig it out. Or not.  This is what Foucault spent his life doing with dusty, hardly legible, poorly written, fading scraps of paper. Changing the way we think, the way we look at all human behavior. Changing the Dominating Discourse of psychology, history, science, economics and language.

Rand did it fictionally, then Nathaniel Branden influenced her to do it in non-fiction form in her philosophy of Objectivism. Both were necessary conditions. In the latter she was less successful intellectually, but much more so financially, until she crashed it. Nietzsche again. Obliterate and disappear it. She did. 

Eric Packer does this to the currency markets in Cosmopolis. He takes down the speculative trading in numbers and crashes his own fortune to do it. Neither is a self-destructive or loser action. It is Nietzchean. Lacan disbanded his Psychoanalytic Institute at his death. He disappeared. No endless interpretive psychological arguing Lacanian theory. We now have his analysis of "floating signs" in its place. 

Did Rand know she was following Nietzsche's strategy made crystal clear by Baudrillard? I doubt it. But Nietzsche was so interfaced with her thinking, with her mind, with her arguments that his thought permeated everything she wrote and did. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Reading Ayn Rand Through The Foucauldian Cut of Nietzchean Genealogy

I am starting with The Fountainhead just because I am. Atlas Shrugged is even more so. Both these novels incised a Foucauldian "cut" through the best selling literary Dominating Discourse of their day. No neither were literary masterpieces of cultural eminence. No matter. -  Neither were the Campbell Soup Cans of Warhol, but they cut into art history and ushered in POP art.

 Warhol "cut" into  Art History
But that's not the point. Both were "cuts" in the Dominating Discourse. What she wrote was not allowed. The DD determines who can say what, when it can be said, what can be said, how it can be said, who can say it and where it can be said. If this is all new to you then I refer you to the work of Michel Foucault and all his works, the first two being The Order of Things and The Archeology of Knowledge.

Foucault seized upon Nietzsche's The Genealogy of Morals, saw genealogy as a tool to order knowledge into cuts.

"Knowledge is not for knowing; knowledge is for cutting." - Michael Foucault

Nowhere does anyone see that this is what Rand did. Only she did not universalize it as Foucault did and apply the Nietzchean tool to all knowledge. Instead Nietzsche's The Genealogy of Morals sank deep in her mind to change the way she thought. Nietzsche puts an end to God by saying God is dead. Baudrillard comments on this way of phrasing it. Nietzsche challenged God to appear. He dared God. He did not say there was no God. He said God is dead, a much different meaning.

Rand was completely convinced by Nietzsche's reasoning to declare herself an atheist, and Objectivism held atheism as a tenet. Rand finally broke with her friend, supporter, teacher and much more, Isabel Patterson, over this issue. Patterson believed in a creator, Rand did not, and they argued for years over it, until Rand just distanced herself from Patterson.

It is Nietzsche's tight reasoning using genealogy that interfaced with Rand's mind and her thinking. It did the same with Foucault. It began French post modernism thinking, replacing Levi-Strauss's structuralism theory.

This is how to read Rand through Nietzsche, not by media sound bites of what someone has picked up about Nietzsche. Rand backs away from Nietzsche in her journals, Foucault skims over him until the last years of his brilliant and powerful intellectual career, and finally says that he regretted not acknowledging Nietzsche's contribution to his work earlier in his career. The reason is obvious since no one wanted to stand beside Hitler's praise and misuse of Nietzsche, concerning the Holocaust, which Nietzsche would have disavowed if anyone had carefully read his Genealogy of Morals.

The philosophical, economic, psychological, social, aesthetic Dominating Discourses served to smother these novels as best they could. But when the Dominating Discourse changes, it is total. This is where Kuhn's Paradigm Change often gets confused with Foucault's cut, which is much more comprehensive. These novels cut, they cut through all the discourses of the above. This is its supreme importance. But only thinking genealogically will allow you to observe and see it.

An object does not exist until and unless it is observed. - William Burroughs

Nowhere on any page of these two biographies, or any reviewers, or Rand's disciples, is any of this seen. Foucault is not in the bibliographies nor the texts, nor the footnotes, nada anywhere. In fact neither Burns nor Heller seem aware that there is such a thing as post modern thinking. Burns's bibliography is so excessive it is obscene. It's scholarship is an embarrassment. I am not surprised that she was granted access to the ARI archives. She posed no threat at all. She did, however, provide endless tidbits of information. Information is NOT knowing.

Nietzsche is in Burns's bibliography as Thus Spake Zarathustra but no Genealogy of Morals. In Heller Nietzsche is in her bibliography under Beyond Good and Evil. She does mention Genealogy of Morals, but does not include it in her bibliography.

Rand is primarily a post modern theorist, who presented her theory via fiction. When she turned to non-fiction it disappeared. So we have it and at the same time it is masked, camouflaged, revealed and concealed.