Thursday, January 22, 2009


I have concluded that the most efficient way for me to post is by using Word and copying and pasting the document. In this case, for example, I wanted to put a link to a video on Marx from YouTube and it easily makes it a hyperlink in Word while the editor in BlogSpot (democratic, accessible and easy to use as it is) makes that more complicated.

However, the way to do it seamlessly is to save the text in Word as an html (use SaveAs) and paste it in. My post generated all kinds of HTML errors but the post looked and worked fine.

Here, for instance, is one of the must see clips on Marx:

And if you think Marx knew nothing about anarchy you have not seen this:

Bill Woodman

P.S. The first clip is Groucho from Animal Crackers (1930) , and the second is from my favorite film Monkey Business (1931) which contains all the Marx brothers, even the untalented ones like Zeppo, both done on a sound stage in Long Island while they were doing three shows a day of these stage plays on Broadway. But if you are into politics (and who isn’t who takes a course on Marx) you must see Duck Soup (1933) where Groucho, as Rufus T. Firefly, becomes president of the bankrupt country of Fredonia and gets involved in a war…oh, you have to see it yourself. Rent it and make popcorn and no, as far as I know Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo and Gummo (all brothers) are not related to Karl.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Alienation: A Right or a Social Obligation?

Folks, I think that the first question on the table regarding the topic of alienation is definition. Marx came up with several kinds of alienation, including alienation from the products of one's labor, alienation from fellow workers and ultimately from oneself. I like to think about the assembly line worker who makes some luxury object such as luxury cars such as these on this of the world's most expensive automobiles.

Note that cars one through six are not mass production vehicles (the mode of production that defines our lives and provides us all with a common set of belongings and material culture), but are actually hand-made machines. However, #7 is a Mercedes SLR McLaren (at 4457,000) and #8 is a Porsche Carrera (at $440,000) which are actually assembly line vehicles even though the output is very small (at that price the buyer can specify almost every color, material used, accessory or gadget).

What must it be like to be a highly paid worker in such a plant...let's say he or she is well paid for an industrial worker at $100K in American dollars plus benefits, and yet the chance of owning such a vehicle is zero unless they steal one. At lower product price points the companies make an effort to compress this alienation response by reducing the selling price of a Mercedes to employees to a point actually below cost in Germany (VW, Audi and others do this as well). But does that actally change anything?

For academics, there is this question: what is it like to teach at an elite private school (say one of the Ivys) for $100K and realize that many of their students are going to start at three or four times that amount as dewy-eyed first-time employees, or even more, that many of the students, being "trust fund babies" will go off to do what the very rich do which is to amuse themselves for the next half-century (interspersed with some charity and PR appearances) as they will never need to hold a compensated job in their lives? Alienation is alive and well because although it is considered acceptable, and even desirable to talk about one's religious, sexual or interpersonal tragedies, the one topic which is simply off the table in America, even in sociology, is social class as those who fear the discussion immediately start shrieking "Class Warfare!" Remember that Napoleon once made arrangements to evacuate some churchmen during some campaign and Napoleon was asked why he did so given that he thought religion was a waste of time. His response was that "religion is the only thing that keeps the poor from killing the rich!"

Just something to think about.