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May 20, 2018

[From Notes of an Underground Humanist.]

How is mass inhumanity possible?— When I ask myself how it’s possible that so many white Southerners used to support slavery even on moral grounds, as having a “civilizing” influence on blacks, I’m led to the conclusion that it is very easy for humans to invent and believe in ideologies which justify activities that bring material benefit a...

October 22, 2017

[Excerpts from this book.]

Collectivism comes in both noble and evil forms. In the former, the principle of the individual is paramount; in the latter, the principle of the mass. The one means the rule of mutual self-actualization, self-respect, sympathy for others, democracy, human diversity—“an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free devel...

December 29, 2016

In an age when the State is daily demonstrating its willingness, or rather its extraordinary eagerness, to brutally repress dissent and democracy, it may be of interest to recall the experiences of survivors of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The following first-hand account was circulated in the weeks after the hurricane hit. As global warming intensifies, massively disrupting commun...

November 6, 2016

Here are some excerpts from a review article of a book I’m reading called Slaughterhouse (1997), by Gail Eisnitz:

[....] The agony starts when the animals are hauled over long distances under extreme crowding and harsh temperatures. Here is an account from a worker assigned to unloading pigs: "In the winter, some hogs come in all froze to the sides of the trucks. They tie a chain...

August 8, 2016

Years ago I read and took some notes on various works by Hannah Arendt. In particular her classic Origins of Totalitarianism. It's a great book, although perhaps insufficiently Marxist and somewhat idiosyncratic in a few of its interpretations, so I posted those notes and others on Academia.edu. I also took notes on an interesting book about Max Weber's sociology of culture. And,...

January 13, 2016

A celebrated bureaucrat.— In the library today I happened to pass Harry Truman’s memoirs. Picked the book up and flipped to the pages on the atomic bomb. “…General Bloodlust [or whatever his name was] wanted to drop the bomb on Kyoto, but Secretary Stimson argued that Kyoto was an important cultural and religious shrine.” Stimson had spent his honeymoon there and had fond memorie...

September 20, 2015

[This is an excerpt from Notes of an Underground Humanist.]

You should read Peter Kropotkin’s essay “The State: Its Historic Role.” L’état, c’est la guerre. One of the state’s historic roles, of course, has been to transplant the peasantry from the countryside to the cities so as to facilitate industrialization (i.e., to create Marx’s “reserve army of labor”) and make possible the...

August 14, 2015

What is the significance of the fact that in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries certain (semi-fascist) sections of the middle and upper classes in Western society started obsessing over heroism, manliness, strength, military virtues, and, conversely, society’s increasing effeminacy, “neurasthenia,” desiccation, decadence, etc.? It was indeed a near-obsession, and i...

August 10, 2015

I'm finally reading [in 2011] E. P. Thompson’s classic The Making of the English Working Class (1963). Query: why was England so impervious to social and political reform in the early 19th century, during the Industrial Revolution? Answer: in part because in the 1790s “the French Revolution consolidated Old Corruption by uniting landowners and manufacturers in a common panic [ove...

August 5, 2015

It might seem wrong to maintain, as I have in many writings, that the modern predominance of bureaucratic social structures and their ethos—for which industrial capitalism (broadly defined, including the Soviet Union and even “Communist” China) has been largely responsible, in that it is an anti-personal social order in which people tend to be treated as instantiations of such ca...

June 13, 2015

Albert Camus: “We [moderns] read more than we meditate. We have no philosophies but merely commentaries. This is what Étienne Gilson says, considering that the age of philosophers concerned with philosophy was followed by the age of professors of philosophy concerned with philosophers. Such an attitude shows both modesty and impotence. And a thinker who began his book with these...

May 6, 2015

Part 2 of "Thoughts on the 70th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust." Part 1 is here.-- While the industrialized murder of six million people is in a category all its own, one can observe in daily life many of the tendencies that make it possible. The thinking that sees the machinery of death as solely a thing of the past, an incomprehensible anomaly that we have decisively o...

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