Monday, March 06, 2017

What's good on the internet

- An unrigorous but still illuminating study of the ideology of Silicon Valley. I think the author is wrong to say that their ideology doesn't amount to individualism because they support redistribution and social welfare. Why do they support them? Because their view of the species is essentially that there are a handful of amazing individuals, and then a vast mass of useless proles who need to be bribed to keep their pitchforks down. In a way, that's even worse than previous American individualist ideas like libertarianism, which attributed to everyone an equal potential to benefit from their regime.

- Busyness as status symbol. One of my students sent me this, suggesting that it as an illustration of our readings about ancient vs. modern conceptions of work and leisure. The children is learning.

- "Nostalgia for now."

- PC culture round-up: the PC advocate psychoanalyzed, and something similar and more substantive from Deresiewicz on PC as religious stand-in. The problem is that everything that's not explicitly religious is a functional religious stand-in according to cultural critics, so the line of attack is always losing its persuasive power. He has some good lines ("The term political correctness, which originated in the 1970s as a form of self-mockery among progressive college students, was a deliberately ironic invocation of Stalinism. By now we’ve lost the irony but kept the Stalinism.") but on the whole, it suffers from the same problems as a lot of other PC criticism. I might have more to say about his essay later, if I find some time between spring break grading to write it.


Joanne Jacobs said...

You write: ". . . their view of the species is essentially that there are a handful of amazing individuals, and then a vast mass of useless proles who need to be bribed to keep their pitchforks down."

Sadly, yes.

Patrick R said...

Agreed with chunks of the Deresiewicz piece. Though you're right about "x is replacing religion" becoming too tired a trope to mean much anymore (and I'm guilty of indulging in it myself), I think the analogy is appropriate with regard to the left's newfound(?) certainty that "moral truth" is a solved problem. It's been a decade since I took literary theory (crash courses in Marx, Foucault, Derrida, etc.), and even then it seemed a bit more like catechism than an overview.

On Silicon Valley: it sometimes (often) worries me that we're putting engineers in the driver's seat. A common characteristic of the bona fide engineering types I've known is a narrowness of vision. They're excellent at zeroing in on one thing or one area and tweaking it, cataloguing it, understanding and streamlining it—but paying attention to anything beyond their peripheral vision is a challenge for them. An emergent caste of extremely wealthy and powerful myopes is probably bad news. (Whitehead had a lot to say about this...but Whitehead had a lot to say about a lot of things.)

Miss Self-Important said...

I like the Deresiewicz piece too, and will probably say more about it later this week when I have dug myself out of paper-grading avalanche.

About the Valley people - is it true that they're a tribe of engineers, or is it entrepreneurs and investors? Some of them began as coders but it seems to me like a lot of the wealth is generated through investing and business-end work, which has an affinity for the theoretical and even prophetic approach to things.

Patrick R said...

Ohhhh. Very good point. I suspect we're looking at some kind of dark marriage of the two: the engineers provide the scripture and the promise, and the venture capitalists bring the means and muscle to wage the crusade.

(gah! another clunky religion analog!)