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Zero Squared #46: Political Determinism
November 25, 2015 10:42 AM PST
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C Derick Varn is a poet, teacher, and theorist. He currently lives in Cairo, Egypt and has previously taught in South Korea and Northern Mexico. He is a lecturer in English Literature, Composition, and Intercultural communication. Even though I have never met in him in person I consider Varn to be, at this point, an old friend. He is a reader at Zero Books and a regular guest on the Zero Squared podcast.

This week we return to discussing Russell Jacoby's Dialectic of Defeat and end up discussing the problem of “political determinism.” Political determinism is the one sided idea that political will rather than economic necessity shapes the world.

An easy way to understand what political determinism is to consider conspiracy theories, or more accurately the conspiracy theory of history. From the perspective of the deep conspiracy theorist, history is determined by willful acts. There is no such thing as an accident. All plans work out as they are envisioned. If there are poor people in the world it is because somebody, somewhere, wants it that way. The radical alternative to this conspiracy theory version of history is one that admits for unintended, but not acausal, consequences.

If you're a regular listener to this podcast I have two requests for you. The first is to ask you to check out Zero Books new youtube channel. Just search for Zero Books at youtube to find it. Also, if you like this little show you might leave a review at iTunes. If you like the press take a look at our website. Zero Books has six new titles coming in December: Slave States, The Space of Writing, Drone Apocalypse, Against Capitalist Education, Enjoying It: Candy Crush and Capitalism, and Positive Realism. These books make great Holiday gifts for the grad student or communist in the family. Okay, so that was three requests.

In this episode you'll hear from Mister Speedy Delivery, Mister Rogers, a Walmart factory worker, a clip from Sam Cooke's hit “Chain Gang” and Dan Lett's “Green Sharpie.”

Zero Squared #45: Psychology or Progress?
November 19, 2015 11:39 AM PST
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Ashley Frawley is the author of the Semiotics of Happiness from Bloomsbury, a Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy at Swansea University, and a reader for Zero Books. She recently debated Zero Books author Mark Fisher on the subject of the importance of personal psychology to left organizing and spoke about the immigration crisis at the Battle of Ideas. Topics covered in our conversation include the pessimism of the left, revitalizing the Enlightenment, and left-wing attitudes towards Islam. The back of the jacket copy from her first book includes the following paragraph: Emerging from the analysis is the observation that, while apparently positive and light-hearted, the concern with happiness implicitly affirms a 'vulnerability' model of human functioning, encourages a morality of low expectations, and in spite of the radical language used to describe it, is ultimately conservative and ideally suited to an era of 'no alternative' (to capitalism). In this episode you’ll hear a collage of pop music from 1970-2010 that took me three hours to assemble to what I must admit might be a less than fully realized result, the Tinkler's “The Future is Not as Good as it Used to Be,” Charles Manson's advice on how to get out a tough stain, Dan Lett's “Gravy,” and a bunch of other noise and clips.
Zero Squared #44: COINTELPRO and American Maoism in the 60s
November 11, 2015 07:20 PM PST
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Aaron Leonard is a writer and historian. He is a regular contributor to Truthout, Rabble.ca, the History News Network, PhysicsWorld, and Canadian Dimension magazine. His book Heavy Radicals was published by Zero Books in February of this year and he returns to the podcast to talk about COINTELPRO and American Maoism.

Joshua Moufawad-Paul reviewed the book in Marx & Philosophy Review of Books this way: Leonard and Gallagher’s historiography reads as a grand political tragedy: it is the story of an organization that, despite significant state interference, temporarily became the primary force of revolution in the United States, and then, also despite state interference, imploded and became a marginal grouplet. Apprehending this tragedy should provide the contemporary left with several useful lessons. Joshua Moufawad-Paul, Marx & Philosophy Review of Books

In this episode you’ll hear a cut up of a documentary on Mao, a songified speech from Bob Avakian, and Andrew Kliman and Raya Dunayevskaya explaining the negation of the negation. Right now you’re listening to the March of the Volunteers but in just a moment you’ll be listening to Aaron Leonard and I discuss the history of some heavy radicals.

Zero Squared #41: Echo
October 21, 2015 11:32 AM PDT
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Fiamma Montezemolo is both a Cultural Anthropologist (PhD University Orientale of Naples) and an artist (MFA San Francisco Art Institute). She has taught for many years in Mexico, Italy and USA and she is currently teaching at the California College of the Arts. Her film Echo will be exhibited at an event organized by the Zero Books author Mike Watson entitled The Elephant in the Room?: Talk and Screenings on Social Inequality, Meritocracy and Art' and slated to occur some time in December. Echo is set in the border between Mexico and USA and it is an ethnographic research on the after life and “echoes” of 9 art works that have been part of the two-decade old public art event called inSite. It highlights the procedures of intrusion at work in such a site as the US-Mexico border as well as the now canonical deployment of the emblematic figure of fieldwork. It teaches us that intrusion is an ontological dimension of intervention, at once anthropological, curatorial, and artistic. By revisiting the scenes of these curatorial and artistic interventions, “echo” emerges both as a concept and a practice that assembles the futures of art works beyond its expected ruins and remains.  In this episode you’ll hear some excerpts from Laurie Anderson, an explanation of the liberatory potential of nonracist “racist” jokes from Slavoj Zizek, an excerpt from the audiobook “Tales from Ovid” read by Ted Hughes, Steve Reich's Clapping Music, and Steve Reich's Drumming.
Zero Squared #35: Nuclear Power and Climate Change
September 09, 2015 01:25 PM PDT
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Leigh Phillips is a science writer and EU affairs journalist. His writing has appeared in Nature, the Guardian, Scientific American, and the Daily Telegraph and this week we continue our conversation about his book Austerity Ecology and the Collapse Porn Addicts  which is coming from Zero Books in October. According to Phillips: modernity is not the cause of climate change and the wider biocrisis, rather it's the solution. There is no uncorrupted nature to return to and instead of shutting down and retreating into the brush we need to rethink and revise the basis for our own development. In combative and puckish style, science journalist Leigh Phillips marshals evidence from climate science, ecology, paleoanthropology, agronomy, microbiology, psychology, history, the philosophy of mathematics, and heterodox economics to argue that progressives must rediscover their historic, Promethean ambitions and counter this reactionary neo-Malthusian ideology that not only retards human flourishing, but won't save the planet anyway. In this episode you’ll hear from Tim and Eric, Charles Manson, National Lampoon, Doctor Roger Summons, the youtube star Walter Jahn, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Neil deGrasse Tyson. You'll also hear music of Dan Lett.
Zero Squared #34: Defending Modernity
September 09, 2015 01:24 PM PDT
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Leigh Phillips is a science writer and EU affairs journalist. His writing has appeared in Nature, the Guardian, Scientific American, and the Daily Telegraph. His book Austerity Ecology and the Collapse Porn Addicts is coming from Zero Books in October.

According to Phillips: modernity is not the cause of climate change and the wider biocrisis. It is indeed capitalism that is the source of our environmental woes, but capitalism as a mode of production, not the fuzzy understanding of capitalism of Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, Derrick Jensen, Paul Kingsnorth and their anarcho-liberal epigones as a sort of globalist corporate malfeasance. 

In this episode you’ll hear from Derrick Jensen, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and Stephen Fry reading from Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. We'll also flip down and up the dial on mainstream ecological paranoia and hear a clip from Negativland and The Grateful Dead's instrumental hit Cold Rain.

Zero Squared #31: Dialectic of Defeat
August 12, 2015 08:28 PM PDT
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Russell Jacoby's Dialectic of Defeat: Contours of Western Marxism is the subject this week and C Derick Varn is the guest. Varn is a poet, teacher, theorist and a reader at Zero Books. This is the second time we've spoken about Jacoby's book. We're taking it one chapter at a time. Russell Jacoby asks us to reexamine a loser of Marxism: the unorthodox Marxism of Western Europe. The author begins with a polemical attack on 'conformist' or orthodox Marxism, in which he includes structuralist schools. He argues that a cult of success and science drained this Marxism of its critical impulse and that the successes of the Russian and Chinese revolutions encouraged a mechanical and fruitless mimicry. He then turns to a Western alternative that neither succumbed to the spell of success nor obliterated the individual in the name of science. In the nineteenth century, this Western Marxism already diverged from Russian Marxism in its interpretation of Hegel and its evaluation of Engels' orthodox Marxism. The author follows the evolution of this minority tradition and its opposition to authoritarian forms of political theory and practice. In this episode you'll here a list of moder political philosophers set to Life is a Rock by Reunion, Frederic Jameson set to music from the Manson Family Opera, an excerpt from an old episode of Diet Soap wherein I discuss Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit with my son Benjamin, and Glenn Gould playing Bach's Partita #2.
Zero Squared #30: Participation or Revolution
August 04, 2015 11:38 PM PDT
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Margaret Kimberley has been an editor and Senior Columnist of Black Agenda Report since its inception in 2006. Her work has also appeared on sites such as Alternet and Counterpunch and in publications such as The Dallas Morning News and The Chicago Defender. She is a regular guest on radio talk shows and has appeared on Al Jazeera English, Russia Today, the Real News Network and GRITtv, and this week she's on Zero Squared to discuss two seemingly separate subjects. First we talk about the Greek economic crisis and then we cover a small incident at the Netroots conference involving leaders from the Black Lives Matter movement and US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. On this topic Bruce Dixon, the managing editor at the Black Agenda Report, wrote: All in all, the NetRootsNation confrontation wasn't the stirring of black women activists “taking their rightful place at the front of the progressive movement,” as one breathless tweet called it. It didn't tell us anything we didn't know about O'Malley or Sanders, or about hypocritical Hillary. It was about flying the #BlackLivesMatter flag to jockey for positions inside the machinery that is the Democratic party and its affiliates. In this episode you’ll hear a clip from Rick and Morty, the music of Negativland from their album Negativland, a clip from an interview with Michael Nevradakis at the Real News network, Blonde Redhead's For the Damaged Coda, Mazzy Star's Look On Down From the Bridge, Bernie Sanders as he's interrupted by Black Lives Matters, and another Negativland song called Booper Symphony.
Zero Squared #29: Shooting the Moon
July 28, 2015 11:54 PM PDT
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Brian Willems is Assistant Professor at the University of Split, Croatia, where he teaches literature at the Faculty of Philosophy and film theory at the Arts Academy and his book Shooting the Moon was published in May this year from Zero Books. Laurence A Rickels, author of Germany: A Science Fiction, blurbed the book this way Shooting the Moon shows how our most abiding object or objective on reality’s horizon was overshot and displaced by the other reality of realization of our wish fantasies. When we ask for the moon we travel a jump cut from an idealized past to a future of wish fulfillment lying deep inside the film medium and its ongoing history. In this episode you’ll hear a clip from Futurama, Slavoj Zizek explaining a bottle of tea, Chris “Isto” White singing the jazz standard “It's Only a Paper Moon,” The Evolution Control Committee's “The Fucking Moon,” a clip from the auralgraphic entertainment “Dreamies” by Bill Holt, Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner performing in “The First Men in the Moon,” Doctor Who and the Monolith reversing the polarity of the neutron flow, Negativland, and in tribute to Don Joyce, one of "Crosley Bendix's" Arts Reviews.
Zero Squared #28: Imaginary Games
July 22, 2015 10:07 AM PDT
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Chris Bateman is a game designer, outsider philosopher and author. His book Imaginary Games was published by Zero Books in 2011. Bateman is also the blogger behind Only a Game and he posts regularly in between writing how to manuals on game design and lecturing at the University of Bolton. Jon Cogburn, Director of Philosophy at LSU blurbed Imaginary Games this way: Chris Bateman’s Imaginary Games may just do for videogames what Noël Carroll’s The Philosophy of Horror did for scary books and movies.... not only philosophically compelling and interesting; it is also a great read. In this episode you’ll hear a rerun of a conversation about the movie Tron between me and my then thirteen year old son Ben, theme music from Super Smash Brothers Melee, Chad African explaining Zizek and his idea of ontological incompleteness, clips from a youtube documentary about smash, a short clip on Hegel from the 8-bit philosophy series, and the theme music from Super Mario Brothers.

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