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Zero Squared #6: Cultural Marxism?
February 11, 2015 12:14 AM PST
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C Derick Varn is the guest this week. Varn is a reader at Zero Books, a University lecturer and teacher currently living in Mexico, and my co-host on the Pop the Left podcast. In this episode of Zero Squared we briefly discuss his new podcast Symptomatic Redness and then discuss the notion of Cultural Marxism. Cultural Marxism is, as Varn puts it, a concept and misunderstanding held by paleo-conservatives and fascists, it's the term the far right deploys to describe a mishmash of often contradictory thinkers and concepts, including thinkers from the Frankfurt School, Gramsci, Lukas, and late 20th century feminist thinkers and “stand point” epistemologists.

There are several titles in production now for April. Eugene Thacker has two more Horror and Philosophy books coming after his success with “In the Dust of this Planet,” and Justin Barton's book “Hidden Valleys: Haunted by the Future” is due out as well. Barton's book suggests that the future is always alongside us, sometimes closer, sometimes further away, which I guess means that all six titles due out in April are, in a sense, already here.

You'll here the voices of Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm, Rick Roderick, Suey Park, Laurie Penny, Nikita Kruschev, and Che Guevara. You'll also hear the music of Theodore Adorno, reedited sounds from Mungo Jerry's hit “In the Summertime,”some Calliope Music, as well as the theme from Rick and Morty as run backwards through the dialectic.

At the start of the podcast you'll hear a few minutes from a youtube video about the Frankfurt School and Cultural Marxism, but it doesn't last too long.
Zero Squared #4: The Semiotics of Happiness
January 28, 2015 07:20 AM PST
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Ashley Frawley is the guest this week. Frawley is a lecturer at Swansea University, her book "The Semiotics of Happiness" is coming out from Bloomsbury in February, and we discuss how happiness was made into a political problem in the UK and how the aim of increasing "happiness" has become a substitute for real progressive politics. In podcast news, I'm hoping to double my workload. I've got a couple Pop the Left conversations in my archive as well as a few other archived interviews meant for Diet Soap, and if I can convince Jim Farris to do it after that long unannounced hiatus I'd like to carry on with the Double Feature Review. So here's the thing: Zero Squared has a feed over at the Zero Books blog and on iTunes, but if you search for Zero Squared on iTunes you'll find two feeds, one is the podomatic Diet Soap feed and has a picture of Philip K. Dick with his, cat and the other shows a painting of Jasun Horsley and a guy who looks like Seth Rogen. The guy is me and that feed is the Zero Books blog feed. So, here's what's going to happen…I'm going to phase out the old Diet Soap feed, the one with the picture of Philip K Dick. By April that feed will be gone. Most of you are probably subscribed to that feed. That's the podomatic feed and for a variety of reasons I think it's time to leave podomatic behind. However, while I am going to phase out the podomatic feed I'll be bringing back Diet Soap, Pop the Left and The Double Feature Review over at douglaslain.com. So, if you want to listen to all of it, to Zero Squared and everything else you can subscribe to douglaslain.com through iTunes or some other podcatcher. If you just want to listen to Zero Squared you can subscribe to Seth Rogen picture feed on iTunes or in another podcatcher. Again, my own blog douglaslain.com is where you'll find every podcast I'll do. This feed is slowly going away. Now, while I'm at it I should mention that there is one other podcast you might look for while you're on iTunes or wherever…actually there are two more. One is the Former People podcast. That used to be hosted on this feed and it features conversations about movies and literature. The other is Symptomatic Redness. That podcast is new and it features my co-host from Pop the Left interviewing theorists and writers from the left. The music in this episode includes pieces from Nik Walton, you just heard his piece Martha on the Move in the new intro, Dan Lett, and the youtube star Christian Grasslin performing a trumpet loop version of Pharrell Williams' hit Happy. You'll also hear a longish excerpt from a American Enterprise Institute talk by Arthur Brooks called "The Secret of Happiness," David Harvey talking about the Zero Growth economy, and Sam Binkley at the Department of Psychosocial Studies talking on "Happiness as Enterprise," and finally Jasun Horsley from his liminal corner will be heard, and the music you're listening to right now is Mark Hosler from Negativland mixing life at the Ghostprint Gallery in Richmond, Virginia.
Diet Soap Podcast #220: Karl Marx's Reluctant Idealism
September 01, 2014 06:42 PM PDT
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Karl Marx and Hegel are the subjects this week as I talk to my friend Andy Marshall about Marx's Critique of Hegel's Philosophy in general. This conversation comes on the heels of a Facebook row with C Derick Varn wherein Varn took the widely accepted position that Marx was a materialist and Hegel was an idealist, while I argued that Marx was too enamored with Hegel's dialectical logic and the unity of subject and object to really escape the Platonic Realm entirely.

I'd like to thank Andy Marshall, Penny R, Reagan S, and Shane S, for their generous one time donations to the Diet Soap podcast, and to thank Andy Marshall, Ted F, John Spillane, Jacob L, and John L for their recurring donations. I urge regular listeners to the podcast to find the paypal buttons at dietsoap.podomatic.com. Also, the podcast is available via iTunes and I urge people who enjoy this show to consider leaving a review at iTunes in lieu of a donation.

In the words of the Marxist Humanist Raya Dunayevskaya Marx's humanism was neither a rejection of idealism nor an acceptance of materialism, but the truth of both, and therefore a new unity.

Diet Soap Podcast #214: The Religion of Identity
July 05, 2014 02:33 PM PDT
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Amber A'Lee Frost is the guest this week and we discuss her essay "Bro Bash" which was recently published in Jacobin magazine. The essay created quite a stir in twitter social justice circles as a criticism of Sarah Kendzior was mischaracterized and this led to false accusations. Here's a link to an infographic explaining the debacle. This week I'd like to thank Daniel A and David for their one time donations, and also thank Ted F, Jacob L, Andy Marshall, John Spillane, and John L for their regular monthly donations. And I'd like to urge regular listeners to the Diet Soap podcast to find the paypal buttons at dietsoap.podomatic.com. Also, the podcast is also available via iTunes and I urge people who enjoy this show to consider leaving a review at iTunes in lieu of a donation.
Diet Soap Podcast #204: Breaking Bad All the Way
January 30, 2014 01:24 AM PST
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The guest this week is Mark Fisher. Fisher is the author of the book Capitalist Realism and Ghosts of My Life (writings on depression, hauntology and lost futures). Fisher is also the author of an essay on the hit television show Breaking Bad for the New Humanist magazine and it's this essay which will be the subject of this week's podcast. I want to thank my subscribers Jacob L and Andy M for their recurring donations and remind you that if you'd like to support the podcast you can find the paypal buttons at dietsoap.podomatic.com. To set up this interview I thought I'd paste in an excerpt from Mark Fisher's essay: Who needs religion when you have television? On soap operas, unlike in life, villainous characters almost always face their comeuppance. TV cops may now be required to have “complicated” private lives and dubious personal ethics, but we’re seldom in any serious doubt about the difference between good and evil, and on which side of the line the maverick cop ultimately falls. The persistence of the fantasy that justice is guaranteed – a religious fantasy – wouldn’t have surprised the great thinkers of modernity. Theorists such as Spinoza, Kant, Nietzsche and Marx argued that atheism was extremely difficult to practise. It’s all very well professing a lack of belief in God, but it’s much harder to give up the habits of thought which assume providence, divine justice and a secure distinction between good and evil.
Diet Soap Podcast #198: The Joy Beyond Identity
December 05, 2013 08:03 AM PST
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The guest this week is the author and radical Mark Fisher. Mark and I discuss his recent essay for the North Star Blog called Exiting the Vampire Castle. The essay takes on the politically correct reaction to the comedian Russell Brand's recent call for revolution. Many leftists were perhaps overly skeptical of Brand, focusing on gaffes and slips rather than the content of his message (Brand admits to calling women birds, for instance.) Fisher's essay has caused quite an uproar, especially at the North Star Blog itself. There have been six essays written in response and there has been a split causing some editors to resign in solidarity with Brand and Fisher. My perspective, as always, is that Fisher isn't Marxist enough, meaning that his version of class isn't economic enough, or doesn't focus squarely on the way working people are exploited but describes class on the level of appearance only. Otherwise I find myself agreeing with Fisher.

I want to thank everyone for listening to this podcast and communicating with me on Facebook, on twitter, and through my blog that's douglaslain.com. Also I want to thank Andrew Marshall, Jason P and Michael P for their one time donations and also thank Andrew Marshall, Ted F, John L, and Jacob L for their continual monthly support.

Diet Soap Podcast #189: Chomsky vs. Žižek
July 31, 2013 02:38 PM PDT
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The guest this week is a university lecturer, a poet, and my co-host on Pop the Left. I tapped C Derick Varn to come on so we could discuss the recent Chomsky/Zizek feud. For those of you who haven't been following the debate let me expose you to it: Noam Chomsky on Zizek: What you’re referring to is what’s called “theory.” And when I said I’m not interested in theory, what I meant is, I’m not interested in posturing–using fancy terms like polysyllables and pretending you have a theory when you have no theory whatsoever. So there’s no theory in any of this stuff, not in the sense of theory that anyone is familiar with in the sciences or any other serious field. Try to find in all of the work you mentioned some principles from which you can deduce conclusions, empirically testable propositions where it all goes beyond the level of something you can explain in five minutes to a twelve-year-old. See if you can find that when the fancy words are decoded. I can’t. So I’m not interested in that kind of posturing. Žižek is an extreme example of it. I don’t see anything to what he’s saying. Jacques Lacan I actually knew. I kind of liked him. We had meetings every once in awhile. But quite frankly I thought he was a total charlatan. He was just posturing for the television cameras in the way many Paris intellectuals do. Why this is influential, I haven’t the slightest idea. I don’t see anything there that should be influential. Slavoj Zizek on Chomsky: What is that about, again, the academy and Chomsky and so on? Well with all deep respect that I do have for Chomsky, my first point is that Chomsky, who always emphasizes how one has to be empirical, accurate, not just some crazy Lacanian speculations and so on… well I don’t think I know a guy who was so often empirically wrong in his descriptions in his whatever! Let’s look… I remember when he defended this demonstration of Khmer Rouge. And he wrote a couple of texts claiming: No, this is Western propaganda. Khmer Rouge are not as horrible as that.” And when later he was compelled to admit that Khmer Rouge were not the nicest guys in the Universe and so on, his defense was quite shocking for me. It was that “No, with the data that we had at that point, I was right. At that point we didn’t yet know enough, so… you know.” But I totally reject this line of reasoning. For example, concerning Stalinism. The point is not that you have to know, you have photo evidence of gulag or whatever. My God you just have to listen to the public discourse of Stalinism, of Khmer Rouge, to get it that something terrifyingly pathological is going on there. For example, Khmer Rouge: Even if we have no data about their prisons and so on, isn’t it in a perverse way almost fascinating to have a regime which in the first two years (’75 to ’77) behaved towards itself, treated itself, as illegal? You know the regime was nameless. It was called “Angka,” an organization — not communist party of Cambodia — an organization. Leaders were nameless. If you ask “Who is my leader?” your head was chopped off immediately and so on. You can find follow-ups from both of these thinkers here. I want to reiterate my thanks to everyone who donated to the Think the Impossible book and podcast tour through Kickstarter. I'd love to meet people who have been listening to this podcast, and if you're hearing this now and you live in NYC, Chicago, or San Francisco I do hope you'll turn up to these events. There are several sound clips in this episode. You'll mostly hear from Chomsky and Zizek, but there is also a clip from the National Geographic special Brain Games Apollo Robbins and perhaps a few other voices as well.
Diet Soap Podcast #176: Siskel and Ebert and Desire
April 10, 2013 12:41 AM PDT
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The guest this week the University lecturer and no good commie C Derick Varn. Varn and I discuss the ideas of the French historian, literary critic, and philosopher Rene Girard while also taking Siskel and Ebert as our subjects. Diet Soap relies on donations and if you'd like to donate you can find the paypal buttons on douglaslain.com and at the podomatic page for Diet Soap. In the next month I'll be starting a Kickstarter campaign in order to fund a Diet Soap tour that I plan to call "Think the Impossible!" but that shouldn't stop you from kicking in a fiver or a tener now. Per wikipedia Rene Girard was: a French historian, literary critic, and philosopher of social science. His work belongs to the tradition of anthropological philosophy. He is the author of nearly thirty books (see below), in which he developed the ideas of: mimetic desire: all of our desires are borrowed from other people; mimetic rivalry: all conflict originates in mimetic desire; the scapegoat mechanism is the origin of sacrifice and the foundation of human culture, and religion was necessary in human evolution to control the violence that can come from mimetic rivalry; the Bible reveals the three previous ideas and denounces the scapegoat mechanism. Siskel and Ebert, on the other hand, were: ...two film critics [who] shared their opinions of newly released films. Their program aired under various names. Its original hosts were Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times and WLS-TV and Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune and WBBM-TV.
Pop the Left #4: The Zerzan Reification
March 20, 2013 01:00 PM PDT
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This month both C Derick Varn and Nicholas Pell are missing and instead there is a special guest. John Zerzan is an American anarchist and primitivist philosopher and author.  He's fairly well known, especially in the Pacific Northwest where I am, and his books about Green Anarchism have been influential.  But we don't really talk about the environment, agriculture, or civilization, but rather I try to explain what I think is Zerzan's conceptual or philosophical mistake.

For Zerzan civilized life is a mediated or alienated life that isn't worth living and his solution is to return to directly lived experience. What I try to point out in my conversation with him is that his solution is a part of the problem.  That is, while he wants to overcome the problem of reification his solution doesn't manage to avoid that mistake.

The word reification means to mistake an abstraction for a physical or empirical object. A reification is not when we see an example of an abstraction in the world, it's not when we take a rubber ball and think of it as an example of roundness, but rather when we take an abstraction to be its own example.  That is, when we think that an abstraction can exist on its own without an example.

There are many ideas that are founded on this mistake.  God, for instance, is the kind of idea that is a good example of a reification. Nature is, similarly, the same kind of idea.

Again, my conversation with John Zerzan wasn't about prehistory or hunters and gatherers or the current ecological problems that are facing us, but was aimed at his concepts.  It was aimed at his idea that we might be able to escape concepts, which I think is his fundamental mistake.

Diet Soap Podcast #171: A Left with No Future?
February 06, 2013 01:25 AM PST
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The guest this week is TJ Clark. TJ Clark is an art historian and a former member of the Situationist International. His paper For a Left with No Future has gotten quite a bit of attention over the last six months, and this essay is the subject of our discussion this week. My hero Slavoj Zizek has supported this essay saying "We have to admit the grain of truth in this simplified bleak vision which seems to sap the very possibility of a proper political Event: perhaps, we should effectively renounce the myth of a Great Awakening—the moment when (if not the old working class then) a new alliance of the dispossessed, multitude or whatever, will gather its forces and master a decisive intervention."

In my conversation with TJ Clark he contradicts this interpretation, saying that he does believe in the ability of the people to make a spontaneous revolution, and yet he continues to advocate a tragic vision.

It's Wednesday, February 6th, 2013 (well past the Eschaton) and I'm Douglas Lain, the host of the Diet Soap podcast.

Okay. So the Podomatic feed is up and running again and I'm slowly uploading the back catalog for the podcast. So you can subscribe to the podcast through my website douglaslain.com or through podomatic, and you might get email alerts as I upload old podcasts.

I also want to urge you donate to Diet Soap and to tell your friends about the podcast. While I'm aware of how dreadfully Marxist the podcast has become I also believe that I haven't wandered away from real human concerns here. My goal for 2013 is to continue on, to hold tight to the direction the podcast has found, while also returning to the sense of desperate improvisation that founded this thing. The strange moment that I'm in is this: I believe more firmly than ever in Value theory and Marx's critique of Capital while I'm simultaneously convinced that we are as far away from resolving the deadlock of Capitalism as we've ever been.

In any case you can find the donate button at douglaslain.com and at dietsoap.podomatic.com.

In this episode you'll here clips from older episodes of this podcast and of Talking Art. My son Benjamin and I discussed the Arab Spring and Manet's painting Luncheon in the Grass for Diet Soap and the now defunct One Thousand Words podcast. (I'd love to revive that second effort, although editing an art podcast was very time consuming.) This conversation with TJ Clark represents a culmination or conclusion for Diet Soap. Without meaning to I think we've reached a turning point here.

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