Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Inherent Vice


Pynchon's Politics and Anderson's Movie


When I heard Paul Thomas Anderson was making a movie from Thomas Pynchon’s novel inherent Vice, I was tickled. I knew nothing about Anderson’s filmmaking, but I have been reading Pynchon devotedly since Gravity’s Rainbow was published. It gratified me to know a movie by a noted director would bring Pynchon’s writing to new audiences. I looked forward to the movie for months. Yet I did not expect the movie to satisfy me. Even Pynchon’s simplest writing challenges his readers in uncommon ways and would challenge a film maker no less.

On the way to the theater, we listened to a podcast interview with the director. Anderson described the movie as the story of the ex-lover you remain devoted to. His description confirmed my expectation that the movie would not tell the story on the same levels as the novel did. Watching the movie, I was struck by the near total absence of the book’s political themes. In the podcast, the interviewer had raised the question of 60s influences on Pynchon’s style and themes. This question nagged me. He mentioned names like Lenny Bruce, but not Herbert Marcuse or Chairman Mao, whom the novel actually mentions. I want to discuss this political blindspot and the resultant difference between the stories Pynchon and Anderson tell.

Politics figures in the novel on two levels. The first level of politics is explicit. On several occasions,  characters interpret experiences in terms of “capitalism.” In their mouths, “capitalism” indicates their political consciousness and thereby frames the story as political from their own perspective. On several other occasions, private eye Doc Sportello’s investigations turn up lengthier background histories of characters and organizations. These explicitly political histories reveal deadly forces of covert repression that threaten Doc, his clients and friends. On a second, implicit level of politics, the dynamics of capitalism pervade the characters’ very feelings and their relationships. The explicit examples of politics suggest the political themes that permeate every aspect of the novel and demonstrate how Anderson’s adaptation systematically elides these fundamental themes.

On the level of explicit politics, Doc Sportello, his lawyer Sauncho Smilax and the sex worker Jade, whom Doc befriends, each interpret particular experiences in terms of capitalism.  For Doc, capitalism defines the values that govern his complex relationship to the police, his most important relationship in the novel. After talking to a witness about the disappearance of real estate mogul Mickey Wolfmann, Doc finds police detective Bigfoot Bjornson waiting for him. They talk, and once Bigfoot leaves, Doc works out that Bigfoot must have lost a partner and, torn up by that loss, now works alone. The narrator elaborates in language that mirrors Doc’s thoughts, “This bond between partners was nearly the only thing Doc had ever found to admire about the LAPD. … No faking it, not question of buying it with favors, money, promotions – the entire range of capitalist inducement couldn’t get you five seconds of attention to your back when it really counted, you had to go out there and earn it … .” Relations conducted on capitalism’s terms cannot secure care and devotion. Doc prizes these intimate social values and the kind of relationships that can only thrive outside capitalism. These emotional consequences of capitalism and their significance for the pursuit of justice form one of the novel’s main themes on the deeper political level.

Doc’s lawyer Sauncho Smilax watches tv absorbedly while stoned and often interprets his viewing for Doc. During a visit to fill Doc in on information he has gathered about the schooner Golden Fang, an animated ad for StarKist tuna unnerves Sauncho. The ad features Charlie the Tuna in his ongoing attempts to impress the cannery StarKist with his cultural tastes and ends as always with the punchline, “StarKist wants tunas that taste good, not tunas with good taste.” Sauncho explains the ad’s distressing premise, “Charlie really has this, like, obsessive death wish! Yes! He wants to be caught, processed, put in a can, not just any can, you dig, it has to be StarKist! Suicidal brand loyalty, man, deep parable of consumer capitalism, they won’t be happy with anything less than drift-netting us all, chopping us up and stacking us on the shelves of supermarket America, and subconsciously the horrible thing is, is we want them to do it … .” Sauncho’s absurd outburst expresses his fear of an unthinking acquiescence in the destructive exigencies of commodified work and commodified pleasures. These further emotional consequences of capitalism also form one of the novel’s deeper political themes.

The sex worker Jade might seem less likely to grasp her subjection to capitalism conceptually. Sauncho has, after all, gone to college and law school. Doc at least went to community college. Jade, on the other hand, went to prison. But a consciousness of capitalism as an exploitative, oppressive system is common in Doc’s circles. On the night of Doc’s second meeting with the missing sax player Coy Harlingen, Jade rides back to town with Doc and his buddy Denis. She tells the story of her criminal and sexual career and cautions the men, “Just be advised, boys, … you’ll want watch your step, ‘cause what I am is, is like a small-diameter pearl of the Orient rolling around on the floor of late capitalism – lowlifes of all income levels may step on me now and then but if they do it’ll be them who slip and fall and on a good day break their ass, while the ol’ pearl herself goes a-rollin on.” Jade responds to a society and a job that make her accessible to men and to their abuse by hardening her feelings. This choice allows her to protect herself as well as to inflict harm on those who would abuse her. The interdependent emotional consequences  of physical, emotional and economic dependence, exploitation and abuse, form another of the novel’s root political themes.

In their reflection on personal relations in day-to-day capitalism, the characters of the novel express their interest in living relationships with emotional substance beyond self-interest, in finding gratification in activities beyond isolated consumption, and in shaping their own lives to protect themselves. Their political consciousness and the character traits it divines and guides are lost in the movie. So too is the inescapable impact on them of the repressive networks and institutions that enforce private control over property and lives. On the novel’s explicitly political level, two nexuses of these repressive force interconnect Doc, his friends and clients. The schooner Golden Fang and the murderous loan shark Adrian Prussia embody these deadly networks. Doc’s investigations reveal these focal points of power, and they emerge bit by bit in the narrative until their histories are extensively disclosed. The movie omits the political histories that make sense of the ship and the loan shark and the plots lines involving them.

Doc’s investigation of the schooner Golden Fang spans more of the story than all but one of his commissioned cases. The movie retains the gradual introduction of the Golden Fang:  a note Jade leaves for Doc that closes “Beware the Golden Fang”, a shadow apparently passing in the waterfront fog behind the first conversation between Doc and Coy Harlingen, and the restaurant meeting between Doc and Sauncho where the lawyer introduces the ship’s history.  Uncharacteristically, the movie even keeps the initial mention of the schooner’s political connection. The boat once belonged to actor Burke Stodger,  who sails away on it when he is blacklisted. Anderson even explains the meaning of the blacklist for the viewers, adding  to Sauncho’s account the gloss that Stodger was “branded a Communist.” However, we hear little more than this simple fact, as the movie excises the boat’s subsequent history.

 Later in the same chapter of he novel, Fritz Drybeam, a loan collector who gave Doc his first job as an investigator and remained a friend, has retrieved this history from the ARPAnet, precursor of the internet. Stodger handed the boat over to the government as part of the deal that allowed him to return to work in Hollywood.  This much of Fritz’s information Anderson transfers to Sauncho in the restaurant scene.  But Fritz’s account continues. The schooner reappeared off Cuba on a spy mission “against Fidel Castro.” Later it was deployed on “anti-Communist projects” in Guatemala, West Africa, Indonesia and elsewhere. It monitored radio traffic, delivered weapons to “anti-Communist guerillas, including those at the ill-fated Bay of Pigs.” It ran “CIA heroin” and also took on as cargo “abducted local ‘troublemakers,’ who were never seen again.” The Golden Fang’s history recapitulates decades of the covert repression conducted by the U.S. government against insurgent Communists and nationalists and against its own citizenry. These operations drive the events of the plot. The Golden Fang and the network of government agencies and propertied interests that operates it produce the disrupted lives that Doc investigates.

The exposition of Adrian Prussia’s career is more confusingly abbreviated in the movie. Neither limousine driver Tito Stavrou, who first mentions Prussia,  nor Doc’s former boss Fritz Drybeam, who provides personal knowledge of Prussia’s ties to the LAPD, even appear in the movie. Prussia is introduced in the restaurant scene in which Bigfoot Bjornsen points Doc to Prussia and his Nazi biker henchman Puck in connection with Coy Harlingen’s faked overdose death. As much of Prussia’s history as we are allowed comes in the scene in which Doc’s lover, assistant district attorney Penny Kimball provides him with a sealed file on Prussia’s collaboration with the LAPD. From these records we learn that Prussia was responsible for the murder of Bigfoot Bjornsen’s partner, Detective Vincent Indelicato, that he commited the murder for the LAPD, and that in fact “he might as well have been working for them as a contract killer.” The movie leaves the history of LAPD’s collusion with Prussia at this.

The novel expands on this history and its explicitly political character. In the novel’s climactic scene Adrian Prussia and Puck Beaverton have abducted Doc and are preparing to murder him. Puck cruelly toys with Doc before preparing a fatal injection of heroin for him. We see this scene in the movie, but we do not hear Puck recount how Prussia became LAPD’s contract killer. A small-time pornographer threatened Governor Reagan’s administration with a blackmail scheme that would have brought it down. To defend Reagan’s career, the Vice Squad commissions Prussia to kill the would-be blackmailer. Adrian arranges a particularly perverse and gruesome murder. The loan shark  is politically conservative and finds that killing for the sake of his political values gives him a “cold keen-edge thrill” with “something sexy about it.”

 Exhilerated by this illicit pleasure, Adrian “felt like his life had turned a corner.” He embraces his new-found career and happily continues to sell his services to the LAPD.  Over the years he “found himself specializing in politicals – black and Chicano activists, antiwar protestors, campus bombers, and assorted other pinko fucks.” When the LAPD asks him to kill a cop, however, the prospect gives Adrian no pleasure, so he hands the job over to Puck, who has particular grounds to despise Detective Indelicato. The omission of this information eliminates the parallel between the covert anti-insurgency conducted from the Golden Fang and the assassinations carried out by Adrian Prussia. It eliminates indications that these foreign and domestic operations are branches of a single network. It also eliminates the defense of his political values as a powerful motive beyond personal animosity and desperate self-preservation for Doc’s readiness to kill Adrian and Puck.

The movie consistently excludes the novel’s explicit political themes at the expense of coherence and depth in the story. The characters lose features, the plot loses motivation and continuity, and the thematic framework loses conceptual integrity. I could present further evidence for Anderson’s treatment of the novel’s politics, but this brief comparison establishes the point clearly enough. The anti-capitalist perspectives voiced by Doc, Sauncho and Jade broach themes that generate the novel’s implicit political substance. Drawing on Herbert Marcuse’s speculative thought on the shaping of the psyche by the relations and processes of capitalist production, in the second part of these comments we will next look at how these deeper political themes fare in Anderson’s adaptation.

Monday, September 22, 2014


In the months after The Times of London and Lord Palmerston appeared the topic of The Times and its political function came up regularly in Marx’s journalism. Most often it was no more than a passing mention, but two articles substantially supplement the analysis discussed in part 1. Both articles comment on potential British military intervention in the Americas. In an article about the Trent Affair, a diplomatic confrontation between Britain and the U.S., that was published in the Viennese paper Die Presse in December of 1861, Marx returns explicitly to the question of how to read the London press in light of its political connections. This article extends the analysis of these connections beyond The Times to include ten more London papers.  In the other article, written for the Daily Tribune in November of 1861, Marx discusses at length the press coverage of the British government’s plans for military intervention in Mexico. This article illustrates at length and in detail both Palmerston’s strategic use of the press to prepare public opinion and the editor’s “cooking” of the news.

The Opinion of the Newspapers and the Opinion of the People is the last of the articles in which Marx reported  the Trent Affair for Viennese readers. Earlier articles had discussed the legal intricacies of the case. This final article uses the diplomatic contentions as a springboard to discuss in detail the emoluments and access Palmerston used to exercise control over coverage of foreign affairs. In passing, we should note that the opening sentence “Continental politicians, who imagine that in the London press they possess a thermometer of the temper of the English people, inevitably draw false conclusions at the present moment” addresses another dimension of the political function of the press. Just as foreign affairs reporting in the press creates public opinion as a factor in British politics, these representations of public opinion are aimed at the policy makers of foreign governments. As the product of Palmerston’s covert arrangements the reports purposefully mislead both audiences. 

The remainder of the opening describes how public opinion and editorial positions shifted in opposite directions over the course of the Trent Affair. When the American seizure of the Confederate emissaries first became news, the public called for war. As the full implications of the issues were discussed, public support for war dwindled. The press followed the opposite track. Initially the press urged moderation. After a time it did an about face and enthusiastically supported war. Marx correlates the position of the press with the development of Palmerston’s policy. As long as the government’s lawyers could not find a legal grounds for war, the press remained moderate. When the government finally had developed a legal pretext for war, the press endorsed war.

The rest of the article explains how it was that the press synchronized its positions with the government and why it adopted positions at odds with the views of its readers. The explanation involves no complex theory. Today in fact it feels like a familiar argument, although I suspect it was unprecedented at the time. Marx simply works through a list of ten daily papers and identifies the source of their position. Not surprisingly, he begins with The Times. This time he introduces the editor Bob Lowe by name and points out he holds a “kind of” position in the Cabinet. Although out of place, at this point Marx also mentions the very popular conservative satirical weekly Punch, which was promoted by The Times. In his Cabinet post, Lowe had in turn secured a remunerative post for Punch’s editor. The first two papers were secured for Palmerston through emoluments.

 The next paper, the Morning Post, was partly owned by Palmerston. Marx notes too that the other owners belonged to society. The odd combination of society news and foreign policy reporting underlines the significance of ownership for content. The third daily paper, the Morning Advertiser adopted its pro-war stance after Palmerston began to invite its editor to his social gatherings. In addition, the noble patron of the guild which owned the paper was Palmerston’s son-in-law. The final example of direct control is not connected to Palmerston. Agents of the Confederacy purchased the Morning Chronicle so ownership likewise determined the coverage. The sensationalizing tabloid the Daily Telegraph was noted for its notorious rabble-rousing support of Palmerston, but Marx does not explain the connection.

 The list now moves on to pro-war papers of a different kind.  Three papers received direct subsidies from Cabinet ministries. The Globe supported the war because it was subsidized by the Whigs, the party to which Palmerston belonged.  The Morning Herald and Evening Standard had been subsidized by the Tories who preceded Palmerston in office.  These papers agitated for war out of hostility to the U.S. and in hopes a war will bring down the Cabinet, after which a new government would restore their subsidies. The list closes with a pair of papers which oppose the war as a matter of principle, both being committed to the positions of politicians other than Palmerston.

After discussing the dailies, Marx briefly treats five weekly papers. Two exemplify the war-supporting majority of these papers. One is paid by the ministries, while the other advocates war simply to display “esprit.”  Marx defines this quality more specifically as, “a cynical elevation above ‘humanitarian’ prejudices.” In other words, a provocative attitude is one of the use values sold by the paper. At the last, Marx mentions the three weeklies that oppose the calls for war, but passes over their motives in silence.

This description of the affiliations and motivations of the pro-war coverage in the London press goes beyond the mechanisms of manipulation presented in the first article. It begins with the award of government posts and the provision of social access mentioned there. But the roster of connections expands to include out-right ownership, family relationships and government subsidies. At the same time, the potential motives also include political principles and even what we might today call pure branding.

The Intervention in Mexico, the second article, discusses in extensive and careful detail six weeks of the coverage delivered by two London papers on the plan for joint British, French and Spanish military intervention in the Mexican Republic. The examination of “one of the most monstrous enterprises ever chronicled in the annals of international history” begins with the respective roles of The London Morning Post and The London Times in introducing Palmerston’s plans to the public, as well as the responses of the French and Spanish governments through their own press. The article then contrasts the positions on intervention taken by the Times in September and November.  After these contradictory reasonings have been dissected, the second half of the article addresses the crucial question about the intervention raised by these incoherent inconsistencies, “What, then, is its real aim and purpose?”

The London Morning Post and The London Times practice a division of labor. The analysis of their collaboration deepens the description of Palmerston’s management of the press. As we have just seen, Palmerston was a part owner of the Morning Post and his ownership accounted for its publication of reports on foreign affairs. Accordingly, Marx calls the paper “Palmerston’s private Moniteur,” that is his equivalent of the French government’s official paper. The Morning Post published in detail the first public account of the agreement among Britain, France and Spain to intervene in Mexico. The French government denied this report through its press. The Times then responded with a report that the French had indeed agreed to the intervention. The Spanish government then clarified through its press that it was planning a unilateral intervention. Finally, The Times followed with a report that the U.S. would join the intervention, a claim promptly denied by the American press.

Marx deduces from this sequence of reports and denials that the plan is undoubtedly an English creation, and demonstrates one of his protocols for reading the press in this kind of situation. In the same issue of The Times that publicized the three powers’ final agreement on intervention in early November, a second article appeared that approved of a recent French military intervention in Switzerland. This recognition signals a diplomatic quid pro quo. Palmerston has given France a free hand for intervention on the continent in return for French collaboration in the Mexican adventure. It is not the content of the reports per se but their juxtaposition that conveys this message. Beyond the mere content of foreign policy reports, their placement in the papers has a political function and inferable meaning.

Marx draws an analogous but more complex inference from a comparison of the reports in The Post and The Times. In its first report, The Post maintained that the goal of the expedition was to collect debts owed by the Mexican government. Because the government no longer exercised effective power, it was necessary to take military measures to occupy port cities and claim customs revenues.  The Times in its subsequent first report dismissed the significance of the debt, and instead maintained that the intervention would encourage the Mexican government in its efforts to restore order and end the brigandage that victimized British subjects. Marx notes the contradiction between the respective assumptions that there is no effective government and that there is a government capable of action.

Marx points out that the Times own reasoning contradicts itself as well, “To be sure! The oddest means ever hit upon for the consolidation of a Government consists in the seizure of its territory and the sequestration of its revenue.” In Palmerston’s designs, these initial press voices were subsequently joined by “minor ministerial oracles,” officials, spokesmen and sources, in the task of “systematically belaboring him [that is, the public] in the same contradictory style for four weeks, until public opinion had at last become sufficiently trained to the idea of a joint intervention in Mexico, although kept in deliberate ignorance of the aim and purpose of that intervention.”  The volume of the reports and the contradictions within and among what are known to be well-informed sources deflect discussion from the intervention itself to the spurious discussion of its motives, while at the same time concealing the real considerations behind it. The orchestrated pattern of disagreement and debate executes a calculated tactic.

These four weeks of preparation ended when the official French press announced that an agreement had been reached. The French papers announced that the Mexican ports would be seized, if the Mexican government did not then cooperate troops would move inland and occupy Mexico City, and “a strong government would be imported into the Republic.” We might note that the latter two points had never figured in the initial reports in London. In November after the governments have officially committed themselves to intervention, The Times speaks to the issue again. Marx underlines the absolute incongruity of its response,  

Everybody ignorant of its connection with Palmerston, and the original introduction in its columns of his scheme, would be induced to consider the to-day’s leader of The Times as the most cutting and merciless satire on the whole adventure. It sets out by stating that “the expedition is a very remarkable one” [later on it says a curious one].

Three States are combining to coerce a fourth into good behavior, not so much by way of war as by authoritative interference in behalf of order.”

Authoritative interference in behalf of order! This is literally the Holy Alliance slang, and sounds very remarkable indeed on the part of England, glorying in the non-intervention principle! And why is “the way of war, and of declaration of war, and all other behests of international law,” supplanted by “an authoritative interference in behalf of order?” Because, says The Times, there “exists no Government in Mexico.” And what is the professed aim of the expedition? “To address demands to the constituted authorities at Mexico.”

Absurdly contradictory in its assumptions and ludicrous its euphemisms, the only way to find a coherent intention in this report is to understand it, as Marx supposes a substantial part of the public already does, as an expression of Palmerston’s designs.

Marx singles out a final decisive contradiction. The Times still claims that satisfaction of debts and protection of foreign nationals are the goal of the intervention, but then concedes that the measures to be taken far exceed what is needed to achieve those ends. From this disproportion between the military means and the ostensible goals, Marx concludes that the purported goals “have nothing at all to do with the present joint intervention in Mexico” and this discrepancy compels him to ask what is really going on.

Turning to the seond argument, Marx reiterates that The Times also disavows the significance of the debt for the intervention. Marx rephrases his question in sarcastic distress at the complete lack of sense on the surface of this subterfuge. “What, then, in all the world is its real or pretended aim?” His answer begins by picking apart the second putative goal of the intervention “an authoritative interference in behalf of order."  The Times has expressed only one reservation about the intervention, namely that the European “order-mongers,” as Marx calls them, would not be able to agree on what Mexican faction to install in the government, “The only point on which there may possibly be a difference between ourselves and our allies, regards the government of the Republic. England will be content to see it remain in the hands of the liberal party which is now in power.” Marx examines this reservation carefully and shows that in fact it assumes that there is a functioning government that has begun to restore order. From these assumptions he draws the conclusion obvious to all involved, that the intervention will “instead of extinguishing, restore anarchy to its full bloom.”

Once “ in behalf of Order,’ is substracted from the rationale, there remains only “interference.” The Civil War momentarily prevents the U.S. from actively resisting intervention, and Palmerston hopes to take advantage of this obstacle to American resistance to overturn the Monroe Doctrine and establish the right of the European powers to use force in the pursuit of their interests in the Americas. In conjunction with his pursuit of the right of intervention Palmerston is strategic expanding of his monopoly over the exercise of that right. He has launched his adventure while Parliament is recessed.  Palmerston is again employing the same tactics of false representations and disregard of Parliament’s power that he has used on previous occasions to initiate wars. He aims to reinforce those precedents for his prerogative to order interventions without the approval of Parliament. Marx describes Palmerston’s ultimate goal in sweeping terms, “With the control over foreign wars, Parliament will lose all control over the national exchequer, and Parliamentary government turn to a mere farce.”
Marx’s reading of the London press on the intervention in Mexico assumes that these press accounts cannot be taken at face value. They furnish evidence of foreign policy, but they do not reliably describe the motives or content of policy. Press reporting functions as an instrument in complex political designs. The press reports are intended by the place and sequence of their publication and by their putatively authentic accounts to render the ultimate intervention plausible while concealing its actual motives and goals. A careful reading can retrieve even from deceptive press reports some of the suppositions about the state of affairs that do underlie the unspoken goals. No matter how careful the reading of logic and publication, however, only informed reference to the history of governments and of politicians allows Marx to construe the policy that wields these reports as instruments to attain public assent to “monstrous enterprises.”


When we read what Marx had to say about public opinion and foreign policy, even after a hundred and fifty years his arguments evoke a sense of recognition and familiarity.  This affinity of his analyses with our own experiences with politics and the press easily furnishes reason enough to read and discuss these articles today. Beyond the resonance of these insights, the articles provide a pertinent example for communist analysis and criticism of the media.  They do not provide a theory of public opinion. We cannot even extract a definitive model of communist media analysis from them. History does no allow us that luxury.
At the very least, though, Marx’s analyses do demonstrate three themes essential to our media analyses: how the accumulation of capital and the capitalist organization of the media establish the technical and social basis for the collaboration of state and media; how this collaboration results not just from the social relations and political institutions particular to a historical moment but from particular individuals acting within those relations and institutions; and how editorial management employs specific techniques to manipulate representations of foreign affairs in order to manufacture public opinion.
Because the accumulation of capital has advanced fantastically, because the technologies produced by that accumulation have proliferated, and because the social relations and political institutions in the U.S. today differ greatly from 1860s England, contemporary media criticism on these lines will necessarily look different from Marx’s criticism of The Times. But Marx made fundamental points about these processes that retain their force. The ruling class and their political executives pursue “monstrous enterprises.” When they organize these enterprises, they employ covert and collusive means. Important among their collusions are the combinations of report-producers and  politicians who manage the media and manufacture public opinion.
Today these points have become harder to convey, in no small part because the “opinion-mongers,” in order to protect themselves, have through their opinion-commodities attempted to immunize their audiences against these very arguments. The mere fact that Marx argued in this way does not make these arguments more plausible or persuasive. Marx's analysis and criticism of the London press in his day does demonstrate that these arguments fall solidly within the scope of a materialist critique of the media. Our challenge is to find the audience for them and communicate persuasive arguments in which we connect concretely the opinion-mongers to the order-mongers and their reports to their enterprises.

Monday, September 08, 2014


The recent twitter controversies about the tag #OpPornPixie involved some serious questions about how communist criticism of the media works. As a follow up, I want to bring attention to some articles Marx wrote in 1861 for the New York Daily Tribune. Marx had a long-standing concern with the press and its political role. Marx worked as newspaper editor in Germany twice during the 1840s.  Throughout the 1850s into the mid-1860s he was a foreign correspondent for several papers. As an editor he regularly analyzed and criticized the positions taken in other papers. As a correspondent in 1861 he began writing about British responses to the Civil War for the Tribune’s readers in America. During a period in 1861 when Parliament was not in session, Marx wrote repeatedly about the coverage of the war in the British press. In these articles Marx sketches a brief, clear, and explicit materialist media analysis. The most substantial part of this sketch appears in the article The London Times and Lord Palmerston.

In this article Marx aims to do more than simply inform his American audience about  British attitudes toward the war. Instead of just telling them what people in Britain thought or what the British press said, he instructs politically interested American readers in how to read the British press and to understand the connection of the press to public opinion. These instructions explain the forces in British politics and their operations. The article describes how the British press became one of these forces and how the government integrated the press into its operations. Marx assumes that for politically conscious readers to grasp the practical meaning of newspaper writing, they would need to understand the press as an active element in political relations.

The article also exemplifies the connection between Marx’s theoretical work on political economy and his journalistic criticism of politics and media.  In 1858 Marx had completed the manuscript known today as theGrundrisse. In it he sketched a comprehensive, conceptually integrated critique of political economy. In 1859 he had published A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.  In this short work he discussed two key concepts in his critique, money and the commodity, but did not attempt a systematic exposition of capital. In August of 1861, three months before he wrote this article, Marx had begun work on what is today known as the Economic Manuscript of 1861-1863 [no longer available at the Mars-Engels Internet  Archive!], his next major work in the critique. The Manuscript comprised the first draft of Capital. Thus when he wrote his article on the Times, Marx had already begun to formulate his scientific theory of capitalism as a fundamental process in bourgeois society. In The London Times and Lord Palmerston we see how this conceptual framework shapes Marx’s criticism of contemporary politics.

The first long paragraph makes up 1/3 of the article and contains the political media analysis. It opens with a quote about the influence of the Times “English people participate in the government of their own country by reading The Times newspaper.”  Marx follows the assessment with his own qualification, “This judgment, passed by an eminent English author on what is called British self-government, is only true so far as the foreign policy of the Kingdom is concerned.” This opening gambit establishes that the influence exercised by the Times is an established fact. Marx will examine that influence, but it is not something he discovered himself. Although Marx does not name Robert Lowe, who was the author of the quote, we should note that in 1861 Lowe was the editor of the Times and that he later served for six years as a minister in the Cabinet. This estimation of the unique role and profound influence of the Times came from a man who was a key figure in the collaboration of the press and the government and who spoke with an insider’s knowledge of that connection.

The opening quote also suggests the specific historically and socially unique features of the press at that time.  When we think of “reading,” we think first of the basic process of interpreting  words and sentences by which readers cull information. But in a second more important sense, the quote identifies a particular social quality of that process. Through reading the Times, its readers “participate in the government.” In a time when political parties as we know them now did not exist, the right to vote was highly restricted by property requirements and the means of communication were much more limited, the Times made unique information about the government widely accessible and provided a surrogate means of participation in government affairs. This participation consisted primarily of holding a share in public opinion. Now, before this first paragraph is through, Marx relates these informational and participatory features to the specifically capitalist features of the Times as a business. So to apply that perspective from the start, we can say that information and surrogate participation are what the paper sells. When readers buy the paper for the use-values of political news and participation, they create the relationship that is the basis of the paper’s strategic function for the government.  This relationship is “public opinion.”

Following the quote, Marx qualifies this claim by limiting it to foreign policy. To prove his point, he mentions several recent domestic political reforms. While the Times had opposed all these measures, its readers supported them. To maintain its readership, the paper had to reverse its editorial positions. Marx then contrasts the way this mediation through the market determined the domestic views of the paper to the way the paper determines the foreign policy views of the readers. He makes this first, fundamental point, “In no part of Europe are the mass of the people, and especially of the middle-classes, more utterly ignorant of the foreign policy of their own country than in England… .” When it comes to foreign affairs, the readership, which is constituted as a public by reading the paper, depends on the paper for information and political interpretations.  

Marx breaks the explanation down into finer detail. In its details, the explanation is historical and institutional. The history relates the class divisions of British society and the effects of capitalist development on the middle classes. Thanks to the enduring medieval features of British political institutions, the aristocracy had maintained control over foreign affairs. This social division of labor and the absorption of the middle classes in earning their living results in public ignorance of foreign affairs. The exclusion of the middle classes from this political power means “the aristocracy acted for them … .” The confinement of the ideas of the middle class to earning money means, “the press thought for them … .” Because the aristocrats and the publishers effective monopolize their respective aspects of foreign policy they have a shared goal, “their mutual interest to combine.”  Marx summarizes the outcome of this combination, “since the beginning of this century, the great London papers have constantly played the part of attorneys to the heaven-born managers of English foreign policy.” The particular configuration Marx describes an arrangement of shared power has existed for only sixty years.

Marx then identifies the stages in this collaboration between the governing aristocracy and the opinion creating press over those six decades. As political participation broadened through bourgeois economic and political revolution, the aristocracy that exercised foreign policy power narrowed into an “oligarchy.” The Cabinet came into existence as the formal institutional representation of the oligarchy. Marx characterizes the Cabinet as “a secret conclave.” The Cabinet was a political innovation. It did not belong to the traditional constitutional order and it operated beyond conventional controls over executive action. In recent decades Lord Palmerston had assumed personal control over the cabinet and over foreign policy. With Palmerston’s “usurpation” the political, institutional side of the process is complete. In this very specific political conjuncture of 1861 Marx highlights the ambitions and actions of a single man and describes the formal institution within which he worked in terms of covert collusions. Marx’s close attention to Palmerston in fact extended back for years. In 1853 he had already written a seven-article series about Palmerston’s career  that appeared in both the Tribune and in England in the People’s Paper. These articles were subsequently republished as a pamphlet that sold over 20,000 copies. In this sense, the article on the Times is an addendum to Marx’s earlier reports about Palmerston and his politics.

 Over these same years the developments in the “field of newspaper-mongering” that enable the collaboration of politics and press result from an inherent tendency of capital. Marx attributes the singular potential of the Times to play its role to “the law of concentration” and its rapid operation in the sector of the press.  “Concentration” is a technical term in Marx’s theoretical critique of political economy. In the Grundrisse Marx observes the phenomenon of concentration, but does not derive a definition from his observations. In the Economic Manuscript of 1861-1863 the few references to concentration are now collected in Notebook IV on relative surplus value. Ultimately the concept of relative surplus value will provide the terms for the definition of concentration, but in 1861 Marx still has not formulated this definition. The reference to the “law” of concentration, however, suggests Marx does have a particular systematic process in mind already. So let’s look ahead at the definition of the concentration of capital in Capital. (see section 2 of the linked chapter) ‘Concentration’ labels the distinctive aspect of accumulation in capitalism. It identifies the constantly increasing application of technology as an expression of the inherent need to obtain the greatest possible physical output from a constant amount of labor. The incorporation of technology into production on an ever increasing scale leads to, and at the same time results from, the accelerating growth of individual capitals. As the Times employs more and better presses and reaches a larger and more widely distributed readership, it becomes the new and unique medium of “the national paper.”

This conclusion about the Times illustrates a fundamental conceptual difference between Marx’s writing in his critique of political economy and his political writing for broad reading audiences. In the critiques his inferences about concentration are concerned exclusively with the implications of concentration within the processes of production and accumulation. For example, in the Economic Manuscript of 1861-1863, Marx characterizes concentration as a “material determinant for production on an expanded scale.” In Capital the discussion additionally specifies consequences of concentration for the employment of living labor.
In this article Marx is equally concerned with accumulation in the newspaper industry as the material determinant of a social process. But from the ‘law of concentration’ he here draws an inference about political relationships and processes. Their determination by the ‘law of concentration’ means that these political processes are capitalist in their nature and that their very form results from class relations. Yet these consequences of concentration have nothing to do with the immediate process of production or with questions of exploitation and accumulation.  The quantitative growth in the scale of operations of the press determines a qualitative transformation in the character of the print medium. This transformation in turn determines a new form of political participation and this new form of political participation provides a new instrument for politicians operating in the political institutions of bourgeois society.

Palmerston’s sole power over foreign policy and the Times’ sole access to a national readership thus lead to a very particular combination of the government and the press. Marx observes, “Lord Palmerston, who secretly and from motives unknown to the people at large, to Parliament and even to his own colleagues, managed the Foreign affairs of the British Empire, must have been very stupid if he had not tried to possess himself of the one paper which had usurped the power of passing public judgment in the name of the English people on his own secret doings.”  This observation has several significant implications about the combination of press and politics in 1861. To assert that Palmerston would have been “stupid” not to initiate the collaboration implies that the potential  was self-evident. From the perspective of the law of concentration in the press, it was inevitable, since the Times would have needed “more than Spartan virtue” not to combine with Palmerston. Marx also says that both Palmerston and the Times “usurped” their power. We can imagine Palmerston’s usurpation of political power as the result of intrigue and manipulation. The usurpation of power by the Times results from success in accumulating capital to expand operations.  Success in competition in this particular branch inherently produces an undemocratic outcome. In this one sentence Marx also points out twice that Palmerston’s “motives” and his “doings” are “secret.” The reasons and actions of the government are consciously clandestine. The function of the Times is “judging them for the nation” and “representing the public mind," yet in this public function it maintains that clandestine secrecy.  The Times provides a judgement of Palmerston’s motives and actions that does not describe, explain or interpret them factually. This deliberate discrepancy between Palmerston’s clandestine motives and actions and their representation in the press is a necessary, inherent feature of the creation of public opinion.

In this combination at the initiative of Palmerston, Marx says the Times sought to “ally” itself to the minister but Palmerston treated the paper as his “slave.” Palmerston achieved this one-sided relationship through two principal means. To employees of the Times he gave subordinate jobs in ministries and access to his social circle. Marx sums up the role of the Times once this combination was effected, “the whole business of The Times, so far as the foreign affairs of the British Empire are concerned, is limited to manufacturing a public opinion to conform to Lord Palmerston’s foreign policy. It has to prepare the public mind for what he intends doing, and to make it acquiesce in what he has done.” The strategic political function of the Times is not identical with its business as a whole. The editorial positions and reportorial content of the Times cannot be directly inferred from its business interests or even from the more general class interests of its owners. The content produced in the manufacturing of public opinion is determined by political dictates.

In the remainder of the article, Marx uses two examples to illustrate how the Times edits its reporting on Palmerston’s behalf. He bluntly identifies the mechanics of manipulation and spin. In the first example, three members of Parliament had made speeches about Palmerston’s diplomatic maneuvers and political methods in the preceding thirty years. In two cases the Times simply “suppressed” the most damaging evidence. In the third, procedural parliamentary tricks failed to prevent the speech from being given, and the paper then inadvertently reported the speech in full because the “editor specially charged with the task of mutilating and cooking the parliamentary reports” had taken time off. To cover its lapse, the Times attempted to disqualify the criticisms. It argued that the attempts on the floor of Parliament to prevent the speech were justified because the speaker was a “bore.” Marx calls the work of this type done by the Times “drudgery” because its writers must take the Parliamentary reports and literally overnight “mutilate, alter, [and] falsify” them for publication.

 In the second example Marx discusses how, at the drop of a hat the Times reversed its support of the Confederacy and its opposition to the United States in accord with Palmerston’s policy. Marx specifies significant features of this reversal. The Times can even more easily employ “misstatement and suppression” on foreign news than it did on domestic reports. This spin on the news does not follow from any consideration of the business interests of “the British Cotton Lords” nor of “real or supposed English interest.” Instead, the editorial manipulation of reporting “simply executed the orders of its master.”
In addition, the reversal occurred simultaneously in a number of papers “connected with” Palmerston. Not only did all the papers act at the same time, they reversed their editorial position prior to any public statement by Palmerston himself. As his agents, they were preparing public opinion for the change of direction.  In both examples Marx charges the paper with plain and simple misrepresentation. Facts are omitted, they are changed and they are mendaciously misinterpreted. These manipulations are the mechanical execution of the strategic motive driving the creation of public opinion. “Falsifying” public opinion is the paper’s political function. Like the policies it justifies, the process of justification rests on covert and collusive manipulation.

In this first article, Marx establishes the “subserviency” of the “public-opinion-mongers” to Palmerston. He targets the influence exercised by a powerful official whom he singles out by name. Marx represents the instrumentalization of the press as a process of personal corruption and manipulation through “emoluments and advantages.” Both the policies the press supports and the collusion through which they support them are products of covert collaborations. Neither the policies nor the editorial positions toward them can be deduced directly from economic interests of particular participants or from national interests. The inherent tendencies of capitalist development and the specific levels and forms those developments have reached in England in 1861 set the parameters for the political arrangements between the government and the media. Marx criticizes those arrangements for the benefit of his politically conscious readers so they can better understand the relations that produce that reporting and its immediate political functions.

In the months following this article, Marx’s journalism often returned to the topic of the press. He relies on this model to discuss further examples of politically instrumentalized reporting and adds further detail to the model. In a second post I will follow up on these writings.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Monologue: "Standards and Practices" by Jon Robin Baitz

They say a lot about the “integrity vacancy” in my profession, which is television. Networks…that’s my particular area. Standards and Practices.


You find yourself listening to these people. Decent people, but they don’t have to face the unwashed masses that I do in standards and practices. I mean, we’re lawyers, you know? I’m no artist.


I have no pretensions about it. I have to deal with Colgate-Palmolive and Proctor & Gamble and Nestlé and General Foods, and these are decent types, these are decent guys. Lawyers, okay, you get the picture.


A little dry, maybe, a tendency to look at things as simply as black and white, but after years of having to go through law school, it’s not hard to lose your sense of humor.


But ask yourself this: Who is out there calling the shots? You know? I mean, I really, really despise petty moralizing. I really do.


And a lot of what I’m asked to do is fatuous even to me, and there is no doubt you could laughand me – a Jew - smart, you know, you can look at a guy like me and say “He inherited his liberalism,” because I have not lived through anything.

But I’ll tell you something, and please, anyone who disagrees with this is – gotta be living in another world...

When you reach the age of about twenty-seven to thirty-two, you basically -- you’ve had to make all the moral choices…

There is nothing you don’t have to confront. So listen – I want to ask you this – Who out there is calling the shots? Because met me tell ya’, if ya’ think it’s us guys at standards and practises, I can promise you this: You – are – wrong.

If you think it’s the guys at Proctor & Gamble, you – are – wrong.


Because, basically, what we are, we are men and women who sell certain things. But let me tell you: We get letters, and I mean, they are filled with rage. They are filled with a…a…a passionate anger toward…this coast. This business. What we do. They hate us. So much. Letters from people offended by homosexual acts. AIDS on the Movie of the Week. There are people who are fueled by this.


And I read these letters and I want to take a shower.


People who have this agenda. But they get together, they send these letters to the decent lawyers at Proctor & Gamble, who get scared, and they call me.


We get letters. There is a tide of hatred out there, and you cannot understand it, you cannot fathom the depths. This is a country filled with letter-writers, people who stay up all night, writhing and twisting, people who drive very old cars and have the strangest of habits, and people who have no real control over those habits. This country has a seam of absolute maniacal viciousness, and let me tell you – because you are all really – we’re in the same boat – it’s you and me against the treyf out there - - understand this:

They are stronger than us, they outnumber us, and they are angrier than we are; and they do not care about your – your “environment,” your “freedom of speech,” they want to kill. They want to kill your faggot brother, they want your sister to have that baby, and they – and they – are the people who buy all the shit I sell every night.


I have to make the world smooth for them.


That is my job.

When you hit – you know, age about twenty-eight, you have to make just about every moral decision there is to make.


Like today. Two men kissing?


I had them cut it.


Anything that disturbs the beast out there. No way.


Just think of me as one of the guardians of your safety; I keep the animals happy. Because they will take over the zoo if we let ‘em.

[picks up phone]

Get me Colgate.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


A good piece here defending the activity of making demands, but evading the fact that whether demanding is constructive or destructive, and whose interests it serves, depends on the demand.

"Protect our Christian Legacy", "British Jobs for British Workers" and “Zig Raus!” are all demands, and they've all been expressed with passion recently. Of course the demands which emerge from the Occupy movement include many which stress the illegitimacy of the state: "Stop Killing and Enslaving Us" or fcuk the pigs, burn the banks, "expropriate the expropriators", "Stop Stop and Frisk", "Decolonize Wall Street". The demands the authors of the piece list tend toward this type:

That we liberate New York, or Oakland, or Cleveland from the grips of financiers? That we must have returned what was stolen from us and given to the banks and to the 1%? That we deserve to live a life free of police repression and violence? That we want an end to imperialist projects and wars, and the restoration of social services and education?

These demands may not highlight as well as some others the violence, lawlessness and ruthlessness of the current ruling class and its absolute illegitimacy, but they don't tend to legitimize the state or the status quo of property and power. However, this list and the text in which we find it was probably written with the awareness of the debate into which it must enter, that is, in the knowledge that the concrete presently existing advocates of demands at OWS are rejecting (with contempt) these kinds of oppositional and accusatory demands (nixing for example reference to "the larceny of the 1%" as overly oppositional and likely to alienate someone of importance) and insisting on demands that do legitimize the state and that in fact require other people (not those who make the demands) to build things for the use and enjoyment and aggrandizement of those making the demands (the demand is the state put unemployed to work to secure the property and assert values belonging to those drafting the demands) and in all likelihood for expropriation as private property of the 1%.

Unfortunately around "the question of demands" has arisen a typical co-opting reaction - those whose efforts are principally to silence, mock, belittle, delay or deprioritize the demands of others are annointing themselves 'pro-demands' and denouncing their opponents, whose demands they are trying to gag or discredit, 'anti-demands', much the way those seeking to assert white supremacist patriarchal privileges do so by labelling feminists and anti-racists 'divisive' for objecting to the segregation benefiting the privileged and challenging their efforts to dominate and preserve these hierarchies. Though much is being done to combat it, and a great deal has been achieved in raising people's awareness and recruiting commitment to redress of these persistent injustices, one sees still everywhere the spectacle of all white groups or white individuals presenting themselves as universal and neutral, representatives of the norm and the commonweal, issuing dire warnings against the threat of and displaying eye-rolling impatience with insignificant raced people with selfish, unimportant concerns "muddying" this or that pure scene or analysis with their difference, undermining popular unity by spoiling uniformity, and hampering class struggle by challenging the domination or refusing obedience to the usual privileged petty bourgeois subjects.

It's in the unavoidable context of white supremacy and the US' particularly raced class society that the demands working group has specifically rejected suggestions they include any demands to protect those they recommend be employed providing services and rebuilding territorial US infrastructure (and US only, that is, not Afghanistan, not Iraq, not Haiti) from the repression and terror of the state or ensuring that this workforce who are proposed to be set to work making a better environment for those issuing the demands will be able to benefit from the wealth they create as well.

The demands working group at OWS have rejected the suggestion, most signficantly, of specifying debt amnesty for those to be employed by the public works scheme they demand be established. Without an insistence on debt amnesty, their demand in reality is that 25 million people be employed at their own expense and that of the rest of the public in order to guarantee (once again) the payment to the richest of the interest, fees, and debts to which those 25 million likely to take these jobs are currently obligated. Without debt amnesty, these “good union wages” must still fail to provide any kind of decent living standard, as all of those wages are already earmarked for the 1% via the indebtedness of the workers in question. The reason given for rejecting “debt amnesty” as a feature of this demand – this demand that is supposed to help the movement define the world it wants through the delineation of a policy that is actually practicable and desirable – is that it mars the “simplicity” of the scheme. That's a familiar defense of every kind of trickle down vision, and the proposal fits the pattern of trickle down in highlighting the inevitable consequences of the scheme to those least benefitting (but benefitting nonetheless, a little) and wholly ignoring that the bulk of the benefits of the scheme are monopolised by the ruling class and its courtiers and house servants.

That is, any measures that might ensure the 25 million workers benefit from the scheme are seen as an unnecessary complication - the scheme is a lovely machine one switches on and watches prosperity flow from, as is always appealing to bourgeois economists. This posture which defines all care to protect the interest of the propertyless as needless muddying and disfigurement of the beautiful simplicity of the Keynes/Fabian machine must be understood to confirm that the purpose of the scheme is the same as the purpose of every scheme inspired by this school of thought - to shore up the state’s legitimacy, secure property values, and boost growth to guarantee profits (and superprofits when the concrete products of the labour employed are privatised). The demand thus is objectionable with regard to content (the actual realization of the policy is not desirable, though it contains elements that would be part of many conceivable desirable policies) and as pedagogy (the demand as “impossible demand” tends to obscure rather than clarify present reality) and as political gesture (the demand is divisive and asserts the dominance of those who define themselves in opposition and distinction to “workers, the homeless, unemployed, undocumented” and who treat the expressed concerns of those groups as nuisances, the usual “laundry list” of particularist grievances, and needless “complexities”.)Without debt amnesty, the vision is one of effective enslavement of 25 million people set to work improving the public equity chiefly enjoyed by the richest 10%.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Particular and The Particular

Just can't seem to escape the question of the relationship between the particular and the universal. Or as this snippet of Marx seems to suggest, the relationship between the particular and the particular.

It comes from the Theories of Surplus Value in the discussion of Adam Smith, the subsection The Distinction between Productive and Unproductive Labour, and within that subsection, the subsection 17 on Nassau Senior. Unfortunately this link lands you far from the passage in question.

Man himself is the basis of his material production, as of every other production that he carries on. All circumstances, therefore, which affect man, the subject of production, modify plus ou moins all his functions and activities, and therefore his functions and activities as the creator of material wealth, of commodities too. In this respect it can in fact be demonstrated that all human relations and functions, however and in whatever they may present themselves, influence material production and engage with it determinatively to a greater or lesser degree.

For such a short passage, I have revised the translation at MIA pretty seriously. Specially in the last clause. What I have translated as "engage" appears there as "have decisive influence on." The German eingreifen generally means "intervention," like a military intervention or what authorities do in general. A very literal translation would be "in-grip," stick your hand in and grab hold. So it denotes and connotes a very active and forceful imposition from the outside.

Marx says, the relationships of production, in other words class positions, are actively and forcefully shaped by all the circumstances, like race and gender, that affect humans.

Pace universalism/class reductionism.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Secret of Secrets

In the discussion about Zizek's strategic rhetorical confusion of source, content and attitude, the comment about 'secret connections' reminded me of a passage in The Holy Family in which Marx analyzed an example of the use of 'secret' as a Hegelian construct.

I have transcribed the passage from the MIA with a couple of revisions. The translation linked to there translates Geheimnis as "mystery" but "secret" is a more colloquial equivalent and the word I have used.

What Marx says of Hegel and Mr. Szeliga needs to be understood of the Hegelianism of Zizz and the Zizzniks too. Above all, the characterization of Hegel's method as "masterly sophistry." Then, how Hegel executes this sophistry through the subordination of the particular to the universal. Finally, how Hegel articulates this subordination, "in the speculative world are nothing but semblances." Zizzian sophistry does not need verbal legerdemain to effect this reduction of the material to the seeming. Images from movies and accounts from the media provide him with ready made semblances. As well as the ultimate conclusion, that all the complex mechanisms of the sophistry amounts to nothing more than self-dramatization. Even Zizzian stand up is consistent digital Hegelianism. But enough interpretation, let's get on to Marx.

The Secret of Speculative Construction

The secret of the Critical presentation of the Mysteres de Paris is the secret of speculative, of Hegelian construction. Once Herr Szeliga has proclaimed that 'degeneracy within civilization' and rightlessness in the state are 'secrets', i.e. has dissolved them in the category of 'secret', he lets 'secret' begin its speculative career. A few words will suffice to characterise speculative construction in general. Herr Szeliga's treatment of the Mysteres de Paris will give the application in detail.

If from real apples, pears, strawberries and almonds I form the general idea of "Fruit", if I go further and imagine that my abstract idea of "Fruit", derived from real fruit, is an entity existing outside me, is indeed the true essence of the pear, the apple, the almond, etc., then in the language of speculative philosophy - I am declaring that "Fruit" is the "Substance" of the pear, the apple, the almond, etc. I am saying, therefore, that to be a pear is not essential to the pear, to be an apple is not essential to the apple; that what is essential to these things is not their real existence, perceptible to the senses, but the essence I have abstracted from them and then foisted on them, the essence of my idea - "Fruit". I therefore declare apples, pears, almonds, etc.,to be mere forms of existence, modi, of "Fruit". My finite understanding supported by my senses does of course distinguish an apple from a pear and a pear from an almond, but my speculative reason declares these sensuous differences as inessential and irrelevant. It sees in the apple the same thing as in the pear, and in the pear the same thing as in the almond, namely "Fruit". Particular real fruits are no more than semblances whose true essence in "the substance" - "Fruit".

By this method one attains no particular wealth of definition. The mineralogist whose whole science was limited to the statement that all minerals are really "the Mineral" would be a mineralogist only in his imagination. For every mineral the speculative Mineralogist says, "the Mineral", and his science is reduced to repeating this word as many times as there are real minerals.

Having reduced the different real fruits to the one "fruit" of abstraction - "the Fruit", speculation must, in order to attain some semblance of real content, try somehow to find its way back from "the Fruit", from Substance to the diverse, ordinary real fruits, the pear, the apple, the almond, etc. It is as hard to produce real fruits from the abstract idea "the Fruit" as it is easy to produce the abstract idea from real fruits. Indeed, it is impossible to arrive at the opposite of an abstraction without relinquishing the abstraction.

The speculative philosopher therefore relinquishes the abstraction "the Fruit", but in a speculative, mystical fashion - with the appearance of not reliquishing it. Thus it is really only in appearance that he rises above his abstraction. He argues somewhat as follows:

If apples, pears, almonds and strawberries are really nothing but "the subtance", "the Fruit", the question arises: Why does "the Fruit" manifest itself to me sometimes as an apple, sometimes as a pear, sometimes as an almond? Why this semblance of diversity, which so obviously contradicts my speculative conception of Unity, "the Substance", "the Fruit"?

This, answers the speculative philosopher, is because "the Fruit" is not dead, undifferentiated motionless, but a living, self-differentiating, moving essence. The diversity of the ordinary fruits is significant not only for my sensuous understanding, but also for "the Fruit" itself and for speculative reason. The different ordinary fruits are different manifestations of the life of the "one Fruit"; they are cystallisations of "the Fruit" itself. Thus in the apple "the Fruit" gives itself an apple-like existence, in the pear a pear-like existence. We must therefore no longer say, as one might from the standpoint of the Substance: a pear is "the Fruit", an apple is "the Fruit" an almond is "the Fruit", but rather "the Fruit" presents itself as a pear, "the Fruit" presents itself as an apple, "the Fruit" presents itself as an almond; and the differences which distinguish apples, pears and almonds from one another are the self-differentiations of "the Fruit" and make the particular fruits different members of the life-process of the "the Fruit". Thus "the Fruit" is no longer an empty undifferentiated unity; it is oneness as allness, as "totality" of fruits, which constitute an "organically linked series of members". In every member of that series "the Fruit" gives itself a more developed, more explicit existence, until finally, as the "summary" of all fruits, it is at the same time the living unity which contains all those fruits dissolved in itself just as it produces them from within itself, just as, for instance, all the limbs of the body are constantly dissolved in and constantly produced out of the blood.

We see that if the Christian religion knows only one Incarnation of God, speculative philosophy has an many incarnations as there are things, just as it has here in every fruit an incarnation of the Substance, of the Absolute Fruit. The main interest for the speculative philosopher is therefore to produce the existence of the real ordinary fruits and to say in some mysterious way that there are apples, pears, almonds and raisins. But the apples, pears, almonds and raisins that we rediscover in the speculative world are nothing but semblances of apples, semblances of pears, semblances of almonds and semblances of raisins, for they are moments in the life of "the Fruit", this abstract creation of the mind, and therefore themselves abstract creations of the mind. hence what is delightful in this speculation is to rediscover all the real fruits there, but as fruits which have a higher mystical significance, which have grown out of the ether of your brain and not out of the material earth, which are incarnations of "the Fruit", of the Absolute Subject. When you return from the abstraction, the supernatural creation of the mind, "the Fruit", to real natural fruits, you give on the contrary the natural fruits a supernatural significance and transform them into sheer abstractions. Your main interest is then to point out the unity of "the Fruit" in all the manifestations of its life - the apple, the pear, the almond - that is to show the mystical interconnection between these fruits, how in each one of them "the Fruit" realises itself by degrees and necessarily progresses, for instance, from its existence as a raisin to its existence as an almond. Hence, the value of the ordinary fruits no longer consists in their natural qualities, but in their speculative quality, which gives each of them a definite place in the life-process of "the Absolute Fruit".

The ordinary man does not think he is saying anything extraordinary when he states that there are apples and pears. But when the philosopher expresses their existence in the speculative way he says something extraordinary. He performs a miracle by producing the real natural objects, the apple, the pear, etc. out of the unreal creation of the mind "the Fruit", i.e., by creating those fruits out of his own abstract reason, which he considers as an Absolute Subject outside himself, represented here as "the Fruit". And in regard to every object the existence of which he expresses, he accomplishes an act of creation.

It goes without saying that the speculative philosopher accomplishes this continuous creation only by presenting universally known qualities of the apple, the pear, etc., which exist in reality, as determinng features invented by him, by giving the names of real things to what abstract reason alone can create, to abstract formulas of reason, finally, by declaring his own activity, by which he passes from the idea of an apple to the idea of a pear, to be the self-activity of the Absolute Subject, "the Fruit".

In the speculative way of speaking, this operation is called comprehending Substance as Subject, as an inner process, as an Absolute Person, and this comprehension constitutes the essential character of Hegel's method.

These preliminary remarks were necessary to make Herr Szeliga intelligible. Only now, after dissolving real relations, e.g, law and civilisation, in the category of secret and thereby making "Secret" into Substance, does he rise to the true speculative, Hegelian height and transforms "Secret" into a self-existing Subject incarnating itself in real situations and persons so that the manifestations of its life are countesses, marquises, grisettes, porters, notaries and charlatans, and love intrigues, balls, wooden doors, etc. Having produced the category "Secret" out of the real world, he produces the real world out of this category.

The secrets of speculative construction in Herr Szeliga's presentation will be all the more visibly disclosed as he has an indisputable double advantage over Hegel. On the one hand, Hegel with masterly sophistry is able to present as a process of the imagined creation of the mind itself, of the Absolute Subject, the process by which the philosopher through sensory perception and imagination passes from one subject to another. On the other hand, however, Hegel very often gives a real presentation, embracing the thing itself, within the speculative presentation. This real development within the speculative development misleads the reader into considering the speculative development as real and the real as speculative.

With Herr Szeliga both these difficulties vanish. His dialectics have no hypocrisy or dissimulation. He performs his tricks with the most laudable honesty and the most ingenuous straightforwardness. But then he nowhere develops any real content, so that his speculative construction is free from all disturbing accessories, from all ambiguous disguises, and appeals to the eye in its naked beauty. In Herr Szeliga we also see a brilliant illustration of how speculation on the one hand apparently freely creates its object a priori out of itself and, on the other hand, precisely because it wishes to get rid by sophistry of the rational and natural dependence on the object, falls into the irrational and unnatural bondage to the object, whose most accidental and most individual attributes it is obliged to construe as absolutely necessary and general.