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This section from Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement reminded me of my favourite line from Lester Freeman in The Wire. The substance of the lives we lead is mundane, reproducing who we are in circumstances which remain roughly the same. However we are culturally surrounded with representations of life which are preoccupied by change, continuity, […]

I found this section by Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore really arresting to read a couple of months into the Covid-19 crisis, from loc 216 -231 of their A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things. Cascading failures brought feudalism to an end but there were long struggles as elites resisted demands for change but without having the […]

I thought this was a really interesting insight on 44-45 of Steve Fuller’s Humanity 2.0: Setting aside the prescience – or not – of these works when it comes to genetic transformation and more radical future embodiments for humanity, they provide the trace of what remained of sociology’s original non-academic impulse after much, if not […]

This passage from Ian McEwan’s Machines Like Me (pg 108) resonated horribly with me at a time when universities are freezing their recruitment: There were a lot like me in the neighbourhood, but thirty or forty years older. I had seen them in Simon’s shop, reaching for the quality journals from the top shelf. I […]

On Ian McEwan’s Machines Like Me pg 96 there’s a lovely description of the mundane reality of reflexivity, as well as our tendency to assume other people could not possibly notice it: My days sometimes began with an unspoken soliloquy. A matter of seconds, usually after shaving. I dried my face, looked myself in the […]

I’m slowly getting my head around how the arrangement of agriculture, with its co-ordination of animals in time and space, creates the conditions in which viruses are incubated, as Catharine Arnold explains in her Pandemic 1918: Little did doctors suspect, during the First World War, that ducks operated as a ‘reservoir’ for bird flu viruses, littering […]

I’ve spent the last couple of years grappling with the notion of ‘post-truth’ in order to understand the changing social and political context within which academics are using social media. It’s a term I’m instinctively wary of because it so often fails to transcend the level of platitude, enabling people to dismiss political currents they […]

This was a succinct summary by Laurie Macfarlane of the emerging interface between a US national security apparatus seeking to ward off the growing power of China and a Big Tech apparatus in Silicon Valley seeking to ward off the threat of regulation. His excellent essay shows how this will become more significant in the […]

This is the last thing I’ll post about Žižek’s Pandemic! eBook but I thought these observations about what I’ve come to think of as Covid temporalities, the distinct temporal experiences of crisis and lockdown, were very useful. On loc 396 he considers the inevitability of ‘dead time’ during those who can lockdown during this crisis […]

There’s a familiar dystopian character to the (middle-class) experience of lockdown, conveyed by Slavoj Zizek on loc 384-396 of his Pandemic: Many dystopias already imagine a similar future: we stay at home, work on our computers, communicate through videoconferences, exercise on a machine in the corner of our home office, occasionally masturbate in front of […]

From Zizek’s Pandemic! loc 396: The abandoned streets in a megalopolis—the usually bustling urban centers looking like ghost towns, stores with open doors and no customers, just a lone walker or a single car here and there, provide a glimpse of what a non-consumerist world might look like. The melancholic beauty of the empty avenues […]

From Zizek’s Pandemic! loc 439: What this contrast tells us is that panic is not a proper way to confront a real threat. When we react in panic, we do not take the threat seriously—we, on the contrary, trivialize it. Just think how ridiculous is the notion that having enough toilet paper would matter in […]

This point made by Benjamin Bratton, in a personal conversation quoted by Zizek in Pandemic!, makes an important point about how we categorise state action in a crisis like this. From loc 523: China introduced measures that Western Europe and the USA are unlikely to tolerate, perhaps to their own detriment. Put bluntly, it is […]

I’m not searching for self-plagiarism but I increasingly spot it when reading. It’s a vague itch of “I’ve read this before” and the search facilities of digital books (Google Books, Kindle etc) makes it easier than ever to confirm. I noticed recently that a paragraph of Zizek’s recent Russia Today pieces on Covid-19 (which one […]

I thought this was an interesting extract from Imperial Messenger concerning Thomas Friedman’s advocacy of a digital imperative (‘get-wired-or-die’) which he himself is insulated from. As Belén Fernández writes on loc 668: Quoted in Foreign Policy as saying “I talk the talk of technology, but I don’t walk the walk,” Friedman elsewhere admits to not knowing how […]