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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: September ::
Re: Tillyard (Again)
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1751  Monday, 8 September 2003

[1]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Sunday, 7 Sep 2003 20:33:26 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1738 Re: Tillyard (Again)

[2]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Sunday, 7 Sep 2003 17:32:42 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1738 Re: Tillyard (Again)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Sunday, 7 Sep 2003 20:33:26 +0100
Subject: 14.1738 Re: Tillyard (Again)
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1738 Re: Tillyard (Again)

Don Bloom wrote

>. . . what does "capitalist lie" mean? I am accustomed to
>thinking that lying is done by people, but I don't know
>who the people are that are propounding this lie.  Are
>they capitalists themselves? Or economic philosophers writing
>on behalf of capitalism? Or even both?

In the expression "capitalist lie", capitalist is being used as an
adjective. Equally, one might want to refer to the 'Nazi lie' that
international Jewry was conspiring to sap the German people of their
natural vigour. That lie would be 'Nazi' in the sense of supporting the
aims of that movement and would be repeated by members of it and, quite
possibly, by people who began to think it true even though they weren't
members.

>Secondarily, where is this lie being promulgated? Learned
>journals? Op-ed pages? TV talk shows of the shouted-insult
>variety? The Petroleum Club of Houston? That is, where can
>I find it stated by some one who qualifies as an economic
>philosopher and who has been alive within the
>past century?

The "capitalist lie" that Clifford referred to is quite probably
promulgated in all those places. The lie, we should recall, is that ". .
. the free market expresses natural laws of economic relations". Funnily
enough, when Enron collapsed I jokingly asked the (then) Finance
Director of Shakespeare's Globe, London, Philip Young, whether the event
signalled the final end of capitalism. He responded that, no, capitalism
could not end because it expresses natural laws of economic relations.
On this, of course, we amicably disagreed.

I should imagine that the sort of work Philip did (and, indeed, still
does for another employer) put him in situations where he would
frequently hear this 'lie' (as I hold it to be) and I don't doubt that
he believed it. I hold that harm is done by the spread of this untruth,
and I am sure that Philip holds that harm is done by my denying the
truth of it.

Sean Lawrence wrote about the apparent complicity with evil in which one
may find oneself:

>Even my wife's ethical fund found, to its embarrassment,
>that it held participation units in the TSE, which included
>shares in Nabisco, which owns tobacco concerns, which
>give people cancer. Should we include everyone with a
>bank account (since banks have investments)? or everyone
>who has ever handled money? Would we include charities
>or international development agencies that hold investments?
>What about third-world micro-credit schemes, since they
>raise some of their capital on the international bond market?

One cannot, of course, detach oneself from the modern world.  Many
people (myself included) would want to stay aware of the worst excesses
of capitalism and resist them where possible*, but all the while arguing
that the problems are truly structural.  Capitalism is bound to do these
bad things and a fully transformed future can only be built on its
entire overthrow.

Gabriel Egan

* One should, then, avoid buying McDonalds food, petroleum products made
by Esso (Exxon) and Shell, and fruit from Israel. This list could, of
course, go on and on, but I imagine that I will get sufficient hate-mail
for mentioning this tiny subset of the world's 'most wicked'; and
especially for mentioning the last one.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Sunday, 7 Sep 2003 17:32:42 -0400
Subject: 14.1738 Re: Tillyard (Again)
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1738 Re: Tillyard (Again)

Marcus wrote:

>This discussion I fear has become too broad and too unwieldy to be
>called philosophical - comparisons between 'Marxists' and 'Capitalists'
>and the naming of various different poets / authors as if that were
>argument (e.g. Sir Phillip Sidney of course explicitly argued against
>Plato's exclusion of poets from the Republic and the implication of the
>division between mimesis and diegesis etc) does not yield useful
>results.
snip
>I am thus of the 'capitalist' opinion with Hume et al. that art though
>it can be banned (as I think your examples are meant to show) for being
>offensive to certain sensibilities is not (as Wilde of course argued to
>his cost) didactic (and is not either the proper subject of
>philosophical debate as to 'argument' or 'quality' - it being a matter
>of 'taste').

Sidney was not arguing a unique position. Shakespeare distinguishes
himself among Elizabethan poets in, similarly to Milton, not showing his
didactic hand. The idea that art should not convey ideals, values, and
specific political biases is an invention of the post-Miltonic West.
Isn't it curious that all my examples were premodern and yours: D.H.
Lawrence, Oscar Wilde, etc. were products of privatized, corporatized,
modern capitalism? From Gorboduc forward, Elizabethan literature fought
tooth and nail to establish hegemonic ideological control over the
public political discourse. Surely the long list of imprisoned,
tortured, maimed, and executed artists among Shakespeare's
contemporaries was not the consequence of their bad taste?  Surely the
centuries long dispute over whether Cromwell or Charles II is meant by
Milton's Satan has not been carried on by "undergraduates" alone.

That the apolitical aspect of art is a capitalist lie was admittedly an
egregious oversimplification. But I feel a little silly defending ideas
that are not particularly original. Please see Marx, Althusser, Jameson,
ad infinitum. Milton, of course, wrote numerous didactic essays. Are we
to believe that in his most impassioned works he abandoned the
convictions he uncompromisingly advocated his whole life simply because
he declined to make them explicit in a repressive state? The idea that
art should not venture beyond aesthetics is nowhere in evidence in
non-capitalist societies and only in the hegemonic modes of production
of capitalist economies.

>As we all should know on SHAKSPER, every quote from a Shakespeare text
>in which 'Shakespeare' is interpreted to offer his opinion is taken from
>the mouth of a character (the plays) or a persona (the poetry) which can
>never be satisfactorily aligned to express belief (unlike the spurious
>Catholic 'Testament' of John Shakespeare for example) of 'the man' from
>Stratford - unlike (and this is my point) the writings of Marx or any
>other 'author' who wishes to express his personal opinion about the
>nature of things in direct prose.

Kyd was racked in the tower, Horatio. Not Shakespeare, but one of his
Choruses wished that probably Essex return soon from Ireland with
"rebellion broached on his sword" (an ambiguous phrase if you ask me)
and that all the citizens of London come out to meet him. Elizabeth
complained that some version of Richard II, maybe Shakespeare's,
advocated her overthrow. Pace Larry Weiss, Richard III and Macbeth
cannot be misunderstood as counter-revolutionary by even the most
apolitical aesthete.

Don wrote:

>Secondarily, where is this lie being promulgated? Learned journals?
>Op-ed pages? TV talk shows of the shouted-insult variety? The Petroleum
>Club of Houston? That is, where can I find it stated by some one who
>qualifies as an economic philosopher and who has been alive within the
>past century? (I don't doubt that such people exist but I dislike
>generic terms like "capitalist," especially when human activities like
>lying are concerned.  Some persons must be doing the lying -- who are
>they?)

The list is long, but you might start with the "New Critics." The most
effective lies are not made explicit where they might be explicitly
refuted.  They are implied by movies, books, and tv sitcoms that manage
to dance around class warfare or lose themselves in identity politics
where historical dialectics are obscured and the legitimacy of the
forces of their capitalist production remain unthreatened.

>Another ground of puzzlement: do they really claim that capitalism is
>not an ideology? I thought (innocent that I am) that any -ism was by
>definition something that people believed in? Are there any
>non-ideological -isms? (Or are we using a philosophical term like
>capitalist where a more sound, descriptive term -- such as merchant,
>industrial tycoon, robber baron, thug or President -- might better
>serve?)

No, there is no "capitalist manifesto." George Bush never uses the term.
The war in Vietnam was fought for "democracy and freedom" just as is the
war in Iraq. That freedom means free enterprise, free markets, free
corporations, and not by no means free people, is never stated in public
as it would alienate the vast majority of the working class for whom
these freedoms are anathema.

>Finally, I think I understand what he means by "art is merely
>aesthetic," that is, it produces delight but no real instruction -- what
>Gradgrind would say. But that's Gradgrind. To what extent do a few, or
>even many, wealthy bozos represent an economic philosophy?

I think this question is for Marcus? Although as a Shakespearean I doubt
that he's particularly wealthy.

>To drag this back to the subject at hand, if we're going to consider
>Shakespeare in the light of economic theory (don't ask me to, but some
>people love it), we have to keep our terms clear. I got the feeling that
>Clifford was using "capitalist" as a straw man, but that probably isn't
>really the case.

Living in New York, I am surrounded by capitalists. They work on Wall
Street. They trade stocks. They like to think as Mayor Bloomberg, one of
the few politicians to use the term, that capitalism is spreading peace,
prosperity, democracy, and stability around the world. They are
mistaken.  The corporate driven mass media Disneyland in which they have
resided these thirty years insulated them from the knowledge of the
effects of unbridled profit driven markets on the poor and disempowered
in other countries, until, after Enron and WorldCom, the Dow Jones
dropped 900 points in 2000 and the evil terrorists obligingly appeared
in 2001. They are now able to discuss the Northeast blackout as a
consequence of deregulation, and with luck, they will all be discussing
capitalism as an -ism before long.

Finally Sean:

>This is to speak rather broadly of "capitalist imperialists". Even my
>wife's ethical fund found, to its embarrassment, that it held
>participation units in the TSE, which included shares in Nabisco, which
>owns tobacco concerns, which give people cancer. Should we include
>everyone with a bank account (since banks have investments)? or everyone
>who has ever handled money? Would we include charities or international
>development agencies that hold investments? What about third-world
>micro-credit schemes, since they raise some of their capital on the
>international bond market?
>
>More importantly, if historical forces are used as excuses by
>"capitalist imperialists" as well as war criminals, then this is all the
>more reason to refocus attention on the actions of individuals, rather
>than the historical and economic forces by reference to which they
>attempt to excuse themselves but also within which they attempt to
>achieve their goals for good or ill. And an emphasis upon impersonal
>historical forces over individual choices is, I would suggest, one of
>the larger influences of Marxist thought on literary criticism and the
>social sciences generally.

There is just too much conflation of terms in this very legitimate
position for me to deal with. Historical forces produce dialectical
oppositions between class interests. The interests of those who own
property are diametrically opposed to those of those who work for wages.
Those who do both, which is now about half (we're given to believe) of
the populations of the richest countries, have conflicts of interests
(how convenient for those completely on the propertied side who did not
take such a bath when the market crashed). The theory that making
corporations richer and more powerful "lifts all boats," that removing
regulations and tax burdens from corporations "tinkles down" on the
working class was refuted by avowed socialists and communists when it
became an explicit ideology under Ronald Reagan, and is, in my opinion,
confirmed with every new nightmare of the twenty-first century. That a
position can be used as an excuse does not mean that it must be. If we
are to focus on individuals, let's not lose sight of the historical
forces that determine the options from which we now have to choose.

Please, please, I really MUST get back to my dissertation.

Clifford Stetner

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