Bingo in Utopia

by Kieran Healy on August 14, 2012

Will there be Bingo in Utopia? It is hard to say. The emancipatory potential of bingo as praxis has been criticized from the earliest days of modern social theory. In 1862 Marx was prompted to write the first draft of what became Theories of Surplus Value during very straitened financial circumstances (he had pawned the clothes of his children and his maid, Helene Demuth) brought on mostly by clandestine visits to an East London bingo emporium, where he would play games of “Housey-Housey” while his wife Jenny believed him to be at the British Library conducting research. The game itself was for some time believed to be mentioned by Marx directly in a well-known if difficult section of the Grundrisse:

Capital’s ceaseless striving towards the general form of wealth drives labour beyond the limits of its natural paltriness, and thus creates the material elements for the development of the rich individuality which is as all-sided in its production as in its consumption, and whose labour also therefore appears no longer as labour, but as the full development of bingo itself, in which natural necessity in its direct form has disappeared; because natural need has been replaced by historically produced need.

This passage provoked considerable confusion—and a substantial amount of theoretical debate—amongst the small circle of scholars who had access to it from 1935 onwards.

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Twilight of the WASPS, Slippery Slopes

by John Holbo on August 14, 2012

Bit quiet around here and I’m totally swamped, man. But here’s my one thought, after the Ryan nomination. There are no WASPS on either ticket, either for President or VP. Also, there are no WASPS on the Supreme Court. Also, the Speaker of the House is a Catholic and the Senate Majority Leader is a Mormon. It’s a political commonplace that it’s pretty damn crazy that a black man named Barack Hussein Obama got elected President. But suppose you went back in time – set the Wayback Machine for ‘Best and the Brightest’ – so you could listen to all the botheration about Kennedy running for President. Suppose you could just interject: ‘dudes, dudes, in just 50 years, a Mormon and a Black man will be duking it out for President, and that’ll be a big deal, granted. But there will be no WASPS whatsoever at the absolute top of the political system, and people won’t even notice. Get over it.’

In other news, I was recently rereading Anscombe on contraception. And really it’s just a Dan Savage column, with modus tollens in for modus ponens at every second sentence. If contraception is ok, then we are obviously thinking about sex and love in a way that makes gay marriage ok. (Obviously it’s also less fun to read than a Dan Savage column, but not as much less fun as you’d think.)

And I was recently rereading James Fitzjames Stephens, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. Stephens is obviously the ‘conservative’, rebutting Mill, the ‘liberal’. But in a lot of ways their positions don’t track contemporary notions. For example, Stephens is very opposed to the state tolerating lots of little heterodox churches. No. The state should do its best to figure out which one is best and sponsor it. (Theological spin on industrial policy and ‘picking winners’.) The proof, offered in passing: anything else and you’ll end up having to tolerate Mormonism. Which is obviously not on.

The world does turn.