« Welcome! | Main | Ross McPherson »

class update

Hi Folks,

The readings are available, but I realize now that there are too many of them. So, please prioritize the Arrighi (both), the symposium on Brenner in NLR (3 essays: Crafts, Aglietta, Yamamura), and the Kassabian. The Brenner itself should mainly be skimmed (the 5-page preface might be a good place to focus). Also, the piece by Anderson summarizes Arrighi's ideas in Adam Smith in Beijing, so you might want to skim pp. 30-37 of that article if you want help making sense of the Arrighi.

The Kassabian chapter is the first of our supplementary methodological readings, giving us the basic vocabulary dealing with film music. In light of this, please watch "Chainsaw Maid" on YouTube and we'll discuss this; feel free to bring other relevant examples (esp. if you can find them online). Think about sound/music in this, and also see what you can find out about the filmmaker (I haven't found much) and possible source influences, etc. Website on YouTube is:


And, The helicopter scene from Apocalypse Now (mentioned by Kassabian) can be seen at:



Hello, everyone! My computer is behaving somewhat erratically this evening and I don’t want to repeat what anyone else has said, but I'm afraid I haven't seen the other posts yet. That being said, here’s hoping for the best. As I am sadly almost completely ignorant of fairly basic economic theory, I think my best contribution to this discussion would be in the formation of a few questions I have.
I especially appreciated the second Arrighi reading, and would have liked to have seen responses to it in the form of those written for the Brenner. One question I left with in the end, though, has to do with this four part division: east and west, and north and south. I took the liberty to infer from this (hopefully with some direction from the author) that there is some kind of standing cooperation between northern powers, even as they cut across north and south. Obviously, this can be seen to some degree in the cooperation (of a sort) between Japan and the US. But obviously there are all kinds of divisions, and “The East? becomes sticky as the Japanese economy becomes inextricably linked to the US. Moreover, East and West itself becomes problematic when a behemoth like the US pops up. Is Germany in the East? I mean, honestly? The answer seems to lie somehow in types of power struggles, but that dynamic is more material in the north/south binary.
So I guess the question for me becomes, if we use Jameson’s definition of the first, second, and third world (or at least that definition I’ve come to adopt as a result of reading a little bit of Jameson), how do the elements of North/South, East/West fit in there, or are the two systems charting completely different territories? Moreover, if Arrighi foresees changes in one binary (specifically East/West), what impact does that have for changes in the other (North/South)? Why does Arrighi seem to see China as being motivated to (or capable of?) strengthening the global south? What is the global south?
Also, and this is another matter all together, why is there an emphasis in the Arrighi (especially, but also to a lesser extent in the Brenner symposium authors, especially Yamamura) on “educated labor??
As for the Brenner symposium, I appreciated the wealth of information in manageable doses, but I did leave unconvinced of a few things. Generally, I don’t see the motivation for a belief that trends will continue along the trajectories the authors are setting them on (in this regard I was more appreciative of the Craft, even if I hate to be a Doubting Thomas). For instance, in the Aglietta, why would we expect China to continue to grow at a rate double that of the developed nations? Of course, we do see the “catch-up? phenomenon at work, but what is odd is that Yamamura as well observes that the “leaders? are slowing down, and this adversely affects the economies of those who are trying to “catch-up.? But, in fact, Aglietta says that the slow down in the US will actually allow China to catch-up faster. Here my ignorance of economics leaves me floundering.
Another question I had related to the fact that all throughout the symposium there was reference to the failure in Iraq. While I should hope no one is going to question that Iraq was an abysmal failure, I fail to see how it was a failure in the assertion of US hegemony, at least in the same way that Vietnam was. The parallels between Vietnam and Iraq are disturbing, but I’m not yet convinced this is one of them, and the authors simply take it as a given. I assume there is some pre-existing body of literature to which this refers, but maybe someone can key me in.
The Yamamura is especially interesting, but I did get a little lost as to why we should not expect this third cycle of technological innovation to proceed as did the other two. Or, should we expect to see it in China, a realization of the assertion made by Aglietta which I have already questioned?
Well, I hope that this is received as the extremely “bloggish? post I intended it to be. I’m afraid I’ve rambled on a bit, and since I haven’t seen any other posts, I should probably leave it at that. I’ll look forward to seeing you all tomorrow!

I was very interested in Arrighi’s discussion of China’s recent economic ascendance, (echoed by Aglietta) as a function of its ability to mobilize its rural population into a powerful labor force, most specifically how the economy’s dependence on human labor makes economic production more cost effective because the bulk of production has less to do with complex and expensive machinery and relies primarily on the labor force which he characterizes as fairly self-directed and self-monitoring. What does China’s use of human labor as a method to propel growth say about the economic paradigm shift? Will human labor become a primary function for growth? How might we consider this in comparison to the digital economy, where profit and growth are largely driven by the cheap or free labor of users who produce content?
Arrighi’s argument echoes that of Brenner’s; however, Aglietta, Crafts, and Yamamura all seem to agree that Brenner’s analysis of the United States decline since the 1970s overstates the issue and denies many of the nuances that mitigate the possibilities that the US will yield to economies like China and India. Without any background in economics; I take all the concerns raised equally but can’t align myself with one argument. However, what is of great interest to me here is the characterizations of East and West that are emerging from this shift? Are we witnessing a shift in the ways we talk about liberalism, capitalism, socialism? Does a discourse on the decline of the West and the rise of the East challenge orientalism, or west-centric ideas of spaciality and temporality?
I was very interested in Kassabian’s article, especially in the description of cinematic score terms that I know will provide a useful template for our work here. Also, I liked his suggestion that Eisler and Adorno are limited by their notion of music as nonrepresentational. I was surprised by Chainsaw Maid especially the ways in which sound carried the narrative by communicating tension and the presence of danger, which produced a real reaction in me, despite the childlike and unintimidating medium of claymation. In the past, I have done some television analysis of MTV reality shows so I was interested in analyzing these texts through sound studies. For these shows, the plot is entirely carried by the music scored for the show. Here, emotion is communicated by the type of song playing under the actors, whose actions are relatively uncommunicative. I was also interested in “quotation? in the prevalence of Motown music in mainstream romantic comedies since I think, The Big Chill (1983) and thinking about what is being communicated here.