on the fetish character of theory and the regression of reading

The seductive power of sensual charm survives only where the forces of denial are strongest. If asceticism once reacted against the sensuous aesthetic, asceticism has today become the sign of advanced art. All “light” and pleasant art has become illusory and false. What makes its appearance esthetically in the pleasure categories can no longer give pleasure. The musical consciousness of the masses today is “displeasure in pleasure” — the unconscious recognition of “false happiness.”

–Adorno, “On the Fetish-Character in Music and the Regression of Listening,” 1938

Jeff Guhin innocently posted to Facebook that “doing a lecture on Habermas is ridiculous.” He may well be right, for many different kinds of reasons. But in the (lengthy!) conversation that followed, two critiques were raised that I think deserve separate treatment. They are:

  1. That much theory, including Habermas and, all the more so, his Frankfurt predecessors, is too difficult to read to make it worthwhile; and
  2. Reading theorists like Habermas is really mostly about the history of social thought and has no payoff for empirical or analytical sociology.

I think both of these are wrong.

Continue reading “on the fetish character of theory and the regression of reading”

grad skool rulz

Truly: if you are a graduate student and feel this way about it, quit. Now. Also, if you have a blog about exposing classism and have no more perspective than this on the privilege of being in the academy versus the bottom of the labor market, quit. Now.

(Well, except for #1. #1 is a good point. And #14.)

UPDATE: The question arose in the comments of whether this is satire. I think, sure, it’s satire in the sense of “this person is trying to be funny and is likely not claiming that, as a factual matter, working at McDonald’s is a fully superior job than being a grad student.” It would have worked better, though, as a satire-parody of that small proportion of graduate students who take the real difficulties of student life and transform them into delusional levels of self-pity.

asa ballots

American Sociological Association ballots are now out. I’ve posted my ballots some times in the past, but will refrain from doing so this year. The blogging community may wish to note, however, the presence of Kieran Healy on the ballot for committee on publications. Rumor is that our generous pals over at orgtheory are promising drinks for everyone–literally, multiple drinks, for every single member of ASA, including compulsory drinking for teetotalers–if he wins.

goodbye, dad

I am out at my parents’ house in California this week, working through some tough times again. My father’s battle with Alzheimer’s came to an end, and as usual, Alzheimer’s won. Memorial services for my dad will be tomorrow. I am so thankful that I arrived in time to see my dad one last time, and to tell him stories about his grandson and tell him how much I love him. He was only awake for about half an hour, and he couldn’t talk at all, even though he had so much to say. He clapped his hands to show me he was happy to see me and the rest of the family. Then, he fell asleep, and his embattled brain continued turning off the light switches and shutting the blinds until he passed away last Saturday night.

Continue reading “goodbye, dad”

dong redux

dentalbill

I received my dental bill from Dr. Dong today. It was handwritten. Should I think this is weird? And, if weird, is it weird in a hipster-down-home-indie-dentist way, or just weird in a bad way?

Also: Dial Idol and the prediction markets still think that Scatterplot’s own David Cook is going to win American Idol despite the best efforts of the judges to crown his competitor, the sounds-great-until-you-realize-he-does-not-actually-have-a-soul and you-would-die-if-you-had-to-listen-to-an-entire-album-of-his David Archuleta. If they are right, my faith in democracy continues to swell. (Although I’m suspicious that the Dial Idol results are just a ruse intended to keep the outcome in suspense instead of Archuleta being the obvious winner.)