Okay so two pre-snark qualifiers. One, despite my snark I’m totally gonna buy this book eventually. Two, I realize it’s stupid to talk about a book I haven’t read and that it’s a cheap shot to respond to a publisher’s blurb.

Nevertheless:
ARGH!!

The blurb says that the book talks about volume 1 of Capital as “an experiment in constructing the figure or model of the inexpressible phenomenon that is capital.” What on earth is “the inexpressible phenomenon that is capital” supposed to mean? More to the point, why do people talk this way and find this type of speech appealing? Ugh.

In a recent post Reid said “As my recent work has drawn me more and more out of the continental and into the analytic tradition, I can’t help but sympathize with the assessment (…) that the majority of people working in the former are producing work with lower standards of rigor. (…) The problem is that less is expected and required of them.” Seems to me this blurb is a case in point.

I had a creative writing teacher once, an older guy, he talked about trends in student fiction, he said something like “young people tend to write work that is both extreme and abstract, making their work sort of like the Tasmanian Devil in the Bugs Bunny cartoons – you get that it’s extreme, and that conveys something, but it’s unclear what it’s conveying.” I very much like music that does this, though I find this quality annoying in lyrics. Anyway, this too seems to me an apt description for this blurb-speak.

I’d imagine that in some settings this sort of remark elicits scrunched eyebrows, a slight squinting of the eyes, a slight cocking of the head and maybe a jutting of the chin, probably a slow head nod, perhaps a thoughtful placing of chin in hand… — the body languages that conveys “hmm, yes, interesting, yes, provocative” and “notice that I understand, and that I contemplate” and “I enjoy partaking of our shared profundity.” What it ought to elicit is an eyeroll and a throaty disparaging sigh.

I now end with an appropriately important quote.

“When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance, let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames, for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.”

David Hume, An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding

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