John Berger guested on BBC Radio 4's "Front Row" show yesterday to discuss Bento's Sketchbook, and how his relationship with Britain has changed since he moved to live in France.
Visit the BBC to listen to the interview in full.
Susan Mansfield interviews John Berger for the Scotsman. Discussing the relationship between Spinoza's philosophy, Berger's drawings, and ways of understanding the world, Mansfield questions Berger's understanding of hope:
Spinoza has been a favourite of Berger's since he was a teenager, "when I read not always understanding, perhaps very seldom". In the writing of the book, he regarded the philosopher more as a "companion" than a "master". Both Berger and Spinoza share a fascination with the nature of looking: Bento worked as a lens grinder in the new science of optics; both men liked to draw. "Right from the beginning, I didn't think it was a book about Spinoza. I thought of it as a book about the world we are living in, and which so often we refuse to look at, for the good and the bad. The project was to try to see the world today in which we are living."
In his introductory remarks at the recent Anarchist Turn conference at the New School, Simon Critchley, author of Infinitely Demanding, recalled being handed photocopies of a text from a then-virtually-unknown French journal called Tiqqun. At the time, the second New School student occupation was underway, and hundreds of polices officers had descended upon the school, pepper-spraying students, using force and arresting many. A few months later, Glenn Beck devoted one of his signature tirades to The Coming Insurrection (whose alleged authors have been associated with Tiqqun), which brought the group into the American public consciousness and made the book into a bestseller. “This is quite possibly the most evil thing I've ever read,” Beck had said.
Ed Cumming reviews Intern Nation for the Telegraph, calling the book "well-researched and timely." Describing how work experience and internship culture has recently become politicised in Britain, Cumming suggests that both Britain and the United States are
[S]uffering an epidemic of unpaid labour. With graduates more abundant than ever, and graduate jobs ever scarcer, it has become near compulsory for young people entering the labour market to suffer a period of working for low pay or, often, for none at all...
Parliament is accused of “jaw-dropping hypocrisy” about its army of free workers, estimated to provide 18,000 hours of free labour per week...
Intern Nation contains plenty of lessons for Britain. It was interesting to note that Germany and Switzerland, both of which have recovered faster than Britain from the recession, have lower rates of internship and higher rates of traditional apprenticeship.
On Wednesday June 1st, WNYC's Brian Lehrer spoke to Ross Perlin on air about his new book Intern Nation and the good the bad and the ugly of internships.
Several listeners called in to join the discussion and share their own diverse experiences with internships, and you can read additional comments to the segment by visiting wnyc.org.
On Wednesday May 25th, The Bonds of Debt: Borrowing Against the Common Good was launched in New York with an event at Brecht Forum, where author Richard Dienst was joined by Jeremy Glick, Randy Martin and Bruce Robbins for a discussion entitled, "On the Politics of Indebtedness." Thanks to Richard Dienst for allowing us to make his opening remarks available here on the Verso blog.
It would be hard to speak at the Brecht Forum without invoking Brecht himself. You can get a good idea of what he thought about financiers in St. Joan of the Stockyards and especially The Threepenny Novel, but here I'd like to quote a very simple note on his crucial notion of "Eingreifendes Denken," or "interventionist thinking:"
Interventionist thought is not only thought that intervenes in the economy, but primarily is thought that intervenes in thought in respect to the economy. [Brecht on Art and Politics, 96]
It's an elementary dialectical lesson: one cannot offer a critique of the economic system without somehow fighting over the words we use, whether specialized and common-sensical, to talk about economic circumstances. So, alongside descriptions of how capitalism works and histories of its development and dead-ends, we need to keep "refunctioning" the very terms in which we try to get a grip on the situation in which we find ourselves.
This book [The Bonds of Debt] is an attempt to "refunction" the notions of debt and indebtedness. I'm not alone in arguing that indebtedness has achieved a special kind of universality and intensity in the current moment. Yet even though it's everywhere, it's hard to talk about debt, first of all because it's an ugly word and an uncomfortable notion: there's nothing inspiring about debt, except insofar as it inspires guilt or shame, that sinking feeling of being weighed down by obligations. That is why debt, which can never be a simple economic arrangement, is often treated in theological terms, as a kind of original sin, or, alternately, as Nietzsche does, as something grounded in the foundational crimes of human society.