Wednesday, July 18, 2012

2012 Presidential politics. Literary criticism for the 2012 presidential election. Joel Nickels. The Poetry of the Possible: Spontaneity, Modernism and the Multitude.

Presidential politics and the 2012 election.  Literary criticism for the 2012 presidential election.  Joel Nickels.  The Poetry Of The Possible:  Spontaneity, Modernism And The Multitude.

Last weekend President Obama stirred up a debate when he observed that businesses succeed from the toil of workers and the brains of government employees and officials.  A business owner’s contribution to an enterprise is only one part of the social efforts that create wealth. 

The President didn’t expand the proposition to its obvious corollary, namely that workers and government are entitled to the full measure of wealth that their muscles and brains create.

The best summary of the President’s point was made in the on-line Christian Science Monitor by guest writer Jeffrey R. Cornwall: “Business success takes a village.”  This builds on Hilary Clinton's memorable book title It Takes A Village To Raise A Child.

The best detailed discussion of the social theories underpinning the President’s comment is a small volume released by the University of Minnesota Press, by coincidence, on the same weekend that the President made his comments.  

The book of literary criticism is the Poetry Of The Possible:  Spontaneity, Modernism And The Multitude.  

This is a small volume that looks at the work of four Twentieth Century poets through the lens of a Marxist critique.  This insightful book is the work of University of Miami (Florida) professor Joel Nickels.

The poets discussed by Professor Nickels are William Carlos Williams, Wyndham Lewis, Laura Riding and Wallace Stevens.

Except for Laura Riding, these are names of poets that most of us will recognize.  Laura Riding is less well-known.  An explanation is hinted at deep in the book’s page of copyright permissions.  Jackson’s “… Board of Literary Management asks us to record that, in 1941, Laura (Riding) Jackson renounced, on the grounds of linguistic principle, the writing of poetry; she had come to hold that “poetry obstructs general attainment to something better in our linguistic way-of-life than we have.”

The issues that these poets explored in their writings include the creation of economic value, the leadership of production and politics and the distribution of wealth.  These are the same themes that are central to understanding President Obama’s remarks.

That these poets are being analyzed through a Marxist lens is hammered home through repetitive use of the adjective “collective.”  In the first two dozen pages of the book, we learn of the collective world, collective body, collective virtuosity, collective life, collective existence, collective power of large groups, collective processes, collective powers of judgment and mediation, collective potentiality, collective phenomenon, collective spontaneity, collective world and collective manifestation of spirit.

The President's point is that business success is the work product of a community. There is an extensive literature that expounds the theoretical basis for the President's remark.

If you want a full discussion of the theoretical writingss for President Obama’s comments about sharing the fruits of business success, order a copy of Professor Nickels’ book. 

The book is available from Amazon and the University of Minnesota Press.

The Editorial Collective of WCRX-LP, 102.1 FM.

Postscript: today's mail includes the new issue (No. 20) of The Baffler with Christopher Lasch's "Life and Times of a Libertine" where I read "The part I played could have been played by hundreds of others; fortune alone assigned it to me."  Seems to be the same issues as in Nickels' The Poetry Of The Possible.


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