Bert Olivier

The shopping mall as consumer architecture

Referring to the moment, in Plato’s Symposium, where the lover supposedly beholds a completely disembodied, atemporal “beauty”, in the process conforming to the character of this abstraction, Kaja Silverman says (World Spectators, 2000: 10): “This deindividuation of the look represents a crucial feature of the process through which Socrates negates phenomenal forms. This is because…

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Guns, patriarchy and violence against women

In Ridley Scott’s (for a male director) astonishingly feminist film, Thelma and Louise (1991), there is a scene-sequence that graphically captures the indissoluble connection between patriarchal men and guns. And, at the same time, it shows how much the vaunted power of patriarchal men depends on their guns. The scene-sequence commences at that point in…

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The discourses directing our actions

During a discussion at a staff seminar today one of the participants, who teaches public administration, was explaining to the rest of us that in his research on, broadly speaking, the communication between government officials (including ministers) and ordinary citizens comprising various constituencies, he constantly comes across communicational gaps — between the documents released by…

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Drones: Panopticism intensified

Panopticism has just been ramped up a few notches. Panopticism is a Foucaultian concept (employed in Discipline and Punish) that encapsulates the paradigmatic condition of our society, namely that there is a pervasive tendency to subject all social life to modes of surveillance and judgement for purposes of disciplining the populace and ensure its economic…

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The discursive forces that shape our lives

The 21st-century world, and with it, our lives, are shaped by powerful discursive forces that are distinct from one another, but are nevertheless interrelated in complex ways. Sometimes they intertwine and reinforce one another, and sometimes they conflict, and the clash between discourses often spills over into the lives of ordinary (and sometimes high-profile) individuals…

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Is social equality an illusion?

Some people evidently thought that in my last post I was writing approvingly about Plato’s division of the community/society into three classes (philosopher-kings/queens — yes, he did allow for women in this category; protectors, and producers). Actually, I was not (as my response to Enough Said about classes indicated), although I admire Plato’s wisdom concerning…

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What politicians could learn from Plato

I am willing to bet that the vast majority of politicians in the world today do not give much thought to the relationship between governance and the “nature” of human beings. That is, how should one govern, given specific abilities, inclinations and dispositions on the part of the governed and the governing? Plato considered this…

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Lacan and Fowles on human knowledge

When I first read John Fowles’ wonderful counter-Bildung novel, The Magus, years ago, I had not read Jacques Lacan. When I finally did try to make sense of Lacan, after reading Freud, something Lacan says made me think back to The Magus. In The Other side of Psychoanalysis (2007: 23), Lacan makes this observation: “The…

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Don’t let the ANC bully you

I recall a conversation I had with my Iranian-American friend Farhang Erfani when I was living in the US and despairing for that country after George W Bush’s (to my mind) fraudulent election as president ahead of Al Gore. When I expressed my misgivings about America’s future under ”presidents” like George Dubya, he pointed out…

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A sci-fi novel that shaped a generation

When William Gibson’s science-fiction, “cyberpunk” novel Neuromancer, was published in 1984, ultimately winning the three most sought-after awards in the science-fiction world (The Nebula Award, The Philip K Dick Award and the Hugo Award) few people could prognosticate that it represented an imaginative projection of such magnitude that it would shape the way an entire…

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