Bulletin N°557



1 February 2013
Grenoble, France

Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,

The renowned radical, and safely deceased, French philosophe, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), wrote an essay entitled “On the Origin of Languages” (published posthumously in 1781). He concluded this 75-page essay by lamenting that languages have lost much of their capacity for conveying meaning.

Thus we see how singing gradually became an art entirely separate from speech, from which it takes its origin; how the harmonics of sounds resulted in forgetting vocal inflections; and finally, how music , restricted to purely physical concurrences of vibrations, found itself deprived of the moral power it had yielded when it was a twofold voice of nature. (pp.71-72)

The languages develop naturally on the basis of men’s needs, changing and varying as those needs change. In ancient times, when persuasion played the role of public force, eloquence was necessary. Of what use would it be today, when public force has replaced persuasion.  . . .  Our popular tongues have become just as completely useless as eloquence. Societies have assumed their final form: no longer is anything changed except by arms and cash. And since there is nothing to say to people besides give money, it is said with placards on street corners and by soldiers in their homes. It is not necessary to assemble anyone for that. On the contrary, the subjects must be kept apart. That is the first maxim of modern politics. (p.72)

The spiritual capacity of our species to cognize and re-cognize, in a different time and space, was proof submitted by the German philosopher, Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) that reason is an inherited trait of our species. In his essay, “On the Origin of Language,” Herder asked toward the end of the 18th Century :

Why does thinking reasonably right always signify thinking with fully developed reason? Does the assertion that the infant thinks with reflection signify that it reasons like a sophist from his rostrum or a statesman in his cabinet? Happy and thrice happy that it knew nothing as yet of this tiring lumber of hair-splitting ratiocination! (p.112)

As little as the child has the claws of a griffon and the mane of a lion, as little can it think as griffons and lions do; but if it thinks as humans do, then reflection –that is to say, the tempering of all its powers in subservience to this major orientation—is as much its destiny at the first moment of its life as it will be at the last. (p.113)

These two essays --edited by John Moran and Alexander Gode, and first published by The Chicago University Press in 1966 under the title On the Origin of Language-- remain unsurpassed, according the many specialists, as philosophical inquires into the origins of language.


The 3 items below offer readers heuristic evidence that industrial capitalism is quickly approaching an impasse, and that desperate efforts by self-appointed elites to get it back on its feet may resuscitate an ugly phenomenon from the past, dating back to the 1920s . . . , only in a different guise. Like the proverbial frog placed in a pan of cool water sitting on a lit stove, we are cautioned to act while we are still able, and to not grow accustomed to the changing temperature until it is too late . . . .

Item A. is a lengthy article by San Francisco State University Professor of economic history, Douglas Dowd, on the historical calculus of labor exploitation  +  militarism  +  imperialism since the end of the First World War and the significance of growing inequalities in society today.

Item B., from Greg Palast, is an article explaining the “crime” of Aaron Swartz.

Item C., from Reader Supported News, is an article by Chris Hedges in praise folly. . . .


And finally, for readers interested in the art and science of community organizing, we offer this video describing experiences in this field of activity:

Organizing is Empowering

Francis Feeley
Professor of American Studies
University of Grenoble-3
Director of Research
University of Paris-Nanterre
Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements
The University of California-San Diego

P.S. From The 100th Monkey: An invitation to conference N° 3 in our series on “Community Organizing” : « Del Año 2013, THE YEAR OF COMMUNITY ORGANIZING. »


from  Douglas Dowd :
Date: 30 January 2013.
Subject: Deconstructing “friendly fascism”.

2013: Number One

by Douglas Dowd

From Greg Palast :
Date: 31 January 2013.
Subject: Understanding Aaron’s actions.

Aaron Swartz Died for Piers Morgan's Sins
by Greg Palast


from Chris Hedges :
Date: 20 January 2-13
Subject: Sanity vs. Madness.

A Time for ‘Sublime Madness’

by Chris Hedges