Soap Zero 2: Enlightenment Interrupted


German Idealism and the Enlightenment are the subjects this week as Michael Steinberg discuss his book “Enlightenment Interrupted.” Steinberg is an independent scholar and practicing attorney with a PhD in intellectual history from the University of Rochester. His book “Enlightenment Interrupted (The Lost Moment of German Idealism and the Reactionary Present)” came out from Zero Books in July of this year.

Previous books from Mr. Steinberg include The Fiction of a Thinkable World and A New Biology of Religion.

Professor Andrew Nash at the University of Cape Town praised the book. He wrote, “Michael Steinberg’s “Enlightenment Interrupted” is a master class and a rollercoaster ride, all at once. The pitfalls of abstract individualism have been pointed out since Hegel, and explaining them has been central to radical political thought for fifty years by now. But it’s never been easy to grasp concretely how that separation of self and world came about, and what the alternative to it could have been.”

Diet Soap Podcast #221: The Making of Indebted Man


Nietzsche and Marx are the primary subjects this week as Daniel Coffeen and I discuss the book The Making of Indebted Man.

The MIT press website describes the thesis of the book as follows:

The debtor-creditor relation, which is at the heart of this book, sharpens mechanisms of exploitation and domination indiscriminately, since, in it, there is no distinction between workers and the unemployed, consumers and producers, working and non-working populations, between retirees and welfare recipients. They are all “debtors,” guilty and responsible in the eyes of capital, which has become the Great, the Universal, Creditor.

You might guess that I, being a wannabe Marxist, take some issue with that description of Capital, but Coffeen and I found points of agreement along the way in this conversation, both with each other and with the author Maurizio Lazaarato.

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Diet Soap Podcast #220: Karl Marx’s Reluctant Idealism


Karl Marx and Hegel are the subjects this week as I talk to my friend Andy Marshall about Marx’s Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy in general. This conversation comes on the heels of a Facebook row with C Derick Varn wherein Varn took the widely accepted position that Marx was a materialist and Hegel was an idealist, while I argued that Marx was too enamored with Hegel’s dialectical logic and the unity of subject and object to really escape the Platonic Realm entirely.

I’d like to thank Andy Marshall, Penny R, Reagan S, and Shane S, for their generous one time donations to the Diet Soap podcast, and to thank Andy Marshall, Ted F, John Spillane, Jacob L, and John L for their recurring donations. I urge regular listeners to the podcast to find the paypal buttons at Also, the podcast is available via iTunes and I urge people who enjoy this show to consider leaving a review at iTunes in lieu of a donation.

In the words of the Marxist Humanist Raya Dunayevskaya Marx’s humanism was neither a rejection of idealism nor an acceptance of materialism, but the truth of both, and therefore a new unity.

Talking Art: Conceptual Art


Conceptual art is the subject Miriam and I discuss as I try to work on my novel and create a podcast at one and the same time.

We start with John Baldessari’s “A painting by Pat Nelson” and with the ideology of the polaroid camera, where the goal was to eliminate the barrier between the photographer and his subject so that all that was left was the simple decision. This is the ideology of art that is on display in these paintings. The artist is the man pointing, and in fact John took polaroids (or at least photographs) of his artist friend pointing at things that interested him enough to point at them. But what we’re given isn’t a series of these photographs, but a series of paintings. What John did was take the photos to different “sunday painters” who were then given the instruction to realistically paint what they saw in the photos. They were told not to embellish or make art, but just to render the photos in paint. What we were left with is an erasure of the act of painting (because what makes these paintings interesting isn’t the painterliness of the painting) and also the erasure of that immediate act of decision (the subject matter isn’t interesting either) and instead we have paintings of what polaroid wants to ignore. The mediating step. But what John wants to give us is that mediating step in itself and without mediation. He wants to make it transparently apparent. Paradoxically what he has to do in order to make the mediation of our experience of his work apparent is to create an aesthetic of irony rather than no aesthetic at all.