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Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
En Lin Wei <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 30 May 2000 01:45:17 PDT
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Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
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Carlo says,

>The Han and Ch'in (Qin) material is largely buried in earlier
>unpublished work.

Do you mention Qin Shihuangdi (The first Chin Emperor) in that work?  I have
a special interest in the First Emperor.  I would be curious to know what
your take is on him, and whether you follow or diverge from Pound in his
treatment of Shihuangdi.  ( "Shih Huang Ti"  is how Pound transcribes it, I

>I'm glad you like aspects of Deconstructing the
>Demiurge. It was Pound that taught me much of the ethical conditions
>under which it operates. Some of his lessons (not nearly all) were
>negative ones, but given the level of the poetry in the Cantos this is

I am interested in what you mean by this.  In what sense did Pound teach you
about “ethical conditions,” and in what contexts:  in the relations between
aesthetics and ethics, between poetry and politics, or between morality,
economics and metaphysics?  Could you provide one example to illustrate your

If I explain a bit about my intial interest in Pound, that may clarify the
issue.  I was originally drawn to Pound by two main features of his work:
his interest in China and his interest in economics (and in, what I-- at
first-- believed might be a sincere,  intellectually coherent impulse toward
radical social reform).  The latter interest I found attractive, and
supplemented by my previous interests in the more or less radical ideas
which permeated the poetry of Blake, Byron, Shelly, Swinburne, and Morris,
among others.

Of course, any critical analysis of poetry flows out of highly individual
assumptions, tendencies, and judgments---so do not interpret my analysis as
anything which would constitute a direct attack on your personal admiration
of Pound.

My historical and critical research into the way that Pound used his
materials led me to believe the following: The more familiar people become
with the Chinese historical sources the less easy it was to exonerate Pound
from his most serious errors.  In other words, if one looks carefully at the
extent of Pound’s ideological commitment to Confucianism, and at the way in
which he interprets and chooses the particular texts, one starts to see that
he embraces authoritarian solutions to a degree ignored by most critics.
The corollary is, of course, that the more one looks at this issue, the more
hostile Pound appears to be toward democracy and the rule of law.

>It is no surprise to me that people find untenable your
>conflation of Pound's poetry with an unmitigated 'fascist' ideology.
>Your position is untenable.

I do not think I ever said Pound’s view was unmitigated.  I merely state
that it is extremely strong, and very troubling to see in a modern poet, who
imbibed some of the ideals of democracy in his youth.  As to my view being
untenable, I submit, that if one looks carefully at  how Pound
systematically slighted Taoism  (the most democratic and libertarian
philosophy of all the Chinese thought systems) and how he celebrated
Confucianism (at a time when virtually ALL serious Chinese intellectuals
were rejecting it, in hopes of creating a more just, less authoritarian
society)----one will be compelled to see Pound as one the most reactionary
thinkers of his age.

The position is tenable, and it only seems untenable, I believe, because
most people believe Pound’s Confucianism was simply a garden variety of
Confucianism.  Pound, in his choice of texts, in his instincts, and in his
interpretation of Confucius was an adherent of the Sung Xue (the Song, or
Sung School of Confucianism) which was the most authoritarian of all the
Confucian factions.  The Sung School of Confucianism holds very nearly the
same place in Chinese history that Ultra-Conservatism and Fascism hold in
Western History, and the evidence that Pound was in full harmony with the
tendencies of this school is very strong----as strong as the evidence that
Pound was an supporter of Mussolini's fascsim

You say,

>At the very best, your argument might point
>to a peculiar kind of individual fascism that Pound created out of
>sources he found that suggested the kind of agrarian utopia that
>permeates the Cantos. This would also account for Pound's mistaken
>identification with strains of European fashion.

Well, this is precisely my point, though I would state it a bit differently.
  Pound did create an “idiosyncratic fascism”.  But that does not mean that
it was not fascism.  Pound’s fascism is idiosyncratic in a number of ways,
but perhaps most importantly in the sense that he felt compelled to look to
historical sources far afield to justify the his views.  During the 20's,
30's, and 40's he wanted to find “evidence” that fascism could work over the
long term.  He makes this point himself on numerous occasions:  The
totalitarian history of Confucian China “proved” that Hitler’s and
Mussolini’s projects could be successful  (and that the West’s failure was
was in its being contaminated with Greek philosophy, and with Christian
thought, which made a total commitment to ORDER very difficult).  No doubt
you recall this argument in the Guide to Kuchur, though he makes it again
and again in the Confucian Essays in the Selected Prose. He also makes the
point over and over (ad nauseum, in fact) in the China Cantos, and in

>I also don't think that Carroll is correct in conflating Mussollini's
>fascism or Hitler's National Socialism with the current kleptocracy that
>emanates from the US, Europe and Japan. This kleptocracy has proven to
>be much more long lived and dangerous because it has appropriated the
>positivistic necessity that originated in its own sciences. The sciences
>are scene as destiny.

Here I agree with you to a large extent.  I think that Carroll Cox is
correct in his basic outline of the similarities of the two systems, but if
we think dialectically, you are correct with respect to the differences you
point out.   He is right in showing that the elites are able to produce
similar results in both systems; you correct in pointing to the differences
in the methods, in the patterns of power concentration, and in the
underlying epistemes.

>It is not difficult to see the power this accrues
>to the modern corporation and the government stooges they control. The
>whole epistemology of money is now a 'scientistic' borrowing from the
>hard sciences especially physics but more and more so biology as
>ecological questions take root. See Shackle, Hayek, E.O. Wilson,
>Horkheimer & Adorno and many others for views pro and con.

Yes.  I very much like your analysis here, and it is manifest in
“Deconstructing the Demiurge”.  I am very interested in the uses you make of
references physics, cosmology, and the technical sciences in the poem.  I
have other questions regarding (for lack of a better word) the
quasi-religio-metaphysical assumptions beneath or behind the poem, and how
these are similar to  or different from Pound’s “religious” ideas.   But let
me pose them later, after a read a bit more. Though it might appear a little
suprising, I am far more sympathetic to Pound’s metaphysical, theological,
or religio-philosophical view than I am toward his political, economic,
social, and moral theories.

More on that later perhaps.



[For those who might be interested, the "Pound and China" website now
contains a newly added introduction and a newly added essay on Pound’s use
of, and interpretation of, the Chinese language]
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