Friday, 29 August 2008

Transcendental Revolution

Of all the thinkers I have analysed so far for The Persistence of the Negative it is Deleuze that has gone up in my estimation, from an admittedly low starting point (and I'm sure you're all happy to know my fickle changes in intellectual appreciation...). Although I discuss and critique his work as the subject of chapter four this point in Difference and Repetition (1968) struck me as uncanny and prescient.

Analysing Marx's Social Idea - which Deleuze takes to be the economic as the virtual field posing problems - Deleuze notes that the economic problem is actualised as a false problem – ‘the solution is generally perverted by an inseparable falsity.’ (1994: 207-8) In the case of the economic the false problem is the fetishism of the commodity conceived as ‘an objective or transcendental illusion born out of the conditions of social consciousness in the course of its actualisation.’ (Deleuze 1994: 208) Already here we can see the similarity to Slavoj Žižek’s argument that fetishism is incarnated into social reality in the form of materialised beliefs (1989: 31-37). This fetishism produces effects which both enable some to live and others to suffer – the false problem makes history ‘the locus of non-sense and stupidity’ (Deleuze 1994: 208). We have a situation in which the nonsense of alienation and exploitation is rendered as ideological commonsense, precisely through the inscription of this nonsense in social consciousness. Commodity fetishism is both real and false. For this reason we cannot appeal to consciousness as the site of a solution – it appears that Deleuze implicitly rejects the Lukàcasian solution of ‘class consciousness’. Instead, his analysis prefigures Althusser’s argument that the imaginary conditions of ideology create an effect by which consciousness is by necessity ‘false’ (see Althusser 1971: 121-173). How does Deleuze resist the problem Althusser courts – that of functionalism, in which the depth of ideological structuring appears to prevent any rupture with such a ‘system’? Deleuze argues that to perform this rupture requires the power to raise the false existent sociability to the level of a ‘transcendent exercise’ that can break this regime of commonsense. This ‘transcendental object’ is revolution as ‘the social power of difference, the paradox of society, the particular wrath of the social idea.’ (Deleuze 1994: 208)

Although sketched with startling rapidity the conclusion appears to be that to prevent the stabilisation of affirmative differences in happy co-existence – ‘the counterfeit forms of affirmation’ (Deleuze 1994: 208) – it is necessary to return to the virtual to re-actualise the true problem that will break with this necessary illusion of individual consciousness and sociability (although what is left unclear is the agency that will perform this ‘transcendent exercise’).

Here endeth the extract...

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Polar Night

"That was a tradition whose major monuments were in one way or another, secretly or openly, all affected by a deep historical pessimism. Their most original and powerful themes - Lukács's destruction of reason, Gramsci's war of position, Benjamin's angel of catastrophe, Adorno's damaged subject, Sartre's violence of scarcity, Althusser's ubiquity of illusion - spoke not of an alleviated future, but of an implacable present. Tones varied within a common range, from the stoic to the melancholy, the wintry to the apocalyptic. Jameson's writing is of a different timbre. Although his topic has not been of comfort to the Left, his treatment of it has never been acrimonious or despondent. On the contrary, the magic of Jameson's style is to conjure into being what might be thought impossible - a lucid enchantment of the world." (76)
Borrowing a device from Gregory Elliott - using Anderson's characterisations of Fredric Jameson as self-characterisations - here is another case. This is why, as Elliott insists against a veritable litany of complaint, "pessimism" is not the best characterisation of Anderson's work, but political "realism". That said, the comment that Jameson creates "a lucid enchantment of the world", does not, for me, fit Anderson's writing. I would argue that it tends more to a quasi-Weberian dis-enchantment (also in line with Marx's own cynicism, in fact).

What is particularly interesting is the lack of interest that Anderson has in an "apocalyptic tone" (cf. Mike Davis), although he certainly does veer towards the "wintry". In fact it may well be possible to make a distinction between the "apocalyptic" and the "wintry" - and this point is inspired by my luckily having an advanced reading of Dominic Fox's Cold Worlds (forthcoming 2009). If the apocalyptic takes a certain jouissance in the very apocalypse it traces the wintry would take a distance from jouissance itself. Hence the "coldness" here is not so much a revelling in the loss of human "warmth" (a quality I find myself often sceptical about), but a blank indifference.

To return to Anderson this "wintry" indifference might seem to lead back to the usual charges. In particular it could easily run into the Lacanian objection "the non-dupes err", or other variants of the "clean hands" / "beautiful soul" argument. First, in the case of Anderson he has repeatedly taken political positions that "err" (the internal NLR documents demonstrate an admirable quality of self-critique). Instead of the usual "Olympian" objection*, we might well argue for an effect of being disabused that has, precisely, come through engagement.

The abandonment of the project begun in Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism (1974) and Lineages of the Absolutist State (1974), would not simply be a sign of intellectual "failure" but of lucid recognition of an historical and political impasse. After all how many thinkers have abandoned such a project, or made significant shifts in their stance in relation to self-recognised failure?

* First made in 1964 by Peter Sedgwick, who wrote of the 2nd New Left (including Anderson) that they comprised: "an Olympian autogestion of roving postgraduates that descends at will from its own space onto the target-terrains of Angola, Persia, Cuba, Algeria, Britain ..." (where do I sign up?)

Anderson, Perry (1998) The Origins of Postmodernity. London and New York: Verso.
Elliott, Gregory (2008) Ends in Sight: Marx / Fukuyama / Hobsbawm / Anderson. London and Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press and Toronto: Between the Lines.

Theory and the PCF

In the spirit of one of those Derrida footnotes that sets a near-impossible task for anyone who would actually take it up ("write a history of philosophy in terms of the telephone" - oh, someone did that) I've realised a project that I can't do but would be fascinating: write a history of French philosophy / theory in terms of the relation with the PCF. Obviously we have the debate between Sartre and Merleau-Ponty concerning the Party and negativity in the 1950s (due to make an appearance in the conclusion to The Persistence of the Negative). The key moment appears to be the 1970s and especially the "Union of the Left", which seems to have generated hysterical terror of the "gulag in France" (see Michael Scott Christofferson's fascinating French Intellectuals Against the Left). A vehment anti-communism runs through a number of thinkers in this period, and not only the easily derided Nouveaux Philosophes. Perry Anderson notes that in 1974 Lyotard "confided to startled friends in America that his Presidential choice was Giscard, since Mitterand relied on Communist support." (29)

Summing up Lyotard's later work Anderson notes the symmetrical parasitism between "libertarian theory" and the PCF:

"From the seventies onwards, so long as communism existed as an alternative to capitalism, the latter was a lesser evil - he could even sardonically celebrate it as, by contrast, a pleasurable order. Once the Soviet bloc had disintegrated, the hegemony of capital became less palatable." (35)

In the wake of capitalist triumph resistance was discovered, but only, as Anderson notes, in the melancholy figures of the reserve of the artist, childhood, and silence. (If you want another project the comparison here with Walter Benjamin would be worth exploring.)

The "exception", so I have been reliably informed is (oddly) Derrida - who, it seems, displayed qualified sympathy to the PCF. In the context of this rabid and excessive anti-communism this seems all the more interesting gesture. Of course I'm not re-valorising the PCF; widely and justifiably regarded as the most Stalinist of the European communist parties. Instead, I think more probing is required into forms of anti-Communism, and into the tendency to often regard France and French intellectuals as "naturally" left-wing.


Anderson, Perry (1998) The Origins of Postmodernity. London and New York: Verso.

Christofferson, Michael Scott (2004) French Intellectuals Against the Left: The Antitotalitarian Moment of the 1970s. Oxford and New York: Berghann Books.

Thursday, 21 August 2008


It is better to do nothing than to work formally toward making visible what the West declares to exist.
Alain Badiou

I will be a worker: it's this idea that keeps me alive, when my mad fury would have me leap into the midst of Paris's battles—where how many other workers die as I write these words? To work now? Never, never. I'm on strike.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Please no more

Simply to second what has already been said; The Impostume has an excellent post of the new Mike Leigh film, which has the added advantage of meaning I won't have to watch it. I'm actually one of the seemingly few people who didn't like Naked so I can't even see the need to redeem Mike Leigh to active nihilism. I've never got over the representation of Aubrey's restaurant in Life is Sweet. More and more I start to consider the time I've wasted watching certain films or reading certain books and then I start to feel sick.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Make a Difference

the philosophy of difference must be wary of turning into the discourse of beautiful souls: differences, nothing but differences, in a peaceful coexistence in the Idea of social places and functions
Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, p.207

One makes a difference only in a world made of differences. To try to imitate the revolutionary today is as ridiculous as when the French revolutionaries imitated the Roman or the Spartan. As for changing the very fabric of the humans, we should leave this to the only total revolutionaries left : the Raelians ; let them clone the new human race
Bruno Latour

Freudful mistake

You leave the room for five minutes and miss another symposium on Alain Badiou... the papers from the Cardozo Law Review are here (scroll down to issue five). Obviously I haven't had time to read the papers, and I'm starting to have sympathy with Serres's point that he can't read anymore books because he has to have time to write his own. One thing I would note is that Badiou's paper 'The Three Negations' has been listed on the contents as 'The Three Negotiations' ha! look at the neutralisation of Badiou's message...

I'd also add that the introduction has some nice samples of Badiou's handwriting and Emily Apter's paper has some nice diagrams and pictures including the very amusing of a young Badiou (with flute! God this really is getting Freudian) from the back cover of his novel Almagestes.

Monday, 18 August 2008


I came across Edgar Morin's 'Approaches to Nothingness' (1989) fortuitously. It pursues the relation to non-dialectical negativity, and echoes in some respects the recent work of Ray Brassier and Reza Negarestani (although in a less technical and metaphysical vein). In particular Morin explores the implications of our binding to a non-correlational negativity, or, in his usefully straightforward terms, the relation of anthropological nothingness (death) to the "incursion of Nothingness" into the cosmological. At the level of the cosmos we have the nothingness of the big-bang, the nothingness of the universe ending in annihilation, and a resulting ontological nothingness (which to me echoes Reza's concept of the "littered universe"). This is Morin, in Thomas Ligotti mode:

Such a universe is based on no foundation, has no center, knows no genetic God, does not exist in all eternity. It is an acentric and polycentric universe, a world without aprioristic laws since our known laws of the universe develop with the world contemporally and coextensively. Clearly, it is a world without a program, without divine Providence, without becoming. This world, which knows no foundation and no creator, which creates itself, engenders itself, generates itself, unfolds in the context of myriad autocreative and self-producing processes: the stars and atoms, of which there are billions.
As you might guess from the language Morin is interested in complexity theory and negentropy. What is interesting, however, is that he insists on how these processes of self-organisation always take place "at the phenomenal fringe of things that theoretically defies formulation, that bears no name, and whose presence we surmise." (88)

Morin insists on an effect of "emptiness", a fundamental binding to the necessity of destruction: "Nothingness is everywhere in the interior of the universe." (92) What's also interesting is that he links this back to our experience of this Nothingness. Of course you could regard this as a reactive (re-)turn to correlationism, but surely some of the fascination of non-correlational theories (whether "negative" (Ray Brassier), of "twisted affirmation" (Reza), or more "positive" (Graham Harman)) is their relation to us? In a way part of the point of these theories is to shock us out of a Kantian narcissim that "we are giving the orders". [1] What do we do with this shock?

I'm not simply trying to restore correlationism, in fact such a restoration is, in a way, premised on my missing of the metaphysical level of these arguments. [2] I want to consider, however, Morin's arguments which also sketch a political effect of the "embrace" of nothingness. Here is a (unfortunately) long quotation:

Apart from a self-defensive reaction by which human beings ignore negative feedback or deliberately forget and simply persist, there is an attitude of acknowledging that for the first time we are facing Nothingness in all its desolation, in all its necessity, in all its mystery. [3] The increasing enervation of the myths, which are by no means ineffectual or dead yet, bring us for the first time to the insight that there is no messiah or also that every possible messiah is ill, not just the Messiah of the religious but also that of politics. Every Messiah - including that of science, including that of progress - must be told: no! (94)
In political terms this function of the anti-messiah means the refusal of "brotherhood" as consolation and myth in the face of the negative. Rather, we can elaborate fraternity, or I would even say communism, "on our shared condition of being condemned to Nothingness." (95)

Although Morin argues this in terms of an "ethics of agony" and ethics is a word I am suspicious of (despite my own failure of using it in a piece that perhaps should be pruned from my CV), his point concerning the anti-messiah may still hold as one possible starting-point for thinking the politics of the non-correlational.

[1] I am by no means knowledgeable enough to grasp the accuracy of this as a reading of Kant, my suspicion is not but I await the next issue of Collapse eagerly.

[2] I seem to lack the "metaphysics gene", and in my rare conversations with philosophers I can easily be chided for my tendency to completely miss this level of argument. Hence I am without-philosophy in perhaps the most boring sense.

[3] Reza's work indicates this awareness is not as "new" as Morin suggests.

Morin, Edgar (1989) ‘Approaches to Nothingness’, in Looking Back on the End of the World, ed. Dietmar Kamper and Christoph Wulf, trans. David Antal. New York: Semiotext(e), pp.81-95.

Negarestani, Reza (2008) "The Corpse Bride:Thinking with Nigredo", Collapse IV.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

The Principle of "Creativity"

But there is another side to the situation, and it promotes the overtaxing of the creative person in the name of a principle, the principle of "creativity". This overtaxing is all the more dangerous because it flatters the self-esteem of the productive person, it effectively guards the interests of a social order that is hostile to him. The life-style of the bohemian has contributed to creating a superstition about creativeness which Marx had countered with an observation that applies equally to intellectual and to manual labour. To the opening sentence of the draft of the Gotha programme, "Labour is the source of all wealth and culture", he appends this critical note; "The bourgeois have very good reasons for imputing supernatural creative power to labour, since it follows precisely from the fact that labour depends on nature, that a man who has no other property than his labour must be in all societies and civilizations the slave of other people who have become proprietors of the material working conditions."
Walter Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism, p.71

Another eerily prescient Benjamin comment, perhaps because of his own conjuncture at the intersection between the fading model of the Bohemian, Brechtian productivism, and the haute model of the Institute. One can't help reading his reflections on Baudelaire as quasi- self-reflections, although Benjamin's lack of the material conditions for intellectual labour does not seem as penurious as Baudelaire's ("I must admit I have reached the point where I don't make any sudden movements or walk a lot because I fear I might tear my clothes even more.") The reference to Marx's most "refusal of work" text is crucial as is Benjamin's pinioning of the operation of creativity as a "principle" that at once flatters the creative person and overtaxes him (one thinks of Dickens's exhausting reading tours, Mary Braddon's relentless production of books simply to keep her family, or the debate concerning the three-volume novel, as later 19th century examples.)

Benjamin also prefigures the current debate concerning "immaterial labour", but does so precisely by not reinforcing the "superstition about creativeness" that underpins much post-autonomist work. In this way he tries to break the magic circle of the ideology of "creativity" - the ideology which seemingly detaches it from production, but only to register it all the more within production. At the same time, again, this marks the rupture with the image of Benjamin as "safe" Marxist; either because he is a "great writer" (cf. J. G. Merquior), mystic (Scholem), or cultural flâneur. These images tend to re-insert Benjamin within the principle of "creativity" (a creativity in "excess" of the "constraints" of Marxism), playing-off of the fact of the vastness of the arcades project coupled to its unpublished status (blame here falling, partly rightly, on Adorno & Horkheimer*). Instead, we have Benjamin as "producer"; neither simply negating creativity as such, nor celebrating it as "resistance" to capitalism. Rather it is a matter of production as negation (of labour), intervention, and ideological rupture.
* Adorno's letter to Benjamin concerning the text from which my epigraph is drawn has to be one of the most crushing "reader's reports" of all time. Kudos to Benjamin for his robust response; when I get bad reader's reports I usually cry, or throw things across the room, before supinely trying to make good my "errors".

Monday, 11 August 2008

Please Mediate Me

The slightly uncanny experience of becoming mediated, if only I could be followed by my own personal photographer / essayist to give my whole life some much needed narrative sense....

Thursday, 7 August 2008


Reputedly Massimo Cacciari once suggested that workers would be better off taking Nietzsche’s The Will to Power as their bible rather than Capital. What might seem an outlandish provocation (although not as extreme as his attempt to get rid of pigeon feeders in Saint Mark’s square when he was Mayor of Venice) makes more sense when read through the grid of the evolution of negative thought in Italy.

First, we can take Tronti’s Nietzschean re-writing of Marxism in terms of the fundamental antagonism between labour–(will to) power and capital. This asymmetrical relation is one of abundant activity (by the workers) versus reactive re-coding by capital. In this way Capital is re-written in terms of On the Genealogy of Morals, with capitalism functioning as slave morality, and the worker’s gaining the position of aristocracy.

Second, this reactive morality of capital is then read through Negri’s work on Keynesianism and the crisis of the planner-state. Whereas previously crisis had functioned as a crisis of capitalism, what Keynesianism develops is the deployment of crisis for capitalism – the “negative” use of Keynesian policies to re-active a capitalist dialectic that leads to a positive re-composition of capital. We need “to arrive at the essentiality of crisis as such” (Cacciari 13), in which the negative “represents not merely a movement of crisis in the growth of capitalism but the very crisis serving a function within this growth.” (Cacciari 13)

Third, we have the Weberian insistence on rationalisation, in which the “iron cage” figures the demystification of capitalism as negative power of command. Rather than requiring re-enchantment, Weber’s quasi-Nietzschean strategy, we are required to take the truly Nietzschean path of radical disenchantment.

Linking these three moments together Cacciari insists on ‘the contradiction-functionality of the negative’ (38) as both tragic demystification – ourselves face to face with capital – and capitalist re-coding of crisis. This double function of the negative is condensed by Cacciari (and Tafuri) in the figure of the Metropolis, which, as Gail Day wisely suggests functions something like Debord’s category of the Spectacle.

“The Metropolis is the general form assumed by the process of the rationalization of social relations.” (Cacciari 4) The Metropolis is the triumph of rationalization in a demystified form – in which the bourgeoisie, to quote Marx and Engels, “has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation” – is functionally equivalent to Nietzsche’s completed nihilism. Day comments that this produces a strategy of completed nihilism, with Cacciari evincing a "willingness to let the force of the commodity rip into commodification itself (as if unleashing some auto-erotic, self-consuming energy)" (26).

This strategy produces an alteration in subjectivity, as Simmel describes we have the birth of the blasé type, which “arises wherever this negative is completely internalized, wherever the subject feels deep within himself the gravity of his task of “demystification,” his task of acquiring a tragic awareness of the given.” (Cacciari 9)

The result is the insistence on “the indissoluble connection between negative thought and the capitalistic socialization process at a specific point in history.” (Cacciari 10) Negative thought perceives and isolates the historically specific from of capitalist domination; it thereby breaks from nostalgia and utopia. It effects a devaluation, identifying the tragic, valueless character of the Metropolis.

We might say, again following Day, that the concept of the Metropolis permits the isolation of the petrification of experience, to then result in its explosion (28). To do so requires the full pursuit of the negative, the push towards completed nihilism that accepts capitalist negativity as marking a leap, a rupture, with no return to a previous state. We must accept the “tragedy of the given” without recourse to any utopianism or historical back-tracking (in this Cacciari remains faithful to Marx’s critique of feudal and utopian socialism).

The risks of such an argument are evident in its application by Manfredo Tafuri to the function of the avant-garde. The avant-gardes succeed each other “according to the typical law of industrial production” (Tafuri 86). The dialectic of the avant-garde is predictive of the dialectic of capital; the crisis induced by the avant-garde maps the absorption of crisis “as an inevitable condition of existence.” (Tafuri 86)

This passage can be traced in the transition from Munch’s Scream – in which the trace of a reaction to alienation remains – to the completed nihilism of El Lissitzky’s Story of Two Squares: “from the anguished discovery of the nullification of values, to the use of a language of pure signs, perceptible by a mass that had completely absorbed the universe without quality of the money economy.” (Tafuri 89)

In this way the demystifying negative rationalization of the avant-garde becomes functionally equivalent to the negative rationalization of capitalism. The familiar argument concerning recuperation is given another twist, so that the avant-garde prefigures capital in its own operations.

“Dada’s ferocious decomposition of the linguistic material and its opposition to prefiguration: what were these, after all, if not the sublimation of automatism and commercialization of “values” now spread through all levels of existence by the advance of capitalism? De Stijl and the Bauhaus introduced the ideology of the plan into a design method that was always closely related to the city as a productive structure. Dada, by means of the absurd, demonstrated – without naming it – the necessity of a plan.” (Tafuri 93; see Day 29)

Form v. Chaos; anarchy v. planning; the dialectic of the avant-garde is the dialectic of capital laid bare. The new synthesis becomes connected back to the production process, and the residue of utopia eliminated.

For Tafuri and Cacciari the “solution” “involve[s] actively embracing the given situation.” (Day 30) To work with “the negative … inherent in the system” (Tafuri qtd. in Day 31). The difficulty comes in splitting between the avant-garde strategies, in which “the destruction of values offered a wholly new type of rationality, which was capable of coming face to face with the negative, in order to make the negative itself the release valve of an unlimited potential for development.” (Tafuri qtd. in Day 31), and a strategy of completed nihilism that would explode rather than reinforce the operative crisis-function of negativity.

This “radical realism” (Day 32) risks becoming complicit with the crisis-dynamics of capitalism: in the style of a negative accelerationism. The worse the better, radicalise capital to negate it through negativity. The difficulty comes when this “stalled dialectic” becomes stalled in capitalism, leading to fundamental working in-sync with capital. This kind of problem is registered in Tafuri’s call for “empty architecture” – radically disenchanted manipulation of “pure signs” and the endorsement of silence (Day 32).

Of course, during the 1970s the position of Cacciari and Tafuri was still operating within the argument of the force of the worker’s struggles driving capitalism to new strategies. Therefore, despite their use of the canonical figures of Western Marxism this cannot be correlated with a “cunning of (capitalist) reason” pessimism of the kind that might be said to characterise certain moments in Adorno. The strategy of completed nihilism is not simply fulfilling capitalism because capitalism itself is “powered” by crisis, i.e. class struggle. In a sense to “fulfill” capitalism is to negate it, as capital itself is “merely” the management of crisis. We could of course say, despite appearances…

The difficulty of this position of radical realism is that which assailed Lukács – “the reconciliation with reality” leading to disastrous political acceptance of the “real as rational” (in Lukács case Stalinism). The shift re-entry into the PCI was part of this realism: the PCI being the “modern katechon”. Cacciari’s later shifting into a more full-blown mysticism (turning Benjamin’s uneasy coordination of Marxism and mysticism into an internal rupture) correlates, as I have argued elsewhere, with those predominantly French theoretical currents that made the move into the “saving power” of the tout Autre.

In fact, one might argue that Lyotard is a close point of comparison: political militancy, radical accelerationism in which capital “is the unbinding of the most insane pulsions” (Lyotard 138), before shifting to radicalised alterity. The key difference is that Cacciari never had any truck with Deleuzo-Guattarian style philosophies of desire.

In a way Cacciari’s path, as much as I am able to reconstruct it, indicates the difficulty of detaching negative thought from collapsing back into the (operant) negativity of capital. In a way his thought re-stages the debate between Sartre and Merleau-Ponty concerning the PCF: necessary vector for proletarian “negativity” (Sartre) or doomed to re-compose mere “functionaries of the negative” (Merleau-Ponty). In the current context, lacking such referents, this question of the negative versus the “dialectic of the negative” is posed with all the more urgency, but all the more problematically.

Cacciari, Massimo (1993) Architecture and Nihilism: On the Philosophy of Modern Architecture, trans. Stephen Sartarelli, intro. Patrizia Lombardo. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.
Day, Gail Ann (2005) "Strategies in the metropolitan Merz: Manfredo Tafuri and Italian Workerism", Radical Philosophy 133: 26-38.
Lyotard, Jean-François [1974] (1993) Libidinal Economy, trans. Iain Hamilton Grant. London: Athlone.
Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels (1848) "The Manifesto of the Communist Party", Marxists Internet Archive.
Tafuri, Manfredo (1976) Architecture and Utopia: Design and Capitalist Development, trans. Barbara Luigia La Penta. Cambridge, Mass. and London: The MIT Press.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008


A new post from the Institute on the academic CV and lifelong self-assessment. My own variant of this social pathology is a relentless updating of my CV, driven probably by a certain dull narcissism and a compulsive hope for recognition. With the new discourse in UK academia of knowledge transfer and knowledge dissemination, coupled to the integration of "creative work" in the RAE framework it now appears that there is virtually nothing that one does that cannot be registered on the CV. As the Institute points out this is linked to a deliberate ideological obscurity in exactly what is required to meet the terms of the plan. Constantly shifting demands, and the movement into a metrics-based system based on research funding, produce a fundamental disorientation. This is reproduced within institutions by the conversion of Professorships and readerships into promotion strategies, with their own set of "targets". Hence, as measurability expands so do the terms of the role, with academics now expected to function as entrepreneurs, journalists, teachers, administrators, managers, and researchers.


Thanks to Reza for notice about this blog / collective resource for heretical (non-)philosophy. Also on my first brief peruse there is this link to a downloadable copy of Iain Hamilton Grant's new book (please order for your local / university library).

This may help lift my current sense of depression, caused partly by the weather and partly by an instance of para-academic fuss, the latter having left me overly shaken for its trivial nature.
For an actually depressing reflection on the contemporary neo-liberal crisis state James Meek's report in the LRB on the floods last year in the UK provides salutary reading. As he remarks, concerning the privatisation of water:
"In a way, all this is a chronicle of defeat for the notion of public service. It turns out that it is possible to create private tax-collectors to run private monopolies and legally skim a percentage off the top for shareholders, while leaving customers reasonably happy; that even when things go terribly wrong for companies like Severn Trent, even when the failure of the private system to defend critical national infrastructure is exposed, it is public servants, rather than private ones, who shoulder the greatest blame."
While the involvement of public servants in these processes is undeniable, not least in the scandal of the initial privatisations, and the obvious refusal by "New" Labour to reverse them, this direction of blame towards the state obviously supports Owen's point concerning the ideologisation of planning as necessarily bad.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Fidelity (to May 68)

La fidélité à Mai 68 aujourd’hui, cela veut dire la fidélité à la puissance de subversion collective du mouvement anti-autoritaire.
Jacques Rancière

(from an interview with Rancière forthcoming in the special issue of Anarchist Studies 16.2 (2008) on postanarchism edited by Saul Newman - with thanks to Saul)