artists, the “creative” people of our day – choreographers, painters, video-makers – track the self-evidence of bodies, of the desiring and machinic life of bodies, of their intimacy, their nudity, their entwinings and ordeals. They all adapt the inhibited, quartered and soiled body to the domain of fantasies and dreams.
Sunday, 5 July 2009
Marxism as a Culture, or Towards a New Reformation
Gillian Rose's excellent Hegel Contra Sociology (1981 / 2009) has just been re-issued by Verso, unfortunately minus the hilariously niggardly back cover comment on the Athlone original by (I think) Giddens, which (from memory) read something like 'this book is suitable for postgraduates or highly-advanced undergraduates'. It is a truly difficult book, at least for me, which I unequivocally recommend.
I want to reflect on her final conclusions and the link they make to a number of contemporary projects (not speculative realist). This is no attempt to create a 'movement' or 'group' (and no mention of Freud's 'you say this isn't my mother, so' thanks), but rather to articulate a shared problem or problematic.
In her conclusion 'The Culture and Fate of Marxism' Rose chides Marx for reproducing the antinomies (especially theory / practice) he claims to be transcending, thereby remaining Kantian or Fichtean. It is only when Marx isn't trying to be self-conscious that he approaches a more speculative grasping of Hegelian actuality / spirit. This lacuna means that Marx does not develop a true understanding of subjectivity; leaving subjects as mere 'bearers' of relations, and reducing them to these defining functions. Marx is too literal and reductive, missing the Hegelian lesson that religion and art re-present relations, including a lack of identity.
The attraction of Marx's theory of commodity fetishism is that it is closest to the truly speculative position: 'It comes nearest to demonstrating in the historically-specific case of commodity producing society how substance is ((mis)-represented as) subject, how necessary illusion arises out of productive activity.' (Rose 232) A true phenomenology of such relations would articulate an educative and cultural function of re-forming consciousness. 'Missing from Marx's oeuvre is any concept of culture, of formation and re-formation (Bildung).' (Rose 233) Marxism itself inhabits this aporia - trying to supply the lacking 'culture', and instantiating it, but without having an idea of it. Rather than Marxism being a simply deviation from the verities, we could therefore argue it constantly struggle with this absence.
Perhaps in ways that Rose would not agree with I would argue that a number of contemporary theoretical projects try to articulate this lack in Marxism as culture, especially the lack of a thinking of subjectivity as re-formation of its determinations. This would include Alberto Toscano's work on fanaticism as site of political (and anti-political) subjectivation, Nina Power's work on a post-Beckettian / Badiouian / Feuerbachian philosophical anthropology of the generic / infinite (pdf), Peter Hallward's re-formulation of 'will' as a political category (pdf), Evan Calder William's articulation of non-dialectical dialectical negativity, Owen Hatherley's new proletkult, and even my own efforts on a rehabilitation of a non-dialectical negativity.In each case (I think) the absence of the articulation of subjectivity by Marx (or perhaps better put the limits of that articulation) are crucial. Here lies the importance of Badiou as a vector (less so obviously for Owen and Evan, but true enough for the rest). What Badiou provides is a thinking of subjectivity not attached to finitude / decay / et al. This I think animates IT's point, which we can butress with this quote from Badiou (always worth repeating):
The necessity of Badiou is precisely his rupture with the ideological coordinates of capitalist subjectivity, a la Lukacs, through a rationalist hostility to all neo-vitalisms. I regard Badiou's work as (partly) an askesis of capitalist subjectivity.
The counter limit of Badiou's thinking, to be brief, is the inability to articulate this subjectivity truly as a culture (again an over-statement, cf. The Century - his most Hegelian work I would be tempted to argue (the indebtedness to The Phenomenology of Spirit saturates this work)).
Here is where the question of real abstraction enters as the culture of capital, and the fact that each of these projects endeavours to articulate subjectivity within and through this real determination of consciousness, while arguing the necessity of tracking its de-formations and possibility of re-formation: 'a presentation of the contradictory relations between Capital and culture is the only way to link the analysis of the economy to comprehension of the conditions for revolutionary practice.' (Rose 235)