Thursday, 26 August 2010

Really free working

Really free working, e.g. composing, is at the same time precisely the most damned seriousness, the most intense extertion.
Marx, Grundrisse

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

California here we come

A new website for the UCLA Program in Experimental Critical Theory (I wonder if there is an alternative program in firmly-established Critical Theory...). One of the great things, even if you aren't on/can't make the programme is that all the texts are available (and videos) if one should one to create or follow one's own 'program' (now I have a vision in my head of some poor lone person in a bedsit staging imaginary seminars with various transitional objects a la Stewie in Family Guy).

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Paint it Grey

When philosophy paints its grey in grey, a shape of life has grown old, and it cannot be rejuvenated, but only recognized, by the grey in grey of philosophy; the owl of Minerva begins its flight only with the onset of dusk. Hegel

The grey of the concept over the grey of the world reveals, with the end of the coloured figures in which it was given, the restoration to existence of the task of thinking itself, by itself, beyond all consistency of the figure.
Jean-Luc Nancy

SR in Spanish

Thanks to Jonatham F. Morich we have the first appearance of an SR text in Spanish here. It's a translation from Planomenology of this post.

Cutting the "Not"

Cutting the “Not”: Workshop on Negativity and Reflexivity
September 10-12, 2010
Jan Van Eyck Academie
Maastricht, Netherlands

Organizers: Mladen Dolar, Avigail Moss, Eli Noé, Kerstin Stakemeier and Tzuchien Tho
Please see our website for schedule and updates.

Cutting the “Not”
The question of the negative has been one of the fundamental concerns, if not the central problem, of modern and postmodern philosophy. If, since Descartes (and more explicitly since Kant), philosophy is understood as an inherently self-reflexive practice - no longer an inquiry into the essence of things, but the reflection of thought onto its own conditions and limitations - the question of the negative has risen as the necessary counterpoint to this self-reflexivity: negativity as the non-identity between subject and object, the differential correlation between thought and what is external to (and yet conditioned by) thought.

Perhaps the strongest historical example of the coincidence between the problem of reflexivity and negation is the Hegelian concept of negativity, the dynamic process of self-differentiation as self-identity. No doubt, its tremendous impact on contemporary thought can be seen as itself a negative one. In various ways, much of contemporary philosophy ranging from the work of Foucault, Althusser, Deleuze, Derrida and Badiou has been posed in specific opposition, modification or reinvention of this negative/reflexive dynamic. By inventing forms of negativity that do not involve dialectic reversals and over-comings, by rejecting the fundamental structure of contradiction outright, or by de-globalizing the scope of any dialectic system, contemporary forms of thought have either rejected negativity outright or have re-inscribed or readjusted the power of negativity in local, that is, non-totalizing functions.

In this context of "thinking beyond the negative", the concept of negativity is often treated as a theoretical shibboleth, a conceptual "password" that serves to divide conflicting doctrinal tendencies, separating allies from foes. In so far as this logic involves the demarcation of a homogeneous theoretical field to be rejected (e.g. Deleuze's critique of "post-Kantian Hegelianism"), it not only involves a rude simplification, presupposing a unambiguous dividing line where there is in fact a complex knot, but also attests to the fact that in polemically opposing the negative, one inevitably takes part in it. Hence, a fresh, actualized take on negativity does not only involve new ways of affirming the negative, but also has to take note of the "persistence of the negative" (B. Noys) in any thought and practice that claims to have surpassed negativity.

The aim of this workshop is to cut the (k)not of the negative, not to offer any easy way out of the problem, but to reconsider, with the polemical strings cut, the question in its complexity. This means, above all, to appreciate the field of negativity as a "garden of forking paths", a tissue of folded and interwoven philosophical lineages, with branches extending to extra-philosophical domains. We propose to investigate the problem both forwards and backwards, both looking at the origins of the problem in modern (transcendental and dialectical) philosophy, as well as to the vicissitudes of the negative in contemporary thinking. Our focus will also extend "laterally", by directing the attention to figures of negativity in art, politics, psychoanalysis and science.

Participants include: (alphabetically)
Mark Van Atten
Jean-Yves Beziau
Ray Brassier
Mladen Dolar
Sven Lüttiken
Catherine Malabou
Gregor Moder
Avigail Moss
Rebecca Gordon Nesbitt
Eli Noé
Benjamin Noys
Frank Ruda
Kerstin Stakemeier
Tzuchien Tho
Jan Völker
Susanne M Winterling

Monday, 23 August 2010

Determinate Negation

But when, on the other hand, the result is conceived as it is in truth, namely, as a determinate negation, a new form has thereby immediately arisen, and in the negation the transition is made through which the progress through the complete series of forms comes about of itself.
Hegel, Preface to The Phenomenology of Spirit

It Makes Sense

The whole run of Common Sense is now available here. Somewhere I have some print copies buried in the piles of material I've collected. Issues 13/14 have work by Sergio Bologna on money and crisis which I plan to read first.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Funeral in Berlin

To make the most obvious point a trip to Berlin certainly makes evident that the failure of the German revolution is the event of the 20th century for Europe and perhaps globally (documented here). If it had succeeded then one can't help feel many of the 'other' appalling events wouldn't have happened and we wouldn't need the following.

Communisation is Go!

The collection Communisation and Its Discontents is happening, with a load of excellent people and an excellent publisher, further details to follow...

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

And more accelerationism reading...

The relevant section of Anti-Oedipus is posted here (as a pdf), for another (very interesting) project (as well as lots of other goodies).

Courtesy of Alberto, links to The High-Speed Society, slightly dubious but perhaps interesting collection of readings on speed/acceleration.

Here is a slightly difficult to hear video with one of the editors:

And a review in French of his work by Anselm Jappe.

In terms of fiction China's Iron Council takes the revolution = train equation literally to explore the temporality of failed revolution (acceleration or brake (Benjamin). As Joshua Clover reminds us (pdf) Neuromancer is the book of the pre-crisis period (do people still read it?), of, of course, return to Gravity's Rainbow.

Monday, 9 August 2010

English Crisis

Just to maintain my record for topical political comment, here's Lukacs on Wilson:

Wilson is doubtless one of the most astute and opportunist bourgeois politicians anywhere today—yet his government has been the most utter and disastrous fiasco. That too is a sign of the depth and intractability of the English crisis.

More accelerationism reading

In advance of the event more reading than I haven't yet got round to... Bichler and Nitzan's Capital as Power - article here, and intro/chapter one available on their website here.

As usual Nina was first (or second, via Jared), Elie Ayache's The Blank Swan.

In literary terms, beyond Ligotti, James Trafford recommended Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon as the novel of 're-sleeving' complementary to Metzinger/Ray's work.
There's a new (or new to me) 'Hyperstition engineering' blog, Simon Reynold's on the CCRU, btw I didn't go to Warwick...

Friday, 6 August 2010

Grand Opportunism

Despite being anti-accelerationist I do have a soft spot for Massimo Cacciari's 'negative accelerationism' - as I've previously posted (now, sign of age, repeating myself...). Unlike the pathos of the Landian tendency to 'love' one's own dismantling at the (metaphoric) hands of capitalism, an embrace of liquid flows and extinction, Cacciari's 'unpolitical' version of completed nihilism encompasses a breathtaking cynicism. Here's a position statement from his essay 'Nietzsche and the Unpolitical' (in the new collection from Fordham The Unpolitical):

'they see their own operations as alienation - not in the banal and servile sense, that this alienation is simply imposed on them, that they are subject to it in messianic expectation of the dialectical synthesis, but in the sense that, within the irrevocable dimension of alienation, they can build their own political interest, can determine their own separateness and division as grand politics... There is no synthesis for workers' alienation.'

As capital nullifies all values far from embracing capitalism own deterritorialised flows we embrace a political intelligence that can organise a counter-plan, manipulating evacuated 'values' for our own 'unpolitical' projects. Of course, that turned out to be the PCI and the historic compromise, so not so 'intelligent'... Fedrico Luisetti has some fascinating work updating Cacciari to the present misery (pdf).
Cacciari's collection Architecture and Nihilism is available here, with a kind plug for my earlier post.

Neo-liberalism and the 'society of litigation'

Whereas economic regulation takes place spontaneously, through the formal properties of competition, the social regulation of conflicts, irregularities of behavior, nuisance caused by some to others, and so forth, calls for a judicial interventionism which has to operate as arbitration within the framework of the rules of the game. If you multiply enterprises, you multiply frictions, environmental effects, and consequently, to the extent that you free economic subjects and allow them to play their game, then at the same time the more you detach them from their status as virtual functionaries of a plan, and you inevitably multiply judges. The reduction of the number of functionaries, or rather, the de-functionarization of the economic action of plans, together with the increased dynamic of enterprises, produces the need for an ever-increasing number of judicial instances, or anyway of instances of arbitration.
Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, p.175


First, I will be presenting at the JVE (Maastricht) at the Versus Laboratory event 'Cutting the 'Not': Negativity and Reflexivity', with Ray Brassier, Catherine Malabou, and others (including people who actually understand paraconsistent logics and intuitionism) on 10-12 September.

Kindly arranged by Mark, we have the Accelerationism event, on 14th September at Goldsmiths where, no doubt, I'll be the odd one out, but it should be fascinating.

For the pithiest definition, here is Nick Land:
Machinic revolution must therefore go in the opposite direction to socialistic regulation; pressing towards ever more uninhibited marketization of the pro­cesses that are tearing down the social field, ‘still further’ with ‘the movement of the market, of decoding and deterritorialization’ and ‘one can never go far enough in the direction of deterritori­alization: you haven’t seen anything yet’.

I will post my papers for each post festum, probably here/ or on

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Big Society - the origin?

I've been reading Foucault's fascinating The Birth of Biopolitics, at the recommendation of Jess, which is an excellent genealogy of neo-liberalism. As I will be liberally ripping it off when I talk at the Accelerationism event I will save substantial comments until then, however as I was reading I came across this:

in 1950 Ropke wrote a text entitled The Orientation of German Economic Policy, which was published with a preface by Adenauer. What does Ropke identify in this text, this charter, as the object, the final aim, the ultimate objective of governmental action? I will list the objectives he fixes: first, to enable as far as possible everyone to have access to private property; second, the reduction of huge urban sprawls and the replacement oflarge suburbs with a policy of medium-sized towns, the replacement of the policy and economics of large housing blocks with a policy and economics of private houses, the encouragement of small farms in the countryside, and the development of what he calls non-proletarian industries, that is to say, craft industries and small businesses; third, decentralization of places of residence, production, and management, correction of the effects of specialization·and the: division of labor; and the organic reconstruction of society on the basis of natural communities, families, and neighborhoods; finally, generally organizing, developing, and controlling possible effects of the environment arising either from people living together or through the development of enterprises and centers of production.

You will recognize this text; it has been repeated 25,000 times for the last 25 years.

As Foucault goes on to remark 'I think this multiplication of the "enterprise" form within the social body is what is at stake in neo-liberal policy. It is a matter of making the market, competition, and so the enterprise, into what could be called the formative power of society.'

So perhaps not Chesterton/Belloc, but a re-tooled neo-liberalism German style? Frankly the whole 'big society' fills me with horror so I can't check how closely the proposals match the above, confirmation / refutation appreciated (let's move into a Popperian / Lakatos space).

Monday, 2 August 2010

Derrida as Vanishing Mediator

This post is largely prompted by several conversation with Jernej, met in Rotterdam, and reflections on the conference Derrida Today (which I did not attend), but also dates back to something that has been floating around in my head for a while. Simply stated this is that many 'anti-Derrida' moves, especially around the return to Hegel, could equally be said to have internalised and required Derrida. In a sense the 'new Hegel', who may have always been there, is actuated through Derrida - a la Borges's remark that every writer creates his precursor. That's to say some of the best readings of Hegel are directly indebted to Derrida (Malabou / Nancy) or traversed by Derrida in the mode of antagonism (Zizek, Rose, or to a lesser extent Jameson). In a recent article in Critical Inquiry Zizek returns with more sympathy to Derrida, noting a 'belated gesture of solidarity' around the materialist potential of 'differance'.
Much the same argument could be made as regards Lacan, which is to say a certain reading of Lacan becomes possible via and through Derrida, even if it should result in a critique of Derrida. In fact in this case one could even unpick a subterranean dialogue at the time, with Lacan taking on and reworking terms like 'writing' (Derrida notes that Blanchot went back to all his earlier work and replaced 'presence' with 'writing...), while Derrida appears heavily indebted to Lacan if one reads the seminars (a problem like circumcision, for example, turning up much earlier in Lacan than Derrida). Lacan after Derrida after Lacan... and we could also add Badiou here, when he integrates Derrida to a 'tracking of the inexistent', i.e. a kind of subset of Badiou's more encompassing 'system'.
We could even add Paul de Man enacting this on Derrida, but arguing Rousseau was more deconstructive than Derrida, all the while ignoring the fact no one seemed to have noticed this until Derrida...

Of course a great deal turns on the 'vanishing'; is it simply necessary to traverse Derrida, so, as in Badiou, where difference simply becomes the everyday 'stuff' from which we have to extract the same, or Derrida offering some refinements of Lacan's analysis of the phallus. Here Derrida functions in a Wittgensteinian way as a 'ladder' that can be kicked away, or therapeutic corrective. Or, as I'd guess Derrideans might feel, is this 'vanishing' an act of repression or disavowal, leading to the hallucinatory return to Derridean positions shorn of Derrida? Having 'personally' traversed Derrida, although he hasn't vanished from my work, which could lead to the accusation this is all my projection, I don't think either of these responses are quite adequate. It's neither the case Derrida requires to be 'vanished', pending a better and more finally critique of his work than has yet appeared (and I include my critical remarks in this set) that might convince on this ground, nor that Derrida out-trumps all and every thinker.

Perhaps, instead we could start a more patient close reading, in the style of Derrida, that might analyse and be sensitive to this peculiar effects of reading that problematise priority / security and might help us re-think 'philosophy' as a practice.

As an addendum Jernej informs me Geoff Bennington (my DPhil supervisor) already said this in Interrupting Derrida, nice to know I repeat the master's words...

OOP v Deleuze, or psychopathologies of philosophy

I came across this while reading Michael Balint's The Basic Fault:

In the ocnophilic world the primary cathexis, though mixed with a great deal of anxiety, seems to adhere to the emerging objects; these are felt to be safe and comforting while the spaces between them are threatening and horrid. In the philobatic world the objectless expanses retain the original primary cathexis and are experienced as safe and friendly, while the objects are felt as treacherous hazards. (68)

I won't go into the detail of Balint's theory, but bascially these two 'orientations' emerge out of the experience of primary love, and he argues that psychoanalysis itself, due to a focus on the analyst as object, as primarily been ocnophilic. Perhaps one could argue that philosophy, by contrast, tends to be philobatic, in its preference for objectless universals, way back to the presocratics, but also beyond?

Of course, I'm semi-joking but it would be interesting to fully turn psychoanalysis on philosophy, especially since aside from Freud's remark about philosophy's proximity to paranoia we haven't seem much of this. Usually philosophy spends its time regionally delimiting psychoanalysis.