Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Foucault Avec Polanyi

For Evan

"The panoptic schema, without disappearing as such or losing any of its properties, was destined to spread throughout the social body; its vocation was to become a generalized function."
Foucault's Discipline and Punish (1975) Avec

Karl Polanyi's The Great Transformation (1944)

'Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon plan with the help of which gaols could be designed so as to be cheaply and effectively supervised had been in existence for a couple of years, and now he decided to apply it to his convict-run factory; the place of the convicts was now to be taken by the poor.' (106)

'His [Bentham's] Industry-Houses were a nightmare of minute utilitarian administration enforced by all the chicanery of scientific management.' (117)

When recently reading The Great Transformation, shamefully late, I noticed the passages on the Panopticon as an essential utopia of the self-regulated market, in which policing becomes the enforcement and invention of the 'economic'. It surprised me that no readers of Foucault, in my memory, had ever mentioned this connection. Recently writing a presentation for a Taster Day on detective fiction I re-read Franco Moretti's 'Clues' (in Signs Taken for Wonders), and noted that he placed Polanyi before Foucault in a footnote to his comment that the detective story 'reiterates Bentham's Panopticon ideal: the model prison that signals the metamorphosis of liberalism into total scrutability.' (143)

If you wanted a full chain you could read back to Peter Linebaugh's The London Hanged, in which he points out how the Panopticon was 'trialed' in Samuel Bentham's (Jeremy's brother) regulation of shipyards to avoid workers walking off with 'liberated' surpluses. Hence the Panopticon returns to the history of real subsumption, and out of the history of 'surveillance' as an autonomous dynamic.

A Brigadist Speaks!

This review of Negri's, Goodbye Mr Socialism, by by ex-(Angry) Brigadist John Barker, courtesy of the Institute.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Have they been reading Nihil Unbound?

[01] Tides of Self Destruction 06:53

[02] Nihilistic Purity 06:41

[03] Another Life Ready to End 05:44

[04] Deconstruction of the Will to Live 08:39

[05] Exit - The Pain of Existence 02:48

[06] Reflection of Opposites
I may very well have to buy this...
they also have a track called 'universal negativity' - cool

Thursday, 22 January 2009


‘[W]e must reconcile ourselves to a season of failures and fragments.’

Virginia Woolf


I want to propose that the Greek revolts, in their true immediacy, their generality, their break with the constraints of a securitised life, their destruction directed towards the state/power, instantiate Benjaminian divine violence - "a pure immediate violence" - that halts mythic, law-making violence. If mythic violence is "bloody", then divine violence is "lethal without spilling blood". The violence of the Greek revolt is immediate, it lacks bloodshed, it defies "mere life" - it is a "pure power over all life for the sake of the living". It involves destruction because "in the secular world, [divine violence] breathes destruction", whereas "in the world to come divine powerlessness is higher than divine violence."

Monday, 19 January 2009

Becoming-Swine / Swinish-Becomings (for IT)

Happy if they had all continued to know their indissoluble union, and their proper place! Happy if learning, not debauched by ambition, had been satisfied to continue the instructor, and not aspired to be the master! Along with its natural protectors and guardians, learning will be cast into the mire, and trodden down under the hoofs of a swinish multitude.
Edmund Burke, Reflections

‘When 5,000 workers marched through Sheffield to celebrate the victory of the French army at Valmy in November 1792, they carried an effigy of Burke riding on a pig.’
Ann Talbot, 'Citizen of the world'

‘At least one Burke was burned in effigy (at Dronfield hear Sheffield in early 1793) and hung twenty feet up on a scaffold after being paraded through town with a sign reading ‘Edmund Burke the Irish Pensioner. I hate the Swinish Multitude.’
Gregory Claeys, Thomas Paine Social and Political Thought, p.164

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Stripped of Dreams

A report from Greece, via Socialism and / or Barbarism. In confirmation, via a friend of the Institute, its true that radicalisation is very much from the young, and very much outside all the usual channels - including 'radicals'. The other interesting facts was the immediacy and geographic spread of the protests, which emerged everywhere at once. This is also discussed here, where Nikos Raptis writes 'The uprising was carried out by the students and the teenagers, especially the teenagers!'. He also notes that the main weapons were seville oranges (more often used here for marmalade) and the main targets police stations - as well as the usual tactic of provocation and 'plants' (police / police agents masquerading as anarchists).

Perhaps it is foolish to link these points together, but in discussion with the Institute yesterday we were reflecting on the relation between micro-regulation and a visceral biopolitical resistance. It seems that the capillary penetration of capital (which of course has always been there) is producing new immediate effects of resistance. Of course, the usual difficulty comes in linking and articulating these points. Although the Greek revolts are (at least in terms of 'immediate' cause) a result of extreme State violence, the immediacy that resulted there suggests an 'event'. In fact, what's interesting is the immediacy of the translation between the act of violence and the de-legitimation of the state.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Platonist Voluntarism?

‘it has often been observed that non-materialist currents – whether they be those of Platonism or of Maoism – are often more conducive to activism (when not indeed to outright voluntarism) than the various official materialisms have historically been.’
Fredric Jameson, ‘Marx’s Purloined Letter’ in Michael Sprinker (ed.) Ghostly Demarcations (London and New York: Verso, 1999 / 2008), p.38

I’m deeply unclear about what Fredric Jameson means here. Certainly we can all recognise the voluntarism in Maoism, most notoriously embodied in the ideological function of ‘Mao Tse-Tung Thought”, but Platonism? Of course we could mention the fusion of Maoism and Platonism contained in Lardreu and Jambet’s L’Ange (1974), although that work marked the beginning of a retreat from GP voluntarism at the same time as incarnating a hopeless voluntarism itself – although as the people qua angel did not need the militant then quite what action could be taken remains unclear. Other than that, we might consider the accusations of Platonism directed at Althusser (for example by Sebastiano Timpanaro) and then how high Althusserianism all too rapidly tipped over into voluntarism in Althusser’s auto-critique. Still, if there are any Platonist voluntarists out there, how’s that working out for you?

Agambenian Anarchism

Excellent report on the 'Tarnac 9' from Alberto. I'd like to comment more on this attempt to articulate an Agambenian anarchism, not least in terms of the attempt to give some more substance to the concept of indistinction. Writing on Badiou it struck me on the amount of common ground between his concept of indiscernability and the work of Ranciere, Agamben, or even Negri. All some to pose resistance to power as 'grounded' in some uncapturable ontological (or in Badiou's case exceptional to ontology) indiscernibility that cannot be 'seen' by power, and which I guess then 'surges forth' in certain forms or at certain moments. I'm a little concerned at how this might function as an alibi, in supposing an always resistant moment that comes to the rescue. I have never really been convinced by Deleuze's contention (in relation to Foucault) that 'resistance comes first'. I'd like to believe that, but I'm not sure it's true - either practically or ontologically / metaphysically. Also, as Peter Hallward has already pointed out, this topoi of 'invisibility' seems to risk a kind of inactivity, or ignoring the necessary visibility to actually change power relations.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

One of the Gang of Four

Gentlemen and scholar Graham Harman has a new blog, which I suggest you consult. I have disagreements with Graham's perspective, but this is all the more reason to read him as it is no doubt a sign he is correct. One thing I certainly value is his sincerity (for me a cardinal virtue). I can also endorse this point by Graham:
"It’s interesting to note that Franz Kafka, who made perhaps the fewest technical experiments with language of any great 20th century writer, may turn out to be the most important of them all. In fact, he has my vote already."
Simplicity, it seems to me, is the most difficult of achievements.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Slogans to be Spread By Every Means

Poetry on the Barricades

Let's Be Realists We Seek the Impossible

Philosophy in the Streets

Courtesy of Moses Boudourides

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Thought for the Day

14. Men are not only prone to forget benefits and injuries; they even hate those who have obliged them,and cease to hate those who have injured them. The necessity of revenging an injury or of recompensing a benefit seems a slavery to which they are unwilling to submit.
La Rochefoucauld, Maxims

Monday, 5 January 2009

1 out of 8

Reading Badiou's The Meaning of Sarkozy I see that, inadvertently, I have fulfilled one of his eight affirmative prescriptions - not to read the newspapers of the rich. Frankly I don't because the news in general depresses me. Anyone seeking leftist New Year's resolutions should consult said work (btw the other seven are a bit more difficult...). Shame also they changed the cover from the above to a more 'tasteful' / enigmatic black number.
The full list:
1. revive "'worker' as the generic name for all who can withdraw themselves, in an organized way, from the realized hegemony of financial capital and its servants.' (44)
2. Art as creation is superior to culture as consumption
3. Science is superior to technology
4. Love must be re-invented
5. Doctors should treat anyone who is sick
6. the politics of emancipation is superior to managerial necessity
7. Ignore the newspapers of the rich
8. there is only one world