Thursday, 28 May 2009

Old School Ways

If you think that the heterogeneous, polyvalent world is a separate structure in its own right, the law is disruptable. The Carnival can be held on the church steps. But if this is not the case, if the carnival and the church do not exist independently of each other, the pre-Oedipal and the Oedipal are not separate discrete states - if, instead, the Oedipal with the castration complex is what defines the pre-Oedipal, then the only way you can challenge the church is from within an alternative symbolic universe. You cannot choose the imaginary, the semiotic, the carnival as an alternative to the law. It is set up by the lae precisely in its own ludic space, its area of imaginary alternative, but not as a symbolic alternative. So that, politically speaking, it is only the symbolic, a new symbolism, a new law, that can challenge the dominant law.

No, it is not Zizek (the tone should give that away), but Juliet Mitchell writing in 1984 in Woman, the Longest Revolution. Considering theory problematises teleology at almost every point it is something of an embarrassment when I realise my own teleological proclivities, in this case concerning our supposed 'advance' in the reading of Lacan.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

The problem is that there is no politics

'even in the daily cash receipts of the trade unions there is more resistance than any targeted aggression.'

Here Mario Tronti makes his comments on the G20 protests, comparing the protests in London and Rome. While Tronti accepts the politics of the symbolic gesture, he is also concerned about the imprecision of targeting the banks, and not collective capital. While I tend to think this sort of claim is often overstated, and after all it is part of materialising the 'immaterial'/real abstractions of capital, what is more interesting are Tronti's thoughts on labour. He argues: 'it is important to bring the force of labour back into the game, in order to make it visible and to show that it is not demobilised.' Again, not unsurprisingly for Tronti, the emphasis falls on the necessity for leadership and political direction, and the need to shift labour into 'a more offensive expression' and to identify the 'real opponent'. In line with his previous comments Tronti insists on the necessity for a re-analysis of labour as a political subject and as a social presence. The emphasis needs to fall on the crisis as a crisis of labour, and the need to find a new organisational form for the diffusion of contemporary labour: 'Labour is a decisive point.'

I'd tend to agree with that, but I wonder about the switch away from the G20 protests in Rome vectored through the CGIL and the lack of comment on the London protests in terms of an organisational vector? While I'm not necessarily inclined to see the latter as a sign of strength it seems to me something (again) goes missing in terms of how the organisational and the political are to be provided. As I note above I think the supposed naivete of the protests tends to be over-stated, which is self-serving in relation to the lack of any organisational or political articulation elsewhere.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Pessimism of the Intellect

The use of negation: this new value, or, better, this new operating technique, has a constant function in the transformation of the capitalist-bourgeois crisis into models of development. From 1920 to about 1935, architecture was in the forefront in the battles of the dialectical conversion from Negative to Positive. Its crisis only comes at the precise moment in which, facing the reality of the Plan, the role of foreseeing or ideologically mediating the Plan ceases to exist.
Manfredo Tafuri

For a minor example of the 'use of negation', consider this on the value of 'defensive pessimism', if you should wish to harness your negativity to achieve your goals...


'The days of systems building, of repetition, and vulgarity elevated to the status of systematic discourse are definitely over. What is needed now is to start again, with rigorously one-sided class logic — courage and determination for ourselves, and detached irony towards the rest.'
Mario Tronti, 'Lenin in England'

Another example for the rehabilitation of courage as a political virtue (plus irony). In case you should want an exercise in detached irony see Owen on Hazel Blears.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Captain Trips

‘Recall Husserl’s dark dream, from his Cartesian Meditations of how the transcendental cogito would remain unaffected by a plague that would annihilate all humanity.’
Slavoj Žižek, In Defence of Lost Causes (2008), p.169

Sunday, 10 May 2009

People Power

At the RP event yesterday, which was disappointing for a number of reasons. IT will no doubt be doing the uneviable task of posting up a report (now up), for which we should all be eternally grateful (for reasons which attendees will be all too aware of). She has also kindly posted Alberto's paper from the SR event as well.
On a personal note just to say thanks to all those who have expressed an interest in reading the book and Dominic in particular for already supplying comments and proofing corrections (invaluable for those of you familiar with academic publishing). The book will be a hideously expensive hardback, never to go to paperback I would guess. Eventually I'll probably be begging people to put in library orders. But in relation to IT's points about availability for this and any other works of mine you may be interested in just contact me. I don't have the facility to put up papers, except on the blog (which is painful to do), plus to me it seems to be a bit vain in relation to my own work.
Also thanks to everyone for a lovely evening after RP, nice to meet so many nice people.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Done (for now)

'Work ceases upon the picture or manuscript, not because it is finished, but because sending-in day is at hand, or because the printer is clamorous for copy, or because “I am sick of working at this thing” or “I can’t see what more I can do to it”’.
R G Collingwood, An Autobiography (1939)

The manuscript is done (for now) and if I haven't already victimised you and you are interested in providing comments / criticism please email me. The plan is to submit to EUP in September and it should be out next year.