Thursday 30 September 2010

Undead class struggle (for Evan)

'They want to kill us, but we're already dead'.
According to TC the 'spirit' of the struggles of the 1980s, in which the violence of struggle never led to a formalisation or demand for autonomy; strikes without demands in the extinction of the affirmation of the liberation of labour, and in which class definition only results from capital as antagonist and not 'in itself'.

From the failed zombie re-training of Day of the Dead (casting an ironic light on The Full Monty) to the post-Fordist breakout of the remake of Dawn of the Dead, the reserve army of (un)dead labour figures real subsumption the age of coming devalorisation. Not alive, not dead, not-value; the 'fructifying vitality' (Marx) of living labour recoded as death drive.

Friday 24 September 2010

Verso debates

As already noted by IT, Verso have a new website. I'd be interested to follow the reponses to this debate:

Against his friend and comrade Alain Badiou, Slavoj Zizek has been arguing strongly for the need for a return to Marx's critique of political economy—as borne out by his engagement with value theory and Moishe Postone's work in Living in the End Times. But what are we to make of Zizek's own understanding of value theory, when he claims that, strictly speaking from a Marxist perpective, Chavez's Venezuela is “exploiting” the US through oil rents?

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Sad Economy Pig

This image is part of the cover of this free ebook from L&W on Britain's Broken Economy. I feel sorry for the poor pig - is this supposed to be the broken economy (metaphorically , of course), or a representation of greed? Leave the pig alone I say, why always blame the animals?
Of course the book might be great, I don't know...

Tuesday 21 September 2010


The book is here, thank god (or whatever). Very pleased. Obviously in expensive hardback, but anyone who is interested in reviewing let me know, or who doesn't receive a review copy soon who has already agreed.
Available to review for HM

Friday 17 September 2010

Fall out from accelerationism

The shards of a debate that just didn't happen fortunately continue, although it would have been so good if it had taken place at the time (see below), with another interesting post on accelerationism, I particularly like this amusing characterisation of yours truly:

Noys at the conference presented a curious figure, a man who had come to speak but primarily to savage any favourable reading or support of Accelerationism. Land was wrong, quite frankly, and Noys argued repeatedly that all Accelerationism was a capitalist fallacy, with a dangerous nostalgia for the very recent past (1990s cyberpunk, Nick Land, Jungle music etc), for a kind of Sino-Capitalism with full biopower and “no Judeo-Christian hang-ups”.

Thanks also for the kind comments on my Bataille book. The description of the audience reaction was a little depressing, although chimed with my sense that a conversation that could have taken place didn't. I doubt people will or should have much sympathy, but it's not that enjoyable being 'on stage' so to speak in such a situation. Perhaps the 'decelerationist' cold I've now acquired is true testament to the whole experience...

Btw (a), (b) (40/41), and (d) (only now, not in origin) apply to myself.


I've just ordered it, via amazon uk, but I'd suggest purchasing in any fashion you choose

Thursday 16 September 2010

Big Society Exhibition - Your Chance to Exhibit

For all you artistic / creative types [I wish I could contribute something good, the moment I see these invitations I have the feeling 'I could do that', followed immediately by the draining of my already limited mental powers - perhaps some concrete poetry referring to vampire squid...or a photomontage somehow based on the image of Wilhelm Ropke:

Looks harmless doesn't he?]

Open invitation, please forward widely:

There is still time for you to send submissions for Big Society A window exhibition, viewed from the street4/08/10 – 28/10/10

Closing Event Friday 29th October 6.30-8.30


The earlier you send us something the longer it will be displayed for. The window is being re-hung each week. Contributors selected so far include: Julian Stallabrass, Mark Pawson, Robin Smart, Cathie Pilkington, Rosalie Schweiker, Mike Chavez-Dawson, Ann Robinson, Andrew Cooper, Andy Bowman, Arnaud Desjardin, Brendan McIntyre, Cathy Wade, D Rosier, Daniel Manning, Danielle Drainey, Dominic Thackray, Eli-Rose Sanford, Emma MacKinnon, Martin Hand, Niall McCullough, Patrick Galway, Rosalie Woods, Sara Willett, Sophie Eade, Stephen Hodgkins.

Space Station Sixty-Five invites you to respond to the notion of Big Society.
What is the 'big society' if not arts for everyone? Tiny grants already stretch far into communities, making music, dancing and art, engaging with history and heritage, drawing people together in shared emotions and experiences. Civic pride, quality of life, pleasure and endeavour (and art for arts sake) is cheap for its rich returns, but it's not free.
Polly Toynbee, Arts for everyone is cheap considering its rich returns, The Guardian, Wednesday 28th July 2010

Your contributions may be selected to make an evolving window exhibition at Space Station Sixty-Five.
To take part please email us a Word, RTF or Pages document or a jpeg with an image at 300dpi.

You may also post contributions, no larger that A4, to Space Station Sixty-Five, 65 North Cross Road, London SE22 9ET

We are sorry, original artwork will not be returned, copies are preferred. If selected, your work will be attached to the inside of the Space Station Sixty-Five window and viewed from the street. We look forward to receiving your emails and postal contributions; the exhibition will develop as they arrive.Space Station Sixty-Five65 North Cross Road, London SE22 9ET020 8299 5036

Buses: 40, 176, 185, 37, 12, P13, 484.

Rail: East Dulwich (from London Bridge) (check for engineering works at weekends)

Tube: Elephant & Castle or Oval (then bus)


Wednesday 15 September 2010

'everything that moves is not red'

'In the serenity of the concept, let us say that everything that changes is not an event, and that suprise, velocity, disorder, may only be simulacra of the event, not its promise of truth.
Badiou 'Of an Obscure Disaster'

In the concession from an 'absolute accelerationism', which seems incoherent by definition for the usual reasons (incarnation of absolute presence, equivalence of absolute speed with stasis), to a 'relative' or 'strategic' accelerationism we confront the simulacral, and the retention of the tendency to always still insist on the acceleration of capitalism as liberation rather than the liberation of socialism/communism. Accelerationism become abstract in the pseudo-concrete.
Postscript to accelerationism
For more polemic see here and also see Tom's excellent point in the comments
Notes on the first session here
This is where the talks will appear:

Accelerationism paper

The less polemical version of the paper I gave at the accelerationism event is now available here. On the day I cut the first part on Foucault and made some more direct remarks to the arguments of Mark and Ray, I guess that can be found on the recorded version when it goes up. Thanks to Mark for organising and everyone who made up the large audience in a small hot room, I felt I would have liked the opportunity to chat more, especially with the audience.

Monday 13 September 2010

Accelerationism tomorrow

Looking forward to it, although wish I wasn't quite so tired after Maastricht (my own Katzenjammer - see below)... One thing that I was thinking on (again) was the relation of Marxism and accelerationism (prompted by a train conversation with Ray Brassier). While I always argued accelerationism is a Marxist heresy, and conforms to the tendency of Marxism to embrace capitalism as the condition of communism, I still don't think that we have to correlate that with absolutisation of capitalism or absolute acceptance of the conditions capitalism 'offers'. After all, the replacement of accumulation as key value(form), might led to 'enrichment'/acceleration in different forms, but I do think it would have to lead to a certain slowing down as well, in terms, to take one key example, of preservation of planetary resources (although the last thing we want is a 'barracks socialism' introduced merely to save capitalism). Therefore, we might imagine a future temporality of socialism/communism along the lines of Marx's comment from the 18th Brumaire:

Bourgeois revolutions, like those of the eighteenth century, storm more swiftly from success to success, their dramatic effects outdo each other, men and things seem set in sparkling diamonds, ecstasy is the order of the day – but they are short-lived, soon they have reached their zenith, and a long Katzenjammer [cat’s wail] takes hold of society before it learns to assimilate the results of its storm-and-stress period soberly. On the other hand, proletarian revolutions, like those of the nineteenth century, constantly criticize themselves, constantly interrupt themselves in their own course, return to the apparently accomplished, in order to begin anew; they deride with cruel thoroughness the half-measures, weaknesses, and paltriness of their first attempts, seem to throw down their opponents only so the latter may draw new strength from the earth and rise before them again more gigantic than ever, recoil constantly from the indefinite colossalness of their own goals – until a situation is created which makes all turning back impossible, and the conditions themselves call out:
Hic Rhodus, hic salta!

Negativity II

My contribution to 'Cutting the 'Not'' now up here.

Catherine Malabou "Negativity and the Body in the Phenomenology of Spirit"

[Below are my notes (w/o critical commentary) taken from Catherine Malabou's paper at the conference Cutting the 'Not', more details on the conference to follow. Catherine also indicated that after the 'detour' of neurobiology she will be returning to thinking the philosophy of time 'as such', in particular with Heidegger.]
The paper concerns the body in the Phenomenology, and particularly in the 'Lordship and Bondage' section.

1. The traditional interpretation is that the body is absent from Hegel's philosophy and especially from the Phenomenology. 'Spirit' either has no body, or seeks to renounce the body, and so the body is negativity present or present as negativity.

2. Kojeve, Foucault, and Derrida argue that the body is sacrificed as a 'negative presence'. The body incarnates negativity and so the body must be sacrificed.
Hence the body is a 'crossing-point' or convergence for dialectics and anti-Hegelian thought, which agrees on the negativity of the body.

Attachment / Detachment
We can translate Lordship and Bondage into the conceptual names of detachment and attachment, respectively. The lord detaches himself from the body by risking its death, he is not knotted to life and the body. On the contrary, the slave or bondsman is attached to the body. The question then is:

What is negativity? It is to detach, cut, or dissolve, or is it to attach? Is it to live or die?

Hegel doesn't believe in detachment, fundamentally. Attachment to negativity is the truth incarnated in the slaves labour. The master's detachment is only a moment, and is sustained only in and through the attachment of the slave. In this 'economy', life always wins, at least according to Kojeve, Derrida and Foucault. Now we turn to their analyses.

1. Kojeve
It is animality that disappears, and not the body. The master disavows or risks his animality, his biological life, through acceptance on non-biological desire, and so accedes to the spiritual body, which is the speaking body. We move from an inauthentic animal body to an authentic spiritual or conceptual body. While the animal body is located and finite, the spiritual body, by acceding to language, is decontextualised and infinite.

2. Derrida
In Hegel there is no real risk, dialectical 'death' is actually the ruse of life. Death is always denied and amortised, and so absolute detachment is impossible. The master/slave dialectic should be a tragedy, but is (as Bataille argues), really a comedy, where nothing is really at stake.
In contrast to this we can figure an absolute detachment, a detachment from dialectics, a 'blind spot' in which we are 'attached to nothing' and so do not maintain ourselves. Life is expenditure, a body qua excess, and the sign of this negativity or absence is the trace as 'sign' of erasure.

3. Foucault
(via Butler's reading in The Psychic Life of Power)
Absolute deatchment is impossible and instead we can see, via Foucault, a need for attachment as the means to achieve freedom. The repression of the body is the condition of the body of pleasure, and repressions generate proliferating pleasures.
In this model, according to Butler, we are faced with the dual impossibility of being Hegelian and being non-Hegelian, we are mired, in a way, in attachment/detachment.

Conclusion: Hegel on the body
Detachment comes first. There is no personal identity, no auto-affection, and death is only the confirmation of our initial detachment (our plasticity). The subject is plastic: both shaping itself and being given shape. There is this originary plasticity, missed by Kojeve, Foucault, and Derrida, which means the 'self' is empty detachment that then has to work to attach itself to itself, as a guard against this originary madness. Negativity is the milieu of this originary detachment.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

out and about

In Maastricht from tomorrow to Sunday at 'Cutting the 'Not'', should anyone be in the 'area'... I'll put up my paper on and perhaps post a report when I return. I don't actually have a portable laptop so can't do any on-the-spot reporting.

After a day's recovery, off then to Accelerationism at Goldsmiths on Tuesday 14th, which Mark updates here with further news (currently downloading the mix). I have to say being anti-accelerationist doesn't make me anti-drum n' bass / (detroit) techno - two of my absolute favourite forms of music.
Chillaxing after that, ie working, although launching my book at Chichester on October 14th 4pm with an early evening soiree, before gearing up for HM in November.

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Prims and Anti-Civs

Courtesy of radicalarchives, via the anarchist academics mailing list, comes the 'Origins of Primitivism' documents from Fifth Estate (1977-1988). Of course 'primitivism' is not something I agree with, although I did kind of admire its gung-ho anti-everything elan, especially when it came to language (after all Barthes did say the language-system was structurally fascist). It's strangely reminiscent of Douglas Adams's Hitchiker's Guide:
'Many were increasingly of the opinion that they'd all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.'
You may wish to consult this, on Zerzan, as a rather devastating critique.
That said, easy point scoring is just that and some of the questions raised about 'civilisational' forms and experiences of alternative modes of organisation had resonances for my old hippie soul (Hugh Brody's Maps and Dreams has some remarkable passages on the 'non-organisation' 'organisation' of a hunting trip by Beaver indians in British Columbia that made me realise just how capitalist in time-habits I really am...)

Monday 6 September 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

"There are two kinds of people in the world, those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig.”

Reading G.M. Tamas's article 'The Truth About Class' (pdf here), for whom there are two kinds of communists: Roussean socialists, who believe in the intrinsic goodness of the people (including in these are the unlikely bedfellows of EP Thompson, Mauss, Bataille, and Polanyi), and actual communists, who believe in the self-abolition of the proletariat as only a class of capitalism. Tamas himself is a rare case of a dissident from neo-liberalism to communism, and brings a robust clarity to his rare apostasy.
Now I should be type 2, but find myself often falling into type 1... (perhaps especially in my (non)-participation in the debate over the right to work slogan.

A few points disputing the clean lines of Tamas's division. First, the idea that type 1 (Roussean) involves a return to 'simpler and transparent' relations wouldn't hold up, for anthropological reasons, in the case of Mauss and Bataille. Gift economies are at least as complex, if not more, than capitalist economies, and perhaps one of the attractions of capitalist economies is that they remove all the 'messy' temporal negotiations of gift economies, gratitude, charity etc. (which often take malignant 'caste' forms of condescension - Maria Edgeworth's remarks on the need for gratitude get caught up in this very unpleasant 'economy', when it comes to servants and slaves - and Edgeworth is by no means the worst example of such problems).

Second I think Tamas lines up too clear a division of piling class malignancy onto 'pre-capitalist' caste relations. While I wouldn't want to defend the intrinsic 'goodness' of the people, nor deny the imbrication of the working class as class of capitalism, I do think he underestimates how capitalism parasites on and generates a new discourse of 'canailles'. To defend equality, to defend the fact that the working class aren't stupid, etc., may not be 'Marxist' per se but it a necessary task.
This leads to the major problem of the assumption of the emergence of a 'pure capitalism' that throws workerism/Roussean socialism into crisis and paves the way for true Marxism. This of course makes sense in terms of the crisis of social democracy, the affirmation of the worker etc. (and chimes with Theorie Communiste's theorisation that such affirmations belong to the stage of formal subsumption / 'programmatism' in the stage of real subsumption, and are now obsolete in true real subsumption). I think the question here lies on the 'purity' of that 'pure capitalism', to repeat/iterate the point above. If social democracy is dead, for example, it doesn't seem to be dead for the banks, and the assumption that the ground is clear for true Marxism doesn't seem to be yielding the results one would suppose, as Tamas, being a clear-sighted and logical thinker, concedes.
Therefore, perhaps especially in the case of crisis, I think a necessary tense and contradictory inhabiting of these two tendencies might be possible: a defence of past gains, without seeing these as Marxist, rather 'true socialism', and a re-tooling of the self-abolition thesis that does not conform to capitalism's current round of devalorisation.
On the ground then, a defence of job security, and work as possibility against devalorisation / attacks / neo-liberal re-organisation, coupled with taking the opportunity, as Nina rightly suggests, to re-think work/value/accumulation.
A fudge then...