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The recent developments in electronic music present us with a good example of how the inorganic has become, at least in sound, more organic than the organic. With the rapid development of sound-producing machines it has become possible to create such sounds that while listening to it one feels like there is a living organism from a strangely familiar realm making noises in the room, or worse still, that the noises are coming from within one’s mind and body. Listening to this kind of music makes the mutual exclusiveness of the somatic and the psychic irrelevant. Especially after the three dimensional medium presented by CDs and DVDs it has become possible to present the sound to masses in a form that sounds more real than the original, live recording. 

I will return to the relevance of electronic music in a little while, but first let me revisit Herbert Marcuse’s theory of how capitalism keeps itself alive by feeding on the death of the counter-subjectivities and the life of the dominant consuming subject governed by the life drive which is itself externally constituted within the subject. In a nutshell, Marcuse’s theory in One-Dimensional Man was that the one dimensional market society absorbs and turns the counter-cultural products into its own agents, reducing the two-dimensional to the one-dimensional, hence making the forces of resistance serve the purpose of strengthening what they are counter to. Marcuse’s problem was the dissolution of the two-dimensional sphere of counter-cultural production and its domination by one-dimensional relations. He suggested using mythological imagery  not only to make sense of the pre-dominant social reality, but also to create a counter-social reality which would at the same time be a critique of the existing social reality. What Marcuse said is still relevant to a certain extent, but to be able to use this theory one has to adapt it to the demands of the present situation. What I will attempt to do, therefore, is to ignore the irrelevant parts of Marcuse’s theory and try to find out those parts of it that matter for my concerns. It is true that Marcuse’s theory is no more sufficient in understanding and solving the problems of our Superpanoptic societies. And yet in it there are lots of insights with high potential for development in the service of psychosomatic and sociopolitical progress today.

Today even Madonna’s latest release, Confessions on the Dance Floor, is produced in a DJ’s room in London. The electronic dance music products are mostly produced in people’s bedrooms on a personal computer donated with software especially produced for making electronic music. The recent shift in the gears of electronic dance music, of course, is a cause of the amazing possibilities the digital sound machines present. These machines have no material existence; they are loaded on the computer in the form of digital data. One can have a studio loaded into one’s computer by pressing a few buttons on the keyboard. In this context, making music requires technical knowledge of the tools of production more than the knowledge of the rules of what is called making music. With electronic music the sounds are already there, loaded into the computer; all one needs to do to become a music producer has become putting these sounds together, making them overlap with one another in a positively disordered way and produce something that is neither the one nor the other.

If we imagine for a moment Beethoven making his music after the orchestra plays it, composing the piece after it is materialized, we can see how paradoxical the situation the producer is caught up in inherent in the production process of electronic music is. It is as if Beethoven wrote the notes of his music as he listened to the orchestra play it. We can see that this is in fact exactly the opposite of what Beethoven did. For in the case of Beethoven, unlike the electronic music producer, it is the internal orchestra in the psyche that plays the piece as Beethoven writes it, not an actual orchestra in its material existence. With electronic music that internal orchestra is not in the creator’s mind, but in the computer. 

Some of the more creative and experimentalist logics in this field record the noises coming from within their bodies, or from within other animals’ bodies, load them into the computer, and with the aid of synthesizers and effects units, turn these noises into the basic rhythms and melodies of their music. Heartbeat, for instance, can be used as drum and bass at the same time in some electronic music recordings. It is possible to dub-out, echo, delay, deepen, darken, lighten, slow down, or fasten up the sound of heartbeat with the computer. And after a proper mastering process you get something that sounds neither totally organic, nor totally inorganic.  These products are not only digitally bought and sold on the internet, but also exchanged with similar other products.

The affective qualities of these products are extremely high. The producers of the five most developed forms of electronic music, which are Techno, House, Electro, Trance, and Breakbeat, claim that they are the beholders of the threshold between the soma and the psyche, that with their walls of sound they keep them separate and yet contiguous to one another. 

It would be wrong to assume, as many have done, that this kind of music is in touch with only a few listeners. On the contrary, since not only the listeners but also the producers of this kind of music have started to occupy dominant positions in the advertisement production business, it is not surprising that electronic music, and especially the underground minimal techno, is increasingly being used as the background music surrounding the object advertised in many advertisements on radio and T.V. Based on the erasure of the boundary between the psychic and the somatic, or between the inorganic and organic, the use of minimalist electronic music in the advertisements of today’s hectic life-styles is a very good example of the exploitation of the life/death drives inherent in contemporary nihilistic culture driving and driven by what has almost become transglobal capitalism.  The LG U880 ultra-slim mobile phone advert on T.V. is precisely the hard-core of how this exploitation of the life/death drives takes place. In the advert there is heart beating in the phone. Or, the heart is shown to have a transparent phone surrounding it. And with the minimalist techno at the back, that is, sounds that are neither organic nor inorganic but both at the same time. The beating heart in the phone creates the deep and dark bass sound with extremely electronic and yet organic sounding noises coming from within the phone.  It’s as though it is one’s own heart beating in the phone; this phone is you, so it’s yours… If we keep in mind that the transparency of the phone is fleshy, for there are capillaries of the phone, the overall impression created is one of ultra minimalist life reduced to its bare bones when in reality the LG U880 mobile phone is itself the product of exactly the opposite of an ultra minimalist attitude. The message is that this mobile phone is what attaches you to life, when in fact it detaches you from life as it is. The finishing words, “Life is Good,” only confirms my critique of this advertisement, of this marvellous sound-image which is an inorganic object disguised as a living organism. It is obvious that what’s at work here is the exploitation/oppression of the life/death drives, as the inorganic replaces the organic, and the real of death in the midst of life is expelled. 

As I said at the beginning of this article, in this perilous time the three dimensional sounds created by the contemporary electronic music are non-representational to such an extent that it is as though there is a living organism from a completely other dimension making organic noises in the room. And in this room and at this very moment  in which I found myself Marcuse’s theories are unfortunately insufficient in that they do not realize that it is precisely the reversing of the roles policy, that is, presentation of something as its opposite, of an inorganic entity as an organic entity for instance, or of that which is inside as if it is outside, that has to be left behind. As we know from Foucault and Hobbes, Panopticon and Leviathan are within and without the subject at the same time, and a reverse of the roles of the inside and the outside means nothing in this perilous time. 

For the solution of problems posed by the advanced projection-introjection mechanisms of what have become Superpanoptic societies, I shall attempt to show that post-structuralism and critical theory have never been as mutually exclusive as many suggest, especially in terms of the wrong and right questions that they have left unanswered. If we look at Adorno’s and Foucault’s writings we can see that most of their thoughts are directed towards finding out how to reconcile theory and practice. Just as theory and practice, post-structuralism and critical theory, too, are always already reconciled, because they come from Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud. They may be always already reconciled but the only way to actualize this reconciliation is to realize their common goal; to put theory in the service of ordinary life, to develop the conditions of existence, and to practise freedom. 

 It will almost sound offensive to say that the new emerges only if some people become traitors and shake the foundations of their own mode of being, or at least undertake opening up spaces so that light can shine among all, or death can manifest itself. But one must take the risk of offending some others, for every situation requires its expression, every problem bears within itself at least half of its own solution. It is all a matter of putting theory and practice in the service of one another. Theory that does not match the truth of its time is for nothing. It is important to theorize practical ways of dealing with the banal accidents of an ordinary life. I think what I have just said is one of the things that both Foucault and Adorno would have agreed on.

What we witness in this time is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World turning into Rave New World.  A world in which the well known and the so called lines between mind and body, fantasy and reality, nature and culture, organic and inorganic, life and death, are not just blurred, but have completely disappeared. And yet, at the same time, these lines are in the process of reappearance.

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MANTIS 076 + BLACKMASS PLASTICS
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hour 1 / DVNT

Photek – Ni-Ten-Ichi-Rhy [Science]
Solar Chrome – Malevil [Maschinen Musik]
Petar Alargic – EeR NR1 [petaralargic.com]
Octave Mouret – Good News Everyone! I’ve Taught the Toaster to Feel Love [octavemouret.bandcamp.com]
Foul Shape – A Monster Has Created [Entity]
Loefah – Twisup VIP [DMZ]
Adam X – Downbursts [Prologue]
Plastikman – Ask Yourself (Dead Sound remix) [dub]
Intra:mental – Love Arp [Semantica Records]
Mothboy – Medusa feat. Sezrah Sylvan [Drawn Recordings]
Mothboy – Others [Drawn Recordings]
Drugstore – Razor [Offaudio]
Steve Bicknell – Track 5 [Cosmic Records]
Scanone – Angels [Syndetic Recordings]
Laserfire – Wires of Love (Encrypter remix) [dub]
Bruce Stallion – OK U Cunts [Off Me Nut Records]
Perforated Cerebal Party – Mystery Train [Russian-Techno.com]
Concrete DJz – Hadron Collider [Subsequent]
Pillpopper – Jewelry Box (Threnody remix) [Furioso] forthcoming
BEATure – Follow the Line [Sens Inverse Label]
ECHO PARK – After Burner [All City Records]

hour 2 / BLACKMASS PLASTICS showcase

Blackmass Plastics – Plasixsixsix
Blackmass Plastics – Bad Reflection
Blackmass Plastics – Step Up or Get…
Blackmass Plastics – Ouija Board
Blackmass Plastics – Arpexone
Blackmass Plastics – Biomega
Blackmass Plastics – Klonk Kreator
Blackmass Plastics – Visions of Plastic
Blackmass Plastics – OK Ozzy
Blackmass Plastics – Dial M.
Blackmass Plastics – D for Danger
Blackmass Plastics – Red and Black Rush
Blackmass Plastics – Known Space
Blackmass Plastics – Paranoid Agent
Blackmass Plastics – Selecta Infecta
Blackmass Plastics – Give Me Da Data
Blackmass Plastics – Scope Dog
Blackmass Plastics – T-Rex Powerdrill
Blackmass Plastics – Zargon
Blackmass Plastics – Nothing Nice
Blackmass Plastics – Get Destroyed
Blackmass Plastics – Get Bigga
Blackmass Plastics – Down Periscope
Blackmass Plastics – Get Jacked
Blackmass Plastics – Tek Tek v3
Blackmass Plastics – Ice and Slice
Blackmass Plastics – Future Past (original mix)
Blackmass Plastics – Trauma Centre
Blackmass Plastics – Blindsider
Blackmass Plastics – No Escape
Blackmass Plastics – Get Spooked

Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Image by kian1 via Flickr

Sceptic:  For me Nietzsche is one of those who do philosophy departing from a wound, from a deep-seated internal problem… The wound is internal to Nietzsche but the source of this wound is external, so you see, he is in-between. He attacks both sides at the same time, there is a profound neither/nor relationship, an endless struggle between the life drive and the death drive in Nietzsche’s books. As for Hegel, I’m not so sure what kind of a man he was. His philosophy doesn’t seem to give me “the kicks” as you say. But to me Hegel is sobering, and that is what I require. In Kant’s books you see everything divided and subdivided into sections and subsections. And you see Kant’s idea is there in three books. I find the life philosophy-academic philosophy distinction ridiculous and luxurious for our times. It deprives us of many great philosophers. Nietzsche’s is neither academic nor life, but a kind of open philosophy; philosophy without the final judgment. Nietzsche has never said and will never have said his last word.

Stoic: Never?

Sceptic: And that there is no such last word or final judgment is itself Nietzsche’s last word and final judgment. It is with Nietzsche that we come to realize this paradoxical situation, this vicious cycle, within which we have come to be entrapped.

Stoic: But Nietzsche also makes us ask, what would be the price paid to escape from this vicious cycle?

Sceptic: That’s indeed another thing that he does. It is precisely because of these endless questions leading to one another, each question the answer of another, and this incompleteness of his philosophy is only one of the reasons that make Nietzsche attractive for many. The second is this: Nietzsche has four-five teachings, the first one is, which for me is the most important, that “knowledge is perspectival by nature.” As soon as he says this, his philosophy becomes an opening up to a new field for thought and life. Everyone can enter Nietzsche’s new space and take what they want, it is like a toolbox. There is something for Hitler in that work, something else for Bataille, for Heidegger, Freud, so you see how clear it all becomes in this context, what he means when he says on the title-page of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, “A book for no one and everyone.” You can translate this as a book for everyone who will understand but at the same time for no one, since no one can completely understand what exactly Nietzsche means. This formula is applicable to his philosophy as a (w)hole, a philosophy for none and all at the same time. And there is no (w)hole of Nietzsche’s philosophy to be comprehended as a (w)hole anyway. This attitude would reduce “Nietzsche” to its bare bones when in fact it is a very fleshy writing. It wouldn’t be fair on Nietzsche. Mine is a stance from which I try to justify Nietzsche, save him. It is the tendency of most readers of Nietzsche to be his advocate. And yet I now realize that this attitude, too, is not so true to the spirit of Nietzsche. And this is the reason why I distanced myself from Nietzsche, after witnessing what has been happening in the world for the last one hundred years, since Nietzsche’s death. You might as well read “there can be no poetry after Auschwitz,” as “there can be no philosophy after Auschwitz.” Or you at least become compelled to admit, “after Auschwitz it becomes very difficult, almost impossible to unconditionally affirm Nietzsche’s philosophy.” You might, and you should, feel the need to introduce a distance between yourself and Nietzsche.

Stoic: Another paradoxical situation emerges here, for Nietzsche is himself against himself in this respect and on this subject.

Sceptic: Yes, he is indeed.

Stoic: And this indicates a self-deconstructive reading at work, that is, you are already deconstructing your own reading as you read Nietzsche.

Sceptic: But isn’t this a natural outcome of philosophical thinking? I think Nietzsche’s grandest illusion was his excessive self-assurance, a pathological self-confidence which led him not to use his critical eye in relation to himself as much as he did in relation to others. He perspectivizes truth but he never situates himself in the nineteenth century as a priest who had been influenced by the likes of Wagner and Schopenhauer; he never comes to terms with his finitude, and so he never manages to reconcile himself to life.

Stoic: In 1889, when his passage to the other side is semi-complete he is about forty-five.

Sceptic: Yes.

Stoic: The most interesting aspect of his work is its posthumousness. He left behind a multiplicity of texts in complete silence and yet all his work, this multiplicity of texts, is itself an unceasing and singular voice at times causing nausea. When one is looking at this oeuvre one wonders what kind of a will to power is Nietzsche’s, it’s not clear, some say it should be translated as will towards power. I think will to power and will to nothingness are one and the same thing. Will towards power and being towards death are the two constituent parts of becoming what one always already is. And what use of a will to truth if it is not in the service of becoming true to one’s being. Perhaps if his work had not been interrupted by illness, he, and we with him, would have been better able to make sense of these circular movements of thought.

Sceptic: Nietzsche’s working method involves taking notes as he walked… And then revising those notes…

Stoic: …Organize those thoughts, put them in order? But it’s different when Zarathustra speaks. He wrote Thus Spoke Zarathustra locked in a room, sitting in a chair in front of a table on the mountains after his devastating Lou Andreas-Salomé experience. There is a close relation between aphorisms and steps, fragmentary writing and walking. It is the same in the case of other aphorism writers, there are flashes of insight involved, always fragmentary, little thoughts complete in themselves and yet to be formulated in relation to one another. Nietzsche’s process of thinking is itself discontinuous, fragmentary; it’s an attempt to give birth to partial objects without relation to an external idea of wholeness. As soon as something strikes him he feels as though if he doesn’t put it down immediately he never will. And since he thinks about the same thing from different perspectives through a period of time, the result is a plurality of partial objects all somehow linked to one another rather than to a whole outside them. He didn’t have time to make sense of all he thought. His thought was larger than his life. He used to write so rapidly but still his infinite speed of thought always left his writing behind.

Sceptic: If only he had lived longer and thought with less speed.

Stoic: Perhaps he could have finished the work of his life in a much more precise way. If he were able to write a second Ecce Homo at sixty years old, he could have survived his thought. But of course I’m assuming too much here.

Sceptic: Actually it is good to throw some light on where Nietzsche is coming from and where he is heading towards. It makes visible the great potential of Nietzsche’s thought; explicates the possibilities of new ways of thinking and living it has to offer.

Stoic: In a new light everything becomes other than itself.

Sceptic: Plato criticized his own concept of the Idea later in life. Perhaps if Nietzsche had lived longer he would have had a critical look at his earlier work.

Stoic: The other day I had a look at On The Genealogy of Morality as a preparation for our conversation. In it I saw Nietzsche thinking about two hundred years ahead of his time. And this prophetic stance is not very common among philosophers. Usually poets tend to tell of the future.

Sceptic: Poets do tend to have messianic expectations.

Stoic: Yes, poets too operate at messianic levels but Nietzsche is assured that what he thinks will take place in the future will actually take place; he believes in the truth of what he assumes. And worst of all, we now see that what he thought would happen is really happening. Have a look at what he says:              

What meaning would our entire being have if not this, that in us this will to truth has come to a consciousness of itself as a problem? … It is from the will to truth’s becoming conscious of itself that from now on—there is no doubt about it—morality will gradually perish: that great spectacle in a hundred acts that is reserved for Europe’s next two centuries, the most terrible, most questionable, and perhaps also most hopeful of all spectacles…[1]

He sees the rise of Nihilism. And we see him say this in Genealogy published in November 1887. It has been 117 years and we can say that his prophecy has proved to be true for the first 117 years out of 200. On this account we can bet that this truth will increasingly maintain its truth status in the remaining 83 years. Looking backwards he tells of the future. With a messianic force he writes Ecce Homo in which he proclaims himself Christ and Dionysus. What he means by that self-fashioning is that he has passed across the Nihilism, went through the will to nothingness and reached the point after the fantasy is traversed where Christ and Dionysus confront one another. But Nietzsche never says that he is the overman. Nietzsche, in Ecce Homo, fashions himself as the one who remains the man who wants to die. In Gay Science we see the theme of God’s death merging with the story of a madman wandering around with his lamp, looking for God. He distinguishes two forms of Nihilism: one is an active nihilism he associates with destruction, the other is an exhausted and passive nihilism he identifies as Buddhism.

Sceptic: Perhaps it’s true; today we know the West is turning towards the East.

Stoic: He sees not one, but two distinct futures of a Nihilist Europe. But I don’t really get what he means when he says he has himself overcome nihilism. Has he really overcome nihilism or is it just wishful thinking?

Sceptic: I don’t know whether he has or he has not overcome nihilism, but what I can say concerning why he thinks in that way is this: In a nut-shell nihilism is the absence of “where” and “why,” or “direction” and “intention.” Nietzsche is convinced that he is showing humanity a new direction towards which to head. His project of revaluing the values is itself an attempt at overcoming nihilism, but this attempt only partially overcomes nihilism, for even after all the values are devalued there remains the new values to be created out of the ruins of the old. Revaluation cannot be completed unless destruction is left behind and creation takes its course.

Stoic: Absolutely. Nihilism is necessary for the devaluation of values, but should be left behind before revaluing the values. So nihilism is a useful tool in turning the existing order against itself but when it comes to creating the new it is nothing other than an enemy. Nietzsche’s discourse is almost a Marxist discourse without Marxist terminology. To see this aspect of Nietzsche more clearly let me give you a brief account of the master-slave relationship in Hegel and Nietzsche. For Hegel everyone is a slave and some slaves, out of a dissatisfaction with slavery, fight to death for mastery, win the fight, and through recognition by the slaves as the masters, become masters, and dominate the slaves. Dialectical process, however, does not end there and in the next stage, and “as history has shown us” in Marx’s words, since in time everything turns into its opposite, slaves eventually become masters. Whereas for Nietzsche from the beginning there are masters and slaves, which he calls active and reactive forces, but the ones who play the role of masters are in fact the slaves and the slaves the masters. So what Nietzsche wants to say is that slaves dominate the masters because of the false values upon which human life is built. Reactive forces are the slaves who occupy the master position and active forces are the masters who occupy the slave position. It is always the reactive forces who win because their reactions are contagious and it is extremely easy for them to multiply themselves and degenerate the others. The active forces, however, although they are the strong ones, are always crushed under the false value system created by the reactive forces. If Hegel is saying that everything eventually turns into its opposite and the roles are reversed only after a struggle to death, Nietzsche is saying that the roles are always already reversed and the way to set things right, rather than passing through reversing the roles, passes through a revaluation of all values on the way to a new game. How would you respond to that?

Sceptic: Well, Nietzsche looks at things otherwise. Through eternal recurrence everything is continually inverted into the spotlight and everything turns into something other than itself in time. So he comes to the conclusion that everything is so reversed that the weak wins. That’s what he sees as the outcome of nihilism. In Nietzsche’s world what everyone understands from improvement is in fact the opposite of the real meaning of improvement. Look what he says, 

One should at least be clear about the expression “be of use.” If by this one intends to express that such a system of treatment has improved man, then I will not contradict: I only add what “improve” means for me—the same as “tamed,” “weakened,” “discouraged,” “sophisticated,” “pampered,” “emasculated” (hence almost the same as injured…)[2]

Stoic: I admire him for what he achieved but at times doesn’t he become more than self-confident. I occasionally feel that he saw himself as a prophet.

Sceptic: Well, it is obvious that he suffered from a certain megalomania. No doubt he lacked self-critical eyes.

Stoic: Does he give you the feeling that he regarded himself a prophet from time to time? Could he have thought he was revealing the word of God?

Sceptic: The thinker talking through Zarathustra’s mouth has that prophetic quality. Zarathustra is himself a prophet. There are various speculations concerning Nietzsche’s entry into the realm of madness. When it occured and so on. Some say when his books are read with a clinical intent there is no trace of madness in his work. I don’t agree with this. Already in Zarathustra there is a deterioration of his thought processes. An exaggerated self-confidence appears in Ecce Homo. But to be considered a prophet is what Nietzsche dreaded most. He says it in Ecce Homo: “I have a terrible fear that one day I will be pronounced holy.”

Stoic: One still wonders whether he is the first prophet without a God, if he thought himself to be the first prophet without a God, and with this thought he went off the rails?  

Sceptic: Are you listening to what I’m saying? 

Stoic: He also sees himself as the disciple of Dionysus.

Sceptic: Have you heard what I’ve just said?

Stoic: He signed Dionysus the last letter he wrote to Strindberg.

Sceptic: And Crucified at the same time. Nietzsche’s thought is full of paradoxes. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why it is a philosophy for everyone. On any topic, on this or that subject, there is this perspective and there is that. You can choose whatever works for you and ignore the others. But that’s not what I’m really concerned with. The contradiction at the heart of Nietzsche is that his theory of eternal return and the becoming of overman cancel each other out. There are two distinct layers of time at which Nietzsche’s teaching operates. First is the linear time of history, the time in which animals live, it is a measurable time. Birth, reproduction, internalisation, metabolism, dissolution all take place in this time; it is the time of life and death. The exact opposite of this time is the circular time of the spirit. It is a time that transcends the linear time and the physical world. It is a product of man’s dissatisfaction with the physical world; a will to go beyond the physical and/or outside time. He conceived of both of these forms of time (Aeon and Chronos) and he existed in both at the same time. He was a man who knew that there is nothing outside physical time and/but who still strived to go beyond this time.

Stoic: How agonizing is that? I think it is none other than himself he is talking about when he says,

Precisely this is what the ascetic ideal means: that something was lacking, that an enormous void surrounded man—he did not know how to justify, to explain, to affirm himself: he suffered from the problem of his meaning. He suffered otherwise as well, he was for the most part a diseased animal: but the suffering itself was not his problem, rather that the answer was missing to the scream of his question: “to what end suffering?”[3]                 

All his life he tried to make sense of the inordinate measure of suffering and privation he had to endure. In vain he looked for a way of exposing “the vanity of all human wishes.” He was dissatisfied with his life and he hated himself for that. He kept resisting the Stoic within himself. But his Sceptic side was incapable of putting something other than the teachings of Socrates in the place left empty by the demolition of his Stoic side. He equally resented having remained under the shadow of Socrates. To escape from Socrates he attacked Plato’s metaphysics of presence and did this with the tools he borrowed from Heraclitus; a pre-Stoic philosopher who has deeply influenced both the Zeno of Citium, who was the founder of Stoicism, and the Zeno of Elea, who explained how it could be possible for a tortoise to pass Achilles in a race. If you look at the latter Zeno’s paradox carefully you see that what he wants to say with all his arrow business is that there can be no motion out of immobility. Yes, the arrow is at rest at every instant and the mind unites those individual instants each a picture in itself. What the eye receives is already what the mind’s synthesizing force creates. We see the arrow in motion when in fact it is, at every instant of its existence, at rest. You see where Zeno is coming from there. He is coming from Heraclitus’ idea that “one cannot step into the same river twice.” The river which is stepped into is a different river at each instant of its flow. You can see that Heraclitus is making a distinction between the flowing water and the bed in which it flows. It is Heraclitus who first splits time. So Zeno finds himself in a split time and can say that before rational thought unites time there is no movement to be perceived.

Sceptic: But this means that Zeno thinks reason creates something out of nothing, or movement out of immobility.

Stoic: And this is very similar to the foundational truth upon which Epictetus builds his therapeutic philosophy. Epictetus says that we create our history, our past, present, and future. It is up to us to change the way we perceive things, put them in a new light, see ourselves differently, and act in way which would be in harmony with nature, in accordance with reason, and for the benefit of all. Epictetus doesn’t see the care of the self as other than the care for the other, he reconciles the interior and the exterior of the subject. So knowledge is a construct of the synthesis of the internal and the external; we project what we have introjected. Between projection and introjection there is a synthetic activity that unites the internal and the external, or the psychic and the material. And a balance between the truth of what’s really going on outside and how the subject perceives this truth is a sign of health. An internally constituted external authority, the truth of universal humanist rationalism, governs the subject in harmony with nature. Listen to what nature says to you and you will know the right thing to do, truth is of nature, say the Stoics. But Plato says: “I, the truth, am speaking.” How megalomaniac is that?

Sceptic: It is quite megalomaniac indeed. And that is the Platonic side of Nietzsche, an exaggerated self-confidence.

Stoic: But with the thought of eternal return Nietzsche is shattered. He realizes how random and chaotic life is and I think his thought of eternal return is a response to his fragmentation at the time he was in Turin. The contingency of all things led him to formulate the eternal return, a circular time with no beginning or an end. In this circular time “a throw of the dice will never abolish the chance,” as Mallarmé put it. So after the nihilistic fantasies and Dionysian hallucinations are traversed the new age of bliss begins for the ones who have learned to learn from what happens to them in this life and rather than fall into the wound pass across it and affirm life as it is. Amor fati is both the driving force and the outcome of the eternal return. Everyone is born free. One who loves one’s fate whatever happens is free. It is a very Stoic thought; as long as the mind is free who cares about the body in chains. But this is not to despise the body, on the contrary, Stoics do care about their bodies; cleanliness, appetite, health, good behaviour, humour, kindness, affirmative attitude; it is a very naturalist social philosophy.

Sceptic: I didn’t know that you were so off the rails. If I understood you correctly, in eternal return there is no room for Darwinist linear evolution. Evolution is peculiar to linear time. Nietzsche is after finding a new form of progressive movement in complicity with the circular movement of time. The idea of eternal return is a very vague formulation of what he was really after. It is Bergson who came closer to saying what Nietzsche wanted to say. In his Creative Evolution Bergson investigates Zeno’s paradox and comes to the conclusion that Zeno’s idea that there can be no movement in-itself because time is infinitely divided within itself is not sufficient to theorize a practical and creative evolutionary process other than a linear progress. Bergson says that cinema achieves what Zeno thought was impossible. By creating motion pictures out of pictures at rest at every instant he introduces mind as a projection-introjection mechanism just like a camera. “But while our consciousness thus introduces succession into external things, inversely these things themselves externalise the successive moments of our inner duration in relation to one another.”[4] Bergson doesn’t differ from Zeno as much as he thinks he does, in that, it was Zeno who said mind projects what it had introjected. And this projection-introjection mechanism is a binding-splitting force at the same time. It binds the subject to the social as it splits the subject within itself, right?

Stoic: Well, almost. It is a matter of working through ways of dealing with history, with the contingency of every event and the randomness of what happens to us in time. Stoics look down on death and suffering. They say that which has happened cannot be changed in linear time, but in circular time everything can be changed in perception and then projected onto the present so as to leave behind the traumatic incident and move on towards becoming present. So, you see, you are always already present and yet this presence is always changing in relation to your past and future, and hence while you are always present you are never present, you are always a non-presence becoming present. So the way in which you relate to your past, the way in which you read your history, determines your actions at present, so why don’t you read your past in such a way as to enable yourself to become self-present. It is about creating the self so as to create itself as a perpetually renewed self-presence. It is not out of nothing that something is created, there never is nothing for the self. You can see that it is all very closely related to the thought of death in Stoics. “Let death and exile and everything that is terrible appear before your eyes every day, especially death; and you will never have anything contemptible in your thoughts or crave anything excessively.”[5] It is one of his principal doctrines always to start from sense-experience. Life is a process of breaking down and remaking the sense of experience. 

Sceptic: And after his intense sense-experiences Nietzsche dies, leaving behind words that have long ago ceased to be his. Writing is a process of transforming the sense-experience to make it visible for the others. But at the same time writing is itself a sense-experience. And in Nietzsche we very occasionally see writing about the experience of writing. There is an intense meditation on the affective quality of language in Nietzsche.   

Sceptic: But he is partly blind to what’s going on not only inside him but also outside him.

Stoic: He gets too excited about the affect of language. And together with the will to experience more of it he falls on the side of total dissolution. He pushes his thought to its limit after which there is nothing, but he goes on and in utter dismemberment he finds himself. But when he finds himself he is already dismembered and so finds that there is no self outside the social. To find that out he had to push his thought to its limit and pay the price with the loss of his mental health. Perhaps he was a bit too aggressive towards the Stoics who could have shown him a way out of his dilemma: “Remember that what is insulting is not the person who abuses you or hits you, but the judgement about them that they are insulting. So when someone irritates you be aware that what irritates you is your own belief. Most importantly, therefore, try not to be carried away by appearance, since if you once gain time and delay you will control yourself more easily.”[6] But Nietzsche was busy with struggling with Stoics for their rationality and universality.

Sceptic: Well, Nietzsche’s aim has never been to write therapeutic prescriptions for the ill. He sees this as taming. And yet this is what he is doing. With Nietzsche therapy and critical theory confront each other. “With priests everything simply becomes more dangerous, not only curatives and healing arts, but also arrogance, revenge, acuity, excess, love, lust to rule, virtue, disease; though with some fairness one could also add that it was on the soil of this essentially dangerous form of human existence, the priestly form, that man first became an interesting animal, that only here did the human soul acquire depth in a higher sense and become evil—and these are, after all, the two basic forms of the superiority of man over other creatures!…”[7]  Here he is talking about Christianity and Buddhism, but you can imagine the same criticism directed against not only Plato but also the Stoics. Nietzsche’s sees the Jews as the beginners of “the slave revolt in morality.”[8] You see, he is after an attitude to life that would be neither Jewish nor Greek. And the common ground on which both the Greek and the Jewish civilizations are built is an assumption that man is superior to other animals. It is not difficult to see where he is coming from if you remember that Christians thought Jews to be as inferior as animals. As for Buddhism, it is passive nihilism, a will to nothingness, for what is Nirvana if not a mystical union with God, with nothingness. After dissolving all these belief systems in a universal cesspool Nietzsche moves on to a revaluation of all values in the light of the Genesis in The Old Testament: “At the beginning was the word.” But what God is, for Nietzsche, is precisely this: nothingness. It doesn’t start from nothingness, it starts with language, and everything comes from language which has neither a beginning nor an end.

Stoic: But I think you are missing Nietzsche’s point there. For there is a pre-linguistic domain which is not nothingness, but something in between nothingness and everything that there is, that space between is the realm of partial objects which serve the purpose of relating to the world even before the language is acquired. And with this he comes back to what Zeno was saying. At the beginning there is no-motion, but that state of the being of things is not perceivable, for the mind unites partial-objects to form a sequence of events, before which there is nothing perceivable. Zeno says, movement in-itself and for itself is impossible because there can be no movement prior to the synthesis of the individual states of being at rest. But with cinema we see that motionless pictures are put one after the other in a particular sequence and when the film revolves a continuity of images, a flow of pictures is created. There is the illusion of one continuous motion of events when in fact each event is a motionless picture in itself.

Sceptic: But if it cannot be perceived how can you say that at the beginning there is nothing and immobility?

Stoic: Well, that’s not what I’m saying. There is nothing at the beginning precisely because nothing can be perceived before the beginning. You see, there is the absence of something, there is nothing as the object of perception. You have to assume that beginning itself has no beginning so that you can begin living, acting, and doing things. Otherwise how can you live with the thought of being surrounded by nothingness and death at all times? Death is where you cannot be. It is absolutely other to you, its presence signifies your absence and inversely. Perhaps we should have said there is nothing before the beginning and after the end. That fits in better with everything.

Sceptic: Yes, and with this sentence the riddle is solved to some extent; it is not a matter of beginning or ending; everything is in the middle, and nothing is before the beginning and after the end. The eternal return has neither a beginning nor an end.

Stoic: Even when you die your body is still in the process of dissolving; you dissolve into other things and become something else. It is not resurrection I’m talking about here. Nor is resurrection what Nietzsche attempted to theorize with the thought of eternal return, but a very materialist understanding of nature and its relation to man. Nietzsche never says what exactly the eternal return means but from what he says we come to a grasp of what it might mean. Let me quote Nietzsche at length. In this one of the best descriptions of what the eternal return might mean we see Zarathustra talking with a dwarf about time, the moment as a gateway to possibilities, and the passage of time.

 ‘Everything straight lies,’ murmured the dwarf disdainfully. ‘All truth is crooked, time itself is a circle.’

‘Spirit of Gravity!’ I said angrily, ‘do not treat this too lightly! Or I shall leave you squatting where you are, Lamefoot—and I have carried you high!

‘Behold this moment!’ I went on. ‘From this gateway Moment a long, eternal lane runs back: an eternity lies behind us.

‘Must not all things that can run have already run along this lane? Must not all things that can happen have already happened, been done, run past?

‘And if all things have been here before: what do you think of this moment, dwarf? Must not this gateway, too, have been here—before?

‘And are not all things bound fast together in such a way that this moment draws after it all future things? Therefore—draws itself too?

‘For all things that can run must also run once again forward along this long lane.

‘And this slow spider that creeps along in the moonlight, and this moonlight itself, and I and you at this gateway whispering together, whispering of eternal things—must we not all have been here before?

‘—and must we not return and run down that other lane out before us, down that long, terrible lane—must we not return eternally?’[9] 

You see, what renders the eternal return possible is saying yes to difference in repetition. The eternal return is Nietzsche’s grand conception which excludes all binary opposition and defies the binary logic of being and non-being. You can see that it is far away from what Diogenes Laertius was saying concerning the relationship between absence and presence. For Laertius where there is absence there can be no presence and inversely. But Nietzsche thinks that being and non-being, presence and absence are intermingled, are the two constitutive parts of becoming. One side of becoming accomplishes its movement while the other fails to accomplish its movement. So the persistence of being can only take the form of becoming. It is the becoming of being that counts as the immaculate conception of the eternal return. The eternal return is not a metaphysical concept, rather it renders possible attachment to the material world, the world as it is before turning into a fable in and through a linear narrative of history. The eternal return is a tool for interpreting the world in its infinity and finitude at the same time, and its legacy lies in its rejection of both a purely transcendental and a purely immanent interpretation of the world. When Nietzsche makes the dwarf say “everything straight lies[…] all truth is crooked, time itself is a circle,” he is pointing towards an ethical imperative, namely, that one must give free rein to the unconscious drives so that in time, as these drives are let to manifest themselves in and through language, it becomes apparent that it is ridiculous to repress them for it is repression itself that produces them; so the more one represses them the more one contributes to their strengthening. As you see what at stake here is a way of governing the self in relation to others. Eternal return is will to power and will to nothingness at the same time, it is the name of the process of becoming through which the subject becomes other than itself. This becoming other than itself of the subject is in the form of an emergence of the new out of the old, that is, realization of an already existing possibility and will towards its actualisation through this realization. So the subject assumes what it was in the past and upon this assumption builds its present as already past and yet to come. It is in this context that Foucault says genealogy is “a history of the present.”

Sceptic: Very interesting. You seem to have figured out the ways of passing across the avenues Gilles Deleuze opened in the way of explicating the meaning of eternal return and its use. Look at what he says in a passage, perhaps the most lucid articulation of Deleuze’s conception of time and its passage in Nietzsche and Philosophy:

What is the being of that which becomes, of that which neither starts nor finishes becoming? Returning is the being of that which becomes. “That everything recurs is the closest approximation of a world of becoming to world of being—high point of the meditation.” [Will to Power, 617] This problem for the meditation must be formulated in yet another way; how can the past be constituted in time? How can the present pass? The passing moment could never pass if it were not already past and yet to come—at the same time as being present. If the present did not pass of its own accord, if it had to wait for a new present in order to become past, the past in general would never be constituted in time, and this particular present would not pass. We cannot wait, the moment must be simultaneously present and past, present and yet to come, in order for it to pass (and to pass for the sake of other moments). The present must coexist with itself as past and yet to come. The synthetic relation of the moment to itself as present, past and future grounds its relation to other moments. The eternal return is thus an answer to the problem of passage. And in this sense it must not be interpreted as the return of something that is, that is “one” or the “same.” We misinterpret the expression “eternal return” if we understand it as “return of the same.”[10]

Stoic: It is true. Let me explain. With the big-bang a substance of infinite intensity begins its still ongoing process of expansion-contraction. And this process must always already be complete for it to even begin taking its course of becoming; everything happens at present and for that reason there is neither a beginning nor an end of time. The force combinations are infinitely repeated but because of its previous repetition the quality of the forces themselves change and give birth to its becoming different from itself through repetition of what it assumes itself to be in relation to time. So the subject always already is what it strives to become and yet the only way to actualise this becoming what one is is this: one has to realize that what one is striving to become is already what one is. All the configurations have to repeat themselves eternally for the return of the same to take place. But when this same returns one sees that it has never been the same but always already different from itself. When the future comes it becomes present, the subject is always at present and can never know what it would be like to exist in another present. There is nothing and the present.

Sceptic: Eternal return is the first conceptualisation of the death drive. It is not death drive but it operates the way death-drive operates, and since none of these have any existence outside their operations they are the two different forms the same content takes. The subject of the eternal return wills nothingness and this willing nothingness always returns as a will to power. You can see that Nietzsche uses this grand conception of the relationship between creation and destruction to invert destructive and reactive Nihilism into the spotlight; he turns Nihilism against itself through the thought of eternal return as the thought of becoming other than what one thinks one is. What was repressed and locked into the unconscious once turns into its opposite and becomes the order of the day in a new light and in another time. In this light time is itself the fourth dimension of space. That is how Nietzsche can see the rise of Nihilism in its material, historical conditions. We all come and keep coming from inorganic substance and will end up there. Nietzsche’s confrontation with truth was the confrontation of brain with chaos. And out of this confrontation emerges the truth of the death drive, the will to nothingness disguised as the will to truth, the internally constituted external governor of a Nihilistic Europe.

Stoic: Yes. They are in our midst and yet exterior to us. We are surrounded and governed by nothingness and death which have neither a beginning nor an end. Well, at least not for us, who are those governed by them. For when we die we are nowhere to see our dead bodies or experience death as our own. Death occurs where there is the absence of my self’s sense-experience, all the rest is a process of being towards death, dying, becoming-dead. When death finally arrives even my name ceases to be mine, or rather, it is realized that even my name has never been mine. There remains no one to carry out my life in my name once death is here.

Sceptic: Death and nothingness are interior and exterior to us at the same time. Most of us, however, keep the thought of death at bay at all times; those of us are the ones who live their lives without thinking about death, for they think, in a Spinozan fashion, that “he who is free thinks of nothing less than of death and his meditation is a wisdom not of death but of life.” This is the time of good-sense where everything is identical and everything can be substituted by something else.

Stoic: The will to power and the will to nothingness reverse the roles. We break down as we go along the way towards the completion of passing across the field of partial objects.

Sceptic: Precisely. You told me what I was trying to tell you.  And what is thought worth if it is not in the service of the present? Sacrificing the present by scarfacing yourself for the sake of a better future face is itself the worst thing that can be done to your face at all times. In vain is he/she who strives for immortality.

Stoic: Let us move on to the subjects of finitude and infinity, then. Here is a question for you: Are we finite becomings or infinite beings?

Sceptic: We might as well be neither or both of these. It’s a matter of taste depending on whether you see being alive as a process of dying or a process of living.

Stoic: I think we who are alive, or at least think we are, are infinite beings by nature, but turn into finite becomings in and through our cultures. I say we are infinite beings because infinity has no beginning or end, so it’s impossible for an infinite entity to be a becoming, only a being can be infinite, whereas a finite entity has a beginning from which its becoming starts taking its course and comes to a halt at the end. Since the concept of time is a cultural construct imposed on nature by human beings, because we see other people die, we have come to imagine that we are limited by finitude and surrounded by infinity, when in fact it is the other way around; that is, we are infinite beings and death constitutes an internal limit to our being in the world, giving birth to our idea of ourselves as finite becomings. Do you understand?

Sceptic: Yes I do. We don’t have to strive for immortality, for we are always already immortals who are incapable of realising their immortalities.

Stoic: Shall we leave it at that, then?

Sceptic: Let’s do so.

Stoic: No last words?

Sceptic: None at all.

Stoic: No worst of all words.

Sceptic: None worse than last words.

Stoic: Well then, the end to which we are all devoted shall be to raise our glasses to this worsening suffering!

Sceptic: To what end last words?

Stoic: To what end suffering?

Stoic and Sceptic: Oh, dear!  


[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, On The Genealogy of Morality, trans. Maudemarie Clark and Alan J. Swensen (Cambridge: Hackett, 1998), 117

[2] Friedrich Nietzsche, On The Genealogy of Morality, trans. Maudemarie Clark and Alan J. Swensen (Cambridge: Hackett, 1998), 103

[3] Friedrich Nietzsche, On The Genealogy of Morality, trans. Maudemarie Clark and Alan J. Swensen (Cambridge: Hackett, 1998), 117

[4] Henri Bergson, Time and Free Will, 228

[5] Epictetus, The Encheiridion: The Handbook, trans. Nicholas P. White (Cambridge: Hackett, 1983), 16

[6] Epictetus, 16

[7] Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genalogy of Morality, 15-6

[8] Nietzsche, 17

[9] Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 178-9

[10] Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 48

 

The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism

Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek and Graham Harman (editors)

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Description

Continental philosophy has entered a new period of ferment. The long deconstructionist era was followed with a period dominated by Deleuze, which has in turn evolved into a new situation still difficult to define. However, one common thread running through the new brand of continental positions is a renewed attention to materialist and realist options in philosophy. Among the current giants of this generation, this new focus takes numerous different and opposed forms. It might be hard to find many shared positions in the writings of Badiou, DeLanda, Laruelle, Latour, Stengers, and Zizek, but what is missing from their positions is an obsession with the critique of written texts. All of them elaborate a positive ontology, despite the incompatibility of their results. Meanwhile, the new generation of continental thinkers is pushing these trends still further, as seen in currents ranging from transcendental materialism to the London-based speculative realism movement to new revivals of Derrida. As indicated by the title The Speculative Turn, the new currents of continental philosophy depart from the text-centered hermeneutic models of the past and engage in daring speculations about the nature of reality itself. This anthology assembles authors, of several generations and numerous nationalities, who will be at the center of debate in continental philosophy for decades to come.

Contents

Essays from:
Alain Badiou
Ray Brassier 
Nathan Brown
Levi Bryant 
Gabriel Catren
Manuel DeLanda 
Iain Hamilton Grant
Martin Hägglund 
Peter Hallward 
Graham Harman
Adrian Johnston
Francois Laruelle
Bruno Latour 
Quentin Meillassoux
Reza Negarestani
John Protevi
Steven Shaviro  
Nick Srnicek
Isabelle Stengers
Alberto Toscano 
Slavoj Žižek

 Authors, editors and contributors

Levi R. Bryant is a Professor of Philosophy at Collin College in Frisco, Texas.  He is the author of Difference and Givenness: Deleuze’s Transcendental Empiricism and the Ontology of Immanence as well as a number of articles on Deleuze, Badiou, and Lacanian psychoanalysis.

Graham Harman is Associate Provost for Research Administration at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. He has published the following books: Tool-Being (2002), Guerrilla Metaphysics (2005), Heidegger Explained (2007), Prince of Networks (2009), Towards Speculative Realism (2010), L’Objet quadruple (2010), and Circus Philosophicus (2010)

Nick Srnicek is a PhD candidate in International Relations at the London School of Economics. He is currently working towards a dissertation on the general dynamics of global political change, specifically focusing on the relations between contentious social movements, civil society organizations and international institutions. He has also published work in Symposium: Canadian Journal of Continental Philosophy and Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy.

An Interview with Jane Bennett

by Gulshan Khan

Jane Bennett is Professor of Political Theory and Chair of the Department of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA. In 1986 she received her doctorate in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts. In the following year her dissertation was published with New York University Press under the title Unthinking faith and enlightenment: nature and state in a post-Hegelian era. Her subsequent published books include Thoreau’s Nature: Ethics, Politics, and the Wild (Sage Publications, 1994) and The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings, and Ethics (Princeton University Press, 2001). Her new book, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things, is forthcoming from Duke University Press. In 1988 Bennett became an Assistant Professor at Goucher College in Baltimore, where she also became the Elizabeth Todd Professor in the year 2000 until 2004 when she moved to John Hopkins. She has been a visiting fellow at universities in Britain and in Australia. Bennett is on the editorial and advisory board of a number of prestigious journals and book series ranging from Political Theory to Critical Horizons.

Bennett co-edited The Politics of Moralizing (Routledge, 2002) with Michael J. Shapiro and co-edited In the Nature of Things: Language, Politics and the Environment (University of Minnesota Press, 1993) with William Chaloupka. She and William E. Connolly are in the beginning stages of co-writing a political theory textbook, Friends of the Earth: Minor Voices in the History of Political Thought. These encounters have contributed to Bennett’s distinctive notion of ‘vital materiality’. Her intellectual trajectory is also indebted to aspects of the work of Lucretius (1995), Spinoza (1949), Diderot (1996), Nietzsche (1994), Deleuze and Guattari (1987), Henry Thoreau (1968) and Bruno Latour (1993). Her notion of ‘vital materiality’ also builds upon Michel Foucault’s notion of bio-power and Judith Butler’s early notion of ‘bodies that matter’. Conversely, the notion of agency that stems from Bennett’s work makes an important and substantive contribution, away from the politics of performativity associated with Butler and towards a politics of nonhuman matter and agency. She invokes a new and different political imaginary outside the Hegelian and psychoanalytic framework of the subject and object/other. In this sense her work shares a ‘subject matter’ as well an intellectual affinity with Elizabeth Grosz’s (1994) Deleuzian inspired works. Following a long tradition of thinkers who have sought to de-centre ‘the human’ (for example, Louis Althusser and Michel Foucault), Bennett’s emphasis on nonhuman matter challenges the ontological privileging of ‘the human’. However, her approach creatively affirms the necessity of human embodiment, understood as one site of agency within and across a multiplicity of other material bodies and formations. Her notion of agency also seeks to avoid reducing politics to morality, which has implications for the predominant analytical framework that is heavily underpinned by a Kantian conception of moral agency with its emphasis on intuitions, duties and obligations. Bennett’s contribution to political theory with its emphasis on nature, ethics, aesthetics, environmentalism and vitalism is inter-laced with a political interest in the literary writings of Kafka, Coetzee, Thoreau and Kundera, on whom she has published several articles and essays. Her work has clear implications for re-thinking our relations to and engagement with the vitality of nature. 

 GULSHAN KHAN: Jane, thanks for agreeing to this interview. I would like to begin by exploring some of the themes you are currently working on in your new book and issues raised by your paper presented at the ‘Stem Cell Identities, Governance and Ethics’ conference at Nottingham University in 2007.1  I will then move onto questions about your theory about the enchantment of modernity, nature and agency.

You are currently working on a book entitled Vibrant Matter: The Political Ecology of Things (2010), and I find myself drawn to your version of post-structuralism, which does not reduce life or matter to the play of language. Instead, you outline a layered notion of reality and in particular you delineate a conception of matter as a lively force present in all things. You seem to want to challenge our received notions of the distinction between nature and culture. For example, in your article ‘The force of things’ (2004) you confront Theodor Adorno’s (1990) point that we cannot make any positive claims about the ‘non-identity’ between the concept and the thing. By way of contrast, you offer an affirmative account of this non-identity understood as the play of lively animate forces. Can I press you to explain your notion of ‘things’ or ‘vital materiality’ and how it differs from contending versions?

JANE BENNETT: I’m trying to take ‘things’ more seriously than political theorists had been taking them. By ‘things’ I mean the materialities usually figured as inanimate objects, passive utilities, occasional interruptions or background context – figured, that is, in ways that give all the active, creative power to humans. I focus on five exemplary ‘things’ in the book: stem cells, fish oils, electricity, metal and trash. Our habit of parsing the world into passive matter (it) and vibrant life (us) is what Jacques Rancière (in another context) called a ‘partition of the sensible’. In other words, it limits what we are able to sense; it places below the threshold of note the active powers of material formations, such as the way landfills are, as we speak, generating lively streams of chemicals and volatile winds of methane, or the way omega-3 fatty acids can transform brain chemistry and mood, or the way the differential rates of cooling organize the unpredictable patterns of granite.

My experiment is this: What would the world look and feel like were the life/matter binary to fall into disuse, were it to be translated into differences in degree rather than kind? And how, in particular, would our political analyses of events change were they to acknowledge an elemental, material agency distributed across bodies, human and nonhuman? Who or what would count as a ‘stakeholder’? How would a ‘public’ be constituted? Would politics become less centred around the punitive project of finding individual human agents responsible for the public problems of, say, an electricity blackout or an epidemic of obesity, and more concerned with identifying how the complex human–nonhuman assemblage that’s churning out the negative effect holds itself together – how it endures or feeds itself? Until we do that, political attempts to remedy the problem are likely to be ineffective.

An ‘assemblage’ is an ad hoc grouping of an ontologically diverse range of actants, of vital materialities of various sorts. It is a vibrant, throbbing collective with an uneven topography: some of the points at which its diverse affects and bodies cross paths are more heavily trafficked than others, and thus power is not distributed equally across its surface. An assemblage has no sovereignty in the classical sense, for it is not governed by a central head: no one materiality or type of material has sufficient competence to determine consistently its trajectory or impact. The effects generated by an assemblage are, rather, emergent properties, emergent in that their ability to make something happen (a blackout, a hurricane, a war on terror) is distinct from the sum of the force of each materiality considered alone. An assemblage thus has both a distinctive history of formation and a finite life span.

To be clear: the agency of assemblages of which I speak is not the strong kind of agency traditionally attributed to humans or God. My contention, rather, is that if one looks closely enough, the productive impetus of change is always a congregation. As my friend Ben Corson helped me to see, not only is human agency always already distributed to ‘our’ tools, microbes, minerals and sounds. It only emerges as agentic via its distribution into the ‘foreign’ materialities we are all too eager to figure as mere objects.

It is, I think, the ‘responsibility’ of humans to pay attention to the effects of the assemblages in which we find ourselves participating, and then to work experimentally to alter the machine so as to minimize or compensate for the suffering it manufactures. Sometimes it may be necessary to try to extricate your body from that assemblage, to refuse to contribute more energy to it, and sometimes to work to tilt the existing assemblage in a different direction. In a world where agency is always distributed, a hesitant attitude towards assigning moral blame becomes a virtue. Outrage should not disappear completely, but a politics devoted too exclusively to moral condemnation and not enough to a cultivated discernment of the web of agentic capacities can do little good. A moralized politics of good and evil, of singular agents who must be made to pay for their sins – be they Osama bin Laden or George W. Bush – becomes immoral to the degree that it legitimates vengeance and elevates violence to the tool of first resort. A distributive understanding of agency, then, re-invokes the need to detach ethics from moralism… Read More

via Para_Doxa

A Lacanian Ink Event – Jack Tilton Gallery – NYC, 10/15/2010
Introduction by Josefina Ayerza


Post-yapısalcılık adlı düşünce akımının son otuz yılda deforme olmakla kalmayıp özündeki ideoloji karşıtı duruşa son derece ters düşen bir şekilde yüceltilerek global kapitalizm dedikleri üretim ilişkileri biçiminin elinde şamar oğlanına döndürüldüğünü artık hepimiz biliyoruz. Ünlü Alman düşünürü Karl Marx’ın tarif ettiği biçimiyle kapitalizm, içinde bulunduğumuz şu günlerde çok daha vahşi bir hal almıştır ve karşıtlarını içinde barındırmakla yetinmez, bunları kendine hizmet edecek şekilde deforme edip anti-kapitalist güçleri etkisiz ötesi kılar. Bu durumu göz önünde bulundurduğumuzda, örneğin Gilles Deleuze ve Felix Guattari gibi aklı ve deliliğin anlamını sorgulamakla işe koyulmuş, akabinde geliştirdikleri bir atakla ise Freud’cu psikanalize ve Marxizm’in ortodoks kanadına Nietzsche vasıtasıyla karşı çıkarak materyalist bir psikiyatri ve ortotoks olmayan bir Marxizm yaratma çabalarının nasıl olup da global kapitalizm dedikleri üretim ilişkileri biçiminin boyunduruğu altına girerek global anormalleşmeye hizmet eder hale geldiğini idrak etmemiz kolaylaşır.

Post-yapısalcılık özünde yapısalcılık, Batımerkezci aklın egemenliği ve Aydınlanma akımına bir tepki olarak Fransa’da doğmuş ve bu akımların kalıpçı ve dogmatik yanlarını budamaya yönelik teorik yazılarla işe başlamıştır. Özellikle Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, ve Jacques Derrida’nın birbiri ardına yayınladıkları kitaplarla Kuzey Amerika üzerinden tüm dünyaya yayılmış bir düşünme biçimidir post-yapısalcılık. Temelde durağanlık karşıtı ve sürekli değişim taraftarı olmasına karşın post-yapısalcılık Kuzey Amerika’lı akademisyenlerin öğrencilereine çarpıtarak aktarmakta tereddüt etmediği ve bunun neticesinde de çarpıtılmış, yani Amerikanlaştırılmış haliyle edebiyat ve sinema başta olmak üzere tüm kültürel üretim alanlarının egemen teroik temelini oluşturmuştur. Hollywood filmlerinin post-yapısalcılığı para getirecek şekilde deforme edip sömürerek kitlelere ulaştırması neticesinde ise bu akım bugün maalesef bir tepki olarak doğduğu kapitalist ve Batımerkezci düşünce kalıplarının oyuncağı olmuştur. Tabii benim bu yazıdaki amacım post-yapısalcılığı global kapitalistlerin elinden kurtarıp hakettiği yere yerleştirmek değil, bunun boş bir çaba olacağı kanaatindeyim. Heidegger’in de dediği gibi “korkunç olan şey çoktan gerçekleşti.” Benim bu yazıdaki amacım post-yapısalcılığın toptan reddedilecek bir düşünce biçimi olmadığını, bilâkis tıpkı Frankfurt Okulu Eleştirel Teori’sinden olduğu gibi ondan da öğrenilecek ve global kapitalizm destekli global anormalleşmeye karşı kullanılacak pek çok şey olduğunu gözler önüne sermektir. Düşünülüp yazılanları arka bahçeye gömüp unutmakla geleceği dünden ve bugünden daha iyi kılmanın mümkün olmadığı kanaatindeyim.

Post-yapısalcılık, yapısalcılık ve Aydınlanma projelerine bir alternatif üretmek maksadıyla ortaya çıkmış ve tek tip aklın egemenliğine karşı alt-kültürleri, delileri, anormalleri, dışlanmışları, sömürülüp bir kenara atılmışları öne çıkarmakla son derece yerinde bir çabanın ürünü olarak özellikle yetmişlerde ve seksenlerde dünyayı sarsmış olsa da, global kapitalizm marjinalliği ve anormalliği moda haline getirerek bu dışlanmış ve öteki diye tabir edilegelmiş grupları marjinalliklerinden ederek günün normu haline getirmiştir. Artık herkes anormaldir ve bununla gurur duyanların sayısı hiç de az değildir. Korku filmlerine baktığımız zaman psikopatların başından geçen ilginç olayları ve doğaüstü hadiseleri çarpıtarak aktarmak suretiyle milyonlarca dolar para kazanan yapımcı ve yönetmenlerin bolluğu göze çarpmakta, hatta gözleri yuvalarından etmektedir.

Post-yapısalcılığın statik ve normalleştirici düşünce kalıplarını yok ederek yerine akışkanlığı ve dinamizmi yerleştirme projesinin pratikte fiyaskoyla sonuçlanmış olduğu doğrudur. Bunun sebebi az önce de sözünü ettiğim gibi kapitalizmin yapısı gereği kendine karşı olan her fikri emip süzgeçtem geçirerek kendi lehine çevirmekte gösterdiği başarıdır.

Marx’ın kapitalizmin kendine karşı olan güçleri bünyesinde barındırdığını ta o zamandan söylemiş olduğunu zaten söylemiştim. Yinelemekte zarar yok, fayda var. İkinci Dünya Savaşı sırasında Nazi Almanyası’ndan kaçarak Amerika’ya sığınan Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, ve Herbert Marcuse gibi düşünürler Marx’ın işte bu görüşüne Nietzsche’nin toplumsal, etik ve estetik değerlerin yok edilip yeniden yaratılması gerektiği görüşünü de ekleyerek günün koşullarına uyarlamış ve savaş bittikten sonra neşe içerisinde yenilmiş bir Almanya’ya dönerek Frankfurt Okulu’nu kurup bugün Eleştirel Teori diye bilinen yaklaşımın öncüleri olmuşlardır. Temelde kültür ve siyaseti birbirinden ayırmanın yanlış olduğunu vurgulayan Frankfurt Okulu Eleştirel Teorisine göre kapitalizm hasta bir toplum yaratmakla kalmayıp bu hastalığı sinema, edebiyat ve daha başka kültürel formasyonlar vasıtasıyla popülerleştirerek kitleye pazarlıyordu. Kapitalist üretim-tüketim ilişkilerinin içsel çelişkilerini içselleştiren bireyler kişilik bölünmesi yaşayarak kitlesel bir halüsinasyonun kuklaları ve kurbanları haline geliyordu. Dolayısıyla eleştirmenin görevi kendisini toplumun dışına atarak mutsuz bilincine rağmen, hatta bu mutsuzluktan ve yalnızlıktan güç alarak yeni bir düzenin yaratılması yolunda yazılar yazmaktı.

Benzer bir çizgide Gilles Deleuze ve Felix Guattari iki ciltlik Kapitalizm ve Şizofreni: Anti-Oedipus adlı kitaplarında Marx-Nietzsche-Freud üçgeni içerisinde değerlendirdikleri geç kapitalizmin kendine karşı güçleri hem üretip hem de yok ettiğini yazacaklardır yetmişlerin sonlarına doğru. Her ne kadar şizofreninin sadece kapitalizmin bir ürünü olduğuna katılmasam da Deleuze ve Guattari’nin kapitalizmin kendi ürettiği anormallikleri bastırarak canına can kattığını ve radikal anormalleşmeye götüren bir üretim-tüketim ilişkileri kısrdöngüsüne dayandığını itiraf etmek durumunda hissediyorum kendimi.

Görüldüğü gibi post-yapısalcılık ve Eleştirel Teori birbirinden sanıldığı kadar da uzak değil. Bu iki düşünce akımı yer yer birbirine zıt gibi görünse de aslında aynı hedef doğrultusunda gelişmiş ve birbirine benzer yanları olan, yirminci yüzyılın ikinci yarısına damgasını vurmuş iki ayrı muhalif tavırdır. Her iki düşünce sisteminde de göze çarpan en temel özellik disipilinlerarası bir yaklaşım sergileyerek felsefe, psikanaliz, edebiyat, sinema, siyaset alanları arasında yeni bağlantılar kurmak çabasıdır. Bu çaba yer yer başarısızlıkla sonuçlansa da bu farklı söylem biçimlerinin sentezlenmesi elbette ki takdire şayan bir uğraştır ve kapitalist üretim-tüketim ilişkilerinin eleştirisini ekeonomi-politik gibi dar bir alandan kurtarıp kapitalizmin dış yapısı ve iç dinamikleri gereği kendini sürekli yenileyerek büyüyen bir hal aldığı günümüz dünyasında kültür araştırmalarının hakettiği öneme kavuşmasını sağlamıştır. Her iki grubun da geç kapitalizmin dayattığı normlar karşısında anormalliğin eleştirel bir tavır takınmakta faydalı olabileceğini savunması ise bir tesadüftür. Zira biliyoruz ki post-yapısalcılık ve Eleştirel Teori uzun yıllar birbirlerinden habersiz bir şekilde sürdürdüler çalışmalarını. Nitekim Michel Foucault bir röportajında “Adorno’nun çalışmalarından haberim olsaydı kariyerimin başında yazdığım Deliliğin Tarihi adlı yapıtımda söylediğim pek çok saçma şeyi söylemekten kaçınırdım. Fransa’da Ecole Normale’de okurken  profesörlerimiz bize hiç bahsetmemişti Frankfurt Okulu’nun çalışmalarından. Adorno’yu keşfettiğim zaman benim patikalar açmakla uğraştığım alanlarda Adorno’nun çoktan beridir caddeler inşa ettiğini görünce hem üzüldüm hem de sevindim,” türünde sözler sarfetmiştir. (Bu noktada tarihi okuma biçimi bakımından Foucault’yla pek çok benzerlikler taşıdığını düşündüğüm Arif Hasan Tahsin’in “Aynı yolu yürüyenler farklı yerlere varamazlar,” sözlerini hatırlamamak neredeyse imkansız).

 

Dünyamızda hem doğa hem de kültür birbirine paralel olarak sürekli değişiyor. Bu değişimin devamlı suretle bir gelişim şeklinde gerçekleştiğini söylemekse oldukça zor görünüyor. Ve/fakat akışkanlığın moda haline geldiği, kimliklerin global kapitalizm potası içinde eriyerek yer yer birbirine girdiği şu günlerde düşüncenin olduğu yerde sayması elbette ki beklenemez. Bunu beklemek oldukça saçma bir beklenti olur kanaatindeyim. Nitekim kimse de böyle bir şey beklemiyor zaten ve düşünürler de düşüncelerini değiştirip günün koşullarına uyarlamak suretiyle çığ gibi büyüyen bir global anormalleşme süreci karşısında kendi normlarını ve içinde yaşadıkları toplumarın değerlerini eleştirecek yeni yöntemler ve söylemler yaratmak yolunda didinip duruyorlar. Tüm dünyada olduğu gibi yurdumuzda da geçmişten bağımsız bir gelecek düşleri bir tarafa bırakılıp tarihten kaçmanın imkansızlığı yavaş yavaş idrak ediliyor. Artık anlamayan kalmadı bugünün anlam kazanması için dünün unutulmamakla kalmayıp yeniden yazılmasının şart olduğunu. Farklı ve etkili yorum gelmişi de geçmişi de doğrusunu unutmadan yanlış okumayı becerebilmekten geçer. Bunun içinse eleştirel yorumcunun şimdi ve burada içinde yaşadığı koşullardan hareketle ve/fakat bir başka dünyanın, bir başka düzenin kurallarıyla kendi yaşam biçiminin temellerini sarsacak gücü ve cesareti kendinde bulması gerekir sevgili okur.

Bunu yapmayı başarmış en önemli okur-yazarlardan biri olan Slovenyalı düşünür Slavoj Zizek gerek kitaplarında gerekse röportajlarında ütopyaların ölmediğini veya en azından ölmemesi gerektiğini sık sık vurguluyor. Zizek hem post-yapısalcılığı hem de Eleştirel Teori’yi kullanarak bu ikisinin ötesinde ve ne biri ne de öteki olan yeni bir yaklaşımın temellerini atmış bir kişi. Zizek bunu özellikle iki grubun da dışladığı Lacan’ın öznenin oluşum teorisini Hegel’le beslemek suretiyle siyaset bilimi ve kültür araştırmalarına uygulayarak başarmış.

Zizek’in konumuzla alakasına birkaç cümle sonra döneceğiz, ancak öncelikle Lacan’ın neden önemli olduğunu kavramalıyız. Lacan’da karşılaştığımız en önemli yenilik çocuğun biyolojik varlığının sosyolojik varlığa dönüşme sürecinin açıklığa kavuşmasıdır. Lacan’cı psikanaliz büyük oranda işte bu geçiş sürecini anlatmaya çalışır. Lacan’a göre çocuk dili öğrenmeye başladığı andan itibaren biyolojik varlığından uzaklaşmaya başlar. Yani çocuk “benim adım şudur, budur, ben şuyum, buyum” demeyi öğrenmeye başladığı andan itibaren sosyal kimliğini kazanmaya başlamış, ve saltık kimliğinden, yani biyolojik kimliğinden uzaklaşmaya başlamış demektir. Buraya kadar pek de öyle yeni bir şey yok aslında, zira tüm bunlar Freudcu psikanalizle oldukça yakın bir ilişki içerisinde. Ama unutulmamalı ki Lacan’ın burada altını çizmeye çalıştığı nokta dil dediğimiz şeyin olgunlaşma sürecindeki yeri. Dilin edinilmesiyle birlikte çocuk ben, sen, o, biz, siz, onlar ayrımını yapmayı öğreniyor ve böylelikle de kendisiyle sosyal çevre arasına bir çizgi çekiyor, bir sınır koyuyor.

İşte şimdi Zizek’in konumuzla alâkasına gelebiliriz, ki nitekim işte geldik de zaten. Sanırım geldiğimiz bu noktada öncelikle eğlence endüstrisinin global anormalleşmeye katkılarından söz etmemizde fayda var. Biliyoruz ki ezelden beridir eğlenmek için normdan sapmak gerektiği görüşü son derece yaygın. Ortaçağ’dan beridir bir ülkedeki eğlencenin bolluğu o ülkedeki özgürlük bolluğunun göstergesi olarak kabul ediliyor. Ve/fakat bu görüş global kapitalizmin geldiği ve bizi getirdiği noktada anlamını yitiriyor. Meselâ reklamlara baktığımız zaman görüyoruz ki çoğu ürün insana verdiği zevk ve yaşamın tadının daha çok çıkarılmasına katkıları bağlamında değer atfediliyor. Bir mal ne kadar zevk verirse tüketiciye fiyatı da o kadar artıyor. Zizek’e göre global kapitalist sistem artık eğlenceyi kısıtlamıyor, aksine özendiriyor. Yurdumuzdaki eğlence mekânlarının bolluğu ve eğlence sektöründe bir kaç yıldır yaşanan patlama bunun en önemli göstergelerinden biri. Dolayısıyla yurdumuzdaki eğlence mekânlarının bolluğuna kanıp da yurdumuzun her gün ve her bakımdan özgürleşmekte olduğu sonucuna varmak son derece yanlış. Bilâkis eğlence sektöründeki bu patlamayı global kapitalizmin insanları boyunduruğu altına alıp onları özgürleşmekte oldukları yanılsamasına hapsederek salakça bir sevince mahkûm ediyor oluşu şeklinde yorumlamalıyız. Bu yorumu yapabilmemiz içinse çok eğlenmiş ve eğlenceden bıkıp usanmış olmamız gerekmiyor; her ne kadar eğlenceden bıkıp usanarak eve kapanıp bol bol kitap okumak ve Hollywood filmlerinden daha başka filmler seyretmek bu saptamayı yapmayı kolaylaştırıcı faktörler olsa da…

Ha eğer olayı global bazda düşünmek arzusuyla yanıp tutuşmamıza rağmen odaya kapanıp mevcut düzeni eleştiren kitaplar okumak ve sıradışı filmler seyretmek düşüncesine sıcak bakmıyorsak mahalle bakkalına gidip Coca-Cola tenekelerine bakmamız da işe yarayabilir. Coca-Cola tenekesine baktığımız zaman görürüz ki üzerinde “Enjoy Coke!” yazmaktadır ki bu Türkçe’de aşağı yukarı “Kolanın tadını çıkar!” veya abartacak olursak “Kola iç ve zevk al, hatta zevkten kudur!” anlamına falan gelmektedir. Oysa kola içip de orgazm olanını ben henüz ne gördüm ne de duydum.  Kola içen adamın da kadının da olsa olsa dişleri çürür, asitten midesi delinir, kendisini çarpıntı bulur, şeker hastası olur ve daha da abartacak olursak kudurur ölür; zevkten değil ama, global ve kapitalist gazdan…

My review of Nina Power’s One Dimensional Woman appeared in last weekend’s The Sunday Star. It’s an important, intelligently-argued book, and I highly recommend that the world reads it. Yes, the world. I’ve reproduced it in full here:

For all of us who happily imagine contemporary feminism to be a uniform and linear yellow brick road that delivers us right into the heart of the Emerald City of equality, there’s no one better than Nina Power to take a sledgehammer to that useless utopian dream. With One-Dimensional Woman, Power, a British philosophy professor at Roehampton University, has set out to untangle and reveal the underlying irrationality and contradictions of much of modern-day feminism – wedded as it is to the ugly and false emancipatory “ideals” of capitalism. The title of Power’s book comes from Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man, a treatise published in 1964 that offered a critique of the false needs created by modern industrialist society – the idea that people were “free” in their choices when they were actually deeply bound to an insidiously rigid system of production and consumption… Read More

via The Blog of Disquiet

Word from Urbanomic that Volume III of Collapse has sold out and is now available for free online. It includes the much-cited original Speculative Realism conference. Find it here.

via Speculative Heresy

Collapse III contains explorations of the work of Gilles Deleuze by pioneering thinkers in the fields of philosophy, aesthetics, music and architecture. In addition, we publish in this volume two previously untranslated texts by Deleuze himself, along with a fascinating piece of vintage science fiction from one of his more obscure influences. Finally, as an annex to Collapse Volume II, we also include a full transcription of the conference on ‘Speculative Realism’ held in London in 2007.

The contributors to this volume aim to clarify, from a variety of perspectives, Deleuze’s contribution to philosophy: in what does his philosophical originality lie; what does he appropriate from other philosophers and how does he transform it? And how can the apparently disparate threads of his work to be ‘integrated’ – what is the precise nature of the constellation of the aesthetic, the conceptual and the political proposed by Gilles Deleuze, and what are the overarching problems in which the numerous philosophical concepts ‘signed Deleuze’ converge?

Contents

ROBIN MACKAY
Editorial Introduction [PDF]
THOMAS DUZER
In Memoriam: Gilles Deleuze 1925-1995 [PDF]
GILLES DELEUZE
Responses to a Series of Questions [PDF]
ARNAUD VILLANI
“I Feel I Am A Pure Metaphysician”: The Consequences of Deleuze’s Remark [PDF]
QUENTIN MEILLASSOUX
Subtraction and Contraction: Deleuze, Immanence and Matter and Memory [PDF]
HASWELL & HECKER
Blackest Ever Black [PDF]
GILLES DELEUZE
Mathesis, Science and Philosophy [PDF]
INCOGNITUM
Malfatti's Decade [[PDF]
JOHN SELLARS
Chronos and Aion: Deleuze and the Stoic Theory of Time [PDF]
ÉRIC ALLIEZ & JEAN-CLAUDE BONNE
Matisse-Thought and the Strict Ordering of Fauvism [PDF]
MEHRDAD IRAVANIAN
Unknown Deleuze [PDF]
J.-H. ROSNY THE ELDER
Another World [PDF]
RAY BRASSIER, IAIN HAMILTON GRANT, GRAHAM HARMAN, QUENTIN MEILLASSOUX
Speculative Realism [PDF]

Accelerationism


“But which is the revolutionary path? Is there one? – To withdraw from the world market, as Samir Amin advises Third World Countries to do, in a curious revival of the fascist “economic solution”? Or might it be to go in the opposite direction? To go further still, that is, in the movement of the market, of decoding and deterritorialization? For perhaps the flows are not yet deterritorialized enough, not decoded enough, from the viewpoint of a theory and practice of a highly schizophrenic character. Not to withdraw from the process, but to go further, to “accelerate the process,” as Nietzsche put it: in this matter, the truth is that we haven’t seen anything yet.”

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus

“The English unemployed did not have to become workers to survive, they – hang on tight and spit on me – enjoyed the hysterical, masochistic, whatever exhaustion it was of hanging on in the mines, in the foundries, in the factories, in hell, they enjoyed it, enjoyed the mad destruction of their organic body which was indeed imposed upon them, they enjoyed the decomposition of their personal identity, the identity that the peasant tradition had constructed for them, enjoyed the dissolutions of their families and villages, and enjoyed the new monstrous anonymity of the suburbs and the pubs in morning and evening.”

Jean-Francois Lyotard Libidinal Economy

“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”.

Nick Land, “Machinic Desire”

“In the early 1970s, post-68 French thinkers such as Deleuze and Guattari and Lyotard made the heretical suggestion that capital should not be resisted but accelerated. Deplored, repudiated then forgotten, this remarkable moment was returned to only in the UK during the 1990s, in the theory-fiction of Nick Land, Iain Hamilton Grant, Sadie Plant and the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit. Drawing upon Fernand Braudel, Manuel DeLanda, and cyber-theory, 90s accelerationism drew a distinction between markets (as bottom-up self-organising networks) and capital (an oligarchic and predatory system of control). Was accelerationism merely a new cybernetic mask for neoliberalism? Or does the call to “accelerate the process” mark out a political position that has never been properly developed, and which still has a potential to reinvigorate the left?

This one-day symposium will think through the implications of accelerationism in the light of the forthcoming publication of Nick Land’s Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987-2007 and Benjamin Noys’s The Persistence of the Negative.”

Speakers:

  • Ray Brassier – co-editor with Robin Mackay of Nick Land’s Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987-2007 (2010)
  • Mark Fisher – author of k-punk blog and a founder member of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit
  • Alex Andrews – a researcher at the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Nottingham.
  • Benjamin Noys – author of The Persistence of the Negative (2010), blogs at No Useless Leniency
  • Nick Srnicek – author of Speculative Heresy blog, PhD candidate at LSE, and is working with
  • Alex Williams on a book critiquing folk politics Alex Williams – working on a book on accelerationism, blogs at Splintering Bone Ashes

A music mix by Mark Fisher to illustrate the ‘Accelerationism’ event can be found here.

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Mark Fisher

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Ray Brassier

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______________________________________________Session 2

Ben Noys

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Alex Andrews

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questions:

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____________________________________________Session 3

Nick Srnicek

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____________________________________________n 4

Alex Williams

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Closing discussion

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via Accelerationism

pıctosophızıng ƒar ƒrom the chaoıds . .

Image by jef safi via Flickr

 

To valorize negative sentiments or sad passions—that is the mystification on which nihilism bases its power. (Lucretius, then Spinoza, already wrote decisive passages on this subject. Before Nietzsche, they conceived philosophy as the power to affirm, as the practical struggle against mystifications, as the expulsion of the negative.)[12]

Purgatory, purification, extraction of the positive, expulsion of the negative, projection, introjection… Throughout his discursive life Deleuze conceived of purification of the self as the goal of literature. He believed that through an exposition of the evil within one was healing the society. But this theory can only produce otherness as negativity and that is almost exactly the opposite of what affirmative critique ought to be. Nietzsche’s project of “the expulsion of the negative” is a recurrent theme in Deleuze’s writings. Like Nietzsche he thought that it is only through regression that one could be purified and get outside the confines of the Cartesian cogito. Deleuze’s attempts at escaping from the Cartesian dualism, however, can only cause an interruption of the splitting process and slides towards overcoming the split to attain oneness. Giving a voice to the other creates the conditions of impossibility for the other’s finding his/her own voice.

It is at this mobile and precise point, where all events gather together in one that transmutation happens: this is the point at which death turns against death; where dying is the negation of death, and the impersonality of dying no longer indicates only the moment when I disappear outside of myself, but rather the moment when death loses itself in itself, and also the figure which the most singular life takes on in order to substitute itself for me.[13]

With Deleuze it is always one dies rather than I die, or as the Cynic saying goes, “when there is death I am not, when I am there is no death.” Instead of accepting the state of being wounded as a perpetually renewed actuality, instead of affirming death within life, the other within the self, Deleuze climbs over the walls of his wound, and looking down on the others, he loses the ground beneath his feet, and eventually falls into the split he was trying to get rid of.

A wound is incarnated or actualised in a state of things or of life: but it is itself pure virtuality on the plane of immanence that leads us into a life. My wound existed before me: not a transcendence of the wound in a higher actuality, but its immanence as a virtuality always within a milieu (plane or field).[14] 

Affirming the mutual inclusiveness of introversion and intersubjectivity means preferring an a-sociality, what Blanchot calls “being in a non-relation,” to the symbolic order. Blanchot’s attitude is exactly the opposite of the symbolic market society that dissolves the most fundamental questions of being human in a pot of common sense. The subject of the market society is continually in pursuit of increased strength and self-confidence. And for that reason governed by what Nietzsche called the herd instinct, the will to nothingness, this subject becomes a reactive and adaptive subject. The symbolic order loses the ground beneath itself when and if the majority starts to see living with the thought of death not only as a natural necessity, but also as something to be affirmed.

Death has an extreme and definite relation to me and my body and is grounded in me, but it also has no relation to me at all—it is incorporeal and infinitive, impersonal, grounded only in itself. On one side, there is the part of the event which is realized and accomplished; on the other, there is that “part of the event which cannot realize its accomplishment.”[15]

Notes:

[12] Gilles Deleuze, Pure Immanence: A Life, trans. Anne Boyman (New York: Zone Books, 2001), 84

[13] Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, trans. Mark Lester (London: Athlone, 1990), 153

[14] Deleuze,  Pure Immanence: A Life, 31-2

[15] Deleuze, Pure Immanence, 151-152

By Andrew Robinson

The usefulness of Deleuzian theory for social transformation will vary with the selection of which conceptual contributions one chooses to appropriate. Studying Deleuzian theory is complicated by characteristics of Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophical method. In What is Philosophy?, they define the function of theory in terms of proliferating concepts – inventing new conceptual categories which construct new ways of seeing. In common with many constructivists, they take the view that our relationship to the world is filtered through our conceptual categories. Distinctively, they also view agency in terms of differentiation – each person or group creates itself, not by selecting among available alternatives, but by splitting existing totalities through the creation of new differences. This approach leads to a proliferation of different concepts which, across Deleuze and Guattari’s collaborative and individual works, total in the hundreds.

Instead of seeking to trim their conceptual innovations and neologisms (new words) for simplicity and necessity (an efficiency model of theory – “just in time”, like modern production), they multiply concepts as tools for use, which, although possibly redundant in some analyses, may be useful for others (a resilience model of theory – “just in case”, like indigenous and autonomous cultures). They encourage readers to pick and choose from their concepts, selecting those which are useful and simply passing by those which are not. This has contributed to the spread of diverse Deleuzian approaches which draw on different aspects of their work, but also makes it easy for people to make incomplete readings of their theories, appropriating certain concepts for incompatible theoretical projects while rejecting the revolutionary dynamic of the theory itself. As a result, a large proportion of what passes for Deleuzian theory has limited resonance with the general gist of Deleuze and Guattari’s work, which is not at all about reconciling oneself to the dominant system, but rather, is about constructing other kinds of social relations impossible within the dominant frame. The proliferation of concepts is intended to support such constructions of other ways of being. Another effect of the proliferation of concepts is to make Deleuzian theory difficult to explain or express in its entirety.

In this article, I have chosen to concentrate on the conceptual pairing of states and war-machines as a way of understanding the differences between autonomous social networks and hierarchical, repressive formations. Deleuze and Guattari view the ‘state’ as a particular kind of institutional regime derived from a set of social relations which can be traced to a way of seeing focused on the construction of fixities and representation. There is thus a basic form of the state (a “state-form”) in spite of the differences among specific states. Since Deleuze and Guattari’s theory is primarily relational and processual, the state exists primarily as a process rather than a thing. The state-form is defined by the processes or practices of ‘overcoding’, ‘despotic signification’ and ‘machinic enslavement’. These attributes can be explained one at a time. The concept of despotic signification, derived from Lacan’s idea of the master-signifier, suggests that, in statist thought, a particular signifier is elevated to the status of standing for the whole, and the other of this signifier (remembering that signification is necessarily differential) is defined as radically excluded. ‘Overcoding’ consists in the imposition of the regime of meanings arising from this fixing of representations on the various processes through which social life and desire operate. In contrast to the deep penetration which occurs in capitalism, states often do this fairly lightly, but with brutality around the edges. Hence for instance, in historical despotic states, the inclusion of peripheral areas only required their symbolic subordination, and not any real impact on everyday life in these areas. Overcoding also, however, entails the destruction of anything which cannot be represented or encoded.

‘Machinic enslavement’ occurs when assembled groups of social relations and desires, known in Deleuzian theory as ‘machines’, are rendered subordinate to the regulatory function of the despotic signifier and hence incorporated in an overarching totality. This process identifies Deleuze and Guattari’s view of the state-form with Mumford’s idea of the megamachine, with the state operating as a kind of absorbing and enclosing totality, a bit like the Borg in Star Trek, eating up and assimilating the social networks with which it comes into contact. Crucially, while these relations it absorbs often start out as horizontal, or as hierarchical only at a local level, their absorption rearranges them as vertical and hierarchical aggregates. It tends to destroy or reduce the intensity of horizontal connections, instead increasing the intensity of vertical subordination. Take, for instance, the formation of the colonial state in Africa: loose social identities were rigidly reclassified as exclusive ethnicities, and these ethnicities were arranged in hierarchies (for instance, Tutsi as superior to Hutu) in ways which created rigid boundaries and oppressive relations culminating in today’s conflicts…Read More

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari
 
Andrew Robinson is a political theorist and activist based in the UK. His book Power, Resistance and Conflict in the Contemporary World: Social Movements, Networks and Hierarchies (co-authored with Athina Karatzogianni) was published in Sep 2009 by Routledge. His ‘In Theory’ column appears every other Friday.
 

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INTRODUCTION
by Alex Andrews

Mark Fisher’s book ‘Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?’ is a persuasive diagnosis of contemporary society, an analysis of its political impasses and a call for fresh organization and thought.
Capitalist Realism for Fisher describes the core of today’s ideological moment, particularly in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Weekend-read short and written in a highly accessible style, Fisher’s work is “intellectual without being academic, popular without being populist” (in the words of Zer0 book series programmatic statement), attempting to bring the work of high theory and political economy to an informed citizenry, carving out a public space for debate that intends to have direct political impact in an ideological stagnant age.

From Spinoza to Deleuze to Wall-E, from Supernanny to post-autonomist theory, Fisher is not afraid to clash high theory with a well-known illustration to startling effect. An insightful blogger at k-punk, outside of this book Mark has been influential in bringing Derrida’s concept of hauntology to music criticism, working through Simon Reynold’s notorious hardcore continuum thesis regarding electronic music and, more recently, providing one of the most interesting commentaries on the World Cup Finals at the group blog Minus The Shooting.

Ceasefire talked to Mark Fisher about his book, education, the internet and the prospect of moving beyond capitalist realism.

The Interview

Can you define ‘capitalist realism’ for me?

Put simply, capitalist realism is the view that it is now impossible even to imagine an alternative to capitalism. Capitalism is the only ‘realistic’ political economic system, and, since this is the case, all we can do is accommodate ourselves to it. This leads to the imposition of what I have called ‘business ontology’ – a version of social reality in which every process is modeled on corporate practices.

Thus, we’ve seen the gradual incursion into public services of forms of bureaucratic self-surveillance (performance reviews, mission statements and so on) that have their origins in business. There is an aesthetic and cultural dimension to capitalist realism too. The concept of capitalist realism was meant to echo socialist realism, and, just as socialist realism was a retreat from the abstraction and experimentation of modernism into the familiar and the familial, so capitalist realism trades on a drab and reductive sense of what reality is. It’s no accident, for instance, that the most successful entertainment format over the last decade or so has been reality TV.

What would be a recent example of the phenomena of capitalist realism?

The bank bailouts are the most spectacular example of capitalist realism we’ve yet seen, and the cuts that are now being imposed come out of the same logic. The bank crisis of two years ago was a major shift from the high pomp of neoliberalism, when it was held that the so-called market would automatically provide the answer to any conceivable problem, to a new phase.

The justification for the bank bailouts was that it was unthinkable that banks should be allowed to collapse, as succinct a statement of capitalist realism as you could wish for. Capitalist realism hasn’t weakened since the bank crises; if anything it has intensified. But now that it has lost the sheath of market utopianism to protect it, capitalist realism appears in more raw and exposed form, which I expect to be massively contested over the next few months. In Britain, the new coalition government has enjoyed a period of phony peace. But I expect this to be interrupted very soon, once the anger that is simmering here finds outlets.

Read More via Ceasefire Magazine – Interview: Mark Fisher

Contingency, Necessity and the Final Absolute: Expanding on my summary of Ray Brassier‘s  Remarks on Subtractive Ontology and Thinking Capital here are some further related observations on aleatory rationalism, drawing on Elie Ayache’s account of how the option ‘science’ of the derivatives trading comes to  hypostasize the market as an absolute relation that is not thought-independent: Brassier’s critique of aleatory rationality shares the epistemological concerns of Quinten Meillassoux… Read More

via Total Assault On Culture

Karl Marx (1818 – 1883)

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Negri: The problem of politics seems to have always been present in your intellectual life. Your involvement in various movements (prisoners, homosexuals, Italian autonomists, Palestinians), on the one hand, and the constant problematizing of institutions, on the other, follow on from one another and interact with one another in your work, from the book on Hume through to the one on Foucault. What are the roots of this sustained concern with the question of politics, and how has it remained so persistent within your developing work? Why is the rela­tion between movement and institution always problematic?

Deleuze: What I’ve been interested in are collective creations rather than rep­resentations. There’s a whole order of movement in “institutions” that’s independent of both laws and contracts. What I found in Hume was a very creative conception of institutions and law. I was initially more interested in law than politics. Even with Masoch and Sade what I liked was the thoroughly twisted conception of contracts in Masoch, and of institutions in Sade, as these come out in relation to sexuality. And in the present day, I see Francois Ewald’s work to reestablish a phi­losophy of law as quite fundamental. What interests me isn’t the law or laws1 (the former being an empty notion, the latter uncritical notions), nor even law or rights, but jurisprudence. It’s jurisprudence, ultimately, that creates law, and we mustn’t go on leaving this to judges. Writers ought to read law reports rather than the Civil Code. People are already thinking about establishing a system of law for modern biology; but everything in modern biology and the new situations it creates, the new courses of events it makes possible, is a matter for jurisprudence. We don’t need an ethical committee of supposedly well-qualified wise men, but user-groups. This is where we move from law into politics. I, for my own part, made a sort of move into politics around May 68, as I came into contact with specific problems, through Guattari, through Foucault, through Elie Sambar. Anti-Oedipus was from beginning to end a book of political philosophy….  Read More

via Negri in English

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