Skip navigation

Tag Archives: Marxism

View this document on Scribd


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.

click to listen


hour 1 / DVNT

Photek – Ni-Ten-Ichi-Rhy [Science]
Solar Chrome – Malevil [Maschinen Musik]
Petar Alargic – EeR NR1 []
Octave Mouret – Good News Everyone! I’ve Taught the Toaster to Feel Love []
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 []
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)

Download Pdf eBook 


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.


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?


Editorial Introduction [PDF]
In Memoriam: Gilles Deleuze 1925-1995 [PDF]
Responses to a Series of Questions [PDF]
“I Feel I Am A Pure Metaphysician”: The Consequences of Deleuze’s Remark [PDF]
Subtraction and Contraction: Deleuze, Immanence and Matter and Memory [PDF]
Blackest Ever Black [PDF]
Mathesis, Science and Philosophy [PDF]
Malfatti's Decade [[PDF]
Chronos and Aion: Deleuze and the Stoic Theory of Time [PDF]
Matisse-Thought and the Strict Ordering of Fauvism [PDF]
Unknown Deleuze [PDF]
Another World [PDF]
Speculative Realism [PDF]


“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.”


  • 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.



Mark Fisher




Ray Brassier



______________________________________________Session 2

Ben Noys




Alex Andrews







____________________________________________Session 3

Nick Srnicek



____________________________________________n 4

Alex Williams




Closing discussion





Tags: , , , , , , ,

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]


[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.


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

A joke about dissidents and a great speech from Zizek –  It’s the Political Economy, Stupid!  

Watch the youtube video and here’s the text:

“In the good old days of Really-Existing Socialism, a joke was popular among dissidents, used to illustrate the futility of their protests. In the 15th century Russia occupied by Mongols, a farmer and his wife walk along a dusty country road; a Mongol warrior on a horse stops at their side and tells the farmer that he will now rape his wife; he then adds: “But since there is a lot of dust on the ground, you should hold my testicles while I’m raping your wife, so that they will not get dirty!” After the Mongol finishes his job and rides away, the farmer starts to laugh and jump with joy; the surprised wife asks him: “how can you be jumping with joy when I was just brutally raped in your presence?” The farmer answers: “But I got him! His balls are full of dust!” This sad joke tells of the predicament of dissidents: they thought they are dealing serious blows to the party nomenklatura, but all they were doing was getting a little bit of dust on the nomenklatura’s testicles, while the nomenklatura went on raping the people… Is today’s critical Left not in a similar position? Our task is to discover how to make a step further – our thesis 11 should be: in our societies, critical Leftists have hitherto only dirtied with dust the balls of those in power, the point is to cut them off”

ANd here are some of my favorite quotes from the speech:

When the normal run of things is traumatically interrupted, the field is open for a “discursive” ideological competition …Consequently, to put it in old-fashioned Marxist terms, the main task of the ruling ideology in the present crisis is to impose as narrative which will not put the blame for the meltdown onto the global capitalist system AS SUCH, but on its secondary accidental deviation (too lax legal regulations, the corruption of big financial institutions, etc.)”

“Rarely was the function of ideology described in clearer terms – to defend the existing system against any serious critique, legitimizing it as a direct expression of human nature:

 “An essential task of democratic governments and opinion makers when confronting economic cycles and political pressure is to secure and protect the system that has served humanity so well, and not to change it for the worse on the pretext of its imperfection. / Still, this lesson is doubtless one of the hardest to translate into language that public opinion will accept. The best of all possible economic systems is indeed imperfect . Whatever the truths uncovered by economic science, the free market is finally only the reflection of human nature, itself hardly perfectible.” 

Such ideological legitimization also perfectly exemplifies Badiou’s precise precise formula of the basic paradox of enemy propaganda: it fights something of which it is itself not aware, something for which it is structurally blind – not the actual counterforces (political opponents), but the possibility (the utopian revolutionary-emancipatory potential) which is immanent to the situation:“The goal of all enemy propaganda is not to annihilate an existing force (this function is generally left to police forces), but rather to annihilate an unnoticed possibility of the situation. This possibility is also unnoticed by those who conduct this propaganda, since its features are to be simultaneously immanent to the situation and not to appear in it. »6 This is why enemy propaganda against radical emancipatory politics is by definition cynical – not in the simple sense of not believing its own words, but at a much more basic level: it is cynical precisely and even more insofar as it does believe its own words, since its message is a resigned conviction that the world we live in, even if not the best of all possible worlds, is the least bad one, so that any radical change can only make it worse .”

“Again, it is thus not enough to remain faithful to the Communist Idea – one has to locate in historical reality antagonisms which make this Idea a practical urgency. The only true question today is: do we endorse the predominant naturalization of capitalism, or does today’s global capitalism contain strong enough antagonisms which prevent its indefinite reproduction?

There are four such antagonisms: the looming threat of ecological catastrophy, the inappropriateness of private property for the so-called “intellectual property,” the socio-ethical implications of new techno-scientific developments (especially in biogenetics, and, last but not least, new forms of apartheid, new Walls and slums. There is a qualitative difference between the last feature, the gap that separates the Excluded from the Included, and the other three, which designate the domains of what Hardt and Negri call “commons,” the shared substance of our social being whose privatization is a violent act which should also be resisted with violent means, if necessary: the commons of culture, the immediately socialized forms of “cognitive” capital, primarily language, our means of communication and education, but also the shared infrastructure of public transport, electricity, post, etc. (if Bill Gates were to be allowed monopoly, we would have reached the absurd situation in which a private individual would have literally owned the software texture of our basic network of communication); the commons of external nature threatened by pollution and exploitation (from oil to forests and natural habitat itself); the commons of internal nature (the biogenetic inheritance of humanity) .”

The predominant liberal notion of democracy also deals with those Excluded, but in a radically different mode: it focuses on their inclusion, on the inclusion of all minority voices. All positions should be heard, all interests taken into account, the human rights of everyone guaranteed, all ways of life, cultures and practices respected, etc. – the obsession of this democracy is the protection of all kinds of minorities: cultural, religious, sexual, etc. The formula of democracy is here: patient negotiation and compromise. What gets lost is the proletarian position, the position of universality embodied in the Excluded.

 “The new emancipatory politics will no longer be the act of a particular social agent, but an explosive combination of different agents. What unites us is that, in contrast to the classic image of proletarians who have “nothing to lose but their chains,” we are in danger of losing ALL: the threat is that we will be reduced to abstract empty Cartesian subject deprived of all substantial content, dispossessed of our symbolic substance, with our genetic base manipulated, vegetating in an unlivable environment. This triple threat to our entire being make us all in a way all proletarians, reduced to “substanceless subjectivity,” as Marx put it in Grundrisse. The figure of the “part of no-part,” confronts us with the truth of our own position, and the ethico-political challenge is to recognize ourselves in this figure – in a way, we are all excluded, from nature as well as from our symbolic substance. Today, we are all potentially a HOMO SACER, and the only way to prevent actually becoming one is to act preventively.


via fuckyeahzizek

Karl Marx (1818 – 1883)

Image via Wikipedia

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

Now, more than ever, one should insist on what Badiou calls the ‘eternal’ Idea of Communism.  – Slavoj Zizek
A new program for the Left after the death of neoliberalism. ‘We know that communism is the right hypothesis. All those who abandon this hypothesis immediately resign themselves to the market economy, to parliamentary democracy—the form of state suited to capitalism—and to the inevitable and “natural” character of the most monstrous inequalities.’—Alain Badiou

Badiou’s Communist Hypothesis and The Idea of Communism Conference > Resources


Download and Read

From a debate between Slavoj Zizek and Alex Callinicos held at Marxism 2009 entitled, “What does it mean to be a Revolutionary today?”

Cover of "After Finitude: An Essay on the...

Cover via Amazon


…A remark on Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude (after Colletti)

This paper seeks to explore a very stark and simple question elicited by Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude: are materialism and speculation compatible? In order to outline a response I will take what might initially seem a somewhat arbitrary detour through a seemingly disparate line of thought, namely that of the Italian anti-Hegelian Marxist Lucio Colletti, focussing in particular on his 1969 Marxism and Hegel – a book which in its time had a remarkable impact on the discussion of historical and dialectical materialism. By means of this theoretical contrast, I will try to elucidate what appear to me as some of the stakes of Meillassoux’s powerful book. In this regard my guiding question will open onto some subsidiary ones, two of them being of particular significance: ‘Is non-metaphysical speculation possible?’ and ‘What is the difference between realism and materialism (and indeed between these two and naturalism)?’ In the background of these questions lies the issue of demarcation – especially the three-way demarcation between science, philosophy and ideology. The contrast with a line of inquiry within twentieth-century Marxism which bears a number of affinities with Meillassoux’s proposal is also significant, to my mind, because it allows us to address one of the strong rhetorical gestures that lends this short book its polemical, and one might even say political character, to the extent that can speak of a politics immanent to philosophy as a Kampfplatz, a battlefield, a Kantian image dear to Althusser. This gesture involves enlisting a speculative materialism against the pernicious extra-philosophical effects of correlationism, encapsulated by the notion of fideism. When it comes to these arguments, principally rehearsed in Chapter 2 of After Finitude, I think it is fair to say, in terms of the aforementioned issue of demarcation, that Meillassoux is engaging in an ideological struggle founded on the specific demarcation between philosophy and science, as the two relate to the questions of necessity and belief. Speculative materialism is here also an ideological operation, aimed at terminating correlationism’s collusion with irrationalism (‘Dialectical Materialism and Irrationalism’, incidentally, was the subtitle of Colletti’s book).

Meillassoux brings his investigation into explicitly contact with the issue of ideology when he characterizes speculative materialism as an approach that does away with any ‘dogmatic metaphysics’, as a rejection of real necessity and sufficient reason grounded in the following operation: ‘to reject dogmatic metaphysics means to reject all real necessity, and a fortiori to reject the principle of sufficient reason, as well as the ontological argument, which is the keystone that allows the system of real necessity to close in upon itself’. He goes on to declare that ‘such a refusal of dogmatism furnishes the minimal condition for every critique of ideology, insofar as an ideology cannot be identified with just any variety of deceptive representation, but is rather any form of pseudo-rationality whose aim is to establish that what exists as a matter of fact exists necessarily’ (33-4). At bottom, Meillassoux wishes to combine and revitalise two aspects of the Enlightenment critique of metaphysics and religion. On the one hand, a speculative materialism is aimed at undermining the dogmatism of necessary entities, the dogmatism of classical metaphysics, rationalism included. On the other, speculative materialism is targeted against the way in which correlationism makes any belief equally legitimate by rejecting the absoluteness of reality (i.e. by making the archi-fossil unthinkable). But this entails that the critique of metaphysics not be a deflationary, relativist or conventionalist critique, in other words that it not be a correlationist critique. The brilliance (but as I will suggest also the problematic character) of Meillassoux’s enterprise stems from the manner in which he articulates the two seemingly antinomic requirements of anti-dogmatism and speculation. Accordingly, as he writes ‘we must uncover an absolute necessity that does not reinstate any form of absolute necessary entity’, thus demarcating absolutising from absolutist thought, and speculation from metaphysics. This requires resisting what Meillassoux calls the ‘de-absolutizing implication’, which posits that ‘if metaphysics is obsolete, so is the absolute’ (34). Kantianism, or, in Meillassoux’s vocabulary ‘weak correlationism’, is partially responsible for this, though the fact that it maintains an uncorrelated non-contradictory real as thinkable entails that it does not harbour the same irrationalist consequences as strong correlationism, especially in the latter’s Heideggerian or Wittgensteinian varieties. It is in discussing strong correlationism that Meillassoux attempt to infuse speculative materialism with the polemical spirit of the radical Enlightenment is particularly in evidence, leading to the formulation of what we could call an absolute Enlightenment. Meillassoux’s indictment of strong correlationism as a new obscurantism, as a kind of carte blanche for any and all superstitions centres on the category of facticity. The latter designates those structural invariants or transcendental parameters which govern a given world or domain of correlation without themselves being open to rational explanation, deduction or derivation. In this respect, facticity is a form of reflexive ignorance. In Meillassoux’s words, it ‘consists in not knowing why the correlational structure has to be thus’ (39). Facticity is here synonymous with finitude and with a form of anti-foundationalism whose converse, as Meillassoux writes, ‘is that nothing can be said to be absolutely impossible, not even the unthinkable’. Strong correlationism generates a form of philosophically-vouchsafed permissiveness, which makes it impossible to establish the very criteria that might make it possible to ‘disqualify’ irrational discourses. As he notes, while weak correlationism had done away with naïve realism, strong correlationism further undoes a notion of the absolute by pitting the facticity of the correlation against any speculative idealism.

It is the complicity of strong correlationism with a return of religiosity that lends Meillassoux’s speculative denunciation its ideological urgency. Its ‘contemporary predominance’, he writes, is ‘intimately connected to the immunity from the constraints of conceptual rationality which religious belief currently seems to enjoy’ (43). According to After Finitude, we live in a time where the ideological hegemony of strong correlationist philosophies, with their assertion of a facticity beyond explanation, their dumb wonderment at things as they are, has revoked any of the rational instruments available for refuting or dismissing irrational beliefs. Intriguingly, and I’ll return to this when I move to Colletti, for Meillassoux correlationist irrationalism is founded on its termination of the Parmenidean identity of being and thought, the consequence that it draws from facticity that ‘being and thinking must be thought as capable of being wholly other’ (44). From such a vantage point, is impossible to rule out the radical incommensurability between the in-itself and thought. What is the consequence of this? That thought’s claim to think the absolute is drastically withdrawn but irrational absolutes remain, indeed proliferate. Hence the basically unchallenged contemporary sway of a sceptically permissive and pluralistic ‘fideism of any belief whatsoever’. It is not clear whether Meillassoux actually thinks that correlationism has played a causal part in abetting the current return of the religious, but he does draw out very neatly the manner in which it implies it. In his own words:

The end of metaphysics, understood as the ‘de-absolutization of thought’, is thereby seen to consist in the rational legitimation of any and every variety of religious (or ‘poetico-religious’) belief in the absolute, so long as the latter invokes no authority beside itself. To put it in other words: by forbidding reason any claim to the absolute, the end of metaphysics has taken the form of an exacerbated return to the religious. (45)

On the basis of this argument, Meillassoux frames his own project in the classical terms of the French lumières, especially of Voltaire, as a struggle against fanaticism (characteristically, Meillassoux does not use the Kantian definition of fanaticism, or Schwärmerei, which for Kant involves the hyper-rationalist delusion of ‘seeing the infinite’, against which the critical philosophy erects its iconoclastic proscriptions). The relation between fideism and fanaticism is somewhat fuzzy, but it is intriguing, and one might argue somewhat worrying, that Meillassoux flirts with the conservative thesis that a relativistic proliferation of beliefs, beyond any horizon of legitimacy, is a form of de-Christianization, the obverse of his equally questionable conviction that critical Western rationality is a ‘progressive rationalization of Judeo-Christianity under the influence of Greek philosophy’ (47). In pure Enlightenment style, Meillassoux wants to argue that strong correlationism, in colluding with the religionization of reason, has left us powerless to argue rationally – rather than on ad hoc moral grounds – against all varieties of fanaticism, including, in an odd allusion, those which may deal out ‘the worst forms of violence’, whose claim to access an irrational absolute correlationist fideism cannot allow itself to disqualify. At the end of Chapter 2 of After Finitude, Meillassoux even goes so far as to claim that contemporary ‘fanaticism’ is the effect of critical rationality, a by-product of the latter’s effectively emancipatory attack on dogmatism, which has in removed any fetter on the claims of ‘blind faith’. Without dwelling on the under-determined and exceedingly allusive references to contemporary fanaticism which lend Meillassoux’s claims their charge of urgency, as well as on the rather dubious claims made about the relation between Christianity and Western reason, in the rest of this presentation I want to challenge the plausibility of Meillassoux’s Enlightenment reloaded, as I mentioned by a detour through Colletti’s Marxism and Hegel. I want to put forward two inter-related arguments. First, that attending to the distinction between Kant and Hegel as formulated by Colletti, allows us to cast doubt on the very possibility of a speculative materialism, and provides a qualified Marxian defence for weak Kantian correlationism as a component of a genuine materialist thinking. Second, and much more briefly, that Colletti’s related discussion of hypostasis and ‘real abstraction’ demonstrates the weakness of Meillassoux’s attempt to revitalise the Enlightenment attack on fanaticism. Behind these two claims lies the conviction that, despite its undeniable subtlety, Meillassoux’s attack on the idealist parameters of correlationism is ultimately idealist in form, a problem which also affects it attempt to ideologically intervene, through a recasting of the Enlightenment fight against fanaticism, in the contemporary ‘return to the religious’.

The reasons that govern the contrast I will propose with Colletti are several. To begin with, I want to use this disjunctive exercise to begin to think through the relationship between Meillassoux’s speculative materialism and the kinds of materialisms of practice or history that refer back to Marx. The choice of Colletti is dictated by the very nature of his intervention in Marxism and Hegel and related pieces: it was designed to counter the obfuscatory idealism and rejection of science which he saw as the Hegelian legacy within Western Marxism. In this respect its spirit, if not its specific targets, is not so distant from Meillassoux. What’s more, Colletti bears a more specific affinity with Meillassoux (1). Both regard scientific thought as inextricable from an affirmation of the principle of non-contradiction. Meillassoux argues, towards the end of chapter 3 of After Finitude that: ‘Dialectics and paraconsistent logics would be shown to be studies of the ways in which the contradictions of thought produce effects in thought, rather than studies of the supposedly ontological contradictions which thought discovers in the surrounding world’ (79). The distinction between contradictions in thought and in reality is so central to Colletti’s work that it eventually led to his abandonment of Marxism, guilty in his eyes of maintaining the possibility of contradictions in the real. But the different ways of arguing against contradictions in reality in Colletti and Meillassoux are already indicative of the broader differences in their philosophical defences of science against idealism. Colletti turns to Kant’s 1763 essay on negative magnitudes to argue that:

The fundamental principle of materialism and of science … is the principle of non-contradiction. Reality cannot contain dialectical contradictions but only real oppositions, conflicts between forces, relations of contrariety. The latter are ohne Widerspruch, i.e. non-contradictory oppositions, and not dialectical contradictions. These assertions must be sustained, because they constitute the principle of science itself. Now science is the only means of apprehending reality, the only means of gaining knowledge of the world. There cannot be two (qualitatively different) forms of knowledge. A philosophy which claims a status for itself superior to that of science, is an edifying philosophy – that is, a scarcely disguised religion. (‘Marxism and the Dialectic’, 28–9).

Rather than relying on a notion of material reality for the argument against dialectical contradiction, Meillassoux’s argument regarding non-contradiction is wholly intra-speculative. Non-contradiction must be respected to ward off the metaphysical spectre of an absolutely necessary entity that forfeiting this principle would involve. Thus, contrary to the customary link between dialectical contradiction and an ontology of flux or process, for Meillassoux a contradictory entity ‘could never become other than it is because there would be no alterity for it in which to become’ (69). In other words, and I’ll try to develop this point, while Colletti takes a materialist critique of the dialectic to imply the extra-logical character of reality, the fact that deriving the dynamics of the real from the logical is illegitimate and idealist, for Meillassoux the denial of real contradiction takes place on intra-logical grounds. But to develop this point further, it is worth looking further at the rationale behind Colletti’s anti-Hegelian revision of Marxism.

Let’s begin where the contrast appears greatest: Colletti’s plea for a pro-scientific materialism takes the form of a defence of the finite. At the very start of his book, he isolates the crux of idealism in Hegel’s statement from the Science of Logic according to which: ‘The idealism of philosophy consists in nothing else than in recognizing that the finite has no veritable being’ (7). Consequently, ‘the finite is ideal’, in two senses: it is a mere abstraction, a fleeting isolation from the concrete universality of the Whole, and, conversely, it is only granted its true being when comprised as a moment of the ideal. In Hegel’s formulation, from the Encyclopaedia: ‘The truth of the finite is … its ideality. … This ideality of the finite is the chief maxim of philosophy’ (14). The labour of speculative reason (Vernunft), as opposed to the intellect or understanding (Verstand), is to traverse the various configurations of the finite and to undo its separateness. Colletti will diagnose this contempt towards the isolated thing and the thought which thinks it (mere intellect as opposed to reason) as a constant within idealist philosophy, including that of dialectical materialism – the polemical object of his book. For Colletti, sympathy towards the Hegelian critique of the intellect and of the Kantian restrictions placed on reason – which he encounters in a motley host of thinkers, from Rickert to Marcuse, from Bergson to Lukacs – is a sign of an abdication of materialism and of a position towards science which, in according philosophy the sovereign right to legislate about reality, turns the former it into a ‘scarcely disguised religion’. What’s more, to the extent that science is seen to isolate entities and treat them as both finite and external to the mind it is paradigmatically a product of the intellect, and is consequently viewed as a merely abstract and incomplete form of thinking – a feature most evident in Bergsonism, but present, as Colletti demonstrates, in a broad range of nineteenth and twentieth century philosophy. For Colletti, speculation, conceived as the pretension of philosophical thought to logically encompass being, is fundamentally incompatible with materialism. Indeed, he insists on Hegel’s conviction that he was returning to rationalism, but stripping it of its reliance on a materialist, or scientific form of argument. In passing, we could note that Meillassoux’s return to rationalism, and to Descartes in particular, takes the inverse approach: maintaining the materialist form of rationalism, and stripping it of its idealist or theological content.

Thus, it is the repudiation of the finite as separate and self-standing, and the attempt to overcome finitude, understood as the inability for thought or logic to determine being, which for Colletti marks idealism’s hostility to scientific materialism. In other words, it is because of a denial of finitude, and not because of its assertion, that for idealism ‘an independent material world no longer exists’ (19). The idea of real opposition, Kant’s Realrepugnanz, is significant because it is only by upholding the principle of non-contradiction and the idea of real exteriority in the material world that materialism can avert being enveloped by an idealism for which the material world is merely an incarnation of a fundamentally inclusive and unlimited reason. As Colletti remarks, ‘since Hegel transforms the logical inclusion of opposites that is reason into the very principle of idealism (reason is the sole reality, there is nothing outside it), he excludes precisely that exclusion of opposites (the externality of being in relation to thought) that is the very principle of materialism)’ (34).

In Marxism and Hegel, idealism qua speculation is identified with ‘the negation of any extralogical existence’ (49). This is also why materialism is always to some extent an Unphilosophie, an anti-philosophy, based on the idea of an externality of thought to being, and on a related irreducibility of scientific epistemology to speculative logic. While, in Colletti’s formulation, ‘Kant constantly remarks that if one wants to have knowledge, one must refer thought back to that which is other than itself’ (202), Meillassoux’s attempt to break out of a correlationist circle of Kantian provenance into what he calls ‘the great outdoors’ involves generating a new figure, under the aegis of a necessary and radical contingency, of thought’s Parmenidean identity with being, or, as he very lucidly outlines, inventing a novel type of non-metaphysical speculation.

Let’s sum up the results of this contrast. In Meillassoux’s work, a speculative materialism counters correlationism by undermining the thesis of finitude (or rather, via the passage from facticity to factuality, by turning correlationist finitude against itself), and by engaging in a non-metaphysical deployment of a ‘logos of contingency’ relying on the intra-logical principle of non-contradiction and the ultimate identity of being and thought. In Colletti, on the contrary, a critical materialism depends on asserting the extra-logical character of reality, and the related and irreducible distinction between logical contradiction and real opposition. What’s more, for Colletti it is precisely by turning the finite into an ideality, which is in turn encompassed by logical thinking, that speculation – which form him can only be idealist – transforms the world into an ‘ephemeral’ entity, something which Meillassoux’s logos of contingency would seem to do as well. It is worth quoting here at length from Colletti’s exposition of his critical materialism:

Dogmatism is metaphysics; critical thought is materialism. The antithesis, with respect to Hegel, could not be more pronounced. Metaphysics is the identity of thought and being; its contents are ‘already’ within thought, they are independent of experience, i.e. supersensible. Ergo, form and content are forever united, knowledge is already formed, and it is impossible to pose the problem of the origin of the knowledge that we possess. Critical thought, contrariwise, identifies itself with the position that presupposes the heterogeneity, i.e. a real and not formal (or purely ‘logical’) difference, between being and thought. Thereby one can pose the ‘critical’ problem of the origin of our knowledge, inasmuch as knowledge itself is not already given. Which in turn presupposes, in a word, that the sources of knowledge are two: the spontaneity of the mind and whatever data are given to the receptivity of our senses. (91)

In Colletti, the scientific content of Kantian finitude – severed from its moral dimension – is to prohibit the self-sufficient of thought, i.e. speculation. In his words: ‘If one denies that there exist premises in reality for thought, then one is forced to take up knowledge itself as a presupposed and given reality’ (89). Accordingly, it is imperative that epistemology, understood as the study of thought’s relation to being as relates to the scientific enterprise, not be reduced to logic, the theory of thought’s coherent relation to itself.

Among the issues at stake in this contrast is the standing of the absolute. Colletti and Meillassoux seem to converge on the notion of the absolute as something which is separate from what the latter would refer to as a correlationist circle. As is stated at the beginning of Chapter 2 of After Finitude, the task of speculative materialism ‘consists in trying to understand how thought is able to access the uncorrelated, which is to say, a world capable of subsisting without being given. But to say this is just to day that we must grasp how thought is able to access an absolute, i.e. a being whose severance (the original meaning of absolutus) and whose separateness from thought is such that it presents itself to us as non-relative to us, and hence as capable of existing whether we exist or not’ (28). In Colletti’s account it is precisely this absoluteness of extra-logical reality which is the nemesis of idealism. As he notes: ‘For Hegel, the ‘“intellect” is dogmatic because it makes the finite absolute. The meaning of this term is the same as its etymology: solutus ab…, freed from limitations, existing on its own, and therefore unrestricted and independent’ (82). But, and this is the important point, Meillassoux does not limit himself to the severance of extra-logical reality, precisely because his refutation of correlationism is a logical, or speculative one.

Looking through the prism of Colletti’s critique of Hegelianism, we can recognise two sense of the absolute in After Finitude: on the one hand, the absoluteness of the archi-fossil, an absoluteness that fits quite well with Colletti’s defence of the finite against its idealist sublations; on the other, the absoluteness of a reason or logic which is assumed to be congruent with being, and which can legislate about modality and change with no reference to anything extrinsic to it, be it experience or matter. The uniqueness of Meillassoux’s account lies of course in the dextrous and fascinating manner in which he seems to need the second absolute, the absolute of speculation (or what we might call the absolute absolute) to shore up the second (the relative or negative absolute, the absolute from thought) and defeat correlationism. Viewed from the vantage point of Colletti’s argument, Meillassoux poses the ontological presuppositions of correlationist epistemology, but resolves it by logical means, thus obviating his own materialist aims, and creating something like a detotalised and contingent ‘logical mysticism’, to employ Marx’s characterisation of Hegel’s system. We could thus articulate this contrast in terms of the distinction between a materialism of the intellect and a materialism of reason, or a realism of the intellect and a realism of reason. From the vantage point of Colletti’s defence of intellect against reason, After Finitude’s attempt at defending the expansive and speculative uses of a ‘totally a-subjective’ reason by getting rid of fideism throw out with it the criticism, revision and scientificity that marks the extra-logical character of reality in a Kant-inspired materialist epistemology.

But is a restatement of Kantian epistemology as a materialist precursor all that there is to Colletti’s position? No. Crucial to Marxism and Hegel is the highlighting of Marx’s theory of real abstraction, to wit the idea that the excesses of speculation and the hypostases of idealism are not merely cognitive problems, but are deeply entangled with abstractions that have a real existence in what, following Hegel, Marx was wont to call an upside-down world. Thus the State, and its philosophical expression in Hegel, and Capital, and its theoretical capture in the political economy of Smith and Ricardo, are not simply thought-forms that could be dispelled by some enlightened emendation of the intellect, or a valiant combat against superstitions. As Colletti writes: ‘For Marx, in fact, metaphysics is the realism of universals; it is a logical totality which posits itself as self-subsisting, transforms itself into the subject, and which (since it must be self-subsisting) identifies and confuses itself acritically with the particular, turning the latter – i.e. the actual subject of reality – into its own predicate or manifestation’ (198). Again, this is not a merely logical but a real process. To return to the earlier remarks on Meillassoux’s attempt to revive the Enlightenment war on fanaticism within his broader critique of correlationist fideism, what Marx’s notion of real abstraction permits us to think – and the reason why it is an important advance with respect to the idea of ideology as a merely cognitive matter – is that ideologies, including those of correlationism, fideism and fanaticism, are social facts.

In trying to maintain the speculative sovereignty of philosophical reason, albeit advocating a principle of unreason and breaking correlationist self-sufficiency, Meillassoux can be seen to reintroduce idealism at the level of form at the same time as he valiantly seeks to defeat it at the level of content. In two senses. First, by presuming the possibility of drawing ontological conclusions from logical intuitions – something which can be registered in the inconsistent use of the notion of the absolute: as the absolute absolute of the logos of contingency, and as the relative absolute of the entity severed from correlation. The former, logical absolute leads to a variant of Hegel’s transubstantiation of material or effective causality into a moment within ideal causality – though of course in Meillassoux this is explicitly an acausality, stripped of teleology. Second, by presuming that a speculative philosophy in conjunction with a mathematised science can struggle against abstractions that are perceived as mere errors of the intellect, and not as abstractions that have any basis in a social, material and extra-logical reality. Logical form undermines materialist content, the struggle against finitude reproduces the ideality of the finite, the intellectualist defence of the Enlightenment conceals the reality of abstractions. The antidote to a post-Kantian catastrophe threatens to be a neo-Hegelian reverie.

1. There is a further convergence in these two attempts to recast materialism. As their discussions of non-contradictions suggest, both rely on a preliminary ‘atomization’ of things, objects and laws. In the case of Meillassoux one could perhaps critically refer to Anton Pannekoek’s critique of Materialism and Empirio-Criticism in Lenin as Philosopher: ‘for Lenin “nature” consists not only in matter but also in natural laws directing its behaviour, floating somehow in the world as commanders who must be obeyed by the things.’ In order for Meillassoux’s reasoning to operate, is there not a need to pre-emptively reduce the real to a domain of entities rather than relations, such that arguments based on the principle of non-contradiction can have their purchase? And is there not a parallel weakness in Colletti’s refusal to consider the point that a materialist ontology may be concerned with processes, not things?

Alberto Toscano

via Nina Power’s infinite thought

Today’s radical political (or metapolitical) theory is the offspring of a contorted dialectic of defeat and reinvention.1 Though it is common to take contemporary ideas on emancipation and political subjectivity at face value, many of the defining characteristics of these recent writings are obscured if we fail to address how they emerged out of a reckoning with the failure or  distortion of Marxist politics, and, moreover, if we disregard the extent to which they maintain an underlying commitment to the Marxist impulse whence they arose.

The mode of separation, as it were, from the organisational and theoretical tenets of Marxism (in whichever guise) can tell us a lot about the present resources and limitations of theoretical contributions to the contemporary thinking of politics which drew initial sustenance from that tradition, even if they are now allegedly “beyond” Marx and Marxism. This is certainly the case with the work of Alain Badiou, whose knotty relationship to his own Marxist-Leninist militancy and to Marxist theory has recently become the object of rich and detailed investigation, above all in several essays by Bruno Bosteels. Bosteels’ characterisation of Badiou’s metapolitical trajectory in terms of “post-Maoism’2 already suggests that what makes Badiou’s theoretical biography distinctive is at a considerable remove from the entire “post-Marxist” tendency, chiefly encapsulated in Laclau and Mouffe’s Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, and persuasively dismantled in Ellen Meiksins Wood’s The Retreat from Class.3 Having said that, the echoes of a common “post-structuralist” theoretical conjuncture, and a critique of (or separation from) “thick” Hegelian-Marxist versions of dialectics and social ontology, might make one suspect that “the theoretical edifices of Laclau and Badiou are united by a deep homology”.4 This “deep homology”, which Zizek identifies in the notion of a contingent, subjective rupture of ontological closure, is nevertheless offset, still according to Zizek, by a fundamental divergence, inasmuch as, in the last instance, Badiou’s “post-Marxism” has nothing whatsoever to do with the fashionable deconstructionist dismissal of the alleged Marxist “essentialism”; on the contrary, he is unique in radically rejecting the deconstructionist doxa as a new form of pseudo-thought, as a contemporary version of sophism”.5 Rather than either homology, or frontal opposition, it might be more precise to argue that Badiou’s post-Maoism and the post-Marxism of Laclau et al. intersect in manners that generate, from the peculiar perspective of contemporary radical thought, a kind of “family resemblance” effect, but that, when push comes to shove, they are really indifferent to one another, born of divergent assessments of the end or crisis of Marxism. To a certain extent, they connect the same dots but the resulting pictures differ radically. In order better to delineate the specific difference of Badiou’s project, and of the problems that generated it, it is of considerable interest to examine the period between the highest speculative product of Badiou’s heterodox Maoism, Théorie du sujet (1982), and L’être et l’événement (1988), in particular the book Peut-on penser la politique?, published in 1985, which is to say contemporaneously with Laclau and Mouffe’s Hegemony.

Like many post-Marxists, and indeed anticommunists, Badiou attacks the “metaphysics” that contaminate Marxist politics. In a Heideggerian pastiche, he even describes Marxism-Leninism as the “metaphysical epoch of Marxist political ontology”.6 Most “deconstructions” of the Marxist canon have looked for this metaphysics in Marx’s supposed reductionist “economism” or in what they take to be an imaginary constitution of the social, and of class structure in particular, whose correlate is the putative transparency of the post-revolutionary social bond. While some of these points may be registered in Badiou’s texts from the mid-eighties, the emphasis is firmly on a conceptual dyad that persists even in more recent works like Metapolitics. This is the distinction between politics and the political. The thesis that lies at the core of Badiou’s call to counter the supposed “crisis” of Marxism through its “destruction” and “recomposition”, is that Marxism has succumbed to the homogenising political fiction that imagines the possibility of measuring, anticipating and representing political action. According to this framework, “the political has never been anything but the fiction which politics punctures through the hole of the event”.7 One’s first impression is of a substantial overlap with Laclau in terms of the notions of working class, proletariat or people as fictions of the social bond, signifying fictions in which political action could find its guarantee. Indeed, the fundamental political fiction for Badiou is that of the “alliance of the social relation and its measure” (where, as the treatment of the concept of “state” in Being and Event suggests, measure is equivalent to representation). However, from the idea whereby the crisis of the political reveals that (in his vocabulary) all sets are inconsistent,8 Badiou does not draw the customary post-Marxist lessons regarding the transcendental horizon of discursively generated identities and the a priori of antagonism as an intractable impediment to social revolution. In other words, he does not espouse the post-Marxist mix of strategic populism, sociological description, discursive ontology and cynical liberalism. Rather, the assault on the fiction of the social, and on Marxism’s foundational commitment to a critique of political economy, is viewed by Badiou as the occasion for a renovation, and a kind of purification, of the politics of emancipation. Marxism, according to Peut-on penser la politique?, is unable to critique its own critique of political economy,9 leaving its original political impetus cloaked and perverted, binding it to the mediations, however antagonistic, of economic and social relations. The maintenance of categories of totality and system within this approach is what imprisons the encounter and creation of a politics in the fiction of the political, which always comes down to “the alliance of the social relation and its measure”.10 Marxism – this is Badiou’s verdict – was destroyed by its history, the subordination of politics to the fiction of a social measure. The political is a kind of metaphorical cloaking of the hiatus between state and civil society,  representation and presentation. The aim of an emancipatory politics should not lie in the creation of a new bond; the inconsistency of the social does not open onto ever-renegotiated (and formally identical) disputes over its content, but on the idea of an autonomy and heterogeneity of politics, which occurs at a remove from any relational dialectic: “What is dissipated is the thesis of an essence of the relations internal to the city, an essence representable in the exercise of a sovereignty, be it the dictatorship of the slaves, even if the relation is that of civil war within the class structure”.11

So, while there is a convergence or homology around a certain anti-essentialism, what follows from Badiou’s own attack on essential relations is a link between inconsistency and event, which still maintains an emancipatory, rationalist reference to transmissible decision and a communist reference to the generic (in the axiom of equality) – rather than a generalised undecidability oscillating between a sociologistic account of discursive plurality and a political ontology of fundamental antagonisms. In other words, the “destruction” of the political fiction that Badiou diagnoses within metaphysical Marxism is not an opportunity to affirm the pluralism of political  struggles, but rather to argue simultaneously for their singularity and their prescriptive homogeneity. Badiou insists, during this period, in writing of the recomposition of Marxism, in putting his work under the aegis of “Marxist politics” because of the unsurpassable character of the Marxist hypothesis, the hypothesis of a politics of non-domination which is not reducible to the state. Rescinding the fiction of the political, from within Marxism, is presented as a kind of prolegomenon to the emancipation of a (Marxist) politics. In Peut-on penser la politique? we can thus observe, in a quasi-deductive manner, the passage from an internal dislocation of Marxism to a metapolitical thinking of the event: “the determination of the essence of politics, unable to find a guarantee either in structure (inconsistency of sets, unbinding), nor sense (History does not make a whole), has no other benchmark than the event”. Note that it is through this “ultra-one” of the event, that Badiou maintains “the essence of politics’: “The firmness of essentialisation rests on the precariousness of what happens.’12

Keeping this move in mind, we can elucidate a number of supplementary differences with the ideological attitude of post-Marxism, as well as shed some light on the direction taken by Badiou’s further work. A particularly significant issue in this regard involves the difference between an ontology of the multiple and the kind of pluralist notion of hegemony put forward in post-Marxism. Whilst in both instances the undermining of unity (at the level of class identity and of party leadership, for instance, as well as in terms of the category of social totality) is used to articulate a movement beyond the supposedly Hegelian or totalising character of Marxist theory, Badiou’s set theoretical meontology of the multiple is of a wholly different order than the discursive pluralism of Laclau et al. – indeed, the theme of the generic, running (explicitly or otherwise) through the whole of Badiou’s work from the 1980s onwards, can be understood in terms of the need to maintain communism as an intrinsic property of truth and subjective fidelity. This is not an immanent critique of Marxism as a science of capitalism and revolution, but a displacement to a dissimilar practical and theoretical framework (one in which politics and philosophy are de-sutured, as Badiou’s 1989 Manifesto for Philosophy proposes) in order to sustain the retention of a minimal Marxism conjoining the hypothesis of non-domination with the rational identification of the sites of subversion, without trapping politics in a teleological, revolutionary or programmatic framework. We will return to the question of whether maintaining the name Marxism is tenable once these theoretical options have been taken – especially bidding farewell to the concept of revolution. For the time being, it is worth noting that the emphasis on the subjective element in Marxist politics – already a prominent trait in Badiou’s Maoism and still present in the 1980s concern with political “forms of consciousness’13 – is fully at odds with the post-Marxist concern with “subject-positions” and the hegemonic negotiations of “identity”. This anti-essentialist discursive ontology of the (empty) social is absent from Badiou, whose concern, as demonstrated quite consistently even in more recent books like the Ethics, is not with the political interplay between identity and difference. Rather, Badiou’s thought works at the interface between, on the one hand, the fact of identity-and-difference as a feature of the encyclopaedia of knowledges,14 and, on the other hand, the production of the Same.15

Despite the deceptive resonance, this is not to be confused with the two logics of Laclau and Mouffe, differential and equivalential. Why? Because in the latter these two logics remain transitive to one another and map out the transcendental horizon of political dispute, whilst in Badiou the production of sameness in the political field is a real production of truth which does not involve the strategic rearrangement and occupation of the language of the situation, but an organised subtraction from its very terms.

Instead of shifting the terrain from that of (the taking of) political power, of classical revolutionary politics, to the domain of discourse (the post-Marxist strategy whose fundamental “electoralism” is persuasively ferreted out by Wood), the shift made by Badiou and his political comrades is marked by the attempt, in order to maintain the hypothesis of non-domination, to consolidate and purify the subject of politics. In a distinction that would obviously strike the likes of Wood as spurious, inasmuch as it characteristically bypasses the level of class, for Badiou it is not the state but proletarian capacity which lies at the heart of Marxist politics. Regarding the question of class struggle and antagonism as a crucial node in the so-called crisis of Marxism, and the possibility of a “party of a new type”, Paul Sandevince (a.k.a. Sylvain Lazarus) writes in Le Perroquet (the publication of Badiou’s group, the UCFML), that: “For Lenin, the essential is not struggle, but “antagonism against the entirety of the existent political and social order”.” This is read fundamentally as a warning against the logic of the absorption of the party into the state, whilst the “other path” involves assigning “the process of politics to the masses/State contradiction grasped in terms of consciousness [conscience]”.16 This is one of the sources of Badiou’s own insistence on politics viewed not as strategy for power, or a way of ordering the social, but as an organised practice of thought (a “truth procedure”, in the later work). The link between the hypothesis of nondomination, the egalitarian and organised capacity for thought, and a separation from the state thus appears as one of the key tenets of this self-avowed “Marxist politics”. This gives us an inkling as to why the appellations post-Maoism or post-Leninism (the one favoured by the various authors in Le Perroquet17) are more appropriate than post-Marxism. Having already decided that Marxist politics is not the consequence of a critical analysis of capitalism, but is rather the means, within capitalist conditions, for the production of communism (so that the critique of political economy is wholly subsidiary to the project of emancipation), the direction taken in the 1980s by Badiou and his comrades is primarily born out of the crisis of the Marxist political subject (i.e. the party), and not, as with “traditional” post-Marxism, out of a critique of the metaphysical tenets and sociological shortcomings of Marxism as a science of capitalism. If Badiou’s Théorie du sujet had declared that the every subject is political and that subject equals party, what is at stake in this period (1982-88) which oscillates between the option for a “party of a new type” and that of “politics without a party’?

Jameson contends that Marxism qua science of capitalism gives rise to post-Marxism at moments of systemic crisis. Whatever the links between such crises and forms of political organisation, it is clear that for Badiou it is the party qua subject which is the focus of the crisis, not the ability of “Marxism” to cope with social and economic transformations, or the shifts and turns in class composition. Indeed, Badiou is generally rather sanguine about the Marxist understanding of capitalism, and does not seem to think that Marx has really been surpassed in this domain. In any instance, Badiou is immunised against the stance according to which the failure of social ontology or economic analysis would debilitate Marxist politics. Indeed, he mocks this very possibility in a vicious piece caricaturing the “old Marxist”, the one who waits for the proper study of “social formations” before acting, who thinks that “one of these days the “workers” movement” will give us something to talk about”.18 To the contrary:

Marx starts, absolutely, not from the architecture of the social, in which he will, after the fact, deploy his assurance and his guarantee, but from the interpretation-cut of a symptom of social hysteria, uprisings and workers’ parties. (…) For the symptom that hystericises the social to be thus grasped, without pinning it to the fiction of the political, proletarian political capacity – as a radical hypothesis of truth and a reduction to fiction of every foregoing notion of the political – must be excepted from any approach via the communitarian and the social.19

By now, Badiou’s philosophy is renowned as a philosophy of the event. But, in terms of what I referred to above as the dialectic of defeat and reinvention, could we also say that there are events of closure, failure, saturation? Without entering into doctrinal details, Badiou does overtly mark his treatment of the “destruction and recomposition” of Marxism in terms of what he terms “the end of referents”, a position presaged by an article of the same name in Le Perroquet, penned by Sandevince-Lazarus.20 This passage through history is inexorable, inasmuch as “Marxism alone presented itself as a revolutionary political doctrine which, if not historically confirmed, was at least historically active”.21 If Marxist politics, in its Marxist-Leninist phase, was crystallised around the figure of the party as subject, and suffused by an essential historicity, then this figure is seen to suffer from the collapse of its three primary referents: (1) the statist referent: the actual existence of Marxist states, as emblems of the possible victory of a Marxist politics, and of “the domination of non-domination’22; (2) wars of national liberation as an other emblem of actually victorious Marxist politics, and the “fusion of the national principle and the popular principle’23 in the invention of new ways of linking politics and war; (3) the workers’ movement, especially in its incarnation in “working class parties” with an explicit Marxist reference, “mixed figures of a distant revolutionary Idea and the proximity of an oppositional activity”.24

Once again, it is not the analytical force of Marxism qua science of capital that is paramount for Badiou, but the collapse of its singularity as a revolutionary thinking and a politics that was fundamentally “self-referential” (its instances were, to various degrees, homogeneous with its theory) and massively historically inscribed. Though Badiou will always maintain (as he does in D’un désastre obscur) the “eternity of communism”, what is at stake here is the historicity of Marxism and the impossibility, in his view, for Marxism to continue to draw any value from its actual history in the present. As Badiou puts it, “its credit has run out”.25 Note that, contrary to all specimens of post-Marxism, this has nothing to do with the explanatory capacity of Marxism (Badiou treats it strictly as a politics, not a doctrine, and only secondarily and strategically as an analysis of the social).

The “crisis of Marxism” is to be located in the collapse of its real referents: it is an immanent, and thoroughly political crisis, for which the analytical force of the critique of political economy remains of little import. Along with this collapse of referents, this political death, which seems to suggest the separation of a communist hypothesis from moribund Marxist politics, Badiou also points to certain symptoms – larval and obscure political subjects which indicate that if a Marxist politics is to be “recomposed”, it can no longer be so in terms of political processes that take it as an explicit reference-point. Marxism has not only lost its historical foothold, it is no longer an internal referent for nascent forms of emancipatory politics. This is what is meant by the expatriation of Marxism, as the key aspect of the crisis that we must destructively traverse (let us not forget that for the Badiou of Théorie du sujet, the becoming of a subject, and of a proletarian subject especially, is intimately linked to its own destruction, so that the call to be heeded here is for Marxism to truly subjectivise itself, after having gone through the “subjective destitution” of its referents). In a piece from 1983, Badiou declares:

Today, the referents of Marxist politics are not Marxist. There is a fundamental delocalisation of Marxism. Previously, there was a kind of selfreference, because Marxism drew its general credit from States that called themselves Marxist, from wars of national liberation under the direction of Marxist parties, from workers’ movements framed by Marxist unionists. But this referential apparatus is gone. The great mass historical pulsations no longer refer to Marxism, after, at least, the end of the cultural revolution in China: see Poland, or Iran. Therefore, there is an expatriation of Marxism. Its historical territoriality is no longer transitive to it. The era of self-reference is closed. Marxism no longer has a historical home. All the political referents endowed with a worker and popular life are, with regard to Marxism, atypical, delocalised, errant. Any orthodox Marxist today will object that the Polish movement is national and religious, that the Iranian movement is religious and fanatical, that there is nothing there that fundamentally matters for Marxism. And this orthodox Marxism will be nothing but an empty object in the process of the destruction of Marxism.26

This theme of expatriation thus allows Badiou to maintain, albeit in a problematic register, the reference to “worker and popular life”, as well as the crucial (communist) hypothesis of non-domination, in the face of some of the very events that served as grist to the post-Marxist mill. By thinking in terms of the dislocation of Marxist politics and the tentative invention of new forms of consciousness, rather than in terms of the analytic and ideological failure of Marxism, Badiou can turn the political conjuncture of the 1980s – the death throes of historical communism and the birth of heterogeneous political forms – into an opportunity for the recomposition of a politics of emancipation.27 Crucially, this is not done in relation to a return to logics of electoral alliance or the articulation of group demands outside of the working class referent, but in terms of the possibility of a new workers” politics at a distance from the State, a non-classist, non-systemic experience of proletarian capacity. Rather than seeing the “crisis of Marxism” as a chance for singing the praises of political plurality, Badiou seems to grasp in it the possibility of a further singularisation of emancipatory politics. The wager then, is to look for the traits of a new politics of anti-statist emancipation in these mass symptoms, these hysterias of the social. Though it transcends the limits of this paper, it would be fruitful to follow the attempts – ultimately frustrated by the religious and populist sclerosis of the Polish and Iranian situations – made in Le Perroquet to track moments of organisational invention and worker capacity in non-Marxist political scenarios. Contrary to post-Marxism, which sees in the rise of “new social movements” a radical-democratic pluralism beyond universalist28 and communist hypotheses, Badiou’s post-Leninism is committed, from the 1980s onwards, to producing a metapolitical framework for thinking the persistence of communism as a minimal, universalising hypothesis even in political scenarios where the name “communism” is anathema.

The requirement that the destruction and recomposition of Marxist politics be internal – which is to say not dictated by its supposed explanatory shortcomings,  its political disasters, or novel sociological facts – is motivated by an appraisal of the  subjectivity that dominates the post-revolutionary Restoration of the virtues of liberalism and parliamentary democracy.29 The peculiarity of the reactive (or renegade) subjects that, from the mid-seventies onwards, publicised the return to liberty on the basis of their own failures lies instead in the fact that they perceived the “crisis of Marxism” simply as the subjective discovery of an objective fact (crystallised by Badiou in the typical utterances: “we tried, it was a catastrophe” and “I fail, therefore I am’): the fact of the impossibility of emancipation. But for Badiou all that these failures and disasters prove is that the opposition to existent society is a “difficult” problem. Just like a mathematician who fails in a proof does not thereby declare as inexistent the problem that proof stemmed from, so a political militant does not make failure into either a necessity or a virtue: “So that what is presented to us as a conjoined progress of morality (liberating us from the totalitarian phantasm) and of realism (seeing the objective virtues of the existent state of things) is in fact a confession of incapacity. The essence of reneging is incompetence”.30 Badiou here intervenes directly in the anti-Marxist philosophy of the Restoration, which sees the defence of the “negative liberties” at the heart of parliamentary democracy (or capitalist parliamentarianism, as he will later dub it). He repeats the idea of a termination of the Marxist-Leninist sequence, of its arrangement of certain political factors,31 but, crucially, contends that we cannot disregard the fact that antagonism to the status quo is still at the heart of any politics of emancipation and that a return to the Enlightenment thematic of liberty is simply insufficient, since the question of equality, which determines “a current stage of the political question”, cannot be evaded.

The question, in the legacy and destruction of what he dubs the Marxist/Leninist “montage”, is how to practice, under the conditions of a nondespotic State, a politics whose axiom is equality: a contemporary politics beyond the modern debate between the State of right and law (parliamentary constitutional liberal democracy) and tyranny. We cannot turn away from “contemporary” politics, initially marked by the entrance of the signifier “worker” into the political field, for the sake of a merely “modern” anti-despotic politics of democracy. Following Badiou’s hazardous “de-socialisation” of Marxism, however, equality must not be thought in terms of equality of “material positions” (‘economistically’), but in strictly political terms. The maxim of equality becomes the following: “what must the world be such that an inegalitarian statement is impossible within it?” Badiou here draws a crucial difference between the modern politics of liberty, which, ever since Saint-Just, functions in a symbolic register, as a form of non-prohibition, and a contemporary politics of equality, whose aim is to really make impossible the production of inegalitarian statements (this will remain the chief characteristic of Badiou’s later concept of the generic). What is surprising here, especially in terms of the earlier commitment to a communist dialectic of destruction, is the idea of a complementarity between the politics of liberty and the politics of equality, along with the stipulation of the general problem of equality in “times of peace”, as detached from the revolutionary problematic of power, war and the state: “under the general conditions of a nondespotic State, how can one think and practice a politics whose overarching philosophical category is equality?’32

A politics of equality, in this framework, works within the symbolic politics of prohibition for the sake of real-impossible equality. It is as if, albeit “at a distance”, Badiou sees the project of emancipation as conditioned to some extent by the apolitical horizon of a liberal polity. This bears two interesting, and problematic consequences. The first is that politics cannot be primarily or directly concerned with the betterment of the polity itself, since “politics must be thinkable as a conjoined excess over the State and civil society, even if these are good or excellent”.33

But the second consequence lies in the implicit suggestion that the politics of emancipation, having rescinded the project of power (in short, the dictatorship of the proletariat) is externally conditioned (‘in times of peace’) by a kind of liberal frame. Here lies the entire ambiguity of Badiou’s later problematic of “politics at a distance from the State’34 – which both maintains the antagonism against “existing society” and, to an extent, the problem of how to change it, but (perhaps in a simply provisional way) combines this seemingly stark antagonism with the toleration of the symbolic framework provided by the very same society: “We therefore continue to demand modern freedom (symbolic according to nonprohibition) from within which we work towards contemporary equality (real, according to the impossible)”.35 Is this to say that Marxist politics can only persist from within a liberal envelope? Can we “reformulate from within politics the synthetic vision of the backwards and nefarious character of our society and its representations” and maintain the “difficult” problem of “changing existing society”, if we do not unequivocally pose the problem of the tension between liberty (in the state) and equality (in politics), together with their mediation by issues of power and authority? To put it otherwise, can a post-Leninist radical politics of equality afford to be entirely post-revolutionary?

At times, Badiou’s 1980s “expatriation” of Marxism, which already presupposes a distance between Marxist politics and the Marxist critique of political economy, seems entirely to dissolve any consistency characterising the Marxist project, casting doubt on the very possibility of holding onto the term Marxism. After all, won’t Badiou, in Metapolitics, peremptorily declare that “Marxism doesn’t exist”,36 in the sense that its political instances – its “historical modes” to use Sylvain Lazarus’s terminology – are absolutely inconsistent? And yet, throughout the 1980s, prior to the publication of Being and Event, Badiou seems to maintain the liminal validity of the notion of “Marxist politics”, at least in the sense that it is only by rigorously undergoing its destruction (and not its ironic deconstruction) that a new politics of emancipation will be “recomposed”. What is at stake in this retention, in extremis, of the name of Marxism (or of “Marxist politics’)? If anything, the Anglophone vogue for post-Marxism was driven by a rejection of the articulation between social class and revolutionary politics, which reduced the idea of the proletariat to a mere contested and hegemonically posited identity among others.

Once again, despite surface similarities, the move beyond class operated by Badiou and his cohorts is based on an intra-political and historical judgment, i.e. on the idea of a lost efficacy of the “classist” mode of politics (dominated by the category of contradiction, and the transitivity between society and politics).37 This also why Badiou declares that there are more things in the crisis of Marxism than anti-Marxism can dream of – in the main because anti-Marxism merely registers an objective crisis without being able to think through its primary, subjective aspect.38This means, on the one hand, that an orthodox defence of Marxism comes down to repeating the old refutation of old objections, therefore remaining on the terrain of anti-Marxism, and, on the other, that the crisis must be experienced not as a way of merely pluralising or dissolving Marxism, but as an opportunity to radicalise its emancipatory, egalitarian core.39 This  radicalisation or purification of Marxism into a minimal, heterodox Marxist politics (what Badiou has elsewhere referred to as a communism of singularities), is all the more interesting to us inasmuch as it explicitly wards off the possibility of a post-Marxist turn. For whilst Badiou and his comrades appear definite about the end of the working class as a sociopolitical class (making no such claims for the end of social class per se), they are equally definite that no emancipatory politics can bypass workers.

This plea for a minimal Marxism can be observed in two steps. The first involves what Badiou, explicitly harking back to the Kant of the Critique of Pure Reason, calls a “refutation of idealism”. If Marxist politics is detached from the social as the “places of bonds” [les lieux des liens], what prevents the kind of idealist pluralism according to which any site and any subject, unbound from the requirements of transitivity with an ordered and ontologically grounded social structure, can be the locus of emancipation? Badiou is very aware that having abandoned a dialectics of social latency and political subjectivation he cannot depend on the “substantial presupposition” of a political privilege of workers. And yet, he knows that a “maximal” interpretation of his political axiomatic could lead to declaring the emergence of a political subject to be possible at any point. To counter this prospect, Badiou engages in a minimal inscription of the egalitarian wager-intervention on an event, in what he calls “prepolitical situations”.40 Whilst this minimal, anticipatory interregnum between the social and politics does not allow a pre-emptive construction of political subjectivity (e.g. the party of the working class), it allows, by analogy with Kant, a merely negative reductio ad absurdum of the maximal claim of political contingency (any subjects, anywhere).

Forbidding himself any substantive resort to social ontology, Badiou nevertheless wants to argue that to elude “worker singularities” in the formation of a political subject would be to suppose that a politics of emancipation could deploy itself without including in its trajectory any of the places or points where the dominated are the majority of the inhabitants. Whence the following “theorem”:

Political intervention under current conditions, i.e. modern politics, cannot strategically avoid being faithful to events, whose site is worker or popular. Let us suppose that it can. Since the axiomatic hypothesis is that of a politics of emancipation, that is, of a non-statist subjective politics under the aegis of non-domination, it would follow that this politics could deploy itself without ever including in its immediate field places where the mass (whatever its number) of the dominated – in modern conditions – materially exists, i.e. in factories, in the estates in the banlieues, in immigrant housing, in the offices of repetitive IT work. Especially if we consider factories, the exception would be radical, since we can easily establish that factories are separated from civil society and from the moderating laws that sustain its social relations. According to this supposition, the politics of non-domination would only exist, for the dominated themselves, in the form of representation, since no event giving rise to an intervention would include them in terms of its site.41

The point is not simply that an emancipatory politics must include the lowest rungs, the excluded, the oppressed, but that they and their “site” must be directly involved – in other words “presented” – by the emergent political subject. Otherwise, we remain at the level of the State, or, in Badiou’s politico-philosophical terms, of representation. So this refutation of idealism does not simply attack (or literally reduce to absurdity) the “new social movements” ideology according to which emancipation may take place anywhere, anytime, by anyone. It also undermines any Left (or even Marxist) notion that the dominated may be represented in a political programme without partaking of political action themselves.42

It is moving from this idea of a pre-political “site”, and warding off both an idealist pluralism and any kind of “speculative leftism”,43 that Badiou will give a metaontological solution to these problems of Marxist politics in Being and Event. Starting from the intuition of a reductio ad absurdum of anti-worker political idealism, Badiou initially develops his theory of the event-site – a crucial component of his mature philosophy – in terms of the factory and of the worker as the subjective figure of politics. This is the second step, as it were, in the argument for a Marxist politics that would be capable of following its own metaphysical destruction. In “The Factory as Event-Site”, a text published in Le Perroquet in 1987 and originally intended for inclusion in Being and Event, we encounter both a potent distillate of Badiou’s overall doctrine and his last explicit attempt to defend, in however minimal a fashion, a notion of Marxist politics.44 That article’s argument is philosophically far more intricate and challenging than the prescriptive and axiomatic positions rehearsed hitherto, showing a speculative daring far greater than the clever repetition of Kant’s refutation. In a sense, what my own presentation has sought to do is to demonstrate the internal theoretical and political necessity leading to this work on the event-site and, in so doing, to show how Badiou’s intimate confrontation with Marxism is at the very foundation (albeit a vanishing one, since he eventually chose to omit this “example’) of the project crystallised in Being and Event. A closer investigation of the links between “The Factory as Event-Site” and Badiou’s further work should of course be carried out, but for the purposes of this paper, I would simply like to indicate the work that the concept of the event-site does in Badiou’s attempt to maintain a minimal, liminal Marxism.

Far more than any of the other texts in Le Perroquet, this excised fragment of Being and Event pleads for a return to Marx (and Engels) that would even seem to bypass the post-Leninist reference. In “The Factory as Event-Site” Badiou puts his metaontological and metapolitical investigation under the aegis of two  conceptual inheritances of the Marxian thinking of worker politics, which the attempt to “recompose” a Marxist politics seeks to weave together. These are the void, which in the Marxist apparatus is connected to the peculiarity of the proletarian (having nothing to sell but his labour-power, the proletarian is the bearer of a generic capacity), and the site, which Badiou links to Engels’s inquiries into the localised conditions whereby exploitation is organised and countered. In a pithy declaration, Badiou will define his philosophical undertaking precisely in terms of a different articulation, a different dialectic, of these two terms, one that moves beyond the “fictions” of orthodox Marxism: “at the very heart of the objectivist version of the necessity of a worker reference, we encounter two terms, the void and the site, which as we will see only acquire their full meaning once we decentre toward the subjective the vision of politics”.45 Without entering into the details of Badiou’s exposition, we should note that in asserting that a political event can only take place if it takes into account the factory as event-site, Badiou aims to provide a kind of minimal objectivity (i.e. another refutation of idealism) without making the intervention of politics and of political subjectivation transitive to a socio-economic datum. As he puts it: “The paradoxical statement I am defending is finally that the factory, by which I mean the factory as a workers” place, belongs without doubt to the socio-historical presentation (it is counted-as-one within it), but not the workers, to the extent that they belong to the factory. So that the factory – as a workers” place – is not included in society, and the workers (of a factory) do not form a pertinent “part”,  available for State counting.’46This is the sense in which the factory is not the hidden abode of a production that could be reappropriated and disalienated, but a pre-political site “at the edge of the void” (of the unpresented fact of domination), into which politics can intervene. The correlate of this notion is that the (proletarian) void itself is detached from an expressive logic of (dis)alienation and rearticulated to the notion of a production of the Same, a production of communism no longer immanently bound to a communism of production.47It is on the basis of the speculative trajectory laid out in “The Factory as Event-Site” that Badiou can then reassert his (contorted, heterodox, errant) fidelity to Marxism:

Reduced to its bare bones, Marxism is jointly the hypothesis of a politics of non-domination – a politics subtracted from the statist count of the count – and the designation of the most significant event sites of modernity, those whose singularity is maximal, which are worker sites. From this twofold gesture there follows that the intervening and organised experimentation of the hypothesis must ceaselessly prepare itself for the consideration of these sites, and that the worker reference is a feature of politics, without which one has already given up subtracting oneself from the State count. That is the reason why it remains legitimate to call oneself a Marxist, if one maintains that politics is possible.48

To the extent that Badiou’s subsequent work remains more or less wholly consistent with the research programme of this 1987 article, we could consequently hazard to read it as an attempt to think Marxism “reduced to its bare bones”.

Inasmuch as the above has added some intelligibility to the vicissitudes of Badiou’s (meta)political thinking, its leave-taking from Marxism-Leninism and its (re)commencement of Marxism, I hope it has also given rise to certain perplexities which can be made to resonate with the rest of Badiou’s work and its ongoing political interpretations. Simply by way of conclusion, I would like to touch on two problems that are especially acute in this phase of Badiou’s production. The first concerns the manner in which Badiou remains faithful to a certain intuition of Marx’s about proletarian subjectivity and its political dynamics. Badiou, after all, defines the continuity-in-separation between the Marxian legacy and his (re)commencement as follows: “we (re)formulate the hypothesis of a proletarian political capacity”.49 However, the refutation of idealism and maintenance of the “worker reference” in other texts seems to demand the evacuation of any  pre-political subjective privilege to workers per se (politics must touch on their sites, but they are not latent political subjects qua workers). Can the void of the situation be equated with a political capacity? And if this capacity is only the retroactive effect of a postevental intervention (the politicisation of the factory axiomatically determines that “workers think’) is the term “capacity” really viable, considering its inescapable links to notions of disposition and potential and to the theory of (dis)alienation? I would suggest that Badiou’s philosophical conceptualisation of the concept of the generic in Being and Event may be read as an attempt to transcend what appear to be tensions in his earlier “Marxist politics” by maintaining the link between the void, equality and the subject without relying on any latency whatsoever.50

The second problem is connected to the sources, as it were, of emancipatory politics. Badiou obviously wishes to purify and politicise the concept of equality, sever its dependence on merely material criteria. But, in his allergy to the socialising fictions of orthodox Marxism, he seems to step back from contemporary criteria of politics to merely modern ones by framing his entire vision of Marxist politics in terms of the politico-philosophical concepts of exclusion, domination and representation. In a manner which is perhaps most obvious in the section on the “ontology of the site” in “The Factory as Event-Site”, Badiou seems to deny the possibility that the concept of exploitation may be an uncircumventable touchstone of any contemporary politics. As I’ve suggested elsewhere, the difference between a politics at a distance from the state and a politics against capital might lie in the fact that the latter cannot be encompassed by the question of representation, inasmuch as capitalist power, while reliant on mechanisms of representation, also works “directly” on singularities themselves, in ways that cannot be easily mapped in terms of exclusion, invisibility or domination.51 This is precisely what is at stake in the vicissitudes of the concept of value in the critique of political economy, a concept which I would suggest cannot be easily harnessed by the logic of re/presentation. The resulting (and rather formidable) challenge would be to combine the immediate politicisation of exploitation that characterises Marx’s own work,52with some of the metaontological and metapolitical tools provided by texts such as “The Factory as Event-Site”. A traversal of the logic of exploitation and its effects on our  thinking of political subjectivity would also allow us to ward off the possibility of an “aristocratic” solution, distantly reminiscent of Hannah Arendt’s republican and councilist advocacy of the autonomy of politics against the disastrous impingements of the “social question”.53 This would of course force us to face head on one of the most arresting questions raised by Badiou’s “expatriation” of Marxism: is contemporary politics (the politics of positive equality) compatible with the continuation of modern, statist politics (the politics of negative freedom)? Or must it risk being “anti-modern”, and work on equality not just at a distance from, but against the State? This is not to suggest that Marx, like a political Odysseus, may soon be repatriated, and that we, faithful Penelopes warding off our post-Marxist suitors, can finally recognise him under unfamiliar garb. More modestly, let us suggest that Badiou’s connection between the expatriation of Marxism and the (re)commencement of a Marxist politics is a salutary alternative to the quarrels between the antiquarians and the renegades, as well as a unique philosophical platform from which to (re)think Marx’s politics.


1 It is worth noting from the outset that Badiou – who does not seem to hold much truck with the term nowadays – put his work in the mid-1980s under the aegis of “radicalism”, often in terms redolent of a certain Kantian atmosphere that suffused the French debate on the retreat of the political and political judgment: “What is a radical politics, which goes to the root, which refuses the administration of the necessary, which reflects on ends, upholding and practicing justice and equality, and which nevertheless assumes the time of peace, and is not like the empty wait for a cataclysm? What is a radicalism that is at the same time an infinite task?” (Alain Badiou, Peut-on penser la politique?, Paris, Seuil, 1985, p. 106). Showing the momentary influence of Lyotard, Badiou even links his notion of an axiomatic politics to Kant’s treatment of aesthetic judgment in terms of “reflective universality” (which, we could hazard, also affects the temporality of the future perfect, which is still at work in the concept of the generic). See Peut-on penser la politique?, p. 76. It should also not be forgotten that Peut-on penser la politique?, like Lyotard’s L’enthousiasme, was occasioned by an invitation from Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe’s Centre d’étude philosophique du politique, and is in (polemical) dialogue with the problems identified by these philosophers.

2 Bruno Bosteels, “Post-Maoism: Badiou and Politics”, positions: east asia cultures critique vol. 13, No. 3, 2005, pp. 575-634. This is arguably the most thorough engagement with Badiou’s politics to date.

3 Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, London, Verso, 1985; Ellen Meiksins Wood, The Retreat from Class: A New “True” Socialism, 2nd ed. London: Verso, 1998. As a future task, it would be very interesting indeed to gauge how well Badiou’s own post-Leninist turn would fare under Wood’s criticism – especially insofar as Wood, rather than simply rehashing “orthodox” criticism, is able, in a Marxian spirit, really to bring out the importance of the Marxian critique of political economy to a definition of such crucial concepts as freedom and equality.

4 Slavoj Zizek, The Ticklish Subject, London: Verso, 1999, p. 172.

5 Slavoj Zizek, “Psychoanalysis in Post-Marxism: The Case of Alain Badiou”, The South Atlantic Quarterly 97, 2, 1998, pp. 235-61.

6 “La figure du (re)commencement”, Le Perroquet 42, 1984, p. 8 or Alain Badiou, Peut-on penser la politique?, p. 61.

7 Peut-on penser la politique?, p. 12.

8 Peut-on penser la politique?, p. 13.

9 Peut-on penser la politique?, p. 14.

10 Ibid.

11 Peut-on penser la politique?, p. 13. See also the Mallarmé quote that Badiou adduces for this stance: “le rapport social et sa mesure momentanée, qu’on la serre ou l’allonge en vue de gouverner, est une fiction.”

12 Peut-on penser la politique?, p. 67. On the event as “ultra-one”, see Alain Badiou, Being and Event, trans. Oliver Feltham, London: Continuum, 2006, pp. 178-83.

13 See Paul Sandevince (a.k.a. Sylvain Lazarus), “Les formes de conscience” (Octobre 1980), Le Perroquet 42, 1984.

14 Being and Event, pp. 327-43.

15 Alain Badiou, Ethics, trans. Peter Hallward, London: Verso, 2001, pp. 25-7.

16“Les formes de conscience”, p. 5. UCFML refers to the “Groupe pour la formation d’une Union des communistes de France marxiste-leniniste”. In 1985, the UCFML disbanded and was succeeded by L’Organisation politique, a non-party organisation. See Hallward’s Badiou and Bosteels’s “Post-Maoism” for more detailed information.

17 This is argued in particular in Sandevince’s “La politique sous condition”, Le Perroquet 42, pp. 1-3. According to him, there is no positive meaning of Marxism-Leninism after the termination of the Cultural Revolution, and in the end “one cannot extirpate Marxism-Leninism from its Stalinist matrix”. But the line taken by Le Perroquet is that it is necessary to maintain the Leninist break or division between social being and political consciousness. Thus, while moving beyond Lenin in terms of organisation (and indeed in terms of the link between class and revolution) there is a fidelity to a kind of Leninism of capacities, of thought. Politics under condition, in Sandevince-Lazarus’ definition, is politics separated from the social. Can a certain Leninism be maintained beyond the partyform? Is the party-form a restraint on the virtuosity of political subjectivity? This of course raises the question of how political capacity can be fostered and rendered efficacious outside of the party-form.

18 Georges Peyrol (a.k.a. Alain Badiou), “30 moyens de reconnaître à coup sûr un vieux-marxiste”, Le Perroquet 29-30, 1983, p. 5. in Peut-on penser la politique?, Badiou puts the point as follows: “Communist politics must be wagered: you will never deduce it from Capital” (p. 87). Of course, it could be argued that far from signalling a caesura, this “long wager” (p. 90) is a feature of Marx’s own original thought, which never held to such a chimerical “deduction”. See Stathis Kouvelakis, “Marx et sa critique de la politique. Des révolutions de 1848 à la Commune de Paris, ou le travail de la rectification”, available at: <;. The idea of Marxism as promoting a “deduction” of politics from the critique of Capital runs the risk of converging with the “straw-Marxism” denounced by Wood. See The Retreat from Class, p. 187.

19 Peut-on penser la politique?, p. 20. This rethinking of the notion of capacity, it should be noted, is “eventally” bound to the Polish workers’ movement of the late 1970s and early 1980s. See the section of Peut-on penser la politique? precisely entitled “Universal meaning of the Polish workers” movement”, pp. 45-8, as well as Renée Lebovici, “Shangaï et Gdansk”, Le Perroquet 29-30, and many other pieces in the same publication throughout the 1980s.

20 However, Sandevince-Lazarus’ way of posing the crisis is slightly more theoretical than historical. In fact he too designates three referents, but substitutes Marxism-Leninism itself for Badiou’s focus on anti-imperialist wars: “The referents are principally of three orders”, he writes, “the socialist State, the worker capacity to practice and formulate a revolutionary politics, and finally Marxism-Leninism”. Marxism-Leninism is also defined here as a “precarious political amalgam”, and there is a sense in some of the work in Le Perroquet of a political “return to Marx”, a (re)commencement of Marx that would sublate the Leninist experience. Moreover, Sandevince-Lazarus also emphasises that this is a political crisis: “Marxism is in its nature a politics – as Marx himself clearly specifies in his letter to Weydemeyer – communist politics (for communism, the abolition of the wage, the reduction of great differences, the extinction of the State and political parties), a communist politics that is irreducibly antagonistic to bourgeois politics (for capitalism, imperialism, and the State). If there is a crisis of Marxism, it is the crisis of a politics, of a politics for communism, what we call, strictly speaking, Marxist politics.” “La fin des références” (May 1982), Le Perroquet 42, 1984, p. 10. But see especially “Le Marxisme comme politique, Interview, par Le Perroquet, du Sécretariat central de l’U.C.F.”, Le Perroquet 29-30, 1983, pp. 1-3. The whole issue, under the heading “Un Perroquet-Marx”, marking the hundredth anniversary of Marx’s death, is devoted to these questions.

21 Peut-on penser la politique?, p. 26.

22 Peut-on penser la politique?, p. 27. Post-Leninism is thus defined by the break with “reason of state” in all its forms, a break that draws its sustenance from the founding drive of Marxism itself: “It is not the State which is the principle of universality of Marxist politics, but rather the communist process in the deployment of class struggles and revolutions”. “La fin des références”, p. 10.

23 Peut-on penser la politique?, p. 28.

24 Peut-on penser la politique?, p. 29.

25 Ibid.

26 “La figure du (re)commencement”, p. 1. Badiou also refers to this issue in terms of the separation of Marxism from the history of the “marxisation” of the workers’ movement, now that it is no longer “a power of structuration of real history”, meaning that politics may be freed from “the marxed [marxisée] form of the political philosopheme”. Hence the radical caesura vis-à-vis the previous periodisation of Marxist politics, and the proposal of the figure of  (re)commencement. See Peut-on penser la politique?, pp. 58-59.

27 Another crucial moment is of course to be registered in the death-knell of the sequence begun in the Cultural Revolution. See Bosteels’s “Post-Maoism” and Badiou’s Le Monde editorial on the trial of the Gang of Four, “The Triumphant Restoration”, trans. Alberto Toscano, positions: east asia cultures critique vol. 13, No. 3, 2005, pp. 659-62.

28 See, for instance, this characteristic pronouncement: “The discourse of radical democracy is no longer the discourse of the universal; the epistemological niche from which “universal” classes and subjects spoke had been eradicated, and it has been replaced by a polyphony of voices, each of which constructs its own irreducible discursive identity. This point is decisive: there is no radical and plural democracy without renouncing the discourse of the universal and its implicit assumption of a privileged point of access to “the truth”, which can be reached only by a limited number of subjects.” Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, p. 191.

29 Badiou’s condemnation of the past two decades as a new post-revolutionary “Restoration” is summed up in Le siécle, Paris: Seuil, 2005.

30 Alain Badiou, “À bas la société existante! (1)”, Le Perroquet 69, 1987, p. 2. See also the section in Peut-on penser la politique? entitled “The reactive meaning of contemporary anti-Marxism”, pp. 48-51.

31 “It is certain that [the Marxist] montage is exhausted. There are no longer socio-political subjects, the revolutionary theme is desubjectivated, History has no objective meaning. All of a sudden, the antagonism of two camps is no longer the right projection for global hostility to existing society”. “À bas la société existante! (1)”, p. 3.

32 Ibid.

33 Peut-on penser la politique?, p. 20.

34 Metapolitics, trans. Jason Barker, London: Verso, 2005, pp. 150-1. It is worth noting that Badiou does maintain that this thematic of distance is not simply placed “after” historical communism, but is intrinsically post-Leninist. In an interview following the publication of Being and Event, he declares that his “horizon remains that of the withering away of the State” and is driven by the attempt to generate an “intra-popular democratic process”. See Alain Badiou, “L’être, l’événement, la militance” (interview with Nicole-Édith Thévenin), Futur Antérieur 8, 1991, available at: <;. But this withering away is detached from the question of taking power, as the state is transformed into a non-political referent in the field of politics, so that an intrapopular process does not issue into a Leninist notion of proletarian democracy, which would require not a distance from, but the smashing of the State.

35 “À bas la société existante! (1)”, p. 3. In the French revolutionary triad, equality always maintains precedence for Badiou. As “the authority of the Same”, it trumps freedom (which is too close to opinion) and fraternity (which flirts too much with the substance of community). In brief, the virtue of equality lies in its abstraction – the very abstraction that Badiou will describe in terms of a prescriptive axiom of equality. See “Philosophie et politique”, in Conditions, Paris: Seuil, 1991, p. 248.

36 Metapolitics, p. 58.

37 See Sylvain Lazarus, “Dans quel temps de la politique sommes nous? (éditorial)”, Le Journal Politique 2, March 2005, available at: < 7>. This theme of “classism” is dealt with in numerous interventions in Le Perroquet, its successor publication La Distance politique, and now in Le Journal politique.

38 Peut-on penser la politique?, p. 51.

39 Which is why Badiou declares, paradoxically, that “the contemporary being of what will articulate the new figure of politics, and which will still be able to call itself “Marxism” in being able to continue the emancipatory hypothesis, is nothing other than the complete thinking of its destruction” (ibid.). Badiou can say this to the extent that Marxism has always been for him synonymous with political militancy and not social analysis; it is not a doctrine, but “the life of a hypothesis”, and this life can take the form of a protracted process of destruction and recomposition.

40“I call pre-political situation a complex of facts and statements in which the collective involvement of worker and popular singularities is felt, and in which the failure of the regime of the One is discernable”. Peut-on penser la politique?, p. 76.

41Peut-on penser la politique?, pp. 81-2.

42In this sense, though Wood’s arguments, levied against post-Marxism, regarding the evacuation of power and exploitation from its political horizon might be thrown at Badiou, the latter is certainly immune to the devastating conjunctural charge made by Wood against the post-Marxists, or new “true” socialists, to wit: that their “deconstruction” of Marxist metaphysics is functional to an option for ideological battles and alliances focalised around electoral contests, and “the logic of their argument is an electoralist logic” (The Retreat from Class, p. 190). While post-Marxism, with its open sympathies for Austro-Marxism and the second International, signals a definite, if particularly elliptical, option for reform over revolution, Badiou’s “Marxist politics” of the 1980s – and, we could argue, his current thinking and practice – appears entirely indifferent to this alternative. However, such a stance is founded on a drastic separation from the idea of a political “programme” (as a mediation between subjective will and objective transformation) which would render his position deeply inimical to the likes of Wood.

43See Bruno Bosteels, “The Speculative Left”, South Atlantic Quarterly 104, 4, 2005, pp. 751-67. All of Bosteels’ work, and especially his forthcoming book Badiou and Politics (Duke University Press), should be consulted for further insights into the questions sketched out in this paper. See also, for background and analysis, Peter Hallward’s chapter on politics in Badiou: A Subject to Truth, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004, as well as his important article on “The Politics of Prescription” in the same issue of SAQ.

44 “L’usine comme site événementiel”, Le Perroquet 62-63, pp. 1 and 4-6.

45 Ibid.

46 Ibid.

47 On these terms, and many of the issues having to do with the shifts in Badiou’s thinking, see my article in Prelom No. 6/7.

48 “L’usine comme site événementiel”.

49 “La figure du (re)commencement”, p. 8.

50 At the same time, I think that Badiou’s farewell to political anthropology may be somewhat premature. For an initial statement of this problem, see Nina Power and Alberto Toscano, “Think, Pig!: An Introduction to Badiou’s Beckett”, in Alain Badiou, On Beckett, Manchester: Clinamen Press, 2003. See also Nina Power, “What is Generic Humanity?: Badiou and Feuerbach”, Subject Matters vol. 2, No. 1, 2005, pp. 35-46.

51 See “From the State to the World?: Badiou and Anti-capitalism”, Communication and Cognition vol. 37, No. 3/4, 2004, pp. 199-224, also available at: <;.

52 See Kouvelakis, op. cit., as well as Massimiliano Tomba’s “Differentials of Surplus-Value”, Historical Materialism (forthcoming).

53Hannah Arendt, On Revolution, London: Penguin, 1963, chapter 6: “The Revolutionary Tradition and its Lost Treasure”.

via khukuri

Büyük evlerin küçük odalarında yaşadım, yüksek yerlerdeki alçak adamlarla tanıştım. Çocukluğum can sıkıntısıyla mücadele ederek geçti. Can sıkıntımı yenmek için savaş filmleri izlerdim. O dönemlerde Vietnam savaşı yeni bitmişti ve Amerikanlar savaş filminden başka film çekmiyordu. Savaştan dönüp de topluma adaptasyon sorunu çeken travma kurbanı, üzgün, gücünü yitirmiş, haksızlığa uğradığını düşünen bilge kurban-kahramanlar pek modaydı o zamanlar. Vietnam savaşından dönen bunalımlı bir gazi olmadığım halde gençliğimde kendimi o kurban-kahramanlardan biri olarak gördüm hep. O kadar çok savaş filmi izlemiştim ki bu savaş filmlerinin travmatik bir etkisi oldu üzerimde ve kendimi hayatta tutabilmek için mevcut yaşam biçimlerini eleştiren düşünceler üretmeye başladım. Bu düşünceler beni topluma yabancılaştırdı çünkü toplum bireye kıyıcı bir ilişkiler yumağından başka bir şey değildi.


“Ben” dediğiniz şey kendiniz değildir aslında. Zira “siz” ancak kendiniz olmayan bir şey olarak var olabilirsiniz toplum içerisinde. Daimi suretle kendinizden farkınız olarak sürdürürsünüz yaşamınızı. Buna toplumsallaşma uğruna saçmalamak da diyebiliriz herhalde. Toplumsal yaşamda kişi olayları bedensel olarak tecrübe ettiği halde zihinsel olarak kendisini topluma ait hissetmezken, çok sevdiği bir filmi seyrederken kendisini filmdeki karakterlerin yerine koyarak bedensel olarak hadiseleri yaşamadığı halde zihinsel ve duygusal olarak filmin içerisindeki olaylar zincirinin bir parçası haline gelebiliyor. Zaten işte budur film seyrederken insanın zevk almasını sağlayan şey; toplumsal kimliğinin dışına çıkmak, kendin olarak bildiğin “ben”in senin toplumsal kimliğinden sıyrılarak bağımsız olarak sürdürdüğü kişisel olmayan bir ötekileşme. Tabii burada bu ötekileşmenin ötekiyle özdeşleşme, yani ötekinin içinde kendinden bir şeyler, kendinde de ötekinden bir şeyler bulma ve bu benzerlikerden ötürü duyulan kendini kendi dışındaki dünyanın bir parçası gibi hissetme, öyle görme fantezisi olduğunu söylemeye bile gerek yok. Bu tür bir fantezi terapötiktir; kişi kendini dünyaya ait hisseder, ötekilerle bağ kurar, mutludur. Bu durumun öteki tarafında ise insanın kendini dünyayla bir olarak görmesinden duyduğu sıkıntı sonucu ortaya çıkan, filmlerdeki karakterlerin kendinden ne kadar da, o kadar ki son derece bile yetmez o farklılık derecesini tanımlamaya, farklı olduğunu görme ve gösterme eğilimi hakimdir. Bu kişi kendini film karakterleriyle özdeşleştiren kişiden farklı olarak film seyrederken kendini filmdeki karakterlerle özdeşleştirip onların hissetiği gibi hissetmekten hiç hoşlanmaz, bilâkis bu kişi kendini filmdeki karakterlerin gerçek hayattakinden ne derece farklı olduklarını ve kendisinin asla bu film karakterleri gibi düşünüp, hissedip, bu düşünceler ve hislerle hareket etmeyeceğini, onlar gibi olmayacağını, olamayacağını söyler. Bu iki farklı seyir tipini terapötik, eğlence amaçlı seyir ve eleştirel gözle seyir diye de ikiye ayırabiliriz, ki nitekim işte ayırdık da zaten. Ne yapacağını ve ne diyeceğini çevreyi gözlemlemek suretiyle tartıp biçmeden hayata geçiren kişi kaybetmeye ve kendi dışkısı içerisinde boğulmaya mahkûmdur sevgili okur. Kişi kendisine şunu sormalıdır: Bu hareketim neleri doğuracak, bu sözler nelere sebebiyet verecek? Yaptığımız eylemlerin ve sarf ettiğimiz sözlerin etkilerini önceden kestirebilmenin yolu geçmişte ettiğimiz sözlerin ve giriştiğimiz eylemlerin şimdinin gerekliliklerinden hareketle gözlemlenmesinden ve geleceği geçmişten daha iyi kılacak biçimde yeniden yorumlanmasından geçer.

Hepimiz bu hayatta birer aktör ve aynı zamanda birer seyirciyiz. Zira bu hayatta çevremizdeki olayalarla ilişkilerimiz gözlem ve eylem boyutlarında gerçekleşir. Yani işte göz görür can çeker. Özdeşleşmeye karşı duruşuyla tanınan, özdeşleşme nesneleri ve arzu nesneleri arasındaki ilişkiyi sıradışı bir yaklaşımla ele alan Gilles Deleuze ise bu konuya ilginç bir biçimde en olmadık yerden parmak basar. Deleuze pek çok kitabında arzunun kendine karşı dönüşünün nasıl gerçekleştiğini deşifre etmekle kalmamış, aynı zamanda arzunun üretici bir eylem olduğunun da altını çizmiştir. Buna göre arzulamak nesnesini kendisi üreten yaratıcı bir eylem biçimidir. Deleuze varlığı yaratıcılıkla eş tutar. Yaratıcılık olabilecek her şeyi var kılandır.


Bedensiz Organlar adlı kitabında Slavoj Zizek’i Deleuze’ü yanlış okurken okuyoruz. Bu arada Zizek, Deleuze’ü zaten herkesin yanlış okuduğu Hegel’i yanlış okurken okuyor. Bu yanlış okumalar silsilesi içerisinde doğru kalan tek şey eleştirel teorinin ilk şartının yanlış okumayı bilmek olduğu ortaya çıkıyor. Zizek’in bir dizi histerik provokasyondan ibaret Deleuze eleştirisi Deleuze’ün felsefesinin temel emelini tespit ederek başlıyor işe. Zizek’e göre Deleuze’ün felsefesinin temel emeli yeninin ortaya çıkış sürecini teorik olarak açıklamaktır. Bu doğru tespitten sonra Zizek, Deleuze’ün felsefesini Deleuze I ve Deleuze II diye ikiye ayırıyor. Deleuze I, Deleuze’ün Guattari’yle birlikte yazdığı Anti-Oedipus: Kapitalizm ve Şizofreni adlı kitaba kadar olan dönemi kapsarken, Deleuze II, Deleuze’un Guattari’yle işbirliği içerisinde kaleme aldığı kitapları kapsıyor. 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 ürettiği anormallikleri bastırarak canına can kattığını ve radikal anormalleşmeye götüren bir üretim-tüketim-ilişkileri-kısır-döngüsüne dayandığını itiraf etmek durumunda hissediyorum kendimi.

Zizek, Deleuze’ün felsefesine siyasi bir bağlam oluşturmak maksadıyla kendi özgün felsefesini Guattari’nin politik anti-psikiyatri söyleminin süzgecinden geçirmek suretiyle kolaycılığa kaçtığını iddia ediyor. Zizek, Deleuze’ün felsefeyi siyasileştirme çabasına denk gelen bu ikinci dönemi bir talihsizlik olarak nitelendiriyor ve Deleuze’ün Hegel’ci diyalektiği aşma çabalarının başarısızlığa mahkûm oluşunun göstergesi olarak lânse ediyor. Zizek’e göre Deleuze hem Hegel’ci diyalektiğin ötesine geçemiyor, hem de Hegel’i olduğundan farklı gösterip çarpıtıyor. İşte bu noktada “farklılığın filozofu” olarak bilinen Deleuze’un sanat ve yaratıcılık üzerine kestiği ahkâmları inceleyecek olursak Zizek’in ne demek istediğini daha iyi kavrayabilecek zemini yaratmış oluruz sanırım kendimize.

Deleuze için sanat yaratıcılığın en radikal biçiminin yaşandığı bir uzam, değişim sürecinin en uçta yaşandığı bir etkinlik, sanatçı ise statükoya düşünsel dinamizmiyle direnen, kendi varoluş alanını kendisi yaratmak zorunda olan radikal bir varlıktır. Bu tablo iyi ve insanlık için faydalı bir şey olmaktan öte, önüne geçilmesi hemen hemen imkânsız evrimsel bir sürecin de yansımasıdır.

Denebilir ki sanat iyinin ve kötünün ötesinde olan bir şeydir. Bu da demek oluyor ki klasik veya daha genel bir tabirle geçmişe ait sanat yapıtlarının bugünün koşullarına bakılarak, bugünün algılama biçimiyle değerlendirilmesi ve bunun neticesinde de iyi veya kötü diye nitelendirilmesi bir anlam ifade etmekten yoksundur, ve zaten böyle bir nitelendirme çabası gereksizdir. O yapıt, o günün koşullarında, o çağın düşüncesiyle anlamsal olarak şekillenmiş ve içerik kazanarak, bu içeriğe uygun bir biçimle insanlığa sunulmuş bir yapıt olarak ele alınmalı ve ondan mümkün mertebe yararlanılmalıdır; onu ait olmadığı bir çağda kötü veya iyi diye yargılamak ona yapılmış bir hakarettir. Gerek geçmişle alay eden, gerekse geçmişi ironik bir şekilde yücelten, geçmişte kullanılan dilin yapısını bozan, hem biçimsel, hem de içeriksel olarak yeni tarzlar deneyen, içerik-biçim ilişkisine yeni boyutlar katan, kısacası anlam aktarımında kullanılan araç gereci ve teknikleri değiştirmek suretiyle anlam kavramına da yeni anlamlar katan, değişen ve değişmekte olan insanların bu değişime paralel olarak değişen beklentilerini deneme yanılma yöntemiyle karşılamaya yönelik, kendinden emin, deneysel eserler üretilmektedir. Bu eserler bizi içinde bulunduğumuz mevcut-duruma hapsolmuşluktan kurtarmakta işe yarayabilir. Durum dışında düşünce üretip duruma dıştan müdahale etmek, ona içindekileri tersyüz ederek dışa dönmesini sağlayacak şekilde yaklaşmakla mümkün kılınabilir. Kendimizi kaybedene kadar kendimizden kaçmaya değil, bilâkis bu durumun olanaksızlıklarını birer olanak haline getirip değerlendirmek arzusuna meyletmeliyiz bence. İmkânsızlıklar elimizdeki imkânlardır, dolayısıyla da eldekini en iyi şekilde değerlendirmek bir sorumluluktur. Zira eskiden var oluşun bir anlamı olmadığı düşüncesi kendi içinde bir anlam ifade ediyor ve sanatçılar da anlamsızlığın bu anlamını değişik şekillerde yeniden yaratmaya ve aktarmaya çalışıyordu. Belli ki artık tıpkı var oluşun bir anlamı olmamasının anlamı gibi, duygu ve düşünce arasındaki ayrım da ortadan kalkmıştır. Çağımızda bilimden bağımsız olarak düşünülemeyecek sanat, bilimdeki gelişmelerle beraber hem teknik hem de içerik olarak elbette ki değişime uğrayacaktır. Bilim sanatı, sanat da bilimi değiştirir; neticede ikisi de temelde hayal gücüne dayanır. Belki bir çerçevesi vardır sanatın ama bu çerçeve tıpkı hayatın çerçevesi gibi şeffaftır ve sınırlayıcı bir çerçeve değildir. Zaten gerçek bir sanat yapıtı işte o çerçevenin görünmezliğinin bile ötesine geçmeyi başarabilendir; yani yaşamın görünen yanlarının ötesine… Onu çevreleyen şeffaf çerçevenin ötesine taşıdığı anlamla, hayatın her alanına yayılır sanat ve bu yüzyıllardır böyle süregelmiştir. Sanatsal yaratıcılığın amacı, çelişkilerle dolu insanın yapısını bozup, insanın dinamik özünü oluşturan sürekli değişim arzusuyla, bu arzuya direnen korku temelli güdünün aşılması ve ana hapsolmuş anlamın, uyumun ve bütünlüğün yakalanıp ölümsüzleştirilmesidir.

(c)cengizerdem, 2005.
 Aslen Almanya doğumlu olmakla beraber çalışmalarının büyük bir kısmını İngiltere’de yalnızlık içerisinde sürdürmeyi seçen Melanie Klein çocuk psikanalizinin yaratıcısı ve en önemli kuramcısıdır. Freudcu psikanalizden radikal bir kopuş gerçekleştirerek anti-ortodoks, daha doğrusu a-ortodoks, yani durağanlık karşıtı, akışkanlık yanlısı bir duruşu benimseyen ve çocuk gelişimi ve pedagojisi üzerine yaşamı boyunca bıkmadan usanmadan araştırmalar yapan Klein’ın nesne-ilişkileri kuramı adıyla anılan teorileri lokâl olarak yurdumuzun, genel olarak ise dünyamızın mevcut durumu göz önünde bulundurulduğunda gittikçe artan bir öneme sahiptir.
Klein’a göre çocuk daha dili öğrenmeden büyüklerin algıladığından farklı da olsa çevresindeki dünya ile derin ve karmaşık bir ilişki içerisindedir. Klein’ın nesne ilişkileri adını verdiği bu ilişkiler çocuğun dünyayı algılama biçiminde ve buna bağlı gelişiminde fantazmatik üretim ve hayal kurma yetisi gibi bilinç oyunlarının oynadığı önemli rolün altını çizmiştir. Klein Çocukların Psikanalizi adlı ilk kitabında paranoid-şizoid pozisyon diye tanımladığı yaşamın ilk yıllarını analiz etmiş, bu evrenin yerini dili kullanma yetisinin edinilmesiyle birlikte depresif pozisyona bıraktığını yazmış ve buna bağlı olarak da fantezinin yerini alan düşüncenin çocuğun iyi ile kötü arasındaki ayrımı yapabilecek idrak kabiliyetine kavuşmasını sağladığını belirtmişti. Klein bir diğer önemli yapıtı olan Haset ve Şükran adlı kitabına ise kendisini çevreleyen hasetli ortamın yarattığı bunalımın damgasını vuracak ve öznenin oluşumunda nesne-ilişkilerinin ve çocuğu çevreleyen sevgi veya nefret yumağının önemini vurgulamakla psikanaliz alanında muazzam bir devrim yapacaktı.
Klein’a göre hepimiz yaşamlarımız boyunca paranoid-şizoid pozisyon ve depresif pozisyon arasında gidip geliriz. Yani aslında hiç kimse tamamen normal değildir ve olamaz da, çünkü dünya yapısı gereği normal bir yer değil, bilâkis son derece anormal hadiselerin cereyan ettiği bir yerdir. Bizler de dünyada yaşayan insanlar olduğumuza göre tüm bu anormalliklerden bağımsız bir biçimde normal insanlar olamayız. Normal olan tek şey normal diye bir şeyin olmadığıdır.Klein paranoid-şizoid ve depresif pozisyon kavramlarını yaratırken pozisyon kelimesini özellikle seçmiştir, zira bilmektedir ki bu pozisyonlar yaşamda birer ilerleme veya gerileme aşamasını ifade etmez. Bu ikisi daha ziyade arasında gidip geldiğimiz birer ruhsal durumdur. Diyalektik materyalizmi materyalist diyalektiğe dönüştürerek psikanalize uyarlamış bir insan olarak Klein’a göre paranoid-şizoid ve depresif pozisyonlar arasındaki gidip gelmeler bütünlüklerin statik yapısını bozmak ve statik olmayan akışkan bütünlükler oluşturmak arasındaki çalkantıları ifade eder. Eğer yaratıcılığın yaşamın anlamsız kaosundan bir bütünlük oluşturma eylemine verilen ad olduğunu akılda tutarsak Klein’ın teorilerinin içinde yaşadığımız koşullarla alakasını daha iyi idrak ederiz.
Klein yeni bir şey yaratma sürecinde bütünlükleri bozmanın en az onları oluşturmak kadar gerekli olduğunu düşünüyordu. Yani yıkıcı dürtülerin, veya Freud’un kavramını kullanacak olursak ölüm dürtüsünün egemen olduğu paranoid-şizoid pozisyonda çocuk saldırgan ve yıkıcı tavırlar takınırken—oyuncaklarını kırmaya meyilli çocukları hatırlayınız—depresif pozisyonda çocuk kendi oyuncaklarını kırıp dökmüş olduğu için oynayacak oyuncak bulamaz ve üzüntü duyar, canı sıkılır ve bu can sıkıntısı neticesinde de oyuncaklarını kırmaması gerektiğini anlar; yani olgunlaşır. İşte bu olgunlaşma sayesinde kırıp dökme eğilimi geride bırakılıp onarma ve tamir etme arzusu doğar.Klein’a göre olgunlaşma sürecinde vicdan azabı önemli bir rol oynar, ki benim Klein’dan ayrıldğım nokta da zaten budur. Ben şahsen çocuğun vicdan azabı duymasının olumlu bir sonuç vereceğini ve çocuğu büyümeye sevkedeceğini düşünmüyor, vicdan azabı duymaksızın da doğru ile yanlış arasındaki ayrımın yapılabileceğini iddia ediyorum. Klein’ın bu hatasının İsa’nın çarmıha gerilmesi neticesinde duyulan vicdan azabı üzerine kurulmuş bir din olan Hristiyanlık geleneği içerisinde yetişmiş bir kişi olmasından kaynaklandığı, ve dolayısıyla da Hristiyan olmayan toplumlar göz önünde bulundurululduğunda geçerliliğini yitireceği türünde sözler sarfedenler olmuştur. Bu saptamalar bir noktaya kadar doğru kabul edilebilir zira tutarlı ve Klein’la alaklıdırlar. Ama ben bunlara katılıp katılmamayı bir tarafa bırakıp işin özüne inmeyi seven bir insan olarak bu eleştirilerin tutarlılık ve hatta doğruluk ihtimallerine rağmen yüzeysel ve yetersiz olduğunu belirterek vicdan azabının hem manik depresyona hem de daha şiddetli bir biçimde şizofreniye has ve paranoya tarafından kışkırtılan bir ruhsal durum olarak sorunun kendisi olduğunu, dolayısıyla da sorunun çözümünde işe yaramayacağını düşünüyorum. Yani olayı Klein’ın kendisini içinde bulduğu ve yaşamı boyunca da dışına atmak için didinip durduğu dinsel bir düşünce sistemine bağlamak yerine şunu söylemeyi seçiyorum: Çocukların dünyasında vicdan azabı diye bir şey yoktur. Vicdan azabı şiddetine bağlı olarak yetişkin manik depresyona ve şizofreniye has bir ruhsal durumdur. Paranoyak şahsiyetler içlerindeki kötülüğü dışa yansıtıp dünyayı saplantılarının küçük anahtar deliğinden hasetle izlemekte bir sakınca görmemekle kalmazlar, aynı zamanda dış dünya karşısında saldırgan tavırlar takınarak kendilerini şiddetin ve nefretin kölesi kılmayı da marifet bellerler. Paranoyakların tam aksine şizoid şahsiyetler ise kendilerinin sorumlu olmadığı konularda bile aşırı derecede vicdan azabı duyar, vicdan azabına mıhlanmış acı dolu bir yaşam sürdürürler. Depresif pozisyonda ise şizofrenlere özgü şiddetli vicdan azabı ve paranoyaklara özgü ötekine hükmetme ve haketmediği bir biçimde suçlu muamelesi yapma eğilimleri bir nebze olsun ortadan kalkar ve kişi mutsuz bilinciyle gerçeklerle yüzleşir. Yersiz vicdan azabı hisleri tamamen ortadan kalkmamıştır belki manik depresif şahsiyette ve/fakat en azından başa çıkılabilir bir düzeye inmiş, gerçeklikle bağlantıyı tamamen yok edecek ve dış dünyayla ilişki kurmayı imkansız hale getirecek boyutlarda seyretmemektedir artık. Yani kişi iyi ile kötünün içiçe olduğunu anlar ve bir şeyin iyiliğiyle kötülüğünü o şeyin içinde bulunduğu durumun belirlediğini idrak eder. Demek ki Klein’ın o noktada İsa’nın çarmıha gerilmesiyle duyulan vicdan azabı üzerine kurulan Hristiyanlığı bir gelişme olarak görmüş olması ve bu vesileyle de vicdan azabının olgunlaşmaya katkılarından söz etmekte bir sakınca görmemiş olmasının doğru olma ihtimali olsa bile bu volontarist ve indirgemeci bir değerlendirmedir ve Klein’ın konuyu bu derece indirgemeci bir temel üzerine inşa etmiş olduğu saptamasına varmak konuyu saptırmaktır. Bu tür yaklaşımların ise kimseye hizmet etmeyeceği, aksine insanlığı Klein gibi iyi niyetli bir insanın teorilerinden mahrum bırakarak insanlığın geleceğine zarar verme gayesi güttüğü aşikardır. Zira çocuğun aynı nesnenin aynı anda ve/fakat işte duruma göre hem iyi hem de kötü nesne olarak algılamasının, çocuğun iyi ile kötü arasında ayrım yapabilecek yetkinliğe ulaşmışlığının göstergesi olduğunu bizzat Klein’ın kendisi söylemiştir, ki sanırım bu da Klein’ın kendisine yöneltilen eleştirileri peşinen çökerttiğinin göstergesidir.Bence Klein içim mühim olan yapılan hatalardan olumlu sonuçlar çıkarabilmek ve hastayı olumlayıcı dönüşümlere tabi kılmaktır. Çünkü görüyoruz ki Klein’ın teorisi nefret üzerine değil, sevgi üzerine, olumsuzlama üzerine değil, olumlayıcılık üzerine kurulmuştur. Ama bununla beraber Klein’ın sevgiye giden yolda düşe kalka ilerleyen bir insanın, özellikle de bir çocuğun, işlemediği bir suçtan, büyüklerin aklı ile düşünülünce işlemiş gibi görünebileceği bir suçtan ötürü vicdan azabı duyması gerektiği yönündeki saptaması kendi teorisinin özüne ters düşmektedir. Zira büyüklerin dünyasında, yaptığı her hareketin suç sayıldığı bir dünyada çocuğun bu vicdan azabını duyabileceği pek de ikna edici değildir. Klein’a katılmadığım nokta işte budur: Bence özne suçlu doğmaz ama suç işlemek zorunda bırakılarak büyür. Ama bununla beraber şunu da söylemeliyim ki Klein’ın teorisi oldukça pratik ve kullanışlıdır everensel bir eleştirel teorinin gelişimi için, tabii eğer hataları olumlayıcı bir biçimde dönüştürüp geçmişten ders almayı öğrene ve öğrete/bilirsek.
Nitekim aslen Cezayir kökenli bir Yahudi olan ünlü Fransız düşünürü Jacques Derrida, metin analizleri esnasında suç işlemeyi olumlu bir şey olarak görür. İşe suç denilen şeyin önceden belirlenip özneye empoze edilen değerler ve kanunların bir ürünü olduğundan hareketle başlayan Derrida edebi yazarlarla eleştirel yazarlar arasında bir ayrım yapmaz ve ikisinin de yaratıcılıkla yokediciliğin içiçeliğinin bir sonucu olduğunu defalarca vurgular. Kendisine bu yüzden çok saldırılmıştır iki kesim tarafından da. Yaratıcı yazarlar işte Klein’ın an önce sözünü ettiğim o paranoid-şizoid ve depresif pozisyonlar arasında gidip gelen kişilerdir. Yaratıcılık, olanı, yani elde olan başka kitapları okuyarak, hatta yanlış okuyarak anlamını bozmayı ve daha sonra da bu yapısı bozulmuş anlamı yeniden kurarak ilerleme kaydedilmesini sağlar. Yani yaratıcılık yıkıcılığı içinde barındıran bir şeydir. Belki bir şey yapmak için başka bir şey yıkmak gerekmeyebilir, evet, ama eski bir şeyi yıkmış bulunmak yeni bir şey yaratmış olmanın bir sonucudur genelde.Derrida’nın deconstruction diye tabir ettiği ve anlamını tam yansıtmasa da Türkçe’ye yapıbozumculuk olarak çevrilmiş bulunan okuma tekniği aslında bir yazılmış olanı bozup yeniden yazma tekniğidir. Derrida metnin önce bildik, herkesçe kabul edildiği varsayılan anlamını gözler önüne serer, hemen akabinde ise bu egemen anlamın kendi içinde barındırdığı göz ardı edilmiş veya bilerek görmezlikten gelinmiş öteki-anlamlarını deşifre ederek mutlak anlamın kendi kendisini çökerten bir şey olduğunu gözler önüne serer. Derrida dil oyunları vasıtasıyla mutlak anlam denilen şeyin belirlenemezliğini ve ne denli kendi kendisiyle çelişen bir kavram olduğunu vurgular. Görüldüğü gibi Derrida’nın yaptığı aslında Klein’ın depresif pozisyonundan paranoid-şizoid pozisyona dönmek ve bu vesileyle de paranoid-şizoid pozisyona has bölme, parçalara ayırma, kırıp dökme eğilimini metin okumalarına uyarlamaktır. Bunu yapmakla aslında Derrida depresif pozisyonun varolabilmesi için paranoid-şizoid pozisyonu da kendi içinde barındırabilmesi gerektiğini gösterir. Derrida metnin kendi içinde bölünmüş olduğunu göstererek metni yeniden kurmuş olur ve böylelikle de mevcut ve alışılagelmiş bütünlüğün yapısını bozar. Bu yapıbozma, yani metni kendi içinde bölme ve parçalama işlemiyle biz okuyucular anlarız ki yaratıcılık ve yokedicilik, iyilik ve kötülük, çocukluk ve yetişkinlik, akıllılık ve akılsızlık, ilerleme ve gerileme, geçmiş ve gelecek, ve hatta ölüm ve yaşam içiçedir ve bütünlük denilen şey aslında bir yanılsmadan ibarettir. Zira parçalanmışlık bütünlüğün koşuludur. Ve her yetişkinin içinde bir çocuk ve her çocuğun içinde de dışarı çıkmayı bekleyen bir yetişkin vardır. Tıpkı bazı iyiliklerin içlerinde kötülüğü ve bazı kötülüklerin de içlerinde iyiliği barındırdığı gibi… (Demek ki Hegel haklıymış ve diyalektik materyalizm denilen şey dünyayı anlamak ve anlamlandırmak için gerçekten de son derece faydalı bir aygıtmış. Ama Marx, Hegel’den daha haklıymış çünkü Marx dünyayı anlamanın yetmediğini, anlama işlemini takiben dünyayı değiştirmek gerektiğini söylemiş Felsefi El Yazmaları adlı kitabında.)
Egemen anlamlandırma biçiminin yapısıdır aslında bozulan ve Derrida bozduğu bu yapının yerine yenisini koymanın anlamsız bir çaba olacağını düşündüğü içindir ki pek çokları tarafından nihilist ilan edilmiştir. Oysa Derrida’nın yaptığı aslında yapıyı bozmak değil yapının zaten bozuk olduğunu ve onarılması için de yeniden bozulması gerektiğini göstermektir. Yani Derrida bozukluğun kendisini bozmak suretiyle egemen çarpıklığı düzeltmeye çalışmaktadır. Derrida’nın tersine çevrilmiş ve ucu açık diyalektiğinin yaptığı aslında mutlak bütünlüğün zaten mümkün olmadığını göstermek ve bu vesileyle de hiçliğin yüceltimesi anlamına gelen nihlizmin büyük bir saçmalıktan başka bir şey olmadığının altını ve üstünü aynı anda çizmektir. Tüm bunların ışığında diyebiliriz ki Derrida’nın nihilist olarak nitelendirilmesi hem kaygı verici hem de sevindiricidir.Derrida ve Klein tüm yaşamlarını tüm insanlara yanlış yazılmış metinleri doğru okumayı ve doğru yazıldığını iddia edenlerini de yanlış yazmayı öğretmeye adamış birer eğitimci olarak hepimize kendimizden bile daha yakın, sorunlarımız üzerinde bizden çok düşünmüş ve bize gerek politik, gerek a-politik, gerekse anti-politik liderlerimizden çok daha faydalı olabilecek kişilerdir diye düşünüyorum. Zira hepimiz bir zamanlar çocuktuk ve şiddetin, savaşın ve ölümün hüküm sürdüğü büyüklerin dünyasında daha başka dünyalar yaratabilmek için biraz küçülmekte, veya en azından yaşlanmayı biraz ertelemekte, bırakın kötülük ve zarar olmasını, sanırım ki iyilik ve fayda vardır…
Çok önemli, en az üstteki yazı kadar, hatta belki de üst-yazıdan daha önemli dip-not: Burada Jacques Derrida ve Melanie Klein’ı sadece birer örnek olarak kullanıyorum. Onlar gibi daha pek çok “yabancı,” yani yaban ellerde doğup daha yaban ellerde büyümüş yazar mevcuttur bize bizden daha faydalı olabilecek. Altını çizmek istediğim konu odur bu kısa notla. Amacım kendimi kendimden çok az şey, neredeyse hiçbir şey kalacak kadar küçülterek kısmen yok ederken Klein ve Derrida’yı öne çıkarıp olduklarından belki biraz daha büyük göstermek, böylelikle de insanımız için önemlerinin üstünü değil, altını çizmektir sevgili okur; çok değil ama, birazcık…
(c) cengizerdem, 23 Nisan 2007, afrikapazar.
%d bloggers like this: