Archive for the Speculation Category

A Dialectic Of Normality

Posted in Reactions, Speculation with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 2014/04/13 by las Pétroleuses

Today, I just finished reading the very interesting Nihilist Communism. In what I see as the major text of the book, which comes at its end (it begins, after a 2009 introduction by Frere Dupont–the one of the book’s two authors who did not completely abandon politics in the wake of their project–with an edited set of letters between the two authors, and follows with a collection of various articles and interventions the pair produced), “Cruelty, or, the Inclusion of the Distributive Sphere,” the author(s) engage in a very pointed analysis of the movements of the Seventies. (This period of time has been the subject of a remarkable amount of analysis in the decades since; it’s hard not to conclude that, despite the mutually-exclusive nature of many of these analyses, they all refer to something real. In Lacanese, they are so many Imaginary narratives trying to make sense of the injunction of a Real trauma into the Symbolic order of everyday life. Consider: postmodernity, de-industrialization/post-industrial society, Autonomia’s (in)famous notion of “immaterial labor” or what Hardt & Negri will later re-name “biopolitical production”, the communisateurs’ narrative of the “death of programmatism”, etc…) On a certain level, the thrust of Monsieur Dupont’s analysis touches on recurring theme of capitalist civil society: the relation between the individual and society in terms of “normality” or “normalcy.” Here, I will simply lay out some rough thoughts in my preferred form of a dialectical quartet.

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On Turns

Posted in Speculation with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 2014/02/17 by las Pétroleuses

For a thinker, or whatever term you prefer, a fundamental category is “turn.” In 20th century philosophy, the classic example is “the turn” (or, “the Turn”) which occupies so many pages of scholarship about Martin Heidegger. (If you’re unfamiliar, here’s the TL;DR: Heidegger is generally considered the Nazi philosopher, and is best known for his unfinished tome Being and Time, or in the much more epic German, Sein und Zeit.) “The turn” in this context means a number of interrelated things; it is an example of what Slavoj Zizek would call a short-circuit: between Heidegger’s most prominent engagement in the Nazi counter-revolution, and the manifold changes in his philosophy from before to after; for Heidegger himself, between the latter conceived as an injunction into the history of philosophy–more precisely, the shift in analytical perspective from the “Dasein” or existence of humans and the “History of Being” or Seinsgeschichte—and a process within that History, distinguished, in more nuanced Heidegger scholarship/translation, from the previous short-circuit as “turning”. That is, a turn is a lane-change or even an exit ramp on the self-building highway of history, regardless of whether you focus on the initial paver or the more normal automobiles that often follow. A prime example is what’s known as the Linguistic Turn. Continue reading

Vicissitudes of Value

Posted in Speculation with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 2013/09/20 by las Pétroleuses

One of the more controversial constellations of concepts dropped in our lap by the Leftist tradition is Marx’s labor theory of value. On the one hand, in his own context, his views were entirely uncontroversial: when Marx was writing, the idea that value was a product of human labor was simply assumed across the political spectrum, and this had been the case for at least a century. On the other hand, we are looking back on this time from one after the “marginalist revolution” (among other things), and so there is a weird coloring which Marx’s analysis takes on: for those on the right, that enlightened condescension we all know so well, and on the left, that odd combination of nostalgic reverence (“if only we still lived in a time where value was such a simple conundrum…”) and embarrassed occlusion (not to mention those who obstinately defend Marx against all). Here, I’m going to focus on how Marx’s conception of value is stricto sensu idealist; in later posts I’ll address how this problem does not weaken, but in some cases actually strengthens other arguments of his (including, but not limited to, the infamous “law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall”). This post is the first in a series which shall try to illustrate how, far from being outdated, the analyses Marx puts forth in Vol. I of Capital provide the tools for a robust understanding of our contemporary economic situation–how, as Ernest Mandel put it in his introduction to Vol. I, “Marx is much more an economist of the twentieth [or twenty-first] century than of the nineteenth.” (p. 12)

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Art’s Social Reflexions

Posted in Speculation with tags , , , , , on 2013/05/06 by las Pétroleuses

Not too long ago, in a reddit comment on r/Bioshock, I found myself entering into a bit of an exegesis about the nature of art, and its social function:

“Ultimately, “art” is any thing a human has created which is a “reflection” of that person’s world (for art to be non- or anti-representational is a choice; I doubt we’ll ever find a society whose art starts out as abstract). But “reflection” is not the best word, as that feeds into one of the main ideologies of art, that art can be passively considered and observed; an example of this is when artists (I think of Christopher Nolan and Kathryn Bigelow’s comments on their most recent films) say that their work merely reflects back at the spectator the culture which the artist and the spectator share. This is ideology, in the pejorative sense, insofar as all art is necessarily more than just a reflection of the society which gave birth to it: it is an instantiation of this culture, and an intervention into it. (One of ideology’s main functions, it seems to me, is to cover over the intricacies of this process by which supra-individual, societal things, from art to religion to gender to the market to politics, exist only by why of the actions of individuals who presuppose their existence independently of said actions.) In other words, art is political–moreover, the notion that a piece of art can be non-ideological, “purely for entertainment,” is, I believe, in fact the most ideological notion of art possible. (I say “I believe” specifically because I did not come up with this point about ideology. The credit for that belongs to Slavoj Zizek.)” (I’m sure BioShock: Infinite will get its own long analysis here in the future.) Continue reading

Metaphysics and Science, or, the One and the Not-All

Posted in Speculation with tags , , , , , , , on 2013/03/07 by las Pétroleuses

Here in the US of A, one of the main battlefronts in the ongoing culture war, as our conservatives put it, is the debate over science and religion. The way this debate ostensibly goes, is both sides think one term is subordinated to the other: conservatives that science is subordinated to religion, liberals the reverse. This seems to be how conservatives frame it at least–or, more precisely, religious conservatives. More libertarian conservatives likely decry the teaching of creationism along with secular liberals. New Age liberals likely see the two as mutually interdependent, and religious liberals unsurprisingly sometimes side with religious conservatives. I think this debate can be reduced to the question of the relation between science and metaphysics. Framed in these terms, we–“radical leftists,” let’s say–take the surprising position (analogous to that) of a religious conservative: science is, in the last instance, subordinate to metaphysics.

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