Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Return of Lucien Sève: On the Anthropological Turn of Contemporary Marxism

The young Lucien Sève looking a lot like Jon Hamm

In graduate school I only knew one thing about Lucien Sève and I do not even think I had the facts straight. I knew him only as Althusser's interlocutor within the PCF, and I think that I imagined him as some kind of party apparatchik. I only corrected this image very lately, after reading Yves Schwartz as well as Isabell Garo and André Tosel. What is striking to me about Sève's work, at least as much as I have read, is how much of it anticipates and intersects with the anthropological turn in contemporary Marxism, in the work of Balibar and Virno.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Romero Prepared You for This: Lessons from the Dead Films for Getting Through a Pandemic



1. The television (and the internet) will always be on, filling up time. That is their job. It doesn't mean that you have to watch, or that the information will be useful.

Friday, February 21, 2020

When Sequels Become Self-Aware: On Terminator: Dark Fate



I give blood regularly, platelets actually. I started giving blood in high school when it could get you out of class. Sometime ago I was convinced to start giving platelets. There is a tradeoff to this, you recover more quickly from giving platelets but it takes nearly three hours when everything is said and done. Oh, and once you give platelets the red cross will hunt you down for the rest of your life asking you to give again and again. The big plus is that you get to watch a movie. 

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Marx's Finitude: On Hägglund and Tosel

Image from here


One of the many merits Martin Hägglund's This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom is that it makes a connection between finite, our mortality, and not only Marxist but the broader product of democratic socialism (Hägglund's democratic socialism often sounds a lot like communism, but life is too short to mince words). For far too long, in philosophical circles, finitude, the fundamental fact that we are going to die, was see as the exclusive purview of Heidegger with all of its corollaries of authenticity, individuality, and seizing one's historical destiny.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Be Fooled By the Rocks that I Got: On Uncut Gems and Contemporary Subjectivity



The question of the relation between the individual psyche and social relations is a perennial question. This is largely due to the fact that we are so ill-prepared to understand it. The fields of psychology and sociology each claim one side of the relation as their domain pretty much ensuring that the question will not be properly posed, let alone answered. With the division of labor in academia is left to its own devices we have the world of film (and television) which gives us figures that are at once singular, reflecting their own neurosis, and general, expressing in their own way the cultural moment. 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Follow Your Passion: Subjection and Subjectivity in Macherey's Sagesse ou Ignorance

I am eventually going to get to a point about obedience 
and posses (multitudes)


The recently published Sagesse ou ignorance? La Question de Spinoza constitutes a return to Spinoza by Pierre Macherey, who after dedicating much of the 90s to a thorough study of the Ethics has spent the last decade or so writing on everything from "daily life," "utopias," "the university," to a general examination of subjection and subjectivity in contemporary philosophy. While it could be argue that all of these studies were undertaken in a "spinozist way" they where largely free of references to Spinoza. These books were driven less by names and figures in the history of philosophy than the perennial problems of political and social life. Macherey's return to Spinoza is not a simple retreat into scholarship for its own sake, but a return infused by the intersection of politics and philosophy.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The World as Affect and Institution: On Lordon's Vivre Sans?


Frédéric Lordon's latest book, Vivre Sans? Institutions, Police, Travail, Argent... is a conversation with Félix Boggio Éwanjé-Épée (who among other things runs the great review Période), although one in which Lordon's responses to Éwanjé-Épée's questions. Lordon uses the reflection to situate his particular Spinozist/Marxism (perhaps more adequately grasped as a kind of left Spinozism) with respect to both traditions of radical thought, Badiou, Deleuze, Agamben, and Rancière, and the current radical movements, Gilet Jaunes, ZAD, and the invisible committee. In doing so Lordon  not only begins to clarify his own conception of a politics of  affects and institutions, but also continues to develop a Spinozist (rather than a Marxist-Spinozist) concept of politics.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

We Are All Servants: On Class and Subjectivity in Parasite and Knives Out


A common thread connects Parasite and Knives Out, two of the best films of the year. That thread is not just the representation of class, but more specifically the servant as kind of figure of class struggle. At first glance this is surprising, nothing seems more archaic, more out of touch with the existing labor relations than a household servant. In different and contradictory ways these films illustrate that in age of service jobs and emotional labor the servant has gone from being a remnant of feudal era to the closest one can get to a universal figure of alienation.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Must Love Dogs: Animals and Racism in the Age of Trump



Trump is not a dog person, or, for that matter, a cat person. He is supposedly the first president in a century to not have a pet. Past presidents have had dogs, cats, horses, even alligators. While many animal lovers breathe a sigh of relief at such news it has recently taken a strange turn. After a long history of resorting to dog as his favorite phrase of contempt, he tweeted praise of a Belgian Malinois named Conan used in the raid on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Even going so far as to retweet a doctored picture of him giving the medal of honor to the animal, adding that the real dog will be visiting the White House soon. 

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Negative Solidarity: The Affective Economy of Austerity


An Earlier Draft of this paper was presented at the Libidinal Economies of Crisis Times Conference

Spinoza’s question of political thought, “why do the masses fight for their servitude as if it was salvation” has taken on a unanticipated economic and social relevance since the post-2008 economic recession.Displaced from its seventeenth century context, of taxes and bread, wars of glory, and despots, it is possible to see a struggle for servitude in the way in which the masses clamor for more jobs, more austerity, and more persecution of the disadvantaged in the name of fiscal discipline. The blog Splintering Bone Ashes has dubbed this particular struggle for servitude “Negative solidarity.” Negative solidarity is defined as “an aggressively enraged sense of injustice, committed to the idea that, because I must endure increasingly austere working conditions (wage freezes, loss of benefits, declining pension pot, erasure of job security and increasing precarity) then everyone else must too.”