Friday, October 01, 2021

Coming Soon (well soonish): The Double Shift


I have submitted the (hopefully) final changes of the manuscript of my third book* to Verso. As an answer to the question, What is your book about? and as part of the labor of self-promotion that is required of all of us in the twenty-first century, even those published with radical presses, I am posting part of the introduction here: 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Reworking Hegel: Philosophies of Work in Macherey's Petit Riens


Images from Property is No Longer Theft 

There is a line that I used to attribute to Roland Barthes, "those who do not reread are doomed to read the same book over and over again." I liked the riddle like nature of the phrase, and the way it seemed to posit a first read which is often a restating of one's already existence preconceptions, hence the rereading of the same book under different covers, against a rereading that discovers difference in repetition. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Fighting for Subjection as if it was Rebellion: Spinoza and Servitude Today


I am illustrating this post with images of the Punisher as a symbol of authority as rebellion

As I have already indicated on this blog more than once, Spinoza's formulation of subjection remains in some sense a guiding question for me. 

"...the supreme mystery of despotism, its prop and stay, is to keep men in a state of deception, and with the specious title of religion to cloak the fear with which they must be held in check, so that they will fight for their servitude as if for salvation, and count it no shame but the highest honour, to spend their blood and lives for the glorification of one man…" --Spinoza, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus 1670

So much so that I would be willing to agree with Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari when they repeated it three hundred years later. 

"That is why the fundamental problem of political philosophy is still precisely the one that Spinoza saw so clearly, and that Wilhelm Reich rediscovered: “Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were their salvation?” --Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia 1972

However, I have begun to think that it is time to update the question, or at least change its formulation, it increasingly seems to me that in the current era it is not so much servitude that is fought for as salvation, but subjection that is fought for as rebellion, or misrecognized as rebellion. 

Saturday, July 31, 2021

The Use and Abuse of Alienation for Life: A few Remarks on Marx

I give twitter credit for making this joke, 
but if you ask me the movie did not do enough with this great title

What follows are a few reflections on "alienation" drawn in part from a paper I presented at Wabash College last Spring in a virtual campus visit.  Posted as a response to the current debate about the concept online. 

Monday, July 19, 2021

What Does it Mean to be a Materialist: Thoughts After Spinoza after Marx


Of all of the zoom events, conferences, and presentations that I have attended (zoomed?) this year the one dedicated to Spinoza after Marx was the most engaging, the one most capable of breaking through the zoom screen that makes everything feel further away even as it is so close, inches away even. This is in part because of the participants, but it was also due to the work of the organizers who, in an interesting variation on organizing around a common theme, presented a common set of theses that were discussed and debated over the course of the three days. Of course as great as this was as an online event it is hard not to think about how those conversations would have continued over dinner, at bars, and coffee shops. The event did create a collective act of thought, of thinking in common, but as Spinoza and Marx both know there is no thinking together, thinking in common, without acting and feeling in common.

Saturday, July 03, 2021

Self-Interest is the Sincerest Form of Flattery: On No Sudden Move

Posted in memory of Lauren Berlant who once took time out of her busy schedule to debate a previous post about Soderbergh. 


After a mercurial career Steven Soderbergh seems to have more or less settled into the heist film. The three Oceans films, Logan Lucky (dubbed Oceans 7-11 for the way it transposed those films into a different class milieu, and now No Sudden Move. The return to the same genre does not dispense with the shifts and shimmers through other genres and styles, the latest is a noir period piece set in fifties Detroit, and with that shift comes another shift. Jameson states that heist films are in some sense about the representation of work. Or, more to the point, he states that they are about unalienated work. However, I would like to turn his assertion, as offhand as it is, into a question. How does the heist film represent work, and how does this representation relate to the question of how work is undertaken and understood in capitalism.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Theological Breaks: Tosel on Marx's Critique of Religion


I never really knew what to do with this meme, but it fits the topic. 
Also sorry. 

At the beginning of his trajectory of criticism Marx wrote, "the criticism of religion is the premise of all criticism." There is perhaps no contemporary philosopher who has taken up that challenge than André Tosel. Tosel has returned to the question not just of Marx and religion, but more broadly of the role of the critique of religion in radical thought from Spinoza onward. Tosel's trajectory in some sense begins and ends with the question of the critique of religion, beginning with Spinoza ou le crépuscule de la Servitude : Essai sur le Traité Théologico-Politique and nearly ends with Nous citoyens laïques et fraternels? : dans le labyrinthe du complexe économico-politico-théologique (I realize that the book on Gramsci and the little book on Emancipation came out afterwards). Throughout his life Tosel was interested in thinking through the relationship between religion and capitalism, and to what extent the critique of religion could be used to make sense of our subjection and attachment to capitalism. 

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Anti-Hobbes: Waging War on the War of All Against All


Top Image The Road Warrior, bottom image people in the US putting gasoline in plastic bags

I am going to assume that most readers of a blog like this are familiar with Hobbes' description of the state of nature as "nasty, brutish, and short." His assertion that without an overwhelming authority human beings will engage in a life of perpetual strife and war, killing each other for whatever their desire. Hobbes gives what could be considered three proofs for this state of nature, the first is the new world, or at least an armchair speculative colonial imagination of it, the second is the behavior of kings and states towards each other, but the third, which actually appears first, is the presence of this state of nature in civilized state breaking through, like weeds through concrete. As Hobbes writes, 

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Put Your Halo On: Marx’s Critiques of Moralism

Not a good episode, but a great observation

There are those that claim that Marx’s criticism of capitalism is ultimately grounded in a moral or ethical consideration of humanity, that notions such as alienation, exploitation, and so on, only make sense against the backdrop more often assumed rather than asserted, of some kind of morality, of a picture of an ideal life, in which human beings are treated more or less as ends in themselves. Marx investigations of the horrendous working conditions of early capitalism, from child labor to deadly working conditions, would seem to have as its critical basis a moral understanding of humanity. However, what I would like to propose is that Marx’s thought, at least at its most provocative, is less a moral criticism of capitalism, than a materialist criticism of moralism.