Sunday, November 16, 2014

Paying Attention in an Age of Distraction: On Yves Citton's Pour Une Écologie de l'Attention



Yves Citton's Pour une Écologie de l'Attention is something of a companion volume to L’Économie de l’attention. Nouvel horizon du capitalisme? a book edited by Citton. Many of the essays in the latter cite the former. However, the different titles, and the question mark in the latter suggest a divergence around a central question. Both books work from the central provocation that we are living through a profound mutation in the nature of attention, never have we had so many distractions or devices soliciting our attention. What remains in question is first whether or not this transformation is best of all understood as a new economy of attention? Terms such as "paying," "cost," and "investment" regularly suggest themselves when it comes to discussing attention. Attention appears as a scarce resource and it is quite easy to speak of losses and gains when it comes to attention, as every moment spent reading tweets is not spent reading books. The more important question is whether or not attention can be understood as an economy of sorts, but whether we have entered a new phase of capitalism in which attention itself is productive of value. Metaphor meets mode of production.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Ends of Man: Cynicism and Sentiment in Nightcrawler and Interstellar


OK. I am going to make this quick. I saw two films this weekend, Nightcrawler and Interstellar,  and since I am me, many people expected me to blog about them. I am way too busy for such things, but like Louis Bloom (Tiqqun reference?) pictured above, I aim to please my fans and my own craven ego, I thought that I would try a quick post wrapping up my impressions of both films. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Rewiring Genre: On Linda Williams' On The Wire



Like many fans of The Wire I have a fantasy of re-watching the entire series from beginning until the end. It is something that I will do someday, once I can clear my schedule enough for multiple nights on end of three hours plus of watching. Until then reading something like Linda Williams’ On The Wire is perhaps the next best thing. It makes it possible to revisit the series without revisiting the trials and tribulations of binge watching.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Breaking with Breaks: Or, Reading Capital 2 Electric Boogaloo


Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval's Marx, Prénom: Karl is yet another attempt to take stock of the work of Marx. As the title suggests, this book is an attempt to get beyond the myth of Marx, the Grandeur of Marx; t it does so not through the biography of the man named Karl, but through the question of Marx's relations to its sources.  (The title is a bid odd, and I can't help but think of James Bond every time I glance at it."Marx, Karl Marx") 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Intellectual Firmament: From Censorship to Attention

First, a note about teaching. Teaching undergraduates, especially teaching introductory classes or classes that fulfill general education requirements, often leads to a strange kind of double speak in which texts that are more "teachable," more appropriate to general audiences, become the basis to address other points raised by more difficult and demanding texts.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dialectics of the Other Other Scene: On Balibar and Macherey (with apologies to Kanye)


"Last week I was in my other other Benz"--Kanye West

While I would never want to reduce the work of Etienne Balibar and Pierre Macherey to simply being that of "students of Althusser," there is a certain way in which their work continues certain themes and problems from the latter's work. This can be seen not only in the topics chosen, the studies on Marx and Spinoza, but, as I am going to examine here, with a certain reworking of the question of the dialectic.


Friday, August 08, 2014

Taking Form: Morfino and Zourbachvili Encounter Spinoza


The translation of Vittorio Morfino's Plural Temporality: Transindividuality and the Aleatory Between Spinoza and Althusser deserves to be considered an event in its own right. Morfino is not very well known in the Anglo-American world, but those who have heard him speak at the annual Historical Materialism conference in London know how important his work is. Morfino has the rather singular talent of drawing together seemingly incongruous streams of thought into relation. Morfino is not to content to remain with the apparent points of opposition, nor does he simply declare some secret unity between disparate thinkers. In one of my favorite conference presentations, I remember Morfino declaring that the presence of Spinoza in Marx's thought was nothing but a "scholarly residue," the notebooks on the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus and other references nothing more than the dutiful work of a German philosopher in the 19th century, but that this of course makes the connection between Marx and Spinoza interesting. Since the contours of this connection cannot not be found in the typical anxiety of influence, it can only be invented in connections and relations of tendencies and presuppositions. (For examples of this invention of the Marx/Spinoza encounter see Negri, Lordon, Fischbach, etc.) 

Friday, July 11, 2014

War Has Already Begun: On Dawn of the Planet of the Apes


There is by now a predictable seasonable distribution of Hollywood films. Not only are special effects blockbusters released in the summer, and awards bait prestige films released in the fall, but those seasonal divisions are further gradated to the point where every summer begins with a few contenders in May, peaks in July with the biggest explosion of effects and stars, and tapers off into a series of remakes and more dubious summer properties in August. Whereas past generations had their divisions of A and B pictures, we have May films and August films. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was one such August film, a remake/reboot of a lesser known entry of a mostly forgotten series, it managed to surprise many in actually being more interesting than one would have expected and more entertaining than one hoped.  The release of its sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the apes in July then signifies something of increased brand visibility if not increased quality.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Hijacking a Train: Revolution and its Limits in Snowpiercer


I scrupulously avoided reading any reviews of Snowpiercer once I became intrigued by the basic premise. Despite this, and not reading anything after seeing it this afternoon, I was aware, in that way we become aware of things through an almost social media osmosis, that it was quickly being heralded as a new film about the 99% and the 1%, about social inequality, and, more importantly, about revolution. In what follows I would like to explore these allegories for at least two reasons. The first, and most basic, is that the film openly invites such readings. Its particular premise, the Earth is frozen after a failed attempt to solve global warming and all of the survivors are left stranded on globe circling train, is so thin in terms of any pretense at credibility, and so packed with allusions and images, I am not sure it is even possible to watch it as "just a movie." Second, and more importantly I am interested in what it means to make or interpret a film as allegory of the present, recognizing of course that the line between making and interpreting can never be rigidly defined. (Spoilers follow)

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Men without Qualities: Spinoza, Marx, Balibar and Philosophical Anthropology


This post is an attempt to draw together two different philosophical precursors to Balibar's philosophical anthropology. That Spinoza and Marx are the precursors in question is news to no one, at least no one familiar with Balibar's work, and yet the particular way they intersect, extend, or complicate each other is often unexamined. Examining them will help develop both the promise and limits of Balibar's philosophical anthropology, as well as set it apart from other philosophical anthopologies after the death of man.