Pierre Macherey’s De L’Utopie! follows a pattern similar to his other books that have come out of his "philosophie au sense large" seminars. As with other seminars, what is stake is the tracing of a concept or idea, that of the university, the quotidian, or, in this case, utopia, is less a matter of producing a definitive interpretation of the concept in question than it is of exploring the idea in its essential errancy and historicity. Whereas Macherey’s other books included in their trajectory a survey of philosophical, sociological or psychological works, and literature, De L’Utopia is concerned with that particular genre of writing that defines utopia. Although Macherey does consider various theories of utopia, and includes an appendix on Brecht’s opera the Rise and Fall of the City of Mahoganny, his primary concern is the particular form of writing that defines utopia. There is no need to contrast philosophical theories and literary texts because this tension of the philosophical, or sociological, and the literary is internal to utopian writing itself.
Saturday, March 01, 2014
Thursday, February 13, 2014
It seems fair to begin this review with a confession as to why I love the original Robocop. It has as much to do with how I saw it as with its satirical take on corporations and American politics. I snuck in, or, more precisely, my father snuck my brother and I in. We were on vacation in Maine for the summer and one rainy day forced us to see a movie (Although I must confess the rainy day movies were as much a highlight of summer vacations growing up as hikes and rafting trips). We picked the godawful Jaws: The Revenge and just as we were walking out, the sounds of a shark that roared still ringing in our ears, my father turned to my brother and I, whispered "they owe us," and escorted us into another screen in the multiplex. This always struck me as appropriate: Robocop snuck its satire into a sci-fi action premise, and we snuck into see it.
Saturday, February 01, 2014
If there was a column listing the what is hot and what is not of contemporary Marxism (and why shouldn't there be?), then the division of mental and manual labor would definitely be in the "not" column. There are multiple reasons for this not the least of which is that the division, especially as it was developed into "the separation of execution from conception," was identified with the factories of Taylorism and Fordism. The separation of mental and manual labor was something that our age, an age of "immaterial labor" or "cognitive capitalism" was supposed to have surpassed.
Sunday, January 12, 2014
Full disclosure: I met Jeremy Gilbert at a Deleuze conference in Wales in the summer of 2008. He gave an interesting paper on Deleuze, Guattari, and Gramsci and I ended up talking to him at pub. The conversation was one of shared interests that went beyond Deleuze, it was a Deleuze conference after all, to include Simondon, transindividuality, and the broader problem of reimagining collectivity in individualistic (and individuated) times. As anyone in academia knows, the experience of meeting someone with shared interest is often ambivalent. There is the joy of finding someone to talk to, of feeling less alone in the wilds of academia, coupled with the sadness of feeling less original, less insightful. The latter feeling is of course intensified by a publishing culture that is predicated less on collective projects and more on developing a highly individuated name for oneself. In the years since then, as our projects progressed (his made it toprint first) we joked about constituting a new school of thought, Transindividual Ontology and Politics (TOP)?
Wednesday, January 01, 2014
The fundamental structure of Macherey’s book on the university is familiar to readers of his recent publications on “everyday life” and utopia, as well as anyone who has followed his website “Philosophe au sense large.” As with those works (and courses) a central idea or problem, in this case the idea of the university, is subject to a broad thematic investigation that encompasses philosophy (Kant, Hegel, Heidegger), sociology and psychoanalysis (Bourdieu and Lacan), and literature (Rabelais, Hardy, Nabokov). This is “philosophy in the largest” sense, to borrow the name of Macherey’s course; the different registers and disciplines and knowledge problematize and negate each other as much as they expand upon the central topic.
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Brian Vaughn and Marcos Martin's The Private Eye is a web only comic that has a critical view of the internet. Set in the not too distant future, in the year 2076, it takes place in a time in which values regarding privacy and anonymity have been completely transformed, or "revalorized"--to use Nietzsche's terminology. Privacy is held as a sacred right, so much so that everyone has a secret identity, or several, and masks to wear when they go out in public. A generalized secret identity might seem like a critical take on the conventions of the superhero comic, but Vaughn and Martin's critical target is less the conventions of their medium than those of our world.
Sunday, December 15, 2013
Do not demand of politics that it restore the “rights” of the individual, as philosophy has defined them. The individual is the product of power. What is needed is to “de-individualize’ by means of multiplication and displacement, diverse combinations. The group must not be the organic bond uniting hierarchized individuals, but a constant generation of de-individualization. Michel Foucault, Preface to Anti-Oedipus.
In the past few weeks I have returned again and again to the idea of "negative solidarity" that I outlined on this blog. I found myself mentally bookmarking news reports and articles that seem to be evidence of hostility to any collective organization for wages or benefits, not to mention larger or more structural transformations. The affect of ressentiment, the distinct sense that someone somewhere was benefiting at your expense, seemed prevalent. (Of course the "someones" in this situation are always those on social welfare programs, state employees, etc., never capitalists, investors, etc.) However, negative solidarity risked having all of the characteristics of what Althusser called a "descriptive theory," a sophisticated sounding recasting of what one already knows and thinks. The dangers of descriptive theories is that they provide a moment of recognition, ("That is it, dude; totally,")but no way to move forward. So the question which I returned to again, is how to account for the genesis and constitution of negative solidarity, how to move beyond description. This is a question of socio-political theory, but it is a necessary precondition of political action as well. Negative Solidarity is in that sense another name to the barrier of any politics whatsoever.
Friday, November 08, 2013
Presented at Historical Materialism London 2013
Antonio Negri argues that, “...in the postindustrial age the Spinozian critique of representation of capitalist power corresponds more to the truth than does the analysis of political economy.” Many of the contemporary turns to Spinoza in Marxist thought have followed this trajectory, turning away from the critique of political economy towards critiques of ideology or, in Negri’s case, the representation of power. This is perhaps not surprising, it is easier to make connections between Spinoza’s critique of superstition and theories of ideology than it is connect to his understanding of desires and striving to consumption and production. As much Spinoza offered a trenchant critique of the religious, monarchical, and even humanist ideologies of his time, he had little to say, at least directly, about the emerging capitalism. Money is only mentioned once in the Ethics, where it is defined as the universal object of desire that “occupies the mind of the multitude more than anything else” (EIVAPPXXVIII). While such a statement intersects with critiques of greed and the capitalist transformation of desire it remains to partial and incidental to developing a Spinozist critique of political economy.
Friday, November 01, 2013
If one dispenses with all of the various reified and received ideas that frame almost any reading of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit then it is perhaps possible to see to what extent the idea of action repeats throughout the text as something of a refrain.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
My approach to William James is necessarily oblique and eccentric. I am not a scholar of James or Pragmatism. My entire approach to James’ The Will to Believe is framed by a reference to it in the work of the post-autonomous thinker Maurizio Lazzarato. While such an approach is perhaps outside of the of James’ scholarship, the emphasis of on the shifting context as different philosophers and different historical moments is perhaps faithful to the spirit if not the letter of James’ writing. From this perspective philosophy is less a Kampfplatz, a particular battlefield between different positions, than a hall of mirrors in which the perspectives shift and change as time progresses.