Sunday, October 07, 2018

The Myth of the Paid Protester


This is probably the worst way to begin a blog post, but I can't shake the figure of the paid protester. I am less interested in the rights fascination with George Soros (something that others could analyze better) than I am with the particular mythology of the paid protester. Although, I will say this about the former, the specter of a billionaire using his money to influence politics seems strange coming from people who ostensibly have no categorical problem with billionaires using their money to influence politics. I guess it could be understood as part of the spectacular division of capital, just as there are "woke" and "MAGA" brands, there are woke and MAGA billionaires, opposition to the specific actions of one circumvents any discussion of the entire system. 

Monday, October 01, 2018

Logic of Alternation: From Mind and Body to Material Conditions and Ideology

Presented at McGill September 2018

This is a longer version of something I posted here, presented for a discussion of Chantal Jaquet's Affects, Actions, and Passions in Spinoza. 

I intend to approach Chantal Jaquet’s interpretation of the mind and body in Spinoza somewhat obliquely, by examining its possible implications for a social theory. In doing so I am following a fairly recent tendency to view Spinoza as not just an important political thinker, but also one whose account of affects, imagination, and knowledge offers profound insight on social and political life. I am thinking here explicitly of Yves Citton and Frédérique Lordon's Spinoza et les science sociales, but also more broadly Jaquet’s own work on transclasses which uses a Spinozist anthropology and ontology to examine the reproduction and nonreproduction of social relations. That is not the book that we are here to discuss, so I would like to begin my remarks on Affects, Actions, and Passions in Spinoza by putting forward something of an axiom, every interpretation of the relation of mind and body in Spinoza necessary has profound implications for how one thinks of social and political relations. 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

(In)finitude's Score: On André Tosel



In some sense this is a belated response to André Tosel's passing last year. When Tosel died I was only vaguely aware of his name, I may have read an essay on Spinoza or Balibar here or there, but only knew his work by reputation. It was the initial wave of responses to Tosel's death especially this interview on Revue Période that got me interested in reading Tosel. I started by reading Spinoza ou l'autre (in)finitude and have gone through the little Emancipations aujourd'hui? Études sur Marx (et Engels), Du Retour du Religieux, and Le Marxisme du 20e Siècle, with a few more on the way.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Real World Experience: On Yves Schwartz's Experience et Connaissance du Travail.

Image from the Simpsons and Frinkiac. 

Two thoughts immediately come to mind when considering Yves Schwartz's Experience et Connaissance du Travail. The first, which provides the inspiration for the image above, is the absurdity of dragging around a nearly nine hundred French book on worker's experience and knowledge. The second, somewhat more relevant thought, is that the book in some way feels like a missing element from my education. I never heard it mentioned before I dug deep into some of the writing on work coming out of France, but I know its references from Georges Canguilhem, who wrote the introduction, to Althusser, Foucault, Levi-Strauss, and Bourdieu. I partially understand why it never was translated or made it across the Atlantic, aside from the length it is indebted to many figures that never became part of "theory," Lucien Sève for one, but the fact that it is a book on experience written under the direction of Georges Canghuilhem should at least be of interest. Foucault famously posited a line of demarcation between philosophers of experience, existentialism and phenomenology, and philosophers of the concept, Canghuilhem, the philosophy of science. Schwartz is describing an experience that is irreducible to lived experience because it exceeds and situates life, or more to the point, living labor. 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Imaginary But For Real: On Blackkklansman



Blackkklansman has come under criticism for twisting its true story into the shape of a cop film, warping any criticism of the structural violence of racism beyond recognition in the process. As Joshua Clover writes, "It is a police film the way Get Out is a horror film, adopting genre conventions to think through a particular set of problems about blackness." Except whereas Get Out uses horror to drive home the horrors of race, Blackkklansman would seem to defuse any critical force it might have in the morality and politics of the cop film.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Conscious Organs: Toward an Anthropology of Labor Power

Presented in Rome in May 2018
Conference Draft 

Buried in the back of Volume Three of Capital, Marx puts forward a thesis of determination that is different from the familiar assertion of a base. As In Volume Marx writes, 

It is in each case the direct relationship of the owners of production to the immediate producers—a relationship whose particular form naturally corresponds always to a certain level of development of the type and manner of labour, and hence to its social productive power—in which we find the innermost secret, the hidden basis of the entire social edifice and hence also the political form of the relationship of sovereignty and dependence, in short, the specific form of the state in each case. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Cold Call Man: On Sorry to Bother You


There is no film this year that I have anticipated more than Sorry to Bother You. I have been a fan of Boots Riley since I first learned about The Coup years ago. I have heard about this film for years; bought the album but eschewed reading the published screenplay. The latter seemed like admitting defeat and I desperately wanted to see this film get made. The first rule of movies, at least in Hollywood, is that anticipation is the enemy of enjoyment. Of course this is usually because most films fail to meet our expectations, the trailer would have been enough; it is rare that a film not only exceeds our expectations but calls them into question. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

How Voluntary is Your Servitude? Voluntary Servitude from La Boétie to Marx




I have always been fairly comfortable with Deleuze and Guattari's assertion of the fundamental political question, drawing a line from Spinoza through Reich to their own writing. As Deleuze and Guattari write. 


"Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as if it were their own salvation? How can people possibly reach the point of shouting “More taxes! Less bread!”?…The astonishing thing is not that some people steal or that others occasionally go on strike, but rather that all those who are starving do not steal as a regular practice, and all those who are exploited are not continually out on strike"


Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Primitive Accumulation of Prehistory: On the Jurassic Park films



As a kid I was obsessed with dinosaurs. I know that there is nothing unique about this and that is precisely why I relate it. My obsession took place at a time before there was an adequate pop culture outlet for that expression. It was before the Jurassic Park films before even The Land Before Time films. So I sought out every dinosaur film I could whenever they played on the afternoon or late night movie, The Land that Time Forgot, The Last Dinosaur, Dinosaurus, etc., These films were hard to come by, and many of them are not very good at all. There is a story told in my family, a legend of sorts, of the night we all ended up in a motel while taking the yearly pilgrimage to visit the grandparents, flipped through channels only to stumble upon a showing of the  Valley of the Gwangi.  Not a great dinosaur film but one that nonetheless benefitted from the work of Ray Harryhausen. It was a different time, one defined by the scarcity of cultural products rather than their proliferation. Dinosaur films were hard to come by, and good ones less so, so a dinosaur obsessed kid took what they could.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Calling Bullshit: On Graeber's Bullshit Jobs



Graeber's book Bullshit Jobs is the kind of book I generally avoid. It is an expanded version of an essay originally published in Strike magazine. For the most part I find articles turned into books to be largely filler. The original essay or article made the point, and did so succinctly; expanding it into a book largely entails adding more and more examples with maybe a little bit of context and clarification. However, Graeber's essay was provocative enough, and close enough to my interests that I decided to read it.