Monday, August 08, 2016

Ideology Interpellates Subjects as Individuals: on Dean's Crowds and Party

Image from The Crowd, King Vidor 

Jodi Dean's Crowds and Party can be understood to have two objects, each identified by the words in its title. First, it is an argument against the individual, the individual form, arguing that the individual is the kernel of contemporary of contemporary ideology, resurfacing even in those practices that would escape it. Second, it is an argument for the party, for a revival of the party form. The party is Dean's answer to the question that runs through several of Verso's books this fall, how to reproduce,  sustain, and maximize the occupations and protests that have become part of social space. Dean's party then takes its place alongside Clover's commune and Jameson's universal army of dual power. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Point of Heresy: Balibar on Foucault


In a remarkable interview published in 2012, but which I happened to discover recently, Balibar credits Foucault for the concept of what he calls a "point of heresy." He defines the concept, or rather practice as follows, drawing points of intersection, or perhaps heresy, between it, Althusser's symptomatic reading, and Derrida's deconstruction as practices of reading.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Modality of Necessity: On Clover's Riot. Strike. Riot



The reference in the title Riot. Strike. Riot will be abundantly clear to readers of Marx. It is reference to the formulas that open volume one of Capital, C-M-C and more importantly M-C-M' or Money. Commodity. Money Prime. It is the latter which provides the book's structuring formulation, even if it is more interested in Volume Three than One, in value theory, specifically the tendency of the rate of profit to fall as the latter has become the general ether from which to grab the present in the works of Endnotes and Theorie Communiste. 

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Reading Deleuze and Guattari as Marxist/Spinozists: On Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc's State and Politics








Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc's Politique et État chez Deleuze et Guattari: Essai sur le matérialism historico-machinic has been translated into English as State and Politics: Deleuze and Guattari on Marx. In the past twenty years since I first discovered Deleuze and Guattri I have gone from avidly reading everything that came out on them, at first it was a slow trickle, but as the trickle gave way to a gusher of canonization, I have become much more selective, even falling behind on some of the better books. I have a longer review of Sibertin-Blanc's book coming out with Historical Materialism, but I thought that I would post one of my responses to the book in order to mark its translation, just to suggest that it is definitely not one to skip.  


Friday, July 01, 2016

Kingdom within Kingdoms: Anthropological Turns in/to Spinoza


One could describe the trajectory of Marxist/Spinozism in the twentieth century as a trajectory that passes from epistemology through ontology to anthropology. With Althusser the focus was on the break between the first and second kind of knowledge, with the passage from ideological imagination to adequate scientific knowledge. As much as Althusser introduced immanent causality to Marxism it was primarily an epistemological matter, of grasping the cause in and through its various effects. Negri turned to ontology, or as he often put it, metaphysics, understanding immanence as the immanence of potentia, of power. The autonomist hypothesis becomes not just a way to make sense of capital, but all of reality. Everywhere Potestas, God's power or transcendence is asserted, we must find potentia, the immanent power of social relations and the human imagination. The last, and most recent turn, found in the works of Lordon, Citton, and, in a certain sense, Jaquet could be called "anthropological." The focus is less on the problem of inadequate and adequate ideas, understood as the problem of ideology, or the self organization of power, but on desire, affects, and imagination. 

Thursday, June 09, 2016

We Get Vacations? On The Americans



When I first wrote about The Americans I saw its premise as yet another variant on the sociopathic anti-hero that has become the mainstay of popular culture. The lies and deception seemed no different than the double lives of drug dealers, serial killers, or adulterous ad men. However, I now think that I was wrong about this, or at least the show had moved in that direction. It has the same deceptions, murders, and betrayals that make up the rogues gallery of prestige television, but unlike many of the shows that it is compared to, Elizabeth and Philip feel the effects of what they have done. The do not, like Walter White, Don Draper, and others, float above it all. They feel and struggle with every loss, with every life destroyed. 

Friday, June 03, 2016

Our Thoughts Are With Capital: Strategy as Subjection



Image from George Souvlis' Facebook 


Eduardo Viveiros de Castro's Cannibal Metaphysics has, as one of its many charms, one of the best polemical lines of recent memory. I am referring to the following:"Even if capital does not always act with reason, one nonetheless gets the impression that reason always delights in letting itself be roughly be taken by capital.”

Monday, May 16, 2016

Special Guest Post: Bill Haver on The Politics of Transindividuality




Back in the days when people actually read blogs I used to get requests for guest posts, some bad, some good--all of which I declined. My response to the good ones was always "you should start a blog with that," to the bad ones I just replied, "get your own damn blog." Now I just get weird spambot requests that have keyed in on my use of the terms "unemployed," "debt," and, in a post about Breaking Bad, "rental storage units," keywords for an age of austerity. Anyway I am making an exception to the longstanding, and now irrelevant rule, to post Bill Haver's response to my recently published book, The Politics of Transindividuality. Bill Haver was my professor and dissertation director back at SUNY Binghamton, and, to be quite honest, the only reason I stayed in graduate school (I know, damned by faint praise). He is just an amazing teacher and person. As the text below will hopefully, demonstrate, Bill is the most generous and perceptive reader of texts that I have ever known, the person who can most succinctly and perceptively understand what is at stake, and examine the limits of a text.

I post this here as both a shameless act of self-promotion and promotion of Bill's work. His introduction to Ontology of Production (as well as the essays by Nishida he translated) should be required reading. 


Thursday, May 12, 2016

It is the Symbolism, Stupid: Trump and Sanders



There is a certain similarity in criticism of Sanders and Trump. I am not referring to the symmetry posited by pundits of the radical center for who every left has an equal and opposite right--the tea party and Occupy Wall Street, Fox News and CNN, Iron Man and Captain America, but to a criticism offered by those far from the radical center that argue that Trump and Sanders are not the outside of the existing political spectrum. Trump's supposedly outlandish promises to deport millions of undocumented workers is not that different from existing policy. Sander's socialism is just what a previous generation would have called a new deal democrat, or what the rest of the world calls "center-left". 

Friday, May 06, 2016

The Collateral Damage of the Summer Blockbuster: Or, An Introduction to Civil War


At this point the observation that the contemporary superhero film is an allegory for the war on terror, like pointing out that Godzilla is about fears of the atomic bomb or that Invasion of the Body Snatchers is about communism and conformity, that has become at this point so commonplace that it barely merits interest. What is interesting, however, is the way in which in the fifteen or so years of the cultural forms dominance it has progressed with our changing anxieties about the war. At the beginning the films were all about preventing some kind of apocalyptic attack, usually on New York City, functioning as a kind of wish fulfillment of the most immediate sort. As the war on terror has dragged on, different elements of this long war have filtered into the superhero film like the way the sound of an alarm becomes part of a dream, or, to complete the Freud reference, smoke from a smoldering bed sheet. The different subplots and themes of the film read like a list of headlines about the long war,  everything from post traumatic stress to drones has been addressed in inverted superhero form.