Tuesday, October 01, 2019

We Are the Robots: Division of Labor/Divisions of Society in the Automated Society


The number of popular books, books aimed beyond the narrow confines of academia, outnumbers the numbers of academic books, or more to the point, the number of books in philosophy by a ratio of at least five to one. A quick browse of Amazon (more on that company later) reveals a surprising number of books on automation, uber, service economy, etc., and that is not even counting the books that are aimed less at understanding work than reinforcing its ideology, the Seven Habits of Thoroughly Intrepellated Subjects., etc. While there has been a rising number of books within the critique of work, Weeks, Fleming, etc., these books tend to be from the perspective of sociology, political theory, or even management studies rather than philosophy. (Extending the scope beyond the Anglo-American world does change things a bit, in France at least Philosophy of Work is more than an oxymoron). 

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Modes of Materialism: Spinoza and Marx (Again)

Spinoza and Bento

The different Marxist approaches to Spinoza can be viewed through the different aspects of Spinoza's thought they take up, often corresponding to different parts of the Ethics. For Althusser it is epistemology (and Part Two as well as the Appendix to Part One), for Negri it is ontology (roughly Parts Three and Four), and for Lordon it is Anthropology (and Part Three). Of course things do not always score so neatly, there are also those thinkers that traverse ontology, epistemology, and anthropology, an approach that is fitting for philosophers not animated by such scholastic distinctions. However, all of this is to introduce André Tosel's Du Materialisme de Spinoza. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

What I am Working On: Two Quotes on Marx and Work

This  post is more on the spirit than the letter of Tronti but I thought that I would use
the image of this french translation now that it has been rendered obsolete by the English translation

In general it is bad form, not to mention questionable scholarship, to treat Marx like some kind of scripture, quoting specific passages rather than looking for the overall logic or idea. Despite this injunction I often find myself obsessed with a particular passage from Marx (hell, I wrote an entire book that is a commentary on one passage from the Grundrisse).  In my defense this is because, as many readers of Marx will recognized, Marx's mature thought, from Capital onward, often crystalizes in incredibly provocative and polemical passages that stand as mountains above the arid plateaus where linen is exchange for coats. Speaking of arid plateaus the first passage that I have been obsessed with comes from Volume Three where Marx writes. 

Friday, August 02, 2019

Alternate Ending: On Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood


Susan Willis argues that post 9/11 America is haunted by its own contingency. The instillation of Bush into power via the Supreme Court gave is presidency an air of the unreal. The possibility of another timeline, that of the Gore presidency hung over everything like a shadow. This sense of contingency was doubled by 9/11 which despite its trauma always seemed like something that might not have happened. If this contingency was not enough there was The West Wing on television, a liberal fantasy of a different America. Different timelines become less an abstract possibility and more of a virtual reality. 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

What Deleuze and Guattari Get Wrong (About Capitalism).


As I have said elsewhere, I consider the theory of capitalism put forward in Capitalism and Schizophrenia (especially Anti-Oedipus) to be a response of sorts to the definition of capital as ceaseless modernization that Marx places at the center of The Communist Manifesto. 

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Interpellated Strategically: on Jean-Jacques Lecercle's De l'interpellation and Isabelle Garo's Communisme et Stratégie





The concept of Interpellation is perhaps one of the few concepts of Althusser's to make it outside the orbit of his circle to become a general theoretical concept. It remember one year in which it seemed everywhere, showing up in books by Judith Butler and Donna Haraway. This has very uneven effects, people who are more thoroughly engaged with Althusser will point out that concept comes from a fragmentary essay, identified as "Notes towards an investigation"itself part of a draft manuscript. Its best insights are derived from either Spinoza or Lacan (depending on who you ask).


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Doppelgängerland: The New Monster is Us



Monster come in cycles. Werewolves wax and wane in and out of cultural visibility, and even vampires disappear and return. There might even be an end to zombie movies someday. Perhaps the current period will be known as the year of the doppelgänger. I am referring not only to Jordan Peele's brilliant Us, but also the return of the mirror universe in Star Trek: Discovery and Counterpart on Starz. If one wanted to add a literary reference one could include Ted Chiang's story "Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom." (I know that there might be more stories and novels, I just reading Exhalation now and cannot resist plugging it).

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Unwritten: On Richard Seymour's The Twittering Machine



Academia functions by specialization. We are all divided into our respective fields, philosophy, sociology, economics, political science, etc., and then once more into the subfields, methodologies, etc. Keeping on top of the relevant material keeps us in our little cells. Publish or perish to the extent that it still remains the law of the land has as its corollary survive by specialization. Academics are like exotic tropical fauna that survive only within a particular niche.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Breaking the Curse: On Three Recent Attempts to Theorize Neoliberalism

Moose and Lon Chaney Jr. on the set of The Wolfman
I could justify this by the way I have written about werewolves and capital, but the truth is that I just like it

To begin with something of a dialectic. The strength of neoliberalism as a concept is how expansive it is; it offers not just an account of capitalism, of economic relations, but culture, politics, and even subjectivity. The weakness of neoliberalism as a concept is how expansive it is, making it possible to call everything and anything from Uber to yoga neoliberal. It proposes a night when all cows are black, or, more to the point, when all cows are entrepreneurs of their direct farm to market line of organic milk products, as competition and entrepreneurial relations are everywhere. However, to borrow a line from Marx, this excess and limitation does not go from text books into reality, but from reality to textbooks. The instability and expansiveness of the concept might just have something to do the reality of the thing. 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Memories of a Ratman: Becoming Animal in Film, Literature, and Philosophy


Film has a strange status in Deleuze and Guattari's Capitalism and Schizophrenia. There is nothing like a theory of film in the two volumes; as much as the politics and economics of representation through regimes of signs, synthesis of recording, and assemblages of expression are theorized film is barely mentioned. The two volumes have more to say about television as medium than cinema, which will of course later be part of a two volume study by Deleuze. This is not to say that it is entirely absent, and when film does appear it is not as specific medium to be considered on its own but as an illustration of concepts and problems. Which is not to say that film is marginal these illustrations engage the central conceptual problems in each book. In Anti-Oedipus Nicholas Ray's Bigger than Life illustrates the socio-historical nature of desire beyond  family confines, and in A Thousand Plateaus the film Willard illustrates the concept of becoming animal.