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.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Becoming Spider-Man: Deleuze and the Superhero Film



In the end of Cinema, Volume One: The Movement Image writes the following about the demise of the movement image:


Certainly people continue to make [movement image] films: the greatest commercial successes always take that route, but the soul of cinema no longer does. The soul of the cinema demands increasing thought even if thought begins by undoing the systems of actions, perceptions, and affections on which the cinema had fed up to that point. We hardly believe any longer that a global situation can give rise to an action which is capable of modifying it—no more than we believe that an action can force a situation to disclose itself, even partially.

It seems to me that Deleuze's picture of the movement image lingering on might be one way to make sense of the superhero film.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

You Will Not Replace Us: On Jordan Peele's Latest



Us is a strange title for a horror film. "Them" and "It" are often the go to pronouns for horror, suggesting otherness and the unknown. In contrast to this "us" is often seen as the familiar, that which is generally threatened by some unknown "it" or "them." "Us" suggests unity not division, familiarity rather than fear, and would in general seem a more fitting title for a sappy romance than a horror movie. That Jordan Peele uses this title for his film suggests how uncanny it is, and how much the divisions between us and them are going to come under scrutiny. Jordan Peele's first film, Get Out hinged on the terror of the realization that one could be betrayed by one's most intimate relationships. While Us works with very different subtexts and cultural anxieties it takes that basic uncanny sense of the foreignness and hostility of what is most familiar to new and more twisted levels. 

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Devil is in the Details: Twilight Zone's Demonology of Capital


It is impossible to overstate how much a fan I was of The Twilight Zone.  I watched every episode of the old show, it was the reason that I had a small black and white TV in my bedroom growing up; subscribed to the magazine, a magazine which covered science fiction and published original short stories; and watched the movie and reboot. 

Monday, March 04, 2019

Boiling Frogbooks: Education's Past and Future

Portrait of the author as a Hampshire Student

I graduated from Hampshire College. Not only that, but I credit Hampshire for much of my early education. It is for this reason that I have followed the news about its current troubles very closely. Hampshire's troubles, and the possibility that the college could close, feel not just like the future being cancelled but the present as well. It is like watching one's very own condition of possibility disappear. I felt the same way about the elimination of the Philosophy, Interpretation, and Culture program at Binghamton University. It is like that scene in Looper where the character in the future is literally dissected by the past. 

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Class Monsters, Or Monsters of Class: Simone Weil's Contribution to a Bestiary of the Present



Simone Weil's "Sketch of Contemporary Social Life" is a text that seems oddly prescient at every turn, making Weil appear to be a seer as much as the saint she is often made out to be. There are references to what later generations would call "the culture industry," "financialization," and even the  theories that dominant contemporary politics. 

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Working Alone in America: On Lodge 49



The rise of "prestige television" could also be told as a story of the decline of the American dream. From Tony Soprano's nagging suspicion that "The best is over" to Frank Sobotka's assertion on The Wire that "We used to make shit in this country, build shit. Now we just put our hand in the next guy's pocket," so called prestige TV has been as much about the growing awareness of industrial decline as it has been sustained by complex narratives and characterization. Like a kind of Borgesian fable, American television has improved as the thing that it was about, daily life of the middle class, has unraveled. When nuclear families do appear they are just as likely to be fronts for Soviet spies or held together by lies and brutality. No show has taken this decline more literally than Lodge 49. At one point a character even utters the line "post-industrial capitalism."

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Welcome to Bizarro World: Part One


Lately, I have been thinking of Bizarro World. This is odd since I never really read many Superman comics growing up. I was mostly into Marvel comics. What I know of Bizarro world comes mainly from watching cartoons and the general cultural osmosis, despite being an obscure comic book character Bizarro even made it onto Seinfeld. What has provoked me into thinking about it is not the cultural history of the term, but its contemporary relevance. We seem to be living in an inverted world of sorts: capitalists call themselves workers, white supremacists claim to be an oppressed minority, and so on. Everything seems upside down and backwards. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Its Competition All the Way Down: On the Spontaneous Anthropology of Contemporary Capitalism



As much as people love to cite that ubiquitous remark by Fredric Jameson about the end of the world and the end of capitalism. You know the oneThere is another, less discussed line, that covers the same terrain of ideological struggle and the limits of the imagination that I prefer. It is, “The market is in human nature’ is the proposition that cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged; in my opinion, it is the most crucial terrain of ideological struggle in our time.”