Thursday, January 22, 2015

Class Structure: On Bidet's Foucault Avec Marx




For reasons that are as much historical as they are philosophical the relation between the thought of Foucault and Marx has become a topic of inquiry again. There are multiple versions of this question, from Macherey's investigations into the concept of "norms" as a central aspect of capitalist society and social relations, to questions about Foucault's interest in neoliberalism. A question that was generally considered decided in past generations has been reopened in multiple ways, running the gambit from the speculative to political. Jacques Bidet's Foucault avec Marx adds what could be considered a structural dimension to this question. 

Friday, January 02, 2015

The Class Struggle at Home: Jaquet's Les Transclasses


Perhaps the best way to approach Chantal Jaquet's Les Transclasses: ou la non-reproduction is by situating it between two caricatures of intellectual positions. On the one hand, the left one, we have studies of the "reproduction of the relations of production," the work of Bourdieu most importantly, but also Althusser, that stresses how the classes endlessly reproduce themselves, or are reproduced by the institutions of schools, media, and so on. On the other hand, the right one, we have the various theories of the culture of poverty, and more importantly, various "pulled up by bootstraps" narratives, all of which stress that individual will and fortitude can overcome all socio-economic barriers. On the one hand there is a theory of the necessary reproduction of the relations of production, while on the other there is the entire anecdotal history of exceptions.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Ideology of Norms: On Macherey's Le Sujet des Normes


What does it mean to be subjected to norms, or, more to the point, to be a subject whose very existence is constituted in and through norms. This is the question of Macherey's Le Suject des Normes. While sections of this book have appeared in some form on his Philosophe au sens large website, this is a book very much unlike many of the past books on "everyday life," "the university," and "utopia." Those books were more like seminars--examinations of a central problem through a series of philosophical, literary, and sociological texts--this book is an intervention. It intervenes in a field of problems that is both old, returning Macherey to Althusser and to Marx, and contemporary, asking the fundamental question of contemporary society, of a society which has given up any grand narratives, or dominant ideology, but functions all the more efficiently through protocols and norms of action. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Paying Attention in an Age of Distraction: On Yves Citton's Pour Une Écologie de l'Attention



Yves Citton's Pour une Écologie de l'Attention is something of a companion volume to L’Économie de l’attention. Nouvel horizon du capitalisme? a book edited by Citton. Many of the essays in the latter cite the former. However, the different titles, and the question mark in the latter suggest a divergence around a central question. Both books work from the central provocation that we are living through a profound mutation in the nature of attention, never have we had so many distractions or devices soliciting our attention. What remains in question is first whether or not this transformation is best of all understood as a new economy of attention? Terms such as "paying," "cost," and "investment" regularly suggest themselves when it comes to discussing attention. Attention appears as a scarce resource and it is quite easy to speak of losses and gains when it comes to attention, as every moment spent reading tweets is not spent reading books. The more important question is whether or not attention can be understood as an economy of sorts, but whether we have entered a new phase of capitalism in which attention itself is productive of value. Metaphor meets mode of production.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Ends of Man: Cynicism and Sentiment in Nightcrawler and Interstellar


OK. I am going to make this quick. I saw two films this weekend, Nightcrawler and Interstellar,  and since I am me, many people expected me to blog about them. I am way too busy for such things, but like Louis Bloom (Tiqqun reference?) pictured above, I aim to please my fans and my own craven ego, I thought that I would try a quick post wrapping up my impressions of both films. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Rewiring Genre: On Linda Williams' On The Wire



Like many fans of The Wire I have a fantasy of re-watching the entire series from beginning until the end. It is something that I will do someday, once I can clear my schedule enough for multiple nights on end of three hours plus of watching. Until then reading something like Linda Williams’ On The Wire is perhaps the next best thing. It makes it possible to revisit the series without revisiting the trials and tribulations of binge watching.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Breaking with Breaks: Or, Reading Capital 2 Electric Boogaloo


Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval's Marx, Prénom: Karl is yet another attempt to take stock of the work of Marx. As the title suggests, this book is an attempt to get beyond the myth of Marx, the Grandeur of Marx; t it does so not through the biography of the man named Karl, but through the question of Marx's relations to its sources.  (The title is a bid odd, and I can't help but think of James Bond every time I glance at it."Marx, Karl Marx") 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Intellectual Firmament: From Censorship to Attention

First, a note about teaching. Teaching undergraduates, especially teaching introductory classes or classes that fulfill general education requirements, often leads to a strange kind of double speak in which texts that are more "teachable," more appropriate to general audiences, become the basis to address other points raised by more difficult and demanding texts.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dialectics of the Other Other Scene: On Balibar and Macherey (with apologies to Kanye)


"Last week I was in my other other Benz"--Kanye West

While I would never want to reduce the work of Etienne Balibar and Pierre Macherey to simply being that of "students of Althusser," there is a certain way in which their work continues certain themes and problems from the latter's work. This can be seen not only in the topics chosen, the studies on Marx and Spinoza, but, as I am going to examine here, with a certain reworking of the question of the dialectic.


Friday, August 08, 2014

Taking Form: Morfino and Zourbachvili Encounter Spinoza


The translation of Vittorio Morfino's Plural Temporality: Transindividuality and the Aleatory Between Spinoza and Althusser deserves to be considered an event in its own right. Morfino is not very well known in the Anglo-American world, but those who have heard him speak at the annual Historical Materialism conference in London know how important his work is. Morfino has the rather singular talent of drawing together seemingly incongruous streams of thought into relation. Morfino is not to content to remain with the apparent points of opposition, nor does he simply declare some secret unity between disparate thinkers. In one of my favorite conference presentations, I remember Morfino declaring that the presence of Spinoza in Marx's thought was nothing but a "scholarly residue," the notebooks on the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus and other references nothing more than the dutiful work of a German philosopher in the 19th century, but that this of course makes the connection between Marx and Spinoza interesting. Since the contours of this connection cannot not be found in the typical anxiety of influence, it can only be invented in connections and relations of tendencies and presuppositions. (For examples of this invention of the Marx/Spinoza encounter see Negri, Lordon, Fischbach, etc.)