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. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Necessity Passing As Contingency (and Vice Versa): On the Spinozist Distinction of the Economic and Political

Lordon speaking as part of the "Nuit Debout" protests to France's Labor Law

Earlier, when writing a brief blog review of Lordon's Imperium, I argued that what the book lacked was any account of the relationship between the economy and politics of affects, that Lordon had simply continued to think of politics, and political belonging, from the perspective of affects without considering the relation between politics and economics. 

Thursday, April 07, 2016

The Work Image: Montage in Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad




Gilles Deleuze stated that montage is an "indirect image of time," in Vince Gilligan's Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul it is an indirect image of work, or of a temporality dominated by work. I am primarily interested in the latter show, having blogged enough about the first. I just wanted to note that it is one of the stylistic points of continuity between the two shows; that and the odd close up and point of view shots. As much as the basic form remains the same the shifting tone and content of the two shows, from drug empire to the world of law firms, shifts the way the montages function, becoming less about the fantasy of accumulation and more about the particular frustrations and hopes of work.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Hobbes Versus Spinoza: This Time It's Anthropological


This morning I received an email that had the following sentence in it: "A demographic note for this week is that we have almost three times as many applicants to online programs as we did this time last year, confirming a trend we are all aware of --- that students want online degree offerings." Maybe it was the lack of coffee, or the fact that I was woken up in the night by a barfing dog (don't worry, Bento is fine. He just eats garbage sometimes), but I thought for a minute about responding to this email, pointing out that the premise did not support the conclusion. There are multiple reasons why people take online classes. They are ways of dealing with jobs that demand increased flexibility from employees, ways of finishing school around the demands of families and work. Negotiating these demands is not the same as wanting something, as desiring it or choosing it. 

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

The Power of the False: On Fargo


 Fargo opens with a claim that the story the film tells is based on a true story. As is well know by now, this claim is a lie. What is less remarked upon, however, is the way in which much of the film is structured around a series of lies. These lies move beyond the ordinary receipts to become part of what Deleuze calls "the power of the false."

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Be Social: Fischbach's Le Sense du Social


Franck Fischbach's Le Sens du Social: Les Puissances de la Coopération continues two of the threads of his recent writings. First, there is an examination of the "socio-political" as an orientation for political philosophy. This is directly opposed to the "ethico-political" in that the former places political economy, or specifically the division of labor at the center, rather than subjectivity or alterity. Second, there is an increasing turn away from Spinoza as a philosopher or theorist of the social and the political and towards Hegel and the return to Hegel in contemporary critical theory. (You can probably guess that I am for the latter and against the former, but such a "hot or not" list says little about why--or what is at stake).