Thursday, February 09, 2017

Undercover Worker: Workers Inquiry after the End of the Working Class

An afternoon reading in San Francisco

If it is possible to learn one thing from the various invocations of the "white working class" that were summoned after the election of Trump, the more the term is invoked, the less one actually knows about work, class, and race. The "white working class" exists as a kind of hobgoblin of bourgeois conscience, as a creature both hated and pitied, the racist who cannot being one. It appears in a few soundbites and pull quotes gathered by journalists and a few stock photos of construction and factories. Against this spectacle of the working class, a hardhat and a few stereotypes about attitudes, there stands the tradition of workers' inquiry, the examination of the conditions, perspectives, trials and tribulations of the working class. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

War is Truth: 1984 is Back


Several stories have reported that 1984 is being read, or at least bought, again, becoming an unlikely best seller. This is ambiguous news at best. The book is sophomoric enough to deserve its place on every high school's sophomore's reading list. Its politics are dubious, and its philosophy is even worse, its picture of a totalitarian society based on hate and universal deception always seemed more of something to reassure members of liberal capitalist society that everything was alright in their society than a warning. There is thus something amusing about this particular chicken coming home to roost, of cold war ideology become the basis, however, impoverished of a critique of ideology. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Limited Efficacy of Facts Insofar as They are Facts: A Spinozist Reflection on Fake News



Nothing could be more foolish, further from the letter and spirit of Spinoza's writing than to proclaim that a given proposition is the most important. Spinoza's thought is in the movement and relation of the different propositions, axioms, and definitions, not this or that proposition. His thought is systematic, not aphoristic, which is why his thought does not lend itself to tweets, memes, or bumperstickers. However, there is one particular proposition which remains a personal favorite. It is Proposition One of Part Four, "Nothing positive which a false idea has is removed by the presence of the true insofar as it is true." This idea always seemed important to me in that it offers a corrective to the spontaneous philosophy of philosophers, the idea that true ideas and well reasoned arguments have a force in and of themselves. 

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Affective Normalization: Between Lordon and Trump


Trump's election was met with an insistent demand on the part of those who opposed him, a demand not to "normalize" his election and his presidency. The use of this term "normalize" is curious and telling. The word is not legitimize, although one could argue that the debates about the Electoral College and the popular vote, were in some sense debates about the nature, and limits, of democratic legitimacy. Or, more to the point, the legitimacy of what counts as democratic legitimacy in the US. The word "normalize" suggests something different, something broader and more inchoate than legimitacy, less a matter of constitutional checks and balances than a prevailing sentiment or structure of feeling.  In some sense the slogan draws off of the existing opposition to Trump, the inability of many to see him as anything other than a crude narcissist more befitting the world of reality TV than Realpolitik, and demanding to extend the protests and jokes into opposition. It is a politics of a affect, the attempt to make a prevailing sensibility into a politics. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Kids are Alt-Right: On Green Room


The problem with thinking in terms of best movies of the year is not only that it imposes an arbitrary dividing line, a line made more complicated by the uneven temporality of releases, but that it ties the calendar of films to other events on the calendar. Case in point Jeremy Saulnier's Green Room, last spring or summer its punks versus neo-nazis would have seemed like an entertaining and necessary point of conflict. Once you decide that your protagonists are a punk band nazi skinheads follow as the necessary antagonist. It is part of the natural order, like cats and dogs or aliens and predators. Who else would punks fight, hippies? 

Monday, December 05, 2016

You Incomplete Me: Marx and Hegel in Balibar’s Des Universels

Requisite wine stain 

What Hegel calls consciousness, or, more to the point, consciousness of the universal, Marx calls "ideology." It is the same thing, and yet this change of denomination, like the deus sive natura of Spinoza (conscienta sive ideologia, I propose), carries with it the possibility of saying something new, or bringing it to the foreground.  And at the center of debate is the part of unconsciousness constantly rejected by Hegel at the limits of the phenomological field”Etienne Balibar

I have early noted an increasing turn to Hegel in Balibar’s writing both here in this blog and in an essay that will be published here. The recently published Des Universels completes this turn, while also making it clear that as much as Balibar often lists Hegel as a transindividual thinker, his interest in Hegel has less to do that particular problem than with the problem of universals. Spinoza might be the preferred thinker of the transindividuality for Spinoza, but Hegel is the thinker of the universal.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Prophets of Rage: Affect and Elections



Since the election of Trump there seems to be a consensus that his surprising victory stemmed from anger and frustration on the part of the electorate. The only question that follows in most analysis is what is the nature of anger. Is it classed based, frustration at globalization the loss of industrial jobs, and a recovery that seems to have only benefited the elite? Or is it race based, anger at changing demographics and a steady decline of the wages of whiteness? Of course most answer that it is in some sense both, either through the mythic "white working class," which merges race and class in a handy formula or, in a more sophisticated way, arguing that Trump always framed class in racist terms, economic uncertainty became immigrants and globalization become China. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Nexus Rerum: Spinoza and Marx (again)



I did not really have an image for this post,
so I thought I would just plug the Spanish translation of my first book.



This a paper I wrote awhile ago. I never posted it, but thought I would now because a) I am working on some of the same problems now and b) I have no time for blogging now. b is basically an effect of a. 



“…in the postindustrial age the Spinozan critique of representation of capitalist power corresponds more to the truth than does the analysis of political economy.”

-Antonio Negri

The encounter of Spinoza and Marx is arguably one of the most productive encounters in contemporary philosophy. This encounter has several origins and multiple trajectories, its most recent wave begins with the works of Alexandre Matheron, Gilles Deleuze, and Louis Althusser, continuing into multiple waves, across different variants of Marxism and Spinozism. This encounter is not, as is often the case of the dominant forms of philosophical writing and research, a matter of discerning the influences that descend from one to the other, or the arguments that would divide them. It is rather an articulation of their fundamental points of intersection, points that are not simply given but must be produced by a practice of philosophy. 

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Philosophy at Work: A Few Notes on Agamben


In Agamben's The Use of Bodies we find the following passage:

The anthropology that we have inherited from classical philosophy is modeled on the free man. Aristotle developed his idea of the human being starting from the paradigm of the free man, even if this latter implies the slave as his condition of possibility. One can imagine that he could have developed an entirely other anthropology of he had taken account of the slave (whose "humanity" he never intended to negate). This means that, in Western culture, the slave is something like the repressed. The reemergence of the figure of the slave in the modern worker thus appears, according to the Freudian scheme as a return of the repressed in a pathological form.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

SignsTaken For Desires: Capitalism and Representation

Illustration of The Penal Colony


In the recently published Dans la Disruption Bernard Stiegler writes,

"An epoch is always a specific configuration of libidinal economy around which is constitute as an ensemble of tertiary retentions (that is to say technical support of collective retentions) formed by their apparatus a new technical system which is also a retentional apparatus."