Sunday, July 24, 2011

Red Spinozism: Towards and Against a Spinozist Theory of Alienation

It is possible to understand the interest in Marxist Spinozism, Spinozist Marxism, or, as Alberto Toscano once put it, Red Spinozism, as a kind of funhouse mirror, where the concepts from one philosopher take on new shapes and forms when reflected through the other. The two most well known of Marx’s concepts that have made it through this hall of mirrors are ideology, which has been refracted through Spinoza’s theory of imagination and the first kind of knowledge in Althusser, and living labor, which has been expanded to an ontological level of production through Negri’s reading of the productive nature of reason and desire. Moreover, Spinoza’s concepts of structural or immanent causality have been read through the mode of production and the multitude has been read through class struggle and the autonomist hypothesis. I hastily list these different concept refractions and transformations in order to stress that has been absent, namely alienation.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Road Home: Treme Season Two

After two seasons Treme still does not elicit the passion and dedication that can be found among fans of The Wire. One common complaint heard about the show is that it is dull, that it takes forever for things to happen, and in place of events or plot we get long musical numbers. I don't agree with this criticism, but I do think that it gets to the central question of the show: what is it about? and what does it mean for something to happen? As innovative as The Wire was it was still at its core a police show, and as much as it troubled the narrative logic and politics of the typical police procedural, replacing the weekly convictions of Law and Order with bureaucracy and pointless investigations, it was still punctuated by the events of the police show, arrests, convictions, and murders. As Wendell Pierce, who plays Antoine Baptiste, has agued, Treme is as much about culture, how it is produced, sustained, and destroyed, as it is about New Orleans.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

A Million Blooms: Tiqqun and Negri on the Actualization of Ontology

With the publication in English of This is Not a Program, Tiqqun brings to light a certain insurrectionist critique of Negri (and Hardt’s) position. Broadly speaking this critique takes two forms. First, there is a critique of the valorization of immaterial labor. This critique does not concern the descriptive accuracy of the term, the continued existence of material production, but its political efficacy. For Tiqqun the valorization of immaterial labor is consistent with the values of the capitalist economy. As Tiqqun write, “Proletarian self-valorization, theorized by Negri as the ultimate subversion, is also taking place but in the form of universal prostitution.” Tiqqun thus joins the chorus of those who prefer the refusal of work, the quotidian negativity of sabotage, to the valorization of the communicative capacity of contemporary labor. Second, and related, Tiqqun argue that Negri underestimates the reality of exploitation. This can already be seen in the argument about immaterial labor, which, for Tiqqun, is less the condition for revolution than subjection, but comes to the front in their critique of biopower. Quite simply, Tiqqun contest the division (Hardt) and Negri make between biopower and biopolitics (itself modeled on the division of potestas and potentia). In a vein similar to Steven Shaviro, Tiqqun contest that such a division, between transcendence and immanence, could not be said to make any sense in Foucault’s analysis. Biopower was always already produced from the immanent and contingent ground, that is how it has worked.