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 Balibar, 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." 

Friday, September 02, 2016

The Western In Reverse: On Hell or High Water

Gilles Deleuze writes of the western “…the American cinema constantly shoots and re-shoots a single fundamental film, which is the birth of a nation-civilization…” Placed in the terminology of a different philosopher, we could say that this "birth" is the moment where the Repressive State Apparatus, or violence, is supplemented and supplanted by the order of ideology, by the Ideological State Apparatuses. Such philosophical embellishments do not tell us anything new. That the Western is about the transformation from violence to order is on the same interpretive register as the common wisdom that the monster of the horror film stands in for some actually existing horror; it is so integral to the genre it is barely an interpretation at all. Everyone knows that "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend" and that the gunslinger must, at the end ride off into the sunset, because the world he has created, a world of law and order, has no place for the violence that is its midwife. 

Monday, August 08, 2016

Ideology Interpellates Subjects as Individuals: on Dean's Crowds and Party

Image from The Crowd, King Vidor 

Jodi Dean's Crowds and Party can be understood to have two objects, each identified by the words in its title. First, it is an argument against the individual, the individual form, arguing that the individual is the kernel of contemporary of contemporary ideology, resurfacing even in those practices that would escape it. Second, it is an argument for the party, for a revival of the party form. The party is Dean's answer to the question that runs through several of Verso's books this fall, how to reproduce,  sustain, and maximize the occupations and protests that have become part of social space. Dean's party then takes its place alongside Clover's commune and Jameson's universal army of dual power. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Point of Heresy: Balibar on Foucault

In a remarkable interview published in 2012, but which I happened to discover recently, Balibar credits Foucault for the concept of what he calls a "point of heresy." He defines the concept, or rather practice as follows, drawing points of intersection, or perhaps heresy, between it, Althusser's symptomatic reading, and Derrida's deconstruction as practices of reading.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Modality of Necessity: On Clover's Riot. Strike. Riot

The reference in the title Riot. Strike. Riot will be abundantly clear to readers of Marx. It is reference to the formulas that open volume one of Capital, C-M-C and more importantly M-C-M' or Money. Commodity. Money Prime. It is the latter which provides the book's structuring formulation, even if it is more interested in Volume Three than One, in value theory, specifically the tendency of the rate of profit to fall as the latter has become the general ether from which to grab the present in the works of Endnotes and Theorie Communiste. 

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Reading Deleuze and Guattari as Marxist/Spinozists: On Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc's State and Politics

Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc's Politique et État chez Deleuze et Guattari: Essai sur le matérialism historico-machinic has been translated into English as State and Politics: Deleuze and Guattari on Marx. In the past twenty years since I first discovered Deleuze and Guattri I have gone from avidly reading everything that came out on them to barely ever picking up a book on Deleuze. At first the number of books on Deleuze  was a slow trickle, but as the trickle gave way to a gusher of canonization, I have become much more selective, even falling behind on some of the better books. I have a longer review of Sibertin-Blanc's book coming out with Historical Materialism, but I thought that I would post one of my responses to the book in order to mark its translation, just to suggest that it is definitely not one to skip.  

Friday, July 01, 2016

Kingdom within Kingdoms: Anthropological Turns in/to Spinoza

One could describe the trajectory of Marxist/Spinozism in the twentieth century as a trajectory that passes from epistemology through ontology to anthropology. With Althusser the focus was on the break between the first and second kind of knowledge, with the passage from ideological imagination to adequate scientific knowledge. As much as Althusser introduced immanent causality to Marxism it was primarily an epistemological matter, of grasping the cause in and through its various effects. Negri turned to ontology, or as he often put it, metaphysics, understanding immanence as the immanence of potentia, of power. The autonomist hypothesis becomes not just a way to make sense of capital, but all of reality. Everywhere Potestas, God's power or transcendence is asserted, we must find potentia, the immanent power of social relations and the human imagination. The last, and most recent turn, found in the works of Lordon, Citton, and, in a certain sense, Jaquet could be called "anthropological." The focus is less on the problem of inadequate and adequate ideas, understood as the problem of ideology, or the self organization of power, but on desire, affects, and imagination. 

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 anyone who has looked into the story 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 deceptions 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). 

Monday, February 01, 2016

Trumped: The Ecology of Attention and Affects

Pitch for a sequel to They Live. The "ghouls" (as they are referred to in the script), or aliens, have been unmasked by Nada's (Roddy Piper) destruction of the signal in the first film. Some are hunted down, while it is rumored that others have gone into hiding, finding new ways to disguise their horrifying appearance and devious plans. The destruction of the ghouls does very little to change things, the wealthy still dominate and the poor still suffer. Then one day a ghoul emerges that does not conceal his appearance, or his intentions. He makes it clear that he plans to continue accumulating massive wealth. When people point out that his kind exploited and depleted the planet he freely admits it, pointing out that running a inter-dimensional conglomerate is no small task. It was a huge and impressive endeavor. As much as one might be critical of the ghoul's exploitation of the planet, no one can doubt that they got things done. This ghoul then states that he is running for president. Critics declare that he is a ghoul, but he makes no secret of it. No one can unmask him, for he is already unmasked; attempts to reveal his sinister motives are belied by his willingness to state them clearly. The ghoul eventually wins, and once again the country is under their thrall, only now openly so.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Mythocracy II: This Time It's Personal

What follows is unauthorized and semi-competent translation of the introduction of Yves Citton's Mythocratie: Storytelling et Imagninaire de Gauche. I did this for my own self-clarification and teaching, but I posted it in an attempt to increase interest in Citton in the English speaking world. 

No one has yet to determine what a story can do. Some are offended by the “myths” that obscure;  others denounce “the histories” that we recount; others still believe in that it is enough to find the good story that would lead the donkeys to polls, the sheep to the market, and the ants to their work. More than these denunciations or formulas, this book proposes an interrogation of the power of stories, doubled by a narrative on the mythic nature of power: mythocracy.