Sunday, December 20, 2020

...as if it was Salvation: Dialectics of Obedience in Spinoza

 


Dimitris Vardoulakis' Spinoza, the Epicurean: Authority and Utility in Materialism puts forward the bold thesis that there is a dialectic of authority and utility in Spinoza. That obedience is situated between authority, between the "Potestas" of kings and God, and utility, the potentia of intellect and bodies. It is from this perspective that Vardoulakis presents a reading of Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. Despite the title of the book, which suggests a more modest exegetical undertaking, the stakes of this are less a matter of tracing the epicurean dimensions of Spinoza's thought, although that is done, than using those threads to expand the stakes of Spinoza's political thought. Vardoulakis' book takes on not only other readers of Spinoza, Negri, Deleuze, Althusser, Balibar, and Sharp, but also the central question of Spinoza's thought, why do people fight for their servitude as if it was salvation?

Monday, December 14, 2020

Waiting for the Robots: Benanav and Smith on the Illusions of Automation and Realities of Exploitation

All images from Starstream

In the last month or so two remarkably similar books appeared, Aaron Benanav's Automation and the Future of Work and Jason E. Smith's Smart Machines and Service Work: Automation in an Age of Stagnation. The books are similar without being redundant. They are too similar to construct anything like a provocative debate between them. They are perhaps best viewed not just in terms of their polemics against certain fantasies or fears of automation but the way in which they constitute an emergent, or even dominant, sensibility and orientation of Marxist thought, one that makes sense of the present through the infamous tendency of the rate of profit to fall.