Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Boys Becoming Men, Men Becoming Wolves: on The Wolf of Snow Hollow and Werewolves Within

 



Wolves, even werewolves it seems, travel in packs. One hardly gets just one werewolf movie. In nineteen eighty one the pack included Wolfen, The Howling, and An American Werewolf in London.  (As the links indicate I have blogged about each of them, but for a thorough account of the year of the wolf I recommend Drew Strombeck's piece on the LA Review of Books) More recently, we had The Wolf of Snow Hollow and Werewolves Within quickly follow each other in the last two years. Two is less than three, but what is impressive in this case is that they are not only both horror comedies, to varying degrees, but are also both movies that use werewolves to address a different monster, masculinity.

Sunday, May 01, 2022

Elites and Capital: or, Foucault and Marx Again




I wrote this review of Jacques Bidet's Foucault with Marx a few years ago for an online review called Contrivers (after having reviewed the French original here) I thought of it the other day as I was reading tweets about two perennial questions on that site, the relation of Marx and Foucault, and the relation of elites, cultural elites, to economic power. For Bidet these are in some sense the same question. Since the review is no longer available and all links to the site seem to be broken I thought that I would repost it here. 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

If Althusser was a Spinozist...: on Juan Domingo Sánchez Estop's Althusser et Spinoza

 


One of Althusser's fundamental lessons, and one that remains beyond the controversies about epistemic breaks, the young Marx, and the real Marx, is that Marx's philosophy and politics must be located not at this or that isolated quote or passage, but as traversing the entirety of his work. The condition of immanent causality is a reading of philosophy itself as the immanent unfolding of ideas that are all the more important because they are pervasive, located not in this or that passage, but in the entirety of the work. To some extent Juan Domingo Sánchez Estop's  Althusser et Spinoza: Détours et Retours does a similar work on Althusser, searching for Althusser's Spinozism not just in the few well known passages in the ISA essay, Lire Le Capital, and Elements of Self-Criticism where Spinoza is cited by name, but also in the way that Spinoza's thought or practice of philosophy traverses Althusser's work.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Gonna Leave You All Severed: Initial Reflections on Severance


 

I was slow to get to Severance. Partly this has to do with conditions of contemporary cultural consumption. The shift from movies to television and from television to streaming, accelerated by the pandemic, has raised particular hurdles to watching new television shows even as everything can be viewed from one's home. Every new show comes with the subscription to a new service (or a way to work around it) and the proliferation of these services with their own branding and marketing enough to make me miss the catholic nature of movie theaters. Of the different services I had particular disdain for Apple TV, mostly due to the cross brand marketing and the lingering aftertaste of itunes as an app. Anything that could immediately disseminate a U2 album should not only be shunned but the people who made it should be banished. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Operation Blue Thunder: Or, First time as Violence, Second time as Action

 


Recently in a bit of odd exhaustion and insomnia I watched, or rather rewatched, the movie Blue Thunder. In case you have not seen it I will tell you the plot. It stars Roy Scheider as a Los Angeles helicopter pilot and Vietnam vet. He is introduced to a helicopter with the code named "Blue Thunder" which is introduced as part of an increased security preparations for the 1984 Olympics. The helicopter is an armored attack and surveillance helicopter complete with a machine gun, powerful directional microphones, and infrared cameras. Over the course of the movie, and I am hazy on the details or may have fallen asleep, Scheider comes to the realization the helicopter is not only an unacceptable militarization of the police but would function as the basis of an expansion of powers of surveillance. After the requisite helicopter dog fights  and car chases he parks the helicopter in front of a freight train and destroys it. 

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Two Great Tastes Part Two: The Introduction to Fischbach's La Production des Hommes


 
What follows is a draft of the translation of the introduction to Franck Fischbach's La Production des hommes: Marx avec Spinoza which will be published by Edinburgh University Press as Marx with Spinoza: Production, Alienation, History. Posted here in preparation for my forthcoming event with the Marx Education Project, and as part of the process of editing it. 


The relation of Marx with Spinoza has often been driven—most notably with respect to Althusser and the Althusserian tradition—by the project of “giving Marxism the metaphysics that it needs,” according to an expression used by Pierre Macherey specifically with respect to Althusser. The intention was laudable, but times having changed, our project can no longer be exactly that. We begin from the idea that the philosophy specific to Marx or the specifically Marxist philosophy is still largely unknown, that Marx as a philosopher is still largely and for the most part unknown. For a long time this was due reasons largely external to the thought of Marx: initially it was due to the urgency of militant practice, then it remains thanks to theme of the rupture with philosophy that is expressed by the eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach or in The German Ideology, any reading of Marx that is resolutely philosophical was suspected as being ideological. Then on the verge of orthodoxy, several authors—and not insignificant ones—both at the heart of the history of Marxism , and outside of it , have maintained that there is a critique of philosophy in Marx , this critique would still be a determinant practice of philosophy. However, the ignorance of “Marx’s philosophy” equally lies in reasons that internal to Marx’s work: the critical relation that Marx enters with philosophy implies in effect that the latter appears in terms of disconcerting new features, which are not those of a doctrine expressed as such (Marx, who never completed any of his grand works, always refused any dogmatic or systematic presentation of his thoughts), but are also not that of fragments. Neither systematic, nor fragmentary, philosophy with respect to Marx, appears diluted, omnipresent but always mixed and everywhere combined with elements of the discourse of history, of political economy, but also the sciences of nature and literature. It is not necessary to reconstruct or reconstitute the philosophy of Marx: that would suggest that it is only present in a fragmentary and dispersed state, and that it is necessary to reassemble and unify—which would lead to dogmatic and systemic presentation that is perfectly alien to the Marxist practice of philosophy. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Any Bird Whatsoever: on Fujita's Le Ciné-Capital: D'Hitchcock à Ozu




In his conversations with François Truffaut Alfred Hitchcock insisted that the birds in the film of the same name had to be ordinary birds, seagulls, ravens, sparrows, and not the more spectacular, and arguably more frightening hawks and eagles. This particular anecdote is relayed in Fujita's Le Ciné-Capital and in some sense it functions as the lynchpin that connects Deleuze's understanding of film, Marx's understanding of Capital, and revolutionary politics.

Thursday, February 03, 2022

Are Geeks Born or Made: On Nightmare Alley (movies and the book)


 
Let us start with a general question: why should someone interest in philosophy also be interested in film? Granted there are probably as many versions of answers to this as there are philosophical perspectives and orientations. To propose an answer from my, Marxist-Spinozist, perspective is that what is instructive about film is the relationship between the immediacy of their reception and the mechanisms of their construction. In other words, a film is experienced intensely, as fear, joy, sadness, disgust and even boredom, this is its immediacy, but to some extent it can also be viewed in terms of how those reactions are created, how images, sounds, dialogue, and music create these effects. Viewed this way film is not different from other art forms, literature and music could be discussed the same way, but what distinguishes film is the way that this production is both effaced and traceable. This distinguishes it from literature: a reader will perhaps always be able to find the relevant sentences and passages that produce effects on them, might even quote them, but the intensity in the reception of a film is not related to any understanding of its composition. It also distinguishes it from music in that knowing how music is produced requires something of an education in music, but to delve into the construction of the film one often only needs the pause button.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Looking Back in the Mirror of Production: An Introduction to an Unwritten Book on Deleuze and Guattari and Marx

 


This summer I have a book coming out from the Historical Materialism Book series. You can read more about it here (as well as freak out at its price, but it will be out in paperback from Haymarket in a year). The book is mostly made up of pieces that have appeared before in various journals, some now defunct, although there are a few new pieces, an essay on Sohn-Rethel that I never found a home for, as well as a piece on "Spontaneous ideology" and Deleuze and Guattari's idea of social subjection/machinic enslavement. 

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Despair and Indignation: The Inevitable Reflection on Covid (with Marx and Spinoza)


 The last thing anyone needs is another hot take on Covid. At least that is how things appear, in the early months of the pandemic there were a series of reflections that came too soon and undercooked, as everyone reached into familiar concepts such as "biopower"  or "totalitarianism" to make sense of what was happening. It seemed to be in good taste to not say anything to go on as if things would return to normal, but now, two years in, not saying anything about COVID feels a little like watching one of the films or television shows that have gone in production since the pandemic started, in which the actors inhabit a pre-covid world while the masks and precautions stay off of camera. The reality of these images has begun to appear as fantastic as any CGI trip to a far off planet or the distant past. All television and film, not just those set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the Star Wars Universe, begin to appear as a depiction of an alternate timeline, one in which the COVID pandemic did not take place.