Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Au Naturel: On Bohy-Bunel's Contre Lordon

It took me awhile to track down a copy but I finally found Benoît Bohy-Bunel's Contre Lordon: Anticapitalisme tronqué et Spinozisme dans l'oeuvre de Frédéric Lordon. Since I have read nearly everything by Lordon and become increasing ambivalent, torn between those elements of Lordon's thought that I completely agree with, such as the economy as an organization of desire, and those that I have issues with, such as the idea of the state and economy as insurmountable conditions for collective life. It is perhaps not accidental that this division more or less separates the earlier from the later work. I had hoped that reading a critique, even a polemic, such as Bohy-Bunel would help orient my own thinking. 

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Two Versions of an Extinction: Prehistoric Planet and Jurassic Park

A similar image of dinosaurs in the snow circulated at about the same time from two very different sources. The first, above, was from Prehistoric Planet as series on Apple TV, and the second was from the trailer of the latest Jurassic World film. These images reflect the changing scientific theories of the dinosaur which have shifted from slow scaly reptiles to what are now considered smart, fast, feathered, warm blooded animals. This is especially true of the former which uses CGI and paleontology to produce a kind of Planet Earth for the prehistoric world (complete with David Attenborough providing narration). The latter is less fettered by science, but has used some recent discoveries, smart velociraptors hunting in packs, T-Rex's that walk with its parallel to the ground like land sharks, and so on when they have served the story. 

Saturday, June 04, 2022

Production and Labor: Two Alienations, Two Liberations

My drawing of Laika and Loukanikos


The conclusion of Franck Fishbach's La Production des Hommes: Marx Avec Spinoza ends with a discussion of Heidegger's understanding of production in contrast to its focus on the intersection of Marx and Spinoza. A Fischbach argues the contrast could not be more clear, whereas Marx and Spinoza posited a thought of production that broke with idealism, with much of philosophy, Heidegger saw production as the basis and culmination of metaphysics. Our conceptions of substance, being, and actuality all stem from humanity's productive comportment and this understanding of being culminates in the idea of a world in which what exists exists to be manipulated, produced, transformed, exists as an object for a subject. Production is the metaphysics of subjectivity.

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.