Friday, April 13, 2018

Wave of Mutilation: Marx and Spinoza in Fischbach's Philosophies de Marx


Nothing in the title or the structure of Franck Fischbach's Philosophies de Marx suggests a return to the Marx/Spinoza relation explored in La Production des hommes: Marx Avec Spinoza. The title plainly states that it is a consideration of Marx's philosophy, and the book is organized to consider Marx's philosophical practice through three different philosophical intersections, hence the plural, the philosophy of activity, social philosophy, and critical philosophy. Despite this focus on Marx, and Fischbach's turn away from the specificity of the Marx/Spinoza relation in later works that have broadened the considerations of questions of activity and the social to include everything from Heidegger to Dewey, the book on Marx ends up returning to the productivity of the Marx/Spinoza relation in the margins. 

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Biographies Real and Imagined: On Peck and Barker



When I was in college I took a class on Contemporary Political Thought with Dana Villa. He would introduce every thinker, from Nietzsche to Foucault, with a few anecdotes told manly to amuse, stories of Adorno's meeting with Chaplin and the caricature of Lukács in Magic Mountain. Once the biographical gossip was dispensed with we could move onto discussing the text at hand. It is perhaps because of this that I have never been much interested in biography. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Means of Individuation: Castel on the Dialectics of Individuality





In the essay publishes as the conclusion to La Montée des Incertitudes: Travail, Protections, statut de l'individu Robert Castel gives a genealogy of the contemporary individual. First, in a line of thinking that would seem to parallel Etienne Balibar because it is one of his sources, Castel argues that the modern individual is founded upon property. As Locke argued, Though the earth, and all inferior creatures, be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself." As Castel stresses this connection between property and individuation is not a theoretical assertion but a practice as well. Bourgeois modernity is founded upon the reciprocal connection of the individual and property.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Spectacular Compromise: Or, On the Accuracy of Broken Clocks




Much to my surprise I am going to begin this post with a citation of Ross Douthat. In recent column "Woke Capital" Douthat argues that the current social consciousness of some corporations should be read along the lines of the the "Treaty of Detroit," in which the UAW agreed not to strike in exchange for benefits and cost of living increases. That Fordist compromise frames the basis by which we should understand the contemporary neoliberal compromise, a compromise not based on wages or productivity but image and identity. As Douthat writes, 

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Anti-Aesthetics: Or, Towards a Spinozist Theory of Cultural Production



In all of the various attempts to produce and reproduce Spinozism, creating a Spinozist account of society, economy, and politics, little attention has been paid to Spinoza's aesthetics, or really anti-aesthetics. This Anti-Aesthetics is sketched between a few scattered propositions, scholium, and other remarks that address the basis of judgements of taste and value, at every point it shows that any aesthetics is at best an inadequate idea, making effects into causes, and at worst a kind of alienation. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Losing Strategies: Negative Solidarity as Practice



Once in class a student said, "Bernie Sanders wants to give free tuition to everyone: I can't pay for everyone else's tuition I am having a hard enough time just paying for my own." My interest in this statement has less to do with the merits of Bernie Sanders campaign, or such promises, than its strange logic. I admit that I almost had a stifle a laugh when this was uttered in class. I wasn't trying to be mean, but I thought that the student must by joking. When I saw that he wasn't, that he did not grasp the contradiction at the heart of what he was saying, it struck me as a stunning example of negative solidarity. 

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Work Like It is 1999: A Year of the Refusal of Work in Film



On first glance nothing much connects American Beauty, Fight Club, and Office Space except the fact that they came out in the same year, 1999. They are distinct in terms of their genres, middle brow prestige picture, pseudo underground action thriller, and comedy, and their reception; the first was a critically lauded Oscar winner, the second a critically reviled cult film, while the third found its audience through repeat viewings on cable, making it a more passive sort of cult film. Despite these differences of genre and audience they are linked in that all films about the refusal of work. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Make Monsters Great Again: Timeliness and Untimeliness in The Shape of Water



Guillermo Del Toro's The Shape of Water is an odd and improbable creature, a monster movie that is a critical darling. The critical responses for the movie have themselves understood the movie as a different sort of chimera, a combination of "fairy tale" and nostalgia film, something at once timeless and caught in its own relation to a vanishing past. 

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Dead Ideas Live On: On Elizabeth Anderson's Private Government



I decided to illustrate this post with images from


Reading Elizabeth Anderson's Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don't Talk About It) was an interested and somewhat bewildering experience. At first I thought that I agreed with everything she said, but only differed in how I would say it--a difference of philosophical style or orientation--but, the more I read, the more I thought that there might be some substance to this difference of style. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Economism These Days: On Kids These Days


I started reading Malcolm Harris' Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of  Millennials in probably the ideal location and context. I was visiting my mother at a retirement community in Florida for Christmas. I was reading it by the pool when I actually overheard someone go on about "kids today" and their phones and video games. The general worry about the current generation was all around me.