Friday, August 18, 2017

Beyond Enslavement and Subjection: Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari

Paper Presented at the above conference. 
Since publication plans have fallen through 
I am posting a draft of it here



One of the minor theoretical interventions of A Thousand Plateaus, minor because it seems to retrace and recapitulate arguments made by others, is the distinction between social subjection and machinic enslavement. As Deleuze and Guattari write,

There is enslavement when human beings themselves are constituent pieces of a machine that they compose among themselves and with other things (animal, tools), under the control and direction of a higher unity. But there is subjection when the higher unity constitutes the human being as a subject linked to a new exterior object, which can be an animal, a tool, or even a machine. [1]

This distinction is made in the plateau titled “Apparatus of Capture”, and it is subordinated to the larger focus of articulating the relation between the state and market. It makes up no more than two pages, and in many senses seems to borrow from its general theoretical milieu of the sixties and seventies. Machinic enslavement would seem to carry with it the entire history of alienation of dehumanization that makes the individual part of the machine. Social subjection bares traces of Althusser’s famous declaration that “ideology interpellates individuals as subjects,” or of the general “critique of the subject” developed through Althusser and Foucault. Its only innovation, the only point that goes beyond a general citation of concepts that are the general background of Deleuze and Guattari’s particular conceptual innovations, is in presenting these concepts less as theoretical alternatives, pitting humanism against post-humanism, than as different aspects of the same machine, the same apparatus of capture. That is perhaps not the only philosophical innovation and transformation, the distinction between enslavement and subjection carries with it a larger series of references, not just the immediate precursors of Althusser and Foucault but more distant antecedents of Marx and Gilbert Simondon, but its implications exceed the distinction between part and whole to encompass not only the already mentioned division between the state and market, but also the intersection between technology and politics. Far from being a simple terminological distinction the division between enslavement and subjection opens up a way to think the history of different formations of subjectivity, and the tensions internal to them in their historicity.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Pop Nazi: History and Repetition


In Ta-Nehisi Coates writes the following on HBO's Confederates,

Knowing this, we do not have to wait to point out that comparisons between Confederate and The Man in the High Castle are fatuous. Nazi Germany was also defeated. But while its surviving leadership was put on trial before the world, not one author of the Confederacy was convicted of treason. Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was hanged at Nuremberg. Confederate General John B. Gordon became a senator. Germany has spent the decades since World War II in national penance for Nazi crimes. America spent the decades after the Civil War transforming Confederate crimes into virtues. It is illegal to fly the Nazi flag in Germany. The Confederate flag is enmeshed in the state flag of Mississippi.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Three Interpretations In Search of a Proposition: A Sketch of Spinozist Materialism


As I have stated on this blog, and elsewhere, a materialist reading of Spinoza begins with EIIP7 and its related propositions, "The order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things." In place of hierarchy and causal impact Spinoza places ideas and things in a relation of identity and non-identity. How exactly to articulate this relation has lead to multiple interpretations. I would like to highlight three, Deleuze, Macherey, and Jaquet. The selection and order of authors reflects my own encounters and reading, the seemingly contingent order of nature, and not a necessary conceptual progression. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Putting the Living Back into Living Labor, Part One: Dejours and the Psychodynamics of Work



In the introduction to Travail Vivant et Théorie Critique: Affects, Pouvoir, et Critique du Travail Alexis Cukier argues that the critique of the domination of "dead labor" over "living labor" cannot remain at the level of social relations, as a critique of the wage form and employment, but must descend into the "black box" of labor, and produce a theory of "living labor."

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Role of Revolution in the Transition from Man to Ape (and back again): On War For The Planet of the Apes


Perhaps the new ape films should be considered as one long remake of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Initially, this seemed to be limited to the first film, but the subsequent sequels have extended the revolutionary moment. Ape versus humans is no longer a chapter in the story, but the entire story. The first film, which seem like a risky one off when it was first released, had a few "easter eggs"alluding to a missing mission to Mars that set up the original films. With the film's success there was the need to continue the story, converting easter eggs to plot points, to provide the full story of the transformation of our world into a world of apes. This makes the recent ape films unique in the world of apocalypses and dystopias; the film does not present a new world already made, but the conditions of its making. That the final in what is now being called a trilogy comes out in 2017 on July 14th, hitting two revolutionary anniversaries, Bastille Day and the Russian Revolution of 1917, would only seem to underscore the point of revolution.They attempt to show how the planet of the apes came into being, revealing the causes and the contingency of what the original presented as necessity.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Universal History of Villainy: A Brief Remark on Spider-Man: Homecoming



In Jameson's essay on The Wire there is an interesting digression (and in Jameson it is mainly the digressions which are interesting) on the problem of evil in popular culture. Jameson takes up the question of evil, of villains, more broadly, reflecting on both their decline and centrality to popular culture. To quote a long passage, or at least the important parts:


Tuesday, July 04, 2017

The Golden Pig: Okja and the limits of Satire



Critics of Okja have been quick to point out its jarring tonalities, one part satire of the world of corporations and branding events and one part touching story of a girl and her (giant mutant) pig. This seems to be off for at least two reasons. Tonal shifts seem to be something Bong Joon-Ho revels in. The Host also melded horror, a family drama, and a scathing account of the US involvement in South Korea, and Snowpiercer reveled in shifting tones, as every new railcar opened to a new scene and a new mood, from its own satire of the ideological state apparatus to the horrorific scene of black hooded executioners of the repressive state apparatus. A kind of jarring tonal shift is not new to this movie. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Old Time Religion: On American Gods the book and TV show





The following passage from Marx's Grundrisse could serve as a fairly accurate pitch meeting for American Gods: 

Let us take e.g. the relation of Greek art and then of Shakespeare to the present time. It is well known that Greek mythology is not only the arsenal of Greek art but also its foundation. Is the view of nature and of social relations on which the Greek imagination and hence Greek [mythology] is based possible with self-acting mule spindles and railways and locomotives and electrical telegraphs? What chance has Vulcan against Roberts and Co., Jupiter against the lightning-rod and Hermes against the Crédit Mobilier? All mythology overcomes and dominates and shapes the forces of nature in the imagination and by the imagination; it therefore vanishes with the advent of real mastery over them...

From another side: is Achilles possible with powder and lead? Or the Iliad with the printing press, not to mention the printing machine? Do not the song and the saga and the muse necessarily come to an end with the printer’s bar, hence do not the necessary conditions of epic poetry vanish?

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Original Sin of Accumulation: Trying to Say Something Original About Ursprüngliche Akkumulation



Red May Seattle

A bit of context: last weekend I was asked to participate in Red May Seattle, contributing to both its Marx-a-thon, a day long reading group on Capital and the Grundrisse, as well as discussing neoliberalism, science fiction, and the current struggles. What follows here is neither the text of what I presented on primitive accumulation, nor a kind of follow up self critique, it is an attempt to jot down some thoughts that were generated in collective discussion and reflection before they dissipate. It is red in practice and in theory, or, at the very least red in theoretical practice. What follows owes a great deal to all of those present at Red May. Names are withheld because I may have completely misunderstood what they were saying.