Saturday, November 30, 2019

We Are All Servants: On Class and Subjectivity in Parasite and Knives Out

A common thread connects Parasite and Knives Out, two of the best films of the year. That thread is not just the representation of class, but more specifically the servant as kind of figure of class struggle. At first glance this is surprising, nothing seems more archaic, more out of touch with the existing labor relations than a servant. In different and contradictory ways these films illustrate that in age of service jobs and emotional labor the servant has gone from being a remnant of feudal era to the closest one can get to a universal figure of alienation.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Must Love Dogs: Animals and Racism in the Age of Trump

Trump is not a dog person, or, for that matter, a cat person. He is supposedly the first president in a century to not have a pet. Past presidents have had dogs, cats, horses, even alligators. While many animal lovers breathe a sigh of relief at such news it has recently taken a strange turn. After a long history of resorting to dog as his favorite phrase of contempt, he tweeted praise of a Belgian Malinois named Conan used in the raid on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Even going so far as to retweet a doctored picture of him giving the medal of honor to the animal, adding that the real dog will be visiting the White House soon. 

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Negative Solidarity: The Affective Economy of Austerity

An Earlier Draft of this paper was presented at the Libidinal Economies of Crisis Times Conference

Spinoza’s question of political thought, “why do the masses fight for their servitude as if it was salvation” has taken on a unanticipated economic and social relevance since the post-2008 economic recession.Displaced from its seventeenth century context, of taxes and bread, wars of glory, and despots, it is possible to see a struggle for servitude in the way in which the masses clamor for more jobs, more austerity, and more persecution of the disadvantaged in the name of fiscal discipline. The blog Splintering Bone Ashes has dubbed this particular struggle for servitude “Negative solidarity.” Negative solidarity is defined as “an aggressively enraged sense of injustice, committed to the idea that, because I must endure increasingly austere working conditions (wage freezes, loss of benefits, declining pension pot, erasure of job security and increasing precarity) then everyone else must too.” 

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

We Are the Robots: Division of Labor/Divisions of Society in the Automated Society

The number of popular books on work, books aimed beyond the narrow confines of specific disciplines, outnumbers the numbers of academic books, or more to the point, the number of books in philosophy by a ratio of at least five to one. A quick browse of Amazon (more on that company later) reveals a surprising number of books on automation, uber, service economy, etc., and that is not even counting the books that are aimed less at understanding work than reinforcing its ideology, the Seven Habits of Thoroughly Intrepellated Subjects., etc. While there has been a rising number of books within the critique of work, Weeks, Fleming, etc., these books tend to be from the perspective of sociology, political theory, or even management studies rather than philosophy. (Extending the scope beyond the Anglo-American world does change things a bit, in France at least Philosophy of Work is more than an oxymoron). 

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Modes of Materialism: Spinoza and Marx (Again)

Spinoza and Bento

The different Marxist approaches to Spinoza can be viewed through the different aspects of Spinoza's thought they take up, often corresponding to different parts of the Ethics. For Althusser it is epistemology (and Part Two as well as the Appendix to Part One), for Negri it is ontology (roughly Parts Three and Four), and for Lordon it is Anthropology (and Part Three). Of course things do not always score so neatly, there are also those thinkers that traverse ontology, epistemology, and anthropology, an approach that is fitting for philosophers not animated by such scholastic distinctions. However, all of this is to introduce André Tosel's Du Materialisme de Spinoza. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

What I am Working On: Two Quotes on Marx and Work

This  post is more on the spirit than the letter of Tronti but I thought that I would use
the image of this french translation now that it has been rendered obsolete by the English translation

In general it is bad form, not to mention questionable scholarship, to treat Marx like some kind of scripture, quoting specific passages rather than looking for the overall logic or idea. Despite this injunction I often find myself obsessed with a particular passage from Marx (hell, I wrote an entire book that is a commentary on one passage from the Grundrisse).  In my defense this is because, as many readers of Marx will recognized, Marx's mature thought, from Capital onward, often crystalizes in incredibly provocative and polemical passages that stand as mountains above the arid plateaus where linen is exchange for coats. Speaking of arid plateaus the first passage that I have been obsessed with comes from Volume Three where Marx writes. 

Friday, August 02, 2019

Alternate Ending: On Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood

Susan Willis argues that post 9/11 America is haunted by its own contingency. The instillation of Bush into power via the Supreme Court gave is presidency an air of the unreal. The possibility of another timeline, that of the Gore presidency hung over everything like a shadow. This sense of contingency was doubled by 9/11 which despite its trauma always seemed like something that might not have happened. If this contingency was not enough there was The West Wing on television, a liberal fantasy of a different America. Different timelines become less an abstract possibility and more of a virtual reality. 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

What Deleuze and Guattari Get Wrong (About Capitalism).

As I have said elsewhere, I consider the theory of capitalism put forward in Capitalism and Schizophrenia (especially Anti-Oedipus) to be a response of sorts to the definition of capital as ceaseless modernization that Marx places at the center of The Communist Manifesto. 

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Interpellated Strategically: on Jean-Jacques Lecercle's De l'interpellation and Isabelle Garo's Communisme et Stratégie

The concept of Interpellation is perhaps one of the few concepts of Althusser's to make it outside the orbit of his circle to become a general theoretical concept. It remember one year in which it seemed everywhere, showing up in books by Judith Butler and Donna Haraway. This has very uneven effects, people who are more thoroughly engaged with Althusser will point out that concept comes from a fragmentary essay, identified as "Notes towards an investigation"itself part of a draft manuscript. Its best insights are derived from either Spinoza or Lacan (depending on who you ask).

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Doppelgängerland: The New Monster is Us

Monster come in cycles. Werewolves wax and wane in and out of cultural visibility, and even vampires disappear and return. There might even be an end to zombie movies someday. Perhaps the current period will be known as the year of the doppelgänger. I am referring not only to Jordan Peele's brilliant Us, but also the return of the mirror universe in Star Trek: Discovery and Counterpart on Starz. If one wanted to add a literary reference one could include Ted Chiang's story "Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom." (I know that there might be more stories and novels, I just reading Exhalation now and cannot resist plugging it).