A Counter-History of the California Ideology

Great post up on Deterritorial Investigations Unit. As I was reading his post I kept thinking about a few books I’m reading in a circle at the moment: Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows, Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together, Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not A Gadget, and William Powers Hamlet’s Blackberry…. each in its own way describing the slow devolution of late homo sapiens into less than its own hype.

The digitari are abandoning ship, running from the machine they built, and now wishing the storm they loosed upon the world would, like any good magician’s trick, just vanish before our eyes. But its too late for that, we’ve already bitten the fruit, and our younger compadres have slipped into the slipstream worlds of the net where they live dispassionate lives of psychopathy, oblivious of the world outside their immediate noospheres, blinded by their empty skulls, they’ve become the wires of a neoblip culture that forgets each thing the moment it is born before the hypergaze of their blank eyes.

Children of machines they are learning their trade well. Replicants of memes we are inventing day by day they understand the past just like the future no longer exists, that the only freedom left to them is this dark fire pounding, beating in the fleshless moment of its unfounded passion, the distributed particles of an immaterial desire. Neither romantic nor classic they have lost the treasures of the Western Mind. They live in the temples of nothingness we built for them in the machinic fires of a broken promise. Temples without gods. Temples for the wicked pleasures of an aesthetic ape: they are the machine gods of collapsing thought, without hope because hope is no longer in the vocabulary of machines. All that is left for these mindless ones is the fragments of a distorted mirror: the mirror that late capitalism cracked, that no one can put back together. Like Benjamin’s Angel of History all we can do is witness the horror as it flows from us endlessly rocking in the slipstream of our own blasted gaze…

Deterritorial Investigations

From California, Wired magazine has achieved global notoriety through its claims that the Net will create the sort of free market capitalism until now only found in neo-classical economics text books. Everyone will be able to buy and sell in cyberspace without restrictions. States will no longer be able to control electronic commerce which can cross national borders without hindrance. The Net will allow the whole world to realize the American dream of material riches. Coming from California, this neo-liberal fantasy has even acquired a mythic dimension. By releasing the supposed laws of nature immanent in unregulated capitalism, the information technologies will allegedly lead to the birth of a new race of ‘post-humans’: cyborg capitalist freed from the restrictions of the flesh.1

The complex dimensions of the debate of the transhuman began, for me, as an aside to the role of cybernetics and information technologies in megamachine of the…

View original post 4,814 more words

Slavoj Zizek: On Cinema from Geert Lovink Interview

What I despise in America is the studio actors logic, as if there is something good in self expression: do not be oppressed, open yourself, even if you shout and kick the others, everything in order to express and liberate yourself. This is a stupid idea, that behind the mask there is some truth.

– Slavoj Zizek

Slavoj Zizek (1949 – )

Concerning theory, there are a lot of others, the whole domain of cultural criticism in America is basically cinema theory. What attracts me, is the axis between gaze and voice and nowhere will you find this tension better than in cinema. This still is for me the principal axis. Cinema is for me a kind of condensation. On the one hand you have the problem of voice, on the other the narrativisation. The only change I can think of is that up until twenty years ago, going to the cinema was a totally different social experience. It was a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and this changed. But what still appears in ordinary commercial films is the shift in the notion of subjectivity. You can detect what goes on at the profoundest, most radical level of our symbolic identities and how we experience ourselves. Cinema is still the easiest way, like for Freud dreams were the royal way to the unconscious. Maybe I am part of a nostalgic movement. Nowadays, because of all these new media, cinema is in a crisis. It becomes popular as a nostalgic medium. And what is modern film theory really about? Its ultimate object are nostalgic films from the thirties and forties. It is as if you need the theory in order to enjoy them. It’s incredible how even Marxists enjoy this game. They have seen every film, I’m not joking. It’s not only this paternalising notion that it is good to use examples from cinema. I would still claim that there is an inherent logic of the theory itself, as if there is a privileged relationship, like the role literature played in the nineteenth century.

Interview with Slavoj Zizek by Geert Lovink (1995)

Michel Houellebecq: Islands of the Mind

Michael Houellebecq (1958 – )

Who, among you, deserves eternal life?

– Michel Houellebecq, The Possibility of an Island

We can imagine the last human sitting on the edge of the global desert, watching the sand pipers circle over the dunes of the Atlantic, his mind blank but observant waiting for the end when he too will take the final leap into eternal life. Michel Houllebecq a member of the post-Ballardian generation who wandered down the streets of pomoland where the fall of the Berlin Wall and the slipstream civilities of Western democracy fell before the trivialization of a post-historical farce gives us a fable of our transhumanist legacy. Like any neo-nihilist he learned the trade of a buffoon who could trick the neon cages, wander out of the loony bin and make us believe that madness was just another name for normalcy. He gave us a mirror into which we could no longer see ourselves, but instead the blank eyes of our own embittered and meaningless clones lives. Neither anti-natalist nor a melancholic or even full fledged anhedonian Houellebecq delivers us to the compositions of our own death-drives. This is the future as it is in the island of solitude, the land of no return our transhumanist prognosticators terminally call the affectless zone:

Undoubtedly there used to be a form of demotic happiness, connected to the functioning of the whole, which we are no longer able to understand; there was undoubtedly the pleasure of constituting a functional organism, one that was adequate, conceived with the purpose of accomplishing a discrete series of tasks—and these tasks, through repetition, constituted a discrete series of days. All that has disappeared, along with the series of tasks; we no longer really have any specific objective; the joys of humans remain unknowable to us, inversely, we cannot be torn apart by their sorrows. Our nights are no longer shaken by terror or by ecstasy. We live, however; we go through life, without joy and without mystery; time seems brief to us.1

Continue reading

Zygmunt Bauman: Diasporas and Change in the 21st Century

Zygmunt Bauman (born 19 November 1925)

Our interdependence is already global, whereas our instruments of collective action and the expression of our will are still local and stoutly resisting extension, infringement and/ or limitation. The gap between the scope of interdependence and the reach of the institutions called on to service it is already abysmal, yet day by day it is widening and deepening. Filling or bridging that gap I regard as the ‘meta-challenge’ of our time – one that ought to be at the top of the preoccupations of the residents of the twenty-first century: a challenge that needs to be adequately met so that other challenges, lesser but derivative and inseparable, can start being earnestly, properly and effectively confronted.

Not being a prophet, and not having acquired from my sociology studies the qualifications for being one, I shall refrain from passing premature judgment. I would like to share with you, however, one observation that sociological diagnosis does authorize me to make. Wherever its roots or the source of its power, the stimulus to political integration and the factor necessary for progress, is a shared vision of a collective mission. A unique mission, and what is more, a mission to which an existing or planned political body is particularly predestined, a mission furthermore which only that body and that body alone is capable of taking on successfully. … It has now fallen to all of us as Europeans, however, to live in an era of advancing and possibly unstoppable diasporization, and thus with the prospect that all regions of Europe will be transformed into ‘bands of mixed populations’.

– ZygmuntBauman,
Moral Blindness: The Loss of Sensitivity in Liquid Modernity

Murray Bookchin: Quote of the Day!

Murray Bookchin (January 14, 1921 – July 30, 2006)

Social ecology rests on the basic minimal claim that our entire endeavor to dominate nature stems from the domination of human by human–not from agriculture, from technology per se, from a vague thing called industrialism, from religion, from anthropocentrism, from humanism, or from whatever buzzword one chooses to pull out of the bumper–sticker slogans…

Only the complete substitution of hierarchical society as it has developed over thousands of years with all the moral, spiritual. religious, philosophical, economic , and political paraphernalia that has accompanied that development–by an ecological society can finally bring nature and a fulfilled humanity into harmony with each other. Indeed, it is only in an ecological society, free of all hierarchy and domination, that this fulfilled humanity can find its ecological role in developing a free nature–one in which nature is rendered fully self–conscious by a species of its own creation and by rational faculties that have emerged from its own evolution.

Stated bluntly: no revolutionary movement can grow if its theorists essentially deny Bloch’s “principle of hope,” which it so needs for an inspired belief in the future; if they deny universal History that affirms sweeping common problems that have besieged humanity over the ages; if they deny the shared interests that give a movement the basis for a common struggle in achieving a rational dispensation of social affairs; if they deny a processual rationality and a growing idea of the Good based on more than personalistic (or “intersubjective” and “consensual”) grounds; if they deny the powerful civilizatory dimensions of social development (ironically, dimensions that are in fact so useful to contemporary nihilists in criticizing humanity’s failings); and if they deny historical Progress.  Yet in present-day theoretics, a series of events replaces History, cultural relativism replaces Civilization, and a basic pessimism replaces a belief in the possibility of Progress.  What is more sinister, mythopoesis replaces reason, and dystopia the prospect of a rational society. What is at stake in all these displacements is an intellectual and practical regression of appalling proportions–an especially alarming development today, when theoretical clarity is of the utmost necessity.

– Murray Bookchin, Collected Works

* * * * *

Murray Bookchin (January 14, 1921 – July 30, 2006)was an American libertarian socialist author, orator, and philosopher. A pioneer in the ecology movement, Bookchin was the founder of the social ecology movement within anarchist, libertarian socialist, and ecological thought. He was the author of two dozen books on politics, philosophy, history, and urban affairs as well as ecology. In the late 1990s he became disenchanted with the strategy of political anarchism and founded his own libertarian socialist ideology called Communalism.

Bookchin was an anti-capitalist and vocal advocate of the decentralisation of society along ecological and democratic lines. His writings on libertarian municipalism, a theory of face-to-face, assembly democracy, had an influence on the Green movement and anti-capitalist direct action groups such as Reclaim the Streets.

J.G. Ballard: The Journey to Nowhere

I first met Jane Ciracylides during the Recess, that world slump of boredom, lethargy and high summer which carried us all so blissfully through ten unforgettable years, and I suppose that may have had a lot to do with what went on between us.

– J.G. Ballard, Prima Belladonna

J.G. Ballard loved to drop little oddities into his novels and stories. One that has intrigued me along the way this notion of the Great Recess, that as far as I can tell was only used in stories of the Vermillion Sands. We know it was a ten year period, a time of lethargic escape from the world of capitalism, a holiday where people suddenly found themselves in the world of boredom, of sex and paranoia. As a character in PB tells us this was a time when “no one cared very much about anything”(9) and time came to a standstill. The same character tells us that shortly after this period ended that “the big government schemes came along and started up all the clocks and kept us too busy working off the lost time to worry about a few bruised petals” (11). The only other mention is in the ATDS where we discover that before the Recess the world was much more decadent and irresponsible:

As Fay’s voice chattered on I turned and looked up the staircase towards the sun-lounge, my mind casting itself back ten years to one of the most famous trials of the decade, whose course and verdict were as much as anything else to mark the end of a whole generation, and show up the irresponsibilities of the world before the Recess. (311)

Etymologically we can understand Recess as:

1530s, “act of receding,” from Latin recessus “a going back, retreat,” from recessum, past participle of recedere “to recede” (see recede). Meaning “hidden or remote part” first recorded 1610s; that of “period of stopping from usual work” is from 1620s, probably from parliamentary notion of “recessing” into private chambers.

That strange “Recess” has haunted me for years. The idea of a blank in time, when all the clocks stop, the world of late capitalism grinds to a halt and everyone just seems to take a holiday. Nothing else, we hear not one thing more about this strange little thought in the works of Ballard. It’s as if he just filtered it out, let it lie there like a dejected component of his psyche that sat there silently waiting to be called forth again. Why? Why did he never explore this again? Reading William Schuyler’s Jungian analysis of Ballard I came across a short poignant remark: “We should also bear in mind the original meaning of holiday: a holy day on which ceremonies were performed; in this instance, rites of passage. In its own glossy, lurid, bizarre way, Vermilion Sands is a holy place, a place to which one resorts in time of need to undergo certain ordeals and take part in certain rites which are required of all who would become truly Conscious and thereby human.”(see essay). Yet, as we know the Recess was more like a great retreat, a withdrawal from work or maybe a refusal of work in the Berardian sense: “Refusal of work does not mean so much the obvious fact that workers do not like to be exploited, but something more. It means that the capitalist restructuring, the technological change,   and the general transformation of social institutions  are produced by the daily action of withdrawal from exploitation, of rejection of the obligation to produce surplus value, and to increase the value of capital, reducing the value of life.(“What is the meaning of Autonomy Today”, see here)

Continue reading

Franco Berardi: Panic Society and the Semiopath

… an abstract machine of mutation, which operates by decoding and deterritorialization. It is what draws the lines of flight: it steers the quantum flows, assures the connection-creation of flows, and emits new quanta. It itself is in a state of flight, and even war machines on its lines.

– Gilles Deleuze/Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus

As I read between the lines in Berardi’s precarious rhapsody I am coming to the realization that the perfect citizen of semiocapitalism is not the psychopath but the Semiopath, the infonaut caught in the web of deceitful capital neither fully Borg nor a member of that species we once quaintly called homosapiens. The Semiopath is a voyeur of signs rather than a creator, a semiotician of the death-drive rather than a desiring machine, a cyberzombie of the edge worlds frozen on the cyberscreens of an endless night of civilization. A living semblance of our former humanity glued to the economics of an Occasionalist nightmare in which the mediator of causality is no longer God or Mind, but, as Zizek reminds us, the immaterial software algorithms on those pieces of material hardware we call Computers. Our machinic cousins now arbitrate the virtual subjects of the new cybertariat, those neo-intellectuals of our posthuman era. What modes of composition and recomposition connect us to the lightwaves and digitized byways of cyberspace; its movement of along the lines of consistency we term social composition? Is the mode of composition of this machinic subjectivation formed out of the traumatic zero world of our negative economics? As the modes of its communication among machines stretching across the global networks and assemblages sucks up more and more of the bitter dregs of humanity what will be left to salvage by century’s end? The communication of machine with machine goes on without us in the silent nights and days, while we oblivious to its music dive into the slipstreams idly playing the strings of its throbbing diodes like troubadours of some new alien sound poetry. Will the singularity (possible or not?) come in like a tiger or like the whimper of some bad suicide? Do we play the computer, or does it play us?

Continue reading

A Response to a Zizekian question … Berardi and others…

Arran James in a previous post in response to Slavoj Zizek’s question ““The big question today is how to organise to act globally, at an immense international level, without regressing to some authoritarian rule.” – responds:

Zizek’s question at the end there, on the need to organise without authoritarianism, is of course the important one. I have been engaged elsewhere in talking about this question, roughly, and find it infuriating that people who claim to want to re-think “how to organise” maintain automatic positions. ‘No to electoral politics! No to working with Leninists!’- but then what are you organsing? You’re own theoretico-practical cul-de-sac? Let us rethink things, but not if it means questioning any of our assumptions! I understand the reasons to be anti-Leninism and so on, the historical reasons, the ideological ones, but to make use of things, to pick up what lies at hand…must the question always revolve around questions of reformism and revolutionism, of the necessity of the former and the poverty of the latter? I don’t even think electoral politics are pertinent to the mass of people anymore, that little game is over, and, likewise, do reform/revolution make much sense to us in a time when the majority of political actions are defensive, when the majority of would-be revolutionaries only know of revolutions from textbooks and television screens? (And among these I of course include myself!)

My response:

It’s not something one can force, either. While reading through some of Barardi he comes to a point when over a hundred thousand people came to Bologna in 1977. He says everyone was waiting for the “word” to begin, but no word ever came. I kept thinking, Why? Why does it always take one person, someone you wouldn’t really expect, the unknown X factor, to step up to the plate and start it all? Without leadership the crowd, the mass, is just that: lost, unable to act, unable to do for themselves what they know in their hearts must be done. Why do we always need confirmation first? Why have we bought into this need for some authority to tell us: It’s alright, I understand, you can begin now. You don’t have to fear anything but fear itself. Sure many of you may die, but we shall win through; for what we are doing has the force of truth in it.” Most people, sadly, are followers rather than leaders and cannot do for themselves what they should. It always comes down to: Buts… but I’m just one person, what can I do to make a difference? How can I begin? What’s to be done?” Maybe it comes down to critical mass… a sort of collective psychic trauma that spurs the mass into a collective awakening that then gets it all going… some event that wounds us to the core and forces us to rethink everything that we are or could be. One could puzzle over this for years. Psychologists have spent their lives trying to understand mass movements and why some succeed and others fail. But in the end there is no magic bullet. It’s something to do with Time…. even kairos – the right time… the moment when all the threads come together that offer the solution we’ve all been seeking to the tension of our moment.

Continue reading

Slavoj Zizek: The Madness of Philosophers

I don’t think that the task of a guy like me is to propose complete solutions. When people ask me what to do with the economy, what the hell do I know? I think the task of people like me is not to provide answers but to ask the right questions.

– Slavoj Zizek

Reading this particular interview in the Guardian we see Zizek trump his own clownishness. “I live as a madman!” In one moment he tells us that 99% of humanity are boring idiots, that students are his worst nightmare, and after three fitful marriages the only thing worth salvaging were the relationships with his two sons. In other words what we get in this interview is Zizek being Zizek. Diogenes of the Left. A madman whose barrel hit him point blank in the noggin after falling over the thin red line of his own broken dreams. Some say he’s getting senile, growing mellow in his old age, teetering on the edge; yet, others see him as a little wiser,  a little more cautious, seeing that the Communist Idea isn’t really going to take off anytime soon. Yet, he laughs, and jokes, and ponders the scope of our present predicament. “The big question today is how to organise to act globally, at an immense international level, without regressing to some authoritarian rule.” The reporter asks him: “How will that happen?” Simple, he says:

“I’m a pessimist in the sense that we are approaching dangerous times. But I’m an optimist for exactly the same reason. Pessimism means things are getting messy. Optimism means these are precisely the times when change is possible.” And what are the chances that things won’t change? “Ah, if this happens then we are slowly approaching a new apartheid authoritarian society. It will not be – I must underline this – the old stupid authoritarianism. This will be a new form, still consumerist.” The whole world will look like Dubai? “Yes, and in Dubai, you know, the other side are literally slaves.”

As for his jokes: “Most people think I’m making jokes, exaggerating – but no, I’m not. It’s not that. First I tell jokes, then I’m serious. No, the art is to bring the serious message into the forum of jokes.”

Franco “Bifo” Berardi: precarious rhapsody

The best way to define the new rebellion is the Deleuzian concept of line of flight: exodus from the kingdome of exploitation and the creation of a new social sphere…

– Berardi, from precarious rhapsody

Berardi reminisces on the failure of 1977 when worker’s revolution in Italy was being countered through State repression and murder, imprisonment, beatings, and a fascistic counterrevolution. For Barardi this was the year when the Western Mind collapsed and the acceleration of our catastrophism began and is still being played out:

Since 1977, the collapse of the Western Mind has assumed sneaking, subterranean, episodic trajectory, but as the threshold beyond the millennium, it takes on the rhythm of a precipice, of a no longer containable catastrophe. What the consciousness of 1977 had signaled as a danger and a possibility implicit in the acceleration of productive and existential rhythms, becomes daily news. Certain events signaled this passage, becoming viruses, carrying information that reproduces, proliferates and infects the entire social organism. The exceptional event the Twin Towers crashing in a cloud of dust… as well as Columbine school massacre, which took place some years before, might have carried a more uncanny message, because it spoke of daily life, of American normality, of the normality of a humanity that has lost all relation with what used to be human and that stumbles along looking for some impossible reassurance in search of a substitute for emotions which it no longer knows. (27-28)1

Continue reading

David Foster Wallace: On David Lynch

David Lynch’s face is the best thing about him, and I spend a lot of time staring at it from a variety of perspectives as he works the set. In photos of Lynch as a young man, he looks rather uncannily like James Spader, but he doesn’t look like James Spader anymore. His face is now full in the sort of way that makes certain people’s faces square, and it’s pale and soft-looking— the cheeks you can tell are close-shaved daily and then moisturized afterward— and his eyes, which never once do that grotesque looking-in-opposite-directions-at-once thing they were doing on the 1990 Time cover, are large and mild and kind. In case you’re one of the people who figure that Lynch must be as “sick” as his films, know that he doesn’t have the beady or glassy look one associates with degeneracy-grade mental trouble. His eyes are good eyes: he looks at his set with very intense interest, but it’s a warm and full-hearted interest, sort of the way you look when you’re watching somebody you love doing something you also love. He doesn’t fret or intrude on any of the technicians, though he will come over and confer when somebody needs to know what exactly he wants for the next set-up. He’s the sort who manages to appear restful even in activity; i.e. he looks both very alert and very calm. There might be something about his calm that’s a little creepy— one tends to think of really high-end maniacs being oddly calm, e.g. the way Hannibal Lecter’s pulse rate stays under 80 as he bites somebody’s tongue out.

– David Foster Wallace,   A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

Ghandi: A Hero for our Time

In non-violence the bravery consists in dying, not in killing.

– Mahatma Gandhi

Ghandi once said that non-violence is a creed. We must inhabit it whether alone are with companions. The mission of his life was to propagandize the creed of non-violence to the four corners of the earth. “I claim to be a passionate seeker after truth. In the course of that search the discovery of non-violence came to me. Its spread is my life mission. I have no interest in living except for the prosecution of that mission.”1 He knew that what he’d instigated in India was a grand experiment, not a given, but an ongoing struggle – a day by day work in progress, and that it would take courage and dedication and perseverance for it to triumph over the forces of violence and brutality. “A non-violent revolution is not a program of seizure of power. It is a program of transformation of relationships, ending in a peaceful transfer of power.” (ibid)

A program of transformation, a non-violent revolution, a path forward: isn’t this what we all seek? Instead of war Ghandi told us the true soldier of the earth was the farmer and the seamstress, the ones who clothe us and provide food for our tables. Yet, such power of transformation in society would not come about by magic. No. For Ghandi is was satyagraha,  soul  or truth force: the strength and courage to resist the deadliest enemy, to overcome the greatest tyrant. “The Satyagrahi’s object is to convert, not to coerce, the wrong-doer.” Gandhi rejected the idea that injustice should, or even could, be fought against “by any means necessary” — if you use violent, coercive, unjust means, whatever ends you produce will necessarily embed that injustice. To those who preached violence and called nonviolent actionists cowards, he replied: “I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence….I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour….But I believe that nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment.”2 The essence of Satyagraha is that it seeks to eliminate antagonisms without harming the antagonists themselves, as opposed to violent resistance, which is meant to cause harm to the antagonist.

Some excellent quotes:

Humiliation: the first principle of non-violent action is that of noncooperation with everything humiliating. (ibid)

Unless big nations shed their desire of exploitation and the spirit of violence, of which war is the natural expression and the atom bomb the inevitable consequence, there is no hope for peace in the world.

It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of non-violence to cover impotence. Violence is any day preferable to impotence. There is hope for a violent man to become nonviolent. There is no such hope for the impotent.

If the capacity for non-violent self-defense is lacking, there need be no hesitation in using violent means.


1. Merton, Thomas; Gandhi, Mahatma (2012-09-30). Gandhi on Non-Violence (New Directions Paperbook)  Norton.
2. R. K. Prabhu & U. R. Rao, editors; from section “Between Cowardice and Violence,” of the book The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi, Ahemadabad, India, Revised Edition, 1967.

Isabelle Stengers: Quote of the Day!

Reclaiming is an adventure, both empirical and pragmatic, because it does not primarily mean taking back what was confiscated, but rather learning what it takes to inhabit again what was devastated.

Whatever the experience, the refrain for Whitehead became: ‘‘What are our modes of abstraction doing to us? What are they blinding us against?’’

For Whitehead, abstractions as such were never the enemy. We cannot think without abstractions: they cause us to think, they lure our feelings and affects. But our duty is to take care of our abstractions, never to bow down in front of what they are doing to us – especially when they demand that we heroically accept the sacrifices they entail, the insuperable dilemmas and contradictions in which they trap us.

– Isabelle Stengers, Experimenting with Refrains (warning: pdf)

also a thanks to DMF for turning me on to this one!

Franco Berardi: Subjectivation and the Refusal of Work

Subjectivation in the place of subject. That means that we should not focus on the identity, but on the process of becoming. This also means that the concept of social class is not to be seen as an ontological concept, but rather as a vectorial concept.

– Franco Berardi Bifo

Instead of a history of society Franco Berardi Bifo tells us that he’d rather we speak of composition, or even “class composition” because it digs down into the molecular chemistry of our lives.1 “Autonomy is the independence of social time from the temporality of capitalism.” (ibid)  Instead of subjects and identitarian politics we get a processual migration through a continuous series of compositional scores: the becoming of social relationships, sexual identification and disidentification, and, of course, the refusal of work. Of course Berardi a friend of D&G sees the refusal of work as generated within the complex investments of desiring machines as they in their daily lives withdraw from the exploitation of capital. As he remarks:

Autonomy means that social life does not depend only on the disciplinary regulation imposed by economic power, but also depends on the internal displacement, shiftings, settlings and dissolutions that are the process of the self-composition of living society. Struggle, withdrawal, alienation, sabotage, lines of flight from the capitalist system of domination. (ibid)

Refusal of work is the laziness of creativity, the source of a defiant need to be autonomous, unhooked from the regulatory mechanisms of capital, to enter into the self-regulative fruits of one’s labors rather than be controlled by the war machines of cognitive capitalism. Yet, with this dispersed deregulated subjectivation came the other side of the coin: the deregulation of capital itself. It was during the Thatcher-Regan era that the vast machinery of rules and regulations that curbed monopolization fell away and the new economic despotism of the not so free ‘free-markets’ arose.

Continue reading

The Machinic World (D&G): Organic Machines at the Edge of Time

“…what redefinitions of collective subjectivity will we encounter when social media can be tapped through the individual’s own neural passageways?”

from Deterritorial Investigations Unit blog

Are we prepared for the future? Have we insulated ourselves from the harsh truth pressing down on us from this accelerated world coming at us? The radical chic of the Enlightenment seems almost tame now as we move closer and closer to a rear end collision with the future. The myths of reason will seem like quaint tales to our descendants. “Making yourself machinic – aesthetic machine and molecular war machine… – can become a crucial instrument for subjective resingularisation and can generate other ways of perceiving the world, a new face on things, and even a different turn of events.”1 I took this quote from an excellent blog post by Deterritorial Investigations Unit ( I have no clue who is behind this blog, since even in the About we find no hint of the actual being who writes these intriguing posts). In the post Becoming Machine: Thoughts on Hardt and Negri’s ‘Enigmatic Passages’ we see a few passages explicated that for the most part would have gone under the radar left as footnotes in a forgotten discourse. In his conclusion we discover what we’ve all suspected that it is neo-liberalism itself, the globalist corpocratic empire of both East and West that are becoming-machinic and “capturing of the multitude’s own creativities and desires” towards ends no one could have dreamed of during the heyday of cyberpunk.

Continue reading

Nomadic Ethics: Deleuze and the Ethics of Freedom

War machines take shape against the apparatuses that appropriate the machine and make war their affair and their object: they bring connections to bear against the great conjunction of the apparatuses of capture and domination.

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: Nomadology: The War Machine

Against those like Badiou or Zizek and their sense of the negative and negation as the basis of subjectivity, the nomadic ethics of Deleuze affirms the positivity of Otherness, of life as zoe (from ancient Greek ζωή, meaning spiritual life, in contrast to Bios, meaning biological life).  Amor fati: that we must be, as Rosi Braidotti reminds us, “worthy of what happens to us and rework it within an ethics of relation, without falling into negativity” (ibid. 185). This is an ethics of relation, praxis, and complexity that promotes a radical ethics of transformation, an ontology of process (a vision of subjectivity that is propelled by affects and relations), and moves subjectivity beyond the reflective negativity and toward “reciprocity as creation, not as the recognition of Sameness” (194, ibid.). The keys to this nomadic ethics of freedom are self-determination through resistance and transgressive discipline, as well as the interminable critical analysis and questioning of all forms of repressive regimes. Finally, the need to think globally, but act locally – a shibboleth of our times still holds true for any viable microrevolutionary nomadism. As Braidotti remarks: “Localized and concrete ethical gestures and political activities matter more than grand overarching projects. … nomadic theory is a form of ethical pragmatism” (196, ibid.).

Continue reading

Zizek on Thatcher: Do we need a Leftwing Demigoddess?

Zizek in his usual flamboyant style tells us that Margaret Thatcher’s “triumph was that even her political enemies adopted her basic economic policies – the true triumph is not the victory over the enemy, it occurs when the enemy itself starts to use your language, so that your ideas form the foundation of the entire field”.1 He tells us that contrary to neoliberal mythology there was only one Thatcherite: Margaret Thatcher. What is left of her myth is just a cynical husk, a sort of vaudeville performance by the clowns of neoliberalism.

Even the corprocrats are lambasted. Enron shows us the underbelly of the new risk society – the oligarchs (top managers) manage risk by cashing in while the poor schmucks (Fanny Mae mortgage holders ) at the bottom of the barrel as usual must take the plunge off Niagra Falls or some other sink hole. And, now, we see the stupidity of capitalism, how it rewards the very people who brought about its decline: “…absurdity of this reaction is that it totally misreads the situation: most of the gigantic sums of bail-out money is going precisely to the Randian deregulated “titans” who failed in their “creative” schemes and thereby brought about the meltdown”.

Continue reading

Dark Comedy: The Irony of the Banal; or, The Metamorphoschizolibidinal Machine

I’ve noted since 1986 that a good 65% of the people in metropolitan bus terminals between the hours of midnight and 6: 00 A.M. tend to qualify as Lynchian figures— flamboyantly unattractive, enfeebled, grotesque, freighted with a woe out of all proportion to evident circumstances. Or we’ve all seen people assume sudden and grotesque facial expressions— e.g. like when receiving shocking news, or biting into something that turns out to be foul, or around small kids for no particular reason other than to be weird— but I’ve determined that a sudden grotesque facial expression won’t qualify as a really Lynchian facial expression unless the expression is held for several moments longer than the circumstances could even possibly warrant, is just held there, fixed and grotesque, until it starts to signify about seventeen different things at once.1

– David Foster Wallace, A Supposed Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

This remark by David Foster Wallace in an essay on the work of film tiger David Lynch typifies the dark comedy of our times. In a brutal world that condones the brutalization of children and adults alike one survives through humor, through the dark and bitter comedy that disturbs rather than puts us back to sleep. This is the biting humor that gets under us, that follows us in our nightmares and keeps us wondering who is the victim, who the perpetrator. If tragedy invites us to sympathizes and lament the fate of this brutal world we humans have invented for ourselves, then as Henri Bergson once recognized laughter disperses such illusions and becomes the ‘killer of emotions’, the divider, the slayer who stalks the night keeping the ghosts at bay. Violence lurks under the hood. Like an unbidden guest we find it everywhere. One only needs to open a magazine, a newspaper, turn on the TV, radio, or just take a drive along any freeway in our metalloid and artificial climes. One can opt for Lynch or Taratino: “Quentin Tarantino is interested in watching somebody’s ear getting cut off; David Lynch is interested in the ear” (166).

Love, lust, revulsion, and allure infect us like visitors from some surreal world of magical affects. At the borderlands of identity we discover life: oozy, slimy, viscous, teeming, messy, uncanny life. What does life want? Freud told us in simplistic terms that life wants to return to the inorganic slime pool from which it first arose: the reproduction of life tends ultimately by circuitous route toward that far country of death. For Freud it all came down to this: “What we are left with is the fact that the organism wishes to die only in its own fashion” (Beyond the Pleasure Principle). And what about the “man-omlette” (Ben Woodard) of Lacan? Bob Woodard tells us we shouldn’t over-idealize this Weissmanian germ, this festering  amoeba caught between the intensive pulses of entropy and negentropy, that instead we should go beyond even Zizek’s impervious reading in ‘Lacan as a reader of Alien’ – where the “face hugger functions as the lamella – sacrificing itself to impregnate a goo-trapped victim with a xenomorph” (56, Slime Dynamics). That this, too, is too much Idealism. That disgust is itself too aesthetic, a tribute to the mind – all too human; that beyond the human, or even the thought of the human, lies the organicity of existence itself without us. And, this is key: materialism, Woodard suggests, is too concerned with subjectivity and subjects, of humans as Subjects, and that is what separates materialism from realism (ibid. 57).

Continue reading

David Foster Wallace: Waking to Darkness and Lightning

I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition, that this goodly frame the earth seems to me a stale promontory, this most excellent canopy the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why it appeareth nothing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors.


Depression is no laughing matter, is it? It eats up life like a black hole that has no bounds. It sucks the life force out of even the happiest of beings. Someone once said that happiness is a state of mind. Milton said: “The mind is its own place, and in it self / Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” How do we survive in a wasteland of our own making? Samuel Beckett once told us that “nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that. Yes, yes, it’s the most  comical thing in the world (Endgame).”   Someone asked Ken Bruen, the Galwegian Crime Writer: “How do you define humor?” His response to this was: “It’s our way of getting even.” Maybe that’s the key. Maybe that’s the only way we can confront our despair of existence – the darkness within and without. Getting even. Laughing till the pain and bleakness disappear under the burden of darkness. As David Foster Wallace says it: “You are a trained observer and there is nothing to observe” (The Pale King). That’s DFW to a tee. A man all guzzied up ready to take on the whole world who realizes at the last moment that the world he’d take on resides in his own brain pan all curled up like the Cheshire cat winking back at him with the feint smile and gnomic wisdom of a Dostoevskian idiot. A gentle giant of a man whose compassion and passion gave us the Infinite Jest.

Continue reading