Patent Trolls: The Dark Side of Ideas

Creativity, the most precious resource, becomes a global corporate commodity to be appropriated and exploited on a worldwide scale through new organizational forms.

– Luis Suarez-Villa, Globalization and Technocapitalism

Have Ideas and Idea Makers become the ultimate economic commodity of our technocapitalist globalism? As corporations seek more and more control over the knowledge sector they often introduce contradictions and dysfunctions to the corporate control apparatus, and given the elusive, qualitative character of this most precious resource we are beginning to see effects of this in such things as the Patent Wars raging across the globe.  It’s become more like a three-ring circus with bit players across the globe jumping on the bandwagon. One would think it was a farce written by a bad comedian if it was’nt so apparently troubling. These patent wars are a global phenomenon, fought by multinational corporations based in the United States, China, Europe, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. The companies involved include Yahoo, Barnes & Noble, ZTE, AOL, Ericsson, Apple Inc., EMC, Foxconn, HTC, Facebook, InterDigital, IBM, Microsoft, LG Corp, Kodak, Halliburton, Nokia, Motorola, Nortel, Oracle, Samsung, Pantech, Gemalto, Openwave, VIA Technologies and Research In Motion.

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Bipolar Worlds: Dystopia or Apocalypse, or the Tension Between?

The question concerning cloning is the question of immortality. Blindly we dream of overcoming death through immortality, when all the time immortality is the most horrific of possible fates. Encoded in the earliest life of our cells, this fate is now reappearing on our horizons, so to speak, with the advent of cloning.

– Jean Baudrillard, The Vital Illusion

Imagining a world around the dystopian vision of my quartet of novels (in progess), pushing the limits of the neoliberal world view to its final conclusion I’ve tried to envision the bipolar tension between dystopia and apocalypse. Dystopian novels seem to be divided between future anticipation and present collapse, the one anticipating some future scenario of apocalyptic or dystopic catastrophe, while the other works with the actual knows of present destruction in the systems scattered around us in the world today. Between the bipolar visions of dystopia and apocalypse we glide like travelers in a Ship of Fools, moving between totalitarian visions of Empire and endless war, and the hyperrealism of cinematic asteroid impacts, climate collapse, super-volcanos, economic and social collapse etc. Between pure anarchy and totalitarianism we are thrown into the latest movie or YA Dystopian fiction like outriders of an interplanetary screamfest. What does it all mean? Or is it all meaningless chatter, a way to while away the hours while the real world goes on clobbering us with austerity and the hygiene, the neoliberal immunology for debt relations? Yet, amid all these disaster scenarios I wonder if we’re missing the point of it all? What if all these scenarios were just one more piece of disinformation in the cycle of disinformation to keep our minds off the real ball? What if we are so preoccupied by terrorist plots, global disasters, economic maladies, epidemics, war, and, and, and… that we forget what is important in our lives?  Do we even have an answer to that? Or is this, too, just another problem without a solution? Just one more grist for the mill scenario to trouble our already overburdened minds? Could that be it? Could it be our ability to think clearly and distinctly that is at issue? Are we no longer able to think? And what is thinking, anyway?

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The Global Cartoon: Empire in the 21st Century

Today, the new corporations and sectors associated with technocapitalism are influencing how we view human existence, life and nature, and are well on their way to impose new realities.

–  Luis Suarez-Villa

What I’m about to portray is the sort of open nightmare of a neoliberalist future, a dystopic vision of the control machine of this corporatist socio-cultural complex extended to maximum overdrive, an open-ended structure for an unfinished history of the future. As I think through many of the current issues of my dystopic novel trilogy I’m working through the layers of this world building scenario, stretching the canvas and extrapolating based on certain known givens in our present society and technologies.

As food scarcity becomes more and more apparent in the years to come, and as a result health, nutrition, and global food production take on ominous priority within the socio-political spectrum we will begin seeing technology and capital merging in ways that may become irreversible. The use of bioengineered seeds may introduce anomalies that in the short term resolves the food crises but introduces unknown variables into the genetic heritage of life on earth as we’ve known it. With the promise of bioengineering and synthetic life forms corporate entities are transforming inorganic matter into living organisms, all the while patenting them as private property for marketability in some future economic system. These corporate entities operations will very likely lead to the creation of myriad living organisms, from viruses that can generate disease to microbes that produce fuels, to human organs for replacement, to new animal species and possibly humanoids, all created as corporate property. A new industry and a vast new market may thus be created for synthetic life, affecting most any aspect of human existence and of nature.

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The New Cold War: Global Competition for Natural Resources

Competition for dwindling supplies of natural resources is at the heart of global economic and political conflict. It’s an open wound that will no soon heal. While the UN holds conferences on Sustainability the true power players are under the cloak of vying for the remaining resources of the world. Exploiting every region and its peoples, these nations and financial institutions could give a rats ass about human suffering. They hold their grand conferences while behind the scenes the keep on digging deeper, polluting more, toxifying what remaining water and food sources we have. Even in what they want for the future (here) you can see the actual non-commitment and non-cooperation in their continual use of such terms as “We acknowledge..”, “We recognize…”, “We encourage…”, “We view…”, “We note…”, “We reaffirm…”, “We underscore…”, etc. all leaving it up to someone else to actually do something, but for us we’ll just acknowledge, recognize, view, note, encourage, reaffirm, and underscore the need for such sustainability, but we reserve the right to not do it ourselves… Ah the modern diplomat, such a wonderful thing the United Nations, or should we term it the Disunited Nations and be done with it?

Spiegel Online says we’re already in the midst of a new Cold War over these resources. As Eric Follath remarks: “We live in an age of dramatic distribution battles over resources that are becoming increasingly scarce and yet required in ever-growing amounts. It’s also an age in which international politics are increasingly determined by questions of energy security. The cards are just now being reshuffled for potential winners and losers. Americans have discovered India as a new strategic partner, and energy-hungry China is making overtures to its old rival Russia.” (here) The Guardian reports that “the global battle for natural resources – from food and water to energy and precious metals – is only beginning, and will intensify to proportions that could mean enormous upheavals for every country, leading academics and business figures told a conference in Oxford on Thursday.” (here)

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The Age of Speed: Accelerationism, Politics, and the Future Present

We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed.

– F.T. Marinetti, The Futurist Manifesto

The revolutionary contingent attains its ideal form not in the place of production, but in the street, where for a moment it stops being a cog in the technical machine and itself becomes a motor (machine of attack), in other words a producer of speed.

– Paul Virilio, Speed and Politics

What is at stake in our world today? Should we align ourselves with what one Japanese poet sang: “I pray for the music of the citizens walking.” Is this it? Movement, speed, the future as the force of acceleration? Has accelerationism become the order of the day? Maybe we need something on the order of what Mark Fischer describes, quoting Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus: “Not to withdraw from the process, but to go further, to ‘accelerate the process,’ as Nietzsche put it: in this matter, the truth is that we haven’t seen anything yet.” Against all those like the Italian Autonomists who as Bifo Berardi (After Future) remarks that the ‘future is over’ we should think differently.1 But to give him his due, Berardi was not speaking of temporality, but of ‘psychological perception’, which ’emerged in the cultural situation of progressive modernity, the cultural expectations that were fabricated during the long period of modern civilization…”(AF 18). So it is against ‘progressive modernity’ that he speaks of future as progressive, as some unending temporal order of succession as a radical Enlightenment Project projected into an endless future of possibility and hope. He says this is over, caput, dead and buried amid the wastelands of modernity strewn around us on this dying earth we all inhabit.

Nick Land was one of the first to take up the battle cry of accelerationism.  For him it was all about thanatropics: “labour is far harder to control than the live stuff was, which is why the enlightenment project of interring gothic superstition was the royal road to the first truly vampiric civilization, in which death alone comes to rule” (TA, p. 79). Continuing his inquisition he remarks, echoing Nietzsche:

“This is the initial impulse into capital’s religious history; the sacrifice of all dogmatic theology to the ascetic ideal, which is finally consummated in the death of God. The theology of the One, rooted in concrete beliefs and codes that summarize and defend the vital interests of a community, and therefore affiliated to a tenacious anthropomorphism, is gradually corroded down to the impersonal zero of catastrophic religion” (TA, p. 79).

It is in this absolute zero of capital religion that we discover Land’s accelerationism, wherein capital “attains its own ‘angular momentum’, perpetuating a run-away whirlwind of dissolution, whose hub is the virtual zero of impersonal metropolitan accumulation. At the peak of its productive prowess the human animal is hurled into a new nakedness, as everything stable is progressively liquidated in the storm” (TA, p. 80). Benjamin Noys in his own variation of this interesting doctrine tells us that it is “an exotic variant of la politique du pire: if capitalism generates its own forces of dissolution then the necessity is to radicalise capitalism itself: the worse the better. We can call these positions accelerationist.”  (Accelerationism)

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Quentin Meillassoux, divine inexistence and split rationality

Christopher Watkin has an excellent post up as a continuation on the dialogue concerning Peter Gratton’s new essay on Quentin Meillassoux’s Ontology of Divine Inexistence. Christopher is the author of Difficult Atheism: Tracing the Death of God in Contemporary Continental Thought. After condensing his conceptual arguments for the logics atheism as imitative, residual, and integrated he critiques Meillassoux’s argument. He tells us he has five reasons why Meillassoux doesn’t succeed in his efforts, but he only details out one: ‘split rationality’. I’ll let the reader investigate just what that means by visiting his site and reading his excellent post…

Christopher Watkin

Meillassoux

FinitudeWith a new issue of Analecta Hermeneutica just out there has been some discussion this past week of Peter Gratton’s article on Meillassoux’s ontology of divine inexistence (here, here and here, with some reaction on Gratton’s own blog, Philosophy in a time of error). The discussion put me in mind of a paper I gave way back in 2010 at the UK Society for French Studies conference (a paper that eventually became part of Difficult Atheism), which I reprint here. I by no means offer this as a reaction to the recent discussion (the current mountain of marking precludes any such luxury), just as a small contribution to the more general debate.

For more on Meillassoux, and specifically whether this split rationality critique need necessarily undermine his claim to post-theological thinking, see my ‘Quentin Meillassoux’s Oedipal atheism‘.

Quentin Meillassoux’s ‘L’Inexistence divine’

 Introduction: varieties of atheism

The…

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Dubai – City-State of the Future: Globalism, Plutocracy and Social Exclusion

Nietzsche once warned us that if a State ever delivered on the promise of a good life for the greatest number that “it would destroy the earth from which a man of great intellect, or any powerful individual grows”(145).1 Our gurus and pundits of the Cathedral worlds of neoliberalism hype up these new City-States arising out of the sea of a broken democracy and communism as if we were already living in the future. JP Morgan Chase and the Brookings Institution have teamed up to launch the five-year, $10 million Global Cities Initiative:

Brookings and JPMorgan Chase will co-host a series of domestic and global forums in collaboration with local, metropolitan area leaders to drive discussions, build consensus, and catalyze action about best practices and strategies for regional economic growth. ‪ Using Brookings’ data-driven analysis and original research, metropolitan leaders will evaluate their regional standings on crucial economic measures and be exposed to best policy and practice innovations from around the world.

The City of the future will be based on a corporate model. “The goal is not perfection in  a single city, but more effective innovation and competition, so that the best  cities prosper and other cities emulate them. There are enough mobile people that one city’s success won’t harm others; on the contrary, it is more likely to  encourage existing cities to change, just as new market entrants force  incumbents to improve. Sometimes, in order for evolution to do its best work,  the individual components need some intelligent design.” (Urban Intelligent Design) Notice that migrant workers, and even the intellectual elite have become ‘mobile people’, and the now defunct comment on ‘evolution’ as a driver for economic change. And, even God gets his due: she allows the old conception of ‘intelligent design’ in through the back door.

As one pundit, Alan Berube, remarks: “The evolving idea of the  “global city,” coined two decades ago by the sociologist Saskia Sassen, further  demonstrates the city’s crucial position in global trade. Global trade is not pleasant;  it is fiercely competitive, and policymakers must address the short-term costs  that it routinely imposes on people and places.” (Return of the Trading City) Don’t you love these euphemisms: ‘short-term costs’, – military power, gun running, contraband and smuggling, slavery and human trafficking, money laundering and terror funding, etc. And, all this, handled with a smile by your friendly financial institution of choice in the free-zones of global trading paradises.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson: On Comedy and the Comic

The secular art of homily like its cousin served Emerson well, he was able to find that fine line between conversational prose and the scholarly rhythms of the street. He gave us behind the façade of a formalist essay the honesty of a man thinking. Much of his life and thought drifted between Society and Solitude, the give and take of a life lived in the midst of others, and the marginal worlds that fly beyond the edges of our solitary lives amid a vast ocean of stars. Some see Emerson as some old fuddy duddy, a serious if not overpowering rhetorician of the transcendentalist movement. Yet there is another Emerson, the comic or humorist of thought who instead of wandering away from society entered its contours and byways, alleys and thoroughfares, its civic centers and its radical trade centers where he study men and women in the midst of their everyday lives. He’d studied his Aristotle, too:

Aristotle’s definition of the ridiculous is, ” what is out of time and place, without danger.” If there be pain and danger, it becomes tragic; if not, comic. I confess, this definition, though by an admirable definer, does not satisfy me, does not say all we know.

The essence of all jokes, of all comedy, seems to be an honest or well-intended halfness; a non-performance of what is pretended to be performed, at the same time that one is giving loud pledges of performance. The balking of the intellect, the frustrated expectation, the break of continuity in the intellect, is comedy ; and it announces itself physically in the pleasant spasms we call laughter. With the trifling exception of the stratagems of a few beasts and birds, there is no seeming, no half-ness in nature, until the appearance of man. Unconscious creatures do the whole will of wisdom. An oak or a chestnut undertakes a function it can not execute; or if there be phenomena in botany which we call abortions, the abortion is also a function of nature, and assumes to the intellect the like completeness with the further function to which in different circumstances it had attained. The same rule holds true of the animals. Their activity is marked by unerring good-sense. But man, through his access to Reason, is capable of the perception of a whole and a part. Reason is the whole, and whatsoever is not that is a part. The whole of nature is agreeable to the whole of thought, or to the Reason; but separate any part of nature and attempt to look at it as a whole by itself, and the feeling of the ridiculous begins. The perpetual game of humor is to look with considerate good nature at every object in existence, aloof as a man might look at a mouse, comparing it with the eternal Whole; enjoying the figure which each self-satisfied particular creature cuts in the unrespecting All, and dismissing it with a derisive smile. Separate any object, as a particular bodily man, a horse, a turnip, a flour-barrel, an umbrella, from the connection of things, and contemplate it alone, standing there in absolute nature, it becomes at once comic; no useful, no respectable qualities can rescue it from the ludicrous.

– from The Comic

Was this the first critique of Speculative Realism, and of OOO in particular? Or is this a comic hilarity of objects overmined and undermined by a transcendentalist poseur? Emerson as speculator of relations, what comes next?

1. Thoreau, Henry David; Ralph Waldo Emerson (2008-01-01). The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson & Henry David Thoreau (The Complete Works of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson) (Kindle Locations 11071-11073). C&C Web Press. Kindle Edition.

J.G. Ballard: The Calculus of Desire and Hope

The narrators are in these texts caught in a triangular pattern of relationships in which they are drawn to authority figures who urge them to accept and embrace the twisted social logics they uncover.

– Andrzej Gasiorek, JG Ballard

‘Not really.’ Gould finished my coffee and pushed the empty cup back to me. ‘It isn’t only the psychopath who can grasp the idea of absolute nothing. Even a meaningless universe has meaning. Accept that and everything makes a new kind of sense.’

– J.G. Ballard, Millennium People

Have we entered the last stage of the game, a game-theoretic that has played itself out in ever more duplicitous cycles within cycles for the past hundred years or so? I’m speaking of the shifting sands of both economic and political ideologies as played out in the modeling hijinks of its greatest ideologues as each in turn has vied for the space of politics?  It was Henri Lefebvre who once, optimistically said to us that the declining State would be dissolved not so much into “society” in an abstract sense as into a reorganized social space. At this stage, the State would be able to maintain certain functions, including that of representation. The control of flows, the harmony between flows internal and external to a territory, will require that they be oriented against the global firms and, by implication, will also require a general management of a statist type during a certain transitional period. This can only lead toward the end goal and conclusion by means of the activity of the base: spatial (territorial) autogestion, direct democracy and democratic control, affirmation of the differences produced in and through that struggle.1 Do we believe in such myths anymore? Is this another throwaway idea that has had its day and gone under the crunch of globalism? Is Democracy like Communism before it running scared? Is capitalism like some dark infestation freed of a shadow substance leaving its cloaked narrative of freedom and democracy in the dustbin of history like all other lost causes?  What comes next? Will the totalitarian regimes of the future offer us everything we always wanted rather than depriving us of our livelihoods? The blueprints for our postliberal dictatorships are in the works even now: the totalitarian future will be subservient and ingratiating, catering to our every need, and only asking in return that we willingly give up our freedom for the security and comfort of a fully posthuman life. Cyborgs or transhumanists of a technocratic future we will live in the terminal zones of a paradise run by executives who are as affectless and apathetic as an alien from some machinic universe.

They like that. They like the alienation … There’s no past and no future. If they can, they opt for zones without meaning – airports, shopping malls, motorways, car parks. They’re in flight from the real.

– JG Ballard, from Millenium People

Yet, as Ben Woodard says in his new and excellent work, On an Ungrounded Earth: Toward a New Geophilosophy: Here we wish to subject the earth to pain – not as a somatized creature, but as a planet, the glob of baked matter that it is – in order to test its limitropic porosity and see how much ungrounding the earth can take before it ceases to be simultaneously and example of nature’s product and also its productivity.“2 Maybe we’re entering a new era, an era of planetary upheaval, of political and socio-cultural instability and transformation, that from one perspective might look like the grand collapse of civilization, but from another might tend more toward some form of breaktrhough in which the great wars for the earth take on a new and insidious meaning… Maybe what we’re seeing is the end of the Liberal worldview, with its system of enlightened governance that has ruled Western Civilization for at least two centuries. If this is so then what is coming our way?

A postliberal world of decay and decadence, fraught with both internal/external conflicts within science, culture, politics, and love? With the death knell of tyrannical communism and the slow death of liberal democracy is there something else on the horizon? We see the old guard  on both sides of the fence crying foul, saying that neither of these are finished, that there will always be one of these two views of life resurgent in our midst in one form or another. But is this true? Isn’t the devil out of the bag? Hasn’t capitalism in our time finally slayed the dragon of its own duplicitous  marriage to democracy? We’ve heard this before, haven’t we?

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Mencius Moldbug: A Short Lesson from a Sith Lord

America is the Jedi nation, and it’s natural that we fear the ancient peril of the Sith.

– Mencius Moldbug

Soon there developed in Western Europe two great political ideologies, centered around this new revolutionary phenomenon: the one was Liberalism, the party of hope, of radicalism, of liberty, of the Industrial Revolution, of progress, of humanity; the other was Conservatism, the party of reaction, the party that longed to restore the hierarchy, statism, theocracy, serfdom, and class exploitation of the old order.

– Murray N. Rothbard,   Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty

Mencius Moldbug would have us believe he is one of the Lords of Light, a Jedi Prince of the Right, a prophet of the new doom that hangs over America like some deadly Death Star. Yet, as we take a closer look we discover the error of our ways, if we look into the dark pupils we begin to notice another light, a darker light, the visible darkness of a Sith Lord. Yes, my friends, this is no naïve Jedi Master, this a veritable prince of darkness. One of the first lessons he teaches us on his now infamous blog is that “its goal is to cure your brain“. I kid you not. As he says in his first ‘general introduction’ there isn’t anything difficult about his message, in fact its as simple as realizing that Mencius Moldbug is the direct opposite of Noam Chomsky. “As a broad generalization, UR’s stance in any controversy will be the opposite of Chomsky’s.” Why Chomsky? Why not Badiou or Zizek, much more prominent and respected intellectuals in the philosophical world? Is it because Chomsky is American? Because he is a part of the American Elite Academia? Because he represent the old guard of the libertarian socialist traditions?

Well, as we know Noam Chomsky is a libertarian socialist which he describes against the backdrop of classical liberalism:

Ideologically, they are in agreement that the functions of the state are repressive and that state action must be limited. The libertarian socialist goes on to insist that state power must be eliminated in favor of democratic organization of industrial society, with direct popular control over all institutions by those who participate in-as well as those who are directly affected by-the workings of these institutions. So one might imagine a system of workers’ councils, consumers’ councils, commune assemblies, regional federations, and so on, with the kind of representation that’s direct and revocable, in the sense that representatives are directly answerable to and return directly to the well-defined and integrated social group for which they speak in some higher order organization-something obviously very different than our system of representation.1

What do we really have here?  As we study the above two things become obvious: 1) The State is the Enemy; and, 2) Power belongs to the Producers, the Workers, the People not the State. Other than that he seems to bandy about for some kind of organizational framework within which to allow for a free and open society of workers to govern themselves through democratic processes. What that may entail has been blueprinted by a score of previous thinkers in both the classical liberal and socialist anarchistic traditions. He seems to be non-committal about the specifics and details of such a system almost as if it were a grey zone, a sort of zero-point beyond which thought cannot go.

Now if this is libertarian socialism and Chomsky’s vision then what is it that Mencius Moldbug all hot about? Why does he feel it necessary to oppose Chomsky’s libertarian socialism. If one could define it in just two words, those words would be ‘property rights’. Along with the State the libertarian socialist would do away with private property. But never fear there is on the opposite end of the anarchistic tradition another theory: libertarian capitalism. As one of its latter day proponents Hans-Hermann Hoppe tells us that “private property is an inescapable institution in a world of scarcity”, and draws on the work of contemporary European philosophy – the Austrian School of Economics and their progeny – to make his claims more robust than any of his intellectual predecessors did.2 Hoppe stands with a long line of anarchist thinkers who see the state as playing a purely destructive role in society. But unlike the main line of thinkers in this tradition, Hoppe’s thinking is not encumbered by utopian illusions about society without the state. He follows Ludwig von Mises and Murray N. Rothbard in placing private property as a central element in social organization. Hoppe in a recent interview tells us:

…there are rich people, mostly from the class of political leaders in control of the state-apparatus and from the state-connected elites of banking and big business, who are rich, because they have been directly engaged in, or indirectly benefitted from, confiscation, theft, trickery and fraud. Such people should not be left alone, but instead be condemned and despised as gangsters. The same applies to poor people. There are poor people, who are honest people, and therefore should be left alone. They may not be heroes, but they deserve our respect.(ibid.)

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Andreas Burckhardt: A Sanctuary of Sounds

A Sanctuary of Sounds

Authored by Andreas Burckhardt
A Sanctuary of Sounds is an aural rewriting of William Faulkner’s novel Sanctuary (1931). A polyphonic object. A garden – assemblage of blooms, of affects, of sounds, of meaning. An invitation to rethink appropriation ethically, aesthetically, and epistemologically. The appropriation of a body of work, of a physical body, of an idea, of data. The history of knowledge and its production is enabled by the process of appropriation, by the differentiation of noise.
“What does it mean sample data, not of finished artworks, but of noise itself, the environment? Being victimized by the crushing quality of noise is all too human. Art must become an acoustic ecology. Noticing the landscape of objects, the relationships, the environment itself, in order to compose the music of tomorrow. Let the song of vibrant matter sing itself.”
A Sanctuary of Sounds is a noise-totality. Noise – nothing but noise. Noise as the first object of metaphysics. Noise as the synchronic/diachronic mediator of production-processes and their reorganization in society. Utopia and dystopia at once. A Sanctuary of Sounds is a dialectical poem, it is noise against noise – raping a rape.
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Andreas has been a regular reader of my blog both here and on my old Dark Chemistry site for a long while, commenting and leaving tidbits of interesting info here and there. I just discovered his new book today! I think many of us in the blogosphere might be interested in just what Andreas has been up too. Always thoughtful and generous in his appraisals here and on other sites, I believe you might just enjoy his new blend of artistic excellence and philosophical voyaging.
I’ll only leave you with a glimpse, a sentence – the first, from his baroque and sensual world:
She  seemed  to  follow  with  her  eyes the  waves  of music  to  dissolve  into  the  dying  brasses  across  the pool  and  the  opposite  semicircle  of  trees  where  at
somber  intervals  the  dead  and  tranquil  queens  in stained  marble  mused  and  on  into  the  sky  lying prone and vanquished in the embrace of the season of  rain  and  death.
You can find his work over here on Punctum Books: A Sanctuary of Sounds.

Panda Bear Democracy

If we don’t see this, if as a consequence of our cynical pragmatism, we have lost the capacity to recognise the promise of emancipation, we in the West will have entered a post-democratic era, ready for our own Ahmadinejads. Italians already know his name: Berlusconi. Others are waiting in line.

– Slavoj Zizek, Berlusconi in Tehran

Zizek asks: “Is there a link between Ahmadinejad and Berlusconi? Isn’t it preposterous even to compare Ahmadinejad with a democratically elected Western leader?” Sad as it is he comes to the pessimistic conclusion that the two leaders are part of the same “global process”. Even if Zizek intends a communist future, he is more pessimistic in that he envisions that we could take another path. He quotes Peter Sloterdijk who once remarked that “if there is one person to whom monuments will be built a hundred years from now it is Lee Kuan Yew, the Singaporean leader who thought up and put into practice a ‘capitalism with Asian values’.” Even China is modeling its future on the logic of Singaporean success. Like a viral meme that is infecting the socio-culture nets of our postmodern cities the “link between democracy and capitalism” has finally been severed. Like zombies in a second rate film we move fitfully and without purpose, consuming everything in out path knowing full well that we have given ourselves over the embedded mechanisms of control that have become so habitual and invisible that we no longer even know they were at one time the pure substance of propaganda. Governance has disappeared into our neuralnets like artifacts from the future controlling the very processes of productive thought.

Democracy is an empty shell he tells us. Capitalism no longer needs democracy to prop up its illusionary scaffolding. Democracy everywhere in the world has become an experimental laboratory where our future is being worked out. If our political choice is between “permissive-liberal technocratism and fundamentalist populism”, then the great choice of the future is a marriage of the two. Zizek reminds us that the “dignity of classical politics stems from its elevation above the play of particular interests in civil society: politics is ‘alienated’ from civil society, it presents itself as the ideal sphere of the citoyen in contrast to the conflict of selfish interests that characterise the bourgeois.” Now our neoliberal Leaders have effectively abolished this alienation: in today’s democracies, state power is directly exerted by the bourgeois, who openly exploits it as a means to protect their own economic interest, and who parades their personal lives as if they were taking part in a reality TV show. And, the funny thing is, that they truly are. One need only turn on the TV to any cable network and find it littered with Reality Shows more fantastic and fictional that reality itself.

Every night we watch the news our media moguls dish out to us an ever more preposterous series of repetitive time bombs that seem to repeat the same message: you need us, we will protect you, the world is a bad place, government can solve your problems, just continue buy more and more of our sponsors products, everything will turn out ok. In their fictional universe our Leaders are all clowns, but as Zizek remarks “we shouldn’t be fooled: behind the clownish mask there is a state power that functions with ruthless efficiency”. The ideological fictions we live in are more like bad cartoons. He explains it using a cartoon movie:

Kung Fu Panda, the 2008 cartoon hit, provides the basic co-ordinates for understanding the ideological situation I have been describing. The fat panda dreams of becoming a kung fu warrior. He is chosen by blind chance (beneath which lurks the hand of destiny, of course), to be the hero to save his city, and succeeds. But the film’s pseudo-Oriental spiritualism is constantly undermined by a cynical humour. The surprise is that this continuous making-fun-of-itself makes it no less spiritual: the film ultimately takes the butt of its endless jokes seriously. A well-known anecdote about Niels Bohr illustrates the same idea. Surprised at seeing a horseshoe above the door of Bohr’s country house, a visiting scientist said he didn’t believe that horseshoes kept evil spirits out of the house, to which Bohr answered: ‘Neither do I; I have it there because I was told that it works just as well if one doesn’t believe in it!’ This is how ideology functions today: nobody takes democracy or justice seriously, we are all aware that they are corrupt, but we practise them anyway because we assume they work even if we don’t believe in them. Berlusconi is our own Kung Fu Panda. As the Marx Brothers might have put it, ‘this man may look like a corrupt idiot and act like a corrupt idiot, but don’t let that deceive you – he is a corrupt idiot.’

Zizek warns us that the future coming at us is one where the ‘state of emergency’ is permanent. Agamben’s notion of homo sacer – the figure excluded from the civil order, who can be killed with impunity – is being realized everywhere and without impunity. Freedom is another word for slavery. In search of security we have allowed ourselves to be put into chains. There is no exit door from this insanity. Barbarism with a human face. The kindness will kill you, literally.

The Neoreactionary Impulse: Who is Mencius Moldbug?

What looks thuggish from one perspective, feels inarticulately pissed off from another. Class lenses can be cognitively confining. Couldn’t it be that simple? (I realize that baroque conspiracy theory is more fun.)

– Nick Land

Is it as simple as that? Is the neoreactionary impulse nothing more than a new Baroque, inscribing the past within the cultural dynamics of our present slipstream, producing thought-worlds to confront the enigma of our future? Are these marginal renegades trying to achieve some form of aesthetic legibility so that their designs on the past can gain if not traction and historical legitimation then at least conspiratorial approval from the Right and silence from the Left? Is this new Baroque, with its historical and geographical, not to mention aesthetic eccentricity, challenging the past even as it implodes the future? Is it demarcating lines of flight within an arsenal of perspectives seeking nothing more than an opening, an ‘outside in’ that could infiltrate the hegemonic power centers of the Cathedral, thereby disinterring and unleashing the accelerating forces within late capitalism that would destroy it. At the crossroads of this renegade tribalism there are signs and wonders, an aesthetic logic no longer of mourning and melancholy, but of terror and hypermimetic luxuriousness, an erotic convulsion and counter-allegory built neither on pathos nor bathos, but bearing witness to the demise of postmodernity and to the very condition of a world that could not be assimilated by the project of the original Enlightenment. Instead the neoreactionaries offer a new Dark Enlightenment.

In many of the comments from a recent lampoon ‘You’ve got to be kidding? Neoreactionary Soup and The Fall of Man‘ a name kept cropping up in regards to this new dark enlightenment: Mencius Moldbug. Like many I wandered over to Wikipedia the supposed free encyclopedia of our cyberage and did a search. Nothing. Zit. Came up blank. Wondering why such an important personage within a marginal movement was left out of such a prestigious institution of technological empowerment (lol) I decided to look up the neologism ‘neoreactionary’. Of course, nothing. So I did a cursory search on reactionary, and low and behold we get the ideologically neutral entry here:

A reactionary is a person who holds political viewpoints that favor a return to a previous state (the status quo ante) in a society. The word can also be an adjective describing such viewpoints or policies. Reactionaries are considered to be one end of a political spectrum whose opposite pole is radicalism, though reactionary ideologies may be themselves radical.

So to be fair I took a peak at the ‘radicalism’ link to see how the opposite pole of reactionary politics was defined:

The term Radical (from the Latin radix meaning root) was used during the late 18th century for proponents of the Radical Movement. Historically, it began in the United Kingdom with political support for a “radical reform” of the electoral system to widen the franchise. Some radicals sought republicanism, abolition of titles, redistribution of property and freedom of the press. Initially identifying itself as a far left party opposed to the right-wing parties; the Orléanists, the Legitimists and the Bonapartists in France in the nineteenth century, the Republican, Radical and Radical‐Socialist Party progressively became the most important party of the Third Republic (1871–1940). As historical Radicalism became absorbed in the development of political liberalism, in the later 19th century in both the United Kingdom and continental Europe the term Radical came to denote a progressive liberal ideology.

So it seems we get this superficial sense of history of bitter rivals vying for the supremacy of their reactionary/radical ideologies as part of the Enlightenment project.

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A Theory of What Constitutes the Heart of the Žižekian

Daniel Tutt of spirit is a bone introduces a new book on Žižek, Žižek and Education by Antonio Garcia. Nuanced and calibrated he lays out the parade of scholars succinctly and with his usual aplomb! Looking forward to the reading the new work.

Description

Zizek has spoken very little on the subject of education, so how could a book be devoted to such a subject? For many years, educational theorist and philosophers have incorporated Zizek’s work, but none have taken on the project of developing an identified “Zizekian line of thought” (Butler), how Zizek and Education might be a matter of “Public Pedagogy” (see The handbook on Public Pedagogy by Sandlin, Schultz, and Burdick), or what renderings of education in the vein of Boris Groys (and Badiou) anti-philosophers.

Daniel Tutt

Here is the introduction of my essay for a new book on Žižek and Education edited by Antonio Garcia, with contributions from many of my favorite Žižek scholars.

In this piece, entitled “The Threshold of the Žižekian” I argue that the heart of the Žižekian, can be located in the way that Žižek modifies the discourse of the Master by putting the disciple (reader) into a new relation towards what I call “emancipatory knowledge.”

The threshold of the Žižekian consists first of a demand put onto the reader (subject) bringing them into a new relation to the Real – a process that makes any identity or reality inherently paradoxical, and thus the orientation towards the Žižekian is disorienting by its very nature.

After outlining the threshold, I develop a theory of Žižekian pedagogy that can be arranged like a musical score, reaching its crescendo at the point of the act, where the subject (disciple)…

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You’ve got to be kidding? Neoreactionary Soup and The Fall of Man

As a young man growing up in Texas, in the Bible-belt in the heart of “God’s Country” I dabbled with fire, I entered the dark waters, touched the serpent of that crazed god of the underworld of the U.S.A. My family was not only conservative, they were of the tribe of Paleoconservatives that came out of depression era economics: in the United States, the Southern Agrarians, John T. Flynn, Albert Jay Nock, Garet Garrett, Robert R. McCormick, Felix Morley, and Richard M. Weaver among others, articulated positions as paleoconservatives. Some have even offered up William Jennings Bryan, T. S. Eliot, Allen Tate, John Crowe Ransom, Cleanth Brooks, and Walker Percy as major paleo influences.

What this was all supposed to lead up to was my own counter-reaction to the web’s new Bad Boys: the NeoReactionaries. As I began moving out from Nick Land’s site over on Outside In I followed the trail to the tributary flow-boys that seem to make up this post-futurist paleodrome, a throwback to that Burkean matrix of rock gut conservatism they are now calling the Dark Enlightenment. The Neoreactionary movement is comic fanfest for the middling professional, an open joke that purports to offer ideological charms for the mystified net runners. Surfs up, the neo-reactionary tribes are on the loose. Let the surf wars begin.

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Nick Land: Shuggoth’s Revenge

Capitalism is still accelerating, even though it has already realized novelties beyond any previous human imagining. After all, what is human imagination? It is a relatively paltry thing, merely a sub-product of the neural activity of a species of terrestrial primate.

– Nick Land, Critique of Transcendental Miserablism

Robin Mackay and Ray Brassier adeptly situate this swan song at the end of their book of Nick Land’s essays, Fanged Noumena. If one were to take this essay as a finis, a final statement of the departed philosopher-turned-social-critic then it would have to be his swan song for lost hope, for all those who once believed in alternative economies, alternative societies. Instead of lost causes in Slavoj Zizek’s sense we get the dark enlightenment of Landianism: a supercapitalism of thanatropic intensive predation without end. For it is here more than anywhere that Land enters the ranks of those neoreactionary forces he so well chronicles on his blog Outside In.

In his diatribe against the old guard he opens the pit and tries to bury Marxism: “The Marxist dream of dynamism without competition was merely a dream, an old monotheistic dream re-stated, the wolf lying down with the lamb.” And, for all those who dream of hope, of a post-capitalist world free of consumerism he reiterates his stance: ” ‘Post-capitalism’ has no real meaning except an end to the engine of change.” In Land’s new SimWorld he forcasts the future as fiction: reality turned inside out, or outside in. It’s as if he had taken Baudrillard one step further: instead of the simulacra or copies of the real taking over, we have the real swapping out sim-chips from the simulacra and reverse engineering the hyperworlds as reality itself. Fiction is Real: but reality with a vengeance, a self-constructed polyp that resembles not so much our world as it does a horror novel by H.P. Lovecraft. Land’s blog becomes the fictionalized game-theory of the new Zombielands of the future history. He explores the zones beyond our neoliberal worlds where escape is no longer an options because the great Outdoors has already imploded. We are the citizens of an alternate world, creatures of a ready-made vision of apocalypse that is more intensive than imagination could ever dream. Welcome to the real void… Landtopia!

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Ben Jeffery’s Anti-Matter: Michel Houellebeq and Depressive Realism

So far Ben Jeffery’s book on Houellebecq has been nothing but a dark ride into depressive realism, not in the clinical sense but in the literary critical sense. I’m enjoying it: if you can call enjoying a pessimist, misanthropist, misogynist, anomieist (he subverts every norm beyond recognition)… you name it the Houellebeq’s not you’re average cynical author out for laughs… actually he’s a rather nasty bastard whose only redeeming factor is his black humor. But then again he’s portraying our own culture, and the bottom feeders at that… like a marriage of noir and rotgut on steroids, except unlike noir where despair usually ends in the outer limits of sadomasochism… Houellebeq  turns it all inside out: instead of s/m we get the real bloodmaul, a sacrifice that bleeds the psyche dry… This guy’s like a walking tomb, an agent to the Black Mass, a slow freeze in a steel furnace. If someone thought that meth was a good idea, then this guy is meth without the speed. Hell is gaping and this guy is its emissary, except that metaphysical hells still offer solace – even if only for the lost. With Houellebecq you get no solace and no metaphysical rubbish: the only thing you get is pure and unadulterated emptiness, the void beyond the thin red line, a pit so dark you’d think you were dreaming except in this black prison there are no keepers, only weepers…

An instance of this is the rendition in Whatever where the protagonist, an anonymous freak, your typical psychopathic office jockey: full of himself, blind to others, a real narcissist type, suddenly wakes up from his comatose life after a fellow employee, Raphaël Tisserand, dies in a car wreck driving home from work on Christmas Eve. The nameless protagonist, a manipulative sociopath who has for the most part enjoyed his little torture games with Tisserand suddenly falls apart, has a break down and finds himself in a mental ward at a hospital. This isn’t one of those absurdist romps like Ken Keysey’s One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest, this is more of joe schmo gets what’s coming to him:

After checking himself into a psychiatric hospital, the hero is confronted by a female counsellor who chastises him for speaking in overly abstract, sociological terms. His effort at self-analysis emerges: ‘But I don’t understand, basically, how people manage to go on living. I get the impression everybody must be unhappy; we live in such a simple world you understand. There’s a system based on domination, money and fear [and there’s a] system based on seduction and sex. And that’s it. Is it really possible to live and believe that there’s nothing else?’ Afterwards, he asks the counsellor if she would sleep with him. She refuses. (14-15)1

Ben Jeffery makes a comment on this, saying: “It is not that Houellebecq is a reactionary writer exactly. For example, it is never suggested that religious faith is the solution to his character’s dilemmas; the books are all resolutely atheist.” (15) But I guess Jeffery has never heard of the likes of Mencius Moldbug, neoreactionary atheist: not the sort of guy you’d want as a neighbor, believe me. Nick Land uses him as a pin cushion for his own merciless entertainment on his new blog Outside In. It would be sad to find Houellebecq in the company of such a Neanderthal, but hey we’re not all destined for the progressive farm, are we?

Ben Jeffery tells us that the term ‘depressive realism’ comes from a psychological study performed by Alloy and Abramson in 1979 which suggested that depressives routinely demonstrate better judgment about how much control they have over events (as opposed to non-depressives, who habitually over-estimate their control). Alloy and Abramson concluded that ‘depressed people are “sadder but wiser”… Non-depressed people succumb to cognitive illusions that enable them to see both themselves and their environment with a rosy glow.’(3)  A rosy glow? Have you read Koheleth’s book of late, believe me it’s no picnic. But I don’t think people read Houellebeq for wisdom, folks; no, his works lead one into silence not out of it. What you get with his books is just the stark obliteration of what it is – whatever that is is. Maybe a bucket of ashes over the head would do the trick, a sort of endless prayer to the Void. If Nietzsche was the first to put nihilism on the map, then Houellebecq took it into the abyss and zipped up the black hole to infinity. There is no escaping this dark world: helpless and alone you wander the circles of your own lost dreams.

Jeffery tells us that helplessness is the current running beneath all of Houellebecq’s narratives, the inability to either get what you want or change what you want; to avoid death or believe that death is anything except bad.(36) If your seeking solace for you lost soul Houellebecq’s books should not be on your priority list for self-help, rather think of self-loathing and sinking your head into a shit can:

This is the omega point of depressive realism. What good are books if you are sick, alone, and unloved? They are no good. At best they are make-believe to help us disguise the facts of life – but the facts remain, and they are unbearably heavy. Hence the dark joke at the bottom of the pessimist’s project is that it subverts itself. Ridiculing the futility of human action finally makes pessimism seem pointless, demonstrates the emptiness of its honesty. Depressive realism leads us up to an airless summit, and the wonder is how seriously we can take it; whether, despite itself, there is anything to be drawn from its negativity.(36)

He may lead me to the summit, but once I get there if he expects me to jump he’s got another thing coming. But that’s just it: that’s just what his pessimism leads too: that moment of pure depressive realism when you realize “You will die!” This is the Great Defeat, not some simple mindless jaunt into madness, but the stark cold facts of one’s useless existence spelled out in harsh black and white, no color here folks, just the dark contours of the psyche depleted of its last gestures. “This is not one defeat amidst life’s pleasures; it is the overwhelming end, a negation at once absolute and utterly private.”(77)

And what of staging his own death. In The Map and the Territory we come upon a Alfred Hitchcock moment, when the author himself makes a ghostly appearance, or should we say an offstage vanishing act:

That did happen the following day. “Author Michel Houellebecq Savagely Murdered” was the headline in Le Parisien, which devoted half a column to the news, though quite uninformed. The other papers gave it almost the same amount of space, without giving more details, mainly just repeating the communiqué from the prosecutor in Montargis. None of them, it seemed, had sent a reporter to the spot.

 – The Map and the Territory (198)

A Detective on the investigation wonders who would be capable of murdering this author, and gets a reply:

Houellebecq had lots of enemies, they had repeated, people had shown themselves to be unjustly aggressive and cruel toward him; when asked for a more precise list of them, Teresa Cremisi, impatiently shrugging her shoulders, offered to send him a press file. But when asked if one of these enemies could have murdered him, they both replied in the negative. Expressing herself with exaggerated clarity, a little like the way you address a madman, Teresa Cremisi had explained to him that you were dealing with literary enemies, who expressed their hatred on Internet sites, in newspaper or magazine articles, and, in the worst case, books, but that none of them would have been capable of committing physical murder. Less for moral reasons, she went on with notable bitterness, than because they would simply not have had the guts. No, she concluded, it was not (and he had the impression that she had almost said “unfortunately not”) in the literary milieu that you had to look for the culprit.

– The Map and the Territory (199)

To stage one’s own death and have one’s revenge on one’s enemies to boot. Is this the last boon of taste or what? Yet, if there is any redeeming thing in Houellebeq’s works it all comes down to his own words as author on his own writing:

To this, only one reply: ultimately, you know nothing about it. … You will never really know this part of yourself which compels you to write. You will know it only through contradictory forms which merely approach it. Egotism or devotion? Cruelty or compassion? Any of these possibilities could be argued for. Proof that, ultimately, you know nothing about it; thus, do not behave as if you did. Before your own ignorance, before this mysterious part of yourself, remain honest and humble.

Maybe that’s all any of us can do: remain honest and humble before the mystery of our own lived lives. Whether that is enough is up to each and every one of us to decide. Maybe that’s what being a depressive realist is all about: looking at the horror surrounding one with unblinking eyes, a recording Angel that knows the truth has flown the coup, and all that’s left is the myriad lies (sorry, I meant stories) we tell ourselves in the night to help us survive this catastrophe we call life. As Ben Jeffery remarks:

That life is not an inevitable defeat is not a claim that can be defended in good faith. Not everyone is happy, or healthy, or loved – but everyone is caged in their own body, and in the deepest sense helpless over what happens to them, and everybody dies. In a certain state of mind that feels very like lucidity, the bad things appear so much more pertinent and insoluble and unutterably real that the idea of being sanguine or reasonable or ‘intelligent’ about them is almost hideous.(91)

 

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For my previous review of Michel Houellebeq, Islands of the Mind: click here!

1. Jeffery, Ben (2011-11-16). Anti-Matter: Michel Houellebecq and Depressive Realism (p. 14). NBN_Mobi_Kindle. Kindle Edition.

Peter Gratton: On Meillasoux’s Speculative Politics

Peter Gratton of Philosophy in a Time of Error fame has a paper up on Analecta:  Meillassoux’s Speculative Poltics: Time and Divinity to Come (.pdf). I’ve admired Peter’s posts for a while now, but haven’t read much of his published work. Not sure why that. Be that as it may, this is a superb reading of Meillassoux’s work. I’ll be purchasing Peter’s new books as well: The State of Sovereignty and one that should be out soon Speculative Realism: Problems and Prospects.

I noticed right off the bat that he hits quickly in pointing out a discrepancy in Meillassoux’s argument for ‘contingency’ in moving from the singular to the universal in a sleight-of-hand way that if one were not a careful reader one might step over without ever realizing that one had just been hoodwinked:

Meillassoux provides no warrant for moving from “the only veritable” absolute (note the singular) to “everything” (note the universal) from one page to the next, even if we take this absolute contingency to be part of what “everything” would be. In other words, as far as we can tell, he only proves what the correlationist has already known: that thinking did not need to be and that, yes, it is absolutely true. This only changes things if one depicts the correlationists as denying all reality as such, which probably was not the case.(4)

Another thing Peter points out is that Meillassoux purports to term his project a speculative materialism, but that it relies on the incorporeal and immaterial for its justification. What he means by this is that Meillassoux affirms creation ex nihilo: “there is no necessary being, yet there is a hyper-chaos that is “eternal” and beyond the dictates of physical time: “Time is not governed by the physical laws because it is the law themselves which are governed by a mad time.” What is interesting about this Time as creator is that it is not a part of process or becoming, but is in fact static time and the creator of becoming and process. Ultimately this contingent unfounded conception of creation out of nothing, ex hihilo, leads to Meillassoux’s notion of divine inexistence. This remarks Gratton, states that “if there is no necessary being, then there is nothing subtending the world. And his rejection of the principle of sufficient reason means that he has arrived at what he calls an “irreligious” conception of creation, not just of the world, but of events taking place within this world: “Advent [surgissement] ex nihilo thus presents itself as the concept par excellence of a world without God, and for that very reason it allows us to produce an irreligious notion of the origin of pure novelty.”(5)

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The Cathedral of Time: A Sci-Fi Novel in Progress – A Teaser

 A politics of escape, flight, exodus, leaving, refusal, secession…

– Mark Purcell, Unrepresentable Citizenship and the City

Some say the Outside is a myth, a fabrication of silly troubled minds – neuronets on the frag. Others say that the progenitors instilled such myths of freedom in our biomech cores to goad us toward greatness and change. The Cathedral of Time says such heresies need to be stamped out, forbidden and that even the mention or hint of such places, such alternate zones should be slit from our biochips and distributed to the lower echelons of Slay Town as so much fodder. I do not know about such things, I’m no philosopher, just a citizen who knows something great happened in our midst and is now no more.

No one knows when it began. The search for origins are useless in such matters. It wasn’t one of those things that happened over night. Things like that take time, or should we say they happen in neither our clock-work world, nor in those interstices between time present and time past; no, there is another site of time, a third order of time: a Time out of joint, set to one side of our time, helter-skelter, skewed. We always knew there were pathways into such strangeness, but most of us were so blinded by our everyday worries that we were unable or unwilling to slow down enough to register the speed of such spaces as they intersected with our own troubled world. But a time came when people began to disappear, withdraw, secede into the interior zones of that other realm; a realm just the other side of our own, just outside its control lanes, its dark enlightenment, its angular time quadrants. Even I didn’t notice it until it was too late, till all avenues of escape grew less and less, till the elements of control shut the doors for the last time and allowed no further access to the other realm. Yet, even those within the Cathedral of Time, those controlling all knowledge were unable to control the anomalies that surfaced from time to time.

It all started for me one bright day when my neighbor, John Fullerton and his family, disappeared along with their cy-home into one such zone. It didn’t just vanish it took flight or withdrew from our world into somewhere else; or, was it, somewhen? I’d have never noticed except that my son, Billy, who came home wistful and restless that day, asked, innocently: “Hey Dad, did you notice our new neighbors, yet?”

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Deleuze on Foucault and Multiplicities

And what is the conclusion to Archaeology if not an appeal to the general theory of production which must merge with revolutionary praxis, and where the acting ‘discourse’ is formed within an ‘outside’ that remains indifferent to my life and death? … None the less, the core of the notion is the constitution of a substantive in which ‘multiple’ ceases to be a predicate opposed to the One, or attributable to a subject identified as one. Multiplicity remains completely indifferent to the traditional problems, of the multiple and the one, and above all to the problem of a subject who would think through this multiplicity, give it conditions, account for its origins, and so on. There is neither one nor multiple, which would at all events entail having recourse to a consciousness that would be regulated by the one and developed by the other. There are only rare multiplicities composed of particular elements, only empty places for those who function as subjects, and cumulable, repeatable and self-preserving regularities. Multiplicity is neither axiomatic nor typlogogical, but topological. Foucault’s book represents the most decisive step yet taken in the theory-praxis of multiplicities. (14)

– Gilles Deleuze, Foucault

Radical Thought in Italy

Mark Purcell author of Recapturing Democracy and The Down-Deep Delight of Democracy has a joyful and optimistic approach to many of our current predicaments in politics and other conditions of life and philosophy. If you haven’t had the opportunity to check out his blog, Path to the Possible, you should. In a recent post Stop Being a Social Being he reminded me of a book I recently read as part of my self-made curriculum for the current year: Radical Thought in Italy: A Potential Politics, ed. by Paolo Virno and Michael Hardt. In his introductory remarks Hardt comments on these Italian radicals:

What is perhaps most attractive about these Italian theorists and the movements they grow out of is their joyful character. All too often, leftist cultures have identified a revolutionary life with a narrow path of asceticism, denial, and even resentment. …These authors are continually proposing the impossible as if it were the only reasonable option. But this really has nothing to do with simple optimism or pessimism; it is rather a theoretical choice, or a position on the vocation of political theory. In other words, here the tasks of political theory do indeed involve the analyses of the forms of domination and exploitation that plague us, but the first and primary tasks are to identify, affirm, and further the existing instances of social power that allude to a new alternative society, a coming community. The potential revolution is always already immanent in the contemporary social field. Just as these writings are refreshingly free of asceticism, then, so too are they free of defeatism and claims of victimization. It is our task to translate this revolutionary potential, to make the impossible real in our own contexts.

In some ways this is a part of that tradition of Spinoza and Nietzsche, an affirmative and joyous nihilism that is always ready, expectant, and hopeful. An affirmation that does not bemoan the past defeats, but, to use one of my Americanisms: “Keeps on Trucking”, keeps on moving along, keeps on pushing ahead, looking for the hidden paths out of our deadly malaise of late capitalism. As Hardt remarks again: “The defeats of the Left in the late twentieth century are not a result of “too much” Marxism or communism, she argues, but, on the contrary, of a failure to redeploy creatively the resources of these traditions.” And, this is the key: – as Zizek repeats with joyous affirmation: We must fail, but fail better! It’s about creativity, about entering into these traditions and deciding what is available to us today, what will help us survive today, what will help us get on with our current situations day by day both individually and collectively. No matter how we may disagree on the fine points, I think we can all agree that we need an affirmative and positive theorypraxis of action that can be both hopeful and joyous even amid the heartaches of our terror infested world. Without hope we are doomed to the circle of hate and resentment that is self-defeating and doomed to failure always. As Hardt reminds us we should not forget ” the analyses of the forms of domination and exploitation that plague us”, but we should also remember to “further the existing instances of social power that allude to a new alternative society, a coming community.” This a vision that once again opens up the future to us as a site for hope beyond the dearth and dark presentiments of our present era.

Post-Nihilistic Practice: Levi R. Bryant and Arran James

Both Arran James’s ideas on post-nihilistic practice and Levi R. Bryant’s Axioms of a Dark Ontology and …Some further Axioms have some interesting and suggestive ideas. What Levi presents is the Lucretian heritage that we see within modern reductionary naturalism with some modifications and extensions from critiques of this heritage as seen within Levi’s own philosophical project. His work starts with the basic dictum that “There is no meaning to existence or anything in the universe. Life is an accident and has no divine significance (though it’s obviously important to the living).”

Since this is from the first axiom and underpins every other axiom as a sort of figure/ground of the system, then it is here that the system either frees up or fails to meet the criteria of the system as a whole. The stipulation is that there is no meaning in existence nor is there any meaning in anything in the universe. Why not shorten this to the simpler: “There is no meaning.” Period. Why the need to constrain it to “existence” and the “universe”. To do so is to imply that existence or the universe in themselves are already implicated in certain human meanings that we must free ourselves from in order to accept this criteria. Meaning already implies “sense, import, and intent”. Which in itself already implies either a subjective or objective awareness or intelligence to provide such intentionality. So to say that that meaning doesn’t exist automatically refuses consciousness, awareness, or intentionality its qualification as an arbiter for judging the meaning or non-meaning of existence or the universe. Removing human judgment from the equation also eliminates any “sense” of meaning, aesthetic or otherwise, from the equation.

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An Odd Post

As a long time coder, a software engineer, and now architect of systems I’ve learned the art of detection as a part of the arsenal of tools I have needed to maintain things. Being a software detective is a somewhat dubious profession, but it seem analogous to much of what we do in our daily lives. What do we do when things break down? When your automobile goes on the blink, when your boss says: “Roger, you lost the account…”, when one of you kids comes to you with the vestiges of a favorite toy that lies in a thousand pieces looking up at you as the fixer, the woman/man of the hour, the one who has all the answers and will solve the mystery of this dark and fragile world.

Coming back to software I discovered long ago that most problems one faces are marked with traces, with subtle cookie crumb trails that lead back to the kernel of the issue. There’s a logic to failure. And debugging software algorithms becomes a process of elimination rather than of positive feedback. Yet, in the process of discovery we have to rely on specialized tools, apparatuses that can make it easier to trace down the illusive code lost in the maze of algorithms. Debugging tools that we can set up to observe the actual process of an algorithm as it works in collusion with and in relation to a multiplicity of others methods, functions, procedures, etc.

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Control Society: The History, Logic, and Methodologies of Control

There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the  conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he  must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though  the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can  come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground  which is given to him to till.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance

To the point that the idea of freedom, a new and recent idea, is already fading from minds and mores, and liberal globalization is coming about in precisely the opposite form – a police state globalization, a total control, a terror based on ‘law-and-order’ measures. Deregulation ends up in a maximum of constraints and restrictions, akin to a fundamentalist society.

– Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism

Everywhere you turn you see the pulpists screaming conspiracy, paranoia, catastrophe as if the earth were the stage of some horrific cinematic apocalypse. Emerson preached a good tune, the great American Myth of the Self Reliant individual who could revolt against history, against the wisdom of the ages and invent himself whole cloth out of the emptiness of his own being, must mix it up with others in the carnival of life open and free. This was Emerson’s version of The Good Life, a personalist version of the pursuit of happiness in 10 easy lessons. Yet, in the pursuit of self-reliance and happiness we seem to have produced its opposite in less than a two hundred years. We are more dependent and unhappy than ever before in history. In our pursuit of the Liberalist Democratic Utopia we have imposed worldwide intolerance, hate, and unhappiness at the forefront. How did this all come about? Where is the history of this dark world to be found? In our pursuit to understand this are we not in ourselves forging the very links to control that feed the beast? Or, are we actually trying to liberate ourselves from its terrible grasp? Caught in the meshes of this fly-trap that seems to permeate the planet is there an escape valve, a way of withdrawing from its dark trap?

A great many individuals fall into the trap of ‘Conspiracy Theory’ narratives, which as Christopher Hitches recently said “are not just false, but are not even wrong” (2004). That is, they do not reach the threshold of acceptability to even be tested, to be falsifiable. If the mind is that sphere that can distinguish between truth and falsity, then conspiracy theories are beyond that sphere. They are para (beyond or beside) the nous (mind). They are paranoid.1 Richard Hofstadter (1967) in his germinal essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” this term transformed a multiplicity of beliefs in conspiracy into a style of thought. Transposing a clinical psychology term onto the field of politics, Hofstadter not only pathologized conspiracy theories, he gave them formal coherence, historical persistence, and intelligibility as a genre of political knowledge.(ibid.) As one scholar puts it:

Conspiracy theory is thus a bridge term-it links subjugating conceptual strategies (paranoid style, political paranoia, conspiracism) to narratives that investigate conspiracies (conspiratology, conspiracy research, conspiracy account). Conspiracy theory is a condensation of all of the above, a metaconcept signifying the struggles over the meaning of the category. We need to recognize where we are on the bridge when we use the term. (CP Kindle Locations 129-131).

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Deleuze and Foucault: A Conversation…

Representation no longer exists; there’s only action – theoretical action and practical action which serve as relays and form networks.

Gilles Deleuze in conversation with Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault opened a conversation with Gilles Deleuze relating his dismay that a Maoist in his circle suggested that Deleuze was somewhat of an enigma in regards to his political affiliations. Deleuze in response remarked that “No theory can develop without eventually encountering a wall, and practice is necessary for piercing this wall.” He continued telling us that practice was itself “a set of relays from one theoretical point to another, and theory is a relay from one practice to another.”

A system of relays within a larger sphere, within a multiplicity of parts that are both theoretical and practical. A theorising intellectual, for us, is no longer a subject, a representing or representative consciousness. Those who act and struggle are no longer represented, either by a group or a union that appropriates the right to stand as their conscience. Who speaks and acts? It is always a multiplicity, even within the person who speaks and acts. All of us are “groupuscules.” Representation no longer exists; there’s only action-theoretical action and practical action which serve as relays and form networks.

In response Foucault reminds us that “theory does not express, translate, or serve to apply practice: it is practice. But it is local and regional, as you said, and not totalising.” And, in response to this Deleuze is affirming: ” Precisely. A theory is exactly like a box of tools. It has nothing to do with the signifier. It must be useful. It must function. And not for itself. If no one uses it, beginning with the theoretician himself (who then ceases to be a theoretician), then the theory is worthless…”. Deleuze adds: “A theory does not totalise; it is an instrument for multiplication and it also multiplies itself. It is in the nature of power to totalise and it is your position. and one I fully agree with, that theory is by nature opposed to power. As soon as a theory is enmeshed in a particular point, we realise that it will never possess the slightest practical importance unless it can erupt in a totally different area.” I like this pragmatic Deleuze!

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Beyond Representation: Plato, Deleuze and the Simulacra

Reason is the black widow in the cage of time. Spiderlike sufficient reason allows nothing to escape its dark power. Even the infinite cannot escape the grasp of this deadly creature, the venomous touch of reason kills everything within its purview, and like its dark precursor dissolves even the smallest elements into the acid bath of its formidable categories: identity, difference, doubling, and reflection. Representation is the disease of time, the cracked wand of a dead wizard whose power is dispersed among the broken vessels of light scattered to the four corners of the universe. Like ministers to a dead god our philosophers and scientists serve a Master illusionist, a sorcerer who has hoodwinked them all into believing in the power of the mind to capture reality in a box, when in truth the Real is the wilderness that can never be captured by thought.

The dialectic sought to push contradiction to its supreme limits, when in fact the filaments of this web thrown across this universe of doubt was itself made of the very essence of identity it sought to dispel, instead of truth we discovered in this net the capture of difference within the logic of identity that makes it the sufficient condition for difference to exist to begin with. In Hegel the game was rigged from the outset, the player and the played were bound to the curve of sufficient reason and clarity all along, and the touted power of this method was bound to a monocentric system of circular ratios that left no doubts to chance and necessity. Do not be fooled by those others who offer you the incompossibility of the world, either. Between compossibility and incompossibility there is no true connection or reversal, the former is not reducible to the identical, and the latter is not reducible to contradiction.1

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Deleuze: A Short History of the Human

What were the conditions of possibility of the human sciences, or what is humanity’s true date of birth?
– Gilles Deleuze, Humans: A Dubious Existence

To answer this question of the birth of the Human Deleuze gave a precise and eloquent answer, saying, the “Human can exist in the space of knowledge only once the “classical” world of representation itself has collapsed under the pressure of non-representable and non-representative forces” (91).1 We know that for Deleuze the order of representation consisted of the essential elements of a system of identity, difference, doubling, and reflection. Yet, it could be after the collapse of these categories that the Human could emerge as something obscure. Before the Human can exist, biology must first be born, and a political economy and philology…“(91). Quoting Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things he continues, saying, “Once the living organisms have left the space of representation to lodge themselves in the specific depth of life; and wealth, in the progressive development of the forms of production; and words, in the becoming of language;” then natural history gives way to biology, the theory of money to political economy, and general grammar to philology.(91)

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Life in the Shadow of Protocol

Edmund over on Deterritorial Investigations has a excellent post on the work of Alexander Galloway’s Protocol, which in its complementarity feeds into many of my own thoughts of late. I read Galloway’s work a few years back… worth a good read… and Edmund has done it justice!

Deterritorial Investigations Unit

server-farm-shot

I’ve been reading Alexander Galloway’s excellent Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization, which explores what he terms the “protocological” apparatuses of control, or the invisible mechanisms of power that hide behind the horizontally organized distributed networks that define the workings of the post-Fordist information economy. The ‘protocol’ in his term is the combination of the internet’s Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, or TCP/IP in shorthand, and the DNS. The TCP/IP model (also called the “DoD model because of its initial development by DARPA) is by virtue of its architecture borderline anarchic; TCP and IP “work together to establish connections and move data packets effectively through those connections… any computer on the network can talk to any other computer, resulting in a nonhierarchical, peer-to-peer relationship.”1 The DNS, by contrast, is fundamentally hierarchical: while it exists as a “decentralized database,” its “maps network addresses to network names,” or the binding of…

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Cities Under Siege by Stephan Graham: Dystopian Thoughts on Control Society

In some of his work, Guattari argued that digital technologies were constructing human-machine assemblages that would enable entirely new and different forms of subjectivity to emerge.

– Savat, David,  Uncoding the Digital:
Technology, Subjectivity and Action in the Control Society

In the coming machinic society our post-human assemblages will huddle in hive like worlds protected by a technosphere of total surveillance. In this world all travellers to any destination will be screened against no-fly lists and intercept target lists. Together with biometric visas, this will help keep trouble bound to the outer limits of the new no-man’s land of non-civilization. “The massive global proliferation of deeply technophiliac state surveillance projects like the e-Border programme signals the startling militarization of civil society – the extension of military ideas of tracking, identification and targeting into the quotidian spaces and circulations of everyday life.”1 This is the landscape of postmodern civilization, the new era of total security, governance, and control.

The data conclaves of the future will house the micro-analysis of threat whether in the homeland or on the frontiers of global edge culture. The technodreams of the global elite reinforced by the industrial war machines integrated into the circuits of our internal lives are producing a total surveillance society. Our military analysts Stephan Graham tells us look forward to a day “a whole suite of surveillance and tracking systems emerge on the back of high-tech modes of consumption, communication and transportation to permeate every aspect of life in Western cities.”(ibid)

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Welcome to the paradise of tears…

Let us take a limited example, and compare the war machine and the State apparatus in the context of the theory of games.

– Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, Nomadology: The War Machine

We seem to be caught in the vice between fascism and terror, like members of a forgotten tribe, forlorn and destitute we live in our wall-less cities like refuges from an asylum for abandoned hope. Our academy has become the streets of war torn cities, the twisted wastelands of shanty towns, the boneyards of former shipping lanes where the pirates of a new age filter through the debris of metal giants, leftovers from the future where our hopes and dreams blasted by the fluid war machines of a terrible peace were finally captured in this infernal Cage of Time.

The Dark Lords of this enterprise were not some mythical apparitions of our imaginal minds, but the mathematical algorithms of an insidious thought, a philosophy based on axioms of desire turned against us; the drives of life formulated by a twisted and fractured, fragile species seeking its own path to paradise. We discovered in the mythologies, epics, dramas, and games of our ancestors the true path to oblivion. The age old tools of peace and prosperity turned against us at last brought us to this place of misery and total destitution. We now live in the hell we sought to escape, no longer a mythic dimension of some poetic tribal memory, the linguistic musings of a Dante or Milton, we emerged from the cesspool of a glutinous poetry into this triumphal cave of idiocy and apathetic ineptitude. Children of Time we have conquered its last domains and found in the silences of its last circles the resting place of our kind, the eternity of a pure repetition, a prison house for our most secret desires.

Striated within the temples of a vast State we’ve learned the harsh lessons of tyranny at last. We’ve all succumbed to the Great Lie, to the interior paramour of a forbidden truth, the siren song of a great defeat: we allowed the knowledge of escape to entrap us in this eternal chamber of security and peace. Trapped in this hermetically sealed universe of hate and despair we’ve all attuned ourselves to the music of the dark precursor, to his terrible deeds and failures, to the memories scattered across the blades of time like so many leaves crumbling into the winter of our dying sun.

Having stripped ourselves of the last vestiges of our humanity we’ve entered the machinic realms like undulating serpents, modulated by the law of our kind, controlled by the mechanisms of an internal necessity. No longer free to choose our way, we’ve finally entrusted ourselves to the supreme entropy of endless bifurcation. Moving from splice to splice we divide ourselves into immaterial code, channeled by the indifferent gaze of the demiurgic void that is less than nothing. Nothingness itself has come home to roost, to deliver its final coup d’état.

Graced by the miracle of life we’ve invented a temple to death. The citizens of a new earth we’ve built our iron paradise in the ashes of a blasted humanity. Frightened by our own power we’ve entered these cages of steel like butterflies swarming in their death throes, hoping beyond hope to find the broken vessels of light, knowing that only our own darkness survives. The light was scattered into the black holes of a lost age long ago. Now we silently sit here in the pandemonium of our insipid thoughts unable to move forward or backward, caught in the frozen gaze of our fated Keepers. With no way out we have finally accepted the bitter truth: we alone caused this, we alone are responsible, we alone deserve this demonic paradise. There is no judgment day, there is only the judgment we’ve passed upon our own children, knowing that it is they who will inherit our terrible dreams…

Welcome to the paradise of tears…

Societies of Control: Deleuze and Foucault

It is true that capitalism has retained as a constant the extreme poverty of three quarters of humanity, to poor for debt, too numerous for confinement: control will not only have to deal with erosions of frontiers but with the explosions within shanty towns and ghettos.

– Gilles Deleuze, Postscript on the Societies of Control

Someday there will be a history written of the impact of Michel Foucault on the work of Gilles Deleuze. One can browse just a smattering of essays Deleuze wrote from the early seventies to the early nineties in which he develops threads and productive moments that he first read in the works of Foucault. As in his praise of Foucault’s commentary on Raymond Roussel, the relatively unknown artist: “…recently Michel Foucault has published a commentary of great poetic and philosophical power on the work of Roussel, and finds the keys to this work in an entirely different direction from what the Surrealists had indicated.” (72)1

Yet, it is not about this close reading of Foucault’s works by Deleuze that I want to write today, instead it is about the shift from certain elements of Foucault’s methodical uncovering of the societies of discipline and how those have in our time transmuted into societies of control. Deleuze in his Postscript on the Societies of Control reminds us that Foucault’s histories of these disciplinary societies from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries reached their pinnacle in the twentieth. Yet, somewhere during the mid part of the twentieth century new forces made themselves known that began as a process of reform in schools, industries, hospitals, armed forces, and prisons that lead to these societies of control. Deleuze, a long time reader of William Burroughs, took the term “control” as best befitting this new “monster, one Foucault recognizes as our immediate future.” Each of these new regimes discovered sites of confinement, environments for enclosure within which they could practice their experimental pressure of control.

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The Prison House of Capital: Walter Benjamin and Philip K. Dick?

In general, the fundamental terms  of these different Gnostic theologies are the same, and at their core is  an attempt to conceive and determine what is in and for itself. I have  mentioned these particular forms in order to indicate their connection  to the universal. Underlying this, however, is a deep need for concrete  reason.

– G.W.F. Hegel, Kabbalah and Gnosticism1

Walter Benjamin speaking of the strange power of objects, their fascination and splendor once remarked: “To perceive the aura of an object we look at means to invest it with the ability to look at us in return.” Benjamin discusses the aura in relation to Proust and to Leskov, but his most famous use of it is in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” where it is bluntly defined as loss–the precise loss ensuing from mechanical reproduction. The aura is thus an effect of distancing, of the refusal of authentic opening, and of the withdrawal of even the shadow of an object-world. It is in his essay “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire” that Benjamin raises his conceptual image of the aura to its greatest power, partly by deliberately confusing “aura” and “aureole,” a wholly unrelated word (except by punning). The aureole is the bright ring seen around a misty sun or moon, or else the halo of god, angel, or saint. The word is a form of the Latin for “gold,” aurum, and ought to be very different from Benjamin’s aura, which, as I once wrote, “is properly an invisible breath, or emanation; an air, as of nobility, characterizing person or thing; a breeze, but most of all a sensation or shock, the sort of illusion of a breeze that precedes the start of a nervous breakdown or disorder.”2

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