Imperial Cities: Neocameralism, Androcracy, and Militant Feminism

A capitalist trading empire is a developed form of exogamic patriarchy, and inherits its tensions.

– Nick Land

We have yet to fully appreciate the underlying mechanisms that have already incorporated our planet within a systematic network of economic relations divorced from the human equation. Politics is shadowboxing in the dark, while the economic world litters the debris of our best thinkers across its transnational matrix like stars lost in a forgotten cosmos. Nick Land is neither prophet nor charlatan, but a creature turned outside in who wandered into the bitter zones of the enlightenment and found it wanting. The labor of that old charlatan, Immanuel Kant, was to find in Land a figure of impossible dreams constructed on a tissue of lies and deceit. Land found in Kant the figure of the philosopher as devil, a light-bringer who cut us off from reality and ensnared us in a world of speculative fictions:

Kant described his ‘Copernican revolution’ in philosophy as a shift from the question ‘what must the mind be like in order to know?’ to the question ‘what must objects be like in order to be known?’ The answers to this latter question would provide a body of synthetic a priori knowledge, telling us about experience without being derived from experience. It would justify the emergence of knowledge that was both new and timelessly certain, grounding the enlightenment culture of a civilization confronting an ambiguous dependence upon novelty.1

Kant brought us to nihilism, to the dark truth that words – the binary play of light and dark, night and day, noise and silence, etc. no longer capture anything outside us, instead these same fictions have become heuristic models or forms that can be applied not to reality but to the given, to that aspect of appearance that is for-us and is channeled by that mental faculty termed the understanding. In doing this Kant cut both himself and all that followed him off from knowing or understanding anything beyond appearance. Whatever reality is was from Kant on barred from knowledge. Knowledge is of appearances rather than of reality, and appearances are only apprehended through the mind’s faculty of understanding as if that too explained anything. In Kant we see the kernel of all those later threads of hatred and madness that would mark modernity with its dire creed of war and efficiency, death camps and apartheid:

Sociological fundamentalism, state worship, totalitarian paranoia and fascism, they all exhibit the same basic impulse; hatred of art, (real) freedom, desire, everything that cannot be controlled, regulated, and administered. Fascism hates aliens, migrant workers, the homeless, rootless people of every kind and inclination, everything evocative of excitement and uncertainty, women, artists, lunatics, drifting sexual drives, liquids, impurity, and abandonment.(Kindle Locations 2318-2321)

Which brings us to the first point of this essay, that whatever falls outside the purview of appearance and understanding is excluded from the economy of knowledge. As Land remarks,

What falls outside this recognized form is everything that resists commodification, the primordial independence that antedates the constitution of the destituted proletarian. As I have suggested, this inchoate mass of more or less explicit resistance to capital is isolated outside the metropolis by a combination of automatic economic processes (the concentration of poverty) and restrictive kinship practices. (Kindle Locations 950-953).

One could pick one’s example from several Imperial Cities across the planet: Shanghai, Singapore, New York, Las Vegas, Miami, Dubai, Bangalore, Arg e-Jadid, etc. Shining city-states of the new global economy, ‘dreamworlds’ of consumption, property, and power where the nouveau riche and neoplutocracy of wealth lives in realms divorced from the political reach of nations. While these ‘evil paradises’ of the neoliberal world order arise from the depths of surrounding cesspools of slums and migrant/temporary slave workers. In this authoritarian and radical reactionary utopia of the neoliberal order we discover “a program of the methodical destruction of collectives,” from trade unions and mill towns to families and small nations. (Kindle Locations 144-145).2 The new apartheid is developed within the neoliberal world order by extreme colonial patterns of residential segregation and zoned consumption. As Davis remarks: “On a planet where more than 2 billion people subsist on two dollars or less a day, these dreamworlds enflame desires—for infinite consumption, total social exclusion and physical security, and architectural monumentality—that are clearly incompatible with the ecological and moral survival of humanity” (Kindle Locations 224-226).

As Land suggests “[s]ystematic racism is a sign that class positions within the general (trans-national) economy are being distributed on a racial basis, which implies an effective, if not a juridical, apartheid” (Kindle Locations 958-959). Further noting:

It is only with the implicit recognition of the need for a systematic evacuation of rebellion from the metropolis by means of a geographically distorted labour market that racism arises in its contemporary form, which is ultimately that of a restricted franchise (on a national basis) over the political management of the global means of production. It is no longer a question of ‘taxation without representation’ (except by means of interest payments), but rather of a metropolitan capital seeking to abstract itself from all political reference, becoming ‘offshore’, although not to the extent that it loses its geopolitical condition of existence (the US war-machine). The increasingly rigorous differentiation of marriage from trade, or politics from economics, finds its ultimate conceptual definition in the thought of a moral agency which is utterly impervious to learning, communication, or exchange. (Kindle Locations 963-970).

These new Imperial City States are becoming free-zones divorced from political and juridical reach, exposed as realms for the new Corporate Elite as playgrounds for utopic desire in which control is the securitization of paradise where even the new feudal lords can be tamed by their own need for pleasure in a hedonistic paradise. That Kant was the first great theoretician of colonialism and empire as they’d come to be known is for Land central. “Kant’s practical subject already prefigures a deaf führer, barking impossible orders that seem to come from another world” (Kindle Locations 982-983). He goes on to state that if “the first Critique corresponds to appropriative economy or commodification, and the second critique corresponds to imperial jurisdiction, the third critique corresponds to the exercise of war at those margins of the global system that continue to resist both the market and the administration” (Kindle Locations 984-987). Ultimately the third critique for Land offered the future imperial elite the “global victory of capitalized reason as pure and exuberant ambition” (Kindle Location 999).

Neocameralism

…the only conceivable end of Kantianism is the end of modernity, and to reach this we must foster new Amazons in our midst.

– Nick Land

No one knows at what point Nick Land turned away from original investment in leftist thought and instead imploded and reversed course and became a fierce androcratic technofuturist of the neoreaction. Only Land could answer that question. Yet, if one is a careful reader of his primal essays one gathers a deep critique of the enlightenment project and of Kantianism in particular that has guided both our economic, political, and socio-cultural heritage fro two centuries. Of late Land has been fond of Mencius Moldbug’s revitalization of Fredrick the Great’s cameralist project. Developed in the 18th century, cameralism was a German economic and social school of thought that held a primary function of state, in addition to maintaining law and order, was to promote collective prosperity through economic measures. To achieve the goal of collective prosperity, participation of the complete population in the service of the public good was necessary (“Germany,” 2007, p. 156). Under Frederick William I of Prussia (1713-40), cameralism was reflected in the implementation of aggressive policies to stimulate manufacturing and agricultural growth and reduce unnecessary state expenditures. The state had a supreme ruling body whose upper-level bureaucrats came from nobility closely aligned with the King. This centralized body directed all the state’s activities in industry, finance, internal affairs, and the military. Cameralism also reflected a societal work ethic of intense labor, frugal living and dutiful subservience to the state.

Mencius Moldbug’s updated version of this goes by the name ‘neocameralism’:

Let’s start with my ideal world – the world of thousands, preferably even tens of thousands, of neocameralist city-states and ministates, or neostates. The organizations which own and operate these neostates are for-profit sovereign corporations, or sovcorps. For the moment, let’s assume a one-to-one mapping between sovcorp and neostate. (from Neocameralism and the escalator of massarchy)

As suggested above many of the City States of the new Imperial Neoliberal Empire are already in place with many more being brought into the assemblage year by year. As Moldbug declares the new dramatis personae of this neocameral order would be based on the corporate model of the Sovcorp: agents, subscribers, and residents; as well as those excluded or disenfranchised minions outside the gate, suborgs and illorgs (i.e., NGO’s and illegal organizations, etc.). Those who form the elite plutocracy within the city-states are the residents: Residents fit into two classes: patron and dependent. Dependents are not legally responsible, and are under the authority of their patrons. There is no dependent without patron, although subcorps or suborgs may act as patrons. The neocameralist state is not a charitable organization, but it has no reason not to tolerate a genuinely apolitical charity. Run like Wall-Street the new City-States will have sponsors or extra-legal entities: the corporation is incorporated under the oversight of a sovereign protector, or sponsor. So in this sense each City-State is an extra-territorial entity or larger corporation that enfolds and protects its share of subcorps. I’ll not go into the complete details of this neocameral system which one can read in the above link to one’s heart’s content.

That this system of exclusion is based on a new form of fascism, one that is of racism and sexism under an androcratic regime is without doubt. As Land remarks:

Racism, as a regulated, automatic, and indefinitely suspended process of genocide (as opposed to the hysterical and unsustainable genocide of the Nazis) is the real condition of persistence for a global economic system that is dependent upon an aggregate price of labour approximating to the cost of its bare subsistence, and therefore upon an expanding pool of labour power which must be constantly ‘stimulated’ into this market by an annihilating poverty. (Kindle Locations 1001-1004).

For Land only a militant feminism can hope to offer any form of alternative to this global androcratic empire of exogamic racism and sexism of the patronymic elite. The dark powers of the androcracy have combatted this militant feminism by divesting “all the women who fall under it of any recourse to an ethno-geographical identity; only the twin powers of father and husband suppress the nomadism of the anonymous female fluxes that patriarchy oppressively manipulates, violates, and psychiatrizes. By allowing women some access to wealth and social prestige the liberalization of patriarchy has sought to defuse the explosive force of this anonymity, just as capital has tended to reduce the voluptuous excess of exogamic conjugation to the stability of nationally segmented trading circuits. (Kindle Locations 1012-1016).”

“The women of the earth are segmented only by their fathers and husbands. Their praxial fusion is indistinguishable from the struggle against the micro-powers that suppress them most immediately. That is why the proto-fascism of nationality laws and immigration controls tends to have a sexist character as well as a racist one. It is because women are the historical realization of the potentially euphoric synthetic or communicative function which patriarchy both exploits and inhibits that they are invested with a revolutionary destiny, and it is only through their struggle that politics will be able to escape from all fatherlands. (Kindle Locations 1024-1026).

He reminds us that it perhaps only Monique Wittig has adequately grasped the inescapably military task faced by any serious revolutionary feminism,10 and it is difficult not to be dispirited by the enormous reluctance women have shown historically to prosecute their struggle with sufficient ruthlessness and aggression (See especially M. Wittig, Les Guerillères (Paris: Minuit, 1969); tr. D. Le Vay (Chicago, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 2007). This future revolution with its leadership base in militant feminism he comments on, saying:

The state apparatus of an advanced industrial society can certainly not be defeated without a willingness to escalate the cycle of violence without limit. It is a terrible fact that atrocity is not the perversion, but the very motor of such struggles: the language of inexorable political will. A revolutionary war against a modern metropolitan state can only be fought in hell. It is this harsh truth that has deflected Western politics into an increasingly servile reformism, whilst transforming nationalist struggles into the sole arena of vigorous contention against particular configurations of capital. (Kindle Locations 1034-1038). [my italics]

Ultimately this will be an empowered and dynamic guerilla war, but it must go beyond such notions as replacing the existing leaders and institutions. It must destroy the power base of androcratic power itself and no longer allow men in power:

For as long as the dynamic of guerilla war just leads to new men at the top – with all that this entails in terms of the communication between individuated sovereignties – history will continue to look bleak. For it is only when the pervasive historical bond between masculinity and war is broken by effective feminist violence that it will become possible to envisage the uprooting of the patriarchal endogamies that orchestrate the contemporary world order. (Kindle Locations 1041-1044).

The important thing in the above it the breaking of the bond of war from androcracy through the power of militant feminism and the restablishment of matrilinear society— that is, one in which descent and inheritance is traced through the mother. Engels was one of the first to link the emergence of hierarchies and social stratification based on private property with male domination over women. Engels further linked the shift from matriliny to patriliny with the development of copper and bronze metallurgy.

Most Neolithic societies were matrilineal, and in Old Europe most were sedentary horticulturalists prone to live in large well-planned townships. The absence of fortifications and weapons attests the peaceful coexistence of this egalitarian civilization that was probably matrilinear and matrilocal. It was Augustine who described how the women of Athens lost the right to vote at the same time that there was a shift from matriliny to patriliny indicates that the imposition of androcracy marked the end of true democracy. One can find the egalitarian social systems over and over before the rise of men, war, and domination. Will we wake up from this long nightmare of domination and control at the hands of a few powerful elite, or shall we squander our hopes of a better future and allow ourselves to be enslaved by their promises of security and plenty? It we continue down the path we’re going the neocameral future in one form or another seems inevitable, but will we listen to the voices of women across our planet who are bound within socio-cultural systems in which they are no better than cattle to the men of their dark patriarchal systems of politics and religion?

Philosophy, in its longing to rationalize, formalize, define, delimit, to terminate enigma and uncertainty, to co-operate wholeheartedly with the police, is nihilistic in the ultimate sense that it strives for the immobile perfection of death. But creativity cannot be brought to an end that is compatible with power, for unless life is extinguished, control must inevitably break down. We possess art lest we perish of the truth.(Kindle Locations 2322-2326)

1. Land, Nick Kant, Capital, and the Prohibition of Incest: A Polemical Introduction to the Configuration of Philosophy and Modernity (2013-07-01). Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.
2. (2011-07-16). Evil Paradises: Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism. New Press, The. Kindle Edition.

Swarm Intermezzo: Meditations on the Ether

Edmund has a nice essay on Hardt and Negri concerning their concept of Ether: “the Ether is free from the command of sovereign entities. Unlike the Bomb (which is directly correlated to the geopolitical might of a given nation through its center stage in the military and mutually-assured-destruction strategies) and Money (forever flowing upwardly into the financial metropolises like New York City and London while dictating the relations in the global markets below), the Ether is utterly deterritorialized and diffused across the transnational plane, and continuously circulates through the civil societies of the world. It is only through Empire’s harnessing of the Ether than it becomes subverted into a methodology of control.”

Deterritorial Investigations Unit

swarming-2c

1.

     When we perceive the movement of the swarm, what is being witnessed is a certain diagram of action derived from the organizational properties of the distributed network. At this level, we take the shifts and fluctuations of masses found within nature – bees, birds, schools of fish, insects, bats, myxobacteria, so on and so forth – and transpose their logic into that of our informatic paradigm, a polymorphous, interdisciplinary and transitory state with its concrete genesis (though it has a great many filiations and genealogies preceding it) in the mathematical theory of communication as laid out by Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver in the 1940s.

     The distributed network is the extension of the Shannon-Weaver model to encompass innumerable points, relays and nodes across space, time and the scales these operate through. In the original theory, communication – rendered here as the message – proceeds from…

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After Reading Exits to the Posthuman Future by Arthur Kroker

It’s as if the future presents itself now as a gigantic simulacrum of the recycled remnants of all that which was left unfinished by the coming-to-be of the technological dynamo – unfinished religious wars, unfinished ethnic struggles, unfinished class warfare, unfinished sacrificial violence and spasms of brutal power, often motivated by a psychology of anger on the part of the most privileged members of the so-called global village. The apocalypse seems to be coming our way like a specter on the horizon, not a grand epiphany of events but by one lonely text message at a time.

– Arthur Kroker, Exits to the Posthuman Future

A few impressions after reading Kroker’s latest foray into our posthuman future. As usual he dips into flights of hyperbolic panegyric that seems to fly between excrement and derisive humor over what is coming at us. He runs the typical gamut of the technological sublime, introducing a full panoply of wonders and monstrosities along the way. Kroker is more of a mythologist of the technofuture and uses a vast array of metaphors repetitiously in overstating his case as to what he sees in the mirror of our fictionalized world. With Baudrillard he admits that reality disappeared long ago and was replaced by the pure simulacrum of a fake world that like Borges fabled tale of the tattered remains of the map that once blanketed the earth is no longer seen but here and there in the frayed corners of the deep deserts and jungles. Yet, unlike Borges tale it is not the fictional map but reality that has been fractured and burned up along the edges of our horizons. Altered beyond recognition we live in the ruins of the real caught in the fictions of power and control that have slowly over the past hundred years rewired our minds perceptual systems. “Ontological faith in private subjectivity has been successfully undermined by the objective appearance of technological media of communication based precisely on the exteriorization of the human nervous system, and with it the flipping inside out of the putatively opposed worlds of subject and object (5).1

The technological imperative that drives this great transformation is code and the seduction of the accelerating dynamics of late capitalism. As he describes it the technological posthuman is that historical moment when the power of technology turns back on itself, effectively undermining traditional concepts such as subjectivity, privacy, and bounded consciousness in order to render all things truly uncertain and unknowable (6-7). Yet, this accelerationism is not toward light and a utopian future but is rather a movement at the “speed of darkness”, a slow bifurcation that is demarcating new boundaries of the haves and have nots: information everywhere, connectivity pervasive, bodies augmented, perception illuminated, truth a purely phantasmagorical effect, perception coded by media feeds, attention fully wired – all this driven on by an economy specializing in the hyper-production of uselessness (178).

The elite have turned victimhood on its face and have edged their distain of the poor into a hypercynicism that reverses all claims of the disenfranchised to the point that those in real positions of economic power often assume the subject-position of victimhood effectively forcing the poor, sick, and weak off-grid in the new public morality of augmented power. Instead of sympathy for the plight of the disenfranchised there is a sense of exclusion as norm and of the technological security state as gatekeeper providing “severe disciplinary measures against those identified as surplus to the functioning of technological society: policing the poor, regulating the unemployed, prescribing austerity programs, and suppressing popular protest.(181) This new posthuman society will be based on new forms of apartheid and segregation. The digital axiomatic privileges arising from the emergence of new ruling elites, whether economic, political or cultural, that work to institute the overall aims of the regime of computation as well as to provide creative visions of the digital future will offer specialists, directors, and clients access to the gated cities of the future. All others will live in the slums of fallen waste, part of the reserve excess of surplus value to be called out of zombified existence as menial workers and untouchables of a classless class of non-beings.(183)

The new posthuman digital commodity-form will impose three political solutions on the global scale.  First, the often unilateral proclamation of the austerity state, one that is aimed directly at further eroding the social entitlements of workers, in effect, forcing workers through reductions in long-term social benefits to pay for the transition to the new digital future, with its requirements for a smaller , streamlined, technologically trained workforce. Second, the imposition of the disciplinary state, whereby governments respond to politics in the streets by triggering harsh, and often experimental, methods of policing. Third, the bunker state, whereby governments seek to control flows of migration precipitated by global poverty in general and, specifically, the impoverishment of both the working class and those unable to find work by strengthening national borders, erecting walls, and shutting down boundary exchanges between the rich and the poor.(183-184) The mixture of avarice and contempt on the part of ruling elites combined with a sense of triumphal indifference by the specialist (infoworker) class might be construed as the moral reflex of the ascendant digital commodity-form. In essence, the triumph of the digital commodity-form constitutes the really existent, invisible ideology that frames much of contemporary politics, whether nationally or internationally.(184)

In a final comment on this trajectory of the current neoliberal elite and the global order he says:

Today, the theater of abuse value is ubiquitous: the rage of violence directed against the old, the poor, the young, the sick, the powerless, the disavowed, the unlivable. Political lying is itself a form of abuse value with the object of abuse being the rupturing of that deep connection between truth-saying and the responsibilities of democratic citizenship. When citizenship itself is made an object of abuse value (by manipulation of vote counts, by public lies, by panic fear), the essential ethical core of democracy is undermined . We’re left finally with the terrorism of the image, a new form of nihilism suitable for the technological age in which ministrations of redemptive violence during the daylight hours are soothed away by the nighttime jokes of all the talk-show hosts. A moral equivalency of nothingness – organized state terrorism and diffuse media distraction as the basic political logic of a society of completed nihilism. This is not an image of Foucault’s world of power. Nor is it Deleuze and Guattari’s searing vision of lines of flight and points of intensity – becoming wolf-man, becoming maggot-man, becoming predator, becoming parasite. It is something new, still emergent, still articulating itself, still learning to speak, still growing in strength, still waiting to fully disclose itself – cynical ideology.(168-169)

The thing about Kroker is that as a follower of Nietzsche he is fully steeped in the “will to power” mythos and it comes out in his repetitive display of metaphors and hyperbolic and almost poetizing way of writing. Sometimes his style gets in the way of the message. More content and less panegyric could have served him better. His treatments of Foucault and McLuhan are worthwhile. He also had a full critique of Obama’s failures and agendas as part of the continuing neoliberal worldview with a progressive rather than a neocon face. He doesn’t see much hope for resistance against the coming tide unless the excluded act on their own and develop new forms of resistance more effective than any we’ve seen in recent years.

1. Kroker, Arthur (2014-03-12). Exits to the Posthuman Future. (2014, Wiley. Kindle Edition)

Arthur Kroker: Quote of the Day!

In a trilogy of books dealing with the posthuman condition in culture, art, philosophy, and society Arthur Kroker has outlined a base historical analysis of the complex transformations occurring in our algorithmic world of information processing and their impact of economy, subjectivity, and governance. In The Will to Technology, he explored the human impact of technology through the lens of Marx, Heidegger and Nietzsche. In Body Drift, he focused on the contemporary representatives of critical feminism: Judith Butler, Katherine Hayles and Donna Haraway. Now in his latest work Exits to the Posthuman Future he delves into drift culture and the work of McLuhan, Virilio, and Foucault.

Started reading Arther Kroker’s latest work Exits to the Posthuman Future in which the trajectory of what he terms the posthuman axiomatic shifts us between signs of departure and arrival, caught in the interregnum or in-between muddle of this fractured age of globalism and late capitalism. “Marked neither by nostalgia for what has been left behind nor by fear over the radical uncertainty of our shared technological destiny, these stories attempt to raise to a greater visibility the complexities involved with a future replete with technological devices, software innovations and genetic engineering that thrive on the undecidable, the liminal, the uncertain. Three key concepts guide this search for a method of understanding the technological posthuman: accelerate, drift, and crash.” (p. 11) He explains:

Signs of departure because we are caught up in the violent particle stream of the will to technology, here overturning chronological time in favor of light-time, there imploding the lived extensiveness of natural space into the virtual mapping of light-space, capriciously overcoming the fixed boundaries of gender, sexuality, and identity, and always evaporating the hitherto hardened silos of economy, culture, war, and aesthetics into code-matter that is liquid, porous, interchangeable. And signs of arrival as well because there is in the cultural air we breathe today the detectable, indeed unmistakable, scent of the fractured, the indeterminate, the paradoxical. While at one time technological futurism could be focused on speculative projections about the likely, and sometimes unanticipated, consequences of scientific innovations, today technological futurism begins by putting the future itself in doubt.(p. 11)

Should be an interesting read. Arthur Kroker and his wife, Marilouise, have always supplied some interesting interviews, essays, etc. on their CTheory. net site. Sometimes the writings are hit or miss but always interesting. He terms this new culture Drift Culture:

Drift culture is the essence of the data storm that envelopes us. To come into (digital) subjectivity today means to be swept along in gigantic galaxies of social, political, and economic data, broken apart by the technical rewiring of everything to suit the requirements of the logic of code, here invaded by technological devices as they take root in the languages of consciousness, desire, and interest, there learning to speak again in the language of social media, to see again with enhanced data perception, to understand that something fundamental has just happened when bodies, metals , and AI recombine into new species-forms. Whether expressed as a term of genetics (code drift), cosmology (history drift), distributive consciousness (archive drift), or remix media (video drift), drift culture is the ontological foundation of the posthuman axiomatic, that process whereby the purely conceptual regime of the fragmentary, the diffuse, the fractured, and the incommensurable abandon their signifying positions in the field of epistemology, abruptly becoming in turn that which torques everything in its pathway – codes, history, archives, and video – into driftworks in the posthuman axiomatic.1

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*Note: Taking some time off for a couple weeks, too. So you may see a few quotes here and there… 🙂

1. Kroker, Arthur (2014-03-12). Exits to the Posthuman Future (pp. 15-16). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Kurt Vonnegut: Another Quote of the Day!

In the public schools, I learned what America was supposed to be—you, you know, a beacon of liberty to the rest of the world. And obviously, that wasn’t the case. I wrote a letter to Iraq, an open letter signed Uncle Sam [laughs], and what it said was: “Dear Iraq. Do like us. At the beginning of democracy, a bit of genocide and ethnic cleansing is quite okay. After a hundred years, you have to let your slaves go. And, after a hundred and fifty years, you have to let your women vote and hold public office.” Some democracy. Anyway, when I was young, I noticed these contradictions and, of course, they were quite acceptable to a lot of people, but not to me.

– Kurt Vonnegut, The Last Interview: And Other Conversations

James C. Scott on Peasant Resistance: Quote of the Day!

In my further search for forms of resistance against the androcratic empire of globalism and its minions I ran across an informative as well as well-written entertaining work on Peasant Resistance by James C. Scott. Below he mentions Brecht and The Good Soldier Schweik by Jaroslav Hašek which offers a vision of resistance as withdrawal or exit, at once non-confrontational and exasperating to the authorities that try to control and dominate the behavior of these poor with little or no success:

For these reasons it seemed to me more important to understand what we might call everyday forms of peasant resistance— the prosaic but constant struggle between the peasantry and those who seek to extract labor, food, taxes, rents, and interest from them. Most forms of this struggle stop well short of outright collective defiance. Here I have in mind the ordinary weapons of relatively powerless groups: foot dragging, dissimulation, desertion, false compliance, pilfering, feigned ignorance, slander, arson, sabotage, and so on. These Brechtian— or Schweikian— forms of class struggle have certain features in common . They require little or no coordination or planning; they make use of implicit understandings and informal networks; they often represent a form of individual selfhelp; they typically avoid any direct, symbolic confrontation with authority. To understand these commonplace forms of resistance is to understand much of what the peasantry has historically done to defend its interests against both conservative and progressive orders. It is my guess that just such kinds of resistance are often the most significant and the most effective over the long run. Thus, Marc Bloch, the historian of feudalism, has noted that the great millenial movements were “flashes in the pan” compared to the “patient, silent struggles stubbornly carried on by rural communities” to avoid claims on their surplus and to assert their rights to the means of production —for example, arable, woodland, pastures.  Much the same view is surely appropriate to the study of slavery in the New World. The rare, heroic, and foredoomed gestures of a Nat Turner or a John Brown are simply not the places to look for the struggle between slaves and their owners. One must look rather at the constant, grinding conflict over work, food , autonomy, ritual— at everyday forms of resistance. In the Third World it is rare for peasants to risk an outright confrontation with the authorities over taxes , cropping patterns, development policies, or onerous new laws; instead they are likely to nibble away at such policies by noncompliance, foot dragging, deception. In place of a land invasion, they prefer piecemeal squatting; in place of open mutiny, they prefer desertion; in place of attacks on public or private grain stores, they prefer pilfering. When such stratagems are abandoned in favor of more quixotic action, it is usually a sign of great desperation.1

Excellent book! The powerless finally have their own power of resistance… we need to learn more, study carefully the actual strategies of the weak in the face of the machine, the will to resist lives on…

1. Scott, James C. (2013-12-15). Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (Kindle Locations 153-170). ACLS Humanities E-Book. Kindle Edition.

Climatologists at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS): Humans Are the Culprits

This week, the world’s largest general scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has issued an uncharacteristically blunt call to action on climate change. We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts….

Read article on Environment: We’re Alarmed! Here’s Why You Should Be Too!
Also more information at What we know!

A Time Out of Joint: Franco (Bifo) Berardi

The time is out of joint—O cursèd spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!

– Hamlet

What is Time that it could ever go cockeyed? For Franco (Bifo) Berardi time as stored capital in banks is out of joint, and if we follow the trail into this time machine we discover there is a deep and abiding relation between money, language, and time.1

“But is the money that is stored in the bank my past time—the time that I have spent in the past? Or does this money give me the possibility of buying a future?” – Berardi

At first I was reminded of Philip K. Dick’s novel of that name A Time Out of Joint that describes a society at civil war with itself, a permanent war between earth and its tributary offspring on the moon. In this society only one man can stave off the impending collapse of society, one Ragle Gumm. But he has grown tired of intervention, of keeping at bay the time of disaster, of catastrophe. He hopes to escape the dominion of the neoliberal order of his day and fly  off to the moon colonies and become a part of its anarchic social and exploratory world. So he withdraws into a private fantasy world of his own making, a chapter out of his early childhood where everything existed in a primordial climate of paradise: the world of the 1950’s. The only problem with this is that the earthers, the neoliberal dictators of that era have discovered the truth of his dark fantasy and are using it against him to allow them to control his mind through an almost precursor of The Truman Show effect. The Terran masters create his idyllic town and populate it with mentalists to guide him in giving up his secrets willingly. What does he know? He has an ability to foresee the nuclear future of specific trajectories from moon thereby giving earth command the ability to countermand the weapons and destroy them. Ultimately this ruse by the neoliberal Terrans fails and Gumm slowly recovers his sanity because of the simulated modulations of the governments semantic failures. He notices things here and there in the fantasy that do not make sense, which accumulate and ultimately shift his mind toward the truth and meaning of what is being done to him. Sanity comes back as the fantasy world created by the Terran Empire fails to meet the madness criteria of Gumm’s realigns to the map of the real. It is the failure of the semantic web to meet Gumm’s expectations of a perfect ideal fantasy world that finally awakens him back to reality.

One may wonder why I harp on about a science fiction novel that is now dated, and compare it to Berardi’s essay but one must see the conflict at the heart of the two positions. Dick was portraying the world of neoliberal capital and its victims, showing the use of advanced mind techniques and neuroscience to manipulate time and people’s lives. It’s the interaction of Time and Capital that in Berardi that helps us understand our own world under the thumb of neoliberalism in a age of austerity. As Berardi following Baudrillard’s lead reminds us, it is in our contemporary age that financial capitalism has become essentially the loss of the relationship between time and value. What Berardi discovers between the older industrial age and our newer neoliberal information age is a seismic shift from the physical and material to the immaterial or semiological knowledge realm of cognitive work over the older bodily processes of labor. Of course I think he oversimplifies, since as we know the seismic shift from Factory to Mindhack is not everywhere, but exist solely in the top tier nations. The rest of the third world is still bound to the laws of production and machine labor time: the slavery of the body laboring under the infinite gaze of the time lords.

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The Ontology of Ghosts

R. Scott Bakker waxing eloquently as usual on the semantic apocalypse. My answer came quick:

E.M. Cioran once said that “All my life is a baptism of shadows. Their kiss made me mature for darkness and sadness.” He also reminded us that “It seems to me that the whole future process of humanity will be nothing other than a regaining of delusions.”

With the Semantic Apocalypse imploding all around us we are neither ghosts nor zombies but remain as always shadow thoughts in the cave of light and darkness we call the multiverse. Liberated from what you have lived, unconcerned by what you will live you demolish the signposts on all your roads. As autochthons of this world we find ourselves bound to the clay pot of existence and rejoice not in some transcendence of this life but rather in digging deeper into its strangeness seeking not some elsewhere but rather the darkness of our moment in being. Silenced by the stars we imagine ourselves stars, and we find that the very dust we are fell from the death throes of flames billions of years ago. Measuring this deep history we demarcate a mathematics of geometric solitude that offers neither redress nor salvation but only the truth of our infinitesimal point on the chain of time. Knowing like all things that we too have had our day, the evolution of life will leave us again in the dust heap of being. Yet, what new forms we shall be replaced by is the excitement of machinic modulations in the very fabric of our brains. That we shall be replaced is assured, whether through the fabricated dreams of our own minds; or, better yet, through some happy fault, some accident of unmaking that unbinds the very threads of our long journey to nowhere and nothing. At the edge of this apocalypse of meaning and value we gaze on that which is neither us nor something else, but the horizon and limits of all we could be under the sign of emptiness and erasure.

Three Pound Brain

In the courtyard a shadowy giant elm

Spreads ancient boughs, her ancient arms where dreams,

False dreams, the old tale goes, beneath each leaf

Cling and are numberless.

–Virgil, The Aenied, Book VI

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I’m always amazed, looking back, at how fucking clear things had seemed at this or that juncture of my philosophical life—how lucid. The two early conversions, stumbling into nihilism as a teenager, then climbing into Heidegger in my early twenties, seem the most ‘religious’ in retrospect. I think this is why I never failed to piss people off even back then. You have this self-promoting skin you wear when you communicate, this tactical gloss that compels you to impress. This is what non-intellectuals hear when you speak, tactics and self-promotion. This is why it’s so easy to tar intellectualism in the communal eye: insecurity and insincerity are of its essence. All value judgements are transitive…

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Global Resistence and the Collapse of Civilization: Berardi, Deleuze, and others

“I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

– Thomas Jefferson, 1816

I will come to Deleuze in this essay, but first we need to clear a path toward his work. I find it interesting that even a government sponsored study by NASA (see Guardian) is discovering the inevitability of collapse coming our way. As they describe it the gap between rich and poor or – the “Elite and Commoners”, will be the ultimate driver that brings about the demise of global civilization. Of course that bring in as well all the usual suspects Population,  Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy. The key to the aforegoing is resource depletion on all fronts, along with the accumulation in the hands of the elite of those resources at the expense of the poor. Because of this they project a great extinction of the poor workers of the world overtime that will eventually lead to this apocalypse of civilization. As Nasa remarks: “… accumulated surplus is not evenly distributed throughout society, but rather has been controlled by an elite. The mass of the population, while producing the wealth, is only allocated a small portion of it by elites, usually at or just above subsistence levels.”1

Over and over we see in most of these types of full blown apocalyptic modeling scenarios and studies the accusation against the Elite, the Oligarchs of the Planet. The problem I’ve always seen with this metaphor of the “elites” is that it reduces and lumps a whole segment of society into a fictional scenario that does nothing to fix the situation. We can all point our fingers at the bad boys of the rich nations of the world and admonition them of their dastardly deeds in melodramatic fashion. But what does this do to change things? They remain in power. Why? I mean they are not the enemy per se: they are part of a larger issue which is the systemic and machinic acceleration of capitalism itself that is on a feeding frenzy of the planetary resources. In the 20th Century most of the rich nations controlled all technology and kept the industrial machine based in a monopoly of centralized command and control structure in the hands of banks, government, corporations bounded by a rational and efficient system of technique.

In our new postmodern century we have seen the neoliberal world view replace the older monopolies through a process documented so well by Barry C. Lynn in two books End of the Line: The Rise and Fall of the Global Corporation, and Cornored: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction. One need only remember what Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis’ once stated to get the drift, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we can’t have both.” Lynn tells us it has come to that, that in our time “our political economy is run by a compact elite that is able to fuse the power of our public government with the power of private corporate governments in ways that enable members of the elite (to freely decide) who wins, who loses, and who pays.” Consolidated corporate power and the political complicity behind it means monopolists run the country and the world, justifying it as free-market fundamentalism – a corrupted deception masking predatory dominance that destroys democratic freedoms.

One need not bring out all the other books on this vast subject of the elite to prove the point: Zombie Economics (John Quiggin), Predator Nation (Charles H. Ferguson), The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Naomi Klein), Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste (Philip Mirowski)… the list could go on. Lynn tells us that our system’s single biggest problem is having ceded “almost complete power over these institutions (to) a class of people whose interests (aren’t) served….by building things but by breaking” them. Capitalism lets some people “use the power in concentrated capital to harness free citizens” and crush democratic freedoms.

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Reza Negarestani: Back to the Future

Sufficiently elaborated, humanism—it shall be argued—is the initial condition of inhumanism as a force that travels back from the future to alter, if not to completely discontinue, the command of its origin.

– Reza Negarestani, The Labor of the Inhuman, Part II: The Inhuman

In my first post I elaborated the specific elements of Negarestani’s return to the Enlightenment humanist project (see post). He reiterates again in this essay the basic thematic of his program: the notion that inhumanism is what precedes humanity, that humanity is a model, a construct; yet, not a static model but an ongoing processual development of collective production that is in continuous revisioning process, and that this project is shaped by a normative commitment, a commitment within a “space of reasons” that enforces the stringent task of social constructivism:   a commitment to humanity must fully elaborate how the abilities of reason functionally convert sentience to sapience. As he remarks: “Humanism is by definition a project to amplify the space of reason through elaborating what the autonomy of reason entails and what demands it makes upon us.”

When he tells us that this project has a commitment to the autonomy of reason (via the project of humanism) and is a commitment to the autonomy of reason’s revisionary program over which human has no hold. One wants to rephrase that last italic to which human has no control. That this binding act that puts returns us to that rational world of the enlightenment almost seems like a parody at first take. As if Reza was traveling back to revise the whole history of the enlightenment project from within and show that it was correct all along. That yes, we have always been inhuman, but never human, and that now “we” the collective will begin constructing the new humanity according to an autonomous plan based of that greatest of autonomous agents, autonomous reason.

Yet, this erasure of the human by way of the inhuman is not a return of the Same, but something else: “Once you commit to human, you effectively start erasing its canonical portrait backward from the future. It is, as Foucault suggests, the unyielding wager on the fact that the self-portrait of man will be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea.” It’s as if he were saying: yes, we great ones are going to rewrite history, erase all the bad effects of the past two hundred years, and replace this image of the human with our own thereby inhabiting a time-machine that will conquer two hundred years of mistakes, of war, famine, genocide, ethnocide, etc.

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Reza Negarestani: On Inhumanism

Inhumanism, as will be argued in the next installment of this essay, is both the extended elaboration of the ramifications of making a commitment to humanity, and the practical elaboration of the content of human as provided by reason and the sapient’s capacity to functionally distinguish itself and engage in discursive social practices.

– Reza Negarestani, The Labor of the Inhuman, Part I: Human

On e-flux journal   Reza enjoins us to move beyond both humanism and anti-humanism, as well as all forms of a current sub-set of Marxist theoretic he terms “the fashionable stance of kitsch Marxism today”. Taking up both Sellarsian notions of the “space of reasons” as well as the inferential and normative challenges offered by Robert Brandom. Brandom developed a new linguistic model, or “pragmatics”, in which the “things we do” with language is prior to semantics, for the reason that claiming and knowing are actings, production of a form of spontaneity that Brandom assimilates to the normative “space of reasons” (Articulating Reasons 2000).1

Reza starts with the premise that inhumanism is a progressive shift situated within the “enlightened humanism” project. As a revisionary project it seeks to erase the former traces within this semiotic field of discursive practices and replace it with something else, not something distinctly oppositional but rather a revision of the universal node that this field of forces is. It will be a positive project, one based on notions of “contructivism”: “to define what it means to be human by treating human as a constructible hypothesis, a space of navigation and intervention.” I’m always a little wary of such notions as models, construction, constructible hypothesis, as if we could simulate the possible movement of the real within some information processing model of mathematical or hyperlinguistic, algorithmic programming. We need to understand just what Reza is attempting with such positive notions of constructions or models otherwise we may follow blindly down that path that led through structuralism, post-structuralism, and deconstruction: all those anti-realist projects situated in varying forms of social constructivsm and its modifications (i.e., certain Idealist modeling techniques based as they were on the Linguistic Turn).

Right off the bat he qualifies his stance against all those philosophies of finitude or even the current trend in speculative realism of the Great Outdoors (Meillassoux, Brassier, Iain Hamilton Grant, Graham Harmon). Against in sense of an essence of the human as pre-determined or theological jurisdictions. Against even the anti-humanist tendencies of both an inflationary and deflationary notion of the human that he perceives even in microhistorical claims that tend toward atomism, he offers a return to the universalist ambitions of the original enlightenment project voided of its hypostasis in glorified Reason. Against such anti-humanist moves he seeks a way forward, a way that involves a collaborative project that redefines the enlightenment tradition and its progeny and achieves the “common task for breaking out of the current planetary morass”.

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Thinking Through Atheism in a Religious Cosmos (response to professoranton)

Matthew David Segall has an excellent post on religion and atheism that I had to respond too. He starts by asking: “If religion arose naturally as a result of humanity’s gradually increasing capacity for self-consciousness, and by implication, for conscience, then what are we secular folks supposed to replace it with?”

Why do you assume the need of a replacement to begin with? Why do you assume we are supposedly ‘guilty’? Why do we even need the notion of an internalized ‘conscience’; an outmoded and misunderstood moral attribute? You seem to accept as fact this substantive notion of a category termed ‘conscience’ as the bearer of guilt? Why? Guilty of freedom? Guilty of being born? If you’re going with this tack then why not return to Shame Culture rather than Guilt Culture? Shame before all those others for whom I compete to survive? Jean Delumeau in his magisterial Sin and Fear – The Emergence of Western Guilt Culture 13th-18th Centuries once termed this sense of guilt as the “scruple sickness” instigated by the Catholic (obviously the main religion of the era in question) turn toward introspection and moral enforcement or hygiene. Once you impose a moral code, a set of rules on a community and those go against the natural state of affairs conflict arises which stems the flow of natural aggression. This blockage of natural aggression turned against itself is the beginnings of guilt culture. I’ll not go into the antecedents and also realize this is a simplification of an argument that would take a full detailed work to explicate, of which Jean Delemeau’s is a great example…

I do not know of any atheists who deny consciousness as a feature of the universe. Even the most blatant eliminativist does not deny consciousness, what they do deny is the permanent implantation of this notion of the first-person-singular, the ‘I’ as Self. Instead they say that it is a mechanism, a function of the brain’s processes just like all other functions, that it comes and goes as needed for specific actions. What eliminativists deny is this notion of capacities and dispositions as existing eternally in consciousness. There are no permanent power, dispotifs, emotions etc. as permanent entities, instead what is taken as the label for all intentional states of affairs is in itself momentary functional process of the brain’s continuous biochemical interactions with the environment.

This notion that “I do not have Freedom, Freedom has me,” seems a perfect example of statement “I do not have Self, Brain is.” The difference between the two statements is the difference between Idealism and Materialism. Freedom is Idea, Brain is Material. You assume the Idea of Freedom is real, that it has real capacity, that it stands for certain modes, capacities, powers, dispotifs that have causal efficacy. For me freedom has none of these, it is an illusion of the Brain doing what it does in a material universe. But that does not divide material into some old mold of an outdated materialism that sees matter as dead. That materialism never existed, that was always a critical appraisal of materialism by its detractors. Materialism is a monism, but does not reduce everything to the physical as some physicalists did during the positivist era. If one studies to the full extent the complete history of materialism one discovers that at the heart of this unique view of life is a sense of openness to existence that need not be final. Existence is not a set of algorithms, neither is it mathematical, nor is it even bound to the term ‘matter’. As in all human thought the moment you qualify the real by such terms you reduce what cannot be reduced to a human equation. We do have limits, we are blind to our own capacities. We take as sufficient what is actually our own ignorance of the true state of affairs. We scramble for definitions, philosophical theories, scientific facts to sway to argue to bind the real to our Ideas of reality. Reality escapes all our human notions. To use a religious metaphor in a secular way (Paul): “We see through a mirror darkly…”. That is all. What little light we shed on this real is always up for revision as we gain more insight and better tools or apparatuses by which to understand it. An open universe is infinite in this sense. Why? Because it does not follow our rules, it invents its own moment by moment (to use an occasionalist or Whiteheadian metaphor). But this need not entail even a reduction to some Big Other behind the scenes causing those relations between moments. To reduce the mystery to either a secular or religious notion is still to equate the real to human need. The universe does not need us, yet we do. That is all.

Footnotes2Plato

Like Professor Anton, I would also want to pose the existential problematic of self-consciousness to those atheists who reject religion outright. If religion arose naturally as a result of humanity’s gradually increasing capacity for self-consciousness, and by implication, for conscience, then what are we secular folks supposed to replace it with? We cannot simply expect all our guilt to disappear with the churches if the churches and their rituals arose in the first place as a response to the guilt-inducing effects of our undeniable feeling of being free (more or less if not absolutely so). To deny that consciousness is a real feature of the universe, as many atheistic scientific materialists are tempted to do, is just a cop out, another psychological ploy no better than the old religions that allows them to avoid having to directly face the terrifying reality of feeling ethically responsible to a community of other…

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Monsanto Owns Us: The Monopoly of Seeds and Intellectual Property Rights

For plants designed in a lab a little more than a decade ago, they’ve come a long way: Today, the vast majority of the nation’s two primary crops grow from seeds genetically altered according to Monsanto company patents.

– from CorpWatch by Peter Whoriskey (Washington Post) – US: Monsanto’s dominance draws antitrust inquiry

The notion that one corporation could control the seed patents of an entire nation or even most of the world would have been unthinkable a few years ago. But that is no longer the case. As Nicolas Hulot remarks: “…at a time when the North American company has taken on an even more totalizing ambition than before—imposing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on farmers and food consumers around the world—this indispensable book raises the question, while there is still time, of whether it is necessary to allow a company such as Monsanto to hold the future of humanity in its test tubes and to impose a new world agricultural order.”1

One could say that the story of such companies as Monsanto is at bottom the story of neoliberalism with a vengeance. At the center of this particular story is the notion of intellectual property rights: “Control over seed is the first link in the food chain because seed is the source of life. When a corporation controls seed, it controls life, especially the life of farmers (see: Seeds of Suicide by Dr. Vandana Shiva).” Monsanto has most of the patents on seeds in the world today. As Shiva states it for India: “Monsanto has become the “Life Lord” of our planet, collecting rents for life’s renewal from farmers, the original breeders.” On another sad note in In India, more than 250,000 farmers have committed suicide after Monsanto’s Bt cotton seeds did not perform as promised.  Farmers, left in desperate poverty, are opting to free their families of debt by drinking Monsanto pesticide, thereby ending their lives. Many farmers in other countries are also stripped of their livelihood as a result of false promises, seed patenting and meticulous legal action on the part of Monsanto and other big-ag interests. In many parts of Africa, farmers and their communities are left to choose between starving or eating GMOs. – See more at: http://www.march-against-monsanto.com/p/press-release.html#sthash.zTpdkW7B.dpuf

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Quote of the Day: Philip Mirowski on Agnotology

People do not generally imagine themselves trapped in a world that is upside-down relative to what they think they know; indeed, persistent faith in the reliability of our own epistemic capacities is one of the more touching frailties of the human race .

But the practice of agnotology that has long-term consequences operates at a much deeper level of intellectual activity. It ventures far beyond the discrediting of this or that individual; it seeks to destabilize the things we were predisposed to take for granted , and insinuate a sharply targeted narrative explanation as one of those default presumptions. This does not appear to the public as overt strident propaganda; rather, it presents itself as liberating, expanding the cloistered space of sanctioned explanation in an era of wrangling and indecision. There are two steps to this procedure: one is the effort to pump excess noise into the public discussion of appropriate frames within which to approach the controversy; the second is to provide the echoic preferred target narrative as coming from many different sanctioned sources at once; ubiquity helps pave the way for inevitability. To make this work, one must do both: amplify the impression of indecision and doubt on the part of the elect, while sharpening the preferred narrative as making a demand upon our attention. Doubt is their product, but eventual manufactured consensus is their profit.1

Note on Agnotology:

…orthodox economists tend to waver between two incompatible positions, depending upon which appears more convenient for the entity that provides their institutional identity; but the only way they can manage to accomplish this is by fostering greater ignorance among the public, their primary audience. Indeed, the think tanks and corporations that employ economists frequently explicitly seek to foster ignorance as part of their business plans: that is the postmodern phenomenon of agnotology. …

It is not the study of ignorance and doubt under all their manifestations, as sometimes mistakenly asserted, but rather the focused study of the intentional manufacture of doubt and uncertainty in the general populace for specific political motives . This literature is very different from an older “sociology of propaganda,” which was an artifact of Cold War theories of totalitarian societies. Agnotology instead studies a pronounced market-based set of procedures, as opposed to propaganda, which tends to emanate from a single source. It rather situates the practice of the manufacture of doubt as rooted in the professions of advertising and public relations, with close connections to the organization of think tanks and lobbying firms. Its essence is a series of techniques and technologies to both use and influence independently existing academic disciplines for the purposes of fostering impressions of implacable controversy where actual disputes are marginal, wreaking havoc with outsider perceptions of the configuration of orthodox doctrines, and creating a parallel set of spokespersons and outlets for ideas that are convenient for the behind-the-scenes funding interests, combined with the inflation of disputes in the name of “balance” in order to infuse the impression in outsiders that nothing has been settled within the core research community.1

1. Mirowski, Philip (2013-07-09). Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown (Kindle Locations 5848-5856). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.

The Neoliberal Vision: The Great Escape Artist

“As for living, our servants will do that for us.”

– Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Axël

In the posthuman context one wants to rephrase that to say: “As for dying, our proxies will do that for us.” In the age of neoliberal fragmentation the self is no longer confined to some unified sphere of consistency that can be tracked, identified, and commoditized according to external market pressure, but is as Deleuze once described it a ‘dividual’, a datatized agent of the simulated virtual economy.  The neoliberal self is dispersed in the free-floating bits of flotsam and jetsam of that vast assemblage of phantasmatic networks to be exploited by machinic algorithms in a posthuman economy of the endless transactions and brokered financialization. Self as Proxy, a self-constructed kit of affective relations built not by some internal mechanism but by the neoliberal market forces and their minions in the Grand Cathedral of the Neoliberal Thought Collective (so well documented by Philip Mirowski). In today’s neoliberal hypercaptalist state the self is immersed in the flows of data, unhinged from its physical status within the water bag we call the body, it is seen as a flexible and liquid commodity, neither manufactured or fabricated, but more of a neurogram: a programmable commodity of accelerating human capital moving toward greater and greater energy flows within the digital marketplace guided by neither rational choice nor the neoclassical sense of self identity but as performative player in a vast game script structured by a mathematical information economy modulated second by second in a global system run amok on the shores of a desperate elite that no longer believes in its own mystical religion of money.

Why worry about job loss in such a world? Think of it as an opportunity for a major overhaul, an upgrade, a self-modified algorithm one can install as part of an everyday  maintenance program. Designer drugs to modify not one’s brain but one’s desensitized body laid on ice awaiting the expected post-singularity when humans and machines merge in immortalist visions of economic heaven. We are told over and over that the self is illusion, that the brain’s plasticity allows for multiple roles to be cast in flexible functions and mechanisms, just another graft of the fractured rhythms of accelerating world.  Accountability? The legal definitions are evolving too, at least that’s the latest bit of wisdom from the neoliberal ignorance. Slowly but surely the neoliberal self is dissolving into the very fabric of the market where rules are just another set of algorithms pumping the fluid of wealth from the poor to the rich. As Philip Mirowski describes it satirically:

This is the true terminus of the neoliberal self: to supplant your own mother and father; to shrug off the surly bond ratings of earth; to transform yourself at the drop of a hat or the swallow of a pill; to be beholden to no other body but only to the incorporeal market. It doesn’t matter if the procedure actually lies within the bounds of contemporary scientific possibility, because it is the apocalypse and the Rapture of the neoliberal scriptures.1

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Daily Quote: Mirowski on Foucault

If I had to summarize where the otherwise prescient Foucault took a wrong turn, it was in too readily swallowing the basic neoliberal precept that the market was an information processor more powerful and encompassing than any human being or organization of humans. What Foucault missed were the critical notions of double truths…. The neoliberals preach that the market is the unforgiving arbiter of all political action; but they absolve themselves from its rule. They propound libertarian freedoms but practice the most regimented hierarchy in their political organization; they sermonize about spontaneous order, while plotting to take over the state; they catechize prostration of the self before the awesome power of the knowledge conveyed by the market, but issue themselves sweeping dispensations. Most significantly, they reserve to themselves the right of deployment of the Schmittian exception. Their version of governmentality elevates the market as a site of truth for everyone but themselves . If Foucault had taken this to heart, he would have had to revise his portrait of how regimes of truth validate power.

– Philip Mirowski,   Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown

Philip Mirowski: The Entrepreneurial Self

It is predominantly the story of an entrepreneurial self equipped with promiscuous notions of identity and selfhood, surrounded by simulacra of other such selves. It tags every possible disaster as the consequences of risk-bearing, the personal fallout from making “bad choices” in investments. It is a world where competition is the primary virtue, and solidarity a sign of weakness. Consequently, it revels in the public shaming of the failed and the hapless.

– Philip Mirowski,  Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown

Philip Mirowski offers us a double vision or double critique of both the Neoliberal world view and of the baffled Left: on the one hand he exposes the underbelly history of the Neoliberal world itself, and on the other hand he gives a subtle critique of the Left who have allowed the neoliberals both the ammunition and the weapons of mass ignorance to be used against themselves. Mirowski over several books has explored the Neoliberal world from different angles of the economic spectrum and incorporates a multivalent view or window onto the dark contours of this powerful antagonist as it has under the cover of secrecy slowly shaped and guided an authoritarian vision of domination that has spread globally. Why? As in all things there is no simple answer to this dilemma, yet there is one central element:  the neoliberal machine slowly coopted the tools of the Left, intervening in funds, foundations, think tanks, academia, public media,  NGO’s, United Nations, and on the surface determined the discourse of the Left toward false projects. The notion that the Left itself has been infiltrated by a tribe of traitorous academics – chameleons of ideology and politics, intellectuals paid to twist and mold false critiques of society and provide instead of truth disinformation has been pointed out by a small subset of journals, writers, intellectuals outside the mainstream for years. Yet, these voices go unheeded for the most part because of the larger and well funded neoliberal machine. Many of the radical Left bewail the fate of public media: radio, television, newspapers, internet, etc. Telling us that the pressure of the financial sector is closing off intellectual thought in our age, etc.

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Philip Mirowski: Neoliberalism and the Crisis of Democracy

How can people dismayed at the unexpected fortification of the Neoliberal Ascendancy feel less stupid? What would a useful intellectual history of the crisis and its aftermath look like?

– Philip Mirowski, Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste

Mirowski reminds us that after the 2007 crash pundits from the Left and Right offered no substantive answers, that each in his own way fulfilled the neoliberal dictum that the “economy was just too complex to understand”.1 In a talk Beyond Denial Philip Mirowski, Jeremy Walker and Antoinette Abboud argue that at the core of the neoliberal critique of socialism and its view of the economy is that “no human intelligence could ever understand itself, much less the chaos that constitutes its natural environment, to a degree sufficient to plan any part of the economy, because the reason we muster is always less complex than the phenomena we wish to master”.

Mirowski in several books (The Road from Mont Pelerin: The Making of the Neoliberal Thought Collective, Machine Dreams: Economics Becomes a Cyborg Science, SCIENCE-MART, and Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown) has slowly documented the Neoliberal economic and social policies that have created the global intelligence vision of capital we see around us. The notion that the market is to great for any one person to master, or to understand led those after the crisis to admit that they could not only not predict it but that they could not even understand it because it was too complex. The idea being that the markets have been so automated by mathematical algorithms and programs, engineered beyond human comprehension or apprehension that only other and better programs could decipher the complexity of such failures in the future. To admit such failure was an admission of pure ignorance on the part of neoliberal pundits.

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Neuropath: Further thoughts on R. Scott Bakker

“I’m the world’s first neuronaut, Goodbook. And you’re about to join me.”

– R. Scott Bakker, Neuropath

By now we all know that Scott has an obsession with the brain. One might say he’s a man with a mission. In this novel he allows the drift of his research into the theoretical worlds of neuroscience and philosophy to merge into a neurofiction. I read this work about a year ago but have since gotten better acquainted with the underlying sciences that underpin its unique message.

I want spend time rehearsing the plot of Scott’s book which is really a fictionalization of his pet project, The Blind Brain Theory. What he does in this novel is to embody the dark portent of his current theories as they might actually play out under certain conditions. The main protagonist and villain of the work are Thomas Bible and Neil Cassidy bosom buddies from college who have over the years played a dual role in each others lives: a sort of brain to brain network, a socialization of the brain’s search for its own tail – or, the old serpent biting its own tail mythos.

There comes a point in the novel when Thomas Bible finally falls prey to his old friend’s machinations. Caught in the meshes of a design without a purpose, a method without an outcome other than an exercise in deprogramming, of a gnostic vita negativa in which the mind finally discerns its uselessness at ever resolving the darkest quest of its short life: it lacks the very functions that would help it uncover the sources of its own blindness.

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We Are Our Brains

Everything we think, do, and refrain from doing is determined by the brain. The construction of this fantastic machine determines our potential, our limitations, and our characters; we are our brains. Brain research is no longer confined to looking for the cause of brain disorders; it also seeks to establish why we are as we are. It is a quest to find ourselves.

— D.F. Swaab, We Are Our Brains

One could almost say that the brain is a biochemical factory, with neurons and glia as both bureaucracy and workers. Yet, even such a literary reduction wouldn’t really get at the truth of the matter. Jacob Moleschott (1822– 1893) was one of the first to observe that what this factory with all its billions of neurons and trillions of glia produces is what we aptly term the ‘mind’. This process of production from life to death entails: electrical activity, the release of chemical messengers, changes in cell contacts, and alterations in the activity of nerve cells.1

Many of the new technologies as imaging, electromagnetic and biochemical are being used to both study and heal certain long standing malfunctions and neurological disorders in the brain, as well as invasive electro and magnetic therapies applied to patients suffering diseases like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and depression. (Yet, I interject, that these technologies present us a double-edged sword that while on the one hand they can be used to heal they can also be used by nefarious governments to manipulate and harm both external enemies and internal citizenry.)

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The Swarmachine: A Historical Puzzle (Part 1)

Edmund has another fine post up on Deterritorial Investigations Unit. This time on the Color Revolutions after the fall of the Soviet Union. Showing how differing views of these times and how certain official governments, think-tanks, academic and private institutions, foundations, banks, etc. all had their part to play. As he states it in talking about the anomalies that never fit the official story:
“Mowat, and those that follow him – Tarpley, Marshall, and Engdahl, present a picture much different from this. For them, the entirety of the revolution – and not just the profound subversion – is created from the ground-up in a bid to destabilize Russia by gaining supremacy over its petrol-based territorial concerns. They present an alternative genealogy of these youth-centric, media-optimized and information technology-enhanced movements, finding a precedent long before the cases of Poland and Czechoslovakia in the 1980s and linking them instead to advances made in social psychology at the British Tavistock Institute in the 1960s.”

A must read!

Deterritorial Investigations Unit

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The Colors of Revolution

As the Cold War came to an end, undoing the critical strategic worldwide gridlock fueled by the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union, globalization took off, accelerating the flows of capital, technology, and production across a transnational plane. The old structures of statehood underwent a profound reconfiguration as borders became far more flexible than before; ideas, customs, cultures and populations found themselves dynamically uprooted and spread out into the ether, transmitting their messages in electronic code as well as becoming liquid, moving far beyond their territories of origin. The Cold War’s end was the product of many things: systemic crises emanating from the breakdown of the Bretton Woods agreement had sent reverberations through the global economic system, fully destabilizing the old order while prompting the creation of new mechanisms for capital accumulation and a class composition that was no longer strictly national in…

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Philip Mirowski keynote for ‘Life and Debt’ conference (2012)

Excellent lecture by Mirowski who wrote a couple great works on the neoliberal agenda: The Road from Mont Pelerin: The Making of the Neoliberal Thought Collective; and, Machine Dreams: Economics becomes a Cyborg Science.

I’ve been reading the latter for a while now. In this lecture he takes on the Climate agenda of the Neoliberals. Along the way discusses Foucault, Neoclassical economics, Naomi Kliein, etc. toward a nuanced discussion on what is on the plate with CO2 emissions and the carbon reduction schemes. What he terms the Neoliberal prescription: a threefold scheme to boondoggle the public in short term, medium term, and long term schemes of propaganda leading to vast markets of geoengineering of the climate. All of these schemes purporting to solve not the actual problem of carbon emissions, but to actually set that initiative to naught. He also details his reason of what the Left needs to do to counter this neoliberal vision. And, also, accuses the Left of having little or no intellectual vision at this moment to counter much of anything, much less the crisis of climate warming coming at us.

Foucault News

Comments on Foucault at around the 14 minute mark

Published on Aug 18, 2013

Life and Debt: Living through the Financialisation of the Biosphere
Philip Mirowski keynote for ‘Life and Debt’ conference

How can it be that the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis and the deepest financial crisis since 1930s have done so little to undermine the supremacy of orthodox economics?

The lecture will preview material from Mirowski’s new book: Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown (Verso, 2013).

In this lecture, Professor Mirowski responds to the question of how it is that science came to be subordinate to economics and the very future of nature to be contingent upon the market. Charting the contradictions of the contemporary political landscape, he notes that science denialism, markets for pollution permits and proposals for geo-engineering can all be understood as political strategies designed to neutralize…

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Information processing, Communication, and Control: The Crisis of Control

James Beniger in  The Control Revolution: Technological and Economic Origins of the Information Society:

“To understand the basis of human society in information processing, communication, and control, moreover, is to appreciate the profound irony in popular sentiment against technology that has persisted over the past century. Of all the revolutionary innovations in technology since the Industrial Revolution, few have aroused more widespread suspicion , resentment, and even open hostility than have the various capabilities for information processing. Since the mid-nineteenth century, as we saw in the first chapter, increasing bureaucratization has been opposed as somehow dehumanizing, a sentiment that persisted into the 1950s in popular works like William H. Whyte’s Organization Man (1956). Since then, many of the same feelings have begun to shift to newer information-processing technologies: to the computer in the 1960s and 1970s and more recently to microprocessors, especially as manifest in devices like industrial robots, word processors, and video games, all of which were routinely accused in the early 1980s of dehumanizing influences. Just as the terms bureaucracy and bureaucrat long ago came to suggest narrow outlook, lack of humanity, and otherwise vague reprobation, similar connotations have been attached to computer technology and personnel, although less frequently as a laity begins to take responsibilities from the priesthood. The irony, of course, is that information processing might be more properly seen as the most natural of functions performed by human technologies, at least in that it is shared by every cell of every living thing on earth. In view of the fact that information processing distinguishes all living things and a few of their artifacts from the rest of the universe, moreover, the ability must by definition be as old as life itself— on this planet or any other. Information processing is also arguably the most human of life functions in that particular capabilities of our brains to process information best distinguish us from all other species. No human technology has more in common with all living things than do our various capabilities to process information, whether they be institutionalized in the formal structures and procedures of bureaucracy, input electronically to computer memory, or photolithographed into the silicon wafers of microprocessors. It is through the understanding of these capabilities, the essential life processes of organization, programming, and decision to effect control, that we can best hope to answer the many challenging questions raised by the Control Revolution.”

I tend to agree with him in the above. Once you think of different cultures throughout history as enacting the natural processes of information processing, communication, control, and decision-making of the brain itself you begin to see over time the externalization of those processes as human kind struggled to work within the larger surround of its environment: Neolithic society – organized around time computers built in stone (Stone Hinge, Southern France, Germany, etc.); Egypt – the organization of society around Pyramid and Temple construction; Greece – organization of society around the city State; Rome – organization of society around infrastructure (canals, aqueducts, baths, games, circuses); Feudalism – organization around the Catholic church – libraries; Amsterdam and Venice – organization around mercantile trade; all the modern Empires culminating in America: organization around never-ending technological innovation or information processing…

What he’s saying is that our brains are information processing systems and have been all along, we’ve just externalized many of the brain’s functions as society became more and more complex and individuals could no longer keep up with the processing needs of the socius.  The true problem of control in our time is that we are “out of control”: we are living through a major crisis of control rather than needing to see “control” as the enemy. If as Nicholas Luhmann has suggested that “Society is Communication” then the balance between information processing and control are in our time skewed, imbalanced, bound to a culture in which communication is the problem not the solution. In our time communication is used as a tool of enslavement to ideologies, war, genocide, resource depletion, etc. We have allowed the few to override the needs of the many and because of that we have lost our ability to control the entropic forces that forever seek to destroy us.

What Beniger is saying is that information processing, communication, and control are no longer in balance… each of these if aligned help us to overcome the entropy of the earth’s system; yet, because we are out of control the processes are destabilizing the earth system which will ultimately lead to a correction: that correction will be the end of the human species; that is, unless we can regain control and begin to rebalance ourselves. Literally, the elite, the financiers, etc. have allowed their greed to overreach the threshold of this delicate fragility. To rebalance the system is to forge new political and social tools of communication to bring control and information processing to bare on this problem. This is the form of Resistance that we see in such things as the Chiapas, the different types of revolutions some call “Springs” popping up around the planet, etc. – these indigenous peoples are the first signs of a new communication, challenging us to find our way back to the balance of life itself. If we do not then the human species has no future.