Karl Marx: The Abolishment of the Proletariat and Private Property


The proletariat, on the other hand, is obliged, as proletariat, to abolish itself, and along with it private property, its conditioned antithesis, which makes it the proletariat. – Karl Marx, On Proudhon

The above quote from Marx’s essay on Proudhon is the central dictum of his long career. In the same essay is a key that many forget as did Lenin, Stalin and others to their own destruction: “If the proletariat triumphs, it does not thereby become the absolute side of society, for it triumphs only by abolishing itself and its opposite. In this way both the proletariat and its conditioned opposite, private property, are done away with.” Those that believe otherwise misunderstand Marx.

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Global Governance: The Strategy of Governance, Social Welfare, and Exclusion?


Foucault once described governmentality in the sense of power not only in terms of hierarchical, top-down power of the state. He widens our understanding of power to also include the forms of social control in disciplinary institutions (schools, hospitals, psychiatric institutions, etc.), as well as the forms of knowledge. Power can manifest itself positively by producing knowledge and certain discourses that get internalised by individuals and guide the behaviour of populations. This leads to more efficient forms of social control, as knowledge enables individuals to govern themselves. In recent years this sense has extended into the global arena.

Global governance as a term has been bandied about by academics and policy makers in think tanks across the world for years. Global Governance or world governance is a movement towards political integration of transnational actors aimed at negotiating responses to problems that affect more than one state or region. It tends to involve institutionalization. These institutions of global governance – the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, the World Bank, etc. – tend to have limited or demarcated power to enforce compliance. The modern question of world governance exists in the context of globalization and globalizing regimes of power: politically, economically and culturally. In response to the acceleration of interdependence on a worldwide scale, both between human societies and between humankind and the biosphere, the term “global governance” may also be used to name the process of designating laws, rules, or regulations intended for a global scale.

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The New Prometheans: Technology and the Dreams of Reason


What shall we do with time? – Ray Brassier

Ray Brassier in the Accelerationist Reader which I’ve written about in another post will offer a critique of the theological underpinnings of Jean Pierre-Dupuy’s antagonistic stance against the new “convergence technologies” (NBIC). Dupuy in his defense would rely on Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition which was itself influenced by Martin Heidegger’s notions of Dasein and Kant’s insight into finitude. Without going back over all this in detail I only want to go back to the heart of Brassier’s argument which dealt with Dupuy’s insistence that a balance or equilibrium must be maintained between the made and the given otherwise the dreams of reason may spawn monstrosities and introduce a disequilibrium into existence.  Against such a notion Brassier will state:

What I want to suggest is that it is precisely this assumption of equilibrium that is theological; it is the claim that there is a ‘way of the world’; a ready-made world whose order is simply to be accepted as an ultimately unintelligible, brute given, that is objectionably theological. (p. 485)

Against this myth of the given – or the idea that the world was made by a Divine being and should not be messed with less we bring about some hubristic doom, Brassier tells us that “Prometheanism is the attempt to participate in the creation of the world without having to defer to a divine blueprint. It follows from the realization that the disequilibrium we introduce into the world through our desire to know is no more or less objectionable than the disequilibrium that is already there in the world. (p. 485). Against Heidegger’s fear that such a Prometheanism is grounded in voluntaristic assumptions Brassier will maintain that it need not be, that rather than being based on some notion of a vitalist will or activity it could be simply based – as in Kant, on a rule-governed activity (i.e., the notion of “rationality as the faculty of generating and being bound by rules” (p. 485). This form of rationality “consists in grasping the stratification of immanence, together with the involution of structures within the natural order through which rules can arise out of physical patterns” (p. 486). That this rationality ousts intentionalism from its bastion in philosophical speculation is not only a consequence of this new Prometheanism it is a enactment of the very principle of “technological ingenuity” that would allow such experimentalism to pervade the dynamism of this social project to begin with.

For Brassier we can either accept the old theological world of the given, accept finitude and the limits and constraints upon human and technological ingenuity and advancement; or, “more interestingly, we can try to reexamine the philosophical foundations of a Promethean project that is implicit in Marx – the project of re-engineering ourselves and our world on a more rational basis” (p. 487). Brassier sees this as part of a collective project, a research program that takes as its starting point an aspect of Badiou’s notions of event and subjectivity (although not exactly as Badiou describes these), through a reconnection to his “account of the necessity of the subjectivation to an analysis of the biological, economic, and historical processes that condition rational subjectivation” (p. 487). In that essay he would see the need to realize that reason should be tempered by imagination because it is both fueled by imagination, while at the same time being able to remake the limits imposed on imagination.

One aspect he did not go into in depth was the two paths of bifurcations upon which such a future might take. He mentions the capitalist view of those such as Ray Kurzweil and others who invest in a future that would reengineer society based on a transhumanist project in which AI, Cloning, More-than-human biotechnologically enhanced humans might transcend current humanity allowing for a new class division of those who would become superior in intellect and physical capacities, while others would be disposed into ‘zones of exclusion’ much like our slum-worlds that Mike Davis and others have already documented so well.

This notion of two futures: one based upon Marx’s posthumanist vision of remaking humans and society based on equalitarian views of social justice; and the other based on neoliberal visions of Nietzsche’s Übermensch are part of the Accelerationist Politics of Prometheanism I’ve slowly been working through over the past couple years since Williams and Srnicek’s manifesto was published. At the heart of it is this need to reevaluate as Brassier mentioned the “biological, economic, and historical processes” that inform both sides of this Prometheanism.

We can understand the capitalist Prometheanism as the command and control of nature through Science, Technology, and Society in the first Industrial Revolution based on steam and autonomization; the Fordist transformation based on Taylorism of efficiency and the assembly line; and, the computational transformation in economics and communications that brought about our Financial Network Society; as well as the new systems of capital that are moving into the NBIC Technologies of the 21st Century. All of these will need to be explored in depth and detail, as well as Marx’s initial critiques of the first Industrial Revolution. His basic insights will need further updates into these other forms of capital up to our time.

The Left during the twentieth-century broke away from Marx’s basic economic insights of the Industrial political economy and machinic civilization and turned toward Culture. This I believe was not a terrible mistake, yet it lost sight of the original vision set forth by Marxian analysis and thereby was unable to see the form of Prometheanism that Capitalism was taking in its various scientific and technological transformations aligned as it was with economic, military, and industrial complexes. With Lukacs and then the Frankfurt School Marxian analysis came to a dead end with the pragmatic fall of Stalinism and then the demise of Socialist State Tyrannies. We can no longer afford to dwell on past failures, but must realign our vision toward the future while investigating the historical aspects that made those failures possible to begin with.

The Left has of late been imploding and falling into an internecine war among its own members allowing both despair and self-defeat to set in. This must be stopped. Time to take Marx to heart and begin again from his initial insights, while at the same time not seeing them as some kind of frozen historical document that we must follow like the Torah to the letter of the Law. Marx spoke of change, dynamism, and the future reengineering of man and society. I think he meant just that. I also think if he were here today he’d be shaking his head at much of the defeatism we see in Leftist journals with their open despair and self-deprecatory attacks on each other. Sadly those who attack are usually less than adequately informed on just what Marx actually said. Instead of Solidarity the Left has atomized itself into identity therapies of race, gender, and sex wars that have little to do with overcoming the political and social ramifications we’re facing.

Addendum: Notes For later

When one looks at the base set of issues:

  1. Climate Change and Catastrophism in general (Sixth Extinction underway, etc.)
  2. Resource depletion (Water, Soil, Energy, Food, etc. the need for Sustainability);
  3. Inequality at the local and international level: the exclusion of what many term disposable people, etc.
  4. Economic Resource Wars – Middle-East, Africa, and other nations caused by resource wars Oil, Minerals, etc.
  5. Austerity in the first world
  6. Racism and Police brutality across the planet (Prison Planet, etc.)

One could go on and on with lists of areas that need to be organized by the Left. But instead we see nothing but infighting and academic one-upmanship in journals and press. We see the same critiques laid our against neoliberalism in book after book but the activism has died out as having no effect. Is it that we think these problems insurmountable? Or do we just lack imagination tempered by reason to actually formulate an initiative to actually change things? It’s time to do something more than spin our wheels.

I know in my own work-in-progress its the organization of the various problems we’re facing in this next century that concerns me most, while incorporating how the neoliberal capitalist vision is seeking to construct its own Utopian Future right before our eyes: one that will be based on inclusion/exclusion principles based on biological, economic and class distinctions. Many of the things we see at a local level in racism, gender, and sex related issues that are separated out into micro-narratives need to be brought back into a meta-narrative that allows us to see them in the larger frame. I disagree not with Focault’s basic premises, but see that he threw out the baby with the was in refusing the need for a larger meta-framework of imagination tempered by reason within which we can incorporate these various stratified issues as part of our critique of Neoliberal or Late Capitalism.

Financial capitalism is among other things based on a form of derivatives debt of failure and risk casino trading that bets on countries and other types of commodities failing rather than succeeding. Today, swaps are among the most heavily traded financial contracts in the world: the total amount of interest rates and currency swaps outstanding is more than $348 trillion in 2010, according to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). Even if you added up the current World GDP these Swaps would beat it by 50%. Instead of investing in people, in lives, in rebuilding the worlds actual foundations these are immaterial goods swapped in and out of light-speed transactions on markets that are both autonomous and inhuman.

Strangely I was turned onto something I’d not thought about before which is the notion of geoengineering, which is what the military used to term Weather modification, etc. By seeding clouds with aluminum oxides, barium, sulfur dioxide etc. they can modify moisture content, and change jet-stream patterns, etc. Video on this of worth by supposed whistle-blower Kristen Meghan.   One of the surprisingly large stocks is Weather derivatives where people bet on bad weather happening. Weather derivatives are financial instruments that can be used by organizations or individuals as part of a risk management strategy to minimize risk associated with adverse or unexpected weather conditions. If one could control the weather on analyst stated in the documentaries on the geoengineering site that hundreds of billions could be made. Just as traditional contingent claims, a weather derivative has an underlying measure, such as: rainfall, wind, snow or temperature.  Nearly $1 trillion of the U.S. economy is directly exposed to weather-related risk.  More precisely, almost 30% of the U.S. economy and 70% of U.S. companies are affected by weather.  The purpose of this monograph is to conduct an in-depth analysis of financial products that are traded in the weather market. Presenting a pricing and modeling approach for weather derivatives written on various underlying weather variables will help students, researchers, and industry professionals accurately price weather derivatives, and will provide strategies for effectively hedging against weather-related risk.  This book will link the mathematical aspects of the modeling procedure of weather variables to the financial markets and the pricing of weather derivatives.  Very little has been published in the area of weather risk, and this volume will appeal to graduate-level students and researchers studying financial mathematics, risk management, or energy finance, in addition to investors and professionals within the financial services industry. ​

Another aspect of Weather control with the use of aluminum oxides and barium and other substances is that they introduce into the atmosphere, soil, and human populations the risk of acidic neutralization of soil (i.e., makes the soil infertile), medical issues, and related issues of Alzheimers, Autism, etc. that are caused by aluminum oxides introduced into the human system. One can see where this leads. But it gets worse, there is also the notion of this use in India and Africa along with large cartels of chemical companies such as Monsanto that have due to such soil neutralization by chemicals introduced their terminator seeds that must be bought from these companies that have been genetically altered to withstand (what else?) the problem of aluminum oxides in the soil. Strangely in India and other countries the suicide death toll of farmers that cannot afford such seeds each year has also contributed to large international agribusiness in buying out such properties over the past 15 years. We’re talking trillions of dollars in revenue. This is just the tip of the ice-berg of what is left out of most national and international news reporting. Most of this is written off in main-stream media as “conspiracy theory”. Almost anything that relates to large corporatism on a national or international level that does not fit into the accepted vision of the neoliberal elite is cast into an exclusionary zone of conspiracy. But more an more many of the things once thought of as fringe notions at best are becoming a part of our everyday reality whether we like it or not.

As one medical whistleblower admitted the basic three agendas on the plate of global governance and control is depopulation through toxic agents released in the atmosphere that will slowly accumulate while neutralizing soil acidity, enforcing a food monopoly based on terminator seeds by Monsanto and other large Combine and International Control Agents. As well as the introduction of agents that will speed up the break down in neuro-activity causing autism, Alzheimer’s and other specific diseases to increase subtly and without knowledge of the host countries. All paid through tax funds and austere measures. Documentaries like Seeds of Death speak of genetic modification that leads to immunity and systemic damage across the environment. Null’s other documentary exposing the FDA. Another one of the history and toxicity of fluoride The Great Culling. Many learning disorders have been related to this. We use sodium fluoride (Hexafluorosilicic acid) from China. China banned the use of it in their own country due to it ineffectiveness and toxicity related to diseases. All done by Cargill the largest chemical maker of this waste product.

We’ve seen in recent time that human intervention into frakking, or the new forms of oil extraction in China and other countries have instigated man-made earthquakes. We know that the use of the HAARP is for weather related modification as well. Air Force admitted to using this system to make modifications to the ionosphere, and that they have found other ways to do it. One can make of it what one wants. Yet, many of these things being done are usually spoofed off into conspiracy sites or disinformation campaigns, etc. The only thing one knows for sure is that these are secret DARPA projects that know one knows in detail except those sworn to secrecy. This is one of the dark sides of democracy: that we have secrets, surveillance, Patriot Acts, etc. All the flavors of dictatorships without the supposed dictator.

When you realize that corporatism no longer cares one way or the other about humans, that humans have all become disposable as risk and failure in this latest edition of immaterial or semiotization of capital one realizes that the world is doomed unless we do something collectively to stop this machine in its tracks. If we don’t who will? The Neoliberal Transhumanist Agenda is one in which elites and the plutocracy shall enhance their futures with technological initiatives while slowly ridding the planet of its excess population through new forms of Eugenics (not called that, but by way of International Health Programs). This neoliberal Prometheanism seeks to overcome the human with a version of the enhance human through pharmaceuticals, medicines, technology, etc. Is this what we want?

As Zoltan Istvan a candidate for the Transhumanist Party puts it: “Transhumanism wants to improve the human body with science and technology–which is to say it wants to help people evolve. That’s a strange cultural and philosophical position for a movement. And yet, evolution is exactly what transhumanism aims to usher in–except transhumanists want to do it far more quickly than by glacial-paced natural selection.” They want to play at being gods who can reengineer humanity to fit the neoliberal agenda. At the heart of this is the notion of overcoming suffering, death, and human limitation:

Our identity should not only be based on who we are, or where we come from, but also on where we’re going and what we can become–especially in the 21st Century when science and technology is starting to change so many things about us. Transhumanists aim to make every person the very strongest, very best person they can be if they want to be. We aim to make it so that suffering, death, lack of ability, and lack of well-being never reach anyone ever again if they choose not to want it. (ibid.)

One hears nothing about creating a world based on equality and justice. In fact most of these right-wing transhumanist believe that to be impossible, so for them the path is one path only: those who share in their utopian system and also belong to the wealthy classes will enter this new global cosmopolitan world of enhanced humans. All others will be left outside the gates of their pearly palaces and evil paradises.  Is this a Manichaen vision of the future? No. One can see it in the world today. The future is all around us if we’d just open our frekking eyes.

James Joyce & Samuel Beckett


Beckett was addicted to silences, and so was Joyce; they engaged in conversations which consisted often of silences directed towards each other, both suffused with sadness, Beckett mostly for the world, Joyce mostly for himself. Joyce sat in his habitual posture, legs crossed, toe of the upper leg under the instep of the lower; Beckett, also tall and slender, fell into the same gesture. Joyce suddenly asked some such question as, ‘How could the idealist Hume write a history?’ Beckett replied, ‘A history of representation.’

– Richard Ellman’s, Joyce – A Biography

Freud – A Modern Day Machiavelli


Men ought either to be indulged or utterly destroyed…
– Machiavelli

In the Future of an Illusion Sigmund Freud allowed his bourgeois elitism to play itself out. He had no love of the vast majority of workers who struggled daily to feed their families. Freud in typical Victorian upper-class snobbery shows forth his utter disgust and horror of the common man:

It is just as impossible to do without government of the masses by a minority as it is to dispense with coercion in the work of civilization, for the masses are lazy and unintelligent, they have no love for instinctual renunciation, they are not to be convinced of its inevitability by argument, and the individuals support each other in giving full play to their unruliness. It is only by the influence of individuals who can set an example, whom the masses recognize as their leaders, that they can be induced to submit to the labours and renunciations on which the existence of culture depends.1

Intellectuals have always mistrusted the workers and the poor. Freud shows his true allegiance to the elites in this short book. Could one trust such a man as this? How did a whole culture blind itself to such tyrannical thinking? Freud was an out and out elitist who didn’t give a shit about the working class. Yet, his supposed cultural standing is that he influenced many thinkers, artists, etc. Were they all blind to his actual thoughts? How many studies have been conducted that show this dark side of Freudianism? Zilch. At least I have yet to discover much. There may be some hiding away in academic journals. This side of Freud is disgusting and seems to be par for many intellectuals of his time. This notion of the masses being ruled by a minority: what else could this mean than tyranny? Instinctual renunciation? Repression is more the word that comes to mind. Leaders that induce submission and renunciation? That culture depends on such repression? Freud was very much a Machiavelli in disguise. I can imagine him as persona non grata among the people under the thumb of austerity in the EU. I see him even now giving adverts for the need for renunciation and hard work to pay one’s debts, that stern look on his stoic face, the furrowed wrinkles above those stone eyes, the twisted frown displaced by the well-groomed and manicured white beard, the spotless suit with its golden time-piece. Lecturing the populace about the great sacrifice their making for their countryman, etc. Here he is berating the masses that might actually kill themselves or their neighbors – or, should we not admit of him thinking: “They might just kill me, me the great psychoanalyst!”:

And so follows the necessity for either the most rigorous suppression of these dangerous masses and the most careful exclusion of all opportunities for mental awakening, or a fundamental revision of the relation between culture and religion. (KL 694)

Mental awakening, heir Freud? Is this what you fear? An intelligent populace, masses with brains? So we’re dangerous are we Dr. Freud? You would like us to be suppressed, dumbed down, kept from awakening to your superior mind and culture? Is this it, Dr. Freud? “Yes,” he would answer. Are you afraid that the masses if they were to know the mind of Dr. Sigmund Freud, know his real thoughts, that possibly they just might not like what they see? Is that it Dr. Freud?

Freud would even use religion and science to quell the heart of the beast, the masses:

What is then left is a body of ideas which science no longer contradicts and which it cannot disprove. These modifications of religious doctrine, which you have condemned as half-measures and compromises, make it possible to bridge the gap between the uneducated masses and the philosophical thinker, and to preserve that common bond between them which is so important for the protection of culture. With it you would have no need to fear that the poor man would discover that the upper strata of society “no longer believe in God”. I think I have shown by now that your endeavour reduces itself to the attempt to replace a proved and affectively, valuable illusion by one that is unproved and without affective value.’ (kl 923)

Modifications of religious doctrine, hey Dr. Freud. Just a little correction here and there, a little revising of the literature, rewriting of the Bible perhaps? A little therapeutic lie want hurt, will it? Bring in alignment the gap between those dumb beasts of work and the great philosopher of culture, hey: Is this your plan, Dr. Freud? Ah, and what if they should suddenly discover you’re an atheist? You could just replace one illusion with another, yes? Dr. Freud you have it all so carefully figured out. Just give the masses their illusions carefully crafted by Dr. Freud, preserver of culture and philosophy. It’s only for their own good, right? “Yes, yes,” he says. “It’s only to protect us high ones, the noble ones, the elite of culture!” Ah, Dr. Freud you are so smart, I bet the leaders will love you for this last bit of knowledge. What a strange fellow you are Dr. Freud. Even Machiavelli would have praised you.

1. Freud, Sigmund (2011-03-07). THE FUTURE OF AN ILLUSION (Kindle Locations 108-112). Wilder Publications. Kindle Edition.

The Semantic Apocalypse

Interesting series of essays from a conference on “The End of the World As We Know It: Neuroscience and the Semantic Apocalypse”. With Scott Bakker, Nick Srnicek, Ali McMillan and others…

Speculative Heresy

Last week, I was privileged to be a respondent to a lecture entitled “The End of the World As We Know It: Neuroscience and the Semantic Apocalypse”. (Held at Canada’s premier interdisciplinary department: The University of Western Ontario’s Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism.) Thanks to the lecturer, Scott Bakker, and the other respondent, Ali McMillan, I’m happy to post the entire lecture here as well as the responses.


Scott’s lecture aimed to provoke high-minded critical theorists out of their self-contentment, arguing that the results of neuroscience have far more radical implications for philosophy, the subject, and meaning than any poststructuralist critique. As the author of a recent fictional psychothriller (Neuropath) – about which Metzinger has said, “This book has emotionally hurt and disturbed me in a way none have done in many years. You should think twice before reading this – there could be…

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Interesting Expose on Illegal Fishing in Antartica


NY Times has an interesting expose on a trawler, the Thunder sinking after a long chase by the Sea Shepherd organization.

For 110 days and more than 10,000 nautical miles across two seas and three oceans, the Bob Barker and a companion ship, both operated by the environmental organization Sea Shepherd, had trailed the trawler, with the three captains close enough to watch one another’s cigarette breaks and on-deck workout routines. In an epic game of cat-and-mouse, the ships maneuvered through an obstacle course of giant ice floes, endured a cyclone-like storm, faced clashes between opposing crews and nearly collided in what became the longest pursuit of an illegal fishing vessel in history.

Read A Renegade Trawler.

Semiocapitalism and the Neoliberal Self


“Turn on, tune in, drop out.” – Timothy Leary

Leary would use that phrase he received from Marshall McLuhan the media guru of the era during the 60’s to describe mental activation, harmonious interaction with others and the world, and a sense of “wu wei” or not-doing, a detachment from the work-a-day world while at the same time a commitment to the singularity of one’s own creative potential. In Flash Backs he’d describe it this way:

“Turn on” meant go within to activate your neural and genetic equipment. Become sensitive to the many and various levels of consciousness and the specific triggers that engage them. Drugs were one way to accomplish this end. “Tune in” meant interact harmoniously with the world around you – externalize, materialize, express your new internal perspectives. “Drop out” suggested an active, selective, graceful process of detachment from involuntary or unconscious commitments. “Drop Out” meant self-reliance, a discovery of one’s singularity, a commitment to mobility, choice, and change. Unhappily my explanations of this sequence of personal development were often misinterpreted to mean “Get stoned and abandon all constructive activity”.

Today to turn on means to enter the program, get with the data-flows of capital. To tune-in is to mesh with the levels of abstraction in the infosphere, keep pace with the digital matrix. Drop out is more of a political act of disconnection, unplugging from the machine, discovering a way to survive the onslaught of info-glut one is immersed in daily. The psychedelic age is gone and with it the whole notion of “mobility, choice, and change”. Today we live in a futureless present, a realm of apathy, depression, and decay. People distrust politics and media to the point that it has become more of a joke than not. Bifo Berardi pulling no punches tells us the truth: “Democracy seems unable to stop the criminal class that has seized control of the economy, because the decisions are no longer made in the sphere of political opinion, but in the inaccessible sphere of economic automatism. … No room for political choice is left, as corporate principles have become embedded in the technical fabric of language and imagination.”1

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Interview with Wendy Brown author of Undoing the Demos


Interesting interview with Wendy Brown author of Undoing the Demos: “I treat neoliberalism as a governing rationality through which everything is “economized” and in a very specific way: human beings become market actors and nothing but, every field of activity is seen as a market, and every entity (whether public or private, whether person, business, or state) is governed as a firm.” she says.

Read it on Dissent: Interview by Tom Shenk with Wendy Brown What Exactly is Neoliberalism?

The Writing of Subject – The Subject of Writing

Inventarienr: FM 1990 010 027                             Konstnärens namn: Christer Strömholm  Titel: Marcel Duchamp  Datum: 1961/ca 1990

Marcel Duchamp

The infinite, my dear friend, is no big deal— it’s a matter of writing— the universe exists only on paper.
—Paul Valéry, Monsieur Teste

The obliteration of the external in Valery’s Monsieur Teste is at the core of our current malaise, our strange relation to ourselves and to the simulated infosphere we’ve constructed for ourselves out of language and desire: a dwelling and habitation of self and society at once irrealist and totalized. The sense that as Luciano Floridi tells us we are witnessing an epochal, unprecedented migration of humanity from its Newtonian, physical space to the infosphere itself as its Umwelt, not least because the latter is absorbing the former. As a result, humans will be inforgs among other (possibly artificial) inforgs and agents operating in an environment that is friendlier to informational creatures. And as digital immigrants like us are replaced by digital natives like our children, the latter will come to appreciate that there is no ontological difference between infosphere and physical world, only a difference in levels of abstraction.1

Of course the downside to this migration is that the body will become a mere disposable piece of furniture, a sort of waste factory for the disembodied inforgs of some hyperrealist paradise without affect or life. Those like Floridi who dream of ideal utopian worlds of abstraction remind us that we are still hooked to certain ultra-modernist conceptions without realizing it. Reading Enrique Vila-Matas’s Bartleby & Co. I come across this tidbit on Marcel Duchamp:

Duchamp’s life was his finest work of art. He abandoned painting very early on and embarked on a daring adventure in which art was conceived, first and foremost, as a cosa mentale [matter of mind], in the spirit of Leonardo da Vinci. He wanted always to place art at the service of the mind and it was precisely this desire – driven by his particular use of language, by chance, optics, films and, above all, by his famous “readymades” – which stealthily undermined 500 years of Western art and transformed it completely. Duchamp abandoned painting for over fifty years because he preferred to play chess. Isn’t that wonderful?2

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Enrique Vila-Matas: Quote of the Day!


A while ago, when I was shaving, I looked in the mirror and did not recognize myself. The radical loneliness of these last few days is turning me into someone else. Nevertheless, I am enjoying the anomaly, the deviation, the monstrosity of myself as an isolated individual. I derive a certain pleasure from being unfriendly, from swindling life, from adopting the posture of literature’s radical non-hero (which is to say from playing at being like the cast of these footnotes), from observing life and seeing that the poor thing lacks a life of its own.

I looked in the mirror and did not recognize myself. Then I fell to thinking about what Baudelaire used to say, that the real hero is he who keeps himself amused. I looked in the mirror again and detected a certain resemblance to Watt, Samuel Beckett’s reclusive character. Like Watt, I could be described in the following way: a bus stops opposite three repugnant old men, who watch it seated on a public bench. The bus moves off. “Look,” says one of them, “someone’s left a bundle of rags.” “No,” says the second, “that is a fallen rubbish bin.” “Not at all,” says the third, “it is a pile of old newspapers that’s been put there.” At that moment the heap of rubbish advances towards them and asks them extremely impolitely to move up. This is Watt.1

1. Vila-Matas, Enrique (2007-05-23). Bartleby & Co. (pp. 46-47). New Directions. Kindle Edition.

Sergio Pitol: The Past alone opens up the Promise of the Future

Sergio Pitol 2

Been reading Sergio Pitol’s The Art of Flight today.

Sergio Pitol Demeneghi (born 18 March 1933 in Puebla) is a prominent Mexican writer, translator and diplomat. In 2005 he received the Cervantes Prize, the most prestigious literary award in the Spanish-speaking world. Pitol studied law and literature and served in the Mexican foreign service at Rome, Belgrade, Warsaw, Paris, Beijing, Moscow, Prague, Budapest and Barcelona. He started publishing novels in the late 1960s. He has been an advocate of human rights in Mexico and a critic of political orientations that place the state above the individual.

His friend Enrique Vila-Matas the great author of Spain says of Sergio: “Life and literature are fused in Sergio Pitol. And I wonder now if there is anything more Cervantesesque than his passion for confusing life and literature. … And to whomever asks about his style, I will say that it consists in fleeing anyone who is so dreadful as to be full of certainty. His style is to say everything, but to not solve the mystery. His style is to distort what he sees. His style consists in traveling and losing countries and losing one or two pairs of eyeglasses in them, losing all of them, losing eyeglasses and losing countries and rainy days, losing everything: having nothing and being Mexican and at the same time always being a foreigner.”

A passage struck me about the need to recognize the past before the future itself can open up again:

Lately, I have been very aware that I have a past. Not only because I have reached an age when the greater part of the journey has been traveled, but also because I now know fragments of my childhood that until recently were off-limits to me. I can now distinguish the various stages of my life with sufficient clarity— the autonomy of the parts and their relation to the whole— which I was previously unable to do. I have begun to remember with respect and emotion not only my youth but that of others because of the innocence it represents— its blindness, intransigence, and destiny. That alone allows me to conceive of an infinite, unknown, and promising future.1

This sense of an innocence in past relations opening one toward the infinite possibilities of an unknown and promising future makes me still believe there is hope in the world. And the loss of everything that one is and one’s things, one’s attachments; this too, can open up that innocence without which the future remains closed. The ability to just let go, to let things fall away is an innocence almost too difficult to bare; and, yet, in this loss one discovers by circuitous and strange routes that one’s future holds the promise of better returns, stranger and far away. Like an old pair of glasses one has lost and found again, lost and found again… a repetition that keeps one realizing that in the end one never truly loses anything. Things have a habit of returning in the unlikely events of one’s future.

1. Pitol, Sergio (2015-03-17). The Art of Flight (Kindle Locations 268-273). Deep Vellum Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Guy Debord: On McLuhan’s Global Village as Malicious Gossip


Guy Debord in his last book Comments on the Society of the Spectacle would mention McLuhan’s acknowledgement that his notions of the Global Village were erroneous and that the ‘pressure of the mass media leads to irrationality’ rather than true democratic and participatory alliances as he once conceived.1 Commenting on this Debord would say,

The sage of Toronto had formerly spent several decades marveling at the numerous freedoms created by the ‘global village’ instantly and effortlessly accessible to all. Villages, unlike towns, have always been ruled by conformism, isolation, petty surveillance, boredom and repetitive malicious gossip about the same families. Which is a precise enough description of the global spectacle’s present vulgarity… (pp. 33-34).

Reading the above I’ve often wondered what Debord’s reaction would have been to Twitter and Facebook. The gossip vines that inhabit these new media-frenzied sink holes are so full of bored and petty conformists that they haunt the blip-screens of the rich and famous, seeking any off-hand remark that might slur toward racial, gender, political, cultural, religious and off-color politically incorrect remarks, upon which they will pounce and blast the idiot net-waves like full-blown Zombie’s cannibalizing the last vestiges of negativity in an unending frenzy of merciless and bitter character assassination. Stars of Hollywood, Sports, or Music not to say politicos and other cultural icons of the world matrix are daily scrutinized by these daimonic denizens of the blip-ghost scenes waiting to be fed to the rumor mills, and obliterated by the regulatory policing of Political Correctness Factories: ultimately to be tried in the Court of Public Opinion from which there is no appeal. Certified to the death or suicidal limits of malicious gossip and vulgarity those who fall prey to the Village gossip mongers have no place left to hide in this 24/7 badlands of the net’s local zones of slaughter.

I remember Mark Fisher’s essay Exiting the Vampire Castle where he remarked

‘Left-wing’ Twitter can often be a miserable, dispiriting zone. Earlier this year, there were some high-profile twitterstorms, in which particular left-identifying figures were ‘called out’ and condemned. What these figures had said was sometimes objectionable; but nevertheless, the way in which they were personally vilified and hounded left a horrible residue: the stench of bad conscience and witch-hunting moralism. The reason I didn’t speak out on any of these incidents, I’m ashamed to say, was fear. The bullies were in another part of the playground. I didn’t want to attract their attention to me.

This sense of fear, of being afraid to voice one’s opinions for fear of coming under the PC eyes of the ultra-moral Left Police seems to be part of the latest dogma of these so-to-speak non-entities who suffer the world of pop cultural politics. What’s sad is not that there are not issues with race, gender, poor, politics, culture, religion, etc.: the problem is that the Left seems to be in the midst of a self-destruction of its own people. There seems to be some kind of new Stalinism of the Great Purges that is seeking new victims to accost and threaten with their PC bullying and character assassination. If a person makes one bad call in a linguistic utterance he/she is vilified and forever condemned to the outer reaches of the neo-hells. Is this the world of the Left that once promised Liberation and Emancipatory politics? Is this the future of the Left? If so I’m certainly reconsidering my complete participation in this world matrix of ideological constructions, because this is not my view of the Marxian traditions…

As Mark suggest “The open savagery of these exchanges is accompanied by something  more pervasive, and for that reason perhaps more debilitating: an atmosphere of snarky resentment.” This form of nihilist dribble of resentment was once categorized by none other than Nietzsche himself as negative annihilation – a praxis of hate and deceit:

Ressentiment is a sense of hostility directed at that which one identifies as the cause of one’s frustration, that is, an assignment of blame for one’s frustration. The sense of weakness or inferiority and perhaps jealousy in the face of the “cause” generates a rejecting/justifying value system, or morality, which attacks or denies the perceived source of one’s frustration. This value system is then used as a means of justifying one’s own weaknesses by identifying the source of envy as objectively inferior, serving as a defense mechanism that prevents the resentful individual from addressing and overcoming their insecurities and flaws. The ego creates an enemy in order to insulate itself from culpability.

Ressentiment is a reassignment of the pain that accompanies a sense of one’s own inferiority/failure onto an external scapegoat. The ego creates the illusion of an enemy, a cause that can be “blamed” for one’s own inferiority/failure. Does this sound familiar? Are those who now command the police force of PC none other the resentful gossip mongers of a dead and dying creed who have lost the truth of the once great mission of the Left, and have instead fallen into a pit of self-despair that seeks nothing more than new scapegoats to lambast and pulverize under the rumor mills of their deceitful systems of hate and self-inferior dialectics? Is this the Party of Hope or Death? The Left must put away resentiment and discover once again its deep roots in people’s lives, remember the darkness of capital and its terrible ruination of people’s lives around the world and leave off this bitter scapegoating of its own which can lead only to decay and ultimate defeat.



Sometimes you want to reach out and touch someone;
anyone, to feel the vibrancy of life:

pulsating, screaming, desperate beyond the cold affectless world;

a language below language releasing one from meaning
allowing that which means nothing in itself
the potential for possibility

– a shadow flowing across warm flesh
triggering thought between shadow and flesh,
a visible movement of the invisible
between the seeing and unseeing eye…

darkness against darkness:

there, just there, at the intersection of the impossible
the possible is born – a creative event
that has no beginning nor end, unprecedented:
an unmaking more than a making,
a slow unraveling of all you’ve ever been –
flesh from flesh, thought from thought,
a gift that is no longer a sacrifice and requires no acknowledgement:
just there at the zero point of all things one discovers the possibility of love.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. 

Fatalism and Hope: Slavoj Zizek and The Courage of Hopelessness?


She shrugs, having gained an armor of fatalism from the events of the last six hours. “Altogether safe, possibly not. An acceptable degree of risk. I don’t do this sort of thing often enough to be an expert.” – David Mitchell,  Cloud Atlas: A Novel

After my frustration with Slavoj Zizek in my recent post on the “courage of hopelessness”: “The true courage is not to imagine an alternative, but to accept the consequences of the fact that there is no clearly discernible alternative: the dream of an alternative is a sign of theoretical cowardice; it functions as a fetish that prevents us thinking through to the end the deadlock of our predicament. In short, the true courage is to admit that the light at the end of the tunnel is most likely the headlights of another train approaching us from the opposite direction.” I’ve since changed my mind and realize I was off in my appraisal of this statement. I did some research to understand why. In an interview Giorgio Agamben after being asked “Is this vision of becoming human, in your works, not rather pessimistic?” would say :

I am very happy that you asked me that question, since I often find that people call me a pessimist. First of all, at a personal level, that is not at all the case. Secondly, the concepts pessimism and optimism have nothing to do with thought. Debord often cited a letter of Marx’s, saying that ‘the hopeless conditions of the society in which I live fill me with hope’. Any radical thought always adopts the most extreme position of desperation. Simone Weil said ‘I do not like those people who warm their hearts with empty hopes’. Thought, for me, is just that: the courage of hopelessness. And is that not the height of optimism?

So that for Agamben this sense of the “courage of hopelessness” was not so much a fatalistic strategy but rather a sign of optimistic bravery in the face of insurmountable odds, a way of facing the day to day realities of our life rather than hiding our heads in the sands of utopian hopes without substance.

Fatalism and determinism

This sense that there is no alternative, that it is cowardice even to hope for one, to look for one, to dream; that instead we should deal with the realistic appraisal of our predicament, our present situation in the world under a worsening regime of economic and political tyranny that has circumvented all escapes into such utopian frontiers of the imagination. That ours is an age without a future. We’ve seen in Zizek, Berardi and others this new theme of no future, no alternatives for a while now. Is this some new mantra of the intellectual collapse of the Left? A sort of vanguard of a new therapeutic regime of impotence and fatalism? One that offers a pure despair and suicidal hopelessness that’s only call is to have courage in the face of death and apocalypse because we should open our eyes and keep them open as we watch the train of collapse coming toward us out of the dismal future. The collapse of civilization, capitalism, climate, blah blah blah… that fatalism is the philosophical stoicism of the day?

As Robert Kane tells it “Fatalism is the view that whatever is going to happen, is going to happen, no matter what we do. Determinism alone does not imply such a consequence. What we decide and what we do would make a difference in how things turn out — often an enormous difference — even if determinism should be true.”1 Does Zizek allow for a difference, a decision that might allow for a different determination of the events ahead of us? Or has he become a fatalist by design and decision? One who believes that no matter what we do the economic and political regimes of neoliberalism are going to subvert anything we might do to oppose them? Is this truly what Zizek is saying? And, that all we can do in the face of this possible apocalypse of human solidarity it to have the courage of thought, a thought that is our best chance against such hopelessness? Yet, another theorist of fatalism Peter van Inwagen’s definition tells us that: “Fatalism . . . is the thesis that that it is a logical or conceptual truth that no one is able to act otherwise than he in fact does; that the very idea of an agent to whom alternative courses of action are open is self-contradictory.” (An Essay on Free Will, p. 23.)

This implies an agent or Subject that can make those decisions, and for Inwagen that subject is already determined through subtle processes of brain and affect to do only what it would do anyway, that the notion one could invent a possible alternative outcome external to one’s determinate nature is self-contradictory. Is this what Zizek means that dreaming of some alternative is cowardice? That such a fictional and utopian thought is in itself caught up in self-contradiction? The determinist believes that the actual past together with the actual laws of nature render the notion that there can only be one future. The determinist must therefore deny that the future is open. But his claim is not that it is logically self-contradictory that the future be open, but only that it is not open given the facts of the past, which are logically contingent, together with the laws of nature, which are also logically contingent. On the other hand the fatalist believes that the source is logical rather than natural: the Law of Excluded Middle together with a certain view of truth and of propositions. The determinist holds that the source is the contingent laws of nature together with the contingent actual past. So who is right? Zizek in his praise of that utopianist Ernst Bloch says in his preface to a group of essays:

In his extraordinary opus, Ernst Bloch provided a detailed and systematic account of such an open universe— opened up toward its future, sustained by the hope of redemption, joy, and justice to come. He analyzed this dimension of hope in all its scope, from “low” kitsch romances through political and economic liberation up to religious extasis. In our “postmodern” cynical constellation, he reminds us that denunciation of ideology is not enough: every ideology, even the most horrifying Nazism, exploits and relies on authentic dreams, and to combat false liberation one should learn to discern in it the authentic utopian core.2

The sense of seeking out the “authentic utopian core” rather than falling into the trap of all too easy utopian speculation is what Zizek’s intent is all about. In that preface Zizek would formulate his notion of absolute recoil, or this sense retroactive redemption of the past, which “means that reality is “unfinished,” not fully ontologically constituted, and as such open to retroactive restructuring” (ibid. preface). The notion of an open-ended universe, one that in the work of Heisenberg, Bohr, and others, insists that this incompleteness of our knowledge of quantum reality points to a strange incompleteness of quantum reality itself, a claim that leads to a weird ontology. (ibid. Preface)

An ontology that can be incorporated into political struggle through the dialectical approach: “The wager of a dialectical approach is not to adopt toward the present the “point of view of finality,” viewing it as if it were already past, but precisely to reintroduce the openness of future into the past, to grasp that-what-was in its process of becoming, to see the contingent process that generated existing necessity. In contrast to the idea that every possibility strives to fully actualize itself, one should conceive of “progress” as a move of restoring the dimension of potentiality to mere actuality, of unearthing, in the very heart of actuality, a secret striving toward potentiality. Apropos the French Revolution, the task of a true Marxist historiography is not to describe the events the way they really were (and to explain how these events generated the ideological illusions that accompanied them). The task is rather to unearth the hidden potentiality (the utopian emancipatory potentials) that were betrayed in the actuality of revolution and in its final outcome (the rise of utilitarian market capitalism).” (ibid. Preface)

So in this sense I must admit that I was wrong in my critique of Zizek in my previous post, and jumped the gun in my appraisal and misread its actual intent and message. Sometimes my anger and rage at the world system that is ever apparent in our lives gets the better of me and when I see a form of fatalistic pessimism without hope surface I’m all too easily ready to attack it. But I think in this instance I was wrong and lashed out too quickly, but have had time to research and understand that what Zizek was doing was just the opposite of a pessimistic fatalism and was actually an optimistic appraisal of the truth of our moment. A truth that we must face with determination and perseverance, optimism and hope in the face of such dire circumstances. I just wish sometimes he would speak plainly rather than couch his discourse in such obtuse remarks from other thinkers. Say it out of his own life and being or lack, rather than use such statements that one could mistake exactly what he is saying for something else. But Zizek is what he is and one is never sure just how to take his statements at face value or with a dialectical spin in another direction.

1. (A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will, Oxford 2005, p. 19) 2.   (2013-11-25). The Privatization of Hope: Ernst Bloch and the Future of Utopia, SIC 8 ([sic] Series) . Duke University Press. Kindle Edition. As

Enrique Vila-Matas: “I would prefer not to!”


Twenty-five years ago, when I was very young, I published a short novel on the impossibility of love. Since then, on account of a trauma that I shall go into later, I had not written again, I stopped altogether, I became a Bartleby, and that is why I have been interested in them for some time.

We all know the Bartlebys, they are beings inhabited by a profound denial of the world. They are named after the scrivener Bartleby, a clerk in a story by Herman Melville, who has never been seen reading, not even a newspaper; who for long periods stands looking out at a pale window behind a folding screen, upon a brick wall in Wall Street; who never drinks beer, or tea and coffee, like other men; who has never been anywhere, living as he does in the office, spending even his Sundays there; who has never said who he is, or where he comes from, or whether he has any relatives in this world; who, when he is asked where he was born or given a job to do or asked to reveal something about himself, responds always by saying,

“I would prefer not to.”

For some time now I have been investigating the frequent examples of Bartleby’s syndrome in literature, for some time I have studied the illness, the disease, endemic to contemporary letters, the negative impulse or attraction towards nothingness that means that certain creators, while possessing a very demanding literary conscience (or perhaps precisely because of this), never manage to write: either they write one or two books and then stop altogether or, working on a project, seemingly without problems, one day they become literally paralysed for good.

The idea of investigating the literature of the No, that of Bartleby & Co., came about last Tuesday in the office when I thought I heard my boss’s secretary say to somebody on the phone,

“Mr Bartleby is in a meeting.”  …

Only from the negative impulse, from the labyrinth of the No, can the writing of the future appear. But what will this literature be like? Not long ago a work colleague, somewhat maliciously, put this question to me.

“I don’t know,” I said. “If I knew, I’d write it myself.”

I wonder if I can do this. I am convinced that only by tracking down the labyrinth of the No can the paths still open to the writing of the future appear. I wonder if I can evoke them. I shall write footnotes commenting on a text that is invisible, which does not mean it does not exist, since this phantom text could very well end up held in suspension in the literature of the next millennium.1

1. Vila-Matas, Enrique (2007-05-23). Bartleby & Co. (p. 2). New Directions. Kindle Edition.

Vicente Huidobro: The Poet’s Work


Apart from the grammatical meaning of language, there is another magical meaning, which is the only one that interests us . . . The poet creates, outside of the world which exists, a world which should exist . . . The value of the language of poetry comes directly from its separation from spoken language . . . Language converts itself in a ceremony of conjuring and presents itself in the luminosity of its initial nakedness, unconnected from all prefigured conventional dress. Poetry, the ultimate horizon, is, at the same time, the edge where the extremes rejoin, where there is neither contradiction nor doubt. Reaching this last border, the usual sequence of the phenomena breaks its logic, and on the other hand, there where the land of the poet begins, the chain is soldered together in a new logic. The poet takes you by the hand to drive you closer to that last frontier, above the point on the great pyramid, toward that field which extends beyond what is true and false, beyond life and death, beyond space and time, beyond reason and fantasy, beyond spirit and matter . . . There is, in his throat, an unquenchable inferno.

– Vicente Huidobro

Franco “Bifo” Berardi: What comes next?


Franco “Bifo” Berardi inherited from his friend Felix Guattari a way of seeing through the façade, or in the old parlance – seeing through the appearances as appearances, and into the singular truth of our age as chaosmosis: a transitional terminality with no definable end point. The old world of the bourgeoisie and proletariat classes that defined the Marxian dialectic of history are no more, and along with their disappearance the marginal critique that has sustained the Left for a hundred or more years is of little use either.

The older society of the bourgeoisie was based upon an ethical foundation that made it imperative that the upper tiers become responsible to their workers, while the workers felt an obligation toward each other in forming a solidarity based on trust and sociality. The upper tiers of society still held onto the vestiges of a hierarchical relationship based on national and civic values, while workers still shared both work and leisure time and interests that formed a continuity across time. The ethical foundations that supported this normative system of social relations has dissolved in our time.

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Franco “Bifo” Berardi: Absolute Capitalism as Annihilating Nihil


The rise of financial capitalism, the deterritorialization of production and exchange, and finally the emergence of a virtual class without territorial identity have been accompanied by a general process of deregulation. The globalization of corporate trade hindered and rendered impossible any all-encompassing legal control on their activity. The sovereignty of nation states made way for global corporations acting with absolute freedom, disregarding the local authority and shifting their immaterial assets from one location to another. This is particularly evident in reference to the environmental crisis, as the legal limits to the exploitation of physical resources and the pollution of the environment are systematically (and ultimately, suicidally) ignored by corporations.

At the same time, the globalization of the labour market destroyed the unionized power of workers, and opened the way to a general reduction of salaries, increased exploitation and the erosion of regulations covering working conditions and working hours.

This is why I believe that the contemporary global system should be defined as one of absolute capitalism, in which the only effective principles are those of value-accumulation, profit-growth and economic competition. These are its all-encompassing priorities, and the overwhelming impetus at its core. All other concerns, including the survival of the planet or the future of the next generation, are subsumed to these greater goals.

Compared to the past situation of bourgeois industrial capitalism, the relationship between social welfare and financial profit is now inverted. In the industrial economy, profits increased when citizens acquired enough money to buy the goods that were produced in the factories. In the sphere of financial capitalism, financial indicators go up only if social welfare crumbles and salaries fall.

Unsurprisingly, those few hundred billionaires listed in Forbes magazine have hugely increased their capital in 2010, 2011 and 2012, years which were dramatically marked by rising unemployment, poverty and cuts to social welfare.

Far from emancipating society from any rule, Neoliberal deregulation has emancipated capital from the political law and social needs, while subjecting society to the blind adherence to the law of financial accumulation. It has marked the beginning of an age of capitalist absolutism, in which capital accumulation and particularly financial accumulation are entirely independent (ab-solutus, untied) from the social interest.

Subjected to the deterritorialized financial abstraction, Europe is now destroying welfare and prosperity and paving the way to fear and to a resurgence of nationalism, ethnicism and war. The ferocious material quantification of the living body of society is laying the basis for a violent reaction, as witnessed in the current trend of nationalism and xenophobia. Anti-German hatred is growing in the Mediterranean countries, nationalist parties are gaining momentum in France, Hungary, Finland, Italy and Greece, as ever greater numbers of people are turning toward racist sentiments, and a wave of depression and despair is sweeping the continent.

In the speeches of Angela Merkel and other European politicians, the European Union implies submission to the ethos of debt, impoverishment, unemployment, fear.

In this way, the Humanist tradition, which was based on the idea that human destiny is not subjected to any theological law or necessity, is finally obliterated.1

1. Berardi, Franco “Bifo” (2015-02-03). Heroes: Mass Murder and Suicide (Futures) Verso Books. Kindle Edition.

Kurt Vonnegut: Daily Quote from Player Piano!


Rereading Vonnegut’s first novel Player Piano which he patterned after the plot of Brave New World, whose plot had been cheerfully ripped off from Yevgeny Zamyatin‘s We.” There comes a moment when the new engineers who are to replace all the workers who once oversaw the production line process with automated machines is described in vivid detail:

He and Finnerty and Shepherd, with the ink hardly dry on their doctorates, had been sent to one of the machine shops to make the recording. The foreman had pointed out his best man—what was his name?—and, joking with the puzzled machinist, the three bright young men had hooked up the recording apparatus to the lathe controls. Hertz! That had been the machinist’s name—Rudy Hertz, an old-timer, who had been about ready to retire. Paul remembered the name now, and remembered the deference the old man had shown the bright young men.

Afterward, they’d got Rudy’s foreman to let him off, and, in a boisterous, whimsical spirit of industrial democracy, they’d taken him across the street for a beer. Rudy hadn’t understood quite what the recording instruments were all about, but what he had understood, he’d liked: that he, out of thousands of machinists, had been chosen to have his motions immortalized on tape.

And here, now, this little loop in the box before Paul, here was Rudy as Rudy had been to his machine that afternoon—Rudy, the turner-on of power, the setter of speeds, the controller of the cutting tool. This was the essence of Rudy as far as his machine was concerned, as far as the economy was concerned, as far as the war effort had been concerned. The tape was the essence distilled from the small, polite man with the big hands and black fingernails; from the man who thought the world could be saved if everyone read a verse from the Bible every night; from the man who adored a collie for want of children; from the man who … What else had Rudy said that afternoon? Paul supposed the old man was dead now—or in his second childhood in Homestead.1

Of course in those years computers as we know them had yet to be built, but Vonnegut had already begun to understand through readings of scientists that such processes would eventually replace humans for good. The sense of alienation, the abstraction of the essence of the worker removed from the living man, and then inserted into the machine as its permanent home: the sense that we are nothing but our physical and mental capacities: essence of the human as commoditized abstraction; something that can be taped, and replayed continuously like a ghost in the machine.  Vonnegut shows how the elite become dehumanized denizens of their own competitive spirit and lust for power in a world of machines. This was a society where the elite were the intelligent scientists and engineers, a technocratic society where everyone else was forced to live in reservations named Homesteads. People who were not smart enough became mere slaves to the elite in an elaborate world of death. Vonnegut always did have a way of making the human element come to the fore in his satires. Excellent book. A dystopian nightmare world through which the main anti-hero observes the slow de-humanization of his personal and social life through work and leisure.

1. Vonnegut, Kurt (2010-07-01). Player Piano (Kurt Vonnegut Series) (Kindle Locations 194-207). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The Death of the Left: Slavoj Zizek, Greece and the EU


(Addendum: I’ve written a new post in which I did some further research and realize that what I took at face value was a misprisioning of Zizek’s intent, so have written of this reversal in my dialogical estimation of his current stance in this new post.)

In his latest review of the EU crisis Slavoj Zizek in a New Statesman article Slavoj Žižek on Greece: the courage of hopelessness  tells us “Greece is not being asked to swallow many bitter pills in exchange for a realistic plan of economic revival, they are asked to suffer so that others in the European Union can go on dreaming their dream undisturbed.” They’re not being asked at all. They’re being forced to suffer both this and the destruction of their society and culture under a debt-regime so large that nothing will remain. Zizek’s creampuff courage of the hopeless in the face of this coming train wreck does no more than typify the bankruptcy of his own thought as he provides a dismal and gloomy rhetorical flourish not on Greece but upon the bankruptcy of the Left and especially of his own nihilist philosophy of subtraction.

Has Zizek finally lined up a redemption mythology of suffering, a sort of atheistic melioration theory in reverse, a movement of absolute recoil that aligns the sufferings of Christ with the Death – not of God, but of the Left? He’ll quote the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben who said in an interview that “thought is the courage of hopelessness” – “an insight,” Zizek tells us, “which is especially pertinent for our historical moment when even the most pessimist diagnostics as a rule finishes with an uplifting hint at some version of the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel”. Is this where the Left is today: seeking proverbs and psalms to assuage its failure to revolt against the stupidity of economic tyranny? Is this what Zizek offers us – a wisdom of hopelessness, the courage to think failure in all its guises, to begin again from failure hoping that this time something better might come along, some “light at the end of the tunnel”? Listen to the faded wisdom of Zizek:

The true courage is not to imagine an alternative, but to accept the consequences of the fact that there is no clearly discernible alternative: the dream of an alternative is a sign of theoretical cowardice, it functions as a fetish which prevents us thinking to the end the deadlock of our predicament. In short, the true courage is to admit that the light at the end of the tunnel is most likely the headlight of another train approaching us from the opposite direction. There is no better example of the need for such courage than Greece today.

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Thomas Pynchon: The Scarlet Histories


If they get this far, he has to show them what he knows about Control. That’s one of death’s secret missions. … Oh, it is a real sad story, how shoddily their Schwärmerei for Control was used by the folks in power. Paranoid Systems of History (PSH), a short-lived periodical … whose plates have all mysteriously vanished, natch, has even suggested … simply to drive young enthusiasts of the Cybernetic Tradition into Control work: after all, an economy inflating, upward bound as a balloon, its own definition of Earth’s surface drifting upward in value, uncontrolled, drifting with the days, the feedback system expected to maintain the value of the mark constant having, humiliatingly, failed. . . . Unity gain around the loop, unity gain, zero change, and hush, that way, forever, these were the secret rhymes of the childhood of the Discipline of Control— secret and terrible, as the scarlet histories say.

– Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Technocapitalism: Corporatism as Business Governance of Society


Luis Suarez-Villa. Technocapitalism: A Critical Perspective on Technological Innovation and Corporatism: Critical Extracts and Notes

Corporatism is the power of business corporations over society. The corporate colonization of our social relations, of our identity as humans, and of life itself is an ongoing enterprise: it colonizes human society, nature, and the planet, corporatism degrades us, turning our most precious human qualities into commodities. This degradation of human values is not grounded in technology, in and of itself. It is grounded in the character of a new kind of corporatism and its authoritarian control over technology. It is a new kind of corporatism that is more clever, rapacious, and invasive than any previous form and that is imperial in its quest for power and profit as it tries to control any and all aspects of the public domain.1

Technocapitalism is defined as a new form of capitalism that is heavily grounded on corporate power and its exploitation of technological creativity. Creativity, an intangible human quality, is the most precious resource of this new incarnation of capitalism. Corporate rate power and profit inevitably depend on the commodification of creativity through research regimes that must generate new inventions and innovations. These regimes and the corporate apparatus in which they are embedded are to technocapitalism what the factory system and its production regimes were to industrial capitalism. The tangible resources of industrial capitalism, in the form of raw materials, production hardware, capital, and physical labor routines are thus replaced by intangibles, research hardware, experimental designs, and talented individuals with creative aptitudes. The generation of technology in this new era of capitalism is therefore a social phenomenon that relies as much on technical functionality as on the co-optation of cultural attributes.

The technological rationality of technocapitalism therefore combines technique (the rational character of technology) with social domination (the ideological character of corporatism). Such control is usually codified in the form of rules and conventions that govern how research is done and what it should look for.

Experimentalism is the driving force of technocapitalism. It underpins pins the ethos of this new era with its compulsions, exploitive schemes, and diverse pathologies. Experimentalism is defined here as technological and scientific inquiry whose overarching objective is commercial. It is therefore experimentation for the sake of profit and power above all ends, rather than experimentation for its own sake or for the sake of attaining new knowledge as an end in itself.

Technologies of Technocapitalism:

Most every area of biotechnology, including proteomics, genomics, biopharmaceuticals, and biomedicine, the nascent field of nanotechnology and all its innumerable able future medical and mechanical applications, molecular computing, bioinformatics, and the area of biorobotics are but a few examples of the fields that will represent this reincarnation of capitalism.

The socialization of experimentalism means that society as a whole becomes the laboratory of technocapitalism. This is a laboratory that is certainly quite different from the traditional labs of experimental science, not only physically but also in terms of scope, governance, and reach. And, it is a laboratory in which all of society is forcibly engaged, through the commercial compulsion of the new order. All of society, in essence, becomes the guinea pig of corporate experimentalism. Social mediation here refers to the intervention of society through, for example, the kind of relations that stimulate the generation of new knowledge and creativity. The term also refers to the governance of such relations, which affects the deployment of research creativity whenever it is applied as a resource of technocapitalism. The networks of experimentalism are highly focused on research and on the communication of new knowledge obtained through research. Creativity is a fundamental resource for the latter. The social mediation of these networks is a major force in stimulating creativity to the extent that they regenerate imaginations, curiosity, and the motivation to search, tinker, or test.

Success in extracting value-rather than finding truth-becomes the prime objective of experimentalism. Extracting value from research search creativity thus becomes the new “truth.” Science at the service of corporate experimentalism does not involve the simple and unfettered search for truth for its own sake. If it occurs at all, the search for truth is subordinated to a higher priority: the attainment of commercial value, the higher the better, over all other possibilities. Corporations that do not produce products but rather patent knowledge: Their only interest is in establishing intellectual (in this case technological)  property claims, and their revenues are derived from licensing other companies who may put the patented genetic information to use in some product or service.

Corporatism is primarily in charge of the commodification of creativity and cannot hope to reproduce it on its own because of the fundamentally social character of this resource. Only society can reproduce creativity effectively. This split between commodification (a corporate function) and reproduction (a social function) is a distinctive feature of the new era.

The socialization and manufacture of reality by corporatism to suit its ongoing agendas means that experimentalism increasingly sets the goals for entire societies. The incipient convergence between genetic engineering, biopharmacology, and biomedicine cine offers the frightening possibility of adjusting individual genetic makeups to suit corporate needs, not only in the manipulation of mass consumption habits but also in producing individuals who are pliant to corporate power and to its managerial priorities. “Medications” that engineer personalities and attitudes to suit corporate priorities are likely to become widespread with the expansion of the biopharmaceutical industry.

Realignment educational infrastructure directly related to technology and science, such as instructional laboratories and classrooms, are becoming a part of this new corporatism. Funding by corporations and government sponsored institutions will realign their agendas to meet the demands of the corporatism, while at the same time phasing our spurious and alternative educational programs deemed non-compliant to the new corporate culture. One is seeing this as many of the older liberal arts programs are slowly being phased out and replaced with more technological and scientific instructional initiatives. 

Educational institutions that do not comply will find their funding and regulatory incentives slowly disappear. This kind of public subsidy for corporatism has arguably been more important than all the myriad fiscal “incentives” often cited in the media, such as tax breaks, export subsidies, and the often-corrupt loosening of regulatory controls. This is especially so because the effects of infrastructural accumulation are long-term, lasting over several generations, and tend to compound over time.

In the new era profit will drive creativity for all involved in this new social experimentalism. Secondly the boundaries between technology and the sciences will be systematically erased as corporatism sets the agenda for profitable research. Third is the extraction of value from creativity itself. Systematization turns experimentalism into more of a social artifact as it improves its capacity to extract value. For value to be extracted, creativity must be exploited. As creativity is an intangible and inherently social quality, by facilitating its exploitation, systematization makes experimentalism more dependent on social relations.

As Suarez-Villas says it the advance of experimentalism threatens to turn society into the laboratory of technocapitalism. No aspect of human existence may be out of reach of this phenomenon if it remains unchallenged, especially as the link between experimentalism and corporate power grows stronger and tries to collapse most any obstacle to its reach. We have only just begun to witness the start of this new stage of capitalism, which is likely to be more oppressive and farther reaching than prior versions. The twenty-first century will tell the story of this trajectory and of the forces that manage to challenge its advance.

1. Luis Suarez-Villa. Technocapitalism: A Critical Perspective on Technological Innovation and Corporatism (Kindle Locations 51-56). Kindle Edition.

The Scandal: The Seduction of Tyranny


Scandal Sheet a 1952 black-and-white film noir directed by Phil Karlson was based on the novel The Dark Page by Samuel Fuller, who himself was a newspaper reporter before his career in film. In it the main anti-hero, a newspaper man, Mark Chapman – played by actor Broderick Crawford, takes over an ailing New York daily newspaper, the fictional New York Express, and revives it as a scandal sheet by staging a number of publicity stunts. The movie itself turns toward the fatalistic world of murder and mayhem in which the con man Chapman enters the scandal of his own corrupt life.

Yet, the scandal of our time is not so much particular stars our of politics, Hollywood, or the Wall-Street, etc., no today the scandal is News as such. In our time the legitimacy of news itself is coming into question. Most of our media-systems have themselves become nothing but thriving systems for social and political scandal sheets that gain ratings on the construction of ever more hyper-scandalized propaganda and corruption. Truth is no longer of issue, only the lie that will gain us a rating. Shaving a story to suit a specific ideological theme whether on sex, race, gender or some other favorite event of moment, the media has turned away from reporting neutral news and has turned into a pure scandal sheet of corruption breeding more corruption. Such newspapers and dailies that habitually prints gossip or scandalous stories still live amongst us, but of late a new trend has taken over in that most of our supposed legitimate public newspapers (Guardian, NY Times, Washington Post, etc.), TV (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, CNN, etc.), Radio, and even Twitter, Facebook, etc. have all become scandal sheets thriving on the corruption and decadence of stars within Sports, Hollywood, and Political worlds. So that the old separation between the scandal sheets and the legitimate press has broken down. Now one gets nothing but the yellow journalism of corruption and judgment in the court of public opinion.

We’ve lost the critical distance we once had between ideology and truth, now everything is ideologically spun in the mediscapes of the global press. Whether on the Left or Right the media pundits no longer hide their affiliations to politics or ideological stances on sex, gender, race, religion, or politics. It’s as if the global circus of the new press carries out the programmatic destruction of democracy in real time. People are no longer convicted in actual courts of appeals, but are rather convicted in the public scandal sheets of postmodern media like so many action toys to be lambasted, pilfered, and shook down without ever a questioning glance at truth.  One is convicted before all the facts are in. The blip-screen feeds allow every fanatic of the Left or Right to latch onto their favorite scandal and run with it; reproduce it, add their own embellished and imaginative spin to it, rebroadcast it in even more sensational terms to the point that the original point or source is lost beyond all recognition. Instead one sees only the spectacular cultures construction of a new image taking on a life of its own. The image is more real that the human. Sadly we trust the images more than the humans, too.

As Debord would remind us the “primary cause of the decadence of contemporary thought evidently lies in the fact that the spectacular discourse leaves no room for reply… the spectators tend to want to be just as illogical as the spectacle”.1 Problem is Debord didn’t live to see Twitter and Facebook or any of a dozen other blip-reply systems that can at the flick of a sentence begin the process that can destroy almost anyone with rumor: the rumor-mills spin the rope that ties our world together not in truth and justice, but in the corruption and lies of the spectacle. Anymore people follow twitter or facebook or some other media blip world for the sheer fantasy of cultural spectacle. They hang on each new message from some particular cultural star, or politico of the moment; and, if someone makes an off-color remark – or, one that is against the new fascism of PC (Political Correctness) on either the Right or Left they are immediately brought before the court of tyrannical norms where they will be summarily taken to the local guillotine of cultural death. Suicide is assured for those who do not submit to the PC dictates of acceptable codes.

One need not go far for a supply of one’s favorite scandals: Celebrity Scandals, Fox News, CNN, Twitter, Huffington Post, etc.

One of the hard lessons that Guy Debord offered in his Comments on Society of the Spectacle a follow up to his original work is that individuals who allow this spectacular world of idiocy into their lives become not only impoverished by it, but allow it to become their experience of the world even if they “had quite the opposite intention” (p. 31). As he says they will essentially follow the language of the spectacle, for it is the only one they are familiar with; the one in which they have learned to see and speak. “This is one of the most important aspects of spectacular domination’s success” (p. 31).

With the delegitimation of news comes the end of democracy which is based on the critical appraisal of the public forum where news must speak bare truth. We are no longer in a democracy. We’ve allowed the spectacle to corrupt our minds and lives to the point that sadly we’ve lost any ability to think for ourselves and see either ourselves or the issues of the day clearly. Instead the propaganda and ideological spectacle has become our only world.

1. Guy Debord. Comments on the Society of the Spectacle. (Verso 1998)

Henry Miller: Quote of the Day!

Portrait of the author Henry Miller (1891 - 1980), wearing a white shirt, California, mid twentieth century. (Photo by Larry Colwell/Anthony Barboza/Getty Images)

I am living at the Villa Borghese. There is not a crumb of dirt anywhere, nor a chair misplaced. We are all alone here and we are dead.
… [Boris] is a weather prophet. The weather will continue bad, he says. There will be more calamities, more death, more despair. Not the slightest indication of a change anywhere. The cancer of time is eating us away. Our heroes have killed themselves, or are killing themselves. The hero, then, is not Time, but Timelessness. We must get in step, a lock step, toward the prison of death. There is no escape. The weather will not change.
… It is now the fall of my second year in Paris. I was sent here for a reason I have not yet been able to fathom. I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive.

– Henry Miller,  Tropic of Cancer

Snake Eating Its Tail: The Tao of Capitalism


The Tao of Capitalism:

The capital that can be sold
is not the eternal Capital.
The exchange that can be exchanged
is not the eternal Currency.

The invisible hand is the eternally false.
Capital is the origin
of the commodified spectacle.

Enslaved to desire,
you believe the spectacle real.
Caught in desire,
you see only the self
reflected in images of Capital.

Yet the invisible hand and its unfathomableness
arise from the same source.
This source is called Capital.

Capital within capital.
The Gateway to all confusion.

 Of course my parody of the Tao Te Ching just underscores the irrationalism that underpins the rationality of Capital. We accept it because it is the hidden source of our desires, it presents a world of dreams that fulfill our wishes for the Good Life. Everyday we see in the media-scapes of TV and the Internet advertising, Hollywood, Sports stars, and other imaginaries the fake worlds of the nouveau riche and plutocrats who seem to live with such gusto and affirmation that we are led to believe this, too, can be ours – if only we will accept the Devil’s bargain, believe the promises of a better life, a better tomorrow that credit and capital offer. Just buy more of these lies and you’ll bring on the very prosperity of eternal Capital: thus speak the false ones on Wall-Street. Yet, daily we look around us and realize that there is only suffering, austerity, and the truth of a life lived without hope or even the possibility of hope.

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The Parasite: Michel Serres and the Solar Economy of Data


We have known for three thousand years that they all did the same job. … The technology of data processing finally brings us a data bank. This is less progress than simply the revealing of the truth of our systems. We are moving toward a data bank.

—Michel Serres, The Parasite

Zygmunt Bauman in Living on Borrowed Time states it simply:  “Capitalism, to put it bluntly, is essentially a parasitic system. Like all parasites, it may thrive for a time once it finds an as yet unexploited organism on which it can feed, but it can’t do that without harming the host and sooner or later destroying thereby the conditions of its prosperity, or even of its own survival.”1

Michel Serres speaking of the relations in the group dynamics of capitalism would discover the irreversible movement of this parasitic beast telling us “the chain of parasitism is a simple relation of order, irreversible like the flow of the river. One feeds on another and gives nothing in return. Asymmetry is local on a chain and is propagated globally the length of a series, through transitivity. They make a line.… For parasitism is an elementary relation; it is, in fact, the elements of the relation. … The relation upsets equilibrium, making it deviate. If some equilibrium exists or ever existed somewhere, somehow, the introduction of a parasite in the system immediately provokes a difference, a disequilibrium. Immediately, the system changes; time has begun.2 This intervention of temporal movement at the behest of the parasitical relationship is the core energetics of the universe, and the underlying pattern of our delirium.

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After Politics: Post-Communist Nihilism in an Age of Dystopian Reflection


By rushing into sordid reformist compromises or pseudorevolutionary collective actions, those driven by an abstract desire for immediate effectiveness are in reality obeying the ruling laws of thought, adopting a perspective that can see nothing but the latest news. In this way delirium reappears in the camp that claims to be opposing it. A critique seeking to go beyond the spectacle must know how to wait.

– Guy Debord,  Society of the Spectacle

Do we know how to wait today? In our reactions to the economic problems we are facing are we acting too quickly, full of resentment and anger – allowing our deep emotional lives to fall prey to violent outbreaks that can only end in disaster? Are we playing into the hands of our enemies without even realizing it? Playing by their rules, and allowing them to have the upper hand in a game they themselves created to ensnare us? Are we conditioned to react to our enemies in the way our enemies want? Play by a script that they both control and have dramatized in a thousand-and-one modeling scenarios of game theoretic that we have yet to even realize? Are we already behind the game – or, “proverbial eight-ball” before we even organize for a revolution against our neoliberal enemies? In all the academic, NGO’s, think-tanks and other private and governmental agencies around the globe are we already caught in a web of surveillance and total control that disallows any thought of rebellion? And when a revolt begins is already circumvented, redirected, and snuffed out like a light-bulb in a dark room without even a hint that there was any conflict at all?

That old “liberal conservative” as Zizek calls him, Peter Sloterdijk, reading Terry Eagleton’s essay on ‘After Theory’ said of it: the thesis that we are living “after theory” – “to cite the elegant title of an essay from Terry Eagleton’s pen, an essay that does not do full justice to the topic-is only sensible if one also applies it to the postcommunist situation. Because “theory,” as it is evoked by some of its disappointed lovers, is meaningless without being related to the communist utopia.”1 In another biting commentary this German scholar of the Spheres of Capital would tell us: “Once this specter [of communism] is discontinued, the drama and the theory are also at once finished. He who says “after theory” truly intends “after politics.” One lives “after politics,” if one can no longer believe that what can still be done contributes to “the revolution.” (p. 186)

But what of that liberal communist, Slavoj Zizek, who In the first free elections in 1990, he ran as candidate for Presidency of the Republic of Slovenia (an auxiliary institution abolished in the constitution of 1991) for the Liberal Democratic Party? He’ll tell us that the “new liberal communists are, of course, our usual suspects: Bill Gates and George Soros, the CEOs of Google, IBM, Intel, eBay, as well as their court philosophers, most notably the journalist Thomas Friedman. What makes this group interesting is that their ideology has become all but indistinguishable from the new breed of anti-globalist leftist radicals: Toni Negri himself, the guru of the postmodern left, praises digital capitalism as containing in nuce all the elements of communism-one has only to drop the capitalist form, and the revolutionary goal is achieved. Both the old right, with its ridiculous belief in authority and order and parochial patriotism, and the old left with its capitalised Struggle against Capitalism, are today’s true conservatives fighting their shadow-theatre struggles and out of touch with the new realities. The signifier of this new reality in the liberal communist Newspeak is “smart”: smart indicates the dynamic and nomadic as against centralised bureaucracy; dialogue and cooperation against hierarchical authority; flexibility against routine; culture and knowledge against old industrial production; spontaneous interaction and autopoiesis against fixed hierarchy.”2

Yet, in the New Statesman Zizek recently said the difference between economics and a political economy came to a head when the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, “remarked that if he were to meet alone with Angela Merkel for dinner, they would find a formula in two hours. His point was that he and Merkel, the two politicians, would treat the disagreement as a political one…”. Isn’t this part of the truth? That the EU being based solely on Economics rather than a political economy is bound by rules that are both impersonal and a totalized rationality that no one can argue with politically? That there is no political forum or public voice in the EU today? That the actors are all bureaucrats, economists, and anonymous accountants?  Yet, even when presented with economic arguments by the now defunct Greek Financial representative to the EU Yanis Varoufakis spoke out saying that in his “first week as minister for finance I was visited by Jeroen Dijsselbloem, president of the Eurogroup (the eurozone finance ministers), who put a stark choice to me: accept the bailout’s “logic” and drop any demands for debt restructuring or your loan agreement will “crash” – the unsaid repercussion being that Greece’s banks would be boarded up.” (here) One admits that in such a situation there could be no discussion political, economic or otherwise, only silence and acceptance of the harsh dictates of Troika, etc..

It is a sad sign of our times that today you have to belong to a “radical” left to advocate these same measures – a sign of dark times, but also a chance for the left to occupy the space which, decades ago, was that of the moderate centre left.

– Slavoj Zizek

As he’ll tell us the No of Greece became for their leaders a No to the Eurocrats who prove daily that they are unable to drag Europe out of its inertia. “It was a No to the continuation of business as usual; a desperate cry telling us all that things cannot go on the usual way. It was a decision for authentic political vision against the strange combination of cold technocracy and hot racist clichés about lazy, free-spending Greeks. It was a rare victory for principle against egotist and ultimately self-destructive opportunism. The No that won was a Yes to full awareness of the crisis in Europe; a Yes to the need to enact a new beginning.” Yet, in the end the leaders caved in and gave up their ghost to the imperial might of the EU.

So now the Greek people seem to be fed up, falling back on violence and frustration knowing they are powerless, that their vote of “no” – meant a no to the EU’s terms, was for many in recent protests a betrayal on the part of their government in bowing to the demands of the EU. (here) What happens next? More Austerity? More violence that can only end in civil war between the Left and Right? The total melt-down of Greece? What I said in my previous post seems to be coming about. It’s as if everyone is in love with the “spectacle of fear” rather than its reality on the street. Zizek will tell us it’s not the people in the street we must fear, rather its the distant ones who are the “exemplary figures of evil today not ordinary consumers who pollute the environment and live in a violent world of disintegrating social links, but those who, while fully engaged in creating conditions for such universal devastation and pollution, buy their way out of their own activity…”. (Violence p. 27)

The evil ones are the faceless bureaucrats, plutocrats, and financiers in the EU that hide behind their universal rules of economics, justified that all parties involved signed up for such impassive and impersonal, mathematical and rational policies; and, if they cannot keep up their end of the stick, if they fall into a sinkhole of liquidation, if they cannot keep their house (politics and economics) in order then we can sit here impassively and apathetic to their plight: we are not responsible, you have done it to yourselves – but we can and will impose on you the harshest austerity because you owe us everything and we owe you nothing at all.  This is the EU of today: an impersonal system that sucks the lifeblood out of Europe through austere measures that enforce a form of tax-slavery on the whole of the EU citizenry who have no voice in the matter at all. Without politics or a public forum one is bound to a tyrannical system of numbers and the masters of numbers.

As one man said in the anti-capitalist protest to a reporter: One man said he was fed up with the lies: “We’ve had enough. More than 200,000 young people left the country. They are the future of Greece and we send them to German factories. What for? We should all stay in Greece and work. Altogether, as one.” (here) Is this the future? Countries depopulated of their youth forced into servitude by the rich nations of the world to migrate and work in even harsher positions? Here in the USA the countries to the South of us have been sending their poor for ages, and our capitalists put them to work in jobs in agriculture and other low-paying service jobs that our own citizenry want do themselves. That has caused tension for all. Our politicians want do anything one way or the other so it has brought about even more senseless violence between races. A new racism that seems to be about to cause a civil-war across the planet between the North and South – First and Third world countries. As Zizek again will relate:

The French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut said in an interview published on 18 November 2005 in Ha’aretz, commenting on the French suburban outbursts: “If an Arab burns a school, it is a revolt. If a white man does it, it is fascism … Step by step, the generous idea of a war on racism is monstrously turning into a lying ideology. Anti-racism will be to the twenty-first century what communism was to the twentieth century. A source of violence.” Finkielkraut is right here, but for the wrong reasons: what is wrong in the politically correct multiculturalist struggle against racism is not its excessive anti-racism, but its covert racism. (Violence p. 115)

But this is not the issue in Greece, right? I mean the EU isn’t prejudicial against the Greek people as a race, right? Or is it? Is this truly a covert racism in disguise? Is this pulling out the plugs and enforcing a new German Ideology of Supremacy against the backwater nations because of some new covert racism? (I’ll deal with this in a future post)

The disposable nation

Saskia Sassen in her latest book Expulsions tells us her “thesis is that we are seeing the making not so much of predatory elites but of predatory “formations,” a mix of elites and systemic capacities with finance a key enabler, that push toward acute concentration.” 3 As she continues:

Rich individuals and global firms by themselves could not have achieved such extreme concentration of the world’s wealth. They need what we might think of as systemic help: a complex interaction of these actors with systems regeared toward enabling extreme concentration. (KL 220)

What she is seeing is this shift from politics to economics as dominion in which large anonymous, enormous technical and legal structures full of complexities are needed to execute what are ultimately elementary extractions from subsidiary nations and regions. (KL 210) That inequality means “expulsion from a life space”. (ibid.) That among those at the top, this appears to have mean exiting from the responsibilities of membership in society via self-removal, extreme concentration of the wealth available in a society, and no inclination to redistribute that wealth to the citizens of that country, nation, or region. (KL 245)

In many ways the rich are vacating their own countries for cosmopolitan lifestyles where they can enjoy the fruits of their economics while living in tax haven cities around the globe. In Evil Paradises, Mike Davis and others provide ample case studies that explore the new geographies of exclusion and landscapes of wealth that have arisen during the long “globalization” boom since 1991.4 From Dubai to Shanghai the new world of the nouveau riche offers us a glimpse in the free floating hyper-capitalism of the present era. In a Citigroup expose that argues these new sites are forming the safe haves of our future plutonomies: “where the rich are the “dominant drivers of demand,” skimming the cream off productivity surges and technology monopolies, then spending their increasing share of national wealth as fast as possible on luxury goods and services. The champaign days of the Great Gatsby have returned with a vengeance.” (EP KL 168)

So that while Greece, Spain, and other nations, states, cities, etc. fall into chaos and poverty the plutocrats of our new cosmopolitan elites can safely hide away in their luxury smart cities enjoying the hedonistic free-flow of their capitalistic utopias. Is this our future?

While all this is going on we study books like Luis Alberto Fernandez’s Policing Dissent: Social Control and the Anti-Globalization Movement where to keep their great plutocracy from being overrun by the riff-raff of anti-globalism they’ve been working overtime to develop new systems of command and control in which the “physical control of space is central in the social control of dissent and the policing of protest. After the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, police developed and adopted techniques designed to deal with a decentralized, nonhierarchical, network-based movement. Such policing required thoughtful planning and careful attention to the geographical space in order to control mass movements. Law enforcement adopted specific maneuvers and tactics designed to manipulate the space before and during large mobilizations of the anti-globalization movement. Until now, social movement scholars have mostly overlooked these control techniques. Yet if we want to understand the spatial dimensions of control, we must look beyond notions of repression as it occurs during a protest and examine the various ways in which police manipulate space in all phases of protest and planning to ensure strategic advantages.5

It’s these new techniques of control that keep the actions of anarchists, communists, radicals, etc. at bay, providing knowledge, data, surveillance, etc. around the clock 24/7 to the point that we might as well call earth: Planet Prison. In this new world the master’s have taken their cue from the Leftists critique’s like those of Foucault in developing what he once termed disciplinary diagrams: it portioned spaced into a grid and used surveillance and regular inspection techniques. (Fernandez KL 1715) These state controlled mechanisms mapped out the urban setting and placed heavy surveillance on all downtown streets, and they assembled a centralized system of information and employed small mobile police units to target protesters conducting ing actions at the affinity-group level. Once captured, protesters were banished to holding pens for the remainder of the protest. (Fernandez KL 1720)

We’ve become rats in a maze to the plutocratic regimes, and they treat us as such in their impersonal and legal systems of control.  And if that wasn’t enough now we’re faced with a new form of economic slavery.

Economic Slavery coming to your town

The criteria of enslavement today do not concern color, tribe, or religion; they focus on weakness, gullibility, and deprivation.

– Kevin  Bales,  Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy

As Kevin Bales will argue in Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy we might think slavery is a matter of ownership, but that depends on what we mean by ownership. In the past, slavery entailed one person legally owning another person, but modern slavery is different. Today slavery is illegal everywhere, and there is no more legal ownership of human beings. When people buy slaves today they don’t ask for a receipt or ownership papers, but they do gain control— and they use violence to maintain this control. Slaveholders have all of the benefits of ownership without the legalities. Indeed, for the slaveholders, not having legal ownership is an improvement because they get total control without any responsibility for what they own. For that reason I tend to use the term slaveholder instead of slaveowner.6

In spite of this difference between the new and the old slavery, he thinks everyone would agree that what he’s talking about is slavery: the total control of one person by another for the purpose of economic exploitation. Modern slavery hides behind different masks, using clever lawyers and legal smoke screens, but when we strip away the lies, we find someone controlled by violence and denied all of their personal freedom to make money for someone else. As he traveled around the world to study the new slavery, he looked behind the legal masks and  saw people in chains. Of course, many people think there is no such thing as slavery anymore, and he was one of those people just a few years ago. (Bales, KL 597-602) As he’ll discover:

Government corruption, plus the vast increase in the number of people and their ongoing impoverishment, has led to the new slavery. For the first time in human history there is an absolute glut of potential slaves. It is a dramatic illustration of the laws of supply and demand: with so many possible slaves, their value has plummeted. Slaves are now so cheap that they have become cost-effective in many new kinds of work, completely changing how they are seen and used. (Bales KL 727)

The new slavery mimics the world economy by shifting away from ownership and fixed asset management, concentrating instead on control and use of resources or processes. Put another way, it is like the shift from the “ownership” of colonies in the last century to the economic exploitation of those same countries today without the cost and trouble of maintaining colonies. Transnational companies today do what European empires did in the last century— exploit natural resources and take advantage of low-cost labor— but without needing to take over and govern the entire country. Similarly, the new slavery appropriates the economic value of individuals while keeping them under complete coercive control— but without asserting ownership or accepting responsibility for their survival. (Bales KL 912)

Slavery grows best in extreme poverty, so we can identify its economic as well as social preconditions. Most obviously, there have to be people, perhaps nonnative to an area, who can be enslaved as well as a demand for slave labor. Slaveholders must have the resources to fund the purchase, capture, or enticement of slaves and the power to control them after enslavement. The cost of keeping a slave has to be less than or equal to the cost of hiring free labor. And there must be a demand for slave products at a price that makes slaveholding profitable. Moreover, the potential slave must lack perceived alternatives to enslavement. Being poor, homeless, a refugee, or abandoned can all lead to the desperation that opens the door to slavery, making it easy for the slaver to lay an attractive trap. And when slaves are kidnapped, they must lack sufficient power to defend themselves against that violent enslavement. (Bales KL 1019)

Yet, as we know it is the conditions of capitalism itself vying for the remaining resources on our planet that is bringing about such massive migrations and depopulations of the poor across the world. In Africa alone there are millions of migrants and refugees who have escaped destitution and war in their own countries only to be penned into refugee camps that are little more than prisons of bare survival. So what to do? Resist? How?

Global resistance

“Contemporary resistance may be said to have begun with the call for an art of resistant life from within the situationist movement. It assumed a global profile through the detournement of communications technologies invented as part of a neo-Clausewitzian effort to ensure the survival of the capacity to resist following a nuclear first strike in the Cold War and emerged as an insurgent capacity to resist able to operate on a global scale.” Says Howard Caygill in On Resistance: A Philosophy of Defiance.7

He guides us through the era of détournement as the ‘fluid language of anti-ideology’ capable of disrupting specular representation finds itself quickly set in formal and stereotyped revolutionary rhetoric:

Self-emancipation from the material bases of inverted truth, this is the self-emancipation of our epoch. This ‘historic mission of instituting truth in the world’ can be accomplished neither by an individual nor by a manipulated atomised crowd but once and for all by the class that is capable of being the dissolution of all classes in bringing to itself power in the unalienated form of realised democracy, the Council in which practical theory controls itself and views its action. (Debord, 859)

And comes to the despairing conclusion – faith in the councils as the organizational form of direct democracy and lived life was to wreck the IS after 1968 – and with the waning of the faith in direct democracy after 1968, all that remains of The Society of the Spectacle is an exercise in apocalypse, the specular end of time and life in total domination under the spectacle … in girum imus nocte et consumimur igni … (Caygill KL 3857)

Out of the thought of Vaneigem and others beyond Debord would arise another form of political resistance which in its later stages looks instead to the movement of the Zapatistas. In an open critique of the violence of the Greek insurrectionists he calls for the resistance to learn the lessons of Chiapas or, which is the same, those the Paris Commune:

The Zapatista communities of Chiapas are perhaps the only ones today to apply direct democracy. Common lands exclude from the outset the conflicts associated with private expropriation. Everyone has the right to participate in assemblies, to speak and to manifest their choice, even children… The Zapatistas have, to define their will to found a more human society, a formula which reminds of the necessity of constant vigilance – we are not an example but an experience. (Vaneigem 2010, 2)

As Caygill relates Vaneigem is effectively calling for a rethinking of Satyagraha – boycotts, alternative communities, disobedience and creativity; his last words to the Greeks are absolutely consistent with his position in 1967 and a powerful reply to the later Debord and Pasolini’s Salò (KL 3954):

I have the conviction that moving beyond the barricades of resistance and self-defence, the living forces of the entire world are awakening from a long dream. Their offensive, irresistible and peaceful, will sweep away any obstacles raised against an immense desire to live that nourishes those, who are born and reborn every day. The violence of a world to be created will supplant the violence of a world that destroys itself. (Vaneigem 2010, 5)8

For Caygill the challenge is this that instead of retreating to ressentiment and assuming the hunted posture of one closely observing and responding to the initiatives of our persecutors, we should pursue the solidarity of other resistants, aligned to our own individual and shared capacity to resist. We should begin now rather than later in organizing with other resistants. Explicitly he states it this way:

Contemporary resistance, even in its most technologically sophisticated manifestations, is not an exception to the rules governing the politics of resistance. It is engaged in defiant delegitimization of existing and potential domination but without any prospect of a final outcome in the guise of a revolutionary or reformist result or solution. As reciprocals, domination and defiance are engaged in a perpetual struggle in which resistance can never rest but must adopt a fresh posture with respect to a strengthened counter-resistance. The politics of resistance is disillusioned and without end, one that can claim a lifetime or a life for its pursuit of justice and that requires constant courage, fortitude and prudence. It accompanies the modern adventure of freedom and possibility, but in its ambivalent and ambiguous margins. Yet the defiant life is not negative, not just the reaction to the ruses of an eternally renewed effort to dominate nested within freedom itself, but one with its own necessities, its own affirmations and its own joy. (Caygill KL 4518)

In other words the politics of resistance is the politics of everyday life. A Life in the Ruins of Capital. One that begins with each moment resisting the power-over us that capital has in our daily lives. Like the Zapatista communities we must come together outside the strictures of the organized State and rebuild our lives. We have no other choice now: this is our life in a world where the plutocracies have imprisoned us in a world of impersonal rationality based on economics. The resistance begins in despair but does not end in apathy, it’s despair that drives us onward toward solidarity and the goal of a life worth living.  In this sense it begins in an ethical stance toward earth and ourselves, knowing that our battle is for the future of our species and all non-human agents against those who seek our ultimate demise or enslavement.

Will the future judge ours as the “Generation of Fools” led to slaughter by fat cat bureaucrats, political betrayers, and economic fascists of servitude? Or will there even be a human species to judge such things at all if things go on as such? It’s our life, we’re the only ones that can choose the path forward even in despair of its eventual outcome. Do we as T.S. Eliot once said end in a “whimper”, or shall we rise up and affirm with that great souled being Dr. Martin Luther King and assert: “I have dream…”

Shall we too refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. Refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this great Earth. And so, will we arise out of every nation and come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. Shall we? Look in the mirror and ask yourself: What do I want? Then look into the eyes of your children and ask: What shall I leave them as my legacy?

Caygill, Howard (2013-10-24). On Resistance: A Philosophy of Defiance (Kindle Locations 4567-4574). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.

1. Peter Sloterdijk. Rage and Time: A Psychopolitical Investigation (pp. 185-186). Kindle Edition.
2. Zizek, Slavoj (2008-07-22). Violence (BIG IDEAS//small books) (pp. 16-17). Picador. Kindle Edition.
3. Sassen, Saskia (2014-05-05). Expulsions (Kindle Locations 210-211). Harvard University Press. Kindle Edition.
4.  (2011-07-16). Evil Paradises: Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism (Kindle Locations 127-128). New Press, The. Kindle Edition.
5. Luis Alberto Fernandez. Policing Dissent: Social Control and the Anti-Globalization Movement (Kindle Locations 1384-1388). Kindle Edition.
6. Bales, Kevin (2012-04-23). Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy (Kindle Locations 591-597). University of California Press. Kindle Edition.
7. Caygill, Howard (2013-10-24). On Resistance: A Philosophy of Defiance (Kindle Locations 3747-3750). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.
8. Vaneigem, Raoul (1967) Traité de savoir-vivre à l’usage des jeunes générations, Gallimard Paris; trs. The Revolution of Everyday Life, trs. Donald Nicholson-Smith, Rebel Press 2003
—( 2009) Hans Ulrich Obrist in conversation with Raoul Vaneigem, e-fluxjournal, 6, May
—( 2010) L’État n’est plus rien, soyons tout, rue des cascades, Paris


Can the sun repair the damage in the sky,
the silences between your smile and mine;
the focus of our desperate thoughts, shattered
in the twilight of this fading world of dust

now frozen and forgotten in a night of rage?
  We’ve danced and danced these fatal strategies
of the southern hemisphere that is our life;
we can no longer turn back nor forward now,
isolated in this slice of banishment from time
we wander among our lonely tribes,
dispatched to air and wind circling
the black circus of those cruel stars;
the underbelly of their light-squandered truth –
their inhuman interludes of painful joys,
where captured here among the lauded tears
our deathly songs obliterate their fragile fugues:



there is no return for us to the distant choirs of oblivion
where the habitation of light

  – Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. 

Among honeysuckles


     Yellow dripping down 
here and there whirring wings

    Scented honey bells

Outside my bedroom window is a full honeysuckle vine we planted a year ago. In the mornings I’ll often sit at my computer and will hear the whir outside my window, lookup and see the little wings jutting here and there among the flowers. Arizona is one of those migration sites for several distinct hummingbird species. Yet some stay year around: White-Eared, Cinnamon, Berylline, Violet-Crowned, Plain-Capped Starthroat, Lucifer, Bumblebee and Allan’s hummingbirds. Less rare, the Broad-Billed, Blue-Throated, Magnificent, Black-Chinned, Calliope, Broad-Tailed and Rufous hummingbirds also are summer visitors. Look for Anna’s and Costa’s hummingbirds in the winter.

The most well-known species, the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, has its habitat in the eastern half of North America and ordinarily will not be found in Arizona.

Ashi Akira’s blog has lovely haiku poems and one on Gardenias made me think of my honeysuckles. Something about poetry that awakens one’s affective relations to the earth in a way that philosophy can only hint at. Poetry is the song of our emotive selves, the power below the threshold that reason never understands nor captures in its cold powers. Poetry is our escape and our true affective source of livingness in the world. Without poetry one is but a dark dreamer in a dystopian flux of meaningless images. Poetry brings one back to what is alive in one’s being. Without poetry one is truly dead while being alive.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Capitalism as Temporal Slavery: We Are Time’s Prisoners


Capital is dead labour which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the worker works is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has bought from him. If the worker consumes his disposable time for himself, he robs the capitalist.

– Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy: A Critique of Political Economy v. 1

Alienation is the transformation of people’s own labour into a power which rules them as if by a kind of natural or supra-human law. The origin of alienation is commodity fetishism – the belief that inanimate things (commodities) have human powers (i.e., value) able to govern the activity of human beings. This technologization of desire in Marx’s notions is at the heart of most of my investigations. I’ve decided to return to my original name for this blog: alien ecologies. An exploration of the “World Interior of Capital” (Sloterdik) within which we live alienated from our very humanity in an Infosphere closed off from our actual history and possible futures.

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