Neoliberal Aesthetics: Alien Organizations and the Non-Human Turn

Capital is not a pimp but a seething vat of biomachinic mutagens…
………– Iain Hamilton Grant, Swarm 2

Isn’t global capitalism, the neoliberal paradigm itself the absolute thing-in-itself? Its pervasiveness is everywhere, yet no one can quite make it visible, or think about it; instead, we live within its ruins like alien crime lords who have lost their home to an even more Alien Organization: a Symbolic Order of virtual and actual systems that have become so immersive, so ubiquitous within our perceptual and ideological fold that we no longer perceive anything else. How did this come about? How did we become encased in an invisible nexus of networks and social relations that have trapped us in a maze of thought, feeling, and fantasy to the point that we cannot invent alternatives? Is neoliberalism a machine of some advanced future replicant system that has invaded our time luring us onward with dreams of posthuman and transhuman immortality? Offering us new lives in the machinic civilization of a postbiological order if only we will sell ourselves to the demons of machinic desire? Caught between the Symbolic and the Real we weave tales of fantasy to fill the gap of our fears, our terrors, our ignorance of ourselves and our non-human others in our midst. Tales of Terminators, terrorists, global chaos, climatological and biological catastrophism all offered as talking points to guide us to one conclusion: you must submit to the neoliberal order, else die in the isolated house of being, alone and trembling at the hands of unknown forces.

Our leaders encase us in debt, force us to become dependent on them for our livelihoods, our security, our very source of human freedom. Yet, instead of any of these they give us the chains of taxation, 24/7 work days, fear of religious terrorism, eternal war, and the likelihood of endless misery and pain. Yet, we seem to accept this as if there were no other way, as if this was all natural, just the way things are rather than the embellishments of an aesthetic order of calculated planning and ingenuity that has reconfigured the very foundations of democracy over the past sixty years. A fantasy world of neoliberal fiction and ideology that has subtly worked its propaganda systems shaping Hollywood, major news networks, news papers, journals, think-tanks, academic systems through the pressure of economic power and the nomos of legal and ethical systematic coercion. A system so subtly built over time gradually remaking the Industrial enclaves of the Fordist era, destroying it, decentralizing labor, shifting the old factory systems to the periphery of the globe, while dismantling the unions and their security, the family farm systems, and isolating the workers through divisive politics, multicultural racism, difference, and monetary refinancialization and immaterial subterfuge. Capitalism knows very well what it is about, it is built on the notion of reinventing itself, auto-reconfiguring its systems of power and control even in the midst of breakdowns between crises. It thrives on crisis at the expense of dialecticians of the Left who still sit there spellbound as to why it continues. Reactionaries like Nick Land call this present system of neoliberalism the “Cathedral”: a system of governmental, corporate, and academic intellectual and ideological, political and economic power, coercion, and narratives that work through the ICT’s to manipulate and communicate, reinforce repetitively their system of false hope and democracy. I’m not a reactionary, but this does give a nice fictional summation to the global capitalist system we see around us and yet seem unwilling and unable to emancipate ourselves from. The Left is like a broken child’s toy, a Humpty-Dumpty that no one can put back together.

Even as Badiou and Zizek dream of the Idea of Communism as something to return too: a failed idea and lost cause that must be continually tried again and again, even amidst failure. Fail, and try better! – Is such a revitalization possible? When one watched Greece and Syriza recently crack under the pressure of isolation and economic servitude, its Leftist government caving before the EU gods, unable to provide its people even the hint of freedom much less economic salvation. Much rather generations of taxation and monetary austerity. What is left? How did the neoliberals capture the desires of the world and trap them in a cage of austerity from which only eternal war, taxation, and unfreedom reign?

Happened on a paper this morning on a journal devoted to Organizational Aesthetics dealing with Speculative Realism and Non-human agents such as Artificial Intelligence within Alien Organizations of the virtual and actual that have already become a staple of the current network society. A society in which  the world is flattened out across a grid of electronic circuits providing a platform for both non-human and human agents a 24/7 Onlife system of exchanges and transactional arbitration. Technologies and technics based on the emerging ICT technologies (Information and Communications), outsourcing and global networking. These Virtual organizations are “open and temporary coalitions of independent and usually geographically dispersed economic entities, whose structure is being constantly reorganized, whereas the scope and aim of the performed activities depends on the emerging market opportunities”.1 What is interesting is how the neoliberal world of capital is co-opting a value-neutral philosophy of speculative aesthetics and marshalling its concepts for use within the global marketplace as a design-engineering and organizational ploy for a future non-human system that flattens economics and productivity of knowledge workers within the emerging network economy and society.

Adam Dzidowski will develop a thesis in which these virtual organizations cannot operate  without systems like MRP (Material Requirements Planning), ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), DSS (Decision Support Systems) or BI (Business Intelligence). Concurrently data mining, expert systems, neural networks and genetic algorithms are commonly incorporated into the daily activities of many corporations. Because of this he begins to question whether human perception is still central to organizational aesthetics. In the newer world of Onlife, when both human and non-human agents interoperate and the stakeholder position is more and more taken over by artificial systems rather than human actors/agents: a networked realm algorithmically driven by autonomous organisational agents like high-frequency trading (HFT), in which statistical arbitrage or trend following software already exist and act within the timeframes (milliseconds) and space (global market) that are unreachable for human perception, whether the most interesting question right now is how we should consider the sensitivity of non-human agents in

James Brindle in a blog post entitled The New Aesthetic (Bridle, 2011),  followed by a Tumblr feed (see: He would describe the project as one undertaken within its own medium: an attempt to “write” critically about the network in the vernacular of the network itself: in a tumblr, in blog posts, in YouTube videos of lectures, tweeted reports and messages, reblogs, likes, and comments. Examples of this “new aesthetic of the future” would entail glitches, pixelations, render ghosts, GPS anomalies and other digital artefacts serve to introduce alien and synthetic visual forms, created by non-human actors, but also by humans incorporating “new” forms of perception.

The important motif here is the flattening out of human and non-human players on an equal footing in which both incorporate new forms of perception. One might as well say, “intentionality”: the directedness of the agency, human or non-human toward its objects, goals, or self-reflected operations. The point is that within the network human and non-human work or play in ways that are bound to a virtual environment to real time global participation and infoenactivism (i.e., the notion that inforgs or informational organisms – both human and non-human – collaborate in dynamic environmental interaction through elaborated channels of both representational and diagrammatic dataflows that rather than passively receiving information from their environments they then translate it into the idioms of exchange appropriate to the perceptive powers and capacities of their respective aesthetic organization).

As Dzidowski describes it the debate around the New Aesthetic “has spanned everything from feminist critique of the machine gaze to electric anthropology to alien toaster pastry to cats” (Dzidowski, p. 4). What we’re seeing here is a reorientation of the aesthetic paradigm toward the non-human actor’s viewpoint, a decentering of the human or displacement, that takes the new non-human objects of advanced modes of neoliberal industry, science, and business seriously. The stakeholders within these virtual enclaves more and more is being seen as a non-human actor with its own set of aesthetic perceptions and dynamic forms of interactive judgements and decisions. He’ll quote Karl Marx’s The Fragment on Machines along with Michael Betancourt comments:

What the “new aesthetic” documents is the shift from earlier considerations of machine labor as an amplifier and extension of human action  – as an augmentation of human labor  – to its replacement by models where the machine does not augment but supplant, in the process apparently removing the human intermediary that is the labor that historically lies between the work of human designer-engineers and fabrication following their plans. (Dzidowski, p. 5)

In this scenario the non-human agents “supplant” the human agents or “intermediary” as the active participants of value in this new virtual organization of corporate Onlife initiatives. As Ursula Huws in  Labor in the Global Digital Economy: The Cybertariat Comes of Age  will tell us neoliberal global capitalism’s extraordinary ability to survive the crises that periodically threaten to destroy it by generating new commodities.2 Even as non-human agents supplant or replace humans at various jobs over the next century there will still be a need for corporations and governments to maintain a balance between economic viability and the migration to new forms of machinic civilization. This means that it is still “humans” not the “non-human” agent that supports the economic base, which means along with new forms of commodification comes the need to invent new types of jobs for humans who actually invest and buy these commodities. After all non-human actors have yet to become fully autonomous economic agents in their own right, whether they are beginning to supplant humans in many of the repetitive tasks across the mundane world of real production or not.

Dzidowski will rely on Ian Bogost’s orientation in Alien Phenomenology for a new orientation in corporate organizational aesthetics:

Object-oriented ontology (“OOO” for short) puts things at the center of this study. Its proponents contend that nothing has special status, but that everything exists equally – plumbers, cotton, bonobos, DVD players, and sandstone, for example. I contemporary thought, things are usually taken either as the aggregation of ever smaller bits (scientific naturalism) or as constructions of human behavior and society (social relativism). OOO steers a path between the two, drawing attention to things at all scales (from atoms to alpacas, bits to blinis), and pondering their nature and relations with one another as much with ourselves. (Bogost, 2009)

Is OOO becoming the aesthetic of choice for the Neoliberal agenda? Does it offer these design engineers of the virtual enclaves or other real-world design a form that flattens everything out on a plane of immanence that equalizes the human and non-human agents? Quoting from Levi R. Bryant’s book Democracy of Objects he’ll remark, saying, “flat ontology is not necessarily about the destruction of all hierarchies, but rather acknowledging the other ones. As Levi R. Bryant explains “the point is not to stop thinking about humans (…) but rather to start thinking about the role nonhumans play in organizing our social relations in particular ways” (Bryant, 2012). (Dzidowski , p. 5)

I know Levi leans toward anarchic and leftist forms in his politics, but can OOO itself be value neutral, open to reactionary as well as leftist politics within the neoliberal globalist system? As Dzidowski comments “when taking into account the digital, synthetic and artificial organizational  systems, some authors argue that the OOO and modern philosophy are hugely influenced by ICT itself” (Dzidowski, p. 5). So that OOO can be co-opted into either neoliberal or leftward agendas at the level of flat ontology. There being no ethical or epistemic dimension to counter or organize its philosophical presuppositions: it being concerned solely with displacing and decentering our authoritative and cultural imperialism of the human onto a level plane in which both human and non-human players, objects, agents work, live, and perceive.

He’ll quote from the Speculative Aesthetics Research Project at University for the Creative Arts describing their efforts in the following manner:

Our research emphasizes the requirement for novel modes of thinking aesthetics that refuse to hypostatize human experience as the master category through which the world is to be interpreted. To this end, the speculative dimension regarding aesthetic thought, as well as art and design practice, may well involve a productive tension between the levels of phenomenal experience, metaphysical speculation and scientific description, whilst, nonetheless, refusing a return to naïve realism, reified subjectivity, or (new) materialisms. (Dzidowski , p. 6)

The moment you displace the human from the center, with its sense of moral or socio-cultural legal or political motivations, and at the same time undermine the notion of the Subject as a form of naïve realism what then? What guides the use of such a philosophical or speculative aesthetic? The Neoliberal organizations can co-opt such a value-neutral non-human aesthetic to its own economic and political goals. What might that entail? Will our distinction between public and private be re-conceptualized as well? Will non-human agents gain political and social status? Does OOO allow for the emergence of new political actors to emerge at the moment, non-human agents gaining legal and social rights on an equal footing with humans? Will the emerging Artificial Intelligences take priority in class labor disputes, or legal battles over Security or any of a number of other issues? As the neoliberal organizations incorporate such philosophical underpinnings in their approach to law, aesthetics, economics, human and non-human relations what effect will this entail for society as a whole? Could we see an Artificial Agent of Intelligence gain a foothold in politics, become a governing agent in national or global affairs, rule over humans in any number of ways?

Steven Shaviro would have us accept panpsychism as a central aspect of this emerging paradigm: that everything is mindful, or has a mind; but this does not necessarily entail that everything is “given” or “manifested” to a mind. (…) If we are to reject correlationism, and undo the Kantian knot of thought and being, no middle way is possible. We must say either (along with Harman and Grant) that all entities are in their own right at least to some degree active, intentional, vital, and possessed of powers; or else (along with Meillassoux and Brassier) that being is radically disjunct from thought, in which case things or objects must be entirely divested of their allegedly anthropomorphic qualities. (Shaviro, The Universe of Things: 2011)

This dualism that decenters the human as the agent of mind, and allows the mental within objects of every type and stripe, while rewiring our framework of humanistic systems through a nihilistic wiping of the anthropomorphic traces in things is central to this orientation and aesthetic. The point of new speculative aesthetic is not to get rid of the human, but rather to undermine the heritage of humanistic learning and education. To develop a new education, aesthetic, and perceptive relation to the non-human as equal to ourselves. In this sense it is to move from a hierarchical ranking system to a non-hierarchical networking system in which objects both interact and withdraw from action, all bound by a space of equalization in which a non-elitist or democratic playing field is enabled.

One wonders how this would work in the real world? I’ve only recently purchased Harman’s Bruno Latour: Reassembling the Political which is about Latour’s specific relational theory and its uses for politics. I’ve read a couple of reviews where he is leery of mixing ontology and politics. This seems right to me, yet even if he is cautious one realizes that others will not be and will co-opt such ontologies to other purposes than originally intended. That’s one of the problems with the “intentional” perspective: intentions are prone to abuse and error if directed toward objects outside the ontological domain. One of the weaknesses of the OOO perspective is the ethical and political aspects that will need to be addressed. I’ll need to see what Harman might have to say to this after I read his work on Latour.

As Dzidowski summarizes organizational aesthetics or how organizations organize themselves both in the virtual and actual world through their relations within and outside is taking on a more non-human and alien feel and style: speculative design concept spans across futurism and foresight methods,  incorporating tools like concept art, design fiction, culture-jamming, futurescaping, scenarios, horizon-scanning, science fiction, or even gonzo and new journalism (Dzidowski, p. 9) He’ll suggest that future organisational designs would either let us gracefully withdraw from organisational areas where our perception is simply unnecessary or insufficient, or they would ultimately motivate us to defend the remnants of human agency in a more and more artificial world. (Dzidowski, p. 10) Admonishing us that autonomous manufacturing plants are already here, but the intuitive fear of autonomous organisations seems to be well justified. Our open, but watchful imagination of the things to come is especially needed today. Eventually “it is the business of the future to be dangerous, and it is among the merits of science that it equips the future for its duties” (Dzidowski, p. 10).

So will the sciences reengineer our ethics, provide us goals, initiatives, duties? Is the future some speculative system of non-human agents slowly displacing the human from center to periphery in an accelerating world out of joint, a world of objects that interact among themselves without human knowledge or benefit. Objects that take on the role of legal, political, and social mediators that once fell to humans alone. A world of artificial intelligence, robotics, nano-tech, rogue biotech viruses and retroviruses, plastic environments of an infosphere in which the virtual and actual mesh to the point that the lines between them that once seemed so well defined by our human interfaces blur and disappear as non-human players begin to migrate into the human, and the human into the non-human? Will anything human remain? That ominous marker from Land’s Meltdown (read here) ringing in my ears: “Nothing human gets out alive.”

Maybe our passion to escape the human along with its entrapments in the anthropomorphic cage of correlationism is actually leading not to some new freedom and aesthetic openness and equalization of human and non-human, but rather is in a strange and uncanny reversal allowing the Real to invade the Symbolic Order of humanistic narratives, cannibalize the scripts that have underwritten the human project for millennia, that have guided its politics, education, literature, ethics, religion, philosophy, etc. for several hundred years from the Renaissance to Enlightenment into Modernism? And, yet, under the light of advance nihilism begin to see itself deconstructed, dismantled, brought into the margins of a defunct ideology and unsound and pathological system that pit humanity against the non-human as mythologized in Nature. Even now the speculative aesthetics of undoing the category of the human and natural is well under way. The older forms of Culture/Nature divide falling apart. Nature seen as a fantasy of the Enlightenment and instrumental reasoning of men seeking mastery and control of the resources of the natural world. Instead the new aesthetic would relinquish our hold on the natural, allow the non-human an autonomy the likes of which have never been seen before. Allow as well those other systems, the machinic to emerge from their human bondage and become autonomous: AI’s, robots, all slowly rising out of human collapse as the new agents of freedom and non-human aesthetic, philosophy, science. Allowing the non-human to suddenly stand in the sun on its own, autonomous and free of the human encroachment, allowing it to take on even the sacrosanct powers and capacities of human thought and creativity, to become intelligent and perceptive. With the human stripped of its emperor’s new clothing what will remain of this bare homo sacre? If civilization and society were once seen as apotropaic defense systems against the crude violence of nature, what of those newly crowned powers of the virtual, the machinic progeny of our posthuman future?

Of course the other side is those posthumanists, and transhumanists who seek just this: to merge with our machinic cousins, become more or less immortal; with fixable plastic bodies of portable parts, replaceable and impervious to the natural elements of erosion. Systems that will allow the human to migrate into alternate forms of artificial life. Allow a world of possibility undreamed by organic life-forms. The opening of space to forms and modes of existence and space exploration unimaginable before, due to the limits and finitude of man. A world where pain will be a thing of the past, where problems in the physical substratum of the robotic bodies we will inhabit will just inform nanotech operators and self-replicating robots to fix us on the fly. Metamorphic systems of advanced intelligence working alongside the posthuman enclaves as if Ovid’s poem of Metamorphosis was not about gods from above, but about the human children of time emerging from their cocoon of organic flesh into the anorganic and plastic encasement of titanium and other metal alloys as the new immortals of a new earth. A utopian dream of neoliberal power?

Where does the truth lie in such dreams of reason?


  1. Dzidowski, Adam (2015) “New and Speculative Organisational Aesthetics,” Organizational Aesthetics: Vol. 4: Iss. 1, 19-31.
    Available at:
  2. Huws, Ursula (2014-12-05). Labor in the Global Digital Economy: The Cybertariat Comes of Age (Kindle Locations 34-35). Monthly Review Press. Kindle Edition.

8 thoughts on “Neoliberal Aesthetics: Alien Organizations and the Non-Human Turn

  1. When they talk about desiring-production at the beginning of “Anti-Oedipus” Deleuze and Guattari remark that “desiring machines only work when they break down, and by continually breaking down.” Is this not precisely the function of capitalism, which must always break itself down in order to progress further? This is the realization that Schumpeter had when he coined the term “creative destruction”, and its the little motor that makes Perez’s techno-economic paradigms make their sideways jumps. What’s remarkable, now, is that capitalism, in its virulent, neoliberal manifestation, requires another further breakdown: it needs people to reject it, either politically, morally, or aesthetically. It uses every critical negation to affirm itself. Far from the passivity that was encouraged in the industrial Fordist era, it requires certain activity (dare I say activism) on behalf of at least a portion of its population, but it short circuits the activity-inaction relationship by reversing activity into a higher form of passivity. In other words: if you’re on the winning side of capital, how can you argue against the best that it has to offer? If you’re on the losing side, or the middle strata, you face the worst the system has to offer, either in its full-fledged disciplinary mode (it is by no accident that the United States, already with the highest in incarceration rates per capita, reached the height of its prison populations during the financial crisis), or the empty promise of building a ‘perfect capitalism’ in a return to the homogeneizng balances of its previous form. Buried in there is the most brackish of its techniques: radical passivity, something suggested time and time again is no option, for the system is so distasteful, so debilitating, so violent, that there are only two stances one can take to it – the headlong embrace of its mechanics, or some form of opposition to it (which can span the left and the right alike).

    As an aside:

    Either way, capitalism has assigned itself to the future far in advance. In such a scenario, I must confess in bad conscience that the only route forward I can see is by acknowledging this dynamic – which I call the 2nd order modified sequence – and pushing in for what Srnicek and Williams call ‘non-reformist reforms’. Becoming knowing accomplices in our own co-optation – and perhaps being able to use this acknowledgement to steer capitalism and the state into something else, at least a space where people have more ground to stand on. Remaining moored in the ‘crash space’, either through network paranoia or simple exhaustion, will obstruct us from any semblance of action in the coming technological possibility space.

    Either way, the question of the human and the nonhuman is going to be the defining characteristic of what happens in this possibility space. I see two paths: the one in which the distinction between man and machine gets erased in the algorithm, and the question of agency becomes subordinated by the technical machines already established by the social-political-economic structures of the current paradigm; and another, when we realize the profound ecological nature of human agency, that human agency is subsumed in a really-existing eco-complexity that has what appears as agency of its own that cuts across us and our ‘civilized order’ at every turn – in short, that we are limited actors in a mangle.

    In reality, there are multiple outcomes to this supposed dialectical opposition:

    1. The perpetuation of machinic neoliberalism that persists in valorizing human agency as an absolute
    2. The perpetuation of machinic neolibealism augmented by green management
    3. A resurgent neo-fascism that regulates the population in the context of social/economic/ecological instability
    4. The turn towards some sort of eco-Keynesianism that acknowledges human limitation in the face of ecological complexity (less likely)
    5. An eco-fascism of the type envisioned by the deep ecologists
    6. Eco-socialism, one that would be somewhere between the machine-world envisioned by Srnicek and Williams and the decentralized order advocated by the P2P Foundation

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    • “Capitalist production seeks continually to overcome these immanent barriers, but overcomes them only by means which again place these barriers in its way and on a more formidable scale. The real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself.
      – Karl Marx, Capital”

      See my Deleuze & Guattari: The Eternal Return of Accelerating Capital:

      Exactly. This almost reverse method of creating false signs, false flags to enable as in the 90’s when all those color revolutions in the Balkan countries were funded and instigated by capital and CIA initiatives, with even George Soros, and Rockefeller funding etc. They’re doing the same internally today with various oppositional forces through difference, isolation, race, political correctness, etc. Force people like in the 50’s era Macarthyism to turn on their neighbors, sell them out or twitter-bait them and send in the media-hounds to liquefy them and insure anyone who oversteps the politically correct line is silenced forevermore.

      No more the sense of solidarity, or a movement, even on campuses around the world now it is the radicals that are attacked if they question the neoliberal media, etc. We are victims of our own past ideological religions. Marxism has become a neoliberal tool to enslave the masses using a reverse methodology of liberation by reactionary political correctness.

      As Nietzsche at his maddest foresaw: “The leveling of the mankind of Europe is the great process which should not be arrested; it should even be accelerated. The necessity of cleaving gulfs, of distance, of the order of rank, is therefore imperative; but not the necessity of retarding the process above mentioned.” As a reactionary Nietzsche was seeking to overcome what he perceived as the decadent and dying embers of bourgeoisie society which he felt was falling into collectivist and democratic socialist forms. He didn’t see any need to fight this, but rather what he sought was to accelerate this process of the leveling and homogenization of the masses while at the same time allowing for a distancing and revaluation of all values to take place that would in the end allow for a new type of species to emerge out of this world. One that would be based on a vitalistic and warrior based elitism of the strong, brave, cultured, and mannered men of tomorrow – the amoral or beyond good and evil beings who like man today would espouse forms of posthuman and transhuman H++ ideologies seeking such a “forcing-house for rare and exceptional plants”.

      And debt in D&G: “We have seen that the regime of debt is the unit of alliance, and alliance is representation itself. It is alliance that codes the flows of desire and that, by means of debt, creates for man a memory of words (paroles). It is alliance that represses the great, intense, mute filiative memory, the germinal influx as the representative of the non-coded flows of desire capable of submerging everything. It is debt that articulates the alliances with the filiations that have become extended, in order to form and to forge a system in extension (representation) based on the repression of nocturnal intensities. The alliance-debt answers to what Nietzsche described as humanity’s prehistoric labor: the use of the cruelest mnemotechnics, in naked flesh, to impose a memory of words founded on the ancient biocosmic memory. That is why it is so important to see debt as a direct consequence of the primitive inscription process, instead of making it – and the inscriptions themselves – into an indirect means of universal exchange.” (p. 185)

      We see this very thing in the EU and other nations… this sense of cruelty through a generational marking of debt to the memory systems of a whole people who will not see their way out of poverty for generations. That with the influx of refugees from Western caused wars that awakened this scourge of a Caliphate in ISIS. And, believe me, it was the West that awakened this beast… no one else.


      • And… memory of course is used by the imagination to shape a recognizable figure in the experience of the situation and its moment that then may or may not move the will towards or away from whatever as the case may be. This allows for a comparison to occur canceling the distance of a foreign agency and its intelligence abrogating that which Nietzche calls a “law [that] holds for all eternity: “Each man is furthest from himself” ” in the prologue of “Geneology of Morals”. When we think we know ourselves it is only because our understanding is comparing who we are to others through some determinate characteristics making a particular identity possible. In my own experience if I am not comfortable with my subtracted distinction that makes me a part of no recognizable community then I start organizing my mental pictures in the light of say, the terminology of some prestigious authority like a sycophantic epigone looking to bask in borrowed glory, in debt… As I read him Stiegler has updated this analysis of Nietzsche. Does he not point to a similar process of enslavement in his discussions of proletarization? Lazarrato is doing the same, in a different way, in his “The Making of an Indebted Man”. For Lazzarato proletarization is the construction of a subject that can feel guilty, can feel the he or she is a poor manager of his or her own capital, that can feel when he or she is unemployed as paradigm case that he or she is a looser, reject. garbage, etc. But how exactly is the word “capital” meant here? I mean in the case of someone who is unemployed, and to extend it to everyone so we can all relate; in the case of a day off or a holiday, or taking part in a festival? It seems at issue is a possibility, potentiality which from the creditors point of view needs to be trusted as being able to be put to work which means such potentiality is not to be held, nurtured, gathered together which would occur during a process of insolvency but let go, loosen into work. A trustworthy human being in capitalism is someone who is responsible because he or she feels guilty if human potential is held for, say, useless play during time-off that brings no profit.


      • Have you read his recent Signs and Machines? He’s integrating much of the legacy of Guattari within it… diagrammatic thinking etc. Reminds me in some ways of Levi R. Bryant’s recent Ontocartography of machine ontology. Of course Bryant was early on influenced by Deleuze/Guattari, having written his first book on Deleuze’s main Logic of Sensation and Difference and Repetition before his entering the SR OOO movement with Democracy of Objects, etc.

        Your view on potentiality seems close to Agamben’s…


  2. Quick comment. I’m leery of the term “ideology”. It’s questionable whether ideologies – i.e. beliefs, practices or institutions that have the function of maintaining wider economic and political relations – exist. There’s no obvious teleonomic mechanism (analogous to Darwinian selection) by which ideologies could come about. That said, talking about ideologies keeps a lot of us off the streets, so what do I know? Obviously some beliefs have the causal consequence of maintaining some systems, but that doesn’t mean that they have the function of so maintaining them. The simplest explanation for our inability to think up alternatives to capitalism is that thinking up speculative social systems that also work is difficult. Also the alternatives we know about seem considerably worse.


    • Obviously its a metaphor for a set of observables, rather than some object like a rock or some hypothetical mathematical object. It’s a defined theory object: a set of delimited cultural patterns and systems rather than something you could see empirically… always was a mental notation for this from Marx to Zizek. So to say it doesn’t exist is just to say you disagree with these Leftist philosophers, economists, etc. who have used it and determined it, nothing more, nothing less. 🙂


  3. Hi Stephen,

    Maybe “ideologies are observables” makes sense if there is an “Ideological stance” or Floridi-style LoA from which certain things show up as ideological. But I’m not sure thats easy to sustain. I view ideologies are theoretical posits. Their value depends on their explanatory fecundity and the extent to which they can be integrated within a plausible social ontology.

    I think Zizek, and certainly Marx, think of ideology as being socially explanatory and socially explained. Ideologies exist and are maintained in virtue of having a functional contribution to the stability of some system. For example, private property law for Marx is ideological insofar as it exists in virtue of its contribution to the maintenance of capitalist relations of production.

    If there are no bearers for such functional roles then what are we to make of “Capitalism knows very well what it is about, it is built on the notion of reinventing itself, auto-reconfiguring its systems of power and control even in the midst of breakdowns between crises.”. The problem here is that such formulations are pretty hard to unpack. We don’t attribute literal foresight to some entity called Capitalism. So we need to conceive of some “teleonomic” mechanism whereby a socio-economic system can bring about beliefs, etc. that have a causal contribution to its maintenance. If we can’t do that, then there are good grounds for saying that there is no ideology.


    • Yea, obviously to build up a supporting case for unpacking such conceptuality would probably entail a lengthy discussion or book. For the general statement of “ideology” the old Marxist one is as you say what Zizek attacks: it’s the notion of “false consciousness” the process and production of belief in a society or nation, etc. All the rational myths and political, cultural, or social systems that promote them (i.e., ideologues, media, religion, political, etc.). For Zizek on the other hand if the term “ideology” has any meaning at all, ideological positions are always what people impute to Others (for today’s left, for example, the political right are the dupes of one or another noble lie about natural community; for the right, the left are the dupes of well meaning but utopian egalitarianism bound to lead to economic and moral collapse, etc.). For subjects to believe in an ideology, it must have been presented to them, and been accepted, as nonideological – as part of the ubiquitous background, as True and Right, and what anyone sensible would believe. The basic folk psychological systems of belief that circulate almost like the auntonomic systems of the body, unconsciously and never questioned.

      Think of Stuart Brand and the “California Ideology” of the 90’s and 2000’s etc.

      Of course he goes into a hell of a lot more detail. But this is the general drift. So you can see that to use the term in a post is not to grind some axe as you are: it’s more of a telegraphing of the usual accepted notions of secular ideologies prevalent in things like listening to let’s say Fox news that Climate change is a lie, that scientists are either left-wing nuts, or have some agenda – either way that they are wrong, etc. Fox promotes its own agenda and ideologies every day about economics, politics, and any number of other things as if they were just Truth: natural, part of accepted notions, that if to dispute them would be to be labeled a “left-wing nut” like O’Reilley does every evening.

      I mean if you’re wanting some deep conceptuality out of a post other than the usual telegraphed notion of “ideology”: a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture; a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture; the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program. Think of the term “neoliberal” its a neologism, and concept that supposedly describes free-market capitalism, an ideological term that is used almost ubiquitously on the left – I use it, to describe the economic ideas, goals, programs, etc. of those since F.A. Hayek and the Mount Pelerin Group who promoted think-tanks, funds, education, meetings, and general ideological myths through various self-proclaimed economists and political pundits like Milton Friedman in Capitalism and Freedom, etc.

      As I said to really speak of this is to write a book….


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