Monsterland: The Last Days of Democracy


People will believe anything as long as it coincides with the cultural script they’ve inherited through parental, institutional, or political propaganda and fear. The elite sponsor hate wars of all against all with one exception: the elite themselves – and by this I mean the power elite of the upper .01%, the Oligarchs and Corporate Monopolists. We live in a corporate welfare state, a world in which the last dregs of capitalism feeds off the very institutions it once invented to support its own initiatives.

The half dozen corporations that own most of the media have worked overtime to sell to a bewildered public the fiction that we are enjoying a recovery. Employment figures, through a variety of gimmicks, including erasing those who are unemployed for over a year from unemployment rolls, are a lie, as is nearly every other financial indicator pumped out for public consumption. Marx knew that once the market mechanism became the sole determining factor for the fate of the nation-state, as well as the natural world, both would be demolished.1

As deteriorating infrastructure and ongoing layoffs continue to beset the nation’s cities, more dramatic signs of neglect will appear. Garbage will pile up uncollected on curbsides. Power grids will blink on and off. There will not be enough police, firefighters, or teachers. Pensions will be slashed or paid sporadically. Decent medical care will be reserved for the rich. Those who die because they cannot afford health care—now 45,000 uninsured people a year—will perish in greater numbers. Fuel and food prices will climb. Processed food laden with preservatives, sugar, and fat will become the staple diet. At least a quarter of the population will lack adequate employment. Law and order will break down. Crime will become endemic, and in a nation where nearly anyone can get a gun, death rates from violence will rise. Riots, if the unraveling is not halted, will erupt across the country like wildfires. Random and mass shootings will grow more common. Hate groups will proliferate like lice. And widespread disgust with the political elites, as well as the uncertainty and chaos, will make some kind of militarized solution increasingly attractive to embittered, demoralized Americans. (Hedges, KL 235)

The most ominous danger we face does not come from the eradication of free speech through the obliteration of net neutrality or through Google algorithms that steer people away from dissident political sites. It does not come from the 2017 tax bill that abandons all pretense of fiscal responsibility to enrich corporations and oligarchs and prepares the way to dismantle programs such as Social Security. It does not come from the opening of public land to the mining and fossil fuel industry, the acceleration of ecocide by demolishing environmental regulations, or the destruction of public education. It does not come from the squandering of federal dollars on a bloated military as the country collapses or the use of the systems of domestic security to criminalize dissent. The most ominous danger we face comes from the marginalization and destruction of institutions, including the courts, academia, legislative bodies, cultural organizations, and the press, that once ensured that civil discourse was rooted in reality and fact, helping us distinguish lies from truth, and facilitate justice. (ibid.)

This is the so called post-truth world we’ve been led to believe in as if the world were part of a simulacrum of nihil, a world where meaning no longer exists and people are bound to a tissue of lies, deceit, and corruption. A world where the very institutions that once offered us a safety net, security, and truth have become nothing more than the purveyors of a postmodern horror show of absolute relativism in which “anything goes”. “The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world—and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end—is being destroyed,” Hannah Arendt wrote in The Origins of Totalitarianism.

George Orwell in his dystopian novel 1984 presented such a post-truth society guided by Newspeak. Newspeak is a controlled language, of restricted grammar and limited vocabulary, meant to limit the freedom of thought—personal identity, self-expression, free will—that ideologically threatens the régime of Big Brother and the Party, who thus criminalized such concepts as thoughtcrime, contradictions of Ingsoc orthodoxy. For us this same notion is termed Political Correctness. On the Left the term has come to refer to avoiding language or behavior that can be seen as excluding, marginalizing, or insulting groups of people considered disadvantaged or discriminated against, especially groups defined by sex or race. In public discourse and the media, it is generally used as a pejorative, implying that these policies are excessive or unwarranted. On the Right the term “right-wing political correctness” is sometimes applied by commentators, especially when drawing parallels: in 1995, one author used the term “conservative correctness” arguing, in relation to higher education, that “critics of political correctness show a curious blindness when it comes to examples of conservative correctness. Most often, the case is entirely ignored or censorship of the Left is justified as a positive virtue.  A balanced perspective was lost, and everyone missed the fact that people on all sides were sometimes censored.

Yet, as we’ve seen the lines have been blurred and the very power of PC culture has permeated our culture as a new censorium in which we the people have begun doing the work of policing ourselves in a reverse McCarthyism. In the 1950’s the fear of communism which was driven by the power elite to empower the warrior culture and the thriving Industrial-Military Complex and their beneficiaries created a culture of absolute paranoia in which the citizens fear of the neighbor as an enemy became the center piece of a witch hunt society. In our own time the same kind of cultural praxis is used by the elite to turn citizens against each other and distract them from the real enemy: the elite and powerful Oligarchs and Corporate Monopolists. We turn on each other through identity politics and various socio-cultural mechanisms to enforce censorship and behavioral change upon our selves while the real culprits at the top are laughing all the way to the bank.

“The venal political figures need not even comprehend the social and political consequences of their behavior,” psychiatrist Joost A. M. Meerloo wrote in The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing. “They are compelled not by ideological belief, no matter how much they may rationalize to convince themselves they are, but by the distortions of their own personalities. They are not motivated by their advertised urge to serve their country or mankind, but rather by an overwhelming need and compulsion to satisfy the cravings of their own pathological character structures. The ideologies they spout are not real goals; they are the cynical devices by which these sick men hope to achieve some personal sense of worth and power. Subtle inner lies seduce them into going from bad to worse. Defensive self-deception, arrested insight, evasion of emotional identification with others, degradation of empathy—the mind has many defense mechanisms with which to blind the conscience.”

Mass culture in the hands of corporate powers is a potent and dangerous force. It creates a herd mentality. It banishes independent and autonomous thought. It destroys our self-confidence. It marginalizes and discredits dissidents and nonconformists. It depoliticizes the citizenry. It instills a sense of collective futility and impotence by presenting the ruling ideology as a revealed, unassailable truth, an inevitable and inexorable force that alone makes human progress possible. It uses the cant of nationalism and patriotic symbols to mount a continuous celebration of American power and virtues. It disconnects the working class in one country from another—one of the primary objectives of the capitalist class.

Mass culture is an assault that, as the Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci wrote, results in a “confused and fragmentary” consciousness, or what Marx called “false consciousness.” It is designed to impart the belief to the proletariat that its “true” interests are aligned with those of the ruling class. It transforms legitimate economic and social grievances into psychological and emotional problems. It uses nationalism to discredit class interests.

The Great Divide in the United States between our anemic left politicos, academics, and cultural elites and the actual working class has allowed proto-fascist forms of authoritarianism to arise. The cultural divide between the real working people of the United States and its supposed elite Leftists has broken the bond between true revolt and rebellion. The ridiculing of Trump supporters, the failure to listen to and heed the legitimate suffering of the working poor, including the white working poor, ensures that any revolt will be stillborn. As Hedges states it: “Those of us who seek to overthrow the corporate state will have to begin locally. This means advocating issues such as raising the minimum wage, fighting for clean water, universal health care, and good public education, including free university education, that speak directly to the improvement of the lives of the working class. It does not mean lecturing the working class, and especially the white working class, about multiculturalism and identity politics.” (Hedges, KL 379))

Since the 1960’s the slow and methodical destruction of democratic institutions has led to the invasive authoritarianism we see in our midst. The State in collusion with the Monopoly Capitalism of Transglobal Capital slowly  destroyed our two-party system. It destroyed labor unions. It destroyed public education. It destroyed the judiciary. It destroyed the press. It destroyed academia. It destroyed consumer and environmental protection. It destroyed our industrial base. It destroyed communities and cities. And it destroyed the lives of tens of millions of Americans no longer able to find work that provides a living wage, cursed to live in chronic poverty or locked in cages in our monstrous system of mass incarceration.

As Hedges puts it political rhetoric has been replaced by the crude obscenities of reality television, the deformed and stunted communication on Twitter, professional wrestling, and the daytime shows in which couples discover if their husband or wife is having an affair. This is the language of our political elites, who view the world through the degraded lens of television and the sickness of celebrity culture. These electronic hallucinations have replaced reality with a pop-cultural simulacrum of mediatainment. (Hedges, KL 443)

Orwell would later reject his own notions of newspeak in an essay “Politics and the English Language” (1946), wherein he criticises the bad usage of English in his day: dying metaphors, pretentious diction, and high-flown rhetoric, which produce the meaningless words of doublespeak, the product of unclear reasoning. Orwell’s conclusion thematically reiterates linguistic decline: “I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable. Those who deny this may argue that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we cannot influence its development, by any direct tinkering with words or constructions.”

In world such as ours where irrationalism pervades every aspect of our lives, in which conspiracy theory and apocalyptic thought rule the masses, and the power of the elite who script the daily mediascapes with their twisted versions of reality we no longer have the discernment to discover the truth for ourselves. We become victims of a seditious and darkened world where lies and deceit rather than truth and justice rule the affairs of men and women. In a world where all authority has lost its connection to the value systems that once helped humans survive and flourish, we have substituted it for a completed nihilism of relativisms and endless stupidity. The very institutions of democracy that once promised freedom and justice for all have been swept away for this monstrosity. Welcome to monsterland…

  1. Chris Hedges. America: The Farewell Tour (Kindle Locations 231-235). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Order or Chaos?


In a world where all values are meaningless, and a virulent nihilism pervades the whole culture, how can political order be restored to its rightful place? In the old metaphysics the Order of Being was the test against which the order of society was judged (think of the Greek’s Good Society… Plato, Aristotle, etc.). But in a society where there is no objective truth or Order, no ontology of the given, where all has been shriven and the very ground of Being has collapsed into nothingness, how to invent Order out of the absolute immanence of nihil? Is there an order to intelligence and spirit from within its own a priori fabrications? Is Order in the last instance but a reflection of the Order of Reason itself, and is this nothing but the circle of dark fire: a solipsistic dream of invention out of nothingness, a closed circle of self-replicating madness, a ratio of endless repetition? Or, something else? Can Order in a world of pure immanence exist? Or, must we discover transcendence again? In a post-truth world where can Order be found?

As True Now as it was Then…

As true now as it was then…. just deadlier…

Erich Davis, Techngnosis:

You know the scene. Social structures the world over are melting down and mutating, making way for a global McVillage, a Gaian brain, and a whole heap of chaos. The emperor of technoscience has achieved dominion, though his clothes are growing more threadbare by the moment, the once noble costume of Progress barely concealing far more wayward ambitions. Across the globe, ferocious postperestroika capitalism yanks the rug out from under the nation-state, while the planet spits up signs and symptoms of terminal distress. Boundaries dissolve, and we drift into the no-man’s zones between synthetic and organic life, between actual and virtual environments, between local communities and global flows of goods, information, labor, and capital. With pills modifying personality, machines modifying bodies, and synthetic pleasures and networked minds engineering a more fluid and invented sense of self, the boundaries of our identities are mutating as well. The horizon melts into a limitless question mark, and like the cartographers of old, we glimpse yawning monstrosities and mind-forged utopias beyond the edges of our paltry and provisional maps.

The Final Warning

Merely by existing, people and their dependent animals are responsible for more than ten times the greenhouse gas emissions of all the airline travel in the world.

We do not seem to have the slightest understanding of the seriousness of our plight. Instead, before our thoughts were diverted by the global financial collapse, we seemed lost in an endless round of celebration and congratulation. It was good to recognize the huge efforts of the IPCC with the Nobel Peace Prize and to have a brave ten thousand people make the long journey to Bali as a salutation, but because they failed to see the Earth as alive and responsive they ignored at our peril the extent of its disapproval of all we do. As we hold our meetings and talk of stewardship, Gaia still moves step by step toward the hot state, one that will allow her to continue as the regulator, but where few of us will be alive to meet and talk. Perhaps we were celebrating because the once rather worrying voice of the IPCC now spoke comfortably of consensus and endorsed those mysterious concepts of sustainability and energy that renewed itself. We even thought that this way somehow we could save the planet and grow richer as well, a more pleasing outcome than the uncomfortable truth.

Just think, as I write this in 2008, more than one thousand of the world’s best climate scientists have worked for seventeen years to forecast future climates and have failed to predict the climate of today. I have little confidence in the smooth, rising curve of temperature that modelers predict for the next ninety years. The Earth’s history and simple climate models based on the notion of a live and responsive Earth suggest that sudden change and surprise are more likely. My pessimism is shared by other scientists and openly by the distinguished climate scientist James Hansen, who finds as I do that the evidence now coming from the Earth, together with the knowledge of its history, is gravely disturbing. Most of all I am pessimistic because business and governments both appear to be accepting uncritically a belief that climate change is easily and profitably reversible.

– James Lovelock, The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning

We all know the drill… Monopoly Capitalism is…


A comment in a recent post on the demise of America at the hands of State, Corporate, and Financial collusion prompted one user to say: “There will be no solutions. It’s thinking there can be a solution to the real is what lurks behind all our insanity.” If we all thought this way then we’d all sink together in a cesspool of quietude and slow suicide, but some of us will not go silently into that dark night…

We all know the drill, the development of modern corporate states from their beginnings, all the way back to the late medieval period, were invented from the dying feudal structure of the failing European economy built on aristocracy, war, and peasants:  originating from the military conquest of traditional agricultural communities and the imposition of an artificial aristocracy of external state-privileged exploiters, was in the process of breaking down. The free cities of the era began to appear as points of light on the broader feudal map. The market economy was growing, innovative technologies were coming into existence and the common people were obtaining more opportunities to claim their rightful status as free individuals. The ruling class was put on the defensive and sought to reestablish itself by fully expropriating traditional peasant lands and militarily conquering the free cities. The dispossessed peasants, no longer having any means of autonomy or self-sufficiency, were forced to migrate towards industrial centers and into the slave-like factory system. The state intervened to make sure that labor discipline was maintained by such methods as severely restricting the freedom of migration and suppressing efforts at self-organization by the laborers. The old feudal elites reinvented themselves as a new industrial capitalist ruling class by means of mercantilist economic policies which tended to concentrate wealth. In early America, for example, it was the northeastern mercantilists consisting of banking, shipping and land magnates led by Alexander Hamilton who initiated the Federalist coup against the libertarian Articles of Confederation and established the centralist presidential state for the purpose of advancing mercantilist commercial interests.

Thomas Jefferson tried to warn us, but to no avail. The fight between Hamilton and Jefferson was less about personalities than competing visions of government.  Jefferson imagined a government that was strong and centralized on foreign policy, but was as hands-off and restrained as it could be on domestic matters. He was inherently suspicious of anything that compromised individual self-sufficiency and was positively horrified at the thought of Americans depending on their government. A citizenry dependent on the government couldn’t be independent. Such a turn of events would mean that the collectivity had become the basic unit of society. It would mean that the government had compromised individual private life. This was precisely what Hamilton believed should happen, and he hoped to use the United States Treasury to make his vision reality. Hamilton believed the government should play a strong role in individuals’ lives; that the collective, consolidated national identity should be primary. By issuing huge amounts of debt, he hoped to involve the Treasury in the day-to-day operations of the economy, and so give the government a certain purchase over citizen’s private lives.

The two contrasting visions of government of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton betrayed two different understandings of American power and the American people. For Hamilton, America’s strength lay in its commerce. Hamilton’s America was an America of businessmen, entrepreneurs, bankers and financiers. The government needed to help these people compete in a global marketplace. And only the national government could do that. Hamilton was suspicious of state governments, beholden as they were to narrow local interests.

While Jefferson shared Hamilton’s admiration for America’s commercial might—he had just come back from a stint in Europe negotiating free-trade treaties—he profoundly disagreed with Hamilton about the basic make-up of the American people. Hamilton’s financiers, Jefferson claimed, were parasitic commercial elites, dependent for their success on the virtuous labor of independent yeoman farmers. The government, Jefferson believed, had no responsibility to help them. If the government was going to help anyone, it should be helping those farmers on whom the commercialists preyed. And the best way to help those farmers, Jefferson argued, was to leave real power close to them, in their state governments, and keep the federal government out of their way. His fight with Hamilton was, at least as Jefferson saw it, a disagreement about who should rule in the name of the people: Hamilton said the few, and Jefferson said the many.

Although Jefferson and Hamilton managed to work together reasonably well at first, their relations became fraught as Washington’s presidency dragged on. By February 1791, the two were locked in an outright struggle, waging a newspaper war by proxy. Jefferson hated conflict, and often thought of resigning, but he hated Hamilton more, and so refused to give him the satisfaction. Sometime in 1793, the conflict just got to be too much for Jefferson. Maybe he decided he would win this fight through other means than debate within Washington’s cabinet. On 5 January 1794, the president accepted Jefferson’s resignation as secretary of state, and Jefferson set off at once for Monticello. Just as he had done when he finished his term as Virginia governor, he claimed to all who would listen that he was truly retiring from public life, that this time he was moving home for good. Just as before, none of his friends believed him. If Jefferson had been more honest with himself, he wouldn’t have believed himself either.

We all know the rest of the story. Hamilton and the Mercantile East divvied up America and for the benefit of banks and corporate interests with a centralized government to intervene on behalf of those interests.

Most Americans are accustomed to thinking of capitalism and free enterprise as being one and the same. This is certainly the perspective taught in the state’s educational institutions and promoted by the corporate media. But we should lambast this fake populism of the type promulgated by corporate-sponsored afternoon talk radio which ignores the role of corporations, banks and other elite economic interests in fostering statism and instead works to channel the hostility of the working and middle classes away from the elites for whom most state intervention is actually done and towards the lower classes and the urban poor in a type of “divide and conquer” strategy. According to this ideology, the real enemies of free enterprise and proponents of statism are welfare recipients and the residents of homeless shelters and public housing projects. But it is the ruling class that is the primary beneficiary of state intervention. The primary role of such intervention is to redistribute wealth upward and centralize economic power. The tools used to obtain these objectives are as old as modern corporate states themselves. These tools include the state-imposed money monopoly, patents and subsidies.

Under the present system of federal government monopoly on the issuance of legal tender and central banking via the Federal Reserve, interest rates are kept artificially high, an artificial shortage of credit is maintained and access to finance capital is constricted. These arrangements centralize wealth and concentrate economic power in a myriad of ways.

A Short History of Monopoly Capitalism

The main Marxist–Leninist thesis concerning Monopoly Capitalism has always been  that big business, having achieved a monopoly or cartel position in most markets of importance, fuses with the government apparatus. A kind of financial oligarchy or conglomerate therefore results, whereby government officials aim to provide the social and legal framework within which giant corporations can operate most effectively.

The time during which Monopoly was born and grew up spanned one stock market crash (in 1893) to another (in 1929). After the 1893 stock market crashed, unemployment among the working class rose significantly. The U.S. Treasury ran out of gold and was forced to sell high-yield bonds to J. P. Morgan and the other Wall Street monopolists at low rates. Debt-ridden farmers called on the government to initiate an income tax to make taxation more fair to lower-income households (they finally did with the 16th Amendment in 1913), among other reforms.

President McKinley’s 1896 campaign was paid for by big business and he was unpopular with the working class, who favored his opponent, Williams Jennings Bryan. But business had the money and the power in the country and McKinley was elected on a tickey simply promising to do nothing and to make no major changes. During this time, Teddy Roosevelt who was well-tuned to the popular sentiments, was stirring up trouble as an anti-corruption and tax-levying governor from New York. He was added as McKinley’s Vice-President in 1898 simply to put him in a position that officially had no power.

But in 1901, Teddy Roosevelt became president after McKinley’s assassination by Leon Czolgosz. Czolgosz’s last words before his execution by the state were “I killed the President because he was the enemy of the good people – the good working people. I am not sorry for my crime.”

With his new power, Roosevelt proceeded to take a big stick to the major monopolies of the day: Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, J. P. Morgan’s banks, and Cargenie’s steel. He pushed enforcement of the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act.

Still, the economy was slow to recover and the public became disillusioned with capitalism. Lenin’s 1917 Bolshevik Revolution guaranteed capped working hours and salaries to all of its workers while many struggling American workers began to question whether capitalism was right. After the Great Depression of the 1930s, many people thought that capitalism had failed and that it was only a question of how government would regulate it.

“In 1910,” Lenin wrote, “there appeared in Vienna the work of the Austrian Marxist, Rudolf Hilferding, Finance Capital….This work gives a very valuable theoretical analysis of ‘the 1atest phase of capitalist development,’ the subtitle of the book.”

As far as economic theory in the narrow sense is concerned, Lenin added little to Finance Capital, and in retrospect it is evident that Hilferding himself was not successful in integrating the new phenomena of capitalist development into the core of Marx’s theoretical structure (value, surplus value and above all the process of capital accumulation). In chapter 15 of his book (“Price Determination in the Capitalist Monopoly, Historical Tendency of Finance Capital”) Hilferding, in seeking to deal with some of these problems, came up with a very striking conclusion which has been associated with his name ever since. Prices under conditions of monopoly, he thought, are indeterminate and hence unstable. Whenever concentration enables capitalists to achieve higher than average profits, suppliers and customers are put under pressure to create counter combinations which wiI1 enable them to appropriate part of the extra profits for themselves. Thus monopoly spreads in all directions from every point of origin. The question then arises as to the limits of “cartellization” (the term is used synonymously with monopolization). Hilferding answers:

The answer to this question must be that there is no absolute limit to cartellization. What exists rather is a tendency to the continuous spread of cartellization. Independent industries, as we have seen, fall more and more under the sway of the cartellized ones, ending up finally by being annexed by the cartellized ones. The result of this process is then a general cartel. The entire capitalist production is consciously controlled from one center which determines the amount of production in all its spheres….It is the consciously controlled society in antagonistic form.

A further step in the direction of integrating the two strands of Marx’s thought—concentration and centralization on the one hand and crisis theory on the other—was marked by the publication in 1942 of The Theory of Capitalist Development by Paul M. Sweezy, which contained a fairly comprehensive review of the prewar history of Marxist economics and at the same time made explanatory use of concepts introduced into mainstream monopoly and oligopoly theory during the preceding decade. This book, soon translated into several foreign languages, had a significant effect in systematizing the study and interpretation of Marxian economic theory.

It should not be supposed, however, that these new departures were altogether a matter of theoretical speculation. Of equal if not greater importance were the changes in the structure and functioning of capitalism which had emerged during the 1920s and 1930s. On the one hand the decline in competition which began in the late nineteenth century proceeded at an accelerated pace—as chronicled in the classic study by Arthur R. Burns, The Decline of Competition: A Study of the Evolution of American Industry (1936)—and on the other hand the unprecedented severity of the depression of the 1930s provided dramatic proof of the inadequacy of conventional business cycle theories. The Keynesian revolution was a partial answer to this challenge, but the renewed upsurge of the advanced capitalist economies during and after the war cut short further development of critical analysis among mainstream economists, and it was left to Marxists to carry on along the lines that had been pioneered by Kalecki before the war.

Kalecki spent the war years at the Oxford Institute of Statistics whose director, A. L. Bowley, had brought together a distinguished group of scholars, most of them émigrés from occupied Europe. Among the latter was Josef Steindl, a young Austrian economist who came under the influence of Kalecki and followed in his footsteps. Later on, Steindl (1985) recounted the following:

On one occasion I talked with Kalecki about the crisis of capitalism. We both, as well as most socialists, took it for granted that capitalism was threatened by a crisis of existence, and we regarded the stagnation of the 1930s as a symptom of such a major crisis. But Kalecki found the reasons, given by Marx, why such a crisis should develop, unconvincing; at the same time he did not have an explanation of his own. I still do not know, he said, why there should be a crisis of capitalism, and he added: Could it have anything to do with monopoly? He subsequently suggested to me and to the Institute, before he left England, that I should work on this problem. It was a very Marxian problem, but my methods of dealing with it were Kaleckian.

Steindl’s work on this subject was completed in 1949 and published in 1952 under the title Maturity and Stagnation in American Capitalism. While little noticed by the economics profession at the time of its publication, this book nevertheless provided a crucial link between the experiences, empirical as well as theoretical, of the 1930s, and the development of a relatively rounded theory of monopoly capitalism in the 1950s and 1960s, a process which received renewed impetus from the return of stagnation to American (and global) capitalism during the 1970s and 1980s.

The next major work in the direct line from Marx through Kalecki and Steindl was Paul Baran’s book, The Political Economy of Growth (1957), which presented a theory of the dynamics of monopoly capitalism and opened up a new perspective on the nature of the interaction between developed and underdeveloped capitalist societies. This was followed by the joint work of Baran and Sweezy, Monopoly Capital: An Essay on the American Economic and Social Order (1966), incorporating ideas from both of their earlier works and attempting to elucidate, in the words of their introduction, the “mechanism linking the foundation of society (under monopoly capitalism) with what Marxists call its political, cultural, and ideological superstructure.” Their effort however, still fell short of a comprehensive theory of monopoly capitalism since it neglected “a subject which occupies a central place in Marx’s study of capitalism,” that is, a systematic inquiry into “the consequences which the particular kinds of technological change characteristic of the monopoly capitalist period have had for the nature of work, the composition (and differentiation) of the working class, the psychology of workers, the forms of working-class organization and struggle, and so on.” A pioneering effort to fill this gap in the theory of monopoly capitalism was taken by Harry Braverman a few years later (Braverman, 1974) which in turn did much to stimulate renewed research into changing trends in work processes and labor relations in the late twentieth century.

Marx wrote in the preface to the first edition of volume I of Capital that “it is the ultimate aim of this work to lay bare the economic law of motion of modern society.” What emerged, running like a red thread through the whole work, could perhaps better be called a theory of the accumulation of capital. In what respect, if at all, can it be said that latter-day theories of monopoly capitalism modify or add to Marx’s analysis of the accumulation process?

As far as form is concerned, the theory remains basically unchanged, and modifications in content are in the direction of putting even greater emphasis on certain tendencies already demonstrated by Marx to be inherent in the accumulation process. This is true of concentration and centralization, and even more spectacularly so of the role of what Marx called the credit system, now grown to monstrous proportions compared to the small beginnings of his day. In addition, and perhaps most important, the new theories seek to demonstrate that monopoly capitalism is more prone than its competitive predecessor to generating unsustainable rates of accumulation, leading to crises, depressions and prolonged periods of stagnation.

The reasoning here follows a line of thought which recurs in Marx’s writings, especially in the unfinished later volumes of Capital (including Theories of Surplus Value); individual capitalists always strive to increase their accumulation to the maximum extent possible and without regard for the ultimate overall effect on the demand for the increasing output of the economy’s expanding capacity to produce. Marx summed this up in the well-known formula that “the real barrier to capitalist production is capital itself.” The upshot of the new theories is that the widespread introduction of monopoly raises this barrier still higher. It does this in three ways.

  1.  Monopolistic organization gives capital an advantage in its struggle with labor, hence tends to raise the rate of surplus value and to make possible a higher rate of accumulation.
  2. With monopoly (or oligopoly) prices replacing competitive prices, a uniform rate of profit gives way to a hierarchy of profit rates—highest in the most concentrated industries, lowest in the most competitive. This means that the distribution of surplus value is skewed in favor of the larger units of capital which characteristically accumulate a greater proportion of their profits than smaller units of capital, once again making possible a higher rate of accumulation.
  3. On the demand side of the accumulation equation, monopolistic industries adopt a policy of slowing down and carefully regulating the expansion of productive capacity in order to maintain their higher rates of profit.

Translated into the language of Keynesian macro theory, these consequences of monopoly mean that the savings potential of the system is increased, while the opportunities for profitable investment are reduced. Other things being equal, therefore the level of income and employment under monopoly capitalism is lower than it would be in a more competitive environment.

To convert this insight into a dynamic theory, it is necessary to see monopolization (the concentration and centralization of capital) as an ongoing historical process. At the beginning of the transition from the competitive to the monopolistic stage, the accumulation process is only minimally affected. But with the passage of time the impact grows and tends sooner or later to become a crucial factor in the functioning of the system. This, according to monopoly capitalist theory, accounts for the prolonged stagnation of the 1930s as well as for the return of stagnation in the 1970s and 1980s following the exhaustion of the long boom caused by the Second World War and its multifaceted aftermath effects.

Neither mainstream economics nor traditional Marxian theory have been able to offer a satisfactory explanation of the stagnation phenomenon which has loomed increasingly large in the history of the capitalist world during the twentieth century. It is thus the distinctive contribution of monopoly capitalist theory to have tackled this problem head on and in the process to have generated a rich body of literature which draws on and adds to the work of the great economic thinkers of the last 150 years. (To Do: I need to add a bibliography of major works concerning monopoly capitalism at some future time, but at age 68 time grows thin and spending the time to do this will come when it comes…)

  1. Sweezy, P. M. The Theory of Capitalist Development. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1942.

The American Way of Death

Why do they feel guilty if they’re so above reproach…do they, also, feel as if they’re approaching oblivion?

—Harlan Ellison, Approaching Oblivion

Undoubtedly something is about to happen. Or is it that something has stopped happening?

—Walker Percy, Love in the Ruins

We are not posthuman; we are compost. We are not homo; we are humus. We are terran; we are earthlings; we are many; we are indeterminate. We bleed into each other in chaotic fluid extravagance.

—Donna Haraway, Capitalocene and Cathulucene

I used to believe in America, I really did. But no more. Goodbye to all that! 

The Left derides the right as “those fascists,” while the Right sounds the alarms of “those socialists”. Our country is so divided and divisive now that the ideological thumpmeter is off the charts. The media circus has lost its mind and become the voice and image of this dark hinterland of ruins, exposing the daily talking heads parade of ideologues who will sell themselves and their forgotten souls for profit to the highest corporate benefactor. All the while the media doesn’t present us with news so much as it does its best to tissue together the fragments of a horror show they hope will bring us a second Civil War. Will America survive the crisis? The better question is is their an America anymore? Of course to answer that we’d have to take the long view, peer into the bloody waters of our own past failures. But whose history, whose past? Does history actually exist anymore in an age of blind aggression and anarchy? We’re told on one side that America is entering that stage of “friendly Fascism”1 in which the collusion of Oligarchy-Plutocracy, Big Government, Transnational Corporatism, and the Global Financial sector are creating a world-wide mesh of power that stretches from Beijing to Moscow, Brussels to Washington, D.C. among other centers and sociopolitical nodes.

The Left following its god, Marx would have it that the ultimate enemy is Capital. This mono-myth and grand narrative has shaped the world view of countless ideologues for two centuries. For the Left there is an entity called Neoliberalism which has overtaken the old terms for this global system of profit. Neoliberals, we are told, believe in global laissez-faire: self-regulating markets, shrunken states, and the reduction of all human motivation to the one-dimensional rational self-interest of Homo economicus. The neoliberal globalists, it is claimed by these critics, conflated free-market capitalism with democracy and fantasized about a single world market without borders. At the heart of this picture is the notion that some inexorable alien will has been guiding the initiatives of globalists everywhere. As if capitalism itself were at heart a system of anti-life or necromantic witchery manipulating and using humans in its inevitable bid to overtake the planet in a death drive syndrome that is neither Freud’s Cosmocrator nor the secret Geist of some Schopenhauerian cosmic pessimism. Instead, under the rubric of alien and alienating world of numbers, machines, and capital we’ve become the zombies who live out our lives captured by forces of physical and spiritual powers not our own, and more blatantly not of this world.

In other words the whole edifice of the neoliberal order was an attempt to create by fiat a completely lifeless universe of rationality which could control the actual real world of human emotion and madness. A regime of totalitarian design that would encompass the totality of the world thereby regulating and controlling every aspect of existence through the power of the rational mind. One might even add – an artificial mind, a mind controlled not by human, but rather in-human alien thought forms of pure mathematical and calculating powers on a world-wide scale. In the past I’ve toyed with various – what shall I term it – systems of evil operative in the world at large. By this I am not literalizing some gnostic cosmocrator at the heart of existence: some eternal metaphysical presence/absence behind the scenes of world-history intervening its affairs. No. Such cosmic pessimism of Gnostics or Schopenhauerian design are merely useful tools, metaphors of a much more mundane tendency – and, as Nietzsche would have it, an all-too-human truth at the heart of this strange amalgam of ideas underpinning our global predicament.

The Right, on the other hand, sees the world as Secular trash dump, a realm in which the Progressive powers the Enlightenment have colluded to invent a Secular Cathedral of Big Government, Academic mind-craft, and the Mediatainment system or the descendants of  Puritan Calvinism. The power of this Cathedral is to provide an inquisition against White Male privilege – formerly known as the long sordid history of patriarchal politics and religion  –  Blasphemy, inquisition, indoctrination, and brainwashing still occur from the perspective of this progressive religion of hate. The progressive Left inhabit that space of the Last Man prophesied by none other than Fredrich Nietzsche himself: “Alas! The time is coming when man will give birth to no more stars…. Behold! I shall show you the Last Man…” The Last Man is the individual who specializes not in creation, but in consumption. In the midst of satiating base pleasures, he claims to have “discovered happiness” by virtue of the fact that he lives in the most technologically advanced and materially luxurious era in human history.

But this self-infatuation of the Last Man conceals an underlying resentment, and desire for revenge. On some level, the Last Man knows that despite his pleasures and comforts, he is empty and miserable. With no aspiration and no meaningful goals to pursue, he has nothing he can use to justify the pain and struggle needed to overcome himself and transform himself into something better. He is stagnant in his nest of comfort, and miserable because of it. This misery does not render him inactive, but on the contrary, it compels him to seek victims in the world. He cannot bear to see those who are flourishing and embodying higher values, and so he innocuously supports the complete de-individualization of every person in the name of equality. The Last Man’s utopia is one in which total equality is maintained not from without, by an oppressive ruling class, but from within, through the “evil-eye” of envy and ridicule.

As Nick Land would have it the Secular Cathedral of the Progressive Church  is the subsumption of politics into propaganda. It tends — as it develops — to convert all administrative problems into public relations challenges. A solution — actual or prospective — is a successful management of perceptions.

For the mature Cathedral, a crisis takes the consistent form: This looks bad. It is not merely stupid. The Progressive Left follows the echo chamber of its own misguided leaders as if they were the mouthpiece of the way, the truth, the life. The question of legitimacy is, in a real sense, fundamental, when politics sets the boundaries of the cosmos under consideration. (So Cathedralism is also the hypertrophy of politics, to the point where a reality outside it loses all credibility.)

Is your civilization decaying? Then you need to persuade people that it is not. If there still seems to be a mismatch between problem and solution here, Cathedralism has not entirely consumed your brain. To speculate (confidently) further — you’re not a senior power-broker in a modern Western state. You’re even, from a certain perspective, a fossil.

Cathedralism works, in its own terms, as long as there are no definite limits to the efficacy of propaganda. To pose the issue at a comparatively shallow level, if the political response to a crisis simply is the crisis, and that response can be effectively controlled (through propaganda, broadly conceived), then the Cathedral commands an indisputable practical wisdom. It would be sensible to go long on the thing. (Cathedralism)

As you can see from the above both the extreme Right and Left are not only at juggernauts, but have brought us to that point of no return – no bridges between the two images of life and politics can be surmounted, only the civil war of all against all that Thomas Hobbes spoke of when saying: “The condition of man… is a condition of war of everyone against everyone.”

The Coming Collapse of Everything?

I used to believe in a political solution. Not anymore. That game is over…

In our age of glut, of total media saturation and manipulation in which our world-wide civilization is guided by State and Corporate collusion the planet itself has become the enemy. The wars for resources, the grand narratives of both climate disaster and climate denialism, the obliteration of native tribes everywhere, the depletion and deforestation of the Amazon, the desertification of the soils, the slow poisoning of both the oceans and rivers, the cannibalization of every last resource on the planet in the name of profits. There is no end to it now. The End Game is upon us…

Even while Rome (the World) burns our politicians play in the alcoves of the Last Man’s troubled paradise. John Michael Greer with a cheery note on the American tragedy:

It’s been just over a hundred years now since the United States launched itself on its path to global empire, and the hangover following that century-long bender is waiting in the wings. I suspect one of the reasons the US government is frantically going through the empties in the trash, looking for a bottle that still has a few sips left, is precisely that first dim dawning awareness of just how bad the hangover is going to be.2

Yes, the American Century is over and the age of oblivion is ahead of us. There have been five great extinction events in the history of the planet.3 We are in the midst of the Sixth Extinction. Edward O. Wilson went so far recently propose that only by committing half of the planet’s surface to nature can we hope to save the immensity of life-forms that compose it. He would go on to identify the  unique blend of animal instinct and social and cultural genius that has launched our species and the rest of life on a potentially ruinous trajectory. He tells us we need a much deeper understanding of ourselves and the rest of life than the humanities and science have yet offered. As he states it we “would be wise to find our way as quickly as possible out of the fever swamp of dogmatic religious belief and inept philosophical thought through which we still wander. Unless humanity learns a great deal more about global biodiversity and moves quickly to protect it, we will soon lose most of the species composing life on Earth.”4

We’re told that we have entered the geological era of the Anthropocene. The concept of the Antropocene marks an inter twining of geological Earth time and human history; it triggers massive amounts of paper work, data, discussions, conferences, art works and philosophical ideas as well of course as misrepresentations in its wake. (Jussi Parikka, 51).5 Haraway in a bitter diatribe offers a dark and troublesome critique: “Capitalocene is one of those necessary but insufficient words that pop into one’s mouth unbidden. Unhappy with the false and arrogant humanist univesalism of Anthropocene, I started lecturing about the historical extractionism and extinction ism of the Capitalocene. (Donna Haraway, 80)

What has sometimes been termed the Great Acceleration in which the human impact on planetary existence  have clearly evolved from insignificance in terms of Earth system functioning to the creation of global-scale impacts that are approaching or exceeding in magnitude some of the great forces of nature,  operating on much faster time scales than rates of natural variability, often by an order of magnitude or more, and taken together in terms of extent, magnitude, rate and simultaneity, have produced a no-analogue state in the dynamics and functioning of the Earth system. 6

Catastrophe, it seems, is becoming something of a way of life for us. Indeed, it has become the new norm for civilization.7 The point of this Anthropocene message being presented in book after book seems clear – humanity is doomed if we don’t do something about the great platform that supports life as we know it: the Earth. In some narratives one hears that with the technological conquest of the earth by Western – now actually planetary civilization – we know where the “causes” are coming from, and they can no longer be blamed on the gods. We are at fault for the state the earth now happens to find itself in, for we have taken over the roles once formerly occupied by the gods of old. Human beings now find themselves responsible for planetary management – and mismanagement management – and so there is no one else left to pray to in order to show us mercy in the situation that has come about. If we want mercy, we had better start rethinking the layout of the current civilizational order, since we were the ones, and not the gods, who set it up in its present configuration.

But is this the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Or, is there another story, one with a darker tale to tell?

The Postmodern Condition

Science has always been in conflict with narratives. Judged by the yardstick of science, the majority of them prove to be fables. But to the extent that science does not restrict itself to stating useful regularities and seeks the truth, it is obliged to legitimate the rules of its own game. It then produces a discourse of legitimation with respect to its own status, a discourse called philosophy. I will use the term modern to designate any science that legitimates itself with reference to a metadiscourse of this kind making an explicit appeal to some grand narrative, such as the dialectics of Spirit, the hermeneutics of meaning, the emancipation of the rational or working subject, or the creation of wealth.8

Sound familiar? Isn’t the whole complex of narratives surrounding climate change and now the incorporation of the grand narrative (science backed metadiscourse?) surrounding the Anthropocene beginning to sound “human, all to human
in this myth of natural and civilizational collapse? Are we being guided and shaped by the academic, mediatainment system, and all the current propaganda of fear mongering to expect a bleak future full of extinction, death, decline, decadence, and total collapse unless we change our ways. But who are “we” really? Before I answer that question one must realize that the supposed postmodern thinkers have run their course according to contemporary philosophical circles. We seem to be in a space beyond the relativism and ironizing tendencies against grand narratives, etc., no the new breed of academic journalist, philosopher, thinker seems to think all this past effort is passé and was if not wrong at least had issues with its conceptuality. Most of the contemporary academic treadmill grinds this all into the humus of thought without ever actually confronting it head on. One need only look into the bibliography of any current work and realize that there is a positive feed-back loop of authors reflecting the echo chamber of current theory over and over with hand-claps and back-pats. Nothing original comes out, only the endless parade of echoes from each others work over and over and over again all under the guise of inventing the future, the new.

The Anthropocene is such a myth, a grand narrative invented under the auspices of both scientific and academic authority. We know the Anthropocene was popularized by the Dutch atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen, who won a Nobel Prize in 1995 for his work on depletion of the ozone layer in the stratosphere. The changing composition of the atmosphere, especially the well-documented increase in carbon dioxide, seemed to Crutzen so dramatic and so potentially consequential for life on Earth that he concluded that a new stage had begun in Earth’s history, one in which humankind had emerged as the most powerful influence on global ecology. The crux of the Anthropocene concept is just that: a new period (whether epoch, period, or era in geologists’ parlance) in which human actions overshadow the quiet persistence of microbes and the endless wobbles and eccentricities in the Earth’s orbit, affecting the governing systems of the Earth, and therefore define the age. (Anthropocene)

We also know that Crutzen had a political motivation behind his science. As Steve Connor, Science Editor of the Independent, wrote: Professor Paul Crutzen, who won a Nobel Prize in 1995 for his work on the hole in the ozone layer, believes that political attempts to limit man-made greenhouse gases are so pitiful that a radical contingency plan is needed. In a polemical scientific essay that was published in the August 2006 issue of the journal Climatic Change, he says that an “escape route” is needed if global warming begins to run out of control.9 So that it is the progressive Left stance of this particular scientist invested in the notions of climate change and catastrophism that drove his politicization of the science and its narrative. Others have followed suit to the point that this grand narrative is owned and operated by the political, artistic, and academic establishment of the Progressive Cathedral or Secular Church.

I’m not concerned in this essay to defend or dispel the actual science behind this grand narrative, only to make people aware that it is ideologically and politically motivated by a specific school of thought: Progressivism. Being neither conservative nor progressive I’ve always tried to situate myself as an independent voice of reason and intelligence. I’ve critiqued both Left and Right at times and have no qualms in doing so when appropriate. Hell I’ve written about Slavoj Zizek and Nick Land two philosophical enemies that probably wouldn’t be seen on the same podium (although Zizek reads even the arch-conservative Peter Sloterdijk, and Land knows Marx’s writings in depth!) No, for me it is more that as a young man I woke up and realized the world I lived in was a carefully scripted realm of illusion. Growing up in the ‘Leave it to Beaver’ and ‘Andy of Mayberry’ world of 50’s America I was shaped by the propaganda of that era’s controlling narratives. As I began to question that conservative worldview I also realized that the opposite one was just as blind to its own narratives and culture. So for me the path from man – as Emerson once taught me, not to man was the way of freedom and independence. So I’ve never been much of a joiner of political parties nor the scripted propaganda of slick journalists and philosophers. Goodbye to all that!

We’ve found ourselves in a self-reinforcing political correctness machine under the command and control of behind the scenes political operatives on both sides of the battle lines using both the mediatainment systems and social-media to fend off pressure on the real power elite and enforcing instead a war of all against all narrative of Left / Right extremes that is producing and propagating fear, hate, and social collapse to the point that most people seem lost in the labyrinth of chaos. Most scientists think they are politically free of ideology; most academics think their progressive agendas are the only way, truth, life; and, the rest of us commoners are left in the great divide of this nation bound to one side of the image being controlled by the establishments of progressive/conservative grand narratives without an ability to stand back and judge the world clearly and unbiased. No. this is not my America anymore. Goodbye to all that!

In the preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Marx wrote: No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed; and new higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself. Therefore, mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since looking at the matter more closely, we always find that the task itself arises only when the material conditions necessary for its solution already exist, or are at least in the process of formation.

Socialism, in other words, would not be possible until capitalism had exhausted its ability to expand and increase profits. That the end is coming is hard now to dispute, although one would be foolish to predict when. Global capitalism, in its final iteration, may replicate China’s totalitarian capitalism, a brutal system sustained by severe repression where workers are modern-day serfs.

The end stages of capitalism, Marx wrote, would be marked by developments that are intimately familiar to most of us. Unable to expand and generate profits at past levels, the capitalist system would begin to consume the structures that sustained it. It would prey upon, in the name of austerity, the working class and the poor, driving them ever deeper into debt and poverty and diminishing the capacity of the state to serve the basic needs of ordinary citizens. It would, as it has, increasingly automate or relocate jobs, including both manufacturing and professional positions, to countries with cheap pools of laborers. This would trigger an economic assault on not only the working class but the middle class—the bulwark of a capitalist democracy—that would be disguised by massive personal debt as incomes declined or remained stagnant and borrowing soared. Politics would, in the late stages of capitalism, become subordinate to economics, leading to political parties hollowed out of any real political content and abjectly subservient to the dictates of corporations.10

The combination of oligarchic-plutocracy, corporate autarchy, and the financial and resource monopoly of the world has tied us all to the fate of a collapsing and decaying system in which the rich and powerful prey upon the weak and ignorant to their own detriment. As Chris Hedges laments civilizations over the past six thousand years have the habit of eventually squandering their futures through acts of colossal stupidity and hubris. We are not an exception. The physical ruins of these empires, including the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Mayan, and Indus, litter the earth. They elevated, during acute distress, inept and corrupt leaders who channeled anger, fear, and dwindling resources into self-defeating wars and vast building projects. These ruling elites, consumed by greed and hedonism, retreated into privileged compounds—the Forbidden City, Versailles. They hoarded wealth as their populations endured mounting misery, hunger, and poverty. The worse it got, the more the people lied to themselves and the more they wanted to be lied to. Reality was too painful to confront. (Hedges, KL 453)

The Silicon Valley Moghuls like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos see the writing on the wall and are promoting secession and exit, offering their future escape strategies for a posthuman humanity on either the Moon or Mars. These Space Barons as some of these new entrepreneurs behind some of the biggest brands in the world—Amazon, Microsoft, Virgin, Tesla, PayPal—have disrupted industries ranging from retail to credit cards to air travel. And now they are betting vast swaths of their enormous fortunes that they could make space available to the masses, and push human space travel past where governments had gone. This new grand narrative of escape and exit, a dramatic struggle to open the space frontier is an improbable one, full of risk and high adventure, in which underdog upstarts rise up  against the nation’s military-industrial complex, a political fight that has overtaken the White House, providing visions to put humans on the moon and Mars, and, of course, the historic landings that heralded what Bezos was calling a new “golden age of space exploration.” At its heart, the story was fueled by a budding rivalry between the two leaders of this new space movement. The tension is played out in legal briefs and on Twitter, skirmishes over the significance of their respective landings and the thrust of their rockets, and even a dispute over the pad that would launch them. Musk, the brash hare, was blazing a trail for others to follow, while Bezos, the secretive and slow tortoise, who was content to take it step by step in a race that was only just beginning.11

So in an age of decadence and decline we are also being given visions of rebirth and revolution into a posthuman future beyond earth. It’s as if the moneyed powers have seen the light at the end of the tunnel and realize it is indeed very dark for citizens on planet earth, so let’s just leave. But of course we know where this is going, it’s not good for those left behind or their children as the rest of humanity slowly devolves into semi-feudalistic City-States and serfdom bound to corporatocracy and the political machinations of decline and fall. I used to think people would rise up and revolt, that the masses would finally say we’ve had enough and wake up and do something. No more. Goodbye to all that!

T.S. Eliot was right: “Humans cannot bare too much reality!” No. We rather believe in the lies and specious rhetoric of sophistry and cynicism than change the world. We’d rather believe we are powerless than understand we are the creatures of power who can change everything. No more. Goodbye to all that!

People are going to continue down this path no matter what I or anyone says until the actual real bleak picture of extinction and oblivion are upon them. They want believe it even then. The lies will continue to keep them oblivious of their demise until it comes knocking at their door, and even then they will only say: “But why? Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this? I’m a good person, I’ve done my best, I supported the political party of my leaders… they are at fault, not me? I’m not to blame. I’m blameless.” Go on, believe that old lie, keep on telling yourself you are not a part of the problem, that you are innocent… bah! No more. Goodbye to all that!

We’re all guilty of something, but what the hell does guilt or shame have to do with this end game scenario? Responsibility? Am I responsible for this catastrophic collapse of all being? Is it really come to that? No more. Goodbye to all that!

Fate and Destiny were grand narratives to keep us tied to other lies that controlled our behaviours and shaped us to inherited visions that enforced social mores and habits we supposedly could not escape. As if the world was bound to some iron law of finality, a great apocalypse or Ragnorok. The End of the World as we know it has always been portrayed with apocalyptic imagery, and our cinemas are replete with these end game scenarios. One can see New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, etc. all destroyed by a myriad of natural and man-made catastrophes on screen. It’s as if we are preparing our psyches for the advent of such an event so that unconsciously we will have already participated in the invention of our own demise. Oblivion as a predictable and awaited event without recourse, a fate from which we cannot absolve ourselves. No more. Goodbye to all that!

Maybe I truly have become pessimistic and cynical in my old age. Maybe this has nothing to do with humanity at all. Maybe we are just tired of the stupidity of the human species and realize that words are not and cannot change anything anymore. People continue to breed, propagate, marry, have children, and fill up every last niche of the planet with humanity as if we saw no limits of growth or expansion of the human race. As if capitalist expansion was also human expansion without end. As if the good ole earth would provide plenty forever and ever. As if the resources of water and energy would never dry up and be gone. As if we have millions of years ahead of us… No more. Goodbye to all that!

  1. Gross, Bertram. Friendly Fascism: The New Face of Power in America. Open Road Media (March 8, 2016)
  2. Greer, John Michael. Decline and Fall: The End of Empire and the Future of Democracy in 21st Century America (p. 105). New Society Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  3. Kolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (p. 2). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.
  4. Edward O. Wilson. Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life (Kindle Locations 72-77). Liveright. Kindle Edition.
  5. Braidotti, Rosi. Posthuman Glossary. Rosi Braidotti (Editor), Maria Hlavajova (Editor) Bloomsbury Academic (February 22, 2018)
  6. Adapted from Steffen et al, Global Change and the Earth System, 2004PDF (pdf, 4.2 MB)
  7. John David Ebert. The Age of Catastrophe: Disaster and Humanity in Modern Times (Kindle Locations 26-27). Kindle Edition.
  8. Jean-Francois Lyotard. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. University Of Minnesota Press; 1st edition (June 21, 1984)
  9. Steve Connor (2006-07-31). “Scientist publishes ‘escape route’ from global warming”. The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 2008-07-23. Retrieved 2008-10-27.
  10. Chris Hedges. America: The Farewell Tour (Kindle Locations 141-156). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.
  11. Christian Davenport. The Space Barons (Kindle Locations 112-119). PublicAffairs. Kindle Edition.

Luciana Parisi On Artificial Intelligence

“Prediction and not probability is central to the dynamic automation of the new generations of AI.”

– Luciana Parisi

Luciana Parisi in her short essay in Braidotti’s Posthuman Glossary, AI (Artificial Intelligence) lays out the two paths that were taken toward intelligence. The first typified by the work of Marvin Minsky and earlier pioneers of AI which was based on axiomatic or propositional thought – deductive reasoning and monotonic rule based logic centered and contained by certainty. And the later based on inductive and abductive reasoning and judgment in which “error, uncertainty or fallibility of computation no longer demarcated the limit of AI, but the limit of the mechanization of deductive logic in AI”.

She goes on to say,

As opposed to deductive logic, non-monotonic thinking (induction and abduction) is the process by which inferences or the process of explaining how one truth is contained into another starts with a hypothetical statement or an elaboration of the uncertainties embedded into the material world. Conjecturing hypotheses to explain unknown phenomena is the process by which what is known of existing conditions is over lapped by a speculative tendency towards another statement that adds on, enters into dialogue with and exposes a forward- order of explanation. Here what is given is not known unless it becomes abstracted from its particular loci so that it is possible to return to it from another stand point, a meta-relational view. With non- mono tonic logic, the ingression of uncertainties into what is given is not geared to prove an exising truth, but to expand its methods of explanation so as to achieve the determination of new truths. Such logic is evolutionary.” (p. 23)

Against the failed logic of the earlier computationalism of deductive and monotonic logic “these contemporary forms of collective thinking machines are not stopped by paradoxes and neutralized by fallibility. Instead, indeterminacy and uncertainty are incentives for the development of their task of synthesizing randomness through prediction as they grow their learning possibilities and become able to include error within their operative functions.” (23)

In many ways this is in agreement with current neuroscientific thought as well (i.e., Andy Clark’s ‘Surfing Uncertainty’; Jakob Hohwy’s ‘The Predictive Mind’).
In closing Parisi remarks:

“The computational age of AI demarcates the raise of an informational stratum whose logical operations are not simply symbolic or static modes of understanding. Instead …the task of processing uncertainty is central to a general form of artificial thinking. The realization of thinking in machines shows us that intelligence is primarily an alien affair, an engine of abstraction forcing a constant de-naturalization from what is given.”(23)

  1. Braidotti, Rosi. Posthuman Glossary. Rosi Braidotti (Editor), Maria Hlavajova (Editor) Bloomsbury Academic (February 22, 2018)

Posthuman Glossary

Been reading Rosi Braidotti’s Posthuman Glossary which includes essays by many of the current thinkers within the various posthumanisms: critical, speculative, rational inhumanism, etc.

Reread Peter Wolfendale’s essay “Rational Inhumanism” which incorporates the Prometheanism of Ray Brassier and Reza Negarestani’s inhumanism while adding his own clarification of this view as against critical and speculative posthumanisms. For Brassier prometheanism was  at the core of the Marxian legacy opened up by the Enlightenment: ” I take it that this also underlies Marx’s claim about what is distinctive in human species-being: human beings have this unique capacity to transform themselves and their world because of the fundamentally social nature of human existence.”1 While for Negarestani inhumanism is the “extended practical elaboration of humanism; it is born out of a diligent commitment to the project of enlightened humanism. As a universal wave that erases the self-portrait of man drawn in sand, inhumanism is a vector of revision.”2

The key to both visions is the notion of re-visioning or re-engineering the Enlightenment conception of Man with one that aligns with a more stringent conception that erases the humanistic centrality of the human displacing it from both theocentric and anthropocentric concerns while at the same time promoting a posthuman turn that allows for a plasticity in which both a revalutation-of-all-values in both rationalist and biodecentric relations is given priority. This decentering of both man and reason from its humanistic sources opens up a revisioning process that sees the Enlightenment project in a new light.

Wolfendale will attack both vitalist and metaphysical returns in critical and speculative forms while portraying rational inhumanism as navigating the fine line between constraints placed by both the normative and metaphysical on the divides in-between rationality and animality. There is also a subtle critique of Marxian alienation as a negative force whereby rational inhumanism defines it as a positive force overcoming these constraints that trap us in humanistic naturalism and metaphysical ploys. As he’ll tell us (3):

There are distinct promethean projects concerned with each obstacle just mentioned: accelerationism strives to turn the emancipatory tendencies of modernity against the oppressive sociality of capitalism ( Srnicek and Williams 2014 ), xenofeminism aims to harness the artificiality of identity by rejecting the givenness of material conditions (sex) and social forms (gender) alike ( Laboria Cuboniks 2015 ), and cosmism enjoins us ‘to consider the earth a trap’, treating gravity as one more constraint to be over come by the ‘generalised escapology’ of design ( Singleton 2014 ). The inhumanism of these projects lies in their embrace of alienation as a positive force, transforming our progressive exile from a series of Edenic harmonies – be they economic, sociological or environmental – into an esoteric genealogy of freedom. (381).

Ultimately, what differentiates critical and speculative posthumanism from rationalist inhumanism is that they overcome ‘Man’ by renewing metaphysics rather than transcendentalism ( Foucault 2002 : 372). Critical posthumanism collapses the distinction between human and non- human by positing a universal vitality – zoe – in which both partake ( Braidotti 2013 : 131), whereas speculative posthuman ism articulates the disconnect between human and posthuman by positing a category of functionally autonomous assemblages to which both belong ( Roden 2015 : 124–49). The choice between these paths can be framed in terms of the perennial picture from which we began: do we unbind animality from the normative constraints of rationality, or unbind rationality from the metaphysical constraints of animality? (382).

  1. Robin Mackay. Speculative Aesthetics (Kindle Locations 1218-1221). Urbanomic. Kindle Edition.
  2. Negarestani, Reza. The Labor of the Inhuman. e-flux Journal #52 – February 2014
  3. Braidotti, Rosi. Posthuman Glossary. Rosi Braidotti (Editor), Maria Hlavajova (Editor) Bloomsbury Academic (February 22, 2018)

Slavoj Zizek: The Progressive Nightmare?


‘Traditional masculinity toxic?’ New universe of subtle corruption emerges…

– Slavoj Zizek

Reading Zizek’s take on how medical expertise is being used by Progressive censors and ideologists to create a new normativity of command and control against traditional male culture one can’t help but shudder. For a long while this creeping socialism of public opinion, a world of hypernormalization and control over behavior through the use of both political correctness and other censoriums has become almost extreme.  Our belief in experts and the sciences to be the new guardians of truth and morality, ethics and normativity under the guise of non-ideological blandness is hideous in itself but has become truly powerful as a lure over the progressive world of youth and academic laborers against traditionalism in secular or religious images of masculine culture.

Although my past has and remains a combination of Left as concerns protecting the underdog: the innocent, actual downtrodden, and laborers who truly seek a better life but have in our world neither the opening or ability to enter the marketplace of current hypercapitalist high-speed civilization. I am closer to those older traditionalists who see the liberty empowered rugged individualism of our American forbears being domesticated and even excluded in the new progressive world of victimization and censor based ethics and normativity that seeks to control our behaviours even as it excludes us from jobs and sociality. We are now living in a prison world of censors that even the author of 1984 would have shuddered at.

The Progressive worldview has become the face of a new kind of totalitarianism: it presents itself under the guise of experts and science as it invents a censorium of ideological blandness that would like a seamless prison system regulate our lives and behaviours in codified algorithms. We are becoming slaves to a hidden culture of ethical stupidity. A Nanny State in which the Progressive Left would supervise every aspect of our public and private behavior right down to our masculine or feminine roles. A clone world of pre-fabricated citizenry based on law(lessness?) who must conform to the new hypernormal estate of the Progressive Left. Such a world has undermined many of the excepted Americanisms of past generations, and is slowly overtaking, judging, and condemning practices that in former times were accepted by both Left and Right as normal. Nietzsche once spoke of a transvaluation-of-values but I doubt he had the new illiberal crew of Progressive hypernormativity in mind.

As Zizek puts it. Recently, the boffins at the American Psychological Association (APA) proclaimed “traditional masculinity” as toxic.

With no apparent shame, here are the exact words they used: “Traits of so-called ‘traditional masculinity,’ like suppressing emotions & masking distress, often start early in life & have been linked to less willingness by boys & men to seek help, more risk-taking & aggression – possibly harming themselves & those with whom they interact.”

Zizek goes on to comment:

What makes this statement really dangerous is the mixture of ideology and ostensibly neutral expertise: a strong ideological gesture of excluding phenomena considered unacceptable is presented as an impartial description of medical facts.

How can one not recall here the notorious Serbsky institute in Moscow (thriving even now!) which, in the Soviet years, was well known for categorizing dissidence as a form of mental illness?

And exactly the same happens when we designate masculinity as “toxic,” under the cover of medical expertise. It amounts to the imposition of a new normativity, a fresh figure of the enemy.

There’s an supposed ideology out there affecting boys and men, and the American Psychological Association says it’s “harmful.” The Los Angeles Times reports on the APA’s first official warning on the toxicity of “traditional masculinity,” which “has been shown to limit males’ psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict and negatively influence mental health and physical health.” Featured this month in the APA’s Monitor on Psychology magazine, the “APA Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men“—a 13-year effort that involved scientists poring over more than four decades of research—notes the harmful effects tied to traditionally masculine traits, including being competitive, aggressive, and stoic.

Žižek decries such spurious ideological expertise posing under scientific power, and its illiberal political correctness for two main reasons. First, that it’s entirely and transparently fake, an artificial cover enforced by totalitarian social pressures. Second, that political correctness manifests itself as a form of behavior control rather than a collective effort to remedy the problems it ostensibly seeks to address. Racial and social harmony cannot sprout from this sort of situation. In fact, Žižek argues that political correctness gets in the way of mutual understanding.

“Ambiguity — that’s my problem with political correctness. No it’s just a form of self-discipline which doesn’t really allow you to overcome racism. It’s just oppressed controlled racism.” – Slavoj Zizek

Ultimately, political correctness is a system of control that fails to understand the underlying causes of the problem it wants to address. A cynic would argue that this is the point — that certain societal actors prefer citizens who restrict themselves from exploring race, sexuality, gender issues, etc.. Žižek may not be that cynical, but he certainly sees the system for what it is: totalitarianism. Rather than an authority commanding “do this or else,” the ringing refrain of political correctness is forced behavior tinged with notes of “I know better than you what you really want.” It’s this Nanny State elitism of experts that has become the new totalitarianism seeking command and control over its citizens not through direct coercion but rather by way of normative behaviorism that seeks to use the populace itself against itself in the court of public opinion and press.

As Cathy Young spells it out the new Progressive Elite seek not only to control the populace through PC culture but to enslave it through transparency. As she puts it “political correctness by itself is destructive to the liberal project — to reasoned discourse, free exchange of ideas, culture and community” (see). Secondly, PC culture also invites an equally or more toxic backlash… by way of marginal and extreme racist, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic troops of the alt-right movement. And, third, PC Leftism enables bigotry both by trivializing it — if you can be called a racist for wearing a sombrero on Halloween or a misogynist for admiring sexy women, the words lose much of their bite — and by green-lighting it when it’s directed at “privileged” groups.

Ideological extremism under the cover of scientific expertise and public opinion along with the Press  is presently a rising force in the wider society, concentrated in influential sectors, and gradually becoming part of the elite’s ideological superstructure. The new Cathedralism of high church progressive liberalism  is obsessed with the eradication of offensive history, promotes concepts such as cultural appropriation and micro-aggressions, insists on calling a manhole a “people hole,” and that takes offense to Halloween costumes, or to the serving of tacos in a university cafeteria. Recently, a representative of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals made the claim that milk is a symbol of white supremacy. On the far-left the PC culture of campus protestors, the Antifa, the neo-Maoists, and other representatives of the extreme left have produced a violent and exclusionary world where any thought other than the hypernormal thought of the Progressive Elite is ousted, lambasted, and mercilessly attacked. The center-left version is often manifested as a blend of PC culture with the American civil religion or civic nationalism. The recent exposure and deletion of Civil War memory that is being scraped clean from all public institutions is part of such behavioral illiberalism under the auspices of PC elite. Our revisioning of history is bound to this juggernaut as well. Soon the whole of American History studies will come under the fine toothed comb of such PC elitism and the past will effectively become a hypernormalised realm scraped of all sexual, race, and gender issues.

As Keith Preston puts it the enforcement of ideological conformity is farmed out to other institutions, such as the media, educational institutions, corporations, and technology companies. The means of enforcement involve the use of social, economic, and professional sanctions rather than the outright criminalization of dissidents. Ideological conformity is also enforced by means of extra-legal methods, such mob violence, shouting down speakers, the harassment political opponents or public figures in public places or even at their private homes, and the aggressive vigilante activities of groups such as the Antifa. It is for this reason that it is often necessary for gatherings of dissidents to take place on a clandestine basis. The proponents of the ideology of political correctness are heavily concentrated in influential sectors of society. Among the more significant examples are the electronic media and professional journalism, universities and public schools, the entertainment industry, left-wing professionals such as attorneys and healthcare specialists, the left-wing of clergy, the public sector bureaucracy, social services and human services, advertising, public relations, and corporate human resources and diversity officers.

Even the social media is creating algorithmic governance to enforce elite conformism. Preston goes on telling us Facebook recently purged over 800 pages with millions of followers, including pages with left-wing as well as right-wing perspectives, with the common denominator being that all of the purged pages represented some kind of anti-establishment perspective. It is also interesting to note that similar methods are used by the professional “watchdogs,” which typically focus most of their attention on the Right, but also attack leftist, African-American or other minority perspectives that are also considered to be outside the realm of acceptable liberal opinion.

Even corporate America is in on this through such initiatives as the #MeToo movement. Gillette is embracing the #MeToo movement in a new digital ad campaign aimed at men, the latest message from an advertiser attempting to change societal norms. The ad, dubbed “We Believe,” opens with audio of news about the current #MeToo movement, bullying and “toxic masculinity.” A narrator then goes on to dispute the notion that “boys will be boys,” asking, “Is this the best a man can get? Is it? We can’t hide from it. It has been going on far too long. We can’t laugh it off, making the same old excuses.” As Pankaj Bhalla, Gillette brand director for North America said of it: “This is an important conversation happening, and as a company that encourages men to be their best, we feel compelled to both address it and take action of our own. We are taking a realistic look at what’s happening today, and aiming to inspire change by acknowledging that the old saying ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ is not an excuse. We want to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and hope all the men we serve will come along on that journey to find our ‘best’ together.” (see) The collusion of corporatocracy, media, and the subversive illiberalism of the Progressive extreme seeks total control through technics and technological behavioral command and control.

This is the Progressive Nightmare… a technoir vision in which society is governed by algorithms through the collusion of PC scraping and exclusionary praxis whose sole goal is the hypernormalization and enslavement of the populace through the collusion of extreme left radicalization, high-corporate technocracy, and the deliberate infiltration of the public sphere by elite mechanism of command and control. The Cathedral of Illiberalism sponsored by the Progressive Left and its Corporate, Academic, and Meditainment Elite seeks to usher in a new era of political control and censorship the likes of which have not been seen since Stalinism.

Read the rest of the article: ‘Traditional masculinity toxic?

Read Zizek on political correctness: Political Correctness Is a More Dangerous Form of Totalitarianism

Lewis Mumford: On Automated Society


At that ‘omega- point’ nothing would be left of man’s autonomous original nature, except organized intelligence: a universal and omnipotent layer of abstract mind, loveless and lifeless. Now, we cannot understand the role that technics has played in human development without a deeper insight into the historic nature of man.

—Lewis Mumford, The Myth of the Machine

Lewis Mumford envisioned how our planetary civilization was evolving into an all encompassing machinic system of ‘megatechnics’ of hypercapitalism in which automation would be the guiding motif, shaping our desires to those of a machinic existence in a collective world ruled and governed by algorithmic necessity. The assault on philosophical individualism and passion by various trends in the neurosciences and neo-rationalism is pushing us into a collective enterprise in which humans are being re-engineered to serve a collective intelligence, hooked both spiritually and physically to a system of normative regulatory processes of domestication and impersonalism that will make of us all automaton-servitors in a vast machinic society:

“In terms of the currently accepted picture of the relation of man to technics, our age is passing from the primeval state of man, marked by his invention of tools and weapons for the purpose of achieving mastery over the forces of nature, to a radically different condition, in which he will have not only conquered nature, but detached himself as far as possible from the organic habitat. With this new ‘megatechnics’ the dominant minority will create a uniform, all-enveloping, super-planetary structure, designed for automatic operation. Instead of functioning actively as an autonomous personality, man will become a passive, purposeless, machine-conditioned animal whose proper functions, as technicians now interpret man’s role, will either be fed into the machine or strictly limited and controlled for the benefit of de-personalized, collective organizations.”1

For Lewis Mumford it is our ability to invent ourselves in the realms of make-believe that is our symbolic activity as social beings rather than tool-use that distinguishes us through our transformation and cultural transmission of both practical and theoretical knowledge that differentiates our species. Cultural transmission through external memory systems is central to this:

I shall develop the view that man is pre-eminently a mind-making, self-mastering, and self-designing animal; and the primary locus of all his activities lies first in his own organism, and in the social organization through which it finds fuller expression. Until man had made something of himself he could make little of the world around him. In this process of self-discovery and self-transformation, tools, in the narrow sense, served well as subsidiary instruments, but not as the main operative agent in man’s development; for technics has never till our own age dissociated itself from the larger cultural whole in which man, as man, has always functioned. (ibid.)

  1. Lewis Mumford. The Myth of the Machine Technics and Human Development-Harcourt (1967)

The Technocosm: Neomodernity and the Future

The city operates as the analog of an elaborate time-travel scenario, in which an obscure labyrinth of fate is taking shape, and has always been taking shape.

—Nick Land, Shanghai Times

We already live in an urban world and share an urban future.

—Carl Abbott, Imagining Urban Futures 

Paul Virilio is the philosopher of speed who argued that our society of pure growth is leading us to nothing other than the “liquidation of the world,”1 to the realization of the one original idea the West has produced: nothingness, the being of nothing, the void.2 Speed is nihilism in practice,3 the “defeat of the world as Weld, as distance, as matter.”4 “Pollution, population growth, shortage of natural resources— more unsettling than all that is no doubt the constant rise of higher speeds; acceleration is literally the end of the world!”5 We are living in the age Nietzsche foretold as the time of the Last Man, an age when nihilism would complete itself.

But how should we take such thoughts? Should we fear or welcome it? Our society has left the cradle of mythologies of the eternal return (Mircea Eliade) for better or worse. The great round of Agricultural civilization which guided it by the cycles of sun and moon, seasonal movements of the death and renewal of crops, of the laws of fate and destiny that hooked us to some occult and mysterious round of and vicious circle of mind and natural process, the organic and circadian rhythms of life amidst the violence of the earth. All this seems to have vanished from our urban landscapes like the extinction of the dinosaurs. For better or worse we live in a de-sacralized universe of our own egoistic desires, our systems of unnatural and artificial times go in diametric opposition to the long history of or forbears organicist vision. Under the auspices of clock-time and the technological beat of machinic worlds we live in a time-beyond-times, cut off from the organic plenitude of our ancestral ecologies of mind.

For Virilio we as humans lived during most of our evolutionary lives at the rate of metabolic speed or what he termed the “age of brakes,”6 in which the powers of continuity dominated those of motion and change. Our societies were formed to dampen and apply the brakes against the hurtling and accelerating progress of motion and change. Traditional societies were built to stave off the future, to construct ecologies of habit and habitation that would bind us to the stability and meta-stability of this cyclic time of the Same and Restoration: the great cycles of sacrifice and renewal from Mesopotamian, Indic, Mayan, China and other civilizations. Virilio would speak of the “space-time dispositif,”7 by which various cultural complexes shared geographical markers or strata in which historical time was considered longue durée in Braudel’s sense:8 “extended time—time that lasts, is portioned out, organized, developed”9 and so eo ipso acts as an “inertial limit” and a guarantor of “stability.”10

With the Industrial Revolution we entered a new stage of evolution in which the technical time of the artificialization replaced the natural rhythms of our pre-industrial Agricultural Civilizations. Virilio would term this the “dromocratic revolution” which would produce artificial speeds that overcome the physical limits of organic metabolic societies eternal return of the Same. Our culture of machines driven by combustible, electronic, nuclear, and quantum power compressed the former space-time continuum toward a zero limit in which pure time was spatialized to the point that virtual onlife lives would become fully digitized and bound to the dromocracy of a non-temporalized time-machine. This liquidation of space by time has produced disruptions of mind and body in our species that are unprecedented. In this sense we live in a Technocosm: a realm in which “all the surfaces of the globe are directly present to one another.”11

For Virilio this sea change of time came about through conquest and military takeover of the planet by cultures who sought to build vast empires of time. Under their dictate, the universe was rearranged by the military spirit: the building of infrastructure, the “total mobilization” of the population, the harnessing of ever new sources of energy for the military economy of attrition. “Dromocratic intelligence is not exercised against a more or less determined military adversary,” Virilio concludes, “but as a permanent assault on the world, and through it, on human nature.”12 We can see in the work of scientist and philosophers such as Kepler, Galileo, Huygen, and Newton among others the defining characteristics of this sea change in time and movement, the age of progress and modernity being grasped within the central obsession with the movement of the planets (Kepler), gravity (Galileo), uniform rotation (Huygen), and the inertial motion developed by Newton. We can see in Hobbes notions of rest as resistance the overturning of the Aristotelian conception of hierarchical movement: the ‘Great Chain of Being’,  according to which the movement of the universe was caused by an unmoved mover.13

In many ways this movement against the logic of rest was always a part of the complex notions of modernity, a slow and methodical assault of abstraction against the organicism of pre-industrial society. One could say that our age of modernity was and is the project of engineers and physicists: the mathematization of reality, of the space-time continuum as an abstract movement. With the revolutionization of the nature of transport and communication, distances shrink; everything is equally within reach; planetary civilization is transformed into a continuum in which everything is brutally pushed together, in which there are no more borders, no more distances, no more differences. The liquidation of space in abstraction. “Speed-space,” Virilio would term it, or as Sohn-Rethel would have it technological speed requires not merely the absence of obstacles, but rather the absence of matter as such; its ideal space is a vacuum.14 This dematerialization of substantive reality, the obliteration of both the Platonic/Aristotelian worlds of substantial formalism in which naïve realism or common sense philosophies were bound to the empirical world of experience vanished into the virtual immaterialism of quantum time without bounds: “After the duration and extension of geo-physical space have been reduced to nothing or almost nothing by the acceleration of transport, it seems that the vivisection of speed now attacks the very density of mass itself, as if the aim of the pursuit had suddenly become the durability and density of the whole set of physical bodies. . . . Obsessed with producing the void, we no longer tolerate the density of the material”.15

People no longer live in a particular territory, a nation-state, etc., such as a city, but in the “time spent changing places” itself.16 Cities become merely functional spaces for time-bounded activities, their residents become passengers, “displaced,” “u-topic” citizens whose true homes are transport machines and waystations. In place of settledness in space comes a new settledness in time, in place of societies of persistence comes a “society of disappearance.”17 Since the rise of telecommunications, social integration also increasingly occurs in time, such as the time of a program which gathers those who are physically absent into a “city of the instant.” The old depth of topological space is replaced by the depth of time, territoriality by temporality: “Space is no longer in geography; it’s in electronics. Unity is in the terminals. It’s in the instantaneous time of command posts, control towers, etc. Politics is less in physical space than in the time systems administered by various technologies, from telecommunications to airplanes, passing by the TGV, etc. There is a movement from geo- to chrono-politics: the distribution of territory becomes the distribution of time. The distribution of territory is outmoded, minimal.”18

For Virilio we live under the dictatorship of death-time: technological time is dead time, it is intensive time, and it is scarce time. Dead time: for it has to do with the time-travel, thus with the time of circulation, in which the body is cut off from any interaction with its actual environment and is only, as it were, traded in for a life after arrival. Intensive time: for it is defined by immediate and abrupt presence, by the sudden entrance of what is absent, as manifested in the exchange of weapons of mass destruction as well as the exchange of information through the means of communication. Scarce time: for the immense acceleration, which, for example, reaches the speed of light in laser weapons, leads everywhere to a shortening of time limits and time to think. In the age of cruise missiles and strategic “defense” initiatives, what is primarily at stake are warning times, the exploitation of the smallest possible intervals of time, of first-strike and preventative strike capacities—in a word, the “war for time.”

Since the 90’s the deregulation of time along with other capitalist modes has accelerated the world of dead-time, bringing with it both the interminable war on terror and a terror of time itself. Against the accumulation of time as a commodity stored in the monetary systems of material civilization the new capitalism has dematerialized in the advanced terrorism of virtual currency. The world itself is dematerializing before our very eyes and we are all being transformed into digitized dividuals of a mathematical multiverse controlled by the dead time of capital.  Zombies of a new order we have become daemonic agents of our own demise, inventing futures in which the complete artificialization of intelligence and life rules both our desires and our ancient immortalization dreams. For Virilio the technologies of speed bring about a “disruption in the order of perception, a “derangement of the senses” whereby individuals are catapulted into a space beyond, in which they can only maintain their position by means of a complex network of measuring instruments, of perceptual prosthetics. These prostheses in turn compel derealization. Cinema, writes Virilio, is based on a systematic psychotropic derangement, a destruction of chronology. In place of the transcendental aesthetic, which brought sensory data into a spatiotemporal order and, in the categories of the understanding, also produced valid knowledge, we have the “aesthetic of speed,” which only occasionally connects subject and object with blinding speed: “With speed, the world keeps on coming at us, to the detriment of the object, which is itself now assimilated to the sending of information. It is this intervention that destroys the world as we know it, technique finally reproducing permanently the violence of the accident.”19


As with modernism and postmodernism, it is architecture that is central to the enduring public definition of neomodernity. Philosophers have only ever interpreted the world, but architects get to build it.

—Nick Land, Shanghai Times

As Land tells us it might reasonably be argued that the modern is always and inherently neomodern, that relentless, self-surpassing upgrades are hard-wired into it, from the beginning.20 The celebration of discontinuity over the progressive notions of smooth, continuous improvement typify its program. One might better understand neomodernity as the discontinuous renewal of modernity out of its own ruins, the transfiguration of its depleted energies into the surface tension of a renaissance rather than oblivion. “Above all, perhaps, the neomodern is manifested indirectly, through display spaces. It points away from itself, and towards what it revives, in the manner of contemporary museum design, with its ideal of invisible mediation. Its pride is adapted to an information age, in which subtlety trumps assertion, inventive perception supplants self-expression, and flexible anticipation outperforms stubborn purpose.”21

Like a heavy metal apocalypse neomoderinty orchestrates the virtual designs of the dematerialization of civilization. It’s cyclopean structures: “scorched and rusted girders, massive chains, vast slabs of semi-crumbled brickwork, pitted concrete, splintered masonry, the cavernous, eroded shells of warehouses and machine shops” rise up like transfigured creatures out of some hellish paradise. The post-industrial functionalism of this hybrid of supraintelligent artifact and ruinous abstraction combines the disconnection of the mind from its former ecologies in the natural order as its move and metamorphoses shapes it to the post-civilizational matrix of conditioned possibility. “Around and amongst these paleo-modernist dinosaur skeletons, it weaves an exquisite web of maximally-dematerialized and near-transparent structures, emphasizing lightness, subtlety, openness, and innovation. High-bandwidth digital communications, intelligent environmental control systems, hydroponically-nourished creeping plants, hyper-designed furnishings, tastefully understated interior decoration and sophisticated artworks complete the metamorphosis. Neomodernity is at once more modernity, and modernity again. By synthesizing (accelerating) progressive change with cyclic recurrence, it produces a distinctive schema or figure: the time spiral. “22

Technicity and the Inhuman

It is ceasing to be a matter of how we think about technics, if only because technics is increasingly thinking about itself.

—Nick Land, #Accelerate: The Accelerationist Reader

Plato in his Meno would institute an opposition between the Socratic “recollection” of the immortal soul, called ἀνάμνησις (anamnēsis), and the artificial or technical supplement to memory, called ὑπόμνησις (hypomnēsis). It is with this entirely unprecedented opposition that western metaphysics and, arguably, western philosophy more generally, comes into existence. To Plato’s way of thinking, thought is nothing other than the act of the immortal soul remembering itself once again. On the one side, then, we have thought, the infinite, the transcendental and something called “philosophy.” On the other, however, we have artifice, finitude, the empirical and something called “technicity.” Yet what happens to the finite world— with all its inherent contingency, variability and fallibility— when the immortal soul recollects itself? If thought is defined as the recollection of immortality, then finitude, contingency and technology are, as Bernard Stiegler has argued, thereby consigned to the darkness of the unthought: true anamnēsis apparently has no need of the sophistical or technical supplement that is hypomnēsis. What, though, might it mean to ”think” this unthought, that is to say, technicity itself?23

Aristotle is  the first thinker to construct an ontology of the technical object. To Aristotle’s eyes, technē is an essentially inert, neutral tool whose status is entirely determined by the use to which it is put by human beings. If nature (physis) contains the principal of its own motion— an acorn will grow into an oak tree all by itself— the same is obviously not true for a technical or fabricated object: an oak table or bed frame requires an efficient cause (causa efficiens) such as an artisan to bring it into being. In this way, we arrive at an idea of technicity that has dominated philosophy for almost 3,000 years: technē is a prosthesis (πρόσϑεσις: pro-thesis, i.e., an addition; what-is-placed-in-front-of) considered “in relation to” nature, humanity or thought; one that can be utilised for good or ill depending upon who or what happens to wield it.

Yet, in our time the Aristotelian notion of techné as inert, a dead thing onto which we must impress our form and give it purpose is no longer valid. As the disciplines of artificial intelligence, genetic engineering and information technology continue to develop at a bewildering pace, the ontological boundaries between the human and the technological are being re-drawn: what we used to think of as the defining properties of human being— mind, agency, affect, consciousness, the very operation of thought itself— are revealed to be inextricably bound up with complex, quasi-mechanical and technically replicable processes. To put it crudely, technology in this way appears less an instrumentum of an a priori “reason,” than an ontological state. Consequently, technicity names something which can no longer be seen as just a series of prostheses or technical artefacts— which would be merely “supplemental” (or supernumerary) to our nature— but the basic and enabling condition of our life-world. From the watch we wear to the server we log into, we exist pros-thetically, that is to say, by putting ourselves outside ourselves. If the classical opposition and hierarchy between thought and technology can no longer be sustained from this perspective— such that what Plato calls anamnēsis may be nothing other than a complex repertoire of motor functions, cybernetic loops and self-replicating hypomnesic systems— then it is clear that this insight poses a new and urgent task for any philosophy of technology. In other words, the question arises as to whether it is possible to think something that is nothing less than the basic condition of thought itself.25

This interplay of anamnesis and hypomnesic systems in a cyberpositive loop of self-reinforcing acceleration is at the core of Nick Land’s vision of our neomodern capitalist society:

Machinic desire can seem a little inhuman, as it rips up political cultures, deletes traditions, dissolves subjectivities, and hacks through security apparatuses, tracking a soulless tropism to zero control. This is because what appears to humanity as the history of capitalism is an invasion from the future by an artificial intelligent space that must assemble itself entirely from its enemy’s resources.26

Couched in mid-90’s cyber-punk rhetoric this notion of the future impinging on the present as if some advanced civilization was transfiguring our own mad world into a monstrous vision of its own artificial intelligence seems almost ludicrous to us, and yet this retroactive and recursive notion of time is essential. Combining the thanatropic vision of Freud and Land in his critique of our current late capitalist society Reza Negarestani outlines the tendencies at the core of this project, saying, “the collusion between science and capitalism imparts an alarmingly critical significance to such inspections into the relation between capitalism and its image as an inevitable singularity that coheres with the compulsive regression of the organism toward the inorganic exteriority. The collusion of capitalism with science enables capitalism to incorporate contemporary science’s continuous disenchantment of cosmos as the locus of absolute objectivity and inevitable extinction.”27

Call this the Great Reversal: originary technicity as the origin of humanity, becomes increasingly autonomous and emerges outside the meat-bag of its parasitical relations. In Derrida’s terms originary technicity inhabits the interiority of life itself: ‘life is a process of self-replacement’, Derrida asserts, ‘the handing-down of life is a mechanike, a form of technics’ (‘Nietzsche and the Machine’, p. 248). From its beginnings cybernetics emerging from the thought of such luminaries as Norbert Weiner, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Valera or Niklas Luhmann, offers us a picture of the emergence of artificial intelligence, complexity, adaptation and emergence or the embodiment, extension and distribution of mind into autonomous forms outside the human: the slow externalization of the very processes of thought and technics.

Maturana and Valera’s image of a self-organizing, self-regulating and self-regenerating autopoietic machines represents a kind of litmus test for the originary technicity of life:

[It] is a machine organized (defined as a unity) as a network of processes of production (transformation and destruction) of components which: (i) through their interactions and transformations continuously regenerate and realize the network of processes (relations) that produced them; and (ii) constitute it (the machine) as a concrete unity in space in which they (the components) exist by specifying the topological domain of its realization as such a network. (#Accelerate: The Accelerationist Reader.Urbanomic)

Perhaps most crucially, autopoiesis recognizes no qualitative difference between organic and inorganic systems: all living systems are autopoietic, and so any physical system – whether social, cultural, artificial – can, if autopoietic, be said to exhibit life (Autopoiesis and Cognition, p. 48). (Bradley, p. 21) Ultimately originary technicity is less a tool or prosthesis that has been super-added to life nor even quite a metaphor for life but what I will call the empirico-transcendental condition of life itself. Such an aporetic condition is articulated phenomenologically, historically and even ontologically by different thinkers under such names as labour, matter, the real, Being-in-the-World, the other and the body, but the basic gesture remains the same: what is supposedly outside the sphere of the human, nature and life is constantly folded back inside it as its ‘ground’. If the classical philosophy of technology is a machine for producing the non-technological, in other words, then contemporary theories of originary technicity see themselves as a machine for revealing that technology is always already contaminating phusis, anamnësis, consciousness, ipseity or the living more generally. (Bradley, p. 22)

Against Land’s energetic-technics (neo-vitalist) capitalism as intelligent agent of artificialization and death-syndrome Negarestani turns to Ray Brassier’s cosmological re-inscription of the thanatropic drive:

Brassier’s cosmic reinscription of Freud’s thanatropic regression is an attempt to enact eliminativism as an ultimate vector of enlightenment and emancipative disenchantment. Yet to cosmically enact eliminativism, one must have a model to divest all horizons of interiority (from organisms to stars to galaxies and even matter itself) of their ontological potencies and so-called vitalistic opportunities for carrying on the life of thought. The model capable of guaranteeing such a great purge is Freud’s account of the death-drive. 28

Yet, this unhooking of Freud’s thanatropic vitalism from the Landian cosmos of capitalist dissipation into artificial intelligence is for Negarestani a utopian speculative enterprise at best:

By leaving the fundamental body and the primary front of the Landian definition of capitalism unharmed, Brassier’s own project of enlightenment ironically turns into a dormant ethico-political enterprise with an utopianistic twist. Brassier’s account of eliminativist enlightenment, in this sense, basks in the comforts of an utopianistic trust in opportunities brought about by the neurocognitive plasticity whilst peacefully cohabiting with capitalism on the same earth.29

Against both Land’s conservative vision and Brassier’s speculative cosmic nihilism Negarestani tells us there is a need to institute another form of inhumanist praxis: the programmatic objective of an inhuman praxis is to remobilize non-dialectical negativity beyond such Capital-nurturing conceptions of negativity. Without such a programmatic sponsor, alternative ethics of openness or politics of exteriorization, the speculative vectors of thought are not only vulnerable to the manipulations of capitalism but also are seriously impeded.30

  1. Paul Virilio, L’horizon négatif (Paris: Galilée, 1984), 59.
  2. Ibid., 16.
  3. Paul Virilio, The Aesthetics of Disappearance, trans. Philip Beitchman (New York: Semiotext(e), 1991).
  4. Paul Virilio, Speed and Politics, trans. Mark Politizzotti (New York: Semiotext(e), 1986), 133.
  5. Paul Virilio, Fahren, fahren, fahren, trans. Ulrich Raul¤ (Berlin: Merve, 1978), 30.
  6. Paul Virilio and Sylvère Lotringer, Pure War, trans. Mark Polizotti (New York: Semiotext(e), 1983), 44–45.
  7. Paul Virilio, The Lost Dimension, trans. Daniel Moshenberg (New York: Semiotext(e), 1991), 128.
  8. Virilio, L’horizon négatif, 288. 20.
  9. Virilio, Pure War, 46. 21.
  10. Ibid., 72, 99.
  11. Virilio, War and Cinema: The Logistics of Perception (Radical Thinkers), Verso (June 9, 2009), 46.
  12. Virilio, Speed and Politics, 64.
  13. Lovejoy, Arthur O. The Great Chain of Being. Harvard University Press (June 30, 2009)
  14. Virilio, L’horizon négatif, 90.
  15. Ibid., 174–75.
  16. Virilio, Pure War, 60.
  17. Ibid., 88, 75.
  18. Ibid., 115.
  19. Virilio, Aesthetics of Disappearance, 101.
  20. Land, Nick. Shanghai Times.  Urbanatomy Electronic; 1 edition (February 14, 2014).(Kindle Locations 120-122).
  21. Ibid., Shanghai Times (Kindle Locations 154-156).
  22. Shanghai Times (Kindle Locations 160-170).
  23. Armand, Louis; Bradley, Arthur; Zizek, Slavoj; Stiegler, Bernard; Miller, J. Hillis; Wark, McKenzie; Amerika, Mark; Lucy, Niall; Tofts, Darren; Lovink, Geert. Technicity (Kindle Locations 75-84). Litteraria Pragensia. Kindle Edition.
  24. Ibid., Technicity, (Kindle Locations 89-98).
  25. Ibid., Technicity, (Kindle Locations 101-115).
  26. Nick Land, ‘Machinic Desire’, Textual Practice, vol. 7, no. 3, 1993, p. 479.
  27. Negarestani, Reza.  Drafting the Inhuman: Conjectures on Capitalism and Organic Necrocracy (The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism, 2011)
  28. Ibid., p. 8.
  29. Ibid., p. 9.
  30. Ibid., p. 19.



Deleuze & Guattari: Notes on Rhizome


Quotes from A Thousand Plateaus in no certain order for a Book Project:

D & G: “How can the book find an adequate outside with which to assemble in heterogeneity, rather than a world to reproduce?”

Rhizome it.

The rhizome is an anti-genealogy.

Perhaps one of the most important characteristics of the rhizome is that it always has multiple entryways…

Writing has nothing to do with signifying. It has to do with surveying, mapping, even realms that are yet to come. …

The rhizome is altogether different, a map and not a tracing. Make a map, not a tracing.

A rhizome ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences, and social struggles. A semiotic chain is like a tuber agglomerating very diverse acts, not only linguistic, but also perceptive, mimetic, gestural, and cognitive: there is no language in itself, nor are there any linguistic universals, only a throng of dialects, patois, slangs, and specialized languages.

Principle of multiplicity: it is only when the multiple is effectively treated as a substantive, “multiplicity,” that it ceases to have any relation to the One as subject or object, natural or spiritual reality, image and world. Multiplicities are rhizomatic, and expose arborescent pseudomulti-plicities for what they are. There is no unity to serve as a pivot in the object, or to divide in the subject. There is not even the unity to abort in the object or “return” in the subject. A multiplicity has neither subject nor object, only determinations, magnitudes, and dimensions that cannot increase in number without the multiplicity changing in nature.

All multiplicities are flat, in the sense that they fill or occupy all of their dimensions: we will therefore speak of a plane of consistency of multiplicities …

Writing weds a war machine and lines of flight, abandoning the strata, segmentarities, sedentarity, the State apparatus. … Is there a need for a more profound nomadism… a nomadism of true nomads, or of those who no longer even move or imitate anything? The nomadism of those who only assemble (agencent).

The ideal for a book would be to lay everything out on a plane of exteriority of this kind, on a single page, the same sheet: lived events, historical determinations, concepts, individuals, groups, social formations.

The cultural book is necessarily a tracing: already a tracing of itself, a tracing of the previous book by the same author, a tracing of other books however different they may be, an endless tracing of established concepts and words, a tracing of the world present, past, and future. … Imperceptible rupture, not signifying break.

The nomads invented a war machine in opposition to the State apparatus.

The war machine’s relation to an outside is not another “model”; it is an assemblage that makes thought itself nomadic, and the book a working part in every mobile machine, a stem for a rhizome. Write to the nth power, the n – 1 power, write with slogans: Make rhizomes, not roots, never plant! Don’t sow, grow offshoots! Don’t be one or multiple, be multiplicities! Run lines, never plot a point! Speed turns the point into a line! Be quick, even when standing still! Line of chance, line of hips, line of flight.

Kleist invented a writing of this type, a broken chain of affects and variable speeds, with accelerations and transformations, always in a relation with the outside.

Make maps, not photos or drawings. Be the Pink Panther and your loves will be like the wasp and the orchid, the cat and the baboon.

A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo.

How could movements of deterritorialization and processes of reterri-torialization not be relative, always connected, caught up in one another? The orchid deterritorializes by forming an image, a tracing of a wasp; but the wasp reterritorializes on that image. The wasp is nevertheless deterritorialized, becoming a piece in the orchid’s reproductive apparatus. But it reterritorializes the orchid by transporting its pollen. Wasp and orchid, as heterogeneous elements, form a rhizome.

American literature, and already English literature, manifest this rhizomatic direction to an even greater extent; they know how to move between things, establish a logic of the AND, overthrow ontology, do away with foundations, nullify endings and beginnings. They know how to practice pragmatics.

The middle is by no means an average; on the contrary, it is where things pick up speed.

Between things does not designate a localizable relation going from one thing to the other and back again, but a perpendicular direction, a transversal movement that sweeps one and the other away, a stream without beginning or end that undermines its banks and picks up speed in the middle

—Gilles Deleuze; Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (University of Minnesota Press; 2 edition (December 21, 1987)


Reza Negarestani: A Preliminary Investigation – Intelligence and Spirit

The History of spirit is its own deed; for spirit is only what it does, and its deed is to make itself – in this case as spirit – the object of its own consciousness, and to comprehend itself in its interpretation of itself to itself.

—G.W.F. Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right

Shall we say that Hegel is the Father of Pragmatism? That we should know a self as what it does, rather than by its essence: what it is? And is the self processual, a disturbance of material agitation: a making that is a making of itself by itself, through the power of interacting on itself by way of techniques of language and interpretation of this self-making agency in process? Reza Negarestani situates this statement as outlining a “community of rational agents as a social model of the mind,” a functionalist model that is “essentially a picture of a necessarily deprivatized mind predicated on sociality as a formal condition of possibility”.1

Instead of trying to review the complete book, I am more interested in this post to understand the political and social implications of Reza’s project. For underlying the conceptuality inherent within his project is a political and social agenda that one must understand before one can gain insight in the fabric of its methodological implications and conclusions. So with that in mind I want to quote in full the first paragraph of the work to which I will in this post unpack the wealth of thought implicated within its compressed and carefully thought out thesis:

This book argues, from a functionalist perspective, that mind is only what it does; and that what it does is first and foremost realized by the sociality of agents, which itself is primarily and ontologically constituted by the semantic space of public language. What mind does is to structure the universe to which it belongs, and structure is the very register of intelligibility as pertaining to the world and intelligence. Only in virtue of multilayered semantic structure of language does sociality become a normative space of recognitive-cognitive rational agents; and the supposedly ‘private’ experiences and thoughts of participating agents are only structured as experiences and thoughts in so far as they are bound up in this normative – at once intersubjective and objective – space. (1)

To unpack this paragraph I will delve into a short history and explication of certain terms and their uses along the way. We will start with the notion of functionalism itself within the philosophy of mind.

Functionalist Perspective

This notion of the ‘functionalist perspective’ has a unique place within the philosophy of mind. Functionalism in the philosophy of mind is the doctrine that what makes something a mental state of a particular type does not depend on its internal constitution, but rather on the way it functions, or the role it plays, in the system of which it is a part. This doctrine is rooted in Aristotle’s conception of the soul, and has antecedents in Hobbes’s conception of the mind as a “calculating machine”, but it has become fully articulated (and popularly endorsed) only in the last third of the 20th century. Though the term ‘functionalism’ is used to designate a variety of positions in a variety of other disciplines, including psychology, sociology, economics, and architecture, this post focuses exclusively on functionalism as a philosophical thesis about the nature of mental states.2

According to Aristotle’s theory, a soul is a particular kind of nature, a principle that accounts for change and rest in the particular case of living bodies, i.e. plants, nonhuman animals and human beings. The relation between soul and body, on Aristotle’s view, is also an instance of the more general relation between form and matter: thus an ensouled, living body is a particular kind of in-formed matter. Slightly simplifying things by limiting ourselves to the sublunary world (cf. De Anima 2.2, 413a32; 2.3, 415a9), we can describe the theory as furnishing a unified explanatory framework within which all vital functions alike, from metabolism to reasoning, are treated as functions performed by natural organisms of suitable structure and complexity. The soul of an animate organism, in this framework, is nothing other than its system of active abilities to perform the vital functions that organisms of its kind naturally perform, so that when an organism engages in the relevant activities (e.g., nutrition, movement or thought) it does so in virtue of the system of abilities that is its soul.3

Aristotle’s almost computational perspective on the capabilities and capacities of the rational soul to order and structure experience, along with making intelligible the intelligibility of the universal order of things within what would become known as the “great chain of being” would provide many later thinker a functionalist perspective and framework within which to explicate intelligence, intelligibility, and the intelligible.4 In this sense functionalism affords us another view onto mind with the idea of multiple realizability, an idea put forward most prominently Hilary Putnam (1967, 1988) and Jerry Fodor (1975), put it forth as an argument against reductionist accounts of the relation between mental and physical kinds.5 Since, according to standard functionalist theories, mental states are the corresponding functional role, mental states can be sufficiently explained without taking into account the underlying physical medium (e.g. the brain, neurons, etc.) that realizes such states; one need only take into account the higher-level functions in the cognitive system. Since mental states are not limited to a particular medium, they can be realized in multiple ways, including, theoretically, within non-biological systems, such as computers. In other words, a silicon-based machine could, in principle, have the same sort of mental life that a human being has, provided that its cognitive system realized the proper functional roles. Thus, mental states are individuated much like a valve; a valve can be made of plastic or metal or whatever material, as long as it performs the proper function (say, controlling the flow of liquid through a tube by blocking and unblocking its pathway).

Between Putnam and Fordor a more detailed account of the functionalist perspective described functionalism in the philosophy of mind as individuating mental states in terms of their causes and effects. Pain, for example, is caused by tissue damage or trauma to bodily regions, and in turn causes beliefs (e.g., that one is in pain), desires (e.g., that one relieves the pain), and behaviors like crying out, nursing the damaged area, and seeking out pain relieving drugs. Any internal state that mediates a similar pattern of causes and effects is pain—regardless of the specific physical mechanisms that mediate the pattern in any given case. Ned Block and Jerry Fodor (1972) note that the multiple realizability of mental on physical types shows that any physicalist type-identity hypothesis will fail to be sufficiently abstract. Functionalism, on the other hand, seems to be at the next level of abstraction up from explanation of behavior based on physical mechanisms. In addition, it seems sufficiently abstract to handle multiple realizability. Block and Fodor also note that multiple realizability at the level of physical description is a common characteristic of ordinary functional kinds, like mousetraps and valve lifters. Characterizing mental kinds as functional kinds thus appears to be at exactly the right level of abstraction to handle multiple realizability. (Bickle, ibid.)

The great follower of Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, would contribute to this pragmatic heritage aligning the notion of “soul” as form following function, defining the soul as the form of living bodies. Aquinas’s substantial formalism takes it that the forms of material objects can be divided into two sorts, substantial forms and accidental forms. One way of distinguishing the two is by what they configure. A substantial form of a material thing configures prime matter. Prime matter is matter without any form at all, “materiality” (as it were) apart from configuration. When it is a component in a matter– form composite,  prime matter is the component of the configured composite which makes it the case that the configured thing is extended in three dimensions and occupies a particular place at a particular time.  By contrast, an accidental form configures something which is an actually existing complete thing, a matter– form composite.6

On Aquinas’s view, the substantial form of a whole confers causal powers on the whole. The operations and functions of a substance derive from the substantial form configuring the whole.  Furthermore, as we increase complexity in systems, even systems of inanimate things, properties arise that are properties of the whole system but not properties of the material parts of the system. This irreductionist perspective is at the heart of his enterprise, and as we will see it is part of the core view within the functionalist perspective of Negarestani as well.

Multiple Realizability and the Sociality of Mind

Reza’s notion that the mind is what it does, and that what it does is realized only within the public space of language by the ‘sociality of agents’ harkens back to Hegel’s philosophy. As Terry Pinkard reminds us modern philosophy, the institutional setting for absolute knowing, is not confined to the way the natural world happens to present itself to the community of working scientists (agents). Philosophy is the reflection on what the community as a whole has come to take as authoritative for its evaluation of those practices and its attempts at legitimations of those practices in terms of an appeal to standards of rationality that themselves historically have been developed within the history of that community’s accounts of itself. It can therefore legitimate that account only within those historically generated terms, within that “social space,” not by accommodating itself to any kind of object external to the historically developing set of practices of reason-giving and account-giving themselves. Absolute knowledge is absolute in that it has no “object” external to itself that mediates it in the way the natural world mediates the claims of natural science. Absolute knowledge is thus the way in which absolute spirit articulates itself in modern life ; it is the practice through which the modern community thinks about itself without attempting to posit any metaphysical “other” or set of “natural constraints” that would underwrite those practices.  Absolute knowledge is the internal reflection on the social practices of a modern community that takes its authoritative standards to come only from within the structure of the practices it uses to legitimate and authenticate itself.7

What are we talking about here? The sociality of mind is formed by its interaction with a specific technological environment or “social space,” one that is objective and external to the individual agent. As Merlin Donald, speaking of the evolution of the mind tells us, the recent changes in the organization of the human mind are just as fundamental as those that took place in earlier evolutionary transitions, yet they are mediated by new memory technology, rather than by genetically encoded changes in the brain. The effects of such technological changes are similar in kind to earlier biological changes, inasmuch as they can produce alterations to the architecture of human memory. The modern mind is thus a hybrid structure containing vestiges of earlier stages of human emergence, as well as new symbolic devices that have radically altered its organization. The structural relationship between individual human minds and external memory technology continues to change, and with the advance of augmentation and other techniques which will provide an avenue to a new level of abstraction: the collective world of participatory consciousness that was once shared in animistic societies will now be part of the technological realm of rationality of a new collective and open society of mind.8

Whereas countless philosophers since Aristotle have attempted to define what is quintessentially human, Donald brings new knowledge of neuropsychology, ethology, and archaeology to propose a tripartite theory of the transition from ape to man. Using the fossil evidence of braincase size and tool-kit remains, Donald concludes that the australopithecines were limited to concrete/episodic minds: bipedal creatures able to benefit from pair-bonding, cooperative hunting, etc., but essentially of a seize-the-moment mentality. The first transition was to a `mimetic” culture: the era of Homo erectus in which mankind absorbed and refashioned events to create rituals, crafts, rhythms, dance, and other prelinguistic traditions. This was followed by the evolution to mythic cultures: the result of the acquisition of speech and the invention of symbols. The third transition carried oral speech to reading, writing, and an extended external memory- store seen today in computer technology.

This notion of the externalization of the mind through sociality and interaction with techniques and technology in a co-evolutionary process of mutual development and transformation is at the core of orginary technicity, or what Bernard Stiegler meant when he said that the ‘human has always been technological’. N. Katherine Hayles in Unthought: The Power of the Cognitive Nonconscious relates that technical cognitions are designed specifically to keep human consciousness from being overwhelmed by massive informational streams so large, complex, and multifaceted that they could never be processed by human brains. These parallels are not accidental. Their emergence represents the exteriorization of cognitive abilities, once resident only in biological organisms, into the world, where they are rapidly transforming the ways in which human cultures interact with broader planetary ecologies. Indeed, biological and technical cognitions are now so deeply entwined that it is more accurate to say they interpenetrate one another.9

This process of exteriorization of memory produced varied and quite complex ecologies of mind. For Reza this external space is the  ‘semantic space of public language’, which might be bettered served as the technical space of representational machines within which humanity has invented itself. If any system that is capable of remembering and processing information, of regulating its own behavior and adapting to its environment deserves the name of ‘technology’, the philosopher Jean-François Lyotard argues in the wake of the information revolution, then even infusoria – the tiny algae synthesized by light at the edge of tidepools millions of years ago that we mentioned in the opening paragraph – are already ‘technical devices’. In Lyotard’s words, ‘the living cell, and the organism with its origins, are already tekhnai – “life”, as they say, is already technique’.10

This notion of the living and non-living being unified as technology and technique is not new. Even the so called postmoderns would offer a technological turn in their philosophies. Jacques Derrida; Jacques Lacan; Michel Foucault; Jean-François Lyotard; Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari; and Giorgio Agamben (for all the real and often irreconcilable differences between the work of such canonical thinkers) are increasingly recognized as important and influential philosophers of technology whose work is informed by, and engages in, the new scientific revolutions of the post-war era. To offer a brief overview, Jacques Lacan is one of the first philosophical thinkers to grapple with the implications of the new cybernetic revolution after the Second World War: the psychoanalyst famously deploys the cybernetic circuit as a conceptual model for what he sees as the symbolic structure of subjectivity.6 Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s idea of a ‘machinic phylum’ at the heart of morphogenesis also draws on both molecular biology and post-cybernetic theory to explain the self-organising material flux of the universe as it emerges from chaos into order.  By the same token, the later work of Jean François Lyotard appeals to catastrophe theory in order to articulate his theory of an inhuman remainder at the core of all humanisms (The Inhuman, pp. 1-7). Perhaps even the later Foucault and, differently, Giorgio Agamben’s theory of bio-power – where governmental technologies are exerted upon the bare fact of life itself – can be seen as a critique of the political exploitation of the becoming-technical of the living in the aftermath of the new sciences. Such a technological turn has, if anything, gathered momentum in recent years with the appearance of important works by such figures as Friedrich Kittler, Bernard Stiegler and Jean-Luc Nancy, amongst many others. Derrida’s in his deconstruction of  western metaphysics of presence offered a perspective on originary technicity that inhabits the interiority of life itself: ‘life is a process of self-replacement’, Derrida asserts, ‘the handing-down of life is a mechanike, a form of technics’ (‘Nietzsche and the Machine’, p. 248).

World Building and the Structuring Mind

To consider man, then, as primarily a tool-using animal, is to overlook the main chapters of human history. Opposed to this petrified notion man is pre-eminently a mind-making, self-mastering, and self-designing animal; and the primary locus of all his activities lies first in his own organism, and in the social organization through which it finds fuller expression.

—Lewis Mumford, The Myth of the Machine Technics and Human Development

Reza tells us that “what mind does is to structure the universe to which it belongs, and structure is the very register of intelligibility as pertaining to the world and intelligence”. In this he follows Kant and other post-Kantian philosophers of mind whose belief that we can never have any direct access to reality, but rather that our minds have always already processed and filtered reality and hand us only that version of it that it has structured for us. In After Finitude, Quentin Meillassoux defined correlationism as “the idea according to which we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other. (p. 5)” Ray Brassier in an essay would state that “reality is ultimately endowed with conceptual structure”. Going on he’d tell us

The challenge for materialism is to acknowledge the reality of abstraction without conceding to idealism that reality possesses irreducible conceptual form. Thus materialism must be able to explain what constitutes the reality of conceptually formed abstraction without hypostatising that form. The key to the de-reification of abstraction is an account of conceptual form as generated by social practices.11

This notion that conceptual form or the structuring of the world is generated by sociality and the pragmatic interactions in that public space of language, the ‘give and take of reasons’ (Brandom) – the normative praxis and techniques that invent the possibility of mind in the first instance. Yet, the very process of technicity that has exposed humanity as technology, as symbiont – neither fully machinic nor fully organic has opened onto  a door of futurity. As Nick Land once suggested “the high road to thinking no longer passes through a deepening of human cognition, but rather through a becoming inhuman of cognition, a migration of cognition out into the emerging planetary technosentience reservoir, into ‘dehumanized landscapes … emptied spaces’! where human culture will be dissolved(293).”12 Reza in a later section of his work would iterate his on inhumanist gesture, saying,

To migrate from the Hobbesian jungle of competing individual experiences it is not sufficient to build consensus between different individuals and groups – a necessary undertaking which is not wholly conceivable in this environment. It is necessary  to posit the possibility of an otherworldly experience, one that, while devoid of all mystical, supernatural, religious, and paranormal qualities, is in contiguity with reality yet distant from this present world of experience. To posit such an otherworldly experience is in fact to postulate the possibility of worlds that are in every sense outside of the horizon of the inhabitable world in which we currently live. (p. 499)

For Reza this movement requires nothing less than the participation in a collective enterprise that strips us of our individualistic and fragmented consciousness, providing instead an “engine of collective productive imagination, which is simply collective understanding in a different guise: concepts and categories of the otherworld integrate synthetic unities of particular experiences, but at the same time individual experiences fall under the pure concepts of a world modally detached from ours.” (p. 499) This bootstrapping of a new world or conceptual leap and bridge to the possibility of a world where I is We – a participatory externalization of objective Geist/Spirit, both incomplete and open leads to what Reza will term after Plato and Sellars a cosmopolitics or cosmological politics, a new “paradigm for the politics of the Left, one in which the positive deindividualization or the labour of collectivization is not just about intersubjectivity – the craft of we that constitutes I – but also about the renewed link between the subject and an impersonal objective reality.” (p. 301)

If you’ve been following me so far then this process of externalizing the mind’s capacities into technical systems is not new but a very old idea in which humans have delved ever since the first automatons in Greece were assembled. Our fascination with copies of ourselves in machinic systems that mimic our behavior and our thoughts has been a part of the whole gamut of engineering feats from the early Greeks onwards. Why this fascination to build a perfect image of ourselves in a technical artifact? What has drawn us to invent such a world in which such technical beings may in coming times surpass us and become the higher forms of planet earth? Were we already in our core machinic beings? Is this slow externalization of the organic functions into inorganic forms a teleological process? Are we just fulfilling some already well thought out pre-existing plan, strategy? This notion obviously goes against the grain of all materialist thought in which such designs and designers are mere shadows of Platonic other worlds to be left in the dust bin of strange ideas that were in error. But were they? Why have we continued to seek out and invent external forms of our minds and bodies in technical systems through collectivization processes? What drives us to do this? What are we seeking? Maybe in the end Reza is right:

Intelligence only springs forth from a race of slaves who have recognized themselves as such, and in this recognition have crafted the most intricate plot – the exploration of time through their history – to abolish any given, which will inevitably become the very condition of exploitation and inequality. Intelligence matures by unlearning its slavery. Intelligence is the race of Cain. (p. 504)

This alignment with the dark world of intelligence as criminal almost reminds us of Nick Land’s perusal of philosophers and philosophy: “Philosophers are vivisectors, surgeons who have evaded the Hippocratic moderation. They have the precise and reptilian intelligence shared by all those who experiment with living things. Perhaps there is nothing quite as deeply frozen as the sentiment of a true philosopher, for it is necessary to be quite dispassionate if one is to find things theoretically intriguing.”13

Whether you agree or disagree there is a lot to ponder and work through in Reza’s multifaceted project, of which I have only tried to unpack the first paragraph with extempore commentary.

  1. Negarestani, Reza. Intelligence and Spirit. Urbanomic/Sequence Press (November 27, 2018)
  2. Levin, Janet, “Functionalism“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).
  3. Lorenz, Hendrik, “Ancient Theories of Soul“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2009 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
  4. Lovejoy, Arthur O. The Great Chain of Being: The Study of an Idea. (Harvard University Press, 1936)
  5. Bickle, John, “Multiple Realizability“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
  6. Powers and Capacities in Philosophy: The New Aristotleianism. Routledge; 1 edition (March 24, 2017)
  7. Pinkard, Terry. Hegel’s Phenomenology: The Sociality of Reason. Cambridge University Press (April 26, 1996) (p. 262).
  8. Donald, Merlin. Origins of the Modern Mind: Three Stages in the Evolution of Culture and Cognition. Harvard University Press; Reprint edition (March 15, 1993)
  9. Hayles, N. Katherine. Unthought: The Power of the Cognitive Nonconscious (p. 11). University of Chicago Press. Kindle Edition.
  10. Bradley, A. Originary Technicity: The Theory of Technology from Marx to Derrida. Palgrave Macmillan; 2011 edition (May 27, 2011)
  11. Brassier, Ray. Wandering Abstraction. (Mute, 13 February 2014)
  12. Land, Nick. Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007. Urbanomic/Sequence Press (July 1, 2013)
  13. Land, Nick. The Thirst for Annihilation: Georges Bataille and Virulent Nihilism. Routledge; 1 edition (January 2, 1991)