Metaloid Dreams of Mutant Intelligences

Cioran quotes Lao Tsu’s maxim ‘the intense life is contrary to the Tao’, and compares the tranquility of the modest life with the thirst for annihilating ecstasy that has possessed the Western world. However, acknowledging the compulsion of his Occidental heritage, he remarks ‘I can pay homage to Lao Tsu a thousand times, but I am more likely to identify with an assassin’. Our culture, he argues, is essentially fanatical.

—Nick Land,  Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007

Strip the world of its illusions and delusions and you’ll only hasten the suicidal tendencies we’ve already as a species acquired. Predatory though we are, we are more prone to annihilating ourselves in a bout of self-mutilating hatred and pure religious fervor than not. Religious dogmatism – and, I count the Secular Church of Atheism in this – is the cornerstone of an anthropathological condition that breeds purity as the obliteration of all enemies. If only we could inhabit the enemies perspective would we realize the mirror of our hatred is itself impure.

We have yet to escape our Puritan heritage. Capitalism itself is this beast of purity spread across the face of the earth like an omeba, gobbling everything in its path, immolating the commodities and resources of the planet to the futurial disciplines of technics that have yet to find their slime festivals embarkation. Like fetid worms we are habitues of intricate foreplay, our sexual ecstasies bounded only by our murderous crash sequences with technology. Formulating and garnering an ultimate plan for inhuman takeover we bid the human species a grand bon voyage, stripping ourselves of the last veneer of humanistic entrapments we devote ourselves to the extreme experimental psychopathologies which will produce a final solution. Our closure of nature in this age and the irruption of the artificial as lifestyle has led us into that end game in which nothing natural will remain on earth.

No need to do a critique of metaphysics (or of political economy, which is the same thing) , since critique presupposes and ceaselessly creates this very theatricality; rather be imside and forget it, that’s the position of the death drive, describe these foldings and gluings, these energetic vections that establish the theatrical cube with its six homogenous faces on the unique and heterogeneous surface.

—Lyotard, Libidinal Economy

Once again the most unnatural creature on the planet triumphs, but in an unexpected way: it will stand atop the ruinous folds of a billion skulls screeching in the technomic voices of those who have become the thing they most dreaded: machinic gods of the metalloid Void. Brokered in a hell of abstract horror, these inheritors of the primal scream will walk the dead earth in what remains of the dustbowl windlands and scorched cities along the black sands of depleted oceans and lakes, where hybrid creatures scuttle in the shadows of temporal wars; and, deforested wastelands of spiked acropolises, and necromantic anti-life scurries amid the crumbling decay of human civilization: – like the visitors of an alien enlightenment, each singing in an oracular voice with the angelic pitch and plum disharmonics of solar sirens beckoning us toward the far shores of an anterior futurity.

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Gilles Deleuze: On Human Rights

Human rights will not make us bless capitalism. A great deal of innocence or cunning is needed by a philosophy of communication that claims to restore the society of friends, or even of wise men, by forming a universal opinion as ‘consensus’ able to moralize nations, States, and the market. Human rights say nothing about the immanent modes of existence of people provided with rights. Nor is it only in the extreme situations described by Primo Levi that we experience the shame of being human. We also experience it in insignificant conditions, before the meanness and vulgarity of existence that haunts democracies, before the propagation of these modes of existence and of thought-for-the-market, and before the values, ideals, and opinions of our time. The ignominy of the possibilities of life that we are offered appears from within. We do not feel ourselves outside of our time but continue to undergo shameful compromises with it. This feeling of shame is one of philosophy’s most powerful motifs. We are not responsible for the victims but responsible before them. And there is no way to escape the ignoble but to play the part of the animal (to growl, burrow, snigger, distort ourselves): thought itself is sometimes closer to an animal that dies than to a living, even democratic, human being.

—Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, What is Philosophy?

 

The Folds of Horror: Notes on Ligotti, Lovecraft, and Philosophy

Unimaginable-Surreal-Artworks

I began this set of notes to bring in a specific philosophical concept (“Fold”) that struck me as pertinent in my recent reading of Thomas Ligotti’s book The Conspiracy against the Human Race. Thomas Ligotti in a side note speaking of Lovecraft’s model of the supernatural horror tale, which he portrayed in its archetypal form in the short story, “The Music of Erich Zann”, commented:

In composing the … work, Lovecraft came up with a model supernatural horror tale, one in which a subjective mind and an objective monstrosity shade into each other, the one projecting itself outward and the other reflecting back so that together they form the perfect couple dancing to the uncanny music of being.1 [italics mine]

When I read this passage I was struck by it’s uncanny resemblance to two notions of import I’ve read in the past few years. One referencing Deleuze’s notions surrounding the concept of the “Fold” in his work on Leibniz and the Baroque; and, the other concerning the notions of how objects relate to one another in Graham Harman’s Weird Realism. If in the passage above by Ligotti we replace “shade into each other” with “fold into each other” we begin to connect both Deleuze’s notion of fold with Harman’s notion of the objects relating through a third object of which they form and fold into one another. I’ll address a couple quotes from Harman, then move on to Deleuze’s work. Admittedly for Harman it’s about ontology in the real as it folds things into itself or is folded into the other; and, for Deleuze the fold is about the sensual epistemic and pervasive folds as the eye follows the surfaces through their becomings.

Graham Harman in Guerrilla Metaphysics tells us that the theory of objects “exists not just at some ultimate pampered layer, but all the way up and down the ladder of the cosmos, so that all realities gain the dignity of objects”. He continues, saying,

Objects have surprises in store as well: lemon meringue, popsicles, Ajax Amsterdam, reggae bands, grains of sand. Each of these things remains a unitary substance beyond its impact on others—and obviously, none of them is an ultimate tiny particle of matter from which all else is built. They are not ultimate materials, but autonomous forms, forms somehow coiled up or folded in the crevices of the world and exerting their power on all that approaches them. This is my definition of substance, a term well worth salvaging: an object or substance is a real thing considered apart from any of its relations with other such things.2 Commenting on Merleau Ponty he’ll also mention that to “have a body is already to be folded into the things rather than to stand at a distance from them: “the thickness of the body . . . [is] the sole means I have to go unto the heart of the things, by making myself a world and by making them flesh.” (GM, 53) [my italics]

I’ll leave this here and move on to Deleuze’s work.

From the Translator’s forward to Gilles Deleuze’s Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque we learn:

Focillon notes that the Romanesque and Gothic, two dominant and contrastive styles, often inflect each other. They crisscross and sometimes fold vastly different sensibilities into each other. The historian is obliged to investigate how the two worlds work through each other at different speeds and. in tum. how they chart various trajectories on the surface of the European continent. … The experience of the Baroque entails that of the fold. Leibniz is the first great philosopher and mathematician of the pleat, of curves and twisting surfaces. He rethinks the phenomenon of “point of view,” of perspective, of conic sections. and of things. folded are draperies. tresses. tesselated fabrics, ornate costumes: dermal surfaces of the body that unfold in the embryo and crease themselves at death; domestic architecture that bends upper and lower levels together while floating in the cosmos; novels narratives or develop infinite possibilities of serial form; harmonics that orchestrate vastly different rhythms and tempos; philosophies that resolve Cartesian distinctions of mind and body through physical means – without recourse to occasionalism or parallelismgrasped as foldings; styles and iconographies of painting that hide shapely figures in ruffles and billows of fabric. or that lead the eye to confuse different orders of space and surface.

 The key here strangely is not just the concept of the fold but rather the notion of causality as referenced in “without recourse to occasionalism and parallelism”. I’ll deal with this later. I still need to reread this work by Deleuze again and take notes…

Before I go any further I want to reference a post by Levi R. Bryant of Larval Subjects whose work of recent has taken him away from Object-Oriented philosophy and towards the notion of the “fold” as well. In a post in which he describes to his Barber the notion of the fold he has a discussion about bricks, saying,

Me:  A brick is a form of origami, like a crumpled piece of paper.

B:  Say what?

Me:  It folds the forces of the cosmos into it, invaginates them.  It folds the pressure of the other bricks about it into it, if it has lots of iron it folds the oxygen into it giving it that red color, it folds gravity and temperature in it, becoming brittle when it’s cold and molten when very hot.  Sound, light, pressures, air, all of these things are folded into it and it unfolds these things in the unique event that it is according to the structure that it has.  This conversation that we’re having, see those bricks over there on the wall?  The timber of the sound of our voices, the acoustics of this room, is an origami of our voices and those bricks.  Our voices have folded the bricks into themselves and unfolded it in a new vibration of sound.  Everything is a fold or folding, both individual and continuous with what it folds.

It might be better– I haven’t decided yet –to say that everything is a wave.  A wave is continuous with the water in which it occurs, yet distinct.  It both folds the currents of wind and water into itself and unfolds them in a rolling pattern across a plane.  It both arises from that plane but is distinct from it and changes it.  The dreams you told me about earlier are now a wave in me, folded into me, becoming something other yet remaining those dreams.

B:  [The scissors pause, stunned silence]  That’s so cool, man!  [He looks at his scissors and about the room]  It’s like everything is digesting everything else.  These walls have the past, music history [they’re covered with music posters], all these conversations and happenings folded into them.  That’s so cool, man.  Wow.

When the Barber said, it’s “like everything is digesting everything else” I almost croaked: this very notion that the universe is itself nothing but appetite, a great machinic feeding and ingesting machine, churning, grinding, folding, eating, regurgitating, etc. seemed more like one of Jonathan Swift’s satires; and, yet, much of the cosmic horror is of just that sense of a Darwinian blood and claw, predatorial universe of pure appetitive energy – and endless festival of death, the grotesque, and the macabre. Along with the notion or concept of fold one should bring in the sense of absorption, too.

In his work on Kabbalah, Absorbing Perfections, Moshe Idel in relating how texts and objects absorb each other we discover the absorbing quality of Shakespeare or of Joyce. Strong authors, like sacred texts, can be defined as those with the capacity to absorb us. To “absorb,” in American English, means several related processes: to take something in as through the pores, or to engross one’s full interest or attention, or to assimilate fully. Idel defines his use of “absorbing” as follows:

I use this term in order to convey the expanding comprehensiveness of the concept of the text of kabbalah or torah which, moving to the center of the Jewish society, also integrated attributes reminiscent of wider entities like the world or God. This expansion facilitated the attribution of more dynamic qualities to the text conceived of as capable of allowing various types of influences on processes taking place in the world, in God, and in the human psyche.3

In this he is conceiving his text as influencing what takes place in the world and in the human psyche (i.e., extrinsic and intrinsic relations), and even in God, if there is God. Shakespeare, like the Bible or Dante or the Zohar, absorbs us even as we absorb him, or them. Historicizing Hamlet or Lear breaks down very quickly: they themselves are the perfections that absorb us all.

This notion of being absorbed even as we absorb is a different twist on the old Gnostic notion or insight of knowing even as we are known which entails not a mental but appetitive act of intellect that both projects and introjects without dissolving the other, but rather as in digesting, mulching, thinking through and absorbing the sparks or vagrant fugitive thoughts – as substantive rather than immaterial – of the other, and making them part of one’s physical as well as mental being. One can imagine how this might play out in a supernatural horror scenario. One can as well think of the origins of life, cellular life of the membrane: the early introjection/projection of substance interactions that shaped the autonomy of a form necessary to both absorb and be absorbed; absorbing sustenance and nutrients, as well as expulsing them as byproducts to be absorbed by another substance. An endless mulching and scatological defecation is life at its raw minimal. One thinks of books like Nick Lane. The Vital Question: Why Is Life the Way It Is?; or, Johnjoe McFadden. Life on the Edge; or, David Toomey,  Weird Life: The Search for Life That Is Very, Very Different from Our Own… and many others.

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Such notions of absorption and folding make me think of a film from my childhood, The Blob, with Steve McQueen. The plot of this film depicts a growing corrosive alien amoeba that crashes from outer space in a meteorite and engulfs, absorbs, and folds in, and dissolves citizens in the small community of Downingtown, Pennsylvania. But before I get away with myself let’s hone back in on Levi’s post: the key here is when Levi says: “Everything is a fold or folding, both individual and continuous with what it folds.” That brings me by circuitous route back to Ligotti’s statement on Lovecraft’s model of supernatural horror as the shading or folding into each other producing this coupling of both in a dance of being; yet, not dissolving or fusing them together where their unique and unitary forms or substance is compromised beyond repair, but rather as a dark gnosis in which they both form a relation to each other that is itself a new (non?)knowledge of things and each other; or, a folding or absorbing or non-knowing even as folded, absorbed, non-known (i.e., think of Bataille’s System of Non-Knowledge rather than Laurelle’s concept), etc.. This sense of horror as the overcoming of fear through ecstatic enmeshing and folding between the known (subject) and the unknown (object); or, even object to object relations, is the central motif of Lovecraftian model of horror: or, as I want to term it after Eugene Thacker, model of abstract horror – a horror of ideas/concepts beyond the emotive drag of terror and fear; or, rather the end point or telos of which fear is the active defense measure of the body’s protective systems, and the abstract as thought’s resistance to the force or drag of the body’s own counter-measures – a way of overcoming the basic reactions of flight or death.

I’ll stop for now… I need to begin a new research project to trace this down, dig deeper into the notion of the fold, and develop this connection or disconnection between the various philosophies and notions of how it applies to the model of horror – or, even to philosophy as horror (Thacker/Land).

Things to research:

  1. The theme of fold itself across various philosophers, histories, usage, domains, etc.
  2. Absorption and its history and uses in various critical and scientific forms, etc.
  3. The notions of causality: fold vs. occasionalism/parallelism
  4. Further research on the model of horror (reread Lovecraft’s works and his book length Supernatural Horror), and Ligotti’s texts, Deleuze’s The Fold, and works of other philosophers…

  1. Ligotti, Thomas. The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror (p. 210). Hippocampus Press. Kindle Edition.
  2. Harman, Graham. Guerrilla Metaphysics: Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things (p. 19). Open Court. Kindle Edition.
  3. Professor Moshe Idel. Absorbing Perfections: Kabbalah and Interpretation (pp. xiii-xiv). Yale University Press (June 10, 2002)

 

 

 

 

For a Tomb of Gilles Deleuze

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For a Tomb of Gilles Deleuze
– for Alain Badiou

A man thinking,
a philosopher? –
of life, perhaps…

the thin line between thought and chaos:
flesh of thought, thought of flesh, a heresy.

Amid the stones of fire, naked and sublime,
an idea arranges itself almost like a lover dancing;
a virtual movement – darkness upon darkness
touching what is most transient, a smile, laughter,
a child’s eyes so full of innocence and time;

a river so black and full of ancient allure, traversing
such madness, a line of flight so pure and full of desecration;

man is not the measure of man: the inhuman in us so alien – becoming-animal
like a tree or a rhizome, a plant, a heap – singular, unique, distinct;
sensations that last and follow us like flowers on a marble urn, forever…

We walk among these stones intensely
involved in an event which will later define us,
immanent in the thought of him who silences us now:

all stories travel so fast we are not moving, lines intersect
in an instant both in and out of times, in the flesh of action
the story incarnates what will succeed us,
make of us a challenge to those others…

What remains? – ‘New links among people.’

Folded among his thoughts he dreams for us
as we link and connect to the impossible –

…………………………….a gift of dignity and friendship…


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

Deleuze & Guattari: The Eternal Return of Accelerating Capital

chaosmos

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

the civilized capitalist machine

“The only universal history is the history of contingency.”1

In developing their theory and the practice of decoded and deterritorialized flows Deleuze and Guattari will surmise that capitalism in its present form may be the exterior limit of all societies (p. 230). They’ll go on to tell us following Marx that  “capitalism for its part has no exterior limit, but only an interior limit that is capital itself and that it does not encounter, but reproduces by always displacing it” (p. 231). So that this continuous cycle of schiz and flow from break to barrier and return through the movement of displacement “belongs essentially to the deterritorialization of capitalism” (p.231).

In this same section they will remark that the banking systems control the investment of desire in this cycle of breaks and flows, that it was Keynes himself that contributed a reintroduction of desire into the “problem of money,” and that Marxism must revise and include a more thorough understanding of banking practices in regard to financial operations and the circulation of credit money (i.e., Marxism needs a new theory of money). (p. 230)

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The Task of Schizoanalysis: The Formation of the Post-Intentional Society

lockedup

The task of schizoanalysis is that of tirelessly taking apart egos and their presuppositions; liberating the prepersonal singularities they enclose and repress; mobilizing the flows they would be capable of transmitting, receiving, or intercepting; establishing always further and more sharply the schizzes and the breaks well below conditions of identity; and assembling the desiring machines that countersect everyone and group everyone with others.

– Anti-Oedipus, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari

Capitalism is a system of capture that cages in the socius within the horizon of its global prison system or asylum of madness. Schizophrenia is the process of flight and escape from the limits of this repressive regime. In its decoded flows is the constitution of a desire toward the absolute limit of the capitalist horizon, a passage beyond the barriers, a break-out and break-through into a new type of socio-cultural world. Yet, capitalism is constantly countermanding this tendency toward flight and escape, exorcizing the limits by substituting internal and relative limits for it that it can reproduce on an ever expanding scale, or an axiomatic of flows that subjects the tendency to the harshest forms of despotism and repression.1 (p 362)

No one gets out alive. They only find themselves deeper in solitude and madness.

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Technological Vitalism: The Machinic Phylum and the Free Action Assemblage

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We always get back to this definition: the machinic phylum is materiality, natural or artificial, and both simultaneously; it is matter in movement, in flux, in variation, matter as a conveyor of singularities and traits of expression. This has obvious consequences: namely, this matter-flow can only be followed.

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

The artisan, the metal-worker, those who embellish, design, engineer and follow the movement of matter flows are the “itenerate” and the “ambulant”: to follow the flow of matter is to intenerate, to ambulate. “It is intuition in action” (p. 100).1 Even the flow of immaterial things, such as the market are always followed they will tell us. Yet, one will realize that flows can be captured in circuits: “whatever the reciprocal implications, there are considerable differences between a flow and a circuit” (p. 100). The metal worker is an intenerate (i.e., one who follows the flows of metal), the farmer a transhumant: one who is bound between the outside and the inside, the circle of the circuit of the seasonal rounds of planting and reaping. While the nomad is neither, rather the nomad is determined by the open space of the smooth unstriated free action zones beyond either the flows or circuits of artisan or farmer, although at times he may enter into such spaces and become artisan or farmer he will still be defined by his allegiance to smooth spaces.

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Deleuze & Guattari & Braidotti: On Nomadic vs. Classical Image of Thought

Friends Playing on the Beach Trinidad and Tobago

Thought is like the Vampire, it has no image, either to constitute a model of or to copy.

– Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, War-Machines

Gilles Deleuze was always in search of a new image of thought, a creation that would displace the classical image founded by Plato and Aristotle. As they will tell us the classical image of thought, and the “striating mental space it effects, aspires to universality” (p. 48).1 Continuing to describe it they will tell us in “Nomadology: The War Machine” that it operates under the aegis of two “universals” – that of the Whole “as the final ground of being or all encompassing horizon,” and the Subject as the “principle that converts being into being-for-us” (p. 48). This image will ultimately come to its conclusion in the philosophies of Kant and Hegel’s theories of the State. As they explicate:

Imperium and Republic. Between the two, all of the varieties of the real and the true find their place as a striated mental space, from the double point of view of Being and the Subject, under the direction of a “universal method”. (p. 48)

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Gilles Deleuze: Hume, Empiricism, and Plato

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Hume’s originality … comes from the force with which he asserts that relations are external to the term.

– Gilles Deleuze, Hume

In Plato’s battle with the Sophists – his greatest enemies, he would develop a theory of the Idea that would help him to hunt down and eliminate the true image from the simulacrum. As Miguel De Beistegui will phrase it the Deleuzian overcoming of Platonism doesn’t remain content with reversing the terms of the Platonic distinctions, nor even, as the tradition has done, with dismantling the distinction between appearance and essence. Rather, what Deleuze does is to extract from Platonism that which the Platonic concept sought to neutralize and set aside, but which keeps returning, disrupting that concept, undermining the efforts of representation. Instead of an inclusion of genuine images and exclusion of simulacra which supports the world of representation, Deleuze would reverse the terms and include simulacra and exclude images. What he proposed was how to produce images that are different rather than as in representational thought as reproducible – reproductions of the Same.

As Beistegui will tell it, what Deleuze wanted most of all is to discover how to think and live without transcendence, to live without a stabilized world of transcendent Ideas that forever harbor a principle of selection that distinguishes between images and simulacra: the notion of a true image as compared to a false simulacra. For Plato the Idea was at once a political weapon, a moral tool, and an aesthetic ideal. Any anti-Platonism will begin there and overturn this political order that saw in the poet and artist an enemy. Plato was the first policeman of the tyranny of representationalism, and his philosophy sought to perform a police action against the Sophist, his greatest enemy: a strategy of shadowing, trailing and tracking that results in a manhunt to oust these keepers of the Simulacra or false images from Plato’s City of Philosophers, the Republic. Against this tyranny of the true image, against Platonism and his policing of images, his representationalism: his Ideas as selectors and distinguishers, trailers and trackers – Deleuze would struggle against Platonic philosophy by way of non-philosophy; using philosophy against itself by way of a great reversal between error (image) and delirium (simulacra). Against the Kantian tradition that would seek to produce truth out of the errors of previous philosophers, Deleuze would instead seek to free desire into the delirium of the world.

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On Reading Anti-Oedipus… again…

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I’ve been re-reading Anti-Oedipus again (is one ever finished reading this work? – that is to say, Shall we ever come to the end of our writing?) . A passage I came across seems to suddenly jut its ugly head up out of the pages, one in which that duplex figure of Deleuzeguattari seem to become almost utterly angry, ready to cry out to the world: Freud, you are wrong: the Oedipus triangle – Father, Mother, Son do not reside in the psyches of modern humans. Then as if coming upon a truth they’d only just now registered in the midst of their struggle with Freud’s familial romance they insert an offhand dismissal: “The family is by nature eccentric, decentered.” This bit of news sits there between two vast metonymic onrushes of the eccentricity of the family with its brothers in the military; a cousin out of work, bankrupt, or a victim of a car Crash; an anarchist grandfather; a grandmother in the last stages of senility, hospitalized; a sister that has run off with a terrorist ready to bomb the Capital. This notion of the decentered, eccentric family where such triangulations as Freud saw in his local Vienna have no place in our postmodern savagery, our barbaric hypercapitalist age of speed and zero degree semantic apocalypse. No. Instead as they suggest the “family does not engender its own ruptures. Families are filled with gaps and transected by breaks that are not familial…” This notion of gaps and breaks… have we not heard this from elsewhere, too?

History, the events of the times, the flows from elsewhere: “the Commune, the Dreyfus Affair, religion and atheism, the Spanish Civil War, the rise of fascism, Stalinism, the Vietnam War, May ’68 – all these things form complexes of the unconscious, more effective than everlasting Oedipus. And the unconscious is indeed at issue here.”1 Then the crux of their anger lifts its head up, the truth that has been waiting in the wings, ready to blurt its way out, to gather about it a space of liberation, of emancipation:

If in fact there are structures, they do not exist in the mind, in the shadow of a fantastic phallus distributing the lacunae, the passages, and the articulations. Structures exist in the immediate impossible real. (ibid., p. 97)

Is it as if Lacan had after all snuck back into their thoughts by way of an impossible lost object? An impossible objet petit a, an impossible real? A structure whose very possibility is that of its impossibility? An immediacy of the real so intensive that it reveals itself in the very impossibility of its own becoming-real – a gap or break in the very structure of the real itself?

Because of this inconsistency, because Oedipus never forms a “mental structure that is autonomous and expressive”, but is rather “extrafamilial, subfamilial with gaps and breaks” schizoanalysis enters the political and social fields rather than the mental: it “is a militant analysis … not because it would go about generalizing Oedipus in culture… it is militant because it proposes to demonstrate the existence of an unconscious libidinal investment in sociohistorical production, distinct from the conscious investments coexisting with it.” (ibid. 98) To understand how time – the temporal movement of becoming, the sociocultural tempo of the libido in the fractures of the socious show forth the immediacy of desire in all its amplitude. This, this is the militant motion of their work.

1. Gilles Deleuze / Felix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus ( Penguin, 1977)

Time Unbound: Deleuze and Societies of Control

Smart-City2

Technology, as a mode of production, as the totality of instruments, devices and contrivances which characterize the machine age is thus at the same time a mode of organizing and perpetuating (or changing) social relationships, a manifestation of prevalent thought and behavior patterns, an instrument for control and domination.

– Herbert Marcuse,  Technology, War and Fascism: Collected Papers of Herbert Marcuse

Herbert Marcuse in the above passage is quoting from Lewis Mumford’s classic Technics and Civilization. The notion of technology as a total system that encompasses instruments, devices and contrivances characterizing what Mumford calls the Machine Age, and that it is bound to a teleological project or “mode of organizing and perpetuating (or changing) social relationships” – a mode of governance, an instrumental mode of being and doing based on the regulation of human behavior through command and control systems as a form of dominion is part and partial of the basic ideology that encapsulates the critical leftist stance. This is nothing new. Obviously the notion of any form of totality or enclosure in life or thought has recently come under heavy attack. Yet, as we shall see in Michael Focault and the work of Gillese Deleuze this technological instrumentality and its pursuit and the merger of power and knowledge within the social nexus, as well as the goals of power and the goals of knowledge themselves cannot be separated from this network of affiliated ideas: in knowing we control and in controlling we know. Control as Deleuze would show in his essay Postscript on Societies of Control extends Foucault basic perimeters and includes a wider register of conceptuality beyond the disciplinary society: – or, as Deleuze will term it the “societies of sovereignty” will become in our time “societies of control”.

Control” is the name Burroughs proposes as a term for the new monster, one that Foucault recognizes as our immediate future. Paul Virilio also is continually analyzing the ultrarapid forms of free-floating control that replaced the old disciplines operating in the time frame of a closed system. There is no need to invoke the extraordinary pharmaceutical productions, the molecular engineering, the genetic manipulations, although these are slated to enter the new process. There is no need to ask which is the toughest regime, for it’s within each of them that liberating and enslaving forces confront one another.

– Gilles Deleuze, Postscript on Societies of Control

The old sovereign societies centralized power and authority, but in the new “societies of control” power and knowledge is no longer centralized but rather dispersed within a free-floating network that permeates the socious.  As Deleuze will suggest the two forms of control and domination have adapted to a new geometry of organization. The old mathematical notions of enclosures or the notion in Focault of the Panopticon was based on a geometry of situating the individual in a mold, a static system that could shape his/her behavior to the dictates of sovereign centralized knowledge and power. In which the Factory was the perfect model. The notion that the worker or inmate could be seen by the all-seeing eye of power, but that it could not look back and see it: this was a theological notion of God’s pervasive presence (Eye of God) as invisible Master, the super-ego that controls one’s very thought and behavior from within and without, and is hidden and away, yet very present in the personage of the Factory Boss. One was haunted by this invisible presence that shaped and molded one’s very habits and thoughts, constraining one’s behavior and time to the goals of the economic system of profit.

While in the new societies of control power and knowledge are “modulated” through a series of dematerializations. As Deleuze will remind us the Factory was a physical enclosure, a site of visible power and control: “the factory was a body that contained its internal forces at the level of equilibrium, the highest possible in terms of production, the lowest possible in terms of wages; but in a society of control, the corporation has replaced the factory, and the corporation is a spirit, a gas.” This notion of dematerialization in the sciences (Quantum Mechanics), the Arts (Abstract painting) and the network society where the enclosure is not so much a physical site as the enclosed world of an electronic hypercapitalism that flows freely through the connectionism at the heart of the Network Society. The network society exists best at the edge of chaos, bound to a non-linear system of controls that work through codings and decodings, deterriotorializations and reterritorializations. This is the Age of Code: the dematerialization of the human as Code, an algorithmic society bound to a continuous time flow that has no beginning or end, no boundaries, a time unbound.

Reality is no longer substantive, rather it has become data to be mined and shaped or designed and manipulated by a cognitariat of specialized knowledge workers. As Luciano Floridi will tell us we are living in a dematerialized artificial world already, the InfoSphere: the infosphere will not be a virtual environment supported by a genuinely ‘material’ world behind; rather, it will be the world itself that will be increasingly interpreted and understood informationally, as part of the infosphere. At the end of this shift, the infosphere will have moved from being a way to refer to the space of information to being synonymous with Being itself.2 This closure of thought and being, or information and reality is a return to the ancient Parmedian project. The notion that reality and thought are one and the same is Idealism pure and simple. Yet, the added twist that this very dematerialized realm of thought and mind can also be reversed: that the mind can be naturalized while nature denaturalized is at the heart of the Information Philosophy. This sense that the reontoligization of the real as data that is neither fully digital nor analogue but an oscillation between the two is at the core of its conceptuality.

Floridi will see this re-ontoligization process of the environment and ourselves as informational organisms or Inforgs as part of a Gateway Program: technology is re-ontologizing our devices as part of a reality engineering project, because they engineer environments that the user is then enabled to enter through (possibly friendly) gateways. It is a form of initiation. (Floridi, p. 16) As he will conclude:

we are witnessing an epochal, unprecedented migration of humanity from its Newtonian, physical space to the infosphere itself as its Umwelt, not least because the latter is absorbing the former. As a result, humans will be inforgs among other (possibly artificial) inforgs and agents operating in an environment that is friendlier to informational creatures. And as digital immigrants like us are replaced by digital natives like our children, the latter will come to appreciate that there is no ontological difference between infosphere and physical world, only a difference in levels of abstraction. When the migration is complete, we shall increasingly feel deprived, excluded, handicapped, or impoverished to the point of paralysis and psychological trauma whenever we are disconnected from the infosphere, like fish out of water. One day, being an inforg will be so natural that any disruption in our normal flow of information will make us sick. (ibid. pp 16-17)

Divide and Conquer

Deleuze will remind us that the older Fordist Factory systems were based on the opposition of the Boss and Worker in which Unions could the unified against the bosses, etc. While in the new corporate world of pure competition the worker is modulated by the “brashest rivalry as a healthy form of emulation, an excellent motivational force that opposes individuals against one another and runs through each, dividing each within”. In the old disciplinary societies there was a sense of enclosed work projects: the assembly line mentality in which there was defined beginnings and endings, a process that was bound to geometry of linearity. Work was always “beginning again”, a series of physical processes that molded the worker through its relations to this cycle: a time-narrative that was based of the clock-work world of mechanical time.

In the newer Societies of Control on the other hand there is a sense that one is never finished, that there is no structural closure or beginning and ending; rather, there is nothing but the endless drift of the process without end that even goes with one into play and home life. Deleuze will term this the Code World: “In the societies of control, on the other hand, what is important is no longer either a signature or a number, but a code: the code is a password, while on the other hand disciplinary societies are regulated by watchwords (as much from the point of view of integration as from that of resistance). The numerical language of control is made of codes that mark access to information, or reject it.” One is data, and one’s access to information is based on one’s place within the network of power and knowledge as an Inforg or Informational Organism. (Floridi)

With this new Society of Control a new mode of being of the human has been initiated. “We have passed from one animal to the other, from the mole to the serpent, in the system under which we live, but also in our manner of living and in our relations with others. The disciplinary man was a discontinuous producer of energy, but the man of control is undulatory, in orbit, in a continuous network. Everywhere surfing has already replaced the older sports.” One might think of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi work Flow where he develops the theory of optimal experience based on the concept of flow— the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.1 One might call this the Incentive Society in which individuals are bound to a desiring world of incentives and pleasures rather than drudgery and suffering, where work becomes entertainment and exciting business.

People have left the spaces of enclosure in order to enter into the open circuits of a flowing world of information and data, unbound to there tribal enclaves of family or community they float in plastic bubbles of cosmopolitan utopias that remain the same even as they travel from site to site in the new global village. As Deleuze will remind us this new world of cosmopolitan luxury and information is only for the nouveau riche, the rising class of the cognitariat and there corporate masters. For the rest of us “the operation of markets have become the instrument of social control and forms the impudent breed of our masters. Control is short-term and of rapid rates of turnover, but also continuous and without limit, while discipline was of long duration, infinite and discontinuous. Man is no longer man enclosed, but man in debt. It is true that capitalism has retained as a constant the extreme poverty of three-quarters of humanity, too poor for debt, too numerous for confinement: control will not only have to deal with erosions of frontiers but with the explosions within shanty towns or ghettos.” We are the indebted ones, bound to the corporate treadmill of infinite work, a 24/7 world where work is play and play is work.

Deleuze will describe the coming InfoSpheric Cities of Time that his friend and cohort Guattari so eloquently derided: “Felix Guattari has imagined a city where one would be able to leave one’s apartment, one’s street, one’s neighbourhood, thanks to one’s (dividual) electronic card that raises a given barrier; but the card could just as easily be rejected on a given day or between certain hours; what counts is not the barrier but the computer that tracks each person’s position – licit or illicit – and effects a universal modulation.” This notion that one’s life will be totally controlled by “access” restrictions outlines the level of insidious invisibility that this world will harbor. One’s level of access will determine one’s place in the network, as well as your “exclusion” and “expendability”. The notion that your every movement will be tracked and recorded as data is already an aspect of our hypermarketing society. Deleuze was prescient of this back in the 90’s.

As Deleuze will sum it up: the young people are being “trained to serve” this vast network society:

Many young people strangely boast of being “motivated”; they re-request apprenticeships and permanent training. It’s up to them to discover what they’re being made to serve, just as their elders discovered, not without difficulty, the telos of the disciplines. The coils of a serpent are even more complex than the burrows of a molehill.

Read Postscript on the Societies of Control…

1. Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (2008-08-18). Flow (P.S.) (p. 4). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
2. Floridi, Luciano (2013-10-10). The Ethics of Information (p. 10). Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition.

Deleuze & Guattari: Abstract Machines & Chaos Theory

chaoti

John Johnston in his book The Allure of Machinic Life: Cybernetics, Artificial Life, and the New AI will compare the work of nonlinear dynamics and its notion of a chaotic attractor as exhibiting the precise attributes of what Deleuze and Guattari call an abstract machine, which inhabits equally the realms of matter-energy and abstract mathematical function (1), quoting D&G in A Thousand Plateaus:

The abstract machine in itself is destratified, deterritorialized; it has no form of its own (much less substance) and makes no distinction within itself between content and expression, even though outside itself it presides over that distinction and distributes it in strata, domains, territories. An abstract machine in itself is not physical  or corporeal, any more than it is semiotic; it is diagrammatic (it knows nothing of the distinction between the artificial and the natural either). It operates by matter, not by substance; by function, not by form. Substances and forms are of expression “or” content. But functions are not yet “semiotically” formed, and matters are not yet “physically” formed. The abstract machine is pure Matter-Function – a diagram independent of the forms and substances, expressions and contents it will distribute. (A Thousand Plateaus, p. 141)

After a lengthy discussion on chaos theory he will make a comparison between the primordial and dynamic quality of an abstract machine, which is what D&G are trying to elucidate, showing that it cannot be conveyed in the language of a “thing” and its “representation.” If both thing and representation could change in a dynamic relationship of reciprocal determination, then perhaps the “diagrammatic” quality of the abstract machine could be conveyed. Viewed as a type of abstract machine, however, the peculiar qualities of the chaotic attractor begin to make a unique kind of sense. As both an array of forces and a mapping of their vectors, the chaotic attractor is what deterritorializes the assemblage, both pulling it into a state of chaotic unpredictability and pointing to a new mathematical coding that allows this process to be measured. Rather than view the attractor as a kind of Platonic form that exists independently of its instantiation in a particular nonlinear dynamical system which is how attractors are sometimes viewed we should say, as D&G say of the abstract machine, that it “plays a piloting role” (142): it neither preexists nor represents the real, but constructs it and holds it in place. (Johnston, p. 153)

As Johnston explicates – in using experimental data in a manner not to confirm what is already known but to measure the rate of its destruction, Shaw (the nonlinear dynamics theoretician) becomes a kind of probe head, the human part of a machinic assemblage that functions like a dynamic feedforward device, relentlessly pushing into the unknown (or at least the unpredictable future) all while insistently measuring the rate of that advance. What is affirmed and confirmed for both physics and philosophy, and against their prior and respective idealizations is that processes  of dynamic change follow the irreversible arrow of time. (Johnston, p. 154)


Dark_matter

(As a side note I began thinking of Dark Matter and Dark Energy. Do not these mathematical objects that are neither matter nor energy in the sense of the term we know in the positive matter of the phenomenal universe represent such notions as abstract machines with the properties of such strange attractors? Many scientists believe that Dark Matter and Dark Energy make up 95% of the known universe, yet they are not yet detectable by our scientific instruments and apparatuses. They are mathematical objects that explain the missing information in the system we know as the universe. This notion of the abstract machine and chaotic attractor acting as a blueprint or diagram that is neither form nor substance, yet constructs and holds the universe of phenomenal matter and energy in place seems uncannily similar. Obviously trying to analogize from such notions is not the best policy. Yet, it makes you wonder.)

 “The abstract machine is pure Matter-Function – a diagram independent of the forms and substances, expressions and contents it will distribute. – Deleuze & Guattari”

3D_dark_matter_map

COSMOS 3D dark matter map” by NASA/ESA/Richard Massey (California Institute of Technology)

1. John Johnston. The Allure of Machinic Life: Cybernetics, Artificial Life, and the New AI (pp. 152-153). Kindle Edition.

Fantasy & Cruelty

In Sade we discover a surprising affinity with Spinoza – a naturalistic and mechanistic approach imbued with a mathematical spirit.
– Gilles Deleuze, On Coldness and Cruelty

As I finished reading G.R.R. Martin’s first novel in his Game of Thrones series an aspect of his work kept cropping up from time to time: the realism and the cruelty that pervades the work. Yet, it’s not pornographic, not in the sense that he relishes the verbal abuse and descriptions to the point of decadence, of martialing each and every literal manifestation and image of physical description. No. He is subtle and brushes over most of it through characterization instead.

For those that haven’t read the book I don’t want to go into details, but toward the end one of the main characters throughout the book – one who has shown courage, honor, loyalty, forthrightness: all the usual aspects of character we associate with a heroic stance – this person, is suddenly marked as a traitor and beheaded. What was interesting about it is that the one who calls for the beheading is a young man who has been declared king, who is only 15, and who has been offered by his mother, the traitor’s daughter, and his counselors other options of forgiveness, banishment, etc. if the man will only pledge fealty to the young king ( and of course they blackmail him into doing this with the threat of killing his daughters ). The man stands in front of what appears to be the type of a religious institution (Septa) and proclaims openly his traitorous actions ( and, truth is, he isn’t a traitor – but I’ll not ruin the story in details). After stating this the young king accepts his pledge, but then tells all that his mother, counsellors, and others would have him send the man into exile, etc. and, he surprises them all by asking his executioner to kindly give him his head instead.

What we discover in this young man, and in others throughout the book is an almost eerie portrayal of a psychopath (i.e., one that shows no sign of remorse, no emotion or compassion toward others – a form of impersonal cruelty). What I found interesting next is that the young king is being forced by his mother to marry the man he just killed. The young king later in the day takes her up to the upper walls or parapets that afternoon and shows her a set of pikes, one of which has her father’s head on it on display. He forces her to study it as well as all the others. When she refuses he does not soil his own hands, but has one of his lackeys slap her to the point she is bleeding, etc. Again he feels absolutely nothing. Of course we never get on the inside of his head of POV, only through the eyes and mind of the victim. Deleuze will tell us that masochists want above all things to mold a woman into a despot, persuade them to cooperate in their own victimage.1

That the young king seeks to educate the young girl into his cruel and impersonal world is at the heart of masochism Delleuze tells us. The truth is that he is both king and also his mother’s son. His mother is seen to be cruel and full of bitter fury at any and all perceived enemies and tries her best to control her son and other men subordinated to her. Martin seems to favor this type of woman in his book. We notice several of the characters who have sons who are controlled and smothered in mother love. Yet, the hero’s wife that was beheaded is portrayed just the opposite, as a loving mother who let’s her sons make their own decisions. Yet, even she is seen to be strong and also willing to lead and or have her son submit to certain wishes.

I used Martin’s work as an example, but there are many fantasy series that provide this sado-masochistic tendency with some of its characters. Before reading his work one sees blurbs, ads, and reviews, all detailing his realism, grittiness, etc. But one never sees good old fashioned character studies. And, most of all this is the key to his book: character studies. I just wish he’d of shown the cruel face from the inside rather than through the eyes of his victims sometimes. But I can understand why he probably didn’t: to show psychopathy or sociopathy from the inside would be to break the contract of fantasy, to reveal a distorted mind full of hate and spite. And, truth, is most of these beings like the young king are mindless as much as emotionless. Only in Shakespeare that I know of (and, maybe a few crime novels) does one see psychopathy and what Nietzsche termed “spiritual cruelty” from the inside: Othello, Edmund in King Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth, etc.

Yet, that to me is what might be missing in certain forms of fantasy: the dark nihilistic intelligence of an Edmund. I have yet to see a fantasist portray and pure vitalist or nihilist from the inside. Yet, there is hope. I’m reading my friend R. Scott Bakker’s Second Apocalypse Series. (The Prince of Nothing, and the Aspect Emperor – two trilogies). I’m only half-way done with the first book in this series.

Deleuze will tell us that such fantasy as Sade and Masoch give us takes us to the limits of language and interpretability, that each splits language into its imperative and descriptive function toward a transcendent or higher function: allowing the personal element reflecting on itself to become totally impersonal. Each delivers through fantasy in the extreme the monstrous truth and the inhuman core of the human.

The image of that core came at the end for me in the character of Dany who brings both the dream, wish, and merciless power of imagination to bear in one finite moment of what W.B. Yeats termed in his famous A Vision as the “Condition of Fire”. You’ll have to read to the first novel in Martin’s series to understand what I mean by that ( I don’t want to spoil it for you ). 🙂

1. Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty. Gilles Delleuze (Zone Books, 1999)

The Movement of the World: Children, Dreams & Possibility

Dreams, the world of children, and artistic creation are privileged sites of playful disobediences , misbehaviors, and even malfunctions …  Here the movement of bodies and animation of images generates what Gilles Deleuze once referred to as the movement of world: a shift away from the paralysis of reality, toward an oneiric realm of motion and possibility.  Comics and animated cartoons are filled with tales of playful disobedience in otherworldly realms and, at the same time , themselves constitute fields of playful disobedience. They offer up little utopias of disorder, provisional sites of temporary resistance.

– Scott  Bukatman, The Poetics of Slumberland: Animated Spirits and the Animating Spirit

In the above quote one sees the world of children, artistic creation, and the movement of the world aligned in the creation of temporary autonomous zones in which the playful disorder of the world can play itself out in a form of resistance and utopic thought and imagery. One  might see the poem and poetry as such a realm as well – and some poets have interpreted as such in the use of such terms as herterocosm: the otherness of literature concerns heterocosm, or an alternate world. It is a generally romanticist notion that transforms into metafiction, heterotopias and possible worlds in which the hero or heroine of the poem enacts a specific set of trials, etc. Poetry becomes part of a middle-realm wherein the world, self, and the resistance of reality meet and share in the order and disorder of our age.

M.H. Abrams in his now classic The Mirror and the Lamp described such a heterotopic model for the poet:

The poet, it was said, emulates God by creating a ‘second world’ which is not an imitation of the real world, but a world of its own kind, subject only to its laws, and exhibiting not the truth of correspondence, but only the truth of coherence, or purely internal consistency . . . Produced by a poet who is “like a maker or creator (quoting Baumgarten)  . . . the poem ought to be a sort of world,” related to the real world “by analogy.” Poetic fiction is “heterocosmic,” consisting of things possible in another world than the one we live in, and subject, therefore not to the criterion of strict philosophical truth”; that is, self consistency, and the maximum internal coherence (92).

Since the time of the Romantic Poets poems and poetry have become more and more an internalized quest toward understanding Self and World. The romantic drive toward a consummate subjectivity that verges upon solipsism turns the poet into a withdrawn figure of contemplation. At the same time, however, the poet dethrones divinity as he celebrates his own incarnation. Not only is a poem its own alternate universe, but the poet also becomes a heterocosm.1

We seem to be on the cusp of something beyond this tradition of internalization, something that will either release it from its darker and darker silences as in Samuel Beckett and the minimalist stance, and also against the over done and redundant Egoistic Sublime that for 60 years now has taken personal autobiography as poetry to the pressure of overload and glut. We are seeking something different something that will release us from this whole tradition of subjectivity and internalization, of the ‘linguistic turn’ and its ironies, etc. More and more I keep returning to Shakespeare and Dante, Petrarch and all his lyrical inheritors for answers. “Shakespeare invented us,” says Harold Bloom, by which he meant that in Shakespeare for the first time characters on a page seemed more alive and full of gusto than the actual men and women we see around us. It was also the first time that fictional characters were shown not as cartoons on a stage, as one-dimensional beings without a history, etc. These were characters who learned from overhearing themselves thinking, they learned from that internal process of thought we term self-reflection. It is this unique ability to overhear and speak with one’s self that would lead to either release or solipsism in the Romantic poets and beyond. In Browning we would see this internal process become part and partial of his great monologues patterned after Macbeth, Hamlet, and other characters in Shakespeare’s plays. In the works of Samuel Beckett’s one sees this whole internal monologists art played out to the nth degree, taking it into the night of silence. A mind without a thought, a mind of feeling only.

As a young man I remember times in heavy conversations when I’d wake up and listen to the voice speaking, listen to my own voice talking as if it were a foreign and alien being inhabiting my flesh and blood, as if it knew things that I did not or could not possibly know. This was the first time that I acknowledged what Whitman and Dickinson and other poets would recognize as the Other we are. It’s as if in overhearing ourselves in the process of thinking that we begin to attune ourselves to another order of being, as if this other self were our true self and the one we live with on a daily basis is just a temporary or false creation of the mind to get on with its work of surviving, living, making money, putting food on the table for our children and loved ones. But underneath this layer of everyday feelings is something old and well established, as if it had existed from the beginning of time. When one wakes to it, it can be a strange and eerily disquieting effect, one that can leave one strangely at odds with life and one’s everyday self. For me it was the beginning of poetry in my life, my moment of seeking through poetry and literature an understanding of what this was all about.

Poetry is an exploration both internal and external in understanding the pressures of life and self. In poetry we learn to use tropes to defend us against all that would destroy our essential integrity. We dig down into that abyss of primal being where timespace become part of this alternate world or heterocosm where we can confront the truth of both world and self through pathways not found in our culturally acceptable frameworks of philosophy or religion. Poetry is a the world of childhood and invention, a place where dreams and reverie open out toward the Great Outdoors of Being.

One of the things in the past few years I’ve come to a conclusion on is that the whole tradition of Idealism and Materialism were answers to the wrong problems, and that the philosophers ever since Kant have been trying to solve problems to illusions rather than the truth of reality or self. In Bukatman’s last sentence in the quote I began seeing that poetry is not a quest for philosophical truth or concepts, but is a search for poetic truth and images. Poets think in images, not concepts. We build our heterocosms to work out the inner logic of our dreams and reveries to better help us break through masks of reality that have been imposed on us by history, culture, and ideology. Poetry becomes a mode of freedom, a resistance to everything that would enslave us in false worlds. The poet, like Dante is a Pilgrim in search of the worlds where our childlike wonder and feelings can once again participate in artistic creation and excellence. Through poetry we enter the exuberance of childhood once again and see things new and full of vital relations. We do not become children or enter some infantile state of madness, no – instead, we become fragile, opening ourselves up to life again, to the innocence of dreams and reveries. Then we return to the harsh worlds of adulthood changed and refreshed ready to awaken all these dark and foolish ones from their worlds of hate and fear, lead them gently toward the strangeness and beauty that is theirs if only they would become childlike again themselves.

 

1. See Peter M. Sinclair, Heterocosm: the Postmodern Understanding of the Author (his full article goes into depth).