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Review of Precarious Communism
In Precarious Communism Gilman-Opalsky explains that the purpose of any manifesto, including his own, is to make manifest certain facts. Accordingly, he highlights the difference between Marx and ‘Marxism’ without engaging dead ideologies. He is a ‘precarious’ proponent of new theories void of historical baggage or loaded terms. This makes the book an excellent supplement to many social science and humanities courses.
Gilman-Opalsky situates Marx and ‘Marxism’ in the concept of precarious communism (autonomy) in an attempt to disentangle the terms ‘communism’ and ‘Marxism’ from past ideological purity and state practice. It is a way forward that allows for no single pure ideological possibility of social organisation, but rather many diverse possibilities for achieving a non-capitalist society that could be described generally as communal. Precarious Communism also demonstrates the ‘precarious’ position of the non-ideological communist seeking a way forward. It is within this context that Gilman-Opalsky attempts to situate the Communist Manifesto for today’s audience, realities, and experiences, using the methodological technique developed by the French Situationists (an artistic-political organisa- tion) under Guy Debord called detournement (meaning re-routing or hijacking).
One of the author’s major contributions is to update Marxist ideas, rather than ideology, showing their relevance both theoretically and as more accurate descriptions of conditions under late capitalism or neoliberalism. In fact, such critical analyses are more important and relevant than ever before given the expansion of capitalist co-optation and invasion into even more spheres of life than in Marx’s times. Gilman-Opalsky points out that globalisation is still based on the old city power centres around the world. In this sense, globalisation is a thinly veiled exercise aiming to further modern forms of neo-colonialism. More so, this is a ‘privatized’ globalisation, as he points out, where national governments have voluntarily privatised almost all of their functions leaving them as hollow ‘straw men’ for the elite to rail against, an ironic sight indeed since governments, having been co-opted long ago, are no more than political expressions of capital. He points out this contradiction where so-called liberals (basically the bourgeoisie) accuse the capitalist state of being Marxist.
The Sacred Dilemma of Inoperosity. On Giorgio Agamben’s Opus Dei
From Uninomade 2.0
Translated by Jason Francis Mc Gimsey. Originally published on il manifesto on the 24th of February 2012. Italian version here.
With this book, the journey Agamben began with Homo Sacer seems to have come to an end. It was a long road, from the early ‘90s until today, nearly twenty years. An archeology of ontology conducted (with a rigor that not even the bizarre and misleading game of little numbers put in order over different stages of his research could render opaque) – up to the reopening of the problem of Sein. A dig that not even Heidegger (in the words of the author who claims to be a young student of the German philosopher) was able to complete – because here ontology is freed from any remaining “operativity” of every illusion that can be tied to will and control. What is left? “The philosophical question that appears is that of conceiving of an ontology beyond operativity and command, and an ethics and a politics totally freed from the concepts of duty and will”.
"Was it Bad for You Too?"
THE UNBEARABLES BIG BOOK OF SEX , Edited by Ron Kolm, Carol Wierzbicki, Jim Feast, Steve Dalachinsky, Yuko Otomo and Shalom Neuman.
Unbearable Books/ Autonomedia. 2011. 640 pps. $18.95.
First, to dispense with the obvious: THE UNBEARABLES BIG BOOK OF SEX is not a stroke book. To be sure, you (or the grubby inner adolescent of you) will find, inevitably, a sprinkling of verifiable “dirty parts” (as a time-saving service, we refer you to pgs. 156, 165, 431 and 485). But savvy readers, looking past the book’s formal category as “erotica,” will surmise that the words “Unbearables” and “sex” appearing in the same title will more than likely yield, for the most part, a bumptuous pageant of squalid missed connections, subliminal-to-outright multigendered abuse, delusional gambits of seduction and, overall, a Cook’s tour of carnal dysfunction in its myriad sordid forms. And, of course, they will be right.
Review of Paul Mason's 'Why It's Kicking off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions'
Some people may dismiss Paul Mason as just another journalist, especially since he advocated more effective policing to contain the 'Black Bloc' after the 26 March TUC demo. Yet, this is no reason not to read Why It's Kicking off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions. Simply by bringing together insightful reports from the uprisings of 2010/11 - in Egypt, Greece, Israel, Spain, the UK and the US - Mason helps the reader get an overview of the present state of global class struggle. But, more than this, he puts these struggles in a historical and theoretical context and so provokes more interesting questions than any other recent book.
Hakim Bey: Intellectual Magician
I cannot think of Hakim Bey as anything other than an intellectual magician.
This review of his book of ‘new poetic rants and prose poems’ from 2008 is belated, but the book deserves reviewing not least because of what’s happened to Western civilisation since he wrote it. No collection I’m aware of is more ‘on the money’.
As with his book Millennium from 1996 which was so prescient in its vitriolic musings about Capital and Jihad, Bey was once again just ahead of his time, as a good weatherman should be. As Millennium was a useful companion during Y2K and 9/11, so Black Fez Manifesto &c. is a lyrical guidebook to the current meltdown, and a really funny consolatio. Some of the poems in the generous 100 page volume must have been written before late 2007 when the shit hit the fan, and certainly before 2008 when it began to spatter ubiquitously. He is laughing in advance at the botched alchemy of America and its spiritual colonies.
review of Jamie Heckert and Richard Cleminson, eds. Anarchism and Sexuality: Ethics, Relationships and Power. Routledge, 2011. 232 pp.
It may surprise some people outside of the study of anarchism that, alongside race, sexuality is perhaps the least studied subject within anarchist scholarship. This absence in the scholarly literature is often mirrored in practice, and as such the recent publication of Jamie Heckert and Richard Cleminson’s Anarchism and Sexuality provides a necessary intervention. Judged on the basis of the editors’ intent "to craft a queer book, both in style and in content" (1), the result is an overwhelming success. Stylistically, the anthology darts from personal memoir to social scientific survey to literary analysis. In this sense, the anthology achieves what most interdisciplinary projects only gesture towards: a collection of writings (I intentionally avoid essays here, because the anthology includes "poetic interludes") that illustrate the dynamics of activists and intellectuals, public agonies and private abuses, philosophical excursions and tactical reminiscences. This may be the most diverse collection of writings I have ever read under one cover.
Review of Gary Genesko’s Félix Guattari: A Critical Introduction
Félix Guattari, A Critical Introduction is Gary Genosko’s third book on this radical French thinker. In this volume, Genosko first addresses a contextual portrait of facts that mark Félix Guattari’s life as an intellectual and militant. He outlines the different forms of social and political practices he engaged in, his theoretical and conceptual creativity, as well as the social movements and a variety of personalities whom he often opposed or was inspired by. Through chapters organized around key dimensions of his life and thought, Genosko delivers contextual material, explanations of concepts, and how the concepts are still relevant. According to the author, “the question of reading Guattari today is embedded in a longstanding problem within the secondary literature of Deleuze studies” (p.13). While the contribution of Genosko work is that it demonstrates Guattari was not an eccentric post-humanist or simply a minor theorist in Deleuze’s shadow, it is a work that assumes extensive knowledge of the poststructuralist epistemology he worked in.
Scott McLemee Reviews Richard Wolin's "Wind From the East"
The Chinese revolution's influence on French thinking
"The Wind from the East" examines the effect on the Chinese Cultural
Revolution on French political and philosophical discourse, writes Scott
The Wind from the East: French Intellectuals, the Cultural Revolution,
and the Legacy of the 1960s
Richard Wolin, Princeton University Press
During even the coldest years of the Cold War, there were small circles,
far to the left of the communists, who warmed themselves with the
thought of revolutionary socialism. To be sure, they meant by this
something bearing no resemblance to the monstrosity embodied in those
regimes where May Day was celebrated with tanks and choreographed
expressions of obligatory mass cheer. Their egalitarianism was
essentially libertarian, and vice versa. In France, one such group was
led by Cornelius Castoriadis, who had, in the 1940s and 1950s, analysed
the Stalinist system as a form of what he called “bureaucratic
capitalism” – fit only to be abolished by revolts from below.
Proud Flesh and Its Discontents
From New Formations
Proud to be Flesh may appear a somewhat incongruous title for a volume explicitly positioned in relation to the net, but in Mute magazine’s critical interrogation of contemporary developments in technoculture, it has always worked at a tangent to the common visions of the net, not least the dreams of immateriality that have populated this field. Flesh, here, is sensate matter, an association of bodies, needs, affects - not an ontological opposition to digital technology but a plane with which the latter is irrevocably enmeshed. The cover art to this rather beautiful book suggests as much, with its highly mediated image of a map of the world rendered in marbled raw red meat.
At this edge of flesh and technoculture, Mute magazine has constituted a publishing field of extraordinary versatility and breadth. In its pages one may equally find an investigation of the aesthetics of the favela, net art, eco-capital, or a left critique of multiculturalism. This eclecticism is in itself most appealing and rather unique, but it is infused with a consistently critical bent. Moreover, it is a criticality that Mute turns back upon itself and its media form, as the magazine is subject to problematisation and change in relation to a range of ongoing technological, political, and aesthetic concerns. It is indicative of this attitude that Mute has morphed from salmon pink broadsheet, to glossy magazine, coffee table book, and the current ‘hybrid’ of web-journal and ‘print on demand’ (POD) quarterly booklet. The aggregate of these features, the magazine’s style, comes through strongly in the introductory essay to this volume, ‘Disgruntled Addicts - Mute Magazine and its History’, by the current editor, Josephine Berry Slater, who speculates that Mute’s eclecticism and criticality is a trace of the art school origins of its founders. Yet it is not a conventional art magazine - established to explore the conjunction of art and new digital technologies, Mute has come to orient itself toward neoliberal culture as a whole, across a spectrum of disciplinary orbits and empirical fields. Art, then, is here an orientation, what Berry Slater describes as a ‘concerted battle against the dominant logic of specialization or static identity’.
More Lennon than Lenin
Armin Medosch, The Next Layer
Reviewing Imaginal Machines: Autonomy and Self-Organization in the Revolutions of Everyday Life
By Stevphen Shukaitis
It is not often that left-wing politics is associated with attributes such as humour and wit. Stevphen Shukaitis' book Imaginal Machines (2009) is not only abundant with it but shows that certain strands of imaginative revolutionary politics in the 20th century were also endowed with those precious qualities. This journey through the radical imagination of the left, written in a compelling and entertaining style, is definitely worth a read for everybody interested in radical and antagonistic politics.
Imaginal Machines: Autonomy and Self-Organization in the Revolutions of Everyday Life by Stevphen Shukaitis is just out on Autonomedia (see event recommendation below). The book deals with the problems and difficulties of the radical imagination as a source for political transformation. Thereby, Stevphen Shukaitis walks a tightrope, avoiding the two-sided abyss of either outdated notions of revolution as "seizing state power" and the more recent 'tradition' which knows only cultural politics and has thereby absented itself from the larger question of the transformation of the political economy. The 'balance' that Stevphen Shukaitis finds is not so much in between those opposites but by intelligently weaving together a narration which shows different types of 'imaginal machines' in their historic specificity.