Theory

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saroj giri writes:

"Radical, Subversive Acts
Or, the Myth of Contingency, Freedom"

Saroj Giri

What makes individual cases of excess catapult from the particular to the universal? How is it that one particular event or person gets so highlighted at the expense of all other (counter-factual) particulars, so that the one universalised particular blocks our view of the rest? Isn’t this a prime ideological move in a commodity economy, under capitalism?


So often when we see someone achieving something under capitalism, when we find that somebody has made it big or has been successful in something we usually as a matter of habit perhaps associate it with the person’s individual abilities, luck, sense of enterprise, willingness to take risk etc.

This tendency to take up what is actually an effect of larger social relations to be just an individual thing is a widespread tendency under commodity fetishism. So we see only the individual and refuse to see the overall relations in which the individual exists. If the individual fails, that is due to the personal inability, bad luck etc of the person. If the person succeeds that is due to hard work and sense of enterprise etc of the individual. In either case, the individual is important, apparently.

Anonymous Comrade writes:

"On Lice and Fleas:
Observations Starting from the Conflict Between Iran and the USA"
Wayne Spencer


“Johnson, for sport perhaps, or from the spirit of contradiction, eagerly maintained that Derrick had merit as a writer. Mr. Morgan argued with him directly, in vain. At length he had recourse to this device.

ephemera "Immaterial and affective labor: explored" issue released

The new issue (7.1) of ephemera: theory & politics in organization, entitled "immaterial and affective labor: explored," has just been published at http://www.ephemeraweb.org. This latest special issue offers a critical engagement with the conceptual and political territory animated by the deployment of such ideas in the work of Hardt, Negri, Lazzarato, Virno and others, and follows previous explorations of class composition and politics in ephemera (for instance in the issues on 'the theory of the multitude' and 'writing: labour').

That it refers to both a conceptual and a political territory means two things: on the one hand, that the critical engagements herein are not aimed at theoretical clarification alone, but seek to address directly the questions and practices of politics and organisation thrown up by debates on immaterial and affective labour; on the other, that the form of the engagement is not reduced to the field of (post-)Operaismo, but aims at bringing together empirical insights into the present forms of organisation of labour, and is open to inflections coming from other disciplines and areas, such as organisation studies and labour process theory.

As our guest editors suggest, the space in which these debates take place is defined by a 'double ambivalence' deriving from, on the one hand, the excess that labour always produces and that capital always necessarily needs to recuperate, and, on the other, the particular novelty of contemporary cycles of struggle, that is, their capacity to intercommunicate and the heightened attention to the composition of difference they require. It is this ambivalence that makes questions of flight and capture, 'victory' and 'defeat', impossible to pose and foreclose within a general theoretical framework. This is what necessitates an analysis of resistance and struggle, class composition as well as political organization, as an enquiry placed alongside the actual practices of those who work and struggle today: theory as an element in organisation, rather than as an end in itself.

"Fragments on Machinic Intellectuals"

Jack Bratich

[From the recently released book Constituent Imagination: Militant
Investigations // Collective Theorization,
edited by Stevphen
Shukaitis and David Graeber with Erika Biddle, here.]

There is a common complaint leveled at intellectuals
today, lobbed from both Left and Right, which says intellectuals are
holed up in the ivory tower. They are accused of being either elitist
or reformist liberals, out-of-touch Marxists or armchair activists.
In each case intellectuals are assumed to be isolated from everyday
life. Over recent decades this charge has been thrown by the Left
against that all-purpose brand: theory. Charges of obscurantism,
jargonism, and armchair strategizing were leveled at
"posties" (postmodernists, poststructuralists, postcolonialists), yet
this specter of irrelevance obscures a larger trend taking place in
the U.S. academy: the growing corporatization of the university.[i]


According to Maribel Casas-Cortes and Sebastian Cobarrubias, in this
volume, the ivory tower itself has a mythic function, —erasing the
university's immersion in historical processes. The increasing
dependence of universities on corporate and federal funding has
created a set of interlocking institutions that, if anything, makes
intellectual work extremely relevant to and integrated with pragmatic
interests. Put simply, we are in an era of embedded intellectuals.[ii]
What can we make of this new condition?

"The Society of the Unspectacular"

Eric Kluitenberg, Nettime

[The short text below was given as a fast talk in the closing program
of the INFOWARROOM series on media criticism and visual cultures at
De Balie Centre for Culture and Politics in Amsterdam, June 8 & 9
2007. After three seasons the INFOWARROOM series came to a close this
weekend with an extensive two-day lecture program devoted to the
theme "At the end of the era of mass media."]

It is time to leave the theories of Debord about the Society of the
Spectacle behind us. If today we witness the hyper-spectacular in the
mass-media, this should not fool us. It is not the apotheosis of the
spectacle, but much rather the eclipse of the spectacle — the final
moment of tragic sublimity, of hyper-violence, before it fades out....


In many ways the fate of the spectacle society mirrors (and is
mirrored in) the culture of the spectacle par excellence, that of the
mass-mediated United States of America. If today the USA projects its
power as super-state throughout the world with an unprecedented hyper-
violence, then this tragic spectacle should not fool us. The USA has
long shed it status as the sole superpower in the world. Silently
financed by China, economically eclipsed by the EU, again China, and
soon even India, unable to procure for its own wasteful energy needs
(hence its dependence on countries like Russia, Venezuela, Saudi
Arabia), culturally and intellectually unsettled — it has become a
crash waiting to happen...

Tags:

Women and biotechnologies: scientific and feminist approaches

International Conference

21-23 of June

Aula Convegni CNR

Piazzale Aldo Moro 7

Rome, Italy

The term "biotechnology" refers to the use of living organisms or their
products to modify human health and the human environment. Biotechnology
represents a frontier area in scientific development and its importance
goes from ethical to environmental and economic issues as is re-designing
the possibilities of transforming life.
The aim of the Wonbit conference is to promote an interdisciplinary and
wide debate among feminisms and science.

We've defined four areas of discussion:
-Women scientists in biotechnological research
-Bodies, cultures and scientific metaphors
-Environmental effects of biotechnologies
-Facing impact: society and biotechnologies

J.D. Suss writes:

"Decolonizing History, Recolonizing the Academy"
J. D. Suss


Some Questions

If, as I maintain, we in the West truly lust after the very things that oppress us, then should we be surprised by how absurd life has become? Who are the "we" doing the "lusting"? One might say that the "we" are all human beings who live under the spell of the post-modern Western paradigm of mental/rational consciousness, plus all others in the world who – while they may not live in a post-modern industrialized nation – are prone to "westerning" (viz., those aspiring, would be, "occidentalizing," clone-puppies).1 Our “lust” involves, well, wanting to have just about anything and everything within (and even beyond) our grasp, in a legally sanctioned, "disembodied" scientismic culture-run-amok – one in which citizens have become target markets that the media helps turn into demanding consumeroids. Still, we welcome our materialist hell as our heaven, or at least as our safe haven, in a world that largely goes without.

Certainly we can be born into privilege. We can also gain privilege by working at it, and for very cogent reasons, I'm sure. But at what cost? And who pays? Are citizens who resent the conduct of an elected or appointed official only envious, lusting for the same power that (paradoxically) oppresses them? Is it not the case that we very often are only projecting our own covert desires for power, prestige, and privilege upon those who have it when we express our distaste or outrage at them, and thereby justify, by some weird calculus, our own self-loathing via this lusting-in-disguise? Do we always demean that which we dislike about ourselves by criticizing it in others?

Anonymous Comrade writes:

Gasping From Out the Shallows:
Reflections on Revolution in the Early Twenty-First Century
Wayne Spencer

"Human beings are not fully conscious of their real lives. Groping in the dark, overwhelmed by the consequences of their acts, at every moment groups and individuals find themselves faced with outcomes they had not intended […] What should be abolished continues, and we continue to wear away with it. We are engulfed. Separated from each other. The years pass and we haven’t changed anything." — Guy Debord, On the Passage of a Few Persons Through a Rather Brief Unity of Time, 1959

"We have invented nothing. We adapt ourselves, with a few variations, into the network of possible itineraries. We get used to it, it seems." — Guy Debord, "Critique of Separation," 1961

"If it seems somewhat absurd to talk of revolution, this is obviously because the organized revolutionary movement has long since disappeared from the modern countries where the possibilities of a decisive social transformation are concentrated. But all the alternatives are even more absurd, since they imply accepting the existing order in one way or another." — Internationale Situationniste #6, 1961

"Many people are sceptical about the possibility of a new revolutionary movement, continually repeating that the proletariat has been integrated or that the workers are now satisfied, etc. This means one of two things: either they are declaring themselves satisfied (in which case we will fight them without any equivocation); or they are identifying themselves with some category separate from the workers, such as artists (in which case we will fight this illusion by showing them that the new proletariat is tending to encompass virtually everybody)." — Internationale Situationniste #7, 1962

"The worst of misery
Is when a nature framed for noblest things
Condemns itself in youth to petty joys,
And, sore athirst for air, breathes scanty life
Gasping from out the shallows." — George Eliot, "The Spanish Gypsy," 1868

INTRODUCTION

1

“In the context of the reality presently beginning to take shape, we may consider as proletarians all people who have no possibility of altering the social space-time that the society allots to them (regardless of variations in their degree of affluence or chances for promotion)” (Situationist International, Ideologies, Classes, and the Domination of Nature, Internationale Situationniste #8, 1963)

2

The first movement of the revolutionary proletariat against the alienation of capitalism, a movement exemplified by the great waves of workers’ struggles and revolutions that convulsed the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, was destroyed by the machinations, mystifications and munitions of social democracy, fascism and Bolshevism.

With the defeat in the mid-1930s of the attempts by the revolutionary workers and peasants of Spain to establish a self-managed society, the century chimed midnight. In the course of the 1950s, a second movement of proletarian contestation began to grow restless under the new conditions of alienation erected out of the partial successes and ultimate failure of the earlier expressions of proletarian dissatisfaction. This contestation affected both poles of the apparently divided but actually united system of global capitalism: the state capitalism of the societies expropriated by Bolshevism and the affluent consumer capitalism of the West.

In the Soviet bloc, the uprisings in East Berlin in 1953, Poznań in Poland in 1956 and across Hungary in 1956, along with innumerable other acts of defiance both large and small, expressed the proletariat’s rejection of the pseudo-communist bureaucracies that reigned in the proletariat’s name yet subjected every aspect of society to an authoritarian domination for its own interests as a ruling class. In the West, wildcat strikes defied the unions, and sabotage, absenteeism, shoddy work and an avowed contempt for work revealed that sections of the proletariat were dissatisfied with the well-paid alienated labour on which the post-war consumer societies were based; so too there was a more sporadic and confused refusal of the machinery of permitted consumption.

In May 1968 in France and during the 1969 ‘Hot Autumn’ in Italy, proletarian discontent coalesced into vast movements and refused quietly to subside afterwards; so much so that these two countries were singled out as objects of particular horror by an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development meeting of employment experts convened in 1971 out of fearful apprehension that “the industrial countries…are undergoing a revolution” whose first principle is the “challenge to authority”. According to this collection of specialists in workers submission, the perspective of a society “without classes, hierarchy, authority and regulations” was abroad in “industrial France”, while in Italy “the effects of industrial conflicts and social malaise are constantly combined” and “minor details of technical progress in workplaces…provoke conflicts whose violence is out of all proportion to their causes”.

They were right to be alarmed. In their study of 123 industrial conflicts in France in 1971, for example, Claude Durand and Pierre Dubois found that “significant illegalities”, such as occupations of premises or physical violence against employers, cadres, supervisors or police, had occurred in half of all disputes. And high levels of conflict persisted in many other regions of the advanced capitalist societies. However, by the end of the following decade, the second upsurge of the proletariat had been defeated. The state capitalist societies of Eastern Europe had all been overthrown, but they have been succeeded not by the management by proletarians themselves of all aspects of their individual and collective lives, but rather by the forms of representative democracy, alienated production and commodified everyday life characteristic of western liberal capitalism. In the west itself, the society of the abundant commodity continued to dominate every aspect of social life.

Mathew Toll writes:

"Marx's Grand Narrative:
The Materialist Conception of History"

Matthew Toll


The materialist conception of history was formulated by Marx in reaction to the major philosophies within Germany during the 1800s. Hegel, an influential theorist at the time, advocated absolute idealism, considering history as the unfolding of God’s plan. Marx aimed to give history an objective basis within the material conditions of human life in order to explain social movements. His conception of history, while highly influential, is not without contenders who criticise its ability to account for social change. This paper will give account of Marx’s materialist conception of history in its theoretical outline. The conception will then be illuminated in relation to historical examples of social change and tested in its ability explain these movements, in contention with another conception of history.

The foundation stone for the materialist conception of history was the existence of individual human-beings and their subsequent reproduction (Marx, 1969, pp.419-420). Marx considered the distinguishing feature between humans and animals was the formers ability to produce their own “means of subsistence” i.e. food, through their social organisation (Marx, 1969, p.409). Human-beings as social-beings organise along relations of production for mutual benefit or in the case of a slave because the threat of force coerces their natural volition (Marx, 1969, pp.419-420). Economic systems restrained by scarcity necessarily lead to conflict in the relationships between individuals in the economic sphere for scarce resources. Development of these relations of production leads to the organisation of societies into class systems, whereby individuals which have a particular relation to the means of production form a class (Marx, 1996, p.160).

Introduction to Civil War [fragments]

TIQQUN

From SOFT TARGETS


1. The elementary human unity is not the body—the individual—but the form-of-life.

2. The form-of-life is not beyond bare life, it is its intimate polarization.

3. Each body is affected by its form-of-life as if by a clinamen, a penchant, a leaning, an attraction, a taste. What a body leans toward also leans toward it. This goes for each and every situation. All inclinations are reciprocal.

4. This taste, this clinamen, can either be conjured away or assumed. To assume a form-of-life is not simply to recognize such a penchant, but to think it. I call thought that which converts a form-of-life into a force, into a sensible effectivity.

        In every situation there is one line that stands out among all the others, the line along which power grows. Thought is the capacity for singling out this line, and following it. That a form-of-life can only be assumed by following this line means: all thought is strategic.

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