Q: Is the bicycle dead?
Monday, 27 April 2009
Q: Is the bicycle dead?
Thursday, 23 April 2009
Is the proletariat crucial to capitalism? Yes, absolutely. It is actually more crucial to capitalism than the bourgeoisie. You can have capitalism without the bourgeoisie but you cannot have capitalism without the proletariat. Overcoming capitalism requires the self-abolition of the proletariat. This makes the question of left-wing politics extremely difficult. How can you talk about the self-abolition of the proletariat when working people are being pushed against the wall? I think it is very difficult to try to mediate the issue of defending the achievements of working class movements in a neo-liberal universe, and a position that avoids hypostatizing the working class as the bearer of the future. I don't claim to have any easy answers to that, but I do think the abolition of the working class is the key to the liberation of humanity. I agree
with Marx's formulation.
Moishe Postone, 'Rethinking the Critical Theory of Capitalism', Principia Dialectica
2 (2006), p.13
I have a lot of sympathy and agreement with value-form Marxism of the kind proposed by Postone, Finelli, the Krisis group, and Principia Dialectica. They argue that capital is the Hegelian subject that radically 'posits its presuppositions', i.e. constantly re-establishing itself through the value-form that absorbs all content, creating a totality through real subsumption and the process of real abstraction. In this situation they radically disagree with the Trontian (or more precisely Negrian) proposition that Labour is an alternative ontological creativity - rather labour is a category of capital / the value-form. In this situation labour has to be abolished, and the valorisation of the proletariat is a false hypostatisation leading to the defects of Statist socialism.
This is where Postone's question is crucial: in a neo-liberal capitalism devoted to dismantling workerist forms can we simply call for the abolition of labour without being complicit with these processes? Of course the value-form model argues for a continuing ruthless critique of labour, rather than any appeal to an entitlement to work, and is premised, I guess, on the future 'proper' crisis of the system that will lead to the abolition of the value-form. In this case defending the achievement of labour / social-democracy would be something of a Katechon, delaying the coming of the evil one, and so redemption.
I'm divided on this point, as a recent email debate I've had with SBA has proved; both attracted to the kind of Polanyian workerism that Kinkle and Toscano diagnose in The Wire, and in agreement with the critique / dissolution of labour thesis. As usual my 'compromise' is the defence / expansion of non-commodified forms (or the negation of the commodity by de-commodification), including labour. In fact Postone agrees that partial containment of the market by the state is necessary: 'The only way we could reach such a [pre-revolutionary] situation would be on a practical level, that is, through a series of reforms, some of which are more pressing than others.' (from this pdf) One of the most precise articulations, I think, of this type of strategy has been Owen's work, which combines the defence of the utopian elements of social-democratic coupled to the refusal of work thesis.
I still think, however, that the concept that some teleological capitalist dynamic of real subsumption right down into the neuro-biological will somehow destroy the human subject and so release a 'capitalism beyond capitalism' (cf Alex's comment), or some new communist forms ('install the Ho Chi Minh Chip'), is profoundly wrong.
Capitalist 'meat puppets' - a science-fictional 'absolute adequacy between capital and its agents' - would simply lead to fully-integrated agents of capital. I can't see how liberation from the humanist paradigm, or the human body itself, necessarily threatens capitalism. After all capitalism has no necessary requirement for the 'human person' - it is as happy with humanism or anti-humanism.
I notice that in Alastair Reynolds revelation space universe we still have unionised genetically enhanced monkey repairmen; perhaps they are a better future than the radically 'enhanced' 'diamond dogs'...
Monday, 20 April 2009
The simplest Surrealist act consists of dashing down into the street, pistol in hand, and firing blindly, as fast as you can pull the trigger, into the crowd. Anyone who, at least once in his life, has not dreamed of thus putting an end to the petty system of debasement and cretinization in effect has a well-defined place in that crowd, with his belly at barrel level.
I wondered if you held up a sign with the word “Pistol” on it, would that constitute an offense? … Even the word might be offensive. Or a sign saying “Assassination.” Does the sign itself constitute an offensive act? It’s hard to say, because fantasy and reality are no longer separable, are they?...
Thursday, 9 April 2009
In a remarkable gesture Berardi sets-up a schematic opposition between the 'net-economy', valorised as the site of the general intellect that 'is challenging the proprietary principle that has ruled Modern capitalist society', and 'criminal capitalism', associated with militarism and the abandonment of legal rule. In light of the fact that this 'split' exactly replicates the relative funding sources of the US Republicans and Democrats (cf. Davis 2009) it's unsurprising that Berardi embraces Obama as prophet of the general intellect:
Obama's victory in the US may be the opening of a new period in the evolution of mankind. This event has injected new hope in the peaceful army of the general intellect all over the world. The new President was voted in by cognitive labor, and his victory is the defeat of the criminal class represented by Cheney-Bush. But this victory marks only the beginning of the fight, that will be the fight of intellectual force against the brutal force of ignorance, violence and profit.
While I can certainly agree with Berardi's comments on the privatisation of experience, the shattering of social solidarity, and the pernicious effects of privatised car culture, the fact that computers has a great deal to do with these dynamics (and permitted the possibility of the complex financial products which helped produce the current crisis) is bypassed for a political fable of libertarian cyerculture tamed by 'the man' (it's as if The Baffler never happened...).
Berardi's solution is to conduct a kind of therapy on the desire for private property. His argument is that 'semiotic goods' are not annihilated through use (just like tables?) and so permit common use and collectivisation. Now we no longer have to look forward to a wave of suicides, but communism is back, surfing on the wave of commanlity of knowledge, the ideological crisis of private ownership, and the mandatory communilisation of need.
Of course this can't be the old communism of 'Will and voluntarism' (the entirely predictable targets), but 'A totally new brand of communism'.
___, 'Alterity and Desire', in Simon O’ Sullivan and Stephen Zepke (eds.), Deleuze, Guattari and the Production of the New (London: Continuum, 2008b), pp. 22-32.
Davis, Mike, 'Obama at Manassas', New Left Review 56 (March - April 2009): 5-40.
Tuesday, 7 April 2009
`Power to the people!’ was once a revolutionary slogan, but reference to government by the people and for the people soon became an empty cliché of the post-revolutionary status quo (see above - Citizen Smith as commentary on fidelity?). The people has become a notoriously ambiguous and contested term, for which numerous alternatives have been proposed: the proletariat, the workers, the masses, the soviets, the nation, the community, the multitude, the commons… And now? How might we assess the different conceptions of political change embodied in these often conflicting ideas? What is the political and philosophical significance of `the people’ today?
Radical Philosophy Conference, Birkbeck College, Malet Street, London WC 1, 9 May 2009
10.15-11.30 The General Will (chair: Peter Hallward, RP)
‘The General Will on the Street: Parisian Activism, Sovereignty and Power, 1789-93’ - David Andress (Portsmouth)
‘How Do the People Make Themselves Heard?’ - Sophie Wahnich (CNRS, Paris)
‘Crisis, Tragedies and the Commons’ - Massimo De Angelis (UEL)
[second speaker tba]
1.00-2.00 Lunch Break
2.00-3.15 Urban Collectivities (chair: David Cunningham, RP)
‘Urban Intersections and the Politics of Anticipation’ - AbdouMaliq Simone (Goldsmiths)
`Urbanism and the Post-Political’ - Erik Swyngedouw (Manchester)
‘Biopolitics, Diasporas and (Neo)Liberal Political Economy’ - Couze Venn (Nottingham Trent)
‘Feminist Strategies Revisited – Sexopolitics, Multitude and Biopolitics’ - Encarnacion Gutierrez Rodriguez (Manchester)
Gayatri Spivak (Columbia University, NY)
Registration and further details: firstname.lastname@example.org
Plus this, courtesy of Sebastian Budgen
IMMANENCE AND MATERIALISM CONFERENCE
The concepts of immanence and materialism are becoming increasingly important in political philosophy. This conference seeks to analyse the connections between these two concepts and to examine the consequences for political thought. It is possible, as Giorgio Agamben has done, to make a distinction within modern philosophy between a line of transcendence (Kant, Husserl, Levinas, Derrida) and a line of immanence (Spinoza, Nietzsche, Deleuze, Foucault). If we follow this distinction, then 'the line of immanence' might include Spinozist interpretations of Marx, Althusser's aleatory materialism, and Deleuze's superior empiricism. But what is the value of this work and is it useful to distinguish it from 'transcendent' philosophies? Distinctions between materialism and idealism are equally complex: Derrida, for example, might as easily be classed a materialist as an idealist. And where can we place more recent work like the critiques of Deleuze by Badiou and Zizek, or Meillassoux's speculative materialism?
Papers may wish to consider the following questions:
Paper titles and a 300-word abstract should be sent by Friday 22 May 2009 to Simon Choat at email@example.com, Department of Politics, Queen Mary. Graduate papers welcome.
Especially around 12 noon
FAMILY DAY – WEDNESDAY, 12 NOON
Morson Road EN3 4NQ
near Ponders End train station, Enfield
Statement from some Ford Visteon workers and supporters (from inside the occupied factory) ►
We have occupied our factory Ford Visteon workers have occupied our factory since Wednesday 1st April. The previous day in a meeting lasting just 6 minutes we were told that the European company, with plants in Belfast, Basildon and Ponders End, Enfield, was going into administration and that we were to leave - without our wages being paid. Personal possessions could be collected the next day, but at 10 o'clock the factory was locked closed. Workers had already occupied the Belfast factory.
We demand what is due to us The 200 workers who are part of the Ford subsidiary want the same conditions they have always had via "mirror contracts" with the parent company. Up to now they don't know when they will get wages due, and their pensions are to be controlled by the government Pensions Protection Fund. This means a maximum of £9,000 payout, and much reduced conditions! Some of the women and men have 40 yrs service!
The move is to save Visteon USA money at our expense. But unexpectedly Unite union members have taken determined action that bosses thought they had eliminated years ago. The workers want their existing terms respected. Ford Visteon can't be allowed to avoid their responsibility.
Negotiations have now started As a result of the occupation Visteon have agreed to negotiate with us, and our convenor will be flying over to the USA this week to meet US company reps.
The future? As well as proper redundancy payments, some are suggesting that the skills of the workers who can make anything in plastic, should be used to make increasingly needed parts for green products - bike and trailer parts, solar panels, turbines, etc. Government investment in this rather than throwing money at bankers could be profitable & save jobs in the long term.
All support welcome Ford Visteon workers have been pleased at the support received from other Ford plants as well, such as Southampton, who are blacking Visteon products. 100s attended our rally outside on Saturday.
Please come to the factory at any time (especially 12 noon) to show us your support. Get your Union branch or organisation to pass a resolution in support. Help raise money by doing workplace and community collections, and drop by...
Messages of support to those inside: firstname.lastname@example.org
This is a fight we can win. We're off our knees and fighting fit!
Monday, 6 April 2009
Friday, 3 April 2009
Plus see the photos of the protests by IT. On IT's comment on the necessity for a sublation of the opposition between a totalising anti-spectacular concept of revolution coupled to a totalising concept of the spectacle I'd certainly agree (and on the query about the 'elsewhere' it might come from). I think here a re-reading (and critique) of the situs is necessary, especially the examination of such concepts as detournement and the construction of situations. Of course Debord's pessimism circa Comments on the Society of the Spectacle (1988) seems to break this dialectic into a Baudrillardian-style pessimism (although Baudrillard is more interesting to me than the cliche).
All protest (I think) has a theatrical element, including successful protests / revolutions. Rather than risk blanket dismissal on these grounds - "the burning-with-the-pure-flame-of-negativity thesis" (Clark & Nicholson-Smith) - it might be more a matter of thinking types and forms of theatricality.