Saturday, 7 January 2012

A brief comment on the mechanism of displacement as a means of maturation of forces

And if we remember the artist’s Anarchist convictions, we can see that Place du Théâtre Française is in fact a political image. Under Pissarro’s benign survey, the boulevards are made into an ideal human landscape: a harmonious, self-adjusting system of individuals and crowds, humans and animals and machines, negotiating each other without conflict. There are no collisions, no runnings-over, no jams. There are no policemen, and not much sense that there’s even a side of the road you’re meant to drive on. Everything is working collaboratively. he activity of street and square (maybe slightly idealised) provides a small working model of Anarchism’s utopia, the co-operative society without controls.
Tom Lubbock Great Works


If the traffic in Place du Théâtre Française is self-organised, then it is a self-organised surface-based phenomenon. The haussmanised circulation of these self-adjusting relations enables their immediacy but it is not responsive to them. They are its creation, it is not theirs. 

The individuals, crowds, humans and animals which Tom Lubbock describes do not feed back into the organisation of the scene but refer only to each other. That which facilitates their encounters is displaced from their discourse; the strategic urban planning is facilitating but not directly present. Therefore Pissarro's ‘anarchists’, and their anarchist interrelations, are an outcome generated by a social mechanism that is not itself ‘anarchist’.  

It seems then that ‘self-organisation’ is an emergent outcome of processes which are not self-organising in themselves but operate through numerous other, as yet unmapped, causal pathways and patterns. The relations which manifest as an outcome of other, higher order, relations function as more than the sum of their parts. That is, 'self-organising' outcomes are not organisationally coherent with whatever forces have realised them as a possible form of direct and immediate interaction. 


There is a domain break, a categorical interruption, between the rules of self-organisation at the surface, and those processes which create the conditions for self-organisation in the depths. 

A counter-reading of Place du Théâtre Française would emphasise the categorical dependency of the characters on Haussmann's architecture. The actants, as they traverse the surface tension of the scene, which bulges like a liquid, have a pond-skater like appearance. Our counter-reading would further emphasise this sense of a skittering, precarious, trapped existence. It might interpret the fountain at the top of the scene as the nipple of a phallic organising breast onto which all these ephemeral and dependent, but proliferating, life forms desperately cling. 


'Self-organising' remains contingent to other determinations, and its practice is applicable only to a very narrow domain. 
There is then, in Place du Théâtre Française a categorical separation between what is organised and what is organising. This separation, by necessity, is active everywhere. No object is self-identical... no thing is the result of its own organising, its own actions. There is always a boundary where the organising of the selves is being organised by something else. 


The ideological pursuit of self-organisation as an origin of itself, and as a means of producing the world, is thus fated to remain unverifiable, the mere assertion of a particular mindset. For this reason, the principle of ‘self-organisation’ itself becomes a terrible burden weighing down on all projects which set themselves the task of struggling free of other models of causality.  

However, a break from established social patterns is precisely the goal of communism. Pro-communists seek other outcomes from material conditioning than those ‘hitherto’ engendered. A movement that runs counter to the flow of production is implied in the assumption that that which has materially determined thousands of years of alienation must now support the for-itself relations of the gemeinwesen


However, communism must seek elsewhere for arguments to support its project than in the principle of self-organisation. Communism must contemplate its own constraints: not everything may be communised and least of all origins. Communism cannot, and must not, be the outcome of itself – ideological depletion is the inevitable outcome of over-reliance on self-reference. 


A communist field only becomes feasible where it engages the constraints of other territories... for this reason it must seek, even as it maintains itself, the perpetual self-displacement from what it takes to be its essence. Its proponents cannot realistically expect that its lived relations will be the outcome of their principles. Where communism functions appropriately, it is displaced and exists in tension with the world. Where it is not displaced, for example in the 'communist' organisations, it is functioning inappropriately, and must seek to compensate for this by displacing itself. 

Therefore, the struggle of communism to realise itself in its mature form is a struggle against the idea that life must be lived according to organisational principles. Evidently, principles have already been, and are always being, overcome unhappily in the form of transgression against them, in failure to live up to them. Principles may be undermined, set to one side and deferred, seen as inappropriate in the moment and otherwise simply abandoned in favour of realpolitik. 
However, philosophical or political principles in themselves are a sort of obstacle to a life informed by consciousness. They are an obstacle because they are an immature presentation of which relations might be possible in the field of tension generated between life and the theory of life. For communist theory to mature it will have to positively encounter and recognise within itself that which is not ‘communist’ as being the major part of itself – even in its 'victory' communism is a tiny domain cosmologically.  Communism, if it is to positively engage human existence, has to recognise and engage irreducible non-coherences both in its own statements, and in general human existence. Not everything is communisable. 

Communism must overcome its own theoretical immaturities, and one of these is the principle of self-organisation or autopoiesis. This is no easy task, as self-organisation is automatically implied in communism’s struggle against the ‘tradition of all dead generations [which] weighs like an nightmare on the brains of the living.’ The struggle presented by Marx is that of human society's achievement of the conscious capacity to design society (a condition where the living relate to one another directly and without this weight of the dead distorting their intercourse.)

But the insubstantiality of immediate living relations is equally nightmarish. Without the dead, the living are cut adrift, and forced by circumstance to either invent society anew via rules and force of arms, or to live in a state of perpetual negotiation where nothing may be taken for granted. However, the dead will have their say and both of these self-organised outcomes are impossible states... there can be no society that self-organises as there is no society that is not set within an environment otherwise determined. 

That is to say, the truth of self-organisation is displaced elsewhere. Its immediate interactions are fixed by something constitutive, vital even, that lies outside of itself.  If human beings are capable of immediate and direct relations then they are thus enabled by something hidden from them which is not immediate or direct. 


Self-organisation is a surface-based phenomenon, the possibility for which has been organised in its depths by half-forgotten other forces. There is an incommensurability between the domain of society’s surface relations and the domain of its deep conditioning. However, this does not mean that there is not a fixed, hierarchical and proportional relation between them which moves from the base material to fine motor skills of critical thought. Communism shares 99.9% of its DNA with every other social possibility.

The counter-argument, and its subsequent experiments, that communism must somehow interpose itself at the base of human existence as a self-organising set of relations which is immediately present to everyone in society would actually only cut humanity off from itself. It would cause communist society to continue to degenerate into the bewildered victim of those incomprehensible barbarities that routinely break out within its projects. 


The principle of self-organisation as constitutive of social relations inverts the observable phenomena of human behaviour, which otherwise indicate that communism is resultant, an unpredictable event, which may emerge from out of opaque and complex depths, and being reliant on a unique confluence of incalculable factors. And which more predictably will not emerge at all. 

Consciousness may only appear at the end of an interaction of forces, as a possible outcome of that interaction. And as communism is the conscious organisation of human relations, it must recognise itself as an outcome of that which is not communism, and of that which may never be communised. Consciousness cannot force itself upon the world without damaging what it is – at most it may exist, as a 'minority stance', in a state of reciprocated tension with some of that in the world which is responsive to it. 

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