Saturday, 14 December 2013

Quertzal: a metaphysical supplement


This stands in the place of the dupontish annual oration that traditionally occurs at the threshold between the old and new years. There dawns, in the production of such material, the ghostly awareness that even though readers accept that there is a levity here, they also recognise that there is, alongside the clowning, a true stupidity. After all, only the imbeciles are ready to pretend imbecility. Every statement which struggles towards its correct formulation seems fated to substantialise a block of quivering error in its place. Then, there must be, on the readers’ part, a recognition that within writing’s extemporisations around limit there is also a recognition of the constraining mechanics that work upon intelligence. A positive spiral is induced whereupon the writing attempts to correct itself in response to the reader but succeeds only in confirming the readers’ prejudices. And, so it is that this writing also includes the readers’ awareness, and factors in yet another layer of reference and distance. Then, it seems, that the puppy sometimes must catch its tail - and so, I find that if my limitations constrain me to present idiocy, then some other territory is also marked out which includes these presentations... a territory that is somehow on the other bank to the blasted heath. And, it seems, if stupidity is a signal of proximity, and if distance is a characteristic of reason, if reason is the distance within which the proximity of idiocy is couched, then how far away and also how close it is, this gesture of perpetual placement, whereupon the box of folly is found in the box of reason, and the box of reason is found in the box of folly. Then, if it must seem that way, and so it is, are you relieved to find that you are now further away than ever?
Quertzal: a metaphysical supplement 

Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean; the world has grown grey from thy breath 

Even when all things have been considered, the discourse of communisation continues to take its cues from the discursive conventions of politics. And, as is the way of things, it doesn’t stop there... the  conventions of politics (by which we probably mean the hierarchising of priorities, the framing of problems, the production of representations) are drawn from the deep coded social imperative for vanquishing of the enemy. There is not much else to it - communisation is only a pounder after all. It is another means for defeating enemies. At those places where the eternal quest for existence in its fullest amplitude passes within the purview of communism’s gatekeepers, it encounters only the somewhat altered imperatives of political economy. There is not much to it. 

And it is of no interest. Communising politics as an object of interest is of no interest, and so the gaze which falls upon it must find other patterns within it. It is from categorical boredom, or it is from a sort of caged stupefaction, that having found nothing compelling in in communism, that I have since discovered how all the words have come to be buried within it. Hypnogogically, in the folds of the curtains, crepuscularly, when we came back late, from the hyacinth garden, I did discern that communisation is another missionary discourse. I found it is still programmed into, via its marxist heritage, the metaphors of Nineteenth Century colonisation. The procedures of class war, historical development, the party form continue to positively reproduce Victorian representations of social engagement. 

Communisation, in its deep programming, is a discourse of colonial expansion that is most closely related in its evolutionary form to what was once called ‘muscular christianity’. It is impoverished by its own practice, it abases itself in its struggles for realisation; it is righteously transported as a burden to the borders of the dark continent; it must advance, it must intervene, it must overcome - and at each step its golden grain spills from the holes in its pockets. 

Communisation is inseparable from the works of communisation... by deeds it spreads outwards, it extends, it paints the map red. Like a plant that depends upon the particular intervention of some near extinct insect for its reproduction, communisation unfolds as an erotic apparatus that is perversely driven by the unlikelihood of its realist ideal. It has nothing to do with you and me. 

It has everything to do with you and me, but not quite on its own terms. Then, we have found, and this is always so deadeningly about finding, that the critique of colonisation, utilising the forms historically available to it, remains in itself, in practice, deliciously colonialist - it belongs voluptuously to the time and relations which it opposes. It is thereby bound to reproduce its moment, its embeddedness, as an interplay between form and content. Just as the religionist avidly seeks out corruption to confirm his faith, so the discourse of realisation delights in finding itself nowhere in the world. Then, by implication, the unhappiness that is the critique of the critique of capital also reproduces, in infinite regress, all the similar positions - but always in representations of ever murkier reproduction. 

The divergence between form and content, for both the critics of colonisation and for the critics of that critique, is articulated either through a vitalist presentation of ‘action’ (i.e. the as yet untapped capacity of an agent to wilfully turn upon its conditions and transform them), or through a stoical presentation of endurance (i.e. where it is asserted that conditions also are mortal). Either the subject must overcome its constraints, or it must outlast them. There is nothing else. 

Communisation must encounter a ‘halting problem’ in the manner by which it presents process and event, it perpetually stalls between consistency and completeness. However, even if the distance between different intelligences is reducible to the infinite recessions that are summoned  by setting up parallel facing mirrors, the underlying metaphysical assumptions that are packed into communising activity could probably still be critically examined, if only as a function of that infinite sequence. The mirror of ‘activity’ is therefore brought before the mirror of ‘labour’ and three components immediately begin to bounce between them. Anyway, we have discerned that the historical concept of communising ‘activity’ resonates with Marx’s formulation, capital posits labour time as sole measure and source of wealth.

It could be that there is an attribution error here... after all, what does it mean to say ‘capital posits’. But that is not our concern. What is of most interest to us is why marxists might find it helpful to argue that 'capital posits labour time as sole measure and source of wealth.’ I happily admit I have no inclination to present to you an adequate analysis. However, I think any theoretically charged intelligence should be able to critically discern the metaphysics that is revealed as inherent to communisation’s hard programming:

Assumption 1: All things (including immaterial things and natural objects like trees and oceans) which are capable of appearing within social relations are thereby the result of social activity. Thus a mountain above a tribal village, even if it has never been climbed, is the result of social activity, particularly if it has been referred to as (for example) the home of the gods. Why is it important to make the claim for the inclusivity of all representable things? It seems that within this first assumption concerning the relation between activity and inclusion, there is a further recursion to the alteration of states within objects and relations that is a result of the intervention of the substance, activity

Assumption 2: Conserved quantities are transformed into qualities. All things within society (being the result of social activity) change where the proportions of present and past activity that are combined within them are altered. Thus, the mountain remains the abode of the gods (that is, nothing is actively added to the mountain as representation) until some literalist goatherd follows his animals up onto the sacred slopes and discovers the high pastures to be empty of gods. Instead of the profundity that is the absence of gods (which would indicate an epistemological break), he finds some other product, namely fine summer pasture. Upon this discovery, he returns and contributes his ‘live activity’ to the community's wealth. At this point, the mountain as an object in the community's discourse is expropriated by a new social relation (a relation which sheers away from the ongoing investment in the convention of gods living in the mountains) and which is driven by the recent input of live activity. 

The accumulation of punctuating expropriation events sets in motion the process of translating such events, by repetition, into representations. Representation is a process of abstraction (the result of a violent assertion within the context of relational pathways) which causes apparently unlike things to be affiliated together - the common factor that is forced upon unlike things resides in the specific quality of their being affiliated. Thus, as an example, in a feudal society, a particular leaf and a valued musical instrument must be represented in a particular way, and this mode of representation functions as a sort of gate or switch for specific forms of discourse which permits the charged appearance of both (for example, the integration of the guzheng into the tea ceremony in The Tale of Genji). By way of contrast, an industrial-commodity society  will affiliate representations of equivalent objects but on quite different terms (for example, the electric guitar and the image of the cannabis leaf). 

In both these representations of specific leaf and cult instrument, the capacity for and reach of, the constraining relational patterns between objects (which appear as carriers of cultural values) are also represented (as if in the form of a shadowy surplus) as the truth of that social relation. The constraints of the relation, its quality, is set recursively as a specific pathway for representing detailed sets of objects as they are enclosed within that particular social system. 

This at least is the argument of the situationists, as it is in the text, How to Read Donald Duck... All marxisms presume that an essentialised use-value inherent to products may be separated from the ‘relational’ (exchange) value... as if somehow the same objects might be assigned, or somehow autonomously carry, other values in other contexts. But then, no variant of marxism has ever fully come to terms with the tragic fixity that the word fetish really implies.  

However, and sticking to the conventional version, where a transformational event is recorded within the represented relations between objects, there has also occurred a transformation in relations - and all relations are transformed by the disruption in the proportions between living and dead labour that is fixed by objects. In the above example, the young goatheards by means of their attempt to enclose the mountain pastures within the field of current village activity will also, unexpectedly, recalibrate the rules relating to the represented domain of the gods (as these are consequently assigned to more remote regions) or even convert the domain into another category of divinity. Historically, the process of abstraction which marks the shift from animistic beliefs to monotheism has been driven almost exclusively by goatherds in search of new pastures. Old gods are progressively expelled into unproductive regions until they are allocated at last, the barren vastness of the heavens. 

Assumption 3: The capacity to distinguish qualities enables a (historically specific) capacity for selecting transformations. This is the core of the assumption about 'labour': if activity leads surely, but by circuitous path, to social changes, and social changes may be recognised as and within patterns, and if upon reflection, activity is recognised as the motor of such patterns, then ‘political power’ is the matter of consciously directing pattern producing activity towards self-modifying its own patterns - i.e. the processes of change becomes subject to change

Where the accumulated quantities of live activity result in a looked-for production of 'qualities' in the form of ‘real abstractions’, these qualities may also be directly engaged as the object of social activity. ‘Politics’ is the use of qualities, the reuse of products, as raw materials in further refined levels of process - it is the beating of more sky into the mixture. 

It seems that where 'capital posits labour time as sole measure and source of wealth', everything is logically in place for an expropriative communising event - where this is understood as one step further in the sequence of realising self-reflexive activity (culminating in the deliberate assertion of pattern-transforming patterns). The social subject is held back from discovering the true purpose of its activity only by a paper thin wall, i.e. those restrictive patterns which inhibit variable capital (labour power) from overcoming fixed capital (fixed activity) and positing itself as sole measure of source and wealth. 

Communisation is nothing but labour power transporting the accumulated burden of fixed labour across that last threshold to self-reflexivity. Thus, the spinning metaphysical core to all this is located in that compelling image where a truth content is presented during the event of its disclosure in an act of consciously sloughing off of the false veils of representation. And all the better, if the disrobed shoulder of truth, as it slips from its flimsy raiment of shame, is revealed to be immanently consistent with itself: where the social subject’s activity reveals the truth, and the truth is the social subject’s activity. 

The ideal of immanent activity presumes that representation must be supplanted by a more thoroughgoing real abstraction that is founded in a state of pure recursion. Immanence requires that quantities slot frictionlessly into their endless promotion to the state of qualities - the problem of consistency/completeness is overcome through the internalisation of outputs. Immanence implies only process. 

If only one could select the method of one’s own sublation - by sabres or by flintlocks. In reality, however, the enthusiasts of process are humiliatingly rolled onto their backs just like everyone else, and always by a means which is precisely unexpected. Just as the digital materialists romanticised their desired recuperation by cybernetic systems, fatally underestimating the sheer banality of the actual event, so the ‘communising current’ makes arguments for its immanence with a process that it cannot even put its finger on. 

A brief examination of the metaphysical certainty that is invested in ‘activity’ discloses certain radical flaws - is labour really the sole measure and source of ‘wealth’? Whilst we might tolerate without too many qualms the assertion that everything belonging to society is the result of social activity, some of us no doubt are reluctant to be led down the garden path towards inferring that everything within the social domain is entirely social, or even that 'social activity' is conceptually continuous (i.e. there is something wrong in the formulation: the root is man himself ). 

There is, bound into the sphere of the social subject, that which is not social at all. There is, in the sphere of social activity, that which such activity cannot grasp. 

To illustrate: if we consider the apple offered to Snow White, it has a red poisoned side (the social side), it also has a safe green side (which we shall say indicates an inert or non-responsive component that is present in all things). If we consider that the apple somehow materialises a spectrum of social and un-social proportions, we might say that the red skin is the most social (as it represents pure intent) and that the green skin is the least social (it is the least enclosed part of the fruit), then we might locate at the core an equal and mingled proportionality of intent and neutrality which we are bound to call the ‘unconscious' (i.e. the irreducible incomprehensibility of motive at the centre of social activity - the root of man being not-man). 

This spectrum of responsiveness to human activity is present in all objects, even those that are manufactured... the Xbox One appears wholly within the domain of social activity and yet even this physicalises  a barren inwardness, an inner green skin, which does not express self-posited labour power but rather fixes an unknown claim which social activity has carried in from the outside, on its boots, under its finger nails, and which has been inadvertently recorded within the object. We call this deadness fixed labour... it is all the antecedents of this moment in infinite regress.  

So, there is a ploughed field which rises before you. The field is not necessarily vast, but from where you stand you see before you only its churned content, and the blank sky. The field is like a fold, or a swelling wave. It is November, the turned earth is sodden, melting, leaking, and yet holds its shape, implacably. Clearly, the work of man is present here... but as in a vacated battlefield, it is an inhospitable and alien space. It broods on its claim, it insists that it has not been turned, that no man has ever worked here. Where the plough has crossed the earth, that, more than any other place, is where the plough has not yet even approached. The worked object’s irreducible claim, which is a sort of radical fixity, finitude or limit, sets out a place where the gods really must reside. 

Every object is also an impassive zone of inwardness that is only manifested through the application of labour power, and yet from which the category of the social finds itself entirely excluded. All activity, all scope for activity, is progressively expelled from the fixity materialised within the products of activity.

Progressive thought represents the historical spread of its red skin throughout the apple’s pale flesh as the  advance of knowledge. We know more now than ever before about the world and how it works. We can, given sufficient time, know everything. And regardless of economic and ecological fragility there is an ideological predilection for formulating progressivism as more than argument, as knowledge falling into step with the real. Neo-positivism, (or accelerationism) also seeks to speak from within process and takes a miser’s delight in emphasising the world’s objective acquisition of knowledge of itself. 

Accelerationism presents the state of inert inwardness as diminishing. Even the nihilist communist acknowledges this apparency. It seems that that stuff of the world which does not respond to activity does occupy its own inviolable sphere... and yet, this also may only appear in its defeat, at the moment its circumference is penetrated again and again by progress - its virgin snow is always trampled. At the least, this pristine sphere is always diminishing. 

The fixed portion of the world may only appear at the point of its contradiction by animating force. That which is unknown, is always about to be known. That which is not known is that which has been forgotten. Thus the produced object is simultaneously developed and purged of obsolescence. That is how the darkness is illuminated. 

And it is true that there is no intelligent argument to be made against the advance of knowledge that is not also a contribution to the dominion of knowledge. There is no intervention that is not also a contribution. Inertia cannot animate right back at you, the domain of the unactive cannot grow itself. 

There is no argument to be made against progress, there is no temporality in which it might appear. Those who argue as if from a position immanent to the world historicising mechanism create a discursive field, the constraints of which are so absurd that they forbid the very appearance of a counter-argument (i.e. on the basis that any argument against is always more recuperable than the celebratory invocations which it opposes). There is, in the face of affirmational bombardment, only the waiting it out, a seeping away, and the lengthening of shadows. 

Upon seeing the landowner upon horseback advancing towards the village, at the head of his militia, no doubt in pursuit of some brigand, the men of the square melt away. But the women, standing impassively in the threshold of their dark and broken down huts, do not move except to brush away the flies. And as the soldiers pass through, they watch, neither applauding nor jeering - an alien quietness hangs over them.

Metaphysically, the ideal of activity (labour time as sole measure and source of wealth) reproduces the Vitruvian Man, man as the measure of all things. And yet, the enclosure of all things upon a single plane of immanent relatedness where the common factor is the productive activity of self-positing labour power, only increases the impending sense of vulnerability that is inherent to all flights into strategies of pattern-making over-adaptation and dependency. In other words, whilst progressivism measures itself against the diminishment of the unknown in the act of enclosure, all of its objects are all the same. Where it recognises an increase in its extent, it does not register how thinly it is stretched... beneath it, or contained within it, is an infinite deadness. 

Communisation, so historically redolent of positivism that they must have been separated at birth, is the ideology of self-positing labour power. Or, rather, it is the specific term of addiction to the ideal that activity must soon disclose its commensurability with the social world. In the world, all processes, not merely the relations of production, expel their own organs. If communism has any purchase at all on reality, it is not as a movement, and particularly not as a realising movement towards a future state. It cannot, in that appalling but ringing phrase, and so resonant of imperial expansionism, align itself with the expropriation of the expropriators (i.e. it cannot allow itself to affiliate with those forces which are already active in the world)

The finitude and limit of what an object can be (where it may only appear as the result of activity), resembles the revealed confusion that is illuminated in Zoschenko’s Electrification. Where the products of socialised labour are forced to appear upon some other plane, submitting before the cataclysm, in the event where the generalised limit of all activity is met, that impassive inwardness contained within all things discloses itself, explosively, like a self-inflating dinghy, or popcorn. Perhaps nothing amuses the gods, banished from the rich pasture land, than the sight of electrical appliances bobbing upon those eerie waters in the wake of a great, engulfing wave. 

There is a house in New Orleans, there is a frightful sphere. The centre of which is everywhere. And the circumference of which is nowhere. Progressivism, and the forward momentum of knowledge by which it defines itself, its forgetting, its overcoming, is a sort of desert, a sort of dependency. And Immateriality, is momentum-knowledge as an addict’s hallucination of immediate relations between qualities (in a circumstance of the expulsion of material activity). Where knowledge accumulation is posited as the basis for knowledge production, and where this does not make allowances for the structural impoverishment that is inherent to self-grounding (autopoietic) processes, there is a constant rate of attenuation in type of knowledge. over-adaptation introduces fragility into discreet process, and where this form has become addicted to a specialised environment (subsequent to an earlier event of expulsion at some other level), it neither rests within its niche nor attempts to adapt itself to other contexts, but hurtles as a fixed disposition towards its crisis like a missile.  

Addiction is the ‘struggle’ of a system to stabilise a rate of change that requires the constant input of that substance which stimulates the system’s recognition of itself via the metabolisation of the immediate effects elicited by the continued presence of the substance. The system of knowledge production requires the continued production of new knowledge and yet knowledge is continually expelled from and negated within its own production - only current acts of knowing as finding are valued; it is a moving contradiction. 

Similarly, the communising current supposes the ‘struggle’ to stabilise society at the level of metabolised human activity. The lapse of this current into ‘solutionism’, where communising activity becomes synonymous with the transformation of social relations, indicates both dependency upon a single mechanism (activity) and a catastrophic reduction of the frame of social existence to production. 

In its mechanics of self-correction, addiction requires always the addition of one more incorporation of the required substance for stabilisation. And yet, addiction is also the desire for that disturbance which commences immediately at the point of metabolisation. The next episode of instability is always commenced upon by metabolising the expropriated substance - addiction is the pure form of self-positing activity. 

But addiction is not intimate with logistics, there are other circuits above and below its operations. It is a condition which cannot calculate the proximity of other circuits. Its just-in-timeness, its dependency on a generality which it cannot conceive, supposes another essential component of addictive behaviour which involves regulating the aperture within which what will happen next must appear. Not knowing for sure that the substance will occur on its plane of activity is an essential component of the release process; reducing the future to the appearance event of a single substance is a paradoxical form of autogestion

Dependency occurs at the boundary of the present’s lapsing into what is about to happen. In addiction there is no planned future, no distant memory. It is driven forward by an endlessly replayed gamble on highly constrained probabilities. All proposed solutions, all alliances with social forces, all orientations towards the future, are mere expressions of conceptual dependency. But addiction is not really the reduction of existence to a single substance, it is a representation of that ideal state. In reality, all solutions are representations grounded in the suppression of other frames. The addict does not abolish the world but succeeds only in not registering it. There are always, bound up in addiction, other terms. 

Where labour power self-posits, it also advances something that is bundled with it but is not of activity but of the ‘world’, something of itself which it does not recognise as belonging to it. If activity is perpetually a ‘struggle’ to expel from the category of labour power what is intolerably not responsive to it, then even as it extends its domain it seems only to increase the proportion of obdurate materials that are fixed within itself (i.e. where that quality slumps back into lumpen quantity.) Fixed labour, the uncanny double of self-positing labour power, tends (as it accumulates) to expel socialised activity from social process and thereby introduces archaeological ruin into utopia. 

After finding that in its operation self-organising process compulsively expels its own internal workings, like an addict cancelling out everything for the required substance, it would then appear inconsistent to advance, as means of critique, a counter-term to self-positing activity. And, yet, as Kafka’s gatekeeper acknowledged, we must exhaust every permutation at the threshold of our exclusion from our own undertakings and pursue the formulation of some counter-term, if only because then we will not be able to deceive ourselves about our having failed to follow one or another untaken path. But even so. 

Even so, it is hard work. The problem can be stated thus, i if the addictive form of self-positing activity must increase the proportion of non-responsive material at the heart of communist society, (where communisation is the decisive conditioning factor in the proliferating overproduction of uncommunisation), ii and if (we assume)it would be preferable that this dead stuff at the heart of activity were assigned some sort of acknowledgement, even reverence, in other words a different orientation of social organisation to it, iii and if we were to reallocate the mountain to the gods, then a. might not this prove an inferior method of achieving such a relation than activity itself which frenziedly amasses non-activity at its own increasingly fragile core (albeit inadvertently and cataclysmically)? and b. might not this attempt at instigating a ‘different’ relation to that which is fundamentally ‘not activity’ (but which is bundled with activity, appearing through activity), remain, within the category,‘activity’?

The permutations: not to advance but to withdraw; not to expropriate but to relinquish; to allow rather than intervene; to refuse engagement with eventism; to direct  discourse to what is already finished; to refuse consistency; to facilitate contradiction; speak not of movement but look for stasis; to refuse what is possible; to reject organisation; to snag one’s cloak on trivia; to deny everything; to pick apart one’s own thoughts; to make a shooing motion at science; to downplay achievement; to sabotage dialogue; to break off all relations; to not exit stage left after announcing your imminent departure; to love not reason but stupidity; to sit as if in a waiting room; to not get on the up-train and to not get on the down-train. If there could be both inconsistency and incompleteness.

Such exercises in unactivity, these permutations of vacillation and failure, are indicative of the likelihood that the question of activity’s relation to inertia cannot be resolved at the level of activity. If it is possible to head in the opposite direction to the ‘communisation current’ and gain similar, and perhaps even better outcomes, then... 

Clearly, if the proportional relation between fixed capital and variable capital, of fixed labour and living labour, cannot be truly measured (what is ‘fixed’ and what is ‘living’ cannot be neatly distinguished), and yet this distinction is the decisive factor in any proposed self-positing system, then it seems we are stuck in Canute territory here. How much energy, how much life, is required to transform activity into the condition of possibility for itself in a context of historical inertia? In precise quantities, how much ‘communising’ activity is required at the point of communisation to shift onto the desired path, the historical inertia that is stored within the relations of production? Unless it is believed that history is already a movement towards the realisation of self-positing activity, it seems the answer to the question is probably an unprecedented vast and sustained quantity. 

There must be an exact figure, a critical mass, a tipping point, but as ‘non-responsiveness’ is a perverse term, and its content resists knowledge and is still less discernible as a quantity available for measurement... and as it is anyway bundled into live activity, the setting of the problem itself induces further spirals of absurdity at the heart of the project of self-realisation. To put this more succinctly: if self-actualising labour power accumulates an unresponsive and contradictory fixity at its own heart and thereby expels live activity from its process, then the event of a self-positing non-responsiveness would be truly something to wonder at.

At the hour of its exercise, socks round its ankles, coat buttoned, shoelaces tied, a demented figure shuffles along in daily routine beside the busy road. The figure is accompanied by a brusque concretisation of labour power paid at the minimum wage. It is not easy to interpret the quality of blankness in these two presentations of masked facies that are caught in a relation where mutual communication is entirely exhausted. In both cases, where cognitive disorientation is embodied within one figure and must by fate be paired to the absolute minimum of disengaged supervisory care that is personified in the other, the question, why is this happening?, cannot and does not occur.  There appears, in a formally regulated context, an infinite shuffling forward that has somehow become caught up in a regime of clockwatching resentment. At each possible point of intervention within the relation, a bind, a contradiction, an implacability is disclosed. 

Be merry my friends.

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