Saturday, 15 March 2014

Mess


The problem of repurposing cannot be circumvented by wishing capitalism had never happened. History suggests that there are things worse than the value form. 
Ray Brassier 
A new sort of ugly blandishment for ‘modernity’ en bloc. Or, FIlth! as Ignatious J. Reilly might ejaculate. There is nothing in all history that is worse than historical process, and of that worst, the reduction of past forms into raw material for the future belongs to the very cimmerian darkness. The use of things is an abomination – and the processive use of things perfectly describes eternalisation in its ‘value form.’ 

So it must be, that this plate of now from which Brassier dines, a sort of serving up of the past as source of nourishment, should be cut adrift on some Learish sea, and ourselves then cut adrift within its drifting. Then, if humans are not to feast upon their own dead, some rhetorical questions must be asked of this drifting. What is a mechanism of degenerative release? And what might be, the gain in itself? But, firstly, is it this feast of communisation that causes me to recoil... the repurposed choice cuts of factory farmed human labour? 
When Banzan was walking through a market he overheard a conversation between a seller and his customer. "Give me the best piece of flesh you have," said the customer. "Everything in my shop is the best," replied the seller. "You cannot find here any piece of flesh that is not the best." Upon these words Banzan was unable to restrain himself from shrieking out, filth! 
Repurposing is to technology what prefiguration is to politics, a holding on and a binding in in the place where there should have been a letting go. There is an inhibition at the heart of the discourse of transformation which realises it as a discourse of conservation. Repurposing and prefiguration are a conjectural means for governing the future through presently generated forms... there is an underlying calculation in them about transferable skills. 

Communists cannot repurpose, i.e. assign a future purpose to that which is categorically forbidden from appearing there. They cannot prefigure future relations where the future recursively refuses both their agency and their reference points. But anyway, if it is not his idea of the dead as an all you can eat buffet, then why should I be so wounded by the words of Ray Brassier? What is it of his argumentation that causes my very eyes to bleed out a sort of sand?
"Eyes here, eyes!" said Coppelius in a dull roaring voice. Overcome by the wildest terror, I shrieked out, and fell from my hiding place upon the floor. Coppelius seized me, and showing his teeth, bleated out, "Ah—little wretch,—little wretch!"—then dragging me up, he flung me on the hearth, where the fire began to singe my hair. "Now we have eyes enough—a pretty pair of child's eyes." Thus whispered Coppelius and taking out of the flame some red-hot grains with his fists, he was about to sprinkle them in my eyes. 
I do not think that there is offence in his playing loaded dice with Camatte, whom Brassier has conveniently propped up, lolling, at the table but taking no active part in the game... or, for that matter, that Brassier treats the ideal of Gemeinwesen as if it were a practical proposal (and in that confusion mistakes ‘domestication’ for real subsumption). 

And it is not particularly that his presentation of abstract progression (i.e. as an apologia for a locked in generalised movement which is somehow above critique) resembles scientism’s depiction of religion as error, as if it were a failed science... it is true that the arguments against Camatte and in favour of the gain in itself amount to little more than, your miracles are impractical. But that also is not the source of my distress.

I freely admit that I am also not particularly affronted by the manner in which his arguments appear from under the cloak of ‘communism’, although it is true that in his eminently reasonable presentation, he somehow causes every solicitation for communism to also function equivocally as its opposite. And every assurance that he gives of his refusal of capitalism somehow simultaneously slides back into a pragmatic entente with its works, with its gains. The justification for repurposing: now that we are here, and through no fault of our own, we might as well fill our boots. 

The impression Brassier seeks to create is that capitalism is not that bad - certainly, it is preferable to ‘the past’. After all, in that familiar fugue of progressivist literalism, he seems to suggest that capitalism just has to be one stage closer to communism - after all, that’s the way hstry goes.

Brassier’s careful assessment of the practicalities of ‘communisation’ are advanced as if they were moving in the shade of other technocratic reasonablism (within this frame, communism carries over the instrumentalising heuristic where use-value functions as (in his lexicon) an ‘archimedean’ point, an organising principle, and by which, ‘society’ trumps both the surplus irrationality of commodity production and more significantly, the human being as poor bare forked animal). 

His appeal is directed to our domesticated nature and seeks to minimise the different content of communism. I, for one, cannot but agree - how could I not? As a fully capitalised being, there is nothing I desire less than communism: a societal state that is incompatible with all traces of that with which I am most familiar. 

The addiction of the capitalised being is not located in the struggle that is directed against dependency but in the fear of the return of feelings, relations, responsibilities. We addicts, are unknown to ourselves and for good reason... our affirmations are a reaction formation set up against feelings of wretchedness and fragility - an ignoble attempt to avoid the meaningless pangs of individualised existence seeking a ride on productive forces.  Habituation beats all dreams of transformation. 

It is no accident that Brassier’s emblematic object’s purpose is that of prevention... but then, no doubt, that’s just the dependency talking. It has always been a convention amongst revolutionaries to summon up the spectre of revolution only to immediately throw chains over it - a basic move in the mastering of anxieties. The addicted life-form seeks a transformation in his dependency but only to the extent that he exchanges a bad supplier for a good supplier - the bad breast for the good breast. 
But the spontaneity whose exercise is the prerequisite for the destruction of the class relation will also generate new abstractions together with new forms of mediation. What is required is an understanding of social practices that would allow us to begin distinguishing between oppressive and emancipatory forms of mediation. 
Brassier’s revolution involves exchanging dependency upon the bad abstraction of the value form, for dependency upon the good abstraction of use. This is only possible if the inhibitive apparatuses already present in society (working to produce negative feedback) and which structure the social character of dependency upon the process of ‘abstraction', are conserved. Like Brassier, I am so capitalised that I cannot imagine the end of capitalism in any other terms than that of terrifying collapse. I too cannot conceive of an approach to communism without packing safety nets and comfort blankets... as soon as I write the word ‘revolution’, I want to add caveats, provisos and conditional clauses. 

However, I am not so very capitalised as to wish communism to be realised as a temporal, I mean historical, displacement of existing relations.  I am not so capitalised that I have come to terms with arguing for the present mode of domination as the way in, as the way it must be. 

It has seemed preferable to me, to build a wall around communism, against the intrusion of the communists  - better to deny it all together than allow its reduction to the status of a mere add-on to the universalised extraction of repurposed use-value. 

Brassier’s looking after the pennies in the hope that the pounds will look after themselves does not aggrieve me; his defanging of utopia is merely irritating - another episode wherein the logic of survival sickness appears within the discourse of social transformation. But then, typically, it is not its content which is offensive in utterance.

After all, no harm is done if some philosopher pragmatically minimises, for the sake of idealist plausibility, the systematic destruction of the conditions for all life on earth, and its accumulated history of massified trauma, exploitation, and depletion in pursuit of realising an abstract form. To claim the value form is not the worst thing when it has driven humanity to the threshold of self-ruin is not offensive.

No, not offensive. Everything that can be said, must be said - all paths must be explored (according to the workings of the law of plenitude). Then, it is not what is expressed that is problematic here but rather the appearance of that expression as a category error. 

Brassier’s remarks, and the discursive parameters of realism in general, ought not appear within a so called communist context. Communist theory ought not  downplay the prevailing form of domination on the rationale of better the devil you know - as general non-familiarity with the deep past is a consequence of what functions as the gain in-itself. And if, by some bizarre accident, communist thought should lose the content of its critique, if perchance it should forget the organic totality of its refusal of the present form, then it ought to have the decency to recognise that it has taken a wrong turn - that it has become inadequate. 

Nowhere is this inadequacy more apparent than in its version of locked-in historicism. The historical malleability of ‘man’, his pliable second nature, his adaptability, the absence of essence, conflate into the central motif of progressivist thought - but this never signifies anything more than a misdirecting ideological affirmation for the ongoing reduction of actual existence to the status of variable capital. 

‘Man’ without essence is nothing but flexibilised labour, subject to the integratative pressures of each successive innovation of the forces of production.  Communism should refuse everything of and in capitalism from the smallest knickknack to the largest scale infrastructural project. It separates itself both from every atrocity and every tenderness, from art and philistinism, from knowledge and benightedness. 

Every gain, under present conditions, fixes in the process of abstraction those existences which, by their expropriation by process, are extracted from their immediate, physical location and repurposed as mere components of production.  If the extractive/processive violence of capitalism has, by its own subtle arts, passed below the threshold of communism’s capacity to register it, then it should not immediately be concluded that there is (to use the police term) no crime

It is much more likely that inherited marxist references, the constraints of its proposed republic of labour (the frame of autonomised/repurposed use-value referenced by Brassier) have long since been realised on the terrain of capital. Communists in Brassier’s version are reduced to arguing for the conservation of those gains already achieved in the value form but, by some mystery (the mystery of pure usefulness), are also to be reproduced, repurposed, under transformed conditions. This implies that marxist communism is no longer antagonised by capitalist relations and having become domesticated now functions as an ideology of mere utility.
In the meantime, must we abjure every existing instrument, technique, or method enveloped by capitalist social forms?
Yes! In a word, yes. ‘We’ are not the subject, therefore ‘we’ must abjure everything - ‘we’ do not prefigure communism, therefore ‘we’ may only affirm that which appears in the commodity form in our role as capitalised beings. Anything less is the setting out of a stall for yet another pet theory of flesh and its niche market.  But what sort of creature ‘refuses’ everything of its world? Certainly, a creature whose refusals have absolutely no impact on that world. Actually, it is also a creature whose affirmations equally have no relevance. Then, might ‘we’, at this juncture, under the weight of a malign proliferation in innovatory practicalities, tested solutions, feasibilised and fully costed ways out, picture the figure of the one who refuses the entirety of the present?

Would he not take the form of another corpulent southern reactionary, another oversensitive bellower? Can you make him out standing beside Ignatious J. Reilly, no doubt he is unpleasing. He is someone else you don’t want to look at, and has now become immersed, as its precipitant, in another unseemly street incident

Oliver Babe Hardy perhaps, wildly lamenting, as he is unceremoniously bundled away by ‘the men in white coats’: affirmationists to the left of me, affirmationists to the right of me, affirmationists, affirmationists, affirmationists!  The blaring of progress excludes him, maddens him, stupefies him. 

The very category of ‘inappropriate’ utterance asserts itself as reactionary; it has already incorporated the judgement that nothing rational can stand against the feedback runaway of rationalisation and has stood against it anyway. And the figure of the precipitant, who is not of the process but caught within it, exemplifies inconsistency, the opposite of an archimedean point, summoning up the archaic precisely because there is no means of presently refusing the world. 

To take up the refusal of the arguments for conservation of useful objects is to be made to appear as the precipitant of an inconsistency,  as an unthinking and interruptive reaction to process... and more generally, those responses which refuse the supposed objective inertia of congealed variable capital (i.e. the refusal of the supposed necessity of making history with the materials available), are always conveyed as the epitome of what is reactionary.  

Whomsoever refuses repurposing, which is the realm of historical freedom, is thereby unmasked as one who wishes ‘to reinstate the past.’ Thus, Brassier dispatches Camatte dressed as Oliver Hardy.  Drumming his fingers. Picking sand from his eye. Looking into the camera. Hmpf.

At some point, in the history of marxist theory, at some unpropitious moment, and perhaps this occurs right from the beginning, the refusal of capitalism must transform itself (for the sake of plausibility, for the cause of practical application, and as a vindication of the cypher-term ‘real movement’) into a set of arguments for capitalism that is made against ‘reactionaries’ and in particular, as a defence of capital’s progressive role

On the other hand, in reaction, there is a threshold within communist theory, which once crossed, causes its readers to view the pitifully reactionary rantings of street maniacs as, if not more plausible, then at least more articulate of the world’s ragged edge, than anything produced under the communist rubric. It is at the point where communist theory argues for capitalist achievement and against ‘going back’ that its readers must begin to look elsewhere for elucidation. What is it then that is ‘inappropriate’ in Brassier’s request that we should, ‘consider antivirals’?

There is an apparent incontestability in such an object, and yet the very idea of  incontestable things is troubling. Antivirals are an emblematic object, a tricoleur that is to be waved upon the barricades... a quintessential piece of product placement for the bourgeoisie’s enlightenment project, the epitomising reference point for its rationalising revolution (the costs and benefits are clearly delineated and in all permissible discourses the benefits objectively overwhelm the costs).  For use-value, it has always been 1848, its sisyphean task has been to rap loudly forever against the gates of the Palace that has long been reduced to dust. And Brassier  goes back to retrieve its project, ‘... there is no doubt that the redistribution of antivirals on the basis of need rather than wealth is a more pressing political concern than speculating on their role in post-capitalist society.’ 

Consider antivirals? What does he mean? The great oseltamivir scam of 2009? But why should preventative measures be considered as the core of social transformation? At the heart of acceleration, a hidden inhibitive recursion? Consider then, antivirals as a talismanic object. Is it that this prevents the misfortunes of revolution, or rather that it prevents revolution altogether? 

The emblematic object is a flag around which friendly forces gather in a spirit of shared and practical (i.e. emblematic) purpose whilst enemy forces are  externalised and muster on the other side of the barricade. It is these externalised forces, which function as irrational and reactionary fetters, those who want to ‘go back’, and which prevent the exigency of ‘redistribution’ (the emblematic form of politicised use-value.) The emblematic object, and its emblematic purpose, is indicative of emblematising relations.

Consider then, immunisation as a revolutionary intervention but what does it immunise against? Is it that to name the event is to halt its further spread? What does it meant to situate a preventative technology at the heart of the transformative events? Consider antivirals? No, Mr Brassier, consider the birds of the cliffs. Consider the gannet, does it spin its nest from antivirals? No, it makes its home above the abyss on an inch deep ledge, full of spikes and crocodiles. 

Brassier takes his stand on the sunny side of the barricade, he is for repurposing, for prefiguration, for communisation... That is, he affirms these principles in their bourgeois form, that is, in their political form. As a mere politics, communism begins in an aggregation of eminently practical achievements, from the resultant complex relations of which the emergent form of communism itself is disclosed - the fully socialised, house-trained real abstraction. 

We arrive at communism through a redistribution of the array of emblematic objects. But what are ‘antivirals’ an emblematic object of? By what means might it be decided that this product is that object which is amenable to separation from its productive context? It seems I am not waving the tricoleur. Nor am I manning the barricade - I am becoming Camatte, I am fancy-dressed as Oliver Hardy.

I am not on the sunny side. I am alone in a room. I am a sick man. I think ... I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I think my liver is diseased. I am not at the barricades and I have no flag. My sickness consists of twitching besides a candle in my fingerless gloves. I stay up into the early hours concocting an elaborate mockery of emblematic objects. I cannot prevent my little jokes from marching out like lines of bed bugs...

I am thinking ‘antivirals’ are just one step up from individually packaged wet wipes, not much more significant than seedless grapes or bagless vacuum cleaners. My thoughts turn to Mel Brooks’ 2000 year old man... the greatest invention in history, clingfilm. ‘Antivirals’, a cipher for the logos of the academy, a synecdoche for practising common sense and the if only politics of rationalised production. If there are antivirals, then there is cappuccino. If there is one, then there is also the other. I laugh, perhaps snigger, heh heh; no doubt the exemplary mockery of a lone reactionary. 

Then I get maudlin. Didn’t Benjamin make a distinction between thinkers and brooders? Brassier is obviously the thinker and I’m just another brooder. He gets paid and I sit in my room. Where his argument stops at a neat formulation of the emblematic object for rational revolution, I am lost in the churning of dark preoccupations. 

It runs on and on. Now, I am considering antivirals as Ozymandias, not the king but the statue - the broken reminder of a forgotten king. And then I remember, The Hollies’ song, King Midas in Reverse as an emblem for the ambivalence at the heart of repurposing. So, now: antivirals>emblematic object>the paradox of revolutionary conservation>enlighentment values>deflationary-motifs>Ozymandias>Midas>depurposing. 

I am not at the barricades today. I did not get the coveted walk-on part in Les Mis. Instead, I seem to be stuck in Robbe Grillet’s labyrinth, I’m making things difficult for myself... the streets have become indistinguishable from the barricades. The path is nothing but the barricade. 

Now I am obliged to ask myself, what continuities are assumed in the expropriated object? When opening the door to allow it entry, what else is brought in with it? Has some invasive species, perhaps some vicious mole, laid its eggs upon the object’s transplantable rootstock? If the mole were myself, if I (as commissar) had laid the eggs upon the roots... if it were the communists themselves that did bringeth capitalism into the city upon the hill, in their plans, in the waving fronds of their argumentation against capital: then, we are requisitioned by the question: who will communise the communising current? Whom will repurpose the repurposing measures? Heh heh. 

Then. Then, the provisional declaration: there can be no communists in communism. Their fantasy of agency, their salvaging from the wreck, from the teeth of the depths, from the tongues of the conflagration, all this saving must be forbidden at the gates. They shall be forbidden from bringing their emblems into communism’s formative moments - not even their arguments should be allowed. Heh heh. 

Like Dante’s Virgil, the communists become precursors, having passed historically through the inferno but are formally restrained from ever reaching Paradise. They are the affirmation which cannot be affirmed. They are ‘the righteous unlearned’ who, achieve only a form of salvation because, "it may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.’ 

The communists are designated to live like Diogenes, in holes outside the city walls; they will throw stones wrapped in critiques at citizens.  Heh heh. Then I fall back suddenly into quiet rumination, I follow it with my eyes, my hands twitching as if observing a screen, as if I am on Gogglebox: it seems the repurposing of antivirals and the narrow conception of herd immunity must be anticipated as a structural quarantining within communism for communists and their projects of prefiguration. 

That is to say, there must be established, in advance, some immunity to the agents of communisation - how to conserve communism and discard communists? Where opposition has been medicalised, immunity comes to serve as an abstract preclusion of resilience, even as it represents it. Then, for every given form of use-value there must be woven, on camattian looms, an anticipatory holding pouch - to prevent the preventions, to inhibit the inhibitings. 

Must communism, as the project of a post-prefigurative communising subject, expel the communists (incarnated preventions) from their own works... and hold them in some asylum seekers’ internment camp? Heh heh. Could this be because herd immunity cannot simply be attributed to the discursive medicalisation of social problems but must appear at other levels and as the entirety of the possibilities of the community? Isn’t there already an antiviral pump inbuilt into ‘society’? Heh. 

Brassier is in a rush to argue that ‘capitalism has happened, and given this premise [...] how can we move beyond capitalism without regressing to pre-capitalist social formations, such as agrarian feudalism?’ Oh and by the way, he implies, get over it! He’s impatient to get on with the task in hand. Exigency. The communising current also seeks to realise the momentum of productive forces, it derives its velocity and rhythms from capital, it conforms to itself as utterance, the state of exception is the normal regime of the Law. 

Get over it. Get real. Heh. Isn’t there hidden in this haste to proclaim capitalism as our past, a past which we cannot escape except through its doors, by the checkout and clearly marked exit, isn’t there hidden in this urgency a set of other and earlier preclusions, and of other motivations? Why is the past located only in the last 200 years? Why does communism seek to take with it only the most recent? History is not a steam roller, comrades! Progressivists are at their most atavistic when naming their emblematic use-values - perhaps it is important to them to give magical names to the talismans that must be pushed along in the grand exodus of the shopping trolleys. 

Certainly, Brassier isn’t a brooder and he’s not a postman either, he is not conscientiously constructing a breast-like form, another Palais idéal, in his back yard. This is not Close Encounters, he’s no Ferdinand Cheval, nor is he impelled to form, from available materials, which he might be surprised to find, go way down through the archeological strata, this is not his act of ritual celebration of the human mammal’s innate ‘antiviral’ capacity, set en bloc slap bang in the bosom of modernity, he is not piling up a great, prefiguring mammary mound. 

Heh. There’s no boobs on Brassier. But anyway, the idea that supposed gains may be carried forward must rely on the already established theoretical model of linearity, of incrementalism, which proceeds by alterations in the pattern of acquisition. The project of expropriation is only undertaken in those spaces where  expropriation as a mechanism is already established. 

In this model, communism merely reproduces the question of ownership of anachronistic objects as its central concern - or rather, to invert this, given the ‘premise’ that ‘capital has happened’, Brassier is really arguing communism cannot go all the way down, that there must be incongruity between the violence of production and the mitigation of social structure - capitalism with a human face; communism realised on the terrain of capital. 

The accumulative/acquistional drive mechanism at the heart of what we can call the carrying forward model also underlies the logic of radical membership organisations. But doesn’t their failure to grow the business indicate a flaw in the theoretical model? Why do anarchist mass organisations retain the same membership numbers at the level of hundreds? Why do trotskyist organisations never exceed more than a couple of thousand members? 

Of course, in both cases, the membership body is in a state of dynamic equilibrium. It is not comprised of the same individuals - where some lapse, others join up as new recruits at the same rate. The organisationalists’ model of recruitment assumes a linear consistency driven by an incrementalist mechanism where the initial motivation of new recruits to join reflects and feeds back positively into the propaganda that the organisation makes to increase the membership further. 

When considered like this, Brassier’s carrying forward model reveals the inherent absurdities which are hidden by apparently sensible pragmatism. Who knows in advance if it is possible to decide which objects are responsive to communisation? What if I want to bring my Smeg American style fridge with me to communism but the portal is a sort of birth canal through which I must pass naked (and well lubricated)? 

The cycles of accumulating historic gains in themselves, like the conservation of acquired characteristics, only count during circumstances of equilibrium... but where environmental constraints are themselves overthrown, all conserved alterations become objectively irrelevant. If communism is to be reduced to the prudence implied in saving for a rainy day, then it becomes nothing but the continuation of capitalist relations by other means. 

If we return to the problematic of organisationalism (the dual production of consciousness and of militants) we see what must be taken into consideration before we can begin to hope that antivirals, or fridge-freezers, are compatible with jaunting between different epochs. It seems that there is a doubled, or stochastic, process involved in the binding of consciousness to social transformation - or as Nick Land puts it, the way out cannot be the same as the way in.  

The first of the two components in this process of binding occurs in the perpetual, random sparking of (dis)affect-based responses to productive technology, exemplified in the pricking of fingers on spinning wheels. This induces a retractive type movement away from that state of ordinary integration into the processive environment. Repulsion from the given form of the object is most often expressed in the spiritual lament that there must be more to life than this. It rarely results in a permanent divergence in the tendency of consciousness to conform to process.

The second component occurs as a perturbation to, or suspension of, process at the environmental level, and appears as the disclosure of an iron law.  The structural mechanisms by which an environment is reproduced are ordinarily screened out by consciousness, and are registered, if at all, as a background hum, the inexplicable ground to the way things are. The environment as apparatus, disclosed as a mechanistic ‘iron law’ that has been caught in mid act, throws into question all the adapted behaviours of dependent life forms. In conditions of hyper-inflation or sovereign debt crisis, everyday activity, which had previously fed into the production of the life-world, is suddenly rendered meaningless.

The doubled movement is thus revealed as the flowing  of the life-form’s stepping back into the environment’s manifestation of itself. There is both a retreat and an advance. Ordinarily, under normal conditions, recessive movements always fall back irrelevantly into ordinary environmental processes, which are unresponsive to complaint. However, where conditions are disclosed by their suspension, there occurs an evolutionary opening.

Environmental crisis potentially inverts the hierarchy of dependency - so the last shall be first, and the first last. Under conditions of environmental disequilibrium, life-forms are pushed into a free-fall of radical and rapid mutation. Their status is also inverted, life-forms become a condition to their conditions. In their improvisory adaptations, they seek to conserve that which had previously conserved them
You reach the second gate of dreaming when you wake up from a dream into another dream. You can have as many dreams as you want or as many as you are capable of, but you must exercise adequate control and not wake up in the world we know. I'm not saying that you should never wake up in this world. But I have to tell you that that is an alternative. The sorcerers of antiquity used to do that, never wake up in the world we know. 
The nature of the life-form’s injury (its pricked finger) dictates the nature of the alterations it will impose on its environment (all too often, it passes into a short-lived swarm state, or takes the chance to happily extinguish itself). In all history, when presented with just such an opportunity, communists have reimposed the terrain of capitalism, and exterminated communism. Like Casteneda’s failures in sorcery, communists always choose to wake up in this world. However, despite this history, it is at least conceivable that the life-form will upon one occasion, not respond to a punctuational event with barbarity - that it will find the way out.

That is imaginable. But anyway, it is a long way from the mechanism of incremental change, where banked alterations are to be blithely carried forward into molten worlds, where everything is to be melted except for the incrementalists’ own capital. As it is in the constancy of object-oriented demands so it is in the consistency of membership motivation...  organisational membership bodies remain stable because they reproduce themselves as an ideal of recruitment, as nothing but a mechanism of increasing their scale, but without ever succeeding in mastering the means of their own production.

Typically (and by this it must be understood as ‘almost without exception’ given the realist nature of recruitment structures), the organisation looks to increase its membership by means of the application of a specially developed discourse of appeal. It lays out the pathways for new recruits leading into the organisation (such pathways emphasise the ostensible principles that are instituted at the organisation’s structured core). The organisation takes its ostensible principles for its true content, and assumes that it is these principles which are the deciding factor in persuading recruits. 

In actuality, if the organisation did nothing it is likely that it would easily achieve the same rates of recruitment by simple inertia and ordinary social interactions of its membership. The mysteries of belonging and allegiance (a labyrinth set within a black box) are all the more obscured by the self-falsifying outputs supplied by members in their own accounts of motives. The instituted principles become a shared discourse amongst strangers, a group work in team building, but the real connections between them, the logic of carrying gains forward and its failure as an applied model, always go unexpressed

The complex of motivations, impulses, emptinesses, rates of suggestibility, gambles, aggressions, vendettas, involvements, challenges, pityings, acts of self-abnegation, narcissisms, military fantasies and other irrationalities which drive membership structures are more the stuff of ‘false awakenings’ and ‘hypnic jerking’ in dreams than a principled, decision making process.  At the heart of the organisation is an unravelling in relation to its principles.  

No member can ever admit to what it was that motivated them to join up in the first place (always a triggered response consisting of a withdrawal that is also an advance) - it is probable that the most committed members were initially driven by the most trivial of motives. The obscurity of these motive-causes cannot then be permitted to appear in the organisation’s argumentation of appeal - any acknowledgement of such inconsistency would undermine the idea of that appeal. The organisation’s address to the external world is really intended for consumption by the membership - it is its representation of them, how they should want to appear before the world.  Each is asked to carry forward the useful object of his commitment, which is itself traitorous to the core. 

It is likely though that the new recruit did engage with this discourse at some level, causing him to join such and such a groupscule rather than another. The specificity of belonging, of choosing to associate with one brand rather than another is not the result of a reasoned evaluation of the brand’s quality, and often quite the opposite... very often it is the inconsistency or incongruity of the discourse that is most persuasive. The more irrational, the more full of holes a corporation’s presentation of itself might be, the more it relies upon the individual consumer to make up for its inadequacies. 

It is always that ‘thing’ which doesn’t work that is most persuasive in an architecture - a non-function or apparent weakness, an optical trick, trigger, or logical fallacy which catches the consumer between psychic states and draws him in, invites him to make sense of it, to work out what it is exactly that is wrong here. A hooked fish subjectively compensates for the fictition of the lure to which it is attracted.

A line of the Fall, the best firms advertise least, epitomises the play of the logic of inconsistency. The best advert is the non-advert, the advert which does not appear as such. And yet, the slogan is no scientific formula; it functions as a hypnic jerk, playing on its ambiguity, or even on its downright error. The consumer is drawn in by Mark E. Smith’s delivery as much as by the dubious character of the claim which plays off against the categorical certainty of its formulation. The implication here resembles that which is made by every discourse of presence: where there is a full amplitude, there is also a radicalising attenuation; and contrariwise, where the consumer’s attention is directed to a ‘least’ it is suggested that this must also obscure a ‘most’ - the very definition of the appeal of branded products.  

The consumer is invited in as an agent of both falsification and compensation, there is work for it to do here. The work of vanity, of reform. The Fall’s formula is exceedingly responsive to manipulation: the best firms are invisible; the worst firms are inescapable; the best is a least; the worst is a most; absence has more presence; familiarity breeds contempt. The consumer is invited along a path, a privatised path, into a heightened awareness of ‘the firm’ to which a pseudo-subjective component must be added. Beyond the objective use-values of ‘antivirals’ there is required of the consumer a socialising statement of commitment, it is this subjectivity which realises the relation, which seals the deal. 

Advertising must work on the consumer’s susceptibility to a state of pre-agency which flips between compulsion and impulsiveness. Working on the principle that one remembers one’s conquests and forgets one’s defeats, the formula is lodged in the subject’s awareness as a bested argument. The process of overcoming the designed flaw, the process of initiation, is the royal road to privatised awareness and is used by all ritualised forms of knowledge (i.e. an autonomous subjective state which spontaneously reproduces the institutional codes even in its own divergence from them.) An invited denigration of the product can easily be factored into the firm’s strategy of breaking down resistances and defending market share (e.g. Marmite, Millwall FC, Pot Noodle).

Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man

Where applied to membership structures, a similar interplay of ambiguity might be set in motion by juxtaposing the slogan ‘together we are strong’ with Groucho’s, I don't care to belong to any club that will have me as a member. The consumer is caught between implied logics and is drawn in to resolve the contradictory forces which it sets up. The consumer only wants to join that club which refuses him as a member and yet also readily draws on an atavistic sense of belonging that is conferred by the pseudo-universality of  membership structures (nation, team, firm). The consumer is motivated by the prospect of a revelation, a category-vanquishing gain in itself

Brassier makes a similar realist error with his emblematic object. There is nothing in antivirals that the subject can work with positively, there is no passage to agreement with Brassier, it is a given, a known quantity, something in the bag. To make an argument for its appearance in the future is superfluous. Brassier is thereby inviting repudiation - the subject is obliged to compensate for Brassier’s affirmation, and make an offering of it to the netherworld. 

Seizing hold of the intuition that the object is not its ostensible use, but that its purpose is to take space in this world and articulate other  rationales - the subject reacts against its too obvious social worth - its antibodies attack it. 

Don’t all products emerge, entangled in tendril-like involvements, entanglements which compromise the object’s true usefulness? Isn’t there always a greater cost, a profusion of unintended consequences, to be metabolised than was expected? There is no subjective gain in observing the navigation of a useful object across a known terrain; it tells nothing because use-value’s function is not to realise usefulness in the world but to extenuate by misdirection the object’s fetish character. The subject is structurally constrained to enter into a state of reaction, it intuits antivirals as a ‘trojan horse’, a ‘poisoned chalice’.  

Use-value is deployed ideologically as a mystification; a plausible advertisement for a product that does not exist beyond its status as a prop in the staged environment for which it is specially designed. What is most useful turns out to be the least communisable. The most honest commodity indicates the greatest relational corruption. The product disguises with its specific application, the relations upon which it is dependent. There are no plug sockets in the desert. What if Brassier had chosen a non-emblematic object, say YU-GI-OH! trading cards (an embodiment of compulsion), then might not this have proved more persuasive, more illuminative of what might be called, the gain in itself? 

An incongruous, trivial, object (to carry the burden of the communising rationale) would have cast his argumentation in another light: the reader would not have immediately concluded before the emblematic example: behold, ideology. 

At the centre of communisation is an absurd wager - if this is not represented by a throwaway object as its key icon, it collapses under the overdetermining codes of practicalising discourse. It is these safety codes which inhibit the necessary impulsiveness which must be activated in and by the gamble, just as it is the recruitment propaganda of membership organisations which restrains potential new recruits from joining. Perhaps Brassier is yet to be persuaded that the subject’s fixed proclivity is always to trade the next card for a revelation. 

In this, Brassier somewhat resembles Professor, who takes a bomb into the Zone, his intention is to blow up the Room and thus reduce the potential for topographical caprice and contextual inconsistency, that unmappability, which is represented by the Zone. Professor, and those he works with, wants to subjectively reinforce the world within the Zone -  translating the rule, the state of exception is the normal regime of the Law into geography, Professor seeks the realisation of a different terrain by the same map. What Professor looks for spatially, Brassier seeks across time, a mappability, a consistent planned world... from the extracted DNA of fossilised objects he intends to unpack an entire domain of social relations and thereby realise them as a theme park of pure utility: Communisation World

But there has never been an objective requirement for communists to formulate feasible scenarios for the future as if they were selling insurance. Communism is not a realist discourse, it should have no interest in the workings of specific ‘artefacts’. What works, what  should and should not be undertaken must be decided at an altogether other level of recursion... and whatever is practised socially should be subjected to communist critique for not being communist enough. 

Communist critique is no apologetics. Under present circumstances, practical proposals are always ideological and should be opposed, even from within such proposals (just as members of communist collectivities should set out the inadequacies of what they belong to). Tricoleur waving enthusiasm for ‘antivirals’ or any other beneficial technology always results in compromise with the institutions they are coupled to. There is always a deal to be struck, even through holes in the barricades. Communists should not try to think solutions... along this path, and under revolutionary conditions, they are likely to find themselves on the side of those others who also seek to defend the ‘gains’ of history.

Capitalism possesses all of the atoms of its every product; all products which circulate, are nothing but their appearance within the process of circulation. Communist theory can, and should, trace back to source the extractive, processive violence fixed within even blameless objects. That is to say, this is the only function of communist consciousness, it is a mechanism of degenerative release. 

These are strange days - an eerie calm has settled over our little corner of the world. We are presented with a circumstance where the capacity of, shall we call it, recuperation exceeds the powers of alienation to generate consciousness. Alienated existence is no longer realised as critically deformed awareness... the anomalies, torments, predicaments of capitalised life are now wholly contained by specialised discourses of medicine, engineering and distraction. The condition of alienation from the productive process has now dipped below the discursive capacities to articulate it. A radical disjunction between the production of life and the revolt against conditions has resulted in the technocatisation even of the critique of technocracy. Dead labour is in bloom. 

For perhaps twenty years, communist consciousness (i.e. the domain of stricken awareness) has itself been separated from any discernible subject. This further recursion of separation demands a grand act of relinquishment by those who still cultivate consciousness. At the heart of communism's act of giving up would be the explicit acceptance that alienation is driven by productive forces and not the productive relation. It is a position which communists within the marxist tradition still cannot countenance. They have staked everything on the prospect of a grand expropriative act... but this has become historically impossible - productive forces now far exceed the adequacy of any socialising subject.

The reconnection of consciousness to the articulation of alienation within and against productive forces requires the acceptance of giving up on history. Not only must the baby be thrown out with the bathwater but in order to relocate a discourse of emergence some very outlandish experiments must be conducted through negationism.  How is a ground for continuation to be discovered in giving up? Won’t those who intend to give up on communism as a means to access its further reaches only, and actually, just give it up altogether? Doesn’t the logic of nihilised communism end in a very simple loss of energy? The trail gone cold, others falling away, there being nothing left to say within the frame... this has been the logic and the trajectory of the ultraleft. It is, very quiet out there. 

Even so, the purpose of communist consciousness remains fixed by the introduction of further levels of inconsistency and incongruity in the world (the return of troubled affect from its state of addiction). Inconsistency, processive disruption, breakdown, must appear as conflicted awareness in the world, as it struggles to cohere within itself... consciousness invites the living component, the living glitch, further and further into the process of socialisation. As it moves further in, and despite its own efforts, consciousness also becomes less coherent, pieces fly off from it. It shakes itself to pieces. It decomposes.  Then, communism is no passage into a historical ‘future’, but a journey into darkness, into the loss of vanished worlds - its ongoing displacement of the dead with the living component becomes the retroactive cause of communism’s present. 
And backward it behoved them to advance,
As to look forward had been taken from them.




5 comments:

  1. This comment is in three or more bits, to accommodate the character limit. There is a limit to my character.

    I sent the below to the comments section at the bottom of the Brassier article, Wandering Abstraction, in Mute. They have not published it yet, in the event that they never do, I thought I would put it here. It is a much cruder statement than ‘Mess’, but it does contain a section of ‘Species Being’ on value, which predates much current (lack of) thought on the subject.


    All these communists… Ray Brassier, Nick Land and Endnotes, et al, they are all such ‘practical men’, they are such go-getters. They are shiny and Tony
    Blair-ian. They do not despair. Like the alchemists of old, those who helped
    deliver the Enlightenment, they seek to conjure University-sanctioned hope from the base matter of their PhD’s. You cannot hold a PhD and abandon this institutionalised hope. Therefore, to retain some semblance of rationality, a process must be detected in history which is leading towards communism. But if the process is already there and functioning effectively then why do we have to show it to people?

    The Real Movement was the whiff of fool’s gold from Marx that was turned into an alchemist’s textbook by Barrot/Dauve and Martin. It was later renamed, Communisation. The reification of the concept of the Real Movement in the 1970’s expressed the last desperate clinging on to the possibility of communist revolution after fifty years in which capitalism had been revealed as lying at the heart of communist praxis.

    The University delivers hope in the same way that factory assembly lines deliver shoddy products. Brassier and Land and Endnotes are not only intellectual alchemists, working with phantoms, they are also assembly-line workers for the University. They are both because they work not only in evangelical alchemy but also as the hired hand of the University Establishment.

    In this organisational fetishism, of course, they reveal themselves to have moved no further on than the syndicalists of the early twentieth century. But now they have the support of the University full-bore. Their PhD’s align most perfectly to the hope-ist propaganda of the University and, of course, Business in general.

    They have, after all, discovered the mystical vein of pure gold in the materialist conception of history. Their self-appointed task is now to reveal this vein, but again, we must ask, why? – if the process, the real movement, is really real and actually existing?

    Come on, the question is either about ‘real movement’ or it is about ‘consciousness.’ It is either about determined reality or it is about evangelism (religious recruiting). If theory and practice does not separate these two roads, ultimately to discredit both, then we remain in a ditch of theoretical weakness with the other romantics, and ever under the constraining eye of the University.

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  2. Brassier writes:

    “Now, it is undoubtedly true that there is a direct correlation between the proliferation of life-threatening viruses and the conditions of globalised capitalist society. It may also be true that dismantling the latter is the surest means of eradicating the former. And there is no doubt that the redistribution of antivirals on the basis of need rather than wealth is a more pressing political concern than speculating on their role in post-capitalist society. Nevertheless, the urgency of the former does not obviate the importance of the latter. The absolute or indeterminate negation of capitalist society and all its works would eradicate the pathologies generated by capitalism only at the cost of cancelling the emancipatory potentials latent in technologies whose functioning is currently subordinated to capital. The abstract negation of functional context is also the negation of emancipatory possibilities whose release depends upon the re-contextualisation of function. Such abstraction in-determines instead of determining the fusion of cognitive and practical orientation required for the realisation of communism. It abolishes the capitalist present at the cost of cancelling the post-capitalist future locked up within it. Foreclosing the future, blinkered negation cannot but wish to re-instate the past. It becomes the longing for a previous state of things: ‘If only we hadn’t domesticated animals and started down the road to industrialised agriculture; if only we didn’t live in a massively interconnected global society…’ And ultimately: ‘If only capitalism hadn’t happened.’”

    He here states his practical approach to the world’s problems – “the redistribution of antivirals on the basis of need rather than wealth is a more pressing political concern than…” He has, if not a solution to problems, an agenda for the implementation of short term political goals. Optimism and hope-ism. It is the meat in the sandwich of university discourse. How could it be otherwise?

    He then, in the last lines attacks the whiners who bemoan the arrival of capitalism. I don’t know if there really are people who argue for a return to a ‘pre-civilised’ way of living. If these people do exist then they have not read, or read properly, La Boetie, Clastres, or Gauchet. If one read about how ‘primitive societies’ became civilised or were forced to enter capitalism, then one would definitely bemoan the arrival of civilisation and capitalism. In the end, if forced into a choice, I would prefer to spend my time with a person who ruminates on the disappearance of the human community and offers no solutions than with a person who uses all their commoditised and capitalised persona in an effort to sell me the idea that I must not ‘foreclose the future.’

    Where does this faith in the future originate? That is, who is Ray Brassier? How has he been made exactly? In simpler, more detective-like terms: Who is he and what is he working for?

    And we mustn’t get romantically smitten by new words for old ideas. Brassier’s ‘repurposing’ is just the old reactionary impulse of revolutionary theory which invariably re-constitutes work as the basis of the socialist/communist utopia. No matter how much he weakly refers to his presumed ’emancipatory potentials latent in technologies.’

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  3. This, from way back in 2007:

    ‘Capitalist ideology asserts that human beings make themselves and make their own history; change becomes natural and inherent, unremarkable. Change is thus changed, and transformed into stasis. The circumstance of ferment and innovation in society congeals into a moment of ceaseless transformation, movement fetishised as the ruling principle of society.

    ‘Capital asserts that everything is malleable and human beings more than anything else. Its operation, its functioning, proves that there is no human nature – its proof for this is the capacity, at the level of markets, for humans to modify themselves and be what they choose to be. From Marx’s thesis on Feuerbach onwards revolutionary theory has derived positivity from capital’s revolutionising displacement of static essence from human existence.

    ‘Ideological progressivism, or optimism, understands technological innovation and political reform as the objective, if alienated, expression of human need. Progressivism argues for the redeployment of technology away from pursuit of profit and towards serving the interest of human society. The idea of transfer of use assumes that the use-values inherent to technologies developed under capitalist dominion are accessible, if political and economic power is also transferred, to human society for-itself. By implication this position assumes that capitalism is a malign, but otherwise necessary, stage in the development of supplying to human needs. The progressivist critique of capitalism is one of obsolescence – from its perspective, capitalism, as the force of displacement, must in itself be displaced. Communist society, the displacement of human need from the periphery to the centre of society, is achieved through the imposition of communist distribution of existent technologies.

    ‘Unfortunately, this does not take into consideration the unswerving character of value. Value remains unchanged even as it imposes malleability onto the objects of its traffic. Use-value liberated from profit does not become a synonym of communism as it is itself a derivative of the capitalist social relation. The institution of use-value at the centre of society would preserve the antagonistic and alienated form of capitalist production – no matter who was managing it – and thus would negate communist society.

    ‘Use-value is not the manifestation of objective human need under alienating conditions; it is in fact only a vehicle of value itself, a temporary and secondary product of alienated labour, which must be constituted by capital’s domination over production. In other words, after the brief liberation of use-value through worker’s control of industry, the inherent, objective, social relation congealed within the factories would inevitably reassert itself and commence (after the joyful interregnum) a reversion to production of value, and thus a continuance, for the majority, of the condition of alienated labour.

    ‘The tragedy of the return to production for profit under worker’s control is that the worker’s government undertakes it as a temporary necessity – that is, as the means for protecting use-value. For worker’s councils use-value is itself an ideological commodity. Thus the movement for worker’s control is contained within the parameters set by the capitalist social relation; thus, continuing production becomes the left wing of capital. This means that worker’s control reproduces the capitalist social relation within the very conditions that seem most manifestly hostile to capitalism.’ [‘Species Being’, Frere Dupont, 2007, p60-63]

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  4. In short, when it is suggested, quite un-historically, that ‘the value form’ (commoditisation of everything) is not the worst thing that has happened to the human being…

    “History suggests that there are things worse than the value form. A suitably abstract conception of function will allow for its transplantation, and where necessary, repurposing, across social contexts. It goes without saying that this should only be envisaged as a consequence of overcoming the capital relation, not a substitute for this overcoming. More generally, determination is not constitution. We have to find a way to articulate theoretical and social abstraction that does not involve the complete or indiscriminate relinquishment of the achievements of capitalist modernity en bloc.”

    …I cannot prevent a morsel of vomit heaving into my mouth.

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  5. Pillicock sat on Pillicock-hill: Halloo, halloo, loo, loo! And thankee for thy bile. The problem of technocracy... and by this we do mean, heh, heh, solutionism led by means of objects, salves, poltices, and veritable relieving instruments... is that it inserts agency, ahem, inauthentically. It is as if it were possible to 'select' the objects of the world; it is as if some consciousness could separate this 'antiviral' from that nuclear bomb. But by definition, accelerationism assumes the overcoming of agency by the self-determining logic of machines. It seems, like love and marriage, you can't have one without the other.

    See this quote by the endnotes clan:

    'In the course of struggles just as in any possible post-capitalist world, we will inevitably have to judge each specific technology by its “affordances”: will it help or not? What unintended side-effects might it have? How might it contribute to the shape of our actions? Will it be harmful or not? How will it change how other things work? Does it make any sense in the absence of specifically capitalist social forms? Is it a straightforward obstruction?'

    Whilst they are not accelerationists they present the problem of technocracy writ small, there is no subject sufficiently empowered to 'judge each technology by its affordances'. On the contrary, it is the generalisd productive forces which select the the capacity of the social agent - such is the inheritance of history.

    To select one product is to select the entirety of the system (such is the compound nature of the factory produced object)... and if there is to be products then there must be production and if there is to be production then there must be factories and if there is to be factories then there must be workers and if there is to be workers then there must be abstract labour and if there is to be the weight of ages then there must be domination by class. Oh, for the sake of a nail the kingdom was lost.

    Still through the hawthorn blows the cold wind; Says suum, mun, ha, no, nonny.
    Dolphin my boy, my boy, sessa! let him trot by.

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