Thursday, 29 January 2015

Tinned chunks [...] (Part 9)

‘Two white harts are before us: Gemeinschaft/Gemeinwesen and Gesellschaft. Our deep desire is to live in Gemeinschaft/Gemeinwesen because we understand how Gesellschaft produces, to reverse Hobbes, a war of each against all. This desire is reasonable, of course. But the project of its implementation has led to misery and murder and, even more shockingly, as you note and as evidenced by the whimsies of the ultra-left and the rest of the far left and anarchist cohort, the strengthening of the superstructure of alienated and alienating Gesellschaft. The problem might be that the human community is a myth both in its possible form as an originary grouping of human beings, and as a projected communism. This possible myth was perhaps formulated, subconsciously of course, as one of the pillars of deceit that - maybe deceit is too strong a word? - prop up the shaky Enlightenment we seem to have inherited. But we do know, or should know, that to ask for people to form a human community because that seems a good way to live is too much to ask. Engels, following Morgan and the notes of Marx, suggests in The Origin of the Family that human beings once organised their daily lives so that motherhood was shared, not only to alleviate the burden on a single ‘biological’ mother, but also to incorporate the child into the group as a child of the group. Two, or three, or more fathers are better than one; two or three or more mothers are better than one. He also describes the political conventions which guaranteed matriliny, matrilineal descent, the mother-right, partible paternity. Upstartism, the swagger of one who wants to lord it over the rest, in such a community was quickly diffused. We can see how upstartism is handled within egalitarian bands and tribes to this day, and this is either a direct expression of a matrilineal organisation, or a relic of it. Engels called the switch from matriliny to patriliny: ‘this revolution – one of the most decisive ever experienced by humanity’. The base cause of all the consciousness of what is against us emanates, as Marx and Engels always implied, from the family in its modern form, it comes from the domination of women, which is enacted by prohibiting collective maternal control of childcare. Full maternal control of childcare necessarily conditioned the whole political structure of the group. Marx saw the complete suppression of private property as the route which would return man ‘from religion, the family, the state, etc., to his human, i.e. social existence’. Note that he says, the family, by which he means our modern conception and institution of the family. But this social existence is perhaps predicated more upon a conscious political form which enabled easy living and prevented domination and division, than the conscious suppression of private property. Thus the hart we seek might only be visible askance, as your tactic demands - neither in the phantom of a for-itself-community nor in the negative of the alienated society - though both must remain within our field of view.’

Dear DD,

Thank you for your brilliant comments, and may I say, I doff my dunce's cap at your practical and theoretical study of the field. Or rather, speaking as a gadfly, a dilettante, a johnny-come-lately, I find myself blundering about within that most interminable of questions, who is it that should speak on these matters at this juncture?

Whatever the object, whether it is the possibility of community or the potentiality of a revolutionary subject, the same decompositional process is set in motion whenever is commenced, as we are compelled to do, the questioning of the framing of the question at hand.

One of the problems inherent to investigations into any statement or set of statements, beyond possible concerns for their empirical basis or theoretical coherence, is how to assess the adequacy of the voice within which the statement is uttered. 

And so it was that one of the obstacles encountered in the reception of dupontism (if I may call it that) was that it played with the 'grammar' or 'logic' peculiar to the milieu in which it appeared - by referring to the problem of the framing of certain established questions, it brought itself immediately into question. It brought the roof down on its own head whilst wishing only to examine the foundations. 

Its purpose in examining the foundations of certain statements, I suppose you could say, was to develop strategies by which it might find out what would happen, and what it would be like, if it was to speak 'without authority'. A certain K. of wonderful Copenhagen set himself the same task in a different register (I distinguish the Danish K. from the resident of Prague here.)

"without authority" to make aware of the religious, the essentially Christian, is the category for my whole work as an author regarded as a totality. From the very beginning I have enjoined and repeated unchanged that I was "without authority." I regard myself rather as a reader of the books, not as the author.
The distinction between being 'without authority' and the revolutionary milieu's mission of prefiguration and/or cadre building cannot be more stark. As you say, 'we do know, or should know, that to ask for people to form a human community because that seems a good way to live is too much to ask.' And yet, the milieu is nothing but the authorisation for asking others to live according to the principles which legitimise the milieu's authority. 

Its logic of critique goes something like: i. statements must have authority to activate their validity; ii. the statements before us do not have adequate authority; iii. then, they must be supplanted by statements which have authority; iv. 'my' statements have sufficient cited authorities; v. therefore, my statements have validity and must stand as the statements until their validity is appropriately challenged.

The logic exhibited above appears methodologically plausible. And it is consistent with a certain W. (late of Vienna and Cambridge) who argues that if you are choosing wallpaper for the parlour, it is not appropriate at that moment to bring in the question of the materiality of the walls to which the paper should be affixed. 

However, there is a positive feedback effect in the citation of referenced authority wherein later statements generated by a current controversy suffer from a surfeit of authorisation and this overlays, to the point of obscuring, earlier postulates which have little or no rigour. We can all too easily imagine how 'earlier' propositions are deliberately ignored by a determined and all-consuming focus on the 'later' arguments directed at achieving goals. 

Certainly, Stalinism uses this method by referencing the authority of Lenin (which functions not only to establish a precedent but also recursively induces all possible legitimate statements that might appear within the field to reference Lenin).

Thus, later arguments around, for example, 'value form critique' are authorisation-heavy whilst earlier statements addressing the function of such discussions pass unexamined. Similarly, later controversies around the proper mode of revolutionary organisation for the masse ignores the earlier problem of the masses' disinterest in being organised.

Thus dupontist statements were received as categorically inappropriate because they reintroduced 'earlier' problems into later controversies. The dupontist logic, which I will list below, seems to insert redundant considerations into practical activities which had the intended effect of interrupting them - or that is the accusation that was made. 

That is to say, dupontism made things up against authority in a context defined entirely by making things up through the use of authority. However, the decisive factor was not its anti-authoritarianism but dupontism was effectively excluded from the milieu's discussions for querying what it took to be the attenuated framing of the milieu's 'later' statements. It is not possible to talk to those who cannot accept those constants upon which this discussion is predicated. 

Statements on the unknown are permitted within context as long as such statements do not question the integrity of the context itself. 

A certain M., of the lower Rhine and then of London, anticipated W.'s 'language game' with regard to permissible and verboten inferential/hypothesising statements. He concluded along those lines that, 'men do not make history as they please.' For M., in accord with W., change is dependent upon certain previously established invariables which condition the possibility and character of change. For the earthy M., the 'invariable' functioned metaphorically as a womb. For the more squeamish W., historical conditions behave like hinges

That is to say, the questions that we raise and our doubts depend on the fact that some propositions are exempt from doubt, are as it were like hinges on which those turn. 
But W., perhaps an inveterate dupontist, has already anticipated a further categorical problem, one cannot simply take such hinges on trust. That is to say, these hinges behave more like brackets and fix present utterances within precedent. There must be another relation (beyond trust) to the hinges, to the enabling mechanism, of how certain questions appear. It is certainly not sufficient to simply allow their continued functioning.

The door has swung open and a voice issues out. Who is it that ought to speak on these matters at this juncture - which voice is adequate to the hinge that enables it? Ah, but the voice is always the wrong voice. The door opens and some inarticulate and incomprehensible utterance emerges from an obscure interior. 

Thus, the early, or originary statement, of an epoch is buried beneath a subsequent set of mutually conditioned discursive statements which cannot be traced back to the opening of that door. Authorisation (as in the 'return to Marx') seems to seek out a relation to an earlier authority but really only serves the purpose of autonomisation of certain projects. 'Tradition' retroactively weaponises the past for the purpose of closing down disputes. Dupontism wished only to make clear the groundlessness of grounded arguments, the authoritylessness of authoritative statements.

How is it possible in a context where the originary community or the condition of future communism functions, as you say, 'mythically' (as a set of unknown values on present statements) to gain access to the question of how these things should be talked about? It is here that we may examine the decompositional methodology of dupontist logic. 

Dupontism appears within a milieu generated by speculative assertions which are made to appear in the form of a grounded, and rational, inferential process. The proportion of 'unknown' values present but hidden within the statements which produce the milieu is so high that such statements are effectively indistinguishable from let's pretend (except that the pretence component is emphatically denied). 

However, dupontism did not propose that the high proportion of the unknowable was reason enough to entirely abandon the milieu's project. On the contrary, it suggested that the made up element of 'pro-revolutionary' theory should be recognised and extended to include the authorising  'hinges' or 'constants' from which inferential statements are drawn. 

Subsequent to an act of recognition or acceptance of groundlessness, the inferential process remains possible, albeit taking on an algebraic or magical form. However, the objects which appear within it are quite different in character to the positivist objects that are conventional within the certainties of revolutionary optimism. 

The objects arising from a decompositional methodology, pessimistic or negative objects, appear before us wherever a feedback loop of de-authorisation is activated. Where, in other logical spirals, authorised statements condition the appearance of what develops into the most authorised object and its attendant statements, de-authorisation refers to a process where statements are caused to mutually decondition the statements in which they are fixed in relation.

A certain Swiss K. (unrelated) visually represents the spiral of decompositional logic. The purpose of positivist spirals is to bind energy into statements, the goal of decompositional logic is energy dispersal from harmful forms. In the somewhat disturbing fable, A Weary Man's Utopia, a certain blind B. of Buenos Aires and Geneva, sets out the possibility of a politics of the plains ('No two mountain peaks are alike, but anywhere on earth the plains are one and the same') which situates energy loss as its core principle.

The narrator stumbles into a future world where the inhabitants are taught 'doubt and the art of forgetting.' The purpose of existence in this utopia is to let go - to this end printing has been abandoned as one of the worst evils, and history, statistics and chronology are also abandoned. The purpose of language in this utopia is to erase the personal and local in order to live sub specie aeternitatis. Its greatest controversy is whether the suicide of the entire population is preferable as a gradual process or simultaneous event. 

Clearly, this strongly contrasts with utopian visions which seek to socially bind energy use, and harness the accumulation of forces of production in the project of realising the consciously formulated goals of society. And whilst B.'s fable (with its final twist) would be, if taken seriously, both terrible and terrifying, it finds some resonance with the project of another certain B. (of Paris) who conceives the possibility of community as a process of regulating expenditure rather than in terms of binding productive relations and their use-values.

We can see, for example, how de-authorisation processes would chime with the matrilineal relations described by Engels where relationship plateaus of mutual care are maintained by a process of expelling/diffusing the energy concentrations represented by 'upstarts' - a hero (upstart) is the object and product of patrilineal statements that authorise private gains expropriated through acts of transgression against the community. It is the set of statements, the discursive domain, rather than the individual transgressor, which is problematic for the community. It is the discursive domain which structurally inhibits the 'diffusion' of upstarts.

You might be familiar with my relatively impoverished and ultimately unsuccessful dialogue where I attempt to imagine 'care' in the place of production as an organising principle. However, I am sceptical before Engels' motives (not having read the book), and about the empirical data he draws his inferences from, and about the sort of community that the term 'matriliny' might imply.

There is much to discuss about Engels' and M.'s take on the historical conditions of possibility - I would like to situate this discussion in M.'s proviso about 'the Russian Road'. However, my concern is that Engels, as a productivist and a historicist, introduces the theory of a fundamental 'early' revolutionary shift (from matrilineal community to patrilineal society) in order to legitimise the bourgeois concept of the malleability of man. If humanity could so radically shift from community to society, then communist revolution becomes much more plausible. It is, for me, a suspicious conditional hinge... to much of the 'then' depends upon that weak 'if'.

As to the problem of 'the family'. Speaking as something of an 'upstart' I feel strongly ambivalent about the non-differentiation of individuals implied by gemeinwesen. The problem with group rearing of children is that it acts as a selective (and more importantly de-selective) mechanism by which the different are weeded out. 

It seems to me that in matrilineal societies, the mother function (the function through which the individual appears) is repressed. It also seems to me that under certain stressful circumstances, individualised mothering of children is necessary. 

The weak and the different need their own mother to argue for their place in circumstances where otherwise they would  be viewed as a threat to the community.  Even discussing this, we see how matrilineal community would select against natural selection (normalised group members preferred over individual mutants). But that is just a way of demonstrating that if one makes an argument, a hinge that enables one way, it is also the argument against other ways. Who are we to make those arguments?

Is that the time? What a chatterbox I am. I hope I have not succeeded in merely communicating a barbaric version of deconstruction - which just now occurs to me. 

It seems sometimes that this state of not knowing, and of being compelled to speak on what one does not know, is more difficult than we might have imagined - how easy it is to be certain. How easy to cite the authorities and move on into practicality.

Harts or hares, I warmly shake your hand.

(after all these years)

1 comment:

  1. The use of Marx and Engels was intended to undermine some of the pomp of anthropology, to destabilise, not return, but it may have appeared that way, there are gaps and errors in that piece what I wrote, and no one should do anything more than butter their afternoon scones with it. Of course, we all know about the dialectical method and the historical narrative provided by Marx, we live it daily, and utter it incessantly, in our offices in Human Resources, in our university tutorials, our canteens, in the reformism riven through our thinking about Capitalist Realism, and in our political sects: ‘The question of revolution is nonetheless still posed — abstractly, speculatively, but necessarily so — by the contradictory character of the central relation on which society pivots. And this question can only begin to approach concretion in struggles themselves’ (’.

    Engels, in ‘Origin of the Family’, says: ‘The power of this primitive community had to be broken, and it was broken. But it was broken by influences which from the very start appear as a degradation’. Notice that he says: ‘had’ and ‘appear’.

    He derives this notion specifically from Capital Vol 1:
    ‘Those ancient social organisms of production are much more simple and transparent than those of bourgeois society. But they are founded either on the immaturity of man as an individual, when he has not yet torn himself loose from the umbilical cord of his natural species-connection with other men, or on direct relations of dominance and servitude. They are conditioned by a low stage of development of the productive powers of labour and correspondingly limited relations between men within the process of creating and reproducing their material life, hence also limited relations between man and nature. These real limitations are reflected in the ancient worship of nature, and in other elements of tribal religion. The religious reflections of the real world can, in any case, vanish only when the practical relations of everyday life between man and man, and man and nature, generally present themselves to him in a transparent and rational form. The veil is not removed from the countenance of the social life-process, i.e. the process of material production, until it becomes production by freely associated men, and stands under their conscious and planned control. This, however, requires that society possess a material foundation, or a series of material conditions of existence, which in their turn are the natural and spontaneous product of a long and tormented historical development.’

    You have thrown a large and impossible map down on the floor between us all. It has one deeply oppositional proposition written into its fibres: we are not going to war. This map is generating its own directions, its own hillocks, vales and rocky distances, swamps and towns. The imaginary terrain is old, but newer than the future, it is beyond Camatte and beyond communism, both of which are relics of thought formed at the birth of industrial capitalism and global empire. Such pronouncements as this are always absurd, but keep feeding me the map. One day, by the way, someone will be able to grandiosely declare from where our thought has emerged, as I have just done with Camatte and communism. As ever - somehow - despite the geographical distance and lack of communication we are always working on the same project at the same time. Like an ethereal Morecambe and Wise, neither Hinge nor Bracket… Yes, I concur, emptiness does not have to be filled.