Saturday, 7 March 2015

That's neat. That's neat. That's neat.

I have decided to draw a line under this project and finish it. In the next few weeks, there will be one further addition to my oeuvre. Its content will not be a culmination, a summation nor a valediction of what has gone before - it will simply be more of the same, but the last of it. 

In assessment of my contribution, I infer that I have succeeded in my first goal of losing what may be termed a political readership. However, I have also failed in my second goal of convincing others that they might find anti-politics adequately diverting. 

Simply, there has been insufficient interest in this project: there are no links to, no quotes from, and no discussion of, the heaped spaghetti tangle that has gone cold and congealed here.

11 comments:

  1. A discourse, as Michel Foucault indicated, is a wide series of ‘statements’ that form the broad rationale within specific fields, thus there is a ’clinical discourse, economic discourse, the discourse of natural history, psychiatric discourse’. I think that all our current discourses are tucked into bed by the civilizational discourse and the productivist discourse, which are, most probably, indistinguishable. Discourses are also, as Foucault continues, ‘from beginning to end, historical’ and ‘governed by rules which are not all given to [a participant’s] consciousness’. A participant in a discourse validates the discourse even when they think they are opposing the discourse itself. As we know, the truest opposition to a discourse would be silence, but perhaps even this would not be enough. Oppositions to discourses should be viewed in this way, although it is perhaps hard for anyone to ‘be deprived of that tender, consoling certainty of being able to change, if not the world, if not life, at least their ‘meaning’, simply with a fresh word that can only come from themselves’. To claim that my words and my life are not part of these discourses would be to say that I was out of history. And we are now caged in history.

    Even so, perhaps now is the time to gather these tiger feet texts together and give them some more cohesive and lasting form. Or at least carry on, as always, Vladimir and Estragon style. To say, ‘What does it matter?’ is not a wailing of defeat, but a lightening of the load and a freeing of the shoulders.

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    1. Calvino asks of Borges, how does a writer of such concision cram so much into works of a few pages. The answer seems to be discursive framing. The setting of a set of relations and events within a frame within a frame within a frame seems to telescope the dimensions of the space in which the events take place - the recursive framing seems to 'do the work' which otherwise would require prolix exposition.

      If it is to be inferred that 'concision of exposition' is amplified by discursive structuring, then it may also hold true for the problem of determination and containment by discourse. Might we not infer that by setting a discursive frame, within a frame, within a frame that some magical dissociative effect results? It is possible that de Certeau is of interest here (the wikipedia article does him no favours but this Guardian article does propose just such a 'slippage' (evidently, I have a problem with the idea of 'resistance' but even so:

      The Practice of Everyday Life is ultimately, just like Tristes Tropiques, a meditation about writing – not only the meta-writing of the scriptural system of control, but also, as a form of opposition-from-within, an errant counter-writing that is born of traditional writing’s own collapse. To put it another way: it is a meditation about writing in the wake of its own death. As early as the dedication page, De Certeau describes “the straying of writing outside of its own place … the metaphor and drift of the doubt which haunts writing, the phantom of its ‘vanity’ … the relation that writing entertains with all people, with the loss of its exemption, and with its death”. Towards the end he picks up this sentiment again, claiming: “To write [this book], then, is to be forced to march through enemy territory, in the very area where loss prevails, beyond the protected domain that had been delimited by the act of localising death elsewhere. It is to produce sentences with the lexicon of the mortal, in proximity to and even within the space of death.” And, so as to leave us in no doubt as to the inspiration for this march through enemy territory, the flag under which it advances, he adds: “Since Mallarmé, scriptural experience has deployed itself in the relation between the act of moving forward and the death-dealing soil on which its wandering leaves its track. In this respect, the writer is also a dying man who is trying to speak. But in the death that his footsteps inscribe on a black (and not blank) page, he knows and he can express the desire that expects from the other the marvellous and ephemeral excess of surviving through an attention that it alters.”

      http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/mar/07/tom-mccarthy-death-writing-james-joyce-working-google

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  2. The Michael Gambon character in The Singing Detective had a confusing childhood and he wanted to understand everything, so his mantra became, ‘I’ll find out’. What he ultimately found out, it seemed to me, was that things weren’t so much against him: it was he himself who made his life more difficult than it needed to be, which is perhaps also K of Prague’s message. In the end it was as if he let things go, and so became cured of his nervous skin complaint (his skin was very nervous). I don’t know if this was the intended message of the writer, Dennis Potter, or not, and I don’t really care, as I like the message I read out of it. It seems to me that the task of a scholar or academic is also to ‘find out’. Everywhere, I read the answer to this, the solution to that. But on closer examination, these answers and solutions seem flimsy, as if they have misused Occam’s Razor to cut out all the parts of thought which might disturb the flow of the sentence or paragraph. But maybe Occam’s Razor never clarified anything anyway, maybe everything should always be left in. Maybe these scholars and academics are forever moving across the threshold between tactics and strategy, from the tribal zone to the State. As we have noted before, to write just one thing with honesty means to write absolutely everything until one reaches the point at which one must acknowledge ones failure to make the intended point, or any point at all. Such a task is, of course, impossible in the real world even if it makes mathematical sense, like being able to work out the number of creases in a piece of paper if one could fold that piece of paper in half twenty times. The idea of the writer as a dying man is appealing and romantic, but maybe the truest, least duplicitous, writer is not so much dying as in growing realization of the necessity of their own extinction, and the destruction of all of their works. But one must keep such thoughts to oneself. Then again, if a writer does not care about the reception of their work then they will not be afraid. Yes but, no but. I like big buts, though I often lie.

    Maybe this image of writers who make an effort is too kind. In Tristes Tropiques Levi-Strauss writes: ‘If my hypothesis is correct, the primary function of writing, as a means of communication, is to facilitate the enslavement of other human beings. The use of writing for disinterested ends, and with a view to satisfactions of the mind in the fields either of science or the arts, is a secondary result of its invention – and may even be no more than a way of reinforcing, justifying, or dissimulating its primary function’.

    Why else would anyone write but to try to beat down the reader, alter their attention for some agenda (which they may even be unconscious of), or to elevate their own status? Learning is a genuine process, but teaching is at best a foolish dream. Teaching is misrecognition of mechanisms of control. But this is all old news. And I don’t know.

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  3. I seem to work on the simple madman's model of what writing is, i.e. the metabolisation of psychic perturbation into a 'record'. Perhaps writing is a sort of inflicting on the self, by which temporary events are permanently stored.

    I have no reader but you, therefore it is redundant to try to imagine the worldly effects of my writing. As a consequence, I do not think in terms of 'convincing' and 'conquering' by argument so much as inscribing upon the world the effect that waves of convincing and conquering have had upon me.

    I also do not particularly write for you, but rather the writing occurs before you (however, this is not its only constraint, there are other factors and imperatives but these are unclear). I do not think this much alters the content but it may.

    The social aspect of writing is an interesting difficulty, in that we could easily correspond in private and that would be the 'same'. But of course, it is also not the same. An open correspondence contains other, perhaps 'productive', factors which are the same as those constraints which drive social media in general.

    My last Insipidities writing is going to be a sort of communist manifesto. The content will be not be different to everything else I have written, it will place equal emphasis on exhorting the reader to commit themselves and also to steer clear.

    You ask why would anyone write but to beat the reader down? The question might also be reversed, why would anyone read what the writer has written? Because, I would think, that within the general system of enslavement, reading is a liberation (where liberation is understood as a weightless or delusional condition).

    Calvino answers the same question differently, he says where there is a choice of reading or not reading, it is always better to have read, than not to have read. Where the choice of reading or not reading appears before us, the event of our enslavement is already behind us, written into us, and our reading is the perfected form of our inhabitation of this world - the best we can hope for. Upon reflection, it is better to be the reader looking for a way out than the writer seeking to keep the world witihn the text.

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  4. Indeed, reading your texts over the last four years has been useful and illuminating, a pleasure I will miss. Better that you do the hard work of keeping the world within your writing than that I am to forsake the exponentiality in thought offered by your sentences. All pleasing writing, it seems, offers not a closed solution, but a vista of possibility or, rather, impossibility, one that goes deeper down as well as toward the horizon.

    I like de Certeau’s inclination toward the controlling nature of writing, but he balances this with the reminder that we shouldn’t take people for fools. I also like his notion of reading as poaching. ‘To read is to wander through an imposed system (that of the text, analogous to the constructed order of a city or a supermarket)’. And, ‘By its very nature, available to a plural reading, the text becomes a cultural weapon, a private hunting reserve, the pretext for a law that legitimizes as ‘literal’ the interpretation given by socially authorized professionals and intellectuals’. Oh, how we may yet be hoist by our own petard, if only people would read us!

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  5. 1/6
    Just as Judas is interpreted as a constituent 'bad man' working under the auspices of a good purpose, or as someone doing something wrong in order to complete the mechanism of something right, so De Certeau affirms the possibility of good people appearing within, and positively working for, a malign project (he was, as I understand it a Jesuit priest). The message we might take away from the little we know about him would be something equivalent to the dictum, 'what holds true for the individual does not necessarily hold for the species.' He points us in the direction of a categorical or scaled separation between individual and species optimality.

    Ah, to muse upon the thought that there must be a door of no leading into the house of yes. To consider that a frog of revolt rests upon the lily pad of conformity (or vice versa). To discern the information transmitted by a single ear of wheat hidden in a monocultural field of noise. To infer that a bee of decisiveness is sipping the nectar of passivity.

    Well, anyway, Glaberman's example of the vastly unexpected number of strike days occurring in a context of WW2 no-strike agreements was instructive, or rather fundamental, to the formation of our project. The distinction to be made, or the lesson that we once drew, was that an objective process of class struggle persisted even in circumstances where the participants had explicitly agreed to renounce it - it seems, they were drawn on by their interest towards that which was against their own decisions.

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    1. 2/6
      Glaberman pointed to a disjunction between what ideologically 'should' happen with regard to the war effort, which strikers might (from their individual worldview) apply as a general rule, and the exception to that rule which they asserted in their own particular case. This separation of the categories of their worldview from those of their personal practice is a universal trait (perhaps it is a product of ideology, and also an indicator of the limit to the hold of ideology). We forgive ourselves what we condemn in others, and a similar vein, someone might express racist views in general terms but then not apply such views to those of other 'races' in their personal circle, to whom they respond on a 'individual' basis.

      Well, I wonder if you have ever thought how the opposite to what Glaberman found must also hold true. It had not really occurred to me before but just now, I was sprinkling some desiccated coconut on top of a sherry trifle, and I began to contemplate the imaginary aetiology of the workers' assembly form as it passes into ideology in the very moment of its committing to 'revolution' (i.e. where it comprehends itself as a revolutionary agent).

      That is to say, as soon as revolutionary involvement becomes an explicit project, something of the counter-revolution is immediately reactivated within its practices. We can speculate about why this might happen, but it is a simple fact of history that it does occur in all situations where such commitments are made... it is as if a 'declaration' (a form of writing) functions as the high water mark of revolutionary consciousness, and subsequent to the event of the declaration, the act of bringing to consciousness a latent purpose, there is only an ebbing away.

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    2. 3/6
      Which brings us back to the figure of Judas (as Flan O'Brien has him) O'Scariot, a putative saint ('a man of deciduous character inferentially') on the grounds of his preparedness to demonstrate his commitment to the cause by means of its betrayal. Without Judas, the Jesus project would have remained as one-dimensional as any other revolutionary endeavour - self-reduction to ideology by means of positive assertions of mere redemptive principles. The inclusion of betrayal within the realisation of such projects indicates a mode of 'escalation', as it foresees (prophesies) the necessity of an opposite to that which is otherwise stated. Jesus required Judas to supply, bring over, the other side of humanity which positive statements on love and all the rest could not articulate.

      By extension, we begin to discern the true nature of 'internationalism' and 'revolutionary defeatism' which function according to the Judas Principle, where individual acts of betrayal, perfidy, treachery are the means by which established institutions of solidarity and community are revealed as mechanisms of exploitation. What is 'internationalism' but the breaking of the proletariat's soldierly allegiance to national capital by means of a mutual and reciprocated identification with the cause of the enemy's soldiers? And revolutionary defeatism is nothing but the disclosure of a common interest shared amongst the class strata of competing forces. Only traitors may truly act against their conditions - this is the real meaning of Chtcheglov's, 'Sire I am from another country.'

      For that reason, or some other, I have always felt empathy for individuals who become strike-breakers and scabs... it is through the agency of these semi-numinous figures who, in their betrayal of mere trade union solidarity, extend possible and permissible modes of human existence, and open the path to the escalation of class struggle which the trade union seeks to contain within pre-established confines. It is through the agency of the individual strike-breaker that class struggle is presented with its transcendent dimension. The question is thereby set, what next?

      Bitterness and hatred are poorly chosen methods of enforcing a strike - and anyway, the project of enforcing strikes by violence against individual workers is counter to communist principles; it is a regressive attempt to self-manage class categories. The qualification, 'individual' is important here, where large numbers of blackleg thugs are being bussed-in to break a strike and attack strikers, it is an entirely different situation. However, the individual strike breaker of conscience is a human being like all others, he should not, and cannot, be excluded from the community. Those striking must instead seek to re-contain his agency within their relations. They must expand the dimensions of the strike in order that the difference of priorities which the scab expresses, are subsequently included within (shall we say) 'communising measures'.

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  6. 4/6
    In other words, the bitterness and hatred strikers feel for strike breakers is an externalisation of their own failure to include everyone within their so-called 'solidarity'. Where some are able, and are therefore historically compelled, to betray the cause (on the principle that everything that can be done, must be done), the cause itself must be altered to include them in a set of relations where such betrayals become non-critical. In a strike situation, the strike-breaker must be included in the community by the seizure and/or decommissioning of the workplace.

    The dimensions of the strike have to be transformed in the presence of the Shane-like figure who refuses solidarity. Effectively, the terrain of struggle must be transformed so that he has nowhere to return to work to. The fault for the failure in a strike does not lie with the strike-breaker, if it can be said to lie anywhere, but with the strikers who have not extended the struggle to the point of abolishing their place of work. This is the lesson of Judas O'Scariott.

    There is, of course, the other more often taken path to escalation (i.e. the military path which seeks to reinforce the same relations), along which the logic of exclusion is taken to its conclusion and the scabs are put to death. I am not particularly 'opposed' to this, it is also 'what happens', (only fools would not go along with force where to refuse is fatal) but it is fundamentally not a 'communising' measure.

    The logic of military escalation (knee-cappings and other summary acts of 'justice') leads to an attenuation in the amplitude of the potential for human community. Wherever the potential for 'betrayal' (i.e. the significant self-assertion of social differentiation) is eradicated by terror, the community is reduced to nothing but pious statements of solidarity - only one type of human can survive under such circumstances and it is not the best of us.

    In other words, the great surge towards revolution paradoxically runs the risk of instituting stupid conformity on a mass scale and thereby eradicating dissent (the essence of what is intelligent). This brings us to the question of the principles that I am arguing 'for'. Sometimes, young people ask me what 'communism' means. On this question, I have lately become more coy than Doris Day, and have spoken (before their rapidly glazing visages) of the impossibility of making positive statements concerning what it is.

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    1. 5/6
      Being aware of the frog and the lily pad, I tell them that we can only know what communism is not. We can only make a succession of arguments on what we are against on communist terms. But even our (shall we say) positively negative statements are also false - to say we are against X is to deny it its full presence in our own formation. The argument against is perhaps necessary, but it is also false and trivialising of the complex of conditioning that has caused our emotive (and ultimately incomprehensible to ourselves) reactions.

      There is communism to be found in revolt perhaps, in those fashionably masked and internet amplified young americans of 'Bay Area' but communism is not more present in them than in other figures, events or relations. And perhaps it is less present in those who reduce the human community to a label that they are 'for'. How can anyone be 'for', how can anyone fight 'for', the human community in its fullest amplitude (which necessarily includes the instructive formations that we think we are 'against'). We should always ask ourselves the question: what are militants allowing of present relations within their arguments (which permits the formulation of their opposition to 'capitalism')? We know that mostly what they allow, what they give second life to, is the instrumentalising logic of force.

      To young people, in response to their queries I usually reply that communism is X, I say it is god, I say it is nothing, I say it is impossible. I say communism is being for what you are otherwise against. I know, for example, that you old friend are against being for being interested in communism... and as a consequence, I look for communism in what you say - that makes it an alchemic substance, not that philosopher's stone perhaps, but another one.

      Communism becomes a framework for setting other frameworks by which other questions may be set. I guess that is a 'Catholic' approach, the multiplication of sceneries, it is the means by which characters like Flann O'Brien and Michael De Certeau approach questions such as 'Judas' or 'tactics versus strategy'. It is the means by which other things become clear, even as it (communism) becomes less distinct. But then, a true social relationship must disappear into the background if it is to really to perform as a social relation. Too often, in radical thought there occurs a category bleed between (to borrow a biological distinction) function and structure - it would be inappropriate to look for 'communism' as the functioning of everyday life when really it operates as a structuring of it.

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    2. 6/6
      I do not think this is cheating, but now I think I can also make a few positive statements about the 'movement' of communism which I hope you find suitably vague (and fine). I list these below:

      I think it is likely that communism will be an anti-climactic event. I think it would rely upon an increasingly conscious 'undercoming' of the domination of human intercourse by the automated processes of social production.
      I think it is necessary that the space of the factory process must be occupied by the 'proletariat' (where occupied is also understood as an exodus) but that the factory system cannot be 'sublated'.
      If relinquishment is the opposite of expropriation, then I think that those who seize control (which is also a letting go) of the productive process, do so in order to 'let the air out of' it. The dictatorship of the proletariat is a controlled decommissioning of the work process and the ever-so careful subluxation of the joints of production.
      Communism, the first stages of it, would displace production from its central position in social relations. It would repress power and realise 'something else' of the social (not necessarily in the same place).
      The opposite of 'sublation', if that is the basis of the movement of communism, would suppose a therapeutic distancing from the materialised networks of capitalised social relations rather than a 'redirecting' of the power that is channelled through them.
      Capitalism is nothing but the momentum of domination contained within its infrastructure, 're-humanisation' then would indicate a stepping away and outside of that which is 'hurtling'.
      It is where workers relinquish work.
      Again, the movement is not towards a positive ends and means embrace of military escalation of social antagonism in a move towards 'revolutionary civil war' (social war) or any similar atrocity - there is already too much coiled force in the world.
      Instead it must involve the pitching of a base camp in a more expansively defined territory where other significant features are identified beyond those of political economy.
      I think this other mode of escalation (which is a radical de-escalation), this other form of overcoming (which is really an undercoming) is the true means for precipitating a community where divergence rather than solidarity, where the possibilities for disagreement rather than for agreement, are developed to their fullest extent as an organising principle.

      Plop, that leaping frog just missed the pond.

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