Thursday, 21 April 2016

Leaves fall in Spring (6)

Apprentice to the tolling. A ritual of reconciliation between two feuding brother-princes is mediated by the church. It culminates with a symbolic brotherly kiss on the mouth. That the ceremony does not celebrate a genuine reconciliation is revealed as the film cuts from the candle-lit kiss of affiliation to a murky ground level perspective showing the Grand Prince's foot pressing down upon the foot of his younger brother. The ceremony proceeds to the point where the officiating priest offers the crucifix to the younger brother; he is expected to kiss it as a sign of his submission; the crucifix represents his acceptance of his brother's dominion over him.

In psychoanalysis, the analyst notes how individual analysands are accepting of the unconscious as a general principle of social organisation but at the same time are resistant to it as an explanatory structure for their own personal behaviour. A prince kissing his brother whilst also standing on his foot is a succinct image for the latent/manifest structuring of fraternal ambivalence, but in disclosing the underhand as a category of social force, and thus a determinative factor of civil conventions, the analyst or film director must thereby step outside of historical process, ascribing to their own observations upon this mechanism an other determination. The psychoanalyst is structurally precluded from anything but a purely ceremonial acceptance of the unconscious driving its foot down upon analysis. If the analytic procedure uncovers the ressentiment driving relations of alliance, then the forces active in reproducing the procedures themselves are active in the sense of remaining not found. The ceremonial reconciliation that psychoanalysis stages with the unconscious is the first in an endless sequence of defences it deploys against revealing the forces that animate it.

A film made by a renowned charlatan alleging the cover up of health risks associated with childhood vaccination and scheduled to be shown at a film festival is withdrawn following pressure from a 'well oiled network of scientists'. That statistical evidence for the safety of vaccinations does not relieve the recirculation of anecdotally based anxieties only throws rationalists into raging perplexity. Those who persist in their ignorant suspicions even after the prescription of appropriate levels of reassurance are recategorised as a wilfully anti-social element that dangerously increases health risks for marginally viable groups.

A defining characteristic of secular rationalism is the naive assumption that every unit adequately expresses its own value. The critique of 'irrationality', of that which the Enlightenment takes to be in essence, the 'religious worldview', proceeds from the proposition that what it encounters as 'ignorance' is the product of a relative failure to enclose information. Religions are evaluated as rudimentary, information-poor, science. The Enlightenment project expands its dominion on the basis of increasing the overall quantity of strategically amenable information. Rationalist governance proceeds on the basis that a controversy will not only be settled within the controversy's own framing but that the driving force of each controversy also conforms to its manifest content: resistance to vaccination will be overcome through campaigns generated around statistics about vaccination; and resistance to the vaccination programme is resistance to 'vaccinations' as such rather than to 'programmes' as such.

Scientism fails to properly evaluate the longevity of pre-scientific social relations, and thus mistakes the role of science as that of relieving the world from the siege of ignorance when in practice its historical purpose has been to optimise the efficiency of productive forces and ideologically secure the monopoly form of ownership. Science intervenes in class struggle by eclipsing the question of ownership behind specialist technical discourses of process management. Every diagnostic mechanism is also itself opaque to diagnosis. Science tends towards the reproduction of monopoly's abstract form via its expulsion of other approaches to thinking on the basis of their functional inadequacy as sciences. Its automatic hostility to the autonomy of other forms, its failure to recognise the motivation of this hostility, both reproduces 'knowledge' within the already given constraints of property relations, and thus attenuates consciousness to its narrowest conformity to instrumentalising abstraction.

Those at risk of complication from vaccination can be predicted statistically, but not individually - within the statistics they are always negligible but for the afflicted individuals, 'complication' is as significant as it is for those who have caught measles or diphtheria. Proportional risk does not appear in the story of Job, whilst the plight of afflicted individuals is misrepresented within statistical outcomes as a matter of minimising probability. It takes the pseudo-scientific findings and category errors of a charlatan to reveal the otherwise invisible field of domination animating the ideology of scientism. The general contribution of ignorance relating to the anti-vaccination controversy is the expansion of the narrow definition of 'herd immunity' to include the natural antibody of resistance to technological rationality. At the individual scale, anecdote must vanquish numbers.

Where the Enlightenment project seeks to realise power and knowledge as a single-form apparatus of transparent universality, the long life of pre-scientific cultures in general emerges from the incommensurability between the productive mode and the multiple worldviews it supports. Pre-scientific health taken as a whole is inseparable from the vulnerability (and autonomy) of its discrete components - its healthy reproduction as a world depends upon the failure to realise its parts as the perfected state form, thus retaining a lizard-like capacity for self-severing damaged extremities. Health before science is the unplanned and endless generation of error; the life-world of proliferating error is also its inadvertent health. The cultural overlap of multiple orders of error, their qualitative self-separation on the basis of spurious 'tribal' differences, is productive of an unintended resilience to single order catastrophes, and specifically to the catastrophe of colonising abstraction. That which appears in the age of science as a discrepancy, as 'ignorance', objectively quantifies the social residue which refuses enlightenment as the realisation of technologically based domination

Science is the categorical refutation of earlier forms, its process of relentless displacement forecloses on any amnesty for the subject. Structured bias towards the 'best information presently available' retroactivately voids past 'error' from the world without conserving its truth content. The seeming revolutionising bias towards innovation driven by the profit imperative obscures the eternalisation of social relations - there is always further invention, but it is always of the same order.  The commodity endlessly elaborates connections between its components but only within the parameters set by productive relations. Science, as the technical knowhow of reproduction, appears within the ideological bypass of social memory, and cuts ever shorter paths to processive immanence. Abstract compatibility of all exchangeable things facilitates both the reduction of consciousness to the accumulated mass of utilisable information and integrates 'findings' as units of decision within the inevitable extension of strategic command chains.

Where negation of the previous moment is a a precondition of the next cycle of realisation, the qualitative uniformity of scientific outcomes, not knowledge but that which appears in the exchange relation as the dislocation of knowledge, exults in everything of the world that is not already consigned to the past. And the rate at which the past is suppressed by new findings continues to accelerate as the necessity to separate currency from its conditions becomes ever more pressing. It is a crisis in which temporarily securing the value system's next moment, and completing its cycle of realisation against the accumulating weight of obsolescence, also drives the immediate conversion of data into policy. Only the quantitive flow of realisation now signifies. Only the most abstracted of objects, in  conformity with the most predictable of patterns, are realised concretely. The crisis of containing technical innovation within the signification system (a crisis of discerning and attaching use-value to data accumulation) inverts the association of the living with the present, and the past with the dead; the possibility of a living subjectivity is supplanted by mere galvanised cognition. The ferment of novel discoveries by which the present is driven to exceed itself becomes the febrile representation of a representations of change. All permissible things flicker briefly as avatars of the same eternalised substance.

Where communism is the therapeutic return of every moment of human community to itself, science appears within the community of capital as the self-alienation of consciousness from its conditions. Whilst science is comfortable rehearsing its disdain for 'fairies at the bottom of the garden', the only terms by which it acknowledges non-scientific systems, it is structurally inhibited from questioning the nature of its own appearance in the world - science cannot tell why it finds that its object fits so perfectly in its own hand. Critique of the commensurability of the scientific paradigm will not be undertaken within the paradigm. But the failure to grasp domination as an object of critical study is not entirely the result of general relations exceeding the capacity of departmental specialisation. The scientific approach also reproduces basic manoeuvres of reduction and expropriation... It is not simply reflective of the constitutive violence of its world but actively integrates itself into the exploitative apparatus. Science does not operate, after Foucault, 'restively from a position exterior to political and economic power', but nor is it a 'mouthpiece' of established authority. It appears immanently within the application of technical solutions to relational conflict where such conflicts have been severed from their own history.

In Michael Haneke's film Amour, the old are shown to die amidst the remote apparatus of uncaring care. They are induced into somehow falling beneath the threshold of recognition of the totally administered world. The shift of focus within the exploitative apparatus from labour to life processes extracts wretched dependency from individuals and induces them to personally identify with the perpetual objectified flows processed by social institutions, thus severing them from their own mortality. Every hospital, school, municipal office is a factory: the same predicaments reproduced in a succession of bodies as the raw material for optimising life productivity. The public health advances that have resulted in improved rates of reproducing labour power are paid for in the wounds of domestication and absolute degradation. The old no longer know how to die.

National economies dependant upon extracting value from post-manufacture finishing processes  are consumed by the generalising fetish of potentiality. That which is fixed to a near future date for completion, film release, referendum, festival, shares sell-off, secures the flow of information to itself and makes itself real. Every event is reduced to the question of succession, and every moment is itself processed as a 'gateway' to the next. Becoming is the ur-ideology of the commodity fetish, vitalist dynamics withold deep environmental constraints whilst generating a perpetual frothing at the surface. Everything is at the point of coherence only for, in the moment of realisation, its achievement to be displaced. What is, is anticlimactic. Training for next season commences upon completion of the victory lap. Potentiality is a question compulsively re-set before the problematic of realisation which, being derived from credit dynamics, says I have had enough, what else can you show me?

Economic potentiality assumes a crisis of completion, and derives its urgency and monetary value, from playing on artificially orchestrated pressures of non-supply, non-realisation and incompletion as these perform the post-manufacturing role of scarcity. The crisis of the completion of the credit cycle, and its ideological derivatives, drives the logic of, and is variously realised as, 'box sets, 'click bait' and 'Twitter storms'  as much as newly rolled out computer systems, school and hospital targets, 'just in time' logistics and government 3P infrastructural investments. Potentiality is the narrative path by which credit is attached to realisation. There is always a crisis of completion, it raises prices, but that which is realised is always of the fugitive present. Achievement of measurable difference, the potential of a millimetre thinner screen, or seconds shaved from a journey, is the selling point by which further extensions of credit are secured. It is also the means by which the realisation itself is negated by the spectral potential that rises to succeed it.

The old and useless die badly because they are excluded from the processes by which social potentiality is captured, reconfigured, and abandoned by successive technical innovations. They suffer because they are stripped of potential. Amour's protagonists have no options. They are driven to extremity of action through the activation of a succession of double binds which structurally inhibit them from finding a peaceful way of their predicament. The state's optionless 'care pathway' functions like a conveyor belt removing waste material from the productive realm; those who no longer serve as carriers of labour power are radically reduced to bare life - those carried away to 'care homes' are kept alive long enough to have their savings directly expropriated on the same terms, under other conditions, that gold teeth were extracted post mortem. Haneke's characters cannot allow themselves to be incorporated into the care system and are forced to draw upon, in realising their own autonomy, other reserves of patience, and savagery.

The folk performers of Andre Rubelev, as late survivors of shamanic traditions, are arrested and brutalised by Cossacks, and denounced by priests as agents of the devil. All life is affliction. Unrelenting rain, cold, hunger, inscrutable tyranny, the merciless persecution of minorities, and the unpredictable incursions by vicious enemies all conspire to produce a state of generalised misery sustained across generations as if laid down in the rings of a poisonous tree. Art, which takes the name of what is not process,only emerges in pre-tsarist Russia as a miraculous suspension of the laws of domination and despair, as an unpredicted intervention of grace from outside that is received by dulled senses like the resonant tolling of a great invisible bell, or like the transition of the world from monochrome to colour. Suffering is expressed only as further brutalisation, it does not produce art. Suffering is illuminated by art, in the presentation of another world of other values, which in the act of its aesthetic realisation seeks to separate itself from the state of generalised degradation.

Centuries of accumulated affliction is not to be carried forward, as if from quantity into quality, into transcendence; there is no necessary sequence leading to eventual redemption, nor is there a secret to the manufacture of the apprentice's bell, its great resonance in the world is a property of its historical moment. But the afflicted soul, as a bearer of collateral energy, is opened to the imposition of an  other law, and if that law is sufficiently alien to the world then it might overturn it in a single gesture. In Haneke's film, the relation of suffering to art under bourgeois constraints is inverted. Art is the domain of eternal drudgery. The years pass, more concerts, exhibitions, shows are planned, realised and archived. His characters, as employees of the culture industry, make their living as art-workers. Their familiarity with cultural production as a means of fulfilling orders for set quantities of objects, to required specifications, for consumption by the media and cultural institutions, habituates them to the unceasing rhythm of the factory system. Art is a banality. Everyone living under commodity constraints is instructed in their own immortality as a corollary of the eternally frozen world. Familiarity with the domain of bourgeois artistic production has not prepared such characters for the approach of death, it has impoverished them. As for any factory worker, the promise of both immanence and transcendence is prefabricated, their  consumption already calculated. The art pathway, the transcendence pathway, the self-awareness pathway, are barely differentiated from the education pathway, the career pathway, the care pathway, the death pathway. Only in their recourse to a final state of barbarity do they effect some sort of flight into death, and re-establish a connection with primal aesthetics.

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