Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Nor yet good red herring: Autumn (2)

Navigator. Historical materialism refers to the process by which the progressive accumulation of productive forces transforms the content of world social relations. But accepting this is not to also allow that even the general characteristics of what follows a transformative event are predictable. Given sufficient information, we are able to broadly anticipate potential occurrences within closed systems as they metabolise perturbations (a hunter will know that a particular manoeuvre will separate weaker members from the main body of a herd) but no quantity of information is sufficient to predict the impact on a life-world following the extinction of one of its component species. Similarly, Marx's work on political economy may accurately describe certain processes within capitalism and how it will metabolise its internal crises but it has nothing, literally nothing to say on communism as a potential outcome of the transformation in human social relations post-capitalism. Whilst the reproduction of commodity society is dependent on its perpetual expansion, and its trajectory is both predictable and comprehensible from within the system as being always 'more of the same', the qualitative transformation of social relations between different social orders (say between feudalism and capitalism, or even within sequences after ruptures such as 'The Arab Spring') cannot be predicted by those living through it. For this reason, the passage of social relations to what is broadly understood as communism is not an object available to be anticipated either in terms of a quantitative to qualitative shift, or even as an intentional (prefigurative) self-adaptation to 'material conditions'. The ideological basis of historical materialism, its positivist stageism, by which an identity between social relations and history is first asserted and where the tumult of its forms is then retroactively represented as a sequence of closed systems, is both facile and inaccurate. Historical materialism becomes an ideology the moment it departs from the descriptive model of unintended consequences, wherein material transformations are observed to impact on social activity. By substituting for the flux of world forces a narrative of objective directionality and 'development' HM retroactively creates a positivist paradigm for its own predictions. The theory of historical materialism remains plausible where a system (say, Feudalism) is observed to apply 'learnt' responses in order to conserve a number of its internal instituted components and thus improve their operational efficiency. But its narrative exceeds the description of intra-systemic development wherever it goes on to explain inter-systemic, or super-systemic, continuity. The ideology of historical materialism is itself under-historicised, constructed as a distant reflection of the positive sciences. Its basic error is located in the misapplication of the description of intra-system 'learning' (the autopoeitic self-reproduction of institutionalised relations) to the totality of all human systems. At this point, HM not only asserts that systems become more internally complex as they seek to govern themselves but that across history a system of systems is operating through the selection and development of the species' conserved historical organs (primitives fall by the wayside as they are superseded by moderns). The Victorian prejudices active within these assumptions have been exposed by, for example, the ethnographies of those following Clastres where it has been discovered that the relative complexities of technological and social relations operate inversely upon each other. And the overarching narrative of material determination is itself also simplifying and selective, Gould writes of this mindset, 'Thus if you wish to understand patterns of long historical sequences, pray for randomness [...] nothing works so powerfully against resolution as conventional forms of determinism.'  Gould discovered that 'maximal long term order' is a product of randomness, of flux, and not of developing forces. Historical materialism instrumentalises the ideal of a world historical spirit guiding objective developments from simple forms to complexity, where 'complexity' functions as the higher value, as its means of verification of itself as paradigmatic theory and by implication of the political positions that are sustained by the theory. Then, the historicist ideology is pathologically dependent upon its demonstrating the external necessity of a sequence of developmental stages which function successively as the 'conditions' for what follows. The argument for complexity as the higher value form is familiar enough to Marxists and is a feature common to both its accelerationist and communising iterations. There is an active and explicit assumption within historical materialism that communism (the 'highest' form of social relations) must be situated at the end of the historical sequence which Debord describes as 'unified irreversible time' and Nick Land terms the degenerative ratchet effect. The material conditions for communism, as Marxists understand them, is the progressive defeat of 'necessity' (by which they mean systemic vulnerability) which is understood as a complex of: the reduction of work activity; the defeat of pathology; the commensurability of globalised planning with surplus product; the socialisation of productive relations. But the accumulated securities and assurances are neither securities nor assurances, they are not the conditions for communism but the conserved organs of historical reproduction. The conservation of existing structures is bound to reproduce the same conditions and the same social relations - stability and not change is the most likely outcome of historical materialist forces. But even so, there are no guarantees of invulnerability, and no true overcoming of the realm of necessity. Threats to the species, and the privations of existence, will continue to beset society (apparent improvements in the situation of oppressed populations indicate only what Foucault observed of power, that its relations are 'productive' more than they are prohibitive). The specific character of threats to the species change depending on historical conditions, but the potential annihilation of the species remains a constant, if also random, outcome which cannot be designed out. The underlying logical premises of 'material conditions' theory is reliant on the easily contested assumption of objective sequentiality - not only has the human species reached the present moment, thus proving the greater success of past societal forms at a species level and thus contradicting the developmentalist narrative, but because the extinction event is not situated in the past it must therefore be located in the future, indicating an increased potential sub-optimal resilience both at the particular historical level of over-adaptation to a unitary form of technological determinism and as phylogenetic inevitability (for this reason, the concepts of survival and necessity as these appear within the productivist discourse are always specious). Nevertheless, both communisers and accelerationists extrapolate from their adherence to the degenerative ratchet model of change and imagine communism as belonging within the historical continuum. As a consequence, they are obliged to make arguments for capitalism as a progressive force which simultaneously impedes their capacity for critique of existing relations. For historicists, communism's appearance at the end of the historical sequence is nothing but the integration of potentials developed within the capitalist environment but hitherto constrained from realisation by the value form. It is a theory which coheres only within its self-presentation - from the outside it is revealed as a self-confirming ideology. The launch pad for communism does not, and cannot appear within other relations because, as with all social systems, the relations are the conditioning constraints of the relations. There must be communism, not capitalism, prior to communism - communism is communism's subject, just as capitalism is capitalism's subject. The conditions for emancipation are emancipation not domination. An identified set of relations must first be in place before the same set of relations may appear. That is to say, conditions is the name of relations and relations is the name of conditions. In other words, it is axiomatic that communism, as it is with all systems, is self-conditioning. There are no 'material conditions' and no 'historical conditions', there are only relational conditions and the relational conditions are the conditions of reproduction not those of origin. Communism is neither a material community nor a historical community, it is a relational community, a community community.  By implication, communism not only does not appear within the bourgeois continuum of history, it is structurally incompatible with that continuum. This is not to say that what are called 'material conditions', that set of external contextual or environmental factors in which the relations appear, do not also contextually and environmentally impact upon their internal functioning - there is always this form of air, water, fire and earth. However, the qualitative/transformative metabolisation of these impacts cannot be predicted within the ideological heuristic of 'suppression and realisation'. In the end, nothing will be expropriated, there is only adaptation and survival - nature, that is the universe, will neither be subdued nor incorporated - the majority of what is, escapes. Communism, like all other human structures, appears as a very limited magisterium within the totality of cosmic forces, a situation which renders all talk of materialism as anthropocentric petty idealism. It is reasonable to conclude that if communism does not belong within the continuum, then it will be situated in a different order of temporality - probably some form of for-itself seasonality, a veritable neo-cyclical time. We learn from studying how systems maintain their outlines that cohesion is not the product of positive feedback, or the mutual congratulations of the internal organs, but of the tension between the incompatible constituent parts. For communism, the human community, to sustain itself as a 'final' form it must first isolate its processes from history and eternalise them within itself. It must establish and maintain its processes beyond historical sequentiality (otherwise it merely formulates the conditions of what follows it, where communism becomes the exit to some still later form). Post-sequentiality is only realisable where an internalised 'war' of its buttons is also the mechanism of its stabilisation (the order that is found in evolutionary randomness) - where communism's fundamental incompatibility with itself, the host's rejection of its transplanted organs, where its contradictions, are ritualised, seasonised, internalised. In pain, and in hunger, the injured beast feeds upon its own flesh that is exposed as its wound even as it also shrinks from its own fangs . Every successful system includes external functions within its own operations, this is the definition of subjectivity - therefore as a system of relations, and as the condition for communism's successful realisation of its relations, it must convert inter-system processes into intra-system operations. For this reason, there shall be no 'full communism', no point where the process is actualised as a finally achieved state. Completion only invites the exterior, and the end.  Instead, the flux of human community will loop itself into some other and external flux - it will not de-mystify but knowingly, willingly re-mystify itself. Inhabiting a plateau of its non-development it will oscillate, fluctuate, tramping between its seasons, its humours, its elements. From the genius Chtcheglov we are already familiar with 'the quarters' of the human community but now we must begin to explore, contra marxism, 'new urbanism's' temporal equivalent, which becomes comprehensible as a 'return', or rather as a mechanism of return. In this context, 'return' indicates the closure of the system, its outline and its reproduction. Thus, communism becomes not the antagonist of capitalism but of itself. Just as all opposition to capitalism is produced and constrained by capitalist relations, reproducing the same but also perfecting its form, so communism must utilise its contradictions as the motor of its self-reproduction. Spatially, the multiplication of thresholds where borders are abolished, formalises the passage of individuals across different territories as a mechanism of communism's war against itself. And in this 'balkanisation' of thresholds lies Chtcheglov's ethnographic genius. All other theorists of the post-state form, with the exception perhaps of Benjamin, imagined international communism as an unimpeded horizon, and of universalised integration of the totalised whole, but Chtcheglov re-introduced the alleyway, the hidden courtyard, and the interior space as the locus for thresholds between different and forever fragmenting territories of subjectivity. Temporally, the seasons and the moments of the seasons shall also be set against each other, striking different orders and registers of incompatibility by which the human community achieves its various relational states. After Chtcheglov, we may now imagine a Winter communism, perhaps along the lines described by Caillois, austere and self-depleting; then the cycle, anticipated by Shelley and Turgenev, commences in the Spring agonies of reawakening, the perpetual revisiting of early and fragile forms (thaw floods, convergences, confluence, the well-met) are later succeeded by the high and fragile Summer events of what the community takes to be its perfected form, but which it is aware must also decline, passing from a ripened stage to decadence and the Autumnal exit, a punctured edifice spouting energy and corruption, like Jupiter's Io, into the cosmos.Throughout my life I have had just one plan: first to create monstrous aberrations and then, by rushing to their side the tubes and trolleys of emergency life support, to secure for them, if only momentarily, a few sweet breaths of tender existence. Carving out footholds for the absurd and unprecedented encapsulates the entirety of what I have always understood as, and what I have always meant by, that elusive, and ever undetermined, 'communism'.

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