fragment on non-Marxism, the non-philosophical use of philosophical terminology

[Laruelle’s book on Non-Marxism has not yet been published, however, Katerina Kolozova in essay “The Project of Non-Marxism: Arguing for ‘Monstrously’ Radical Concepts” is a fairly comprehensive overview of Laruelle’s project and contains several key insights into his overall argument. One aspect of the project of non-Marxism is the “underdetermination” which in science and the philosophy of science (Quine) is a somewhat more complicated manner but here I take to be the reverse of Althusser’s “overdetermination” which non-philosophically can be defined as a term according to its “determination-in-the-last-instance” (DLI). The non-philosophical usage of the DLI is difficult to summarize. However, in the Principles of Non-Philosophy it is defined as a reduction of the fractional matrix representing the philosophical decision which is comprised of three terms:

[The matrix of the philosophical decision] seems to contain three terms: a real or indivisible identity—the Real one; a term = X, strictly speaking, received from transcendence and which is thus not immanent; and thirdly a term called “Transcendental Identity”, a true clone of the One which the term X extracts from the Real. In reality, the One is not a “term”, not being identifiable in transcendence and being nothing but an identity-without-synthesis; the term X, “added” to the Real, does not form a dyad and fails to form a dyad with the One which refuses to be counted in the structure. On the other hand, it resolves its desire in extracting from the One an image-(of)-the One where the One does not alienate itself; thus a purely transcendental image, but with which it forms a duality or a dual wherein the transcendental is only counted from the point of view of X: a duality called “unilateral” for this reason. This transcendental cloning of the Real represents a simplification and a radical minimalization to the “naturals” of the matrix of Philosophical Decision. (p. 6)

Laruelle continues:

This syntax has received a name in the history of philosophy; a surprising name but of which we believe—though this is not important—that it is indeed this very logic that it designates; logic that is not philosophical, but is nonetheless still interior to philosophy. This name is that of “Determination-in-the-Last-Instance” whose sense the philosophers have barely been able to grasp as a result of their desire to re-dialecticize this form of causality. (ibid.)

Thus, the determination-in-the-last-instance is a decomposed philosophical decision which indicates the immanent causality of the Real, i.e., a philosophical decision in the mode of a “letting” rather than a “forcing” which implies an occasional causality deprived of any philosophical authority. The determination-in-the-last-instance, then, cannot really be defined except in an extremely provisional or contextual sense: it is a syntax, which we can take by its dictionary definition as a “well formed language” of the Real or “degree zero” writing, that concretizes the causality of the real-One as a “transcendental organon,” a kind of (non-)philosophical prosthetic that accords, abides, or adequates-without-correspondence to the Real. More specifically, the “organon” that Laruelle mentions which both comprises the DLI and is its essential  function is “force-(of)-thought,” the noetic or transcendental component of the DLI which, “accords radical primacy of the Real over thought with the relative autonomy of thought” (p. 22). Thus, the DLI indicates an instance of the essence of the One (its force-(of)-thought, its minimally transcendental or aproiristic properties) in a manner which, according to the entry in the Dictionary of Non-Philosophy, does not add or subtract anything to the Real itself yet can “enact or possess a causality without being alienated in the material of its action.” The example provided is the Marxist concept of “labor power” or “labor force” (force du travail):

This is an energetic concept of human energy which only exists in the personality of the worker and which is irreducible to his functions or operations, to work output or expended. This concept is necessary so as to transform the object of work into exchange value and is thus creative of value. According to the plan of the Marxist systematic, it articulates the Marxian ontology of the individual and the theory of capitalism. Nietzsche and Deleuze propose an idea of thought as a symptom of forces, establishing its cause in a differential play of multiple forces rather than in a Real-of-the-last-instance. (Dictionary of Non-Philosophy, p. 19)

Philosophically speaking, a concept like labor force allows for certain generalizations, what we will call a signifying infrastructure, which adequates-without-correspondence to the Real. One can certainly apply scientific metrics to the term, e.g. as a term that more comprehensively describes multifactor productivity: the exhaustion of calories as a measurement of the “force” exerted in the act of production relative to the average cost of food per calorie (energy per unit of production) or the usual measurement of worker productivity as the speed and quantity of their economic output (the number of commodities they produce per hour) relative to the price of the commodity they are producing and the firm’s profit, etc.) and, as Kolozova will argue, it describes an element of the “lived experience” of the worker. However, Marxism, I’m sure Laruelle will argue, has both misunderstood and exploited this aspect of their theory (it has certainly been used more for the sake of political persuasion than science and Marxists have gained an unfair amount of mileage with the term even though it was never rigorously defined by Marx). Laruelle says explicitly in Principles that Marxist theorists kept integrating the term into their dialectics of contradiction to the overall detriment of the field, a degenerative tendency of the otherwise relatively scientific field which resulted from its philosophical hangover with Hegel. “Labor force,” defined by Kolozova, however, is much more potent than all that:]

[It] is already a concept, but a radical one, correlating with the Real of the condition of the “Proletariat” as labor force that is non-reflected, lived, experienced. Even the linguistic construct itself, the concept of “labor force,” is merely descriptive of a real condition, consisting of a minimum of transcendence. And it is precisely the method or style of descriptiveness that Laruelle invokes as the non-Marxist and non-philosophical approach par excellence. The minimally descriptive concept, the radical concept, the one in which the Real has “cloned itself,” is the causality in the last instance of a certain theory—it’s Determination-in-the-last-instance (DDI). (“The Project of Non-Marxism,” p. 10)

[Thus, if Kolozova’s article and analysis is to be followed], non-Marxism is a conceptual contraction of Marxism’s terms using non-philosophical methods: it dually exploits the différance implicit in all theoretical terms (that is to say, their explosive syntagmatic and diachronic movement) and their ability to become algebraic constants or “bound variables” that specify their meaning to the extent that this differential movement is confined to the conceptual boundary conditions implied by its referent. In other words, theoretical terms conceptually knot “mixtures” of thetic (transcendent) and empirical (immanent) content. However, the term itself is subject to movement (slippage) on both sides which thereby produces a dynamically expanding but finite index or topologically localized neighborhood of meaning—a “signifying infrastructure” relative either to the “One” (the thetic-linguistic content of the term) or the “Real” (the referent or the thing the term describes—the immanent content of the term).

[It is important, however, to recall that the One and the Real remain sufficient and co-determinate in non-philosophy without being equivalent: the One appears to us from its philosophical description as that which eludes every philosophical while still determining them. However, we must recall that the One is not the result of a process of philosophical “scission” or in any way an “indivisible remainder” of a symbolic process (description). These semiotic and psychoanalytic descriptions (can easily) imply that language is in someway constitutive of the Real. This division between the Real and the One is meant to imply the directionality of their determination-in-the-last-instance. The One “strikes” from the side of language since, for Laruelle, it is indicated and eluded by its philosophical description. The Real strikes not as a result of language’s “ontological capture” of the Real via a referent but by its radical foreclosure to language and thought. The way in which philosophical terminology presents itself as material to non-philosophy is as Real in itself and as an element of the One in itself.

None of this is meant to imply that language or philosophy provides “assistance” to the One or that terminology “Distances” itself from the One by its description of it. The “composition of the sign” traditionally provided an entry way for a kind of semiotic idealism which separated ideas or concepts from signifiers while recognizing the “empirical” fact that the two were co-determined (the structuralist claim that you cannot have thought without language). Non-philosophy treats the conclusion that the sign is arbitrary as arbitrary in itself and sufficiently expresses the property of a philosophical decision (despite its anti-philosophical insinuations) to offer itself as material. Laruelle, however, exploits this philosophical material at an aesthetic level: as that which produces “a/effectuations” in a generalized sense, i.e., insofar as their significations, their effectuations, and so forth are determined-in-the-last-instance by the One or are accomplished according-to-the-One. In this sense, any thetic, transcendental or conceptual content, any philosophical term is already radically autonomous and radically immanent, i.e., in-One, Seen-in-One, or Real. Non-philosophy arrives on the scene to announce this and inoperatize or disactivate their philosophical function so that they might “accord” to their immanent or demotic signification by the One.]

For example, when I write the phrase “eco-Marxianism” or “Marxist radicalism,” even though these are not well-established or meaningfully—in the sense of actually—occupied political positions we can still imagine what a corpus of eco-Marxian texts might look like and that “Marxist radicalism” would likely be a “Left” tendency relative to orthodox Marxism, if we agglutinate the terms and produce “eco-Marxian radicalism” than we actually manage to produce more sense and specificity even as it loses any and all correspondence to reality and fails to describe anything “real.” However, this term gains significance in and according-to-the-One.[1]

This kind of non-philosophical “disinterpretation” and “underdetermination” of a term like “labor force” is an anti-hermeneutic procedure which aims at efficiency and impact at the level of the One (rather than persuasive efficacy at the level of the “thought-world”) and immanence to the Real by exploiting a term’s “unilateral duality” or “determination-in-the-last-instance.” This non-philosophical usage of philosophical material “frees up” a term’s (philosophically) imputed univocal correspondence to the One so that it accords to its manifest or contextual signification (its determination in this—from the immanent position of the reader, the last—instance) rather than the arbitrary or decisional definition of the term.

Philosophy is aware of this movement or the “play of the signifier,” however, it exploits this ambiguity by both controlling the context and means of its play by assigning multiple definitions to a term in the form of its continual explanation. This embroils the reader in endless hermeneutics and leaves them in the precarious care of the philosopher to provide definitions and explanations of the term, i.e., control the conceptual stricture and limit the general sense of a term, as they purposefully complicate and multiply the significations of a term to suite their argument. The classic example of this in Marxism—which G. A. Cohen tries to fix in Marx’s Theory of History and is shamelessly exploited by Althusser—is the ambiguous and even downright manipulative usage of the terms like “forces of production,” “relations of production,” and even “capitalism” in general for the sake of persuasive argument. Suffice it to say, such a usage of philosophical terminology invariably decides the One according to a contingent (in this case ideological) Vision-in-One rather than the One itself.

The non-philosophical reclamation of philosophical terminology, its reduction to material through dualysis and cloning finds philosophical terms that are in the form of a “axiomized abstractions.” Laruelle states in the glossary of Future Christ.

[Axiomized abstraction] proceeds by way of operators from names (like One, Identity or Man), from adjectives like radical (radical identity, etc.), from prepositions like in- (One-in-One, etc.), without (without-consistency, without-world, etc.), non- (non-conceptual, non-definitional, etc.), in person (Man-in-person, One-in-Person, etc.) These operators are the expression and effects of the Real, which are inseparable from its radical immanence. (Future Christ, p. xxvi)

[1] The examples could go on: micro-Marxism, Marxist individualism, Marxo-Levinasianism, Marxist Sikhism, Afro-Caribbean Marxism, Marxism with indigenous characteristics, neuro-Marxism. They could even border on the absurd and contradictory (e.g. Marxist-Capitalism, Marxist anti-workerism) or redundancy (e.g. Marxist historical dialecticism, neo-Marxian materialism). The effects vary from producing unlikely but viable “Marxisms” to sounding like one has never studied Marx but seems to sort of know what they are talking about. (Neologisms are also a possibility: Marxiarity, Marxineity, Marxisminism.) The reason this “works” is because these terms have a generic or reduced signification that implies some sort of thetic content that is conjugated or reciprocally redefined by the previous or next term. Within the conceptual framework provided by non-philosophy, these terms are dualyized or cloned so that they produce meaning “according-to” the Real or the One respectively. However, if we frame this in terms of an “aesthetics” of non-philosophy, we have an instance of the production of “rigorous” fictions that poetically exploit the thetic or transcendental content implicit in these terms that produce aesthesis, a “real” effect or sensation at the level of or in the form of thought. Consider also Laruelle’s use of mixing proper names in Philosophy and Non-Philosophy, an amusing habit he has unfortunately abandoned in his recent works: by this procedure he imagines fake philosophers like “Laceuze” and “Derritard”—again, it is not impossible to imagine the books these figures might write and their specific politics. Lyotard deploys this strategy when he imagines in Libidinal Economy a “little girl Marx” a “big fat Marx,” an “old man Marx,” and a “beardless Marx.” See, Lyotard, Jean-François. Libidinal Economy. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1993, pp. 94-154.

[non-philosophical] fragment on critique and theoreticism

[Note: this fragment is old and before I understood the significance of Laruelle’s usage of the “fractional matrix” and 2/3 vs. 3/2 terms metaphor in his description of the philosophical decision (expertly described by Ross Wolf on his website thecharnelhouse.org). I use a fraction metaphor but it is meant to demonstrate the “completeness” of the philosophical decision, which I suppose is still compatible with Laruelle’s 2/3rd 3/2nd terms insofar as they demonstrate the moment of the philosophical sleight of hand that allows them to replace themselves with the One though definitely not as clever. It was the result of a kind of spurt of non-philosophical enthusiasm weirdly directed at some of the members of the non-philosophy community (which I admit, is not wise). The essay this was apart of was a paper on Marxism and Science, which I am in the process of reconstructing and reanalyzing. A few of members of the non-philosophical community have confronted the “so what?” aspect of non-philosophy and the significance of having already “understood” that critique was dead and democratic pluralism was the way forward on philosophical terms (namely the work of Lyotard in Libidinal Economy and Feyerabend, NB: the post also deals with the difference between non-standard philosophy and non-philosophy—a distinction which I think ought to be preserved). So this is somewhat relevant in the sense that it shows that the philosophical decision is potentially alive and well among within the ranks of the philosophers of science/philosophical scientists, SR/OOO and non-philosophers (who in some sense ought to know better). Further it raises some questions about when critique and “limited” hermeneutics are “non-philosophically sanctioned,” that is to say, in line with non-philosophy’s self proscribed axioms and in accordance with its rigor.]

Critique must be a form of “disinterpretation” or “inoperatization” of theoreticism, it must be a reminder and demonstration of the undecidability and indeterminancy of the One. It must be non-philosophical and aim at the disclosure and disabling of every philosophical decision. The attitude that must be “combated” (in the style of Mao’s “Combat Liberalism”) in the Marxist field is a deadening theoreticism and set of prejudices against using the “(theoretical) tools of the oppressor.”Jeff Bowker in his article “The New Knowledge Economy and Science and Technology Policy” inadvertently gives an example of this type of theoretical prejudice:

Working infrastructures standardize both people and machines. […] In order for the large scale states of the nineteenth century to operate efficiently and effectively, the new science of statistics (of the same etymological root as the word ‘state’) was developed. People were sorted into categories, and a series of information technologies were put into place to provide an infrastructure to government work (regular ten year censuses; special tables and printers; by the end of the nineteenth century punch-card machines for faster processing of results). These standardized categories (male or female; professional; nationality etc) thus spawned their own set of technical standards (80 column sheets – later transferred to 80 column punch cards and computer screens…). They also spawned their own set of standardized people. As Alain Desrosières and Laurent Thévenot note, different categories for professional works in the French, German and British censuses led to the creation of very different social structures and government programs around them. Early in the nineteenth centuries, the differences between professionals in one country or the other did not make so much difference: by the end of the century these differences had become entrenched and reified—people became more and more like their categories.[1]

Bowker, himself a proponent of science and the quantitative par excellence (even at the expense of its human element), shows a non-committal attitude to this analysis merely citing that the creation of working infrastructure and standards transforms and creates professions and, therefore, transforms and creates new types of humans; for him, this example is raised not to comment on the effect of standards on “subjectivity” but to note that standardization introduces the issue of proprietary standards and the corresponding realities of “protocols,” “agreement,” “negotiation,” and “interfacing” in complex work infrastructures and information hierarchies. The he main question is why is it that the best standard doesn’t always win out? In other words, this historical or archeological perspective on the development of standards and working infrastructure is interesting. Standards are not something to be resisted or denounced, they are a fact. However, the tendency of the theoreticist attitude we are attempting to pin down might find significance in the etymology of “statistics” (its root “state”—a smoking gun) coupled with its creation of “human categories” and “standardized people” as evidence of the field’s biopolitical “regulative ideal” that necessarily dominates, dehumanizes, and decomplexifies human beings, i.e., an indication of the disciplines necessary evil.

Bowker represents the “sensible” wing of this type of theorizing since he does not barrel into full on theoreticism but makes space for it via his noncommittal presentation of Alain Desrosières and Laurent Thévenot’s thesis. This would be theory that is not yet theoreticism: theory in its 1/3rd form: its simple presentation of itself in the form of information, postulates, and hypotheses.[2] However, if we take Tom Athanasiou’s article “Greenwashing Agricultural Biotechnology,” we can see theoreticist use of theory in its 2/3rds form: the theoretical rejection of theory. Here, even what presents itself as sensible critique—namely the rejection of the theoreticist tendency to find “thetic” significance in the conceptualizations and metaphorical deployments of scientists to explain their science, in this instance the “reduction” of life to “information”—we find a residual theoreticism present in the implicit in his conception of today’s medical establishment:

The “potential” of a technology must be clearly distinguished from its likely applications, and science cannot be abstracted from either social context or technological form. The Human Genome Project is a fine example—it is a frightening development, but not because it reduces life to “information,” as a die-hard Rifkinite might argue. It is, rather, frightening in its promise to further increase the power and hegemony of today’s reductionist medical establishment. And this is true despite the fact that real improvements in therapy and healing, as well as some amazing science, can be expected to flow from it.[3]

The “empirical” or “policy argument” implicit in this critique that lends it its force-(of)-thought lies in the notion that medical research firms unjustly capitalize on their own discoveries when they should perhaps become a public good. The theoretical “mixture” that has taken place is the surreptitious displacement of this argument into the unconscious of the text as a given assumption rather than an argument.

Another example is Alexander Galloway’s article on “The Poverty of Philosophy: Realism and Post-Fordism.” He introduces the article with the following:

Why, within the current renaissance of research in continental philosophy, is there a coincidence between the structure of ontological systems and the structure of the most highly evolved technologies of post-Fordist capitalism? I am speaking, on the one hand, of computer networks in general and object-oriented computer languages (such as Java or C++) in particular and, on the other hand, of certain realist philosophers such as Bruno Latour, but also more pointedly Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Harman, and their associated school known as speculative realism. Why do these philosophers, when holding up a mirror to nature, see the mode of production reflected back at them? Why, in short, is there a coincidence between today’s ontologies and the software of big business? (348)[4]

Here we have theoreticist use of theory in its 3/3rds form which effectuates a “one-to-one” or decisional equivocation of one object or concept and another. It is a speculative philosophy that takes a thing’s conceptualization, description, or representation as indicative of something essential to the thing itself, a “determination” or “iteration” in empirical form of its thetic content, or indication of a structure governing its appearance. Galloway’s familiarity with Laruelle is disappointing (although here he trips up on purely materialist grounds as well) since he effectuates the mistake Laruelle accuses of certain philosophers like Badiou. He conflates or amphibolizes a decisional Vision-in-One with the One itself, i.e., effectuates a mixing of immanent and transcendental content (exploitable philosophical material that is necessarily produced by the Real’s foreclosure to thought) and the decisional equivocation of one thing’s specular Being-in-One with another’s so that they are reduced to the metaphysical order of the Same and thereby granted philosophical or thetic significance. The term Galloway uses which operationalizes and occasions his critique, of course, is anti-philosophical: he opts for the word “coincidence” so that there is but a chance resemblance or “congruity” between realist philosophies of science and certain programming languages that must be investigated. However, the assumption is that because programming languages are elements of capitalist infrastructure they are necessarily evil and that any political or scientific “ontology” that resembles them (e.g. object-oriented ontology) must potentially be “shown the door” (348). He states:

Yet such a coincidence has yet to be demonstrated, and certainly it will be my burden to show this congruity. Nevertheless if it can be demonstrated that such a congruity exists, two further questions follow, one (1) If recent realist philosophy mimics the infrastructure of contemporary capitalism, should we not show it the door based on this fact alone, the assumption being that any mere repackaging of contemporary ideology is, by definition, antiscientific and therefore suspect on epistemological grounds? And (2) even if one overlooks the epistemological shortcomings, should we not critique it on purely political grounds, the argument being that any philosophical project that seeks to ventriloquize the current industrial arrangement is, for this very reason, politically retrograde?

Here the position of anti-philosophy is taken up because of the philosophical equivocation materialism=(the) (essence) (of) science, a procedure which 1) signals that Galloway is at least theorizing with Marxist assumptions (least not indicated by the title of the essay), 2) that Galloway is putting himself in the position of science qua materialism, a position that is necessarily both philosophically created (i.e., a placeholder for the position of science) and grounded (materialism is scientific because of x, y, z)—this can only be done via persuasion or as an implicit assumption (proved elsewhere and used in usufruct), and 3) levelling a critique of philosophy insofar as it is the “spontaneous philosophy” of the realists and scientists, which is to say, science’s conceptualization of itself. Thus, what the realists cannot see is that they are necessarily making political decisions in favor of capitalism by their unconscious mirroring of capitalist infrastructures. This signals 4) a residual Althusserianism: the materialist critique of science, a critique which, as we said, is given “scientific” authority by virtue of philosophy.

This theoretical “knotting” of (anti-)philosophy to science qua materialism for the sake of the critique of science (insofar as it is the philosophy of science), this whole procedure, relies on a unilaterally dual conceptualization of science, which, as Laruelle notes is, 1) foreclosed to thought and 2) not reifiable in any particular text. Thus, from a non-philosophical standpoint, this procedure is illegal. Of course, the irony is that Galloway’s article is precisely meant to take up issues “concerning the validity of the theoretical writing at hand and the other concerning its political utility” (347) and “concern[s] the nature of critical thought” so that his essay confronts the “analysis of the old distinctions between object and thing, object and word, object and idea” (348). The political bankruptcy of the realist philosophies of science pales in comparison to the theoreticism that Galloway demonstrates in this instance. There is simply no indication that, for example, Bruno Latour’s philosophy and theory of actor-network analysis indicates anything about his political activity or opinions one way or another. This is armchair psychoanalysis, it purports that the decided-upon aesthetic resemblance of a philosophy to a programming language pushes us deeper into capitalist slavery, instrumental reasoning, and political quietism. This hypothesis, simply put, is silly since the sum of Bruno Latour’s writing=X, we cannot decide what it effectuates in-One or “according-to-the-Real” (perhaps understood as in the psychology of the reader and whatever other myriad effects it might produce).

This form of symptomatic criticism libidinally deploys its theoretical enthusiasm for politics, i.e., its Maoist or Schmittian desire to draw “battle lines” and separate (theoretical) friends from enemies, to lend force-(of)-thought to its critique. Its “libidinal economy” forces a “summation” (in the mathematical sense of applying operations to constants) that predetermines or decides its object’s multifarious and indeterminate effects, it fails to clone or dualize its object to reproduce the “immanence,” “difference,” or “indeterminancy” of its material, it Distances without distance to its object and it fails to appreciate it as fiction. Thus it deals with it only oral-anally, i.e., in an evaluative manner, so that it is a question of taste: Galloway prefers that his philosophies do not resemble capitalist infrastructure which causes him to despair; he is all-too quick to judge that it is somehow odious: he spits it out after a meagre bite with no appreciation for its complexity or after taste; he shits it out after only partial digestion (is it fair to “decide” Latour and index him with Graham Harmon or Quentin Meillassoux?—is this not a category mistake?). It reflects what Rancière writes about the “critical system” in The Emancipated Spectator:

Forty years ago, [the critical system] was supposed to denounce the machinery of social domination in order to equip those challenging it with new weapons. Today, it has become exactly the opposite: a disenchanted knowledge of the reign of the commodity and the spectacle, of the equivalence between everything and everything else and between everything and its own image. This post-Marxist and post-Structuralist wisdom is not content to furnish a phantasmagorical depiction of humanity completely buried beneath the rubbish of its frenzied consumption. It also depicts the law of domination as a force seizing on anything that claims to challenge it. It makes any protest a spectacle and any spectacle a commodity. It makes it an expression of futility, but also a demonstration of culpability.[5]

When this speculative tendency—this paranoid rejection of capitalist domination and whatever mirrors its evil—is coupled with the above mentioned typical “critique” of “instrumental reason” than we have a hellish brand of anti-consumerist quasi-luddite theoreticism (perhaps best exemplified by Julia Kristeva, though one strains to find this written anywhere in her oeuvre, one must hear her testify to this in English). Galloway is not the worst offender here and it is important to emphasize that this ultimately means very little, i.e., we do not assert that theoreticism leads one way or another and definitely not to concentration camps. However, what we do assert is that Galloway advertises the sufficiency of theoretical thought, i.e., a “Principle of Sufficient Theory” and a “Principle of Sufficient Thought” (PST), which attempts a conceptual encompassing of this or that by deciding it. We can also add to this list a “Principle of Sufficient Critique,” even if Galloway questions the value of critique, his solutions end up advertising historicism and materialism as solutions; thus critique becomes an occasion to advertise theory and theoreticism.

It is unclear why or how this variously humanist, materialist, philosophical or “theoretical” equivocation of technology with capitalism was generated. We can speculate that it was maybe because statistical or data-driven arguments have been made to “disprove” the utopian pretentions and economic claims of socialists or it was perhaps in part because of the introduction of the “history of science” into university curriculums or in part because of Lefebvre, Heidegger or Adorno and their thematically anti-rationalist critiques of “modernity.” In its most responsible form it was likely quantitative, concerning problems with statistical cognition, knowledge policing, “ideological” policy writing, and the manipulation and crafting of “trustworthy” facts.[6] However, in the final analysis, this has largely become the qualitative and typically “liberal arts” argument (although the “end users” of this argument are not necessarily liberals, it is truly a theoreticist argument with any number ideological mutations): one can always lie with numbers and that even when one “gets it right” they will never show the richness and complexity of the “human condition.”

It is not hard to point to specific texts like The Dialectic of Enlightenment or The One Dimensional Man and their equation of capitalist technological “instrumentality” to authoritarianism or fascism to see a reflection of the generalized Leftist suspicion of quantification. One can also point to texts like Althusser’s Philosophy and the Spontaneous Philosophy of the Scientists to see the characteristic self-awarded privilege of Marxist philosophers (by virtue of their materialism) to “critique” the institution of science.[7] The neo-Marxist field which Althusser famously waged war with is exemplary of this “Frankfurt School” position (Sartre, Merleau-Ponty); however, Althusser and Althusserianism are guilty of the worst examples of theoreticism by using the critique of the neo-Marxists to occasion their own brand of odious theoreticism.

The residual trouble this causes on the Left is that it has led to a general suspicion against quantitative methods since they are variously perceived as blunt instruments or still all-too-primitive or fraught with capitalist/bourgeoisie instrumental purposiveness that would keep their scientific potential stunted and stuck at the level of an exploitable technology. Meanwhile there are certain elements of the Left that call for a total rejection of any and all “instrumental thinking” (usually equivocated with quantitative or computational work) is bad and that deceleration is a viable and necessary form of resistance (see below).[8] The most simplistic rejection being an equivocation of the “bro culture” around STEM fields as the regulative ideal of the fields themselves.[9] Obviously this sort of “math anxiety” about the state use of statistics and its recent use of metadata for surveillance purposes is well-founded (there is also much to say about the desire to avoid the shitty bro-culture and elitism of contemporary computer science programs); however, the reaction-response is symptomatic: the numbers themselves are not evil. Meanwhile, battling one form of elitism with another seems somehow counterproductive. Mackey and Avassian’s introduction to #ACCELERATE: the accelerationist reader eloquently confronts this issue:

[…] a well-to-do liberal Left, convinced that technology equates to instrumental mastery and that capitalist economics amounts to a heap of numbers, in most cases leaves concrete technological nous and economic arguments to its adversary—something it shares with its more radical but equally technologically illiterate academic counterparts, who confront capitalism with theoretical constructs so completely at odds with its concrete workings that the most they can offer is a faith in miraculous events to come, scarcely more effectual than organic folk politics. In some quarters, a Heideggerian Gelassenheit or ‘letting be’ is called for, suggesting that the best we can hope for is to desist entirely from destructive development and attempts to subdue or control nature—an option that, needless to say, is also the prerogative of an individualised privileged spectator who is the subjective product of global capital. From critical social democrats to revolutionary Maoists, from Occupy mic checks to post-Frankfurt School mutterings, the ideological slogan goes: There must be an outside! And yet, given the real subsumption of life under capitalist relations, what is missing, precluded by reactionary obsessions with purity, humility, and sentimental attachment to the personally gratifying rituals of critique and protest and their brittle and fleeting forms of collectivity? Precisely any pragmatic criteria for the identification and selection of elements of this system that might be effective in a concrete transition to another life beyond the iniquities and impediments of capital.[10]

This “psychoanalysis” of the Left and its quietism is fairly accurate, however, what it must be supplemented with is not the politicized paranoia and consumerist enthusiasm of accelerationism (we will outline notable differences between that project and ours below) but the Freudian observation that even if one has the “right” to be paranoid, the paranoia is still a symptom even if the causes are real: a rational and less heady approach contra “schizoanalytic” and aesthetic solutions must be proposed. Further, besides the obviousness that accelerationism is an aesthetic/intellectual “disorderly retreat” that indulges in much the same quietism it denounces, it still retains a hefty amount of Marxist-Deleuzian theoretical baggage; namely the bifurcational logic that is implicit in its name: that one should accelerate the contradictions of capitalism as a way of pushing it headlong into a revolutionary crisis.

Its healthy lack of suspicion and embrace of technology coupled with its hatred of despair and quietism and its real desire to offer alternatives are all to be admired. One can wager that no accelerationist will ever offer a “materialist” critique of bourgeoisie science or technological instrumentality—a boon since that will save them time and energy. However, the “long march” proposed by accelerationism is no less infinite than any other Marxist ideology. Bowker’s essay on knowledge economies, however, offers an interesting solution to the traditional dilemma of “reform or revolution” proposed by Rosa Luxemburg: normalization or standardization.

[1] Jeff Bowker,“The New Knowledge Economy and Science and Technology Policy,” p. 4, available online: <http://www.eolss.net/sample-chapters/c15/e1-30-03-05.pdf&gt;.

[2] We should note that the large body of Bowker’s work is considered largely anti-theoretical (in the sense of against what presents itself as “theory” by the humanities and liberal arts).

[3] Tom Athanasiou, Greenwashing Agricultural Biotechnology,” available online: <http://www.processedworld.com/Issues/issue28/i28green_wash.html&gt;.

[4] Alexander R. Galloway, “The Poverty of Philosophy: Realism and Post-Fordism,” Critical Inquiry, Vol. 39, No. 2 (Winter 2013), pp. 347-366.

[5] Rancière, Jacques. The Emancipated Spectator. Trans. Gregory Elliott. London: Verso, 2009.

[6] There are a number of recent(ish) popular books that confront this issue. Remarkably they typically have a libertarian bent and express a “media skepticism,” e.g. How to Lie with Numbers, Stat-Spotting: A Field Guide to Identifying Dubious Data, Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists and Stat-Spotting: A Field Guide to Identifying Dubious Data—a favorite past-time of these books is debunking statistics presented by feminist activists. There are also a number of articles on mathematical literacy that make this point compellingly. Remarkably they show a huge disdain for people working in “qualitative” fields.

[7] For the Frankfurt School, although this attitude was nearly ubiquitous on the university Left, showing any enthusiasm for the instrumental or technological was to become “one dimensional” and an inhalation of the miasma of capitalism’s instrumental rationality. The moral project of the university Left has been to foster a discourse of compassion, tolerance, and an attenuation to suffering as well as an academic appreciation for personal testimony, the writing and research of traditionally marginalized histories, and the privileging of personal testimony. The more radical tendencies of this discourse—especially post Occupy Wall St.—occasionally veer into questions of violence, activism, and “what is to be done?” However, the overall sentimental and sincere quality of this discourse—even while it is incredibly outraged—seem to befuddle its “force-(of)-thought” and relegate it to a largely therapeutic discourse. Further there is a certain fetishization of emotional intelligence and creativity as both something to be preserved and protected from capitalism and a moral end it in itself that makes this brand of Leftism a largely pedagogical project and an active partisan in the heterogeneous (and perhaps largely fictional) Left wing “culture war.” The manifest brilliance of high theory ends up being the artistic production of variations on social justice platitudes, e.g. racism is bad, sexism is bad, colonialism was bad, authoritarianism is bad, and finally—the ultimate act of persuasion—capitalism is bad. Marxism has never been Leftism and has struggled ineffectually against this “tendency” in its engagement with first world social and revolutionary movements (the shift from Marx to Foucault or the more recent shift to Hardt and Negri as one’s “go-to” subversive thinker, for example). The qualitative shift from “identity politics” to “social justice” is a positive sign for Marxism and Marxists insofar as this new discourse is characteristically activist and has little signs of the university discourse and theoreticism of the former; however, where Marxists were experts at “deconstructing” and deriding the practicality and highlighting the potential theoretical “disasters” of identity politics they have utterly failed to counteract the same tendencies in their own bloc and all of these critiques have been made for the sake of advertising its own theoreticism “over and against” the alternatives. Thus, theoretically speaking, Marxism is geared for criticism rather than participation, it is unclear how a “New Marxism” will benefit from this public shift (primarily in the media and the university) on the progressive Left to a social justice oriented discourse. Hence, the difficulty that arises from making this critique is that it can so easily be done for the sake of theoreticism itself. This “anti-identitarian” discourse of “macho-socialism” or “heroic” Marxism (Žižek and Badiou) so easily becomes a conservatism in itself: it is anti-feminist, common sensical and utilitarian (when it comes to critiquing the theoreticism of “the Other”), de facto against any identity political discourse, and skeptical of any participation in “popular” social movements or mainstream political parties if they do not present a sufficiently socialist line—contemporarily an impossible requirement.

[8] “Despair seems to be the dominant sentiment of the contemporary Left, whose crisis perversely mimics its foe, consoling itself either with the minor pleasures of shrill denunciation, mediatised protest and ludic disruptions, or with the scarcely credible notion that maintaining a grim ‘critical’ vigilance on the total subsumption of human life under capital, from the safehouse of theory, or from within contemporary art’s self-congratulatory fog of ‘indeterminacy’, constitutes resistance. Hegemonic neoliberalism claims there is no alternative, and established Left political thinking, careful to desist from Enlightenment ‘grand narratives’, wary of any truck with a technological infrastructure tainted by capital, and allergic to an entire civilizational heritage that it lumps together and discards as ‘instrumental thinking’, patently fails to offer the alternative it insists must be possible, except in the form of counterfactual histories and all-too-local interventions into a decentered, globally-integrated system that is at best indifferent to them. The general reasoning is that if modernity=progress=capitalism=acceleration, then the only possible resistance amounts to deceleration, whether through a fantasy of collective organic self-sufficiency or a solo retreat into miserablism and sagacious warnings against the treacherous counterfinalities of rational thought.”

[9] See Amber Lee, “Bro Bash,” The Jacobin, available online  <https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/06/bro-bash/&gt;

[10] Mackay, Robin, and Armen Avanessian. #Accelerate#. Falmouth, United Kingdom: Urbanomic Media, 2014, p. 6.

fragment on marxism-as-a-science (scary marxism), queer marxism, historicism

What Marxism has needed is the tripartite position offered by Maoism, the analytic Marxists (AM), and Lyotard’s Libidinal Economy: it must be suspicious of any and all “book worship” (Maoism), it must inoperatize all theoretical, ontological, or metaphorical language for the sake of arriving at “analytically” deduced and falsifiable truth claims from Marxism (AM), and it must recognize the “desire of Marx” as a productive impetus to be realized not in a complete corpus but through effectuations (Lyotard). What Marxism as a science and non-philosophy propose is the recognition of the complementarity between these positions that would abandon any “garden pathing” or anticipatory dialectical “consequentialism” which proposes necessary logical consequences for adopting them. In other words, Marxism as a science must resist all philosophical decisions about its research to posit itself as an anti-heroic, anti-humanist program of research that offers forth material rather than a field of knowledge that produces discrete and univocal laws and “facts.”

Marxism as a science, again, must be a unified and pluralist field; it must reject all Althusserian and Badiouan pretentions towards being a consistent “planified” philosophy and a “theory of everything,” it must abandon its largely arbitrary (philosophical) definitions (idealism vs. materialism), distinctions and distancings (bourgeoisie vs. proletarian science) and theoretical reifications of science (e.g. its numerous “critiques” of science through the hermeneutic interpretation and criticism of scientific writing or the philosophy of science). But these requirements are relatively simplistic and even naïve from the perspective of non-philosophy which already anticipated Marxism’s symptomatic “injection” into the social sciences, its rebranding or being brought “up to date” with the aid of this or that scientific supplement as a kind of haphazard Hollywood and maybe even stereotypically “Boomerish” misunderstanding of (theoretical) marketing analytics for the sake of “youth branding.” All of this amounts to Marxism’s dumpy theoretical hipsterism and yet another attempt to make itself “meaningful” and “relevant” by vampirically lapping up whatever remains of the dried blood on the once “bleeding edge” of contemporary theory (in the style of Warhol’s “Blood for Dracula”). It is a testament to its failure, the recognition of which is unavoidable and necessary in order to move on from the site of its disastrous end and its traumatic history and to remain unaffected by the mystifications of the post-Marxist intellectual “disorderly retreat” (which primarily and symptomatically manifests as the search for a single cause of Marxism’s failure which invariably mixes science and philosophy in an impotent search for a “first cause” and its assignment of a thetic or transcendental significance).

We must strive to imagine a more “unified” (rather than unitary) Marxism as a practical political worldview and pluralism that proffers an inferential logic akin to Bayesian or frequentist inference, i.e., a form of generalized (theoretical) suspicion, a motivated anti-messianism and “subjective spirit” (Kierkegaard) that inoperatizes and disinterprets all dialectics and instead opts for quantitative “multi-variate” or “meta-“ (statistically speaking) analysis, a hypothesis testing that can measure “confidence intervals” and data on the fly and that is possessed of a healthy amount of philosophical doubt or anxiety but which always non-paranoically seeks “yet more” information before arriving at a decision—which is always provisional and yet always ideally synonymous with the undertaking of a course of action—based on the “facts” or “situation at hand,” e.g. what is presented by experience or the media, while remaining decisive and always strategic. This would be to “quantic-quantitatively” account for historicism and to provide a “(re)thinking” of historical materialism as a useful field of testimony and priors (material) that comprises and informs a unified field of inference theories. Each of these theories has an express complementarity and uni-laterality which model “according to-the-One” or according to a non-decisional “determination in-the-last-instance.”[1] Further, it will propose a “queer” Marxism as a genre of non-standard Marxism. Queer Marxism provides a much needed paganism and hereticism to the typical orthodoxy of Marxist thought: it represents the pluralist and inclusive spirit of the International and one of the most generative/scientific Marxist tendencies.[2] Further, it is possessed of an anti-theoreticism and productive fervor (perhaps from its dually marginalized status; both from mainstream politics/theory and Marxism itself): it shuts down the orthodox Marxist’s tendency to “mansplain” (which is always an attempt at cuckolding and disciple-making, a performance that almost consistently borders on ridiculous) and rejects all institutional knotting; it is the most potent countervailing tendency to media-Marxism and materialism’s “planifying” and homogenizing project of “theoretical formation,” that is, to impart a “well formed” and homogenized Marxism to the masses.

[1] If “scary Marxism” (i.e., politically engaged Marxism) is to truly appropriate and benefit from its long history of revolution making and turn the experience of its partisans into “scientific” knowledge it must opt for the grim practicality and conceptual politico-ethical elasticity of the partisan, guerilla, activist, or even the media-terrorist rather than the dogmatic militant. Between the “hard truths” gained by the exigencies faced by the guerilla versus the “absolute” or “ecstatic” universalized truths of the optimally “theoretically formed” militant, the choice should be clear. This is not a choice between theoretical Marxism (Althusserianism, Badiouism, Zizekianism) and so-called “revolutionary” Marxism (Maoism, radical or militant unionism, anarcho-communism, workism, etc.) since everyone under the term “revolutionary,” Marxist or not and guerillas included, is  guilty of theoreticism; it is the dualysis and philo-fictive elaboration of a “stance” taken by the guerilla who must always operate “in-accordance-with-the-One” and whose thought, action, and goals are “determined by the Real-in-the-last-instance”: theory for the guerilla is either immediately useful as information (military intelligence), a form of therapy (identitarian or politically affirming liturgy), or has the practical purpose of being propaganda—the Marxist “intellectual” should thus treat their work and wage their battles accordingly.

[2] Judith Butler: “When it [the queer movement] emerged it was really suspending the question of identity. Some people say it is modern play, playing of the sexes and this kind of stuff. I don’t think that’s true. I think politically it is the bankruptcy of the politics of identity and the showing that we have to think coalitionally to get things done. That it doesn’t matter with whom we sleep with. The queer movement was anti institutional with a critique to normalization: that you don’t have to get normal to become legitimate. My understanding of queer is a term that desires that you don’t have to present an identity card before entering a meeting. Heterosexuals can join the queer movement. Bisexuals can join the queer movement. Queer is not being lesbian. Queer is not being gay. It is an argument against lesbian specificity: that if I am a lesbian I have to desire in a certain way. Or if I am a gay I have to desire in a certain way. Queer is an argument against certain normativity, what a proper lesbian or gay identity is.”

the principle of (in)sufficient poetry, cure of poetic vocation

Its apparent to me that I have a hostility towards poetry and literature. One possible reason is because it can promote a shallow mysticism another is that it excessively relies on its tropes as “universal” “literary” truths. Badiou notes this philosophical impulse to find poetry intolerable to thought for philosophy in Conditions. Looking (not too much) further, on a personal level, my most literary friends are all extreme narcissists and range from mildly to extremely depressive. In recent memory I expressed an extreme distaste for memorizing French poetry and am somewhat vengeful about having to recite it (poorly) in from of a large room of people every day. I think Freud was on to something when he effectively said that the poetry was a form of sublimation of infantile fantasies, the equivalent of learning how to hide an erection (or lady boner) and engage in flirtatious small talk instead of just gaze and drool at your amour. I myself have turned to poetry in moments of extreme frustration and social alienation. Whatever. I am not a poet.

As a human and someone now antagonistic to (certain) philosophical prejudices, I still find that poets and theorists of poetry–but not poetry itself–piss me off since they are a somewhat egocentric bunch and it is the poetry of the rich that typically survives and becomes representative of poetry in general. While it is not evident that Grossman is a member of the aristocracy is, however, a decent example of the type of theoreticism that (occasionally) surrounds poetry. His brand is a particularly strong brew of Greco-Roman and New Age infatuations.

Regardless of my difficulties, here is a more concise resume of Grossman’s early poetics:

Grossman asserts with his somewhat abusive use of “economy,” that the emergence of poetry is a good “indicator” of social crisis. It is the mode of communication of “last resort” as a form of symbolic self-reclamation and preservation of a/the social memory, i.e., it “ascertains the moment.” This is the precarious insufficiency of poetry that ascribes to it a kind of provisional universality: the indeterminate or undecidable preservation (it might be better to say “implication”) of a life-world. The poet’s “poetic interest” in his life-world or the (non-)specific conditions of his “social pact” are preserved in poetry in a non-generalizable way. The role of poetry is to preserve the existence of value assigned to facts (its role as a normative realism). Here poetry and not philosophy compossibilizes the generic truth procedure of a “community” bound by a social-linguistic pact. Poetry cannot function without a “god-term” (theo-logos) that ascribes value to things, provides reality with a general intelligibility, and provides poetry with a confiance au monde. Poetry is itself and relies upon an institution that preserves the efficacy of this god-term. Poetry is mobilized by poetic language which refers and constitutes this term as it constitutes the world as an “act of initiation.” Poetry is an otherness from ordinary language that puts it in conflict with other institutions by its originality, however, it is paradoxically ascribed the “absolute priority of representation” and the “representation of last resort.” Thus poetry is necessarily subversive or disruptive since it effectuates a “reciprocal delegitimation of all institutions that assert validity. Poetry sustains and testifies to a primordial wound or symbolic loss which operatizes the symbolic economy of valuation. Poetic language is non-communicative, non-messaging, and non-homogeneous–it is a form of phatic communication, ritual, or performance. Poetry recognizes human beings but within an economy of scarcity such that a form of “eidetic” warfare breaks out for the poetic resources for self-description (linguistic self-identity or “manifestation”) and institutional recognition.

The balance of these claims implies a Principle of (In)sufficient Poetry. However, for Grossman it is apparent that poetry not only requires no assistance but is beyond adequate, it is in fact constitutive of the the social order and the world. This heroic posturing which asserts the constitutive power of poetry to render the world not only intelligible but existent plants us in philosophy’s dreaded logocentrism. However, we should note that this is more characteristic of Grossman’s work in the early-mid aughts. His position in the second half of the book and in his later publications seems to emphasize poetry’s inconsistency, communicative “difficulties,” and the radically ambiguous status of its “knowledge.” Instead of asserting the confiance au monde as the source of poetry’s value, he instead places its value on its indeterminateness and undecidability of its truth. This places poetry much more on the side of art than philosophy following the precepts of contemporary art theory discourse.

We also begin to see a more lucid (and frankly original) argument about the place of poetry relative to philosophy without any pretense to undertake a Nietzschean (anti-)philosophical coup of philosophy’s authority and prestige. He can be seen as making a Badiouian proposition that poetry arises at the “end of philosophy” but after a very ambiguous statement about the “status” of poetry: its relative autonomy and (in)sufficiency:

The idea of poetry in general does not require that there be any actual poems. Such as, for example, those made of metered sentences. There is, however, an attested sense among philosophers that poetry names a final discourse that comes into view when the limit of philosophy is seen. (p. 153)

He states more clearly later on:

I myself am not clear–despite the general prestige of the word–what, as a term, “poetry” with its entailed implication of “creativity” can now mean in the context of the actual human task. What obligations “poetry” requires. What benefit to the human world the obligations, privilege, or competence named “poetry”–the vocation to “poetic work”–implies or promises. Above all, what knowledge it contributes. Nor shall I answer that question to my own satisfaction. But the tendency of my thought is to consider the term “poetry,” as it is now employed, as a meaning “sanctioned making.” That is to say: “poetry” is now a mystified term. And the mystification of the term is demanded by the social necessity (peculiar to our cultural moment) of concealing the violence of representation as such: eidetic violence. (p. 154)

This re-emphasis on “eidetic violence,” something which concerns the capacity for poetry or the “poetic institution” to properly represent the diverse members of the polis and give them a kind of ontological legitimacy. Is a somewhat frustrating ontologization of the real political and economic problem of the social recognition and support of the arts and artists. It is a thetic or transcendentalized mixture of the usual question of “opening up” the arts to the real national demographic situation, e.g., how many artists are women, black, foreign, left-wing, homosexual, so that a few typically “othered” members of society can be set in the pantheon of great artists. How this is to be done with rapidly diminishing to non-existent public funding and in an increasingly elitist and financialized art-world… not to speak of the degraded state of the humanities in the university is, to make an enormous understatement, already difficult enough without Grossman’s theoreticism and mysticism. However, this question does become more material relative Grossman’s consideration of the poetic vocation and its “urgency.”

The cure of the [poetic] vocation requires, as I have said, provision of the regulative effect of an institution not poetic that the poem undertakes to state–in fact, to supply. But can a poem do that? In any case. the urgency of this poem [T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufock] expresses the intent to do so. The speaker in the poem speaks in a tone of urgent purposiveness and expresses his anxiety about the generality, the shared intelligibility of his experience, which must be communicated and may be impossible to communicate. (p. 155)

While Grossman is not tremendously clear about what a poetic institution is, it is somewhat clear that it is both constituted by and regulative of poetry itself. The drive towards discovering and solving “hard problems” with poetry is fueled by this anxiety regarding the generic intelligibility of language and the generality of experience. A poetic institution then is perhaps the index of these problems.

In “creative writing classes” (Grossman’s use of scare quotes not mine) only issues of aesthetics and style are considered while “poetic anxiety,” like the philosopher’s is rarely regarded and certainly not transferred. To be grossly psychoanalytic, the poet seems motivated to contribute to and solve these hard problems since they effectively transfer onto the “poetic institution” as a way of rationalizing their personal problems and potentially solving them. This would be an example of poetry’s seductive “sufficiency” and conceptualizing potency: its capacity to universalize [the suffering of] the poet by endowing them with a historical or historicized and therefore “eternal” and “thetic” significance. This is coupled with a [hallucinatory/hallucinated] promise to somehow solve them: “The poem conducts us (permits us to think our way through) from tragic logic (Aristotle) to the other comic logic of inclusion, the logic of ecstasy” (p. 156). A potent cocktail, this is the cure of “poetic vocation.”

Allen Grossman and the principle of (in)sufficient poetry

A particularly anti-philosophical friend of mine (but in an unusual manner–which I will reveal in a second) gave me a copy of Allen Grossman’s book True-Love: Essays on Poetry and Valuing which has as very aggressive anti-philosophical streak. Professor Grossman has recently died evidently, so it is an inopportune time to write such an irreverent tidbit on him. However, I feel that his book addresses the anti-philosophical aspects of non-philosophy from a literary and aesthetic perspective. I also suppose that critique is not a totally bad form of flattery since I didn’t just decide to ignore the bastard and let his death and work go totally unnoticed.

Granted, this isn’t exactly my style and I find it indulgent and inflationary. I much I prefer non-philosophy to be “assisted” by psychoanalysis, economics or the philosophy of science–harder stuff. Further, it seems apparent that the potency of non-philosophical writing and effectuations can be weakened by overuse and overexposure. I also have found that it is sometimes simply not fair to mobilize the arsenal of non-philosophy against something like poetry since no field or practice is in anyway sufficient and poetry is in someways particularly vulnerable to the critique that it isn’t “rigorous” or that it can’t “think itself.” However, I think this is a hazard of speaking from the “institution” of poetry, a gamble that Grossman clearly takes. In this regard, by “taking the helm” of poetry as its authoritative institutional representative–like Badiou does for philosophy itself–he risks and indeed actually lapses into philosophical maneuvering. His philosophical pretense, well beyond a simple defense, is to assert the authority and superiority of poetry over philosophy.

Finally, before this gets underway, it is worthwhile to admit a lack of familiarity with poetry and a recognition that poetic writing is meant to do something else entirely than philosophy, I view it as something like one of Agamben’s broken or inoperative/inoperatizing tools. Further, its lack of a specific use or “institutional” mission makes it distinct from philosophy while traversing much of the same conceptual territory, e.g. somewhere (I wonder if it was in Badiou’s Conditions, although it might actually have been my Hegel professor Alfredo Ferrarin that made this comparison or maybe Iain Hamilton Grant’s Philosophies of Nature after Schelling) someone said that Lucretius and his Nature of Things was the great precursor to philosophical materialism and tows the line between philosophy, poetry, and a kind of “science-fiction” by issuing forth arguments, explanations, and descriptions but in the form of poetic prose. I’ll develop this more as this goes on.

So what is the basic maneuver of this text? Initially, Grossman produces–with a potent literary strategy and effective critical tone–a kind of humanist non-phenomenology of poetry and literature which initially functions as a foil to philosophy. Secondarily, it is to establish poetry and poetic knowledge as a sufficient by itself in lieu of philosophy (and presumably any other “authoritarian” epistemic domain or discursive regime). I appreciate this maneuver since a deconstructionist sensibility (see p. xvi-ii on literary or deconstructionist writing) would also assert this sufficiency insofar as literature and poetry need no assistance from philosophy or hermeneutic procedures to “unearth” a (presumably univocal) signification (see also The Post Card and Derrida’s comments on how literature already analyses itself). The product of the usual philosophical procedure (its “intervention” into literature) is to convert literature into a series of philosophical propositions, maxims, or “life lessons,” which–besides being mind-numbingly inane–deprives literature of its “richness” and inevitably more mysterious aesthetic dimension. Agreed. However, why assert the superiority of literature over philosophy in this regard? Isn’t the celebrated and characteristic atmosphere of freewheeling ungrounded aesthetic play in (post)(modern) literature a product of its abandonment of any and all authority? The point of poetic and literary license, I thought, (à la the Nietzschean “affirmational” element of Derrida’s argument in “Structure, Sign, Play”  see p. 369) is to irresponsibly effectuate knowledge as a savoir faire or “worldly knowledge” without a systematic or rigorous epistemology. Rather–and the operative post-structuralist term here is “autopoetic,” it is a spontaneous generation of concepts, ontologies, and epistemologies without any notion of “ground.”

Poetry, and here Grossman is on to something, is inconsistent by its principle and not obliged to be “true” in any satisfiably philosophical sense. This Real dimension of poetry and literature grants them a relative autonomy and a provisional capacity to produce “truths” by a procedure of an iterated modeling and expansion of identifiable thematic of (arche)typical (arche- in the sense of “arche-writing“) humans, objects, terms and concepts (e.g. love insofar as it is represented by a given love poem or is thematically found in a given poem). Poems or whatever, although here we can also include any genre of writing insofar as it presents itself as “art,” effectuate a regional, provisional and highly variegated truth, which is to say, more rigorously, they produce material and have a radical immanence. This material, to the deconstructionists’ chagrin, is inevitably theoretically and philosophically exploited; to wit, universalized, sutured to planified philosophical systems, and otherwise subordinated to the “desire of the theorist” which is disingenuously presented as a “discovery.” The theorist here is a philosophical dirigiste, crony, or ideologue–the type of character who pissed off Derrida by believing they could regulate the “play of the sign.”

It is precisely here, after this relatively effective and persuasive critique, that Grossman succumbs to various unfortunate philosophical pretensions and mauvaise habitudes the foremost of which is the placement of poetic knowledge prior to philosophical knowledge as the more proper and authentic representation of truth, a maneuver which demonstrates a continued mystification and seduction by philosophy–least not indicated by his immensely tight in-text citation of all the usual suspects, i.e., Nietzsche, Kant, Hegel, etc.–since this assertion of priority is a… no the philosophical maneuver par excellence. We have here the simple replacement of poetry with philosophy in an needless competition which presents itself as a hysterically masculine epistemological dick measuring contest.

In other words, the central claim is that poetry does knowledge better… however, the force-(of)-thought behind this claim is given its inertia by a variegated and somewhat esoteric philosophical scaffolding furnished with all the usual tricks and “philosophemes,” e.g., his practice of philosophically or dialectically differentiating and opposing terms to give them a kind of formal or causal systematicity (unilateral duality) based on decisional or auto-positional presentations of philosophically or onto-poetically “over-determined” words (e.g. truth, knowledge, love, desire, and death). For example, apropos his term “true-love” he states (I’ll try to keep citation light to medium):

Within the borderlessness of the language of love, I have chosen the term “true-love,” the crossing of knowledge (truth) and acknowledgement (love), the identity of contradictories both of which are maximal terms freighted not only with explicit value but, when conjoined with the intention of the highest value. Needless to say, the identity or equality of contradictories violates possibility in a world subject to the Aristotelian Laws of Thought. Power is brought to bear in the production of the tertium quidTrue-love intends an action that somehow authorizes the valid predication of truth upon love. And this “somehow” seems to cover over a counterlogical principle such as Kierkegaard’s “either/or” (concordia discors), neither religious nor philosophical–the poetic principle. (p. 16)

The various arguments that constitute the “assembled validity” (in the sense of the aggregate modes of adducing and validating its referend as real proffered by the author that function as an assemblage which directs its signification with relative consistency) or conceptual infrastructure of this term are operatized by his tight citation but minimal explanation of poetry as a persuasive strategy. This strategy of not explaining can be effective non-philosophically; however, in this instance it is simply manipulative. We also can see a bizarre and uncharacteristic envy of style or method (it is usually the other way around) in his auto-positional presentation of textual and terminological genealogies very much in the mode of the recent(ish) post-structuralist French anti-philosophers influenced by Nietzsche. (It may be that he took for granted their claim that intra-philosophical hermeneutic practices like archaeology and deconstruction were genuinely anti-philosophical and scientific.

The insinuations of the quote on p. 16 are essentially anti-philosophical via a kind of oblique Derridean (language is boundless) or Levi-Straussian (myth also resolves contradictions) reference. However, his term “true-love” he is not content to let sit as an undecided or underdetermined anti-philosophical term. It is used in a dirigiste manner to coordinate an argument and series of specific claims about what poetry can do–what type of knowledge it provides that philosophy can’t–for the sake of asserting poetry’s sufficiency, authority, and superiority to philosophy. For instance, under the name of poetry and by its (philological? etymological?) methods, he undertakes a genealogical analysis of his concept “true-love”:

The “true-love” I am studying has two genealogies, one demotic (the love knot, like a four-leaf clover, that everyone in the sixteenth century knew how to tie), and the other an esoteric transformation of the true-love knot, commonly figured as the Seal of Soloman (pentangle). The first stems from Anglo-Saxon feudality. “True-love” is a Germanic expression “(as still in der Leibesknoten) This true-love (AS treowlufu) implies in the first instance the truth/troth of contract (both social and cosmic on the comos/polis glechnis) respecting the relationship of persons. […] This contract between unlike parties stipulating likeness (the logic of power within power) bears, like biblical covenant, upon the fundamental intelligibility of the world as personal other. […]

The second genealogy of the true-love I am studying (the Seal of Solomon, esoteric version of the true-love knot that anyone could tie) implies the love of truth (objective genitive as in philosophia), not Germanic but Greco-roman, indeed Platonic–as Foucault found it (The Use of Pleasure, part. 5, “True Love”), intending not the sufficient conditions of contract, but cognitive/amative unity with the real, that is to say, knowledge. […] In both cases, the production of value is a dependence of the sacrificial model. (pp. 33-4)

What to make of this genealogy? Grossman’s reference to his ominous sounding “ongoing studies” is for the sake of an anti-philosophical maneuver of subordinating philosophy to the exigences of “true-love” which thereby makes it available (philosophizable, decidable) as an object of “poetic” study… a study that has evidently already netted a positive gain; namely, a historical/sociological insight into the logic of symbolic exchange (extricated from the demotic [ordinary] language feudal society) which already and separately (what a coincidence!) implied an Oedipus styled privative psychoanalytic linguistic pact which, for Grossman, renders the world intelligible in accordance to an instrumental or valuational logic (the “logic of the signifier” perhaps?). This discovery by his “studies” testify to the sufficiency and authority of poetry, presumably without which we would have never gained this (profound) insight. Poetry, “without mediation” and by its “artisanal boasting,” he states on the same page, illustrates the “Horatian logic [see particularly his themes and odes] in which human value is produced by human sacrifice–no middle term.” Poetry, in other words, more simplistically and perhaps more efficiently than philosophy, can attain knowledge without a hefty formal or ontological apparatus and without succumbing to the regulatory logic it indicates as its referent–it only cleanly and aesthetically reiterates and reflects or represents its objects without ontological commitment. We can politely admit that he might have a point here in terms the effectuations of poetry which can hallucinate or insinuate this type of access by its fictive power. But Grossman admits this transitive and ontological use of poetry is impossible (see below). So how poetry can “do all this and more!” namely, retain its ludic groundless play and be a “first philosophy” is unclear. However, for this and presumably many other other excellent reasons, he proudly claims that

[T]he poet’s authority is superior to the philosopher’s precisely because the poet can assign significance to a larger range of experience than can the philosopher. The will to power is a way of pointing to highest value, and the name of that value in the twentieth century is existence. The advantage of poetic authority is the poet’s confidence with respect to appearances (Steven’s confiance au monde) or the existence of what is seen to exist. This primacy of existence-experience (a revaluation or transvaluating–Umwertung–of the phenomenal by contrast to noumenal). (p. 36).

The misstep, which is not strictly speaking an error but is a misstep insofar as it plunges us back into philosophy is not to assert that this is true, –it might be at times or regionally or for some of us however this is not a generic or generalizable truth–but rather to find any significance in it. That is to say, to use his affective preference for poetry’s confidence, the poet’s apparent “passion for the real,” and poetry’s knowledge (whatever that is), to assert, as we said, its superiority (meh) and priority (very meh) over philosophy.

Thus, he indulges in a kind of paradoxical philosophical window dressing which heroically presents poetry as 1. an “assurance” of normative realism (see also this article) and therefore 2. a kind of sociological-hermeneutic practice which functions as authoritative testimony about term x, y, or z and 3. a form of critique. The last is not so absurd, the instances of poetic critiques are numerous and even occasionally politically effective.The other two in combination with the third, however, is asking for too much of poetry and are possibly not even desirable.

Apropos the first he states:

Realism because the poetic principle restates appearance, confident that there is something real that is like what is experienced. Normative because the poem is always built upon a double system of signifiers. To put it another way, the poem is always a discourse of one kind (existence discourse) about or intending and deferring a discourse of another kind (a true-love discourse). (p. 36).

There is something obscure here. “Double system of signifiers” could refer to Saussure’s notion of “double articulation” and the dual nature of the sign (comprised of signifier and signified); a structure which allows for a system of signs to emerge from both elements of the sign (whereby the signified functions as a signifier in its own system of signs–this composition causes the famed instability of the sign via the proliferation of its syntagmatic or associative relations of its component parts). I address this in my not objectively bad essay on Saussure’s economic metaphor. How this in any way normative is uncertain since any regulating or normative principle produced by la langue or a system of signs is totally provisional and arbitrary by its disruptive syntagmatic/synchronic and diachronic movement. Meanwhile to distance this “system” as a manifest or “existence” discourse on the side of realism that “intends and defers” another unconscious or “deferred” discourse on the side of normativity (true-love discourse) is somewhat arbitrary: here we have the classical philosophical distancing of appearance from essence. How normative realism is not within in the scope of generic philosophy or is a challenger to philosophy in general is not developed by Grossman. Suffice it to say, the claim that poetry might assist normative realism is not unfounded, however, this does nothing to grant poetry its own sufficiency or authority over any other field or practice.

In regards to 2, he states:

[I]f I am to affirm poetic text as a context authoritative in the matter of “true-love,” than I must concern myself with the authority of poetry as witness to the term in question. In brief, “true-love” or the infallible discovery of the unmistakable object of love–the truth of love and also the love of truth–is among the recurrent idealization of civilization. It is also a very constant subject of poetry and mingles itself with the most fundamental questions of relationship, representation, intentional consciousness, and valuation. (p. 20)

and later:

All representations of true-love are interrogative because true-love arises at crisis of social knowledge (cf. Plotinus), which ironically specify the difference between heresy and orthodoxy (i.e. between the truth of the particular and the truth and the truth of the general, child and parent, knowing and not knowing)–difference that always involves a betrayal. One such historical crisis was the English Reformation to which twentieth-century poetic modernism owes the structure of its discourse–consciousness as revision (cf. “repentance” in Crane’s “Legend”) and the de-commodification of the highest value. The authority of true-love, as of poetry is always […] a generative contingency–both origin and consequent presence–of institutions that true-love founds and that then bear it as an alien logic across time. (Indeed, it cannot be stressed too emphatically that neither love nor poetry are, strictly speaking, institutions.) Institutions such as church, state, nature, law, two-factored logic, et cetera, supply the historical object of value that true-love (subject) consciousness intends. (p. 24-5)

I believe here that poetry–insofar as it is useful in the usual respectable manner–can give an insight into history by reflecting (within reason) relatively generalizable sentiments about certain material conditions or events. To denounce the use of poetry in this regard is to denounce the study of history via texts, which I do not think is prudent. Indeed, the philological, historical materialist and archaeological use of texts to gain sociological insights about certain time periods I do not view as a bankrupt process insofar as it admits its own insufficiency and makes sufficient use of “assistant” methods like political economic, forensic and statistical analysis. Non-philosophically, the use of poetry for a philo-fiction or uchronic writing in the name of Laruelle’s non-philosophical rumblings and effectuations could be seen as a desirable. Indeed, I think that Grossman is effectively producing an anti-philosophical philo-fiction (in a “not non-philosophical” and somewhat pejorative sense) that insinuates various philosophies that exhibit a “passion for the real,” e.g. any sort of non or only partially discursive realism/materialism or, in its best form, object oriented ontology and speculative realism.

Indeed, it is necessary to note several places where Grossman expresses what I consider anti-philosophy boarding on non-philosophical thought. In part VIII he proffers a number of somewhat attractive ideas.

It is evident that poetry share with all speech that is language-like an incompetence with respect to consummatory states of experience. All indicators of temporality–including the present tense–signify distance from the origin of experience. (p. 34).

The imperatives therefore of love (both to the search for true-love experience and its deferral) confront the poet with complex requirements of contradictory kinds–the fundamental transgressive logic that finds the future of the poet’s work (definitive of its structure–true-love) in problematic relation to any outcome that can be rationally chosen in the light of and defensible meaning of love or of truth. (p. 35)

The claim I wish to make is that the structures in which poetry is realized as poems are authoritative, and recognized as such by philosophers (hence the “quarrel”) precisely because they preserve and affirm logically contradictory propositions, by contrast to the structures in which philosophy is realized as text subject to the constraints of logic (the Aristotelian Laws of Thought) known to be necessary but without truth. (pp. 35-6)

Finally, he says rather simply that poetry does not reach to the real (p. 34). These illustrate what might be called a “Principle of (In)sufficient Poetry.” It will take some time to translate some of this into non-philosophical parlance and this I view as not a particularly fruitful project. However, some “translations” and “conjugations” of Grossman’s concepts come to mind.

  1. the “underdetermination” of love or “true-love” from a rigorous term into an occasion for poetry.
  2. the divestment of the humanist or “moral” economy of poetry as a practice of the representation and “archiving” of the world.
  3. the re-characterization of poetry and its “terms” as a form of unitary “onto-fiction,” not-philosophical testimony, or archival text into a holographically onto-vectorial and non-decided “artifact” or “fossil” (not quite Meillessoux’s arche-fossil since it is coextensive with human existence but which serves a similar purpose) which can furnish non-philosophy with partially “cloned” or “dualized” material.
  4. this poetic material would then function as an “art-thought” or “art-fiction” (apropos Laruelle’s book Photo-fiction, non-standard aesthetics), i.e., an occasion, an instance of conceptual modeling, world-building, experimentation, and a contingent Vision-in-One which can be mobilized for a multitude of non-philosophical effectuations.
  5. giving Grossman’s conception of “truth without mediation” a more Deleuzian “radial immanence” flare might also serve to undo some of its philosophical aspirations.
  6. moving poetry closer to the side of art and away from philosophy or esoteric philosophical pretentions (Grossman’s moral economy of poetics and its burden of just poetic representation).
  7. just ditching normative realism and giving Grossman’s principle of (in)sufficient poetry a more non-philosophical anti-humanist characterisation. I think here deconstruction, especially the kind espoused by Derrida in Dissemination, is a useful assistant.

I’ll expand this as I think of more ideas.

Laruelle on citation, why non-philosophers hate citation

While I was at my program I found a passage in Philosophie non-standard which finally offered an insight into why non-philosopher’s hate citation and more or less disclosed the official position of non-philosophy towards citation. Now that I have had some free time I finally got around to translating it. I’m a total noob at translation and made not-so-insignificant use of google translate and linguee (but only as a last resort to the extent that I could). I had particular difficulty with the passages on method [moyen], memory [mémoire], and remembrance. Anyways, straight from the horses mouth:

A poet, Daumal, has given a key to this work if we are to understand our word “superposition” in a quantic manner: “to be human is a superposition of vicious circles.” We will take this unique citation for ourselves merely adding that humans debate themselves in the circles of hell to try to break themselves free. What the hell is the scope of this text? We will note a harrowing lack of exactly these citations and of a bibliography as well as a harrowing excess: that of an exceedingly complex vocabulary. Further, there are theoretical means and terminologies, mobilized with as little citation as possible, which are practicable and useful. Hyper-information and hyper-communication have rendered them pointless and impractical—totally without relevance. Still, this systematic lack which we have established, that prefers objects to citations, is perceived as solipsist and irritating and something to be resisted. Besides that it is a university technique of staging [mise en scène] and exhibiting knowledge which serves to assure a certain recognition and position in research, this “taking stock” is privileged in lieu of invention, it represents the aspect of wasteful and unbridled consumption of theory often undertaken by weak academic research. We do not practice the ecology of preserving memories, the precocity of philosophical utterances and the caretaking [gardiennage] of high words. We care for the products of philosophical terroirs only to the extent that their arrangement is in accordance with our style and that we can enjoy original “products” from their being-thought. Citation is a secondary method and its sole purpose is to demand consumption. But it is diverse, the culture has several ways of burying its deaths and exhibiting them as “last minute” testimonies. There is the academic trampling of the past, lazy and scholarly, its form mastered by Deleuze and Derrida who have been known to make this into a real technique of thought which leads philosophy to a nostalgia for its end, but perhaps there is  also a procedure of continuous transformation of its problems, our method. The generic procedure of forcing that we practice underdetermines all these sources, merely occasional, of discourse and does not attach to them anything in particular. It is less interested in their memory, a remembrance which in this context is not a method or means, which in the future-to-come arrives and (re)establishes these methods. Rather, it is more tempted by the hermeneutics of the problems in these texts which carry the old spirit of religious observance. The choice is arbitrary and menaced by a citational explosion, which is another reason for its rejection. Assailed by the multiplicity of possible references, we will otherwise take pains to go beyond these grand names which we serve to highlight their anchoring in the ocean of metaphysics and to the rigor of a “fixed sky.” We have therefore cabotaged along these coasts only when it suits our needs, firing a broadside for the sake of recognition here and there, sometimes to Kant, now to Nietzsche or some other solitary navigator, past loves and recent admirations as well like Deleuze or Badiou. Regardless, we are ready to recognize our debts which a certain army of creditors is entitled to demand of us. However, if they want to become known, if they want to identify themselves, this crowd will probably become discouraged by their own accord. (Philosphie non-standard, Laruelle, pp. 9-10.  compare to the original version here.)

Obviously everything within reason. The going standard of non-philosophers seems to reproduce philosophical concepts through explanation and translation of philosophical “material” into non-philosophical language rather than citation followed by analysis. Dualysis and cloning are the specific methods of rendering philosophical material as a way of “deactivating” it, i.e., divorcing it from its systematic presentation, divesting it of its ontologizing or objectivating powers, and disabling its persuasive efficacy. This “under-determines” it and lets it accord to its “determination-in-the-last-instance” which is roughly the philosophical term or concepts least common denominator or generic signification. On the internet, scientific and mathematical concepts are explained with hyperlinks to relevant articles. In print, explication is typically done at the debut of the text in the form of a short glossary, something I find quite appealing and facile but the diversity of such glossaries and the inconsistency of the definitions is a little startling. However, hermeneutics and analysis are simply interdit. The ONPHI has a very minimal glossary of approved(?) terms considering the maddening profusion of non-philosophical terms that appear to be created on the fly by Laruelle without definition, especially in his later works (e.g. determination-before-the-first-humaneity, the various principles of insufficient or sufficient something or another). Whatever.

At some point I’ll present my thoughts on dualysis and cloning after I finish The Principles of Non-Philosophy.

Edit, 10.1.14: Rocco Gangle’s excellent introduction to Philosophies of Difference: A critical Introduction to non-philosophy also has great commentary and certain “rules of thumb” for dealing with non-philosophy (which for someone who is not Laruelle seems to be limited to adequate translation).

Laruelle’s style involves–for key theoretical, and not merely idiosyncratic, reasons–a rejection of the standard scholarly apparatus of citation and reference. After all, a new form of thought creates its own distinctive conventions and practices. Rather than attempting to overcome or remedy this essential aspect of Laruelle’s thought, I have avoided interposing any second-order commentary that would purport to clarify and explain Laruelle’s frequent allusions and references. I take it that Laruelle says what he means and means what he says; there is no need to supplement his critical analysis of Difference and his outline of a non-philosophical theory of philosophical decision with additional explanatory notes or commentary. These would only clutter a thoroughly clear albeit difficult exposition. Thus I have in effect duplicated Laruelle’s own practices of taking over certain technical terms from the philosophers he engages–Derrida’s ‘strictions’ for example, or the ‘historial’ in Heidegger–without further discussion. I have made every attempt to use terms in each case that are current in the relevant Anglophone scholarship. Laruelle’s claims are explicit and his articulations exact, his argumentation highly compressed and yet nearly always precisely adequate to its ense. There is little room for synopsis or explanation that would not misrepresent or over-simplify (not to say overcomplicate) the real difficulties of the matter at issue. I have aimed at nothing more than providing an English version of Philosophies of Difference and its internally consistent textual and conceptual practices. (Philosophies of Difference, p. xi)

Alright, if you say so. I think this commentary is extremely rigorous and Gangle’s translation is obviously superb–he is much smarter than me–but I can’t help but remember Laruelle punning off of Lyotard and Derrida’s name in Philosophy and Non-Philosophy to produce “Derritard” and then asserting that this had some sort of transcendental meaning. This might be Taylor Adkins’ doing, bringing out a more ludic aspect of Laruelle, but it is there all the same, and it is wonderfully obscene.

struggle and utopia, (null-)politics, the Spaßguerilla

The purpose of these posts is to reclaim and restart the discourse I was developing around a series of topics that bear on the question of Marxism’s status as a science, its usefulness and competence as a social and economic theory, and how one practically goes about living as a Marxist so that they can actually achieve a victory here and there for the proletariat. I just finished Laruelle’s Struggle and Utopia at the End of Philosophy. To be frank, the closing sections on rebellion and gnosticism are shocking since they seem to adopt some of the vocabulary of the label of the back of a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s magic soaps. Case in point is his discussion of Angel’s, heretics, transcendent rebels, the “all-crime,” and his usual discourse on the One in the context of an elaborate gnostic philo-fiction. I loaned the book to a friend who has some knowledge of Gnosticism and listened to Anthony Paul Smith’s discourse on this book and Future Christ: a lesson in heresyAs always, Writing Capital’s notes were useful, however, I have found that there is an uncharacteristic lack of Laruelle’s clarity (which for me just comes from his repetitive treatment of the same concepts); his conceptions of positive and negative utopia, mastery, overmastery, struggle, and victory and how he characterizes the role of his various philosophical personalities of his Angels, Rebels, and Heretics are obscured by typically French coked out theory writing (what I called at one point going “full-Baudrillard”). There is a dialogue taking place and a series of references that I am not familiar with although Anthony Paul Smith does disclose some important links to Meister Eckhardt and Hesychasm. Much of the proletarian and Marxist themes make sense (rebellion and struggle) but the themes of Gnosis, inspiration, and affectation simply seem to get in the way. I want to write something about how these terms interface and are defined but it will be necessarily hermeneutic. Finding an appropriate way of confronting them non-philosophically is certainly a question, considering the field’s prejudice against citation.

The “take away” for me–to use some unfortunate corporate vocabulary–was that the non-philosophical political imaginary, relative to concepts of extreme social transformation and resistance or revolution, needs to be divorced from the usual Marxist philosophical themes of necessity, possibility, and impossibility. Rather, if I am not abusing the text, non-philosophical political philo-fiction ought to be rephrased in terms of struggle and victory in a sort of non-neurotic “undulatory” or provisional acceptance of the positions offered by Nietzsche and Marx which allows for mastery without fetishizing it and allows for struggle without romanticizing it. This is not necessarily the creation of “reasonable” political goals for small scale social transformation but a matter of humanistically or “humaneistically” outlining and perspectivising political goals in a way that divorces them from (neurotic) philosophical categories such as contingency or necessity. This is to say, it deconceptualizes and deontologizes them so that one can engage them “futurally” as a matter of practical struggle or simple work for a concrete victory in the form of a positive utopia. The foremost example of this might be the ONPHI, which Laruelle cites as a possible positive utopia in the middle section of the book.

Positive Utopia could possible be the “actual” or “in-Real” creation of an institution such as the ONPHI. There are obvious allusions to the creation of the original psychoanalytic circles and communist parties. These allusions suggest that the “practical exigencies” of building an organization are an conditioning supplement to utopian thought (since it becomes “thought-according-to-the Real” of the immanent requirements of the institution or organization you are trying to build). I think the term “mission” adequately communicates the interface between a negative and positive utopia with an organization functioning as the superposition between the two terms. Note the surprisingly barren statutes of the ONPHI, which are mostly concerned with paying dues and governance as if it were a militant union; the non-philosophers have built from nothing an organization which reflects, enacts, and disseminates their ideals whereas Marxist theorists must always hunt for a party or politician (with which they will always be dissatisfied) that partially represents them to furnish them with their philosophical material (note Žižek’s ambiguous simultaneous support and criticism of political strongmen like Hugo Chavez and Alexis Tsipras).

There are obvious differences between an organization like the ONPHI, unions and left-wing political parties that make the success of the ONPHI seem less grand but I think a similar pluralist organization of left-wing intellectuals is necessary state-side, especially in light of their recent persecution regarding issues like the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Further, the ambiguous official (non-)position of the non-philosophers towards “capitalism” (although, I cringe to use the term so generally) makes them an unlikely target for institutional repression. Non-philosophy remains very much a university discourse despite its proletarian sympathies and admiration for the defunct project of the New-Left.

This middle section is fascinating because it tows the line between asserting disciplinary standards for (non-philosophical) rigor without attempting to create any sort of orthodoxy. It is a difficult balancing act since it is clear that Laruelle wants to retain the pluralism of non-philosophy while ratifying “progressive” tendencies and defending it from becoming “non-religious” influences. He dedicates a fair amount of time chasing away the specter of Deleuze.

In context, the final section seems to be in violation of all of Laruelle’s rules for rigorous philo-fiction (since it is fairly unrestrained in its use of synthetic, literary and otherwise “enabling” philosophical vocabulary rather than the typical non-philosophical procedure of disabling “disoperationalizing” or “deconceptualizing” philosophical thought). I don’t know what to make of this except that I can recall some sections from Future Christ which create provisos for this type of “unrestrained” style. I still haven’t finished Future Christ so perhaps my vision of the “triptych” he is constructing is incomplete while the “boundaries” remain undefined.

A second issue concerning Realpolitiks or what Writing Capital calls “null-politics“–I’ve taken to sometimes writing it “(null-)politics” to indicate that the null or Real dimension of politics is always comprised in politics–comes to mind. I define this as “politics-according-to-the-Real” that is best “rationalized” or “processed” theoretically as “politics-according-to-the-model” particularly an econometric, game theoretical or rational choice theory model evaluated by axiomatized but non-decisional or provisional ethical “principles” i.e., a preference “determined-in-the-last-instance” by the minimal requirements human life (humaneity-in-the-last-insance) or for “bioethical” equilibrium or optimal conditions for social reproduction and utility maximizing outcomes. Scanning his tumblr, I came across the term “psychometrics” which I want to integrate into the philo-fiction I’m developing on null-politics. Combined with biometrics (not in the sense of surveillance but the study of human traits) it might create a kind of “good” anthropocentrism which would offer an alternative to the somewhat unfortunate vocabulary of care for “the poor” in non-philosophy (which is perhaps, as Ranciere notes in his book The Philosopher and his Poor, both a specific tendency of French theory but a larger trend in philosophy in general, for a good example, see Jacques Fradin’s theory of non-economics or Writing Capital’s English translation of his lexicon and the end of Katerina Kolozova’s article on non-Marxism.

This second issue concerns the figure of the Rebel who resembles the idea of a theoretical “Spaßguerilla” I created in my hectic essay on (null-)politics. The ludic and daemoniacal aspects of the Angel (who Laruelle attributes a kind of Platonic mania to) are preserved in the “fun guerilla’s” irreverent and deconstructive play while they undertake a rather dire political struggle with brutal practicality. The negative, “transcendent” and performative dimensions of this concept, its force-(of)-thought, are conjugated relative to positive political goals and practices while admitting to a kind of absurdity and insufficiency through (effective guerrilla) political action staged as performance art. I think the idea of the Spaßguerilla and the 2nd of June Movement (2JM) represent the most progressive tendencies of the extreme left at that time in the sense that they perfectly embodied the ludic ideology of the Situationalist International and the revolutionary commitment of the Red Army Faction. In their statement announcing their disbandment, we can see a kind of humorless submission to the “long march.” The military defeat of the group by the West German government coupled with their absorption into an orthodox tendency (the R.A.F.) counts as a two fold defeat since it collapses the political imaginary of the Marxist “negative utopia” into interminable struggle (really, how viable was the military defeat of West Germany by a small guerrilla group?) while it destroys an “actually existing” positive and, by all accounts, sufficiently heretical organization. Simply put, the group could have had a different future and their disbandment foreclosed a realm of political possibilities.

The anarchic manifesto of 2JM promised an alternative anti-authoritarian way of life of which they provided brief glimpses via their amusing and artistic guerrilla actions (such as their distributing muffins during a bank robbery). At least here there are possibilities for little victories since one of their “effectuations” was to advertise the freedom of the sponti scene and lifestyle as a real alternative to capitalism, as untenable as it was, it provided an attractive alternative to a rather monotonous [capitalist] reality of endless work and delegated leisure. Imaging possibilities for functional positive utopias, non-consumerist alternative lifestyles, a viable popular political movement, a viable political party that expresses these ideals, and then intersections between all these elements so that resistance can become social transformation should be preserved for anyone mildly sympathetic to the original project of the Left, new and old. The discovery of an effective and terminable form of struggle, i.e., that accomplishes the desired transformations with discrete “little” victories and terminates in mastery, which does not lead to directionless political violence or suicide (which somewhat coincide) should be the goal of the non-philosophical Rebel.

Between left-wing nostalgia and Gnostic mysticism, I don’t know which is worse. However, in the final analysis, both effectuate the same expansion of the political imaginary by furnishing the reader with some non-standard figures, symbols and identifications to play around with. In my opinion, this sort of queering of the usual conceptual/theoretical infrastructure for the sake of providing the reader of non-philosophy with a utopian political imaginary is a bonne action since non-philosophy otherwise considers capitalism “idempotent” and there is a sort of dirth of originality, anti-utopianism, and even nihilism among non-philosophers (although for the sake of rigor it is apparent why this is preferable). I think non-utopian socialism (especially if that “non-” is conjugated according to non-philosophical precepts) could also serve to assist non-philosophy in this regard as a form of humaneistic “policy writing.”

More on this later… I found an essay by Badiou on the Cultural Revolution and a critique of his communist hypothesis that I want to read next to Laruelle’s Struggle and Utopia. However, for now I am mulling over all of Writing Capital’s posts on econometrics.