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.