democratic non-philosophy, np as an academic discourse, some thoughts on np as an assistant to science

Edit, 10.1.14: The part on matrices got a little word salady so I rewrote some if it after this article got a few views. I also included more parts about the subject and the Stranger and philo-fiction. Everything here is tentative and provisional since I’m hardly an expert of non-philosophy.

I’ve been thinking about Patrick Jenning’s article about whether or not non-philosophy is just another academic discourse. One thing that perhaps marries the non-philosopher to the academy is the idea of the matrix. The generic matrix in non-philosophy is not mathematical of course but rather attempts to fuse, to quote Laruelle in Philosophie Non-Standard, “algebra and a lived materiality which implicates two different and complementary types of the subject, the generic non-individual subject or Last Instance, and the operator subject or the Stranger-subject.” In other words, the subject in its radical immanence which presents itself as an unknown variable: the Subject = X. The announcement or occasion (rather than positing) of this subject manifests as a difficulty that implies the non-philosophical break from a specific answer to X, the task at hand, then, is not to ground a philosophical system on this term but to let it offer the creative opportunity of philo-fiction: an unmoored philosophy based on “oraxioms” (roughly, provisional and non-decisional axioms that inaugurate experimental “non-standard” philosophies), a truly new kind of philosophy divested of its authority. However, the question of this subject remains an object of scientific and philosophical inquiry by the “real” institution of the university. The subject determined in-the-last-instance is exactly that, determined in this or that instance by a certain discourse or regime–Laruelle, I’m sure, would not propose that he is somehow out of the Foucauldian problematics of knowledge/power. The treatment of the subject, indeed its inclusion or exclusion in the attendant empirical practices that non-philosophy and non-philosophers use to supplement themselves with a scientific perspective remains in question. Laruelle, however, seems to have given the question a fair amount of thought with regard to his theory of the Stranger and victims. In sum, his views on theoreticism seem to abrogate him from the critique that he is loyal to the university, while the notable act of his foundation of the OINP and a non-philosophy journal (before this he did some samizdat publishing), has sufficiently divorced him from the normal reliance of theorists on the approval of the university for the dissemination of their writings and any notion of normal academic “standards.” So, again, Laruelle seems to have it all figured out. However, this is not the case for “us” in the anglophone world who are maybe obliged to struggle to establish the conditions for a truly democratic non-philosophy.

In an essay I wrote a while ago, which I have purposefully blacklisted and will never see the light of day again because it was immature and derivative, I proposed the idea of modeling (especially where it concerns humans and things that effect humans) as a “provisionally decisional” process that adequates the real without corresponding. (Note: the original article this idea came from was referring to computational quantitative models but I wanted to expand this to theoretical models such as mathemes or systematic philosophies as well, the language I use intends to refer to them both so it might be a little clumsy. I’ve since abandoned this notion for various reasons, mostly inexperience although one major one is Laruelle’s notion of heresy which also provides conditions for a provisional decision).

Conceptually, the individual–to the extent that the model impacts or effects them or to the extent to which they are a factor–is taken as a variable and is introjected into an algebraic matrix comprised of other variable terms so that Subject = X. (Also note: most of this is taken from reading about rather than doing math so take this with a grain of salt. I’m not in any formal math classes right now so please feel free to rail at me in the comments so I can learn). The value of X is always variable or indeterminate but is decided by whatever modeling procedure is in use. In the case of Subject = X, this could be conceived of as the individual in the capacity of whatever measurable traits they express which can be aggregated into quantitative data (as per agent based modeling or other sociological models); or insofar as they present themselves as material (in the capacity of “experience” or as an empirical datum) in a systematic philosophical or theoretical exposition or in the case of psychoanalytic mathemes. This individual who has become Subject = X, then, is free to be conceptually conjugated by/in the model so that their particular transcendental qualities transform or are co-determined by the factors and variables present in the model or the inferential methodology used to parse the data or according to the models various “readings” and interpretations–whatever the function of the model-as-matrix is in its capacity to produce something discursively “true” so that its material is determined in-the-last-instance. In other words, they have become generic.

Thus, the basic act of modeling something like the subject at all simply produces Subject = X (where the subject is a collection of variables); the matrix, however, provides ways in which this variable can be conceptually conjugated and transposed. Thus, the transpose produces Subject = XT, transpose again and you have Subject = (XT)T which still equals Subject = X (I believe this expresses the property of idempotence while the operation is an involution which is itself a bi-jection, a form of mapping). This, I believe, is something like Laruelle’s notion of a generic matrix which is integral and can undergo any number of transformations or transpositions. Philosophy’s mistake is to try to universalize and generalize its theoretical models by arguing for their formal necessity when actually they are the most arbitrary and proprietary. This would be the distinction between a generic and a general model where latter is philosophical and decisional and the former is mathematical or non-philosophical (it is contingent though it expresses properties that apply in “almost all” situations). It should be noted that the subject’s–and this goes for any philosophical material really, e.g. Real = X– facility to be conceptually/theoretically transposed in this matrix makes it vulnerable to philosophical decision, e.g. Historical Materialism/Marxism’s decision that man and history are determined-in-the-last-instance by economics. However, since the value of X is idempotent, even after long tracts on things like “the subject,” it remains unknown and the same as it was while somehow accomplishing numerous effectuations since it is treated by persuasive, propositional, descriptive, or argumentative philosophical language which awards it a thetic causality. Thus the hapless reader of philosophy, to use Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit as an example, hallucinates things like the reconciliation of man and God or the closure of history. The violence philosophy does by its modeling is thus not so much to the generic subject–who is also utilized in non-philosophy but with the caveat that nothing about them is being decided and that this subject is not generalizable–but to the Stranger (who is not determined by philosophy but rather be the real) so that the individual (in this case, as the reader but also when they are taken as an object of analysis in the capacity of the subject) is sutured to the decisional philosophical Subject = X which fails utterly to explain and represent them. Philosophy thus 1. fails to comprehend that it is modeling or producing fictions since it confuses its language with the real, 2. produces inadequate models and, 3. does violence to its subject matter (and the subject) by generalizing its conclusions about it.

The advantage of actual quantitative modeling is that there are rigorous and strict criteria for the adequate treatment of sample-data which ensure that it remains “undecided” that simultaneously offer the possibility of complexifying or expanding the model to account for more factors or even integrating with other models (meta-analysis); in other words it can offer a conceptual matrix which can also be “conjugated” and “transposed” but according to scientific norms while accounting for something like différance in its treatment of externalities or unknowns. Statistical models are privileged by certain non-philosophers [here I am at my legal limit and I don’t want to misrepresent anyone’s ideas so I must be vague, feel free to ask me about this in the comments and I can direct you to the relevant sources] because of their “fictional” status: they have a localized or contingent validity and are considered “good” or “robust” on the basis of their ability to represent mathematical truths about their sample data. For example, statistical models offer “degrees of freedom” based on the contingent problems of incomplete data or unknown values which can be solved mathematically–here, “micro-decisions” made in accordance to the mathematical exigencies of the data are made as a routine practice of problem solving. Another example would be the notion of the differential which just determines one variable in respect to another. In short, they say nothing about people or the individual and are even mute about the phenomena they attempt to model, rather they come to highly constrained conclusions about their data which are not typically profound and have a highly localized validity. They have the status of what I believe Laruelle calls being true without the effect of truth which effectively manifests in the recording of the phenomenon in mathematical symbols. However, the limitation of the conceptual matrix offered by quantitative modeling is that in order to effectuate the same conceptual transpositions that one can do with language or theory one has to do a great deal of work and adhere to very strict scientific procedures. Further, the matrix could be considered proprietary rather than generic and in many cases, if the conclusions are not written in simple English, are unintelligible and, if they are intelligible, fall subject to all manner of manipulations, misappropriations, misinterpretations, and decisional logic. This bears on the idea of the non-conceptual or non-knowledge and its proper representation; however, I want to take this to a different area.

To speak to the matter at hand, what I propose(d) a while back is that this issue of modeling introduces a divide in non-philosophy both between non-standard philosophy (as philo-fiction, as a unified field, as a quantum collider) and non-philosophy proper (non-philosophy as a evolving set of axioms, as the scientific study of philosophy) and a separate divide in non-standard philosophy between competing fictions as differends: politico-fictions, religious-fictions, science-fictions, econo-fictions etc. Why? Their material (the subject or the object they are studying) is necessarily transformed by the somewhat arbitrary assumptions and attendant empirical practices with which they use to model it–this is the obvious, the usual philosophical critique of the sciences, however, what is not par the course in this critique is that non-philosophy can be seen to become a critico-descriptive adjunct to science which, although it serves its stated purpose of de-operationalizing philosophy and asserting whatever truth it produces is provisional, primarily manifests as a description and defense of science as a supplementary non-philosophical practice. Less muddled, non-philosophy becomes a very aggressive handmaiden to a version of the sciences deprived of their ability to produce monolithic truths. –It is as if it is a hyper-skeptical philosophy of science that attaches to its very insufficiency, i.e., to the limits and exigencies of empirical modeling or its proprietary matrix, as a way of getting its scrap of truth and establishing its validity. If one can attempt a critique here, this is the academic, solitary, and potentially exclusive side of non-philosophy: a brand of non-philosophy contingent upon the university and its resources, e.g. advanced computers, laboratories, funding, the ability to collect and decipher data, a high degree of quantitative training and education, etc. (let alone the free time to read non-philosophy, which admittedly makes their investment in it all the more impressive). (As an aside, it is perhaps because of this merely adjunct use of non-philosophy as a defense of science and a bulwark against philosophy that adherents sometimes express a loyalty to some materialism or realism). At the same time, non-philosophy is the first to admit the severe limitations of what one can learn just by reading about science (since this is necessarily conceptual), thus the field and practice of science becomes a necessary assistant to non-philosophy. Although, it is possible that non-standard philosophy and philo-fiction is more permissive than all that considering Laruelle’s freewheeling creation of new terms and use of prepositional phrases (indeed when I first encountered the idea of philo-fiction–though I don’t believe this now–I saw it as a use of philosophical material in an exploitation of Lacan’s dictum that “truth has the structure of fiction” which would produce something like Deleuze’s notion of a schizoid hallucination–philosophy as literature). Laruelle’s notion of a quantum collider where dualized or cloned concepts can interface in new ways under the axioms of non-philosophy seems to indicate that while philo-fiction is essentially creative it is still highly disciplined–here knowledge of science becomes merely useful but not necessary while the study of non-philosophy is for the sake of adhering to its norms. Thus to partake in the “democracy” of non-philosophy via the writing of philo-fiction, like a real democracy, one has to learn and adhere to certain norms (in the form of non-philosophy’s axioms) and practices. What is notable is that this is sufficient criteria for it to function well enough–though maybe not optimally–without formal scientific knowledge or training but rather by the observance of non-philosophical procedures. Here the trouble bears on the issue of the interpretation of these rules and procedures (since interpretation and hermeneutics are interdit) and the relative degree of authority that Laruelle himself holds in creating and revising them.

All the same, since data is just another immanent thing with no special status in Laruelle’s non-philosophy one falls back on the usual displeasing theoretical notion that it is determined contingently by some discursive or “proper” inferential procedure. Non-philosophy deals scientifically with philosophical givens but not with data in its scientific specificity, it seems. But this might be for the better since 1. by its axioms it refuses to ontologize or award special privilege to any representation of reality (here one could also argue that Laruelle would be hesitant to impose himself on the scientific field by dealing with data) and 2. it aspires to be an inclusive and democratic discourse. In regards to the latter, not everyone has the privilege of making their arguments with data or even with the benefit of a proper education, –this becomes a tragedy especially when it becomes a matter of self-defense or participation in democratic society. [When I last dealt with this concept, I proposed that non-philosophy should be the policy writing of man by attempting a non-decisional translation of quantitative or mathematical non-knowledge, otherwise non-philosophy might fall short its democratic aspirations]. The conceptual matrix provided by quantitative fields and proper scientific, political scientific, sociological or economic research is non-philosophically “ethical” by its demonstrable refusal of the philosophical hubris of deciding the real and its ability to radically inform non-philosophical practice. It manages to preserve both non-philosophical notions of the subject (as Stranger and as a generic non-individual = X). But for those who do not have this ability, making philosophical decisions–the establishment of hard and fast truths–becomes attractive as a form of empowerment in the capacity of having a strong opinion or set of beliefs. Philosophy and anti-philosophy–in a mode that I am hesitant to call post-structuralist or post-modernist–demonstrates this by its “proletarianization” of science (especially the social sciences) and its hysterical recourse to and indulgence in ethics and ideology which formed a sort of radical democracy of thought. Situating actual–albeit non-decisional and non-philosophically informed–quantitative research as the standard for sufficient non-philosophy credentials as a counter to this introduces the issue of the democratic and inclusive pretensions of non-philosophy since 1. this is not available to everyone, 2. this limits non-philosophy’s otherwise generic matrix to one excessively determined by quantitative research and modeling, 3. establishes new conditions of authority and (in)sufficiency. Further, it is important to recall that the first scientific brand of non-philosophy was deployed against this post-modern anarchy of opinions in the first place to place philosophy under the conditions of science, –so while Laruelle didn’t seek to “terrorize” philosophy with science, he did follow an anti-democratic impulse which sought to more or less discipline it, reign it in and force it to present itself as material to non-philosophy. As I have said elsewhere, this potentially morbid and silencing aspect of non-philosophy that dotes on science as an anti-theory and uses it to police the “sayable” should perhaps be reconsidered since, as the translator of Principles of Non-Philosophy noted, non-philosophy is fundamentally an attempt to humanize and to find a way to once again enjoy theory. In other words, its about finding a way to appropriate it for a human end thereby making it useful. Playful irreverence rather than the outright censoring of philosophers seems to be in order since non-philosophy appears to require a degree of enthusiasm for philosophy (at least enough to access its basic problematics and history) more so than hatred.

If non-philosophy has any critical power, it should not just be established by its critique of philosophy and its reduction to mere material–for some this is like kicking a sick man when he’s down. Rather its radical democratic potential should be realized over and against the ubiquitous university and its intellectualism and be elaborated in “scientific” rather than gnostic or non-marxist terms (since my suspicion is that this is where anglophone adherents become a little skeptical). Non-philosophy’s allegiance should be to a generic conception of science–rather than a specific theory such as quantum physics which would require a wealth of prior knowledge and explanation–, i.e., one that concerns its daily practice. This seems necessary since–to Bachelard and Laruelle’s point–science is not reifiable to a set of texts or terms but is rather a practice, an institution, and an aggregate of methodologies and truth procedures. In other words, non-philosophy’s original scientific force-(of)-thought should maybe be expressed in a manner that is similar to its recent interest and allegiance to art and religion, i.e., in a manner highly concerned with the struggles of lived and daily life, while remaining loyal to the scientists (who’s to say they aren’t alienated?). Philosophie Non-Standard seems to do most of this work by elaborating his usage of quantum physics along side his notion of philo-fiction. However, since Philosophie Non-Standard remains untranslated and the majority of the most scientifically informed non-philosophy adherents discovered Laruelle in French, the situation and balance of power seems to favor Laruelle’s older anglophone adherents–who are highly antagonistic to philosophy and maybe somewhat exclusive–as the legitimate heirs and gatekeepers of his scientific brand of non-philosophy. (I’m thinking of people like Ray Brassier and insofar as his thinking implies an attitude and a school more than folks like Anthony Paul Smith). It certainly favors them more than those who recently discovered him by his works on heresy and gnosis, though this group–insofar as it is representable as a collection of blogs and publications–has shown a great deal of vitality and enthusiasm. A good middle ground may be his upcoming book on non-marxism, which will warrant attention from the Marxist community. (As an aside, I am waiting for more pieces on non-philosophy and psychoanalysis to be published since Lacanian’s could use a shot in the arm when it comes to the scientific status of their discipline and nothing would weird them out more than a discourse that asserts that psychoanalysis is already a science. Also they could use some distraction from their usual celebrities.) The goal here would be to disrupt the non-philosophical leveraging of science (specifically in its form as a practice sutured to the university) in the “dispute of phrases” –as per Lyotard–, which is always, in short, a game of power and an assertion of authority which just produces differends and points of interpretative friction. In other words, just more philosophical politics. How non-philosophy will deal with disagreements in its spontaneous politics is interesting since, while it is “politically engaged” (via its notions of heresy and struggle) it is not exactly engaged in any specific politics. Meanwhile, it refuses any and all hermeneutics but maintains a robust cycle of publications. More research might reveal that non-philosophy is a sort of neutral “de-sutured” perspective that allows avenues of exchange and dialogue that would otherwise not be possible by radically different types of people, yet one that remains supplementary and is held necessarily next to an individual’s typical positive beliefs. Non-philosophy’s democratic potential might be found in its ability to be a “rationally communicative” discourse as per Habermas.

What non-philosophy might require then if it is to achieve its democratic goals while maintaining its “scientific” rigor is a few things, 1. more discourse between the gnostics and quantum scientists, 2. it should get over its issue of debt and citation and explain and reference its influences as much as possible to liberate it from its quantitative knowledge/power monopoly–here non-philosophy could become an occasion for the dissemination of scientific knowledge, 3. adopt the type of Marxist enthusiasm that propagandizes and sets up reading groups or clubs, 4. (hell, why not?) a sort of referee or observer organization to make sure that non-philosophy is “free and democratic,” and 5. more interestingly, non-philosophy might attempt a sociology of itself and philosophy similar to Latour’s sociology of science to get a fully picture of “the situation.” After this, all the usual suspects and some new ones will be present in the non-philosophy congress and the sufficient conditions to liberate it from university will be in place. A sociology of non-philosophy or some sort of opinion poll at least might be interesting since it would reveal who is a Marxist, who is a libertarian, who is a plain old liberal, who is a starry eyed New Age spiritualist, who is Christian, a nihilist and so forth. The badge of non-philosophy seems to preclude an explicit engagement in a specific politics which might cause red blooded continental philosophers to sort of smirk and consider non-philosophy not worth engaging in; especially since contemporary philosophy and theory in general got its stride back via it’s philosophers sincere engagement in politics and their honest confession that their philosophies were axiomatically defined by their (political) positions (re: Žižek : “I’m a card carrying Lacanian!”).

All the evidence points to Laruelle having covered all his bases, he hasn’t gone senile with his religiously themed work. No one but an extreme Marxist would say that the “contradictions” in non-philosophy will cause it to fall to the wayside. It is important to recall that non-philosophy is an ongoing enterprise and a project or experiment. So while it is clear that it walks several tight lines between countervailing tendencies and aspirations, all of this can be conceptually integrated by his theory of a Unified Field as non-exclusive “pathways” to the essential idea and practice of non-philosophy. Perhaps non-philosophers might question their taste or preference for their favorite Laruelle text or period of non-philosophy (so far I’m partial to Philosophy II) and maybe assert that the authentic core of non-philosophy is not present in any particular non-philosophical vernacular but rather its gestures and effectuations, its style and its activism and relevance to a “lived materiality.”

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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.