Monday, October 31, 2011

Conversation II and the representational content of "99%"

I had another excellent conversation today, this time with some men I met in Dunkin Doughnuts. They were each commenting on the economy, on its causes and on our general lack of understanding of esoteric content of politics. For the sake of those in need of an image, these were two older black gentlemen, one with a slight African or Carribean accent. Just before I had been spending time with a friend, talking about certain things while remaining silent about others, it was a consistent sort of speaking. When he left, I sat in Dunkin Doughnuts nursing a coffee until my 8:30 train came, next to these two men.

One was quite astute about absent average understanding of tax laws. He laid out a clear set of ideas surrounding the tax laws. His thought was that we take necessary loans, the FED sets interest rates and the government and banks collude to produce a surplus. 'There is never not enough money, have you seen those sheets of money coming out one on another, they can just print it.' There is a direct materialism in this. Money is an actual object whose representation is modified by its actual circulation; this creates inflation wherein a set of necessarily independent institutions take this real circulation and abstract it into a revised value. The transition between these abstractions actualizes itself as a new relation between money and goods. Given the apparent closeness of goods, especially necessary goods to the West, is consistent with his disregard for 'economics professors...a load of bullshit.'

But soon his conversation diverted; it was not simply the economic situation at hand and its modulations in history, but the Jews that produced this fact, whom for him have a direct coercive relationship with black people. He points to the music industry, to banking, etc. The basic sentiment is true. Banking and business in general have enacted racist, or at best socially indifferent methods--predatory lending, loan offices; and the racism of the music industry and its use of blacks to reproduce American economic principles, trapping artists in crippling contracts and a lack of protection for its cash cows--everyday I miss Sly Stone--equally involves the culpability of the industries.

Nonetheless, I had to intervene, which is rare for me outside classes, given my shyness. I said something like, 'there is nothing Jewish about what you describe, if there are a Jews behind this, they certainly don't do it out of their Jewishness. Blacks should identify with Jews, these are races who have both had repeated violence enacted on their being of some origin, and before that they were not even recognized as humans. And what about Martin Luther King? He was steeped in rabbinical studies.' Then the other man chimed in, 'now you can talk about it being about being everyone's problem, just money, like you're the 99%...' to which I responded, "I have nothing to do with that movement." And immediately the conversation opened up, he spoke of TIFF funds, needing about 10,000 bodies to stop G8, various changes in income laws, Rahm's destructive relations with Unions.

For this reason the 'Occupy' protest methods are implicitly flawed. They produce a transcendental category, the "99%" by which they bestow upon themselves an inhumanity which had previously been forced upon others. There is an appropriation of a visceral and violent experience which most never get, now worn as a badge of pride and moral superiority. However horrific things are in Oakland, its use as material for political transformation is plainly self-contradictory. The violence is very easily taken into a narrative form, identical to media practice. Take for instance the image of the beautiful young woman bruised by whatever object, the 'two tour veteran wounded by the police'. These are methods used by the most base media outlets to coerce viewership and interest, but only in the mode of entertainment. The movement has shown the media savvy of a corporation.

This is in no way a justification of the police behavior in Oakland. Every non-violent political practice has protection from violence Quid Juris. However, the police are an essential function of public life, and the range of their authority is explicit and extensive. While these images of police violence may initiate those who are unaware of its extent and essential force; those who have direct experience of local politics, of discrimination, of the prison system, and of most of all, of police brutality will find it more difficult to experience themselves as part of a 99%.

Heidegger says that a thing or truth is 'unconcealed' as it 'presences' itself; as one intuitively experiences an object, the object autonomously presents an aspect of itself to the subject. The economic reality was unconcealed at a time after it had been machinating below the surface, concealed or appearing only in prophetic flits. It was unconcealed in a natural way, as the abstract concepts of corporations began to fall in on themselves--Enron, the "dot com bubble" among others. But Heidegger also notes that any unconcealing includes a concealing aspect. A way in which some aspect of the thing is hidden, or, worse yet, simulates the appearance of something else. The media conceals extensive economic thought because it is itself corporate, and therefore a large portion of information is effectively hidden. But the "99%" simulates the actuality of our political situation. While the media is the consistency and form of concealed truth, the "99%" is the representational model which acts on this plane, and alters the consistency of the media. The media requires an object to create narrative content; the notion of the "99% "and its implicit problematic, resign its concept to being a simple representation in collusion with corporations, all the while reducing the basic proposition about our political situation. That there is a huge economic disparity between different groups of people in the country is the natural predisposition which justifies the "99%"; but time, history and empirical account demonstrate a much more heterogeneous and singular form of discontent that is outside of our present.

The police first and foremost should be asked to change their tactics, quite simply. The "Occupy" movement has a much more difficult task. How to find a sign immanent to the motivations and histories of the movement; one which opens the movement to more heterogeneous participants as well as acknowledging its own finitude and crisis? How to convert passion and desire into planning and enacting? These are difficult questions that will likely take many more articles to begin to answer, but we all must start if we aren't interested in playing the game that we naturally critique. There is no good protesters and evil police, backed by evil corporations an evil politicians. But instead indifferent subjectively motivated protests related axiomatically to a police presence. The result is dependent on specific factors by which one can assign blame or goodness and badness, to whatever degree they wish. What separates corporations and politicians from the evil, aside from its impossibility, is that American democracy and world capital operate in a corrupt way that is natural to power. Natural corruption is implicit to natural freedom, but we must end our own freedom, ex post facto, the moment at which we realize our own dominance. The end is in simply affirming our right to police politicians so that they may police corporations. We must destroy the stupidity of the media first and foremost so that we no longer sit idly as the problem develops, and can have the foresight to predict the next fall of our economy, be it capitalism or any given name.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

New thought about Deleuze. The naive tendency is to interpret him as pre-critical and ontological.  I get a different reading from his works.  His metaphysics and ontology is one of pragmatic relations and, as such, describing Being as unfolding through combinatory and transversal events. Ontology is then an indifferent ordering of chaos and a description of an object's dissimilarity of itself in time.  This is essentially an epistemology of the ontological tendency of our thinking. It is not that a given ontology is real, but rather that it produces a specific sort of ordering out of which one must evaluate its conceptual consistency, interpret the sense of its thought-events and construct its immanent prephilosophical image of thinking.  This is critique in the Nietzschean sense.  A critique of value as constituted by the prephilosophical image that determines our common concepts.  They become uncommon only insofar as we ontologize critically about ontology.  An immanence communicating with others in the midst of implicating itself in this whole game of thinking. Deleuze's greatest move is to present the most powerful aspect of philosophy as its own construction of that which precedes it but does not exist. It offers philosophy to anyone who thinks things through fully, and recognizes the natural philosophical tendencies that generate our place on earth.

...just thinking out silent.

Deleuze from Difference and Repetition

I have begun reading Eric Alliez's Signature of the World ~or what is Deleuze and Guattari's Philosophy? and the introduction includes a great quote from difference and repetition that essentially inverts and negates my commentary on Foucault--or rather, since I do not so much as believe Foucault as much as don his mask in parody, it clarifies a difference that I was trying to draw but couldn't.

"A new Meno would say: it is knowledge that is nothing more than an empirical figure, a simple result which continually falls back into experience; whereas learning is the true transcendental structure which unites difference to difference, dissimilarity to dissimilarity, without mediating between them - not in the form of a mythical past or former present, but in the pure form of an empty time in general."

It is not that knowledge extrapolates from humanity and enacts itself outside of humanity, but rather that learning is a normative process which extrapolates from knowledge an axiom or law, by which the differential aspect of an object is excised and reduced to the continuous formal time of the transcendental subject.  I have to look for this page directly, because I cannot tell if this is said as affirmative of transforming Meno with this new thought-event, or rather in critiquing the tendency to treat knowledge as a transcendental. I assume the second.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I had a great conversation today.  Synchronously I am reading What is Philosophy?, in which  Deleuze describes a 'thought-event', by which the Greek prephilosophical consistency and its philosophical concepts are conjoined.  The figure he uses is that of "the friend", as in the Socratic 'friend of wisdom'. The question for him becomes what is the relation of friend to friend, in philosophy. It is one of rivalry and claim.  The friends become claimants of a mutual wisdom, through which their bond inheres; they are rival in their claim to this mutual intensity.  I bring this up because of my actual conversation.

The major proposition became that there was a certain betrayal in Deleuze's making this prephilosophical field itself textual, thereby recapitulating it into a series of reproducing texts--an accrual of information upon itself. Not in a Derridean sense in which one accepts the fact of text as truth, divested of content outside of its interpretation; but rather the whole process of text, the economy of academia and its competition make any attempt at a text an impossibility without reinscribing transcendence.  Text begets text, text establishes a network of texts--this texts can feign intensity toward objects but they also resist it. I called this Bergsonian and he said, 'Bergson did it too'.

And this is all so real to reading and living out philosophy. This pathos of self-contradiction and self-questioning; of taking something to its maximum and being left to say, 'what force has appropriated me, prior to this freedom.' And the problematic becomes, when a philosophy lays out a prephilosophical field as its presumption, when will philosophy be unnecessary? Is it the end of Deleuze that you forget him and this whole game once and for all?

The friend had suggested that we must master the language of a thinker and then immediately forget it, or at least that was his imperative.
And so as a friendship, what do we mutually lay claim to?  An absent object.
What is our rivalry?  A rivalry of our own historicity.
No! The energy came from none of this.
It was a tit-for-tat; a parry and a one-two-two-four-seventeen.

I said near the end. We are really on divergent paths, 'I am moving in a direction that is more concrete'; he replied, 'no, it is more complicated'.  That is true.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Drugs and alcohol are something so strange.  For a moment one chooses life in them.  There is a moment of self-affirmation, a 'me against the outside'.  Why feel this, why experience this when I can experience something else?

As Kant says, and Deleuze is one of the few to note this; time is the auto-affection of the subject.  Kant says, 'space affects us and through time we affect ourselves'.  Well drugs are at the limit of this auto-affection. How to absolutely transform the time emerging from us?  How to grasp the time once appropriated by private suffering--by our own personal suffering and internalization?  But soon time becomes a hell.  It becomes a wait or a search for something to bare this load. How to get it next, how to acquire the proper means.  Maybe its once you cannot remember a prior mode or state of your body.  Or when the world comes to take on all the qualities of your muscles, emotions and thinking.

The drugs become their own force and take you up in them.  You are grabbed up by their hand and dropped somewhere else. Anyone who has used consistently knows what I mean; you sit up, look around and ask, "where am I?"  And it is just as he says in this.  The limit is a non-identity, the end is the "penultimate".  We identify or desire an end, but we stop only at the point which will allow us to continue on the next day.  And then we really stop when everything breaks below us and the bottom falls out. Today things must change!  But not always in our own voice. Although often of the choir of voices.  A friend's voice in one's own voice, or one's own as the mother or father, etc.

This is why I am so skeptical of OOO's thesis that time emerges from objects.  What does this mean?  That the heroin is the emergence of its slowing of time, that it has this time as a property?  That use of acid at such and such a time has that historical moment emerging from it, in itself?  "This is only a manner of speaking," one has to say. Rather any object may have some internal relation within itself that is it's private means of translating the world; of grasping transformation.  Maybe if that internal process includes a brain, it also may include time.  Animals can do drugs, I have seen first hand...but can they say "today things must change"?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Being critical of the protests

There is a general abhorrence of critique amidst the energy of the "Occupy..." protests.  This is understandable to the extent that the critique is one of the reflected corporate interests in the media, whom reduce the matter to two questions. The first is the neo-liberal question, "what are your individual demands?" The immediate self-identification and reduction of demands is meant to separate the groups participating in the protest. The second question is reflective of specific corporate interests, when the media asks in so many words, "what is the consistent narrative of your movement?" so that even the protests may be recapitulated into commodity and communication.  At the same time this general resistance to leftist critiques, which have ranged from comparison to various other protest movements (the anti-Iraq or World Trade Protests come to mind), to critiques of methods, of the involvement of certain groups, or the representation of movement--the "99%" "women are the niggers of the world"--is somewhat frightening.

This brings to mind Nietzsche's notion of the orgy of feeling. The Priest, who attempts healing through one's self-identification of sickness, weakness and lack, corrals his subjects into a Dionysian festival. The violent and joyous masochism of this state reduces the assembly to depression; if only because in momentarily living an ideal the return to the world negates their biological-ecstatic truth actualized in the festival, sucking the participants of their force.  Zizek, for all of his problems, slid this into his speech; imploring that the protest not become something spoken of over beer or fondly remembered as a nostalgic joy.  And in a converse way, there is an equal demand from the protesters that one be with them, participating, or opposed to them.  That you mark yourself as one of them, be recapitulated into their mode of protest, or be cast off as indifferent nobility. This too indicates the delirious effects of the rhetorical practice.  It is like Socrates commentary in Phaedrus; we are often so ecstatic about a rhetorical position that we turn away from truth.

The purpose of the critique is not to curb the force of the movement, but to complicate it and funnel its active energies into a sustainable form. This does not necessarily include a reduction to political form, but it does require a pedagogical interest in the law and institutions. It is essential that this movement construct an alternative tax policy, an alternative oversight of corporations and speculate about its own industry and potential for sustaining life. Learning the internal complexity of markets and political relationships, and confronting them on their own plane will allow for the fog to be lifted from it. If the acts are ritualized and divested of their actual transformative political interests, they will degrade into the subjective resistance that has plagued protest movements from the late-60s onward.

There is a strange way in which the participants seem actualized into their liberalism, only through the demanded ritual violence of the police. To put it another way, the actions of the police, which are automatic in relation to the protest, are turned into a ritual for the identity of the protester. Here, just as in their original reasons for protest--a collective realization of economic crisis--they find themselves able to join a "99%" from which they had so long been excluded in middle class alienation.  But they remained mum on the violence perpetrated by police everyday, both in relation to Capitalism or not.  And there was not this sense of emergency, despite the equal abjection of the urban poor, while people participated in the housing markets of the 90s.  It is only once the trickle down floods the floor that the middle class realizes that they too are standing beside a levee.

The most important aspect of this is that we must remain as distant from revenge as possible. It is easy for expressions of outrage to become a malaise of ressentiment.  If these protests become a railing against Wall Street as the problem, we forget the inactivity that gave them power for so long.  We forget the true violence that these protests should be focusing on, which is the sustained and endemic poverty of much of the population that preceded this economic crisis and followed the last.  It is our economic system that must be reformed; not the practices of particular individuals, nor the ideology of Capital.  It is a set of laws and policies, algebraic formulas and oversight panels.  Once we lose sight of that we fall back into idealism, and with it the religious absence that the day after brings.

Kant's Pragmatism

It is the way of the spirit now to treat Kant as a "correlationist." This is derived from Kant's belief that we do not experience the "in itself" of objects but rather intuit their "appearing" as a phenomenon.  Correlationism then refers to two beliefs; that humans can only know an intersection of thought and the world and not the world itself and that human knowledge is necessarily finite, given that which appears is in constant flux. The former of these applies to Kant.  I generally agree with this interpretation, but one must resist its polemic content to understand the pragmatic aspects of Kant's thought. Kant is a correlationist in the best sense, as it relates to the ontologist.  He clears up the difficulties of imagining through our interpretive relation between other objects; he allows the human object as subject to understand the ways in which we are appropriated by other forces: forces of desire, of habit or of simple taste as much as by beauty, understanding and legal judgment. The positive sense of correlationism is that it maximizes our objective self-relation. It reads our thought out of objects, as the ontologist reads the objects out of us. While some may point to the Critique of Judgment as his most pragmatic work, I find his description of the dialectic in Critique of Pure Reason to show how representation is used to demonstrate a reality that is other than the dialectic.  Adorno states this explicitly at the beginning of Negative Dialectics, when he says, "Identity and contradiction of thought are welded together.  Total contradiction is nothing but the manifested untruth of total identification." Though he never takes it quite seriously enough to critique his own dialectical results against actual events, as in the revolutionary aspect of jazz; his answer is simply, there may be this non-identical surplus, but it is irrelevant without the dialectical hammer.  This may be true, but unless there is an interplay between the dialectic as immanent self-critique and as transcendental, as Kant treats it, one remains susceptible to the illusion of the form of the dialectic, as much as any of its sides. Anyway, here is Kant's take on the matter:

"Now we may note (as a sure and useful warning) that general logic, when regarded as an organon, is always a logic of illusion, i.e., it is always dialectical.   For general logic teaches us nothing whatever about the content of cognition; it teaches us merely the formal conditions for the agreement [of cognition] with the understanding, and these conditions are wholly inconsequential otherwise, i.e., as regards the [cognition's] objects.  Hence the impudent use of general logic as an instrument (organon), in order (at least allegedly) to broaden and expand one's knowledge, comes down to nothing but idle chatter, where anything one wishes is--with some semblance of plausibility--asserted or, for that matter, challenged at will.
     Such instruction is in no way compatible with the dignity of philosophy.  For this reason the name dialectic has been defined [redifined so that a dialectic is] included with a logic as a critique of dialectical illusion; and this is how we want it to be understood here as well." (Kant, 115, Pluhar)

It is apparent that Kant is warning against a danger in applying logic as if they are simple tools that produce things. This runs against the popular ontological appropriation of Heidegger's equipment. For Heidegger, equipment is the relation of an object, used as tool for an end, to the human that uses it. The object inheres in time. Its formal identity remains internally consistent as long as the material of the tool may produce its desired end.  A hammer is a hammer insofar as it may complete its ends as a hammer. As it is a hammer it is within the human's world, but it follows that once it loses its qualities of being a hammer, it still remains materially the same, or at least similar.  This is its relation to the earth. A tool withdraws from the world of the human into an earth of actuality. Recent ontologists have extended this concept to all objects. The logic runs that every object in its relation to another object, is in the process of withdrawing from that other object's world, and that as one object transforms, the sense of the other object is also transforming. Everything is then an object with a complex internal coherence and a given external sense, which may withdraw from the presence of another object. Each is translated as accorded by its external formal coherence, and is recognized by another object according to its own form of interpretation, which internalizes some qualities of the object. I am reminded of von Uexkull or Sebok's biosemiotics. Wherein each organism has a particular internal system of synthesis which derives from objects particular signs from other objects.

But this leads to a generalization that any logical apparatus also functions in this way; that they are objects that do, that may take us up simply as an object to do. But this is at best a will to falsehood as Deleuze puts it, a thing that is real insofar as it is treated real. Rather, logic is a means of clearing up our translation of external objects. Along side my evaluation of Foucault's notion of knowledge, it is suggestible that logic is not knowledge, it is not ideally active in objects, but instead is a means of interpretation peculiar to humanity.  One must use a logic as a resistance to the natural disposition which an object produces, otherwise the logic loses its interpretive function and becomes externalized as an object.  Logic is not an object but an internal aspect of human interpretation. It may become an object, but this dissociation causes it to be reified and invalidated. Our current economic and political situation bares this out.  The dissociation of logic from interpretation to being an object in itself subjugates humans to abstract objects. This is the imperative of critique, to destroy the ridiculousness of reified logical objects. The ontologist skirts this demand by describing a logic as a dynamic self-differentiating object. But this is the most destructive and undesirable form of logic; that is a logic that has become knowledge and acts independently of the truth. In the attempt to free objects from humanity, the ontologist often loses sight of the need to free humans from objects, and the way that this process entails the use of epistemological and critical means.

The dialectic should be used primarily to demonstrate the actual impossibility of its content.  To propose two dichotomous elements is to say 'these elements do not exist as they function in this form, they only exist in thought'. That it exists only in thought is in line with the notion of a human as an object at the level of other objects; the difference being that it reads out of our interpretation of actual objects a form predetermining that object. It is then coherent to say that each thought has an objective relation, but that all objective relations are not necessarily thought. One thinks through the dialectic the diagram or non-identity of being. One constitutes out of the ambiguity of being an image that gives it consistency.

As I said before, the critical is the objective self-relation of a human, its inherence in itself. This self-relation may be experienced in a natural way or in a critical way.  But the unhistorical and natural way of thinking can fall into two traps; that it treat a particular empirical belief as a formal contradiction of another belief, or that it uses a logical form in general, the dialectic, to produce the truth. This danger calls upon a particularly human demand, something quite outside of ontology. No matter how austere a logic, how functional its use; it must also account for reification and for the objectification of logic.  It must be able to differentiate between the inherence of an object within the world of other objects and the internal coherence of the human as an object translating other objects.  This is an immanently human need. That we produce a functional philosophy, but that we also account for the gaps of its description; in the failures of logical axioms as what they produce becomes other than what they state. It is doubtful, however austere the descriptive consistency of an ontology, that it will be able to skirt the critical demand, because that demand is in itself a major aspect of our interpretive relation to the world.