Archive for the ‘Nietzsche’ Category

What is the relationship of ethics to marketing (and capitalism more generally)? This opens on to other questions, as I’m fond of saying. Such as where is the social in marketing? Where does the social appear in marketing analysis and textbooks? As I noted in Biopower and Marketing in Grewal and Levy’s marketing textbook, the ethical dilemmas are presenting in pop-out boxes heralded by a stop-sign hand, as if ethics comes to halt business from the outside. The social quandaries, complexities, differences, problems that constitute the ethical moment in business are imposed by laws, morals, norms, ‘humanity.’ Always from the outside.

But this ‘outside ethics’ repeats and consolidates the fundamental fetishism of capitalism: operating through the invisible hand of the market capital confronts an irrational and recalcitrant social realm that it remolds as is necessary for the accumulation of profits.

As we see from the quotes below, even as astute an observer of the viral ambitions of contemporary marketing as Naomi Klein falls into this sense that ‘culture’ (or the social) is outside branding processes. And so for her the answer is to find a suitable ‘balance’ between the overweening ambitions of branding, marketing, logofication, cultural event sponsoring and its albeit impure but still exterior: genuine creativity and human culture. As No Logo becomes increasingly Orwellian further on, we see that there is in fact no exterior to branding today—more and more brands provide the infrastructure for cultural and social events (48). As Klein writes, “Jordan and Nike are emblematic of a new paradigm that eliminates all barriers between branding and culture, leaving no room whatsoever for unmarketed space.” But then one wonders what is the aim of the critique? More balance or the overthrow of our brandworld by jamming its multiplicity of clichés?

Yet is this in fact how capital works? Is this what ethics is for business and marketing? Something that comes from the outside to present a halt in its processes or a crisis of management? My sense is that within marketing this is in fact how ethics is presented in its relationship to business. So there are whistleblowers who go outside of a corporation to expose its unethical practices, who are then celebrated in the media as kinds of heroes of humanity in the face of ‘savage’ business practices operating in a cutthroat capitalist environment.

What if ethics is not thought of as norms to be followed or performed, but material relations that modulate ecologies of sensation along gradients of intensity in terms of their capacities to affect and be affected (Spinoza vs. Kant, Nietzsche against Mill, etc.)? That need not be a turgid, or, worse, pedantic sentence. We mean something very simple by this: if we consider that control-capital modulates the body’s intensive relations by tweaking its habituation-capacities, ethical projects would overcome the diagram of our own domination by creating untimely, transvaluating events of becoming. We need pragmatic diagrams of our domination in order to mutate its ontological conditions.

From Jones, et al, For Business Ethics (London: Routledge, 2005).

Be this as it may, the standard picture that we get of the decision-making process goes like this: the manager collects the evidence, models a set of potential answers, and then makes a decision on what actions should taken…Frankly, we do not think that it is helpful to think about these issues as if they are just a matter of autonomous moral choice. They believe that this is possible is based on a willingness to exclude many matters as if they were a form of background noise. This noise includes organizational and financial structures, the position of the manager and management education, the relationships between first world and third world, the nature of work and employment, and so on. Incredibly, the common sense of global capitalism and market managerialism typically ends up being ‘outside’ business ethics. Finally…there is then the question of whether business ethics will actually make businesses more ethical. Here, business ethicists are generally more cautious, and justifiably so. For a start, they do not raise expectations too high. Their goals very rarely include any form of radical social change. The heart of the matter is gentle and polite reform, or a moral education for top decision makers. What they do should not be too distressing or upsetting. The emphasis is on working with and within contemporary business organizations in order that their worst excesses can be tempered…Ethics becomes a specific part of a business and marketing strategy, something done in order to make more money. Yet, if someone told us that they were merely being good so that they would be rewarded, or so that people would think better of them, we would probably not be impressed. In fact, we might decide that they were not being ethical at all. 19

…we wanted to emphasise the importance of thought. Because, if people do not examine their prejudices and convictions, then how can they really be said to be thinking hard about something? How can they claim to be doing something new and worthwhile, rather than just repeating things that they have been told? It seems to us that much of business ethics clings to assumptions about human nature, organizations, markets and ethics. And further, it might be that these assumptions are highly political, in the sense that they tend to benefit that sorts of people that have already done rather well under present arrangements. 25

From Naomi Klein, No Logo

…there is little point…in pining for either a mythic brand-free past or some utopian commercial-free future. Branding becomes troubling—as it did in the cases just discussed—when the balance tips dramatically in favor of the sponsoring brand, stripping the hosting culture of its inherent value and treating it as little more than a promotional tool. It is possible for a more balanced relationship to unfold—one in which both sponsor and sponsored hold on to their power and in which clear boundaries are drawn and protected… 39

“Marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, capturing [added by the authors], communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.” Dhruv Grewal and Michael Levy, Marketing (London: McGraw-Hill, 2008) i

Let us begin with a refrain developed in previous postings: value, sense, force. What follows will differentiate from the trite position that marketing pedagogy is a biopolitical project. That marketing seeks to goad life into mutation and habituation, and to raise the power of information to the nth degree seems almost obvious. This much is true of marketing: sensation-desire-information are its very lifeblood. By adding the participle “capturing” to the definition the authors show clearly that some mechanism (or abstract diagram) is necessary to assemble flows of communication with the production of consumer desire (cf. Virilio, Information Bomb 17). That is not a turgid sentence. It means simply this: that new media advertising builds on the machinery that came before it. Virilio in The Information Bomb tells us that advertising has shifted from the 20th century function of producing consumer desire to what he calls pure communication. Facebook and the spacetime of Web 2.0 (the informatization of everything). Desire needs to be captured and entrained (a neutralizing-potentializing circuit) through and in the flow of information—in the mode of communication—itself. We are all entrepreneurs of the self, even and perhaps in a special way when we disavow that capitalism as the extraction of surplus value from the processes of the world is the destiny of posthumanity. In what sense is marketing pedagogy a biopolitical process? How does marketing situate itself vis a vis the production of desire in the interest of domination? The aim then is to produce mutations in habit that allow an unmediated experience of virtuality. The transvaluation of all values must value becoming.


We have seen that the world was an infinity of converging series, capable of being extended into each other, around unique points. Thus every individual, every individual monad expresses the same world in its totality although it only clearly expresses a part of this world, a series or even a finite sequence. The result is that another world appears when the obtained series diverge in the neighborhood of singularities. (Deleuze, The Fold 60)

reticulation 9.6 copy

Abstract: This essay aims to diagram the set of connectivities (or “system of relations”) developing in business outsourcing affective, communicative labor and the value-adding digital image in contemporary Hindi-Urdu cinema. What emerges is a resonant set of nested temporalities constituting a new media assemblage. Throughout, I draw on a set of analyses that has developed the notion of affective labor as a decisive break in the organization of value under capital. In this work by feminist political economists, postcolonial critics, and Marxist phenomenologists, affect becomes the substance of interaction and communication: distinct from “emotion,” affect is defined by its relational, bodily character, and cannot be reduced to an internalized feeling. In that regard, affect is considered pre-individual, operating in that moving strata of being and becoming where the subject and populations meet. Affect is both virtual and actual at once, it is an emergent, incipient space of mutation and potential as well as the site of modulation, control, and capitalist valorization. Theoretical frameworks that have brought together Marx, Freud, Foucault, and Deleuze have conceived of affective labor using terms such as desiring production, and more significantly, numerous feminist investigations, analyzing the potentials within what has been designated traditionally as women’s work, have grasped affective labor with terms such as kin work and caring labor [or “labor in the bodily mode”]. Through an analysis of No smoking (Kashyap, 2008) and Office Tigers (Mermin, 2006), I explore the singular emergence of affective labor in the South Asian context, in pervasive processes that are informatizing (rendering as/through data) various forms of life and work. I correlate the function of affective labor in both business outsourcing and digital media through analyses of two key modalities: the evolving functionality of information in the nonlinear, open system of computer technology; and the modulation of subjectivity in the capacities of attention and sensation of value creation.


This video is a montage of the images with their digital “originals.” I think the video helps defetishize the images, that is it makes the compositing processes a little more palpable. Changing the level of detail changes the sharpness of the color transitions. The processes involved in perception traversing these gradients is what I have been insisting we understand politically, economically, technologically, bodily. At once and altogether. An ecology of sensation, where ecology is understood as a system far from equilibrium involved in creative resonance with other forces, ecologies, material and informational flows.

Arriving trains, Chembur Station

Santa Cruz


Nietzsche and Philosophy (hereafter N+P) is a fantastic work. It deserves all the praise it has received and more: Deleuze is at his most creative in his engagement with Frederich Nietzsche (FN). Both interpretation and concept creation, N+P introduces the reader to some of Deleuze’s lasting concerns: multiplicity, unity, force, sense, becoming, nondialectical difference.

These concepts have been addressed in these blogs. I am particularly interested in thinking through and elaborating on the concept of the body as a non-coinciding resonant unity. I will begin here with some passages from the chapter “The Tragic.” Deleuze gives an excellent interpretation (and yet how vague is this term for what he is doing here!) of the relation between innocence and the tragic. Tragedy is joy, says FN, says Deleuze. And Heraclitus!

Heraclitus is the tragic thinker. The problem of justice runs through his entire work. Heraclitus is the one for whom life is radically innocent and just. He understands existence on the basis of an instinct of play. He makes existence an aesthetic phenomenon rather than a moral or religious one. Thus Nietzsche opposes him point by point to Anaximander….Heraclitus denied the duality of worlds, ‘he denied being itself.’

This in itself is not shocking, to deny being, it could be a cliched nihilism. FN does not stop here and Deleuze shows that this denial was in the service of another aim. But in the service of what?

…he made an affirmation of becoming. We have to reflect for a long time to understand what it means to make an affirmation of becoming. In the first place it is doubtless to say that there is only becoming. No doubt it is also to affirm becoming. But we also affirm the being of becoming, we say that becoming affirms being or that being is affirmed in becoming. Heraclitus has tow thoughts which are like ciphers: according to one there is no being, everything is becoming; according to the other, being is the being of becoming as such. A working thought which affirms becoming and a contemplative thought which affirms the being of becoming. These two ways of thinking are inseparable, they are the thought of single element….For there is no being beyond becoming, nothing beyond multiplicity; neither multiplicity nor becoming are appearances or illusions. But neither are there multiple or eternal realities which would be in turn, like essences beyond appearance. Multiplicity is the inseparable manifestation, essential transformation and constant symptom of unity. Multiplicity is the affirmation of unity; becoming is the affirmation of being. The affirmation of becoming is itself being, the affirmation of multiplicity is itself one. Multiple affirmation is the way in which the one affirms itself.

We see here the key elements that allows the concept of a life as non-coinciding resonant unity to take on a certain force. To affirm becoming is first of all to practice philosophy as a practice of joyous life, a dance of chance. This affirmation is also an excellent place to bring forth a non-dialectical difference. Difference has largely been subsumed under negativity, negation, opposition, contradiction, and generally a bad conscience (slave mentality or representation, same thing). Affirmative difference suggests a continuous differentiation of intensive processes, gradients of functionality, rates of connectivity, and a multiplicious mutation. This is difference as self-differentiation, given an ecology of far-from-equilibrium states and processes. This is the truth of being: becoming. There is nothing but that, a constant becoming, that is what being is; a working and contemplative thought, the world is a unity of multiplicious processes. Read on: “the double affirmation of becoming and of the being of becoming…”

Getting a hold of Foucault

What happens to the body in Foucault’s Discipline and Punish (hereafter DP)? Let us specify what body we are speaking of here, because after all it is still such a vague term. The body of docility, but also the productive nexus between capitalism and discipline. The body of the norm, but also the body incited to a microphysics of activity and expression. So already we are speaking of at least two bodies in Foucault: that palimpsest in perpetual dissolution invoked in “Nietzsche Genealogy History,” and the more mundane body of habit, of exercise, of experimentation, and regulation. (I should mention in passing how surprised I was to find that Deleuze had organized a conference on Nietzsche–the only one he ever organized in his career–in the early 60s, and that Foucault had taken an active part in the proceedings; and that together they had been involved in the French publication of Nietzsche’s works–all this in Desert Islands. I suppose my surprise was that Foucault had such an early and long lasting engagement with Nietzsche–it always seemed to me that he became more Nietzschean after The Archaeology of Knowledge, but that is clearly mistaken. So then it is through the laughter of the Nietzschean aphorism–its specific intensities, as Deleuze reminds us–that I re-read these crucial sections of DP).

The first body, the body of discourse, the body that is produced by a power that “writes” it, has been the dominant figure of the body in cultural(ist) criticism for the past twenty years. It is the body of performativity, of the mark, piercing, and the tatoo, it is the queered body of drag and camp. It is the body of a curious productive repression, whose productivity takes only the form of a narrow linguistico-psychic expressivity. What does that mean exactly? The body is thought as something that means, that displaces meaning, that figures linguistic traces, and that dynamizes the psyche with its little traumas-turned-to-discourse (psychotherapy). But what of that other transformation, meaningless on a certain level, but nonetheless forceful and historically decisive, because irreversible: the transformation of the body of the soldier into a docile body through constant practice and the inculcation of the automatism of habit.

The classic representation of such automatism in industrial production is Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. The first few minutes of this classic is worth watching carefully.

The meanies of correct training

Read on: “The problem here is that Foucault straddles both conceptions of the body…”