Posts Tagged ‘Deleuze’

Keywords for a Speculative Empiricism I

Compiled by Amit S. Rai

(last revised 10-19-2018; edited by Etai Bar-On)

Note: all signifiers in bold face have separate entries.

Aufhebung (synthesis, sublation, sublimation): Spivak, in her Translator’s Introduction to Of Grammatology, writes: “Aufhebung is a relationship between two terms where the second at once annuls the first and lifts it up into a higher sphere of existence; it is a hierarchical concept generally translated `sublation’ and now sometimes translated `sublimation.’ A successful preface [to a book, for instance] is aufgehoben into the text it precedes, just as a word is aufgehoben into its meaning. It is as if, to use one of Derrida’s structural metaphors, the son or seed (preface or word), caused or engendered by the father (text or meaning) is recovered by the father and thus justified.

“But within this structural metaphor, Derrida’s cry is `dissemination,’ the seed that neither inseminates nor is recovered by the father, but is scattered abroad” (xi) (see Deconstruction, Differance, Subject).

Body: To begin with Nietzsche: “Everything that enters consciousness as ‘unity’ is already tremendously complex: we always have only a semblance of unity. The phenomenon of the body is the richer, clearer, more tangible phenomenon: to be discussed first, methodologically, without coming to any decision about its ultimate significance” (WtP 270).

The genealogical analysis of the body (see genealogy; Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History”) inscribes–or rescribes–itself in the nervous system, in temperament, in the digestive apparatus; it links the seeming throw-away representations of faulty respiration, improper diets, or the debilitated and prostrate bodies of those whose ancestors committed errors (consider Dickens’ lineage-less Fagin, “the Jew”) to a whole history of the underside of the Man. The body–“and everything that touches it: diet, climate, and soil”–will be analyzed by a genealogical approach. To quote Foucault, “The body manifests the stigmata of past experience and also gives rise to desires, failings, and errors. These elements may join in a body where they achieve a sudden expression, but as often, their encounter is an engagement in which they efface each other, where the body becomes the pretext of their insurmountable conflict. The body is the inscribed surface of events (traced by language and dissolved by ideas), the locus of a dissociated self (adopting the illusion of a substantial unity), and a volume in perpetual disintegration” (82-83). We believe, asserts Foucault, that the body obeys the exclusive laws of physiology and that it escapes the influence of history, but this is false. “The body is molded by a great many distinct regimes; it is broken down by the rhythms of work, rest, and holidays; it is poisoned by food or values, through eating habits or moral laws; it constructs resistances” (87). (See also Subject)

In Discipline and Punish, Foucault links the body to the soul (esprit but also âme in French), in a new technology of power: “. . . has not the surplus power exercised on the subjected body of the condemned man given rise to another type of duplication. That of a `non-corporal’, a `soul’, as Mably called it. The history of this `micro-physics’ of the punitive power would then be a genealogy or an element in a genealogy of the modern `soul’. Rather than seeing this soul as the reactivated remnants of an ideology, one would see it as the present correlative of a certain technology of power over the body. On the contrary, it exists, it has a reality, it is produced permanently around, on, within the body by the functioning of a power that is exercised on those punished — and, in a more general way, on those one supervises, trains, and corrects, over madmen, children at home and at school, the colonized, over those who are stuck at a machine and supervised for the rest of their lives. This is the historical reality of this soul, which, unlike the soul represented by Christian theology, is not born in sin and subject to punishment, but is born rather out of methods of punishment, supervision and constraint. This real, non-corporal soul is not a substance; it is the element in which are articulated the effects of a certain type of power and the reference of a certain type of knowledge, the machinery by which the power relations give rise to a possible corpus of knowledge, and knowledge extends and reinforces the effects of this power. On this reality-reference, various concepts have been constructed and domains of analysis carved out: psyche, subjectivity, personality, consciousness, etc.; on it have been built scientific techniques and discourses, and the moral claims of humanism. . . . The man described for us, whom we are invited to free, is already in himself the effect of a subjection much more profound than himself. A `soul’ inhabits him and brings him into existence, which is itself a factor in the mastery that power exercises over the body. The soul is the effect and instrument of a political economy; the soul is the prison of the body” (29-30).

Communication: Derrida, from “Signature Event Context”: “Now, the word communication, which nothing initially authorizes us to overlook as a word, and to impoverish as a polysemic word, opens a semantic field which precisely is not limited to semantics, semiotics, and even less to linguistics. To the semantic field of the word communication belongs the fact that it also designates nonsemantic movements. Here at least provisional recourse to ordinary language and to the equivocalities of natural language teaches us that one may, for example, communicate a movement, or that a tremor, a shock, a displacement of force can be communicated–that is, propagated, transmitted. It is also said that different or distant places can communicate between each other by means of a given passageway or opening. What happens in this case, what is transmitted or communicated, are not phenomena of meaning or signification. In these cases we are dealing neither with a semantic or conceptual content, nor with a semiotic operation, and even less with a linguistic exchange.

“Nevertheless, we will not say that this nonsemiotic sense of the communication . . . constitutes the proper or primitive meaning, and that consequently the semantic, semiotic, or linguistic meaning corresponds to a derivation, an extension or reduction, a metaphoric displacement. . . . We will not say so:

“1. because the value of literal, proper meaning appears more problematic than ever,

“2. because the value of displacement, of transport, etc., is constitutive of the very concept of metaphor by means of which one allegedly understands the semantic displacement which operated from communication as nonsemiolinguistic phenomenon to communication as a semiolinguistic phenomenon.” (Derrida, “Signature Event Context” 82-83)

Context: Anthony Easthope draws on Derrida for his notion of context. In Derrida’s thought writing typifies the relation of supposed communication between the sender and the receiver of a message, a text’s addresser and addressee. There are four general propositions that follow from this:

1) “One writes in order to communicate something to those who are absent”: a written text presupposes the absence of the addressee and can be read by someone other than the one it was first addressed to;

2) the same feature, the same intersubjective universality, equally guarantees that the text can still be read even if the author is absent;

3) A text is intended and has a meaning in a particular context;

4) But the universal feature of language means that no particular intention can saturate a text, which by virtue of this universality has the capacity to “break with every given context, and engender infinitely new contexts”: while a text does not have meaning outside a context, its meaning cannot be limited to any one context; spillage of meaning beyond any given context is the condition of its being taken up in fresh context — which it again exceeds (112-113); in Other words, for a text to be read, one must in a certain sense appropriate the text in one’s own context, which means that the text will be repeated in your context. Recall the definition of repetition: “For a text to be repeated it must be exactly reproduced. But for it to be a repetition, there must be a kind of space between the original text and the repetition. What exactly is repetition? It is difference and deferral.” Difference of context, and since all contexts are contexts within contexts (which participate in other contexts) there will always be a certain spillage of meaning.

As Derrida writes: “all those boundaries that form the running border of what used to be called a text, of what we once thought this word could identify, i.e. the supposed end and beginning of a work, the unity of a corpus, the title, the margins, the signatures, the referential realm outside the frame, and so forth. What has happened … is a sort of overrun that spoils all these boundaries and divisions and forces us to extend the accredited concept, the dominant notion of a `text’ [or context] … that is no longer a finished corpus of writing, some content enclosed in a book or its margins, but a differential network, a fabric of traces referring endlessly to something other than itself, to other differential traces” (Derrida, “Living On/Borderlines”, p. 81; pp. 83-84) (see difference, deconstruction).

In “Signature Event Context,” Derrida puts it thus:

But are the prerequisites of a context ever absolutely determinable? . . . Is there a rigorous and scientific concept of the context? Does not the notion of context harbor, behind a certain confusion, very determined philosophical presuppositions? To state it now in the most summary fashion, I would like to demonstrate why a context is never absolutely determinable, or rather in what way its determination is never certain or saturated. This structural nonsaturation would have as it double effect:

1. a marking of the theoretical insufficiency of the usual concept of (the linguistic or nonlinguistic) context such as it is accepted in numerous fields on investigation, along with all the other concepts with which it is systematically associated;

2. a rendering necessary of a certain generalization and certain displacement of the concept of writing. The latter could no longer, henceforth, be included in the category of communication, at least if communication is understood in the restricted sense of the transmission of meaning. (84)

Critique (or What is to be done?): But paralysis isnt the same thing as anaesthesis–on the contrary. Its in so far as theres been an awakening to a whole series of problems that the difficulty of doing anything comes to be felt. Not that this effect is an end in itself. But it seems to me that `what is to be done ought not to be determined from above by reformers, be they prophetic or legislative, but by a long work of comings and goings, of exchanges, reflections, trials, different analysis. If the social workers you are talking about dont know which way to turn, this just goes to show that theyre looking, and hence are not anaesthetized or sterilized at all–on the contrary. And its because of the need not to tie them down or immobilize them that there can be no question for me of trying to tell `what is to be done. If the questions posed by the social workers you spoke of are going to assume their full amplitude, the most important thing is not to bury them under the weight of prescriptive, prophetic discourse. The necessity of reform mustnt be allowed to become a form of blackmail serving to limit, reduce or halt the exercise of criticism. Under no circumstances should one pay attention to those who tell one: `Dont criticize, since youre not capable of carrying out a reform. Thats ministerial cabinet talk. Critique doesnt have to be the premise of a deduction which concludes: this then is what needs to be done. It should be an instrument for those who fight, those who resist and refuse what is. Its use should be in processes of conflict and confrontation, essays in refusal. It doesnt have to lay down the law for the law. It isnt a stage in programming. It is a challenge directed to what is. The problem, you see, is one for the subject who acts — the subject of action through which the real is transformed. If prisons and punitive mechanisms are transformed, it wont be because a plan of reform has found its way into the heads of the social workers; it will be when those who have to do with that penal reality, all those people, have come into collision with each other and with themselves, run into dead-ends, problems and impossibilities, been through conflicts and confrontations; when critique has been played out in the real, not when reformers have realized their ideas (Michel Foucault, Questions of Method in The Foucault Effect 84-85 — see resistance).

Death Drive: Acc. to Laplanche and Pontalis, “In the framework of the final Fruedian theory of the instincts, this is the name given to a basic category: the death instincts, which are opposed to the life instincts, strive towards the reduction of tensions to zero-point. In other words, their goal is to bring the living being back to the inorganic state” (The Language of Psycho-Analysis 97). The death drive emerged as part of Freud’s second topographic model, that is after around 1919, and is linked to two major texts Beyond the Pleasure Principle and “The Uncanny.” As Freud put it: “If we take into consideration the whole picture made up by the phenomena of masochism immanent in so many people, the negative therapeutic reaction and the sense of guilt found in so many neurotics, we shall no longer be able to adhere to the belief that mental events are exclusively governed by the desire for pleasure. These phenomena are unmistakable indications of the presence of a power in mental life which we call the instinct of aggression or of destruction according to its aims, and which we trace back to the original death instinct of living matter” (qtd. in Boothby, Death and Desire 3). As Boothby points out, Freud’s thesis on the death drive seems to imply that “the true goal of living is dying and that the life-course of all organisms must be regarded as only a circuitous route to death” (3). This theory has proved to be perhaps the most controversial idea in psychoanalysis, and was rejected by many people who otherwise claimed to be psychoanalysts. But for Lacan, the death drive was the very center of psychoanalytic theory. As he puts it: “To ignore the death instinct in [Freud’s] doctrine is to misunderstand that doctrine completely” (qtd. in Boothby 10). He characterizes Beyond the Pleasure Principle as the “pivotal point” in the evolution of Freud’s thought, and argues that the death drive is the key to understanding the topography of id, ego, and superego upon which Freud based all of his final theory (Boothby 10). To “return to Freud” meant for Lacan that we grasp the full import of the death drive as a force of self-destructiveness, a primordial aggressivity toward oneself, from which aggressivity toward others in ultimately derived. The question of the death drive in Lacan is linked to the faculty of speech and language, on the one hand, and to the fate of desire, on the other. Linking these three concepts, Boothby argues that “the death drive operates on two levels, imaginary [tied to the image, and anticipated wholeness of the subject: see Mirror Stage] and symbolic [where the subject enters language, which re-orients its desire toward the signifier of an Other]. In either case, the death drive attempts to have its way with the imaginary ego, seeking to deconstruct its false unity. But what emerges on the level of the imaginary as literal violence is accomplished in the function of the superego [the symbolic] by means of a symbolically mediated [i.e. by the Phallus] transformation of identity. The graduation of the subject from the imaginary place to that of the symbolic might thus be called a sublimation of the death drive” (177). But this (failed) sublimation of the death drive is also the return of Lacan’s other register, the real: the death drive presents the eruption of the real against the constraints of the imaginary and the symbolic. According to Boothby, the death drive represents the return of the irreducible, and irrepressible difference between our (whose?) experience of the somatic (the body) and the unconscious functionings of our psyche. “The doctrine of the death drive implies the profound inadequacy of every self-image of the human being. There can be no total psychical representation of the reality of the animate subject. The final implication of what is beyond the pleasure principle is that the real of the body remains beyond our powers to imagine it” (Boothby 225).

Freud wrote that the unconscious knows nothing of death, and Lacan extends and revises his thesis; as John Forrester argues, “Freud preserved a continuous tension between the fact of death as the end, total finality, and the denial of death, its leavening, its symbolisation by other things. . . . For Lacan, this `abstract concept with a negative content’ [death] is the symbol: the category that defines the limit of the Fruedian field. . . . True: the unconscious knows no time, knows no death, knows no negation. All these are linked together for Freud. . . . For Lacan . . . Freud’s arguments here need to be supplemented or transformed. Lacan introduces a meditation on the relation between symbol and thing: `the name is the time of the object.’ The fundamental feature of the object for Lacan, its duration in time, is given it in the pact of naming [see Names-of-the-father], in which two subjects create a symbolic world. Linked with this is the claim that the symbol `manifests itself first of all as the murder of the thing, and this death constitutes in the subject the eternalization of his desire’. In raising the thing to another level, its thinginess [yes: he actually wrote “thinginess”] is lost forever: it becomes a thing-in-relation-to-other-things — that is, a part of the symbolic order. . . . What for Freud, then, is abstract, pure negativity and therefore unrepresentable (in the unconscious), becomes for Lacan the privileged motor of all representations, of all meaning. Insofar as death is installed in me, in my beginnings, in so far as I am a speaking being, conjuring the death of things through the birth of language, in so far as I have an ego, and effect of an identification with a fundamentally always-already dead other, in so far as I am a human who recognises the existence of an after-life (in Freud’s dialect), of a symbolic order (in Lacan’s), then I am alive” (The Seductions of Psychoanalysis: Freud, Lacan and Derrida [New York: Cambridge UP, 1990] 174-76).

Deconstruction: 10 definitions of deconstruction by Willy Maley (Dr. W T Maley <wtm”ARTS.GLA.AC.UK>, “Deconstruction for Beginners” Multiple recipients of list DERRIDA, 11/13/95, 5:24am):

1) It is a general theory of text, not a “textualization” of politics but a politicization of text, of text as a system rather than as a book bound by covers. In ‘Of Grammatology’ (1967), Derrida first formulated the phrase that has haunted him ever since: ‘There is no extra-text’, or there is no frame, often interpreted as: ‘There is nothing outside – or beyond – the text’: ‘there is no outside-the-text’ signifies that one never accedes to a text without some relation to its contextual opening and that a context is not made up only of what is so trivially called a text, that is, the words of a book or the more or less biodegradable paper document in a library. If one does not understand this initial transformation of the concepts of text …[and] … context, one understands nothing about nothing of …. deconstruction … (Derrida, “Biodegradables”, p. 841). . . . “all those boundaries that form the running border of what used to be called a text, of what we once thought this word could identify, i.e. the supposed end and beginning of a work, the unity of a corpus, the title, the margins, the signatures, the referential realm outside the frame, and so forth. What has happened … is a sort of overrun that spoils all these boundaries and divisions and forces us to extend the accredited concept, the dominant notion of a ‘text’ … that is no longer a finished corpus of writing, some content enclosed in a book or its margins, but a differential network, a fabric of traces referring endlessly to something other than itself, to other differential traces”. (Derrida, “Living On/Borderlines”, p. 81; pp. 83-84). . . . “An ‘internal’ reading will always be insufficient. And moreover impossible. Question of context, as everyone knows, there is nothing but context, and therefore: there is no outside-the-text” (Derrida, “Biodegradables”, p. 873). Derrida’s enlarged notion of text has been seen, curiously in an academic context, as a reduction of politics. Derrida denies the equation of textualization with trivialization. He maintains that: “It was never our wish to extend the reassuring notion of the text to a whole extra-textual realm and to transform the world into a library by doing away with all boundaries…but…we sought rather to work out the theoretical and practical system of these margins, these borders, once more, from the ground up”. Derrida is out to circumvent both the “text as world” and the “world as text”.

2) Deconstruction is deliberately eccentric, working in the margins. As Terry Eagleton puts it in Literary Theory: “Derrida’s … typical habit of reading is to settle on some apparently peripheral fragment in the work – a footnote, a recurrent minor term or image, a casual allusion – and work it tenaciously through to the point where it threatens to dismantle the oppositions which govern the text as a whole” (p. 133-34). As Derrida himself says: “I do not ‘concentrate’ in my reading … either exclusively or primarily on those points that appear to be the most ‘important’, ‘central’, ‘crucial’. Rather, I deconcentrate, and it is the secondary, eccentric, lateral, marginal, parasitic, borderline cases which are ‘important’ to me and are the source of many things, such as pleasure, but also insight into the general functioning of a textual system (Derrida, “Limited Inc.”). . . . “… ‘marginal, fringe’ cases … always constitute the most certain and most decisive indices wherever essential conditions are to be grasped” (Derrida, “Limited Inc”, p. 209). Of course, there is a sense in which whenever we quote from any text, whenever we write criticism, we are writing on the margins.

3) Deconstruction can be seen as an overcoming of the risk of repetition through revolution. In Positions Derrida states that deconstruction has two stages. Reversal and displacement. Reversal of a binary opposition which is also a violent hierarchy, followed by a reorientation, or displacement of the problem, to avoid repetition. You cannot skip reversal and move straight on to displacement. Elsewhere Derrida seems to suggest that these two stages need not be executed in that order. Still, reversal and displacement remain one way of thinking about deconstruction.

4) It can also be seen as an allegoric, or analogic of power. A politics of ‘linkage’. Because there is nothing outside the text – everything is included in ‘reading’ – connections are constantly made with the so-called ‘real’ or ‘outside’ world.

5) It is an attempt to recover histories that have been ‘repressed’, ‘minoritized’, ‘delegitimated’. Derrida claims that it is in fact the most historical of approaches: “One of the most necessary gestures of a deconstructive understanding of history consists … in transforming things by exhibiting writings, genres, textual strata (which is also to say – since there is no outside-the-text, right – exhibiting institutional, economic, political, pulsive [and so on] ‘realities’) that have been repulsed, repressed, devalorized, minoritized, delegitimated, occulted by hegemonic canons, in short, all that which certain forces have attempted to melt down into the anonymous mass of an unrecognizable culture, to `(bio)degrade’ in the common compost of a memory said to be living and organic” (Jacques Derrida, “Biodegradables: Seven Diary Fragments,” Critical Inquiry 15, 4 (1989) 821).

6) It problematises the notion of author. The author is included in the text – because there’s nothing outside the text – but as text, to be read, not as a governing presence. “… what [deconstruction] calls into question is the presence of a fulfilled and actualized intentionality, adequate to itself and its contents” (Jacques Derrida, “Limited Inc”, pp. 202-203). Derrida appeals to Freud and the psychoanalytic notion of the unconscious in order to back up his claim that intention is necessarily limited. Note, not that it doesn’t exist. But it is limited.

7) You become like the thing you criticize. Oppositional writing always runs the risk of reappropriation.

8) Deconstruction inhabits – in a parasitic way – the texts it reads. There is a kind of miming that goes on. This is both a question of fidelity and of parody.

9) It is a hauntology, rather than an ontology, a theory of ghosts. A belief in the ghostliness of being. The self, according to Derrida is a ghost. The first ghost we are host to. Derrida believes in ghosts, and in telepathy. This `supernaturalism’ can be traced throughout Derrida’s work.

10) It is “a radicalization of Marxism”, claims Derrida in his most recent book (Specters of Marx (Routledge, 1994), p. 92), a radicalization in terms of its conception of work, ideology, and ghosts.

In an interview in Russia, Derrida described his practice thus: “This may be an adequate description of what I try to do, namely: to construct texts in such a way that by dint of their neutralized communication, theses, and stabilities or contents, and by dint of the neutralization also of their microstructure of meaning, the reader and finally oneself is in the grips of a certain trembling, a new bodily oscillation, so that in the end a new realm of experience is pried open. And this is why some readers react to my text in words such as these: ‘In the end, we understand nothing, we can draw no conclusions from what you say.’ And many confess: ‘Oh, we don’t understand this, it’s too complex, and one cannot understand it, finally we still don’t know whether you agree with Nietzsche [on] the question of woman or not. We don’t get what’s behind the text, what its results or its general conclusions are. This is too brutal and destructive, and we have no way of knowing what kind of person you are and where you want to lead us.’ At the same time, other readers, people who are perhaps not as prepared for this reading, at least no readers of Husserl or Nietzsche, who therefore read my texts barbarically, naively, as it were, are much more receptive to the trembling of the text, the text-effect that in the end has to do with the body, the readers’ body or even my body. From this sense-less text or this microstructure of meaning, they draw an experience which I consider valuable. They are much more open for what I do, more accessible than by comparison those cultivated and hypercultivated people – often we meet both reactions. So readers should [be] either hyperdifferentiated or not learned at all, and this has to do with their experience of the other, and it has to do with how the other is construed […]” (Jacques Derrida, “Philosophie und Literatur,” Orte des Denkens, eds. Ackermann, Raiser, Uffelmann, trans. D. Uffelmann [Vienna: ?, 1995] 173-200; translated from the Russian notes of the interlocutors and the English tape recording in February 1990; re-translated from the German by Peter Krapp; qtd. in Peter Krapp <foreign.body”DECONSTRUCTION.RHEIN.DE>, Multiple recipients of list DERRIDA <DERRIDA”CFRVM…), 12/11/95 5:29pm, “Re: New JD Book?”). This metaphor of the barbaric reader would be a strategic place to open the question of the relationship between deconstruction and postcolonial criticism; thus: Who is barbaric vis a vis the Derridean text? Does the barbaric reader have no cultivation? If so, then what kind of cultivation is the most enabling (and clearly there is an opposition being posited here) for a deconstructive sensibility?

Spivak, in her Translator’s Preface, situates the praxis of deconstruction in terms of reading otherwise: “A reading that produces rather than protects. That description of deconstruction we have already entertained. Here is another: ` . . . the task is . . . to dismantle [deconstruire] the metaphysical and rhetorical structures which are at work in [the text], not in order to reject or discard them, but to reinscribe them in another way.’ . . . How to dismantle these struectures? By using a signifier not as a transcendental key that will unlock the way to truth but as a bricoleur’s or tinker’s tool–a `positive lever’. . . . It must be emphasized that I am not speaking simply of locating a moment of ambiguity or irony ultimately incorporated into the text’s system of unified meaning but rather a moment that genuinely threatens to collapse that system” (lxxv).

Toward the end of his crucial essay, “The Ends of Man” (Margins of Philosophy 109-136), Derrida argues that the question at hand is to determine the possibility of meaning on the basis of a “formal” organization which in itself has no meaning, “which does not mean that it is either the non-sense or the anguishing absurdity which haunt metaphysical humanism” (134); he then goes on to chart two related but disjunctive strategies for deconstruction (note that Derrida is just as concerned to mark the structural lures for each strategy):

“a. To attempt an exit and a deconstruction [of Western metaphysics] without changing terrain, by repeating what is implicit in the founding concepts and the original problematic, by using against the edifice the instruments or stones available in the house, that is, equally, in language. Here, one risks ceaselessly confirming, consolidating, relifting (relever), at an always more certain depth, that which one allegedly deconstructs. The continuous process of making explicit, moving toward an opening, risks sinking into the autism of the closure.

“b. To decide to change terrain, in a discontinuous and irruptive fashion, by brutally placing oneself outside, and by affirming an absolute break and difference. Without mentioning all the other forms of trompe-l’oeil perspective in which such a displacement can be caught, thereby inhabiting more naively and more strictly than ever the inside one declares one has deserted, the simple practice of language ceaselessly reinstates the new terrain on the oldest ground. The effects of such a reinstatement of such a blindness could be shown in numerous precise instances [cf. Derrida, “Cogito and the History of Madness,” in Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978)].

“It goes without saying that these effects do not suffice to annul the necessity for a `change of terrain.’ It also goes without saying that the choice between these two forms of deconstruction cannot be simple and unique. A new writing must weave and interlace these two motifs of deconstruction. Which amounts to saying that one must speak several languages and produce several texts at once” (135). !

In an interview in Points, Derrida says: “A deconstruction cannot be `theoretical,’ beginning with its very principle. It is not limited to concepts, to thought content, or to discourses [see Monster]. That has been clear since the beginning. If the deconstruction of institutional structures [for example, those that contain the academic discourse, but most often outside the university, given the nature of the university or the educational apparatus: they set the rules therefore, sometimes in an all-powerful fashion, for those who occasionally represent themselves as anti-university; but this representation does not prevent them from dreaming of an index, theses, archives, and other academic celebrations of yesterday’s avant-garde; here and there this dream becomes (is there anything more comical today?) compulsive, feverish, hyperactive management], if, then, this political deconstruction is indispensable, one must not overlook certain gaps but attempt to reduce them even though it is for essential reasons, impossible to erase them: for example, the gap between the discourses and practices of this immediately political deconstruction, on the one hand, and deconstruction of a theoretical or philosophical kind, on the other. At times these gaps are so great that they hide the links or render them unrecognizable for many people” (28).

And again, from Points, Derrida on affirmative deconstruction: “I have constantly insisted on the fact that the movement of deconstruction was first of all affirmative–not positive, but affirmative. Deconstruction, let’s say it one more time, is not demolition or destruction. Deconstruction–I don’t know if it is something, but if it is something, it is also a thinking of Being, of metaphysics, thus a discussion that has it out with the authority of Being or of essence, of the thinking of what is, and such a discussion or explanation cannot be simply a negative destruction. All the more so in that, among all the things in the history of metaphysics that deconstruction argues against, there is the dialectic, there is the opposition of the negative to the positive. To say that deconstruction is negative is simply to reinscribe it in an intra-metaphysical process. The point is not to remove oneself from this process but to give it the possibility of being thought” (211).

These passages have obvious relevance for postcolonial criticism, marked, as it always is, by a certain contamination of the inside, regulated by a desire for some transcendent outside. Here’s Spivak on “affirmative deconstruction”: “If it were embraced as a strategy, then the emphasis upon `the sovereignty, . . . consistency and . . . logic’ of `rebel consciousness’ can be seen as `affirmative deconstruction’: knowing that such an emphasis is theoretically non-viable, the historian then breaks his theory in a scrupulously delineated `political interest. If, on the other hand, the restoration of the subaltern’s subject-position in history is seen by the historian as the establishment of an inalienable and final truth of things, then any emphasis on sovereignty, consistency, and logic will, as I have suggested above, inevitably objectify the subaltern and be caught in the game of knowledge as power. . . . It is in this spirit that I read Subaltern Studies against its grain and suggest that its own subalternity in claiming a positive subject-position for the subaltern might be reinscribed as a strategy for our times.

“What good does such a re-inscription do? It acknowledges that the arena of the subaltern’s persistent emergence into hegemony must always and by definition remain heterogenous to the efforts of the disciplinary historian. The historian must persist in his efforts in this awareness, that the subaltern is necessarily the absolute limit of the place where history is narrativized into logic. It is a hard lesson to learn, but not to learn it is merely to nominate elegant solutions to be correct theoretical practice. When has history ever contradicted that practice norms theory, as subaltern practice norms official historiography in this case?” (“Deconstructing Historiography,” Selected Subaltern Studies 16). It seems to me Spivak is elaborating on the following passage from Derrida: “`Operating necessarily from the inside, borrowing all the strategic and economic resources of subversion from the old structure, borrowing them structurally, that is to say without being able to isolate their elements and atoms, the enterprise of deconstruction always in a certain way falls prey to its own work.’ . . . This is the greatest gift of deconstruction to question the authority of the investigating subject without paralyzing him, persistently transforming conditions of impossibility into possibility” (Spivak, “Deconstructing Historiography,” Selected Subaltern Studies 8-9).

Democracy: Here is Simon Critchley on the relationship between democracy, justice and deconstruction: “Derrida’s claim . . . is that deocnstruction is justice and justice is an `experience’ of the undecidable; that is to say, according to my interpretation, to be just is to recognize one’s infinite responsibility before the singular other as something over which one cannot ultimately decide, as something that exceeds my cognitive powers. It is this experience of `justice’ that compels one forward into politics, that is to say, from undecideability to the decision, to what Derrida calls, following Kierkegaard, the madness of the decision. Politics is the realm of the decision, of the organization and administration of the public realm, of the institution of law and policy. . . .

“For Derrida, no political form can or should attempt to embody justice, and the undecideability of justice must always lie outside the public realm, guiding, criticizing and deconstructing that realm, but never instantiated within it. From a deconstructive perspective, the greatest danger in politics in the threat of totalitarianism, or what Jean-Luc Nancy calls `immanentism’, in all its most recent and terrifying disguises: neo-fascism, nationalism, ethnocentrism, theocracy. Totalitarianism is premised upon the identification of the political and the social and would claim that a particular political form and hence a particular state, community or territory embodies justice, that justice is immanent to the body politic. A deconstructive approach to politics, based the radical separation of justice from law, and the non-instantiability of the former within the latter, leads to what one might call the disembodiment of justice, where no state, community or territory could be said to embody justice. One might say that the `experience’ of justice is that of an absolute alterity or transcendence that guides politics without being fully present in the public realm. . . .

If it is now asked what political form best maintains this dis-embodiment of justice, then I take it that Derrida’s response would be democracy: not a democracy that claims to instantiate justice here and now, not an apologetics for actually existing democracy (but neither a dismissal of the latter), but a democracy guided by the futural or projective transcendence of justice–what Derrida calls une démocratie à venir [a democracy still to come]” (“Deconstruction and Pragmatism — Is Derrida a Private Ironist or a Public Liberal” in Deconstruction and Pragmatism 35-36).

Desire: The Subject in Lacan is linked to lack, need, and demand through desire. This is because the subject is linked to an original lack, an absence of being and substance which lies at the very origin of desire, in so far as this is distinguishable from need or demand. To be more specific, what is the difference between need, demand and desire? Whereas need is governed by the interplay of satisfaction and the lack thereof [bodily and nourishment needs], and demand (which essentially is a demand for love) suspends such interplay in order to relocate it in some unattainable though compulsively yearned-for hereafter [originally the breast which then begins to signify “mother” for the infant], desire itself is never brought to a close by any satisfaction of need or demand or failure to satisfy. Desire, by which Lacan means to desire something other than the object required to satisfy a need, finds its completion in that which is not actively wanted–so strictly speaking desire functions through what Derrida terms differance. Where there is a lack, there is also a desire and a subject (and so also difference and deferral). In other words, the subject’s failure to be superfluously present, being more than it is, and looking for guarantees when at bottom there are none to offer (Pradelles de Latour 153). This is how the need-driven behavior of the child becomes more complex. When the breast becomes a token of trust, a sign of love granted or withheld, the child tends to vary its own activities in order to control the comings and goings of its mother; to the infant she becomes the first symbol (present/absent) that it can make its own. If the mother does not succumb to its advances, she lapses in the child’s esteem, but she thereby also proves herself to be a real power, all the more powerful in that the infant’s nutritional and affective life is dependent upon her whims. From this point onwards, needing and wanting love are tightly interlocked, “with the result that the frustrations of love can be compensated for by the satisfaction of needs . . . and the frustration of needs . . . can be used to heighten the value of the love at stake.” It is in this way that the immediate object of a particular psychic drive is subordinated to the search for an ambivalent, simultaneously enchanted and tyrannical, symbolic object — to be found somewhere beyond the mother, within the realm of the Other, in the form of infallible magic objects or omnipotent mythical beings (Predelles de Latour 156).

Weber (Return to Freud 127-28) puts the issue of desire thus: “Desire for Lacan — and undoubtedly for Freud as well — is essentially unconscious in structure. The latter is therefore determined by the unconscious, which in turn, as we have seen, is an effect of the signifying structure of language. . . . Desire is thus structured differentially and as a metonymic movement; it is oriented less by objects than by signifiers. . . . Yet insofar as desire is directed towards something else which `itself’ can never simply be a self-identical object, it is not only desirous of another, but is `itself’ another’s desire. It is the `the desire for the other’s desire’, the desire of a signifier, defined as the signifier of another desire.” And further (136-37): “Desire thus entails not only the difference between the satisfaction of particular needs, and an unconditional demand for love, but difference itself, i.e. `the phenomenon of their splitting’. Desire is the absolute condition insofar as it designates a movement of differential articulation based on the other — on difference. Yet at the same time it preserves the structure `contained’ in the demand-for-love’s `unconditionality’, for desire’s own movement is interminable; as such, desire must also function `unconditional’. The `object’ of desire, signifier of another desire and of the Other’s desire, always points to another signifier. In so doing, it refers not only to its own condition but beyond it as well — to other conditions. . . . Desire thus emerges on the fringes of denial. The Other of desire can thus no longer be located in some kind of code, since a code implies a collection of signs based on a particular system of signifieds. This other of desire is instead the locus of the discourse of the unconscious; it can only be placed as the difference between the `said’ and the `saying,’ between signified and signifying, or more exactly as the movement of signifiers which itself takes place upon `another stage’. This Other locale thus traces the contours of that dislocation, that `transcendental’ locus, where any possible combination or configuration of signifiers must in turn always be another signifier referring to something beyond itself. This Other, like the other of demand, befalls the subject in a variety of ways: for example, in the form of the third `person’ . . . . Yet just as the exemplary embodiment of the Other of demand is the mother, so the Other of desire is personified in the father, for it is he who introduces the law of desire through the incest prohibition and the threat of castration. If we consider the Other as the dislocation of the signifier, it cannot be incarnated in the living identity of a person; here as well, the locale remains closed, barred. What is important is not the person of the father, but his role as guardian of the law. Lacan often stresses the fact that this Other `does not exist’, it is barred, always elsewhere, inaccessible.”

Derrida in his long, complex engagement with Freud (and Lacan) has developed a notion of affirmative desire (as opposed to desire as lack). He terms this desire “bliss” or jouissance and it is based on difference; Derrida says in Points: ” . . . I don’t imagine that any bliss (let’s not speak any more here of desire but of bliss) is thinkable that does not have the form of this pure difference; a bliss that would be that of a plenitude without vibration, without difference, seems to me to be both the myth of metaphysics–and death. If there is something that can be called living bliss or life, it can be given only in this form of painful bliss which is that of differential vibration. No self-identity can close on itself. . . . This “differential vibration” is for me the only possible form of response to desire, the only form of bliss, and which can therefore be only a remote bliss, that is bliss for two or more, bliss in which the other is called; I cannot imagine a living bliss which is not plural, differential. This is marked in a minimal fashion by the fact that a timbre, a breath, a syllable is already a differential vibration; in a certain way, there is no atom” (137). And further: “I rarely speak of loss, just as I rarely speak of lack, because these are words that belong to the code of negativity, which is not mine, which I would prefer not to be mine. I don’t believe desire has essential relation to lack. I believe desire is affirmation, and consequently that mourning itself is affirmation as well” (143). See also Repetition, Signifier, Subject, Symbolic.

Différance: Differance represents the dual process of difference and deferral. Derrida coined this term as the noun form of the verb différer (to defer and differ). As Nancy J. Holland points out in her introduction to Feminist interpretations of Jacques Derrida, “Drawing on the work of linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, Derrida uses differance as a polymorphous tool for deconstructing `metaphysical’ discourse, which is defined here by the fact that all of its foundational concepts are structured in a series of isomorphic hierarchical oppositions [or binaries]: form/matter, subject/object, rational/irrational, but also right/left, light/dark, male/female, and, of course, true/false, good/bad. What differance tells us is that these oppositions have meaning only because of the posited difference between the two terms and, therefore, that neither of the terms has any meaning in and of itself, but always defers its final referent along the trajectory of the series. Since the terms and the oppositions are mutually interdependent, no term can be classified as unmarked (primary) or marked (deviant), but all are equally [this is not quite right: Derrida also argues that every hierarchy is a violent relation, so simply claiming equality could never be a deconstructive strategy] marked, equally secondary to the opposition itself. For Saussure, words exist only in such a system of differance. They always carry an internal reference to the other words in the language of which they are a part and so permanently delay any final arrival at the prelinguistic things themselves that words are supposed to name. Similarly, the modern Subject can be seen as a system of differance, as always other than it is, not as a tragic accident, but necessarily. This would be because it can only the Subject it is by opposition to the material object that it is not (in Descartes), to the thing-in-itself that it is not (in Kant), to the sovereign that it is not (in Hobbes), to the God that it is not, to the madman that it is not, to the irrational laborer or woman [or colonized subject] that it is not, to the id/superego that it is not, and so forth” (5-6).

The process called différance is the radical reason meaning is always deferred; to quote Derrida (cf. Subject): “[Meaning] is an effect of differance, an effect inscribed in a system of différance. This is why the a of differance also recalls that spacing is temporalization, the detour and postponement by means of which intuition, perception, consummation [or meaning]–in a word, the relationship to the present, the reference to a present reality, to a being [or to the meaning of a text]–are always deferred. Deferred by virtue of the very principle of difference which holds that an element functions and signifies, takes on or conveys meaning, only by referring to another past or future element [or context] in an economy of traces” (Positions 28-29).

Derrida puts it this way: “We could . . . take up all the coupled oppositions on which philosophy is constructed, and from which ourl language lives, not in order to see opposition vanish but to see the emergence of a necessity such that one of the erms appears as the differance of the other, the other as `differed’ within the systematic ordering of the smae (e.g., the intelligible as differeing from the sensible, as sensible differed; the concept as differed-differing intuition, life as differed-differing matter; mind as differed-differing life; culture as differed-differing nature. . . .). See Signifier, Repetition.

Discipline: Michel Foucault, in Discipline and Punish, defines this term as a type of power, comprising a whole set of instruments, techniques, procedures, levels of application, targets; it is a technology; used in different ways by prisons, schools, hospitals, families, the police; it assures an infinitesimal distribution of power relations (i.e. disciplinary power infiltrates the most minute and distant elements of society–acting primarily in and through what Gramsci termed “civil society”: see The Prison Notebooks 12; see also Foucault, “The Eye of Power,” Power/Knowledge 146-165). The most generalizable mechanism of disciplinary power can be termed “panopticism.” Foucault tied his analysis of disciplinary procedures to a new way of Aadministering time. For Foucault, two of the Agreat >discoveries of the eighteenth century B Athe progress of societies and the geneses of individuals B were correlative with the Anew techniques of power, and more specifically, with a new way of administering time and making it useful, by segmentation, seriation, synthesis and totalization. Thus, the Adisciplinary methods reveal a linear time whose moments are integrated, one upon another, and which is orientated towards a terminal, stable point; in short, an >evolutive time. At the same time, administrative and economic techniques of control Areveal a social time of a serial, orientated, cumulative type: the discovery of an evolution in terms of >progress.’” (Discipline and Punish 160)–see power.

sinews composite sinews composite[/caption]


There is always betrayal in a line of flight. Not trickery like that of an orderly man ordering his future, but betrayal like that of a simple man who no longer has any past or future. We betray the fixed powers which try to hold us back, the established powers of the earth. The movement of betrayal has been defined as a double turning-away: man turns his face away from God, who also turns his face away from man. It is in this double turning-away, in the divergence of faces, that the line of flight – that is, the deterritorialization of man – is traced. Betrayal is like theft, it is always double. Oedipus at Colonnus, with his long wanderings, has been taken as the prime example of a double turning-away…It is the story of Jonah: the prophet is recognizable by the fact that he takes the opposite path to that which is ordered by God and thereby realizes God’s commandment better than if he had obeyed. A traitor, he has taken misfortune upon himself. The Old Testament is constantly criss-crossed by these lines of flight, the line of separation between the earth and the waters. ‘Let the elements stop kissing, and turn their backs on one another. Let the merman turn away from his human wife and children . .. Cross the seas, cross the seas, urges the heart. Leave love and home.’ The ‘great discoveries’, the great expeditions, do not merely involve uncertainty as to what will be discovered, the conquest of the unknown, but the invention of a line of flight, and the power of treason: to be the only traitor, and traitor to all Aguirre, Wrath of God. Christopher Columbus, as Jacques Besse describes him in an extraordinary tale, including the woman-becoming of Columbus. The creative theft of the traitor, as against the plagiarisms of the trickster. G. Deleuze and C. Parnet, Dialogues II, 40-1.

We must define a special function, which is identical neither with health nor illness: the function of the Anomalous. The Anomalous is always at the frontier, on the border of a band or a multiplicity; it is part of the latter, but is already making it pass into another multiplicity, it makes it become, it traces a line-between. This is also the ‘outsider…” Moby Dick, or the Thing or Entity of Lovecraft, terror. G. Deleuze and C. Parnet, Dialogues II, 4

What would it take to produce a line of flight as pure experimentation in becoming, and one continuous untimeliness? The effervescently cynical amongst us would no doubt insist that it would first off take a lot of money, lots of time, and a certain high threshold for nonsense. If there is nothing I have learned from people such as Erik Empson, Arianna Bove, Matteo Mandarini, Valeria Gaziano, Liam Campling, Camile Barbagallo, Gerry Hanlon, Simon crab, Gini Simpson, and Stefano Harney it is that materialism begins with the betrayal of cynicism.

After displacing social constructivism

Act in thought, think through action.

And above all, it is objected that by releasing desire from lack and law, the only thing we have left to refer to is a State of nature, a desire which would be natural and spontaneous reality. We say quite the opposite: desire only exists when assembled or machined. You cannot grasp or conceive of a desire outside a determinate assemblage. on a plane which is not preexistent but which must itself be constructed. All that is important is that each group or individual should construct the plane of immanence on which they lead their life and carry on their business. Without these conditions you obviously do lack something, but you lack precisely the conditions which make a desire possible. Organizations of forms, formations of subjects (the other plane), ‘incapacitate’ desire: they subjugate it to law and introduce lack into it. If you tie someone up and say to him ‘Express yourself, friend ‘, the most he will be able to say is that he doesn’t want to be tied up. The only spontaneity in desire is doubtless of that kind: to not want to be oppressed, exploited, enslaved, subjugated. But no desire has ever been created with non-wishes. Not to want to be enslaved is a non-proposition. In retrospect every assemblage expresses and creates a desire by constructing the plane which makes it possible and, by making it possible, brings it about. Desire is not restricted to the privileged; neither is it restricted to the success of a revolution once it has occurred. It is in itself an immanent revolutionary process. It is constructivist, not at all spontaneist. Since every assemblage is collective, is itself a collective, it is indeed true that every desire is the affair of the people, or an affair of the masses, a molecular affair. G. Deleuze and C. Parnet, Dialogues II, 96

For Deleuze, the machine groups independent and heterogeneous terms, developing a topological proximity, which is itself independent of distance or continguity. A topological proximity could be across time/scales, perhaps the more complex resonances always are. To define a machine assemblage follow the shifting centre of gravity along gradients, tendencies, speeds, and abstract lines. An abstract diagram runs through it, seriously.

I am writing on day two of the jury deliberations after the trial of George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, in the politically charged murder case of Trayvon Martin. A white man racially profiled and shot dead an unarmed African American boy. There are race riots warnings all over the country. On CNN they are asking what’s going on in the deliberations of the jury. The system has transparency says the correspondence. Correspondent: Index of evidence, here is how it could have happened. We don’t know if it was a fight, the defence said that it was a fight. Zimmerman got punched, we know that much.

Martin, who lived in Miami, was walking back to the house of his father’s fiancée at the Retreat at Twin Lakes gated community carrying a soft drink and sweets he had bought at a local convenience store. Zimmerman, who worked as a mortgage underwriter, said he spotted the hoodie-wearing youth as he was on his way to buy groceries, then called police to report a “suspicious male”. Somehow, the two ended up in a fight.
Zimmerman was released without charge on the night of the shooting. After a campaign by Trayvon Martin’s parents prompted nationwide protests, Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, appointed a special prosecutor to re-examine the circumstances of the case. Zimmerman was arrested in April last year, 44 days after the shooting. The case hinged on the conflicting testimony of witnesses and the key issue of whose screams were heard on a recording of a 911 call made by one of Zimmerman’s neighbours, which also captured the fatal shot. Martin’s mother, father and brother all testified that they were certain it was the teenager who was pleading for his life. Zimmerman’s parents and a numbers of friends and neighbours took the stand to insist that it was Zimmerman. The earlier call, made to a non-emergency police line by Zimmerman, caught the defendant using profanities that were repeated by the prosecution to try to show he acted with spite, ill-will and hatred, the benchmarks for a second-degree murder conviction. “Fucking punks. These assholes, they always get away,” assistant state attorney John Guy said as he began his opening argument on the first day of the trial. “Those were the words in that grown man’s mouth as he followed in the dark a 17-year-old boy that he didn’t know.” He concluded by telling the jury: “George Zimmerman did not shoot Trayvon Martin because he had to. He shot him for the worst of all reasons, because he wanted to.”

What was the role of race in the murder? The media returns to 1991, and Rodney King, revolving the present into the past of upheavals, as if the populations were trapped in a tragedy/farce dialectic. We of course remember Mark Duggin as well (how can we not after Fahim Alam’s provocative film, Riots Reframed—and I affirm once more, as I did to Fahim the critique of power that is and affirms a revolutionary practice is one that functions in the complexities of topological proximities, not in the arbitrary sign that is identity—we need a practice that while speaking directly to the lived conditions, experiences of value, and algorithmic life of capital can, through that practice, affirm with Gabriel Tarde that to exist is to differ, and in that seize the resources for the untimeliness of revolutionary becoming. “Total madness is losing all identity. Nijinsky constantly asks himself whether he has really gone mad, he makes it the stakes of a wager. The subject who wonders whether it is mad can neither be classed as mad or rational. Such writing goes on to act as gauge in a topology of the mind that cna no longer be localized from that point on” (Kuniichi Uno, The Genesis of an Unknown Body (27).

Back to Emmet Till, and further still. But media spins it positively, rationally, peacefully. But there has always been a race war in Amerikkka, and it is classed and gendered as well, but those are not all the same wars. The movement of movements—their quite specific and yet universal revolutionary becoming—runs, through them, as throwing up new abstract diagrams of an intensive pragmatism that is both transcendental and empirical. “Everything I have written has been vitalistic, at least I hope it has,” said Deleuze. I want a practice that can do more than nod agreement.

Many writers and activists have been attending to this problem of the movement of movements and its relation to revolutionary becoming (not, we should note as a program for a successful revolution, but as a necessary decolonization of the embodied mind). We merely add some observations in the aims of creating diagrams of morphogenesis in radical politics.

[Commnet: To move thought toward the diagrammatic, through experimental diagrams of topologies changing form and expression. Deleuze/Parnet:

But the essential point, in the end, is the way in which all these regimes of signs move along a line of gradient, variable with each author, tracing out a plane of consistence or composition which characterizes a given work or group of works: not a plane in the mind, but an immanent real plane, which was not preexistent, and which blends all the lines, the intersection of all the regimes (diagrammatic component): Virginia Woolf’s Wave, Lovecraft’s Hypersphere, Proust’s Spider’s Web, Kleist’s Programme, Kafka’s K-function, the Rhizosphere … it is here that there is no longer any fixed distinction between content and expression. We no longer know if it is a flux of words or of alcohol, we are so drunk on pure water, but equally because we are talking so much with ‘materials which are more immediate, more fluid, more burning than words’. G. Deleuze and C. Parnet, Dialogues II, 122

What is the abstract diagram that runs through race lived as an affirmation of the body’s capacities in intensive ecologies of sensation (blocs of sensations, durations of mood, patterns of rhythms, a network of assemblages) and the actuality of race as white supremacy (with its own blocs of sensations, social relations, durations of mood, patterns of rhythms, war machines)?

One of the fundamental capacities of the body is to exit. The exit is important in an age after psychoanalsysis. But how to resist spatializing the exit? Follow the movements of the exit. This movement of bodies, their trajectories, tendencies, capacities, resonances, rhythms, and speeds—singularly populational, collectively assembling/enunciating. To leave the scene, which is what Martin was aiming to do. This is one of the capacities of the body that racism has always sought to control, ‘watch,’ modulate, turn into a sad passion, saturate with resentment: To begin again somewhere else, again in the middle, to continue the body’s experiment of the universal implication and the universal explication—this has been the tragedy of joy in Western ethics, politics, philosophy. Hegel accused Spinoza of a certain oriental derivation (not genetically, but genealogically, in his conceptual filiations, as Heidegger might have said), and Deleuze asked what if the West had a grain of Zen added to its mixture. At this stage, it is difficult to say where Zen as a basic philosophy of art-in-life has not affected, let us not forget its ideological resonance with wofe—the collapse of work and life—cf Tim Edkins. But as a practice, Zen is the overthrow of capitalist control of value. (I should mention that I have just begun to read the work of Uno Kuniichi, but I feel already in proximity with his conceptual filiation).

From Andrew McFeaters via Facebook: A couple of thoughts in anticipation of a verdict on Zimmerman: Police are prepared to establish First Amendment Zones so that impassioned protestors can freely express themselves behind fences. Ahhhh, what? Secondly, the media have already foregrounded that any collective actions by people will be viewed as riotous. Language matters: riots, protests, and marches are different categories. By calling something a riot, you are denying the legitimacy of the political actions and expressions of the assembled people.

The jury found Zimmerman not guilty of all charges.

If today we return to the question of race in radical democratic politics, we draw practical, historical, and theoretical topologies of virtual-actual revolutionary becomings. This is not a happy phrase. It is not meant to roll off your tongue, its not meant to be aspirated, but tasted quite literally.

I have been experimenting with Scotch Bonnett peppers. Two peppers, whole cumin, garlic, onion, tomato, brown sugar, and your favorite vinegar, ‘materials which are more immediate, more fluid, more burning than words’ (recipe thanks to Saskia Fischer). The sensation lingers on your tongue while dissolving your tastebuds. Its good, you should try it.

What is the power of the monstrous? Where does it get this power? Jacques Derrida, who in his early work associated the future as such with a certain monstrosity (cf Derrida’s preface to Of Grammatology), said in an interview:

A monster may be obviously a composite figure of heterogenous organisms that are grafted onto each other. This graft, this hybridization, this composition that puts heterogeneous bodies together may be called a monster. This in fact happens in certain kinds of writing. At that moment, monstrosity may reveal or make one aware of what the norm is and when this norm has a history–which is the case with discursive norms, philosophical norms, socio-cultural norms, they have a history–any appearance of monstrosity in this domain allows an analysis of the history of the norms. But to do that, one must conduct not only a theoretical analysis, one must produce what in fact looks like a discursive monster so that the analysis will be a practical effect, so that people will be forced to become aware of the history of normality. But a monster is not just that, it is not just this chimerical figure in some way that grafts one animal onto another, one living being onto another. A monster is always alive, let us not forget. Monsters are living beings. This monster is also that which appears for the first time, and consequently, is not yet recognized. A monster is a species for which we do not yet have a name, which does not mean that the species is abnormal, namely, the composition or hybridization of already known species. Simply, it shows itself–that is what the word monster means–it shows itself in something that is not yet shown and that therefore looks like a hallucination, it strikes the eye, it frightens precisely because no anticipation had prepared one to identify this figure. . . . But as soon as one perceives a monster in a monster, one begins to domesticate it, one begins, because of the `as such’–it is a monster as monster–to compare it to the norms to analyze it, consequently to master whatever could be terrifying in this figure of the monster. And the movement of accustoming oneself, but also of legitimation and, consequently, of normalization, has already begun. However monstrous events or texts may be, from the moment they enter into culture, the movement of acculturation, precisely, of domestication, of normalization has already begun. . . . This is the movement of culture. Texts and discourses that provoke at the outset reactions of rejection, that are denounced precisely as anomalies or monstrosities are often texts that, before being in turn appropriated, assimilated, acculturated, transform the nature of the field of reception, transform the nature of social and cultural experience, historical experience. All history has shown that each time an event has been produced, for example in philosophy or in poetry, it took the form of the unacceptable, or even of the intolerable, of the incomprehensible, that is, of a certain monstrosity” (Derrida, Points 385-87)

There are some key tools for the method of ontogenesis in Derrida’s words. (more…)

We insist on one thing. Duration.

And the diagram.

And affect.

Ok that’s already quite a crowd, well but isn’t there an entire method in these three vector-concepts: duration, diagram, affect?

What is the duration of a habit, say the habit of smoking or the habit of playing a guitar? Remember what Toscano teaches us about habit:

The stakes of the debate come down to the extension that is to be ascribed to habit. The minimalist option is to relegate it to an operation characterized by acquisition through repetition, by the decrease of intensity and the perfectibility of action. From this perspective, habit itself is not productive of beings. It is only with the second approach that we can begin to consider the idea of habit as an agent or factor of individuation. If, as Lalande and Egger propose, habit as contraction is to be severed from habit as the state or property of a thing, the former can no longer be considered as ontologically constitutive: it merely designates a process that affects or qualifies an already constituted entity, whether this entity be physical, biological or psychic. On the contrary, if we follow the indications of contributors such as Lachelier, habit can be considered both as the general state of being and as the procedure whereby this state is attained, in such a manner that the difference between the dynamics of individuation and the state of the individuated is only relative. Punctuating this debate about the significance of state and process in the definition of habit we encounter three questions, all of which are indicated by the Vocabulaire: the distinction between passive and active habits; the relationship between habit and repetition; the question of habit’s relationship to the organic. The Theatre of Production, 111-12

The most important lesson here to my mind is that a diagramming of habit is both a conceptual and material experimentation on the capacities of the embodied mind, or an affirmation of becoming (same “thing”). We must insist that any such diagram is in fact a practice of assembling with the organic processes, differentiating active and passive habits, understanding the ontogenetic (or materialist, pragmatic) dimension of repetition itself.

Many critics begin analysis with power (at times in particular ways, Foucault’s problem). But what is the ontological status of relations of power? Of domination?

If in the 1920s the avant-garde had been an elite phenomenon, by the 1970s it was becoming a mass experiment in creating a semiotic environment for life. Thanks to the radios, thanks to the autonomous zines spreading all over, a large scale process of mass irony was launched. Irony meant the suspension of the semantic heaviness of the world. Suspension of the meaning that we give to gestures, to relationships, to the shape of the thing. We saw it as a suspension of the kingdom of necessity and were convinced that power has power as far as those who have no power take power seriously. Indeed when irony becomes a mass language, power loses ground, authority and strength. (Berardi, Precarious Rhapsody 21)

This strikes me as a little too optimistic, but it is so much better in terms of capacities to begin with the ironization of power. Foucault does this brilliantly, ruthlessly, hilariously, without romanticism. Yet, the gesture that starts with power (the State [a return to governmentality would do this tendency good] or the Law [Autonomista zindabad!], etc. etc.) is also, generally, a gesture simultaneous with a genuflection to a particularly stupid figure of contemporary criticism: the subaltern. Kill the subaltern, and criticism can instead become subaltern, become minor through all your becomings. Remember what Deleuze says of minorities:

The difference between minorities and majorities isn’t their size. A minority may be bigger than a majority. What defines the majority is a model [norm] you have to conform to: the average European adult male city-dweller, for example. A minority, on the other hand, has no model, it’s a becoming, a process. One might say the majority is nobody. Everybody’s caught, one way or another, in a minority becoming that would lead them into unknown paths if they opted to follow it through. Deleuze, Control and Becoming 173

Not minorities as preconstituted categories of a population segmentation mechanism generated by the Googlezon. Contemporary marketing in a particular irony that only they seem unaware of considers contemporary segementation merely an extension of VOP – the Voice of the People!! Consider:

In this study, we propose to harness the growing body of free, unsolicited, user-generated online content for automated market research. Specifically, we describe a novel text-mining algorithm for analyzing online customer reviews to facilitate the analysis of market structure in two ways. First, the VOC, as presented in user-generated comments, provides a simple, principled approach to generating and selecting product attributes for market structure analysis. In contrast, traditional methods rely on a predefined set of product attributes (external analysis) or ex post interpretation of derived dimensions from consumer surveys (internal analysis). Second, the preponderance of opinion, as represented in the continuous stream of reviews over time, provides practical input to augment traditional approaches (e.g., surveys, focus groups) for conducting brand sentiment analysis and can be done (unlike traditional methods) continuously, automatically, inexpensively, and in real time.

This is from an article in the European Journal of Marketing by T. Lee and E. Bradlow, entitled: “Automated Marketing Research Using On-line Customer Reviews” (Vol. XLVIII (October 2011), 881 –894, 881-82). What is the aim of market structure analysis? It is in fact much broader than segmenting a market.

Abstract: market structure analysis is a basic pillar of marketing research. classic challenges in marketing such as pricing, campaign management, brand positioning, and new product development are rooted in an analysis of product substitutes and complements inferred from market structure. in this article, the authors present a method to support the analysis and visualization of market structure by automatically eliciting product attributes and brand’s relative positions from online customer reviews. First, the method uncovers attributes and attribute dimensions using the “voice of the consumer,” as reflected in customer reviews, rather than that of manufacturers. second, the approach runs automatically. Third, the process supports rather than supplants managerial judgment by reinforcing or augmenting attributes and dimensions found through traditional surveys and focus groups. The authors test the approach on six years of customer reviews for digital cameras during a period of rapid market evolution. They analyze and visualize results in several ways, including comparisons with expert buying guides, a laboratory survey, and correspondence analysis of automatically discovered product attributes. The authors evaluate managerial insights drawn from the analysis with respect to proprietary market research reports from the same period analyzing digital imaging products.

This Voice of the People bullshit is particularly revolting when you consider that by voice of the people they really mean an automated algorithm-driven process of auditing, and eventually modulating and controlling various semiotic flows (online reviews, but the semiosis of computer code as well, the semiosis of “managerial judgment” and traditional marketing structure analysis) and bodily dispositions and assemblages.

Which returns us to thinking control and marketing. If we could say that habits are like clichés or refrains of our life, we must consider the integration of our habits with contemporary forms of capitalist valorization (the production and accumulation of profits). Something has happened to the world since the days of discipline described by Foucault in Discipline and Punish. What is this something? It is the shift from capitalist production of commodities to the rise of the precariat of cognitive labor, which more simply can be understood as the informatization of all aspects of capitalist life, such that capital no longer wants labor, as much as packets of time that are flexible, intermittent, modular, informatized-digitized, and networked (see Berardi:

When we move into the sphere of info-labor there is no longer a need to have bought a person for eight hours a day indefinitely. Capital no longer recruits people, but buys packets of time, separated from their interchangeable and occasional bearers. Depersonalized time has become the real agent of the process of valorization, and depersonalized time has no rights, nor any demands. It can only be either available or unavailable, but the alternative is purely theoretical because the physical body despite not being a legally recognized person still has to buy food and pay rent. (Precarious Rhapsody 32-33)


And yet discipline persists, normality exerts enormous pressures on us all the time, and we make compromises with forms of power that generate through us bad compositions of matter, information, desire, bodies, and value. It’s the source of the shame of being human. How can we cast off this shame? This shame being an effect of badly analyzed composites?

If we are undergoing the most intensive acceleration of everyday life through networked information, how have such habits been affected at the level of the assemblage of durations and desires? Berardi and others speak of an attention economy, the simplest expression of which is if you are paying attention money can be made on that attention itself. Can we develop habits of occupying spaces such as the protestors have done at St Paul’s Cathedral? It would be a good habit to encourage in all of us. Collective occupation of privatized space. But why have these protestors merely settled for occupying cold, cold stairs. Why not take the occupation inside the cathedral itself? Impossible to conceive at the moment, as the occupation experiences itself winding down due to various internal and external forces.

What does the Occupation have to do with Marketing? What does it have to do with what Foucault called Panopticism, and to what Deleuze called Control?

Franco Berardi asks,

What is the market? The market is the place in which signs and nascent meanings, desires and projections meet. If we want to speak of demand and supply, we must reason in terms of fluxes of desire and semiotic attractors that formerly had appeal and today have lost it. In the net economy, flexibility has evolved into a form of fractalization of work. Fractalization means the modular and recombinant fragmentation of the time of activity. The worker no longer exists as a person. He or she is only an interchangeable producer of microfragments of recombinant semiosis that enter into the continuous flux of the Net. Capital no longer pays for the availability of a worker to be exploited for a long period of time; it no longer pays a salary that covers the entire range of economic needs of a person who works. The worker (a machine endowed with a brain that can be used for fragments of time) becomes paid for his or her occasional, temporary services. Work time is fragmented and cellularized. Cells of time are for sale on the Net and businesses can buy as much as they want without being obligated in any way in the social protection of the worker. The intense and prolonged investment of mental and libidinal energies in the labor process has created the conditions for a psychic collapse that is transferred into the economic field with the recession and the fall in demand and into the political field in the form of military aggressivity. The use of the word collapse is not as a metaphor but as a clinical description of what is happening in the occidental mind. The word collapse expresses a real and exact pathological phenomenon that invests the psycho-social organism. That which we have seen in the period following the first signs of economic decline, in the first months of the new century, is a psychopathic phenomenon of over-excitation, trembling, panic and finally of a depressive fall. The phenomena of economic depression have always contained elements of the crisis of the psychosocial equilibrium, but when at last the process of production has involved the brain in a massive way, psychopathology has become the crucial aspect of economic cycles. The available attention time for the workers involved in the informatic cycle is constantly being reduced: they are involved in a growing number of mental tasks that occupy every fragment of their attention time. For them there is no longer the time to dedicate to love, to tenderness, to affection. They take Viagra because they don’t have time for sexual preliminaries. They take cocaine to be continuously alert and reactive. They take Prozac to cancel out the awareness of the senselessness that unexpectedly empties their life of any interest. Franco Berardi, Precarious Rhapsody

What is the nature of a connection? I have been influenced by Franco Berardi (Bifo) recently. He points out that definitions have to be approached through multiple strategies because what is important is shocking thought by the reconstitution of a virtual field of sense and sensation. In other words, part of what is at stake in understanding marketing is the creation of new concepts commensurate with marketing’s specific ecology of media and perception, and new affects that work toward an untimely experience of marketing. What is an untimely experience of marketing?

Considering the untimely is why this module has become something of an extended meditation and experimentation on habits. Habit is both an achieved state and a process in itself. Habit, in short, is productive of intensive difference through its repetitions. This is not a difficult notion. But wait.

If differences are produced in processes of repetitive reconnection or refrains, ethics becomes in fact both a diagramming of refrains and a counter-actualization of the forms of habituated duration that are miring us in their spectacles. Bifo again:

The refrain is an obsessive ritual that is initiated in linguistic, sexual, social, productive, existential behaviour to allow the individual – the conscious organism in continuous variation – to find identification points, that is, to territorialize oneself and to represent oneself in relation to the world that surrounds it. The refrain is the modality of semiotization that allows an individual (a group, a people, a nation, a subculture) to receive and project the world according to reproducible and communicable formats. In order for the cosmic, social and molecular universe to be filtered through an individual perception, in order for it, we may thus say, to enter the mind, filters or models of semiotization must act, and these are models that Guattari called refrains.
The perception of time by a society, a culture or a person is also the model of a truly temporal refrain, that is, of particular rhythmic modulations that function as modules for accessing, awaiting and participating in cosmic temporal becoming. From this perspective, universal time appears to be no more than a hypothetical projection, a time of generalized equivalence, a ‘flattened’ capitalistic time; what is important are these partial modules of temporalization, operating in diverse domains (biological, ethological, socio-cultural, machinic, cosmic …) , and out of which complex refrains constitute highly relative existential synchronies. (Chaosmosis, 16)
What is the fundamental passage through which the anthropological transformation of modern capitalism is determined? This passage consists in the creation of refrains of temporal perception that invade and discipline all society: the refrain of factory work, the refrain of working hours, the refrain of the salary, the refrain of the production line. The postindustrial transition brings along with it the formation and imposition of new refrains: the refrain of electronic speed, the refrain of information overload, the refrain of digitalization. My feeling of personal identity is thus pulled in different directions. How can I maintain a relative sense of unicity, despite the diversity of components of subjectivation that pass through me? It’s a question of the refrain that fixes me in front of the screen, henceforth constituted as a projective existential node. My identity has become that of the speaker, the person who speaks from the television. (Chaosmosis, 16–17) In communication, obsessive and fixated types of nuclei are determined; certain refrains thicken and solidify, entering into resonance and producing effects of double bind. When the existential flow gets rigidly brought back to logical, mythological, ideological or psychic refrains, behaviour tends to become paranoid. For example, when the money refrain becomes the structuring element of all social and communicative life, this engenders behavioural paradoxes, paranoid anticipations, social double binds, and depression.

To work counter to our time, and so to work on our time, in the hopes of a time to come. That is, ethics would be a recomposition of a body’s habituated durations.

So in answering the question about the connections this course is making for you, define this course through your habits. What connections between information, neurology, matter, energy, perception, chemistry, habits, speeds, intensity, joy, desire, capital, discipline/control, and becomings do your habits make in its existential being. As should be clear from the syllabus (available here), the connections I am bringing together is a critique of capital in the Marxist tradition of revolutionary becoming, new untimely lifeworlds through radical practices of aesthetics, love, friendship, kinship, and community dwelling. In other words, the creation of untimely ecologies of sensation, that is ecologies that work counter to our time and thereby work on our time by reorganizing the set of refrains (habit) that lull us in blocs of dominant temporalities.

We are reading Kline No Logo, watching It Felt Like a Kiss, by Adam Curtis, reading Guy Debord, and reading Wark’s The Beach Beneath the Street, listening to Bifo on Mp3, we are taking photos, making videos, creating webpages, we dream of situations and apps that will disrupt the accumulation of data-in-marketing, we drink, smoke (too much, too much), but keep excerising. Trying to live a resonance that would be plastic enough to affirm a practice while also making that practice an affirmation of becoming. An ecology of sensation.

We are thinking information in terms of the untimely. As should be clear from all I have said, ethics for it to affirm becoming must work in the service of a time to come, not a time of freedom and equality, but a practice of assemblages of temporal blocs (a minute, a summer, an afternoon are singularities as Deleuze and Guattari remind us in What is Philosophy?).

Sundaram writes in the mode of the postmedia postcolonial critic. But it was Guattari, as Bifo notes, who saw the infinite potentiality of information society. This is not an affirmation of informational capital, it is not a capitulation to the desires of consumer society, it is not the production of spectacles. In some sense, it is merely a return to the virtual that is at stake. The virtual in so far as it is fully real, but not actualized (affects and tendencies are fully real, but their most important characteristic is that they remain ontologically tied to a phylum that is purely potential). Isn’t that why information, and more specifically practices that gradually diagram the ontological (the composition of multiplicities along gradients of intensity), informational dimensions of data, energy, attention, perception. Information can then be thought of as a cut into affect itself, a cut in time, both a measure (in order to be information very specific critical thresholds of noise must be exceeded) and intensive (or semio-chemical) flow.

Regardless, I return to the question of connections. What is marketing today? What are the refrains of marketing? Its habituations? Its attractions? The emergence of the brand that Kline writes about is rooted in a history of radical politics, from anti-colonial, feminist-socialist, to postcolonial movements against the grain of capitalist globalization, or integrated world capitalism. Over the weekend, thousands and thousands of people the world over participated in occupations of public and private space. This practice of occupation you know is very interesting. Dan Moshenberg tells the great joke, and Dan does this again and again, whenever he sees students at GWU sitting around together he asks them, Are you with the occupation?

Well are you?


Could a kind of resonance potentially form between post-Prigogine/Bohm-inspired physics and critical management studies? Both share a commitment to materialism and realism. But this assumes the continual transformation of both physics and CMS, given the temporal aspect of both matter and reality. In one sense I would like to argue that at their best, at their most challenging and revolutionary, both intensive science and radical critiques of business practices converge in a diagrammatics of beings-in-becoming. What are the immanent forces of self-organizing, dynamical systems far from equlibrium. The diagram of practices, power (force), objects, bodies and their relational sensations, group dynamics, material and intensive flows that divide only by changing in kind (qualitative duration, critical thresholds of becoming) brings contemporary business practice to consider—almost always from the point of view of normative measurments, speculative finance, and the sovereignty, or police of property—how best to manage, given statistically stable (over a given duration), the inevitably stochastic flow of contemporary information, and the emergence of groupuscules that are transversal to identities of race, sexuality, gender, class, religion, and ability.

What I find heartening in contemporary critical management studies—for instance, in the practice of residencies, or travelling performances in experimental individuation and self-organization that Stefano Harney has suggested—is that it must by necessity begin with the question of effects. An effect is the force of one body on another. It is an index of the capacity of that force to affect and be affected. How will an experiment in forms of intellectual and political production confront the event of a world best described by what Ravi Sundaram calls Pirate Modernity? What models of feedbacked dynamism shall we use to think through the composition of one multiplicity with another, or even what David Bohm (who was a theoretical physicist) called the implicate order? Alberto Toscano, in the Theatre of Production, writes, “The philosophy of difference really confronts the problem of individuation only when the movement of internal difference is defined as an ‘indi-different/ciation’; that is, as a process that requires the dramatization of internal multiplicity in intensive systems and spatiotemporal dynamisms” (175). This process of dramatization is directly a question of effects, a question of the ontogenesis of events, capacities to affect and be affected, subjects, communities, viruses, sensation, sense, and habits. David Ray Griffin in Physics and the Ultimate Significance of Time, writes of Whitehead (himself a mathematical physicist), “The event in itself is a subject. It does not enfold the influences from the environment the way a cabinet receives canned goods, but the way a moment of experience receives influences from its body and the greater world. It does it with feeling. In fact, Whitehead refers to each local event, each “actual occasion,” as an “occasion of experiences.” Every true individual (as distinct from aggregates of individuals, such as sticks and stones) has (or is) a unity of experience in which a vast myriad of influences are synthesized. This reception of influences, and self-determining synthesis of them into a unified experience, is what an event is in itself. This internal, self-determining process is called “concrescence,” which means “growing together.” This notion corresponds with Bohm’s attribution of an inner formative activity to events in their phase of enfolding” (140). Perhaps, then, here in the assemblage of speculative philosophy and intensive science a million Alices, or resonance machines can be created?

I’m teaching Debord’s Society of the Spectacle to my first year undergraduates at Queen Mary. It’s a course on Marketing (ahem) and Communication.

UNDERSTOOD IN ITS TOTALITY, the spectacle is both the outcome and the goal of the dominant mode of production. It is not something added to the real world not a decorative element, so to speak. On the contrary, it is the very heart of society’s real unreality. In all its specific manifestations – news or propaganda, advertising or the actual consumption of entertainment the spectacle epitomizes the prevailing model of social life. It is the omnipresent celebration of a choice already made in the sphere of production, and the consummate result of that choice. In form as in content the spectacle serves as total justification for the conditions and aims of the existing system. It further ensures the permanent presence of that justification, for it governs almost all time spent outside the production process itself… –Debord, Society of the Spectacle

Debord raises the on-going concerns in a radical project that seeks to transvaluate all values in capitalist society. Despite an at times debilitating dialectical critique obsessed with contradiction hunting, Debord’s discourse registers what remains intolerable in post-spectacle society. The spectacle shares some key elements with Deleuze’s notion of cliché in Cinema Two: the spectacle become habit not only bodily but also in terms of the processes of media assemblages—in the case of the spectacle-cliché the bodily and the technological form correlations of habit. (I will return to the question of habit in a subsequent post, but I have also addressed it here: The spectacle-cliché is involved in the production of pleasure and its control within acceptable parameters of experience and material flows; it is everywhere, not because it is total in its effects, but because it is immanent to formations of habit across silicon and carbon-based life. Finally, Debord pushes us to think and practice a style of living that remains untimely, a work on both the habituations of spectacle-cliché and its temporal organization. Franco Berardi (Bifo), in his book on Felix Guattari, quotes Deleuze from Difference and Repetition on the Untimely thus:

Once again, as in the book on Nietzsche, the concept of difference is proposed in a framework that explicitly diverges from that of Hegel. The process of becoming is not understood in a finalistic direction; the event cannot be overcome by a totality that encompasses it – rather, the event can only be understood as untimely.

Following Nietzsche, we discover, as more profound than time and eternity, the untimely; philosophy is neither a philosophy of history, nor a philosophy of the eternal, but untimely, always and only untimely – that is to say, ‘acting counter to our time and thereby acting on our time and, let us hope, for the benefit of time to come’. (Difference and Repetition, xxi; citation from Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, 60) The temporal perspective within which we can understand the event is that of an uninterrupted discontinuity that cannot be totalized because it can only be represented from within.

Eternal return cannot mean the return of the Identical because it presupposes a world (that of the will to power) in which all previous identities have been abolished and dissolved. Returning is being, but only the being of becoming. (Difference and Repetition, 41) (Bifo, Guattari 64)

It would be a needless violence to assimilate Debord to Deluze-Guattari-Bifo, as if Debord was fundamentally interested in experiments in becoming. Yet, clearly an argument can be made that such an element is active in Debord and the practice of the Situationists. What did the Situationists want? What were their tools?

The Derive — Drift, Loiter, Swerve, Clinamen, discovering the uncanny, untimely city
Detournement — Assemblage, Combination, Collage
Unitary Urbanism — Integrated City creation, Games in the Urban space
Psycho-geographies — Play as free and creative activity

These strategies (and more!) clearly highlight the experiments in space-time that channelled the creativity and anger of Situationists. In that sense, the Situationists give us a practice that would help radical organizers (and whoever else) to riot better, in which the distinction between riot and carnival becomes non-pertinent and a contact zone (cf. Mary Pratt’s Imperial Eyes) or border of individuation becomes active and volatile. Play is contagious. Like media piracy.

The police shot a black guy in suspicious circumstances. Feral kids with no jobs ran amok. To Tony’s mind, this was a riot waiting for an excuse. In the hangover of the violence that spread through London, the uprisings seemed both inevitable and unthinkable. Over a few days in which attacks became a contagion the capital city of an advanced nation has reverted to a Hobbesian dystopia of chaos and brutality. Mary Riddell, London riots: the underclass lashes out, 08 Aug 2011,

Feral kids with no jobs (but with Blackberry instant messengers)—the stupidity of the statement shines forth, if nothing else. Thomas Carlyle, himself no stranger to stupidity (see his “The Nigger Question”), said in a nonetheless prescient passage from his 1829 essay “Signs of the Times,”

Meanwhile, we too admit that the present is an important time; as all present time necessarily is. The poorest Day that passes over us is the conflux. of two Eternities; it is made up of currents that issue from the remotest Past, and flow onwards into the remotest Future. We were wise indeed, could we discern truly the signs of our own time; and by knowledge of its wants and advantages, wisely adjust our own position in it. Let us, instead of gazing idly into the obscure distance, look calmly around us, for a little, on the perplexed scene where we stand. Perhaps, on a more serious inspection, something of its perplexity will disappear, some of its distinctive characters and deeper tendencies more clearly reveal themselves; whereby our own relations to it, our own true aims and endeavours in it, may also become clearer. (

What are some of these fundamental or ontogenetic (i.e. being of becoming) tendencies in contemporary global capital? We should keep in mind that tendencies like affects are always both purely potential and actual simultaneously. So a tendency is a potential vectorial flow (cf. Deleuze on Spinoza in Essays Critical and Clinical, and Delanda, Deleuze, Science, History), but also an organization of disparate factors into something like a present or actualized state. Piracy is an actual state of affairs, but also a potential trajectory of all information. Consider Sundaram’s excellent formulations:

The parasitic, adaptive mode that piracy set up made it difficult to produce it as a clear “outside.” The emergence of the raid was an acknowledgment of the viral nature of piracy. The raid attempted to manage the swarm-through tactics that were like filters and temporary firewalls, slowing down the endless circulation of pirate media through pincer-like violence, and securing temporary injunctions in court. As I have shown, these actions were limited and temporary, giving way to new pirates and new raids. Piracy was a profound infection machine, taking on a life in heterogeneous spaces, and overcoming all firewalls. For the media industry the dominant strategy seems to be that of a dream-escape from the pirate city to secure zones of authorized consumption – malls, multiplexes and online stores. Direct-lo-air (DTH) is now promoted for more elite customers as part of this strategy of escape from the pirate city. Piracy’s non-linear architectures and radical distribution strategy rendered space as a bad object; the media industry’s yearning for secure consumption ghettos is in many ways an impossible return to the old post-Fordist days. Sundaram, Pirate Modernity, 135

Piracy is that practice of proliferation following the demise of the classic crowd mythic of modernism. Piracy exists in commodified circuits of exchange, only here the same disperses into the many. Dispersal into viral swarms is the basis of pirate proliferation, disappearance into the hidden abodes of circulation is the secret of its success and the distribution of profits in various points of the network. Piracy works within a circuit of production, circulation, and commerce that also simultaneously suggests many time zones – Virlio’s near-instantaneous time of light, the industrial cycle of imitation and innovation, the retreat of the commodity from circulation and its re-entry as a newer version. Media piracy’s proximity to the market aligns it to both the speed of the global (particularly in copies of mainstream releases) and also the dispersed multiplicities of vernacular and regional exchange. Sundaram, Pirate Modernity, 137

This proliferation of near-copies, remastered versions, and revisions refract across a range of time-space shifts, moving between core and periphery of the media city phenomenologically, rather than spatially. Versions of popular numbers are produced by the pirate market, fade from the big city and return in devotional music, local videos from Bihar, Haryana, and Western UP – and back to the city, brought by migrants and travelers. Piracy does not dwell only in objects or spaces, It enacts them momentarily. Its materiality consists in its mix of place, time, and thing, a mix that dissolves and reconstitutes itself regularly. Piracy an sich seems to have no end, just as it had no particular point of beginning. Piracy therefore produces a surplus of cultural code, which fractures the surfaces of media spectacle through a tactic of dispersal. As a phenomenon that works on a combination of speed, recirculation, and dispersal, pirate products are consumed by the possibility of their disappearance – by more imitations and versions. This is a constant anxiety in small electronic enterprises; the first past the post stays there for only a few months. New copies follow, from rivals and former collaborators. The doctrine of the many is haunted by its own demise – all the time. Just as Marx once wrote that the only limit to capital is capital itself, so piracy is the only agent that can abolish piracy. Sundaram, Pirate Modernity, 138

Its unclear what Sundaram means by this last flourish. The problem with his entire text is the lingering hangover of a dialectical understanding of piracy (State vs. piracy, the contradictions of piracy, its aporias) and the affirmation of the rhizomatic, nonlinear, and ontogenetic virality of piracy itself. Yet, one of the most striking resonances in Sundaram’s researches with contemporary theories of media assemblages is the question of contagion. (There is a new movie out in London called contagion…I want my students to at least see the trailer on Youtube now, you can piratebay the film later!


How does a contagion work? In what way are images contagious? Deleuze never forgot Burrough’s singular intuition that language works virally. Indeed he took it toward Spinoza’s theory of the sign, in which a sign is the effect of one body on another, in other words signs are affective dispositions, and with such a conception a new typology of signs and a-signifying traits, an entire semio-chemistry changed the theory and practice of criticism (Bifo, Thought, Friendship and Visionary Cartography 93). This is part of what Debord misses in his static conception of the spectacle. The spectacle has a certain life (that is not to say it is an ethically good life—understood in the Spinozist sense of ethics as the composition of two or more multiplicities toward an increase or intensification of the capacity to affect and be affected). This life is simply a set of tendencies and affects that are more or less correlated with populations of bodily, perceptual, informatic, material, economic, commercial, desiring processes. Bifo, again, is not only clear on this, but he is downright inspiring.

Words are viral agents, as are images and sounds. This does not exclude the possibility that they ‘mean something’, that they remain within a signifying sphere. When we look at them insofar as they have meaning, they are transparent. This sign interests us because it points to a referential sphere. But at another moment we can consider the sign as a replicant, a mutagenic agent, an event that is assembled with other events. In this case, we cannot seal off separately the sphere of words from the sphere of things because words act as things through other things, place processes into motion and create communication. They are not limited to signifying; they communicate. As viral agents, they produce mutations. Semiochemistry is the process through which signs produce effects of decomposition and recomposition in the social psyche, in the imaginary, in the wait for different worlds, in desire. This double articulation allows us to understand also how thought functions, and the thought of Deleuze-Guattari in particular. It functions, of course, as abstraction and interpretation of symbols through other symbols. But at a certain point, the interpretative machine leaves the field to neologisms and contaminations, and the words of philosophy become pop discourse. Alongside argumentation, another kind of functioning is revealed, one that is much more material, dynamic and teeming with life. (Bifo, Thought, Friendship and Visionary Cartography 95)

Your definitions of ethics addressed the consumer’s ethics as opposed to the marketer’s ethics.

ASR: Not at all! There is only one ethics. That ethics is an ethics of habituation and becoming. So the markerter’s ethics is continuous with the ethics of the consumer. Except for one thing: the marketer’s ethics is a strategy in profit maximization in the long term. Morality is about power, truth, goodness, and ultimately God. What I am certainly forwarding is an ethics that makes no reference to a God analogically understood as an extension of patriarchal religious traditions. The ethics that I am drawing on, ironically from a deeply theistic text by the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza, is an affirmation of infinite and continuous multiplicities. The feedbacked composition of multiplicities is an ethics when we realize that the emergent capacity of two multiplicities feedbacked together can move toward decomposition, poisoning, sadness, illness and/or toward composition, modulation, resonance, joy, and increased capacities to affect and be affected. But as my favourite philosopher Deleuze says joy and sadness can also be mixed together, simultaneously entwined…

Although I’m fairly sure that you would say that, marketers are bound by both types of ethics as well.

ASR: Yes.

I want to argue that in contemporary marketing, they are mostly judged by their power to affect consumers.

ASR: What are you basing this argument on? Read all of the Levy and Grewal, and then read other marketing textbooks, and you see that both types of ethics are operative. But morality is the predominant form of ethics in marketing, habituation is seen as a strategy of profit maximization.

They have lost complete sense of ethics in the sense of good and evil.
ASR: Not at all. Consumer relations management, corporate social responsibility, etc. etc. are all clear indications that morality is still the organizing framework of marketing discourse.

Which is why I think that marketers have no trouble exploiting consumers’ psychological needs. For example, by charging ridiculous prices, such as thousands of pounds for a pair of shoes. Although consumers agree to pay such an amount and think they need to pay such amounts to gain social acceptance and thus satisfying their psychological need. Presumably though, this type of society was created by marketers themselves.

ASR: Marketers don’t create society but exploit it under conditions directly found and transmitted by the past. All the dead generations lie like a nightmare on the brain of the living, as that brilliant stylist Karl Marx once wrote (cf. the 18th Brumaire of Loius Bonaparte). This is as true for corporate marketers as for situationist revolutionaries.

A society where people are in fierce competition with each other to satisfy needs created by marketers. I think therefore that situationists such as Banksy attempt to hold marketers by ethics in the sense of good and evil.

ASR: Yes I think you are right. Banksy is both moralistic and also a habit-shocker. Habits of walking the street, the habitual associations of children, a street, a wall, Mona Lisa, police, monkey, the Queen, etc. etc. are shocked by banksy, and so a general destabilization of habit is always at stake, that is always potentially active in his work.

To get them to abide by these ethics and at the very least to consider them before shaping a whole society, nay, the whole world potentially. One way of doing that is by having a riot in the form of consumers not responding to marketers and breaking down the society and environment formed by them.

ASR: Yes this has been tried in the past, although it is unclear in what sense it would be a riot as such. Adbusters and the groups that are associated, allied, or in solidarity with that formation of resistance to corporate pollution of the ‘mental ecology’ (Cf Guttari) have often called for days, weeks, of no buying, no consuming…etc. It is unclear how successful, how classed, and raced such a strategy is. The idea of a single mother living in Hackney of whatever race not buying anything for a week, well it would take a lot of planning not anticipated by the call against consumption. So strategies have to be polyvocal, multiple, tactical, durational, bodily, and yet mentally clarifying.

This is the message I believe Banksy and other situationists are trying to tell the world. To acknowledge that they are nothing but puppets in a spectacle run by marketers.

ASR: Maybe that’s where they are too totalizing in their vision of consumer society. We don’t need pessimism or hope, we need new tools to further the project of what Nietzsche called the transvaluation of all values. Never forget the forms of self-organizing, piracy networks, hacktivism, adbusting, culture jamming, bazaar-carnival, computer viruses, cyber-squatting, peer to peer networks, new forms of organizing work in a post-workerist society, community media, experiments in the general deformation of all the senses–the Situationist promise. It is as Donna Harraway realized years before a Promise of Monsters. The French philosopher Jacques Derrida has given us the strongest statement of a practice of thought and sensation that affirms the becoming monster of consumer society.

He responded during an interview:

Q.: I would like to talk about the paths followed by your writing.
During an interview, you once said that you were trying in certain
of your texts to produce a new type of writing: “the text produces a
language of its own, in itself, which, while continuing to work
through translation, emerges at a given moment as a monster, a
monstrous mutation without tradition or normative precedent.”5
This was referring to Gtas, but it could also refer to texts like The
Post Card There is no doubt that philosophical discourse does
violence to language. Does the “monster” mean to indict this
violence while augmenting it, would it even like to render it inoffensive?
Elsewhere, you have recently said that we are all “powerless.”
Permit me to quote you again: “Deconstruction, from that
point of view, is not a tool or technical device for mastering texts or
mastering a situation or mastering anything; it’s, on the contrary,
the memory of some powerlessness . . . a way of reminding the
other and reminding me, myself, of the limits of the power, of the
mastery-there is some power in that.”6
What is the relation between what you call the monsters of your
writing and the memory of this absence of power?
J.D.: If there were monsters there, the fact that this writing is
prey to monsters or to its own monsters would indicate by the same
token powerlessness. One of the meanings of the monstrous is that
it leaves us without power, that it is precisely too powerful or in any
case too threatening for the powers-that-be. Notice I say: if there
were monsters in this writing. But the notion of the monster is
rather difficult to deal with, to get a hold on, to stabilize. A monster
may be obviously a composite figure of heterogeneous organisms
that are grafted onto each other. This graft, this hybridization, this
composition that puts heterogeneous bodies together may be called
a monster. This in fact happens in certain kinds of writing. At that
moment, monstrosity may reveal or make one aware of what normality
is. Faced with a monster, one may become aware of what the
norm is and when this norm has a history-which is the case with
discursive norms, philosophical norms, socio-cultural norms, they
have a history-any appearance of monstrosity in this domain
allows an analysis of the history of the norms. But to do that, one
must conduct not only a theoretical analysis; one must produce
what in fact looks like a discursive monster so that the analysis will
be a practical effect, so that people will be forced to become aware
of the history of normality. But a monster is not just that, it is not
just this chimerical figure in some way that grafts one animal onto
another, one living being onto another. A monster is always alive,
let us not forget. Monsters are living beings. The monster is also
that which appears for the first time and, consequently, is not yet
recognized. A monster is a species for which we do not yet have a
name, which does not mean that the species is abnormal, namely,
the composition or hybridization of already known species. Simply,
it shows itself [elle se montreJ-that is what the word monster
means-it shows itself in something that is not yet shown and that
therefore looks like a hallucination, it strikes the eye, it frightens
precisely because no anticipation had prepared one to identify this
figure. One cannot say that things of this type happen here or
there. I do not believe for example that this happens purely and
simply in certain of my texts, as you said, or else it happens in many
texts. The coming of the monster submits to the same law as the
one we were talking about concerning the date. But as soon as one
perceives a monster in a monster, one begins to domesticate it, one
begins, because of the “as such” -it is a monster as monster-to
compare it to the norms, to analyze it, consequently to master
whatever could be terrifying in this figure of the monster. And the
movement of accustoming oneself, but also of legitimation and,
consequently, of normalization, has already begun. However monstrous
events or texts may be, from the moment they enter into
culture, the movement of acculturation, precisely, of domestication,
of normalization has already begun. One begins to repeat the
traumatism that is the perception of the monster. Rather than
writing monstrous texts, I think that I have, more than once, used
the word monster to describe the situation I am now talking about.
I think that somewhere in Of Grammatology I said, or perhaps it’s at
the end of Writing and Difference, that the future is necessarily
monstrous: the figure of the future, that is, that which can only be
surprising, that for which we are not prepared, you see, is heralded
by species of monsters. A future that would not be monstrous
would not be a future; it would already be a predictable, calculable,
and programmable tomorrow. All experience open to the future is
prepared or prepares itself to welcome the monstrous arrivant/ to
welcome it, that is, to accord hospitality to that which is absolutely
foreign or strange, but also, one must add, to try to domesticate it,
that is, to make it part of the household and have it assume the
habits, to make us assume new habits. This is the movement of
culture. Texts and discourses that provoke at the outset reactions of
rejection, that are denounced precisely as anomalies or monstrosities
are often texts that, before being in turn appropriated, assimilated,
acculturated, transform the nature of the field of reception,
transform the nature of social and cultural experience, historical
experience. All of history has shown that each time an event has
been produced, for example in philosophy or in poetry, it took the
form of the unacceptable, or even of the intolerable, of the incomprehensible,
that is, of a certain monstrosity. (Derrida, Points 385-7).

Hence, the only way out is by not listening to the messages and signs that make you part of that spectacle.

ASR: But it is a mistake to stop paying attention to them as well.

To communicate this message, they ridicule the society that marketers have created through means such as; graffiti, media and literature. This will not directly get marketers to abide by the ethics of good and evil but it will however take away their power to dictate and shape society. This could then potentially lead to marketers adapting a more ethical way of marketing, in terms of good and evil, when trying to regain the trust of the people whom they have corrupted.

ASR: Sounds full of paradoxes and contradictions. The aim of a radical project of affirming the pure potentiality of becoming—something of a Buddhist ideal—cf. Suzuki’s Zen Mind beginner’s mind, and Franco Berardi’s Felix Guattari, Friendship and Visionary Cartography—is not to inhabit contradictions in an ironic, self-reflexive gap of affect, but to affirm with all the joy one can muster a set of processes that form the domain of your own intervention. A field of experimentation with senses, sensations, habits, and ecologies.

In summary, when judging marketers by the ecological sense of ethics, they do a tremendous job and have succeeded exceptionally well to affect consumers. Therefore, exploitation of consumers’ psychological needs as a question of good and evil is not a question of ethics in the ecological sense. Rather, the question must be asked in the sovereign sense of ethics.

ASR: What is the sovereign sense of ethics? You mean ethics as morality, right?

As analysed in my argument, they did exceptionally well to ignore this type of ethics in its entirety. This means that exploitation of consumers’ psychological needs would pose a serious question of ethics.

ASR: Yes because marketing and marketers tend to confirm the worst kinds of habits of people—poor eating habits, sexism, racism, classism, ablism all of these isms are just dominant habits that have colonial, imperialist, mysoginist, and violent histories.

The discussion would presumably be based on finding the culprit who created these insane psychological needs.

ASR: There is no one person who creates needs for a population. They form over time and through much blood and bombast.

How does one engage an event?

The event has gone through torsions in this blog. But we shouldn’t confuse an event with a blog. What is happening as I write in Libya is an event that changes the contours of everything, but not for everyone in the same way, or for the same duration, or with the same speed. The event does not take the form of an equality of duration, but rather partakes of the excess of transvaluation.

Libya in flames, bombed out, but what of the becomings that have expressed something powerful but as yet unknown through this event (we hesitate to endorse Hardt and Negri’s hopes of the Arab revolts—see:; the comments are as interesting as the article. Hardt and Negri are assimilating the Arab protests to their own particular war machine, but something else is going on, beyond what they “hope” for). In thinking this through and in affirming our support of the revolts, we should remember not to confuse the two becomings that Deleuze differentiates, a revolutionary becoming and a radical deterritorialization, which can be suicidal (and often fascistic).

In thinking the politics of events as the massacres in Libya we want access to that which exceeds the actual event, the lives of the lives lost, through what processes were they brought to that moment? The machinic phylum, the body without organs, concrescence, ecologies of sensation allow us to pose the transvaluation in and mutation of a given event. In my work on Indian mobile networks and their ecology of sensation, what I have benefitted from thinking is the co-evolution of human capacities with technologies of perception. Part of what needs understanding concretely is the role the mobile has played in these uprisings, it would seem that facebook and the mobile have found a new form of political expression across the Arab world. But how long has this fire been burning, isn’t this, as James Baldwin said once, just the fire next time, isn’t the Arab uprising simply the heir of the last conflagration, the last murder, the last violation? Is the Arab uprising an example of what Hardt and Negri argue is a new form of horizontal organizing for social justice? This is a problem in Hardt and Negri’s analyses: theirs is a proleptic or anticipatory criticism where what emerges always already affirms the powers of the multitude, but they are dealing with people potentialized through both a noncognitive ingression of force and resonance of specifically habituated techno-perceptual assemblages, and a people whose aspirations are also replete with the forces of ressentiment and affirmation. And as always there is a desperate, violent, but most importantly active struggle over the interpretation of events: interpretation becomes directly ontological in such circumstances. So it should not surprise us when on the scale of human politics ressentiment becomes the reigning affective disposition of the new regime. But to make an affirmation of becoming is not to live in the hopes of Western criticism, seeking another aprioritized example (Derrida is very good when it comes to thinking the dialectic of the example—see the analysis of the Derrida-Lacan debate collected in the Purloined Poe) of a multitude, a movement, a becoming. To make an affirmation of becoming is to return thought each time to a political ontology of an infinity of attributes, infinitely variable, the process of concrescence going from potentiality to actual nexus, or assemblage. And it is absolutely not the case that such a political ontology is status quoist, compromised (what is not? But there are gradients…), and ineffectual in the “real” world. A political ontology worth its salt will attain the status of a diagram of becoming.

The fire next time could also be one of those highly improbable, but decisive events that has entered into popular discourse through Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Black Swan. But of course the highly improbable event has been foundational to poststructuralism, which has made many careers defining or engaging with events. Both Derrida and Deleuze had very different kinds of engagements with the revolutionary, critically intensive, symmetry breaking event of becoming. People confuse being a Deleuzian with thinking one is right about ontology or causality. There is nothing right about a diagram, it either works with complexity, compounding and correlating powers, or affects, or dies of its own decomposition.

Without making excuses for quick transitions, I think one way to contribute to a revolutionary becoming is by diagramming vectors of ingression. Ingression correlates directly with potentiality in A. N. Whitehead’s process philosophy, and it is worth quoting here at length (the virtual? I think a close study of the precise differences between Whitehead’s pure potentiality and Deleuze’s virtual is in order—see Tim Clark, A Whiteheadian Chaosmos: Process Philosophy from a Deleuzean Perspective, “(vi) That each entity in the universe of a given concrescence can, so far as its own nature is concerned, be implicated in that concrescence in one or other of many modes; but in fact it is implicated only in one mode: that the particular mode of implication is only rendered fully determinate by that concrescence, though it is conditioned by the correlate universe. This indetermination, rendered determinate in the real concrescence, is the meaning of ‘potentiality.’ It is a conditioned indetermination, and is therefore called a ‘real potentiality.’ (vii) That an eternal object can be described only in terms of its potentiality for ingression into the becoming of actual entities; and that its analysis only discloses other eternal objects. It is a pure potential. The term ‘ingression’ refers to the particular mode in which the potentiality of an eternal object is realized in a particular actual entity, contributing to the definiteness of that actual entity” (Process and Reality 23). One could quite easily loose it in what Whitehead later in the lectures calls the technical language of his project, but I think the sense of real potentiality as a certain movement is very much what Deleuze argues of Spinoza: real distinction is not numerical, but qualitative.