Posts Tagged ‘intensity’

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…)

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?


Banksy!

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: http://wp.me/peizY-3X). 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, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

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. (http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/carlyle/signs1.html)

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! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YUSJbRjXXU&feature=pyv

)

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: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/24/arabs-democracy-latin-america; 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, http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=2997). “(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.

 

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Gilles Deleuze never to my knowledge wrote extensively on marketing, but he had some choice words for it in “Postscript on Societies of Control.” I quote them below. I lectured today, minutes ago actually, on Foucault’s panopticism and Deleuze’s modulated control to my first year marketing and communication course at QMUL. I tried to make the argument to them (about 200 very diverse, international students) that marketing is a historically specific form of power.

Control societies are taking over from disciplinary societies. “Control” is the name proposed by Burroughs to characterize the new monster, and Foucault sees it fast approaching. Paul Virilio too is constantly analyzing the ultrarapid forms of apparently free floating control that are taking over from the old disciplines at work within the time scales of closed systems. It’s not a question of amazing pharmaceutical products, nuclear technology, and genetic engineering, even though these will play their part in the new process. It’s not a question of asking whether the old or new system is harsher or more bearable, because there’s a conflict in each between the ways they free and enslave us. (Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on Societies of Control” 178).

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

The will to power: will does not want power. Power is “the one that wills in the will. Power is the genetic and differential element in the will. This is why the will is essentially creative” (85). Power is the elemental condition of mutation. So let’s say that power is a characteristic of a will, a set of affectivities, sensations (nonanthropomorphic concept of bodily events), or capacities of that will. In this sense creativity constitutes a kind of giving up of or on human will, and to enter hapharzardly upon a process of selecting connectivity and thus affirming the dice throw as chance, a will that has no space, only topology, that has no time, only becoming. Now what we know (that is, experimentally and experientially engage in a process of becoming), and can feel–but never with total coincidence–is that these capacities are themselves involved in a set of divergent and at times resonant processes, or multiplicities. The causal and differentiated patterns that form at various scales of these multiplicities will bring a quantum of chance. Now chance has no determinate quanta, it is the measure of fluctuating unpredictability in a given system. This intimation of chaos—entropy—has always been defined against equilibrium in an ideology which Deleuze calls the dialectic of ressentiment (even, or perhaps especially in the form of negentropy), that is an ideology whose will moves with a certain bitter heaviness—which is not at all a very enabling way to understand the power of affect. This is why will does not want power, power wills, power affects, its creativity is something genetic, in the sense of the why and wherefores of phase transitions. You see then that to grasp this notion of becoming through a will to power the concept of non-coinciding but resonant time scales is also necessary. What happens in the time-scale of bacterial strains, and the time scale of river erosion does not coincide totally, and yet they can embed themselves one in the other. What sense does movement make? What patterns is a given movement involved in? Determined and determining, the will to power has a multiplicious malleability to it.

Grant Road Station, Mumbai

There is something immeasurably sad in all this, but then sadness is no longer heavy (Philosophy should sadden, and trouble stupidity, says Deleuze). Here we escape the heaviness of movement in the dialectic or ressentiment, here thought and life dance with risk (chance as distributive difference). Woody Allen in Stardust Memories talks about the authenticity of death through all these forces of life that stream memories through what remains a monologue, especially for the women in his films. But why is it that we give finality, or a certain end, a type of ending the aura of the authentic? There are many kinds of endings? Death is a phase transition, that is all. The aura attaches through a hatred of life. Deleuze has some wonderful passages on the quality of hatred that burns in ressentiment, isn’t that too in Allen? And yet one cannot deny the wildly funny nature of Allen’s films. But these things are not incompatible, in Allen a style has fused them.

Returning: I am struck again and again at how central the notion of creativity is to Deleuze’s thought. Creativity is an affirmation of life, it is to take life and thought to the limit of what it is capable of doing.

The will to power is determined and determining, it is both cause and effect, it is quasi-causal. “The genetic element (power) determines the relation of force with force and qualifies related forces. As plastic element it simultaneously determines and is determined, simultaneously qualifies and is qualified. What the will to power wills is a particular relation of forces, a particular quality of forces. And also a particular quality of power: affirming or denying” (85).

Here we come back to the theme of the virtual as determined and determining that I marked earlier. It suggests that there is no virtual (will to power) without being actualized in particular relations of forces, particular emergent capacities (qualities that arise from the interactions of a multiplicity); but also that there is no actual without the genetic and differential element of the virtual. Read on: “All phenomena express relations of forces, qualities of force and power…”