Monday, March 23, 2015

"Language is not a reservoir of possible meanings waiting to be realized. On the contrary, meaning always exists in an actualized state and the set of meanings attached to a given phrase is finite, limited to those meanings actually in use. [...] Language is a part of nature, infinite, incessantly producing itself according to ever changing laws immanent to it which no individual can disobey without falling into meaninglessness. It is both the producer and product of a collectivity." - Warren Montag, Bodies, Masses, Power

Sunday, March 15, 2015

"Everywhere accountability is sought, it is usually the instinct for punishing and judging which seeks it. One has deprived becoming of its innocence if being in this or that state is traced back to will, to intentions, to accountable acts: the doctrine of will has been invented essentially for the purpose of punishment, that is of finding guilty. [...] Men were thought of as 'free' so that they could become guilty: consequently, every action had to be thought of as willed, the origin of every action as lying in the consciousness (where the most fundamental falsification in psychologicis was made into the very principle of psychology). . . .

"What alone can our teaching be? That no one gives a human being his qualities: not God, not society, not his parents or ancestors, not he himself ( - the nonsensical idea here last rejected was propounded, as 'intelligible freedom', by Kant, and perhaps also by Plato before him). No one is accountable for existing at all, or for being constituted as he is, or for living in the circumstances and surroundings in which he lives. The fatality of his nature cannot be disentangled from the fatality of all that which has been and will be. He is not the result of a special design, a will, a purpose; he is not the subject of an attempt to attain to an 'ideal of man' or an 'ideal of happiness' or an 'ideal of morality' - it is absurd to want to hand over his nature to some purpose or other. We invented the concept 'purpose': in reality purpose is lacking. . . . One is necessary, one is a piece of fate, one belongs to the whole, one is in the whole - there exists nothing which could judge, measure, compare, condemn our being, for that would be to judge, measure, compare, condemn the whole. . . . But nothing exists apart from the whole! - That no one is any longer made accountable, that the kind of being manifested cannot be traced back to a causa prima, that the world is a unity neither as sensorium nor as 'spirit', this alone is the great liberation - thus alone is the innocence of becoming restored. . . ." - Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

"Philosophers look upon the passions by which we are assailed as vices, into which men fall through their own fault. So it is their custom to deride, bewail, berate them, or, if their purpose is to appear more zealous than others, to execrate them. They believe that they are thus performing a sacred duty, and that they are attaining the summit of wisdom when have learnt how to shower extravagant praise on a human nature that nowhere exists and to revile that which exists in actuality. The fact is that they conceive men not as they are, but as they would like them to be. As a result, for the most part it is not ethics they have written, but satire; and they have never worked out a political theory that can have practical application, only one that borders on fantasy or could be put into effect in Utopia or in that golden age of the poets where there would naturally be no need of such. Therefore, while theory is believed to be at variance with practice in all practical sciences, this is particularly so in the case of political theory, and no men are regarded as less fit for governing a state than theoreticians or philosophers.

"[I]n turning my attention to political theory it was not my purpose to suggest anything that is novel or unheard of, but only to demonstrate by sure and conclusive reasoning such things as are in closest agreement with practice, deducing them from human nature as it really is. And in order to enquire into matters relevant to this branch of knowledge in the same unfettered spirit as is habitually shown in mathematical studies, I have taken great care not to deride, bewail, or execrate human actions, but to understand them. So I have regarded human emotions such as love, hatred, anger, envy, pride, pity, and other agitations of the mind not as vices of human nature but as properties pertaining to it in the same way as heat, cold, storm, thunder and such pertain to the nature of the atmosphere. These things, though troublesome, are inevitable, and have definite causes through which we try to understand their nature. And the mind derives as much enjoyment in contemplating them aright as from the knowledge of things that are pleasing to the senses." - Baruch Spinoza, Political Treatise

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"Those who breathlessly clamour for the anticapitalist uprising, calling for a liberation understood as emancipation from the servitudes of the social order, and potentially as - using the language of rupture - total liberation, namely, the reaffirmation of the sovereign autonomy of the subjects who regain the free command of their lives, are unaware of the deep intellectual kinship that binds them to the liberal thought they imagine themselves fighting, and of which their orations are almost as canonical an expression as the entrepreneurs' apologies. For the entrepreneurs too are free, masters of their success, at times even engaged in storming the Bastilles (the monopolies that want to corner the market, the restrictions on competition that dissuade from risk-taking); in short, they are equally busy 'changing the world' - in their own way. The 'innovators' of both kinds, revolutionaries of the social order or of the industrial order, are united above all in their common loathing of deterministic thought, to them an offence against their freedom, which in the last analysis is the sense they have of their unique ability to transform the world. The only difference between the two is the nature of the transformations sought by these otherwise equally liberal subjects. Witness the gesture of revulsion unfailingly and almost universally provoked by any suggestion that we may not be the free beings we like to imagine ourselves as. The purest formula of disgust is perhaps the one offered by Schelling, for whom to be conditioned was to be reduced to the rank of things - that by which 'anything becomes a thing'. This gesture of revulsion indicates the depth of the roots of a scheme of thought shared by agents who believe themselves to differ politically in everything, whereas philosophically they differ in nothing (in any case, nothing fundamental).

"The category of the 'new' is perhaps the site par excellence where all these confusions and common grounds are concentrated. For the new is the counterpart, in the world of objective things, of freedom in the world of subjective actions, and thus would like to pass for a kind of uncaused advent, an ineffable event that is an absolute exception to all known laws; a dazzling manifestation of freedom's ability to break with the past as the ability to suspend absolutely the order of the world and make it bifurcate. In other words, coming from these false non-believers, it is exactly what is called a miracle. How can an event come about in a way that escapes the sequence of causes and effects, namely, out of nowhere? And, conversely, how to maintain the radicality of a 'new' that can be derived from a causal unfolding, rightfully knowable? Perhaps the only way we can avoid this dilemma is by downgrading the idea of the new, for example by reducing it to the finite abilities of the human understanding that sets itself to judge it. 'New' is nothing more than the name for what lies outside our ordinary experience, the quality we ascribe to what surprises us. But to surprise human understanding - to exceed its simple limits - should not in principle suffice to ground a metaphysical verdict. That the infinite complexity, synchronic as well as diachronic, of the concatenation of causes and effects eludes the human mind is a lacuna inscribed in the mind's very nature as finite mode, but not a sufficient reason to occasionally declare the concatenating order suspended." - Frédéric Lordon, Willing Slaves of Capital

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

"In the past, counter-cultures have been carrier groups and social bases for anti-capitalism, anti-racism, feminism, ecology, queer politics, and a variety of other progressive political movements. Counter-cultures are inherently 'radical' in the sense that they seek to negate the current social reality and try to create an alternative. Politically, though, they are not intrinsically Left or Right. Fascism—as distinct from most other types of right-wing politics—seeks a radical transformation of the current Western social order (based on liberal­ism and democracy) and as such can appeal to counter-culturalists just as much as Marxism or anarchism can.

"Therefore, the presence of Far Right attitudes in these counter-cultural scenes—even when they do not directly translate into fascist organizing—also has negative effects. Instead of a progressive, pro-queer, and feminist milieu, an atmosphere filled with reactionary social attitudes can become dominant. Even when the bands aren’t committed Nazis, a Far Right-leaning scene further repels the participation of those targeted by the Right. [...]

"When bringing up exclusions, the question of 'free speech' inevitably comes up. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the protection of speech from interference by the government. To call for excluding a group, individual, or band is not to be mistaken for a call for the government to ban or otherwise violate the Constitutional rights of fascist and related groups. (Even from a realpolitik perspective, these kinds of restrictions often end up being used against progressives in rather short order.) But it is legal—and always has been under the First Amendment—for non-governmental political groups to decide who may attend private gatherings or be published in their media; free speech does not guarantee your right to crash anyone’s party, join their organization, or attend their meetings. Likewise, media are under no obligation to publish articles representing everyone’s viewpoints. Freedom of speech means that the government cannot suppress individuals from holding their own meetings or expressing political opinions publicly—it does not dictate that Far Right activists must be given open access to progressive events."

Sunday, March 8, 2015

"Sometimes, our self-deception can be downright funny. Two weekends ago, the New York Times profiled a group of fancy private schools in New York City where wealthy, white and privileged students learn that they are…wealthy, white and privileged. There’s even an annual 'White Privilege Conference,' which is being held this year at Dalton School (tuition: $41,350). More and more private schools, according to the Times, 'select students to attend' that conference. These students are so select (and these schools so selective) that they have to be selected to attend a conference on their selectedness.

"You’d think that if the parents and teachers of these masters of the universe were truly concerned about racial and class privilege they’d simply abolish private schools. Or lobby for better state and federal laws, and more liberal courts, to reintegrate the public schools: after all, in 1988, even after two terms of Ronald Reagan, even after two decades of a Republican near-monopoly on the White House, racial integration was at an all-time high. That’s how strong the laws and court orders were.

"Or schools could organize workshops to teach students how to lead a mass movement that would divest private schools of federal tax benefits, such as the Coverdell Education Savings Account, or state-level tax benefits, which are even more generous to the wealthy.

"The advantages of such a movement would be many. Students would learn, firsthand, that race or race privilege is indeed constructed—a term often bandied about but not always understood—not merely by words and symbols but by laws, taxes, wealth and institutions. In confronting the defenders of these privileges, which might include their parents, teachers, principals and even themselves, students would see, in a concrete way, just how invested people can be in their privilege. And, who knows, they might even win.

"But that, of course, is what private school leaders don’t want. They want a conversation, not a confrontation, about privilege. They want to change words, not worlds. So why talk about privilege at all? Because privilege talk is good for business.

"There’s actually an industry of privilege consultants who sell their services to schools like Dalton, Spence and Collegiate. According to one of these consultants, school administrators realize that 'raising students to live in a bubble—a white bubble, a black bubble, a Latino bubble, whatever type of bubble you want to call it—is not to your benefit in a global society.' And 'anti-racist thinking,' adds the Times, 'is a 21st-century skill.'

"Global society, 21st-century skills: These are buzzwords for the international capitalism the students of these schools are being trained to lead. Far from being educated to dismantle privilege, they’re being schooled to perpetuate and preside over it.

"Education is the quintessential American hustle. Schoolmen and con men have one thing in common: They both believe they can talk their way out of anything. But the reason our schools are unequal is that our society is unequal. And no amount of privilege talk is going to change that." - Corey Robin