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

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