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Ligon-Untitled_Four_Etchings_1992_B0The beginning to a talk I will give at the Cultural Studies Association conference in Riverside, CA next week. On the occasion of Achille Mbembe’s new preface to the African reprint of On the Postcolony by Wits University Press

Mbembe: Critique is witnessing as well as endless vigilance, interrogation and anticipation. A proper ­critique requires us first to dwell in the chaos of the night in order precisely to better break through into the dazzling light of the day.

We recognise the moment of pessimism when the layers of the past and the world of the present fall into the void; that is, a place that is not a place. We recognise the moment of pessimism when we trivialise human experience or provoke misplaced empathy or contempt, when, unable to release language, we succumb to the elemental materiality of the there is.

We enter this “dark night of language” when its symbolising powers are suddenly crippled and, instead of revealing what is hidden within the self-evident and what lies beneath the surface, behind the mask, language circles in on itself and hides what it should be showing.

This paper is on the darkness that clings to so-called “afro-pessimism.” My thesis is that to take the “pessimism” of afro-pessimism seriously, I argue for moving from the metaphysical pessimism of making claims about this world to the moral pessimism of a fatalistic attitude towards the world. Continue Reading »

basquiat-earth

Seeking recognition is always servile. We have little interest in visibility, consciousness raising, or populist pandering. Recognition always treats power as a give-and-take. On the one hand, the dispossessed use recognition as respite from exploitation; while on the other, the State expects its authority to be recognized as the first and final say. According to this logic: for the dispossessed to even get a step up, they must first acknowledge a higher power than themselves.

The particulars of our own time are even more obscene. Following the spread of economic rationality on a global scale, it is clear that the flow of forces has reversed. The State pornographically exposes its long-protected interior for others to abuse while lasciviously grooming what is beyond its regular reach. Recognition chastely reassures the State of its powers. All the while, the most banal State functions are farmed out to the highest bidder. So when their parking ticket is authored by a private corporation, those who seek recognition fall back on the State dictum that nothing good comes from the outside. Continue Reading »

money is just paperHere is an outline of Maurizio Lazzarato’s Signs and Machines that includes his Intro, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2. It is here that he develops his essential distinction between signifying/asignifying linguistics and their subsequent subjectivites of social subjection/machinic enslavement. A better formatted version is available in the downloads section of this blog. Enjoy!

MAURIZIO LAZZARATO: SIGNS, MACHINES, SUBJECTIVITIES

7 INTRODUCTION

23 – CHP 1 PRODUCTION AND THE PRODUCTION OF SUBJECTIVITY

23 – 1. Social subjection and machinic enslavement

29 – 2. Human/machine vs humans/machinies

32 – 3. Egyptian megamachine

34 – 4. The functions of subjection

39 – Capital as a semiotic operator

43 – 1. The concept of “production”

49 – 2. Desire and production

52 – 3. The failure of “human capital”

55 – CHP 2 SIGNIFYING SEMIOLOGIES AND ASIGNIFYING SEMIOTICS IN PRODUCTION AND IN THE PRODUCTION OF SUBJECTIVITY

57 – 1. The remains of structuralism: language without structure

66 – 2. Signifying semiologies

68 – i. The Political Function of Semiologies of Signification

72 – ii. Reference, Signification, Representation

80 – 3. Asignifying semiotics Continue Reading »

demolition

What does capital sound like? Do we hear it in the grinding gears of industry? The rustling papers of bureaucracy? The idle chatter of company spokesmen? The business maxims of a boss?

Though deceptively simple, the question is not an innocent one. How people listen for capitalism has major implications for public address, rhetorical theory, and Deleuze studies. As far as scholars of public address still rely on Aristotle’s two-fold definition of humans (“man is the only animal to possess language,” and “man is a political animal”), politics is central to the field. The rapport between capitalism and orality is far less certain. This ambiguity raises an important theoretical question: is rhetoric even important for the study of capitalism? And if rhetorical theory does have a role in critiquing capital, what is role of Marxist linguistics?

Today, I explore French Marxists Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s suggestion that capitalism speaks in a voice even more nefarious than the ideological speech of politicians. According to them, capitalism acts through the inhuman code of asignifying semiotics.

I set the context through the global financial crisis of 2007-2008. I show how capitalism operates through “semiotic operators,” such as “stock market indices, currency, mathematical equations, diagrams, computer languages, national and corporate accounting” (Lazzarato, Signs and Machines, 39). I draw two implications from this finding: first, that there is a regime of signs distinct to capital, and second, that they draw on categories of rhetoric beyond those established in rhetorical theory. Continue Reading »

leatherfaceThis is the abstract for the paper I’m giving on Monday. If you find yourself in Spokane, let me know.

Every word is a death sentence; or so argue Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus. While previous work in public address has drawn on their work to remark on how communication constitutes a people or a territory (Roberts 2008; Brighenti 2010), I consider a darker Deleuze: his theory of how rhetoric inaudibly cuts, maims, and kills.

In the paper, I analyze financial reports, labor statistics, and corporate press conferences as a form of public address. I find that capital is itself a rhetorical agent that produces discursive events, but it communicates in a silent language. Theoretically, I use the concepts of ‘sign-operators’ and ‘incorporeal transformation’ from Deleuze (Deleuze 1990; Deleuze and Guattari 1984). The first extends recent work on how capitalist signs intervene directly in material flows (Lazzarato 2014). The second builds from other rhetorical work on ‘incorporeal transformation,’ especially as it describes the ability of the State to enact violence (Cooper 1988; Buchanan 2007). Continue Reading »

bill_gold_alienChapter three of Anti-Oedipus is perhaps the most under-valued section of the book. Not only does it provide a concrete typology for working through social formations, but it also demonstrates the working out Deleuze and Guattari’s promise of turning Freud (“the Adam Smith of psychology”) on his head. Just as Althusser noted that Hegel was turned on his by Marx, a move that restored the role of material constitution to the questions of German Idealist philosophy, D&G are interested in how anthropology identifies the ground from which the unconscious springs. The recently published English translation of Eduardo Viveiros de Castro’s Cannibal Metaphysics is a helpful reminder of the lost legacy of a Deleuzian anthropology. D&G’s work was largely taken up in the anglophone anthropologies going through the reflexive turn – their theories were used in the rather narrow methodological introspection of the Western self. Viveiro de Castro instead draws on the Lévi-Straussian tradition from which D&G themselves built their own anthropological argument in Anti-Oedipus.

Reproduced here is the list of anthropological texts in Viveiro de Castro’s Cannibal Metaphysics with publication dates from the years 2000-2008. They should serve as a helpful points of orientation for someone looking to see how Anti-Oedipus could be “updated” with more recent anthropology.

Continue Reading »

hostis

Our journal ‘Hostis’ is now available via Little Black Cart. Thanks to our publisher Ardent Press. The first 100 copies of this journal have been printed with sandpaper covers (they couldn’t do more because it was chewing up the equipment).

Description

Hostis is a negation. It emerges devoid of ethics, lacking any sense of democracy, and without a care for pre-figuring anything. Fed up with the search for a social solution to the present crisis, it aspires to be attacked wildly and painted as utterly black without a single virtue.

In thought, Hostis is the construction of incommensurability that figures politics in formal asymmetry to the powers that be.

In action, Hostis is an exercise in partisanship – speaking in a tongue made only for those that it wants to listen. This partisanship is neither the work of fascists, who look for fights to give their limp lives temporary jolts of excitement, nor martyrs, who take hopeless stands to live the righteousness of loss. Hostis is the struggle to be dangerous in a time when antagonism is dissipated.

This is all because Hostis is the enemy.

Table of contents

1 A Short Introduction to the Politics of Cruelty
33 Nice Shit for Everybody, Global Shade
37 An Enduring Passion for Criminality, Tom Nomad and Gallus Stanig Mag
57 ¿Ulrike?, Daniel Gutiérrez
67 There Is a Third Thing taken from O Globo translated by Pepe Rojo
73 Interlude III, Cassandra Troyan

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