MLG Paper: Sloppy Notes on a Deleuzian Metaphysics

I have begun fleshing out the abstract I wrote for the upcoming MLG.

Here are my notes:

Time: Bergson

Following Deleuze and Guattari’s “assemblage” theory, all matter is connected through a set of singularities into ensembles without becoming a totality or whole. Bergson’s notion of duration helps distinguish between the intensive and extensive properties of multiplicities (ATP 484). The first sense of multiplicity are extensive numerical multiplicities (Space — see Riemann), the second continuous intensive multiplicities (Time). Maybe the most self-evidently Bergsonian aspect of multiplicities is found within intensive multiplicities, the idea of the virtual — the real immanent openness to change in in every particular situation. Following Proust on memory, Deleuze argues that the virtual is “real without being actual, ideal without being abstract”.

Here’s a wonderful graph I took from the wiki page for multiplicity:

Continuous multiplicities Discrete multiplicities
differences in kind differences in degree
divides only by changing in kind divides without changing in kind
non-numerical – qualitative numerical – quantitative
differences are virtual differences are actual
continuous discontinuous
qualitative discrimination quantitative differentiation
simultaneity succession
fusion juxtaposition
organization order
subjective – subject objective – object
duration space

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A Few Questions on Capitalism and Crisis

David Harvey, Marxist geographer, argued that the financial crisis was actually a consolidation of class wealth and power (found here in the aptly titled paper “The Crisis and the Consolidation of Class Power”).

And if that’s the case – one could imagine the whole crisis being a “success” for a lot of neo-liberals.

A Few Questions:

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The Peculiar ‘Freedom’ of Neo-Liberalism

Neo-liberalism thrives off a reversal that seems to paradoxically eliminate the “liberties” of classical liberalism.

‘Freedom’, or more specifically personal development, is only encouraged in neo-liberalism if it fosters competition.  You are ‘free’ to enjoy hobbies like home-brewing or gardening but even those self-entrepreneurial activities come at a cost — they count against you in the event you lag behind (at your job, in school, or in the more amorphous area of social and cultural capital), marking your penchant for unnecessary luxuries that distract you from the more important aspects of competitive life — demonstrating that you’re not doing your share in upholding the common principles of pure competition.

Of course this isn’t new, but I think a succinct characterization of the “anti-freedom” of neo-liberalism.  If this adequately sums up neo-liberalism, would neo-liberals on principle oppose everything that is non-competitive?  Maybe the most stalwart defenders, but it seems to me that they still have many other commitments they’re beholden too, entitlements or ‘freedoms’ that should be held sacred and therefore free from pure market logic.  Or are there people who would ‘sell you the shirt off their back’ or ‘sell you the noose to hang them with’ as the attages go?

The Urbanization of Insurgency: The Potential Challenge to U.S. Army Operations

The likelihood of urban insurgency — irregular (i.e., guerilla or terrorist) warfare in cities — is increasing as the dual demographic trends of rapid population growth and urbanization continue to change the face of the developing world. Whereas cities once provided a relatively better standard of living for people migrating from the countryside, they are now overcrowded and overburdened. Generations are growing up in the slums that surround the capital cities of many of the world’s developing countries, and infrastructures are proving incapable of serving the massive urban populations. And the situation is getting worse. Moreover, insurgents are entering this ripe environment.

Unable to maintain operations among the dwindling rural populations, insurgents are following their followers into the cities. In countries as diverse as Peru and Turkey, insurgents are setting up “liberated zones” in urban shantytowns. Such zones, which are nearly impenetrable, afford the insurgents many of the same advantages they enjoyed in the jungles of the rural areas. Perhaps most important, urban insurgencies are frequently linked to broader insurgent movements in the countryside. Using terrorist tactics, urban insurgents tie up the government’s security forces in the cities, giving their brethren in the rural areas room to maneuver.

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Jamming the Symbolic Machine of Empire: The Body in Direct Action

In his response to Butler in Contingency, Hegemony, Universality, Žižek challenges Butler’s notion of re-signification.  Žižek notes that it’s not that re-signification is never effective, it’s just that both the two imaginaries on the left – the democratic welfare state imaginary and the ‘really-existing-Socialism’ – have been all but exhausted (325).  Rather than resignify the symbolic coordinates of a particular identity, Žižek argues that one should transform the universal ‘principle’ that structures the existing symbolic order.  Žižek is not shy in suggesting why he thinks a full-scale re-structuring is necessary because “it is the very focus on the notion of Real as impossible that reveals the ultimate contingency, frailty (and thus changeability) of very symbolic constellation that pretends to serve as the a priori horizon of the process of symbolization (221).  On the next two pages, as well as in the last chapter, Žižek reiterates that his political project is one of hegemony, however.  To be more explicit, one part of Žižek’s strategy is to sacrifice all attachments and identifications in an ethical act so the ethical figure is not required to compromise her desire, draining the Symbolic’s ability to hold the subject hostage – mirroring the famous line from David Fincher’s Fight Club “It’s only after you’ve lost everything are you free to do anything” (Revolution 249-53).

While I agree with Žižek that the constitutive Real provides a possibility for going beyond resignification, his strategy of hegemony sidesteps the Foucaultian conception of productive power. An analytics of power changes if the productive effects of power are taken into account.  In a post-sovereign society, there is no longer a singular referent for all relations of power.  The production of power is relocated to a multiplicity of sites.  Instead of relying on a naïve humanism that would assume essential aspects of human rationality, desire, and sociality, productive power allows one to create a social topology that accounts for reproducing life (HS 92-100).  Additionally, productive power shifts the terms of debate away from freedom and repression.  Freedom implies that social, political, economic and cultural forces inhibit an otherwise unfettered subject.  Instead, productive power proposes that different potentialities are to be increased or restricted as they are produced (increasing efficiency or productivity at performing certain tasks, added responsiveness to certain discursive pronouncements), but in a manner that is always radically circumscribed by its conditions of possibility because they rely on their conditions of possibility for their reproduction.  Put another way, freedoms are produced, not liberated.

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The Becoming-Necessary of the Capitalist Mode of Production

It all started with a bang.  “It was necessary to create the conditions for a swerve.”  But some bangs are bigger than others.  If we eat our desert first and forgo the tough-going beginning of Capital, we’ll find the becoming-necessary of capital in chapters 26+.  “Written in the annals of mankind of blood and fire” the so-called primitive accumulation provides the first stock to be thrown in the fire.  Once added, as the newly dispossessed become abstract labor and therefore fit into the equation like an element, the encounter begins to work like a chemical reaction and M-C-M’ begins.  But the original accumulation of forces was not enough to keep the process going on its own.  Like an arranged marriage, the encounter is forced until the betrothed learn to love one another.

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In what ways can a modality of sovereignty premised on war still be defined as neo-liberal?

Three Theses on War and Policing:

  1. War is the violence used to establish sovereignty.
  2. Policing is the state violence used to preserve law.
  3. Securitization either exceeds or falls short of war and policing.

War is indissociable from sovereignty and conquest; it presides over the birth of nations.  While there are ‘rules of war’, there isn’t a law-preserving quality to them.  Rather, a functionalist definition of war is the violence used to found sovereignty.  In the Middle Ages when sovereignty was based in divine right to rule, it functioned like a game of chess whereby the objective was to capture the king.    The post-dynastic raison d’etre shifted, founding the state on more clearly delineated territorial boundaries where norms and political institutions were established to guarantee the well-being and security of the population.  The cartographic fixity of national borders highlights the intense importance war’s spatiality.  The divergence between theories of International Relations and domestic policy in political science demonstrates the sharp analytic boundary between inside and outside that lies at the center of modern nation-states.

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the gender politics of militancy

Nate started a great thread over the masculinist undercurrent of ‘militancy.’ (my response would be: we’ve never been militants)

I’ve decided to repost my followup comment:

I like Jasper’s suggestion – there are two texts that are a must along those lines.

First “living and struggling” from Tiqqun

Second is “this is not the black bloc” by Claire Fontaine.  Half of CF was deeply involved in Tiqqun, and was part of the 2001 split that was in part due to disagreement over militancy.

In a much more American context, there was an early piece written called “She Doesn’t Give a Fuck About Your Insurrection.”  The approach of the text is deeply problematic, in my view, because it was written as a provocation piece.  The result was equally polemical responses that didn’t get to the heart of some of the issues of the American readings of Tiqqun.  Look to Infoshop and Anarchistnews to see the extensive “comments”.

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“Postmodern” Politics: Working Through the Neuroses of the Old Left

A lot of the paleo-leftist criticisms of post-structuralism is that it pulls the rug out from tried and true models of politics. Some people blame it on New Left undermining of the strong base of Old Left labor politics. One of the contemporary standard-bearers is Todd Gitlin, a former student leader in the Students for a Democratic Society. SDS was one of the ‘transitional’ organizations that bridged both the old and new divide – a fusion of labor politics, civil rights concerns, and the ‘new’ youth movement of the 60s. There are many examples of these figures, usually orthodox marxists or movement types who lament the loss of late 19C/early 20C style mass mobilizations. Nostalgic mis-remembering of a time where there were clear battlelines and straightforward politics.

I’ve been doing a little work tracking down Foucault’s use of the term “pleb.” It has come up in conversations with friends over the preferred ‘subjects’ of Foucault. Spivak’s criticism of Foucault in “Can the Subaltern Speak?” is a condemnation of Foucault’s fetish for the mad, insane, criminalized Others. What generally follows is a critique of Foucault, arguing that he merely trying to reintroduce the Other into an economy of power that’s stacked against his preferred subjects and the tools he provides are relatively useless. Continue reading ““Postmodern” Politics: Working Through the Neuroses of the Old Left”

Notes On A Micropolitics of Singularization

Meeting at the premises of the Grupo de Acao Lesbico-Feminista, Sao Paulo, September 2, 1982: 

 Felix Guattari:  [F]irst of all I would like to say that it is always necessary to mistrust our categories.  This opposition between molar and molecular may be a trap.  Gilles Deleuze and I always try to cross this opposition with another, the opposition between micro and macro.  The two are different.  The molecular, as process, can originate in the macro.  The molar can be instituted in the micro.  The problem that you’re raising can’t be reduced to just two levels, molecular and molar (the level of the politics of the constitution of major identities).  This reduction doesn’t enable us to understand problems such as individuality, identity, and singularity.  For example, the fact that a woman has to behave in a certain way, model herself from childhood in her way of assuming standards of femininity, just as they’re programmed in the social field as a whole, by what I call the “general function of collective facilities.”  And when I speak of collective facilities I’m not referring only to things like clinics or health centers, but also to magazines, and radio and TV programs aimed at women.  It’s this function of collective facilities that codifies conduct, behavior, attitudes, and value systems practically by remote control.  But it can’t be said that we are dealing with a process of individuation at this level.  As an illustration, let’s take the image of automobile salesmen. 

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