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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Action Will Be Taken: An Action-Packed Story by Heinrich Boll

Probably one of the strangest interludes in my life was the time I spent as an employee in Alfred Wunsiedel’s factory. By nature, I am inclined more to pensiveness and inactivity than to work, but now and again prolonged financial difficulties compel me – for pensiveness is no more profitable than inactivity – to take on a so-called job. Finding myself once again at a low ebb of this kind, I put myself in the hands of the employment office and was sent with seven other fellow-sufferers to Wunsiedel’s factory, where we were to undergo an aptitude test.

The exterior of the factory was enough to arouse my suspicions: the factory was built entirely of glass brick, and my aversion to well-lit buildings and well-lit rooms is as strong as my aversion to work. I became even more suspicious when we were immediately served breakfast in the well-lit, cheerful coffee shop: pretty waitresses brought us eggs, coffee and toast, orange juice was served in tastefully designed jugs, goldfish pressed their bored faces against the sides of pale-green aquariums. The waitresses were so cheerful that they appeared to be bursting with good cheer. Only a strong effort of will – so it seemed to me -restrained them from singing away all day long. They were as crammed with unsung songs as chickens with unlaid eggs.

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Immanence and the Social Sciences

Now that the Deleuzian insistence on thinking immanence has made significant inroads (even in the social sciences!) it’s time to consider trends of use.

On one side, “immanence critique” has become a popular epistemological method. For instance, the ‘scale’ debate in geography that proposes a ‘flat ontology’ argues that epistemological considerations can no longer remain agnostic to ontology (Foucault is often cited in this instance). Rather, ontology an epistemology can be co-constitutive if they’re placed in immanent relation. An example I heard yesterday was a recent geography paper written on mosquito management in Arizona that used characteristics of the mosquitos ‘ontology’ (their terms, not mine) to determine management techniques best suited to the ‘singularity’ of the mosquito. Herein lies what I consider a set of elisions that makes “immanence critique” simply a stand-in for ‘attention to detail’ or ‘relative autonomy’ without any of the benefits of immanence in its full philosophical force.

What “immanence critique” does is a priori limit out typological analysis. This mirrors the strong anti-positivism of American Post-Modernism that pushes the tired maxim “there is no master-narrative” to extreme proportions. In ‘identity politics’ disputes the claim is that strong anti-essentialism entails eliminating all identity-talk. In ‘cultural studies’ it insists that there is no such thing as culture. Etc etc. The problem is that such thinking succumbs to the same problems as transcendental thinking, only in reverse. Vulgar immanence critique posits the source of transcendence as error or illusion. It doesn’t offer an immanent explanation for the specific transcendent thinking it wants to critique, but rather a generalized condemnation of its use.

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