The Geometry of Revolution

The openings created by the Maya Prophecies for 2012 mark a political and cultural challenge to the onto-theological metaphysics deeply embedded within European thought that have long blackmailed revolutionary possibilities.  In this talk I will briefly interrogate how to crack the thin veneer of vulgar revolution to open a path that makes ‘steps’ toward true revolution possible.  Methodologically, I posit a diagrammatic thought that looks to machines that extract and re-articulate forms of resistance, as shown by a series of visual examples. Continue reading “The Geometry of Revolution”

Nomos and Helen

If money (nomisma), as we are taught in the _Politics_, is “spurious” as an object in itws own right, it is, on the other hand, essential as an instrument of exchange.  This last notion is revised in the _Nicomachean Ethics_, and in the conext of a discussion on social justice.  Aristotle asks at 5.5.17-20: what is it that holds the city together? and answers: the equitable exchange of disparate goods. That means, in essence, setting up equivalences between them: “all things that are exchanged must be somehow comparable. It is for this end that money had been introduced and… becomes… an intermediate[meson]; for it meaures all things.” (1133al5-20; trans. W.D.Ross 1941; bracketed term is mine).7  Money, which permits comparison, makes evaluation possible.  Exchange, then, is not entirely devorced from need, and thus money has its utility and its place in culture; money “has become by convention a sort of representative of demand; and this is why it has the name money [nomisma] – because it exists not bey nature but by law [nomos]” E. Laroche, in “Histoire de la racine nem- en grec ancien” notes that in the earlest instances of nemesis, conventionally defined as blame, the term is always used to make a “value judgment” (1949:93), in both an ethical and economic sense. Both are central to the act of assessment at the walls of Troy, as the elders gaze upon the face of Helen (3.156) ou nemesis Troas (“Surely there is no blame if Trojans…”). Helen is, indeed, a form of vomos [typo?], a powerful generator of equivalences, but ruthlessly pursued – like money – as a possession in her own right.  This is chrematistics, not oiknomia, at work, an economy of the metaphor.  Paraphrasing Aristotle, Marc Shell writes in The Economy of Literature, “To men such as Midas gold becomes everything, just as to some poets metaphor appears to be all” (1978:92).  Helen is the golden metaphor.

Helen as nemesis suggests the financial abuses described by Aristotle in the Politics: she provokes an economy fueled entirely by _desire_, as opposed to _demand_. And the face of Helen is, to use Aristotle’s definition of nomos, a “representative” of desire, as opposed to demand.  It is worthwhile recalling at this point the long history of mythic traditions linking Hlen to the figure of Nemesis.  Thus Fr. 8 of the Cypria asserts: “Nemesis gave her birth when she had been joined in love with Zeus … by harsh violence.”  Born in violence, brought in violence from Greece to Troy, making them distinct, defining them in relation to each other, drawing them into violent conflict and comparison, Helen is the archetypal intermediary of desire.(Grafting Helen: the abduction of the classical past By Matthew Gumpert 2001:61)

D&R Nomos fn

Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition (Repetition in Itself)

n6. See E. Laroche, Histoire de la racine nem- en grec ancien, Paris Klicksieck, 1949.  Laroche shows that the idea of distribution in nomos-nemo does not stand in a simple relation to that of allocation [temno, diao, diaireo].  The pastoral sense of nemo (to pasture) only belatedly implied an allocation of the land.  Homeric society ad neither enclosures nor property in pastures: it was not a question of distributing the land among the beasts but, on the contrary, of distributing the beasts themselves and dividing them up here and there across an unlimited space, forest or mountainside.  The nomos designated first of all an occupied space, but one without precise limits (for example, the expanse around a town) – whence, too, the theme of the ‘nomad’.

From Nemsis to Autonomy: Nomos in Schmitt and Deleuze & Guattari

E Laroche wrote a philological study of the family of terms nem- nom- in Greek thought.  This document serves as a common reference for studies of distribution, common law, politics, and economics (think NUMerals, NUMbers, ecoNOMy, NEMesis, autoNOMy…).  For example, Marc Shell’s book The Economy of Literature use of the study is then picked up by Matthew Gumpert’s study when discussing Helen a figure of the libidinal economy of desire in classicism.

D&G generally use the Homeric sense of nomos (there’s a great footnoted in D&R on ‘nomadic distribution’ and Laroche’s philological study – developed in depth by a few, most notably R Bogue), which is generally contrasted with physis.  The nomos/physis opposition is a common reference in secondary literature but is usually in a laundry list with other terms and is never given an in depth treatment.  In Logic of Sense in the first appendix on simulacrum in ancient philosophy, there’s some great stuff on law/nature that could easily hook in.  The result payoff would be “autonomy”.

Schmitt’s use of nomos is post-Homeric [though he says it’s homeric in Nomos of the Earth – I’d like to be able to settle this without reading the laroche] and therefore deals with enclosure and property.  It’s meant to create a distribution of forces that results in the existential opposition of friend/enemy.  Some of Derrida’s work in “Politics of Friendship” deals with Schmitt and I could probably lean on it.  Additionally, there seems to be a JL Nancy connection that comes out the other end.

I’ve found one potentially useful direction to take the Schmitt that I haven’t read up on yet (the best article on the topic wasn’t available, so I had to ILL it).  J Herder, father of modern nationalism wrote an article in the 1780s on “Nemesis.”  I found a copy of Heder’s political letters that use the term nemesis, but only a scant 3 times.

In the middle of both D&G/Schmitt is a strange reading done by Agamben that I’ve had a hard time working through.  It’s mostly in Homo Sacer but is also in State of Exception.  From what I gather, it’s a veiled rejoinder to JLN’s “Cosmos Basileus” in Being Singular Plural.  Thanos Zartaloudis’ article “Without Negative Origins and Aboslute Ends: A Jurisprudence of the Singularity” looks like it will fruitfully bear on the topic.

In the end, I could probably link this all back up to Tiqqun’s notion of “civil war”.  I’m not sure about the tension between Schmitt’s notion of depoliticization and Deleuzian vitalism/capture, however.  One hint might be the argument I heard last weekend, which was that ‘attack is necessary to bring about an opening for communisation’.  This bears extended consideration.  I think the heart of the question is the connection between nemesis and autonomy (hence the working title of the paper).