Escape For Non-Experts

My dissertation charts the political imaginary of freedom by way of the problem of escape. The project begins with a question: how does escape remain a political concept in a world that has been hemmed in by modern distance-demolishing technologies (cars, planes, modern weapons, and now information technology like the internet and global positioning systems)? Specifically, I propose three major themes that show how changes in the way people escape foreshadow larger societal transformations. The first is how anonymity reshapes interaction in the overlap of digital media and urban living. The second is how sound metaphors explain new types of social action. And the third is the way recent subcultures entice their members to change identities, or even attempt to abandon labels altogether.

The methods I use in this study are drawn from philosophy, social science, and literature. In particular, I use the cultural philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, recent anthropologies of state formation, and twentieth-century literary theories of social action.

I advance Deleuze and Guattari’s provocative idea of drift, which enables me to pose hypotheses about potential societal transformations that do not require a bloody political revolution that seizes the government. For raw material to test the idea, I look to anthropologies of government for historical examples of actually existing people who ‘ran to the hills’ in order to escape abuses of state power. Lastly, I identify key literary and artistic texts that cover the theme of escape: from ‘drop outs,’ to runaways, to the criminal underground.

Ultimately, I consider if running to the hills has been replaced by burrowing deeper into urban centers. And, to fully understand the effects of the shift in escape from running away to a kind of internal exodus, I look to recent changes in modern life.

Continue reading “Escape For Non-Experts”

Lazzarato’s Virtual Communism

Lazzarato is able to distinguish his approach from traditional historical materialism with a few key reversals. The first is an elaboration on an argument he shares with Read: production is ‘greater’ than reproduction, which is just a translation of D&G’s claim that the virtual is richer than the actual. But rather than remaining within the capitalist mode of production, which treats it as a de facto totality, Lazzarato uses Tarde to make a move that detaches his analysis from capitalist production almost completely:

invention, as the creation of the possible and its process of actualisation in the souls (of consumers as well as workers), is the real production, whilst what Marx and the economists call production is, in reality, a reproduction (or a manufacture of a product or a management of a service even if in this case the things are a bit more complicated). (CLCL: 192)

In place of the totality of the mode of production, Lazzarato posit an original dynamic multiplicity. It is from that multiplicity that everything is constructed. Lazzarato then fully integrates a Foucaultian analysis within this metaphysics of the multiple.

Continue reading “Lazzarato’s Virtual Communism”

Power: Breaking the Liberal Domination-Resistance Paradigm

Theories of power previous to Foucault were largely based in terms of sovereign or juridical power – roughly equivalent to the dynastic power of the monarch and the legal power of the social contract.  The sovereign view of power imagines power as an original right held by the king to which the subject responds.  As the state form emerged, power arrangements were recast according to a social contract that posits citizen-subjects that are afforded a minor autonomy that both limits and authorizes the power of government.  While most political and social theory is stuck within these two types of power, Foucault emphasized two forms of power that he argues have displaced the importance of sovereign and juridical power: disciplinary power and biopower.  Continue reading “Power: Breaking the Liberal Domination-Resistance Paradigm”

Capitalism: The Age of Sad Passions?

Is the era where ‘power produces more than it represses’ the Age of Sad Passions?

And, in an era that ‘produces more than it represses,’ why haven’t the large decentralized networks that expand at an exponential rate forced older more centralized systems of power into exile? Continue reading “Capitalism: The Age of Sad Passions?”


The domination-resistance paradigm has been replaced by modulation that de-centers power and makes it impossible to cut the head off of the king.  Resisting the clutches of the school didn’t make one free of the police, or even the asylum for that matter.  It was only vulnerable to entropy and sabotage.  But when considered with the even more complicated relational network of control societies, formulating a radical political project on resistance to domination is inadequate.  Contemporary resistance has to consider that governance thrives primarily off of transgression.  Continue reading “resistance”

Capitalism: Open System, Collection of Processes

Take capitalism. It consists of moving elements such as the relative freedom of capital, contractual labor, the commodity form, and market/anti-market forces. But this complex (or “axiomatic” as Gilles Deleuze would call it) is both incomplete by itself and connected to other force-fields upon which it depends or which may intrude upon it. These include climate patterns, weather systems, animal-human disease jumps, the availability or [pg 37] depletion of clean water, fertile soil, oil, and other “resources,” educational systems, scientific activity, adventurous investors, medical practices, religious evolution, collective spiritual priorities, consumer trends, asteroid showers, and many other processes. Continue reading “Capitalism: Open System, Collection of Processes”

Neo-liberalism is the problem of how to govern through the autonomy of the governed when they are no longer virtuous

Dean, Governmentality 2nd edition, 190-1

Neo-liberalism, in this form at least, is a response to a kind of ‘political reproduction’ problem that is posed by neo-conseratives in the United States and is embodied in the Republican Contract with America (Cruikshank, 1998). This is the problem of how to govern through the autonomy of the governed when they are no longer virtuous. Continue reading “Neo-liberalism is the problem of how to govern through the autonomy of the governed when they are no longer virtuous”

A post-welfarist regime of the social

The ‘social’ is no longer the diverse sector that is subject to the ineluctable logic of bureaucratic rationalization under the aegis of the welfare state. Rather, the social is reconfigured as a series of ‘quasi-markets’ in the provision of services and external to the state, and the forms of ‘natural liberty’ on which they depend, to one of constructing centres of agency and activity, of making them durable, and of implanting continuous relations of authority. These centres are then placed under the discrete and indirect surveillance of regulatory authorities in order to normalize, stability, and optimize activities, identities and power relations.

A post-welfarist regime of the social [Dean, Governmentality, 2nd edition: 200-3]  Continue reading “A post-welfarist regime of the social”

PhD Exam Reading List

Area 1: Non-linear Historical Materialism Continue reading “PhD Exam Reading List”

Christian Marazzi, “Financial Entropy: The Struggle Within and Against Empire”

Presented November 18, 2010 at “Empire: A Retrospective”, The University of Pittsburgh.

  • The Context: A tension within Empire between its aspirations and the processes by which is pursues them.
  • The First Point: The Colonization of Spheres of Life
  • The Second Point: Financial Capitalism and the Overproduction of the Commons

The full summary can be viewed as a pdf here, or you can read it below. Continue reading “Christian Marazzi, “Financial Entropy: The Struggle Within and Against Empire””