Economy, Ecumenes, Communism: Economy as the Devastation of Ecumenes, Communism as the Exit From Economy – by Jacques Fradin

This amazing critique of economic thinking is by Jacques Fradin. I cannot claim responsibility for either the English translation or the distribution of the text – credit should go to my comrades at No New Ideas Press.

We’ll consider the economy (of) capitalism, its “economic” character even more than its “capitalist” one, as the major force of destruction of spaces and forms of life (ecumenes).

The economy-capitalism as an expansive bloc of colonization—of bodies as well as minds.

The economy considered, therefore, as a laying-waste.

We’re going to start by positing the sameness of capitalism and the economy, of what we’ll call economy-capitalism (and not capitalist economy). Or to be perfectly clear: economy=capitalism.

And I’ll add this statement: there’s no non-capitalist economy or alternative economy, whether social or socialist, nor is there a communist or any other (alter) economy. Non-capitalism is non-economy, and communism is radically non-economic.

Further, to put it differently, there doesn’t exist any recoverable economy behind or underneath capitalism.

Starting from this proposition, we’ll arrive at the idea that the economy is a wrecking machine, and that in order to combat this destructive bloc it’s necessary to leave the economy, live communism and deploy anarchy.

This destruction can present itself in various ways: continuous primitive accumulation, internal civil war, extermination of non-economic forms of life, etc.

But it’s crucial to recognize that economy is a devastation: social or socialist economy is just as disastrous as economy-capitalism, as the capitalism that is thought of as “vampirizing the economy” (imagined to be above the economy, as a cancerous or parasitical superstructure besetting the “good economy”).

Economy is constituted and develops through the annihilation of every non-economic form of life, since for its regular operation economy needs a reduced, well-formed type of human, self-seeking and thus predictable individuals who can be counted on and are accountable for their actions. Reliability and accountability are the twin necessities for functional economy.

Of course economy implies a fanatical utilitarianism, but it requires much more: universal calculation, the penetration of the accountable mental form into the most intimate regions of every human being, transformed into (self-evaluable) capital. What is sometimes called the “religion of money” is more radically the “religion of economy”, of the rational scientific evaluable self-evaluable.

The struggle against this devastation of free forms of life implies that we exit from economy, implies political heresy or social secession.

It implies the solid construction of fighting communes and not the cobbling together of alternative economies, be they social, socialist or even communist, or other market socialisms or social market economies.

The economic alternative is not adequate to the situation, being unintelligible and hence dangerous, as is shown by the repeated failures of alternatives organized around an “alter” system of production, obviously still economic (and hence capitalist). The huge failure of socialist economy, and of its capitalist involution, should serve us as a warning signal.

Fighting against the economic devastation implies the construction of non-economic communes. The an-archic communism of these communes is the red thread with which this intervention is woven.

The main theme of devastation and exit from it will be laid out in six parts.

  1. The economy is a despotic political regime that was set in motion by the economic liberalism of the Physiocrats (the economists of the cult) as early as the 18th
  2. This political regime has been actualized, beginning in the 1930’s, in cybernetics or in the idea of the authoritarian technocratic government of experts (the core of fascism).
  3. Economic technocracy can be presented as the power of the committee of “industrial” engineers, engineers working for the well-being of humanity.

The Saint-Simonian industrialist Second Empire, defined as the French origin of European fascism, is the moment when economic technoscience identified itself with the political technoscience of the engineers. This authoritarian moment is decisive, in particular for the attraction it will exert on “social reformers” and “philanthropists” as diverse as Proudhon or Le Play, committed reformers, drawn to practical projects in the social justice domain.

  1. The finest flowering of this technocracy is planning, planning via the

market, which we can call neoliberalism.

Continue reading “Economy, Ecumenes, Communism: Economy as the Devastation of Ecumenes, Communism as the Exit From Economy – by Jacques Fradin”

Non-constitutive Rhetoric: Or the Banality of Control

I prepared this paper for the forthcoming National Communication Association conference for a panel on affect. As with a much academic writing, I followed fairly strict disciplinary constraints; in this case, I am bridging rhetorical theory and advances in affect studies from other fields. The argument is not terribly original, though I make a few important distinctions that weed out inadequate interpretations of affect and establish the political stakes of affect theory (from a Marxist perspective). I will cut out roughly 3/4 of the material (to about 1200 words) to reduce it to a 10 minute talk.

My purpose today is to update the rhetorical studies theory of subjectivity. I argue that ‘affect theory’ should replace the older psychoanalytic model of interpellation. To concretize my argument, I analyze banal rhetoric; namely, the cybernetic subjectivity produced by “stock listings, currencies, corporate accounting, national budgets, computer languages, mathematics, scientific functions, [and] equations” (Lazzarato, Signs and Machines, 80).

Before I dive in, let provide you with a short preview of my argument. I begin by considering an essential axiom of critical rhetoric theory: “rhetoric produces subjectivity.” The prevailing theory is that subjectivity is an ideological effect of an implied audience (Charland, “Québécois”; Delgado, “Chicano Movement”). The most popular explanatory mechanism is interpellation, which draws on Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalytic theory of symbolic mediation (Althusser, “ISA,” 162). I argue that this model is no longer appropriate, for as Eugene Holland argues, “what Althusser actually describes is not the ideological constitution of the Subject, but only of the citizen” (“Schizoanalytic Critique”). The consequence of my argument is that rhetoricians explaining subjectivity through interpellation limited their focus to the State and relations of obedience/disobedience.

Second, I explain how banal rhetoric reveals modes of subjectivity beyond the citizen-subject. My claim is that rhetorical power now “speaks, communicates, and acts ‘assisted’ by all kinds of mechanical, thermodynamic, cybernetic, and computer machines” (Lazzarato, Signs and Machines, 29). I analyze “the language of infrastructures” to show how rhetoric solicits subjectivity without constituting a people or even addressing a subject (Pasolini, Heretical Empiricism, 63; Lazzarato, Signs and Machines, 61). As such, I do not celebrate affects as a challenge to abusive power; rather, I follow in the footsteps of Frédéric Lordon, who argues in Willing Slaves of Capital that joyous affects are the very means of our contemporary exploitation.

Lastly, I suggest two consequences from studying banal rhetoric: one, artifact selection need not be tied to rhetoric that hails “the people,” invokes an identity, or provides a symbolic program of action (McGee, “The People”; Charland, “Peuple Québécois”; Delgado, “Chicano Movement”); and two, the political search for rhetorical resistance need not emerge from distinct counter-publics or out-law discourses (Warner, Publics and Counter-Publics; Sloop and Ono, “Out-Law Discourse”).

Briefly restating my roadmap: I begin by discussing interpellation, continue with a discussion of affect, and end with the consequence an affect theory of subjectivity for future scholarship. Continue reading “Non-constitutive Rhetoric: Or the Banality of Control”

Confronting Connectivity


The future is ‘connectivity,’ or so say today’s tech execs. “Soon everyone on Earth will be connected,” they declare, followed by worn promises of increased productivity, health, education, and happiness.[i] On its face, they are simply echoing the old trope of the level playing field repeated by empire builders from Niccolò Machiavelli to Thomas Friedman. What then is new? How connectivity forges horizontal connections between the virtual and physical worlds. As a consequence, the digital logic of combinatorial difference is now used as a tool of governance to “intensify, accelerate, and exacerbate phenomena in the world so that a difference in degree will become a difference in kind.”[ii] In sum, connectivity is the new techno-utopian business strategy that braids the physical with the virtual to create a socio-political empire of difference.

Google’s connectivity thesis is a sign that power is logistical – its authority resides in roads, cellphone towers, and data centers, which are overseen by legislators who keep the flows moving. Continue reading “Confronting Connectivity”

Defining the Virtual Concept: An Idea that “Does Not Refer to the Lived”

state-conceptThis is an excerpt from my forthcoming essay in parallax that provides a Deleuzian theory of the State by way of cinema, cultural studies, and rhetorical theory.

Defining the state as a virtual concept requires an explanation of the virtual in Deleuze’s work. Deleuze does not mean simulated, as in ‘virtual reality’, in fact: ‘the virtual is opposed not to the real but to the actual’.[1] The virtual and the actual together make up two mutually-exclusive sides of the real.[2] The actual is a given states of affairs that is populated by bodies. The virtual is a ‘pure past’ of incorporeal events and singularities that have never been present, which have ‘the capacity to bring about x, without (in being actualized) ever coming to coincide or identify itself with x, or to be depleted and exhausted in x’ while ‘without being or resembling an actual x’.[3] In this sense, the virtual includes all potential worlds, everything that inhabits them, all of their really-existing potentials, and their every potential to differ that coexists with he actual.[4] To illustrate the complex character of the virtual, Deleuze is fond of quoting Jorge Luis Borges, whose ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’ includes a fictional book of Chinese philosophy that creates an opening ‘to various future times, but not to all’. [5] ‘In all fiction, when a man is faced with alternatives he chooses one at the expense of others’, he writes, ‘in the almost unfathomable Ts’ui Pên, he chooses – simultaneously – all of them’ and thus ‘creates various futures, various times which start others that will in their turn branch out and bifurcate in other times’.[6] In fiction, the book is able to depict the virtual as ‘an infinite series of times, in a dizzily growing, ever spreading network of diverging, converging and parallel times’ that creates a ‘web of time’ – ‘the strands of which approach another, bifurcate, intersect, or ignore each other through the centuries’ and thus ‘embraces every possibility’.[7] Continue reading “Defining the Virtual Concept: An Idea that “Does Not Refer to the Lived””

Deleuze’s Transcendental Empiricism: “There is no ontology of Deleuze”

cosmic-decayThis is an excerpt from my forthcoming essay in parallax that provides a Deleuzian theory of the State by way of cinema, cultural studies, and rhetorical theory.

At stake for me is a method that proceeds by way of the “powers of the false” outlined in Deleuze’s Cinema 2. I find Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism to be fundamentally methodological, as it offers an analytic for distinguishing between those who use Deleuzian concepts (which must ‘maintain consistency’ even in transportation) and those who simply appropriate insights of his thought (e.g. the target of the essays, the sociologists of the Governmentality School, who are effectively postpositivists).

My defense of the false is methodological. Methodologically, I disagree with those scholars within Governmentality Studies who argue for a shallow definition of the state, which they justify through ‘brute’ empiricism. For these scholars, governmentality is strictly ‘an empirical mapping of governmental rationalities and techniques’ to ‘turn away from grand theory, the state, globalization, reflexive individualization, and the like’.[1] The type of empiricism they invoke is associated with social scientific research methods that use sample surveys, number crunching, and the statistical subject. Even as they are critical of the governmental techniques that result from similar methods, Governmentality Studies participates in a larger disciplinary project within sociology that relies on a particular configuration of realism, empiricism, and scientificity.[2]

Deleuze himself uses a reworked version of philosophical empiricism whereby ‘empiricism is a philosophy of the imagination and not a philosophy of the senses’.[3] Demonstrating the importance of the imagination, Deleuze readily draws on the literary works of Anglo-American writers to demonstrate the principles of his empiricism.[4] In his strictly philosophical work, it appears as the paradoxical formulation of a ‘transcendental empiricism’ as a philosophical alternative to Kant’s transcendental idealism, in which Deleuze separates the transcendental field from its empirical givenness to bypass the personal, individuated world of the subject.[5] Continue reading “Deleuze’s Transcendental Empiricism: “There is no ontology of Deleuze””

In Defense of Cruelty

NightOfTheHunterIncluded below is part of the Hostis Journal presentation that we gave at the Seattle Anarchist Bookfair last weekend. Expect audio of that talk to made available soon.

“The Night of the Hunter” (1955) fits the bloody mold of a southern gothic family drama in which an eccentric cheat exploits a small West Virginia community stricken by the Great Depression. Self-anointed Reverend Harry Powell is a serial killer that goes town-to-town ‘doing God’s work.’ The film tells the story of Powell’s ill-fated attempt to insinuate himself into the family of an ex-cellmate to find the hidden loot from a bank robbery. On the one hand, Powell’s fiery public sermons win him the respect of the townsfolk, who are eager to be assured that they are on the righteous path. While on the other, young, fatherless John is an unrelenting critic of authority.

Continue reading “In Defense of Cruelty”

Lazzarato, Signs and Machines Outline, Intro-Chp 2

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 “Lazzarato, Signs and Machines Outline, Intro-Chp 2”