Postnihilistic Speculations: The Ontology of Non-Being

southern nights

For speculation which founded itself on the radical falsity of the Principle of Sufficient Reason would describe an absolute which would not constrain things to being thus rather than otherwise, but which would constrain them to being able not to be how they are.
….Quentin Meillassoux

Is this what we’ve been waiting for all along? The movement beyond the troubled circle of Being and becoming, of Time and its figural and literal tropes of disquieting lapses into finitude? The fragments of this lie all around us in such thinkers as Nietzsche, Bataille, Deleuze, Badiou, Zizek, and so many others within this metamorphic thought of a non-thought, this disquisition of an anathema.

My friend Cengiz Erdem in his essay Postnihilistic Speculations on That Which Is Not: A Thought-World According to an Ontology of Non-Beingcharts such a history:

A speculative move in the way of mapping the cartography of an ontology of non-being…

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Ethics of the Anthropocene?

Much appreciated as always dear Craig. I shall return to this post as well as our recent dialogue on the Promethean responsibilities and the Hermetic ambitions of the Anthropocene as soon as possible. Meanwhile here is Catherine Malabou’s take on the subject

southern nights

 …the “ancient wound” that, never healed, “lets . . . the stars / Into the animal-stinking ghost-ridden darkness”…
……– Robinson Jeffers

This morning I got a pleasant surprise. My friend Cengiz Erdem, of Senselogi©, a Cyprian who lives in Kyrenia and teaches social psychology, literature, philosophy and critical theory, who received his doctoral degree in Cultural and Critical Theory from The University of East Anglia in May 2009 with The Life Death Drives, his PhD thesis quoted me and provided a wonderful reflection and opening onto his own philosophical stance: Altering the Supposedly Predestined Future. Cengiz in a previous post outlined his basic philosophical stance this way, saying,

To begin at the beginning we shall say that philosophy is the dialectical process of truth in time, it is an infinite questioning of that which is known, a continuity in change of the unknown, a practice of situating eternity in…

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Slavoj Zizek on 9/11: New Yorkers Faced the Fire in the Minds of Men

On this day 15 years ago the world changed irreversibly… The trauma of humanity gave birth to a new world driven by disorder, destruction, suffering and death… And the fury unleashed by this event has been put to many evil uses in the way of a total subsumption of the Earth under chaos since then… Is it worth mentioning that the inordinate measure of negativity now engulfing us still remains to be overturned?



Two Hollywood films mark 9/11’s fifth anniversary: Paul Greengrass’s United 93 and Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center. Both adopt a terse, realistic depiction of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. There is undoubtedly a touch of authenticity to them and most critics have praised their sober styles and avoidance of sensationalism. But it is the touch of authenticity that raises some disturbing questions.

The realism means that both films are restrained from taking a political stance and depicting the wider context of the events. Neither the passengers on United 93 nor the policemen in WTC grasp the full picture. All of a sudden they find themselves in a terrifying situation and have to make the best out of it.

This lack of “cognitive mapping” is crucial. All we see are the disastrous effects, with their cause so abstract that, in the case of WTC, one can easily imagine exactly the same…

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A Conversation with Alain Badiou on Corrupting the Youth


 | Alain Badiou | 02 September 2016 ||

At 79 years of age the philosopher Alain Badiou surveys the youth: the youth whom liberalism has left without a compass, the youth tempted by Daesh, and so, too, his own youth, marked by communism, to which he remains faithful. Interview by Juliette Cerf for Télérama. Translation by David Broder

Faithful at whatever cost to the Maoist ideals of his youth, applauded by some and jeered by others, this politically-committed philosopher is the author of a multi-faceted oeuvre that has been translated worldwide. It ranges from metaphysical tomes based on mathematics like Being and Event and Logics of Worlds — soon to be followed by a third volume, L’Immanence des vérités — to a series of political interventions named Circonstances, via plays for the stage, seminars on the great thinkers of the philosophical tradition, books for the wider public…

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Slavoj Zizek on the Crisis of Democratic Capitalism (2016, Video)


Slovenian philosopher and cultural theorist Slavoj Zizek has long been considered one of the most influential leftist intellectuals alive today. Foreign Policy magazine ranked him among the top 100 global thinkers in 2012. His fiery rhetoric and forthright Hegelian Marxism have also attracted controversy, prompting some to call him “the most dangerous philosopher in the West.” He recently published a book on the migrant crisis and Europe’s current existential dilemmas, titled Against The Double Blackmail: Refugees, Terror, And Other Troubles With The Neighbors.

In an interview in his native Ljubljana last month with Red Zone, a program produced jointly by RFE/RL’s Georgian Service and Georgian public television, Zizek outlined his views about the current ideological state of left-leaning parties in the West, the connection between democracy and the market economy, and the refugee crisis that saw more than 1 million people arrive in Europe last year.

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Walter Benjamin’s Capitalism as Religion: Is there any chance of freedom?

| Gustavo Racy | Heathwood Press | Walter Benjamin’s fragment Capitalism as Religion has stood out in the philosophical and political left, especially with the outburst of the current global economic crisis. According to his hypothesis, capitalism was not only made possible through the development of political economy, which draws back into the rise of […]

via Walter Benjamin’s Capitalism as Religion: Is there any chance of freedom? — SubSense

The Storm Blowing from Paradise: Walter Benjamin and Klee’s Angelus Novus


| Stuart Jeffries ||

The Storyteller: Tales Out of Loneliness gathers for the first time the fiction of the legendary critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin. Each text in the book is accompanied by a Paul Klee illustration. Below, Stuart Jeffries examines the meaning that Klee’s Angelus Novus held for Benjamin.

To celebrate the book’s publication, The Storyteller is for sale at 40% off until Monday, August 8.

In 1921, Walter Benjamin bought Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus

What was so marvellous to Benjamin about this goofy, eternally hovering angel with hair that looks like paper scrolls, aerodynamically hopeless wings and googly if rather melancholy eyes? “This,” he wrote in one of his greatest essays, “is how one pictures the angel of history.”

The German-Jewish philosopher and critic hung Angelus Novus in every apartment he lived in, not quite as a guardian angel but a suggestive presence that would…

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Extract from ‘The End of Progress: Decolonizing the Normative Foundations of Critical Theory’ by Amy Allen


   | Amy Allen | Heathwood Press|

 In this book Allen, Professor of Philosophy and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, undertakes an important internal critique of the Frankfurt School. Leading with the question of how we might decolonize critical theory, she offers a timely critical examination of Jürgen Habermas’ and Axel Honneth’s respective projects, challenging the way these Frankfurt School thinkers employ such concepts as normativity, history and progress. Demanding that we re-imagine the way critical theory grounds its normative claims, Allen offers an intriguing reading of Rainer Forst before turning to the work of Theodor Adorno and Michel Foucault. In the process, she presents an alternative approach to history, initiating a fertile dialogue on issues of normativity and on the need for the “fuller realization” of certain normative ideals of the Enlightenment. The book concludes by introducing an alternative concept of open-ended practical reason as well as…

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Mr. Robot (Season 2, Episodes 1-2-3) — SubSense

Mr.Robot (Season 2, Episode 1) Mr.Robot (Season 2, Episode 2) Mr.Robot (Season 2, Episode 3)

via Mr. Robot (Season 2, Episodes 1-2-3) — SubSense

The Trouble With Pleasure: Deleuze and Psychoanalysis



13781804_814568355309280_3122299712074861924_nIs pleasure a rotten idea, mired in negativity and lack, which should be abandoned in favor of a new concept of desire? Or is desire itself fundamentally a matter of lack, absence, and loss? This is one of the crucial issues dividing the work of Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Lacan, two of the most formidable figures of postwar French thought. Though the encounter with psychoanalysis deeply marked Deleuze’s work, we are yet to have a critical account of the very different postures he adopted toward psychoanalysis, and especially Lacanian theory, throughout his career. In The Trouble with Pleasure, Aaron Schuster tackles this tangled relationship head on. The result is neither a Lacanian reading of Deleuze nor a Deleuzian reading of Lacan but rather a systematic and comparative analysis that identifies concerns common to both thinkers and their ultimately incompatible ways of addressing them. Schuster focuses on drive and desire—the strange…

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Interview with Nikola Tesla on Life, Death, Matter, and Thought (Video)

“In 1899, Tesla gave this interview which has rarely ever been published for over 100 years. In it Tesla pulls no punches and reveals the great conspiracy of science that was well under way, the suppression of ether and the introduction of a new fake science to conceal it as well as to suppress the work of Tesla himself.

Once, in 1899, Nikola Tesla had an interview with a certain journalist, John Smith, when Tesla said, “Everything is the light.” In one of its rays is the fate of nations, each nation has its own ray in that great light source, which we see as the Sun. In this interview this greatest inventor and seer of modern time unravels a new vision of humanity which we, the light warriors of the first and the last hour, have created a century later. A must read for every Ascended Master from the PAT.

Part of this interview is dedicated to Tesla’s critics on Einstein’s theory of relativity that discards the ether as energy. I have proved in the new Theory of the Universal Law why Einstein’s theory of relativity is entirely wrong and why there is no vacuum (void), and that everything is energy. Thus I confirm Tesla’s ideas as expressed in this interview.” ~ ✪ Blow Your Mind

Violence, Conservatism, and the Fate of Culture



In an epic trawl through the heroic narratives of Hollywood action movies, TV crime drama, and their maverick protagonists, from The Maltese Falcon to Dexter via 24, Amanda Beech explores the depiction of law, violence, and the politics of contingency, and asks what the resolute actions of these heroes have to tell us about conceptions of the political force of culture

A standard Hollywood version of the action hero that proliferated in the 1980’s is now the subject of parody from those outside of this system and its original perpetrators alike. This is the kind of hero that ignored the law, pushed his (it was usually a man) personal agenda and was free from doubt, contemplation or anxiety. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Bruce Willis set the precedent for these A-list machismo-steroid-pumped agents of destruction, and their presence honed this genre with sequels, franchises and…

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Interview with Althusser on Communist Movements


 “The dictatorship of the proletariat is not at all the same thing as Stalinism.”
| Althusser ||

In this interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais from 1976, Louis Althusser discusses his relationship with the PCF and the Prague Spring, Eurocommunism, China, and the contentious issue of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The interview was conducted by Alfons Quintà, translated from the Spanish by David Broder.

Reading Capital: The Complete Edition — the first unabridged English translation of the collective work, including contributions from Balibar, Louis Althusser, Jacques Rancière, Pierre Macherey, and Roger Establet — is out now.

The French Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser, professor at Paris’s École Normale Supérieure and a member of the Parti Communiste Français since 1948, recently spent a few days in Barcelona. The 57-year-old Althusser, born in Algeria, is the author of numerous books of worldwide notoriety. The most important include Reading Capital

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15 Temmuz Darbe Girişiminin Aslına Astarına Kurgulanmış Diyalektik Ötesinden Bakmak



| Michael Sikkofield ||

Dünyada bu işin amacının ne olduğunu tamamen bilen yalnızca bir avuç insan olduğundan eminim. Haliyle vereceğim bilgiler dışındaki yorumlarım tahminden ibaret olacaktır. Fakat gerçek olma olasılığı epey yüksek tahminler…

Türkiye çoktan iki kutuba bölündü, AKP’liler ve laikler. Bu anlatacaklarım fanatik AKP’lilere işlemeyecek. Bu anlatacaklarım lafta Atatürkçü geçinip, AKP’ye muhalefet etmekten gözü kor olmuş ve Rusya’dan, BM’den, oradan buradan medet uman denyo kesime de işlemeyecek. Duvara karşı da olsa, ben yine amme hizmetimi yapacağım. Önce kısa bir bilgilendirme ve hatırlatma faslı:

Dün gece, 15 Temmuz yaklaşık 22.30 saatlerinde darbe yapılacağı ve köprülerin askerlerce kapandığı duyulmaya başladı. F-16 ve helikopterler tepemizden geçti, silah ve bomba sesleri duyuldu. Çok kısa sürede de işin sadece TSK’daki bir azınlıkça yapıldığını fark ettik. O andan itibaren ben de dahil birçok insanın aklına aynı şey geldi: “Tiyatro”. Evet bu alenen tiyatroydu, fakat bu bir AKP tiyatrosu değildi, değildir, olamaz. O…

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Fredric Jameson: Universal Conscription and the Citizens’ Army



| Fredric Jameson ||

An American Utopia radically questions standard leftist notions of what constitutes an emancipated society. “If,” Jameson asks, “business, the professions, religion, even the labor unions (let alone the post office or the Mafia) are inadequate vehicles for dual power, what can then be left in late capitalism as an already organized institution capable of assuming the parallel and ultimately revolutionary role on which alone radical social change depends?” 

This is the moment to mention a final candidate, the only subsystem left which can function in so truly revolutionary a fashion. It is a thought that must have first come to me many years ago, inspired by an image by one of our greatest political cartoonists. I think it must have been during the first year of the Eisenhower presidency, if not still during the campaign, when the last vestiges of the New Deal still survived in…

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A discussion worth revisiting at this historic post-Brexit juncture

Yanis Varoufakis

Today is a historic day. Post-Brexit the EU is entering a new, furious phase of disintegration. DiEM25’s initial response can be read here. Tomorrow I sum up my reaction in two articles (one in The Guardian and one in Project Syndicate – plus a Greek one in Εφημερίδα των Συντακτών). Till then I think it useful to revisit the 26th April discussion I was honoured to have with Noam Chomsky at the New York Public Library.

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Prometheanism 2.0 – Introduction by Bassam El Baroni

Prometheanism is an ‘-ism’ derived from its namesake the Titan Prometheus who stole fire from the Gods of Greek mythology and taught humans how to make their own tools. Prometheus’s name means ‘forethought’, his Titan brother was Epimetheus meaning ‘afterthought’, Prometheus’s course was driven by his brother’s erratic actions when they were both given the mission to develop creatures to inhabit earth. Already – through this ancient mythological component inscribed in the term Prometheanism – we can ascribe a basic lattice of connected ideas that forms a research area for subsequent Prometheanisms thereon. This lattice is composed of: thinking for the future and planning (evident in Prometheus’s name, forethought), a need for rationalism or sound reasoning since thinking for the future, and planning cannot be guided by mere hunches, the contestation of power based on the breakdown of boundaries between what is perceived to be given by nature (the Gods didn’t grant Prometheus permission for fire, he stole it from them) and what is human-made (with the stolen fire he went on to teach humans to unearth iron and craft tools for their survival and wellbeing), putting thought and action in the service of a totality of humans, and finally living with the consequences of such articulations-in-action bent on the progression of humans (for Prometheus this meant harsh punishment by the Gods, ironically through the metaphors of infinite growth and eternal repetition, his regrowing liver devoured by an ever-encircling eagle).

If we graft these components onto more recent portrayals of the promethean, we find them obstructed by questionable notions of morality[2], smuggled into fear-mongering scenarios that deter from more urgent concerns, or damaged by the actual misuse of rationalism. The latter emerged at the point when rationality and reason were thought to be encrypted in objective reality and not socially constructed processes[3]. As for the fear-mongering scenarios, the romanticism of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) is a kind of blueprint for a cinema-script imaginary endlessly populating screens today, associated with the limits of the human and the idea that there are givens that we should not tamper with because they are greater than human. The film industry is obsessed with and hammers into our heads the idea that there is something vitally given in nature, an élan vital that if we dare challenge, nature will take its revenge (Prometheus’s punishment), this is opposition to artificiality by an industry that is now almost fully based on artificial man-made technology.

Opposing this, philosopher Ray Brassier calls the embrace of artificiality ‘the promethean trespass’, humans making the given. This is regarded as a sin by many because it consists in “destroying the equilibrium between the made and the given between what human beings generate through their own resources, both cognitive and practical, and the way the world is, whether characterised cosmologically, biologically, or historically.”[4] Prometheanism 2.0, a temporary label for the work of a wide group of thinkers and actors, can be said to be primarily concerned with the development of concepts, methods, and aesthetics for making the given, i.e. the construction of reality through the transformation of the equilibrium between the made and the given. However, its gist has to do with the much broader issue of discerning and contesting the concepts, limits, and powers that stand against “articulating action and knowledge in the perspective of totality”.[5] The event intends to unpack these various dimensions from their political and aesthetical angles offering a snapshot of what a contemporary prometheanism questions, articulates, and is concerned with.

[1] Ray Brassier, 2014, Prometheanism and its Critics. In #Accelerate: The Accelerationist Reader Mackay, Robin and Avanessian, Armen (eds.). Falmouth: Urbanomic, 469-487

[2] Alberto Toscano writes “Prometheanism is precisely the refusal of the articulation between divine (or political) authority and human mortality. […] To the extent that domination is still based on the exploitation of our mortality – and especially of the cares and fears that so often prevent political mobilisation – the figure of Prometheus is […] the bearer of the open question of how we, creatures that draw their breath in gasps, can manage not be subject to the violent prerogatives of sovereignty.” The Plea for Prometheus, 2009

[3] This is the misunderstanding and misrepresentation of science as reason-giving rather than cause-revealing.

[4] Ray Brassier, 2014, Prometheanism and its Critics. In #Accelerate: The Accelerationist Reader Mackay, Robin and Avanessian, Armen (eds.). Falmouth: Urbanomic, 469-487

[5] Alberto Toscano, The Prejudice Against Prometheus



via Dutch Art Institute

How To Fake Your Way Through Hegel



Perverse Egalitarianism

Look, it’s the Hegel age – you know it and I know it. It’s been the Hegel age for the past 200 hundred years, but only recently have we come to realize that in all the recent attempts to “overcome Kant” there is no overcoming Kant like the Hegelian overcoming of Kant. Thus Hegel is back (because he never left).

Now, the problem with Hegel is that, well, he is too Hegelian – too difficult to understand, too German and inaccessible, too time-consuming. Fear not, dear future Hegelians! Here are a few useful tips on faking your way through Hegel – if you follow these, you will surely come across as the most intelligent and thought-provoking expert on all things Hegelian. 

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Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work

A new manifesto for a high-tech future free from work by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams

via Verso

Here are some more insightful and in depth takes on Inventing The Future1779303_1505913316339136_2644416062274766485_n

The Future

Neoliberalism has repurposed the idea of “modernity” for its own ends;[11] but now is the time, say S&W, for the left to reclaim it, by devising a “future-oriented politics capable of challenging capitalism at the largest scales.” Change will not come about as a result of wishful thinking, or by turning our backs on the future altogether. The left must approach the concept of the future as a contestable, hyperstitional field.[12] Likewise the concept of freedom ought to be revised as mutable and synthetic rather than fixed and natural. “Whereas negative freedom is concerned with assuring the formal right to avoid interference, ‘synthetic freedom’ recognises that a formal right without a material capacity is meaningless.”[13] Rather than an emancipatory action, freedom cannot be considered as separate from power.[14] The power to act independently allows us to achieve what is beyond our current capabilities, and is the basic requirement for postcapitalism:

One of the biggest indictments of capitalism is that it enables the freedom to act for only a vanishingly small few. A primary aim of a postcapitalist world would therefore be to maximise synthetic freedom, or in other words, to enable the flourishing of all humanity and the expansion of our collective horizons. Achieving this involves at least three different elements: the provision of the basic necessities of life, the expansion of social resources, and the development of technological capacities. Taken together, these form a synthetic freedom that is constructed rather than natural. (p80)

Freedom, in the form of free time, ought to be the basis of any emancipatory movement, particularly a postcapitalist one; not the negative freedoms for further employment or greater consumer choice. It is necessary therefore to “reject the centrality of work” in ordinary people’s lives.[15] Likewise, humanity itself must be freed from the cultural and social definitions of the humanist mould, as “[i]t is only through undergoing the process of revision and construction that humanity can come to know itself. This means revising the human both theoretically and practically, engaging in new modes of being and new forms of sociality as practical ramifications of making ‘the human’ explicit.” (pp82-83)


Building FuturesInventing the Future

Finally, we will close with a few quick comments to try and clarify some other important points raised in the responses. Sophie and David critique our emphasis on disappointment as a productive affect, and what they see as our rejection of the power of anger. We want to be clear that we absolutely see a role for anger in leftist politics. When Joe laments that we do “not profess an equal love for the present” and warns that “love of the future sits dangerously close to hatred of the present”, we plead guilty. We find the present state of the world intolerable. Our own political stances are mobilised by anger about atrocities small and large that we see every day: anger at friends being beaten by police truncheons, anger at the epithets thrown at the homeless, anger at watching yet another black life snuffed out by the state, anger at the online and offline viciousness visited upon sexual minorities, anger at the mental health issues we see so many friends struggle with, anger at the casual fascism of crossing a border legally, and anger at the outright brutalities forced upon those who cross illegally. Anger has always been and always will be an important resource for those marginalised by society. The anger about abusers and the vitriol tossed at sexists, transphobes, and racists is entirely warranted. And Sophie and David are right when they say we don’t outline the parameters of this argument clearly enough. So to be clear: anger has always had and will continue to have an important affective role in leftist politics. We believe we have to do a lot more work to sort out precisely what we think about social media, along with the ethics and politics that might accompany it. As a society, we are still learning how to use these new tools and develop informal codes of behaviour. But it is clear that social media has been of immense benefit to marginalised communities in finding respect, support, strength, and a voice. We in no way want to dismiss this.

We would also add one smaller clarification to their piece. Sophie and David write “S&W display their ‘only after the revolution’ tendencies here, stating that ‘[p]luri-versalism…relies upon the elimination of capitalism and is dependent upon a counter-hegemonic postcapitalist project as its presupposed condition of existence’”. This is not our argument however, but that of Walter Mignolo (The Darker Side of Modernity, 275). He – we think rightly – recognises that in a world of capital, any vision of many worlds will only be many worlds under capitalism. Any effort to build a pluri-versalist order must therefore simultaneously be one which is anti-capitalist. Not a stagist argument about the priority of Marxism over decolonialism, but rather a simple point that pluri-versalism is incompatible with capitalism.

~ Williams and Srnicek at  The Disorder of Things


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Badiou: Down with Death!

Alain Badiou

Let’s start from the notion of nihilism. What does it mean? Nihilism is a figuration, a diagnostic on the state of the world and of thought, which established itself in the nineteenth century (we could argue that in a certain sense the first nihilist philosophy was Schopenhauer’s) on the ruins of the old religious and class convictions – as if nihilism had come along to name the void in which the collective symbolisation found itself.

So we could say that nihilism is the negative subjectivation of finitude; it is fundamentally the organised or anarchic (either is possible) consciousness that because we die, nothing is important. The most classic figure of nihilism is the statement that everything is devalued, de-symbolised and untenable in the face of death. It is an equalisation of the totality of everything that could be valued, faced with the radical ontological finitude that death represents. This question of the relation between nihilism and values is, as you know, a central question in Nietzsche’s philosophy, which takes up this theme of nihilism in order to make a very important diagnostic and critical use of it.

In reality, the statement ‘because we die, nothing is important’ can remain a theological one. Indeed, we could say ‘Nothing is important, except God, except eternal salvation, except the other life…’; and we would then be embarking on something that is not nihilism, but the vocation for martyrdom or even placing hope in death itself, given that death is the only door to the infinite, and thus the only door to the value that matters, the supreme value. So we ought to say that full, complete nihilism is the nihilism that not only considers death proof of the inevitable devaluation of differences, but which completes this judgement with the death of God himself. So we can speak of complete nihilism only when the death of man is paired with the death of God. It was evidently in this sense that Dostoyevsky made one of his characters say that ‘if God is dead, then everything is permitted’. This is a nihilist statement in the sense that if God is dead, then nothing allows us to claim an inequality among different values. Judgement is itself of no interest, now that death is constituted doubly, both by the empirical death of men and the historical death of the gods.

In reality, this nihilism probably organises a complicated historical disposition – one that is still unfinished even today – which necessarily constructs what I will call a false contradiction, a contradiction that represents the two possible subjective variants of established nihilism.

The first position is a sceptical, atheist nihilism, which is in fact the most widespread ideology bearing it in the contemporary world. ‘Yes, it’s good to doubt…’ – and this is an absolutely fallacious interpretation of Descartes, when we know that what interested him was to prove the existence of God and to remain in doubt for the least length of time possible. It has become a sort of inheritance, with a long history – including in France – and one that results in the view that, fundamentally, the lightly sceptical reign of reasonable opinions combined with a smiling atheism is an acceptable subjective state, even if it does not seem very vigorous or exciting. It is a nihilist configuration, but it is what we might call a ‘non-tragic’ nihilism – the established, peaceable nihilism. The other position, on the contrary, is the frenzied desire for the resurrection of God – after all, the gods make quite a habit of reviving; they have always shown that their greatness is to mount a challenge to death itself.

This is absolutely what we have before us today, including at the level of average opinion: on the one hand, the will to preserve something of sceptical nihilism, of smiling atheism and the way of life that corresponds to it, and then, on the other hand, an attempt at the impossible resurrection of the dead God. This contradiction is, I think, a false contradiction, a contradiction that organises nihilism itself as a primordial renunciation of judgement and in particular as a renouncement of the category of truth. This contradiction – as is always the case with the great contradictions – today has a tragic and a comic form (though it is sometimes a sinister comedy). The tragic form is the extraordinary violent clash – which is always over oil fields (it is an oil-nihilism) – between sophisticated barbarism and what we might call archaic barbarism, killing either with the electronic drone or the butcher’s cleaver. In this latter case you are forced to invest something of your own person, whereas with the drone you can stay in your armchair and command the murder 3,000 kilometres away, before telling the President who signed the murder-order how it went. It is the tragic form because it is, all the same, haunted by death, murder, and occupation; and it is all the more tragic because it is not possible to see any way out of it, to see how it would be possible to give meaning to any kind of way out of this clash, precisely because it is a clash between two positions that are each in a certain sense untenable.

As for its comic form, we see this in the fact that newspapers can devote front-page headlines to the length of schoolgirls’ skirts, as if this were the news of the day. This will go down in history as ‘the skirt wars’… It is not wholly the same as the other nihilism, but in reality it expresses the same contradiction, because sceptical and nihilist atheism is also a whole universe of representations of femininity, of the relation to femininity, etc – and the impossibility of resurrecting the dead God also bears on this point. So this quarrel is the comic form of war.

We could ask what the two sides of this contradiction have in common. What they have in common is, ultimately, finitude. This is clear in the sceptical and atheist form of nihilism, for which it isn’t judgement that matters, but the free play of opinions. As for the figure of the impossible resurrection of the dead God, we know well enough that you can only get to God by manifesting and martyrising your finitude; so this is always a matter of the humiliation of finitude in front of the greatness of the infinite, which transcends and is external to it.

So in both cases it is the power of finitude that is convoked as the ground or territory of the opposition; and it is convoked in its quadruple operating form: that is, of identity, repetition, necessity and God himself. These four terms are, indeed, present at the heart of the contradiction that I am talking about.

Identity, because it is evidently an identitarian war. A ‘war of civilisations’, a war of religions, a war between the West and what is not the West, a war between democracy and tyranny: it has countless names, but it does indeed manifest itself as an identitarian war. Repetition, because in a certain sense it is a scene that has already been rehearsed, particularly in the representation of a conflict between the West and the Orient. Here we can mobilise the crusades, or, in the inverse sense, the expansion of the Muslim religion under the Ottoman Empire, or again in the other sense, colonialism and the Christians imposing their authority over Muslim peoples – in either case, it is a historically constituted scene being repeated. Necessity, because there is the necessity to deploy modernity conceived as the irreducible enemy of tradition. This is the question of symbolisation, of value, which is posed as the need for modernity to be able to develop without the hindrances, the reticence and the objections of tradition. So ultimately we can clearly see that God is the dividing line between, on the one hand, scepticism – which includes the necessity or authorisation of blasphemy – and, on the other hand, the attempt to resuscitate the dead God, which instead speaks to respect for the contents of the faith.

The common term in this conflict is the exacerbation of the power of finitude. What I want to note here is that identity, repetition, necessity and God are in fact concentrated in the theme of death. The thought of finitude is essentially a deadly and mortifying [mortifère et mortifiant] one. Death is the implicit or explicit recapitulation of the four terms.

Firstly, identity. In the logic of finitude, we only know who someone is when he is dead. Death is the seal that allows us to say what someone is – otherwise you still do not know what he is capable of. This is a theme that you will find in Greek tragedy. It is death that comes to seal the destiny of individuals’ identities but also of peoples’ identities: we know of the eighteenth-century fascination for the fall of the Roman empire, which was the point where it was possible to grasp and to consider what the identity of the Roman empire had truly been, in its own being. There is a rather terrifying phrase of Sartre’s on this point, that ‘to be dead is to be prey to the living’. Death is effectively the moment when you can no longer argue back or plead your cause against the verdict that the living choose to pass on you.

Repetition. Death is what makes every individual substitutable for any other. ‘Death is the great equaliser’ – a theme that we find extending everywhere across all religions. At the moment of death you stop being a king or a toiler; you will die, and faced with this terrifying threat of death and the last Judgement, anyone will be substitutable for any other. Death is the means by which humanity indefinitely repeats its constitutive finitude. That’s the meaning of the meditation pursued inEcclesiastes: ‘Nothing new under the sun’. That is, that everything is heading toward death, without death itself changing anything. [Which then brings us to] the magnificent metaphor ‘All the streams flow into the sea, and the sea is never full’. This community-in-death is also an annihilation of time, absolutely cancelling out time’s creative capacity: ‘What are a hundred or a thousand years, when they can be wiped out in an instant?’ (Bossuet).

Necessity. Death is the only thing that we are certain of. Everything else is aleatory and variable – ultimately, the pure necessity of human life is crystallised in death. Malraux has Stalin saying (and it’s been questioned that he did), doubtless on a day when he was feeling melancholic, that ‘Ultimately, it’s death that wins’… even if you are a Stalin. This is Stalinist nihilism.

And then God, evidently. God has always been connected to death. God is the promise of immortality, indeed, immortality in itself. God is the name of non-death.

You see that death is the motif that recapitulates the instances of finitude, also because it is convoked as the ultimate argument every time that we suppose, or invoke, the possibility of humanity’s immanent, effective access to some truth of an infinite power – we always say ‘in the last analysis, man is a mortal animal’. From this point of view, I always admired the canonical example you learn in school of what a logical argument is: ‘All men are mortal, and Socrates is a man, so Socrates is mortal’. Connected together in this example is a triple relation between (1) necessity – that is, syllogism, as the logical form of necessity, (2) the pretention to wisdom or greatness as embodied in Socrates, and (3) the knot between the two, death. This pedagogical syllogism is a toxic vehicle of finitude. That it is why it is given to everyone as a principle of logical wisdom.

Now it would be interesting to ask what the absolute modern form of that is. I think that it’s not at all a matter of insisting on the value of death, giving it an important place, but rather a case of covering up its finitude. That means calmly setting this finitude at a distance, relegating it to lost corners, if possible, with the idea that, in any case, we already live a long time… Fundamentally, the idea is that death can ultimately be covered up by a carpet of commodities. Consumerist mobility, the possibility of humanity always having another go within its reach, the serial ‘another’ of the commodity (another object, another journey…) is in reality what covers up the categories of death, at the same time as being the same as it. If we think about it, commodity consumerism is also, ultimately, the repetition, the identity of objects etc. So it is death in its consumable form. I always have this feeling that when we buy an object, no matter what it is, particularly the most useless objects – that is, the most amusing ones – it is like in the Middle Ages when people used to buy indulgences. It is buying a little guarantee against the vileness of death, a little slice of anti-death fetish. The image I have of that in my mind is that after having little by little been covered up by these commodities, and then finally disappearing behind them, we are dead: and that is where the true reality, the truly immortal reality, triumphs – the immortality of the market. That is the great comfort – life is covered up by little parcels of indulgences, such that this covering ends up displacing death simply because it is identical to death.

In reality, I think that the great element of modernity is to have generalised slow death, that is, the avoidance – as much as possible – of catastrophic death. That is why our societies find it very hard to deal with catastrophes. There must not be catastrophes: this is pathological. Tragic, unexpected death is unacceptable. Suddenly, death has arrived – but what is it doing here? What is the government doing? The plane to Thailand is meant for relaxation, not for smashing into the ground and killing you. We are forced to feel this as a terrible drama. Why? Ultimately we have much less chance of being killed in the plane than walking down the steps; this is not at the level of general statistics, but because it is a death out in the open, a death that does not fit into the law of modern death, which means dying very slowly, and, if possible, almost without noticing.

The thesis underlying all this, it must be said, is that death is the constitutive principle of humanity as such. The dereliction of man as ‘the being for which there is death’ – the problem being to deal with the extreme anguish that this conviction provokes. The contemporary philosopher who thought this through most deeply was Heidegger. Indeed, he said that from the point of view of man’s immanent end, he is ultimately ‘a being toward death’, and he mounted a fundamentally important meditation on finitude on this basis. I’ll read you an extract from Being and Time [all quotes used here are from Joan Stambaugh’s English translation]:

Ending does not necessarily mean fulfilling oneself. It thus becomes more urgent to ask in what sense, if any, death must be grasped as the ending of Da-sein […] Initially ending means stopping, and it means this in senses that are ontologically different. The rain stops. It is no longer objectively present. The road stops. This ending does not cause the road to disappear, but this stopping rather determines the road as this objectively present one.

Here Heidegger is distinguishing – and here I’ll return to the terms I used before, between the finite as passive stopping and the finite as an operation. The rain stops: it has disappeared, it has stopped passively. Whereas if the road stops, it is because it is its own end, it has led us somewhere which is its end, an end that constitutes the road as a direction, a track, leading from one point to another. In this case, the end closes off the possibility of operation.

Hence ending as stopping can mean either to change into the absence of objective presence or, however, to be objectively present only when the end comes. The latter kind of ending can again be determinative for an unfinished thing objectively present, as a road under construction breaks off, or it may rather constitute the “finishedness” of something objectively present – the painting is finished with the last stroke of the brush.

So here we immediately have the metaphor of work, in the fact that the last stroke of the brush is the thing that brings us to its finished glory, whereas if the road stops because it hasn’t been built yet, then that is a transitory and passive stopping.

Even ending in the sense of disappearing can still be modified according to the kind of being of the being. The rain is at an end, that is, disappeared. The bread is at an end, that is, used up, no longer available as something at hand.

To put it another way, the bread is used up, but it has fulfilled the role it was made for.

None of these modes of ending are able to characterize death appropriately as the end of Da-sein. If dying were understood as being-at-an-end in the sense of an ending of the kind discussed, Da-sein would be posited as something objectively present or at hand. In death, Da-sein is neither fulfilled nor does it simply disappear; it has not become finished or completely available as something at hand.

To put it another way: in death, Dasein is not like the road, the rain, the table or the bread we ate.

Rather, just as Da-sein constantly already is its not-yet as long as it is, it also alreadyis its end. The ending that we have in view when we speak of death does not signify a being-at-an-end of Da-sein, but rather a being toward the end of this being. Death is a way to be that Da-sein takes over as soon as it is. “As soon as a human being is born, he is old enough to die right away”.

Heidegger’s description of death essentially consists of saying that, in man’s case, finitude is radically immanent. Death is not something external, indicating a passive finitude or a finitude achieved by human life: rather, human life is commanded or oriented toward death, from within; Dasein is ‘toward death’ from the beginning. To put that another way, the thing proper to man is that the question of death, of finitude, is internal to his existence and to his definition, and not the result of fulfilment or stopping, which are but empirical appearances. For human life, the end is at the beginning. It is an ineluctable component of the prospect of life in itself.

I think that here we have got to the densest and most complete form of an organic relation between human existence and finitude. In my view this is the most radical thesis concerning the assumption of finitude, because it is a thesis that makes finitude immanent in an absolute way. Ultimately it makes death play the same role that the absolute plays in Hegel’s thinking (as he ultimately concluded that if we manage to attain the absolute, that is because the absolute is with us from the beginning). If we take Heidegger’s texts seriously, they tell us that death is also the absolute of human life, that is, at the same time its beginning, its origin and its fate.

I want to defend another thesis concerning death, a thesis that, conversely, upholds the absolute exteriority of death – a thesis that makes death radically non-immanent. If you want the complete details, see Logiques des mondes, Book III, Section 4, a chapter entitled ‘L’existence et la mort’, where you will find the whole context that I can only give a brief sketch of here.

The idea I want to defend – and it’s a simple one, truth be told – is that death is something that happens to you; it is not the immanent unfolding of some linear programme. Even if we say that human life cannot go beyond a hundred and twenty years, for biological, genetic etc. reasons, death as death is always something that happens to you. One great thinker on death is La Palice. A truth we get from La Palice is that ‘a quarter an hour before his death, he was still alive’. That isn’t at all absurd or naïve. It means that ‘a quarter an hour before death’ he wasn’t what Heidegger sees as ‘a quarter hour before death’ – he wasn’t ‘a-being-toward-death’ ever since his birth. ‘A quarter of an hour before his death’ he was alive, and death happens to him. And I would maintain that death always comes from the outside. Spinoza said something excellent on that score: ‘Nothing can be destroyed except by an external cause’. Yes, I’ll take that. Spinoza gives a long proof of that, but I won’t give it too. This means that death is in a position of radical exteriority: we would not even say that a human reality, a Dasein, is mortal. Because ‘mortal’ means to say that it contains the virtuality of death in an immanent fashion. In truth, all that is is generically immortal, and then death intervenes.

I would define death as a mutation of existential status in a given world, which I will try to give you a general schema of. We are all in a world, Heidegger is right on that, we are somewhere, we are localised and our very being contains and retains this localisation. The metaphysical approach I propose is the following: the register of being [l’être] on the one hand, and the register of existence on the other, have to be distinguished. Being belongs to pure multiplicity, under one form or another, whereas existence is always existence in a place. So it is necessary to distinguish, as Heidegger masterfully did, between being and being-there [Da-sein]. Thought on being is one thing (as you know, I maintain that it fuses with the analysis of multiplicities, or mathematics), and thought on existence is another.

Let’s suppose that X and Y exist in the world. They have a being of their own, independent of the fact that they are in this world. But what does ‘existing in a world’ mean for them? It means: being in a state of being differentiated from all the others who are in the same world. The singularity of existence is the possible systemic differentiation between an element of the world and an element of the same world. So somewhere there has to be the possibility of evaluating the difference between the two. So we would say that ‘existing in a world’ is to be taken in a practically infinite web of more or less strong differences with everything that is in the world in question: that’s what constitutes the singularity of our belonging to the world.

We will use the term D(x,y) to denote the difference between X and Y, a relation whose value ‘measures’ the extent to which X and Y are different. The difference D(x,y) has a value that will situate itself between a minimum (µ) and a maximum (M). If it equals M, it is because X and Y are very different, they are as different as could be; if it equals µ, it is because they are almost the same, as similar as they could be. A world, in its basic machinery, is a game of differentiations proper to this determinate world, oscillating between a minimum and a maximum.

So on that basis we can say that for some person, ‘existing in the world’ is the measure of difference between herself and herself. This would be written E(x) = D(x,x). That is a very simple and ordinary idea. Existence is always something qualitative, it is an intensity: there are moments when you feel ‘alienated’, that is, very differentiated from yourself; so D(x,x) has a maximal value. And there are other moments where you feel yourself fully exist, where your existence is intense, you feel close to your true identity; so D(x,x) has a minimal value. Between the two it fluctuates via intermediate values, and X and Y are not absolutely different nor absolutely identical, but ‘averagely’ different.

We can also express it by saying that ‘the existence of a multiple something, relative to a world, is the degree to which in this world the multiple appears identical to itself’ (Logiques des mondes p. 285). This time, this is expressed in the value of the function ‘identity to oneself’ (annotated Id(x.x)): if Id(x,x) has the maximum value (M), that is because this multiple exists absolutely in the world under consideration; and if Id(x,x) has the minimal value (µ) that is because its existence in this world has an extremely weak intensity.

As for death, it is, formally, the sudden, contingent passage – imposed from the outside – from the situation Id(x,x) = p [p being some non-minimal value] to the situation Id(x,x) = µ. That’s why we can always say ‘that is what death is’, when we see death and we absolutely know that is what it is. We know that it’s death because x is still there, but the intensity of his existence is almost entirely eliminated. The fable of the immortal soul does not rely on the distinction between mind and body, but it is rooted within it, that is, in the distinction between being and existence. The idea of immortality is that in this world – the world that prescribed the intensity of an existence proper to this world – x is dead, but that does not mean that he is dead in every world.

Ahmed chose this moment to signal to ‘Mr. Badiou’ that he had to leave the stage instantly. The meditation he had been elaborating, alone on the stage, concluded with the slogan: ‘Down with death!’

See more from Badiou here.

What is the University today? (2015)

Apparently the situation of Universities is much worse than we thought it was, and it’s obviously getting worse by the minute to say the least indeed…

Foucault News

Heaney, Conor, ‘What is the University today?’, Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, 13 (2), 2015, 287-314

Full PDF here and here

What is the University today? In this paper, a Foucault and Deleuzo-Guattarian inspired approach is taken. I argue that the University is, today, a site of ‘neoliberal governmentality’, which governs students and academics as sites of human capital. That is, students and academics are governed to self-govern themselves as sites of human capital. This transformation in how students and academics are governed will be identified as a recent trend through the examination of relevant UK-government reports on higher education. Furthermore, it will be identified as a trend that ‘decodes’ knowledge – in the specific sense developed by Deleuze and Guattari – which renders academic knowledge (the knowledge the student ‘consumes’ and the knowledge the academic ‘produces’) meaningless.

Foucault, University, Deleuze and Guattari, neoliberal governmentality, knowledge

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The one percent discovers transhumanism: Davos 2016

“In a related session entitled “A World Without Work” the panelists were largely in agreement that the adoption of AI would further push the labor force in the direction of bifurcation and would thus tend towards absence of public policy pushing in a contrary direction, to result in increasing inequality.

In the near future AI seems poised to take over middle income jobs- anything that deals with the routine processing of information. Where AI will struggle making inroads is in low skilled, low paying jobs that require a high level of mobility- jobs like cleaners and nurses. Given how reliant Western countries have become on immigrant labor for these tasks we might be looking at the re- emergence of an openly racist politics as a white middle class finds itself crushed between cheap immigrant labor and super efficient robots. According to those on the panel, AI will also continue to struggle with highly creative and entrepreneurial tasks.”

Utopia or Dystopia

Land of OZ

The World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland just wrapped up its annual gathering. It isn’t hard to make fun of this yearly coming together of the global economic and cultural elites who rule the world, or at least think they do. A comment by one of the journalists covering the event summed up how even those who really do in some sense have the fate of the world in their hands are as blinded by glitz as the rest of us: rather than want to discuss policy the question he had most been asked was if he had seen Kevin Spacey or Bono. Nevertheless, 2016’s WEF might go down in history as one of the most important, for it was the year when the world’s rich and powerful acknowledged that we had entered an age of transhumanist revolution.

The theme of this year’s WEF was what Klaus Schwab calls The…

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Revolution of the Present (Full Film)

“Humanity seems to be stuck in the perpetual now that is our networked world. More countries are witnessing people taking to the streets in search of answers. Revolution of the Present, the film, features interviews with thought leaders designed to give meaning to our present and precarious condition. This historic journey allows us to us re-think our presumptions and narratives about the individual and society, the local and global, our politics and technology. This documentary analyzes why the opportunity to augment the scope of human action has become so atomized and diminished. Revolution of the Present is an invitation to join the conversation and help contribute to our collective understanding.

As Saskia Sassen, the renowned sociologist, states at the outset of the film, ‘we live in a time of unsettlement, so much so that we are even questioning the notion of the global, which is healthy.’ One could say that our film raises more questions than it answers, but this is our goal. Asking the right questions and going back to beginnings may be the very thing we need to do to understand the present, and to move forward from it with a healthy skepticism.

Revolution of the Present is structured as an engaging dinner conversation, there is no narrator telling you what to think, it is not a film of fear of the end time or accusation, it is an invitation to sit at the table and join an in depth conversation about our diverse and plural world.”

Copyright 2016, Multiplicities, LLC

Deleuze Speaks to Stivale

Comparative Literature

As we all know, the unwanted attentions of Jehovah Witnesses can be deflected simply by invoking the “Old Religion”. But what if you were to be doorstepped by someone hawking “analytical tools for the humanities and social sciences”? Would you know what to do?

[…] In retrospect, I realize now the extent to which I misunderstood completely Deleuze’s interest in my activities. Having viewed his interview with Claire Parnet in the Abécédaire, I now better comprehend how importunate my communications were, especially in light of statements he makes about his ill health and vieillesse (old age). Stating how much he enjoys having been “let go” (laché) and being no longer burdened by society in his retirement, Deleuze admits that what is really bothersome is when something catches hold of him again, for example, when someone who thinks Deleuze still belongs to society asks him for an interview. When that happens, Deleuze says he feels like asking if the person is feeling OK (“ca va pas, la tête?”), and hasn’t anyone told the person that Deleuze is old and society has let go of him? (ABC 1996, “M comme Maladie” [I as in Illness]).

What follows is an account of my discussion with Deleuze that I drafted immediately afterward, in French, in order to share it with friends and colleagues in France that I would meet there. I’ve revised it only slightly, but include parenthetically the text of certain of the prepared questions to which he graciously responded while I was there. I have one reservation about this account: because Deleuze was expressly reluctant to engage in an oral interview, I have been likewise reluctant to disseminate it widely. However, I think some of his thoughts, rendered frankly and spontaneously, need to be aired, so I take upon myself the responsibility (or blame) for sharing them now. In fact, many of his comments to me have now become public knowledge through the broadcast and commercial sale of Deleuze’s Abécédaire.


After I explained to Deleuze where I came from and the origins of the SubStance issue entitled “Gilles Deleuze,” we began talking about the American philosophical tradition and American thought, and we discussed the distinction between analytic philosophers in America and so-called continental philosophers. I explained to him that the “continentaux” were beginning to makes some inroads in the United States, and he stated that the analytical philosophers were responsible for killing off what he considered to be “la pensée américaine valable” (valid American thought), for example, by writers like Kerouac, e. e. cummings, Henry James, and even philosophers like Whitehead and others. He was surprised by my impression that, in the United States, scientific questions and research were dominant in relation to the humanities, by my remark that while philosophy was a discipline within the humanities, analytic philosophers were able to align themselves with scientists to the extent that both groups reached their “incontestable conclusions” through proof and reasoning. I described some U.S. discussion groups in which no one ever said anything that called into question the bases of the scientific method, instead practicing a hermetic approach to consider scientific questions. Deleuze did not understand how things could work that way, but he had encountered similar tendencies in some scientific writing in France. But I answered that in both scientific and literary writing in France, there was a great difference from the United States, since in France they knew how to write and to express themselves well. He agreed that one could not separate ideas from style, that if ideas were present there would also be style.

In any event, we spoke considerably about the American situation, and Deleuze spoke about it, telling me that we are in a difficult period, that there are good and bad periods: for example, at the time of the French liberation in 1944, or in 1968, there were things happening (des choses qui bougeaient), and also things that were being invented, during which people discovered new and interesting things. But now it was hollow, both in America and in France. I answered that the establishment of the International College of Philosophy, by the Socialist government, seemed positive, and he said, Yes, it’s a government initiative, but the government was not able to change tendencies that deeply propel societies. So, indeed, the College of Philosophy was interesting, he said, but constituted very little in relation to what was really occurring in France. I tried to press the question regarding the College, and he said that Félix would certainly have something to say about it. He said that Félix was one of the men he loved the most in the world, that he was enormously talkative, with opinions on everything, and that was completely opposite to Deleuze.

We touched on another topic, the material question of his analysis in L’image-movement (1983; Cinema 1: The Movement-Image), in which there are a considerable number of references to a wide array of films. So I wanted to know what sort of material support he had, how he worked, with a VCR or a movieola? In response, he laughed aloud, saying, “Not at all.” I said, “So it came from the fonds deleuze [the Deleuze archives], what he had in his head? He said Yes, from all that he could recall. But he continued, saying that one did not need to see the films again if one possessed an idea. That is what’s essential: with a small idea that one could communicate, no material support was needed; one simply needs to reflect, to present the small idea, thus to show how films, for example, are linked to this small idea. He said that, in the final analysis, he wasn’t interested in the cinema; the only thing that interested him was philosophy, and he only delivered his ideas to cinema in the light of philosophy. I said, “So why write two volumes on cinema?” He answered that he didn’t know why, that there was an idea that he had to communicate, but that there was very little depth in the first volume. The second volume, L’image-temps (1985; Cinema 2: The Time-Image), presented him with many more problems, requiring much more work. He really seemed to say that this work was not very important, that there was much more to be done, for example, philosophy. And work, that he conceptualized in an interesting way: when I told him I wanted to get my book on Vallès published, he said, Yes, that’s essential, to work; one shouldn’t have to be bothered with publication; that gets done all by itself, but it’s the work that counts! I was tempted, but did not say, that this view is easily expressed by him, a famous writer, but for those struggling to get published, it’s a little bit more difficult since one has to deal with both simultaneously.

There was another moment, toward the end of our discussion, which was gauged by the level of whiskey in my glass. When I’d swallowed the last drop, it was clear to me that he felt that the discussion was ending. So I said that I had written to him about the written questions that I was supposed to prepare, and asked if he was still willing to answer them. He then explained how much he held interviews in complete horror, and the only reason he had said yes to the written questions was in order not to have to say yes to the oral ones! Then, he said that if I really felt strongly about him answering these questions, he would do so, but could not promise me when. When he told me that I could send him the questions, I responded that I had them with me, so he said, “So show them, show them.” I said, “Wait; after what you’ve just said, I want us to agree to the following procedure before you look at them: if there is something in these questions that interests you, go ahead and answer it. After what you’ve just said, though, since questions are a priori uninteresting for you, there won’t be anything to answer! I hope, though, that there might be something interesting in them, but if something in them bothers you, just drop them.” He then began looking through them and said finally, “But these questions are serious.”

He then began to react to certain ones; for example, “In Le nouvel observateur, they have published that you intend to undertake an essay entitled ‘What Is Philosophy?’” He asked, They’ve published that in Le nouvel observateur? He said he didn’t know how they could have learned that since he’d only mentioned it to a few close friends. I said, Yes, and that’s what got printed, and he agreed, Yes, that’s what got printed, but indicated that he didn’t understand at all how. But later, he returned to this idea of what is philosophy: he spoke of a painting by Francis Bacon that he had in his apartment, and of the importance of true creation, of people who can express their ideas (people who have no ideas, he told me directly, you can read Vallès for twenty years, and if you don’t have your little idea, it’s a waste of time; but if you have your little idea, then you have to read Vallès completely, fully [à fond] and communicate this little idea); speaking of Bacon, he said that Bacon succeeds in creating this painting, but never manages to paint a little wave: Bacon creates a water spout, but not a little wave. And he, Deleuze, would like to succeed in creating a little wave (une petite vague), that is, an essay called “What Is Philosophy?”

Then, regarding a question about “postmodernism” (“What is the relationship between your theoretical projects and practices and those of other so-called post-modern [or even poststructuralist] works, for example, by Baudrillard, Lyotard, or Serres? Does the term ‘postmodern’ have a meaning, and if so what? If not, how might he conceive of the contemporary intellectual conjuncture?”), he laughed at the idea of “postmodernism”: he referred (somewhat inexplicably) to philosophers of the Chicago School, that this was just a way for them to amuse themselves by creating a “postmodernism,” nothing of real interest. Regarding the question on Baudrillard and another on Jean-Paul Aron, both of whom I cited (“How do you respond to Aron’s statement, in Les modernes, that thanks to Deleuze’s contribution, Anti-Oedipus does not cut its bridges with ‘legal culture,’ maintaining ‘literary civility, clannish complicity, fraternal smiles at Lyotard, Serres, Clavel, kindly gestures to Sartre, insistent homage to Marx, and especially writing a hymn to Lacan?”), he said that he noticed I was quoting cretins, real imbeciles, this Baudrillard, Aron. About Baudrillard, Deleuze admitted that he himself had so much difficulty expressing one idea in a book, even one that was long, and that the work of formulating clearly one small idea was very hard for him. So to see these people creating books in a quarter hour, without much thought, really irritated him, he found it absurd (aberrant), not serious, the kind of thing that really drove him to despair. As for Aron, about whom and whose book, Les modernes, he spoke at length, he said it wasn’t a nasty book, but was vulgar, not even a book, something written poorly and of little import.

As he leafed through the questions, he came back to Aron because of a question about Foucault (“Foucault is dead. What reflections does this disappearance evoke for you?”). He said that Foucault’s death was something terrible, not only because Foucault died, but because France lost a very important presence who caused imbeciles to hesitate to speak out, knowing that Foucault was there to respond. For example, Aron would never have written his book were Foucault still alive. Not that Foucault would have read it, not at all, but simply Aron would not have dared to write it. Deleuze maintained that Foucault did not function as “safeguard” (garde-fou), but rather as an “imbecile-guard” (garde-imbécile) and with the passing of Foucault, the imbeciles would be unleashed. He ended by saying that there really was no one now to replace Foucault, that there was a vacuum. And he himself, he said, was unable to do it.

He did not say much at all about Anti-Oedipus. I spoke to him briefly about our experience reading it together at the University of Illinois, about the trouble that some philosophers had with it. I mentioned how one Sartrean philosopher could well accept to read Lacan, but that from the first paragraph of Anti-Oedipus, he felt himself under attack, could not understand at all what was happening, and wanted to undermine our own activity, to makes us drop Anti-Oedipus for something else. He finally left the group after three meetings. Deleuze nodded that he understood completely; for him what they write is absolutely worthless, so he understood how what he wrote would be worthless for them as well, and that he expected nothing any different.

When I told Deleuze that I was working through A Thousand Plateaus and this work was what interested us the most, he laughed as if this were the funniest thing he had ever heard, that someone would continue delving into A Thousand Plateaus. In any case, he looked at these questions and told me that he would answer them during the summer vacation, and he added that, if he said yes, it was a sworn promise. I was very happy finally because he looked through these questions as if he really found them of interest. Surely he was being extremely polite, but he had no need to make such a formal commitment as he did. So we’ll see what happens next.


In any event, I did not consider the promise Deleuze made to answer my questions binding since he had provided more than his share of answers during our meeting. That same year, he published the second volume on cinema, L’image-temps; in 1986, he published Foucault. As ever, he had his own “petite idée” to pursue . . .

[Charles J. Stivale, The Two-Fold Thought of Deleuze and Guattari, pp. 228-234.]

 Oligarchy Disguised as Democracy 

Herein is exposed the representation of the real as if it is not a representation but the real itself… In other words, a truth is expressed delineating the representation of the pseudo-real of capitalism disguised as the presentation of the real conditions of existence…

“Such a state of affairs was, in Michels’ view, not attributable to the people in those parties being evil or uncommitted to their cause, but was inherent in the very structure of the new ‘democratic’ political system. In a world of competitive elections, where radical, progressive movements had to overcome opposition from well-resourced establishment elites in order to win power, they would be forced to adopt an internal organization that was both efficient and hierarchical. In the interests of creating a party machine capable of delivering victory at the polls, power would need to be delegated to specific people within the party, and anyone who held power, even for a short time, could be able to consolidate their position and grow that power base. Marginal as that power might be in the beginning, it would grow, and in time the people’s movements would become bureaucratic top-down behemoths, mirroring the very aristocracy they sought to supplant.”

syndax vuzz

He who says organization, says oligarchy.

So wrote German sociologist Robert Michels during the formation of Europe’s big tent ‘people’s parties’ a century ago. According to Michels—a committed realist, as we shall see—even the most radical and progressive of these new parties would eventually succumb to what he termed ‘the iron law of oligarchy’.

Source: How We Can Overcome Oligarchy Disguised as Democracy | Alternet

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