Mark Fisher – Nubureaucracy and Capitalist Realism


Date: 12 February 2010

Mark Fisher – Nubureaucracy and Capitalist Realism

“Neoliberalism presents itself as the enemy of bureaucracy, the destroyer of the nanny state and the eliminator of red tape. Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism(Zer0 books, 2009) argues that, contrary to this widely accepted story, bureaucracy has proliferated under neoliberalism. Far from decreasing, bureaucracy has changed form, spreading all the more insidiously in its newly decentralised mode. This ‘nu-bureaucracy’ is often carried out by workers themselves, now induced into being their own auditors. Capitalist Realism aims to challenge the successful ideological doublethink in which workers’ experience of increasing bureaucratisation co-exists with the idea that bureaucracy belongs to a ‘Stalinist’ past.

This symposium will explore nu-bureaucracy and other related concepts developed in Capitalist Realism, such as ‘business ontology’ and ‘market Stalinism’. How has nu-bureaucracy affected education and public services, and how can it be resisted? What implications might the attack on nu-bureaucracy have for a renewed anti-capitalism?”

Respondent, Alberto Toscano, Department of Sociology



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Justice, Normativity, Temporality

My aim in carrying out this research project is to revise and update the contemporary conceptualizations of what it means to be just. I will initially analyse the status of justice in relation to normativity and temporality, especially focusing on how it furthers our understanding of the concept of justice to situate it in the processes of social, economic, political and cultural change. This will be followed by an investigation of the Law’s relation to time and the appearance of justice in and through particular legal-juridical decision making processes in spite of the absence of truth. I claim that the temporal nature of subjectivity need not be in a stark opposition to the eternal nature of truth. An understanding of truth as eternity situated in time can help us construct a theory of subjectivity which includes within itself the objective dimension of being. As a matter of fact the objective perspective can only be established from a subjective position. That said, this doesn’t mean that there can be no objectivity in-itself, but rather that we can only know this objectivity as it is for-us. Kant says that we can think the noumena, but cannot know them as they are in themselves, independently of our subjective access to them. Kant’s aim in his three Critiques (logic, ethics, aesthetics) was to replace divine justice with rational justice, or transcendent moral law with immanent ethical norms. For Kant the problem of ethics was strongly tied to the question of desire as productive action rather than as pursuit of something lacking. His attempt at laicizing or secularizing the concepts of morality and justice as well as the true and the good still retains its forceful effect on our contemporary understanding of these concepts.

Now, of course things have changed, humanity has moved on, we have traversed many hells since Kant. The developments in science and technology have rendered access to knowledge a lot easier but the establishment of truth and justice a lot more difficult at the same time. The instruments we have at hand are indeed constitutive of what we know to say the least. That said, the distinctions introduced by Kant between the logical and the causal, desire and need, as well as between contingency and necessity, should still be reworked through in such a way as to develop a dialectical notion of justice which takes into account the effects of the decisions based on it. It is here that we encounter Hegel who thinks in terms of consequences and whose dialectical thought is driven by a simultaneous interaction and transaction between proaction and retroaction.

In my investigation of the theories of justice in relation to the concepts of normativity and temporality I shall employ the philosophies of Kant-Hegel, Bergson-Deleuze, and Badiou-Zizek. These three series of thought-world have been specifically chosen because they are the representatives of three distinct stances in relation to the concept of justice in contemporary theory. The three series correspond to the modalities of transcendent justice (Kant-Hegel), immanent justice (Bergson-Deleuze), and eventual justice (Badiou-Zizek). The important thing to note here is that the latter two modes of being just (Bergson-Deleuze and Badiou-Zizek) are closely linked to Kant’s configuration of the relation between the reflective judgement and the determinative judgement, as well as the infinite/indefinite judgement and the negative judgement, later developed by Hegel.

The explication of these three modalities of justice will bring us to the issues of universality and particularity in relation to contingency and necessity. At this point we will direct our attention to specific empirical situations in the world which require justice to operate not just as a regulative ideal driven by the infinity of the noumenal and hence forever postponing its actualization, but rather delivering itself whenever and wherever it is required in accordance with a truth situated in its proper time and place.

The significance of the role played by our sense of justice in constituting our subjectivity is undeniable. But it is equally undeniable that our subjectivity is itself constitutive of our sense of justice. One should relate to the objects of judgement in such a way as to deliver justice to the subjects. Normative principles based on rational inferences are required to achieve this deliverance. I therefore propose a Hermetico-Promethean conception of justice, a post-nihilistic mode of judgement not just standing against the Evil produced by the nihilistic tendencies of our perilous times, but also producing the Good in accordance with new truths for the actualization of a less bad and more just future before the arrival of the worse future supposed to be predestined.

There is an interstitial time whereby thought takes it upon itself to transcend itself towards the unknown. That’s where abstraction, formalisation, and visualisation take on a temporal modality of being in and through which differential individuation and inferential rationality constitute new normative judgments giving form and content to a new common-sense in accordance with a new general-intellect giving its law to itself. That’s where the thought as void consumes itself and a contraction takes place in time, giving birth to a rupture between thought and being, a modal time-space between the past and the present, out of which a progressively altered future continually emerges and change takes place. It is only when and if the subject transcends its sense of justice that everything unjust disappears in a peaceful and full light of a fairness true to itself.


Kantian Reflections on Science, Metaphysics, and the Future of Time: Situating Kant’s Spatio-Temporal Modalities of Being and Thought in Contemporary Philosophy and Neuroscience

Inferential Rationality

Kant’s initial project was to explicate the difference between “knowing-what” (pure reason) and “knowing-how” (practical reason) in the way of laying the foundations of a scientific metaphysics. Counter to Descartes[1] and Hume[2] he aimed at situating the subject within the limits of what can be known by rational human beings. The Kantian subject is embodied, embedded, and extended in space and time as opposed to the Cartesian subject thinking itself out of bounds in search of a proof for the existence of God regardless of the limits of reason, and the Humean subject as “a bundle of perceptions” according to whom all knowledge is rooted in sensory experience. Kant’s shifting conceptualization of the subject explicates the relation between the knowing mind and the acting/interacting body. The question is simply this: how does it further our understanding of the Kantian subject to situate it in particular discursive contexts?

Following Leibniz’s “principle of sufficient reason” Kant introduces the question of “knowing-why” to the epistemological field in the Critique of Judgement. What I would like to do is to re-introduce the concept of time, or “knowing-when” into the empirical realism/critical idealism of Kant in such a way as to actualize a unilateral relation, or a non-relation between thought and being, or time and space. If the Kantian categorical imperative is based on a philosophical decision to posit time and space as synthetic a priori categories rendering it possible for the subject to ground the foundation of reason as the non-representable core of being, then we should indeed focus on Kant’s “manifold of sense” and thereby take it upon ourselves to distinguish between multiple modes, types, and layers of the representations of being and thought, organic and inorganic, the finite and the infinite. Now, let us take a closer look at Kant whose attempt at reconciling critique and construction strikes us as nothing short of a ground-breaking achievement.

It also follows naturally from the concept of an appearance in general that something must correspond to it which is not in itself appearance, for appearance can be nothing for itself and outside of our kind of representation; thus, if there is not to be a constant circle, the word ‘appearance’ must already indicate a relation to something the immediate representation of which is, to be sure, sensible, but which in itself, without this constitution of our sensibility (on which the form of our intuition is grounded), must be something, i.e. an object independent of sensibility. Now from this arises the concept of a noumenon, which, however, is not at all positive and does not signify a determinate cognition of any sort of thing, but rather only the thinking of something in general, in which I abstract from all form of sensible intuition.[3]

There is a transcendental difference between thinking and knowing what is thought, sensing and knowing what is sensed. Kant, for whom we can think the thing-in-itself but can only know it as it is for-us, situates objectivity within the subject itself and inversely. This structure of thought is indeed correlationist, as Meillassoux’s puts it, since it points towards the intertwined nature of being and thought. A non-correlationist account of the relationship between objectivity and subjectivity requires a thought thinking itself independently of being.[4] It is at this point that the role of paradox in Kant’s system of thought emerges as a constitutive element of his conceptual/critical apparatus. The paradox is that infinitude is within finitude itself. This immanence of the objective and timeless truth in time and space, the universal within the particular, the immortal in the mortals, is that which prepares the ground for Hegel to carry out the work of speculation necessary for the emergence of the rational subject as distinct from the conscious self. Kant’s great contribution to philosophy is first and foremost the split he introduces between the subject of enunciation and the enunciated content in such a way as to unite them. Hegel only had to situate this process of becoming other than itself in time. The whole Kantian edifice revolves around the dynamic interaction between ontological and epistemological modes of being and thinking. Kant finds the way of overcoming the paradoxes of dialectical process in and through submitting his thought to its own inner dynamics, that is, the dialectical configuration of immanence and transcendence in relation to one another.

Kantian transcendentalism has at its root the immanence of the transcendental itself. This accessibility of the Kantian conception of the relationship between finitude and infinitude, thought and being, the organic and the organic, the subjective and the objective renders it capable of generating new versions of itself. This openness to revision and update of the Kantian edifice makes it a generic thought. In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant explicates what he means by the synthetic a priori which is one of the core elements of Kant’s conceptual/critical apparatus. This apparatus is transcendental precisely because it situates thought and being as immanent to one another, the reflective judgement transcends the void which splits as it unites thought and being. The split is projected on the nature of reality in-itself. The in-itself is itself split within itself by nature. Since one becomes who one is by way of internalizing the work of nature, one projects onto nature what one has already introjected from nature. Kant’s thought is a circle, but it is in no way a vicious one, quite the contrary, it revises and updates itself as it goes along the way, increasingly resembling a spiral as time goes by.

What Neuroscience lacks is a cultural context, likewise what humanities and social sciences lack is a natural basis. Situated in-between the dualities of ontology/epistemology and phenomenology/noumenology, the goal of this project is to establish a non-reductive interaction between neuroscience and philosophy, nature and culture, organic and inorganic, empirical and conceptual, epistemological and ontological, transcendent and immanent, the objective and the subjective. In the way of establishing the link which has come to be considered missing between the mental phenomena and the physical entities, I shall attempt to test and implement new modes of being and thinking in and through which the subject constitutes itself as object of knowledge in contemporary social and natural sciences in accordance with a non-reductive account of the relationship between reasons and intuitions, thoughts and sensations, causes and effects, intentions and actions, inferences and references, concepts and percepts. And this is where Badiou’s formalisation of politics, art, science, and love as the conditions of philosophy becomes relevant. For Badiou’s whole project is itself an attempt at a potentially evental act situating truth as a process of eternity in time. His materialist dialectic opens up the possibility of producing new common-senses in and through political, artistic, scientific, and amorous practices as procedures of truth. By way of carrying out condensed reflections as well as intense meditations on the creative process as it presents itself in Sellars’ manifest/scientific images and Badiou’s mathematics-as-ontology/philosophy-as-truth-procedure, I intend to put social and natural sciences in a progressively productive relation with art and philosophy so as to overcome the problem of transmission among and communication between different temporalities, as well as the varying modes of being and thought within the same temporality.

There is an interstitial time whereby thought takes it upon itself to transcend itself towards the unknown. That’s where abstraction, formalisation, and visualisation take on a temporal modality of being in and through which differential individuation and inferential rationality constitute new normative judgments giving form and content to a new common-sense in accordance with a general-intellect driven by the infinity of the noumenal as a regulative idea. That’s where the thought as void consumes itself and a contraction takes place in time, giving birth to a rupture between thought and being, a modal time-space between the past and the present, out of which a progressively altered future continually emerges and change takes place.

Regulative Idea

In a world wherein conscious desire is absent, one cannot know what is to be done, what can be done, and how to do it. The reduction of consciousness to physical matter deprives humanity of the possibility of rationally intended change. The idea that intervening in the workings of nature solely by way of that which nature presents independently of culture is to fall into the trap one sets for oneself. It is not only necessary, but also possible to develop a theory of self-conscious subjectivity as being aware of oneself within one’s own time and space. Thought can mean something only in so far as it is situated within a context indeed, but for thought to mean something worthy of the name of truth it also has to leave the old paradigm behind, change the co-ordinates, reconstruct the context and perchance initiate a new course of continuity in change driven by a conscious desire to transcend the mode of being and thinking in which the subject is embedded and embodies at once. It is a matter of realising that theory and practice are always already reconciled and yet the only way to actualise this reconciliation passes through carrying it out and across by introducing a split between the subject of statement (the enunciated content) and the subject of enunciation (the formal structure in accordance with this content).

Mode of Enquiry

The nature of this study requires a trans-/multi-disciplinary and inter-/mixed-methodological attitude which goes beyond the opposition between merely conceptual and merely empirical approaches. It requires a mode of enquiry which takes its driving force from a gap that opens paths to a new field in which various perspectives interact and constitute a theoretical practice in order to initiate the emergence of a new subject out of the old paradigm. To achieve this one must not only pose new questions, but also provide new answers concerning the workings of the human brain and its interactions with the world surrounding it, out of which the concepts of mind, consciousness, affectivity, and intentionality emerge.

Conceptual Context and Structural Synopsis

As is well known since Kant, the instruments (software and hardware) social and natural scientists have at hand to investigate natural and cultural phenomena play a very significant role not only in the analysis, but also in the production of the object/subject of study itself. This study is a venture into the relationship between the manifest and the scientific images of humanity[5] designated by Wilfrid Sellars in relation to Alain Badiou’s materialist dialectic of the human animal and the immortal subject of truth. In both cases an intersubjective position constitutive of objectivity as a regulative idea is at work. The rigorous disjunction introduced by Sellars and Badiou between sentience[6] and sapience[7] will be investigated in conjunction with the contemporary thought embodied by and embodying transcendental realism/materialism, embedded in and extended to non-reductive naturalism. By way of referring to Laruelle/Deleuze as the representatives of non-reductive naturalism on one side, and Sellars/Badiou as the representatives of transcendental realism/materialism on the other, with Kant as the vanishing mediator in-between, I hope to demonstrate, at least in theory, that the constitutive link which has come to be considered missing between the mental phenomena and the physical entities is actually a non-relation rather than an absence of relation, for it is neither transcendent nor immanent to the subject, but is rather the manifestation of a purely immanent affectivity (Michel Henry), intervening in the ordinary flow of things, initiating a rupture in time as the subject itself.

The model of mind conceptualized by Gerald Edelman shows us that the mind is an embodied and embedded substance which has the ability to adapt to changes surrounding it.[8] I intend to use Edelman’s A Universe of Consciousness to reconfigure the relationship between the manifest and the scientific images of humanity and the transcendence of the human animal towards the immortal subject of truth. Taking into consideration the emerging technologies within the field of neuroscience, I hope to render a timely reconstruction of Kant’s theory of the subject and the role of representation in its self-constitutive process, which associates the algorithmic dynamics of the neuroplasticity softwares, as well as the programs visualising the neuronal interactions and even analysing the data provided by the synaptic network in all its complexity.

The investigation will begin by tracing Kant’s affinities with and differences from Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, and Bergson. This genealogical exposition will be followed by Kant’s links to the three other forerunners of German Idealism: Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. In the third part the reflections of Kant in contemporary philosophy – as embodying and embodied by Heideggerian Hermeneutics and Existential Phenomenology, Adorno and Horkheimer’s Negative Dialectic, Deleuze’s Transcendental Empiricism, Michel Henry’s Material Phenomenology, Laruelle’s Non-Philosophy, Sellars’ Psychological Nominalism, Badiou’s Materialist Dialectic, Žižek’s Transcendental Materialism as attributed by Adrian Johnston, Metzinger’s Phenomenal Self-Model, Meillassoux’s Speculative Materialism, and Brassier’s Transcendental Nihilism – will be explicated and developed in light of the recent advances in neuroscience (Gerald Edelman) and temporal-modal logic (Rudolf Carnap).

The next step will be to situate Kant’s conception of the subject into the context of neuroscience and the subject of neuroscience into the context of Transcendental Realism/Materialism and Non-Reductive Naturalism. I intend to reconstruct Kant’s edifice by theorizing a temporal metaphysics of modality transfiguring Kant’s paradoxical configuration of Transcendental Idealism and Empirical Realism. I shall therefore attempt to update Kant’s transcendental critique and metaphysical construction by situating it in time in such a way as to reconfigure the Kantian conceptual/critical apparatus. Resolving the tension between the transcendent and the immanent inherent in the Kantian enterprise, the project will culminate in a discussion of the different ways in which science, art, and philosophy may cast a focused view on current research in cognitive computation manifest in digital epistemologies and actualised in new neuroplasticity softwares in the service of a more effective pedagogy taking into consideration the embodied, embedded, and extended nature/culture of the living and learning subject.

Lastly but by no means least significantly, the eventual subject-matter of this research project is  simply the idea that ideas are objects we are embedded in and embody at once. In the light of this idea Kant’s conceptual/critical apparatus has the potential of functioning as a tool-kit to aid in laying the foundations of a new mode of the relation between being and thought, which would bring transcendental critique and metaphysical construction together without subsuming one under the other. Laruelle’s and Deleuze’s analogical mode of thinking (non-reductive naturalism) can be coupled with Sellars’ and Badiou’s digital mode of thinking (transcendental realism/materialism) in such a way as to split as one unites Kant’s Transcendental Logic and Transcendental Aesthetics in and through a disjunctive-synthesis. It is indeed possible to rehabilitate Kantian concepts and methods so as to infer, derive, and present a future oriented, non-reductive, and non-physicalist account of the contiguity between being and thought, the organic and the inorganic, the psyche and the soma, the subject of enunciation and the enunciated subject. Sustaining the conditions of possibility for a continuity in change is precisely the reason why I would like to put forth some theoretico-practical steps in the way of thinking reflectively within and determinatively without a Kantian frame at once, hence contributing to a mode of existence which proceeds by modifying itself ad infinitum – albeit only until the end of time.

Reference Matter

[1] Dogmatic Rationalism: the mind can have a priori cognitive access to reality, reason deduces features of reality. For Descartes correlation between thinking and being is given.

[2] Sceptical Empiricism: takes the intelligibility of sensory experience as given, reason cannot access a priori knowledge of a mind independent reality. For Hume objective correlates of sensory experience, sensations can be intelligible.

[3] Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Paul Guyer and Alan Wood (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 348, A252.

[4] Laruelle introduces a unilateral duality (a non-correlation) of time and space, which privileges time over space and intervenes in the symmetrically balanced nature of Kant’s neutrality constitutive of a bilateral relation (a correlation) between these two conditions of possibility for cognition to take place. Non-philosophy’s method of dualysis disrupts the equilibrium of the two terms at work in a dialectical process, subsuming the Two under the One as the None.

[5] The Kantian relation between conception and sensation is at work in the relation between the scientific and the manifest images of human behaviour. The distinction between thinking and sensing can be traced back to Kant.

[6] Sentience: phenomenal and experiential aspects of mind (consciousness).

[7]Sapience: psychological and functional aspects of mind (self-consciousness, awareness of consciousness).

[8] “Imagine a peculiar (and even weird) string quartet, in which each player responds by improvisation to ideas and cues of his or her own, as well as to all kinds of sensory cues in the environment. Since there is no score, each player would provide his or her own characteristic tunes, but initially these various tunes would not be coordinated with those of the other players. Now imagine that the bodies of the players are connected to each other by myriad fine threads so that their actions and movements are rapidly conveyed back and forth through signals of changing thread tensions that act simultaneously to time each player’s actions. Signals that instantaneously connect the four players would lead to a correlation of their sounds; thus, new, more cohesive, and more integrated sounds would emerge out of the otherwise independent efforts of each player. This correlative process would alter the next action of each player, and by these means the process would be repeated but with new emergent tunes that were even more correlated. Although no conductor would instruct or coordinate the group and each player would still maintain his or her style and role, the player’s overall productions would lead to a kind of mutually coherent music that each one acting alone would not produce.” Gerald Edelman and Giulio Tononi, A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 49.

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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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

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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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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Hickman does Chasm

Time Spiral Press

… and still more attentively the MAL atSocial Ecologies. (Also here.)


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The Object Smasher; or, the Philosophy of Rubble

Techno Occulture

“Literature is about turning the pre-verbal — if not pre-linguistic — objects into verbal objects with symbolic meanings attached to them. Literature constructs a world in which the objects gain new significance.”
…..– Cengiz Erdem on May 26, 2010

For though in nature nothing really exists besides individual bodies, performing pure individual acts according to a fixed law, yet in philosophy this very law, and the investigation, discovery, and explanation of it, is the foundation as well of knowledge as of operation. And it is this law with its clauses that I mean when I speak of forms, a name which I the rather adopt because it has grown into use and become familiar.”
……– Francis Bacon, Novum Organum: Book Two, II

This is a republish and revised edition of an earlier post on Graham Harman’s Object-Oriented Ontology. Descriptions of materialism below are of those physicalists and reductionsists, rather than…

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The Ecstasy of Kronos from Mortal Thought

It has been said by the poets, servants of the Highest:

Kronos, subduer of his sublime father Uranus,

Was exiled to the abyssal depths in the wake of

His double defeat at the hands of his wife and son.

Kronos castrated the god of the eternal Heavens, and

Aphrodite, goddess of Earthly Love, born of the phallus,

Rose naked from bloody foam upon the surface of the sea.

With the usurpation, haunted by ominous prophesy of his

Overthrow by his child, Kronos began to consume

Each of his children just after their births.

His first defeat came from the wrath of his

Wife Rhea, in revenge for his ingestion of

Her children, as he sought to flee his Fate.

Rhea saved her youngest child, Zeus, by

Deception, giving Kronos, after the birth,

A stone, wrapped in swaddling clothes.

After his upbringing by nymphs and goddesses,

Zeus returned with their arts, and giving Kronos

A poison, made him vomit up his immortal children.

Liberated, his brothers and sisters ascended to

Olympus, whereupon Zeus cast his defeated

Father into the abysmal depths of Tartarus.

The second defeat of Kronos occurred when he and his fellow

Titans rose in insurrection and war against the Olympians, their attempt

Narrowly suppressed, the Titans again consigned to the nebulous abyss.

Kronos endured his time, witnessing the centuries of fidelity

To his immortal children until their worship was silenced by

Agitators of a narrative of salvation, of God made flesh.

Mouths spread the story of Eternity descending into time,

Of a heroic god conquering Time and Death, with

Promises of salvation for the mortals of the Word.

The ancient stories of the gods were cast into oblivion,

Along with their wisdom, for one thousand years by the

Poets of the god-man, proclaiming him to be the final truth.

Yet, with their proclamation, Truth, herself, awakens, contesting

The hubris of the new claim as just another fleeting illusion of time,

As with all stories of mortals, children of Prometheus, the Titan.

The goddess of truth set them each upon the other,

In the agon, the One God, who commanded

There shall be no other gods, descended into Chaos.

The stories of the God proliferated in strife, as a hydra,

The new religion shattered amidst the inexorable flux

Of the Nameless, the god made flesh, captive of time.

Seizing the moment of his liberation, in his ecstasy,

Kronos again castrates Eternity, repeating his first

Godlike act, giving to mortals their allotment of memory.

A goddess again ascends from bloody foam, Historia,

The youngest daughter of Kronos, who inhabits the

Vortex of love and strife, a still monstrous site.

Agitators of denial still fight to the death over that

Which must forever remain incomprehensible, destroying

What is Holy in the name of a religiosity of hubris.

Religions of power, unholy politics of the soul, the

Poets of immortal illusions still seek to poison

Time and Earth, the Kronian revolution still on its way.

Yet, there are other poets, however, who are still here,

Amid the strife of mortal existence, who maintain

The remembrance of the Holy, and of the gods.

Traces remain of that which is nearest, and in intimacy

Seek to incite the urgency and intensity of a feeling

That awakens the ecstatic openness of the possible.

James Luchte: Philosophy

This is a poem which opens Mortal Thought: Holderlin and Philosophy, which will be published by Bloomsbury on July 28, 2016.


It has been said by the poets, servants of the Highest:

Kronos, subduer of his sublime father Uranus,

Was exiled to the abyssal depths in the wake of

His double defeat at the hands of his wife and son.

Kronos castrated the god of the eternal Heavens, and

Aphrodite, goddess of Earthly Love, born of the phallus,

Rose naked from bloody foam upon the surface of the sea.

With the usurpation, haunted by ominous prophesy of his

Overthrow by his child, Kronos began to consume

Each of his children just after their births.

His first defeat came from the wrath of his

Wife Rhea, in revenge for his ingestion of

Her children, as he sought to flee his Fate.

Rhea saved her youngest child, Zeus, by

Deception, giving…

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