Saturday, November 25, 2006

Marx's bottom

If you're not already thinking of Marx as an eccentric and lovable uncle I hope this will do the trick...

Taken from Francis Wheen's Marx's Dad Kapital: A Biography

'By the end of 1865 Das Kapital was a manuscript of 1,200 pages, a blotted mess of crossings-out and indecipherable squiggles. On New Year's Day 1866 he sat down to make a fair copy, "licking the infant clean after long birth pangs". It took just over a year. Even liver trouble and carbuncles couldn't thwart him: he wrote the last few pages standing at his desk when an eruption of boils on the bottom made sitting too painful. Engel's experienced eye immediately spotted certain passages in the text where the carbuncles had left their mark, and Marx agreed that they might have given the prose a rather livid hue. "At all events, I hope the bourgeoisie will remember my carbuncles until their dying day," he cursed. "What swine they are!" The boils disappeared as soon as he complted the last page. "I always had the feeling," Engels told him, "that that damn book, which you have been carrying for so long, was at the bottom of your misfortune, and you would and could never extricate yourself until you had got it off your back." Feeling as voraciously fit as 500 hogs", Marx set off for Hamburg in April 1867 to deliver the manuscript and oversee its printing...'

Friday, November 24, 2006

Caliban and the Witch

Here's an audio interview with Silvia Federici, author of Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

Societies of Control

With all the talk of discipline and control recently I've been thinking a lot about Deleuze's short text 'Postscript on the Societies of Control'. Definitely worth looking at and thinking about in terms of the shift between 19th century and 21st century London, work houses and MAs, industrial capitalism and digital capitalism.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Can Dialectics Break Bricks?

Worth watching if you can get it to work!

Burroughs films is great!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Scary books

The ten most harmful books of the 19th and 20th Centuries...

(The photo is from a Harry Potter book burning in New Mexico.)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Heidegger and Technology

More links to essays on Heidegger and Technology than you can shake a stick at...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Young Marx in fine form

I thought this short text from 1844 was interesting in relation to the Heidegger bit and some of the stuff that's come up in class with Feuerbach and The Essence of Christianity. (There's italics all over the original text so it may be use following the link and the bottom to read it.)

The profane existence of error is discredited after its heavenly oratio pro aris et focis has been disproved. Man, who looked for a superhuman being in the fantastic reality of heaven and found nothing there but the reflection of himself, will no longer be disposed to find but the semblance of himself, only an inhuman being, where he seeks and must seek his true reality.

The basis of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet found himself or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being encamped outside the world. Man is the world of man, the state, society. This state, this society, produce religion, an inverted world-consciousness, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of that world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in a popular form, its spiritualistic point d'honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, its universal source of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realisation of the human essence because the human essence has no true reality. The struggle against religion is therefore indirectly a fight against the world of which religion is the spiritual aroma.

Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and also the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

To abolish religion as the illusory happiness of the people is to demand their real happiness. The demand to give up illusions about the existing state of affairs is the demand to give up a state of affairs which needs illusions. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of the vale of tears, the halo of which is religion.

Criticism has torn up the imaginary flowers from the chain not so that man shall wear the unadorned, bleak chain but so that he will shake off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man to make him think and act and shape his reality like a man who has been disillusioned and has come to reason, so that he will revolve round himself and therefore round his true sun. Religion is only the illusory sun which revolves round man as long as he does not revolve round himself.

The task of history, therefore, once the world beyond the truth has disappeared, is to establish the truth of this world. The immediate task of philosophy, which is at the service of history, once the holy form of human self-estrangement has been unmasked, is to unmask self-estrangement in its unholy forms. Thus the criticism of heaven turns into the criticism of the earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of law and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics.....

The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism by weapons, material force must be overthrown by material force; but theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses. Theory is capable of gripping the masses as soon as it demonstrates ad hominem, and it demonstrates ad hominem as soon as it becomes radical. To be radical is to grasp the root of the matter. But for man the root is man himself. The evident proof of the radicalism of German theory, and hence of its practical energy, is that it proceeds from a resolute positive abolition of religion. The criticism of religion ends with the teaching that man is the highest being for man, hence with the categorical imperative to overthrow all relations in which man is a debased, enslaved forsaken, despicable being.....

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Heidegger on Marx on TV!

This seems to be the transcript (taken from the youtube site)...

Richard Wisser: ... Do you think philosophy has a social mission?

Heidegger: No! One can't speak of a social mission in that sense! To answer that question, we must first ask: "What is society?" We have to consider that today's society is only modern subjectivity made absolute. A philosophy that has overcome a position of subjectivity therefore has to say no in the matter.

Another question is to what extent we can speak of a change of society at all. The question of the demand for world change leads us back to Karl Marx's frequently quoted statement from his Theses on Feuerbach. I would like to quote it exactly and read out loud: "Philosophers have only interpreted the world differently; what matters is to change it." When this statement is cited and when it is followed, it is overlooked that changing the world presupposes a change in the conception of the world. A conception of the world can only be won by adequately interpreting the world.

That means: Marx's demand for a "change" is based upon on a very definite interpretation of the world, and therefore this statement is proved to be without foundation. It gives the impression that it speaks decisively against philosophy, whereas the second half of the statement presupposes, unspoken, a demand for philosophy.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Marx and Porn

Sorry for the sensationalist headline but Steven Shaviro (Of The Cinematic Body fame) has written about porn, Marx, and commodity fetishism on his blog The Pinocchio Theory.

'Porn today isn’t the least bit different from cars, or mobile phones, or running shoes. It embodies a logic of indifferent equivalence, even as it holds out the thrilling promise of transgression and transcendence — a promise that, of course, it never actually fulfills.'

This is possibly true on the level of consumption but is the production of pornography perhaps more vicious and exploitive than the production of cars, mobile phones, or running shoes, or is that based on a sanctified conception of the sex act? It makes me think about debates surrounding the legalization of prostitution as well.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Class Trip?,,1943016,00.html

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Century of the Self

Here's part one of four of a great documentary by Adam Curtis called Century of the Self:

Here's the rest of them...

City as machine for the extraction of surplus-value

Here's a link to a pdf version of the Scott McQuire text 'From Glass Architecture to Big Brother.'

I don't think it's mentioned in any of the essay questions but thinking about architecture and the city in terms of Capital might be a possibility for some of you. The Italian architectural theorist, in terms similar to those of Panzieri, has talked about the bourgeois city that emerged in Paris in the second half of the 1800s as being ‘objectively structured like a machine for the extraction of surplus value, in its own conditioning mechanisms the city reproduces the reality of the ways of industrial production’ (Architecture and Utopia, MIT Press, p. 83). Just a thought.

Friday, November 03, 2006

From Taylorism to Fordism

The book I mentioned in class yesterday on the development of Taylorism in France is From Taylorism to Fordism: A Rational Madness by Bernard Doray. They've got it in the library. Gramsci has a key essay called 'Americanism and Fordism' in his Prison Notebooks. Anyone looking for a fictional representation should look at Jeffrey Eugenides' novel of incest and hermaphroditity (and Fordism) Middlesex.

Sorry for the torrent of references. I know everyone has tons to read anyway but I figure they might help if people are going to be writing about some of these themes.

Here's the quote from The German Ideology mentioned yesterday...

'For as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a herdsman, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic. This fixation of social activity, this consolidation of what we ourselves produce into an objective power above us, growing out of our control, thwarting our expectations, bringing to naught our calculations, is one of the chief factors in historical development up till now.'

And here's another little bit on alienation from 'The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844'...

'What constitutes the alienation of labour?

Firstly, the fact that labour is external to the worker – i.e., does not belong to his essential being; that he, therefore, does not confirm himself in his work, but denies himself, feels miserable and not happy, does not develop free mental and physical energy, but mortifies his flesh and ruins his mind. Hence, the worker feels himself only when he is not working; when he is working, he does not feel himself. He is at home when he is not working, and not at home when he is working. His labour is, therefore, not voluntary but forced, it is forced labour. It is, therefore, not the satisfaction of a need but a mere means to satisfy needs outside itself. Its alien character is clearly demonstrated by the fact that as soon as no physical or other compulsion exists, it is shunned like the plague. External labour, labour in which man alienates himself, is a labour of self-sacrifice, of mortification. Finally, the external character of labour for the worker is demonstrated by the fact that it belongs not to him but to another, and that in it he belongs not to himself but to another. Just as in religion the spontaneous activity of the human imagination, the human brain, and the human heart, detaches itself from the individual and reappears as the alien activity of a god or of a devil, so the activity of the worker is not his own spontaneous activity. It belongs to another, it is a loss of his self.'

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Class against Class

Texts by a few of the authors mentioned in Storming Heaven, Negri, Tronti, and Panzieri can be found at Class against Class.

Call Centre Communism is available for download here...