Friday, April 23, 2010

Silly season

Seeing as we're all in full essay/procrastination mode, I thought we might enjoy a bit of distraction that combines both:

The one about angel dust is my fave.

Good luck with the essays, comrades!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

As part of the Capitalism, Culture and Critique series, the Centre for the Study of Global Media and Democracy, Goldsmiths, University of London invites you to a debate and open conversation with Luc Boltanski (l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris), co-author of 'The New Spirit of Capitalism' (Verso 2005), and author of 'Distant Suffering' (Cambridge 1999), and Nancy Fraser (New School for Social Research, New York), whose most recent work is 'Scales of Justice' (Columbia 2009).

The event will take place on Thursday April 29th in RHB309 5-7, Goldsmiths, University of London and it will be followed by a drinks reception in the Senior Common room.

All are welcome so please feel free to circulate this information.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Education without Frontiers

Education without Frontiers: Workshop, Music Food, at Goldsmiths 18 March 5pm 2010;
March 15, 2010
Education without Frontiers: Has the UK Border Agency Overstayed its Welcome?

Speakers, Workshops, Music, Food
Date: 18 March, 5pm – late
Location: Goldsmiths, University of London

We stand united, as students and staff, in opposition to the new points-based immigration rules. They frame students as suspects and turn staff into border agents. Join us, meet others, and help spread the campaign!

With Les Back (Sociology Department, Goldsmiths) Phil Booth (NO2ID), Valerie Hartwich (Manifesto Club), Sandy Nicoll (SOAS Living Wage Campaign/Justice for Cleaners), Frances Webber (Human Rights Lawyer), speakers from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, No Borders, and more.

Organised by the Students Not Suspects campaign and hosted by Goldsmiths Students’ Union and Goldsmiths UCU.

Speakers and workshops in RHB 142 (Main Building) from 5PM to 8:15PM; food/social in the Stretch 8:15-10PM, music 10pm-late.

Location: Main building, Goldsmiths, Lewisham Way, New Cross, SE14 6NW
Closest train stations: New Cross, New Cross Gate
Buses: 21, 36, 53, 136, 171, 172, 177, 225, 321, 343, 436, 453.

The event is free; register at

More details about the Students Not Suspects campaign at:
Facebook: Students Not Suspects
Download a poster:

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Arcane of Reproduction - Fortunati

A few notes and questions/ideas on the Fortunati text in the reader.

1. The capitalist male/female relationship is an exchange between women and capital, mediated by men. This relationship operates through a juxtaposing of its formal appearance and its real functioning.
Again we see capital and the social relations around capital are prone to mystification - there is a dual character to the relationship, and a sense that the real functioning is somehow hidden from view. Exchange between the male worker's wage and the female worker's housework or prostitution work appears as such, but in reality there is an exchange between variable capital and housework, ie capital and the female worker, mediated by the male worker.
This reproduction work must appear to be a 'natural force of social labour'.

2. Female labour-power is posited as use-value, not exchange value. Fortunati says the exchange must not appear to be organised in a capitalist way. The houseworker's labour-power has no price. In what appears to be an exchange of equivalents - money/housework - the housework has no limit and no price. Therefore her exploitation is without limit. Whereas the male worker sells his labour to the capitalist for a set period of time, she sells her housework with no limit of time - till death do us part. Her chance to 'change contract' is limited.

3. Fortunati says capitalism is built upon the inequalities of power between and within classes. Why is this the case? Is gender equality impossible in a capitalist society? I think she means that women's work - housework and prostitution work - is always a capitalist exchange mediated by men, and that because women's labour-power has only use-value, not exchange-value, women face inevitable inequality. Fortunati says the only way capital can organise the production of 'labour-power' as a commodity is to define a specific process of production and its related exchanges.

4. Fortunati says the woman has two choices - sell her labour-power on the market, like the male worker, or sell it to the male worker as housework or prostitution work. Housework is a safer market. The male worker is obliged to buy housework in order to satisfy his needs (use-value) and replenish his ability to work etc. I think there's a very obvious question to be asked here. Fortunati almost seems to suggest an essentialist attitude to gender roles - the man is 'obliged' to buy housework rather than cook his own bolognese/wash his own pants etc. I appreciate that this is a fact of life for most women in the UK, let alone the rest of the world, but I don't think it is inevitable. But perhaps Fortunati is arguing that this unfair division of labour down gender lines is in fact an inevitable inequity in a capitalist society? Maybe this is explored more in the rest of her book.

5. Finally, a summary of Fortunati's concise but astute look at prostitution.
Prostitution work appears, at the formal level, to be a commodity, an exchange-value. But in reality the male worker has not received prostitution work but female-labour power. His aim is not appropriation of the value created by her labour but the satisfaction of his needs. The exchange is not an exchange of equivalents. Neither party is equal nor equally 'free' in the exchange. The prostitute cannot sell her labour-power legitimately - she is criminalised. This liberty to sell negates her personal freedom. The money is legitimate; the labour is illegitimate. But at least she sells it for a determinate time only, so she has slightly more 'choice' than the houseworker.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Deleuze, Marx and Politics

Following on from the discussion on Thursday afternoon about Marx and Deleuze:

Deleuze, Marx and Politics by Nicholas Thoburn

"A critical and provocative exploration of the political, conceptual and cultural points of resonance between Deleuze's minor politics and Marx's critique of capitalist dynamics, 'Deleuze, Marx and Politics' is the first book to engage with Deleuze's missing work, The Grandeur of Marx.

Following Deleuze's call for an interpretation that draws new relations and connections, this book explores the core categories of communism and capital in conjunction with a wealth of contemporary and historical political concepts and movements "” from the lumpenproletariat and anarchism to Italian autonomia and Antonio Negri, immaterial labour and the refusal of work. Drawing on literary figures such as Kafka and Beckett, Deleuze, Marx and Politics develops a politics that breaks with the dominant frameworks of post-Marxism and one-dimensional models of resistance towards a concern with the inventions, styles and knowledges that emerge through minority engagement with social flows and networks. This book is also an intervention in contemporary debates about new forms of identity and community, information technology and the intensification of work."

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Form and content

Completely forgot to mention this when writing the previous post. Those of you interested in Marx's style of writing - and in issues relating to writing in general - might want to consider the extent to which his occasionally peculiar style (a mix of equations, Dante, factory reports, ancient Greek, etc.) corresponds to issues of form and content. The relation of form to content is obviously a very broad issue with lots of possible applications, but what I'm referring to here is the extent to which what you say might determine how you say it; i.e. the notion that certain forms of expression might be more or less adequate to the content that they articulate.

You don't need Hegel for this problem, and you certainly don't need him to talk about it, but he might help illustrate it. Hegel wants unity with the Absolute, and yet he has to talk about the Absolute, thus remaining separated from it in a sense. He tries to solve the problem by saying that we become one with the Absolute through the process of learning and expressing our unity with it (see also Hegel's early, oddly mystical attempts to express his system in diagrammatic form, later abandoned for being too representational, and compare this to the consequently flawed but interesting interactive Hegel found here)

Marx obviously doesn't have to worry about such problems (or at least he doesn't have the same problems; you could perhaps go from form and content in Marx to theory and practice), but he does seem to touch on issues of form and content at least once of twice. See for example p.442-3:

"...The latter aspect will not be considered until the first section of Volume 3 of this work. In order that we may treat them in their proper context, many other points relevant here have also been relegated to the third volume. The particular course taken by our analysis forces this tearing apart of the object under investigation; this corresponds also to the spirit of capitalist production."

...might be interesting to relate this to the great lists that Marx reels out in this chapter (see pages 461-2, perhaps 478 and perhaps also the summary on 447)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Cut up machine

This is a website that features some discussion of the cut up techniques used by Burroughs, Gysin and others, as well as a few cut up generators that you can use yourself:

There's a better cut up machine here:
Type in a text and see what you come up with. I've put some of my own stuff into it, and have just produced two little statements that seem pretty apt here: "the writer is being example of a vaster construction" and "play on Marx's own famous opening words in words". However, as I was cheating a little by using an essay on writing techniques. So, in the interests of fair play, I used another text relating to my thesis as a whole; this produced "one speaks little of a little trite. Nonetheless, it's worth noting into an academia enthralled by postmodernism". ...Not quite sure what to make of that

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Talk by Bifo

Tues 2nd March, 6-8pm

Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi presents his new book ‘The Soul At Work: From
Alienation to Autonomy’ published by Semiotext(e).

Co-hosted by: Department of Art, Sociology Methods Lab & Micropolitics
Research Group.

Lecture Theatre, Ground Floor, Ben Pimlott Building,
Goldsmiths, University of London SE14 6NW

Free, Open to All.

Apocalypse, Tendency, Crisis

Further to a conversation in the pub earlier this evening:
This is a really interesting essay by Ben Noys on the ideas of apocalypse and crisis. It perhaps relates to some of the stuff that we spoke about this afternoon, regarding capitalism's alleged tendencies towards its own immanent demise, and does so whilst suggesting that the claims made by theorists such as Baudrillard, Deleuze and Lyotard reflect a similarly eschatological outlook.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

U.S. Economy Grinds To Halt As Nation Realizes Money Just A Symbolic, Mutually Shared Illusion

WASHINGTON—The U.S. economy ceased to function this week after unexpected existential remarks by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke shocked Americans into realizing that money is, in fact, just a meaningless and intangible social construct.

What began as a routine report before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday ended with Bernanke passionately disavowing the entire concept of currency, and negating in an instant the very foundation of the world's largest economy.

"Though raising interest rates is unlikely at the moment, the Fed will of course act appropriately if we…if we…" said Bernanke, who then paused for a moment, looked down at his prepared statement, and shook his head in utter disbelief. "You know what? It doesn't matter. None of this—this so-called 'money'—really matters at all."

"It's just an illusion," a wide-eyed Bernanke added as he removed bills from his wallet and slowly spread them out before him. "Just look at it: Meaningless pieces of paper with numbers printed on them. Worthless."

Immaterial labour links

Some of these articles may be of interest if you'd like to look into the issue of 'immaterial labour' and its relation to autonomia, and indeed to Marx's own labour theory of value.

Immaterial labour is a concept used to explain the sense in which much of the produce of labour under contemporary capitalism does not involve producing physical things, but rather knowledge, 'affects' (the production of emotions, well being, etc.), and conducting communication. As these are intangible it can seem hard to consider them under the rubric of Marx's account.

Some writers - and I'm thinking mainly of Negri here, as he's the one I'm most familiar with - argue that this corresponds to a potential emancipation of labour from the 'tyranny' of 'measure', i.e. from regulating it and ordering it according to fixed economic laws (the implication being that any militant form of Marxism that did not ditch the labour theory of value would end up replicating a form of capitalism, or at least a form of social domination). According to this view, 'labour' should not be thought solely in terms of the workplace or in terms of physical products; rather, it should be considered as the production of the very life of society itself (Negri adopts Foucault's notion of 'biopolitics' here). This means that labour is in a position to simply shrug off the 'parasite' of capitalism and produce social life according to its own needs and desires (you can see the influence of autonomia here in the primacy given to labour over capital).

A pretty useful summary of the idea, presented via a critique, can be found here. This article may be useful as it argues against the concept on the basis of Marx's own account.

An example of Negri's rejection of the imposition of measure on labour can found here - well worth a look

...and you may also be interested in David Graeber's excellent commentary on the Art and Immaterial Labour conference held at the Tate a few years ago (more to do with the role of radicalism within art and academia than anything else if I remember righhtly, but it's a great text nonetheless).

Criticisms of the related Italian Marxists Virno and De Angelis, and of their use of the now famous concepts of 'multitude' and 'the commons' respectively, can be found here and here.

Finally, the whole of Hardt and Negri's Empire is available online here

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Art and the 'right' to torture

Bruce Anderson, columnist for The Daily Mail and The Independent, tells us that "We not only have a right to use torture. We have a duty." He attempts to justify this assertion whilst implying that a society should be judged according to its cultural artefacts rather than its barbarity ("Our enjoyment of Shakespeare and Elizabethan madrigals is not blighted by Walsingham's rack-masters in the Tower of London"), and concludes with the following question: "which is the greater aesthetic affront: torture, or the destruction of the National Gallery?"
Not exactly what Marx had in mind when talking about objects acting like subjects and subjcts being reduced to objects, but its perhaps interesting to think of this in those terms - particularly if it's compared with some of the 20th Century avant-garde stuff on doing away with the notion of making 'things' and uniting art with life itself. Read Bruce and get irritated with him here, and perhaps compare and contrast with this, this, and this

'Anarchism, Nomadism and the Working Class: Lessons from Deleuze'

On Tuesday the 2nd of March Amadeo Policante will be giving a talk in the Politics department entitled 'Anarchism, Nomadism and the Working Class: Lessons from Deleuze'. Amadeo was a student on this course last year and is now doing a PhD. Should be very good. The abstract is below:

"According to Deleuze and Guattari the Western proletariat can be perceived from two points of view: as having to seize power and transform the State apparatus (the point of view of labor power), and as willing or wishing for the destruction of the State (this time, the point of view of nomadization power). In fact, even Marx defines the proletariat not only as alienated but as deterritorialized. We have then an objective and a subjective definition of the working class, which corresponds to an anarchist impulse and a process of capture of this same deterritorializing movement by the state apparatus. Starting from this duplicity which is always-already we may finally ask: What is today the working class? And in what ways might we approach the urgent question of how to understand and how to theorize *side
by side* with contemporary movements against capitalist enclosure?"

Tuesday 2nd march, 6-8pm in the Senior Common Room (Level 2 RHB)

Friday, February 05, 2010

No! One can't speak of a social mission in that sense!

Heidegger (1969) critiques Marx's contention that: "Philosophers have only interpreted the world differently; what matters is to change it."

(Translation is in the info box to the side of the video.)

This point came up in the seminar and Heidegger's response may be of interest.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Keston Sutherland

"What is bathos?" (On Marx and Alexander Pope)

Wed, 3 February 2010
5 - 6:30 pm
Main Building (RHB) 308

Keston Sutherland is lecturer in English at the University of Sussex as
well as a poet and founding editor of Barque Press.

Free, open to the public, no booking required.

Keston's essay 'Marx in Jargon' ( is great, so the talk should be good. There's a facebook site entitled 'Keston Sutherland: better than Crack', and I think we can take that as a good sign
I was talking to Dory at the party last night about Eyal Weizman's work, which deals with the ways in which military forces have appropriated contemporary(ish) theory to help them think strategically about urban environments. It doesn't really have much connection to the material we're looking at this week, but as it's interesting and will be relevant later - and as I'll forget to mention it if I don't do anything about it now - I thought it might be an idea to post a link to the following essay:

The art of war: Deleuze, Guattari, Debord and the Israeli Defence Force

"The Israeli Defence Forces have been heavily influenced by contemporary philosophy, highlighting the fact that there is considerable overlap among theoretical texts deemed essential by military academies and architectural schools..."

These are a few very provisional links relating to the issue of alienation, which we spoke about very briefly last week.
Firstly, here's the Chris Arthur text I mentioned, which is useful as regards the translation of the word(s):

If you want to pursue the theme further you could look at Marx's essay on Estranged Labour (from the 1844 Manuscripts), which can be found here: the
The section on Private Property and Communism in The German Ideology might also be useful (you need to scroll down for that section if you click this link): of course one of the really key sections of text relating to this theme is of course the description of commodity fetishism and the 'ontological inversion' that it involves, as set out in the sections of Capital that we looked at the other week.

If you want to go beyond Marx you might want to look at Lukacs' essay Reification and the Class Consciousness of the Proletariat (very influential, but very difficult in the later sections): or maybe
even Debord's The Society of the Spectacle, which is the text that I'm
most concerned with. Karl Korsch's
Marxism and Philosophy might be interesting too, as it's similar to
Lukac's text in some ways. you get really into the alienation issue I can point towards some
of the Hegel stuff that it stems from.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I haven't had time this week to write anything pertaining to last week's discussion, but I thought these two links might be of interest. Firstly, this is a link to collection of Marx and Engels' own comments on literature and art. They don't all relate to the issue of value - some are more to do with aesthetics, others touch on ideology - but it would be worth having a look through.

Secondly, as regards the issue of aggregations of socially necessary labour time, I'd reccomend this:
it's The Incomplete Marx by Felton Shortall, and it's a text that I found very useful when reading Capital. This chapter in particular may be worth a look - - as it raises this issue:

“Against any labour theory of value that suggests that labour is the substance of value it may be objected that labour is not homogeneous -- that there exists a vast array of different types of labour -- and that therefore labour cannot serve as the single substance of the value of all commodities. To overcome such an objection it is necessary to demonstrate how the multiplicity of different labours that enter the production of commodities can be reduced to particular expressions of some universal labour-in-general which may then itself serve as the homogeneous substance of value.”

Monday, January 25, 2010

Humphrey McQueen

A readable essay by the ever entertaining Humphrey McQueen makes some good points

Friday, January 15, 2010

Really good documentary on chaos theory:
What do these ideas do to theories about the freedom and self-determination of the individual subject (e.g. those pertaining to Marx and Marxism)?

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Here are a few links to some of the texts discussed in the lecture and seminar today.

Firstly, this is a link to David Harvey's website which includes a series of lectures on Capital:

John also mentioned Michael Hardt's notes on Capital (Volumes 1 - 3), but I'm having trouble finding a readable version. This one seems to have lots of items that can't be displayed properly, so I'll have a look for a better version when I have time.

We also spoke briefly about the Francis Wheen 'biography' of Das Kapital, which may be of interest as regards considering Marx as a writer. Wheen argues that Capital is a gothic novel in this excerpt; if you like it, maybe track down the book itself.

Also, John mentioned an essay by Nicole Pepperell called 'When is it Safe to ead Capital'. The essay looks at the first chapter of Capital in relation to Hegel's Phenomenology and Logic, and it can be found in the book of essays that he mentioned in the lecture. The essay is also available on Nicole's blog:

Finally, this text might be of interest in relation to the mode of presentation / mode of analysis ideas that we spoke about: (scroll down to section 3, entitled 'On the Method of Political Economy'). The analsysis / presentation issue is also raised in the afterword to the second German edition of Capital, which can be found in the Penguin edition. The relevant quotation is on p.102, but it's worth reading the whole thing (see in particular Marx's comment about 'coquetting' with Hegel on p.103).