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.