Monthly Archives: February 2012

(Meta)Poetics of Theory: Axioms, Maxims, and Posits

  • The primary goal of theory is the bridge between what world as it is and the world as it could be.  Theory is the enacting element of philosophy. In this sense,  though, theory must emerge from relationships and events.  Any attempt to render theory into a rebuilt equation is, fundamentally, to disguise rationalism as structure that is actually mythic.
  • Myth is part of the symbolic order: an honest myth would mediate us closer to our “species-being.”  I moves us closer to seeing our relationships directly and the space they are produced within directly.  This space is itself produced, but by events as much as logics. By ruptures as mush as coherence.  If by dialectic, we mean seizing on the points of opposition that around those ruptures, so that we are battle forward, then we are dialectical.  If dialectics means something more abstract or simpler: then we are not.
  • We do know now what the Hegelian Endstaat is other than stasis. Given what we know about stasis from physics. The Endstaat then is total entropy.  Death.  As long as we are alive, there is no Endstaat.
  • All politics is identity politics: including class politics. To say that class is objective when other politics are not to render class static, but class is not static.  Even a good Marxist knows this because the material conditions and social relationships that class obscures are changing too.  To say that the objective manifestations of class are somehow more real than the objective manifestations of race or sexuality is fundamentally dishonest: tell that to the black lynched in Texas in the 1930s, the woman beheaded in Saudi Arabia for adultery, and the gay boy dragged behind a truck. How did capitalism causes these? Particularly the two that happened in an explicitly capitalist milieu?  Also is Saudi Arabia not capitalist?
  • However, if all politics are identity-based in part, which plural identities being in play. The goal of a radical politics is not to reify the other or to accept the identity as it was constructed for you or to deny that traits within an identity set describe something fundamentally real:  it is simple, the goal of radical identity politics is to end the need for itself, and that means its dialectic is that embracing identity must be in a sense to de-essentialize it.  To render it about the relationship and not abstract. The only worthy goal of identity politics is to end identity. All other notions about “respecting the other”  are merely an attempt to render the current state of relations between people eternal.
  • So in this way, the goal of class politics is not a just a class consciousness so that then we can have an underclass do the work of de-classing society for us. It must be to de-class society. Refusal to look at the problems of class politics as it has actually existed in all Marxist states is to hyper-reify things outside of history, which is to say, to ignore the reality of events and their traces.
  • The only way to be a person who believes in Marxist thought is to realize that things do change.  Systems that are vague enough to seem unchanged after events that rupture their logic are also too vague to be overthrown.  These notions don’t go anywhere.
  • So sectarian and academic Marxism must be abandoned by the logics that gave us sectarian and academic Marxism in the first place.
  • All politics are about the relationships emerging from events. So every battle must be fought on both local and global grounds:  the question isn’t reform or revolution. The question is how to do both: fight existing battles and the larger one.   “Capitalism,” or to put this more clearly, those who position enables them to easily exploit, knows how to do both.  They don’t just do it economically either.
  • We cannot talk as if we are dualists or merely formal materialists, but as if we believe that form emergence and defines material conditions. If we look at the physical world as a model, we find that matter is the form of energy and that these forms of plural.  There may be a totality we call the physical laws of the universe, but we cannot yet articulate a unified field theory without positing to something outside of our physical universe, thus undoing the totality within our concept of universe itself.
  • Therefore, this talk of totality and consciousness may describe something real, but to focus on it solely renders radical politics about knowledge that somehow emerges that enable action to a future we cannot know about a totality we cannot articulate.  The moment we can articulate things about a totality, we see it isn’t a totality.
  • Let’s not build the structures that lead us to despair, inaction, and the inability to even conceptualize victory since victory must be total.
  • Going back to the first axiom: Theory then must emerge from events and must clarify relationships. In so much that it fails to this: it is just knowledge for its own sake (philosophy) or myth (imaginary functioning as the symbolic.
  • All theory must emerge from action just like all matter emerges from the form of movement of energy.

Poetics of Theory: Maxims 2

Obscurantism and over-generalization as well as false clarity is counter-revolutionary regardless of its source. (In other words, I need to speak more clearly but never falsely. Consider this ideological self-criticism).


I just find it interesting that we often end up debating things endlessly over positions that are barely even opposed because of differing sets of jargon or load-language. Sometimes this masks real differences, and sometimes it creates false divisions. THis is the hazard of our hobby-description though. What I worry about is turning this into psuedo-activity. It’s a funny thing that people miss: Theory itself can become psuedo-activity. It can become a form of the actionism it critiques. It’s actionism of the mind.   In this sense the leftist academican is the shadow of black bloc and vice versa: they both have a repetition complex in which they cannot emerge.In simple terms, when you do the same thing despite it not working in the past and the context that generated it no longer exists: you are acting like a paranoid obsessive.The long march through the academy has already happened, and it created a generation of rhetoricians and p.r. students.

A poetics of theory: Maxims 1

The dialectic is a war in that no matter who wins, both sides are changed. This is what is meant by sublation into concreteness. The wreckage, be it mental or physical, or be it symbolic, imaginary, or real, has changed the landscape. This is both a metaphor and not a metaphor.

(Clarity vow number 1: I speak more clearly like a poet than a philosopher, while both jargon and metaphors can be  used to obscure or illuminate, metaphors have power beyond words: they signal the gap between the signified and signifier in the complex we call a sign.  Jargon hollows this out and makes the signified and signifier seem like an infinite regress of air).

The graveyard of theory: literary theory as corpse and corpus.

I say this as a person who works in literary theory, but literary theory is where critical theory goes when it is either rejected in its original field or loses its radical implications. It’s basically the elephant’s grave-yard of theoretical framework: one can see this as when structural linguistics lost clout in its field, it was moved into literary and cultural theory as well as Freudian psychoanalysis. Hence the continual push to place Marxism in it. Cultural Marxism is thus a sort of placement of Marxism as a relic.

Something being rendered into the category of literary theory that does not originate in it does not invalidate, but it does show that either it has reached a shelf-life on its own accord or by hositility in other disciplines.   So any attempt to render a critical theory merely as an aesthetic theory or a literary or cultural theory is to kill it, or even try to remove its trace.

There was a point that Baudrillard made that turns me cold: That the best understanding of critical theory is not in leftist politicians but in advertisers. I think there is a said truth that. They understand the generation of consciousness in far subtler ways than most Marxists sectarian or otherwise do.

Combating Liberalism to Save Liberalism: Honest Liberals versus dishonest liberals

One of the more difficult claims I regularly make is that the failure of political liberalism is tragic, but liberalism in current must be combated because it maintains itself at the expense of its own principles. The claim that one needs to out dishonest liberals (liberals pretending to be radicals on one hand, thus deluding the left critique and liberals who are apologists for regressive elements that empower liberal regimes on the other) is driven by the belief that some of historical liberalism had a progressive character.  But this acceleration of these contradictions has done little to nothing to fix the overall problem at hand.

The first thing one must to do is not let liberals lie themselves.  The second thing is not to think anything that is anti-liberal is progressive anymore than anything that is from a liberal regime is.

Questions of the Subject of Revolution:

Today I was asked: “What do we make of the political rather than simply analytical concept of the PROLETARIAT today (as the practical subject of history/liberation/revolution, as the “people of the people”)?”

To which I could only respond with more questions:

Questions: Why was early proletariat the subject of revolution: it was disciplined, organized, and educated comparably to peasants. IS this true today?  The slave in the master/slave dialectic in Hegel had the power of position prior to the emergence of a disciplined working class, but slaves could not coordinate nor discipline themselves to the level of fighting their oppressors.  If the working class no longer has the same discipline due to a mixture of de-socialization and relative declines in education compared to the few who are not proletariat  is this still a meaningful category?

Why is the lumpen proletariat seen as generally counter revolutionary: it expliots the proletariat itself terrorizing withing the class when criminalized, and it is not disciplined. Does it lacking revolutionary possibility? No, at least, according to Fanon and many Maoist. Yet what have we seen happen to groups that make the Lumpen it’s primary stock-and-trade of the subject?  Well, the FARC and Shining Path largely de-evolved into drug-running and terrorism, and the lumpen in Germany and Italy tended to vote for revolutionary fascists.

If the proletariat approaches universality? Can be it conscious of itself? An undifferentiated totality has no cognitive or mathematically comprehensibility. Badiou’s theory of the subject is key here. If majority of people no exist as wage-labor regardless of their skill set and discipline requirements? Is this a political subject?  If the sociological definition of the proletariat renders it universal within capitalism can it be said to have one class interest to which to be conscious?

The answers to questions greatly complicate Marxist theory, and Marxists who fail to look at this because of vague notions of “the people” or the “working class” or the “multitude” or the “masses” at the end of the day are using definitions and phrases to mask the hard social logics of figuring out who best is a revolutionary subject. Or even various competing revolutionary subjects.

Stuff from my two favorite Badiou translators: Tascano and Bosteels




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