Professor Boer over at Stalin’s Moustache has been charitably pointing out the bright spots in Graeber’s Debt, although he indicates that he has some damning criticism to follow:
Indeed, one could judge how egalitarian a society really was by exactly this: whether those ostensibly in positions of authority are merely conduits for redistribution, or able to use their positions to accumulate riches. The latter seems most likely in aristocratic societies that add another element: war and plunder. After all, just about anyone who comes into a very large amount of wealth will ultimately give at least part of it away – often in grandiose and spectacular ways to large numbers of people. The more one’s wealth is obtained by plunder or extortion, the more spectacular and self-aggrandizing will be the forms in which it is given away. And what is true of warrior aristocracies is all the more true of ancient states, where rulers almost invariably represented themselves as protectors of the helpless, supporters of widows and orphans, and champions of the poor. The genealogy of the modern redistributive state – with its notorious tendency to foster identity politics – can be traced back not to any sort of “primitive communism” but ultimatelyto violence and war (Debt, p. 113).
So I noticed that Graeber points out what Bataille pointed out in the Accursed Share, it is often largess that redistributes, but often for achieve or maintain that largess, not out of primitive communism or a non-consumptive capacity. So unproductive wealth is shared more readily as it is gained more readily though primitive accumulation of capital. But I fail to see, as I suspect Dr. Boer fails to see as well, how this would be a particularly new insight? The genealogy of the welfare state is not a means to give into democratic impulses (or corruptions if one takes Nietszche at his word), but is part of the design of maintance. Identity politics means this easier to naturalize as an organic whole which is fundamentally a fetish. A physically real unreality. But this is already implied in Marx’s terminology, which is not to say that Marx articulated this as well, but does not contradict the general thrust of Das Kapital.
Yet it is easy to be, the Marxist watch-word, undialectical about this structure, as if the liberal revolutions did not have some element of truly liberatory mechanism: so Graeber sees the structure trans-historically and thus prefigurative to the form, but the management of the nation-state through the welfare state does have roots in the tension between a truly egalitarian notion of “the people” as a universal and “the people ” as a nation. In other words, Graeber tries to make this a fundamental characteristic of attempts at violence and war against “primitive communism” and which thus manifests in tact in the welfare state, bu this misses that both impulses existed within the liberal revolution, otherwise it would have never been seen as break with the past, which it must have been to unleash and accelerate both productive and consumptive capacities.
Graeber is often interesting despite his naturalizing of proto-capitalist production and thus his transhistoricizing of prefigurative politics. In fact, his is instructive because his misreadings because even his valid points, of which their are many, are often limited by trying make structures transhistorical.
Finally, after a day of travel all of the North end of South Korea, I am back at dorm room apartment. Oh, the life of an expatriate lecturer, one gets to live in a “dormitory” well into their early 30s. Anyway, after vowing to move this blog anyway from abstractions, and mix things up a bit.
I am getting married to a wonderful woman: I was hesitant in some ways for a variety of reason, and I am hesitant to talk about my views on the contradictions within our concept of marriage. With a caveat, I opposed the idea of marriage for most of my early 20s and did, again, after my first divorce. My ex-wife and I are actually still great friends and both did and didn’t divorce for the common reasons: it was not infidelity, it was lifestyle incompatibility and money issues that stem from said incompatibility. I used to joke that I being a “Married male of any orientation should be a different gender category from an unmarried one.” I still, actually, feel that way in a sense.
Now, I am also a believer that no marriage arrangement is entirely natural: both polygamy and monogamy come with some strain and tension with most individuals inclinations and thus cannot be said to be or not be natural unless the social and environmental constraints are accounted for in a realistic fashion. I also a believer that very little avoidances of marriage are entirely without their aleinations even in a particular context, in Northern Europe where divorce and marriage are no longer common, the unmarried relationships often assume a form resembling in almost all domestic aspects a marriage. Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá document pretty convincingly that most narratives on sexuality have had a present bias and a pretty moralistically bleak view of libidinal economy, even in good works by Darwin and so forth. The book “Sex at Dawn” which is often taken as a defensive of polyamory can be properly be read as a defense of contextual relationships.
That said, both the abstracted notions of sex on sees in liberal-radicals like Judith Butler (who would never use that phrase) as well as hyper-conservative notions on sees in most people who defend traditional values as “biological” is highly problematic. Traditional values may have been biological in a specific context, but it takes more than will-power for a traditional context to make sense. In this sense, it is not without problems to see our current openness about sex and hook-up culture as a form of liberation. It seems to me that it makes the real objects of sex taboo and also allows us to turn people into objects in lieu of taking about the real objects of sex.
I use “objects” and not object because I think both “radical” and “conservative” discourse about sexuality is entirely reductive to a stupid degree: if sex were about merely procreation then we would have “heat” cycles to ensure pregnancy like, well, most other males, and if it were merely about pleasure then the female orgasm would not be so elusive. Evolution is a harsh mattress and not a teleologically consistent one: it’s an ad hoc universe in the biological sphere. (This, of course, makes speaking about “nature” coherently almost in possible? Even nature has a context).
This is not to deny that there are real limits to human sexuality and real battles fought over it. But in a way, our dialogue on what the “meaning” of sex is may be incoherent to the point of schizotypal because a decoupling of social context and biologic context, but a severing into a dialectical tension that which is not in fundamental contradiction in its unalienated state.
Wait, here I revere to tendencies I dislike about philosophy writing, the tendency to over-abstract: people love and people fuck for a variety of different reasons in a variety of different contexts. Almost none of us are comfortable with that because some form of “other” enjoyment indicates a lack created by our ability to articulate.
What is it Lacan says? Lack is created by language. Before we speak, we cannot postulate that which is not?
So I’ll try to avoid name dropping, with the caveat that Foucault’s basic premise that sexuality is a socially situated, seems to be more or less right. The problem is, as always, that our conceptions of biological and social are falsely separated: while I am critical of the metaphor as “nature” as a “machine,” I do fundamentally think that social structures and biological structures are in a feedback loop. I desire someone both because I have a genetic impulse to desire them, but how I desire them and what forms that relationship takes are, in no small part, socially shaped. The real dialectical conflicts come when social notions no longer fit biological reality, even if biological reality has changed for essentially social reasons.
Technology changes who you are. How can you not think it changes your relationships to people?
This leads to all sorts of issues: I am gay or straight or bisexual? How is that it appears that while sexuality is definitely determined by social pressures and yet we cannot castigate certain practices out of existence? Does it make sense to get married?
In my personal life this plays out in a lot of strange ways: I am getting married to a woman because I love her. Now, I realize in the grand scheme of things, even from personal experience, love is a weak reason for marriage. In fact, it’s not even a good predictor of martial happiness. The information on arranged marriages startlingly conflicts with the notion that peer-love marriage is a good means for contentment for most people who are belong a certain social class and income range. Even the sexual revolution, interestingly, has been more positive for upper middle class women and men who seem to benefit from promiscuity then still get into relatively stable marriages (of varying degrees of openness) whereas the poor who often value marriage more as a social good see fewer marriages and fewer of its benefits? I love a few women quite deeply, and yet I choose one of them because I love her and it seems conductive to that kind of social relationship.
In a way, just talking about fucking is avoiding the a lot of the larger issues here isn’t it.
Nothing in modernity seems to be without its contradictions. Particularly in sex where anything viewed long enough and believed in general in mass culture seems to be fraught with outright contradictions. I, as I stated, am no exception: the polyamorous man entering into a relationship that is rooted in monogamy. Doing so willingly and knowing from personal failure the dangers involved, and yet when I am honest with myself even in my most polyamorous moments my relationships have been based on fundamental rules and commitments that are both from my partners and the larger social milieu. Sometimes, I find it more than a little ironic that liberals for all their emphasis on social importance and social contextualization, take a completely individualistic view on love and sex.
Funny how so many refuse to look honestly at the contradictions in their lives: dialectics, as I understand it, is a way to look at one’s contradictions honestly and try to move past them. Most people, however, from the pain of cognitive dissonance cannot do this: doing this in one’s most intimate relationship is even more traumatic.
But it is spring time, after all, and thus we like to think we should talk about love.
“To abjure violence it is necessary to have no experience of it.”-George Orwell
“Strictly speaking, as a Nationalist, he was an enemy, but since in every crisis he would exert himself to prevent violence — which, from the British point of view, meant preventing any effective action whatever — he could be regarded as “our man.” In private this was sometimes cynically admitted. The attitude of the Indian millionaires was similar. Gandhi called upon them to repent, and naturally they preferred him to the Socialists and Communists who, given the chance, would actually have taken their money away. How reliable such calculations are in the long run is doubtful; as Gandhi himself says, “in the end deceivers deceive only themselves”; but at any rate the gentleness with which he was nearly always handled was due partly to the feeling that he was useful.” – Orwell on Gandhi
“I believe it’s a crime for anyone being brutalized to continue to accept that brutality without doing something to defend himself.”- Malcolm X
I personally deplore violence: I have mild post-traumatic issue from watching a girlfriend die when I was young. I won’t go into detail, but I have seen more people die from drug addiction, car wrecks, and violence that someone from my relatively privileged background should be able to say, but such is the luck of life. Yet I find absolute statements of non-violence to be irresponsible if others are condemned for being willing to engage in defensive violence. Furthermore, I find that this tactic often is used in ways that defend and legitimatize power when non-violence is moved from a preferred tactic to a strategy.
The problem with the way we talk about non-violent social justice movements is we speak as if violence wasn’t a necessity in them in two ways. In almost dialectical ways, actually. Let us look at the Satyagraha movement of Gandhi and the actually existing struggle for Indian Independence, not the stories we in America and Europe like to tell ourselves about it. First of all, the struggle for Indian independence had Satyagraha at its face, but as Orwell noted this was actually used by the British as a means to an end. It is important to remember that Gandhi was not the only face of the Indian independence movement: first there was the revolutionary Jugantar, then All India Forward Bloc, Communist Party of India, the Radical Democratic Party, and the various radical wings of INA. There was several conspiracies, two mutinies, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose appealing to the Axis powers, as well as the non-violent actions and self-sufficiency. Gandhi worked because there were Indian nationalists, socialists, and communist forces ready to rip throats out if he didn’t. Furthermore, the success of his non-violence was predicated on violent acts by the other side. Subtle violent actions and non-lethal means are also not likely to draw sympathy from non-violent protestors.
This, for all we like to deny it, was also true of the rather moderate successes of Martin Luther King Jr.
All of the arguments that Black Bloc instigations have been stupid and counter-productive are valid. But that is largely there hasn’t really begun a true battle that one can speak of winning. The Black Bloc tries to create battles artificially, and that’s either dumb or deliberate police infiltration. But the Occupy Movement has at most been shaping a terrain for future battles. We’re still a long way from there though. As long as it’s understood that the battle hasn’t really yet begun, then it is valid to counsel tactics of peaceful protest. That does not mean that peaceful protest will actually win a battle when the time comes. – PatrickSMcNally
I think their model fit the real conditions of mass consciousness and military capacity at the time. The Panthers took up their example, but gave it a politico-military party of combat, and then degenerated into adventurist ultra-leftism – including offensive operations against the State before mass consciousness and military capacity was present. This led them into a focoist mind-set, which like Che learned in Bolivia, doesn’t work.
A problem I see in all communists, anarchist, and socialist writing is the quiet acceptance of the false dichotomy between violence and non-violence pursued by liberals and reactionaries.
These a tactical questions, and for those who pursue non-violence as a strategy, we should tell them they are wrong not in the non-violent part, but the strategy part: it is a political error to take any tactic off the table.-SKS
No one is arguing for turning the Occupy movement into an armed insurrection against the bourgeoisie state. No one is arguing that all protests must include a suicidal direct assault on the forces of repression. It is true that wanna be street fighters are committed to breaking windows, throwing bottles, and setting fire to trash cans as a strategy, and that is a problem.
A bigger problem is to advocate absolute pacifism as the only acceptable means of resistance. A bigger problem is to distort the history of every popular uprising in the last hundred years in support of moralistic liberalism. This is what Gene Sharp does in his work and for his admirers here I suggest you try his cool tactic of dis-robbing in front of riot cops. It is supposed to confuse the forces of the state and for anyone stupid enough to take his advice, you will quickly find out what concentrated pepper spray does to all that exposed skin (in particular to those sensitive areas of the genitalia.)
I understand why people become pacifists, especially those with a strong religious background. I believe it is a luxury that we can not afford and this has nothing to do with a desire for violence.-Stiofan
As a tactic, I prefer non-violence and people advocating for armed insurrections of a small minority like the Weathermen are likely to find themselves dead or in imprison without doing a damn thing for the people they are trying to help. As a strategy, this is foolish as it gives the opponents a clear line they can cross. As a moral imperative, it’s incoherent because of the dialectical relationship I described between the success of non-violent reform/autonomy movements and the violence employed. What pascifism asks of people can be somewhat inhuman. Again, look at Gandhi:
If I were a Jew and were born in Germany and earned my livelihood there, I would claim Germany as my home even as the tallest Gentile German might, and challenge him to shoot me or cast me in the dungeon; I would refuse to be expelled or to submit to discriminating treatment. And for doing this I should not wait for the fellow Jews to join me in civil resistance, but would have confidence that in the end the rest were bound to follow my example. If one Jew or all the Jews were to accept the prescription here offered, he or they cannot be worse off than now. And suffering voluntarily undergone will bring them an inner strength and joy [...] the calculated violence of Hitler may even result in a general massacre of the Jews by way of his first answer to the declaration of such hostilities. But if the Jewish mind could be prepared for voluntary suffering, even the massacre I have imagined could be turned into a day of thanksgiving and joy that Jehovah had wrought deliverance of the race even at the hands of the tyrant. For to the God-fearing, death has no terror.
Even Karl Kautsky would not ask that of anyone. While Orwell has his flaws and is indeed no real dialectical thinker, he was dead on in encapsulating the unresolved dialectics:
If one harbours anywhere in one’s mind a nationalistic loyalty or hatred, certain facts, although in a sense known to be true, are inadmissible. Here are just a few examples. I list below five types of nationalist, and against each I append a fact which it is impossible for that type of nationalist to accept, even in his secret thoughts:
BRITISH TORY. Britian will come out of this war with reduced power and prestige.
COMMUNIST. If she had not been aided by Britain and America, Russia would have been defeated by Germany.
IRISH NATIONALIST. Eire can only remain independent because of British protection.
TROTSKYIST. The Stalin regime is accepted by the Russian masses.
PACIFIST. Those who “abjure” violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.