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Tag Archives: Communism

Nostalgia + Kantianism = Revolution?

Narrating the Left: Residual Marxism

Dead Voles has a very nice paragraph on the problem of the Left and Critical Theory, in particular the seeming failure of Americans to hold the nostalgia that Europe does (more than a paragraph, but that is what I repeat here):

Europe is a couple of generations closer than we are to a real left. The critical theorists are hopelessly wrapped around their own fannies confined to dealing with Habermas’ Kantianism, but they still occasionally remember what it’s all supposed to be about. The residual Marxists are wandering around forlornly trying to make sense of themselves in the world of Merkle, Sarcoszy, and Berlusconi, but they still retain a nostalgic sense of loss that some of them can still connect. Here in the US there are no such memories (oh, the odd blog) and no such nostalgia; and more important, not a clue about connection. Sociology was the most obvious academic victim of the cold war. At Brandeis (read “exile from New York”) I was the beneficiary of the death struggle – the end of ideology or the triumph of the will, depending who you talk to. As you said, theory decoupled from practice is meaningless, and by the end of the sixties the decoupling was essentially complete. In its place came the hodgepodge of single issue special interests you’ve talked about so many times.

What is in a Name? Does The Rose Smell as Sweet?

Perhaps this points us toward the historical and DNA difference between Anarchism and Marxism: there was a time in the history of the early 20th century that both conceptual frameworks were providing political paths divergent from growing Industrialized Capitalism. This is the difference between the love of the author versus the love of practice. As David Graeber notes in his Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology [click here]:

Even if one compares the historical schools of Marxism, and anarchism, one can see we are dealing with a fundamentally different sort of project. Marxist schools have authors. Just as Marxism sprang from the mind of Marx, so we have Leninists, Maoists, Trotksyites, Gramscians, Althusserians… (Note how the list starts with heads of state and grades almost seamlessly into French professors.) Pierre Bourdieu once noted that, if the academic field is a game in which scholars strive for dominance, then you know you have won when other scholars start wondering how to make an adjective out of your name…

…Now consider the different schools of anarchism. There are Anarcho-Syndicalists, Anarcho- Communists, Insurrectionists, Cooperativists, Individualists, Platformists… None are named after some Great Thinker; instead, they are invariably named either after some kind of practice, or most often, organizational principle. (Significantly, those Marxist tendencies which are not named after individuals, like Autonomism or Council Communism, are also the ones closest to anarchism.) Anarchists like to distinguish themselves by what they do, and how they organize themselves to go about doing it (4)

This tradition of naming, the emphasis on authors and therefore text once pointed out becomes jarring. I love these texts actually, because I am a writer, but one also has to take the content of these texts, their reported aims and ethical footing seriously, and ask oneself, who or what is one writing for? What processes and structures are actually being supported in this text-terminology production, and to what ends? It is interesting that Carl at Dead Voles comes to his rumination from a post of his tracing the 25 most influential authors on his life, not to mention that most readers of this kind of blog are necessarily logophiles, as I am. 

To divert into an important and repeated trope, must not every text connect to the textile of the body? Is that not philosophy’s greatest question, text vs. textile? Who makes it and what does it signify? And what are we weaving now? These are the threads, that is the loom…a powerful and lasting analogy.

It is not that we need to get away from books, but perhaps get into them. Into the strands of their fabrics. Into what they are made of. Into the pulp, ink and hand, and trace them out, beyond, into their materiality.

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Anodyneheavy: The Codification of Revolution

Anodyne lite has a wonderfully concise critique of what I take to be the Badioun-Zizek, perhaps Negri epistemo-revolution tactics. A brief sample, with which I in spirit and point agree:

Because insofar as our notions of what’s radical rely on rehashing a hypothesis that is haunted by the specter of colossal failure and violent abuse, grounded in a bygone era of industrial proliferation, humanism, and positivism, operating according to grandiose totalizing epistemologies that can find no purchase in praxis, and rife with unchallenged fetishism and essentialism, these ostensibly radical theories present absolutely no threat whatsoever to global capitalism.

For my part, I’m not even sure what revolutionary thinking is, or if I would want any part of it. I’m much less concerned with something being radically new, or radically radical, and much more drawn to that which is radically interesting. I’m not even sure that there is such a thing as “global capitalism” (or if any one knows what global capitalism is), other than one vast projection of a supposed series of alliances and principles of exchange that form some indominable (and evil) System. How about this: We look for a way to make peoples lives more meaningful.

Hearing Alain Badiou on Hardtalk: The Bashful Maoist

I’m sorry, I had never had the pleasureof hearing Badiou speak on contemporary politics, or even speak on anything. A funny thing happens when you see the person. Ideas, tones, the very specular sense of a person invades the writing, filling it out. Here in Hardtalk, originally posted by Infinite Thought, Badiou attempts to make himself clear. I can’t say that in presence this is a man bristling with intellectual acuity. Perhaps it is that he is speaking in English, but my sense of him as a thinker is diminished even from the sense that I already had that his ideas were somewhat inflated. Here Badiou’s ideas filtered down to everyday language and deprived of their technical, interlocking workmanship, appear pale and disorganized thought-themes.

Infinite Thought regretfully admits that this is not the most “successful” interview, something she chalks up to the interviewer’s “pure crystallised Anglo intello-Franco-phobia” (my goodness, PURE?). I have to say as someone who is rather intello-Franco-philic, I found Badiou alternately filled with sopping facializations or staid retreats into ambiguities and prevarication. Perhaps one feels that it was the interviewer’s job to try to draw out what is unique and gemlike in Badiou, a showcase…only though if one is a cheerleader, a true believer, it would seem. Badiou brings almost nothing on his own. We must believe that Communism is the “right hypothesis” despite (brutal) 20th century failures, why…because “faith” is sometimes a good thing.  If you have read Badiou you understand why he says this, but without all the terminology, concept-architecture and whatnot, this is pretty much how it all boils down. If intellectuals can’t do better than this, they are to remain essentially what they are, text-producers for a highly selective, and privileged readership.

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