Catherine Malabou has created a meticulous and profound new concept of the brain. Malabou analyses the functions which neuroscience has discovered, conducting a contemporary synthesis of neuroplasticity, crystallizing a new concept which acts as a curious new abstract machine with many parts. She names this concept plasticity after the plastic multiplicity of the brain; and one component of this concept expresses the brain’s power to learn and to heal, and even to reconfigure itself. Another component is transdifferentiation, or the power of life to remake and refold itself: the capability of certain (pluripotent, totipotent) cellular organisms to unfold into some or many other kinds of cells.
What is modern? It can perhaps be discerned in the radical questioning of the status of piety, a questioning which slowly infects every discipline and discourse — a questioning, in other words, coextensive with a generalized instrumentalization, experienced at the psychic level as a new asceticism. Modernity in this sense includes souls no longer living; it embodies achromatically the spirits of wildly disparate eras. In this way we may perhaps be permitted to speak of the modern both as a regime of forms and as a series of powers — a question of celestial purity and terrestial madness. Thus every people participates in an eternal modernity, or perhaps it is that the modern is always arriving or yet to arrive.
The stable conception of identity is the central problem and “utopian” promise of modernity. Very early on, relatively speaking, the problem was decisively proved to be undecidable. It perhaps took longer to realize that the promise could not be kept; that the modern enacts the irreversible rending of the identical from individuation, that it will not (and perhaps cannot) be halted. The modern is then not irreversible in the sense that a regression is not possible, but rather irreversible in the sense that once intiated we cannot determine when the involution, the deferral, the sickness will stop.
The modern is a health and a sickness of cosmic proportions; a dream of infinitely-deferred waking, which is perhaps to say a nightmare. The modern assembles war machines, and the uncanny and passionate hunger of modernity is the thirst of virtual incorporealities for actualization. This hunger perhaps accounts for a certain globalizing impulse; for the modern at its best populates or resingularizes, it directly engages processes of subjectivity; yet at its worst this same tendency perhaps accounts for the propensity of the modern to provoke the shocking encouragement of complicity with horror and the cynical dissolution of the subject in a transcendent universality.
The symptoms of modernity are radical involution, future shock, motion sickness and infinite deferral. The modern is then perhaps a variety of dreamsicknesses; the dangerous problem of a daybreak eternally deferred. Yet is this very eternity not suspiciously excessive, the deferral not strangely disjointed? Are we, fractured group-subject of modernity, not untimely, not continuously on the verge of actualizing and thereby exceeding it?
Living. The intolerable ignominy of possibilities of life under capital should not be permitted to cause us to forget the reality of infinite becoming. Evolution and genesis, or the development of contiguous spacetimes and automorphisms, are powers of the infinite; and a life is always already this infinity. It is never simply a question of an organism but rather a problem of pure variation: infinite movements compose and condition living; infinite speeds permeate a life. Inorganic life lives exclusively at these speeds, in a hyperaesthetic eternity that traverses history. It moves across a slice of a time, through a supple segment of a world; yet a life is not merely the traversal of a spacetime or a form (territories and landscapes, organisms and faces) but it is also the direct reality of flows and forces: rhythms and speeds, signifying regimens and variable frameworks of production. It is not individual or collective but infinite, neither alter nor ego but singularis. We do not know the limits of what it can do or will become — in fine: what living, thinking, feeling could be. Though the risks of an errant involution are grave and even incalculable; yet any life, any feeling, any thought whatsoever is destined to find itself at some longitude or latitude on the plane of immanence — that is to say, always already in flight, swept up by a line of continuous variation, facing infinite risks with limitless potential.
Mapmakers. Desire becomes perceptible to a schizoanalytic cartography only because such a mapping undertakes anew in each case the cautious assembly of a map of the unconscious with everything included: experimentally activating and quantifying virtual lines of flight, calculating the gravitational acceleration of semiotic black holes — and determining the structural characteristics of white walls.
Geosophy. Geology and geometry both initate absolute surveys; and in their own ways they are each aerial formal analytics, turned inward and outward in a reciprocal relation; at infinite speeds might they not fuse? The earth may be both speculated stratigraphically, or evaluated strategically in terms of virtual movements; and so a geometer offers unknowingly a dangerous secret to a geologist, and vice versa. In both there is the unnoticed presence of an unexplored sense of or practice within the discipline, which when fully articulated would make it possible to organize both evaluative and speculative faculties otherwise. In any case, of course, an enormous divergence has already occurred from their common origin and destiny — the earth and theory each as a life in communication with the other: not the philosophy of genesis but philosophy as genesis. The vertiginous collapse and interfusion of the hard and soft precede the gentle birth of a geosophy, joyous science of the (maladies afflicting the) body of the Earth — perhaps at the end of an arc traced by the flight of a golden ball…
Genesis. Enormous psychosocial and political transformations were necessary in order to put into place the global transhistorical capitalist institutions we take for granted. Capitalism is different, genetically as it were, from all previous ways of organizing human society. It dissolves society in favor of the decoded flows of pre-individual traits and elements which will form abstract labor and commodities. This dissolution is what previous forms of society had attempted to prevent. They had precisely developed various auto-immunities against this total subversion of traditional sense and value engendered by the radical deterritorialization attending the development of capital.
Modernity is this insane and universal cosmopolitan social order which encircles everything within its technocratic grasp; degeneration, death, disaster and apocalypse are both its legacy and sense. What remains for subjectivity but the twin messiahs of nothingness — the state and the market? A timeless celestial burrowing-machine and a timely sociopolitical ungrounding-device — messenger and channel, rex and flamen.
Twins. Capitalism is nihilism, an endless betrayal of production in favor of an infinite — imaginary — debt or Void, which implies the transcendental equivalence of all processes, their essential or characteristic meaninglessness. Indeed the hostility towards life evinced in the machinations of capitalism are strictly correlate to the heterogeneous means by which nihilism achieves its destructive victory: through a generalized deterritorialization which can barely halt before its radically external, schizophrenic limit.
Firestorm. Heidegger reminds us that despite our apparent control over the machines we create, that in fact we do not even control the desire within us which causes us to create, to use them, or to extend our control over the world through the conception and production of new machines. To this problem, indeed, there is no solution, and very likely there will never be any solutions. The mystery, the secret truth of desire, lies within the machine.
Non-expression. Speaking is a donation of words; but in this donation is dramatized an idea of alterity, an uncanny and infinite Power mysteriously unleashed, and this by a seemingly peaceful sharing of signs.
Is it possible? Ten thousand years of speaking, and still we are waiting for a sign.
Problems. We owe to Deleuze the discovery that the difficulty of a problem is not simply the number of differential elements it assembles within a single ideal situation, but rather the process of problematization of an element or elements which somehow causes the contents of the problem to problematize the very situation itself. This marks a radical becoming-social of problematics — or if you like, the becoming-event of the concept (becoming-problem.) Yet does it not seem as though this method is still profoundly Lacanian somehow, as though the real is being implicitly understood as a strange hyper-real gap between Difference and itself — mysteriously and paradoxically allowing a differentiation to differenciate itself infinitely, suspending both the emotional-organic ontology of desiring-repression as well as the mechanical logic that underlies materialism, allowing thought to move at infinite speed on a hyperplane of immanence — ripping a hole through the symbolic networks, allowing the transpiercing and reprogramming of the assemblage by the outside? The difficulty remains even if we understand the practice of militant problematization or counter-actualization to be a process of differentiating problematic or ‘insurgent’ elements of the situational social assemblage with respect to their capacity for transformation.
A certain noise is all it takes. Parasites can indeed be shaken off and immediately so; but they are chased out only by a greater noise, by the willing invitation of still more powerful parasites. –So at least there are specific cries which are anathema to a given variety of parasite: the roaring of their host-cum-predators. Of collective liberation.
But certainly for the present age, which prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, representation to reality, the appearance to the essence…illusion only is sacred, truth profane. Nay, sacredness is held to be enhanced in proportion as truth decreases and illusion increases, so that the highest degree of illusion comes to be the highest degree of sacredness.
–Feuerbach, Preface to the second edition of The Essence of Christianity
Feuerbach—copy/original—simulacrum—Deleuze and Baudrillard?
Accumulation of spectacles—”All that once was directly lived has become mere representation” (12).
Detached images enter into a common stream—partial aspects of reality congeal into a pseudo-world set apart as object of contemplation/autonomous image where deceit deceives itself–autonomous movement of non-life.
Three aspects of the spectacle—society itself/parts of society/means of unification. This is the place of false consciousness because it is where all consciousness converges–it is merely the official language of generalized separation
Just as total war renders ethics derisory, consumer society annihiliates the horizons of authentic experience. God, the State, Father: abysses for the erasure of thought, until the only idea of which we are capable is a permitted one. The unconscious is a battlezone of images, brands, consumption algorithms. Ideology is repetition, a recording surface for lies which grows deeper and more complex with each iteration; the con, however, is always the same: alone we are nothing, we must unite with power to stand, to be able. The subtlety here lies in the more-or-less explicit coup d’etat of individual desire; corporate life makes the public individual a double-agent between himself and his secret desires.
Simulated faces, simulated worlds: the invisible lines connecting our fates together slowly grind us into grains, instants, monads, image-fragments, partial objects. The geometric exponentiation of desire is also the micro-isolation of the infinitesimal partial object, the human subject. We are only able to simulate love for what the object is or what it does; thus love becomes currency. From the perspective of desire, the future is the possibility of authentic life, of a total human being both spiritual and material; from the perspective of power, the future promises only tighter integration, further submersion into semiotic networks — until the human being is indistinguishable from a commodity.