Politics

‘The Mother or Her Substitute’: Sexuality and Self-preservation in Huxley’s ‘Anti-world’

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Paulo Auladell

–Our Ford—or Our Freud, as, for some inscrutable reason, he chose to call himself whenever he spoke of psychological matters—Our Freud has been the first to reveal the appalling dangers of family life. The world was full of fathers—was therefore full of misery; full of mothers—therefore of every kind of perversion from sadism to chastity; full of brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts—full of madness and suicide (Huxley, p. 39).

For all of its fictional recasting of famous names, perhaps Huxley’s Brave New World is a utopia that should be considered as a text of counter-intertextuality insofar as it constitutes a responsive or counter-insurgent textuality. With all the names that circulate, like Trotsky, Ford, Lenin(a) and Marx who are scattered on almost every page of the text, Huxley makes it difficult to disavow the fact that he is wanting to call attention to this re-contextualization. Yet it is particularly striking that Freud’s name only shows up in one passage in his novel—ironically at that—precisely in the form of a Freudian slip[1]. Nevertheless, this single instance of naming should not be taken as a sign that Freud’s influence is not readily apparent. On the contrary, an understanding of Freud’s work—mainly his Civilization and Its Discontents published two years prior—is essential for grasping the genetic inspiration behind the crafting of the themes of Huxley’s novel. Instead, what should be focused on is the very fact that Huxley chooses to refer to Freud ironically through the very medium with which his name has become eponymous: the slip. Investigating the importance of this humorous reference to Freud will help to shed some light on what is at stake in Huxley’s narrative.

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culture, machine, ontology, Politics, work

Exchange

“untitled (structure)”, 2007. Jim Kazanjian

Markets effect the generalized dispersion and annihilation of collective power.  Along with the material inputs to industrial production, labor is brutally dismantled by the process, decrypted, dissolved; we sink into the soil or melt into the sky (to become plague-vector of planetary toxicity.) Creation disappears beneath commerce, enfolded within the commodity, its tiny molecular flux occluded by continuous and irruptive exchange. Work in every sense today is turned by the market against itself, against people, psychically, socially, physiologically, and especially and urgently ecologically, against the future of the world.

When knowledge-work predominates, this violent dynamic becomes vertical: ideas themselves weaken and dissolve in the madness of generalized commerciality, they lose their way in the darkness, or are simply reprogrammed. Infected by the plague-core of the commodity. Integrated world capitalism is equivalent with the annihilation of the Ideas; the dismemberment of production; the deliberate dispersion of thinking and feeling; the universalization of a certain narrowly-scoped image of thought.

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becoming, metaphysics, Politics, sickness, thinking, utopia

Utopian

“Dream City”, Paul Klee

“[U]topia is a fictive representation of an ideal social structure…”[1]

Michel Serres names heaven the rejoining of the rational and the real. Is there not truly a disquietingly infinite distance between the celestial dream of this adjoining and the hell we have made of the world? What then is the utopian? A first provisional approach might highlight temporal disjunction, utopia as uchronia: a no-when as well as a no-where; utopia denoting a world, a city, a life (but also a thought) to come. What then is this “to come”? It denotes the trace of a critique of political temporality; in a cautious deconstruction it becomes possible to make concrete the sense in which the future itself has a future. Utopia, not only forcelosed place but also time out of joint. Yet its virtual assembly is inspiratory, and therefore even transgressive since it tends to engender unforeseen but dangerous speeds and forces. Within any city whatsoever, the pathway to utopia is already present, but crossed-out, erased, blocked. The “to come” is therefore a denatured future involving radical transformations of psychic and social faculties. The utopian involves the unleashing of presently imperceptible potentialities.

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guattari, Meillassoux, Politics, speculation, utopia

Speculative Materialisms: Thinking the Absolute with Meillassoux and Guattari

          Quentin Meillassoux’s recent work After Finitude comes as a breath of fresh air for those who have been languishing under the dominant regimes of philosophy today.  Meillassoux claims to be able to resuscitate the “great outdoors” of pre-Critical Cartesian philosophy, one that would both forgo the correlationist impulses of the Kantian tradition as well as the necessity of an all-knowing, veracious God to legitimize the representational content of consciousness.  To access this “great outdoors,” Meillassoux forces us to activate a speculative materialism that would break with the necessitarian impulses of metaphysics. He calls his own path speculative because it claims to access an absolute (though not an absolute entity), and materialism because it claims that absolute reality is indifferent to thought, is an “entity without thought,” and can exist without thought, rendering the latter ontologically unnecessary (36). The paths of this new outlook are various, and Meillassoux does not claim to have formulated all the domains that are now opened.  It is for this reason that we feel a need to supplement Meillassoux’s emphasis on mathematics with an ethico-aesthetic paradigm. Among the numerous materialisms that have been developed in the 20th century, the cartographies developed by Félix Guattari (sometimes with the help of Gilles Deleuze) also merit the nomination of “speculative,” insofar as Guattari himself has also isolated an absolute, namely that of deterritorialization. In what follows, I intend to sketch out the way in which these two thinkers uniquely accent the positions that claims to be “speculative materialism” in order to better exemplify how Meillassoux’s groundwork can be applied outside its original problematic domain.

            The attempt to pair these two extravagantly different thinkers is not the result of sheer caprice, but unfolded due to the overlapping of a series of common concerns. Although they do not espouse the same conclusions, there is a shared impulse to refute the most intractable metaphysical dogmatisms, along with the fanaticism that develops through this refutation, ranging from abstract universals to abstract necessity. Indeed, the theoretical interaction between these two thinkers is required in order to unlock the dimensions of a speculative chaos upon which a speculative politics could unfold. Their conjunction leads beyond a hyper-Chaos to the immanent domain of hyper-utopias.

            One side of the problematic is to break the vicious circle of correlation. One of the ways in which Meillassoux describes correlationism relates to its attempt to disqualify the claim that subjectivity and objectivity can be considered apart from one another (5).  In fact, correlationism goes so far as to make the correlation unavoidable and asserts “anything that is totally a-subjective cannot be” (38). This side of the speculative thesis is also acknowledged by Guattari, who writes in L’Inconscient machinique: “Concepts must be folded onto reality, not the other way around” (155). In the same vein, for Meillassoux, “the materialism that chooses to follow the speculative path is thereby constrained to believe that it is possible to think a given reality by abstracting from the fact that we are thinking it” (After Finitude, 36). Given that language and consciousness are the two prime contributors to the persistence of the correlation, how do we escape from language, let alone take up a vantage point wherein subjectivity can be illuminated and discerned without having to become constitutive?

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becoming, Deleuze, language, Nietzsche, ontology, Politics

Theory 1: Epigrams and Involutions

Theory 1: Epigrams and Involutions

“When I’m dreaming back like that I begins to see we’re only all telescopes.” Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake

“We have to learn to think differently — in order at last, perhaps very late on, to attain even more: to feel differently.” Nietzsche, Daybreak, II.103

“The greater part of the world’s troubles are due to questions of grammar.” Montaigne

Preface. These collected epigrams, my thoughts of the morning — and occasionally late evening — this collection of azure and gleaming obsidian birds, I give to you today. If only you could have seen these terrible thoughts, these wicked birds in life, in joyful flight! I give this gift also to mark a break from this work, this first theory, this Theory 1 — for some of it is now alien to me. We are still becoming. Another theory, to refocus and amplify the first; incipit the second!

With infinite love,

Joseph Weissman, July 22, 2012 C.E.

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biology, daybreak, irreversibility, language, Politics, Serres

New Serres in English: Biogea from Univocal

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“Always the same. This history could make a rock cry from boredom and death. How sad that history seems when faced with the crystalline and floral diversity of things; how often human history seems monotonous in comparison to the enchanting adventures of the world.” (Michel Serres, Biogea)

The presses at Univocal have caught fire lately. This first English translation (thanks to Randolph Burks) of a major work of Michel Serres, the Biogea, thunders with the authors’ fierce ingenuity and glows with his gentle wisdom. Michel Serres always versifies, but in the rhapsodic Biogea, this spontaneous musicality becomes symphonic: stories and theories slowly develop their singular contours in high-tension counterpoint. Fabulations and memories pass into theories and critique; celestial and rapturous encomia to the Biogea flow from the most severe of warnings about a biosphere on the verge of irreversible catastrophe.

The essence of the work is profoundly multiple; the Biogea hums and resonates with both intimate and radically alien languages. In prose that openly fabulates and mythologizes, Serres gives immersive voice to a series of critical memories — cautiously re-entering the serpentine fluidity of the waters of his youth on the sea or rehearsing a terrible symphony of wind, wolves and human cries on a dangerous trek up Mount Everest — enveloping these delicate arias within elegant theoretical formulae.

Biogea is an animated, joyous, spiritual work; a new sculpture of Venus rising from chaotic seas. Serres becomes a many-tongued artist of pure mutation; our Joyce, prophet of fire for the hypertext era, here close in spirit to Deleuze. Artaud said the violent blows of Van Gogh’s brush knocked even rivers off their course; suffice perhaps to say the joyous ellipses traced in this work could not help but shift time, life, the world around us from their former trajectory. Biogea is joy: hence a future and untimely book, even a dangerous book, written in vigorous defiance of a melancholy history.

The text is highly recommended to readers of Serres, who will undoubtedly luxuriate in the glowing pages of this powerful and delicate work. For those not yet familiar with Michel Serres, it may serve as a whirlwind introduction to the most urgent themes in his later work; and since to some degree it also provides a personal-critical intellectual history of the author, it might even be recommended before other major works such as the Parasite or Troubadour of Knowledge.

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becoming, event, interconnection, language, philosophy, Politics, self-organization, society

Occupy Theory!

The 99% movement sweeping the globe is indeed something new under the sun. Little molecular revolutions, the occupations are rhizomes; in this clear revolt against neoliberal “realism” who does not see the spirit of sixty-eight, dormant for a long winter of four decades, awakening once more?

Thinkers have not only the opportunity but in many ways a profound obligation to help focus and organize the will of the people, to help inspire and to amplify revolutionary reflection and affect.

While the medium of thinking is primarily writing, nevertheless theory can help crystalize and push complex systems towards transformation — towards becoming-something-else. This transformation need not, as some might have it, be specified entirely in advance; indeed, such a specification is perhaps impossible.

The self-regulated emergence or becoming of the people’s voice through the consensual decision-making mechanism of general assembly, the thunderous roar of the people’s mic, are things that philosophy should not simply note, or even sit back and interpret, but actively encourage and assist.
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