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Debord

First, I think it’s appropriate to begin w/ a quote from Hegel, as Debord himself does, albeit a different selection, one from Hegel’s Jena lectures 1805-6:

The human being is this Night, this empty nothing which contains everything in its simplicity–a wealth of infinitely many representations, images, none of which occur to it directly and none of which are not present…We see this Night when we look a human being in the eye, looking into a Night which turns terrifying. [For from his eyes] the night of the world hangs out toward us.

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Why begin this way?  What does Hegel’s anthropological metaphysics have to do with Debord’s punchy book?  I think in large part it is Hegel’s treatment of identity and non-identity that Debord finds useful, and how they play into processes of identity-formation.  For Hegel, the human being (nor the “Spirit” which encompasses humans individually and collectively) is never exhaustively identical to the representations that it picks up and takes itself to be in experience.

In his Phenomenology of Spirit Hegel describes how the sense-certainty of consciousness leads one to affirm an existing reality or structuration of phenomena as it is currently presented to consciousness at a moment in time such that it is taken to be what is most real…but all of this is washed away very quickly as a new moment (and then another moment, and then another, ad infinitum, til death) comes along that is the transformation of the order of the preceding moment.  So while I sit here at this wooden desk in a 3rd story room looking out at the sunny Niemetzstraße while I type, it becomes quite natural when one has the question of what is most real, or most true, put to oneself to assume that it is the this that is what is really true, most real.  The reality of my current experience is the most certain I can be regarding what is by the sheer force of its presence.  But by the passing of time, I come to identify with–to take as most real, most what is–other phenomena that become salient, like the drinking of water and how that feels, or the hearing construction start outside, or the movement of my eyes towards the indoors of my room.  All of which begs the question: what am I, really?  For as soon as I seem to have an answer to that question, one forged in the certainty of a moment of presence, it seems to mutate into something else, another identity or set of identities.

What Hegel will later develop is a sort of negativity that is at work in these transformations, not only at the “level” of the sense-experience w/ which he starts, but also conceptually and regarding self-consciousness.  This negativity is the “Night” that he describes in the quote we start with–a “space” or “time” of non-identity that persists through any formation of identity, anything that we take ourselves to be.  In fact, non-identity is ø–as I explore in another post–, the zero that can only be conceptually understood as that which differs from itself, that which doesn’t take identity to be metaphysically primary to understand what is real or true, that which is real or true even as identities arise and crumble away.  The injection of (temporal/izing) process that will answer to the question “what am I?”: neither this, nor that, nor that, nor that, etc.  A continual non-self-coincidence that will never provide a sufficient answer to that question, since it is not an identity that can be expressed or pointed to or represented that has primacy, but that pure difference which always differs from itself, which is non-identical to itself: ø as the all-encompassing Night.  (Although I take an immunological Spinoza to be key here in showing how we regardless have individuality as third person reflexive pronouns, via his conatus doctrine, even if we cannot fix identity as such against zero’s process–in other words, something other than Hegel’s idealism is needed for the problem of individuation.)

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Shifting to Debord:–why or how does this Hegelian metaphysical anthropology provide him w/ the conceptual tools he needs for his work?   In part, I take it to be b/c what Debord calls the spectacle strategically takes advantage of this process by which identity-formation necessarily occurs, and how its relationship to a self-differentiating processual ø churns out “a wealth of infinitely many representations, images,” and identities, but in a manner that limits this process in order to congeal it for long enough to commodify it, and to re-produce its own operations.  We as humans can’t help but identify with our experience or cognition or what is given to us, even if it is done negatively such that we say we are not like what we see, or whether a thing given as experience repels us.  And we never stop doing so.  Not only can this life-long process be successfully commodified b/c it is incessant, providing continuous opportunities for colonization by capital’s self-valorization, but also b/c we desire identity, we need it, we cannot do w/o it–no one lives the “empty nothing” of non-identity.  Our desire for identity is so strong that we can even be willing to identify with things of happenings that cut us off from greater capacities of activity, from more successfully developing the projects of freedom naturally sought out by our desires.  This is how it can be possible that there are women and Latino voters in the US choosing Trump as their candidate of choice, despite his xenophobic and misogynistic discourse.  (Spinoza’s why do people desire their servitude as if it were their freedom?)  Humans as renewable resources for the reproduction of the forces and relations of spectacular society.

But what is this spectacle, then?  I will start by making a list of the many definitions that Debord gives (referring to aphorism numbers, since my copy doesn’t have page numbers)…feel free to skip to the writing picking up at the end of the list:

2: The spectacle in general, as the concrete inversion of life, is the autonomous movement of the non-living.

4: The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.

6: The spectacle is also the permanent presence of this justification [the total justification of the existing system’s conditions and goals], since it occupies the main part of the time lived outside of modern production.

10: Considered in its own terms, the spectacle is affirmationof appearance and affirmation of all human life, namely social life, as mere appearance.

11: But the spectacle is nothing other than the sense of the total practice of a social-economic formation, its use of time.  It is the historical movement in which we are caught.

20: The spectacle is the material reconstruction of the religious illusion…The spectacle is the technical realization of the exile of human powers into a beyond; it is separation perfected within the interior of man.

23: The spectacle is thus a specialized activity which speaks for all the others.  It is the diplomatic representation of hierarchic society to itself, where all other expression is banned.

24: The spectacle is the existing order’s uninterrupted discourse about itself, its laudatory monologue.  It is the self-portrait of power in the epoch of its totalitarian management of the conditions of existence.

25: The spectacle is the preservation of unconsciousness within the practical change of the conditions of existence.  It is its own product, and it has made its own rules: it is a pseudo-sacred entity.  it shows what it is: separate power developing in itself, in the growth of productivity by means of the incessant refinement of the division of labor into a parcellization of gestures which are then dominated by the independent movement of machines; and working for an ever-expanding market.

34: The spectacle is capital to such a degree of accumulation that it becomes an image.

42: The spectacle is the moment when the commodity has attained the total occupation of social life.

49: The spectacle is the other side of money: it is the general abstract equivalent of all commodities…The spectacle is the developed modern complement of money where the totality of the commodity world appears as a whole, as a general equivalence for what the entire society can be and can do.  The spectacle is the money which one only looks at, b/c in the spectacle the totality of use is already exchanged for the totality of abstract representation.  The spectacle is not only the servant of pseudo-use, it is already in itself the pseudo-use of life.

158: The spectacle, as the present social organization of the paralysis of history and memory, of the abandonment of history built on the foundation of historical time, is the false consciousness of time.

Whew!  So we can already see how complex the concept is in Debord’s work, despite its relatively short length and aphoristic form.  So perhaps we can reconstruct some of his argument and see where we go from there.  Following WWII, Western economies faced the beginning of what was to be something like a 30 year “golden era” of capitalism (Debord’s SotS, written in 1967, is w/in this timeframe), driven not only by a grand compromise between labor and capital (e.g. Keynesianism), but also by the destruction of capital in both world wars (Piketty’s thesis in Capital in the 21st Century).  There was an acceleration of rates of production and consumption (remember, this is for Western economies, specifically) facilitated by the increasing operational importance of technology and machines, higher wages to buy extra-survival goods, and new media to effectuate the continued expansion of capital’s self-valorization into newly created industries.  I take this to be what Debord means by the explosion of abundance, the commodity (although I’d think it more accurate to specify as value) accumulated to such a point via a historical-economic anomaly that it undergoes something like an (metaphoric?) “overflow” into new territories for the extraction of value.  So when we think of new technologies like television becoming commercialized and mass produced from the 40s and esp 50s onwards, what we see w/ Debord’s eyes is not merely the explosion of new forms of communication, manipulation, and experience, but also a commodity form so saturated that it “becomes an image.”  Capitalist economic development, aided by particular technologies, crosses a threshold that allows it to mass produce images much more quickly than newspaper before it, or the mass influence of sound and radio before it.  Capital colonizes the field of representations in conscious or targeted ways, sucking them into its machinery for its own reproduction–“the spectacle does not realize philosophy, it philosophizes reality.”  Rather than “have concern” (it’s problematic discussing capital in anthropomorphic terms, but let’s leave that aside for now) for the content of said representational images–sunny Hawaiian beaches, billboard advertisement for perfume, memezzzzz–what is most important is that they lubricate the processes of production, circulation, and consumption necessary for increasing profits and the production of unbounded capital.  Our desire for and our consumption of the images and representations is what counts, b/c that is what materially reproduces the capitalist system we live in, accompanying our movement and labor involved in these processes.

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Here’s where we see Debord’s critical edge start sticking out.  B/c the spectacle is being used as the means and end for its own reproduction, and therefore the reproduction of the capitalist economic system that it is indissociably enmeshed within, it doesn’t concern itself with anything except the continuing self-valorization of capital.  Human emancipation, improving quality of life, the capacities to develop “species-being”…none of these are attended to b/c they don’t have to be attended to.  In fact, they can prove to be counter to the tendency of the spectacle (although as we’ll see as the time of the spectacle goes on, films like Mad Max with ostensibly revolutionary and feminist affect and progressive representations can still be used as a means towards the ends of successful expansion of value).

This, in part, accounts for the autonomy that Debord accords to it.  The image gains a character of sovereignty that it didn’t have before.  To understand this, we need to understand how Debord “upgrades” (at least for 1967) Marx’s concepts of alienationand commodity fetishism.  Although the image lords over us w/ its seductive power inviting us to join its fantasies, its magical transformations, its vacations from quotidian life, it is actually much closer to us than we originally imagine.  For what produces the spectacle and its representations, if not in large part our human labor?  We work to produce the spectacle as a particular configuration of materiality.  Specific metals and minerals for the tech and communication apparatuses, “creative” teams working to give it the allure needed to stoke our desires for it, and new forms of labor like technicians and designers…these all are instrumental for the creation and reproduction of the spectacle.  But what is so strange is that we could labor for a product that would be afterwards held against us in some way, vampirically incapacitating us.  Just as Marx describes laborers producing surplus value for capitalists, value which in turn gets re-purposed and ends up re-enforcing the economic status quo and facing laborers as obstacles to their freedom from the wage relationship and towards species-being, so we have a laboring humanity creating images that then, in turn, come to become stifling, oppressive, or perhaps least malignantly, like a “pseudo-life” that has much more to do w/ the pre-packaged configurations of desire that the images contain than the movements of our own desire as it wants greater activity and power.

This is alienation.  Mis-recognizing our desire, and taking other identities less helpful for our tasks that an imposing freedom demands.  Buying too much into circulated identities and mis-recognizing ourselves in the process, becoming alien to ourselves and unconscious of what it is our desire really wants, which would be a necessary (if, in itself, insufficient) step in strategizing on how to get it, and how other humans are part of that process.  Semi-voluntarily–and sometimes, quite enthusiastically–participating in a ritualized consumption of spectacular identities that ends up modifying our self-conceptions, our relationships with each other, our understanding of suffering, justice, truth, beauty, and values.  Experiencing the plethora, when desire is so much more specific in its desiring.

We are beholden to these images, seek to be like them, to identify as and with them b/c of what they seem to promise us.  All of these representations, these images, these identities…they all come with their own expectations, implicit and explicit norms (including norms opting for the elaboration of normative minimalism), bits of secure territory upon which to operate and to enjoy ourselves (esp if we follow Marx and D&G in understanding that even suffering is a kind of enjoyment).  When Debord says that the spectacle is the philosophizing of reality, we can understand this as its commodification of the domain of Kantian and post-Kantian thought as the synthesis and production of experience and representations.  Transcendental philosophy, concerned w/ the conditions of possible or real experience, becomes transformed so that the spectacular image can condition experience by commodifying it and its desire to want in particular ways (something which can become even clearer when we see that Kant describes desire as a power or “faculty which, by means of its representations, is the cause of the actuality of the objects of those  representations”).  Our desire has thus, to varying degrees, been co-opted from the outside in, whereby it becomes a conscious site for contestation, a fragmentation of ourselves into multiplicities of identities that each seek some kind of representation in the activity of our life…and we have to deal w/ the clean-up.

This strategic activating of sought-after effects through the spectacle commodity transforms the way we understand causal relations and reality.  Debord, at the very end of his text, brings up schizophrenia and dissociation as responses that seem to share a correspondence w/ the spectacle in so far as we “lose touch with reality.”  I must say though: this language–as well as the truth/false distinction–seems to be highly problematic.  There seems to be a privileging of idealism at work, one that confuses the normative for the descriptive.  But it is clear that Marx’s commodity fetishism has been transformed once more: now we have the spectacular image that mystifies our understanding of how we as humans relate to each other, and how it is our labor that produces (and then is alienated from) these images in the first place.  What we lose is the ability to apply the principle of sufficient reason, such that we could see how we are alienated together, and pooling our desire not in any (human) collective that could work for alternatives, but for the sheer power of the spectacular images themselves and the enjoyment of identities that they bring.  We lose the ability to form “more adequate ideas,” a la Spinoza, that could investigate causality more extensively, and not only in its effects.  What we have is the affirmation of appearance, of these end-result effects, and the affirmation of human life as appearance, as being wholly contained within the consumption of images.  What is unseen is lost, out of sight, and apparently not valuable.  Curation of images, of appearances, a myriad of perspectives each seemingly just as true as the other.  The interpersonal human relationships one kind amongst many.  But as Debord notes, the society of the spectacle with all of its images is still too much like a “monologue.”  It still creates the parameters for what is acceptable for consumption, and will not tolerate what threatens its hegemonic staying power.  Its message advocating passive acceptance and obedience-through-consumption is this: “what appears is good, and what is good appears.”  Alternative appearances and greater goods remain out of the question.  The spectacle merely congratulates itself, and urges us to do the same.

There’s so much more that can be said, and I find myself incredibly frustrated that it took me hours to pump this out, hours that were so slow and non-productive.  For future stuff, I’d like to be able to think more about how Debord clings to the human and resists what will later be named by Nick Land as machinic desire.  This in turn will have us wondering whether Debord’s view of the human is salvageable, or if we require a conceptual and affective upgrading of a sort to happen so that the human as spinozistic “common notion” isn’t simply arrested in its development along an idealist hegelian understanding of what it is.  Is debordian resistance possible or desirable today?  only in bits and pieces?  What does he have to contribute to the continuation of the tradition’s thinking of non-identity?  What of the project should be carried forward, and what do we leave as belonging to a by-gone era, one almost 50 years ago and in such different contexts, requiring such different focuses and strategies?

[following from my previous post on the positive ontological status of zero]

so as i get closer to the end of guy debord’s the society of the spectacle and see him moving away from a description of the spectacle towards his taking on marxist orthodoxy (economism, leninism-stalinism and its bureaucratic betrayal of the proletariat, etc.) and getting into philosophical, marxist-hegelian conceptions of time, i want to flesh out something of the text’s earlier bits and their relation to d&g’s anti-oedipus before i forget.

debord’s text, although it came out a year before ’68 and 5 years before A-O, can usefully be seen as a corrective to some of the problems w/ the d&g soixante-huitard text.  debord critiques the reification of lived experience involved in the consumption of the spectacle’s representations.  he does this for our benefit:–our inability to get to self-conceptualizations that are grounded in lack–the alienation that is part and parcel of the spectacle culture itself, no matter the joys that may come w/ it for better and worse–prevents the re-purposing of alienation as a crucial universal fit for taking the concerted elaboration of “the human” as its commitment, its collectivity as what is most deserving of the full efforts of a practical reasoning.  in other words, debord wants us to reclaim a kind of territory from which we can be informed about the spectacle, form an ethical-political navigation in relation to it, and from which we can learn to critique and refuse the plethora of produced identities for consumption.  he would say to d&g something like: “you fools!  you got so carried away by the extreme ideological affect of the machinic desire of your machinic ontology that you didn’t see how problematic the schizo could be, as the contemporary production of subjectivities moves from the formation of individuals to dividuals.  the way you both valorize a schizo process that has actually already been co-opted, such that it continues intra-personal alienation and the cynicism that refuses the freedom of the humanist project, the taking the inhumanist elaboration of the human seriously.  running away from the desire to form more powerful human collectives with others so we have better qualities of life as we become less alienated.”

ok, a bit long, but i think you get the idea.  perhaps we can say that it’s debord’s hegelian-marxist negativity that provides this impetus to refuse the present distribution of things, the dissatisfaction that rises with it as our collective alienation–being unified in our consumption that separates us–becomes increasingly intensified under capitalist productive development.  one has a negativity that can say “i am not this, nor that, nor that”…all which means to say, it desires the space of non-identity.  the ability to abstract from what rivets us to particular self-models in ways counterproductive to the sorts of ethics and humanist politics that we would like…one that includes a greater intimacy and relation w/ the human as a way to even more successfully conduct ethics and politics that take the problem of the freedom of the human in present times into account as a non-negotiable imperative.  a norm that is not derived, a la kant, from a sort of theological duty, but instead a more spinozistic conative imperative (as elaborated in my thesis) that knows the benefits that comes from unifying w/ the human in ways that alleviate alienation and engender our capacities to live more ethical and politically invested lives.  engineering ethical encounters for the production of machinic results needed for a leftist or progressive political subject today (e.g. increased trans-individual oxytocin levels producing inter-human bonding that conditions more successful fidelity to humanist projects).  this is what debord makes so imperative, so non-negotiable from his hegelian-marxism: the human cannot be renounced.  not only as a negative formulation, however.  but it is also the subversive power of love that raoul vanegeim names later that is so key.  we want intimacy and non-alienated being, for the reproduction of our lives in ways that are not only fulfilling and capacitating, but also key for the political struggles which aim to lessen alienation, lessen living lives that can too easily become “inauthentic” or “spectral”…the non-negotiable imperative to refuse dissatisfactioncynicismbare life.  taking seriously spinoza’s political question of “why do people desire their servitude as if it were their freedom?” and finding ways to continually unlearn our learned helplessness (e.g. negarestani’s take on committing to freedom in his “labor of the inhuman” essay).

debord gives an ethical perspective–if we understand a spinozist ethics to be that which aims at personal and collective human freedom as its highest goods–that is not given in d&g.  and this is why i find a key distinction btwn an ethics of freedom and an inhumanist agency.  debord adds the former to the latter that A-O is concerned with via its machinic ontology.  the intimacy (in their section on desire and the critique of psychoanalysis and lack) and the inhuman agency involved in a “general economy” of production.  especially re: inhuman agency, we see from the POV of their conceptual framework applying a transcendental empiricism that universalizes the principle of sufficient reason so as to better emphasize the non-human processes occurring that we are immanently enmeshed in–“desire is part of the infrastructure”–and traversed through by.  the conjoining of the more idealist account of desire with the more materialist machinic agency attempts something like what sellars called the stereoscopic view.  the machinic ontology, as a way of modelling reality conceptually–which includes the inscription of subjectivity within such models–helps provide heuristics and a familiarity w/ the non-human and the pure multiplicities when needed.  while it may not give the account of normativity that debord seems to be suggesting w/ his critique of the spectacle, it seems that the toolbox afforded by machinic ontologies is so far peerless in being able to think nature as production as well as the knowledge and learning taken from such a conceptualization.  superior empiricism indeed.  only when the machinic ontology fails to account for the exceptionality of the problem of the human–collectivity of alienated species-being that can be developed and elaborated to improve quality of life and move away from forms of bare life, the desire for recognition, the joys of human connection possible, etc.–does it risk becoming alienated once more, unconnected to humanist projects of freedom.  although this doesn’t mean that posthumanist or antihumanist ontologies cannot produce their own truths in exploration.  or more helpful models.  like how desire itself is never exempt from a generalized, productivist principle of sufficient reason.  yet, these things can be re-purposed to aid humanist projects.  the trickiness of empiricism w/ normativity.  i think it’s too quick to just condemn the empiricism of d&g–it can be quite helpful.  but to say that it has an explicitly humanist political program–like debord, and his negativity towards the spectacle–is not quite hitting the money either.  a generalized production of lack for all finite things that have affectivity, ok, but not really the sense of the importance of a transindividual or transversal human collectivity to be the collective leftist political subject–an anti-oedipus.  by focusing on a kantian take of experience and its production–philosophizing from the idealist side of a desiring subjectivity involved in the process of a general economy of production–they are unable to think the strategic import and value of such a transindividual collective subject.  that requires an embracing of alienation that they would at times like to move away from through the schizo process.  they take the approach that is already alienated:–they already see the human as a problem that is too restrictive, too oedipal, laying too many expectations w/ all the madness that causally ensues from such harmful exposure.  in this way, they are still perhaps too individualist at times, bordering on a leftist libertarianism that compromises w/ the spectacle a bit too much.  the glorification of alienation from the side of the difficulties of alienation, difficulties which, at the best of times or w/ the best of encounters, can provide a rebirth, a detachment from what places us in the sad passions and even what places us in activity.  but there is also the threat of the catatonic schizo that they come up w/ 8 years later in ATP as a way of suggesting: “by no means is the schizo process intrinsically liberatoryand can actually continue one’s status as an alienated dividual, against oneself.  a move is required–one from the valorization of the dissolution of selves through injections of the schizo process (which capital has so successfully co-opted, w/ its creation of “false needs,” its economic exploitation of our desire to communicate and to have identities to be through consumption, requiring another element…) towards the ability to think the non-identity of subjectivity in alternative ways other than by excess.

kenotic technique of non-identity

this is where badiouvian subtraction comes in, a subtraction that not only goes back to the lacanian subject (which either d&g implicitly presupposed knowledge of or simply tossed away) that has a relation of negativity to the identities its consumes, but also that seeks a reduction of the valorization of identities that take us away from the struggle against alienation and bare life that we have w/ the project of human freedom as part of a generic humanity.  a space for abstraction, for exploring the lacanian subject’s desire that we must not give up on.  and the ability to elaborate the formulation of this desire as the formulation of human freedom, including its desire for collectivity, its distaste for the violences that maim or impoverish life and make us content w/ the multiplication of cults of death and the hyena-ish laughter that finds fecundity in the salves of the sad passions.  a desire that does not give up on itself, on what it wants.  and being able to include processes of reasoning to aid the development of our individual autonomy in humanist collectives so that we can more effectively stay w/ what our desire demand.  the emptiness of the lacanian subject not as an impoverishment, but as a space to achieve desire and engage w/ freedom in.  and the potential of forming a generic humanity–generic b/c of sharing their negativity of not really being any of their identities regardless of degree of reification, sharing the non-identity that desires in a way much more minimally than the desire overloaded on the consumption of the spectacle.  a desire of the zero that seeks not the nomadism of moving btwn identities overloaded with the reification of representation–the commodification of “all the names of history” that is part of the nietzschean bomb w/in A-O–but the nomadism that finds itself more capable of achieving the dynamics of a desire unburdened by the excess of selves-as-models and the economic-psychoanalytical imperative to consume them.  zero not by overwhelming, but by subtraction–the positivity that negativity is capable of–towards the abstract minimalism of non-identity. interestingly enough, we see a flash of this in A-O when d&g quote henry miller: “From the little reading I had done I had observed that the men who were most in life, who were moulding life, who were life itself, ate little, slept little, owned little or nothing.”  a non-identity that is not so easily ensnared by the illusions of reified identities such that it becomes better positioned to do what it must for freedom, and a freedom that provides a space for thinking a generic humanity as the end result of operations of subtraction.  a method to refuse subjectivity as a positive process–the positivity of negativity, as badiou says, that which is not a destruction.  and important, a positive result as well, when the minimization of the dramatization of the consumption of multiplicities of identities can think of and desire and opt for and imagine other than the spectacle and “communicative capitalism” (jodi dean) today, and the “there is no alternative” put forth by globally integrated capitalism / post-cold war neoliberalism / capitalism as necropolitical “thanaticism” at our historical conjuncture of problems.  subtraction as a useful (and thereby, also ethical and political) operation that can think the dissatisfaction of the spectacle–always w/in a narrow set of parameters, always producing the unity of separate consumption…the falsity of an ideological “end of history”–and desire to construct otherwise.  the dissatisfaction w/ the spectacle as it fails to aid humanist processes and collectives of freedom and autonomy.  i think this is why debord comes down so hard on what he calls “the autonomy of the image,” since he sees it as sapping us away into an alienation that finds great difficulty w/ desiring the reduction of the suffering that comes w/ such alienation.  the operation of subtraction as something that enables a fidelity to a truly nomadic desire to emerge (badiou’s subjective necessity as the quantification of the infinite into finitude), while also making the space for a generic and inhumanist humanity more likely (although i’m not yet familiar w/ how he makes that argument).  a different conceptualization of non-identity from the energetics involved in dissolution of selves:–a more abstractive non-identity which finds itself closer to the infinite zero by thinking of zero as necessarily irreducible to a zero thought of as excess, as energetic degree “= 0”.  a zero that can take the affective conceptualization of thermodynamics and hydraulic desire as yet another model–and quite a useful one–, and in no way equal to what is infinite zero.  only infinite zero is infinite zero, and even that deceives in so far as it encounters all the problems of A = A that zero cannot be subsumed under as it is that which differs from itself.  subtraction as the operation that can better deliver the non-identity of zero than the ethical praxis of an energetic excess, since it allows for the abstractive space whereby desire can be understand as a quantification of the infinite, as something that can be rationally elaborated in a co-development w/ a more truly nomadic desire.

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two things that i forgot to add during my writing last night.  (1) one is making explicit the concept of a subject that is abstract, that navigates through abductive reasoning, that minimizes quantitative multiplicities so as to allow for qualitative intensive shifts that allow a more robust desire to issue forth:–this all depends upon the exploration of aneurophilosophical individual that can be expressed well w/ thomas metzinger’s phrase of “being no one.”  this also works w/ the mode-individual as immunological agential system from my thesis, the thinking that would conceptualize the human mode as third person reflexive pronoun.  the movement towards articulating non-identity, which includes also articulating non-identity from the side closest to a non-identity that is closest to the anonymity of infinite zero…a zero of which “excess” is only a moment or a modality, and one that can become dogmatically obstructive when taken to be exhaustive.  so how to articulate the ontological zero of a modal “being no one,” such that we can understand why there is a desire for consumption of identities, how we interact w/ identities as capacities that are essentially modelling processes, and how the positive capacities of subtractive operations towards anonymity can allow for a productive negativity that can desire otherwise.  this will require looking at some of badiou, the elements of deleuze and d&g’s thought that explores the anonymity of becoming-indiscernible and the counter-actualization of qualitative intensity that provides a greater nomadic movement than the positivity of the distribution of actual quantitative multiplicities, but especially the brassier and negarestani and metzinger (for starters) that seek more explicit developments of the problems of non-identity as it relates to subjectivity, agency, resistance, rational activity, and processes of freedom.

(2) making explicit how the spectacle–especially the “spectacle of disintegration” of today’s “over-developed” world, a la the wark-SI fusion–engenders the dissolution of attention, of humanist identification, the production of sociopathologies and psychopathologies, the production of a machinic desire that can go overboard through the hyper-connectivity of contemporary network culture by which capital commodifies our desire for intimacy and communication.  the compulsion to identify, which is always promoted from within the “acceptable” parameters of the spectacle, becomes a prison of multiplicity, of mutilated half-desires that struggle to muster the activity and desire for freedom.  becoming-dividual:–the informational person of the age of metadata and pattern recognition of our control society that quantifies our fragmentation and intensifies our self-divided alienation, making it more difficult to think of the transindividuality required for a collective human subject elaborating itself by opting for greater freedom.  united in our alienated consumption of merely empirical differences, both inter-personally as well as intra-personally.  becoming yet again alienated from our labor, and the way it stands against us to sap our creative energies.  this is schizophrenic desire as malady, as what cuts us off from our capacity to act.  the over-exposure relating to economic relations of production, circulation, and consumption that demand our total and complete subsumption into the identitarian fantasies of the spectacle, of becoming the representations of “all the names of history.”  this is what i would like to call a transindivudal neuro-toxicity that is the contemporary trap of getting stuck in the passions, esp if we take the passions to be the passivity of a receptive sensitivity that precludes an ethical process of judgment and selection for the activity of freedom.  the persistent insistence that counters the spectacle’s logic that says “that which appears is good, [and] that which is good appears.”  we see the affective elaboration of this problem in albums like sufjan stevens 2010 the age of adzand st. vincent’s 2014 eponymous album.  the post hoc coming to terms w/ the schizophrenic subjectivity proper to the dividuals we find ourselves becoming more and more of as the consumption of identities is increasingly commodified and encouraged by contemporary capital relations.  a new form of alienation that deceives us by positing the sufficiency of a schizophrenic intimacy w/ what exists…and how such non-human intimacy can cut us off from the transhuman intimacy that we would like to formulate with others in meaningful ways.  holly herndon’s 2015 platform makes this recuperative dynamic explicit, and insists that we do not give up on the subversive capacities of love even against the over-developed hyper-connectivity of contemporary network culture and advanced machinic capitalism.  making explicit how the commitment to the human–which becomes an inhumanist elaboration of the human as a (spinozist) “common idea” that we transindividually share together while being fully immersed and conscious of the non-, in-, and un-human elements of a “substance” that is not intrinsically in favor of “subject”–is desirable for a more free life, as that which combats the deceptive alienations of schizo-rhizomatic culture.  what is particularly noticeable about holly herndon’s platform is the way that she nonetheless retains elements of a machinic desire and wants to engage w/ the complexity of elaborating the human by re-purposing the elements of our machinic naturalist conceptualizations for the human.  rejecting the sterile mechanical-vital dualism in favor of a desire that can select the elements it needs for the success of humanist projects.

the ethics of a zero moving towards the anonymity of a “zero-space” produced by the positivity of subtractive operations is therefore not something to be seen as a luxury, one possible capacity appearing among other capacities to choose–the “market” approach to ethical subjectivity’s auto-modulation opting for the activity of personal and collective human freedom.  such an anonymous ethics is crucial for the ability to withdraw from the production of one contemporary avatar of incapacitating lack, that of becoming overwhelmingly paralyzed by the neuro-toxicity of network culture and its inhuman expansion of platforms of communication that nonetheless still prove to be too constricting for the kinds of communication conducive towards the activity of freedom.

or to use two quotations, one from spinoza and the other from deleuze:

spinoza: “I submit that the world would be much happier, if men were as fully able to keep silence as they are able to speak.”

deleuze: “We sometimes go on as though people can’t express themselves. In fact they’re always expressing themselves. The sorriest couples are those where the woman can’t be preoccupied or tired without the man saying “What’s wrong? Say something…,” or the man, without the woman saying … and so on. Radio and television have spread this spirit everywhere, and we’re riddled with pointless talk, insane quantities of words and images. Stupidity’s never blind or mute. So it’s not a problem of getting people to express themselves but of providing little gaps of solitude and silence in which they might eventually find something to say. Repressive forces don’t stop people expressing themselves but rather force them to express themselves; What a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing the rare, and ever rarer, thing that might be worth saying. What we’re plagued by these days isn’t any blocking of communication, but pointless statements. But what we call the meaning of a statement is its point. That’s the only definition of meaning, and it comes to the same thing as a statement’s novelty. You can listen to people for hours, but what’s the point? . . . That’s why arguments are such a strain, why there’s never any point arguing. You can’t just tell someone what they’re saying is pointless. So you tell them it’s wrong. But what someone says is never wrong, the problem isn’t that some things are wrong, but that they’re stupid or irrelevant. That they’ve already been said a thousand times. The notions of relevance, necessity, the point of something, are a thousand times more significant than the notion of truth. Not as substitutes for truth, but as the measure of the truth of what I’m saying. It’s the same in mathematics: Poincaré used to say that many mathematical theories are completely irrelevant, pointless; He didn’t say they were wrong – that wouldn’t have been so bad.”

the focus on the ability to desire other than through the repressive forces demanding our forced identification, demanding our compliance w/ the spectacle and staying w/in the vast (but truly restricted and restrictive) parameters of the spectacle that have become sanitized, have become prepped and available for acceptable consumption.  the valorization of and the call to “self-expression” as a trap that rivets us to an economic process of consumption that reproduces the relations of capital as it seeks to continually accumulate value…an end that is explicitly anti-humanist and anathemic to humanist projects of freedom.  self-expression that is actually not an “expression” of the self, but the consumption of identity of a self-as-modelling-process (from the POV of anonymous, indiscernable “zero-space”) that overladens desire w/ the norms, expectations, and activation of conflicting desires proper to such “packages” of identities that produce a schizophrenic ambivalence robbing us of our ability to be faithful to the exigencies of our desire…including our desire for alleviating and replacing the hegemony of alienation w/ a constructive counter-hegemonic transindividual humanism.  when d&g critique forms of desire bound up to duty, to expectation, to becoming subject to the reified representations that so easily ensnare us, i find the charitable way of taking such injunctions to be less about a “childish” refusal of commitment, of the work of elaborating the commitments involved in activities of (in)humanist freedom, and more about the refusal to become subjected to processes of identity-consumption that divide us from our capacities for activity, for seeing “what a body can do.”