Tag Archives: politics

so i’m thinking about some of the arguments from a text on the role of the american state in the 20th c., esp w/ respect to US’ informal empire.  part of the argument that i see from my readings on the times of wilson and roosevelt and in btwn is how the US state didn’t have the complexity and organizational capacities to take on the british mantle for geopolitical hegemony in the wake of WW1.  it took unprecedented financial crisis–and capitalists’ desperation for the state to “do something!”–to motivate the american state to modify and expand its organizational structure and capacities, creating new departments, increasing its “man-power”, and being given more extensive powers and passing policies meant to successfully intervene on the great depression. while it took WW2 to get the US out of its depression–as well as the rest of the world it dragged in, by one form or another given the global connectivity that had emerged at the time–the US state had developed during the new deal the needed powers to later take up global hegemony post-WW2 by forming key new relationships with american (and therefore, global) financial institutions and capitalist production.

and then i thought of nick land.  land tends to leave the state out of the equation in most of his stuff i’ve read (his pre-NRx stuff), focusing instead upon the emerging (for his time) global neoliberal market and its completing ascendancy of inhuman capitalists operations of surplus valorization, in contrast to or deviously absorbing a global human population.  for land, “politics” is dead, and the market becomes the only “revolutionary” force, or at the very least, the one that liquefies all the other systems used to prop it up, including ecological ones supportive of biological life.  there is no elegy nor eulogy for such an “end” of politics: land is tired of human limitations and takes the otherwise threatening capitalist “intelligence” emerging that continuously produces and absorbs systemic crises as a superior force worth affirming, even against our own and our desire and practical abilities that seek to counter the strains and limitations on human freedom that it produces.  it is a ghastly nietzschean-hegelian combo, one that recognizes the absurdity of a geist taking “the human” as its ultimate conclusion or summit, mixed with the affirmation of supposedly greater potencies that humans are subject to in a machinic enslavement.  with capital as the “true” subject of history–or at the very least, the more “powerful” in a socio-technical inorganic darwinism–, human politics becomes a hopeless gesture that is overrun by a stronger force.

what power do social movements, land might ask, have to actually produce not only alternatives to capitalist economics–and all that brings–but ones that are more humanistic as well?  esp since they have failed since the late 60s to actually curb or decelerate capitalism’s anti-humanist putrefaction?  incidentally, this is where the left accelerationist critique of “folk politics” comes in–folk politics must be included in larger projects of counter-hegemony that can effectively understand and navigate complexity, abstraction, and technological infrastructure.  their call for “organizational ecologies” that can together tackle the problems needed to actuate any humanist “post-capitalist” project.

but it’s curious why the role of the state seems to be lacking in land’s analysis, unless, of course, i haven’t read enough of him to see what he thinks about it.  but given his silence i’m familiar with, something in my reading on the american state made a helpful conceptual connection for me.  although the state mediates class antagonism, or the antagonism btwn labor and capital more broadly (and perhaps metaphysically), it depends upon capitalist production of surplus value for it to not only sustain itself, but to also fund its cost-intensive ways of maintaining governance.  although the state mediates labor and capital, it seems to asymmetrically rely less upon the humans that compose its functioning and interests and sociality, and more upon the capital that can corrupt its politicians and make them in many ways more beholden to business interests–including transnational capitalist corporations’ interests.

at least this fatalism and cynicism about the possibility of conducting politics in land *makes sense.*  it comes from a deep mistrust about the state and its capacity to opt for something else than its own interests created through a financial reliance upon capital.  even its taxation of citizens garnering it revenue requires that sufficient wages be paid to laborers to achieve greater wealth.  and the rivalries and competition of geopolitical actors benefits greatly from such wealth as a strength, making it particularly attractive and seemingly non-negotiable for stronger states…except in exceptional times, like w/ the UK abandoning its imperial power over decades, or the beginning of the end of unipolar american hegemony.

but even more distinguishing for land, i take it, is the way in which the state might simply not be complex enough to uphold even the neoliberal capitalism which it takes as its best or only option.  that is to say, it might not have the organizational knowledge and capacities to divert the practical anti-humanism of capital, even in some cases becoming fascist regimes that promise to change things for the better but w/o being able to solve the problems it proffers solutions for.  like trump saying that he’s got all the answers, and then his eventual failure to deliver on what he says but creating conditions and perhaps even policies for overt racism and creeping fascism that recall that of the 30s.  and that this can both stem from and lead to popular discontent that destabilizes the state is astonishing, as it would diagnose a state model that can at its best only manage and govern perpetual crises but not deliver outcomes proper to a humanist institution–one by humans and for humans–but instead those proper to transnational capital.  the ttip and other trade pacts seem to indicate this willingness of the state to accept and facilitate economic policies that would set the people in an antagonism w/ the state, distancing it from the take that views the state as an essential organon to carry out a politics that can lead to humanist directions for post-capitalism.

so for land, politics is “dead” b/c you can neither count on social movements, nor on state actors and institutions:–capital reigns supreme over both forms, even if it extinguishes even itself in the process.  whether it does so would, land might argue, be dependent upon its ability to completely substitute the humanity it is annihilating with a machinic or technological intelligence that can continue the production of surplus value.

no wonder there is a resurgence of the question of the party for those desiring alternatives to capitalism (and especially *for* humanist “post-capitalism), aided in large part by varying degrees of success of leftists parties like syriza, corbyn, podemos, bernie sanders, the ndp.  and many others globally that are struggling to come onto their national scenes as a way to reject both the radical right’s fascism and the economic hegemony of neoliberal capital.  it is seen as necessary–if not sufficient, and it is perhaps here where different leftists diverge w/ regard to the state’s desirable role and actual capacities–for being able to navigate us into post-capitalism on issues like climate change and how to deal w/ the coming waves of automation of labor.  having seen syriza’s failure to follow through on its promises, bernie sanders’ campaign’s collapse, podemos’ mediocre results in the 2nd round of voting, and corbyn under threat post-brexit, one can imagine nick land smiling w/ the air of a knowing “i told you so.”

some pressing concerns then appear: what roles, organizations, and functions might social movements in the 21st century incur, and how might they have a political efficacy for desirable post-capitalist outcomes?  how to make sure leftist parties not only come into power over neoliberal and fascist ones, but are able to counteract their influence and to form mutually supportive links w/ said popular social movements?  what coming techno-economic developments can be seen as opportunities for enabling such successful experiments to navigate these crises?  how is counter-hegemony to be constructed, especially in terms of funding and the object of financial investment–easy for the mont perlin society’s taking the neoliberal path out of the economic blockages of the 70s but not for the vast majority without accessible liquidity and the like?  how is counter-hegemony able to purposively or instrumentally relate to material infrastructures in ways to support its aims for post-capitalism?  it seems clear that we have none of this as of yet, and that it is a practical imperative more than anything fleshed out right now…although that is essential for the actual thinking and acting constructive of counter-hegemonic projects.  but not to despair either, as such projects have long time scales, and we’ve only witnessed neoliberalism as “the god that failed” less than a decade ago when the 2007 global financial crisis galvanized our collective understanding that something other than capitalism is needed if we are going to survive as a species (esp w/ ecological crisis whose causes show no sign of slowing down).

nick land’s fears might end up not to be the fatalistic case he concludes them to be, but they reveal the anxiety and paranoia of knowing of capitalism’s inhumanity and its real subsumption…and what that means for our freedom, the enjoyment of our agency.  it’s pessimistic to say the least, and what becomes his theologization of this inhuman capital becomes problematic and indicative of an unnecessary metaphysicalization naturalizing an apocalyptic fatalism and despair–but his diagnosis of our crisis-ridden conjuncture is apt in many ways, and helps us to understand much of today’s craziness and the difficulty of attempting successful politics that are more than being feeble, “conservative” efforts to stymie an ineluctable capitalist “geist.”  de-potentiating his passive affect whereby he learns to desire his own servitude as if it were his freedom and reconnecting to the promethean imperative to see what a “techno-social body can do,” we can recover the needed sense of agency to involve our libidinal and informational resources in carrying out such projects.  that as summum bonum and task.

but that is very much the difficult problem now: how to take a logical and ethical imperative to drive a desirable political imperative to reformulate the economic axiom or imperative we face in its immensely global, abstract, and complex character?

Wild Ecologies:
Speculative Anarchism & Guattari's Three Ecologies 

In the first of what we hope to be a series of group readings, Wild Ecologies encourages participants to read Felix Guattari’s The Three Ecologies (1989) and share insights and commentary intended to stimulate discussion and debate on the possible resonances and potential disconnects between anarchist and post-anarchist positions and of one of Guattari’s seminal texts. Our goal is salvage and repurpose whatever valuable insights and practical considerations generated in the collision between psycho-ecological theory and anarchist interventions, as a means of enriching political and personal praxis, as well as the more general orientations of ecological thought.

A copy of Guattari’s The Three Ecologies can be read online: HERE

COMMENTS and related GUEST POSTS welcome

Guattari’s The Three Ecologies

“Environmental ecology, as it exists today, has barely begun to prefigure the generalised ecology that I advocate here, the aim of which will be to radically decentre social struggles and ways of coming into one’s own psyche… Ecology must stop being associated with the image of a small nature-loving minority. Ecology in my sense questions the whole of subjectivity and capitalistic power formations.” (p,2)three eco

Félix Guattari was a French psychotherapist and philosopher who founded both ‘schizoanalysis’ and ‘ecosophy’. In the early 1950’s Guattari helped create La Borde, an experimental psychiatric clinic in south Paris, France. He went on to train under (and was analysed by) the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, but is best known for his intellectual collaborations with philosopher Gilles Deleuze – most notably in Anti-Oedipus (1972) and A Thousand Plateaus (1980), and What is Philosophy? (1991). Guattari worked at La Borde from its inception until his death from a heart attack in 1992.

In The Three Ecologies (1989) Guattari’s develops ideas formulated by anthropologist and systems theorist Gregory Bateson in Steps to An Ecology of Mind, wherein he describes three interacting and interdependent ecologies: Social ecology, Mental ecology, Environmental ecology. These three ecologies not only present as sites of negotiation and reconstruction, but also as interchangeable theoretic lenses or perspective styles. They are not distinct territories but formed relationally and transversally. Guattari sought to elaborate and refine these concepts in detail, and along with his own psychoanalytic perspective adding a mutated form of poststructuralist Marxism into the mix. Guattari often presented these ideas as strategies or processes towards a reconstruction of social and individual practices, or what he called “ecosophy”. For Guattari, the “ecosophic problematic is that of the production of human existence itself in new historical contexts” (p.24).

Speculative Anarchism?

an·ar·chism (noun): belief in the abolition of all government and the organization of society on a voluntary, cooperative basis without recourse to force or compulsion.

The speculative turn is a phrase that has been used to talk about the way that recent continental philosophy has sought to explode beyond the constraints of endless talk about discourse, language, power-knowledge, textuality, and culture. At the same time the speculative turn also seeks to move passed the frozen obsession with the ‘death of man’ that has, by ceaselessly ensuring that the human, the subject, or Dasein remain the core around which philosophy circles, perpetually enacted a ‘resurrection of man’.

The speculative is about leaving the comfortable waters of human narcissism behind and venturing out once more into the “great outdoors” of objects, material processes, vibrant matter, geological and cosmological time, and thus simultaneously enacting a philosophy that rediscovers the more-than-human ecologies that we are embedded in. Much of this work offers means with which to think the materiality of power and to grasp the cartographies of capitalism.

Key to this is the common theme among the new speculative philosophers and their antecedents on leaving behind the tired distinction between nature and culture. Any anarchism today must be able to think about nature in ways that avoid reproducing the modernist trap of treating it as separate from humans- some raw material “out there” that we can ceaselessly take as exclusively our own inexhaustible means to freedom. We are embedded within ecologies and are ourselves units of alien ecologies.

Many anarchists have engaged with continental philosophy only begrudgingly or not at all. The epithets of idealism, self-importance, separation from everyday concerns, and theoretical self-indulgence, as well as a certain stale boredom, haven’t gone unanswered by certain circles of philosophers, anthropologists and sociologists.

The speculative turn towards materialism and realism offer an opportunity for anarchism to re-engage with a different kind of philosophy. The purpose of a reading group that explores the possibilities of speculative anarchisms will be to assess whether the speculative turn is able to help us make sense of the multiple crises that we find ourselves faced with and whether there is anything that anarchists and anarchist perspectives can make use of in these works. It remains an open question…

Related Posts:

Children of the new Earth – Deleuze, Guattari and anarchism”, by Aragorn Eloff

Schizoanalysis as Anthro-Ecology, by Edmund Berger

Guattari’s Eco-Logic, by Bill Rose

Bewilded, by Stephen Duplantier


Notes towards an emancipatory ecologistics? * What would be required of us cognitively, technically, and practically in our attempts to alter our ways of existing for more adaptive modes?

Bruno Latour, from ‘To modernize or to ecologize? That’s the Question’ (1998):

In the new regime, everything is complicated and every decision demands caution and prudence. One can never go straight or fast. It is impossible to go on without circumspection and without modesty. We now know, for example, that if it is necessary to take account of everything along the length of a river, we will not succeed with a hierarchised system that might give the impression, on paper, of being a wonderful science with wonderful feedback loops but which will not generate new political life. To obtain a stirring up of politics, you have to add uncertainty so that the actors, who until now knew what a river could and could not tolerate, begin to entertain sufficient doubts. The word ‘doubt’ is in fact inadequate, since it gives the impression of scepticism, whereas it is more a case of enquiry, research and experimentation. In short, it is a collective experimentation on the possible associations between things and people without any of these entities being used, from now on, as a simple means by the others.

Political ecology, as we have now understood it, is not defined by taking account of nature, but by the different career now taken by all objects. A planner for the local agricultural authority, an irrigator, a fisherman or a concessionaire for drinking water used to know the needs of water. They could guarantee its form by assuming its limits and being ignorant of all the ins and outs. The big difference between the present and the previous situation does not lie in the fact that, before, we did not know about rivers and now we are concerned about them, but in the fact that we can no longer delimit the ins and outs of this river as an object. Its career as an object no longer has the same form if each stream, each meander, each source and each copse must serve both as an end and a means for those claiming to manage them.

At the risk of doing a little philosophising, we could say that the ontological forms of the river have changed. There are, literally speaking, no more things. This expression has nothing to do with a sentimentalism of Mother Earth, with the merging of the fisherman, kingfisher and fish. It only designates the uncertain, dishevelled character of the entities taken into account by the smallest river contract or the smallest management plan. Nor does the expression refer to the inevitable complexity of natural milieux and human–environment interactions, for the new relationships are no more complex than the old ones (if they were, no science, management or politics could be done on their behalf, as Florian Charvolin [1993] demonstrated so well). It solely refers to the obligation to be prepared to take account of other participants who may appear unforeseen, or disappear as if by magic, and who all aspire to take part in the ‘kingdom of ends’ by suddenly combining the relationships of the local and global. In order to monitor these quasiobjects, it is therefore necessary to invent new procedures capable of managing these arrivals and departures, these ends and these means — procedures that are completely different from those used in the past to manage things.

In fact, to summarise this argument, it would have to be said that ecology has nothing to do with taking account of nature, its own interests or goals, but that it is rather another way of considering everything. ‘Ecologising’ a question, an object or datum, does not mean putting it back into context and giving it an ecosystem. It means setting it in opposition, term for term, to another activity, pursued for three centuries and which is known, for want of a better term, as ‘modernisation.’.

Everywhere we have ‘modernised’ we must now ‘ecologise.’ This slogan obviously remains ambiguous and even false, if we think of ecology as a complete system of relationships, as if it were only a matter of taking everything into account. But it becomes profoundly apposite if we use the term ecology by applying to it the principle of selection defined above and by referring it to the Kantian principle for the justification of the green regime.

‘Ecologising’ means creating the procedures that make it possible to follow a network of quasi-objects whose relations of subordination remain uncertain and which thus require a new form of political activity adapted to following them.


“Have you heard about the Wisconsin Mining Standoff? The GTac mining proposal? What about the Enbridge pipeline expansion? guest host Rebecca Kemble was joined by Wisconsin’s 29th Senate District Candidate Paul DeMain, Harvard educated economist Winona LaDuke, founding member of the Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative Barbara With, and chairman of the Bad River Ojibwe Mike Wiggins to discuss the creative responses to resource extraction proposals in the Lake Superior Basin.

AFTER THE FICTIONS: Notes Towards a Phenomenology of the Multitude
By Dilip Gaonkar

People do not riot every day, but they have rioted often enough in the past, especially since the onset of modernity. People continue to riot with alarming regularity in the present, especially in the so-called Global South, as the saga of modernity continues to unfold now in its global phase. This repeated and continued reliance on rioting as a distinctive, but historically and culturally variable, mode of collective action (if not agency) merits greater attention than it has hitherto received. People riot over all sorts of things—the price of bread, oil, and onions; the publication of a book; the screening of a film; the drawing of a cartoon. 

Hong Kong

They riot on account of police brutality, political corruption, and the desecration of the holy places. They riot when subjected to ethnic or racial slurs (real or imagined) and when continuously deprived of basic necessities like water, electricity, and sanitation. They riot for being ill-treated at health care facilities, for being denied entrance to once public, now privatized, spaces of pleasure and recreation, and generally for justice denied and petitions ignored. They riot after soccer games, cricket games, music concerts, and also before, during, and after elections. The list can be extended indefinitely.