February 27, 2011 § 25 Comments

Seriously, fuck theory. This current round of accumulation is ‘accelerationism’. It’s ‘hyperstition’. It’s ‘post-human’. It’s the real path to ‘the singularity’. It’s definitely ‘object-oriented’. The object being ‘oriented’ is Capital’s full spectrum dominance over the remaining crumbs of civil society.Make no mistake, this is the wave of the future. The Shock Doctrine in excelsis, yet still it fails to surprise me. It’s on its way to the UK too. Having faith in ‘Red Ed’ saying diddly squat about it is ‘speculative’ without the ‘realism’. A narrow mandate, riding on resentful discontent, knows it has to shoot that dying horse to proceed with its raid. Just as Cameron has covertly enlisted the EDL, Walker knows how to use the Tea Party. History shows us that fascists always come in handy for this kind of heist. If they move, kill ’em.

The decline of the west continues unabated. Capital may not be in decline, but society certainly is. This time, our decline won’t be carved in stone, rather zeroes and ones. However, I mustmention again that’s likely to be another franchise on its way to enclosure. Our toys can beconfiscated whenever it suits them. Like theory, this is all play; nothing more. To pretend any virtual dance of speculation is ‘political’ is a delusion. If I was being mugged, the last thing on my mind would be Hegel’s epistomology; or indeed the action in the comments box. If all this doesn’t drag the west kicking and screaming back to reality, then nothing will. At least they could find a job in the Matrix, a notion now as quaint as its soundtrack.

Or it’s ‘The Arabs’ achievement of Spirit:

Hence our hope for the cycle of struggles spreading in the Arab world to become like Latin America, to inspire political movements and raise aspirations for freedom and democracy beyond the region. Each revolt, of course, may fail: tyrants may unleash bloody repression; military juntas may try to remain in power; traditional opposition groups may attempt to hijack movements; and religious hierarchies may jockey to take control. But what will not die are the political demands and desires that have been unleashed, the expressions of an intelligent young generation for a different life in which they can put their capacities to use.

Kasper again here:

The pressure to generate ‘content’ becomes more intnense, despite things becoming so much more socially/economically/culturally clear. The 2.0 age invites vacuity – Mcewan’s speech another example. The less we have to say, we have to say it more. I think certain bloggers have slowly realised this, which is why many are posting entries at much slower rates (in calmer tones) than before – when they do, alienation from their own words is palpable.

Well, it’s a nice excuse at least. No promises on the next post.


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§ 25 Responses to Word

  • Lindsey says:

    yeah man, thought and hope in the midst of need have never produced action! totally!

  • traxus4420 says:

    thought + hope ≠ academic theory + rhetorical appropriation

  • Lindsey says:

    but it can equal that. though maybe i’m just not understanding the beef w/ the hardt/negri.

  • traxus4420 says:

    sorry to shit-talk something you posted, and it’s not THAT bad, but it just reads to me like they did some scanning of headlines and then applied their theory.

    i mean aside from just the blanket term ‘arabs’ being used to refer to this centerless movement (which should still include persians, shouldn’t it?), who are they to insist “The insurrections of Arab youth are certainly not aimed at a traditional liberal constitution that merely guarantees the division of powers and a regular electoral dynamic, but rather at a form of democracy adequate to the new forms of expression and needs of the multitude.” what if liberal democracy is what they decide on? what is this “generalised sense of frustrated productive and expressive capacities, especially among young people” and how is it “not only widespread unemployment and poverty?” what happens if a ‘traditional’ institutional body develops out of one or all of these revolutions? will ‘the arabs’ then forfeit their pioneer status? nowhere are the differences between them and the challenges they face mentioned in any significant way, or at all. it’s like wearing a che t-shirt — all these people are reduced to fodder for theory, ‘like latin america was in the 20th century.’

    like ok, it’s a nice sentiment, but indissociable from a framing of the movement that inserts it into an appealing and familiar narrative about historical teleology (a pretty straightforwardly hegelian one, isn’t it?). it might not qualify as harmful, but i don’t think it really adds anything – just some intellectuals cashing in on the combination of (apparent) ignorance and happy thoughts.

  • Lindsey says:

    Maybe. (I shouldn’t have started this, because as you know, I find arguing on blogs supremely, but. . . .) It seems to me that you (and Kasper) in even engaging this battle against academics ultimately end up legitimating the very thing you think you’re critiquing.

    I don’t see why one couldn’t affirm thought as worthwhile and political while also engaging in what you’re imagining as ‘direct action.’ Ultimately, it seems to me that, regardless of the kinds of problems you’re attributing to Negri/Hardt re: appropriation (to which I kind of think: so what?) what they’re affirming is this possibility of beginning something revolutionary without necessarily having an end in mind (without producing a counter-ideology). . . possibility in the midst of the intolerable. Seems okay to me.

  • Lindsey says:

    er, *find arguing on blogs supremely annoying.

  • W.Kasper says:

    Er… I’m not entirely sure if I’m quoted out of context here (do I get tagged ‘bullshit’ now?). But I should make it clear I’m not playing the old British anti-intellectualism card.

    I’ve nothing against academic theory, blogging or hope. But engaging with ’em does increasingly feel like doing ‘nothing’ (not that there’s anything wrong with that..). My beef is probably more against the young post-grad’s need to create a new ‘scene’ than professional academics. The further I get from the academy, the more certain theory feels like ‘same old’ with a new marketing term. Especially the above theories cited, which are easily appropriated in practice – by the ‘wrong’ side. Western governments are being very ‘accellerationist’ right now, and it doesn’t feel like a revolution to me. To read pseudo-rad theory is like commenting on articulate reviews of the latest HBO hit – a luxury of media consumption, nothing more.

  • traxus4420 says:

    W. Kasper – i didn’t understand you to be playing any such card. i would only say (and tried to suggest in the post) that post-grad (or grad student) theory hipsters to whom you refer (accelerationism, hyperstition, object-oriented whatever) are not just coming up with this stuff on their own. there is this syncreticist discourse called Theory that professional humanists are still invested in even if their own work is much more committed to (let’s say) traditional norms of scholarship than badiou, zizek, hardt/negri, etc. are, or lévi-strauss, lacan, foucault, or schmitt were. i’m fond of much of it, but the stuff being produced today from within that tradition to me seems, at the very least, further and further away from relevance.

  • traxus4420 says:

    Lindsey – i think there is a great deal of hope and potential in the middle east revolutions. but what i tried to point out in the last comment is how hardt/negri are asserting what ‘the arabs’ need to or should be doing, what their actions “must” mean in order to earn this title of liberty pioneer. i think h/n close down possibilities, in other words, by reducing a manifold movement to an ideology. i’m critiquing their actual thoughts, as expressed in a major newspaper, not their right to think, and not their degree of involvement in any form of authentic political action (not sure where you got that part from?).

  • traxus4420 says:

    just to be extra clear — i don’t even think it’s necessarily a bad thing for foreign observers to offer suggestions or to say how they would prefer the revolutions turn out. i just want them to actually say something substantial instead of repeat slogans everyone already ‘likes’ in vaguely more radical-sounding language.

  • Lindsey says:

    i hear what you’re saying, but i think what they’re saying is that aims being unknown (or undeveloped) at this point, means that aims are therefore actually not towards liberal democracy *in this moment of self-produced experiment*. (which may eventually end up in liberal democracy, which may be what people want, but in this moment of revolt, a different kind of constant reorganization is happening, which is not itself liberal democracy, and which liberal democracy can’t contain.) and i think, as you rightly point out, they are making these claims in a major news paper, which means (as always), it’s a strategic move (and i don’t use that word pejoratively). which is to say, if there is an appropriation, it’s aimed at mobilizing the basically non-existent left in the west against the forms of oppression that they too are facing (though seemingly more accepting of). it’s true that they’re ‘using’ ‘the arab spirit’ to do that, but. . . i don’t know. . . . it seems like you’re reading it as though they see themselves as objective diagnosticians (and your critique is that they’re not). . . when i just think that ignores the spirit of their own thoughts on how to mobilize language itself (as a pedagogical tool, among other things). (also, not really sure if what they’re proposing is an ideology. . . it’s open to the possibility of re-capture, just interested in this moment of autonomous and networked organizing.)

    i guess also, it was quite hard to tell what you think, since you pasted together two sets of quotes without really any initial commentary on them, and the first quote — though now i’m not sure — seemed to hold within its critique of the ‘delusion’ of politics in (a certain kind of?) theory, an implicit claim about the separation between ‘theory’ and ‘praxis’ and a call for more practice? (maybe i’m overdetermining that, not sure.) but anyway, point being, since it seemed as though you posted that because it was in-line with your own thinking, and then you paired it with hardt and negri, i assumed you were giving them up as an example of exactly that problem.

  • Lindsey says:

    re-reading the h/n piece now — there does seem to be this kind of prescriptive problem you’re talking about when they start talking about ‘constitutional’ demands, but i’m not so sure that’s the case in the part about the insurrections not being aimed at liberal democracy.

    (whatever, i mean, it’s true, they’ve becoming increasingly annoying in terms of producing counter-ideologies (a la _Commonwealth_), but i’m just not sure this piece, in a popular newspaper, which is itself not particularly theory-jargony, is really an example of that. admittedly, i may be totally misunderstanding what you’re trying to do here anyway with this kind of straight parataxis. though maybe more clear from your above response to kasper.)

  • W.Kasper says:

    Regarding a whole (volatile, commited) population as some abstract hypothesis is just how the spectacle operates: mystify it, and drain it of immediacy or relevance. But still circulating a brand like ‘Hardt & Negri’ or ‘the Event’. The more I read this stuff, the more I think of band t-shirts and rock biographies.

    The marketisation of higher ed has something to do with it. It’s also an after effect of the 80s, which determines a certain generation the same way the 60s did for boomers.

  • Lindsey says:

    so, just trying to understand: you don’t think that one can/should extract a concept from ‘a whole population’ or an…event (for lack of a better word) — or you think that hardt and negri aren’t even doing that; that they’re doing something more sinister (in part because they themselves are famous/participating in what traxus called ‘the syncreticist discourse called Theory that professional humanists’)? i mean, in part here it just depends on one’s take on hardt & negri (if they’ve just become a brand), i guess. but i don’t know that i think that trying to understand an event in conceptual terms necessarily ‘drains it of immediate relevance’. . . it seems like the two can operate simultaneously (or even reinforce each other).

  • Molly says:

    ” mystify it, and drain it of immediacy or relevance.”

    yeah. The technical term for what HN are doing is “talking shit”. It’s really nonsense. Also deliberately misleading. They hate boring middle aged salaried workers in unglamorous industries – Negri always has – and they like spectacle to star Zuckerbergian types, so they suppress the class struggle antecedents in their account of recent events and freely fictionalise in a way that makes them seem like leaders and prophets of the new age where the earth is taken over by people who buy their books.

    And this is racist – because the reason they feel free to tell extravagant fibs about other people, (self-promoting, self-aggrandizing fibs) is because the audience is used to white authorities freely interpreting brown hordes as objects (like you can say whatever you please, attribute whatever you want, to unidentified brown/black folks) and because there is no danger of Egyptian trade unionists or other participants replying in that forum in annoyance at the presumption and exposing them.

    Bernard Lewis is the pendant to the Hardt/Negri.

    All the pundits who are claiming that now finally recent events have shown that “Arabs” are capable of democracy – suggesting this was not “proven” until very recently (this is the same insinuating discourse as Zizek used declaring “the kibbutz” the best evidence that Jews are not only suitable to be financial middlemen)- promote the same discourse and the same assumptions as Lewis. It’s not important whether this or that pundit decides to say “yes they show they’re ready” or “no they haven’t shown it” – the paradigm is the same. Why not have Hardt and Negri hold up scores for the swarminess…. cinque punto nove! This general vision is the problem, with its uncritically recycled fixtures of propaganda, including a) the heroic “observers” who are (in NegriHardt’s terms) “challenged” to “read” events (like a fiction), b) “democracy” itself as this never-defined divine state, this unquestioned achievement the capacity for which requires certain kinds of collective subjects to mature, and c) the pundits’ expertise in recognising this achievement and being able to judge the fitness of the collective subject they identify.

    This bizarre exaggerated awe and celebration of the totally new is actually part of this paradigm, enforcing its assumptions – the truly ludicrous hype that insurrectionary Egyptians are inventing heretofore unimagined relations and behaviours, when the basics are as old as class society, and there is little a time traveller from the Ciompi revolt would not recognise. In the Guardian and the BBC it’s one commentator after another declaring the proof of “Westernization” authentic (and so heart-warming!); and of course there are allusions to the source of the criteria in use – we are to accept that Thomas Jefferson was “ready for democracy” hundreds of years ago, when clearly he wasn’t ready for any such thing; and we are to consider “the West” a discrete entity always ready for “democracy”, no matter what, when, where, in the middle of the Auschwitz extermination camp, or in the pews at royal weddings, in the installation and maintenance of dictator clients, or even as US elections are plainly rigged, while whether Arabs are ready depends on proofs, the conditions for which proofs (US imposed imperial despotism against which to rise up) themselves suggest a white supremacist civilising mission of the Hegel-Labriola-Bill Warren type. There is a decided fascoid flavour to all this discourse featuring these unjustified collective protagonists and these eerily Hegelian kinds of stories about the intelligent young twitterers squirming with some inexorable transformation, like caterpillars trying to become butterflies.

    It’s true that if someone went on as Hardt and Negri do at dinner with you, you wouldn’t start a fight or walk out; it’s not that bad. But these are professional intellectuals, supposedly political theorists, they are supposed to do better than kinda racist kinda stupid self-serving platitudes. This kinda childish kinda reactionary kinda treacly stuff is being vended as invaluable insights, Theory of vital importance to left praxis. If it can’t be criticised, if it has to be protected from all reply on the grounds that it’s just kind of dumb and shouldn’t be taken seriously and its not really harmful and the producers are “on our side” and if we don’t keep stroking them they’ll go to work for Murdoch and the pentagon, then how can it continue to boast of its urgency, salience, admirably bravery, creativity, etc? How can we be reminded of the need to respect and venerate it? There’s a lot of tell tale incoherence in the justification for this stuff now. Because it really is losing validity and seriousness.

  • W.Kasper says:

    If the concept is too baked or branded, I don’t necessarily think it’s sinister, just a ‘pre-sold’ response to events (or indeed populations). The ‘saleability’ of a theoretical model may not be that reinforcing. It could be as distorted and self-validating as any other media response. Look at the last sentence of that H & N quote – to me it looks like they’re reaching out to a ‘target audience’ with that saleability in mind. I’m not familiar with their academic work, but MSM punditry can reveal a lot about the cruder bottom line of this kind of discourse.

  • W.Kasper says:

    BTW I hope this doesn’t mean “Love and Marriage II” has been cancelled…

    • traxus4420 says:

      nah. just one of those things where it’s so close to done i drag my feet on doing it – just like too many other things in my life.

  • traxus4420 says:

    hi molly, sorry your comment got eaten. also the bernard lewis link doesn’t work…is it this?

    funny how similar lewis’s “local self-governing institutions” sounds to h/n’s “autonomous self-government” — yes, that is a cheap shot.

    anyway, lindsey, i think the article seems “not particularly theory-jargony” because h/n’s work since empire has always been about making themselves ‘accessible’ to a not-necessarily-academic petit-bourgeois professional audience; i don’t think they’ve ever strayed too far from the guardian’s style guide. it’s on the linguistic level too that their views repeat these paradigmatic assumptions, and it’s part of a conscious strategy. while giving talks i’ve heard hardt say that they want to reappropriate the language of classical liberal era democracy (and its heroes, like jefferson) from its many corruptions by neoconservatives — well this is exactly what all the other liberal editorialists want to do, to respond to the complicity of liberal democratic states with the most horrific exploitation and violence by recuperating the intellectual tradition they learned in school, which has been criticized (with good reason) by the left and ‘misused’ by the right. making it ‘sexy’ again. “radical constitutional response,” “expressive capacities,” “multitude,” “radical autonomy,” “constituent process,” all these things are indeed jargon, but perfectly legible to guardian readers. clay shirky could use them without them seeming out of place. and it’s not the accessibility i object to, nor the attempt to “understand an event in conceptual terms,” it’s the class and eurocentric assumptions about how left-wing revolt is supposed to work, and the self-positioning as writers of a manifesto ‘on behalf’ of revolutionaries they know little about, which happens to be the same one they’ve already written.

    just look at some of the other guardian and new york times editorials about tunisia, egypt, et al. — with one or two exceptions (left and right), they say virtually the same things.

  • Molly says:


    The antecedents of the Egyptian revolution.

  • Matt says:

    BREAKING NEWS: albanian kills american soldiers in germany. it’s about time! though it’s such a shame he only got two of these cockroaches.


  • W.Kasper says:

    If anything, it assists the US military and the European far-right. Anti-immigrant clampdowns and Pentagon panic aren’t exactly a cause for celebration. It could actually be catastrophic.

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