Lyotard and Disruption at the Limits of Reason


Delegitimation shook the centric stronghold of authority and legitimacy, while dedifferentiation sought out to shake the foundations of hitherto known differences between centers and margins by erosive action within these differences themselves.

Initially, Lyotard made an attempt to fuse the Freudian libido, the fictional/theoretical energy with philosophy, through which he understated the transformations wrought out in the social-political realm, that he managed to free himself of the totalizing aspect of Marxism. His commitment to ontology of events that mingles with the multiplicities of forces and desires at work in any social, political and economic scenarios.

Lyotard’s main thesis revolves around the fact that representations always lag behind events, and this is where he tries to establish the relationship between reason and representation. He has always doubted reason’s efficacy for it operates within the confines of structures, wherein sensual perceptions and psychological factors like emotions and sentiments are always ostracized. The fact of the matter is that one could never work with reasons with such factors stringently kept aside. What is discursive is reason and representation, and what is figural is rational representation. The figural is what encompasses sensual perceptions and psychological factors like emotions and sentiments. Furthermore, he gets metaphorical with flatness and depth mapping onto discourse and the figural respectively. Subsequently, what is aimed at is the deconstruction of the two categories of discourse and figural that happen to be opposites, since, doing this would break the shackles of logic of discourse and strip the status of prerogativeness from discourse. With difference corresponding to the figural, the difference between discourse and figural is measured in difference rather than in opposition. What distinguishes difference from opposition is that in the former, the binary is characterized by strict opposites, whereas in the latter, two terms in the binary are mutually implicated, but ultimately irreconcilable. Disruption at the limits of reason is what characterizes difference implying that no rational system of representation can ever enjoy the status of being closed or complete, and cannot escape the impacts of the figural that it tries so hard to keep out.

Could Complexity Rehabilitate Mo/PoMo Ethics?

A well known passage from Marie Fleming could be invoked here to acquit complexity from the charges and accusation pertaining to relativism. He says,

Anyone who argues against reason is necessarily caught up in a contradiction: she asserts at the locutionary level that reason does not exist, while demonstrating by way of her performance in argumentative processes that such reason does in fact exist.

Such an absolute statement about complexity would similarly be eaten along its way.


Taking the locutionary from the above quote, it could be used to adequately distinguish from performative, or logic versus rhetoric. Such a distinction gains credibility, if one is able to locate an Archimedean point to share discourse/s, which, from the point of view of complexity theory would be a space outside the autopoietic system, or, in other words, would be a meta-theoretical framework. Such a framework is skeptically looked upon/at by complexity, which has no qualms in exhibiting an acknowledgement towards performative tensions at work. Such tensions are generative of ethical choices and consequences, since any accessibility to the finality of knowledge is built upon the denial of critical perspective/s, thus shrouding the entire exercise in either a veil of ignorance, or a hubristic pride, or illusory at best.

Morality gains significance, since its formulations is often ruptured for want of secure, and certain knowledge, and both of which are not provided for by complexity theory and French theory, according to the accusations labeled against them. Even if, in making choices that are normative in nature, a clear formulation of the ethical is obligated. Lyotard’s underlining conditions of knowledge is often considered unethical, as he admits to the desire for justice to be shrouded in an unknown intellectual territory. Lyotard has Habermas in mind in dealing with this, since for the latter’s communication therapy, what is mandated is clearly consensual agreement on the part of the public to seek out these metaprescriptions as universally valid and as spanning all language games. Habermas is targeted here for deliberately ignoring the diversity inherent in the post-modern society. For Lyotard,

It is the monster formed by the interweaving of various networks of heteromorphous classes of utterances (denotative, prescriptive, performative, technical, evaluative, etc.). there is no reason to think that it could be possible to determine metaprescriptive common to all of these language games or like the revisable consensus like the one in force at a given moment in the scientific community could embrace the totality of metaprescriptions regulating the totality of statements circulating in the social collectivity. As a matter of fact, the contemporary decline of narratives of legitimization – be they traditional or ‘modern’ (the emancipation of humanity, the realization of the idea) – is tied to the abandonment of this belief.

The fight over consensus, if it could be achieved at all, is contentious between Lyotard and Habermas. Obviously, it could be attained, but only locally and should not even vie for universal validity. Lyotard scores a point over Habermas here, because of his emphasis on the permeability of discursive practices dressed with paralogy. Justice, as a subset of ethics in the post-modern society, in order to overcome its status as a problematic, must recognize the heteromorphous nature of language games or phase regimens on the one hand, and consensus as reached must have a local space-time valuation contingently subject to refutation or nullification on the other. Such a diagnosis goes against the crux of modernism’s idea of ethics as founded upon foundational and universal set of rules, and maybe imperatives. Modernism’s idea of ethics is no different, at least in the formative structure from the rule-based analysis, since both demand a strict adherence to the dictates of rules and guidelines. A liberation comes in the form of post-modernism. Bauman sees the post-modern society as not only setting us free, but also pushing us towards a paradoxical situation, where agents have the fullness of moral choice and responsibility, while simultaneously depriving them of the comfort of the universal guidance as promised by modernism. Moral responsibility comes with the loneliness of moral choice. Such paradoxical events or situations facing man in the post-modern society only reinvests faith in agonistics of the network. At the same time, such an aporetic position is too paradoxical to satisfy many. Taking cues from the field of jurisprudence, the works of Druscilla Cornell could help clear the muddy waters here to an extent of a satisfactory resolution. Cornell aims to establish the relationship of the philosophy of the limit, or what she calls the post-structural theory of Derrida in principle, to questions of ethics, law and justice. Cornell shows no inhibitions towards accepting the complexity of relationships governing humans, and in the process accepts Hegel as the vantage point. Hegel criticizes Kant for his abstract idealism, and admits to our constitution within a social structure, which is teleologically headed for perfection. In short, the dialectical process is convergent for Hegel, since it is operative within a social/historical system aiming towards organization. Adorno differs here, since, for him dialectics is always divergent, with stress laid upon differences that characterize between humans as always irreducible to a totalizing organized system. This position of Adorno with its sympathy for difference is much closer to complexity, that at first would seem. Cornell carries further on from there and introduces the work of Luhmann, who is a towering figure in sociology, when it comes to bringing in autopoiesis within the fold. Humans are never allowed to stand outside the system that Luhmann thinks is not only complex, but autopoietic as well. Therefore, on an individual level, the choice element has no role to play, except, accepting the system that would undergo an organization to best suit its survival through a process of evolution, and not transformation. Luhmann’s understanding still prioritizes the present, and has no place for the past or the uncertain future. Cornell considers this a drawback, and makes past as an ingredient in understanding the meaning of an event, on the one hand, and following Derrida, wants to take up responsibility for the future, even if it is unknown. With a structure like this in place, it is possible to evade the rigidity of modernist claims on ethics on the one hand, and fluidity of evasive tendencies towards responsibility on the other. Instead, what Cornell calls for is an acceptance of the present ethical principles in all seriousness. That is to be resistant to change, and awareness of applications of the principles is what is called for. Ethics involves calculation in a responsible manner. In a similar vein, complexity entails irreducibility to calculation, in the sense of coming out with novelistic tendencies involving creativity that is not simply a flight of fancy, but an imagination laden with responsibility. Only, in this regard, could ethics mean not subjecting to any normativity. And, one of the ways to achieve this to obviously shy away from intellectual arrogance.

The Differentiated Hyperreality of Baudrillard


A sense of meaning for Baudrillard connotes a totality that is called knowledge and it is here that he differs significantly from someone like Foucault. For the latter, knowledge is a product of relations employing power, whereas for the former, any attempt to reach a finality or totality as he calls fit is always a flirtation with delusion. A delusion, since the human subject would always aim at understanding the human or non-human object, and, in the process the object would always be elusive since, it being based on signifiers would be vulnerable to a shift in significations. The two key ideas of Baudrillard are simulation and hyperreality. Simulation accords to representation of things such that they become the things represented, or in other words, representations gain priority over the “real” things. There are certain orders that define simulations viz. signs get to represent objective reality, signs veil reality, signs masking the absence of reality and signs turning into simulacra, since they have relation to reality thus ending up simulating a simulation. In Hegarty‘s reading of Baudrillard, there happen to be three types of simulacra each with a distinct historical epoch. The first is the pre-modern period, where the image marks the place for an item and hence the uniqueness of objects and situations marks them as irreproducibly real. The second is the modern period characterized by industrial revolution signifying the breaking down of distinctions between images and reality because of mass reproduction of copies or proliferation of commodities thus risking the essential existence of the original. The third is the post-modern period, where simulacra precedes the original and the distinction between reality and representation vanishes implying only the existence of simulacra and relegating reality as a vacuous concept. Hyperreality defines a condition wherein “reality” as known gets substituted by simulacra. This notion of Baudrillard is influenced by Canadian communication theorist and rhetorician Marshall McLuhan. Hyperreality with its insistence of signs and simulations fit perfectly in the post-modern era and therefore highlights the inability or shortcomings of consciousness to demarcate between reality and the phantasmatic space. In a quite remarkable analysis of Disneyland, Baudrillard (166-184) clarifies the notion of hyperreality, when he says,

The Disneyland imaginary is neither true nor false: it is a deterrence machine set in order to rejuvenate in reverse the fiction of the real. Whence the debility, the infantile degeneration of this imaginary. It’s meant to be an infantile world, in order to make us believe that adults are everywhere, in the “real” world and to conceal the fact that real childishness is everywhere, particularly among those adults who go there to act the child in order to foster illusion of their real childishness.

Although his initial ideas were affiliated with those of Marxism, he differed from Marx in his epitomizing consumption as the driving force of capitalism as compared to latter’s production. Another issue that was worked out remarkably in Baudrillard was historicity. Agreeing largely with Fukuyama’s notion of the end of history after the collapse of the communist block, Baudrillard only differed by placing importance on the idea of historical progress to have ended and not history necessarily. He forcefully makes the point of ending of history as also the ending of dustbins of history. His post-modern stand differed significantly with that of Lyotard’s in one major respect, despite finding common grounds elsewhere. Despite showing growing aversion to the theory of meta-narratives, Baudrillard, unlike Lyotard, reached a point of pragmatic reality within the confines of an excuse laden notion of universality that happened to be in vogue.

Baudrillard has been at the receiving end with some very extreme, acerbic criticisms directed at him. His writings are not just obscure, but also fail in many respects like defining certain concepts he employs, totalizing insights that have no substantial claim to conjectures, and often hinting strongly at apodicticity without paying due attention to the rival positions. This extremity reaches a culmination point when he is cited as a purveyor of reality-denying irrationalism. But not everything is to be looked at critically in his case and he does enjoy an established status as a transdisciplinary theorist, who, with his provocations have put traditional issues regarding modernity and philosophy in general at stake by providing insights into a better comprehensibility of cultural studies, sociology and philosophy. Most importantly, Baudrillard provides for autonomous and differentiated spaces in cultural, socio-economic and political domains by an implosive theory that cuts across boundaries of various disciplines paving the way for a new era in philosophical and social theory at large.

Benjamin Noys, Lyotard, Baudrillard and the liquidity grid of capitalism (Notes Quotes)

For Benjamin Noys, as Lyotard put it, “desire underlies capitalism too“, then the result is that: ‘there are errant forces in the signs of capital. Not in its margins as its marginals, but dissimulated in its most essential exchanges.’ For Deleuze and Guattari, the problem of capitalism is not that it deterritorializes, but that it does not deterritorialise enough. It always runs up against its own immanent limit of deterritorialisation – the deterritorialisation of decoded flows of desire through the machine of oedipal grid. It is the figure of the schizophrenic, not to be confused with the empirical psychiatric disorder, which instantiates this radical immersion and the coming of a new porous and collective ‘subject’ of desire. The schizophrenic is the one who seeks out the very limit of capitalism: he is the inherent tendency brought to fulfilment. Contrary to Deleuze and Guattari’s faith in a subject who would incarnate a deterritorialisation in excess of capitalism, Lyotard’s Libidinal Economy denies any form of exteriority, insisting that capital itself is the unbinding of the most insane drives, which releases mutant intensities. the true form of capitalism is incarnated in the a-subjective figure of the libidinal band, a Moëbius strip of freely circulating intensities with neither beginning nor end.


Baudrillard argues that the compulsion towards liquidity, flow and accelerated circulation is only the replica or mirror of capitalist circulation. his catastrophic strategy comprises a kind of negative accelerations, in which he seeks the point of immanent reversal that inhabits and destabilises capital. In Symbolic Exchange and Death, this is the death function, which cannot be programmed and localised. against the law of value that determines market exchange, Baudrillard identifies this “death function” with the excessive and superior function of symbolic exchange which is based on the extermination of value.

Lyotardian Libidinal Energies.0 (Addendum)

Lyotardian Libidinal Energies


For Lyotard, the turn away from philosophy encompassing the libidinal energy to PoMo was primarily based on his concern with the problem of representation, and with the commitment to the ontology of events. In the Libidinal Economy, Lyotard gets quite tied up in trying to resolve the problems associated with structures that harbor libidinal energies, as they tend to become hegemonic. With the investment of such hegemonic status, these structures are vulnerable to deny other libidinal intensities/energies themselves by claiming sole right to themselves as stable structures, and subsequently become nihilistic and limiting. Since, libidinal energies can exist only within structures, Lyotard fails to show a way out for liberating desire, and also does not set up a place beyond representation that would be immune to the effects of nihilism, but instead, comes up with a metaphysical system, in which both the structures and intensities are essential components for functioning libidinal economy. Nihilism of structures could only be checked by an adherence to notions of dissimulation, by considering the very libidinal energy as the event dormant with under-exploited, potentiality waiting for its release to other structures.

Complexity Theory and Philosophy: A Peace Accord


Complexity has impacted fields diverse from the one it originated in, i.e. science. It has touched the sociological domains, and organizational sciences, but sadly, it has not had much of a say in mainstream academic philosophy. In sociology, John Urry (2003) examines the ideas of chaos and complexity in carrying out analyses of global processes. He does this, because he believes that systems are balanced between order and chaos, and that, there is no teleological move towards any state of equilibrium, as the events that pilot the system are not only unpredictable, but also irreversible at the same time. Such events rupture the space-time regularity with their dimension of unpredictability that was thought of as characterizing hitherto known sociological discursive practices. A highly significant contribution that comes along with such an analyses is the distinguishing between what Urry aptly calls “global networks” and “global fluids”. Global fluids are a topographical space used to describe the de-territorialized movement of people, information, objects, finances in an undirected, nonlinear mode, and in a way are characteristic of emergentism and hybridization. The topographies of global networks and global fluids interact in complex manner to give rise to emergent properties that define systems as always on the edge of chaos, pregnant with unpredictability.


Cognitive science and evolutionary theory have been inspirational for a lot of philosophical investigations and have also benefited largely from complexity theory. If such is the case, the perplexing thing is complexity theory’s impact in philosophy, which has not had major inroads to make. Why could this be so? Let us ponder this over.

Analytical philosophy has always been concerned with analysis, and logical constructs that are to be stringently followed. These rules and regulations take the domain of philosophical investigations falling under the rubric of analytical tradition away from holism, uncertainty, unpredictability and subjectivity that are characteristics of complexity. The reason why this could be case is attributable to complexity theory as developed on the base of mathematics and computational theories, which, somehow is not the domain of academic philosophy dealing with social sciences and cultural studies in present days, but is confined to discussions and debates amongst philosophers of science (biology is an important branch here), mathematics and technology. Moreover, the debates and deliberations have concerned themselves with the unpredictable and uncertain implications as derived from the vestiges of chaos theory and not complexity theory per se. This is symptomatic of the fact that a lot of confusion rests upon viewing these two path-breaking theories as synonymous, which, incidentally is a mistake, as the former happens at best to be a mere subset of the latter. An ironical fate encountered philosophy, since it dealt with complex notions of language, without actually admitting to the jargon, and technical parlance of complexity theory. If philosophy lets complexity make a meaningful intercourse into its discursive practices, then it could be beneficial to the alliance. And the branch of philosophy that is making use of this intervention and alliance at present is post-modern philosophy ++++

The works of Freud and Saussure as furthered by Lacan and Derrida, not only accorded fecundity for a critique of modernity, but, also opened up avenues for a meaningful interaction with complexity. French theory at large was quite antagonistic to modernist claims of reducing the diverse world to essential features for better comprehensibility, and this essentially lent for its affinity to complexity. Even if Derrida never explicitly used the complexity parlance in his corpus, there appears to be a strong sympathy towards the phenomenon via his take on post-structuralism. On the other hand, Lyotard, in setting his arguments for post-modern conditions of knowledge was ecstatic about paralogy as a defining feature, which is no different from the way complexity, connectionism and distributed systems would harbor.


Even Deleuze and Guattari are closer to the complex approach through their notions of rhizomes, which are non-reductive, non-hierarchical, and multiplicities oriented connections in data representations and interpretations, and are characterized by horizontal connectivities, as contrasted with arborescent models that find their characterizations in vertical and linear determinations. The ideas are further developed by De Landa (2006), where the attempt is to define a new ontology that could be utilized by social scientists. Components that make up the assemblages are characterized along two axes viz, material, explicating on the variable roles components might undergo, and territorializng/deterritorializing, explicating on processes components might be involved with.


Relations of exteriority define components, implying that components are self-subsistent, or that there is never a loss of identity for them, during the process of being unplugged from one assemblage to be plugged into another. This relationship between the assemblages and components is nonlinearly and complexly defined, since assemblages are affected by lower level ones, but could also potentially act on to these components affecting adaptations in them. This is so similar to the way distributed systems are principally modeled. Then why has philosophy at large not shown much impact from complexity despite the French theoretical affinities with the latter?

Chaos theory is partly to blame here, for it has twisted the way a structure of a complex system is understood. The systems have a non-linear operational tendencies, and this has obfuscated the notion of meaning as lying squarely on relativism. The robustness of these systems, when looked at in an illuminating manner from the French theoretical perspective could be advantageous to get rid of ideas about complex systems as based on a knife’s edge, despite being nonlinearly determinable. If the structure of the system were a problematic, then defining limits and boundaries was no easy job. What is the boundary between the system and the environment? Is it rigorously drawn and followed, or is it a mere theoretical choice and construct? These are valid question, which philosophy found it difficult to come to terms with. These questions gained intensity with the introduction of self-organizational systems and/or autopoietic ones. Classical and modern philosophies either had to dismiss these ideas as chimerical, or it had to close off its own analyzing methods in dealing with these issues, and both of these approaches had a detrimental effect of isolating the discipline of philosophy from the cultural domains in which such notions were making positive interventions and inroads. It could safely be said that French theory, in a way tried its rescue mission, and picked up momentum in success. The major contribution from continental philosophy post-60s was framing solutions. Framing, as a schema of interpretation helped comprehending and responding to events and enabled systems and contexts to constitute one another, thus positing a resolution on the boundaries and limits issues that had plagued hitherto known philosophical doctrines.

The notion of difference, so central to modernism was a problematic that needed to be resolved. Such was never a problem within French theory, but was a tonic to be consumed along side complexity, to address socio-economic and political issues. Deleuze (1994), for example, in his metaphysical treatise, sought a critique of representation, and a systematic inversion of the traditional metaphysical notions of identity and difference. Identities were not metaphysically or logically prior to differences, and identities in whatever categories, are pronounced by their derivation from differences. In other words, forms, categories, apperception, and resemblances fail to attain their differences in themselves. And, as Deleuze (2003: 32) says,

If philosophy has a positive and direct relation to things, it is only insofar as philosophy claims to grasp the thing itself, according to what it is, in its difference from everything it is not, in other words, in its internal difference.

But Deleuzean thesis on metaphysics does make a political intervention, like when he says,

The more our daily life appears standardized, stereotyped, and subject to an accelerated reproduction of objects of consumption, the more art must be injected into it in order to extract from it that little difference which plays simultaneously between other levels of repetition, and even in order to make the two extremes resonate — namely, the habitual series of consumption and the instinctual series of destruction and death. (Deleuze 1994: 293).(1)

Tackling the complexity within the social realm head-on does not lie in extrapolating convenient generalities, and thereafter trying to fathom how finely they fit together, but, rather in apprehending the relational schema of the network, within which, individuals emerge as subjects, objects and systems that are capable of grasping the real things.(2) 

One major criticism leveled against complexity is that it is sympathetic to relativism, just like most of the French theoretical thought is. Whether, this accusation has any substance to it could be measured by the likes of circular meaningless debates like the Sokal hoax. The hoax was platitudinous to say the least, and vague at best. And why would this be so? Sokal in his article, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity”, incorporated the vocabulary of his specialized discipline to unearth the waywardness of usage by the French theorists. This, for Sokal was fashionable nonsense, or an act of making noise. He takes the French theorists to task for a liberal use of terms like chaos, complexity, quantum, relativity, gender, difference, topology, and deconstruction, without any proper insight. Who would be vague in the Sokal affair? The physicist, or the bunch of French theorists? Such an issue could be tackled on an intelligibility concern. Intelligibility is a result of differentiation and not a guarantee of truth-giving process (Cilliers 2005: 262).

Clearly communicated does not give any indisputable identity to a concept. The only way, (such a meaning can) be meaningful is through limitations being set on such communications, an ethical choice once again. These limitations enable knowledge to come into existence, and this must be accepted de facto. In a parallel metaphoric with complexity, these limitations or constraints are sine qua non for autopoiesis to make an entry. Cilliers (2005: 264) is quite on target, when he lays down the general schema for complexity, if it is, aligned with notions of chaos, randomness and noise, the accusations of relativism and vagueness will start to hold water. It is aligned with notions of structure as the result of contingent constraints, we can make claims about complex systems, which are clear and comprehensible, despite the fact that the claims themselves are historically contingent.

Undoubtedly, complexity rides on modesty. But, the accusations against this position only succeed to level complexity as weak, a gross mistake in itself. Let us take Derrida here, as read by Sweetman (1999). Sweetman cites Derrida as an ideal post-modernist, and thereafter launches an attack on his works as confusing aesthetics with metaphysics, as mistakenly siding with assertions over arguments in philosophy, as holding Derrida for moral and epistemological relativism and, self-contradictory with a tinge of intellectual arrogance. Such accusations, though addressed by Derrida and his scholars at various times, nevertheless find parallels in complexity, where, the split is between proponents of mathematical certainty in dealing with complexity on the one hand, and proponents of metaphorical proclivities in dealing with the phenomenon on the other. So, how would relativism make an entry here? Being a relativist is as good as swimming in paradoxical intellectual currents, and such a position is embraced due to a lack of foundational basis for knowledge, if nothing more. The counter-argument against the relativistic stance of complexity could be framed in a simplistic manner, by citing the case of limited knowledge as not relativistic knowledge. If these forms of knowledge were equated in any manner, it would only help close doors on investigations.

A look at Luhmann’s use of autopoiesis in social theory is obligated here. This is necessitated by the fact of autopoiesis getting directly imported from biological sciences, to which, even Varela had objections, though intellectually changing tracks. Luhmann considers the leaving out of self-referentiality as a problematic in the work of Chileans (Maturana + Varela), since for Luhmann systems are characterized by general patterns which can just be described as making a distinction and crossing the boundary of the distinction [which] enables us to ask questions about society as a self-observing systems[s] (Hayles, K., Luhmann, N., Rasch, W., Knodt, E. & Wolfe, C., 1995 Autumn). Such a reaction from Luhmann is in his response to a cautious undertaking of any import directly from biological and psychological sciences to describe society and social theory. Reality is always distorted through the lens of perception and, this blinds humans from seeing things-in-themselves (the Kantian noumenon). One could visualize this within the analytical tradition of language as a problematic, involving oppositional thinking within the binary structure of linguistic terms themselves. What is required is an evolutionary explanation of how systems survive to the extent that they can learn to handle the inside/outside difference within the system, and within the context of their own operations, since they can never operate outside the system (Hayles, K., Luhmann, N., Rasch, W., Knodt, E. & Wolfe, C., 1995 Autumn). For the social theory to be effective, what requires deconstruction is the deconstruction of the grand tautological claim of autopoiesis, or the unity of the system as produced by the system itself. Luhmann tells us that a methodology that undertakes such a task must do this empirically by identifying the operations which produce and reproduce the unity of the system (Luhmann 1992). This is a crucial point, since the classical/traditional questions as regards the problem of reference as conditioning meaning and truth, are the distinctions between the subject and the object. Luhmann thinks of these questions as quasi-questions, and admonishes a replacement by self-reference/external-reference for any meaningful transformation to take effect. In his communications theory(3), he states flatly that as a system, it depends upon “introducing the difference between system and environment into the system” as the internal split within the system itself that allows it to make the distinction to begin its operative procedures to begin with (Luhmann 1992: 1420). The self-reference/external-reference distinction is a contingent process, and is open to temporal forms of difference. How to define the operation that differentiates the system and organizes the difference between system and environment while maintaining reciprocity between dependence and independence is a question that demands a resolution. The breakthrough for autopoietic systems is provided by the notion of structural coupling, since a renunciation of the idea of overarching causality on the one hand, and the retention of the idea of highly selective connections between systems and environments is effected here. Structural coupling maintains this reciprocity between dependence and independence. Moreover, autopoietic systems are defined by the way they are, by their mode of being in the world, and by the way they overcome or encounter entropy in the world. In other words, a self-perpetuating system performing operational closure continuously are autopoietic systems that organize dynamic stability.


Even if the concepts of complexity have not traveled far and wide into the discipline of philosophy, the trends are on the positive side. Developments in cognitive sciences and consciousness studies have a far reaching implications on philosophy of mind, as does in research in science that helps redefine the very notion of life. These researches are carried out within the spectrum of complexity theory, and therefore, there is a lot of scope for optimism. Complexity theory is still in the embryonic stage, for it is a theory of the widest possible extent for our understanding the world that we inhabit. Though, there are roadblocks along the way, it should in no way mean that it is the end of the road for complexity, but only a beginning in a new and novel manner.

Complexity theory as imbibed within adaptive systems has a major role in evolutionary doctrines. To add to this, the phenomenon of French Theory has incited creative and innovative ways of looking at philosophy, where residues of dualism and reductionism still rest, and resist any challenges whatsoever. One of the ways through which complexity and philosophy could come closer is, when the latter starts withdrawing its investigations into the how- ness of something, and starts to seriously incorporate the why-ness of it. The how- ness still seems to be arrested within the walls of reductionism, mechanicism, modernism, and the pillars of Newtonian science. So, an ontological reduction of all phenomenon under the governance of deterministic laws is the indelible mark, even if epistemologically, a certain guideline of objectivity seems apparent. What really is missed out on in this process is the creativity, as world in particular and universe in general is describable as a mechanism following clockwork. Such a view held sway for most the modern era, but with the advent of scientific revolutions in the 20th century, things began to look awry. Relativity theory, quantum mechanics, chaos, complexity, and recently string/M-theory were powerful enough in their insights to clean off the hitherto promising and predictable scientific ventures. One view at quantum mechanics/uncertainty and chaos/non-linear dynamics was potent to dislodge predictability from science. This was followed in succession by systems theory and cybernetics, which were instrumental in highlighting the scientific basis for holism and emergence, and showing equally well that knowledge was intrinsically subjective. Not just that, autopoiesis clarified the picture of regularity and organization as not given, but, rather dependent on a dynamically emergent tangle of conflicting forces and random fluctuations, a process very rightly referred to by Prigogine and Stengers (1984) as “order out of chaos”. In very insightful language, Heylighen, Cilliers and Gershenson (2007) pin their hopes on these different approaches, which are now starting to become integrated under the heading of “complexity science”. It’s central paradigm is the multi-agent system: a collection of autonomous components whose local interactions give rise to a global order. Agents are intrinsically subjective and uncertain about the consequences of their actions, yet they generally manage to self-organize into an emergent, adaptive system. Thus uncertainty and subjectivity should no longer be viewed negatively, as the loss of the absolute order of mechanicism, but positively, as factors of creativity, adaptation and evolution….Although a number of (mostly post-modern) philosophers have expressed similar sentiments, the complexity paradigm still needs to be assimilated by academic philosophy.

Such a need is a requisite for complexity to become more aware about how modeling techniques could be made more robust, and for philosophy to understand and resolve some hitherto unaddressed, but perennial problems.


1  The political implications of such a thesis is rare, but forceful. To add to the quote above, there are other quotes as well, that deliberate on socio-political themes. Like,

“We claim that there are two ways to appeal to ‘necessary destructions’: that of the poet, who speaks in the name of a creative power, capable of overturning all orders and representations in order to affirm Difference in the state of permanent revolution which characterizes eternal return; and that of the politician, who is above all concerned to deny that which ‘differs,’ so as to conserve or prolong an established historical order.” (Deleuze 1994: 53).


“Real revolutions have the atmosphere of fétes. Contradiction is not the weapon of the proletariat but, rather, the manner in which the bourgeoisie defends and preserves itself, the shadow behind which it maintains its claim to decide what the problems are.” (Deleuze 1994: 268).

2 It should however be noted, that only immanent philosophies of the sort Deleuze propagates, the processes of individuation could be accounted for. Moreover, once such an aim is attained, regularities in the world are denied any eternal and universal validation.

3 He defines communication as “a kind of autopoetic network of operations which continually organizes what we seek, the coincidence of self-reference (utterance) and external reference (information)” (1992: 1424). He details this out saying,

“Communication comes about by splitting reality through a highly artificial distinction between utterance and information, both taken as contingent events within an ongoing process that recursively uses the results of previous steps and anticipates further ones”. (1992: 1424).


Ciliers, P. (2005) Complexity, Deconstruction and Relativism. In Theory, Culture & Society, Vol. 22 (5). pp. 255 – 267.

De Landa, M. (2006) New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity. London: Continuum.

Deleuze, G. (1994) Difference and Repetition. Translated by Patton, P. New York: Columbia University Press.

—————- (2003) Desert Islands and Other Texts (1953-1974). Translated by Taormina, M. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e).

Hayles, K., Luhmann, N., Rasch, W., Knodt, E. & Wolfe, C. (1995 Autumn) Theory of a Different Order: A Conversation with Katherine Hayles and Niklas Luhmann. In Cultural Critique, No. 31, The Politics of Systems and Environments, Part II. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Heylighen, F., Cilliers, P., and Gershenson, C. (2007) The Philosophy of Complexity. In Bogg, J. & Geyer, R. (eds), Complexity, Science and Society. Oxford: Radcliffe Publishing.

Luhmann, N (1992) Operational Closure and Structural Coupling: The Differentiation of the Legal System. Cardoza Law Review Vol. 13.

Lyotard, J-F. (1984) The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Translated by Bennington, G. & Massumi, B. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Prigogine, I. and Stengers, I. (1984) Order out of Chaos. New York: Bantam Books.

Sweetman, B. (1999) Postmodernism, Derrida and Différance: A Critique. In International Philosophical Quarterly XXXIX (1)/153. pp. 5 – 18.

Urry, J. (2003) Global Complexity. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Onwards to Badiou’s Subtraction

…about meta-narrativizing (sorry for this nonlinear/bottom-up approach to the mail), I could only quip on post-modernism as highly ineffectual, escapist laden movement in its reactionary gesture to modernism. Take for instance, Lyotard, and his turn from libidinal economy to post-modernism through paganism, before he culminates his journey in The Differend. He sure reached a road block in Libidinal Economy itself, when faced with his unflinching commitment to ontology of events, since that raised dire issue for his epistemological affiliations. The resultant: Freud and Marxian marriage was filed for divorce. The way out that he imagined was to sort out matters to even out differences with the incommensurable issues of justice, and thats why he took up paganism. Even here, to begin with, he was in a quandary, since he took recourse to admissibility in irreducible differences plaguing the prevalent order of things (Sorry for this Foucauldian noise!!), and paved the escape route by adhering to the principles of never trying one’s hand/mind or whatever one could use at reductionism. So far, so good. But, was this turn towards micro-narrativizing proving a difficult ordeal? And my reading of the thinker in question undoubtedly says YES. If one reads The Postmodern Condition or The Differend carefully, one notices his liberal borrowings from Wittgenstein’s language games, or what he prefers to call “phase-regimens”. These are used to negate his earlier commitments to ontology of events by stressing more upon his epistemological ones, and therefore are invoked only with the idea of political motivators. The crux of the matter is: to drive his point home forcefully, he negates critical theory, unitary Being of the society (both pillars of modernism, or meta-narratives in themselves), and substitutes it by a post-modern society that is built by compositions of fragmented “phase-regimens” open to alteration in their attempts to successfully pass the test of legitimate narratives. This debt to Wittgenstein is what I call, a movement riddled with escapism, an exegesis that begins, but has a real eschatological problem. I do not know, if I’ve been able to show with this example clearly the fault-lines within micro-narratives?

[addendum]: if Wittgenstein is said to have some resemblances with postmodernism or more importantly poststructuralism, human imagination has transcended its sleep state..

On to Badiou:


His truth is to be unearthed in mathematics. His mathematics = ontology becomes quite notorious to deal with, none the less has the key component to understanding his concept of truth. In Badiouian mathematics (Can I really use this term???), what constitutes a transition from an inconsistent set to a consistent and a definable one is only the subjective intervention to do so. This obviously is a regressive fall-back. Why can a subjective intervention not slide into inconsistency? In a situation like this, Deleuze and Guattari would NEVER encourage an outside-the-situation intervention on behalf of a subjective agent that can profess and confess allegiance to force consistency onto this inconsistency, and in the process problematizing the given situation for a successful transformation of it. This is advocated through CONNECTIONS, between elements and sets built up by the elements. And thats why their weight on IMMANENCE. And hereafter, getting back to my first reply on the post: Badiou insists on invoking the void for any such consistency to take shape. Badiou gets away from IMMANENCE to construct his version of void, the existence of which is NOT networked to the given situation in any way. Thereafter, he calls upon the subject to prove her allegiance by naturalizing these events to effectuate consistency. And that is the reason why I remarked that Badiou is accused by Deleuze and Guattari to invoke the ‘transcendent’. In any ways, for Badiou, the truth has to be an archaeological stratum within the site of the event, and hence his mathematizing it cannot be under any shadow of doubt.

Apart from this vision of truth in Badiou, I see no other, despite agreeing upon your last phrase of truth getting caught up in the wire-mesh of cold logics and rationality. Truth is an age-old problem with philosophy, that tries in vain to seek answers for thee questions asked pretty badly, and I even dare say in more Manichean manner.

[addendum 2:]: we need to break free from Kantian infused anthropocentric philosophy. The German Idealism turn has been detrimental to doing philosophy, unless it can be freed of the symptoms. One, one talks about human subjectivity, it is difficult to ignore the extra onerous package of ideological practices. Either ways, certain “isms” turn into spoilers…..

How would an event emerge? Because, unless we have an event that has made its existence known, what point is there at all to talk about his version of Truth. We have to discern this something called an event, this ‘new’ situation in a manner that does not hark back to any encyclopedic determinant under the rubric of inclusivity. Badiou makes this very clear in his mathematical treatment of sets while dealing with his take on constructivism in philosophy. Now, with the emergence of such an element, or a situation or what have you, with the sole criterion of it belonging only to itself, is event’s appearance stamped in reality, otherwise not. Badiou is declarative and not demonstrative as far as announcing the advent of such an “appearance” is concerned. This announcement is linguistic in nature. This announcement of the appearance is subtractive, for it never belongs to, as I said above, any known determinants.

Well, subtraction is not to be thought of as ‘stripping away’ (your response points in that direction though). For, if that were the case, the obvious implication would be truth as congruent with representation. Even if Badiou scorns post-theories, he still retains aversion for representation. Instead, truth is catalytic to the situation of the event, for it continuously transforms the structure of the situation upon playing the role of an interventionist, a mediator. Its like truth punching a hole in the fabric of knowledge for a progressive transformation from within which this punching effectuates that is subtractive in Badiou.

p.s. The mail in the first sentence cannot be produced for obvious reasons……but talks of conformist psuedoMarxists is trying to put human imagination to sleep……

Capitalism Without Being…

There is only one way to escape the alienation of present-day society: to retreat ahead of it. – Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text


This powerful statement by Barthes, even, unintentionally, is thetic of ‘accelerationism‘, the position that deliberates on the generation of forces of dissolution as an inherent property of capitalism calling forth to be radically challenged. How could this be achieved without falling into the trap of drawing endlessly vicious circles of positioning the subject of revolt as always peripheral to capital? One contingent solution lies in rehabilitating this subject of revolt in relation to capital, such that, the immense circuit of capitalist exchanges makes room for the possibility of coming-into-existence of all modalities of jouissance, with none of them suffering the fate of getting ostracized (marginalized). This very well echoes Lyotard’s position as stated in his Libidinal Economy.

My interest lay in connecting this rehabilitation with speculative realist stance, which would lock away the correlationist (thinking and being as tightly coupled) side, and appreciate the elevation of thinking capitalism as it would be in-itself. If, one perceives capitalism as a gigantic productive machine, without any relation to the human, one is successful in jettisoning the possessiveness involved therein, as in, capitalism-for-humans, as either putative or pejorative. Capitalism then, as a colossal producing machine, becomes inorganic, and calls for a traction along non-anthropocentric lines. Such a reading creates ruptures within the Marxian discourse, where, speculating on capitalism in-itself is either not permissible due to the tenets of his labour theory of value, or, if at all undertaken, epitomizes levels of insanity. Whereas, capitalism as inorganic, construes speculation to be of highest value. Supplementing this theme, is the DeleuzoGuattarian notion of capitalism-as-proces, where a switch from concrete-ness to processuality invests the onus of housing a true nature of capitalism as shifting  from basic building blocks, such as, forms of alienation to telos (destination) of the process.

The prescription is a call to embrace capitalism, in order to be liberated from the polarities of agonizingly devaluing post-modernism, and increasing bankruptcy of the ideologies of liberal democracy. Such a liberation might create frameworks of naivete, which would subsequently be liquidated with the emergence of inhuman subjectivation in the face of relentlessly indefatigable capitalism. For such emergence to be brought about, the embracing of capitalism would obligate the dissolution of animated ideologies that drive corporate assemblages on the one hand, and mass-based power structures (states, civil societies etc.) on the other. Such a dissolution, in the words of Alex Williams would usher in an absolutization of an adequation of post-human subjectivity to capital, and in turn would also carry a caveat akin to revolution eating its own children. One way to safeguard from this caveat is to go back to Deleuzian notion of metabolic rate within capitalism through the vestiges of Foucauldian ‘man’ that derives its dependency on the analytic of finitude while attempting to face up to the relentless brutal force of capitalism. This not only negotiates the falling back into the already experienced conservative subjectivation, but also formulates a novel theorizing accounting for the expansive nature of capitalism, homeostatically arresting the realization of pernicious potentials of capitalism.

Nothing would obviously prevent from thinking about such a form of realized capitalism as fantasy. Williams invokes the Badiouian fiction with its potency to bring about a completed truth, and in turn actualize its own reality. This invocation is required to undertake a radical new reading of the friction generated in balancing the deterritorializing/reterritorializing axiomatic within capitalism, a position that is not adversative to the real praxis built upon the system. The re-reading departs from Nick Land’s, where any deterritorialization sends an immediate reterritorialization into oblivion. Importantly, what is required is a firm belief in the negativity harbored in capitalism, through an accelerationist reading to safeguard the critique of the left on one hand, and the praxis of the right on another. This would not only maintain Deleuzean becoming sans affirmation, but equally legitimize capitalism’s colossal machinic status in tune with Lyotard’s observation (above), thereby expounding what is truly adequate to capitalism-in-itself.

How would an accelerationist reading differ from another communist revolution-in-the-making? The idea propounded by Williams is most suitable, for, accelerationism, in a weak sense, would be opposed to ameliorative leftism by acting to foreground the structural privations of the capitalist system, and accelerationism in its strong sense would mutate the system itself rather than getting engulfed in the euphoria of capitalism’s downfall. It is precisely in the strong sense of the word, accelerationism would talk about capitalism as inorganic, or as nullifying the subjectivity, or even for that matter, resemble as effectuating inhumanism. This inhumanism, or inhuman becoming poses the  problematic of grounding politics. In other words, with speculative realism as a tool, an un-correlated philosophical system at place would find its grounding on to the correlated domains of political system quite misfitting.

To circumvent this problematic, either through taking recourse to Deleuzean notion of capitalism as a system of deterritorializing/reterritorializing flows, or some sort of dialectical movement, with the haunting of de-subjectivation, if at all attainable, this could only be made so through the trace of what praxis seeks to eliminate….

But, then this is only a dream now with no academic ambitions to pursue. Fictionalised.

Excursus into disagreement over disagreement!!!!

For Laclau, all politics is basically reducible to ‘populism’. (On Populist Reason).

For Rancière, populism is the convenient name under which is dissimulated the difficulty of government: a kind of dissent is lumped together in relation to the prevailing consensus. (Hatred of Democracy: caution: pdf). This in short is a derogatory coating that results in the realization that people will not be governed properly.

Arditi (Politics on the Edge of Liberalism: caution: pdf) takes issue with Laclau and uses the strong Rancierean perspective to dissect/determine what is meant by ‘populism’.

Rancière in his 1998 book, Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy (caution: pdf) defines the term disagreement as:

“A determined kind of speech situation: one in which one of the interlocutors at once understands and does not understand what the other is saying. Disagreement is not the conflict between one who says white and another who says black. It is the conflict between one who says white and another who also says white but does not understand the same thing by it or does not understand that the other is saying the same thing in the name of whiteness.”

These three theorists seem to be in disagreement and the analysis here is provided to throw some clarity on the topic.

Let me take Arditi to begin with: The book is oriented with Freud’s oxymoronic notion of ‘Foreign Internal Territory‘ (essentials of Psychoanalysis). The Freudian notion denotes the relation between the ‘repressed’ and the ‘ego’. Arditi uses this in his political analysis and calls it the ‘Internal Periphery’. Internal Peripheries are the paradoxical edges. For Arditi, the edges are not to be looked at as some distances from the center, but are the spaces, where the distinction between the inside and the outside is always in dispute and cannot be conceived without a polemic. This is so much a Derridean notion of ‘Deconstruction’. Arditi rethinks the ‘symptom’ to discern his ‘internal periphery’ of the political analysis and one of the ways to understand this is through the Rancièrean conception of ‘Disagreement’.

For Rancière, ‘Disagreement’ is a political concept par excellence. This has to be distinguished from ‘difference’ and the Lyotardian ‘differend’ (The Differend, 1988). For Lyotard, ‘differend’ stands for a conflict that cannot be resolved in that there there is no legitimate adjudication. Whereas, for Rancière, ‘difference’ is difference from itself plus the ‘differend’ and this goes on to to dictate the structure of the community. Therefore, ‘differend’ is always an ontic problem, what he calls the ‘police’ problem. His ‘politics’ is close to what others in the continental tradition would call ‘the political’.

To quote Chantal Mouffe:

“If we wanted to express such a distinction in a philosophical way, we could, borrowing
the vocabulary of Heidegger, say that politics refers to the ‘ontic’ level while ‘the
political’ has to do with the ‘ontological’ one. This means that the ontic has to do with
the manifold practices of conventional politics, while the ontological concerns the very
way in which society is instituted.”

Rancière dismisses this distinction and claims that politics is rare and what is common is police. Politics is local and occasional, but, admissible to conflicts revolving around the social convulsion. To quote Rancière (Disagreement):

“So nothing is political in itself. But anything may become political if it gives rise to a
meeting of these two logics [police logic, which is opposed to egalitarian/political logic]. The same thing – an election, a strike, a demonstration – can give rise to politics or not give rise to politics. A strike is not political when it calls for reforms rather than a better deal or when it attacks the relationships of authority rather than the inadequacy of wages. It is political when it reconfigures the relationships that determine the workplace in its relation to the community. The domestic household has been turned into a political space not through the simple fact that power relationships are at work in it but because it was the subject of an argument in a dispute over the capacity of women in the community.”

If Disagreement talked about the classical political philosophy, then Hatred of Democracy deals with the present context and here he tells about the ‘here and now’, the ‘you and me’. The undecidability of the ‘internal periphery’ is decided/redecided by what Arditi calls the ‘polemicization’. ‘Polemicization’ refers to the process by which political arguments, disputes lead to transformations that reconfigure, redistribute, reinstitute and redraw the ‘lines of the community. This again gets so close to the Derridean version of drawing lines to set up any order that are neither simply internal, nor simply external (The Truth in Painting: caution: pdf). Rancière’s notion of ‘disagreement’ and the ‘internal periphery’ are akin to one another and the Rancierean notion revolves around a word or a concept. And the word is ‘Equality’.

To quote Rancière:

“Nothing is political in itself for the political only happens by means of a principle that
does not belong to it: equality. The status of this ‘principle’ needs to be specified.
Equality is not a given that politics then presses into service, an essence embodied in the
law or a goal politics sets itself the task of attaining. It is a mere assumption that needs to
be discerned within the practices implementing it…”

Arditi and Laclau would both agree on this. For Laclau, the fundamental term in political ontology is the ‘demand’. Laclau has argued this since his seminal book co-authored with Chantal Mouffe (Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: caution: pdf) that politics should not be confused with ‘fetishized’ positions, such as the class and this laid the foundations of post-Marxism (caution: pdf). Politics could arise wherever antagonisms flare up and they could be from any area like sex, gender, race, ethnicity, citizenry, environment etc. In Laclau, the key notion is the ineradicability of antagonism. Furthermore, Laclau sees the birth of modern politics in the democratic revolutionary space, a Claude Lefortian position and argues that ‘power’ is an empty space anybody can fight for. This gets translated as Rancière’s ‘Equality’. But, the key is Laclau’s dismissing of Rancière’s ’empty-ness’ as placing too much of an optimistic hope on people’s democratic tendencies on the one hand and as reluctant enough to let go of ‘class’, as an undeconstructed Marxist, on the other. Laclau does nod Rancière, when he talks of the Gramscian movement from ‘classes’ to ‘collective wills’ to be completed in order for the latter’s project to be realized.

Laclauian theory suffers from ontological parochiality, a contingent description of a contingent state of affairs. Laclau arrogantly votes for his politics as hegemony as an ontological category. Since all politics is hegemonic in nature, all politics is reducibly populist. For Arditi, populism is still a spectre of democracy and an internal periphery of democratic politics. Rancière, on the other hand gets pessimistic about politics and takes the police as the handmaiden of those who enjoy power.