How the Alt-Right Infiltrated Architecture Twitter – and turned Notre-Dame into a Political Lighting Rod.

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“Buildings broadcast a message. Good and bad architecture can lift, or subdue a message… aesthetic ugliness promotes ugly behavior,” says 35-year-old Paul Joseph Watson, a commentator on Infowars, in a video titled “Why Modern Architecture SUCKS.” Watson refers to modernist architects — those who designed buildings after World War II, like Ernő Goldfinger, Owen Luder and John Bancroft — as “the social justice warriors of their time” who actively “rebelled against beauty.” By creating large concrete tower blocks — often with the intention of building social housing for the poor — Watson believes they attempted to “socially engineer society” like the Soviet Union.

He’s also far from the only critic to complain about the legacy of brutalism, a style of modern architecture that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s in the U.K., but was developed largely by French architects like Le Corbusier. Brutalist buildings were characterized by simple, block-like structures that often featured exposed concrete and were constructed in the belief that architects should design buildings with their function in mind first and foremost. As a result, brutalist architects would usually prioritize public space over monuments to gawk at. “Many Brutalist buildings expressed a progressive or even utopian vision of communal living and public ownership,” writes Felix Torkar in Jacobin magazine. (To that end, brutalist buildings were often favored by European governments as social housing for impoverished communities.) “The battle to protect them is also a fight to defend this social inheritance.”

Read on…

Negri’s Dismissive Approach to Re-engaging Growing Ideological Opposition to Capitalism. Note Quote.

The Pyramid of Capitalism

Negri’s politics are shaped by the defeat of the movement of the 1960s and 1970s. His borrowed economic theory was shaped by the triumphalism following the restructuring of US capitalism in the 1980s and the collapse of the Stalinist regimes. Having created a Marxism gutted of its central emphasis on the working class, he filled this empty shell with the poststructuralist philosophy developed by a generation of disappointed post-1968 French intellectuals.

Atilio Boron argues that Hardt and Negri’s increasing reliance on poststructuralist philosophers flows from a shared backdrop of trying to come to terms with working class defeat and capitalist hubris. Faced with a system that appears, for the time being, unbeatable:…a series of theoretical and practical consequences emerge that…are neatly reflected in the postmodern agenda. On the one hand, an almost obsessive interest in the examination of the social forms that grow in the margins or in the interstices of the system; on the other hand, the search for those social forces that at least for now could commit some sort of transgression against the system, or could promote some type of limited and ephemeral subversion against it.

This concern with subversion and transgression is indeed characteristic of many of the autonomist movements with which Negri is associated. But for Negri, with the rise of post-industrial production and the multitude, the potential for postmodern subversion has spread across the whole social terrain, and across the globe. One might expect Hardt and Negri to explain what such a confrontation would look like. However, what we instead get is a retreat into philosophy and descriptions of the multitude that the authors themselves admit are merely ‘poetic’.

Hardt and Negri also borrow from the poststructuralists, especially Deleuze and Guattari, an eclectic form of expression known as ‘assemblage’.

Timothy Brennan writes in his Italian Ideology:

It expresses itself as a gathering of substantively incompatible positions. In Empire’s assemblage, the juxtaposition of figures whose political views are mutually hostile to one another…is presented as the supersession of earlier divisions in pursuit of a more supple and inclusive combination.

So, in Empire, philosophers such as Michel Foucault or Baruch Spinoza and revolutionaries such as Rosa Luxemburg rub shoulders with Bill Gates, former US labour secretary Robert Reich and St Francis of Assissi. This form of expression evolved as a rejection of attempts at a ‘grand narrative’ such as Marxism that could hope to explain and help transform the world, or of an agency such as the working class that could carry through such a transformation. For Hardt and Negri this method mirrors the multitude that they describe—a series of heterogeneous, isolated subjects, coming together to fleetingly act in common. Indeed they have gone so far as to say that the struggles of the multitude have become ‘incommunicable’ and lack a ‘common enemy’.

Their assertion would be contested by most of those who have attended the great international gatherings and protests of the anti-capitalist movement since Seattle. Here opposition to neo-liberalism and war have become common themes. The world working class may have been traumatised by the impact of neo-liberalism and the defeat of the movements of the 1960s and 1970s. But, rather than celebrating the much-exaggerated demise of the working class, the challenge today is to re-engage the growing ideological opposition to capitalism with the potential power that workers still hold. Negri is dismissive of such a project, but offersanothing substantial in its place.

His faux pas—over neo-liberalism, the EU constitution and the war in Iraq—stem from his failure to come to terms with either the defeats of the past or the nature of contemporary capitalism. Almost every assertion in his recent writings vanishes into thin air once subjected to even a cursory empirical examination. As for strategy, Multitude ends:

We can already recognise that today time is split between a present that is already dead and a future that is already living – and that yawning abyss between them is becoming enormous. In time, an event will thrust us like an arrow into that living future. This will be the real political act of love.

With an upsurge of the Techno-Commercial Right in the world, multinationals and Commodity Trading firms and HFTs and states wreaking havoc, and global warming (believe it or not!) threatening our very survival as a species, waiting for an act of political love to save us sounds like bad advice.

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.

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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.

Lyotardian Libidinal Energies

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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.

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:

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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……