Utopia Banished. Thought of the Day 103.0

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In its essence, utopia has nothing to do with imagining an impossible ideal society; what characterizes utopia is literally the construction of a u-topic space, a space outside the existing parameters, the parameters of what appears to be “possible” in the existing social universe. The “utopian” gesture is the gesture that changes the coordinates of the possible. — (Slavoj Žižek- Iraq The Borrowed Kettle)

Here, Žižek discusses Leninist utopia, juxtaposing it with the current utopia of the end of utopia, the end of history. How propitious is the current anti-utopian aura for future political action? If society lies in impossibility, as Laclau and Mouffe (Hegemony and Socialist Strategy Towards a Radical Democratic Politics) argued, the field of politics is also marked by the impossible. Failing to fabricate an ideological discourse and incapable of historicizing, psychoanalysis appears as “politically impotent” and unable to encumber the way for other ideological narratives to breed the expectation of making the impossible possible, by promising to cover the fissure of the real in socio-political relations. This means that psychoanalysis can interminably unveil the impossible, only for a recycling of ideologies (outside the psychoanalytic discourse) to attempt to veil it.

Juxtaposing the possibility of a “post-fantasmatic” or “less fantasmatic” politics accepts the irreducible ambiguity of democracy and thus fosters the prospect of a radical democratic project. Yet, such a conception is not uncomplicated, given that one cannot totally go beyond fantasy and still maintain one’s subjectivity (even when one traverses it, another fantasy eventually grows), precisely because fantasy is required for the coherence of the subject and the upholding of her desire. Furthermore, fantasy is either there or not; we cannot have “more” or “less” fantasy. Fantasy, in itself, is absolute and totalizing par excellence. It is the real and the symbolic that always make it “less fantasmatic”, as they impose a limit in its operation.

So, where does “perversion” fit within this frame? The encounter with the extra-ordinary is an encounter with the real that reveals the contradiction that lies at the heart of the political. Extra-ordinariness suggests the embodiment of the real within the socio-political milieu; this is where the extra-ordinary subject incarnates the impossible object. Nonetheless, it suggests a fantasmatic strategy of incorporating the real in the symbolic, as an alternative to the encircling of the real through sublimation. In sublimation we still have an (artistic) object standing for the object a, so the lack in the subject is still there, whereas in extra-ordinariness the subject occupies the locus of the object a, in an ephemeral eradication of his/her lack. Extra-ordinariness may not be a condition that subverts or transforms socio-political relations, yet it can have a certain political significance. Rather than a direct confrontation with the impossible, it suggests a fantasmatic embracing of the impossible in its inexpressible totality, which can be perceived as a utopian aspiration.

Following Žižek or Badiou’s contemporary views, the extra-ordinary gesture is not qualified as an authentic utopian act, because it does not traverse fantasy, it does not rewrite social conditions. It is well known that Žižek prioritizes the negativeness of the real in his rhetoric, something that outstrips any positive imaginary or symbolic reflection in his work. But this entails the risk of neglecting the equal importance of all three registers for subjectivity. The imaginary constitutes an essential motive force for any drastic action to take place, as long as the symbolic limit is not thwarted. It is also what keeps us humane and sustains our relation to the other.

It is possible to touch the real, through imaginary means, without becoming a post-human figure (such as Antigone, who remains the figurative conception of Žižek’s traversing of the fantasy). Fantasy (and, therefore, ideology) can be a source of optimism and motivation and it should not be bound exclusively to the static character of compensatory utopia, according to Bloch’s distinction. In as much as fantasy infuses the subject’s effort to grasp the impossible, recognizing it as such and not breeding the futile expectation of turning the impossible into possible (regaining the object, meeting happiness), the imaginary can form the pedestal for an anticipatory utopia.

The imaginary does not operate only as a force that disavows difference for the sake of an impossible unity and completeness. It also suggests an apparatus that soothes the realization of the symbolic fissure, breeding hope and fascination, that is to say, it stirs up emotional states that encircle the lack of the subject. Moreover, it must be noted that the object a, apart from real properties, also has an imaginary hypostasis, as it is screened in fantasies that cover lack. If our image’s coherence is an illusion, it is this illusion that motivates us as individual and social subjects and help us relate to each other.

The anti-imaginary undercurrent in psychoanalysis is also what accounts for renunciation of idealism in the democratic discourse. The point de capiton is not just a common point of reference; it is a master signifier, which means it constitutes an ideal par excellence. The master signifier relies on fantasy and imaginary certainty about its supreme status. The ideal embodied by the master is what motivates action, not only in politics, but also in sciences, and arts. Is there a democratic prospect for the prevalence of an ideal that does not promise impossible jouissance, but possible jouissance, without confining it to the phallus? Since it is possible to touch jouissance, but not to represent it, the encounter with jouissance could endorse an ideal of incompleteness, an ideal of confronting the limits of human experience vis-à-vis unutterable enjoyment.

We need an extra-ordinary utopianism to the extent that it provokes pre-fixed phallic and normative access to enjoyment. The extra-ordinary himself does not go so far as to demand another master signifier, but his act is sufficiently provocative in divulging the futility of the master’s imaginary superiority. However, the limits of the extra-ordinary utopian logic is that its fantasy of embodying the impossible never stops in its embodiment (precisely because it is still a fantasy), and instead it continues to make attempts to grasp it, without accepting that the impossible remains impossible.

An alternative utopia could probably maintain the fantasy of embodying the impossible, acknowledging it as such. So, any time fantasy collapses, violence does not emerge as a response, but we continue the effort to symbolically speculate and represent the impossible, precisely because in this effort resides hope that sustains our reason to live and desire. As some historians say, myths distort “truth”, yet we cannot live without them; myths can form the only tolerable approximation of “truth”. One should see them as “colourful” disguises of the achromous core of his/her existence, and the truth is we need more “colour”.

Production of the Schizoid, End of Capitalism and Laruelle’s Radical Immanence. Note Quote Didactics.

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These are eclectics of the production, eclectics of the repetition, eclectics of the difference, where the fecundity of the novelty would either spring forth, or be weeded out. There is ‘schizoproduction’ prevalent in the world. This axiomatic schizoproduction is not a speech act, but discursive, in the sense that it constrains how meaning is distilled from relations, without the need for signifying, linguistic acts. Schizoproduction performs the relation. The bare minimum of schizoproduction is the gesture of transcending thought: namely, what François Laruelle calls a ‘decision’. Decision is differential, but it does not have to signify. It is the capacity to produce distinction and separation, in the most minimal, axiomatic form. Schizoproduction is capitalism turned into immanent capitalism, through a gesture of thought – sufficient thought. It is where capitalism has become a philosophy of life, in that it has a firm belief within a sufficient thought, whatever it comes in contact with. It is an expression of the real, the radical immanence as a transcending arrangement. It is a collective articulation bound up with intricate relations and management of carnal, affective, and discursive matter. The present form of capitalism is based on relationships, collaborations, and processuality, and in this is altogether different from the industrial period of modernism in the sense of subjectivity, production, governance, biopolitics and so on. In both cases, the life of a subject is valuable, since it is a substratum of potentiality and capacity, creativity and innovation; and in both cases, a subject is produced with physical, mental, cognitive and affective capacities compatible with each arrangement. Artistic practice is aligned with a shift from modern liberalism to the neoliberal dynamic position of the free agent.

Such attributes have thus become so obvious that the concepts of ‘competence’, ‘trust’ or ‘interest’ are taken as given facts, instead of perceiving them as functions within an arrangement. It is not that neoliberal management has leveraged the world from its joints, but that it is rather capitalism as philosophy, which has produced this world, where neoliberalism is just a part of the philosophy. Therefore, the thought of the end of capitalism will always be speculative, since we may regard the world without capitalism in the same way as we may regard the world-not-for-humans, which may be a speculative one, also. From its inception, capitalism paved a one-way path to annihilation, predicated as it was on unmitigated growth, the extraction of finite resources, the exaltation of individualism over communal ties, and the maximization of profit at the expense of the environment and society. The capitalist world was, as Thurston Clarke described so bleakly, ”dominated by the concerns of trade and Realpolitik rather than by human rights and spreading democracy”; it was a ”civilization influenced by the impersonal, bottom-line values of the corporations.” Capitalist industrial civilization was built on burning the organic remains of ancient organisms, but at the cost of destroying the stable climatic conditions which supported its very construction. The thirst for fossil fuels by our globalized, high-energy economy spurred increased technological development to extract the more difficult-to-reach reserves, but this frantic grasp for what was left only served to hasten the malignant transformation of Earth into an alien world. The ruling class tried to hold things together for as long as they could by printing money, propping up markets, militarizing domestic law enforcement, and orchestrating thinly veiled resource wars in the name of fighting terrorism, but the crisis of capitalism was intertwined with the ecological crisis and could never be solved by those whose jobs and social standing depended on protecting the status quo. All the corporate PR, greenwashing, political promises, cultural myths, and anthropocentrism could not hide the harsh Malthusian reality of ecological overshoot. As crime sky-rocketed and social unrest boiled over into rioting and looting, the elite retreated behind walled fortresses secured by armed guards, but the great unwinding of industrial civilization was already well underway. This evil genie was never going back in the bottle. And thats speculative too, or not really is a nuance to be fought hard on.

The immanence of capitalism is a transcending immanence: a system, which produces a world as an arrangement, through a capitalist form of thought—the philosophy of capitalism—which is a philosophy of sufficient reason in which economy is the determination in the last instance, and not the real. We need to specifically regard that this world is not real. The world is a process, a “geopolitical fiction”. Aside from this reason, there is an unthinkable world that is not for humans. It is not the world in itself, noumena, nor is it nature, bios, but rather it is the world indifferent to and foreclosed from human thought, a foreclosed and radical immanence – the real – which is not open nor will ever be opening itself for human thought. It will forever remain void and unilaterally indifferent. The radical immanence of the real is not an exception – analogous to the miracle in theology – but rather, it is an advent of the unprecedented unknown, where the lonely hour of last instance never comes. This radical immanence does not confer with ‘the new’ or with ‘the same’ and does not transcend through thought. It is matter in absolute movement, into which philosophy or oikonomia incorporates conditions, concepts, and operations. Now, a shift in thought is possible where the determination in the last instance would no longer be economy but rather a radical immanence of the real, as philosopher François Laruelle has argued. What is given, what is radically immanent in and as philosophy, is the mode of transcendental knowledge in which it operates. To know this mode of knowledge, to know it without entering into its circle, is to practice a science of the transcendental, the “transcendental science” of non-philosophy. This science is of the transcendental, but according to Laruelle, it must also itself be transcendental – it must be a global theory of the given-ness of the real. A non- philosophical transcendental is required if philosophy as a whole, including its transcendental structure, is to be received and known as it is. François Laruelle radicalises the Marxist term of determined-in-the-last-instance reworked by Louis Althusser, for whom the last instance as a dominating force was the economy. For Laruelle, the determination-in-the-last-instance is the Real and that “everything philosophy claims to master is in-the-last-instance thinkable from the One-Real”. For Althusser, referring to Engels, the economy is the ‘determination in the last instance’ in the long run, but only concerning the other determinations by the superstructures such as traditions. Following this, the “lonely hour of the ‘last instance’ never comes”.

Agamben’s (Anti-)Utopia? Walter Benjamin Clues. Drunken Risibility.

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The thought of Giorgio Agamben has been often accused of being utopian. Antonio Negri, for example, branded Agamben’s core concept, “naked” or “bare life,” as a “utopian escape” and then identified in (State of Exception) a “feverish utopian anxiety.” Agamben has also been accused that his notion of politics of dissolves “into an eschatological, utopian vision of social life,” infused with strong theological and messianic overtones, which would make of it a particular version of political theology. But, what of the quite common unease for a political project that is deemed unrealizable, empty, even impolitic. Is it Utopia or Anti-utopia? The clue is provided for through Walter Benjamin.

At the end of his essay on Surrealism (Surrealism The Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia), Walter Benjamin writes:

For what is the program of the bourgeois parties? A bad poem on springtime, filled to bursting with metaphors. The socialist sees that ‘finer future of our children and grandchildren’ in a society in which all act ‘as if they were angels’ and everyone has as much ‘as if he were rich’ and everyone lives ‘as if he were free.’ Of angels, wealth, freedom, not a trace – these are mere images.

In a piece written two years later, Der destruktive Charakter, he insists that a radical, revolutionary politics must renounce optimistic, metaphoric contemplation:

The destructive character sees no image hovering before him.

Benjamin does not employ the term utopia; it is clear nonetheless that a political project founded on mere – and optimistic – images of the future is the target of his harsh criticism. If political utopianism in fact originated – strongly influenced by world travels and discoveries of new lands – by situating a political alternative in a spatial displacement (a nonplace that is, however, another place), at least from the Enlightenment it assumed the character of a “better future” toward which a progressive politics should strive. If, following Benjamin, we define “utopia” as a political project construed around images of the future and rhetorically based on the syntagma “as if ” (als ob), then Agamben’s project exudes an intrinsic and intense anti-utopianism. It is true that there is no explicit attack on utopia in his work and even that, in the preface to (Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture), he defines the “philosophical topology” presented as his method as “constantly oriented in the light of utopia”; however, the messianism in which his philosophical project is steeped constitutes an implicit but evident rejection of utopianism.

NVSQVAM (Nowhere): Left has Hemorrhaged its Mojo

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Left-liberal attitudes and habits of mind may at one time have been radical, provocative, and gutsy, but today they are staid, stale, conventional, and boring. Any honest contemporary cultural Marxist will have to admit that, politically speaking, his side now holds all significant power. Those who openly decline to subscribe to the ideological establishment’s point of view on such matters as race, gender, and sexuality have in effect committed social suicide; having put themselves utterly at the mercy of the powers-that-be, such unfortunates have left themselves open to attack by legions of official Zeitgeist-enforcers and their numerous toadying minions.

Today’s thought-criminals and ideological deviants are liable to be thrown in jail or fined for indulging in so-called “hate speech,” or at the very least, to be subjected to harassment, humiliation, and deprivation of livelihood. It is, in short, a bad career move not to toe the company line. Even in a country where free expression is nominally protected, one still in actuality faces a stark choice: conform to the enforced conventional wisdom, or be thrust into the outer darkness.

For radical traditionalists, alternative rightists, race realists, and other such present-day thought-criminals, things seem dire indeed. Yet all is not lost, and much, in fact, has been won. For our adversaries’ victory on cultural matters is very much a pyrrhic one. In becoming the Establishment, the Left has hemorrhaged its mojo. To be a lefty today has none of the allure or glamour that it once possessed in halcyon times when one actually faced persecution and ostracism for taking up left-wing causes. One who spouts liberal rhetoric and parrots politically-correct bromides doesn’t seem like a troublemaker, but rather a brown-nosing goody-goody. A defiant rightist, on the other hand, has gained the status of a dangerous outlaw; though reviled, feared, and loathed by the authority-fearing populace, such a one nevertheless exudes an exciting primordial appeal for his insolent refusal to curtsy before the almighty Zeitgeist. There is more of Andy Nowicki to come

Archivals. NRx Corporate Serfs.

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Even if ‘The Road to Serfdom‘ by Friedrich von Hayek was a warning at one point, it has nor become a fact of history. Take the example of US, which is becoming more and more of a corporate serf to be exact, since the US is nothing but a big corporation, a formal structure by which a group of individuals agree to act collectively to meet some desired result. In the words of Mencius Moldbug,

It is not a mystic trust consigned to us by the generations. It is not the repository of our hopes and fears, the voice of conscience and the avenging sword of justice. It is just an big old company that holds a huge pile of assets, has no clear idea of what it’s trying to do with them, and is thrashing around like a ten-gallon shark in a five-gallon bucket, red ink spouting from each of its bazillion gills.

So what is needed is a reactionary or a radical to bring about social justice to confront us from becoming corporate serfs. Well, neither gets us any closer to achieving social justice, since we might be equal and still not more equal than others, the catch is we are not onto designing any abstract-utopia, but trying to make head and tail of the world that is screwed up. Can this be done via Formalism, which draws out a matrix of who has what, rather than who should have what, since the ‘ought’ alluded to in the latter is a simple recipe for violence. The matrix could at least draw attention to identify the real shareholders and stakeholders (The ‘We’, 99%, or what have you?), and in the process help reproduce the distribution as closely as possible to reach autonomous public ownership and eventually mitigate the risk of political violence imagined through either reactionary or radical means. Libertarianism it is.

Third Space Theory of Postcoloniality. Note Quote.

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Writers, such as Homi Bhabha and Salman Rushdie, who proceed from a consideration of the nature of postcolonial societies and the types of hybridization these various cultures have produced, proposed a radical rethinking—an appropriation of the European thinking by a different discourse. Whereas in European thinking, history and the past are the reference point for epistemology, in postcolonial thought space annihilates time. History is rewritten and realigned from the standpoint of the victims of the destructive progress.  Hybridity replaces a temporal linearity with a spatial plurality. Salman Rushdie  makes this obvious when commenting on the message of his controversial novel, The Satanic Verses, in an essay called “In Good Faith” as follows:

The Satanic Verses celebrates hybridity, impurity, intermingling, the transformation that comes of new and unexpected combinations of human beings, cultures, ideas, politics, movies, songs. It rejoices in mongrelization and fears the absolutism of the Pure. Melange, hotchpotch, a bit of this and a bit of that is how newness enters the world. It is the great possibility that mass migration gives the world, and I have tried to embrace it. The Satanic Verses is for change-by-fusion, change-by-conjoining. It is a love-song to our mongrel selves.

Even though on the surface postcolonial texts may contain race divisions and cultural differences, they all contain germs of community which, as they grow in the mind of the reader, they detach from the apparently inescapable dialectic of history. Thus, postcolonial literatures have begun to deal  with problems of transmuting time into space and of attempting to construct a future. It highlights the acceptance of difference on equal terms. Now both literary critics and historians are recognizing cross-culturality as the possible ending point of an apparent endless human history of conquest and occupations.  They recognize that the myth of purity or essence, the Eurocentric viewpoint must be challenged. The recent approaches show that the power of postcolonial theory lies in its comparative methodology and the hybridized and syncretic view of the modern world which it implies.

Of the various points in which postcolonial texts intersect, place has a paramount importance. In his dialogism thesis, Mikhail Bakhtin emphasizes a space of enunciation where negotiation of discursive doubleness gives birth to a new speech act:

The  hybrid is not only double-voiced and double-accented . . . but is also double-languaged; for in it there are not only (and not even so much) two individual consciounesses, two voices, two accents, as there are [doublings of] socio-linguistic consciousnesses, two epochs . . . that come together and consciously fight it out on the territory of the utterance.

Also, Homi Bhabha talks about a third space of enunciation, a hybrid space or a new position in which communication is possible. Third Space theory emerges from the sociocultural tradition in psychology identified with Lev Vygotsky. Sociocultural approaches are concerned with the “… constitutive role of culture in mind, i.e., on how mind develops by incorporating the community’s shared artifacts accumulated over generations”. Bhabha applies socioculturalism directly to the postcolonial condition, where there are, “… unequal and uneven forces of cultural representation”. For Bhabha, such negotiation is neither assimilation nor collaboration as it makes possible the emergence of an “interstitial” agency that refuses the binary representation of social antagonism. The “interstitial perspective” as Bhabha calls it replaces the “polarity of a prefigurative self-generating nation ‘in-itself’ and extrinsic other nations” with the notion of cultural liminality within the nation. the liminal figure of the nation-space would ensure that no political ideologies could claim transcendent or metaphysical authority for themselves. this is because the subject of cultural discourse – the agency of a people – is spilt in the discursive ambivalence that emerges in the contest of narrative authority between the pedagogical and the performative, which is to say, between the peoples’ status as historical objects of a nationalist pedagogy and their ability to perform themselves as subjects of a process of signification that must erase any prior or originally national presence. Hybrid agencies find their voice in a dialectic that does not seek cultural supremacy or sovereignty. They deploy the partial culture from which they emerge to construct visions of community, and versions of historic memory, that give narrative form to the minority positions they occupy: “the outside of the inside; the part in the whole”.

This “new position” Bhabha proposes is closely related to the “homeless” existence of post-colonial persons. It certainly cannot be assumed to be an independent third space already there, a “no-man’s-land” between the nations. Instead, a way of cultural syncretization, i.e. a medium of negotiating cultural antagonisms, has to be created. Cultural difference has to be acknowledged: “Culture does imply difference, but the differences now are no longer, if you wish, taxonomical; they are interactive and refractive”. This position emphasizes, contrary to the too facile assumption of world literature and world culture as the stages of a multicultural cosmopolitanism already in existence, that the “intellectual trade” takes place mostly on the borders and in the border crossings between cultures where meanings and values are not codified but misunderstood, misrepresented, even falsely adopted. Bhabha explains how beyond fixed cultural (ethnic, gender- and class-related) identities, so-called “hybrid” identities are formed by discontinuous translation and negotiation. Hybridity, liminality, “interrogatory, interstitial space” – these are the positive values Bhabha opposes to a retrograde historicism that continues to dominate Western critical thinking, a “linear narrative of the nation,” with its claims for the “holism of culture and community” and a “fixed horizontal nation-space”. We must, he argues eloquently, undo such thinking with its facile binary oppositions. Rather than emphasizing the opposition between First World and Third World nations, between colonizer and colonized, men and women, black and white, straight and gay, Bhabha would have it, we might more profitably focus on the faultlines themselves, on border situations and thresholds as the sites where identities are performed and contested. Bhabha says, “hybridity to me is the ‘third space’ which enables other positions to emerge”.