October 30, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This past Friday Amy and I embarked on a journey to the University of Western Ontario’s Centre for Theory and Criticism, and despite the weather we arrived safely and had an excellent lunch with Peter Schwenger on campus where we talked about Vilem Flusser and Peter’s forthcoming At the Borders of Sleep. After lunch we sat in on Ben Woodard‘s seminar discussion group on Speculative Realism where we discussed Ian Hamilton Grant’s essay in The Speculative Turn. At 3:30 I presented “What is a Compendium?” which was met with a great response and several pointed and charitable questions and comments from the excellent MA and PHD students at the Centre. Afterwards I had an excellent discussion with Andrew Weiss about his writing on Derrida’s The Animal that Therefore I Am and a further discussion with a few others about the methodology of writing a sermon on the existentialism of the book of Job. Overall the discourse and conversation were incredible, including the feedback I received on the paper. The people were charitable and friendly to my theological convictions, and I felt able to speak freely in that space between the disciplines of theology, philosophy, and writing – a space where I intend to remain for the foreseeable future. There’s some great stuff going on at the
July 5, 2011 § 3 Comments
The Invisible Committee. The Coming Insurrection.Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2009.
Proclaiming the entrance of civilization into “an era whose predominant mode of government is precisely the management of crises,” the opening paragraphs of The Coming Insurrection read like that of a postmodern manifesto. Written anonymously by members of “The Invisible Committee” the small book is published by Semiotext(e), the company who brought the works of Jean Baudrillard (Simulations) and Paul Virilio (Pure War) to the West. Anonymously translated from the French publication by Editions de la Fabrique (2007), this manifesto for nothing less than revolutionary action serves as a polemic against the contemporary malaise of capitalist realism.
The original French work, curiously enough, is a central text in the Tarnac 9 trials in France(2008) in which nine individuals were charged with conspiring to destroy overhead lines of the French rail network. Connected to these individuals is a group known as “Tiqqun” whose Introduction to Civil War has recently been published by Semiotext(e). Tiqqun, like The Invisible Committee, attributes collective authorship to their own texts dating back to the short-lived journal Tiqqun which dissolved in 2001.
Divided into seven “circles” (on identity, entertainment, work, security, possessions, environment, and civilization) and four additional chapters, The Coming Insurrection speaks to the exclaimation: “all power to the communes,” drawing upon the concept of ‘the coming community’ of Giorgio Agamben. Aside from a few troubling passages expressing violent attitudes towards authority figures in France, the work is an inspiring read that sheds light upon certain problems with contemporary society (particularly that of French governance and policing). The contemporary French thinker Alain Badiou writes with disgust about the harassment of his son by French Police in his work Polemics (Verso, 2006). As if to follow The Invisible Committee expresses similar attitudes, labeling the misuse of police forces (gendarmerie) by the government as being wrought with a ‘cold pragmatism’.
While now considered to be a primary text in many anarchist circles The Coming Insurrection should be treated far more seriously for its imperative to critique capitalist realism of which they write prophetically: “A day will come when this capital and its horrible concretion of power will lie in majestic ruins”. The use of the imperative, prophetic, narrative, and polemical voices abounds in the prose of The Coming Insurrection; tones since lost in the sea of pulp politics and the rigidity of so-called ‘serious analysis’. At the risk of reducing the work to its form, it could be said that as a piece of writing alone it is an excellent example of how to go about writing a political text. References are also made to the work of both Alain Badiou (Being and Event, Logics of Worlds) and also Giorgio Agamben (The Coming Community), two political philosophers who express similar anticapitalist convictions.
To find the contemporary political import of The Coming Insurrection and its illicit authorship, we need only look to the 2009 article by the philosopher Alberto Toscano (Goldsmiths) who asks us to distinguish between the category of sabotage and the category of terrorism (the latter of which the Tarnac 9 have been accused). In his article for The Guardian, entitled “Criminalising Dissent,” Toscano writes:
“To consider the Tarnac case is to be faced with a pattern for the criminalisation of dissent which is becoming ever more general, and which is likely to intensify as Europe (witness the recent events in Greece) is confronted with forms of social conflict which challenge the viability of the socio-economic order.”
On this note and in closing, one might look to recent events in Tunisia, Cairo, Bahrain, and Libyaand ask, “what would it mean to criminalize dissent in these places?” These Arab uprisings point to a dissatisfaction with dictatorship and oligarchy. What would it mean, inversely, to think upon resistance arising from a dissatisfaction with hyper-capitalism and corporate government? (Alain Badiou’s recent article in Le Monde comes to mind). The Coming Insurrection, prescriptively speaking, encourages the populace to question the Western logic of capitalist realism and liberal democracy and centers upon a call to “enter into the logic of insurrection,” a logic which opposes the contemporary hegemony of reason, materialism, and disenchantment. I would hope, in the spirit of resistance and the tradition that comes with it, that we could take The Invisible Committee seriously and enter into critical reflection upon revolutionary consciousness without the cynicism and skepticism that pervades the typical discourse on these subjects in the West.
May 11, 2011 § Leave a Comment
The first paper I attended was presented by Luke Davies of the University of Toronto (who I had heard give a paper on Wittgenstein at the Windsor Conference). I can safely say that I learned more about Kant in that 20 minutes than in the several years preceding it. The next paper was presented by Brian York and it was on some connections between Schopenhauer and the Vedantins. I hope Doug is reading this, for the sake of the Schopenhauer reference.
The third paper was given by none other than Alex Svoboda, who was kind enough to provide Amy and I with a ride from Syracuse to Oneonta. His paper was on certain panoptic aspects of popular culture, and he presented brilliantly. The medium/form of his presentation was perfectly in line with the message/content, it was uncanny. Instead of reading his paper like other presenters he exercised a great deal of freedom as a speaker as he improvised and strayed from the text. Foucault and Žižek were mentioned, making the paper a favorite to be sure.
In a later session I enjoyed another paper given by a Torontonian, Daniel Telech who, in the hurry to the train station left all of his iced tea in the car. After discovering this half an hour later Amy and I decided to take the unplanned gift for what it was. Thank you Daniel.
More papers followed, a very illuminating examination of Foucault, discourse, and 9/11, and a paper on Heidegger by Patricia Frame which blew me away. I’ve run out of time but if I have the chance I will post more on this in a few weeks! Cheers Max
May 10, 2011 § Leave a Comment