Unpublished Chevron Review #6 “The Agony of Power”

*Because they appear to be either late or shut down, here is the final book review in the series I have been writing for the UW Chevron* -Max

Power by Max Kennel, A short review essay on: Jean Baudrillard, The Agony of Power, Los Angeles: Semiotext[e], 2010.

Two years before he died Baudrillard presented several texts in major cities across North America. Two of these presented texts are included in the 2010 collection entitled The Agony of Power edited by Sylvere Lotringer. Where Passwords was the closest work Baudrillard ever had to a retrospective (to my knowledge), The Agony of Power represents a burst of energy, or a power against power itself. Baudrillard speaks of the abolition of power as being constituted by both the refusal of domination (revolutionary struggle) but also in the refusal to dominate the other in any hegemonic manner.

This is the agony of power in short. Again Baudrillard’s work springs forth, escaping the categorization of mere review, and carrying on the distinctly nonlinear progression of Baudrillard’s thought that would culminate in his death. Simulacra, hyper-reality, hyper-modernity, and problems with signification each inform this work perhaps only insofar as they dot the history of its author. Cliché, irony and hyper-irony, binarity, cultural diagnosis, and problems with detachment are issues here as well.

We have mentioned elsewhere the noble tasks of attempting to resurrect the real, cultivating disciplined/second naïveté, and abolishing the virtual. These imperatives exist in a place beyond mere spectacle (that is too clear to be real), or the mere placement of immanence over transcendence, or resignation to the domain of the fractal subject. Our dual and fluid bodies and minds are capable of surpassing cliché and achieving a state of deep thought. Baudrillard’s apocalyptic writing points to this. The divine inexistence of Meillassoux (and his book), uncertain as it may be, appears for no reason just like this hope for a depth and maturity in thought. Surrounded by thousands of machines, in the realm of the machinic, there is a mockery under which the non-ironic subject suffers. I have sought to draw out this modern violence out by speed reading Baudrillard and speed writing these reviews (which is to ask forgiveness for their rushed unedited natures).

Badiou writes in The Symptom of philosophy as biography, and Mcluhan rings truer than ever: the medium (the philosopher) is the message (the philosophy). This binary relation is certainly a feature of the binary unconscious mentioned last time. What might be more frightening for those who police the bounds of reason (according to Vattimo) is that nothing lies outside of the realm of the binary unconscious. Everything is two, below the surface and above the surface of consciousness and the psyche. After Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud everyone has become disenchanted and cynical (although this is surely not their fault). What I would propose, in light of this, is an understanding of our being as a chiasmus, as having a chiastic structure (of which the binary unconscious is only a feature). This proposal, posited, postulated, and sufficiently postured, is the topic of a manuscript upon which I have been working for three years. As I have promised myself for the last two summers I would like to finish the manuscript at the end of this coming summer. This is to say, against those who would hold ageist convictions, that there is still serious and creative work under way in the world beyond the academy and the eyes of the university.

If anyone is interested in becoming involved in a serious reading group, this coming fall term, on a major continental thinker such as Baudrillard, Badiou, Lacan, Derrida, Deleuze, Guattari, Stiegler etc. Please email: max.kennel@sympatico.ca


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