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‘No one likes us, we don’t care’

In Robson on March 28, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Review by Les Back

Review of Garry Robson “‘No one likes us, we don’t care’: the myth and reality of Millwall fandom” Berg Publishers, 2000 203pp.

There aren’t too many sociological books that make their way into the Christmas stocking.  In this, and many other respects, Garry Robson’s study of Millwall football culture is exceptional.  Up and down the Old Kent Road friends and relatives of the Millwall faithful, stretching far and wide in South London and its peri-urban hinterlands, will have bought the book for their loved ones.  To date Millwall’s Club Shop alone has sold 340 copies, almost 40% of the annual sales.  There is something deeply significant about this phenomenon that goes beyond its content in a narrow sociological sense.

While the focus of the book is on the culture and fortunes of this much benighted football club, the arguments contained within it have a much broader relevance.  Millwall, a club that has never really had much success on the pitch, is an iconic emblem of all that is seen to be disreputable in the English game.  For the police, football bureaucrats, officials and opposing fans alike the merest mention of those two syllables is enough to evoke associations with hooliganism, violence, bigotry and racism.     The end result is the ‘Millwall myth’ in Robson’s diagnosis. Much of this, he points out, is a product of the urban imagination of the moralists – some of whom have been members of the British Sociological Association – that project these meanings on the club.

Yet, at the same time it is precisely the ‘anti-charisma’ that is associated with the club that makes it attractive to its devoted to fans.  It is also why the Millwall faithful have resisted the currents of embourgeoisment and pacification that are prevalent elsewhere in the game.  It is this defiant self-affirmatory power that is captured in Lions’ rallying cry – “No one likes us we don’t care.”

In 1989 Richard Hoggart wrote: “Each decade we swiftly declare we have buried class; each decade the coffin stays empty.”  Tony Blair recently stated that the “class war is over.”  While English society is as brutally divided by class as it has ever been, we simply don’t have a language sophisticated enough to describe and understand the ways in which these divisions express themselves.  This is where Garry Robson’s book is a major advance.  He uses football, and the collective forms of ritualisation that are brought to life in its theatre, as place to read histories of class, community formations and patterns of embodiment.

Millwall’s fan culture was forged in industrial South London where both the docks and riverside ‘entrepreneurialism’ provided an economic base for its communities.  The echoes of this history resound in the patterns of culture established within Millwall fandom, even though these economic foundations no longer exist.  Fans that have uprooted and moved to Kent, Surrey, Sussex and beyond can make the impassioned cry that ‘South London is Wonderful’.  The result is an intense localism that no longer necessarily requires actual residence.   Drawing on Christian Bromberger’s notion of the ‘collective imaginary,’ Robson shows how Millwall itself becomes the medium through which class affiliations and belongings are felt and lived.

Robson’s book draws substantially on theorists like Bourdieu, Bernstein and Bloch but he achieves something of a unique synthesis of his own.   Central to his theory of class is the notion of the ‘recursive’ in which patterns of culture are sustained in motion and through performance.  The structures of feeling that are produce through song and ritual are brought to life in the doing through a process of illocution.   These forms of masculine culture are anchored in the body. One of my favourite parts of the book is where he applies this to ‘the bowl’, both a way of walking and a form of urban cultural habitation.

In this sense Robson’s book give us a whole range of new ways of thinking about the relationship between class, masculinity and culture.  All of this accesses cultural patterns beyond the realm of language and ‘the discursive.’  He points to the ways in which class refuses to be buried, no matter how hard Tony Blair and New Labour might try to commit it to the graveyard British social life.  These patterns of culture and class affiliations endure precisely because they are reproduced through embodied means and the passionate commitments that are engendered in the relationship between Millwall’s iconic status and its devoted fans.

I gave Garry Robson’s book to a neighbour.  Tony is a lifelong fan of the club, a season ticket holder and ‘Millwall through and through.’  He read the book attentively.  “I finished the book you gave me,” he said on a drizzly night in South London.  “That blokes is ‘aving a laugh ain’t he.”   I said I didn’t think so and pushed Tony on the historical detail contained in the book.  “He’s obviously ‘one of us,’ Tony conceded, “but he writes like he’s swallowed the dictionary.”  Despite this Tony recognised himself in the book and enjoyed it regardless of the dense and eloquent theorising.  Many Millwall fans have been perplexed in the same way.  Yet, they all concede that this book is written by “one of their own” who demonstrates an intimate knowledge Millwall fandom from the inside.

What Robson achieves is to make the bourgeois mores of the academy recognise and take seriously a maligned plebeian culture on its own terms.    He is both a part of that culture and at the same time he serves as its translator.  The paradox is that while he is successful in making intellectuals and theorists take something like Millwall seriously, the price is that the book is less accessible to the very people it aims to represent i.e. the working-class fans themselves.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

In a literary sense the book ‘outdoes’ sociological metalanguage on its own terms, so that its arguments can take a rightful place at the high table of cultural theory.  Yet at the same time his non-academic readership of fans and supporters are also challenged and forced to view these familiar rituals through another lens.  For some, this means thinking about their passion for football in different terms.  We can be sure that this Christmas, in a pub somewhere on the Walworth Road, Garry Robson was signing copies of his book for people who are unlikely to ever see the inside of a university.  While it may make many post-structuralists wince, this book deserves to become an immediate classic in the field.

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Review article: Toni Negri – Inventare il Comune

In Negri on March 27, 2012 at 12:11 am

Reviewed by: Yari Lanci

Toni Negri, Inventare il Comune. Roma: DeriveApprodi, 2012, 205 pp.

Negri’s Inventare il Comune[1] is a collection of several of his articles published between 1990 and 2008 for the French journals “Futur Antérieur” and “Multitudes”. The book presents critical interventions over specific events and phenomena – like the rise of “Berlusconism” in Italy and the dissolution of the Left, the French wave of strikes in 1995, the reconfiguration of metropolitan spaces such the French’s banlieues, and the political and economical shortcomings of the EU – as well as indirectly showing the preliminary and partial formulations of concepts and analyses that will be crystallised in Negri’s major works with Michael Hardt (Empire [2000], Multitude [2004], and Commonwealth [2009]). The articles included in Inventare il Comune are ordered chronologically.

As pointed out in the precise foreword by Judith Revel, amongst the many essays written by Negri in the last twenty years, the articles selected for Inventare il Comune encompass four broad theoretical themes: the formation of an imperial global order, the appearance of the multitude, the metamorphoses of current economic production (and, therefore, labour), and the conditions for the creation of a democratic (communist) commonwealth.

The first trope of Negri’s book gravitates around the formation of a new globalised politico-economical order – much different from the traditional category of “state” as it was understood in modern political thought – that he will eventually call “empire”. Heavily influenced by French poststructuralist thought – particularly by Foucault’s analyses of modern disciplinary and security regimes and Deleuze’s sketch of the “societies of control” (pp.21-30) – Negri argues that the traditional political category of the nation-state started to vanish in the second half of the Twentieth century, replaced by a form of political power that, indissolubly linked to an increasingly deterritorialized and abstract form of capital, erased the classical geographical boundaries between different countries. Compared to the modern nation-state, Negri continues, this new form has lost any kind of recognised political legitimacy although remaining globally in charge by micropolitically dispersed means of (physical and economical) violence. This drafted version of what will afterwards become Hardt and Negri’s idea of “empire”, in Inventare il Comune often coincides with the representation Negri gives of the political configuration of the US. Here the reader is confronted with one of the most common misunderstandings of the idea of “empire”, as outlined in Negri’s books after 2000. In fact, Hardt and Negri’s concept of “empire” in Empire, although closely related to the many different national and international policy sets the US activated in order to continually (re)establish their hegemonic position – mainly in relation to the embryonic formation of the EU in the 1990s and the hitherto rising economic power of Japan (p.48) – it does not coincide with the US. Negri and Hardt have been quite clear on this over the years. However, it is undeniably interesting to see how Negri, in Inventare il Comune, began to spot the emerging traits of the “empire” in the US’s attempt to defend an hegemonic political and economical position constructed on the ashes of WWII.

Throughout many of the articles collected in this book, this idea of the new imperial global order is coupled with the analysis of the transformation of the capitalist mode of production (and therefore, of the forms of labour and valorization processes) in the last fifty years. The second axis that sustains the book’s inquiries is the Marxian – and not classically “Marxist”, since in Negri‟s articles it is evident that he always rejects the progressivism of traditional Marxism – outline of the passage from the material production of commodities to the immaterial production of ideas (technoscientific knowledge), which is the result of the development of industry in the second half of the Twentieth century. One of the most important arguments of the entire “workerist” (and “autonomous”) tradition – represented by Negri in Inventare il Comune – is that, with the increased productivity of industrial machines, the productive importance of the traditional worker‟s material labour force has decreased. Conversely, the shift from fordism to postfordism – in Negri‟s words, “late, postmodern, or postindustrial capitalism” – created (and was generated by) the emergence of the category of the intellectual (immaterial) worker. The cognitive worker assumes an hegemonic position within the postindustrial capitalist mode of production. This new highly educated figure of the production process, according to Negri, ends up being absorbed by the fixed part of capital insofar as the immaterial (semiotic and communicational) commodities produced by postindustrial capitalism cannot be alienated from their producers and, consequently, they become part of a generalised knowledge that will be used as a starting point for the production of new immaterial commodities. Differently from the old paradigm of fordist capitalism, the immaterial worker “stores the instruments of labour in the brain and s/he no longer needs the instruments lent by the capitalist, in exchange for work” (p.148). Accordingly, capital (personified in capitalists) shifts from its position of rationalist overseer to a parasitic stance, for it lives out the results of the cooperative general intellect (p.137), with the resulting return of the importance of the “revenue” – such as profits gained through patents or copyright of intellectual property – in the capitalist accumulation process (pp.181-200).

One might argue that Negri’s articles…

continue reading: Negri last part


[1] (eng. transl. To Invent the Commonwealth; originally published in French in 2010 by Bayàrd Editions, Inventer le Commun des Hommes)

Noys – Persistence of the Negative

In Noys on March 15, 2012 at 11:54 am

Reviewed by: Tom Bunyard, Goldsmiths, University of London

Benjamin Noys, The Persistence of the Negative: A Critique of Contemporary Continental Theory. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2010, 212pp., £60 hb, ISBN 9780748638635

Benjamin Noys’ The Persistence of the Negative  is an attempt, as he explains at its outset, to ‘rehabilitate a thinking of negativity through an immanent critique of contemporary Continental theory’ (ix). For Noys, the latter is currently dominated by what he refers to as ‘affirmationism’: a tendency towards the assertion of creativity, desire, productive potential and the importance of novelty. Such emphases on the primacy of affirmative, creative constitution are said to have cast negativity as secondary and reactive, and this, for Noys, is politically problematic: as affirmationism is often linked to the assertion of anti-capitalist possibilities, the denigration of negativity has furthered the neglect of issues pertaining to resistance and opposition. He thus sets out to ‘excavate’ (13) a new notion of negativity from contemporary affirmationism; a negativity that will provide a means of strategically      locating and actualising points of ‘rupture’ (4) within capitalist society.

For Noys, optimistic and affirmationist depictions of a parasitical capitalism that can be shrugged off through the assertion of collective, constitutive power ‘ontologise resistance’, leaving it ‘vulnerable to the cunning of capitalist reason’ (xi). His consequent attempt to link negativity to themes of agency and strategy seems pertinent, and by presenting it through a critique of affirmationism’s key figures (Noys selects Derrida, Deleuze, Latour, Negri and Badiou) the book makes a significant intervention into contemporary debate. Noys’ claims as to the need for such a negativity are persuasive, and the manner in which he supports them through the book’s critical interpretations of its selected theorists is particularly impressive. The virtues of actually extracting that negativity from affirmationist theory itself – a move that rests on Noys’ contention that contemporary capitalism should be understood in terms of real abstraction – do however invite a little more scepticism, as the task of locating ‘the neuralgic points of capitalism’ (171) might seem to imply a critique of political economy rather than a critique of Continental theory. Yet as for Noys real abstraction has rendered capitalism an ‘ontological, metaphysical and philosophical form’ (173), affirmationism’s tendency to present political resistance in terms of what he refers to as ‘counter-ontology’ (10) are of obvious interest: for affirmationism’s emphasis on productivity and creativity entails that its counter-ontology can mirror the ontology of capitalism itself (Noys draws attention here to the free flow of capital, the so-called creative industries, etc.), and whilst he does not present a simple ‘isomorphism’ (11) between affirmationist theory and capital, he does indicate that a critique of the former might offer purchase on the latter. This tactic seems to be much informed by the book’s contention that basing critique and opposition on a purportedly authentic position located outside or beneath capital’s appearances is a ‘naïveté’ (85), and that one should instead ‘work on and against’ (10) the abstractions that one finds oneself within.

Noys begins with a reading of Derrida that introduces the need to de-reify negativity, and he then argues, by way of Nietzsche, that a negative politics involves the disruption of accumulation and power. Deleuze’s interest in points of mutation is used to connect this to strategy and intervention, and Latour’s rejection of radical politics is employed, often humorously, to indicate the need to think negativity as practice. This is followed by a particularly successful discussion of Negri, whose Spinozist monism is said to paralyse the identification of strategic points of attack. Noys then uses Badiou to suggest that negativity might be linked to agency rather than to subjectivity, before closing with a conclusion that ties the resultant elements together.

The negativity that results from this line of argument can be qualified by way of Noys’ excellent introduction, which describes affirmationism’s emergence from two prior theoretical trends. The first of these trends is a nihilistic, post-1968 tendency to align emancipatory potential with the unleashing of capital flows (linked to the early 1970’s work of Baudrillard, Deleuze and Lyotard); but having been rendered untenable by the realities of 1980’s neo-liberalism, this is said to have given rise to a subsequent interest in linking opposition to transcendence, difference, and otherness. Affirmationism’s concerns with immanent, but also oppositional forms synthesised these two tendencies, and Noys shares its consequent avoidance of associating oppositional negativity with either immanence or transcendence: he contends that a focus on the generation of immanent difference would echo the operation of real abstraction, whilst transcendent externality mirrors the ‘void’ of abstract value itself. His account of negativity as ‘immanent rupture’ (17) is not associated with either pole: it is ‘internal’ (128) to the positivity that it contests, but it exists in a ‘relation of rupture’ (172) with it.

This rupture is linked to… continue reading: Noys review last part

 

 

[this review first appeared in the Marx and Philosophy Society Review of Books in January 2011, here:http://marxandphilosophy.org.uk/reviewofbooks/reviews/2011/264]

While there is Light – Tariq Mehmood

In Mehmood on March 11, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Review, by John Hutnyk, reposted from the Weekly Worker 512 Thursday January 22 2004

Face up to the fight

Tariq Mehmood, ‘While there is light’, Manchester, 2003, Comma Press, pp220, £7.95

The travails of those who fight imperialism are long and brutal. Families torn asunder, friendships stretched and broken, lives crushed against the bars of prisons and the kicks of cops. Tariq Mehmood’s novel mixes clarity of reflection with bittersweet agonies and a pained lament for loss. The loss is not only consequent upon the cruel conditions of an updated and as yet unfinished Raj – though the ways the legacy of colonialism plays out on the workings of northern England and north Punjab are not simply contemporary – and the lament is not just for the family, but for the stalled and failing political movements that would be a possible resistance. Against the several significant historical backgrounds that shape the (so-called) post-colonial condition, Where there is light recounts the tale of Saleem Choudry returning to his parental village in north Punjab. The novel utilises three texts to tell its multi-sited tale – the first: a letter the disgruntled labour-migrated worker son writes to his mother, but which she cannot read; the second: the cassette tape recording the heart-torn and weary mother prepares for her son as she faces death, to which he cannot listen; and the third: the police-violence-extracted ‘confession’ which identifies Saleem as the ringleader of the Youth League fighting racist skinheads in Bradford in the early 1980s. In these contexts, characters recount – more or less lyrically – various predicaments. The legacy of the partition violence with which England left a parting gift of train-filled bodies, hacked to death in sectarian frenzy, is one memory. An unrelated consequence is the position of disaffected youth, whose heritage could be the anti-colonial and workers’ movement but who, through seduction and distraction, are disconnected from their romantic and revolutionary roots. In place of the movements they try to build are the old religious hypocrisies that are but the first cry of an oppressed mass, misled by a self-interested leadership with thought only for comfort. Saleem is arrested as a ‘terrorist’. This is a fictionalised account of what came to be known as the case of the Bradford 12, when Asian youths were charged with conspiracy after the discovery of petrol bombs. Saleem, out on bail, is flying back to Punjab to see his mother. A letter he had posted in a drunken rage the day before follows him through the post. He arrives too late to meet his mother (hospitals full of shit while the government builds atomic bombs). Scenes of lament and a difficult homecoming to a place that is no longer home are punctuated by a harrowing account of the arrest scene in Bradford and the interrogation, with full English police-style beatings, in the lockup before the trial. The story works in these multiple places and concurrent times, along the way providing a meditation – angry, not passive – on a range of difficulties that are the lot of the ‘returnee’ to the site of colonial extraction. Saleem was sent to England as a boy to earn money for the family, from that country where the streets were paved with gold (but they were not). Returning to Pakistan, the sex scene in the movie The saint is censored, the passport and customs officers impose their delays and extract their percentage cut, the dilemma that values the life of a fly but not of kin relations is matched by the alacrity with which friends, and devout community leaders, pursue the duty-free booty with which Saleem returns. A well read tourist might recognise this lot, but not likely. Self-mocking mockery of mock pieties, perhaps the portrayal of the whisky running business scam is the most blatant example of a hostility to religious hypocrisy that must be replaced by a more organised resistance. There are positive portrayals: the old mates from school who have not forgotten the one who left – even as they make merry with the desire to go themselves. In one sequence the contract that requires one both to give and take is considered fair trade for the prize of entry to Valaiti (Britain), despite full knowledge of what the prospective migrant will be forced to endure. Foreign, Valaiti poison (cigarettes) is even better than local lung-rasping pleasures. The one who inducts Saleem into the subtleties of communist solidarities – poignantly a white father who rescues him from a beating at the hands of his fascist son – is clear and insightful in his analysis of the mill workers and who profits most from those who labour under capital. Payara Singh tells of the heroes of the Punjab: of Uddam Singh and Baghat Singh, who fought the colonials with no thought for their own gain – a history that Saleem has to struggle to preserve – if you do not understand your past, how can you have hope for your future? The Manifesto is quoted, thought the words are mislaid. Solidarities become a major theme. In the end those interrogated in the youth movement betray each other under duress, but we know the wider campaign mobilised a larger alliance and won the case for the Bradford 12, establishing self-defence as a legal defence in law. This is particularly important to remember today, as alleged ‘terrorists’ are routinely detained in the UK, profiled again as the enemy by the jihadis, Bush and Blair. By the end of the novel Valaiti has become England, Saleem is not a Trot but he reads, the cops know they are not going to win the case (but they make the charges in any case) and the movement continues. Saleem does not know all that yet, but his personal resolution – he plays his mother’s tape, reads the letter, signs the forms – mean a realisation: that his history is one that requires him to face up to the fight (while there is light). He will return to struggle again.

John Hutnyk

Review Article: Luce Irigaray’s Conversations and Hélène Cixous’ White Ink

In Cixous on March 8, 2012 at 8:55 am

Reviewed by Sophie Fuggle.

Conversations by Luce Irigarary (London and New York, NY, Continuum, 2008).

White Ink: Interviews on sex, text, politics by Hélène Cixous, edited by Susan Sellers (Stocksfield, Acumen, 2008).

There is something paradoxical and slightly disingenuous about publishing a collection of interviews. Whether the exchange is, in the first instance, oral or written, the intimacy and immediacy of the dialogue along with the specific circumstances which sparked the encounter must inevitably give way to an editorial process aimed at producing a publishable text of interest to a wider audience. Where the primary interlocutor is heavily involved in this process there is the increased danger that the rough edges of a dialogue, in which he or she is called to account for the aporias, discrepancies or contradictions in his or her work, will be smoothed down until nothing remains but empty repetition of existing themes and concepts. This is sadly the case in Conversations, a collection of recent interviews between Luce Irigaray and a number of scholars engaging directly with her writing and thought, including Judith Still and Elizabeth Grosz as well as those such as Michael Stone, Andrea Wheeler, Margaret R. Miles and Laine M. Harrington who are working in fields as diverse as architecture, yoga and theology. Despite the potential for a rich and exciting selection of discussions, Irigaray’s overwhelming desire to control her material, as well as all those with whom she enters into conversation, shuts down any genuine dialogue or interchange of ideas. The outcome is a largely stale reiteration of key aspects of her thought, most notably her insistence on ‘sexuate’ as opposed to ‘sexual’ difference and the notion of ‘breath’ as mediator between oneself and the other. Thus, while the collection will no doubt be of interest to those Irigaray completists eager to consume her every last utterance, those seeking a way in to her work may find it somewhat limiting and frustrating, as will those looking for greater clarification and development of certain aspects of her thought. Conversely, where Irigaray introduces her collection with an affirmation of the importance of open-dialogue and exchange between scholars yet fails to deliver a genuine openness during the conversations themselves, Cixous admits, in the prefacing interview to White Ink, her suspicion and discomfort with the spoken word, candidly expressing her preference for the written text and the complex play it allows her. Nevertheless, in the various oral interviews thoughtfully selected for the collection by Susan Sellers and which date from the late Seventies to the present, Cixous amply demonstrates her dexterity in verbal expression, not least in the breathtaking semantic acrobatics of her 2004 discussion with Jacques Derrida translated into English as ‘From the word to life.’ Although a wide variety of subjects are dealt with, including Cixous’s Jewish heritage and her childhood spent in Algeria, the collection’s subtitle; ‘Interviews on sex, text and politics’ is slightly misleading since what emerges first and foremost from these interviews is her passion for language, literature and theatre. This passion is brought to life with both enthusiasm and humility as Cixous refuses to focus solely on her own writing, often opting to discuss those writers who have most influenced her including, among others, Shakespeare, Joyce and Kafka. Although much of the insight proffered in these interviews is biographical rather than theoretical, the collection provides a useful backdrop to Cixous’s literary and theatrical works and would be of value to both newcomers to her writing and those already familiar with her texts. The translation of both sets of interviews into the English language demonstrates the widespread significance of both Irigaray and Cixous’s work for non-French speaking audiences. However, both acknowledge the inherent risk of decontextualisation and alienation which can result from a translation which fails to appreciate the intricate linguistic play at work in the original French. Consequently, Cixous’s interviews are frequently annotated with the original French in brackets in order to highlight such complexity. Irigaray, on the other hand, often translates her work herself as a means of maintaining its vitality. While these approaches are intended to assist the reader, the awkward syntax of Irigaray’s translations can lead to some confusion whereas the annotations explaining Cixous’s wordplay tend to attest to the primacy of the French language for her thought and the necessary exclusion of those unable to read it.

Review of Bernard Stiegler ‘Taking Care’ and ‘Technics and Time’

In Stiegler on March 7, 2012 at 10:21 am

Reviewed by John Hutnyk. Must note that this is a partial/impartial review. Sadly, but perhaps sensibly, my section on Animals in Bernard Stiegler’s work had to be ruthlessly cut back for lack of space in the journal it was destined for (New Formations). The rest of the article will be available later in the year (its on Marx and Steigler, a critique of Stiegler’s use of ‘proletarianization’) but you can write me to get a draft. Here is the bit that was just cut out, with a new – perhaps too frivolous – first line… even if the rest is a bit frivvy too…

Animals Graze (a family drama) with Bernard Stiegler.

Let us go to the zoo with philosophy – favourite places for family outings – and look at the animals. There are a huge number of creatures to see – owls, eagles, lions, even a mole in Marx (well grubbed). The animal of choice, for Stiegler, is the stag that, both vigilant and grazing, can protect its young as it nibbles away at the undergrowth.

‘A grazing animal, for example, a stag (a forest herbivore …) is vigilant at the same time that it grazes, first with regard to the possible proximity of predators; it can, moreover, even while grazing and protecting itself, also protect its young, as well as its grazing mate, who is herself protecting her young.[i]

This is Bambi in the bourgeois family but not the only animal example Stiegler offers (not surprising given Derrida’s fascination with beasts[ii]). In his autobiographical-theoretical book Acting Out, Stiegler refers to a flying fish to describe his experience of incarceration in prison. This entailed a separation from the world that allowed him to contemplate his milieu ‘as does a flying fish, above his element’.[iii] Certainly not your average jail-bird, Stiegler then plunged into philosophy. The animal metaphors are further consolidated when he writes of the radio, television, internet and audiovisual electronic technologies that engender repetitive behaviour like that of a ‘herd’ in Nietzsche’s sense.[iv] And of course the privileged animal in Stiegler’s work is the eagle picking away at Prometheus’ liver, the poor old partisan of recurrent time and order barely thanked.[v]

These animals become interesting when Stiegler calls for a new political economy and reviews several ways of overcoming tendential decline of profit rate, leading to a discussion of bears: In the nineteenth century the rate of profit was maintained by secularisation of belief via calculable science and technique, the new social projects of schooling, nationalism, health etc., progressively exported globally (on the back of astonishing violence); then in the twentieth century, by means of consumerism and capture of protentions through channelling of attention by way of new media, ‘psychotechnologies’ and service industry-entertainment industry expansion. To this would need to be added colonial markets, imperialism, war and the mining, metals, industrial agriculture, war and the arms trade, plus financial services.

Indeed, it is with reference to the last of these that Stiegler suggests the recent crisis is a collapse of the older moves to avoid the rate of profit’s decline, a collapse that occurs through short termism, time of knowledge and of investment erased, proletarianization of retention as loss of knowledge extensive. There is a contradiction that cannot be bridged – the rate of profit falls again. But the question to ask here might be if this is still to have understood, in Marxist terms, the tendency for the rate of profit to fall as a crisis of credit and an exhaustion of the fundamental expansion which had previously been the bulwark against credit problems? Looking to Stiegler’s characterisation of capitalism as system of protentions, should this not rather be understood in a larger geo-political continuum? For the nineteenth century the key strategy is colonial expansion and its economic plunder, for the twentieth century war and global militarism, for the emergent twenty-first century terror and control?

The tendential fall in the rate of profit is described curiously by Stiegler as something Marx posits in a particular way, but that Marxists, and ‘probably Marx’ did not understand it this way; that is: capitalism as ‘a dynamic system threatened by a limit that would be reached if the bearish tendency to which the very functioning of the profit rate gives rise were to achieve completion’.[vi] I am particularly interested in this bear. An animal that Marx does not reason with, according to Stiegler, even if this strange beast does not invalidate Marx’s identification of the tendency.

First of all, is it a bear? Does Stiegler get what Marx has in mind here?

Keep readingStiegler continued.

Originally posted here.

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