Beyond Capital

Polemics, Critique and Analysis

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The Porn Controversy: Save Desire from the Moral Police and the Sexual Liberaliser Alike

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The recent ban on pornography, and the liberaliser’s discourse of outrage it has triggered, proves yet again the problem of sexual/libidinal economy is too serious a business to be left either to the ham-handed ways of the fascistic moral-police or the knee-jerk exertions of the terrorists and (academic) merchants of desire. Truth be told, they are the obverse of one another and are mutually constitutive of the neurotic subjecthood of capital in its late, crisis-ridden, neoliberal moment..

Marquis de Sade’s affirmative conception of an anti-procreative sexuality with its basis in revolutionary republicanism (see his ‘Philosophy in the Bedroom’), together with Wilhelm Reich and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s concerted engagement with the question of sexual economy as an economy of desire — and its productivising regimentation, and psycho-somatic and psycho-social segmentation in capitalism –, point us in directions that are much more fruitful in terms of strategising a politico-sexual revolution that will unleash an emancipated, anti-hetero-normative sex-economy of free association of direct producers.

The government decision to ban pornographic sites on the internet is, therefore, not an occasion for spectacles of outrage and liberal exhibitionism. It is, instead, to be seen as an opportunity to work towards instituting the thinking and discourse of a radical sexual/libidinal economy. For, it’s precisely the absence of such discourse and thinking vis-a-vis the concrete historical circumstances of the conjunctural crisis of capital as manifest in its sexual moment that has led to the consolidation of repressive sexual morality. It is this sexual morality that is the molecular basis of the current ban.

All concerned would do well to realise that the BJP-led Union government’s decision to ban internet pornography is a step forward for the project of politico-sexual counter-revolution. Such a move is counter-revolutionary precisely because it seeks to validate itself by drawing upon, instrumentalising and mystifying objective sex-revolutionary possibilities posited by psycho-social segmentation and psycho-somatic stratification (which includes “genitalisation of desire”) of desire and sexuality in their moment of precarity and crisis. It follows, therefore, that a politico-sexual counter-revolution kicks in and accomplishes itself precisely when objective revolutionary possibilities exist without being subjectively actualised as such.

In such circumstances, to envisage opposition to this ban in reactive terms — without lending even half a thought to how such opposition can be orientated to transform the structure of social relations of production, which in its historically concrete mediation makes possible and indexes psycho-social segmentation and psycho-somatic regimentation of desire — will just not do. Such liberal reactive politics of opposition to the consolidation of repressive sexual morality effectively amounts to no more than demanding the preservation of a given regime or order of socio-sexual privileges that the politico-sexual counter-revolution tends to alter only by preserving and reinforcing its basic structure of psycho-social and psycho-somatic segmentation of desire through its formal recomposition.

Clearly, such reactive politics of opposition to the ban is as implicated and invested in the structure of psycho-social and psycho-somatic segmentation of desire as the counter-revolutionary move to ban pornography. Therefore, the reactive politics of sexual liberalisation — as opposed to the transformative revolutionary politics of sexual liberation — reinforces the discursive-moral paradigm, which provides sustenance and support to the fascistic politico-sexual counter-revolution. Something the proponents of sexual liberalisation apparently oppose with much sound and fury. The reactive, all concerned would do well to realise, is also reactionary. And no less reactionary — probably more — than naked reaction itself because it deceives by the apparent vigour of its oppositional claim with regard to what is openly reactionary, all the while reinforcing the latter’s condition of possibility.

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Charlie Hebdo Attack: Who will criticise the critics?

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What would criticism of heaven be without criticism of the earth? And what does one do when criticism of heaven fails to be a criticism of the earth and becomes complicit precisely in conserving and/or reproducing the earth as it stands? Is that not the question that comes to us via Marx’s critique of Bruno Bauer’s secularist criticism of Jewish religioisity, or Feurbach’s (liberal and partial) atheism? Shouldn’t, therefore, the criticism of heaven begin with criticism of the earth — a criticism that is as much a critique of heaven as a critique of those whose criticism of heaven serves, unwittingly or otherwise, to conserve and reproduce the earth as it stands?

To paraphrase and slightly modify comics-artist Alan Moore in Watchmen:who will criticise the critics? In other words, shouldn’t criticism of murderous fanaticism in the name of Islam, if such criticism has to be really effective, locate it in its condition of possibility that is capitalist modernity, even as it unsparingly condemns the concrete operations of such murderous fanaticism. In the event of criticism of murderous religious fanaticism failing to achieve such comprehensiveness, which would admittedly be a tortuous and complicated articulation, it becomes no more than liberal breast-beating. In the current instance of the murderous attack on Charlie Hebdo, such liberal breast-beating and the attendant politics of condemnation from an Archimedian point participates in, whether it admits to itself or not, the prevailing climate of Islamophobia. However, the class culpability and complicity of such politics of liberal-secularist breast-beating, which smacks of utter political irresponsibility, is equally in play when such politics seeks to confront the mobs of lumpenised unwashed masses rallying out in favour of majoritarianisms of different kinds.

Such liberal, secularist politics, which is supposedly pacifist and for peace, is against the violence of fanatical mobs — whether minoritarian or majoritarian — not because such fanaticism is religious but because through opposition to such fanaticism this politics seeks to ensure that the utterly unequal and iniquitous class structure, and its inherent structural violence, is left undisturbed and in peace. Clearly, what bothers the purveyors of such politics most is how such violence openly manifests the violence and inequality always inherent in and foundational to the structure that makes possible their privileged peace. It’s precisely on account of the adoption of such secularist politics of dubious peace by even those who project themselves as champions of revolutionary leftist politics of social transformation that the eruption of structural violence into the open inevitably comes to have a mystified-fanatical direction, whether in a minoritarian or a majoritarian idiom.

In having adopted such liberal secularist politics of dubious peace in their fight against majoritarianism(s), our so-called revolutionary leftists have been rendered incapable of nurturing the violence internal to the iniquitous structure of capitalist-modernity against that structure. And that is at the root of their failure to mobilise and articulate the open eruption of structural violence in a revolutionary-messianic, structure-unravelling direction.

It’s, therefore, only to be expected that most such liberals in revolutionary-leftist garb should ambivalently oscillate between unwitting (if not deliberate) Islamophobia, and condemnation of majoritarianism(s). That many of those liberals in revolutionary-leftist clothing should, in the context of the Charlie Hebdo affair, be found making statements that are serving to strengthen the prevailing Islamophobic consensus, is thus not surprising at all. In fact, even those who are not exactly doing that are being driven to make weak, ambivalent statements such as we condemn the attack but we also condemn the fetihsation of secularism and so on and so forth. What more can a politics impelled and guided solely by the registration of condemnation of iniquities of modernity be expected to deliver? To say that such ambivalence, and ambidexterity of ‘on-the-one-hand-and-on-the-other’, is no good for forging an effectively concrete politics of anti-capitalism is a no-brainer. An effective anti-capitalist politics would be one that in the face of iniquitous multiplicity that is modernity targets capital as the structural condition of possibility of those historical iniquities in the process of targeting those iniquities in their empirical concreteness. The politics of condemnation as criticism, driven as it is by the tendency to horizontalise all iniquities wrought by the global and globalising system of modernity as the manifest operation of the capitalist structure of differential inclusion, can do precious little than reproduce precisely that structure and its iniquitous systemic operation in and through history.

So, yes condemn the murderous attack on the French satirical periodical by all means. Because the condemnation of all such vengeful acts of violence — which are immersed in ressentiment, reactivity and slave morality — is the first step of divine violence. But what is perhaps more important if we truly wish to begin abolishing such vengeful violence is to focus on making sense of such acts of violence in terms of elaborating their structural causality, which ought to also include the elaboration of how the western phenomenon of satire of Islam — and its liberal, supposedly anti-fundamentalist mediatic ideology — is a key enabler of that differentially inclusive structure of capital that as its realisation in and through history is the systemic iniquity of modernity. Without such elaboration divine violence gets hypostatised as its first step of condemnation to undergo an absolute reversal to become an integral dimension of the law-constituting and/or law-preserving violence that is as vengeful, if not more, as the overtly murderous violence it is meant to be a criticism of.

And yes, this is roughly how I would want to approach not only the recent massacre of children in Peshawar by the TTP but also, and more importantly, the global outrage and condemnation that followed.

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