Beyond Capital

Polemics, Critique and Analysis

Posts Tagged ‘politics

Reinventing the Underground 8 – 11

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8. Walter Benjamin once said that the fascist political forms are the heightening of cacophonous expulsiveness to politically salvage capitalism from itself. The crisis in embedded liberalism and the rise of neoliberalism in the age of information revolution led to the algorithmization and essentialization of these forms to defer the capitalist collapse.

9. Another German, Heiner Müller records, “Mao Tse-Tung once said that as long as National Socialism was on the attack, it was unbeatable. It was an attack in a void, in empty space, a pure movement, without reserves. The moment the attack ground to a halt outside Moscow, it was over. The first stop was already the last.” Politics is about preparing for that “moment.” Our task today is to prepare ourselves for the time when the dark forces start having “intestinal spasm”.

10. In a different context, young Marx had identified the devil’s blind spots and their revolutionary significance. In his letters to Arnold Ruge written in 1843, he posed the possibility of systemic implosion:

“The comedy of despotism that is being played out with us is just as dangerous for him, as the tragedy once was for the Stuarts and Bourbons. And even if for a long time this comedy were not to be looked upon as the thing it actually is, it would still amount to a revolution. The state is too serious a thing to be turned into a kind of harlequinade. A ship full of fools could perhaps be allowed to drift for quite a time at the mercy of the wind, but it would be driven to meet its fate precisely because the fools would not believe this. This fate is the impending revolution.”

11. It is high time that we recognise that neoliberal capitalism perpetuates hyper-individualism and subjectivism, while putting them to a perpetual crisis too; and, stop open defecation that this leads to. We must return to the notion of the old mole on a look out for the “underneath reason”. What is needed today is to relive the “underground”, not to “repeat it” as it used to be, but to think, as Lenin commanded, “how to change its forms in a new situation, how to learn and think anew for this purpose.”


Written by Pratyush Chandra

June 15, 2018 at 5:43 am

Reinventing the Underground 4 – 7

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4. Spectacular political gymnastics – in which all of us are involved, left, right and centre – is a mere sign of anal expulsive personality that bourgeois liberalism and consumerist economy perpetuate – it is our instrumentalisation. The revolution in information technology has been mobilised to intensify and productivise this anal expulsiveness – you can see how the best minds of counterculture and radical thinking have been formally, if not actually, subsumed in this new enterprise through diverse corporate enclosures of the virtual space.

5. “The smaller a town the more richly it hums with gossip. There are no private affairs here. Gossip is the air we breathe.” (Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians) With technology, the whole world has become one segmented village, even serious thinkers and radicals inhale and exhale this air – gossiping about thoughts, ideas and politics.

6. Negative prefiguration in the form of communist solidarity practices is on “seeing” each other – with hugs, kisses and arms holding (“comrades-in-arms”), but now in the age of instantaneous “viewing”, solidarity is virtual and symbolic, it is reduced to emoticons and thumb signing (“you are doing good, keep it up”). But when we ultimately see each other we recognise and that’s all – virtuality has become our ideological reality in which we closet ourselves.(see Asimov’s The Naked Sun)

7. This public sphere of new media has transformed our reproductive domain to a factory – of bit production where variable capital is almost zero. Ideas and ideologies are discretized, reduced to bits, which are automatically recombined to produce newer ones.

Written by Pratyush Chandra

June 13, 2018 at 11:24 pm

Reinventing the Underground 1

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In his tale “Unintentional Stroke of Luck”, Alexander Kluge narrates the story of a young fighter pilot of the US Air Force who was going to target a wedding celebration suspecting it to be the headquarters of a terrorist gang. But due to “a convulsive evacuation of the pilot’s bowels”, “intestinal spasm” that generated shame and confusion in his mind, the target was missed and “the missiles struck the swampy fields.” In the “age of asymmetrical warfare”, it is this unintentional luck which is “at least one possibility open, when all other luck fails.”

Written by Pratyush Chandra

June 2, 2018 at 8:07 am

Political militancy and the question of literature

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I am no literary scholar. I have neither the qualification nor the inclination to be one. Therefore, I wouldn’t know – and can’t say – how a literary scholar ought to go about his/her business of engaging with literature. However, I can probably talk about what an aspiring militant seeking to engage with the literary can and ought to do.

The question before such an individual cannot be how the literary can serve the political – or, for that matter, how the political can serve the literary. The question, instead, must be; can one approach the literary and the political as two paradigmatic conditions of the singularities of literature and politics, and constellate them as those generic singularities. Politics, as opposed to the political, and literature, as opposed to the literary, is precisely about such constellating of generic singularities. [Here one must be clear that politics and literature as generic singularities, even as they are informed in their determinate instantiations by the particularites of their respective paradigmatic conditions, of the political and the literary, are irreducible to those conditions. The paradigmatic particularity and the singularity whose instantiation it informs are in an asymmetrical dialectic.]

In other words, an aspiring militant is faithful to his aspiration only when he seeks to equally engage with the literary and the political by struggling against – that is, criticising both theoretically and practically – the pushing of the political into the literary and vice-versa. For such an individual, it can never be about the ‘enchantment’ of poetry against the ‘disenchanted’ arrogance of critical theory, or vice-versa. It’s not even about being even-handed with regard to this binary so that some sort of reconciliation, either additive or aggregative, can be effected between the two, and the binary as the distributive structuring of differences can exist by striking a balance (a golden mean as it were). Rather, an aspiring militant must approach critical theory and poetry as two determinate anthropological-passional registers, and two determinate historical indices, of thinking in its affective (and thus impersonal) singularity. Thinking — we would do well to remember here a la both Heidegger, and Badiou’s Platonist matheme — is that which has not yet been thought and which perpetually resists thought.

So, if it is not the normativity of logos (political philosophy, critical theory) over the literary, it cannot be the poem-as-difference either. For a radical critique of the logos — which is the force-field of identities and within which the subjective experience of difference that is the poem is already always subsumed, thereby articulating the poem as an objective identity (difference-as-identity) – what is required is concept of the impossibility of conceptualisation (logos).

In other words, we need to rearticulate logos as difference in its limit. This is what the matheme, thanks to Badiou’s radical reinterpretation of Plato, amounts to. And that is the reason why I personally prefer the matheme, over Heidgger’s “poetic-thinking”, as a rigorous explication of thinking as the presentation of the void of thought. [It is on account of its rigour that the matheme enables an anticipative-prefigurative articulation of future-directedness, which is much more powerful and radical than what Heidegger’s “poetic-thinking” affords.]

Therefore, both literature and politics as generic singularities are instantiations of that singular affectivity of thinking in its indivisibility. It must be mentioned here that they are generic singularities only in their tendency to mutually constellate with one another as the uninterrupted process of singularisation (Badiou’s “singular-multiple”).

Unfortunately, there are far too many people – including both terrorists of the political, and terrorists of the literary — who miss this only to unreflexively indulge in such stupid and pointless instrumentalism from one end or the other. The former in the name of some kind of romanticised radical political valour, and the latter in the name of the enchantment of poetry and suchlike. And then, of course, there are those middlemen, even more stupid, who have made it their lifework to effect a reconciliation between the two instrumentalist modes so that the binary can continue to perpetuate itself even as their privileged position as oh-so-balanced and oh-so-ecumenical scholars is preserved and reinforced within the system that is this binary.

These middlemen can often be seen neurotically holding forth on the enchantment of poetry for the benefit of those who are engaged in politics, and on the valour of the movemental for the benefit of those who are engaged in literature. Such propensities, needless to say, are animated by the objective reality of capitalist modernity, which is a horizon constitutive of mutually competing particularities seeking to accomplish their sovereignty through such competition.

It ought to have become clear by now, I assume, that I’m distinguishing singularity from sovereignty, which is the particular seeking to institute the universality of its own particularity. Therefore, an aspiring militant who seeks to engage with literature can be faithful to both his aspiration and his engagement only if his activity is informed by the following conception: there can only be singularity, no sovereignty. Or, if, following Georges Bataille, he does decide to affirm sovereignty then he must carefully attend to the conceptual valency of sovereignty in Bataille’s thinking, and discourse, of “transgression” “radical evil” and the “general economy” of expenditure (as opposed to what Bataille calls the “restricted economy” of production and accumulation). If he does that he will see that, for Bataille, singularity is the only sovereignty that can be affirmed.

The affirmation of literature (together with politics) as a generic singularity, if situated rigorously in that context, is not an “art-for-art’s-sake” kind of argument. Not at all. Instead, what such affirmation amounts to is literature is so autonomous, or singular, that it’s not even for itself, to say nothing of being for the political. The autonomy of literature that a militant engaging with literature must affirm — if he’s to be truly committed to his literary engagement, and thereby to his militancy — is not the sovereignty-seeking aestheticised particularity of literature, but literature as the “inaesthetic” (Badiou) evental-process of singularisation in the determinate paradigmatic condition of the literary.

It, therefore, follows that to think the singularity of literature, or, for that matter, the singularity of politics, is to necessarily think them in their respective limits. To not do that would hypostatise the eventality of the singular with the paradigmatic condition, wherein it is determinately instantiated. That would amount to politics as the revolution of the event turning into counter-revolutionary antipolitics of evental revisionism.

Politics then is nothing else save the actualisation/actuality of this mode of thinking singularities in their respective limits. More importantly, it’s such thinking in action. In such circumstances, the only radical possibility before militant politics, as far as literature is concerned, is to demonstrate and reveal, not politics in literature but politics of literature. That is, not the demonstration of what literature says about politics, but the demonstration of politics in what literature in being literature is. More precisely, the politics of literature is literature being the revelation of the formal economy it is as literature.

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