Transcendental Nomadism

Transcendental nomadism remains embryonic and still grapples with elementary pedagogy.  Due to the novelty of this lifestyle, tradition provides only vague guidance for its development. Improvisation is never a preference, but rather a necessity for such an orphan culture. Of course, nomadism is not completely unprecedented.  Anthropologists study the pastoralists of the steppes who continue their itinerancy to this day. But transcendental nomadism is not an outward lifestyle, and it’s rather an ontological disposition for which the precedents are obscure. The nascency of this culture only appears at singular junctures when it manifests in the cracks between the great civilizations. A contemporary passage beyond sedentary life is responding to a Christendom which has become mercantile to the point of financial oligarchy. Christianity has always tended towards the hypocrisy of an anti-Christ, where populations are subjected to the perverse law of sinful flesh. Under these conditions, a transcendental nomadism harks back to the antinomic Pauline teachings on the Inner Kingdom. Though there is nothing Christian about this development, which just adapts ideas that work.

A static or inwardly nomadic life is distinguished from anything defined in anthropological terms. What enters migration are the “affect tips”, which are the limit-sensations where the organic drives contact with others. It’s in that threshold that transcendental nomadism could come into existence, where those drive-tips slide into abstraction and begin an ontological migration. The last generations of artists and poets, the romantics and the modernists, were still sedentary relative to what is required today. Joyce wrote Dublin, and Olsen wrote Gloucester. Nomadism is defined in contrast to the terrestrial orientation of that romantic legacy. If contemporary aesthetics hasn’t attained respectable achievements, that is because art remains inadequate to today’s dynamic environment. We haven’t enough experience with this frantic world to develop an aesthetic ethos.

The transition in question here is a sort of technological adaptation which systems theory would define as “functional differentiation”. The organic drives are undergoing a series of differentiations where the interface through technology is adjusted. Psychoanalytic notions of ‘symbolic castration’ are suited to understanding this evolutionary juncture, though that is a crude and arcane term which is open to a variety of connotations. The drives are getting unanchored from local environments so they can migrate through aesthetic abstractions. Several concepts are available which define various aspects of this localization which must be dissolved. The points where the drive obstinately relies on the reality of the other correspond with what Husserl called ‘perceptual belief’ and what Lukacs called ‘reification’. And this is ‘the gaze’ which Lacan defined as the point of affective anchoring in the optical field. Combining these concepts allows us to define the affective “tips” where the organic drive crosses into the sensation of contact with the other. It is these tips which must be ‘castrated’, which means that they must be set into migration, so that this libido attains higher mobility or abstraction. Castration in this sense converts aesthetic customs oriented in local environments so they become migratory. This can imply setting the environmental relation into migration.

The question arises as to why these local anchors should be cut. There is little to be gained from politicizing this gesture, especially if that means some zealous appeal to justice, or universal solidarity with the precarious populations of the planet. Rather the basic rational for this gesture should be defined modestly as a response to tight constraints. This is a way to escape from legalistic capture within a regime of social technology. A nomadic lifestyle is not proposed as an ideal, and it is superior neither ethically nor aesthetically, but is merely a desperate recourse for liberty which might be a destiny for some. A relevant scriptural reference here is “if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out.” That arcane term ‘castration’ helps to acknowledge the suffering which is implicit in this process. This isn’t the suffering of an exchange, where a pound of flesh is ceded to meet the letter of the law, but rather an organic transformation. Nomadism is a difficult path as the consequences can be drastic and unpredictable, and the transition is especially uncomfortable for pioneers. The only available course is to experiment with bodily modification, and some unfortunate results inevitably ensue.

This umbilical severance involves inevitable ennui, though this torment can be ameliorated through figural or cosmetic adjustments. If the sedentary environment is figured as the domus of an egg, then the horrible figure of castration can be replaced with the perhaps less painful model of hatching. Much aesthetic work is required on the figuration of tribulation, to lessen the trauma without disavowing the essentially traumatic experience. This work has been underway since the middle ages, and the tribulation recurs through romantic and modernist literature, though those works remain relatively sedentary. Today the traumatic breaks are more intimate, so they run more directly through the subject or the ego, so that we undergo the experience of the ‘cracked-I’. This returns today’s problem closer to some concerns of the reformation and the middle ages. let’s consider some lines of modernist poetry from Charle’s Olsen’s long free verse work, ‘I Maximus’:

o kill kill kill kill kill
who advertise you

in! in! the bow-sprit, bird, the beak
in, the bend is, in, goes in, the form
that which you make, what holds, which is
the law of object, strut after strut, what you are, what you must be, what
the force can throw up, can, right now hereinafter erect
the mast, the mast, the tender

The “law of object” cuts internally, so the objective passes through the heart of the subject. The nest figures this object that is more subjective than any subject. And then it becomes the phallic ship mast.  The question here concerns where this topology of the organism, which isn’t so much inscribed, but becomes a matter of hermeneutics. Olsen’s Magnum Opus presents itself as a literary fortification of his fishing village against commercial development.

oh tansy city, root city
let them not make you
as the nation is

What interests us here is the ontological question of whether this poetry refers to an actual village with a fixed location in space and time, or whether this is generating a simulacra with the potential for nomadic migration as a kind of abstract anyvillage. This difficult question can send us deep into Olsen’s aesthetics, and its in this problem that we can situate the painful tribulation of the transition to nomadism. This issue of identity through time and space has been discussed around the poetry of Wallace Stevens, such as “the snowman” or “an ordinary evening in new haven”. And this ontological approach to modernist poetry has been adopted at specific points by deconstruction, especially where it has considered fetishes and signatures, as well the theme of “inevitably failed mourning”. These lines of Olsen demonstrate a signature doubling,

for those of us who do live our life quite properly in print
as properly, say, as Gloucester people live in Gloucester

Throughout the opening pages of this work, there is invoked a community identified with the ‘polis’. Perhaps his use of this archaic term was influenced by the publication of Hannah Arendt’s Human Condition in 1957. That book was a rational, modernist defense of a certain Aristotelian classicism. It analyzes the value of work, and how a polis depends on the toil of the lower classes. It would seem that this sort of classicism may have had some currency among the literary modernists of the English speaking world. Joyce and Pound both professed an Aristotelianism which had territorial and identarian implications. Against this tendency, a transition to nomadism would imply more Platonic sentiments. This would be a shift towards a more cosmic and less terrestrial ontology, such that the pure idea takes on a power that supercedes local contingencies.

There is a conflict between nomadism and modernism which reaches a decisive juncture in the dialectics where aesthetic singularity is absorbed into a monetary economy. The modernists sought to fortify their communities in particular localities of terrestrial life, which were considered resistant to the danger of being reduced to commercial clichés. The important question here concerns how this strategy has aged, and in what sense it should be deemed obsolete. Nomadism is admittedly eager to chart some relation with these prominent predecessors, though this is an especially fraught line of inheritance. We shall proceed by raising a question of a community in a very particular way, where there are conflicting models of relations. The substance of literary modernism was a community that was avowedly linguistic and fraternal, such that these qualities were prominently exhibited throughout its literature. Various other relational models have conflicted with this controversial tradition, but in what follows let us consider the apophatic community of the Acephale group in Paris during the 1930’s. The conflict between these two models of community would seem to be decisive for the transition to nomadism. This is because nomadism emerged among this group of Parisian Platonists, but the Aristotelian aesthetics of Poundian literary humanism has dominated the English language in which these words are written. A rivalry between these models of community has been underway for several decades. It was once called the postmodernist controversy, and it has returned in several variations. This conflict is difficult to understand because the French side rejects communitarian identity and vanishes into the enigmas of Jewish mysticism.

just because weather
is very precise to
the quarter it comes from (as writing is

Olsen was famously concerned with the particularity of his writing, which was like his poetic principle. His style is recognizable in distinct signatures. His verses are nearly prose, but the breaking of sentence expresses a chaos of singular orality. This is poetry at the threshold where grammar and logic are sacrificed for particularity. The question we need to raises here concerns what we might call the politics of particularity. And by this I do not mean to question the justice of Olsen’s or Pound’s writing, but rather the political efficacy. When the composition of particularity is anchored in proper names and places, those are rendered susceptible to appropriation and merchandising. The modernist aesthetics was expressed through a voice that was immediately recognizable, and which was shared through a network of associates. It never effectively resisted capitalism because it substantialized itself as celebrity branding at the limits of ladhood. This was an aesthetic that ceded everything it had to the market up front. It’s resistance to capitalism was perhaps sincere, but this brings us to a criticism of Pound’s social credit politics and how that was rooted in anti-semitic ethnic identity. (On a side note, let us just mention that today social credit is a prominent fad in Chinese technocracy.) The issue here is the legacy of Aristotelian chrematistics and the associated ideologies of work.

& polis,
& poets

This organic solidarity of the maritime community is reminiscent of socialist class alliances, and perhaps not totally unrelated to the Fordist division of labor. Industrial development was disrupting subjective ideology, and poetry was searching for allies that could anchor it in the material. The organic is a trope that gives materiality to the divisions of the worker-army that is being enlisted.

so few
have the polis in their eye
The brilliant Portuguese owners,
they do. They pour the money back
into engines, into their ships,
whole families do, put it back
in. They are but extensions of their own careers
as mastheadsmen

This brings us to entrepreneurialism and the market spirit. The ship has always been a common trope for the firm, where to engage in business is setting sail on a risky venture. There is a nautical aesthetic that features throughout modernist poetry, going back to Pound’s first published work which was a translation of an old English poem called the Seafarer. As his poetry enlists itself for the work of constructing an aesthetic polis, it is no surprise that Olsen invokes Hyperion, that Quixotic champion of the Greeks against the Ottomans.

The polis requires a differentiation of labor, and Arendt’s book provided an economic analysis of different kinds of work, such as the writing of literature, and the cleaning of toilets, which a good city requires. Her philosophical classicism tends to overlook some of the more feminine aspects of labor which get evoked in Olsen’s aesthetic survey,

the attention, and
the care
however much each of us
chooses our own
kin and

The transition to nomadism concerns the ontological modality of what I call “affective possession”. And I want to suggest that this problem should be troubling and depressing. There is no question that the sedentary aesthetic of modernism is exquisite and comfortable, though its limited political efficacy is now exhausted. Sedentary aesthetics is susceptible to capture within simulation, which is a concrete anchoring of subjectivity within stereotyped conditions which are mistaken for originality. This affective anchoring is hypnotically positioned within sociotechnical regimes. This is an automatism which can appear well-adjusted and vigorous, and the fact that its an automatism can be well concealed. The decisive issue here is how it reifies the reality of the other: its affective tips have anchored it into an identity position. Its symbolic constitution is dependent on the reality of others. But when those perceptual beliefs are castrated, then there is transpires the ontological originality of the nomadic affects. Then there is lucidity regarding the originality of time.

Affective tips are the proprioceptions where the organic drives enter the threshold of contact. These are trigger-points of disinhibition where organisms are anchored in the perceptual field. Orgasmic tips. Nomadism is where these tips enter a transient relation with the perceptual field or actuality. More specifically, we are interested in another threshold where the tip-perception relation switches from fixed to transient. The configuration of this threshold borrows from what Freud called a ‘sublimation’, as a point of abstraction where symbolic relations become possible. Sedentary life in this sense is a concrete literalism.

The epistles of St. Paul provide a scriptural background for discussing the break with commercial simulation. The way subjectivity is captured in the simulation is insidious like the collusion of law and sin described by Paul, where these are indistinguishable in some economy of the damned flesh. He proposed a paradoxical liberation where one breaks free from the law while remaining within it, because simply fleeing would only tighten its binds. The law loses its grip on affect as it is converted into an aesthetic simulation which is registered lucidly. This paradoxical conversion corresponds with the gestures of conceptualism and minimalism. Bringing a commercial product into a gallery does not change anything about the object, but just how its situated with institutional coordinates. This is what has to be done with the entirety of the law, which has to be replaced with a simulation, or we could say counter-actualized as an aesthetic object.

JL Nancy conceives contact as the essence of the world, so that the world is the limit where people and things touch. Derrida developed ideas about how other-touching alternates with self-touching through a dialectic of mutual exposure. When Nancy deconstructs the concept of compassion, he defamiliarizes the sense of this word. This disrupts a reified psychological and political valorization of this concept where it bestows dignity on the humanism championed by progressive liberals. Political communities are formed through the recognition of compassion, as communities of the compassionate which shun the apathy and coldness of the outsiders who must be held beyond the borders. Compassion is a trait that identifies members, whether a limited compassion between members of a community, or an unlimited cosmopolitan hospitality towards strangers.

In American politics, the distinction between liberal and conservative should never be equated with a simply between the compassionate the uncompassionate, although some zealous liberals might like to portray it that way. Rather it concerns qualitatively different models of compassion which are alternate topologies of affect. Liberalism can be identified with the promiscuity of affect, and conservatism with the discrimination of affect, though these are often superficial masks concealing their opposites. And these parties might prefer more ‘flattering’ terms like generosity and patriotism, though it is precisely this sort of preference which is the most insidious aspect of sedentary aesthetics. As we shall see below, it’s the narcissistic insistence on how affects are named and conceptualized which makes them exchangeable, and which brings them under the seductive power of the law. And its this reliance on legalistic conceptualism that damns any economics of the polis.

JL Nancy’s touch-world deconceptualizes compassion and deprives the term of any positive ideological connotation. This approaches the way affects are treated in Buddhist meditation. Compassion in this sense is simply the fact that people affect each other, whether by their presence or their absence, or by how these aren’t even distinguished. Someone might be affected by a ghostly pseudo-presence or a lingering odor, such that the neighbor simply affects us in a way that is left without any further conceptual determination. This leaves the affect uninterpreted and gives it hermeneutic space so that concepts can be played with. This creates uncertainty about passivity and activity – was it they who affected me, or did I affect myself? – so the affect is expressed in the neutral voice, where the distribution of responsibility is postponed. This affect has refused any names, whether offense, gift, honor, shame, humor… judgment is suspended, so there is no value of good or bad, and yet it remains registered as a fact.

Where the affect is suspended on this fence between self and other, then it is in danger of falling into a gift/debt cycle. The suspension of the accounting machine can make it more dangerous. To further neutralize the legal sense of affects, they should be hermeneutically repositioned as effects of customary media which is sociotechnical and physiology. Affects are then a product of arbitrary and opaque customs. This interpretation further neutralizes the legal conceptuality so that affects cannot be attributed subjectively, or “taken personally”. The affects produced by say, someone making racial slurs, can be defamiliarized, or alienated, or depersonalized, as they are attributed to customary media.

Nancy understands com-passion etymologically as passions felt together. This can begin to deconstruct an archive of passion-concepts: hatred, envy, lust, love, honor, fear, respect… these are all terms of legalistic accounting in that they represent affects within cycles of debt/gift. In other words, its these concepts which anchor affects within the domain of law as described by St. Paul, or what Walter Benjamin referred to as ‘mythical violence’. Hatred is reduced to a narrowly legalistic interpretation of some otherwise nameless affect. The net of the law then is woven from these concepts, and populations are under its spell insofar as their affects are coded legally.

Following St. Paul, the problem is not to dissolve this legalistic net of concepts, but rather to avoid identifying with it. The problem is not about inscription – it’s not that the law could be written out of existence – but rather a problem of hermeneutics or interpolation. The concepts require deconstruction to break the spell of affect-possession, and this is something like an exorcism. Then the affects don’t belong to anyone personally, rather they belong to the roles in which people have been cast in the simulation. Or more interesting, perhaps they belong to roles which haven’t yet been fashioned. Then the affect becomes like an enigmatic stage direction, suggesting the sort of roles that populations might be moving into.
At this point transcendental nomadism may enter a visionary phase. Society can be figured as a swarming of migratory tips that massage populations from all directions. Society is not the sum of the people, but the sum of the tips where they are affected. This vision is an extreme limit of commercial-aesthetic development, where society is completely transformed into a market simulation, and where that simulation can be experienced lucidly.

Where modernists inherited the Aristotelian distinction of the polis, what we are prosing here is something more Platonic along the lines of a monad. This is something like the Fichtean interpretation of Descartes which Edmund Husserl found so compelling, though we are taking this theory in a radically aesthetic direction. The decisive scission for nomadism falls between the intimate and the social, particularly as this was articulated by Deleuze and Guatarri. This is not merely a conceptual distinction, but more importantly this is something dramatic and charged with affect. There is a struggle over the deployment of organic drives, where the society is attempting to capture the libido in the spell of legalism. The modernist evocation of the polis should be dismissed as obsolete, because the ‘public’ in that civil-political sense has been abolished, and any remaining semblance of that tradition is just a simulacrum of the market. The public has been annexed by the social, and so the Aristotelian modernists have been defeated. And so the struggle must be redefined. Where the polis no longer exists, here we speak of ‘intimacy’ (or desiring-production in Deleuzo-Guatarrian terms), and this intimacy can create ‘minority communities’ where they are still possible outside of the social-market relations. Where before there was a public, now we have intimate exposure of the organic drives. This is a dramatic scenario where the market system attempts to sap the organic drives for its purposes, and so community is only possible where libido has been reserved from the market.

Three elementary variations on this scenario can be distinguished. First, intimacy may be totally abolished in favor of social puppetry, meaning that all the organic drive has been absorbed into the automation. In this scenario there is no possibility for intimacy or minority communities. Second, intimacy may survive in a way that subordinated to society, where it is something abject or excluded which galvanizes social relations. Here, the market society preserves the intimacy of the others for the sake of its own morale, i.e. the pride of the fortunate. Third, some share of organic drive is reserved for intimacies which are hidden behind social roles. This is the scenario where nomadism becomes possible. Reaching this blessed condition requires negotiating between the Scylla of total automation (the first scenario) and the Charybdis of abjection (the second scenario). This may require a painful scission where intimacy is appropriated from the social, as this painful surplus is always in danger of abjection.

The problem concerns the way that social libido is cathected. The danger is that society absorbs all the affective energy whether positively or negatively. This danger can be aestheticized into a source of drama, in the same way that modernists dramatized their struggles with the market. There are reflections in the movements of intimacy and society, which are like the dramas of hunter and prey, or police and criminals. The intimates are constantly faced with the challenge of converting their private libido into more exchangeable currencies, like when they need to pass a toll booth or bribe an official. There are continual crises of authenticity, where social costumes are suspiciously cheap, and even detained for abjection. In order to pass muster, the intimate libido may be converted to shore up social appearances but this risks having it depleted and annexed by society.

There is an old maxim that says the best mask that can be worn in disguise is one’s own face. It inevitably happens that fake duplicate of the intimate self are used as social costumes. Then if the costume ever starts to disintegrate, then one may just revert to their intimate self, and the transition might go unnoticed. This painful scission of the organic drive can be covered with drama and humor. This is a kind of economic drama where there is a continual contest over the distribution of organic drive. The distinction must be constructed though it doesn’t register empirically because it’s rather something transcendental or ontological.

On an empirical level, total automation appears as perfect adjustment within the socio-technical regime, because here there is complete sublimation of the drive with no remainder of Thanatos (intimacy) to trip up the simulation. With the perfection of android technology, the automatism is concealed, while the tact of nomadic perception is to render it salient and perhaps even abject. This is dueling over the conception of abjection, where the social wants to define it as intimacy, where as intimacy wants to define it as automatism. The sleek and glorious automation is a hypnotic trap that threatens to lure intimacy into a world whose borders are defined by the exclusion of abject intimacy. The developmental simulation is defined in its contrast with the abjection of intimacy, whereas nomadism is always trying to blur this contrast. The borders of development are abolished by identifying the abject with the automatic. Or we could say that the minority community by a dialectical maneuver that identifies the developed (automation) with the undeveloped (abjection) and thereby breaking the hallucinatory spell of the market simulation. Though this won’t abolish the simulation, it just breaks its affective grip on the organic drives, so they can migrate between roles.

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Writing Aesthetics

Someone once said that the art of narrative lies in not telling a story. If writing reaches to grab a whole object, or tell a whole story, then there is nothing left for reading. Language is exhausted by saying everything, and this can happen in an instant.  What is real lies in the unsaid, but that isn’t necessarily unknown. Here writing and knowledge are separated by how expression must be restrained from the limit of knowledge. This reserve is the power of the secret which is often feigned. There is a difference between real secrets and bluffing.

This reserve of knowledge is a condition of symbolic or phallic efficacy. There is an important distinction between the unsaid and the unsayable, where the unsaid is like a safety buffer against the dangers of the unsayable. If the unsaid gets exhausted, then speech gets shipwrecked on the unsayable. Knowledge is a resource which is consumed by speech, where it gets debased into that cheap knock-off which is called mere representation. The power of knowledge is reserved in the unsaid, and its expression in language is its fall into alienation. But this fall into alienation is of course an essential phase, though a painful castration. Through exhausting itself in language, knowledge discovers its limits, like someone falling off an embankment as they learn to comfortably navigate the terrain.

The issue of phallic efficacy in language is getting foregrounded today in discussions of economic fiction and realist literature. This genre deals with extreme alienation that verges on particular psychoses that emerge from financial simulation. This kind of writing is susceptible to a mania of saying everything. The concept of realism has a crucial split, where on one hand there is a conventional realism which is limited to description or portrayal, but then there is a more radical realism which participates in the construction of reality. This extreme realism is where the romantic imagination identifies as the source where phallic representation is produced. This is the “man-made world” of Vico that was cited enthusiastically by utopians like Karl Marx. With the conception of economic fiction, the romantic absolute of literature is undergoing augmentation. This relates with Michel Callon’s conception of performative economics, where markets are constructed by the actions of participants. Though in Callon’s thinking, an actor’s performance could be effective if they hold symbolic positions, such as the words of an influential analyst or fund manager, there is a further level of questions concerning how fiction might participate in the construction of markets.

It would seem there are no logical limits to the power which literature could exercise over the economic. Literature could invent new products, or define new markets, or conduct appraisals which effect values, or it could construct new models for transactions, or it could redefine regions. It could script codes of behavior, such as how auctions are conducted, or how advertising is circulated. This is to suggest the radical possibility that markets in their entirety might be indistinguishable from literary simulacra. Economics and literature can swallow each other, and it might be impossible to distinguish them at any point. Here I want to take up Percey Shelley’s famous adage that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world”, in order to suggest an oscillation between the genres and disciplines where this “legislation” takes place. This would be a longue durée that is ontological in the way described by Henri Lefebvre. There have been phases of aestheticization where poetry has taken the lead in defining disciplines within modernity, but then the roles reverse and poetry takes on a servile function in the pursuit of economic objectives. There is an alternation between the quantative ideals of economics and the aesthetic ideals of literature and arts. There is perversity and deception in this contest, as well as temporal disjunction, and so it’s an agonal contest that might not be decidable.

The aestheticization of the economic is a broad topic with uncharted dimensions. Any work of literature can be approached economically, and this could mean considering how its writing and publication were financed, and how has circulated, but also how it participates in the codification of markets through depictions and portrayals. And then going the other way, the writings of the economic and financial professions can also be aestheticized and considered as literature, as was done in Mary Poovey’s tome on financial paper in the early modern age. This creates a cataclysm of genres where the ground is newly flattened, and against this oceanic tide writing clings to a particular modality of the real. This is not the reality of a described object, but rather a creative speculation at the threshold of emerging markets. This writing that participates in the incubation of form that proceeds on abstract aesthetic dimensions. Economics appears to have the upper hand in this contest, but poetry could turn the tables at some point. This tarries with the risk of psychosis, as the suggestion here is a realism which partially denies the external reality of its object, which is the recipe for madness. The problem is no longer to depict the economy, but rather to participate in its emergence.

Though this writing no longer describes reality, it can still participate within reality. Another kind of reality principle comes into effect, which implies a different modality than description.  Writing can be realistic in a way that is not descriptive, but rather realistic in it’s economic participation. And this is not to say that writing would exchange monetarily in the normal way, but that it would reverse the economic. Where economics is positive in the work of bringing subjects to the market, this poetry would be negative in the unworking which exempts objects from the market. Where economics focuses attention on valuations and transactions, this poetry shifts that attention and refocuses on devaluations and the unexchangeable. This is to extricate the substance of the organic drives from the paradigm of exchange. Such extraction is the mode of poetry’s economic participation.

This reversal is based in the hallowed traditions of literature. The rise of economics is the fall of the spirit into the object-sin of the commodity. This is an original sin, as well as an incarnation in worldly material. Aestheticization is a vehicle which reverses this and transports the spirit into blessedness, and that reversal is at the center of the genre of apocalyptic. This genre can be treated as pure fiction, which distinguishes it from the historical.  Apocalypse in this sense is a completely non-Christian aesthetic which is an unhistorical static given. Keeping the apocalyptic atemporal avoids the narrative intrigues of the end times, along with any residual religiosity, and it allows for greater liberty in selecting figures from the archive. But more importantly, this liberates historiography so that a more original and interesting cycle of history might be initiated.

This allows a temporally disjointed history to be initiated from a Chinese perspective. An aesthetic is emerging from the historicity of late-Qing literature, especially the red light novels, along with modernization discourses from the early republican period, especially Zhang Taiyan. This late-antique historicity expresses codes for an emerging anti-economy.  This is the returning historicity of the abolition of Chinese antiquity by modern development. The traumatic ending of the traditional Chinese lifeworld and the associated nostalgic suffering is being converted into an aesthetic power that overturns the paradigm of economic exchange.

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Christology of Fashion

William Blake equated Christianity with Art, and that assimilation has retained efficacy through until today. Christianity gives aesthetics a sense of direction, where a descent is followed by salvation, though these coordinates only take on sense once they are anchored in historiography. Where traditional orthodoxies figured this descent as the original sin and the incarnation, aesthetic thinking moves towards what we might call an “excarnation”, or a displacement of organic drives. The development of financial society lures populations into sociotechnical utopias which exclude their customary organic drives. This is an alienation where commodity idealism abjects the Freudian id, and the organic drive gets projected outside the body as a monster that raises the threat of psychosis. But this descent into excarnation reaches a critical point of reversal. This possibility which gives aesthetics a claim on tradition and allows it to escape the charge of nihilism. The salvific reversal can proceed by incorporating the abject material through a new prosthesis. This requires shifts in corporeal orientation, where the bordering and figuration of bodies is transformed. The abjection or turbulence of this excarnated material can only be incorporated through a disfiguration of the corporeal form.

Fashion provides a model for this art of incorporating the abject, and in this would be a Christological enterprise. This isn’t limited to clothing but is rather a general prosthetics to fabulate a new embodiment or constitution of the flesh. As sociotechnical development displaces the drives in ever new ways, this requires the fashioning of ever new incorporations. This sort of fashion would be a profoundly equivocal art that shares a dangerous ambivalence with dialectical thinking. Integral bodies are determined through their contrast with the abject, and corporeal borders are maintained for the sake of excluding the organic drives. These borders cannot be moved to incorporate this abject matter, because the intensity of this matter resists incorporation. The abject isn’t simply situated inside or outside the body, and its disturbing force is such that it inevitably disfigures the border.

The fashioning of a new incorporation requires concealments and diversions that allow this excluded material an illicit communication with the inside of the body. But this prosthetics of concealment will lead to misunderstandings because its function is never decidable. This concealment is ambivalent because the purpose is not to conceal but rather to galvanize the new incorporation. Energy is drawn from concealment, and this includes the energy which is drawn from the trauma of abjection. The abjection of the drive remains secret because it’s inconsistent with corporeal composition, but the power of this secret energizes a new composition.

The abject is a failure of symbolic composure, and this failure involves the collusion of opposites. Symbolic composure requires the partiality of certain limited positions within the matrix of representation. The sociotechnical regime enforces these arbitrary conditions, such as those associated with ethnicity or class. The problem of fashion is to devise prothesis that can make the abject accessible despite these conditions and so they might be transformed. For this the borders of incorporation must be compromised in subtle and covert ways.

Christological fashion erases borders and extends a hospitality which spreads the secret abjection of the drives through bodies. Bodily borders are marked with traits, contagions, affections, sensations, affinities, similarities or relations. They are allegorized and emblematized. They are modeled topologically. There are incremental layers of abjection and secrecy. The deeper secrets of abjection concern the shame of dispossession, or what is called automatism, non-animacy, non-sentience. This is the ultimate secret that gestures might express nothing but affected attempts at the semblance of normalcy. This secret struggle to appear as normal and well-adjusted participants within the circuitry of transactions, this is a struggle to disidentify with the horror of abjection. The organic drives undergo a satanic alienation as they are banished from expression within the sociotechnical simulation. But this leaves the utopia in a condition of spiritual deadness because it loses access to the organic drives and so it sponsors the fashion industry to entice the return of the prodigal son. This idea that the sociotechnical regime would refashion itself to accommodate Satan is deeply suspicious to both religious and secular orthodoxies. The utopia tries to animate itself with the turbulence of the drives, and so fashion is sanctioned as an engineering of counter-culture. But this accommodation always implies defanging, and so there is a kind of faux-wilderness like going camping in a park. Something of the satanic always gets excluded as fashion evolves to incorporate the drive back into the limits within sociotechnical conditioning.

At the limits of incorporation is a sacrificial economy which is like Aesop’s fable of the wolf and the dog, where the temptation of domesticity threatens the wild with extinction. Chaos can only survive as chaos by withdrawing into obscurity and remaining unexchangeable on the markets, or else it must give up its nature as chaos to transact on the circuits of the sociotechnical order. This struggle of id versus superego is distinguished from classical Freudian scenarios because here the drive is essentially a death drive. This id is not transgressive but rather maintains a conservative vigil despite abjection. If they had an ideological sense, then these drives could be on the side of nature, tradition or autonomy, but this id is under a demonic possession which makes it impervious to ideological codes. These days the id is identified with its obstinacy because that is how it appears in contrast to the spectacle. The energy of this id is withdrawn into a larval phase, and so there is no outward display, and no sense of transgression. The superego attempts to draw the energy out to galvanize the markets, and transgression works as a enjoyment-lure, such as the Pauline doctrine which identifies sin with the law. Whereas the id remains imperviously turned towards its inner kingdom.

The ongoing spread of automation further sharpens the contrast between the dynamism of the technological superego and the obstinacy of the drives. Traditional institutions had integrated the organic energy of the drives into social exchanges, but the spread of global technology junks those old systems and the drives lose their symbolic infrastructure.

Fashion maintains an ambivalent alignment between the organic id and the technosocial superego. There is pressure to conceal the abject source of the drives, which is unsightly like a corpse on the sidewalk in a gentrified neighborhood. But this concealment cannot be too effective, or else the source of the drives will be lost. The corpse cannot be completely vanquished and forgotten, or else the utopia will become deadened. The concealment must remain limited so the abject remains alluring behind the screen of some lingerie. And sociotechnics takes advantage of this situation by resorting to fake concealment, which suggests there is organic drive where there is none. Where Freud distinguished between conscious and unconscious, these days awareness becomes a matter of degrees, of the more and the less. There is uncertainty and deception surrounding concealment, and there are degrees of awareness, acknowledgement, and suspicion about the secrecy of the organic drives. Along the borders of incorporation can be woven the sorts of intersubjective knots that R.D. Liang expressed, “She attempted to reveal her noticing of my concealment of her concealment…”, though fashion implies an aesthetic bifurcation that supersedes this sort of subjective-linguistic psychology.

Fashion is an art which responds to what we might call the riddle of the phallus. The phallus is the missing piece of representation, the holy grail that would allow representation to succeed in some ideal sense. This ideal would be a symbol that verifies to the reality of eternal life, or a sign that guarantees that reproduction will continue eternally. The phallus is like the missing notarization of our vital status, and the utopianism of the commodity demands the forgery of this document. The reproductive drives which are physiologically in the genitals, and so there is a substitution where the flesh of the instinct gets replaced with phallic symbols. And through this substitution the organic drives are excarnated, which is to say projected into some diffuse abject matter outside the borders of the body. The strange satanic power of the instincts then poses a psychotic threat to the artificial integrity of the body.

The role of fashion could be highly equivocal in this situation, where it alternates as a double agent between the concerns of the id and the superego. When it takes the side of the instincts, then fashion may adopt the ideology of naturalism, conservatism, liberalism or revolution. Though when fashion adopts these ideologies, then there is suspicion that it may be secretly on the side of the socio-technical regime, where it reinforces the alienation of the drives, or castrates them into the services of the commodity. Fashion can play more complex roles, like an immunization or mimicry, so that the regime adopts something from the drives, which is a typical outcome of the rivalry with the abject id. I want to suggest a kind of fashion that moves beyond these oppositions, towards the more Christological problem of recovering the prodigal son and returning that Satan to the fold where he would transform the sociotechnical regime. Fashion in this sense would be a transformative prosthesis that would be hospitable towards the abject drives of the id.

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Abject Exodus

The phallus is an imaginary object which could be anything. It provides a center of power and pleasure which organizes the attractive basin of the sociotechnical system. This is where the voluptuous energy of the phantasm is yolked into the service of finance. The sociotechnical system is held under the spell of the jungle which institutes the cruel theater of market competition. A political field opens for a struggle over the liberty of that phallic energy.

This phallic spell of finance has correlated points of abjection, where there is an opening of aesthetic infinity. This is another window of exposure to the real which is distinguished from the scientific materialism of industry. Abjection breaches the codes of the spectacle, and so its a natural path of liberation. But this exceptionality is associated with the phallic, and so this exodus must traverse a minefield before it can escape the spell of finance.

Abjection is a manifestation of the dreaded entropy where the sociotechnical order decomposes. The waning of the phallic spell leads to the appearance of bottomless oblivion and the experience of unpleasant affects such as vertigo, nausea, despair, fatigue or boredom. But that same oblivion is also the source of the aesthetic, and so the political problem is to conduct the phallic energy to that dimension, so that fantasy can escape financial bondage, and the phallic energy can be channeled into aesthetic expression. Though of course this can only be accomplished in a limited sense. The closure of the sociotechnical system can be breached at critical points, so the system’s operation gets aesthetically eclipsed without getting abolished.

As the aesthetic starts to interfere with the symbolic regime, the system tends to respond equivocally. The aesthetic may fly entirely beneath the radar of representation, and so the system remains oblivious to these trespasses. Where the invasion does get registered, that may trigger an immune response, since the image threatens to disrupt values, and so the new expression must be stigmatized, humiliated, and ejected. This is where the abject is targeted with the criticisms of decadence, such as the rhetoric of eugenics. The system may also attempt to appropriate the new expression where it recognizes this exposure to chaos as the origin of symbols. Here it recognizes the romance of symbolic origins and attempts to create fraternities around the breaches. Then the new expression of the image becomes a mystery cult which increases the phantasmatic power of the sociotechnical system. The breaches can provide the system with a source of glory, honor, virtue… the abject then gets incorporated into the romantic trial of anarchist princes born of cosmic nature.

The partisans of aesthetic infinity should immunize themselves against this equivocal mixture of systemic attitudes which are usually confused. It is important to avoid provoking this delirium, or else to do so in tactical ways. Aesthetic infinity destabilizes sociotechnical systems, and so it must be administered in sparing doses. Breaches must be opened carefully, and each opening must have another closure behind it so that the exposure to chaos is limited and controlled. Unlimited exposure to the void sends the system into hysteria and paranoia. And it is the immediate field of presence which must be opened, and not simply some unrelated holes in the archive. Figures of abjection provide vehicles for expression, and the less conspicuous figures are more effective vessels for smuggling.

This myth of exodus is a spiritual repetition. The phallus is smuggled out, for its descent into abjection where its spell is broken, and its energy is released for a new expression. The phallus is the animating life of industry which gives up the ghost for a new expression. This renewal repeats mythological traditions and each time recaps the previous repetitions.

The itinerary of this flight into abjection is hobbled together from the archives of exodus, such as the flight from Egypt as it was repeated in the Passover. This flight is susceptible to getting arrested at various points, especially in cultic fraternities, in codes of virtue and value, and in the honorific duels of reproduction. The sociotechnical system is sensitive to expression which it codes narcissistically as a patriotic ideal. The power of the image is a coveted jouissance which is invested with monetary idealism. The aesthetic is a signal of status competition, and so even the abject gets arrested in the codes of luxury.

The escape through the abject must traverse an affective minefield, in order that phallic energy can be smuggled onto the plane of expression. In this regard, respect is just as dangerous as derision. To be honored or mocked can amount to the same thing, because they are easily reversed. A crazed cult erects idols and then destroys them. The exodus must be a clandestine night-flight that delivers the image far enough away so that it can’t be revered or derided by crowds.

Every instance of abjection is a potential portal of escape, but an exodus should never be attempted until the course is well charted. This means that a line must reach a new symbolic expression, which must be in close relation with the socio-technical system. The new expression’s relation with finance must be foreseen, and it would be reckless to pursue an absolute line of escape without destination.

The socio-technical system associates the abject with origins. This is the origin as the time of trial, infancy, undevelopment, the uncomfortable time before the symbol was constituted. This was the embarrassing time when the old was obsolete and the new was undeveloped. This time can be painful to recollect, but without that age of nascence then the symbol could never have emerged. Socio-technical systems are sensitive around this area, which is equivalent to the navel of a human body. Their limited representations of their origins tend to be artificial and cartoony, while shoring up authenticity through occasional documentary gestures. The abject threatens to return when these representations become inadequate to represent the genesis of the financial symbols.

The phallus is galvanized by the traumatic in that its energies are marshalled to repel traumas. The traumas of invasions, disasters, plaques, schisms, colonizations… so many passive sufferings where people are reduced to abjection. The exodus must pass around thresholds of the traumatic, and this always raises the danger of reopening wounds.

Liberalism institutes history as a progressive sense of time. Linear evolution, which is often called development, proceeds through the sadomasochistic contests of the market. The myth of the market is a romance of competition which is related to the system of athletics. These are systems where phallic energy avoids abjection through occupation, and the abject is conjured away through the fixation on objectives. This linear development isn’t historical in that it disavows the romantic singularity of thrownness. As a counter-point to these competitive systems, the exodus of the abject releases a strange historical energy that was forgotten. Thus returns another sense of history that was buried beneath the concrete of liberal progress.

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Apocalyptic Drag

An emerging epoch is composed from the refuse of its predecessors, and the paths to its expression must traverse a borderland of muddled genres. This vigil of disjointed time is attended by the disfigured anomalies of the apocalypse. What proceeds through the following pages is a secular traversal of this threshold that shall circumvent both economic and religious discourses by mixing them together. This allows for a distinctly modern treatment of the apocalypse as an aesthetics of disjunction. The end of history is where time loses direction because the future loses continuity with the present. As the present slides into turmoil, the future becomes uncertain and time loses the linearity which is critical for the ethos of development. And where the secular sense of development wanes, the religious ethos returns to shore up the authority of prediction. Secular and sacred discourses share jurisdiction over the passage into the next kingdom, where together they compose a judgment-screen that demands conformity to some models. This way the specter of final judgment alternates clumsily between secular and sacred dogmas. But the apocalypse can also be traversed in a way that is neither economic nor religious, but reconstructs something original from their combined debris.

The religious rhetoric of apocalypse turns around the contradictions in the Letter to the Corinthians. This concerns the division of power between the earthly and heavenly kingdoms during “the time that remains”. Paul dismisses the importance of the earthly institutions, and yet he still encourages conformity with them. He tells the people to accept the injustices which befall them and not to revolt because “the kingdom is at hand”. There is uncertainty concerning the location of this heavenly kingdom. Is this the “kingdom within”? Or is this the “kingdom to come”? Will it be established on Earth? Or will this kingdom only be available for the blessed after death? Christianity thrives on the alternation of these possibilities, and on the romance of the elect who bear the inner kingdom through the valley of death. Paul makes clear that the divine kingdom has not yet been established on Earth, and so it may only be accessed inwardly or in the future. Though interestingly, some Corinthian women apparently behaved as though the kingdom had already arrived and so the apostle rebuked them and demanded patience.

The rationale for this delay circulates around a garden of forking paths. Declaring a contemporary kingdom might have gotten the apostle martyred and brought his ministry to an earlier end. And had he announced the arrival of the divine kingdom, then the Corinthians might have been disappointed and abandoned the faith. This is to say that the religion was galvanized by reserving the apocalypse as a promising for a future, so that it was suspended in the dramatic tension of the “thief in the night”. But in the modern age this religious rhetoric provokes skepticism when it demands this blind faith in some inexplicable miracle to come. This is where secular authorities today appeal to the logic of work and profess the developmental creed that a better life awaits the industrious. These two discourses are routinely substituted to maintain faith in the future. Either God will perform a miracle for the just, or else the virtuous must take matters into their own hands and build the kingdom for themselves. But these discourses aren’t exclusive, and they can be blurred together in a sort of apocalyptic drag which can be rationalistic.

The course of providence can be rationalized as a kind of education, where the torments of the end times are an agony where the flesh is recomposed for the kingdom of the future. This is what theologians call a ‘participatory’ logic of salvation, where the construction of the kingdom can be merged with the industrial training of bodies. This heterodox soteriology is distinct from the models of redemption in orthodox Christianity. In this version, the suffering of sinners is a direct participation in the mysterious work of death and resurrection, so that this process has a pedagogical sense. This is the work of alchemy where souls are purified into nobility. Modern economics has always implied this rational apocalypse which is a time of agonizing education that develops populations for a future age. This is distinguished from the legalistic logic of orthodox soteriologies, where a debt has already been paid by the suffering of the redeemer alone, and salvation is possible only through repentance or sacraments.

Another rationale for delaying the kingdom can be derived from the ethics of deferral elaborated by Jacques Derrida. Deconstruction began by criticizing the privileging of presence in western scholarship, and this line of criticism lends itself to messianic thinking. In simplistic renditions, it would deconstruct the sense of presence and move towards the horizon of the future which is ‘to come’. This means moving through the holes in the sense of presence into the agonizing uncertainty of the future. This thinking passes through the seams where presence has closed off the uncertainty of the future, and the exposure to that uncertainty is an exercise in virtue. But this ethics of the future is broadly consistent with industrial modernity and it has been easily absorbed into the moral cant of progressive liberalism. In this simple rendition, deconstruction becomes a virtue ethics which aligns with economics and religion. But there is also a darker deconstruction which dispenses with futurism and opens instead what Derrida called ‘disjointed time’, which is more aesthetic.

There is a disjointed sense of apocalypse which is neither religious nor economic, and which opens towards an epoch which is not of the future because it is inconsistent with the present. Instead of a maturation from present to future, there would be a transformation of the sense of presence which drifts upon the mercury of time. The sense of presence becomes dynamized into the shifting consistencies of temporal relations, the zone where the senselessness of time congeals into a fragile sensibility. This fleeting sense of virtual presence is where consistency arises from the muddle of time only to submerge again. Paths of migration into another kingdom may be possible by clinging to that limited sensibility.

This experience of presence is non-exclusive, which means that alternate temporal relations coexist in inclusive disjunction. This assumes the simultaneity of conflicting temporalities, while from their midst arises a limited consistency of presence. Each instance of presence forms a tenuous ligament between past and future so that narrative can traverse their elliptical relation. This artificial presence emerges from the circulation of mercury where it is suspended in modality like the bracketed consciousness of phenomenology.

The composition of artificial presence requires an affective anchoring in aesthetic volition. This isn’t an individual or collective will, nor is it divine or even truthful. It’s an impersonal sensation, like the cracking of a whip or the arch of a lightening bolt, which provides a seed of presence. It’s a punctual insurgence of intensity which enables a repose of presence. This is not logical time, but rather an affective source of presence which supports narration and expectation. This sensation is the communication between antiquity and the future.

The strange behavior of Abraham on Mt. Moriah provides an emblem for this event. His gesture shatters the image of the future, or we could say it disinherits the traditional sense of time. Cutting is a corporeal figure, whereas we can speak more abstractly about separation. This is both subtraction and translation, where something anchored is set into motion and begins a course of migration. So, this transposes from the presence of the corporeal into the geohistorical distance of the foreign and the obsolete. Something gets released from its embedding in the mechanisms of contemporary industry. And this something is the phallus, or at least that term can designate the organ’s initial anchoring within industrial society. The migration of this organ begins by opening the inherent polysemy of its concept, which means recalling how it designated a certain prop constructed for Athenian drama. This term refers to a dangling appendage fastened onto the pelvises of actors portraying goats. Linking industry with a Hellenistic archive lifts this organic anchor for its migration onto the plane of expression.

Economics anchors populations in industry, and the lifting of that anchor begins a romance of literature, which is the secret kingdom of the aesthetic. To speak of lifting the anchor sounds benign, whereas traditionally this has often been a matter of cuts. This archive of figures includes castrations and decapitations, pathologies such as attachment traumas, along with more quotidian figures like grooming and harvesting, as well as the contemporary economic sense of austerity and downsizing. What ultimately concerns us here is the composition of a scene where the ideality of consumption is released from its embedding in the corporeal and converted to the mercury of the geohistorical. The cut begins a process of sublimation at the level of content which proceeds towards expression. Severing the industrial libido is a difficult operation because this object is dispersed and lacks integrity. This is a sort of Ariadne’s thread which orients populations in the tactile proxies of the industrial world. It’s a diffuse signature of capital whereby symbolic subjectivity finds its proprioceptive positioning. This is the phallic correlate by which the bourgeoisie and their accessories are located within the process of accumulation. And where this term “bourgeoisie” once designated a concrete class, here it’s a more abstract reference to how populations are included structurally within industrial life.

The traditional ideals have been tainted with economics and enlisted in the service of financial accumulation. They have been renovated to ensure their convertibility into financial currency, and so we are forced to discover fresh ideals which can be cut free from the abyss. This is not a pursuit of originality, but just a desire that some cracks might refresh the hallucination with cold air. The wager of this book is that new ideals can be instituted by forging communication between contemporary conditions and ancient models. The ideality of consumption has to be released so that it can resonate with ancient ideals. The poison of economics flows through the veins of industry, and one should resist the temptation to euthanize the patient. We must cut free the elusive ideality of the objectives that galvanize industry, which are the utopias of consumption. This ideality is nothing substantial, it’s merely patterns of libidinal investment, and so removing it has no observable consequences. The change only occurs at a level of formal abstraction. These are changes in the way attention is distributed, the way pleasure is felt, and the circuitry that links perception with memory. These adjustments are not marked symbolically as creedal reformations. They are changes in the sensation of mortality, or the aesthetics of living.

At an official level, economics today is practiced in a narrowly monetarist fashion whose goal is to maintain accumulation without inflation. It’s a discipline of managing the money supply to encourage growth, which means that it’s concerned with equipping industry with capital. Beyond this narrow focus it sometimes considers the political-security risks of poverty, disease, war and disasters. This financial regime strengthens its position through accumulation and extends its influence ever further into peripheries and hinterlands. This regime is impervious to direct attack, and so what is required instead are attacks from behind.

Scholars have charted the genealogy of economics through the last three thousand years. Beginning from the ancient Greeks, it proceeds through the church fathers, the scholastics, the mercantilists, the physiocrats, the socialists and the utilitarians of the present day. What concerns us here are not the details of this development, but rather how the contemporary economy can be interrupted by the return of earlier connotations of the term. This is what queer theorists call ‘temporal drag’, where the afterlives of the obsolete return to effect the sense of the present, as if the present were dragged away into the past. The current conception of the economic in fact connects closely with various earlier senses, which being old and wizened are kept hidden. There is something alluring about the economics of the past, which plays the role of a romantic spell in the present, as if presence were a kind of veil concealing a voluptuous antiquity. Contemporary economics implicates a misty hodge-podge of specters which are concealed behind dry displays of technical proficiency or more spectacular displays of accumulated power. To give some indication about where this is going, here is a far from exhaustive laundry list of some notable drag points where the ghosts of antique economics may return: • The ancient Athenian named Xenophon articulates economics as an aristocratic discipline concerned with estate management and animal rearing. • The early church expressed the economic in parables and gave it sacramental connotations relating with the trinity, ecclesiology, salvation, and apocalypse. • Scholastics developed the idea of equilibrium as a metaphysical trope which allowed for theological judgments of mercantile affairs. • Mercantilists made a fetish of gold, and this was refuted by the scientific abstraction of liberals, though the apparently irrational valuation of certain materials has returned. • Physiocrats emphasized the seasonal productivity of the earth, which resonates with contemporary environmental thinking. • The early modern emphasis on labor power remains a sensitive issue both politically and psychologically.

The apocalypse is a flashpoint for political struggle, where there is a contest over how this dimension is conceived and figured. Economics and religion have aligned with the accumulation of capital, and they are opposed to the discourses of critical reason. In recent years the technologies of capital have eclipsed the symbolic use of language. Today we require a restoration where the symbolic archive would appropriate apocalyptic time from the socio-technical regime of industrial society. But the current alienation of language by technology is an agony which must be endured. This alienation can become efficacious in the way that psychoanalysts describe symbolic castration. Through the agony of alienation, the genital objects of industrial society can be severed to become powers of expression, and this can only be accomplished from within industrial exile. This is akin to how the Talmud could only have emerged under exilic conditions in Babylon. An impotent literacy can make hermeneutic adjustments to begin marshalling the power of expression. The forces of expression are composed along sensitive fissures where the economic is most pathological. This madness is emblematized by the instance where Joseph Schumpeter took Nietzsche’s “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and raised it to the power of a sadomasochist maxim which is referred to ironically as the efficient market “hypothesis”. This is not polemic or moral criticism, but rather a hermeneutic decision which aims at a new expression. This would interpret the agony of the invisible hand as the pathology of sadomasochism.

Economy lures populations with a futurist fantasy of reproductive virility, and sustaining this captivation generates various pathologies as byproducts. Subjects cling to narrow dimensions of normality which are distinguished from surrounding pools of toxic waste. The reproductive ideal is amplified through contrast with the excluded refuse, and the experience of precarity is an essential factor in sustaining this optics. Financialization renders the future uncertain because it’s unpredictable how investments and innovations will influence development, and so there is anxiety over who will enter the utopias under construction and who will be cast out into the desert of toxins. This uncertainty about the future leads to a panicked groping after symbolic determination and imaginary struggles over the representation of reproduction and the identity of the future hegemons. This invests the sexuality of emerging generations with a sadistic idealism. This economic ideology becomes fully manifest with the development of east Asia where the bourgeoisie crystalizes into this terrible aesthetic essence. As populations are seduced into sexual futurism, the economy strengthens and appropriates non-economic dimensions and values. Reproductive idealism strengthens credit markets and anchors a cruel pragmatics in the objectives of the emerging generations. This anchor is where an industrial fantasy is conflated with a materialist sense of reality. But the political wager that we are outlining is that by severing this ideal from its indexical position, the anchor can migrate onto the plane of expression and drift nomadically through the archive as literature. This itinerant affective anchor is reached by renovating Heidegger’s house of being into a mobile home.

When he coined the term ‘general economy’, George Bataille created an oxymoron. Economy is essentially limited because economization is only possible with respect to ends. So, this term ‘general economy’ refers to nothing economic, but rather what we are calling ineconomy. This is what ensues when economic ends are suspended through the severing of industrial objects. This is where the industrial phallus becomes nomadized into a kind of tabernacle. Industrial society involves a sublime conflation of the material, a haptic fantasy where organic libido invests the commodity of the future. Symbolic castration is the withdrawal back from this limit so that this libido is reserved on the plane of expression. This withdrawal proceeds through the transposition of organic investments into the mercury of geohistory. This way the affects of the industrial superego fade into obsolescence and foreignness, and the spectacle of presence is vanquished by original aesthetic satisfaction.

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Descriptive Economy

Description is undervalued since it’s function is not established. To rectify this situation, I want to assign description a function. This won’t be an epistemological function as typically assumed, but rather one that is aesthetic and economic. This defines description in a unique way, as a symbolic speech which is suspended in modality, or limited to appearance. This sort of description proceeds in a dimension of blurred conceptuality where it facilitates certain metaphysical operations such as mediation, composition, and passive syntheses. This proceeds in the mode of inclusive disjunction where concepts serve as emblems for the marking of abstract processes. This is an alchemy of witnessing which operates through a trinitary substitution between speech, people and things.

Description participates in the disclosure of worlds, or at least in the disclosure of situations. But it only has this capacity because of how its mercurial shifting can express the material. This is to say it’s less presumptive than other speech genres – than explanation, argument or narrative – in that it needn’t assume temporal syntheses. Remaining at the level of appearance, it’s reserved from judgment and casuistry, and so it remains innocent of those compromising symbolizations. It can be messy and elaborate, without making assertions. Exempting description from epistemology affords it the capacity to take on the risks of sublimation.

Description remains a linguistic function, which distinguishes it from less symbolic modes of witnessing like what Avital Ronel called the ‘testamentary whimper’. But language can be conceived in a more participatory manner which is hospitable towards the dimensions of flesh, image, and number. The economy of description can produce an expressive synthesis which sublimates immanent conditions, and for this language is only a means.

Description is usually assumed to be referential, such that external objects are described. This places it within the epistemological jurisdiction of the reality principle with its code of honesty. But these days description is getting displaced from its traditional office which is usurped by imagistic and numerical techniques. Today language appears ill-equipped and antiquated – clumsy, finicky, territorial, arbitrary, partial – and compares unfavorable with the representational powers of more contemporary techniques. Language is becoming unemployed, but this unemployment provides an opportunity for it to discover its own unique capacities.

Language implies something anti-representational which concerns the community of speech. In response to the ascension of perception and number, I propose that language should align with sameness and identity. This way language comes to coincide with the territory of presence as a place and time for the sharing of life. Where sharing takes place between the other and the same, I propose that language align with the same, and that image and number are aligned with the other. The agony of description then can be considered as a conquest of presence. To associate language with the selfish violence of the imagination in this way reverses the ethical codes of literature that were associated with post-structuralism where there was a privileging of the other. This especially dispenses with the inherently moralistic leftism of the poststructuralists.

Different models of linguistic community can be distinguished. A community of description is distinguished from a community of oaths, in that it’s violence is closer to perception than speech. Description is limited in that it doesn’t pronounce the consummation of the community. This kind of community is forged not through belief, but through sharing descriptions and the gauging of their efficacy. And again, this is not epistemological efficacy, but sublimatory efficacy. Taking a description seriously creates risk, because it means entering the world of those who entertain it.

The term ‘economy’ reaches an ultimate destined sense through a summation of its messy history. Economy is ultimately a kind of participatory agony. It is inherently coercive, there are limited chances for participation, and participants are subjected to conditions. Economy is paradoxically both inclusive and exclusive: it is inclusive because it concerns the transmutation of anomalous spirituality, while it must remain exclusive to be effective. The violence of descriptive economy occurs at an abstract sub-personal level.

As the spread of numbers and images displaces description from its traditional referential function, it enters more intimately into communication. Description migrates onto the plane of expression, where it becomes an internal function within self-reference. This puts it in agonal opposition with the plane of content, which is identified with the logistical operation of industrial society. Industry vanquishes expression which then becomes a miracle of the idea where the logos arrives. Industry has its own forms of expression which are subordinated to content, and it is necessary that these be subtracted to prepare a desert which is adequate to an event. The neutralization of industrial ideality prepares for the event of expression. The ideas of industry are subtracted to prepare the medium which can deliver the expression of the logos.

The plane of industrial content is coded for accumulation, except within the subordinate bubbles of family, nation and religion, which are the ghettos of expression. The event is where a more comprehensive expression occurs beyond these limited bubbles, and this involves a new metabolization or synthesis of the byproducts of industry. These biproducts are two in number, and they are the accumulated and the excluded. Accumulation is the process which subordinates, and toxins are the objects of exclusion. The problem of expression is to reach a new conjunction between these. The desert of industry is pregnant with this expression where another flesh stirs within the economy of darkness. There are great distances between the accumulated and the excluded, and description prepares a fleshing forth in that strange dimension.

The encounter between the accumulated and the excluded can be figured as murder. While being interviewed, an American war veteran once described killing as an addiction that takes possession of murderers. This sort of passion can be curated ontologically so that it becomes a spiritual power. The concept of mortality needs to be appropriated so that it is situated properly, which allows it to be attributed some adequate propriety. This hermeneutic appropriation is not simply symbolic but involves the geopolitics of security. If death is not properly situated then it spreads and threatens to erupt in the wrong way. And death is an essential source of power for community, and its improper dissipation causes spiritual exhaustion.

Hapless arguments against death naively seek its abolition. The contemporary economy disrupts Mosaic law and utilitarian precepts since it’s no longer a matter of justice but rather a matter of taste (sic). Natural law is esoteric only because the economy is obscure.

Killing is inextinguishable because it’s the spiritual engine of community which is managed to burn within limits. To appreciate the contemporary conditions in this managerial situation it’s helpful to review some recent history. The attack on the World Trade Center raised the prospect of further violence in North America. There were Muslims with violence in their blood, and there was an economic question about how that violence could travel. Keeping the Islamic world in strife along a Sunni-Shia axis was a practical solution to this security dilemma. Designated death-zones attracted the murderous to Iraq and Syria with the smell of blood. And if those war machines stop turning, then the mujahideen destruction will migrate elsewhere. And even if every one of them were eradicated, then that would likely infect the eradicators with murderous instincts.

The regional valuations of life must be situated within broad economies. The management of development and security finds its governing principles in images of ideal thriving which are embodied in exemplary manifestations. These fantasies of community are fueled by the toxicity of the marginal and excluded. The idealization of certain zones requires the toxification of other zones. The eroticized fantasy of a community’s greatness is charged through the projection of unwanted memories and traits onto odious neighbors. It’s not that murder is necessarily addictive, but that populations get caught in violent projective vectors.

Leftism considers the projection of toxicity an unconscionable injustice, and that outrage prevents an understanding of its economic importance. The noble friend confirms our nobility because he embodies imaginary ideals, but this requires a contrast with those who don’t embody them. The voltage of the spirit is based in this contrast between the accumulated and the excluded. This economy is highly mercurial and only perceptible at certain instances and vantages. Roles are rotated so the odious neighbor becomes the noble friend whenever economy demands. As relations are junked into the abyss of the economic, the fickleness of prostitution signals the limits of hospitality.

Ideals change their ethical values depending on the scale of economic conditions where they are charged and discharged. There is blurring between scales of magnitude (“we don’t know the people in that house, and we don’t even know which country they come from”), and traits get charged with narcissistic tensions.

The description of antisemitism is exemplary in how it universalizes the European racial crisis. Description gathers its rhetorical powers from this negativity, where the toxin of a single race spreads its contamination throughout the earth. As populations ascend through gentrification they find new receptacles for their negative traits. See Bangladesh.

This economy is driven by the primary pathology of boredom – the boredom of indifferent accumulation, and the boredom of the over-accumulated. Accumulation nullifies the affective scripts of the human creature, and so the bored person feels displaced, and this sense of inadequacy leads them to become first a masochist and then a sadist. The disruption of habitat through gentrification induces sadomasochism as a struggle for elementary placement. Race is a costume adopted to conceal this complex. Sadomasochistic civilization reaches global ubiquity with universal compulsory education, where unsuspecting victims are infected with the disease-cult of racial honor. Student masochism holds the promise that they might one day become sadists themselves.

The power of expression must arise within this dark world of industrial toxins. This conversion of toxins requires a derealization of industrial subjects. The womb of expression is fertilized through the voiding of industry. Toxicity is a tension that arises around splitting, and the sublimation of this suffering involves aesthetic figuration. As the narcissistic wound is refigured, this breaks the spell of industrial content. The wound of disavowal anchors industrial subjectivity, and this is neutralized through figural expression. This leads us towards an aesthetics of appropriation, where descriptive clothing is sought to match the wound so that it can disappear. This is an episode in the secularization of religion.

Christianity is a religion of wounds and persecutions, and with secularization these figures are converted into simulacral masks. The archive of religion is rendered aesthetic so it becomes a means for the conversion of industrial affectation.

Ecclesiology provides resources for this initiative, particularly where the splitting of churches has already been refigured in literature. The theologian Ferdinand Baur developed a church history premised on Hegelian dialectics which describes a split in the early church during the first centuries of the common era, where Judaic traditions opposed the Christianity of the gentiles. The sinister persona of Simon the Mage works as a projective mediator between these two early churches. He was a kind of substitute leader for the enemy church, a lightning rod of notoriety. Apocryphal romances chronicle the struggles between a rabbinical Peter and a gentile Paul, either of whom can be identified with Simon depending on the version. This remasking of scripture becomes interesting when it follows the contours of contemporary wounds.

Heterodoxy renders religion aesthetic, and this can dissolve and reconcile sectarian breaks. This is a way to interpret the grotesques of the apocalypse, which conceal the reconciliation of fractures. This isn’t so much about overcoming creedal disagreements but racial fractures in geography and economic positions.

Religion provides aesthetic resources to produce null-descriptions which have a sublimation function. These descriptions mask industrial subjectivity, so they are essentially negative descriptions. They translate the splits onto an aesthetic level, so this is a conversion from the real to the imaginary. They are like those expensive earphones worn by workmen that generate soundwaves to neutralize the noise of their machinery. To perform this function, the descriptions most follow the contours of what is already there. Description becomes subtractive, blinding, and fictionalizing. To cover industrial subjectivity beneath imaginary stigmata.

Chinese Christians get split between “patriotic” and “house” worship. This split is anchored in industrial antagonisms and captures populations in a relational historiography. But through waves of secularization, such as the “Christian culture” movement, these affective anchors are dissolved. Aesthetics is the power to forget the nightmare which chains the flesh to industry. And there is nothing contradictory in saying that religious images provide the resources for abolishing religion, because they are the only figures that fit the contours of the wounds. Religion describes nothing but the spear that smote thee.

Expression has been eclipsed by industrial content. Language is underwater, submerged beneath the techniques of images and numbers. This describes the conditions for the struggle to restore language, to repeat it’ wounds. To marshall the powers of expression within the abyss of industrial content. The problem is not to indicate content, but rather to sever language from it. Expression has to pull itself up by its own bootstraps in the swamp of content.

Due to its higher abstraction, expression is a more supple concept then language. Language has disadvantages due to its materiality. This makes it so finicky and territorial, and makes formalism impossible. Language is too existent to have form, whereas expression can dissolve into the ideal. Language participates in expression, and thus it reaches a higher level of abstraction. Expression is an event which becomes effective through the participation of lumpen participants. its only through ontologically comprehensive participation that expression becomes effective in its resistance to content.

Within content, there are limited quarentines of expression, like family, nation and religion. These anchor subjectivity in ideality, relative to the affects of the sacred. Sublime affects are the anchors of industrial idealism. But a return of expression requires a conversion of these sites, so their spell has to be broken and recast. The anchors of the real have to move in the traversal of the fundamental fantasy.

The real is the beyond where family, nature, nation and religion are merged into one. they are masks of this more abstract/concrete fantasy. Traversal implies a shift in the fabric of concepts and references, and a change in how the subject of the void is manifested. This movement can only occur when there is a realization of unity in higher abstraction – the composition of the plane of consistency. this is why we replace the terms industry and language with the more abstract terms content and expression. The conversion from content to expression proceeds through the aesthetic conversion of affective sensitivities, which forces their migration from one plane to the other.

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Mysterious Ineconomy

The university remains puritanical in its conception of work, and this makes certain topics inaccessible within the conventions of professional scholarship. Academia is like the deity who remains reserved in its own ideal dimension and hasn’t yet descended into the world, and so the finest scholarship that can be produced will always demand something more. This is how para-academia defines its enterprise in Christological terms: not to produce scholarship, but to bring scholarship into communication with the flesh of industry. This is not about the translation of specific texts, but rather the reproduction of intellectual itineraries in pedestrian figures.

Serious scholars are usually suspicious or even hostile towards this sort of para-academic activity. They view it as a degradation of their work which would lead to misunderstandings. To overcome these suspicions, it’s necessary to recognize decay as a descent into materiality, which is a necessary phase in the evolution of intellectual labor. Decay can be a maturation which brings intellect into communication with the worldly codes of industry and commerce. This continues an evolution has been underway throughout western history, where scholarship has descended into an ever more intricate rapport with the materiality of the contemporary, as if it were on course to make some fatal rendezvous. This is part of the great flattening of hierarchies which Nietzsche called the ‘herd revolt’.

There are various tropes which figure the threshold of encounter between disciplinary intellect and the turbulence of industrial society, and these include the ‘economic’ terms which mediate between the religious and the secular. Scholars often complain about the intrusion of economic logic into the university, but this only indicates their refusal or inability to descend into the material dynamics of the economy. The descent of mind into matter is messy and even scandalous in ways that scholars find unbearable, because they cannot bear to witness their work getting compromised and reduced to abhorrent junkiness.

Among these economy terms there is the agonal, which figures the evolution of modern society. As an ancient religious concept, it refers to the suffering underwent in the tension between the spirit and the flesh, where the mystery of salvation proceeds. This includes the passion at Golgotha, the stigmatic suffering of the saints, and perhaps even that of all sinners. But like the whole idea of economy, the figure of agony has itself undergone its own agonizing descent into the secular, where it has taken on political-economic connotations. The word is linked etymologically with the agora, the market, and so it has been readily associated with the tension between buyers and sellers. Then it has also taken on political connotations, where it figures the tensions of the electoral process. But only when it’s considered aesthetically can be understood comprehensively as this descent from the sacred into the profane.

Agony is a sensitive flashpoint on which the conception of modern society turns. When industrial societies exalt the virtues of work, this can be understood as an invocation of virtuous agony that still might carry traces of sanctity. The cruel austerity of neoliberals repeats the archaic violence of the crucifixion. In the days of religion this was a “mystery” because theologians were never settled over the logic whereby redemption was accomplished through suffering. As we proceed to analyze this obscure zone, let us consider whether this suffering is more like a payment, or else like some mysterious education. Only by treating this as an aesthetic trope can we appreciate how this religious idea has translated into political-economy so that agony becomes the source of profit and political power. The economic mystery is where the logic of agony becomes opaque and conceptually convoluted.

There are still people today for whom the threat of eternal damnation looms, and so for whom soteriology remains a serious religious problem. And although secular modernity lowers the metaphysical stakes, hell may be replaced with psychological suffering. This is to say that sacred agony has been translated into the pathologies of sadomasochism and castration. We are not so concerned here with damnation and salvation, but rather with how these psychological conditions might be translated to a decently spiritual or aesthetic level.

Para-academia is the agonal descent of the scholarly intellect into industrial society which it reconfigures with the concept of the agonal. Agonistic economics draws ideational resources from various sources. Some of the terms are more scriptural, some are more philosophical. Some are Greek, some are German. Some are more conceptual, while some are more aesthetic. Some are associated with orthodoxies, while some are associated with heterodoxies. This economics can proceed only if it is oriented at limited junctures and suitable scales of magnitude. Generalizations are impossible because this enterprise concerns what is purely dynamic and essentially contemporary, such as the circulation of what anthropologists call mana or gift.

Agonal economics involves play, and the aporiac ambivalence of the ludic returns throughout the economic mystery. Is play a means to something else, like an exercise that leads to health, or the development of a skill? Or is play an absolute that is satisfying in itself, such that there is no further end beyond it? Superior and inferior qualities of play can be differentiated, though their discernment may prove non-trivial. At the lower end might be simple games played with animals or young children, whereas superior play might involve a more mysterious circuitry of substitutions. Play can be improved through learning, and superior play allows for a more satisfying circulation of affective tensions.

Play emerges as an antidote for the obsessional tendencies which are common in industrial society. These are calculative pathologies which afflict accountants and legalists, and we might also refer to these sicknesses as call symbolic obsessions. This an idealization of calculation which expects an exact equivalence between terms exchanged, and which leads to delusional imbalances. David Graeber points to the emergence of currency in the axial age as an origin of these tendencies, where there was the balancing of exchangeable metals so that relational terms could be perfectly symbolized. These obsessional calculations lead to a simulacra where symbolic economy is disjunct from affectations, and the ludic emerges as what has been excluded from the rational economic.

Industrial society reduces exchange to the countable such that money is idealized as the real thing, and other non-monetized exchanges become subordinate. But then the ludic returns as the singular pressure of the inexchangable physiological tensions which have been excluded from the economic domain. This dimension of excluded tensions is the mystery of the ineconomic. But play itself can evolve to become calculative, such as the gamification of markets. The ineconomic is always contaminated with calculation and never monopolizes the ludic.

Unable to monetize, unexchangable drives are expelled into the cracks between economic determinations. The sites for economic exchange are institutionalized into a partitioning which leaves these forces without any chance for social expression. Some traped energy seeks release into a broader circuit of substitution. The ineconomic mystery is the return of what has been excluded from the economic, where the excluded byproducts of economic determination are positively expressed.

This mystery of the ineconomic allows for a metalyptic reconfiguration of heterodox Christianity. The mystery goes unexpressed in its raw depth, where it only exists as an invisible and unstable excluded potential from which expression might arrive. The course of its expression must pass through a series of contingent relays where it is conceptualized and figured. Expression in this sense is something like what heterodox Christians called emanation.

The mystery brews in the gaps of monetization which is divide into nationality, eroticism, food, travel, education, clothing, media, and art. It’s surging strains this representational net, though it only reaches the threshold of symbolic expression through sufficient marshalling. The scene of the event requires a long process of composition and the evolution of codes so that it can reach the threshold of expression.

The ineconomic mystery can be approached as a reinterpretation of Marxism. This concerns the theory of how contradictions in capitalist society get pushed onto exploited populations, until there reaches some limit where the contradiction boomerangs back and transforms the society. His model can be criticized for being too orthodox in its Christianity, which is to say that it remains too soteriological, or too closely connected with formalized monetary exchanges. This line of criticism has been overlooked because people are either confident that Marx was an atheist or else they are eager to brandish his orthodox religious credentials. The problem is how the Marxist emphasis on exploitation inscribes culpability, along with the heroic suffering of the exploited proletarian, which creates a transcendental religiosity. Though without this religiosity his thinking would have surely never spread, so we might say that his doctrine was spiked with opium. The essential mistake was how a naively idealistic economics is tragically caught up in the zero-sum logic of bourgeois accounting which stirs the cruel spirituality of ancient legalism.

Marx showed little appreciation for the unique characteristics of Germanic Christianity, and how the medieval mysteries evolved through the Reformation. In that tradition we can find resources for an economics of the incalculable. Marx criticized bourgeois economics for the unfairness of its calculations, but the more serious flaw was its overemphasis on calculation, and so his criticism ultimately exasperated this shortcoming. He called for superior calculation rather than the subtraction of calculation, and there he shared the archaism of the bourgeoisie. But in the writings of Paracelsus and Bohme we discover an aesthetic economy that refused both catholic and reformed orthodoxies, in that it refused to consider salvation as transactional and rejected the idea that suffering could be a payment. The rejection of clerical accounting allowed for the preservation of the mystery of the mysteries. This was the point where Nietzsche focused his opposition to orthodox Christianity, against the barbarism of soteriological calculation associated with the figure he called the Redeemer. The German alchemists made the mystery of incarnation into a zone of aesthetic incalculability, and this site provides unique resources for opposing liberal economics. But even George Bataille failed to recognize this opportunity. He mistakenly criticized Hegelian dialectics with Eckhardian negative theology and didn’t appreciate that Hegel’s aesthetic was Boehmian alchemy.

Classical economics is obsessed with balance in a manner similar to ancient legalism (“an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay”, “an eye for an eye”). This implicates the ideology of market competition with the insidious psychological dynamics of sadomasochism. Though it is important that we don’t push this criticism too far. There is something quite universal about karmatic models of exchange, something which probably cannot be abolished, so the point here is only that the aesthetics of mystery opens models of economy that can break away from religious and legalistic thinking. There is no suggestion here to abolish anything, but just to separate.

When economists invoke the ‘invisible hand’, that can be interpreted as an invocation of the mysteries. The decisive point concerns how the value of labor becomes exchangeable with suffering. Making the purpose of suffering mysterious is what exempts it from strict economic calculability, and this sense of mystery is related with the idea of the free market. This sets up a heuristic for interpreting political-economy in psychodynamic terms. This is a line of criticism that would suspect all calculation of pathology, not just liberal austerity, but also the socialism of “from each according to his ability to each according to his needs”.

In the Paracelsan pharmakon, the good only emerges through the course of sickness and convalescence. Goodness here exists only in its agonal tension with poison. Marx’s neglect of this rich alchemical tradition is critical, because it suggests a weak appreciation of Hegelian dialectics. This alchemical Christology figures a process of refinement where nobility is purified through flame, and this contrasts with orthodox soteriologies. This an aesthetic process where flesh gradually gives way to spirit, and which is like an initiatory education, as opposed to an exchange of flesh for spirit which figures salvation as a punctual instant.

So, Marx interpreted history according to a Christology that was too orthodox, in that it was too close to the zero-sum game of the English shopkeepers he criticized. He didn’t descend far enough into the mysteries which he tended to mock from a rationalistic position, for example in his harsh dismissals of Max Stirner. He failed to open a space that could accommodate the incalculable, and so his liberal adversaries were able to assert the invisible hand, which allowed them to appropriate the mysteries as a zone for laisse faire machinations. Whereas Marx wanted to bring the excluded into the zone of calculation, it seems preferable to go the other way and recode the agony of the excluded in a kind of heterotopia beyond calculation. This refers not so much to excluded populations, but rather to excluded forces. To distinguish the mysteries from the logic of culpablization and heroic exception, it seems that economic history should dispense with individual organisms and move into the fluidity of the inorganic. This separates the mystery from the symbolic determinations associated with economic subjectivity. There is a temptation to give the mysteries symbolic determination, so that they can be resubordinated into calculated transactions, and that is the temptation to absolve agony. But instead the mysteries should be sustained as the source of drives which are surging towards another economy.

By considering industrial society as a cruel refinement machine, it may be possible to appropriate the entire conception for an alchemical model. This is a demiurgical system geared towards the doomed construction of an artificial utopia along the course of an endlessly failing providence. To bring this utopia to life, there is required some natural essence, which is like sentience or some vital spirit. Romantic quests are dispatched to recruit this missing ingredient that will brings the simulation to life. Traps are set to rear and lure this virtuous sexuality into transactions, but this cultural spirit never fulfills its vocation and the performance is never adequate. There may be high functionality at a technological level, but there is some missing sentience. There is a contradiction where the missing ingredient is excluded from the simulation, because it is too anarchic, too archaic, too non-complaint, and it cannot be calculated. Sentience can never be sufficiently tamed to be transacted in an industrial economy. This is all certainly quite romantic, but it’s the trashy romance of industrial society, a signature that has been repeating for several centuries at least.

This provides a simple model for figuring the alchemy of industry. There’s a contradictory mechanism which purifies sentience only to exclude it, and this leads to an accumulation of sentience at the periphery of the market. This sentience can’t express itself within the existing coordinates of exchange, and so it swells in the gaps and at the periphery. This is where we restore the idea of Christ, though in a completely non-religious way, such that it now refers to the pharmakon which can metabolize the poisonous excrement of industrial society. Christ is the enzymes which can metabolize the toxicity of the sadomasochistic diseases associated with economic calculation.

Toxic drives have lost their telos and become dissolute and agitated. It’s important to emphasize here that we are not talking about economically excluded populations, but rather economically excluded drives. This condition of toxicity involves the collapse of idealistic presumptions. There is an assumption that people should already know what they want and so they seek leaders and businesses who will provide it. Populations have been conditioned to consider knowing what one wants is a matter of dignity, and this conditioning refers to the individual subject. Toxicity arises from the uncertainty of teleological ignorance, the pain of lacking an idea of the commodity. To avoid admission of this dissoluteness there are provided a host of ready-made illusory ideals that everyone is expected to pursue: health, happiness, environment, wealth, efficiency, convenience, sex, justice… drives succumb to ineconomic toxicity when they abandon these imaginary ideals for the hysteria of teleological ignorance. The toxic drives seek out something unknown, some singular satisfaction… the mystery where they can be converted.

The mystery becomes expressible through the process of narrativization. This is incubated through an agonizing composition that is both figural and conceptual. Various ontological aspects are attached at the level of narrative. Narration weaves together registers which could be geohistorical, architectural, pictorial, manual, domestic, cinematic, literary, or industrial. It’s not that these are integrated into actual narratives, but rather there is an ideation where they are connected at the level of their potential for narration. This is a set of topological transformations, so that the ontological levels are imprinted into each other through narrative indexing. This establishes a segmentation through which narrative itineraries can pass, like in Neoplatonism and Dante, but also in Hegel and Schelling.

The mystery codifies the infernal machinery of industry over the surface of the earth. This distribution weaves technology with demography coded for genetics, linguistics, education and affluence. Regions are zoned into infrastructural and legal regimes which correspond with conceptions of citizenship and levels of financial investment. Hinterlands are coded for logistics, mineral distributions, and geopolitical demarcations. This concerns not so much actual material – this has nothing to do with administration – but rather the abstract distribution of representation and non-representation, and especially the way that ineconomic toxicity striates this border. This concerns the distribution of toxicity between different modes of representation: as it is represented for others, as it is personalized, and toxicity where it is unrepresented and in-itself.

This mystery locates toxicity as a spiritual obsolescence within a comprehensive planetary model. This is where Aristotle’s zoon politikon, the good life, has been exiled in the bad life of the bios. This drive naturally seeks the telos of civilization but has abandoned its object and turned away to wander in the wilderness. Here we can define some stages in a narrative sequence. First, the drive is distracted with commodities. Then it abandons this external object and becomes dissolute. Then, it turns to seek the kingdom within, the Christ who can metabolize the toxicity and convert it into something else. Then there is agony for the sake of this inner kingdom. Then the kingdom begins composition through this agony. Then as the drive reaches some threshold of conversion, it gets expressed outwardly as a newly recreated zoon politikon. As that alchemist Zhuangzi says, ‘inner sage, outer king’.

In the earlier phases of this sequence the drives are deluded with commodities, and the mystery begins when these objects have proven unsatisfying, and the drives withdraw into the exile of the void. Without any objects to distract them, the drives encounter themselves and the problem of their partitioning of space-time. The old objects provided an easy relation with alterity, so the drives could orient themselves toward the future. The commodity produces this simulated sense of externality – other people, places, times. But when those objectives are lost, that is when the agony begins, which is the hysterical experience of the non-existence of the other. The mystery begins where the drives pass across the river Styx to rescue Persephone from Hades.

Hell is reconfigured here as a suffering of partiality. The imaginary phallus provides a fantasy of wholeness which vanishes through the descent into the mysteries. Through the course of this journey there is object-loss, and the figure for this experience can be termed organs-without-objects. Where previously the object was felt to be part of the organ, when there were imaginary objects which could never be lost, here the organ has been cut-off from the imaginary part of itself which has disappeared. This might be something like the experience of a phantom limb, where there are ghost objects. This incompleteness of the organ is a kenosis which is the beginning of the desire that sets the economy of the mystery into motion. Though the mystery succumbs to sadomasochism where it idealizes hysterical agony.

The fall is where the organ loses its imaginary object and realizes the impossibility of ever recovering that object. This is the scene of the depressive castaway who chokes on the poison of toxicity. This emptiness within the organs becomes the site for the meontic phase of the mystery, which is the embryonic marshalling of the community of the obsolete. A glacial formation of obsolescence moves though conception, orientation, disposition, figuration, depiction… where this emerging object takes its contours from the edges of the commodity spectacle. The new object of desire emerges just beside or beyond the commodity, where it is slightly too wild for monetization. This new object fails as a commodity, because it breathes only the wild air of the real and refuses those imaginary substitutes that would domesticate it.
The obsolete has the appetite of partial organs: an eye that doesn’t see, an ear that doesn’t hear, a mouth that neither eats nor speaks, hands that do nothing, feet that walk nowhere… these monstrous absences are too terrible for markets.

Mysterious objects come into composition through the agonizing play of approach and retreat. This play slowly matures, until eventually it reaches the point where it interferes with the commodity spectacle. This doesn’t play under the spell of the spectacle but disrupts it from the outside by setting into motion a series of object displacements. The new object comes to act as a simulacrum of the commodity.

This disruption arises from within gaps between market sectors. It’s the emergence of an anomaly that doesn’t have a place in the matrix of exchange, and yet it evolves to the point where it takes a place. This new object appears like some commodity, like tourism, or clothing, or education, but it is a monster of desire that throws these markets into turmoil. A logic of substitution and accumulation is replaced by the initiatory aesthetic of the ineconomic.

The kenotic severing of the organs is like an inverted capitalization, since they are cut-off like the heads of monarchs. Julia Kristeva has suggested that the operation of capitalism implies a transcendental decapitation. During the French Revolution, capitalists gained power through the beheading of the French monarchs, and this relates with the way currency is minted with the head of a monarch. Decapitation moves the monarchical phallus into the financial sector, and this a transition which follows the myth of medusa. The monarch is considered here as an ancient monster whose strange castrating power was seized by the rational bourgeoisie. Where historical attention has tended to focus on the event of decapitation, emphasis can shift onto how they put it onto their money and threw away the body. The new regime was not interested in the headless body, but that headless body was eventually appropriated by French radicals when they created the anti-capitalist society Acephale in the 1930’s. This appropriation was a materialist inversion of the idealism of the liberals. But this headless-body / bodiless-head trope was perhaps only the beginning, and this mystery proceeds through eyeless-image / imageless-eye, voiceless-ear / earless-voice, journeyless-foot / footless-journey, handless-tool / tooless-hand…

The severing of the head corresponds with the romantic spitting of logos and mythos (head and heart, sciences and arts, pure and practical reason etc.). And this follows the old metaphysical fault line between spirit and body, father and son. If this capitalist agony of decapitation has figured the so called modern age, then a reconfiguration of this severance might amount to an epochal event. So, an everyman’s severance of organs from objects might replace the agony of monarchical decapitation. In psychoanalytic terms, this is a struggle over the figuration of symbolic castration, the removal of the imaginary phallus in order that a new symbol can be elected. Decapitation is an apophatic trope, which corresponds with Bataille’s idealistic commitment to the negative theology of Meister Eckard. But by repeating this severance through various organs, we dispense with idealism and move towards an alchemical aesthetic.

As the mystery surfaces towards the point of expression, the organic field singularizes around a circuit of stimulation. The severance follows the organic circuitry of the commodity. Technology arranges the organs into functional constellations, such as those which emerge for driving or cooking, and these constellations may remain intact through the kenosis of the object, so that we might get cooking without food, or driving with a car. What gets spiritualized here is not so much the flesh, but rather the object. The commodity is an imaginary phallus which is subordinated to monetary exchange, where the ineconomic is the spiritualization that releases that object from monetary subordination.

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