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Friday, 29 November 2013

Allagmatic accelerationism (and the very power of deterritorialization)

I sometimes think the debate around about accelerationism picture the position in an unfair way. It is, as I understand it, about flows and their speed (and yes, about production and registration). Accelerationism is not a defense of capital nor is it a defense of any other flow in particular - it is not about territories but about their dismantling. Accelerationists are not in any sense committed to the recognized revolutionary power of capital, unless in the sense that revolutions should learn something with it - what I take to be very much in line with what Marx and Engels write in about the bourgeoisie in the Manifesto. Capital corroded despots, states, written traditions as empires corroded land-based powers, oral tradition and patriarchs before it. (Corrosion, of course, has never gone to its complete end.) To praise acceleration is to praise dismantling - the kind of action that revolutions often do. Capital itself became an individual - a territorial machine, a code, a somehow bordered entity. It has its allagmatics - the set of operations that keep constituting what it is - that involve work as a way to produce, market as a way to distribute, pricing as a way to register. Its allagmatics also involves, I believe, persons, human individuals, and the capacity they are supposed to have of taking individual responsibility. Capital depends on these grounds to have a territory. Maybe it depends on a centripetal family around which it revolves, as Deleuze and Guattari argue in Anti-Oedipus. Capital tends to concentrate. Of course, maybe it is not necessarily dependent on family and the Oedipus structure that privatizes fantasies. But I think individuals are central to its territory. Ready-made individuals are the very basis of the flow of capital - they are the poles around which capital can flow. Accelerationism focuses on the allagmatics that produces these individuals and keeps them going. It looks at the sub-individual and at the super-individual - singularities within the individual and outside it, in groupings and networks - as corroding forces that dismantle the individual human. Accelerationism, in this way, waves to the possible forms of human life that is not organized around stabilized human individuals, but rather emphasizes elements that cross them. It makes room for the political role of the multitudes, of the masses as agents that are different from a mere assemblage of individuals (an assemblage of pockets that are hubs for the flows of capital). One can buy (or sell) individuals within the mobilized masses but one cannot commodify the force that brings together the masses - when they are not just revolving around individuals.

Capital takes care that each thing is at the reach of someone who has a pocket. It is stricken by anonymity, black blocks, piracy. The biopolitical fight on capital is the struggle against the daily sponsors of individuals and their pockets - it is an allagmatic struggle through desires, miasmas, gift-giving. Anything that flows indifferent to the network of pockets. To accelerate is to go in a speed no individual can flow - the speed of gestures, of the masses, of the viral, of repetitions that are go through indifferent to the boundaries of individuals. It is about the economy of what runs more than pockets.

One of the best criticisms of the accelerationist political project I heard is one of the things Benjamim Noys told us in Anarchai last year. He reckons the whole ontological framework required to think accelerationism through is doomed to infect it with undesired commitments to the capitalist state of things. Noys thinks that a revolution ought rather to thought in terms different from production, registration, speeds and flows. He suggested loads of interesting Bataille-like alternatives but I'll consider only a simple one: the planning stance. The planning stance could be thought as the individual or as something else - say communal planning, confederation planning, global planning etc. The issues there are who plans and for whom. Planning, I take this to be the idea, is inevitable. Why can't we think in terms of plans instead of flows? I think this could be a different way altogether to base a politically revolutionary project. Plans, taken as organizations, introduce different individuated units. What I find attractive in this criticism, though, is that to a great extent its practical consequences amount to de-individuation - to challenge the sacred territory of a human with a pocket. It is, if I understand it, an allagmatic criticism.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Object-oriented and allagmatics


The erotics of allagmatics is erratic (from my exhibit Two Objects in the Object Oriented Exhibition 2, open until the end of the month in Brasilia, Galeria Espaço Piloto).

Individuation. Whatever makes an individual an individual. To give an account of it, one can appeal to primitive individuals (atomism, monism) or to selected substantial individuals (like Aristotle). Aristotle seems to connect individuals to substances - the mutilated, for instance, in Metaphysics, Delta, 27 - and hence some individuation is no more than derivative. Derivative individuation is such that the operation (the alagma, the cost of transport) that produces the individual is made invisible in favor of pre-existing principles of individuation. Substances guide individual from outside the workshop of things - from outside the processes of individuation. They act like form and matter. Simondon wants to shift the attention to the underlying process of individuation that is to be found connected to any individual. Individuals are not ready-made. Not even derivative ones. (Simondon stresses the difficulties that both monists and pluralists - his examples involve Spinoza and the Stoicists for the former and Leibniz and Epicurism for the latter - have to individuate derivative items, those that are not substantial. They end up presenting them as created by an external intervention.)

Now, an object-oriented ontology is perhaps an ontology of substrata without substances. Objects have an hypokeimenon but as ontology is flat, there are no derivative individuals. There is no problem with given individuals as everything can be taken as an object. The object-oriented approach can therefore avoid Simondon's charge against substantialism that takes it to be unable to individuate. Objects are individuated, one by one. None is derivative. The allagmatics, to be sure, is to some extent still made invisible as ontology still is about individuals. But individuation can be explained through objects - objects individuate objects. Whenever there is something, there is an object. No privilege of relations but also no privilege of substances. In that sense, it can face Simondon and makes him concentrate his fire against non-substantial and still somehow born individuated individuals.


Friday, 8 November 2013

Reference-fixing as an allagmatic operation (Kripke meets Simondon)

In December 2010, in Gize, I wrote an entry on this blog on the individuation of camels. There I do mention Kripke and Simondon. In fact, one can see reference-fixing procedures as allagmatic operations - operations that take place in the preparation of an individual. Surely, proper names are introduced by baptism, and name-giving is an individualization operation. But reference-fixing could be for instance, introducing the name Hesperus as the evening star or the name Cat for a (natural) kind of animals (no matter if they end up turning out to be also the morning star or robots instead). Descriptions can be wrong and yet work as reference-fixing. If it is so, a wrong description (or an incomplete one) could work as an allagmatic operation that individuates (cats or stars). Of all things, a description picks up one - or what it takes to be one - and this is enough for something to be individuated, and treated as an individual, that can be further investigated later on.

Reference-fixing produces individuals. It is a way to carve the world in individuals, to the extent that we can further say, for instance, that there is not (in the actual world) entities individuated as phlogiston. Analogously, descriptions in fiction (but not only descriptions) individuate things. We can talk about unicorns or Holmes. One of the many meta-stabilizers needed for an individual to be such is reference-fixing. Why is this camel different from all the others? Because it was given a name, and a name, as I said in the 2010 post mentioned above, provides the individual with importance, the importance of being an individual distinct from all others. I guess what is crucial in Kripke's gesture - or in the direct reference theory gesture in general - is not really the defense of the indiscernibility of identicals (or the move to make some kind of substracta theory plausible) but it is rather to show the (allagmatic) complexity of reference-fixing. It is not about satisfaction of description. Rather, it is about point at a part of the world and attempting to provide it with borders.

Object Oriented exhibition in Brasilia


I'll have three works there: No Object, One Object, Two Objects.
Photos soon.
Opening on the 13th. We'll have round tables with the artists, Carol Marin, André Tonussi, Luiza Günther, Erick Felinto and Marilia Panitz.

Queer ontology and sexual allagmatics

I'm trying to write a paper on queer ontology, putting together elements of Althaus-Reid's indecent theology, (Mortimer-Sandilands') queer ecology and bits and pieces of Sara Ahmed's work on orientation (that she calls queer phenomenology). I thought of including a section on the operations of sexual individuation, on the different sexes (to use Deleuze and Guattari's motto à chacun ses sexes) that act like singularities individuating each body capable of desire. Sexual identity is only possible through an (erratic) sexual allagmatics. The operations that produce sexual identities involve the way sexual norms are taken but also the devices that create and maintain desires. Psychoanalysis, as well as schizoanalysis as ways to deal with the emergence of structures of desire within bodies, do no more than (fragments of) sexual allagmatics. A structure of desire is always composed by singularities such as contagions, performances, clothes, gestures, emotional links - the biography of anyone is a sculpture made by these operations on the vicissitudes of all contact with the world and of the insertion in a demography of subjective items. Operations of all kinds give shape to a sexual matrix - and it is only from a hylemorphic point of view that one can recognize in one's life patterns that ought to generate a cis, a trans, a hetero and a homo person. Allagmatics is about erratics - it is about looking primarily into the clinamina (I'm thinking of calling the paper "Bodies in Clinamina").

In fact, sexual difference has itself an allagmatics. Most of the gender performances can be viewed as operations that end up giving rise to individually sexed bodies - natural man and women are no more than the form that is to be specified outside the workshop (to use Simondon's metaphor). The construction of rules bodies and normalized desires is always unfinished, always incomplete. Sexuality is meta-stable: desires disappear only to come back in a different way. No desire is fed only on itself - and no body is in a perennial flow of desires. There is, to be sure, degrees of crystallization depending on whether different operations act on the body. Degrees of instability within a meta-stable structure. Looking at the allagmatics (that involve the norms issued outside the workshop), one sees how identities are always exposed to the vicissitudes of what seems to be a simple instantiation.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Allagmatics: a proletarian metaphysics

Simondon’s focus on the processes and operations that generate the sunolos with singularities is a way out of a substance ontology. He compares individuation through a principle – either through matter or through form – as the individuation conduced by those who are outside the workshop and only see what comes in and what goes out. To understand individuation in its energy allagmatics one has to leave the command position and get into the workshop (and in fact, he adds, into the particular mold that allegedly is doing no more than fabricating a shaped matter out of brute matter). Individuation, thought in this allagmatic manner, is in a sense to be placed within the genesis of the sunolos and therefore neither in the matter nor in the form. This genesis makes the individual inextrinsically relational: it is not in relation, it is the relation. Now, when Aristotle (which is undoubtedly his point of departure) talks about substance as having (a specific) form and matter and opposes them to accidents (see form instance Metaphysics, H, 5), he is thinking about what makes something something. What makes something be wine, say. His answer involves what is at work (en-ergeia) but also what is present potentially. To think about substances involves already normativity: a position of command. Wine should be wine (and not simulacra), a book should be a book (no matter what special thing happened in its production, in its allagmatics). Substances contrast to relations because they are not about operations. They are about what is and not what is becoming through the action of operations. The view of things from their constitution is the worker’s view: the view from the vicissitudes of matter and form. Allagmatics.

Allagma is an interesting word. It comes from allos, another, the other. It is translated as vicissitude but also as change (allag-hé) – to become something else. It is vicissitude because it is connected to meeting another, to pay the price or go towards the prize. It could be associated to paying the costs (cf. Latour’s insistence on how often we have to pay the price of transport in a re-duction). Allagmatics is the action of operation, the acts of change. Allagmatics is process itself, not the cataloguing activity of ready-made substances. As such, allagmatics contrasts with what I called in my 2008 book Excesses and Exceptions an ontology that harbors a kernel of fascism. It is not about a single agent giving rise to shaped matter (a demiurge) but rather about the processes coming from all agents. To be is to operate.

Through operation, repetition takes place from one instance to another. There is no model that presides what has to be. Repetition contrasts with a commnand position (and a substance ontology) because it takes place thoroughly on the ground – it makes no reference to what is beyond the sensible. It takes the sensible in all its vicissitudes (and all its virtuality). Individuation is the emphasis of allagmatics – it is not about what is produced, but rather about how it is produced. This has also echoes in D&G’s Anti-Oedipus emphasis on the how, on the operations. In fact, Deleuze and Guattari were inspired by this change of perspective: look at what promotes the individual, look at what mechanisms and operations make the individual stay put. They follow this road to consider desire, sexualities, natural objects, laws and representations. Foucault, in his introduction to the American edition of the Anti_Oedipus translate part of what the book intends to do in terms of injunctions, one of them reads: Don’t base your action on individuals, individuals are a product of (operations of) power.

Allagmatics is about production, about operations. It opens a key to a metaphysics beyond the market place that is rather grounded on the actions associate to work (at work) and on the viewpoint of the working person. It is a concern with production and not a concern with produced substances. It is not about what is commissioned, but about how the substance choreography gets executed. Simondon opens up a whole path away from substantiality thought in terms of commodities. It is not about what can be the object of the fetish associated to things that got done (notice that substances, secondary substances, can be always assigned a price, as workers can be priced but only through their results, not through their path through vicissitudes). It is also a way to think beyond the individual, beyond the ready made subject and its relations – Simondon dives into the world of how and by means of what relations hold (and individuals, including subjects, arise). The focus on operations is a way to think beyond the (slowing down) limits of the constituted individuals. It is a way out of objects that present themselves as already individuated. It is also a way to find what can be faster than the flow of capital between pockets (individual pockets of physical persons and corporations). Maybe there is a Simondonian accelerationism that would rather look at the way pockets are individuated. But this only shows how far-fetched can be the consequences of an allagmatic take on the world.


Friday, 1 November 2013

Kripke: nested existence, sponsored existence

In the third lecture of Reference and Existence (John Locke Lectures, 1973), Kripke presents details of his account of fictional characters. They do exist, not in a vast weak Meinong-land because there actually have been many novels in the actual world. The existence of these characters are nested in a pretense - Doyle's novel creates a pretense in which Holmes exists. It exists in a pretense, in that nested way - sponsored by something concrete that created it (a performer, a writer, a director, or a phenomenon of light and darkness that can create ghosts). I always thought that fictional characters were partly sponsored by writers and readers (creators and consumers). The sponsoring, however, is not enough to make them plainly existing or real. Sponsoring, here, I use to translate Souriau's instauration (see old posts in this blog). Kripke is saying less than that: they have a different sort of existence, not weaker but dependent on something else concrete. Being fictitious is a way to exist - and being fictitious (like being made of this wood for a table) is something essential to Holmes (or to unicorn, to Zeus etc). As such, being fictitious is something that cannot be changed when the concrete item moves to different possible world. Fiction is world-invariant.

It is interesting that after his second lecture, he got asked when was Frankenstein born. If he had a taste for boutades, he could have answer in a Latour-like way: since the publishing of the novel (1818), Victor Frankenstein existed since 1771 (the date when he was born according to the novel). Kripke doesn't do much different - he talks about two senses of coming to existence. One is nested, another is not. Only one depends on the other, or rather both depend on each other in different ways - a novel cannot be published unless something is said about its characters. Kripke is really moving here in a territory where Souriau finds his different modes of existence.