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Saturday, 11 May 2019

The Capital method

With a moderate fever, I opened my email and was struck by a Quora question (Is Cuba proof that socialism works?). I don't like this questions in general, they seem to come with a pitfall. But I guess my fever made me go on and read one of the answer. It was from a man who apparently have lived in Cuba. He writes that Cuba is all about corruption and controlling their citizens. Then he goes on to present what he called "The KGB method". I went on to give my answer citing his description of the method:

It is a proof that over all anything is better than leave-it-to-the-market systems. Of course, to challenge capital has been always like drying a block of ice. It doesn’t work in the long run, and a previous answer to this question provided an insight to the reason why:

The Capital method is this:

1. “Create through propaganda a GREAT ENEMY that is about to attack your country and subjugate the people and make them suffer, unless they line up behind you to fight this enemy and get into battle mode and obey their commanders.” This can take the form of a catastrophe, a war, a created enemy (including socialism), insecurity about the future, the so-called tragedy of the commons that boils down to make everyone around you sharing anything with you a potential cheater and therefore an enemy or anything that will come about the strategic minds (increasingly artificial) working on this. Without a clear or clouded enemy on the horizon there is no appropriation of land, natural resources, human effort or collective equipment.

2. "Blame all bad things on this enemy and take credit for all good things that may happen.” So, for instance, spread the belief that markets drive anyone out of poverty and nothing else does even when it is blatantly obvious that it is a non-market based policy that did the trick. How can they spread this strange belief? Well, capital turns belief somehow controlable through media and other all-pervasive devices, it makes use something to fuel the engine, something that is short even in powerful Cuban governments: money.

3. “Eliminate the contact between foreigners and the people so the people cannot be informed of any other perspective but the one you are trying to force on them.” Capital does that by enclosing people in their social class. They can go talk to foreigners, but only looking them down; they can go abroad, but usually only as tourists or with a bag of money in their back so that they don’t think beyond their faithfulness to their share of capital.

4. “Of course control all media and means of communication so as to constantly propagate this fear of attack and to suppress any other communication that is not along these lines.” Control of the media is strict under the rule of capital. Some theoreticians have studied the phenomenon and called it manufacturing consent. It has also been called control society. One of the instruments to implement this is to make media and information commercial. True, the internet, for a while, seemed to break the wall of this information-control system. But it was slowly either bounded by laws or turned irrelevant because attention is systematically grabbed towards the commercial media.

5. “Constantly spy on all citizen communication and when you detect deviance or skepticism about your regime harass or detain those involved.” This has been considerably improved by social media. Spying became industrial and information collected through social media is stored in companies that use it for the benefit of capital. Folks loose their jobs or have limited prospects of being hired if they do they appear in the wrong way in the social media. It is well-known that the market system is one that, left to its own devices, tends to have as little people working as possible. The capital method detains people either by inducing unemployed folks into crime (or supposed crime) or directly making their voice unheard.

6. “Prevent the people from leaving your country as they might spread unfavorable information about your regime. This gives them a daily fear that they cannot escape you and therefore are better off obeying you.” Fear is indeed the currency wherever the capital method is applied. Unsatisfied people - refugees, US poor and Blacks, European working class, South American poor, Asian misfits and all the masses in the system can rarely afford to leave your country.

7. Obedience: this is the only thing that works within Capital and if you think about it is the exact method that all these capitalist regimes have in common (Singapore, Colombia, Haiti, Nigeria, France, US, Italy, Egypt, Thailand) and actually is what capitalism is all about, and the rest is just a total failure: control, detention, forced work through wages, increasing misery. It actually is a quite effective method of herding humans. The workers under this regime are so desperate to leave there that millions would leave next week if they got the chance. In fact, they don’t even know where to escape, there is scarcely any way out.

8. “An additional note the capital manual instructs the leaders that when they create this GREAT ENEMY they must NOT select a group of people that conflicts with the archetypes of their people (like their mothers, or monks, or the hospital workers, etc) or otherwise the people will have resistance to accepting this GREAT ENEMY.” So, capital does that by stressing the image of weirdos (sexual dissenters, race dissenters etc), or of Chavs (poor people that deserve nothing but compassion and who no one wants to emulate). The capital method preferred enemy is often poverty itself - the fear of insecurity, the fear of being redundant, of becoming useless and contemptible.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Levinas' ultratranscendental

After finishing Deictic Absolutes, I'm revisiting Autrement qu'être (and Derrida, and Silvia Benso) in my course on Levinas, Heidegger and Derrida. Today we discussed the orientation towards the other - kerygmatic - in the significance of empirical verdicts. What is said is reduced to the saying - because the metaphysics of the subjectivity is not a form of ontologism. That is, when one says anything like S is P, one is predicating and preaching, preaching requires responsibility to the Other who hears one's report. Sensibility is ultimately testimony: my senses are geared towards producing reports to the Other. Now, this is why the senses themselves have no language - no private language - but rather they are led to speak the Other's language so that I can genuinely inform from my senses to the Other that, say, S is P. So, that sensible intuition requires concepts is a consequence of sensibility being geared towards the Other. My senses are put at the service of saying something to somebody else - and public language is not forged within the scope of sameness, it is a way for me, the speaker, to be always hostage to the Others who have taught me concepts and still can correct my application of them. Levinas hints towards an ultratranscendental: that intuitions require concepts is something that demands a transcendental explanation, beyond the scope of thematization. The transcendental - and yet phenomenological explanation - is that in sensibility the Other is entangled with the I (with sameness). The intersubjective is (ultra)transcendentally explained through the wound of the Other in the subject of sensibility.

Now, interestingly, this ultratranscendental can be put in terms of concepts - as in the Kantian tradition that Levinas wants to deepen with Husserl's efforts to find the transcendental and intentional structure of subjectivity - but doesn't have to be put in those terms. So, one can think, in a Whiteheadian vein, that there is no sensible intuition of isolated facts or that there is no sensible intuition without modulation and co-ordination with what is already taken to be known. Whitehead is in a sense going beyond concepts to explain the transcendental structure behind them - that they proceed by co-ordinating, by modulating perception and this is what makes perception itself possible. But one can apply Levinas' ultratranscendental scheme to Whitehead's (transcendental) formulation: co-ordination and modulation is required because one needs to be of relevance to the Other. One needs to be a reliable reporter because sensibility has a saying behind what is said in its very structure. So, the Levinasian doesn't have to be associated to (human) concepts, it is enough to stress that sensibility is an endeavor in saying something to some Other.


Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Post-truth

Guida Chambel, Nuno Oliveira and the Ana Lama Gallery folks in Lisbon are planning a long cycle revolving around anarcheology, fake news, artificial norms and post-truth. They want to look at the kidnapping of the iconoclastic practices both by the enthusiasts of capital and by the social conservatives - now that they are clearly placed together at least in practice. Attention to the non-univocity of representation - for example, in terms of the infinite saying that compose what is written according to disconstruction or in terms of the displacement of the force of matters of fact through the concern with versions according to anarcheology - is among the iconoclastic efforts to promote heresy against the dominant project in the last decades. These efforts have been recently not only embraced by the ultimate keepers of the status quo and by the unconditional supporters of capital as the sovereign engine in planetary life but also applied by those groups to (jointly) reach positions of power notably in the US, in Italy, within the European community, in Brazil and, to a great extent, in Russia. How could that happen? Or, more to the point Guida, Nuno and the cycle want to address, how can this be resisted if we are not to restrict iconoclam, to impose limits on performative fiction, to constrain the hyperstitious power of the stories we wish to tell or to consider truth itself always untouchable?

Today I started a series of few lectures on Heidegger in my contemporary philosophy course. My aim today was to connect the way Heidegger sees phenomenology (in section 7 of Sein und Zeit) and makes sense of the return to things themselves to his later remarks on the things and objetcs, the history of metaphysics and Ge-Stell. I was insisting on the importance of presence for phenomenology if phenomena is understood as manifestation of something that to a degree appears of its own accord. Phenomenolohy for Heidegger is about how things presence themselves, how they manifest themselves and therefore made themselves accessible. It is therefore the return of the attention to things as what can present and conceal themselves. In the Bremen lectures, Heidegger talks about the thing thinging, that is, of the thing doing its own thing. That is, the flower florishing and displaying a parfum - making a scent present - or sleep graciously coming to one at night. In contrast with this mode of presence, there is Ge-Stell which is the essence of technology which orders a standing reserve (Bestand) of what is available in things. Ge-Stell makes the world commandable, available to a command as things are placed in a standing reserve, ready to be used. Then, it is no longer the thing which things - does its own thing - or the flower which opens or Morpheus who makes himself present in one´s sleep. It is the bottled parfum that makes the scent present, the sleeping pill that makes the sleep show up. It is something else that comands the thinging - the sleep, the emission of parfum etc.

The issue appears as to whether the essence of technology is human. Heidegger argues it is not, it affects our presencing as well. I guess this non-human character of technology sheds light into several recent events. My example in class: with Ge-Stell, it is no long us which us-es, so not our norms which norm - or normatize. Once the intelligence of the intertwined processes of norm building and norm keeping are extracted, it can be commnaded by something else. There is no need to wait for the norms to norm - that takes a long time, as the flower takes time to open up. The norms can be commanded to norm - to present norms - or, instead, something else can provide the presencing of the norms, something else can do their thing for them. Bots are placed in the social milieus where norms are instituted and maintained and extract elements of the intelligibility of the processes. We, and our norms, become more like the image we help offer of us (and them) and the representation of the norms become an expanded variant of us.

Then, in the class, I reached the issue of post-truth. One can then say that truth has a force that unveils itself in its own pace - of its own accord. It commands consent, it convinces most people, it carries an authority. Truth does all that because allegedly it does its own thing. Truth truths. This can also take too long and leaves us at the mercy of truth´s own disclosure of itself. We can also force the presence at least of its effects. If we understand how truth truths, how it spreads itself, how it convinces and commands consent, an artificial truth can be produced. It is no longer needed to wait for truth to swamp alterative beliefs and persuade everyone how they should act, this effects can be achieved artificially if we know enough about how truth does its own thing. To some extent, post-truth is a consequence of the essence of technology. Ge-Stell is ultimately targetting the sovereignty of everything, including human sovereignty. Post-truth is a step towards making human doing human things - being convinced by the force of truth - dispensible because they can be made to be convinced by something less flippant and flimsy than truth. Does that mean that resisting post-truth entails resisting Ge-Stell? I guess so. The battle is not really to limit or constrain anarcheology or deconstruction but rather to fight within them. Post-post-truth cannot be a return to truth as it was before. It is perhaps to look sideways to find effects of truth that can only be extrated in different, unheard-of ways.