Current political debates are so tiring because they are so wrong. From #metoo up to debates on security in car racing, a zombie is summoned and re-summoned. Across the board, an anti-communism without communists is suspected. This anti-communism without communists consists of an alleged ‘totalitarianism,’ the imposition of rights-based oppression from the left that keeps people from ‘things they want to do.’ ‘Wanting’ being the core of consumption, it must of course be sacrosanct. This argumentative figuration displays its anti-semitic undercurrent in the phantasy that some otherwise healthy and self-mobilizing political corpus (the people, the nation, men and women, the white race, what have you) was under attack if not under the control of a small group of wicked, hysterical non-humans (‘Social Justice Warriors,’ ‘feminists,’ ‘leftists,’ ‘socialists,’ ‘communists,’ ‘gender terrorists’). I take it that one of the problems with these phantasies is this: it does not face a real enemy with a real theory. In fact, their perpetrators are allegedly moving on the same soil as ‘we’ do. That is why we need to debate them, apparently. That, however, effectively means having our energies caught up in endless chipping away on dysfunctional ‘(non-)foundations’ of ‘Western society.’ It could be shown that these are flawed in and of themselves. But here is not the place to do so. Here is just the place to build an enemy. Let us hence resurrect and modify the actual object of those debates …
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“If for us the assurance of transference gives way to the possibility of haunting, it is also true that for us the only figure of the unconscious is that of a radical series of discontinuous interruptions. In a mere miming of that figure, one might say that the epistemic story of imperialism is the story of a series of interruptions, a repeated tearing of time that cannot be sutured.” (Spivak 1999, 208)
… tbc …
“Let us unfix the binary opposition between ‘labor-power [as] only acommodity’ and the heterogeneous hierarchies of race-gender-migrancy (p. 147; emphasis author’s [Balibar]), and see a shuttle where the rational calculus of commodification protects from the dangers of a merely fragmented identity politics […] ” (Spivak 1999, ft 86)
From the Lecture Notes of Comrade Josephine
(attention: much of this is still very much simplified):
Pink Totaliterianism is a project for concrete action. This text lays the foundation for such actions, but aims at material and radical social change. You can find an open list of concrete steps in part 5) ‘Some concrete steps’ below. If you want to, you can jump in directly and go back to the theoretical parts later. Here, however, these steps shall be listed preliminarily, as part of a general table of contents.
1) What was Totalitarianism?
2) Re-invent totalitarianism: The metaphysics of class war
4) Goals of Pink Totaliterianism
5) Some concrete steps
A) The pink industrialization of agriculture
- Abolition of The Law
- The virtualization of identity: mutually enabling, each an instant of everybody else
- De-couple Society
- Spread Hormones (poison the water, seize the production sites)
- Mandatory usage of Sex Toys
- Intervene in fashion, prohibit plat patterns, hoodies, lacoste shirts (esp. Neck up)
- Destroy the Internet
- Replace usage of ‘cool’ with ‘pink’
- Abolition of Property and Undoing of racist colonialism and imperialism
B) The education of the masses (swim. Team, love)
- The Inversion of Ethics
- Unlearning Violence
- Unlearning in-group libido
- Unlearning ‘the real me’
C) Catastrophe, Disaster, Trauma
- Collective Suicide of the Privileged
D) Turn the lights out
1) What was Totalitarianism?
Totalitarianism is a kind of imperialism – a totalizing project of state formation. “[I]mperialism introduces mobility toward socialization” (Spivak 1999, 67) The construction of totalitarianism is the inverted construction of ‘justice’ and ultimately the legitimization and monopolization of violence. What-they-make-us-call-‘Western imperialism’ in the second half of the 20th century – capitalistic liberal and neoliberal imperialism – has constructed itself as the alternative to an ‘other’ whose sinister nature goes without saying. This other is ‘totalitarianism.’ It has two faces and two proper names: on the one hand, the fascist Totalitarianism of war and violence. It s proper name is Auschwitz, but I shall leave it aside for the moment. On the other hand, the communist totalitarianism and this in particular – in the making of the United States during maccarthy and later over against the internationaly minded brands of us American struggles for emancipation, namely the black Panthers (a communist group), the weather underground and now the newer socialist leanings post Bernie Sanders. These are connected if only by their grouping as ‘beyond the party line of strict capitalism’. Their delegitimization of these movements is mediated, if tacitly, secretly, through a proper name. In this sense, we can look to Spivak:
“On a somewhat precious register of literary theory, it is possible to say that this was the construction of a fiction whose task was to produce a whole collection of ‘effects of the real,’ and that the ‘misreading’ of this ‘fiction’ produced the proper name ‘[Stalin].’ [‘Stalin’ functions as personification of the dangers of left wing government – it stands in for the alleged rationality of a pink scare.] The [imperial master] constructs himself as he constructs the [enemy]. The relationship is intimate, an open secret that cannot be part of official knowledge.” (Spivak 1999, 203)
In current discourse, ‘totalitarianism’ is but a slur – a slur we should appropriate like ‘queer’ or ‘faggot’ or ‘kanacke.’ Note, however, that neoliberal capitalism aims to actualize a negative totalitarianism: The universal rule of negative freedom, the right to exclude everybody from what is ‘mine’ (thoughts, feelings, bodies, property) and hence the replacement of social relations with commodity relations. The question currently is not ‘totalitarianism or not.’ The question is: ‘Which totalitarianism?’ And in this context, the focus on identity as a marker of ‘progress’ is no accident, but the rule of the game already:
“In the wake of the Cold War, there is a mood of triumphalist Americanism in the United States. “Democratization,” code name for the transformation of (efficient through inefficient to wild) state capitalisms and their colonies to tributary economies of rationalized global financialization carries with it the aura of the civilizing mission of earlier colonialisms. Again, the talk is of “transformation.” And it is now more specifically in terms of gender than anything else. This is the globalized subject. The rationalization of sexuality, the invasive restructuring of gender relations, poor women’s credit-baiting without infrastructural involvement in the name of women’s micro-enterprise, the revision of women-in-development (modernization) to gender-and-development (New World Economic Order}-all this is seen as global sisterhood.” (Spivak 1999, 223)
2) Re-invent totalitarianism: The metaphysics of class war
“If we notice that explanations and discourses are irreducibly fractured by the epistemic violence of monopoly imperialism, we begin to entertain the possibility of a determination whose ground is itself a figuration: a ‘determination other-wise.’ Of course [metaphysics] never speaks of imperialism. But the notion of figuration at the ground (rather different from non-foundationalism) surfaces in the pervasive […] discourse of Entstellung, or displacement as grounding in the emergence of significance.” (Spivak 1999, 219)
The term ‘class’ has become one term amongst others. ‘Class’ now stands in the company of ‘race,’ ‘gender identity,’ ‘ability,’ ‘sexual orientation,’ ‘geopolitical location,’ etc. In the course of such re-framing of ‘class,’ the term ‘class war’ has fallen out of fashion. Where it is resurrected, it rings strangely anachronistic – a term that requires rethinking. One question is this: «Has ‘class war’ even been thought to begin with?» In order to understand ‘class war’ we need to understand what a ‘class’ is. Understanding what something is is not exhausted once we have done the exegesis and found a ‘definition.’ What is much more important is to understand the problem a certain term, concept or whatever kind of occurrence responds to or emerges from. The problem that ‘class’ responds to is the general problem of the distribution of being. ‘Class’ suggests to understand the socio-politically embedded question of the relation of ‘individuals’ to ‘universality’ (‘singulars’ to ‘being as such,’ ‘people’ to ‘god,’ ‘one’ to ‘all’ or ‘many’ etc.) as mediated through – exactly – and intermediate, namely: ‘class.’ The ‘class’ is what distributes individual people on the ‘surface’ of its common denominator, namely: ‘humanity.’ That is why Marx can read human history through the lens of class. Such a reading is not an arbitrary decision, but amounts to the terminological framing of the problem. Metaphysically speaking, there is not much difference to a reading of human history through the lens of various ‘species’ as a racist or antisemite would do, through the lens of divine creation as a creationist or a gnostic would do or through the lens of ‘classes’ that express socially produced lines of power and conflict, as marxists, feminists, anti-racists, anti-fascists and everybody else we like would do. But as miniscule as the differences might be, literally, they do matter.
Those differences are twofold: For one, the question is for the conditions of malleability of such a history, including the ‘agent’ of potential intervention, its material and conceptual conditions, its relation to normative questions, «Is there a development to the better [Marx] or to the worse [Rousseau] or no development at all [Derrida]?» In short: All questions regarding the nature of ‘progress.’
But then, there is a whole other question. The question for ‘classes,’ ‘species,’ ‘distribution of the divine creation’ etc. amounts to one of the oldest question of philosophy. The problem can be posed as follows: «We see that there are things. We see that they stand in relations to one another. How does that work?» Aristotle is credited to have been the first to make the problem explicit and coin a name for it: «What are (and: are there) categories?» Many an interpretation have been given and, naturally, it would be impossible to give an ‘overview’ without presupposing certain ‘categories’ of ‘interpretations of the problem of the categories’ (like: ‘important authors,’ ‘various starting points,’ ‘historical or geographic positioning,’ ‘length of debates,’ ‘responses that have been drawn with very fine brushes on papyrus in blue paint and those that have not’ etc.). However, not ‘interpreting’ is equally impossible. For one, because some of those interpretations are more dominant and culturally embedded than others. But also because such non-decisions would of course have to count as a decision – decisions against any decision. Let us hence focus briefly on one of the problems of the philosophies of the 20th and 21st century. I will use the Deleuzian framework, but the problem could be articulated equally well through Derrida, Goedel, Butler, Schroedinger, Rawls, Einstein, Irigaray and many others.
The point is that ‘categories’ (including ‘classes,’ ‘races,’ ‘genders,’ ‘species,’ ‘political camps,’ ‘nations’ etc. etc.) are commonly defined as specific differences. “Elle [la différence specifique] est productrice, car le genre ne se divise pas en différences, mais est divisé par des différences qui produisent en lui les espèces correspondantes. C’est pourquoi elle est toujours cause, cause formelle […].”i (Deleuze 1968, 47) Categories, species, kinds, types, ‘genera’ etc. are defined by their ‘specific differences’ – by that which sets them apart from other things. These ‘differences’ are not added to the thing in question – they are its very core. ‘’What’s so special about it? Why call it ‘pony’? Why not ‘horse’?’’ The difference in question is hence productive of the category and not just something externally added. Our point of departure is then a ‘specific difference’ between ‘genera’ or ‘species’ or ‘categories’ (‘’what makes a horse, a cup, a coward, a mountain?’’). It is productive (‘formal cause’) though restricted in scope (the ‘specific difference’ of a mouse, a man, a mountain, an alliteration).
Metaphysically speaking, the ‘problem’ with ‘specific differences’ is that they produce virtuality while also omitting it. We can define ‘virtuality’ as that kind of being defined by its withdrawal, its absence, its non-occurence. Virtuality is consitutively MIA (missing in action). ‘Actuality,’ however, is that kind of being defined by its presence, its sensible, intellectual or otherwise determinable existence. Consciousness is ‘actual’ while the unconscious is ‘virtual,’ capitalism is ‘actual’ while communism is ‘virtual,’ whatever is in front of your face is ‘actual’ while the back of your head is ‘virtual’ etc. Needless to say that these examples must be flawed because they try to point toward something absent – a contradiction in terms. Here are two Deleuzian examples for the inevitability of ‘virtuality:’
1. Specific difference of specific difference: All categories seem defined by ‘specific differences’ – all but one. Although ‘specific difference’ appears as the universal selector or defining mechanism of all types, species, categories, kinds and genera, ‘difference’ in the ‘essentially formal’ Aristotelian fashion supposes that there is identity of the things that are to be defined by their specificity. If we ask for the ‘specific difference’ of an animal, we presuppose ‘animality’ as something to be ‘specified,’ hence as something that carries a certain stability with it in the first place. “La différence spécifique ne représente donc nullement un concept universel pour toutes les singularités et les tournants de la différence (c’est-à-dire une Idée), mais désigne un moment particulier où la différence se concilie seulement avec le concept en général.”ii (p. 48) This applies specifically to ‘specific difference’ itself. For if we follow through with the universality of ‘specific difference’ as defining quality, we will have to define ‘specific difference’ itself by that which differentiates it, its function, so to speak. “[A]u lieu d’une chose [pre-etablé] qui se distingue d’autre chose, imaginons quelque chose qui se distingue – et pourtant ce dont il se distingue ne se distingue pas de lui.”iii (p. 43) As ‘specific difference’ proper we find a difference that differentiates without being properly defined – the undifferentiated differenciator. This ‘pure difference’ that does not submit to identity is ‘different in nature,’ changes the notion of ‘nature’ itself: Every specific difference can be actually determined except ‘specific difference’ itself which changes in every turn. It is the wild card under ‘specific differences.’ The problem of course is that with the indeterminability or virtuality of ‘specific difference’ itself, no ‘specific difference’ can be determined at all. For it remains constitutively unclear what such a ‘specific difference’ is to be.
Now it becomes clear why ‘intersectionality’ is a useful but inherently flawed concept. It is simply because each category relies on other such categories for its production, effectively causing an infinite regress of intersectionality: ‘Race’ as a category could only be produced as the effect of other categories (this or that kind of nationality, masculinity etc.) In material reality, this shows up as the imperialism of intersectionality: Categories cannot be usefully exported to this or that context just like that. It might be that the material conditions for a certain set of categories are not given in that other context. Thus, the remaining extensions of caste systems (in India, Pakistan and elsewhere) require different categories of analysis than the french system of omitted racism a.k.a. laicism.
The deeper problem here, however, which imperialism merely exploits, is this: ‘Categories’ can be stabilized only by way of omission of their processes of production. At some point, someone or something must make a cut, must decide, must violently interrupt the fuzziness, the leaky virtuality that we have just encountered. Each category casts a shadow. That shadow is its ‘overetermination,’ its capacity to be re-combined, to function otherwise, to be re-defined etc. This ‘overdetermination’ of categories, however, is not a ‘flaw’ and does not necessarily require a more finely grained system of categories (this, exactly, is the production of difference then prey to commodification). Rather, we need to understand such ‘overdetermination’ or ‘differance’ as productive of categories, human interaction and reality in general.“[…] I am going to suggest that to disclose only the race-class-gender determinations of social practices is to see overdetermination as only many determinations.” (Spivak 1999, 219)
2. Being escapes ‘specific differences:’
“[C]’est la nature des différences spécifiques (le fait qu’elles soient) qui fonde cette impossibilité , empêchant les différences génériques de se rapporter à l’être comme à un genre commun (si l’être était un de ses différences seraient assimilables à des différences spécifiques, mais on ne pourrait dire qu’elles ‘sont’, puisque le genre ne s’attribue pas à ses différences en soi).”iv (Deleuze 1968, 51)
|‘Specific Differences’ ‘are.’||Definition|
|‘Being’ can be ‘specified.’||Hypothesis|
|Some constitutive factor of ‘being’ (its ‘essence’) is different from all things.||2|
|All ‘specific differences’ are in fact ‘kinds of being.’||1|
|‘Being’ is not any of the other ‘specific differences.’||3|
In other words: If ‘being’ was ‘specified,’ then none of the other ‘specific differences’ could be said to ‘be:’ For it was the point of defining ‘being’ through ‘specific difference’ to single it out, set it apart, mark it different from everything else. Consequently, either ‘specific differences’ cannot be said to ‘be,’ or else ‘being’ is not specified. In either case, the argument seems to necessitate another, ‘unspecified,’ ‘indetermined,’ ‘virtual,’ ‘problematic’ kind of existence…
There are hence those systems of ‘categories’ that try to lock down everything in ‘actuality’ and those that work with ‘virtuality’ in one way or another. Here, we could say, we find a fundamental flaw with the whole idea of ‘classes:’ Namely that they could be ‘sublated’ into a higher, robust, actual form: ‘communism.’ However, while ‘communism’ in this sense seems to evolve as a response to a problem ill conceived, class war is a real and a necessary thing. For although every ‘actuality’ will always be perforated by ‘virtualities,’ the myth of the ‘lock down’ of ‘actuality,’ a stabilization of the continuous auto-undermining of each set of ‘categories’ produces inevitable turmoil of and between adherence to this or that distribution of categories. ‘Class war’ is hence not a socio-political, but a metaphysical problem. A metaphysical problem that cannot be solved, but only be re-staged. Such re-staging, however, is a socio-political, not a metaphysical task. For it is not the re-distribution of classes in an arm-chair that can re-stage the problem in this or that direction. That is because such arm-chair re-distribution has pre-emptively taken position for the privileging of intellectual over manual labor, distant perspective over factual involvement, the aesthetics of visuality over the aesthetics of struggle etc. These divisions, however, are not just accidentally dominant divisions, they are the divisions of domination. They distance thought from politics rendering it completely useless, drinking tea while the world goes down. But unconscious people don’t drink tea. So why bother?
“If the project of Imperialism is violently to put together the episteme that will ‘mean’ (for others) and ‘know’ (for the self) the colonial subject as history’s nearly-selved other, the example of these deletions indicate explicitly what is always implicit: that meaning/knowledge intersects power.” (Spivak 1999, 215)
The order of ‘specific differences’ is effectively an agricultural order.
“Il se peut que la question agraire ait eu une grande importance dans cette organisation du jugement comme faculté de distinguer des parts (‘d’une part et d’autre part’). Même parmi les dieux, chacun a son domaine, sa catégorie, ses attributs, et tous distribuent aux mortels des limites et des lots conformes au destin.” (Deleuze 1968, 54)
We can effectively think of all questions of political intersectionality as effectively agricultural questions: «How to distribute the land, the races, the genders, the classes?» Such distribution is necessarily a question of exploitation – because each distribution leaves blind spots and those enforcing the distribution will benefit from the expropriation and exploitation of those on the margins – especially if dysfunctionality generates profit.
“If the project of Imperialism is violently to put together the episteme that will ‘mean’ (for others) and ‘know’ (for the self) the colonial [or otherwise forcefully specified] subject as history’s nearly-selved other, the example of these deletions [the cut on the margin, the anesthetization of differance] indicates explicitly what is always implicit: that meaning/knowledge intersects power.” (Spivak 1999, 215)
Deleuze’s suggestion of a ‘nomadism’ is well taken from a poetic point of view: the monadism of specific difference becomes the nomadism of virtuality. Pragmatically, however, the suggestion is absolutely useless. This has two reasons.
For one, ‘nomadism’ remains distinctively singular and hence helpless over against the powers in place. Worse even: The singular transgression has become a driving force of domination, commodification and accumulation of capital. For the proto-typical relation of ‘actuality’ and ‘virtuality’ under conditions of neoliberal capitalism is such that virtuality is set in motion on behalf of its actualization but without being disciplined or restricted into it. In this sense, then, neoliberal capitalism exceeds the logic of ‘territorialization’ and ‘de-territorialization’ suggested by Deleuze and Guattari in Anti-Oedipus (Deleuze/Guattari 1972, pp.227) ever so slightly:
“Schizophrenia […] is indeed the absolute limit that causes the flows to travel in a free state on a desocialized body without organs. [In this sense, it is a kind of ‘pure virtuality.’] Hence one can say that schizophrenia is the exterior limit of capitalism itself or the conclusion of its deepest tendency, but that capitalism only functions on condition that it inhibit this tendency, or that it push back or displace this limit, by substituting for it its own immanent relative limits, which it continually reproduces on a widened scale. It axiomatizes [re-territorializes] with one hand what it decodes [de-territorializes] with the other. […] With the result that schizophrenia pervades the entire capitalist field from one end to the other.” (Deleuze/Guattari 1972, 246)
Post-contemporary capitalism does not require the ‘virtual’ to be translated into an actual product [“axiomatized,” “re-territorialized”] that could then be marketed.
“As a consequence of its success, late capitalism has largely succeeded in establishing the articulation of needs and desires along two basic axes – genital gratification and satisfaction through consumption [instead of intellectual, spiritual, communal or other pleasures].” (Singer 1993, 36) Pleasure, however, is replaced by “a form of control by incitement, not by the repression but by the perpetual promise of pleasure, i.e., of that which is denied by the profit producing process.” (ibid.)
Long story short: Desire is not an assignment from lack to object. Rather, under conditions of neoliberal capitalism, desire functions by stipulating an object along the axes of consumption or sexual activity and ensuring that its promise may hold out as long as possible. Fulfillment of the promise is a second order problem. Though teleological by nature, maintaining the telos is more important than reaching it.
Some production machine of ‘virtuality’ (in this case: the promise) can itself be marketed and commodified. This is, then, how ‘commodification’ and ‘indeterminateness’ (or ‘indeterminability’ even) go together: While on the one hand, ‘virtuality’ is emancipated (as a promise, but also in alternative kinds of knowledge), on the other hand, it is marketed in its mediality – the medium is the spectacle, the (virtual) content, as elusive as it may be, is secondary to the question of (cultural, social, political, economical) value.
Secondly, Deleuze seems to underestimate the requirements that actual forces (‘specific differences’ in place) do make onto their virtual transgressions. For effectively, as well as those actual forces are petrifications of virtual flows, virtual flows are also merely flowing over against the (actual) powers in place. Consequently, ‘virtuality’ becomes a viable option only once one has nothing to lose acutally. Consequently, only artists and freaks take that option seriously. Everybody else merely uses nomadic, virtual, deterritorializing forces so as to re-frame, capture and hold some new position of power. This can be greatly observed in the case of the strategies of urban war fare the Israeli Defense Force is apparently applying in Gaza. Once we understand that walls are fluid matter merely moving more slowly than tanks, urban warfare becomes distributed not between clear paths and obstacles, but between differently solidified versions of paths. If the consequence is that bombing through walls is more terrorizing than driving tanks through streets, Deleuze has clearly failed (compare Weizman 2007). Long story short: Neoliberal domination functions under the slogan: «Add virtuality and stir!» Deleuze did not see this coming, not even in his famous text on ‘societies of control.’
“We are in a generalized crisis in relation to all the environments of enclosure – prison, hospital, factory, school, family. […] The administrations in charge never cease announcing supposedly necessary reforms: to reform schools, to reform industries, hospitals, the armed forces, prisons. But everybody knows that these institutions are finished, whatever the length of their expiration periods.” (Deleuze 1992, 4)
What Deleuze does not say is this: Every reform means spending. Individual disease? Spending. Neighborhood management? Spending. Natural catastrophe? Spending. Every crisis on every level calls for its proper remedy. And under the paradigm of commodification, naturally, that remedy must be a commodity:
“The success of contemporary technoscientific industry consists in transforming our depression into Prozac, our masculinity into testosterone, our erection into Viagra, our fertility/sterility into the Pill, our AIDS into tritherapy, without knowing which comes first: our depression or Prozac, Viagra or an erection, testosterone or masculinity, the Pill or maternity, tritherapy or AIDS. This performative feedback is one of the mechanisms of the pharmacopornographic regime.” (Preciado 2013, 34)
“As long a the answer is a drug, it’s still capitalism.”
(Maxine Wolfe of ACT UP and the Lesbian Herstory Archive
in private conversation 2012)
Self Portrait with Steven Shanabrok’s ‘The Moth Collection,’ 2017
That is why, unfortunately, Deleuze is wrong, or unprecise beyond expectation at least: “[E]verybody knows that these institutions are finished, whatever the length of their expiration periods.” (Deleuze 1992, p. 4) The catch, as ever so often, lies with the detail: “finished” does not actualize as ‘terminated,’ ‘completed,’ ‘forgotten.’ Rather, it comes to pass transformed. The real crisis is that the crisis has been perpetuated, entered its very own cruel kind of ‘eternal return.’ The “state of exception” (Agamben 1998) comes to pass as ‘crisis mode,’ now and forever. Angela Merkel’s untranslatable ‘Alternativlosigkeit’ says just as much. Or so we are expected to believe.
Deleuze did not overcome the ubiquitous agriculture that is holding the world in its iron claws. We must not divide our libidinal flows and forces and hence weaken them. We do not need nomadism. We need an industrialization of libidinal agriculture. We need to cease the means of production of libidinal flows and re-organize them such that they serve the people, the workers of libidinal flows and that means: everybody! We need to expropriate those holding the means of production of libidinal flows in their shallow hands. We need to abolish ‘possession’ of such means of libidinal production altogether. We cannot wait a single second.
What will the industrialization of libidinal agriculture look like? We have to collectivize desire. We have to expropriate the means of production of libidinal flows. We have to fight the re-territorialization, the hoarding, the limitation of libidinal flows wherever they occur. We have to train each other, train ourselves to not desire such limitations, such hoarding, such atrocious means of violence. We have to break up with domination. Do not get fooled: The revolution will not have everybody desire ‘what they want.’ Because ‘what they want’ under conditions of neoliberal capitalism does not mean anything but submission under some regime of the production of libidinal flows. We have to dis-entangle ‘want’ from its agricultural make up, from its naturalized submission under allegedly solidified categories (everything that may or may not fall under intersectional categories)
Metaphysics has maybe suffered the remnants of agriculture the most and the longest. Metaphysical categories are still, to the present day, not sufficiently understood as effects of production. ‘Social constructivism,’ ‘cultural constructivism,’ ‘evolution’ etc. have made good starts. But they all fall into the problem of the difference of difference pointed out earlier. We could ask «How is ‘social constructivism’ socially constructed?» etc. And we would either drag away the carpet under out own feet, supposing that we understand ‘constructed’ in normative sense as ‘as not true,’ ‘not right’ or the like. Or else we would do auxiliary business to the potential optimization of mechanisms of domination in case that ‘constructed’ is taken in a descriptive sense, hence requiring yet another normative theory or theory of the normative – be it an ideal theory, a theory of determinate negation or mere strategic advice. Or we could have some kind of mix, omitting normative categories, arguing for the descriptiveness or constitutive wrongness of normativity etc. etc. However, none of these approaches accounts for or integrates the virtual qualities in the metaphysical process or addresses metaphysics as a process of production at all. Metaphysics, we could say, is in fact the process of production. Original accumulation happens in the field of metaphysics – namely in questions like ‘what is a thing,’ ‘how speaks the truth,’ ‘what is the truth,’ ‘what is a medium’ etc.
“The legend of theological original sin tells us certainly how man came to be condemned to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow; but the history of economic original sin [original accumulation – the ‘first’ taking of land and resources] reveals to us that there are people to whom this is by no means essential [because they were taking what allegedly belonged to nobody]. Never mind! Thus it came to pass that the former sort [those who possess the means of productions – of concepts, in our case] accumulated wealth [in our case: knowledge and the power that it exerts], and the latter sort had at last nothing to sell except their own skins [they go to school and learn about the master categories, providing their own intellects as testing grounds for their persuasive powers – whence whoever is not sufficiently convinced is forced to drop the ball]. And from this original sin dates the poverty of the great majority that, despite all its labour, has up to now nothing to sell but itself, and the wealth of the few that increases constantly although they have long ceased to work.” (Marx 1867, Chapter 26)
Long story short: The neutrality of the intellectual field, the field of truth is a myth – the acres have been ploughed, the factories been running for centuries. Whenever we encounter a concept (hence: all the time), we encounter the history and the conditions of its production. These show themselves as the specific problems that a ‘concept’ in question is meant to ‘solve.’ And just like a good commodity does not reek of the blood that was shed during its production, so does a metaphyical concept. What arms trade is to a nation, metaphysics is to an intellect. Which is why imperialisms were always battles about believe systems – as instrumental as those may seem. For in fact, you cannot force everybody to do what you want them to do at gunpoint. You need them to believe in certain entities, you need to slip in statements about the longevity, eternity of power, its legitimation, about legitimation as such etc. etc.
It is hence not a big surprise that metaphysics – and with metaphysics the complete ideological set up of our worlds – is still allegedly agricultural, displaying a pretentious understanding of partitions as given or at least solidifiable. Even Deleuze’s nomadism feeds of that paradigm in that it re-organizes and undermines those agricultural divisions of categories – it works only with and over against them. The world, of course, is – as ever so often – quicker than the philosopher. Metaphysics has long been industrialized. The categories we are thinking with and through are the results of unification and specialization of the means of production of categories, namely: the neoliberalization of universities, newspapers, entertainment etc. Of course, exceptions prove the rules. The order of agriculture, however, is in fact the order of the ancien regime. Breaking up with the ancien regime means breaking up with agriculture. Breaking up with agriculture means launching a Pink Totalitarianism.
4) Goals of Pink Totaliterianism“New social ideas and theories arise precisely because they are necessary to society, because it is impossible to carry out the urgent tasks of development of the material life of society without their organizing, mobilizing and transforming action. Arising out of the new tasks set by the development of the material life of society, the new social ideas and theories force their way through, become the possession of the masses, mobilize and organize them against the moribund forces of society, and thus facilitate the overthrow of these forces, which hamper the development of the material life of society.” (Stalin 1938, 19)
“Even in its most cynical mode, such an assertion still lets resonate within it an invincible promise.” (Derrida 2003, 113-114) A ‘paradigm’ in this sense is an inevitable ‘point’ […] of reference. Naturally, such inevitability pertains to the constitution of the referent. At a given point in time, you will not get the object in question without this or that frame of reference, the paradigm, the promise. ‘Paradigms’ are real, although they need not be actual. Hence, even though ‘divine justice’ (from which both ‘distributive’ and ’emancipative’ justice derive), never actually happened (no apocalypse not yet), it was nevertheless real in that it functioned as guideline, point of resistance or even ‘regulative ideal’ (Kant 1783). In these actually deficient practices, institutionalized or otherwise effective, the paradigm achieves its virtual reality. The twist, however, is not that they do not fulfill their promises, do not realize the paradigm. The point is which kind of failure causes what kinds of effects and how it relates to the surrounding conditions.
“Call this the romance of disappointment. You want something. You have found an object that will give you what you want. This object is a person, or a politics, or an art form, or a blouse that fits. You attach yourself to this object, follow it around, carry it with you, watch it on TV. One day, you tell yourself, it will give you what you want. Then, one day, it doesn’t. Now it dawns on you that your object will probably never give you what you want. But this is not what’s disappointing, not really. What’s disappointing is what happens next: nothing. You keep your object. You continue to follow it around, stash it in a drawer, water it, tweet at it. It still doesn’t give you what you want—but you knew that. You have had another realization: not getting what you want has very little to do with wanting it. Knowing better usually doesn’t make it better. You don’t want something because wanting it will lead to getting it. You want it because you want it. This is the zero-order disappointment that structures all desire and makes it possible. After all, if you could only want things you were guaranteed to get, you would never be able to want anything at all.” (Chu 2018)
The best we can do is hence not to convince people for the better or think up some other, better way of living. What we can do is only to find and intensify existing counter-paradigms. And as (neo-)liberal capitalism has taken pains to paint ‘totalitarianism’ as such a paradigm and fill it up with lots of negative affects, we find here a reservoir of possible re-visioning and motivation for political action.
We suggest to tackle these issues in a distinctive materialistic fashion. We understand misogyny to have priority over sexism, hate crimes over racism and in general violence over oppression and domination. *isms tend to step in the moment in which a running tradition of violence, a pattern of ongoing practices, is interrupted. That violence happens is not surprising and it does not require justification. It requires justification only if someone interrupts its ongoing procedure. This is why pink totalitarianism does not provide new narratives, but is a call for collectivization and immediate collective action.
Narrative can be a weapon, as can be seen in the big narratives of our time: the war on terror, the war on drugs, the cultural divide. It does not matter that no one really believes in these narratives. The point is that resistance against them supports their relevance. And it is this relevance that generates their traction, rather than their agreeability. As long as we point out over and over again how pointless a ‘war on terror’ is, we do not engage in alternative approaches, other narratives, other paradigms etc. But in fact, even if we do engage in such counter narratives, our endeavor is effectively equally pointless: For whose insistence could stand against the million defectors who pay their credit quite literally to the malfunctioning storylines that make up our lives. ‘New narratives’ are candy to the people. They will not and cannot compete with the larger, though constitutively dysfunctional narratives that form the gravitational centers of our shared political semantics. Why is that? That is because those narratives are based on shared practicesof violenceand mediated through the paradigms that exert the most traction already. (Remember that ‘violence’ is the measure of politics). They express and justify conditions already in place. Misogyny (the tradition of violence against women) is recoded into the superiority of cis*masculinity, then into a need to protext the ‘weak sex,’ then individual ‘sexism’ due to lack of education or bad luck, opposition to Gender Studies departments and the smallest common denominator of anti-political correctness. Anti-Black and anti-south American racist violence got recoded from ‘scientific racism’ into a ‘war on drugs,’ Anti-Muslim violence (formerly functioning in a semantics of ‘religion’ or proselytization, then mixed with white superiority in the ‘civilizing mission’) got recoded as ‘war on terror,’ violence against jews, formerly justified by means of the crimes against christ, becomes ‘scientific antisemitism’ in the later 19th century and then blanket anti-imperial anti-zionism etc., violence against queer and trans*people remains in the realm of idiosyncrasies and individualized disliking. All of these function best, of course, if they are mixed up and stirred beyond recognition – as is the case in the antisemitic slur without a Jew that derails from its misogynistic import with anti communist overtones: ‘crooked Hillary.’ Only anti-communism seems to have been so successful that people just laugh about a left that is ‘not sexy enough’ (read: not commodified enough), ‘continuously at odds with itself’ (read: functions as cure for various mental health problems induced by oppression and exploitation), or the best of all: ‘lacks new narratives’ (read: has lost all embedding into concrete struggles, partially due to defunding, sabotage, prosecution, arrest, murder). But remember that adherence to capitalism has been forged from anti-communism over decades. However: Those who think that new narratives could bring about new practices deserve to be shot once the revolution tears up. They put the engine before the spaceship, the overcoat under the actual nailpolish: First there is violence, then there is narrative. Good for them that the day will never come. You cannot just install a ‘new narrative’ and hope it will get traction. If your narrative gets traction, it probably speaks to existing practices of violence – as happened with ‘accellerationalism’s anti-communist, super colonial, super white ‘hail to capitalism!’ of which ‘Xenofeminism’ is but a pink-washed extention. All narratives must be destroyed. But never will. Overdetermination, rationalization and narrativization are hard wired into semantics just as they are into categories. It is our yoke to live in this catastrophe. The problem cannot be solved. But it can be re-staged.
Danh Vo, Your Mother Sucks Cock in Hell, ‘Marble Child’ (Roman, probably 1st or 2nd century CE) and ‘Oak Madonna and Child’ (French, Early Gothic), 2015
Oppression can hence be understood as deferred violence – it strifes on the potential actualization of some threat, however undefined (and the less defined a threat the more powerful it is). Fear, in this sense, is a différance, a shuttle service between violence and oppression (compare: rape culture). All interventions must happen on this basis. All interventions must tackle the means of production of violence directly – and hence the means of production of knowledge and identity. Reform and slowly chipping away on some fantasy of ‘progress’ will lead nowhere except into the infinite revindication of the paradigms in place – a white hetero-patriarchy as an extension of an urge to ‘actualize’ (which is on the way out only partially by way of tokenizing and cover ups) and, eventually, commodification. We must stop arguing about the rights and wrongs of violence and end that violence concretely. We must dissolve the material conditions that enable such violence and hence facilitate the production of a new, other, pinker world. A pink totalitarianism. A Pinkaliterianism. A Totaliterianism.
Adverb: aliter (not comparable)
- differently, wrongly, poorly
- badly, negatively
- mis- (aliter exceptum; mis-understood)
5) Some concrete steps
Spiro Kristo, The Children, Oil on Canvas 1966
As pointed out earlier, class struggle will always happen. In this sense, the staging of the rupture or différance that is class struggle can be read as the matter that social struggles are made of. Class struggle in this sense will never end. It can, however, be staged differently. The steps outlined here are hence to be understood much more as stage directions than as top-down legislations. But then again, all legislation is actually an intervention into the conditions in place. They will hence produce a different society, but never bring about the society envisioned.That does not mean that we would give up on the ‘vision’ in a case of re-surfacing negative theology. But it means that we conceive of the ‘visions’ we may have as part and parcel of the material at hand. We replace planning with probation, imperatives with stage design. In this sense, we suggest to understand politics as a kind of rehearsal and our own reactions, traumata and conditions as the material to work with. This, of course, is already the case. Just as the dissolution of factory based labor in what-they-make-us-call-‘Western’ countries are part and parcel of the dissolution of social democracy, so does the so called digital revolution give rise to ‘ relational justice’ and 4th wave identity politics. Left organizing, however, seems not to have understood this simple fact. In this sense, then, pink totaliterianism is a procedural suggestion for the change of the material conditions of violence much more than a political program. Consequently, just as a closed space on a theater stage brings about the usage of cameras as one possible solution, so will the following interventions provide new conditions for a new society to come about.
“That we work with video at Volksbühne is because at some point you [Bert Neumann, stage designer] started to build enclosed spaces or even complete houses on stage. You provided a concrete cause/reason for us to take up a camera […].”i (Pollesch 2015)
1) The pink industrialization of agriculture
As a data point that may be envisioned, we can stipulate the following: Society at large must learn from periods of transition. Be it the transition of teenager to adult, from one gender into five others, from the colony to the center or ‘social mobility’ up and down the social ladder: In any case, the transition is a collective endeavor. You must always transition together. Parents must find ways to let their children go and cease being the protectors, teachers and objects of ultimate desire they used to be. Friends of trans*people must learn to accept a different perspective, will learn things about themselves, be reminded of and confronted with their own forestalled identity formations. New friends and collegues of immigrants must re-consider their own expectations and things they take for granted. In all of these cases and many more, change happens in a social field and not just for or within ‘one person.’ We can formulate this as follows: «I am a virtual extension of all the people, institutions and material conditions around me. The person I am, the social position I inhabit, the gender I perform, the racialization I engage, the ways in which I exist are enabled by all these surrounding elements. While you are reading this, I am your fantasy – and I am myself only because I cater to that fantasy, because I know about it and work with it. I am me, because others are others. Consequentially, we do not ‘have’ an identity and neither ‘are we’ an identity. Rather, we ‘identify’ collectively. We are by and through the enabling and prohibiting factors of others.» Commodification must reduce and omitt this simple fact – it must pretend that you could ‘be’ what you ‘own.’ A pink totaliterian society must act against this illusion by all means. We need to attune ourselves to the virtuality of our own existence, become aware and amplify the virtual extension that we are – we must collectivize without commodifying. Only such dissolution of a wrong-headed notion of ‘identity’ can end all violence based on ‘identity.’ (I am indebted to Ema and Alfredo for pointing this out to me).
“La stabilité est ici un facteur de contrôle politique. Une société dans laquelle tous les couples se séparent serait une société révolutionnaire, peut-être la société de la révolution totale.“ – (Paul B. Preciado 2014)
Note, however, that relationships between people that are not very close to one another on the intersectional grid may seem stretched, complicated and dysfunctional, but may nevertheless be worth every support. That is because some relationships are structurally and institutionally supported anyway, for biopolitical and financial reasons (namely: those couples that reproduce and those couples that consume especially much). As will be pointed out, in a transitional phase towards pink totaliterianism, such relationships may be a means to unlearn violence and finally, the violence of the commodified relationship. Once ‘coupling’ and ‘breaking up’ have become temporary stages in a social dimension otherwise defined by transitioning movements, we no longer need to resist them. Until then, sabotage must be directed first and foremost against those who profit the most from the systems of violence, oppression and domination in place: White heterosexual cisgendered middle class couples and their tokenized socio-cultural copies.
The most comprehensive and most accessible analysis of ‘toxicity’ and ‘toxic masculinity’ in particular, I think, can be found in Valerie Solanas’ Scum Manifesto. If you add ‘toxic’ as a prefix to every occurrence of ‘male’ and its various inflections (‘masculine,’ ‘Man’ etc.) throughout the book, you have, I believe, a pretty adequate description of the far end of sexiness:
“Completely egocentric, unable to relate, empathize or identify, and filled with a vast, pervasive, diffuse sexuality, the male is psychically passive. He hates his passivity, so he projects it onto women, defines the male as active, then sets out to prove that he is (`prove that he is a Man’). His main means of attempting to prove it is screwing (Big Man with a Big Dick tearing off a Big Piece). Since he’s attempting to prove an error, he must `prove’ it again and again. Screwing, then, is a desperate compulsive, attempt to prove he’s not passive, not a woman; but he is passive and does want to be a woman.” (Solanas, 37)
Let us slow down for a moment: Solanas, in a pretty much Nietzschean move, seems to find the following:
a) Males are passive.
b) Males hate their passivity.
c) Thus, passivity is projected onto females in order to render the male “active”.
d) “maleness” therefore stages as “activity” at this point.
e) This “activity” must constantly fail, for it is an “error”.
f) Therefore: “he must `prove’ it again and again.”
Let us for now notice that this modality of ‘testing’ is indeed not to ‘prove’ anything in the ordinary sense: checking ‘thesis’ against ‘reality,’ eventually transforming the former in order for it to match the latter. Moreover, The Solanian Test is up to endlessly re-initiate, maintain and establish an ‘error,’ some evermore unfinished ‘invention,’ inverting indeed the orthodox order in the attempt to change reality by testing it … as though you wanted to throw up the forbidden fruit without it leaving any trace; but you’d always but ended up with a finger in your throat …
So then, The Solanian Test [TST] aims at instituting a wrong (second) reality, fails, and thereby creates a third reality (which is not one that “is” or might “naturally evolve”, nor the one “demanded for”). This third reality, I claim, is “[…] where delusion and the real catastrophically meet.” (Ronell)
A. Male madness tries to teleologico-violate current affairs in order to create a world in which the really real reality of totally active self-same maleness would exist by itself.
B. ‘Reality‘ – males being death-seeking, broken, oversexed females etc. – is brutally oppressed. ‘Delusion’ and ‘reality’ can therefore never match, never meet, in that they – pretty much classically – fight each other.
C. TST, by chronically misfiring, meanwhile provokes a third reality. Qualified as test that can never succeed but still continues, TST finally transforms the test-site.2 The probe bears the constant backlash, but more than that, importance inheres in the surface: The battle might fuck up the field[s]! Here, the disaster is produced: male self-annihilation is one thing, but devastation of the world is its gruesome consequence.
D. ‘Delusion’ and ‘reality’ indeed meet in that they do not meet but still –3 neither of them is independent of their grounds. Thus, the disastrous procedure ‘delusion’ and ‘reality’ are involved in has a second-order-effect on the attendees themselves: they are silently mutated by shifting grounds.
And why? Because the defining feature for maleness is emotional deficiency (Solanas, 36; 69), resulting in a lack of INDIVIDUALITY.
“He has no deep-seated individuality, which stems from what intrigues you, what outside yourself absorbs you, what you’re in relation to. Completely self-absorbed, capable of being in relation only to their bodies and physical sensations, males differ from each other only to the degree and in the ways they attempt to defend against their passivity and against their desire to be female.” (Solanas, 46)
So, for Solanas, “individuality” comes from the outside – you are really “individuated” by what you relate to.6 “Although he wants to be an individual, the male is scared of anything in himself that is the slightest bit different from other men: it causes him to suspect that he’s not really a ‘Man’, that he’s passive and totally sexual […].” (Solanas, 50; my emphasis) Males, setting up all guards and hiding in her/him/them-self/s are/is indeed absolutely non-individual, but bound to “conformity”: non-difference and boredom, that is. (ibid.)
So why is it that males rendered their connectedness inoperative, dulling themselves eternally? Their very first characterization reads:
“The male is a biological accident […]. In other words, the male is an incomplete female […]. To be male is to be deficient, emotionally limited; maleness is a deficiency disease and males are emotional cripples.” (Solanas, 35/36; my emphasis)
:: Although ‘masculinity’ is clearly to be “an incomplete female”, both are defined by means of their “relatedness” which, for Solanas, is tied to emotional capacities. That is why the “emotional cripples” come up a second time at least (Solanas, 69). Since joy can apparently, for Solanas, only come from the outside, “[i]ncapable of a positive state of happiness […] the male is, at best, relaxed […]; he is, therefore, doomed to an existence of suffering relieved only by occasional, fleeting streches of restfulness […].” (Solanas, 66/67)
If we now turn back towards the test-question, we can sense why the testing-machine has foremost been started: “He hates his passivity, so he projects it onto women, defines the male as active, then sets out to prove that he is […].” (Solanas, 37) The decline of the world is issued by males’ self-hate. But this is not an accidental attitude; moreover, MASCULINITY IS “EMOTIONAL DEFICIENCY”.7 It is therefore indeed tautological for males to hate everything in themselves. The “active-passive-story” may just be one example here – a historical configuration.
Mariechen Danz, Knot in Arrow – An Oral Orientation, performance and installation 2017 (detail)
“Females (read: female-females, not the corrupted versions of daddy-girl-male-females, produced by stupid fathers8) are – on the same hand – defined by their ability to relate; to be individuals.” (Solanas, 46).
Thus, Solanas does not think ‘sex’ by way of dichotomy, but through relation to the “outside” or to “other being”. This, I claim, is also a reason why males, by “intensive biological research […], by means of operations of the brain and nervous system, [would be] able to be transformed in psyche, as well as body, into women.” (Solanas, 68; my emphasis) So, at this point, fe/maleness is really a question “of the brain and nervous system”, and not of penis or vagina.
Solanas of course does not cut clearly at this point – why should she. So she claims that “[…] the male[‘s] […] ego consists of his cock […]”. (Solanas, 60) I could argue now that “cock” and “ego” were indeed the same; that “cock”, being always already disseminated, could count for cars, knowledge and flowers as well as for the actual “organ”;9 that “cock” may mean ‘spigot,’ ‘a male chicken,’ a ‘forcer,’ all of which – whether you cling to the ‘literal’ meaning or not – makes “perfect sense”.10 I could also stress that fundamentally MAN≠MAN, not only due to (semantic) possibilities of original disseminability; but also due to the larger scale of the concept of man, which was shown by Derrida to entail its own completion/termination;11 Ronell additionally argues that Solanas has always been primarily “interested in splicing, suturing, mutation, sectioning, experimental reconfiguring” (Ronell, 12); and Solanas herself is very explicit about her view that “males” are integrally feminized, de-essentialized by drugs, (Ronell, 18) and really “incomplete females”. (Solanas, 35)
But in the end, I don’t consider that to be necessary, for I don’t really care about what Solanas might have “meant” or not. Let me instead suggest the following terminology:
“If men were wise, they would seek to become really female, would do intensive biological research that would lead to men, by means of operations on the brain and nervous system, being able to be transformed in psyche, as well as body, into women.” (Solanas)
“This line took my breath away. This was a vision of transsexuality as separatism, an image of how male-to-female gender transition might express not just disidentification with maleness but disaffiliation with men. Here, transition, like revolution, was recast in aesthetic terms, as if transsexual women decided to transition, not to ‘confirm’ some kind of innate gender identity, but because being a man is stupid and boring.” (Chu 2018)
“[…] the relations of production cannot for too long a time lag behind and be in a state of contradiction to the growth of the productive forces, inasmuch as the productive forces can develop in full measure only when the relations of production corres- pond to the character, the state of the productive forces and allow full scope for their development. Therefore, however much the relations of production may lag be- hind the development of the productive forces, they must, sooner or later, come into correspondence with— and actually do come into correspondence with—the level of development of the productive forces, the character of the productive forces. Otherwise we would have a fundamental violation of the unity of the productive forces and the relations of production within the system of production, a disruption of production as a whole, a crisis of production, a destruction of productive forces.” (Stalin 1938, 26)
Replace usage of ‘cool’ with ‘pink’
Abolition of Property and Undoing of racist colonialism and imperialism
2) The education of the masses (swim. Team, love)
“[A] just world must entail normalization; the promise of justice must attend not only to the seduction of power, but also to the anguish that knowledge must suppress difference as well as differance, that a fully just world is impossible, forever deferred and different from our projections, the undecidable in the face of which we must risk the decision that we can hear the other.” (Spivak 1999, 199)
The Inversion of Ethics
3) Catastrophe, Disaster, Trauma:
Part of the materiality of human conduct are the landscapes of trauma. They are the engine of repetition compulsion and must hence be seen as means of production of identity just as hormone factories and movie production firms. In this context, I find philosopher Jalal Toufic very much on point.
“[T]he surpassing disaster leads to the withdrawal not of everything, but of tradition, and touches not everyone, but a community, with the caveat that this community is reciprocally defined by it as the community of those affected by it, and this tradition is defined by it as that which withdraws as a result of the surpassing disaster.” (Toufic 2005, 81)
“Tradition is not merely what materially and ostensibly survived ‘the test’ of time: in normal times a nebulous entity despite the somewhat artificial process of canon-formation, tradition becomes delineated and specified by the surpassing disaster.” (Toufic 2005, 63)
“Tradition is what conjointly materially survived the surpassing disaster, was immaterially withdrawn by it, and had the fortune of being subsequently resurrected by artists, writers, and thinkers.” (Toufic 2005, 64)
Obviously, there are two kinds of ‘tradition’ in place: The “nebulous entity” of ‘things that we do’ on the one hand. The recovered, updated and re-utilized remnants of such “nebulous” activity on the other hand. Both are forms of repetition: The first repeats a former occurrence that is perceived as ‘actual,’ ‘present’ or ‘living’ – wearing lipstick for festive occasions is such a tradition: We know it, we do it, we ‘repeat’ what others have done before us, are doing around us, origin and purpose of such action are ‘nebulous,’ but nevertheless ‘clear’ in that they do not require justification, which, however, might be given in case of doubt. This first tradition survives ‘the test of time’ in that it keeps re-occurring. It is the slowest and most persistent of media: Practice, repetition, habit.
The second kind of tradition ‘repeats’ something which strictly speaking cannot be repeated. Its substantiating context, semantic underpinnings or generative web have fallen apart, withered away or been violently interrupted. This second kind of ‘repetition’ consequently re-inscribes the repeated element into the new context and therefore requires readjustment. Using lipstick in the Weimar republic is something very different from using it in present day Berlin – a whole ascription of lifestyle and a system of cultural signification comes with it (apart from the difference in material, means of production and accessibility). Hence, ways of application, accompanying clothes and behavior are to be adjusted. ‘Tradition’ can hence be understood as repetition of practices, the success of which changes, given the relative context that enables or incapacitates the repetition in question. If the success of a certain repetition cannot occur without serious re-inscription and hence re-adjustment, we can speak of a ‘withdrawal of tradition.’ How does such ‘withdrawal’ take place?
Luce deLire, Stalin at Home, Installation view 2018
“In the case of surpassing disasters, the material loss of many of the treasures of tradition not only through destruction but also through theft to the victor’s museums is exacerbated by immaterial withdrawal. Basing themselves on what has been resurrected, some of those who belong to the community of the surpassing disaster can contest the version of history edited by the victors, who, not being part of the community of the surpassing disaster, have the advantage that the works and documents are available to them without having to resurrect them.” (Toufic 2005, 12)
Sometimes history forks. Some continue repeating the habit, engaging in some ‘tradition’ or another. Some cannot. On the most simple level, ‘surpassing disaster’ names inaccessibility of semantic connection and cultural coherence that substantiates a set of cultural expressions. “[The surpassing disaster] cannot be ascertained by the number of casualties, the intensity of psychic traumas and the extent of material damage, but by whether we encounter in its aftermath symptoms of withdrawal of tradition.” (Toufic 2005, p.12) There seems to be no coherent way of systematizing the reasons for such withdrawal. If there was such an overarching theory, it would pertain to an overarching kind of ‘tradition’ that grants access to all other ‘traditions,’ severed from one another and their own predecessors as they are. That tradition does not exist. It is the very claim of the ‘surpassing disaster’ that sets of repeatable practices a.k.a. ‘traditions’ become incommensurable and hence incomprehensible to one another – and that that very incomprehensibility can be understood only from within the experience of such withdrawal. For the moment let me add what Toufic has to say about the response to a ‘surpassing disaster,’ a ‘withdrawal of tradition.’
“[…] [T]he three tasks of the filmmaker and/or artist and/or thinker and/or writer or and/or video maker concerning a surpassing disaster [are]: 1) to reveal the withdrawal of tradition, and therefore that a surpassing disaster has happened. […]; 2) to resurrect what has been withdrawn by the surpassing disaster, which is the task assigned to the protagonist, […]; 3) and, in some ominous periods, to imply symptomatically […] that a surpassing disaster is being prepared in scientific experiments in various laboratories and/or by governmental and/or nongovernmental covert operations, etc., thus functioning as an alarming implicit appeal for thoughtful intervention by the minority of contemporaries to prevent the imminent surpassing disaster from happening.” (Toufic 2005, 22)
Given that a withdrawal of tradition has already happened, three things are left for us to do: Mark the withdrawal, re-integrate the withdrawn (thereby generating another ‘tradition’ ‘supplementing’ the former’ in the best sense of that word), warn of the next ‘surpassing disaster.’ A fourth option, however, is omitted by Toufic: Produce a fresh disaster so as to intervene into the ongoing traditions and repetition compulsions. A new foundational, surpassing disaster what could that look like? Neoliberal capitalism is based on a cruel humanism: The assumption that life has a value in and of itself. This ‘value’ is manifested in a prohibition: Do not kill yourself. So then, the neoliberal subject is caught in a double bind, articulated ingeniously in the motto of the french revolution: ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity or Death.‘
The death penalty blends nomos (law) and bios (nature). Let us call this for example and for the moment the normalization of nature in a literal sense, meaning the conflation of what can be subject to normativity (object of ethics) with that which can be subject to description (object of science). Normalization of nature does not necessarily mean that everything besides the statistical average is cut out – this is just one form of it. Normalization is strictly speaking the submission to some kind of norm that can be manipulated. We can see how the possibility of the death penalty – whether allowed or disallowed – institutionalizes this kind of ‘normalization of nature.‘ The norm either (pro death penalty) claims the right of the normative sphere to end a life or (contra death penalty) claims the right to exempt life itself from itself (exempt life from the norm, grants an exemption). Sovereignty is the right to grant exceptions. The possibility of the death penalty – whether negative or affirmative – insist on absolute sovereignty. Thus, the disallowance of the death penalty does not make much of a difference with regard to the metaphysics engaged. Likewise, the supplementation of something that is taken as a given – the supplementation of life with the right to life – first and foremost installs the possibility for the right to be withdrawn, taken away, breached and wounded. The right to life harbors the possibility of rightful death already, harbors the necessary possibility of withdrawal of the right to life by those institutions guaranteeing it. This withdrawal can be called thanato-political – death by deprivation. Life in the western model is thanato-political in that it has universalized dependencies of all kinds to the point that their withdrawal are gradual death sentences – social death, cultural death, political death etc. But likewise, the other option of liberalism – ‘or Death‘ – is prohibited by ethical law. Do not kill yourself. Although you could. Although it might be the better option. Although you are cattle to consumption.
As the inversion of the death penalty, the prohibition of suicide reaches out into its other – bios in its inversion as thanatos. The prohibition of suicide – even if withdrawn – is hybris, a claim to total sovereignty. Moreover, in the prohibition of suicide, the ethical law engenders a specific kind of consciousness, a specific kind of subjectivity: Automobile Subjects, a tributary consciousness that cannot but go on up until it reaches total exhaustion. It will not fall short of trying to fit in, trying to find a way, trying to try and on and on.
Logonomocentrism is the universally positive answer to the question: ‘Will thinking it through make it better?’ Death penalty and prohibition of suicide are only the liminal instances of this general logic: The materialize reasons’s claim to universality. For obviously, it is the same with any legal or political or ethical or scientific or any intervention: Whether you are in prison or are afraid of going to prison and therefore slow down on the highway or you take progesterone or sugar or coffee or MDMA or brush your teeth – ‘Will thinking it through make it better?’ – ‘Yes.’ Is that problematic? Well, yes and no. Yes because it is false – ‘Every inventions produces its own accident.’ No because even if thought cryptomaterialistically, incorporating catastrophe, it’s still going to go wrong.
The problem of course is that as long as we are searching for a reason to leave the logonomocentristic order, we inevitably find ourselves within that order. That is because we are trying to show that it is going to be better not to search for how it is going to be better. That, in fact, is never going to happen. Logonomocentrism therefore installs and maintains itself. There is hence a blind spot in the ever scanning gaze of logonomocentrism. It cannot establish the validity of its own central question: ‘Will thinking it through make it better?’ This constitutive uncertainty then must haunt each and every one of its products – and does. Leaving its logic, however, is either impossible or does not require any argument or both. The prohibition of suicide though is not some arbitrary application of such logonomocentrism. It turns into law what ought to work in and of itself: That reason generates itself, life will find a way, there is no limit to the applicability of normalization. Simultaneously, the very existence of the prohibition of suicide – be it in written code, as social custom, moral obligation or ‘only reasonable conclusion’ – belies the conceptual system it is meant to back up: The inevitable possibility of suicide by everybody all the time materializes the internal limitation of all law-making, all normalization, all transgression of nomos into bios. Logonomocentrism is thriving on the denial of its founding uncertainty. The power of argumentation is inevitably broken. ‘Suicide’ is the embodiment of this uncertainty – and its execution stages the fundamental flawedness of the metaphysical backbone we are feeding of.
That is the starting point for a call for mass suicide of the privileged: Insofar as what-they-make-us-call-‘The Western Model’™ is inherently flawed, it is because of its logonomocentrism. As has been shown up and down throughout the 20th century, ‘the Western Model’™ aka logonomocentrism is the foundation for capitalism, christianity, colonialism, misogyny and many other vices of humankind. With the demise of liberalism we have a chance to eliminate that model and make space for something else.
Liberalism currently is dissolving from within. The torch of liberalism has been riding a dead horse for a long time. The disaster is not that Donald Trump got elected. The disaster is not that Erdogan, Putin, Assad, Hamas and Nethanjahu are in power. The disaster is that authoritarian regimes get elected by and through liberalism, that liberalism with its big heart for all of its consuming children has a place for everybody – every broken soul can articulate its own pain in the language of injustice and a lack of equality. You should have the right to refuse wedding cakes to gay people, should you not? You should have the right to punch nazis, should you not? You should have the right to stare at all women* alike – black, trans*, high or HIV-, should you not? You should have the right to ridicule the disabled, should you not? You should have the right to defend your totally idiosyncratic disgust, should you not? Once hegemony gathers under the cloak of oppression, we are knocking on the doors of fascism. After all, the Nazis were defending themselves against bolshevikJews, were they not? Once ‘opinion’ has come to mean ‘commodified thought’ to the point that each and any argument can be undermined with reference to feelings, faith, belief systems and representational equality, we are facing the auto-immunity of liberalism straight on: Liberalism has a love for its executioners. It is auto-immune. This used to mark its strength: ”Liberalism is weak, it requires our efforts.” But once the fear of world war and mass murder has faded out, the driving force of this effort fades away: The end of liberalism as we know it. Donald Trump is not the catastrophe. He merely delivers the message of the self destruction of liberalism: “That torch is now in our hands. And we will use it to light up the world.” (Trump 2017)
Terre Thaemlitz, Love Bomb, photo of video, 2005
In the early 90s, ‘class’ was recoded as cryptography, meaning that ‘property’ was locked in as a question of individuality: ‘collectivity’ ceased to mean something like ‘class conciousness,’ ‘pan-arabism,’ ‘global sisterhood’ or the like. ‘Collectivity’ came to mean ‘a set of individual interests that happen to have the same trajectory.’ While transported from factories and domestic struggles into the digital sphere, ’emancipation’ became ‘protection of privacy.’ ‘Privacy,’ however, basically means commodification of the self as manifestation of negative freedom: absence of external interference, restriction of usage to me and only me. There is nothing to stop this trajectory. Only international action could potentially take transnational capital on the leash. But current re-nationalization of politics, including the restriction of refugee politics into clusters of domestic affairs, exposes such international intervention as a narcissistic dream. Bottom line: ISIS, Trump, Weidel, Le Pen, Erdogan and Putin (to take some random string of synecdoches, itself but a synecdoche) play into the same direction as does the de-nationalization of money through cryptocurrencies and the privatization of the international juridical system in TTIP: The gradual unleashing of transnational capital. Redistribution of wealth from the bottom up. The world we are is deteriorating. Unfortunately, the world that is to follow is one step further into hell. Transnational neo-dynasties (based on elected affinities) will act on the back of the consuming masses all over the globe, with the aid and despite of national and international political organizations.
The crash of liberalism will hence most probably not be loud enough, not be hard enough to prevent its militarization, to re-cast the specter of death and terror that has fueled the fragile metastability of the latter half of the 20th century. If the militarization of such metaphysical catastrophe (auto-immunity) can be prevented, one possibility might be to exaggerate the autoimmune deterioration of liberalism to the point that its militarization becomes undesirable. Can an implosion of liberalism prevent its explosion? And potentially weaken it to the point that something else may take over? Can the internal self-destruction of liberalism be so loud that it will not sweep into the world, migrate into other regions, turn into world war? But rather unwrong the past with no strings attached?
If so, then political mass suicide is the liberal equivalent to terror. It is an act of philosophical protest against a world set up to fail. Of course, no liberal can really kill anybody else for political purposes – that would straight out contradict the laws of property, which are also the laws of life: non-interference is the basis of everything. That this rule is broken on a regular basis does not tamper with the idea of liberalism. If anything, however, there is not much to be retained from auto-immune liberal capitalism except the beneficiary relation to auto-immunity: Profit from everything! In mass suicide, there lies a benefit beyond the accumulation of capital …
Sergio Zevallos, A War Machine, Installation and Performance, Material, Duration and Dimensions variale, 2017 (detail)
Political mass suicide is the liberal equivalent to terror. A terror attack tries to exaggerate an ongoing conflict so as to minimize its complexity into a binary: Them or us. RAF, the weather underground, IRA, NSU – you name it. In this sense, ISIS, Putin, Wilders and Trump play in the same team: If anybody benefits from closed European borders, it is ISIS: On a material level, because besides external funding and trading antique artifacts, ISIS funds itself through taxes. And more inhabitants means more taxes. But more important than that, once Syrians could not cross the European border anymore (plus other conditions), they would have to choose: ISIS or Assad. That makes it much more likely for ISIS to recruit more people than if there were more options. Putin, in his support of Assad, seems to have made the same calculation.
However, exaggeration of an existing conflict would be the objective of mass suicide as well: The conflict would be the disintegration of liberalism from itself. Hence, there are no ‘two parties.’ There is merely self-digesting disunity. Hence, the ‘reduction’ cannot be to ‘two,’ but must be to ‘zero:’ Exit of liberalism with a bang!
Sergio Zevallos, A War Machine, Installation and Performance, Material, Duration and Dimensions variale, 2017 (detail)
If the mass suicide in question does not succeed in melting down ‘The Wester Model’™, it might still facilitate a tectonic shift. It is key to think of liberalism here as the vehicle for capitalism that it is: With its focus on the individual consumer as a subject of non-interference, liberalism has carved out the means for capitalistic subjectivation: the automobile (self-re-producing) consumer subject. Due to the inherent humanism just described, this subject can do anything but destroy itself. And insofar as anything else is mediated through consumption, no matter what we do, we will fuel the machine – the worse the better. The foundation of liberalism – the social contract – is based on this assumption: People will live anyway. In order to hit capitalism where it hurts, the consuming subject must die.
A new , pink sociality is required, one that is not founded upon a contractual relation so as to erode commodity relations from the foundation of this society. This pink totaliterian society must be founded upon the right for suicide. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity or Death – this time for real. For the right for suicide means the right not to consume. This right must be granted as a positive right, a right whose exertion must be facilitated, cannot be taken for granted. In this sense, ‘suicide’ as auto-annihilation is the direct inversion of ‘freedom’ as auto-mobility: It is weak and must be hatched like an egg. If understood in this way, suicide is the right for self-destruction, a legalization of death drive, incorporation of the inevitability of catastrophe. From a cryptomaterialistic perspective, it pours into law what is the case anyway. It hence eliminates a constant friction between each and every law on the one hand and the ways in which reality works on the other hand: That shit always goes wrong. Laws are written wrong, interpreted wrong, based on wrong assumptions. Life always fucks up, is beat down, ridden by bad luck and terrible accidents. The right for suicide in this new social contract will be the limit case for a general, new sentiment towards legality and life in general: That it is meant to fail, must be rehearsed, compared with earlier versions, that to fail in interesting ways is better than to get it just right etc. Disastrology is not merely a science – it is a lifestyle, a commitment to life itself. And that includes catastrophe, death drive, suicide. In order to make actual use of this right, of course, the exertion of it cannot have negative consequences. If I destroy my things, this cannot be stacked against me, if I put myself at risk, society must grant maximum shelter etc. In order to instantiate this right, a lawmaking act of the people is required – as atrocious and outrageous as is any other foundation of state by violent appropriation and metaphysical impossibility: It must be substantiated by brute facts. What could substantiate the need for fundamental reform of society by way of a legalization of death drive beyond consumption better, than a mass suicide of the privileged? Along the lines of the intersectional grid, the proposal is to invert the distribution of violence: toxic white hetero cis males first. _____________ would be a good candidate to lead the way. So would _____________. But _____________ would do just as well. So as to stick with cryptomaterialism, we can orient the intersectional grid towards material paradigms: The closer you are to _____________, _____________ or _____________, the more impact your suicidal protest will have. This new bourgeois revolution would find its foothold and performative justification in a real liberal act: Equal means for everybody – everybody can in principle kill themselves. Now they should. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity or Death.
Make sure you leave a note that confirms your intention.
4) Turn the lights out
“Marx’s theory of historical repetition,[…] turns on the following principle which does not seem to have been sufficiently understood by historians: historical repetition is neither a matter of analogy nor a concept produced by the reflection of historians, but above all a condition of historical action itself.“ (Deleuze 1968, 91)
The idea is this: Historical actors must naturally act according to past paradigms – they repeat whatever is there. This is the first kind of repetition. In that Castorf kept repeating a bluntly materialistic paradigm with all its traditional shortcomings (misogyny, brutality, machismo, whiteness etc.), he became a tragic figure – «first as tragedy …» Now, the repetition may try and do something new but fall short of doing so. This is the second kind of repetition. In that Dercon kept repeating the mistakes of neoliberal capitalism against all odds and red flags (massive critique, an unwilling audience, bad financial management), he became a comical figure – «then as farce …» (“Tartuffe” as Castorf says in Goetz/Laudenbach 2018). But it is in the repetition of the future, embedded as it is in the condition of the present, that incomparable other things are produced. This is the third repetition. This repetition is not recognizable as a repetition, but only as a condition of production. That is because it has become peculiar in incessantly rehearsing the future that lives in the past – the counter-paradigm.
i“Dass wir an der Volksbühne mit Video arbeiten, liegt daran, dass du [Bert Neumann, stage designer] irgendwann anfingst, geschlossene Räume oder sogar ein ganzes Haus auf die Bühne zu stellen, und uns damit einen ganz konkreten Grund geliefert hast, eine Kamera in die Hand zu nehmen […].” (Pollesch 2015)
i“[Specific difference] is productive, because the genera/species/’genre’ does not divide itself into differences [it does not fall apart], but is divided by the differences that within it produce corresponding spaces. That is why it [specific difference] is always cause, formal cause […].”
ii“Specific difference does not represent a universal concept for all singularities and all turns of difference (that is to say: an idea). It designates a particular moment, whence difference merely reconciles with conceptuality in general.”
iii“Instead of a [pre-established] thing that distinguishes itself from other things, we imagine something that distinguishes itself [my emphasis] – and while it distinguishes itself, it does not distinguish itself from it.”
iv“The nature of specific differences (the fact that they are) serves as foundation for this impossibility, prohibiting a relation of generic differences to being as their common genre/species (if being was one of its differences, it would be assimilable to those specific difference; but one could not say they they ‘are,’ because the genre/species does not attribute itself to the differences within itself).”
5That is also why SCUM becomes the new core of the conflict – p.70
6And here, a ring bells, metonymically referring us back to page 1: if non-individuality, “emotional deficiency” is indeed the reason for the worlds evil, how then could Solanas depend on the model of “insemination”, defending her “own” “message” to be one and just the one, that one, this one – on air. Thus, her concept of “individuality” and her “style of writing” turn out to be deeply related – yeah: I am tempted to say: they are one and the same, projecting upon later analysis of course …
7Read: Male is but the name for a specific configuration of emotional deficiency, as well as “emotional deficiency” is but a name for what we know as “male”.
8“The effect of fathers, in sum, has been to corrode the world with maleness.” p.45
9As if these were “identical” in any way …
10Indeed, this sequence could open ears for Solanas statement that “[t]o call a man an animal is to flatter him; he’s a machine, a walking dildo.” p.37
11See: Derrida, “The Ends of Man”, in: Margins of Philosophy