Tag Archives: marxism

Capital in Manga

Image

Note for the preservation workshop NYC

Globalization and preservation: two abstract and abstracting processes that oftentimes are critiqued as a perspective that leaves out people, lived experience, specificity, the street, the intangible and heterotopic flux. A google earth view of the world chimes well with an alienated populace passing each other anonymously in the crowded streamlined furrows of the contemporary metropolis, with heritage and city planners seemingly more concerned with museumification and/or a sleek shining renewal that foregrounds commercial interests and markets (national cultural heritage at best, new privatised shopping malls at the other end). Being in the city that a famous Italian neo-realist film-maker once said he would not film until cinemas screens were 70 mm vertical rather than horizontal, can I be forgiven for noting that although the New York moment of September 11th 2001 was striking for many reasons, the one that struck me was the way people unusually stopped in the street to look up together as if at a screen event (just as we did worldwide, by a kind of proxy experience – which is not at all yet globalization from below). Far be it for me to celebrate some transitory globalisation of Gotham spirit or to somehow favourably–perversely applaud the brutal crisis that brought a population together in myriad forms of protest (in New York itself, across the US, and worldwide) and which has been so viciously abused in various ways by homeland and patriot action since then. What it does say to me is that there are more detailed perspectives on Global events that should be the preserve of those that work this terrain.

So I ask, naively, what of those people on the street, the entire corpus of urban studies that starts with street life – two examples, in NYC, Dunier’s book Sidewalk; in Kolkata, Bhaskar Mukhopadhyay’s work on street food.

Who are the people here? That question drives my interest in a more overtly political project inspired by a certain reading of Marx. Gayatri Spivak points out that Marx’s project in Kapital is to teach his implied reader to see through the trick of commodity fetishism. The members of the German social democratic workers party were to see through the facade of capital and grasp its inner workings, exploitation and expropriation of their own creative energies, in a way that would lead from critique to transformation – and then interregnums would burst asunder, chains be cast aside, a new continent of thought and new possibilities of life engaged. Communist new dawn.

Before then, Marx must write and explain. In the Working Day chapter – the longest in Kapital, the hinge of the book, in my mind the equivalent moment of ethnographic work that a street-life study might engage, an exhaustive and emotive survey – Marx, drawing from Leonard Horner and the Factory Inspector reports, tells the story of the scandalous conditions of workers in circumstances barely distinguished from the worst examples of wage slavery ever seen. Leonard Horner of course was caught in a policy cleft between the parliamentary negotiations of reformers and resistance to reform. The entire struggle of the Working Day, and the ‘modest Magna Carta’ of the 8 hour agreement that cuts through this negotiation, is a foundation for the second half of the book (and the subsequent volumes) which show different ways in which Capital responds to worker’s struggles, using technology, organisation, geographic dispersal and more, to maintain its advantage. Marx’s message here is that the workers must go further than negotiations about hours of wages… Of course based on detail, but ambitious too. Engels already had made the first moves in examining the Condition of the Working Class in Manchester, in 1844, what Marx adds is a theorised agenda for further researched and engaged action around these conditions. The book is not a description of what is that should remain fixed, but a call to action, an elaborated manifesto, and agenda for a future that would preserve life, through struggle.

Rush forward to Lenin’s Bolshevik party and the factory exposures, to Mao reporting on the peasantry from Hunan, to Adorno’s talk of Parallel Sociology, to the Italian workerist tradition examining class composition, through to contemporary explorations by groups like Kolinko: call centre inquiry and ‘mapping’ exercises by activist groups in sectors as diverse as higher education, banking, sex work and service sector precarity like waitressing and similar. All research projects with a program.

Can the engagement with people in these last studies – that try to report, as did Marx and Engels, on the imbrications of lived experience with the great machinations of globalization – be offered as an example for our work? To work in the way that only occasionally and under extreme circumstances falls to us today when we are shocked into standing, stop and stare, looking closely and wondering at the spectacular facade upon which global processes are screened? In the oft-replayed destruction of some buildings, a globally overwritten image, there is perhaps something potent still that leads us to a philosophy that is not just contemplation, to a sociology that is not just interpretation, to a policy engagement that is not just negotiation. A project and a campaign may be? Is that still possible? Is that what might be done, as a way to think about our work, and to work, on work – hi ho, hi ho?

Transpontine

This lovely sepia toned arch-ive pic-ture is from the very fine, super reg-ular, eleg-ant and who-lly inimitable Transpontine blog. If you do not read it you should, and be impressed by the stamina for posting that is sadly lacking from this humble servant of verbage. And a very fine resource it is, for pictures, trinkets, fun and music history of South East London.

CU71012A “Cultural Studies and Capitalism”

Hi – If you are coming to my course on Marx’s Capital in 2010 (starts Jan 14th), for the first lecture it would be helpful if you have seen, or again seen, Orson Welles’ film ‘Citizen Kane’. And if you know someone who is going to do this course and wanted to do some Xmas period (or Mao’s birthday – 26 Dec) shopping and get them a present, it would not hurt to get them a box set of “Battlestar Galactica”. – J

Lecture course Spring 2010 – Centre for Cultural Studies.

CU71012A “Cultural Studies and Capitalism”

Lecturer: Professor John Hutnyk (thursdays 11am-1pm [Tom's seminars 3-5]).

This course involves a close reading of Karl Marx’s Capital (Volume One). The connections between cultural studies and critiques of capitalism are considered in an interdisciplinary context (cinema studies, anthropology, musicology, international relations, and philosophy) which reaches from Marx through to Film Studies, from ethnographic approaches to Heidegger, from anarchism and surrealism to German critical theory and poststructuralism/post-colonialism/post-early-for-christmas. Topics covered include: alienation, commodification, production, technology, education, subsumption, anti-imperialism, anti-war movement and complicity. Using a series of illustrative films (documentary and fiction) and key theoretical texts (read alongside the text of Capital), we examine contemporary capitalism as it shifts, changes, lurches through its very late 20th and early 21st century manifestations – we will look at how cultural studies copes with (or does not cope with) class struggle, anti-colonialism, new subjectivities, cultural politics, media, virtual and corporate worlds.

Indicative reading:

T Adorno, The Culture Industry

A Ahmad, In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures

M. Taussig My Cocaine Museum

G Bataille, The Accursed Share

K Marx, Capital: Volume One

Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto

G Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason

S Zizek, Revolution at the Gates: Selected Writings of Lenin from 1917

S Lotringer (ed), Hatred of Capitalism: A Reader

Many of the lectures will include visual material. Very occasionally this may be part of a feature film or a longer documentary and on such occasion the rest of the film should be viewed in the Library. Usually a short screening will occur in the second hour of the scheduled lecture.

The main reading will be the relevant chapter or chapters of Capital each week. Do also read the footnotes, they are sometimes quite entertaining (attacks on ‘moneybags’, comments on Shakespeare, notes on bamboo ‘thrashings’, and celebrations of the work of Leonard Horner, factory inspector). The key secondary text will be in a reader pack available from the CCS office

Mode of Assessment: This course is assessed by a 5,000 word essay to be submitted to the Centre for Cultural Studies office early in April 2010.

The Internationale in its many varied forms. Many Languages, One Struggle – Workers of the World Unite. Nothing to lose but chains.

The Very Idea of Communism.

draftprog-2tI am posting here this Open Letter from Raymond Lotta of the Revolutionary Communist Party USA to the attendees of the upcoming Birkbeck ‘On the Idea of Communism’ conference (see here) because I really like the critique implied in the phrase ‘back to the 18th century’ thinking. I can of course understand why the comm-fest programme could not be changed late in the day to accommodate BoB-thought. I mean, even Jean Luc Nancy seems to not have a formal place: in the program he just seems to be ‘in attendance’ – I hope he gets a chair to sit on, or maybe he has his own TV show and will do a roving reporter thing?? People have complained that its too expensive – 100 quid for a spot in a 900 seat hall, you do the math – but I think its a bargain just to be able to hear all these pundits, and to see letters like this appear as well. If we could just knock over a few of the big banks… [oops, the boards of directors of the banks already did that for themselves - 1.5 million a year ain't a bad salary - gnnng]

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE SPEAKERS OF THE “IDEA OF COMMUNISM” CONFERENCE AT BIRKBECK COLLEGE, MARCH

13-15 Dear Colleagues, The convocation of an international conference on the Idea of Communism is certainly salutary.

The world cries out for revolution. It would only make sense that Bob Avakian’s new synthesis be part of a major discussion of the idea of communism. But thus far, a presentation about this new synthesis has been unacceptably excluded from the program of the conference.

Communism is at a crossroads.

In the face of the reversals of the revolutions in the Soviet Union and China, we have seen a range of political-ideological responses that tend to fall into three broad currents:

First, there are those who religiously cling to the experience and theory of the first wave of socialist revolution of the 20th century—not summing up problems and shortcomings, not moving forward, but circling the wagons.

Second, there are those who ignore or dismiss real scientific analysis of the contradictions of the socialist transition. They look for inspiration and orientation even further back into the past–to the 18th century and the proclaimed democratic and egalitarian ideals and social models of the bourgeois epoch. One has to ask what it signifies that at a conference ostensibly addressing the “idea of communism,” Rousseau, Kant, and Jefferson are defining reference points. Where does that take you in the world, and didn’t Marx (and Marxism) effect a rupture with all that already? The only difference is that now this is being labeled communism.

Third, there is what Bob Avakian has been doing. He is not only the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, which has its sights set on the revolutionary seizure of power and the radical transformation of society, but also a visionary theorist. He has been acting on the understanding that communist revolution is the only way out of this madness and horror, and taking up the challenge of forging the path forward and further developing Marxism as a living and critical revolutionary science–so that communists are indeed a vanguard of the future, not a residue of the past. This involves a more scientific and visionary sense of communism, a reenvisioned model of socialist society and exercise of leadership, and related issues of epistemology and ethics.

For Avakian, there is both continuity with the first wave of socialist revolution in the 20th century, whose high water mark was the Cultural Revolution, and rupture with wrong conceptions and methodology. This includes continuation of Mao’s ruptures with Stalin but also, in some respects, rupture beyond the ways that Mao himself was influenced, though secondarily, by the dominant mode of thinking within the communist movement under the leadership of Stalin. Avakian’s writings and talks can be accessed at BobAvakian.net.

Given that the Idea of Communism conference is very much within this “back to the 18th century” framework, it would be highly important that a presentation representing Bob Avakian’s new synthesis be heard at this conference. It would also be highly important that other theorizations be interrogated and contested from this standpoint.

Again, the world cries out for revolution and the emancipation of humanity. What is the actual content of communism? What is the necessary theoretical framework for going forward? It is in this spirit of gaining clarity that I call on the conference organizers to include a talk on Bob Avakian’s new synthesis as part the formal program. I would be quite willing to give such a presentation. I also call on speakers and participants to bring their influence to bear.

For a new world,

Raymond Lotta

Vote Vote Vote

dogcd1sIts a long time since I looked at the blog stats for Trinketization, but I was provoked to do so by wordpress booster ad page’s calculated posting of words like ‘vote’ yesterday, no doubt catching plenty of traffic not looking for any other material than the obvious. Anyway, the stats page is probably interesting only to me (and not very) – but some of the top posts, with 500 plus visitors, are the newer ones – ie the Sonic Borders post, the Attack the Headquarters ones, and so on. But in terms of voting, I guess its the ones that came in with the lowest number of hits that strike me as in need of attention. There are of course some near empty posts that deserve neglect, but others… I had not thought, for example, that this post on Asian Communists in the UK: ‘Dialectic of here and there‘, would be at the bottom of the list. As a gesture of support for a lonely post I link to it here.

Oh, and this one too – often read on my old site, but neglected by wordpress. Coffee! Yes we can.

Budapest Keynote 13 June 2008

If you just happen to be in Budapest next week…

John Hutnyk – Keynote for the Conference “Framing Struggles”

“Framing Struggles or Containing Fears?

- Performative Paranoia and the Manufacture of Demons”.

Theatricality can sometimes out-perform theory. This presentation considers how insights from performance studies might provide a critical line on the range of theory-driven post-September 11 commentary that seeks to deal with the meaning of the war of terror and issues of public security. In particular the writings of Slavoj Zizek, Alain Badiou and Susan Buck-Morss will be examined, alongside the critical positions from media commentators and cultural artists. It seems that from the world of performance arts there might be a more nuanced understanding of the way the stories unfold, with implications for how we imagine scholarship and explanatory frameworks. The culture of fear creates demons, but a culture of struggle perhaps questions such framings.

Friday 13 June 17.30 PM (followed by a reception).

FRAMING STRUGGLES: CRITICAL APPROACHES TO ANTHROPOLOGY AND SOCIOLOGY.

2ND CEU Sociology & Social Anthropology Graduate Conference

Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology

Central European University

Nador utca 9.

Budapest H-1051, Hungary

Marx and Philosophy – Mon 2 June, 2008

Marx and Philosophy
June 2nd 2008

A one day workshop reflecting on issues relating to globalisation, resistance, value and the Interpretation of Capital.


The day will be geared towards discussion, and is organised around presentations dealing with the following topics: global community; civil disobedience and its tactical evaluation; recent appropriation of Marx’s concepts; the content and implications of Marx’s work, and his relation to philosophy.

Speakers and timetable

2.00 – 3.15
Jonathan Brookes: “Marx and Global Community”
Sam Meaden: “A Critical Appraisal of the ‘Reclaim the Streets’ Movement”

(3.15 – 3.30 – break)

3.30 – 4.30
Ben Polhill: “Antonio Negri’s Social Ontology of Real Subsumption”
Nick Gray and Rob Lucas: “Formal and Real Subsumption – Logical or Historical Categories?”

(4.30 – 5.00 – break)

5.00 – 6.30
Nicole Pepperell: “When is it Safe to Read Capital?”
Alberto Toscano: response

Venue: Room 137, Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmiths College, New Cross, London SE14 6NW

The event is hosted by the Centre for Cultural Studies and the Graduate School of Goldsmiths College, University of London.

For any enquiries please contact Tom Bunyard at: cup01tb@gold.ac.uk

Geras Marks Marx

Norman Geras, on Normblog, has offered comment on Jeremy Seabrook’s god-complex in a post that is interesting and positive in the main part, and as it has attracted local interest in South London, I repost my comment here.

“Is it a report card on Marx that we want to have Norman G deliver? He says “Marx got many things wrong. But some he got right”. Thus red pen corrections replace red critique. Lets do a proper exam – where are we on the development of political capacity today? Consider Geras’s list: ‘political capacity: the result of characteristics it [the working class] possessed [past tense] – geographical concentration, trade union and political organization, literacy, technical competence, political and economic experience’. (Nepal aside) I wonder if we can recognise ‘increasing’ capacity today, or just immaterial skills, good typing, complicity and reification. Geras cites ‘populations educated, increasingly aware, competent – and not well-shaped for tolerating being dictated to’. This seems like wishful thinking in the context of the murder/death/kill I see on my screen every night. I of course want to transduce wishful thinking into something more, but we need also to make a real assessment of Left failings. An encouragement grade might be to mark this as: good effort but need to try harder”.

I recognise the terrible pathos of writing like this during exam time, and my efforts to drink sufficient coffee so that I can face the pile of scripts I have to grade, possibly in the sunshine in the bourgeois garden of Toadsmouth, may be making me a bit frantic. But, things are not so simple that we can just unthinkingly nod in assent to those who might like to say that Marx was enamored with capitalism, that there was some sort of dialectical embrace, that the proletariat was a shifting category, that working class political organization is … well, yes, of course all this is worthy of debate on the blogs – but the pathos I mostly feel is that there is also much to be said for being more organized than the simple trade unionism of yore, and didn’t Marx say something like this as well…

Some sort of commentary also tranduced over to Rough Theory, with this. And more on AHQ to come here soon.

Fair warning for Canadians

Fun-da-mentalMay 6 2008

Concordia’s Department of Communication Studies presents:

John Hutnyk, Academic Director of the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths College, University of London

Pantomime Terror: UK Hip Hop at War (or Paranoia in London: ‘Lookout, he’s behind you!’)

When: Tuesday, May 6, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Where: Room LB 646, McConnell Library Building, 1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd., W.

Performance studies and scholarship on popular culture has found a new more dangerous context.

With terror alerts and constant announcements at train stations and airports in the UK, where the Queen’s subjects are called upon to ‘report any suspicious baggage’; with stop and search security policing focused upon Muslims (and unarmed Brazilians shot on the London underground); and with restrictions on civil liberties and ‘limits’ to freedom proclaimed as necessary, it is now clear that spaces for critical debate are mortally threatened in contemporary, tolerant, civilized Britain.

This discussion addresses new performance work by diasporic world music stalwarts Fun-da-mental and the drum and bass outfit Asian Dub Foundation, relating to insurgency struggles, anti-colonialism and political freedom in the UK.

The presentation will argue for an engaged critique of “culture” and assess a certain distance or gap between political expression and the tamed versions of multiculturalism accepted by/acceptable in the British marketplace.

Examples from the music industry reception of ‘difficult’ music and creative engagement are evaluated in the context of the global terror wars and a new paranoia that appears endemic on the streets of London today.\

The lecture is open to all students and faculty and is co-sponsored by the Department of Communication Studies and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture (CISSC).

For more information, contact the Communications Studies Department on (514) 848-2424 ext. 2555.


and

Seminar: May 6 2008

The Specialized Individualized Programs (SIP) and the PhD in Humanities Program (HUMA) present:

A seminar with John Hutnyk: Marx Writing Money

When: Tuesday, May 6, 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
Where: Room H-1120, Hall Building, 1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd., W.

John Hutnyk will lead a seminar discussion of the often read, and very often decontextualized, sections on Fetish and on Money in Marx’s Capital.

In order to make the argument he proposes that participants read or reread some of the framing sentences Marx offers.

A more activist-oriented appreciation of both Marx’s project and his method, as well as evaluating the place of money in his analysis, might thereby be possible — alongside a critique of some prominent commentators similar to the gentle chiding given to Jacques Derrida by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.

In this way it is hoped that something of Marx’s style and his engagement will be made apparent.

Participants are invited to read roughly 50 pages from the Penguin English language edition of Marx’s Capital — pp.126-131; pp.163-177; pp.198-209; pp.221-231; & pp.247-257. [And the German if you can, but the seminar will be conducted in English.]

The seminar is open to all students and faculty.

For more information, contact the Communications Studies Department on (514) 848-2424 ext. 2555.
Posted on April 29, 2008

Adorno to Benjamin

The “Complete Correspondence of Benjamin and Adorno” (Polity 1999 or Surkamp 199towers1.jpg4) is always a good read on a cold rainy [even snowing] day.

Adorno to Benjamin:

Teddy writes to Walter trying to wean him from his trinket mania, get him to sort out the Arcades, and get him on a boat to New York. Along the way he invents a theory of trinketization. Keen to affirm his solidarity with Benjamin, Adorno is careful not to insist on any orthodox version of Marxism, but he also warns against an abdication from Marxist theory:

‘The impression which your entire study conveys – and not only to me with my Arcades orthodoxy – is that you have here done violence upon yourself. Your solidarity with the Institute, which pleases no-one more than myself, has led you to pay the kind of tributes to Marxism which are appropriate neither to Marxism nor to yourself. Not appropriate to Marxism because the mediation through the entire social process is missing and because of a superstitious tendency to attribute to mere material enumeration a power of illumination which really belongs to theoretical construction … you have denied yourself your boldest and most fruitful ideas through a kind of pre-censorship in accordance with materialist categories (which by no means correspond to Marxist ones)’ (Adorno to Benjamin 10 November 1938, p 284).

This suggests that Benjamin was merely coquetting with the forms of Marxist theory and not thinking them through (coquetting is Marx’s diminutive word in Capital for where he used the language and style of Hegel, in an analysis that went well beyond Hegel, see the Forward to Marx 1867/1967). On Adorno’s reading (of the draft), Benjamin might be confirmed as ‘the [nice, harmless, cute] Marxist that you could take home to meet your mother’ (as someone, I forget who, once said). Adorno is teasing and pushing him to be more inventive and rigorous – at the same time – with his connections. And it is connections to which he is attuned, noting:

‘ a close connection between those places where your essay falls behind its own a priori and its relationship to dialectical materialism … Let me express myself in as simple an Hegelian manner as possible. Unless I am very much mistaken, your dialectic is lacking in one thing: mediation’ (Adorno to Benjamin 10 November 1938, p 282).

Mediation then would be the theorization of connections between the ‘mere’ material observations and fascinations of the Arcades, of the baubles that interest the flaneur, of the observations of the analyst, and of the notations of the writer – mediation is the vehicle of analysis. Adorno marks this as a phantasmagorical and mystical error:

Your ‘anthropological’ materialism ‘harbours a profoundly romantic element … The “mediation” which I miss and find obscured by materialistic-historiographical evocation, is simply the theory which your study has omitted. But the omission of theory affects the empirical material itself’ (Adorno to Benjamin 10 November 1938, Benjamin/Adorno p 283).

At pains not to offend his friend, but also careful to call for something more, Adorno rephrases the same point again and again:

‘To express this another way: the theological motif of calling things by their names tends to switch into the wide-eyed presentation of mere facts. If one wanted to put it rather drastically, one could say your study is located at the crossroads of magic and positivism. This spot is bewitched. Only theory could break this spell – your own resolute and salutarily speculative theory. It is simply the claim of this theory that I bring against you here’ (Adorno to Benjamin 10 November 1938, Benjamin/Adorno 283).

Adorno goes on to write The Dialectic of Enlightenment with Horkheimer, Benjamin ends up sitting bleary-eyed far too long in the cafés of Marseilles, and finally does not make it over the mountain. The suitcase is lost, we do not know if these prods in the direction of theory had recast the manuscript.

A Very Public Sociologist

A Very Public Sociologist

subtitled: Sociology Politics Sectariana Introversion

Seems like a very smart and very discerning blog, so go visit

Text message: what does Marx have to say about Jamie Oliver style school lunches?

At the beginning of chapter 16, more than half way through the first volume of Capital, Marx seems very often to be thinking of food. We have seen him worried about a coat, perhaps shivering in the reading room of the British Museum, but here he turns his attention to education and school dinners. Well, perhaps not school dinners, but dinners and schooling of the workers. For several chapters he is working out the ways capital seeks to extract greater surplus value through modifications of the skill base of the working class. Primarily this means education, training, discipline, but can also mean increasing productivity by means of the robust health – nutrition – of the workforce. An army marches on its stomach of course, and Marx by chapter 24 is quoting John Stuart Mill on wages as a necessary fund for consumption. Then there is an anonymous eighteenth century authority who complains that the workers consume too many luxuries – if only ‘our poor’ would live less luxuriously, consuming ‘brandy, gin, tea, sugar, foreign fruit, strong beer, printed linens, snuff, tobacco etc’ (An Essay on Trade and Commerce, 1770 p44-46, Marx 1867/1967:748). Not to deny the workers such pleasures out of sheer spite, the effort here, Marx notes, is to ‘force down English wages’. Some twenty years later, a certain Count Rumford (a ‘remarkable philosopher’ and ‘American humbug, the ennobled Yankee [also known as] Benjamin Thompson’) goes so far as to suggest cheaper substitutes for the expensive tastes of the workers and prepares a soup recipe which Marx details with the care of a post-Dickensian Jamie Oliver advising the Labour Party on school meals: ‘5 lb. of barley-meal, 7&1/2d.; 5 lb. of Indian corn, 6&1/4d.; 3d. worth of red herring,; 1d. salt 1d. vinegar, 2d. pepper and sweet herbs, in all 20&3/4d.; make a soup for 64 men, and at the median price of barley and of Indian corn … this soup may be provided at 1/4d. the portion of 20 ounces’ (Thompson quoted in Marx 1867/1967:749 – Marx then adds a footnote on Scottish workers who are ‘better’ educated than English workers and do not refuse to live. ‘very comfortably, for months together’ upon oat-meal mixed with water and salt – Eden quoted in Marx 1867/1967:749n).

Marx confirms that the adulteration of food in advanced capitalism has rendered such Rumfordian measures superfluous. We have already seen Marx reporting on bread mixed with flour, sawdust, vermin and the like, in the 1873 version of Capital now also records the innovations of capitalist medicine that were revealed as part of the inquiries relevant to the Parliamentary Commission Select Committee on the Adulteration of Food Act 1872, where ‘adulteration even of medicines is the rule, not the exception. For example, the examination of thirty-four specimens of opium, bought from the same number of different chemists in London, showed that thirty-one were adulterated with poppy-heads, wheat-flour, gum, clay, sand etc. Several specimens did not contain an atom of morphine’ (Marx 1867/1967:750n). It is no doubt some comfort to junkies in London today to know that the Afghan wars have increased poppy production and street heroin is at least not worse than that which was once sold legally on the high street.

Further comments then on workers being paid in part in bread – and other examples of ‘direct robbery from the worker’s necessary consumption fund’ (Marx 1867/1967:751).

Consumption of food by workers tends towards the most measly portions. Although the reproduction of labour-power is left ‘to the worker’s drives for self-preservation and propagation, this is continually under threat since all the capitalist cares for is to reduce the worker’s individual consumption to the necessary minimum’ (Marx 1867/1967:718). In the South African mines this can be a crude minimum of beans and bread, all the better for being substantial rather than less substantial (tastier) fare, since these workers must carry heavy loads of ore to the surface. ‘The consumption of food by a beast of burden does not become any less a necessary aspect of the production process because the beast enjoys what it eats’ (Marx 1867/1967:718). But to maintain itself, and to reproduce itself, the workers are only indirectly managed – though more and more by the nanny state of present times, so also in the Parliamentary Reports of Marx’s day – these are but ‘invisible threads’ (Marx 1867/1967:719) binding wage-labourers to their puppet-master owners.

Alongside the forcing down of wages to levels of French and Dutch workers (Engels adds that the lower remunerated Chinese workers had become the standard – third German edition Marx 1867/1967:749n), the innovations of science and technology which increase the pressure under which the workers work, the ‘main burden’ of the partial depreciation of fixed capital through competition and innovation ‘falls on the worker, in whose increased exploitation the capitalist seeks compensation for his loss’ (Marx 1867/1967:754). The consequence of civil war amongst competing capitals is ever more malnourished workers, even as these workers must be accustomed to greater skills, efficiencies, streamlinings and co-ordinations.

For the capitalist, this is a necessity in several ways – an initial drive for self-enrichment – avarice – then becomes ‘a business necessity’ as the ‘exhibition of wealth’ enters as luxury into capital’s ‘expenses of representation’. This attracts credit, since the capitalist must expand: ‘Moreover, the capitalist gets rich, not, like the miser, in proportion to his personal labour and restricted consumption, but at the same rate at which he squeezes out labour-power from others, and compels the worker to renounce all the enjoyments of life’. But while we can be sure that bastard money-bags is enjoying this luxury, it is somehow also a farce of contradiction, his enjoyment restrained by ‘sordid avarice and anxious calculating lurking in the background … a Faustian conflict’ (Marx 1867/1967:741). Of course there is no need to feel sympathy for this pact with the devil.

School

So back to chapter 16, Marx is thinking of food but also education. An insightful passage compares different ways of producing what is essential for the capitalist – the production not of commodities, but of surplus-value. Workers are employed by capital to produce surplus-value, not just to produce. And the capitalist does not care so much what work or what commodities are made, so long as surplus-value, and increasing amounts of it, is the consequence. Then this citation, which deserves to be entered on the statues of every university today:

‘a schoolmaster is a productive labourer when, in addition to belabouring the heads of his pupils, he works himself into the ground to enrich the owner of the school. That the latter has laid out his capital in a teaching factory, instead of a sausage factory, makes no difference to the relation’ (Marx 1867/1967:644).

Of course today a university and many schools are run by the state, and while a lecturer does not produce surplus value through lecturing, but rather adds value to the students future labour by way of increased productivity, university today is also a teaching factory insofar as degrees are sold for international income, training programs are delivered for industry free of charge, and a massive infrastructure – a knowledge industry – arises upon the very idea of education.

The value of labour-power is in part determined by the ‘cost of developing that power, which varies with the mode of production’ (Marx 1867/1967:654). The economies of labour-time earnt by increased productivity are of course soon adopted by other capitals and become standard – the value of labour power varies in cost – ‘an increase in the productivity of labour causes a fall in the value of labour-power and a consequent rise in surplus-value’ (Marx 1867/1967:657) – even as factors such as training, instruction, even education become more important and increase the cost of labour-power – though of course also vary across different processes of production. The university today can be said to produce differentially trained levels of workers – alpha knowledge workers, beta service workers, Delta drones (see Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, or the film Gattica).

So there is organisation, maintenance, training and reproduction (sex, childrearing, housework, community) of the workforce as crucial factors that modify rates of surplus-value extraction. It should be no surprise then that the capitalists as a class – the State – take a direct interest in such matters: labour regulation, national health, education and training, family. In addition, as we shall see later, migration and unemployment are concerns that become greatly important to capital at different times.

Yet also continually:

‘The reproduction of the working class implies at the same time the transmission and accumulation of skills from one generation to another. The capitalist regards the existence of such a skilled working class as one of the conditions of production which belong to him (Marx 1867/1967:719-720).

The next part of the discussion should be about discipline of the workforce,
Invention – p 677. Especially innovation as a tool for suppression of the workers, and R&D, City Planning, Science parks, maybe even Graduate Schools etc…

{Picture is a Deutsche Telecom ad from 1997}

Comrade Gaurav Speaks At Goldsmiths College In London

From WPRM

“Professor John Hutnyk of the Goldsmiths College Centre for Culture Studies gave a brief introduction.

Comrade Gaurav (C.P. Gajurel), who is in charge of the International Bureau of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)-CPN (M)-made an important speech at Goldsmiths College in London on Thursday 15/11/07. Comrade Gaurav made a series of important and inspiring points. His speech was well-received by an audience of students and British sympathisers with the revolution in Nepal.

Comrade Gaurav urged a united struggle by the CPN (M) and the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) against the Congress-led Interim government.

However, Comrade Gaurav stated that the CPN (M) did not want to take power at this current time. He argued that in the present situation, the party could do little to benefit the people, if it was part of the government. However, he was confident of the CPN (M) achieving power at the appropriate time.

Comrade Gaurav explained that Nepal Congress was in a serious dilemma at the moment. This is because of the fact that they have lost a recent vote in the Interim Parliament on the issue of the establishment of a republic and a fully proportional voting system. If Congress sticks to its position, it will be going against the will of the people. If it changes its position, this will be seen as a significant reversal of its policy.

It was made clear by Comrade Gaurav that the CPN (M) only sees the parliamentary struggle as one front in its fight for revolution. As Marxists, they do not believe that power can be achieved by parliamentary means alone. The decision to engage in parliamentary struggle arose from the need to win over the urban masses. Critics who ask why the CPN (M) did not continue the People’s War in 2006 fail to acknowledge this need. Despite its power in the countryside, the CPN (M) was not politically strong enough to lead an urban revolt in 2006 to complete the revolution.

Comrade Gaurav spoke of the dangers of foreign intervention led by US imperialism to prevent the success of the revolution in Nepal. Comrade Gaurav pointed out that Nepal was perfectly able to withstand an economic blockade by means of economic self-reliance and through the determined spirit of the people. Comrade Gaurav also pointed out that the disruption to the regional balance of power caused by intervention in Nepal would not be tolerated by interested parties among the Asian nations.

Finally, Comrade Gaurav stressed that the CPN (M) was making its revolution for all the people of the world. The main enemy of the people of Nepal is U.S. imperialism, he stated. Comrade Gaurav hoped that the example of the CPN (M) would inspire people around the world in the struggle against imperialism.

The meeting was hosted by Goldsmiths College Centre for Culture Studies, Nepali Samaj and the World People’s Resistance Movement”

plastic stuff

“The admonitions to be happy, voiced in concert by the scientifically epicurean sanatorium-director and the highly strung propaganda chiefs of the entertainment industry, have about them the fury of the father berating his children for not rushing joyously downstairs when he comes home from his office. It is part of the mechanism of domination to forbid recognition of the suffering it produces, and there is a straight line of development between the gospel of happiness and the construction of camps of extermination so far off in Poland that each of our own countrymen can convince himself that he cannot hear the screams of pain. That is the model of an unhampered capacity for happiness. He who calls it by its name will be told gloatingly by psycho-analysis that it is just his Oedipus complex” (Adorno Minima Moralia p62-3).

This is old Adorno in elegiac grumpy mood. From a great book, redoing his schtick about the camps. I think the same points might be made today perhaps about trinkets, about plastic toy workshops in the South, brought here by container, packaged ready for Christmas, to teach kids to love capitalism.

So, lets talk about why we want to play with plastic. Materialist comprehensions of the commodity, objects, souvenirs or trinkets (these are not the same) are different to those of the psychoanalytic approach, which takes individuals and their drives, desires and motives into first account. The fetish is not just a deviant displacement, not just a sexual misrecognition (mommy-daddy) but a feint or trick that hides a deeper social malaise to do with distribution and ethics. I know, but…

Plenty of space for a long convoluted discussion of value, labour, circuits, modifications to the formula, etc etc, but we might get locked up for too long in the study. Someone will ask: ‘Why shouldn’t everyone get to shop, get a load of things, trinketize?’ In Australia during the Soviet era, I remember there used to be an advertisement that went something like: “in some countries they don’t have advertising”. A forlorn family sat bored in a spartan room. Indeed, versions of the queues for bread or the wait for a state-manufactured car are still the loaded ideological tropes of anti-communism, as seen in bitter-sweet triumphalist films like “Goodbye Lenin”. In the Grundrisse Marx devotes considerable pages to the impact of money on ‘traditional’ societies (pp145-172) but, again, who is to say that people with feathers should not want to shop? The problem is not scarcity or abundance of things, though this may be a factor, but the distribution thereof, their production for profit, the manufacture of needs (for things) and decisions about what things are made when and where. More than wanting beads and blankets are at stake.

The problem is not the lack of (plastic) things in various sectors of the world, soon to be rectified by the opening of a hyper-mega-super-market chain very close by, but that the abundance and success of capitalism amounts only to this: it presents itself as an immense collection of commodities. If we at all see this as a success, even as we critique it, (‘who wants all this stuff’ – Deleuze and Guattari) we have given ourselves over to commodity fetishism through and through.

It may bore some people to death, but I’m interested again in the coding of flows arguments D&G offer in Anti-Oedipus – the territorial machine and the technical machine need the social machine to activate them – though we have to understand these machines as interrelated, there can be no move in space or technology without the social, without memory, without labour. Flows must be coded through the machine, marked, inscribed – and so perhaps capitalism is this coding, but it is not always the same, it has fashions and trends – history – and is not a ‘haunting’ such that ‘in a sense capitalism has haunted all forms of society, but it haunts them as their terryfying nightmare, it is the dread they feel of a flow that would elude their codes’ (A-O p140). Codes? Trinkets to be calculated, to be inscribed and counted in some way (general equivalent, abstraction, numbers). But with capitalism this inscription-calculus becomes an abstract coded/coding flow of desire, which in a way makes Deleuze and Guattari improbably advocates of a return through Marxism to psychoanalysis.

Was that Teddy A I saw in the sports sction of the department store on saturday? Was he buying golf clubs? A set of tees or balls for xmas then.

When what we might be doing instead is sideways inscribing, perhaps reinscribing, twisting desire and flow elsewhere – like these two likely lads – anti-war protest coppers (go figure!) at May Day last year [they say 'US-UK Force No to America' - bad grammar, but the sentiment is clear, no? see pic].

Welles Hearst Capital

In reading Capital, if anything about beginnings should be considered necessary, it might be good just to start with what is immediately at hand. There is much much discussion and theory about this, and its probably naïve to simply say that materialism might start with things themselves, but why not start with the objects, commodities, souvenirs or detritus of our lives? There surely is enough stuff of which to take account in our contemporary world. Plenty of junk. Marx himself has much to say on waste and shit, and in volume three of Capital it becomes crucial (see here)

But we are not at volume three as yet, by any means, though it is a key to the beginning of volume one, where Marx starts with a immense collection of commodities, its is also crucial that materialism as material-ism would have to take account of all this stuff from the perspective of the whole, of totality (Lukacs). This will never be easy or straightforward – an impossible accounting, which must nevertheless be our aim. Even if documentation of all this stuff is forever incomplete and that in all the varied and multiple efforts, interpretation is, or should be, always contested, to do so still betrays a totalizing ambition. We might also call this a reckoning to come. The collection is messianic, the collector divine (Benjamin).

But that is to get ahead of things a little, the task here is to start to read a text, and then to relate it to our present conjuncture.

There are many possible starts.

I want to begin with something, or even someone, who might seem the total antithesis of the celebrated critic of capitalism. Marx was not a rich man, however well bred, well married, well educated, he was in and out of the pawn shop, knew a lot, intimately, about debt, borrowing, credit, and – as is very well known – relied upon a certain moneybags called Freddy Engels very often to get by. Engels though, whatever his peculiar foibles in taking up with two sisters, riding to hounds, effecting a mourning jacket and partiality to fine liqueurs, does not deserve to be lampooned as much as the figure with which I want to begin. I choose a character from the not too far removed history of Capitalism, though glossed through a film – I have in mind the life of William Randolph Hearst. Moneybags. As portrayed by Orson Welles in the film Citizen Kane.

Kane is (stuff about snow globes… as in post here and here).


Is it possible to reclaim Citizen Kane from all the readings that have passed over it so much? What residue will need to be cleared away so as to see this film anew? Is that even possible? So many biographies of Welles, but an oblique angular take on this overburdened film can perhaps still reveal something about our perspective today.

Hearst, however, cannot be reclaimed. Conrad suggests that Hearst papers created both the gossip column and celebrity (Conrad 2OO3:145). Andre Bazin Points out that the controversy over Kane as Hearst was a consequence of the rivalry between Hearst gossip columnist Louella Parsons and her bitter enemy Hedda Hopper. (Bazin 1950/1991:57). Conrad also notes, a page earlier, that Welles had written a forward to Marion Davies posthumously published memoir of her time with Hearst at San Simeon.

Was Hearst’s hostility to Kane reason for the industry to fear exposure, through Hearst papers, of Hollywood’s foibles – sex, payola – or rather its employment of ‘aliens at the expense of American labour’ (Leaming 1985:209)? His support for the working man may well have got Hearst called communist in his youth, but it was always a misnomer.

The importance of rumour in the reception of Kane is clear, but what then of the unspoken exclusions in the Hearst story, the bits of narrative not voiced: Hearst as moneybags plundering the material culture of the world, the arrogance of his taking photos in Luxor where the flash damages the art of millennia… Hearst thought WW1 a financial venture for Wall Street tycoons and his defence of regular soldiers, even deserters, and pro-Irish anti-imperialists was impressive – for example his campaign in support of British diplomat Roger Casement who was eventually hung for seeking German military support for Irish independence. Such campaigning was however not without financial benefit to Hearst’s own purse in the form of ever growing newspaper sales to those who approved of his anti corruption stance. His position on WW2 entailed a meeting with Hitler, but an abstentionism that became a liability. He rapidly became an advocate of anti-communism in the post WW2 era and had campaigned against pro-Soviet U. S. Films from the early forties, such as ‘Mission to Moscow’ and ‘North Star’ (Pizzitola 2002:409).

Hearst, an anti-communist, muck-raking, armaments and finance capital moneybags with a vendetta and a deep resentment (Rosebud)? What then of his concern about ‘alien’ labour? What of his early ‘investigative’ journalism? Despite denials by Hearst that he orchestrated it, Kane, the film, was branded communist, only saw restricted release, got bad early press, and took several years before being recognised the ‘greatest film of all time’ etc etc… the rest is cinema history. Welles was investigated by FBI agent Hoover (Pizzitola 2002:398) and his directing career never recovered, despite The Magnificent Ambersons and Touch of Evil, he was forever dogged by studio interference and funding troubles.

So lets find that image from the film that encodes it all – a hammer end Sickle on the façade of the Inquirer (see accompanying still). Then the multiple perspectives of the Kane film can be twisted to do allegorical service for a reading of Capital (“hat tip Rough Theory“). Immediately following the newsreel sequence that (re)starts the the film after Kane’s snow globe death, the camera moves through a neon sign and down through a glass window to Susan’s table and the first of five or six interviews which structure the rest of the film. These are not consecutive, temporally concurrent, and can even be contradictory, they do not add up to an explanation of the life of Kane, yet by the end, when the ice of the snow globe has turned to the fire of the furnace that consumes all that collected junk, we do perhaps know a little more than before, can examine things in a more nuanced way, and we maybe even get to know something of Hearst.

The different windows on the story of Kane also offer an allegorical way into reading Marx’s Capital – the initial newsreel section something like the commodity fetish chapter, a platform that warns, as does the very first sentence, that things are not what they appear, that the wealth of societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails only presents itself as an immense collection of commodities

Although the film begins and ends with the No trespassing Sign, it is Welles I think who does want, and wants us, to trespass. His camera passes through the chain mesh, and again through various windows and signs to examine and inquire. This is something like the metaphoric architecture that governs the presentation of Das Kapital. The theatrical references to drawing back curtains (before the wizard of Oz, duex ex machina), the ocular, vision and camera lucida that ‘at first look’… implies always a second, and third, look, the ghost commentary so beloved of Derrida, and much more.

Bazin, Andre 1950 Orson Welles

Leaming, Barbara 1985 Orson Welles, London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson

Conrad, Peter 2003 Orson Welles: the Stories of His Life, London: Faber and Faber.

Pizzitola, Louis 2002 Hearst Over Hollywood: Power, Passion and Propaganda in the Movies, New York: Columbia University Press.

Dangerous times demand courageous voices. Bob Avakian.

The following statement is from Engage! A Committee to Project and Protect the Voice of Bob Avakian…

Dangerous times demand courageous voices.

Bob Avakian is such a voice.

Bob Avakian combines an unsparing critique of the history and current direction of American society with a sweeping view of world history and the potential for humanity. He has brought forth a fresh, relevant and compelling approach to Marxism, deeply analyzing the history of the Communist movement and the socialist revolutions and upholds their achievements. At the same time, he honestly confronts and criticizes what he views as their shortcomings, opening up new paths of inquiry in the process and initiating dialogue with people who hold a wide range of views. He’s addressing the burning problems before society from a unique vantage point, and we consider his revolutionary analysis and solutions to be an important and necessary part of the ferment and discourse required in this society and the world in this dark time. While those of us signing this statement do not necessarily agree with all of his views, we have come away from encounters with Avakian provoked and enriched in our own thinking, and we invite others to hear and engage that voice.
Bob Avakian is also the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA; as such he not only theorizes about the world, but plays a special role in organizing and leading that change. He’s been called a “long-distance runner in the freedom struggle against imperialism, racism and capitalism” and he draws on deep connections and engagement with people from all walks of life and all corners of the earth. All this informs and animates his work.

Unfortunately, such voices in this country are, and have been, all too frequently the objects of suppression and repression. This repressive edge in American society has been particularly brought to bear against those who advocate revolution and especially those who do so effectively. Surveillance, harassment, suppression, political trials, prison terms, exile and even assassination have been the fates of many revolutionaries throughout U.S. history and many of those measures have, in fact, been visited upon Avakian. The current administration has instituted serious repressive measures like the Patriot Act, instituted the use of preventive detention and isolation of those whom the president deems to be “terrorist”, and has created a climate where, for example, radical or even liberal professors find their reputations and even their livelihoods under assault; all this makes the ability of Bob Avakian to freely function even more of a concern. The statement by the German pastor Martin Niemoller – which begins “first they came for the communists, and I did nothing because I was not a communist” and which goes on to describe how Niemoller did nothing while Hitler peeled away the victims of the Nazi regime one at a time, until there was no one left to defend Niemoller when his time came – sounds with particular resonance today.

Thus, in addition to calling on people to engage with the thoughts of Bob Avakian and bring them into what needs to be a rich and diverse dialogue, we are also serving notice to this government that we intend to defend his right to freely advocate and organize for his views, and to engage broadly with people about those views

engagewbobavakian@yahoo.com
http://www.engagewithbobavakian.org

‘Dangerous times demand courageous voices. Bob Avakian is such a voice’ has been signed by many – See Here.

Release Jose-Maria Sison!

CoRIM received the following urgent message:

Release Jose-Maria Sison!

The Committee of the Revolutionary
Internationalist Movement learned with anger and
outrage of the arrest in the Netherlands of
Jose-Maria Sison by the Dutch authorities.
Comrade Sison was the founding Chairman of the
Communist Party of the Philippines in 1968 and
has remained a life-long opponent of imperialism
and reaction and leader of the Filipino people’s
struggles. It is for these reasons and no other
that comrade Sison has been hounded by successive
reactionary governments in the Philippines. US
imperialism and the European Union have also
tried to stick the “terrorist” label on comrade
Sison, despite the fact that the struggle he has
been associated with in the Philippines is widely
known, even by the reactionary news media, to
have the support of millions of Filipinos from
all walks of life.

The arrest of comrade Sison is not only a major
blow to the struggle of the Filipino people, it
is also an attack on the thousands of
revolutionaries and other political activists
from around the world who have settled in Europe
because of severe political persecution in their
home countries. If the Dutch authorities succeed
in bringing comrade Sison to trial, it will have
ominous, more widespread implications.

The CoRIM, on behalf of the entire Revolutionary
Internationalist Movement, calls upon all
communist, revolutionary and progressive forces
and individuals to raise their voices in protest
to demand that the Dutch authorities release
Jose-Maria Sison, drop all charges, and cease
their political persecution of him.

Committee of the Revolutionary Internationalist
Movement
30 August 2007

Theory of Shit

In Volume III of Capital Marx has a little section discussing the utilisation of ‘waste’ (Abfällen) in the production process. Capitalists search for economies at the best of times (i.e., when they gloat over ever greater extraction of surplus value) – but this becomes more urgent for them when the costs of production increase, by agitation or because of rises in the cost of raw materials. Nothing worse than an event that jeopardises rates of profit, hence protections, tariffs, search for new cheaper sources of material, associations to regulate production, and so on. These are joined with technical innovations, streamlined organisation, adulteration of products to stretch it further, cut corners, various dodges and wheezes and all manner of gains (the wheezing is of those who must work longer hours).

Maybe waste is not always the best way to think of this, or rather it should be thought of more fundamentally, faced more explicitly. Felton Shortall at Goldsmiths last month talked of Marx getting on with writing his ‘economic shit’. I’ve not yet tracked down that reference, but was amused to find on page 77 of the English translation this discussion:

‘The same is true of the second big source of economy in the conditions of production. We refer to the reconversion of the excretions of production, the so-called waste, into new elements of the production process, either of the same, or of some other line of industry; to the processes by which this so-called excretion is thrown back into the cycle of production, and consequently, consumption, whether productive or individual … It is the attendant abundance of this waste which renders it available again for commerce and thereby turns it into new elements of production’ (Vol.III:79-80 L&W)

‘Exkremente’ is the word Marx uses, which is then termed Abfällen in the gloss, ‘so-called waste’. There is something to be said for a critique of recycling that would need to be raised here – I am not anti-environmentalism except where its bosses’ environmentalism – an ideology of productivity gains will not save the planet. Here the recycling is a consequence of increased production as industry expands, and is a direct consequence of the capitalists interest in off-setting the rise in cost of raw materials (perhaps because uppity suppliers of such materials wanted a better deal for their stuff). Whatever the case, the consequence of Exkremental production recalls Marx’s discussion in Volume I where the bread the workers got to eat was shown – by those heroic factory inspectors, such as the immortal Leonard Horner – to be adulterated with all manner of gunk- eg., sawdust, chalk, and worse:

‘Englishmen, always well up in the Bible, knew well enough that man, unless by elective grace a capitalist, or landlord, or sinecurist, is commanded to eat his bread by the sweat of his brow, but they did not know that he had to eat daily in his bread a certain quantity of human perspiration mixed with the discharge of abscesses, cobwebs, dead black-beetles and putrid German yeast, without counting alum, sand, and other agreeable mineral elements’ (Vol.I:249 Intnl Pubs)

There then follows an extended discussion of the working conditions of bakers (hungry Marx – later he dwells on a recipe for soup!) and of the adulteration of other consumer products. As he also does later on in Vol III, here he notes that waste products find their first uses in medicine: – according to Parliamentary Commission reports on the adulteration of means of subsistence, even opium was found to contain wheat flour, gum, clay and sand, with several of the examined samples containing ‘not an atom of morphia’ (Vol.I:601n). Bad quality drugs is still too often the rule.

The discussion of waste in Volume III has to do with large scale production and economies at a time where needs must ‘force’ the capitalist to find ways to maintain rates of profit amidst various constraints or while necessarily expanding production – [we are very soon getting to crisis theory and the tendency of the rate of profit to fall etc.,]. I am entertained here to observe that discussions of excrement often come at times of impending crisis and capitalist paranoia.

So I think this excrement-crisis linkage could be claimed as basis for understanding the turn to shit in some of the work of, say, Georges Bataille (World Wars, depression), or Dominique Laport (1960s France, 1968 as a whole – all that horrid tie-die). In popular culture too – Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket springs to mind – ‘you will find yourself in a world of shit’ as the Marines trudge through the wasteland they made of Vietnam – and in the 1980s Salmon Rushdie’s Padma the dung-lotus asks: ‘what’s the point of all your writing-shitting’ (Midnight’s Children). [Another time I need to go back to read Artaud - 'my woks are only waste-matter, once they leave my body they cannot stand up by themselves' in Derrida Writing & Difference].

But do we have a satisfactory theorist of shit who can relate it to crisis and economics? What is all the discussion of pollution, climate change and carbon footprints telling us today about our decrepit world (what’s a carbon footprint if not code for something else?). Mick Taussig’s book Defacement looks closely into the pan to reveal the public secrets at stake – we all shit, we don’t discuss it (but some turd has nicked my copy). Maybe I want a theory of rubbish that treats this global muck. A waste processing theory, a sewer-age. All too predictable (regular) I am sure, but what a wonderful world in which we live.

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