Benjamin Noys’ Malign Velocities: Accelerationism and Capitalism (Zero 2014) is a really impressive little book not because it offers a scathing critique of the accelerationists – a panzer tank to squash a gnat anyone? – nor because it pierces the commonplace anxiety that everything is speeding up – in a stagnant phase of capital accumulation, that speed hype is particularly transparent. No, I like the book because Noys loves the word equivocation and uses it with dextrous abandon. First of all Marx on India, p9, equivocal it ‘appears’, on the results of British colonial plunder in India (the footnote to Aijaz Ahmad will be worth following up, since limiting Marx’s discussion of the subcontinent to only the first of a great many NYDT articles on India perpetrates a fraud). This pattern is established early – the accelerationists believe the worst will produce the good. Variations on the theme abound – and it cannot but leave us saying ‘yes, but’. BUT, the best parts of the book do not owe much at all to the avowed ‘enemy’ here – the discussion of Bataille and Godard – Bataille is ‘equivocal’ on 76 – is the shit. Literally, and the excremental analysis of capitalism accords well with, after all, Marx’s own assessment of economics – he wanted to be done with that shit. Then a chapter on Brecht and Benjamin – ‘equivocal’ on 90 – gives a deep and careful evaluation of the train brake metaphor, observing actual wrecks and actual saves where the brake interrupts disaster. That Benjamin can be offered as the theorist impatient with waiting, 92, is perhaps somewhat sad given his end, but there is much to learn about the more cuddly of the Frankfurt School theorists. A pity though that Adorno is described as ‘mordant’ (41) only to be (unintentionally) plagiarised later on where the two torn halves of a culture that cannot be put back together is lifted from Adorno’s critique of Benjamin without acknowledgement (98 – Adorno to Benjamin 18 March 1936). Equivocation indeed, but who can disagree with great bon mots such as ‘The “left” failing to go all the way to capitalism (and not all the way to the left…)’ that would exempt us from heading with Nick Land towards ‘neo-China’? Instead, this book will tarry with Lyotard, Sade, Stalin, Lovecraft, D&G, Gibson, Detroit Techno and Pynchon (with Adorno again too simply ‘pessimistic’ 45 – could we not be equivocal here too?). The lessons on the USSR and Trotsky are well-taken, the section on Lukács, HArdt/NeGri, Badiou impressive, the Benjamin heartfelt. Noys’ will neither be rushing to the handbrake nor pushing the pedal to the floor – his opposition to privatization and outsourcing of services, for campaigns which offer a return to public control, to ‘protect benefits’, to ‘sustain social and collective forms of support’ and to ‘attack’ the way ‘work is supposed to account for our own self-reproduction’ and its ‘ideological and material role’ in the ‘validation of citizenship’ (99) all seem eminently reasonable and sound parts of a Marxist critique. It is not rocket science. My petty concerns about a citation for Adorno do not disqualify this as a near flawless book, except perhaps for the false publicity it gives the woolly thinking of accelerations, futurists and fascists beneath Noys’ elephant gun. Crush them in the egg I agree – I suppose there need be no equivocation there. This is a welcome call to join the struggle against the total commodification of our lives.
Hey, you might want to go to this, even give a paper at this… get in touch with Sophie here.
Click on the image to see change.org petition, in Turkish.
Campaign to Change the street name of Karakolhane to NUH KÖKLÜ Caddesi
On Tuesday night, February 17th 2015, our friend the journalist Nuh Köklü was stabbed because a snowball hit the window of a shopkeeper. The murderer is encouraged by a slogan of President Erdoğan, which says: ‘My local shopkeeper is soldier, police and judge, if necessary’. In Turkey people like Nuh are always under the threat of a government which legitimizes aggression against anyone with a point of view that does not conform. This is displayed even in street names.
We now want to change the street name of Karakolhane Caddesi, which refers to a prison famous for torture in the 90s, to the Name of NUH KÖKLÜ.
English (and German in comments) statement on horrific snowball killing here.
What can we learn about contemporary politics of work, service economy and culture industry from an old book from 1867? We can read – precisely in Chapter 25 of Marx’s Capital – a long disquisition on the industrial reserve army (LW628 section three of chapter 25). Much of the chapter is also on wages (and therefor probably moved from the once promised book on wages) and was included to emphasise the trick of accumulated capital – as unpaid labour power of a collective kind. If today the contribution economy, algorithms of advertising and circulation, and struggles over democracy in the media and on the street are questions of precarious life, does it matter that many have misunderstood Marx’s argument, his movement from individual worker to collective worker, and simple reproduction to capitalist reproduction, in Capital? If his argument is credited, then the ‘prekärer’ is the condition of all precarious workers (P793 D669 LW640), and all reproduction within capitalism is precarious. We then have to consider the proximity of the floating, latent and stagnant reserve army that keeps everyone ducking and diving to stay in place, keeps aspirations in check, keeps wages down, and is an unavoidable question of inside and outside that must always be put under pressure. Where Marx calls for workers and unemployed to organise together, we miss a trick if the sociological analysis remains at the level of the individual not collective. In this analysis, Capital is many, but the ‘we’ is more. What does this mean 150 years later for the organisation of social movements such that may or may not be linked to Occupy (Gezi, Umbrella, Indignados, Dataran).
Earlier – here.
Here are my notes, thinking out loud. Sorry if there seems like I am telling you what you already told us in your text – but there are things I need to clarify for myself, hence the ‘you said this’, then ‘this’ roundabouts. I think it is, well, you surely know already I think its great, so…
I think it is a really important thing to discuss this issue of reproduction first. Not third… and we should think of this challenge – to put reproduction at the centre of the analysis – as something that Marx does perhaps too slowly for readers today, but it is there in his Umschlag in the second half of the book. Umschlag is transformation, or tipping point, and there is a moment in the book – well, many really, but clear ones in chapter 16 – collective worker – and chapter 23 – where this is crucial. [and of course, as well as change, Umschlag is envelope, and all those associations of coat, skin, husk need to be held to the side].
We should dwell on what has happened here in terms of the unfolding analysis of capitalism in the book and why it matters for how we describe things – like commodification of all aspects of life, like labour power, like skills, training, discipline… I would risk, hesitantly, saying that I think Marx leads us to a possibly unavoidable misconstrual when he does not explicitly talk about reproduction of the class relation until section seven of Capital, and even there still sets aside the place of child rearing, women etc – he says he will come back to it… and perhaps does – this is not my main point here even as it is possible to make the case that though Marx several times mentions the matter of reproduction of the working class, he did not deal in detail until parts of volume 2 with the division 1 and division 2 of consumption/labour fund stuff, and even then… Nevertheless there are comments in several of the chapters in vol 1, especially at the beginning of chapter 17 where he notes the ‘great variations in the cost of reproducing the workers family’ (P.656 D.542) only to immediately exclude consideration till later…. then in chapter 22 consideration is required – ‘therefore we must take into account’ – of factors that impact upon the value of labour power: ‘the price and extent of the prime necessities of life’, as developed at a certain stage in history, the ‘cost of training the workers’, the ‘part played by women and children’ (P701, D.583)….
‘Under capitalism, we reproduce human beings as labour power, or as potential labour power. We reproduce people as workers. As class subjects – who are disciplined, educated, skilled and moulded – to as the saying goes “to know their place”. Be it to rule, to be the manager or to work like a dog for someone else’ (Barbagallo 2014).
My point is going to be that this is good, to talk of labour power, yet there is a problem as far as it stands for simple reproduction in the abstract individual sense – a mother wiping snot from a nose – and stands for simple production in the abstract (and fictive, necessary for the analysis) simple production of value for a single capital. The story unfolds though, that’s the point. Marx had to explain labour power first. He starts with the single labourer confronting the single capitalist in the market (actually he starts with the single commodity, then moves to market. He starts with simple production so as to explain labour power, in the chapter on the working day he moves from the voice of one worker to the workers banded together to demand the ten hour day. I am stressing a pattern here. So when he gets to talk about how a single capital must already find the worker in place, ready to sell labour capacity (and only having that to sell) there has been a similar shift from simple reproduction to complex reproduction, from one worker to the collective worker and from one capital to many capitals. This happens in chapters 16, 17, 22, 23, but it was already happening in Working Day, in Co-operation. – labour, whether paid or unpaid, is social.
The task is to radically reorganise the work, to revalue it, to bring it to the centre of our lives and our struggles. This is as much to identify all that is wrong with currently existing reproduction as much as it is to reclaim all that is necessary. From Black feminist scholars – such as bell hooks and Patricia hills Collins – we can also think of reproduction as belonging to a radical ‘homeplace’ – a place that is necessary to nurture, to value and to support – as a place in which we can retreat to and recharge our bodies after the cruelties and harm of capitalist work – and crucially where we can make plans, learn from each other to have courage to resist, and to teach our children to not only survive capitalism but to revolt against its discipline, rhythms and institutions of power.” (Barbagallo 2014 FF)