nikki moore

Posts Tagged ‘Karl Marx’

the capital subject is redundant

In Love, philosophy as biography, Subjection on May 10, 2009 at 12:15 pm

there was an argument of sorts yesterday.  yet i think we can agree, at least, that I was not there.

i will not be here either.  but perhaps we can say i will have been here?

honestly, now, i don’t remember the question.  i said something about a chicken.  jill stauffer says (to the chicken or the egg) …the chicken comes from the future.  in that case i was and may be again, that chicken.  we do agree, i think, that even so i’ll never know it.

repetition repetition

so today i propose to reinsert myself in and through repetition.  perhaps that was the fault?  perhaps as jean-luc marion and alain badiou contend i cannot show up if i only show up once.  maybe i(t) should be said twice: repetition. repetition.  (already preceeded by “once more, once more”..?) perhaps, however, as peter eisenmann realized when he began to sign his names and projects twice, it is an underwriting of what refuses to be underwritten… or as Derrida points out in the copyright has no insurer.

no in.surance.

so .i. re-

petition: trans. to make a request or supplication to; spec. to address a written petition to an authority in respect of a particular cause; to make a formal application to a court.  

(oxford english dictionary)

which court, which authority?  are we not already speaking of a certain sort of religion?

…however little may be known of religion in the singular, we do know that it is always a response and responsibility that it is always a response and responsibility that is prescribed, not chosen freely in an act of pure and abstractly autonomous will.  there is no doubt that it implies freedom, will and responsibility but let us try to think this; will and freedom without autonomy.  Whether it is a question of sacredness, sacrificiality or of faith, the other makes the law, the law is other: to give ourselves back, and up, to the other.  To every other and to the utterly other.

(Derrida, Jacques.  “Faith and Knowledge,” Acts of Religion.  p 71)

will and freedom without autonomy.  we know where this goes.  kant at least.  calvin most definitely.  can we escape this?  is it the ‘you’ that promises escape and what of promising?  

it hurts, but stay here with me.  i am(is) always a false promise.  i am always an outside.  a temporary convergence, you could say a binding, or even a gathering… 

Assuring oneself of a provenance of etymologies.  the best illustration would be given by the divergence concerning the two possible etymological sources of the word religio: (a) relegere, from leger (“harvest, gather”): Ciceronian tradition continued by W. Otto, J.-B Hofmann, Benveniste; (b) religare, from ligare (“to tie, bind”).  this tradition would go from lactantius and tertullian to kobbert, ernout-meillet, pauly wissowa.  in addition to the fact that etymology never provides a law and only provides material for thinking on the condition that it allows itself to be thought as well, we shall attempt later to define the implication or tendency <charge> common to the two sources of meaning thus distinguished.  beyond a case of simple synonyms, the two semantic sources perhaps overlap.  they would even repeat one another not far from what in truth would be the origin of repetition, which is to say, the division of the same.            

(Derrida, Jacques.  “Faith and Knowledge,” Acts of Religion, p. 71 bold: mine)

and of course the bold is never mine.  it isn’t derrida’s either.  and it is.  he shares it with another.  (and if i had a footnote in this format perhaps we could think jean-luc nancy’s sharing: at once a division amongst and a common between.  like sharing grapes.  but without a footnote..?  here in the body, is that possible?)

religare, relegere.  to bind and to gather.  

in the definition of “reflecting faith” and of what binds the idea of pure morality indissolubly to Christian revealation, Kant recurs to the logic of a simple principle, that which we cited a moment ago verbatim: in order to conduct oneself in a moral manner, one must act as though God did not exist or no longer concerned himself with our salvation.  

(Derrida, Jacques.  “Faith and Knowledge,” Acts of Religion, p. 51)

here i have stumbled into something perhaps i should not have seen.  an intimacy between Derrida and Zizek so profound, an intimacy that moves from profundity to surface, all surface.  

My desperate problem is how to draw, how to extract the Christian notion of redemption from this financial transaction logic.  This is what I’m desperately looking for.    (Zizek, Slavoj.  On Divine Self-Limitation and Revolutionary Love, an Interview at Syracuse University)


When Marx holds the critique of religion to be the premise of all ideology-critique, when he holds religion to be the ideology par excellence, even for the matrix of all ideology and of the very movement of fetishization, does his position not fall, whether he  would have wanted it or not, within the parergonal framework of this kind of rational criticism?  Or rather, more plausible but also more difficult to demonstrate, does he not already deconstruct the fundamentally Christian axiomatics of Kant? This could be one of our questions, the most obscure one no doubt, because it is not at all certain that the very principles of the Marxist critique do not still appeal to a hererogeneity between faith and knowledge, between practical justice and cognition.  This heterogeneity, by the way, may ultimately not be irreducible to the inspiration or to the spirit of Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone.  All the more since these figures of evil discredit, as much as the accredit, the “credit” which is the act of faith.  The exclude as much as they explain, they demand perhpas more than ever this recourse to religion, to the principle of faith, even if it is only that of a radically fiduciary form of the “reflecting faith” already mentioned. 

Derrida, Jacques.  “Faith and Knowledge,” Acts of Religion, p. 53)

996 words into this essay, this repetition, I am racking up quite a debt. but the point is that “I” is only ever a racking up, a ratcheting up of a debt that cannot be paid.  faith, credit, fiduciary terms: we are talking about promise.  unfulfillable promise.  a promise to respond, to respond.ability. this is the bottom line to any subject.  these are the terms of any subjectivity.  and this is a bank filled with empty accounts.  blank ledgers, even if not blank slates.  

given such poverty – why talk in these terms?  why speak in terms of debt or guilt, … in any of these broke.n discourses?  

perhaps that is why i can rarely speak.  i work in words to, what… nudge? invade from the inside? (didn’t deleuze call it buggery?) perhaps. i am . viral.  parasitical?  penicillin? 

insertions, injections, implosions… subjectivity, like capitalism, promises the impossible and untenable (undesirable) universal. it/they promise and project, hedging bets on markets that fall through working hands like grains of sand.silicon.sand.  the ‘as if’, the creation of smooth space proposes a life that is. elsewhere.  ‘this can’t be all that there is’.  yet if we can let capitalism run its full course, could we not let the subject do (when it already is never and exactly) the same?

to cry or to mop over spilled milk…

In Uncategorized on April 15, 2009 at 2:41 pm

Hegel’s man is the type who starts off by crying over split milk (the Unhappy Consciousness confronted by the objective world).  Then he beings to ‘philosophise’ about it, and dries his eye, because he has come to know the situation as it really is.  Marx’s man will immediately point out that this is all very well, but the milk is still on the floor.  He will reach for the mop and do something about it.  Hegel’s man, however, still retains one potent defence.  he will regard the antics of his friend with an amused contempt, and point out to him how silly it is to get one’s knew dirty trying to clean the floor, when all the situation demands is a little high-level reflection.

From Marx’s Paris Writings – John MaGuire

though the floor would get muddled, we could read this with Heidegger’s ‘Letter on Humanism’ introducing not only Martin, but Jean Paul Sartre as well.  And then with Sartre, Beauvoir and already with Heidegger, Arendt.  

Sartre and Marx would mop.  Heidegger and Hegel would stand by and smirk, though hidden cameras might show the mops’ earlier arrivals via Heidegger’s hand.  Oddly, Arendt might call Zizek in, as inevitably he’d be waiting outside, pacing and wondering what Hitchcock would do with all these scenes and actors.

I’m being silly.  and then again, I’m not.  

What can be said about philosophy, about action, about thinking… now.  In a recent talk in NYC, Zizek said he was reading Lacan in order to bring the German Idealists back, knowing full well and admitting that such an action is really far more provocative, risque and risky then any of the art movements who claim to be pushing boarders and buttons in their skin bare works.  But is it really risky?  John Maguire reading Marx might say that until Zizek picks up the mop, he is all thought and no action.  Yet Marx himself, a prolific writer and theorist troubled those milky waters long before Maguire began to write about him.  

I’d like to side with Heidegger in the way he nullified the mind/body thought/action distinction.  Yet isn’t this where Heidegger’s own political alliances (with National Socialism) call us all to question? 

And isn’t the question precisely that of the nature of the call?

In a brilliant analysis of Heidegger’s understanding of the call of conscience, Avital Ronell pulls no punches: her debut text, the Telephone Book  proposes a multiplicity of splits, not of mind and body, or thought and action, but of mind and mind, and mind again.  We know this splitting as schizophrenia and her point is that the one called is never one.  The caller is never singular and someone is always on the line, be it an operator on the switch or a censor on the prowl… the caller and the called are never alone, are never only two, are never less than multiple.

what does this do to Praxis?  are we left either to smirk or to mop?  to we smirk first, and mop later?  do we smirk and find someone else to mop?  

i am asking.  i am acting.  i am asking.

void transaction

In Uncategorized on April 6, 2009 at 10:45 pm

there is something i am trying to say.

i could start it around amy hollywood: hysterical, heretical women… speaking, over-speaking and hyper-signifying.

i could start it with marx as well, the gaping empty proletariat upon which history was to be made, to be written.

i could work it from badiou’s void, from heidegger’s nothing, lacan’s lack…

kierkegaard’s don juan.

yes, now i’ve hit it.

or they  have.

or they’d like to…

irigaray, though i don’t agree with her bases, begins these rounds.  the open, the clearing, the forgotten void is that from which all thinking comes and fills and endlessly forgets.  she could have gone further.  but she didn’t have to as marx, badiou, heidegger, lacan… they had already gone the distance.  

what distance?  what’s the point?

what we’ve looked at as an obsession with death, with violent clearings, with absence, lack and emptiness is, well… we’ve been here before

and again i’m just circling.  

coming up empty handed…

what about sublimation?  kristeva’s creativity?  

yes, this sounds right for the moment: filling the void, it is, like christianity in nietzsche in zupancic 

hyperspeak.  not the panacea, the numbing, but its opposite.  the influx of joy, passion, meaning and making.

we don’t call it hyperdrive any more, so what… networking?

is this social networking? making links to fill time and space?  

yes, maybe.  and what is specific about the way that is male, or at least not female is the insemination.  the dispersal into what appears to be nothing.  and certainly isn’t (if it is woman) and is (if it is lacan’s real, heidegger’s nothing)

now, now we are getting no.where.

the little virgin of no.thing

In Subjection on November 25, 2008 at 8:32 pm

man at zero point.  woman as lack.  

nietzsche said we would rather will nothing than not will at all… 

but are we thus fascinated, is this simply a hole-y enterprise?  something of nihilism, and then, of course, no.thing of nihilism at all?

we’ve quit the human.  a hollow concept, it offers little more than a container for ambitions, progress and, of course, the holocaust.

we quit woman before we began her.  as lack, lacuna, she never began to begin.

but perhaps the real drive was man all along.  is this self-castration?  the drive to find nothing, no.thing, so that any appearing can be read as pure joy?

what am i trying to say?  why do we represent the masses as hollow mass?  why is the proletariat (Marx) or generic humanity (badiou) all that is available to convey the movement of historical being?  are they simply the virgin Many?

maurice blanchot writes:  “This search for point zero is necessarily ambiguous: it lends itself to all misrepresentations and encourages all simplifications… It is also easy – and perhaps useful – to denounce the illusory character of this search for point zero.  Not illusory, however, but imaginary, almost according to the meaning given this word by mathematics: imaginary is the reference to a man without myth, as is imaginary the reference to the man dispossessed of himself, free of all determination, deprived of all “value,” and alienated to the point where he is nothing but the acting consciousness of this nothing, the essential man of point zero, whose theoretical model certain analyses of Marx have proposed and in relation to whom the modern proletariat discovers itself, defines and affirms itself, even if it does not truly satisfy such a schema.”  p. 80

so perhaps this is something new and perhaps this is something very very old:  womb envy?  virginity… and the empty vessel?  perhaps we haven’t escaped that metaphor, just as we haven’t escaped others.  and unlike irigaray’s theory of the forgotten mother, this mother has not been forgotten. she simply hasn’t been properly named.  the masses, the workers, those who carry the event.  

the blessed virgin.  the penultimate no.thing.

are we still looking to her tearing statues for hope?

mourning has broken..?

In Law, resurrection on October 30, 2008 at 4:13 am

“There shall be no mourning [il n’y aura pas de deuil].”  Jean-Francois Lyotard

out from the concept that there is novelty in negation alone.  out from the idea that critique is in itself production.  out from.  out with.  and just letting it all hang out.

Today in Badiou’s third and final lecture at Cardozo, we thought the disappearance of the law.  Ironically,  I find as I write that I have skipped negation itself, skipping Badiou’s second lecture in this journaling process and skipping the 2nd of the Hegel’s dialectical three.  It is (was) an unknowing performance that perhaps betrays my all-too-eager desire to jump the gun.  with badiou and otherwise.

So, deferring as the Derrida I read today…

Badiou began with a recap:  after defining law as that which is always mediating between law and something else, he moved on to retrace two possibilities for the transformation of the law:  

1) modification

2) event, the creation of new possibilities, opening the space for equality and for new subjects of the law

For law as event, in law as event, the first steps are taken toward the disappearance of the law itself, heading toward what Badiou calls the limit point or (though he would never say so?) toward what Derrida describes as the ‘to come’ that can never arrive but is always on its way.  Finding this conception in Marx, particularly the Communist Manifesto of 1848, Badiou recalled that Marx’ goal was ultimately the destruction of private property.  For Marx the question of the state is in direct relation to private property, and Badiou sees the (anachronistic) mirror of this concept in Plato as well.  For both, Badiou claims, there is the question of equality: private property is the objective form of inequality, the material form of desire as the real relationship to law.  From this Badiou recalls Engel’s trio – 

law . desire . property

and claims that if we have communism (as it was in Marx) as the will to restrict private property, this is in conjunction or collusion with the will to restrict the law and initiate its disappearance.  For Marx, this disappearance would come to fruition in the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Before Stalin or Mao (mis)appropriated this term, this potential, the dictatorship of the proletariat was the form of the state without law.  It is a dictatorship because it is not a state from the point of view of the law, but the destruction of the state as such, a state not separated from civil society and as the end of that very separation.  It is the destruction of bureaucracy, if by bureaucracy we can name the separation of the state from its people.

This is critical in that, for Marx, the social form of private life is the family, i.e., the bureaucratized form of private life, where laws about marriage, children, etc are administrated.  Against this, Marx aimed to 

1) abolish marriage as a contract, aiming for free association of sexed positions

2) create organized public education of children, bringing that out of the family realm into the public

3) suppress inheritance

in order to block all laws concerning private life and move toward the disappearance of law in private, social and business realms in order to end private property, family organization and the state.  (See Engels’ book on these 3 pillars by the same name).  In these movements of law to their limit point, criminal law would also disappear as theft, etc, were negated.  At this point, the juridical status of the body would also fall to question and disappearance.  Badiou noted that in the past the body was the property of the family and thus wars, marriages, etc were the domain of the family.  Next the state assumed jurisdiction, evening ordering the body to its own death in state wars.  What we have now, Badiou claims, is something more like a mercenary body, a body whose jurisprudence belongs to the domain of money. Looking to the 1970’s feminist revolt and claims like ‘my body is mine’ that came in its wake, Badiou recalls this point of resistance as an attempt to block the family . property . state trio.

Ultimately, Badiou summed this up by saying that from Plato until today, if society is a direct production of life itself, then concrete equality is incompatible with private property and familial selfishness.  Badiou then moved toward a picture of the possibilities for change, for bringing the law closer to its limit point and finds these not in the revolutionary mandates of the 60’s and 70’s, but in locally realized politics of experimentation.  He said we have to think a new experiment & experience that is open to all society.  Closed experiments, such as those that are an attempt to realize a principle in concrete life, are not political for Badiou… they are instead moral, because there is no circulation between the small group and society.  They equal a general lesson which is akin to a moral vision as the direct relationship between a principle and its reality.  What occurs, he says, in this corrupt form, is the supression of mediation into something akin to a moral commandment, a moral sacrifice destined to terror and sacrifice, which is not equal to a truth.  

For the evental form of law, that which initiates the disappearance of the law, there must be a local yet open experience.  This experience must be proposed to everyone and, as such, is equal to the proposal of the disappearance of the initiating law itself. 

Thus saith Badiou.

Jeanne Schroeder followed Badiou’s talk with what she called a Lacanian feminist view to jurisprudence.  Looking both back and forth she recalled that Locke situated the origin of private property in the idea of ones ownership of his own body.  She traced this through Hart and went straight to Lacan’s four discourses of the symbolic order: the Master, the University, the Hysteric and the Analyst and located the lawyer as the Hysterical figure.  This allowed her to describe law as a broken instrument, always pinned to failure where the only right is that ‘you are wrong’.  For Schroeder the symbolic order is where the subject is created by mediating and creating desire via the family, property and state.  This desire is founded on a necessary separation in order for desire to operate across the distance and she cited Lacan’s injunction: Don’t give way to your desire.  Linking this to Kant, Schroeder pointed to the necessary separation between individuals and the moral law, reminding us that if there were no separation, we would all be marionettes…

Now that I have built and padded this text, ensuring a separation of my own body of writing from the (now textual) bodies of Badiou and Schroeder… am I free to desire what is apart?

or have I in fact simply sublimated their law into my own skin?  

In the shared agnosticized dialogues of both Badiou and Schroeder, there is a barely hidden throw-back to the theological argument for free will.  Oversimplified, this argument (extracted from Wikipedia) runs as follows:

1) Emanuel Swedenborg (founder of The New Church) argued that if God is love itself, people must have free will.

2) If God is love itself, then He desires no harm to come to anyone: and so it is impossible that he would predestine anyone to hell.

3) On the other hand, if God is love itself, then He must love things outside of Himself; and if people do not have the freedom to choose evil, they are simply extensions of God, and He cannot love them as something outside of Himself.

***In addition, Swedenborg argues that if a person does not have free will to choose goodness and faith, then all of the commandments in the Bible to love God and the neighbor are worthless, since no one can choose to do them – and it is impossible that a God who is love itself and wisdom itself would give impossible commandments.

Clearly neither Badiou nor Schroeder are arguing for the existence of God.  But the overlap, the formal movement of their arguments maps out the same dance.  For Badiou, mediation between idea and creative reconstitution must exist to avoid the terrorizing moralist’s dialogue.  For Schroeder, desire must be mediated by the law (distance) in order to continue to desire.  Interestingly both site Lacan as their body guards in this endeavor.  Both look to Lacan to undo the ‘law of the Father’ whether in defense of feminism (Schroeder) or in defense of the possibility of new possibilities (Badiou).  Is it fair to find in this formal cohesion the shadow of Heidegger, the shadow of a philosophy which, even in its most active strivings knew it could not escape the bounds of metaphysical presence?  And if so, are we still, despite Badiou’s phenomenal effort, still bound to endless mourning?

What would Badiou say here?  Is he content with the (hollow) strength of the phallus?

When I asked him how one (he) could posit a universality without defaulting to the law of the father, he turned to Lacan and said the following:  Law constitutes both what is forbidden and what is impossible, but these two terms are not the same.  It is impossibility, not the forbidden, that is creative.  The Law of the Father is on the side of the Forbidden, yet in Lacan we already see the move to elevate the phallus from impotence to impossibility.  The move out from the law of the Father is the move toward the formalization of social order, not a despotic interdiction, running the gammit between impotence and impossibility.

Why is it that I still see, in this rising, this elevating, the swelling of a cross..?

– Sincere thanks to Alain Badiou for his October 27th, 28th and 29th presentations given at both Cardozo Law School and the New School for Social Research, the content of which is summarized here, and in “eyes or ears..?”