by Steven Craig Hickman
There comes a point in Anti-Oedipus when Deleuzeguattari will ask “Why is it that linguists are constantly rediscovering the truths of the despotic age?” In specific they’ll remind us of Nietzsche’s prophetic premonition that the State is the “dog that wants to die. (p. 215)”.1 This happens in a discussion on ressenti*: The eternal ressentiment of the subjects answers to the eternal vengeance of the despots (p. 215). This immanent cycle of vengeance – ressentiment – counter-vengeance becomes in our hypercapitalist mode the circular modes of crises and its reduplication. As they will have it: “Here again, death will have to be felt from within, but it will have come from without. (p. 215)”. This sense that financial or hypercapitalism is imperialism without the Master Signifier, or that the master signifier of capital is Money itself – this immaterial despot at the heart of the Capitalist system of despotic control is an aspect to be considered. They don’t speak of this directly in this section, but the implication is there. What they add is the dynamics of crisis and depression based on ressentiment, which brings with it the movement from primitive to despotic to sovereign to democratic cycles of emergence and reduplication of this dynamic of ressentiment in which “bad conscience”, this ugly growth – i.e., Oedipus – took root and began to grow: this movement of Oedipus in the “cellular, ovular migration in the system of imperial representation: from being the displaced represented of desire, it becomes the repressing representation itself” (p. 215). Money is the internalization of Oedipus in the capitalist system cycle of ressentiment.
In this sense Capitalism is “the story of desire and its sexual history (there being none other)” (p. 216). “Desire institutes a libidinal investment of a State machine that overcodes the territorial machine and, with an additional turn of the screw, represses the desiring-machine.” (p. 216) – This is the cycle of capital itself as well. One could say that capitalism is the outcome of this imperial-machine, its perfection in doing away with the visible tyrant or despot and replacing it with the internal mechanisms of Money as the despotic Master Signifier who is none other than the Death drive of Freud-Lacan. As Deleuzeguattari will suggest: “All sexuality functions in terms of the conjoined operations of machines, their internecine struggle, their superposition, their interlocking arrangements” (p. 216). It is in this sense that Nietzsche and then Freud-Lacan will see in this Oedipal conflict the “evolution of infinite debt” (p. 216). Capitalism is none other than the internalization of the Oedipal cycle of debt as infinite terror:
The debt must not only become an infinite debt, it will have to be internalized and spiritualized as an infinite debt. … The apparatuses of social repression-psychic repressions will have to undergo complete reorganization. Hence desire, having completed its migration, will have to experience this extreme affliction of being turned against itself: the turning back against itself, bad conscience, the guilt that attaches it to the most decoded of social fields as well as to the sickest interiority, the trap for desire, its ugly growth. (p. 217)
Isn’t Capitalism itself the internalization of the Oedipal cycles, the apparatus of social and psychic economy of repression that reorganizes the old Imperial systems of despotism from the Outside in, migrating desire and turning it against itself within the internecine struggles that are the monetization systems in our interlocking global world of relations based as they are on repression/depression/regression? This notion that our global monetary systems are infinite debt-machines based on this migration and entrapment of desire in a system of ressentiment that instead of producing active-force produces suffering (crises/depression)… Money, the Master-Signifier, the ’empty signifier’ around which all imperial debt-machines circulate in infinite desire, trapped in a death struggle that subordinates all social relations to it’s system of ressentiment and the infinite cycles of inflation/deflation (i.e., the libidinal economy of death and desire in all its variations). Is this Zizek’s self-relating nothingness become the subjectless Subject as Capital? Is Money nothing more than this negativity in a void: a struggle between the forces of the Life and Death drives for the last remaining vestiges of Desire? Infinite-debt as biocosmic war?
(I need to think this through… have any of Deleuze & Guattari commentators and exegetes made this connection? Is this ludicrous? Are there any Economics of Desire; or, libidinal economics that support such a conclusion? Anyone?)
Should we go back to Spinoza as the forerunner of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, Bataille and Land as the principle inventor of the notion of Will? Spinoza’s understanding of all “finite modes” is the conatus doctrine, which states that “each thing, as far as it can by its own power, strives to persevere in its being” (Spinoza 1994: E3P6). This notion of conatus as an indefinite and objectless appetite to continue existing? Is capitalism nothing more than this process, this appetitive-machine that despotically subordinates all desiring-machines to its needs? Is it this combination of appetite and consciousness thereof that Spinoza defines as the first of the three primary affects: desire, and then joy: – the second primary affect, is an increase in this power to act, while sadness, the third primary affect, is its decrease. How to qualify such an assumption? Deleuze would imagine Spinoza “strolling about” in the streets, perpetually being affected by what he encounters (see his works and commentaries on Spinoza). The conatus thus responds to joyous interactions – those that increase the power to act – by investing desire in their causes, thereby making them objects of desire. How does this relate to Money? Is money a desirable object, or is it but the debt-machine that circulates among desirable objects, the invisible relation that invests the social field of desire and connects the desiring-machines to these objects? Is this cycle of desire – joy – sadness the form of capital? A death-machine of infinite-debt based on this circular corruption of desire? The point being that capitalism is this system that keeps death at bay, and defense system that captures desire in such a way that death is projected into the future of infinite-debt; for if death ever truly captured desire in its totality the system along with those that feed it would all collapse into that Zero = Null.
Is it our need to attain these desirable objects that allows capital to entrap our actual desires within its infinite-debt system? As one critic in discussing Frédéric Lordon’s, Willing Slaves of Capital: Spinoza and Marx on Desire, London: Verso, 2014. will explicate:
Showing and transforming his Regulationist School roots, Lordon schematically divides the historical development of capitalist social organization into three phases roughly defined by particular accumulation regimes and attendant “regimes of desire”: first, in Marx’s era, the dominant desire is material-biological reproduction; second, in the Fordist era, this basic desire is expanded to also include access to all the little joys caused by the bells and whistles of an expanding consumer society; and third, contemporary subjectivities–best understood as the managers or entrepreneurs of the self–emerge in a situation where desire is increasingly oriented such that work in general is the cause of joy. This most recent transformation is a symptom of the twin demands of competitive deregulation and the emphasis on emotional and creative labor that fuel theories of the neoliberalization of everything. For Lordon, this amounts to the capitalist conatus attempting to draw all others into line with itself as a “master-desire” that tends toward a cynical, amoral, and purely quantitative asymptote of absolute liquidity and infinite flexibility. (see Antipodes A Radical Journal of Geography 2015)
How would such ideas relate to Deleuze & Guattari? (Must reread Deleuze’s books on Spinoza)
In his book Technocapitalism: A Critical Perspective on Technological Innovation and Corporatism, Luis Suarez-Villa will tell us:
Those who provide creativity potentially hold the key to accountability, as the intangible resource they hold is vital to the survival of technocapitalism. …creative power is defined as the exercise of creativity by individuals or groups working under a systematized research search regime. The empowerment of creativity must, however, rely on the possibility that creative power may be exercised independently of such regimes. The systematized research regime is a corporatist artifact. Its fundamental objective is to structure the commodification of creativity such that power and profit can be extracted from this vital resource. The empowerment of creativity, to exercise this resource independently of those regimes, therefore implicitly involves a subversion of corporatism.2
This new “commodification of creativity” is central to this cosmopolitan world of a new class relations of the cognitariat bound to Smart City initiatives and new global forms of desiring-production. This new emerging economy of desire mutates current corporate power and profit toward the commodification of creativity through research regimes that must generate new inventions and innovations. These regimes and the corporate apparatus in which they are embedded are to technocapitalism what the factory system and its production regimes were to industrial capitalism. The tangible resources of industrial capitalism, in the form of raw materials, production hardware, capital, and physical labor routines are thus replaced by intangibles, research hardware, experimental designs, and talented individuals with creative aptitudes. The generation of technology in this new era of capitalism is therefore a social phenomenon that relies as much on technical functionality as on the co-optation of cultural attributes. (Suarez-Villa, KL 52)
Think of how China is investing in Smart City technologies, infrastructures (High-Speed trains for transport between the island cities, etc.). China beyond most has a long-term plan and initiative to incorporate the new regimes of desire and creativity, and will be light years ahead of most EU or American initiatives. Sadly the baton is being passed. While most leftist critique still pours over post-Fordist regimes of monopolistic capital and rationalism, the power of capital has moved on and bypassed such critiques. The new world of capital is beyond the reach of such critiques that seem to exist in a vacuum of the Thatcher-Reganite Era rather than truly understanding the revolutionizing forces of capital that are reinventing the models by co-opting the very critiques of the Left into their own new paradigms and models of Capital. Sad. This reduplication and resynchronization of the capitalist system in its latest edition and mutation seems to be lacking even visibility in most critiques.
In my research Suarez-Villa is one of the few to actually be performing this task with any effectuality. There are others, but as of yet there is no framework or set of principles to guide such efforts. We always seem bound to a sort of time-machine, a past one at that – which forces us to take stock of outmoded forms of Capital rather than seeing what is happening in real time processes right in front of our noses. Why is that? What is it about left-critique that seems so antiquated, unable to go beyond the Marxist-Hegelian mould? Obviously there are some like Deleuze/Guattari, DeLanda, and others… but for the most part I see this retro-mania in Zizek-Badiou for Theories of Subject etc. that seem backward looking rather than enabled to study the actual processes in the world today. Zizek has become a parody of himself, repeating in infinite variation the basic themes of his philosophical stance since Parallax View… Why? While Badiou hibernates in mathematizing reality? What’s with this? Where is the radical critique today? For the most part left critique is bound to an in-grown jargon-ridden anti-realist discourse that seems to be powerless to actually act, much less critique the current modes of global capital effectively. Why?
The more I read left critiques, the more disillusioned I become and see much of it as academic bullshit, as a sort of infinite game of writing going nowhere but to the endless chatter of academic lectures and events. The neoreactionaries look upon this and laugh, realizing just how powerless the left is to effect any kind of real change. Are they right? Are we in the moment on impotence? Are there any activist who are actually acting, or is it going to be a sort of aestheticization of political struggle rather than actual struggle? Will we see only an endless parade of Art Installations representing the nullity of our malaise rather than people in the streets doing something about it? Have we become the fruit of the postmodern nullity? That process of self-relating nothingness turning in its own null-void that Zizek harps on so much… A man who tells us plainly: “I have no answers, only more questions.” Is this the best the left can do?
One of the oldest clichés in the world states: “Actions speak louder than words!” Where are the actions today? Words, words, words: everywhere, but where does one find the actions that enact the words? (I shouldn’t be so hard on Zizek the man, who has more than most stepped up to the plate, exposed himself to the ridicule of all comers, tried ton enact the very thing I’m speaking of. It’s to the other Zizek, the figure of academic thought whose endless discourses on Lacan/Hegel etc. seem to lead to one thing: his Theory of the Subject rather than to action. And, even if, as Johnston surmises in his Badiou, Zizek, and Political Transformations that “Opening the space fore genuine post-analytic change requires the analyst’s silent “suicide” qua quiet recession into the background following the consummated immolation of the transferential fantasy-figures constructed by the analysand… what are we to make of this? Or, in his final estimation:
Maybe, in the name of real change, it’s sometimes necessary to accept the unenjoyable or even … horrifying prospect of being reduced to less than a, to the nothingness of a retroactively mis/unrecognized non-status, ungratefully shunned or denigrated by one’s successors – or even simply forgotten about altogether. (p. 160)
Is this the new materialism? The successor to Marxian/Hegelian thought? Shall we all enter the fold of nullity and forget both ourselves and the message altogether? Is this the answer of Zizek/Johnston? Will it happen like this: There was a moment I was talking to Zizek and he just vanished. Just like that. My friend next to me said: “I assume he finally vanished into that self-relating nothingness he always was.” I spoof, but sometimes…) Is this the voice of political action today? Or, rather a political recipe for reduction to inaction and impotence? Have our leftist intellectuals become ultra-nihilists in disguise? Wearing the masks of activism without its power? A subversion by way of inaction and impotence? Is there a critique of Badiou-Zizek by way of Deleuze? What if this so called dialectical turn in materialism is the wrong path? What if these gestures to a return to German Idealism were a recipe not for change but rather a move into that world of ultra-impotence: a void without outlet, a mathematical gesture in a non-space of inaction. Badiou’s disciple, Meillassoux seems to be moving toward a religious atheism of an inexistent God, etc. Is this the path forward? Contingency as the emergence of inexistent gods? Both Badiou and Zizek affirm something they term the “Idea” of Communism. But what does this mean for both men? ( I must take this up on a future post) Obviously as materialists they mean something other and different from the German Idealist sense of a realism of Ideas, etc. In Zizek you get this feeling of the immanent movement of Idea and thought not as essence but as a mutual movement in time, rather than as in Plato-Parmenides of Ideas as essences existing outside temporality that move into our world and act on it, Zizek has it that the Idea is appearance as appearance. This notion of the movement of the world is the Idea as immanent to its movement etc., not as its engine or driver, not an essentialism of the Idea as driving force or principle as in Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Deleuze… as Will, Desire, Life, etc. Instead its something that cannot be formed in the metaphysical sense of a principle.
( I guess I need to break off here… too long of a group of notes and thoughts…)
1. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Penguin, 2001)
2. Luis Suarez-Villa. Technocapitalism: A Critical Perspective on Technological Innovation and Corporatism (Kindle Locations 1887-1891). Kindle Edition.
* The translator will tell us that for Deleuze resentiment, taken from Nietzsche’s use of this term in his system is defined as the becoming-reactive of force in general: “separated from what it is capable of, the active force does not however cease to exist. Turning against itself, it produces suffering” (Nietzsche et la philosophie 1970).
The article is taken from:
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