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from nrg

Saturday's meeting was a joy, truly, thank you everyone for coming. Among topics discussed: the difference between discernment and judgment, the intricacies of resistance, whether or not to get along with neighbours, and whether a metaphysics is in fact necessary for life.

New voices joined the fray, creating ripples of thought as yet unconsidered. Much to be grateful for, much to be excited about. Perhaps all there is to seek is enjoyment? (“But what about the dangers of hedonism?”, a critical jab intervenes)

So it's not so much a matter of seeking essentially what is true, what is at the source of things, but rather about the process, the hours devoted to practice. That's really all that happens here, in conversation.

Saturday Feb 5, 4pm pacific, 7pm ET, or midnight UTC (technically sunday feb 6, then).

As usual:


from nudism as an illegalism

On June 24, 1979, the local iteration of Pride took place in San Francisco, California. This was the 10th annual iteration of the event since the original San Francisco Gay Liberation March on June 27, 1970.

By 1979, the event was locally called “Gay Freedom Day”, later to become “International Lesbian & Gay Freedom Day” in 1980, then finally the “San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade and Celebration” by 2019.

Lots of people, then and now, just called it “Pride” or “Gay Pride” – including “the anarchist flashers” who wrote and distributed this flyer in 1979. Apart from the title above, the whole of the text is presented below the break (with a bit of typographic clean-up as well as a few links to Wikipedia).


To the marchers,

We are outraged by the attempted ban on nudity in this year's Gay Pride Parade proposed by the Parade Committee. But we oppose a boycott because the parade does not belong to any committee. It is a parade of, by and for all people supporting liberation for gay people. We support the natural right of people to go nude not only on Gay Pride Day, but every day of the year.

The anarchistic dykes and faggots who set off the Stonewall Rebellion did not debate beforehand whether or not they would be offending the Church or State.

The human body is not the problem for any society. Sensual repression only distracts us from the real problems. Chronic unemployment, private property, and white and male supremacy are problems. U.S. exploitation of Chile, South Africa, Puerto Rico and Iran is a problem. Co-optation is a problem. Gay Liberation does not mean assimilation into the existing norms of a sick, imperialist society.

Sexual liberation is impossible if we regard our own bodies as 'obscene' or 'offensive'. Nudity is offensive when used as a sexual weapon or commercial enticer, as it has been on many of the bar floats in the parade.

Many people will prefer not to go nude because of the objectification they may be subjected to, and we support them. Women especially have suffered from sexual exploitation and are aware of how their bodies can be abused and manipulated. For example, a double standard persists that allows men to go bare-chested while women may not. This helps to create a commercial market out of women's bodies. We encourage you to dress or undress as you wish.

The only way we can move on with liberation is to move on. Go nude on Gay Pride Day, if that is what you want to do. We encourage you to support any and all who choose to do so.

Don't Mourn, STRIP

— The Anarchist Flashers

[comments: Reddit ++]


from nrg

Preliminary discussion on regrouping highlights the ardent pleasure of simply talking to one another, with no need to systematically pretext such meetings as an occasion to read, or an imposition of homework. As such, since no texts or media were proposed to be addressed right away, the next meeting is another time for open conversation. This ongoing discussion, as always, is open to all who would like to join.

Some questions/themes arose last time, worth turning over: How do you choose what goes on/in your body? Is this a matter of aesthetics, of discerning personal preference? In turn, where is the line between being sold a lifestyle and forming a sense of personal sensibility; how do you make sense of sensation?

Alternatively, and not entirely discontinuous: How can you make dissent easeful? When is refusal easy?

Saturday Jan 8th, 7pm ET, 4pm pacific, or midnight UTC.

As usual:


from nudism as an illegalism

Writing in the Los Angeles Times in 2010, John M. Glionna tells us that

In the sweltering heat of summer, when the refreshing breezes desert the city, [Beijing resident] Hu Lianqun absent-mindedly reaches for a solution: He rolls up his shirt to expose his belly, often fanning himself with the garment to create his own air conditioning.

This is how Glionna wants to introduce his reader to the concept of bǎngyé (膀爺). In all of the journalistic copy I have looked over regarding this topic, it is suggested that bǎngyé (variously translated into English as “bare-chested master”, “exposed grandfather”, and “topless guy”, depending on the source, and also referred to in English as “the Beijing bikini”) is a specifically Chinese cultural phenomenon. An article from 2019 in Singapore's The Independent informs us that “the belly is an essential container for energy” and “exposing the belly gets rid of excess heat,” but this is contradicted by Yan Zheng, “who has been practicing Chinese medicine for more than 40 years” according to Glionna's article. Yan tells us that

exposing one’s belly has nothing to do with Chinese medicine’s theory about maintaining a person’s health. People chose [sic?] to expose their belly because they feel too hot in summer but feel embarrassed to take off their shirts completely.

I don't know enough about Chinese culture at large to say what the deal is either way. Regardless, whereas the Mandarin term chìbó (赤膊) seems to refer to straightforward shirtlessness, bǎngyé is something else: an exposure of the lower abdomen, often by hiking up the lower fringe of the shirt.

I think it's fair to surmise, however, that chìbó and bǎngyé are overlapping, or at least adjacent, concepts. Notice, for instance, the elision as I continue to quote from Glionna's article:

“I don’t know, it just feels cooler,” says Hu, perched on a park bench on a sultry weekday morning, the temperatures already [between 32° and 37° C], the humidity soaring. “Look, you just shake your shirt to create a breeze. I don’t see anyone laughing at me.”

In the sports attire section of a nearby department store, Qi Tong scoffs at such reasoning.

“It lowers Beijing’s standing as an international city,” the 21-year-old says. “I go without a shirt sometimes at home, but never in public. If my dad reaches for his shirt when I’m out with him, I threaten to go home. It’s just too embarrassing.”

For young Qi, who is Chinese and who I take it on good faith to have been faithfully and accurately translated, his opinions about (his own) shirtlessness (“I go without a shirt sometimes”) are delivered alongside his opinions about bǎngyé (when his dad “reaches for his shirt”).

In North America, I have known some gender nonconforming and/or stylish men to ball up the left and right extremities of the lower fringe of their shirts, then lift up both ends up and tie a knot somewhere above the belly button. The result is an ad hoc tank top, knotted in the front, which, with some additional touches, helps to achieve a decidedly femme look.

From what I can tell, though, in northern China, bǎngyé isn't femme (and there don't appear to be any knots involved). It's just common, among men anyway. Some people evidently defend the practice as rooted in the values of the 1960s and '70s and the Cultural Revolution, and again, I don't know about all that – but it's clear that some people in China, including the aforementioned Qi, don't like the practice.

In 2002, the year after Beijing's Olympic bid had succeeded – the city, and China as a whole, would host the 2008 Summer Olympics – a new feature started running in 北京青年报 (“Beijing Youth Daily”, hereafter referred to as the Daily). For several weeks, each new edition of the newspaper would feature candid photos of men around the city, generally doing inoccuous things like exercising outside, sweeping the walk outside of their homes, sitting down for a minute, or working at a food stand. The common characteristic of the men is that they were all chìbó or bǎngyé, e.g. they were shirtless or at least exposing their bellies.

The publishers of the Daily, as well as government officials, considered bǎngyé “a bad habit”, shirtlessness “uncivilized”. It is unclear to me, at this time, if they were opposed all male shirtlessness in public, or if it was only the shirtlessness of fat, old, and otherwise “gross” and/or embarrassing men that they objected to. I have not seen any of the pictures myself, but I have read that men with “bulging bellies” were often the subject of Daily's mocking attention. Many of the photos of shirtless men on English-language news articles feature older men.

The point of the Daily's new summer feature was to shame Beijing-area men into covering up in public, no matter the ambient conditions, and to establish that those who failed to do so would risk public humiliation.

This – and worse things, no doubt – was initially justified by the upcoming Olympiad, but efforts to ending bad habits of this type continued after 2008. For instance, in 2015, in the nearby city of Handan, deputies distributed t-shirts emblazoned with 争做文明使者 to shirtless men (the slogan may be translated as “strive to be a civilized messenger”). Such an initiative seems cheeky but relatively benign – yet, in 2019, in the authorities in Tianjin and Jinan, two other major cities near Beijing, empowered police to issue fines for shirtlessness and bǎngyé. There would be warnings first, but afterwards, those who continued to “offend” in this respect would be obliged to pay for their intransigence.

The situation in China is interesting because it appears to be contentious. There are people who consider (cis male) shirtlessness and/or bǎngyé antithetical to civilization, but there are also lots of people (or at least men) who think one or both are perfectly fine, and in any case have no interest in changing their ways without some kind of explicit criminalization. Thus, there is a protracted, overall pretty low-stakes struggle between “the state” (mostly in the form of local authorities, it seems, but sometimes supported by the central administration) and “society”, or at least a segment of society.

In North America, on the other hand, the situation regarding (cis male) shirtlessness doesn't really seem to be contested. While I am sure there are localities that have 1) laws against (cis male) shirtlessness on the books and 2) police who are more or less willing to enforce those rules against all shirtless adult men at all times, I don't live in such a place and neither do most people. From Miami to Vancouver, and from San Diego to Halifax, men can generally take their shirts off in public. This could all change fast in the context of some new fascist political revolution, but in 2021, that hasn't quite happened yet.

Yet, about a decade ago, during the summer, a guy approached me on the street as I was about to hop on my bike and dart off. He asked, “Isn't it illegal to go about the city without a shirt on?” I had my nipples out at the time, as I often do as I unlock and hop on my bike. His tone was hard to read. It should be mentioned that this guy was not old, either. He was about my age, e.g. in his mid-20s probably, maybe even a few years younger.

Another time, during another summer, as I was stopped at an intersection and waiting for traffic – I was again on my bike – a gaggle of prepubescents led by adults was walking by. Several of them, all boys, turned their heads towards me, shriveled their faces up in disgust, and one of them yelled that I should put a shirt on.

Before that, on the actual evening of October 31 one year, when I was still in university, I was walking the short distance from my house to the place where a Hallowe'en party was happening. I was a “jungle commando”, like a Rambo type of person, and my costume did not include a shirt. Some guys around my age called me a faggot when I walked by. At the party, as a girl was leaving, she approached me to tell me that I should “wear deodorant” (and hey, she may have had a point there, I don't remember) but also that I “looked disgusting”.

I could cite numerous examples of similar incidents in which I have been “microaggressed”, if not straight up aggressed, by various people, mostly men, while shirtless and either going from point A to point B, or otherwise just trying to chill with my friends and have a good time. A lot of the people who were shittiest to me were relatively young, but I am certain that older people can be just as shitty. Most of these incidents happened in cities with “progressive” and/or “no one gives a fuck” reputations – but the thing is, there are definitely some people who actually really do, almost anywhere you go.

It is worth noting, too, that I was neither “fat” nor “old” by any definition when any of these incidents took place. I only recently turned 30 and I'm thin. I'm white to boot, and I don't think I'm most folks' idea of ugly. Other guys, who look differently from and/or come from different places or whatever, magnetize a more constant negative attention, which sucks – but still, I have had some such attention in my life, and it sucked for me, too.

No one appreciates having shitty things said about their body, period.

So, up to this point, I have only written about cis men. The situation for women, as well as legions of enbies and trans guys, is worse.

Around the world, in terms of law and state, it is more often than the case that topfreedom – as it is called by most legalistic activists who advocate for it, often by showing off their boobs in public – is only legal and/or tolerated by the police in a very small number of jurisdictions. This is only the tip of the iceberg, though, because even absent of police, many people one might encounter in a park, on a quiet street, or in the middle of a busy intersection will object both strenuously and histrionically to, say, a young woman with her tits out. In many other cases, they will engage such a woman in an inappropriately familiar and/or sexual manner, even if the two of them are complete strangers. Sometimes they will do both.

Even in such places as the state, both in theory and (maybe) in practice, permits women et al. to get exactly as half-naked in public places as cis men are allowed – often because specific women, supported by cadres of feminist activists, won some kind of victory in the courts in decades past – it is still rare for anyone but cis men to take their shirts off in a wide variety of public settings.

There is variance, of course. I have never been to a beach in France, never mind surveyed a range of French beaches and other swimming holes, but everything I have read leads me to believe that quite a few women there do not wear bikini tops or any top. I am certain the rate of bare-chestedness is not equal to that of cis men, but maybe that doesn't matter. In other places, however – including, say, public parks (as well as sketchy parking lots) in supposedly topfreedom-legal jurisdictions like Ontario, British Columbia, and most of the United States – it is extremely rare to see women go bare-chested.

In my city and the surrounding suburbs, during the summer months, a lot of guys don't care to wear shirts in public and/or they don't care to do so even when within view of, say, their neighbours or the street. I'm talking about when they ride their bikes from point A to point B, when they jog with earbuds in, when they play sportball, when they do yard work, when they drink and smoke with their buddies on their balcony or their patio or whatever, when they ask passers-by for spare change – whatever normal urban activity they are up to!

Generally speaking, there is no issue or controversy. But, perhaps, a lot of people have been quietly seething about it the whole time.

This seems to be the case in northern China more recently. I don't have a lot of information to go on, but I don't believe that it is solely “the state” – or more specifically, the highest rung of bureaucrats, either at municipal or federal levels – that is driving the last few decades' backburner-on-low campaign to end topfreedom for people of all gender classes. There is some degree of popular support for such policy. I suppose support may have been astroturfed in 2002, but I find it hard to believe that anything that has happened more recently is anything other than the activist project of people who don't have better things to do. Contrary to the jingoistic stereotype of mainland Chinese society, the state is not an absolute dictatorship (yet). People still have their own lives, their own opinions, and indeed, some space to militate for causes that they care about.

In both China and North America, there are lots of family-oriented conservatives, lots of nationalists, and lots of people who are both. Family-oriented conservatives worry a lot about sex, children, the ways that children can be led astray by various things including sex, and grand ideas about morality. Nationalists worry a lot about their country, its present-day prestige, its future, and the things that have purportedly destroyed civilizations in the past (like homosexuality did to the Greeks and the Romans). In both China and North America, some people – they are often called “activists” – use the limited space they have for political expression to militate against scourges they see in the society around them. They do so, of course, in pursuit of a society that better accords with their ideology.

The past is a foreign country, but I find it hard to grasp that, just 80 years ago or so, cis men in urban North America often swam completely nude in public pools. Male shirtlessness on a busy street or in any other crowded place, on the other hand, was extremely uncommon; it would have been seen as hickish or redneck in many cases. It's different now. The culture has changed since then, for whatever reason – in the direction of lesser body freedom for cis men in public pools, but with a greater degree of body freedom for cis men in most other public places.

(Nevertheless, it is still not possible for men to eat a meal shirtless in most restaurants, nor for boys in high school to take their shirts off in math class. And then there are workplaces!)

A stereotypical image of the 1960s and '70s counterculture is that of the topless woman setting her bra alight. It is my understanding that some of the women who did this sort of thing (or, I guess, wanted to but couldn't get a permit), or who simply took their dresses, shirts, and bras off, were arrested and roughly handled by police – and I presume those women understood, in most cases, that such a thing could happen to them, if police were to get involved (which would have been more of a less given at most political demonstrations, for instance, and a pretty good chance of the same in lots of other places).

These women did it anyway, despite the risks – either as part of a protest, or just having a picnic in a quiet corner of a large park. So, why?

Were they simply careless? Or had they decided that this sort of freedom might be worth all the trouble?

Anarchists don't talk about topfreedom much. My experience is that, when women and enbies take their shirts off in our spaces, no one usually remarks upon it (although people do sometimes cheer, depending on the context). Perhaps in some broadly conservative societies, where many anarchist men are less familiar with the most basic of contemporary anarchafeminist critiques of patriarchy and/or sexism, there would be objections to the “topfreedom of the oppressed” being exercised – but in most North American scenes I have spent time in, I can't really imagine anyone voicing opposition to loose tits. It's the police, the neighbours, or the owners of the bar who will typically take issue, and for anarchists, the only question is how the rest of us will act to stand up for the members of our party who have magnetized some antagonistic attention to themselves.

For instance, in 2011, during the anarchist bookfair in Montréal, a soccer game was taking place in the adjacent park, and some women playing had taken their tops off, just as many of the men had done. When police intruded on the field and tried to arrest those women, everyone's prerogative was to run interference by shouting, yelling, and making it clear that the situation would become too much for the two isolated cops to handle by themselves.

Although I have never seen opposition to topfreedom equity within anarchist scenes, there appears to be very little equity in practice. I am sure that my experience, as a gay man, doesn't count for a whole lot on this front, but I can count on two hands the times that I have just casually hung out with women with their boobs out in spaces where we can be reasonably certain that no one but other anarchists are going to bother us, like a private apartment, a sufficiently secluded or private backyard, etc. This includes numerous times that I had opted not to wear a shirt myself because it was hot. (In comparison, there have been entire weeks of my life where it seemed like none of the cis men I was sharing my life with wore shirts at all, at least not while at home or outdoors.)

The discrepancy that exists in anarchist and other radical scenes in North America doesn't seem that much different from the discrepancy in the dominant culture. But why is there a discrepancy at all?

Some of it could be explained, perhaps, by the fact that having boobs is simply structurally and experientially different from having a flat chest. People with boobs just want to wear bras! And, look, I don't know. Maybe. Yet, there are many flat-chested men, and boys, who aren't particularly comfortable being shirtless either. I was one as a kid. I would opt to wear a t-shirt when swimming. There are also some cis men who, in fact, have large and prominent breasts (the proverbial “man boobs”). Though not at the same rate as flat-chested men choose this option (fatphobia is obviously a factor here), these guys, in North America at least, still opt to wear nothing above the waist in public and quasi-public settings far more frequently than women seem to.

It is worth remembering, too, that in other parts of the world and/or at other times in history, it is or was (more often was) the norm for adult women to wear nothing (apart from ornamentation, e.g. necklaces, bracelets, earrings) above the waist.

A great deal of the discrepancy, then – not necessarily all of it, but a lot of it – must be the result of social, cultural, and individual psychological factors more so than “biologically determined” factors of flat chest vs. more concave chest. In other words, all the obvious things:

  1. laws and, more importantly, custom in most jurisdictions and areas of the world that explicitly forbid the exposure of large breasts (parallel to commercially driven hypersexualization of the image of large breasts in many countries at least, typically with little to no meaningful state intervention or regulation)
  2. patriarchy (the rule of fathers, and like figures)
  3. the hard-to-kill cop-in-the-head left over from feminine socialization
  4. the fact that, when anarchist women (and other anarchists) think of all of the ways they want to change the world and change themselves, “equity in half-nudity” does not come to mind as a priority compared to other things like climate change, prison society, dealing with self-hatred (one's own or that of others), and other things of the same utmost seriousness

Nevertheless, the goal of equity between established gender classes (often designated “equality of the sexes” in more antiquated literature) has been a part of every anarchist and/or revolutionary socialist political program that's been worth a damn from the 1800s on. This should include an equal capacity to wear nothing above the waist, whether enshrined as a legal “right” by some constitution or like text, or as a result of a general abolition of the authority of law and statute, as in anarchy.

In northern China, though, something different is happening. The campaign against chìbó and bǎngyé hasn't eradicated the practice entirely – although I would hardly be the one to know, myself, and I have read no news articles on the subject dating to later than 2019. It is hard to believe that there hasn't been any impact on men men who might be inclined to take their shirts off, which is effectively all such men, since such an inclination could befall any dude whatsoever.

Vincent Ni, China affairs correspondent for The Guardian, writes that

volunteers in the Chinese capital have become a part of its daily social fabric. They help run their neighbourhoods by picking up litter and guiding those who are lost. They also observe, listen and follow every clue that might lead to a potential legal case. The rise of the Chaoyang masses [which is one such volunteer group] exemplifies the extraordinary ability of the ruling Communist party to mobilise grassroots forces to keep the vast country running, but also to keep its populace in check.

The article includes a photo of a seemingly mixed-gender group of volunteers wearing red armbands, three with grey or greying hair. Ni also quotes Ka-ming Wu, who says: “[Volunteers] are often retirees and female.” There is no mention of areas outside of Beijing, but it's not hard to imagine similar volunteer organizations existing in nearby places, like Tianjin or wherever, too.

I suspect these Chinese volunteer groups are largely political formations of right-wing women – that is, “women who claim to be acting in the interests of women as a group” who “act effectively on behalf of [ ... ] authority” and “on behalf of a hierarchy in which women are subservient to men.” Even if they have the aesthetic of latter-day Red Guards, the content of their politics is in line with an all-too-traditional Chinese patriarchy.

Such volunteer groups have almost certainly been involved in the campaign to bereave men of their chìbó/bǎngyé privilege – issuing warnings, distributing t-shirts, etc.

I am sure there are quite a few men involved in this campaign as well, especially among the ranks of thought leaders (e.g. writers) and financial backers, but framing chìbó/bǎngyé privilege as “unfair to women” and getting women to speak to men seems like the obvious strategy here. It doesn't matter a bit that this is not really the case, i.e. it is not the privilege itself, but the society that has produced this privilege, for one gender class only, that is unfair to women. This subtlety should matter in a conversation about ideas, but when people are getting in the faces of “offenders” and demanding that they immediately “correct” their conduct, ideas don't count for anything.

There is no exact parallel to Chinese anti-chìbó/bǎngyé campaigns (that I am aware of) anywhere in North America, but there have been initiatives targeting so-called “saggy pants” in Dublin, Georgia, and Wildwood, New Jersey, among many other places. (Incidentally, authorities in Wildwood actually did ban shirtlessness, in its boardwalk area only, but still.) Much of the same argumentation can be used to justify whichever of the two. For instance, men are “flexing on privilege” and behaving in ways that women could never get away with. It's lazy and slovenly behaviour, and encourages others to the same. It allows us, the good people, another excuse to target them, the bad people.

In the summer of 2016, a group of people (I think all men or mostly men, but I could be wrong) were chatting amongst themselves at an “anarchy camp” in rural Austria. They were then approached by an “awareness team” (I think none men, and again I could be wrong). These sorts of people are sometimes called “vibe watchers” in North America, but really, in most contexts, they are more like political commissars. Their task is to watch and make sure that the vibe (that is, the behaviour and conduct of participants in a gathering) supports the political line – which usually means, in an ostensibly anarchist space, the vibe watchers' own interpretation of what everyone else's political line should be.

The issue that the awareness team brought to the guys' attention in 2016 was that some of them were shirtless. This, it was said, was either upsetting, or potentially upsetting, to other people at the camp. I tend to think that there was more going on here, though. Perhaps someone had a different sort of problem with one or two of the people in the group, but it would have been less tactful to bring that one up, so shirtlessness was what was brought up because it's easier to make an argument around shirtlessness and how only shitty, insensitive dudes would ever flex on folks like that.

In his polemic “Against Identity Politics” (Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed #76, 2015), Lupus Dragonowl writes that “identity politicians” (which he also calls “IPs”)

reproduce a style of politics which focuses on telling people 'how to behave', conditioning people into roles which reproduce the power of the spectacle. IPs reproduce conventional morality and its structures of [resentment] – negative affect [...] towards others as an expression of one’s own powerlessness, in contrast to celebration of one's power.

In other words, tell men to put their shirts on, because you can't, rather than doing something else – like, say, burning your bra and daring the world to stop you.

Burning a bra isn't very practically useful, but it is kind of a powerful symbolic act, and I think it must be simultaneously exhilarating and nerve-wracking act to perform (at least the first time), like lots of other good things in life. It probably changes you a little bit for the better, if you survive the experience, whereas bullying people for not presenting in public as you would like them to pretty much always changes you for the worse.

It's not my fight to prosecute, of course. But, if there was ever a big bra bonfire down at the end of my block, I would want to go, so long as the people there would want to have me. Hopefully the vibe would be one where I could throw some ratty t-shirt I don't much care about – or better yet, the clean and crisp one I wear as part of my work uniform – into the bonfire too, and help the flames burn a little longer and brighter. Maybe that would nudge things a little closer to a world in which everyone could feel okay good going naked, above the waist or in general, pretty much whenever.

[comments: Raddle | Reddit ++ | @news]


from nudism as an illegalism

Below the break is an article by the conservative Cardus Institute, apparently published in the Calgary Herald on August 11, 2011; no record of the same has shown up, thus far, in my efforts to find it on the Herald's website. The text was taken from here, instead.

It is presented on this blog – with some annotation, typographic clean-up, and contextualizing hyperlinks – as an amusing record of a historical event, namely a naked bike ride in Montréal that happened just over 10 years ago and some anarchists efforts' to contribute something to it. The inset text, quoted in its entirety by the Institute author, comes from a flyer distributed at the event; the text was shortly thereafter published online.


As Montréal falls down around its residents' heads, there is comfort knowing it is safe to drop your pants and bicycle through downtown at midnight.

Motorists forced to use the Ville-Marie tunnel for their commute when it reopened Monday [August 8] told media tales of terror at the prospect of another massive beam collapsing on their cars. [Part of the tunnel had collapsed on August 2.]

Bridges are considered unsafe at any speed. Overpasses mimic asteroids, tossing great chunks of debris from above: “Look out! It's coming right at us!”

But insouciance, which only sounds like a French word for idiocy, rolls on. Late Saturday night [August 6], it cruised through the heart of Montréal wearing nothing but a superior smile.

While I was safely tucked in my bed far away at the time (my staunch belief is nothing good can ever come of being awake after 10 p.m.), press reports advise that 40 to 50 naked souls rode the streets en masse to make the point that, well, no one's quite sure. Perhaps their only point was to show they had something to point.

Like everything these days, the nudie wheelabout was organized entirely on Facebook. There is no word whether organizers recognized this as a golden gift of paradox.

It's doubtful, however, that they did. No two groups of modern humans are more squint-eyed with sanctimony than nudists and cyclists. Plop a bare-buttocked progressive astride the ultimate vehicle for green self-congratulation and you create, on two wheels, a snob so myopic the Hubble telescope couldn't help him see things clearly.

Naturally, police passively stood by as public order was violated. What were they to do? Uphold the law? Arrest someone for brandishing a club in public? Not in Montréal, where failure to look the other way is deemed a dereliction of the duty to be insufferably culturally superior.

Curiously, the one yelp of agitation following the event was on a blog called Its auteur managed simultaneously to participate and slag other participants for their bourgeois blindness.

The work is worth quoting at length: [see original 2011 flyer here]

Every garment (and every commodity) is a thread in the most constricting of uniforms, imposed at gunpoint and at shopping centres: CIVILIZATION.

Whether we are naked or in parkas, our bodies remain trapped within the system that issues judgment according to clothing, skin colour, or desire. Whether we are on bikes or in Hummers, the police will enforce the rules of the road: keep to the right, don't torch department stores. As long as the logic of the commodity rules, the power of the well-dressed man in the limousine won't be threatened by the naked queer on the tallbike.

We take off our clothing to celebrate the beauty and diversity of our bodies, but what of the bodies we can't see, locked away in cells, or consigned to stitch American Apparel under fluorescent lights in “not sweatshops”? When will we see the bodies that are actually forbidden? Will we even see each other outside of this carefully controlled space with its set time, its predetermined route, its police escorts?

To begin answering these questions, we have to call into question the entire existing order. We have to strip away not just the layers that hide our bodies, but the entire apparatus of domination that ensures we'll put our pants back on and go back to work in the morning.




It would be fish in a barrel to dismiss this as the sophomoric mouth-breathing of a political imbecile. Although it is written in something approaching English sentences, for example, its “logic” is akin to one of those word wheels you spin to pick combinations of nouns and vowels that sound coherent, but are really genuine gibberish.



One could go on. One won't.

Yet, behind the nonsense there is a kind of savage genius, and an eerie prescience given what's happening in England, in the phrase “keep to the right, don't torch department stores”. Likewise the sentence “imposed at gunpoint or at shopping centres”.

They are meaningless at the literal level, of course. Yet our anarchist's analysis ingeniously dispenses with civilized distinctions between differences of degree and differences of kind. In so doing, it presents a mentality prevalent well beyond niche political blogs. It represents the thinking that distinctions no longer matter because they belong to that outmoded habit called order.

So the core of a once great city can turn into a nude free-for-all zone while the edges crumble and become impassable. So taking your pants off in public becomes a valid political gesture and obliging motorists to dodge collapsing 25-ton beams is acceptable political inaction. What matter?

All things are just all things. And all things – pants, bridges – fall down.

Look out. It's coming right at us.

[comments: Raddle | Reddit]


from nudism as an illegalism

The last post on this blog didn't hit the internet in the way I would have liked.

At the time when I published the previous entry, I didn't yet know any name for the presumptive trans woman (whose last name is Merager, and who I will refer to by that name for the remainder of this post) who had been present in the women's section at Wi Spa on June 24. I first had a thought to write something a bit solidarious vis-à-vis the Wi Spa situation in July, shortly after the first antifa-vs.-maga clash in Koreatown, Los Angeles, on July 3, which is when I first heard about it. Alas, life happened and I didn't get too far beyond the draft stage – plus I still had another entry to finish up.

In an article published by Slate on July 9, it was said that the initial incident had simply been a hoax – or at least that there was strong evidence to suggest that it hadn't actually happened, e.g. there was no evidence that any trans woman had even been present at Wi Spa on June 24. I don't read Slate, but perhaps the lefty/progressive sorts of journalists and/or Twitter personalities I was getting my information from do. At the very least, they were saying much the same thing.

At the time, I found the idea that it might be a hoax credible – which is to say, I'm not gonna put it past a certain kind of rightist to fabricate a story like the one that was being told in order to generate a useful controversy.

By the time I got around to actually putting together some sentences for the “Solidarity” post, however, it was already late September, and there had been some developments in the story. For instance, the Los Angeles police had issued a warrant for a suspect, who subsequently told her side of the story to a person employed as a journalist (and apparently that person was Andy Ngo, writing in the New York Post) before turning herself in to police. Slate updated its July 9 story on September 3. Of course, lazy hack that I am, I used a Wikipedia article on the Wi Spa affair to get myself up to speed; consequently I got some of the facts of these new developments mixed up, as I admitted in the October 2 update to my October 1 post. Wikipedia is often good enough for the sort of research I care to do, but that was absolutely not true in this situation, because several of these details were missing at the time when I was writing.

I stand by what I wrote and, to some degree, how I wrote it – which is to say, I think I had a good idea of what I wanted to do, and what I fucked up was the execution. The Wi Spa affair, which was at its origin a controversy about some exposed “private parts”, provided an obvious and relatively contemporaneous example of a situation in which nudists had a clear stake as nudists. I thought that articulating both the how and the why of those stakes might be useful. First off, I wanted to challenge a certain part of the naturist internet (in some ways, the most promising part, insofar as it has some kind of interest in doing quote-unquote “politics”) to transcend the single-issue activism mindset. Second, I also wanted to direct some energy from among those who read these posts (and I guess there are a few of you?) towards an ongoing issue that should have been of some concern for anyone with even half-decent attitudes about trans people. This would have worked a lot better if I had managed to publish initially in July, not October, but it is what it is.

It was always clear to me that Merager might be, at minimum, a person I wouldn't want to be seen defending – but also that nothing short of full-throated condemnation, never mind the available facts, would be enough to convince those whose minds are captured by transphobic, paranoid animus that I was not defending her. For these folks, my simple usage of the pronoun “her” in respect to Merager is enough to mark me as on the wrong side of a Manichaean fight between Good and Evil.

This project – that is, the blog nudism as an illegalism – is about changing culture, for the better. But, that second part, “for the better”, won't be self-evident to people with different ideas about nudity than mine (or perhaps yours) and not much interest in changing those ideas.

A lot of the time, too, there is political opportunity in mobilizing and enlisting a sort of common sense – often founded in ignorance and/or paranoia – that stands against change in how people live their lives, what will and will not be permitted in public, and so on. This is basically all rightism really is!

All movements to change culture, whether in a progressive or a reactionary direction (however you might define this terms personally), will face some kind of opposition. In the present moment in much of North America, Europe, and elsewhere, rightist coalitions are stepping up to do just that in order to mobilize against the civil rights of LGBT people writ large, or in countries where that fight feels decidedly over, they try instead to isolate the T from the LGB, the better to target that letter specifically.

If we were to ever have ourselves a decade of “gains” parallel to those that like trans lib got between 2010 and 2020 (which is unlikely, because there is no such movement to speak of, at least at this time), those who wish for an expanded option of nudity in public would face a similar situation. By this, I would mean there would be increased familiarity with our basic philosophy about clothes and bodies (without, necessarily, an increased acceptance of those ideas) as well as more accurate and/or sympathetic representation of nudist characters in popular culture (like Arthur Meyer's nudist character in High Maintenance!) and legacy news media. Correspondingly, as with trans people, we would become more visible to those with an ideologically grounded grudge against us, and we would factor more and more frequently into narratives of civilizational decline.

The thing is, no movement nor any significant population of people is completely devoid of shady characters, ugly representatives, and bumbling buffoons. Merager, and a few years ago Jessica Yaniv, are to trans lib and/or the trans population what a certain woman from Berkeley – whose last name is Taub and whose first name (not the one given to her by her parents or recognized by the government) is an ethnic slur that she probably has no good reason to use as her personal moniker – is to the cause of decriminalizing public nudity and/or to nudists.

Let's talk about this person. Taub was arrested on December 19, 2019, over accusations of stalking, and attempting to kidnap, a 14-year-old kid who had been friends with her son. I leave it to the reader to do more research into the nature of the accusations if they so choose. What is important is that, whenever her name comes up on r/nudism and r/naturism – usually to discuss the nude protests that she was involved in organizing in the Bay Area over the years, starting in the lead-up to the 2013 ban on public nudity in San Francisco and continuing afterwards – there are invariably comments to the effect that, first of all, she is mentally ill and/or a moral wretch (and these two things are typically often conflated) and that, second, it is wrong to “support” her.

There is never any question, of course, of actually supporting this woman – who has apparently spent the last two years in jail, mostly during a pandemic – by providing her with money for canteen, organizing a rally for her release, or trying to break her out of prison. Simply commenting positively about her activism from circa 2011-'12 is framed as some kind of comprehensive endorsement. Or at least adjacent to such endorsement.

To my mind, though, Taub is simply an important historic figure – at least within the limited scope of, say, the recent history of street activism in the Bay Area (which is not my concern) or the recent history of getting naked in public, and trying to make that option more available in general, anywhere on Earth (which is). She is, in other words, worth discussing for her deeds and her impact, within the scope of conversations on these subjects.

Although I am hardly an acritical supporter of her tactics or her ideas, I also think it's fine if some people, i.e. supporters of the minoritarian position that it should be okay to get naked in public, are a little bit inspired by the reason she is well-known. She actually did the thing, after all, rather than just posting on the internet about what she thinks would be cool and right.

I don't think we should ignore her history of inappropriate behaviour as regards young people (nor should we do the same for any other well-known activist or other historic figure), but that shouldn't be the only thing that can be said about her. Because, the thing is, almost no one wants to talk about Taub the whole person in these sorts of conversations, anyway. They only want to talk about Taub because she's a good starting point for a different sort of conversation, namely about a a great political idea. Usually this is the most rudimentary, Reddit-brained sketch of a nudist utopia imaginable, but honestly, that's fine, I'm down for something not too different really.

And, to the extent that people just want to shut down a conversation about nudist street activism and/or nudist utopian visions before those conversations can even happen, simply because someone started that conversation by mentioning Taub, I actually think it's not cool. All it is is derailing.

Merager, in contrast to Taub, is not an important historic figure at all, at least not yet. The Wi Spa affair as a whole, however, might be. At least one chapter of a zine on the great West Coast political brawls of the early Biden administration. For my part, having months earlier decided to write about the Wi Spa stuff, I was going to have to something about the person who had been arrested once I found out that had happened. The way I talked about Merager was then opportunistically used to derail any (online) conversation about the ideas in that post from manifesting, and to put forward instead a combination of uncontroversial truisms (like “protect women and children”) and specific anti-trans animus. I was also told that, by “supporting” her, I was destroying my own reputation going forward.

So, what did I say her? Well, apart from saying that I don't think she should be in prison, like an anarchist would say, I also presumed that I don't know everything about her just because she has a documented history as a sex offender, I did the pronoun thing (be mad about it), and I reiterated a basic idea among nudists, namely that seeing a penis is not an emergency. I suppose that a lawyer representing Merager's interests in the courts of the state could argue some version of that last thing in order to get her a better deal of some kind, but that lawyer probably isn't reading this blog. Part of what motivated these words is that, broadly speaking, I support the goal of trans liberation – which is to say, the end of specific oppression of trans people by, like, society or whatever.

I have done nothing to support Merager as an individual, though. Certainly I have not sent any money to her defense fund.

By way of conclusion, there was one comment I saw on r/nudism that I actually did appreciate. It reads as follows:

Any sex offender, regardless of gender, should lose access to spaces where nudity is present. I see no reason that they should be admitted.

As someone who has experienced sexual assault, the place I feel safest is at the landed naturist club where I am a member. I find the bar is set much higher in terms of zero tolerance for harassment and in shared values. I feel far less safe in other clothed places, for example pumping gas or buying groceries.

The idea of safety in gender segregation is false. It's past behavior that is a much more realistic indicator.

I agree with this person, though I have a lot of problems, personally, with both the notion of a state-administered sex offender registry, as well as the actual reality of it in California and many other places. That's because 1) I am an anarchist and 2) I read Foucault in university.

I don't think there is anything wrong, in principle, with identifying sex pests as such and excluding them from spaces where, for instance, people are going to be naked. I have more experience of this happening in demonstrations, occupations, bookfairs, and conferences – and while there are sometimes situations that sucked, I think that, overall, it's usually worthwhile to keep some people out, just because it is predictable what will happen if they are allowed to come.

In other words, exclusion is always complicated, but I don't think it's off the table. Sometimes it can be justified on lesser grounds than, for instance, being a sex pest.

My concern, I suppose, is how do assess the distance between cruelty and stupidity when it comes to trusting people to not keep fucking up? And, in a world where collectively used hygienic facilities were more normal, how could we categorically exclude a class of “offenders” without replicating something like a neo-Foucauldian conception of a prison society? These questions may not bother all nudists, but they should bother anarchist nudists.

[comments: Raddle | Reddit ++]


from nrg

Surveying is a collective and cooperative reading method. If interest is made manifest (through responses to this post), I propose we organize a preliminary meeting in December 2021, and begin surveying texts of interest in 2022.

In short: we choose a text that is a priori complex and we share it among the participants. Everyone reads their part, then we meet to discuss it collectively, share, criticize, open the reading to our own experiences.

The key point is that each participant reads a different section of the text, so that the meeting (ideally) ends with each person present having an individual and collective sense of the whole text.

Stemming from French working-class culture at the end of the 19th century, land surveying was put into practice by resistance fighters during the Second World War, then disseminated more widely by various popular education movements until today. The survey is not just a summary or an analysis; it also makes the link between theory and practice, between reading and experience.

It therefore stimulates cooperation but also the highlighting of differences in interpretation, and encourages participants to reflect on a subject beyond merely reading out of interest in the subject itself. Beyond its analytical interest, surveying is also a dynamic and proactive working method, far from the analyzes of classic texts and their preconceived criteria.



from bugs

Here are translations of some of the posts by Luo Huazhong (the Kind traveler) about their idea of Tang ping (lying flat).
These posts came from their now deleted Baidu account, screenshots and transcriptions of which you can find in various places by using a search engine. I started with machine translation and then went through and fixed the machine’s mistakes. There are certainly some things I got wrong, and I will continue to edit this post with further corrections, but even in its messy form this is a really beautiful bit of thought!

Lie flat is justice

I haven't had a job for more than two years, and I haven't felt like anything is wrong with using all my time for play. The pressure mainly comes from people around you comparing you to others or the traditional values of elders. They are everywhere. Every time you see hot news topics, they are about celebrities in love, getting pregnant and other “fertility” innuendo. The National People's Congress does not need to be like “invisible creatures” pressuring you to change your mind.


I can just sleep in my own wooden barrel and bask in the sun like Diogenes, or I can live in a cave and think about “Logos” like Heraclitus. Since there has never been a movement of thought that exalts human subjectivity in this land, then I can make it for myself. Lying flat is my movement of the wise. Only lying flat is the measure of all things.

Lying flat, in bed

Because I’m not going to be performing any labor, I am able to only eat two meals a day, noodles + eggs in the morning, rice + vegetables and eggs in the evening. On weekends, I can go to a restaurant for chicken chops and rice if I feel like it. For me, solving the problem of food is to solve everything. My monthly expenditure is controlled within two hundred Yuan, and I can work for one to two months a year.


I hate life lived for the sake of steel and concrete and “traditional family values”. People shouldn't be so tired. People should pursue a simple life, so I always do things very slowly, because I don't need to do things for anyone. I sometimes hide somewhere to watch and laugh at those busy people…


Why should people find excitement for an obviously meaningless existence?


Lying flat is the only objective truth in the universe. Rest, sleep, or death, the moment when a life full of desire and excitement becomes still and disappears is the embodiment of true justice. I choose to lie flat, and I am no longer afraid.

My position is not positioned by anyone. The ashes enter the sea and the soul floats to the universe. I'm just passing by. When the time comes, it will be another trip.

Cats have subjectivity, but people don't. When will the alienated world die out?

Cat lie flat

That's right, health is also important. Just after climbing the mountain, you can go swimming in the lake when the weather is a little hotter. I have been soaking in it almost all summer. It is essential to keep exercising.


I have an actor's certificate, and when I'm in a good mood, I still go to Hengdian to lie down. In short, I just lie down in a different way: life is to lie down.…

Lying flat



两年多没有工作了,都在玩 没觉得哪里不对,压力主要来自身边人互相对比后寻找的定位和长辈的传统观念,它们会无时无刻在你身边出现,你每次看见的新闻热搜也都是明星恋爱、怀孕之类的 “生育周边”,就像某些“看不见的生物”在制造一种思维强压给你,人大可不必如此。 我可以像第欧根尼只睡在自己的木桶里晒太阳,也可以像赫拉克利特住在山洞里思考“逻各斯”,既然这片土地从没真实存在高举人主体性的思潮,那我可以自己制造给自己,躺平就是我的智者运动,只有躺平,人才是万物的尺度。


由于不需要劳动,我一天可以只吃两顿饭,早上是面条+鸡蛋,晚上的时候可以米饭+蔬菜和蛋类,碰上周末心情好可以去餐馆吃鸡排饭,对我来说 解决食物问题就是解决一切,每月的花销控制在两百以内,一年可以工作一到两个月。


我厌恶那种一辈子为了钢筋水泥和“传统的家庭观念”,人不应该如此劳累,人应追求那种简朴的生活,所以我做事情总是特别慢,因为我不需要为任何人做事。 我有时会躲在某处看着那些忙碌的人发笑...










我办有演员证,心情好的时候还会去横店 躺,总之就是换着方式躺,人生就是躺躺躺...


from Staring Into the Abyss

Pages 293-307

During the previous session the focus was on the concept and material process of labor. In this discussion we went through a critical element for understanding the discussion for this session. Specifically I am referring to the connection of laborer and context to product.

In the labor process the laborer enters into a conflict with the particularity of the moment and the nuances of material and tools. In the labor process a laborer, who is a person at a time and space, comes into contact with a material, which is in its form only in that time and space. This extreme historical particularity not only ensures that every act of production is a unique unrepeatable moment, unlike any other moment, but that it is inherently tied to the particularities of that moment.

As such, we cannot approach labor as something that either necessarily produces a specific product, all products, even of the same type, are different materially, nor something that can be thought of as a mechanism of the past or the future. Labor exists as an activity, in which we come into contact with material and tools, all of which contribute to the final outcome. But, this is just labor as labor. As we have seen, the introduction of capital fundamentally shifts the calculation around time.

Early in the chapter Marx foreshadows this a bit. In the discussion at the beginning of the chapter there are two distinctions that are made, one is between time and labour-power, and the second is between unique product of labor and generic object of commodification. During the act of production, as production, one is engaged in activity on a particularized basis. The act is a unique act, which have never occurred before and will never occur again, and this uniqueness is formed from the particularity of time, the particularity of material, of labor, of action and of tooling, all of which are not ever to be repeatable in this same form. This act is actualized immediately, it is only ever what it is, and results in the object being produced in a unique form.

The problem, within the context of commodity circulation, is that without a nested series of generalizations. The first layer of generalization we have discussed extensively, the generalization of value in the ways that value is attributed to objects. This imparting of equivalent forms of value eliminates the particularity of the object. On a second layer, this also generalizes the act of production as well.

When a capitalist purchases labor, they are not purchasing actualized labor, or labor that is occurring. Rather, what is purchased is the potentiality of activity of the worker in the future, or labour-power. In order to do this all acts of labor need to be rendered equivalent, and able to be valued quantitatively; we call that a wage. The process in which labor gets rendered equivalent and imbued into the value of the commodity is called valorization, and that is where we will be focusing our attention today.

Before jumping into the notes I want to re-emphasize another point made in weeks past. The content for this section really focuses heavily on the labor theory of value. Within this conceptualization labor is utilized through the medium of tools to change a material into a use-value. In the end product the value of that product is in itself an expression of all of the labor accumulated in that object, and every step that was taken to get to that object. But, as Marx has stated, there is a problem here. If labor were the only determination of all value, including exchange value, then all products would be valued at what their value in production was, and profit would be impossible.

What occurs in the valorization of the commodity, and labor within the commodity, is that value shifts form from a qualitative value of the particularized object and moment to the quantitative magnitude of equivalent objects and moments. After this process of wrenching moments and things out of history, profit margins are then added to this quantified value. These margins are based on conditions that exceed the object, such as social conditions, political circumstances, abstract risk, supply and demand dynamics and so on. This addition of profit margins have been used by capitalist economists to claim that the labor theory of value is not relevant, but this position misses something, once profit is added and the quantitative value exceeds that of the quantification of all labor embodied in the object we leave the realm of value and enter the realm of price. Again, it is the labor theory of VALUE, and not the labor theory of PRICE. To understand what is going on in this section that distinction is critical.

With that all out of the way, here are the notes for this session.

  • We begin where we left off during the last session, with the connection between labor and value. This discussion can get us pretty far in attempting to understand the ontology of capitalism, but there is a clear gap here; thus far we have been unable to really speak of labor itself as a commodity, except to say that it is one. That is what we will be approaching during this session.

Labor, in its base form, creates use-values, or it produces objects that have a use for the recipient or consumer of that object. As we have discussed, this concept of value, which is particular to the consumer at a particular moment, is eliminated in the process of capitalist circulation, and all value is reduced to exchange value, with exchange value being expressed in a magnitude of quantity. In this form the object retains its use-value for the consumer, but for the capitalist these use-values are only produced to function as the “material substratum”, or mechanism of transport, for abstract exchange value. In this form use becomes contingent on exchange, and labor is turned toward producing objects, not based on utility or use, but purely based on the possibility of exchange.

“Our capitalist has two objectives : in the first place, he wants to produce a use-value which has exchange-value, i.e. an article destined to be sold, a commodity ; and secondly he wants to produce a commodity greater in value than the sum of the values of the commodities used to produce it, namely the means of production and the labour-power he purchased with his good money on the open market. His aim is to produce not only a use-value, but a commodity; not only use-value, but value; and not just value, but also surplus-value.” (293)

  • Just as the commodity functions as a materiality contingent on an abstraction, labor, inserted into capital flows, also attempts to function around a paradoxical fusion, now between the materiality of labor and the creation of value. The value of the commodity is related to the perceived use of the object conceived of by the buyer and expressed through quantified abstraction. Within this circulation of commodities, we also have to redefine the concept of use.

Take, for example, something like a stock. It is a commodity, even if it is an abstract commodity, and it would seem like that stock does not have any direct use-value. But, in reality that stock allows one to have a level of control over the entity they hold stock in to the proportion of stock that they own out of the total. Stock is also tradeable, and can in itself be used as a mechanism through which its direct use is to create surplus value. Even in this case, where we are talking about an abstraction that only exists in relation to another abstraction (a part of an abstract legal entity), there is still value in the use of the object.

For the object as such, the object as object, the value of the object is related to the labor utilized to produce the object as a use-value. Though the abstraction of price will emerge in the circulation process, the value of the capitalist commodity is still determined by aggregate labor, now expressed through the lens of capitalist production as a quantity of equivalent labor and laborers.

“It must be borne in mind that we are now dealing with the production of commodities, and that up to this point we have considered only one aspect of the process. Just as the commodity itself is a unity formed of use-value and value, so the process of production must be a unity, composed of the labour process and the process of creating value [ Wertbildungsprozess ].

Let us now examine production as a process of creating value. We know that the value of each commodity is determined by the quantity of labour materialized in its use-value, by the labour­ time socially necessary to produce it. This rule also holds good in the case of the product handed over to the capitalist as a result of the labour-process.” (293)

  • This value of aggregate labor manifests through a number of forms that are outside of immediate labor. The base material is extracted or purchased, which takes on the guise of labor valued through quantifiable magnitude. The same goes for the wear on the machine, which is expressed as a partial cost per object of the overall cost of the machine, product loss, social conditions and elements that impact efficiency and so on. All of these elements of overall value involve labor as a force of creating value, and all of which then contribute to the overall price of the object in market circulation.

Outside of labor itself, however, all of these circumstantial elements, like social unrest, cannot be directly taken into account in the price of the object for a very simple reason; the object is priced now, but social unrest, for example, has an endless timeline of possibility. These elements are also not able to be generalized as a standard cost, the events themselves and the dynamics of existence are not able to be subsumed to generalized concepts. But, most importantly for our discussion here, these elements cannot be eliminated either; they are the distance between life and abstraction, and to eliminate contingency would mean to eliminate life itself. So, without an ability to take these elements into account, or the ability to eliminate them in the calculation of value, the value of the commodity comes to be determined by an averaging of potential costs.

“Hence in determining the value of the yarn, or the labour-time required for its production, all .the special processes carried on at various times and in different places which were necessary, first to produce the cotton and the wasted portion of the spindle, and then with the cotton and the spindle to spin the yarn, may together be looked on a s different and successive phases of the same labour process. All the labour contained in the yarn is past labour; and it is a matter of no importance that the labour expended to produce its constituent elements lies further back in the past than the labour expended on the final process, the spinning. The former stands, as it were, in the pluperfect, the latter in the perfect tense, but this does not matter. If a definite quantity of labour, say thirty days, is needed to build a house, the total amount of labour in­corporated in the house is not altered by the fact that the work of the last day was done twenty-nine days later than that of the first. Therefore the labour contained i n the raw material and instruments of labour can be treated just as if it were labour expended in an earlier stage of the spinning process, before the labour finally added in the form of actual spinning.” (294-295)

  • Within this structure it is not just important to identify an average of contingent costs, it is also important to prevent anything from happening that could displace that average. To allow for this structure of exchange value to function, not only do conditions of production need to be leveled, but also the particularities of labor and laborers. When an object is made purely as a use-value the particularity of the labor expended helps determine the shape of the object. Within capitalist production this quality of labor disappears, and must, otherwise all objects would need to be valued separately, rendering mass production impossible.

In most economics this elimination of contingency if treated like a simple efficiency calculation. In reality, this imposition of generic average is the very foundations for the assembly line, Taylorism and the entirety of the performance metric driven workplace, which is structured to construct the worker as an entity as close to a machine as possible; this is the ultimate core of the alienation of the laborer from labor within the wage structure. We will return to some of these themes when we get to Chapter 15, which is about the factory, in a couple of weeks.

“We have now to consider this labour from a standpoint quite different from that adopted for the labour process. There we viewed it solely as the activity which has the purpose of changing cotton into yarn ; there, the more appropriate the work was to its purpose, the better the yarn, other circumstances remaining the same. In that case the labour of the spinner was specifically different from other kinds of productive labour, and this difference revealed itself both subjectively in the particular purpose of spinning, and objectively in the special character of its operations, the special nature of its means of production, and the special use-value of its product. For the operation of spinning, cotton and spindles are a necessity, but for making rifled cannon they would be of no use whatever. Here, on the contrary, where we consider the labour of the spinner only in so far as it creates value, i.e. is a source of value, that labour differs in no respect from the labour of the man who bores cannon, or (what concerns us more closely here) from the labour of the cotton-plan ter and the spindle-maker which is realized in the means of production of the yarn. It is solely by reason of this identity that cotton plan ting, spindle-making and spinning are capable of forming the component parts of one whole, namely the value of the yarn, differing only quantitatively from each other. Here we are no longer concerned with the quality, the character and the content of the labour, but merely with its quantity. And this simply requires to be calculated. We assume that spinning is simple labour, the average labour of a given society. Later it will be seen that the contrary assumption would make no difference.” (295-296)

  • In this process all labor is rendered both equivalent and potential. The labor that one sells to the capitalist is not work performed in a specific, particular, unique way in the past. Rather, one is only able to sell the potential of generic labor; this is the selling of a portion of the future to mediocrity. As labor is rendered generic, and measured as a quantity, all that comes to matter is the quantity and not the type of labor or laborer. For example, to a capitalist fine metal machining and mass produced metal casting do not differ on a qualitative level, but only on the level of the time and cost of that time. The products of that labor are equivalent, in that they are both quantities, and the labor aggregated in the object is also equivalent, as a quantity, even if machining is a fine craft that takes years to learn and casting is a common and simple process. The material is also reduced to a quantity, with the quanytitative difference disappearing through its role as the substrate to which labor is inscribed and, as a result, value attributed.

“During the labour process, the worker's labour constantly under­goes a transformation, from the form of unrest [ Unruhe] into that of being [Sein ] , from the form of motion [Bewegung] into that of objectivity [Gegenstiindlichkeit]. At the end of one hour, the spinning motion is represented in a certain quantity of yarn; in other words, a definite quantity of labour, namely that of one hour, has been objectified in the cotton. We say labour, i.e. the expenditure of his vital force by the spinner, and not spinning labour, because the special work of spinning counts here only in so far as it is the expenditure of labour-power in general, and not the specific labour of the spinner.

In the process we are now considering it is of extreme importance that no more time be consumed in the work of transforming the cotton into yarn than is necessary under the given social conditions; If under normal, i.e. average social conditions of production, x pounds of cotton are made into y pounds of yarn by one hour's labour; then a day's labour does not count as 12 hours' labour un­less 12x lb. of cotton have been made in to 12y lb. of yarn ; for only socially necessary labour-time counts towards the creation of value.

Not only the labour, but also the raw material and the product now appear in quite a new light, very different from that in which we viewed them in the labour process pure and simple. Now the raw material merely serves to absorb a definite quantity of labour. By being soaked in labour, the raw material is in fact changed into yarn, because labour-power is expended in the form of spinning and added to it ; but the product, the yarn, is now nothing more than a measure of the labour absorbed by the cotton. If in one hour 1 2/3 lb. of cotton can be spun into 1 2/3 lb. of yarn, then 10 lb. of yarn indicate the absorption of 6 hours of labour. Definite quantities of product, quantities which are determined by experience, now represent nothing but definite quantities of labour, definite masses of crystallized labour-time. They are now simply the material shape taken by a given number of hours or days of social labour.” (295-296)

  • From this process all that results is a value equivalent to capital invested. For capitalism to function there must be a differential between these values, and to achieve this difference surplus-value must be added. It is in the addition of this surplus value that production moves from creating value into valorization.

“By turning his money into commodities which serve as the building materials for a new product, and as factors in the labour process, by incorporating living labour into their lifeless objec­tivity, the capitalist simultaneously transforms value, i.e. past labour in its objectified and lifeless form, into capital, value which can perform its own valorization process, an animated monster which begins to ' work ', ' as if its body were by love possessed '.

If we now compare the process of creating value with the process of valorization, we see that the latter is nothing but the con­tinuation of the former beyond a definite point. If the process is not carried beyond the point where the value paid by the capitalist for the labour-power is replaced by an exact equivalent, it is simply a process of creating value ; but if it is continued beyond that point, it becomes a process of valorization.

If we proceed further, and compare the process of creating value with the labour process, we find that the latter consists in the useful labour which produces use-values. Here the movement of production is viewed qualitatively, with regard to the particular kind of article produced, and in accordance with the purpose and content of the movement. But if it is viewed as a value-creating process the same labour process appears only quantitatively. Here it is a question merely of the time needed to do the work, of the period, that is, during which the labour-power is usefully expended.Here the commodities which enter into the labour process no longer count as functionally determined and material elements on whieh labour-power acts with a given purpose. They count merely as definite quantities of objectified labour. Whether it was already contained in the means of production, or has just been added by the action of labour-power, that labour counts only according to its duration. It amounts to so many hours, or days, etc.” (302-303)