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from nudism as an illegalism

CW: extensive discussion of kink(s), brief mention of some pretty problematic -philias

Nudism is not a kink, but just saying it like that won’t make anyone else believe that this statement is factual. That’s because there is something in this world that is frequently called “nudism”—that maybe even overlaps with a holistic practice of nudism to some degree—but which isn’t actually the same thing as nudism. This nudism-which-is-not-nudism can fairly be characterized, I think, as a kink, a fetish, a sexual fantasy, a paraphilia, etc., however you may want to call it.

This goes beyond the online porn industry’s usage of words like “nudism” —and even the originally euphemistic term “naturism”—in marketing, e.g. something that only exists on the level of representation. There is definitely something more real, more embodied, than all that. Although many nudist/naturist Reddit and Twitter accounts are bots, plenty of others are operated by real people who—it can be surmised from a quick glance at the account’s history—are not particularly interested in philosophical matters, news pertaining to the legal status of public nudity in different parts of the world, or even just a practical discussion about different aspects of living as a nudist in the context of modern civilization. Instead, what they are interested in is seeing pictures of people who are naked. More often than not, too, only certain kinds of naked people (e.g. attractive ones, perhaps of a particular gender or race), perhaps doing certain kinds of activities while naked (e.g. meditating under a waterfall, wrestling heroically) to the exclusion of other kinds of people (e.g. low-hanging boobs, flabby ass) doing other kinds of things (e.g. pissing on a memorial to a British colonizer).

In other words, these “nudists” are horny people (who, in many cases, may not have even participated in any form of social nudism yet). Some of them may also be nudists—but for now, insofar as we are discussing them as operators of social media accounts, and integrating them as a somewhat abstract “population” into a social analysis, they are horny people first and foremost.

I think it is fair to speak of (at least some of) these people as having a “nudism fetish” insofar as their exhibitionistic and/or voyeuristic and/or no-boundaries-between-sexy-time-and-non-sexy-time erotic fantasies express themselves, in part, as an apparently honest affinity for nudity and/or nudism (by which I mean, something that at first glance looks like social nudism as it has usually been practised in nudist-naturist spaces).

I am not particularly mad at any of these people, to the extent that what they are doing is just horny and not harmful. It’s none of these folks’ fault that Big Tech, and its subsidiary Big Porn, profits off of misuse and abuse of the term “nudism” (and even “naturism” at times), and that the whole smartphone-using world’s habits of sexual ideation have been, in part, moulded by instantaneously accessible hardcore pornography of all genres. We all live in this stupid world and we all get affected by it.

But it needs to be said that, well, they—the horny people—do represent a sort of problem for the perception of real nudists and real nudism by wider society.

Ugh. Let me just say, right now, that I really do hate this sort of verbiage. Talking about “realness” in order to do away with the bogeyman of a sexually unhinged Other—it is a trope that I am all too familiar with, in all sorts of social movements throughout history. But if the word “nudist” is going to be applied to “people” in any practically useful way, than it needs to exclude people for whom the desire to be naked is entirely tied up with sexual desire.

Because a nudist, in the context of the prevailing anti-nudist society, is probably someone who wants there to be more nudity-optional spaces—whether a little bit more or a lot more—then there is currently. A nudist is probably someone who also wants there to be more situations in which it is acceptable to be naked than is the case at present. Yet, critically, sex is actually not a situation in which it is unacceptable to be naked. Mileage may vary, depending on one’s specific cultural background and context, but in terms of North American or even global society writ large, sex is one of the only situations in which it is broadly acceptable for humans to be naked, no ifs ands or buts.

It’s not out of any animosity towards kinky people as a group, then, that I insist that nudism is not a kink. It’s just that, “kinks” (or sexual fantasies, paraphilias, etc.) are sexual, and nudism—which is to say, again, social nudism as it has usually been practised, and how it continues to be practised, in established nudist-naturist spaces—is not sexual, by definition. The moment that it becomes sexual is the moment that it stops being nudism, and becomes... sex. We are hovering close to tautology here, but I would argue that, if we’re going to put all of this into question, we might as well throw up our hands, decide philosophy and language are dead, and just all start grunting and grinding on each other non-stop. That would obviously be a great set-up for a porn movie, but it’s not at all practical for real life.

In other words, this is a semantic hill worth metaphorically dying on. (I can’t recommend actually dying over a semantic issue.)

Personally, I would like it if the porn industry as a whole was, by one means or another, prevented from misusing the words “nudism” and “nudist” (and sometimes “naturism” and “naturist”, too) for marketing any of its stuff.

It used to be that, entering the word “nudism” into Google, one of the top results was a website that had the word “nudism” in the name, and that featured galleries of photos taken, seemingly, from public nude beaches. I will admit to having clicked on it long ago, when I was still a teenager. Years later, while relaxing on such a beach in Barcelona as an adult, a drone whizzed by overhead, stalled for a minute, and then continued on into the distance. I was left wondering if the drone had taken my picture, and annoyed that I would not be getting any portion of the profits generated should my dick—and the bare skin of everyone else on the beach, including some kids with their families—end up on a website of the aforementioned type. Not cool!

But honestly, I have no practical answers about how to deal with this sort of thing, beyond some kind of comprehensive social revolution that would also fundamentally change the nature (and/or the existence) of the internet as well as the economy at large.

As both an anarchist and a nudist, the challenge, I think, is figuring out a way to articulate that nudism is not a “kink” without abhorring the category of “kink” as a whole.

Unless we are to take a very conservative view of the larger category of sex (which some non-anarchist nudist-naturists do, being broadly socially conservative in other matters), the subcategory of kink—which is to say, any of several sexual subcultures and/or the activities and aesthetics they concern themselves with—is something that exists beyond good and evil. It just is what it is, and overall, that’s something neutral and, for the most part, not even worthy of extensive commentary. The vocabulary is tricky here, but I think it is important to oppose the legitimization of certain kinds of sexual ideation as just one more variety of kink among many interchangeable ones (specifically zoophilia, e.g. bestiality, and pedophilia) without denying that, in the grand scheme of things, most other sexual practices, as bizarre or occasionally even dangerous to the practitioner(s) as they may be, aren’t really anyone else’s business so long as all parties consent (something that, incidentally, is categorically impossible in the attempted realization of zoophilic and pedophilic ideation, for reasons that don’t need to distract us).

Threading this needle, of distinguishing nudism from kink without opposing kink writ large (nor supporting it either, mind you) without also providing unwitting affirmation of actually dangerous forms of sexual ideation (like the aforementioned) won’t necessarily be easy, never mind elegantly articulated, in off-the-cuff, sometimes quite emotionally charged conversation. It should be said that I don’t think that any kink that passes basic muster—that isn’t detestable at a fundamental level, in other words—is, at that point, beyond critique either. As far as I’m concerned, nothing is beyond critique, least of all ideology; and if we’re talking about kink, that also always means the set of political ideas (and whether anyone recognizes these ideas as political or not is irrelevant) that there are in play about (whichever given) kink. For some practical examples of what I’m talking about, see this critique of BDSM from Yggdrasil Distro, as well as basically anything from the Bandana Blog project; these texts, and others, challenged my own perspectives on, and preconceptions about, these issues.

Personally speaking, I’m neither especially interested in BDSM nor in critiques thereof, but I have appreciated these perspectives, just as I appreciate critical perspectives on all sorts of other topics that don’t necessarily have much to do with my life in the first person. I live in the world with other people, after all, and despite the taboo nature of sexual practices that are, perhaps, attractive to the practitioners precisely because they are taboo, BDSM certainly does come up when chatting with friends (or sometimes complete strangers) about their relationships, the sex they like to have or want to have, the sort of work they do, and so on. The personal is political, and vice versa, and so political ideas (as well as moral values, analysis of how society works, etc.) are going to come up in these conversations, so all the better if the participants are actually well-informed about the complexities of whatever issue.

I think it’s worth saying—and I am hardly the first to say it—that humans are by and large sexual beings, and sexuality as an embodied experience cannot be cleanly cut off from the rest of personhood. But sexuality is not the same as sex, and cannot be. I am probably not prepared, at this time, to provide a tidy definition of “sex” that all readers will be satisfied with, but I shall insist that it’s a rather different thing than nudism is. It is, in point of fact, a whole other kind of thing, pertaining more to a person’s chosen activity, to “doing something”, rather than to a passive and continuous condition or state that is, in a sense, agnostic to activity. There is only the faintest echo of “doing something” in nudism; what a person is “doing” is sustaining their naked condition, rather than “returning to” dress (bearing in mind that all humans were born naked, not clothed, so really it is always to nudity that we return, but of course we all live in a clothes-are-understood-as-the-default society).

Apart from the obvious negative effects on the plans and aspirations of people more or less like me—people who want nudity to be (understood as) normal and indeed unremarkable, rather than (understood as) sexual and/or inherently provocative—I have also always thought it a curious thing to understand nudism as a “kink” because nudity is, in fact, sort of the “default uniform” for sex. People can have sex in all sorts of states of dress and partial undress, of course, but it’s rather odd to think of simple nudity as particularly kinky, even setting aside that we might be talking about a person writing an essay for their nudism blog while naked or making breakfast by themselves while naked rather than engaging in any kind of actually sexual activity with another person while naked.

Nudism, vis-à-vis a sexual situation, could almost be said to be the opposite of kinky insofar as many kinks ideate about specific outfits or worn articles (fursuits, gear associated with the leather subculture, the sexy French maid uniform, etc.) during sex, in contrast to the always readily accessible, and frankly quite unimaginative, option of nudity.

All of the above words won’t stop Christian rightists and other anti-nudists from viewing nudism through a “kink” lens or presenting nudism as “kinky” in conversation with others, then proceeding to identify kinkyness as a political success on the part of Satanic secret societies. If one is opposed to nudism on ideological or simply aesthetic grounds, and wants to rally others to the same sort of opposition, then a lens that casts nudism as an abnormal sexual compulsion does a great deal to delegitimize nudism at large, suggesting that nudism belongs in the same limited space of “only behind closed doors” where our culture also places sex and using the toilet. The nudism-as-kink idea presently serves a similar rhetorical function for anti-nudists as “autogynephilia” does for transphobes. It is also of a piece with present-day campaigns in many countries, from Turkey to the United States to China, to remove the capacity of queer people to express their queerness in public and/or on the internet in any way whatsoever, whether in art or in how they dress. The implication of the nudism-as-kink idea is that nothing less than the total non-presence of nudity in all public space and/or on the internet is acceptable; there is some grudging leeway about certain situations and settings, usually to the benefit of specific groups of capitalists invested in sex industries.

The logic is always the same: pathologize or criminalize some forms of expression as inappropriately sexual, and therefore in need of regulation and/or elimination. Enforced bluntly by the state, this logic has always severely punished people for doing things that are really quite harmless.

The harmless practice of nudists, throughout time, has been to get out into the Sun and the air naked, e.g. to recreate while nude. Otherwise it has simply consisted of being unburdened by clothes (which, as an alternative option, may be as unnecessary as they are uncomfortable in a given situation) when engaged in daily chores, activities, and socializing.

I invite the reader to understand the word “nudism” as denoting a social proposal, one that concerns itself with matters like work, philosophy, and how (I think) at least some future people will want to live. When people reduce this proposal to the nudity—really to the image of the nudity that they have in their heads—they are being both profoundly unimaginative and profoundly paranoid in their understanding of what is being said. It is a projection of their own ideas about the world when they understand “nudism” as denoting nothing but a sexual fantasy gone wild, a way for a bunch of freaks to get it on with their sometimes merely disgusting, occasionally actively evil, sexual undertakings, in other words nudism as a kink (derogatory).

But actually, nudism is not a kink, it is not sex, and it isn’t only for adults (unlike the former two items). The word “nudism” has certainly been misused by people who sell pornography, and there are plenty of stories in this world, if you care to go looking, about creeps who use a rhetoric of “nudism” (alongside a host of other manipulative tricks, like presenting as an authority and living up to the name) as a means of accomplishing some pretty fucked-up stuff around kids and youth. But this has no bearing on the merits and faults of nudism itself, however, nor does it speak to the reality of nudist individuals, nudist families, nudist communities, and people who otherwise have a broadly more casual and unanxious relationship to simple nudity, whether their own or others'.

This miscategorization reduces the whole texture of a way of life and its philosophy to an all-motivating “sexuality”; in this regard, it owes a great deal both to Freud and to the terrible mainstream of Christian theology.

At some point in the future, I may wish to consider, in another essay, the issue of “kink at Pride” from a nudist-comfortist and anarchist perspective. Kyle Kingsbury’s “A History of Leather at Pride: 1965-1995” provides a great deal of context about debates, both historic and relatively contemporary, about this broad subject matter—one that has included, for better or worse, the issue of nudity at Pride. As I have written before, nudity is a sexualized subject matter, and the presence of nudists acting like nudists at Pride, or anywhere else for that matter, is representative of an excess of what is normally appropriate (or what relatively conservative Pride organizers and participants want and expect) in much the same way that kinksters acting like kinksters might be. There’s no guarantee that I’ll get around to it, but I feel as though engaging with the perennial “kink at Pride” debate could offer some insight with regards to some of my favourite subjects: what practical solidarity with other “freaks” ought to look like, how nudists should relate to LGBT+ coalitional politics, and strategic questions about expanding the availability of an option of nudity in society. But these topics will have to wait for another day.

[comments: Raddle | Reddit ++]


from Dice Game

John Coltranes Circle of Fifths:

Cosmic radiation

We know about Coltrane’s Circle of Fifths because of an interaction with Yusef Lateef in 1967. Coltrane gave Lateef the drawing, and then Lateef included it in his book Repository of Scales and Melodic Patterns. The Repository of Scales and Melodic Patterns is a 280-page book of scales, patterns, and licks that serve as a list of jazz patterns. For Lateef, Coltrane’s Circle of Fifths symbolizes his musical journey. He adds that Coltrane “embraced the concerns of a rich tradition of autophysiopsychic music.” For Lateef, the autophysiopsychic was “music from one’s physical, mental and spiritual self.”

John Coltranes circle was an attempt to draw out a relationship between the ratios and harmonies of notes and scales. The outer ring also reveals an additional shape between the tones of the Hexatonic scale. This shape is a Hexagon. Another of Coltrane’s passions was the occult, so finding the pentagon and hexagon together has always been a point of interest for analyzing his fifth. He created his circle of fifths around the same time that he was deeply studying both Indian music and Einstein. Much of Indian music is intensely complex and uses scales with intervals smaller than semitones, called microtones. Instead of dividing an octave into 12 tones, these scales use something described as “notes between notes”. To illustrate, these scales have various notes between C and C#.

Coltrane was looking deeper to inspire his jazz composition. And while he was going micro in many ways, his interests illustrate that he was also going macro. There is a story in the book ‘Coltrane: The Story of a Sound’, where Coltrane speaks to French horn player David Amram. In the anecdote, Coltrane delivers “an incredible discourse about the symmetry of the solar system, talking about black holes in space, constellations, the whole structure of the solar system, and how Einstein was able to reduce all of that complexity into something very simple. Amram explains that Coltrane was trying to do the same in his music.

In “The Jazz of Physics”, author Stephon Alexander recalls a phone conversation he had with Yusef Lateef in his late 80s. He told the veteran musician that he felt the diagram was related to quantum gravity. Quantum gravity was the attempt to unify quantum mechanics with Einsteins’ theory of general relativity. As a physicist and saxophonist himself, Alexander is uniquely positioned to see the relationship between music & mathematics. For him it all started with Coltranes Circle Of Fifths – as he sees it, Coltrane drew from the same geometric principle that motivated Einstein’s quantum theory. While Coltrane and Lateef were approaching questions about underlying patterns and order in music from a spiritual direction, Einstein’s work can be seen as something similar but using a different method.

Why Is John Coltrane's Circle Of Fifths Different?

The Standard Circle Of Fifths is something that will be familiar to most musicians. It’s a geometric representation of the notes and pitch intervals we hear in music. More specifically, it’s the relation between 12 semitones. In the Western Scale, there are twelve intervals between each octave: A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, and G#.”

In classical Western music, a fifth is an interval from the 1st to the last notes in a diatonic scale. For example, the interval between C to G is called a perfect fifth. This is because the note G is seven semitones above C. Coltrane's Circle of Fifths is based around something similar but with some variations. The most notable aspect is that Coltrane uses a whole tone or hexatonic scale. The outer ring of the drawing contains the hexatonic scale of C, while the inner circle bears the hexatonic scale of B. While there is no definitive interpretation of the Coltrane Circle of Fifths, many have tried to decode it, and the closest anyone has ever come to explaining it is by drawing upon mathematics and geometry.

Interview with John Coltrane June 15, 1958


from sneering-lepus


i don't want to defer to your decisions and opinions just because they came from you You seem to expect my unconditional subservience. I think you're disgusting.

you want to get things done and be efficient get paid and go home it's “easier” for everyone for me to eat your orders, your commands, your poison

Why would I submit to this social arrangement that prioritizes the meeting of quotas and ticking of boxes and accumulation of value, that so vehemently refutes and denies my subjectivity, unless i was forced and had no choice?

why would i eagerly offer my blood to pad your CV and inflate your social capital? To feed you who is so overfed

You insist on rules and schedules that I must abide by so your criteria and timelines are satisfied Your standards and regulations and objectives furnish a lifeway that serves you and not me i am an interchangeable human battery to pop in and expend there is no compensation for the lifespan of mine that you've harvested

Why must I chisel and compress my time to fit into the tiniest of open spaces Who set this terrain? It wasn't me and still you play the powerless victim

There is [a kaleidoscope fractal explosion variety universe of possibilities for moving one's body through space and time] yet you sneakily narrow the scope of reality so i must plug and play, slot into your system with menus of binary options either i accomplish your task on your terms or i've failed

Do you expect consistent, precisely-calibrated results on demand just because you say so? Because that's just how it works around here? I'm replaceable, fungible, and defective fucking fine then i'm only doing the bare minimum until we have no reason to relate ever again


You hold my relationships hostage because you're the more credible storyteller here clear-voiced, straight-backed, even-keeled, rehearsed and brimming with authority you could limit the places i tread for calling me the one who betrayed and crossed you when i said “no” to you

Your scheming and plotting manipulation and insistence and deceptive false dilemmas and brute force bulldozing are so achingly normal here

This is not a negotiation This is not a collaboration This is not about meeting needs This is domination This is gaslighting insistence that this is the natural order of things


Disdaining and judging anyone as weak, inefficient, slow, stupid, unobservant is hierarchical People each have their own thoughts and feelings, their own understandings their own systems and processes for making life work.

the way i do things isn't worse than the way you do things it's not insufficient for being dissimilar

when i appear not to deliver results you desire you just call me selfish, unreasonable, emotional lazy, unreliable, erratic and carry on satisfied with your relentless self-propagation self-righteous and loving what you see when you occupy the entirety of your bathroom mirror with no space for anything else

but i know instead i am operating under different assumptions and impelled by different needs and pressures that are beyond your imagination and beyond your desire to understand weighty things that are invisible to you did you ever think to consider you don't know what you don't fuckin know?!


Self-hatred is hierarchical and the biggest con of all is how they got us to internalize their evaluation systems they made us hate ourselves as much as they hate us for —not shrinking and contorting our bodies so we —-insert into their bureaucratic permaculture human extraction machines for —not gleefully seizing our roles —-as agents of their wish-fulfillment fantasies for —how we force them to pinch and turn up their noses —-when we violate their delicate, dainty white lace and milk sensibilities for —denying their inborn species right to get their way —-because their embodiment is categorically superior These fuckers, they really believe they deserve all that they desire and that questioning their authority is violence toward them


This is a hierarchy of bodies. Don't look at my body and decide what I'm good for. You don't know my life. You don't know me.

Do you ever pause to think you're making a lot of reductive assumptions and judging others according to white supremacist standards that do not apply to the lived experience of people who are just fuckin different from you?




you won't be the one they'll listen to as sparks fly and bridges burn they have to lose something they actually care about before they'll question themselves

me, i give a wide berth in my line of flight escape is delight it is springtime with stars and sprouted seeds an entire outside to what they'd have you believe... yippee


from mu

quotes from “Clarifying the Unique and Its Self-Creation: An introduction to “Stirner’s Critics” and “The Philosophical Reactionaries”” by Jason McQuinn

“The process of self-alienation—of separating an idea or representation of oneself from one’s living self and then subordinating one’s living self to that image—which Stirner describes and criticizes is so ubiquitous and fundamental to the functioning of modern societies that it permeates nearly every aspect of social life.”

This separation of an idea (or representation) of oneself from one’s living self and then subordinating one’s living self to that image “is not just the foundation of modern life or modernity, it is also the foundation of so-called “traditional” societies, basically from the neolithic age onwards up to modernity.”

“Though it appears it was precisely not the foundation for the earlier (one could argue more aptly-named “traditional”) paleolithic and, later, gathering and hunting societies that are now usually called “primitive.””

“What distinguishes non-primitive traditional societies from modern societies can be characterized as the intensity and ever-wider dispersion of this self-alienation throughout all aspects of life, including every social institution and form of social practice.” reminds me of The Society of the Spectacle

“Although it is proper to call Max Stirner the most radical, coherent and consistent critic of modernity, it would be incorrect to understand him as defending these traditional institutions or life-ways. He is equally a critic of premodern traditional and modern societies. (Given the limits of archeological [sic (archaeological, submitted this and the last correction to the library)] and anthropological knowledge in his time, it is not surprising that Stirner never mentions or hazards any guesses regarding what are now called “primitive” societies.)”

I don’t really like the author’s use of the word slave and other forms of the word like enslaving when talking about people who aren’t in prison or otherwise owned or trafficked as an actual slave. In this thread, I’ve been trying to reword the booklet, but maybe we are slavish. Instead of looting, we are supposed to sell ourselves to employers, but we had no choice in making that surplus that keeps us working.

“Enslaving oneself to a fixed idea or imaginary ideal (or any number of them) is not a simple thing. It requires an immense amount of effort to work itself out in practice. This effort, in large part, it has been the primary function of all religion, philosophy and ideology to facilitate from the earliest days of symbolic communication. This effort also is embodied in a large number of habits, attitudes, modes of thought, and techniques of subordination that must be and have been learned and perfected by the masses of people in contemporary societies. And it is enforced by the sanctions of social, economic, political and military institutions that are constructed and maintained through the same types of self-alienated acts en masse.” (should be en masse which means “as a whole”)


from sneering-lepus


solid clean white whitewash opacity milk culture, a horror ecology body deforming agonist and antagonist harnesses you for its own purposes penetrates inside and makes you like it MAKES YOU MAKE MORE OF ITSELF until you like it or die trying welcome to the city the city is a titty


wrung from the tortured glands of another purportedly good for structural integrity within us clings to and hardens skeletons calcifies and entrenches white skin white teeth white dreams food pyramid marketing con transformed The Stuff into baseline health need people get mad at you when you refuse it and imply it's not good for both body and soul run fast they're really, really angry...


more hormones, more pierce and flood vessels and drown out one's blood genetic level sameness ordained from above everyone's doing it come join in fill up Someone's uterus and empty It out because surely every Woman wants to be a Mother compulsory self-sacrifice decided by Someone Else INVASION OF INTERNAL ORGANS CRAM IT IN THE HOLE BECAUSE I SAID SO forever until elasticity wrecked children upon children produced processed to add value assessed and priced alive now, for the purpose of growing consumable, useable flesh It's only good business sense to manage well and to harness the biological momentum of bodies whose autonomy we have no use for then they get harvested at a time decided by that Someone Else and not at a time decided by that Someone who dies We helped them grow. They owe us.


Concerning life that didn't have to exist fixating on fine-tuning our control so as to provide a more comfortable life or a less painful death is the most deceptive and cruel framing of all What the fuck is wrong with you?


Imposed industrial life support regime precise qualities and quantities pumped out on demand flesh products on conveyor belt assembly line spreading white tube-fed tumor, expanding via bureaucracy winning the war by crowding out the rest of the colours and creatures Milk grows so fast and hard, no one else has a chance they're taking away water to drink from the rivers replacing it with milk in bottles for our safety and productivity for our insidious non-consensual nourishment for non-consensual accelerated growth and non-consensual enhanced reproductivity


more milk more tits we prefer to pretend it didn't come from titties it's good enough for children to know it came from the store but we gotta work to make more of em more more more it's an open secret an adult secret for us to know and them to find out that it's really important that we get to cum in this social arrangement and that we get to do it without shame or reproach it's our right and duty to get it done and start it all over again and enjoy ourselves fully while we make the world


until there's nothing left to eat and drink but this! Homogeneous pink and grey asshole paste formed into shapes with a tall glass of milk on the side environmental racism, environmental toxicity, and hazard horror product on every shelf Success; Universalism Achieved chopped, blended, rarefied, extruded through tubes fed to us all in proportions equivalent to our market worth sensory dulling food and drink we're all so used to it oblivion by stun bath or nail gun seems appealing in a way if there's no pain then surely no harm done


from bugs

Also available in PDF form with an imposed option.

Translators Introduction

This piece’s exact origin is hard to discern. It seems to have been either originally posted to WeChat (A popular Chinese social media app), then shared to Chinese language platforms run outside of the control of the CCP, or else vice-versa, on June 1st 2021. Although its source is unclear and the author anonymous, it’s important to understand the context from which it arose. Crushed by the repressive 996 work culture (9am to 9pm, 6 days a week), which is an almost universal experience of people living in China today, Luo Huazhong made the radical decision to cease participation. In a series of quickly censored social media posts1, Luo Huazhong (“Kind-Hearted Traveler”) told of a different kind of life that he called Tangping2. The lifestyle he detailed was a kind of traveller/drop-out culture with an emphasis on spending as little time at work as possible. In the posts he shared stories of how, rather than grind himself to a pulp in order to live up to the expectations of the dominant culture, and become weighed down by its commodities, he had been happily unemployed for two years. In that time he found that an affordable diet, and modest living conditions were more than sufficient as they allowed him the time to pursue other more worthwhile activities, like cycling from Sichuan to Tibet, climbing mountains, and reading philosophy. Since April of 2021 when this idea was introduced and then banned from every Chinese social media platform, the idea of Tangping spread quickly and became somewhat of a hot-button issue in Chinese culture. Of course the party was quick to reject it, with party websites calling it bourgeois, or nihilistic. But censorship wasn’t sufficient to completely bury it, so state media began to invent a dialogue around what they claimed were the ‘real’ issues that Tangping had revealed. Tangping has benefited from being memetic in its origins, as this has allowed it to dodge the censors, and images of chives can still be seen on Chinese social media. Tangping, like most ideas, is shaped by its (in this case mostly anonymous) proponents. Luo Huazhong is not a leader, nor a messiah. He was simply the OP (original poster) of the meme that Tangping became. The author of this piece is just another anonymous Tangpingist3.

Lie Flat in a Ditch


Tangpingist Manifesto

Tangpingists of the world, unite!

1 Introduction: The great refusal/flat refusal

Some of the young people, disgusted at what they see before them, are moving on. Rather than being crushed by a sinister life, they simply live instinctually. Their poses resembling rest, sleep, sickness, and death, are not meant to renew or refresh, but are a refusal of the order of time itself. The call of those great times that longed to convert life into fuel, once so violently urged them to move forward, is now just an irritating fly buzzing in their ears. This is the moment when one kind of magic fails, and another comes back to life. As a matter of fact, if it weren't for the reminder of the Tangpingists, people would have forgotten that there is still such a thing as “justice”. Just as exploited employees try to reclaim their time from the bosses by touching fish4, the Tangpingists, who walk the same path, demand compensation for the endless overdrafts of the past. It’s believed that this remediation requires practitioners to reduce one’s needs in order to survive by consuming the least and working the least. Yet another growing desire is the redistribution of time and space by society as a whole, so that lying flat may become the practice of most people. The first to wave of this is obviously a kind of Tangping. Old and new aristocrats who feared losing their privileges swarmed. They have every reason to panic about this destructive idea that puts labor down like the plague, and against which there is no vaccine. But rather than acknowledging that this philosophy (which grew rapidly) is a mirror reflection of people's minds on a number of real issues, they prefer to decry it as the work of hostile forces. Of course, it makes sense for them to say that. For in the past, the people here have always been the most exemplary producers. Few other social factories in the world can make machines that run this smoothly, without making a single sound, as if the machine itself is a kind of void, without any friction. As if the people themselves were a void, and the nation was a form of reality miraculously snatched from the void. The denunciation of Tangpingists began. However, these denunciations were so trite and lifeless that the head of the person lying down is not raised. But those who claim that Tangpingists are a mob of lazy scum and unaspiring beggars should hear at least one answer. Don't take it for granted how easy it is to lie flat. On the contrary, from the moment they lay down, the Tangpingist’s body was already outside the country. Not only does their existence constitute another ethnic group, but the land on which they lie becomes completely detached from the old country. But, if this condition does not wish to be disturbed, shouldn't it have nothing to do with sovereignty and property rights? The body has no connection to possession and distribution, and the land is uninterested in management and governance. A radical Tangpingism marks a complete rejection of the current order. The Tangpingists make a merciless mockery of institutional inclusion, and are indifferent to any kind of praise or criticism. Just rotate the world 90 degrees, and people will discover this unspoken truth: the one who lies flat is standing, and the one who stands is crawling. This secret worldview has become an insurmountable obstacle between the Tangpingists and the citizens. And until the world has been completely changed, the Tangpingists have no reason to change their posture.

2 “Fellow Travellers” of Tangpingists

Yet, don't think for a moment that there is a uniform Tangpingism. When the first person who called himself a Tangpingist appeared, he could never have imagined that it would make such big waves. Tangpingism is so enthusiastically supported that those who feel threatened have to pretend they are supporters of this theory as well. How can there be any real comrades among these people? Those who are the first to come forward are just pantomiming the rhetoric to desperately keep themselves crawling. Is there any other way to deal with these Tangpingist “fellow travellers” than to throw excrement in their faces? The first to show their faces were some honorable Tangyingists5. Those aristocrats who move between their mansions and BMWs claim than Tangpingism shows the superiority of the order they follow. But in that order, who else lay flat (Tangping) before them? This alone gives their voice its power. Drawing this conclusion from their own lives, they think of Tangping as a form of hedonism based on material abundance. The richer the country, the more idle wanderers can be supported. Therefore, “Tangping in such a country is basically a kind of tangying”. It would be more correct to turn this sentence upside down: if there was never tangying (Lie to Win), why are people pursuing Tangping (Lie to Equality)? There is another class of Tangyingists that are more deceptive. With the help of the rhetoric of “Tangping freedom”, they successfully repackaged the popular discourse into advertising slogans selling wealth management products. What's more eye-catching than seeking something for nothing (“earning money while lying down”) in this age of overwork? However, the Tangpingists certainly made them feel that they had misplaced their expectations. In the past, when they were just completing the tasks given to them by the mainstream order, they felt that debts were always waiting somewhere ahead, as if they were just living for repayment, as if living itself produced debt-but who did they owe? It was when they took a radical Tangping stance against this systematic kidnapping that they felt they had found the right way out. This is the freedom that Tangpingists really found. Following closely behind were some moderate Tangpingists. They came on the heels of the honorable people, as if afraid of missing out. They say, until now, who hasn't noticed the changes in this world? But as faceless and mediocre figures, what influence are they expected to have? So for them, the essence of Tangpingism is not Tangping, but rather to not transgress or do things beyond the scope an individuals' ability.——As long as the dominant culture still exists, how can you compete?—— Therefore there is a call to retreat to a rural Tangpingism. We can also understand that when faced with the judgement of the official, the “radicalist” lying beside them made them tremble more than the judge did. At this time, their entire speech was simply, “My lord, I am only asking for a right to stand at the right time (like a servant). However, even these words were said on their knees. How can we distinguish this kind of kneeling vulgar Tangping (Lie to Peace) from the current philosophy of domination? Then came the economists who argued for the “rationality” of Tangpingism. Unlike scholars who criticize Tangpingism as a disaster for the country and the people, these economists are inherently optimistic. They say, what rich country is there where young people don't choose to Tangping? In the face of involution6, there is no better solution than Tangping. This is also the most natural solution – but isn't it the Tangpingists' own theory? But the explanation behind this is actually that when more people voluntarily withdraw from the competition and choose Tangping, the total labor force will naturally decrease, so this will give the remaining laborers more bargaining power, which is expected to improve the average wage. The assumption here is that the root cause of involution is an oversupply in the labor market. Although Tangping will also reduce consumer demand in the short term, they believe that in the medium and long term, a market equilibrium will surely emerge. The problem here is that they only regard Tangping as a “natural” result of market competition, while involution is more a result of a runaway population than a competitive national character (attitude? Ideology?) – this just is another contemporary repackaging of Malthusian population theory. Fortunately, the market will still solve everything. Their Tangping (Lie to Equilibrium) doctrine is the dynamic element of spontaneous regulation of the dominant order. Therefore, who could have contributed more to this society than Tangpingists? In fact, they are well aware of the situation of those who voluntarily quit. Those natural (”lack of theoretical guidance”) Tangpingists always been seen as the lowest-class in regular inspections of the labor market. The major economies of the capitalist world today are all cultivating a rapidly growing gig economy system. If the Tangpingists made the greatest contribution, the implication here is that they were the ones who made the necessary sacrifices for the continuation of the order. Here, the meek kneelers we mentioned will rejoice. Because, since radical Tangpingists are a bunch of unsuspecting saints, it is indeed most profitable to kneel and wait. But those economists will not tell them the disappointing truth: in the absence of democratic labor, Tangpingism, captured by the gig economy, not only fails to increase people's pay, but may also lead to further extension of labor hours. The last group to arrive, albeit late, were the technologists preaching the automation crisis. Unlike most who focus on the issue of involution, they insist that the spread of automation technology will quickly replace human labor. It will be too late to deal with a wave of unemployment by then. Therefore, Tangping is a rehearsal for the crisis of large-scale automation. Once the crisis comes, society will have to meet the basic living needs of Tangping unconditionally. If Tangpingism meant the abolition of labor, then accelerationism would bring that gift to them. But for the moment, Tangpingism is still too far ahead of its time. As Party members often say, a social ideology will only be compatible with its economic foundation (here it refers to technology as the primary productive force). What is there to worry about such an ideology that has been choked by reality? This means that for these Tangpingists, “the times will wake them up at dawn again and again.” But such arguments precisely ignore the fact that Tangpingism was originally a reaction to accelerationism. Accelerationists will not provide an explanation for why decades of technological progress have not led to a reduction in labor time. Tangpingists do not believe in the messiah of technology, nor do they believe that we can start an alternative society within the existing dominant technological system. Rather, what they state in practical terms is that if labor is abolished, it must happen all at once, immediately, or we will never be able to abolish it.


3 The Dilemma of Tangpingists

While debating with various “fellow travelers”, the Tangpingists also present their real dilemma. In fact, as long as the Tangpingist still adheres to an individualistic approach to practice, they are often forced into a cycle of asceticism and exploitation. Indeed, minimizing desire during the stage of asceticism helps us to minimize exploitation as well. But, here is the reality that the economists try to disguise, this then becomes a not-so-new technique of governance that shifts the relative surplus of the population between being “unemployed” and having no income and taking “odd jobs” with no rights or guarantees – note that these terms are both produced with the logic of production as the core. Those who actively defected to Tangpingism either continued to produce that oppressive condition, or they continued to accept it, or both. Since the time of Marx, this has been an important means of hindering the rise of workers' wages (he called it the “industrial reserve army”). The embarrassing aspect of an atomized Tangpingism is that, lacking a path to be practiced on a large scale, it may perish in stagnation. The more one understands it, the less they need it—they are forced into it, excluded from the mainstream order, and have nothing to give up. And the more one needs it, the more they resist its true meaning – for them, there has always been too much order, too many things to give up. Think about those who are caught up in the logics of marriage and family, those who have children, those who seek meaning in job assessments and GPA, those paying off their mortgages...If the Tangpingists have made so many enemies, how can one expect the dominant order to leave them alone? So, what should you make of a Tangpingism that is reclusive and withdrawn? When Tangpingists first attracted attention on social media, they were presented as such: they had exhausted their social energy with inhumane work, so they shut themselves in a cheap rental house and did not disturb the outside world. They didn't seem to realize that what confined them to a hut of a few square meters was itself part of the order they were trying to refuse. But what could be done about it? Hadn't they already taken that creed of radical Tangpingism as far as they could go? Let us return to Diogenes for a moment. When Diogenes lay in his barrel and looked out at the world, he did not appear isolated. He did not shy away from advocating his ideas to passersby, and he placed the wooden barrels in the most prosperous road in the center of the ancient Greek world. He was poor, but full of life: lighting up every face in the street with a lantern during the day, supposedly searching for the real man; stepping on the fine carpet of Plato's house, stating he was stepping on the idealist's poor vanity; walking against the flow of the crowd as they left a theater and when asked why, claiming “It is what I have been doing all my life.”. When his wooden barrel was crushed by iron hoofs, people quickly made another one for him. Few people know that the order we live in today is more ubiquitous and indestructible than it was in the days of the city-state that imprisoned most slaves. And who do we expect to rescue our ruined barrels? If we reject the order that imprisons most of us, but leave behind the order that separates and divides us and prevents us from loving one another sincerely, what have we rejected?

4 Allies of Tangpingists

The world today is rough. In order to save Tangpingism from its bind, so as to realize the great rejection of the current order, it may need another aspect aside from individualism. In fact, the general conception of mass Tangpingism is radical in nature. Tangpingism does not mean the decoupling of a certain social link, but every link. Tangpingism does not occur in the breakdown of a certain social class and identity community, but in the entire working class. It seeks to link refusal to go to school, to work, to have children, and to have a family, and so it naturally has the potential to link a whole generation of people who are mostly oppressed under the current order. It tries to contact all those who refuse coercion and obedience, men and women, workers and the unemployed, citizens, farmers and nomads, hooligans, students and intellectuals, heterosexuals, homosexuals and other queer people, vagrants and pensioners… what other idea could quietly build the secret affinities to set the stage for a general strike? Allies we contact include: a. Women and queer people. We reject marriage, family, and sexual relationships that bring them oppressive, discriminatory, and unequal relationships. We refuse to breed for the continuation of patriarchy. b. Workers (whether full-time workers, gig workers, or unemployed). We reject labor orders that create exploitation and alienation. We refuse to create labor value that provides a source of capital for bureaucratic managers and capitalists. c. Peasants and nomads. We refuse to be assimilated into an imposed modern order. We reject economic plunder and cultural extermination. We reject environmental catastrophe. We reject forced migrations. d. Students and intellectuals. We reject the intellectual and cultural production of mainstream ideologies. We reject the monopoly on knowledge. e. Young people, citizens, the homeless, and the unemployed. We reject high rents and housing prices. We refuse to pay housing loans and interest. f. The elderly. We refuse to delay retirement. We refuse expensive medical and nursing care. We refuse to be apathetic and neglected. g. Other theorists and activists who advocate radical change rather than conservative order. For example some Marxists, anarchists, feminists, ecologists, cooperativists…

5 Alternative Autonomous Communities

Radical Tangpingism is manifested not only in reaching out to a wide range of allies, but also in mutual aid communal relationships and in connecting with those alternative autonomous regions that have or do exist. Without the attempts of these pioneers, the Tangpingists would have no basis for realizing their vision. A Tangpingist is the smallest autonomous region, and their body is an out-of-control place that drifts around. On any occasion, in any situation, whether it's work, entertainment, classes, meals, mourning, weddings, Tangpingists practice their own ritual, Tangping. Faced with any person or entity, whether it is a leader, a boss, a division commander, or banknotes, medals, and national flags, Tangpingists are loyal to their own label, which is Tangping. Tangpingists invent their own festivals. In the midst of such festivals, they celebrate neither harvest nor victory. They lie down on the highways where the traffic flows, in the factories where the machines run and the bodies are numb. They neither spend nor indulge. They lie down in shopping malls that serve as contemporary churches, in stately or majestic palaces or modern complexes. In the midst of such celebrations, they do not provide more leisure for themselves, but for others. They did not erect these shelters for themselves, but for all the oppressed. For those who practice the principle of alternative autonomy in other ways, whether they are struggling under the siege of high-pressure order, hiding on the top of mountains or jungles that no one cares about, whether they retreat to the borders and corners of this world, or are stationed in the center of noisy and bustling squares, Tangpingists try to find inspiration and enlightenment from their attempts. We are grateful to the following pioneers: the anarchists and Marxists who founded the Paris Commune, the workers who took over the factories in the Spanish Civil War, the escaped slaves who formed marron communities in the Great Dismal Swamp in the United States, the homeless, artists, students and queer people who occupied houses in Berlin, Germany, the autonomous Zapata aborigines of Chiapas, Mexico, and the women who fought patriarchy and organized cooperatives in the Kurdistan region of Syria.…… Through mutual aid and self-determination, Tangpingists will also build their own communities. We seek an alternative to the order of excess that is centered on production and expansion. We seek Tangping anytime, anywhere. We seek to build shelter on deserted and vacant land without being evicted. We seek infrastructure, spatial design and urban layout for leisure and play purposes. We seek an economy of gifts, reciprocity and freedom from exploitation. We seek collective governance with direct democracy and gender equality. We seek to defend common ownership. We seek to tax our existing rent-seekers and renters to pay back what we have been deprived of in the past. We seek a barrel repair fund. We seek to allow residents to pursue their own pleasures with minimal labor. We seek technologies that accelerate Tangping rather than enslavement, so that labor reductions pay off immediately. We seek community care and nurturing. We seek to remove borders and move freely between autonomous regions. In particular we seek attention to those in need – to provide care for those who have suffered from mental and physical pain, money for those who are indebted, care for those with reduced mobility and incapacity, space for those who have suffered discrimination, stigmatization and injustice... … And for those who can't join us for the time being, Tangpingists must think of them too ...... It's time to stop fighting each over the rations during artificial shortages. A philosophy of resistance will be given new life from our actions. When the time comes, the Tangpingists will formulate more detailed tasks. But before that, we must make the first barrel. Tangpingists of the world, unite!


1 English translations available at or in PDF form at

2 躺平(Tangping) means to “lying flat”. This spawned the slogan “a chive lying flat is difficult to reap” 躺平的韭菜不好割. It has become somewhat known by its transliteration but this definition is important.

3 Directly translated it would be ‘a practitioner of Tangping’, or even more accurately a ‘someone who Lies Flat’. Because it’s a manifesto, it obviously needs to be an -ist.

4 Like Tangping, touching fish is a new term coined by Chinese youth in response to an oppressive culture of overwork. The term itself is a play on the proverb “muddy waters make it easy to catch fish” [浑水摸鱼], and the idea is to take advantage of the Covid crisis drawing management’s focus away from supervising their employees. It too seems to be growing from a hashtag to a philosophy, so perhaps we will see a Fish Touchers Manifesto soon.

5 The phrase Tangying [躺赢] is internet slang that means something like ‘winning without even trying’. In this context you can think of Tangyingists as people who are spoonfed a successful existence, like a roman emperor laying in his chair while being fed grapes and fanned with palm leaves.

6 Involution is a term coined by Clifford Geertz which broadly describes an economy where increased labor does not yield an equivalently increased output. It is often used to describe modern life in China.


from nrg

Thanks everyone for another great conversation. Topics discussed: how to live alongside and be response-able with young people, when to engage with or walk away from misunderstandings leading to disagreements leading to conflicts, how to come to terms with the unresolvability of... well... anything.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the free-form discussion over assigned readings for now. Like everything else, this is subject to change, but for next month we will keep the conversation open-ended save for a theme to either use or discard: MYTH.

Optional listening: Becoming a Ruin: Decomposing and Regrowing the Mythic

Look forward to hearing from you.

Saturday Mar 5, 4pm PST/5pm MST/6pm CST/7pm EST/midnight UTC (technically Mar 6)

As usual:


from Staring Into the Abyss

Pages 492-564 and 588-610

OK, so, whew, it is done, and sorry about the massive delay between notes in this series. There are some awesome projects on the horizon, that a group of us are hard at work on, and that has been a good amount of my time as of late (it will be totally worth it!).

In lieu of trying to break Chapter 15 down into the sections as they were read, I am just going to fuse all four weeks of sessions into this series of notes. Chapter 15 is a fascinating chapter, and one that is often not afforded its place of importance in the wider work of Capital. Ostensibly this chapter focuses attention on machines and factory production, but there is a lot more going on here than a superficial reading will allow us to see. Before diving into the content in detail, there are a few threads that I want to highlight.

The first theme that comes forward is related to the dynamic between worker and machine. In this discussion Marx delves into some of the ontology of the factory, and how this dynamic fundamentally undermines the structures of self-managed work that proliferated in handiwork, or craft, production. In the relationship to the machine the worker is not eliminated as such, is not destroyed or surpassed. Rather, the worker becomes reframed, not as an entity with skills and tools that produces an object, but as an industrial input, an element of the overall mechanistic system of the factory, where the workers becomes an appendage of the machine itself, as the machine becomes an appendage of the worker. In this construct the imperatives of efficiency and the extraction of surplus value drives the machine to a place of primacy, rendering the worker generic labor.

This dynamic of the machine rising to primacy fundamentally disrupts the directness of the concept of the labor theory of value, giving rise to a second theme centered around discussing how value is transmitted from the machine to the commodity. Within this discussion there is a fascinating discourse around obsolesence, and the rate in which machinery is replaced in the process of production. In this transferrence of value the machine runs into two limitations, both the necessity to save more labor than is expended in its production and operation, as well as the the overall cost of production, which must be less than production utilizing manual methods. The limits, in other words, center around force and velocity, active elements that come to form the core of how the factory is discussed.

The final thread in this selection is the way in which the advent of machinery fundamentally changes the character of labor in practical ways. With the advent of the machine, and the reduction of the worker to one that operates the machine, the specialization of labor implodes into a generic form of labor. As a result of this generic labor, increasing numbers of possible workers, including children, could be considered, causing a downward pressure on wages. This downward pressure on wages creates conditions which draft more of the family or community unit into the labor pool, further reshaping the dynamics between workers and control over the conditions of their labor.

Through these themes I am sure a number of parallels or lines of flight between these concepts and contemporary theory and experience will be noted. One of the more interesting connections here is one that exists between Zerzan, and attendant primativist tendencies, and this specific chapter from Capital. It is often forgotten that Zerzan started off as a Marxist, working alongside unions and leftists in the Bay Area in the 1970s, and during that time penned some works focused on anti-work theory. It is from these roots, though, that the arguments from Chapter 15 are taken on and extended out to some total narrative of history and technology. Now, I have a lot of issues with that reading, specifically the historical decontextualization and the reliance on anthropological assertions, as well as, you know, the whole utopianism angle, but it is always important to see where the roots of ideas that we will come into contact with really are.

It is with these notes that we will be closing this reading of Capital. As I stated at the beginning, this is not meant to be a comprehensive reading of all of Capital, Volume 1. Rather, as with a lot of the things I have been writing as of late, we are tracing a thread, a line of thought that passes through this work, and that has long tails into the present. So, without any additional waiting, here we go with Chapter 15:

  • The machine functions within capitalism to achieve two things. The first is that the machine renders the work performed by a single worker more efficient, namely more can be produced with fewer workers in the same time. Secondly, as a result of this efficiency less labor is embodied in the object, which lowers its value, but may not necessarily lower the price. As such, the machine produced commodity can be a site in which increased surplus value can be extracted from the object than it could be in non-mechanized production. The presence of machines, therefore, necessitates a differentiation between manufacture, where labor is a starting point, and industry, where machines become the point of departure.

“John Stuart Mill says i n his Principles of Political Economy : ' It is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have light­ened the day's toil of any human being.'1 That is, however, by no means the aim of the application of machinery under capitalism. Like every other instrument for increasing the productivity of labour, machinery is intended to cheapen commodities and, by shortening the part of the working day in which the worker works for himself, to lengthen the other part, the part he gives to the capitalist for nothing. The machine is a means for producing surplus-value.

In manufacture the transformation of the mode of production takes labour-power as its starting-point. In large-scale industry, on the other hand, the instruments of labour are the starting­ point. We have first to investigate, then, how the instruments of labour are converted from tools into machines, or what the difference is between a machine and an implement used in a handicraft. We are concerned here only with broad and general characteristics, for epochs in the history of society are no more separated from each other by strict and abstract lines of demarca­tion than are geological epochs.” (492)

  • In order to ground this separation between manufacture and industry, one must be able to draw a line of demarcation between the tool and the machine. Superficially, it would seem as if one could derive this separation from a differentiation on the levels of complexity or locomotion, but the complexity of a thing is an arbitrary qualitative determination and the structures of locomotion change and shift between different objects. In order to be able to differentiate between a tool and machine, Marx lays out three characteristics that define a machine; the motor, the mechanism through which power is transmitted to the machine (at this time many machines operated from a single motor often, but mechanisms like drive belts, or even electrical and communications wires and things fulfill this category as well), and the tool manipulated by that transmitted power. If we notice, these categories are not mutually exclusive, in the sense that they can never interact, but, rather, the tool itself is contained within the machine. The inflection point of the difference, therefore, is not in the machine or the tool itself, but is in that which exists around the tool, whether that be human or whether mechanisms are added to the tool to displace it from the hand and render it operative by a mechanism. This connection between the tool and the mechanism removes the tool from the control of the operator, and inscribes the tool and its operation into the mechanism itself.

“On a closer examination of the working machine proper we rediscover in it as a general rule, though often in highly modified forms, the very apparatus and tools used by the handicraftsman or the manufacturing worker; but there is the difference that instead of being the tools of a man they are the implements of a mechanism, mechanical implements. Either the entire machine is only a more or less altered mechanical edition of the old handicraft tool, as for instance the power-loom, or the working parts fitted in the frame of the machine are old acquaintances, as spindles are in a mule, needles in a stocking-loom, saw-blades in a sawing-machine and knives in a chopping-machine. The distinction between these tools and the actual framework of the working machine exists from their moment of entry into the world, because they continue for the most part to be produced by handicraft or by manufacture, and are afterwards fitted into the framework of the machine, which is produced by machinery. The machine, therefore, is a mechanism that, after being set in motion, performs with its tools the same operations as the worker formerly did with similar tools. Whether the motive power is derived from man, or in turn from a machine, makes no difference here. From the moment that the tool proper is taken from man and fitted into a mechanism, a machine takes the place of a mere implement. The difference strikes one at once, even in those cases where man himself continues to be the prime mover. The number of implements that he himself can use simultaneously is limited by the number of his own natural instruments of pro­duction, i.e. his own bodily organs. In Germany they tried at first to make one spinner work two spinning-wheels, that is to work simultaneously with both hands and both feet. That proved to be too exhausting. Later, a treadle spinning-wheel with two spindles was invented, but adepts in spinning who could spin two threads at once were almost as scarce as two-headed men. The Jenny, on the other hand, even at the very beginning, spun with twelve to eighteen spindles, and the stocking-loom knits with many thousand needles at once. The number of tools that a machine can bring into play simultaneously is from the outset independent of the organic limi­tations that confine the tools of the handicraftsman.” (494-495)

  • In this displacement of the tool from the worker, the character of labor shifts again, from the selling of ontological potential as labor time, still tied to the uniqueness of the worker, into a form in which the worker becomes an interchangeable element of the machine itself. At the point of mechanization, activity undergoes a process of constant modification to eliminate “inefficiencies”, which are nothing other than non-controllable contingencies of everyday life, from the imprecise activity of humans and mistakes, to the unevenness of “natural” forms of locomotion like wind, water or draft animals (we can also consider electricity supply in this calculus). The systemic element of the abstract conceptual structure of manufacture comes into direct collision with the particularity and deep historicity of the dynamism of existence, with the elimination of inefficiencies being an operation to attempt to force the world into the manufacturing model. As these modifications progress the agency of the worker if subsumed to the imperatives and repetitions of the machine.

“The machine, which is the starting-point of the industrial re­volution, replaces the worker, who handles a single tool, by a mechanism operating with a number of similar tools and set in motion by a single motive power, whatever the form of that power. Here we have the machine, but first role as a simple element in production by machinery.

An increase in the size of the machine and the number of its working tools calls for a more massive mechanism to drive it; and this mechanism, in order to overcome its own inertia, requires a mightier moving power than that of man, quite a part from the fact that man is a very imperfect instrument fo reproducing uniform and continuous motion. Now assuming that he is acting simply as a motor, that a machine has replaced the tool he was using, it is evident that he can also be replaced as a motor by natural forces. Of all the great motive forces handed down from the period of manufacture, horse-power is the worst, partly because a horse has a head of his own, partly because he is costly and the extent to which he can be used in factories is very limited. Nevertheless,the horse was used extensively during the infancy of large-scale industry. This is proved both by the complaints of the agronomists of that epoch and by the way of expressing mechanical force in terms of 'horse-power', which survives to this day. The wind was too inconstant and uncontrollable and, apart from this, in England, the birthplace of large-scale industry, the use of water-power pre­ponderated even during the period of manufacture. In the seven­ teenth century attempts had already been made to turn two pairs of millstones with a single water-wheel. But the increased size of the transmitting mechanism came into conflict with the water-power, which was now insufficient, and this was one of the factors which gave the impulse for a more accurate investigation of the laws of friction. In the same way the irregularity caused by the motive power in mills that were set in motion by pushing and pulling a lever led to the theory, and the application, ofthe fly-wheel, which later played such an important part in large-scale industry. In this way, the first scientific and technical elements of large-scale in­dustry were developed during the period of manufacturing.” (497-498)

  • The factory emerges from this efficiency process through the medium of common mechanisms of power (one engine powering numerous machines), which in turn led to the chaining of machines together into complex processes grounded in the cooperation between elements within the assemblage. In order for this shift to occur the tasks involved in any act of production need to be separated, isolated from one another, reduced down to their simplest and most repeatable form, with the machine being developed to embody this simplified and isolated act. These atomized activities, now mechanized, are reformed into an assemblage of machines carrying out repeatable, simplified tasks. This functionally abolishes the division of labor, reducing labor to attending machines, a single task, while machines replace the formerly organic division of labor.

“A real machine system, however, does not take the place of these independent machines until the object of labour goes through a connected series of graduated processes carried out by a chain of mutually complementary machines of various kinds. Here we have again the co-operation by division oflabour which is peculiar to manufacture, but now it appears as a combination of machines with specific functions. The tools peculiar to the various specialized workers, such as those of the beaters, combers, shearers, spinners, etc. in the manufacture of wool, are now transformed into the tools of specialized machines, each machine forming a special organ, with a special function in the combined mechanism. In those branches in which the machine system is first introduced, manufacture itself provides, in general, a natural basis for the division, and consequently the organization, of the process of production. Nevertheless, an essential difference at once appears. In manufacture, it is the workers who, either singly or in groups, must carry on each particular process with their manual imple­ments. The worker has been appropriated by the process ; but the process had previously to be adapted to the worker. This subjec­tive principle of the division of labour no longer exists in produc­tion by machinery. Here the total process is examined objectively, viewed in and for itself, and analysed into its constitutive phases. The problem of how to execute each particular process, and to bind the different partial processes together into a whole, is solved by the aid of machines, chemistry, etcP But of course, in this case too, the theoretical conception must be perfected by accumu­lated experience on a large scale. Each particular machine supplies raw material to the machine next in line ; and since they are all working at the same time, the product is always going through the various stages of its formation, and is also constantly in-a state of transition from one phase of production to another. Just as in manufacture the direct co-operation of the specialized workers establishes a numerical proportion between the different groups, so in an organized system of machinery, where one machine is constantly kept employed by another, a fixed relation is established between their number, their size and their speed. The collective working machine, which is now an articulated system composed of various kinds of single machine, and of groups of single machines, becomes all the more perfect the more the process as a whole becomes a continuous one, i.e. the less the raw material is interrupted in its passage from the first phase to the last; in other words, the more its passage from one phase to another is effected not by the hand of man, but by the machinery itself. In manufacture, the isolation of each special process is a condition imposed by the division of labour itself, whereas in the fully developed factor the continuity of the special processes is the regulating principle.” (501-502)

  • The advent of large scale industrial production also forced a shift in the broader social context of labor. As mass production developed an increase in demand for metals and ther materials, an increase in the capacity to produce power, a concentration of interchangeable workers and improvements to transportation and communication all became necessary. The process through which the social context of labor was modified to fulfill the needs of capital is termed, in contemporary history, as the Industrial Revolution. Not only did this build a necessity toward the expansion of the city, and the building of the slum, but also created a space in which machines needed to be constantly produced in order to make new and different machines to fulfill shifting needs, which necessitated machines to produce these machines and so on, fundamentally altering the character of labor as a whole.

“The transformation of the mode of production in one sphere of industry necessitates a similar transformation in other spheres. This happens at first in branches of industry which are connected together by being separate phases of a process, and yet isolated by the social division of labour, in such a way that each of them produces an independent commodity. Thus machine spinning made machine weaving necessary, and both together made a mechanical and chemical revolution compulsory in bleaching, printing and dyeing. So too, on the other hand, the revolution in cotton-spinning called forth the invention of the gin, for separating the seeds from the cotton fibre ; it was only by means of this inven­tion that the production of cotton became possible on the enormous scale at present required. But as well as this, the revolution in the modes of production of industry and agriculture made necessary a revolution in the general conditions of the social process of production, i.e. in the means of communication and transport. In a society whose pivot, to use Fourier's expression, was small­ scale agriculture, with its subsidiary domestic industries and urban handicrafts, the means of communication and transport were so utterly inadequate to the needs of production in the period of manufacture, with its extended division of social labour, its concentration of instruments of labour and workers and its colonial markets, that they in fact became revolutionized. In the same way the means of communication and transport handed down from the period of manufacture soon became unbearable fetters on large-scale industry, given the feverish velocity with which it produces, its enormous extent, its constant flinging of capital and labour from one sphere of production into another and its newly created connections with the world market. Hence, quite apart from the immense transformation which took place in shipbuilding, the means of communication and transport gradu­ally adapted themselves to the mode of production of large-scale industry by means of a system of river steamers, railways, ocean steamers and telegraphs. But the huge masses of iron that had now to be forged, welded, cut, bored and shaped required for their part machines of Cyclopean dimensions, which the machine­ building trades of the period of manufacture were incapable of constructing.” (505-506)

  • The Value Transferred by the Machine to the Product section of this chapter attempts to discuss an issue that arises in a superficial reading of the concept of the labor theory of value. In the labor theory of value, at a really high level, there is an assumption that labor, as performed by a human only in relation to the production of this specific commodity, adds all value to an object. That is not how Marx articulates this concept, or at least not a well rounded understanding of the concept, but this argument is thrown out there by pro-capitalist economists in the innumerable bad faith readings of this text that have been published over the years.

The issue that arises is relatively apparent. In the labor theory of value the imparting of value becomes a calculation of the total labor imparted into the object, at all parts of the supply chain, not just in the production of this specific commodity being produced in a moment. In economic terms this value becomes quantified into costs, wages and the quantifiable exchange value of the commodity. In the context of the machine, however, human labor-power, and thus the wage, is either absent or parrallelized into multiple processes at once, with machines connected to some central motor. So, the question shifts a bit, away from only being able to conceive of the labor theory of value in relation to labor, and now becomes this question of labor, as well as the question of how machines add value to the commodity. That is what Marx is trying to address in this section specifically.

  • The factory is a form which is defined by the convergence of forces, working in tandem to construct a production process. In the cooperation formed in the factory the collective productive forces of all workers and machines comes to exceed the sheer sum of its parts, and begins to take on a multiplication effect. This multiplication effect generates additional productive capacity, essentially allowing the capitalist to obtain this additional productive force for free. However, even in this formation, the category of the human worker still comes to occupy a central role in the construction, operation and maintenance of the factory. Even if we are to assume a scenario of totally automated production, which we are starting to see emerge in new and more pervasive forms, there is still a human engaged at the beginning of any process, in the construction, shipping, instllation, maintenance, improvement, running and engineering of the machine, and therefore requires the capitalist to obtain that value as a necessary part of production. This means that all production begins with labor, the acquisition of this value in the form of the machine, or both, but none of this can function without labor being involved in various parts of the production process. This value of labor then fuses with the value imparted by the machine to generate the overall value of the commodity.

“Therefore, although it is clear at the first glance that large scale industry raises the productivity of labour to an extra ordinary degree by incorporating into the production process both the immense forces of nature and the results arrived at by natural science, it is by no means equally clear that this increase in productive force is not, on the other hand, purchased with an increase in the amount of labour expended. Machinery, like every other component of constant capital, creates no new value, but yields up its own value to the product it serves to beget. In so far as the machine has value and, as a result, transfers value to the product, it forms an element in the value of the latter. Instead of being cheapened, the product is made dearer in proportion to the value of the machine. And it is crystal clear that machines and systems of machinery, large-scale industry's characteristic instruments of labour, are incomparably more loaded with value than the implements used in handicrafts and in manufacture.” (509)

  • The machine enters as a whole into the process, but the full value of the machine is not transferred to the commodity. If this full value were transferred into every commodity not only would the value of the machine be imparted to objects repeatedly, but those objects would exit the valorization process costing an astronomical amount of money to obtain. The value added to the commodity, therefore, must be tied to a portion of the machine that is consumable and non-repeatable. This consumption of the machine is referred to as depreciation, the loss of value of the machine itself, which is calculated as a quantifiable average of how much value the machine has concretized within it divided by the number of anticipated commodities that machine will help produce before replacement.

This construct of adding value based on the consumption of the machine, or to be more in line with the text, the consumption of the labor embodied in the form of the machine, allows for some mathematical magic to occur. During mechanized production the value of the machine, in part, is added to all commodities the machine produces in equal averages of value. As the machine depreciates in value it is imparting less and less value to each object. But, due to the ways that commodity production enforces an attempt to predict future conditions, and how that impacts projections of the life of a machine, the value imparted to the commodity from the machine does not change, even as the value imparted by the machine to the object decreases over time.

For example, say one is running a printshop, and they are factoring in the cost of wages, paper and toner to the cost to print, but are also adding in the cost of the machine divided by anticipated output. If one purchased the printer they are using for $10,000, and anticipate it to last for 10 years, with a $300/year maintenance budget. Therefore the printer is anticipating that the printer will be consumed at a rate of $1000 per year, which gets added to maintenance cost and then divided by the anticipated number of copies made on the machine in a year.

Now, at the beginning, when the machine is new, that value added to the commodity is significant; new machines degrade from this new state quickly upon use. But, as time goes on the rate of the degradation of the machine slows, and the value of the machine begins to drop at a much lower rate. In this scenario we are going to say that the printer lasted 12 years, rather than the 10 anticipated. That means that this average value of the machine consumed in production is added equally to every page printed, even after the full value of the machine has been recovered through value added in valorization. Essentially, that allows a capitalist to use averages to generate the potential of being able to manufacture the value of the machine out of nothing for two entire years of production.

“In the first place, it must be observed that machinery, while always entering as a whole into the labour process, enters only piece by piece into the process of valorization. It never adds more value than it loses, on an average, by depreciation. Hence there is a great difference between the value of a machine and the value transferred in a given time by the machine to the product. Equally, there is a great difference between the machine as a factor in the formation of value and as a factor in the formation of the product. The longer the period during which the machine serves in the same labour process, the greater are those differences. It is no doubt true, as we have seen, that every instrument of labour enters as a whole into the labour process, while only piecemeal, in proportion to its average daily depreciation, into the process of valorization. But this· difference between the mere utilization of the instrument and its depreciation is much greater in the case of machinery than it is with a tool, because the machine, being made from more durable material, has a longer life ; be­cause it can be employed more economically, from the point of view both of the deterioration of its own components and of its consumption of materials, as its use is regulated by strict scientific laws ; and, finally, because its field of production is incomparably larger than that of a tool. Both in the case of the machine and of the tool, we find that after allowing for their average daily cost, that is for the value they transmit to the product by their average daily wear and tear, and for their consumption of auxiliary substances such as oil, coal and so on, they do their work for nothing, like the natural forces which are already available without the intervention of human labour. The greater the pro­ductive effectiveness of the machinery compared with that of the tool, the greater is the extent of its gratuitous service. Only in large-scale industry has man succeeded in making the product of his past labour, labour which has already been objectified, per­form gratuitous service on a large scale, like a force of nature.” (509-510)

  • Machinery transfers value to the object in direct proportion to its force and velocity. The faster the machine operates, and the more force it can mobilize, the more productive the machine is. This allows the machine to contribute less of its total value to the object, until it begins to approach “free” natural forces like wind and water. This marks a dynamic of shifting labor value embodied in the machine and imparted to the object by the machine. To the degree that human labor enters the supply chain, and it always must, labor is still a source of value. Machines, therefore, multiply the value imparted in the production of the machine itself to the degree that this production consumes less labor than the labor saved by the operation of the machine itself.

“It is evident that whenever it costs as much labour to produce machine as is saved by the employment of that machine, all that has taken place is a displacement of labour. Consequently, the total labour required to produce a commodity has not been lessened, in other words, the productivity of labour has not been increased. However, the difference between the labour a machine costs and the labour it saves, in other words the degree of productivity the machine possesses, does not depend on the difference between its own value and the value of the tool it replaces. As long as the labour spent on a machine is such that the portion of its value added to the product remains smaller than the value added by the worker to the product with his tool, there is always a difference of labour saved in favour of the machine. The pro­ductivity of the machine is therefore measured by the human labour-power it replaces.” (513)

  • On top of this necessity to produce more value than was consumed in its production, the machine also runs into a second limit; the value the machine produces in its use must exceed the value of the labor displaced by its use. In other words, the machine must produce greater value than would be produced by workers in the same time period or at the same cost. This, along with resale value, functions as indications of the end of life for the machine, the point in which the value added for the capitalist no longer exceeds that which could be added by workers or newer machines, if those newer machine can also be said to produce more value than was consumed in its production.

” The use of machinery for the exclusive purpose of cheapening the product is limited by the requirement that less labour must be expended in producing the machinery than is displaced by the employment of that machinery. For the capitalist, however, there is a further limit on its use. Instead of paying for the labour, he pays only the value of the labour-power employed ; the limit to his using a machine is therefore fixed by the difference between the value of the machine and the value of the labour-power replaced by it. Since the division of the day's work into necessary labour and surplus labour differs in different countries, and even in the same country at different periods, or in different branches of industry ; and further, since the actual wage of the worker some­ times sinks below the value of his labour-power, and sometimes rises above it, it is possible for the difference between the price of the machinery and the price of the labour-power replaced by that machinery to undergo great variations, while the difference between the quantity of labour needed to produce the machine and the total quantity of labour replaced by it remains constant. But it is only the former difference that determines the cost to the capitalist of producing a commodity, and influences his actions through the pressure of competition.” (515-516)

  • The machine itself is, on a formal level, nothing other than an appendage, a prostheses for the human body. Traditionally, there is this simplistic understanding of prostheses, in which the tool is developed as a result of a problems that needs to be solved. This is only part of the discussion though, and one that assumes that tools themselves do not have effects outside of the specific problem it is developed to solve. Rather, as theorists like Manuel Delanda argue, technology and history cannot be separated from one another. Sure, tools are developed to solve problems, but the development of the tool changes the way activity itself functions, and, in turn, changing the totality of history. The machine in the factory is no exception; it functions both as an extension of the human, and as something that fundamentally alters the relationship between worker and work.

On a very simplistic level, the very first change is what we now refer to as the “deskilling of the workforce”, namely the elimination of the need for specific skills or training for a job. With the advent of the machine, and the factory, the machine took over the performance of the work, leaving the worker to operate the machine. The machine is able to leverage more force with fewer mistakes, and without rest or pay, than a human worker. This caused a simplification and standardization in production, and with it the pool of possible laborers increased dramatically. This, in turn, creates labor competition, and lowers the exchange value of labor as a result, which allows the capitalist to extract additional surplus-value from the commodity. It also led to the concentration of workers in industrial cities, and incredibly high rates of child mortality and injury in factory environments.

“In so far as machinery dispenses with muscular power, it becomes a means for employing workers of slight muscular strength, or whose bodily development is incomplete, but whose limbs are all the more supple. The labour of women and children was there­fore the first result of the capitalist application of machinery! That mighty substitute for labour and for workers, the machine, was immediately transformed into a means for increasing the number of wage-labourers by enrolling, under the direct sway of capital, every member of the worker's family, without distinction of age or sex. Compulsory work for the capitalist usurped the place, not only of the children's play, but also of independent labour at home, within customary limits, for the family itself.

The value of labour-power was determined, not only by the labour-time necessary to maintain the individual adult worker, but also by that necessary to maintain his family. Machinery, by throwing every member of that family onto the labour-market, spreads the value of the man's labour-power over his whole family. It thus depreciates it. To purchase the labour-power of a family of four workers may perhaps cost more than it formerly did to purchase the labour-power of the head of the family, but, in return, four days' labour takes the place of one day's, and the price falls in proportion to the excess of the surplus labour of four over the surplus labour of one. In order that the family may live, four people must now provide not only labour for the capitalist, but also surplus labour. Thus we see that machinery, while augmenting the human material that forms capital's most characteristic field of exploitation/9 at the same time raises the degree of that exploitation.” (517-518)

  • The introduction of machinery also completely realigned the relationship between the worker and the structure of the working day. The machine functions as an independent instrument of labor, considered separate from the worker and their skills, unlike the tool, which is inherently tied to the one that wields the tool. Unlike this relationship of human and tool, the machine becomes operator agnostic, and functions regardless of the human standing in its proximity. This allows the machine to tend toward perpetual motion as a mechanism for the extraction of surplus value. The limitations that then arise become the purview of failures, rather than normal contingency in the production process; the failure of workers to work consistently or effectively, the failure of the machine itself, the failure of supply, etc. So, in this shift one moves from an assumption of a limited production quantity within a day confined by the limitations of human labor, to a form of production in which perpetual and constant motion is assumed, with all contingencies being portrayed as failings and forcing a standardization of work determined by the parameters of the machine, and not the worker that performs the actual labor. This necessitates the elimination of “human interference” and the reduction of labor to generic work.

“In the first place, in machinery the motion and the activity of the instrument of labour asserts its independence vis-a-vis the worker. The instrument of labour now becomes an industrial form of perpetual motion. It would go on producing for ever, if it did not come up against certain natural limits in the shape of the weak bodies and the strong wills of its human assistants. Because it is capital, the automatic mechanism is endowed, in the person of the capitalist, with consciousness and a will. As capital, therefore, it is animated by the drive to reduce to a minimum the resistance offered by man, that obstinate yet elastic natural barrier. This resistance is moreover lessened by the apparently undemanding nature of work at a machine, and the more pliant and docile character of the women and children employed by preference.” (526)

  • As the machine degrades through its operation, that value is transferred to the product. This occurs, as we discussed earlier, through an averaging of the total value of the machine divided between the anticipated number pf products produced before its replacement, with all additional commodities produced beyond this number getting value added for free. Therefore, in this scenario, the more quickly the machine can be consumed, the more value is transferred to the commodity. For example, a capitalist running a machine shop can transfer three times as much value in the same period if the machine operates all day, as opposed to only operating eight hours a day. As these machines degrade and become more obsolete, however, their resale value also drops. These dynamics generate an incentive to utilize machines as fast as possible, both to accelerate the transfer of value, but also to maximize resale value of the machine. The result of a drive toward the elongation of the work day.

“The productivity of machinery is , as we saw, inversely proportional to the value transferred by it to the product. The longer the period during which it functions, the greater is the mass of the products over which the value transmitted by the machine is spread, and the smaller is the portion of that value added to each single commodity. The active lifetime of a machine, however, is clearly dependent on the length o( the working day, or the duration of the daily labour process multiplied by the number of days for which the process is carried on. The amount of deterioration suffered by a machine does not by any means exactly correspond to the length of time it has been in use. And even if it were so, a machine working 16 hours a day for 7 years covers as long a working period as the same machine working only 8 hours a day for 15 years and transmits to the total product no more value. Notwithstanding this, the value of the machine would be reproduced twice as quickly in the first case a sin the second, and the capitalist, using the same machine, would absorb in 7 years as much surplus-value as he would in 15 in the second case.

The physical deterioration of the machine is of two kinds. The one arises from use, as coins wear away by circulating, the other from lack of use, as a sword rusts when left in its scabbard. This second kind is its consumption by the elements. Deterioration of the first kind is more or less directly proportional, and that of the second kind to a certain extent inversely proportional, to the use of the machine.

But in addition to the material wear and tear, a machine also undergoes what we might call a moral depreciation. It loses exchange-value, either because machines of the same sort are being produced more cheaply than it was, or because better machines are entering into competition with it. In both cases, however young and full of life the machine may be, its value is no longer determined by the necessary labour-time actually objectified in it, but by the labour-time necessary to reproduce either it or the better machine. It has therefore been devalued to a greater or lesser extent. The shorter the period taken to reproduce its total value, the less is the danger of moral depreciation; and the longer the working day, the shorter that period in fact is. When machin­ery is first introduced into a particular branch of production, new ­ methods of reproducing it more cheaply follow blow upon blow, and so do improvements which relate not only to individual parts and details of the machine, but also to its whole construction. It is therefore in the early days of a machine's life that this special incentive to the prolongation of the working day makes itself felt most acutely.” (527-528)

  • Machinery also creates a multiplication effect. As long as the machine is being used it generates value. Traditionally, to expand production required capital investment in workers and facilities. However, the same effect can be generated by elongating the time machines function. Workers have a limit to the number of hours that can be worked, and only so many can fit within a workshop before it needs to expand. But, with machines one can exceed the limits of the worker, create shifts of workers to operate machines in continuous motion and, in doing so, expand productive capacity. To the degree that machines only add value in their operation, a tendency toward acceleration and a maximalist approach develops.

This generates a tension, however, at this point of maximalization; at the point the machine cannot produce more the addition of more workers does not increase the production of value. The result of this tension is a tendency toward maximalizing productive capacity, to then attempt to further automate and eliminate the worker to the degree possible. This fundamentally reconstructs the imbuing of objects with value, shifting the entity that value resolves around from the worker to the machine. We can see here how capitalist production creates a drive toward automation (which is the single biggest source of industrial job loss in the US since 1973, by a wide margin), but this in itself generates a tension as well. If workers are eliminated then this also begins to contract the pool of possible consumers. Just like capital accumulation, the drive toward automation creates conditions in which workers no longer have money with which to purchase things. As these dynamics approach their theoretical limit, they run into a practical limitation that presents a choice between this maximalism or the continued existence of capitalism as such. We see issues like this arising with growing wealth inequality, and the ways that this leads to a contraction of the consumer pool.

“As machinery comes into general use in a particular branch of production, the social value of the machine's product sinks down to its individual value, and the following law asserts itself: surplus value does not arise from the labour-power that has been replaced by the machinery, but from the labour-power actually employed in working with the machinery. Surplus-value arises only from the variable part of capital, and we saw that the amount of surplus­ value depends on two factors, namely the rate of surplus-value and the number of workers simultaneously employed. Given the length of the working day, the rate of surplus-value is determined by the relative duration of the necessary labour and the surplus labour performed in the course of a working day. The number of workers simultaneously employed depends, for its part, on the ratio of the variable to the constant capital. Now, however much the use of machinery may increase surplus labour at the expense of necessary labour by raising the productive power of labour, it is clear that it attains this result only by diminishing the number of workers employed by a given amount of capital. It converts a por­tion of capital which was previously variable, i.e. had been turned into living labour, into machinery, i.e. into constant capital which does not produce surplus-value. It is impossible, for instance, to squeeze as much surplus-value out of two as out of twenty-four workers. If each of these twenty-four men gives only 1 hour of sur­plus labour in 12, the twenty-four men give together 24 hours of surplus labour, while 24 hours is the total labour of the two men. Hence there is an immanent contradiction in the application of machinery to the production of surplus-value, since, of the two factors of the surplus-value created by a given amount of capital,one, the rate of surplus-value, cannot be increased except by diminishing the other, the number of workers. This contradiction comes to light as soon as machinery has come into general use in a given industry, for then the value of the machine-produced com­modity regulates the social value of all commodities of the same kind ; and it is this contradiction which in turn drives the capitalist, without his being aware of the fact, 71 to the most ruthless and excessive prolongation of the working day, in order that he may secure compensation for the decrease in the relative number of workers exploited by increasing not only relative but also absolute surplus labour.” (530-531)

  • Prior to this discussion the extraction of surplus value was related to the duration of labor. In this discussion of the machine, however, we now need to consider the intensity of labor during that duration. The machine already produces an intensification of labor in its operation. This tendency continues, and drives a process by which labor specialization and the inertia toward maximizing machine use and replacement creates increases in this intensification. This intensification will eventually create an inverse relationship with work duration, where increases in intensity only become viable in shorter work durations. As such, the tendency has been to fix the length of the work day (the shift) and increase the intensity and density of labor within that period.

“It is self-evident that in proportion as the use of machinery spreads, and the experience of a special class of worker – the machine-worker – accumulates, the rapidity and thereby the in­tensity of labour undergoes a natural increase. Thus in England, in the course of half a century, the lengthening of the working day has gone hand in hand with an increase in the intensity of factory labour. Nevertheless, the reader will clearly see that we are dealing here, not with temporary paroxysms of labour but with labour repeated day after day with unvarying uniformity. Hence a point must inevitably be reached where extension of the working day and intensification of labour become mutually exclusive so that the lengthening of the working day becomes compatible only with. a lower degree of intensity, and inversely, a higher degree of in­tensity only with a shortening of the working day. As soon as the gradual upsurge of working-class revolt had compelled Parliament compulsorily to shorten the hours of labour, and to begin by im­posing a normal working day on factories properly so called, i.e. from the moment that it was made impossible once and for all to increase the production of surplus-value by prolonging the working day, capital threw itself with all its might, and in full awareness of the situation, into the production of relative surplus-value, by speeding up the development of the machine system. At the same-time a change took place in the nature of relative surplus-value. In general, relative surplus-value is produced by raising the produc­tivity of the worker, and thereby enabling him to produce more in a given time with the same expenditure of la, bour. The same amount of labour-time adds the same value as before to the total product, but this unchanged amount of exchange-value is spread over more use-values. Hence the value of each single commodity falls. But the situation changes with the compulsory shortening of the hours of labour. This gives an immense impetus to the development of productivity and the more economical use of the conditions of production. It imposes on the worker an increased expenditure of labour within a time which remains constant, a heightened tension of labour-power, and a closer filling-up of the pores of the working day, i.e. a condensation of labour, to a degree which can only be attained within the limits of the shortened working day. This compression of a greater mass of labour into a given period now counts for what it really is, namely an increase in the quantity of labour. In addition to the measure of its ' extensive magnitude ', labour­ time now acquires a measure of its intensity, or degree of density.” (533-534)

  • The shortening of the work day, the fixing of its duration and the fixed efficiency of machines creates conditions for the constant acceleration of machinery in the form of new machines and increasingly dense labor. As a result of this dynamic of fixing labor duration emphasis was placed on increased, and increasingly efficient, mechanization as a medium of labor condensation, and concentration. We see this in the rejection of safety controls and in the focus on computer monitored efficiency, the Taylorist micro-measurement of tasks, increased workplace surveillance and the drive toward automation.

“The shortening of the working day creates, to begin with, the subjective condition for the condensation of labour, i.e. it makes it possible for the worker to set more labour-power in motion within a given time. As soon as that shortening becomes compulsory, machinery becomes in the hands of capital the objective means, systematically employed, for squeezing outmore labour in a given time. This occurs in two ways : the speed of the machines is in­ creased, and the same worker receives a greater quantity of machinery to supervise or operate. Improved construction of the machinery is necessary, partly to allow greater pressure to be put on the worker, partly because it is an inevitable concomitant of in­tensification of labour, since the legal limitation of the working day compels the capitalist to exercise the strictest economy in the cost of production. The improvements in the steam-engine have increased the piston speed and at the same time have made it possible, by means of a greater economy of power, to drive more machinery with the same engine, while consuming the same amount of coal, or even a smaller amount. The improvements in the transmitting mechanism have lessened friction and reduced the diameter and weight of the shafts to a constantly decreasing minimum, some­ thing which strikingly distinguishes modern machinery from the older type. Finally, the improvements in the operative machines have, while reducing their size, increased their speed and efficiency, as in the modern power-loom ; or, while increasing the size of their frames, they have also increased the extent and number of their working parts, as in spinning-mules, or added to the speed of those working parts by imperceptible alterations of detail, such as those which ten years ago increased the speed of the spindles in self­ acting mules by one-fifth.” (536-537)

  • Thus far, as we get into sections four and five of the chapter, we have discussed machines and factories without much of a discussion about the specifics of those terms and how they are being used here. In a simplistic understanding a machine is a device that does a task and a factory is a place where production happens. But, thus far, Marx is marking a difference between the workshop and the factory which has been largely implicit. Now we get into the discussion of how they are different and what this means for the structure of work and production.

The factory is a system, namely a dynamic between component elements in which a series of operations are undertaken in a necessary and intentionally defined structuring of coordination. This definition, though seemingly straight forward, has a number of possible implications, of which Marx discusses two here. In this first mode the factory is thought as an assemblage. The assemblage is not a unity. Rather, to use the autonomist sense of this term, the assemblage is a dynamic between elements, with individual elements maintaining shape and the possibility of autonomy. In this dynamic the factory is thought as a convergent dynamic between humans, tasks, tools and machines. Within this assemblage every element, in its participation in the construction of the assemblage, becomes critical to the particular momentary shape. In other words, the assemblage is thought of as a convergence of parts, all of which change, which in turn changes the whole assemblage. From this perspective the worker maintains status as an essential and primary subject within the assemblage itself.

The second understanding that I want to discuss here views the factory as a sort of Hobbesian automaton. While in this first understanding the components of the assemblage remain able to be differentiated and removed, within this conception the entire apparatus is considered as a subject in itself. As such, the components are removed from their particularity, and inserted into the factory only as components defined by their insertion; this not only includes machines, but also workers, tasks and so on. In this view all elements are component parts of a large living machine, raising the factory-as-machine to a position of primacy. This is the view that one finds articulated in the Five Year Plans under Stalin; the worker became nothing other than the energy and component element of the factory for the “new man”; this is how they justified purges, gulags, forced labor, wave attacks during the war and surveillance within the factory itself. While this first mode, the factory as assemblage, can speak to the factory as such, the second view can only speak to the realities of capitalist production.

“Dr Ure, the Pindar of the automatic factory, describes it, on the one hand, as ' combined co-operation of many orders of work­ people, adult and young, in tending with assiduous skill a system of productive machines continuously impelled by a central power' (the prime mover) ; and on the other hand as ' a vast automaton, composed of various mechanical and intellectual organs, acting in uninterrupted concert for the production of a common object, all of them being subordinate to a self-regulated moving force ' . These two descriptions are far from being identical. In one, the combined collective worker appears as the dominant subject [iibergreifendes Subjekt], and the mechanical automaton as the object ; in the other, the automaton itself is the subject, and the workers are merely conscious organs, co-ordinated with the un­conscious organs of the automaton, and together with the latter subordinated to the central moving force. The first description is applicable to every possible employment of machinery on a large scale, the second is characteristic of its use by capital, and there­ fore of the modem factory system. Ure therefore prefers to present the central machine from which the motion comes as not only an automaton but an autocrat. ' In these spacious halls the benignant power of steam summons around him his myriads of willing menials.'” (544-545)

  • The reduction of the worker to the position of an appendage to the machine begins with the displacement of the tool from the hand. In capitalist production the machine becomes the means of creating surplus value, and, as such, the machine is primary. The tool gets displaced from the hand and given to the machine, which both exists as a product of, and mechanism for the advancement of automation. This distance between the worker and the tool creates a space for a prime mover, or machine attached to a prime mover, to determine the entirety of how that tool gets used within the production process conceived of as a whole. Through this displacement all possible workers are reduced, not to generic workers, but to generic elements of the mechanistic process, of the factory itself. This reduction also ties the worker to the machine, fragmenting the cooperation between workers in production. Cooperation, then, is replaced with a simple relationship between generic workers, who are components of the mechanistic system of the factory, workers with skills to maintain the machines and capitalists, all of which become atomized elements of the production process as a whole.

“In so far as the division of labour re-appears in the factory, it takes the form primarily of a distribution of workers among the specialized machines, and of quantities of workers, who do not however form organized groups, among the various departments of the factory, in each of which they work at a number of similar machines placed together ; only simple co-operation therefore takes place between them. The organized group peculiar to manufacture is replaced by the connection between the head worker and his few assistants. The essential division is that between workers who are actually employed on the machines (among whom are in­cluded a few who look after the engine) and those who merely attend them (almost exclusively children). More or less all the ' feeders ' who supply the machines with the material which is to be worked up are counted as attendants. In addition to principal classes, there is a numerically unimportant group whose occupation it is to look after the whole of the machinery repair it from time to time, composed of engineers, mechanics, joiners etc. This is a superior class of workers, in part scientifically educated, in part trained in a handicraft ; they stand outside the realm of the factory workers, and are added to them only to make up an aggregate. This division of labour is purely technical.” (545-546)

  • The advent of the factory completes a process, inherent in capitalist production, to render the worker as an appendage of the production process. When combined with the creation of generic labor and the strenuousness of a mode of production centered on acceleration, capital comes to completely subsume the worker into itself, making the deskilled worker wholly independent on it for resources. This also allows capitalists to replace workers at any time, for any reason, which further fragments cooperation between workers, places them in competition and increases the drive of workers to attempt to produce more in less time.

“Factory work exhausts the nervous system to the uttermost; at the same time, it does away with the many-sided play of the muscles, and confiscates every atom of freedom, both in bodily and in intellectual activity. Even the lightening of the labour becomes an instrument of torture, since the machine does not free the worker from the work, but rather deprives the work itself of all content. Every kind of capitalist production, in so far as it is not only a labour process but also capital's process of valorization, has this in common, but it is not the worker who employs the conditions of his work, but rather the reverse, the conditions of work employ the worker. However, it is only with the coming of machinery that this inversion first acquires a technical and palpable reality. Owing to its conversion into an automaton, the instru­ment of labour confronts the worker during the labour process in the shape of capital, dead labour, which dominates and soaks up living labour-power. The separation of the intellectual faculties of the production process from manual labour, and the transforma­tion of those faculties into powers exercised by capital over labour, is, as we have already shown, finally completed by large-scale industry erected on the foundation of machinery. The special skill of each individual machine-operator, who has now been deprived of all significance, vanishes as an infinitesimal quantity in the face of the science, the gigantic natural forces, and the mass of social labour embodied in the system of machinery, which, together with those three forces, constitutes the power of the ' master '. This ' master ', therefore, in whose mind the machinery and his monopoly of it are inseparably united, contemptuously tells his ' hands ', whenever he comes into conflict with them; ' The factory operatives should keep in wholesome remembrance the fact that theirs is really a low species of skilled labour ; and that there is none which is more easily acquired, or of its quality more amply remunerated, or which by a short training of the least expert can be more quickly, as well as abundantly, acquired . . . The master's machinery really plays a far more important part in the business of production than the labour and the skill of the opera­tive, which six months' education can teach, and a common labourer can learn.' The technical subordination of the worker to the uniform motion of the instruments of labour, and the peculiar composition of the working group, consisting as it does of in­dividuals of both sexes and all ages, gives rise to a barrack-like discipline, which is elaborated into a complete system in the fac­tory, and brings the previously mentioned labour of superintend­ence to its fullest development, thereby dividing the workers into manual labourers and overseers, into the private soldiers and the N.C.O.s of an industrial army.” (548-549)

  • To finish out our discussion of Chapter 15 we will be focusing on Section 8, The Revolutionary Impact of Large-Scale Industry on Manufacture, Handicrafts and Domestic Industry. In prior sections we began a discussion of the social implications of the factory structure and the labor implications of the use and expansion of machinery. To begin to analyze these shifts it makes sense to discuss them through the lens of how labor flows through a specific structure of production within specific circumstances. for example, one can argue that there is cooperation in handicraft production, but this cooperation is not some total expression of that mode of production. Instead, that mode of production takes on specific characteristics in relation to the historical context of its operation. In other words, certain modes and contexts of production will facilitate specific modes of production As such, the structuring of this discourse around mode of production, history and labor flows allows us to add resolution to this discussion.

Handicraft production is defined as a mode of production in which nodes in the production process operate as atomized acts. For example, one person may just make latches, and makes the whole latch, while another may make the whole wooden trunk, and then a third person may make drawers or dividers for the trunk. Individually all of these objects are complete products, but they are joined together as an act in itself, not as a necessary part of the production process. Cooperation, in this context, functions not through the act as such, but through that which exists between and through these acts, or the collectivity of the entire production process. With the machine both the act and the linkage between acts are abstracted away from labor. This not only shifts the mode of production, but also the relationality and the dynamics of labor that both contribute to and result from this mode of production.

This transition between handicraft and the factory often proceeds through a manufacture phase, where machines are in use but collaboration still exists. At all points, however, the tendency within capitalism is to adopt factory production as a way to elongate total working hours, concentrate production, lower labor costs and increase surplus value extraction. It is here that we can see the connection between mode of production and context of production, in this case the factory and capitalism.

“We have seen how machinery does away with co-operation based on handicrafts, and with manufacture based on the handicraft division of labour. An example of the first sort is the reaping­ machine ; it replaces co-operation between reapers. A striking example of the second kind is the needle-making machine. According to Adam Smith, ten men in his time, using the system of the division of labour, made 48,000 sewing-needles every day. A single needle-making machine, however, makes 1 45,000 needles in a working day of 1 1 hours. One woman or one girl super­intends four such machines, and so produces nearly 600,000 needles in a day, and over 3 ,000,000 in a week.6 8 A single machine, when it takes the place of co-operation or of manufacture, may itself serve as the basis of an industry of a handicraft character. But this reproduction of the handicraft system on the basis of machinery only forms a transition to the factory system which, as a rule, makes its appearance as soon as human muscles arereplaced, for the purpose of driving the machines, by a mechanical motive power such as steam or water. Here and there, but in any case only for a time, an industry may be carried on, on a small scale, by means of mechanical power. Wherever the nature of the process has not necessitated production on a large scale, the new industries that have sprung up in the last few decades, such as envelope making, steel pen making, etc., have, as a general rule, first passed through the handicraft stage, and then the manufacturing stage, as short phases of transition to the factory stage. The transition is very difficult. in those cases where the production of the article by manufacture consists of a series of graduated processes, but of a great number of disconnected ones. This circumstance formed a great hindrance to the establishment of steel pen factories. Nevertheless, about fifteen years ago a machine was invented that automatically performed six separate operations at once. The first steel pens were supplied by the handicraft system, in the year 1820, at £7 4s. the gross ; in 1 30 they were supplied by manufacture at 8s.,and today the factory system supplies them at a wholesale price of from 2d. to 6d. the gross.” (588-589)

  • The introduction of the machine involves a paradoxical reconstruction of the labor process. To construct the possibility of mechanization each constituent act of the production process must be extracted, isolated and simplified in order to render it performable by a machine, repeatable and with rapidity. This involves taking the whole production process, breaking that object down into component parts, then breaking apart the process of producing these parts down to individual operations that need to occur. For example, say we were making stitch bound notebooks. The manual process involves getting paper, cutting that paper, finding cover material, perforating that material to accept a needle, threading the needle, performing the stitching, finishing the stitch and tying it off, and so on. In a mechanization procedure the making of the paper, for example, is isolated into its parts, each of which can be done by a machine; the same for the cover, the stitching, so on. Then, following this fragmentation of the acts of production, all of these component actions are individually mechanized but, and this is what defines the factory, those actions are structured to flow into one another, constructing a singular production process. This is how an assebly line works, for example.

In this process a discourse of methods and skills, the craft of the individual act, the connection of the worker to the object, are all replaced with a generalized discourse on design and engineering, with the worker reduced to a part of the overall process. This entire approach necessitates, and is necessitated by, the removal of the tool from the hand, and its displacement into the machine. This construct requires large numbers of generic workers concentrated into densely populated areas, while at the same time fragmenting that same body of workers through wage competition and the atomization of the worker as machine attendant; mechanistic linkages come to replace cooperation. As such, when combined with the enclosure of the commons (which displaced tens of thousands from their land and forced them into cities), the factory begins to almost take on an ontological dimension, structuring the very shape of existence.

“With the development of the factory system and the revolution in agriculture that accompanies it, production in all the other branches of industry not only expands, but also alters its char­acter. The principle of machine production, namely the division of the production process into its constituent phases, and the solution of the problems arising from this by the application of mechanics, chemistry and the whole range of the natural sciences, now plays the determining role everywhere. Hence machinery penetrates into manufacture for one specialized process after another. The solid crystallization of a hierarchy of specialized processes, which arose from the old division of labour, ceases to exist; it is dissolved, and makes way for constant changes. Quite apart from this, a fundamental transformation takes place in the composition of the collective labourer or, in other words, the combined working personnel. In contrast with the period of manufacture, the division of labour is now based , wherever possible, on the employment of women, of children of all ages and of unskilled workers, in short, of ' cheap labour', as the Englishman typically describes it. This is true not only for all large-scale production, whether machinery is employed or not, but also for the so-called domestic industries, whether carried on in the private dwellings of the workers, or in small workshops. This modern ' domestic industry ' has nothing except the name in common with old-fashioned domestic industry, the existence of which presupposes independent urban handicrafts, independent peasant farming and, above all, a dwelling-house for the worker and his family. That kind of industry has now been converted into an external department of the factory, the manufacturing work­shop, or the warehouse. Besides the factory worker, the workers engaged in manufacture, and the handicraftsmen, whom it concentrates in large masses at one spot, and directly commands, capital also sets another army in motion, by means of invisible threads.: the outworkers in the domestic industries, who live in the large towns as well as being scattered over the countryside.” (590-591)

  • Though it is a bit of an odd place to stop, this is where we are going to end this reading of Capital. So, for the sake of closure I will add some quick closing remarks.

This reading of Capital is not meant to be comprehensive. It is not THE reading of Capital, or even what some would call a “better” or “correct” reading; those categories don't really mean anything. Rather, this is an instrumental reading of capital, through the lens of autonomism and autonomist readings of Marx. Within this reading we uncover a number of elements that are almost always missing from more traditional, more Leninist, readings of Capital, and this allows us to help realign our tactical and strategic orientations.

Anti-capitalism in the US has largely been typified by a discourse on bad outcomes; that we need to overthrow capitalism because of sweatshops, environmental degradation, poverty, starvation, etc. While all of these things are heinous, focus on these outcomes displaces the rejection of capitalism into a discourse on bad results. This discourse is specifically flawed in two ways. Firstly, it is a narrative that is inherently reformist. There are ways that capital can still function while generating better outcomes, this is the whole concept behind “ethical capitalism” or “social enterprise”. But, even with better outcomes capitalism remains a form of existence which nullifies our particularity, necessitates the construction of the state and functions based on an ontology of quantification. Secondly, as a result most resistance to capitalism takes on the form of reformist campaigns, and not systemic disruptions.

In this reading we went through a series of way-points that can assist in a reorientation away from a liberal, reformist reading of capitalism.

  • Capitalism is based on an impossible ontology, in which the material particularity of the object is fused with this abstract quantifiable generality to form the commodity. Within capitalism this results in a structuring of existence that is not only based on atomization (the existence of one as an economic unit), but also which is grounded in the dynamics of the convergence of abstract values within the artifice of “the market”.

  • As such, capitalism does not function as a system, as much as it functions as a condition of possibility for existence in itself. In other words, capitalism does not only force certain actions to occur, it structures the very basis in which we determine normality, and in which we understand the categories we use to make sense of existing.

  • As a result of this ontology, all life and existence becomes defined. This requires an elimination of existential difference and the construction of a mechanism to eliminate contingency and disruption. None of that just functions, it all involves action, and the logistics of defining action through force through the elimination of difference is called policing.

  • Therefore, the struggle against capital is far from abstract and conceptual. What is at stake is the materiality of capital, and how those material conditions structure limitations to existence itself. As a result, anti-capitalism must move away from the activist mass movement mentality, which attempts to disrupt “systems”, and into a mode grounded in the disruption of material logistics through interventions in everyday life, where we are, when we are there. This approach is more closely aligned with insurrectionism than some sort of workerist context.

Those conclusions are minimal on purpose. There is a lot to dig out of this text, but, as a number of thinkers have discussed, there is no point in the analysis without that resulting in effects. We construct our understandings of the world through making sense of our actions, but the actions themselves have their own dynamics. If our conceptual understandings do not lead to effective forms of revolt, then they must be jettisoned. As such, the goal of this reading is effectiveness, the repositioning of modalities of fighting and whatever material outcomes may result.

Hopefully this has been useful. If I return to this text in the future I will make sure to keep these notes coming. For now though, on to other things.


from Dice Game


“It resides in our brains and stretches itself out through time, connecting each and everyone of us together, using us to force itself into material existence… In a peculiar motion, the knowing ape undergoes a partly conscious act of creation in the manner of Dr. Frankenstein. A body is grown, grasping at whatever it can take in, making flesh, stealing code. We build our trajectory upon shifting sands, held together by our ability to negotiate, to compromise, to determine which way the wind blows and thus set sail through the fog. However, one must remember that the binds that tie may also be used to rip a body in twain… The virus is there, as a process, as processing itself, forcing us to witness a veiled existence, forcing us to take part in itself. Some of us get so drawn into identifying with the virus that they lose sight of the way that we are held captive to it. They feed the growth of masks and armor, so they might hide from themselves, and protect against others. They force those who’d rather not draw from this poisoned source to feed the growth of masks, and armor as well.” [From the Pattern is the Pattern]


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 26, 1977, the local iteration of Pride took place in San Francisco, California. This was the 8th annual iteration of the event since the original San Francisco Gay Liberation March on June 27, 1970.

By 1977, 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 1977. 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 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 [choose] 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 Tong, 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 the “Beijing Youth Daily” (北京青年报, 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 to all male shirtlessness in public, or if it was only the shirtlessness of bigger, older, or 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 the Daily's mocking attention. Many of the photos of shirtless men on English-language news articles about the campaign 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 was initially justified by the upcoming Olympiad, but efforts at ending the “bad habits” of men exposing too much skin continued after 2008. For instance, in 2015, in the nearby city of Handan, deputies of some kind distributed t-shirts emblazoned with the characters 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 it's all perfectly fine, and in any case have no organic interest in changing their ways—hence, the need for coercion. In sum, there is a protracted (albeit 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, e.g. sweaty men who want to feel a breeze on their skin, if they can).

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 jurisdictions (municipalities, I would presume) 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, if they want to do so. This could all change very fast in the context of a sudden cultural shift and/or political revolution, but in 2021, such a thing hasn't quite happened here yet.

About a decade ago, though, during the summer, a guy approached me on the street as I was about to hop on my bike and dart off to my next destination. He asked, “Isn't it illegal to go about the city without a shirt on?” I had my nipples out at the time, as is often the case when I'm fiddling with my lock and about to hop on my bike.

The guy's tone was hard to read, but I think there is an implicit disapproval in a question like that. 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 traversing the crosswalk. 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 because of my shirtlessness while going from point A to point B or otherwise just trying to chill with my friends and have a good time in a public or quasi-public setting. 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 give a fuck, it seems, 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, gals, and others who look different than I do, and/or who 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 not 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 where 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 to be—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 flat-chested 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 not unusual or particularly notable when a cis guy is bare-chested, but it is rare to the point of basically never happening at all that a woman might be 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 some version of 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! And generally speaking, there is no issue or controversy, at least about the shirtlessness as such.

Yet, I wonder if 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 must be some degree of popular support for such a 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 about mainland Chinese society, it's not a situation of 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 (see the header on “The YMCA” and figure #41). At the very same time, male shirtlessness on a busy street or in any other crowded place was extremely uncommon; it would have been seen as hickish or redneck in many cases. Things are different now; for whatever reason, the culture has changed. My broad assessment is that things have moved in a direction of less body freedom for cis men in public pools, but more body freedom for them in most other public places.

(Nevertheless, it is still not really possible for men to eat a meal shirtless in most restaurants, nor for boys in high school to take their shirts off during a stiflingly hot math class, without getting some trouble for it. 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 that those women understood, in most cases, that such a thing could befall them, if police were to get involved (which would have been more or less a given at most political demonstrations, for instance, and with 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, in the 21st century, I can't really imagine anyone voicing opposition to loose tits. It's the police, the neighbours, or the owners of the bar we're hanging out at 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 people of all gender classes had taken their tops off because it was hot out. Then, when police intruded on the field and tried to arrest the “women” (anyone's own conception of their gender not counting for much in the cops' eyes), everyone's prerogative (that is, every anarchist who saw what was happening, many of whom hadn't been involved in the game) 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.

But, while 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 do.

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, brothers, 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 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 a simultaneously exhilarating and nerve-wracking act to perform in a public setting (at least for 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 in 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—and thereby help the flames burn a little longer and brighter. Maybe that would nudge things a little closer to a world in which nakedness could be less controversial in general, whether we're talking above-the-waist half-nudity or the full monty.

[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 on an older version of @news (and has since been lost).


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 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!

Also available in PDF form with an imposed option.

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)


from Dyscommunication

These are the rest of my notes from the anti-fascist interview. I didn't feel like spreading them out over several toots. My notes begin at

Overcome the scene, subcultural trappings by reaching out to everyday people: our neighbors, our co-workers, friends and family. Just be outspoken because everyone is going through a social crisis, and take this opportunity to listen to people and build a support network. Discuss the liberals and how they ignore fascists and crack down on antifascists, and show how fascism emerges out of our society, which is based on white supremacy, colonialism, and slave labor [and terrorist apartheid]. There isn't much time to stop the fascist take-over and climate disasters. Ask-an-Anti-fascist events where anti-fascists go to unions, schools, and workplaces and just talk to people and answer questions, demystifying and building relationships ultimately to prevent concentration camps.

My thoughts — Millions of black and latinx people are already in “concentration camps” (prisons) largely for being people of color in a white supremacist nation that stalks them. Their friends and families would like our help. Secondly, people who are most vulnerable to fascism — people of color and LGBT+ — are also very concerned about the rising fascism and have put a lot of energy into getting people to vote against fascism. These people may have their own networks, but we should try to be their allies.