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Below the break is an article by the conservative Cardus Institute, apparently published in the Calgary Herald on August 11, 2011; no record of the same has shown up, thus far, in my efforts to find it on the Herald's website. The text was taken from here, instead.
It is presented on this blog—with some annotation, typographic clean-up, and contextualizing hyperlinks—as an amusing record of a historical event, namely a naked bike ride in Montréal that happened just over 10 years ago and some anarchists efforts' to contribute something to it. The inset text, quoted in its entirety by the Institute author, comes from a flyer distributed at the event; the text was shortly thereafter published online.
As Montréal falls down around its residents' heads, there is comfort knowing it is safe to drop your pants and bicycle through downtown at midnight.
Motorists forced to use the Ville-Marie tunnel for their commute when it reopened Monday [August 8] told media tales of terror at the prospect of another massive beam collapsing on their cars. [Part of the tunnel had collapsed on August 2.]
Bridges are considered unsafe at any speed. Overpasses mimic asteroids, tossing great chunks of debris from above: “Look out! It's coming right at us!”
But insouciance, which only sounds like a French word for idiocy, rolls on. Late Saturday night [August 6], it cruised through the heart of Montréal wearing nothing but a superior smile.
While I was safely tucked in my bed far away at the time (my staunch belief is nothing good can ever come of being awake after 10 p.m.), press reports advise that 40 to 50 naked souls rode the streets en masse to make the point that, well, no one's quite sure. Perhaps their only point was to show they had something to point.
Like everything these days, the nudie wheelabout was organized entirely on Facebook. There is no word whether organizers recognized this as a golden gift of paradox.
It's doubtful, however, that they did. No two groups of modern humans are more squint-eyed with sanctimony than nudists and cyclists. Plop a bare-buttocked progressive astride the ultimate vehicle for green self-congratulation and you create, on two wheels, a snob so myopic the Hubble telescope couldn't help him see things clearly.
Naturally, police passively stood by as public order was violated. What were they to do? Uphold the law? Arrest someone for brandishing a club in public? Not in Montréal, where failure to look the other way is deemed a dereliction of the duty to be insufferably culturally superior.
Curiously, the one yelp of agitation following the event was on a blog called AnarchistNews.org. 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.
NO PANTS, NO MASTERS
WE MUST DESTROY CIVILIZATION
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.
NO BIRDS, NO GARBAGE TRUCKS means WE MUST SING BARRY MANILOW SONGS.
NO GOLF, NO CONDOMINIUMS means WE MUST MOW THE LAWN.
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.
CW: mention of sexual assault
The last post on this blog didn't hit the internet in the way I would have liked.
At the time when I published the previous entry, I didn't yet know any name for the presumptive trans woman (whose last name is Merager, and who I will refer to by that name for the remainder of this post) who had been present in the women's section at Wi Spa on June 24. I first had a thought to write something a bit solidarious vis-à-vis the Wi Spa situation in July, shortly after the first antifa-vs.-MAGA clash in Koreatown, Los Angeles, on July 3, which is when I first heard about it. Alas, life happened and I didn't get too far beyond the draft stage—plus I still had another entry to finish up.
In an article published by Slate on July 9, it was said that the initial incident had simply been a hoax—or at least that there was strong evidence to suggest that it hadn't actually happened, e.g. there was no evidence that any trans woman had even been present at Wi Spa on June 24. I don't read Slate, but perhaps the lefty/progressive sorts of journalists and/or Twitter personalities I was getting my information from do. At the very least, they were saying much the same thing.
At the time, I found the idea that it might be a hoax credible—which is to say, I'm not gonna put it past a certain kind of rightist to fabricate a story like the one that was being told in order to generate a useful controversy.
By the time I got around to actually putting together some sentences for the “Solidarity” post, however, it was already late September, and there had been some developments in the story. For instance, the Los Angeles police had issued a warrant for a suspect, who subsequently told her side of the story to a person employed as a journalist (and apparently that person was Andy Ngo, writing in the New York Post) before turning herself in to police. Slate updated its July 9 story on September 3. Of course, lazy hack that I am, I used a Wikipedia article on the Wi Spa affair to get myself up to speed; consequently I got some of the facts of these new developments mixed up, as I admitted in the October 2 update to my October 1 post. Wikipedia is often good enough for the sort of research I care to do, but that was absolutely not true in this situation, because several of these details were missing from the Wikipedia article at the time when I was writing my post.
I stand by what I wrote and, to some degree, how I wrote it—which is to say, I think I had a good idea of what I wanted to do, and what I fucked up was the execution. The Wi Spa affair, which was at its origin a controversy about some exposed “private parts”, provided an obvious and relatively contemporaneous example of a situation in which nudists had a clear stake as nudists. I thought that articulating both the how and the why of those stakes might be useful. First off, I wanted to challenge a certain part of the naturist internet (in some ways, the most promising part, insofar as it has some kind of interest in doing quote-unquote “politics”) to transcend the single-issue activism mindset. Second, I also wanted to direct some energy from among those who read these posts (and I guess there are a few of you?) towards an ongoing issue that should have been of some concern for anyone with even half-decent attitudes about trans people. This would have worked a lot better if I had managed to publish initially in July, not October, but it is what it is.
It was always clear to me that Merager might be, at minimum, a person I wouldn't want to be seen defending—but also that nothing short of full-throated condemnation, never mind the available facts, would be enough to convince those whose minds are captured by transphobic, paranoid animus that I was not defending her. For these folks, my simple usage of the pronoun “her” in respect to Merager is enough to mark me as on the wrong side of a Manichaean fight between Good and Evil.
This project—that is, the blog nudism as an illegalism—is about changing culture, for the better. But, that second part, “for the better”, won't be self-evident to people with different ideas about nudity than mine (or perhaps yours) and not much interest in changing those ideas.
A lot of the time, too, there is political opportunity in mobilizing and enlisting a sort of common sense—often founded in ignorance and/or paranoia—that stands against change in how people live their lives, what will and will not be permitted in public, and so on. This is basically all rightism really is!
All movements to change culture, whether in a progressive or a reactionary direction (however you might define these terms personally), will face some kind of opposition. In the present moment in much of North America, Europe, and elsewhere, rightist coalitions are stepping up to do just that in order to mobilize against the civil rights of LGBT people writ large, or in countries where that fight feels decidedly over and down with, they try instead to isolate the T from the LGB, the better to target that letter specifically.
If we were to ever have ourselves a decade of “gains” parallel to those that like trans lib got between 2010 and 2020 (which is unlikely, because there is no such movement to speak of, at least at this time), those who wish for an expanded option of nudity in public would face a similar situation. By this, I would mean there would be increased familiarity with our basic philosophy about clothes and bodies (without, necessarily, an increased acceptance of those ideas) as well as more accurate and/or sympathetic representation of nudist characters in popular culture (like Arthur Meyer's nudist character in High Maintenance!) and legacy news media. Correspondingly, as with trans people, we would become more visible to those with an ideologically grounded grudge against us, and we would factor more and more frequently into narratives of civilizational decline.
The thing is, no movement nor any significant population of people is completely devoid of shady characters, ugly representatives, and bumbling buffoons. Merager, and a few years ago Jessica Yaniv, are to trans lib and/or the trans population what a certain woman from Berkeley—whose last name is Taub and whose first name (not the one given to her by her parents or recognized by the government) is an ethnic slur that she probably has no good reason to use as her personal moniker—is to the cause of decriminalizing public nudity and/or to nudists.
Let's talk about this person. Taub was arrested on December 19, 2019, over accusations of stalking, and attempting to kidnap, a 14-year-old kid who had been friends with her son. I leave it to the reader to do more research into the nature of the accusations if they so choose. What is important is that, whenever her name comes up on r/nudism and r/naturism—usually to discuss the nude protests that she was involved in organizing in the Bay Area over the years, starting in the lead-up to the 2013 ban on public nudity in San Francisco and continuing afterwards—there are invariably comments to the effect that, first of all, she is mentally ill and/or a moral wretch (and these two things are typically often conflated) and that, second, it is wrong to “support” her.
There is never any question, of course, of actually supporting this woman—who has apparently spent the last two years in jail, mostly during a pandemic—by providing her with money for canteen, organizing a rally for her release, or trying to break her out of prison. Simply commenting positively about her activism from circa 2011-'12 is framed as some kind of comprehensive endorsement. Or at least adjacent to such endorsement.
To my mind, though, Taub is simply an important historic figure—at least within the limited scope of, say, the recent history of street activism in the Bay Area (which is not my concern) or the recent history of getting naked in public, and trying to make that option more available in general, anywhere on Earth (which is). She is, in other words, worth discussing for her deeds and her impact, within the scope of conversations on these subjects.
Although I am hardly an acritical supporter of her tactics or her ideas, I also think it's fine if some people, i.e. supporters of the minoritarian position that it should be okay to get naked in public, are a little bit inspired by the reason she is well-known. She actually did the thing, after all, rather than just posting on the internet about what she thinks would be cool and right.
I don't think we should ignore her history of inappropriate behaviour as regards young people (nor should we do the same for any other well-known activist or other historic figure), but that shouldn't be the only thing that can be said about her. Because, the thing is, almost no one wants to talk about Taub the whole person in these sorts of conversations, anyway. They only want to talk about Taub because she's a good starting point for a different sort of conversation, namely about a great political idea. Usually this is the most rudimentary, Reddit-brained sketch of a nudist utopia imaginable, but honestly, that's fine.
Also, to the extent that people just want to shut down a conversation about nudist street activism and/or nudist utopian visions before those conversations can even happen, simply because someone started that conversation by mentioning Taub, I actually think that that's not cool. All it is is derailing.
Merager, in contrast to Taub, is not an important historic figure at all, at least not yet. The Wi Spa affair as a whole, however, *might be *historically important. Perhaps it could constitute one chapter of a zine on the great West Coast political brawls of the early Biden administration. For my part, having months earlier decided to write about the Wi Spa stuff, I was going to have to something about the person who had been arrested once I found out that had happened. The way I talked about Merager was then opportunistically used to derail any (online) conversation about the ideas in that post from manifesting, and to put forward instead a combination of uncontroversial truisms (like “protect women and children”) and specific anti-trans animus. I was also told that, by “supporting” her, I was destroying my own reputation going forward.
So, what did I say about her? Well, apart from saying that I don't think she should be in prison, like an anarchist would say, I also presumed that I don't know everything about her just because she has a documented history as a sex offender, I did the pronoun thing (be mad about it), and I reiterated a basic idea among nudists, namely that seeing a penis is not an emergency. I suppose that a lawyer representing Merager's interests in the courts of the state could argue some version of that last thing in order to get her a better deal of some kind, but that lawyer probably isn't reading this blog. Part of what motivated these words is that, broadly speaking, I support the goal of trans liberation—which is to say, the end of specific oppression of trans people by, like, society or whatever.
I have done nothing to support Merager as an individual, though. Certainly I have not sent any money to her defense fund.
Any sex offender, regardless of gender, should lose access to spaces where nudity is present. I see no reason that they should be admitted.
As someone who has experienced sexual assault, the place I feel safest is at the landed naturist club where I am a member. I find the bar is set much higher in terms of zero tolerance for harassment and in shared values. I feel far less safe in other clothed places, for example pumping gas or buying groceries.
The idea of safety in gender segregation is false. It's past behavior that is a much more realistic indicator.
I agree with this person, though I have a lot of problems, personally, with both the notion of a state-administered sex offender registry, as well as the actual reality of it in California and many other places. That's because 1) I am an anarchist and 2) I read Foucault in university.
I don't think there is anything wrong, in principle, with identifying sex pests as such and excluding them from spaces where, for instance, people are going to be naked. I have more experience of this happening in demonstrations, occupations, bookfairs, and conferences—and while there were sometimes situations in which that process of exclusion was bungled and/or where I had serious critiques of how decisions were made, I think that, overall, it's usually worthwhile to keep verified sex pests out of situations where it is predictable what will happen if they are allowed to come.
In other words, exclusion is always complicated, but I don't think it's off the table. It can even be justified on lesser grounds than, for instance, being a sex pest.
My concern, I suppose, is how do assess the distance between cruelty and stupidity when it comes to trusting people to not keep fucking up? And, in a world where collectively used hygienic facilities were more normal, how could we categorically exclude a class of “offenders” without replicating something like a neo-Foucauldian conception of a prison society? These questions may not bother all nudists, but they should bother anarchist nudists.
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. https://printedbybugs.com/pdfs/tangping/
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.
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?
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.…
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。
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
“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)
“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)
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 https://kolektiva.social/@dysco/107198680141452079.
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. https://threewayfight.blogspot.com/
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.
The reading for this week is the beginning of the process of taking all of this complex, abstract and somewhat obtuse theory and grounding it in something tangible, in this case labor. Remember, when we discussed labor earlier that discussion tended to revolve around the concept of the labor theory of value or the positionality of labor within the wider dynamic of circulation.
These ideas are critical to understand, but throughout this discussion there is something lacking, namely a discussion of what labor even really is. That seems like a silly, self-evident element of everyday life, but it is actually a much more complex idea than we often allow it to be. For example, during this clapter Marx will differentiate between work, labor and labor-power. But, even beyond that the concept of labor is fundamentally bound up with the social structure of labor and the relationships between power, knowledge and our understandings of the world.
The concept of labor that has carried itself through the trajectory of Western philosophy is a concept that makes a series of difficult to identify assertions about life, and our relationship to the world. These assumptions are so commonly held that they almost disappear into a sense of unstated normality. But, core to this question, in its traditional understanding, is a very clear, and very problematic, concept of the human.
This conception of the human, which finds a clear early expression in Aristotle, will sound very familiar. It is the concept that there is a fundamental separation between the human and everything else, grouped under the concept of nature. This separation is typified by a dynamic of extraction and domination, namely that “nature” is the dominion of the human. Clearly this idea carried over into Christianity, through the Book of Genesis.
But, coupled with this idea is a specific concept of how we create, or what the process of making something entails. Within this Aristotelian conception the human functions in a relationship with nature in which the human has total sovereignty. This means that, not only can the human extract whatever they need, but also that “nature” is a sort of passive and inert substance. When we make something, say carving something out of wood, within this understanding of the world that carving transfers directly from the mind to the object, with the material presenting no resistance to human action.
Now, anyone that has ever carved wood or, in my case I mess around with amateur metal machining and fabrication, knows that materials all have tolerances, unevenness, gaps, areas which present different resistances, flows that move cleanly through a material and so on. A wood carving needs to take grain into account, as a really simple example, but also if one is welding the metal can warp due to heating differentials. None of that can possibly exist within this traditional understanding of the separation between “human” and “nature”.
There is a lot more to say on this topic, and someday I plan on doing a seminar on the concept of production and the dynamic between the concept of the human and the materiality of prosthetic tools. It is not time to dive into this here, now, but if you are interested I would recommend the Technics and Time series by Bernard Steigler or War In The Age of Intelligent Machines and Thousand Years of Nonlinear History by Manuel Delanda.
For now, what is relevant are two points that I will briefly summarize before getting into the heart of the notes. The first is that this traditional conception of production is something that a lot of Marxists impose into Marx; this is the entire basis for the 5 Year Plans, for example. But, as we will see, that reductionistic reading misses a lot of really critical nuance. Secondly, it is in this nuance that we can begin the process of understanding wage labor and the ways that labor is commodified, as well as the ontological impacts of that. We will leave the commodification, valorization, process for next week, and will focus on this understanding of labor presented here for this series of notes.
So, sit back, relax and enjoy!
To exist one must possess the potential for activity; to not have the potential to act is to literally describe death. Though these possibilities must exist for one to exist, that does not mean that all of these potentialities are manifested. This potentiality of action, therefore, serves as a sort of labor in waiting, time and effort that can be turned toward a task.
In the construction of labour-power, or labor that has been utilized as part of a mode of a commodified mode of production, the individual is specifically selling this potential labor. During this process a space is opened between the production process itself and the social context of that production. In other words, in the process of labor becoming labour-power or work the social context of labor has been inserted into the dynamic, allowing for the commodification of labor to even be possible. Labor itself is a separate category, independent from the social context of labor, which comes to shape and channel labor. It is in this locality that the structure of power comes to impact the possibilities of activity.
On a second level another gap is opened, this time between the value produced and its circulation within capitalism. This separation has been discussed before, but the point takes on a slightly different shape here. To the degree that labor and the social context of labor are not inherently connected (there are many different social contexts in which labor can occur, and none are essential for labor to occur), this then comes to form the basis of the separation of value created and value circulated. When labor as such occurs the result is the production of use value. It is in the insertion and imposition of a specific context for labor in which this value gets rendered irrelevant, and the object can begin to express the exchange value that ultimately constructs the object as a commodity. It is in these separations that Marx can talk about workers being separated from the products of their labor; that labor ceases to be labor as such and becomes work through its insertion into commodity circulation.
“Hence what the capitalist sets the worker to produce is a particular use-value, a specific article. The fact that the production of use-values, or goods, is carried on under the control of a capitalist and on his behalf does not alter the general character of that production. We shall therefore, in the first place, have to consider the labour process independently of any specific social formation.” (283)
The traditional conception of labor has a number of different roots, including Aristotle and later the Bible. In these narratives this conflict between human and “nature” is based on a number of assumptions. Firstly, there is an assumption that the categories of human and nature are clear and absolute in their separation. This concept is one grounded in the arrogant narrative of “human reason”, and a lack of understanding of the non-human. It also essentializes the human as a thing when, if we follow thinkers like Bernard Steigler here, the human is more identified by the uses of what it is not, namely what Steigler terms prostheses, or, in other words, tools. Consequently this posits some essential characteristic to “nature” as well. These essentializing narratives would literally require understanding the totality of all possible things in all possible ways to even begin to venture some sort of discourse around.
The second element if this traditional understanding is centered around a domination narrative. In Leninist thought this conflict between the human and nature is one in which the task of the human is to dominate nature, to extract from it what is necessary, and to do so as some sort of absurd concept of political duty; this becomes very clear in the early Soviet modernization programs and later in the farm collectivization program and other state central planning processes. This narrative rests on the first, and then attempts to essentialize conflict as something with a victor and a conclusion. Conflict, however, is a much simpler concept, and means nothing more than the non-sameness of things, or the discordance between two entities, but not necessarily antagonism or domination. All of that content is being added in retroactively and used to support points that drift pretty far from this narrative.
These two assertions come together to form a narrative in which the natural is nothing but inert material that is able to be readily manipulated by the human without any resistance. The deficiencies of this understanding are obvious for anyone that has ever done wood or metal working. Both disciplines are largely centered around how to work with and compensate for irregularities and features of the material itself. For example, when welding one needs to tack down the pieces to one another at various points throughout the welding path, prior to actually welding the seam. This is because welding adds significant heat to the material, which causes distortions to the material and causes its shape to change. So, far from an inert and passive medium, the material itself presents distinct features that we are in “conflict” with during the act of making something.
There is plenty of language in this section of the chapter that seems to be pushing in this traditional direction, with concepts of sovereignty, power and some inherent separation between human and “nature. However, interspersed with that language you will find quotes (like the one below) in which it becomes clear that something more complex is going on here. Far from just repeating some sort of dogmatic humanism, Marx is actually expressing what, for the time, was a highly complex understanding of the interplay between laborer, material and ontology.The natural in the narrative Marx is crafting here is not one of a passive and definitive nature wholly separate from the human. Rather, this narrative is centered around a dynamic between labor and material, where the “natural” is an active and dynamic space that presents “forces” (to use Marx's term) that are acted upon by labor to ultimately produce a thing that is the result of both labor and the features of the material, or nature.
This allows us to think through a few questions that would be impossible to understand if we think of nature in this Aristotelian/Leninist framework of passive inert nature. Firstly, we would never be able to describe failure. If “nature” were a passive entity acted upon unilaterally by the human, then there could never be any mistakes in the process of taking concept and manifesting it in concrete form. Secondly, and this is critical later when we discuss value and price in the next section, without being able to speak of “nature” as a dynamic entity that is in flux, we can never discuss decay or degradation.
In this dynamic labor, prior to commodification, is in a dynamic with “nature”, or material, typified not by unchallenged human activity and inert materials, but is, rather, a dynamic based in intent and conflict. The shape of the object and material acts of construction exist in a dynamic between laborer and “nature”, making the resultant creation one that is inherently connected to both the laborer and the material in a particularized sense.
“Labour is, first of all, a process between man and nature, a process by which man, through his own actions, mediates, regulates and controls the metabolism between himself and nature. He confronts the materials of nature as a force of nature. He sets in motion the natural forces which belong to his own body, his arms, legs, head and hands, in order to appropriate the materials of nature in a form adapted to his own needs. Through this movement he acts upon external nature and changes it, and in this way he simultaneously changes his own nature.” (283)
As with material, the tool itself presents additional and shifting resistances. Tools and the materials they are made of have limitations. Metal, for example, cannot cut harder metals. These tools also degrade, change shape, fail in their tasks. This is all added into the aggregate contingency of the nuances of the material, the skills and capability of the laborer and the social and political conditions of production to construct a far more complex relationship than one would ever derive from reading Lenin.
“An instrument of labour is a thing, or a complex of things, which the worker interposes between himself and the object of his labour and which serves as a conductor, directing his activity onto that object. He makes use of the mechanical, physical and chemical properties of some substances in order to set them to work on other substances as instruments of his power, and in accordance with his purposes. Leaving out of consideration such ready made means of subsistence as fruits, in gathering which a man's bodily organs alone serve as the instruments of his labour, the object the worker directly takes possession of is not the object of labour but its instrument. Thus nature becomes one of the organs of his activity, which he annexes to his own bodily organs, adding stature to himself in spite of the Bible. As the earth is his original larder, so too it is his original tool house. It supplies him, for instance, with stones for throwing, grinding, pressing, cutting, etc. The earth itself is an instrument of labour, but its use in this way, in agriculture, presupposes a whole series of other instruments and a comparatively high stage of development of labour-power.” (285)
-The process terminates in the object that is produced in this dynamic, and that object, regardless of social form, carries use-value along with it. This use-value is not some sort of direct transference of human idea onto inert material, but is rather a product of labor undertaken on a dynamic material, in a dynamic moment in history, using tools that only exist in a particular way in any moment. This fundamentally binds the production of the object to the particular time and space of its production, and not in the generalized, depersonalized, generic form we infer from mass production. The mass produced object does not escape this dynamic, but that is a topic for Chapter 15.
The product, however, is not some sort of final point of termination. As we can derive from the concept of the labor theory of value, or even just a basic understanding of the logistics of supply chains, products become bound up in the production of other products, and this complicates the relation between object and use-value. Within capitalist production resources are consumed, all of which were products from former acts of production. In this form the use-value of the object becomes directly bound up with the circulation of commodities, and begin to function purely on that basis. This debases the object from direct use-value, and begins to redefine use-value around the terms of exchange-value.
“The process is extinguished in the product. The product of the process is a use-value, a piece of natural material adapted to human needs by means of a change in its form. Labour has become bound up in its object : labour has been objectified, the object has been worked on. What on the side of the worker appeared in the form of unrest [Unruhe] now appears, on the side of the product, in the form of being [Sein], as a fixed, immobile characteristic. The worker has spun, and the product is a spinning...Although a use-value emerges from the labour process, in the form of a product, other use-values, products of previous labour, enter into it as means of production. The same use-value is both the product of a previous process, and a means of production in a later process. Products are therefore not only results of labour, but also its essential conditions.” (287)
Welcome to Chapter 4!
This is one of the shortest chapters in the book, but probably one of the most important. Up to this point we have approached the concept of money as a mechanism of the transfer of value in circulation, and hoarding being what occurs when that money is taken out of circulation. Most anti-capitalists I have spoken to over the years utilize the terms capital and money interchangeably, but there is actually a really nuanced distinction between the two that has some profound impacts on the ways that economics functions on an ontological level.
This initial formulation, of money as a mechanism of transference, is able to explain how the structure of commodities, as material objects alienated from themselves and valued abstractly and quantitatively, allows for exchange and circulation to occur. It is even able to discuss certain aspects of the commodity form, such as the fact that the materiality of the object disappears in commodity circulation. This is all well and good when we are merely trying to discuss the ways in which commodities are bought and sold.
This formulation hits a distinct limit, however. Within this mechanism there is no way to explain the movement of money within a process of circulation in which money itself is the outcome, and not circulation. This is a structure that we call capitalism, and the nuanced shifts between capital and money interact with this initial formulation to allow us to explain much more complex phenomena, like credit, stocks, investments and so on.
That is what we will be discussing for this week, how money differs from capital, and how that distinction comes to shape some pretty critical elements of the discourse on capitalism.
Oh, I figured I should mention, I published my first article on economics, centered around the Chinese housing market, the collapse of Evergrande, the paradoxes of global economics at present and how this could all combine to generate economic crisis conditions globally. If any of you are interested you can find it here:
Commodity circulation forms the ontological core of capitalism, as we have been discussing, and this is embodied in the commodity form itself, the paradoxical construction of a material object in which its material particularity is irrelevant. It is in this process of rendering all things equivalent, and able to only be differentiated by magnitude or quantity, that the commodity gets displaced from itself, its material form is rendered irrelevant and it is reduced purely to a means through which value is transported between transactions.
The paradoxical construction of the commodity, and the alienation of the object from its own conditions of possibility, forms the foundations of the abstraction of the object, which allows for it to come into contact with all other commodity flows, and have those flows all function as a movement of value, regardless of the materiality marginalized by that abstraction. Without this dual removal (from itself as an object and from its conditions of possibility), the entire attempt to discuss circulating value, which is a precursor for capital, would be incomprehensible. The social and historical manifestations this ontological alienation finds its expression in circulation, and by extension production.
“If we disregard the material content of the circulation of commodities, i.e. the exchange of the various use-values, and consider only the economic forms brought into being by this process, we find that its ultimate product is money. This ultimate product of commodity circulation is the first form of appearance of capital” (247).
In this process where money is used to acquire the commodity for sale the commodity itself, as a material object, vanishes from relevance, and becomes nothing other than a mechanism through which value is transferred as well. Functionally what occurs at this point is that money is being traded for a different quantity of money. To put this another way, when we are engaged in circulation purely for the ability to extract value from the transaction, separate from the use of that value, what occurs is that the shape of the commodity and its material existence cease to matter, and what happens is that value is used to acquire the commodity, which results in getting value back from the sale of the commodity. In this scenario the commodity exists as a mechanism through which magic occurs, a mechanism through which one can “make” money. Money, when it is used in this form is capital.
Marx uses the example of buying bushels of corn. Say someone buys a bushel of corn for $100, and then they turn around and sell it for $110. What has occurred here is that $100 has become $110 simply by shifting form from money to commodity and back to money again. The materiality of the commodity can be anything in this space, all that matters is that it conveys value from money to money.
The quantities of money that are moved through in this process must be different between the beginning of circulation and the end of the circuit; if they were the same there would be no point in engaging in the activity. Capital only functions as capital due to a differential between money invested and the quantity of money acquired in exchange.
“In the circulation C-M-C, the money is in the end converted into a commodity which serves as a use-value; it has therefore been spent once and for all. In the inverted for M-C-M, on the contrary, the buyer lays out money in order that, as a seller, he may recover money. By the purchase of his commodity he throws money into circulation, in order to withdraw it again by the sale of the same commodity. He releases the money, but only with the cunning intention of getting it back again. The money is therefore not spent, it is merely advanced” (249).
We saw this dynamic play itself out in the formation of the New Deal, for example. The New Deal was an attempt to restart commodity circulation after the Great Depression, and construct a mechanism to always preserve the ability of consumers to spend by providing subsidies and social assistance. The Great Depression was largely caused, or at least heavily facilitated by, the fact that preceding the Depression the US saw the worst stratification of wealth in its history, with the exception of right now. In that condition there were not enough consumers (people with money) to be able to sustain the economy when the stock market crashed due to the failure of over-leveraged investments.
The Depression posed a systemic risk to capitalism as a result of the collapse of the consumer. The New Deal was structured specifically to build what they referred to as a “stable consumption index”, namely a base amount of consumer spending guaranteed by government programs that companies could base investment decisions around. By providing programs like the GI Bill, Welfare and Section 8 the state was able to keep consumers spending money by providing the money they would spend. In other words, the New Deal was less of a move toward some sort of odd market socialism, and a lot more about providing subsidies to companies through subsidizing consumption.
It is at this point that we start to see commodity circulation metastasize into capitalism through the medium of abstract value. To the degree that capital functions to extract money through commodity sale, and to store that money as an end in itself, then necessarily, to the degree that capital functions, the conditions of possibility for existence is fundamentally bound up in the conditions of circulating abstract value. This interplays with the core of the commodity form, the rendering equivalent of all things as quantities, which already displaces the conditions of existence away from materiality and into the circulation of abstract value. In this structure all activity becomes premised on exchange-value, rather than just exchange, or the use of money. The world floats into the background entirely.
“The process M-C-M does not therefore owe its content to any qualitative difference between its extremes, for they are both money, but solely to the quantitative changes. More money is finally withdrawn from circulation than was thrown into it at the beginning...The value originally advanced, therefore, not only remains intact while in circulation, but increases its magnitude, adds to itself a surplus-value, or is valorized. And this movement converts it into capital” (251-252).
This means that with the emergence of capital value becomes decoupled from money, and starts to function as an autonomous element, one separated from history and the world, and one that comes to determine the possibilities in the world to the degree that it functions. In other words, value is no longer tied to money, and money itself becomes confined to the use and physical manifestation of the means of circulation. This is the only context that we can understand things like credit cards, stock trading, derivatives, fractional reserve banking and so on; these are all mechanisms of value transfer that exist outside of the constructs of money in its physical sense (its not like you get a bag with thousands of dollars in it when you get a car loan, for example).
The most obvious manifestation of this is fractional reserve banking, which is what the entirety of the economy functions based on. Let's take a situation in which I run a small bank with one customer that deposits $100. The next day someone comes in and asks for a $10 loan, which will be, say, $12 after interest. Obviously the bank only has the money of the other customer. So, the way that banks create debt begins with essentially borrowing from the accounts of their depositors. In this case we take $10 from customer 1s account and give it to customer 2. That is all fine unless customer 1 comes and asks for all of their money back, at which point you have an issue; this is what happens when there are runs on the banks. But, for the bank they just performed a magic trick. Rather than having $100 in assets, or the actual $90 that they physically have access to, now they have $112 dollars of assets, the $100 in that account and the $12 the bank will receive in payment for the loan. In this process $22 was manifested out of thin air. This is how the amount of money in circulation grows, and this is also why weird Ron Paul people complaining about the Federal Reserve controlling currency have no idea what they are talking about.
“In truth, however, value is here the subject of a process in which, while constantly assuming the form in turn of money and commodities, it changes its own magnitude, throws off surplus-value from itself considered as original value, and thus valorizes itself independently. For the movement in the course of which it adds surplus-value is its own movement, its valorization is therefore self-valorization” (255).
notes about the reality of the MOVE organization from The Inquirer
being forced to live on a diet of raw vegetables and fruit while the adults ate hearty cooked meals, of being denied schooling and neighborhood playmates, of stealing toys and burying them in the MOVE compound.
“I'm still afraid of them, of MOVE,” he said. “Some of the things that went on there I can't get out of my head, bad things, things I haven't told anybody except my father.
“But I'll tell you this: I didn't like being there. They said it was a family, but a family isn't something where you are forced to stay when you don't want to. And none of us wanted to stay, none of the kids. We were always planning ways to run away, but we were too little. We didn't know how to get away. And we were scared.”
But that was the life he had always known. His earliest memories, he said, were of growing up at a MOVE commune in Virginia.
He said his mother tried to leave MOVE, but threats to her and him made that impossible. Instead, they lived in fear of everything: police, the neighborhood, MOVE founder John Africa, and anything else that came their way.
“The only regret I have is about me being hurt and my mom dying and the other kids,” he said. “I feel bad for the people who died, but I don't have any anger toward anybody. See, I got out.”
Tools: – heat-proof container for storage (preferably glass), with a lid – a pot – a heat source
Ingredients: – carrots – any kind of vinegar (e.g., cider, white wine, plain) – 1 Tbsp salt – ¼ cup sugar – (optional) mix-ins (e.g., garlic, dill, peppers)
Directions: – Fill the heat-proof container with roughly equal parts water and vinegar, and then pour this liquid into your pot. – Add sugar, salt, and mix-ins in to the pot and bring it to a boil. Once it boils, simmer for a few minutes while you prep your carrot sticks. – Peel and cut the carrots into sticks and pack them into your heat-proof container. – Pour the simmering liquid and mix-ins into your heat-proof container so that the liquid covers all of the carrot sticks. – Let cool uncovered on a counter and then cover and optionally transfer to a fridge.
Recently I've been playing with the idea of a body of water as representative of life, consciousness, time, or whatever the fuck. So in that image; initially anarchism came as a wave, at a time where the waters were already choppy, a wave which graciously hit the stern of my little boat, propelling me forward in some direction rather than capsizing me. This wave maintained my course through many other swells that sought to extricate me onto another even more enigmatic course, and pushed into clearer waters, where I found the weather improved and the horizon more expansive.
Of course being bad at poetry as I am, that extended metaphor simplifies things a little. Rather than being one large wave of anarchism there was instead many, dozens of small chance encounters with nothing more than the word itself, which upon a more curious investigation yielded a bounty of treasures. Garnished with a new worldview that played into my intense curiosity, a worldview that placed me in opposition to a staggeringly powerful set of forces, my discovery of anarchism sent me to my first punk show, gave me my first experiences of queerness, and inoculated me against conformity. However, none of my early exposure prepared me for the complexities of living an anarchic life.
Recognizing the expansion of pleasure to be found in symbiogenesis I sought others like me but wound up only really finding Activists who, despite speaking the same language I did, looked at me with an unsettling gaze. Their eyes were hungry, which at first I mistook for affection until I noticed their drool, and realized that all they saw in me were their favorite cuts of meat. I was lucky to escape with all my limbs attached, and since then I search for their familiar grey dorsal fins before I enter the water.
Sadly, getting my sea legs took a bit more than that. Through my interactions with the sharks I discovered the dangers of optimism and in turn, activism, and began to recognize just how many different beasts really wish to swallow me up. Also, being shaken by death (one that I wrote about under the title Substrate, and others which I have not shared) directed my rage at far bigger things, and gave me a taste of the existential. I didn't learn how to walk when the deck is wet and the winds are wailing in a progressive fashion, instead it happened all of a sudden, after a few especially bad nights.
Though I've weathered a few storms, long months alone can trouble even the saltiest of dogs, troubles which I have been only beginning to wrestle with by engaging with nihilism, egoism, and anarchy, rather than anarchism. At this point, anarchy is just an aspect of things, still one which I am very fond of. It accentuates relationships and dynamics, problematizes rather than solves, it's place is not in the Future and only becomes clear now and then but never for very long. Perhaps anarchism has become the sea I sail in.
We are two ships each of which has its goal and course; our paths may cross and we may celebrate a feast together, as we did—and then the good ships rested so quietly in one harbor and one sunshine that it may have looked as if they had reached their goal and as if they had one goal. But then the almighty force of our tasks drove us apart again into different seas and sunny zones, and perhaps we shall never see one another again,—perhaps we shall meet again but fail to recognize each other: our exposure to different seas and suns has changed us! That we have to become estranged is the law above us: by the same token we should also become more venerable for each other! And thus the memory of our former friendship should become more sacred!
Note: This essay started as something to share during the May Day session of the ni.hil.ist reading group (chi.st/nrg), in response to the prompt, “What does anarchism, or anarchy mean to you?”. However, I've altered a fair portion of it for clarity and flow reasons
I'm trying to build out an anarchism that begins with power relations observable by an individual which then works its way from there in a relatively concise form, one that also intentionally avoids the historical and cultural aspects of anarchy.
I have some sense that the anarchism many people encounter has grown bloated and complex, with many diverse cultural interests telling an extreme variety of stories about what anarchy is and what living it can look like.
Plurality (a value that the worst of positions seek to destroy) is undoubtedly a positive thing, however, the world as it exists does not truly allow for pluraversalism. Instead, even the most divergent existences are slowly recuperated back into the body of the populace, the body of Leviathan. I think that anarchism has been affected by this process also. If anarchism is a forest, it's my belief that the canopy has gotten too thick, invasives too prolific, and that we are in need of a forest fire, so new growth can flourish.
First things first, a definition which we can build out from: Anarchism is the philosophy (or anti-politic) that focuses on moments of anarchy, moments where dominating power dynamics (the state, capitalism, social power, etc. vs the individual(s)) aren't present or are otherwise negated.
How do those power dynamics present themselves? Does the state itself reach its giant hand made of concrete, steel, and paper down to stop me in my tracks? That has not happened to me yet. Rather, individuals are one of the places where these empowered ideas appear: The cop who stops me has not only the death-tool on his belt, but the more dangerous weapon of a hostile bureaucracy that he can leverage (and which leverages him) against me all in an attempt to suppress my will. This suggests that there's something more powerful than the body of the individual policeman present during our encounter, and if we met only as individuals I might have a fighting chance. In this situation that third thing is The Law; an empowered idea that functions to limit every ones capability by dictating when their agency is acceptable and when it must be punished.
Building from this example, we can start to look elsewhere and flesh out an understanding of what these anarchies are going on about. What powerful idea is present when a father commands his daughter, a jailer his convict, a mob their pariah, or a priest his congregation, and what is the threat each of them leverage? Which powerful phantasms haunt your life?
In short, the ideas (and quite rarely, individual beings with their own original idealism) that occupy the grounded side of the power seesaw have their interest placed in hoarding power and subjugating others, keeping us in the air, legs flailing. They gain and maintain their position by coercing people to “play along” through the use of reward and punishment, ultimately manipulating each person's agency in their own service. Also, interesting to note how most of them (law, family, prison, marriage, school, state, etc.) claim to bring order or normalcy of some form, considering the hostile relationship between anarchy and order.
Of course, expressions of power can and do exist without being dominating or totalitarian. If we think of “power” as a synonym for “capability” (which is slightly sloppy but will work for now), then that much is clear. Considering the policeman once more, the issue at hand isn't the existence of his power, but only my powerlessness in that situation. A far more palatable interplay exists in relationships between friends, who may each be more or less capable than the other in some regard, but who don't have complete control over the will of the other. My friend can convince me to act or not, but they cannot compel me to without my complicity. If you could imagine a game between multiple people who are all holding candles, where each participant is attempting to extinguish the flame of the others, it isn't hard to imagine playfully trading blows with friends, all in good nature and little hard feelings. However, if domination were embodied as a player, it would be equipped with a fire extinguisher, a dozen flames in another room, and a cold look on its grey face.
Until now, we've focused on the direct confrontation of the individual against authority, but in recent times a far slyer coercion is becoming dominant, one which has its frontier in our very minds. Somewhat different from the rewards and punishments used in service of other dominating structures, this structures power comes from leveraging technologies (cultural, digital, and psychological) to manipulate ones desires and undermine their agency with more subtle implications of violence. The embodiment of this broad force is different from the vulgar form as well, generally showing itself more in broad, massified expressions, as opposed to structures which live in the heads of select individuals. Analysis of this new form is a bit more complicated than the more vulgar expressions of domination we looked at prior, so I will leave it open-ended and just gesture towards the importance and complication of figuring out whose interest one is acting in service of. Do I really want that new object? Do I really want to sacrifice myself for this idea? Who actually gains through my participation that?
So, you've begun to recognize the things in the world that seek to process you into usable, efficient, plastic, parts for a large machine, and have said “fuck that, I contain more than you could ever know”. You're probably wondering what can be done about it? This is where I will leave you to your own devices, with minimal advice, as it would be absurd to try to prescribe a resolution to a problem I know nothing about. My only suggestion is to start from yourself and understand what ails you, seek empowerment from and for yourself, not an ideal, a method, or a cause. Find moments where you can breathe, dance, and play freely, moments of anarchy.
Perhaps, at this point, sticking your hand into the murky pool of anarchism could be useful! Most of us didn't get tetanus
Hunter Hunt-Hendrix outlines what they term Transcendental Black Metal in their manifesto of the same name included in the collection, Hideous Gnosis: Black Metal Theory Symposium 1. Although I appreciate the philosophical effort (even more so the musical output of Liturgy), Id like to make use of their framework to provide a third alternative. The metaphysics of Elemental Black Metal appeals more to me than the apocalyptic humanism they prescribe, or the Hyperborean nihilism they seek to move beyond.
According to Susanna Lindberg, the elementals are “abstract ways of articulating the materiality of being.” Elemental nature is unthinkable (beyond human thought), primordial (always ever there), and chthonic (found in the realm of the underworld). It is beyond the sensible or rational. It is “the absence of transcendental ground” existing as already available images. To Emmanuel Levinas, it is the it when it rains, il y a. It is indeterminate, opaque, and an absence that makes presence possible.
Contingency is a potential force, and the force of potential. It is unexpected and not destined. It is an unintended consequence. It foils teleologies and disrupts ecologies even as it erupts from them. It is a senseless reshuffling of the cards. To humans, it is felt as looming cosmic catastrophe. It undoes worlds. It is nihilism to humans, but not something (or a nothing) one can be for.
Creative forgetting is unlearning mastery, as Bayo Akomolafe puts it. This could be also considered unthinking. This is what Friedrich Nietzsche describes as the child stage in Thus Spoke Zarathustra: approaching the world anew having shed the burden of the camel and the ressentiment of the lion. It is what Laozi describes as the uncarved block: the capacity to become. It is not a rejection of the past, but an awareness that the past has yet to come.
Drone is an enveloping, pulsating resonance. In metal, it is exemplified generally by much of the work of bands Earth and Sunn O))) of Cascadia, and Boris and Corrupted of Japan's urban epicenters. It is exemplified specifically by the track Tanggalkan Di Dunia (Undo The World) by the band Senyawa of Jogjakarta. The blackest of drone metal best accompanies Eugene Thacker's notion of cosmic pessimism. More than listened to, drone is felt.
Elemental metal is earthly, but more specifically subterranean. It lies beneath bogs and marshes, and is buried under sand in windswept deserts. It forms underground caverns and deep sea trenches. It moves through mycelia and magma flows. It is of the underworld: connecting the living and the dead, and blurring the line between them. It is known by humans for its opacity.
The outcome of becoming lost is unknown. Losing oneself is impure, and resists preservation. It is breaking free from the fixed continuity of self and time, not through external transcendence, but passionate corporeality: a reckoning with the soul, followed by grotesque laughter.
According to Carlo Rovelli, entanglement is predicated upon three aspects: granularity, indeterminacy, and relationality. An entangled understanding unmasks time for what it is: a relation between human perception and the cosmos. The cosmos is composed of indeterminate becomings in relation to each other, rather than finite or infinite being.
Diffusion is a withdrawal from incapacitating concentrations. It is an exit strategy. It is fluid, dissolvable, and becoming illegible. It is fleeing to the forest or going underground. It is fugitivity.
from rhamnousia's abode
This article was originally published here on July 5th, 2020.
Have you ever noticed that upon critique of a power structure a privileged person will pipe up with an anecdote to quip back? "My uncle was the county sheriff." "My aunt is a judge." "My father was a policeman." They mean it—I believe—either to show their understanding of the issue or to illustrate tacitly how they take personal offense. Both deserve to be addressed.
With regard to the demonstration of their ostensible understanding—it only goes so far, given their privilege; they will be sheltered from the gritty injustices that their privileged relatives will commit, because it would be perceived to bring disgrace onto the family otherwise. Or at least, they will be sheltered from the gritty realities that are considered unacceptable within the family culture.
This distinction is one that I can attest to myself; my grandparents worked for the police department. Now I come from a very traditional Italian-American family; the conservative ken of "law and order" runs strong. Most of the anecdotes that I have heard are sourced from my father, since he frequently witnessed the relevant actions of his family members—who worked for the police department. What he saw was awful: the corporal punishment of petty thieves for no other reason than police pleasure, alongside a general abuse of power. They also were quite racist; my grandfather believes—to this very day I believe—that Black people do not deserve equivalent freedom to white people, and he also distrusts Jewish people. This of course would hamper his ability to treat everyone equally, which is supposed to be a necessary skill in the job, given the diversity of people with whom an officer will have to cooperate, as in a community.
There is no doubt in my mind however that he—along with my grandmother, and everyone else in that police department for that matter, all giving their approval to these injustices—believed that his actions and beliefs were correct; everyone is the hero of their own story. But a person's pureness at heart is truthfully irrelevant to these discussions. When minds are scarred, when situations are escalated, when violence breaks out—intentions are no longer relevant, since the damage is still done all the same. If the intentions of the terrorists—in effect, what police are, causing terror to pacify the people out to whom they are dispatched—were ill, then the solution to the problem would be simple: fire all the iniquitous servants and replace them with good-natured people. But no, the problem is in how the structure inherently corrupts; therefore it must be abolished. It has nothing to do with how kind a family member may be.
But then, if the objection is not rational, what about an emotional objection: that one's bloodlines lead them to be victim of personal offense? What a pitiful concept: that one having family connections granting privilege should be accounted for when the institution that grants these privileges is criticized more than the people whom it hurts on the basis of their social status, often derived from their lineage! This can be observed in communities of people of color most notably; their deep family connections—id est their very race—affects the way they are treated by people with hierarchical control. Yet lest not—oh heavens—these people—among other people: neurodivergent people, queer people, and so on—express the same distaste that the power structures they fight against show for them, right back! What a laugh that we should remain in silence because of the abled cishet white person's affiliations!
So in effect this citation of anecdotes is a form of tone policing: that marginalized people should accept their circumstances, lest they face the censure of the privileged minority. Why should we seek respect from the system that gives us none? Why should we play on that field when we'll never win? What reason do we have to not devote our efforts into welding the oppressed masses into a destructive force? There is no need to enable the privileged; we have no choice but to oppugn them until they are free of their control.
Modern humans created nature to separate themselves from the earth and institute the world.(1) Was this act self-legitimizing, self-denying, or both? Was it an appeal to a divine authority out of fear of death: of the end of a life no longer measurable?
The false sense of stability and security this transcendence provides continues to face challenges. Preserving the self or humanity (and the corresponding ontologies of being and being Human through humanism) remains the official discourse of authority. Following this discourse, the technocratic war on viruses pit rational, reasonable, and impenetrable beings against a mutable, malicious, external other. Like Bayo Akomolafe describes, Covid is a trickster god exposing Human weaknesses.
One of these weaknesses has been called spirit. Two iconoclastic German philosophers known for their critiques of spirit are Max Stirner and Ludwig Klages. They share many similarities, and respective controversies.(2) Metaphysically, they both argue against idealism, transcendence, and the absolute. They both criticize the enlightenment rationalism of modernity. Like Heraclitus and Laozi, they both argue for an ontology of becoming over being: an ever mutating flux over a fixed stasis.(3) They also share a sort of immanent philosophy: emphasizing mind and matter as one-and-the-same. This immanence counters the alienating Cartesian dualism serving the projects, processes, and progressions of civilization and humanism. This dualism separates human beings (or rather, human becomings) from the earth and creates Humans.
The two differ somewhat in the directions they take this immanence. Stirner takes it to rail against the moralism of mass society and its collectivist sensibilities. They argue that Humans exist through a code of justice called moralism that authorizes domination against inhuman monsters. They also argue Humans act in the service of an abstract external authority that permits domination of unique persons through collective conformity. Klages takes it in an ecological direction: railing against the accelerating violent impact of industrial technology on the biosphere. Klages also, through Friedrich Nietzsche’s formulation, takes up the Dionysian call of chaotic passion over the Apollonian rationalist order. In a partly feminist take, Klages attributes this destructive Apollonian order of spirit to man, and the generative Dionysian chaos to woman.(4) Wo-man, Without-man, Without-spirit. The origins of the familiar gender symbols also go back to ancient Greece, with female being the passionate Venus and male being the authoritative Mars. While I consider Klages’s emphasis on gender here an essentialist trap, I agree that a chaotic ensouled immanence has been violently suppressed by a dominant logical materialist order, leading to a whole host of problems. Klages relies heavily on a polar understanding of the cosmos, even as they claim: “The origin of thought is not to be found in the duality: concept and thing, but in the trinity: concept, name, and thing. The name embraces the totality, but concept and thing are its poles.”(5) They also use this tripartite schema to divide what they consider human essence between body, soul, and spirit (the colonizing force attempting to overtake the body and soul polarity). Even if the Apollonian and Dionysian are considered both distinct poles and one-and-the-same (the yin and yang of Daoism comes to mind here), Im not convinced the symmetry of this framework is all that useful to break free from a limited either/or reading. This is where I look more to Stirner, among others, for an antidote to essentialist and dualist thinking generally, and gender specifically.(6)
The major distinction Klages makes in their effort to counter spirit is through the soul. The soul embraces an immanent ontology previously described: that mind and matter are one-and-the-same, and human beings are inextricable from their ecology on earth. The soul also embraces invisibility and illegibility to counter the authority of visibility and legibility: “[spirit] is absolute or ex-centric externality, while soul is a natural interiority: and the latter is akin to darkness and night, as the former is to clarity that knows no twilight.”(7) This is something to keep in mind for anyone engaging in fugitive and anarchist study. The soul is the linkage between human beings and the underworld in what Klages claims is an eternal tension:
“In the myths of almost every people we encounter bloody battles in pre-historic ages between solar heroes who are bent upon installing a new order and the chthonic powers of fate, who are finally banished into a lightless underworld…over the soul rises the spirit, over the dream reigns a wide-awake rationality, over life, which becomes and passes, there stands purposeful activity.”(8)
Against the purposeful teleology of spirit, the soul carries with it the negating function of the elemental underworld that Susanna Lindberg describes:
“the elemental is, but it is not a thing. It is no thing…It is not a thing but the withdrawl of being in beings, the refusal of ground in things, the absence of reason in reality. The elemental is the absence of transcendental ground, an absence which signals that the negation of such a ground does not amount to the empty nihil of nihilism but to another way of encountering being.”(9)
This other way of encountering being I could describe as becoming, but Id like to take it in a further direction. This elemental absence resides in an “underworld that contradicts but nonetheless conditions the world was conceived as raw nature behind the functional ecosystem and as death behind human society” This seems to be the planetary or cosmic perspective. This raises a nihilist question: when speaking of the elemental, what is it? Lindberg answers: “It is a kind of a generous nothingness that is not simply absent but signals its own absence: it is not an empty void but a dynamic nothingness that calls and beacons from afar.” Perhaps that call resonates in the soul, and that call is a coming to terms with death against preservation: that both living and dying are one-and-the-same.
Byblis, William-Adolphe Bouguereau
(1) I use Eugene Thacker’s formulation of the earth as the ecosystem for-and-in itself, the world as for-and-of humans only, and the planet or cosmos as without humans, and possibly without the earth as well. In other words: planet = without humans, world = only humans, and earth = both.
(2) There are a number of people who have read very literally the early Steven Byington translation of Stirner's Der Einzige und sein Eigentum (titled The Ego and Its Own by them), and advocate for an atomistic and almost social Darwinian individualism I find incompatible with Stirner’s philosophy. There are others who are drawn to the racial essentialism found in Klages's writings, eager to draw a blood and soil informed politics from Klages’s critique of modernity. Upon deeper reading, Klages not only suffers from troublesome racial and gender essentialist claims, but consistent anti-Semitic rantings and admiration of what they consider Germanic and/or Aryan values. This unsurprisingly has led to their reputation as an antecedent to Nazism, which has been debated given their fundamental disagreements with the Nazi intelligentsia. Ill have to investigate further to determine how much these values were integral to Klages's philosophy, since the most detestable statements Ive found are only present in the texts from a publisher who seems heavily invested in these perspectives, and absent from from another who defends Klages as having been unfairly portrayed as a forerunner to fascism. From what I currently know, I wouldnt define Klages as a fascist, but they certainly hold a heavily racialized understanding of the world, identifying with Germanic ideals they tout superior. I also wouldnt consider their essentialist perspectives on race and gender integral to their metaphysics, and find their concept of an immanent soul to be a valuable alternative to materialist rationalism and idealist spiritualism.
(3) At least two philosophers in whats called the post-structuralist camp: Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Derrida, also share similar understandings, and have both written about Stirner.
(4) “The analogy of gender, too, between spirit and man, and soul and woman, has a deep foundation, which can be traced all the way back to the Greeks” (Klages, Soul and Spirit).
(5) Ludwig Klages, Cosmogonic Reflections: Selected Aphorisms From Ludwig Klages.
(7) Ludwig Klages, Soul and Spirit
(8) Ludwig Klages, Man and Earth
(9) Susanna Lindberg, Unthinking the Underworld: Nature, Death, and the Elemental