Politics

A short note on the criticism levelled at object-oriented ontology

Now, I know that there had been a certain amount of (dismissive) marxist critique of OOO that i, honestly, haven’t paid that much attention to. I know that Alexander Galloway (or was it Cole) made some weird argument saying that OOO basically amounted to commodity fetishism, and some other dude made the more interesting point that OOO is the philosophical result of the precarisation of academia. But as far as I know no one has made the argument that OOO is a reaction to the neoliberal self. What is one of OOO:s main points is that things have being and that things have an untouchable core, an essence that is truly theirs. No matter what an object do, what relations it enter in to, its essence is intact, untouched, unequivocally its own. Following chapter three of Mirowski’s Never Let A Good Crisis Go To Waste, we can see that the opposite is true for the neoliberal self. No stable self, no stable identity, nothing about the self that is not up for debate, that is not the subject or object of some market. In the face of the last 30 years of neoliberal onslaught of every aspect of (Western) society, is it strange that a philosophy that adamantely defends the existence of identity and self, that there is something that is me even though I don’t know what it is, has risen and gained prominence?

Om begrepp

“Och när miljonprogramsområden namedroppas hos SvD så ignorerar man gärna de andra områdena som nämns i rapporten. Exempelvis farliga Täby, kriminella Åkersberga och snuthatande Nynäshamn. Varför? De kanske inte fick plats i texten. Eller så skulle skribenterna vara tvungna att nyansera sin världsbild. Att misstro mot polis inte alltid är automatiskt lika med ”förort”.”

Jag tycker att man gör en miss i kritiken här, en miss som är lite konstig, och det är hur man använder begreppet “förort”. Täby, Åkersberga och Nynäshamn är, i min mening, väldigt mycket förort (och väldigt mycket parallellsamhällen), må vara att de även är egna kommuner. Stockholm som ekonomiskt, kulturellt och socialt centrum gör det svårt för vilken ort som helst (oavsett månghundraårig självständig historia) att vara något annat än en förort. Det är nära nog något centre/periphery över det (begrepp som kanske känns igen från studier av postkolonialismen, etc). Det krävs en väldigt egen tyngd av en ort i närheten av Stockholm för att den inte ska fungera som en förort till just Stockholm, en tyngd eller förankring som måste stå på ett flertal egna ben (ekonomiska, sociala, infrastrukturella, kulturella) för att Stockholms gravitation inte ska dra orten till sig.

Det ETC-texten alltså inte märker, antingen pga en liten översikt eller på grund av någon egen form av internaliserad rasism (även om det begreppet kanske appliceras lite väl våldsamt av mig – citationstecknen kring “förort” signalerar ändå medvetenhet om att begreppet i sig snarare är a signifier that signifies nothing), är alltså hur man själv väljer att använda begreppet förort. (“Förort” är en chimär, en illusion som används för att “beskriva” vissa områden, i från vissa synvinklar)”Förort” är Rinkeby och Rosengård, Husby och Hammarkullen. Täby, Åkersberga och Nynäshamn är inte förort, det är andra områden.

Så, om vi nu accepterar min tes att Täby, Åkerberga och Nynäshamn visst går att räkna som förorter, vad är skälet till att SvD väljer att nämna de förorter de gör, och vad är skälet till att ETC bekräftar det valet genom att själva i någon mån dela upp områdena? Etnicitet och klass. Här ska vi minnas att det inte handlar om vilken eller vilka etniciteter som faktiskt är dominerande i de här områdena utan vilka man uppfattar är dominerande, vilka man ser framför sig när man uttalar namnen Täby och Rosengård. Hur verkligheten ser ut är mindre viktigt. We’re dealing in illusions here. För att lägga sten på börda kan vi konstatera att det i de här sammanhangen finns två etniciteter: svensk och annan. Dessa etniciteter sammanfaller även med de klasser man inbillar sig dominerar dessa områden: ett spektrum av svensk (övre) medelklass (tangerande någon form av framgångsrik arbetarklass – ni vet, hantverkare) mot utomeuropeiskt trasproletariat. Poängen, om jag har någon, är alltså att dessa områden ur många både för sammanhanget irrelevanta och relevanta aspekter är lika mycket förorter som de SvD väljer att nämna. De är det på många sätt rent tekniskt (alltså hur de fungerar, dvs som pendelorter till Stockholm, som människoförvaring till Stockholms arbetsmaskineri) och de är det uppenbart på andra sätt också (områden med stort utsatthet, med en ignorerad och eftersatt arbetarklass etc, osv). Förvisso inte i samma utsträckning. Bilförsäljaröverklassen i Täby är en verklighet. Men det är inte den enda verkligheten (uppenbarligen, och relaterat till detta kan Reinfeldts åttaåriga klasskamp näppeligen ignoreras. Finns det parallellsamhällen (och det gör det – det är det ökade klyftor och ett klassamhälle innebär, bl a) så har de inte uppstått ur intet. *hint hint*).

Att SvD väljer de områden de väljer har säkerligen både med omedveten rasism och klassförakt att göra (och jag väljer att kalla den omedveten eftersom jag inte tror att Gudmundsson sitter och heilar loss på redaktionens toalett – jag tror inte att han medvetet hatar eller föraktar) men varför ETC inte väljer att inkludera även de områden som DE tar upp i begreppet förort (för att på så sätt tömma det på sin etniska beståndsdel), eller med några rader väljer att kritisera begreppet som sådant förstår jag inte. Måhända är man lite fångad i både herrefolkets diskurs, såväl som sin egen motdiskurs. Eller så gör jag i vanlig ordning en höna av en fjäder.

An Honest Days Work

“It is worth saying something about the social position of beggars, for when one has consorted with them, and found that they are ordinary human beings, one cannot help being struck by the curious attitude that society takes towards them. People seem to feel that there is some essential difference between beggars and ordinary ‘working’ men. They are a race apart–outcasts, like criminals and prostitutes. Working men ‘work’, beggars do not ‘work’; they are parasites, worthless in their very nature. It is taken for granted that a beggar does not ‘earn’ his living, as a bricklayer or a literary critic ‘earns’ his. He is a mere social excrescence, tolerated because we live in a humane age, but essentially despicable.

Yet if one looks closely one sees that there is no ESSENTIAL difference between a beggar’s livelihood and that of numberless respectable people. Beggars do not work, it is said; but, then, what is WORK? A navvy works by swinging a pick. An accountant works by adding up figures. A beggar works by standing out of doors in all weathers and getting varicose veins, chronic bronchitis, etc. It is a trade like any other; quite useless, of course–but, then, many reputable trades are quite useless. And as a social type a beggar compares well with scores of others. He is honest compared with the sellers of most patent medicines, high-minded compared with a Sunday newspaper proprietor, amiable compared with a hire-purchase tout–in short, a parasite, but a fairly harmless parasite. He seldom extracts more than a bare living from the community, and, what should justify him according to our ethical ideas, he pays for it over and over in suffering. I do not think there is anything about a beggar that sets him in a different class from other people, or gives most modern men the right to despise him.

Then the question arises, Why are beggars despised?–for they are despised, universally. I believe it is for the simple reason that they fail to earn a decent living. In practice nobody cares whether work is useful or useless, productive or parasitic; the sole thing demanded is that it shall be profitable. In all the modem talk about energy, efficiency, social service and the rest of it, what meaning is there except ‘Get money, get it legally, and get a lot of it’? Money has become the grand test of virtue. By this test beggars fail, and for this they are despised. If one could earn even ten pounds a week at begging, it would become a respectable profession immediately. A beggar, looked at realistically, is simply a businessman, getting his living, like other businessmen, in the way that comes to hand. He has not, more than most modem people, sold his honour; he has merely made the mistake of choosing a trade at which it is impossible to grow rich.

-George Orwell

Althusser Revisited!

Apparently On the Reproduction of Capitalism, the sort of Director’s Cut/Extended Version of “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” – an article/essay that I’ve found to be quite illuminating (and at the same time a bit “meh, I already know this”). Anyhoodles, the people over at Critical-Theory.com have decided to make a shorts and illuminating summary/translate it from English to American. Read it.

Perhaps another note on bullshit jobs…

…but definitely a comment on Sweden today:

“Beggars do not work, it is said; but then, what is work? A navvy works by swinging a pick. An accountant works by adding up figures. A beggar works by standing out of doors in all weathers and getting varicose veins, bronchitis etc. It is a trade like any other; quite useless, of course — but, then, many reputable trades are quite useless. And as a social type a beggar compares well with scores of others. He is honest compared with the sellers of most patent medicines, high-minded compared with a Sunday newspaper proprietor, amiable compared with a hire-purchase tout-in short, a parasite, but a fairly harmless parasite. He seldom extracts more than a bare living from the community, and, what should justify him according to our ethical ideas, he pays for it over and over in suffering.”

― George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London

The deceleration of life as we know it

Gordon argued there are six headwinds that will slow future innovation: an ageing population in the mature economies; rising inequality; an increasing lack of competitive advantage for the mature capitalist economies; poorer education because public investment in education is being destroyed; increasing environmental regulations; and excessive debt. Gordon concluded that US real economic growth could fall to just an average 0.2% a year for the foreseeable future compared 2-3% of the past.

Well well, my my my… Nothing spectacularly new there, but we continue:

“Gordon was criticised for underestimating the new technologies that will come into play in driving up productivity growth over the next few decades.  In his sequel paper, he says “the primary role of the headwinds in predicting slow future growth escaped notice in the initial round of controversy about innovation”  He retorts: ‘there is no need to forecast that innovation in the future will “falter,” because the slowdown in the rate of productivity growth over the past 120 years already occurred more than four decades ago. This sequel paper explains why the pace of innovation declined after 1972. The future forecast assumes that innovations in the next 40 years will be developed at the same pace as the last four decades, but reasons for scepticism are provided for that prediction.'”

Here I find some support for what the Accelerations Manifesto says, in point 3.3:

“Capitalism has begun to con­strain the pro­ductive forces of tech­no­logy, or at least, direct them to­wards need­lessly narrow ends. Patent wars and idea mono­pol­isa­tion are con­tem­porary phe­nomena that point to both capital’s need to move beyond com­pet­i­tion, and capital’s in­creas­ingly ret­ro­grade ap­proach to tech­no­logy. The prop­erly ac­cel­er­ative gains of neo­lib­er­alism have not led to less work or less stress. And rather than a world of space travel, fu­ture shock, and re­volu­tionary tech­no­lo­gical po­ten­tial, we exist in a time where the only thing which de­velops is mar­gin­ally better con­sumer gad­getry. Relentless it­er­a­tions of the same basic product sus­tain mar­ginal con­sumer de­mand at the ex­pense of human acceleration.”

Real techological advancement is then hindered by the development of the new iPhone, so to speak. We can see this in another way in the development of what people assumed would be this anarchic and decentralized haven of free anonymous creative capability: the internet. But alas, it failed. Or let me put it to you like this: when was the last time you used a search engine that wasn’t Google? I bet you have a Gmail-account. This ‘cloud’ where you store your things, who owns that? And since the arrival of Facebook and that paradigmatic shift, you probably aren’t even trying to be anonymous on the internet anymore? The internet is de facto monopolized. Or, as the source of this little rant puts it:

But those days are gone. We’ve centralized the bejesus out of the Internet now. There’s one search engine (plus the one no one uses),one social network (plus the one no one uses), one Twitter. We use one ad network, one analytics suite. Anywhere you look online, one or two giant American companies utterly dominate the field.

This centralization, this involving of big business in the internet cannot but bring capitalist relations to the fore. And those capitalist relations are of course to simply use it, but above all focus on making sure that you don’t move to another alternative (which could be anything). “They do it by having high standards of quality” you say. No, they do it by creating monopoly and they do it by creating a sort of climate and culture of the instans gratification of ‘likes’, of low-intensity exhibitionism etc. And since their motives aren’t to make our lives better but just to keep us there, generating info they can sell, they will not challenge us. The McDonalds-version of the internetz, you know. Nothing will rock the boat. And I’m no better than anyone else. I waste my life on facebook and instagram (and truly, I do). But these relations aren’t there to produce anything that we want or need. They are there to produce revenue to the companies involved.

Which brings us to the next point, namely that of bullshit jobs. A bullshit job is by this definition a job that you know really doesn’t need to be done. A problem has been created and you are hired to deal with the problem, but the problem is bull. Which is why you had a German man that upon his retirement sent a letter to his bosses and just about everyone else, explaining that he had done absolutely nothing in the last ten years. Which is why you have office slaves wasting over 20% (or more!) of their paid time on Facebook, for example. Basically, you have a class of people who are getting paid so they can consume. What it is that they actually produce is of lesser importance. But the money need to keep circulating. The article even mentions that there appears to be an inverse relationship to importance of jobs and wages, namely that the more important you job is the less you are likely to get paid, and more specifically important for this line of argument: vice versa. A school teacher isn’t paid very much. Neither is a nurse. But you’d notice if they went on strike. But would your country or city be brought to a standstill if all the creative directors would go on strike?

Anyhoodles, the point is this: technological innovation have been brought to a halt because capitalism sees no use in it. Why sell you something new and unproved when you could be sold the same thing again, but in a different color this time? And why would you bust your ass at work just to be able to buy the same shit you bought last time when you just as well can google pictures of kittens or write on your grandmas Facebook-wall (poor thing hardly understand how it works, but she gets so happy when you write and since you spend so much time at work you hardly have the time to actually visit her)? It’s all very Soviet. The important thing is that you have a job, not that you work.

And please believe me when I say that there’s no loathing involved in this. I don’t despise anyone doing any sort of job. But we are all trapped in a system, in a situation that might cater to us materially, but that’s just about the only thing it does.

A Critique of the Accelerationist Manifesto

Plan C of Leeds have had a discussion about the Accelerationist Manifesto. Personally, I was quite intrigued by the manifesto, although I couldn’t really bring myself to accept it. I appreciated it for its foresight and modernity, for its focus on the future and of pragmatism. At the same time, precisely those things also echo nostalgia of some old Party, some old communist cadre. Plan C seem to have identified similar tendencies. Both seeing something ‘leninist’ in the manifesto, but also seeing something as at least positing an alternative to tactics that have not proven to be as effective as was hoped for. At least bringing it to the surface.

I hope to be able to get back to this in due time.

EDIT: Apparently Antonio Negri has written a little sumthin’ sumthin’ on the Accelerationist Manifesto as well! Haven’t had time to read it yet, but you should!

And, as before, I hope to be able to get back to that as well.

A stolen note on accelerationism:

The stolen, or quoted part you are about to read does not directly deal with accelerationism. It is more a statement concerning the state of affairs. The state in which we live. Or under which we live. But please read Steven Shaviro’s complete post! I find it quite illuminating.

In the world today, there is already enough accumulated wealth, and sufficiently advanced technology, for every human being to lead a life of leisure and self-cultivation. As William Gibson famously said, “the future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

Marx wrote that “capital is dead labour which, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks.” But in fact, capital is even more monstrous than this. For it is actively auto-cannibalistic. It feeds, not only on living labor, but also upon itself. As David Harvey reminds us, Marx envisions “the violent destruction of capital, not by relations external to it, but rather as a condition of its self-preservation.” When profit rates decline, then vast conflagrations of value — whether in wars or in economic crises — allow the accumulation of capital to resume anew. The lesson is that capitalism is never undone by its own internal contradictions. Rather, capitalism both needs and uses these contradictions; it continually regenerates itself by means of them, and indeed it could not survive without them.

This Is War

I hope nobody has missed that Kiev is in flames and that the Ukraine is on the brink of… Well, something. Coup. Revolution. Revolt. Civil war. And it appears to me that the ‘uneasiness’ in the state of affairs has made strange bed fellows amongst the opposition. But it also strikes me as something that might be a revolt that draws from many parts of Ukrainian life. Then again, I know very little about the Ukraine and about what is going on there now.

However. The point of this post was not to comment on the situation as such, nor to reveal my ignorance, it was to recommend you to look at these pictures.

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