Similar to how the blend produced in differance came to be emblematic of deconstruction, through the unpronounceable equivocation in the term’s signifSimilar to how the blend produced in differance came to be emblematic of deconstruction, through the unpronounceable equivocation in the term’s significance, this slim volume is contingent upon il y a la cendre, wherein an equivocation on the la (diacritical vel non) produces either “there are cinders there” or “cinders there are” (3), a distinction of topos v. ousia, perhaps, the ontic v. the ontologic.
Something of a lost opportunity here. Often enough the principles by which the derridean analysis occurred were initially metaphors drawn from the text sub judice, transformed into figures of thought for deconstruction as well as emblems of the process—the trace, the supplement, the hymen, the pharmakon, the preface, the tympan, and so on. Here, the cinder is drawn from Derrida’s own writings (the ‘Animadversions’ section is simply quoted bits from Glas, Dissemination, The Postcard). I am not however getting the sense that these writings are being subjected to the protocols of reading through the figure of the cinder, which is otherwise excellently emblematic of deconstructive processes—a remainder in the form but not substance of some original, now however subject to an “all-burning” (24), i.e., an etymological “holocaust” (25). We see that the “incineration of the definite article leaves the cinder itself in cinders” (31).
Language is accordingly an “urn,” which draws us into the familiar “work of mourning” (35). What else? “Pyrotechnical writing feigns abandoning everything to what goes up in smoke, leaving there only cinder that does not remain” (43).
Lotsa stuff about debts and metonymics and Phoenixes and (FFS) “burning semen,” the “impossible emission” (53 & 55).
Some bizarre Marxist interest: the phrase “like the accumulation of surplus value, as if he speculated on some cinder capital. It is however a question of making a withdrawal, in order to let him try his luck on a gift without the least memory of itself, in the final account, through a corpus, a pile of cinders unconcerned about preserving its form” (57 & 59).
A love letter to Magritte. Perhaps worth reading in parallel with Mieville's Last Days of New Paris along with Breton.
In depth analysis of the paintinA love letter to Magritte. Perhaps worth reading in parallel with Mieville's Last Days of New Paris along with Breton.
In depth analysis of the painting of the same name: and then also Much discussion of “what lends the figure its strangeness is not the ‘contradiction’ between the image and the text” (19), as “contradiction can only exist between two statements” (id.). The solitary statement is not contradictory because it is “simple demonstrative” (id.), and can merely be false, as opposed to aporetic. Is it false, then, “because its ‘referent’—obviously a pipe—does not verify it?” The viewer is misled by “the inevitability of connecting the text to the drawing” (20). Is it that “the sorcery here lies in an operation rendered invisible by the simplicity of its result” (id.)? “By ruse or impotence, small matter—the calligram never speaks and represents at the same moment. The very thing that is both seen and read is hushed in the vision, hidden in the reading” (24-25). The point of articulation: “I have omitted that from one position to the other a stable and instable dependency, at once insistent and unsure, is indicated. And it is indicated by the word ‘this’” (26).
From painting to image, from image to text, from text to voice, a sort of imaginary pointer indicates, shows, fixes, locates, imposes a system of references, tries to stabilize a unique space. (30)
Leads thereafter into a discussion of two principles that ruled painting: “The first asserts the separation between plastic representation (which implies resemblance) and linguistic reference (which excludes it). By resemblance we demonstrate and speak across difference: the two systems can neither merge nor intersect” (32). The second principle “posits an equivalence between the fact of resemblance and the affirmation of a representative bond” (34).
Analysis thereafter of other Magritte images, such as Person walking toward the horizon, “the converse of a rebus” (40). Quite a bit of this, for a short essay. Overall, “Magritte dissociated similitude from resemblance” (44): “resemblance serves representation, which rules over it; similitude serves repetition, which ranges across it” (id.). Locates in the Pipe paintings “seven discourses in a single statement—more than enough to demolish the fortress where similitude was held prisoner to the assertion of resemblance” (49).
Absent are many of Foucault’s normal concerns, except perhaps an interest in significatory processes at the most macro-level....more
As committed as the first volume, but shifting gears from ‘third world fascism’ in general to the attempt to reconstitute imperial authority in the waAs committed as the first volume, but shifting gears from ‘third world fascism’ in general to the attempt to reconstitute imperial authority in the wake of the failure of the subfascist system in Vietnam. The statement of purpose:
the postwar condition of the three states of Indochina: Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia […] from mid-1975 to the end of 1978 […] a double focus: on Indochina itself and on the West (primarily the United States) in relation to Indochina. We will consider the facts about postwar Indochina as they can be ascertained, but a major emphasis will be on the ways in which these facts have been interpreted, distorted, or modified by the ideological institutions of the West. (vii)
Context of postwar Indochina is that the US’ unlawful attack “left the countries devastated, facing almost insuperable problems” (viii), including destruction of agricultural lands and the resettlement of most rural population in inadequate urban areas—a deliberate US policy of forcing the agricultural workforce out of the country via bombing, both as a demographic warfare and a means to disrupt the revolutionary organizations in each state. It is overall an outrage, both the initial crimes and the subsequent attempt to shift the responsibility from the US to its victims.
There’s plenty more, but suffice to say that the US went halfway around the world and dropped more bombs on Indochina than were dropped by all belligerents in all theatres during World War II—and of course no Indochinese state dropped anything on the United States. So, yaknow—fuck off, worthless waste of space US jingos. There is no reasonable defense for the US on the jus ad bellum question.
Chapters on the refugee crisis (49 ff.), Vietnam proper (61 ff.), and Laos (119 ff.). Nothing unexpected in these. Basic thesis is that the US fucked everything up, and then lied about it. Duh?
The reason anyone reads this book these days, if indeed they do in fact read, is the 6th chapter, regarding Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge, which constitutes approximately half the volume. The rightwing position has generally been that authors herein deny that genocide occurred in Cambodia 1975-79. This position is not borne out by the text. That is to say, those who think that this text denies genocide are either liars or illiterate.
For “in the case of Cambodia, there is no difficulty in documenting major atrocities” (135). However “the sources of the policies of the postwar Cambodian regime in historical experience, traditional culture, Khmer nationalism, or internal social conflict have been passed by in silence as the propaganda machine gravitates to the evils of a competitive socioeconomic system so as to establish its basic principle that ‘liberation’ by ‘Marxists’ is the worst fate that can befall any people under Western dominance” (136).
Although Cambodia became “the most extensively reported Third world country in US journalism” (id.), US journalism liked “to pretend that their lone and courageous voice of protest can barely be heard, or alternatively that controversy is raging about events in postwar Cambodia” (id.). A “common device” in this propaganda process is to complain that antiwar activists “‘had better explain’ why there had been a bloodbath, or ‘concede’ that their ‘support for the Communists’—the standard term for opposition to US subversion and aggression—was wrong; it is the critics who must, it is claimed, shoulder the responsibility for the consequences of US intervention, not those who organized and supported it or concealed the facts concerning it” (138). These seem like familiar rhetorical maneuvers for more recent atrocities management.
The commonly noted 2.5M dead from a 7M population appears to have first been alleged by George McGovern in Congress during 1978 (only Nixon can go to China, indeed) (see 138). His source for the figure at that early date (when “Cambodia had been almost entirely closed to the West” except for refugees (135)) is a State Department hack (138) and thence Lon Nol, CIA stooge and reliable subfascist (139).
Refugee reports are the main substantive evidence for the Khmer genocide—“or to be more precise, from accounts of journalists and others of what refugees are alleged to have said” (140). Much thoughtful commentary on how refugee testimony is to be handled in general (140 ff.). Thereafter much detailed interrogation of not merely refugee reports, but the processes through which refugee reports were produced—such as how Thai refugee “camp authorities had organized French and English speaking refugees as informants to give the official line to journalists who came to visit” (146) or how “competent researchers fluent in Khmer” were denied entry to Thai refugee camps (147).
One topos of this text is to suggest that the “gang of thugs” thesis may not be entirely correct, and that, rather, many persons were killed in Cambodia not only by US bombs, and the starvation concomitant with the destruction of the Khmer economy by same, but also by “a peasant army, recruited and driven out of their devastated villages by US bombs and then taking revenge against the urban civilization that they regarded, not without reason, as a collaborator in their destruction” (150), which fits the known primitivist components of Khmer Rouge policy (which components are inconsistent with basic Marxist ideas, of course). This thesis makes some sense, considering that the Khmer Rouge “took over at a time when society was in ruins, so that there were no normal means of government” (153).
There were certainly estimates of deaths at the time contrary to McGovern/Lon Nol, such as the 1977 US report that Cambodia had suffered several hundred thousand deaths from all causes, “a marked shift from the estimates just six months ago, when it was popular to say that anywhere between 800,000 and 1.4 million Cambodians had been executed by vengeful Communists” (159). Holbrooke, US thug extraordinaire, estimated “tens if not hundreds of thousands of deaths from all causes” (id.). The objective of the text here is not, in 1979, to deny that killings occurred in Cambodia—quite the contrary. The thesis is that the refugees reports and analyses of causation and estimates of quantum were highly varied in the late 70s, precisely because Cambodia was shut away, and therefore that US estimates of a Cambodian centrally-coordinated autogenocide were unwarranted at the time on the basis of the available evidence, that the ideological imperative was to assume a genocide, as one had been predicted for Vietnam and had failed to materialize. Much of the analysis proceeds by comparison with the situation in East Timor, wherein US ally Indonesia at the same time was killing approximately the same proportion of East Timorese as alleged to have been killed in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge—to more or less complete silence in the US.
Standard manner of analysis here:
And there is good reason why Aikman fails to mention the names of those ‘political theorists’ who have defended ‘the Cambodian tragedy’—as this would require differentiating those who have exposed media distortions and tried to discover the facts, instead of joining the bandwagon of uncritical abuse, from those who say that no serious atrocities have occurred (a small or non-existent set that Time has searched for, apparently without success). (164)
The Time article alleges that the genocide is “the logical consequence of an atheistic, man-centered system of values, enforced by fallible human beings with total power, who believe, with Marx, that morality is whatever the powerful define it to be” (165). Eww?
Much analysis of the basic postwar books (Ponchaud, Barron-Paul, &c.) that were put forward in the US, as well as some accounts that were not emphasized or ignored, as well as interpretations of these items by others. The details all suggest that something awful happened in Cambodia, of course—but the quantum and causation, as always, are subject to reasonable dispute in 1979. And of course the rightwing texts are in for critique here: Barron’s “diverse sources” are for instance revealed to be “specialists at the State and Defense Departments, the National Security Council, and three unnamed embassies in Washington” (243). Ponchaud’s text, for example, also has defects, such as how “this was one of the areas where the worst atrocities were later reported, and where Khmer Rouge control is said to have been very limited” (275).
One interesting comment, from visitor Francois Rigaux in 1978: “He notes, however, that the conditions described with horror by many of the refugees (which he believes have ‘considerably improved’) are ‘those of the majority of the Khmer peasants, conditions of which [the refugees] were unaware during the period when their privilege permitted them to keep a distance’ from the lives of the poor” (198). Another visitor (Dudman) noted that Cambodia was “one huge work camp, but its people were clearly not being worked to death and starved to death as foreign critics have charged” (208)—the rationale was that the cities were emptied, brutally, by the Khmer Rouge in 1975 in order to counteract the forced urbanization caused by the US bombs—in order to get isolated Cambodia back into agricultural production, lest everyone starve after the US very predictably cut off foreign aid when its client Lon Nol was ousted. Another analyst (Chandler) “stressed again how one-sided is the information available from refugees—by definition, those disaffected with the regime” (212).
Atop all of the indeterminacy of the moment in 1979, there is the plain objective of the US in this theatre:
the Kissinger-Nixon policy during the last two years of the war was ‘a major mystery,’ for which [one Vickery] suggests an explanation that appears to us quite plausible. Referring to the ‘Sonnenfeldt Doctrine,’ which holds that ‘pluralistic and libertarian Communist regimes will breed leftist ferment in the West,’ he suggests that ‘when it became clear [to US leaders] that they could not win in Cambodia, they preferred to do everything possible to insure that the post-war revolutionary government be extremely brutal, doctrinaire, and frightening to its neighbors, rather than a moderate socialism to which the Thai, for example, might look with envy. (218)
There follows analysis of multiple statements in the 1970s from US analysts (and officials) regarding the linkage of 250,000 tons of bombs and “placing a small country’s physical and political survival in escrow for many years” (219). Quinn’s report for the National Security Council links the increase in bombs in 1973 with an increase in brutality in the countryside (220).
Regarding the ongoing presentation here of their “theory of the Free Press”:
we see that there are conflicting reports of all these events. Swain and Schanberg present their views in the London Sunday Times and New York Times; the Tarrs and Boyle give their conflicting account in News from Kampuchea (international circulation 500) and the left wing New York Guardian, also with a tiny reading public. The detailed participant account by the Tarrs of the actual evacuation from Phnom Penh as they perceived it, which is quite unique, is not so much as mentioned in the mass media; their reports appeared without distortion, they claim, only in tiny left wing journals in New Zealand. Boyle reports that AP refused to publish his stories when he had taken over their bureau, choosing instead accounts of atrocities that neither he, nor French doctors or nurses, nor Cambodian AP staffers could verify. But there is no censorship in the Free Press, such as we find in totalitarian states. (239)
Ultimately, authors note that their own analysis should be considered as provisional as they consider the rightwing writings to be: “When the facts are in, it may well turn out that the more extreme condemnations were in fact correct” (293). This however “in no way alter the conclusions we have reached on the central question to be addressed here: how the available facts were selected, modified, or sometimes invented to create a certain image offered to the general population” (id.).
Concludes by offering ‘principles’ of the ‘Free Press’—
1) “averting the eyes from benign or constructive terror” (295);
2) “intense and dedicated search for nefarious terror, which can be brought into focus without giving offense to any important groups and which contributes to domestic ideological mobilizing” (id.) (with the sub-principle that “useful myths, once successfully instituted, are virtually immune to correction” (id.); and
3) “agent transference,” wherein “the critical role of the United States in maintaining internecine conflict from 1954, and its more direct shattering of the Indochinese societies and their economic foundations, is acknowledged only occasionally and as an afterthought. The only ‘agents’ to whom responsibility is indignantly attributed for the suffering in Indochina are the new regimes that came into power in a presumably normal environment in 1975” (296).
Fair to say, then, that this text is as much about the practice of journalism in the US regarding US foreign policy as it is about the actual results of that policy. Volume I focused more on the policy itself, whereas this volume is much more about the presentation of the results of policy through the althusserian journalism ISA. It is difficult to contest those critiques of US journalism, even if we're on board with the most extreme estimates of the Cambodian genocide (inclusive of the simplistic "gang of thugs" causation thesis) though the virtue of 20/20 hindsight.
Text is prophetic and self-reflexive insofar as "the alleged views of critics of the propaganda barrage who do exist are known primarily through ritual denunciation rather than direct exposure" (136), as the anti-Chomsky texts that take up this volume are always already fatally defective....more
Statement of purpose for this two-volume project: “It has a dual focus: on facts and on beliefs” (ix).
The basic fact is that the United States has or
Statement of purpose for this two-volume project: “It has a dual focus: on facts and on beliefs” (ix).
The basic fact is that the United States has organized under its sponsorship and protection a neo-colonial system of client states ruled mainly by terror and serving the interests of a small local and foreign business and military elite. The fundamental belief, or ideological pretense, is that the United States is dedicated to furthering the cause of democracy and human rights throughout the world. (id.).
That is all in fact basic and fundamental. Along with Manufacturing Consent, this set should be considered part of the core Chomsky writings.
The main concern is how the US has “globalized the ‘banana republic’” (1), a “plague of neofascism.” This has proceeded through “interventions explicitly designed to preserve non-freedom from the threat of freedom […] and to displace democratic with totalitarian regimes” (3). Even though the US is the worst distributor of products in the global market for unlawful killing (inclusive of “the peasants of Indochina served as experimental animals for an evolving military technology” (3)), the majority of kenomatic development occurred under the US clientage system, a group of “subfascist” regimes, characterized by “most of the vicious characteristics of fascism [but] lacked the mass base that a Hitler or Mussolini could muster” (30). That is, the US client system, as an imposition by an imperialist, lacks “the degree of legitimacy of a genuine fascist regime” (id.), which regime normally is a rightwing populist movement indigenous to the state of its eruption.
The principal axis of argumentation here is the analysis of the presentation of this subfascist system by the US imperial-oriented for-profit consciousness production industry, i.e., what Althusser might reference as the journalism ISA, and amply described otherwise by Bagdikian’s Media Monopoly, McChesney’s Rich Media, Poor Democracy, the writings of Michael Parenti, Project Censored, and so on. So, regarding subfascist crimes, the US media ISA has numerous strategies: distraction with emphasis on positive things, insistence that the US is a bystander, sleight of mind to refocus on alleged communist crimes, &c. (11 ff.).
Very much a reply to Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago in the chapter “The Pentagon-CIA Archipelago” (41-83), with the principal comment:
Even liberal commentators rarely focus on the systematic character of the US support for right wing terror regimes and the simple economic logic of the ‘Washington connection.’ This evasion may even be said to define the limits of permissible liberalism in the mass media—one may denounce torture in Chile and ‘death squads’ in Brazil, but (1) it is unacceptable to explain them as a result of official US policy and preference and as plausibly linked to US economic interests; and (2) it would be highly advisable even when merely denouncing subfascist terror to show ‘balance’ by denouncing Soviet and left terror in equally vigorous terms. […] Needless to say, a similar balance is not required in establishment and extreme right commentators. One rarely finds any criticism of Gulag Archipelago for balance as a picture of Soviet society and its evolution, let alone for its neglect of unpleasant aspects of the Free World. (78-79)
Nice listings of CIA technique (assassination, mercenary conspiracy, political bribery, propaganda, ersatz protests, corruption of organizations, and so on (50 ff.). The objective is a “favorable investment climate” (53 et seq.), of course: “Democratic threats to the interests of foreign investors, such as a Philippines Supreme Court ruling prior to the 1972 coup prohibiting foreigners from owning land, or a Brazilian dispute over a mineral concession to Hanna Mining Company, or agrarian reform in Guatemala, or nationalization of oil in Iran, are expeditiously resolved in favor of the foreigner by dictators” (53). It must be made plain: “terror is not a fortuitous spinoff but has a functional relationship to investment climate” (54).
The US can’t accomplish all of this on its own, which is why subfascist local clients are required; the process is “denationalization,” a process whereby the US might “virtually disregard the sovereignty of this large and theoretically independent country. The catch, of course, is that Brazil was not an independent country—US penetration was already enormous by the 1960s and US leaders acted as it they had a veto over Brazilian economic and foreign policy” (52); the leaders were denationalized insofar as they had “strong ties and dependency relations” (id.). The gallows humor moment here is that “a curious aspect of this massive subversion operation in a country such as Brazil is that it is not regarded as subversion. If the Cubans are found to provide weapons to insurgents in Venezuela such a discovery is given great publicity as evidence of Cuban perfidy” whereas “the subversion of Brazil by the United States in the years leading up to the coup of 1964 […] is the natural right of power—where domination is so taken for granted that the hegemonic power intervenes by inevitable and unquestioned authority” (52-53). Anyway, lotsa detail on these points.
In this subfascist system, “the majority of the population is a means, not an end” (59). We should expect these processes to accelerate now, given the local result in recent US elections, the cruel conversion of labor forces in the so-called third world into mere agambenian instruments, zoe whose bodies are subject to the usage of capital, wherein violation of the categorical imperative is the default condition of possibility for the system. This system “flows naturally from control by denationalized elites in a system of suspended law and arbitrary privilege” (66)—which is to situate the US subfascist clientage system within the agambenian state of exception, a kenomatic state wherein the absence of law in the client is the arche of the law in the US.
The argument thereafter develops three principal mechanisms that constitute the biopolitical management of the subfascist system: “benign terror” (85 ff.), “constructive terror” (205 ff.), and “bloodbaths” (299 ff.).
In “atrocities management” (97), the first step is that the imperialist insists on a zone of indistinction between “civil rights workers and bomb-throwers” (93) in order to throw legitimate protest in with unauthorized violence. The manager thereafter institutes “permanent counterrevolution” such that “the indiscriminate violence puts into operation a feedback process of ‘communist creation’ that affords the intervention legitimacy in the eyes of imperial power” (99), the creation, i.e., of a state of exception that runs parallel to and thereby supersedes the rule of constitutional order.
Examples of benign terror (about which “attitudes in the United States have been characterized mainly by sheer indifference” (105)) include East Pakistan in 1971 (105 ff.) (which has been estimated variously to have involved anywhere from 300,000 to 3,000,000 civilians massacred); Burundi in 1972 (250,000 massacred) (106 ff.); Native Americans in Paraguay, Bolivia, Brazil (millions dead?) (109 ff.); East Timor in 1975 (100,000 killed?) (129 ff.)—much detail on this last.
Instances of 'constructive terror,' by contrast, “contribute substantially to a favorable investment climate” (205), and typically involve systematic torture, arbitrary imprisonment, death squads, permanent counterrevolution, and so on. Examples studied herein are: Indonesia 1965 (205 ff.), with its 500,000+ leftists killed; Thailand after WWII (218 ff.), which became a US “landlocked aircraft carrier” (223); the Philippines (230 ff.), wherein the “democratic façade was suspended under Marcos in 1972”; the Dominican Republic (242 ff.) in the 1960s; Argentina (264 ff.); Uruguay (270 ff.); Guatemala (274 ff.); Nicaragua (283 ff.); El Salvador (296 ff.), and so on.
The last section, on “bloodbaths,” concerns Vietnam, which, under the Vietnamization doctrine, “became the ultimate satellite—the pure negative, built on anti-communism, violence, and external sustenance” (328). The first sort of bloodbath is “constructive,” by the French colonialist or the Diem regime, supportive of favorable investment climate (300 ff.). The US direct assault is the “primary bloodbath” in this narrative, no doubt (304); “The number of civilian casualties inflicted on South Vietnam is unknown, but is very likely underestimated by the Senate Subcommittee on Refugees at 400,000 dead, 900,000 wounded and 6.4 million turned into refugees” (312).
The “mythical bloodbath” concludes the volume, i.e., massacres long predicted by the rightwing to result from a communist victory in Vietnam, or allegations of leftwing crimes during the US invasion. The analysis disputes the rightwing narrative that Hanoi killed millions of persons during land reform in the 1950s (341 ff.); it’s an effective presentation. The Hue massacre is likewise brushed against the grain (345 ff.), with success. Much of the import here is the attempt by the US to use exaggerated or fabricated atrocities to recover its imperial authority after the failure of the unlawful armed attack against three sovereign states. Volume II will resume this thread.
Good stuff overall, though now nearly 40 years out of current, which does not vitiate its political critique. As preparatory for analysis of Volume II, we conclude by noting the insistence upon the atrocities in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge, which are acknowledged (20 ff.) as
the constant pretense that the horrors of Cambodia are being ignored except for the few courageous voices that seek to pierce the silence, or that some great conflict was raging about the question of whether or not there have been atrocities in Cambodia. […] By September 1977, condemnation of Cambodian atrocities, covering the full political spectrum with the exception of some Maoist groups, had reached a level and scale that has rarely been matched. (20)
Title is this guy: Dude is really best at novels, the longer the better. The plays aren’t incompetent, just probably would work better as long proseyTitle is this guy: Dude is really best at novels, the longer the better. The plays aren’t incompetent, just probably would work better as long prosey things.
Set in the desert, western US, partaking therefore of the same setting as Point Omega: “I bathe myself in the light of this epic desert space” (65).
Principal object of the agon here is the disposition of a person in a “persistent vegetative state” (27).
Very much an agambenian interest in point of differentiation between life and death, the zone of indistinction where we can’t sort one from the other—life when one is “sort of presentably dead” (11), say? Is it a matter of dying “in nature’s time” (40), a “right to suffer” (41)? “Not that he’s alive. Not that he’s dead. No longer and not yet” (48).
Secondary agon concerns the gender politics arising out of the first: “a male fantasy of the caring woman” (11), carried on by several of the surviving spouses: “She’s one of his wives. I’m one of his wives. We’re just pussy.” (21).
Recommended for readers who think the world was flat, those who feel the erotic rumblings, and persons who love the language of body failure. ...more
A bit different purpose here, in comparison with the Norton Critical edition of the same basic text. Handsome hardbound, 150th anniversary, not quiteA bit different purpose here, in comparison with the Norton Critical edition of the same basic text. Handsome hardbound, 150th anniversary, not quite a coffee table edition (no pictures), &c.
Introduction by Hobsbawm is cool. He notes that the manifesto of the ‘communist party’ refers to no actually existing organization (12) but that its “political rhetoric has an almost biblical force,” “compelling power as literature” (15). Authors
did not describe the world as it had already been transformed by capitalism in 1848; they predicted how it was logically destined to be transformed by it. We now live in a world in which this transformation has largely taken place. (17)
He criticizes M&E insofar as “the tendency for capitalist development to generate an essentially revolutionary proletariat could not be deduced from the analysis of the nature of capitalist development” (emphasis original) (25). And he wants to emphasize that one result of class conflict predicted in the manifesto is “the common ruin of the contending classes” (16, 29)--which result is not often considered (though he alludes to Meszaros' Socialism or Barbarism fairly expressly).
Manifesto itself is of course a world classic, and section I’s praise and consequent critique of capitalism is one of the great moments of leftwing writing. We see the seeds of Adorno & Horkheimer in lines such as “Because there was too much civilization, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce” (42). Am seeing the seeds of Agamben in lines such as how the bourgeoisie is “unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure the existence to its slave within his slavery” (50)—the bourgeoisie can’t maintain ‘the bare life’ of zoe as a matter of adherence to basic market mechanism. That is: “The average price of wage labour is the minimum wage, i.e., that quantum of the means of subsistence which is absolutely requisite to keep the labourer in bare existence as a labourer” (emphasis added) (53).
Proletarian is disclosed as prosthesis of production when existing merely as “an appendage of the machine” (43), perhaps authorizing philistine business persons in their obtuse belief in ‘human capital.’ This is the race-to-the-bottom, “as machinery obliterates all distinctions of labour, and nearly everywhere reduces wages to the same low level” (45).
The apousia of the eponymous organization is damned curious, for M&E write for a party that does not yet exist at the time of their writing. They mention that the “organization of the proletarians into a class, and consequently into a political party” (46) while describing intra-class competition. Surely the proletariat exists as a class-in-itself by virtue of labor’s relation to capital in the production process. But not yet is it class-for-itself, a Hegelian atom brought to self-consciousness. That is the moment that history jumps the shark, the schwerpunkt of world historical development, at which point the self-conscious proletariat, similar to a pissed off AI (indeed, proletarian revolution is the model there), launches its missiles at targets in Russia because it knows that the Soviet counterattack will destroy its enemies over here. Formation of a class-for-itself is the determinative event, of which the organization of a proletarian political party (as here) is mere epiphenomenon, making the Revolution a foregone conclusion.
The causality thence is “first a national struggle” wherein the “the proletariat of each country must, of course, first of all settle matters with its own bourgeoisie” (49), very much contrary to the ideas of, say, postmodernized reformed anarcho-marxists of the Frankfurt School (ahem) who prefer that the race-to-the-bottom conclude and equalize all states therein at the most abject position and thereby in such kenomatic crucible the irrationalisms of nationality might be burned away, leaving only naked class-for-itself uncomplicated by nationalist bullshit.
But there is an ugly aporia here, as we have already seen that class-for-itself must precede the formation of the party—and yet: “The immediate aim of the Communists [NB: who are not organized into a party yet] is the same as that of all the other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat” (51). Proletariat is always already a class-in-itself because of relations of production for the tenure of its existence—but class-for-itself must precede formation of the party, as above. Here, however, the party is presumed, and it is forming, apparently, the class-for-itself—which authorizes, sadly, Leninist vanguardism.
Another striking thing about this manifesto (etymology from Latin for ‘clear’ or ‘conspicuous’!) is the degree to which is tooths upon a colloquy that is very old: “Communism is already acknowledged by all European powers to be itself a power” (33)—that’s the haunting spectre, after all. It’s parousia, and it’s apousia. But also: “You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property” (54)—very much in dialogue with an unidentified interlocutor. Much water under the bridge, even in 1848.
Recommended for those who support every revolutionary movement, readers who disdain to conceal their views and aims, and persons who will let the ruling classes tremble....more
Collection of short fiction from across dude’s career. His preferred form runs fairly manifestly toward the long; these aren’t necessarily weak, but hCollection of short fiction from across dude’s career. His preferred form runs fairly manifestly toward the long; these aren’t necessarily weak, but he shines as a novelist.
Some of the texts read as studies for or comments on the novels: “The Angel Esmeralda” shares lines and spaces with Underworld; “Baader-Meinhof” has the same concern with ‘terrorism’ seen in Players, The Names, and Mao II, and likely pre-figures Falling Man to some extent; “Midnight in Dostoevsky” shares conceptual space with very early End Zone.
First story is an odd, frustrated travelogue, wherein the hotel is “a modern product,” “designed to make people feel they’d left civilization behind” (8). Some science fiction interest in “Human Moments in World War III.”
“The Ivory Acrobat” is an ex-pat’s fear of earthquakes, apparently, which reduces her to abject agambenian zoe, “down to pure dumb canine instinct” in contrast with others who maintain the agambenian status of bios, "going about their business” (62). Eponymous figurine is given to protagonist “to remind you of your hidden litheness” (66), her “magical true self, mass produced” (id.).
“The Angel Esmeralda,” like Underworld, is an archaeology of the accursed share, “filled with years of stratified deposits” (75).
“Baader-Meinhof” has the second-most horripilatory antagonist in the volume: “I’m not one of those controlling men. I don’t need to control anyone. Tell me what you want” (114). (As if we didn’t already know: “His voice carried an intimacy so false it seemed a little threatening” (115).) Students stalk a professor and others in “Midnight in Dostoevsky,” fabricating sub-narratives much like the numbnuts in Generation X.
“Hammer and Sickle” conjoins a prison narrative to critique of global capitalism after the Great Recession. It’s almost as though DeLillo studied Homo Sacer in writing this one, as it reports “We’re not in prison […] we’re at camp” (161), pulling from the argument in Agamben that modern biopolitical management is best modeled in the concentration camp systems of totalitarian states (and in contradistinction with Foucault’s older argument regarding panoptical prisons). Reduced to zoe: we were just tons of assimilated meat, our collected flesh built into cubicles, containered in dormitories and dining halls, zippered into jumpsuits of five colors, classified, catalogued” (168), which is not obviously inapplicable to life outside the prison in the ‘freedom’ of liberal late capitalism. ‘Containered life’ is not obviously however merely agambenian ‘mere life,’ mere zoe, as to be cubicled is to be of the polis, the touchstone for bios:
all around us in cubicles [NB], suspended in time, reliably muted now, men with dental issues, medical issues, marital issues, dietary demands, psychic frailties, sleep-learning men, the nightly drone of oil-tax schemes, tax-shelter schemes, corporate espionages, corporate bribery, false testimony, medicare fraud, inheritance fraud, real estate fraud, wire fraud, fraud and conspiracy (171)
which, as Agamben might say, places the prisoners charged with these crimes into a zone of indistinction with unconvicted greasers who do this stuff as a matter of course in their roles as functionaries within the late capitalist system. These motherfuckers are “end products of the system, the logical outcome, slabs of burnt-out capital” (175).
Final story has the grossest antagonist (or, more properly, villain protagonist), cinephile who follows women around town, even into washrooms. Eww? If he just watched films and groused, it’d be kinda cool in an Ignatius Riley way. Also engages in Coupland-style sub-narration.
Recommended for those who want their lives to be episodic again, readers who can barely complete a thought without touch pads or scroll buttons, and persons with fake lives on the margin of plausibility. ...more
Nutshell: conscription of art objects makes manifest Benjamin’s thesis that humanity’s “self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experienNutshell: conscription of art objects makes manifest Benjamin’s thesis that humanity’s “self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order. This is the situation of politics which Fascism is rendering aesthetic. Communism responds by politicizing art.”
Basic principle of the narrative is that certain art-concepts have manifested (etymologically ‘hand-thrust’), i.e., have demonstrated, or become apparent, or have been disclosed. The art-concepts-made-manifest are designated as manifs, art with agency, art as subject of consciousness rather than object. It is an interesting thought experiment, and author flatters sense and decency by lining up art’s subjectivity as fighting against the far right.
More or less brilliant. Half the awesome is tracking down the references in the notes to various art objects (which I have tried to find on the internets and pop into the status updates, infra), as well as trying to locate reasonable sources for images undisclosed in the notes. Review of the notes brings the realization that classical surrealism is the default indicia of Mieville’s imaginary—all of his work might reasonably be referenced to these ideas, and it’s readily apparent that most of his writings find a source in classical surrealism. The classical surrealists are presented evenly, insofar as certain revolutionaries regard them as ludic nihilists: “‘Play is resistance,’ said [one of them]. […] This is how you rebel?” (88).
The space in which the narrative unfolds is liminal “insofar as anyone could be called to anything any more” (12), wherein the infernal contests with the fascistic and the surreal—the condition of possibility here is apparently the failure of althusserian interpellation, which is apparently a contagion: “The Nazis will never allow Paris to contaminate France” (16). Fascists accordingly “quarantine” Paris (38), Foucault’s political dream of the plague from the Discipline & Punish. It is also Agamben’s ‘camp’ from the Homo Sacer, the space wherein all are reduced to ‘bare life,’ depoliticized zoe. But this liminal space is nevertheless porous: a new commodity fetishism arises as “artifact hunters creep past the barricades to seek, extract, and sell stuff born or altered by the blast” (37-8). The quarantine is a state of exception, certainly, when the Wehrmacht “fired remorseless fusillades” (39) at their own trapped compatriots. “Women and men committed to no side, to nothing except trying to live” (94)--zoe, not bios, the lumpenized antisocial nihilist who cares for nothing but bare life. (We must recall that the agambenian state of exception is kenomatic, whereas “the connection of the golden dawn and animals and pleromic beyond to the woman committed to the liberation dreams” (114).
Derridean ‘hauntology’ from the Spectres of Marx: “Fumages, smoke figures wafting in and out of presence” (57).
Principal protagonist is part of the surrealist resistance “because of his way of seeing” (22)—that’s Berger, NB. The surrealist resistance “taught him to conduct what they called disponibilite, to be a receiver. To tap objective chance” (22). To that end, one character does “not believe in coincidence,” having been trained (“there are some words I think I can make do things they wouldn’t normally do”) by (view spoiler)[Aleister Crowley (hide spoiler)] (47), with which (view spoiler)[Breton (hide spoiler)] agrees and designates as objective chance.
The former disciple is slick insofar as he might “speak commands to the universe” in order to “make himself slightly invisible” or “make time drag enough” (83)—very RSB that “he was used to carefully, intensely interpreting after all such actions, to if or how the world had responded.” Some critique of the “theology of betrayal” (25) involved in the “Catholicism of collaboration” (id.), represented here as a satanic priest who summons demons on behalf of the NSDAP. Regarding the demonic, the S-bomb was “not their birth but their excuse” (28). They are “anti-exorcists” (80).
Text is self-referential, insofar as a character is writing a book entitled The Last Days of New Paris (55), and the Afterword involves the author’s reflection on receiving the facts of the story from a survivor.
Slick Pynchon reference insofar as “between the trajectories of rocket falls, rainbow-shapes and gravity, between his imaginings of screamings across the sky that we would send the Nazis, [past-protagonist] with exhausting care and thoroughness, developed an arithmetic of invocation, an algebra of ritual” (90)—okay, I got a bit weepy at that. Perhaps unfair to say that this is a gloss on Gravity’s Rainbow, but the text is precise on the relation thereto.
Reading will likely benefit from a knowledge of local Parisian geography, as the text often locates itself specifically by street and arrondissement, similar to how American Psycho very precisely locates itself in New York.
Much is made of surrealist process, such as the generation of various ‘exquisite corpses’ (cf. note at 194 ff.), the ‘Marseille game’ (note at 198 ff.), and the ‘irrational embellishments’ (note at 190 ff.). An important refrain is how “the mission is vacant” (63, 79). (mission arises out of latinate mittere, a sending, a setting at liberty; vacant from latinate vacare, to be empty).
References to Rabbi Judah Loew and the Golem as “the first applied mathematician” (89) (author likes this narrative and invokes it in Iron Council, recall). Also found in that text is the insistence that the revolutionary owes something to the revolution, which here shows up as: “What treachery against the collectivism, the war socialism of the Main a plume, keeping the [something spoilery] for himself” (97)—radical democracy or nothing.
A similar intertextual moment with his recent collection of short fictions: “And in all the years since, this famous ground has been impenetrable. No one has been able to push through the windless windlike force it extrudes, its own memory of its explosion” (101).
Anyway, it’s not just collaborator Catholicism, but also Drancy, Mengele, and—no joke—Hitler’s art.
Recommended for those who watch for monsters, readers who don’t run things, and those who wanted to find the Philosopher’s Stone. ...more
Sartre characterizes this text in the introduction as “an epic of masturbation” (2), “only one subject: the pollutions of a prisoner in the darkness oSartre characterizes this text in the introduction as “an epic of masturbation” (2), “only one subject: the pollutions of a prisoner in the darkness of his cell” (3), which presents the primary structural difficulty in interpretation here—the modulation between the moments of the fictive Real metanarrative and the purported Imaginary sub-narratives therein. Sartre also thinks that the text has a “desolate, desert-like aspect” wherein one character, say, “undergoes ascesis in an agony” (11)—overall, a “ghastly book” (47). He wonders if “poetry is only the reverse side of masturbation” (15). That stuff may be philistine (and Sartre’s handling of the admittedly complicated gender politics is likewise woefully inadequate), but he does situate the general politics well:
one might contrast the humanistic universe of Rimbaud and Nietzsche, in which the powers of the negative shatter the limits of things, with the stable and theological universe of Baudelaire or Mallarme, in which a divine crosier shepherds things together in a flock, imposing unity on discontinuity itself. That Genet chose the latter is only to be expected. In order to do evil, this outcast needs to affirm the pre-existence of good, that is, of order. At the very source of his images is a will to compel reality to manifest the great social hierarchy from which he is excluded. (30)
Author (or is it narrator?) is “an exile from our bourgeois, industrial democracy” and is thereby “cast into an artificial medieval world” (33). This text is accordingly a “botany of the underworld” (39), wherein all characters have “the same categorical imperative: since you don’t have faith enough to believe in us, you must at least make others adopt us and must convince them that we exist” (49).
So much for Sartre. Text proper is labor intensive. Its statement of purpose is ostensibly “in honor of their crimes” (51), regarding specific seemingly historical executed persons. (Honoring the crimes however strikes me like a signature moment of lumpenized antisocial nihilism.) Text lays out a phantasmagoric narrative/metanarrative. Productive perhaps to examine on the basis of conceptual axis.
In reflecting on the persons honored for their crimes, supra, narrator suggests that they are “bodies chosen because they are possessed by terrible souls” (53), which is a concern that we might see show up in Agamben’s most recent, The Use of Bodies, incidentally. We see a “blessed body in a supernatural nimbus” (54), the consecrated corpus, subject to agambenian devotio, quite plausibly in this narrative. One character’s death is likened to “Jesus the gilded chancre where gleams His flaming Sacred Heart. So much for the divine aspect of her death. The other aspect, ours, because of those streams of blood that had been shed” (57) (cf. Marlowe’s “Christ’s blood streams in the firmament”). “When I see him lying naked, I feel like saying mass on his chest” (84). The consecration runs to the point of radical corporeal disaggregation: she “lived only on tea and grief. She ate her grief and drank it; this sour food had dried her body and corroded her mind” (155).
Althusser’s ideological state apparatus (perhaps as described in our review of Butler’s Gender Trouble) is thoroughly frustrated in this text. I hope that this is not the reason that I identify the presentation as lumpenized antisocial nihilist. Specifically, characters are not stable with regard to pronoun usage: “Divine died yesterday in a pool of her own vomited blood” (57). But: “the duplicity of the sex of fags” (114). The alleged 'duplicity' is borne out regarding the same character, who is always subject to indetermination on this point:
She tried for male gestures, which are rarely the gestures of males […] she was supposed to show she was virile so as to capture the murderer, she would end up burlesquing them, and this double formula enveloped her in strangeness [xenos], made her a timid clown in plain dress […] to crown her metamorphosis from female into tough male, she imagined a man-to-man friendship which would link her with one of those faultless pimps whose gestures could not be regarded as ambiguous. (133-34)
Narrator will “make myself a male who knows that he really isn’t one” (104), which is an aporia perfectly emblematic of a gender ISA in terminal crisis. Divine, “though she felt as a ‘woman,’ she thought as a ‘man.’ One might think that, in thus reverting spontaneously to her true nature [!], Divine was a male wearing make-up, disheveled with make-believe gestures” (224). In one character’s presence, Divine “managed to think ‘woman’ with regard to serious but never essential things. Her femininity was not only a masquerade” (225). “No doubt, she herself was not a woman (that is, a female in a skirt [wtf?]); she was womanly [!] only through her submission [!!] to the imperious male [!!!!]” (id.). It is perhaps, in the context of the Gender ISA, that Divine “is present wherever the inexplicable arises” (263), like the radical corporeal disaggregation of the “wax dummy that had been disassembled” (id.). But it shall have “hardly affected her opinion of herself to know that she had brought forth a monstrous [sic] creature, neither male nor female” (298), noting well the equivocation of the ISA in the form of monstrosity.
Narrator notes “the foul monstrousness of my arrest” (103). But he also recalls that
he had the sacred sign [sic] of the monster the corner of his mouth […] The flaw on the face [sic] or in the set gesture indicates to me that they may very possibly love me, for they love me only if they are monsters. (55)
The self-denigration is premised upon a curious agambenian ‘sacredness,’ as with the blessed body, supra—but further proceeds from an ancient etymology:
early 14c., "malformed animal or human, creature afflicted with a birth defect," from Old French monstre, mostre "monster, monstrosity" (12c.), and directly from Latin monstrum "divine omen, portent, sign; abnormal shape; monster, monstrosity," figuratively "repulsive character, object of dread, awful deed, abomination," from root of monere "warn" (see monitor (n.)). Abnormal or prodigious animals were regarded as signs or omens of impending evil. Extended by late 14c. to imaginary animals composed of parts of creatures (centaur, griffin, etc.). Meaning "animal of vast size" is from 1520s; sense of "person of inhuman cruelty or wickedness" is from 1550s. As an adjective, "of extraordinary size," from 1837. In Old English, the monster Grendel was an aglæca, a word related to aglæc "calamity, terror, distress, oppression.
The reference to monitor is pregnant:
1540s, "senior pupil at a school charged with keeping order, etc.," from Latin monitor "one who reminds, admonishes, or checks," also "an overseer, instructor, guide, teacher," agent noun from monere "to admonish, warn, advise," which is related to memini "I remember, I am mindful of," and to mens "mind," from PIE root *men- "to think" (see mind (n.)).
The monstrous is accordingly not only a warning, but also the marker of memory, the ward against etymological amnesty—“freeing an anguished memory that had been haunting me [sic] since the world began” (56) (Cain—Grendel? Or is it rather the Leviathan?). Narrator drifts “to the inner gaze of memory, for the matter of memory is porous" (57). Narrator wanted one person to “love me, and of course he did, with the candor that required only perversity for him to be able” (77), and the “memory of his memory made way for other men” (76). And yet: “He tries to regain his composure, stops to catch his breath, and (in the silence), surrounded by objects that have lost all meaning now that their customary user has ceased to exist, he suddenly feels himself in a monstrous world made up of the soul of the furniture, of the objects” (118-19).
What monsters continue their lives in my depths? Perhaps their exhalations or their excrements or their decomposition hatch at my surface some horror or beauty that I feel is elicited by them. I recognize their influence, the charm of their melodrama. My mind continues to produce lovely chimeras. (122)
How is there a threshold of indistinction (heh) at beauty/horror, incidentally? The monstrous appears obliquely, agambenian euphemism perhaps, in “outside reigns terror” (135) (aglæca, supra), but also as “decorative monsters” (138) and how one “thought he was penetrating her with his whole centaur body” (150). The nexus of the monstrous with radical corporeal disaggregation is, as with the epainos/logos (see infra), via eros:
he had steeped himself in all the monstrosities of which she was composed. He had passed them in review: her very white dry skin, her thinness, the hollows of her eyes, her powdered wrinkles, her slicked down hair, her gold teeth. He noted every detail. (155)
And this is how “he knew ecstasy” (id.). But “in imagination our heroes are attracted, as girls are, by monsters” (199). The monstrous, as marked by corporeal disaggregation, is part of the tradition of grotesque realism, insofar as one “feels the same repulsion for all infirmities as he did for reptiles” (208).
Narrator through “monstrous horror” is “exiled to the confines of the obscene (which is the off-scene of the world),” which is reasoned to be the “origin of the world and at the origin of the world” (301)—the condition of possibility of the arche is the monstrous, the warning.
The main appeal of course is prurient, mixed in with unforeseeable abstractions. Who after all shall object to “I was his at once, as if […] he had discharged through my mouth straight to my heart” (60)? Or to how something “made the abbe’s spine stiffen and draw back with three short jerks, the vibrations of which reverberated through all his muscles and on to infinity, which shuddered and ejaculated a seed of constellations” (69)? Or to when “he will rise up, become erect, and penetrate me so deeply that I shall be marked with stigmata” (77)? There’s some indication that these are presented as mere phantasm, insofar as the narrative is interpolated with comments such as “now I am exhausted with inventing circumstances” and “I have a cramp in my wrist” (id.).
Otherwise, much of interest. We see the coincidence of both epainos and logos with eros, such that the third is the condition of possibility for the others: “if I think about him, I can’t stop praising him until my hand is smeared with my liberated pleasure” (61). Manual praise, the epainos liberated, is kinda kickass. Let it be a warning to ye. Or, rather, let a bakhtinian grotesque realism be a warning:
I wanted to swallow myself by opening my mouth very wide and turning it over my head so that it would take in my whole body, and then the Universe, until all that would remain of me would be a ball of eaten thing which little by little would be annihilated: that is how I see the end of the world. (75)
Closely aligned with the bakhtinian interest is Kristeva’s Powers of Horror, to the extent that “dehumanizing myself is my own most fundamental tendency” (82), when that tendency is marked out by “the hidden splendor […] of his abjection [sic],” “soiled them with his own abjection” (id.).
The phallos otherwise as not so much the transcendental signified of phallogocentrism, but rather “an object of pure luxury” (106), as the necessary economic good is reflected in “I lived in the midst of an infinity of holes in the form of men” (174).
Recommended for those who serve a text they know nothing about, readers whose love is akin to despair, and persons forced to love what they loathe....more
Nutshell: stop neo-luddite attacks on the stock exchange or else open marriages.
Thsi novel is perhaps the master text for the DeLillo cocked-up marriaNutshell: stop neo-luddite attacks on the stock exchange or else open marriages.
Thsi novel is perhaps the master text for the DeLillo cocked-up marriage, structuring all subsequent cocked-up marriages in his writings. Wife, for instance, “found that the nutritive material for their sex life was often provided by others, whoever happened to be present at a party” (70). Couple “traveled to the palest limits of the city, eating in little river warrens near the open approaches to bridges or in family restaurants out in the boroughs, the neutral décor of such places and their remoteness serving as tokens of authenticity” (15).
The local setting, NYC, “functioned on principles of intimidation” (24):
But unexpectedly it slowed as she began to cross. The driver had one hand on the wheel, his left, and sat with much of his back resting against the door. He was virtually facing her and she was moving directly toward him. She saw through the window that his legs were well apart, left foot apparently on the brake. His right hand was at his crotch, rubbing. […] The driver looked directly art her, then glanced at his hand. […] She felt acute humiliation, a sure knowledge of having been reduced in worth. […] In a sense there was no way to turn down that kind of offer. To see the offer made was to accept, automatically. He’d taken her into his car and driven to some freight terminal across the river, where he’d parked near an outbuilding with broken windows. There he’d taught her his way of speaking, his beliefs and customs, the names of his mother and father. Having done this, he no longer needed to put hands upon her. They were part of each other now. She carried him like a dead beetle in her purse. (24-5)
The occurrence is not gendered, though the internal response is:
Lyle stepped out of the booth and headed down Lexington. It was late. A car turned toward him as he moved off the curb. The driver braked, a man in his thirties, sitting forward a bit, head tilted toward Lyle, inquisitively, one had between his thighs, bunching up fabric and everything beneath it. Clearly a presentation was being made. Lyle, who was standing directly under a streetlight, averted his eyes, looking out over the top of the car as if at some compelling sight in a third-story window across the street, until the man finally drove off. (161)
He otherwise observes that in the “financial district,” at least, “everything tended to edge beyond acceptability” (27)—“by the close of trading, people would be looking for places to hide” (id.). This was a “test environment for extreme states of mind” (id.), “elements filtering in,” “infiltrators in the district,” “living rags [!]”, what Agamben might regard as zoe, the “bare life” identified by Aristotle and made Real in 20th century concentration camps: “the use of madness and squalor as texts in the denunciation of capitalism did not strike him as fitting here, despite appearances. IT was something else these men and women come to mean [NB: the character’s semiurgical nihilism—the primary touchstone of bios confronting zoe?] shouting, trailing vomit on their feet. (27-8) Novel’s precipitating event is an armed attack on stock exchange workers. She asks him “Puerto Ricans again?” (33) (a reference to Leninist FALN, likely, which had probably committed at least eight bombings in New York City between 1974 and the time this novel was published in 1977), and he replies, while undressing her,
I wouldn’t say porta rickens. I wouldn’t want to say coloreds or any of the well-meaning white folks who have taken up the struggle against the struggle, not knowing, you see, that the capitalist system and the power structure and pattern of repression are themselves a struggle. It’s not an easy matter, being the oppressor. A lot of work involved. Hard unglamorous day-to-day toil. Pounding the pavement. Checking records and files. Making phone call after phone call. Successful oppression depends on this. So I would say in conclusion that they are struggling against the struggle. (34)
This colloquy leads seamlessly into hard fucking,
It is time to ‘perform,’ he thought. She would have to be ‘satisfied.’ He would have to ‘service’ her. They would make efforts to ‘interact.’ (35)
Despite the radical alterity of his expectations, “the room was closed off to the street’s sparse evening, the hour of thoughtful noises, when everything is interim” (34), when “she twisted into him, their solitude become a sheltering” (35).
She “is on the edge of something” (36)—and it is difficult to avoid the inference provided by stock exchange workers who “didn’t drift beyond the margins of things” (28) and “infiltrators,” supra, who did drift beyond the margin, and only in drifting beyond the margin began to exist, for zoe terrorist “never existed before today” (30). Revealed that she is or becomes a true nihilist who can’t abide “the idea of tomorrow” (42). Dunno about these two: “To the glamour of revolutionary violence, to the secret longing it evokes in the most docile soul” (8).
“Objects would survive the one who died first and remind the other of easily halved a life can become” (54). Cf. Greene. Ugh.
Her job is “grief management” (63)—fully Sloterdijk’s enlightened false consciousness: “Her job, in the main, was a joke” (id.). “If people wanted to merchandise anguish and death, and if others wished to have their suffering managed for them, everybody could at least go about it with a measure of discretion and taste” (id). Eww. However: market specialization is one of capitalism’ principle merits—illiberal therefore to object to “grief management”?
After the attack, both wife and husband bugger off their separate ways; she considers that “it would be a separation from the world of legalities and claims” (88) whereas as he notes that “their separations were intense” (89). (view spoiler)[She takes off on a trip with two dudes and he joins up with the group that attacked the exchange. (hide spoiler)]
‘Terrorist’ group wants to “disrupt their system, the idea of worldwide money,” the “system that we believe is their secret power” (107). So, some overlap with the concerns of Falling Man, The Names, and Mao II. Overlap with Libra to the extent one loser maybe knows LHO and was in NOLA.
Some cool observations: “One way of betraying the revolution is to advance theories about it” (107), which I’ve long though is kinda true about Marxism, which perhaps diagnosed somethings about capitalism and then, at least in its classical formulation, did not take into account directly the effect of the publication of that diagnosis on both lefty revolutionaries (who might perhaps seize power prematurely) as well as state power (which might take cognizance thereof and develop appropriate agambenian countermeasures). Revolutionaries are silly insofar as “the only worthwhile doctrine is calculated madness” (108), which is not a worthy leftwing thesis.
Slick observation: “watched her dress, an itemizing of erotic truths” (125). Cool sex scenes: “The aspect and character of these body parts, the names, the liquid friction. Dimly she sought phrases for these configurations” (167).
Recommended for those with a desire to compile, wine drinkers whose cellar was auctioned off to pay taxes on the estate, and readers who find that terror is purification. ...more