lunedì 30 settembre 2013


The talk looks at the process of production of a hyperlinked sociality or hyper-sociality in the social web. It discusses the way in which the genealogy of the productive subject discussed by Pierre Macherey in his work on Marx and Foucault can be extended to account for the peculiar characteristics of the production of value out of a free act of constructing and expanding social relations through digital media. It also asks how the extending sampling of social quanta (likes, friendships, shares etc) by social networking platforms interrogates our understanding of what constitutes value in contemporary societies.

Tiziana Terranova è ricercatrice contemporanea, docente presso l'Università degli Studi di Napoli 'L'Orientale'. I suoi insegnamenti sono “Sociologia delle comunicazioni”, “Studi culturali e postcoloniali” e “Teorie culturali inglesi e nuovi media”. Dopo essersi laureata presso la facoltà di Lingue e Letterature Straniere del Dipartimento di Studi Americani, Culturali e Linguistici dell’Università di Napoli, prosegue le sue ricerche su media, studi culturali e nuove tecnologie, spinta dalla passione di questo settore. La sua ricerca ed il suo ambito di lavoro si discostano dagli schemi classici della ricerca universitaria, il suo consolidamento avverrà in Inghilterra, presso la Essex University. In Inghilterra consegue un master in “Communications and Technology” presso la Brunel University. Grazie alla borsa di studio finanziata dal Ministero consegue il titolo accademico in Media and Communications presso il Goldsmiths’ College – uno tra i più rinomati nel panorama londinese. La scrittrice si occupa di sottoculture tecnologiche, di cyberpunk, e nei primi anni ’90 redige una delle prime tesi di dottorato su internet sui newsgroups e la cultura tecno californiana. Altra esperienza importante per la sua carriera si svolge entro il Dipartimento di Cultural Studies dell’università di “East London”, dove fonda e dirige uno dei primi corsi di Multimedia, partecipando in prima persona all’avvio dei corsi universitari in “Media e New Media Studies”. La docente si occupa della cultura digitale e dei fenomeni che attorno ad essa si sviluppano.

Read more @ BKM

TONY D. SAMPSON: NONCOGNITIVE CAPITALISM IN TIMES OF NEUROCULTURE @ BKM, Bochumer Kolloquium Medienwissenschaft - 03.12.2013

In this talk I will expand on the idea of noncognitive capitalism briefly introduced in my book Virality (Minnesota, 2012). There I attempted to grasp some of the conditions of network capitalism through a "resuscitation" of Gabriel Tarde's imitation thesis. In short, Tarde was fascinated by the brain sciences of his day, and as such, he theorized base social relation (repetition-imitation) as "unconscious associations", or in other words, social networks of mostly hypnotized brain cells. Here I will rethink what we might now call neuroculture and ask to what extent avenues of current brain science are coming together with capitalist enterprise to shape contemporary social relationality.
I will contend that the looming shadow of neuroculture provokes a series of questions. The first (what can be done to a brain?) explores the interwoveness of often conflicting cognitive and behavioural neuroscientific research, the attention economy and work in the digital industries. The second (what can a brain do?) asks if a brain can be liberated from the objectifying forces of neuroculture. And finally (what is it that thinks?) struggles to look beyond the objectified brain to nomadic assemblages of sense making.

Tony D. Sampson is a London-based theorist, writer and Reader in Digital Culture and Communications at the University of East London. A former musician, he studied computing and digital culture before receiving a PhD in sociology from the University of Essex. His ongoing interest in contagion theory is reflected in his publications, including The Spam Book, coedited with Jussi Parikka (Hampton Press, 2009) and Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks (University of Minnesota Press, 2012). He is currently writing his next book on noncognitive capitalism and neuroculture. He occasionally blogs at:

Read more @ BKM

Read Sampson's interview on Crowd, Power and Postdemocracy

Shimon Naveh — Rhizomic Maneuver @ Laboratory of Doubt, 29Sept2013

Rhizomic Maneuver is an emergent logic and form of maneuver, that divers from the traditional paradigm. Rhizomic Maneuver is based on disorder, complex geometry, a different epistemology, a different kind of learning. Unlike the industrial manoeuver which is idealistic, rhizomic maneuver is heretical.

The New Spirit of Capitalism by Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello @ Verso Books, Uk, 2007

A major new work examining network-based organizations and post-Fordist work structures.
Why is the critique of capitalism so ineffective today? In this major work, the sociologists Eve Chiapello and Luc Boltanski suggest that we should be addressing the crisis of anticapitalist critique by exploring its very roots. 

Via an unprecedented analysis of management texts which influenced the thinking of employers and contributed to reorganization of companies over the last decades, the authors trace the contours of a new spirit of capitalism. From the middle of the 1970s onwards, capitalism abandoned the hierarchical Fordist work structure and developed a new network-based form of organization which was founded on employee initiative and relative work autonomy, but at the cost of material and psychological security. 

This new spirit of capitalism triumphed thanks to a remarkable recuperation of the “artistic critique”—that which, after May 1968, attacked the alienation of everyday life by capitalism and bureaucracy. At the same time, the “social critique” was disarmed by the appearance of neocapitalism and remained fixated on the old schemas of hierarchical production. 

This book, remarkable for its scope and ambition, seeks to lay the basis for a revival of these two complementary critiques.


This portrait of President Obama is made out of breakfast cereal. The artists, Hank Willis Thomas and Ryan Alexiev, say this mosaic represents what a healthy, balanced democracy should consist of.

sabato 28 settembre 2013

Tony D. Sampson's interview on Crowd, Power and Post-democracy in the 21st Century

Tony D. Sampson's interview on digital populism and recent European political phenomena, held on 14th June 2013 with the author of this blog and of Rizomatika. 

 EDIT: We collected Sampson's interview in PDF file that you can download or read online. All interviews on digital populism - in English language - are collected into a single file HERE. The that collects all the interviews is titled "Nascita del populismo digitale. Masse, potere e postdemocrazia nel XXI secolo" and it's available for free download

Crowd, Power and Post-democracy in the 21st Century

'Rural fascism and city or neighborhood fascism, youth fascism and war veteran's fascism... fascism of the couple, family, school, and office. Only the micro-fascism can answer the global question: "why does desire long for its repression? how can it desires its very own repression?"'
— Gilles Deleuze, Fèlix Guattari, A thousand plateaus, pg.271
    On the micro-fascism
    OC Let us start from the analysis Wu Ming set out in their brief essay Grillismo: Yet another right-wing cult coming from Italy and which interprets Grillo’s Five Star Movement as a new authoritarian right-wing faction. Why did the desire for change of much of the electorate long once again for its very repression? We seem to witness the re-affirmation of Wilhelm Reich’s thought: at a given moment in history the masses wanted fascism. The masses have not been deceived: they have understood very well the danger of authoritarianism; but they have voted it anyway. Even more worrying is that the authoritarian Berlusconi's Freedom People (PDL) and Grillo’s Five Star Movement (M5S) conquer more than half of the Italian electorate together. A very similar situation arose in the UK in May 2013, with the UKIP’s exploit in the latest local elections. Why and in what measure are the toxins of authoritarianism and micro-fascism present in contemporary European society?

TS I'd like to think this through using Tarde’s somnambulist as the situation seems to lend itself to a theory of sleepwalking subjects, but this approach should also have a UK political context. So yes, once again, we are faced with a surge in rightwing popularism, particularly here in my home county of Essex: a much maligned county east of London along the Thames Estuary. Across the UK the rise of the right should not really be a surprise. The working poor and unemployed have been hit hard by the Tory cuts. They need someone to blame and political forces like UKIP, BNP and EDL (English Defence League) have just the (one) policy to do that: they blame the “Others”. Moreover though, many of these people have completely turned their backs on the left. This is partly due to the Thatcher-Murdoch demonizations in the 1980s, but it’s also due to the failure of the kind of bourgeois democracy they experienced under New Labour. Blair’s “third way” decimated left thinking in the middle ground. He moved the centre left further to the right than the Tories with his public-private initiatives and laissez-faire approach to banking and communications. Now we have the coalition and their insulting mantra of “we’re all in this together.” Unemployment is on the increase, along with mini-jobs and their derisory contracts. The Liberals used to soak up the popular protest vote. No one believed they could ever really get into power. But they did! The illusion of bourgeois democracy is now exposed, which is a good thing, but this could also mean that many people in Essex turn even further to the right. 

This broad macropolitical failure does not however explain it all. At the microsocial level of the “people” we are, it seems, seeing the continuance of fascistic political unconscious. In Essex the people have voted Tory for years. Indeed, the question the left have been asking for a long time now is why people in this neglected London overspill support a political class of expensively educated, career politicians whose policies contradict their own interests? Is this a people who seek their own repression? So yes Reich’s question is pertinent once again. We need to try to rethink what seemed to him to be the perverse impulses of the fascist unconscious; a desire for repression that seeps through the layers into conscious rational choices. Why do so many people desire this kind of popular fascism? They are aware. They are not deceived. The fascist brain is caught up in a mixture of rebellious emotions and reactionary ideas against the putrid centre ground. But it is not democracy they desire. They are in need of a religion to protect them from the chaos. They crave authority, as Reich argued. They desire belief. 

While Reich’s binary thinking may have famously helped him to mistake the desire to be repressed for an irrational perversion of an otherwise rational state, he did point out that Marxist sociology offers an equally binary perspective of the desiring machine. They had it wrong about mass psychology. Contrary to how we perceive the masses through the lenses of Marxist thinking, they do not perceive themselves as a hard done by proletariat pitched against the bourgeoisie elite. Desire does not have a class distinction hidden inside. As Reich points out, the Marxist ideal of abolishing private property seems to clash with the people’s desire for all kinds of commodities. He mentioned shirts, pants, typewriters, toilet paper, books etc, but today we can add iphones and flat screen TVs. They also seem not the least concerned if it is the state or the private sector that appropriates their surplus labour. No surprise then that the promises of a return to the student protests of 1968 all but fizzled out in the winter of 2011. Indeed, it was the English summer riots that emerged as a much greater force. But this was no Arab Spring. Nobody took over Trafalgar Square. They went straight to the shopping mall. Perhaps the rioter’s desire to loot needs to be grasped as a kind of perversion of the desire to shop.
      1919, 1933, 2013. On the crisis
      OC In 2008 Slavoj Zizek said that when the normal run of things is traumatically interrupted, the field is open for a ‘discursive’ ideological competition. In Germany in the early 1930s Hitler won the competition to determine which narrative would explain the reasons for the crisis of the Weimar Republic — the Jewish conspiracy and the corruption of political parties. Zizek ends his reflection by stating that the expectations of the radical left to get scope for action and gain consent may be deceptive as populist or racist formations will prevail: the Greek Golden Dawn, the Hungarian Fidesz, the French Front National, the UK Independence Party are examples. Italy has had farcical groups such as the Lega Nord or the recent Five Star Movement, a bizarre rassemblement that seems to combine Reverend Jones People's Temple with Syriza, or ‘revolutionary boyscoutism’ with the disciplinarism of the societies of control. How can one escape the crisis? What discursive, possibly-winning narratives should be developed? Are the typically Anglo-Saxon neo-Keynesian politics an answer or, on the countrary, is it the new authoritarian populism that will prevail?

TS Perhaps I need to begin by realizing the limits of a my philosophical approach in this context. I cannot provide a discursive formation. It’s about relational concepts rather than a series of logical propositions. This will not lead to that. We need to approach discursive formations by exposing the nondiscursive relations of encounter with events. For example, we can ask how the microsocial encounters macrolevel politics. What are the new layers of experience that succeed Reich? What is it that viscerally appeals to the “people” of Essex?  Perhaps it is fear! There is the Eastern European conspiracy/contagion here (they are coming for our jobs and benefits). They blame it on the Muslims too (they want to kill us all). What escape do we have from these formations? What kind of intervention could clear away the fog of populism that obscures affirmative felt relations: the empathy all repressed people should have in common with each other. 

      On the missing people
      OC Mario Tronti states that ‘there is populism because there is no people.’ That of the people is an enduring theme which Tronti disclaims in a very Italian way: ‘the great political forces use to stand firmly on the popular components of the social history: the Catholic populism, the socialist tradition, the diversity in communism. Since there was the people, there was no populism.’ Paul Klee often complained that even in historical artistic avant-gardes ‘it was people who were lacking.’ However the radical critique to populism has led to important results: the birth of a mature democracy in America; the rise of the theory and the practice of revolution in the Tsarist Empire, a country plagued by the contradictions of a capitalist development in an underdeveloped territory (Lenin and bolshevism). Tronti carries on in his tranchant analysis of the Italian and European backgrounds: ‘In today's populism, there is no people and there is no prince. It is necessary to beat populism because it obscures the relations of power.’ Through its economic-mediatic-judicial apparatuses, neopopulism constantly shapes “trust-worthy people” similar to the "customers portfolio" of the branded world of neoliberal economy: Berlusconi’s “people” have been following the deeds of Arcore’s Sultan for twenty years; Grillo’s followers are adopting similar all-encompassing identifying processes, giving birth to the more confused impulses of the Italian social strata. With institutional fragility, fluctuating sovereignties and the oblivion of left-wing dogmas (class, status, conflict, solidarity, equality) how can we form people today? Is it possible to reinvent an anti-authoritarian people? Is it only the people or also politics itself that is lacking?

TS One source of the fog of populism is the seemingly reciprocal relation between the people and the media. While some coverage of the protests in Turkey are appearing at the backend of BBC news reports, top of the most watched/listened to list on the news website have been items relating to the price of the new PS4, interest in Apple’s new look for iOS 7; and live video coverage from Westminster Abbey of a special service to mark the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The media has also perpetuated the rise of the loveable rightwing buffoon: UKIP’s Nigel Farage and the Tories’ Boris Johnson.  These rightwing conceptual personae help to obscure power relations in the UK, which are rapidly sinking back to a people dominated by those “born to rule” Bullingdon bullies.1 So yes, I agree with Tronti’s point that you raise, about the people being missing from populism, or at least, to put it another way, they are difficult to make out in all this fog. A new people need to be found.
      On ControlOC In Postscript on the Societies of Control, published in 1990, Gilles Deleuze states that, thanks to the illuminating analyses of Michel Foucault, a new diagnosis of contemporary Western society has emerged. Deleuze's analysis is as follows: control societies have replaced disciplinary societies at the beginning of the twentieth century. He writes that ‘marketing is now the instrument of social control and it forms the impudent breed of our masters.’ Let us evaluate who stands beyond two very successful electoral adventures such as Forza Italia (Berlusconi’s first party) and M5S: respectively Publitalia 80 owned by Marcello Dell'Utri, and Casaleggio Asssociati owned by Gianroberto Casaleggio. The incontrovertible fact that two marketing companies stand behind these political projects reinforces Deleuze’s analysis. Mechanisms of control, media events such as exit polls and infinite surveys, im/penetrable databases, data as commodities, continuous spin doctoring, influencers that lead consensus on the net, opaque bots, digital squads, dominant echo-chambering. Evil media. These are the determinations of post-ideological (post-democratic?) neoliberalism. The misery of the new control techniques competes only with that of the glass house of transparency (web-control, of course). Jacques Ranciere says we live in the epoch of post- politics: how can we get out of the neo-liberal cage and free ourselves from the ideological consensus of its electoral products? What will the reconfiguration of left-wing politics be after the exhaustion of Marxist hegemony?

TS We not only need to find the people, but also better grasp what their desires might be. With this in mind, it is perhaps interesting to look at the rhetoric of contagion deployed by the Tories. They do not want to defend their privilege, they say; they want to spread it!2
 This is the sort of hollow discourse that is easy to see through, but a little harder to resist. Not simply because the relations of power are dominated by the privileged, but because the “people” desire the inventions of privilege. The somnambulist subject is lead by example so much so that the examples he desires become incarnated in him. He desires to become the example that is copied. In Essex the sleepwalkers are caught up in their passionate interest in becoming rich businessmen, footballers, celebrities, soldiers, gangsters. Of course most people never get anywhere near to what they aspire to be, but are forever striving for it. So if you cannot become what you aspire to be, the next best option is to continue to follow the example. Where else is there to go? Desire needs somewhere to go.

Not that every example is unobtainable. It is fairly easy to become a soldier in Essex or at least pretend to be one by lining up in support of “our” boys through thick and thin, through legal and illegal wars. This is the threat posed by the EDL. Tarde would have described these people as somnambulists; not merely unconscious beings, but unconscious by association. 

The Tory think tanks grasp this thing about examples well, I think. They employed an aspirational Essex man to become their voice in the popular press. Andy Coulson (now charged with phone hacking) worked his way up from a local Essex newspaper to become the editor of Murdoch’s poisonous tabloids. He was introduced to counter the Eton accents with the voice of working class aspiration. They needn’t have bothered because the working class in Essex have long been in love with the posh. The recent rise of rightwing buffoonery has arrived via a long held passion for inventions like Saatchi’s Thatcher and the much older Royal brand that seems to continue to soak up the desire to be repressed. 

As Reich said, the working classes do not see themselves as a struggling proletariat. They see themselves in mixture with the middle classes. That’s not a bad thing. Any modicum of change would require the involvement of all. However, unlike Turkey at this moment where it is the young middle classes who are willing to be on the streets in the protests, the left leaning middle classes here in Essex are hiding in their cosy enclaves. They have too much to lose. Even the growing instability of their jobs in the City is not enough (yet) to get them out on the streets or anywhere near their poorer neighbours. So what would it take to shake them out of their neoliberal cages? 
      On the Googlization of politics; the financial side of digi-populismOC The first decade of the 21st century has been characterized by the rise of neo-capitalism, referred to as cognitive; in this context a company like Google has established itself as the perfect synthesis of web-business as it does not compensate, if not in a small part, the content-carriers it lists. In Italy, following the electoral success of the Five Star Movement we witnessed a mutation of the typical prosumer of social networks: the new figure of the “prosumer-voter” was in fact born on Grillo’s blog - being essentially the one and only channel of information of the movement. The blog is a commercial activity and the high number of contacts and daily access has steadily increased in the last year. This digital militancy produces incomes both in the form of advertising and online sales of products such as DVDs, books and other material associated with the movement. All of this leads to the risk of googlization of politics whereby the modes of financing political activity radically change because of the "network surplus-value" - an expression coined by the researcher Matteo Pasquinelli to define that portion of incomes extracted from the practices of the web prosumers. Having said this, are we about to witness a shift of the financial paradigm applied to politics? Will the fundings from powerful lobbies or the general public be replaced by micro-donations via web (in the style of Obama’s) and by the exploitation of the prosumer-voters? And if so, will the dominant 'googlization of politics' involve any particular risks?
TS In many ways this is a second front. The fear contagions perpetuated by the mainstream media only go so far. They need to be accompanied by the intimacy of something like Obama’s campaign. This is just the tip of a much bigger effort to tap into, to nudge, and to steer feelings via networks. This is a different kind of propaganda model though. The networking of Obama love has at its heart a user experience designer. The risk is that the contagion will be so well designed that we’ll be distracted enough and miss it. The best user experiences are invisible. 
      On digital populism, on affective capitalismOC James Ballard once said that after the religions of the Book we should expect those of the Web. Some claim that, in fact, a first techno-religion already exists in the form of Affective Capitalism whose technological and communicative characteristics mirror those of network cultures. This notion of a secularized cult can be traced back to Walter Benjamin's thought but is enriched by a very contemporary mix of affective manipulation techniques, politics of neo-liberalism and political practices 2.0. The rise of the Five Stars Movement is the first successful example of italian digital populism; Obama’s campaign in the U.S.A. has witnessed an evolution of micro-targeting techniques - customized political offers via the web. The new frontier of both medical and economic research is producing a disturbing convergence of evolving ‘fields of knowledges’: control theories, neuro-economics and neuro-marketing. In 1976, in the optic of the ‘war-repression’ schema, Foucault entitled his course at the Collège de France ‘Society must be defended’. Now, faced with the general friability of all of us, how can we defend ourselves from the impact of affective capitalism and its digital practices? Can we put forward a differential, local knowledge which, as Foucault said, ‘owes its force only to the harshness with which it is opposed by everything surrounding it’?

TS The politics of Tarde’s somnambulist can be found in two places. The first is in the capricious force of imitative encounter; in the affective contagions that spread through the fog. Rightwing ideas and emotions can sometimes spread like wild fire. In the wake of the Woolwich murder we expect to see much more of this. The second requires an intervention into the vital forces that link example to example. What is perhaps needed is interference; not a counterimitation, but a nonimitation that breaks down the flow of certain fascist inventions: a deterritorialization. In effect, the somnambulist needs to wake up!

Many have seen both kinds of politics manifested in network cultures. Social media encourages both intervention and sleepwalking. To this extent, I am concerned that the to and fro of e-petitions on Facebook and Twitter can also have an entropic effect on protest. Again, it seems to soak up desire rather than deterritorializing it. I wonder therefore if Tarde’s vitalist imitation can replace Reich’s Orgone as an anti-entropic force. Unlike Reich, Tarde was not a binary thinker. He positioned the irrationality of biological desires and seemingly rational in an inseparable in-between space. Microsociology becomes a mixture of visceral experiences, mechanical habits, and an illusion of self that is not locked away, but vividly etched with the suggestibility of the Other. It is in this multilayered culture that desires become appropriated by social invention. Quite often, it seems, these inventions take on a fascistic dimension: rural, city, youth, family, as Deleuze saw microfascism everywhere! So we still need to focus on resisting all forms of fascism, but trying out nonimitative interferences rather than taking counter positions. 

A small, but perhaps significant interference that we have seen recently is the Railway pub in Southend in Essex. It was once known as the BNP (British National Party) pub. They used to meet there I’m told.3 The pub has certainly become Other. We recently saw a bouncer threaten to eject someone for a racist comment. Now it is a haunt for local artists, musicians and one would hope a shadow of a different kind of Essex people. It plays host to leftwing film nights and union meetings. What is more interesting is that the pub is not a middle class comfort zone by any means, but the middle classes are beginning to visit. Whether or not this or any other cultural hub can really grow into something that can intervene in the kind of popularist somnambulism we see in Essex is of course circumspect, but as a site of nonimitation the removal of the BNP it seems like an interesting place to explore. What kinds of deterritorialization occur in these places? What new people might emerge?

1 The Bullingdon Club is a secret society dining club exclusive to students at Oxford University. The club has no permanent rooms and is notorious for its members’ wealth and destructive binges. Membership is by invitation only, and prohibitively expensive for most, given the need to pay for the uniform, dinners and damages. PM Cameron, London Mayor Johnson and Chancellor George Osborne were all members, as well as the financer Nathaniel Philip Rothschild.
2 In a speech to the Tory party conference on Wednesday Oct 10th 2012, British PM David Cameron promised to ‘spread privilege’ of the kind he enjoyed growing up as he vowed to make the country one of aspiration.
3 There is currently an EDL pub in the town.

Tony D. Sampson is Reader in Digital Culture and Communication at the School of Art and Digital Industries of the University of East London. His research work focuses upon the 'dark intersection' in between sociology, marketing, digital culture and neuroscience, with a specific interest for phenomena of virality and infection. He likes to experiment with audiovisual techniques and has done so in a few live events and talks. Sampson is co-editor (with Jussi Parikka) of the 'Spam Book: On Viruses, Porn, and Other Anomalies From the Dark Side of Digital Culture' (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2009). His latest book 'Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks' (University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis) published in June 2012 builds upon notions of Gabriel Tarde's microsociology and Deleuze's philosophy of the event. He blogs at Virality.

Painting: Stelios Faitakis

venerdì 27 settembre 2013

John Perry : Communists, traitors, radicals @ London Review of Books, 27 September 2013

Bill de Blasio, the Democratic candidate in the New York City mayoral race, is way ahead in the polls, despite his allegedly radical credentials. Earlier this week, the New York Times ran a story on his support for the Sandinista revolution in the 1980s and a trip he made to Nicaragua in 1988.
De Blasio was a relatively late arrival on the scene. I went on the first solidarity tour from the UK in 1984, by which time the trail south from the US was well established. De Blasio’s ten-day visit included the city where I now live, Masaya, where he went to a health clinic supported by the Quixote Center, the Catholic social justice organisation he was working for at the time. In a speech at the end of last year, he made a comparison between the Sandinistas’ wish to bring healthcare to everyone, despite a chronic lack of resources, and the current difficulty of doing that in a city as rich as New York.
The New York Times spiced up this fairly innocuous story with the claim that Reagan’s Treasury Department investigated the Quixote Center for gun smuggling, although ‘the claim was never substantiated’. The Times didn’t say that the centre earned this attention because of its efforts to counter Reagan’s support for the Contras: its ‘Quest for Peace’ aimed to raise as much in humanitarian aid for Nicaragua as the US government was spending on trying to topple the Sandinista government.
According to the Times, de Blasio returned from his ten days in Nicaragua with a ‘vision of the possibilities of an unfettered leftist government’, but ‘omitted’ details of his early activism from his campaign website. The paper also dug up a 23-year-old quote in which he advocated ‘democratic socialism’.
The next day, the Times reported that de Blasio ‘came under attack’ from his rivals after the first article. The Republican candidate, Joseph Lhota, criticised de Blasio for supporting the Sandinistas during the ‘cold war’, when the Nicaraguans ‘were fighting Americans as well as capitalism’. The Republican right has piled in too, trying to link de Blasio’s support for Nicaragua with anti-Semitism and, extending the fantasy further, to his supposed quiescence in attacks on Manhattan synagogues by Muslim extremists. The Independent candidate Adolfo Carrión Jr said de Blasio was ‘propping up a brutal dictatorship’. The Times would never use such language itself, though in the original piece it observed: ‘Communists, traitors, radicals: many epithets were levelled against the American supporters of the revolutionary Nicaraguan government.’
Ten days ago, the Times reported that the Democrat had a ‘huge lead’ in the polls, with support from 65 per cent of likely voters. Perhaps the paper felt a need to level the playing field.

Read De Blasio's interview @ The Nation
Read more on De Blasio on New Yorker

RICCARDO ANTONUCCI: Che cosa rimane di Debord? Intervista ad Anselm Jappe @ Micromega/Il rasoio di occam - 9 settembre 2013

RICCARDO ANTONUCCI: Che cosa rimane di Debord. 
Intervista ad Anselm Jappe @ Micromega/Rasoio di Occam - 9 settembre 2013

A margine del convegno dal titolo “I situazionisti: teoria, arte e politica”, tenutosi all’Università di Roma 3 lo scorso 30 maggio, abbiamo intervistato Anselm Jappe, tra i relatori di questa giornata insieme, tra gli altri, a Mario Perniola (1). Si è parlato della recente mostra degli archivi Debord alla Bibliothèque Nationale de France e dell’attualità, o meglio della feconda inattualità, dell’opera del pensatore francese.

La prima domanda è d’obbligo: non si può parlare di Guy Debord oggi senza menzionare la grande mostra a lui dedicata alla BNF (“Guy Debord, un art de la guerre”), in cui sono esposti i suoi archivi recentemente dichiarati “tesoro nazionale”. All’annuncio dell’evento, si è subito sviluppato un dibattito tra i lettori di Debord, divisi tra chi ha salutato positivamente la scelta e chi, invece, ha denunciato come reazionaria la scelta di mettere Debord “in mostra”, in contraddizione con il principio di marginalità dell’opera debordiana. Lei come si colloca rispetto a questo evento?

Anselm Jappe – Mi sembra una grande opportunità il fatto che gli archivi di Debord siano ora a disposizione del pubblico. Molto peggio se fossero stati dispersi tra diverse mani, o venduti a un collezionista privato: solo in questo modo si poteva garantire una reale disponibilità di questo fondo. Inoltre, penso sia un bene che lo Stato francese, invece di finanziare un altro carro armato, abbia usato i suoi soldi per acquisire questi archivi. Per questo mi risulta difficile comprendere il dibattito sulla cosiddetta récupération di Debord, dal momento che ormai oggi, a vent’anni dalla sua morte, egli è senz’altro diventato un classico, e sarebbe molto artificiale volerlo tenere ancora in una zona di marginalità. Quel che conta sono i contenuti della sua opera, non il modo in cui essa viene proposta.
Del resto, Debord stesso ha sempre ricordato quanto sia stato importante per lui, da giovane, leggere certi autori, come Baudelaire, Apollinaire o Lautréamont. Anche questi autori erano ormai dei classici, negli anni ’50. Non è certo questo statuto a impedire un eventuale effetto sovversivo di un’opera.

Quale interesse può avere la mostra alla BNF per un ricercatore o per lo studioso dell’opera di Debord? Si aprono nuove prospettive di studio o spunti per l’attualizzazione del suo pensiero?

A. J. – La mostra offre molto materiale già noto, ma anche molte cose inedite e nuove per il ricercatore. Per esempio, una buona parte delle migliaia di schede di lettura di Debord, che ho consultato. Queste schede confermano, intanto, un dato già noto, e cioè che Debord fosse un accanito lettore, ma mostrano anche un vero e proprio lavoro certosino di ricopiatura di lunghi estratti dei libri letti, che francamente si ignorava. Inoltre, si possono trovare negli archivi molti cartoncini con note e osservazioni di vario tipo, dall’Internazionale Situazionista alla sua vita privata.
L’interesse principale per il ricercatore è senz’altro costituito da questa miriade di schede di lettura, in quanto esse permettono di sapere con certezza che cosa ha letto Debord e a che cosa si è interessato nei vari periodi della sua vita. A volte le schede sono commentate, soprattutto quelle stilate in vista della redazione de La società dello spettacolo, l’opera principale di Debord, uscita nel 1967. Per esempio, per me è stata una sorpresa scoprire che Debord lesse con molta attenzione Il dispotismo orientale di Karl August Wittfogel, sinologo e storico tedesco-americano. Su questo libro Debord aveva effettivamente scritto una breve nota di lettura nella rivista «Internationale Situationniste», ma soltanto leggendo le schede di lettura mi sono potuto rendere conto di quanto l’opera di Wittfogel abbia inciso nell’elaborazione del concetto di “spettacolo”. In particolare per quanto riguarda l’identificazione degli amministratori cibernetici e burocratici della società dello spettacolo con l’antica casta di ingegneri e preti che governavano l’Egitto e la Mesopotamia. E penso che ci saranno molte alte sorprese in questo archivio, di cui ho soltanto cominciato il lavoro di vagliatura.

Vorrei passare ora alla questione che è anche al centro del convegno, ovvero quello dell’«attualità» dell’opera debordiana. È lecito aspettarsi che accada all’opera di Debord quel che è capitato all’opera di un altro grande pensatore di quegli anni, Michel Foucault, in seguito all’apertura (seppur parziale) dei suoi archivi, e cioè una proliferazione di studi filologici, esegetici, sulla “lettera” dei testi, in uno spirito del tutto opposto al metodo foucaultiano, e ancor più a quello di Debord? E inoltre, a partire da questo rischio, quale può essere l’attualità dell’opera di Debord oggi, e come evitare questa eventuale deriva “conservatrice”, in tutti i sensi del termine?

A. J. – Foucault è sempre stato un autore essenzialmente universitario, quindi non c’è da stupirsi che alla fine anche la sua esegesi sia rimasta largamente universitaria. E il pensiero di Foucault, inoltre, rimane, nonostante le apparenze sovversive, un pensiero assolutamente accademico che, come tale, si presta anche bene a un tipo di lettura in cui, per così dire, “si spacchi il capello in quattro”. Mentre Debord voleva essere tutto tranne che accademico, voleva mantenere un aspetto anche poetico. Chiaramente, esistono studi in stile “accademico” su Debord, ma il fascino che la sua opera emana è di tutt’altro tipo: è dato dall’unità della vita e dell’opera. Talvolta sta anche più nello stile e nel gesto stesso della scrittura che non nei contenuti specifici. Poi, è altrettanto evidente che Foucault e Debord fanno appello a pubblici estremamente diversi fra loro.

Patrick Marcolini, autore di Le mouvement situationniste. Une histoire intellectuelle (Éditions de l’échappé, Paris 2012) in una recente intervista sul n. 66 della rivista «Chronique» ha tracciato una sorta di cartografia degli autori influenzati da Debord, citando in particolar modo Jean Baudrillard e Deleuze e Guattari, il primo a proposito del concetto di “simulacro” e gli altri due per quanto riguarda il concetto di “geofilosofia”, che sarebbe in qualche modo dipendente dal concetto di “spettacolo” e da altri concetti debordiani, come la «deriva» e la «psicogeografia» (2). Lei condivide questa prospettiva?

A. J. – Io trovo in realtà che si tratta di approcci completamente opposti allo spirito del lavoro di Debord. Questo perché, per usare dei termini filosofici classici, Debord è essenzialmente un platonico: per lui esistono parametri di definizione dell’essenza, o criteri di autenticità o di verità, che vengono poi traviati con l’avvento dello spettacolo. Anche se questa essenza, questa autenticità e questa verità non sono degli elementi fissi e naturali, ma sono anch’esse prodotti storici.
Da questo punto di vista, è curioso vedere che anche autori come Baudrillard, che apparentemente partono da posizioni simili a quelle dei situazionisti, sono rimasti implicati in un percorso per cui, esagerando la critica situazionista, hanno finito per rovesciarla, ritrovandosi quindi su un fronte opposto rispetto a quello dei situazionisti. Nel caso di Baudrillard, per esempio, portare all’estremo il concetto di “copia” lo ha condotto ad affermare l’inesistenza stessa dell’originale, in quanto l’essere si dà come copia (3).
È chiaro che la causa e il motore di questo processo di ribaltamento stanno nel seguente fatto: l’idea che il concetto di “spettacolo” possa rinviare a qualcosa di estremamente concreto, come le forze produttive, risulta a molti un’idea insopportabile. Ecco perché si è fortemente favorito, o perfino “fomentato” la concezione postmoderna, secondo cui la questione dell’alienazione è una questione vuota, priva di senso. Si è applicato il noto procedimento per cui, invece di rispondere a una questione, si nega direttamente l’esistenza del suo oggetto. Per esempio, alla critica della società dei consumi si oppone spesso una presunta impossibilità di definire quali siano i veri bisogni dell’essere umano. Per il pensiero postmoderno, per esempio, affermare che il bisogno di avere un paio di scarpe griffate sia un falso bisogno significa operare un gesto autoritario. È chiaro che il pensiero di Debord è totalmente refrattario rispetto a questo relativismo assoluto.

Si sente di condividere quella lettura dell’opera di Debord (rappresentata oggi nel convegno da Mario Perniola) che tende a sostenere che l’unico elemento attualizzabile del suo pensiero è la pars destruens, la critica, in altri termini, mentre bisognerebbe lasciare da parte tutta quella parte della sua riflessione volta a presentare modelli di società alternativi a quella dominante, come per esempio la proposta, che è ben più di una suggestione, dei consigli operai?

A. J. – Anche nel mio libro ho insistito sul duplice rapporto di Debord con l’opera di Marx. Da una lato c’è una ripresa degli aspetti meno conosciuti, ma più innovativi della teoria marxiana, come la critica del valore, del denaro e del lavoro; e questa mi sembra anche la parte più valida della teoria di Debord. Dall’altro lato c’è un marxismo più tradizionale, in cui è centrale la teoria della lotta di classe, che però Debord, come tanti della sua generazione, vuole pensare al di fuori dell’idea leninista del partito e declinare piuttosto nel senso dei consigli operai. È chiaro che questa idea, soprattutto se espressa in questa forma, sembra molto meno attuale, anche perché oggi gli operai in senso classico sono molti meno, e anzi spesso formano uno strato molto legato alla continuazione della società capitalistica. Basti guardare all’assurdità di quello che accade a Taranto, dove gli operai protestano per continuare a essere inquinati pur di essere pagati.
Per il resto, è altrettanto evidente che è molto più facile avere ragione con una critica che con una proposta. In questo senso, si può parlare, come ha fatto Mario Perniola, di «amara vittoria dei situazionisti». Ma io tenderei a leggere quest’amarezza in un senso diverso da quello di Perniola. Perché molte teorie situazioniste, soprattutto quelle elaborate da Raoul Vaneigem, si ritrovano poi in ciò che è stato chiamato «il nuovo spirito del capitalismo», come recita il titolo del libro di Luc Boltanski ed Ève Chiapello (4). Effettivamente, questo capitalismo in cui non si parla più del risparmio o dell’oppressione del lavoro, e che si vuole seducente, divertente, tutto proteso alla libertà dell’individuo, sembra aver ripreso, stravolgendole, molte idee situazioniste. Per esempio, lo slogan di Vaneigem «godere senza ostacoli e vivere senza tempi morti» risulterebbe oggi perfetto per una campagna pubblicitaria. Chiaramente, chi ha formulato tali idee in quell’epoca non ha colpa; piuttosto, si deve riconoscere che c’è stata un’evoluzione storica che ha dimostrato che il capitalismo poteva effettivamente recuperare determinate aspirazioni e piegarle al servizio della propria modernizzazione. Anche perché, ricordiamolo, i situazionisti, come altri movimenti di protesta degli anni ’60, traevano la loro forza dalla contestazione di sovrastrutture culturali che erano molto arcaiche rispetto allo sviluppo economico reale della società dell’epoca. Ecco perché si sono diffusi con una certa facilità.
Ma c’è un’altra parte del programma situazionista, quello appunto costituito dal raggiungimento della totale liberazione dell’individuo dal feticismo della merce, dallo spettacolo, rispetto al quale oggi siamo di certo altrettanto lontani di quanto lo si fosse negli anni ’60.

Lei ha messo in luce l’importanza della lettura di Marx per l’elaborazione della teoria di Debord. Eppure, anche leggendo il suo libro (5), il nome che emerge forse con maggiore forza è quello di Lukács, che mi sembra assuma il ruolo di riferimento principale…

Bisogna dire prima di tutto che Debord non nasce come marxista: i suoi primi riferimenti teorici sono il surrealismo e la tradizione poetica francese moderna. Poi, verso la fine degli anni ’50, ha operato, anche abbastanza bruscamente, una svolta verso lo studio di Marx, che è stato mediato soprattutto dal suo incontro con il filosofo Henri Lefebvre e dalla partecipazione al gruppo “Socialisme ou Barbarie”. È in questo contesto che Debord scopre la prima edizione francese di Storia e coscienza di classe, uscita nel 1960, e qui trova effettivamente un altro Marx. Un Marx che diventa soprattutto un critico della contemplazione, cioè della passività cui il sistema della merce condanna i membri della società capitalistica. Un Marx letto con la lente di Max Weber.
Il concetto di contemplazione diventa poi centrale per Debord, nell’ambito dell’elaborazione della nozione di “spettacolo”, e della critica alla società che su di esso si fonda. Conviene a questo punto ricordare che per Debord lo spettacolo non è in prima istanza l’insieme dei media, non è la televisione, ma piuttosto un’organizzazione sociale basata sulla contemplazione passiva, su una distinzione non tanto tra proprietari e sfruttati ma soprattutto tra dirigenti e diretti, tra organizzatori e organizzati. E penso che senza dubbio Lukács abbia avuto un ruolo importante in questa lettura, anche se devo dire che leggendo le note di Debord sul filosofo ungherese si trovano solo pochi commenti e qualche estratto. Quindi forse si potrebbe sostenere che Debord, più che studiarlo, vi trovasse la conferma di quello che stava già più o meno immaginando.

Nel suo intervento oggi, ma anche nel suo libro, lei ha parlato della distanza del pensiero di Debord rispetto alla critica postmoderna della possibilità di affermare l’esistenza di un’essenza o di una natura umana, mostrando come questo concetto sia invece necessario per dare corpo a una teoria dell’alienazione, che è appunto una perdita di essenza, o di autenticità. Ha anche sottolineato come questo concetto, a differenza di quanto facciano le critiche postmoderne, non va considerato in termini metafisici, statici, ma pensato come qualcosa di immerso nel divenire storico: un’essenza storica e storicizzata, dunque. Tuttavia, c’è un secondo lato della critica cosiddetta postmoderna (o antihegeliana, in questo caso) che consiste proprio nel rifiuto di una concezione della storia come processo progressivo, lineare, e coerente. E questo tipo di critica è volta a far emergere una visione del divenire storico fondata sulla nozione di «evento». Si registra però una certa reticenza di Debord proprio rispetto a questa nozione, che invece potrebbe accostarsi a quella, totalmente debordiana, invece, di “deriva”. Spesso, tra l’altro, è proprio sulla base di queste due nozioni che si operano i raffronti fra Debord e pensatori come Deleuze.

A. J. ­– È chiaro che Debord rimane fortemente ancorato a una lettura hegeliana della storia, come processo teleologico, per cui gli eventi traggono la loro importanza proprio dal fatto di essere parte di uno sviluppo. Nel senso che ogni cosa interessa tanto per quello da cui deriva che per quello verso cui porta. Questo schema di pensiero è ovviamente agli antipodi rispetto all’idea postmoderna della contingenza. È chiaro che per Debord il pensiero hegeliano aveva una valenza rivoluzionaria, perché dimostrava, ai suoi occhi, che la storia doveva sfociare necessariamente in una rivoluzione finale. Ora, io continuo a pensare che il successo del pensiero postmoderno corrisponda veramente a un forte bisogno sentito da parte degli intellettuali di regime di organizzare una risposta a questo tipo di critica mossa dai situazionisti e da altri.
Alla fine, l’operazione messa in atto si è risolta nello stendere una sorta di cortina fumogena. Perciò, senza combattere apertamente l’idea di rivoluzione o di cambiamento sociale, si è riusciti a snaturarla completamente. Perché, in effetti, una buona parte del pensiero postmoderno si presenta come un pensiero di emancipazione, soprattutto di alcuni gruppi sociali. Ma allo stesso tempo toglie ogni fondamento alla possibilità di una rottura, di una rivoluzione. Proprio perché nega l’idea di una direzione della storia, dissolvendola in una miriade di eventi equivalenti, per cui ogni evento potrebbe essere quello buono, anche eventi diversissimi tra loro. E penso che non c’è niente di più lontano dal pensiero di Debord. Per il resto, certo, la “deriva” debordiana può essere un imprevisto, e non a caso Debord si interessava fortemente alla strategia, sottolineando che essa è, per definizione, il regno della sorpresa e dell’imprevisto. Però, come già in Machiavelli, si tratta di una sorpresa che dipende per metà dalla “fortuna” e per metà dalla “virtù”: nel pensiero di Debord gli eventi e le contingenze si inscrivono sempre all’interno di una struttura data, e hanno tendenza a ripetersi: per questo possono essere studiati, come faceva appunto Machiavelli con la storia romana.

Perciò alla fine la strategia debordiana si richiama a una sorta di “intelligenza”, o di ragione universale…

A. J. ­– Sì, studiare le situazioni precedenti permette di imparare come reagire in futuro. È ciò che insegnano Machiavelli e Marx, e che Debord ha tentato di mettere in pratica.

(1)             Il programma della giornata di studio è consultabile all’indirizzo :
(2)             Les héritiers de Guy Debord, intervista a Patrick Marcolini, «Chroniques de la Bibliothèque nationale de France», n° 66, 2013, pp. 6-7.
(3)             Cfr. su questo punto Anselm Jappe, Baudrillard, détournement par excès, «Lignes», n. 31, 2010.
(4)             Luc Boltanski, Ève Chiapello, Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme, Paris, Gallimard, 1999.
(5)             Anselm Jappe, Guy Debord, Manifestolibri, Roma 1999, nuova edizione 2013.
(9 settembre 2013)

Dopo aver partecipato al collettivo tedesco Krisis, Anselm Jappe insegna attualmente estetica all’EHESS di Parigi, e all’Accademie d’Arte di Frosinone e di Tours. Ha studiato a fondo la corrente situazionista, ed è autore di numerosi articoli e volumi, in francese, tedesco e italiano, tra cui spiccano:Crédit à mort (Paris 2011), Contro il denaro (Milano 2012) e i due importanti volumi Guy Debord (Paris 2001, riedRoma 2013) e L’avant garde inacceptable(Paris 2004).

giovedì 26 settembre 2013

Mario Tronti: La sinistra e il leader @ Unità, 11 settembre 2013

Mario Tronti: La sinistra e il leader 
@ Unità, 11 settembre 2013

Come si esce dal ventennio berlusconiano? La domanda corretta è: come si «deve» uscirne? Va presentata una proposta di percorso, che si  proponga di eliminare la causa e però anche le conseguenze di una lunga fase di crisi della politica.
Non basta abbattere la statua del profanatore, perché tutto ritorni a posto. Il berlusconismo è la veste antropologica di tutto quanto è stato definito seconda Repubblica, nell’età neoliberista: populismo privatistico, individualismo possessivo e quel grido «maledetto sia il pubblico», che è risuonato dall’alto e si è diffuso in basso. Le formule le conosciamo: «ci penso io», di un uomo solo al comando; e la risposta corrispondente della folla solitaria: «mi salvo da solo» e tutti i mezzi sono leciti. Come dice il poeta, attenzione, il ventre che ha generato tutto questo è ancora fecondo. Stia in guardia il campo antiberlusconiano a non produrne una variante progressista.
Quando si tratta di voltare pagina, vengono sempre avanti i più realisti del re: così va il mondo, non c’è che adattarsi, i segni dei tempi vanno ubbiditi, non contrastati. La «gente» vuole un capo che parli direttamente al popolo, senza di mezzo il disturbo di un partito. Che cos’è infatti un partito? Una fastidiosa sede di mediazioni politiche, con il peso di una memoria, di una storia, di una tradizione, di una cultura, o anche di più culture, tutte vecchie cose da rottamare. Vogliamo dirlo, vogliamo farlo capire, che anche questo è frutto di berlusconismo? C’è un punto da prendere in considerazione seria, da assumere come problema, che vuole una soluzione. La domanda politica che sale dal Paese è confusa. L’instabilità di governo, e delle istituzioni in genere, è il riflesso di un’instabilità dell’opinione, in gran parte subalterna a ondate mediatiche, niente affatto spontanee, anzi ben dirette. Un’opinione deviata da due decenni di lotta politica personalizzata, che riproduce personalizzazione allargata, a sempre più alto livello demagogico. Questa volatilità di massa, qualunque sia l’occasione elettorale, non da una posizione all’altra, ma da un personaggio all’altro, è un tema critico da porre a tutte le forze politiche. Si sconta qui oggi il devastante azzeramento di riferimenti forti, sociali, culturali, ideali. A chi giova questo, se non a chi se ne sta tranquillo in questo modo nelle più tradizionali posizioni di vero potere?
Quello che voglio dire è che, a questo punto, la cosa importante, non è certo quella di correre dietro a una domanda confusa, piuttosto quella di presentare un’offerta chiara. Va riordinata, ricostruita, rimotivata l’offerta politica. Ecco il tema vero del congresso di un partito di popolo. Certo che ci vuole la figura del leader. E bene ha posto la questione su queste colonne Ciliberto. Nessuno vuole negare la necessità della figura che fa sintesi di un gruppo dirigente e identifica, anche a livello di opinione, l’immagine di un soggetto politico. Ma qual è il leader necessario? Quello che mostra di saper rappresentare una storia, di saper guidare una comunità, di saper tenere in pugno la complessità dei problemi, di saper progettare l’agire di migliaia di militanti, e questo per qualità, per competenza, per esperienza? O è quello che i sondaggi dicono che potrà vincere alle prossime elezioni? Un grande discorso strategico, costruttivo, mobilitante, sarebbe una critica di queste democrazie contemporanee, ridotte a puro rito elettorale. È proprio impossibile introdurre democrazia, cioè cura dell’interesse pubblico e gestione comune dei beni, che sia attraente, e coinvolgente e conveniente, nella vita quotidiana dei rapporti sociali, dei rapporti civili, dei rapporti di lavoro, delle relazioni di genere, delle relazioni con la natura? Non può diventare questa l’identificazione della sinistra da parte del suo popolo, invece di questa ricerca ossessiva di quello lì con cui «si vince», personaggio contro personaggio? Questo è un tempo in cui è saltata la differenza tra la chiacchiera e il pensiero. Non solo politica-spettacolo, ma cultura-spettacolo. Si spendono risorse per festival di piazza su qualunque cosa, per soddisfare la domanda di ceto medio riflessivo, e non c’è un euro per far vivere centri studi e di ricerca per la formazione di una nuova generazione di intellettuali politici, investimento per la produzione di vere, serie preparate classi dirigenti. Non c’è consapevolezza che l’uscita dalla crisi politica è altrettanto drammaticamente urgente dell’uscita dalla crisi economica. Non sono da sottovalutare le ragioni del consenso. Ma si vorrebbe un consenso, e la richiesta di consenso, su motivazioni di ragioni collegiali e non di emozioni individuali. Queste vanno e vengono e, ripeto, sono pericolosamente esposte alla manipolazione interessata di chi ha la proprietà che oggi più conta, in questo campo, quella dei grandi mezzi di comunicazione. Una distorsione emotiva, basata su messaggi demagogico-plebiscitari, avveniva di solito nelle competizioni generali, nella moda del direttismo democratico. Si sta introducendo, a forza, nella competizione di parte, di partito. Perché ora l’ultima ridotta da conquistare è l’ultimo partito politico rimasto. E per come era cominciata la narrazione del dopo ’89, sembra proprio che si sia trovato il lieto fine.

mercoledì 25 settembre 2013

Giorgio Agamben - Pilato e Gesù - Nottetempo (Settembre 2013)

Filosofi e storici hanno riflettuto sull'obbedienza, su perché gli uomini obbediscono, ma si sono chiesti di rado che cosa sia il comando e perché gli uomini comandano. Anticipando una ricerca più ampia tuttora in corso, questa agile conferenza interroga il problema del comando innanzitutto a partire dalla sua forma linguistica, l'imperativo. Che cosa facciamo quando diciamo: "cammina!", "parla!" ,"obbedisci!"? E come mai l'imperativo sembra essere, secondo i linguisti, la forma originaria del verbo? E perché Dio, in ogni religione. parla sempre all'imperativo e gli uomini si rivolgono a lui nello stesso modo verbale ("dacci oggi il nostro pane quotidiano!")? Cercando di rispondere a queste domande, Agamben mostra che, nella cultura occidentale, che si crede fondata sulla conoscenza e sulla funzione di verità, il comando. che non può essere né vero né falso, svolge una funzione tanto più decisiva e invadente, quanto più nascosta e elusiva.

In questo saggio, di poco più di 60 pagine, Giorgio Agamben mette in relazione le figure lontanissime di Pilato e Gesù. Riprendendo i quattro Vangeli canonici, alcuni Vangeli apocrifi e gli scritti di Agostino, Dante, Tommaso d’Aquino, Porfirio, Kierkegaard, Pascal e di esperti giuristi, il filosofo ricostruisce, passo passo, il processo indetto contro Gesù e illumina, soprattutto concentrandosi sul Vangelo di Giovanni, gli aspetti giuridici, filosofici e religiosi del dialogo tra il governatore della Giudea e il figlio di Dio. Il confronto non è tanto tra verità e scetticismo, fede e incredulità, ma forse, lascia intendere il filosofo, è tra due diverse concezioni della verità (in relazione alla frase pronunciata da Pilato: Che cos’è la verità?). E’ interessante la divisione che il filosofo fa del Vangelo di Giovanni delle sette scene dentro e fuori dal pretorio (in circa cinque ore) in cui Pilato parlò con Gesù. Infine viene dato spazio ai dubbi di alcuni giuristi se il processo di Gesù possa o meno essere considerato corretto secondo le procedure del diritto romano.

The poststructural anarchist. Todd May interviewed by Richard Marshall @ 3am Magazine - July 12th, 2013

The poststructural anarchist
Todd May interviewed by Richard Marshall @ 3:AM Magazine

Todd May is the poststructuralist anarchist who thinks anarchism is more than just a critique of the state, that there is more than one struggle, that Foucault, Deleuze and Lyotard are important, that postructuralism is elusive, that anarchism is bottom-up and liberalism is top-down, that ‘how might one live?’ is the down and dirty question, that Foucault’s thought will remain standing when the dust is settled, that what it means to be human is a matter of practices, that Ranciere gets him emotionally, that friendship offers a different model from neo-liberalism and that his conception is about resistance not cohesion. High Five!

3:AM: What made you become a philosopher? Were you always aware of a kind of crisis?

Todd May: Many philosophers I talk with seem to get their start in philosophy from a teacher, often a college professor, that turns them on to the subject. For me, it was different. I went to a high school in New York City during the late 1960s and early 1970s, where ideas and crisis were in the air. It was the kind of place where Melville, Faulkner, and Dostoyevsky, along with the Vietnam War, were regular staples of conversation. So early on I became interested in both ideas and political resistance. In college I studied psychology, but was never far from philosophy: I read Being and Time with a philosophy grad student. Another friend of mine, also a grad student in philosophy, gave me Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception as a graduation present. In the few years I took off between college and grad school, I read most of Merleau-Ponty’s work. Eventually I decided I wanted to go to grad school in clinical psychology, but wanted a phenomenologically oriented one, and so chose Duquesne University. But, as it happens, at the end of my first year there I was introduced to the work of Foucault and Deleuze, who raised unsettling questions for me about the entire project of psychotherapy. I pressed these questions in my classes at Duquesne, admittedly with the passion of which a person committed to ideas is capable, and at the end of my second year was informed that my funding was going to be cut off. So I spent a few more years reading and thinking about what is often called “poststructuralism,” and finally applied to Penn State, where I had the chance to study these thinkers more rigorously. A friend of mine who is a radical lawyer once asked me why I wanted to study philosophy if I was so interested in politics. My response, to which he offered me a mocking stare, was that I felt somehow that in order to understand and solve political problems I needed to be able to grasp their ontological underpinnings.

3:AM: You’ve written about and are associated with ‘poststructuralist anarchism.’ I think you see it as coming out of an awareness that political philosophy was in crisis following the fall of the Soviet Union which kind of made it official that Marxism was dead. Can you say something about how you understand this crisis give that for many – and yourself – the Soviet block was hardly a viable model for political change?

TM: For most traditional anarchists like Peter Kropotkin and Emma Goldman, the Soviet Union was a crisis almost from the beginning. They saw it as hierarchical in character, and in that way a continuation of the kinds of domination characteristic of capitalist society. In fact, earlier on, in his dispute with Marx, Mikhail Bakunin predicted that a Marxist takeover of the state would simply reproduce the hierarchical structure of social and political relations. AsThe Who said, “Here comes the new boss, same as the old boss.” This is where anarchism becomes associated with a critique of the state. My own reading of anarchism is, however, that it is much more than a critique of the state. It is a critique of domination in all its forms–political, economic, gender, racial, etc. So while the anarchists were certainly right about theSoviet Union, we should read their work as a more general critique of domination. Granted, this general critique is at times in the background of their work, but it is nevertheless recognizable. In this way, they differ importantly from Marx. For Marx, there is an Archimedean point of social change since there is a central point of domination: the extraction of surplus value from the workers. Therefore, there is really only a single struggle: the struggle for the ownership of means of production.
By contrast, for the anarchists there is no single struggle. As the British anarchist Colin Ward once said, there are always a series of struggles along a variety of fronts. This is where the poststructuralists, and especially Foucault, intersect with anarchism. Foucault traces historically different ways in which people become dominated. He does not reduce them to a single site or single type, but seeks to understand them in their specificity. The disciplinary power he writes about in Discipline and Punish is different from the role of sexuality he describes in the first volume of his history of sexuality, which in turn is different from the neoliberal governmentality he addresses in his lectures  The Birth of Biopolitics.  So while the nineteenth and early twentieth century anarchists were able to resist the reductionism of a Marxist program, later thinkers like Foucault, Deleuze, and Lyotard offer perspectives for theorizing the irreducibility of political relations and political struggle. That allows them to, among other things, take on board the feminist and anti-racist understandings that developed over the course of the twentieth century.
Where does that leave us in thinking about our politics? Broadly with a bottom-up view of political struggle and change. Rather than seeking the Archimedean point of struggle, we must analyze the different and intersecting facets of domination in their particularity, and struggle against them. This does not preclude top-down theorizing altogether, but it offers a framework for political reflection and action that has been neglected in much of political philosophy.

3:AM: So poststructuralist anarchism is to be understood as being framed by French poststructuralist and in particular the works of Foucault, Deleuze and Lyotard. Before coming to this trio and how they seem to offer a viable political philosophy and an alternative to Marxism can you tell us what you understand by ‘post structuralism’ and by ‘anarchism’ in this context?

TM: Poststructuralism is an elusive term. It is a bit chronological, like post-impressionism, and a bit conceptual. As chronological, it refers to the theories that arose in the wake of the heyday of structuralism. We might think of recent French philosophical history in terms of three successive movements, at least up until around the mid-1980s. There is the existentialism of the forties and fifties, which is rejected by the structuralism of the late 1950s and 1960s. And then, later in the 1960s, poststructuralism arises in part as a response to structuralism but not as dismissive of it as structuralism is of existentialism. This chronological view is a bit oversimplified. For instance, the structuralist Lacan was writing well before the 1950s, and Deleuze’s influential book on Nietzsche was published in 1962. But if we think of the prominence of the movements, this chronology offers a rough idea. Conceptually, structuralism rejects the primacy of the subject in existentialism, seeing the subject as constituted more than constituting. But for the structuralists, what constitutes the subject is more or less monolithic. For Lacan, it is the unconscious, for Levi-Strauss the structures of kinship, and for Althusser, at least in the last instance, it is the economy. Poststructuralism rejects these monolithic accounts of the structuring of the subject. For Foucault, the subject is a product of the intersection of particular practices of knowledge and power. For Deleuze, whatever actuality the subject presents carries within it a virtual field of difference that can make it very much other than it is now. Lyotard, in his turn, takes up themes in both Foucault and Deleuze during different points in his career, but in his major work The Differend offers a view of the subject as both constituted and constituting through a variety of different discursive practices. I haven’t mentioned Derrida here, who is often thought of as the central poststructuralist. However, even though he does not figure in my poststructuralist anarchism, he can also be seen as a figure who sees the subject as partially constituted by something that lies outside of it and that cannot be brought into conceptual presence, like Deleuze. Although his view of what it is that does the constituting is diverges from Deleuze’s.
As for anarchism, it is the historical movement that, theoretically at least, is rooted in the work of William Godwin and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, articulated most clearly in the work of Bakunin, Kropotkin, Goldman, and others. It is often, as I said, associated with an anti-statist position, but in my view is better defined as a commitment to two positions: a critique of domination in all its forms and an embrace of bottom-up organizing and resistance. Viewing things this way leaves aside another strain of anarchist thought–the individualist anarchism associated with Benjamin Tucker and Max Stirner, and whose modern proponents are libertarians like Robert Nozick. However, the term anarchism is commonly thought to apply to the former more than the latter.

3:AM: Lyotard writes about the postmodern’ rather than the poststructioralist condition. Is this a distinction that matters?

TM: I have never liked the term postmodernism. If poststructuralism is a difficult term to define, then trying to capture postmodernism is like trying to stabilize mercury with your thumb. My understanding is that it was coined around 1979 by Christopher Jencks in regard to architecture. In the arts, it is often seen as a view that there is nothing new to be done, so art must recycle old themes and styles, often although not always in an ironic style. And one can see this in certain artists, like David Salle and Julian Schnabel. People claim this label for David Foster Wallace as well, but if the ironic recycling of old themes and styles is characteristic of literature, then why isn’t Joyce a postmodernist? Moreover, I don’t see any domination of what is called postmodern literature in the 1980s similar to what happened in painting or perhaps in architecture at that time. In philosophy, outside of Lyotard’s work, it is practically nonexistent. For Lyotard, postmodernism was largely what he called the rejection of grand narratives, single overarching stories that explain, say, who we are and how we got here. As a definition of postmodernism, it has resonances with my definition of poststructuralism. However, even here there are complications. For Foucault, for instance, what might be called micropolitics is a way of analyzing our historical situation, whereas for Lyotard it sometimes seems like an alternative political position to be embraced. That is, while for Foucault the move to micropolitics is analytical, for Lyotard it sometimes comes off as normative.

3:AM: What are the advantages of this approach to say Rawlsian ‘difference principle’ approaches to political theory, or Nozick’s or, say, the Critical Theorists of Adorno, Lukacs, and Habermas?

TM: The anarchist angle of approach is quite different from that of liberal theory on the one hand and Critical Theory on the other. At a first go, we might say that if anarchism is a bottom-up approach, liberalism is top-down. That is to say, liberalism starts with a set of principles (different principles for different theorists) that focus on the state, where anarchism starts with the people in the polity and asks what kind of social relations ought to obtain between and among them. This distinction isn’t entirely clean, however. It seems to me that both Rawls and anarchists share some important moral principles about how people should be treated–or if sharing is too strong, then at least there is some important overlap. Rawls, like most liberals, then tries to conceive a state that can meet the demands of those principles. Anarchists are leery of the focus on the state. They are concerned that the state, being an important site of power relationships, is not the proper focus for enacting those principles. So they turn to the people themselves, asking how people can organize themselves into a just polity.
For my own part, I think that liberalism, especially in the hands of people like Rawls and Sen, is often correct at the level of moral principle but often naive about power. This naivete happens at two levels. First, they fail to recognize many of the power games that occur at the level of the state and that preclude meeting the moral principles that they set out. In fact, if you look at many movements for justice, it is often at the level of the people that they begin: the state often does not create justice but responds to demands for justice from its people. Second, they do not recognize what seems to me a central insight of Foucault’s work: that power often works not by restriction but by production. That is, power helps produce who we are. So, for instance, one of the reasons people conform to and even endorse unjust social arrangements is that they have been inculcated into practices of normality that make these social arrangements seem natural. (That is a one-sentence and entirely superficial summary of Discipline and Punish.) This is not to say that there’s a conspiracy involved. Rather, it is to say that power often operates at the level of our daily practices, making us who we are. If this is right, then political resistance also has to focus on those practices, that is, it has to be bottom-up.
That said, unlike many anarchists, I do not oppose the state in principle. I think it is less effective in creating change than liberal theory would allow, but there does seem to me an important place for thinking about the justice of the state. So while there are advantages to the anarchist–or poststructuralist anarchist–approach to political thought, I do not believe that it is a substitute for liberalism.
As far as Critical Theory goes (and let’s keep in mind that the recent work of Habermas is probably more liberal that Critical Theoretical), it has much insight to offer. However, that insight is embedded in a largely Marxist perspective that shares the difficulties of being a single explainer theory of the kind poststructuralism rejects. So the advantage of anarchism to Critical Theory lies in its ability to take on board the insights the latter offers while not reducing political thought to the Marxist framework.

Dr. May took his Ph.D. from Penn State University in 1989, and has been at Clemson (after a brief stint at Indiana University of Pennsylvania) since 1991. He specializes in Continental philosophy, especially recent French philosophy. He has authored ten philosophical books, focusing on the philosophical work of Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Rancière. His book The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism has been influential in recent progressive political thought, and his work on Rancière is among the first in English. May’s writings also seek to bridge the gap between "Anglo-American" and "Continental" styles of philosophy that developed in the early twentieth century. His teaching interests are varied; he has found himself teaching classes as diverse as Anarchism, The Thought of Merleau-Ponty, Resistance and Alterity in Contemporary Culture, Secular Ethics in a Materialist Age, and Postmodernism and Art.