Monday, June 30, 2008

"It's like Serco started doing burgers"

Lenin's pal offers a pretty fair assessment of New Labour's electoral strategy:

"What happened was the Labour Party could no longer build the alliance it thought it needed for its project, based around elections and the British state. It went off to build a wider coalition to the right of its considered natural constituency. Based on the theory of triangulation, its leaders considered traditional supporters would have nowhere else to go and so follow them. As far as they wouldn’t follow the party to the right, the leaders came up with some interesting (and deeply ideological) justifications for what they were doing. All sorts of things became “socialist”, from PFI to the Iraq war to (in one case) copyright law etc, etc..."

I don't know why this theory is called "triangulation" when it involves the adjustment of only one variable. I suppose it makes it sound more complicated! Basically it's the application of Harold Hotelling's principle of minimum differentiation. The only problem with this is that middle class voters have a visceral aversion to the Labour Party. The doxa of neoliberalism's ingrained in their emotional life. Labour imaginatively represents surplus, in the form of state handouts or Lesbians' Theatre. The Tories represent austerity; in ideal terms: the birch! It doesn't matter that this putative austerity doesn't necessarily trade off against greater efficacy in the pursuit of society's goals (if such goals can be conceived). It doesn't matter that many among the middle class owe their few privileges to the state's corporatist policies. Or that Michael Foot was twenty odd years ago. New Labour's actual fasho responses to more or less imaginary "harsh realities" do not persuade. They dislike the Labour Party, and not for the right reasons. That's what I reckon. Anyway what an interesting article from "Lenin"'s "pal".

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Spinoza's version of monism may have taken on some of the characteristics it had in that it was argued against the religious and pragmatic ideas of the Dutch intelligentsia, and not the animism it was thought was professed by the headhunters of the East Indies; the islands that constituted the economic basis of the civillisation in which Spinoza played a supporting role. According to Russell, Spinoza "is led to a pure and total pantheism". In truth Spinoza's philosophy is rather more restrained than "everything is everything"; it's a restricted monism. Spinoza would find nothing good or necessary in a child purposelessly dropping eggs from a roadbridge to smash on the motorway below; his philosophy can legitimately be called monism insofar as more extreme versions of monism lack literary adaptability.

Ray Brassier's thesis (pdf) puts forward some brilliant ideas about materialism (appropriately enough of "the type inaugurated by Parmenides"), followed up with a half-arsed injunction to adapt a version of monism to political economy. Nevertheless the real weakness of works like The Open Society and its Enemies, that improperly abstract two hostile parties out of the whole set of social relations, are such that Brassier's methodology would have some revelatory value.

The Open Society as Spinoza pastiche:

1. capitalism is a thing conceivable abstractly

2. given the supplementary axioms:

"the purposive nature of abstractions in pragmatic theorising"

and its corollary:

"the presumed perfection sui generis of the same"

(as per previous analyses)

a. capitalism is found to have a purpose

b. capitalism expresses this purpose perfectly

c. the directors of and ideologues for capitalism, as moments in the realisation of this purpose, perfectly express this purpose without constraint (2.b.), hence their real function aligns with their ostensible function. Since the function of the directors is to direct production it follows that this formal relationship expresses the real relationship.

3. capitalism since it has a purpose (2.a.) has as its purpose the reproduction of itself as capitalism

it follows that it also has as its purpose the non reproduction of itself as anything other than capitalism

4. capitalism and the open society are found to coexist. Since capitalism reproduces itself as itself etc (3.) capitalism reproduces and has as its purpose the reproduction of the open society.

5. Since capitalism has as its purpose not reproducing that which negates it (3.) and expresses this purpose perfectly (2.b.) such a workers movement as has as its purpose the negation of capitalism cannot itself be caused by capitalism.

6. such a workers movement in seeking to negate capitalism also seeks to negate the open society, which is purposely reproduced by capitalism (4.)

Social Ecology Partnerships present

Museum of the Psychology of the Bully

opening soon

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Programme for retitling Tarkovsky's Stalker: the telephone lets you talk to God. Turns out to be the voice of a department secretary recounting a laundry list of irrelevant details (cracked monologue of servant or fellow servant). No affectation of superiority and no interaction. A touch of de te fabula, maybe. An effective enough parody of the voice of capitalism (distinct enough from the pronouncements of capitalists such as one sometimes finds in the financial press). None of which is intended in Tarkovsky's film.

Monday, June 16, 2008

No to George Terrorism

Of all people Brian Eno was delivering a speach about the failure the press and television to bother reporting what's going on when the PA system cut out. There were maybe 2500 people on Parliament Square most of whom moved toward the blocked entrance to Whitehall, where President Bush was apparently taking tea with Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Some of the pictures in the press suggest a seething mob, really this was a fairly restrained cross section of the British public, even the British intelligentsia were represented by Owen Hatherley. The Metropolitan Police seemed to have left the defence of Whitehall to a couple of dozen nervy local coppers positioned behind two lines of flimsy steel barriers, some of which were held together with cable ties. One guy went over the barrier and was robustly subdued by the cops. As the crowd started shifting the barrier forward (it was dismantled or fell apart at one place), the police engaged in clubbing protestors with their batons. A standoff of sorts ensued. The police tactic to deal with this was put into effect a while later when the riot police consented to appear. This involved the heavy duty cops selecting protesters, seemingly at random, to be carted off at Her Majesty's pleasure. This is supposed to be "intelligence based" policing, signposted by a special cop taking pictures with an oversized victorian camera. If so it's intelligence that noticeably approximates randomness. It should be stressed that these tactics were possible because the police were in no danger whatsover, 99% plus of the people there having done nothing to threaten them.

There are hundreds of good reasons to oppose G W Bush's corporato-militarist campaigns, as detailed elsewhere.

Monday, June 09, 2008

the unanswerable

"Do you believe your own theory?

-No, Stephen said promptly."

the seventh chapter of Ulysses, set in the newspaper office finds a section of Dublin's intelligentsia discussing the perfection of a rhetoric independent of lowly particulars. The adman Leopold Bloom appears briefly to beg a favour and is sent packing. Mr Bloom brings a quiet dignity to an undignified day of scrabbling around after various errands. These events could be said to illustrate the prehistory of modern advertising, before its accession to logical, ethical and aesthetic preeminence. A new messiah for Ireland indeed.

One of Joyce's devices is an advertising style. As is well known, Ulysses makes few concessions to its audience in terms of intelligibility. I'd suggest that the implied receiver of this work is no longer a supposed other person, with particular involvements in events, rather it's as if the work is submitted to a purely abstract agency, mirroring the abstract style of advertising, or more precisely an imagined abstract agency reconstructible from advertising. Later, (in chapter nine) Ireland's real intellectuals will be satirised. One ought to ask: for whom? Or, who exactly is supposed to really get this bravura display of erudition and pseudoerudition?

We could say, rather preliminarily, that modernism denotes such works as are produced not for people but for an abstract agency of receivership, and that are stylistically sprung round this abstraction. Advertising produces works that evoke the same effect, by other means, since it's proved valuable to be able to show commodities abstacted or reified fom quotidian misery, not least that of their conditions of production. The trick is to appear to have channeled Abbadon, or whoever might be said to represent the impersonal voice of the world of commodities. In fact advertising seems to have perfected the stylistic innovations of modernism formerly applied to art: photomontage, juxtaposition of text and image, absurdism etc.

The most modern relations are impersonal relations. Rebecca West considered the aerial bombing of civillians in the second world war to be, in terms of form and content, an expression of the impersonal relations characteristic of modern industrialised society, and an unfocused resentment this society inculcates, according to her, among those it does not benefit. From a historical point of view this is doubtful, since civillians were first bombed from the air in colonial wars, and this argument that fascism really affranchised the disenfranchised of modern society, who continued to channel an attitude rooted in disenfranchisement - all this seems fairly illogical. The value of this argument is that it expresses clearly and concisely a real impression of these abstract, impersonal relations.

Rousseau's sandwichman pleads his own case: "Though the rain wets the earth/ I wear on my back/ The unanswerable advertisement/ of the broadsheet Éclair"