Jazz Thoughts

Hierarchy as rupture

This article might seem like more of a departure from the topic of "jazz" than even some of the previous digressions. That's probably true, but in an attempt to discuss the subject of familiarity, a topic I had set for myself here, and one clearly so crucial to any analysis of jazz or avant garde improvisation, a close examination of some more basic or fundamental relationships became necessary. So while this article might seem hopelessly broad, and indeed I expect to take up wide territories, the ideas will — both directly here and even more so via some later planned articles — lead back to specific discussion of music, hopefully in an interesting & penetrating way.

So what do I mean by the title words? I believe the word "rupture" is straightforward, with the basic dictionary definitions showing the idea adequately. I do not mean to limit it to any particular spatial dimension, whether that is conceptual or physical. However, the most basic geometric metaphor concerns a circle, cut in one place to form a line. A number of elementary things can happen at that point. We could orient this (finite) line vertically, label segments (or maybe they were already labeled), and create a simple image of hierarchy.[1] (It could, among other things, branch into a tree, become arborescent as Deleuze & Guattari put it.) We could also argue about which end is on top, and which on the bottom, but neighboring segments would remain neighboring. We could (perhaps only conceptually) stretch one or both ends of the line to infinity, so that we can access (at least directly) at most one side of the original rupture. We can also begin to think of the line segment as having a thickness: We could create a fold somewhere else along the former circle, and lay one part of the line on top of the other. (Note that the two ends of the string need not align, need not be directly over each other, such that an observer on the string, looking across from one segment to the other, might be at a point of rupture, yet staring at a non-rupture, or vice versa.) We could create more folds, some vertical, some horizontal, pair them with vertical segments, etc. (We could, or do, sprout new lines from these rupture points or folds.) We can move to surfaces or volumes; such structures can become very complicated, as anyone who has done much origami knows. Note that, throughout these examples, rupture has not actually led to lack of "wholeness;" the result seems whole, contiguous, but requires a cut. Two cuts would be required to separate the circle into two pieces.

The word "hierarchy" is also a common English word, but here the original sense might be a little more obscure. The Latin origin of "rupture" simply means break, and the root can be found in other words, such as "interruption." "Hierarchy" is Greek, and forms from "archon" (ruler) are likewise found in many English words, both before & after other combining forms. In this case, the Greek hierarch is specifically the ruler over sacred or priestly matters. That the specifically sacred or religious form of power over others becomes the canonical representation for any ordered ranking (or perhaps tree) in English is broadly illustrative of the role Christianity had in shaping modern European thought, especially as a conduit for Greek philosophy. (The word comes into English via discussions of hierarchies of angels; see e.g. the OED.) Today a hierarchy need not be explicitly about embodied human power, although it can be, but can be conceptual: We order things in hierarchies: We order our concepts in hierarchies: Our set theory is hierarchical, sets within sets. We order biological creatures in hierarchies, and generally attempt to conceive of origins and splits. (We also make our computer file systems work this way.) We declare a sacred sense of order — and even a cursory knowledge of Christianity yields the origin point for any tree, and the top of every hierarchy: This is a form of thought firmly connected to monotheism.[2]

I am not going to examine the topic closely at all, but do want to make a note about neurology: Whereas some parts of our nervous system could be said to have hierarchical or tree-like connections, the cortical centers of higher thinking involve multiple graph-like (or rhizome-like, per Deleuze & Guattari) connections horizontally, foldings, etc. This is my brief physiological sketch for why I do not believe that hierarchical concepts are inherent to human thinking, or at least not privileged in the mechanics of higher thought or creativity. One could also undertake more of a historical study of the development of the hierarchical concept through history, which I will likewise not do in any detail. The following will be a multi-pronged discussion of hierarchy & rupture, how they are the same (meaning, in what ways), and also how they articulate to each other in various different perspectives (or assemblages).

  1. When I say that "we" can do something, what I am basically saying is that even the most skeptical reader will agree that this is doable. The style of language is, of course, an artifact of the so-called objective observer of science. I will try to be careful with my pronouns in this area.

  2. Its genealogy is both richer & more direct than that (hence only "connected"), immediately arising from human interaction and power over another (whether human or non-human). Monotheism is, in this sense, this human concept of power over another with the ultimate despot pushed to the point at infinity. (The latter description of monotheism is indebted to Anti-Oedipus.)

I. Animacy

The starting point of this article [1] is inspired by Mel Y. Chen's very interesting book Animacies, which looks at various critical intersections, principally from queer & disability theory, but including a broader variety of e.g. racial & biopolitical issues. The book begins, though, with a firm orientation in linguistics, which is Chen's background. I do not want to go into great detail about what animacy is in this space, since other references can be consulted, and in some ways, the concept is straightforward. I do not want to overstate the latter, however, because the "obviousness" of the topic is precisely what simultaneously conceals and illuminates so much. The best solution to any gaps in my presentation is, of course, to read Chen's book.

So animacy refers, in some sense, to a perception of how "active" something is, and as a concept of linguistics, manifests in language use. We might consider, canonically, that a person is often considered to be more active than a rock, and many languages reflect this in their grammar & case. Chen follows John Cherry [2] in presenting a hierarchy of animacy across a wide variety of languages. The languages used to create the hierarchy include English, and some other European languages, but also Native American & African languages. There is something of a broad agreement then on a hierarchy of entities — around the concept of animacy — in these languages.[3] As the inclusion of English illustrates, this hierarchy aligns with the basic structure of modern liberal subjectivity: People are at the top, and within that group, men are above women, adults are above children, able-bodied are above disabled, familiar are above unfamiliar, etc. Then it moves down to animals (with a familiar hierarchy [4]), other living things, "inanimate" objects, and finally "things" like natural forces, states of being, emotions, etc. That this cross-language study recapitulates "common sense" norms of our current society so clearly is striking. This suggests how deeply embedded such concepts are — but not, in my opinion, beyond examination & modification.

Chen goes on to orient her subsequent discussions around ways this hierarchy can be challenged by specific situations, how the concept of animacy can involve "slippages" or acquire some fluidity.[5] I waited throughout the book for a challenge to the basic structure of hierarchy itself, which never came. Therefore I take it up here.

I was immediately struck by the fact that the "things" at the bottom of the hierarchy — emotions, states of being, natural forces, etc. — are exactly the things that influence & determine the behavior of human subjects, including the very "We" of the foundational documents of USA liberalism.[7] This hierarchy or tree therefore forms a circle, and I want to examine why & how this circle is cut at this particular point, and what that rupture has meant.

Like many things, language is both a creation of people, and something that strongly conditions people's thoughts & behaviors. It is very difficult to "unthink" language.[8] Deleuze & Guattari place the creation of written language in the despotic state formation. This seems like a fairly uncontroversial conclusion to me, given the need by a state formation to disseminate information. They are more provocative in Postulates of Linguistics [9], where they assert that language itself begins with the order-word. This idea is less developed, and perhaps less convincing, but worth serious consideration in the present context. The assertion is simple: That language began with the command, the imperative, as reflected in the simple grammar of imperatives in the dominant languages today. This idea, if it's true (and of course there could be multiple truths), has critical implications for power & hierarchy. If power is an a priori to the founding of language itself — and these could also be co-constitutive [10] — a power-based hierarchy embedded in language seems like a natural result [11], and we can observe at least one such hierarchy in animacy.

So amid some possible complexities, one can take the rupture constituting the animacy hierarchy in a single stroke: Someone had power over others, and he wanted to direct them, efficiently, with words.[12] This conception of power then informs the rest of the hierarchy. But what of the things on the bottom, the "back" side of the rupture? Whereas this might be a limitation of my image of a circle, that emotional response or forces of nature are placed so far away from human subjecthood would seem to embed those ruptures — often identified with more modern developments [13] — farther back in the development of language. The person asserting this power or hierarchy is asserting control over fate & feeling, hubris already.[14] Much less speculatively, the material is clearly above the immaterial, and that's an orientation we can track through history.[15] My point is not that a rupture of this sort can be choreographed so precisely, but rather that it cannot.[16] Simply making the cut & asserting the dominance, even if it ramifies into a complex tree-like structure over time, is hard enough — it has side effects, and the rupture illuminated by the animacy hierarchy has created more issues with the way people view each other & themselves than simply the power of one over another.[17]

  1. I say starting point very specifically, because this article touches on a variety of fundamental conceptual issues that have very broad histories. There would be dozens of ways, or more, to jump into these subjects and link them into some kind of assemblage, and this is the way I have chosen. I don't concern myself here with the specific topics Chen studies in her other essays in the book, or with exactly how she does it, although I think the essays are well worth reading. It could also be said of Animacies that there are dozens of ways to broach the issues it raises, and Chen chooses a specific set of topics to relate these various intersections.

  2. This is Cherry's Berkeley dissertation, Animism in Thought and Language (2002). Chen is a professor at Berkeley as of this writing.

  3. One thing I have not done is researched which languages might depart substantially from this hierarchy, or have some completely different logic. I imagine such research could be very interesting.

  4. Note that movements such as veganism do not involve rearranging this hierarchy at all. Rather, they involve drawing different lines, making different cuts, about acceptable behavior within the same structure. In that sense, veganism is not radical.

  5. The basic, (perhaps unstated? [6]) thesis is, in my opinion, that this hierarchy (as echoed so clearly in modern liberal subjectivity) is not set in stone, so to speak. Some fluidity does exist, although for Chen, this involves movement in nearby categories.

  6. Summarizing what someone else has to say usually involves some opinion, particularly in discerning what they "intend" for you to conclude. There is a play of affectivity at work, something more clearly illustrated in the domain of commercial marketing. Being explicit with your audience about what you want them to conclude does not always work to affective advantage, not that intentional deception is a norm in articles of this type, but if what one actually wants is for the reader to think about something, the structure of a thesis or conclusions is called into question. One of my strangest experiences as a writer is when someone writes to tell me I'm wrong about something, but what they tell me I ought to think is exactly what I had intended the reader to conclude!

  7. I'm not sure what to make of the fact that so many of the languages in Cherry's study are native to North America, but then, see [3].

  8. It is likewise very difficult to imagine a world without ubiquitous marketing, at least if one was born & raised in post-WWII mainstream USA. This is a smaller, but more intensely manipulative, domain of investigation for subject formation. Unfortunately, most of the resources devoted to the topic are on the side of commercial exploitation. (And calling this situation "unfortunate" is a dramatic understatement.)

  9. Part 4 of A Thousand Plateaus.

  10. A very interesting way to ascertain one's power, if one dares be so bold, is to tell someone to do something and see if they do it. Then will it become a habit? There is a lot that goes into such an interaction, and it does not need to begin with intent.

  11. When I call this result "natural," I mean only that the condition would seem to yield it as an outcome. I certainly do not mean to erect a categorical wall around nature, a topic I will treat in more detail in Part II. I also do not mean that it is somehow inherent to humanity and unchangeable. In fact, this sketch gives a specific history (unwritten, of course) to the phenomenon, and to paraphrase Gerda Lerner, historical forces can be countered by other historical forces.

  12. Deleuze & Guattari argue similarly that all the basic parts of the Urstaat arrive at once, fully formed. I take this to mean that various functions people might have begun performing spontaneously become reified very suddenly when a realization or founding is made. Current popular consciousness might call this a tipping point.

  13. For instance, an emphasis on rational thought or man's separation from and control over nature is often associated with the Enlightenment, famously critiqued by Adorno & Horkheimer in Dialectic of Enlightenment.

  14. The idea of hubris crystallized in a later era, of course. Moreover, the idea of language itself as hubris has an old history as well. This idea seems to have been forgotten by the time of the Greek tragedies, however. (Although they question their characters, they do not question their own existence as language games. In that sense, hubris is embedded in the form.)

  15. Many philosophical or religious movements have aimed at raising the immaterial above the material. One way to resolve what would otherwise seem to be a serious conflict with animacy is to create superhuman entities that in some sense embody the immaterial, such as gods.

  16. Although multiple ruptures & folds might build over time into a result that is very difficult to analyze, as per my opening illustration of a string or origami. Still, each comes with considerable effort, might not be accepted, etc.

  17. In this sense, the hierarchy is a shadow (and in turn, amplification) of bad faith, to paraphrase Nietzsche. Criticism of hierarchy cannot be reduced to criticism of power alone.

II. Circulation & Dualities

In discussing a hierarchy (whether animacy or another) as a rupture, I am obviously imputing something more fundamental to a circular or circulating form. I am following Deleuze in a straightforward way here, basically considering a world of flows, where it is the interruptions that need to be explained. This is the basic point here, to look at hierarchy as a kind of interruption, and inquire: Who did it, why, how? What are the implications? Despite an emphasis on hierarchy, with its social implications, these questions apply to any sort of individuation. Why is anything seen as distinct or separate? Where exactly is the rupture or cut that originates that separation? And more than that, to return to the opening image of a single cut in a circle, what happens around at the side opposite the cut, that murky [1] area where the distinct entities are still attached or continuous?

Before returning to hierarchy, with its segmentation & trees, let's consider the simplest rupture: into two.[3] What is the most basic of these ruptures? Two others were mentioned in querying the meaning of the animacy rupture above, those between man/nature & rational/emotional thought. The first of these has received more attention in the scientific or philosophical literature over the years, although the second dominates pop psychology and self-help. Neither can really be considered the most basic duality. The Cartesian duality of mind & body has probably been the most elaborated in the Western tradition. More recently, particularly after Freud, the duality between self & other has also been discussed in huge volume. I am going to start with the latter as the most basic duality.[4] This allows me to place the other named dualities (at least provisionally or simplistically) relative to self-other: Man-nature is within other; rational-emotional is within self; mind-body is within self.[5]

Even if self-other is the most basic duality in people's lived experiences here & now, there are (at least) three other critical dualities that underpin it. The first two span self-other in different ways. To return to the spirit of the opening description, the first is geometric.[7] Simply put, the human body possesses bilateral symmetry. I claim this is the most basic, material reason for human fascination with dualities.[8] Going back to Euclid, and likely beyond, "reflection" was used as a basic geometric principle, such that planar figures folded across a linear axis could be considered the same if they were the same under this reflection. Human embodiment is at the basis of geometric conceptions generally, but bilateral symmetry is one aspect of human embodiment that we can observe differently in other forms of life.[9] One can conclude that a different shape of life would have a different concept of geometry, consequently, and likely a different relation to duality.[10] Self-other processing might be shaped by this internal physical duality of self. This involves a sense of self as dual, but also a reflection of this duality onto the other.[11]

Another duality has permeated recent thinking in philosophy, including its extension into science: immanent-transcendent. In some ways, this can be viewed as a variant of self-other. To discuss immanence & transcendence in today's intellectual universe is almost inseparable from discussing the relationship between philosophy & science. For instance, Deleuze & Guattari define philosophy as immanent, whereas they construct their view of science around the "partial observer" — or a qualified transcendence.[12] This more recent emphasis in philosophy marks a departure from German Idealism or the fictitious Platonic Forms [13], where there is movement to a transcendent position or between the two. This emphasis is not so much ceding the transcendent position to science, which grew up around Idealism & Forms, as retrenching around the impossibility of transcendence, or at least the limits of its hypothetical utility.[14] From this perspective, transcendence requires a rupture of an intact immanence, the basic unity of perception. If a rupture attracts attention [1], this partially explains the fascination with scientific objectivity.[15]

Although I certainly do mean to be critical of the transcendent position [20], I do not want to leave the immanent position unexamined. It is Laruelle and his non-philosophy that offers perhaps the most thorough critique of immanence.[21] Laruelle wants to set philosophy & science on an even plane [22], and also criticizes the dialectic position of creating a third term from an initial duality. Laruelle sees dialectic philosophy as always operating as a 2/3, without access to a whole multiplicity. His "flattening" approach to undoing this dialectical hierarchy — the latter what I might call intensifying or colonizing a rupture formed by/with a duality via creating a further hierarchy within it — can readily be compared to negative dialectics.[23] Conceptions of observer seem critical to current interdisciplinary intellectual debates more broadly, but I will stop there.[24]

Good-bad is not so much a variant on self-other as it is a framework for structuring perception around the self-other rupture. As a duality, good-bad is not so much about self-preservation instincts as it is about reducing stimuli or ideas to a binary.[25] It currently structures thoughts about duality itself, but is not in my opinion necessarily inherent to human thought. It has a history, the one we know beginning with Zoroaster. It is the legacy of monotheism to install good-bad (or its variants [26]) at the base of conscious judgment.[27] Within this context, good-bad not only presents a clear two-part hierarchy, but tends to orient the other dualities. These ruptures tend to be made, the dualities created or reified, with the intent to elevate one side of the cut above the other. Canonical mind-body dualism, the Cartesian cogito itself, serves to erect the superiority of the mind. Rational-emotional, going as deeply as animacy, is also such a ranked cut; likewise man-nature.[28] The other dualities mentioned here are more contested, but have their well-worn arguments for one side or the other, and even those dualities conceived to place one side above the other have their counterarguments. A duality is a simple enough structure that such a counterargument can always be made.[29]

None of this proves that circulation is inherently better than interruption. However, to summarize, when there is a rupture or cut in circulation, a hierarchy is likely to form — these are co-constitutive, usually — with implicit or explicit power relations. So such a rupture should be examined. Are some cuts unavoidable, or unrepairable? We can perhaps take the example of our brains, which are split in half, but with connections between the halves that can be developed. Such an approach to rupture can be laborious, but I want to argue for its value. In principle I could go on to discuss far more dualities [30,31], and how to approach them in greater detail.[32] Next, though, I want to look at rupture from the inside.

  1. Ruptures attract our attention. If focus is on the cut — and a really significant rupture will be progressively filled with more & more "meaning" over time, that's basically what makes it significant [2] — the region farthest away seems increasingly dim, and possibly confusing.

  2. This is a reference to later sections of this article, but also seems necessary by way of explanation here. I am already struggling with the linear form of this narrative, or the cut I made to begin it. This acknowledgement seems worthwhile to open the present section.

  3. I have used the term dualities, rather than dualism, because "dualism" is too weighed down by history for the present purpose. One could consider any philosophy grounded in a duality to be a kind of dualism.

  4. At least for our society today. I see absolutely no reason to believe that the priority we place on subject formation is necessary, or reflects a broader sense of "basis" across all times & places.

  5. Hierarchy can form around any of these, but is also certainly able to cross the self-other barrier, as concepts like governmentality illustrate. Animacy includes both parts of self-other, but as discussed above, displaces the "self" part. (I can perhaps assert that an assertion of power over others has, as a side effect, a rupture within the self.[6])

  6. The language of this sentence is intentionally dangerous.

  7. I learned college geometry from Coxeter's books, which I can only assume are still a good choice. Note that although he explores geometry without the parallel postulate quite extensively, he never really questions reflection — although he did crystallize its place for me. Perhaps I should restate that, because in Regular Polytopes, Coxeter systematizes reflection-type symmetries across dimensions, which isn't a question so much as an exploration.

  8. The ways that the human body is not symmetric would make for a fascinating subject of study in this context. This idea has implications for disability theory, but can also be interesting around necessary asymmetries, for instance the internal organs. (It is possible, although apparently rare, to be "backward" in this regard, i.e. heart to the right side, etc.)

  9. The basic spatiality of our perceptions is more difficult to observe differently, i.e. 3d space, lines of sight, and other concepts. Thinking beyond these concepts has not been impossible, however, particularly for people with different kinds of embodiment.

  10. I was struck by a possible relation between bilateral symmetry — perhaps especially in the brain, because the brain is split — and a small child's inclination to double syllables. "Mama" is the most canonical, but I have observed various kinds of doublings — my daughter used to say "get down, get down" for instance — and across cultures.

  11. By this I mean both the expectation, and relation, to other humans as bilaterally symmetric, but also — as discussed — the very core of our geometric conception of the world. (This double duality-reflection can be conceived as creating four parts, and in some situations, such as with a table, or a horse, four-part symmetry is much more stable than two-part.)

  12. This is in What is Philosophy? naturally. They don't really explain the "partial" in partial observer, but it's obvious enough that the failure of physics to meet its (own) goal of a unified theory can be reframed as an inability to create an observer (or perspective) capable of observing both the very big & very small simultaneously.[17]

  13. I don't believe that Plato believed in so-called Platonism. His writings reach a point of impasse, a moment of absurdity, where the reader is expected to ponder how such an absurd conclusion was reached — and in turn question the innocently presented premises, usually the ones about power. Such an approach was prudent in light of Socrates' execution. That later Western readers decided that Plato was being earnest with nonsense like Forms is — well, I'm at a loss for words. This interpretation was filtered through history, of course, starting with Aristotle as an apologist for power generally & for the Alexandrian Empire specifically.

  14. This can also be seen as a retreat from religion, which had & does emphasize the transcendent position, still apparent in e.g. philosophical dualism with Descartes grounding the cogito in god. In this sense, philosophy has moved farther from monotheism than has science. In fact, it's difficult not to view the so-called unified theory sought by science as a relic of monotheism: God as the full observer.

  15. There is certainly value to science as a set of investigative techniques, and there are conditions under which an outside observer can be coherently formed — pace the limitations of this observer, which must always be considered, in e.g. the social sciences & elsewhere. When it comes to cosmology and related disciplines, though, forming a coherent outside observer is impossible, and attempts to do so are often ridiculous.[16] It's also worth questioning the cut between the very big & very small.[17]

  16. Or more often, there is no real effort put into creating an observer. It's simply "assumed" in some kind of uninvestigated way. (A Brief History of Time comes to mind here, which recapitulates the results of information theory, while presenting them not as a limit to observation as they're conceived there, but as some kind of deeper structure to the universe, reframed as a forward history no less.) This, again, seems grounded in theology. Moreover, it's not uncommon for scientific discussions to move into an immanent mode whenever it suits them. (I can be accused of a similar fault, with shifting perspectives only partially indicated, but then I'm not claiming a consistent perspective, let alone a consistent objectivity. Postcolonial literary theory is the champion for implicit shifting perspectives, though, at least outside of fiction itself; see e.g. Spivak's An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization.)

  17. Human embodiment as real observer, rather than transcendent observer, creates a cut between what is larger & smaller. It seems to me that this cut creates a serious problem for appraising the physical universe as a whole, leaving as it does little access for considering the relationship on the far side of a hypothetical circle of "scale," where big & small are connected at their extremes. This idea is hardly new, and is found even in pop culture: For instance, The Simpsons did a camera pan outward where the entire universe was eventually contained in one of Homer Simpson's hairs. I will insist that human subjectivity introduces a cut into perception, but it's worth asking whether we're dealing with two cuts here: If there's another cut at the extremes of scale, opposite subjectivity, what are its characteristics? If we postulate such a rupture as unrelated to humanity, how does that work? How do we interact, etc.? Accepting scale as a linear hierarchy leaves such questions unasked, and scale certainly has nonlinearities: Even in the closer (to human size) regions of scale, there is a clear segmentation, in that adjacent areas articulate to others (kinetic-thermodynamic, for instance) in nonlinear ways; moreover these regions of scale only cohere in specific discrete places (again like the kinetic-thermodynamic articulation [18]), not in continuum, leaving some sizes as a sort of no-man's-land for constructing an observer.[19] If the point of big-small continuity is also a no-man's-land, that's not an end to these considerations; it wouldn't be the only such spot.

  18. The kinetic (theory)-thermodynamic articulation is a pretty good analogy for the individual-society articulation. This analogy could be elaborated. The articulation can also be formalized (see e.g. David Ruelle).

  19. In this way, continuity has a meaning (or rather a hypothetical usefulness) within model layers (or regions), but not between model layers. These model layers are spanned by nonlinear complexities that do not yield to a continuous sense of scale. A phenomenon like an explosion, or a very coherent laser through a crystal, can span layers (or points on a hierarchy of scale) via resonance. These phenomena become more difficult to understand, including violations of so-called causality, when scale is intuited as a linear continuum. (And crystals & single frequency lasers are created for their specific, discrete structure, which lets the resulting response free itself from a layer-bound continuity. Some kinds of explosions can be seen as a spontaneous ordering of a molecular lattice in resonance with its co-evolving energy production, likewise.) At least by analogy, the extremes of scale could or should have a spanning structure also. These comments can be taken as criticism of the principle of local action, a principle that has been very difficult for physics to discard (despite that the notion of "local" has been arbitrary from the start).

  20. It seems to me that the main historical purpose of constructing a transcendent position, or a reality "deeper" than embodied human experience, has been to distract from material problems and justify hierarchical relations. On the other hand, if one's only option is suffering, perhaps a distraction is not so bad. I also do not mean to condemn the Axial religious movements out of hand (see Jaspers). Although it created a variety of other issues — other ruptures & hierarchies — placing a disembodied power above the despot was not all bad for material conditions.

  21. See Principles of Non-Philosophy, the English translation of which only appeared in 2013.

  22. According to Laruelle, philosophy exercises a dominance over science that should be changed. This is in sharp contrast to most attitudes I hear expressed around me or in the mainstream media, where science is prioritized, or even idolized.

  23. Unfortunately, a new English translation of Adorno's Negative Dialectics is still in preparation. (I should actually be thankful and not complain, but I have desires.) I will discuss Laruelle's approach more in Part III, but Adorno's approach is to strip away historical layers to get at originary ruptures, in order to undo dialectic resolutions. The issue is that a dialectical resolution brings with it unwanted consequences in the form of unexamined aspects of the original duality. These aspects travel along historical paths, carried by the dialectic solutions that disguise them. In that sense, when Laruelle discusses dialectics as a 2/3 solution, the issue is that dialectical resolutions bring with them unexamined (and unexaminable) portions. Adorno would appear to agree, in an inversion of Hegel, for whom the third option is supposed to add to the original duality. Hegel's approach is a basic colonization of rupture, again as per Part III.

  24. There is no need to limit this issue to intellectual debates. Any argument in e.g. the religious or political arenas can benefit from an inquiry into who or what constitutes the observer (and observed).

  25. Instincts remain multiple & sometimes conflicted. When mapped to a binary, they produce a heightened sense of self-other. This does not make them actually consistent, however.

  26. True-false, right-wrong, beautiful-ugly, etc. etc.

  27. A duality is, by its structure, a very elemental kind of relation. It can penetrate other networks of thought. It is one of the most mobile or soluble mental constructions, so to speak.

  28. Dualities like rational-emotional & man-nature are closely related to male-female. That's an entire topic of its own. Should Zoroaster be indicted by feminist theory? Probably, but that's not a discussion I've specifically seen. (Aristotle's dismissive seed-ground analogy has certainly been discussed; see The Creation of Patriarchy.) Male-female is also a good example of how, although they often explicitly seek to do so, dualities have difficulty capturing everything. Just as some people are not specifically male or female, for a variety of reasons, some things get left out of the other dualities. Dualities can even be created with the intent to make something else invisible, as happens in e.g. current USA politics with its phony debates. As often, the invisibility is an unintended consequence of a focus on a particular rupture (although "invisibility" is a charged term around male-female).

  29. "Up is down" remains the most potent political lie, for instance. Other lies, including seemingly smaller ones, are actually more complicated than simply turning a duality upside down.

  30. For instance, content-expression: This is a favorite topic of Deleuze & Guattari, and provides a place to raise their view of art, likewise from What is Philosophy?, as about creating sensations. As I discussed in The form of aesthetics?, separating the written language of aesthetics (or philosophy) from the sensual production of art per se is problematic. In my opinion, Deleuze & Guattari completely neglect the issues raised by the sensual production of philosophical material. They treat the act of writing, or choice of medium, as simply nothing. This is in spite of their lengthy & nuanced discussions of content-expression at various other points.

  31. Considering that I began with a discussion abstracted from linguistics, with animacy even, it's perhaps surprising that I do not spend some time in this article on subject-object. The relation between subject-object and the other named dualities could be examined, likely in a worthwhile way, but I am going to leave this concept behind here. Perhaps another time.

  32. Maybe it's my own personal quirk, but I get far more passionate about specific situations & details from within an interactive conversation. I will include more examples in this rather dry article, but nothing beats active engagement. I'm also trying not to get into too much verbiage in this space. More discussions are sure to follow.[33]

  33. And starting over from a different perspective is often necessary, in order to avoid making too much out of a particular orientation. Although I'm happy with the form of this exposition in some sense, it also remains arbitrary for the material under discussion, and much of what I say here can be criticized under the exact framework I'm using. (I consider this to be unavoidable, other than via even greater folly.) Part II, already, presents an almost overwhelming number of possibilities. From here, the issues become somewhat more specific (and the writing, I think, more coherent).

III. Rupture as creation

I have presented an image of rupture as negative, and while that reduction (or concession to duality) is not entirely true, rupture does bring various consequences, some of which will invariably be problematic. It also involves creation, probably of a hierarchy, and possibly much more. In fact, every creation involves some sort of cut or separation: There can be no acknowledgement of creation without the acknowledgement of a separate entity. Under conditions of undifferentiated circulation, there is no creation.[1,2]

Previously I discussed hierarchies & ruptures with a view from outside them, a transcendent position with respect to the rupture, that is. It is possible to be such an observer in some circumstances, such as linguistics & animacy. However, our perceptions are often immanent to a particular rupture, necessitating an inquiry into what a rupture looks like from the inside. Internally, a rupture starts with no inherent up or down (or good-bad); it is simply a cut or differentiation, but this cut will become filled with meanings over time.[3] This is what I'm calling colonizing a rupture: In other words, a rupture occurs, perhaps caused by a particular person or entity with an intended meaning, but perhaps not, and then that meaning is subsequently contested. The rupture is then not a single act of creation, assuming it attracts attention and arguments and therefore more layers of meaning; it functions as a site of ongoing creation. Consider basic dualities like good-bad or mind-body from Part II: Books upon books have been written about them, and about the other ideas they've spawned, etc.[4] Not to overdo the negative imagery, but I could describe the cut as becoming infected — perhaps with millions of bacterial ideas.

So how are ruptures filled, generally speaking? First of all, there is the reification process, by which a rupture is seen as important or real, and in turn "what it means" is taken to be real. Meaning can be contested in this way via political process, but a rupturing act or its colonization might attempt to take this contestation outside of politics, by asserting a meaning ordinary people are not supposed to question.[5] Next is a basic impulse for "peacemakers" to want to bridge the perceived gap, to identify a middle or conciliatory position between both "sides" of the rupture.[6] This occurs after reification, and many people will then orient their thoughts around the rupture or dispute.[7] To continue my unpleasant imagery, this process of conciliation could be described as a scab.[8] The key point is that people do not (at least in this mode) question the validity of the underlying rupture or duality. It is even more thoroughly reified in the process of conciliation.

Within a rupture, then, an equilibrium or homeostasis forms. Some people [11] view nonequilibrium as a rupture of equilibrium, but I emphatically view them the other way around.[12] The idea that equilibrium is a kind of rupture underscores my view of rupture as creation: In a chaotic, nonlinear situation, it is difficult to name (or perceive) entities with any coherence. (Rupture as creation can also be analogized to the discrete-continuous duality.) Equilibrium becomes a more useful concept as a rupture becomes more & more colonized, ramifying into structures such as hierarchies, that cannot be reconciled with a simple compromise. This leads to a basic question of practice: If an equilibrium within a rupture is not satisfactory to us, do we risk upsetting it? Will something worse occur, whether a less preferable equilibrium or an intervening period of chaos that would be unbearable? To reframe, people want peace, but at what cost?[13]

Returning to the imagery of the Intro: A circle is cut at one point, and folded at another (not 180 degrees away), forming two connected line segments opposing each other, but of different lengths. Someone on one layer can be directly across from someone on another layer, feeling an opposition or antagonism (which has a reality under the segmentation), but not know where the cut or fold is. If we imagine a very large string, these might be very distant. This is how a rupture can appear from inside, if not more complicated. These people might get into quite a battle, or engage in a peace, that creates more ruptures, further ramifying or confusing the original rupture. Each might believe they are being oppressed by the other.[14] Moreover, this "geometry" might be quite intentional — enforced by people with power [15] — or simply happy circumstances for those in power.[16] This dynamic argues for close investigation of the situation and education of others.[17]

So does one challenge an equilibrium? Insisting that a rupture is unreal, a figment of thought, can also have repercussions: The arguments that have been used to challenge a particular kind of hegemony within a rupture can be called differentially into question, depending on how the denial of reification is phrased. People in power are constantly looking to do exactly that, to turn broader criticism into more specific criticism that benefits them. Any sort of idea can be colonized in this way.[18] Another approach is to fill a rupture (with meanings) faster than one's opposition — although possibly practical, this competitive approach makes me uneasy.[19] Which of these opens up the possibility of politics, rather than policing?[5] These questions lead to clichés about "the devil you know," & the big or small picture.[21] In my opinion, a return to consideration of the rupture as a whole, both its arbitrary unreality & its creative potential, is the only way out of such impasses. While power formed the rupture, most of the people policing it have no idea how it functions [22], which is directly related to how it was formed. It needs to be unraveled topologically, that is, according to its history.

  1. One could conceive undifferentiated circulation as sensation only, although even that tends to project a subject-object duality. As sensation, however, it gives an opportunity to invert the idea of art as creating sensation: It could be an interpellation of previous sensation, in this view. In turn, we could talk of sensation creating art.

  2. It is difficult for me to judge whether the Judeo-Christian creation narrative is an example of, and evidence for, this process — or something that conditions my underlying thoughts to such a degree that I cannot see beyond it. In either case, it's no coincidence that an ultimate despot starts language with an imperative that in turn carves a void into its different entities. Or that this act is called creation.

  3. Although it might be there in a latent sense, the order-word does not create the full-fledged animacy hierarchy instantly. There are future negotiations, so to speak, and indeed — per Chen — areas that continue to be negotiated.

  4. Guattari claims in Chaosmosis that once opened for broad contestation, these ruptures will never be closed. In other words, no matter how stupid we might believe a mind-body or man-nature duality is, we'll be arguing about it forever. It's difficult to disagree — after all, here I am using these examples — but it does seem to me they could be pushed well into the background. Were there dualities that were considered very important thousands of years ago but receive no attention now? But then, at the external structural level of hierarchy, simple dualities are all the same, so changing the names (particularly since we don't have the same languages, anyway) might be a trivial substitution. It is internally, when being filled with more complicated contents, that ruptures start to look different.

  5. In e.g. Dissensus, Rancière differentiates between politics & policing, defining the former as entailing the possibility of real structural change, whereas the latter (which is much more common today) is about reaffirming the status quo. A rupture will generally include both behaviors, although it might become very well policed over time, as people who do not even benefit from the meaning attributed to the rupture take on the role of policing it as part of their own identities.

  6. This notion of a peacemaker is quite broad. Descartes wanted to reconcile religion & science, for instance. Pope John XXII wanted to reconcile the Franciscans with the landowners (see Agamben's The Highest Poverty on how this decision framed consumer society). The most expedient solutions often create more & more complications later, new ruptures & hierarchies.

  7. I see this on a daily basis with the "moderate" position in USA politics. Note that by orienting thoughts around a particular rupture, people effectively unmoor them from anything broader. In this way, the mainstream media can shift the left-right rupture relative to material factors, but the moderates will float along with the rupture, and continue to advocate for "compromise" wherever it might be located. This basic principle can be taken far afield from a simple linear structure: If people's attention stays focused on a rupture, its location can more or less be moved anywhere with respect to anything else, as long as the internal structure of the rupture is maintained. (Magicians know this principle well.)

  8. One reason I like the scab imagery is that a scab bumps up on the skin, creating another dimension on a cut surface (which of course already had depth). This is my little play on dialectics inducing a third dimension to a duality: Adorno picks at the scab, Laruelle wants to find a way to pull it flat.[9]

  9. The strangest part of Laruelle's approach, to me, is that he multiplies entities [10] with seeming wild abandon in an effort to juxtapose difference on an even plane, and thereby avoid 2/3 or 3/2 type relationships (which he associates with an artificial thickening & hierarchy). So in discussing immanent-transcendent, he introduces a series of concepts to envelop & pull at that duality. I might describe it as an attempt to change the geometry within the rupture, or at least to enlarge it, to allow these other figures to fit inside. Or to return to the previous image, to stretch and bare the filaments of the scab.

  10. Laruelle even uses a process he calls cloning, if this point needs to be underlined. Of course, there is no reason Laruelle or you or I need to obey William of Ockham (a Franciscan, as per [6]), but it does seem like a full speed ahead approach to colonizing rupture. Taking control of a rupture is about colonizing it most effectively, however, and so the approach might be quite sane. Personally, I'm more inclined to question the reification step in the first place.

  11. Guattari is specifically one of these people in Chaosmosis. Even though I appreciate many of his insights, I deeply disagree on this. Moreover, science tends to take equilibrium as the basic state, and nonequilibrium as a departure. This is true in thermodynamics canonically, as well as in concepts like the "big bang," but also in something "squishy" like economics. (The focus on equilibrium is one of the major problems with economics.) These things are done because the methods at hand work for modeling equilibrium — while this is very practical in one sense, it's also rather foolish to view everything as a nail because all you have is a hammer. Taking the point of view that equilibrium is the transitory condition gives a different perspective on some of the major issues of our age.

  12. I can be accused here of accepting a simple duality, and then inverting it. I won't disagree with that criticism, but I'll also state that this duality, if we are to continue to engage with it, is badly in need of advocacy for its other side. In the scientific world, this advocacy is often seen as originating with Prigogine (whose late work can be viewed as a kind of unification of physics & biology via chemistry). In the philosophical world, the terminology has been different, but dualities like being-becoming deal in their own ways with the question of equilibrium.

  13. It's telling that the thing "everyone" wants is framed as world peace, rather than e.g. world justice. The message is clear: Everyone simply needs to accept their current situation, and we wouldn't have violence. That's great for people who are at the top of the hierarchy now, and not so great for people who aren't.

  14. This is a basic mechanism for scapegoating. For instance, as material conditions decay in USA, including among white people, race relations are becoming even more contentious in some areas, as confusion reigns regarding who is doing what to whom.

  15. Prototypically, according to this simple geometric illustration, the powerful side of the cut would be the free end, i.e. the end of the longer segment that does not have part of the other segment opposing it. The other end, which will be both opposed and outflanked, will suffer correspondingly. (One can make a male-female analogy here.)

  16. There are many & broad examples, including explosively political or emotional issues. For instance, Adorno describes the situation of Jews in the marketplace, and development of anti-semitism, by the following sequence: Workers are given a wage by their employers, who are of the landowner or industrialist caste, but workers only learn what their wage will buy them after they enter the marketplace, and interact with shopkeepers (including many Jews — who are not a proxy for the employer in any sense). And it is only then that the workers feel cheated, even though their employer had already cheated them by paying them so little. Similarly, consider the treatment of returning Vietnam veterans to the USA, some even spat upon by the public, etc. In both cases, the people who made the decisions and drove the process are nowhere to be found, so even if the public is savvy enough to know better, rage can only find an outlet with the person in front of them.

  17. I readily agree that this position has been unsatisfying. I will have more to say on practice, but with the amount of manipulation current in our society, clarity of thought leading to action is difficult. Harming other innocent people further is, unfortunately, much easier. Moreover, the term "education" is problematic, because it reifies a particular separation between teacher & pupil.

  18. For instance, posthumanism can be taken as a reason to erode human rights, rather than expand them.

  19. To channel Foucault introducing Capitalism and Schizophrenia, simply put, to compete is to exercise (counter-)power. To unravel the rupture is to unravel fascism, and restore circulation & freedom. One can question the practicality of this approach, but there is no question that the competitive approach, if successful, leaves one in a position of power, and then what? There is simply no mechanism to explode a rupture from inside, although one can conceivably achieve some kind of equilibrium détente. (However, that tends to ride along with another hierarchy, as per [7].) To invoke another duality, which of these is the position of optimism? It depends on one's perspective.[20]

  20. Is Taoism optimistic? Apropos USA politics, the aphorism about holding in one's hands water that begins to splash seems particularly apt. (Do you grasp it tightly?)

  21. And in turn, to defensive behavior on the part of advocates, where it becomes a question of how much more people have to suffer, with fears around a more aggressive advocacy being responsible for reprisals. This seems to be exactly what's happening in the USA debate over retirement funding (and similar issues): Advocates on the left are not demanding more, but rather negotiating for lesser cutbacks. This process leads in only one direction.

  22. Although, admittedly, they can be very effective at making sure the situation is too confusing to be understood. Confusion breeds itself that way. (And conversely, oppressed people often have a rather clear sense of how the oppression functions. It's people who benefit who might need to manufacture rationalizations that cloud their thoughts, so they can tell themselves what they're doing is okay. I don't want to overstate this, however: Bad life conditions are not a guarantee of clear thoughts, by any means, given how unhealthy they can be.[23])

  23. This parenthetical gets me into a basic issue with this article and its format: If I attempt to "prove" all these statements [24], I get myself into another entire article, basically. If I don't make the statements at all, then I'm not providing context for my other discussions. So assertions of this sort are included, acknowledging this issue.

  24. There's probably nothing someone can't dispute anyway, if they want. I do realize there are established conventions for this sort of thing, but I also believe it would be wrong to adhere to them with too much faith, because it suggests acceding to specific concepts of authority. So do feel free to question everything I say and/or disbelieve it as it suits you. I'm doing my best to describe my thoughts, more so than to justify them.

IV. The self

The self [1] is the most basic example of rupture (as creation) viewed from the inside. Seeing ourselves externally is only possible via reflection from others, something we must still perceive from the inside. Regarding the self as rupture, our bodies are literally ripped from our mothers, whether the placenta tearing from the wall of the womb, or the literal cut of the umbilical cord.[3] The inauguration of the material self is a separation, a creation as rupture.

Although in principle [4] — and specifically, culturally — this separation forms the self-other rupture, we do not perceive it as such immediately. It is learned.[5] We are expected to learn to see ourselves as separate entities [6], according to culturally sanctioned norms, and those who fail to do so adequately are considered mentally ill.[7] Creating self-other is an iterative process, both iterated from person to person, and iterative internally: That is, both the "existence" of the boundary and the "nature" of the boundary must be determined together, experientially, and in a process that includes error.[8] Part of this is learning to see ourselves in reflection.[9] In that sense, the self can never be entirely separated from the other [10], even as we are told it must be.

If we accept the separateness of ourselves, then we are entirely inside the self as rupture. (If we accept the "ghost in the machine" model [11], then even more so.) So what does that rupture look like from the inside? This is a subject [13] we know very well, yet it is difficult to discuss. Although at one level we want to believe we are whole [2], internally we know that we are not. Do we talk to ourselves? Do we have body parts? What is talking to what? What makes something a distinct part? How do we order our sensations? How do we order our drives?

Starting with the last question, I want to take up Melissa Orlie's reading of Nietzsche.[14] According to Orlie, Nietzsche viewed the construction of a stable self as a stable ordering of drives, drives that present to the self in an impersonal way. In other words, one has various urges, and one cannot control having the urges, but one can choose what urges are more important in situations where they conflict, which they often do. If this choice is consistent — and I am not convinced that Nietzsche claims this choice is or should be consistent [16] — then one has created a consistent self. According to Orlie's model, the self is a hierarchy! So this conception of self fits closely with the topic of my article: The self is a rupture that forms a hierarchy while reifying the rupture. Since I'm largely questioning the reification step, what are the consequences of that here?

First of all, Orlie explicitly sees the act of ordering as a creative act — rupture as creation, in my terms. She also discusses Nietzsche's ideas on error as they relate to this process: He sees the ego or mind as a fantasy in reaction to powerlessness, making power an internal fantasy in response to material experiences of lack of power. In turn, he sees our entire consciousness as derived from a reaction to error.[17] Orlie goes on to invert a more conventional sense of power & powerlessness: That we are powerful to the extent that we fully experience our weaknesses. I would put this somewhat differently: That we have understanding to the extent that we do not reify the self-other rupture. The self is permeable.[18] Nietzsche also defines understanding as the ability to sustain a conflict between affects [19], and Orlie sees a healthy self as not trying to hold itself together, but also not falling apart.[22]

Beyond that, reification of the self finds its reflections in reification of aspects of the self.[23] (The borderline personality will see this segmentation differently.[24]) For instance, we are taught to consider our senses separately.[25] In our society, we are taught a vision-dominant, or ocularcentric, view of the senses as an ordered hierarchy.[26] Synesthesia is seen as a freakish curiosity, rather than a more basic state of sensory integration, underlining reification of the "official" sensory modes.[27] Temperaments or personality types are another type of reification [28] around ordering drives-affects: Particular common orderings are taken as canonical types, marginalizing other orderings. Our sensations of self might then be filtered through these designations; we are told "how we are."[29] This sort of segmentation is certainly not limited to mental identities or sensations: Different parts of our bodies are recognized as distinct parts, and this is also cultural.[30] Our sense of self as hierarchy, particularly combined with a strong sense of self-other, can lead to very rigid views of these various other aspects of our bodies, both how they interrelate and what is or isn't distinct.[31]

Questioning the nature of self-other has ramifications for identity politics, which is already a highly debatable & debated subject.[32] It also broadens debate on posthumanism [33], and ultimately opens into the very currently relevant topic of our place on the Earth as a whole.[34] That brings us back to the man-nature duality. The various other dualities can also be reconsidered in the light of taking a more borderline approach to self-other. For instance, the body side of mind-body is clearly under-theorized [35], particularly as we recognize the mind as deriving from material. The physical permeability of the body seems to present an obvious entry for criticizing self-other on the material side. Good-bad provides a particularly stark, and probably unstable [36], orientation for self-other (and in turn, critique — if there's a specific "place" we talk to ourselves in this society, this is it [37]).

If the self is a rupture that forms a hierarchy — whether consistent or borderline — it raises the question of how much of that we can choose. Questioning self-other still means some kind of equilibrium with social senses of self-other (even if that equilibrium involves forceable confinement). Those around us typically expect some kind of coherence or consistency, even if separation can at least partially be accepted as false. (Selflessness is accepted as a specific kind of coherence.) If the self-other boundary is itself incoherent upon close inspection, and I would argue that it is, given the permeability of our bodies & the malleability of our mental sense of ourselves [38], then we have ways to see out of the rupture. These visions can inspire us [39] to see out of other ruptures, and in turn to question the coherence of all hierarchies.

  1. I am using "self" rather than subject or ego in the hope of making it more personal and less clinical. Laruelle claims that one point of confusion in theory is that the ego & the subject are not the same, and he has a point, in that they arise differently (in the course of different analyses & ideas), and simply equating them is probably sloppy thinking.[2] Here I am multiplying entities, I guess, but what I'm hoping to do is decontextualize these terms and "think the self" as personal without this other baggage, and especially not to already imply a mind-body duality. I'll count partial success as a success in this matter.

  2. The equation between ego & subject could be seen as driven by always wanting to see ourselves as unified & distinct. Any act of indication in the direction of ourselves, then, must indicate the same thing, and we're taught that simply talking about our body as that whole is unsatisfying.

  3. It would be interesting to study cultures that do not make this literal cut, and whether their attitudes differ on this topic in some significant way. We can also ask this pernicious hierarchy-inflected question culturally: Which side of the mother-child separation is more important?

  4. By which I mean from the position of a transcendent observer, as in the previous description. This observer could observe differently, were it not to orient its perceptions around these separations. There are forms of life for which these same (scientific) observers do not conceive a clear separation of individuals.

  5. This learning includes both learning about one's material or physical experience, and learning how others around oneself think self-other. I do not want to reify the latter duality, however, particularly since my opening here has already been seduced — perhaps unavoidably, by way of exposition — by the language of the mind-body rupture.

  6. As well as to make the proper group identifications, with the various applicable subgroups of humans considered important at that time & place, with the human generally, with the animal, as a material thing... the entire animacy hierarchy.

  7. If Deleuze & Guattari can associate schizophrenia with capitalism, then I can associate borderline personality with hierarchy. Part IV could be subtitled "Hierarchy/Rupture and Borderline Personality," although that juxtaposition is meant to be no simpler than theirs.

  8. The process relies on feedback, both casually & in the technical sense, making it nonlinear. The chaos potential of nonlinear feedback processes provides an image for the possible realization of far more self-other forms than currently accepted.

  9. This reflection is an important part of conceiving the transcendent position, and likely why Laruelle declares that even radical immanence includes a contingent transcendent position. (It is probably also worth asking how the relatively recent proliferation of mirror technology has affected this process.)

  10. Judith Butler discusses this subject through the lens of various psychological thinkers, in non-heteronormative terms, in Giving an Account of Oneself. That book gives an indication of just how difficult it is to introduce & order the content of Part IV, as well as discusses the impossibility of creating a self without an other — although Butler never really breaks from the oedipal triangle.

  11. If we accept it in its non-theistic form, at least.[12] Descartes reconnected all of us ghosts via the mind of god, in effect an internal (to our minds) connectedness.

  12. As I've had occasion to note a few times now, much of contemporary thinking is grounded in the Christian religion, but with god subtracted. The structures otherwise persist, perhaps most ridiculously in Adam Smith's fantasy about the invisible hand, where only a (metaphorically physical) part of god remains! Something more recent like The God Delusion still recapitulates most aspects of Christian-derived hierarchy.

  13. I cannot help myself with this kind of play on words!

  14. This refers to the essay "Impersonal Matter" in New Materialisms, an anthology edited by Diane Coole & Samantha Frost.[15]

  15. This is one of the more interesting (at least to me) recent anthologies impinging upon or in the realm of social theory, as is The Affect Theory Reader, edited by Melissa Gregg & Gregory Seigworth. Both of these, as well as several recent monographs I've found worthwhile, are published by Duke University Press. This leaves me with an obvious question: Why are so many interesting (at least to me) books being published by Duke, seemingly in opposition to the university corporatization trend? I have no idea whatsoever why this is, although surely there's a concrete story behind it, so maybe someone will tell me what that is.

  16. And Nietzsche went to a mental institution, which is something we do to people who don't form a consistent sense of self, so it's no surprise that Orlie has (at least to my reading) taken consistency as an implicit goal. Nietzsche's work also provides a chilling example of how ideas challenging a rupture equilibrium can be colonized in terrible ways. The task of wakefulness indeed!

  17. I've long seen it as a personal quirk to dwell so much on error and let that determine consciousness, a quirk I've sought to overcome. That this is the general human condition is not something I've really thought in the past, and I'm still not convinced. I've always thought of it as more of an artifact of the way our formal education system works. Positive reinforcement can be very powerful, including in our perception of duality or hierarchy.

  18. This is especially relevant when considering "the environment" or ecology. The body is literally permeable to various kinds of harmful, and non-harmful, substances and forms of life.

  19. This could also be phrased as a realization that conflicts between drives will generally exist. Regarding affect, Samantha Frost discusses Hobbes's views on fear & self-formation in the same volume; prioritizing the role of fear is not so different from Nietzsche's views on error. Regarding affect more generally, this is where queer theory has so much to offer, because it questions the way affects correlate with other factors in our society.[20,21] Much more human variety is possible in this area, and in fact much more is observed, but many people are trained to see some combinations of affect & bodily factors (such as sex organs) as invalid.

  20. Disability theory is another wide frame for considering different affect linkages. This framework is even more embryonic, even if the subject also has a long history, e.g. that of blind musicians. Another worthwhile recent book treating these topics intersectionally, besides Animacies, is Feminist Queer Crip by Alison Kafer.

  21. I will also suggest that kink provides concrete techniques for linking affects into different assemblages. Although there appears to be a continuing taboo against discussing explicitly sexual practices in social theory texts, and so I have rarely seen such possibilities mentioned, there is also a great deal of potential for this line of inquiry, in my opinion. It's difficult to proceed with such an open discussion because of the various prejudices present in society: Some people cannot even tolerate same sex kissing! So there is a long way to go to discuss some of these insights at a broader level. I have not attempted to discuss the pleasure-pain duality, for instance, which would be relevant to a critique of good-bad.

  22. This idea can be analogized to Deleuze & Guattari's use of a plateau, or plateau of intensity: Sensations can cohere in particular ways without being actively held together, whether internally or via some sort of projection of external telos. Deleuze & Guattari also place an emphasis on consistency. As per [21], they also discuss rearranging affect linkages ("becoming a body without organs") in fairly vague terms, but do offer some real cautions.

  23. By this I mean specifically that the self-other barrier can be considered a reflective surface, and that these internal splits are a consequence — specters in a mirror, so to speak.

  24. In practice, both the reflections and what's on the other side of the mirror, at varying strengths at different times. Which are the specters?

  25. Small children are very specifically taught about what is vision, hearing, touch, etc. and any "confusion" on these points is corrected.

  26. I use ocularcentric language in many parts of this article, as it is conventional. Indeed, the blind people I've known use it too. It would be interesting to attempt to get away from this convention in language, as for instance gender has been called into question.

  27. See, for example, Brian Massumi's discussion in Semblance and Event, which is very wide-ranging on this general topic.

  28. These sorts of theories, including the classical temperaments, usually do admit the possibility of change. They can be educational, but only if they're seen as provisional, or as very crude or partial descriptions.

  29. This kind of call to "consistency" can be almost paralyzing for self-development.

  30. Some parts become "parts" because they are associated with particular drives. Even that is questionable; it's at best a convention to say a man feels a sex drive in his penis. The drives are not so localizable. And whereas some parts of the body stand out in some ways, others are more arbitrarily separated. Likewise, meanings assigned to a part such as the heart depend on cultural narrative.

  31. In turn, one can become quite sure of "how men are" or "how women are" or various other stereotypical linkages between body segmentation (such as skin color) and affective response. These stereotypes can be questioned without questioning the nature of the self-other rupture, and they have been, but they become actively absurd under conditions of permeability. Moreover, cultural stereotypes connect to differing cultural views on the self-other boundary. Negotiating that boundary is an underrated factor in cultural clashes, both historically and now.

  32. For instance, Butler takes a performative view against reified identity, whereas Spivak is associated with the idea of strategic essentialism, in which a specific shared identity serves a political purpose. It seems to me that these views have validity in different contexts or assemblages, and so there is no one answer to the political usefulness of "identity" — in other words: It's open to wide ranging colonization as an aspect of the self-other rupture. There is always a danger of reification around identity, though.

  33. I think that Braidotti's The Posthuman is a particularly good recent overview of the issues, although she does not really delve into issues surrounding colonization of the idea of the posthuman by people seeking to increase disparity. A move away from the concept of "human rights" will be seen as a great opportunity for people wanting a steeper hierarchy, even if it also provides the opportunity for challenging hierarchy.

  34. Monographs on this subject seem to be appearing by the week.

  35. Disability theory has much potential for different theorizations of the body. It also has much to say on the question "Who is human?," but there remains much to be said. For instance, Tobin Siebers suggests to redefine the human as the most fragile. While this is a clear attempt to protect people who have been marginalized, it seems to me that it already assumes we know what the human is. Is Siebers really suggesting that a worm on a sidewalk in the rain is more human than I am? (Perhaps he is, but I suspect not.) Attempts to bolster the margin between human & non-human, by emphasizing the humanity of the most fragile people, reinforce duality. This is where posthumanism steps in to question that duality. As in [33], however, it becomes possible to colonize posthumanism in order to further marginalize marginal people. Questioning equilibrium in this area seems both necessary & dangerous.

  36. One can of course define oneself as good and anything that disagrees with oneself as bad, and it appears that a fair number of people manage to maintain exactly this view. (There is the "well defended personality," for instance, which is traditionally taken as a defense mechanism against insecurity.) These sorts of hard dualities can put quite a strain on many people, however, and good-bad is a place where a more borderline view can provide some relief.

  37. In my opinion, the good-bad duality, particularly when applied to self, has always been too stark for people to handle. For one thing, it violates the basic realization of conflict between drives.

  38. Not to mention the historical (or topological) process of self-formation that we cannot fully access/remember.

  39. And perhaps provide some sort of road map, although that is partial at best.

V. Consistency & Influence

This section could be labeled an excursus. It is basically a critique of consistency through a particular lens, namely Robert Cialdini's research on influence.[1]

Why critique consistency? Because it is a way to influence or manipulate people, with a variety of techniques associated. By way of more context, Deleuze & Guattari put a high emphasis on consistency in their work, to the point that they actually define philosophy as operating on/to a plane of consistency. The concept permeates their work [3], and in turn is often implicit (if not explicit) in the many ideas influenced by their work. Simply put, any call for consistency should be examined.

Another piece of context is from the economic domain, where I will begin a brief sketch with Lawrence Grossberg's idea that we currently have a "crisis of commensurability."[5] To convert to Cialdini's terms, this would mean a crisis for reciprocity.[6] Unfair exchange is the norm for capitalism: There is much rationalization & rhetoric to claim the exchange is fair by definition, but anyone can look at the results, the increasing disparity of wealth. If anything, this rhetoric becomes all the more shrill [7] as it becomes more obviously untrue. So if reciprocity is in crisis, as a principle of influence, it becomes muddled.[8] In turn, consistency has to do double duty, so to speak.[9]

Cialdini actually begins with a sort of pre-principle, contrast: One's perceptions can be directly influenced via contrast [10], as well as one's expectations.[11] Following this are six principles, roughly ordered by potency: Reciprocity, Commitment-Consistency, Social Proof [12], Liking [13], Authority, Scarcity. Let me briefly discuss the others in this context. The alignment between authority and hierarchy is obvious enough; a question for this principle in this context is: To what extent is "authority" as a principle of influence derived from our hierarchical rupture, rather than vice versa? In other words, are people conditioned to accept authority more broadly because they're accustomed to being forced into it in particular circumstances?[14] Scarcity is heavily manipulated in the economy [15], and so its function is closely tied to current circumstances. It seems to be a more fundamental principle to me, but tied so closely to context, that considering scarcity outside of current social conditions has proven difficult.[16] The more the people at the top of the hierarchy can claim they "like" the people at the bottom, the easier it will be for them.[17] Although there is always some rhetoric on this topic, it's usually not done very well.[18] Social proof, it seems to me, sort of by definition, transcends social formation; people like to feel a part of whatever is happening [19], and will tend to conform.[20]

As the most powerful principles, reciprocity & commitment-consistency have been the most heavily colonized. As I did for authority, one can ask about cause & effect here. Do we feel our lives being lived most prominently in the economic arena precisely because reciprocity is such a powerful principle, and so very attractive for colonization?[21] Domination has a long history, but the mechanisms can change.[22] As commensuration goes further into crisis [23], and reciprocity is a confusing mess, we are met with another message: You need to be consistent! We tell this to politicians, for instance (which is just a roundabout way of disciplining ourselves, and is encouraged on that basis [24]). Just how deeply does this contingent emphasis on consistency run? Our psychic selves are told to be consistent — it's practically the definition of mental health. Would this sort of emphasis ever occur outside of the context of a failed reciprocity? In other words, is psychotherapy even conceivable under all social formations? These are important questions about consistency.[25,26]

So is consistency ever worthwhile? Of course it is; it's a basic principle of human thought. However, it can be used to manipulate people, and often is: That is the basic point, and why uses of consistency need to be examined.[27] I refuse to accept consistency as the goal of the self [28], or as the basic point of philosophy.[29] (And what of Cialdini combining "commitment" with consistency? This moves consistency more into the realm of word & deed: If you say you'll do something, then you do it. It makes assessing consistency more amenable to experimentation to feature that mode, whereas I'm dwelling more on our internal sense of it.[30])

Children need consistency: This is a thought that keeps coming back to mind in the context of critiquing consistency. I do not want to dismiss it, but I do want to reframe it: Children need a base of consistency from which to explore a world of inconsistency. Perhaps one can cut loose from that base after a point, and not internalize it. That's a potentially more borderline approach. Perhaps in a different social formation, such a mantra would seem irrelevant.

  1. My primary reference for Cialdini's ideas has been Influence: Science and Practice (5th Edition). It discusses a variety of scientific experiments conducted to study how people are influenced [2], and in turn presents Cialdini's ordered set of principles distilled from this work.

  2. Although there are some efforts at cross-cultural experimentation presented in the book, there is no reason to believe that the results hold for all kinds of social formations. The cross-cultural context generally remains firmly within the regime of capitalism, or at least in reach of its tentacles. Mostly, the experimental results are entirely connected to our current society, and so their contribution to Part V is very specific in that sense.

  3. Deleuze & Guattari do not mean consistency in exactly the way Cialdini does. The former are often talking about the processing of sensation itself, and the coherence of sensation into something identifiable, rather than falling apart into separate things. They talk about the coherence or consistency of anything in this sense, sometimes as an alignment of speeds. There is a call for philosophical concepts to be consistent, which is not so different from a psychoanalytic argument that one's consistency of self be taken as a measure of sanity. The latter is more what Cialdini means, although at the level of behavior.[4] In any case, "consistency" appears so often for Deleuze & Guattari, without a critique of consistency per se, that it's unavoidable the concept should be associated with its many possible senses. It's almost the "electrical ground" for their various circuits of thought — where the abstract machine outputs deterritorialization.

  4. Or rather, whether triggered by explicit or implicit messages, people will react to shore up their own internal consistency. According to Orlie's ideas sketched in Part IV, a healthy self would not need to feel reactive in this way. However, experiments show that, at least in our current society, this is what people tend to do.

  5. This is from his amusingly subtitled Chapter 3, "Considering Value: Rescuing Economies from Economists" in Cultural Studies in the Future Tense. Grossberg argues that the purpose of economics is to compare the values of different things, and that we are having trouble doing that today, in a variety of domains. Hence this crisis.

  6. In other words, if we don't know how to compare the values of different things, then we don't know what is a fair exchange. Given Grossberg's claim, which I think has merit, that today people often feel their lives are lived in the domain of economics, rather than e.g. culture or somewhere else, this crisis goes deeper than "mere" economic value. The basic idea of human reciprocity is called into question.[8]

  7. Today in the USA, "free market" seems to be a religion. The more obviously unfair things become, the more people insist that it — "it" meaning however wealth is distributed now — is correct according to some transcendent principle. It's the ultimate fait accompli. Comparing to religion fits into Grossberg's ideas on the crisis of commensurability, because religious values are one kind of value that are difficult to compare with another kind of value. Grossberg claims this crisis leads to an increase in fundamentalism generally, including religious fundamentalism, but also the economic fundamentalism with which I began this note, etc. In other words, if we cannot compare, we retrench around what we value, with confusing or damaging results for reciprocity.

  8. As Cialdini shows, reciprocity is a very deep motivation for people. It's still here, but mixed with so many lies, at such a basic & important level, that it can be hard to know what it means for any practical circumstance. In other words, the urge to reciprocate will still be there, but the context is often very confused by the backdrop of what reciprocity is claimed to be in the economy. (This is my claim, not Cialdini's, if that isn't clear. He is not critiquing capitalism.)

  9. Although they give no indication, I wonder if this is exactly why Deleuze & Guattari end up putting so much emphasis on consistency. They were certainly aware of the increasing failures of reciprocity in capitalist society, even if they don't draw the connection, as I'm trying to do here.

  10. The simplest experiment is to put one hand in a glass of cold water, one hand in a glass of hot water, and then put both together into a glass of warm water. The same water will feel different to our different hands. This pre-principle of contrast extends to art & music, of course.

  11. Expectations can be set up in a variety of ways. Do you start with the bad news? Expectations are also a meaningful place from which to critique the pleasure-pain duality. Additionally, expectations have a significant role in music and its reception, as I've often had cause to note in different contexts.

  12. Cialdini uses "social proof" rather than a more common formation like peer pressure, because as he demonstrates, implicit proof in this area is often more powerful than more explicit pressure. The latter might engage an active resistance.

  13. Strikingly, Cialdini demonstrates that the most successful way of getting someone to like you is to tell them that you like them. Note that this folds back on reciprocity; it's an immaterial reciprocity, so to speak.

  14. I'm sure a more popular argument would be that people simply respond to authority, and so hierarchy itself is natural. I don't believe this is nearly so clear; I would answer the question with a "yes."

  15. Supplies of some things are kept artificially low, for instance, to raise prices. There is a lot of human choice about what is or isn't scarce. Moreover, people are taught to view money as a proxy for scarcity, which leads in turn to money being viewed as scarce. Money is emphatically not scarce at the level of society, particularly when most money is in the form of computer accounts. This is one of the biggest manipulations occurring right now, both in the US & Europe, with constant rhetoric about the presumed scarcity of money, which is pure nonsense.

  16. Of course, some things are actually scarce, such as natural resources. This reality is played off against nonsense ideas like the scarcity of money in order to manipulate. Moreover, the manipulation does not bother with a coherent plan for dealing with actual scarcity, leaving our economy asea in the rhetoric of scarcity separated from scarcity itself. This problem is increasingly recognized, however, as various environmental movements show.

  17. As the despot at infinity, the god of monotheism is also said to like (or love) everyone infinitely. This makes good sense from the perspective of manipulation. People high in the hierarchy, but not as high as god, don't have to like people quite so much, consequently.

  18. And lucky for us that pronouncements about how much people in power like "the common man" usually fall so flat! Of course, in turn, when someone succeeds in giving this impression, it gives them more power — we might call such a person a demagogue. It also seems to me that this is a ripe area for more thorough manipulation in the light of personalized information via internet tracking, etc. This goes together with an emphasis on keeping individuals separate, so that many people feel starved for affection. If consistency explodes under pressure, look for liking to take up the slack. This looming consistency-liking dynamic is also very relevant to the ongoing fight between secular & religious authorities. Who really likes you?

  19. And, not coincidentally, people who don't really feel a part of what is happening are more likely to be critical.

  20. I do not equate conformance with a respect for authority. Peer relations are not (in principle) authority relations.

  21. I should also ask if this is what has pulled a second economic principle, namely scarcity, onto the list of most powerful influences. Classical economics certainly looked to take control of the notion of scarcity, and in turn how it impinges on reciprocity (via questions of commensurability). Is scarcity, as a principle, a more recent invention in that sense? I've argued something similar for authority, although in that case, not nearly so recent. Note that the other influences on Cialdini's list are not specifically related to economics.

  22. It often seems that Marx drawing attention to economic motives has only intensified their use and the resulting manipulation of reciprocity. For some, the explanation that things have been unfair becomes a reason for more unfairness. The hierarchs seem to have embraced Marxism in that sense. They now welcome discussion of economic motives, because they have the domain thoroughly colonized.

  23. Collectives, some organized online, where the amount of time one spends on something is traded equally for someone else's labor time, are simple but radical regarding messages about fairness & reciprocity. Unfortunately, we also have issues of commensuration that are not about material labor. Some are about immaterial values that are nonetheless important to people, but some are also material: Stored wealth, natural resources, etc. And how much is simple human kindness worth? More to the point, time spent on "labor" can be enjoyable or not, depending on circumstances, making any direct equation of time problematic.

  24. It's an ordinary aspect of liberal governmentality.

  25. Personally, I am suspicious of any statement that I need to be consistent. I will call it out as a technique of manipulation during an argument, for instance. I've stated numerous times that I do not have consistency as a personal goal. If I have different thoughts or opinions tomorrow, that is fine.

  26. Note also how being inconsistent, or fickle, is associated with women as a part of the gender wars. Being called inconsistent can be a way to question one's manhood! (We're taught this is bad.) Some women choose to compensate for the stereotype by being extra rigid.

  27. Cialdini does provide various advice on how not to be manipulated by consistency and the other principles of influence. He addresses this at the individual level only, however.

  28. A self as a hierarchy of drives, reified by consistency, is reflected in a reification of hierarchy as rupture in society. At least this is my claim. If one's self is to be set in stone, how are social structures supposed to change? It might also be worthwhile to look more closely at how the various drives relate to the different influence factors.

  29. Emerson's quote about foolish consistency also comes to mind here. It's not as though ideas on consistency have never been critiqued before.

  30. Note also that there's a, possibly subtle, sense of time invoked in this shift. I have probably said too little about time here, partly because others have done a good job with it, for instance Massumi and the idea of a future affective threat. There would appear to be more sophisticated approaches to time possible for conducting influence experiments.


That the animacy rupture reactively comes to be spanned by anthropomorphic deities suggests a lingering spectral component to any imposed hierarchy.[1] This is true of the self-other duality as well, a duality I've identified as the most basic for the purposes of this discussion. Reification of the separate self becomes a lever for forced acceptance of duality & hierarchy more generally.

A major reason I decided to read Laruelle's Principles of Non-Philosophy when I did is that I wanted to see if he had the same idea on what "non-philosophy" was as I did. He doesn't, although his approach is interesting; he sees non-philosophy as an "other" to philosophy for the purpose of constructing a critical position. For me, the question was more along the lines of: Do we really have to consider e.g. mind-body to be an important question that must be addressed? What if we simply decide that these questions, these dualities, are meaningless? We could stop discussing them; we could stop breaking up the world according to the ways that we traditionally have.[2] Why not?[3,4]

Returning briefly to a geometric discussion, it's probably worth noting that a fold is a reflection.[5] Whereas the so-called non-Euclidean geometry [6] includes the point at infinity [7], a non-reflective geometry has not been much developed. Taking projective geometry (i.e. without parallel lines), however, we can already see that a hierarchy projected onto a plane cannot be strictly linear. It will circle around, somehow, if only by implication. Where does this happen? What are the cuts? What are the folds? The plane does not remain flat; it pulls on itself, and bunches or thickens; dualities do not remain flat: They get colonized and form structures [8], such as hierarchies. They develop an up & a down.

Complex assemblages become more difficult to invert, however.[9] The same goes for equilibria around ruptures. So do we challenge an equilibrium? To my mind, yes, but don't assume that challenge functions in a linear manner. It may be much easier, although still very difficult, to rearrange a hierarchy than to eliminate a hierarchy. Nothing more may happen than relabeling some segments, without affecting the basic rupture. Although this can mean material improvement for some people, the aim of this discussion is more ambitious, the elimination of hierarchy.[14] That project required starting from a transcendent position with respect to hierarchy, in order to identify it, but also looking at ruptures internally. These perspectives need to work together to achieve any unraveling.[15]

As a social formation, unraveling a hierarchy-rupture is more complicated than unraveling one's own mental knots. Taking a more borderline position with respect to self makes the collective assemblage look somewhat different, however: There is more fluidity between individual & collective forms. There is a basic question to ask here about circulation: Does an effort at "healing" a rupture allow more circulation, or does it silently stop some? In other words, is it another colonization, or is it restoring politics [18] & circulation?[19,20] It is sequences of reification & counter-reification that create such strong hierarchies in the first place, so it's important to realize what is or isn't real. However, as that sequence suggests, denying the reality of some ideas is to deny what little protection some people have within the rupture. The alternatives, though, are to either attempt to gain control for oneself, or to do nothing.[21] Loosing the strands of control generally is much more challenging.[22]

To return explicitly to the topic of hierarchy, a hierarchy is already a relatively complicated structure generated with a rupture.[23] It can branch into trees, or become segmented in a variety of ways. Some of our most highly contested ruptures have hierarchies grafted to hierarchies, and structures that know little limit to complexity.[24] If these are to be unraveled carefully, precise knowledge of how they were assembled is required.[25] Presumably this general point has been repeated enough by now.

  1. Animacy & animism are thus linked, which is already obvious, but perhaps this is a slightly different perspective.

  2. As noted earlier, Guattari thinks this is impossible, that the questions can never effectively be unasked. I cannot accept the implicit statement, though, that the only possibility is for thought to become more & more complicated. Some things are surely forgotten and/or fade into irrelevance, although that is not necessarily a triumph for unraveling rupture: Structures of thought associated with an earlier rupture do tend to perpetuate themselves, even if the original reason is long forgotten.

  3. This is hardly the only human construct that people seem to believe they cannot change. Plenty of people seem to feel they are completely powerless over how the economy works, for instance, even though at least nominally, many of them live in democracies. This feeling of powerlessness is the result of widespread confusion, among other issues.

  4. Years ago, I was challenged to recreate all of mathematics in a different form, because I claimed Western mathematics was "probably" culturally contingent. Even though I'm now even more convinced this is true, one person cannot really redo centuries of history by themselves. Or at least it seemed like a daunting project to me, and a demand made only to silence me. On the other hand, when it comes to all these dualities we continue to discuss, we can ask ourselves if they serve any productive purpose at all. Maybe they don't need redoing.

  5. One or the other term seems more natural depending on circumstances. The idea of a fold allows us to ask after the artifacts of reflection, the crease, the cut(s), the edges. A reflection is correspondingly more immanent, where we might not be aware of these other features.

  6. I say "so-called" because rejecting the parallel postulate is only one way to consider geometry differently from Euclid.

  7. Note that incorporating the point at infinity into the geometry as another point like the others actually moves the transcendent position signified by this point into an immanent relationship with the others. It also gives us no special place for observing the geometry. Put into theology, we look at e.g. the Cartesian plane from a point not on the plane, a transcendent position associated by way of infinity with the deity of monotheism. Projective geometry is more of an atheist geometry in this sense, although it's still possible to think of oneself as in a transcendent position with respect to the projective plane.

  8. This is Laruelle's issue with dialectics and turning a two into a three. The three becomes three-dimensional. I don't see this process as inherently wrong, but it does need to be interrogated. Although moving from two to three has a decisive quality, in some sense, since it can mark a significant shift away from the intuitive plane (where Laruelle prefers to function), there is no inherent finality to three dimensions. Such a shift can be the start of a proliferation of dimensions, or perhaps this can occur without any stop at exactly three.

  9. This is a significant reason that talking about power in simple language can have such limited applicability. It's fine within a group context that everyone understands, but when it passes between groups, inversions start to occur. Complicated constructions are not so easy to invert, but they present their own communication problems. A typical reaction is to claim that something of this sort is incomprehensible gibberish, by way of dismissal.[10] More genuine difficulties of communication also exist.[11]

  10. Wikipedia is full of this kind of talk, which it calls "criticism." There are people who appear to have devoted their lives to calling complicated social theory incomprehensible gibberish. That these people have to simultaneously set themselves up as "smart" while also reveling in their own stupidity (that they absolutely cannot understand something) is quite a spectacle, in my opinion.[12] They claim authority, and so are almost always in favor of hierarchy [13], but it's the authority to claim that their lack of understanding is the only genuine response. It's difficult to imagine a more baseless authority, although at some level, it all is.

  11. Language is heavily colonized, which is one reason simple language can be so easy to invert, but the colonization remains active & ongoing. Obstruction to communication is often deliberate, and not so easily countered.

  12. There is quite a difference between this reveling in ignorance — and we see basically the same rhetoric used against contemporary music — and simple ignorance. No one knows or can know everything, so there's clearly no shame in that condition. However, once you start claiming that your ignorance makes you superior, that crosses the line into stupidity rather quickly.

  13. The attitude also betrays a basic unwillingness to attempt to understand what someone else is saying, if it doesn't come easily. How is it even possible to combine this obsession with "gibberish" with a positive attitude toward other people and their differing opinions and styles of expression? (I know some people will want to turn this criticism on me, but I don't claim not to understand, rightly or wrongly so.)

  14. Or maybe less ambitiously, to interrogate the various rhetoric used around the simple idea "might makes right." Or maybe simply to wonder aloud why we let some of our most immature & psychically damaged people make major social decisions.

  15. I'm convinced that this is true, although I admit I probably haven't done a very good job of explaining why. Put another way, it's not possible to improve large-scale social structures without making corresponding changes/improvements to the way people interrelate on a day-to-day basis.[16] These things are reflections of each other. Revolutions that sweep aside the top rung of society, replacing it with another set of people, but leaving people relating to each other in exactly the same way elsewhere, leave society basically the same for most people. Day-to-day life is material.[17]

  16. Put another way: Change the world or change one/the self? This question has a long history, and there has been a tendency to give primacy to one side or the other, but to me, this is yet another duality that needs to be discarded. The answer is both at once.

  17. Lawrence Grossberg diagrams the idea of "everyday life" and how it relates to institutions (and other factors) within the conjuncture of modernity in Cultural Studies in the Future Tense. Grossberg offers this construction, in part, as a more developed alternative to [3]. From that perspective, it certainly makes sense to query people's feelings of powerlessness and what can be done about them. How people think about themselves, think self-other, is a significant component to any social change.

  18. The call to restore agonistic politics is a broad one. (Various authors could be cited here; I've mentioned Rancière, and perhaps I should mention Chantal Mouffe as someone who continues to publish on this topic, including new books this year.) Ultimately, people need to speak for themselves, and those of us calling for the opportunity need to get out of the way when they're ready to do so. Moreover, there is no reason everyone should agree; they shouldn't. Any sort of tacit agreement can slide easily into us-them duality & hierarchy.

  19. And a binary thought is not circulation. It's basically mental flotsam that is constantly recapitulated in a variety of ways. Seeing anything as a binary is to introduce a duality, another cut. (And this is one of the underrated dangers of our computer systems, the further elevation of binary logic.) It is far too easy to fall into this style, in any discussion, but the significant point is that any of these resulting dualities are ultimately arbitrary — not avoidable, perhaps, but not to be taken too seriously either. To accept the reality of any particular duality or separation is to be influenced or controlled by its logic.

  20. Moreover, there is a basic danger to restoring circulation via overcoming a duality: That the act of presumed restoration might merely turn a two into a three, such as in dialectics, and not unravel the duality at all. The rupture becomes more complex.

  21. This reductive statement demands some sort of comment: As long as there is a rupture, as long as there is an up & down in a rupture, someone is going to be on top. Circulation is a condition with no equilibrium, no top.

  22. Can it be done? I guess, basically, I feel compelled to behave as if significant changes are possible.

  23. As noted around animacy, it's possible the hierarchy can appear quasi-fully formed as part of the act that forms the rupture. Or it might form later out of a simple duality. Or....

  24. This can easily be overstated. There has only been so much complexity generated to this point, largely because people's goals or drives are not terribly complicated or alien to each other. That is, I do not believe the situation is "hopeless," a sentiment I often hear expressed about e.g. Middle East politics.

  25. How precise is precise enough? How much is enough? At some level, this statement points toward infinity, and so can become essentially obstructionist. There is no omniscience.

VII. Practice or Performance

Returning to the marketing comments broached in the notes of Part I, any consideration of "practice" around these ideas must at least implicitly consider the issue of influencing or convincing people.[1] I'm writing for people who are interested in what I have to say, rather than trying to grab someone's attention. There are some problems with this approach: First of all, nothing I'm saying here is likely to make it out very far into the general public; it relies on other kinds of dispersal through diffuse channels.[2] Second, any kind of "advice" of this sort is contextual & contingent; things are constantly changing, language is being colonized, people's experience of their lives changes, even if it was ever much like my own.[3] Writing this article in a linear format — to the extent that I did that, as required by English exposition — already involved various arbitrary choices.[4] And third, perhaps most significantly, I explicitly do not want to control anyone! This is a major problem for "the left," because the opposition — focused on control — can very specifically tell people what they want.[5] I want people to do what they want to do, which is already a circular message, and does not provide a blueprint for what to actually do.[6] This is all wrong from a marketing perspective.

Another common point about practice, and this fades into performance, concerns the taxonomy of topics, whether as academic disciplines, or simply categories for consumption. Where is this article placed, and what does that mean? I'm writing, rather idiosyncratically, under the "jazz" heading here [10], which is within the field of music, or music aesthetics — the latter a part of the discipline of philosophy. The reification of the academic (or worse, retail) taxonomy (or hierarchy) has become a serious problem. Especially under the broad rubric of humanities or social theory, many of the disciplines are only a century or so old.[11] This is a long time, but also not a long time. The reification of the ruptures that produced these disciplines has been very intense, particularly considering their fairly arbitrary & overlapping creation, in part due to admiration for particular authors, but also due to desire to create or maintain academic professional jobs. A clear taxonomy is seen as the way to do that, and who would want the legacy of having advocated for the elimination of one's own department, or even not resisting it?[12] In the meantime, we've had various interdisciplinary "turns": linguistic, cultural, affective, aesthetic [16], new materialism, etc. Some have spawned distinct new disciplines, while some have not. The situation is confusing enough at this point that it's hard to imagine that anyone is feeling satisfied.[17]

Those issues are frequently discussed lately [18], but I wanted to mention them before diving into music aesthetics. For one, music aesthetics is, to an extent, a subject within two disciplines, and separating art from aesthetics needs to be rethought.[19] Beyond that, music, and especially the European classical style, is ripe for criticism under the terms of this article: First, there's the separate notes and their hierarchical organization under tonality.[20] Second, there is the approach to tuning [21], where it is often overtone series that are supposed to align [22], rather than undertones or somewhere else in the spectrum.[23] An emphasis on a particular kind of overtone relationship, pointing to infinity, goes together with the development of tonic-dominant harmony & the intensification of hierarchy within the musical scale.[24] Giacinto Scelsi provided perhaps the most thorough critique of scale-based hierarchy, by relinquishing the separateness of individual notes.[25] There is still a spiritualization in his music, however, that allows harmonics to point to transcendence. Conversely, serial music retains the separateness of notes [26], but systematically denies harmonic relationships.[27] Pierre Boulez sees serial music as a response to fascism for this reason.[28]

Serial music takes dodecaphonic concepts developed in the domain of pitch, and applies them to other musical components. This takes us to the domains of rhythm (time) & dynamics (intensity). In some sense, all of music is about rhythm-time: Sounds themselves are made of waves in frequencies that are a kind of counting; the difference between a rhythm & a note is one of speed.[29] Time & counting are in turn a kind of cut: There must be an identifiable thing that returns, a kind of recognition or familiarity.[30] Within the realm of identifiable rhythm — and music need not include identifiable rhythm or pitch — European meter has long emphasized twos & threes, and often the tension between them. In the medieval era, so-called perfect time was in three, with the cut or imperfect time in two.[31] During the second half of the fifteenth century, the former "imperfect" time took over as the most basic meter. Is the hemiola related to dialectics?[32] Double time has a martial connotation, although I cannot offer a convincing social-historical reading of this shift.[33] Dynamics had never been so discrete, and so making that a variable to be manipulated under serialism actually involved creating more of a separation than had existed.[34]

Another significant component of music is its simultaneity, so to speak — European music has traditionally spoken of polyphony & harmony. Independent polyphony has long suggested to me [35] a vision of people doing their own things in harmony (in the non-technical sense), and a basic musical idea like imitation already calls that independence into question. (The Baroque innovations of continuo & "new monody" undermined or eliminated any consideration of the equality of parts, at a time when world conquest was going at full force. These structural traits have a strong continuing legacy in popular music too.) Moreover, there is the separation into individual parts (originally associated with individual people) in the first place, and the various possibilities of challenging that separation.[36] Beyond that, there is the possibility of challenging any sense of equilibrium in music, that is, any sense of separateness or hierarchy.[37] There have already been challenges to symmetry, which is a kind of equilibrium.[38] There is also the historical separation between creation & performance that has been widely challenged in improvisation.[39] Altogether, vastly different musics are possible, and in turn, challenges to ocularcentrism & the separation of senses.[40]

To conclude this rather far-flung article, I will return to a bit more on marketing & practice. Musical ritual involves communication, even if its content cannot easily be put into words, and even if different people might draw different ideas from it. Certain aspects, exactly akin to the way marketing seeks to align pre-conscious affective response, are very low level, though, and permeate thought: hierarchies, separations, etc. There is power there, if people will listen. I am very concerned about the power of marketing (or propaganda more broadly, if that term is preferred), and I see art & music as the only viable ways to challenge it.[41] Of course, these areas are constantly being colonized too. Physical touch has largely remained outside the reach of marketing [43,45,46], and I see artistic potential there: What better way to challenge separation, and in turn hierarchy?

  1. And those in power often have very sophisticated means of influence. Particularly since WWII, massive resources are devoted to researching messaging. At least in USA, this research is most often conducted with the goal of making some people richer. It's been very effective. I find that some people like to dismiss the effectiveness of marketing, but I do not believe that — at least overall — its success can be questioned. It's been hugely successful, and its fundamental messages are repeated constantly in the media. There is saturation, but also it seems, a fear that if things are not constantly repeated, people might start having other ideas. (Hopefully this fear is justified.) Most of this marketing knowledge is also proprietary, making it difficult to interrogate directly. This brings on a hermeneutic problem, which can yield to mystification. This knowledge was most widely published leading up to USA involvement in WWII, because the government solicited ideas on population control (both foreign & domestic) in the event of a war. One place to survey some of it is in The History of Marketing Thought; a simple glance at the price will prove that marketing ideas are not considered to be for general consumption (as opposed to social theory texts which are often priced to be read widely, even if they aren't for other reasons). Since that time, there has been little incentive to publish marketing results.

  2. This is extremely limiting. Perhaps I should make excuses about how this is the best I can do. I suppose that it is. Michael Warner discusses these issues in more depth in his essay "Styles of Intellectual Publics" in the book Publics and Counterpublics, including citing Adorno's views, which have been fairly close to my own. Simply put, these conversations need to happen everywhere, at all conceptual levels, and I'm doing what I can with what I know and the means that work for me. No, I do not find this answer very satisfying, but I do not see an obvious way to improve the situation either. As Warner notes, "creating" a public is no straightforward project (and it is rupture as creation, in my terms here).

  3. "The tao that can be told is not the eternal tao." This basic idea is certainly not new with me. Practice is always encountering new terms, which can be political or empirical or.... (Note also that the first Lao Tzu aphorism includes, "The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth; the named is the mother of ten thousand things" — a comment on the order-word and rupture?)

  4. I'm unavoidably introducing cuts & dualities to fit the nature of the medium. They should not be reified. I've tried not to do that, but it's even more unavoidable with the basic terms in the title, as well as some others that permeate this article. I am intentionally making this article a thing, giving it a separate existence. That very act is already problematic for what I want to communicate here.

  5. They might not tell the truth about what they want, but formulating a clear goal is not an issue: They want more (money, power, whatever the popular measure of "success" is at that time & place) for themselves. I might be too reductionist with this comment, but there is no question that "the right" presents a more unified message. Perhaps that's the clearest description of the two poles: certainty & uncertainty. (That duality plays heavily in macroeconomic policy too.)

  6. I sometimes think of this situation as like a hierarchy too, or at least a tree: On the one side, there are people who can be very specific about what they want, and then on the other, various loose ends & contingent positions, cascading from singular to highly multiple. (People who generally agree with opposing social hierarchy will probably find many things to disagree with in this article, for instance.) It's representative of a lack of "unity" that "the right" finds quite amusing.[7] But do we want everyone to do the same thing? If not, it's an inherent structural disadvantage.[8] People will need to freely choose to do something different.

  7. I strongly dislike the left-right duality, but I suppose it works under these circumstances. I still feel lazy using it. (I could return to the topic of bilateral symmetry here, and how it plays out in this dual labeling [9], although I trust it's mostly clear.) I find the amusement being expressed regularly, whether in formal media or informal conversation. We can't get our stories straight, etc.! Given the way people focus on a rupture-duality, this left-right duality provides an implicit either-or that interrupts a real multi-dimensional agonistic politics. Yielding to dualism in this way is not good language, and it's inherently to the advantage of "the right" to do so.

  8. This is where an idea like strategic essentialism can come into play. It brings some obvious dangers. The choice is very hard to undo, because it creates or intensifies an us-them rupture. (Repressive state communism can also be cited as an attempt to impose "unity" on the left.)

  9. I haven't said much about the male-female binary, which intertwines with bodily symmetry and self-other. Biology is material, and so applying the "reification" term here might not make as much sense as elsewhere, but the essentializing of male-female goes far beyond biological reproduction, to where our perceptions of the world, and even our perceptions of self-reflection or onto the other, can be caught up in male-female. This is a duality that many people are realizing is very overblown, just as some (not coincidentally) retrench around it. Moreover, investigation of the problematic aspects of male-female duality can lead to questioning the merit of duality per se, and this has occurred in feminist theory (e.g. Maria Mies in Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale expresses a general skepticism toward duality).

  10. And "jazz" is already a highly contested label, which is part of its appeal.

  11. There are clear founding texts or impulses for many of these. In a vaguely reverse chronological order: ethology, sociology, anthropology, psychology; farther back economics, etc.

  12. I think the main thing preventing some consolidation is the desire for one's students to have jobs in the field. Moreover, since I'm not affiliated in academia, I feel as though I can talk about some of these issues from a different perspective. I'm not trying to create or preserve a discipline. I'm not competing with anyone. I'm not expecting any material benefit from writing this article. So I write it the way I want to write it, and I need to — in turn — question the merit of reifying disciplines.[13] This has also been done widely from within the academy, but I do think it's somewhat different coming from the outside.[14]

  13. I do not want to simply dismiss the way education proceeds via series either. Although it makes sense, at some level, to regard every epistemic project as part of every other epistemic project [15], there is still the matter of how to introduce various sorts of material. They can quite conceivably be rearranged, but there are going to be courses for children, whether they represent discipline names, learning stages, etc. There will, in all likelihood, be a bureaucracy for it too.

  14. I did receive a doctorate, and do some other research work for the establishment, so I'm not entirely "innocent" in this regard. However, I also decided at the time, just over twenty years ago now, that remaining in academia would be the wrong choice for me. Although I sometimes feel tempted by the economic security of academia — and whatever jokes you might want to make, believe me, writing this article took me months and will pay absolutely nothing — I generally view that temptation as a weakness to be resisted. (There is also the temptation that an academic position provides authority, a temptation I find even more distasteful.) Being vulnerable, and moreover, being out doing front line community work (which I've been doing less of recently, in order to concentrate on some of this writing; that also pays nothing for me) is an important perspective for these kinds of topics, in my opinion. That, and the feeling of constraint, particularly around disciplinary boundaries, largely drove my decision to do something else.

  15. It's also worth questioning, beyond the reification of disciplinary boundaries, the nature of education & cultivation of different forms of knowledge. How is this really done? There is plenty of scope for criticism here, but I will not undertake it now.

  16. And I can probably be pigeonholed here, although I try not to be too specific in my projects. (Perhaps that should be a joke in the context of the current article, but I meant it earnestly at the time.)

  17. Combined with the vastly different funding provided for STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and other disciplines that might contribute to more money & power for the rich, and the humanities, especially those that question hierarchy, the fragmentation could be very damaging to continued existence. It's not clear to me that "the more disciplines the better" is really the safest approach. A bigger, more tumultuous pot of ideas could have more of a life of its own.

  18. By Braidotti & Grossberg, for instance.

  19. This is, to my mind, partly a rethinking of medium.

  20. Both separateness & hierarchy intensified in the early modern period. Previously, musica ficta provided a bit of fluidity to specific notes, although admittedly they were still conceived as rather discrete. With temperament systems designed to work on keyboards, and the resulting crystallization of exactly twelve notes to an octave, this separation became more reified. Additionally, the harmonic hierarchy of notes within the scale became more extreme with major-minor tonality than it had been under the modal system. These changes began & were further shaped during the period that Europeans were conquering the world. I do not believe this can be coincidence.

  21. European tuning traditionally begins with Pythagoras and the monochord. There is nothing "sacred" about a string or its lengths when it comes to making a musical tone; however this basic choice has shaped Western views on tuning. (Approaches to tuning have certainly been cultural, with various different examples around the world.) In fact, to underscore the point here, ideas on the monochord were recapitulated in the early modern period as "celestial" imagery of the way the solar system, and the universe more generally, functions.

  22. Tuning to the point at infinity, conceived as above us, no less, and not below, is an obvious reference to the god of monotheism, and evocative of a very broad (biblical) sense of hierarchy. This approach has not been as ubiquitous as sometimes imagined, however. According to John Potter in The Early Music Voice, the idea of choral voices always seeking to match overtones in this manner & maintain an ethereal sound first took hold in seventeenth century England, although it became dominant in the Baroque period, and was subsequently viewed as having already been the standard throughout history. (Again, that this happens in a period that saw the English begin to dominate the world cannot be a coincidence.) As experiments have shown — and those who follow my criticism of fifteenth century performance practice will have read about many examples — earlier tunings often involved more varied relations, including the play of overtones within textures, not above them.

  23. As already noted in [22], some earlier European styles had different alignments — and one should not ignore the "neutral thirds" so common to neighboring musical styles, either. In the twentieth century, it is Harry Partch who is associated with the undertone (and Denman Maroney among current jazz musicians), inspired by an investigation of world styles. Various creative tunings have been considered since the twentieth century; Partch was a pioneer.

  24. While working on this article, I had the experience of finding some Western common practice music deeply disturbing, although I often enjoy at least some of it. Most fans of classical music, not to mention ordinary tonal music of today, will find my statements here to be outrageous. I would say, rather, that they are very obviously true, an indication of just how deeply hierarchy runs in our culture, and also how it was intensified with world conquest. The ubiquity is what underpins both of these points of view.

  25. My discussions on Scelsi go back over twenty years now, but I don't think I've made this specific point before. Thinking through the concepts in this article has given me another reason to enjoy his music. Or perhaps, he taught me some of this material musically, and I've eventually translated it into English here. I'm sure Scelsi would approve of that description.

  26. If anything, this separateness is intensified, because notes are not so connected via their harmonics. As opposed to Scelsi, serial music can therefore be viewed as an intensification of the self-other duality, whereas Scelsi can be seen as more borderline. Either can be very triggering for some current listeners.

  27. This is true only to a degree. Twelve-tone music, beginning with Berg, has also explored tonal relations, but simply without preferring one tonal region to another. It's egalitarian in that sense, even if it can admit hierarchies within its scheme. Or to reframe, it can provide an opportunity to discuss tone hierarchies in an egalitarian setting.

  28. Boulez recently mentioned this again in a BBC interview, for instance, saying it was shocking the Nazis had found a way to "use" Beethoven, and that his generation vowed it would never happen again. And what does it say that so many people in our culture (particularly USA) are so strongly opposed to an egalitarian use of pitch? That's scary.

  29. Stockhausen connects the two in Kontakte. (I include this for the non-musicians, even if I feel as though I'm very much repeating myself at times here.) More broadly, some say the difference between matter & energy is speed.

  30. I will have a lot more to say about time in a future article on this subject.

  31. The "C" that designates 4/4 time in the modern system, often said to stand for "common," is at its origin a cut circle. (This is very literally true, not analogy.)

  32. With the way it's used in classical music, there would certainly appear to be some cross-fertilization, at least. This does not explain the transition undertaken by Caron & others in the fifteenth century, however.

  33. This shift did not take place only in Europe, so I believe there is more to this topic. In the decades around 1800, that is firmly under English rule, the so-called "Trinity" of Carnatic (South Indian) composers wrote mostly in a binary-like rhythm, adi tala (4+2+2). Previous high court music, around the padam, mostly used the related triple-time meter, triputa tala (3+2+2). The shift from triputa to adi (adi is technically a form of triputa) was seen as more modern, and also represented a move away from dance.

  34. Although under strict serialism, these parameters are to be kept separate, it seems to me that pitch & dynamics naturally mediate under the guise of intensity. (It also seems that the development of the dynamic parameter has not been very fruitful within serialism, and is not now explored with much vigor.)

  35. And this orientation greatly affects my writing style.

  36. The same basic "part" can move between voices or instruments, for instance.

  37. In such a situation, time itself begins to take on a different character: It evolves out of the differentiation of reversible & irreversible. The latter is the entropic arrow of time.

  38. Siebers sees modern art as embracing disability in its asymmetry, for instance. This point has great potential, in my opinion, although I do not see a unidirectional arrow here. Rather, art's search for increased possibility has also lead to the recognition of many more material possibilities not historically considered by art.

  39. This tension has been framed more broadly of late as between archive & repertory. See for instance, Diana Taylor's The Archive and the Repertoire, which raises cross-cultural issues.

  40. This discussion or conclusion is not so different in tone from Spivak's contention that aesthetic education is crucial to overcoming the problems of globalization. I might add that there are fundamental collaborative potentials here beyond simple multimedia.

  41. One can also ask, after a theme in this article, about the borderline personality & marketing. And to return to Deleuze & Guattari, what of schizophrenia & marketing?[42] Moreover, what does the rise of ADHD or even autism spectrum disorders say about or for marketing? In any case, so-called "rational thought" is thoroughly colonized, if it was ever worthwhile.

  42. And what is a borderline or schizophrenic response to current privacy concerns? Marketing has always had to be directed at groups: First the general white middle class, then male & female, different age groups, groups outside the white middle class, various intersections of these categories, etc. Always groups, though (even if we're told that consuming makes us individual). Now, with individual tracking of everyone's behavior, by Google and others, it becomes possible to market to (all) individuals. We have seen only the tip of the iceberg on this, and it's very concerning. Strange individuals (such as myself I guess), who have never really experienced marketing messages tailored to themselves, and so who have been able to remain outside the major influences, will become even more unlikely; this goes double for those who experience individual tracking from birth. One possible protection from this, to my mind, is to challenge what "an individual" is.

  43. The most bodily of arts has been dance, although it does not ordinarily involve its audience in touch. (With music, both the musicians & audience listen.) Dance & movement happen in e.g. television commercials, but they are fairly crude (only to convey a clear emotion, for instance, and much marketing has little movement). On the other hand, rules of social interaction for school or community dances have been scripted to fit with marketing or hierarchy desires (that is, of people not even attending — the hierarchical desires of those in attendance have been dominant since the beginning of hierarchy) since at least the days of Henry Ford. If technology makes it possible to script the kinesthetic domain more concretely, and video games create something of an assemblage in this area, albeit still distorted, this should be actively resisted.[44]

  44. Resistance in this area will be controversial: Consider the voluminous current rhetoric (at least in USA) about physical activity and obesity. We will be told that scripting people's motions, getting them moving, is for their own good, and this will quickly be followed (if not preceded) by marketing linkages with other products. An embedded kinesthetic message becomes a very powerful kind of habit. One response to this might be to cultivate improvisation, full body improvisation.

  45. This is the haptic, and I'm certainly not the first to raise this question. See for instance Sara Ahmed e.g. in The Affect Theory Reader, where she moves quickly from the haptic to the hap of happiness. This regime of chance will be my subject in an upcoming article, on fortune.

  46. It makes me nervous even discussing some of these things in any detail, because whereas the marketers keep their information proprietary, we freely share. One of my nightmares is inventing some new marketing scheme, to be implemented by someone else for their own manipulative purposes. Am I careful enough about this? I don't know, nor do I know what enough is. Sharing is important.

Todd M. McComb
24 September 2013