This "morality piece" functions as something of an appendix to What is familiar?, which was itself the fourth of a series of four articles. More specifically, I have been conceiving the present piece as an "alternate" text to Chapter IV, section 3, Technologies of the Self. That morals, explicit statements about right & wrong, are a sort of technology should be apparent during the course of this piece, although it will not be emphasized again. Continuing the tangent from Foucault, one might describe morality as a kind of policing, something that in turn inflects politics. One might even posit family, again taking up a strand from that earlier article, as a kind of "morality technology." In any case, we believe that we are causal agents, even if that agency is inflected by a variety of factors, and so the present piece asks — in part — about our accountability in sculpting ourselves.
Numbering these paragraphs is, in some sense, an homage to Adorno & Agamben. In another sense, perhaps a sense similar to the intentions of those authors, numbering these paragraphs seems to serve my intention to be concise & specific. Although paragraphs will be ordered, they should also be capable of standing independently. That said, the order, as with most or all of my expository cuts, should be considered to be mostly arbitrary.
A significant part of the conception for the present piece occurred simultaneously with preparing that section, in fact. That was the point at which I became committed to writing on the present topic, in more or less the present form.
The reader might ask, along with Arendt & Foucault , for instance, whether power functions in the positive or negative, whether generally, or when applying this particular technology. In other words, is it power (per Arendt) that propels our sense of what to do, or is it power (per Foucault) that inhibits what our actions would otherwise be? Is power productive or disciplinary? (Does such a splitting provoke good questions?)
Foucault is one of many writers on power, interrogating our presumptive love of power, but also casting his own "heroic" shadow. What is the place of heroism in morality? Is it a technology for everyone? In what sense? Is the intellectual heroic? How? When?
So I engage a political orientation already: One might instead emphasize the "ethico-aesthetic paradigm," per Guattari, or its ecological variants: eco-aesthetic & ethico-ecological. (I write these variants non-paradigmatically.) The eco-aesthetic, in particular, will be a way to relate morality (or ethics) to our sensorium [6,7] — and, in turn, episteme.
I took up the eco-aesthetic, or ecological-aesthetic as I spelled it out there, already in the fourth Opening of What is familiar?, and so more generally in the course of that article. Here, the third term in such a triangulation, whether one prefers moral or ethical, is to be considered explicitly.
In the context of , the eco-aesthetic provides us a scene to interrogate "power with," in particular contrast with "power over" & to some extent, "power to." (Such an impetus may be summarized in a straightforward way: Humanity is unable to fully control its environment.)
Family might, instead, be termed "a scene," or situation. (In this sense, it is a scene that "spills over" into life more generally.)
Whereas I will soon, yet again, question our concept of personhood, at least at the outset, we must respect Heidegger's observation: We enact our morality as persons. (After all, it is presumably people who are reading & writing this piece.)
The concept of "morality" evokes the notion of "telling other people what to do." For this reason, many people prefer to discuss ethics instead, as a more "philosophical" topic. However, morality is "only" a Latin translation of the Greek ethics , and so the difference is more one of historical inflection than intent. In short, morality evokes the history of Roman (& post-Roman) empire  and Christianity. So, I am choosing to be "weighed down by history," so to speak, and to use the more loaded (and therefore, powerful) term — rather than to seek the relative "safety" of a return to Greek philosophy. Who am I, then, to tell others how to live? Well, I am no one in particular, and hopefully this piece can be more than a sermon. Moreover, as Adorno has famously suggested, I live in a damaged world : Often, there is no truly moral act, no choice that eschews evil, much as we might desire such a choice : Our world is sutured to evil , often willfully so. (For instance, it is generally impossible to make an unharmful choice within a first world economy. Someone will be harmed.) Such is the moral aporia. From there, I can evoke most succinctly Butler's orientation toward the other. Indeed, a focus for this piece is to be succinct: The moral of a story is about distillation, about paring away excess , in this case to leave us confronted with aporia alone.
What makes a topic more philosophical, and why should that be good? What is philosophy anyway? One danger when regarding a topic of this sort is that reflection (philosophical or otherwise) can substitute itself for the real. Thus, duality might be embedded immediately. This danger is itself a component of our aporia.
According to the OED, it was Cicero who translated ethic into Latin as moral. It was always about right & wrong, about virtue, i.e. "what to do." The term has a history of referring to "practical lessons," directly connecting morality to Aristotle's Ethics.
The reader might want to consider the location of criticality itself, and per the notes of 1, the positivity or negativity of "telling other people what to do." I suggest locating this criticality, at least in part, in the domain of politics: Ultimately, we want action.
Morality thus touches specifically on power. Why philosophize at all, then? In that sense, this entire exercise arises from trepidation toward "telling other people what to do" more directly. (The relation between power & that trepidation can also vary. One such relation yields governmentality.)
A traditional answer to who tells others what to do (at least as regards morality) is, of course, the clergy. In that sense, "ethics" is taken up as a secularized morality.
Greek philosophy is itself highly politicized.[7,8] Moreover, the choice to "return" to Greek philosophy in order to sidestep the historical weight of "morality" is highly politicized: We need only ask when this happened: The "renaissance" impulse was coincident with world conquest.
If, as a practical work, Aristotle's Ethics led to Alexander & world empire, and one can hardly say that it didn't, then the Greek practice of ethics is a failure almost from the start — at least according to any criteria that I care to consider. (This history of failure is another component of our aporia.)
For Agamben, the threshold between politicization & depoliticization, political identity as such, is specifically Greek. (So how does one escape this history, so as to view the entire world as having political agency? This is one question here that I do not regard as very difficult.)
The notion of separating morality & philosophy is thus, to my mind, both specious & dangerous. (Badiou might justify such a hypothetical separation by observing that morality is "under the heel" of capitalism. Well, philosophy is too.) Likewise, I do not separate philosophy from politics.[11,12]
Per , the same secularization impulse that yielded an increased attention to "ethics" & philosophy per se, as opposed to theology, was wedded to world (economic) conquest & its "rational" justification.
For Lazzarato, political economy is inseparable from genealogy of morals. I agree, and philosophy is one means of tracing this connection.
For me, if philosophy is anything, or at least anything worthwhile, it is because it connects to everything. It is thus nothing & everything, a way not to specialize. That it also has its particular schools & histories is an aspect of the way things are & must be learned, but not something that does or should inspire duty or allegiance. (These schools & histories are, to paraphrase Laruelle, mere material for the choices we are to make today.)
I do not want to claim that my life is any more damaged than the average person. I imagine that it is not, but who is to say? Perhaps it is much less so. Probably the most challenging specific event for me to handle was becoming physically disabled at age eighteen, but I have been lucky in various other ways.
We might also desire, simply, simplicity. Considering all the complexity around us is exhausting. (I would argue that much of that exhaustion is actually generated via propaganda & misinformation.)
Whereas I am going to feel free to toss around terms such as good & evil in a morality piece, I will note a possible problematic tendency from the start, particularly given my aesthetic context: I do not mean to evoke ideals of beauty as synonymous with good. Beauty will not be used to symbolize morality per se, but rather as a particular means of interrogation, within a context under perpetual construction.
It is hardly coincidence, for instance, that the 2008 financial crisis involved predatory businesses being irremediably intertwined with e.g. public pensions. (And we have not sought to sever those connections since — just the opposite.)
I make no claims about other economic contexts. (However, it can certainly be noted that the so-called Islamic terrorists seem to take a similar view, even if their actions are rather different.) Perhaps other times & places have been different in this regard, but perhaps not, or not for long.
The idea of being in a situation where one could make at least ordinary, everyday decisions without needing to balance various evils seems highly appealing. I can imagine it. Perhaps it's too cynical of me to wonder if it's even possible. Of course it's possible.
The choice of who is to be harmed, who to harm, is often made under very simple criteria, when it is explicitly considered at all: Whoever is closest to me should not be harmed, and on down the line. The unknown other thus faces the brunt — and the supposedly unknown other has some rather specific, consistent contours. (This is family as technology.)
Butler has taken this orientation toward the other, in significant part, from Levinas. However, it is Butler's writings with which I am more familiar.
For Levinas, ethical relation is beyond all symbolic form. Thus, morality (or ethical relation) cannot be circumscribed. This is another component of our aporia.
We might even call morals "razors," likely evoking a particular reference.
The reader might well ask, what constitutes something as a work of theory? Perhaps an answer will emerge. Or perhaps the concept of work, of theory or otherwise, will fall apart as incoherent. (I am curious to see myself.)
The present topic arose for me, quite specifically, upon reading Latour's An Inquiry into Modes of Existence : Whereas I find many parts of that text to be insightful & well-written , I found the last sections, namely the breaking of "the economic" into three modes [3,4], to be unsatisfying. I soon focused on the "morality mode" , and observed (at least to my thinking) its aporetic quality. In short, I question whether morality is a mode at all, according to Latour's terms. Latour's moral trajectory focuses on calculation and "means & ends" — it looks for an optimum, i.e. in terms of 2, how to live. Whereas calculation does appear to be a significant part of "the economic" , Latour's alteration for the "morality" mode declares an "impossible optimum." Aporia is thus already observed. One might also consider Latour's "felicity conditions" and how they invoke calculation: In this sense, morality is already embedded in his mode concept , and regulates (individual, internal) felicity & infelicity. So why a separate morality? For Latour, this involves "intensifying the experience of scruples,"  and one can (in turn? ) perceive moralism  as inappropriate transcendence, i.e. as imposition from outside. I agree with such an emphasis on immanence, and so will focus on the local impossibility of calculating an optimum, rather than any broader system.
I read An Inquiry into Modes of Existence in the summer of 2014, after finishing Remède de Fortune. I subsequently had a brief conversation with Bruno Latour, during which I stated my "problem" with his morality mode. By the time I started writing What is familiar?, I was accumulating notes for the present topic. (Unusually, I never revised the initial, tentative title. So it remains.)
I was also intrigued by Latour's intention to pursue public mediation regarding these modes, particularly since I've worked as a community mediator. (I have not followed the project sufficiently closely to know how this mediation has gone thus far. I'll be interested to see how these ideas filter into other literature, assuming they do.)
According to Anthony Paul Smith, this concept of "mode" originated with Spinoza.
Latour models his investigation of the economy on his investigation of nature, which he conducted for twenty-plus years in the context of philosophy of science. (He calls the economy, "the second nature," a label I do find apt due to the similar layers of obfuscation that he describes.) The three modes through which he endeavors to trace or interrogate the economic are attachment, organization & morality. I certainly do support denying (and attempting to explain, which I hope that I've done to some extent in Remède de Fortune) the reality increasingly accorded to so-called economic principles by modern society.
Whereas I don't find any of the three modes by which Latour traces the economic to be especially satisfying, and I could probably write longer discussions of my thoughts on attachment  & organization , it is the morality mode that I found to be most unsatisfying. (Paradoxically, this lack of satisfaction seems to have resulted in me giving it renewed power via this writing. Such is life.) Ultimately, for all of his success in disentangling especially e.g. representation, I don't believe that Latour actually captures "the economic" in his net.
There would appear to be much more to "attachment" than Latour traces in his book, and it certainly moves far beyond the economic: Libidinal investment & desiring machines are two previous notions that might be incorporated, and in turn problematize the result. In short, attachment overflows the economic. (What does attachment mean for Latour's "reproduction" mode, for instance?)
Besides that Latour emphasizes a "network" mode (and has long been known for it), which he treats in more immanent fashion, "organization" as an externally opposed dual  relates equally well to various others among his modes: Religion, law, politics, etc. rely on organization. As a kind of material logistics, it risks falling exactly into the notion I just evoked, the materialism that Latour takes such trouble to disentangle in his discussion of scientific inquiry. Absent that, there's nothing particularly economic about organization. (Of course, my own deconstruction of the economic revolves around chance or Fortune, so that's sort of the opposite.)
Why not consider this transcendental dualizing itself to be a mode?
I would argue that calculation generally occurs only as a part of rationalization, i.e. after a foregone conclusion has been imposed.
At this point, it is easy to turn to the notion of "moral economy" in order to allocate possibilities, but this move would simply recapitulate (naturalized) economy itself.
Religion is its own mode for Latour, focusing on its meaning of binding together, so presumably religion is given no special authority over morality in this scheme. (Conceiving a parallel mode for religion can be seen as a kind of secularization , not unlike the canonical liberal separation.) Yet he retains the term morality, rather than making a shift to "ethics." In the sense of calculating an optimum, one that presumably includes everyone, morality then becomes another sort of "binding together." Moreover, the "kingdom of ends" he assigns to institute the mode raises eschatology rather clearly. Hence, it remains difficult to perceive a clear border between morality & religion here.
At least since Marx, critique has often been conceived as critique of religion & what motivates people to participate in it. In the sense of binding together, however, such motivation becomes transparent. (In Marx's sense, it means that people are not free.)
Such a difficulty would appear to recapitulate the Christian-family nexus that produced "the economic" historically.
Not coincidentally, this notion of felicity or infelicity suggests aesthetics to me. Latour has articulated no aesthetic mode, but he does have "fiction" & "metamorphosis," which might apply. (Attachment can also be considered here, including per the parenthesis of .) Of course, such a notion instrumentalizes aesthetics, which is fine by me.
I certainly agree that the world would be better with more scruples, but where does such an observation take us? (Scruples are for the other guy, right?)
I don't actually posit this hypothetical sequence, but adopt it for illustration (tracing) purposes.
I use "moralism" specifically to highlight the notion of telling others what to do.
Morality, in the sense of moralism, would then become its own infelicity condition, according to this view. This is another facet of our aporia.
Whether a morality mode remains a good fit for Latour, I will not venture to say. (It can probably be reconfigured.) At this point, it becomes "mere material" here. I don't intend to further engage with system beyond this sense.
Latour also discusses what he calls the "hiatus" for his modes , how their gaps or interruptions are (to be) perceived. For morality, Latour specifies the hiatus as "anxiety about ends & means." Gaps can suggest aporia, of course, unbridgeable in the latter case. If such anxiety is unbridgeable, and I am basically saying that it is , one cannot explore trajectories (i.e. calculations) across the resulting aporia. Moreover, if morality is not a mode in Latour's sense, one would not necessarily expect hiatus to be followed by passage or continuation. (Such a gap would also invoke the unfamiliar.) We might then ask not only, what is on the other side, but who or what has created this space or interruption. Hiatus (or aporia) becomes event: What does it do? What do we do?
Latour's response to my emphasis on chance or Fortune was to suggest that it might be embedded in his hiatus concept. I suggest, in turn, that Fortune itself is more of a hiatus from hiatus: There was a gap, and now something has happened. It is the contingent happening, and not the gap, although per Mallarmé, "a throw of the dice will never abolish chance." So the hiatus remains after its hiatus, and the happening happens yet again. (As I discussed in Remède de Fortune, the impulse of modernity — Latour's nominal subject — is to deny Fortune, in this case, relegating it to a gap, i.e. as a modal lapse. So that is consistent.)
For Latour, perceiving & analyzing a mode is thus partly about perceiving & analyzing its hiatuses. (In trite language, we might say that this is much like the impossibility of perceiving good in the absence of evil. Such language does happen to fit the present topic.)
One could become less anxious, for instance, but that wouldn't mean that the source of anxiety has changed. (The reader might be reminded of Lacan's observation that it is the proximity of the object, and not its distance, that evokes anxiety. Even with an unbridgeable gap, the object can be close.) In other words, the optimum remains impossible to calculate.
One might also remark that morality itself is opposed to representation. (The other is unrepresentable, as one sense.) Moreover, it cannot reproduce itself across a gap. (So it becomes singular?)
As Ahmed remarks, "when something is agreeable to our will, we tend not to notice it." A sense of the unfamiliar is then a prompt to inquire further, rather than to rely on habit. (This is one impulse that our aporia can produce.)
Habit is also a mode for Latour, and its interaction with morality could be considered more specifically.
I pose the "who," because Latour speaks of "beings" that enact the modes. I asked him who are the beings that make space , but he did not answer this directly. (After all, for him, hiatus is not a mode, but then why not?) I'll simultaneously suggest the obvious response that it is capitalists & imperialists who often create such aporias for the rest of us.
I am struck by the similarity between "make space" and "fun" in German. The cross-language quasi-homonym probably means absolutely nothing to this topic, but I find it evocative, at least from the perspective of a discussion of comedy. The beings that make space are jokers? (Latour's text uses humor extensively.)
In Badiou's terms, what would it mean to be faithful to an aporetic event?
The notion that an aporia, or limit, or border (or some similar term) can be productive is not at all new: Just the opposite.[1,10] What does or can it produce? For one, a border can be policed [11,12], thus producing a mixture of attraction & repulsion. The point here is not to chase anyone away, however, but rather to activate the limit to act upon us, and so in a sense, to embrace impossibility. How do we explore this situation, and inquire further? Clearly a declaration — i.e., moralism — is not an inquiry. Do we demand  a particular sort of production? Rather, we demand contingency & openness. Aporia can induce the creation of symbols , so we demand to participate in that symbol creation. It's not that everything isn't connected somehow, it's that a confrontation with morality places us before an aporia: Direct relation has been blocked [21,22], and so we must relate differently. This is where a move toward the transcendental is often made , but I insist that morality respect the immanent limit.
I will survey some ideas on the productivity of borders or limits or aporias in the notes that follow: [2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9]. The survey is not comprehensive, systematic, nor an attempt to construct a genealogy, which according to my view of the moment, not having really pursued it, would significantly involve non-Western input. (Such ideas are rather different from universality.)
Drucilla Cornell has written on the creative paradox & potential of limits. Cornell also positions deconstruction specifically as a philosophy of the limit, and opposes that sense of limit to an end (of history), figured as hopelessness.
Bhabha writes about hybridity & the productivity of borders: This is where new ideas emerge. (In Bhabha's case, the image is not of aporia, but rather of being stripped of wholeness in these border sites. Do we, or should we, strip before our aporia?)
Schmitt says that the political is about the intensity of association or disassociation. (Aporia marks an extreme of disassociation, so it's highly political? If so, the gap becomes charged like a capacitor.)
Graeber says that places of density are not places of power, i.e. that we need space to operate: A center, far from a border, can be too dense with preexisting relation, i.e. overdetermined. (Does our aporia necessarily yield space in this sense? Perhaps not, but let's not overdetermine it.)
Kierkegaard says that renunciation is freedom. (So we accept aporia as aporetic, in order to overcome it?)
Michel Henry says that the concept is alienation as such. (So reflection is necessarily aporetic?)
Badiou says that the event comes from the outside. (So we wait? Is waiting productive?)
Zizek says that there is another gap between such a space and the content one hopes for it. (So hope doubles aporia?)
I've already tackled this topic myself, recently, from a somewhat different perspective, in Hierarchy as rupture, Part III. (I position equilibrium as a kind of rupture there, something that might be reframed here as habit.) In previous decades, I've discussed the way that formal limits induce creativity in musical composition: In this sense, one is literally "playing with" a limit or constraint. Moreover, lack of any artistic constraint, and the resulting "flat" field of play, can easily yield its own sense of aporia. In short, art thrives via (sufficient, but not too extreme) limits.
For instance, disciplinary borders, such as those of philosophy, can be policed. (I have already argued against such intellectual practice.)
Laruelle notes various "ideologies of strength & protection" (opposed to thinking from the victim). An aporia is not (at all) a position of strength, at least not in this context.
I've already suggested that "capitalists & imperialists" create aporias intentionally, in order to protect their power. (If people cannot act, then they certainly cannot act against power.) Such aporias are, in turn, policed: If I use terms such as borders or limits again, this all becomes quite literal. So from some perspectives, our aporia is a position of strength.
A limit or prohibition always induces some degree of attraction (including per the second half of ).
We want to embrace impossibility while also acknowledging the reality of limits. (Denying the reality of limits is a recipe for abuse.)
Thus we cannot seek transcendent principles.
Borders tend to produce demands. (It's part of their attractive quality, per .)
To acknowledge the aporia, there can never be closure, nor a final answer. (The reckoning is never final, we might say.) For Laruelle, this is radical indecision.
Symbol creation might be opposed to mediation. In other words, a conflict might be mediated by splitting the difference, in some sense, and so without creating new symbols. However, mediation itself might involve symbol creation: Does the conflict already mean different things to different people? (In the absence of knowing the other, we create a set of symbols or ideas instead. Although we might attribute these symbols to the other, they are ours.)
This is a demand from Bernard Stiegler.
Without some sort of impediment to relating directly, we would not begin to consider "morality" per se. (This is significant, i.e. a sign.)
Thus Laruelle speaks of non-relation, non-exchange, irreversibility, unilateral action, etc. Confronted with such an aporia, although we might desire otherwise, action is inherently unilateral. (This conflict with our desire is a major facet of our aporia.) There is no knowing what is on the other side , and no computing values.
I might also note that such an aporia raises amphibology for Laruelle, indiscernibility between thought & the real, such that we might immerse ourselves noetically across this divide, without actually bridging the non-relation. Amphibology thus names a significant danger.
It is apparently much too easy to believe that we know the other, moreover that we can assess its value. Here, in the context of morality, we must steadfastly deny such possibility.
And a transcendental move regarding morality has already been figured as (undesirable) moralism.
Thus is the heretical context. (And let us not fall into hermeneutics here.)
Thus far, I have considered (our) selves confronting aporia (as persons), but such aporia is not actually external to the self. Otherness constitutes the self, yielding a duality that permeates us. Moreover, this is not a simple duality, in that our various interfaces interact with otherness in various ways: We have conflicting desires. Indeed, the self might be described as a relation , non-local , with multiple values , a collection [5,6], even aporetic. Yet, for the purpose of morality, we posit a self that acts : Rather, we feel a sense of choice , and want any resulting choices to be good. Within that sense, the self need not be coherent [10,11] in order to engage with morality , even if various conflicting images of our selves inflect "our" choices. So who are you? Although choice is critical to the current topic, in order to address such a question, we must also move from intent to outcome.[14,15] The world in sum is the ultimate outcome , variously entangled as we are. We might not be able to choose the world, but perhaps we can choose with the world , aporetic though we may be: Our "internal" aporias produce (multiples) as well.
Per Kolozova, even if we minimize the self-other duality (although various authors, besides myself, often write from this perspective) in favor of oneness, an inward-outward distinction still dualizes the self at a fundamental level: This becomes a sensory distinction — of perceiving self. (Moral considerations do also regularly assume such an inward-outward duality, i.e. what is good for me versus what is good for others, which one might articulate according to perceptual interfaces rather than otherness per se. I might prefer the feel of a full belly to the sound of quieted complaining, for instance.)
Self as relation becomes a political relation also. (I have mentioned this already in terms of "perceiving self," but here one might speak of politicizing self. Such a politicized self enacts a hierarchy, per Hierarchy as rupture.)
The term "local" here refers to economic calculations in which one attempts to separate local & global optima. Since the self is not fully coherent or local, such a duality is problematic. (In other words, we don't really know when a decision seemingly very far removed from us, including a decision we make, will have intense "local" consequences. This is, I would venture to guess, an obvious fact for anyone living in the twenty-first century, even if many people are trained to deny it reflexively.)
We have multiple values in many situations. Some values might conflict, and some might not. (It seems superfluous to emphasize this point, but neoliberalism has been successful at convincing many people that all of their values can be collapsed into a single quantity. Such a collapse of value reflects & reenacts the collapse of resources into ever-fewer hands.)
The hierarchy concept (per ) assumes a collection of some sort. This is familiar, in that our various values & impulses need not be aware of each other. (The right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing, as the saying goes.) So such a collection need not align into a clear hierarchy.
What I have termed the contemporary mania to collect also extends to the environment: We collect various chemicals & microorganisms. How do these affect our values & impulses?
Ahmed's discussion of the will in Willful Subjects is well worth reading on this point. Indeed, she even considers a will without a subject, which is one approach to the dilemma of moral choice via an aporetic self. (Ahmed's image of the killjoy is, of course, inherently willful — a trope for freedom.)
In this sense (of a self that acts), we can define the self as a locus of control, even if that locus is poorly understood.
Our image of our locus of control might, indeed, be very different from the way that locus articulates itself in practice. Our image of ourselves might be very different, whether in suggesting that we have more or less control than we do have — or probably both. (This is a facet of our aporia: We will never know all of the ramifications of our actions.)
According to Butler, the subject can never act alone. (It is imbricated with otherness.)
According to Whitehead, consciousness itself consists of hosting other entities that act. (This might evoke another "collection," per .)
For Kierkegaard, it is morality (rather, ethics) in particular that means none of us are really individuals. (All of our acts are connected, for better or worse.)
In the contemporary world, one might speak of subjectivity constituted via media networks. We might even begin to speak of morality as virtual or anonymous. (Morality without selves, with some parallels to , thus becomes an urgent topic.)
Do our choices produce what we expect them to produce? (This is an obvious question, but particularly via propaganda & marketing, we see people making the same choices over & over, despite not getting the outcome they desire.)
Let me suggest further that, at least since Kant, a ("moral") split between intent & outcome was posited in order to rationalize European imperialism: We didn't intend all these bad outcomes, so we're still good people. (Such splitting is the basic motivation for so-called Enlightenment philosophy.)
Postcoloniality, perhaps as opposed to neocoloniality, per Sandoval, then becomes about colonizing the first world subject in turn?
I have used "world" in the sense of social creation, and so one might immediately ask, which world?
Barthes locates the subject as the wound within this tangle. The subject, moreover, becomes a place of exhaustion. (I might describe such exhaustion as arising from an impossible attempt to resolve our aporia.)
Per , if we choose with another world, we might be choosing against this one.
Perhaps the articulation between self & its absence can yield a space of creativity. (This is one vision of hybridity.)
If we are to consider outcomes beyond  our aporetic selves, how can we know the world, or even the real?[2,3] Simply put, we use the sensory apparatus of our bodies. (Such an apparatus can be considered in the singular, although we might also want to consider the aporias introduced  by distinguishing sensory modes.[6,7]) The body becomes not only the site of sensation , but the site of choice.[9,10] It becomes a site inflecting choice [11,12], as sensation yields act. People may be conscious of their desire , but not of how (or where) it is determined : Such (bodily) desire takes on the air of mystery. Mysterious bodily desire suggests love, and indeed love continues  to be proposed as a technical  path toward outcomes [19,20]: However, love itself is often aporetic.[21,22,23] How, then, does one love the world, care passionately about its outcomes, yet not become captured by such love? Our aporetic situation (paradoxically?) frees us: We are always more , even if we need a reminder.
Since the self has no coherent boundary, there is no coherent "beyond" either. Some things do seem rather farther from us, though, if only in terms of familiarity.
I use "real" here in Laruelle's sense, as determining in the last instance, unilaterally imposing both on our own (worldly) outcomes & those of social worlds.
Such is the basic question of epistemology, which I will not treat in a comprehensive sense. (Epistemology does inflect both choice & narrative, however, and those topics will be discussed more extensively in upcoming sections.)
Although the body has its own incoherence between inside & outside, we might posit a basic chain from sense data to feelings (or thoughts) to constitution of the self (or subject). We might also consider that chain (of meaning) in another order, but we know the triangle is connected.
As I have remarked previously, firm distinctions between sensory modes are taught to children at a very young age, at least in my experience. (Such teaching does not seem to be conducive to developing the unity of sensation.)
Merleau-Ponty speaks of touch as founding phenomenology, thus moving away from ocularcentrism. (Butler asks, in turn, if there is tactility without the subject.)
Listening is often taken as a sensory metaphor for moral operations more generally, and I will be discussing listening in more detail in a companion article to the current piece.
Merleau-Ponty speaks of the bodily limits of knowing exceeding those of consciousness. In other words, knowledge might be (unconsciously) marked on the body. (For Irigaray, the body has its own voice.)
Nietzsche says first the body, and the rest follows. (Jailers evidently agree.)
Butler writes not only of the body as an aspect of the materiality produced (constructed) by power, but as a site of resistance. So, just as the body exceeds consciousness (per ), the body continues to exceed its material (worldly) construction. (For Kolozova, also following Irigaray, the body thus becomes the "I" that persists beneath the subject, i.e. within the real.)
Per Malebranche, "I can only feel what touches me." (This notion does seem to connote a sort of passivity.)
Agamben suggests that the sadist tries to seize the very flesh of the other, as the shell or garment of grace (much as pornography attempts to document fully the desire of the other, per Jennifer Nash). In other words, the sadist transforms the body of the other into choices. (The masochist eschews choice.)
I do not intend to situate bodily inflection in a causal sense: Whereas we might feel some sort of gnosis, a temporal order need not be established by such an inflection. In other words, we might choose then act then perceive, or indeed some other ordering, even confounding spatiality: Time itself might be scattered across bodies in a phenomenological accounting of the site of choice.
Although Spinoza posits that people are conscious of their desire, contemporary psychoanalysis muddles even that — in part by putting so much emphasis on how or where.
For Ahmed, via Spinoza, such uncertainty invokes free will. (Note that one does not need knowledge in order to act.)
Ahmed goes on to invoke Lucretius & the swerve of atoms. (My own use of inflection could be figured similarly.)
An emphasis on love as a (the) solution to social problems reminds me of the hippies of my youth: I find it to be somewhat stigmatized in that sense, but other experience varies. Love remains powerful.
Sandoval proposes love specifically as a technical apparatus.
In Nietzsche's sense of amor fati, love of outcomes can become almost tautological (even if Nietzsche strives to avoid that outcome): If we love whatever happens, then we are no longer choosing, i.e. no longer in the realm of morality. (Nietzsche responds with affirmation.)
For Machaut, love provides a cure for fortune — a different cure from the (imperialist) one the modern era actually pursued.
For Barthes, love is totally singular, uninterpretable, and invokes an urge to yes (the latter evoking Nietzsche's eternal return). He also positions the lover within the very crucible of meaning, i.e. the founding of worlds.
For Badiou, love is one of the four basic domains, and suggests a "delicious" isolation, yet still a "logic of worlds."
For Kolozova, following Laruelle, radical love is the unilateral love of the real itself. Love as union thus invokes salvation (of worlds).
I will discuss (hermeneutic) capture, more specifically, in 9. Such capture through love of the world suggests fixation: We might indeed care too much about something too specific.
In other words, love is always multiple, is not self-contained, even love of the world: Yet again, the body exceeds consciousness, and the overly specific becomes incoherent, aporetic. (One might say, instead, that we are always less.) We exceed our own worldly materiality (per ), and so our ability to know.
For Barthes (if I may jump to interpret the uninterpretable), the lover needs many reminders, even as he founds worlds. (But then, Barthes' lover desires absolute union, and certainly not aporia.)
If I continue to posit a "one" to choose , what is its identity? Identity is at least partly thrust upon us , but to the extent that we do choose it , further inflects  our moral choices: Simply put, our choices may refer to our identities for their ground. Moreover, when the choices available to us do not fit our identities, we might be offered (implicitly or otherwise) mediation — of identity. Or, more often, we're told what choices fit our (always already designated ) identities, whether e.g. religious, sexual , or family. Disclaiming such identities might let us escape their imposition or mediation , but does not tell us how or what to choose instead: We make frequent choices, and often with some urgency. (One might even frame living as choosing.[16,17]) So how does one choose today? What are the main issues? For example, we might be concerned with such issues as education for our children, species extinction, war, time to do as we please, racism, health , etc. And we have to make frequent choices, without necessarily knowing how those issues will be affected, and/or perhaps feeling a need to choose between them — such is our aporia.
This "one" is, in a real, yet reductively practical sense, the reader (and presumably, writer) of this piece — whoever that is.
In Kolozova's terms, following Butler, the real of femaleness (for example) is subjugated via the regulatory hold of language. Realness becomes a form of political recognition or independence.
Denial of the "reality" of an identity thus becomes a form of subjugation.
Agamben asks what morality (ethics) becomes if identity is merely mechanically made of genes, fingerprints, etc. In other words, he ponders morality in the absence of identity choice.
Mechanical identity can be framed as the latest challenge to the doctrine of "free will" (and this is, genealogically, Christian doctrine) — the human as biological machine.
I continue to use the verb "inflect" concerning an affective position along a trajectory, i.e. neither a beginning nor an end. (In such a conception, trajectories may be, and likely are, multiple.)
I have discussed the topic of "consistency" (as a form of control) in past articles, and will do so again in 10.
For example, one response to feminism (particularly in the liberal domain) is to offer identity mediation, rather than a shift in worldly choice dynamics. In other words, women can more easily demand to do "men's work," than demand to have more (or other) worthwhile work valued accordingly. Within the context of neoliberalism, the reason is simple: There is only one value.
Such mediation is then enforced via moralism, the repeated imposition of external values. (This is often the mode in which liberal feminists interact with Muslim women, for instance.)
Thus, per , identity — and the reality thereof — remains politically charged.
According to Jameson (and with variation, many others), new forms of sexual morality succeed theological morality under liberalism. (Jameson's analysis of representations of Christ's body in the early modern period is revealing in this regard.) Such sexual morality is already doubled, proceeding not only according to our (designated) sexual (bodily) identities, but according to sexual practices. Thus, new (or newly ratified) sexual identities can immediately be subjected to sexual morality.
Family ethics, which can also be termed work ethics , might even become more real than sexual ethics. (Work ethics have already been carefully cleansed of at least some forms of religious morality under liberal hegemony. Harming people as a part of one's "work" is simply expected — and, in turn, denied reality.)
In this guise, family becomes about predesignated roles, and not a crucible of social relation more abstractly. (Family can open to general possibilities of relation, or close onto a rigorous framework — often called patriarchy for our society.)
A simple disclaimer is unlikely to let us escape (everyday) imposition & mediation, however, as people will continue to thrust predesignated identities upon us. (I do find it helpful to view this kind of everyday interaction as a sort of identity mediation, however.)
Whether everyday choices such as what to eat, assuming we have such a choice, are "urgent" or not may be a matter of opinion. However, they cannot be delayed indefinitely for study.
Morality is very practical. (It can be viewed as a technology, just as can family per .)
In this sense, passivity is a choice. Is one passive because one is confident the resulting choice will be good? Is one passive because one has no (other) idea of how to choose?
Health can be figured quite broadly to include eating well, feeling good about one's place in the world, etc.
Since we must choose without adequate knowledge , one temptation is to read signs: Per 8, we might even read our identity as a sign. As the science of interpreting signs , hermeneutics has been critiqued many times, so let me refer to it , by way of caution. (The internet seems to be forging a renewed hermeneutic reflex: Query the box for your answer.) In particular, hermeneutics suggests a transcendent position that is not open, but rather closed: In a hypothetical hermeneutics of choice, staring into aporia does not produce the object: There is no oracle of choice.[6,7] There are symbols other than those of identity impinging upon morality , however, and I have already articulated a demand to participate in symbol creation (in 5).[10,11] Rationality is (still so) often lauded as our best  symbol system , but it simply cannot produce choice by itself. Moreover, rationality takes us away from sensation & the body : More thought presumably leads to slower choices , but does it lead to better choices? And rationalization does not inherently precede choice![17,18] Yet, much as our symbols may lead into an inescapable labyrinth of aporias, they do mediate our choices. Further, we traverse the labyrinth somehow, because we do choose.
Deferral becomes a choice, and our knowledge of when to defer is likewise far from perfect.
In these terms, empiricism (as a more recently emphasized concept) is hermeneutics applied specifically to (the uniquely Western concept of) nature.
I definitely want to avoid launching into a hermeneutics of hermeneutics here. (I know it too well from medieval music.)
Hermeneutic capture, i.e. relying on the object for answers, was already raised by 7, specifically in the context of love: The love relation invokes a cloak around itself, yielding a hidden meaning that might be queried, as if of an object. (Such is the capture of desiring machines, generally, their query repeated incessantly.)
One can, supposedly, still talk back to the internet. However, it starts to take on the air of a closed system, of an oracle. To query such a "black box" (object) and read its answer is the very paradigm of hermeneutics: One bows before authority.
In these terms, the desiring machine is always left unsatisfied: Its answer is, at best, partial. (And, yes, to me a queried oracle connotes an object. Perhaps this emphasis is overly Lacanian.)
One might posit, within (always within) such a hypothetical hermeneutics of choice, imagination as both transcendent & immanent: Imagination is produced immanently by querying the transcendent. (Many of us can dispense with this ritual, at least much of the time. We might, however, want to ponder the nexus of radical transcendence & radical immanence.)
Smith takes some steps in this direction via Ismaili texts. (Such a textual approach might be characterized as exegetical, i.e. as a hermeneutic orientation itself, although Smith attempts to use this writing differently, as "mere material." Whether this Laruellian move to untether material from authority works here, I am not so sure.)
The Pathways to Power anthology, for instance, defines symbolic organization of behavior as the anthropological definition of "modern."
Stiegler says that loss of symbolic participation destroys desire, & brings the "shame of being." (The triumph of propaganda during World War II can thus be figured, specifically, as a historical spur toward existential nihilism.)
The concept of Fortune, in my repeated sense, might be figured as a demand to create one's own symbols. (Is this what the Europeans of the early modern period actually did?)
I am comfortable using "good" in a morality piece, but not so much "best," since it suggests a singular optimum — whereas there is likely no optimum.
The symbolic emphasis in rationality is indeed on system. (Thus it suggests an external authority.)
That reason alone cannot produce action was already a position of Hume.
Shall we query our bodies as hermeneutic objects? (Such a query would, at least to some degree, encompass our affective relations.) Perhaps not always, but if there is to be such an object....
When pace is itself a problem, such as in contemporary consumer society, slowness might be a virtue by itself. (However, pace can or might be slowed by something other than thinking.)
Not only is rationalization known for after-the-fact justification, but it further erodes our instincts. (Who actually needs justification to oppose e.g. killing & extinction? Rather, rationalization is employed, as it so often is under liberal modernism, to confuse the issue & justify activity that leads to killing & extinction.)
Agamben, in part via Schmitt, has described the extent to which political philosophy (and with it, ethics) is always already theological. Of course, morality per se is explicitly (historically) theological, and Laruelle so describes how contemporary ethics remains a theology of the good, even when based on atheist disavowal.
The fact of choice can be treated in hermeneutic fashion, but let's not stop there. (We are not merely studying ourselves.)
Two of our most powerful modern symbols are optimization (or efficiency) & consistency: They sound as if they come straight from industrial manufacturing, because they do. I've already mentioned consistency as a form of control [1,2,3], and indeed we are urged to "be consistent." (If consistency is so "natural" , then why is enforcing it such a concern?) Knowing your inputs — consistency — is also critical to many optimization schemes. Knowing what to expect is significant too, and from our aporia, we don't know what to expect: Our knowledge is less than merely imperfect. So how do we choose well, encompassing our various concerns? Maybe someone else knows? Even if they do , do they share our values? (Will they even give us an honest answer?) Much like positing "inputs" as prior to scheme , positing values (or goals) as separate from execution [14,16] already makes a cut: The act of separation has consequences, and values (that are generated symbolically) go on to mediate as symbols themselves. This is a fundamental reason that we cannot rely on "erring on the side of..."  when it comes to moral choice: Not only is there no stable, good place to "err," but the concept of "side" is inflected by choice itself. Such "side" issues are also implicated in balancing acts such as between equality & freedom or equality & expertise.[19,20] So if we desire to participate in symbol creation, what do we desire independently of symbols?[21,22] Does the postmodern world even let us pose that question? Let us then seek desire itself.[23,24]
Barthes says that consistency is madness itself. (One might reference obsessive-compulsive disorder here.)
Ahmed frames consistency in terms of duty & debt — both consistency with oneself & with the whole (social) body (politic), the latter entailing the former. Wandering, inconsistency, may moreover be figured as queer or racialized (the latter per Cervenak).
We are assured that the Christian god is quite consistent, despite evidence to the contrary. (This point becomes increasingly important under the modern regime of political theology, since the latter posits universal truth.) Is this how god survives, unilaterally in Laruelle's terms, denial of the theology of the good?
It remains unclear to me how e.g. Cialdini's findings on consistency would be modified in a different cultural context. However, there is no question that consistency has required consistency: We are consistently urged to be consistent. (This is, per 8, a form of identity policing. There is nothing more troubling for some people than perceiving an inconsistent identity.)
Such notions of consistency are, of course, mediated by worlds: There is no special arbiter of consistency, and if there were, for one's own identity, wouldn't it be oneself? (Psychoanalysis questions even the latter.)
Manufacturing engineers, among others, know that consistency is not actually automatic. (I have done this work.)
The reader will probably know by now that I disdain consistency. (By this I mean that I don't actively avoid it either, but won't accept it being imposed upon me. I take notice.)
Thus the modern regime posits that people should be consistent & interchangeable. (I will discuss this sort of substitutability again in 18.)
Looking to someone else for knowledge is a move from consistency to authority, in Cialdini's terms.
It remains absurd to believe that someone else knows what our (as adults ) best (or even good) choice is. (Such a notion sounds religious.) However, with the ubiquity of smartphones etc., it is no longer absurd to believe that some sort of answer is ready for us at any moment. And these devices become (much) more aggressive.
I'll not belabor what an adult is or isn't in this context. Opinions have varied.
Honesty would be one such value, presumably — or at least a symbol. (Given our aporia, it's unclear if "honesty" is always coherent. Perhaps one should speak of local & global maxima there too, and perhaps there are situations where even that is asking too much.)
It must be emphasized that categorizing inputs, if one does so, is itself a part of schematic execution. (Apparently we are more willing to take inputs as always already given than we are other aspects of schematizing. Likewise, we take the liberal subject as always already given.)
According to Graeber, it was bureaucracy that created the distinction between means & ends , and separated the domains of competence & value. We are thus adopting a very specific modern framework when thinking in those terms.
Latour's "moral" calculation of means & ends is thus linked to bureaucracy, which we might figure as his "organization" mode.
Nietzsche says that value has no antonym — certainly not "fact." (The notion of a fact also reflects having posited always already given inputs, per .)
I find this "err on the side of" notion to be very common in decision-making, whether in individual or group settings. It's a comforting idea, of course, that one needn't get things quite right. Sometimes it might even be accurate, but the extent to which people (at least in my experience) rely on this notion is troubling. (The unconsidered other is inevitably the victim, the repository of "error.")
A place to err conjures a sense of home, i.e. relaxing at home (in the familiar sense). Where, then, is the other?
Balibar has created the concept of equaliberty as an attempt to balance these notions.
The issue of equality together with expertise is a particular issue for the intellectual, or at least the working class intellectual.
In other words, let us at least consider the possibility of a "prior" for symbol creation. (Such a prior is, of course, impossible. However, we're already in an aporetic position, so this seems like a minor problem.) Otherwise, we are merely inflecting symbols into symbols.
Ahmed describes happiness as form without content. In these terms, it is symbolic: What actually animates the symbol? Society?
Following , an inversion of Latour's triangulation of "the second nature" is thus completed: I ask in turn not so much to what are we attached, but to what do we want to be attached?
A message from the postmodern situation is that one should seek to last, rather than to burn. Why? (I leave such an interrogation to the reader.)
If the postmodern resists the articulation of unmediated desire, and we desire to take desire as an output rather than an input [1,2], where do we start? Per 6, our selves are not coherent enough to serve as such a start, although our self-relations are implicated throughout. Moreover, how does one express not only posthuman desire , but postcolonial desire? An actual end to imperialism  is one such desire, broadly speaking, but let us be more specific: What constitutes pure rebellion?[7,8] What is the nexus of individual & collective in rebellion?[9,10] Rather, per the Laruellian generic , what is the nexus of individuals as "less than" themselves? Such a generic goes beneath identity [13,15], i.e. is not a collection or sum, but is rather a non-identity shorn of worldly relations. Such a generic non-identity then radiates singular desire , and highlights the aporetic sense in which we are all determined by the same real. Further, atemporal genericity shifts attention to the future victim, for whom justice is unforgettable.[20,21] So indeed, how does one choose (the future)? How does one engage generic desire?
Let us not take this input-output duality too seriously, of course. However, it does serve to illuminate a succinct perspective.
Marketing outputs desire. (Perhaps that assertion is too succinct, so let me pause.)
I have treated the general logic of post- in other contexts. In the current context, one might take the posthuman as a direct expression of the aporia embedded in the liberal subject.
I resolved to adopt a postcolonialist stance in Is postmodernism racist?. However, this move could also be articulated via non-imperialism, anti-imperialism, non-economics , anti-enlightenment, etc.
It seems clear that economics calls out for a Laruellian treatment, although I have no intention of undertaking it specifically myself. (The situation of a non-imperialism would be different, however, in that the kernel of imperialism contains nothing of value.)
A neo-imperialism is retrenching via (economic) globalization, so this "actual end" would encompass the end of all such relations reflecting or reconstituting imperialism. What would a world in which imperialism has no lingering effects be like?
According to Laruelle, the agon is a reflex reaction, and pure rebellion is against & for the world. In other words, not only do worlds close in around us, but they are constantly being reformed. This thread of struggle can always already be joined.
According to the tradition of Hobbes, unmediated desire provokes an all-out war of all against all. (I will return to this topic briefly in 16.) It's worth noting explicitly that Hobbes's thoughts on this matter are based on nothing but speculation & highly contextualized events (one of which is early modern imperial conquest itself).
Sandoval says that oppressed individuals ally through the apparatus of emancipation itself. In other words, emancipatory movements, such as our (demanded) postcolonial reality, organize around their own success. This idea is also highly contextualized.
Kolozova, following Laruelle & others, asks if unity is itself repression, and seeks new forms of non-totalitarian universalism in radically universal solidarity. In other words, we seek solidarity more generically than via the liberal individual.
Perhaps most significantly, Laruelle opposes the generic to totality: The generic is not a sum, but a residue after stripping away. (Laruelle sees traditional European philosophy as based on additivity instead.) It has a radical specificity that also differs from randomness or noise: In the current context, one might characterize such specificity as irreducible aporia, and so seek to cast morality toward the generic.
Galloway suggests that Laruelle's generic being is monastic (genealogically). Such a suggestion also relates to Agamben's discussion of form-of-life in The Highest Poverty.
Laruelle uses terms such as man-in-person  & then identity-in-person to indicate this generic, and goes on to say (in Future Christ) that the latter "defeats depraved forms of identification." This is a fairly technical caution regarding identity politics, i.e. the collection or addition of individual selves.
Per , Laruelle also says that man-in-person is defined (in the last instance) by struggle.
So, for instance, Kolozova can speak of a "vectorial" (generic) sexuality rather than a "macrosexuality." This idea reprises Deleuze & Guattari's notion of the molecular versus the molar. (One can speak in terms of tendencies, rather than equilibrium states.)
Once again, the (constructed) world is contrasted with (perhaps in opposition to) the real.
Stiegler says that the singularity of desire (or future) is annulled in particularity, meaning that singularity is not interchangeable. Generic being is likewise not interchangeable, even though it lacks qualities. (We thus resist the sort of algebraic calculation around which contemporary economics increasingly revolves: Such an orientation toward quantity cannot capture desire.)
We might say, instead, that "we are all in this together." (In Laruellian terms, such determination is unilateral  & "in the last instance.")
The unilateral quality of determination by the real is then a figure for our aporia.
Shall we choose for the past instead? (In worldly terms per , the past can indeed be changed.) I don't neglect the past — perhaps I give it too much attention, in fact — but must insist on choosing for the future. (One can also reframe past & future as mediations of the present, and focus on atemporality. I will not undertake that in any detail here, and so will remain mostly content to pose choice for the future.)
We might posit, simply, that the future itself is unforgettable. Thus the "today" of the question heading the present section can be elided — particularly if one chooses according to the (future, and perhaps ongoing) victim.
If we are to choose via relation , seeing as ecology is a science of relation, we can "naturally" propose an ecological morality: Such a morality would proceed not merely via "environmentalism"  but from ecological thought itself. Treating "ecological nature" as a totality subsumes relation, in that there would be no outside to immanent nature , and hence no aporia. However, while totality subsumes relation, the one as radically autonomous cannot be reduced to totality.[5,6,7] Moreover, our generic desire does not emerge via totality, but rather in singularity: We cannot choose as "the one," and our aporia remains. So whereas we are embedded in nature , we cannot choose "as" nature — neither do we want to choose against nature. How would we choose against it? As a name of the real, nature intrudes unilaterally on the world & the body. Such intrusion, occurring at a variety of temporal & spatial scales , cannot be figured anthropomorphically : From our perspective, it remains open. Does such a resulting open (ecological) stance yield to beauty , i.e. can we choose according to the (ecologically) beautiful? Such a framework would recapitulate relationality , and likely without engaging generic desire. So we have more to consider....
For Butler, the ethical involves understanding a relational framework. However, I want to emphasize the "if" of this premise: Within our aporia, perceiving relation is not always, or even often, possible.
I mention environmentalism in a reductive sense, i.e. as reflecting traditional concerns associated explicitly with the so-called environment, rather than as a broader conception. Hence, the notion of an ecological morality goes far beyond e.g. pollution.
Smith discusses the issue of ecological thought, as a technical embeddedness beyond the typical concerns of the discipline of ecology itself: The idea is very broad in that sense. I had already raised the notion that "theory is inherently ecological" in Object ecology, where I also suggested a potential "subject ecology." In this piece, with its emphasis on choice, we must consider such a subject ecology more explicitly.
Difference & immanence are opposite in this, Laruellian, sense: Immanence is radically one, and so without difference.
That the one as radically autonomous cannot be reduced to totality is an Ismaili idea per Smith. (Such radical autonomy yields the idea of radical liberty.)
If we project the superiority of one over many, we reenact the basic monotheist hierarchy. (Speaking of radicality does not automatically escape this outcome: The radical becomes the unfamiliar.)
The real exceeds any additive sense of totality, i.e. exceeds all relation. (Similarly, the sense of "nature" employed here, somewhat facetiously at times, exceeds all matter.)
Laruelle might say that an appeal to the one is amphibological, and so the equation (ontology of relation) remains — once again, the latter posits relation, yet arises from a unilateral operation that exceeds all relation.
I continue to follow Smith in rehabilitating the term "nature" , at least partially, within this context. (Various criticisms would need to be addressed to further such a rehabilitation. Beyond the construction — so, worldly construction, technically — of nature as the object of scientific inquiry, there are issues of nature figured as gendered or racialized, etc.) We are embedded physically, but also intellectually, emotionally, etc.
If "queer" can be rehabilitated, why not nature?
Such a "worldly" sense of nature should be considered inherently paradoxical. (Racialization, etc. are also clearly worldly, more generally. They are constructions.)
So is it appropriate to worship the Earth? Or the sun? What are the dangers of an ecology traversed by piety? Mystification, for one — treated via love in 7, but there is also a tendency to fall into (or irrupt into) hierarchy (per ).
I have already mentioned chemicals & microorganisms. Does it make sense to consider e.g. bacterial ecology from our macroscopic view as a kind of morality? What morality do we attempt to impose on microorganisms? What do they impose, in turn, on us?
Thus nature cannot be captured by narrative either, as its time-based processes intersect us in a variety of ways, many of which we never perceive. (I will return to narrative, in a different context, in an upcoming section.)
Hence nature is not "really" within our purview. (Its unilateral imposition, however, cannot be figured as placing it beyond us, if only in the sense that our actions do come back to impose on us via nature, if not on nature per se.) Such a situation could also be examined via amphibology, if not simply anthropology — rather than anthropomorphism.
The sublime was conceived as a "natural" alternative to beauty: It figures the object as greater than we can conceive.
Simply, the beautiful is an object.
We might want to ask if the generic can be beautiful: Such a question engages the horizon of object relations. Does such a horizon yield a subject ecology? (Unfortunately, there is still an issue of inversion.... Does the "artwork," then, talk back somehow by being indistinguishable?)
The sublime, as a concept for something larger than ourselves , already (perhaps ) suggests complexity: Nature, and hence ecology, is beyond us, i.e. too complex to understand. Our aporia, more generally, can be at least partly attributed to complexity : We don't really know what consequences our choices will have. Such complexity of consequence, in general, is amenable to ecological description: Outputs become inputs in ongoing nonlinear fashion. Moreover, our decision-making complexity is literally embedded  in the ecological: Nature is not merely "the object" of our actions , but a part of us. Such an embedding, such an imbrication, suggests attunement: How might we relate gracefully? How might we avow interdependency, even beyond the perceived locus of our actions? Do we attempt to choose according to the ecologically beautiful, per 12? How might we even perceive that? Our situation remains aporetic, but surely attunement demands a relation to complexity other than disdain.
If beauty implies an anthropic basis, and the sublime evokes the (supposed) grandeur of nature, how might we express an admiration for something much smaller than ourselves? (Such a situation might also be characterized by the sublime, i.e. the very small as beyond us too.)
One might also posit a radical simplicity to the sublime (just as one might posit a radical simplicity to nature).
Philosophy shuns complexity, instead looking for succinct answers. (Such is exactly the situation in this piece, by its nature.) Something must be simple enough to be expressable. (One might argue, instead, that nature is expression, and that expression is unbounded.)
Via nonlinearity & feedback, the small can affect the large: Differences in scale do not necessarily limit the direction consequences can take. (We might take this fact, not as a point of despair, but as something to embolden us.)
In other words, our decisions have (sometimes unforeseeable, sometimes major, sometimes minor ) ecological consequences.
We might never know if an ecological consequence is major or minor: My description above is a commonplace, but such a clear binary division is often exactly what we are lacking.
Such objectification recalls (per Descola) the modern European shift from an analogic world to a "natural world." Such a shift involves a rejection of complexity: An analogic world suggests an infinite array of fine variation & relation, whereas a natural world breaks first into two layers : Human consciousness as agent, and "nature" as object.
Modern empiricism continues to function mostly in "layers." For instance, research might be conducted at the level of ecosystem, or species, or gene. We might ask, in turn, what sort of assemblages occupy spaces transverse to these layers? (My example suggests a difference of spatial scale. What is an analogous example in the domain of temporality? Further, what of the "space" assembling those domains?)
Identifiable layers tend to suggest stability & equilibrium. Hence, the postmodern era wants to declare identity generic, with a stable conception of gene. The notion that our identities can & should be fixed predates this emphasis on genetics, so the latter merely forms a new rationale for stasis. (Yet, we also hear, usually with alarm, that are genes can age, mutate, etc. So this notion is not even reflected empirically.) I suggest that our relations, not only with genes, but with the real in general, are much more fluid than that (or at least can be).
The modern world thus no longer sees nature as a part of us, but as something separate. Moreover, its "privilege" is gone: Nature is forged as an entity in order to be manipulated, in a kind of doubling: It acquires a new kind of privilege by being always already the object, and in that sense, beyond us. (And so the Laruellian real continues to reflect this modern move to cultural naturalism, even as it elevates nature.)
Per neoliberal thought, nature is also "unreasonable." (Such a judgment suggests the paradox of rationality itself, as something that just doesn't fit. It also reflects gendering, racialization, etc.)
The supposed unreasonable character of nature alternates, sometimes rapidly, with assertions about "natural" social organization and/or behavior. Returning to the theme of complexity, we might observe that many kinds of social organization have occurred. In turn, some are dismissed as unreasonable.... (As I hope this piece makes clear, I would prefer to ask, "Is it what we want?")
We might explicitly contrast such grace with clumsy relation. Are we always (already?) out of joint, out of time?
I deliberately avoid using the notion of "recognition," in favor of avowal. (Our aporia is complex enough, without creating more entities via reflection!)
I will repeat that much of what occurs is beyond our perception. So how can it possibly be beautiful? (Yes, someone could concoct a theory by which the imperceptible is inherently beautiful... but is it?)
Graceful attunement suggests, once again, "power with" (as mentioned in 1), rather than "power over" (as per the modern concept of nature). Such ideas flourish outside the domain of European naturalism.
As the modern impulse reflected & nurtured  a disdain for complexity [2,3], it also derived qualities to isolate & control: Scarcity, as implicated in both economic & ecological thought, is one of our greatest contemporary concerns. In principle, scarcity is about identifying one (likely quantifiable ) component as the limiting factor in complex interactions. Emphasizing scarcity is thus a simplification, and specifically disciplinary (by being negative). One might call the result an ecology of fear — not because concerns are unjustified , but because the trope of scarcity is used to create & maintain hierarchy: It becomes a value , and implicitly rationalizes accumulating wealth. Such economic logic  attempts to mirror the environmental logic of scarce planetary resources , but is rarely actually based on global resource stewardship. The result is a further cascade within the ecology of fear , and more control for the accumulators. So how might we choose in favor of the environmental logic of scarcity , yet against the economic logic of scarcity? Once again, we meet aporia — although perhaps I've opened a little crack. And perhaps within this opening, radical hospitality will refigure deconstruction of our economic-ecological home.[18,19,20]
It's telling that so much of our language suggests a causal direction automatically. I often find myself needing to pair verbs for this reason.
I have already framed the modern impulse as a disdain for chance, a desire for greater control of Fortune.
Easy answers are an important component of imperialist disinhibition. (They are also amenable to co-creating notions of stable layers with empirical naturalism: I.e., some people are just like this, and some people are just like that.)
Cialdini names scarcity as the sixth (& last) of his principles of influence.
That something should be quantifiable is, of course, a fetish of our age. (Being able to spout numbers makes control easier. A number alone can become alarming: Once it's been sufficiently contextualized, it becomes a simple Pavlovian trigger.)
By embracing complexity, I've already suggested that everything should be considered.
If someone is considered to be more important because they have something scarce, they can in turn demand something (else) scarce on account of their importance, etc. Naturally, this kind of economic rationalization follows established power relations. "The economic" then functions as a wedge to further increase inequity & hierarchy. (Perhaps the scarce, the small, does not need this additional focus or burden: Respect it by letting it be small!)
Scarcity is the premise for hoarding gold, for instance. (Much of the economic value of gold is about scarcity per se.)
Let us recall that many (economic) situations of scarcity are created intentionally in order to maintain or heighten power relations: Production is kept low in order to stimulate demand, for instance. There aren't enough jobs, etc.
The analogy with real limits is what makes the economic logic of scarcity so effective as a principle of influence. However, let's not confuse the economic world with the real.
Neo-imperialist society appears to have adopted the (sarcastic) maxim, "May the worst among you have custodianship of the Earth." Some of these people are also deeply cynical, meaning that they don't shy away from mass destruction for personal gain. They would destroy much of a scarce resource, for instance, in order to make their own holdings more valuable, would they not?
Intentionally creating more scarcity is the perfect example of the gap between economic & environmental logics. It also illustrates the perversity of economics as a so-called (by the OED, and to some extent by Latour) "moral science."
People today talk, with some seriousness, about the pending death of the Earth, or at least humanity. Nature is often figured as death & violence, of course, such that we need protection. Nature itself suffers as a name of the real, however. (Barthes says that to be depressed is to resemble the mother, perhaps evoking a Mother Earth image in this context — which I have greatly distorted.)
Concerns over death of the planet or species would appear to make the reproduction mode (in Latour's terms) paramount, yet it continues to be marginalized by neo-imperial logic: All must change (except the fact of our power)! And as for reproductive rights....
Since we need protection from ecology, enter economy? This is what the moderns would have us believe. (And the notion that we can patch economics with "environmental externalities" has yielded little improvement. Much like augmenting the liberal subject, the core is still determining.)
An environmental logic of scarcity might favor (species, etc.) diversity, for instance.
The "crack" between economy & ecology can & should be elaborated further (and not in terms of externality, per  — such an approach is backward). I will not be tackling it directly in what follows, but it will continue to haunt these paragraphs.
I derive this notion of radical hospitality from Derrida via Cornell. What would such radical hospitality be like? How does one choose it? (It would be unfamiliar.)
Is home actually scarce? How & why?
Such a deconstruction yields the dual ecological & economic concepts of the home: Notions of economy originated in systems of distributing resources within one's household, whereas the home is also our ecological niche. In which direction lies hospitality? A radical hospitality is such to seal this rupture, inviting the radical other simultaneously into our economy & ecology, into our home & home, indistinguishably.
Radical hospitality becomes about welcoming ourselves, too: What is our resulting sense of home? What is our real home, versus a worldly home? If we must always already live in a world, how do we construct a world? How do we want to construct that world? From our moral aporia, we are to choose worldly action, and such choices are inflected by thought : Here we posit desire to think ecologically [5,6], in attunement, and beyond an ontology of relation. If we are to attune our thinking ecologically, what systems of thought are resilient? Is it thought (per se) that we want to be resilient? Traditional ecosystem "optimization"  has typically reduced resilience — resilience of a physical ecosystem, that is, not thought (directly ): We might even figure the resulting duality via stubbornness , as an aspect of our willful thinking that draws us away from attunement. So ecological attunement does not demand (or even desire) resilience for thought itself, but then our nonresilient thoughts might be in danger of being interrupted or swept aside by predatory others. Such a hiatus for thought can be contrasted with ecological circulation itself: Whereas our attempts to trace an ecology (via thought) may encounter many gaps, ecological relations remain operative (in other planes or directions).[13,14] Hence there is the notion of radicality (beyond worldly thought), which I have (partially) figured as unfamiliar. Embracing the unfamiliar brings another danger, that of fetishizing (ecological, exotic) nature, and such fetishes (again ) draw us away from attuning worldly thought to our real home.
Ahmed reminds us that our will may be queer, that there may be yet another gap between what we want & what we want to want: Let us relax a while in this gap. Within such a duality, where is our will? Where is our desire? How might our (free) will obey our own desire, and without creating yet more ruptures (dualities)?
Per 12, we don't want to recapitulate relationality while leaving generic desire behind, and dwelling in the duality between what we want & what we want to want brings such a danger: We might engage ourselves as pure, aporetic relation, rather than via desire in multiple. So, again, where is our desire? Perhaps it overflows our aporia in more ways than one, more ways than we even imagine.
Yet we do not want to fall back on monotheism amid singularity of will. (The will is singular only in the sense that it cannot be reproduced.) Such singularity is non-hierarchical, generic.
Without mediation by thought, we are acting other than via morality. (This note is not meant to erect thought as superior, but rather to situate the topic, again. As aporia, morality is never our first choice anyway.)
Smith discusses ecosystems of thought, how thought both adapts to & conditions its own environment. (Galloway, also inspired by Laruelle, writes of a "climatology of thought" in his work with Eugene Thacker, a similar idea.) I'll define thinking ecologically as with both an awareness of ecology per se, as well as of our own ecosystem of thought. (This last might be framed, although not necessarily, as genealogical.)
Smith also points out that thinking itself literally requires energy. Hence, it is very much a part of its ecosystem, even in the traditional sense (which has often involved e.g. tracing energy flowing through a system.) Moreover, thoughts can be consumed as energy (or energizing), so we might ask, which (dead or alive?) thoughts provide the best energy for thinking today? In this, ecologically speaking, they become inputs for subsequent output.
For Freud, birth is the prototype of anxiety, so might we posit that at the moment of their birth, thoughts themselves are in their most anxious situation? (Freud presents theory itself as paranoid, but also inherently male. So he obviously missed a few things, or rather people.) Anxious thinking desire... our aporia is not far.
Simply put, there are many relations we will never perceive: Smith observes that energy is often considered to be outside of a dialectic of life & death (i.e. outside biopolitics), and there are other such ecological elements (e.g. rocks), including the hypothetical: Cosmologists are currently obsessed with dark matter (& dark energy), and other hypothetical entities they cannot perceive, except perhaps via effects. (As I've noted in the past, I find the notion that people have a good — or really, any — grasp on how the universe functions at a super-macroscopic level to be rather humorous: It's so vain, but then, so is thought in the face of aporia.)
By traditional ecosystem optimization I mean such innovations as monocrop agriculture, relying on a single grain crop, etc. In other words, the environment is optimized to produce one particular thing (i.e. to value one particular thing).
Thought will eventually be destroyed if its ecosystem is destroyed. (In other words, thought is not transcendent, even if it can be transcendental.)
One might also figure in terms of consistency: Diversity (as often associated with ecological resilience) might be figured as a kind of inconsistency, whereas resilience itself might suggest a kind of consistency. Hence, consistency traverses a duality of resilience — as does stubbornness (noetically, per above).
Resilience for thought thus becomes a political issue. (And the description above is constantly enacted in contemporary society, as people are swept along by propaganda.)
Hence e.g. Agamben proposes harmony with what escapes us, i.e. attunement beyond thought. (I have discussed creative forgetting previously, and that might be figured via attunement as well. Ecologically, the dead or forgotten entity may be subsequently consumed, in attunement with the ecosystem, without our direct knowledge. In other words, ignorance can be quite functional.)
Analogously, Henry says that science cannot re-discover life itself. (Such a self-reflective gap has likewise proven aporetic.)
The commodity fetish produces alienation (from our labor) in a similar manner.
If we are to figure a subject ecology via the creature , fetishizing (or anthropomorphizing ) becomes a distraction to attunement : Although creatures have traditionally been figured analogically, radical hospitality involves eschewing such familiarity, and welcoming "creatures" we are unable to figure at all. We thus welcome agency into the world every level. Moreover, it is a cliché that creaturely (animal ) ethics recognizes no categorical imperative : So, once again, we have reason  to reject transcendental narrative, i.e. moralizing: Engaging (creaturely) generic desire, bodies in rebellion per 11, has not resulted in a Hobbesian war  of all against all. Rather, an open setting for generic desire  has brought various symbolic mediations: Complexity, scarcity, beauty, indeed law , etc. Such mediation is social  (worldly ), and so we ask again, (even) from the solitude of the generic creature , what is our desire? What is our social desire? What is our generic social desire, i.e. at the "molecular" level , i.e. beneath macroscopic symbolic mediation? Already in 1, I mentioned family as a moral technology or scene, and family is also social desire: Is there a generic of family? A generic of species, of ecosystem, of gene? We might yet imagine the swerve of grace traversing the space opened between & among these assemblages by radical hospitality: This is our subject (agent, moral) ecology, attunement without capture. Yet attunement constantly poses (potential for) capture.
I reframe Smith's development of agency via "the creature" as subject ecology. (I didn't notice his book until after writing What is familiar?, but his ideas would have been relevant to some discussions there.)
I do not intend to equate fetishizing & anthropomorphizing. However, they are analogous, in that they trace similar tangents in (away from) this context.
I will discuss distraction more specifically in a forthcoming companion article on listening.
Mark Hansen discusses multitiered subjectivity in the domain of technological mediation, via the various "smart" devices that attempt to anticipate us. Such a world of technological subjectivity (or agency) comes with a very significant difference: The devices explicitly work for other people, on their personal wealth accumulation projects. (Thus, in my experience, these devices do not actually anticipate our desires at all, but rather attempt to mold them. A situation in which these devices are not subject to the hoarding demands of a small number of people, and thus are in tune with the world more generally, may be possible, but current reality is starkly different.)
So the world of network technology cannot be a model for a (creaturely) subject ecology. However, such a subject ecology may be an appropriate model for a hypothetical realm of network technology, one without such crass goals. (In other words, any discussion of "rights" for these smart devices needs to involve discussion of their emancipation from economic enslavement, and indeed what that would entail.)
The cliché is that animals, specifically, have no such structured morality. Plants & other sorts of creatures have not even warranted such a cliché, at least not in ordinary discourse. (What is evoked here is, ultimately, the generic creature, and not anything or anyone in particular.)
Clichés aside, particular sorts of animal morality may be observable via ethology. Plant behavior could be framed in these terms as well, although I don't recall seeing any sustained such attempt. (Such discussions tend to revolve around human morality as applied to other creatures.) Perhaps talk of rhizomes & trees was a start.
Perhaps a cliché is not much of a reason. (But then, reason isn't much of a reason, so to speak.) However, such alignment is fortunate enough.
Hobbes, via Agamben, invokes a spectrally pre-constituted people rather than an unqualified multitude, hence figuring biopolitics. (In other words, Hobbes sees the population as always already ordered — which was, of course, his actual situation. He is unable to conceive of real rebellion.) After all, his main concern is to justify what has already happened. (Our concern here is rather different.)
Do we seriously believe that e.g. cats, or oak trees, or earthworms are engaged in a war of all against all? (Perhaps in a very broad sense....)
Such an open setting for desire involves conjuring the generic creature, generic life, even generic ("natural") non-life.
As a reminder, law is one of Latour's modes, separate from morality. (One might put more emphasis on the crossings of law with his "economic" modes.)
Ahmed says that the good will is figured as always already in alignment with others. (The "good will" is certainly our concern in this morality piece. So what sort of alignment with others might it have? What do we will them?)
One might conclude that the (re)emergence of worldly symbolic mediation indicates that we have not found an open setting for generic desire, yet is the latter not indeed the condition of "nature" (as the real)? Hence such desire is always already around us, per . (Such is the amphibological situation of the world.)
Kolozova positions the self as in non-relation, i.e. in radical solitude , i.e. where "the I" is unmediated, and then invokes generic love from that place of radical solitude.
The individual in (radical) solitude is not a new idea, but is figured as non-nihilist via the generic. (In other words, we find solidarity in singularity, rather than in collecting or summing.)
Such love-from-solitude not only reflects standard relationship advice to love oneself first, but at least as a quirk of my own personal interactions, leads me to wonder about some people "always" feeling cold, some hot, etc. (This is independent of health issues, as these relations tend to maintain even in good health: The cold person & the hot person make for particular narrative tropes.) Feeling relatively hot or cold figures a kind of solitude into sociality?
The Pathways to Power anthology theorizes & contrasts (actual) group ("corporate") oriented societies with individualizing societies. In other words, to who or what goes the glory? (This question was framed in one way by Christianity, and now in another by e.g. technology companies. Both present hybrid answers, but both have specific paths for glory.)
Molecular motion suggests Deleuzian intensity (not to mention molarity), and Hansen, pace the caution for his work that I offered in , reminds us (per Deleuze) that societies are compositions of intensities, and that time is a possible element of intensity. (In other words, socially relevant intensities may invoke differing temporalities.) So for Hansen, "smart" devices present us with differing time-intensities. However, these devices (by design) continue to enact various molar-macroscopic mediations: We would seem to be no closer to generic social desire — perhaps just the opposite.
I want to note explicitly the extent to which family relations figure grammar, and the corresponding extent to which grammar figures individuation. In turn, grammar figures access & power, and wars are fought over little more than grammar: Grammar is one of the "deepest" social mediations of molecular behavior, conditioning molecular inheritance itself (what I have called elsewhere chains of meaning, in this case explicitly worldly ). So changing grammar is (almost?) a way to swerve.
The notion is then that the family has one will, one body, one inheritance, one reproductive desire, even one fate: We have thus figured its temporal intensity as generic (in accord with ). But is any of this true? (The queer will rebels. And the queer corporate will? The queer world?) What is a family in the domain of the real, rather than of the world? What is its grammar?
Is it fortuitous for our project that gene & generic share a (linguistic) root, the latter via genus (as long paired with species)? Perhaps not.
That attunement might yield capture is, however, not an aporetic situation: It is merely a nonequilibrium situation, or rather, traces a danger of equilibrium. (So perhaps we perceive another crack in our aporia.)
According to the (dualizing) diagram of morality that Latour offers, if we are to live in a "kingdom of ends,"  we must have already enacted the means. In the simplest terms, such ends suggest the (already enacted) allocation of resources  via (what I have previously termed) allocation techniques, the type of which I will focus on here is the game: Such a focus contradicts the seriousness of outcomes , with the frivolity of many players. (The contradictory staging can be reworded: Those with the least personal stake have the most power over the game.) Whereas I positioned (in 1) the present piece as an alternative self-technology nexus, it is also a (partial) reframing of Remède de Fortune, Part C: There, I both sketched an extremely limited morality , and interrogated the value-allocation nexus: That nexus has operated in a largely untheorized manner  since being uncritically sutured by the discipline of economics. Per 10, one might frame allocation as a component of (choice) optimization, and I have (perhaps only implicitly) framed such choice according to value (desire ): Having considered value & associated terms, let us interrogate the "other side" of this nexus by severing it, i.e. by considering allocation as (merely) a game. If family has (historically, genealogically) figured the economic per se , how do allocation games (in turn) figure collectivity & the generic? How does one situate (generic, personal) economy within an ecology of thought, i.e. as an economy of attunement  without capture?
I can only figure a kingdom of ends eschatologically, as mentioned already in 3. So this reprise will be brief.
I use "resources" in a very broad sense, to indicate not only the physical resources of the planet , but also psychic, social, sexual, etc. resources — in short, anything that might shape or inflect the self (or, in turn, biopolitics).
In Technologies of the Self — recall, an alternate to the present piece — I already presented my childhood orientation toward food, clothing & shelter: These are physical resources, but often also include significant psychosocial aspects.
The outcome of allocation games is nothing short of the full scope of necropolitics itself. (Note that the contrasting frivolity is not actually aporetic: It is immoral in a very straightforward way.)
I want to dwell on the contradiction in the stakes of allocation games: Although it will be immediately obvious to many readers, this notion seems completely opaque to many people I meet: In stark terms, the various millionaires & billionaires have no risk that they or their children will starve, no matter how badly a particular move (within the game ) might go for them. Indeed, someone with so much power over resources can be completely incompetent — according to any measure one cares to posit — and retain a very (materially ) comfortable life. Such a reality contrasts sharply with the naïve gambling notion of "stake," in which whoever wagers the most (automatically, and always in pre-quantified terms within the neoliberal context) has the most at stake.
Of course, our ambition does not involve preserving the game.
While also acknowledging critiques of materiality, such a parenthetical note remains significant: These people might suffer psychosocial consequences that they themselves find unbearable. (By itself, this is certainly no reason to defer.)
Rather, I made this simple statement specifically regarding ethics: "It is unethical to convince someone to agree to a deal you know is bad for them." The statement was already problematized at the time, and "extremely limited" as per above. (Here I take the time to tackle the resulting aporia, but starting from an another direction.)
The limitation can be framed in terms of feeling responsible. (Such a frame remains similarly limited.) It was, perhaps paradoxically, something of an appeal to duty: Rather, I would say, it was a dismissal of disavowal of duty (for the powerful), which I would continue to characterize somewhat differently. (Let us not fall into a binary here, nor move to equate situations. Either move will plunge us further into aporia.)
Rather, the modern value-allocation nexus has largely been based on violence: We might call it, succinctly, "the bully nexus." In other words, it is violence & power itself that is valued , and in turn, allocated resources. (This situation has certainly been "considered" by those being bullied.)
The value accorded violence by modern society is, of course, constantly denied. (I will return to this topic in upcoming sections.)
Fusing the value-allocation nexus was a necessary premise for economics, in its role as an apology for imperialism: We have it, so we deserve it. (This is paradigmatically a Calvinist notion.) In declaring a unitary measure of value, neoliberalism continues to deny any articulation of this nexus.
In any hypothetical optimization of allocation, we must be attentive to who wants what. (Call this "demand side," in a little turn of phrase.) I will consider attention per se in more detail in the forthcoming companion article on listening.
Latour suggests that we might want to "become agnostic in matters of economy." We might, as here, explore an aspect of that notion by considering allocation as severed from value.
When e.g. Lazzarato demands new principles of ownership, it implies a reconfiguration of family. Lazzarato also notes that production presupposes (is subordinate to) appropriation & division (i.e. allocation), and so I'll note that family is the technology by which such subordination is (most powerfully) always already (re)produced. In other words, reconfiguration of family entails reconfiguration of production (per se — or figured as reproduction).
Attunement to family — and so, choosing family (or Queering family) — is thus problematized as a situation for the generic.
Let us not reenact the superiority of economy via such questions. (Recall, however, the crack opened in 14.) Capture is very specific in this sense.
The notion of allocation games is not merely figurative: Game theory has been revolutionizing  the discipline of economics, particularly around the Nash equilibrium. Such equilibria apply to games — in the mathematical sense  — that are non-cooperative, involve perfect information between players, and can separate non-credible (i.e. irrational ) threats. (The first two conditions largely speak for themselves, although the reader can easily consult definitions & discussion online.) Cooperation without information is one way to figure our aporia, whereas clearly these premises eschew morality per se : Such game theory is strictly self-serving, in close alignment with neoliberalism. Not only does attunement seek cooperation, but it eschews finality: Game theory is usually Markovian, however, meaning that it eschews memory & depends only on the (always already vetted) situation at that instant.[13,14] Such an assumption also makes calculation easier, as mathematical assumptions typically do, and the economy is (in significant part) based on what is easy to calculate.[15,16] Moreover, the situation of information per se  remains far more complex than admitted by basic game theory, including that we not only have too little information, but now often too much. (Information asymmetry is increasingly a means of enforcing the neo-imperial condition. Assuming we have all relevant information, can we even sort through it & calculate within a time constraint?) There is another major issue: Game theory assumes we know who the players are, and indeed constitutes them (presumptively) not only as liberal individuals , but as substitutable individuals [23,24]: In short, its inputs are untheorized & (per 10 & 6) aporetic — its theoretical generality misses singularity [25,26] (of situation). So with its many assumptions, such theory helps us choose only if we've already chosen.
This is a rather pitiful scene of revolution, since the powers that be remain more or less the same. (In that sense, as well as in its technical mechanics, it is merely another rationalization.)
John F. Nash shared the Nobel Prize for economics in 1994, and was the subject of the popular movie, A Beautiful Mind (2001). (That these ideas were framed for the public via biographical narrative is well worth noting.)
I begin by highlighting some issues with the Nash equilibrium that are prominent in the game theory (mathematical) literature. In other words, there is already theoretical work being done on games which do not fit these assumptions.
In simple terms, a "non-credible threat" is one in which another player would have to harm themselves (or perhaps do greater harm to themselves, depending on the game) in order to harm the player making the calculation (move, choice). As the reader has likely observed, such situations are not uncommon in real life, and those "threats" might be quite credible.
Indeed the wealthy imperialists, the multinational corporations, etc. are quite capable of & willing to make decisions that damage their own bottom lines (quantifiable wealth, the only thing that matters according to neoliberal orthodoxy) in favor of harming their perceived enemies. (Stories of their vindictiveness, including around such issues as sexual harassment, are regularly noted in the media. Harassing African-Americans, likewise, costs money & strangles markets: It's a bad idea from a wealth generation perspective, but in these situations, generating wealth is secondary to enforcing social hierarchy.)
It is standard technique, in a wide variety of arguments that are to include mathematics, to "front-load" the entire conclusion into the premises , before proceeding with a mathematical demonstration to dazzle the audience. This is simply another of those occasions: The games are always already non-cooperative!
Propaganda, in turn, front-loads the premises: There are assumptions that people are (more) prepared to accept, and such preparation is accomplished via prior (often conscious, although likely by someone else) manipulation.
Note that there are "actual" games premised on being non-cooperative: That's one way to generate entertainment, within some presumably circumscribed (by clear rules ) setting. This is also a reason that "sports math" is a booming business: The games already have clear, actual rules. Indeed, if the sporting rules aren't conducive enough to straightforward mathematics, other meta- (fantasy) games (i.e. gambling) are created in which such rules can be applied. Significantly, this artificial setting & its associated (increasingly pervasive) discourse are then used to normalize such algorithmic decision-making, in general, as in . (Similar arguments can be made about e.g. video games too.) Thus ease of calculation is prioritized in more domains.
Such rules might be applied to e.g. musical composition or performance, in order to create a game theory kind of art. (Clearly defined rules or limits create their own peculiar dynamic, and have a significant role in art, as raised in 5.)
Let's be clear: The rich play their games across the tapestry of the entire economy in large part for entertainment via competition (and its feeling of "winning"). As much as they claim to be "winners" already, such behavior suggests that they don't believe it themselves.
Rules can become increasingly artificial in game settings, and might even be selected quite intentionally, according to specific social goals of habituation. In other words, learning to play a simple (and, by itself, meaningless) game can condition our decision-making (i.e. morality) more broadly. (This is a significant postcolonial aporia.) This is how a new generation of soldiers is constructed?
Non-cooperation obviously suits neoliberalism, and moreover it is neoliberalism that prioritizes (for economics per se) a single quantifiable outcome, as these games also do. (Such exploitation is also often figured via Darwinism.)
Such a Markovian emphasis is actually embraced by Latour in his discussion of "quittance in transactions," i.e. the notion that the moderns want their transactions to be "final." There are two closely related motives for this preference: The calculation becomes simpler (mathematically), and (once again) imperial conquest is justified as always already accomplished (i.e. "quits").
Note that Buddhism, a trading (commerce) religion, also eschews epistemological memory. (Perhaps we should consider the Markov property to be the definition of enlightenment itself. In a more populist USA idiom, one might say, "Get over it." Is that our desire, or should it be? Perhaps not, and perhaps "enlightenment" is always already both reductionist & conducive to exploitation.)
Hence game theory seeks to evade our aporia a priori. (Too much complexity is not particularly conducive to , either.)
In other words, the economy itself takes on an artificiality (not unlike that of  — or, of course, ).
We are now enmeshed, as some would say, in an "information economy," after all: Such a notion explicitly indicates (or acknowledges) that information is differentially situated.
Too little & too much information can coexist: It simply means that one has the wrong information, or cannot find the right information, or both.
There has always been some degree of information asymmetry, i.e. (reductively) one party to a transaction has known something (relevant) that the other has not. Not only does such asymmetry reach new proportions with the sheer amount of information the postmodern institution can collect & process, but this differential is ever more closely guarded (per ) & monetized: It's basically cheating (grifting, etc.) on a huge scale , and more asymmetry is being cultivated incessantly: It's almost a Silicon Valley startup business plan by itself — that or a (perhaps related) attempt to create a monopoly market.
Thus, economic reform within the current conjuncture would need to mandate more equal access to information. (Such equality would be a move toward restoring "the free market" to its pre-modern meaning & form.) Such reform would need to involve real access, comparable to that of other parties, however, and not simply "access" to the haystack where we're free to seek the needle.
Passivity in the face of temporal constraints remains, despite game theory's general Markovian inability to integrate calculation times, a motive or opening for victimization. (We might ask in turn of radical passivity.) Exploitation itself might be passive, however, if we hesitate to end a scenario that benefits us unfairly. (The latter characterizes the USA white middle class well enough.)
The Pathways to Power anthology attempts to explore various non-liberal scenarios: It theorizes "aggrandizers" (what I have often called "accumulators" in the modern context), and asks how or when e.g. a gift-giving economy or ostentatious (expensive) display might be in their economic interests. (It also observes how aggrandizers are parasitic on existing social frameworks, not creators of those frameworks as they so often claim, and tentatively supports the notion that religion results from hierarchy, not the other way around.) The conclusions are unsurprising, including that individualizing (or "network," i.e. as a connected system of points, the latter figuring the individual, so invoking the liberal subject) power tends to be exclusionary in comparison with collective power. (Sometimes it amazes me that these things require formal study, in this case via archeology.)
Such games (supposedly) give us dispassionate ways to choose e.g. which loved one should plummet from a cliff. (Something akin to this appears in many video games, as per .) Note that the technology of family might be ready with an answer as well, based on its own traditional temporal logic.
Mozi suggests that to forego hierarchy (figured linguistically in his famous "white horse" aphorism) is to forego substitutability in general. One might visualize the latter as simple relations among otherwise identical points on a plane (as in the network of ): Mozi observes that such points imply hierarchy, i.e. a superset either built up from or projecting their plane. Such an equation (which could be formalized mathematically, with some conditions) between substitutability & hierarchy is well worth noting. (Did the reader notice that Nash's game theory assumes hierarchy?)
I remind the reader that generic singularity is not reducible to its relations.
Grace, chance, Fortune... these are highly singular. (As a modern invention, game theory seeks explicitly to subdue chance.)
Hence we settle back into  (in a scene of revolving rationalizations): These games lead us only further into aporia. (For their players, they allow refusal to consider morality at all, in favor of what they can easily calculate — and win.)
As game theory severs allocation from value , it also segregates economic calculation from politics, rationalizing politics as already foreclosed.[2,3,4] In other words, it assumes rules of a game, instead of attempting to forge or nullify such rules. So, instead of the economic techniques of allocation, what are the political techniques of allocation? (Declaring the political situation to be foreclosed is one such technique.) Politics not only starts from values , but in a sense, also from allocation: One must have sufficient resources in order to advocate , so not only does global politics become a chicken & egg problem , but global exchange — and in this sense, politics is a kind of exchange — is inherently unfair due to its unequal basis. How then do generic, incommensurable values  emerge to express a politics of allocation? How are they heard? If generic desire does not emerge from worldly mediation , whence does it come? Fortunately, we do not require answers to all of these question in order to welcome generic desire via radical hospitality , whether figured as our own desire or the desire of others. Salvaging (agonistic) politics from economizing then parallels choosing situational (ecological) attunement over moralizing (capture).
Neoliberalism places great (tautological) value on how well one plays the game of wealth accumulation: Such value remains merely formal, however, until or unless wealth is animated by something (else) one values. By itself, it is empty (potential).
Lazzarato reminds that, even as the economic is presented as the contemporary form of the political, power relations always precede economic relations.
The hegemony of economic calculation also typically posits (per Graeber, and rather differently, Latour) a belief in effective bureaucracy. (Hence, game theory's effectiveness could be critiqued via its institutional embeddedness, to trace another simplification.)
Latour notes that whereas "matter" produces possibility, "economic matter" produces impossibility. Such is the (neoliberal) economic foreclosure of politics.
Such political foreclosure also highlights that liberalism is no longer (economic) critique, but is itself hegemonic. Although this shift is obvious enough, it's worth noting that (continued) figurations of liberalism as emancipatory do have an earlier basis. (As critique, there was a possibility that the destructive tendencies of liberalism could be channeled productively; such possibility disappears along with the object of its critique. Thus, e.g. Fukuyama's vision is inherently nihilistic. This situation presents a warning to any kind of political critique.) Now liberalism simply marks a different caste as ascendent, if I may inject a Hindu idea: Sometimes I dream of a Parashurama for the vaishyas... but that story only enforces yet another sort of hierarchy.
If we can allocate without considering value, we can also value without considering allocation. However, note that whereas allocating implicitly reflects value, valuing does not enact allocation — unless we consider attention itself as a kind of allocation. (Neoliberal allocation is thus amphibological in a Laruellian sense, with value occupying the position of the real, i.e. as determining, at least according to this interrogation of the nexus.) In other words, allocation is provided externally (as worldly), whereas value is generated internally (as generic desire).
Political advocacy is, in some sense, a leisure activity, although some people have been able to produce fighting for life itself as a legible political statement, via the real value of struggle. (We might also ask, perhaps idly, what if evil had no resources, and couldn't advocate? We surely don't need to be giving so many pathological individuals so much power, liberal hegemony or no....)
A common, practical approach to a so-called chicken & egg problem is cyclical: I.e., in this particular situation, we get a few more resources, do a little more advocacy, get a few more resources in turn, do a little more advocacy, etc. (Such an approach is not necessarily effective, depending on various speeds & intensities.)
The unequal economic basis can be figured via asymmetric information (as per 18), but also via unequal access. Consider what would happen if anyone had access to any (exchange) transaction. According to contemporary economic theory, such access is figured via substitutability, but let us demand access that is generic & singular. In other words, let us emphasize (agentic) subject ecology, rather than exchange (relation), and so acknowledge the limits of an ontology of relation.
Smith via Negri suggests that Job posits that it is only the immeasurable that is a true measure of value. (In other words, value — as does the real, as in  — overflows all containers.) Kant suggested, somewhat similarly, that dignity is above all (economic) value. In either case, we might posit (instead, per Grossberg) incommensurable values.
We might also want to (re)consider the liberal saw (variously attributed), that "Your right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins." Where are the arm & nose of global allocation politics? Where is the political contest over the arm & nose? Might we (accidentally ) hit our own noses?
Butler reminds that there is a danger of doing violence to ourselves in the name of morality, i.e. that we must continue to engage desire.
The problem of listening, specifically, will be treated in the companion article.
Thus values cannot be defined by value-free facts, whether mathematical results or otherwise. They must be debated (politically), yes, but they cannot emerge from such mediation. In other words, allocation may be negotiable, but values are not. (Neoliberal orthodoxy proclaims, instead, that allocation automatically & tautologically follows unitary value, so is not negotiable.)
Radical hospitality suggests a morality that can never claim power over, but only power with.
As I've discussed, political allocation is increasingly circumscribed by economic allocation , i.e. by a logic tuned to capitalist imperialism: Such logic is both figured by & figures narrative — strands of narrative that both justify imperialism, and are themselves imperial. In other words, violent (imperial) suppression is partially sublimated into (narrative) discipline [3,4]: If we don't want to choose according to imperialism , then we must be aware of how its narrative already figures our desire. Narrative, as a particular genre , has its own temporal logic , a logic conducive to history: The logic of (imperial) narrative hence tends to figure morality according to history. Moreover, narrative as language appropriates the real : It is inherently imperial as it tells us  what has (already) happened, i.e. as it demands conformance with itself. Narrative moralizing then becomes (ideological) control, and its (historicizing [14,15]) discourse must be breached  in order to confront moral aporia: Imperialism remains intact if its narratives remain intact, and in that sense, post- only designates an appendix.
The modern discipline of economics worked to circumscribe political allocation from its start. However, with the rise of neoliberalism, the chains of "economics" have become considerably tighter.
We could refigure imperialism according to the imposition of narrative: This narrative is, in turn, structured so as to benefit particular groups of people & their behaviors, and so to perpetuate imperialism.
Imperial narrative thus seeks to figure violence as nonviolent — or as less violent than (the manufactured, claimed to be only) alternatives.
In turn, per e.g. Lazzarato, language is subordinated to asignifying semiotics, i.e. (quantifiable) money, etc. (Quantification is a significant component of neo-imperial narrative.)
I certainly don't want to choose according to imperialism. Exercising that preference can be rather difficult, however, hence our aporia.
Such an awareness might be framed as "attunement in opposition," or perhaps simply dissonance.
According to André Jolles, via Jameson, the fundamental (speech) genres are legend, saga, myth, riddle, proverb, fait divers, joke, fairy tale, & casus. In this framework, narrative is a more recent hybrid form. Ngai discusses the emergence of "interesting" as a category with the romantic novel, for instance. Latour also designates "fiction" as one of his modes, whereas Jameson observes that fiction is a kind of lying — lying figuring various of those early speech genres.
There is speculation that human language originated as a replacement for grooming, and many of these genres can be figured accordingly.
The temporal logic of narrative is not identical to the temporal logic of economics, hence why they mutually figure each other, rather than rely on a firm structural relation. (Such a "dance" lets them pair to form a more flexible tool for power.)
Historicizing logic is not inherent to morality: One might view it as a specific reconfiguration of timelessness (such that e.g. death & destruction can be figured as "progress.".)
Dualizing reality according to (fictional, pace ) language, such as that of gender, makes a world, in the Laruellian sense. (Hence the non-linguistic turn is, in part, toward the real.)
Simply put, narrative (form) has a narrator.
Disagreement with the dominant narrative can be figured as criminal or insane, or both. (Some disagreements are tolerated, and some are not.)
In what ways might we want to choose according to, or against history? Is our desire to change the narrative itself? (Lowe says that the past itself is never inevitable, that it always has gaps & alternatives.) Who or what might we want to respect with our choices? Perhaps we want to be attuned to the sheer variety of historical (& pre-historical) possibility.
One might say that capitalism feeds on history, whereas religion veils history. Which takes meta-history farther, i.e. which mode relies more on its premises than on its narrative per se? Is there anything worthwhile produced by these historicizing processes? What? Perhaps it remains worth noting that the neoliberal narrative remains thoroughly steeped in eschatology (as was/is Hobbesian politics): It posits accumulation as salvation, and thus is a hybrid. Neoliberalism simply cannot be understood without Christianity.
Narrative moralizing has long been breached by literary expression that problematizes it from within, perhaps formally.
If we are to breach imperial narratives that continue to figure worlds of ideas  & desires, we must interrogate the so-called "enlightenment" philosophy that consolidated  (imperial) European modernity. Whereas modern thought is dualizing in general [4,5], enlightenment thinkers  forged a decisive gap or separation between one's "true self" & one's actions [7,9], a gap allowing the most heinous of outcomes to be embraced as merely "unintentional." Moreover, in a related move, the moral apologists of the time severed aesthetic appraisal from (moral  &) political debate: The ugly is no longer a political problem, but simply one of "personal taste." Such dualizing meets in subject-object , not only in its aesthetic guise, but as imperialist rule  of both people  & planet : In order to choose according to generic desire, we must reject both subject-object duality  & the (carefully constructed) gap figured by intent. Such rejected notions encompass recognition, including postcolonial recognition , and involve (always only potentially ) overcoming enlightenment rationalization & obfuscation via (non-moralizing) Non-enlightenment , according to which our choices are not already decided or stable: In other words, dismissing enlightenment narrative does not make our choices, but does avoid foreclosing them.
I don't mean to glorify idealism with this remark — and indeed, idealism was a significant ingredient in cooking up imperial philosophy — but rather seek to reopen (future, worldly) possibility.
I have frequently discussed early modern thinking, particularly around the topic of political economy. Whereas such early modern thinking was critical to forging European imperialism, note that enlightenment philosophy was created only after European dominance had largely been established via violence. It thus seeks less to justify (in progress) violent imposition (or disinhibition) than it does to justify already existing conditions. (So it is an apology, in the technical sense.) Enlightenment philosophy is "conservative" in this sense — even as it invents such notions as progress, etc.
From here, I will consider "European" to be redundant to "modernity," unless there is some issue requiring the separation of European from e.g. North American modernism. (Modernity is, then, the modes of thought imposed by Europe, via violence, on the rest of the world — as well as on much of Europe itself. Modernity is the outcome of imperialism in this sense.)
The prototype of modern dualizing is Descartes' mind-body split.
Agamben points out how the doctrine of two wills, as applied to Pilate & Jesus, was a medieval form of rationalizing by splitting: Such dualizing was debated in various forms during the medieval era, lending ready material for its decisive modern formulation.
I hope that the sheer sarcasm which a label like "enlightenment thinkers" entails for me is evident to the reader. (That label is simply more common than e.g. "spokesmen for oppression," or something else similarly accurate.)
The protestants had already figured religious belief as private & internal, and hence not amenable to outside scrutiny via one's actions. (One can thus clearly perceive protestantism as the religion of liberalism.) This was opposed to the catholic emphasis on public works. However, note that catholicism accommodates a separation between word & deed via the confessional: Do whatever you want, but repent! Protestantism skips the penance step (for greater efficiency, no doubt).
Rather, one might say that liberalism — as a religion itself, and a jealously monotheistic religion under neoliberal fundamentalism — has its origins in protestantism: One's (selfish) accumulation projects simply should not be judged.
Such a gap between deed & "inner life" can also be framed according to the separation of signifier & signified, "intent" figuring this gap or hiatus.
Latour (via Deleuze) suggests that representation (as transcendental illusion) arose from morality , and we can certainly figure representation according to hiatus, as between reality & image. In the present piece, such hiatus is indeed interrogated in its guise as morality, which is posited as unrepresentable (or hence, aporetic).
Such a genealogy begins with Kant severing morality from appearance, the good from the beautiful. (Note that, per Deleuze, causality tends to point from the more clear to the less clear. Hence, such a separation serves mystification, Kant's supposed rationalism notwithstanding.)
Kant was thus able to frame morality as duty, i.e. as appeal to authority. (In contrast, early Christian morality might be explicitly opposed to temporal authority.) Ahmed problematizes the inherent hierarchy of this notion according to the willful other.
I continue to encounter the belief that "personal taste" cannot be examined, and with some frequency. The person offering that opinion most often believes that such taste is simply inscrutable, and so inquiry is a waste of time. However, like Kant's patrons, some merely believe it to be impolite. The former position is supported in its mystification via constant marketing messages, since the latter does not leave one sufficiently well-insulated from inquiry.
Hegel attempts to problematize & instrumentalize  such simple dualities via dialectics , in this case, suggesting e.g. that it is possessions (or property) that give a person value. As already per , such a framework for imbricating the subject-object duality provides an obvious spur toward & justification for accumulation. (Butler counters that property itself is always already dead, and so cannot rescue living subjects from its duality.)
Hegel creates a fundamentally narrative temporality with his concept of dialectical progress. Of course, the (narrative) "progress" notion continues to be of great use to various (neo-)imperialists: The term is a fixture of contemporary political mediation: How do we continue/enforce progress, etc.? (Note the symbolic mediation in the figuration of choice via an artificial notion such as progress: We're much less likely to hear people simply ask what is a good idea or outcome.)
Dialectics is a formal procedure for enfolding concepts, if I may mix terms a bit. In that sense, the procedure provides some trace for unfolding — what one might otherwise call genealogy — via negative dialectics (per Adorno). In other words, as noted already in this paragraph, various historical concepts have been enfolded into the elements of contemporary imperialist narrative: They are obscured, often intentionally, but remain operative.
The subject-object duality thus reflects the inherently asymmetric forces (of violence) that provoked it.
Lowe notes, succinctly, that a genealogy of liberalism is a genealogy of race. (In these terms, the notion that neoliberalism enacts post-racism is a bad joke.)
Per Kant, via Deleuze & Cervenak, knowledge itself then legislates planetary objects. In other words, epistemology is imperial: Such a situation is not much of a change, except that now it arises from presumptive rationality, rather than (capricious?) royal prerogative. (This is governmentality.)
I continue to find ecology to be a pregnant means of problematizing subject-object.
Disclaiming intent is simply another means of disclaiming responsibility: It's available only to those who (already) have means, i.e. power. (But, no matter: Here we care about outcomes.)
The notion that various peoples of the world (even leaving aside the normative value typically placed on nation-states in this setting) require "recognition" from the imperialists is an obvious extension of the imperial narrative: That a "theory of recognition" was already created by one of the imperialists' most prominent apologists is simply too much. How can anyone believe in this nonsense?
We remain in moral aporia.
I fear that even positing a Non-enlightenment continues to give the so-called enlightenment thinkers more power & respect than they deserve.
The language of debt is appropriate: We do not owe a debt or duty to narrative, particularly not to a narrative to which we never consented. (Obviously, birth is not consent, although I half expect an internet company to declare it so.)
Subject-object & thought-deed dualities (splits) recapitulate mind-body, and in turn intensify a primary imperial duality, man-nature: Not only does this narrative  task man  with conquering the material world , but with conquering his body by his mind, etc. The man-nature duality has thus figured a hierarchy of violence , with the construction of "nature" as an exploitable other buoyed by constructing gendered & racialized others as exploitable too , and indeed the body itself as exploitable by the mind.[8,9,10] Desire for exploitation via man-nature demands repression of desire in the other & in the body. From the standpoint of generic desire, morality itself is thus plunged into aporia: Exploitation & repression not only figure self-other, but become internal to the self.[12,13] In that sense, enlightenment philosophy sublimated imperial violence into an ecology of violence that figures all relations. Hence, our task is now to welcome the abject (bodily, natural) other, so as to become attuned to generic desire.
Dualizing is a basis for beginning narrative construction. (As I have discussed previously, to say something, to tell a story, one begins with a cut or rupture: Such narrative cuts can be figured by a series of dualities.) Dualizing is how we commonly split an undifferentiated mass into entities, starting with self-other. Narrative also typically involves temporal dualizing, i.e. what is described is not happening at the same time as it is described (or read).
The reader surely knows that the universal "man" of this conception is white, liberal, heterosexual, etc.
In Kolozova's terms, the world seeks to conquer the real via the concept of materiality. (In other words, the world of man seeks to use the real of nature as mere raw material.)
As noted in 13, the Laruellian real can be related genealogically to enlightenment naturalism (as described by Descola). As with much of Laruelle's non-philosophizing, his approach to the real can be figured as elevating (and giving agency to) the supposedly "inferior" half of a duality, in this case a variant of man-nature. (Man is figured here as worldly, rather than as Laruelle's generic man-in-person.)
We can figure the (narrative) hierarchy enacted by the man-nature duality as patriarchy per se. (Does it even produce capitalism as well?)
Graeber notes that violence is the only possible action whose results can be predicted without understanding the other on which it is imposed. This observation may be something of an overstatement, but physical violence has a very direct effect — as mediated by power. (Violence by or against the more powerful leads to very different results.)
The gendered & racialized (and the list goes on...) others are figured as non-human, i.e. as parts of nature — unlike the agentic subject of .
Thus the mind does violence to the body, and the gendered & racialized others are figured, together with nature, as bodies.
According to Foucault, anthropology — figurable as the study of (natural) human bodies, rather than minds (or without minds) — has governed philosophy since Kant.
Ahmed notes that even "willing" bodies may (need to) be forced, and that laziness came to be figured as the principal moral weakness: The body must always be working for the (rational) goals of the mind. (We continue to figure bodily laziness as moral defect today, but are also concerned with such mental issues as "attention." I'll consider that topic in more detail in the companion article on listening.) Perhaps it is ironic, then, that bodily coercion correlates so well to outright absurd stupidity. (Perhaps not, since the mind is already figured as being for capital.)
Jameson suggests that early modern (Baroque) art already reflected a (new) emphasis on libidinal investment in the body — and this happened during the early period of imperial conquest. We can thus trace the transfiguration (and politicization) of such desire, as it was being repressed. (Such an investigation parallels, to some an extent, those of early modern political theology.)
Exploitation & repression within the self are thus the (natural?) consequences of enlightenment dualizing & rationalizing violence.
Our internal torment is thus figured as "private," as well, in line with the protestant impulse. Thus we forge the liberal individual: Such a "free" individual has the property of possessing a private, inner life according to Hegel. (I asked already in States over nature whether privacy is natural.) Such an individual also has a right to conduct their own private business, etc.
Somehow, though, the hegemony of the "private life" of the self is not paralleled by similar developments in public-private "spheres": The feminized private sphere was figured as inferior, paralleling the feminized body of nature, and enabling exploitation. (Enlightenment splitting thus occurred within the home as well as within the self.)
Note that States over nature, the final gesture of What is familiar?, Chapter III, explicitly discussed worldly construction over the real (figured as nature), including privacy in a moral (in that case, causal) context. Here I can answer clearly & succinctly that privacy is not natural in an ecological sense — which is the relevant sense here (as opposed to "natural" as itself an enlightenment era construction). Ecological circulation knows no privacy, at least not for long.
Transcendence, including in the Hegelian sense, art as a vehicle for the absolute, then becomes the only way to escape a pervasive ecology of violence. (Transcendence, artistic or otherwise, recapitulates enfolded Christian theology. One might say that the latter posits an ecology of good, usually just beyond our grasp.) Morality (although aporetic) cannot be content with escape, however.
Perhaps this rather straightforward point is already redundant....
By constructing & reinforcing an ecology of violence, narrative imperialism demonstrates both its power & its weakness: It is pervasive , but also self-destructive. Moreover, in figuring morality according to history, narrative imperialism posits both a prior  & a posterior state: Its own progress narrative might be used against it , including by turning to its precedents & its others. Indeed, we can forge new narratives that subdue imperialist history, and such (postcolonial?) narratives often start from bodily (performative) noncompliance. Such a statement (via non-) figures strength of will in the negative , so we are still seeking a welcome for (affirmative ) desire: Whence disinhibition? How do we construct technologies of improvisation? Who is permitted to improvise? Of whom is "consistency" demanded? What of shared (improvisatory) experience? What is a (generic) politics of allocating such experience? In short, how does one become attuned to & participate in affirmative, improvisatory noncompliance?
The scope of narrative imperialism exceeds spatiality itself , spilling into the worlds of self-technologies & relation in general.
Note that narrative imperialism does remain bound — because of its nature as narrative — to particular temporalities. (Hence afro-futurism & the fractured temporalities of much avant garde music: These are, or can be, non-narrative.)
European universalism can thus be figured as the ideology of universal destruction.
One might construct a genealogy of the liberal subject, for instance, rather than accepting it as always already accomplished. What was the premodern person like? (Foucault suggests that the premodern person typically embraced the generic.)
Hence the rather clumsy neoliberal maneuver of declaring history to have ended, leaving us in a supposed post- situation that is the perpetual present of capitalist imperialism.
Negativity operates as discipline, so a statement about noncompliance effectively suggests disciplining narrative. Such a notion involves turning the self-destructive negativity of imperialism against itself, but it carries a danger: Lazzarato notes that sacrifice & transcendence are born together, and represent a political victory for state mediation. In other words, per Baudrillard, the imperial narrative is quite adept at assimilating its negative (transcendentally). So effective noncompliance cannot be (merely) sacrificial: It overflows negativity.
Graeber notes that, besides sovereignty, the modern state also depends on bureaucracy & heroic politics. The latter is often figured as noncompliance (although perhaps it involves over-compliance).
Although Galloway does seem to embrace typology itself uncritically, he offers a (resulting, typological) diagram worth noting: He suggests four quadrants, with immanence-transcendental (these are his word forms, whereas I would use immanent-transcendent) on one axis, and affirmation-negation on the other: He positions enlightenment philosophy in the transcendental negation quadrant, and (perhaps closest to Heidegger, "law as") morality in the transcendental affirmation quadrant (with Deleuze in immanence-affirmation & Badiou in immanence-negation). He calls the resulting typology the standard model, and contrasts it with Laruellian non-philosophy. In any case, transcendental morality is what I've been calling (in part, traditional) moralizing, but at least its affirmative mode projects "how to live" rather than how not to live. Which is really more typical?
Finding an affirmative mode is an inherent issue for critique, not to mention our particular aporia. (Here I figure the affirmative mode via desire.)
Imperial conquest has been figured (by Sloterdijk & others) via disinhibition: How were Europeans able to simply start slaughtering people, without feeling repulsed by themselves? What made them believe they were right? So disinhibition (itself involving a double negative) has been figured in the negative, as an impulse (or lack of impulse?) that convinces people to do terrible things (or lets them?). On the other hand, disinhibition is a necessity for eschewing dominant narrative & acting toward change, and so I figure it here as welcoming desire — perhaps in an orgy of disequilibrium. (This figuration does not mean that negative outcomes are impossible: Openings are openings.)
Elsewhere, I interrogate concrete, practical technologies of improvisation via music.
As Cervenak notes, the white liberal subject was able to revel in improvisatory wandering (e.g. travel as a tourist ) in e.g. the Victorian era, whereas any (self-)movement of racialized others was proscribed.
The twentieth-first century has, if anything, more tourism. The privileged subject of the twenty-first century can also become an "entrepreneur," whom "venture capitalists" might lavish with resources for doing little or nothing, on the premise that profits could one day arrive. (This sort of economic wandering, trying something different, is encouraged if it seems to serve capital, not so unlike the early modern "exploration" that forged mercantilism.)
Consistency & inconsistency were & are enforced as in , with the racialized other figured as always already inconsistent: (Although it rationalizes disciplinary violence), narrative imperialism fears such inconsistency. The former can only figure the latter as overflowing its own rationale, so perhaps we need more overflowing, per . (In other words, welcome abject agency.)
Sharing experience does not occur (potentially) only at the level of the self or individual: It always already figures self-other, and self-formation in general. Moreover, it figures power, especially transversal (ecological) power (with).
The world interior (of capital ) has become increasingly fractured: Neoliberal intensification of allocation differences  both disperses those differences via globalization , and brings them in much closer contact, particularly within the so-called interior. The interior is thus no longer an interior in a coherent spatial sense , but rather a sort of "swiss cheese" in which the boundary between what is or isn't a hole becomes so precarious that it penetrates into the subject itself: In other words, exploitation is everywhere  with its relative extremes. Extreme discontinuity is also met with smoothing effects: The "welfare state"  is a modern form of smoothing that operates on traditional geographic units, invoking some form of constituent reciprocity of citizenship , and a resulting sense of interiority. The family is smaller , but no less politically manipulable  — indeed, the interior might be figured as the familiar. The interior bias of self-other construction is then figured in turn across the scene of world politics, in such notions as north-south, third world, etc. None of these worlds is coherent under globalization , but my situation here is still that of the interior: If we are to engage affirmative, improvisatory noncompliance, and confront our aporia, what is "special"  about this situation, and how does it compare to notions of universality  or the generic? Moreover, how does the notion of interiority function as a frame for symbolic mediation, beyond its invocation of self-other? Is our aporia world-bound, and if so, how?
The title of this section is taken from Sloterdijk, although I will not be following his analysis in any detail. Nonetheless, it's an apt image.
Sloterdijk's broader sense of interiority, explored in part via "spheres," is modeled fairly closely on Heidegger. We can continue to ask, then, what is the nature of interiority per se?
Not only does a fundamentalist notion of value eliminate many (former) ways to be validated as a contributor (presumably justifying allocation, even under imperial logic), but neoliberal logic is much more aggressive at "punishing" people for perceived failures. In other words, not only are the rich getting richer (exponentially), but the poor are also getting poorer (if not quite exponentially). The chasm between the two becomes wider on both accounts.
In other words, a proportion of people similar to that for the previous regime benefit under neo-imperial allocation, but they are arranged differently in a spatial sense: Wealth gradients are installed or enforced or intensified in every locale.
Even the wealthiest regions generate massive internal wealth gradients , so that abjection can exist literally on the same city block as billion dollar enterprises. (Such juxtaposition can be figured, in part, as disciplinary.)
Wealth gradients are both the basic building blocks & results of (imperial) capitalist exchange: I have characterized this process elsewhere as "the harvesting of differences," beginning with the mercantile circuits of the early modern era. Under globalization, which might otherwise level out differences (in theory), such differences must be manufactured, so as to extract profits from them. (Capitalism consumes difference.)
For decades, the so-called "middle class"  in the US could rely on some percentage of wealth falling to them (I hesitate to say "trickling down" ), simply on account of their general (perhaps only implicit) support for US imperialism. Under the regime of globalization — and this is a component of the decline of the nation-state form  — such generalized support is no longer valued. In other words, the voting public (of the US, at least) is no longer considered to be capable of reining in its worst abusers. So why bother paying that public?
Note that I strongly disapprove of the "middle class" identity, not only for the specifics of what these people have done (mostly in terms of lazy ignorance ), but because the very construction of the term posits them as better than other people (and worse than some, in what was already a unitary valuation scheme).
Per Barthes, the supposed "innocence of the modern soul" is supported by declaring sentiment itself to be indecent. (This is a variant on Kant's denial of the political relevance of the aesthetic.)
As is so typical of marketing & propaganda, the "trickle down" concept (or message) was proposed simultaneous to stopping the flow — or, one might say, reducing it to a trickle. (Proclaiming not only to be continuing something, but putting increased value on it, while halting that very thing, is a norm of propaganda: One sees it, for instance, when chain restaurants decrease their ingredient quality while launching an ad campaign declaring how good their ingredients are.)
The nation-state form was born from imperialism, and as I've had occasion to discuss elsewhere, its core competence is war. It will not be missed, despite the various threats to replace it with something worse under global capitalism (i.e. neo-imperialism).
This sort of "backlash" is directly analogous to that of the European early modern era: Imperial exploitation of people around the globe meant that the "home" population became at least somewhat superfluous to wealth accumulation, meaning in turn that their long-term negotiated gains were undermined by lack of power (to have an effect via labor stoppage, say), and so (material, in the Marxist sense) conditions for the poor in Europe declined accordingly & precipitously. Such a backlash of abjection affected not only the regions whose elites were exploiting other areas of the planet, but also neighboring regions that had no access to such plunder: They "had" to plunder their own people in order to achieve similar opulence, and remember that these rulers were generally from the same families, meaning that the lifestyle of their sisters or cousins was a (potential) source of considerable jealousy. This basic process — the process by which the rich & powerful say, "We don't need to worry about what you want anymore" — was thus substantially similar to that of our own era. Hence the neo-imperial label resonates on multiple levels, including effects on the so-called interior.
Exploitation respects no boundaries or borders. Rather, one might observe that capital can penetrate any border, meaning that such a border can be exploited as a difference engine (per ), because of what it does exclude — mainly people. (In that sense, national borders are now arbitrage engines serving a subset of people who are positioned so as to exploit them.)
As an image for extreme economic differences coming in ever-closer proximity, one might consider the Cantor set (beloved of Badiou ). Whereas such discontinuity can & does penetrate the subject, and so into ever-smaller spaces, smoothing effects prevent the Cantor set notion from being more than an evocative image, however.
In parallel with Badiou, extreme economic differences coming in ever-closer proximity raise intensity toward a reflexive event. (In other words, one's "mirror" becomes increasingly charged: One comes to see difference politically.)
Note that from the classic liberal perspective, the biggest sin of the welfare state may be to "invade privacy," and thereby flout cherished notions of independence. (Such notions of privacy serve to limit smoothing, and thus to preserve a "point" concept of the individual, and in turn the full discontinuity of the Cantor set image from .)
As a (reinvigorated) harvester of differences, globalism seeks to evade reciprocity (which is based on similarities) — whether of citizenship, or anything else. (In other words, the global corporation & the individual citizen are too dissimilar for actual reciprocity to be possible. In the US, sadly, this incommensurability has been addressed by giving the global corporation the rights of an individual citizen.)
Pushing economic discontinuity into smaller spaces means that, more than ever, family members might have vastly different resources. (Such differences have sometimes been figured as issues for psychoanalysis.) The family is also the primary scene of mimesis, in this & other senses, meaning that some smoothing is inevitable, despite arguments from individual exceptionalism.
Family politics are increasingly manipulated or contested via the welfare state. Per , "privacy" is often contested via the family, in opposition to the (prototypical liberal) concerns of business, for instance. (One place to see such contest today is in arguments over childhood vaccinations.) However, such welfare state mediations are more often framed in terms of rhetoric about families — and it's typically families — "deserving" services. Family politics can also involve assimilating contradictions closely, so that one might benefit from world oppression while simultaneously disclaiming it: The family is a taut scene enacting such benefit & disclaimer into a territory, as the children of the abject appear (on television, perhaps) as not-so-subtle cues to conform to narrative. This entire scene is then (already) tied to self-formation, and so figures the (liberal, individual) subject. This is only one possible sketch of various means of political interiorization  via the family....
Vaccination, as an example, also makes for an interesting symbolic encounter with death via medicalization, as the latter increasingly permeates society in the wake of making healthcare industry profits a national priority. Maybe it's appropriate that small children come to associate healthcare with something (at least superficially) harmful.
In other words, what I've called "smoothing," i.e. reducing discontinuities between neighboring (in some sense) entities, preserves or forges an "interior" territory.
The present section also turns toward the present, while perhaps invoking the future, rather than analyze the historical past. (The past might or might not be familiar.)
Simultaneously increasing continuity (dispersion) & discontinuity brings the "world" concept itself into crisis.
This is supposedly the disease of the interior: Now everyone is "special," self-absorbed, entitled, etc. Such notions would appear to be neither "universal" nor generic.
Notions of universality suggest a critique of the other, since the so-called "universal" is not actually found everywhere. (Universality explicitly projects deficiency onto the other.)
Resisting the imposition of ever-denser differences (steeper gradients, more discontinuities ) sets worlds in collision: Moral choices might lead straight into heresy  or civil war  — but also inflect perpetual crisis , the contemporary form of governmentality. Earth (ecology) itself is always & everywhere already in revolt against capitalist imperialism, even if such revolt is enacted only via terrorist discontinuity : Unofficial (civil) war irrupts everywhere (supposedly) without theory  or (much) mediation. Although such revolt might be managed according to cyclical change [8,10], the modernist doctrine posits strict linearity : Revolt, and terror in particular, are thus set in particular opposition to an imperial progress narrative — and indeed such revolt largely seeks a non-narrative mode. In other words, terrorism denies the hegemony of family (and with it, genealogically, the economic) via a politics of death — in a kind of smoothing  that further implicates family. The familiar thus frames (symbolic) mediation of (global) war, civil or otherwise, perhaps suggesting a theory that can be interrogated according to the "special" , the universal, or the generic: Via the latter, our aporia moves transverse to worlds (interior or otherwise ): We might finally choose, or struggle, according to the victim — rather than worlds.
Moral aporia might suggest resistance to (or from) discontinuities folded into the self.
The concept of heresy here is taken from Laruelle, and in his terms, particularly according to a theory of victims, arises from decision itself. (Heresy is already opposed to authority, and so requires our choice.)
The concept of civil war here is taken from Agamben. (One might also consider the "casus" speech genre, more generally, as already named in a note to 20.) Agamben figures civil war according to stasis, so as a perpetual situation. From this perspective, political struggle is always ongoing, and civil war is now global.
As opposed to , under the regime of perpetual crisis, there is never a decision. (This situation is opposed to the irreversibility of catastrophe, per Benjamin.) Such perpetual social indecision is our aporia writ large.
According to Agamben, terrorism takes place when life as such (zoe versus bios, in his terms) becomes the stakes of politics (i.e. bare life as biopolitics, or necropolitics in Mbembe's terms). Such a situation may also be figured according to discontinuous worlds: There is no longer a clear boundary along which conflict occurs: The gradients & discontinuities thrust conflict into every space, hence "terrorism."
According to Schmitt's idea of nomos, the nomos of the sea replaced that of land in the early modern era: We can observe this in the dominance of the planetary (sea-based) trading empires, particularly that of Great Britain, an island. Note that the sea provides a "smooth" (to evoke Deleuze) space, and hence less discontinuity than existed on land. Discontinuities are increasingly folded into all such spaces, however, such that the smooth is relegated to ever-more-tenuous (but dense) zones of indistinction — such as borders themselves. Schmitt did not anticipate the nomos of terrorism, then, but we might figure it (and others have) as the nomos of the sea inflecting onto land, as the sea itself has become largely striated. (Note that Hobbes already figured, at least diagrammatically, some of this very indistinction. Leviathan is, after all, a sea creature.) How might one apply these "nomos" ideas to the internet?
Mediation can still exist as capitalist mediation, i.e. as extracting profits from differences. (Warmongering remains quite profitable, for instance.)
Agamben observes some notions from classical antiquity, namely that discord cannot be isolated from union. Moreover, he figures the political-economic battle as a historical norm. (We can ask, then, what was the Greek solution? What would be some other, un-Greek solutions?) Modernity attempts to position the economic as superior to the political, via the political , and so to remove this historical tension. (My remarks about rescuing the political from the economic are surely becoming redundant by now.)
In other words, the economic is not erected as superior by actually treating everyone like family. It is first imposed by violence — which, of course, might be how the very same people treat their families. (The latter confirms history as the antithesis of the economic, according to their classical modes.)
"Static" cycles of civil war can also be figured according to forgetting. (Lowe notes that the US Civil War served actively to erase the role of slavery in enabling industrialization, so such forgetting is very political. What is or isn't forgotten is thus a significant stake of civil war, a stake that US emancipation partially neglected: Or, in other words, whereas the slaves certainly won something significant in the civil war, they were not actually the victors, weren't even official combatants, and did not set the terms.) Insurrection itself then becomes a kind of memory, even when perpetual.
Jameson notes that Faust was already about forgetting, and goes on to figure postmodernism itself as (forced) capitalist forgetting. (I continue to have some difficulty with the nostalgic mode through which Jameson figures modernism. Indeed, Jameson seems to forget the exploitative origins of modernist thought.)
Lowe notes, moreover, that liberalism translates worlds via an economy of affirmation & forgetting. (This is another way to figure narrative imperialism.) In other words, liberal governmentality relies on forgetting — such as forgetting colonial policies & corresponding atrocities — and finds its greatest conflicts with those who refuse to forget. (I remind the reader of my remarks on "Markovian enlightenment" from 18.)
Whereas we might want to choose forgiveness, the disciplinary regime demands that the status quo be accepted in full. In other words, the regime offers nothing but forgetting (together with affirmation of itself), while continuing to assert authority implicitly on the basis of the past (via prior accumulation, say). Actual forgiveness would, instead, involve substantial redistribution.
The North's erasure of its own oppressive means of dominance continues to be a major — and actively suppressed, despite much ongoing chatter otherwise — issue lingering from the US Civil War. It was not a slave rebellion, not a populist rebellion at least on the part of the victors, and those victors were simply different (sorts of) oppressors.
In other words, yet again, liberalism posits its own brand of democracy as the only political outcome. And Marxism posits a different sort of single-outcome narrative. Such is the Hegelian disease.
Non-narrative revolt evokes, perhaps, Laruelle's notion of generic struggle of man-in-person. (Meaning would be imposed only in the last instance.)
Smoothing via killing operates, obviously, in the domain of necropolitics, and perhaps paradoxically, as another discontinuous mode.
So I might reframe  as a sort of political-economic indistinction: The economic enacts a necropolitics that is resisted (and returned in kind) in the same plane. (Economic production is thus set in opposition to its own reproduction.)
The familiar surely figures the special. (Note, once again, how tracing the familiar proceeds via looping circularity, a particular example of which is illustrated, via forgetting, in .) However, the two are not synonymous: The unfamiliar might be special, depending on circumstances.
The power of terrorism can be framed via its straightforward denial of interiority: Everything is precarious everywhere. (It is thus a natural aspect of neoliberal globalization.)
So we seek to acknowledge, yet not bolster, interiority. (Moral aporia is not a fortress. Perhaps it's the opposite of a fortress.)
Struggling according to the victim suggests (high biopolitical) stakes, but liberalism has become rather adept at capturing conflict & institutionalizing it within domains that lack revolutionary potential. A particularly significant domain has been sports , as both global & personal conflict is diverted into such contests: Because of its rules — and rules manifestly preserve the disciplinary regime  — sports is figured as nonviolent, or at least non-war. It not only generates its own moralisms , but inflects the way conflict & competition are figured for & by the public.[10,11] The sports industry is institutional capture writ large — as half of bread & circuses  — and has become a pillar of governmentality: It can make conflicts illegible in the political arena, while positing a supposed "level playing field" , a defining myth of contemporary liberalism. Sports also supports the notion of "special" people, and so fights the generic [21,22] via its relentless symbolic framing of interiority. In other words, sports has high stakes, but they aren't the stakes it acknowledges.
As the previous paragraph suggests, however, capture is far from perfect: Conflict continues to overflow liberal governmentality, particularly in the absence of forgetting. (One response has been to demand more power for the regime.)
We can link the rise of sports as global social diversion to the Olympic revival, which was largely accomplished during the nineteenth century. (The eventual institution figured itself explicitly as having revolutionary potential — to preserve liberal society.) It continues to grow.
Significantly, the rules of (institutional) sport are typically imposed by an external body. (Children might actually decide their own rules on the playground, though.)
Free play is feared in larger institutional circles. How would it be controlled? (And let's not give the impression that people can make their own rules.) So children are channeled into organized activities.
I am figuring sporting outcomes themselves as low stakes, on a societal or global level, but on the personal level (and for a small number of participants ), significant wealth & prestige come into play.
Sports thus confirms social hierarchy, with a small number of people at the top, and most people at the bottom: Such is the salary configuration in most professional leagues.
For instance, sports is widely mocked for its "give 110%" notion, although I've come to hear that as an exhortation to ignore one's body, and embrace future chronic injury. What is the morality of that? Moreover, sports enacts a "morality theater" more broadly, where winning & losing can be figured via external narrative according to various tropes of humility & prestige. Sports broadcasts & analyses are typically accompanied by a wide range of moralizing statements. Various rationales are sought for an outcome that might have involved little more than the flip of a coin. It's become an exemplary venue for a posteriori rationalization  — thus modeling that mode of thought.
Although I suspect it's rarely conscious, and it's not in specific technical language, all manner of dialectical & psychoanalytic narratives are employed by sports commentators. (Such notions as "overcoming adversity," what registers as an incurable moral defect & what doesn't, etc. thus allow one to read the public's conception of e.g. dialectical progress. I find sports commentary to be fascinating in this sense, while also being absurd & pitiful: So much attention for such pointless activity! The absurd basis somehow places the patterns of thought into sharper relief.)
As opposed to sports' typical ad hoc rationalization for why victory is always (by definition, and in accord with Calvinism) deserved, Laruelle says, thinking from the victim, "Every victorious force that considers its victory to be sufficient is criminal." (From there, we might posit something about professional athletes as role models.)
Via its media presence, sports is able to portray all-out (per ) competition as ubiquitous, such that we see sports-themed television ads featuring families "trash talking" each other about some petty competition.
Competition is naturalized & instrumentalized according to the precepts of neoliberal fundamentalism: Professional sports, as well as gambling , provide ways to translate physical competition  directly into the only neoliberal value, financial gain. (Thus neoliberalism is able not only to instrumentalize conflict, but to glorify it according to the notion of the "sports hero." It's a Hobbesian dream.)
Gambling activity associated with sports continues to increase: Today's headlines are about "daily fantasy sports," which is not only a game platform intended to bypass anti-gambling laws, but is increasingly indistinguishable in form from transactions in financial (e.g. stock) markets. Not only does gambling provide more layers of competition (and derivative "securities" allow one to construct multiple layers at once), but it intertwines closely with (economic) allocation games themselves.
One can posit a need for sporting outcomes as the simple need for outcomes per se: If gambling & competition are to spin the wheel of fortune, it must periodically come to rest on a clear, but relatively meaningless, outcome. This keeps the money flowing. (Note how neoliberal valuation slides ever-so-imperceptibly into Asian notions of luck via gambling. There is likely more here than meets the eye, but I need to conclude this tangent.) Moving farther afield, there is a need for "randomness" (i.e. outcomes as inputs) in order to secure computer encryption schemes. So the modern obsession with eliminating Fortune is met in turn with a need for random outcomes — something sports supplies.
I consider some degree of physical competition to be healthy: Maybe I'm simply immersed in my own origins , but it seems like normal curiosity to wonder not only what your body can do, but what it can do relative to a friend's. (Such physical competition can lead quickly into unfriendliness, of course, such that it can even consume friendships or family relationships.) However, sports also present specific modes of sensory integration (characteristic of the moderns, one might say, perhaps per Latour), and these tend to vary relatively little. One could contrast such modes with those of e.g. dance — which is often figured competitively too, including in such hybrids as gymnastics or figure skating.
My family played sports almost constantly, including some at a professional level. So I grew up with these various notions.
Its own ocularcentrism serves to make sports suitable for television as spectator sport, so this has been crucial to its contemporary social success.
The Roman pairing is well known, but note how significant sports has become for the fashion industry: People literally declare their allegiance to particular teams, or sports in general, by what they wear in ordinary situations. (Expect more hybrid sports fashion, i.e. clothing that is not exactly sports gear, but evokes it.) This notion of "colors" is Roman as well, and comes to figure social scenes (visually) more broadly.
The notion of the level playing field recapitulates naturalism itself: The only meaningful differences are (supposedly) in the internal capacities of the players.
The sports industry also supports demonizing unions for how much money they make , since in many professional sports, athletes are paid millions of dollars (and are in unions). Indeed, sports now seems to have our most prominent unions, at least in the media.
A major sports media theme today concerns domestic violence, and so we might trace a path moving from demonizing labor to attacking women & reproduction. (This is a typical modern path, albeit figured a little differently by this narrative.)
While it's clearly the case that professional sports is obsessed with the "special" athlete, there are a wide variety of non-profit & amateur sporting leagues, some of which attempt to figure sports as something anyone can do. So one might seek to reconfigure sports via such a "grass roots" mechanism.
The "victim" is typically figured by sports as the losing professional player, someone who retains high status (as opposed to societies who killed such people) and is paid very well. (We might note such "professional victims" as distractions elsewhere too.)
Sports very literally frames an interior via its courts & playing fields, who is or isn't on the team, etc.
Sports thus requires a transcendental move, if one is to escape its frame of capture. Such a move involves the danger of losing the (immanent) ground of our moral aporia.
Simply put, the power of sports is figured by its relentless media presence , as is typical of contemporary governmentality , and so by its suitability for spectators.[3,4] Not only is media propaganda always grasping for symbols  by which to mediate experience , but it seeks both to anticipate & to drive future response.[7,8] Media engages intellectuals [9,10] to analyze & explain sports, science , politics, indeed morality. Such media embraces ignorance, not only in its supposed students , but in whomever is doing the explaining : These people are "reasonable" , and so invoke the universal, i.e. the norm to which we should all aspire. Moreover, now that media means committing everything to (computer) memory, it cannot be forgotten : How will governmentality function in the absence of forgetting (per 25)? We are already being bathed in pointless (or perhaps pointed) nonsense, through which we can't easily perceive our aporia, nor even our symbols , but in which we might yet perceive the generic.
Professional sports results are a fixture of "news" broadcasts. This sort of propaganda has come to seem utterly normal, but should be noted explicitly: Who really cares which team won some sports contest? Weather may be banal, but at least one can (hopefully) learn whether to bring a rain jacket.
The present "interior" section could, in principle, be quite lengthy. However, I will not be attempting to enumerate all the facets of contemporary governmentality — distractions to morality, we might call them — as they lead us off topic (and back into the endless territorial circulation of the familiar, about which I've hopefully said enough for now).
Ocularcentrism was mentioned in the previous paragraph, but the sheer spectacle goes beyond a visual focus. (Hence there are musical acts at the Super Bowl, etc.) Nowhere is a "society of the spectacle" more nakedly visible today than in (usually violent, of course) sports celebrations.
One thing I also learned from so much exposure to sports in my youth is that participants & spectators often relate very differently to an event. (This observation becomes more true than ever, as narrative capture becomes increasingly ubiquitous.)
As discussed in the previous paragraph, sports provides an endless series of symbols, i.e. results or outcomes. These then "need" interpretation & mediation: "Why did the popular player lose?" for instance. (Does this situation qualify as participation in symbol creation? Sports fans like to believe that they have an impact on who wins.)
Whereas "communicate & propagate" might be a traditional media principle, I want to raise the issue of information asymmetry (from 18): Even when media does not possess more information (i.e. when they've just watched the same sporting event in the same way as the general public), it behaves as though it does. In general, then, media portrays itself as possessing superior information, although it is typically in an inferior (information) position relative to e.g. the businesses or states on which it is reporting. Media thus figures information asymmetry in a particular way.
Media receiving and/or generating intentional propaganda has become increasingly indistinguishable from the way they typically report "news" in which they have no particular stake. In other words, whereas media continues to function as an official channel for propaganda (including corporate marketing, which might be reported with a straight face as "news"), it increasingly presents ordinary events with the same disciplinary focus. Such a focus is sometimes derived from the simple desire to keep people watching, so as to generate more revenue for themselves as media members. That most stories come to have a similar tone, in turn, works well for propaganda. (In other words, such a situation need not be a "conspiracy," but can simply be the outcome of independently aligning interests.)
The notion that media anticipates & drives thought is generalized by Hansen. (In this view, the media itself, despite "reporting news," is no longer past-directed: The Markov property strikes again.) Technological objects thus become willful subjects.
Laruelle contrasts such media (or embedded, or heroic) intellectuals with the generic intellectual: The embedded intellectual orbits power, and participates in a division of labor with the victim, who does the suffering. Such intellectuals are both overexposed & become moralizing figures — the two states becoming indistinguishable. (One might also characterize this notion as the sophist appealing to the democratic public.)
Internet media has been developing an impersonal approach , where reporting is somehow "averaged," thus supposedly making it more believable. In other words, the manipulation is pushed so much into the background that the foreground seems almost empty, other than its stark "facts." (Together with the trend noted in , this presents the possibility of totally unsituated knowledge, as if raining from the sky — an enlightenment dream! Is "crowd sourcing" the opposite of panopticon? All eyes on the one, as the one sublimates away, leaving only knowledge....)
Graeber notes how the historical development of the post office presents many parallels to the development of the internet. (He also suggests that postmodernism may be about the failure of technology & the resulting guilt that failure brings.)
Televised explanations of science — including in serials purportedly created for the purpose — are often highly self-serving. The things I see on television, supposedly from subject matter experts, are simply amazing, and not only regarding such (overtly) politically charged subjects as history (which has become a spectacle of reductionism & ignorance in the media): Discussions of evolutionary science  & space exploration are typically highly politicized, for instance. Many of these programs include no opposing points of view whatsoever, a situation that would never be tolerated for political reporting per se (even if the "opposition" is always already loyal). Consequently, propaganda often flows more easily through these tangential topics.
Cervenak describes secularism (skeptically) as "transparent," and such is the transparent secularism (and skepticism) of television science, particularly of evolution. After all, neoliberalism is quite "transparent" in its invocation of a unitary value system. The secular & modernity arose together (the latter needing a rationale for imperial oppression), and they continue to be wed tightly by liberal media. Evolutionary science has become the exemplary topic in this regard, and of course Social Darwinism has already attempted to figure exploitation as an outright good, in accord with "nature." So yes, such reporting is indeed transparent (propaganda), and has little or nothing to do with science per se.
A typical mode of media moralizing is to squander compassion — and with it, the impulse for real political change — with (distracting) chatter. Even when such a move is not entirely effective, the chatter does tire people.
Ahmed notes that obedience (per se) follows reason under liberal governmentality, and raises Alice Walker's ideas on "poisonous pedagogy": Protestants (and so, liberals) increased paternal authority & the emphasis on "breaking" children, and this emphasis has come to figure (student) ignorance as willful. On television, such breaking may be less painful, but it is relentlessly authority-based, even when the people speaking know very little.
Ignorance becomes willful, i.e. chosen. (This is my definition of stupidity.)
The "reasonable" person is largely ignorant, beyond their framework of reason (always already liberal-enlightenment thought ), and so can be taught. (There is a parallel to scientific empiricism here, as derived from naturalism.) They thus model the ideal (another universalizing concept) audience member on both points.
Note that enlightenment thought is not explicitly discussed on such programs, but is always assumed. (Such is "transparency," per .)
Although contemporary digital media is not easily forgotten, it might not be easily found either. (This situation introduces a different sort of technological gatekeeper. A pregnant description I've heard is that our memories are no longer inside our bodies.)
Helpfully, taking inspiration from sports, our symbols can now be found emblazoned on our chests. (Fashion continues to function as a powerful generator & mediator of symbols.) Hopefully I'm not being too sarcastic....
By prompting us to aspire to norms, media also prompts us to consume : Marketing becomes an increasingly seamless aspect of the "nonsense bath," its real message bubbling to the surface in our impulses.[2,3,4] Such marketing is seductive , rather than coercive, engaging & intensifying sublimation as allied to governmentality. If we are experiencing a "marketing revolution," such that individuals can be targeted directly, rather than via (identity ) groups, then how might  this revolution herald a message inversion? Is the (liberal) individual to be heard or managed?[11,12,13] Can the subject remember itself under such a regime? Is the subject always already special? Might it embrace generic desire , or allocation absent technique? (Can capital tolerate unleashing desire? Can capital survive outside of a universalizing world?) Are any of these choices — worlds, interior or otherwise — available from our aporia? How do we choose beyond our next consumer purchase?
Secular media, figured as transparent, also breaks the "map of knowledge" (per Asad), previously articulated via theology, into newly consumable pieces.
I noted already in 11 that marketing outputs desire, and so we must situate its outputs in order to engage generic desire.
Kolozova suggests via Laruelle that entanglement, as a web of superposed desire, is the real content of primary narcissism. Even absent propaganda, our desire might not be so clear — it still must percolate to the surface, so to speak.
Barthes says that the cynic & the advertiser have the same desire, that of power looking for a form (instantiation).
Asad figures the liberal system as seductive per se , rather than rhetorical, i.e. intellectually convincing. (Is externalized belief then to be protected? What of the internal? Asad suggests that liberalism accommodates the former, but not the latter.)
Libidinal marketing has become so common that it often fades into the background. (Whereas linking food or clothing to sex might make some sense, now we find "sexy" cars, gadgets, etc. One common thread may be the daily routine, as explored in Sex in routine. Such routinization then serves hierarchy & consumption as habit: The ground of seduction thus comes to permeate daily life more generally.)
Under the globalizing regime, marketing comes to dominate governmentality per se. (National political leaders are themselves the targets of marketing.)
As I've been discussing in this section, such (marketing) identities are both inputs & outputs for symbolic mediation. (Per Lazzarato, we might consider marketing subjectivity via duality: The represented self is forged via subjection, whereas the non-represented self is posited via machinic enslavement. Only the former is mediated, but the latter still outputs desire.)
I ask, more specifically, how we might choose this message inversion, i.e. choose to be heard, rather than (only) to listen.
In other words, marketing was previously targeted toward large groups of people, then smaller groups of people, etc. Under that model, individual differences could be figured as deviant, i.e. defects that the model could not possibly accommodate. So we were offered products that people "like us" wanted, and that was that. Now, if everyone is individually profiled, why not offer what each of us actually wants? More specifically, by "message inversion," I mean a situation in which advertisers take their messages from the individual consumer, rather than the reverse: We would tell them what we want (which they now claim to be able to discern anyway).
Butler asks what must be broken in order to support the illusion of self-sovereignty. Marketing, for one — although (because) that's its principal illusion. Indeed, one might ask whether leading the individual via marketing allows real individuation. (Liberalism may be consuming itself via the constant drive to increase profits, and therefore to drive consumers. Might the liberal subject become impossible under the weight of the current marketing regime?)
Ahmed notes that "the will as project" yields a split temporality, a not yet of action: So is it time to hear or be heard? What might internet technology do for and/or to the will?
Balibar notes via Weber that legitimacy is simply the probability of being obeyed. Who is to obey, the technological artifact, or the citizen?
Should the (liberal) subject remember itself? What are some other possibilities?
Marketing certainly tells people that they are special, even as it tells them what to want. (These seemingly paradoxical messages align well in practice.)
Does generic desire emerge amid the froth of nonsense? Ecological thinking suggests that it might, but certainly not as a transcendental output (per ).
Capital claims to desire demand. Demand is now managed via debt. So will unleashing desire overwhelm the debt system? (Perhaps this is a question of accelerationism, i.e. obeying too well the directives of capital.) Neoliberalism does claim endless possibility for expansion....
Per Lazzarato, debt is primary over labor: There is no longer a working class, only a debtor class, and finance (as the politics of capital) uses debt as a semiotic operator  to create & manage fear. Debt has been decisive in shifting fear back to debtors (i.e. the poor), rather than the (physically vulnerable) few. Moreover, profits, rents, taxes... all the traditional liberal mechanisms of accumulation are now subjected to a logic of debt (and with it, finance).
Bank & loan balances, credit scores, etc. fit the contemporary fixation with numbers. They are not only a form of manipulation via fear, but mechanisms of capture according to their pure quality (of quantity). The same can likely be said of sports scores, and the gambling outcomes associated with them. Increasingly ubiquitous numbers function as semiotic operators, focusing attention on quantity (i.e. on the ultimate expression of neoliberal value).
What is the ecology of capital?
Perhaps our aporia has always slipped transversally to worlds.
Making our next consumer choice is the great "conflict" for marketing — so, very far removed from civil war.
If capitalist marketing relies on framing interiority  in order to output desire , one response has been to seek a space of exteriority , and so to forego an interior. Such an impulse toward disavowal raises at least two related issues: Imperial capital has relied on deterritorialization , and the exterior is already occupied  by people  who have been denied an interior. Whereas generic solidarity with the latter yields attunement to improvisatory noncompliance [11,12], we must still interrogate interiority & "smoothing" further : Does attunement to exteriority yield another interior? Are we seeking to forge a territory? How can a territory be generic rather than special?[17,18] How is our aporia unbound from worlds? In short, how do we construct a technology of improvisation  that refuses both representation  & equilibrium, yielding an open system [21,24] of generic practice? How or what is (generic) desire for exteriority absent proscribed territory? How does desire overflow (interior) territory?
In other words, marketing behaves as a function with a domain, and the "world interior" — perhaps interiors of various different worlds — is its domain.
A coherent output for marketing thus confirms its own domain of interiority via a framework of symbolic mediation: Outputs, as symbols, come to represent the interior. This sort of mediation is then naturalized as "just what people want," and projected elsewhere in order to posit more interiors to mediate (in other parts of the world, say) for more marketing.
The term "nomadic theory" has been common for designating the interrogation of spaces of exteriority — spaces to avoid (capitalist) capture — since Deleuze.
Capitalist deterritorialization seeks to reterritorialize onto financial capital (or quantity per se , under neoliberalism). So, critically, it is not pure deterritorialization, and certainly not pure exteriority. (The nomadic response, i.e. embracing deterritorialization, but eschewing reterritorializing onto capital, has thus become something of a prototype of accelerationism, i.e. obeying too well.)
Our improvising must escape fixation with the quantifiable. What is e.g. debt-free thought? What would be an ecology of debt-free thinking, or at least of thinking without quantifiable debt? (There have been various historical ways to figure unquantifiable debt.)
It's tempting to write "always already occupied," but that is the situation only under the regime of (capitalist) modernism, and its derivatives. How then does one choose to occupy an exterior?
I use "people" in this paragraph for economy of expression, but such a designation can & should be read as including ecological others, albeit (sometimes) with very different relations (that will not be considered explicitly).
The exterior has thus figured a space of affective criminality, and has traditionally been posed not as engendering a philosophy, but as a problem that philosophy (of the interior) must solve. (One might make a similar comment about engendering aesthetic forms, including forms of self.) Any decolonizing space would thus need to free itself from this core of criminalizing symbolism & narrative. (Such imperial narrative itself is surely criminal.)
Nomadic theory can be figured as one such attempt to "solve" exteriority according to "interior" philosophy. (One sees comments, even within greedy capitalist enterprises, lauding "mobility" & "agility," for instance. These have become buzzwords of twenty-first century business as much as of critical theory.)
Such a refusal of (genealogical) core has been figured according to nomadic theory as posthumanism, i.e. as refusing the liberal subject (of the interior). However, actual decolonizing space is not simply narrative, but necessarily embodied. So what is the posthuman body?
Following others, I have sometimes figured improvisatory noncompliance as disinhibition. (Here I might ask how such disinhibition can be affirmative rather than destructive.)
For instance, wandering has been figured as agentic in its unreadability, as forging a space even within captivity, as potentially moving outside of time (whether via afro-futurism or queer temporality), in short (per Lorde) as erotic choice.
Smoothing could be taken as a kind of straightening — which, per Morrison, is forgetting  — but here I figure it more according to the image of diffusion, and in a nonequilibrium context. (Such a figuration leaves more questions: Let us recall, however, that neoliberal discontinuity is imposed, and that smoothing is more of an entropic response than it is a choice.)
Per Badiou, the subject is a local manifestation or recollection. The interior & exterior subject are thus not necessarily commensurable. So how might smoothing operate within the self? (Such internal smoothing is an increasing problem for the postmodern subject of neoliberal discontinuity.)
Simply put, people with something in common (for any reason) might begin to share, thus smoothing discontinuities between or among them. How might such an "interior" function when it is still figured as exterior otherwise? (Perhaps I should note explicitly that there is actual practice to address this question.)
A simple caution regarding an "exterior" territory: It could involve exclusion while also making movement impossible. (Such a situation is not our desire, but note how it can describe abjection via debt: Debtors prisons not only continue as physical structures, but become broad symbolic structures as well.)
Liberalism has long promised the universal interior, but such a goal was always illusory, given that capitalism requires differences (and the more extreme, the more profitable) in order to function. So Western politics has since collapsed onto itself, continuing to promise only the "special" interior.
Specialness is well-suited to the territory concept. However, it also supports imperialist disinhibition: If we are obviously better than those other people...?
Per 23, who is allowed to improvise has contrasted with who is required to wander. (Demands for consistency have likewise been figured hierarchically.) Such a politics of allocating experience is thus contradictory at the level of the individual, and has always been so under the modern regime. (In other words, our open & affirmative desire does not engender the liberal subject, which requires complementary proscription in order to confirm its "specialness.") Such a technology is thus a technology of self.
In short, generic identity is unmediated & unrepresentable: Its struggle & refusal are transverse to worlds. (Our aporia is thus unbound to worlds.)
According to Balibar (via his concept of equaliberty) & others, democracy must be (re)invented constantly. It is thus never really in equilibrium — rather, positing equilibrium indicates its decline — but is a non-equilibrium practice. (How might one define non-equilibrium citizenship in accord with pure exteriority?)
In parallel with , what are ecologies of democratic thought? Moreover, what are non-Western ecologies of democratic thought? What is a postcolonial (ecological) democracy of thought like? (One must look beyond mere genealogy, and so beyond the term "democracy" itself.)
A generic citizen of the world cannot be created by superposing territorial modes of citizenship.
We desire an open system, because inclusion itself can be violent. (Such violence is, in significant part, the violence of representation.)
Whether a generic non-equilibrium practice is figured as civil war or heresy would then depend on its form or style of composite embodied noncompliance. (War has never really been non-religious, even if much of its modern history was figured as secular — so as to serve the god of profit. And as the modern era comes to an end, the Crusades become explicit again....)
If exteriority is actually unbounded, we can allocate all of it that we want. (Worlds, and their allocation games, are very different in this mode.)
An affirmative overflow of desire counters imperialist (sometimes dis-, per ) inhibition via its exteriority. (Let us remember, of course, that a territory, personal or otherwise, may be figured according to its defining tension or contradiction.)
Our aporia is such that we choose in the absence of meaning : If we could trace (sufficient) meaning , we would be proceeding according to a mode other than morality. Whereas an "event" generates surplus meaning , our aporia is considerably more prosaic  — yet demanding. Do we actually choose?[8,9] What are our meanings or intents? If there are meaning deficits , are they to be filled? (Such would remove the productive charge from aporia itself.) Are we responsible? What is the law?[14,15,16] We can, in turn, figure meaning deficits according to doubt. Yet, acknowledgement of doubt does not itself generate choice : Generic improvisation proceeds without a map, symbolic or otherwise. Deficits might then be figured as mere obstacles , or as microfractures in our aporia: Are we attuned to meaning deficits, or to aporetic choice itself? Does a focus on aporia actually produce anything helpful?
Per Kolozova, philosophy does not permit meaninglessness, due to its imperative gesture relating the real to thought. (The Lacanian real is, accordingly, the impossible that turns us upside down: It exposes the deficits of worlds.) So morality pieces, such as this one, are not a proper part of philosophy? No matter....
I discussed "chains of meaning" already in Fortune is real, linking them to self-formation. (That was, in a basic way, a genealogical equation, but our aporetic situation precludes such tracing, at least in some directions.) In that sense, meaning is a specifically worldly trace.
Moreover, symbolically mediated morality quickly yields to moralizing. (Symbols might be created according to multiple modalities, however, perhaps overflowing our aporia. We might hope for such flow.)
According to Badiou, a truth originates in an event. (I call such a hypothetical truth "meaning," which is likely plural.) Badiou thus attempts to rescue universality via the event, and asserts that these evental truths not only have an ontological existence, but are concepts independent of language. (He says that they combine chance & eternity, thus yielding an atemporal quality.) Since I eschew universality, meaning generated by events — if we are to continue to posit events as generators of meaning — must be situated. Meaning might then overflow its situation, as when (historical) concepts are subsequently enfolded in multiple layers, as e.g. divine providence within neoliberalism. In that sense, event can yield praxis, but not resolution of moral aporia  — the former remains subsequent.
Badiou then argues for choosing according to the event. (For him, this brings change.) His manifesto also calls for bringing one's full intensity to events, a situation which I would figure as arriving via prior (improvisatory) attunement.
Barthes suggests that ideology itself is undone via the (aporetic) divergence between meaning & form. (With one foot in the domain of structuralist thought, he was still looking for forms. We might figure them here according to a fetish for meaning.)
As discussed from one perspective in 11, I have deliberately eschewed temporalizing choice (despite interrogating historicizing narrative in a previous section). Do we choose for the future then? If we are to choose for now, obviously our situation is inherently urgent, since now rarely lingers.
In 9, I posited that we do choose, that we traverse the labyrinth somehow. In some sense, this is our temporal situation (per ): We must have chosen, if the now is now in the past. What then of passivity, radical or otherwise? These gambits are all figured as (moral) choices, which thus do occur.
Per 6, our selves are aporetic anyway, and so whereas our choices likely imbricate our selves, they do not arise from "us" in a direct way. (Our moral aporia must thus be situated without selves, or perhaps within & around selves.)
I do not want to recapitulate the enlightenment gap between outcome & intent: If anything, our meanings should be situated in outcomes (such as events, per ). Even without a meaning deficit, then, our multiple meanings do not necessarily figure moral choice, since they may become simply outcomes per se.
Quite simply, we do not really know what is across our aporia, whether figured as the other or something else. (Sorry for the repetition.)
So whereas we might want to acknowledge meaning deficits, engaging generic desire is not a search for meaning. (I should pause on this statement, as I embark on the last full section of the present piece.) In short, a hypothetical absence of meaning deficits is a meaningless suggestion. Where would that leave desire?
Morality suggests feeling responsibility, but to what? To aporia? To the other? To nature? To the generic? (Responsibility will never bridge our aporia, per . It's more debt rhetoric, and typically figured hierarchically.)
Law is typically figured as transcendent, and thus tends toward moralizing. (According to Kierkegaard via Agamben, authority enters from somewhere else — what I figure as transcendentalizing — and only asserts itself when content is indifferent — or deficient in meaning, as I might put it in this context. Thus a meaning deficit is most easily figured according to a transcendental move, something we must reject here.) We might interrogate law instead as process (as "trial" literally is in German), and look to its diagrammatic language (including grammar) in order to trace its own immanent motion. (Transcendental notions of equality frequently yield e.g. actual racist movement, to be exposed under such interrogation.)
Asking about the law often suggests a sense of having done something wrong. It becomes, "Can I get away with it?" (This is the mode of capitalist imperialism, which in its fundamentalist form says, if you can, you should.) However, asking about the law often reflects fear of the law among those it was created to suppress, rather than any sense of wrongdoing. So it remains, "Can I get away with it?" (Once again, this contradiction is figured hierarchically.)
Besides law, responsibility could be figured according to another of Latour's modes, organization. It is (again, per ) transcendentalizing, but we can ask what the immanent responsibilities of (potentially relevant) organizations are & interrogate how they proceed.
My increasingly frequent questions might, and likely should, raise considerable doubt. (Such is our aporia!)
In some sense, doubt is a choice, but it cannot make our subsequent choices. (Doubt can also be a cage; hence the need to engage generic desire, which cannot be doubted.)
Whereas participating in symbol creation may be a demand, symbols can only participate in our decisions themselves via mediation, and so (per ) do not (automatically, at least) open our aporia to choice: The other remains fundamentally unknown, despite any (inherently unilateral, per the Laruellian real) mediation — although such mediation might invoke law (per [14,15]) & other transcendental forms. (Hence a demand for participation.)
Hence my choice of topics in this section is, once again, rather arbitrary. In some sense, they are examples.
Attunement to deficit can be figured as attention via technology [1,2], and indeed the internet has itself been an event. As technological event, internet has both generated & outpaced meaning , and so continues to raise (deficit) questions such as, who is to benefit, and how is thought itself inflected. Internet technology was a modernist enterprise , and so is closely aligned with  both typology  & enlightenment duality : It produces answers , and does so according to specific schemes. Such trends have been critiqued according to digitality [11,12] (or binary thinking ), but also problematize naturalism  & evoke new (typically hierarchical ) colonization. The imperial origin of its technology  already offered a particular orientation toward questions of who or what internet is for, yielding enormous profits for a tiny group of people , rather than an emphasis on general benefit , such as freeing us from mundane labor.[25,26] Indeed, technological or robotic labor is perhaps the most explosive issue of our time [27,28,29,30], and must be framed explicitly as political : If such technological development is to continue, it must be under the condition that it actually assists labor & everyone else. Moreover, as (new) technology comes to assist us with our choices , it also comes to refigure both broad social organization  & self-formation. What is this new self to be? How can we choose? What is the technological body , the posthuman body? How does the technological archive mediate human experience, and in particular, attention & attunement?[42,43] How might such technological attunement overcome its own genealogy in imperial thought? Perhaps a focus on aporia is not productive here — other than to note how technology is outpacing social worlds  — since internet does yield an unprecedented means of global communication for people differentially situated by empire. How then might globalization overflow itself , and become something else?
I will discuss attention more specifically in the companion article on listening.
Simply put, technological devices can & do monitor processes & events that humans do not & sometimes cannot.
One could argue that I am "faithful to the event" of the internet. Indeed, I consider the present piece to be faithful to that event, in some sense. However, note that I very much mean the non-commercial internet, on which I have been something of a fixture for thirty years, i.e. since before there were graphical browsers, among other things.
Engineers & people in related professions (or their apologists) like to say that technology is neutral, i.e. neither good nor bad, but dependent on what people do with it. However, when technology outpaces all possibility of constructing social meaning, it creates a situation of deficit that cannot help but have a backlash: In that sense, continuing technological development is a direct & non-neutral choice. (And it's usually, in an equally direct & crass way, a choice for profit: Take the money, and leave the problems for someone else.) Indeed, internet development has become a technique for forcing particular kinds of (economic) changes, even as it remains couched in a rhetoric of neutrality.
The imperialist impetus for internet technology is especially clear, since so much of its development was funded by the US military.
It is tempting to say "conditioned by," rather than "aligned with," but not only did enlightenment thought underly internet technology, it continues to be supported directly by that technology in turn. Whereas such thinking is self-perpetuating in some sense, we might also consider how it could swerve under the weight of more complex interaction.
Western typology did not originate in the modern era: This is another example of an older pattern of thought becoming enfolded in later developments. (Typology was critical to imperialism, however, underlying such prototypical modern ideas as racism, etc. Hence the generic, which accommodates no type.)
I highlighted the gap produced (by "enlightened" apology) between intent & outcome in 21, and the related man-nature duality in 22.
These days, it seems that most of the "answers" the internet provides have to do with consumer products. However, even the older layer of internet activity & searching had a strong bias toward definitive answers to specific questions. (In other words, it always showed a tendency toward scientism. This was a basic outcome of the orientation of the original technological population.)
Although internet programming has become much more complicated in recent years, particularly in its use of higher-level programs that write other programs in turn, in a sort of cascade (and resulting lack of detailed control), it is still fundamentally based on rather simple computer instructions. In other words, although I wrote of a "marketing revolution" in 28, this revolution remains largely theoretical specifically because the technology only knows how to proceed according to group typology. (This is the literally hierarchical way, i.e. via inheritance, that object-oriented languages are designed.)
A digital-analog duality can be, and has been, figured in a variety of ways: The digital is divided, whereas the analog is whole. Digital is following the rules (of binary), whereas analog is cheating. Digital is striated, whereas analog is smooth. Digital morality suggests limiting choices, a situation I might in turn figure as aporetic. (In this sense, a critique of typology is a specifically moral interrogation.)
Digitality suggests clear segmentation: There is a readily identifiable hierarchy of component parts, and these are to function in particular ways, both as themselves, and in (specific) relation. One might say that the resulting typology attempts to generate meaning via comparison, by positing a clear basis for such comparison. (And if that basis is entirely quantifiable, it fits neatly with neoliberalism. Prior to that, industrial segmentation was merely Fordist or Taylorist.) Differentiation then recapitulates domination according to traditional mechanisms of hierarchical rupture: The hypothetical cogs of social structure are given their ideal mechanical form in the computing device, finally to include the mind.
Western mathematics has specific axioms generating its system of binary logic. Of particular interest is the "law of the excluded middle," which requires that every proposition can be assigned a yes or no answer. Western mathematics is thus based on a clear typology — a situation that can be traced at least to Zoroaster (the first to articulate binary thinking?). In turn, computers have difficulty with the "fuzzy thinking" that people seem to accomplish readily enough. (Note how, in some circles, the latter continues to be figured as deficient, a longterm trend that internet popularity exacerbates.)
Today's binary thinking "of the interior" is perhaps most clearly expressed in the adolescent tendency to parse everything as the best or the worst (i.e. "rocks" & "sucks" in USA idiom).
Internet & computer limitations have yielded a direct counter-colonization, however, in which human creativity is lauded. (In other words, if computers can perform all the mechanical tasks, what is left of human labor to value?) These conflicting messages remain in tension (figured here as meaning deficit).
Simply put, is "smart" technology subject or object? Is it agentic (figured in enlightenment thought as the liberal subject), or part of nature? Such questions not only pose an issue for modernist thought, but for more specific longterm modalities such as law. (The latter has, thus far, looked for reductionist answers, rather than confronting the complexity of such interaction.) These issues develop in contrast to the ease with which so many people access internet technology in their daily lives.
Per Hierarchy as rupture, rupture (and internet is technological rupture) will yield colonization, and in turn counter-colonization, etc.
Although colonization of the internet rupture by various styles of thinking has been rapid, one must remember that this process is still in its relative youth, on a historical scale. For instance, if religion is the prototype of thought colonizing rupture, what religion is internet fostering? Internet comedy is also a developing form. The internet exhibits something of a reductionist postmodern morality, an unsurprising situation that's also likely to develop as its sociality transforms & is further normalized.
Thus far, liberal secularism and both Kantian & pseudo-Darwinian scientism have been thriving most vigorously in their transplants to the internet. (Indeed, the latter may well have found its perfect ecology, ironically in the further mediation of bodies: Let us not figure the virtual body as actually absent.) However, these are transplants, and we should expect more complex enfoldings to evolve via further colonization.
Internet comedy, in keeping with its Kantian roots, has thus far emphasized the enlightenment gap between signifier & signified, but in keeping with my deterritorialization-reterritorialization discussion in Comedy jostles bodies, one also sees more pure deterritorializing, as the internet comes to foster forms of nomadic thought. (Such thinking can often be read most easily via comedy.)
Because its (technological & organizational) patterns of thought arise from (or with) the modern imperial impulse, the "default outcome" can only be more hierarchy (specifically of monetary wealth, per neoliberalism). Contesting such an outcome is thus an urgent political issue.
The US military has long since embraced providing enormous profits for defense contractors. Hence, whereas the official mission of the internet was not profit, and the resulting windfalls have mostly gone elsewhere in the interim, profiteers have been involved since the start.
Stiegler places technological harm & benefit into specific tension via the notion of pharmacology, i.e. poisons & cures arising from the same sources. (In other words, what harms us can also save us, depending on how it's used.) In that sense, reengineering human experience via technology has been pharmacological, and so we need to seek the cure, rather than accept the poison. Although such a framework does retain an overt binary emphasis on harm-benefit , it prompts us to ask how e.g. marketing inversion could actually serve the public, rather than leading to more immersion in propaganda & other nonsense, as it has thus far. (Stiegler also employs an "allegory of the anthill," with its technological pheromones, something social media appears to generate in quantity. So whereas such coming together has been a mechanism of capture for the ad-driven profiteers, how can it become a means of overcoming the priorities of those very enterprises?)
Barthes had already suggested a different image, the inoculation — i.e. we might become inured to harm if it's received in small enough initial doses. (Another analogy I sometimes hear is the frog in water, as it's slowly heated to boiling.) Is that what's been happening with the internet? There has certainly been such an intent, at least in part. So how might we explicitly refuse to become inoculated?
From what sort of labor might we want to be free? I used the term "mundane," but that is surely incorrect: After all, people now pay & travel to exercise in gyms. What could be more mundane than that? So it would be far more suggestive to simply say "undesirable labor," tautologically, and ask how "smart technology" could perform such tasks instead — provided, of course, that it is not doing so to the detriment of someone else. In other words, what is it that people — by which I mean all people, although not figured in unison — want to be doing? (Such questions are asked regularly in Silicon Valley, but of course from a very specific perspective: How can we profit?)
If anything, being increasingly connected via smartphones & the internet has caused people to work more. Leisure time has actually declined, including among people who aren't paid by the hour. (I'll leave it to the reader to find & peruse such studies, if the suggestion is indeed even novel.)
Of course, technology putting people out of work is far from being a novelty. That the contemporary situation feels different to me might well be the result of the sort of personal vanity that always provides a temptation to treat the events of one's own life as historically significant more broadly. (However, such historians as Braudel also believe that we've moved into a new era, so such a conceit is not mine alone.) What is different now? For one, whereas the industrial revolution & various subsequent developments did change the nature of work, they were followed by periods of full employment (or at least what that means under liberalism). Fordism was predicated on a full employment model, for instance. Will we ever have even liberal style full employment again? (One can view neoliberal fundamentalism as a perverse response to this exact issue.)
Already we are asked to interact with robotic workers in the marketplace, and these robotic workers (such as the automated checkout machine that I used as an example in the previous Technologies of the Self) have significant flaws: They might be better for profit-seekers, but offer serious shortcomings to the consumer, not to mention to the person who no longer has a job. Such flaws are figured as arising from simple incompetence, for the moment, but might they also be cultivated? Is it in the interest of neoliberal hegemony to provide a better experience for anyone? In short, do the flaws themselves yield more profit? (For instance, consider that frustration with a robotic worker can lead to one accepting a worse offer, rather than continuing to negotiate: How many people will follow through & demand the correct change from those automated checkers, for instance, versus from an actual person?)
There has been a significant push to force us to talk to our "smart" devices. (And by "push," I mean that my smartphone is currently offering popup messages urging me to talk to it, which I continue to decline to do. It's indeed pushy & obnoxious, and obviously without regard for what I, the mere user, might want.) Personally, I find such talking to be distracting to whatever else I'm doing, and it certainly contributes to sound pollution, so I prefer e.g. to press buttons. (Some people insist that I am eccentric in my technology preferences.) However, there is more at work here: We are being forced to humanize these devices, and not only to accept them as reasonable substitutes for human labor (which is to be abjected), but to normalize the notion that they should have privileges similar to humans. Am I supposed to be polite to this thing that is harassing me, for instance? Moreover, privileges similar to what sort of humans? It seems clear to me that the makers of such devices — i.e. the people whose profit they generate — will insist on privileges similar to their own, i.e. more than those of ordinary people. Please think about this for a moment: What will be (or are) the consequences of e.g. "attacking" a robotic worker under neoliberal hegemony? (We can already read how such response was figured during the original Luddite revolt, as alluded in .) Now compare with so-called ordinary street violence, or simply with violence toward a person (formerly) working in the same position.
I've highlighted two specific issues, beyond the general & straightforward issue of putting someone out of a job — a move toward abjection under neoliberal logic — but there are many more, including in their various interactions. (I add this note in order to further underline the critical character of the topic.)
Per Lazzarato, labor relations must include a principle of refusal, and an underlying equality of relation permitting that refusal. How is that accomplished with technological labor? (And I don't even want to get into the topic of rights for such labor, particularly since it slides so easily into the issue of hierarchical privilege raised in .) Can there be equality without relation? I hesitate to use the language of recognition, but how is this new labor to be recognized by other labor? (Such misrecognition has already been figured racially.) How can we possibly strike when robots are being built to take our jobs? I already figured globalization in these terms (in 24) as well, i.e. as a means to undermine (local) labor. We cannot simply choose to be lazy & let the robot take care of things, as long as the neoliberal equation that no job means no economic support  continues to operate — and moreover, to increase its world footprint. (Again, I want to linger on this issue.)
Note, of course, that the "owners" (large scale or corporate owners, I should say, since operating a small business can be much like ordinary labor, perhaps with even more precarity) are immune to the neoliberal equation. They often do nothing — or worse than nothing. (As I regularly remind people, we'd be better off if many of these people simply did nothing.) I sometimes hear the retort, "Investing is a full-time job." Such people do not seem to understand who is actually (materially) dependent on whom — a situation which the debt regime specifically facilitates.
In some sense, there is no "half way" when it comes to technology serving the public or serving profit. If technology continues to generate profit automatically — and this is what it effectively seeks to do — then wealth disparity will continue to increase. Whereas the accumulators might claim that such a scenario can go well for the rest of us, how is that possible? Widespread charity? Well, let's see it then. (In other words, it would appear that this situation cannot be resolved via mediation.)
Hansen figures technological "assistance" via his feed-forward concept: He notes that media technology has become faster than human perception & consciousness, allowing it to anticipate tendencies. Does this actually help us? I think it's clear that it depends: There is always a tendency to drive us toward preferred commercial activity, for one, but there is also an issue of what we want in the first place. If we're looking to purchase a consumer good, there are probably times when such media technology is helpful. (I'll grudgingly admit that, but most of the time, I feel this technological intervention as harassment, particularly when only a few years ago, I could perform the same tasks absent such harassment.) Even when or if it isn't helpful, increasing technological mediation has become a fact of life for many people (who, also perhaps grudgingly, accept it per ).
Not only is bureaucracy a kind of technology — that should be figured as such — but bureaucratic institutions increasingly rely on technology per se. They will likely be transformed further by or with technology. If infrastructure is determining in the last instance, then our social relations will be further inflected by technological infrastructure. (I emphasize this point, because technological development has been directed much more toward profit seeking than bureaucratic infrastructure — so far.)
Technological commodities for fetishizing the self have been very profitable. This seems ominous. How might we decenter the technological self? Such a question confronts us, once again, squarely with the construction of the liberal subject: The technological self enfolds the liberal self.
Despite being aporetic, I continue to emphasize the self as the site of choice, since that's how we've (historically) been able to figure our (moral) aporia.
Perhaps this remark is already redundant, but I assert that such choice is largely accomplished via politics.
The technological body has already been figured e.g. via the cyborg by Haraway. Moreover, criticism of technological development is often met with retorts regarding its potential benefit for people with disabilities. There have been positive developments in that arena, but the motive of the technology companies is profit, and profit quickly comes into conflict with disability , since people with disabilities are often (as inflected by hierarchy) abjected economically under liberalism. Indeed, technological development provides different mechanisms for creating norms via medical & legal institutions, norms which in turn impinge on those who desire different choices. So, does technology free the body? Again, that depends — and we might want to figure the result pharmacologically (per ).
Profit-seeking isn't necessarily in conflict with disability, since it can prey on disability, as happens in those same medical & legal institutions. Further, banks prey upon people with attention problems by charging them hefty late fees, etc. In other words, disability has become a source of profit for others, at the expense of the person with a disability. (This situation illustrates a tangible application for person-first language.)
What is the generic (technological, ecological) body? (I will return to this question in 33.)
Who can access the archive? Is it always already figured typologically, i.e. does acquiring (learning) access require accepting imperial patterns of thought? Contemporary technology "teaches" very quickly, and what is it teaching? (Such outcomes go beyond the so-called facts it claims to produce, and into patterns of thought.)
Technological attention has taken on a religious character, and one such form might be figured according to the cargo cult — magical incantations supposedly invoking some higher power. (This sounds like neoliberalism too, at least on the part of its non-beneficiary fans.) Technology aesthetics has come to mediate its religion symbolically, creating its own sense of attunement — most spectacularly capitalized upon by Apple. (I do not equate attention & attunement: The former is specifically conscious.)
My opinion regarding theory is that e.g. genealogy can help to de-naturalize ideas, by situating them so that their hegemony appears (correctly) as contingent. Beyond that, however, something else must occur. (Badiou calls it the event, although I disagree with much of what he says, in particular with his emphasis on universal truth.) Or perhaps the something else is always already occurring, and impediments to its flowering can be removed....
Meaning remains in the worldly domain, and so that is our orientation in this section. (How might I have framed these questions according to the real?)
With whom can or do we actually communicate? How is such possibility mediated? What is the role of (greed-based ) technology companies & media per se? (Beware the image as representation.) In any case, it seems that we are able to forge worldwide connections across hierarchical levels differently than had previously been possible. (I hesitate to suggest that there is much actual transversality, however.)
In the late 1990s, we had billboards in Silicon Valley literally proclaiming, "Greed is good." (They're somewhat more subtle now.) So let's not imagine that these companies actually have different priorities.
Regarding our "deficit" topic, the global media companies do not have firm control of their own (developing, technological) meanings, nor does anyone else. So this is a huge political opportunity, but also an urgent one, because meanings are being forged rapidly.
The world of sports stages frequent events , and beyond their governmental role in capturing conflict , those events participate in forging a postmodern aesthetic of violence : Sporting morality is figured according to "beauty of the game," and its (often inherent) violence is portrayed as artistic. Indeed, as human attention becomes scarce , and aesthetic capacity continues to shrink [6,7], violent (or competitive) images come to dominate the visual field. An ecology of violence [10,11] thus comes to figure aesthetics more broadly, and whereas we can call for nonviolent physicality , what of this violent aesthetic per se? Do we choose a glorious death?[17,18] Is there beauty in choice itself? How do we reinvigorate sensation & sensibility more broadly? If violence further deadens us to (sensible, aesthetic) variety, then the constant generation of outcomes (meanings) by sporting events, (paradoxically ) increases deficit: Violent aesthetics not only shrinks collective  capacity, but plunges us further into the Kantian gap, until only violence (finally, as intent) confronts violence (as outcome) : Nonviolence is then rendered as pure deficit. So do we become attuned to deficit? Is there sensibility otherwise transverse to an aesthetics of violence? (Perhaps this is the space of swerve or grace.) As violence overflows aesthetics, how might we "underflow"  & choose broader attunement to (artistic) creation itself? Meanwhile, violent aesthetics continues its triumphant surge from modern to postmodern.
One can argue that it is the sporting industry which has most effectively captured the event itself: It's all spectacle (and sporting events continue to set viewing records).
I discussed the world of sports via neo-imperial governmentality in 26. This paragraph is not so much to discuss capture, as it is aesthetics — or aesthetics itself as a form of capture for art & creative activity.
An aesthetic of violence could also be interrogated via e.g. video games, or indeed the television news itself — where sporting events are also a fixture.
Consider the many still photos & videos generated from sporting events: Some portray the naked violence, but many stylize the human form at its most extended or supple, very much like dance. (Yet, dance is not nearly as popular with spectators, presumably because it typically lacks a violent element, even if dancers might be injured during difficult maneuvers. Televised dance competitions have also had a sporadic history.)
With so many entities, technologically mediated & otherwise, seeking our attention, attention itself becomes scarce. No longer do we need to wonder when the next concert or theatrical presentation will be, or take a bus to a museum: These things are ubiquitous in our homes, if not in all their glory, at least in dazzling quantity. (The culture industry thus comes full circle, in some sense: Creative activity returns to the home, but now it's someone else's activity.) Experiencing even everything that is easily accessible is beyond our ability to attend, and so efforts to capture our attention become that much more aggressive. In short, attention itself is being commoditized. (Perhaps we should demand to be paid for attending.)
Ngai has noted how the range of aesthetic responses to be cultivated has been shrinking in the contemporary era. Perhaps such capacity requires more space, and less competition for attention? (Let me also note Barthes' invocation of Zen states of dearth, which include nostalgia. So meditation — a kind of attunement — helps us to fight loss of aesthetic capacity?)
Heather Busch (unpublished) suggests that many people have increasingly poor reality testing specifically because of privilege: They're insulated from so many outcomes, even from honest conversations with people (who are hired to agree with them), that they have no idea of what actually functions (and not only for others) & what doesn't. Whereas such a situation might be figured together with loss of aesthetic capacity, in spite of elevated "aesthetic" concerns among the wealthy (in yet another negative dialectic), it can also suggest the failure of primary narcissism itself (per Stiegler) within the very same orbit of explicit willfulness. In any case, the result is often art lacking (real) human content: This, including imperial nostalgia in particular, is what's funded & "appreciated" by the highly privileged under the regime of aestheticization.
The regime of aestheticization figures dualist Kantian aesthetics as not providing enough protection from outcomes of ordinary life choices, hence the aesthetic gap is intensified so as to permeate more activity. (Nonetheless, it continues to figure "taste" as ephemeral, and so beyond criticism.)
Violent imagery is also a staple of the most profitable movies. (And let us remember that, even beyond its disciplinary function, professional sports is very profitable too.)
I discussed how "enlightenment philosophy sublimated imperial violence into an ecology of violence that figures all relations" in 22. Normalizing (or naturalizing) violence is critical to any imperializing endeavor, and so violence is thrust into the heart of self formation.
We might well feel our aporia as violent: It marks a stoppage, and any stoppage (or rupture) to circulation can be figured as violent. Moreover, many of our choices pertain to, or are inflected by, violence more generally: Trauma is multiple, and spans experience.
I mention physicality explicitly, because for some, a retreat from violence becomes a retreat from physicality. Yet, we are physical creatures , and need touch: How can we insist upon caring touch within such a violent aesthetic? Is law the proper scene for debating nonviolence? How can we take control of violence itself (perhaps per Fanon) if not via nonviolence?
We might contrast narrative non-compliance with physical non-compliance. Indeed, modes of non-compliance span the modes of disciplinarity, but can also be enacted by disciplinarity itself : If you are parsed (narratively) as physically stubborn, you might feel yourself becoming stubborn in your non-compliance (per Ahmed). Physicality also comes to figure narrative, often in a straightforward way.
Disciplinarity was already a means of keeping physical violence at a distance from governmental coercion & enforcement. (Yet police are always lurking, making the situation operative.)
I will note BDSM, once again, as a direct conflation of (physical) love & violence — often figuring sex as an aesthetic form. (The notion that heterosexual sex is inherently violent remains operative as well.)
Graeber reminds us that laws typically emerge from illegal activity, i.e. as a response. What would be the full implication of mandatory nonviolence under the law?
Those who choose to be soldiers seem to be finding it to be very non-glorious these days. (Hence the video game-style advertising for the US military that is now ubiquitous during sports broadcasts.)
Death, love, sex, violence... these notions have been intertwined, commonly via what we might today call theology, since long before the enlightenment apologists formulated modern imperial aesthetics as a discipline. (Agamben figures glory as specifically theological, for instance.) If aesthetics provides a narrative of balance, then, how does that balance transform what it enfolded?
Artistic choice itself is creation, and so aesthetics can figure choice as creation. (Artistic or aesthetic morality might thus be a morality of new possibility, if we can overcome its enlightenment limitations.) Such generic desire might be engaged by the domains of love or reproduction as well: Butler figures gender as performative, but might it be figured more specifically as (performative) aesthetic? What then of the role of aesthetics in reproductive choice? Is reproduction itself the meaning of beauty, and if so, how has enlightenment apology corrupted that meaning? (With the latter question, I include modes of reproduction quite broadly, in Latour's sense.)
In opposition to Kantian sobriety, Nietzsche declared that aesthetic experience requires intoxication. With attention already saturated (per ), where is the surplus of sensibility to be figured aesthetically? The Kantian gap becomes ever more tenuous: There is no separate domain (of beauty), and internet (per Hansen, et al.) makes a politics of sensibility increasingly urgent. Stiegler looks to generate a political feeling of "we" via such sensibility, so how then can we feel sensation as a yearning (for augmentation?), when there is already too much? Neo-imperial intoxication has instead yielded a yearning for violence — and so with it, the destruction of overstimulation? Nullification of violent stimulus via violence? (That sounds perverse to me, but perhaps once again it can be figured via accelerationism.)
That focus on particular kinds of meaning would decrease meaning elsewhere is not actually a paradox. (I might figure it according to the pull of familiarity.)
Whereas it is tempting to consider a rendering of collective life as a work of art , let's recall that generic desire cannot be summed. (One might thus speak of multitudes of aesthetics, generic in the singular, rather than a collective aesthetics.)
Let's also recall that nature is typically figured according to the same violent aesthetic. (In other words, immersion in an ecology of violence is said to be natural.) So collective life, collective art, collective nature (ecology)... all violent according to this aesthetic. (Figuring the real to be violent, rather than loving, is a longstanding theological concern.)
The notion of a collective work of art is universalizing, but in a juxtaposition that might still seem too abrupt, so are sporting outcomes — provided that everyone can agree what the outcome is. Indeed, Butler suggests that universalization is the primary masculinist trait — and sports are very often figured as masculine . Moreover, in keeping with some earlier theological figurations (per ), (modern) secularism is itself explicitly universalizing , while relying on sporting outcomes for its contemporary miracles.
It is posited that everyone agrees on who won a sporting event, and such outcomes are positioned (hierarchically) in universalizing space, but this is not always actually true.
Hence, liberal feminism focuses on women in sports, with all the aesthetic deflection that implies. (Such a focus also has obvious implications for the reception of dance as physical expression.)
Despite its many religious enfoldings, the modern age has been the secular age: Identity is, in turn, saturated by universality. (Fundamentalism, including neoliberal fundamentalism, is then the response. Such ideologies become essentially semiotic against the ubiquitous background of secular media.) So have we found the limits of secularism? Beyond epistemic limits, are there aesthetic limits? (Aestheticization, per , has been a significant weapon for imperial secularism.) Is there a possible post-secularism, somehow emptied of universality? Under such a regime, what replaces modern aesthetics? (Perhaps such aesthetics is simply a superfluous residue of dualism, the scene of the "special" forged to complement & reinforce the universal.)
In other words, since aesthetics (as renewed philosophical discipline) originated in the wake of imperial violence, that it comes to overflow with violence shouldn't be a surprise. (And violence is now entertainment.)
Under imperialism & its derivatives, responses to violence are always violent: To respond otherwise is not only to eschew its aesthetic, but to fail to respond in a legible manner.
Once again, I'll note that grace is a quality applied to sporting feats. (I do not intend this remark sarcastically, as various players — who often have few economic choices otherwise — might indeed be performing a movement transverse to the violence of their profession & world.) Of course, it also applies to dance. Where is the boundary? Somewhere in what are called — including those with seemingly nothing to do with fighting — the martial arts? (There is surely more to be said on this topic, but I won't be undertaking to do so.)
One might figure underflow via improvisatory noncompliance. (But I feel as though I'm no longer underflowing much of anything here, as I come to repeat myself yet again.... The end of this piece draws near.)
Ecological attunement to creation has no particular need for "aesthetics" then — unless (perhaps) framed in the reproductive terms of , rather than the "rational" (instrumental) terms of [28,29]. (Maybe this is a means to reset a damaged sensibility, rather than coaching more categorical responses.)
How or where does one enact or forge an ecology of attunement? Despite fractured interiors , and an impulse toward the exterior [2,4], public space is somehow assembled : Whereas the earth as a whole must (still ) be figured as public in the generic sense , modes of bodily assembly produce spaces  that are often in tension with privatization. Politics both requires  & forges public space, allowing difference to confront itself : Hegemonic neoliberalism places no value on public space or on (actual ) political confrontation, so the (simultaneous) struggle for both has become bodily [14,15]: Bodily confrontation might suggest violence , and indeed physical assembly can put bodies at risk. Moreover, some bodies cannot assemble [19,20], adding to risk a (potential) virtual component that is always already mediated. The "real" of assembly is thus translated via mediation , but bodily assembly  also signifies in excess of its articulated situation or vocabulary. In other words, the latter can be figured as deficit. Is bodily presence itself somehow aporetic? Its performative significance exceeds narrative figuration, so to what extent is the generic body ever actually e.g. ecological or technological? Does it have a real home or family , or does generic attunement itself wander in its affirmative, improvisatory noncompliance? The aporetic character of public space today  demands various styles of noncompliant embodiment , including those of heresy & civil war , so as to follow or enact the transverse swerve of grace. None of this can be fully chosen, and so we return to performing our aporia.[32,33]
Might we forge a radical interior across neoliberal discontinuity? (Such radical interiorization would go beyond what I characterized, rather mechanically, as smoothing in 24.)
Exteriority can also involve caprice, changeability & difference — hence the emphasis on variants of nomadic theory in the (high tech, at least) job market. What deficit is one to overflow? Who or what is to decide? Do we overflow that decision? (Before it occurs?) Can exteriority itself saturate the earth? In the meantime, exteriority cannot forge a home, other than in pure nonequilibrium.
Sandoval notes that older forms of morality, which require a center or lever, thus dissipate under contemporary global conditions, and asks where differences (in ideology) can meet, despite differing trajectories. (Meeting in a space of exteriority could only be random — or, I might say, fortunate.)
Laruelle interrogates impersonal exteriority via his "stranger" concept: The stranger is how one feels an amphibology of self, between worlds & the real, such that the stranger is mediated exactly once, and lived in the (worldly) ego as real. Laruelle characterizes the stranger as the bearer of ideologies (such as humanism, and certainly existentialism), and so in turn, morality. (For our purposes, the stranger is an aspect of the self lived as exterior. It thus has a Lacanian basis.)
Public space is under constant attack by forces of privatization, and so it must be constantly (re)assembled. Laruelle frames struggle as generic practice, whereas Butler notes that acting itself claims the power to act. In other words, public space is not given, but taken.
Privatization proceeds rapidly: Whereas the space of the earth possesses a physical integrity & continuity that demands some form of continued attention, e.g. public internet space is largely destroyed by creating new private spaces that in turn starve the public. (Note that tech companies desire "outer" space exploration, so that perhaps something similar can be done to the earth. Might it be abandoned as not profitable enough?)
If nothing else, private for-profit enterprises continue to require an exterior space where they can dump their undesirable outputs on someone else. Hence "public" continues to be an operative concept, even under neoliberalism, figured as a space that isn't profitable. (Public space might thus be figured according to the victim.)
Although my basic image is physical human bodies standing together in e.g. a city square, changing conceptions of interior & exterior, public & private, require changing conceptions of space. Internet sites might function as public spaces, for instance. (Assembly in private space, however, implies the ability & inclination to specifically exclude people, and so to recapitulate hierarchy.)
Assembly might be for the purpose of challenging privatization of the very space of assembly. (Again, whereas we might think of physical space being privatized, I consider e.g. private insurance to be paradigmatic, particularly considering its large guaranteed profits.)
Insurance per se is an inherent outcome of pooled risk (collectivity), i.e. a basic function of the public. The purpose of private insurance, then, is to draw a line of exclusion, i.e. a difference from which to extract profit. (Per , the public continues to function to at least partially insure those who are not profitable for insurance companies.)
Butler notes, updating Arendt, that a space for politics is infrastructure (and so determining).
As Laruelle's sometimes awkward, often hyphenated language illustrates, we encounter limits to language when attempting discussions such as these: I am inclined to speak of collectivity, but via the generic, rather than the (special or universal) liberal self. If the generic cannot be summed or collected, perhaps I can refer to it via assembly? (Such "assemblages" could be further interrogated. Instead, one might think in terms of quantum superposition, as Laruelle does.) Although this note is indulgent in some sense, the issue of language limitation is significant: It limits not only expression, but sometimes thought itself. (If someone knows a language by which these concepts can be expressed more elegantly, please do let me know. I already have, and have expressed in Music as political, an interest in music in this regard.) For now, I'll simply repeat the formulation "power with."
Neoliberal (economic) rhetoric is designed to foreclose politics, and replace it with propaganda only. (Again, I repeat myself....)
Whereas I discussed the body via sensation & as the site of choice in 7, here the topic is generic bodily performance. (Such performance figures choice, but is not choice per se.) Because the mind-body dualizing of enlightenment thought could not accommodate (figured as merely natural) bodily performance per se, the latter has become a form of denial for its descendent, neoliberal capitalism. (Bodily performance in opposition is certainly not new, but is refigured along with new modes of exteriorization.) Bodily denial is then in tension with neoliberalism, as both an outcome & a form of opposition.
Stiegler proposes an organology in three dimensions: body, technologies (including art) & society. Hence the body codetermines society, and in the terms here, does so via public — in all its senses — assembly. (I discussed some significant, related aspects of technology & art in the previous two paragraphs.)
Suggesting that mere bodily presence yields a sense of confrontation is one (political) thing, but the notion that it heralds violence per se is a strong indictment of the neo-imperial system. Who is bringing violence to the proceedings? This is narrative imperialism at its most crass.
Why not (nonviolent) dance as the image of physical assembly? Why should the human body retreat from physicality per se? We are, after all, physical beings. Nonviolence itself becomes performative, and indeed rhetorical.
How is the body treated by advertising & the media? It is figured according to various consumer interfaces, for one. (Even this component warrants substantial elaboration, which I will not attempt here.) Now public assembly appeals (at least implicitly) to the media by recording & filming itself. Such a confluence might not yield good results: Is it only the body of the consumer that is to be respected?
Bodies with disabilities find some public spaces unsuitable. Indeed, all bodies might find some public spaces unsuitable, perhaps intentionally so on the part of those with power over them. The body thus poses limits on freedom of movement & assembly, and of course on human action per se. (Let us consider this performatively, i.e. in opposition to mind-body dualism, in which the mind is figured as acting alone.)
Butler names (political) imprisonment as signifying the ultimate limit to physical assembly.
In the contemporary era, mediation is quite literal: The media & their images (at least partially) constitute a people or scene. This is even more true of internet media, and the scene of assembly can thus overflow its physical space — yielding further mediation in the terms of . (In another sense, however, bodily presence cannot be mediated: The body is either present or not.)
Whereas Butler sees power in the overflowing, per , layers of mediation, particularly by for-profit media-technology companies, give me great pause. Does anything real remain in the image?
Perhaps as a partial solution to the issues of collections, raised once again in , we might follow Sandoval & Walker in suggesting affinity rather than assembly (which is coded summation?). The (Deleuzian) language of assemblage might likewise be reworked according to affine trajectories, and was already (re)framed in terms of speeds & intensities at the time. So, how or where do differing trajectories find or express their affinities?
Meaning deficits may be figured, at least partially, according to language alone (as per [12,23]). Hence, the worldly meaning attributed to bodily presence is deficient relative to that (real) presence.
I discussed the self as aporetic in 6, but not the body per se. Bodily presence is then aporetic in the sense that one knows nothing of the intent of the body of the other, much less its outcomes: Staring (if the reader will excuse the ocularcentrism) at a mute body can unveil unmediated aporia.
Scientific worlds of meaning, such as those of ecology or technology, are always deficient relative to real performance: We overflow them. (The same might be said of aesthetic criticism.)
Home & family (together with nation & related collections) are the narrative containers of interiority, itself worldly. (So the generic must eschew familiarity? Or is it overly familiar?)
Public space has itself become aporetic in the sense that the only public space granted is space that no capitalist wants, i.e. space that has been declared to be of no value. Yet, we must & do extract value from it, in contradiction with neoliberal logic.
Simply put, if there were only one style (and I used this "style" language, for better or worse, in similar remarks in 29) of noncompliant embodiment, or if its variety were easily recapitulated typologically, it would be much easier to render invisible or silent. (Perhaps this makes increasing layers of virtual mediation, concerns over which I expressed in , somewhat easier to accept in turn. What other styles of embodiment might there be?)
Although civil war is always already figured as violent, in particular by the imperial narrative named in , I refuse to accept that it is inherently violent or nonviolent. (What is self-defense in this context, for instance? That question has been a significant site for imperialist figuration of the other.)
Society may be forged mechanically through power, but not through non-power (which cannot force or forge). Yet, it does (sometimes) change. So, onward with new styles....
I have discussed my own writing performance previously in my "end of writing" series. The present performance will, perhaps, speak for itself. (It will have to, anyway.)
If morality is always a stopping point, and even if it isn't, we thus reach our stopping point (yet again).
Is morality "a mode" then? Let's recall that Latour undertook an anthropological study of "the moderns" , rather than an analysis of sociality in general: Whereas the modern West  may believe in morality , it rendered morality inoperative, and in short, aporetic: Its oppressive character is linked directly to man-nature dualism , and rationalization  across that gap. Modern rationalism has also been figured as non-political , assuring that moral aporia will not be mediated from within modernism.
As morality becomes impossible under circumstances deriving from imperial modernity , molding selves  takes on a further aporetic quality : The wedge is driven deeper. However, bodily denial, as outcome of man-nature, marks the corresponding weakness of modernism : Attacking that weakness involves dualizing bodily precarity itself as both outcome (of modernity) & message (to modernity)  — in opposition to virtualization. Whereas such a telos of the body can be productive , it continues to leave us unmoored from generic desire. How then do we breach modern moral aporia? Here , I can offer only heresy.
I am only writing, and writing is a kind of deferral: If our situation is urgent, what is the place or time of such deferral? Our aporia signals deferral , or does it? Must one know? What is the real temporality of choice? If we are to think ecologically , what of creatures (& other entities ) with different relations to time? Does choice already overflow (prior to) decision? Can it actually be figured by past & future? Such questions are not to justify my apparent passivity in having chosen writing, yet I did make that choice, or perhaps I simply didn't make some other choice. When was or is that? The (circulating) ecology of moral aporia is ongoing, and so I reopen, once again:
This "morality piece" functions as something of an appendix to What is familiar?, which was itself....
The (linguistic) relation between "modern" & "mode" is itself rather incestuous.
The modern West is synonymous with the imperial West, or imperial Europe & its satellite cultures, in these terms.
Morality is an enfolded concept for the modern regime, one could say, according to previous descriptions here.
I have favored man-nature as primary for this exposition, although one could figure historical rationalism first via mind-body or other variants. (Hence the characteristic dual configuration that renders morality aporetic can be traced to the beginnings of so-called modern philosophy.)
Imperial disinhibition was predicated on man-nature dualism, i.e. the notion that rational man owed no responsibility to irrational nature — with other peoples, and indeed women, figured as natural. (In other words, imperialism needed & nurtured dualism.)
Much like the liberal subject, the gap between intent & outcome figured by enlightenment rationalism cannot be resolved via augmentation: Linking "more" intents & outcomes only recapitulates established hierarchy. (I will continue to interrogate the role of aesthetics in forging or preserving this gap in the companion article on listening.)
Economics, as the former science of the household, has attained (ironic ) hegemony over politics. Let's recall that the modern innovation of secret (private) economic transactions has driven that hegemony. (In other words, once again, drawing a line has produced differences from which profit can be extracted.) We might thus describe the aporetic, modern version of morality as deriving from secrecy (or "inner life").
The irony of supposed economic hegemony can be summarized very succinctly by one word, sexism.
A "modern" system of political mediation has simply been to declare — via violence — a particular framework for thought to be hegemonic. Any claims for justice must then be made relative to the imposed framework. (In other words, this is transcendental moralizing.)
Modern imperialism is thus figured, perhaps too broadly, as the basis for the "damaged life" to which Adorno refers.
I intend "molding selves" in the most general sense: Any such molding (or sculpting or formation, etc.) derives both from chains of meaning exceeding us, as well as subsequent choices. Similarly, the selves (plural) are not always already liberal subjects, but rather in a variety of potential relations & non-relations. (Once again, I seek to evoke a generic collectivity. I might otherwise name technologies of self.)
Any aporia in self-formation in the contemporary era is filled immediately (and already) by marketing & propaganda. (Ubiquitous harassment is the fruit of late modern interiority.)
Issues such as bioethics — which broadly includes e.g. performance enhancing drugs for sports & genetic manipulation, as well as longterm necropolitical manipulation of global healthcare — become increasingly acute. (The body is refigured, once again, as a site for profit.)
Morality under conditions of extreme (immanent) precarity begins to lose its aporetic quality. Any glorification of bodily precarity comes with extreme risk, though. (Accelerationism itself might be analogized to cancer treatment, i.e. differentially attacking the fastest growing cells.) Such risk is always already borne differentially, according to hierarchy. However, the man-nature duality has rendered modern thought largely unable to theorize such bodily precarity, and so unable to respond in modes other than its characteristic violence, thus redoubling precarity. (In other words, imperial mechanisms cannot halt such an attack, other than via total suppression by force. Governmentality is thus laid bare.)
The virtual body on the internet, inflecting a "nomos" (in Schmitt's sense) of the internet, is thus the operative postmodern attempt to hide (otherwise overly visible) failure to theorize the body. Such a nomos of virtualization, then, enacts another enfolding. It forges a way to mediate (and then re-mediate, in a cascade of virtual entities) bodily duality.
Note how dualizing can be figured immediately as teleological — in sharp contrast to its figuration by enlightenment rationality. (In other words, are we using the body for some external purpose? Such a purpose inherently conflicts with emergent, immanent desire.)
Hence dualizing, as a kind of counter-colonization, can only be a tactic. (Agamben suggests that the work of creation & salvation coincide ultimately only in the unsavable. So once the body & desire are truly unsalvageable, might they be joined beyond duality? This remains a dangerous game, but danger is the only route to regime change: Change is dangerous.)
Such Christian morality clashes with the modern attitudes — in particular, those related to Fortune — in which it is enfolded.
Although there is bodily performance involved in writing this piece, in (unfortunate) correspondence with what I just wrote, it is heavily mediated by virtualization, already in the writing & again in the reading.
In this case, heresy might be figured as the stripping away of layers of ideology. (And regarding enfoldings, let me note my firm opinion that Deleuze got the Leibnizian fold backward: Leibniz is not "more modern," but rather folded modern rationalism into a renewed medieval analogism. Such is the German baroque, bordering the imperial West.) In Heidegger's terms, stripping away may yield the freedom for being to reveal itself. (Of course, it very well may not.) Who am I to write? Who are you to read this? It is difficult to believe that our specific situations retain much, if any, of the generic. So, heresy? The generic heretic signifies only heresy.
I had asked in 30 whether focus on aporia produces anything helpful. (I also partially figured hope & doubt.) I will leave the question unanswered, since it is not for me to answer. (Does post- itself always signal deferral? It might well ratify enfoldings, if nothing else.)
Passivity was raised — as an issue — already in the last part of Remède de Fortune, and again according to game theory in 18. (I ask again: What is radical passivity? How does it articulate to bodily presence & precarity?) What is the place of an epistemic relation to choice?
Ecological thinking is always unfinished: Outputs become inputs, once again. Moreover, if our (ecological) thinking is to be open per 12, it cannot figure an outcome or even a (static) before: It enacts generic, nonequilibrium atemporality, i.e. without sequence or macroscopic state. (We might contrast such atemporality with the equilibrium-based & sequential character of messianic time, which has been enfolded into modernism, most thoroughly by Hegel, but already by Hobbes.)
I would like to offer an alternate reading of "creature," not as something created, but as something that creates, or more broadly, as something that participates in creation. (Such a figuration is, once again, artistic.) As the latter, one needn't augment the creature with other entities.
The modern sense of time can only be described as extremely anthropomorphic: We perceive everything on our scale, and in our order. (We can only perceive, at least directly, in that manner. However, although I will not undertake it here, we can name creatures that have very different relationships with time in terms of life span, reproductive cycle, sense apparatus, etc. It's quite likely that we remain unaware of just how different some of these relations are. Indeed, we might be unable to perceive some as creaturely.)
Leaving other creatures aside, what have been some human means for figuring temporality, other than via past & future? What have been other means for figuring past & future? (The posited, strict linearity of modernism is cultural too, and a component of our aporia.)
Is a choice to write passive? Compared to what? (I'm inclined to agree, with myself at least, that it appears to be relatively passive. The urgency of the situation is real.) Is a choice to read passive? Again, compared to what?
Are we waiting? For what, salvation? (Perhaps amid their paradigm of worldly greed, the moderns have forgotten that their god exists outside of time: There can be no salvation via temporal processes.)
Please see a bibliography for these appendices, as well as the original bibliography for the series, if you so desire.Todd M. McComb 25 November 2015