Jazz Thoughts

Practical listening

To 8. Legibility, spectrality, machines.

9. Religious inclinations

One might listen [1] both for how someone — or some group — is already inclined, or for how their inclinations might be further directed or developed: If religion is inclination, whether via prior education or orientation toward a social group [2,3] (and of course those intertwine), then how might religion itself be inclined [4], i.e. how are religious views developed, and in particular, how might they be developed differently? (Where do they lead? Where ought they lead?[5]) More broadly, how does one negotiate the social landscape of religious inclinations, specifically in order to reconfigure contemporary neoliberalism (& in turn global neo-imperialism) into a better world?[6] In other words, while one might be inclined toward something, how did one become so inclined, and toward what might one come to be inclined in turn?[8] Moreover, how do various inclinations impinge & interact in groups? (What are their tendencies, whether in word or deed, and how might they be sculpted, particularly in concert?) Such inclinations might be called values [9], particularly if values are not regarded as static domains, but rather as directions for striving.[10] And values are precisely what are being eviscerated by the contemporary regime, or rather, equated to market price alone [11]: Given the instrumental quality of the neoliberal wealth (concentration) machine, then, how might religious inclinations be instrumentalized differently, i.e. such that they lead somewhere else?[12] (Whereas one might value the non-instrumental, and for good reason, the present discussion continues to ask what non-instrumental values do, i.e. instrumentalizes them within a broader context [13]: The merit, or lack thereof, of such an approach remains an open question.) Whereas "traditional" religious differences — e.g. between Catholic & Protestant — collided on the same plane, neoliberal religion (regarding the sanctity of wealth & "the market") attempts to transcend all difference, or rather to commensurate any difference (religious & otherwise) according to the money form [17]: Neoliberalism is thus a monotheism, but not a jealous monotheism.[20] (It is, however, evangelic — to the point of employing armies in ongoing crusades.) That capitalist imperialism in general — including in its modernist moment — has been about concentrating wealth, i.e. is about using the many to enrich the few (or using the globe to enrich a locale), suggests a paradigm for instrumentality [22], further suggesting a need to interrogate instrumentality per se (and indeed difference, again religious & otherwise): If religious inclinations have been reconfigured & transcended [23] by neoliberalism, in order to forge a (more efficient) wealth extraction machine, then how might such inclinations be reconfigured (again) differently? This is a basic question of resistance, but also of the pharmacology of religion: What sorts of beliefs — i.e. traditional values & knowledge — resist incorporation by the neoliberal machine, and moreover, do not produce something else unjust?[25] (Again, that one grows up with particular beliefs, orientations & inclinations, including as instilled prior to attaining any sort of intellectual sophistication, seems self-evident.[26])

Religion both arises from & forges (social) connections, such that its inclinations concern the nature of connectedness [27], as the latter arises from the temporal sequence (i.e. that of biological growth) of (bodily) learning. So how might one rearrange the nature of connectedness?[28] Pharmacologically then, which religious inclinations harm & which cure? (One should be suspicious of any neat list — or any clear typology.) Much of the ritual power of religion lies in assembly per se [29], i.e. performative togetherness, as such togetherness forges & evokes (i.e. by remembering previous togetherness [30], or anticipating subsequent togetherness) an affective stance [31], and in turn a collective disinhibition.[32] (Such ritual performance comes to extend far beyond religion per se [33], which nonetheless remains its paradigm.) As modernist science continues to emphasize, ritual not only has a semiotic quality [37], but an entropic quality as well: In other words, transmitted knowledge is always in danger of becoming untrue. Moreover, knowledge deriving from traditional groups can suggest ideology, particularly as religious groupings enforce cohesion (or else spin apart [38]). However, one might also emphasize the ritual character of scientific propagation itself [40], and indeed a semiotic-entropic dual can be interrogated across any relation of transmission.[41,42] What then are the (specific) instrumental qualities of ritual? Conveniently, Catholic theologians have already interrogated the topic extensively [43]: Whereas the minister is the instrumental cause of the sacrament, no lapse in intent [44] (and indeed little in the way of malpractice) can sabotage the efficacy of the rite per se. In other words, ritual is performative — it instantiates its own relations, and the officiant is essentially a servant of — or "in suspension" relative to — its efficacy.[45] Such a theological judgment evokes practical concerns (for efficacy, political [46] & otherwise), but also (perhaps paradoxically, given the explicitly transcendental targets of Catholic ritual) rests broadly on assembled acclamation per se — i.e. on the connectedness of the (other) people involved.[48] (One might further ponder unconscious knowledge deriving from ritual — or more crassly, that some power can be more effective in the absence of conscious attention to its operation.[49]) Despite its contrasts then, the wealth-oriented instrumentality of modernity (& now postmodernity) displays eerie similarities [50]: For one, the prestige of modernity is grounded in its initial, violent imposition, which is in turn used to justify continuing violence. (Such imposition usually involves origin narratives [51], i.e. positing some sort of transcendent priority.) For another, the empirical ground of (modern) science rests on aesthetic (that is, sensory) experience, which it in turn attempts to marginalize.[52] (One might further conclude that modernity retained its prestige via the perpetual trauma it caused itself, and even that the ongoing ritual power of postmodernity relies on an excess of connectedness, i.e. on constant media saturation. The latter becomes increasingly religious in its form of propagation & message structure.) Despite its largely instrumental character, then, is modern science [53] actually more practical (or more powerful) than ritual assembly per se?[54] How does it function as an aspect of public worship & acclamation — in contrast to its sometimes private character? (There can be no doubt that science is worshiped today, at least in some quarters.[55]) Such acclamation moves beyond disciplinary power, and into the affirmative power of "can" [56]: And all such acclamations forge religious inclinations — not the necessary or "bound" [57], but the inclined.

As a product of the European Enlightenment [58], Marx famously disdained religion. Yet Marxist thought is often received as ideological [59] (even as it has critiqued ideology [60]): Marx accepted & further posited a Hegelian structure to history [61], and so in turn exploitation.[62] (One might also note the obvious religious structure involved in later notions such as "faithfulness to the event."[63]) Such exploitation is articulated in part via the property form (particularly in its English implementation) [64], however, and indeed property ramifications saturate modern philosophy [65]: From natural resources [69] to sexuality [70], forms of wealth are identified, segregated, reified & ultimately hoarded.[71] Moreover, accumulation has been refigured as itself a public service, i.e. as liturgical [72]: Closing the circle with "properties" as personal attributes, hoarded wealth itself has been equated to virtue.[74] (We are thus quite far from the world of potlatch.[75]) If liturgy in turn figures (generalized) public bureaucracy [76], ours concerns the orderly transfer of (more) resources up a (steepening) pyramid of wealth, where "service" by the wealthy consists not of (traditional acts such as) financing infrastructure or festivals, but of hoarding itself [77] — which thus becomes glorious & iconic. So while actions are reified into properties, property itself (i.e. personal wealth) is placed into suspension by contemporary liturgy, i.e. remains untouched (if not actually augmented) by virtue signaling. (So neoliberal liturgy once again reflects fundamentalist principles: "Public service" does not induce affective circulation — let alone resource circulation — in opposition to personal accumulation, but rather along the same hierarchical channels.[78]) These rites thus reinforce a unitary typology.[80,82] So how might liturgy (as public service) be inclined differently? The material conditions underlying public ritual suggest a basic untruth to any liturgical evocation of affective equality [83], and in turn questions regarding the efficacy of ritual display. Yet efficacy extends beyond the (momentary) allocation or circulation of resources and into the affective domain: Simply put, is there affective (or instrumental) value to virtual display? (In other words, do people subsequently behave differently?) Whereas materialism has emphasized actuality, and for good reason [84], virtuality itself remains a powerful domain, and not to be disdained [85]: Rather, it must be treated pharmacologically.[86] Virtuality figures not only religious ritual & narrative, but fiction more broadly.[87] And so, if anything, virtual figurations continue to ascend [89], thus filling the vacuum of postmodern religious emptiness [90]: Given that the monotheist "god" is the ultimate (anthropomorphic) reification of virtual relations [92], suspicion of virtuality can be seen to entail suspicion of reification — thus reengaging material(ist) critique. However, recalling theological discussion of instrumental causes, a pharmacological approach to public (performance of) liturgy must emphasize not only its vicarious quality, but that it cannot be possessed (in particular, as property): Performance thus remains participatory, and can be enacted only on behalf of others.[93] (Inability to possess liturgy thus galvanizes its specific potential for resistance. And indeed postcolonial critique of private property need not be bound to Hegelian notions of history.) One can finally ask, then, about the (hypothetical) values to be produced & interrogated by neo-liturgical action (i.e. by new forms of, perhaps virtual, public service [94]): What is actually to be done?

Whereas discussions of liturgy likely (still) suggest a church setting, postmodern (media) conditions involve the intrusion of ritual propaganda into the smallest of (personal) spaces: Technology-based liturgy is increasingly ubiquitous [95], and comes to figure cultural hegemony per se.[96] Moreover, in a state of constant surveillance [97], all actions become public (i.e. liturgical).[98,100] One can thus interrogate a liturgical pharmacology quite broadly, so as to involve a politics of attention [101] & speed: Its curatives (or weapons) become tools of perception.[102] Considering that postmodern media possesses the ability to saturate attention, a political pharmacology cannot operate at the same level [103], but rather must cultivate generic desire — i.e. value the haptic per se.[104] (In other words, there isn't a waiting reserve of attention via which to transcend or circumvent neoliberal propaganda. It's already in use, so must be reworked immanently.) Such a valuation suggests not only economies [105], but ecologies [106]: How might one figure liturgical optimism today, for instance?[107] How might one construct a new horizon, perhaps as a matter of ecology? (Such questions become matters for public performance.) In what is the public (already) invested?[108] Although such a question can spin readily into a variety of territories, in some sense the answers are already quite clear: The public is invested in what it (already) knows, such that the "background hum" of mass media (with its marketing & propaganda) forges public religious inclinations. (And the less conscious the attention, the more powerful the inclinations?) "Religious education" is thus unending, albeit beginning in youth [112] — likely even being intensified by the contemporary conjuncture — and involves not only what, but how: How is one trained to perceive?[114] How is one oriented (bodily, as well as subjectively [115]) by such training? (And what is the temporal sequence involved?) Such an orientation inclines, in nonlinear fashion, how — & so what — one learns subsequently.... The instrumental qualities of art (broadly speaking) can then be summoned to interrogate such inclinations, and so must be updated for the postmodern world [116]: If everyone is always already an artist [117], what are the liturgical implications of such a scene for mass public creation?[118] More to the point, what are we creating? (Such creation obviously both derives from & forges religious inclinations in turn.) Postmodern art (i.e. creation) thus becomes not (or not necessarily) about objects [119,120], but about relations: Whereas such a scene of relation might suggest an aura of aesthetic mystification, the truth of public art (i.e. art as liturgy) is in articulation (i.e. happening) itself.[123] Why even speak of art when the more basic question is what is to be taught (or transmitted, by whatever means) & how? Perhaps the notion of "art" — which is an abstracted representation (or reification) of human activity anyway — should be abandoned for a general scene of relational activity & thus creation [124], but practically speaking, "art" has come to designate a significant body of knowledge related to navigating & even instigating nonlinear inclinations [125], particularly under perverse or extreme conditions. (Reacting to self-imposed extreme conditions or constraints was a significant trend of late modern art.) So considering that a swerve able to reinflect education in any particular moment might well be small [126] (& precise), one can indeed speak of artistic inclinations.

Since the present series is about listening, again, for what might one listen? Must inclinations — religious or artistic — agree or align?[127] Toward what is the background hum of postmodern glorification instrumentally inclined? (Fortunately or unfortunately, this last question is often easy to answer: The noise of miserly greed grows louder & louder, to the point of becoming deafening.[128]) How might different inclinations be emphasized or allowed to function? In short, what sort of art do we need? Beyond (perhaps) emphasizing the generic relational aspect & indeed the simple authority of doing [129], notions of inclination resist final answers (to these questions, among many others). Yet perhaps there are still aesthetic concerns (remaining) to be related in this space: For one, the aesthetic is simply what is perceived or felt, "aesthetics" being in turn the interrogation or (not always conscious) ordering of those perceptions & feelings.[130] One might thus ponder anesthetics by way of contrast.[131] One might further ponder a corresponding quiet-loud dual [135], as well as (scientifically constructed) musical inducements to consumption [136], and note how art can & has enacted relations of (biopolitical) control, or (sometimes, alternately) rendered such relations hidden or apparent [137]: Music might even condition or interrogate the structure of time & presence [138] themselves, even forge a citational style [139]: Thus, contemporary musical art can bring to presence, might make known, what is otherwise hidden.[140,142] (And what of other artistic relations via e.g. architecture [143], clothing [144], the body [145], even dance?[146] Relations, virtual & otherwise, can be & are forged or modulated endlessly, across all domains of activity or potential activity, such that these terms suggest only starting points....) Interrogation, even glorification of presence can be critical (to one's inclinations), but (conscious) knowing does not necessarily equate to efficacy [147], since liturgical power might flow through (virtual) relations (in general).[148] So how does one prioritize (a) relation — how does one forge or modulate (its) intensity? Whereas anesthetics suppress bodily intensity (or perhaps shepherd intensity through a control cycle), assembly (& in turn liturgy) acts as a performative forge: Whereas religion suggests habit, such that its glorifications might e.g. evoke happiness without yielding material change [149], its rituals can still be both restoratives & spurs to (further) action.[150] And what of new rituals — reenchantment [151], or indeed heresy?[152] If liturgical hierarchy is heard not only as a format for governmentality, but as its enacting medium [154], subject-object equivocation enters the everyday: How then do we act simultaneously with & upon ourselves? In the everyday, such possibilities become endless.... (One might consider generic desire & hapticality, once again, or simply the improvisational adventure of relation [157], art-as-work — liturgy as working relations.) What then are (already) people's inclinations? And how do we want people to be inclined, i.e. what do we want (them) to believe?[158] In a new era (of media & aesthetics), such fundamental questions of value remain at a significant crossroads.[159]

  1. The heading here remains "listening" — although this particular project might be close to running its course.

  2. Concepts of contemporary religion recently interrogated & explored the topic of religion as both traditional knowledge & social binding, and so as prior (for each person) to current learning or choice. (Whereas that article might be considered crude & questioning, I believe that it does make its points. Perhaps I should go back & improve some syntax, and I believe that I will, given the interlocking character of these two pieces, but then that series is intended to adopt an "introductory" mood....)

  3. One might choose to speak of an orientation rather than an inclination, in general, thus raising notions of geography, and even "The East" (indeed per Islamic prayer & its orientation). This discussion will rarely venture toward Asia, however.

  4. The titular term "inclinations" relates (etymologically) to notions of clinamen, i.e. the improvisatory swerve of fundamental "particles" posited by the Epicurean philosophy of Lucretius. Thus, the notion of inclination argues against preordained outcomes.

  5. Whereas questions of "ought" often seem presumptuous, they remain quite tangible & significant when forging early childhood education. (Although this discussion will venture rather far afield, that remains its basic context: Religion concerns teaching.)

  6. The clinamen notion thus suggests something more subtle, or at least less violent, than traditional thoughts of revolution: I'm calling such a process reconfiguration. (However, this is not an argument against revolution per se, although it might be an acknowledgement of its impracticality — not so much the impracticality of disruption, but the impracticality of emerging with something better.[7])

  7. As Hardt & Negri recently reiterated in Assembly, the basic (smallest) structures of everyday life (i.e. how people interact) can be the most resistant to real change, and these are indeed also more amenable to swerves & "reconfiguration." This has been my emphasis (including musically).

  8. A basic suggestion throughout this space is that, being improvisatory (& ultimately nonlinear), inclinations can lead rather far afield, particularly as iterated across temporal sequences or over different situational domains. (Such nonlinearity is reflected in the circularity of these opening questions: Already possessing religious inclinations ourselves, there is no firm place from which to interrogate them. Hence I begin in the middle.)

  9. Notes on the value of (human) life had already posited that religion is about values (plural), indeed that religion concerns life itself, & beyond its instrumental (e.g. neoliberal) value.

  10. Whereas the clinamen notion suggests directionality within the smallest of horizons, and this is indeed important, I want to consider larger horizons as well: Perhaps more to the point, if our powers of inclination concern small motions, how might they in turn yield a larger change? (In other words, it's one thing to posit that small motions add up to big changes, and such an observation is not merely speculative, but what might one actually do in order to pursue such an outcome?) After all, the neoliberal regime itself is the fruit of previously unrealized inclinations — & moreover, continues to shape such inclinations in increasingly meticulous detail online.

  11. Morality as aporia had already explored how acting in support of any value other than hoarding private wealth becomes increasingly difficult or aporetic, i.e. how all acts are increasingly reinflected toward privatization of wealth. (In other words, the contemporary regime has sought to make anything else impossible: One must become capitalist in order to survive capitalism? Such a mechanism aims for total assimilation.)

  12. Whereas in Concepts of contemporary religion (recalling [2]), "the instrumental qualities of religion are (were) to be set aside for the moment," here they are front & center: What can be done by & about religion? (I insist that these two questions are fundamentally the same.) Moreover, beyond the scope of that introductory exploration (but as already raised there), how might one actually discover values? (In other words, among its other possibilities, how might the modern paradigm of discovery further incline one religiously?)

  13. Remède de Fortune had suggested that one does not combat religion by becoming religion, but here such a limited suggestion is to be transformed: So one combats the religion of neoliberalism by considering other religions? (One might be said to combat any fundamentalism by finding alternatives.[14]) One simply cannot aim to leave a vacuum, as it will be filled only too quickly.

  14. Such a consideration of alternatives plays out in e.g. Jameson's exploration of notions of "dual hierarchy," in which some other territory for authority is posited in parallel with & in opposition to merchant authority — i.e. that arising from the (liberal, now neoliberal) economic domain. Of course, such a notion is inspired by traditional division of authority between warriors (i.e. kings) & priests, but within the distinctly Marxist horizon that rejects religion per se: Perhaps outrageously then, with his Army proposal, Jameson repositions warriors (whom he admittedly attempts to array in a class-free, nonfunctional way) alongside merchants in order to forge a new dual hierarchy.[15] (One might even conclude that concepts such as morality can only appear within a dual system of this sort, i.e. that they must relate to opposition per se.[16])

  15. As already explored in Hierarchy as rupture, the concept of "hierarchy" originates with religion: So such terminology — which is admittedly not really Jameson's, as he prefers to use "dual power," rather than dual hierarchy — is already perverse. (One might further note that the historical opposition between spiritual & temporal powers was less about territory than it was about the social relations intersecting both hierarchies.)

  16. Further, let me emphasize that the character of liberalism changed dramatically — paving the way for neoliberalism — once it had achieved hegemonic power, rather than functioning in opposition. (To what extent does the interior admit any structural opposition today? Such a lack is exactly the fundamentalist situation, and morality crumbles as a result.)

  17. And note that, as explored by Remède de Fortune, neoliberal capitalism increasingly posits differences for the specific purpose of extracting wealth from them (i.e. from the resulting "voltage"). Increasingly, such differences must actually be generated, because (real) differences collapse — or are, one might say, reconfigured into less profitable forms — under conditions of constant arbitrage (as required for profit extraction [18]).

  18. One can thus observe that contemporary neoliberalism (aggressively) mines social relations [19], just as much as it does e.g. geologic resources. (Hence it mines religion.)

  19. Han Byung-Chul figures such mining as "harvesting emotions," which I would characterize as a higher level process, emotionality only becoming available for harvest (and at a lower profit margin, so to speak) as a result of deeper affective disruption (i.e. mining relations). Han thus suggests that "instability" (to which he relates cynical figurations of "freedom") contributes to neoliberal profit, but I would caution that such instability is already a result of wealth extraction: In short, once (reified) emotions are involved, we are already operating at a culturally conditioned layer of abstraction, and so deeper mining has already occurred. (And per [17], I've written previously of harvesting differences.)

  20. One might even read contemporary arguments praising "multitudes" & other assemblages (such as per [7]), not to mention arguments calling for the embrace of a variety of values, as basically polytheistic attacks on the monotheism of the neoliberal subject & its moment. (Within the fundamentalist context, one might be justified in regarding any monotheism as dangerous.) If neoliberalism is not jealous, then, this is only because it sees itself as inherently superior — largely based on its simple, quantitative answers.[21]

  21. More precisely, neoliberalism has framed its eschewal of complexity as a strength according to the norms of marketing & propaganda: Neoliberal answers are easy to understand, and as repeated constantly, difficult to penetrate or displace with more complicated analysis. (Let there be no illusions regarding how many people will ever read this text, for instance, let alone approach it as anything but bewildering. Most will promptly return to the easy answers available elsewhere.)

  22. More recently per Agamben, based in part on (historical) Franciscan arguments, concepts of "use" come to the fore in such discussions: Although one might pursue the concept in a variety of directions, as Agamben does, one of the principle modern shifts (from medieval Christian norms) involved embracing usury, which now dominates global economic relations under neo-imperialism. If one is to — rightly, at least in part — blame Christianity for the contemporary world situation, then this shift cannot be underestimated: Usury exemplifies the (modern) instrumental.

  23. Given that religion has traditionally involved not only concepts of transcendence, but taking institutional ownership (so to speak) of those concepts, that neoliberalism has been able to transcend religious differences marks it as an usurpation (& reconfiguration) of religion per se — specifically as a projection of transcendence onto the economic realm.[24]

  24. The increasingly incorporeal nature of money only makes such projection easier. (But would one want money to proceed in the direction of more reification?)

  25. Of course, liberalism already posits that anything different from itself — particularly if motivated explicitly by religion, as opposed to the implicit religion of (neo)liberalism — is unjust: Such a notion will be set aside as an absurdity (although various peoples around the world do not have the luxury of setting imperialism aside).

  26. (Again, this was the underlying thesis of Concepts of contemporary religion.) And moreover, given their function as binding, one might cling to religious beliefs, despite subsequent intellectual objections, in order to preserve one's social relations. (I don't want to suggest that such a move is necessarily wrong, but the results can be quite nonlinear & unstable: When exactly is too much too much?)

  27. Perhaps casual evocations of "nature" should be avoided, but I trust that I've already discussed such figurations extensively enough (e.g. in Basic mechanics of modernity) — to the point that I suppose I'm being malicious now. Moreover, inclinations are inclined both from past connectedness & toward future connectedness, although I'm likewise hesitant to use terms such as past & future.

  28. Such a figuration, moreover, suggests the anthropomorphizing quality of both some kinds of modernist narrative (i.e. those that do not hold "nature" as entirely separate from humanity — a religious position) & religion itself: Our connectedness extends beyond humanity, and indeed, one might view the "container" of humanity itself as an artificial border for that connectedness. Further, as Cornell & Seely suggest, anthropomorphizing need not be considered a fallacy regarding nature per se, but rather a specter of our own forgotten agency. (Sloterdijk further suggests that anthropology always eventually suggests theology, which he critiques as overly serious.)

  29. Crucially, at least some of us retain the right to assemble & to associate freely. This is the basis of religious power: It allows for the formation of new religious assemblies (i.e. congregations).

  30. One might (better) evoke familiarity rather than memory (particularly considering the connectedness associated with family per se). In quasi-Lacanian terms, the familiar — or rather its effect — is thus the real of religion.

  31. One might consider religious affects such as devotion... perhaps refigured into regimes of care & helpfulness, if only within one's own (generalized) congregation.

  32. Disinhibition has already been characterized (e.g. per Sloterdijk) as one of the inaugural affects of modernity, thus underlying or emerging from the religious shifts that accompanied the origins of global imperialism. (From the latter perspective, one can certainly criticize European religion for having failed to rein in its worst elements, instead leaving them to rampage the globe.)

  33. One might once again consider e.g. the comedy-sex-sports of play (particularly as rearticulated in section 6). Indeed, Todd McGowan suggests that whereas tragedy is (often) isolating, comedy is never (fully) appreciated alone [34]: The same might be said of sports or sex.[35]

  34. McGowan thus suggests that comedy is nearly the (virtual) opposite of revolution, at least on the personal level, but such a conclusion would be too simple: What of collective revolt, or equivocation per se? (I intend to return to this topic in a future article.) Basically, collectivizing gestures support the status quo until (suddenly) they don't — the definition of revolution. (This is an effect of deterritorializing-reterritorializing motion, per Comedy jostles bodies.)

  35. The constitution of sex as a moral domain (per Foucault et al.) can thus be related to collective assembly & performance, and in particular in terms of sustaining their specific assembled dynamic.[36] (In this sense, Cornell & Seely argue, the sexual freedom promulgated by neoliberalism is actually a form of repression — repression of assembly.) Of course, marriage has long been theological, such that secular sexual morality has been a priority whenever theology is displaced.

  36. Concepts of origin, which are traditionally religious, thus fold into biology, which in turn is constructed so as to sustain assembly across generations. (Per Zupancic, genetics & evolution thus become non-explanations of sex per se, which is still treated as a mystery, i.e. a non-relation in Lacanian terms. In this sense, sex remains a ritual, but not of togetherness.)

  37. Regardless of (opinions of) efficacy, ritual revels in signs. (Indeed, its efficacy might be said to consist of such revelry.)

  38. A significant innovation of neoliberalism has been that it admits of no outside — even the traditional lumpenproletariat are integral to the neoliberal economy, all while being increasingly marginalized [39], and indeed one might consider that they always were — such that centrifugal forces are now harnessed together with centripetal forces.

  39. Hence Moten asks whether marginality can itself be depoliticized: How can radical refusal create a true outside (again), a theater of non-relation, of radical impropriety? (Such questions are presumably in response to e.g. Baudrillard's claim that the contemporary system can assimilate anything into itself.) One might further consider the implications of the parenthesis of [36], and note that such impropriety has always been available.

  40. That science proceeds according to (its own) rituals can be observed in any laboratory, in any journal review process, etc. People simply do not reinvent themselves in every moment, empirically inclined or otherwise.

  41. One might in turn consider cognitive assemblages that encompass various knowledge practices — including nonhuman practices. (Particularly in today's technological environment, such assemblages encompass more than biological entities.) And of course, the children's game "telephone" simply articulates the semiotic-entropic dual involved in any (knowledge) transmission.

  42. Further per [36], one might consider the entropic (or non-entropic?) character of sex as non-relation: Is genetic mutation entropic, for instance? (Should one be considering entropy relative to the planet or internal to a biological line?) Is it even related to sex per se? (These questions move rather far afield....)

  43. Many of these comments derive from, or were motivated by, Nicholas Heron's recent monograph, Liturgical Power. (Regarding motivation, I should probably note that much of this article was sketched prior to publication of Heron's work.) Heron's work was in turn based on Agamben's, particularly its notions of office & duty.

  44. The Kantian gap (as I have been calling it) between outcome & intent was thus prefigured by the Catholic liturgy!

  45. One might consider, for instance, the traditional figuration of the role of "medium" in a séance: The spirits speak through them. (Well, if one believes any of it, this is its affective structure. The psychoanalyst would be a more thoroughly contemporary figure....)

  46. Heron also discusses the "secularization thesis" (which is largely investigated via archeology today), and strongly argues that the theological has never been prior to the political. Further, he argues that (Christian) theology is a paradigm of de-politicization, basically an anti-politics.[47]

  47. One might thus consider politicization as prior to theology, which in turn acted to sublimate it. (Such an observation relates directly to that of [16], in that Christianity had originally functioned in opposition to Roman law, and only later became hegemonic: This shift is under-theorized by Heron.) Such an "anti-politics" was subsequently refigured further according to divine providence, and in turn posited a universal — rather than merely household — economy. (This should sound very familiar by now: Early Christianity had already attempted to convert politics into economics.)

  48. Generic relation should not be interpreted as automatically positive: A connection might have been imposed entirely by force — indeed, some might say that birth is inherently violent (hence thrownness, etc.).

  49. When it comes to conscious attention to power, as Han suggests, violence only draws (more) attention: Hence hiding & then denying violence becomes a structural component of neoliberal governance. (It's probably more accurate to speak of distracting from violence....) Note moreover, by way of understatement, that e.g. many surgeries are literally more effective without conscious attention (to their operation) from the patient: Hence, as a limit case, anesthetics (to be elaborated below).

  50. And such similarities should come as no surprise, secular modernism having enfolded many important (medieval & prior) Christian ideas — as explored in Remède de Fortune & elsewhere.

  51. Concepts of origin relate to concepts of discovery, which are a pillar of modernism (per Basic Mechanics & [36] — & indeed [32].)

  52. Science itself thus displays the same form as an individual attempting to overcome fallacious prior (e.g. religious) teaching by using the very intellectual faculties forged by that teaching. (Again per [16], one might wonder if modern science functions best as opposition: Has it accomplished as much since attaining intellectual hegemony?)

  53. Although I've alluded to the institutional character of modern science, ultimately science is about empiricism, such that anyone can do it: There is then a lurking danger, particularly as regards racialization (& other mechanisms of enforcing the familiar), when constraining the horizons of empirical possibility — perhaps even or especially with the adjective "modern." (So how else is science being done right now, and by whom?)

  54. One might even attribute the prestige of modern science to the new relations of assembly (or assemblages) it has forged — which certainly do not exhaust the domain of potential assemblages.

  55. Is simply connecting to the internet, or turning on the television, not now an act of collective ritual, a part of the liturgy serving science & modernity?

  56. Han further suggests that so-called affirmative or "positive" power is thus crucial to neoliberalism. (Per [49], this is opposed to the disciplinary power exemplified by violence.)

  57. Indeed, one might thwart or resist inclinations — or inclinations can come to collide, one might say — or even reject them outright, perhaps in a direct reversal, the latter being a favorite rhetorical tactic of neoliberalism: The intensity of a relation is unchanged under direct reversal, thus retaining much of its contextual structure. (A relation might thus reverberate & echo in many ways across its history.)

  58. Marx's Hegelianism is of course also responsible for his obsession with progress narratives — of which religion is, for him, necessarily not a part.

  59. For me, the most spectacular expression of Marxist ideology was the claim — made with regard to India & elsewhere — that postcolonial leftist politicians should first seek to induce an oppressive domestic bourgeoisie, against whom to rebel.

  60. Critique of critique is almost reflexive, and (per [57]) often involves a tactic of direct reversal: That Marxism came to posit ideological resistance yielded an opening to critique of its developing ideology in turn.

  61. Historical narrative has been so intertwined with religion that one might even suggest that history is itself a sort of religion — perhaps in relation to Virno's claim that religion veils history. Indeed, progress narratives evoke their own fatalism, and in particular, project a structure mirroring the pyramidal form of capitalist imperialism onto temporal experience itself.

  62. Simply put, positing a historical structure to exploitation allows one to posit a historical solution — inevitable, in Marx's case — to such exploitation. (Such a "motor of history" was explored in section 8.)

  63. As noted already in section 6, faith extends moments, moments of revolution (or of assembly) among them. (One could alternately speak of faith in institutions, whether in revolution or opposed to it.)

  64. Western communism has thus established (explicitly by name, and independently of its Hegelianism) a crux for critique that — pace [59] — is compatible with many strands of pre-colonial thought.

  65. Perhaps most spectacularly, Balibar notes that Locke's influential concepts of (human) consciousness were motivated by notions of self-ownership [66], i.e. accompanied emerging property law.

  66. In this sense, one's identity is already a nascent form of property — which now might even be traded on the market under neoliberalism (with its principles of general equivalence) [67] — although it's most likely to be traded by someone whose identity it isn't. Altogether, identity remains a means toward property: One might even suggest that privilege is a form of (identity) property.[68]

  67. Hardt & Negri thus further suggest that knowledge becomes a kind of public wealth — one that is appropriated by the information economy (& its technological successors). Such an observation further suggests politics per se as a kind of social wealth.

  68. Populism thus emerges from identity politics — generically as a sort of religion — in order to demand its (proper?) identity-based property.

  69. Although the fourteenth century legal battles over Franciscan concepts of "use" — which basically involved refiguring poverty as a form of wealth via use of public land etc. — predate modernity (according to the framework I've been using), they set the stage for subsequent Western notions of public good, precarity & the common.

  70. Hence resistance has regularly involved notions such as "free love," i.e. attempts to shift sexuality away from the market economy. However, neoliberal fundamentalism immediately equates free with worthless, limiting the overall effectiveness of such a move. (Cornell & Seely thus posit the need for revolutionary concepts of love, a new eros.) Within this horizon, notions of property often remain the only route for asserting personal will, particularly as sex increasingly comes to resemble a consumer good (thus modernizing its historical structure).

  71. In other words, the general connectedness of the world & the planet must be ruptured according to divisions (such as land enclosures) which can in turn be quantified: Materiality itself thus emerges from such reification, as property relations are abstracted from the physical reality (& uniqueness) of land, etc.

  72. Note that I'm using the term "liturgy" in a very literal & general sense — so as not necessarily relative to Christianity or any other specific religious inclination [73], although much of the (historical) theory does derive from Christian theology.

  73. The second half of the twentieth century had already figured "conspicuous consumption" as a sort of (consumerist) liturgy, for instance, against which renewed (neoliberal) accumulation & "saving" (i.e. hoarding — not saving anything in terms of actual use of scarce resources) were a reaction. (One might also figure the latest blockbuster movies & albums as liturgical acts by celebrities — for which they are also showered in wealth.)

  74. Wealth as (sufficient?) indication of virtue is, of course, the Calvinist position.

  75. One might observe that potlatch instantiates & works through notions of accumulated wealth as social hazard. (Neoliberals do sometimes advocate for the destruction of wealth, i.e. in wars, and perhaps quite a lot of wealth, but for very different reasons. So the "potlatch potential" of war, given that it's a postmodern constant anyway, is likely underappreciated.)

  76. Heron not only notes bureaucracy (per Arendt) as the rule of no one, and so as (presumptively tyrannical, again per Arendt) eclipse of politics, but as theological: Angelology had already forged the paradigms of modern bureaucracy, and according to an analogic world system that attempts to traverse & fill (& so reify) every possible relation. (Per the terms of Descola, then, such an analogic system comes into conflict with modern naturalism, which prioritizes terms over relations. One might view angelic reification as the move by which relationality per se is subsumed into a contemporary ontological orientation. Graeber pursues the curious position of postmodern bureaucracy in a different direction, according to its perverse appeal, but again confirms its inherent affective tension.)

  77. Thus Heron notes not only how liturgy specifically forges (or politicizes) a collective as a people, as a mechanism for law (or perhaps meta-law), but that a class-free society has always required the deactivation of liturgical power: Angelic bureaucracy, although it seeks to fill even the tiniest of spaces with explicit relations, rests on hierarchy & so inequality. (Heron views historical Christian liturgy as an attempt to place such political power in suspension according to the instrumental efficacy of rite itself.) One might further consider pastoral images as reflecting an ongoing historical distaste for (alienated) city life, and so for "politics" per se — which was thus positioned in the negative (e.g. per Sloterdijk), heralding neoliberal economic ascendance.

  78. Hardt & Negri note that money itself enacts or institutionalizes social relations [79]: The point here is not merely that money marks (or reifies) a relation, but how such relations have come to intensify other relations in order to yield a more potent (i.e. reinforced or steeper) hierarchy.

  79. Under neoliberalism, then, the "truth value" of any relation consists in whether it facilitates (further) accumulation of wealth, and in turn how much. (These are its concepts of authority. And as noted regularly, its concepts require calculation — much as sports is designed to make bodily performance calculable & commensurable.)

  80. Particularly in a Marxist vein, one can thus view typology as itself a system of reification [81], and moreover view ritualized (religious, liturgical) elements as themselves already reified. (And so per [71], materialism itself might be observed as reacting to, and so sometimes even intensifying, the reifications of land-based property.)

  81. To the extent that a typology is enacted via fixed categories, rather than accommodating tendencies, it is certainly a reifying force. (Typological reification can be observed in various acts of thought & interrogation today. Such reification is so ubiquitous that it should probably be viewed as paradigmatic of modernity, and so in turn perhaps overly apparent within the postmodern regime — yielding poststructuralism, etc. as reactions.)

  82. Such a unitary typology is characteristic of neoliberalism well beyond its singular emphasis on price-based value, and includes (per [38]) its pan-territorial emphasis — or rather its evangelism — i.e. the insistence that its values & priorities apply to all places & and at all times. (In this sense, that contemporary liturgy reinforces wealth accumulation comes as no surprise whatsoever: It only echoes what it already knows.)

  83. One might emphasize the here & now: For instance, regardless of rhetoric about the future, do people have housing right now?

  84. One might also emphasize the basic trickery of virtuality, its various postponements & distractions: Notions of the afterlife have been canonical virtual figurations aimed at decreasing practical resistance, for instance. (One might also ponder related figurations of postponement & futility.)

  85. Note that "the virtual" figures much more than religious rituals in the contemporary era: It has become particularly ubiquitous in finance, for instance, with its derivative securities & increasing opportunities for speculation. (As opposed to its spectral position within Marxist orthodoxy, then, virtuality comes increasingly to figure postmodern economics. It must be engaged.)

  86. Indeed one can ask, as per Concepts of contemporary authority, "By what authority might one conjure a new theme?" (In other words, to whom & what might it relate & how?)

  87. Note e.g. that "fiction" was a mode of modernity for Latour: Such a figuration thus marks a further splitting of religious morality by his system. That said, one might consider a variety of figurations, from metaphors to memories to tales more broadly.[88] (This is the sense in which Jesus might actually be said to save.) One might begin to speak of "literature" more generally via such interrogation of virtuality, and indeed even its (authorial) tradition of self-preservation via (readily deniable) metaphor.

  88. Consider the increasing ubiquity of e.g. stuffed animals & other virtual figurations of the natural world — as well as the anthropomorphism they continue to suggest (& perhaps interrogate). One might even relate the density of anthropomorphic images to a dense angelology more generally (i.e. a proliferation of relations per [76]).

  89. Recent notions of "fake news" also reflect the increasing density of virtual content & relations, for instance. (Once again, such virtuality must be approached pharmacologically.)

  90. Hito Steyerl suggests, for instance, that increasing cultural representation accompanies decreasing political representation. (Similarly, Leanne Simpson notes that postcolonial subjects must refuse the moves by neoliberal modes of governmentality to separate culture & politics — particularly for purposes of cultural tourism.) Fascist elimination of representation thus (also) entails elimination of (virtual) complexity.[91] (One mode of opposition has yielded an increase in aesthetic & other speculation in turn — again pharmacologically, pace [85].)

  91. Steve Goodman & Brian Massumi thus remind, moreover, that modalities of sensory perception itself are figured both virtually & via reification: From this perspective, synesthesia might constitute a virtual perspective that thwarts any clear typology (of sensation).

  92. One might conclude, then, that not only has religion been the primary domain for symbolic mystification, but that demands for participation (in symbol creation, etc., per section 4) already figure the need for renewed contemporary values. (Such figuration counters the aesthetic colonization of religious symbols as increasingly deterritorialized, i.e. as stripped of traditional value & so in turn of their morality.)

  93. Relation per se thus becomes the target of (virtual) liturgy. (Such an emphasis both derives from & forges traditional regimes of care, per [31].)

  94. The specific question derives from Santner. (I've spent many months contextualizing it for myself, for better or worse.)

  95. Beyond public displays in general, note that the current configuration of internet communication, i.e. as a "broadcast" stratum featuring news or celebrity outputs (e.g. entertainment per [73]), accompanied by less prominent (& also reactive) "comments" from the public, is actually fairly close to the level of interactivity of a traditional Christian church service.

  96. One might thus (already) figure Gramsci's interventions on hegemony as anticipating the results of (negative) Marxist figuration of liturgy & (religious) virtuality per se. (The interior mood of the moment was at perhaps its modernist apex, and so such an explicit figuration would have been very out of place at the time.)

  97. One might go so far as to suggest that, with e.g. video cameras, policing itself becomes more sensual — i.e. less about intuition or feelings. (Yet the latter always already reenter when it comes to priorities, so this development is more about the pornographic gaze than it is about justice per se.)

  98. Per the logistical revolution in capitalist accumulation (as derived from military science), forces of accumulation & predation expand into every niche — much like a perverse angelology (or analogic elaboration more generally): This is the "becoming public" of neoliberal privatization, such practices tending to fill all gradations & gaps, thereby animating public performance in general with neo-imperial values. (One might thus suggest that neo-imperial hegemony expands largely through analogistic practices [99], and is thus anachronistic with respect to the modern era. In other words, concepts of glory continue to fold & mutate, including being reimposed according to filiation — as explored in section 7 as a historicizing mechanism of hierarchy. Indeed, the religious corresponds with the filiative in its historical structure: Here that's largely figured through sex & biology, notions closely related to filiation, however.)

  99. That analogic practices (again, of which angelology has been paradigmatic per [76]) tend to fill any gap, in particular according to hierarchy, is then figured as a stabilizing element: Any such gap becomes the enemy of governmentality, and an opening for further elaboration of bureaucratic hegemony. (Logistical elaboration per se thus further suggests proliferation of tentacular, private bureaucracies.)

  100. Note that information asymmetry can pose a significant barrier to pharmacological reconfiguration of virtual action. (However, virtual figurations may not require the same degree of information in order to be reconfigured — perhaps illustrating the power of virtuality per se, which indeed proliferates avenues for relation.)

  101. And of course an interrogation of "Attention economy" formed the opening discursive cycle to this series.

  102. The observation on weapons comes from Goodman via Virilio: Further, (per Sun Tzu) speed becomes the essence of warfare — which one might additionally figure today via intensity & noise. (Goodman figures a musical politics of speed especially according to pitch or frequency.) Speed thus comes into conflict with ecology (or ecological rhythm) according to the demands of neo-imperial logistical accumulation.

  103. Suggestions prioritizing the "nomadic," i.e. escape from contemporary governmentality, are thus also increasingly fraught: There is no longer any practical way to outrun logistic capitalism. (In short, anything on "the level" of capitalism is made equivalent to capitalism itself under the regime of neoliberal fundamentalism. There is no outside, per [38], according to its terms, but there does still appear to be a beneath — as explored by e.g. Harney & Moten.)

  104. Traditional spirituality has often (when it hasn't gone straight for transcendent figurations, that is) figured loss of self — a significant fear for the liberal subject — as arising from a commitment to immanence or hapticality. (Such forms of spirituality were thus deactivated by secular modernism, which continued to emphasize the instrumental.)

  105. One might consider economies quite broadly here, whether the "providential" or even the bodily, emotional, etc. (Such virtual figurations might thus become divine, broaching the transcendental in turn.)

  106. I have already inquired (rather rhetorically) regarding the mood of neoliberalism & its notions of afterlife: Such figurations (pace [84]) entail an embrace of multiple temporalities, which can become (direct, virtual) weapons against an oppressive politics of speed. (So then, how might one release the temporalities "trapped" by the modern stratification machine, as it devours time per Remède de Fortune? One must nullify usury for one....)

  107. As A.P. Smith emphasizes, ecology becomes more than an ontology of relation — such that one must ponder an entire ecosystem of thought. (Per section 8, then, figurations of ecology begin to suggest religion per se: Indeed, isn't e.g. "Gaia" simply another virtual, anthropomorphic figure — monotheistic even?)

  108. Such investments were already interrogated, in particular libidinally, in Investments & Relations: Such investments might involve athletics [109], comedy [110], love [111], or various other domains of practice....

  109. Bodily prowess would seem to be a natural domain for human comparison, yet one might consider the contrast between ancient "champions" (with their individualist iconographies) & modern (interchangeable) armies with their industrial-technological orientation. How has such interchangeability, one of the paradigms of neoliberalism, transformed the male ethos, for instance? (One might in turn figure modern sports — with its conflicts & contrasts between cartels, unions & icons — as forging a historically intermediate nexus.)

  110. McGowan suggests not only that the possibility of excess (via comedy, for instance) is what induces libidinal investment in society, but that it reflects a more originary trauma — exposing subjectivity per se as itself desiring or lacking. (One might regard the latter observation via a broad figuration of debt, and so as to be overcome or at least interrogated liturgically in turn.)

  111. Mirroring [110], Agamben takes love to be excess per se — always unsatisfied, yet always hopeful. (One might conclude that a rigorous typology is thus inherently unsatisfying to the regime of love.)

  112. There is thus no question of whether one is educated in our society: One is always educated, by television (to name the increasingly anachronistic media emphasis of my generation) if nothing else. (Aesthetics thus becomes the long shadow of religion, even as the latter is presumptively discarded under secularization.[113])

  113. Thus it is improper to speak of a truly non-religious aesthetic. (Although aesthetic capture can be figured as secularization, aesthetics is never specifically secular — despite its enlightenment separation: One might further figure secular spirituality via an art-intellect-eros nexus of virtual abstraction, again per Basic Mechanics. I will return to that specific figuration at another time.)

  114. Attention economy is thus actively sculpted according to (sensory) filters that it itself constructs. (One might call such construction "art" — or perhaps its object.)

  115. For instance (both per Han, and per previous discussions of principles of influence in this space), one might ponder the consequences of "liking" as a mode of power on the internet: The reciprocal character of liking as a principle — i.e. the fact that one is more likely to like whoever or whatever likes one first — marks such internet activity (along with closely related activities such as adding ratings or "reviews") as a kind of seduction.

  116. In particular, as articulated by e.g. a crossing of Benjamin & Bergson in the early twentieth century, art's "value" came to be attributed to its uselessness — i.e. to its (perhaps implicit) critique of industrial modernity & the latter's accompanying "work ethic." (That Puritans — who have yet to suffer a real defeat since arriving in North America, by the way — were fiercely anti-art partly motivated the specifics of such a critique.) Today however, as partially reconfigured by e.g. [110], it's people — especially as "labor" — who become useless (to capital): Bergson's equation of comedy with machinic rigidity thus assumes its past historical moment. So art should now be useful in turn?

  117. Sloterdijk (including via Weibel), continuing to work within the enlightenment horizon, views notions of ubiquitous artistry as inherently romantic, i.e. as a matter of enchantment. However, continuing to inquire regarding possible disenchantment of (what I've called) the background hum of mass media: How might such a process proceed, then, particularly given rampant (& increasing) information asymmetry? Whereas for Sloterdijk, such an aesthetic move involves displacing ethics, I would suggest that the latter is impossible prior to interrogating the former — including subjectively.

  118. Note that the increasing "broadcast" configuration of the internet (per [95]) recoils from what was once — at least embryonically — a potential scene for mass public creation.

  119. Refiguring art in the contemporary conjuncture involves interrogating some of its previous truisms: For instance, the convenience of "the painting" as separable, commoditized (& partially standardized for size) medium — which subsequently became paradigmatic of "art" per se — has projected various isolating (or one might say, monadic) properties onto artistic creation — or at least aesthetics — generically speaking. This is the paradigm of art as object, in other words. Such an orientation has always been unnecessary, except perhaps within the domain of commerce. (E.g. "tagging" has long been a direct critique of such commoditization.)

  120. One might further posit that "postmodern art as creation" is about subjects (& indeed that it always was): Embodiment as a process becomes increasingly aesthetic in the contemporary world — think tattoos & piercings, for instance.[121] (Moreover, consider the generally aesthetic discussions of e.g. disability theory, along with those of identity-based or identitarian [122] positions more generally. Aesthetics announces identity, and so, at least in its residual liberal mode, involves a — likely at least partially illusory — nexus of personal control.) Think further of the selfie (per Technologies of the Self) & representation (per [90]): We become our own mirrors. So we can dispense with the object?

  121. Moreover, (liberal) identity itself becomes increasingly aesthetic — not least due to concerns invoked by [97].

  122. (That such terms — nativist is another — come to be used in the popular press in a highly restricted sense is problematic. For one, it obscures the relation of the current fascist movements to other moments of liberalism, which is probably the point. I don't claim to be particularly informed regarding the latest eviscerations of conceptual vocabulary, but I don't support them either: Notes such as this already feel like a compromise.) That said, various "identity studies" disciplines indeed produce mostly aesthetic commentary....

  123. Channeling Benjamin again, Sloterdijk suggests that because fascism renders politics aesthetic — and see Further notes on fascist aesthetics for more thoughts on this basic inclination — communism politicizes art. Whereas Sloterdijk seems to regard such "contamination" as indicative of artistic failure, for me, art is always already political. (That Sloterdijk further suggests that the artist redeems random chance, or that play is art's little cousin, only seems to confirm his orientation toward & fear of the "uselessness mode" of aesthetics, per [116], even or particularly as he seeks a degree of "greatness.") Notions of artistic purity are... well, religious.

  124. Such a scene (of creation) seems utterly ordinary to me, a constant of daily experience. Not everyone's "artistic production" is very well considered, to say the least, but it's still happening: That such a notion should be considered romantic (e.g. per [117]) thus seems bizarre & counter to the everyday. (One need not, of course, produce "objects" via such activity. Indeed, one need not produce anything anyone else appreciates in any way.)

  125. Thus "the art world" has come to usurp religion (under a regime of secularization, per [113]). One might further note that psychoanalysis has done likewise.

  126. Perhaps it still seems strange that I would emphasize the "smallness" of art in this particular moment: For one, there's a matter of penetrating barriers (especially those already constructed in human minds), but there's also the basic smallness of swerving per se: A large movement is something else — something that occurs, according to these terms, over the course of (often nonlinear) iterations.

  127. Quoting Concepts of contemporary authority, "Aesthetics is the proper territory for confronting & accepting dissonance in sensation & values." This statement figures one (important) aesthetic response to neoliberalism, namely denying infinite commensurability. Such a notion, i.e. that there could be more than one "good" (or god) is radical enough for some situations.

  128. If someone e.g. hears only greed, then they will become only too likely to regard greed as inherent & even necessary: This is indeed a basic (self-consciously constructed) message of neoliberalism.

  129. Art-as-work had already been a basic ordering figure for Concepts of contemporary authority. (It's also characterized as e.g. "knowing by doing" there.)

  130. "Aesthetics" (the discipline — as derived from Greek philosophy through Kant's enlightenment lens) thus names a level of abstraction, an inquiry beyond the direct experience of perceptions & feelings. (One might compare such an abstraction, which may be inclined by theory, to the cultural context abstracting "emotion" per se from affective response, for instance. In other words, a different theory or context might incline one differently, based on the same sensations: What is good or evil, say?) One's aesthetic preferences, in this sense, likely also involve various unexamined inclinations. They might even be mostly unexamined, although Kant himself should provide sufficient caution to suggest that examination (e.g. abstraction) alone is not necessarily helpful.

  131. It's often helpful to consider negation: Indeed, Laurent de Sutter suggests that, with the invention of (surgical) anesthetic, and in turn the application of similar innovations elsewhere [132], capitalism effectively became "narcocapitalism" — i.e. that the sedative effect was used not only to suppress resistance in general, but so as to induce a cycle of excitability, producing increasingly profitable situations. (De Sutter even suggests that the degree of control under which surgical patients could be placed, as heralded in [49], became the paradigm of subjectivization per se, i.e. that subjects were turned into objects.) He thus calls ours the age of anesthesia.[134]

  132. Proliferation of sedatives continues apace today: Not only are there a variety of pain killers, but anti-depressants, drugs to help one forget or to sleep, drugs for sexual performance, etc. (Such medications thus e.g. intrude into realms of sexual reproduction, and so eugenics.) De Sutter goes on to suggest that psychopolitics (of the nervous system) has replaced biopolitics of the body.[133]

  133. So dampening of excitation (as de Sutter terms it) sought to eliminate politics, itself defined as inconsistent? Anesthetics became a guarantee of a stable ontology & so rationality? Although these are interesting ideas, de Sutter (who further suggests that such innovations entail a different anthropology, particularly around the image of the body on the operating table) might have taken them a bit far, even as the proliferation of sedatives seems to be only too compatible with neoliberalism.... (For me, these are contingent matters of historical alignment.)

  134. Marx's notion of an "opiate of the masses" thus became rather full & tangible, via chemicals — and moreover during his lifetime! (Perhaps the powers that be thought it sounded like a good idea?) One might further ponder the contemporary opiate epidemic, and how the interior became so lazy in turn....

  135. Goodman argues strongly against what he terms "the narcosonic" (i.e. in parallel with remarks of [131], although neither author seems to be aware of the other), and in particular for a "politics of frequency" (per [102]) that prioritizes the bass. (Such a priority would seem to counter directly the emphasis on aligning overtones, and thus on transcendent hierarchy, by some contemporary early music performance practice — as first broached in Practice or Performance).

  136. Musical products intended to incline consumers toward particular behavior in retail outlets or other public places are well known at this point. Goodman notes, moreover, that entertainment broadcasting was first undertaken in order to drown out what were seen as "anarchic" uses of radio, for instance, which were thus reinflected toward the military-industrial complex. (A similar, although more predatory, but less explicitly military, approach was taken when commercializing the internet as well.) Preemptive sonic engagement, in Goodman's terms, has thus become the norm, and he believes that resolving such conflicts via calls for silence, rather than via counter-engagement, is absurd.

  137. Whether something is apparent or hidden becomes, again, a matter of legibility or spectrality — and so of the various machines inclined or even harnessed by artistic processes. (In other words, negotiating such a choice becomes a matter of skill.)

  138. For instance, Sloterdijk suggests that the shift in early modern music toward soprano (or treble) recitative accompanied by "basso continuo" was motivated by recreating the pre-natal auditory environment — or rather that European modernity stumbled upon such an evocative alignment fortuitously. (Sloterdijk thus refigures the primal scene artistically, while further emphasizing the modern theme of discovery.) I find this suggestion to be more than a little silly, although not without interest, considering that such aesthetic "choices" were imposed on the world through violence. Moreover, what of multiple temporalities (as raised in [106]), and the rhythmic simplifications of the modern era (i.e. as neatly figured by the march)? Besides that immersive "music" really sounds nothing like a Baroque sonata, such a suggestion obscures more than it enlightens (much like enlightenment philosophy in general, I suppose). Simply put, early modern music consolidated a unitary (tonal) hierarchy around the (new) priorities of nascent modern imperialism — and it did so, in part, by limiting the creative freedom of the bass (eventually generating the concerns referenced in [135]).

  139. Goodman discusses not only the ease with which music evokes the familiar (although he does not emphasize familiarity per se), but how such familiarity is increasingly fabricated by psychologically constructed music (such as "ambient"): Whereas he hears forces of control competing with aesthetics, I must emphasize that it's all aesthetic.

  140. Steyerl suggests that the postmodern era has come to demand a "presence" economy, in fact, one promising unmediated (& so unalienated) communication. Such a demand figures another pharmacology [141]: How does presence interfere with or illuminate (other) presence? What presence? What are the relations of its liturgy? How might these be traced?

  141. Further for Steyerl, postmodern art has an obligation not to become a commodity asset (e.g. as suggested per [119]), even (to follow a very trendy contemporary inclination) to become a sort of encryption (in contrast to figurations of familiarity, e.g. per [139]). Art as commodity, art as alienated & thus stripped of its full ability to relate, becomes another mode of conspicuous consumption (e.g. as per [73]) — in short becomes secluded & elitist.

  142. Making known what is otherwise hidden might instead be called, particularly in the contemporary context, glorifying what has become devalued.

  143. Architecture-based interrogations seem to have been relatively slow to arrive in the space of critical theory — by which I mean discussions of architecture, not necessarily (silent?) interrogations by architecture itself — particularly considering the iconic forms of e.g. archeology & their relation to human history. (As a built setting for living, and indeed liturgy, physical architecture conditions & inflects a wide range of relations, including across a variety of temporalities — as the mention of archeology already suggests.) Today, however, one might find discussions of e.g. forensic architecture per se, or of parallels between organizational form & suburban landscape, etc. (More is sure to follow, particularly as the day to day work of most architects becomes increasingly formulaic & mundane.)

  144. Like homes, which also become increasingly generic, clothing is a form of inhabitation — indeed a portable form that continues to signify across wherever one might be. (That clothing became a form of individual expression in pre-modern Western Europe continues to be emblematic of the modern age more generally, as I tried, rather crudely as it turns out, to interrogate early in this project, in Crusading fashion.)

  145. Bodily markings (per [120]) & adornments have long been a component of subject formation, puberty rites, etc. That the body "becomes a work of art" in the contemporary era thus seems to underscore the end of modernity, or at least of the late modern emphasis on interchangeable (Fordist) bodies. Individual "symptoms" are even seen as written on the body by contemporary psychology (as articulated e.g. by Patricia Gherovici), as the body is viewed as passing through various thresholds. (For Zupancic, in parallel to [36], sex then marks the structural incompleteness of such bodily being.)

  146. Perhaps motivated by concerns such as those of [109], bodily movement & rhythm have come to figure their own religions: Toward what is the body inclined becomes a very physical question, particularly under the sway of musical temporalities: Where is the threshold between artistic movement (i.e. dance) & war or competition? How might it change? How does a "winner" emerge from such a threshold between art & violence? (What of the inclinations of crowds?) One might name various figurations of such thresholds: Harmony, balance, precision, imitation, jealousy, rapture, thirst... all might incline the moment differently, might contextualize the body differently.

  147. Indeed, as consumerist constructions of musical inducement indicate, conscious influence can be blocked more readily, simply on account of engaging conscious mechanisms, including those of resistance. (Thus one might again ponder virtuality.)

  148. Thus one might reinvoke concepts of excess (per [110,111]) & so surplus resonance: Such a surplus is not necessarily legible (per section 8), which is part of its (virtualizing) power. (Moreover, note that virtuality does not necessarily equate to lack of knowledge either, although it might involve different knowledge.)

  149. Neglecting the swerve of inclination, Remède de Fortune had indeed suggested that religion (& its ritual) changes nothing — except perhaps one's emotions — which should be corrected to one's emotional valence. (Even under these restrictions, ritual forges the fabric of society via habit, or as I came to say, via familiar gestures.)

  150. So one must again ponder evangelism, particularly in the face of neoliberal evangelism (per [82]): Perhaps a sort of unconscious evangelism, based on promiscuous inclinations...?

  151. How one looks at the world continues to be a major issue: Perhaps notions of "enchantment" are being interrogated most prominently in the postcolonial setting via questions of ontology, including "ecological" ontology.

  152. In demanding new ceremonies & rituals, Cornell & Seely raise the issues of reenchantment & heresy particularly via Wynter. (One might also cite Laruelle on the topic of heresy.[153])

  153. Laruelle's generic — non-universal singularity — has already appeared as material in this piece: On that topic, Smith notes that the secular of theology is its most generic, i.e. true without truth. (In other words, its basket of values has been emptied, leaving only their formal container.)

  154. Heron translates the term hierarchy directly as "sacred power" [155] — i.e. without emphasizing its transcendental implications (which, in principle, need not exist [156]) — and suggests its interchangeability with (Christian) governmentality (or its pastorate), further raising subject-object equivocation as instrumental practice. One might thus talk directly of forging subjectivity via subjectivity (as opposed to e.g. the post-enlightenment subjectivization of [131]), and ponder a very different narrative (of relation).

  155. Hierarchy as rupture had already suggested rupture as — also — a different perspective on creation.

  156. Subject-object equivocation itself might be figured according to sacred immanence (including per [104]), for instance. (Such an observation might also be a matter of economies, per [105], and so mirrored by transcendental — or providential — motion through a social whole.)

  157. Perhaps this is the moment to remind the reader that even traditional Christian art included various erotic elements. (So this adventure involves many bodily affects — as might art, and not only painting, including per [119].)

  158. Notions of belief should not be separated from the body: Belief (indeed aesthetics, including per [120]) is often conditioned & expressed bodily. (Belief intertwines affective receptivity in general.)

  159. And pretending that people's values & beliefs are not — or should not be — "about" religion (whether prior learning, social binding, or their intersection [160]) is simply foolish.

  160. Further regarding the (traditional) failures of transmitted knowledge (per [41], the opening to Lao Tzu & beyond), one might also note that — depending on the dynamic, in this case traditional slowness — larger groups of people can respond to stimulus either more quickly (e.g. "mobs" — perhaps per [34]), or more slowly than can smaller units. (Indeed one might hear this as a matter of multiple temporalities — per [106] or even [143,146], etc.)


Todd M. McComb
24 April 2018