[D-G] "politics of the left", and capitalism

Sylvie Ruelle sylvieruelle at earthlink.net
Mon Feb 21 14:02:57 PST 2005


On Feb 21, 2005, at 1:38 PM, Jeremy Livingston wrote:

> I gotta preface this by admitting, I am of the post-'68 generation (my
> mother was eight years old then). Also I'm sorry this is so long; I
> just got started and didn't want to stop until I was done.
> Be that as it may, I have two things I want to say here. First, Sid
> began by suggesting: "For a poilitics of the left to not only continue
> to exist ... but became viable once again it seems that we should
> re-think the conditions that we find ourselves within today...." I
> think this is the wrong foot to set off on. The question should not be
> "How can a politics of the left be viable?" but rather, "What will a
> politics of desire look like?" D&G's politics isn't "a politics of the
> left" first and foremost. Rather, theirs is a politics of desire,
> which is consequently a politics of the left when all is said and
> done. That is to say: A politics of desire is a politics of the left,
> but a politics of the left is not necessarily a politics of desire. We
> owe it to D&G, but more importantly to ourselves, to explore what it
> will mean to have a politics of desire.
> No wishy-washing this: A 'politics of desire' is one that is validated
> by joy, fun, adventure, pleasure, indulgence, sexuality. It aims for a
> World of Delight (rated R for mature themes and coarse language).
> Everything must follow from this, including its "leftism"; nothing can
> be assumed. Deleuze, in the Abecedaire interview, defined "the Left"
> as an attitude, a cosmopolitan attitude of respect even for those most
> distant from your current affairs; and this is why we can say a
> politics of desire is "on the left". But this doesn't limit us to any
> specific program, right? Who knows how far away from traditional
> socialism our desire might take us!
> Second, Sid asked: "Can we not understand Capital today, at the
> beginning of the 21st century, as already opperating on a level of
> non-identity/a-signification?" But that was, I think, part of D&G's
> point when they insisted that Capitalism, in contrast with every other
> mode of social organization in history, is characterized by flow. Or
> at least, the market economy; this has always worked by non-identity
> and by a-signification. What is at issue is the axiomatic it still
> tries to adhere to. This is the most challenging thing, I think, about
> D&G's politics, but in order to understand it we have to say what
> Capitalism is and what it isn't.
> It's important to consider what is horrifying about Capitalism, and
> what is bad about it. These are two different things, for D&G. What is
> horrifying about it, and what has always been the source of fear that
> is felt towards the market economy by primitive peoples and by
> old-school Communists (who, since Engels, have always been
> primitivists at heart) is that it isn't governed by codes. Primitive
> societies are extremely conservative with respect to their codes, and
> the market economy destroys that and unleashes uncontrollable forces
> across the globe: flows of capital, of migrant labor, of electricity,
> of information, credit, maybe also pollution....
> Frankly this prospect scares the shit out of everybody. Not just
> because it is confusing, but because it makes social control
> impossible. It is something more befitting the experience of a black
> magician than a man of convention (hence "memoirs of a sorcerer").
> Capitalism is Satanic. This is what D&G revel in. This makes the
> market economy something sublime.
> What is horrifying about Capitalism is what is good about it. What is
> bad about it is people are still too timid for it. The bounty of the
> market economy is made possible by its flows. Flows are made when
> codes break down, but historically this has happened within the
> context of established State power. States traditionally over-coded
> the flows, damming them up; but as the codes broke down, they needed a
> new strategy to siphon from it. So they developed the axiomatic, which
> is like a code for the changes of codes. The purpose of the axiomatic
> is to try to contrive the direction of flows, rather than letting them
> flow (because oh the horror that would follow from that!). Hence the
> invention of Capitalism proper -- which is an attitude, a way of
> relating to one another that privileges "The Economy" and its
> (contrived) flows rather than seeing what happens when the flows
> determine themselves. (The Enclosure Acts are one example of State
> action that is meant to support "The Economy", when the economy was in
> no need of support.)
> So D&G's problem is not that Capitalism is rooted in the problem of
> identity and signification. Rather, it's a lame and awkward hybrid.
> This is what creates the clinical schizophrenic: We are put in touch
> with flows by our intersections with machines, with cash and credit
> circulation, with electricity -- but then these flows crush us against
> the dykewalls of morbid and superficial preconceptions about how
> things are "supposed" to happen. These preconceptions manifest in
> everything from social convention to bureaucracy. Remember their
> conclusion in "Anti-Oedipus": The solution is not to retreat to a
> romantic fantasy of simple encoding based on some myth of the original
> society (as in traditional Communism); rather, the solution is to
> one-up Capitalism, to push it past its own limits, to break the dams.
> And this is the challenge. How many of us have the balls to destroy
> the axiomatic in the name of desire?
> Well anyway, now I think I'm more talking for the sake of my own
> voice. Sorry for flooding folks' boxes. Also, thank you Chris and Sid
> for your comments on my "fascism" breakdown, but maybe I came in too
> late with it or it was too much.
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Ms. Sylvie Ruelle
rw_artette_lc at yahoo.com

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