Between subject and citizen

‘All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.’ Spinoza’s maxim, the last sentence of The Ethics, serves as a fitting observation with which to begin a discussion of Étienne Balibar’s Citizen Subject: Foundations for Philosophical Anthropology, given the difficulty proper to the excellence of his text. Its difficulty is not, or not only, […]

Powerless companions or fellow travellers?

The aim must be to reduce inequality in every area where it is found. To do this therefore we must refashion, or ‘revolutionise’, the laws which lead to the reproduction of the relations of domination and exploitation. Mohammed Bedjaoui 1 Attempts to enforce the NIEO [New International Economic Order] would lead to a Hobbesian war […]

Five theses on sabotage in the shadow of fossil capital

What will it mean, and what will it require, to trigger transition from fossil fuels to some other energy form – one incompatible with exploitation, and so with the social relations of capitalism? If ethics were the prime mechanism for such transition today, then oil would be done and dusted. Oil’s ascendency in the twentieth […]

The methodological is political

In order to qualify as truly ‘feminist’, a movement has to be politically radical. That is a core insight of some important second wave feminist writings. There is a powerful articulation of this theme, to mention one noteworthy site, in the work of bell hooks. A guiding preoccupation of hooks’ thought, as far back as […]

Hegel and the advent of modernity

Abstraction is a bitter chalice but modernity must drain it to the dregs and reeling in simulated inebriation, proclaim it the ambrosia of the gods. Henri Lefebvre, Introduction to Modernity Bitter abstraction. In which the distance between cause and effect is developed with the aid of weaponry and mathematics to produce morbid symptoms in the […]

Revolutionary commemoration

No more anniversaries! Vsevolod Meyerhold 1 Fire and ice On 18th March 1921 the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the Paris Commune was marked in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR). Newspapers were emblazoned with headlines decrying the brutal suppression of the heroic Communards by bourgeois reactionary forces just seventy-two days after its […]

Postmodernity, not yet

To take an attitude of partisanship towards key struggles of the past does not mean either choosing sides, or seeking to harmonise irreconcilable differences. In such extinct yet still virulent intellectual conflicts, the fundamental contradiction is between history itself and the conceptual apparatus which, seeking to grasp its realities, only succeeds in reproducing their discord […]

Order in disorder

It would seem that the centenary of the Russian Revolution could not have come at a more inopportune moment for Russia. The colossal scale and universalist ambitions of that event are at odds with the apathetic state of Russian society today. Indeed, efforts to dispense with this inconvenient ghost appear to provide the sole point […]

Critique in the 21st century

We gather once again to examine the question of ‘critique’. [1] We do so not just after Kant, Marx, Nietzsche and their respective descendants, but also after the innovations of the Frankfurt School (which only came to receive serious attention in France after some delay) and the critique of the foundations of psychology, to evoke […]

The society of enmity

Perhaps it has always been this way. [1] Perhaps democracies have always constituted communities of kindred folk, societies of separation based on identity and on an exclusion of difference. It could be that they have always had slaves, a set of people who, for whatever reason, are regarded as foreigners, members of a surplus population, […]

The necessity of contingency

Among the concepts proposed by Althusser in the course of his famous symptomatic reading of Marx’s Capital, structural causality plays a central role. Extrapolated from Marx’s writings via a detour through the philosophy of Spinoza, it came to represent the concept in which Althusser summed up ‘Marx’s immense theoretical revolution’. [1] As is well known, […]

Is it simple to be a Spinozist in philosophy?

At strategic points in Reading Capital, Louis Althusser introduces Spinoza’s idea of an immanent cause as the decisive concept that is absent from Marx’s discourse. [1] For the Althusser of 1965, Spinoza’s model of causality is the great missing link in Marx’s thought, a philosophical omission and lacuna of symptomatic force. It explains the whole […]

The obscure object of transdisciplinarity

Any attempt to conceptualize transdisciplinarity is bound to experiment with disciplinary boundaries. And such experimentation cannot simply be held to the criteria of academic study. It is must in fact problematize the boundaries between academic study and forms or instances of thinking which take place outside of such scholarship. However, these disruptive practices have become […]

The dream is a fragment

An appreciation and practice of the fragment is a feature of all European Romanticism, but it was in early German (or ‘Jena’) Romanticism, and most of all in the work of Friedrich Schlegel, that the concept of ‘the fragment’ was philosophically determined. Indeed, the fragment has been called ‘the central philosophical concept of early German […]

Kunstchaos

Kunstchaos Incompletion, reversibility and fragmentary montage Olivier schefer Le multiple, il faut le faire…Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus In 1798 Novalis famously wrote: ‘Poetry is the authentic absolute real. This is the core of my philosophy. The more poetic, the more true.’ [1] This aphorism expresses what might be called the artistic destiny […]