Can the Majoritarian Shut Up and Listen?

The shame of being a man — is there any other better reason to write? Even when it is a woman who is becoming, she has to become-woman, and this becoming has nothing to do with a state she could claim as her own. To become is not to attain a form (identification, imitation, Mimesis) but to find the zone of proximity, indiscernibility, or indifferentiation where one can no longer by distinguished from a woman, an animal, or a molecule — neither imprecise no general, but unforeseen and nonpreexistent, singularised out of a population rather than determined in a
form.

— Gilles Deleuze, Essays Clinical and Critical, pg 1.

An interesting discussion has emerged on Melissa Gregg’s blog and carried onto Danny Butt’s blog on the politics of alterity in Deleuze’s thought. Danny raises the example of Rosi Braidotti’s feminist arguments dealing with Deleuze (here and here) and Gayatri Spivak’s critique of Deleuze and Foucault (reading notes). I have decided to respond via trackback as my response is large with large quotes, etc… [edit: well no I haven’t because Danny hasn’t got track back!!] I want to address Danny’s post on his deleuzophobia, exemplified through points from Spivak’s and Braidotti’s respective works, by highlighting a specific thread in Deleuze’s solo and co-authored works with Guattari.

I think Danny rightly locates the utility of Deleuze’s thought with

“the proviso that his strategies only make sense within the belly of Euro-Imperialism, e.g. it grows as one approaches the subjectivity of a famous white french philosopher that Deleuze inhabits. What I’m more interested in is the limits of subjectivity in Deleuzian discourse and how they tend to be routinely glossed over by Deleuze himself (and the virulence of his anti-Freudianism I think can be usefully contrasted to the value of the psychoanalytic subject-in-process that feminist film theory found so valuable).”

It is essential to locate the argument of becoming-minoritarian/becoming-woman of Deleuze’s work (with Guattari) as a viral critique of majoritarianism that seeks to work from the inside out (“we have all become ‘carriers'”) and attack the consistency of molar positions, not as philsophical arms’ dealers part of an arms’ race that seeks to empower the subaltern with weapons of mass-contention. It is any molar model and correlative positioning that comes in for questioning.

It is essential to locate the argument of becoming-minoritarian/becoming-woman of Deleuze’s work (with Guattari) as a viral critique of majoritarianism that seeks to work from the inside out (“we have all become ‘carriers'”) and attack the consistency of molar positions, not as philsophical arms’ dealers part of an arms’ race that seeks to empower the subaltern with weapons of mass-contention. It is molar model and correlative positioning that comes in for questioning.Braidotti asks “what is the role [Deleuze and Guattari] attribute to sexual difference within their general philosophy of difference?” The implicit proposition of the question requires anyone who answers to submit to the model of sexual difference, a model that is virulently contested, but a ‘model’ nevertheless. From Massumi’s “User’s Guide“:

Since no particular body can entirely coincide with the code (regularised functions) enveloped in its assigned category and in the various images recapitulaiting it, a molar person is always a bad copy of its model — an unacknowledged, low-level becoming; an undercover simulation. The difference between becoming-other and becoming-the-same is not the difference between a false copy and a true copy. It is a difference in degree of falsity (artifice). Becoming-other is a simulation that overthrows the model once and for all, so it can no longer be said to be a copy in even approximate terms. It is a declaration of bad will toward sameness, in full deployment of the powers of the FALSE. (181, fn 12)

Two things I find problematic with Spivak’s essay. First, the essay’s critiques revolves around an expectation of utility to be found in Deleuze’s and Foucault’s respective works. Secondly, in defence of Deleuze, the ‘becoming-minoratiarian’ argument surely locates Deleuze within the majoritarian. In fact, the point picked up by Foucault in his introduction to Anti-Oedipus is that we are all constituted, in part, by the micro-fascisms of majoritarianism. This ‘molecular’ dimension of majoritarianism is overlooked by Spivak who invokes molar conceptions of the minoritarian.

The concept of the ‘problem’ in Deleuze’s and Deleuze and Guattari’s thought is crucial. From “What is Philosophy?” they draw an analogous relation between science and philosophy:

A function can be given without the concept itself being given, although it can and must be; a function of space can be given without the concept of this space being given. The function of science determines a state of affairs, thing, or body that actualizes the virtual on a plane of reference and in a system of coordinates; the conept in philosophy expresses an event that gives consistnecy to the virtual on a plane of immanence and in an order form. In each casethe respective fields of creation find themselves amrked out by very different entities but that nonetheless exhibit a certain analogy in their tasks: a problem, in science or in philosophy, does not consist in answering a question but adapting, in co-adapting, with a higher ‘taste’ as problematic faculty, correspnding elements in the process of being determined (for example, for science, choosing the good independent variables, installing the effective partial observer on a particular route, and constructing the best coordinates of the equation). (133)

I may be lynched for this (and what I am suggesting is horrendously naive!), but the problem of micro-fascist becoming-majoritarian can only be solved through the radical self-disinvestment of power and the release of desire from Oedipalising reproductions of subjectivity. ‘Oedipalising’ in the broadest sense and short hand for the reproducible relations of power perpetuated in the complex social machinery of everyday life. The majoritarian thought that colonises being is a ‘problem’ that straddles those that benefit from the current state of affairs and those that occupy subordinate subject positions. It is an impossible or paradoxical state of affairs. In a certain way, Deleuze actually takes up the problem in “Essays Clinical and Critical“:

But the problem of writing is also inseparable from the problem of seeing and hearing: in effect, when a language is created within language, it is a language in its entirety that tends toward an “asyntactic,” “agrammatical” limit, or that communicates with its own outside.
The limit is not outside language, it is the outside
of language. (lv)

Is it a question of the minoritarian finding a voice or the majoritarian shutting up and listening? Or something in between?

Hegemonic Mobility on a Highway to Hell

Just read John Tierney’s New York Times Magazine article “The Way We Drive Now” (Sep 26, 2004, pg 57-65). The same issue of NYTM has an article on bloggers. Tierney’s article is distressing. He argues for more cars, more roads and more tolls. He speaks from the hegemonic heart of neo-liberal ideology forwarding an ironically titled “Autonomist Manifesto.”

The basic argument is that cars are good because they allow individuals to be autonomous, more car ownership and use is good because running a car is cheaper than using public transport, automated road tolls are good because they cut down traffic congestion, and besides all the social and environmental costs the main thing wrong with car use is traffic and congestion. His argument against cities and sub-urban areas designed for easier access to public transport is that, like philosopher-kings, urban designers determine the fate of the masses, rather than letting individuals – ala Kant’s moral autonomy – determine their own respective fates.

Where is the possibility for collective ‘mobilisation’ in all this? The car is possibly the most ruthless ideological weapon in the armoury of those that primarily benefit from the current state of affairs. People are going to look back at us in the 20th and 21st centuries and think how fantastically stupid we were.

Tierney’s argument is flawed because he makes the tragic assumption that the contemporary era of hyper-mobility does not enter in for questioning. Sure the subordinate classes of Empire may want to escape from where they are in the social-spatial center-periphery distinction, but is this because they want to be literally mobile or is it because the extravagant physical mobility of personal automobility allows them to dream – to have the ideological illusion – that they are free from their exploited subordinate socio-economic position. Witness the hoons who cruise down to Millers Point (near The Rocks in Sydney) and piss off the local property owners.

Tierney invokes the notion of the ‘self-mover.’ I wonder how much he realises how much of our personal mobility does not derive from ‘self’ movement, but comes from the fact that various polarities organise the social-spatial urban field and movement across this field for us. There is little self-movement, we are moved. From home-work, home-school, home-socialising, and so on. His argument becomes catastrophic, not only is he arguing for greater individualisation and therefore an exacerbation of the anxious desires that invoke and promote personal automobility, but he wants us to be further exploited – through road tolls – when we are moved by extraneous forces.

Besides the economic and environmental costs, personal automobility appears to be a key site in the struggle for Empire. The organic emergence of collective action appears to be absolutely impossible if our cities and our lives are mobilised near completely for us. We need to mobilise ourselves, in a collective manner, that does not rely on the individualising social technologies of personal automobility. I can only imagine what will happen when the social costs of personal automobility becomes too great…

silly buggers…

Just saw footage of this on the news. It looks like a Datto 1600 was doing something and crashed into a car which was pushed into a crowd of people. The datto had different mags back and front. Maybe they were ‘burnout’ tyres on the back or they could’ve even been drifting, but it is unlikely the car was street racing. A datto 1600 with an engine swap to an SR20DET from a Silvia or 200sx would’ve been going bloody fast if racing. The damage seems to be too little to be a race.

Edit: Listen to the Triple J Hack interview with an eye witness. The interviewee suggests the dude was racing, plus that he was very young and inexperienced.

10 in hospital after ‘drag race’
February 07, 2005
From: AAP
TEN people were treated in hospital in Sydney overnight after a car ploughed into a crowd of onlookers at what was believed to be an illegal drag race.Two men were arrested after they allegedly attacked police trying to establish a crime scene at an industrial estate in Strathfield in Sydney’s west.
A Datsun sedan was travelling down Madeline Street just before midnight (AEDT) last night when it collided with a parked Nissan Pulsar, a New South Wales police spokesman said.
“This vehicle veered onto the incorrect side of the road and collided with a parked Nissan Pulsar,” he said on 2UE radio.
“At the time there were numerous spectators at the intersection and the force of impact forced the vehicle onto the spectators, with ten people receiving numerous injuries.”
The 10 people were taken to several metropolitan hospitals with injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to one suspected case of spinal injury, the spokesman said. [Worst injury was a broken leg]
He said it appeared the crowd of about 60 had gathered to watch an illegal drag race.
“We haven’t established it yet but it’s leaning towards … street racing,” he said.
Two men in the crowd were arrested after assaulting police officers who were trying to gather information about the crash.
One police officer was taken to hospital for treatment after he was punched in the face.
Police investigations are continuing.

Negri visit sparks paranoid rantings, yay!

Conservative columnists are a good barometer for when something happens that may disrupt the status quo. They slip their collective propaganda machine into ‘paranoid rantings’ top gear when the words ‘revolutionary’ or ‘Marxist’ are mentioned, let alone ‘terrorist’. It is good to see the return of the same in one of Miranda Devine’s recent columns. Fuck, it is a classic!

I am not sure if Devine is responsible for certain blogs as author or something else or what? Or maybe she is just a very poor journalist masquerading as an opinionist who finds ‘inspiration’ from certain blogs? I don’t know? (See what you people think.) But the contents of her column on Negri visiting USyd for a conference has an uncanny resemblance to some blogs (here and here, which can be traced back to this article). Finally, she attributes some information to this article and this article. Maybe she has decided her column should replicate a blog post that synthesises a number of sources (but without the referential hyperlinks)? I mean, my blog is full of rantings, but Devine’s slice of the mass media is the becoming-blog of the reactionary column. Evidence, perhaps, of the conservative refrain (what Mel Gregg and I called the “refrain of the right-eous” in our unpublished ‘Guantanamo Bay’ article;) running through popular culture synthesising heterogeneous affective elements into hegemonic stratifications. But Devine probably wouldn’t understand that, she doesn’t have to, she lives it through her writing.

One a semi-related note, a passage from McKenzie Wark’s Celebrities, Culture and Cyberspace reminds me of one of my past rants about the status of ‘early career’ and the role of being a ‘public intellectual’:

There is no shortage of Australian talking heads, but rarely do they encase thinking minds. A more stringent test is required to distinguish thinking capacity from mere talking capacity. For a talking head to become a thinking mind — an intellectual — requires a practice of making concepts that are shared, via the media, with a public, where the concepts attempt to articulate the experiences of that public, at the moment. Just as there can be talking without thinking, there can be thinking without talking, or at least without the kind of public speech acts that I think define an intellectual’s habit of thinking out loud. (35)

On that note, I wonder if Miranda Devine can conceptualise of the difference between a ‘talking head’ and a thinking mind? She certainly has an excellent talking capacity. However, as Grossberg has argued (my post here), conservative politics literally does not want thinking minds.

Update – March 26: I seem to be getting a lot of traffic through this post, so I thought I’d update it.

An online Situationist resource includes this letter from Guy Debord that linked to this article on terrorism. In one of the footnotes, the translator had added a chunk of interesting info on Negri.

Keith Windschuttle has also written a column on the Negri visit. Here is an excellent refutation of Windschuttle’s incorrect historical claims. Windschuttle may be a (obviously, very bad!) historian, but is he a philosopher? What does he know about Negri’s value to philosophy? Sweet fuck all, from what I can gather. Going by his logic, we should never help anyone who has been implicated in ‘terrorist groups’, such as supporting the old regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, let alone let them come to Australia. That unfortunately scratches Donald Rumsfield off the list. What a terrible shame that is…

The real tragedy is that it seems as if the academics at USyd have been swayed by Windschuttle’s idiocy and have postponed the conference. Can’t these people just tell Windschuttle to fuck off?

I still haven’t really figured out what Negri is talking about in Time For Revolution when he argues that the proletariat is defined by its mobility. I have settled on the idea that it relates to the notion of the social factory, but that doesn’t fit with any mobility paradigm with which I am familiar. I was hoping to ask him exactly what he meant. Now I won’t have the bloody chance.

Time Machine

I haven’t had so much fun with my thesis for ages! I spent half the day scanning articles into my computer at uni that I had photocopied from the Street Machine ‘archive vault’ yesterday. I am only do the most important articles and colour photos. When I have sorted them out a bit I will have to post some images. They are gold!!!

To give you a taste of the sort of thing I have been going through have a look at this quote from a Holden sales manager:

“Second hand vans are so scarce that if someone comes in here with a decent van as a trade-in we go mad and give him top price. In most cases a decent van will bring the same trade-in price as a Kingswood.”

Yep, the good ol’ Kinga. Classic.

The whole archive process and the freakin awesome material in these late 1970s magazines made me think of that classic Sabbath number, Time Machine, which would be my theme song for Panel Van, The Motion Picture:

Oh! what are you gonna do
When there’s a part of you
That needs to run with the wind
And the fire
Of burning yesterdays
Can only light the way
To lead you from
The garden of the dark
Stay out of shadows
Now! look like the change is on
Tomorrow’s never gone
Today just never comes
Go on and jump, yeah
Into the hurricane
You will forget the pain
It’s only there
To exorcise your mind
Looking at the world
When you’ve open up your eyes
You’ve got to see the promises they’ve made
They’re bloody lies and broken dreams
Your silent screams
You’re living in a time machine
And you can choose just who you are
Someone that you’ve never seen
Somewhere you’ve never been
You’re living in a time machine

Panel Van as nomad ‘time machine’ exploring the future-past virtuality of the smooth space produced by the liquified BFGs getting smoked by the worked 308, “Hold on back there honey! I’m gonna do some more donuts!”

But seriously, there is so much stuff in here. Why no one has bothered to examine the panel van subculture properly before is bloody amazing!! I am, like, reading this stuff and I simply can not believe it. Now is the time to strike because all the original guys are still alive (well, mostly, Brian Woodward unfortunately passed away). It would be the perfect honours thesis length project… or even a short post doc 🙂 that could be turned into an even easier book… and I am pretty bloody sure if you did it right, you would have a seller on your hands. But the thing is, van culture deserves to be engaged with in a proper and critical way. It captures a moment that can only be described as somewhere between the ‘1960s’ and the ‘1980s’. lol! That is an awesome title, Panel Vanning: Somewhere between the 1960s and the 1980s.