I have been struggling through Negri’s Time For Revolution. I think I have finally glimpsed a version of the central thesis of the first part of the book, and it has only taken me 70 pages… (much better than D&G which took me, like, 3 books, lol!). Everything I read is read with an eye for my thesis and making connections with everything I have read before.
Negri’s book finally started to make sense to me when he began discussing energy (69-70). I ‘get’ energy. I am familiar with many of the arguments, paricularly around issues of oil. All the hardcore Marxist stuff goes over my head a bit. I have read enough stuff to get an understanding of it (so it is not entirely nonsense), but it seems like such a rigid way of talking about things…
Anyway, from what I can figure out, Negri’s core argument so far is that proletarian or radical antagonism has been displaced to the limit of being because of the totalising subsumption of being to capital (in the form of rationalised social time):
“The general, global displacement of the level of analysis modifies the structure of antagonism, meaning that it dislocates it, but it does so concomitantly with the contents of the antagonism. Nevertheless the contents remain antagonistic. The archipelago of real times presented to us by the temporal Umwelt does not tend towards the zero of neutralization, of reciprocal dampening, but rather towards explosion and diffusion. This positive entropy is richly described in that beautiful tract of the phenomenology of time and times that is Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus.” (40-41)
Negri then suggests that the “collective returns to us as a multiplicity of subjects” (41). With Hardt he would go on later to label this the Multitude.
“So collective time, the temporal Umwelt, tend to present themselves to us immediately within two horizons: that of the closed time of legitimation and of equilibrium, the zero tendency of the absolute circularity of the social; and that of the multiple, antagonistic, productive, constitutive, open time. ‘In short, the difference is not at all between the ephemeral and the durable, nor even between the regular and the irregular, but between two modes of individuation, two modes of temporality’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 262)” (42)
Of course it is no coincidence that I quote two passages where he references Deleuze and Guattari :), simply because these are the passages that make the most sense to me! Yep.
Then he has a short tract on energy and this is where the book began making sense for me:
“When the great energy crisis of the second half of our century arises, many see energy as the new real standard: energy as value that is independent of the crisis, energy as natural rate, as the matter of value. […]
So far so much illusion! […] At the level of real subsumption, no standard, no meaning is given outside of collective time; no nature is given because nature is realized subsumption. […]
Everything is reduced to time — space also — and to the evanescence of time — of collective time also — until it clashes with the plurality of local times of liberation. Oil is space summarized in time, and here it loses any potential for measure.” (69-70)
Yeah. The last line of the above passage is quite remarkable. Oil is realized subsumption, and becomes a rate (of space over time), a question of ‘circulation’. This sends my thinking off into various fits and leaps and bounds.
First. The central problem that those on the ‘left’ who are involved in humanities type research have at the moment is not in accounting for the various stupidities or injustices of the world — even though this work must continue to maintain pressure on the purveyors of stupidity and injustice — but researching how the affirmation of individuals produces a collective reproduction of the contemporary state of affairs. Eventually, without a doubt, the Earth itself will carry out its revenge and without changes the global machinery of capital, litterally like an old honkie jalopy, will splutter out and die. An ecological wall to the ravenous colonising machine of neo-liberal democracy. I am talking about the oil-based economies of the world. It won’t be because the oil reserves actually run out, but because the global market sabotages itself through speculation, price fears, and cost of oil extraction, which will increase the price of oil to crippling levels. This is going to happen in our generation.
Some people will be bitterly chanting, “Burn, you fuckers. Burn.” I can sympathise with their anger. The problem I see in this end game scenario is the misery that will be produced. It will be in excess to the misery already existing and be of catastrophic proportions.
Second. What is the discourse of technological performance if not an expression of the clash of local times? Not local times of liberation, but the inverse: the becoming-local times of capital found at the leading edge of the global megamachine as it is enacted in everyday life. If the discourse of safety is meant to be the buffer between the inhuman of technology and the intrinsic human frailties of its users, then the discourse of performance is the buffer between the singular face of capital and the multiplicity of local times with which it is in a continual antagonism. Hence, the rhetorics of performance as deployed in various contexts from computers to rail transport to sports stars to the low-fat content of foods…
Anyway, so I have decided that it is time for some exercise. I went for my first walk today. Just 30 minutes of briskness. I will build up over a period of three months to walking for an hour per day. I am also slowly saving up for a rowing machine or an eliptical excercise machine (also called a ‘cross-country skiing’ machine). Those were my two favourites when I was gym freak. I am probably leaning towards the rowing machine as it works the whole body in a more intensive way compared to the skiing machine. When I used to gym heaps, I did a 2km ergo in 6:45 as my first warm-up, which is pretty quick. Then I would do another 40 minutes of cardio work, then down to the weights… Weights will come later, now I need to work on cardiovascular and ratios of calorie intake/use. Energy. haha… I am becoming an embodiment of capital: a performance machine…
Fuck. History is repeating itself. Arrrrrrgh!