Barbrook, Fool?

From the infamous essay by Barbrook “Deleuzoguattarians – The Holy Fools”:

Despite the commercialisation of cyberspace, self-interest ensures that the hi-tech gift economy continues to flourish. For most users, the Net is somewhere to work, play, love, learn and discuss with other people. Unrestricted by physical distance, they collaborate with each other without the direct mediation of money or politics. Unconcerned about copyright, they give and receive information without thought of payment. In the absence of states or markets to mediate social bonds, network communities are instead formed through the mutual obligations created by gifts of time and ideas.

This above extract demonstrates how little Barbrook actually understands about Deleuze and Guattari, especially Guattari’s work on ‘public free radio’ in Italy. The interest at stake is collective, ie the ‘self’ of ‘self interest’ is not a completely individuated self a molar person, but the conditions of collective subjectivation. In Guattari’s essay “Subjectivities: for Better and for Worse” he describes the process of how poetry can be used to express the gap that opens up a ‘molecular rupture’ which produces a “mutant center of auto-referentiation and auto-valorization.” In effect what is produced is an assemblage of a certain semiotization and of a certain participatory population. Radio Alice was not (merely) a radio sation, but the locus of a collective assemblage of enunciation produced through the experimentation of a certain population and through continual enunciation through this ‘poetic function’ of language and expression.

My interest in all this is that when ‘commercial interests’ get involved they attempt to shift such loci to the commodified spaces of the pages and screens of corporate media, such as enthusiast magazines. For example, the enthusiast magazines intervene in the circuits of referentiation and the processes of semiotic valorization (ala Foucault’s ‘commentary’). Corporate media commodifies the collective assemblages of enunciation in the process. It is this ‘media’ that Guattari speaks of when he discusses ‘post-media’. (See Michael Goddard’s discussion on the subject available here online.) Collectivies are not produced through “the mutual obligations created by gifts of time and ideas”, the already exisiting collectivities are only formalised by such ‘mutual obligations’. They are created by the shared interest to discuss and circulate such ideas and labours. I call this shared interest enthusiasm, and if one is an enthusiast, then it has nothing to do with obligation and everything to do with desire. ‘Obligation’ is a mode of conditioning desire. As Australia’s welfare recipients have found in the Federal government’s policy of ‘mutual obligation’, which in effect attempts to function to condition interest. (“It is in your best interest…”) Barbrook never refers to this scale of collectivity that is ‘determinable’ (not determined) by a shared interest. He only discusses categories of collectivity-scale inherited from elsewhere and which refer not to interests but to identity (of nations and of eras).

Did Barbrook really believe that the popularity of Deleuze and Guattari was because of some mass-delusion? That there was not any substance to their positions or arguments? What Barbook does not fully appreciate is that Deleuze and Guattari’s position is also post-Nietzschean in that there is no distinction between the ‘eagles’ and ‘herd’. The ‘eagles’ have herd-like desires just as much as the alleged ‘herd’ is full of eagle-like potentialities; this was the radical potential the BCCCS saw in the British youth subcultures of the 1960s and 1970s. See the discussion of ‘common sense’ in ATP. There is a common sense of every social milieu (and it is in part this ‘common sense’ that allows social milieux to be distinguished!). The interest in Deleuze and Guattari’s work produces a social milieu of alleged deleuzoguattarians. This has to be warded off as much as any other ‘semiotic pilotization’. Barbrook associates this deleuzoguattarian milieu with an aristocracy of theory-artists, and from what I have witnessed he is probably accurate. However, his position is totally irrelevant to understanding Deleuze and Guattari’s work or putting in into practice in one’s own collective way with others of shared interest.

The real problem with Deleuze and Guattari is that the necessary infrastructure required to produce assemblages of shared interests is never properly outlined. Assemblages do not emerge from nothing, they are an arrangement of heterogeneous elements. Instead, there is much talk of how to attack the infrastructure of current collectivities (the State, etc). In terms of a concrete example: What was required to get the radio station ‘Radio Alice’ up and running? What were the empirical costs, the material realities of the situation? The costs of participating in the emergence of such collectivities has obviously been reduced by the internet and the capacity of the internet to sustain the shared interest of populations. If Barbrook disagrees, then he is insane. (This is not the same thing as saying that there are no costs.) The critical problem is how to reduce the pollution in such assemblages of commercial interests and the hegemonic interests of the already-privileged while maximising the potentials for creative expression of the shared interests that produced the assemblage in the first place. If those of a shared interest can find a commercial interest to sponsor their activity then I don’t see a problem with it, particularly if the participants are already the customers of the commercial interest (more than likely in that state of affairs of a capitalist society). There is no absolute distinction between the shared interests of populations and the commercial interest of capitalism. Anyway, the crucial error in the above extract from the Barbrook essay is that the market does not sustain the shared interest, the shared interest sustains the market. And it is this shared interest that exists as the ‘world glue’ between heterogeneous elements of an assemblage. Does Barbrook believe in a reality that can not exist as separate from the commercialising interventions of the market or the state (‘commercial interest’)?