Eugene asks about Georgio Agamben. Below is a short note on him. I find his writings on the state les interesting and useful than his return to the question of commodity fetishism, which is a refreshing revisiting of a neglected concept. On the state, his approach seems more philological than historical. By not bringing his thinking on the commodity and on the state more closely together, one is not really given much of a handle on how developments in the commodity form may have transformed the state. 'Biopower' becomes a vague, transhistorical notion in Agamben.
Agamben is one of the few contemporary thinkers to try to think *past* Debord's Society of the Spectacle, which I think is still an untranscended horizon in its matching of political and theoretical intransigence. And so in the note below I concentrate on his handling of Debord. k "In the final analysis the state can recognize any claim for identity… But what the state cannot tolerate in any way is that singularities form a community without claiming an identity, that human beings co-belong without a representable condition of belonging." Giorgio Agamben, Means Without End: Notes on Politics, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2000, p87 How can we have fidelity to Debord’s memory? Agamben suggests we apply Deleuze’s image of picking up tools on the run as a way to use Debord’s books, as if they were tactics for thinking. They might be tactics to turn not least against what became of Marxist thought in its long march through the academic institutions. Debord’s thought runs counter to much late 20th century Marxism in that it did not abandon the question of the fetish character of the commodity. Louis Althusser excised this troubling part of Marx’s legacy, allowing Marxist thought to devolve into academic specialisms, each of which addressed the economic, political or ideological instance which, without the theory of commodity fetishism, no longer formed an integrated complex. Marxist thought in its post-Althusserian guise was unable to think through the becoming-image of the commodity, in which exchange value eclipses use value, opening the Debordian spectacle toward Jean Baudrillard’s world of pure sign value. The spectacle may be the alienation of language itself, the expropriation of the logos, of the possibility of a common good, but Agamben rightly perceives a way out, at the end of the spectacle. What we encounter in the spectacle is our linguistic nature inverted. It is an alienated language in which language itself is – or can be – revealed. The spectacle may be the uprooting of all peoples from their dwelling in language, the severing of the foundations of all state forms, but this very alienation of language returns it as something that can be experienced as such, "bringing language itself to language." Agamben finds the emerging crisis of the state in this complete alienation of language. The state now exists in a permanent state of emergency, where only the secret police are its last functioning agency. As Agamben says, the state can recognize any identity, so proposing new identities to it is not to challenge it, merely to require of it that it extend its logic. New identities may push the state towards a further abstraction, but on the other hand merely recognizes in the state a grounding it really doesn’t possess as final authority on the kinds of citizenship that might belong within it. The coming struggle is not to control the state, but to exceed and escape it into the unrepresentable. For Agamben Tiananmen is the first outbreak of this movement that did not want to be represented, but rather to create a common life outside of representation. Tiananmen might be a spontaneous outbreak of a new Situationist movement. The situation, in Agamben’s reading of Debord, is beyond the fusion of art and life sought by the historic avant gardes. It comes after the supercession of art. Surprisingly, Agamben offers Nietzsche’s eternal return as an image of the situation, where everything repeats itself as the same, only without its identity as such. What never occurs to Agamben is to inquire into the historical – rather than philological -- conditions of existence of this most radical challenge to the state. Agamben reduces everything to power and the body. Like the Althusserians, he too has dispensed with problem of relating together the complex of historical forces. In moving so quickly from the commodity form to the state form, the question of the historical process of the production of the abstraction and the abstraction of production disappears, and with it the development of class struggle. It may well be that the coming community is one in which everything may be repeated, as is, without its identity – but what are the conditions of possibility for such a moment to arrive the first time? That condition is the development of the relations of telesthesia, webbed together as a third nature, which present as their negative aspect the society of the spectacle, but present as its potential the generalized abstraction of information, the condition under which the identity of the object with itself need not reign. The first citizens of Agamben’s community with neither origins or destinies – without need of a state – can only be the hacker class, who hack through, and dispense with, all properties of the object and subject. The Situationist gesture that is neither use value nor exchange value, a pure praxis, pure play, the beyond of the commodity form, can only be the hacking of the hacker class as a class, calling into being its true conditions of existence, which are simultaneously the conditions of its disappearance as such. Language for Agamben can be the image and place of justice, but only because language is an instance of what can exist outside representation as property – information. One might need more than a tactic, then, for approaching Debord. One might need a strategy. One might not be able to wield his books as tools. One might need to consider them as – incomplete – diagrams. Diagrams for this time in which the true is merely a moment of the false, for turning the false against itself. This is a time for plagiarism, in the most radical sense, as Debord discovered in Lautréamont. ___________________________________________________ http://subsol.c3.hu/subsol_2/contributors0/warktext.html ... we no longer have roots, we have aerials ... ___________________________________________________ # distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission # <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism, # collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets # more info: [EMAIL PROTECTED] and "info nettime-l" in the msg body # archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: [EMAIL PROTECTED]