The Body of Capital

Let us say, then, that Capital itself is the monstrous flesh within which we, the multitude, find ourselves compelled to live. When “the specifically capitalist mode of production” has been well enough developed, Marx says, “capital. . . becomes a very mystical being, since all the productive forces of social labour appear attributable to it, and not to labour as such, as a power springing forth from its own womb” (1993, 966; cited in Deleuze and Guattari 1983, 11). It is by appropriating all the fruits of production, and attributing all this production to itself, that capital becomes the mystical being that Deleuze and Guattari call the socius, the full Body without Organs. This monstrous flesh is the womb, the belly, and the skin of our society. The body of capital is the site of all our encounters, the space within which all our desires are registered and distributed. It is the “fluid and slippery” surface (Deleuze and Guattari 1983, 15) across which money flows as a universal equivalent, enabling all conceivable metamorphoses from one form to another, or one substance to another. And the depths of this flesh also encompass the time that is our horizon. This includes the time of our “lived experience”: clock time, work time, leisure time. But it also includes forms of time that are alien to any subjective experience: the speed-of-light, nearly instantaneous time of electronic networks, the time-scale of what Marx calls the “turnover” of capital, and the future time that is counted and discounted, and made commensurable with the present, in the form of interest rates.

Of course, this monstrous flesh is “really” ours, ultimately ours. The body of capital can only function to the extent that it appropriates to itself, and attributes to its own creativity, what is actually the productive labor of the multitude. Capital’s claim to production “as a power springing forth from its own womb” is therefore a fiction, or an illusion. But it is an “objective” illusion, a necessary fiction. That is to say, this illusory appearance, this fiction, is itself an actual feature of the world we live in. The body of capital is not really the cause of whatever happens; but it really is what Deleuze and Guattari call the “quasi-cause,” or apparent cause. Money really works as a universal equivalent, to the extent that everyone accepts it as such; and capital really does succeed in becoming the motor of all production, insofar as it enforces its property claims by means of a whole arsenal of weapons: laws, institutions, customs, beliefs, disciplinary procedures, threats of violence, and other forms of coercion and persuasion.

A “mystical being” whose embodiment is secured by procedures that, for their part, are all too materially effective, Capital can only be represented and experienced “in the formless, mute, infant, and terrifying form of monstrosity” (Derrida 1980, 293). For it cannot be grasped within everyday experience. The socius, or “full body of capital,” is entirely composed of material processes in the phenomenal world; and yet, as the limit and the summation of all these processes, it has a quasi-transcendental status. That is to say, the body of capital is not a particular phenomenon that we encounter at a specific time and place; it is rather the already-given presupposition of whatever phenomenon we do encounter. We cannot experience this capital-body directly, and for itself; yet all our experiences are lodged within it, and can properly be regarded as its effects. The monstrous flesh of capital is the horizon, or the matrix, or the underlying location and container of our experience, as producers or as consumers. In this sense, it can indeed be regarded as something like what Kant would call a transcendental condition of experience. Or better – since it is a process, rather than a structure or an entity – it can be understood as what Deleuze and Guattari call a basic “synthesis” that generates and organizes our experience.

The “full body” or flesh of capital, therefore, is at the same time palpable and intangible – however much of an oxymoron this formulation might seem to be. We are always in contact with this ghastly flesh, but we are never actually able to “grasp” it. We do not have enough distance to apprehend it accurately; we can no more “see” it than a flea can see the dog within whose fur it is embedded. In our pragmatic, day-to-day experience, this capital-body is an alien enormity, that we cannot ever tear ourselves free from, but that we also do not own or control in any way. The experience of the capital-body is common to everyone; but this is only a suffering in common, rather than the production in common that Hardt and Negri would like it to be. Either as producers or consumers, our subjective activity is relentlessly atomized and scattered; the only unity is that of the socius itself. We scurry about in the folds and convolutions of this capital-flesh like lice or bedbugs. At best, we may manage to divert some of the flows of the body of capital, pervert them, and detourn them. We may even be able to reprogram the body’s “axiomatics” or “genetic code” here and there, just a little bit, the way that viruses do. But that is all. This capital-flesh oppresses us, but we are stuck within it. We hate it, but we are also compelled to love it, because we depend upon it for sustenance, and we cannot live without it. Understood according to the order of first causes, sub specie aeternitatis as Spinoza would have it, capital is parasitic upon the labor of the multitude. But existentially and experientially, the situation is rather the reverse: we are parasites on the monstrous body of Capital.

29 Responses to “The Body of Capital”

  1. […] Here’s another great summary of the BwO, here linked explicitly (as it always was, in the begininng, for D&G) to capitalism. In Steven Shaviro’s explication, the BwO becomes almost explicitly cancerous. Worth a read. The beginning is below… Let us say, then, that Capital itself is the monstrous flesh within which we, the multitude, find ourselves compelled to live. When “the specifically capitalist mode of production” has been well enough developed, Marx says, “capital. . . becomes a very mystical being, since all the productive forces of social labour appear attributable to it, and not to labour as such, as a power springing forth from its own womb” (1993, 966; cited in Deleuze and Guattari 1983, 11). It is by appropriating all the fruits of production, and attributing all this production to itself, that capital becomes the mystical being that Deleuze and Guattari call the socius, the full Body without Organs. This monstrous flesh is the womb, the belly, and the skin of our society. The body of capital is the site of all our encounters, the space within which all our desires are registered and distributed. It is the “fluid and slippery” surface (Deleuze and Guattari 1983, 15) across which money flows as a universal equivalent, enabling all conceivable metamorphoses from one form to another, or one substance to another. And the depths of this flesh also encompass the time that is our horizon. This includes the time of our “lived experience”: clock time, work time, leisure time. But it also includes forms of time that are alien to any subjective experience: the speed-of-light, nearly instantaneous time of electronic networks, the time-scale of what Marx calls the “turnover” of capital, and the future time that is counted and discounted, and made commensurable with the present, in the form of interest rates. […]

  2. kirby olson says:

    I used to think I knew something about DnG. But now I just feel that they are speaking in hopelessly large abstractions: exactly what they railed against in certain instances.

    I’d rather that theory has some relation to the real world.

    Like the world of the lacrosse players falsely accused by the Duke 88.

    I don’t see any difference between David Duke and the Duke 88. Both live in a world of unreal abstractions in which there is some other out there that is responsible for all problems.

    Ultimately, I’ve decided that DnG or HnN or MnE or what have you is just an unwieldy assemblage with no relationship to anything even to itself.

    “It is by appropriating all the fruits of production, and attributing all this production to itself, that capital becomes the mystical being…”

    Why do people gas on like this? Why does anybody read it?

  3. Aaron P. says:

    This is extremely powerful diagnostic work. I agree that at present we can’t live without capital. But for that reason it seems evident that future forms of resistance need to involve something more consequential than mere viral recoding.

    That is: we need to engage in direct efforts to extricate ourselves from our material dependence on capital. Not Lenin or Mao or any other variant of the old-school revolution. But some sort of neo-communalism that seeks to lay the groundwork for a new order. With rips and tears opening up on the current recording surface, it’s not so impossible to imagine something different. After all, given the oil situation, we’ll presently need to make some pretty drastic changes in the production and distribution of food if we want to keep eating.

    Switching gears: I can’t help but feel that the whole “Duke 88″ thing is becomming a bit fetishistic, Kirby. Signing a misguided petition does not transform the signer into David Duke or Pol Pot. For a Marxist take on law, you might want to consult China Mieville’s “Between Equal Rights: A Marxist Theory of International Law.” It persuasively argues that the legal apparati of the modern world system were shaped by Western imperial agendas that served the interests of capital.

  4. schluehk says:

    I used to think I knew something about DnG. But now I just feel that they are speaking in hopelessly large abstractions.

    Well they do. This however doesn’t mean their philosophy hadn’t any practical aspects at their time but was just poetry for marxism geeks. You have a rather good intuitive grasp of the implications though:

    http://libcom.org/library/deleuzoguattarians-barbrook

  5. kirby olson says:

    Quick NOTE:

    I studied DnG with Steve Shaviro at UW in early 90s. Fascinated by it at the time, but wonder about wonderland, Durham in Wonderland in particular. That is, when it hits the ground, how does it play out in law? DnG claimed to be against the State, and in a footnote in Anti-Oedipus argue that they derive more from Stirner than from Marx. And yet Deleuze taught within the State University system in France, as Hardt teaches at a university (some portion? of Duke’s funding must derive from the state? — at any rate, it is a capitalist institution, at the very least).

    But give Hardt some responsibility and he signs on with Duke 88. Isn’t this a fruit of his Marxist theory?

    Strange fruit!

    The description of capital as a monstrous vampyre, the ultimate prescription is to lynch anyone who is the symbol of capital: students athletes rival the cultural capital of professors — younger, harder bodies: it’s natural for nerds to off them through sexual envy, tossing off a show trial as legitimation. After all the abstractions of theory: this is the fruit.

    Strange fruit, indeed!

    No law professors signed the Duke 88 document. It was a humanities in-house document, but this is our contribution to American education?

    Marxism tends to flower into dictatorial societies where sandwiches are as rare as liberties. I don’t want to bring up Zimbabwe, North Korea, or the problem in the Darfur as Red China continues to block any kind of military aid to the region. The Genocide Olympics will be a celebration of the extinction of Tibetan culture.

    But the Duke 88 will instead indict lacrosse players.

    On a small scale Marxism misdirects justice toward a few students on campus who represent a symbol of capital. But you have to give Marxism a chance. Glorious show trials help us connect the dots between Lenin, Stalin, and Duke 88. Marxism is the carnivorous flower that demands to be fed bodies, as well as their organs, especially their sexual organs.

    And it produces technicians like Michael Hardt, a vampyre who is all too happy to sign any death list, dispensing with the burden of legal procedure, inquiry into the facts, and hopefully without the necessity of having to listen to any opposing side. The state universities and their private counterparts becoming a funeral parlor for western civilization as its students are fed into the carnivorous flowers by overly zealous vampyres whose use for the law has as its shadow figure other dukes, other duchesses, bloody princesses, and tortuous queens of hearts like Michael Hardt.

    Alas. He has seized the means of production, he turns out theory, and the fruit is very strange from such monstrous industry as he clearly possesses.

    At least Marx had a little wit. If only his epigones could manage a little, at least I could laugh as I’m biting their ankles. Har har.

  6. kjm says:

    As most any Marxist will tell you, in a society pervaded by and organized by capital’s axiomatic, where everything is made to reduce to abstract quantities, there is little opportunity for truly exterior (i.e., outside capital) praxis – rather, the point is to find a site, a hole, a leak within that system from which to extract a potential and transform it into something not only anti-capital or anti-oedipal, but strictly non-capital, anoedipal, where the latter are determinations related to capital or Oedipus only insofar as they are not related. In other words, one can’t avoid the axiomatic by installing an anti-institution in the social field (capital’s famous self-reflexivity absorbs such things and turns them to its own uses – a basic function of the axiomatic); it must take shape from within that axiomatic – a line of flight is available only virtually, and labor is required to make something out of it.

    And while I’m not here to indict Hardt or anyone else, it seems a trifle silly to do so on the basis of a petition signed without adequate information (though this is something Deleuze and Guattari are guilty of as well, and which effectively ended their relationship with Foucault). I say this in part because you seem to be holding the (American) legal system up as somehow more perfect. But as any lawyer knows, courts constantly decide cases on basically insufficient evidential grounds. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is there in part to provide some type of civil redress for those convicted of crimes they did not commit. And if you take a look at the Marxist literature on law (especially from the 1970s and 1980s, the first and second waves of critical legal studies) you’ll find much that should outrage you. And if you’ve studied the history of law in America, you’ll see how the processes and developments of 19th century industrialization were made possible by the courts’ acquiescence – the fellow servant rule, a British import, comes to mind. Redistributions of risk and financial burdens from capital to labor were the order of the day. Read the railroad cases — the courts, almost without exception, bow to the emerging railroad industry and say that the proper protection from the dangers of trains and so on (they emitted sparks that would burn down entire villages at times, or farms and building structures at others) is not litigation but insurance – thereby fostering another emerging industry that we’ve all come to know and love.

    Schizoanalysis, despite what many seem to think, has a LOT to say about these developments. How did capital become installed as the socius? What role did law play in protecting capital? We can move away from descriptive analyses and into explanatory ones with the framework set out in Anti-Oedipus.

  7. Kirby Olson says:

    kjm, this was reasonable to me to some extent, but I do think there are some spaces where capital doesn’t penetrate. The family, for instance. But for whatever reason the C. Manifesto argues for the total dismantling of the family. Marxist feminists of the 70s and 80s also wanted that: even the removal of men in their entirety from feminist communities (separatism).

    and now Peter Singer at Princeton is arguing that we should be able to “abort” children up to three years of age. He’s apparently never had a child. A child even of one is already a fully formed human being, who in many cases can talk. But the left is more and more getting rid of the rights of the weak, just as the right that you name of the 19th century once did.

    There’s a neat Jewish poet named Charles Reznikoff who was a lawyer in NYC (he didn’t practice but was a lawyer, and lived in NYC, but he wrote poems instead of law). He wrote a lot about the inequities of 19th century NYC — he lived in the 20th century but he did a lot of recuperation of 19th century law, and turned it into quite good poems, using stacks of briefs from the 19th century he’d recovered while doing some kind of legal work in his youth. Problem is he changed the specifics, so it’s hard to learn anything (he changed the names, and the locales, to avoid lawsuits). Problem is that specifics determine a lot, and they sometimes mesh with theory and sometimes they don’t.

    This is the 21st century, and at least on campuses, the left has utterly won. They’ve decimated the opposition (there must be less than one percent Republicans on almost every campus in spite of the left’s endless call for diversity). In a place like Duke, the problem is that the viewpoint is so far to the left, and since everyone must be more extreme than the next in order to get noticed, you basically have a situation that is out of control, and that requires anything except Schizoanalysis. One report said that of 593 humanities teachers at Duke, three are self-reported Republicans. How can you get checks and balances for your thought, with everybody lurching further and further to the left?

    It requires something more empirical, like Locke.

    Some basic set of standards that make sense both on the campus and off.

    Otherwise, the universities are going to become the new lunatic asylums with schizoanalysis as the only law. And schizoanalysis turns out to be lynch law.

    I agree however that the Duke 88 didn’t have enough info to hang the three lacrosse players. But that didn’t matter. They had the theory, and the facts didn’t matter to them (any more than mere fact mattered to Lacan, or to his epigones, since everything was always in the realm of the imaginary).

    I would like a return to factual empirical investigation, with a clear set of guiding standards.

  8. Kirby Olson says:

    P.S. Thank you very much for your polite and intelligent response. I’m going to shut my face here now however for fear of annoying Steve. You Marxists carry on. I’m sorry for the interruption in your debates.

  9. Aaron P. says:

    kjm– I’m not so sure “most Marxist’s” would endorse the “hole or leak”-based approach to revolutionary change. The actual history of Marxist movements exhibits some rather salient attempts to violently smash the current order and destroy its hegemonic axiomatic. The strategy you describe is more specific to post-modern post-Marxists of the anglo and francophone academies.

    Though I fall into the latter category, I’m not convinced that either approach (Leninist revolution or the oppotunistic generation of anoedipal non-capital) is adequate to our current set of extremely alarming dilemas. As the ecocidal trajectory of industrial capitalism begins to loom large, we need to make efforts to lay the groundwork for a new way of life.

    Because the next big “crisis in capital” is likely to be both economic and ecological in nature, it would greatly behoove us to have the groundwork for a socio-economic alternative in place when it arrives. To begin establishing such a groundwork (sooner than later, and despite the possibility of a hegemonic reabsorption) is my answer to Steven’s question regarding “what is to be done.”

    In the history of revolutions, groundwork is a huge issue. The triumph of English liberalism was significantly dependant on the fact that proto-liberal documents and institutions had existed in England for centuries proir to the glorious revolution. The relative cataclysms of the French, Russian, and Chinese revolutions, on the other hand, had much to do with the fact that each comprised a traumatically form-smashing attempt to start over from scratch (i.e. what Zizek values in Lenin).

    So I don’t think we should construe all forms of anti-capitalist activism as already-doomed from the start. To me, that smacks of a dangerous fatalism.

  10. kjm says:

    Aaron – you’re right, I was too free with several phrases in my response, one of which is the “most Marxists” claim. I do, however, think that “finding a leak” within the body of capital is exactly what Marxism has, in most of its grammars, claimed to do, or claimed to attempt to do. If a violent rupture with the axiomatic was possible, or perceived (myopically or no) as possible, this was only because some sort of uncivilized site was found within. Granted, this language and these concepts would not have been available to, e.g., the Bolsheviks, but I don’t think we could claim that any failed or reappropriated revolution in history unfolded otherwise. Admittedly, this is less a substantive point of disagreement than a different way of glossing history. But my study has thus far convinced me that revolution proceeds (which isn’t to say it shall always proceed) in this way – some group(s) (subject-groups, in D&G) comes together as a crystallization of some form of oppression, repression, domination, etc. and wants to express that oppression in the social field; they glimpse some kind of opportunity and labor at it; apparatuses already in place – whether derived from the state or not – work against (or with – which is ultimately against, for these agents) the group(s), trying either to “plug the holes” glimpsed (e.g., the mutability of legal doctrine – see the 1917-1919 Supreme Court cases dealing with freedom of speech and socialist pamphleteers/politicians, emergence of the “clear and present danger” test) or overtly denying them (by violence or denials of resources, etc). In other words, I basically reject any philosophy of history that would not countenance the unfolding of revolutions as immanent developments and seizures of potentialities, rather installing irruptions of transcendence and battles of form in their place. That’s fantasy.

    But that kind of pedantry aside (and I’m certain I haven’t expressed things quite accurately above), I think you’re right about groundwork. But this is exactly what I was suggesting earlier. The social is a complex network, with many planes, many layers, etc. Is there a science of the virtual that would allow us to isolate potentialities, leaks? But even this might be unnecessary, or at least the writ-large variation of it. As you suggest, the “ecocidal” dimension or tendency of global capital will, taken far enough, bring capital directly face-to-face with the body of the earth. Following this reasoning, however, does breed complacency.

    On your suggestion re: beginning the establishment of a groundwork ala the proto-liberal mechanisms in place in England pre-William and Mary: but what liberalism did was to co-opt such mechanisms, which became “proto-liberal” only afterwards. Was the criminal jury a “proto-liberal” device in 1222? Of course not. Has it become a central device in the operations of liberal governmentality since the 18th century (when it was reformed)? Indeed. The point is that these things crumble and flake off of the body of the dying socius and either dissolve or get appropriated by the emergent socius, with a bright-line between the two bodies conspicuously absent – the death of God is also His decomposition.

    As a final note, if I came across as construing all forms of anti-capitalist activism as always already subsumed within the logic of capital, I didn’t intend to. What I meant was that flailing our collective arms at the organization of social production we’ve been born into is childish and ifefficacious, but moving from within to displace the right elements, disturb the right relations, is something promising. This, in my take, is what schizoanalysis tries to do. “Revolution” in the popular sense is therefore an afterthought, something recognized ex post, emitted in the future anterior, and so forth.

  11. Aaron P. says:

    kjm–thanks for the clarificactions–I see we’re on similar pages.

    To your point on liberalism: my only spot of minor difference is that things can only ever become “proto” in retrospect. In that regards, I think we need to start thinking hard about what kind of proto we want to be.

    Thanks for the stimulating conversation!

  12. kjm says:

    Aaron – I’m just curious about your thoughts on this (and my review of the “Ecodeleuze” literature is less than total thus far, so feel free to fill me in on theoretical inroads made here): what about the idea that the “New Earth” is already underway, and that the point of maximal extension of Capital (the real subsumption of labor and society under capital in “world empire,” etc) is also its crisis point? I.e., that the ecological crises following on the heels of Capital’s worldwide expansion is a sign registered on the body of Capital? Is this unthinkable? For me it is, in a way: it seems to entail a sort of perverse joy in environmental collapse – we want the oil crisis to escalate and the earth to suffer, if temporarily, so people will demand alternative energy sources or otherwise curb demand for oil products. Is there another way around this, one that would enable circumvention of this perversion?

  13. Kirby Olson says:

    Marxist didn’t seem to think that universal suffrage was necessary. The “dictatorship of the proletariat” was his phrase for how the communist governments would be run.

    Do Marxists today believe in universal suffrage?

    I realize that Social Democrats and Liberals do still believe in universal suffrage, but I think one major difference they have with Marxists is in the question of suffrage.

    Anyway, it’s just a tiny question.

  14. Aaron P. says:

    kjm– I share your doubts about that position you mention. In addition to the objection you mentioned (perverse joy in environmental destruction), it also has an air of old-school messianic teleology about it, and seems in that regards to tacitly conflate ecosystems with economic ones–as if the purgative murder of the earth is necessary to bring about the end of capitalism.

    The real danger of such thinking is that it basically hazards everything (including the survival of human and non-human life) on the operations of capital. It’s a totalizing gamble. Even the natural systems with which capitalism collides are subsumed within “its” crisis. That’s the point at which species-being becomes species-narcissism.

    It seems to me, however, that there may be something to this position when it comes to the issue of death-drive. Perhaps it’s at the point of total extension that capitalism is materially confronted with its desire for self-destruction, and forced to either actualize its thanatoidal longings, or change. To that extent, the crisis seems internal to capital, and marked on its body.

    Kirby–I’m not sure there is a universal Marxist position on the issue of suffrage, or even on voting for that matter– though I haven’t conducted any surveys about it. I think it varries considerably in different Marxist traditions.

  15. Eric says:

    I very much like this, and the series it comes from, especially the notion of being “palpable and intangible.”

    When you say “Either as producers or consumers, our subjective activity is relentlessly atomized and scattered, the only unity is that of the socius itself,” the vulgar materialist in me gets very nervous because this would seem to imply that our productions and consumptions, and distributions, are impotent, unable to alter the socius, beyond superficial ways. It makes me wonder how any sort of change is possible. Similarly, I read the BwO as pregiven, a space that’s already there and unalterable. Not exactly a blank space but an environment that is merely background and that seems off limits to alteration.

    In the past you have mentioned that you are not convinced by the evolution the body with organs undergoes from Anti-Oedipus to A Thousand Plateaus, a reservation I share. But recently I’ve started to wonder if D&G didn’t become aware of what I tried to outline (however poorly) above: that the BwO as full body of capital approaches something like a totalitarian concept in that it seems exempt from transformation. So, however insufficient it is, in the second book they tried to show how the BwO could be changed, or, more specifically, how it can be made amenable to production (“how to make yourself a body without organs”). I’m not convinced that they succeed, but I think that’s maybe what they were getting at.

    Does this make any sense?

  16. Eric, thanks for these comments. The question of a totalizing concept that seems exempt from transformation is precisely what I am trying to worry over, though I don’t have any real answer or solution.

    As for the question about how “we”, as producers or as consumers, relate to the Body without Organs, I hope to address this in a later posting (on the “three syntheses” in Anti-Oedipus).

  17. Kirby Olson says:

    aaron P., thanks for this note on Marxist ambivalence toward suffrage. I remember in one text by DnG that Genghis Khan is exemplified as a revolutionary assemblage, also a rat horde, and then in one depiction it’s the Crips (though I think G alone was responsible for promoting the Crips as a revolutionary assemblage). Not much voting there, I suppose.

    It would seem that in any such assemblage the strongest and most ruthless would have more of a say in things than in even a crazy top down system such as that of Ceausescu or Pol Pot. How can that be fair or equitable? Is there such a notion as Marxist tyranny — isn’t that still tyranny? Isn’t what the Duke 88 did a form of tyranny — quite similar to the 30 that afflicted Athens, and sentenced Socrates to death?

    A system with checks and balances (Madison) would seem to be more likely to lead to less individual power. Where there is the possibility of one individual coming to power, and destroying all opposition, it will happen. Mugabe, for instance. Murphy’s Law stipulates that whatever can go wrong, will.

    With DnG, you get lots of loopholes for what could potentially go wrong. With Checks and Balances, you have less of that potential. With voting, too, as long as it is evenly distributed, you have a partial redress for the wrongs of a particular government. At Duke, you can’t vote out tenured profs, but people can at least choose not to go to such an institution.

    So in a sense, voting still exists at Duke, or rather, outside of Duke, which have an effect on Duke.

    Is there any movement within the American humanities that isn’t so extremist as the postmodernists, so one-sided as the Marxists, and is in fact a liberal (Mill, Locke, Madisonian) group that anyone here could point me towards? I’m somewhat out of the loop, I guess.

    Thanks again for your response to me, Aaron.

    At any rate, I think the “question of a totalizing concepts that seems exempt from transformation,” which Steve is worrying about can be sufficiently altered through voting. Is that too simple? Voting demotes totalizing concepts to that which can be changed through a legalized system that is devoted to the potential of changing any such concepts.

  18. kjm says:

    Kirby – there’s a whole school of political philosophers emanating out of the contractarian tradition, most of whom are organized around Rawls (whether as expositor or detractor). Jeremy Waldron at NYU is a consistently enjoyable writer. A ton of other mainstream American political/legal thinkers exist, too: Martha Nussbaum at Chicago, Richard Posner, Michael Sandel at Harvard, and so on and so forth. Marxists and Deleuzians are definitely still minorities (quantitatively, in this respect) in the American academy.

  19. Kirby Olson says:

    Thanks a lot for these leads! I knew the names, but now I should look further into them.

  20. Kirby Olson says:

    I studied with Steve at the U. of Washington, and wrote a dissertation with him as the chair. I liked him: he was fair and insightful and kind.

    But now I teach in a very rural area. Many of my students are farmers. I just can’t talk about Deleuze with them. They would all drop out. So I’m trying to find something a little more sensible and something within the American experience. Perhaps Rawls and Rawlsians will help.

    We don’t even get NPR out here. We don’t even get Limbaugh. You only get extreme Christian stations. Not that anybody even turns on the radio.

    And not that I mind the extreme Christian stations.

    I just need a language that will make immediate sense to my students.

  21. Kirby Olson says:

    Again, too, I like the French (I wrote my dissertation on Klossowski under Steve’s direction). But perhaps it’s my Lutheran upbringing, I don’t know, I’m very drawn to people like Raymond Aron, but find it rare that anyone takes him very seriously, even though he had ten times the mind of almost all the communists put together (one foot in the OT?). He’s sensible throughout, but I like this bit from the Opium of the Intellectuals, but I doubt if anybody reads that pleasant little book:

    Communism is a degraded version of the Western message. It retains its ambition to conquer nature, to improve the lot of the humble, but it sacrifices what was and must remain the heart and soul of the unending human adventure: freedom of enquiry, freedom of controversy, freedom of criticism, and the vote.

  22. dreamduke says:

    where are you from kirby?

  23. Kirby Olson says:

    Dreamduke, I don’t know how sarcastically you meant this comment. I was born in Clear Lake, Iowa where Billy Holly’s plane crashed (I was born the same day). However, I don’t like music.

    Kirby

  24. Kirby Olson says:

    Oh, maybe you meant why don’t I get NPR. I live in the western Catskills in an area of rural mountains about twice the size of Rhode Island but only 40,000 inhabitants mostly in tiny tumble down villages with farmers and mechanics, and a few artists who’ve left NYC. The area is largely owned by the NYC water department. They own about half the land, and are determined to get the rest. Every time a farmer goes belly up, the NYC water dept. is there in a jiffy offering the widow a sizable sum in order to keep the land forever wild. So we’ve actually been losing citizens since the year 1800, and we have more and more mountain lions and squirrels, and other monstrous bodies of that ILK.

  25. […] of social life (i.e., that real subsumption doesn’t structurally empower anybody, or that play becomes work rather than the reverse), Negri is still correct that work in such an arrangement is immeasurable from the perspective of […]

  26. […] The Pinocchio Theory » Blog Archive » The Body of Capital “Understood according to the order of first causes … capital is parasitic upon the labor of the multitude. But existentially and experientially, the situation is rather the reverse: we are parasites on the monstrous body of Capital.” (tags: marxism capitalism theory blogpost) […]

  27. Kirby Olson says:

    KJM, you wrote:

    Kirby – there’s a whole school of political philosophers emanating out of the contractarian tradition, most of whom are organized around Rawls (whether as expositor or detractor). Jeremy Waldron at NYU is a consistently enjoyable writer. A ton of other mainstream American political/legal thinkers exist, too: Martha Nussbaum at Chicago, Richard Posner, Michael Sandel at Harvard, and so on and so forth. Marxists and Deleuzians are definitely still minorities (quantitatively, in this respect) in the American academy.

    I looked up these guys and all of them want to limit culture in some way, or so it seemed. I want a completely libertarian/anarchist view of culture, and yet I would like to see free (but fair) trade. That is, I want the intellectual world to be completely unfettered, and yet I want the economic world to be Smithian. Aside from someone like James Madison, do we still have anybody who is for such things in American intellectual life?

    It seems to me that Republicans in general want free trade, and the Democrats don’t.

    Republicans on the other hand want freedom of speech, but the Democrats want political correctness.

    At least those are the broad streams, whereas of course there are many crosscurrents.

    I’d like a Smithian economics with Smith’s caveats against shoddy goods (such as those Chinese toys soaked with lead that have been recalled).

  28. Republicans on the other hand want freedom of speech, but the Democrats want political correctness.

    I’ve always seen political correctness as a (Republican) right reaction to the desire of the left (Democrats) for equal opportunity. PC is not something Democrats want; it’s a codification by the right of democratic demands. An incident occurs perceived on the left as racist or sexist and the argument is pursued by identifying uses of language in the incident that may be a product of racist or sexist attitudes. The aim isn’t to correct or police speech. It is a matter of pointing out or highlighting entrenched attitudes that pose obstacles and are reflected by speech. The right interprets this as a challenge to a game of employing acceptable euphemisms instead of opening race and gender doors to enhance diversity. Some people unwittingly get caught in the crossfire; others abandon personal goals to avoid being targeted. A few, often foolishly, try to exploit the conflict.

  29. Kirby Olson says:

    GE, interesting take. I suppose it’s difficult to decide since it depends which side you’re on.

    We could see either side then as protectionist in a sense. Republicans as wanting to protect what the communists call “privilege,” and Democrats as wanting to protect what everybody calls “Affirmative Action.”

    Hard to know who or what’s affirmative in an objective sense.

    I figure that Smith thought the “invisible hand” would work if everybody simply did whatever they wanted, as long as it was within the law.

    Perhaps even these two “takes,” are an aspect of the invisible hand trying to tilt the system in their favor.

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