Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Text in Question

I'm still not convinced, from the comments on the post below, that I have at all distorted the statement Stan Apps and Matthew Timmons wrote for Fold. Indeed, everything Stan says here, in response, only convinces me of the rightness of my reading. Perhaps I might have better avoided talking about their intentions and merely discussed the ideological positions that are suspended, as it were, within the text. As for my concluding that the piece was about the internet, its invocation of a vast, perduring cultural archive that need be merely replicated or re-distributed for the purposes of art (not to mention its ennui with the book) makes my deduction a rather elementary one, I think.

If I had it to write over again, I would probably put in something about how, problematic though it is, there is something to be said for their imagination of a world without scarcity. Indeed, in the essay for Action, Yes where I first set out some of these ideas, I wrote the following:

5.1 The point, then, is that to the extent that the internet fails to thrust me back onto my own lap, to the extent that it fails to render crystal clear the ugliness and smallness of the life I lead in all its terrible complicities, and to the extent that it fails to fail to escape these conditions, it is a vicious augmentation of the spectacular aerosolization of all that’s solid, a burp in the calculator. We must build a here there, and a there here. To the extent that it fails to remind us of this need, and that it pretends to satisfy it, it is a gorgeous, bourgeois lie. It may be the best bourgeois lie ever, but it is a lie nonetheless.
* * *
5.2.1. Secondly, though, the positive aspect of the internets—of hyperlinked blog conversations, of the endless lateral arrays of information—must also be stressed through a sufficiently dialectical account. Like all utopias, the internet provides us with a ideological model, a vision—crude, blind in places, yes—of a classless society, a system of voluntaristic affiliations, confederations and recalibrations, a labile performance of self as internalized otherness, citation. Nor can we discount the possibilities it has allowed for the author as producer, self-distributing her self-designed books by word-of-keyboard. We can applaud this. Applause, too, to the presence here of intellectuals and artists outside of traditional academic and cultural institutions, who can discuss the philosophy of Condillac, labor strikes in Egypt, and the latest volume of The Grand Piano. And since we like things that are free almost as much as we hate capitalism, we cannot but cheer at the presence of or It is undoubtedly a fine thing that the training or development of writers can now take place, nearly completely, outside of formal institutional space. What we must take measure of, however, is the extent to which such institutions persist in dematerialized forms.

5.2.2 But the extent to which I experience these enthusiasms must be the extent to which I need them as fantasy. The ungraspable, bodiless utopia of the internet, inside the pores of which circulates the same sad non-communication as before, allows for a view of the virtual whose actualization it, in fact, thwarts. We need an internet of the streets. An internet with bodies.
This still seems, essentially, correct. I like Jameson's account of utopia--that its value is that it throws us back upon the present, and shows us the difficulty (though not impossibility) of imagining a future which doesn't, ineluctably, reproduce that present, while at the same time driving home ever more clearly the unbearability of such a present. I don't think I necessarily get a pass here. I don't have all of the answers, and many of the answers I do have are likely to be wrong.

Still, Stan's post clarifies, as have all his remarks, the substantial difference between our positions. It's certainly right that scarcity in late capitalism is largely manufactured. The problem, though, with the utopian imagination he sets out there is that it conflates productive capacity with the products themselves. He's right that there is sufficient productive capacity to meet the entire planet's needs, let everyone work twenty hours and devote the rest of our hours to time travel. But this does not imply, however much this is a truism on the left, that one can simply redistribute the existing products and meet everybody's needs. There may be adequate productive capacity, but there are not adequate products. A post-capitalist and truly post-scarcity world would need to radically recast production. In many cases, there is enough of a certain product (say, wheat) for everyone's needs, but in other cases there isn't anywhere close to enough of what people need, because capitalism only produces things that are profitable. Since Stan likes to use agriculture as an example, let's take the current food crisis. Although it's true that a good part of the crisis has to do with commodities speculators driving up prices, as well as the agribusiness scam known as biofuel, it also has to do with a restructuring over the last 30 years of the kinds of things people grow (and eat) that is completely inconsistent with existing needs (except for those of Monsanto and Cargill). For instance, in the Philippines, as it tells you in this article, there is simply not enough rice. And there isn't enough rice anywhere else. This is because the IMF and the WTO forced the Phillipines to liberalize their economy, transforming them into importers of rice and exporters of cash crops like flowers and asparagus. Similarly, capitalism currently devotes an incredible amount of labor capacity to prospecting for, and developing industries dependent upon, fossil fuels, and ridiculously small amounts to developing alternative energy sources. The people of the earth, especially those who live near sea level, have a need for clean energy, but clean energy doesn't, currently, exist. These problems don't have to do with distribution, but with the kinds of things that are produced. You can't just re-distribute resources that don't exist. As I said in the comments below, the problems with capitalism have to do with contradictions between production for profit and the needs that people actually have; and this means there will be an ample supply of Viagra but a less than ample supply of drugs for easily treated tropical diseases; lots of McMansions, but not enough affordable housing, etc. You can call this lecturing, but somehow I don't feel that this point is well-understood.

Secondly, most products are perishable, or will quickly wear-out. So any plan to merely distribute existing products will require that people continue to work the same shitty, body-destroying and soul-crushing jobs that they work now. Merely focusing on distribution means, in effect, saying that everybody should continue doing what they are doing now, a proposition that a majority of the world will likely (and should) find intolerable. This focus on distribution strikes me as the kind of position that somebody like me, somebody whose job it is to reproduce the relations of production, is much more likely to take when considering the weaknesses of capitalism. But I dare say the maquiladora worker, aside from wanting access to affordable food, health care and housing, also wants a better job.

Trust me, no one will be happier than me when robots do all of the work and the only problems are those of distribution, but that's not what we're looking at now. For now, any kind of alternative to capitalism will have to reform the relations of productions, and overcome the division of labor, so that some of us don't have to do shitty work for twelve hours a day until they die while others of us argue about it on the internet. This is not a problem of distribution. And it brings us back to the question of the revolutionary seizure of the means of production. I don't find Stan's bromides about the impossibility of overcoming the "spine" of capitalism or his worries about the violence that accompanies such radical measures all that compelling, needless to say. Some large measure of responsibility for such violence surely has to be placed on the shoulders of the counter-revolution. I, for one, would first go blaming Reagan and his death squads for the tragedy of Central America in the 80s rather than Marxist ideology, personally. Not incidentally, in my view, the problem with past Marxisms--in, say, the Soviet Union for instance--is that they weren't radical enough. For the most part, while production in the Soviet Union wasn't production for profit, and the masses had more access to the surpluses produced, the relations of production remained, by and large, what they were elsewhere. The same division of labor obtained.

It's almost needless to say, but whether you think I'm right or Stan's right (if either of us are) will mean, if you care, that the current historical moment demands a very particular kind of response. And that matters. At least it matters to me.


Stan Apps said...

What is really annoying about the internet (and I’m paraphrasing something Jordan Davis said quite a while ago) is the way it provokes gladiatorial behavior, challenges and single-combats, discursive showdowns and showoffery. This gunfight you’re challenging me to strikes me as primarily a self-promotional move on your part, classic capitalist behavior designed to inch your way up the junior-management ladder of poetry. So, if you want to face facts about what’s really happening in this interaction: you go, junior poet, swing that sword, decapitate the position of your peer. Maybe if you chop up a few more like me, you can have a book from UC someday.

Your discussion of distribution and production here is just fine, accurate, a good depiction of the world situation. Great. Yes, reform of production is essential: it would be ideal if there were a shift to producing durable products without toxic ingredients, and I’ve read some fine books by rather neoliberal environmentalists on this topic. It’s not clear to me that violence can reform production; better education for engineers would seem to be the key to reforming production. Also, modification of how products are monetized, such that the producer can find ways to profit continuously on a durable product. The reform of production is clearly a question of the gradual reform and development of capitalism. Reform of distribution, on the other hand, is a question of how to supplement capitalist practice, to move in the direction of post-capitalism. It presupposes that there can be an intelligent effort to oppose constructed conditions of scarcity and to realize some of the social gains that technology promises but which capitalism is deliberately delaying.

As for Marxism, a central problem is that it seems to presume that the ruling class can’t read, can’t see, and won’t go to the trouble of self-defense, which is obviously BS. Even stupid oligarchies in Central America were able to see that they were under attack and, with the help of U.S. training and weapons, mass-murder people until the problem disappeared. To the extent that Marxism is about valorizing violent confrontation, it seems calculated to produce this result, and indeed the whole state of the world today is predicated on a series of strategies designed to make a classic, 19th century style Marxist revolt impossible. And those strategies are going to continue to work. Social development can’t depend on a philosophy that insists that the ruling class are too stupid to effectively defend themselves, or on a philosophy that insists on unitary abstractions.

I’ve written a lot about these topics but the work isn’t in print yet: some essays in my upcoming book from Combo, The World as Phone Bill, are relevant to this, especially the title essay and an essay called Of Everyplace. In general I think you should stop using “neoliberal” to describe an overly broad range of ideas and possibilities; for instance your claim earlier that the microfinance movement was just another “neoliberal” stance is ridiculous, since its effort to empower small farmers is the opposite of neoliberalism’s effort to empower elites and financial institutions.

Jasper Bernes said...

Well, all I will say is that it now must be apparent to everyone following along that the differences between us are rather stark, if not total. Yes, it's true, you would like to ameliorate the vicissitudes of capitalism. I'm skeptical about the effectiveness of what you've proposed, which doesn't mean I wouldn't support such things provisionally. For instance, I would take a welfare state over what we have now, but I'd still want more, and want to work for that more. In any case, I don't see any reason why I should settle, especially when we're talking about theoretical positions, really.

I don't what Marxism your referring to, but your claims about it as a whole couldn't be more flatly wrong. From 1848 on, after the failure of the revolutions, Marx sought to understand the power, intelligence and superior organization of the ruling class (Cf. The 18th Brumaire, The Civil War in France, etc.). From Lenin to Gramsci to Mao to Althusser, from Emma Goldman to Daniel Guerin to Chomsky, just to name a few, most Marxists and anarchists concerned with political action have sought to theorize the power of the state and the dominant class. By default, I'd say, most Marxist and anarchist ideas about the working class assume that this class is less well-organized than the ruling class. And there are whole libraries of books that have sought to critique, for instance, the writers above and understand why previous revolutions have failed--it's not as if there's been no work done in this field since 1970.

I won't spend much time defending myself against your claims that I'm just being careerist here, except to say that I found your remarks about US hegemony and the anti-hegemonic effect of the avant-garde's "eclecticism" a truly offensive endorsement (however qualified) of the globalizing status quo of capital. And then I heard Matthew Timmons read the Fold statement at a reading at Pegasus, and it seemed to provoke so well the misgivings I was having about certain theoretical positions. I picked it over other statements because I admired its wittiness and I think it understood and crystallized quite well a great deal about the contempororary moment.

In the end, it doesn't matter whether I'm being a careerist. If you think the distinctions between my position and yours matter, then it only matters whether or not I'm correct. You can be as ad hominem as you like, Stan. Nothing will top Jack Morgan's recent comparison of me to a Nazi:

Lastly, as it appears we will both be in Orono next week, if I am to be a gunfighter, I'd like to offer you the following terms: 20 yards, dueling iPods loaded with 80s pop (Madonna beats Michael Jackson, The Smiths beat The Cure, the B52s beat REM etc.), to be judged by Jennifer Moxley, Steve Evans and Benjamin Friedlander.

I sincerely hope you and your crew don't shank me in the showers.

jane said...

It may indeed be true that the distinctions here are so stark that there is no use trying to understand the particulars, much less try to be mindful of Mark Wallace's always-timely reminder that it's gonna take a lot of different straws before this camel's spine begins to buckle. After all, whatever his goals (the hegemonic power of UC press, or worse!), Jasper imagines an end to capitalism; Stan does not. Queue much-misattributed quote about how presently it is easier to imagine the end of etc etc...

But there is one [last?] nicety I am still puzzling over, which is something like Stan's account of causality. He writes:

...the whole state of the world today is predicated on a series of strategies designed to make a classic, 19th century style Marxist revolt impossible...

I think this is accurate enough (and well-remarked from various perspectives including the Marxian, as Jasper points out). I'm not sure that means that you stop trying, any more than an African-American mother would stop trying to get her kid off death row in Texas despite the predications of the state.

But the logical matter I keep stumbling over is this: isn't the "whole state of the world today...predicated on a series of strategies designed to make...impossible" the exact changes to capitalism that Stan proposes? Indeed, isn't the overdetermined structure of capitalism pointed specifically away from this even distribution, and this supplement that would erode the basic differentials capital requires to persist? Why do Jasper's changes find themselves beyond any possibility while Stan's changes appear as matters of voluntarism which wouldn't meet systemic limits? Why aren't they subject to the same massive counterforce of the state-capital collaboration?

I'm bringing a little videocam to Orono. If anyone gets shanked in the showers, I'm putting it on YouTube tout de suite. Neoliberal muscle cars unite!

Boyd Nielson said...

Dear Jasper and Stan (et al.),

This conversation is interesting insofar as it clarifies disagreements about the effects of appropriative writing. Stan thinks that, as he says on his blog, “Writing by copying replaces production with distribution, because appropriative writing creates by re-distributing existing products.” Jasper says no it doesn’t. To the extent that the disagreement is primarily about that point, I think Jasper is right.

But to the extent that this conversation is about calling Stan a closeted neoliberal or about showing the way he is complicit in the system (or, conversely, about the charge that Jasper is being careerist) I think the conversation is less interesting. One could just as well attack Derrida or Jameson, as individuals, for being complicit in and playing the game of late capitalism. Not much difference has been made, after all, by their interventions; we’re as eager to rush off the cliff in 2008 as we were in 1968. It is indeed unfortunate in my view that the anger (and it is a legitimate anger) Jasper feels at “this idea that the internet is a democratic space, that the technology is democratizing, anti-hierarchical, equalizing” gets directed primarily at Stan. Stan correctly challenges Jasper about that just as he correctly points out a few of Jasper’s (and Jane’s) idealisms. And I don’t think it is evidence of lack of commitment to resisting economic exploitation for me to say that attacking neoliberalism with the claim that the Soviet Union just wasn’t radical enough merely substitutes one idealism for another. If trafficking in idealisms is precisely what we’re trying to avoid here it doesn’t seem likely that we can also avoid the critiques of Marxism that have come not just from the experiences of the Soviet Union or Central America in the 80s but also from the work of, say, Barthes, Derrida or Foucault or even from the misguided but nonetheless formidable Chicago School of economics. (Or what have you.) There are real points to be made here and real differences to point out. But I don’t see how the argument is pushed forward by implicitly suggesting that Stan’s failure is that he can’t see that he’s living a gorgeous bourgeois lie. We’re all living bourgeois lies and then some, but the perspective required to adequately critique the exploitation of labor isn’t likely to be achieved through rehearsing the ontological distinction between use-value and exchange-value any more than it’s achieved through giving out copies of the Communist Manifesto in towns across America.

Which should make us just as hateful to ourselves as Jasper wants us to be. Where Jasper’s essay gains real traction is in his attention to the homologies between some of the claims about particular (conceptualist and—sometimes—Flarfist) poetic practices and the commitments of neoliberalism; Jasper’s critique of distribution and of the assumptions behind the so-called 100 percent “saturated marketplace,” for instance, are successful. Yet that’s also precisely the point at which the essay overreaches, and I think Stan was accurate to challenge Jasper’s less-than-subtle reading of appropriated text. Stan defends the essay as “at least 95% copied, and many of the idealisms expressed are no more than the idealisms that are ‘in the air’ at this moment. Many of the sentences are not things [he would] agree with; the piece is intended to provoke thought.”

What of it? At the same time that Stan’s defense deflects Jasper’s point it also more perfectly exemplifies the neoliberal desire for unconditioned freedom than any na├»ve endorsement of those idealisms ever could. After all, under what circumstances (and they no doubt exist) are plagiarism and reiteration identical with oppositional critique? The ease with which we’re moved from the claim that the idealisms are “at least 95% copied” to the claim that “[m]any of the sentences are not things I agree with” recapitulates the more general ease with which neoliberalism can oscillate between resistance to political and social coercion and investment in free market competition. And even as the moment in which capitalism becomes eminently coercive to those who can’t help but be caught up in its system of exploitative labor conditions is elided in the thought of, say, Milton Friedman, so the moment in which “intended to provoke thought” becomes “intended to provoke a range of thought” is elided in Stan’s formulation. For if the author can’t be blamed for “at least 95%” of the idealisms, neither, surely, can readers be blamed for at least 95% of the ideology. At what particular instant, then, does resistance to this momentum in the “provoke[d] thought” become legible?

Which is all just to say again that the disagreements here matter to me too. And I appreciate that Stan and Jasper have taken the time to clarify these differences for themselves and for us. Let no shanking come of it.


Stan Apps said...

The fact that you two seem to believe you're morally superior to me because you like to fantasize about overthrowing the government is pretty damn funny. I like to fantasize about overthrowing the government too, but I've never been silly enough to take such fantasies seriously, or think they made me wittier or a more stand-up fella.

The idea that your refutation of my theories is going to bring about some radical possibility for change that my theories would have squelched. . . that's just silly. Radical possibilities come from new ideas, not tired rehashes of played-out academic Marxism. I'm sorry if any position slightly different from your own seems radically counter-revolutionary; it must be lonely. On the bright side, I'm sure your position would seem radically counter-revolutionary to any serious violent Marxist, since your position is that you can pave the way to overthrowing the government by writing acidic rebuttals of the introductions of small press magazines. Furthermore, Jane's conflation of production-consumption-distribution into one inseparable totality sounded a hell of a lot like bourgeois idealism--what is that, Marx ala Bishop Berkeley? "Everything's connected, all is one"--I can't decide if this position is best described as post-analytical or as dialectical immaterialism.

superbunker said...

"In the end, it doesn't matter whether I'm being a careerist."

That's actually my favorite quote by Marx. God bless you, noble Internet warrior!

zota said...

"the rightness of my reading"

Boyd Nielson said...

I should have said above that however much I disagree with Stan’s claim about the effects of appropriative writing (and that may be the extent of our disagreement) I don’t see how this means there is any discernable distance between Stan’s and Jasper’s positions against inequity and exploitation. Stan is right that this argument has nothing to do with (or, at least, shouldn’t have anything to do with) deciding who can imagine the end of capitalism and who can’t.

Anonymous said...

"It's almost needless to say, but whether you think I'm right or Stan's right (if either of us are) will mean, if you care, that the current historical moment demands a very particular kind of response."

Not poetry, obviously.

Stan Apps said...

Thanks for your friendly intervention Boyd. It actually really helped me to understand Jasper's point. In a nutshell, Jasper is saying that the internet, and my text, are escapist, and that the serious thing to think about is revolutionary Marxism. To which I reply by saying that his interest in revolutionary Marxism is just as escapist.

All of this makes for a sad little circle of finger-pointing.

My friend Ara Shirinyan told me a story once. There was a coffee shop he went to, and next to the coffee shop there would often be the same crowd of middle-aged and old men. They were very friendly, and most of them seemed sort of sad. Ara developed the idea that these men were gathering for mutual support, especially when he saw them hugging and encouraging each other. He naturally assumed it to be an AA meeting. Then he found out that it was a meeting of the Communist Party.

I have nothing against those who chose communism as their particular source of moral comfort, and indeed it seems like a better choice than Seventh Day Adventism or Scientology. To the extent that it imagines a fiery future of global violent retribution, it seems just as scary and satisfying as the good old Book of Revelation.

The idea that the world can only change with fire and retribution is inaccurate. The world has changed plenty since 1848; there are a lot of dynamic forces bringing about those changes. "[The] massive counter-force of the state-capital collaboration" which Jane refers to is mostly adaptive; developments occur and states and capital funds try to find a work-around that keeps them on top. It doesn't necessarily work; look at how the US has been hemoragging power (financial leverage) in the last 7 years. The system is incompetently managed, and the best place to confront it is where its incompetence to adapt to change is most visible. A military confrontation to the system (violent revolution) is a poor choice because the system's most advanced competency is in the area of violence.

As for whether a virtual commons is an escapist notion, I think it is to some extent, but I also think that fantasy (or, as Jane would call it, "hope") can be a productive force, if it's channeled productively. Whether a fantasy can or can't be contained within a neoliberal framework is a moot point--they are contained within in that framework now, yours and mine both, and maybe later they won't.

lubber said...

a discussion of Marxism in the context of self-righteous poetry critique on a Google-owned blog server:

zota said...

You know what's going to be awesome about the coming Revolution? When I'm lined up against the wall with the rest of the petit bourgeois scum facing a firing squad of True Marxist Poets, I will finally come to regret my sarcastic dismissal of their facile abstractions and self-congratulatory circle jerkery. As I stand there facing those steely eyed Poets (no blindfold, thank you), I shall cry out my penitence:

"I apologize for thinking you were using linguistic abstractions to debate other abstractions! I thought you were just juggling 19th century libraries as cheap pseudo-academic sideshow! Oh boy, you sure showed me! In my FACE!"

You may then fire at will. It is only what I deserve.

But as you hoist my corpse onto the Poet's Meatpile, I ask that you read aloud this humble lyric as my eulogy.

A Rather Elementary Deduction

Until That Bless'd Day...

jane said...

A few notes, as I struggle to keep up. And also a cheerful welcome to the trolls! Glad to see Marxism still gives you the old panic reaction and a hysterical need to prevent the conversation. Now there's an occasion for hope, indeed.

* I'm pretty sure that the decline in US power (which more likely dates to around 1973 and the long economic downturn) is not a sign of the inability of the state/capital alliance to run a booming shop, any more than the shift from the British to the US empire signaled a crisis for capitalism as such. Though I agree that when the interstate system shifts its centers of power, more things than usual are up for grabs.

* I keep reviewing these entries and comment fields for the moment when "violent revolution," or violence in general, or overthrow or retribution, is proposed. It doesn't come from Jasper or from me. Nor does a Marxian account of economics, hegemony or domination necessarily imply it. Nor do metaphors like "destruction of the spine of capitalism" stand as some secret code for it "violent revolution." But Stan mentions it over and over — as if it were a given; as if it were a topic someone had proposed; as if it had been threatened; as if it was the basis of the distinction drawn between his position and others. That just isn't in the text. The imagination of violence here is pretty unidrectional.

* I didn't get from Jasper's essay and his points since then that his doubts about the political possibilities of the internet concern whether it's "escapist." I'm sure my summary would be crude, but I took his main concern to be that the affective experience of the internet as a medium — or even a method — allowing for non- or post-capitalist relations did not match up so well with empirical accounts of the internet's tendential role, or with its necessary relation to the material conditions of production...and that those things couldn't be changed through the internet itself. I apologize if that slights the argument.

PS: the idea that this demand is an idealism, as opposed to believing that internet activity might bring about material changes, makes me want to reach for the dictionary. Moreover, Stan's claim that the "conflation of production-consumption-distribution into one inseparable totality sounded a hell of a lot like bourgeois idealism" just tells me he hasn't read the stuff he's speaking of, since said "conflation" is a commonplace of Marxian economic analysis; one classic example is here, in a chapter called, wouldn't ya know it, "THE GENERAL RELATION OF PRODUCTION TO DISTRIBUTION, EXCHANGE, CONSUMPTION."

* Lastly, since this debate (sweaty trolls aside) seems to me to be exactly about what political goals might be, about possibility and necessity, and about strategy...that looking for points of strategic alliance in a complex landscape (rather then reducing the discussion down to a progressives/radicals distinction, or a we'd-all-like-change indistinction) is very much to be desired.

zota said...

That just isn't in the text.

Like the points which were not "in" the text of which Jasper is discussing, violent overthrow of the ruling elite is an ideological positions that is suspended, as it were, within the text here. The statement that our historical moment demands a very particular kind of response which is distinct makes my deduction a rather elementary one, I think.

a hysterical need to prevent the conversation

I'm grateful that you imagine panic and disruption in the responses here. In solidarity with section 7.2 of Action, Yes, I feel a de-sterilization of language is a necessary predicate to re-visioning the staid political landscape occupied by the current professional linguistic class. What you might consider vandalism or trolling, some may consider an improvement on the nearest, and most painfully offensive, billboard. Such vandalism is indeed more impressive offline, where there a clear material value is attached to the language. But if we are to be true to this idea in our effort to imagine a better future, should we not attack the menace wherever language pools and stagnates?

sweaty trolls aside

[aside] I'm sweat. Wet. Got it goin' like a turubo 'vette.

Anonymous said...

Could you describe a scenario in which the "revolutionary seizure of the means of production" would be entirely non-violent?

If you expect violence (revolutionary and/or counter-revolutionary), who do you think would bear the brunt of it?

If you expect violence, and there is a reasonable expectation that it will fall largely upon workers and the underclass, could you explain why you don't find the arguments against this violence "compelling" ?

Anonymous said...

comments closed now?

Jasper Bernes said...

Dear TINA and trolls,

Yes, I do think there are ways to seize the means of production w/o violence, or w/o much violence. I don't think there's any getting away from force, though. Even the gradualism that Stan seems to sometimes rather wanly propose has never come about without pressure from the bottom. Non-violent types like King and Gandhi met violence from the state. But I suppose they are scary terrorists, too, huh? You know, there's been quite a bit of work done in this direction, looking at different ways of creating a transition from capitalism, and if I thought you were even slightly sincere in your curiosity, I'd talk about some of it.

Why don't I find Stan's critique of violence compelling? Well, the answer that's often given in cases like this, and it's a good one, is that capitalism is already profoundly violent. I won't go through the list of atrocities here, but the paper gives some evidence of this, as does "The Poverty of Internet Life." There's no predetermined rubric here; I think people act based upon the options available to them, and because I'm not a technocratic avant-gardist, I'm not really in the business of telling people what to do. All I know is that people often choose, rightly or wrongly, to bear the violence of the state because their lives are already chock-full of violent repression, exploitation, etc.

But Jane is right. There was no advocacy of violence here, I have no secret taste for it, and the red-baiting elision of Marxism and violent retribution is just lazy. There are lots of theories of revolution, many of which have never been put into practice, just as there are lots of types of gradualism. Stan's version of the latter seems, like I said, fairly cosmetic, when it's not patently self-contradictory. And, in any case, all of this assumes that capitalism can continue as it has for another century. I have my doubts about that. But, you know, we'll see. Until then,

Wishing you and TINA the very best,


zota said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stan Apps said...

Your last comment seems disingenuous Jane, but OK, I'll bite: what were you intending to imply by "the destruction of the spine" of capitalism? I.e. what is the spine and what do you think you or somebody ought to or could do to destroy it? It's a pressing question, since 1) your primary critique of my thinking is that it doesn't aim to destroy the spine of capitalism, and 2) you seem to think that destroying the spine of capitalism, or wanting to, is the prerequisite for any meaningful social change.

Jasper, considering how many ways you've found to call me a simpleton, your constant whining about ad hominem attacks is absurd.