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Monday, August 31
by Debashish on August 31, 2009 09:30PM (PDT)
The Critical Art Ensemble is a collective of five artists of various specializations dedicated to exploring the intersections between art, technology, radical politics and critical theory.
Here we carry part of one of their Tactical Projects on "The Therapeutic State." more »
Friday, July 3
Empire@Play: Virtual Games and Global Capitalism by Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig de Peuter (C Theory)
by Rich on July 3, 2009 01:19PM (PDT)
We use "Empire" in the sense proposed by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri to designate a post-Cold War planetary capitalism with "no outside,"  but we modulate their account to take greater consideration of the internal frictions wracking this order since the millennium. By Empire, we mean the global capitalist ascendancy of the early twenty-first century, a system administered and policed by a consortium of competitively collaborative states, among whom the US still clings, by virtue of its military might, to an increasingly fragile preeminence. This is a regime of biopower based on corporate exploitation of myriad types of labour, paid and unpaid, for the continuous enrichment of a planetary plutocracy. Empire is an order of extraordinary scope and depth. Yet it also is precarious, flush with power and wealth, yet close to chaos as it confronts a set of interlocking economic, ecological, energy, and epidemiological crises. Its governance is threatened by tensions between a declining US and a rising China which could either result in some super-capitalist accommodation, consolidating Empire, or split it into warring Eastern and Western blocs. Its massive inequalities catalyze resistances from below, some, reactionary and regressive, others, like the global justice and ecological movement, protagonists of a better alternative.
What makes virtual games' technocultural form exemplary of Empire is their identity with its key means of production, communication and destruction--the digital network. More than any previous media other than the book, virtual play is a direct offshoot of its society's crucial technology of power. Sprung from the military-industrial matrix that generated the computer and Internet, games are today a test ground for digital innovations and machinic subjectivities: online play worlds incubate artificial intelligences; consoles plug to grid computing systems; games are media of choice for experiments in neurobiological stimulation and brain driven telekinesis. And, once suspect as delinquent time waster, virtual play is increasingly understood by state and corporate managers as training populations for networked work, war and governability.
We examine the relation between games and Empire in terms of the virtual and the actual, conjugating this couplet with intentionally fuzzy logic in two distinct yet overlapping ways. The virtual is the digital, the on-screen world, as opposed to existence "IRL". But "virtual" also denotes potentiality; the manifold directions in which a given, actual, situation might develop.  The technological and ontological virtual are distinct and should never be conflated.  But they are related, through the practice of simulation. Computers create potential universes. They model, dynamically, what might be. Such simulation is vital to a power system engaged in the high-risk military, financial and corporate calculus required for globalized control. It is from such simulation that virtual games emerged, broke loose into ludic freedom--only to now be reintegrated into the assemblages of world capital, as a means of inducing the "flexible personality"  demanded by digital work, war and markets. Yet this ludic apprenticeship can generate capacities in excess of Empire's requirements. Just as the eighteenth-century novel was a textual apparatus generating the bourgeois character required by mercantile colonialism (but also capable of criticizing it), and twentieth-century cinema and television were integral to industrial consumerism (yet screened some of its darkest depictions), so, we suggest, virtual games are the exemplary media producing subjects for twenty-first century global hyper-capitalism but also, perhaps, of exodus from it. more »
Saturday, April 25
by koantum on April 25, 2009 09:44PM (PDT)
By Carolyn Baker
Something more fundamental — yes, cellular — occurs in my anatomy when I hear that the last two years of economic agony was merely a blip on the radar screen of the capitalist business cycle — yet another momentary whack from Adam Smith's "invisible hand".
I cringe when I hear the words "back to normal" because of what that means to me. "Normal" means hordes of Walmart shoppers stuffing cars and SUV's full of plastics from China and driving off to their suburban homes to devour or display them until the current fix wears off and their shallow, meaningless lifestyles demand yet another "mall injection". Normal means homeowners wearing several tons of house on their backs as they travel by car to jobs they despise to maintain mortgage, taxes, insurance, and upkeep. Normal means total oblivion to the polar bear whose heart exploded during the last half-mile of his frantic swim in search of any tiny chunk of ice on which he could rest in order to regain his strength and continue his quest for food. Normal means infinite patches of sickened brown trees devastated by the mountain pine beetle in an otherwise green Colorado forest. Normal means NASCAR and another nuclear power plant coming online and oceanic dead zones the size of countries. Did you hear? We're going back to normal — to parents working 80 hours a week while their kids become junkies, bulimic, or pregnant. Normal means slamming down more McDonalds Happy Meals chased with Red Bull and Prozac. Normal means that I have nothing to do with nature, and it has nothing to do with me, and furthermore, if I have anything to do with it, I'll do with it whatever the hell I like. Normal means that my reason for being is to consume, stuff my face, watch reality TV, obsess over celebrity gossip, chatter around the water cooler about pirates and tea parties, and grab a couple of hours of Ambien-induced sleep at the end of the day if I'm lucky. more »
Wednesday, April 22
Dialectical Nature: Reflections in Honor of the Twentieth Anniversary of Levins and Lewontin’s The Dialectical Biologist by Brett Clark and Richard York (Monthly Review)
by Rich on April 22, 2009 10:56PM (PDT)
Reference: 100 Years of Sri Aurobindo on Evolution
Growing out of the work of these early critical intellectuals, a more developed, non-teleological science grounded in materialist dialectics came to the fore in the 1960s and 1970s with the work of Marxist-influenced scientists—particularly Richard Lewontin, Richard Levins, and Stephen Jay Gould at Harvard, then the leading center of evolutionary biology. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of Levins and Lewontin’s book, The Dialectical Biologist, one of the foremost examples of a genuinely dialectical materialist approach to history and science. Levins and Lewontin discuss a wide range of subjects including evolution, scientific analysis, science as a social product, and the products of science. Their discussions of these issues present a challenge to received thought with its naturalistic explanation of social conditions. Levins and Lewontin describe how mainstream science typically assumes evolution to be a progressive process leading to a state of equilibrium. Within this dominant view, an ideology of biological determinism is used to justify inequalities, arguing that differences in abilities among humans are innate and that these innate differences are biologically inherited. Additionally, Lewontin notes, it is too often assumed that it is human nature to confer more rewards and status to those with “better” abilities and the “right kinds of genes” (Biology as Ideology, 10–23). Such mechanistic, reductionist science is perfectly suited to the ruling-class ideology. At the genetic level life is reduced to independent, individual actors (so-called “selfish genes”), which carry out a Hobbesian struggle of all against all, thereby inscribing most natural and social characteristics within DNA. Likewise at the species level, constraints are seen as being placed on species that must either adapt to their environments or perish. A rigid natural order is presumed to exist in this doubly ahistorical universe that narrowly delimits the roles played by living things, including human beings, in their own evolution, and in the evolution of their natural environments.
In The Dialectical Biologist, Levins and Lewontin reject one-sided notions of mechanical reductionism and superorganic holism (common in ecology) and the hierarchical conceptions of life and the universe that they both generate. In presenting their approach, they critique both idealism and reductionism within the natural sciences. Instead Levins and Lewontin argue for a dialectical and materialist approach that understands that the world “is constantly in motion. Constants become variables, causes become effects, and systems develop, destroying the conditions that gave rise to them” (279). The universe is one of change due to existing and evolving contradictions, which force transformation in the conditions of the world. “Things change because of the actions of opposing forces on them, and things are the way they are because of the temporary balance of opposing forces” (280).
A dialectical relationship exists between a subject, such as an organism, or even human society, and the environment. They exist as one (in tension), given that an organism is part of nature. The former is dependent upon the latter for its existence, and both realms are transformed throughout their relationship, but “do not completely determine each other” (136). Darwin downplayed (but did not deny) the importance of the constraints placed on evolutionary change due to the structured nature of the ontogeny (individual development) of organisms, which potentially restricts the types of changes organisms can undergo in their phylogeny (evolutionary history). He elevated the conditions of existence—external environmental forces—to primacy in explaining evolution, so as to establish natural selection, not the final ends of natural theology, as the dominant force behind the transformation of species. Yet in so doing, he established a view of natural history as predominantly one-sided—i.e., the environment was seen as largely determining the evolutionary process, and not as equally the consequence of the evolution of life. Darwin recognized that variation is an internal process, in which causes external to organisms did not determine how things turned out. However, he generally assumed that any pattern to variation was of subsidiary importance for evolution. In order to grapple fully with the evolution of life and the transformations of the world, Levins and Lewontin stress, it is necessary to consider the complex interactions of both the internal and external dimensions of life. > more »
Sunday, April 19
by Rich on April 19, 2009 02:04PM (PDT)
Reference: 100 Years of Sri Aurobindo on Evolution
The scientific tradition of the "West," of Europe and North America, has had its greatest success when it has dealt with what we have come to think of as the central questions of scientific inquiry: "What is this made of?" and "How does this work?" Over the centuries, we have developed more and more sophisticated ways of answering these questions. We can cut things open, slice them thin, stain them, and answer what they are made of. We have made great achievements in these relatively simple areas, but have had dramatic failures in attempts to deal with more complex systems. We see this especially when we ask questions about health. When we look at the changing patterns of health over the last century or so, we have both cause for celebration and for dismay. Human life expectancy has increased by perhaps thirty years since the beginning of the twentieth century and the incidence of some of the classical deadly diseases has declined and almost disappeared. Smallpox presumably has been eradicated; leprosy is very rare; and polio has nearly vanished from most regions of the world. Scientific technologies have advanced to the point where we can give very sophisticated diagnoses, distinguishing between kinds of germs that are very similar to each other.
But the growing gap between rich and poor make many technical advances irrelevant to most of the world's people. Public health authorities were caught by surprise by the emergence of new diseases and the reappearance of diseases believed to be eradicated. In the 1970s, it was common to hear that infectious disease as an area of research was dying. In principle, infection had been licked; the health problems of the future would be degenerative diseases, problems of aging and chronic diseases. We now know this was a monumental error. The public health establishment was caught short by the return of malaria, cholera, tuberculosis, dengue, and other classical diseases. But it was also surprised by the appearance of apparently new infectious diseases: the most threatening of which is AIDS, but also Legionnaire's disease, Ebola virus, toxic shock syndrome, multiple drug resistant tuberculosi, arid many others. Not only was infectious disease not on the way out, but old diseases have come back with increased virulence and totally new ones have emerged.
How did this happen; why was public health caught by surprise? Why did the health professions assume that infectious disease would disappear and whey were they so wrong? In fact, infectious disease had been declining dramatically in Europe and North America for the last 150 years... more »
Wednesday, March 11
by Debashish on March 11, 2009 07:03PM (PDT)
Some relections on the continuing issue of techno-capitalism and post-human futures by Debashish Banerji. This is a first fragment highlighting Moishe Postone's commentaries on the late writings of Marx. more »
Thursday, December 11
by koantum on December 11, 2008 07:08PM (PST)
...Now I'm not stupid enough to forget that capitalism is also a system that has allowed a substantial though relatively small group of human beings to amass titanic wealth and, so to speak, to capitalize on that wealth by exercising transformative power over the whole planet and everyone on it. If they were all wise and benevolent, that might be a satisfactory arrangement; they aren't, and it isn't. So any discussion of how human history (let alone human well-being) might continue after the demise of capitalism must get a good fix on the roots of greed and why it has persisted despite the abundant evidence of its perversity.
...To those who doubt that humans en masse are capable of such spontaneous and sustained harmlessness, I reply that the shift has already begun. The great tide may have ebbed that bathed the 60s/70s in the glow that boomers still recall, but the energy behind it is perennial and flows readily without an assist from Birkenstocks or granola. more »
Sunday, December 7
by koantum on December 7, 2008 05:39AM (PST)
Money is meant to circulate. What should remain constant is the progressive movement of an increase in the earth’s production – an ever-expanding progressive movement to increase the earth’s production and improve existence on earth. It is the material improvement of terrestrial life and the growth of the earth’s production that must go on expanding, enlarging, and not this silly paper or this inert metal that is amassed and lifeless..... more »
Sunday, November 23
by Rich on November 23, 2008 10:16AM (PST)
In other articles, I have argued that in her book: The Shock Doctrine (the rise of disaster capitalism) Naomi Klein has located the current economic ideology that Sri Aurobindo, more than ninety years ago in a work now known as "The Human Cycle", called economic barbarism. Interestingly, if one takes George Soros seriously (see comment) Sri Aurobindo was also prescient about the collapse of the Titan he speaks to in concluding the chapter Civilization and Barbarism
In these interviews Naomi runs the voodoo down on the rescue of the Titan and the possible criminal mismanagement of the largest economic bailout in history:
Click on "more" to see part 2 and 3...
Wednesday, October 22
by Rich on October 22, 2008 05:20AM (PDT)
If anything Sri Aurobindo's vision is its own genre of Utopian vision. In a very real a sense it is the “completion of Utopian visions” (the divinization of Earth) Anyone in fact living in a community dedicated to Sri Aurobindo's vision lives in an Utopian community, which today might be called an intentional community. Fredric Jameson's Archaeologies of the Future, is in an omni-directional interrogation of history, class, structure, wish, will, imagination, transcendence, and post-humanity of Utopias
Jameson begins his study in full recognition of the spiritual Utopian urge. He quotes here from the evolutionary Science Fiction of Olaf Stapleton :
“It must not be supposed that this strange mental community blotted out the personalities of the individual explorers. Human speech has no accurate terms to describe our particular relationship . It would be as untrue to say that we had lost our individuality , or were dissolved in a communal individuality as to say that we were all the while distinct individuals . Through the pronoun “I” now applied to us all collectively, the pronoun “we” also applied to us."
I one respect namely unity of consciousness we were a single experiencing individual , yet at the same time in a very important and delightful manner distinct from one another. Through there was only a single communal “I” there was also, so to speak, a manifold and variegated “us” an observed company of very diverse personalities , each of whom expressed creatively his own utpian contribution to the whole enterprise of cosmical exploration, while all were bound together in a tissue of subtle personal relationships.”
Along with Lyotard, Jameson is one of the two beacons of post-modern cultural history. Although Jameson is perfectly cognizant of the failures of Utopian vision and the most recent anti-Utoipianism that runs through post-modernism, he probes the issue further to uncover what he calls an anti-anti Utopianism.
In this work rather than just applying post-structuralist scholarship as a solvent for exposing the ideologemes of Utopian fantasies, or simply deconstructing the “doxa” couched within the discursive formations of social, economic, and psychic, Utopian dimensions, his aim is also to reconstruct - and like Zizek whose wish it is to redeem the history of failed totalizing Utopian visions - he seems to wish to recover a vision of a new imaginative totality, while suggesting ways to remain mindful of the reification involved in collapsing the Utopian vision into any one of its dimensions
Utopian communities and Ashrams that aspire to something exceeding their humanity would do well to heed Jameson's warning below. If the intentional community one resides in fails to be mindful of how its multi-dimensional values and vision can collapse into class, cultural, ethnic, or personal battles its evolution will not end in the Superman, but rather as Nietzsche phrase it the contemptible Last Man.
" In addition we have been plagued by the perpetual reversion of difference and otherness into the same, and the discovery that our most energetic imaginative leaps into radical alternatives were little more than the projections of our own social moment and historical or subjective situation: the post-human thereby seeming more distant and impossible than ever"
The review of a portion of Jameson book is insightful even though its author Peter Fitting self-revealingly discloses he does not completely have his hands around it. (rc) more »
Tuesday, October 7
by Debashish on October 7, 2008 07:04PM (PDT)
This is a fragment constituting a continuation of Debashish Banerji's reflections on Techno-Capitalism as the epistemic regime of modernity and posible post-human futures at the eschatological cusp of history. Here the alignment of Marx and Hegel with the Enlightenment vision/teleology is contemplated and questions asked regarding a comparative alignment with the Neo-Vedantic teleology (if it can be called that) of Sri Aurobindo. more »
Thursday, May 22
by Rich on May 22, 2008 12:48PM (PDT)
Nigerian child waits for food (AP photo)
This is not simply the erosion of national food self-sufficiency or food security but what Africanist Deborah Bryceson of Oxford calls "de-peasantization"--the phasing out of a mode of production to make the countryside a more congenial site for intensive capital accumulation. This transformation is a traumatic one for hundreds of millions of people, since peasant production is not simply an economic activity. It is an ancient way of life, a culture, which is one reason displaced or marginalized peasants in India have taken to committing suicide. In the state of Andhra Pradesh, farmer suicides rose from 233 in 1998 to 2,600 in 2002; in Maharashtra, suicides more than tripled, from 1,083 in 1995 to 3,926 in 2005. One estimate is that some 150,000 Indian farmers have taken their lives. Collapse of prices from trade liberalization and loss of control over seeds to biotech firms is part of a comprehensive problem, says global justice activist Vandana Shiva: "Under globalization, the farmer is losing her/his social, cultural, economic identity as a producer. A farmer is now a 'consumer' of costly seeds and costly chemicals sold by powerful global corporations through powerful landlords and money lenders locally...." more »
Friday, May 2
by Ron on May 2, 2008 02:00AM (PDT)
After years of piling up debt and neglecting to save, Americans are reining in their free-spending ways -- which could signal a long road ahead... -- "We're at a watershed moment," said Jay P. Feldman, an economist with Credit Suisse in New York. "The era of consumers living beyond their incomes is at an end."
Most economists expect the gross domestic product for the first three months of the year to show that consumption inched upward a few tenths of a point, enough to keep the economy above the zero mark -- though barely. That pales next to the 2.5% and 3% leaps of recent years, and much of the rise will be the result of Americans' paying more, especially for food and gas, not buying more.
"This is going to usher in a period when consumption is going to be as weak as we've seen it in two decades," predicted Edward F. McKelvey, senior economist with Goldman, Sachs & Co. in New York. ... more »
Wednesday, April 23
by Ron on April 23, 2008 02:00AM (PDT)
...In light of the present [economic] crisis..., however, two eco-millenarian novels — an old one called “Ecotopia,” by Ernest Callenbach, and a new one, WORLD MADE BY HAND (Atlantic Monthly, $24), by James Howard Kunstler — are worth a look...
Literary utopias tend to emerge when an appropriate niche opens up. The niche that suited “Ecotopia” in the early 1970s and the one that now accommodates “World Made by Hand” have certain similarities. Shortages and unrest in the Middle East foreshadow the end of oil. A brewing recession gives rise to doubts about our economic fundamentals. An unpopular president wages an unpopular war. And across the country, a growing eco-consciousness raises hope that a different system might replace classic, marauding American economic progress. ... more »
Tuesday, April 22
by Ron on April 22, 2008 11:19AM (PDT)
...In his brief but brilliant book, “The Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash,” [Charles R.] Morris describes how we got into the mess we are in, with bankers making loans that they expected to sell to investors through ever more complex securities...
One of the most important aspects of the financial architecture that is now collapsing was the way it allowed investors to believe they could make perfectly safe investments when they financed very risky loans. Or, as Morris puts it, “Highly rated bonds magically materialize out of a witches’ soup of very smoky stuff.” He adds, “Very big, very complex, very opaque structures built on extremely rickety foundations are a recipe for collapse.”
The collapse is now under way. In recent years Wall Street profits were built on leverage and on taking risks that were obscure both to regulators and even to the top managements of the banks themselves. Every three months now, we see banks disclosing huge losses from risks that they had never admitted they were taking.
No one — not investors, not managers, not regulators — is sure when this process will end. And that uncertainty has created a credit freeze, with lenders reluctant to lend both because they do not know whom they can trust and because they fear they may need the money to cover losses that are yet to materialize. As the recession gathers steam, there are likely to be more corporate failures than there need to be, because credit has gone from virtually free to all but unavailable. ... more »
A Review of Dipesh Chakrabarty's "Provincializing Europe" by Amit Chaudhuri (London Review of Books) Debashish
AntiMatters vol 3 no 4 is out koantum
Classicism, post-classicism and Ranjabati Sircar’s work: re-defining the terms of Indian contemporary dance discourses by Alessandra Lopez y Royo Debashish
LACMA 111909 - Debashish Banerji Debashish
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Within the limits of capitalism, economizing means taking care - Bernard Stiegler
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Within the limits of capitalism, economizing means taking care - Bernard Stiegler