Bernard Stiegler on disruption & stupidity in education & politics – podcast

Bernard Stiegler being interviewed

Via Museu d’Art Conptemporani de Barcelona.

On the Ràdio Web Macba website there is a podcast interview with philosopher Bernard Stiegler as part of a series to ‘Reimagine Europe’. It covers many of the major themes that have preoccupied Stiegler for the last ten years (if not longer). You can download the pod as an mp3 for free. Please find the blurb below and a link.

In his books and lectures, Stiegler presents a broad philosophical approach in which technology becomes the starting point for thinking about living together and individual fulfilment. All technology has the power to increase entropy in the world, and also to reduce it: it is potentially a poison or cure, depending on our ability to distil beneficial, non-toxic effects through its use. Based on this premise, Stiegler proposes a new model of knowledge and a large-scale contributive economy to coordinate an alliance between social agents such as academia, politics, business, and banks. The goal, he says, is to create a collective intelligence capable of reversing the planet’s self-destructive course, and to develop a plan – within an urgent ten-year time-frame – with solutions to the challenges of the Anthropocene, robotics, and the increasing quantification of life.

In this podcast Bernard Stiegler talks about education and smartphones, translations and linguists, about economic war, climate change, and political stupidity. We also chat about pharmacology and organology, about the erosion of biodiversity, the vital importance of error, and the Neganthropocene as a desirable goal to work towards, ready to be constructed.

00:00 Contributory economy: work vs proletarianization
05:21 Our main organs are outside of our body
07:45 Reading and writing compose the republic
12:49 Refounding Knowledge 
15:03 Digital pharmakon 
18:28 Contributory research. Neganthropy, biodiversity and diversification
24:02 The need of an economic peace
27:24 The limits of micropolitics
29:32 Macroeconomics and Neganthropic bifurcation
36:55 Libido is fidelity
42:33 A pharmacological critique of acceleration
46:35 Degrowth is the wrong question

Christian Fuchs on the Marx-Engels Complete Works debacle

Christian Fuchs has written a compelling argument that looks beyond the tit-for-tat political economic argument over the object of the Complete Works book, acknowledging the original labour of the authors as the creation of public good, and positing a contributive economic alternative – new translations.

I recommend reading the whole thing, but the final paragraphs are great:

Marx and Engels’ knowledge work is the primary work objectified in MECW and all other translations and editions. It is therefore ridiculous to stage struggles about copyrights, access and who is allowed to monetarily benefit from the sale of Marx and Engels’ dead work that has created works that are very alive up until today and into the future. Limiting access or making it more difficult makes these living works partly dead. The most important task is to make good translations as easily and as widely available to as many people as possible in order to enable them to read Marx and Engels’ analyses of capitalism that have crucial political relevance. The current debate has highlighted that there is a political economy of Marx and Engels’ writings that concerns questions of authorship, work and ownership. It has rather overlooked that there is also a cultural political economy involved that must aim at finding ways, means, media, resources and the work necessary to globally disseminate Marx and Engels’ writings. We should not deflect attention away from the importance of having good translations readily available in easy and accessible form for as many people as possible. The WWW can make an important contribution to this purpose.

The task should therefore be that we create a new and improved English online edition of Marx and Engels’ works, starting with Capital Volume 1, by making use of wiki-based collaborative translation work. We shouldn’t pay L&W, but gather work force and resources to improve the availability and quality of Marx and Engels’ works.

Marxist translators of the world unite!

Some interesting blog posts on capitalism & Marxism by Ken Wark

I stumbled across the Public Seminarcommons‘ blog today, after seeing syndicated versions of Mackenzie Wark’s ‘thanaticism‘ essay (linked, for example, by Stuart Elden) and was interested to see further pieces concerning (shifting) contemporary understandings of capitalism and Marxism.

In particular, I enjoyed reading two pieces:

In “Is this still capitalism?” Wark looks at the common assumptions upon which understandings of the definition of ‘capitalism’ are based and thinks through how these might be challenged or at least re-worked through contemporary global business practices. In particular, Wark discusses how we may need to rethink understandings of capitalism as the dominance of one class over others through ownership of the means of production because, in many, cases the ‘dominant class’ do not own the means of production but, rather, they own the intellectual property, like Apple (for whom others, like Foxxcon, actually make their products), or the distribution chain, like Walmart and perhaps Google:

Perhaps what is going on is a kind of power that has less to do with owning the means of production thereby controlling the value cycle, as in capitalism. Perhaps it is more about owning the means of mediation, thereby controlling the means of production and hence the value cycle. The actual production can be outsourced, and manufacturing firms will have to compete for the privilege of making products with someone else’s intellectual property embedded in it, and sold under some else’s brand.

Wark poses the question, ‘is this something other than capitalism’, in particular, in relation to Google because there is perhaps no longer a capturing of surplus value by exploiting labour but rather–in an argument that resonates with that of both Stiegler and Lyotard–a capturing of value by exploiting data. In concluding, Wark argues that its not enough to merely label this a form of ‘immaterial’ labour (again resonances with Stiegler’s critique of ‘immateriality’ here):

None of this, one should hasten to add, is ‘immaterial’. Can we just admit that this was a terrible (non)concept? Just as it took an incredible amount of infrastructure to seize power from the old landlord class, so too seizing power from a capitalist class to vest it with something else takes a powerful infrastructure, one no longer about making and distributing things but about controlling that making and distributing.

In short, considered in a really vulgar way, in terms of the forces of production, maybe there’s something new going on. Some of the relations of production look familiar. This is still an economy that appears to have markets and prices, firms and profits and so on. But perhaps power is shifting away from owning the means of production, which merely extract surplus value from labor, toward owning the means of mediation, by which a surplus can be extracted from any activity at all.

In the other essay I enjoyed, “Four cheers for vulgarity“, Wark explores the ways in which the labelling of ‘vulgar’ Marxism has been used as a means of Othering:

There are then four general actions of othering involved in calling something vulgar. The first is political. The vulgarians think in terms of a gradual, evolutionary process of historical change. They lack a taste for the political leap. The second is theoretical. The vulgarians pay too much attention to specialized knowledge such as the sciences. They lack a sense of the central role of philosophy as guarantor of the correct method. The third is cultural. The vulgarians are too close to the self-identity of the working class. They lack a sophistication about the struggle within bourgeois culture. The fourth is more strictly academic. The vulgarian ranges too freely across disciplinary knowledge.

Wark goes on to both critically reflecting upon the ‘winners’ and ‘losers’–in particular citing Bogdanov and Platonov as ‘losers’ (‘who?’ you ask – exactly!)–and of those processes as well turning the possible meaning of ‘vulgar’ by offering alternative models of vulgarity that might be seen as worthwhile and/or desirable. In particular, Wark discusses the work of Donna Harraway and Kim Stanley Robinson as alternative (‘positive’) models of ‘vulgarity’.

In concluding, Wark suggests that many of the preoccupations of contemporary social science (especially geography) can be seen as ‘vulgar’ concerns in the guise of ‘nature, labour, techne and utopia’, particularly in relation to anthropogenic climate change:

So here are four kinds of vulgarity: about nature and labor, techne and utopia, that are not quite those usually covered by the “vulgar Marxist!” insult. They are surely useful kinds of vulgarity with which and about which to think, given that the era of climate change is upon us. There are surely other senses of the vulgar that one might add, and other writers who make them thinkable. That might be part of a larger project of rethinking the paths through the archive that open these traditions up again in news ways to confront the present.

And so: four cheers for vulgar Marxism!!!! Four rather than three, as the vulgar is always a little excessive. Four cheers for these four vulgar Marxist writers, although they are also much more than that. Bogdanov and Platonov offer unique perspectives on what Jodi dean calls the ‘communist horizon’; Haraway and Robinson on what Mark Fisher calls ‘capitalist realism.’ I have been thinking for a while now about why I chose to write about them together, in my book Molecular Red, for which these might be some provisional notes. Perhaps it is because if we are to have a low theory for the times, it will be vulgar, or not at all. Opening up the vulgar wing of the archive again might open some more plural pathways through which to think from past to present, to inhabitable futures.

Marx Reloaded, in its entirety

Stuart Elden recently posted the YouTube video of the film Marx Reloaded, by Jason Barker, which concerns a reappraisal of the idea of communism in relation to the 2008 financial crisis. It includes interview snippets from, amongst others: Michael Hardt, Jacques Ranciere, Toni Negri, and Slavoj Zizek (with subtitles).  As a means of  engaging with contemporary debates around what left-oriented politics can and might do and how Marx’s work has been adopted and transformed it is worth watching…