I just got off the phone with Rocco Gangle, and as usual Rocky managed to perceive the essential issue of my last post (Post-Holiday Anxieties), articulate it with more precision, and inspire me to leave one more note here before the deluge of the semester is upon us. But first I wanted to express my appreciation to everyone who has responded and resonated with what I was trying to express, a difficulty or difficulties all of us thinking now share (and Beatrice, you’re right–my willingness to let go of the academy was too glib. It can still be and we should still fight for it to be one of our grottoes).
What Rocky pointed out was that my anxieties are not really about sacrifice, but about competition. At this point in the Neoliberal Biopolitical Lockdown (may its end quickly come) –about which Adam has been so clearly and persuasively posting following Agamben and Foucault–anything that even takes the form of appearance of competition is terrifying to me. The very “success” (it’s the wrong word) of this blog, its consistency, its strong presence under the dedicated watch of Adam, Anthony, and the rest of you who appear here much more regularly than I do, simply by continuing to be here, simply by obviously surviving seems to count as some kind of “victory” or “win” in an economic game I don’t think any of us believe in or want to play. By contrast, I’ve been feeling slightly like some kind of “loser,” i.e., nonentity to the extent that I not only do not yet have a permanent or tenure-track position but also to the extent that, despite my publications, maintain some similar pace, profile, visibility, or “position” that someone else appears to (I’m sure others have similar anxieties in relation to me). And of course, because I am aware that it would take -me- certain kinds of “sacrifices” to be more like someone else or do something someone else is doing that “appears” to count as success, i.e., survival, I become anxious, paranoid, self-recriminating (I’m not trying to be overly confessional, here–I don’t think I’m alone in this and that we all increasingly suffer from these sad affects).
But I’m happy to report that the fact that I was able to express those anxieties here, even awkwardly, and to try to articulate what I think is at stake in them, and to be able to hear almost instantaneously from people I love and trust and respect, has been more than a mere consolation, it has been that active cooperation through thought that this blog actually is. Thanks Rocky for pointing this out. Here lies the real victory over the apparent limitations of the medium, which appear to “establish identities” as winners over those who do not or cannot appear. But as Deleuze knew, there is always something more than this going on, because despite these actual limitations there are intensive and vital individuations–collective, multiple, continuous–that occur simultaneously. Less abstractly, it’s now blindingly obvious that if this is a site (sic) where one can express one’s anxieties about the site, and have that expression count as the site itself, then the appearance of competition is false, a semblance (even if that semblance alone counts as real under the ordo neoliberalis).
Thanks be to Adam, and to all of you, for continuing to collaborate and cooperate here. On the one hand, our connections here are “driven” by the evacuation of the academy, public space, and the disinvestment of education. But to a very real degree this is one of the grottoes Beatrice mentioned necessary–where we can, even temporarily, invest, be people, school one another, and leave traces of it all for many to follow and link to. I know, I know, no shit sherlock. I’m a gen-xer, not a millennial, so I’m behind, here. Bear with me.
But before I disappear again (hopefully not for as long, this time–I plan to show up to respond to my book event coming up), I wanted to invite everybody to think further with me, and with my comrade Indradeep Ghosh, about how to explode contemporary economic ideology in view of the complexity and creativity we all intuitively feel must be accounted for in the human and inhuman household (oikos). Voila, we give you Absolute Economics. Money you can drink. Our postings there will be intermittent, but part of the point is going to be (as you might have guessed from my anxieties) not to be first, not to be immediate, not to win, but to curate perspectives that can be there when we need them, whenever that untimely time is right.