The People’s Corporation

Yesterday during one of my Twitter rants, I reintroduced an idea I had floated several years ago: namely, that the creation of a corporation that could actively reorganize production while expanding could be a possible vehicle for leftist goals. After all, if the corporation is the most powerful form of organization in the world today, why shouldn’t we have one?

When I first brought up the idea, some people objected that any corporation would be essentially forced to make ever-greater profits and therefore give up on the goals a leftist corporation would presumably have. While it’s true that every business has to “make money,” it is not the case that every business must always make more and more profit. Read the rest of this entry »

totality, represented: an InterCcECT reading group on Fredric Jameson

Jameson’s recent Representing Capital encounters Marx’s first volume through foregrounding the reading modes necessary to appreciate Marx’s writing modes, which are themselves not peripheral to the subject matter but essential.

Jameson writes “the central formal problem of Capital Volume I is the problem of representation: namely how to construct a totality out of individual elements, historical processes, and perspectives of all kinds; and indeed how to do justice to a totality which is not only non-empirical as a system of relationships, but which is also in full movement, in expansion, in a movement of totalization which is essential to its very existence and at the heart of its peculiar economic nature.”

Join InterCcECT for a reading of Jameson’s reading.
Friday, 28 June, 2pm
Bucktown / Wicker Park Public Library (Community Room, 2nd Floor).
1701 N Milwaukee, accessible via Blue Line Damen or Milwaukee, North, Damen, Western, and Armitage buses.

As always, we welcome your proposals at interccect @ gmail dot com, and encourage your input at our Facebook page.

A Brief History of Latin American Liberation Theology

This post is my transcription of a recent lecture by Ted Jennings, with some minor additions, posted with his permission.

Latin America has a unique situation that distinguishes the theology that is done there from the theology that is done elsewhere. In fact, very early on in the development of Latin American liberation theology, there was a book by the Protestant theologian José Míguez Bonino, translated in English as Doing Theology in a Revolutionary Situation. It’s a wonderful book that was published before Gutiérrez. Bonino was involved in the human rights movement in Argentina. He pointed out that what was happening and needed to happen in Latin America, including the kinds of questions that had to be addressed, were fundamentally different from the questions in European theology, even among the political theology of figures like Moltmann, Metz, and Söelle.

The distinctive character of Latin America theology is the hegemony of Catholicism. Until quite recently, the Catholicism of Latin America could be characterized as Pre-Tridentine, that is, the kind of Catholicism that was characteristic of the Late Middle Ages prior to the council of Trent. Read the rest of this entry »

Dan Barber on Marxism and Christianity

Our own Dan Barber has a piece up at The Other Journal on the relationship between Marxism and Christianity, entitled “The Actuality of Liberation’s Problem.” It is part of his ongoing work on conversion. Here’s the first paragraph:

There is a tendency, when approaching the relation between Christianity and Marxism, to try to identify some element that would be common to both. This element becomes a third thing that allows us to give sense to the relation between the two initially given things of Christianity and Marxism. Such an approach, naming an element common to both Christianity and Marxism—liberation, for instance—allows us to adjudicate their relation. In fact, this third thing provides a site of adjudication to which each side is already implicitly committed. After all, if both Christianity and Marxism avow liberation, how could either object to being evaluated in terms of its capacity to bring about such liberation?

I think we all realize it’s not going to be that simple, though — and so we should read the whole thing.

The Use-Value of Ethics: Antonio Negri’s Hopeful Time

This post emerges out of a close reading I did of one of Negri’s toughest texts, “The Constitution of Time,” which is in the Time for Revolution book put out by Continuum. I’m referencing the hardback edition, which has different pagination than the paperback edition. My thanks to Adam, Anthony, and Brad for hosting the post at AUFS.

I’d suggest that Negri’s “The Constitution of Time” can be understood as part of a contemporary ethical project. I am using “ethics” here in the sense of a way of life, and it’s how I understand Negri’s usage of “the practice of theory,” such as the following statement: “When the practice of theory is directed simply towards the constitution of the transcendent, time is non-existence. Time is multiplicity. Time is a theological scandal.” (30) I think that his (uneven) attempt to chart out a materialist theory of time is more readily understandable in these terms, and I’d like to  draw out the main contours of this ethics in order to clarify his pervasive recourse to the language of hope. Given Negri’s grounding of his own project in Spinoza, this is something I’ve found a bit troubling, even though I’m willing to entertain the idea that Negri does the some kind of rewriting to terms like hope that Spinoza famously does with God. Nevertheless, reading through “The Constitution of Time” was a bit of a revelation for me in my study of Negri, and despite the fact that this text is at times even more difficult than The Savage Anomaly, I’ve found it pretty helpful for getting a sense of what he’s up to in terms of his own ethics.

The first place that Negri’s ethics can be detected is in his polemical opposition to the “re-equilibrating calculus” of Keynes and Polanyi. (41) The fundamental distinction in Negri’s text is between the empty, reversible, measuring time of capitalism, and the constitutive, composing, open time of communism. Negri suggests that the second has been made possible by the first, which for him is why the “overcoming of capitalism occurs on the basis of needs constructed by capitalism.” (26) The more that capital has expanded on a global scale, the more difficult it becomes to measure labor with time. When capital has expanded far enough, when it “invests the whole of life,” then “time is not the measure of life, but is life itself.” (35) This paradox is one way to describe real subsumption; in conquering life, capital has seemingly become victorious once and for all. There is no longer an alternative to the M-C-M’ relation. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Communism, ethics, immanence, Marxism, Negri, politics, Spinoza. Comments Off

Systems are cowards

A theme in “high-quality” television is the cowardice of politicians. They are always running scared, or at best trying to decide whose lap-dog they should be — the real power is always elsewhere. This is perhaps clearest in Deadwood or Boardwalk Empire, but the basic dynamic is there in West Wing as well, where the president of the world’s mightiest power must constantly “manage” the unruly press (as well as the military brass). On the news as well, we constantly learn of complex calculations as senators worry how their constituents will respond to their decision to vote for cloture on this appropriations bill, etc. While there is obviously a certain degree of window-dressing going on there, I think the underlying paranoia is probably authentic in most cases.

Whence this fear, this paradoxical powerlessness? I believe it stems from the fact that a political office is something you can lose and indeed the default trajectory is precisely for you to lose it automatically (the term will expire, etc.). Read the rest of this entry »

Reading Capital

I sheepishly admit that I have never read Marx’s Capital Volume I. I’m going to begin a reading group with some friends (sorry the group is closed) to read through Capital over a six month period. We’ll be reading alongside David Harvey’s class to assist us in our journey. Does anyone have any recommendations to facilitate our reading?

realism in these times

What are the formal constructions of realism in art and literature? What, if anything, distinguishes the realism of nineteenth-century capitalism from the realism of twenty-first-century capitalism? What binds Breaking Bad to Balzac?

InterCcECT, with special guest Annie McClanahan, turns to Georg Lukacs for renewed debate on realism in these times. Read “Realism in the Balance” and “Reportage or Portrayal” and join us Monday 13 August, 4pm, at the InterCcECT salon in Bucktown; write to interccect at g mail dot com for details and PDFs.

Our continuing conversation on the realism-complex of psychosis convenes Thursday 2 August, 3pm for Lacan’s Seminar 3, Chapters 7-8.

We highly recommend the History of Capitalism Reading Group’s next session, Wednesday 1 August, 1pm, on Arrighi’s The Long Twentieth Century. Check our calendar for details on these and other events.

Have a summer reading bucket list? A fall mini-seminar wish list? InterCcECT welcomes your announcements and initiatives.

Posted in blog posts, Interccect, Lacan, Marxism. Comments Off

My contribution to the Agamben symposium

The Political Theology blog has published my contribution to their symposium on The Kingdom and the Glory, which discusses Agamben’s method in dialogue with Alberto Toscano’s critical review of the book.

Runaway train, never coming back

In Jameson’s Late Marxism: Adorno, or The Persistence of the Dialectic, one reads the following:

But we must initially separate the figuration of the terms base and superstructure—only the initial shape of the problem—from the type of efficacy or causal law it is supposed to imply. Überbau and Basis, for example, which so often suggest to people a house and its foundations, seem in fact to have been railroad terminology and to have designated the rolling stock and the rails respectively, something which suddenly jolts us into a rather different picture of ideology and its effects. (pg. 46)

It certainly does! Why had I never heard this before?

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