September 22, 2010

Zizek: Permanent Economic Emergency This is an excerpt from "A Permanent Economic Emergency" in New Left Review (thanks to Bob for the heads up and the terrific passage he cited in his comments) From the radical-emancipatory perspective, one should turn it around: for the oppressed, violence is always legitimate—since their very status is the result of violence—but never necessary: it is always a matter of strategic consideration whether to use force against the enemy or not. In short, the topic of violence should be demystified. What was wrong with 20th-century Communism was not its resort to violence per se— the seizure of state power, the Civil War to maintain it—but the larger mode of functioning, which made this kind of resort to violence inevita- ble and legitimized: the Party as the instrument of historical necessity, and so on. In a note to thecia, advising them on how to undermine the Allende government, Henry Kissinger wrote succinctly: ‘Make the economy scream’. Formerus officials are openly admitting today that the same strategy is applied in Venezuela: formerus Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger said of the Venezuelan economy on Fox News: ‘It’s the one weapon we have against [Chavez] to begin with, and which we should be using, namely the economic tools of trying to make the economy even worse, so that his appeal in the country and the region goes down’. In the current economic emergency, too, we are clearly not dealing with blind market processes but with highly organized, strategic interventions by states and financial...
Communicative capitalism and the commons (Below is an excerpt from some comments I'll make at tomorrow's conference on contemporary Italian thought at Cornell). For Cesare Casarino, the common is another name for the self-reproducing excess that is capitalism. It is another name, but it is not the same exactly the same thing. The common is not a thing or an attribute; it is a dynamic process. It is production. Glossing Hardt and Negri, Casarino writes, “nowadays the common is virtually indistinguishable from that which continually captures it, namely, capital understood as a fully—that is, intensively and extensively—global network of social relations” (25). The idea becomes clearer in contradistinction to the commons. Both common and commons are material and immaterial, natural and historical. Although the common indicates language, affect, thought, and knowledge, that is, communication, it should not be and cannot be detached from its materiality and historicity. I’ll add that this is a crucial point today, an advance over emphases on immaterial labor. Communication depends on a complex assemblage—satellites, fiber-optic cables, broad spectrum bandwidth, cellular networks, SIM cards, laptops, mobile phones, personal media devices, screens, protocols, code, software, search engines, radio signals, blogs, images, emotions, catch phrases, jingles, jargon, citations, archives, fears, omissions, comfort, denial. Installing breaks in the assemblage on the basis of an always questionable materiality closes off what the present opens, namely, the fecundity of communicative substance. Casarino’s insight into the difference between commons and the common is that the commons is finite and characterized by scarcity. In contrast, the common is...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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