Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Material Relations

Sinthome from Larval Subjects has mirrored the entire monster comment I wrote yesterday, as my latest contribution to an incredibly productive discussion below with Joseph Kugelmass and Ryan/Aless. This discussion was itself begun in response to R/A’s post on people as means of production over at massthink, and has led to such productive and rich questions and comments from both Joseph and Ryan/Aless, that it has been distracting me from introducing new posts these past few days.

Sinthome adds a new layer to this discussion, juxtaposing reflections on Deleuze and Guattari, The Communist Manifesto, and Sinthome’s own recent work on assemblages. Sinthome’s post is fantastic, and quite difficult to excerpt in a way that does justice to the movement of the post – I’ll reproduce one teaser here, but you really should read the post as a whole (just keep scrolling past my stuff: Sinthome’s argument is at the bottom…):

This week the reading group in which I participate began reading Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus. As I was introducing the material and what Deleuze and Guattari were up to with their synthesis of psychoanalysis, Marx, and Nietzsche, one of the participants piped up and said something along the lines of

Wait, for Deleuze and Guattari schizophrenia as a process is “good”, but capitalism is schizophrenic, yet Deleuze and Guattari are offering a critique of capitalism. Wasn’t Marx against capitalism? How can Deleuze and Guattari both see something positive in capitalism, yet be critical of capitalism?

I confess that I was absolutely delighted by this remark, for what this participant was articulating was a position that can be loosely described as that of abstract negation. On the one hand, so the story goes, there is a position that one can advocate called “capitalism”, and on the other hand there is a position one can advocate called “communism” or Marxism. If one is for Marxism, then they are against capitalism, and political engagement at both the theoretical and practical level (for me these levels are never separated) is then a matter of finding ways to overturn capitalism.

In reality, Marx’s position is far more sophisticated and nuanced. Marx does not simply provide us with an economic theory, nor does he simply provide us with a normative theory articulating “what is to be done” or what institutions we should form. Rather, Marx provides us with a theory that strives to explain why social-formations have taken the form they have taken today and what emancipatory potentials the situation in which we exist contains. As N.Pepperell so nicely emphasizes, this has the effect of showing both how contemporary social-formations and forms of subjectivity are contingent, how they can be otherwise, but also revealing those determinate lines of flight (lines of flight actually haunting the situation or bifurcation points that we might grasp and push further) where change might become possible.

Much, much more in the original post.

On a not entirely unrelated point, I also wanted to draw attention to the fantastic posts Joseph Kugelmass has been posting at The Kugelmass Episodes (some cross-posted to The Valve), now that his comprehensive exams have been successfully completed. I wanted both to congratulate Joe on the successful exam results, and also thank Joe for the very kind words he offered in his return post for both Rough Theory and Larval Subjects. Hopefully we can continue some of the collective theory formation and intellectual community building that Joe highlights in his post.

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