BOOTLICKER

A Letter to Simon About Hypermaterialism

2018-07-07

HEY

So the basis of my theory of ‘hypermaterialism’ is this book called /The Dominant Ideology Thesis/ from say ‘80 or ‘81. It’s definitely an analytic book, but I think it is worthwhile. My whole strategy is to ‘bend the stick’ hard towards economism, but then tack hard towards voluntarism, in a way that gels with my ontology of ‘proletarian morality’. This philosophy is supposed to be suited for literally /right now/, while things are still kicking off and we don’t need to worry too much about organisational forms. Literally any kind of activity and activism is acceptable right now – within /some/ limits of course, but ultra-left stuff like banner drops outside of prisons, or just doing small scale demoes out the front of restaurants that underpay their workers is all awesome and should be encouraged.

I also mean to make a bit of an intervention into Australian politics. I am a little persuaded by the ideas of red unionism, and I think competitive unionism like the RAFFWU, and advocating for the disaffiliation of unions from the ALP is a good thing. Perhaps even having unions work outside the scope of the ACTU is acceptable. All this fits into my… ‘let a thousand flowers bloom’ approach to right now.

I could even get a bit cheeky and say I mean to take a leaf out of the book of Buddhism, and say my philosophy of hypermaterialism is meant to be a ‘hyperpassive’ system – which permits voluntarism and the flowering of lots of new forms of organisation. So my kind of voluntarism could be a kind of ‘interpassive’ activity – in the same way that female Bangladeshi textile workers engage in comradeship by being ironic about their own suicide.

This is me completely spitballing, because I really do believe in the spontaneity of the human spirit, but I think the way to take on capitalism is to take its ideological force of interpassivity seriously, and short-circuit it.

For instance, my ontology about proletarian morality is completely passive – you just need to detect the right virtues, and follow them in order to have the correct will in accordance with the environment. So in this way the slogans of my ontology and political philosophy are:

YFtR

Blair

Simon’s response:

Here’s my reply! Send me another one!

So the basis of my theory of ‘hypermaterialism’ is this book called /The Dominant Ideology Thesis/ from say ‘80 or ‘81. It’s definitely an analytic book, but I think it is worthwhile.

https://www.academia.edu/36553634/Bernard_Stiegler_On_the_Need_for_a_Hyper-Materialist_Epistemology_2018_

—> I haven’t read this, but it’s by an up and coming french philosopher and the name sounded familiar!

— In any case, I like zizek’s answer to the whole issue of there being no dominant ideology (unifying hegemonic worldview) today —> that it does still exist, but mainly on the level of enjoyment & desire (ie. casual resentment towards every group getting an ‘unfair advantage’, suspicion of the other who enjoys (migrants, the unemployed), disillusionment with all metanarrative (which as Jameson argues, is itself a meta-narrative where there can be no utopian ideal beyond capitalism).

This isn’t necessarily against what you argue later — I think it’s the ideological terrain of ‘interpassivity’ that we have to go with rather than against — kinda like ‘antipolitics’ for Tietze & Humphries, whereas modern cynicism towards politics can be both the grounds for right wing populism but also left wing populism (maybe populism isn’t the right word though).

My whole strategy is to ‘bend the stick’ hard towards economism, but then tack hard towards voluntarism, in a way that gels with my ontology of ‘proletarian morality’.

I like this idea! except perhaps you could push it further, and break any kind of dialectical or reciprocal relation between economism and voluntarism (where the bending the stick metaphor would apply), and instead posit a completely different relation between the two spheres (that of human need of desire - the economy - and the realm of human will and collective decision-making - politics. I like zizek’s idea here again, of the economy being the ‘real’ to the political symbolic (and i guess ideology is the imaginary here) —> the economy, or more accurately the organisation of labour (activity, desire, consumption..) is the absolute basis for politics, but can only be spoken of within the discourse of politics (given desire or ‘interests’ are never transparently given within the realm of language / representation).

The only criticism I have is of a ‘proletarian morality’! I don’t think you can attach moral Truth to any particular section of society, even though particular sections may be better at ‘bearing’ it (so it’s not a subject / object relationship, where the subject has ‘their’ morality corresponding to their economic position —> morality in terms of communism, which posits complete generic equality of all humans (speaking animals), is something that arises immanently within struggle against the dominant order, regardless of who is struggling (I take this from Badiou, who develops it from Sartre and his attempts to theorise the fusion-group in struggle)). In other words morality is drawn from opposition to capitalism, and not any positive element within it.

This philosophy is supposed to be suited for literally /right now/, while things are still kicking off and we don’t need to worry too much about organisational forms. Literally any kind of activity and activism is acceptable right now – within /some/ limits of course, but ultra-left stuff like banner drops outside of prisons, or just doing small scale demoes out the front of restaurants that underpay their workers is all awesome and should be encouraged.

I also mean to make a bit of an intervention into Australian politics. I am a little persuaded by the ideas of red unionism, and I think competitive unionism like the RAFFWU, and advocating for the disaffiliation of unions from the ALP is a good thing. Perhaps even having unions work outside the scope of the ACTU is acceptable. All this fits into my… ‘let a thousand flowers bloom’ approach to right now.

I agree! I reckon the attitude towards unions (reform vs separate) should be purely strategic, after all we’re not dealing with the mighty organisations of the workers movement but the husks of its severe defeat. I’m impressed by the approach of the DSA, who give their branches a large amount of autonomy to participate in whatever local struggles they see fit (fight for 15, black lives matter, anti-gentrification, etc.). We’re definitely in the slowly-rebuilding phase of a new workers movement, and it would never work if this was limited to workers of singular workplaces rather than the variety of different issues that are politicising communities and allow collective organising. That said, our philosophy does have to take into account organisation insofar as they must be able to respond to ‘Events’ - upsurges of struggle that by coming into conflict with the State set off a battle of strategy, which involves organisations and their capacity to subordinate themselves and respond to events (ie. mass democracy beyond the organised sections).

I could even get a bit cheeky and say I mean to take a leaf out of the book of Buddhism, and say my philosophy of hypermaterialism is meant to be a ‘hyperpassive’ system – which permits voluntarism and the flowering of lots of new forms of organisation. So my kind of voluntarism could be a kind of ‘interpassive’ activity – in the same way that female Bangladeshi textile workers engage in comradeship by being ironic about their own suicide.

Again, I think I agree with what you’re saying! I especially believe that the highly fragmented and differentiated nature of the working class today necessitates a variety of forms of organisation, covering different forms of territories, workplaces, industries, oppressions, or even different relations to the state (say parliamentary, local council, etc —> after all, we’re always within the state somewhere, incorporated within its strategies, so the questions is how to establish a relation among a plurality of different organisations, necessary to represent the multiplicity of desires that always exceed the State or some attempt to ‘mirror’ the state (like the old Labour / Communist parties, where political bodies must move in one single disciplined motion in order to counter the power of the State)). The only thing is, again, you have to differentiate between ‘normal’ political times — where desires and self-organisation can exceed the grasp of the State, but clearly not throw it into crisis — and ‘evental’ times, whereby a mass-assembly of people posit a new form of generic equality against the State and open up a new strategic terrain where it is possibly to overthrow the existing hegemony from the viewpoint of this new political Subject. After all, if things are left at the level of everyday voluntarism (which is everyday desire and the way our desires and encounters with one another always tend towards exceeding the State’s grasp / categorisations), you’re basically left at the level of Deleuzian immanence & Autonomist organisation (which isn’t a bad thing in-itself, just incomplete!).

This is me completely spitballing, because I really do believe in the spontaneity of the human spirit, but I think the way to take on capitalism is to take its ideological force of interpassivity seriously, and short-circuit it.

Like I said before, I like this idea a lot but reckon the terminology should shift! Insofar as organisation should prioritise desire (which is spontaneity in your terminology - but I reckon desire is more accurate because it exists prior to its elaboration into our ‘will’, which always occurs through language / ideology. Think of it as the Lacanian ‘real’ — lack, the void of subjectivity, immanent to the world — vs. the idea of spontaneous human spirit having any positive content prior to language/ideology, which is implicit within Deleuzo-vitalism, where the ‘virtual’ pre-exists its actualisation (a dualism that betrays immanence).

But anyway, I like the idea of short-circuiting neoliberal ideology itself! Especially as neoliberal ideology is aimed at organising desire / enjoyment as more ‘real’ or valid than any kind of political metanarrative (which is seen as naive, utopian — think of South Park’s libertarianism) — for example the neoliberal restructuring of the state no longer believes in the benevolence of state bureaucrats (representing ‘reason’), and so puts in place a whole system of incentives and punishments meant to hold the public sector ‘accountable’ (hence the market is associated with being realistic that people are desiring animals - selfish, greedy, incapable of commitment to a higher moral cause). The corresponding ideology - the public sector is bloated, greedy, etc. is clearly the source of a lot of anti-political sentiment today. But like you said, and similar to Tietze & Humphries, this ideology shouldn’t be challenged from the perspective of re-invigorating the political (social democracy), but using the very cynicism and passivity of neoliberal ideology against itself, but posing a critique of the state altogether. I think that’s what you mean by interpassivity anway!

For instance, my ontology about proletarian morality is completely passive – you just need to detect the right virtues, and follow them in order to have the correct will in accordance with the environment. So in this way the slogans of my ontology and political philosophy are:

  • There is a correct and virtuous way to act
  • But anything is possible, and whatever seems like a plurality of ways of acting is usually always one way
  • Because anything is possible, be open to anything
  • Because anything is possible, it is usually okay to do anything
  • Anything is usually the only one way to do achieve socialism

Again, I really like this but I reckon you need the perspective of radical breaks (events) as well, and a theorisation of subjectivity as the void within social substance! Other your philosophy ends up being highly similar to Deleuzian immanence ahaha, but I reckon the key point is correct: there is always a multiplicity that exceeds the State, and therefore a plurality of ways of organising (forming ‘positive encounters’ with others, encounters which strengthen our collective capacity to act (which is the direct counterpart of the effects depression has upon our bodies, diminishing our capacity to act in the world)). Having said that, the Badiouian rejoinder would be that this is all well and good, but it is no grounds for morality itself, understood as Truth. Truth, if you want to stick to immanence, can only be formed our of the limit of the existing situation itself, the void that is the inherent multiplicity that always exceeds representation. In struggle, we pose this void directly —> and thus posit the generic equality of all people involved whose very identities are subtracted (bracketed away) in the moment of opposition to the State. I haven’t made this argument very well, but you get the point — the issue is from what epistemological standpoint we can judge which practice is the ‘virtuous’ one, something that to me can only be decided upon in relation to an event, a radical break in existing Hegemony and the active assembly of people (ie. soviets). I’ll try to elaborate on this later on!