Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Michael Tratner’s paper, Derrida’s Debt to Milton Friedman

Est Un Autre About Bataille and Agamben 13 Sep 07
I have not read any serious Agamben, apart from his Paul book. The question that strikes me after an extremely vague look at his other texts and what I have learnt through philosophical osmosis is: has anyone done anything on Bataille’s concept of heterogenous matter and Agamben dealings with related concepts such as soveignity? For in Bataille, heterogenous matter both constitutes the strange and powerful force external to political community that is thought to be responsible for its constitution, for example, the leader in a fascist state, the Hobbesian king (high) and elements that are forced out of the community, the unclean, the poor, the filthy etc (low). Clearly the latter could be considered something akin to homo sacer, no? Amazon tells me that he refers to Bataille on a few pages of Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, but I am wondering if this is a big engagement or just a passing reference. Filed under: Agamben, Bataille 2 Comments
Georges Bataille as Ray Brassier Avant La Lettre 08 Sep 07
Digging around, I always thought that despite the scientific gleen of Ray Brassier’s intriguing project, that I recognised something of the Bataille’s base-materialism underneath.
Most materialists, even though they may have wanted to do away with all spiritual entities, ended up positing an order of things whose hierarchical relations mark it as specifically idealist. They situated dead matter at the summit of a conventional hierarchy of diverse facts, without perceiving that in this way they gave in to an obsession with the ideal form of matter, with a form thai was closer than any other to what matter should be.
Materialism in Georges Bataille, Visions of Excess : Selected Writings, 1927-1939, p 15.
This amphiboly, we shall argue, leads to an fundamental indiscernibility between the theoretical postures of materialism and idealism, an indiscernibility in virtue of which philosophical materialism remains incapable of distinguishing itself from idealism. Consequently, ‘the decline of materialism in the name of matter’ describes that movement whereby any philosophical materialism which accepts the premise of a transcendental distinction between ‘thought’ and ‘matter’ must forsake the attempt to encompass matter in the concept and abandon the materiological register in order to initiate a theoretical posture whereby not only does materialism no longer presume to circumscribe matter by way of a concept, it is now matter which determines materialism through its very foreclosure to every concept. In other words, Part I argues that transcendental materialism achieves its most rigorous theoretical consummation at the point where it necessitates its own elimination as a system of discursive statements ‘about’ matter.
Ray Brassier, Alien Theory: The Decline of Materialism in the Name of Matter
Note to self: look into this. Further note to self: write something as good as Alien Theory for PHD thesis. Filed under: Bataille, Materialism, Ray Brassier, Speculative Realism 0 Comments
Strange Discoveries 07 Sep 07
There are times when one is browsing through one’s favourite online paper repository when one is struck by a paper which is so out-there that it cannot pass without a digital leaf through and maybe more. Such a paper is Michael Tratner’s Derrida’s Debt to Milton Friedman. Nuts - but the essay does go for it. Derridians, some commentary?
In summary, then, I suggest we add to the list of disciplines that have contributed to deconstruction. In Of Grammatology, Derrida credits numerous fields, including philosophy (Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Husserl), linguistics (Saussure), ethnography (Lévi-Strauss), and psychology (Freud). To this list, let’s add economics, citing Keynes, who marks the end of production as the basis of economics, but who maintains the belief that individuals in powerful enough positions can still act to counter the effects of the system, and Friedman, who brings in the notion that the sign system operates separate from any individual agency. Historians of theory would probably prefer to cite Marcel Mauss and George Bataille as the ones who led Derrida to the concepts of gifts and of mysterious, uncontrollable economic structures. It is probably true that they figure more consciously in Derrida’s own thinking than do Keynes and Friedman. But the emergence of deconstruction and its rapid spread during the 1970s are not merely events in the history of highly intellectual disciplines; they are also events in the broader history shaped by the changes in everyday economics and governmental practices. Keynes and Friedman developed theories which had material consequences; Mauss and Bataille were in effect mythologizing the events going on in mainstream economics.Mauss and Bataille may seem better predecessors because they were critics of capitalism, as Derrida is, but if mainstream twentieth-century economic practices in effect involve the deconstruction of signs as an everyday part of their functioning, then perhaps deconstruction should not be considered inherently anti-capitalist or even anti-authoritarian. Derridean theorists need to be careful when they generalize that a deconstructive challenge to one form of authority (such as the authority given to production as the source of economic value and the source of linguistic meaning) carries with it a challenge to authority in other realms, or even a challenge to the very idea of authority entirely. Derrida makes such an unwarranted leap when he argues in his essay that the power of a counterfeit coin to generate real wealth is equivalent to a radical disruption of patriarchy: the power of the counterfeit coin in Baudelaire’s story, Derrida claims, reveals that “the phantasm” has “the power . . . of producing, of engendering, giving, rather than the ‘True Father’” (GT 161). The image of a True Father, Derrida implies, depends on theories of production and human giving as the basis of prosperity, in other words, on outdated economic theories. In noting that the phantasm, the sign, the code, has more power of “engendering” and of “giving” than the True Father, Derrida might be tracing not the demise of patriarchy but simply the demise of Keynesian economics and [End Page 804] of the liberalism of the 1960s, the demise of the notion that the government can wrap itself in the guise of the True Father and maintain the economic system by appearing to give gifts whenever recession threatens.By describing the results of the economic transformations he has traced as the end of patriarchy, Derrida’s theory implies much more than has happened. The deconstructive revision of money into a system of signifiers in endless freeplay may be a modification of capitalism, one that capitalists and patriarchs opposed for centuries, but it turns out that it is possible to perform such a deconstruction without undoing much of capitalism or patriarchy at all—and Friedman did just that. Twentieth-century economics reveals that non-logocentric sign systems can coexist quite well with capitalism and can even play a crucial role in the functioning of structures of authority, which apparently can operate quite well without invoking any True Fathers at all. Filed under: Uncategorized 1 Comment
Just In Time… 04 Sep 07
On Monday I give my paper on Bataille and Catholicity at Oxford. Today I found this interview with Andres Serrano regarding his work “Piss Christ”, his views on religion and other work.
Coco Fusco: Your use of Catholic symbolism stands out in part because you are operating in a predominantly Protestant context. An attraction to the sensuality and the carnality that you bring out in your Catholic iconography can develop, since Protestant symbolism looks rather pale by comparison. How would it affect your work to be exhibited in a Catholic context?
Andres Serrano: I have always felt that my work is religious, not sacrilegious. I would say that there are many individuals in the Church who appreciate it and who do not have a problem with it. The best place for Piss Christ is in a church. In fact, I recently had a show in Marseilles in an actual church that also functions as an exhibition space, and the work looked great there. I think if the Vatican is smart, someday they’ll collect my work.
CF: Does your interest in Catholicism have to do more with an attraction to the iconography or is it about wanting to make a social or political comment about what the Church represents?
AS: Look at my apartment. I am drawn to the symbols of the Church. I like the aesthetics of the Church. I like Church furniture. I like going to Church for aesthetic reasons, rather than spiritual ones. In my work, I explore my own Catholic obsessions. An artist is nothing without his or her obsessions, and I have mine. One of the things that always bothered me was the fundamentalist labeling of my work as “anti-Christian bigotry.” As a former Catholic, and as someone who even today is not opposed to being called a Christian, I felt I had every right to use the symbols of the Church and resented being told not to.
CF: So you do see yourself carrying on a tradition of religious art?
AS: Absolutely. I am not a heretic. I like to believe that rather than destroy icons, I make new ones. Filed under: Andres Serrano, Art, Bataille, Conference, Photos, Surrealism 0 Comments

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