Sunday, November 15, 2009

Revolutionary Twist of a Collage

It takes two songs from the Great Depression era two forge a revolutionary song which alludes to the reign of terror, the essential phantasmatic supplement of emancipatory politics: "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime" and "We're in the Money". The result is impressive:

We never see a headline about breadlines today
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell
And when we see the landlord we can look that guy right in the eye
Say, don't you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time


Nevin said...

The breadlines are invisible now days... not on your face, so to speak (in the rich world) but they are there... with the health care debate in the US for example... and that is the underlining discomfort which makes it all so uncomfortable....

Mehmet Çagatay said...

Did you watch Woody Allen's latest movie Whatever "terribly" Works? There he expresses his precious opinion on Marxism through the misanthropic protagonist: "These are all great ideas, but they all suffer from one fatal flaw... which is... they are all based on the fallacious notion that people are fundamentally decent". This is the exact feedback that Marxists frequently received from unsophisticated fools. How could I believe the decent core of humanity when I don't even regard myself as decent? I aspire after socialism because I've come to the conclusion that it is the only socio-economic formation that would provide a safe distance between ill-mannered people just like me. In the end, W. Allen's pseudo-misanthropic character (Allen in disguise), an enthusiastic adherent of Bartleby politics ("I would prefer not to") ends up with ultimate conformism: "Whatever Works". This is the most likely outcome of zealous cynicism.

We should be neither naive utopians nor cynical misanthropes. But being a naive misanthrope who is ready to collaborate with others not only to confront the landowner and bring down the existing relations of production but also to get rid of his evil core, of the certain "Al" who takes a strange enjoyment from subordination to various owners may be the solution.

You are right. although it is invisible, it doesn't work.

Mehmet Çagatay said...

A couple of days ago Jodi Dean uploaded a chapter from her forthcoming book to her blog: Read More

In the couple of paragraphs where she deals with the notion of “Bartleby Politics”, first introduced by Hardt&Negri (as far as I know) and later by Zizek, which alludes to Melville’s character Bartleby, she points out the fundamental deadlock of refusing to refuse:

“Yet even as Bartleby evades the circuit of power and resistance by refusing to refuse, he continues to rely on his position as a singular subject: he says ‘I,’ referring to himself as a subject, and not just any subject, but a subject with a view, a preference. As such, he remains exposed to power. He still cares. In response to a request, Bartleby does more than acknowledge communication, the fact that a message has been and received. His answer affirms the intelligibility of the request even as it challenges the normative expectations informing it. And, rather than challenging the sender of the message’s authority to make the request he makes, Bartleby asserts himself as what matters—he would prefer not to. He is a subject with preferences and these preferences must be attended to.”

Within the context of her theory of “communicative capitalism”, her critique makes a perfect sense. The very successful act of refusing to participate, as long as it succeeds, verifies that the letter has arrived to its destination and we have been caught in infinite spiral of communicative network. For instance, once I said that all I want is a computer connected to the Internet and a DVD player, and to watch all the movies that I love with the woman whom I love. I want nothing more than this. But, wait a second. This is exactly the same modesty that I observed in my friends who didn’t want anything like Bartleby or want simple things as Michael K. at best. Typical story goes like this: x just wants to grow flowers or feed fish or write poetry or songs, etc. etc. But ten years later, we shockingly figure out that now our humble friend works in a Bank, shaves every morning, growing a giant belly, has long become “A Well Respected Man” and forgotten all the trivial things that he once desired. As Dean puts it, he was still in the field the jouissance of the other while he was seemingly refusing to communicate: “He still cares”.