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badiou baddles, me being somewhat angry, whatever

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I’ve been watching the recent blogwars over Badiou with only a tiny bit of interest. I don’t have a dog in this fight, really, as I’m neither a Badiou fan (or ex-fan) nor am I a Badiou scholar. I don’t even seem to be a wholy paidup Britblogger, despite rather thick personal affiliation with some of the key parties. I think a critique of Badiou might figure in the thing I’m losing all my books for re-writing, but it’s going to take some seriously fast reading and probably a bit of help from those who know better than I do.

So what follows comes strictly from the perspective of academic-intellectual sociology, a field or approach that I’m getting more and more interested in, as I hope will come through in a future post on something that’s got me a little bit excited right now, once the book in question gets here and I read it. But for now… A little spur of points emerging from a reading of K-Punk’s latest offering.

1) Of course, I would resist the blurring of political / philosophical work into pop/indie music critique. I am somewhat embarrassed about the music that I listen to (though I have a great post in the hopper about it! watch!) and I haven’t read a music magazine since I used to buy Spin along with Nirvana CDs from the Sam Goody near the movie theater in my hometown. And I suppose that I would be all to open to some sort of response along the lines that I like my politics to come in the shape of a really fine review of a new novel. Maybe, who knows, that’s true.

But I will say this, strictly as an outsider. I’m not sure I can think of a more perfect cultural simulation of consumer market mechanisms that the the indie music review scene. Really – it outpaces even the the fanciest dreams of the people who sell us the iPods and the Volkswagens. Nothing is to linger, nothing is to become well-worn if only half-loved (like my current laptop, for instance) – it’s all A-Bomb readjustment against the last years band and in favor of the next new thing. Here’s K-Punk:

One of the strange things about Badiou is the curious retrospective temporality of his literally post-modernist philosophy – this is what it was to be a militant, this is what it was to fall in love… well, yes, but, now what? What’s rousing about The Meaning Of Sarkozy is precisely the call to start again from nothing. We need to take him at his word here. Badiou has led us through the desert of the hyperreal, but the promised land turns out to be a scorched earth where the raddled old communist ideas, terms and histories cannot take root. Time for the last of the 68 fathers to be ushered offstage. Time for speculative realism to come to the centre.

Nary a word about why speculative realism’s time is now, and very little about Badiou’s obsolescence, other than the fact that he says in The Meaning of Sarkozy, um, exactly what K-Punk keeps saying about this being the Year Zero of something or other. See the next point….

2. “well, yes, but now what?” Yes, it’s a very good question. But a hard one. And all I keep hearing in posts like these is that it’s time for commitment, commitment to commitment, commitment to saying that it’s time for commitment, and finally, and most concretely, commitment to saying that it’s time for commitment to organization.

Now look. This is what good leftists (or whatever they are at this point) say when it’s time to be a good leftist (or whatever). No one, ever, beats the call for and to organization. Everything else is abstract and academic, right? But I’d like to make a modest proposal at this point. Could we ban the call to organization as a rhetorical device when it comes in the absense of an actual plan toward efficient organization? Because otherwise it’s just attitudinising – posturing in a way that’s as or far more shallow that they very things that are up for critique. We all agree that it’s a good time to think about organization, but if it become nothing more than something that you call for at the end of your posts, we’re still really no further along that we were before you started typing, are we? Does speculative realism offer a plan of action? If so, please inform as to what it is. If not, and if that is the matter at hand, why is time for it to come to the center?

3. Ah academia. Right. What does K-Punk say again?

In many ways, the academic qua academic is the Troll par excellence. Postgraduate study has a propensity to breeds trolls; in the worst cases, the mode of nitpicking critique (and autocritique) required by academic training turns people into permanent trolls, trolls who troll themselves, who transform their inability to commit to any position into a virtue, a sign of their maturity (opposed, in their minds, to the allegedly infantile attachments of The Fan). But there is nothing more adolescent – in the worst way – than this posture of alleged detachment, this sneer from nowhere. For what it disavows is its own investments; an investment in always being at the edge of projects it can neither commit to nor entirely sever itself from – the worst kind of libidinal configuration, an appalling trap, an existential toxicity which ensures debilitation for all who come into contact with it (if only that in terms of time and energy wasted – the Troll above all wants to waste time, its libido involves a banal sadism, the dull malice of snatching people’s toys away from them).

Yes, but see what academics are reflexively trained to be annoyed by, because we’re so busy marking the papers of actual students, is ad hominem, baseless polemic that postures rather than argues. Tautological critique based on nothing more than a presumption about what academics are and what they do simply doesn’t raise the paper into the A range. Explaining in depth what’s wrong with Badiou might well work, might earn you a first. Critical overreach, if that’s where you’re going to lay down your chips, probably won’t. The term gives the game away.

It’s a bit of a wonder, really, and more than a bit symptomatic of our times, but some seem to be so clear visioned when it comes to the mote in the eye of academia, but can’t see the fucking plank that headwounds a writer from typing for the magazines. Sorry, but is the endless command to amplification, to unpaid marketing work, not deformative? Only people who spend their lives for the most part busy in classrooms enlightening late-adolescents are blinded to the problems of work and its demands. Those who write for The Wire are somehow exempted from ideological mystification, jobsite determination. Lucky them, I guess.

4. Delicate subject, this one. I’ll put it very briefly and tolerantly. If you want to show up for popular political action, you might want to find a vernacular to speak in that is a little less dependent on, erm, gothic trope. Why? Well, first of all because of what IT said in this post. But moreover because people simply  don’t like that shit. They don’t identify with it, other than depressed teenagers of course, but if you’re to start a revolution that moves beyond depressed kids at certain shows, I’d advise taking off the cape and the false fangs. It’s juvenile. This isn’t the academic in me saying this, just to be clear. Academics love vampires and zombies, never more than now.

I’ll explain what’s wrong with radical dysphoria in another post. But that, too, is fucked from the start. Encyclopedia entries, the barest of common knowledge, would show why.

Written by adswithoutproducts

June 12, 2009 at 11:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

16 Responses

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  1. As a fellow Wire writer and long-time reader of Mark’s work, I have to object to this:

    “Sorry, but is the endless command to amplification, to unpaid marketing work, not deformative? Only people who spend their lives for the most part busy enlightening late-adolescents are blinded to the problems of work and its demands. Those who write for The Wire are somehow exempted from ideological mystification, jobsite determination. Lucky them, I guess.”

    …Or rather, not object but insist that Mark is fully, perhaps even neurotically *over*-aware of those dangers. While The Wire may not be free of ‘ideological mystification’, it is pretty much the only music magazine out there that would even countenance someone discussing such a possibility in its pages. As for the average age of its readers, a lot of people slam it for the opposite reason, saying only old men read it, so….

    There were things I disagreed with in Mark’s post, although the way he set things up, you feel like you must be a Vampire or a Troll as soon as you articulate any objections. In the context of *this* blog though, I thought his Academics = Trolls thing should be addressed. Put it this way, at the conference I attended last week, did people burst into the room in balaclavas and shriek ‘This is f*&!ing SH*T you stupid C@!T’ at those presenting? No, because it’s the anonymity and totalized aggression that is the hallmark of the troll. The troll does not exist offline, because the troll is enabled by facelessness. Mark is very keen on defacialization and the net’s potential to enable it, and despises the Enlightenment image of genial, decorous debate. Well, then the troll comes with the territory, and it doesn’t live in the Academy.

    (In fact, thinking about the balaclava’d Q&A terrorist scene I imagined above, you’d think Mark would want MORE trolls in the Academy, not less…)


    June 13, 2009 at 9:46 am

  2. Pending Mark fulfilling his promise re eliminativism, I think this is the most useful post to come out of the Badiou debacle — useful because what you’re doing here really is organisation.
    I’m glad that you were able to articulate so well in points 1 and 2 what I was only groping towards, precisely what needs addressing.


    June 13, 2009 at 11:57 am

  3. If gothic tropes are so unappealing, what do you make of their persistence in cultural products (especially movies)? It wasn’t just teenagers who went to see that that Schmittian advertisement for fascism, The Dark Knight.

    I’d say that the problem is that these figures are too rhetorically effective, and easily recaptured by the right wing: tropes of monstrosity, parasitism, decay, vampirism, etc., when used by the left can easily get detourned by right-wing demagogues as a way to vilify and dehumanize some specular other. . .

    But I’d say there’s still a place for the gothic. Some of the finest moments in Marx take on a strictly 19th century gothic figuration: the vampire stuff, machinery as “automated monster.” He’s not above melodrama. I don’t think we should be either.

    But still, point taken. Different tropes for different folks, no?

    The question about Speculative Realism is a good one. I haven’t read much by these folks, but they seem entirely apolitical, or worse, nihilistic in a way that seems to portend something ugly. This doesn’t apply to K-Punk, who is often right on.


    June 13, 2009 at 2:00 pm

  4. ZoneStyx,

    Shoot. Sorry – I left something a bit ambiguous in the post. “Only people who spend their lives for the most part busy enlightening late-adolescents are blinded to the problems of work and its demands” – refers to academics, not writers for the magazines… I can see how you could take it the other way. I am not surprised by your description of The Wire demographics.

    I don’t think I’m ready to give up on decorous debate, though I do see the benefits (obviously) of facelessness and definitely of a bit of argumentative passion.


    Where do you blog / write? I’d like to read what you’ve written, but the link you’ve embedded just leads to twitter in general.


    Sure, you’re right about Marx’s gothicism. It’s a good point. For a lot of us aesthetical types, that’s the best part of the whole oeuvre too. But what I think happens over on the end of the internet that’s hoisting Badiou – including Mark – is that the favored trope is running ahead of sensible argument. After all, Marx didn’t advocate silly sounding things like becoming undead, becoming putrescent or whatever. It’s a question of remember what we’re ultimately up to, not getting carried away with the little boy logics that we’re having a hard time leaving behind it seems…


    June 13, 2009 at 2:39 pm

  5. Aaargh! My skin! It’s falling off! Little welts of late capitalism are forming! Help!


    infinite thought

    June 13, 2009 at 2:47 pm

  6. Yeah, there’s the case for taking the whole box of allergy pills, as we wuz saying….


    June 13, 2009 at 3:18 pm

  7. Did you see Todd Haynes’ ‘Safe’ yet? I can’t remember…

    infinite thought

    June 13, 2009 at 3:21 pm

  8. “Nary a word about why speculative realism’s time is now, and very little about Badiou’s obsolescence …”

    In fairness, though, he has written very extensively on these subjects at his blog and elsewhere, and he did conclude his post with a “And I’ll return to this in the long-promised eliminativist Marxist post.”

    The paradox that K-punk doesn’t address in relation to his defence of fandom and Alex’s “act of nihilation’ (and I’m wondering how this is squared with his commitment to dogmatism as rational consistency rather than a (patriarchal) retreat into the Discourse of the Master) is that what triggered Alex’s “I hate Badiou” wasn’t punk nihilism, or a Death Drive ‘ACT’, but a response to being labelled as a fan of Badiou, or, in his own words, of “being called a Badiouian”, which is, um, a little bit at variance with the whole thrust of K-punk’s post (disavowal of fandom as trolling etc, etc, etc). This is Thanathos, it’s sex drive, not death drive, which is also my problem with Xenoeconomics.

    (And I’m unsure that a pomo simulation vis-a-vis Badiou of Johnny Rotten/Lydon’s “I hate Pink Floyd” fan nihilation could itself be described as an “act of nihilation” [not to mention that Lydon is now a boring old multi-millionaire property investor fart who’s more recent antics are indistinguishable from those of rock geriatric Ozzy Osbourne]).

    SAFE, yeah, best film of the early 90s. A real pity, though, that all his subsequent work has been such nostalgic-modal retro shite. But, shure, there’s no accounting for taste …

    [The elite of academics (computer scientists/researchers/technoids) who invented the term “troll” on Usenet in the pre-web 1980s are now a bunch of … trolls. Barach Obama is now revealed to be, after Clinton, Blair, Gates, Branson, etc, a Grey Vampire. Discuss].


    June 13, 2009 at 11:26 pm

  9. Thank you for this. It’s probably the best post I’ve read in this whole cacophony. And Beckett’s point about the fandom paradox is right on.

    I think what annoyed me most in Mark’s post (and his remains one of the few blogs I still actively follow), was the implication that if you don’t like Alex’s style, well, you’re just not punk enough! You’re an anglo conservative corrupted compromised sutffed don whatever. Where is the space for it just being bad prose? Or philosophical disagreement? One of the more annoying dimensions of a certain type of comp lit academic writing in the late 90s was the assumption that oblique, syntactically-uneven writing was somehow automatically profound or beyond rebuke. I’m not saying Alex is necessarily superficial or empty or espouses this position, but I do resent Mark’s implication along these lines: that confrontation is somehow automatically equatable with conservativism. All avenues to disagreement are shut off before you even venture down them. I say this not least since Mark remains a clear writer himself, his gothic tropes and neologisms often seeming central and intelligible to his arguments and his writing.

    Also, if the stuff about academics was meant to be an ad hominem assault on i.t., it’s just ridiculous and doesn’t really fit the image I think most readers of her blog would have of her relationship with the academy or thought. And her jibes (especially about “sitting in darkened rooms listening to records and feeling a bit special…”) were clear proof of her own point that she simply has more wit than many of her interlocutors. Or maybe it’s not meant to be that and I’m merely lost in the allusions…


    June 15, 2009 at 1:22 pm

  10. RobDP — exactly — Mark’s blog is genuinely inspiring, but at times hugely frustrating — ‘cold rationalist’ but (when he’s in a different mood) fired up with a Nietzschean spirit of rhetorical fury that looks down on the merely reasonable, and privileges intemperate impulses like ‘hate’ over the duty to be consistent or logical, and re-brands rationalism as slave-mentality neuroticism … a ‘body without organs’ that has a very thin skin … and the Splintering posts, especially the second, were just flimsy. That kind of nihilism, it truly is anti-humanism as ANTI, as in contra- the human, as in it’s not just against the discredited discourse of humanism, it’s actually an animus against the human species. How can such a position be anything other than conservative (in the sense of Hobbesian reductive pessimism, where politics can only be about ‘managing’ the vile poverty of the human subject with the least worst results, a system for temporarily deferring entropic chaotic dissolution). How can it ever fit with Mark’s intensely-felt and -thought leftism? If Mark is into all this stuff as a *rhetorical* position that satisfies as a kind of metaphorical expression of massive existential distress – y’know late capitalist alienation breeding a desire to see it all wiped out, black metal style – well, fine, but then those black metallers are all adamant that for them it’s not a metaphor, that they’re dead serious about genocide being a consummation devoutly to be wished… If Mark lines up with all that, he’s essentially lining up with a primitive nationalist fascism… if he doesn’t then he can only be the kind of insincere dabbler/dilettante/tourist that he abominates in that post.

    k-punk fan

    June 15, 2009 at 1:50 pm

  11. Beckett,

    Good point about the fandom contradiction, Alex to Mark.


    I don’t think you’re wrong at all in what you heard in the post – I felt the same thing. A few things about IT: a) her relationship to academia is appropriately and provocatively complex – very very clear from her blog. b) also clear from her blog, absolutely, is the fact that she is indeed way wittier than her interlocutors. c) she is also, despite the fun of her writing, careful and smart about things, circumspect. This stuff is not – and that’s probably what provoked this silly response from K-Punk.

    k-punk fan,

    This is a really excellent comment, and exactly right. You’ve hit on exactly the thing that gets me off the bus. We all understand what is at stake with the critique of humanism. It’s a line of analysis that’s been around – and valuable – for quite awhile now. But somehow the wires have gotten crossed here, and people (Alex, and now K-Punk) have misunderstood the point of the approach, and have drifted (as you say very eloquetly into some sort of annihilationist thing that’s either sick or childish or probably both. But you’re saying it better than I am so I’ll stop…


    June 15, 2009 at 6:43 pm

  12. […] badiou baddles, me being somewhat angry, whatever I’ve been watching the recent blogwars over Badiou with only a tiny bit of interest. I don’t have a dog in this fight, really, as I’m neither a Badiou fan (or ex-fan) nor am I a Badiou scholar. I don’t even seem to be a wholy paidup Britblogger, despite rather thick personal affiliation with some of the key parties. I think a critique of Badiou might figure in the thing I’m losing all my books for re-writing, but it’s going to take some seriously fast reading and probably a bit of help from th […]

  13. I know I’m late on this, but point 4 is wonderful, and of course, spot on.

    michael o'neill

    June 18, 2009 at 10:27 pm

  14. Michael, which point is point 4…? Do you mean 4th comment?


    June 18, 2009 at 10:50 pm

  15. the main post is numbered 1-4.

    michael o'neill

    June 19, 2009 at 1:52 am

  16. silly me… just assumed you were talking about a comment for some reason…


    June 19, 2009 at 7:07 am

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