August 30, 2005

Coffee vs. Oil: the cult of the Blob has now a rival!

You Are Coffee's Pawn

August 17, 2005

Programming WWIV

On the general topic of macronarratives, everyone seems to be linking to this Bill Roggio piece at the moment.

Posted by CCRU-Shanghai at 06:07 PM | On-topic (79) | TrackBack

Exciting Stories

There might well be many reasons to call into question the ‘vitalist’ discourse (of D&G, the early Lyotard and others), with its rhetoric of intensities, stimulus, excitation and libidinization. Setting philosophical niceties aside, however, the fact remains that the natural consequences of apathy are silence and inactivity. Discursive production of whatever kind presupposes an irreducible driver.

Cybernetics is nothing but a technical description of abstract excitement (promotion/inhibition of behaviour). Economic analysis, essentially a rigorous investigation of incentive structures and their consequences, is also differentiated from an ‘excitational’ vocabulary by nothing except linguistic convention (the conceptually decisive Keynesian reference to ‘animal spirits’ is but one index of this). Politics too, in its practical core a matter of (de)mobilization, assumes excitational dynamization through ‘ideological passion’ and awakening of interests, agendas, phobias and commitments (or the suppression of these). Values that excite nothing count for nothing, in any practically consequential field.

If ‘over-excitement’ eradicates coherence, sobriety, lucidity or perceptiveness, then that is reason enough to denigrate it, from the perspective of interests devoted to intricate or delicate tasks, at least. But this suspicion of excessive excitement does not necessitate an erasure of the entire problematic, which can only lead to the complete dismissal of motivation. Fastidious intellectualism might be at times uncomfortable with an excitational vocabulary, one seen, perhaps, as implicitly associating its mode of effective dedication with baser or cruder impulses, but such discomfort falls far short of an argument, and perhaps rises only to a mere misunderstanding.

Within the hyperstitional circuit - the minimal delimitation of the hyperstitional object compatible with both a definable content and its realization - excitation, or some functionally equivalent synonym, must find a place. If narrative has an ineliminable role in such circuitry, it is in part because the libidinal engagement of a storyline has an essential motivating role. The pure theorist is a character within a narrative trajectory - however tacit - before being a realizable subject position. Even if logical systems can be formalized without attention to their real narrative embedding, they cannot by rendered hyperstitionally consistent in this way. Even computers evade this truth only artificially, through contrived technical isolation from their conditions of emergence and reproduction. A Boolean calculation run on silicon operates within an incentivizing metanarrative that is no less ‘ontological’ and efficiently conditioning than the one enframing the desperate gambit of a sweating primate fleeing from armed killers.

“What’s the story?” is a question that is always there. What’s the story you are telling, or being told, about what you are doing and why? What’s the story of your life, your society, your identity, your place in the cosmos? What’s the story guiding your assumptions about social destiny, the meaning of existence, the nature of right and wrong?

Religions are stories, and becoming irreligious is a difficult thing. Histories are stories too, and becoming ahistorical is probably no easier. Historical religions have a special metanarrative power, evidenced through their social contagion. Perhaps Hyperstition can sort some of this out …

Posted by CCRU-Shanghai at 05:06 PM | On-topic (113) | TrackBack

August 13, 2005

Open Darwin thread

My copy of Pinker (The Blank Slate) is in another continent at the moment, and there's nothing particular I want to say about W's seeming flirtation with 'Intelligent Design' in US education except that it's utterly intellectually corrupt (and an abuse of Federal power).

Only preliminary point to be made here is that the polarity between 'human nature conservatives' and 'blank slate radicals' leaves out the 'biolibertarian' alternative of deep (genomic) body modification and species mutation. The road to a new culture runs through the body - call it Shoggothic Materialism (or Oankali intervention).

Posted by CCRU-Shanghai at 11:44 AM | On-topic (56) | TrackBack

August 12, 2005

The Capitalist Thing

This blog is not primarily political, in the sense of partisan (although of course I love northanger’s notion of “hyperstitional partisans” - even if it is is hard to read this as anything other than anticipatory, at best). For that reason it is easy to be distracted from topics which trigger intense partisan rancour, aiming somehow to avoid them. The trouble is, as everyone knows, such topics are precisely the ones everyone really cares about. Either we find a way to discuss them productively here, or we learn to tolerate perpetual seething hatefest - or we might as well give up.

First consider ‘Capitalism.’ There is really no doubt that whatever is happening on this planet is doing so under conditions guided by capital production. Whether affirmed or negated, the primacy of ‘capitalist’ imperatives is assumed, if only because the zones of maximal regenerative capital formation (the USA, China) exert such extraordinary pressure on their relatively retarded contemporaries (‘retarded’ defined within the framework of ‘capitalist rationality’ of course). Marx certainly had no doubts about it, and if his successors have radically transcended his stance in this respect they have kept very quiet about doing so. Islamism, too, is quite explicit about ‘capitalism’ as the negative definition of its ambition - ‘after communism, capitalism’ (to the grave, and if anyone really has a problem with the citational basis for this, I’ll dig heaps up).

Those who think capitalism is the biggest thing happening in the world today (for better or worse or whatever) thereby define themselves as ‘Western’ by default, insofar as they implicitly marginalize the resurgence of Islam - the only militant antiglobalism that disdains the dialectics of Occidental politics - treating it (from Left or Right) as principally a reaction to the imperialistic/liberatory transformations flowing from economic liberalization and its globalizing dynamic. Islamist economics is an increasingly significant topic in its own right, but I suspect very few on the left yet consider it a decisive one. The effect of Edward Said’s critique of orientalism has been that, in ‘politically correct’ circles, taking too much interest in the positive content of Islamist doctrine has become basically taboo. If Islam is ‘the Other’ - i.e. primarily a Western phobic pathology - there is no particular need to investigate it. From the perspective of the genuinely pro-capitalist (as opposed to social conservative) right, on the other hand, Islamism is merely an impressively vigorous species of medieval barbarism, and thus of interest solely for purposes of military intelligence.

It would be tempting, therefore, to set the entire Islamism question aside, were it not for the fact that it so dominates the practical opposition to the planetary capitalist agenda. It is probably asking too much of the left to solicit their concurrence to the thesis: Contemporary anti-capitalist revolutionism necessarily takes an Islamist form (even if Carlos ‘The Jackal’ and George Galloway are prepared to). To the right, however, this thesis is basically uncontroversial.

For an Anglospherean Westerner, the priority of capital is not in doubt (any more than it was for Marx, or is for Chomsky). So what is ‘capitalism’? How much can be agreed, or at least discussed, before descending into partisan bickering about its legitimacy?

‘Capitalism’ deserves scare quotes for the simple reason that it is quite evidently a hyperstitional construct of extreme importance. Any modelling of capitalism already serves to mobilize desire in particular directions, either supportive or oppositional, with multiple variations of each. The right describes ‘capitalism’ in order to enhance its realization, while the left seeks to condense the image of an enemy to be deposed. Unsurprisingly, from the right capitalism appears woefully under-achieved, while from the left it takes on the aspect of an all-encompassing despot.

Since Marx is most responsible for consolidating ‘capitalism’ as an object (even if, as Gillian Rose insisted, he himself never used the term), the Marxian critique merits specific attention. The fact that the subsequent critiques of Marx’s own analysis, by Boehm Bauwerk, Schumpeter, Wittfogel, Hayek, Braudel, Deleuze and Guattari, Lyotard, and - most arithmetically incontestable - by the ‘transformation problem’ raised by Marx himself in the 9th chapter of Capital Vol. III, suggests that the hyperstitional work accomplished by the Marxian project was not to be undone by mere conceptual refinement or traditional criteria of logico-mathematical refutation. Once ‘capitalism’ was conjured into manifestation as a hyperstitional object, it was no longer to be dispelled by anything less than a right-wing cultural revolution, a project that has consistently exceeded the capabilities of capital’s advocates (who have consistently fallen back upon reactionary alternatives, most prominently: Christian religiosity).

‘Capitalism’ no longer describes an analytically coherent totality, such as a ‘mode of production’ rigorously comprehended by antagonistic theory. It is now a proper name, the Thing taking place, an occurrence or happening, no more in need of exact portrayal than a cyclone, an earthquake or a meteorite impact.

The right have always been reluctant to acknowledge the shocking singularity of capitalism, so disruptive of conservative assumptions and universalistic complacencies. It seems that the left has now joined them, happier with pronouncements of emotional allegience than analytically defensible commitments. Almost everyone would probably prefer to avoid the hard task of precisely defining the singular course of terrestrial inevitability under the conditions of capital’s pilotage (social conservatives are unlikely to be enraptured by its destination). That is no reason for hyperstition to evade the question.

Let the s**t storm begin ...

Posted by CCRU-Shanghai at 08:45 PM | On-topic (118) | TrackBack

August 09, 2005


At the 1999 Syzygy Event at Beaconsfield, London, certain Ccru elements reported - albeit in a fragmentary, time-twisted and in many other respects confusing fashion - that the Architectonic Order of the Eschaton planned to ritualistically welcome the transition to “The Age of Katak” at the dawn of the new millennium. (Some (delirial) hints here.)

The problems with this pronouncement are legion. To note only the most obvious conundrum: Why should a hermetic Atlantean organization have been preparing to celebrate a Christian calendric event in the name of a Lemurian entity?

Despite such concerns, the Age Of Khattak (AOK) has proven bizarrely prophetic.

Portrait of a parallel killer

Khattak is a Great Lemur of distinctive temperament. Her colour is RED (= 54), her totems fanged and clawed. She is the sole Syzygetic Lemur to respond to a non-involutionary rite, the one which Echidna Stillwell describes (in a letter to Peter Vysparov) as “raking through the entire cycle of time with the talons of … infinite ambition.”

Khattak’s most prominent feature is her densely overdetermined seizure of unity, in all its senses of atomism, centrality, completion, comprehension, integration, monomania, monopoly, monotheism, oecumenon, totalitarianism, and doubtless many others. She is internally articulated by a single step of minimal difference, positioned at the centre of the Barker Spiral, and all-enveloping in her passage around the Hex. The comprehensive rite of Khattak is, on its own, central, unique and totalistic. Numogramatic confirmation of all this is extremely straightforward, and need not concern us at this point (see here).

Khattak feeds on conflict, rendered incessant by the comparative indecisiveness of advantages and the unlimited intolerance of agendas. Her wars are both total and skewed towards inconclusiveness, demanding absolute resolution with the same emphasis that they frustrate decision. They are thus characterized by an utter yet insatiate animosity. If Khattak has a ‘logic’ it is akin to a collapsed Kantian dialectic of irresolvable - yet unsurmountable - antagonism: a perpetually re-animated, furious collision of certainties. I love everything you hate and hate everything you love, for ever.

Among the true Tribes of the Sumatran Nma, the (khattakite) Tak were notorious for their exceptional savagery. Fittingly, these brutes were exterminated by the eruption of Krakatao.

The Pylon of the Atlantean Cross corresponding to the lair of Khattak (on the Numogram) bears the name: Apocalypse.

(to be continued)

((this is Nick not Ccru-Shanghai - can't get in any other way at the moment))

Posted by CCRU-Shanghai at 03:04 PM | On-topic (46) | TrackBack

Fearing is believing


Ian Softley's The Skeleton Key is about Hoodoo. Although in some ways similar to Voodoo, Hoodoo is Central rather than West African in origin. The American Blues is often linked with Voodoo, but it probably has more connections with Hoodoo. Hoodoo practicioners are explicitly referred to as twin entities - "two-headed doctors," "two-head women," and "two-head men" - since they consort with spirits that reside in their head. The names for the harmful spells they cast include such Lemurian borrowings as "jinx" "trick," and "cross".

The Skeleton Key sees city-dwelling hospice worker Caroline (Kate Hudson) engaged by Violet (Geena Rowlands) to look after her husband, Ben (John Hurt), a near-catatonic who has, it seems, has recently suffered a stroke. In moving from the city to the bayous, Caroline shifts from an alienated ultra-modernity to an Oddubbian hinterland of rain-drenched swamps, spectre-haunted mirrors and scratchy Blues 45s. This is a genuine interzone: not quite dry land, but not subsumed under water; not the (post)modernity of the demystified American metropolis, but not a regression into the 'pure primitive' (associated with Africa). The ancient here is already mediated through Kittlerian machineries of recording (phonography and photography). The objective correlative for this 'time out of joint' is the decaying splendour of Violet's house, a remnant of Southern aristocracy (the nostalgia for which American Horror has been in thrall to since Poe), a structure sinking into swampland, whose shuttered attic room contains jujus, spell-books and recorded conjurations.

It is the presence of these stage-setting devices that have led some critics to dismiss the film as little more than a repository of hoaky cliches. But this is to entirely miss the reflexive role that such elements play in a film that is very much about belief. As Walter Cannon established in 'Voodoo Death' and Wade Davis in The Serpent and the Rainbow, sorcery cannot work if its victim does not believe (both writers famously go to some lengths to describe the physiological mechanics by which beliefs become translated into physical ailments). Thus the insistent refrain in The Skeleton Key: you are immune provided you do not believe. But Caroline comes unstuck because, although she maintains the conviction that she does not believe until the end, it is clear to the audience long before then that she has crossed, imperceptibly, into the ranks of believers.

Caroline is a dupe, trapped by her own postmodern sceptical assumptions. Caroline's mistake is to subscribe to the postmodern doxa that there was a 'time in the past when people "directly believed"'. Conversely, she is also a victim of the view that indirect belief - 'belief through the other' - is not yet 'real' belief. Zizek describes this postmodern account of belief in The Puppet and the Dwarf:

'As Robert Pfaller demonstrates in Illusionen der Anderen, the direct belief in a truth that is subjectively fully assumed ("Here I stand!") is a modern phenomenon, in contrast to traditional beliefs-through-distance, like politeness or rituals. Pre-modern societies did not bleive directly, but through distance, and this explains, for instance, why Enlightenment critics misread "primitive" myths - they took the first notion that a tribe originated from a fish or a bird as a literal direct belief, then rejected it as stupid, "fetishist", naive... Pfaller is right to emphasize how, today, we believe more than ever: the most skeptical attitude, that of deconstruction, relies on the figure of an Other who "really believes".' (6)

In The Skeleton Key, the Other who 'really believes' is - or seems to be - Ben. Caroline infers from Ben's horror of mirrors and his thwarted, pathetic attempts to escape the house that he has been 'crossed', or cursed. Or rather: that he believes he has been cursed. So Caroline rationalizes her initial interest in, and subsequent dabbling in, Hoodoo by reference to Ben's belief. Since Ben believes he has been Hoodoo-hexed, Caroline must 'play along' with Hoodoo ritual in order to cure him.

As soon as Caroline has begun to perform Hoodoo rituals, she finds herself a victim of the process that Pascal described when outlining his wager in his Pensees. In his conversation with an imaginary interlocutor, Pascal maintains that the cure for 'unbelief' is to literally go through the motions of the Catholic faith. Acting as if you belief will eventually produce belief 'in the heart'. Behaviour, particularly habituated behaviour, engenders belief. 'You would like to attain faith and do not know the way; you would like to cure yourself of unbelief and ask the remedy for it. Learn of those who have been bound like you, and who now stake all their possessions. These are people who know the way which you would follow, and who are cured of an ill of which you would be cured. Follow the way by which they began; by acting as if they believed, taking the holy water, having masses said, etc. Even this will naturally make you believe, and deaden your acuteness.' With Caroline, as in the case of someone who accepts Pascal's wager, we encounter the paradoxical phenonemon of 'belief before belief' - for Caroline to follow the spells is already to act as if there is 'something' to believe in. Before she knows it, the belief she has attributed to an Other has become her belief. The litmus test here is the emergence of a particular affect - not, as for Pascal, faith, but fear. 'Fearing is believing', as Hume might have said when he claimed that Pyrrho's scepticism was refuted by his shrinking from a rabid dog.

At the beginning of the film, we are led to believe that all the mirrors in the house have been removed because malign spirits reside in them. But mirrors are, after all, a powerful tool of white magic, the guarantors of an illusory consistency of identity, and their removal precipitates Caroline's displacement from her familiar symbolic universe. It corresponds to the miscecognition necessary for her duping.