File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0103, message 67

Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2001 22:55:43 -0600
Subject: Re: Pomo Marx?

Steve, Don, Todd et al.,

First, let me confess that I have never actually used Napster, nor do I
intend to do so in the near future.  The issue for me is about a certain
closure in the politics of the possible and this is the primary reason
why I invoked the differend.  I would like to envision the internet as a
virtual agora which extends the franchise of participatory democracy and
worry instead that the internet is quickly becoming the mall of the
Americas, albeit on a global basis.

Steve, you make some interesting and provocative arguments concerning
the nuances of intellectual property laws.  I am certainly sympathetic
towards any approach that assists the arts in flourishing.  I also agree
with you that intellectual property for the short term (and maybe long
term as well) is here to stay and our politics must be one that defends
the commons and seeks to limit the rapaciousness of the privateers.
(They seem like the real pirates here.)

What this means is that the battle must be waged on multiple planes, the
very rhizome you invoke.  So, despite my desires, I agree with both you
and Todd that in a restrictive democracy there is a practical need to
work within the existing rule of law to raise questions of justice. I
also think we must always remember something which cannot be presented.
So, I am agreeing with you all, but also nudging you onward as well. 
Maybe it's just my mood tonight, but I'm not feeling inclined towards a
Brechtian theatre of alienation.

Now on to Pomo Marx.  I certainly hope this is not an oxymoron.  I would
even say this position offers a number of attractions, in however
qualified a sense.  I do think, however, that for such an approach to be
viable, both terms need to be opened and renewed.

Marxism is dead in the following senses.

1. Marxist-Leninism/Trotskyism is dead.
2. The centrally planned state socialism of Russia, Eastern Europe,
China and Cuba is dead.
3. The idea of historical materialism, dialectical materialism is dead.
4. The idea of Marxism as political economy in its necessaritarian forms
or structuralist forms is dead.
5. The notion of Marxism as a metanarrative of emancipation is dead.

Postmodernism is also dead in the following senses.

1. The cynical notion that we have entered the age of the simulcra is
2. The notion that history has ended, art has ended, ideology has ended
or anything has ended is dead.
3. The notion that anything goes, that it is all the same is dead.
4. The notion that social constructivism is somehow synonymous with
absolute subjectivity as a kind of parody of the old new age slogan "you
create your your reality" is dead.
5. The notion that postmodernism is the latest trend is dead, dead,
dead.  It's 15 minutes ended more than a decade ago.

So, to ask a proper Kantian question - How is a postmodern marxism

I am going to give a very short answer here, merely as an opening salvo.

For me Lyotard continues to have value because, unlike Baudrillard, he
doesn't lose sight of the political.  He sees conflicts with differing
stakes as central and points to a certain openness engendered by
society's move towards complexity. The libidinal economy of intensities
is never far from his thoughts.  In fact, he wants thoughts to do
justice to these intensities.

A certain kind of open autonomist  marxism also situates conflict as
central in a way that no longer sees the need to link it to some iron
law of history. It speaks of tendencies, but doesn't frame these as
either subjective or structural, but as somehow linked.  

I just had one quick read of "The Confession of Augustine" so I hardly
feel ready to discuss the work in any detail.  What struck me most,
however, was the emphasis Lyotard placed on the idea of the deferral of
temporality in Augustine. "The Confessions are written under the
temporal sign of waiting.  Waiting is the name of the consciousness of
the future."

Elsewhere Lyotard has pointed out the extent to which Augustine
prefigures the modern, and also the extent to which the modern is in
essence a certain relationship to time.  The whole form of the
metanarrative is a future oriented relationship to time as emancipatory,
eschatological time.

Lyotard points out the extent to which capitalism is a project which
attempts to manage time, to maximize it and make it yield full
productivity.  In a sense, it could be argued that capitalism ultimately
seeks to obtain the intellectual property rights to the future itself.

Postmodernism and Marxism seek in somewhat differing ways to resist this
trend.  They don't form a differend, perhaps, as much as they do a
tension, sublimely felt, that must be acted upon in order to be

This tension consists of finding a middle course between the naive
objectivity of a-historical passivity and a crudely undetermined
subjectivity. Formerly, Marxism tended more towards the former while
Postmodernism tended more towards the latter.  In the tension felt where
these extremes meet, both lines of flight may find themselves today with
more in common than they once thought - bound together in time, raging
like the sea, they resist all of capitalism's time management schemes in
the name of something which can scarcely yet be articulated, but which
must somehow still be said.


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