File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0108, message 58

Date: Thu, 09 Aug 2001 10:59:50 +0100
Subject: Re: Lyotard and Empire

Eric and co,

To what extent can elements of Lyotards discussion of Anti-Oedipus in his
reveiw essay 'Energumen Capitalism' (EC) be rethought as a reading of
'Empire'. In more than one sense AO is one of the texts that the Empire work
is founded on. I'd even go as far as to suggest that in some ways Empire is
like a further volume of D&G's Capitalism and Schzophrenia opus...  However
Lyotard's reading of the AO is that the text "subverts most profoundly what
it does not criticise: Marxism..."  But what is engaged in within the EC is
to point out what it is that is extracted from Marxism and buried is no
less  important that what is burnt at the stake from Freudian psychoanalysis
- actually the latter is less successful than the former because the model
of the human subject that AO defines is plainly unworkable but never mind.
What remains of marxism after the AO and EO is more or less what remains in

What remains of capitalism is one step prior to the definition postmodern
capitalism we live in today - fluidity, fluxes and flows.

"Marxism says: there is a frontier, a limit past which the organisation of
flows called capital (capitalist relations of production) comes apart, and
the corrospondences between money and commodities, capital and labor force,
as well as other paramters, go haywire. And it is the very growth of
production capacities in modern capitalism which reaching this limit, will
cause the whole system of production and circulation to wobble. Furthermore
this growth will not fail to allow the passage of even more energy flows,
and to unleash and disperse their 'regulation' system within capital, that
is within their relations of production... All marxist politics is built
thereon, seeking in this frontier, this limit, this chain, a cornerstone
seeking to crumble, or a weak link, or ne considered so pertinent as to
bring down the whole structure, the strongest link...All this is a politics
of law and negativity..." Lyotard (1972) Energumen Capitalism.

(Lyotard goes on to criticise the and examine what '...destroys bourgious
society...'  His critique of marxism is founded on his conflation on the
despotic failings of the 1917 revolution, the refusal of the strategy of the

"What fascinates Marx is quite recognisable in the configuration of Capital
proposed by D & G the capitalist perversion, the subversion of codes,
religions, decency, trades, education, cookery, speech, gender, the
levelling of all 'established' differences into the one and only difference:
being worth..., exchangeable for.... Indifferent difference. Mors
Immortalis, in his words..." These words which were written by Lyotard and
AO are also one of the finest statings of why all the people discussed above
remain important.

Actually I've been wrong about Lyotard on Marx - I've been misreading him,
which the past few days has corrected, it is not marx and the theory he is
writing against but the despotic failings of 1917 - the question becomes how
do you do something about it... How to completely eradicate the negativity
and guilt which has haunted us since the utopian dreams turned into
nightmares... (sorry Jean-Francios)

I agree in other words that Empire is so close to the work of the
philosophers of desire - D&G below but also Lyotard from the same period...
It's easy to forget the passion and anger that drips from the 1970s texts of



Mary Murphy&Salstrand wrote:

> Steve
> No problem if you are over the top. Keep in mind, my own agenda is the
> following. Keep open a different reception of Lyotard from the cliches
> found in the lit-crit anthologies.  From my POV, Lyotard never lapses
> into nostalgia, and therefore, it isn't fair to call him a pessimist.
> IMHO he always pushed for resistance, refusal and passive rebellion even
> when there seemed no other way out. The keynote in late LyoTARD is
> ambiguity, not despair.
> The question remains, how does Empire complexify Lyotard's own
> conception of complexity, as this is found in his later works. N&H don't
> seem to be denying  the condition as much as saying it allows for
> certain unforeseen transformations. Perhaps.
> You asked me for my take on multitudes.  I see it as deriving both from
> Deleuze and Guattari and Spinoza.
> Here is some background from 1,000 plateaus - as you will see, it is
> central to the main conceptions of this book!
> Rhizomatics=Schizoanalysis=Stratoanalysis=Pragmatics=Micropolitics.
> These words are concepts, but concepts are lines, which is to say,
> number systems attached to a particular dimension of the multiplicities
> (strata, molecular chains, lines of flight or rupture, circles of
> convergence, etc.)
> All we know are assemblages.  And the only assemblages are machinic
> assemblages of desire and collective assemblages of enunciation...
> An assemblage, in its multiplicity, necessarily acts on semiotic flows,
> material flows and social flows simultaneously.
> A body without organs is not an empty body stripped of organs, but a
> body upon which that which serves as organs (wolves, wolf eyes, wolf
> jaw?) is distributed according to crowd phenomena, in Brownian motion,
> in the form of molecular multiciplicities.  The desert is populous.
> People say, After all, schizophrenics have a mother and a father, don't
> they?  Sorry, no none as such. They only have a desert with tribes
> inhabiting it, a full body clinging with multiplicities.
> This brings us to the second factor, the nature of these multiplicities
> and their elements, RHIZOME.
> Lines of flight or deterritorialization, becoming wolf, becoming
> inhuman, deterritorialized intensities: that is what multiplicity is.
> Thus we find in the work of the mathematician and physicist Riemann a
> distinction between discreet multiplicities and continuous
> multiplicities.
> We are doing approximately the same thing when we distinguish between
> arborescent multiplicities and rhizomatic multiplicities.  Between
> macro- and micromultiplicities.
> The elements of this second kind of multiplicity are particles: their
> relations are distances, their movements are Brownian: the quantities
> are intensities, difference in intensity.
> Among the characteristics of a pack are small or restricted numbers,
> dispersion, noncomposable variable distances, qualitative metamorphoses,
> inequalities as remainders or crossings, impossibility of a fixed
> totalization or hierarchization, a Brownian variability in direction,
> lines of deterritorialization, and projection of particles.
> In a pack each member is alone even in the company of others...each
> takes care of himself at the same time as participating in the band...he
> may be in the center, and then immediately afterwards, at the edge
> again; at the edge and then back in the center.
> Now here is how Negri sees multiplicity is Spinoza:
> This new quality of the subject, that is, opens up to the sense of the
> multiplicity of subjects and to the constructive power that emanates
> from their dignity, understood as totality.
> Spinoza republican thought contains three elements:
> 1. A conception of the State that radically denies its transcendence -
> that is, a demystification of politics;
> 2. A determination of Power (potestas) as a function subordinated to the
> social power (potentia) of the multitudo and, therefore,
> constitutionally organized;
> 3. A conception of constitution, in other words, of constitutional
> organization, which necessarily starts from the antagonism of subjects.
> In Empire, N&H are simply extrapolating from these previous conceptions.
> eric


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