UTOPIA OR BUST: CAPITALOCENE, ANTIUTOPIA (2019, 13,350 words)

Keynote speech at the Utopian Studies Society (Europe) 2019:

Part 1: Where Are We in the Capitalocene;

Part 2.  What Existential Antiutopia Means for Us;  

Keywords: Capitalocene; utopia; antiutopia; ecocide; totality; epistemology; counterrevolution; violence

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ORWELL AND 1984 TODAY: GENIUS AND TUNNEL VISION (2019, 14,500 words)

Orwell, as he himself said, came from a lower, professional service fraction of the English and imperial ruling class that was “simultaneously dominator and dominated” (R. Williams), so that a combination of State and monopoly power became his major nightmare. His horizon was as of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 a revolutionary socialism committed to freedom and equality, opposed both to Labourite social-democracy and to Stalinist pseudo-communism.
I concentrate on 1984, drawing on narratology (its agential system, spacetime descriptions, and composition — “the Winston story,” the “Goldstein excerpts,” and the Appendix on Newspeak) and historical lessons. I conclude that 1984 has an interesting but limited “Tory anarchist” stance and horizon: being revolted against the rulers but not believing the revolt can succeed (in direct polemic with the Communist Manifesto). In Orwell‘s view there are “three kinds of people in the world, the High, the Middle and the Low,” but the mindless and passive Low reduce this to the Middle against the High, or intellect and impotence vs. cynical power. No economics entails here no class struggle and a fair amount of misogyny. Orwell‘s textural skill was penetrating, but his thematics very limited. Still, he was one of the first to notice the long-duration slide of politics toward fascism is, even if he drew a wrong consequence from it, as evident in his early conflation of Stalinism and Nazism into the untenable “totalitarianism.” 1984 remains a concerned, appealing, and in some ways useful text that lacks wisdom.

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WORDS AND LESIONS (2018, 16,800 words)

Abstract: The essay is divided into 2 parts. Part 1, For a Rectification of “Violence”, discusses within a “political epistemology of inflicted lesion” first the denotation and yardsticks of violence, then systemic or “structural” violence, and finally argues for counter-violence as self-defence when necessary. Part 2, On the “1968 Moment”: Characteristics of Violence, the Defeat, and the Cost, is historical, it deals with the “1968 Moment”: its violence, defeat, and the cost, as exemplified in the long “Sanrizuka struggle” of farmers helped by students against the expropriation for a larger Tokyo airport. It then compares the Japanese characteristics to those of the French May ’68. It concludes that the main historical achievement of the youth movement came about in the USA, where it contributed to ending the US intervention in Vietnam. As concerns all other major collective and radical aims and instances, the movement failed, and the causes are briefly indicated. A long note gives data about civilians killed by State vs. “group” terrorism ca. 1965-2004. 

Keywords: 1968, epistemology, youth revolt, Japan, France, violence

First published as „Words and Lesions: Epistemological Reflections on Violence, the 1968 Moment, and Revolution (with Particular Reference To Japan).“ Critical Q 62.1 (2020): 83-122. 

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SATOH’S DANCE OF ANGELS AS A DRAMATURGICAL DISCOURSE SEEKING AND DOUBTING THE YOUNG GENERATION’S REVOLUTION (2018, 10,350 words)

Published, perhaps with some more illos, in in Imaginations: J of Cross-Cultural Image Studies, Dec. 20, 12.2 (2021): 343–80, http://10.17742/IMAGE.MM.12.2.17

Part 1 analyses how the Black Tent Theatre (BTT) played Satoh’s Dance of Angels in 1970-71 on the basis of the text and staging data available in translation and interviews with its prominent members. It was a counter-project to Weiss’s Marat/Sade, radically changed by the feedback with the mainly youth-revolt audience within an angura stance refusing the shingeki theatre, so that words interacted with music, noises, dance, and song in imaginary spaces emphasising body-centeredness in the tradition of political demonstrations, the repressed popular culture of the early 1900s, manga-like bold simplifications, and cinematic cuts. The consubstantiality between theatre and youth rebellion took the form of a part of the movement being self-deputised to become an organ for a criticism of the whole. Part 2 is a detailed interpretation of the play’s dramaturgic agents and their spacetimes as a metaphoric structure with four levels, visible both on the enclosed stage sketch and the depth graph. The differing agents (Birds, Angels, and Winds) represent power levels intimately shaped by a specific time sense and a relation to the threatening revolution. The play enacts not only a painful contingent defeat but also the collapse of the myth of predetermined, linear progression toward revolution, shared by the Old and the New Left. The ambiguous ending is left open.
Part 3 is about the historical lesson to be drawn from the BTT 1970-71 tour, whose audience is analysed. The values at stake centered on the horizon of revolution, thus the section “Disalienation and Politics: The Involution of Revolution,” discusses the BTT’s perceived analogies between the salvational monolithism of tennoism and Stalinism as opposed to self-management. The Dance of Angels performances aimed to articulate and unfold this syndrome in the youth movement, and especially its activist factions — many still engaged at the Sanrizuka protest or in violent city and university conflicts – as to its possibilities and costs. A further section analyzes the audience of their 65 performances and the BTT’s black diagnosis of a “Japanese passive dreaming.” This explains their incident with the Chûkaku faction’s, which severely criticized the play snippets performed as esthetic indulgence and irony about the revolution. A third section faces Satoh’s dream metaphor, oscillating between a view of Japanese political ontology as such and of the youth movement’s general failure to awaken the population. Satoh final question was whether the messianic time of a Revolution now sick unto the death could be reconciled to this dreaming Japanese “tennō time” of eternal return. To face it, he took over the thematics of Marat/Sade, expanded his syntactics of circles within a circle, but everted his semantics.  Half a dozen years after Weiss’s play, amid the failure of a great political upheaval, Satoh had even fewer certainties and lower hope than Weiss, but perhaps more experience and patience for a long analysis. His summation was: “1970 was the year when the traditional Old Left in Japan expired. It was also (in retrospect) the beginning of the end of the New Left.”
Part 4 is A Final Question for Us. It argues that the ruling Powers-that-Be, pivoting on the State apparatus, imply a huge and repetitive use of word formulae insofar as the Word guides latent or patent Violence. Whoever wishes to contest today these Powers must find new, liberating formulae in the wake of 1968 to spark the dissident imagination. At its best, the art of a Peter Weiss, Satoh Makoto or Akasegawa Genpei can be an exemplum of how to avoid the extremes of brutality for its own sake and “weak thought” words bereft of political force and power. Here we might need the concept of counter-violence as legitimate self-defence (see Suvin, “Words”).

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LESSONS FROM THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION AND ITS FALLOUT: AN EPISTEMOLOGICAL APPROACH (2017, 12,180 words)

Lessons from the Russian Revolution and Its Fallout: An Epistemological Approach. Research Paper no. 7. Rosa Luxemburg Foundation Southeast Europe, 2017. 48pp. ISBN 978-86-88745-28-4.

ROSA LUXEMBURG FOUNDATION: https://www.rosalux.de/

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(With Boris Buden) ONLY INTELLIGENT PLANNING WILL SAVE US (2017, 2,850 words)

This interview was originally published in e-flux journal no. 86 (Nov. 2017) and has not been published in hard copy., 2017

A wide-ranging discussion between two ex-Yugoslavs, both from Croatia, both students (in different generations) at Zagreb University, and both in de facto exile, about where we are now, and how to understand the situation of “post-communism,” transiting to destruction of people. Much SF is also discussed as an early-warning system.

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PARABLES AND USES OF A STUMBLING STONE (2017, 11,880 words)

 

— To the memory of Franco Fortini, a great poet and critic of my times

and for my landsmann Sezgin Boynik, who revived my interest in the Formalists

[…] doubt wisely; in strange way

To stand inquiring right, is not to stray;

To sleep, or run wrong, is….

John Donne

We have to live now amidst and with crass defeat, in a kalpa when dominant meanings of socialism and communism have suffered an epochal, though not necessarily irreversible, death: it follows, to upgrade Dostoevsky, that if God and Communism are dead, everything is permitted. It is therefore high time to consider more fully the complex and sensitive matter of how life can (and necessarily must) live in feedback with death. I shall start my consideration with the use in Jewish and Christian traditions of the term and image of a stumbling stone or rock, continue with matters of estrangement, and finish in Death vs. Eros.

  1. The Monotheistic Denunciation of Disbelief: Stumbling into a Trap
  2. Thiswordly Salvation through Estranged Perception

2.1. Values and Religiosity

2.2. Shklovsky‘s Stumbling to Refocus, or Poetry Is What Makes the Stone Stony

  1. Brecht: The Estrangement Effect Is Most Intimately Political (Critical or Mythical)

3.0. Context

3.1. Textual Syntax and Reference

3.2. The Potent (and Bipolar) Estrangement

  1. Brecht and the Stone – Stumbling or Other
  2. A Parthian Shot: On Death and Creative Eros

Alas, death has been a blind spot in canonic Marxism.

Marvell, To My Coy Mistress

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AN APPROACH TO EPISTEMOLOGY, LITERATURE, AND THE POET’S POLITICS — VOL. 41 (2016, 8500 words)

My presupposition is that the common sense or doxa we inherited from High Modernism has failed in, and because of, Post-Modernism and the Post-Fordist triumph of predatory capitalism. This would include the mass misuse of modern sciences in wars and impoverishment of peoples as well as the intellectual destruction of the presuppositions both for a practical Left in Stalinism, as manifested in the disasters after 1968 and 1989, and for a genuine freedom-loving liberalism. But this is a large subject-matter that should be developed separately, while refusing the Post-Modern ” weak thought ” abandonment of reason. I propose in this essay to suggest, first, what might be some foundations and salient aspects of epistemology, that branch of philosophy which asks how do we know what we (think we) know, and to propose an orientation in it (toward a ” soft ” skepticism). I then draw a parallel between sciences and arts, including their institutional anchorage, and in particular insofar as narration is concerned. I end with a brief glimpse of how the art and cognition of poetry may intervene in a politics of freedom and survival: importantly but indirectly.

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ILLUMINATING FREEDOM AND KNOWLEDGE IN DAS KAPITAL: ARISTOTLE, LEIBNIZ, AND SPINOZA (2016, 4,500 words)

Abstract: To understand some central presuppositions of Marx’s, such as knowledge and freedom, within an anti-scientistic and anti-bourgeois horizon, central elements within Leibniz and Spinosa are discussed, with a glance at Hegel. Capital turns out to be an anti-Leibnizian monad, while Das Kapital is undergirded by a Spinozist value-political treatise.

Keywords: epistemology, politics, freedom, Marx, Leibniz, Spinoza, First published in International Critical Thought 11.1 (2021): 120–129.

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USES OF MARX: THE IMPLICIT OF THE MANIFESTED (OR, DEMYSTIFICATION AND CRITIQUE) (2016, 19,500 words)

This integral version was first published in Rab-Rab [Helsinki] no. 3 (2016): 35-72., 2016

A smaller paper on the Communist Manifesto was first written by MA + DS in French and English and redone much later by DS only. It is divided into: 1. The Figuration of Demystification, which deals with imagery and metaphors, and results in an underlying englobing image that is also a concept, that of the Naked Truth; 2. [Marx’s] Oscillation and Its Limits: Demystifying Scientism and Anti-Essentialism; 3. A brief conclusion reveals that if we cannot accept the deterministic Marx, we cannot do without his horizon.

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