@voyou RT @ukblm: Rest in power, Dalian Atkinson. UK police don't need to regularly carry guns to regularly exercise lethal force. https://t.co/MH… 15 Aug 16 Reply Retweet Favorite

Servile work and the politics of reproduction

Marx is disturbed by the strong resemblance between the activity of the performing artist and the servile duties, which, thankless and frustrating as they are, do not produce surplus value, and thus return to the realm of non-productive labour (54).

In A Grammar of the Multitude, Virno attempts to ground his own theory of virtuosity in work in Marx, and notices Marx’s apparent discomfort that his theory analyses artistic work and “servile” work in the same way. What is it that makes “servile” work servile? The distinguishing feature seems to be that it is work that is never finished, but rather work that has to be continually done again. That is to say, servile work is reproductive work, or what Arendt calls the work of animal laborans, the never-finished work of maintaining the human animal. Arendt hates this sort of work because it doesn’t produce anything that outlasts the animal: it does not create something new, or, in Greek, it is not poiesis.

What Virno misses, though, in his attempt to show the new importance of virtuosity in the post-Fordist economy, is that, while it’s true that neither reproductive nor virtuosic work are poiesis, neither is productive work in capitalism. Read more↴

Lost Girl, camp, and form

Canada’s premiere supernatural drama Lost Girl came to an end last week, more, it has to be said, with a whimper than a bang. The last episode was the resolution of a storyline involving the mysterious dark plots of Bo’s dad (who turned out to be Hades), a storyline that the show has been vaguely teasing since the end of season 2. But this kind of long-running plotline has never been the show’s strong point; it’s “worldbuilding,” for want of a better word, has always been rather incoherent and perfunctory, like a bad RPG quest where an NPC shows up and says “you’ve never heard of me before but I’m here to tell you that this random object you’ve never heard of either is VERY IMPORTANT and you need to go and fetch it.” Much better was the episode a couple of weeks ago, which was a Wizard of Oz pastiche, or a few weeks before that, a flashback set in a high school for valkyries. Or the classic second season episode in which all the characters swapped bodies, or the episode where characters swapped bodies and also were in a belle-époque alternate universe. The show was at its best, in other words, when it was embracing the tropes or formulae popular in fanfiction. Read more↴

You want full communism? You better sublate work, bitch

Britney’s new song has been widely condemned as pure ideology; this piece in the Guardian is typical, arguing that the song reflects a contemporary, “religious” commitment to the value of work. That’s not what the song sounds like to me; it’s not so much capitalist ideology as capitalist id. While the official capitalist ethic proposes the necessity of hard work as the ground of equality, the capitalist id glories in the reality that you have to work while (indeed, because), capital doesn’t. Hence Britney’s imperious “work, bitch!” with the subtext that, work as hard as we like, we’ll never be as good as her; and doubtless we’ve all come to terms in our own way with the fact that we’re not Britney and never will be. But, if we follow the insight of the Neue Marx Lektüre that capital is the historical subject of capitalism, we might find in the id of this historical subject some useful indications of the mutations happening to the role of work in contemporary capitalism, and thereby come up with a more dialectical anti-work politics. Read more↴

We need a Victoria Grayson of the left

revenge-emily-capeI think I liked Revenge more when it started as Gossip Girl meets The Count of Monte Cristo, before it turned into 9/11 conspiracy theorist Batman. The first season, in which Emily remorselessly enacted revenge on the family that framed her father, did have a war on terror connection, but it seemed properly post-9/11 in that terrorism was almost purely background (I initially thought, on the basis of some back-of-the-envelope calculations, that the terrorist event that formed the backdrop of the show took place in 2001, although it turns out there was an additional chunk of the timeline that puts it nominally pre 9/11). In the second season the terrorist attack becomes a more direct focus of the show, with Emily now targeting the vague conspiracy of politicians and businessmen who planned it (under the guidance of the man who taught her the Batman skills necessary to her quest for vengeance). Read more↴

OMG is like Rihanna like OK like

I think Farrah Abraham’s My Teenage Dream Ended is a pretty great album, and anyway since Alex Macpherson drew people’s attention to it, the consensus does seem to be at least that it is an interesting record. In the ensuing discussion, though, people have got stuck up on the question of Abraham’s intentionality: can a reality TV star really have “meant” to produce such a strange, dissonant and disturbing album? Perhaps I’ve just been immersed in postmodern theory too long, but I’m not sure what this means. Unless you want to contend the album is the result of random chance or the blind working of natural laws, of course it’s intentional; what does something so obvious have to do with aesthetics? Read more↴

Speak/Now: Feminism, Language, and Taylor Swift

In "Our Song," Swift asks god to give her a "song" made up of sounds from her everyday life; in the promotional art, this becomes a serious of words on a classroom chalkboard.In a piece written in 1990, Judith Butler writes of defensive feminist responses to postmodernism, in which postmodernism is the sign of “an impending nihilism” with “dangerous consequences” because politics, and particularly feminist politics, “requires a subject, needs from the start to presume its subject, the referentiality of language, the institutional descriptions it provides” (Feminist Contentions, 36). According to the view Butler is criticizing here, feminist politics needs to be defended from postmodern theory because postmodernism undermines “the referentiality of language,” that is, the idea that the meaning of language is fixed and under our control, or that language is a medium through which we can express our intentions. Two developments of the past few years make me think it is worth re-opening this discussion of the relationship between feminist politics and the referentiality of language: the feminist blogosphere and the lyrics of Taylor Swift. Read more↴