I am in the midsts of the book Marx’s Inferno. It is dense af. But gives a fantastic overview of the milieu in which Marx operated and some important expansions of Marx’s thought (Lukas, Althusser, etc)
The premise of the book ostensibly is that the format of Das Capital mirrors that of The Inferno from Dante’s divine comedy. A secondary thesis is that Das Capital is a work of political theory and not social theory. But really, it is a wealth of information and I am learning a ton about the history of Marxism.
Sin originally means missing the mark. The inferno is all the ways that one can mis the mark and the consequences for that. Punishment in the inferno follow the logic of contrapasso. The punishment resembles the sin itself.
The book itself is a bizarre and idiosyncratic endeavor. But what it shows is the diffrent ways that the system of capitalism sins, or misses the mark. Some sins are ‘worse’ then others, they exist in a lower circle of hell. For example, there is the sin of akrasia – weakness of will. This is the desire that we all have within the capitalist system for more money – for example. But is this because of our personal agency or because of the structure of capitalism? How in control are we of our own will.
In the platonic dialogues, I remember reading about akrasia, weakness of will, as epistemological. That is it centered around knowledge. If only someone knew the right way to act, they would act thusly. If someone knows the correct way to act, why dont they act that way?
The last few years I thought Freud – ahh the unconscious. People have unconscious urges that make them act contrary to how they ought to act.
If you look at Nietzsche, then really the question is to act according to your will. The only akrasia is acting contrary to your will. There is no right and wrong, only will and the capacity to carry out one’s will.
But for Marx there is the struggle between the system and the individual. How much agency, or will, can an individual exercise within a system? Perhaps we act contrary to our will because we are embedded within a system that would prevent us from making proper decisions – from acting rationally. For surely if we acted rationally we would do “the right thing.” This is an epistemic approach – knowledge is about making decisions.
In Marx’s Inferno, the critique presented as Marx’s pov is that people are prevented from getting together with full knowledge of the supply chain and workings of capital and discussing and deciding for themselves what to do. It is not that their actions are hampered but their decision making process -via dialogue – is hampered.
The idea of focusing on thinking vs behavior is echoed in so many fields from psychology to business processes to interface design. I think of Thaler and Sunstein’s Nudge Theory and how to create behavioral systems that nudge people to act in a certain way while leaving a modicum of freedom to exercise choice. But perhaps the real goal should be to nudge people to make better decisions and to use dialogue, to self educate, etc rather than to restrict or guide action.
Back to akrasia… what kind of sin is this? What is the sin of acting within a structure, without full agency? It is a sin that exists in limbo not in hell. It is with the other sins of the weakness of will (akrasia).
Back to my initial point. Within the system of capital there are multiple sins, with their own punishment and their own severity. The sin of limbo is akrasia, a sin of structure, or lack, or bad luck. The first sin of hell is the sin of exploitation, of surplus capital… ie force and fraud.
Peter Halley’s Paintings look like circuit diagrams at first and then migrate to graphs in theory of computation… or window air conditioning window units.
Reading notes on abstraction by Peter Halley – I have two take aways….
The first is that he makes great use of observation of daily life and then abstracts from that meditations or deeper realities about ‘art’. In this sense I imagine he is sort of like the precursor to the trend consultant or something. I have no interest in this sort of analysis of contemporary culture. I think contemporary culture is boring. I think that mass culture is boring. I am not terribly interested in why tiktok took off. I am sure it has to do with its interface and onboarding, and other things, but there is going to be another tiktok – tiktok’ that is similarly disruptive for similarly clever and unanticipated reasons.
And so it goes. Stuff is popular because of how it is designed, designed visually (semiotics), designed for use, designed to connect (social signalling/virtual signally), designed emotionally (so we feel good using it), designed somatically (so our bodies feel good using it). These are not the transcendental categories of cultural critique, but you add a few or take away a few and what do you really gain or lose? Not much.
The next are regarding the observations themselves which are worth thinking about.
Capital is static – but there is change. How is that?
I’ll take a stab because of the M-C-M circuit. The point of capital is that it flows through the economy. At every node i the circuit, when a state transition happens from M-C or C-M slippage is possible. That is the slack in the system that enables no only change of capital but cultural change and social change (as rare as it may be).
I think now of the blockchain, with capital on the blockchain there is no slippage. Capital on the block chain removes the M-C-M network, money as a microservice of capital and installs the capital monolith. There are no nodes in the system and no slippage. Not only is it the end of history but the end of culture and the end of society.
Some other thoughts. Real and hyperreal.. I too had these thoughts as a young child. Like what comes after the Museum of Modern Art. Well it turns out the Museum of Contemporary Art, or the New Museum. But then, you know what happens, you have museums named after various people and you have museums for different sub cultures. This is the breaking up of the cultural monolith. What comes after the hyperreality of postmodernism are the realities of the multiverse.
There are some other points about why New is important. Really I am not into the New… I think we are so interested in the New because were are no place -we are ungrounded,We are prospectors trying to find gold at a 100 different sites. We are always looking in a NWE site because we have not struck gold yet. Art is constantly looking for something new because we are not actually talking about art — and none of this is art.
Glamour vs power AND erotics vs everything. I really should not put these all together but what the heck I’m tired and I have other stuff to do. People want glamour they don’t want power. Folks -that is what POWER wants you to BELIEVE. This is this whole essay a psyop. Erotics – erotic is love that does something – it makes you sweat. It is desire – but you feel it in your body. Is erotics historical? Well yea – anything can be desired. Does this mean that if the wrong thing is eroticized it is a fetish, well only if you have a Freudian fetish. What is right and wrong any way – you look into the abyss and well i hope you know what happens. Otherwise you can google it.
Why do people like to talk about erotics. What did Susan Sontag say – we need an erotics of interpretation … oh no I remember now… its an erotics of art. I guess that is how ‘erotic’ got into this essay by Peter Halley. We need an erotics of all things – but let’s talk about erotics of art. Maybe what we need is a somatics of art. Art we feel with the body. Do people mean somatics when they talk about erotics? Well let’s assume people actually mean erotics. Erotics is like desire + somatics. It is a second order effect even though eros was the primordial god in Hesiod’s Works & Days. Maybe eros gives birth to desire and somatics. Maybe the problem is that desire and the body has split and what we need is art to heal the fission.
Anyway the denouement comes at the end – it is that the history of art is the history of abstraction. That we lose specificity that food becomes ambiance (that is a quote), and space is replaced by amenities (another quote). What really is this about? Because although there is abstraction it is differentiated. Dinner at Jean George is different than dinner at Mc Donalds although you cant sit down at either place now that we have Covid19. Is it about surface – like curtain walls? I hope not -that is really f*in banal. What is it? I don’t think it is an impoverishment. But I think we have not fully realized what abstraction can do – to give it the same level of power as representational art. There is something in abstraction about the system- about individual agents or daimons (or damons -my monad-nomad-damon movement). The dining experience as the interaction of 1000 different damons, pleasure is this way too. The Mondrian painting exists with a conceptual and physical framework as well as a curtatorial and architectural (the gallery). And these can be multiplied …. these agents. I dont know this is just a stab. The agent theory of art.
Why should you read this random ass stream of consciousness? You have already read this, so maybe this comes a bit late. But as a friend in my writing group asked about another piece of writing: What is the tldr in this? Well you have to read it. This is the journey it needs to happen in order to understand something. You need to go into the field and dig a bunch of holes not just look at the map. And even if you don’t find gold you do something to yourself -maybe you sweat or build muscles or get a callous. Go take a nice bath with epsom salts now and soak those callous hands. That is what I am going to do – and then record another episode of ovid in the bathtub.
eroticsm of the body vs