August 16, 2004


I'll admit to being initially infuriated by this.

But --- calm down Mark, remember kataking is bad --- be Spinozist ----

So please try to read the following post, however intemperate it might sound, as coming from a rational anger, a cold fury (lol); a sense of injustice; and a deep well of pyschic pain caused by the academy. That it comes from those sources does not make it 'unreasonable'.

If it sounds insulting, think about this: what is more insulting? To criticize what you take to be someone's position without bothering to move beyond your own laziest assumptions about what that position involves, or to use the word 'stupid' to describe such power procedures?

Remember that the whole master class politesse program is designed to protect those in power.

I'm so annoyed because the post does the one thing I can't abide, what I find worse even than random abuse: having a position atrributed to you that, far from holding, you have actually taken pains to differentiate yourself from. Disagreement is obviously fine; I mean, either your position is machinically consistent or it isn't. If it is consistent, then an objection can usually give rise to useful clarifications; if it isn't, then you have acquired a new machine part.

But in order to respond to this piece, I have to first of all detach the my position from the straw man that has been constructed out of the very default assumptions that k-punk has from the start been seeking to dismantle. Sadly, this situation is all too familiar when dealing with academics.

For one thing, here we go again - I can feel my blood pressure rising - k-punk is implicitly aligned with 'Deleuzianism', a word I loathe for a number of good reasons. For a start, the Land/Ccru/ k-punk axis has had only minimal investment anything beyond Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Secondly, even referring to Capitalism and Schizophrenia as a moment in Deleuze's career is spectacularly biographizing, subjectifying and academicizing.

I think we have to think very carefully about why academics cannot say the word 'they'. Academics who would faint if you said 'he' instead of 'she' quite blithely say 'he' instead of 'they'. Why is that, I wonder? (btw, I really don't know whether Sandy, the author of this post, is an academic, but the influence of the academy, and I assume the especially stupefying American academy is all over this piece. I shoud say now that I cast no aspersions on Sandy 'personally' - what do I know of her? I haven't read the blog apart from this piece. What I will talk about below are the machines that seem to me are active in Sandy's post.)

Well, the answer is obvious, I think. The academy - as an institution of liberal Kapital - is unproblematically invested in reproducing molar subjectivity (this, given the total irrelevance of what the 'humanities' produce at the level of content, is its chief service to the Thing now).

The fact that A Thousand Plateaus was written by two people cannot be overlooked. This is not just about the marginalization of Guattari (which in any case reveals a level of snobbery I would have thought even academic 'philosophers' would be embarrassed about). More important though is the refusal to think multiplicity, i.e. to in any way engage with the conceptual field that the book lays out. (We all know academics have trouble reading, but...) 'The two of us wrote Anti-Oedipus together. ... We are no longer ourselves. Each will know his own. We have been aided, inspired, multiplied.' (3)

Faced with a passage like this, the typical academic's eyes will in every sense glaze over. Drifting through the text in their habitual representational somnambulism, they inure themselves against everything it is saying by chanting their obsessive subvocal refrain, 'metaphor, metaphor.' This has to be treated as a socio-neurological failing rather than an 'intellectual' one of course. (i.e. it's not that, even though it might appear that way, they are perversely ignoring what the text is saying - they actually cannot read it).

That is to say, the exclusion of multiplicity and collectivity is for very good Marxist transcendental materialist reasons unthinkable for a career academic, walled up in their nit-picking, sad-solitary career Oed-I-pods, pathetically engaged in the task of transforming all discourse into respectable, representational tedium. Hence, in a delicious loop, the academo-dupes, make collectivity unthinkable for their readers. That's not to say that they won't make occasional rhetorical gestures towards the 'collective', but these are so deeply embedded in a metaphorizing representational syrup that the reader's subjectivist assumptions remain happily untroubled.

The whole deep-level assumption here is that we all know, basically, what the world is... (i.e. as described by commonsense liberal individualist ontology) ... and more importantly, we know what it can be. All that is required is a little tweaking, making things a little nicer....

One consequence of this of course is the development of absurd lifestyle so-called feminism. Just as Cult Studs Gramsci-ism is anti-Marxist, so lifestyle lib feminism is not a modified or 'developed' form of feminism, it is actually anti-feminist. In the same way that Marxism, as I said in the last post, is about the production of a collective subjectivity, so Feminism, if it is to have any meaningful sense, must be about women as a collectivity, not individual women getting ahead, still less, surely, about representational tinkering.

I think I can be confident in saying it's not only me that is close to vomiting when presented with a passage like this:

My problem with some deleuzians (ug, whatever), as pointed up by where I began, has usually been that often d+g's apparent coldness and sensationability is championed at the expense of their coziness and hominess.

Yes, that could be because the whole point of their philosophy is to flee coziness and hominess.

But, in the name of uttunul, 'Coziness' and 'hominess' as privileged words!

(Head nearly explodes at the sickening bourgeois tweeness implied here. Flashcut to picture of candy-striped wallpaper, delicate waft of pot pourri, scent of cooking prepared by maid permeating the room, mummy and daddy still at their jobs in the city, copy of Thousand Plateaus nestling next to iccy wickle teddy bear and pair of well-worn slippers.... WTF..)

Hang on though, it gets worse:

Meaghan Morris, in her "Crazy talk is not enough" essay (_Society and Space_, vol14, #4, 1996), remarks similarly,
"Gilles Deleuze is not often invoked as a *home-making* kind of
philosopher--least of all when his writings with Felix Guattari are at play .... '

Hmm, professor, do you think that the word 'nomad' might be a clue as to why that is?

I mean, please, where do we get off the bus with a passage like this? What is being suggested: that home-making is obligatory? I mean, what is a 'home'? A privatized domestic space? I should have thought that yeh professor we might want to envisage conditions in which such spaces had broken down.

I can hardly bring myself to believe that this is presenting itself as a feminist argument. You're joking right? 'Feminism' reduced to insisting upon the very cliches from which it was initially dedicated to breaking women out of? It's like Hilary Clinton being forced to say that she baked cookies... The fact that this is all so up to its neck in representational mind virus too, well of course you take that for granted with this kind of Cult Studs stupidity.

'Stupidity' is not an insult, it's a strictly technical description. Of course the worse thing about this smug, vapid, moralizing, facile, transcendent, spool-it-out-by-the-yard Cult Studs bilge is its sickening, unrepentant middle classness. What are 'coziness' - 'coziness' for fuxake - and 'hominess' if not the values of the comfortable bourgeoisie?

It's as if all theory has to be judged by the standards of bourgeois etiquette (with the pathetic, utterly reactionary image of women plain fainting away at the sight of an agression unproblematically associated with men). As if a manual for dismantling the Kapital Thing-Human OS symbiosis doesn't doesn't have to contain some aggression. What are they expecting? The overlords of Kapital to roll over on their backs without a fight? But of course, it's not about a struggle against Kapital, it's about what representations we should have: icky wicky ones instead of hard, nasty ones... itself a double pincer that says more about their optics than anything we've tried to do here.

More than that, though, there are other types of aggression. The passive aggression of the middle class academy, patronisingly dismissing arguments it hasn't even bothered to even make a cursory engagement with, seems to me a particularly vicious type of psychic violence. (I should know: its subtlizing normative pressure caused my mental health to collapse at least once.)

And, before you rush to say I'm being harsh, think about where the power lies here. These people have well-paid jobs, publications, books, pensions.... Paid for by YOU through taxes...

It isn't a level playing-field.

What a farce.

But why expect any more from universities, I suppose?

There's much more to say actually - there are some important points to be made about the problems with what I am calling the 90s Ccru position. But, for the moment, let me say that I am much more of a Spinozist than a Deleuzo-Guattarian - if anything, that's because D/G can be too 'fluffily' (lol) vitalistic by comparison with the abstract precision engineering of the Spinoza program.

The coldness thing needs to be dealt with very carefully. Again, if there's a problem with D/G from my POV, it's that they are not 'cold' enough. But again, what is 'coldness'? Do we really have to pick up the concept readymade from the sloppy buffet of bourgeois representationalism and take on the assocations thereof assumed?

As an oblique, but I think pertinent, prelude to taking up the theme of 'coldness', I'm going to post up something I wrote at alt.movies.kubrick on Kubrick's coldness.

'I wonder why it is that 'cold' and 'slow' are automatically deemed to be negative.

It is precisely Kubrick's coldness and slowness that are missed in a contemporary culture that is so obsessively 'warm' and 'fast'; ingratiating, emotionally exploitative, relentlessly fidgety. Kubrick took us out of ourselves: not via the transports of ecstatic fervour, but through the icy contemplation of what drives and traps us, and the vision of a universe indifferent to our passions. To see the
mechanical deathliness of the human world from the perspective of that indiffferent universe: that is what Kubrick offered us. A vision of God (which is also an approximation of God's vision).

Kubrick returns - why deny it? - to an essentially religious sensibility, although his religion is 'atheistic' in the same sense Spinoza's was. For Spinoza, God = immanence, matter in itself, the gloriously dispassionate, desolated cosmos. Kubrick evokes the desubjectified affects of awe and dread, rather than the compulsory, socially-endorsed, 'warm' emotions of empathy/ sympathy, as homage to a universe whose indifference entails not pessimism, but freedom:
freedom from the miserable prisonhouse of the human.'

Also: many of the themes here will be taken up in a post - later this week - on Grace Jones as abstract engineer. (Course, Grace might not be 'cozy', 'fluffy' or 'cuddly' [read 'bourgeois'] enough for some....)


Revealing idealist double pincer here:

Is Spinoza the shit because he survived assassination attempts and excommunication or because his writings are so varied and so carefully oriented around practices of love and spiritual/physical beautification?

(Sigh) So it has to be one or the other? So all that stuff in 'Rhizome' about 'and... and...' doesn't mean anything, right? We have to think in terms of exclusive disjunctions, do we?

It has to be about his life OR his philosophy, it has to be life or a (theory) of love...

What could be less Spinozist than this distinction?

And on Baudrillard:

and no, I don't care if his work is academic or not. (Surely this is the most besides the point point possible?)

Hmm. What do you think, readers?


As for the material on Popism and marginality, misreading doesn't even get close.

I certainly think this crops up repeatedly in Mark's objection to (what he calls) pop-ism - i.e., there is nothing philosophically (?) interesting happening in pop by definition since 'intensity' is implicitly tied to marginality (and a noticably boys-y strand of marginality, for whatever that's worth). (To put it another way, if Toxic isn't a flux of intensities I don't know what is.)

I'm assuming other k-punk readers are as angry about this as I am. It really does seem to be the case that, on the most simple level, this person cannot read.

Here we go again. Academics unable to see past the double articulations of the Kantian mainframe in which they are trapped.

Do I really need to repeat the argument against popism? OK (sigh)... I really am tempted to say that you should keep up at the back there, but that has uh certain bad associations.

The problem is not 'pop' - how could it be given my championing of the likes of Rachel Stevens, Girls Aloud and uh Britney this year, Dido in the past (all part of a balanced diet of intensificatory practices, Alderman Undercurrent, lol!)? The problem is a theory about what pop is.

What I am calling Popism is the transcendentally trivializing theory that pop is precisely not about intensification, but is about 'fun' (just about the most reactionary concept going - i.e. fun = some ineffable, unthinkable hedonic blob). In other words, the theory that pop is a relative autonomy that can be somehow 'just appreciated' on its own terms. As Simon has said, this model is self-defeating and self-cornering - in that it both says 'Pop is important!' AND 'it's only pop music at the end of the day!'

What I find troubling from the Spinozistic Marxist POV in that this model absolutely, and comfortably - or maybe 'comfily' lol - fits with - is 'at home with' - the labour/ consumption/ convalescence model of Kapital. It bizarrely buys into the idea that pop is something that is just consumed by a basically rational liberal subject - i.e. that there is no neurological impact of pop upon the supposed consumer. In other words, pop is conceived of as an aesthetic object which is contemplated and 'enjoyed' by a transcendent subject, not as something which has effects on a body, which does things to you....

As for the association of 'intensity' with 'marginality' hasn't k-punk always been about resisting that nonsense? Isn't for instance this that the objection to Dave Keenan's take on noise that k-p made only recently in a series of demolitions of that transgressive pantomimic bullshit?

The point on 'Toxic' is plain embarrassing given this.

I really genuinely hope that Sandy, if she reads this, is not as upset by this piece as I was by hers.

Posted by mark at August 16, 2004 05:00 AM | TrackBack


Thanks for the unwelcome reminder on just precisely why I fled the stultifying American Academy. (As if I needed to relive that.)

For some reason (wonder why!) a Red Crayola/Art & Language lyric is wafting through my mind:

Thanks be to the academy
And praise the oil company

Would you rather have your hand cut off
Or be appreciated by a toff?

Posted by: CarterM at August 16, 2004 11:41 AM

ROFL! Katak rules!

Posted by: undercurrent at August 16, 2004 11:56 AM

That piece by Sandy (who she?) had me nearly rolling about on the floor. Such a MISTRESS discourse! Loving yr analyst's discourse Mark, wish I had the vigour/intelligence/time to reply/add something worthwhile to yr recent posts. PLEASE do not stick to writing about John Foxx and Marvel comics!

Posted by: gary at August 16, 2004 12:03 PM

Well, on one level Sandy does have a point: Many are the discussions that I've had with my testosterone filled bestest beer buddy, Infinite Thought about how Deleuze is too fluffy and pure in places. Personally, I only rate Deleuze because he smoked so much that it made him poorly.

The thing that got me was seeing Foucault on Sandy's list. How the hell can Foucault be construed as being fluffy? Perhaps a quick glance at the title of the third volume of The History of Sexuality might give that impression, but if you opened anything he ever wrote, surely you would be disabused of such a notion. Oh, hang on though, wasn't he gay? They're always very fluffy people...

Posted by: johneffay at August 16, 2004 12:12 PM

thanks everyone, I really appreciate this...

Posted by: mark at August 16, 2004 12:34 PM

btw, John, it was Infinite Thought and Glueboot who brought my attention to this... lol

Posted by: mark at August 16, 2004 12:35 PM

Nice response Mark. (Sorry, I forgot last night to send you the link... I seem to have the memory of a 90yr old these days).

I had been confused myself when I read Sandy's analysis of popism... I thought either she had read you wrong or I had read her wrong but thankfully that's all cleared up now.

Like John, one thing that got me about Sandy's post was her 'fluffy canon' list. Deleuze and Foucault placed alongside Judy Bloom (whom, if I remember correctly from my childhood days, writes about all things wholesome in America) bemused me considerably. Even the placement of Britney Spears seemed strange as far from being fluffy these days she seems to be on a strange path towards self destruction and suicidal tendencies; a far cry from being 'fluffy'.

Posted by: glueboot at August 16, 2004 12:57 PM

Mark - that poorly-written drivel is no match for your infinite connectivism (not to mention your rigour and your reason). Agree absolutely with your points vis a vis 'lifestyle feminism', 'fun', and, indeed, about the value and necessity of a certain kind of 'coldness', a certain kind of 'slowness'....I couldn't be more sick of people lazily assuming that words like 'warm', 'fast', 'positive' are actually positive, just because the word entails certain associations. This to me is the worst kind of picture-thinking which really does nothing to clarify or, indeed, intensify anything at all.

Furthermore, if I hear one more person at a conference begin a question with 'I'm not comfortable with that...', my 'testosterone filled' frame will bound over and beat them to an (even more) senseless pulp.

I don't agree that Kant is to blame however! Have you checked out Kant's profoundly anti-individualstic and antihumanist claims made in some of the political works - close to the kind of Kubrickian 'indifferent universe' that you champion: 'we do not sort of opinion we should form of our species, which is so proud of its supposed superiority...All the culture and art which adorn mankind and the finest social order man creates are fruits of his unsociability' (Idea for a Universal History). He's not one for cosiness or homeliness, I assure....and none of the gains ever made by any group in history ever took as their starting point some sort of horrific domestic ideal.

Have to say I think the US Academy is far more guilty than inculcating fantasies of domestic lives/thoughts than the UK one, if only because of the way 'careers' feed so directly into the postgrad US system. Whereas in the UK, of course, you're just booted out on your arse with little hope of ever getting an academic job. Still, good for the antagonism....

Posted by: infinite thought at August 16, 2004 01:02 PM

Speaking as someone who is not in any kind of university program, i can say that the weird chip on your shoulder you have about this thing you call the "academy"--which seems to be an abstract, monolithic entity, detached from anything concrete and specific, to which you ascribe a vast range of negative qualities--constantly undermines your writing. At least for me. I mean, you admit you don't even know whether this person Sandy is in "the academy," and you go off on a long rant against the academic thinking in what he/she wrote! Isn't that a bit odd?

Regardless of how well you feel it captures your position--and getting all riled up at someone because they're not aware of your life's work and thought is rather unfair--I thought it summarized the tone of what goes on at k-punk quite accurately... I mean really, that uncritical, cliched list of rebel boy philosophy heroes and all the cheerleading around it made me queasy, and I like most of those writers!

Posted by: that's all very well at August 16, 2004 01:05 PM

Hey Mark, could you refer me to somewhere / someone (or maybe an aggregate of places) where that definition of popism is in practical use, please? I'm assuming you mean Radio 1 and Heart 102.8 and so on but I'm not sure. Thanks!

Posted by: Tim at August 16, 2004 02:44 PM

Just a point of information: A cursory glance at Sandy's blog reveals that she or he is in the Australian Academy.

Posted by: johneffay at August 16, 2004 03:22 PM

I bow to your kindness.
The situation with Kant is obv complex. I didn't mean to imply that it is Kant's fault as such! Rather Kant's particular genius is to describe the features of the Human OS --- it's always double with Kant though isn't it, i.e. this is what the world has to look like to us --- but for that very reason we can't know if the world is really like surely we can't even know if the universe is indifferent or not...

Glueboot, yeh Britney's more of a popbot now, and the fluffy list just gets weirder --- what about Andy 'I want to be a machine' Warhol? LOL!

Tim, why are you bothered? Popism's got nothing to do with you or anyone you recognize who are so sublimely complex as to be uncategorizable, as you have said many times .... so why do you feel the need to defend it?

try your relentless and obsessive 'it's only aesthetics, guv' move... Or rather, tell me how your ineffable, never quite stated, infinitely complex, couldn't possibly be fully elucidated position differs from either (a) popism as described by me or (b) strategies of intensification - or could it be that the position is just a fuzzy, unworked out equivocation of the two?

Basically, I'm fed up now. Either state a clear position, which you can defend, or stay away. Your snide carping is just an energy drain. You're not making a contribution to the site any more.

TAVW ---- let's have a look very carefully at what you have to say ----

You're not attached to a university program --- and yet you feel the need to defend the academy. Er, why? And yet at the same time you hate theory? Isn't that a bit odd?

My point about Sandy was subtle. tbh I didn't want to have to read any more of her blog, but nor did I want to do what she did to me, and make wild and wholly unfounded inferences. But whether she's sitting at home reading books herself, or - as seems more likely - deeply invested in some academic department somewhere, her writing is generated by the abstract machines of the academy.

Made you queasy did it.. how very interesting... perhaps you could tell us a little more about this feeling of queasiness --- i.e. why you felt it, and whether such feelings say more about you or the position stated.

'rebel boy philosophers' - who said they were rebels? Just because they were crushed out or voluntarily fled the State Stupidity machine doesn't mean that what they did could be captured in terms of some silly oedipal revolt...

Irigaray's a boy now is she, interesting?

Which female philosophers do you like, btw?

btw, just a point of information, John effay and I, for instance, have doctorates; glueboot and Infiinite thought are postgraduate _female_ students. We know what the academy is. I had a nervous breakdown whilst studying and ended up psychiatric hospital, so I'm afraid it is all too concrete for me.

getting all riled up at someone because they're not aware of your life's work and thought is rather unfair

What more, unfair than this?

I certainly think this crops up repeatedly in Mark's objection to (what he calls) pop-ism - i.e., there is nothing philosophically (?) interesting happening in pop by definition since 'intensity' is implicitly tied to marginality

She's either a liar, incompetent or stupid. She is the one claiming knowledge of my texts, surely if she is making such a claim, the least she could was have a cursory familiarity with them,--- the word 'repeatedly' is a clue here --- what planet do you live on if I am being unfair?

I think the word 'uncritical' is interesting here --- it's often used by people whose default position is liberal empiricism (i.e. resentocratic UG man spite): do you really think you're in a postion to 'criticize' Spinoza? What you call uncritical is just a subordination of my ego to the abstract programs laid out by these theorists --- you wanna 'criticize', (from what position? you in your armchair being greater than D/G or Spinoza?) I want to learn something about the world ... to me, criticizing Spinoza is like criticizing a recipe book or criticizing a karate instructor (why do ppl think that philosophy has to be different from these disciplines --- O I know THE FUZZ )--- criticism is just a category mistake --- the recipe works. But you keep nit-picking if you enjoy it, you obviously do, you and Tim, yr irritability keeps you alive and kicking!

Glue and infinite, you going to Brixton tonight?

Posted by: mark at August 16, 2004 04:38 PM

yep, probly turn up at the pub a bit later, got to go and see a friend in Clapham first. Will dig out my copy of 1000p....we will also have to resolve the Kant thing at some point! maybe I'll include it in my ever-promised rationality post....the thrill!

Posted by: infinite thought at August 16, 2004 05:03 PM

Was going to but unfortunately not now. Some wierd gray cloud has appeared over my head and I need to spend some time in bed... perhaps now is the time for negative dialectics.

Posted by: glueboot at August 16, 2004 05:10 PM

and I thought it was your foot that was troublin' you, S....hmmm....hope the clouds pass. Remember, even heaven cannot sustain extreme weather for long....ah, the wisdom of the east (london).

Posted by: infinite thought at August 16, 2004 05:13 PM

Oh dear, I'm sorry I have annoyed you.

The reason I'm 'bothered' about your line on 'popism' is because that's the edge of what you write in which I'm most interested. I'm attracted to some of what you say, but then some of it feels wrong, at which point I try to ask questions. I don't have a clear position to state, therefore, so I suppose I'd better stay away.

I'll say this before I go, though: I very deliberately worded what I wrote here today to make it clear that I wasn't assuming you were talking about me. I also tried to make it sound as friendly as possible (plainly I failed) because I was actually interested in what you had to say, I asked a question. By the tone you're taking, it seems likely that you won't believe that, which is a shame.

I do find it odd that as of this morning the things I'd said had 'contributed' (even, I suppose, as wrongness which enabled you argue through yr position) but as of this afternoon, and one short post, that's all changed. Nevertheless, this is your place and your rules, so fair enough.

Posted by: Tim at August 16, 2004 05:22 PM

I'm not defending "the academy." I just don't think something so enormous can really be spoken of in such sweeping, absolutist terms. It's like George Bush going on about "evildoers" ;) Oh, neither do I "hate theory," by the way--I'm not sure where you got that from.

My reading of that other blog was that it was someone who stumbled across your recent posts and responded to them. Simple as that. You might disagree, she might be wrong, but your response seems pretty excessive. If I was deploying your mode of attack, I might call it revealingly so. "She's either a liar, incompetent, or stupid"? Nasty words.

I suppose what I meant by "uncritical" was connected to what somebody in the comments box to that earlier thread said, when they pointed out that perhaps all these writers shouldn't be conflated, perhaps they're not all doing the same thing. Aside from that, I don't know, I guess it's just a superficial reaction on my part--that list was such an immediately recognizable canon.

I'm not sure what my default position is these days. Perhaps it is "liberal empiricism"--if it makes it easier for you to put me in the camp of those who just don't get it, by all means go for it.

Posted by: that's all very well at August 16, 2004 05:31 PM

The other day, when considering the relation between clarity of thought and reflex pedantry (it happens), I found the term "nit-picking" brought to mind the image of mutual grooming among gorillas. Perhaps "spot-poking" would be better for the human case.

Posted by: rx at August 16, 2004 05:32 PM

it's called 'language'. It means we can have less hair, sit further away from each other most of the time, and write posts about Spinoza and pop music.

It's a shame we lost all our fur though. And what little we have left we cut, shave and so forth. Silly monkeys!

I may mean nothing I say. It's more confusing than picking insects from another's fur, but it's probably all about power and politics in the end as well. Apart from bonobos, who are clearly just fluffy (in the good sense).

Posted by: infinite thought at August 16, 2004 06:08 PM

I thought Mark's piece was an elegant rebuke, perhaps a touch more affect than he intended, but what the heck. I read Sandy's post twice and FWIW didn't think it was all that bad, but Mark's taste in these matters is far more evolved than mine, and I don't know much about philosophy.

I would say "chill out people, at least you're not waiting for a baby to arrive while a storm rages" but then again it's all part of the white-knuckle ride we come to K-Punk for!

Posted by: paul "the mover" meme at August 16, 2004 09:07 PM

Hi -

Well, I really didn't expect my post to provoke such antipathy. Reading back over it, I realise that while I was trying to sketch a general trend that annoys me (and interests me), I did keep referring back to Mark in particular in a way that wasn't very fair. I hope you'll accept that as a sign I really enjoy your writing (even if I obviously haven't familiarised myself with it as much as you'd like.)

Anyway, I think Mark's response and most of the comments here miss my point mainly by reading the word 'fluffy' as if it meant uncontroversial, gentle, tolerant, easy, comfortable, etc. When Marks says something like, if there's a problem with d&g it's a lack of coldness but 'do we really have to pick up the concept readymade from the sloppy bucket of bourgeois representationalism' I'm like, hell no, but do we have to do that for fluffy, instead? Can't fluffiness be depersonalising? And if it can't, what makes destratification/Spinozistic materialist engineering anything but a phallic project?

Similarly, the fluffy list 'just gets weirder' - I would hope so! Maybe my post would bother all less if you read it in terms of the assumed weirdness and incompossibility of the fluffy?

Posted by: sandy at August 17, 2004 03:04 AM

also for the record - am an australian postgrad and generally go by male pronouns but, you know, whatever.

Posted by: sandy at August 17, 2004 03:06 AM

Another a point of information - Sandy is a bloke.

And from the little I know of him - he shares far more of Mark's worldview than most people.

"She either a liar, incompetent or stupid"

Well, obviously that's the case. The cat fights and pointless feuding that ran thru academia were what put me off that particular space.

This whole: "x comes from the academy, they must be evil, EVIL I tell you" seems a bit rich coming from those with PhDs. K-Punk has lots of good writing on it - but some articles wouldn't be out of place in *horror* an academic journal.

Posted by: Daniel Byron at August 17, 2004 03:14 AM

Sorry Mark I have to agree with what I presume to be (the other) Tim's point in that your definition of popism in this post is very strawman-ish - the implied opposition between "fun" and "intensity" is an issue in this regard because I would have assumed any intelligent advocate of "popism" (which has been synonymously linked with Tom, yeah?) would say that the point with pop music is *not* to dismiss its intensity-value as "mere" "fun".

Rather, it involves a recognition that the compulsion to categorically limit pop's intensity is driven by certain presuppositions as to what sort of intensity a pop song can involve. You suggest that popists act as if pop music doesn't have a transformative, constitutive effect on its listeners; but really this is the argument of those who dislike pop. "Pop rots your brain" is at base an argument for pop's fundamentally *non-transformative* capacity, and the idea of pop audiences as mindless sheep who are caught in some holding pattern, cut off from the personal development through musical appreciation they might otherwise benefit from. In opposition to this, it can be asserted that *all* musical reception is transformative and constitutive, in whatever manner that it manifests itself, from "everyday" listening to consciously personal attachments to particular songs or albums.

This awareness requires a critical rehabilitation of "fun" on the grounds that the use of the word "fun" is a a "true" ideological distortion of what is actually going on (by which I mean that while listening to a pop song can indeed be fun, the term "fun" in this sense frequently acts to close off the possibility of any actual transformative/constitutive relationship - I'd argue that "fun" is in fact *deeply* transformative/constitutive), which is quite distinct from an attempt to valorise the notion as that ideological distortion presents it.

Tom's elaborate aestheticisation of the everyday reception of pop music is in itself an argument against "the theory that pop is a relative autonomy that can be somehow 'just appreciated' on its own terms" - implicit in his approach is an awareness that pop can *never* be appreciated on its own terms, that no relationship between song and listener can be taken for granted or whittled down to "mere" fun.

Posted by: Tim Finney at August 17, 2004 04:03 AM

Rebel boy philosophy! Really!

Many women from the moment of second-wave feminism were and are committed to the type of thinking and living advocated on k-punk; I'm thinking of explicit ties, feminist artists such as Faith Wilding and Lynn Hershman. These women saw the critique of individuality and biology and cyberpunk as the inheritor of feminist critique, a critique of identity explicitly made possible by feminism and "gender theory"

So too is it possible to see a powerful counter-essentialist strain in much feminist political philosophy: here I'm thinking of the brilliant, flawed Ti-Grace Atkinson's strange degendering of male Black Panthers and Italian gangsters (see her wild excursus on "Sister Joseph Columbo" in "On Violence in the Women's Movement"); I'd also point towards Shulamith Firestone, who argued in "The Dialectic of Sex" against the tyranny of biology and gender in a distinctly k-punkian way:

""Pregnancy is barbaric. Pregnancy is the temporary deformation of the body of the individual for the sake of the species ... Moreover, childbirth hurts. And it isn't good for you. Childbirth is at best necessary and tolerable. It is not fun. Like shitting a pumpkin ... But-look-you-get-a-reward, says the School: A-baby-all-your-own-to-fuck-up-as-you-please!"

Sorry Sandy, et al., but the insinuations that this realm of philosophy is "boys-y" is sloppy and unimaginative (would any self-respecting woman utter the word "boys-y"?! turns the very blood into yogurt). It's "vulgar feminist", to borrow the lingo of the French CP. It's also historically wrong. These are philosophers and writers put to use by feminists and women again and again. Call them Sister Spinoza and Frau Bataille, mail order wives sold on your "bizarro black market".

Posted by: julian myers at August 17, 2004 04:13 AM

please forgive the verb agreement glitches, writing too fast

Posted by: julian at August 17, 2004 04:20 AM

Nice post, Julian. I wanted to moan about the rebel boy bit, but you beat me to it!

Sandy wrote:
Can't fluffiness be depersonalising? And if it can't, what makes destratification/Spinozistic materialist engineering anything but a phallic project??

The fact that it refuses such games by being completely immanent and isn't a project! How would it be a phallic project?

As for fluffiness, unless you want to perform some sort of rigorous reconstitution of the concept of fluffiness and show why it would be useful to make such a move, you're just pissing in the wind. I'm afarid that citing Judy Blume and Foucault in the same breath doesn't really cut it.

Before I gat jumped on for making such ridiculous demands in a blog, can I just point out that it merely highlights the fact that I haven't given up on the academy to the same extent as some of the other people here ;)

Posted by: johneffay at August 17, 2004 12:05 PM

Since you're all picking up on the phrase "rebel boys," I'll just pop in one more time to say it's nice that you're throwing out names like Shulamith Firestone now... but that initial thread was all Burroughs, Ballard, De Landa blah blah blah... That's what I responded to, personally. I wouldn't go so far as to call my use of the phrase "rebel boys" feminism, vulgar or otherwise; it was more the predictability of the canon that got me...

Posted by: that's all very well at August 17, 2004 12:55 PM

i'm fine with being told i should explain the value of fluffy, and have given it a go on my blog, but doing it in the k-punk comments box seems a bit much. in very brief summary: because if the range of possibilities for becoming can be reduced to something that looks like a genre a lot of possibilities are being cut off. is this really a controversial claim?

Posted by: sandy at August 17, 2004 01:33 PM

Tim H

Thank you for your elegance. I apologize unreservedly. I'd obviously misinterpreted your post completely. I read it as a sarcastic dig rather than a genuine question. So I hope you'll come back!!!

(The explanation for that, if not the excuse, is being dog-tired after going full pelt trying to keep this little network running. I hadn't had much sleep for a few days and things started to seem threatening that weren't intended to be.
I've had a good restful sleep now, some great conversations with Cinestatic massive (mike, ness, bruce and Infinite Thought) and everything is starting to seem manageable again. But there is a little lesson there for me about the dangers of overwork and spening too much time in front of a computer. LOL!)

My answer to you Tim H would be similar to my answer to Tim F; i.e. popism is not so much a straw man as an abstract machine, but one that is never fully instantiated. So in a sense I agree with you, no-one is a popist ---- but nevertheless there are popist tendencies in ppl's writings --- all I'm saying is that these tendencies should be resisted!!!

Sandy, you're a gentleman (in every sense, it seems) --- as you know, what annoyed me most was having views I actually loathe being attributed to me. There will be a number of posts soon which take up the issues in yr post.

Daniel, you're being very naive about the academy IMHO. The humanities academy is an abstract machine dedicated towards representation, disintensification and subjectivization. This is no accident, it is systematic.

Read Jonathan Israel's Radical Enlightenment. It details how more or less the whole of European intellectual and theistic authoritarianism after the 17C was set up to crush Spinozism. Why? Because the authoritarians want to reproduce reality exactly as it it is (Foucault: the university is a means by which society reproduces itself as painlessly as possible), whereas the Spinozist punks want to flee to nu-earth.

So the fact that the CONTENT of many posts/ comments here could fit into an academic journal does not mean that they would ever be published in an academic journal. To believe that it is to fall for the academy's liberal cloaking program. The academy is about maintaining power for the powerful, not about intellectual integrity.

As for PhDs shouldn't criticise the academy... Who should then? Isn't that like saying factory workers shouldn't criticize factories? The fact is we are doubly entitled to make such criticisms because (1) we have seen the hideous mangling machine from inside and (2) many of us are now outside it, for the simple reason that we are unemployable as academics.

Posted by: mark at August 17, 2004 01:54 PM

btw, the list of abstract engineers being mostly male did worry me ..... but the reasons for why it was are complex.... forthcoming post on Grace Jones as abstract engineer an important contribution to moving this forward...

Posted by: mark at August 17, 2004 01:58 PM

Sandy, a password appears to be required to comment on your blog, so I'll have to do it here.

a lot of the theory that interests me tends towards metaphors (or abstract machines, whatev) that seem to me to have a set of masculinised, blokey connotations that are quite contrary to the value and power of the theories. What do we get if we read, say, Capitalism and Schizophrenia, systematically substituting away from these hard machines - if we say 'fluffy' every time we see 'intensity',

We get a completely different book. Why will you not take D&G at face value when they say that they do not use metaphors? What possible 'blokey connotations' could you see in their rigorous analysis of anorganic life? I do hope that you are not simply saying that because machines are hard (which they are not), that they are phallic. A quick glance at Anti-Oedipus should surely disabuse you of the supremacy of the phallus.

In the same way, you cannot substitute 'oikos' for 'nomos' and claim to be doing anything which has any relationship to D&G; including rigorously critiquing it. The move has about as much validity as reading Hegel and substituting 'body without organs' for 'Spirit'.

Rant over.

Posted by: johneffay at August 17, 2004 02:00 PM

The funny thing is though, one is far more likely, in the US at least, to hear endlessly from journalists and right-wing commentators about how the academy is a hotbed of post-structuralism groupthink of exactly the type that Mark claims it exists to eradicate!

(Alright, another superficial comment ;) Don't mind me)

Posted by: that's all very well at August 17, 2004 02:05 PM

According to Jakob Nielson (, the limitations of current computer monitors gives the web a bias towards skim reading. Nonetheless, mistaking Stevie Nicks for GG Allen is bad going.

> 'Bataille boys' - black-clad nihilist wannabes...
> using theory... as goth-glamourous character armour

A while back I was going to make a snide remark about Burroughs. It would have involved something about a tough-guy routine fronting for sloppy, wishful thinking. But this would have been based on hazy recollections of "The Electronic Revolution", and not very productive.

But then there's this character-vs-characterisation business. I don't know - I skim read - but that could be taken as posture-vs-movement. (In Reichian theory, character armour is habitual muscular tension.)

> The fact that A Thousand Plateaus was written by
> two people cannot be overlooked.

The habit of organising material by single surnames isn't universal academic practise. In science subjects it is common for a book or paper to be referred to using a list of surnames (like a firm of solicitors), and for it to be the title that is neglected. [In computing, sometimes both the author names and the title of a book are ignored in favour of visual appearance, "The Dragon Book", "The Camel Book", "The Blue Book", etc.]

Singular surnames would appear to link up to the concept of self-expression and the distinction between authoring and editing. I don't know what other linkages the mechanism would have.

Posted by: rx at August 17, 2004 02:22 PM

mistaking Stevie Nicks for GG Allen is bad going.


how the academy is a hotbed of post-structuralism group think of exactly the type that Mark claims it exists to eradicate!

It doesn't seek to eradicate post-structuralism: it loves it - the academy is post-structuralism in itself - transcendentally miserablist textualist White Magickal Fuzz.

Don't confuse Lacan and Irigarary, for instance, with the 'Lacan' and 'Irigaray'
mongered by the academic textocrats. Lacan was intensely concerned with breaking people out of being TMH's; similarly, Irigaray's texts were erotic manuals for nonhuman sex + surveys of Human OS aimed at a pragmatics of escape. Of course, in the hands of the academics they become simply the providers of new models of representation.

'The POD has one law: the outside must always pass by way of the inside.'

Posted by: mark at August 17, 2004 03:28 PM

There's a whole thesis isn't there, ala Jonathan Israel, that the radical part of the Enlightenment happened well before the 18th C that it's traditionally situated in. Textbook Enlightenment figures such as Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot etc all retained a horror of mass culture, populism and most of all popular force. 18th C enlightenment could be thought of as more about limiting power of church and state in order to let the middle class, bourgeois individual act and think as he wished, rather than instituting a radical change of thought praxis. all of those now thought of as central figures of the enlightenment would have recoiled in horror from the egalitarian ideals as well as the violent actions of the French Revolution, despite the fact that they were incongruously interred into the Pantheon.

Posted by: Jay at August 17, 2004 05:34 PM

Yes, excellent post Jay....

Kant the anti-Spinoza would be the key figure of THIS counter-enlightenment, lol

Have you read Stephenson's Baroque Trilogy? It's like Radical Enlightenment in the form of a novel (tho with Leibniz instead of Spinoza in a central role)

Posted by: mark at August 17, 2004 06:46 PM

Point taken, "that's all very well". it's still essential to realize that even 'rebel boy philosophy' can be retooled for new purposes, can be taken up by "new subjects of history". The last thing Shulie was concerned with was constructing a pantheon of feminist icons. Rather: "In my Fatherís house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? best, julian.

Posted by: julian myers at August 17, 2004 08:51 PM

Daniel, you're being very naive about the academy IMHO. The humanities academy is an abstract machine dedicated towards representation, disintensification and subjectivization. This is no accident, it is systematic.

I'm reading this as meaning 1. humanities academics turn everything into waffle and 2. many of them are solely concerned with furthering their own careers under the cover of a liberatory search for the truth. If that's it, then, I ain't got no qualms with that. I would suggest that one product of that is the pointless turf fighting that gave me the shits. And does this happen systemically (i.e. due to the nature of the system rather than the any one individual's malice) - yip.

As for PhDs shouldn't criticise the academy... Who should then? Isn't that like saying factory workers shouldn't criticize factories? The fact is we are doubly entitled to make such criticisms because (1) we have seen the hideous mangling machine from inside and (2) many of us are now outside it, for the simple reason that we are unemployable as academics.

I don't think I articulated my point well enough. I was not saying that those with PhDs should not criticise the academy (which would be silly for the reasons you have just outlined). Maybe it's only me, but there was a certain irony in some one whose thought and writing style has obviously been shaped by their academic experience criticising someone else's thought and style with the term "academic". That was all.

Posted by: Daniel Byron at August 18, 2004 01:38 AM

Fair play Daniel --- but it's not as if anyone here who is attacking the academy is attacking learning or thought. Very much on the contrary --- it is because the academy blocks both these things that there is a problem with it. When you're in it, you're sometimes tempted to think of it as 'just an aberration' that interesting stuff is not happening there at the moment, that it's full of representationalist bullshit and an obsession with turning everything into metaphor ---- but take a long cool look and you realise that this is in fact integral to its function as an institution whose primary purpose is simply the trouble-free reproduction of society.

I think this is what makes talking about 'rebel boy philosophers' particularly saddening. If you look down the list of abstract engineers I gave, many either never were in the academy and were later turned into representationalist fluff or were actually driven out, or, out of a feeling of ethical disgust and abhorrence, felt they could no longer continue in the universtity system.

To equate such a removal from the academic machine with 'rebel boy' posturing is a little unhelpful to say the least. Because to be excluded from the academy is not a glamorous position. After all, it is to be loathed and misunderstood by almost everyone. It is not as if the GP have much respect for universities any way (rightly so) but to forego even the (admittedly dubious) comforts of belonging to the academic community (even though it is a 'commnunity' of neurotic egocrats) is to enter an isolation that can be somewhat comfortless, deprived of resources and subject to constant mental strain.

Not that I'm complaining like LOL!

Posted by: mark at August 18, 2004 07:40 AM

John -

Okay, I expressed myself badly. If Capitalism and Schizophrenia isn't a matter of metaphors, that's because it's made up of abstract machines - virtual diagrams that can be actualised in terms of different matters, speeds and slownesses, etc. Like, a BwO isn't X, but a certain relation of forces that can be actualised in various kinds of practices - SM, courtly love, even Castanedan shamanism (examples given in ATP). At this level, it doesn't make a bit of difference what particular words you use, as long as the abstract machine works. (This being something different, I think, than Hegel.) Now, what I'm trying to say is that you can get some of these machines working without routing them through cyberpunk and the avant garde - not that they SHOULDN'T be routed that way, just they don't HAVE to be. Can't I talk about becomings like a teenage girl? Etc.

Posted by: sandy at August 18, 2004 08:26 AM

Good post Sandy ... I agree 100 per cent... The only potential danger with what you're saying is drifting back into this position where you are saying that things are already hunk dory, already out on the BwO. Take the Britney example, fabulous single aesthetically speaking but that can't be the main issue from the D/G POV. There are two questions D/G would ask I think (neither of them, 'is this a good single?'):
1. What is being done with it? And there you can't separate out its role in the reproduction of Kapital and of Kapitalist subjectivity.
2. What can or could be done with it? How can we get it to be used differently? What might be done with it by different populations? Is it capable of producing new populations?

Point is, yr right, nothing's inherently any more machinic than anything else. Yr right that it was a big fallacy or at least equivocation on the part of some 90s uptake of D/G to make the (tempting) error of equating the machinic with cold robots from 1970s science fiction. That said, and as I think Glueboot eloquently expressed yesterday, to get Out, you have to move beyond the warm comforting glow of Kapitalist subjectivty. A certain type of coldness, a ruthlessness if you like, is needed.

Posted by: mark at August 18, 2004 10:19 AM

Sandy, fair enough. There's a huge difference between substituting and routing; I'm perfectly happy with the latter. The point being that, in so doing, you are dealing with a different abstract machine.

I agree that D&G doesn't have to be routed through cyberpunk and the avant garde, but I'm never going to agree that the writings themselves are 'blokey'.

Posted by: johneffay at August 18, 2004 11:38 AM


Posted by: mark at August 18, 2004 12:57 PM

To equate such a removal from the academic machine with 'rebel boy' posturing is a little unhelpful to say the least.

Just to boringly qualify myself again, that certainly wasn't what I meant. Nothing to do with the academy; you're projecting. As I said, I like all those writers in that list. I have most of them on my bookshelves, I devoted much time to reading them, I believed (these days I'm a little lapsed, LOL). It's the assemblage of those particular writers together into a little canon, a genre, that's troubling.

And this is where I come back to something you said about being 'uncritical'--you talked about "a subordination of my ego to the abstract programs laid out by these theorists --- you wanna 'criticize', (from what position? you in your armchair being greater than D/G or Spinoza?)"

Surely the idea that one is supposed to "submit oneself" unreservedly to these thinkers is contrary to everything they wrote. And the idea that questioning anything they wrote means you're setting yourself up as "greater" than them is even more specious--what are you saying, thou shalt bow down to Nietzsche your guru, do not question him???

Posted by: that's all very well at August 18, 2004 01:46 PM

But it's like initiation into a martial art or something --- once you can do the art you might be able to crticise it, but if every time your instructor tells you to move in a particular way, you 'criticize', how are you going to learn?

Also, what is the 'you' that is criticizing? If you treat that 'you' as an a priori, you are stuck in liberal empiricism, no question.

It's like this. What do you do? Read one of Delia Smith's recipes and 'criticise' it, or make it and say I like that cake but I would have preferred it with less sugar? Surely better to make it first before criticising is what I'm saying.

Another thing, paradoxically, is anti-authoritarianism. I am not a Spinozist because I believe in Spinoza or because I believe he is a Great Philosopher. I am a Spinozist because his philosophy WORKS. it would never have worked on me if I didn't submit myself to it and TRIED IT OUT.

Your position it seems to me is both too philosophical in the academic sense and not philosophical enough.

Too philosophical, because it is more worried about an intellectual position than about what said intellectual position DOES i.e. don't ask if Lacan is good theory, ask if it helps to get TMHs out of the fire, don't ask if Irigaray is a good theory, ask if it works as a new female erotics.

Not philosophical enough because it is too concerned with the origins of theories and not with their consistency. Consistency is rigorously impersonal. Who cares who thought x or y up? They are machines and they either fit together or they don't.

Posted by: mark at August 18, 2004 04:23 PM

Well, obviously one has to understand before one can question. And one could easily retool one's understanding of what criticizing Spinoza et al means to mean of questioning of whether they work. Actually, that's kind of why I'm lapsed--they didn't work for me in the end! (Well, I've never read Spinoza, although I'd like to. One day... But, say, Burroughs--I don't think his writing achieved the extra-textual effects it was supposed to, and while I admire him immensely, his life is not a good model for the vast majority of people, if anyone.)

Re: "liberal empiricism." I suppose one way in which I am lapsed is that these days I think an ego is a useful tool to have at one's disposal, the result of millions of years of evolution and not to be completely destroyed so lightly :)

Posted by: that's all very well at August 18, 2004 05:57 PM