Thursday, May 31, 2007

v for vendetta

I have been back reading the blog entries on Steven Shaviro’s blog ( and an interesting discussion on the film V for Vendetta caught my intention. After recently seeing the film I had the thought of writing a paper on what the film can tell us about Hardt and Negri’s concept of the multitude as a force for political agency. However, after reading the excellence discussion about the film on Shaviro’s blog I will have to re-arrange my thought. I would like to thank the people who commented on his blog entry and especially those who introduced the term ‘destitute subject’, something I will now have to read into.
What I want to discuss in this blog entry is something that previous discussions on Shaviro’s blog have not taken into account, which is how, what Deleuze would say the peaks of present reveal the sheets of past. In simple terms, how the film reveals how the present was created from the past. The reason I want to discuss this point is because the film tells the viewer something very interesting about how the fascist government/dictatorship came into power, where the people desired their own repression and the repressions of others to give power to the party. To understand this point of view I first shall quote from Anti-Oedipus:

‘(Wilhelm) Reich is at his profoundest as a thinker when he refuses to accept ignorance or illusion on the ‘part of the masses as an explanation of fascism, and demands an explanation that will take their desires into account, an explanation formulated in terms of desire: no, the masses were not innocent dupes: at a certain point, under certain conditions, they wanted fascism, and it is this perversion of the desire of the masses that needs to be accounted for’(AO, p31).

Through referencing Reich Deleuze and Guattari aim to assert that no fascist party can merely take hold of government, but instead, and more worrying, for fascist rule it to come into power, it has to be desired by the people (or at least some of the people). Certain scenes from V for Vendetta appear to illustrate this point. The first one is when V (the ‘hero terrorist’) addresses all the people of England/UK and while acknowledging certain people are more to blame than other he states that ‘truth be told that to look for the guilty you’d only need look in a mirror.’ It is this sentence where V directly claims that the people are responsible for living in a fascist state; it is them who desired this situation. The second scene, which focus is a flashback given by a disguised V to the police, reveals more about how the people desired fascism and their own repression. The clearest example is how the fascist party was democratically voted into power, thus showing ‘at a certain point, under certain conditions, they wanted fascism.’ (AO, p31).
Of course, the ‘certain conditions’ are very important factors that needs to be taken into account, and help us to understand why people desire repression of not only others but themselves. One of the key factors, if not the key factor, is the use of fear to create a circumstance where people would desire fascism (Brain Massumi’s work is very relevant on this issue). Is not the politics of fear causing people to relinquish certain civil liberties as a sacrifice for the war against terror(ism)?
One other short point on the film can be made about the use of masks in the film. From my perspective the mask V uses, and gives to the rest of the people, presents a sort of non-identity politics, where the identity and history of V is unimportant (to a degree), and rather it is the message and affects he creates that are important. The people/masses all wearing the masks at the end and taking them off to watch parliament blow up also spoke about the politics of the multitude, where people can united (they all were the masks) but remain different (revealed through their various identities when they unmask themselves). I think this message in the film strikes at the heart of Hardt and Negri’s concept of the multitude, where people can united as whole, but do not need to lose their difference to a totalising whole that subsumes difference.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

2 newspaper headlines from Jamaica

I am presently in Jamaica and two headlines in two different newspapers caught my attention and led me to think about Martin Heidegger's concept of Dasien (Being-in-the-world). The two headlines read "Witter warns gays - 'Flaunting sexual preference may incite violence'" ( "mob beats cross-dresser" (
the reason why i thought of Dasien is that Heidegger, in Being and Time, argues that one of the characteristics of Dasien is it brought into existence at sometime, somewhere, some culture, and so forth. The result is that Dasien is exposed to the prejudices of that time, place, and society. The incident of the second article, where the mob beat up a cross-dresser with stones and sticks, clearly reveal the predominant prejudices that Jamaican people have about sexuality, and public displays of sexuality deviating from the 'norm' can result in the majority (or what Heidegger would call 'the they') acting out their own form of 'justice'.
The first article reveals, for me, more about the official discourses of sexuality in Jamaica, where an MP states it is OK for homosexuality, but this must remain private, and public 'flaunting' of homosexuality can incite violence. the discourse attempts to control homosexuals, or other forms of deviants, behaviour, stating what is felt acceptable and not, and portraying itself as a 'liberal' discourse.
On a more speculate note, i was wondering if the two newspaper articles are even further linked? With Public defender Earl Witter stating flaunting homosexuality can incite violence, did this, indirectly, give a form of justification for the crowds actions. Did the people read the article and think that flaunting homosexuality is asking for violence, which they could then do? Although, I have to warn this is pure speculation, and i have no evidence for this linkage, but i do feel the closeness of the incidents could maybe suggest a linkage? Other factors of course need to be taken into account, the main one being the general homophobic culture of contemporary Jamaica.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Importance of Michel Foucault’s attention to Discourses

In terms of really ‘getting in’ to a philosopher, the first one I seriously read was Michel Foucault (and maybe Antonio Gramsic). With the help of an audio lecture on Michel Foucault by Rick Rodderick from the Teaching Company taken from a series entitled ‘the self under siege’ the work of Foucault has made a lasting presence on my thought.
The first thing I realised about Foucault was how discourses are not negative but positive, making the conditions of possibility possible. Societies, and societies, for them to function, need to create these discourses in order to provide a sort of unity. Discourses of nationalism seem an obvious example of this occurring.
The second thing is discourses are not purely language, but have a materiality, or relate to non-discursive formations (something a lot of contemporary discourse analysis forget).
The third thing, and maybe one of the most important points, is discourses not only create ‘rules’ for inclusion, but also ‘rules’ for exclusion. Foucault clearly spent a lot of his career illustrating this factor, where discourses of reason led to the exclusion of the mad (madness and civilisation), discourses of law excluded the criminal from society (discipline and punish), and so forth.
The fourth thing, power, in its modern ‘western/civilised’ form, is a lot more complex than societies built upon the master/slave dialectic. In today’s world, it is no longer the king’s job to enforce power, but power flows through micro-flows, which creates a situation where people ‘control’ themselves and their actions. A clear example of this, taken from Rick Rodderick audio lecture, is the discourses on body images and skinniness. This creates a (false) image of what the normal body is meant to be like and what society views as the ‘correct’ body. The result is these discourses can cause people to try and achieve these bodies, either by going to the gym, or more drastically, through eating disorders. The person therefore disciplines and punishes their body in order to achieve this state.
Other examples of power are how discourses flow in order to create docile bodies, which educate people so they can be part of the society. There is course the example of the education system for prisoners to reform, but more importantly, there are the schools, which are one of the places the government has the most (indirect) power to create citizens.
The last thing Foucault taught me was beware discourses that are based upon a (human) subject. The reason for this is that it assumes some atemporal transcendental universal subject that can be interpreted. The work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus has helped me see the difficulties in this approach through there careful attention to presubjective forces (I will speak more about these in a later).
These are only a few of the ways Foucault has helped me in my thought, and later blog entries shall discuss how his thought are important for creating discourses of resistance, something Foucault held close to his heart from his position as a radical anarchist.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The significance of becoming

My engagement with the work of Gilles Deleuze arose through an accident in the Newcastle Library. When looking for one of Michel Foucault's book I picked up an introduction to the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze written by Claire Colebrook. With reading a few pages I was captured, and have since been struggling and enjoying the work of Gilles Deleuze.
If I would have to pick out one concept of Deleuze that is the most important to me, it is the concept of becoming. The significance of becoming is it is a dynamic process with no being, but nevertheless produces beings. In neitzschian terminology, becoming is a dionysian affirmationa of life, which recognises death and creation are part of the same process. Becoming also has no final end point, and in this sense is different to the teleological histories of people like Karl Marx and Francis Fukuyama.
For me becoming is more that just a concept, but something that claims to be based on a certain type of 'realism'. If becoming is considered as a movement then we can see how this claim works. For Aristole the natural state of an object was at rest until a force moves that object. This could be demonstrated by me kicking a football, changing it from a state of rest to a moving object. However, Newtion challenged this assumption, and argued the the reverse. Where objects were natural in a state of movement unless something stopped this movement. This can be demonstrated by how the chair that i sit on is stopped from moving by the floor. For Deleuze, and becoming, there is no state of rest, and things are in a constant flux of becoming, and it is only our perception that sees things at rest. Take the apple that insipred Newton to think of things in a natural state of movement. For Newton, the apple dropping from the tree to the ground demonstrated for him that things natural move unless they are stopped. The problem, from a Deleuzian perspective of becoming, is the apple has not stopped moving when it has dropped to the ground. If the apple is left there (untouched) the apple will rot and become part of the soil. This shows that things in the world are always in a state of flux of becoming, and how becoming produces beings that have a certain duration as that being before they can become something else.