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Terre Thaemlitz on why you should just stop

Woker Nexus in my Discord server recently introduced me to the work of Terre Thaemlitz aka DJ Sprinkles. (If Woker Nexus sounds familiar, Woker is one of the more active participants in my Youtube livestreams). After a few minutes of browsing, I immediately understood the recommendation. Thaemlitz is a militantly anti-institutional artist and thinker, issuing from broadly left-wing traditions of radical counterculture, while trying to reject the traps of that tradition.

In this video interview with Thaemlitz, I particularly enjoyed the segment in which Thaemlitz was asked about revolutionary political change. Below, I've transcribed a segment beginning at around 4:35.

Readers of Other Life will note more than a few resonances with my own perspective. In my register, Thaemlitz is referring mostly to the problem of instrumental rationality. Marxism is deeply invested in instrumental rationality, so it never escapes capitalism but only adds a new layer of sophistication. The solution is too simple for overly-sophisticated people to adopt: just stop trying to solve things, be honest, let one's truly existing hypocrisies shine forth for what they are:

When I said we just need to stop, I didn't mean to stop and start over. What I meant was simply stop and catch up, because I think that we have a way of just going on and on without... demystifying all of the baggage through which we interact with each other socially. And I think that in a kind of historical materialist perspective. We need to kind of catch up with these things. I don't think we ever could totally catch up in, like, some sort of 100% consciousness of social process blah blah bullshit. But I think that you know, there's a way in which always focusing on the future, always focusing on dreams and what we anticipate, what we'd like to happen, and desire, of course — desire is always conditioned by the domination and struggles of the present. So in that way it's totally contaminated in a way that perpetuates the power struggles of the present. For me, historical materialism the way Marx wrote it, was really fascinating and informative… But then once you start looking to the future and you get all this communist idealism and the utopianism in the idea of where we need to go from here, you can see how totally corrupted and polluted it was by its own limitations. And so for me, this is where it all becomes science fiction and I'm not interested in science fiction and especially as a materialist, you know, so this is a kind of contradiction in the philosophy itself. When I said yesterday in the performance, rather than all this dreaming, if we could just say "hey, stop," for me this is like a kind of panic, it's not at all about resetting or starting over it. It's really just about giving ourselves a moment to stop and think and if it means… let things fall apart, and we realize the bank systems and business and all these things — what things can survive after this and what thing's don't? And maybe we can reorganize or something. I don't know. But for me, we don't ever get to a breakpoint or a shift point for me. This is really that time is always chaotic and always multi-layered and so it's not about strategy for me — or any singular strategy — as much as just trying to be hypocritical in the moment and let as many hypocrisies and problems and things that we normally deny come to the surface and understand them as always happening. Society doesn't collapse when we become hypocritical — society is hypocritical. So what does it mean to actually engage that hypocrisy directly and honestly? - ep.3 - Terre Thaemlitz (part 1)

As I've argued before, there are actually good reasons to believe that this kind of position causes real dynamics of collective liberation: honest reporting of our own helpless stupidity is generative of energies for collective search (“most people are as stupid as I am, so my chance of figuring out what to do is as good as anyone else’s”); sincere irreverence and non-conformity leading to the breakdown of bourgeois repression (“all these people who want me to be a normal servomechanism of capital are dumb and powerless”); an increase in risk-tolerance through a decrease in false hope (“I used to be cautious because I thought I had a chance of surviving, but now that I see none of us will survive at present, I might as well try to do something I find interesting, which, ironically, makes me feel like maybe there is a chance…).”

Activism is a capitalist virus from the future (honesty is stage-one cybernetic communism)

Amazon is only showing one book by Terre Thaemlitz, but Google will find you much to explore. I would love to meet and talk with Thaemlitz, but I see from her website she is opposed to big internet platforms. I'm obviously way less concerned about that problem, though I love her militance.

Some news and updates resettling

I'm now back in the United States, for the foreseeable future. My last two weeks in the UK were possibly my favorite two weeks in my 5.5 years there. On February 28, we went up to London with only what we could carry, for me to give a talk at the Invisible College (a podcast of my talk will be up soon). We stayed with Nina Power, who generously offered us a room in her flat, until our flight on March 13. The two weeks before these were rather stressful, as we spent most of our time selling, giving away, and shipping our belongings.

My personalized book-recommendation experiment worked really well; I unloaded well more than 100 books to internet friends. The first half of that process went into the red, but after the 'premium' stage of that process, I ended up making a good amount more than we spent in shipping, so that's good. Although it was quite time consuming, I took the time to digitize a bunch of my most bookmarked books before shipping them off. That was a surprisingly edifying experience in its own right, and I'm suddenly rid of my romantic attachment to physical books — a digital library with highlights and notes feels much more powerful, and I even feel closer to my books now than I did before. It turns out books collecting dust are less heartwarming than digital meltdown.

Quite a few people chose to give me a little $ for a custom book recommendation, based on their ideological and personality characteristics, plus my own digitized personal highlights from the recommended book. Although I'm no longer giving away my physical books, my little recommendation+highlights micro-service is up and running, and will remain up as one of many entrepreneurial toy-experiments I'll be piloting over the next year. Patrons at 5\$/month or more get access to all my digital highlights. Currently, the patron hard-drive includes my highlights from books by Chesterton, Bataille, Lacan, Bourdieu, Tiqqun, and more.

If you ordered a physical book, you probably should have received it by now. If you haven't received a book by now, please contact me.

Now that I'm resettling, and will be in one place for at least a month, I'm returning to regularly scheduled production. Primarily, I will return to writing How Academia Got Pwned and I think I will follow through on the Kickstarter idea. I made some videos with Nina and DC that I will release over coming weeks, and I also gave a talk to a student group at my university after I resigned. Going back onto campus for that was quite pleasing. I have audio of that, too, which will go to the podcast soon.

Tonight I speak with Logo Daedalus on the livestream. On Monday, 1 April
at 04:00 pm Eastern, I'll speak with philosopher David Roden about the posthuman. And then on Saturday, 6 April at 11:00 am, I will speak with Johannes Niederhauser, who just finished a PhD on Heidegger. In London, Johannes was telling me about "ecstatic time" in Heidegger and I was like, we have to stream this.

Much more soon…

Hate Speech, Feminism, and Paganism with Nina Power and DC Miller

Nina Power is a philosopher and writer, and DC Miller is a writer best known for his opposition to the Shutdown LD50 campaign. This talk has become quite a scandal. In response to this talk, someone wrote a ridiculous Open Letter Concerning Nina Power, and Nina just today published a response. You can watch the original conversation here, on my Youtube channel.

Other Life is a pretty punk-rock-DIY affair, run by one person — and I'm not an audio engineer. As this podcast becomes more popular, I'm aware that I really should up the production quality. If you strongly agree, become a patron; influxes of support incentivize me to invest in production quality. Big thanks to all the current patrons, for helping all this to exist.

Download this episode.

Modern Liberalism Is Not Peace, It's Pacification

Readers of my work over the past few years will know that I have long been interested in how natural human rebelliousness gets pacified (1, 2, 3).

I recently had the pleasure of working on this question with a group of co-authors, from very different methodological backgrounds. The final result has now been published in International Studies Quarterly. In "Liberal Pacification and the Phenomenology of Violence," (Baron, Havercroft, Kamola, Koomen, Murphy, Prichard 2019), we substantiate the concept of pacification relative to political science literatures on violence. Our real target was the popular conception of the "Liberal Peace" (i.e., modern liberalism causes peace, à la Steven Pinker).

While the article does not offer an empirical demonstration or test any hypothesis, I believe that — for a so-called "critical" paper — we went much farther than usual to develop at least a positivist case for our perspective. We do not pretend to have empirically defeated the "Liberal Peace" story, but we have planted a flag of sorts, from which "critical" perspectives might proceed in this direction with greater positivist/empirical sophistication.

Here's a key slice of the abstract:

We argue that the spread of liberal institutions does not necessarily decrease violence but instead transforms it. Our phenomenological analysis captures empirical trends in human domination and suffering that liberal peace theories cannot account for. It reveals how a decline in direct violence may coincide with the transformation of violence in ways that are concealed, monopolized, and structured into the liberal order. We call this process liberal pacification.

And here's a snippet of our positivist gloss that — I think — makes this paper stand out from a lot of other so-called "critical" papers:

…by reinterpreting the liberal peace as liberal pacification we are able to grant the empirical findings of liberal peace theorists while maintaining that the Pax Americana represents an intensification of violence overall. In the language of positivist social science, our theory is observationally equivalent to that of liberal peace theory. We expect that the quantity of direct violence inversely associates with the degree of pacification in a society. Therefore, our interpretation challenges research that identifies liberal institutions as the cause of declining violence. Liberal institutions, as apparatuses of liberal pacification, ensure that direct violence is increasingly rare while leaving the structures of violence and domination in place. The observational equivalence on particular dependent variables (in our case, all forms of direct violence) produces a theoretical change requiring the generation of novel observable implications (King, Keohane, and Verba 1994, 30).

In other words, empirical social scientists interested in the Liberal Peace should not toss this one in the bin labeled "purely theoretical postmodern crap I don't need to deal with."

Acceleration, Adorno, Jordan Peterson, Religion

Reposted with permission from the Parallax Views podcast by JG Michael. For many other talks like this one, find Parallax Views at @ViewsParallax and Big thanks to JG for his interest in my ideas, and for extracting these atypically coherent thoughts from me. JG's excellent questions helped me make connections I've never made in public before, which reminds me how these new media are still so poorly understood. For intellectuals, podcasts are first and foremost production technologies rather than distribution channels or influence mechanisms (as they are to business people and social climbers).

From Michael's notes: "...How Justin got into academia... accelerationism... Justin giving his definition of accelerationism and its take on modernity... the different branches of accelerationism - r/acc (right accelerationism), l/acc (left accelerationism), and u/acc (unconditional accelerationism)... criticisms of these lines of thought... main players within the accelerationist milieu such as Nick Land and Edmund Berger... Nick Land's dark accelerationist vision... the way in which religion can act as a social technology against these horrors... the Frankfurt School philosopher/sociologist Theodor W. Adorno, his critique of instrumental reason, and the influence Adorno's writing has had on Justin's thought... this leads Justin into making an unexpected comparison between Adorno and... Jordan B. Peterson... Justin's research into the political ideologies of Jordan Peterson's fanbase... Justin's research into political ideology and fragmentation... the central accelerationist concepts of "Exit" and "patchwork" in depth... why religion has become so important to Justin and specifically his renewed interest in Catholicism. How Justin's radical politics are connected to his own religious beliefs... Catholicism's often overlooked history of breeding radically emancipatory thinkers..."

Big thanks to all my patrons, who help me keep the podcast going.

How to Deal With Punishment According to Nietzsche and Spinoza

I was just reviewing my copy of Nietzsche's The Genealogy of Morals, before I send it off to someone through Version 2 of my book recommendation experiment. The person said they wanted something I consider “fundamental reading.” As often happens reviewing Nietzsche, I came across a passage surprisingly applicable to my own life at the moment. I'm leaving it here without comment, on the wager that I am probably not the only person in 2019 who will need to be reminded of this insight... afternoon, teased by who knows what recollection, [Spinoza] mused on the question of what really remained to him of the famous morsus conscientiae [moral conscience] — he who had banished good and evil to the realm of human imagination and had wrathfully defended the honor of his "free" God…

"The opposite of gaudium [joy]," he finally said to himself — "a sadness accompanied by the recollection of a past event that flouted all of our expectations." Eth.IlI, propos. XVIII; schol. I. II. Mischief-makers overtaken by punishments have for thousands of years felt in respect of their "transgressions" just as Spinoza did: "here something has unexpectedly gone wrong," not: " I ought not to have done that." They submitted to punishment as one submits to an illness or to a misfortune or to death, with that stout-hearted fatalism without rebellion through which the Russians, for example, still have an advantage over us Westerners in dealing with life.

Even raises an interesting hypothesis about why Westerners at the moment are so paranoid about those Russians.

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