6 fractal reloads, with an interval, and a supplement

for the futures of the percentages

‘I wanted to delay the arrival of the ghosts [fantômes] en masse. With you it was no longer possible to drag it out. Their martyrdom is very close to its end.’


1.	BROADWAY AND PINE ARE TRENDING ON TWITTER


In the early hours of 15 November 2011 reports came through online that the NYPD and the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) had seized an estimated five thousand books from Occupy Wall Street’s ‘People’s Library’ and thrown them into giant sanitation trucks. At precisely 04:15 New York time, the library’s Twitter account transmitted the following message: ‘The NYPD has destroyed everything at #OccupyWallStreet and put it all in dumpsters, including the #OWS library. It’s time to #ShutDownNYC’. Awake in London, I started to follow a live stream online. The tents and ‘tenants’, it became clear, had been ‘removed’ from Zuccotti Park hours earlier while I was sleeping. The stream I was watching had been running since the ‘eviction’, and its cameraman (also presenter) was now wandering around a kind of New York labyrinth of policed and penned-in spaces. ‘TripodMcgee’ on the stream’s rapid-flicker message board had been up for 40 hours. ‘Nothing will stop me filming, short of breaking my fingers’, says the cameraman and I note it down on my Facebook wall, a sort of aide-mémoire for who needs when. As I watch, there is an on-video feeling of dawn approaching over there, over the city. Occasionally the camera accidently pans up to a slightly lighting (but still mostly dark) sky. ‘It’s getting into working hours and street vendors are trying to set up’. The live stream consensus (from the cameraman and message board at least) is that the original protesters are now divided, dispersed across the city, ‘over ground zero’, hollers someone over a shoulder, ‘around ground zero’. Division here, perhaps, not number. Most of them have been up all night. According to this stream, it is NYC law that the park has to reopen to the public within the hour. ‘Zuccotti Park will be reopening in twenty minutes’. As I watch, still a bit sleepy, with a half-eaten breakfast in front of me, and several windows open on my flatmate’s Macbook Pro, I start to think of Steve Jobs, who had just passed away, and his last word, apparently a simple ‘wow’, and of how a friend had just finished a draft of a poem partly about Occupy Wall Street the final words of which were (at that stage) ‘golden wow’, and of how these letters weirdly reanagrammatise into ‘ows’, OWS. It hurts, I quickly think to myself, everything already hurts. ‘We are not a leaderless movement’, says the feed, ‘we are a movement of leaders’, and I think of all the references to ‘the head’, ‘the capital’ and ‘the front’, what comes first or confronts, in what I am working on. Around this time, pre-dawn in New York City, mid-morning in London, onto my Facebook wall still open in another window there appears one of The Claudius App editors, Eric Linsker. A message is suddenly there as pop-up, hovering in front of my wall, saying simply ‘In cab to Zuccotti, cops shutting down Broadway. Come! 15 November at 06:58 near New York, NY’. I had forgotten till that moment that Eric, whom I have never met, was in New York. He had, as it happens, been in another car, not a cab I assume, on his way to New York when I first emailed him to propose the idea for a review article, a ‘dream review’ initially, on Keston Sutherland’s new book Stupefaction, A Radical Anatomy of Phantoms (Seagull Books, 2011). I had written (looking at it now) in my email to Eric of already having ‘in my sent to self gmail and draft boxes, a negative but very loving and unopposing review [I meant the beginnings of what would become the still unfinished OK KOSMOS] that was hopefully not written in too much of a “man-on-man way”’. Not too much of a man-on-man way, hopefully: a movement of leaders where everybody and nobody is what Stupefaction perhaps takes the risk of calling ‘the man’ (S, 143). Eric emailed back twenty minutes later, simply: ‘I’m driving to New York, and/but Yes – such a Yes’. That was Tuesday, November 8, around 22:24, which would have been, according to what Specters of Marx calls the ‘invincible anachrony’ (SOM, 140) of revolution, 17:24 NY time. I emailed back briefly, ‘Give my Love to NY. x’. I had not heard from Eric since that email exchange, but I had been working on this ‘dream review’ in the meanwhile, spending some time at OLSX St Paul’s, and keeping an eye all too scattily on NY, Oakland, Zurich, Edinburgh, and elsewhere, and somehow must have carried Eric’s on-the-move (writing at the steering wheel?) ‘and/but Yes – such a Yes’ with me, a real-dream-like sense of someone I didn’t know being in a car, full of friends perhaps, moving quickly or slowly towards New York where, I should mention, I have never been. I had somehow breathed in his affirmative capitals (’Yes – such a Yes’), since surely ‘the head or the cap-’ (SOM, 139) is never far away. Now, a week later, near New York, New York, where ‘near’ is a strange shorthand for ‘in’, Eric’s still on the move, this time in a cab, heading down to Zuccotti. ‘We want everyone to say what they want’, says someone on the live stream, in the same NY as Eric. Keston Sutherland’s The Odes to TL61P mention New York at least once, referring to what it takes ‘to be experienced / as the last farce of the authentic subject in middle class / America, or in its most democratic urban centres / particularly the flagships of New York universalism; / the most exciting place on any earth’ (THE ODES TO TL61P F E 100811.doc, Ode 3, 1.2., 27-8).  New York, associated in these lines with a certain type of ‘universalism’, is multiversally capitalised (’on any earth’) as what the young Marx in his 1843 letter to Ruge, speaking of Paris and already fending off an omen, calls ‘the modern capital of the modern world’. New York is as if the capital of capital, the capital of the tele-empiric sensorium and worldwidising of the concept of world and earth itself in viral generality, in any unknown universe. It’s as if I’m in the maze with Eric Linsker, and everyone too, surrounded by windows, in the multiversal capital. Eric is really there at least, posting to the Facebook wall via his ‘Mobile’ from the streets. I think of what Cixous says in her book Manhattan about ‘the absolutely interminable labyrinth that snakes under the City of New York’ (M. 4). I think about New York Public Library, and its books, and what happens to them in Ghostbusters and The Day After Tomorrow. I am thinking about the drug-phase Tao Lin, and his film with Megan Boyle, MDMA, set on the New York streets, which I first watched with Amy in Shoreditch, near Commercial Street, in February 2011. And I am thinking of a strange phrase I saw online somewhere, ‘lsd nyu’, but can’t remember where. It will be dawn soon in NYC. Now, Eric says on the book of Faces which now for a moment seems to be like a ‘New York book, look look the virginal sky’ (M, 2), ‘NOW’ (’15 November 2011 at 16:29 via Mobile’), he says, again adding to the hallucinatory syllablery of wow/now/som [SOM, Specters of Marx], ows, it hurts, it suffers, we cannot stay online forever, 5,000 books are missing. And I am thinking too about what Derrida has to say in Monolingualism of The Other about a demonstration in writing which is ‘not a logical demonstration that imposes a conclusion; it is, first of all, a political event, a demonstration in the street . . . a march, an act, an appeal, a demand’ (MO, 72). Eric continues to write on his (our) New York Facebook wall. ‘Oh god theyre going to macs us’; ‘March to city hall’; ‘Blocking us in’; ‘We’re staying’; ‘Wash sq’; ‘Or no stay at city hall’; ‘Over 50 of us just reconnected w 100s in foley sq we’re celebrating surrounded by cops now mic check’. This series of writings, as important as any, from street to wall, from near Wall Street to a Facebook wall near you, took place between 07:04 near New York, NY and 09:43 near New York, NY. I read breathless, now in a local Polish-owned internet café in Clapton, with the live stream still on, ‘commenting’ on my own wall. As Eric was according to his posts moving towards Foley Square, I was still watching the cameraman moving through the streets, around barricades and other obstacles, to try to get to Foley too, where a General Assembly was rumored to be happening. The displaced but still, it seemed to me, occupying occupiers, were undividing, Eric invisibly with them, over ground zero, around ground zero, and were now mic-checking towards or at Foley. I wrote on my wall, at 11:05 UK time: ‘It seems important to note that OWS has, at around 6 a.m., already “regrouped” and, for the moment, focused on something other than the eviction now several hours ago. At least according to the livefeed of this particular GA’. And then on the live stream these scattered words, ‘several people in masks starting draining police tyres [sic] . . . . it’s sunrise’. And a few minutes later sure enough a vertical shot without commentary of dawn breaking over the New York City sky. 

*

THE ODES TO TL61P F E 100811.doc, Ode 1, 1.1., 6:

		[. . .]
      we who are not available
cut out for me is who you get
      too close; to be the slanting bed
too far away to fuck you in  
      in time you sleep; go under me
and stare at the same thing apart.
Tell me when you come Laying 
down ontological promiscuity as an advance on 
Socialism; public private sex is exciting
behind adolescent hedge markets: The weird
           thing is you 
only get more dead 
           the more truth is like making a bed  
and also that you not only can die 
at all since how are you not; [. . .]

Will I be going after your ghosts, or mine? Is there no straight line between us? Why am I trying to bring us together? What’s in it for me? The wires will be crossed here, yes, but not by us. What’s the best speed, to multiply these ghosts out or into the door? Would I be more, or less, reassured if I really could believe, and I don’t, that Derrida’s reading of Marx and yours are so very different? To ‘stare at the same thing apart’: true, this isn’t a fixable thought as such. There is no particular pronoun (unless it’s ‘the same thing’) in the second half of this phrase-husk: ‘go under me / and stare at the same thing apart’. There is no we who stare, separately, at the same thing. There is, in the midst of an almost-fixed (blurring) tumult of other equally adjoining  lines:

					; go under me
		and stare at the same thing apart.

The ‘apart’ does not necessarily imply, then, a ‘we’. The line sends you out of your head, and every head-on notion, if you stare at it long enough. But one can never, at the same time, get away completely from the graze of sense that the same thing might be stared at by perhaps one (’; go under me’), and then another identity (you, perhaps: ‘: go under me’). Go, you, under me – apart. But this will not do either. Or more precisely: this will not do as well. There’s no pluralising alibi out of this. There is something, it seems, ‘which is not open to discussion’ (SOM, 165). It is because of this something, not open to discussion, or sight, that the scene here, in intimately fraught, tenderly fretting lines, blurred to precision like skin to rain, will never have it out completely, or need to. It is because of this it will.  

*

What’s at stake with Keston Sutherland perhaps having misread Derrida’s reading of Marx in the ‘Introduction’ to Stupefaction? Let’s try to be as direct as possible. Derrida’s 1981 interview about Althusser and Marx, ‘Politics and Friendship’, has a number of references to ‘stupidity’ and ‘stupefaction’ in it. Derrida is very patiently explaining why for some years (this is 1981, twelve years before Specters of Marx) he has practised a certain reticence around or before reading and writing on Althusser and Marx. The reasons and specifics for this reticence are uneven, but they include for example the idea that the French (mainly Parisian) Marxist discourse through and after 1968 was ‘incapable of analysing the socio-politico-economic reality of that time and of regulating its practice based on that analysis’ (PF, 209). He then says, ‘I don’t claim that if the communists at that time had read Heidegger it would have been otherwise: that would have been stupid!’ But adds, ‘Well, maybe not as stupid as all that!’ Derrida, in these passing comments, is not defending Heidegger, for example, against ‘the communists’ (Althusser, Balibar, Macherey, Rancière). He is not even suggesting that reading a philosopher, any philosopher, could somehow magically propel social revolution in a way that isn’t otherwise possible. This would be ‘stupid’. At the same time it would perhaps not be as ‘stupid as all that!’ What type of ‘stupid’ is here at issue for Derrida? What kind of stupefaction might he be suffering from (or equally not) by going on to suggest, as he does, that while of course Heidegger alone (perhaps especially Heidegger) cannot make all the difference, ‘asking more questions on the origins of one’s concepts, on the weight of tradition, on the notion of ideology, of phenomenon, of presence, of truth, makes all the difference, demonstrating one’s readiness to change, that transformation is taking place or at least possible’ (209-10). Not being able to ask these sorts of questions of ‘the communists’ for fear of being mistaken for a reactionary was felt by Derrida as a form of dogmatic limitation. Derrida’s silence on Marx, his hesitance that in some ways persisted all the way through the eventual publication of Specters of Marx, was therefore itself a stratagem of sorts for wanting to be more and not less Marxist. ‘The fact is’, he says, ‘I believed I had slower but also more urgent things to do’ (201). The questions I want to put to Keston Sutherland’s Stupefaction might be re-imagined starting from this situation (here briefly outlined). I am interested in the ways in which Sutherland’s work might be more and not less practical, more and not less consciously active, more and not less truthfully confrontational, but my feeling is that that this might only happen through the sorts of questions Derrida says he was somehow prohibited, in 68 and after, from directly posing to ‘the communists’. It has to do with walls, every type of wall. And with revolutions (not) (now). A wall is a dividing or distinguishing structure. It keeps out, or in, somewhat like a door. It marks a boundary, a limit, a distinction, a contradiction, even a capital one. One of the most debatable claims in the ‘Introduction’ to Stupefaction has to do precisely with the status of ‘critical limits’ (SOM, 204; S, 10-13). Sutherland thinks Derrida’s limits or contradictions are too soft. The appropriate symbolism of the name ‘Wall Street’ as the supposed at least American birth place for a certain phase of social struggle that now seems worldwide, perhaps goes as far as the apparent disagreement between Sutherland and Derrida on what ‘critical limits’ mean. Wall Street (wall | street) would be what Derrida also calls a ‘Capital contradiction’ (SOM, 209). With a wall, we can say, we are immediately faced with the question, implacably social and lived, of confrontation, impassable contradiction, opposition. OWS is in this sense already more than a contradiction (occupy | wall | street).

*

Jacques Derrida makes a brief appearance in Stupefaction and, before you know it, he’s off again.

*

It is almost impossible to write about Stupefaction without having already been drawn in, provoked and confronted. The book is in effect, and it is in effect, something like a new type of provoking implication, an accusative that comes at you, and your very idea of ‘you’, from every and no angle. Imagine a finger of your hand, which is not your own hand, broken, and pointing back at a you who is not simply you because it so definitely is, with a thousand other broken fingers; dangling. We are the predator in this book, and so our own self-accusation or mine or yours (though now necessary) won’t always have been enough. But we can’t quite have been, and the book is not just about this impossible act, it is it, and now you are. It spreads like that, an anti-virus that might make you feel sick as life all the better. I start out to write about it, but something resists. I resist, I mean. I have to. I can’t quite want to go there, to be confronted with this ultimate predation. The term ‘predation’ itself slips and slides here, it veers, it comes back at me, is it me, or him, who wants to take down a prey to survive? But no one owns it, I hear it saying, it won’t have been like that, it is so sad to be right, after all, and one can always not lose. 


2.	STREET ANALYSIS: 2ND LABYRINTH


Derrida also writes in ‘Politics and Friendship’ of wanting to advance his discourse to a level that he ‘considered (rightly or wrongly) to be preliminary and more radical “in the long run”’ (PF, 201). Something, then, to be more radical, doesn’t have to be radical now. Take the long run. Or take the long run up at least. Or take Hamlet, for example, who is always still running away. Things can be more-radical-in-the-long-run. Or even, more-urgent-in-the-long-run. But since we no longer live in era of endless time, what now? Which ‘long run’ and how fast to be slow? Time me? Let’s not chase anyone down, not just yet. Is Eric Linsker calling, does he know where I am veering with this? Let’s be quick, for now: it’s not that Marx is obsessed with ghosts, as you say, it’s that he recognised a brother, someone else, Stirner, who like him is obsessed with ghosts. And this is not ‘Derrida’s Marx’, it is not even a reading of Marx, it is rather a feeling Derrida confesses (SOM, 174-5). Derrida leads, if you like, with his feeling (and not just another head) in Specters of Marx. It’s a feeling he refuses to simply zoom out from, or disimplicate himself from, no one can help it anyway he says, caught too, unawares, in the same NY zoo. It’s, as J.S. says in Gmail ‘16 hours ago’, the ‘zombie parade’. There’s no way in as you defer to that, yes, but can’t you see them all, these men, in the NY maze. They are all there, distracted occupiers, adrift from what Eric later in the day calls ‘ZUCOTT’ (’HUGE BACK TO ZUCOTT 15 November at 13:13 near New York, NY’), running towards Foley, crying out for an estates general at dawn. Why this hunt, Derrida says, why this acharnement? Come, J. Everyone, so that I may chase you! Come, you hear, I am chasing you! Look, I am still chasing you. We are now chasing. At the very moment Derrida confesses his feeling (174-5) that Marx, just like him presumably, scares himself of the ghost, at this very moment, on the same page, Derrida refers to Marx’s ‘irresistible irony’ (174). It’s dawn, I say, who’s missing? It’s as if Derrida says on the sly here what everyone thinks he doesn’t, just using the flick of a single word to upset the whole tilting golf course, that he cannot resist Marx’s irony: Marx’s irony is irresistible for Derrida. Or ‘the twist of satire’ (SM, 239). Derrida is sitting outside. His loves are in Manhattan, and he is not there with them, and he is on the same streets there together. They want to clean the park, he says, to take our tents away. To begin again, but this time in memory of the impure pure history of tents. Let’s say it once more, then, while we’re all here together on the street, in the ‘public private’ slapped together, Marx is for Derrida irresistibly ironic. It’s as if he sees it, the irony, but in order to see it better, he doesn’t point a finger too much, he doesn’t go head-on, confrontationally charging Marx down, he moves to the pavement; he pre-occupies, he joins in. The obsession in Marx, if it is one, is less with ghosts than with Stirner, who he is quick to identify, and who seems ‘a brother, a double, thus a diabolical image’ (174). Listen here, if you like, Derrida already speaking as if tired of the ‘deconstructive critiques’ of Marx, as if tired of boomerang-deconstruction, tired of the wrong deconstruction, tired of the chase of irony and satire (which are not the same), of how they hound and then just leave everything intact. Marx here, say it quickly, on the sly, in public private, looks like the Derrida chased down in the ‘Introduction’:  

The deconstructive critiques that Marx will address to the Stirnerian ‘historical constructions’ or ‘montages’ risk coming back at him like a boomerang. Whence the endless, relentless pursuit. Endless because it maintains itself by itself, it is talking with itself [il s’entretient de lui-même]. He wants to classify [classer], he can only chase [chasser]. The pursuit pursues relentlessly, as we were suggesting, a kind of double or brother. Both of them love life, which is always the case but never goes without saying for finite beings . . . (SOM, 176)

Say it in rapid blur: to go after is to classify in the other’s language, always mine, French. To go after the class of the other is only to chase. To hunt you down, it’s just a boomerang. Derrida is perhaps abstaining here, but he is here. He must be. I am not sure he would recognize the ‘perhaps not being ‘sufficiently stimulated’ (S, 10). All these men: shall someone knock their heads together? But ‘everyone writes with his or her ghosts, even when we go after the ghosts of the other’ (SOM, 174). It is not enough to just go after the ghosts of the other, chasing them down, that won’t help. But it is also irresistible. The occupiers will divide, multiply, over ground zero like smoke over the heart of a ghost. Derrida is perhaps practicing, then, something like embedded satire. Let’s even call it a sort of khorasatiric materialism. Try that. He’s not immune here. He praises, in this weird ground zero that approaches souterrain satire, some bliss (’what bliss!’ (175)), in Marx’s actions. What bliss! But also, since this is a ‘ghost dance’ (192), and not just a stand- or dance-off, not just a confrontation that risks becoming too capital and head-on in turn, what Marx even seems haunted by is that he is not even the first: ‘Now, Stirner talked about all this before he did, at such great length, which is even more intolerable’ (175). Whose expense is this fleck of satire on the khoratic expanse, a wild sarcasmus not bled dry? These ghosts are not even first-hand. Someone is being sent away, then, as if ‘to spend one’s life, and for as long a time [J.D.’s emphasis] as possible, coming close to him again’ (175). Keston Sutherland’s reading of Marx, though, is ‘very different’ (S, 10). Everyone wants to be the first with the ghost – ghosters. He wants, Derrida says, ‘not to want the same thing as him’ (176), here of Marx and Stirner, Karl and Max. What is more, in Specters of Marx, all of this, the letting in, the expulsion, the coming back, is a question of occupation:

Like him, and like all those who are occupied by specters, he welcomes them only in order to chase them. As soon as there is some specter, hospitality and exclusion go together. One is only occupied with ghosts by being occupied with exorcising them, kicking them out the door. (SOM, 176)

Coincidence? Yes and no. The door, almost, shuts here; they are kicked out of doors. All that remains is the place, what Ariana Reines and Cornel West like to call ‘the sweet spirit of ows’. Everything, in effect, comes back like a sort of ghost-boomerang. You put out a hand  . . .  Or, you ‘grab a plastic sheet full of milk to throw out the shut / door and catch it’ (THE ODES TO TL61P F E 100811.doc, Ode 1, 1.1., 6). The tilting wall here stands in for the end-stop that goes as ever at the hinge. The tents are chased out; they regroup. The police think . . . no, maybe not. A police think it’s over. My Facebook wall tells me a police said this on 15 November at dawn: ‘the occupation ends here’; ‘occupy Wall Street is ending here’. Impossible.


3.	OKAPITAL


Where exactly do the problems begin in Stupefaction, at what point? Is it with the very first words (however chastised) of the epigraph from De La Mettrie, ‘For a wise man . . .’? I mean this quite seriously, do the problems start with the idea that I think I can start with a ‘For a wise man’? Do they start with all the wise men, all the Mr Men as Jeff Hilson likes to call them, all these wise men who think they know what they think, and what we have to think following them? What kind of percentiles, the 50%, or the 99%, or the 1%, have to be thought here, where, as Cixous so emphatically points out, it is the masculine men who tend to say that everyone thinks that way, and include everyone? Everything, she says, doubts everything (SC, 60). Everything thinks it knows it is everything and yet must exclude, whether it knows it or not or wants it or not, however emphatic or conscious it wishes to be, something else, what Cixous here calls, with a quietness that can be heard all the way across the many different walls on Wall Street and Facebook and elsewhere, ‘something of the other’.  Something of the other – not at all unlike the ‘anonymous etwas unbekannt’ (S, 113) your book goes so incredibly far in tracing, something that will have been left out, something or someone or anyone: not let in. Poor capital, I suddenly feel like saying, against all expectation, who are we to think you? Are we missing what you are doing to us, or we with you to us? Do we even know? Have I forgotten that you too are a little other, an anonymous etwas unbekannt, always looking for what David Harvey calls a ‘spatial fix’? What kind of a thing are you, what hyper-object indistinguishable from us? Are we a bunch of ows (OWS), capital speaking through us because us in pain? Where, then, do the problems begin in Stupefaction?

*

A ‘radical anatomy’ in my sense, which I believe I owe to Marx . . . (S, 18)

It is part of the implied intention of Stupefaction to transfer the debt to Marx. The book’s hero is Marx. ‘The central and heroic figure in the book is Karl Marx’, we are told (S, 3). Marx is at the head, then. He is unapologetically the hero. The ‘Introduction’ introduces its ‘brief attempt’ to distinguish its reading of Marx from ‘the influential reading by Derrida in Specters of Marx’ as an explanation of its subtitle, ‘a radical anatomy of phantoms’ (7). It is presumably introduced in this way ‘in part’ (7) because Specters of Marx is about phantoms and Stupefaction thinks it can disagree with Derrida on this issue. Although no reference is made to the fact, it may also be because Specters of Marx contains, in a footnote, a comment about the insufficiency of the motif of ‘radicality’ itself (SOM, n. 9, 249). The radical would never be radical enough for Derrida, and any attempt to simply uproot or deracinate or anatomise phantoms would simply multiply them, or leave them even more open on the table, but let’s leave that to one side for now. Is this ‘brief attempt’ to distinguish from Derrida, then, merely an elucidation of a subtitle? The subtitle seems, at least, to come first here, entitled, ahead, as if above of any need to read Derrida for his own sake, unless I am hallucinating:

My subtitle, ‘a radical anatomy of phantoms’, may be explained in part by a brief attempt to distinguish my reading of Derrida from the influential reading by Derrida in Specters of Marx. (S, 7)

Derrida’s influence is felt here, his is an ‘influential reading’, and yet no sign or proof is given of it. No footnote alerts us to the how and where of that influence. Sutherland proceeds, in a single paragraph, to summarise the contents of Specters of Marx. In another paragraph he then lays out the difference between his reading of Marx and the ‘influential’ one proposed by Derrida. After these two paragraphs, Sutherland claims that his Marx is ‘by comparison’, by comparison with the version of Derrida he has just outlined, ‘a fiercely unreassuring thinker’ (12). This argument about who is ‘by comparison’ the more unreassuring thinker, about who is unreassuring and who is not, is itself strangely reassuring, perhaps, especially for anyone who might already be decided about who and what Derrida is. By making Derrida into the insufficiently political because insufficiently ‘unreassuring’ thinker he might be expected to be (a pretty familiar move by now, and so I find it difficult to understand why it would demand an eleven page majority of an eighteen page introduction, plus over-spilling footnotes), a way is at least cleared for a reassuringly and triumphantly unreassuring Marx. ‘My own reading of Marx is very different from this one by Derrida’ (10); Marx is ‘by comparison, a fiercely unreassuring thinker’ (12).

*

The situation in the ‘Introduction’ seems to come down, pretty quickly, to several key facts. First, Sutherland’s Marx is not Derrida’s Marx. They are, he says, ‘very different’ (S, 10). Second, after a brief wrangle over readings, or the appearance of one, it is then simply a matter of ‘Marx’ himself: ‘Marx, is by comparison, a fiercely unreassuring thinker’ (12). Third, but this Marx, not Sutherland’s or Derrida’s, but Marx himself, the real one, was already present when the ‘comparison’ between Marxes (or readings of Marx) first seemed to take place. For Derrida, Sutherland writes in his single paragraph summary of Specters of Marx, ‘Marx was not the rational satirist of phantomatic speculative thinking he took himself to be’ (9).  Sutherland knows who Marx is, or was, and he is not who Derrida said he was or is, and this is already the case midway through the book’s first and only real paragraph of ‘commentary’ on Specters of Marx. Fourth, there is in that case no ‘comparison’: Marx is who he took himself to be, and Derrida is who we (but who?) took him to be. Fifth, Derrida’s Marx, the one in Specters of Marx, also seems to be not our Marx; he is not the Marx, by implication, that the ‘we’ addressed in Stupefaction needs so as to know ‘how we can make it happen’ (18). In other words, the ‘we’ involved in ‘how we can make it happen’ does not need Derrida’s Marx. The revolution, whatever ‘it’ is, will not need Derrida’s reading of Marx. Sixth, this Marx himself who is, by implication, ours, the real one retrieved without too much effort from Derrida’s presumably unhelpful reading, can also be the Marx of a certain social scene, perhaps even of the ‘primary social scenes’ invoked in the book’s ‘Acknowledgements’, in which a certain ‘Jonty Tiplady’ happily figures. Me, surely. This Marx, so ‘very different’ from Derrida’s, might be our Marx, or even my Marx, and this perhaps means none of us (but who?), including me (Jonty Tiplady, surely), have to worry about Derrida’s reading of Marx any more. Phew. Seventh, Derrida’s ‘influential reading’ (7) must therefore have been a mirage in the first place. Eighth, now that we don’t have to worry about Derrida anymore, about différance with an a, or any of that sort of thing, we can get on with being fiercely unreassured by Marx, on a primary social scene of ‘social facts’ (13). Don’t worry, in effect, now you can worry about what matters: Marx. Don’t worry, in other words, Derrida is who we (same question) thought he was all along, and Marx is the more ‘fiercely unreassuring thinker’ (12). Don’t worry, Marx is evidently the one who best causes us worry, not Derrida. Worry then, but not about Derrida. ‘The central and heroic figure in the book is Karl Marx’ (3).


OK KHORATIC INTERLUDE (TO BE SKIPPED, OK)


Was it because I was scared to love it too much? Yes, in every possible sense, in the sense that I am obviously sometimes unhappy and unwilling to properly love my own life and life in general and yet in having read it I must have and accepted it into an oikos of some kind and must already be loving it as much as I can even though so failingly. His poetry made me suspicious: but of course it did, it made me suspicious of my own life by taking shape as the image of my own life I wanted it to be by being it already now. And this total life was a total of real ersatz not just by being ‘experience which is the perfected contradiction of life’ (S, 202) or ‘the only place and time where heaven is though not itself at least myself’ (Letter to Simon Jarvis, 2004); it was even more than that, and had to be. 

*

Derrida describes in ‘Politics and Friendship’ (in 1981) what he should perhaps have said at the time (1968 and after), and in the name of the revolutions then seeming to take place, but couldn’t, because of the revolutions then seeming to take place. He was held back. A reticence took hold of him. His main fear was that he would seem to be against what he was actually for, or would have been. Should he therefore go away and become the opposite of himself? Everything took place underground, says 1981, but he thinks twice on this count. 1981 reflects back on 1968; and there’s second thought. We are now overground 2012. Derrida writes: ‘An intellectual sociology of this dimension of the French intellectual or academic scene remains to be undertaken and notably of the normalien milieu in which the practice of avoidance is stupefying’ (PF, 193).

*

I am not sure, then, that I knew I would have to fight, that a fight might begin that would have to go on, and that I would have to learn to occupy, above all, my beloved. Perhaps I knew. Perhaps I already knew that stars would ring in my inbox, and that I would have to wake, and open, as if I wanted them to disappear, as if I were sending out a billion messages without subject, a number of parentheses, like khoratic bounty.

*

Henry James in his ‘Introduction to The Tempest’ (1907): ‘We can “accept”, but we can accept only in stupefaction – a stupefaction that, in presence of The Tempest, and of the intimate meaning so imputed to it, must despair of ever subsiding. These things leave us in darkness – in gross darkness about the Man; the case of which they are the warrant is so difficult to embrace.’

*

We met, more intimately than ever, on the ground of my stupefaction, my general emotion . . .


OK KHORATIC INTERLUDE ENDS


Insofar as it argues for a certain necessity of dead-ends, Stupefaction might be said to rely for its effectiveness on the idea that there is, somewhere else, a thought of ouverture infinie, and that this thought, here ascribed to Specters of Marx, is itself ‘the bourgeois concept par excellence; its terminal apotheosis is the global free market’ (S, 13). Sutherland volleys back Derrida’s own apparently psychoanalytic treatment of Marx as pathologically repressive of phantoms, and claims that Derrida’s own ‘nearly infinite patience’ (11) is itself blind to something ‘that was absolutely central to everything Marx ever wrote, namely, the concept of class’ (11-12). Derrida, Sutherland writes, making an interesting use of commas, ‘is not interested in class, in Specters of Marx, but only in the already universal condition of the subject that “phantomalizes” itself’ (12). And this also implies, Sutherland goes on, that for Derrida ‘[t]here is no such thing as bourgeois consciousness and no limit is proved to be inescapable by its truth to living social contradiction . . .’ (12). This contention will be worth looking at. Stupefaction, as we will see, goes to admirable lengths to describe and weigh in on ‘the significance (in particular the social and political significance for people living under capitalism) of identifying the type of enemy existence by defining it as irremediably destitute of truth’ (3).  Precisely because it apparently does not have a workable concept of ‘bourgeois consciousness’, Specters of Marx is in effect up for elimination, or for ‘emphatic ruling out’ (3). Such, I would say, are the stakes of this ‘brief attempt to distinguish my reading of Marx from the influential reading by Derrida in Specters of Marx’ (7). The book’s subtitle, ‘a radical anatomy of phantoms’, perhaps only takes on its full import in the context of this argument that Derrida’s book is not just to be distinguished from, but also apparently to be in some way targeted, because it is at least collusive with ‘the bourgeois concept par excellence’ (13): ouverture infinie. This point is enforced in the penultimate footnote attached to the ‘Introduction’, footnote 19, which somewhat indirectly confronts Derrida’s supposed ‘anti-Leninism’ in Specters of Marx with a quotation from Lenin’s ‘The Three Sources and Three Component Parts Of Marxism’, to the effect that, if we wish to accept Lenin’s propositions, then ‘from a Leninist perspective, the philosopher will remain “a stupid victim of deceit” (he will be the identity for stupefaction) until he discovers to himself and to public view the class interests behind his thinking and behind the culture of friendship that sustains it’ (n.19, 25). Sutherland’s concern here is with what ‘must hold for deconstruction too’ (n.19, 25). The footnote is itself a moving target, but its potential implication, which does not apparently have to be accepted, seems clear: Derrida’s supposed ‘anti-Leninism’, to which no actual precise reference to check against is here given, is being confronted with the figure of a philosopher who, rather like the Derrida who we have been informed has no interest in class, will remain what Lenin calls a ‘stupid victim of deceit’ unless he or she disclose their ‘class interests’. Sutherland’s gloss in parentheses on Lenin’s phrase implies, perhaps, a step further. As the ‘Introduction’ and its ‘brief attempt’ to distinguish its position on Marx from Derrida’s draws to a close, a philosopher not entirely to be distinguished from Derrida is said to be not just a candidate for stupefaction, but also perhaps the candidate for stupefaction. Part of the not quite made argument here seems to be that Derrida is not just a stepping stone for getting on to the rest of the book, but that he is also, as if merely in passing, the first candidate for stupefaction that the book puts forward.

*

My initial feeling on reading Stupefaction, unguarded and disarmed: more ghosts now, not less.

*

An important idea in Stupefaction is that there is something that can be called ‘bourgeois consciousness’ (S, 12). The ‘bourgeoisie’ in Marx is ‘not only a real, living class but also a “satirical construction”; its existence as a “speculative construction” is imcomprehensible except by illumination of confrontational truth by satire’ (15-16). Satire here is not only something I might or might not choose to do. It is rather something that is happening, as if present in things themselves, and the choice (if it can be called that) is to tune into its wavelength via ‘confrontational truth’ or not. ‘Outside of’ this set-up, the very existence of the ‘bourgeoisie’ will be either incomprehensible or plainly ignored, as is apparently the case in Derrida. My not getting it, in other words, is simply testament to an unwillingness to accept what is already there. At stake is the ‘understanding that the satire must be there, but that it is there, and can only be there, for the reader whose confrontation with the object of satire is a conscious, practical confrontation with its real social target’ (108). It is about being ‘conscious’, and ‘practical’. The satire may be present already in things, but it will not be so unless I divest its ‘already’ of its perhaps troublingly irenic undertones, by, presumably, making a conscious, confrontational, effort in the present. No amount of what Stupefaction calls ‘pure theory’, however right-sounding in its appeals, will ever actually get round this. This also seems to be the import of the extraordinary passage on falling asleep reading added to the centre of ‘What Is Called “Bathos”?’, a passage which, at the end of a perhaps more open and momentarily softening reading of Prynne and O’Hara, comes back, via an apparent allusion to Derrida, to the need for confrontational truth, despite all (184-9). Derrida, in this passage, is admitted in, but only for a moment. What Sutherland simply calls ‘hors texte’ (188) vanishes at the moment I seek to make my truth actually and consciously confrontational.  

*

Another way of putting this is to say that Stupefaction is ultimately only really interested in having a real fight. Its effort, again and again, is to affirm in different guises how we can make it happen, and this has the form of ‘confrontational truth’ or an actual fight. The lesson from Marx is, Sutherland writes, ‘that truth must be confrontational, not the mere semblance of a fight’, and the fight is at its most real for Marx, according to Sutherland, ‘when the argument of the enemy is proved to be a refuge for the absolute value nil’ (202). ‘Discrediting the enemy is nowhere near enough; what must be demonstrated is the necessity of his extinction’ (202). We are involved then, whether we like it or not, in something approaching war. ‘Is philology, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, as at the end of the eighteenth, in Marx’s case as in Homer’s, in competition with theory for the resources of intellectual loyalty?’ (32). The question is, in effect, whether there is a ‘competition’ for ‘resources’ between something called ‘philology’ and something called ‘theory’. Resource-war. There is, it seems, no way out of this formidable theoretical non-theoretical more than a set up. Even if I were to simply mistake Derrida, for example, for the identity of stupefaction, and therefore a target for ‘extinction’, I would have missed the ingenious twist and suspended sting of the act of targeting, the canny and at least two-directional use of the word ‘refuge’. The enemy is the enemy because he will not, or cannot, believe his own dispensability. But, and here is the twist that im-possibilies everything and makes of Stupefaction more than a book and more-than-an-argument; but, Derrida, for example, would not just be (although he might also just be) of ‘absolute value nil’, but also precisely ‘a refuge’ for that ‘absolute value nil’. The enemy, if you like, always threatens to be the refuge precisely for what needs, unconditionally, to be made extinct. A condition of possibility (that the enemy should, again and again, be identified) is here also, at the same time, what Derrida calls a condition of impossibility (the enemy is also the refuge for what needs to be thoroughly eliminated). Moreover, this for Sutherland is not a merely conceptual exitless aporia, as he would seem to imagine it is in Derrida, but a lived, confrontational, social fact. This absolutely im-possible act of identifying the always specific, always real, candidate for stupefaction, is itself the most pressingly real and social matter that must be there.

*

Buzz; sting. Something happens, I thought, every time I go after the enemy, every time I am about to accuse, something multiplies, like protesters disbanding and regrouping towards Foley Square. I will never be in a position to prove a ghost, to know for sure the multiplying I felt on first reading Stupefaction was in fact real. But everybody perhaps dreams and thinks and walks with their own bee target on their shoulder.

*

Part of what apparently makes satire more than implacably real, in Sutherland’s sense, is that its real fight always involves someone’s expense. It is itself costly, and personal, and has to be, otherwise it will just be more conceptual posturing, a mere dance-off prior to the real fight itself. ‘The difference between a concept and a satire is that satire is always, must always be, at someone else’s expense’ (46). Satire might be said, based on this, to be a new type of non-conceptual concept, were it not, according to this argument, precisely the effect of all talk of even non-conceptual concepts to efface the price-tag that needs to be there lest satire ever lose its bite and become mere ‘theory’. The point is that ‘satire is activated for one constituency of readers by its infliction on another’ (46). Satire becomes visible only at a sort of intra-social level here. It is not simply that it is inflicted by one constituency of readers on another, but that it becomes actual and active for one group when it is inflicted on another. Satire is not what you think. It thrives here between groups, at the intersection. It needs to be inflicted not just for the sake of the enemy group, but so that the other (inflicting) group can get to activate satire in the process. Satire is thus not just a literary technique, irony in the strong sense, but energized social contradiction as it takes place, now, and must do, for example between constituencies of readers. For instance, my own so far perhaps merely theoretical account of Stupefaction will only have real activation if I choose to enter into a fight, and for example defend ‘Derrideans’ against this incursion by ‘Marxists’ on ‘the sacred turf’: Specters of Marx. And yet, if I enter into that fight, which is apparently the only way for social contradiction to get activated and become im-possibly eliminable, then I will simply be providing a refuge for the identity of stupefaction. The only way out of this still quasi-hermeneutic circle is, in other words, to force it to this absolute break point or dead end where there is absolutely no way out. Worse still, there is no way out, and saying so is itself more stupefaction. Any attempt to alleviate this situation, even just by describing it, is itself what Sutherland seems to call ‘theory’. ‘Theory’ is from Stupefaction on not just a set of authors (enter your candidates here) but the name for the moment I give up on the immense present difficulty of messy social struggle. Life under capitalism for Sutherland is just this im-possible situation in which no-one can be either exempt or not exempt at the same time as someone (yes, the ‘fucking enemy’) must pay. And this itself is a falsifying description. 

*

Derrida’s reading of Marx in Specters of Marx is perhaps targeted (or at least distinguished from) in Sutherland’s ‘Introduction’ because it is taken to be the very opposite of what Stupefaction thinks is needed for us to ‘make it happen’ (18). Derrida’s book would be, if you like, a massive demonstration of what for Stupefaction is the most deadly social tendency: namely, to not read Marx as satire, to play around at mere problem-solving instead. There is even a sense, I will argue, in which it should not even matter if Sutherland has got most of the details of his reading of Derrida wrong, since it is precisely the social prerogative of satire, in its forever strenuous attempt to keep contradiction this side of the concept, to be ‘irreconcilable with the standard of truth and interpretation that is the reflex of [bourgeois] interests’ (50). By drawing attention to how Sutherland has perhaps misread Derrida in his ‘Introduction’, I would merely, on this construal at least, be drawing attention to my own unawares attempt to sidestep what is really now a satire at my expense. By standing up for the interests of ‘truth and interpretation’ I would merely be standing up, whether I like it or not, or know it or not, for my own ‘bourgeois interests’. Sutherland’s not-just-theoretical effort here is, to say the least, sophisticated. What he calls life ‘under capitalism’ (S, 106) would be now so hyper-contrary, and this very fact satire at its most living, that all appeals to ‘truth and interpretation’ are themselves targets for destitution. Being right or accurate is not enough. The objection that Sutherland himself obviously does not abandon accuracy (entirely) in his very attempt to seriously argue this, would itself have to fall on openly deaf ears, not because it isn’t true, but because it doesn’t contribute to ‘how we can make it happen’ (18). Accuracy is of course still needed, but only of the right kind. Objecting to Stupefaction on the grounds of ‘truth and interpretation’ would not just be irrelevant; it would be irrelevant precisely because it fails to think about what sorts of ‘truth and interpretation’ are now needed ‘to make it happen’. Even in objecting to this, I must have wanted to say the same thing, even if I didn’t want to, or think I haven’t. The ‘we’ in this situation would be, amongst other identities, the necessarily provocative token of making you think you are being shut out, precisely so that you can then become aware, and try to accept, that you are already shut out anyway. The inhuman love of thinking this is at the im-possible service of the realer human love of having to accept it. That Stupefaction perhaps gets Derrida totally wrong can only, on these terms, be proof of satire’s prerogative to take and détourn whatever material it needs to make its narrower yet desperately more urgent point.

*

Derrida, then, so this more-than-an-argument would go, should be the target for us, whether he can be or not. Sutherland’s canny gesture here is to admit that Derrida’s style of thinking is in fact ‘preferable for its more nearly infinite patience with intricacy’ (11). Derrida is all but praised here. His ‘nearly infinite patience’ is to be preferred, circumstances allowing. Yet the circumstances, presumably, are not allowing, and Derrida’s style of thinking seems finally not to do, and partly because of its apparent blindness to this very key fact, ‘that wage labour is unalterably a fundamental injustice whose “speculative concept” is the absolute value nil humanity’ (205). Derrida is, you will recall, ‘not interested in class, in Specters of Marx’ (S, 12). There is no time, we might say, for Derrida’s ‘nearly infinite patience’. He would be too patient, and too infinite. Since there is no infinite as such, or rather too much of it, there really should not be or may not be a patience that attempts to match it. A preference here would be just that; a wish for something that all too easily already is and therefore cannot be in any real sense socially useful; a luxury; a saying of what should go without saying but cannot, and so should not be said either because it is too obvious to have anything other than a merely theoretical or confirmatory value. Preferences might only be sympathised with, insofar as they presumably cannot be altogether resisted, but they should not be given in to entirely. What Sutherland reads as Derrida’s ‘nearly infinite patience’ would itself be a gesture of merely theoretical mastery, and, even worse, of the ‘instinct to theoretical mastery of concepts’ which is here ‘a class instinct’ (72). In other words, only someone who, like Derrida according to Sutherland, ignores class interests, can afford what is in fact a totally questionable privilege, the privilege of ‘nearly infinite patience’. By the same gesture, when Jean-Luc Nancy and Slavoj Zizek are pressed with something like the same charge at the end of ‘Marx in Jargon’, it is not (at least not primarily) because they are supposed to be unoriginal or incomprehensible thinkers, but rather because they give too much time to problems which are there, but only can be there by ignoring the im-possibly fructive dead-end of the one fact, wage labour, that needs to be focused on again and again. The ‘perfectly intelligible’ here seems aligned with the researches of Bouvard and Pecuchet, which are importantly (perhaps) swerved in the ‘Introduction’ as ‘perfectly inexhaustible’ (5):

There is perhaps a dimension of the problematic [of the fetish-character of commodities in Marx] that is transcendentally amenable to pure theory, a dimension in which the most perfectly intelligible and reasonable questions are those that cost so little to ask that the challenge for thinking becomes not to answer them but to ask them with such enormous prodigality and largesse in the management of concepts that their unit cost within the economy of theoretical interrogation is finally reduced to nil. (S, 74)

Sutherland is writing here mainly about Nancy and Zizek’s interpretations of the fetish-character of commodities. Their accounts of Marx are, he says further on, ‘too intelligently claustrophobic to inhabit the dead end of a terminal and perfected contradiction’ (76). It is not that the depth-problems which lie behind the fetish-character of commodities according to Nancy and Zizek do not exist, but that they all too perfectly exist (like the inexhaustible studies of Flaubert’s anti-heroes), and so are too perfect an alibi for not staying in the more (because less) intelligent and more (because less) claustrophobic dead end of the ‘perfected contradiction’ which takes necessarily constrained shape as the fact of wage labour. Part of the aim of Sutherland’s strenuously sophisticated effort might be, on this account, to arrive at a more (because less claustrophobically) intelligent politics. It may even be, as we will see, that Marx’s single most important idea according to Stupefaction, the absolute value nil of capitalism, is in fact and principle accessible to something like ‘everyone’. Here is the remarkable passage from ‘What Is Called “Bathos?’ that seems to bring a lot of these ideas together:

But the absolute value nil is the sovereign value because it is the true speculative concept of these objects: it is what our ‘strenuous effort’ [the reference is to Hegel] must be trained to realize and bring to life in them, even as their perfect deadness. This cannot be an idea that Marx needed to learn how to think; it is not a complex or difficult idea or one that requires any special or uncommon use of logic. But it is vital to remember - particularly for rationalistic Marxists it is vital - that the ‘strenuous effort of the concept’ is not strenuous for cognition but also for acceptance. The necessity really to think and live the absolute value nil is more difficult to accept than it is to think. The strenuous effort of the concept in Marx is in this respect radically unlike the strenuous effort of the concept in the ‘Preface’ to Hegel’s Phenomenology: dialectical thinking sinks to a mere mirage of advancement, for Marx, unless there be somewhere on the way of despair a perfected contradiction that cannot be advanced out of by thinking, consciousness or spirit, but that can, and must, only be destroyed by social and political revolution. Spirit is stuck in reality, and reality is most real of all where spirit is most profoundly and inoperably stuck. Perhaps the most strenuous effort of the concept in Marx’s thinking (I may, in fact, mean, in reading Marx) is the effort never to go beyond that perfected contradiction, or disguise it, or forget it, but to learn again and again, by more and more unendurably emphatic repetition, how to insist on it for ever. The growth of the poetical mind beyond perfected contradiction is its social hypertrophy. The effort not to merely tarry where spirit is stuck but to live there is almost unendurably excessive because it is the perfected opposite of excess: no spontaneous overflow beyond this fact, that wage labour is unalterably a fundamental injustice whose ‘speculative concept’ is the absolute value nil humanity. (203-5)

The risk Stupefaction takes with satire, at the limit, is perhaps to make it therapeutic. One of the vectors of this passage is to suggest that acceptance, even more than strenuous more-than-conceptual effort, may be the difficult and truly urgent thing. Is Stupefaction a therapeutic book? I would suggest that it radically is. The real difficulty here seems to be, at the risk of an over-literalisation, the difficulty of accepting the necessity of an extinction not just of certain types of thought, but of nothing less than ‘us’, or at least our idea of ‘us’. What is difficult to accept, perhaps especially for a Derridean, is ‘the necessity of his extinction’ (202). Sutherland writes, while specifically alluding to Pope, that this type of enemy, the one that needs to face extinction and may in fact according to the ‘Introduction’ be ‘us’ (5), is ‘the irremediable non plus ultra of modern poetry, against which every type and intensity of critical blow is more or less transcendentally justified . . .’ (p.202). Modern poetry here reaches, in this thought of the necessity of a certain extinction, an implacably real point of no return. There is, in real fact, no further to go. The imperative is, as in the first words of Citizen Kane, ‘NO TRESPASSING’. This seems to relate to what might at first appear to be a tangential moment in the penultimate footnote on Lenin and deconstruction in the ‘Introduction’. There Sutherland notes that contrary to Lenin’s Marx, for whom something called a ‘finished philosophical materialism’ is possible, for Derrida, apparently, ‘we may not speak of a finished philosophy, except in self-reassurance’ (n.19, 25). Lenin’s sense of a ‘finished philosophical materialism’, which Derrida does not admit because he is apparently more interested in something called ‘ouverture infinie’, is perhaps one way of beginning to think, feel, and accept what the passage just quoted calls ‘perfected contradiction’ (204). At stake here is a sort of radical poetics of de-growth. Earlier on in the book, in ‘Marx in Jargon’, Sutherland writes that ‘to grow out of that dead end by discountenancing it’ (72), theorist authors revert to the theoretical mastery that is, as mentioned, actually a class instinct. To grow here, up or out, isn’t exactly what’s called for. Maturity or maturation would be stunted, a failure to stay put and stuck in just this one fact, wage labour and presumably everything it implies. The infinitely open excess of what some economists still call ‘infinite growth’ would be confronted with the more truly and unbearably excessive excess of not just tarrying, like the negative, but of doing more than that by refusing to keep on going beyond in a merely conceptual fashion always all too easily possible. The style of the negative concept in Hegel’s ‘Preface’ for example would perhaps be not excessive enough to be negatively perfected enough: something else is needed, ‘the perfected opposite of excess’. This something else, a little other perhaps, resembles for a moment what I will later on be tempted to call the affirmative. Its name here though, perfect for now, seems to be ‘wage labour’. If satire has a therapeutic import for Sutherland, it is perhaps precisely in enforcing, for anyone who wishes, an acceptance of the highly constrained and compact living and writing such a ‘perfected contradiction’ would necessarily, perhaps, compel.


4.	DERRIDA: WHO CARES


One of the by now perhaps classic errors Sutherland makes in reading Derrida is of equating deconstruction with some kind of merely negative critique, which supposedly asks questions of limits and distinctions only to somehow prove them, in what Sutherland imagines to be a ‘sublime’ moment, ‘unworkable’ (S, 12). What would an ‘unworkable’ distinction actually look like? The word ‘unworkable’ is used twice in the account of Derrida’s account of Marx, and yet it is not there (or even implied) in any of the referenced contexts in Specters of Marx. Let’s simply recall for now, so as to be able to come back to this below, that Specters of Marx is not actually in the business of asking questions, of diagnosing Marx, of deconstructively showing his writing to be ‘unworkable’ or ineffectively pre-deconstructive. Neither does Derrida simply say that Marx has, or is singularly responsible for, some kind of ontology. Derrida’s own pretty strenuous effort is constantly to let Marx’s writing vibrate across several wavelengths, zooming in and out on moments, often interweaved, of differing degrees of metaphysical complicity. This effort, I think, goes not towards somehow disabling or making unworkable Marx’s description of ‘the world of labor, production, and exchange’ (SOM, 214) by giving an account of what makes it impossible. This is only something approaching the first half, or stage, of what Derrida wants to say. In fact, many of the gross errors in reading Derrida (for example in Stupefaction, or Gillian Rose’s perhaps even more violently wrong reading of Specters of Marx in Mourning Becomes The Law), seem to occur precisely because of a not wanting to wait around to see what Derrida says next. Too quick, in other words, to be urgent in the long run. Specters of Marx, to be sure, is interested in what has made impossible the reduction of the world to the undoubted urgency of the facts for example of wage labour, but what makes impossible for Derrida is always precisely what also simultaneously makes possible. Derrida calls this, in more purely theoretical terms, a condition of possibility acting as condition of impossibility (for example SOM, 82). Misunderstandings of Derrida periodically seems to occur when readers only see one or the other side of this mutual enlivening conditioning. They see, for example, that distinctions are blurred, but then assume this renders them ‘unworkable’, or at least unproductively blurrable from the point of view of revolution; whereas what Derrida usually insists on is a kind of hyper-productive blurring. Derrida might want to say, for example, that the hauntology that looks as if (and indeed must look as if, at a certain étape in its description) it makes Marx’s whole project of a finished materialism impossible, is in fact, if we will only wait and see, now, precisely what makes that materialism possible in the only im-possibly finished state it perhaps ever has: for example, ‘a materialism of the khôra’ (SOM, 212). In a certain sense, Stupefaction simply détourns conditions of impossibility into what Sutherland calls ‘refuge’ (most notably in ‘Fetish and Refuge: A Mock Pastoral’). One perhaps surprising consequence of this set up of what Derrida eventually calls, to mark its non-negative nature, ‘im-possibility’, is therefore that, contrary to what that penultimate footnote on Lenin contends, i.e that ‘for Derrida, we may not speak of a finished philosophy, except in self-reassurance’ (S, n.19, 25), it would in fact for Derrida be more than possible to speak of a finished philosophy. It would even be quite easy to show that Derrida is interested in nothing but that, that ‘a materialism of the khôra’ (SOM, 212) just is finished philosophy’s more than im-possible designation. It might be worth noting that the Derridean phrase ‘condition of impossibility’, not to be found as far as I know in even the most finessed moments of Adorno, appears explicitly, for example, in one crucial moment in ‘Marx in Jargon’, when Sutherland writes that ‘we ourselves are the condition of impossibility of “perfectly intelligible and reasonable relations”’ (S, 71). What are we to make of the way this phrase is used without reference to Derrida, and at a crucial moment, the moment when Sutherland reads Marx as not saying there will be a release or clarification through the disquisition on the commodity? Should we be clear about this? What is at stake here for what ‘Fetish and Refuge’ chooses to mock-dismissively call ‘our clarity’ (FR, 90)?

*

Critical limits and distinctions are thus, according to Sutherland, one of the main issues Derrida and Marx disagree over. Whereas for Sutherland’s Marx (or Marx simply) ‘critical limits’ are ‘a kind of cognitive testimony of social facts’ (S, 11), a living and breathing felt experience of the satire that is there, and can only be resolved by social revolution; for Derrida’s Marx read by Sutherland, limits are that ‘ambivalently both figural and objective thing’ (12) invoked only so that we can go beyond them while acknowledging, as if sublimely, their unworkability. Derrida, on this account, has little to tell us about actually existing social revolution, and the rethinking of everything now existing, because all limits for him ‘have already been transgressed or already “will have” been’ (12). The will have been (or ‘“will have” been’) here is presumably a reference to the anterior-proleptic logic often used in Derrida. Where Marx forces us to read conceptual breakpoints as ‘relations in the world to be demolished’ (13), Derrida apparently wants to do the more purely theoretical work of questioning or destabilising them, and to open up something Sutherland confidently identifies as ‘ouverture infinie’ (13). What Sutherland calls the ‘act of deconstruction’ is here set up as a sort of ‘protest against being too narrowly defined, however brilliant’ (13). An act of deconstruction is only active, in other words, because it wants wider definitions. Limits for Derrida may be both figural and objective, but they are not really lived as a constrained experience of the satire that must be there. The questions Derrida puts to Marx, though, are in fact neither critical questions designed to infinitely open (but again what would this actually look like?), nor simply destabilisations that would inhibit actual felt recognition of social tensions. Derrida’s ‘questions’ are instead actual practical events, a kind of seismic eventing. It has to do, as so often in Derrida, with the hand:

These questions are not destabilizing as the effect of some theoretico-speculative subversion. They are not even, in the final analysis, questions but seismic events. Practical events, where thought becomes act [se fait agir], and body and manual experience (thought as Handeln, says Heidegger somewhere), labour but always divisible labour - and shareable, beyond the old schemas of the division of labour (even beyond the one on whose basis Marx constructed so many things, in particular his discourse on ideological hegemony: the division between intellectual labour and manual labour whose pertinence has certainly not disappeared, but appears more limited than ever). These seismic events come from the future, they are given from out of the unstable, chaotic, and dis-located ground of the times. A disjointed or dis-adjusted time without which there would be neither history, nor event, nor promise of justice. (SOM, 214)

Going ‘beyond’ distinctions or schemas of division here does not entail, as Sutherland seems to want to believe, some kind of enfranchisement at the expense of the lived necessity of communism, but a ‘pertinence’ of the ‘division’ of different types of labour which ‘has certainly not disappeared’, and which in fact appears ‘more limited than ever’. Far from delimiting in infinite openness Marx’s division of two different types of labour, this division both keeps its pertinence (how could it, after all, disappear?), and is in fact more constrained, ‘more limited than ever’. Divisions here are limited, I would say, not because of what the passage is saying, or of what it tells us it is doing, or because what it tells us it is doing must be what it is doing, or because we are convinced by it or not, or indeed because this passage in Specters of Marx is merely doing something with words, but rather (and as well) because what it is doing with words involves Derrida actually reaching out, right now, and making his ‘question’ to Marx a seismic eventing that joins him, and makes something ‘shareable’: almost a fractal sharing of intellectual and manual labour. What is shareable is not just that Derrida is productively blurring a ‘division’, but that he is doing so, right now, in front of our eyes, should we accept to slow down enough to feel it, or indeed join in. There is no merely conceptual proof that Derrida is doing this, because the very thing he is doing is to make thought active and changeful and not just conceptual, as Marx surely dreamt. Going ‘beyond’ here is limiting, and not the opposite, because it means thought becomes ‘the body and manual experience’, and this can be shared, right now, between Marx and Derrida, and in fact anyone. This seismic eventing is, rather like satire as Stupefaction describes it, not wholly available to concepts because it enforces in us actual change in the world by working concepts more strenuously than ever. I would even want to go further and say that not only does Specters of Marx fractally share in ‘a kind of cognitive testimony of social facts’, but that, zooming in and out, sometimes Stupefaction is the lesser part of this shared fractal politics, sometimes the greater. And vice versa.

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The difference with Derrida’s reading of Marx in the ‘Introduction’ seems, at least in part, to be sustained on a mirage. It is not entirely clear that Sutherland is not simply landing body blows against, precisely, a ghost. Sutherland can only see a problem in Specters of Marx by assuming that for Derrida, or at least for his reading of Marx, distinctions are ‘unworkable’ to the extent that a criticism of everything existing cannot take place, thereby ignoring what Derrida actually says, which is that perhaps the only hope of distinctions being more effective (especially for a rethinking of everything) is through their deconstruction (SM, 204). The apparently very bourgeois ouverture infine which Stupefaction claims to have identified in Specters of Marx threatens to be little more than a hallucination. Sutherland’s argument against Derrida can only have purchase if it closes the gap between the literal and illiteral levels in Derrida’s own writing, scratching over its khorasatiric space, depriving Derrida of what it permits itself. It can only have purchase if it assumes that distinctions might, at some point, lose all workability. It is only this weird spectralisation of Derrida (who, after all, is the one who writes of ghosts at the end of his book, ‘of course they do not exist, so what?’ (SOM, 219)), at the very moment when Sutherland wants to claim that Marx, unlike Derrida, did not consider the existence of human beings as phantoms as ‘a reason to believe in them’ (S, 16), that allows Sutherland to go on and make an argument for the conscious and emphatic use of distinctions which is at the least very close to what for Derrida must happen in their ‘more rigorous restructuration’ (SOM, 204). However incidentally satirical or meta-satirical Sutherland might eventually have to believe his reading of Derrida is, and part of my reading is to say it is, it nonetheless relies on an overly confident identification of an unworkability and ouverture infinite that don’t quite if at all feature in the way Sutherland says they do in Derrida’s book. What seems at stake, then, is a sort of blurphobia. One interesting effect of this, which means incidentally that the reader of Stupefaction is required to expend on untangling the errors in the ‘Introduction’ an amount of time and energy completely incompatible with the book’s arguments against the costly conceptual time management ploys of something called ‘pure theory’, is that what remains an urgent, brilliant reading of Marx, Hegel, Wordsworth and Pope is left haunted by a purely theoretical and phantasmogorical non-encounter with Derrida. Derrida, perhaps, is now Stupefaction’s ghost, whether Stupefaction knows it or likes it or not.


5.	GENERAL FRACTAL POLITICS


Might it be possible to argue that the shareable fractal space between Marx and Derrida I was describing, that vivid and precise blur of coup de main and coup de tête, would already be the not so easy to accept more than ever urgent alternative to wage labour, as well as the only im-possible assurance of an emphatic focusing on just that primarily unjust fact now? Perhaps it is necessary, for example, to fractally affirm the following sentence from Marx and Engel’s shared Manifesto of the Communist Party: ‘The essential condition for the existence and the rule of the bourgeois class is the accumulation of wealth in the hands of private individuals, the formation and expansion of capital, and the essential condition for capital is wage-labour’. Wage labour is here as if the essential condition for its own condition: the accumulation of capital and its immense earth damage. Sutherland may want wage labour to be the most strategic point of intervention here, the one fact to be never forgotten and emphatically insisted on. He may even see wage labour as emphatic shorthand for everything it implies: capital and its ecological damages for example; and believe that wage labour is best focused on at the occlusion of the rest, precisely as a sort of positive refuge for the rest. According to the general fractal politics I am beginning to describe, though, such a focus risks losing its focus precisely because it refuses to believe it can affirmatively focus even more ferociously through its fractal context. The fractal context is always beneficent, and in many ways Stupefaction seems to know this. What Sutherland wants to call the ‘deconstructive act’ is aligned with ‘a sort of protest against being narrowly defined, however brilliant’ (S, 13). Deconstruction is here merely a sort of identity politics, an insistence for example on remarking the exclusion of ecological damage in focusing on wage-labour; which remarking, so the argument might go, is theoretically accurate but too avoidant of satiric cost. Deconstructive brilliancy is redundant whereas satiric brilliancy is permitted precisely because it insists, unlike Derrida apparently, that no act will get the aftertaste of having cannibalized your brothers and sisters every day out of your mouth. But what Derrida is doing in Specters of Marx is, as I am beginning to show, very far from a simple identity politics, or a wider defining that forgets political urgency. That emphatic insistence can only take place in a fractal context is perhaps the least reassuring and most difficultly urgent fact now available to us. To make the deconstructive act into mere identity politics, as Sutherland appears to do, is itself the sort of purely theoretic reduction satire seems designed to effectively eliminate. In his nano-article called ‘Fractal Geography’, Geoffrey Bennington argues quite simply that ‘[d]econstruction is fractal’ (ROG, 137). Part of what he describes as the deconstructive equivalent of fractal logic, in a reading of a passage on Rousseau in Of Grammatology, is the situation whereby supplements, or supplementary readings produced by any given text, for example Sutherland’s of Specters of Marx, or mine of Stupefaction, ‘are always generating representations or stories about themselves (like the smaller, always slightly displaced versions of itself contained in the so-called Mandelbrot set), about what and how they supplement, even if those stories or representations take the form of denial, repression or some other less acute version of avoidance’ (ROG, 138). It is this very situation, and what I will describe as its powerfully emphatic and openly prohibiting vectors, that I want to call general fractal politics. Stupefaction, for example, produces a story or representation about Derrida and pure theory that much of its argument seems to depend on, and in doing so it brings into being a number of features it wants to ‘eliminate’ but which weren’t actually there in Derrida in the first place, which then leads in turn to a story about what Stupefaction has avoided, which may in fact then be mistaken for the attempt to depoliticise Stupefaction it is the opposite of, and then further avoidances and repressions or clarifications are produced, including to be sure my own story, and this situation as a whole (which is of course not a ‘whole’) is nonetheless the only ‘thing’ that can im-possibly assure the real possibility of emphatic insistence on this one fact for example: wage labour. There is no ‘how we can make it happen, not in thought alone but on the world and as our happiness’ (S, 18), the present story will insist, without a general fractal politics.

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The stories set up by Bennington’s fractal version of deconstruction also involve the difference, Derrida is often at pains to do things with, between what a text declares it says, and what it describes: what Stupefaction claims it says, for example, may not be as interesting as what it does while it says it, and the vibrations between these ‘levels’ may be the positive ruin of any political insight it wants to have. According to Stupefaction, this very producing of supplementary folds would perhaps be perfectly understandable, undeniable even, and yet to be consciously and emphatically ‘ruled out’. Marx’s ruthless criticism of everything existing is made ruthless, for Sutherland, precisely by ‘the conscious adoption of limits (in the form of social contradictions)’ (S, 11). General fractal politics would be merely a way of making this criticism of everything more ruthless still, by tuning in not just for example to the ways Derrida is already arguing what Sutherland says he isn’t, and to how this very fact has now opened the general fractal politics that must have made Stupefaction’s insistence possible; general fractal politics would also be an attempt, hyper-ruthless in fact, to make everything itself become act; to not just think but do everything at the same time. This ambition, ostensibly hyperbolic, a sort of greatest power of the possible, would be unbearably excessive because it is not an attempt to think anything new, but to ferociously clarify what is still there, what must be there, the ‘everything existing’ of Marx’s 1843 letter to Arnold Ruge for example. This type of thought made act, whereby everything doubts and affirms everything at the same time, is perhaps now viewable in terms of what Sutherland says about the absolute nil value of capitalism, that ‘it is not a complex or difficult idea or one that requires any special or uncommon use of logic’ (S, 204). Everyone can understand everything itself. This does though, as Stupefaction says, entail a special, almost unique, effort of focused acceptance. The passage from Of Grammatology that Bennington goes on to read, has for one of its fractal climaxes the following thought, that it is a ‘not being able simply to accept’ the fact of what I am calling general fractal politics that guides Rousseau’s apparent preferences. The Of Grammatology passage Bennington is reading is the one that concerns Rousseau’s declared preference in ‘Essay on the Origin of Languages’ for a language of the polar South and not the polar North. The poles appear then, by rapid fractal implication: the Artic and Antarctic. Derrida writes (and is quoted by Bennington as saying): ‘The references are to the extremities of the axis around which the earth turns (polos, polein) and which is called the rational axis: the North Pole and the South Pole’ (OG, 216; cited ROG, 140). Speaking of the so-called northern languages, Derrida comments: ‘In them one can follow the progress of death and chill’ (OG, 218; cited ROG, 142). At the heart of this passage from Of Grammatology that Bennington allows to develop out of a fractal deconstruction, the poles are at stake, the ‘progress of chill and death’ of the far north, and by fractal suggestion, everything that is now happening there. General fractal politics perhaps means always being able to only speak of Antarctic politics. It must be there, in what Cixous called in a recent talk in New York on the origin of socialism  ‘breaking up the glaciers on the way to the beyond the beyond’. It must also be there in Derrida’s text on the poetry of Angelus Silesius and negative theology, ‘Sauf le nom’, when he asks ‘could one only speak of this thing’ (ON, 83). Isn’t it there too, fractally emphatic, as the central, audacious, and in some ways easy to understand idea of Stupefaction, the effort to only ever speak of this thing, ‘the effort never to go beyond that perfected contradiction, or disguise it, or forget it, but to learn again and again, by more and more unendurably emphatic repetition, how to insist on it for ever’ (S, 204)? Growth beyond this, remember, is ‘social hypertrophy’ (204). Infinite growth is rendered provisionally redundant by the tireless incredible formalisations of general fractal politics. 

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Derrida’s own effort in his reading of Rousseau’s ‘Essay on the Origin of Languages’ seems partly to do with showing how any preference, for example for the more southern pole of language, is effectively prohibited (I will come back to my choice of this word) by what Derrida here calls ‘[a]gain the impossible design, the unbelievable line of the supplementary structure’ (OG, 218; cited ROG, 142). It is again this impossible design. Something, a wider (but also, because fractal, narrower) fractalising structure here recurs, as if emphasising itself in place, every time it is needed, a sort of natural force-field, or natural and forceless corrective, almost an unbelievable natural explosion, or blast. The word ‘blast’ is of course nowhere used in Derrida’s passage; it comes in from elsewhere, hyper-fractally. Rousseau wants to locate a single origin for language, more in the south than the north, but the gap between his description and declaration betrays a fractalising structure that makes his preference im-possible; and, just as in Stupefaction, this fact itself, the one that is and needs to be again, is the one that is difficult to ‘accept’: ‘Not being able simply to accept this fact that the concept of origin has merely a relative function within a system situating in itself a multitude of origins, each origin capable of being the effect or offshoot of another origin, the north becoming the south for a more northern site, etc., Rousseau would like the absolute origin to be an absolute south’ (OG, 217; cited ROG, 141). General fractal politics, then, is difficult to accept. Or rather, to be precise, not being able simply to accept the fact of general fractal politics would be what it is; acceptance in stupefaction. Sutherland wants, in a sort of hyper-post-deconstructive gesture that can apparently already be found in Marx (this itself being a pretty good description of something like classical deconstruction), to consciously adopt an emphatic focus on ‘wage labour’ as the fundamental injustice. Arguing against this may look anti-Marxist, or bourgeois in Sutherland’s sense, so it is difficult to argue against. But from the point of view of general fractal politics, the only chance this singularly occlusive focus on wage labour has is by also occupying its context, and the necessity of this, what no doubt makes it ‘unbelievable’, is what makes it more difficult to accept than think. This, in a way, is all Specters of Marx tries to say from one end to the other: that Marx’s project is made more than ever possible by the hauntology that, if frozen mid-activation, will inevitably look as if it is merely making impossible. Radical de-growth would, in this very specific sense, perhaps only be possible in the unbelievably fecund context of a general and overflowing fractal politics that absorbs, produces, and then prohibits its own exclusions. The ready-made riposte from Stupefaction to Derrida, that he is functioning on undisclosed bourgeois interests, becomes itself productively redundant at this point. Both Sutherland and Derrida find themselves, instead, co-boosted into the same ‘impossible design’, sharpening as well as blunting any differences between them, but also making these differences into the turns of an unfolding fractal clarity now more fiercely unreassuring than ever. Why? Because the effort not to merely tarry but to stay put where change needs to take place, to live there, is now even more pressing than in the time Stupefaction was written; it now has to not overflow beyond this fact: everything.     

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This means, for example, that I do not have to object to the details of Stupefaction, even the ones that are totally wrong. General fractal politics, as I am here trying it out in an experiment that will be replaced almost immediately by others, involves me fiercely objecting to the parts of Stupefaction that violently occlude Derrida, but only in order to take them as tenacious proof of the same im-possible political design. Clairity ferocity irenics. What looks like pacifist acceptance is in fact then, zooming in or out into another fractal perspective, fiercely clear opposition: Stupefaction does indeed get Derrida almost violently wrong. For example, and to shift back now to other areas, when Sutherland writes that his ‘own reading of Marx is very different from the influential one by Derrida’ and that he thinks ‘Marx had an understanding of “critical limits” considerably more complex than Derrida will accept from his analysand’ (S, 10), there is quite a lot of a plainly critical nature than can be said of this; but perhaps even more can be said of it from within a general fractal politics. Let’s leave aside for the moment the fact that Derrida is here, for Sutherland, suddenly Marx’s analyst, and that this cannot really be born out by what Specters of Marx either says or does, and that the footnoted references given to back up this idea are comically insufficient, and moreover that ghosts according to Derrida are perhaps impervious to psychoanalysis; what is also interesting here is a sort of fractal shadow-play between who Sutherland says Derrida’s Marx is and who he says his own Marx is. Stupefaction is a book about cost and expense, about the ‘expenses of satire’ (73), about what it, I think, rightly calls ‘such enormous prodigality and largesse in the management of concepts that their unit cost within the theoretical interrogation is reduced to nil’ (74). I agree, in other words, with the principle or the hope that academic capitalisations might somehow be ‘reduced to nil’. I agree with Derrida when he says that ‘[w]hat counts is that it is still up to us to exhaust language’ (PC, 56). Satiric cost might be fractally confronted at this point with what Specters of Marx calls ‘the price of the krinein of the critique’ (SOM, 155). Derrida is here using the Greek verb krinein, meaning ‘to sift or decide’ to refer to what he sees as the costs of Marx’s critique, in this case specifically of Max Stirner in the ‘Saint Marx’ section of The German Ideology. Satiric expense is itself an intractable non-concept in Stupefaction: it cannot be taken from the text because it is itself the ‘concept’ of what gets lost when concepts are air-lifted from Marx at the expense of his satire. Satiric expense is therefore a sort of lived pinch, a radical austerity; it cannot be occupied by ‘some elaborate theoretical periphrasis’ (S, 75), except of course the periphrasis that says this (though it seems the prerogative of satire to ignore whether this is relevant or not): it is ‘not a concept in Das Kapital’ (S, 75). Whoever ignores the costs of satire will, presumably, have to pay them later on. On the last page of Specters of Marx, should anyone accept to proceed that far, Derrida writes also of how ‘in order for there to be any sense in asking oneself about the terrible price to pay, in order to watch over the future, everything would have to be begun again’ (SOM, 221). What Derrida means, I think, by the price of the krinein of critique is that Marx insists on thinking he knows the difference, for example, between spirit and ghost in Stirner, as if one can be targeted and ousted without targeting the other, as if one can be targeted and ousted at the simple expense of the other; and yet Marx, in the form of Marxisms he had no power to not produce will in effect have had to pay later on for the very real heritage of totalitarianising or critically totalising violence that Marxism sometimes conjured. Sutherland here effectively enters this scene, where Marx is chasing Stirner’s ghost, and makes what now will have been his contribution. Nothing is uncostly here. Everything, you could say, has a price tag on it. Indeed, everything itself makes at least one important appearance in Specters of Marx, in Derrida’s staging of the Marx-Max encounter. Derrida’s staging is extremely rich, I would say, like reading a poem-book by Prynne; and he implicates himself on the scene too (confessing his own feeling on the matter), and ‘everyone’, claiming for example that ‘everyone reads, acts, writes with his or her ghosts, even when one goes after the ghosts of the other’ (SOM, 174). Chasing Stupefaction’s ghosts is always chasing one’s own. Onto the scene of Max-Marx in Specters of Marx, during the table of ten ghosts section, there appears, of course, as Gespenst No. 10: everything [tout] (SOM, 183). Derrida glosses as follows: ‘One has to admit that, forthwith [séance tenante], “all enumeration ends” (alles Zahlen aufhort) once everything comes back to haunt everything, everything is in everything, that is, “in the class of specters” (in der Klasse Gespenster)’ (SOM, 183). Derrida, you’ll recall, is not interested in class, in Specters of Marx. 


6.	“RADICAL LIGHT LOL NIGHT”


This will have been a few grazes and graces from the ok kosmos to come. We need to begin reading Keston Sutherland. More than ever. There is no yesterday in New York City, the books were there, this one flag, all that remains of the eviction. Derrida’s point is something like this: that everyone wants to be the first to either touch or untouch the ghost, and yet from the start ‘there has never been a scholar capable of speaking of anything and everything while addressing himself to everyone and anyone, and especially to ghosts’ (SOM, 12). I mean how to begin to talk about Keston Sutherland’s work in the same breath, as we walk down the street, as Shakespeare, and not be scared of his ghost. It’s at the wall, the limit, we see our wires crossed. Cut out our lives from the ground of Stupefaction. It is as if the misreading of Derrida introduces into perfected contradiction a kind of fractal contradiction, a secondary loop keeping the first one final and intact, a dark fold perhaps, like one of those liquid tubes emanating from chests at the party near the end of Donnie Darko, a fold that is not perfected contradictions’s ruin but precisely (perhaps) what makes it possible. To insist on this, emphatically, right now, and for ever. The sometimes monstrously floral lyricism of TL61P, almost a thing to rival the world itself, co-boosts from the same patch that ruins and makes possible social prosody. The misreading of Derrida in Stupefaction would be, in this sense, a perfected blessing for the revolution, an invincible affirmation, despite all of itself, of sweetness and fallibility over a potential poetics of greed. Without this perfected innocence and unconsciousness, where would we be?    

*

This is Wall Street, then, ad | infinitum. Where can we locate, exactly, this second-order contradiction (never secondarised to anything, never a new excess to be added-on), a kind of opposition, or co-terminus of perfected contradiction itself? Let’s say, first of all, it is not there, it does not have to be there, even when it is there. It does not have to be yet another material accretion. It may simply, for example, be the fact, already there to be read, that the moment at which perfected contradiction appears (S, 204) may itself be too taut or contradictive to fully be what it is. Little more. It may be no coincidence that the context here, on page 204 of Stupefaction, is reading. ‘I may, in fact,’ he says in brackets, just about to name ‘perfected contradiction’, ‘mean, in reading Marx’ (204). The perfected contradiction may show up, not just in social detail as totalities, but in the simple act of reading. What does it take, then, to begin to read Keston Sutherland, to separate him for a moment, as fresh as life, from the Shakespeare he resembles? If perfected (not perfect, but perfected) contradiction cannot be found in reading, it may just spin via itself, like a cycle or dot spinning too fast: no room for it to come. This dot is, in any case, sexed. The moment of perfected contradiction cannot not be sexed: it happens, as ever, amongst men. Marx, Pope, Wordsworth. But we are also talking about a missing Shakespeare who says ‘scholar’ in English: ‘since Derrida’s use of an English word in italics cannot be unimportant for his identification of this stupefied figure’, he writes at the very start of the non-encounter with Derrida, and then names the ‘scholar’ in English in Derrida’s French (S, 8). It cannot be unimportant: double negative that affirms, surely, Shakespeare. Don’t worry, it’s only Shakespeare. In his catabolically complex essay on Levinas and the feminine, ‘At This Very Moment In This Work Here I Am’, Derrida writes of how it might be possible to be ‘rigorous yet with a rigor that knows how to relax itself as necessary so as not to be become totalitarian [is this perhaps part of what Specters of Marx means by ‘totalitarianisms’ (SOM, 130)?], even virile, and thus deliver itself over to the discretion of the other in the hiatus’ (P, 170). How to relax the floral Shakespearian sphincter? How to hand over to ‘the other in the hiatus’? But the hiatus is perhaps already given here in the ‘Introduction’, and this will have been why we had to occupy it, so as to give ourselves over to the rest. What im-perfects perfected contradiction is the sheer existence of misreading in the non-encounter with Derrida. Beyond wanting it to be there or not there, beyond satire’s proleptic retracting, simply the very fact that it is there, which should perhaps not be too emphatically hammered on: a sort of duplex, deluxe unitary condition of (im)possibility of perfectionism. Pause now to re-read THE ODES TO TL61P JAN 4.docx, pages 42 and 54, on, precisely, ‘perfectionism’. What remains possible is that this excessively important terminal thinking of perfected social contradiction, itself needed (beyond its really perfected poetic manifestation) the simple social fact of a hermeneutic faux-pas and that this, worse and better still, is how Stupefaction itself must see it. In other words, Keston Sutherland may well have done precisely what he thinks he had no need to do, and yet will have had to have done, was unable in fact not to have had to have done, such is general fractal politics. ‘Truly being wrong to the point of perdition is a prophylactic against transcendence’ (S, 136). Here is the beautiful fractal self-portrait of everyone:

Wordsworth does not want to be a transcendent version of himself, or to know himself as that, but to be happy in the very world which is the world of all us, the place on which in the end we find our happiness, or not at all; except that when this passage from The Prelude is done into prose, it is not illiteral enough to make the truth of that hope confrontational. If the poet knows himself as actual only as a transcended self, which for the poet who is just a man ambitious of the fame of being what he is means a successful poet, a poet who is right, one of Pound’s still sighing but comfortably remunerated ‘Fratres Minores’, then it is better (meaning that you are really a poet) not to know yourself as actual. Truly being wrong to the point of perdition is a prophylactic against transcendence. (135-6)

Being a poet: who cares. Who wants to be saved from being right here? Is it man? Is it ‘just a man’? At the end, who is what? Let’s take the risk of seeing here a confession, not the author’s exactly, but rather a confession in a new sense. The passage has to do, for example, with place, with the world as a place, ‘the place on which in the end we find our happiness, or not at all’. But that ‘not at all’ caveat flexes again into the final clause of its sentence, where it is a question of what might be enough ‘to make the truth of that hope [the hope of being happy on this place, or not at all] confrontational’. How to make, then, not just a truth of satire and bathos confrontational, but a confrontational truth of hope, affirmation, optimism, even beauty? Making the truth of hope confrontational perhaps means mobilizing the affirmative as the fractal fold and limitation of perfected contradiction. OK KOSMOS.

*

‘Life should mean life’, says TL61P, somewhere, I don’t know, I took a note but now he’s re-written it all, and we’re reactionary. THE ODES TO TL61P F E 0410911.doc, Ode 1, 1.1., 7:

		[. . .]
as who are not available
cut out for me the life you get
too close; to be the slanting bed
too far away to make you up  
or time you in; go under me
and stare at the same thing apart.
Tell the zoom lens when you come Laying 
down promiscuity as an advance on 
Socialism; public private sex is thrilling
adolescent hedge markets: The weird
thing left out
you get more dead 
the more truth is like making a bed  
and also that you not only die 
at all since how are you not; biting 
starts too late, sucking is original,
is already there, free with age;
grab a plastic sheet full of milk to throw out the shut
door and catch it. [. . .]

What is there to catch out? Nothing. We who are not available are who exactly? The object of satire, as we will keep on seeing, must to some extent remain forever undisambiguatable until (and even then) and even then it isn’t; and because I might have left someone out? The ‘weird thing’ is not now ‘you’ but ‘left out’, line break. Perhaps what Derrida is saying when he stands near Marx and Max without raising his voice is partly this: that there is a sweet spirit in this place, in this originary haunted socius, and that we needn’t be quite so scared. There is a primary social scene where not everyone is always available, even the we: ‘as who are not available’. Life should mean life. No one can doubt this. In fact, this is what brings Marx and Stirner together, even though they can’t admit it, a kind of ‘unconditional preference’ (SOM, 177) that life should if not mean then be life. ‘Both of them love life, which is always the case but never goes without saying for finite beings: they know that life does not go without death, and that death is not beyond, outside of life, unless one inscribes the beyond in the inside, in the essence of the living’ (176-7). Doesn’t TL61P know this, doesn’t he know that he will, perhaps forever, pretend not to know, that both of them love life, which always goes without saying, but is hardly ever said, that it is ‘the same thing apart’? The abyssal racey erotics of this stretch from TL61P, like a small psychic test-patch for newly passionate thought, a mini-preserve of occupations, fully embedded enough to be exposed, implies in this place a kind of race or run (’time you in’). The ‘zoom lens’ is not necessarily far here. The live feed is still on. It’s close enough, anyway, the lens, for you, to tell it, when you come. But you do not just come here, you come Laying, miss a full stop, and Capitalise without pause, line break, down, and so on (and such a So On). Is the weird thing that is left out you get more dead? Or is there a weird thing left out, you get more dead? These lines know, in effect, everything, and even more, about what the ‘Introduction’ would have us believe they never would. The weird / thing left out . . . becomes, tenderly, and really, for example, Jacques Derrida. The other man ‘too far away to make you up / or time you in; go under me . . .’.  Weird pause, and weird submission of superiority: go under me. These lines, we can only peel off grazes of sense from them, or add: unformalisable verse. To read them, up this close, is to renew again from scratch every concept they touch. I could read them back again, now, and they would give me different intimacies. They are not simply (fractally) homoerotic, for example. But all these men, and their wars of fingers. It’s about the main, the maneuver. And Marx’s fingers. Nothing will stop me filming, short of breaking my fingers. They come back again, and we are still wandering about, with our eyes fixed on the same sanitation truck apart, in the last chapter of Specters of Marx. Derrida is comparably unreassuring as Marx because he does not have the ‘reply’ (S, 10) the ‘Introduction’ to Stupefaction makes him have, or needs him to have, not to get too close. How can I time you in? What can I time you in? Eric Linsker is still in the car to New York. Derrida too, at this precise moment when he might in fact have seemed to be taking the back seat, is also there, at the front. Us too.    




S	Stupefaction, A Radical Anatomy of Phantoms, Keston Sutherland (Seagull Books, 2011).
SOM	Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International, Jacques Derrida, translated by Peggy Kamuf (Routledge: 2006).
SC 	So Close, Hélène Cixous, translated by Peggy Kamuf (Polity Press, 2009).
M	Manhattan, Letters From Prehistory, Hélène Cixous, translated by Beverly Brie Bahic (Fordham University Press, New York, 2007).
ROG	‘Fractal Geography’, Geoffrey Bennington, in Reading Derrida’s Of Grammatology, edited by Sean Gaston and Ian Machlachlan (Continuum, 2011).
PF	‘Politics and Friendship’, Micheal Sprinker interview with Jacques Derrida, in The Althusserian Legacy (Verso, 1992). 
P	‘At This Very Moment In This Work Here I am’, Jacques Derrida, in Psyche: Inventions of The Other (Stanford University Press, 2007).
ON	‘Sauf le nom’, Jacques Derrida, in On The Name, edited by Thomas Dutoit (Stanford University Press, 1993).
MO	Monolingualism of The Other; or, The Prosthesis of Origin, Jacques Derrida, translated by Patrik Mensah (Stanford University Press, 1998).
OG	Of Grammatology, Jacques Derrida, translated by Gayatri Chackravorty Spivak (The John Hopkins University Press, 1976).
PC	The Post Card: from Socrates to Freud and Beyond, Jacques Derrida, translated by Alan Bass (University of Chicago Press, 1988).
FR	‘Fetish and Refuge: A Mock Pastoral’, Keston Sutherland, Social and Political Thought, Volume 18, Winter 2010.




HEAVENLY SUPPLEMENT


Keston Sutherland’s ‘Fetish and Refuge’ now perhaps appears as a kind of supplement to Stupefaction; a shining hyper-presequel. It sophisticates what Stupefaction has to say about the complex inescapability of the commodity, not least in offering in tint perhaps Sutherland’s clearest essay at a sort of material theory of heaven: heaven, in fact. There is very little, in fact, of Sutherland’s work that might not be said to concern itself with this heaven in fact. It’s materially heavenly. Its burning itself against injustice is this. Stupefaction refers twice, it will be recalled, to forever (or once to ‘forever’, and another time to ‘for ever’). The perfected type of contradiction (experience) perhaps unique to the book is emphatically not heaven, of course, save we add (as if only this supplementarity were itself heavenly) ‘unless “heaven” be society or the very world of all of us’ (S, 245). Far from heaven, this hellish drome of uninsisted-on wage labour, unless. Note here, how this ‘unless’, whose supple logic is partially and wonderfully worked out in ‘Fetish and Refuge’ under other guises, has to do with ‘the very world of all of us’, the very heaven (as TL61P says with Wordsworth in his mouth) of not just a few of us, not just a percentage emphatically made possible, but ‘all of us’. What kind of inclusivity is at stake here, and being thought and lived together with a newly emphatic ability to know your fucking enemy? Does it have anything to do, for example, with what Stupefaction calls ‘not a complex or difficult idea or one that requires any special or uncommon use of logic’ (S, 204)? What sort of idea is that, open to ‘all of us’? What futures of what percentages? One way of approaching (that word seems wrong) this heaven which may be, according to Sutherland, ‘already everywhere in refuge in this language, which is a commodity’ (FR, 88) is through what early Derrida calls ‘supplementarity’. In fact, the closeness of ‘Fetish and Refuge’ to Derridean argument is striking. Of Grammatology’s account of this general structure of supplementarity, a sort of generally always site-specific general theory of generality, might have the effect of co-boosting Sutherland’s account of heaven into clarity: or: in, by, and through clarity. Clarity, ‘our clarity’, just is our idea, an idea accessible to all, perhaps to the extent that it mostly shuts out, when it hardly needs to; it shuts out, perhaps, precisely because it is ‘not a complex or difficult idea or one that requires any special or uncommon use of logic’. It’s the clarity boost. One of the instincts that might be part of our clarity – that is, the instinct to be clear, to look out for what is left out, to think about leaving nothing out, in clarity, and to see this just as political clarity – seems already part of what is being described here (a sort of reactionary non-reactionary ‘should’). General fractal politics would be the clarity to always know, whether I want to or not, however obscure, what is being left out or excluded at any given moment.
Nothing – precisely – would assure this clarity. The ‘now I know everything’ (not every thing) perhaps implied by it would be as risky and unreasonable as experience itself: perfected risk. It would be terrifying, a little like the extinction of the addictive use of uncommon logic. The greatest addiction, according to this fractal political clarity, would be to special or uncommon uses of logic, to schematic accumulation and acceleration, clarity logic their necessarily insipid but glowing shadow-alternative. Everything that needs to be known would be known in this clarity, and all political motivation find a source here. We know what to do, in other words – there remains only the type of experience capable of accepting it. There would be no other perfected experience of human productive relations on a shared basis, right now. Satire’s continuous extraction from the concept (the bee target hovering for ever for now above my head), if it can be put that way up; its continuous and increasing commitment to just this one political injustice, the political injustice, would more than resemble from here what Of Grammatology has to say so repeatedly about supplementarity’s own extraction, whether Rousseau or we like it or not, from philosophical logic and the metaphysical biases that always (this is politics) leave something out. The commodity’s being viewable (as Adorno with Sutherland suggests) only from the standpoint of redemption which is not one at least while the commodity still is, can be zoomed in and out from, placed in different focals and fractalities; it too is the fact, the one fact to be insisted upon, the fact, as Of Grammatology says, of ‘a closure of the game’ (OG, 245). The onus may now be on us to affirm how something like a general fractal politics was perhaps made necessary precisely by what Sutherland’s ‘Introduction’, for example, left out. General fractal politics would contain a sort of natural corrective, an in-built vector of im-possibilising exclusion. Anything left out of everything will itself be doubted by everything. Everything doubts everything. If I try to occupy just one thing, what naturally marks that one thing is the rest, as what we should have been able to read. General fractal politics is perhaps the fact, to be occupied again and again til change, that one can only occupy everything. What is left out, whatever thing or someone, ‘without doing anything, invisibly occupies places belonging finally neither to us nor to it’ (SOM, 217). Something occupies, or is always occupying, and making and taking place. Nothing should be uprooted, or radically pulled out. All of these ideas can be returned to, and academically demonstrated or argued over, but they already must be only suggestions or hints of clarity. I can no more prove this than a ghost.http://www.facebook.com/ericlinsker/posts/10100131183119771http://www.facebook.com/ericlinsker/posts/10100131183119771http://www.facebook.com/mobile/?v=6628568379shapeimage_1_link_0shapeimage_1_link_1shapeimage_1_link_2
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