Showing posts with label marx. Show all posts
Showing posts with label marx. Show all posts

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Accelerationism, animal ethics, and the factory farm

I am probably not an accelerationist, but I think certain core principles of accelerationism are useful for exploring tensions within the animal ethics community.

Accelerationism is a term coined by Benjamin Noys in his book, The Persistence of the Negative. Accelerationism is a philosophy loosely based on Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus, Jean-Francois Lyotard's Libidinal Economy, and Jean Baudrillard's Symbolic Exchange and Death (sidenote, I had an undergraduate class utilizing those three texts back in 2002, weird), along with the writings of Nick Land. As Noys explains, "they are an exotic variant of la politique du pire: if capitalism generates its own forces of dissolution then the necessity is to radicalise capitalism itself: the worse the better. We can call these positions accelerationist." (p. 5) It is important to note that Noys is critical of the accelerationist move. There many who have adopted the mantle of accelerationism as a positive radical political project. You should look to Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek's accelerationist manifesto, as well as Steven Shaviro's talks on accelerationism (this link contains both an video giving an intro, plus the text of another talk). The only animal ethicist I know who has also written on accelerationism is Patricia MacCormack. Though it is not principally on animal ethics. And David Roden has written about accelerationism and posthumanism. While there is a lot about accelerationism I probably would not agree with, I do want to focus on a couple of points I am in agreement with, and how those points pertain to animal ethics and the factory farm.

Accelerationism argues strongly that there is no going back. Or at least, back is not the direction we wish to go. In this sense, Marx (or at least a certain Marx) is a principle figure for accelerationism. Just as anyone who has read Marx understands that he has no wish to move from capitalism back to feudalism, or to destroy the machines of capitalism. Instead, the machines and factories of capitalism are the basis of the general intellect and the powers of social production necessary for communism. The accelerationist, then, is in opposition to the Heideggerian critiques of free floating intelligences, the das man, and en-framing. In other words, we do not suffer from too much calculation and too much abstraction, but rather, from too little or the wrong kinds of calculation and abstraction. As Negri wittily once put it, " But here we are once again, always at the same point: Marx frees what Heidegger imprisons. Marx illuminates with praxis what Heidegger reduces to mysticism." (Insurgencies, p. 29). Animal ethics is stuck in a similar fight: Do we embrace calculative and production capabilities of the present, even with the its taint of the violences of modernity, or do we strive for a premodern remedy to the violence against other animals?

The slow food and locavore movements have clearly embraced the premodern strategy. The issue for them is not one principally of speciesism, or the killing and eating of other animals, but rather of capitalist and modern 'excess.' If we could just turn the clock back (to the '50s, though I am never sure if they mean the 1950s or the 1850s), everything about our food productions would be fine. Thus we see the simultaneous orientalism of the hunting and eating practices of indigenous peoples, the romanticism of the pasture, and the nostalgia for the food preparation of the immediate post-war generation. As my brother has constantly chronicled, such orientalism, romanticism, and nostalgia is frequently the basis of political and social conservatism of the most extreme sorts (pdf). This also brings us to a post by James McWilliams on the work of historian Maureen Olge. Olge is no friend to the animal ethicist or the vegan activist. At the same time, she completely pegs the mythology of the slow food and locavore movements. We will return to this shortly. Unlike, say, the move from feudalism to capitalism, or sovereign power to disciplinary power, it is a bit harder to not fall for the premodern nostalgia. As anyone who has bothered to pay attention to animal agribusinesses and animal science knows, the current move is to fully realize Descartes' belief that animals are just machines. Agribusinesses do this by simply treating animals in factory farms as if they are machines, and animal science is doing this by actively trying to create biological subjects that will behave just as machines (take away animal's sentience, for example, make animals even more docile, etc). And when I have written about the push to treat and make animals into machines, I have not always been clear to not sound like I support a return to a pre-industrial agrarianism. And much of the slow food and locavore people are advocating for a reduction in the violence to other animals (including an attack on some of the intensive forms of violence). Clearly, however, our only choice is not between the present system, and the romanticized past. And make no mistake, it is a romantic past.

Okay, back to Maureen Ogle. She has argued:
As many Americans know, the agrarian past looms large in both our national identity and mythology: The nation was founded by the sturdy yeoman, the rugged individual, etc. Those who work the land are the best among us, etc. Rural values are the bedrock of American society; threaten those and the republic itself is threatened, etc. (See, for example, Wendell Berry.)
This mythology is just that: mythology. Historically, first in the colonies and then in the new United States, American farmers were less interested in yeoman "independence" than in earning profits from a national and global market for food stuffs. (And make no mistake: American agriculture has served a global market since the 1600s.)
Again, make no mistake, Ogle is not on the side of the animal rights advocate. However, her point here is entirely correct. What I came to understand in my work on the history of the factory farm, is that the seeds of the factory farm existed within the time period before the factory farm. If you want an slaughterhouse that doesn't treat an animal as a carcass to be disassembled like a machine, you will need to go back to slightly before 1850s. We would have to go back, as Ogle states, to before the 1600s to get an American production of animal bodies not for a global market. Want to understand animals before interventions to breed for size, docility, etc? Depending on what you mean, we are are going to have to go to at least the `1700s, or basically the entire domestication of animals if you want a broader understanding. Some of our first institutions of higher education in this country were built to do research and teach animal husbandry. Scientific journals on the intervention of breeding animals are some of the first trade journals in this country. The techniques and technologies of the factory farm are found an encouraged in this history of animal agriculture, not because of the excesses of capitalism, but because capitalism's machinic formation are found and encouraged in the same history. You cannot fully disentangle capitalism's violence and speciesism (I really do believe one cannot oppose capitalism without also opposing a certain expropriation of the animal). So, now what?

Well, you can earn for a mythic past. For the vegan, at least, this seems to be a non-starter. Our relationships to other animals, at every level, does not seem separable. Agamben's claim that we should just let animals be (along with any number of animal rights activists) is just so insane. We build roads and productions and houses in animal habitats. We domesticate animals, we eat animals, we use animal bodies for clothes, jewelry, to clarify wines and beers, to make pills and condoms, to test drugs on, to labor for us, and on and on. While the present system of violence and expropriation needs to be abolished, our lives with other animals seems to be so entangled I do not begin to understand how we would just let animals be. Or why that would be ethical. Instead, we have a world to create. The danger and hope of animal science is that life can be created and recreated. The danger and hope of animal agribusiness is that we can achieve levels of vast production of the relations between humans and other animals. The factory farm is a great evil, but I also have no desire to go back, whatever that would mean. We need less appeals to nature and the natural, and more appeals to a future constructivism. I have before called this an ecofeminist constructivism. Constructivist because the ontology is not on the natural, and the politics are not on the level of voluntarism, and aesthetics is not a romanticism of the past, and the ethics is not a withdrawal of relationships. Ecofeminist because the world that needs to be built is one centered on flourishing, on respecting relationships, on understanding intersectionality and interlocking oppressions. Deleuze and Guattari, in What is Philosophy?, called for a new people and a new earth. I have written before of becoming-vegan.  In that I mostly focused on a foucaldian understanding of askesis. But we need not just new human subjects, but a new world. This not the worse it is, the better it is (as Noys put it). But at the same time, this is not something that will come about by going back. Anyway, there is no back to go to.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Marx, Machines, New Materialisms

Tim Morton has a recent post on marxism and new materialism (that jives well with Levi's post on OOO and humanism).

Tim's post, like many of his, is a concentrated bundle of ideas and connections. In this case, I both deeply agree with parts of it, and also disagree with others.

(1) Marx on machines is pretty essential for those trying to think through non-humanist understanding of relations. Switches from one mode of production to another mode of production comes not through some sort of economism, but rather as a way in which material processes are both shaped and simultaneously shaped by humans. In other words, humans are one part in the creation of history (in Marx a particularly privileged part still, but maybe not a necessarily privileged part), but so are tools, technology, machines, and the inorganic body of nature (sometimes in Marx's writing the natural world seems passive and inert, a mere resource to be used by humans. At other times nature is depicted as a fully engaged process and producer itself, one which is fully enmeshed with the artificial world. In other words, in some nature exists, in others we have a view of ecology).

(2) This is why Marx claims, in a footnote in Capital, that "Technology reveals the active relation of man to nature, the direct process of the production of his life, and thereby it also lays bare the process of the production of the social relations of his life, and the mental conceptions that flow from those relations". This is one my agreements with Tim, who writes:
Marx says that when you have enough machines, in particular machines operated by other machines and making machines, you get a jump from a quantitative increase in machinery into the realm of the qualitative, into fully fledged industrial capitalism. Some kind of jump occurs.
Yes, and all of that is important. This new type of capitalism emerges because we have a new mode of production. Not just a production of economics and things, but an entirely new mode or relation, a new mode of life and the reproduction of life in the full ecological understanding of all of that. This is why it is important to grasp a history of these machines. Or at Marx clarifies earlier in the footnote I cited: "A critical history of technology would show how little of the inventions of the eighteenth century are the world of a single individual. As yet such a book does not exist. Darwin has directed attention to the history of natural technology, i.e. the formation of the organs of plants and animals, which serve as the instruments of production for sustaining their life. Does not the history of the productive organs of man in society, of organs that are the material basis of every particular organization of society, deserve equal attention?"

(3) For Marx, individualism in humanism has been displaced, but a certain human causation continues, one he doesn't seem entirely willing to break free of. However, at the same time his writing also freely identifies non-human actants as being full actors. For 'the machine' reaches a certain point where it no longer is run by humans, but rather uses humans as appendages to the machine. Thus, in my dissertation, I explore how we become appendages to the machine. How the birth of a disciplinary subjectivity arises within the assembly line (understood both technologically and managerially) of the Chicago meat-packers. And how a whole complex of forces bring us to that moment (barbed wire fences, monopoly capital, railroads, refrigerator cars, mono-culture agriculture, specially breed animals, etc.). Marx's view of modes of production is absolutely essential for me to think all of this. At the same time, it is also essential that accelerate Marx's posthumanist tendencies, rather than his humanist ones.

(4) Time mentions that it is surprising that we don't have more Marxists engaging with speculative realism and new materialisms, but I think he is doubly incorrect in this part. First, I think we have a lot of Marxists dealing within those terrains, but not particularly older and more established Marxists (though Levi might be the only OOO Marxist out there). Second, it isn't that surprising that so many Marxists would be turned off when so many of those people engaging in speculative realism and new materialism seem specifically anti-Marxist (like Ian's position, Tim's own recent aside about how he isn't a Marxist, Delanda's strong rejection of Marxism, etc). But I don't think Tim really means Marxists in general here, he probably has certain Marxists in mind.



In the end, I think we will probably see increasingly larger number of Marxists engaging new materialisms, and new materialists and realists of all stripes also engaging Marxism. Or at least that is how all of this has always worked within my head.

(4)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Some thoughts on Polemics

Levi has linked to an old review of DeLanda by Shaviro, and both of them agree that DeLanda's hostility toward Marx and Marxism seems rather odd. And I agree with that, but it opens up a moment to talk about polemics.

I think that polemics can be very important. In particular, I think that thinkers, in order to try and think something new, has to clear the way for those thoughts. They have to manage to create some fresh air for themselves, and that breathing room usually comes from taking on one of the master's, one of the great thinkers that help define an intellectual milieu. For DeLanda, that is obviously Marx. For Levi, it is Derrida. For Deleuze, it was Hegel. I could go on (for me, it's Heidegger). Now, these thinkers are obviously to an extent conceptual personae, that is, they refer less to exactly just these thinkers texts, but to an entire relationship, an entire assemblage that goes by the proper name Marx, Derrida, Hegel, Heidegger, etc. All of us think in a field saturated by proper names, even those that refer the most specifically to actual people still refer to an entire assemblage, to an entire conceptual machinery. Their texts, their lectures, their actual students and virtual students, their enemies and teachers, all of these things go into the making of a thinker. The more famous the thinker, the bigger (more powerful, more vital) the assemblage. Sometimes we have to push hard against one of these assemblages, to think or speak something that exists in tension with a localized part of the assemblage. So, I we talk against Heidegger, Derrida, Hegel, Marx, etc. The polemic is necessary for breathing and thinking. That doesn't always mean the polemic is true, at least true against the texts and ideas of a certain thinker whose proper name also names a certain assemblage. I don't agree with DeLanda about Marx, and I don't agree with Levi about Derrida. But I also have little doubt that if they didn't feel the way they did about these conceptual personae, then their work would be very different. And maybe it should be, those are always fine criticisms (fine as in useful or productive). But there is a reason I don't spend a lot of time trying to convince someone they have misread such and such a thinker, unless I think that misreading has come at a cost of thinking something interesting or useful (ultimately this was what Matt was on about in his disagreement with Levi during the so-called Derrida wars. It wasn't primarily about Derrida, but instead about issues of humanism and anthropocentrism).
In the case of DeLanda and Marx, it makes a lot of sense to me even though I find Marx incredibly useful for my work. First, it is clear that many Marxists are far more interested in centralization than DeLanda feels is healthy and useful (think here of Zizek for just a major current example). And I also can't help but share impatience at many Marxists hatred of markets.
While there is no singular entity called The Market, much less The Free Market, markets exist. And markets are powerful tools for decentralized organization. Many on the left oppose cap and trade because it creates a market, and many on the left opposed health care exchanges because it again functioned as a market. I'm not sure how much Marx is to blame for the anti-markets bias, but for DeLanda (following Braudel), markets are powerful and useful tools, and at their heart are opposed to centralization and totalization.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Some random dissertation talk

So, I almost never talk about the dissertation on here, and I suddenly realized that many of you may have no clue what the work was looking like. Anyway, here is a brief description of the work, for any that are curious. (I just got through chatting with the philo department here on campus, and realized that I need practice talking about the dissertation project).

The dissertation is basically divided into two sections. The first section is dedicated to understanding the way that raising and slaughtering of other animals have changed our mode of production. I want to be precise here, the argument isn't how a different mode of production has given rise to different slaughtering and raising methods, but actually the opposite argument. The way we have killed animals and raised animals has greatly shifted our modes of production. The first obvious way occurs with the invention of the assembly line at the Chicago stockyards (and of course, not just an assembly line, but everything that made Chicago possible. This involved the raise of trains, the invention of refrigerator cars, monocultural agriculture, disciplinary techniques of worker management, new accounting methods, barbed wire, vertical monopolies, feedlots and early genetic manipulations of animals, new advertising techniques, etc). So, the assembly line was birthed through a whole ecology of interactions that centered around and mutually interdependent with Chicago and the packers. In this case, the argument is against a sort of historical accident (though of course, it could have happened otherwise). But that it required a certain disavowal of the animal, a certain biopolitics, that really allowed for these new modes of production ('the machine', as Marx puts it) to develop.
The next major change obviously culminates in the 1970s with the birth of what we call factory farming. This of course brings in all sorts of biocapital changes in the mode of production. In this case the question of eugenics being rooted so strongly in the animal sciences, and the development of certain reproductive technologies really rises out of animal sciences. But what occurs is a certain molecular or genetic primitive accumulation, and again what begins with animals is now beginning to spread elsewhere.
What is important in all of this is to understand that the disavowal of the animal is not ancillary or even produced by these modes of production, but rather the disavowal of the animal is constitutive to these modes.
The second section of the dissertation focuses on the other end, rather than looking at what we are doing and have done to animals, this section looks at proposed solutions to the question of the animal. In this case I explore the concept of the person, Deleuze and Guattari's notion of becoming-animal, an ontology of vulnerability, and vegetarianism/veganism. I think the last two are the ones that I tend to post about the most on this blog, so I'll let that go for now. I have made some small moves on this blog to what I am interested about in the concept of the person, but it is mostly about how that concept is rooted in property ownership and legal obligations. As far as D&G are concerned, I think their work is pretty awesome, but I think there remains a nagging anthropocentrism to their work, a certain obsession with the human that remains in the notion of becoming-animal.

There was a lot more I wanted to do, but my committee and I agreed that the dissertation was going to be big enough as it was (which is why I don't deal the question of sacrifice or the question of rights in any real detail in the dissertation).

So, that's it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Why I owe the TX school board a note of gratitude

I'm sure most of you have heard about the absurd curriculum 'standards' created by the Texas school board. And I am further sure that most of you heard the absurdity of banning the children's books by Bill Martin Jr because he shares the same name as the author of Ethical Marxism. Well, so I have a shameful secret to admit. I actually had not read Ethical Marxism when this incident occurred. It did, however, get me to look into this book. And I discovered that the book not only deals with, well, ethical marxism, but explicitly deals with questions of vegetarianism and factory farming from such a perspective. I blame Open Court Press' policy for not letting me look inside the book on either amazon or google for my lack of knowledge on this point. Well, my copy came in yesterday. I obviously haven't finished it, but I did skip to the section on vegetarianism and am very, very pleased with it so far.

I also realized that if I hadn't come across this work or gotten around to reading it, other people in the CAS world might be in the same boat. So, my suggestion is go and pick up a copy. If for no other reason than to thank the TX school board.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A history of the concept of person

With the recent SCOTUS decision allowing corporations unlimited political speech, we've heard all sorts of things about this idea that corporations are persons. Some of those ideas have also touched on the relationship between animals and persons (see the comments made to Levi's post). None of this should surprise us, because questions surrounding animals and personhood have been around for a few years now. Great apes as persons, dolphins as persons, animals as persons; a menagerie of personhood. But if the idea of an animal as person is now several years old, the idea of a corparation as a person is even older, and extends out of an even older understanding of personhood.
To be a person has, at least in the occidental tradition, been tied to the concept of ownership since Rome. Though it also includes notions of personhood outside of the occidental tradition, we won't be getting into that quite yet. Indeed, to be a person is originally bound to the capacity and desire for ownership, for possessing the property of property. A radical course might be, then, not to abolish animalhood into personhood, but rather to abolish personhood into animalhood. This is why, for Deleuze and Guattari, an anti-capitalist politics requires a becoming-animal. This is just prelude, to summarize the arguments below.
***
Our word person comes from the Etruscan phersu, which originally meant mask. The Etruscan theater rites held that the performers wore masks, the phersu. These rites would influence the Roman theater, and gave birth to their word persona. The persona could refer to the mask, to the individual wearing the mask, or to the character one played. Persona both meant mask, and also meant role. Around the second Punic War grammarians borrowed the theatrical term of persona, and used is to signify different forms of address (first person, second person, etc.). That was the third century BCE, by the first century BCE the word persona had come to take on several different but related meanings. One had many roles in Roman society; roles as father, roles as citizen, etc.; and persona became the technical term for different types of roles one was to perform in society. Perhaps most definitely for our purposes is that persona comes to be a definitive legal category. One's persona was connected toward the legal right to have a name, that indeed the "Roman citizen had a right to the nomen, the praenomen and the cognomen that his gens assigned to him." [1] To be a persona meant to have access to one's name, to one's status. And this status is not an abstract category but the very right to have property, to do business, to be a member of the senate. Mauss again:
To the very end the Roman Senate thought of itself as being made up of a determinate number of patres representing the 'persons' (personnes), the 'images' of their ancestors.
It is to the persona that is attributed the property of the simulacra and the imagines. [2]

Indeed, if we fastforward to 535 CE the exacting Institutes of Justinian codify all of this. As Thomas Collett Sanders explains in his definitive commentary:
Every being capable of having and being subject to rights was called in Roman law persona (see Introd. sec. 37). Thus not only was the individual citizen, when look at as having this capacity, a persona, but also corporations and public bodies. Slaves, on the other had, were not persona. They had no rights (see Introd. sec. 38). [...] Status (legal standing) is the correlative of persona: persona is that which has a status. In Roman law there were recognized three great heads of this legal capacity: libertas, the capacity to have and be subject to the rights of a freeman; civitas, the capacity to have and be subject to the rights of a Roman citizen; and familia, the capacity to have be subject to the rights of a person sui juris. [3]
So, at least by the sixth century CE, personhood is the term of art for those with legal standing, and corporations were included. But there is another important development with the concept of person in Rome. We need to rewind back to first century BCE.
While persona was entering legal terminology, it was also entering as a term of art in moral philosophy. In particular, it forms part of the basis of Stoic anthropology. As Cicero declared "dignitas hominis," he also outlined the four persona that make us human in De Officiis. The first persona is that of ratio, of reason. This is the most important one for Cicero, as it is both what divides the human from the animal and "in superiority surpass the brute creatures" [4] while at the same time gives us the guide of how to treat the other personas, as if they were "wild beasts." [5] The other three personas are individuality, the historical factors that form you, and your own will. This anthropology is more than just an argument on what separates humans from animals, it is also a moral argument. Here the idea of a moral consciousness enters into our understanding of persona; a moral consciousness that is bound together with reason. Persona will undergo one other important transformation in the classical period, this time under the treatment of the patristics.
As Mauss argues: "Our own notion of the human person is still basically the Christian one."[6] Let's exam what could be meant by this statement. Tertullian, whom invented the notion of the trinity, argued that God is "tres Personae, una Substantia," three roles, one substance. And while we are dealing with three, what we are really dealing with is a duality between spirit and flesh, and this duality must be overcome. This is why Mauss further contends: "It is from the notion of the 'one' that the notion of the 'person' (personne) was created -- I believe that it will long remain so -- for the divine persons, but at the same time for the human person, substance and mode, body and soul, consciousness and act." [7] The way this dualism is eventually overcome is by tying the notion of persona to the notion of economy. [8]
These classical understandings of persona, bound up with ownership, reason, legal status, dualism and economy, are important. But we need to fast forward again, this time all the way to the early 19th century.
Antoine Destutt de Tracy, an aristocrat and philosopher perhaps best known for coining the term ideology, published an influential book entitled Traité de la volonté. When Thomas Jefferson translated this book into English, he changed the title to Treatise on Political Economy. Within this treatise, Destutt de Tracy argues for the absolute inability of personal property, because one's very personhood is defined by the capacity to own things. As he writes, "Now this idea of property can only be founded on the idea of personality. For if an individual had not consciousness of his own existence, distinct and separate from every other, he could possess nothing, he could have nothing peculiar to himself." [9]
Destutt de Tracy's arguments are taken up by Marx and Engels in The German Ideology, which I shall quote at length:
Destutt de Tracy among, and after, many others said the same thing much better approximately thirty years ago, and also later, in the book quoted below. For example:

“Formal proceedings were instituted against property, and arguments were brought forward for and against it, as though it depended on us to decide whether property should or should not exist in the world; but this is based on a complete misunderstanding of our nature” (Traité de la volonté, Paris, 1826, p. 18).

And then M. Destutt de Tracy undertakes to prove that propriété, individualité and personnalité are identical, that the “ego” [moi] also includes “mine” [mien], and he finds as a natural basis for private property that

“nature has endowed man with an inevitable and inalienable property, property in the form of his own individuality” (p. 17). — The individual “clearly sees that this ego is the exclusive owner of the body which it animates, the organs which it sets in motion, all their capacities, all their forces, all the effects they produce, all their passions and actions; for all this ends and begins with this ego, exists only through it, is set in motion through its action; and no other person can make use of these same instruments or be affected in the same way by them” (p. 16). “Property exists, if not precisely, everywhere that a sentient individual exists, at least wherever there is a conative individual” (p. 19).

Having thus made private property and personality identical, Destutt de Tracy with a play on the words propriété and propre, like “Stirner” with his play on the words Mein and Meinung, Eigentum and Eigenheit, arrives at the following conclusion:

“It is, therefore, quite futile to argue about whether it would not be better for each of us to have nothing of our own (de discuter s'il ne vaudrait pas mieux que rien ne fût propre à chacun de nous) ... in any case it is equivalent to asking whether it would not be desirable for us to be quite different from what we are, and even to examining whether it would not be better for us not to exist at all” (p. 22).

“these are extremely popular”, now already traditional objections to communism, and for that very reason “it is not surprising that Stirner” repeats them. [10]


As Marx and Engels here indicate, there is a stapling together of property, individualism, and personhood. This stapling together is rooted from some of the earliest occidental legal codes and moral philosophy. This forces us to face the idea that maybe we need to exit from basing our rights and ethical responsibilities on the notion of person. It just might be true that as long as the person is the center of our politics and ethics we will always privilege the wealthiest of us and always leave at risk the most disposed. It is for this reason that in some ways corporations are the most natural of persons (who, after all, owns more stuff), and of course it continues to be a problem to ever extend personhood toward other animals.
***
If I had more time I'd probably now enter into a discussion of Heidegger's notion of animals as poor-in-this-world, Schmitt's notion of nomos, and Deleuze and Guattari's notion of nomos and becoming-animal. But I don't.


A comment on Citations:
I recognize these are not formal citations, it's late and this is a blog. These should, however, allow you get to any of the citations I've given. If you have trouble tracking something down, let me know.

[1] Marcel Mauss, "A category of the human mind: the notion of person; the notion of self" in The Category of the Person, edited M. Carrithers et al., p. 16.
[2] Mauss, p. 17.
[3] Justinian, The Institutes of Justinian, translated with commentary by Thomas Collett Sanders, p. 76. I also suggest reading the strongly Agambenian reading of this code by Steven DeCaroli in "Boundary Stones: Giorgio Agamben and the Field of Sovereignity" in Giorgio Agamben, ed. M. Calarco and S. DeCaroli.
[4] Cicero, On Duties, Cambridge Press, p. 42.
[5] Cicero, p. 125.
[6] Mauss, p. 19.
[7] Mauss, p. 20.
[8] Despite his lack of focus on the concept of persona, Agamben's focus on economy in Il Regno e la Gloria is well worth the read.
[9] Destutt de Tracy, A Treatise of Political Economy, p. 17
[10] Marx and Engels, The German Ideology, International Publishers, pp. 100-101.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Communism and animal abolition

So, I was responding to an abolitionist who was posting here, and I said I was in complete agreement with the goals of animal abolition, viz. the dismantling of a regime that sees animals as nothing other than property. But, of course, I oppose property as such.

This brings me to a question, what would a traditional anti-property communist who was also traditionally anthropocentric say about the question of the animals. Animals are no longer property, does that mean you still get to exploit them, eat them, etc? I would guess yes, it just would have to be done for the common (human) good?

It seems to me that opposition to property requires a necessary revolution in our relation to the non-human or a-human.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ecology and Marxism, pt. 1

I highly suggest reading Levi post, Inhuman Ethics. I hope to make a fuller response later. Right now, I want to quote some things to provide a beginning for later posts (when I get the chance).

The first is a quotation from Reviel Netz's Barbed Wire: An Ecology of Modernity:
Marxism was lacking not merely in the understanding of agriculture but in the understanding of ecology and therefore of history itself (p. 180).

The second quotation is from Adorno:

In Marx the principle of the domination of nature is actually accepted quite naively. According to the Marxian way of seeing there is something of a change in the relations of domination between people -- they are supposed to come to an end, that is, such domination should disappear -- but the unconditional domination of nature by human beings is not affected by this, so we might say that the image of a classless society in Marx has something of a quality of a gigantic joint-stock company for the exploitation of nature, as Horkheimer once formulated it. The fact that, according to Marx, the labour performed by animals does not lead to the production of surplus value -- even though the costs of reproduction is lower in animals than the time or energy expanded -- the fact that, according to an explicit passage in Capital, their labour produces no surplus value is merely the crassest symbol of this. I have no wish to become embroiled in romantic reflections on nature, but I believe that, when I say there has been too little interpretation, we have alighted on a very crucial problem. If there is only one truth, it is not possible to criticize radically the principle of domination on the one hand, while unreservedly acquiescing in it in a undialectical manner on the other. If it is the case -- as Marx and Engels taught, although I am by no means sure it is the case -- that domination over external nature called for societies in which domination prevailed through the millennia because things would not have worked otherwise -- and that this situation is now supposed to be radically transformed all of a sudden, then you need a very strong faith (to put it mildly) to imagine that the forms of domination of nature should persist in accordance with idealism, in accordance with a Fichtean idea of absolute subjectivity, without forms of domination making their appearance [in society]. If in the Eastern-bloc countries the bureaucrats have eaten their fill and have formed themselves into a class, this is undeniably connected to the process of industrialization with its utterly ruthless and undialectical demands for the domination of nature, whereas for a seriously liberated vision of society that includes the relationship of man and nature, the relation to the domination of nature has to be changed if it is not constantly to reproduce itself in the internal forms of society. (Adorno, Lectures on Negative Dialectics: Fragments on a Lecture Course 1965/1966, pp. 58-59, emphasis in the original).
I will have more to say later, I just wanted to type these up as a beginning.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

PS on Marx and ecology

In my last post I quoted Netz accusing Marx of not understanding ecology, and therefore of not understanding history. I want to clarify that I don't think that Netz is saying that Marx never attempted to think ecology, merely that his thoughts were at least not enough, and at worst incorrect. As most know, Marx certainly advanced a thought of ecology in his concept of Stoffwechsel (metabolism). While Netz doesn't talk about this concept at all (and, in general, doesn't spend a lot of the book talking about Marx), I would certainly agree that Marx's notion of Stoffwechsel remains far too anthropocentric. Both in his earlier works (principally the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts) and his later works (principally in Capital, vols one and three). I am not saying that from Marx we cannot work a strong thought of ecology (and therefore history). I am saying that the concept, in Marx, remains impossibly anthropocentric and woefully insufficient.