Sean Cubitt on Sun, 5 Sep 2021 00:44:00 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Covid and the crisis of neo-liberalism

thanks for getting to the numb of it Brian
tho personally I'd cry off assembling democracy and freedom into a single object: democracy may well need a separate critique but the ideological seizure of 'freedom' has made it a dangerous word in need of critique - and better still alternatives
and I'm a little nervous of earth-system science which has all the marks of the technological solution road that has become a major tool to replace climate change denial with the promise of technological solutions (and jam) tomorrow: Crutzen and Stoermer ended their paper introducing the term Anthropocene had a similar call: 'An exciting, but also difficult and daunting task lies ahead of the global research and
engineering community to guide mankind towards global, sustainable, environmental management' - and it is management that is the real outcome of claims of freedom - engineering as management is what got us into this mess, and with the profit motive so much in the ascendant, the chances of a system reliant on for-profit corporations – that failed utterly to make Luisiana sustainable after Katrina – being able to resolve planetary catastrophe are minimal.
Reciprocity is a better term, and the family of concepts around it: the commons, the social, a new socialism that embraces the non-human. My mother used to tell us to show some consideration - a basic decency that includes a way of living right and a principle of conviviality at the scale of cosmopolitan politics.
The first step is to recognise the commonwealth of citizens, a democratic principle under attack; the second to recognise migrants as citizens - a step that the political parties of the wealthy have weaponised (Fortress Europe, trumpty-dumpty's Wall, the 'Pacific solution' which is neither of a solution or pacific).
If - - and it's a big 'if' -- it is possible to actualise the actually existing demos politically, then democracy might thrive - but in a very different form.
If -- and this is the biggest if -- it can become possible to recognise that there is a continuum between demos and ecology (to recall that fundamental feminist slogan Our Bodies Ourselves) - we may begin to build a demos that is truly social, common, like common sense, what Marx called the general intellect, but which has obviously been poisoned at the source when there is, as reported today, a rush of overdoses of horse-wormer in Oklahoma
The first victim of war is truth; the first victim of Fox-Q totalitarianism is common sense
Politics beyond sustainability, beyond maintaining capital at all costs, which is to say at the cost of everything requires consideration and the sense of the commons, common sense.
Sitting on a wall, as every child knows, comes before a fall
Releasing common sense of this basic kind will not be easy but may perhaps make possible a future other than the perpetuity of debt, pandemic and climate fatalism which are the realities underpinning the consumer discipline of free will, free choice, free speech defined by the free market.
Common sense says the world wants to be free as in free beer

Seán Cubitt | He/Him
Professor of Screen Studies
School of Culture and Communication
W104 John Medley Building
University of Melbourne
Grattan Street
Victoria 3010

New Book: Anecdotal Evidence

Latest from the Lambert Nagle writing partnership

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   1. Re: Covid and the crisis of neo-liberalism (Brian Holmes)


Message: 1
Date: Fri, 3 Sep 2021 11:12:56 -0500
From: Brian Holmes <>
To: "" <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> Covid and the crisis of neo-liberalism
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I agree that the "absolute failure of the West" is rhetorical vagary. But
the idea that central societal tenets concerning "freedom" and "democracy"
must be subjected to theoretical and practical critique is not.

Currently one is free to extract fossil fuels, and also free to die in a
flood or a forest fire. Yet the one who extracts (maybe a deep-sea drilling
company registered in the Caymans) and the one who dies (maybe an immigrant
in a basement apartment in New York) are not the same. If our theory of
democracy worked, the extracting and the dying would both be legitimate
because we "all" (or at least a majority of us) elected the lawmakers who
set the conditions under which the fuels would be extracted (and the rains,
rained, and the forests, scorched). So it would be our own damn fault. But
in North America and Britain and Australia and the rest of the Anglosphere
(not to say "the West"), for decades there has been no chance to subject
this legitimacy to a theoretical and practical critique, because even if
people with such intentions are elevated to power by elections, others
immediately show up yelling about their freedom.

In the backwoods of Oregon, which is having a brief respite from the fires
in order to become the worst site of the coronavirus epidemic, I literally
saw a guy in a cafe with a tee-shirt that read "I can't hear you -- over
the sound of my freedom." That tee-shirt was the triumphant _expression_ of
decades and billions of dollars worth of corporate manipulation, including
money direct from the Caymans. The same collective forces helped send a
bunch of wing nuts to the US Capitol to rant about their individual freedom
last January 6.

The theoretical critique of freedom and democracy has not been adequately
done, but the practical critique is moving ahead fast. When New York and
environs suffer more damage and death from a hurricane than Louisiana does,
you can expect an infrastructural response. But here's the rub: in the
absence of a theoretical/practical critique of capitalist democracy, the
response will be, not decarbonization, but enhanced protection for the most
well-off members of society.

The biological concept of symbiosis, and the integral evolutionary analysis
of earth system science that sprang from it, offer a viable theoretical
basis for practice (and a better one than the "accidental" theory of
mutation that Stiegler drew on). Rather than freedom, these ideas point to
interdependency as a necessary condition for continuing evolution. Stiegler
was well aware that in order for such a theoretical outlook to become
practical, a better idea of individuality had to be worked out, and space
had to be opened up for individual contributions to collective
transformation, in place of *absolutist* declarations of individual
freedom. There's the arena for cultural innovation today, imho.


On Fri, Sep 3, 2021 at 12:14 AM Andreas Broeckmann <>

> please (Daniel Ross), define "absolute failure (of the West)".
> -a
> ps: i suggest to leave room, in this definition, for failures of yet
> other proportions.
> pps: looks like adjectives are generally up for grabs these days and
> might become redundant rubble, if not signifiers of the opposites, like
> "precise(ly)" in many philosophical discourses.
> Am 02.09.21 um 23:44 schrieb Sean Cubitt:
> > thanks for circulating Patrice
> >
> > there's a great piece responding to similar issues byDaniel Ross (aka
> > Stiegler?s translator):
> >
> >
> > <
> >
> >
> >
> > a flavour:
> > "Anthropogenic climate change and the systemic limits with which it is
> > associated indeed define the fundamental emergency situation with which
> > we are confronted today. The possibility of facing up to this emergency
> > depends on recognizing that this accident must become our necessity, a
> > necessity whose impure technological, but also social, economic and
> > political conditions are alone what make possible the exercise of
> > collective intelligence, belief, wisdom and decision. The temptation is
> > always to say that freedom and democracy are the fundamental
> > requirements for making good collective decisions, and yet the
> > /absolute/ failure of the West over the past two years means that these
> > ideas must /absolutely/ be subjected to critique, where the latter is
> > /never/ a denunciation, but an interrogation of their ?pharmacological?
> > limits"
> >
> > se?n
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