John Hutnyk on Sun, 9 Aug 1998 14:09:46 +0200 (MET DST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> derrida@marx.archive part two

part two...


=91there is not yet any democracy worthy of this name=92 (Derrida 1992:46)

The =91still to come=92 becomes an important refrain - we come across it al=
in terms of Europe (in The Other Heading), Democracy, Justice (in Specters
of Marx), and in the text of Archive Fever. What is this future time that
is always deferred? Derrida says of the archive: =91It is a question of the
future, the question of the future itself, the question of a response, of
a promise and of a responsibility for tomorrow -if we want to know what
it will have meant, we will know only in times to come- later on or
perhaps never=92 (Derrida 1995/1996:36). Responsibility and promise are
important words for the thinking of justice, no-one could doubt this.=20

With regard to reading protocol at least as pertains to the homogeneity of
Marx, Derrida=92s strategy is as expected: =91I do not believe that one can
speak, even from a Marxist point of view, of a homogenous Marxist text=92
(Derrida 1981:75). This is a telegraphed repetition of an earlier point
that raises issues of responsibility, response and, at least an allusion
to, political activity: =91we cannot consider Marx=92s, or Engel=92s or Len=
texts as completely finished elaborations that are simply to be 'applied'
to the current situation=92 (Derrida 1981:63). Not inconsistently with
Marxism, he proclaims, reading as transformational.  Although he has not
yet found any - any? - =91protocols of reading=92 that satisfy him (Derrida
1981:63). On aufhebung, Derrida notes that =91there is always Aufhebung=92
(Derrida 1981:94), by which he seems to mean nothing less complicated or
vague as that every repetition - even a reading - is transformational. The
archivist always sorts the stacks, but is this revolutionary every time?=20

What theoretical and political resources are required that would be
adequate not only to understand the contemporary character of capitalism -
its speeds, its flows, its disguises and its delays - but also adequate to
a practical and organised militancy against this capital?  The partyless
International is under theorised, but this does not mean that it is
impossible to research these topics, to develop and further the sets of
ideas that release and circulate struggles in ways that do more than any
single-word single-issue spot-protests might do. Those who provided
revolutionary organisational theory in the past were operating in a
somewhat differently weighted informational zone, but this does not mean
that Lenin, for example, was wrong to advise the Party that it must use
the most advanced media tools at its disposal to debate, agitate and
propagandise - hence Iskra and Pravda. Surely it is necessary to do more
than produce old inky tabloids, or even more than say Gilroy or Clifford
with their lists of what is interesting in the cross-border flows and
alliances of modernity (Gilroy 1993, Clifford 1994, see Hutnyk 1997).=20
>From these beginnings it is possible to move to relate various
contemporary struggles both politically and theoretically, to pursue
internationalist work that is more than just publishing (or charity), and
to promote a wild creativity that might, just might, inevitably realise
the sense and reason of communist futures (which would, of course, not
necessarily be the same as rule by communists[7]). Let us not be duped
into thinking that we cannot analyse and act upon the manifestations,
however fleeting, of contemporary appropriation and its forms -
just-in-time delivery, service and information economies, flight-capital,
hyper-crisis and super slump.=20

The flash world of speed-hype creates just enough smoke to disguise the
expanding immiseration of the cul de sacs of development. If anything
increases or intensifies it is the =91increasing exploitation of the
peripheral proletariat in relation to that of the center=92 (Deleuze and
Guattari 1972/1983:231). Large parts of Africa, South America, Asia, exist
where previously development meant industrialisation, and today it means
attaching local elite capital to multinational mobile capital and ensuring
open markets for investment, generous tax concessions, labour
deregulation, State subsidies and other privileges for capital to the loss
of local livelihood. In this conjuncture, the impoverishment of life under
neo-colonialism is exacerbated by a super-exploitation described as speed
so as to ignore its effects. The colonised parts of the world - nearly
everywhere now, including the inner urban metropoles, are denied web
access and existence in the texts of cultural analysis except as exotic or
erotic image sites at the end of jet streams or video documentary cameras.
In the context of super-exploitation, financial hyper-transactions,
structural adjustment, DFI, spiralling loan repayments and proliferating
export processing zones, an analysis mesmerised by speed ends up saying
that nothing can be done. At the most basic limit this even denies the
option of simply growing more food, let alone to suggest any project of
redistribution (half of those writing about development these days offer
small-scale solutions like the wind-up radio and the other half offer
development as a mode of ensuring Western market dominance, in say grain,
and increasingly in manufacture - any serious level of redistribution does
not figure in either set of calculations.[8]

Where the realm of production used to bring us together while circulation
atomised opportunities for class organisation, perhaps today=92s mediatised
telematic societies offer a chance to extend co-operative self-activity.
At one level it is the Derridean critique of the privileging of the
authenticity or originality of presence (Derrida 1967/1974:137-8) that
would provide some impetus for thinking that new forms of organising and
alliance are possible across telematic zones.  Why must radical political
efficacy rely only upon the proximity of really existing factory and
workplace cells, as opposed to, for example, shared experience not
necessarily of immediately co-terminus space? This does not mean that the
old styles of face-to-face branch and cell meetings, class solidarity,
study groups, militant protest and action are out of order, but that these
are not the only ways to go. Indeed, it is also a sectarian cul de sac to
insist on incompatibility here in telematic times. Given an abundance of
resources for organising, why despair in the face of speed?=20

Pessimism/Cynicism - Self doubt and cringe of the Western project
manifests as an abstention from politics and a romantic valourisation of
=91tribalismo=92 in the face of a rampant (capitalist) system which has
reached, it seems - uncontrollability before which nothing can be done but
withdraw. Fascination with speed - sitting grinning like a monkey at the
zoo - or with technology leads to a descriptive wonder that may sometimes
look elegant but offers only a deferral of despair. Dreaming of speed, or
even of Capital somehow escaping its ties to labour (via automation,
cyber-tronics etc.), ignores the ways that it is labour which actually
moves production, not capital. Autonomy arguments apply here, but to
celebrate speed or capital flight is to think paralysis - the abdication
of class struggle. Other possible analyses of Fast Cap could proceed in a
more adventurous tone, - the struggle is grim/not so grim etc.

Instead of an international clique of deconstructing jurists, organised
resistance around a series of struggles on an Internationalist register
could be considered. Abject paralysis, however verbose, in the face of
capital and telematics and a nostalgia for the pastoral face-to-face of
community or old school vanguard might instead be reconfigured through
recognition of new sites of contestation alongside older not yet exhausted
ones. There would have to be more than textual eloquence and international
emails to signal this recoding, based upon actually existing struggles and
potential zones of engagement. Where Derrida mentions unemployment and
homelessness, we might point to the struggles around the JSA in Britain
(see Aufheben 4 for an excellent and informed discussion of this in
relation to squatters, hunt saboteurs and the various campaign coalitions
against the multifaceted Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994
-http://jefferson.village.Virginia.EDU /~spoons/aut_html/auf4cjball.htm).
Where Derrida mentions economic war or the global market, the campaigns
against Maastricht and European Union, (Contra the Capital of Europe,
Madrid Summit Alternative Declaration) or against ASEAN and APEC (The
Manila Peoples Forum, for example - The various campaigns
against Neo-Liberalism encompassing a politics that is anti-debt and
anti-SAP also. The proliferation of the arms trade and nuclear weapons
would suggest examination of the various Campaigns Against Militarism, for
example in Europe and in Australia, if not almost everywhere to some
degree, and of course in various political stripes. The issue of so-called
inter-ethnic wars demands attention to movements against chauvinism such
as the coalition against the Bharatiya Janata Party in India which brings
together differing Communist and Progressive elements in principled,
sometimes more, sometimes less, alliance and the issues of drug cartels
and international law might suggest attention to the anti-heroin trade
campaigns in Ireland, community struggles in the inner city which do not
buy into the =91war-on-drugs=92 scare mongering of bureaucrats, or movement=
in several nations to regulate police powers and covert insurgency,
usually backed by Reaganite Contra style cloak and dagger support, such as
the people=92s movements in Latin America or Defence Campaigns against
police violence in the UK (for example see  To this I would add attempts
to recruit and organise R&D workers of all levels to political action that
addresses the Institutional role of research in technology development and
expansion, mobilisations amongst professional and intellectual
associations to reject co-option to good news consultancies and provision
of alibis for transnational corporations, struggles against casualisation,
wages for housework and against immigration law. Cultural work to foster
alliances between anti-racists and anti-imperialist for co-operative
struggle. Many more.  What this requires is some effort to read at several
speeds, working out the contemporary dynamics of class decomposition and
recomposition, the relation of =91ethnicities=92 to political alliances, th=
practicalities of agitation and revolution adequate and necessary in the
face of current restructurings, the tricks of subsumption and co-option.
It in not necessary to cower in the confusion that comes from celebration
of speed, nor only to revel in the dilettante semantic flamboyance of
fashionable pessimism (which may be entertaining, and gets a few stage
laughs, but). All this may proceed with Party and organisational
structures to greater or lesser extent debated and disciplined in each
case, but always more organised than Derrida=92s proposed anti-Party,
anti-located, undeclared Pomo-International. (I am starting to slide into
snide abuse here, so should temper this with less typing <control-enter>
to send).=20


[1] It seems a draft sketch of what became the Manifesto was produced by
Engels on a train from Manchester to London as he made his way to the
Communist League meeting of November 1847. This was added to slightly
rewritten sections from Poverty of Philosophy and the German Ideology in
December. The first three sections were written up by Marx in Brussels
before a letter came from London on 26th January demanding the finished
text - under threat of =91further disciplinary action=92 against comrade Ma=
The finished text was then sent =91a few weeks before Feb. 24th=92
(correspondence in MEGA). I guess we should assume by return mail at the
beginning of February. This, I think, means Marx spent the =91festive
season=92 correcting the manuscript. Thanks to Richard Barbrook for
demanding the specifics on this point - it means that the 150th
anniversary of the Manifesto is now at hand. Ho Ho Ho. [This paper was
written late in 1997, the introductory paragraphs posted to <nettime> in
November, and a fuller version was published in the christmas edition of
Space and Culture, 1997(2):95-123. A still more elaborate version was
published as a pamphlet by the Department of Social Anthropology,
University of Manchster working papers series, and that text constitutes a
chapter in a yet to be written - future-to-come book to be called Bad

[2] To keep the =91perhaps=92 temporally specific as well, this paper was
presented as =91Forgotten Marx and Speed-hype in Capital: the Poverty of
Philosophy=92 at the conference =91Time and Value=92, Lancaster University
Institute for Cultural Research, in the Politics stream convened by Mick
Dillon and Jeremy Valentine. It had an earlier manifestation as =91Speeding
Marx in Derrida=92 at the Human Sciences Seminar of the Philosophy
Department of Manchester Metropolitan University, and I especially thank
Joanna Hodge for her comments. Scott McQuire has often discussed these
issues with me, and pointed out some major glitches, as have Peter Phipps,
Nikos Papastergiadis, Javier Taks, Peter Wade and Ben Ross. With regard to
the auspicious, Donald F. Miller has been working on time for ages, and in
a certain way this work is wholly indebted to conversations with him many
years ago. More recently I have benefited from reading the work of Eugene
Holland (1997), Ian R. Douglas (1997)  and Nigel Thrift (1996), as well
(inversely) from listening to the plenary presentation at =91Time and Value=
of Liz - =91I used to think that when I was a Marxist=92 - Grosz. The long
version of the paper was published as a pamphlett by the Department of
Anthropology at Manchester University and a shorter version of that
appeard in Space and Culture volume 2, 1997. This text is an extract from
there. Later ic can be reduced even further, the withering criticism of
the mice will be deployed.=20

[3] Benjamin Franklin said that time was money. Though I think Marx
convincingly shows that money is time, in the Poverty of Philosophy he
wrote that =91time is everything=92 (MECW 6:127).=20

[4] While Derrida suggests that email transforms the =91entire=92 space of
humanity =91in quasi-instantaneous fashion=92 (Derrida 1995/1996:17), Spiva=
offers a corrective: =91even as circulation time attains the apparent
instanteneity of thought (and more), the continuity of production ensured
by that attainment of apparent coincidence [note the =91apparent=92 used tw=
already] must be broken up by capital: its means of doing so is to keep
the labour reserves in the comprador countries outside of this
instantaneity, thus to make sure that multinational investment does not
realise itself fully there through assimilation of the working class into
consumerist-humanism ... the worst victims of the recent exacerbation of
the international division of labour are women=92 (Spivak 1987:166-7).
Spivak=92s work is very important here, and worth a short aside to argue
that while telecommunications research accelerates the technological means
of extending relative surplus value extraction and not absolute, the
obsolete forms of technology are dumped in the =91third world=92 where acro=
the shifting boundary of the international division of labour a kind of
negation of the negation operates this boundary to ensure
superexploitation thrives. (This is a paraphrase, and ever so slight
departure, from Spivak 1987:167). Suggestions that enthusiasm for theory
production, subsidised computerised information retrieval and cultural
studies should be subjected to scrutiny given the implication of these
forms, as a part of general telematics, in =91entrenching the international
division of labour and the oppression of women=92 have rarely been taken up=
and so often the =91dark presence of the third world=92 (Spivak 1987:167) i=
ignored in a frenzy of speed mania. As Spivak points out in response to a
quip that she was a kind of luddite, this is not to deny the workers word
processors, or the comforts of cupaccinos, but to remind the
cupaccino-drinking worker and the word-processing critic the =91actual
price-in-exploitation of the machine producing coffee and words=92 (Spivak
1987:167). Cupaccino=92s for all is certainly a slogan I would adopt, but i=
is also important to work against the reality that we now have only
cupaccinos for some. The internet is not about universal access yet, the
fruits of advanced capitalist production, science, medicine, central
heating, air-conditioning, entertainment and 200 TV channels (and still
nothing to watch) have yet to be delivered to all - and indeed, by the
logic of capitalism cannot be delivered to all, thus =91we=92 [all of us] w=
have to take them. You know the routine here, get out the flags.

[5] see Hutnyk, John [forthcoming] =91Copper, Connectivity, Anthropology an=
the Mines=92 in the Journal of Redistributive Justice - JRJ

[6] Obviously a bad allusion to Derrida=92s excellent article =91Of an
Apocalyptic Tone Recently Taken in Philosophy=92 which is clearly an
inspiration for this writing.

[7] My debt here is to (ex) members of Left Alliance, especially Ben Ross
and Angie Mitropoulis, but also Cass Bennett, Hazel Blunden, Lucy Blamey,
Marcus Strom, Vanessa Chan, Melanie Hood, Chris Francis and others. //red

[8] see Hutnyk, John (forthcoming) =91The Wind-Up Radio and Other
Small-Scale Tekno Tricks=92 in JRJ.

Clifford, James 1994 =91Diasporas=92 Cultural Anthropology 9(3):302-338
Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix 1972/1983 Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and
Schizophrenia, Viking, New York Derrida, Jacques 1967/1976 Of
Grammatology, translation and introduction by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak,
Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.  Derrida, Jacques 1967/1978
Writing and Difference, translated, with an introduction and additional
notes, by Alan Bass, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London.  Derrida, Jacques
1981 Positions, translated and annotated by Alan Bass, University Of
Chicago Press, Chicago.  Derrida, Jacques 1984 =91Of an Apocalyptic Tone
Recently Adopted in Philosophy=92, Oxford Literary Review, 6(2):3-37.=20
Derrida, Jacques 1992 =91Force of Law: the =93Mystical Foundations of
Authority=94=92 in Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice, eds Corne=
Drucilla, Rosenfeld, Michel and Carlson, David Gray, Routledge, New York
pp 3-67 Derrida, Jacques 1993/1994 Spectres of Marx: the State of the
Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International, Routledge, New York
Derrida, Jacques 1995/1996 Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression,
University of Chicago Press, Chicago Derrida, Jacques 1994/1997 The
Politics of Friendship, Verso, London Douglas Ian, R 1997 =91Power Dreaming
of a Fast Globe=92 unpublished paper Fortunati, Leopoldina 1981/1995 The
Arcane of Reproduction: Housework, Prostitiution, Labour and Capital
Autonomedia, New York Gilroy, Paul 1993 The Black Atlantic: Modernity and
Double Consciousness Routledge Holland, Eugene 1997 =91Derrida=92s Marx ver=
Deleuze=92s=92 South Atlantic Quarterly July.  Hutnyk, John 1996 The Rumour=
Calcutta: Tourism, Charity and the Poverty of Representation, Zed books,
London Hutnyk, John 1997 =91Adorno at Womad: South Asian Crossovers and the
Limits of Hybridity-talk=92 in Debating Cultural Hybridity Zed books, Londo=
Hutnyk, John 1998 =91Jim Clifford=92s Ethnographica=92 in Critique of
Anthropology4..  Marx, Karl 1847 The Poverty of Philosophy - from the Marx
WWW archive.  Marx, Karl, 1867/967Capital Vol 1. Progress Press, Moscow.=20
Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrich 1848/1952 Manifesto of the Communist
Party, Progress Press, Moscow.  Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrich 1848/1970
Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei, Dietz Verlag Berlin.  Marx, Karl and
Engels Friedrich, MEGA.  Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrich, MECW McQuire,
Scott, 1997 Visions Of Modernity: Representation, Memory, Time and Space
in the Age of the Camera Sage, London.  Sharma, Sanjay, Hutnyk, John, and
Sharma, Ashwani 1996 Dis-Orienting Rhythms: the Politics of the New Asian
Dance Music Zed books, London Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty 1985 =91Scattered
Speculations on the Question of Value=92 Diacritics, Winter 73-93 Spivak,
Gayatri Chakravorty 1987 In Other Worlds Methuen, New York.  Spivak,
Gayatri Chakravorty 1995a =91Supplementing Marx=92 in Magnus, Bernd and
Cullenberg, Stephen eds Wither Marxism: Global Crises in International
Perspective, Routledge, New York.  Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty 1995b
=91Ghostwriting; Diacritics 25 (draft copy)  Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty
1996 The Spivak Reader, eds Donna Landry and Gerald Maclean, Routledge,
New York Thrift, Nigel 1996 =91New Urban Eras and Old Technological Fears:=
Reconfiguring the Goodwill of Electronic Things=92 in Urban Studies

[John Hutnyk is the author of The Rumour of Calcutta: Tourism, Charity and
the Poverty of Representation, and a co-editor, with Sanjay and Ashwani
Sharma, of Dis-Orienting Rhythms: the Politics of the New Asian Dance
Music, both published in 1996 by Zed books. A forthcoming book, edited
with Raminder Kaur, called Travel Worlds: Journeys in Contemporary
Cultural Politics will be published by Zed in December 1998]

#  distributed via nettime-l : no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  URL:  contact: