In the midst of a huge challenge, the Coronavirus pandemic, I’m forcing a dialogue between two seemingly opposite ways of thinking–advocacy for the state as the most useful way to address global challenges such as climate change, and an anarchist view that is skeptical, to say the least, about the possibility of the proper use of state power. I’m drawing from the writings of Robyn Eckersley, a political scientist and author of The Green State, and the anonymous author of Desert, or the Desert Manifesto. … More State & Anarchy–Green State v. Desert Introduction (Audio 1)
This is a conversation I recently had with Spencer Hess, a friend of mine and an urban farmer in the Kansas City area. It revolves around topics like Enlightenment liberalism/neoliberalism and its legacy, weaknesses, strengths and future. We discuss Naomi Klein’s critique in “No Logo” of neoliberal commodity fetishization in the form of brand-attachment, McKenzie Wark’s idea that “Capital is Dead,” and also the the idea of seceding from the system and Rod Dreher’s “Benedict Option.” Along the way, Spencer talks about what it’s like to try to start up an urban farm in an economy that doesn’t favor such things, and how the pandemic situation may affect our perceptions of what’s practical when it comes to how we get our food. … More Liberal Enlightenment and What Lies Beyond: A Conversation with Spencer Hess (Audio)
In this video, I reflect on the current coronavirus pandemic and what I think I have learned over the past couple of years about the human reaction to crises and how our “just in time” economy and expectations can leave us without the resources to deal resiliency with unforeseen contingencies. … More Eat This–Dealing With a Stress Test (Audio)
In this final video on McKenzie Wark’s Capital is Dead: Is This Something Worse? I discuss some of the big takeaways I get from the book, and relate Wark’s view of “past masters” and detournement of old ideas to Friedrich Nietzsche’s three types of history in On the Use and Abuse of History for Life. Along the way, we find out why farmers are turning into hackers. … More Farmers vs. Vectoralists: Takeaways from McKenzie Wark’s Capital is Dead (Audio)
I will make some final observations based on reading McKenzie Wark’s Capital is Dead next weekend. The weekend after that I’ll put up a special topic lecture on Machiavelli. Starting on the third weekend of March I’ll start up on Robyn Eckersley’s The Green State: Rethinking Democracy and Sovereignty. If you’d like to follow along on that book you can get it for under $20 on Kindle or in paperback on Amazon and probably a lot of other sellers. … More Where I’m Headed Next: The Green State
Thinking about Ch. 5 in McKenzie Wark’s Capital is Dead: Is This Something Worse?, I dwell on how the scientists and technologists might have been able to make the world truly better rather than more dangerous and polluted. We still look at them as our heroes and saviors. But they’ve done more harm than good, at least arguably. Who or what is responsible for their status as tools of corporate profit-seeking and national security? What light does this unorthodox view of scientists (not as our saviors but as a large part of the problem) have to say about if and how we can deal with our environmental problems. Is there any reason to think that the scientific and technical hacker class can rise to the occasion and use their latent imagination to create pathways to a better way of life? … More The Sins of the Scientists–Did They Fail Us? (Wark 6 Audio)
McKenzie Wark argues that capitalists are no longer at the top of the economic food chain, and that this is not good news. It turns out vectoralists can make more money by outsourcing risk and depreciation to manufacturers and contractors and moving the capitalist pieces around on the global chessboard. That makes them, as Cardi B says, “the boss.” In this video I reflect on some of the key insights from Chapter 4 of Wark’s Capital is Dead: Is This Something Worse?
Ch. 3 of McKenzie Wark’s Capital is Dead: Is This Something Worse? explains why Wark advocates for “vulgar Marxism.” This chapter traces the historical emergence of the scientific class and how its potential via the development of thoroughly socialized labor of all kinds has gotten side-tracked by the vectoralists’ “enclosure” via intellectual property law.
I pause to try to pick apart and better understand some key but often bedeviling Marxist terms that can get in the way of understanding McKenzie Wark and other authors who borrow from Marx’s toolkit. Dead labor, capital, surplus value, commodity fetishization, and the tendency of the rate of profit to fall (and what capitalists tend to do about that) are all touched on in this program. … More Dead and Living Labor: Introduction to Core Marxist Ideas (Audio)
We move into Chapter 2 of McKenzie Wark’s Capital is Dead: Is This Something Worse. Wark thinks that people on the left as well as the right need to end their love affair with capitalism and summon their inner punk rock goddess and try something new. The something new entails detournement of old ideas–an irreverant use of parts and neglect of other parts in order to account for an economy that Marx would not recognize. There’s a hint that the hacker class should somehow organize by first seeing what they have in common–they do not control the information they manipulate in order to monetize it for the vectoralist class. Wark very clearly explains the connection between the current state of property law and the power of this new class of people, a class responsible for the “disintegrating spectacle” of our world, information, entertainment, commerce and therapy become so intertwined that we are constantly confused, suspicious and mentally exhausted. I comment on that phenomenon and the relative lack of reference to government institutions in this part of the book, but there is the political implication that the hacker class is potentially powerful. Should they take aim at property law? It’s too early to tell, but that’s one possibility. … More Hackers, Marx and the Tape Guy (Wark 2, Audio)