Monday, 30 March 2009

Claiming the Rematch

'Revolution isn't showing life to people, but bringing them to life.'
(Guy Debord: For a Revolutionary Judgement of Art, 1961)

'Trained by millions of hours passed in front of the television these people reacted to each event in human existence, even one of tragedy and mourning, with the only behaviour necessary from the television watching public, with applause.

'But real life, that which like a death squad knocks on your door when you least expect it, grabs you from the comfort of the sofa in the living room, drags you out by your hair and then shoots you, by the side of the road, immediately claimed the rematch.'
(Antonio Scurati: Il sopravissuto)

Saturday, 28 March 2009


Time as emotional presence.

Marshall McLuhan is said to have quipped (he may even have done so) that, 'We drive into the future using only our rear view mirror.'

It's not just a matter of watching the past play out behind one like so much length of road or even of using that past experience, rightly or wrongly, in dealing with the present and the future. In a car one lives time linearly, privately. One excerpts oneself from the flux and multifocality of what goes on, locking the door on community and all that lies outside one's chosen focus.

In Travesty, for example, John Hawkes catches a car and its occupants in the act of moving towards catastrophe and death, which lie beyond the novel's ending. The experience of the present is all inside their metal box. Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi starts and ends with 'a parking lot' as the paving over of 'paradise'. Its emotional centre speaks of being excluded from a within:

Late last night
I heard the screen door slam
And a big yellow taxi
Took away my old man
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot.

But could one not perhaps live history in a more open way through being part of the molar and molecular arrangement, that flux, by which communities are made up?

When Dante meets up with Virgil, for instance, it's after the famously 'dark wood' and during a sleep akin to death. Virgil is part of the past: 'I'm not a man. I was a man before'. He leads Dante into a series of possible futures which are the present for those who find themselves there: a more social and more dimensioned sense of time. However, when Dante enters Purgatory he is warned against looking back, a reversal of the Eurydice principle, because 'anyone who does look back returns outside'.

And now here is Enrico Palandri in a 2006 conference paper, delivered in English, exploring Time & Literature. First he asks whether time appears in 'our culture' along with the written word:

'[W]e distinguish History from Pre-historic time precisely along the border marked by the invention of the written word. From that moment onwards we will have things and their linguistic and symbolic representation. I shall give a simple example of this separation: God will appear in the Bible as Ya-ve-he, I am what is, but the word which indicates what is cannot be written as it makes it past.'

So writing is looking back. And the US Constitution is a written one, a closing out of the past.


Palandri develops his thesis in a very particular way. He asserts, for example, that nowadays we orient ourselves in 'our time' by reference to its precedents. We use the rearview mirror, keeping that metaphor, through psychological relativism expressing itself chronologically. An objectifying process. Its effect on usefulness and presence isn't a good one:

'When Romanticism begins to describe the individual reading as 'subjective' interpretation, History begins to separate us from the past. We look at these books today and ask ourselves what did they mean for them, rather than what do they mean for us.


'Our time separates generation from generation through a severe objectivity, a material grasp of the meaning of words which dissipates any ambiguity, but possibly also any real proximity.'

His own take on Dante is as follows:

The development of this historical view of the past, mainly through philology, has given us reliable texts and a scientific attitude towards the study of our tradition [...] but it is worth stopping a moment and wondering whether it is not because of this further historicization of time that we cannot really imagine, like Dante, to have as a guide to the other world a poet born 1300 years before, and to meet all those poets and philosophers we would like to confer with in Limbo.'

Another Palandri text feels like background for this. His 2003 novel, L'altra sera, sets the personal experience of a broken family attempting (or not) to meet up within the public experience of a rioting, multicultural Paris during the 1998 World Cup. It's a short but complex book which can also be read as a dialectic between two competing times: the time of the job and the car, and the time of affiliation. (Close to the end of the novel there's a scene which embodies this dialectic quite precisely: Gilles, whose impatience is quotidian, attempts to chivvy Francesca, his wistful, delaying wife. And it's through her interruption of quotidian time that some kind of real reunion comes about.)

The emotional substance of the novel arises out of words but it forms a sort of surplus which words alone cannot capture. (A young victim of a knife attack is not the father's unknown son. So things don't ever quite come into balance.) Blanchot called death 'merely the side of life which isn't turned towards us.' Here it's night which provides the frame, at either end of the book. This is the side of death which remains as possibility, of construction as well as destruction: 'Night will come. Black night. Bare night. My night,' the repository of fear. Either the sky has been stripped of its constellations or else it's waiting to be (re)populated with new stars: a prelude to conversation. Later on these possibilities are reconstructed, through memory:

'In the evening the peasants called the animals into their quarters and the countryside was filled with cries that lasted for ages, cadenced and repetitive like songs [...] that seemed the calling of the stars, one by one, until night was made complete. In the perfect darkness, after supper, they turned off the lights in the kitchen to look at the constellations and to chatter a bit in the cool air.'

And within the body of the novel, there is indeed (ostensibly) precisely that bringing in, or bringing out. The procedures of desire (positive and negative; its indefinableness is often evoked by smells) as they are articulated in all their different tenses and their moods. The communitas (in Turner's sense) of the football, which is also the communitas of the rioters. The proposed family meeting disrupted by the riots. Affinities both real (a grandfather, an unborn child, furtive sex between cultures) and implied (a potential lover, a potential child and so forth). How Gianni, the student son, is subject to 'the irresponsibility of desire', as he attempts to construct a new present out of the theorised future, as he joins up with a group of Kurds and they attempt to destroy a car; though not Gilles' car, which gets through it all unscathed. How Giacomo, the father, seeks the (re)construction of a new present out of the legally separated past, whose own desire is more cautious:

'Superstition has taken up space again within me, that marvellous caution that accompanies us when a desire is so intense that it seems to produce reality directly out of hope, and then we endeavour not to break the spell, not to disturb the surfaces of things

'In order to be present,' as Simondon puts it using soul and body as an analogy (L'individuation psychique et collective à la lumiere des notions de Forme, Information, Potentiel et Métastabilité), 'the present needs the future and the past; through these two [...] the soul reaches the body. The body is what-isn't-present; it's not the material of some animating form. The present rises up from the body and returns to it; the 'anima' crystallises the body. The present is a work of individuation. The present isn't a permanent form; it's a form in operation. It finds its form in individuation.'

The novel ends as follows, more or less:

'Here it is. Night. Bare night. My night. [...] One shouts in its face, Don't scare me, Night. But actually you please me with the infinitude of your time which isn't beaten out by commerce and by the ordered living of families, of schools, of traffic. Your time is totally free, open to irregularities, to the tentative search for someone with whom to cross the darkness and come out on the other side.


'I still wait for the night like a child, like a boy, like a man, and like someone who's grown old. That the day might come to an end...'

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Imaginary Insurrections II

In an earlier post I fiddled with the idea that Gordon Brown had incorporated insurrection, an imaginary insurrection, into the supposedly endless progress of the State.

In Il fattore A (from Gli autonomi vol I) in which he discusses why Italy was so uniquely and profoundly affected by '68 - '77 Lanfranco Caminiti sketches this distinction.

On the one hand there is the US model, a sort of 'wild capitalism, of primitive accumulation, of the frontier, of mercenaries, where the turbines sweep everything away without regard, and where one can only resist by reforming a little here, a little there, and that at a very high price.'

And on the other there is the 'Soviet' version, in which inherent contradictions are gathered together at the highest level of generalisation, as 'the plan', thus completing 'an insurrectional leap without actually creating any insurrection, rather making itself the engine of development: worker democracy produces electrification.'

What Gordon Brown, who likes to save the bathwater from discarded babies, retains (at least rhetorically) is some notion of the State Capitalism of the former Soviet Union.

Anyway here is Badiou at the recent Birkbeck conference reasserting how refusal, which is against the State and its 'progress' also comes from within:

'We must create a political framework, something which is disassociated from the State, which is not ruling by the State itself' [...] we cannot live today outside capitalism. It's a nonsense, There is no place outside capitalism. So is it possible to create something like a political space by [...] an analysis of contemporary capitalism? I think this [...] is a necessity, but we cannot [...] create political places outside or at a distance from the State.'

A Wave that will bury you all?

We are those you believed had just dozed off. Those willing to do anything to gain a place in the world. That you thought were timid and afraid, who would put up with any sort of reform. Big babies, stay behinds, time wasters, inept. And yet here we are, surfing in the piazzas, in the schools, in the stations, in the universities. Surfing about the reforms, about the Education Minister, about the crisis, about the blackmail attempts, about our present and your future. We're surfing about anti-politics, because the only politics possible is our surf. We're surfing about the education programmes, about the training courses for the professions, about the little walls that separate different disciplines, about the high fences that separate different types of knowledge. About the misery of today, about the precarity of tomorrow. We've got our boards under our arms and we dwell in the folds of the wave.

(from L'esercito del Surf, the Army of the Surf, written by members of The Anomalous Wave)

Sunday, 22 March 2009

The Post Fordist Social Machine

How post Fordism explains contemporary media, not vice versa.

Commercial television is just a staging post on the way to the real, joined-up, post Fordist communication machine, on the way to the 'infobahn' (the information super-highway) where all the functions anticipated from control over the information flow will find their true technological realisation. If one doesn't understand this one risks saying a lot of stupid things about the media and about the power of information. Certainly the media play a fundamental role in the matter but they are part of an entirely different series of links. In this new series of links we don't see the same television we used to see, we don't live the same set of media we used to live. It is the post Fordist social machine that explains the nature of the media, not vice versa.

(Maurizio Lazzarato: Lavoro immateriale, 1997)

Ms Harman’s Tame Kangaroo II

The role of John Prescott represents a strange little footnote to Ms Harman's kangaroo court.

Prescott, for the record, is a sort of English Berlusconi; similarly amoral. Where the latter (was it Rosanna Rosanda who actually made this observation?) embodies a certain male Italian self perception as gaffe prone and inept (see the considerable Italian literature on ineptitude) but also oddly successful, so Prescott for New Labour has been its inarticulate, supposedly 'working class' soul: a buffoon who is also wheedling, stupid and aggressive, insufficiently despised. And successful.

Now Prescott has started a blog. A 15 March entry refers to an interview with the BBC:
'They called because they read this blog. It's remarkable how by being your own publisher you can get your thoughts out there unedited and have the mainstream media follow you.'

They called, of course, because Prescott has some status and because of his tireless self promotion. And his blog is a form of viral marketing designed to sell New Labour as a product, a label, as he knows but does not say.

Part of that viral marketing has been to give Ms Harman's Court of Public Opinion some small semblance of flesh. Hence Mr Prescott's bogus 'petition' against poor Fred Goodwin's pension, which a vast army of 3,710 New Labour sympathisers have been induced to sign in the run up to red rose day: Multitude 2.0, as it were.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Privatising Despair

In Imaginary Insurrections I tried to show how Gordon Brown co-opted the idea of insurrection into the rhetoric of New Labour during his Washington speech, how he tamed it: first by putting it into the past (the insurrectionary thought which preceded what's since been achieved); then by making the crowd, the opposition, the insurrectionary multitude part of the ruling, undemocratic elite which is what New Labour actually is (22% of the voting population as of 2005; though now it is probably worse).

In Ms Harman's Tame Kangaroo I tried to highlight a closely related trick, to show how Ms Harman pointedly conflated the coercive violence of the lynch mob with conventional models of legality to produce what she called 'the Court of Public Opinion' in a piece of rhetoric which showed up disturbingly (as the assault on Civil Liberties also does) New Labour's quasi fascist inclinations.

Not that there is anything very new in this technique: New Labour has employed it from the beginning. Before his translation to Cardinal Blair of Baghdad, for example, Bishop Tony used quite regularly to jump the barrier between, say, the providers of a central service (for which he was broadly responsible) and those who found themselves victims of its delivery, co-opting their complaints.

And now, in New Labour's plans, announced by Alan Johnson and James Purnell, that the unemployed should all be offered counselling, preferably CBT, the managerial version of the 'talking cures', we have the latest policy counterpart of that same principle.

In 1936, 200 people marched from Jarrow to Westminster to protest against unemployment; not an insurrection, to be sure, though it was something.

In 1981 Norman Tebbit mischievously rewrote that episode to attack the riots then taking place in Handsworth and in Brixton. A good example of the jam tomorrow version of reality upon which capitalism relies:

'I grew up in the '30s with an unemployed father. He didn't riot. He got on his bike and looked for work, and he kept looking until he found it.'

Unsurprisingly, what New Labour now propose, at a cost of £13m in freshly invented money, is no more helpful than Mr Tebbit's plucky memorial and very much more despairing even as rhetoric: not merely the diversion of political anger into sturdiness and self help along the lines of Samuel Smiles but actually the full privatisation of social discontent through its elimination from the social and collective (ie political) sphere and its extrusion into the private, the personal and the 'mental'.

Should there be mass unemployment and consequential anger and despair, in other words, and this seems by no means unlikely, then the fault will lie not with the depredations wrought by neoliberalism, of which New Labour is a part. Rather it will have come about through individual failures to perceive exactly how half full the glass is. And should there be a solution in New Labour's terms then this will come about not through the emergence of some new social subject already present in potential, through the ballot box or across the barricades, but simply through getting used to how things are.

Which is a gloss on political impotence, of course: the dissipation of political energy and endeavour and how they come about into the 'symptoms' of 'disturbed' individuals.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Ms Harman’s Tame Kangaroo

Ms Harman invokes the lynch mob.

Bacon's 'Revenge is a kind of wild justice' (Essays IV) introduces several propositions:

'[T]he more man's nature runs to [revenge], the more ought law to weed it out: for as for the first wrong, it doth but offend the law, but the revenge of that wrong putteth the law out of office.'

Towards the end of the essay he draws a further distinction:

'Public revenges are for the most part fortunate [...] But in private revenges it is not so...'

Because 'justice' in its untamed state is private, plural, interpersonal and damaging to the Law as an institution, private revenge is inimical to the latter in a more systemic way than, say, the breaking of some individual prohibition. So revenge is like dry rot, ground elder or a virus. As part of any civilising project it needs to be done away with or, at the very least, controlled even as the tarmac is being laid down over the chaos.

Hobbes similarly insists on keeping separate the plurality of the multitude in its natural state, on the one hand, and, on the other, the unity of the people civilly instantiated in (not just represented by) whatever 'public' institutions are in place:

'[M]en distinguish not enough between a People and a Multitude. The People is somewhat that is one, having one will, and to whom one action may be attributed; none of these can properly be said of a Multitude. [...] In a Democracy, and Aristocracy, the Citizens are the Multitude, but the Court is the People. And in a Monarchy, the Subjects are the Multitude, and (however it seem a Paradox) the King is the People.'
(De Cive, XII 8)

And here by contrast is the 'little and narrow mind' of the ineffably stupid Ms Harman, New Labour's deputy leader, as revealed to Andrew Marr, acceding to the exceedingly 'weak pleasure' of threatening poor Mr Goodwin's pension with a lynch mob:

'The Prime Minister has said [Mr Goodwin's pension] is not acceptable and therefore it will not be accepted. It might be enforceable in a Court of Law but it is not enforceable in the Court of Public Opinion and that's where the Government steps in.'

What's underway here, as with Brown's imaginary insurrection, is an attempt to tame the wild, to turn it into a colony. Her comments mimic a parental turn of phrase: 'No, because I said no.' However, whereas parental authority is quite clear (as far as stroppy toddlers are concerned the parent makes the Law) Ms Harman's version moves about, shifting and evading responsibility, blame and anything else that might be awkward at some point.

First the Prime Minister is reported as having said something in a very performative sense, as though he were a Ruler making Law. But he's not. Or at least not by himself. So it's actually just an opinion. Therefore the authority (such as it is) is not legal or even deontic but doxastic.

Next Ms Harman denatures the Law, splitting legal accountability into 'a Court of Law' and 'the Court of Public Opinion'. But the latter doesn't exist and the former is already, in Hobbes' sense, the People. In which case to go beyond that bold embodiment into something new involving what Ms Harman calls the 'public' but by which she really means the mob is to invite insurrection or what Hobbes calls 'sedition', ie the overthrow of civil governance by 'the multitude'. Whilst to suggest as well, as she does, a connection between such a court and government is to invoke either a People's Court such as might follow a popular revolution or, disturbingly, the Volksgerichtshof of Adolf Hitler.

But of course Ms Harman steers well clear of all that. Her Court will have no claws, not even theoretical teeth, despite what she implies. So Mr Goodwin's right to take his booty will indeed be 'not enforceable' before her kangaroo court, which is hardly much of a threat. And he will take it anyway. People won't much like that but they'll live, and HMG will share their pain. They may fail to take to the streets. However, that will be no victory for any sound good sense. Rather it will be the memory of an almost fascist urge to victimise and punish, albeit not followed through. At least on this occasion.

Here to close is Mandeville's Grumbling Hide in which the lawlessness of the multitude is incorporated into the polity itself as though it were the grit within the pearl within the oyster:

Virtue, who from Politicks
Had learn'd a thousand Cunning Tricks,
Was, by their happy Influence,
Made Friends with Vice: And ever since
The Worst of all the Multitude
Did Something for the common Good.

Presumably in his prelapsarian pomp, which is why he was given his knighthood in the first place, Mr Goodwin was just such a piece of grit. Or at least he was thus regarded. By a venal and dangerous government which at that stage believed in what it now disowns.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Imaginary Insurrections

Gordon Brown’s ‘insurrection in the human imagination’ is an imaginary one.

Gordon Brown told the US Congress that throughout its history 'America', by which he meant the US, had 'led insurrections in the human imagination', whatever that might imply. What he presumably meant was that it had made 'imaginative leaps', reminded others that their reach could exceed their grasp; some platitude of that order. Or perhaps, since Obama himself ('nothing's impossible I have found') had confected 'pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America' using lyrics from a convenient popular song, just 'to dream the impossible dream'. (Leigh & Darion, from Man of La Mancha, where it's sung by Don Quixote.)

What Brown is highly unlikely to have meant was that insurrections were jolly good things. Instead of some rebellious version of the future ('Let us together curb the power of the US,' 'Let's storm the Winter Palace,' 'Tear down that flag' and so forth, or Bisca's throwaway 'I don't know if another world is possible, but this one is impossible') in which what will happen is unknown, what he actually sought to put across was just the usual, victor's version of the past turning into the present in which the known and comfortable apex of the present is supported and justified by an earlier courage and by the rhetorical preposition of future unknownness into what's modally past. In other words, it was no doubt all just flattery intended for a US President who had already said, at the Eastern Inaugural Ball, 'Today was your day. Today was a day that represented all your efforts, all your faith, all your confidence in what's possible in America. They said it couldn't be done. And you did it. And if we apply that not just to elections, but to jobs, to how we rebuild our communities, then when people tell you we can't employ folks, [that] you are out of work, you say - ?' To which the crowd had responded predictably, using the words of Bob the Builder, 'Yes we can!' like so many Annie Oakleys. The point of course was not that he 'did it' or would do it but that he'd won. He did it better than Mr McCain.

And yet 'insurrections' was a very nice touch indeed. Besides evoking indirectly but deliberately the US American revolution, Brown was hinting at some sort of popular movement independent of rationality, coming from beneath. (The US Declaration of Independence, as it happens, invokes a 'natural law'. Within its first few sentences it arrogates apodictic truths that were meant to come from above, in line with Hobbes' definitions of sedition. And maybe it even carries the memory of a crowd swarming beyond the confines in which they were contained.)

Back in 2004, Brown quoted Roger Scruton (England: an Elegy) wistfully evoking British 'national character' (actually 'English' character, though Brown doesn't mention this) as something transcendent or external which exceeds 'the crowd' and which Brown called 'a golden thread': 'When people discard, ignore or mock the ideals that formed our national character then they no longer exist as a people but only as a crowd.' In other words, according to Brown and/or Scruton, there is something mereologically bigger that contains us and which we really ought to respect.

But insurrection finds its origin with that 'crowd', with overflowing, with breaking out of containment and not at all with something that falls within the purview of (let's say) English Heritage. So by saying what he did when he did in Washington, what Brown was expressing was real abjection, albeit in a patronising way: 'I tip my hat to the new generation' (The Who, in Won't Get Fooled Again); the crowd that comes from below and overwhelms me, overtakes me and reforms itself into a 'people' has been a process of becoming a new sort of public to which I am subject but to which I do not belong. Although I could not have been that crowd nor am I now that public I still carry the idea of the crowd within me as a keepsake, a sort of memory. I find it soothing when I put my feet up in the evenings.

It isn't insurrection of the imagination or by the imagination that's being evoked, in other words, but merely an imaginary insurrection ('I could have been a contender'), a sense of what might have been. Or insurrection tamed and trapped like a snowstorm inside another glass paperweight on this Prime Minister's desk.

Taking Back Subjectivity

Operaismo, subjectivity and Marx's 'general intellect'.

'The problem is that operaismo needs to liberate the forces that have been chilled and frozen by the cognitive sciences just as, in a former age, it liberated the forces seized by neocapitalist and technicist ideologies. This is the problem if one means to have the general intellect as a subject.'
(Paolo Virno, from Gli operaisti)

Self Defence

Two versions of vision and hearing.

God has defended his poor ones. You want them silenced and God has made you blind.
(Lettera ad una professoressa)

It's not true that we are helpless faced with images. It's images that are helpless faced with their own sound track. It's hearing that will save us.
(Tiziano Scarpa: Kamikaze d'occidente)

Life in General

Life in general is possible in any, sufficiently dehumanised sort of place - but only provided you don't think about it.
(Luca Doninelli: La nuova era)

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Emotional Cartoons

Email doesn't fail to represent emotion; it lacks it.

Historically, the emoticon precedes email by some distance. Is it even plausible that its use with plain text email supplied a seasoning with the affective that plain text must have lacked? Probably not. More likely, as with advertising and pornography (for which see, of course, Agamben), it's its radical lack of authenticity that's important. The emotions aren't really there. Nor would they have been directly represented in, say, a handwritten letter. So emoticons became a substitute for emotion. And what they represent is not the hidden presence of emotion but its lack.

To put that another way, what made email distinctive wasn't personal tone of voice as an unrepresented thing (as with Stephen Hawking's synthesiser or, to some degree, with all communication) but the fact of anonymity, the fact that email cut across cultural contexts and boundaries, its occasion for false identity, pure creation.

It has turned us into cartoons.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Interpretation as Performance

Wiggenstein, the unutterable & Simondon.

'You've often heard me say - perhaps too often - that poetry is what is lost in translation. It is also what is lost in interpretation.' This is Frost, according to Louis Untermeyer (Robert Frost: A Backward Look). So why interpret? Why translate?

Here is Wittgenstein, in a letter to Paul Engelmann:

'[I]f only you do not try to utter what is unutterable then nothing gets lost. But the unutterable will be - unutterably - contained in what has been uttered.'

Here is Wittgenstein again, in a letter to Ludwig Picker:

'I once meant to include [...] a sentence which is not in fact there now but which I will write out for you here. What I meant to write then was this. My work consists of two parts: the one presented here plus all that I have not written. And it is precisely this second part that is the important one.'

And here is Guy Debord in Critique de la séparation:

'The sectors of a city...are decipherable, but the personal meaning they have for us is incommunicable, as is the secrecy of private life in general, regarding which we possess nothing but pitiful documents.'

So what is lost is fugitive in the way that the connotative is, that qualia are fugitive. It runs away with the writer, leading him into alleyways in which what happens simply can't be spoken of or said. And it runs away from the reader, leaving him with alleyways in which something unknown presumably must have happened, in which what is possible is either happening or may be going to happen but is possibly not the same set of experiences but another. In which talking about what is visible, publicly available, is at once necessary and rather beside the point. In which interpretation and/or translation is in one sense like Tennyson's views on love. In which it's better to try and fail than never to try in the first place. 'In place of hermeneutics we need an erotics of art,' as Sontag puts it in Against Interpretation, as though undressing a virgin text for which undressing itself is the point:

'A cigarette that bears a lipstick's traces
An airline ticket to romantic places
Still my heart has wings
These foolish things remind me of you.'

(Billie Holliday: These Foolish Things)

However, there is another aspect which concerns both the nature and the ownership of those alleyways (or cigarette or airline ticket; or stockings, in the version by Ella Fitzgerald, or whatever) and how they come about. And it isn't at all about applying (say) Rachel Whiteread's approach to the negative space of what's not there or can't be reached. As though the artwork or the poem had, by definition, to be about containment or capture (or its failure) within form, or about apparent form and content and about the transcendence either of the structure as Platonic form or of what's within some 'visible' structure as the content that goes beyond obvious 'content' and which is something that cannot be grasped. This is one version (the wrong one) of Wittgenstein's view that 'An aphorism doesn't need to be true,' that 'it should go beyond truth. It should, as it were, go beyond it with one satz.'

And so here, as an alternative, is Simondon (L'individuation psychique et collective à la lumiere des notions de Forme, Information, Potentiel et Métastabilité). What's important, in this view of how things work, is 'to know about the individual through individuation', not the other way around. Moreover:

'In the process of individuation the living human being is both the actor and the theatre. His becoming is a permanent individuation, or rather a series of bouts of individuation that proceed from one state of temporary equilibrium to another.'

All of which is probably the other and very much better sense of Wittgenstein's assertion. Or as the Bible puts it (John, I: 14) language is being created as a living thing:

'And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us [...] full of grace and truth.'

(Significantly the title of Paolo Virno's Quando il verbo si fa carne. Linguaggio e natura umana turns 'word' back into 'verb', into individuation and the process of becoming.)

And as Dickinson puts it also:

'A Word that breathes distinctly
Has not the power to die
Cohesive as the Spirit
It may expire if He -
'Made Flesh and dwelt among us'
Could condescension be
Like this consent of Language
This loved Philology.'

Or as de Gregori puts it in La storia siamo noi:

Well history doesn't really stop outside some great front door
History enters into the rooms and burns them up
[...] it's us, these waves upon the sea
this noise that breaks the silence,
History: that's us, it's us that write the letters,
it's us for whom there's all to win and all to lose.

Or as unknown Greek demonstrators interviewed by the Observer put it:

'When they killed Alexis, everyone felt it could have been any of us, so we made it all of us.
'Above all, this revolt was an assertion of dignity and a statement of presence. Of all the slogans, our most important was We are here.
'This uprising has given people who were never part of our movement a new understanding of what it means to be who they are.'

Now what's important, of course, is to avoid any slippage whatsoever either into mere aspiration or nostalgia or into assertions of bogus causality or (worse still) deterministic cynicism.

'They fuck you up, your mum and dad,' according to Philip Larkin. So don't be a parent yourself. A dystopic reading of Darwin and an abject determinism in which people are as separate and as imperviously solid as atoms used to be and humanity is envisaged as a collection of disparate individuals through whom faults are passed on down through the generations and to whom accrete further faults, apparently through mutation. The group has ceased to exist. So too has the individual, except as the consequence of the actions of individual others who are themselves the consequence of individual others in an infinite recursion in which subjectivity is kept all too firmly offstage. Whoever the actor may be, in other words, he is never ever the speaker. So choose childlessness instead.

And here too are The Who in 1971 (Won't Get Fooled Again from Who's Next) rejecting transcendent ideals (and rejecting music as exemplary act, as though it were blowing up bridges) in favour of a cynicism as corrosive as that of Larkin (or New Labour) about a history to which they have allowed themselves no access and so can provide no answer:

'The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that's all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain't changed
There's nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Are now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight.'

Because what Simondon offers is useful. Because the trick in the dynamic and aspectual approach to History of which he is a part is to substitute for what is fugitive and/or omitted the idea of a surplus, of something that's not included, which always exceeds the taking: 'The concept does not exhaust the thing conceived,' according to Adorno (Negative Dialectics). Except that in this context the interpretable meaning of a poem, say, which is in no way subsumable under the rubric of concept, constitutes itself. It is brought into being not by the writer, not by the reader nor even in the interstitial space between the two as though it were something subordinate, but as performance: as language acting in the theatre of writer, poem and reader (because performative language always performs that trick of bringing into being, or it attempts to) and, simultaneously, as writer, reader and poem acting in the theatre of language, inherited and to come. And it always leaves something behind.