Posts Tagged ‘Friedrich Nietzsche’

 

Slavoj Žižek on the Charlie Hebdo massacre: Are the worst really full of passionate intensity?

“How fragile the belief of an Islamist must be if he feels threatened by a stupid caricature in a weekly satirical newspaper”, says philosopher Slavoj Žižek.

Now, when we are all in a state of shock after the killing spree in the Charlie Hebdo offices, it is the right moment to gather the courage to think.

We should, of course, unambiguously condemn the killings as an attack on the very substance our freedoms, and condemn them without any hidden caveats (in the style of “Charlie Hebdo was nonetheless provoking and humiliating the Muslims too much”).

But such pathos of universal solidarity is not enough – we should think further.

Such thinking has nothing whatsoever to do with the cheap relativisation of the crime (the mantra of “who are we in the West, perpetrators of terrible massacres in the Third World, to condemn such acts”).

It has even less to do with the pathological fear of many Western liberal Leftists to be guilty of Islamophobia.

For these false Leftists, any critique of Islam is denounced as an expression of Western Islamophobia; Salman Rushdie was denounced for unnecessarily provoking Muslims and thus (partially, at least) responsible for the fatwa condemning him to death, etc.

The result of such stance is what one can expect in such cases: the more the Western liberal Leftists probe into their guilt, the more they are accused by Muslim fundamentalists of being hypocrites who try to conceal their hatred of Islam.

This constellation perfectly reproduces the paradox of the superego: the more you obey what the Other demands of you, the guiltier you are.
It is as if the more you tolerate Islam, the stronger its pressure on you will be . . .

This is why I also find insufficient calls for moderation along the lines of Simon Jenkins’s claim (in The Guardian on January 7) that our task is “not to overreact, not to over-publicise the aftermath.
It is to treat each event as a passing accident of horror” – the attack on Charlie Hebdo was not a mere “passing accident of horror”, it followed a precise religious and political agenda and was as such clearly part of a much larger pattern.
Of course we should not overreact, if by this is meant succumbing to blind Islamophobia – but we should ruthlessly analyse this pattern.

What is much more needed than the demonisation of the terrorists into heroic suicidal fanatics is a debunking of this demonic myth.

Long ago Friedrich Nietzsche perceived how Western civilisation was moving in the direction of the Last Man, an apathetic creature with no great passion or commitment. Unable to dream, tired of life, he takes no risks, seeking only comfort and security, an expression of tolerance with one another:

“A little poison now and then: that makes for pleasant dreams. And much poison at the end, for a pleasant death. They have their little pleasures for the day, and their little pleasures for the night, but they have a regard for health. ‘We have discovered happiness,’ – say the Last Men, and they blink.”

It effectively may appear that the split between the permissive First World and the fundamentalist reaction to it runs more and more along the lines of the opposition between leading a long satisfying life full of material and cultural wealth, and dedicating one’s life to some transcendent Cause.

Is this antagonism not the one between what Nietzsche called “passive” and “active” nihilism?

We in the West are the Nietzschean Last Men, immersed in stupid daily pleasures, while the Muslim radicals are ready to risk everything, engaged in the struggle up to their self-destruction.

William Butler Yeats’ “Second Coming” seems perfectly to render our present predicament:

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

This is an excellent description of the current split between anemic liberals and impassioned fundamentalists. “The best” are no longer able fully to engage, while “the worst” engage in racist, religious, sexist fanaticism.

However, do the terrorist fundamentalists really fit this description?

What they obviously lack is a feature that is easy to discern in all authentic fundamentalists, from Tibetan Buddhists to the Amish in the US:

the absence of resentment and envy, the deep indifference towards the non-believers’ way of life.

If today’s so-called fundamentalists really believe they have found their way to Truth, why should they feel threatened by non-believers, why should they envy them?

When a Buddhist encounters a Western hedonist, he hardly condemns. He just benevolently notes that the hedonist’s search for happiness is self-defeating.

In contrast to true fundamentalists, the terrorist pseudo-fundamentalists are deeply bothered, intrigued, fascinated, by the sinful life of the non-believers. One can feel that, in fighting the sinful other, they are fighting their own temptation.

It is here that Yeats’ diagnosis falls short of the present predicament:

the passionate intensity of the terrorists bears witness to a lack of true conviction. How fragile the belief of a Muslim must be if he feels threatened by a stupid caricature in a weekly satirical newspaper?

The fundamentalist Islamic terror is not grounded in the terrorists’ conviction of their superiority and in their desire to safeguard their cultural-religious identity from the onslaught of global consumerist civilization.

The problem with fundamentalists is not that we consider them inferior to us, but, rather, that they themselves secretly consider themselves inferior.

This is why our condescending politically correct assurances that we feel no superiority towards them only makes them more furious and feeds their resentment.

The problem is not cultural difference (their effort to preserve their identity), but the opposite fact that the fundamentalists are already like us, that, secretly, they have already internalized our standards and measure themselves by them.

Paradoxically, what the fundamentalists really lack is precisely a dose of that true ‘racist’ conviction of their own superiority.

The recent vicissitudes of Muslim fundamentalism confirm Walter Benjamin‘s old insight that

“every rise of Fascism bears witness to a failed revolution”

the rise of Fascism is the Left’s failure, but simultaneously a proof that there was a revolutionary potential, dissatisfaction, which the Left was not able to mobilize.

And does the same not hold for today’s so-called “Islamo-Fascism”?

Is the rise of radical Islamism not exactly correlative to the disappearance of the secular Left in Muslim countries? (- such as the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt, Gezi Park in Turkey?)

When, back in the Spring of 2009, Taliban took over the Swat valley in Pakistan, New York Times reported that they engineered

“a class revolt that exploits profound fissures between a small group of wealthy landlords and their landless tenants”.

If, however, by “taking advantage” of the farmers’ plight, The Taliban are “raising alarm about the risks to Pakistan, which remains largely feudal,” what prevents liberal democrats in Pakistan as well as the US to similarly “take advantage” of this plight and try to help the landless farmers?

The sad implication of this fact is that the feudal forces in Pakistan are the “natural ally” of the liberal democracy…

So what about the core values of liberalism: freedom, equality, etc.?

The paradox is that liberalism itself is not strong enough to save them against the fundamentalist onslaught.

Fundamentalism is a reaction – a false, mystifying, reaction, of course – against a real flaw of liberalism, and this is why it is again and again generated by liberalism.

Left to itself, liberalism will slowly undermine itself – the only thing that can save its core values is a renewed Left.

In order for this key legacy to survive, liberalism needs the brotherly help of the radical Left.

THIS is the only way to defeat fundamentalism, to sweep the ground under its feet.

To think in response to the Paris killings means to drop the smug self-satisfaction of a permissive liberal and to accept that the conflict between liberal permissiveness and fundamentalism is ultimately a false conflict – a vicious cycle of two poles generating and presupposing each other.

What Max Horkheimer had said about Fascism and capitalism already back in 1930s

– those who do not want to talk critically about capitalism should also keep quiet about Fascism –

should also be applied to today’s fundamentalism: those who do not want to talk critically about liberal democracy should also keep quiet about religious fundamentalism.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE http://www.newstatesman.com/world-affairs/2015/01/slavoj-i-ek-charlie-hebdo-massacre-are-worst-really-full-passionate-intensity

 

Advertisements
 My new art and philosophy project for 2015 will incorporate the Aesthetics of Resistance and Creative Destruction.

CREATIVE DESTRUCTION

Creative destruction (German: schöpferische Zerstörung), sometimes known as Schumpeter’s gale, is a term in economics which has since the 1950s become most readily identified with the Austrian/American economist Joseph Schumpeter‘s theory of economics innovation and business cycle.

Creative destruction describes the;

“process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.”

The German Marxist sociologist Werner Sombart has been credited with the first use of these terms in his work Krieg und Kapitalismus (“War and Capitalism”, 1913).

In the earlier work of Marx, however, the idea of creative destruction or annihilation (German: Vernichtung) implies not only that capitalism destroys and reconfigures previous economic orders, but also that it must ceaselessly devalue existing wealth (whether through war, dereliction, or regular and periodic economic crises) in order to clear the ground for the creation of new wealth.

In Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942), Joseph Schumpeter developed the concept out of a careful reading of Marx’s thought (to which the whole of Part I of the book is devoted), arguing (in Part II) that the creative-destructive forces unleashed by capitalism would eventually lead to its demise as a system.
Despite this, the term subsequently gained popularity within free-market economics as a description of processes such as downsizing in order to increase the efficiency and dynamism of a company.

The Marxian usage has, however, been retained and further developed in the work of social scientists such as David Harvey, Marshall Berman, and Manuel Castells.

In Marx’s thought

Although the modern term “creative destruction” is not used explicitly by Marx, it is largely derived from his analyses, particularly in the work of Werner Sombart (whom Engels described as the only German professor who understood Marx’s Capital), and of Joseph Schumpeter, who discussed at length the origin of the idea in Marx’s work (see below).

In The Communist Manifesto of 1848, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels described the crisis tendencies of capitalism in terms of;

“the enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces”

Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether-world whom he has called up by his spells.

[…] It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put the existence of the whole of bourgeois society on trial, each time more threateningly. In these crises, a great part not only of existing production, but also of previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity — the epidemic of over-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why?

Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce. The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions. […] And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises?

On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; On the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. That is to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented.

A few years later, in the Grundrisse, Marx was writing of;

“the violent destruction of capital not by relations external to it, but rather as a condition of its self-preservation”.

In other words, he establishes a necessary link between the generative or creative forces of production in capitalism and the destruction of capital value as one of the key ways in which capitalism attempts to overcome its internal contradictions:

These contradictions lead to explosions, cataclysms, crises, in which […] momentaneous suspension of labour and annihilation of a great portion of capital […] violently lead it back to the point where it is enabled [to go on] fully employing its productive powers without committing suicide.

In the Theories of Surplus Value (“Volume IV” of Das Kapital, 1863), Marx refines this theory to distinguish between scenarios where the destruction of (commodity) values affects either use-values or exchange-values or both together.

The destruction of exchange-value combined with the preservation of use-value presents clear opportunities for new capital investment and hence for the repetition of the production-devaluation cycle:

the destruction of capital through crises means the depreciation of values which prevents them from later renewing their reproduction process as capital on the same scale. This is the ruinous effect of the fall in the prices of commodities. It does not cause the destruction of any use-values.
What one loses, the other gains.
Values used as capital are prevented from acting again as capital in the hands of the same person.
The old capitalists go bankrupt.
[…] A large part of the nominal capital of the society, i.e., of the exchange-value of the existing capital, is once for all destroyed, although this very destruction, since it does not affect the use-value, may very much expedite the new reproduction.
This is also the period during which moneyed interest enriches itself at the cost of industrial interest.

Social geographer David Harvey sums up the differences between Marx’s usage of these concepts and Schumpeter’s:

“Both Karl Marx and Joseph Schumpeter wrote at length on the ‘creative-destructive’ tendencies inherent in capitalism.
While Marx clearly admired capitalism’s creativity he […] strongly emphasised its self-destructiveness.
The Schumpeterians have all along gloried in capitalism’s endless creativity while treating the destructiveness as mostly a matter of the normal costs of doing business”.

In philosophical terms, the concept of “creative destruction” is close to Hegel´s concept of sublation.

In philosophy, aufheben (sublation) is used by Hegel to explain what happens when a thesis and antithesis interact, and in this sense is translated mainly as “sublate”. When Hegel uses the term in its double meaning in German, he usually expressly informs the reader that he does so. Hegel may be said to visualize how something is picked up in order that it may no longer be there just the way it was, although, it is not cancelled altogether but lifted up to be kept on a different level.

At the level of social history, sublation can be seen at work in the master-slave dialectic.

  • Whereas, in Hegel, sublation shows the movement of Geist, often translated as mind or spirit, Marx identifies it as the manner of development of material conditions.

In German economic discourse sublation was taken up from Marx’s writings by Werner Sombart, particularly in his 1913 text Krieg und Kapitalismus:

Again, however, from destruction a new spirit of creation arises; the scarcity of wood and the needs of everyday life… forced the discovery or invention of substitutes for wood, forced the use of coal for heating, forced the invention of coke for the production of iron.

It has been argued that Sombart’s formulation of the concept was influenced by Eastern mysticism, specifically the image of the Hindu god Shiva, who is presented in the paradoxical aspect of simultaneous destroyer and creator. Conceivably this influence passed from Johann Gottfried Herder, who brought Hindu thought to German philosophy in his Philosophy of Human History (Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit) (Herder 1790–92), specifically volume III, pp. 41–64. via Arthur Schopenhauer and the Orientalist Friedrich Maier through Friedrich Nietzsche´s writings. Nietzsche represented the creative destruction of modernity through the mythical figure of Dionysus, a figure whom he saw as at one and the same time “destructively creative” and “creatively destructive”.

In the following passage from On the Genealogy of Morality (1887), Nietzsche argues for a universal principle of a cycle of creation and destruction, such that every creative act has its destructive consequence:

But have you ever asked yourselves sufficiently how much the erection of every ideal on earth has cost?
How much reality has had to be misunderstood and slandered, how many lies have had to be sanctified, how many consciences disturbed, how much “God” sacrificed every time?
If a temple is to be erected a temple must be destroyed:
that is the law – let anyone who can show me a case in which it is not fulfilled! – Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality

Other nineteenth-century formulations of this idea include Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, who wrote in 1842;

“The passion for destruction is a creative passion, too!”

Note: however, that this earlier formulation might more accurately be termed “destructive creation”, and differs sharply from Marx’s and Schumpeter’s formulations in its focus on the active destruction of the existing social and political order by human agents (as opposed to systemic forces or contradictions in the case of both Marx and Schumpeter).

 

 

“Selling is the practice of alienation.” – 

Karl Marx: Early Writings, London 1963 p39 (translated as ‘Objectification is the practice of alienation’), in Guddat and Easton, (footnote 6), p248 (translated as ‘Selling is the practice of externalisation’)

For Marx ‘alienation’ characterised not the sensuous-material world in general, but only one specific historical phase- the fetishistic world of commodity production.

 

ART IS NOT A MIRROR TO REFLECT REALITY

ART IS A HAMMER WITH WHICH TO SHAPE IT

  • First recorded in Leon TrotskyLiterature and Revolution (1924; edited by William Keach (2005), Ch. 4: Futurism, p. 120): “Art, it is said, is not a mirror, but a hammer: it does not reflect, it shapes.
  • Also falsely(?) attributed to Bertolt Brecht.

 

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it.
Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion.
Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare.
Impossible is potential.
Impossible is temporary.
Impossible is nothing.”

  • Muhammad Ali {citation needed}

Those who control their passions do so because
their passions are weak enough to be controlled.

  • William Blake

I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man’s.

  • William Blake

 

First. I’m convinced of my disagreement with the counterrevolution — imperialism — fascism — religions — stupidity — capitalism — and the whole gamut of bourgeoistricks — I wish to cooperate with the Revolution in transforming the world into a class-less one so that we can attain a better rhythm for the oppressed classes

Secondly. a timely moment to clarify who are the allies of the Revolution

Read Lenin — Stalin — Learn that I am nothing but a “small damned” part of a revolutionary movement.

Always revolutionary, never dead, never useless

  • Frida Kahlo, The Diary Of Frida Kahlo (p.251)

“To those human beings who are of any concern to me
I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities —
I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt,
the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished:
I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not — that one endures.”

  • – “Types of my disciples”, Friedrich Nietzsche, 1887.

“The test of one’s decency is how much of a fight one can put up after one has stopped caring.”

  • — Willa Cather

Examine the lives of the best and most fruitful people and peoples and ask yourselves whether a tree that is supposed to grow to a proud height can dispense with bad weather and storms;
Examine whether misfortune and external resistance, some kinds of hatred, jealousy, stubbornness, mistrust, hardness, avarice, and violence do not belong among the favorable conditions without which any great growth even of virtue is scarcely possible.

  • – Friedrich Nietzsche, 1887.
    No one is able to produce a great work of art without experience, nor achieve a worldly position immediately, nor be a great lover at the first attempt;
    We suffer because we cannot spontaneously master the ingredients of fulfillment.