Transcendental Clones & Generic-Humanity: Ray Brassier, Nina Power, And the Future of (Non-)Humanity

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“Thus, the non-human subject of the death-drive is neither HE nor SHE but IT: the transcendental clone. The cloned subject of transcendental parthenogenesis which yields IT as universal non-human subject of the unconscious-the unconscious subject with which I am identical in the last instance.” – Ray Brassier

This essay will attempt to build some conceptual links between Ray Brassier’s essay ‘Solar Catastrophe: Lyotard, Freud, and the Death-Drive’ and Nina Power’s ‘What is Generic Humanity?’ and asses one of the political consequences of this encounter. The hope here is that by demonstrating the conceptual solidarity between what may appear as two entirely different topics – the question of the conditions for thought with Brassier and the question of the status of universality in politics with Power – we gain a better understanding of how philosophical activity is conditioned today and what those conditions can tell us about philosophy’s relation to politics. Since this is an essay which seeks to build connections and develop their consequences, I will reserve most of my criticisms or hesitations for another forum.

I will first begin with a brief introduction of each essay with their respective theses and conclusions, then move to a discussion of what I understand to be the shared set of commitments common to both: namely, the commitment to a standard of immanence in Thought and Politics. Then, I want to read back into each essay, taken together, these commitments in order to get a better sense of what is at stake – where what is at stake is whether or not the life of the mind and the life of revolutionary struggle can feasibly be said, understood, measured, and most importantly lived as concrete reality and not a simple theoretical possibility. For each thinker, it is through interrogating the ontological and political feasibility of certain conceptions we have of ourselves as rational subjects and political agents via the the themes of Universality and Thought that we can move beyond the limits imposed by the definitions of Thought as circumscribed by a horizon of meaning, or politics as grounded on those inviolable features of the human animal.

By bringing both essays into conversation I will end with some brief comments on how a). the philosophical project laid out in Brassier’s piece calls for a ‘radicalization’ or ‘generalization’ of the implications effected onto theoretical activity by solar death as transcendental catastrophe and b). how the political project laid out by Power in the Feuerbachian-Badiouian register could possibly be seen as the practical/concrete extension of what is already given in the former. One of the chief consequences of this conjunction is the following: with the eradication of all horizons for Thought in light of solar death (Brassier) the corresponding political task becomes the attempt to actualize the material organization of human life in such a way that makes it possible for a form of living adequate to the ‘non-human subject’, or ‘transcendental clone.’ By projecting Brassier’s Laruellean corrective of Lyotard and Freud through the lens of the Feuerbachian-Badiouian conception of ‘generic-humanity’, we arrive at a single (albeit ambiguously alien or liberatory) conclusion: revolution can no longer be thought of as necessary on the basis that there is some Evil, or a violation of liberal-human-rights, in the world. Rather, revolution is necessary in order to organize human life in such a way that we begin to concretely and materially construct a form of life that actualizes the transcendental catastrophe of Thought itself. Thus, the ‘revolutionary maxim’ in this conjunction of Transcendental Clones with ‘generic-humanity’ is nothing short of the assertion that we must act in such a way that we can Transcendentally Clone the Real universally and without contradiction.

[1]. Only Transcendental Clones Will Survive The Solar Catastrophe


In ‘Solar Catastrophe: Lyotard, Freud, and the Death-Drive’ Ray Brassier revisits Lyotard’s question: ‘can thought go on without a body?’ For Brassier, what is of interest in Lyotard’s line of thinking is not so much the content of his arguments or the conclusions he draws from them. Rather, what is of importance is that in simply posing this question Lyotard raises the ontological status of cognitive and rational capacities vis-a-vis its embodiment in human animals. While Lyotard’s essay oscillates between two interlocutors – relevantly nominated as HE & SHE – where the male/masculine eschews a position in the affirmative and the female/feminine adopts the position of the negative. While the former proposes a way for thought to persist independent of embodied existence, the latter not only refutes this assertion but implies, further, that it is only through embodiment – and hence gender – that thought can exist as thought. For SHE, the body engenders thought as thought. Brassier himself opts to sidestep any attempt to reconcile Lyotard’s dialogue – because it remains impossible to conceive of thought without a body and it is not without critical import that the body-as-gendered holds a certain influence on how we think – in exchange for positing a third interlocutor: IT. As Brassier writes, what we are dealing with when Lyotard feels the need to emphasize the important fact that the sun will die roughly 4.5 billion years from now extinguishing all cognitive life with it, is not a cosmological or physical reality but a transcendental catastrophe:

It is because we are dealing with a transcendental catastrophe that Lyotard’s question needs to be specified. It should be: can philosophical thought go on without a body? I believe it cannot and can only continue to oscillate…between two possibilities: the claim that there is a horizon of all horizons, if not the earth then some other candidate, and the claim that we can keep changing horizons indefinitely. [Ray Brassier, 2003: 421-9]

Brassier develops the transcendental constitution of solar catastrophe by connecting Lyotard’s thought experiment with Freud’s death-drive. What is of importance for Brassier here is how Freud comes to conceive of the death-drive; Freud’s reasoning for why people compulsively relive traumatic moments even though it goes against the pleasure principle:

If the function of dreams is primarily that of wish-fulfillment, in accordance with the pleasure principle…then traumatic neurosis poses a problem for psychoanalysis because it resists explanation in terms of the pleasure principle: why is the patient compulsively drive to relive a shatteringly unpleasurable experience? Freud’s answer is that the patient suffering from traumatic neurosis is driven to repeat the moment of trauma so that his psyche can muster the anxiety required to achieve a successful cathexis or binding of the excess of the excitation concomitant with the traumatic breaching of the organism’s psychic defenses. Thus, the compulsion to repeat consists in an attempt on the part of the unconscious to relive the traumatic incident in a condition of anxious anticipation that goes some way to buffering the traumatic shock. [Brassier, 2003: 425]

A few things are of importance regarding the connection between the death-drive and the relationship between Thought and Solar Catastrophe. First, the relationship between compulsive behavior and the initial trauma that is barred from conscious experience and yet motivates conscious life is analogous to the relationship between the nature and function of Thought and the fact that 4.5 billion years from now the sun will die. Why? Because, like the originary trauma, solar death can never be constituted in human experience and is only knowable theoretically. Additionally, like compulsive behavior which is a reaction to originary trauma, thought (and for Brassier philosophical thinking) is thus constituted by this fact that cannot be experienced and only known.

However, we need to add an important caveat here. The transcendental nature of this solar catastrophe is not one that ‘logically precedes’ the activity of thought itself. Rather, as Brassier frames it, solar death draws our attention to the function and directionality of thought itself: how does Thought continue to project itself into the future, or continue to set ends for itself, given the fact of solar death, which would mean that whatever ends thought sets for itself are, in the last instance, futile? This problem of the future oriented activity of thought raised by solar death is seen as problem only insofar as we understand Thought as the attempt to overcome solar catastrophe itself. In other words, the problem of the future is a problem for philosophical thought insofar as this thought manifests itself as the compulsive behavior that reacts to an initial unconscious trauma:

Bear in mind that what is repeated in the death-drive is something that never happened: a non-event that cannot be registered within the perception-consciousness system. Thus, organic life merely recapitulates the non-occurence of aboriginal inorganic death. Similarly, terrestrial philosophy as quest is fueled by the non-occurence of solar death as impossible possibility. Solar death is catastrophic because the collapse of the terrestrial horizon is unenvisageable for embodied thought…and it is because it is unenvisageable that solar catastrophe overturns the relation between thought and its terrestrial horizon. [Brassier, 2003: 428]

For Brassier, then, the task at hand becomes one of retaining the insights of Freud in relation to Lyotard’s question of ‘can thought go on without a body?’ while at the same time developing an account of Thought that is freed, in some sense, from the need to act compulsively and reactively. “What if, instead of switching horizons and staving off death, thought could annihilate every horizon by effectuating the death that drives it?” (SC, 427-8). In order to do this, Brassier lays out three criteria for a thought which seeks to ‘effectuate’ the death that motivates thought itself: unidentification, unilateralization, and excarnation.

 
Unidentification is the conceptual construction of a subject that instantiates the identity-without-synthesis of death and thought; or in Brassier’s terms “This subject-(of)-death is the immanent identity of the death of the death that is the life of thought” [Brassier, 2003: 427-8]. Regarding the identity-without-synthesis of unidentification, this would be the way in which Thought can successfully bind the catastrophe that constitutes its own activity. Unilateralization, on the back of unidentification, is “the transcendental clone. The cloned subject-(of)-death is established through a form of transcendental parthenogenesis which yields IT as universal non-human subject of the unconscious” [Brassier, 2003: 429]. Unilateralization, then, would not only be the subject whose identity is the identity of the death that motivates Thought, but is also the subject who elevates the unconscious to the status of constituting the fundamental features of subjectivity itself. However, it is not sexual difference or sexuation that constitutes the unconscious subject. Rather, it is the aboriginal death transformed into effective and acting subject that is the product of unilateralization.

Lastly, excarnation means that a Thought freed from reactionary and compulsive activity “is not the labor of the negative but the organon of death” [Brassier, 2003: 429]. As organon of death, Thought becomes the conduit for the expression in thought and experience of the unconscious death-drive that motivates the life of thought but now no longer in compulsive terms, but in an expressive, productive, and colder register. With these three criteria (unidentification, unilateralization, and excarnation) Brassier concludes that a thought which can appropriate the death-drive that is the life of the mind would satisfy these three tenants and would be the properly non-human subject, the transcendental clone: “As organon, IT, the subject-(of)-death, inhabits the non-thetic universe of the autistic unconscious: IT is deaf, dumb and blind. This is the excarnation of thought” [Brassier, 2003: 429]. Thought-as-organon-of-death; a Thought that becomes aware, if only for the first time, of the transcendental catastrophe presented by solar death ultimately amounts to Brassier’s reconfiguration of Lyotard’s initial question of whether thought can go on without a body. For Brassier, Lyotard suffered from the misplaced concreteness of taking the death of the sun as either of phenomenological or of epistemic import instead of understanding that solar death is, in fact, of transcendental significance. If, following Brassier, thought is truly bound up with embodiment where one cannot persist without the other, and if solar death is true for thought just as it will be true for terrestrial life, then solar death is of transcendental significance because the death of the sun becomes the very thing which conditions Thought’s future oriented activity:

“Lyotard’s question…here serves as the pretext for dealing with another question, one that I think is perhaps more fundamental, although it only warrants a passing mention by Lyotard. This other question is: can thought go on without a horizon? The use of the word “horizon” here is intended to bear a quasi-transcendental charge. For European philosophy up to and including Nietzsche…the name for the horizon was “God.” Then…the name for the horizon becomes “Earth.” My aim here is to show that this horizon too needs to be wiped away.” [Brassier, 2003: 421]

Thought must become the organon of death and must be able to effectuate the death-drive (fact of solar death) that constitutes the vitality of the life of the mind because to think and live according to any series of horizons simply prolongs our understanding of that which is already true for thought itself: that the very condition for theoretical and philosophical activity is, in fact, that this activity is not constituted by any horizon whatsoever. Brassier’s corrective to Lyotard’s thought experiment aims at the heart of the terrestrial nihilism inaugurated by solar death in order to transform our own theoretical and philosophical activity in such a way that Thought is no longer the compulsive repetition of the (non)originary fact of solar death. That is to say, at the level of theoretical and philosophical activity, to predicate any Thought in terms of its horizonal purchase is simply to delude oneself and secure the life of the mind as the debilitating compulsive repetition of the very (solar) death Thought cannot grasp through experience all the while viewing this compulsion of the mind as one of the many epistemic virtues of philosophizing.

 
[2]. Connecting Generic-being with its Transcendental Clone


In her article entitled ‘What is Generic Humanity? Badiou and Feuerbach’, Nina Power revisits another classical problem in the history of philosophy: what is the metaphysical status of the human, especially in light of the concept of Gattungswesen (species-being). For Power, bringing Feuerbach and Badiou into relation around the question of gattungswesen is important, not simply for Badiou’s own appropriation of Marxism. The question of species-being, or ‘generic-being’, is central for understanding Badiou’s criticisms of human rights and his conception of what is actually ‘universal’ in terms of political struggle. Power suggests that, like Badiou, Feuerbach himself doesn’t hold onto a notion of species-being that is simply a taxonomical categorization of the human animal. Rather, for both thinkers, the human is that animal which is ‘unnatural’, or for Badiou ‘Infinite/Immortal’:

“What is most important to note about Feuerbach’s use of the term Gattungswesen is its distance from any straightforwardly naturalistic resonances – genus (or species) should not be understood as a taxonomic category. The ‘unnaturalness’ of man…is a crucial aspect of Feuerbach’s position. It is what distinguishes Feuerbach from Hegel, who used the category of Gattungswesen precisely to refer to the natural component of human life in the Encyclopaedia. Similarly, for Badiou…the potential for dissymmetry is what distinguishes generic humanity from any over-determination by its biological, victimized, human-rights-inflected descriptions, and allows for a rationalist, non-theological conception of immortality.” [Nina Power, 2005: 35-46]

The very ‘unnaturalness’ of Man gets translated into the fact of Thought for Badiou, and leads him to posit that it is Thought itself that constitutes what is generic, or universal, in humanity as such. Thus, each in their own way, refuse to ground gattungswesen in some biological or anthropological genealogy of human history. Rather what is generic, and thus constitutes the real possibility for universality, is Thought itself. Power goes on to underscore how Badiou himself relates this idea of generic-humanity with the tradition of revolutionary politics:

“What is unique about Badiou’s project in the wake of Heidegger is precisely his attempt to think ‘man’ anti-humanistically, that is, as devoid of the limitations imposed by transcendental legitimation, biological perishing, or moral destination – whilst at the same time preserving precisely the political force of the original humanist project, with its anti-religious aims.” [Power, 2005: 37]

For Badiou, any conception of gattungswesen that serves as the guiding thread and political axiom of revolutionary struggle must be evacuated from any residues of what is generic in humanity as being predicated on some form of biological, anthropological, or transcendental determination. As Power goes on to show, Badiou extends this evacuation of the residual ways of dogmatically determining what is generic in humanity all the way down to the idea of the pursuit of self-interest:

“For Badiou as for Feuerbach, interest is not a specifically human capacity, since all living beings protect their interests as imperative for survival. Thought as traversed by truth – this peculiarly human capacity – must be capable of being absolutely disinterested. Badiou writes, “Any truth procedure distinguishes the properly immortal disinterest from an abject properly “animal” assemblage of particular interests” (2001a: 15). Furthermore, thought and disinterest coincide in the overcoming of all that is finite in man,”Thought is the specific mode by which a human animal is traversed and overcome by a truth” (Badiou 2001a: 16).” [Power, 2005: 39]

While Power’s essay goes on to deal with the question of the infinite as it relates to Badiou’s ontology and politics, I want to shift our focus onto her discussion of Badiou’s critique of human rights discourse since it will have important bearing on the consequences of relating Badiou’s project with Brassier’s.  As Power points out, Badiou’s argument against human rights discourse in his Ethics is centered on the ideas that the presuppositions of human rights misconstrues what it is that constitutes the generic, or universal, character of humanity. For Badiou what is errant in this discourse is the definition of the human as victim; the definition of human life as that which must be protected from the physical, environmental, and sociological vicissitudes that befall it. As Badiou writes,

“For at the core of the mastery internal to ethics is always the power to decide who dies and who does not. Ethics is nihilist because its underlying conviction is that the only thing that can really happen to someone is death…Between Man as the possible basis for the uncertainty [aléa] of truths, or Man as being-for-death (or being-for-happiness, it is the same thing), you have to choose. It is the same choice that divides philosophy from ‘ethics’, or the courage of truths from nihilism.” [Alain Badiou, 2003: 35]

While these features of human existence (namely all those things which constitute our vulnerability to physical and mental harm) are important, and Badiou himself would not support a politics that seeks to neglect altogether the claims made by those seeking human rights, his argument is centered on the fact that this conception of the human, and a conception which guides our political projects as the desired aim, excludes precisely what human beings are capable of: namely, thought as that which gives us access to the universal. Thus, following Foucault, the criticisms leveled at a politics that begins and ends with the demands of ‘human rights’ simply replicate this desire for the ‘mastery internal to ethics’ which should be termed biopolitical. Thus, in order for politics to avoid being reduced to determining and administering life – the ones who die and the ones who are left to die – the democratic fetish for the recognition of rights must be subordinated to Thought as that which constitutes humanity’s ‘generic-being’. As we saw Power underscore above, a politics that administers and manages ‘interests’ is nothing but biopolitics. However, a politics that is motivated by the disinterested and universal character of Thought is a politics worthy of the name; where the concern for rights would simply be a moment of this politics’ pre-history.


Now I want to briefly draw out important similarities and summarize the key moments of Power’s and Brassier’s piece as it will be important for understanding the final section of this paper, which is something of a fusion of each essay. Brassier’s piece deals with the thought experiment posed by Lyotard and Power’s which deals with the question of species-being in the Marxist tradition. However, both of these pieces actually constitute parts of a larger set of questions/problems for both strictly philosophical motivations (what is the nature of thought?) and more readily practical and political concerns (what is the nature of humanity and how does this affect our conception of revolutionary politics?). As an entry point into Brassier’s and Power’s underlying alliance we can say that what is common between the two is the attempt to think of the nature of reason and the nature of politics, respectively, without its being indexed to something other than itself. Thus, for each thinker, there is a minimal commitment to a standard of immanence, where this standard means that whether we are speaking about the nature of cognitive/rational activity or the nature and structure of political struggle, each object of analysis cannot be measured, understood, nor lived in good faith (and this is the important conclusion I want to draw out at the end of this essay) as anything other than what the activities of reasoning and politics in fact are; both in their ontological and modal register.

As we saw with Brassier, what is important in Lyotard’s piece, and with its connection to Freud (and we should add here Nietzsche), is the problem each poses for the nature of thought itself. For Lyotard the impending death of the sun constitutes human death as already existing in principle and thus already existing for thought itself. Freud’s conception of trauma and the death-drive is important for us here since what Lyotard is highlighting – solar death in principle – is exactly what Freud understands by trauma. That is, trauma is that which elides our conscious perception; or experience; and thus is the motor of unconscious drives themselves. Thus, the attempt of consciousness to repeat in a compulsory manner the trauma which it has in fact never experienced is the attempt of consciousness to experience-through-the-mastery of its own motivation; it’s own constitution by something that can only grasped through the traces of trauma. Consciousness, we might say, in its striving toward the unconscious vis-a-vis its compulsive behavior is nothing but post-traumatic neurosis raised to the level of thought.


For Power, what is generic in humanity is Thought understood as the “capacity for universal, abstractive, activity, even (especially) in his isolation (his inner life)” [Power, 2005: 40]. It is the nature of Thought as that capacity for abstraction and universalization that marks off the human animal from the rest of the natural world, and hence for Badiou and Feuerbach, constitutes what is, in fact, the content of the concept of  ‘generic-humanity.’ If Thought is that aspect of humanity which expresses Universality it is because the disinterested character of Thought places us in the proper relation viz-á-viz the infinite (which is the object of ontology and politics) while simultaneously elevating the human animal above its brute (and ultimately animal) interestedness:

“The infinite comes into play in every truth procedure, but only in politics does it take the first place. This is because only in politics is the deliberation about the possible…constitutive of the process itself…politics treats the infinite as such according to the principle of the same, the egalitarian principle.” [Badiou, 2004: 32]


It is because Thought affords us a relation to the Infinite and because the infinite is given priority in the realm of political struggle, that Thought will be constitutive of our ‘generic-being’, our gattungswesen, and will be the very condition by which politics itself operates. Thus, what is common to both of these projects, while different objects are treated in their course, is the idea that the ontological and political conditions of solar catastrophe (Brassier) and Thought’s universal character (Power) require a substantial reconsideration of what we mean by the very terms of revolutionary transformation, liberation, and some form of rational and collective self-determination. It is this (albeit partial and incomplete) reconsideration of the meaning of revolutionary transformation in light of the transcendental conditioning of Thought viz-á-viz Brassier and the political constitution of Thought viz-á-viz Power that this last section will take up.

The important conclusion that will be drawn here, given the transcendental catastrophe for thought and the generic element of humanity, is the political prescription that we must be in reality what we already are in truth (where the reality of human social organizations fails to adequate (clone) the truths presented by the transcendental conditions for both Thought and Politics). Thus, it is not accidental that it is precisely this intellectual and political prescription that Althusser already discovered and attributed to Feuerbach himself:

“Feuerbach calls out to Humanity. He tears the veil from universal History, destroys myths and lies, uncovers the truth of man and restores it to him. The fullness of time has come. Humanity is pregnant with the imminent revolution which will give it possession of its own being. Let men at last become conscious of this, and they will be in reality what they are in truth: free, equal, and fraternal beings.” [Althusser, 2005: 43]


[3]. …And What if the Transcendental Clone was the Content of Our ‘Generic-Humanity’?


Now it is not without import that one of the guiding concerns we see in Brassier’s and Power’s theses is the shared concern with either the ontological or political status of Thought – whether as traumatic compulsion (Transcendental Catastrophe) or constituting our universality. And it is precisely this shared concern with the status of Thought that we can begin to draw some consequences from each thinkers object of study. Perhaps for a bit of theatrics we can begin with the consequence that we see arising from the conjunction between Brassier’s Laruellean reworking of Lyotard and Freud and Power’s clarification of the concept of gattungswesen in Feuerbach and Badiou: what is of consequence from this encounter is a theoretical and political project that seeks to create the material conditions under which what is true of the transcendental catastrophe for Thought is rendered as true in the lived experience of humanity’s Immortality.


Why is this one of the possible consequences of this encounter? For the very reason that the Laruellean corrective offered by Brassier does not seek to synthesize, fuse, or negate its predecessors but simply ‘radicalize’ or ‘generalize’ the very condition of thought as constituted by solar death.  It is this idea of opting for radicalization over synthesis or negation that I take Brassier to mean when he writes that Thought “is not the labor of the negative but the organon of death” [Brassier, 2003: 429]. That is to say, with Brassier, what we have is a reworking of how we are to understand the very conditions by which Thought functions. It is for this reason that Brassier alters Lyotard’s question in terms of a transcendental (as opposed to phenomenological, or epistemic) catastrophe. However, if we were to merely stop here, we are left with a sense of achieving a conception of a new type of subjectivity without the means for determining any other features about this mode of being other than the three criteria of unidentification, unilateralization, and excarnation. And it is at this point that Power’s essay sheds necessary light on the matter.

With the Feuerbachian-Badiouian assertion that it is precisely what thought is capable of (i.e., universalization/abstraction) that constitutes ‘generic-humanity,’ Power’s piece provides the necessary supplement to the Laruellean move – namely, while it is with Brassier’s Laruelleanism that we gain a new perspective on thought considered transcendentally, it is with Power’s reading of Feuerbach and Badiou that we gain insight into thought considered in its capacities. That is, by bringing these two thinkers together, we bring together what conditions theoretical activity and what theoretical activity can, in fact, effectuate. It should be noted here that if we remain faithful to the Laruellean inflection in this reworking of what is proposed by revolutionary transformation, we must also understand that bringing these two thinkers together is not simply a theoretical construction via conceptual addition: it isn’t that the Laruellean corrective is given its added supplement to enhance its overall project. Rather, this conjunction alters the very content of what the very concepts of ‘theory’ and ‘practice’ mean for us today.


In a certain sense, we should say that once we understand these transcendental conditions  and modalities of Thought, the problem posed for theory and practice, or for revolutionary transformation, become one and the same. Namely, how does one live their life, individually and collectively, in a way that remains ‘dictated’ both by Thought’s transcendental catastrophe and its generic-being? In other words, by what means and procedures can we fashion a kind of living that replicates, or ‘clones,’ what is already true for Thought itself? We should maintain that the consequences of bringing these two essays into conjunction remains focused on the question of the opportunities afforded to human beings to fashion their lives since it is precisely this idea that is implied in Brassier’s piece. As Laruelle himself writes, “The identity of the real is lived, experienced, consumed while remaining in itself without the need to alienate itself through representation.” Thus, the political supplement via Power’s essay is not the moment of Thought moving outside of itself in order to realize itself. Rather, it is because the philosophical problematic and the political problematic have become one and the same that the proposed task is the extension, or ‘radicalization’ of what is given for Thought viz-á-viz the transcendental catastrophe of solar death.


So, how does this ‘radicalization’ operate? Primarily through the recapitulation of the three criteria for Thought but at the level of a politics that remains guided by, or ‘dictated’ by, the Real itself. Namely, if the goal of revolutionary politics is the eradication of everything that constitutes any form of oppression, repression, violence, exploitation, etc., because these are conditions which obstruct our ‘generic-humanity,’ then, it follows that the goal of revolutionary politics would be to create and organize human society in such a way that what is generic in humanity is both theoretically and practically the case. Now, up to this point, the proposed project does not drift far from most radical/revolutionary political programs. However, the important ‘programmatic’ difference in terms of this Laruellean-Badiouian consequence is that revolution can no longer thought of as necessary on the basis that there is Evil in the world.

As we saw with Badiou, any politics that begins and ends with human rights can only be reformist at best while excluding the very features of humanity that can positively determine revolutionary transformation itself; namely, our ‘generic-being’. And here we should turn Badiou on his head, so to speak. Instead of his formula regarding the inherent nihilism specific to ethics and human rights discourse we should assert the following: it is only by virtue of ‘cloning’ the nihilism that is at the heart of the transcendental condition for Thought into the realm of politics – where the inherently nihilistic situation of this condition arises from the eradication of any horizon for Thought itself – that we can, both in principle and in fact, relieve ourselves of the pathological compulsion of Thought’s dependence on the fictions of fixed, or quasi-fixed, horizons. It is the fact of nihilism as transcendental condition of Thought coupled with the understanding that Thought is what gives us our generic-humanity that we can positively determine revolutionary transformation; one where revolution is necessary in order to organize human life in such a way that we can begin to live (according to and sustainably with) the transcendental catastrophe that is nihilism, which conditions that which is most markedly proper to humanity. Or, what amounts to the same, what is specific and singular for Thought itself. If the transcendental clone is the only one who can survive nihilism as its very condition for existence it is because the transcendental clone understands that it is the cloning of nihilism to which any revolutionary politics worthy of the name is alloyed.

Hostis Vol. 2 CFP – ‘Beyond Recognition’

Earth - Basquiat

Seeking recognition is always servile. We have little interest in visibility, consciousness raising, or populist pandering. Recognition always treats power as a give-and-take. On the one hand, the dispossessed use recognition as respite from exploitation; while on the other, the State expects its authority to be recognized as the first and final say. According to this logic: for the dispossessed to even get a step up, they must first acknowledge a higher power than themselves.

The particulars of our own time are even more obscene. Following the spread of economic rationality on a global scale, it is clear that the flow of forces has reversed. The State pornographically exposes its long-protected interior for others to abuse while lasciviously grooming what is beyond its regular reach. Recognition chastely reassures the State of its powers. All the while, the most banal State functions are farmed out to the highest bidder. So when their parking ticket is authored by a private corporation, those who seek recognition fall back on the State dictum that nothing good comes from the outside.

By far the worst aspect of recognition is its role in resolution. From where we stand, civil society appears only as a degraded arm of the state. Collective process, democratic representation, and community accountability might feel radical, but they are the actions of the State dressed in black. They transform our desire for antagonism into ‘agonistic’ fuel for the engine of statecraft. The process of recognition that begins with a riotous insurrection, makes into an angry mob, into an unruly crowd, into a gathering of concerned citizens, into a protest organization, into a political party, and finally into a class of legislators. Some enlightened ‘direct democrats’ believe in abbreviating the process of resolution in a return to representation. Our path is far darker. Ours is the ‘mad black communism’ that haunts the good will of these leftist party bureaucrats. This does not simply mean a politics where your socialist party finance minister wears a suit without a tie, or walks the halls of Parliament with his hands in his pockets. It means, first of all, to transform what is present within riotous insurrection into sites of material leverage, to the point where any ‘movement’ worthy of the name is, in itself, irreversible.

However, it is worth noting that there is nothing new in saying we must move beyond recognition. Remembering Stokely Carmichael on non-violence, we refuse the game of back-and-forth. Add to this the reminder from our ‘Tarnac’ friends that ‘waiting is madness… [because] we are already situated within the collapse of a civilization. It is within this reality that we must choose sides.’ It is this manner in which we assert that waiting for recognition is like waiting for the democracy to come: a war by other means waged through infinite deferral. As in warfare, there are enemies whether regardless of whether a declaration of formal conflict is recognized. Empire does not have a conscience. Empire does not give a shit about critique.

From these friends and their allies we must learn how to weaponize the concrete asymmetry between Empire and the dispossessed. We are drawn to those who sharpen the gap between the State and its subjects, not into biting tongues but cutting edges. Thus, against the State’s idealized invocation of authority, Hostis listens to military strategists who say that opening with a concession is to begin from a position of weakness. The point of Hostis is to spread the crisis of representation; to antagonize the vulgar translation at every step along the way. Hostis evades recognition altogether. It leaves the job of identification to the police.

We are looking for submissions that elude recognition. In addition to scholarly essays, we are looking for any original work suited to the printed page: strategic diagrams, logistical maps, printed code, how-to instructions, photo-essays, illustrations, or mixed-media art. To remain consistent with the journal’s point of view, we seek material whose tone is abrasive, mood is cataclysmic, style is gritty, and voice is impersonal. Submissions will be selected by an editorial collective. Contributors should expect to receive critical feedback in the first stage of review requesting revisions to improve their submission and make it consistent with the other contributions selected for inclusion. While we are not soliciting proposals, we are happy to comment on possible submissions before official review. The deadline for submissions is September 1st, 2015 at which point we will begin the review process. All submissions should be sent to hostis.journal@gmail.com as MS Word, rtf, pdf, jpg, or png files. Include a title, author name, content, and any formatting requests. Expect to complete requested revisions between November-December, 2015.