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11 Theses on the Polemic

1: The polemic is a genre intended primarily to draw lines of demarcation, a style of document wagered in the midst of line struggle. As such it possesses a political function that is immediate: every polemic is primarily intended to serve the struggle to which it is attacked, to pull in sympathizers and isolate opponents, and it is written with the intention of being an organizer. The polemic is an intentional literature.

2: As an organizer, the strength of a polemic is determined by how well it succeeds in demarcating so as to mobilize support and isolate dissenters. The quality of a polemical intervention––whether it is an essay or an entire book––is located in the strength of its intervention. Hence rhetoric plays a significant role on the formal level because the polemic must engage its audience and pull in sympathizers while castigating those who would sympathize with the line it is intended to attack. The polemic's genre is located in its rhetorical form.

3: Although rhetoric…

Thoughts on "Sovereignty" and Lenin's Conception of the State

Recently, after yet another re-read of Lenin's State and Revolution, I found myself thinking about that post-Marxist/post-Heideggerian concept of "sovereignty" received from Agamben (with some origin in Foucault) that has become doctrine for so many social theorists. Not that I haven't thought about this concept––or the way it has been linked to conceptions of biopolitics, governmentality, control, etc.––or bothered to think this concept before. I have taught it when I have had to teach those thinkers that use it, I have criticized it, and often I have dismissed it altogether. It's just that––and bear with me here because this will be a loosely structured meditation/intervention rather than the rigorous essay it deserves and that I might write at a later date––I haven't directly thought "sovereignty" in relation to Lenin's theoretical work on the state.


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Some background: I return to classics such as State and Revolution quite frequently. Lenin i…