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Showing posts from 2019

Errata and Qualifications for Demarcation & Demystification

My next book, Demarcation and Demystification , will be released this month. I discussed my general reasons for this project in a Medium article , and an early review of the book was recently published at Marx and Philosophy Review of Books––these articles should give the curious would-be reader a summary indication of the book's concerns. In any case, due to the book's impending release, I felt it was worth saying a few things about a book that might be less accessible than my previous works. Although I do my best to make my work accessible, a book on the meaning of philosophy and Marxist philosophy might be less accessible than what I have published to date. Considering the ways in which some critics of previous works of mine have misrepresented and distorted aspects of these works, often focusing on isolated sections so as to undermine the work as a whole, I feel that it is necessary to immediately deal with parts of Demarcation and Demystification  that might be misread

Again On Abdication

I grew up familiar with a lot of Christian circles, because of my family's Christianity, and some of them were quite weird. Despite the fact that my family, regardless of its own and sometimes odd commitments, was critical of mainstream Canadian evangelicalism, I still encountered those kids from Christian families that lived in weird little worlds of confirmation bias.  For example, I remember sleeping over at the house of a friend who was "pentacostal" on Halloween and being taken to a church drama ("Heaven's Gate and Hell Fire" – yes I remember the title) that scared the bejeezus out of me because it was about how all unbelievers would die screaming in hell. And this from a family that thought horror films were Satanic and yet subjected me to the worst kind of horror imaginable. To their credit my parents, whose commitment to Christianity was connected to conceptions of "the social gospel", were incensed that I had been subjected to such an expe

Response to "Postmodernism Always Dines On Its Own Flesh"

Struggle Sessions' recent hatchet job on me, Postmodernism Always Dines On Its Own Flesh , is so bad, and such a terrible misrepresentation, that I have to wonder if the people behind these polemics actually read my work (beyond the odd quotes here and there) or if they're intentionally being dishonest. In the past I didn't think it was worth responding to them because I didn't want to feed the troll; dishonest criticism (whether intentionally or unintentionally) is always difficult to deal with because those behind it are usually interested in doubling down and repeating the same falsities regardless of what you say. But this time, since it was so bad, I felt it was worth making several interventions so as to correct the misrepresentations. That and they concluded the piece complaining that I hadn't responded to them so this will probably be my only direct response. I have no interest in a back and forth where I'll just be repeating my position over and over in

What's with Revisionists Studying Anti-Revisionism?

There seems to be a minor trend of people connected to revisionist communist organizations investigating the New Communist Movement (NCM) and broadcasting their thoughts on this period as if they have somehow become experts in the past anti-revisionist sequence. I've been noticing this on Twitter––where people I've muted because of their connected to the Communist Party Canada and their annoyingly bad takes get re-tweeted by mutuals whenever they say something random about the NCM––so it may be a relatively minor trend. But its ideologues are loud and confident enough that, even if the trend is minor, it piques my interest. It's like these individuals recently read Max Elbaum's old book, heard some things about the NCM, and then embarked on a cursory investigation of articles hosted by the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism Online (EROL) so as to designate themselves experts of a period that was politically opposed to their chosen politics. That is, they tend to embark

Some Thoughts on the Memory of the Red Brigades

Having recently reread Strike One To Educate One Hundred , recently republished by Kersplebedeb , and now that I'm reading a draft of 1978: A New Stage in the Class War  (a collection of Red Brigades documents) that will be published by the same press very soon, I'm again stricken by the fact that the Red Brigades (BR) were the primary revolutionary force in Italy in the 1970s-80s. Unlike the Red Army Faction (RAF) and other similar urban guerrilla groups of that period, the BR was embedded in the proletariat and was able to launch something akin to a People's War in the metropoles that was not focoist. What is striking about this fact––the acknowledgment of which is inescapable when the documentation of that period is studied––is that the contemporary left in North America has an obsession with a particular articulation of Marxism in that period of Italian history that is not the politics of the BR and is largely ignorant of this politics. That is, for the past two or th

The "Modernity Critical of Modernity" Essay Trilogy Draws to a Close.

My upcoming essay for Abstrakt forms the completion of my trilogy concerning the emergence of Marxism in the context of modernity and the bourgeois order. Being a series of philosophical treatments (rather than a historiography, sociology, or political economy) these three essays focus on key and interconnected themes––Enlightenment, science, sovereign power––that are related to Marxism's manifestation as a "modernity critical of modernity". The point is to think Marxism's meaning against the ideological constellation from which it emerged as a challenge, as well as contemporary criticisms of Marxism that seek to crudely identify it with this ideological constellation thus reducing it to an antiquated philosophy amongst the other philosophies of the space and time of Marx and Engels. In this sense, Marxism is treated as an inheritor of the European Enlightenment project, no more or less meaningful than liberalism, notable only because it influenced a radical tradition

The Delusions of Academic Philosophy

Back during the 2008-2009 strike at York University, when I was walking the picket line as a Teaching Assistant and just a year away from completing my PhD, there were graduate students in my department who refused to participate. Not only because they refused to see themselves as workers (and instead believed in the "respectability" of being philosophy graduate students) but because they felt that their individual rationality, granted to them by studying philosophy, meant that they were experts in all areas of thought, even those they had done little to no research in. One student whose area was the philosophy of mind thus declared that the strike was "irrational" merely because he thought it was irrational. When asked about the meaning of a union, his understanding of what strikes were, and even basic information about what that strike concerned, he had nothing substantial to say except to repeat the talking points of anti-union columnists in a right wing newspape

Some Thoughts on the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry

With the Inquiry on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) having released its final report, a not so curious and all too predictable phenomenon has manifested in the general Canadian public. Despite the fact that the Inquiry used the term genocide , and connected the tragedy of MMIWG to colonialism, politicians, journalists, pundits, social networking personalities, the "average Canadian citizen", and even some self-proclaimed "leftists" are loudly proclaiming this tragedy is not  genocidal and ignoring what it would mean to recognize its connection with colonialism. This was predictable because the same groups of people (and indeed some of the identical individuals) made similar proclamations when the Truth and Reconciliation Committee that investigated the Residential School system also used the word genocide  and implicated Canadian settler-colonialism. Although it is important, maybe even monumental, that the Inquiry the Liberals set in motio

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 rh

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