February 14, 2020


Filed under: GA — adam @ 10:23 am

I’ve written this post in response to the following comment on the Absolutist Neoreaction reddit page:

I’ve noticed that even in your recent articles there’s something still off. That’s in regards to GA and mechanics.

It’s fair to say that liberalism has an obsession with the self and super-sovereignty in general. I don’t see how focusing on these pragmatist mechanisms is really actually transcending that. It seems like all we’re building is just some superior version of Gentile, which isn’t going to actually solve anything.

We, ourselves, can’t fall into this trap of evaluating liberal mechanics. As you’ve put forward there needs to be a direct scenic participation; however, I dont see how anything less than embodying paradox will solve this issue. Rather than speaking about paradox (predicate) we should speak paradox (subject).

When I say paradox I speak about asymmetry, first-ness, outside-ness, paranirvana, etc.. All of these are great examples of this emerging paradox that GA elucidates.

If we focus and bring a further awareness of what we’re even talking about, it becomes obvious that this is GAs true calling card. In order to properly transcend liberalism in toto, we can’t just simply focus on design even.

Rather than a flat rejection of super-sovereignty we should be gathering threads of older imperatives in history in order to develop a constantly evolving praxis. We’re only ever actually going to get anywhere if we can participate fully, ultimately that’s what’s going to make us different. Not evaluation of ‘why these are bad’ or ‘inquiries into language’, but rather the focus is the most direct participation available.

Now to address the morality issue of simple charisma and unifying centers. This, once again, is part of the same issues. There needs to be a recognition of unity in dissonance. Embodying and speaking anthropological and moral paradoxes. It really can’t be distilled so easily to static and even dynamic charisma vs transgression. We need to further pick apart moral agency even, with that focus on paradox/asymmetry. Ultimately we shouldn’t be unifying to distill into one bigger center, but rather recognizing that we can turn centers themselves (paradoxically) into larger grander ones, simply by digging down (backwards in history).

I should add before I conclude, that what I’ve typed is by no means fully formed or all that probably has to be said. I’m open to being wrong but I hope I got my point across.

To conclude, don’t speak about asymmetry, embody it to generate praxis.


Since this message is a call for praxis, I’m in a bit of a double bind because my response here can hardly be anything more than speaking about all of the above. I certainly wouldn’t know how to begin to speak about something like strategy or logistics in this context. The question of flatly rejecting super-sovereignty might be a good place to start. In a sense we shouldn’t be flatly rejecting anything—all language is language we can inhabit. Participation is first of all participating in another’s language. If you surface the paradoxes constituting the other’s discourse, then you’re embodying paradox. A good place to begin is making explicit the distinctions and boundaries implicitly established in the other’s discourse. You find a way to represent some position that both can’t and must exist in the other’s discourse. A simple example: I’ve noted that if you listen carefully to certain victimary discourses, especially on gender and race lines, you can, with very minor adjustments in the feminist’s or anti-racist’s discourse, show them to be essentially confessing the inadequacy of women or blacks to fully participate in a modern social order. Too much offends them, too much frightens them, too much disables them, too many minor obstacles for others are insurmountable stumbling blocks for them, etc. You can learn to simply read this off the other’s discourse and enact it, without making any overt argument of your own. You can then, not present yourself as the real anti-racist who is quite confident that the victim group in question is quite capable of meeting all the rigorous demands of modern life, but, rather, initiate a discussion of institutional and social design. The feminist or anti-racist might be stymied—if you perform well—but I think my notion of the “sovereign imaginary” could be effective here in laying out some of the governing prerequisites for meeting some of the other’s explicit and implicit demands. What kind of state are you imagining such that it could do what is necessary to address what you want addressed?

I’ve been experimenting with a kind of “vocabulary reform” within my anthropomorphic version of GA. I’ve been working with the concept of “mistakenness” for quite a while now, and it’s one of the concepts that some seem to have found the most interesting and useful. I want to first of all emphasize that this concept is derived directly from Gans’s analysis of the succession of language forms from ostensive to imperative to interrogative (which has still not quite gotten its due) to the declarative. The imperative derives from an “inappropriate” ostensive, which the interlocutor tries to rescue by actually producing the demanded object. The declarative, in a more complex way, derives similarly from an inappropriate imperative. What leads to the rescue of the inappropriate gesture or utterance in each case is the desire for what Gans calls “linguistic presence,” and which we can perhaps simply call “presence,” because what would a non-linguistic presence be? The need for maintaining or restoring presence itself derives from the originary scene—we can say, a little anachronistically, that preserving linguistic presence is the first imperative of the center. And what it meant first of all was that each member on the scene ensure that his sign was the same as that issued by others. A sign that wasn’t the same would be a marker either of an intent to resume the approach to the center or to cease defending the center along with the others—either possibility would threaten the collapse of the group.

So, from the start we have this basic dialectic of mistakenness-presence. My hypothesis is that this dialectic can do all the work of what I have increasingly come to find to be the clumsy and imprecise concepts of “desire” and (especially) “resentment.” With “resentment” in particular, not only do I not see it attain a stable meaning in Gans’s work, but it’s the kind of term that impedes praxis or “participation.” Once you call the other “resentful” you disqualify him as a participant—he really has no choice but to throw the same epithet back at you. My “bet” is that anything we refer to as a marker of resentment could just as illuminatingly be referred to as an instance of mistakenness—an imperative from the center has been obeyed “inappropriately.” The most stable meaning of “resentment,” I think, is that it involves accusing another of receiving more from the center than he “deserves,” which in turn is an at least implicit accusation directed toward the center—the substance of that accusation being that the center is insufficiently central, since a genuine central would distribute benefits “appropriately.” But since the center always distributes appropriately, this accusation must be mistaking the command of the center as one to point out this insufficient centrality. The restoration of presence on the part of the other participants on the scene then involves obeying that command in such a way as to ensure that both the accuser and accused have “something to do,” and a more explicitly named (not necessarily better) status within the community. Insofar as the center was insufficiently central, that deficiency lay in some failure in our obedience to its commands. In scriptural terms, the problem is that we were “of little faith.”

If you were determined to prove to another that he was acting resentfully (not just prove to others who, like yourself, might be too prepared to convict), what would be the best way to go about it? It seems to me you’d have to construct a scene upon which his resentments were acted out without any “objective correlative” to those resentments in the scene itself. If you, for example, suspect someone of resenting his friend’s success, while he in fact believes he has a perfectly good reason for criticizing that friend (e.g., he’s a “sell-out”), then you’d need a situation in which that friend is demonstrably not selling out but the criticism gets triggered all the same. This is essentially a comic, or satiric, episode. You’d then be able to point to how the “resenter” acted, and what he responded to, and help him see the incommensurability, or “inappropriateness.” If it’s done well, and he’s at all willing and able to see, then he will. But the best person to be at the center of this enactment would be the friend himself, which is to say the person who actually elicits the resentment. So, “participation” here means being willing to put yourself forward as the “trigger” for resentments that you could then expose, elucidate and find some way to share and thereby dissolve.

But I said that I don’t want to speak in terms of “resentment”—or, at least, I want to not have to do so. That makes things easier—rather than proving that the other is mistaken, you create presence and prove it by canceling the mistake. And we’re all always mistaken within some frame. You can think about mistakenness as someone making a move that would be appropriate in some actual or possible game, but not in the game everyone else happens to be playing at the time. Since the person presumably wasn’t making the mistake on purpose (in that case it wouldn’t be a mistake), they were making a move that can be seen as “analogous” in some way to moves that would be proper within the ongoing game. In that case, someone can find a way to revise the game so that move would now be a proper (but not necessarily winning) one. But this also means that someone could stumble into a new move which renders all the appropriate ones inappropriate, i.e., turns the entire game into a new one (it would have to be a strong move to enact its own mistakenness so insistently).

If we’re focused, in this way, on countering and building on one another’s moves, with the main goal being to keep the game going, make it more inclusive, more productive of better moves and new kinds of coordination, then we never have to step outside of the game to question someone’s motives or whether they are the bearer of feelings or “states” like desire and resentment. Whatever we need to know about them will be exhibited in their moves. So, this is a kind of paradox to be embodied: knowing it’s a game—or, really, the more open-ended “play”—while simultaneously taking it completely seriously. The more self-referential the play, the more each move points back to and repurposes previous moves. The existence of the play, and the increasing density of the “traditions” of moves embodies an adherence to the center around which we revolve, however unevenly; meanwhile, the ongoing play provides opportunities for the players to occupy centers by making moves that create “temporary monopolies” (a term of Gans’s) of attention—all on the condition that no one steps outside of the play into a meta-language (super-sovereignty) that would claim to codify the rules from outside of the play. (Any attempt to do so would be treated a mistake and recouped within the presence of the play.) Such temporary monopolies would be, within this analogy, “governance,” and one possessing such a monopoly would govern so as to sustain that position as a node within the field, that others could subsequently occupy, insofar as they model themselves on the present occupant and make that region of the field especially productive and “corporal” (that is, involving all its members).

Wherever you are, whether thinking or acting, someone has just made a move for you to translate into the first in a sequence of moves, governed by rules that will become more explicit while generating more tacit rules along the way. There’s even a practice of composition here, as you can counter and build on your previous “mistaken” moves, creating structures that contain a margin of mistakenness acknowledging their own historical limitations, and making implicit requests for saving presence from participants yet to come.

January 19, 2020

Design and the Attentional Economy

Filed under: GA — adam @ 6:55 am

I’ve been working for a while with the assumption that the “Axial Age” created the conditions for the generation of a new, post-sacrificial morality. Sacrificial morality relies, ultimately, on human sacrifice: someone is put in the place, ultimately, of the sacral king, who served as the target of the mimetic crises that plague any human community. Girard called this “scapegoating,” and I have been calling it “violent centralization,” and I have been following Girard, and then Gans, in attributing to the Christian scriptural tradition the revelation of the “bad faith” of sacrifice—the members of the community must blind themselves to the fact that what they see as an act of deserved retribution (the victim must always been rendered “guilty” in some way) really has nothing to do with the victim and everything to do with their own internal relations as a group. Calling the social orders marked by this revelation “post-sacrificial” is not to argue that such bad faith centering of the other no longer takes place—obviously, it’s quite common—but that everyone knows it’s wrong, can see it in others, and require elaborate rationalizations to carry it out. When we do it, we must insist it’s something else—and, of course, sometimes it really is.

I believe that, so far, I share this understanding of what Gans calls the “Christian revelation” with just about everyone who has been working in GA since, say, the 90s. In other words, it’s “canonical,” or “orthodoxy.” There is a seemingly obvious corollary that is equally canonical or orthodox, but which I reject. This corollary is that a certain understanding and reality of the “individual” results from the transcendence of scapegoating: the individual who is “equal” to other individuals, within the framework of what gets called “moral equality.” I’ve criticized this concept before, but my recent thinking about design provides it with a larger frame. My initial claim is that the social injunction to refrain from scapegoating implies nothing, and need imply nothing, regarding the “being” of the potential victim. In order to justify and reinforce that injunction, or the prohibition on scapegoating, it might indeed be helpful to project onto those not to be sacrificed the qualities which make them undeserving of such treatment. So, for example, if human beings all inherently somehow possess something we can call “dignity,” then it is because of that dignity that they must be treated in certain ways. The same goes for things like “consciousness,” “conscience,” and what Gans has always called an “internal scene of representation.” Rather than such projections, all we need to be able to say about the self is that is continually constructed as a sustainable center of attention, that of others and the self itself. These qualities and entities, along with the aforementioned “moral equality,” and notions of the “soul,” are all, that is, parts of a mythology of the individual, a way of invoking the center (drawing from it imperatives) to match the imperative to refrain from marking individuals in ways that have proven communally destructive.

It would be at least as easy to say that this prohibition on “marking” the other as victim (or “stigmatizing”) leads us, not to an ontology of the “individual,” but a semiotics of marking. So, we could say, if you frame this kind of behavior in this way, it is likely to incite this kind of response from a particular audience, and so on. A cataloguing of such “markings” would tell us nothing about individuals, but only of possible social constructions of them. And which markings needed to be attended to, and cautioned about, in different cases, would differ considerably—in other words, the prohibition on scapegoating could just as easily lead to an insistence on attending to lots of differences among individuals. Such an approach would be far more effective than the one based on “moral equality,” which leads us to scapegoat anyone who notices anything that might make us skeptical of that moral equality, and the way it is enforced under any given regime, and therefore leads straight to our current victimary order, which is has significant sacrificial elements. It would be more effective because it would direct attention where it needs to be, on the proclivities of the community and the various fluctuations in mimetic tensions, rather than upon the imaginary qualities of potential victims and potential perpetrators.

If our only interest is in “marking,” then, we need no ontology of the individual—nothing, no consciousness, no soul, inner being, free will, nothing. But people would, naturally, construct their behaviors in ways that make the markings most potentially relevant to them as irrelevant (or “counter-relevant”) as possible—to put it simply, they would both be aware of the way certain stereotypes might apply to them, and do what they could to disrupt the application of those stereotypes—which, in turn, would make things easier for those who don’t want their thinking to be in the grips of such stereotypes, but also don’t want to censor themselves for noticing differences. In fact, we would be finding ways to take the sting out of stereotypes, for ourselves and others, by making them explicit and thereby making it possible to modify behaviors, even by turning “negative” stereotypes into “positive” ones. All this would obviously be very different from the way we go about things now, and, I’ll repeat, requires no projection of an ontology onto the “individual” nor any assumptions of “equality.”

What it will do, though, is turn individuals into designers—of practices and institutions. I’ve been doing some reading in contemporary design theory, of the kind that is very cognizant of postmodern thought (I’ll mention briefly the work of Benjamin Bratton, especially his The Stack, and his colleagues in the Strelka Institute in Moscow), and one can see the tendency towards a very promising post-humanism. The notion that individuals were “constructed” was once a fairly esoteric theoretical speculation, but how does one deny it now that our whole lives are very tightly governed by algorithms under the control of corporations and states that now, between them, regulate all social interactions? Now, this intellectual tendency is very clear about how the complex of systems constructing our lives—which they are sure to do far more intensively, down to the molecular level, as technology improves—practically dismantle the mythology of the individual I’ve been referring to—where does one find “freedom,” or “conscience” in all of this?—assertions of such qualities are themselves programmed gestures. But the same does not hold for the prohibition on scapegoating, which I would say, counter-intuitively, but in agreement with Girard’s claim that Europe didn’t stop burning witches because it became scientific but, rather, became scientific because it stopped burning witches, that the prohibition of scapegoating has made all of modern technology and even more so its current, scary, intrusive, seemingly uncontrollable social media technology possible.

It’s not hard to find people with complaints about the totalitarian nature of social media and the forms of government surveillance and information gathering and keeping that work seamlessly with them. But, despite the very serious criminality of sections of the American government that has been revealed through inquiries into the Russia collusion hoax, a criminality almost universally shared with the major American media (which is really nothing more, and probably never has been anything more, than a racket trafficking in information and what we could call “information laundering”), it is still worth pointing out that, for example, these ubiquitous means of social monitoring and control have not led, say, to the isolation and targeting for elimination of large social groups. You could say I’m setting a low bar, but if it were the case that this thoroughgoing construction of the individual revealed morality to be a myth concealing sheer utilitarian power struggles or the conveyance of collective resentments, such things would be happening (as they seem to be in China). Meanwhile, if it’s the case that it’s the origin of these technological capacities in the study of the various “dangerous” markings that the prohibition on scapegoating calls for, then the evidence of clear moral limits on the use of this immense power is no surprise. In fact, if we set aside the dominance of much of social media by the “wokeratti,” what this media mostly does is provide security and enhance knowledge dissemination. It’s actually much easier to use it to exonerate rather than frame the innocent.

A lot of scapegoating takes place on social media—at times it seems like little else goes on there. My claim here is that the nature of social media is more to be used to design social interactions or “interfaces” that foreground dangerous markings along with ways of deferring their danger. I’m obviously also saying that those who want to abolish victimary practices should be using social media in this way. Also, I’m just using social media as an example here—post-liberalism should be a project of design across the board. The human sciences should be practices of design—mimetic theory channeled through the originary hypothesis allows us to diagnose institutional dysfunction in terms of ineffectively designed modes of deferral caused by undetected modes of mimetic rivalry; and such diagnoses would lead to proposed designs that would acknowledge the rivalry and re-set them.

You could say that this leads to a practice, if not ontology, of the individual—the individual as designer of social interactions. Again, nothing needs to projected onto individuals—we don’t need to say that humans are “by nature” designers, that it is their telos to design, that they are genetically determined to be designers, etc.—it’s enough that we are designers as a result of the ways our ancestors and predecessors designed the institutions producing us. We don’t all need to be equally good at it. Those who are better at have an interest in helping the less skilled; indeed, they have an interest in designing institutions and practices that will make people better designers. Making design the definitive neo-absolutist practice supports the kind of dedifferentiated disciplinary spaces I’ve argued for elsewhere. We’re always starting with a practice, which we can assume fits a model, and has therefore been designed more or less directly. We can start right where we are, in other words, in improving the design of our own practices and interactions so as to minimize the damage unthinking mimesis does to them. Once we’re committed to a particular practice, we become interested in organizations and institutions that can house and support them. This, in turn, generates new design projects. Designs can be made across the moral, aesthetic, pedagogical and political spheres—we design assignments to enhance learning; we design impossible objects, like perpetual motion machines or Rube Goldberg-style devices, to satirically expose failing institutions and unconsidered assumptions; we can design inspiring utopian visions in the great tradition of such visions; we can unite the infinite with the infinitesimal in our designs; we can design projects for social reform for potential patrons (indeed, wouldn’t they demand it?). In this way, any discussion can be put on entirely new footing, and piles of ideological baggage swept away—we can be designing to make sure that happens as well.

Design involves translation: a problem into confluence of reciprocally counter-acting designs; desires into a project; a territory into a map; a map into directions; patterns of social interactions into accumulations of reciprocal mimetic modellings; declaratives into an imperative meeting an absolute imperative; imperatives into extended ostensives; any utterance into spread out presuppositions and implications of that utterance; oral into written. Measuring is translating; money is a medium of translation. Any two terms you could put an “=” sign between involves a translation. Even more, then: the use of words and phrases at different times involves what we could call a translation of a term into itself, insofar as it becomes different over time. The designing frame entails looking at everything as problems of translation (and if we want to push this a bit further, transcription and transliteration as well0. You ascertain that the two terms are the same, that the “=” is appropriate, which makes you identify all the ways one could introduce a / through or an ~ above the =. When you design you confirm the = by eliminating all the /s and ~s. This is done on the scenes upon which you design narratives and articulate human movements with materials so as to inhabit and suspend the /s and ~s; you are being designed on this same scene, since the most basic reciprocal translation is that between design and designer.

January 8, 2020

Design, Imitation, and the Transfer Translation

Filed under: GA — adam @ 2:25 pm

Where do opinions, ideas, beliefs and arguments stand within the production system of modern life? Everyone has ideas, opinions and beliefs, and everyone makes arguments all the time, but through what process of mechanism can one imagine all this mental machinery being translated into institutional modifications that would be recognized by their possessors as realizations of the intentions manifested in them? For that matter, where do ideas, beliefs, and so on come from? Anyone could point to books one has read, education received, events that led to revelations, influences by parents and media, but where do all those sources come from? Once the Enlightenment fantasy of a conversation among equals being directly translated into the creation of social relations is dismissed, we can’t do better than invoking Plato’s cave metaphor in describing ideas, beliefs, opinions and arguments—they are descriptions of shadows playing on a wall. Then again, what would make what I’m doing here any different?

Social practices are commensurable with each other as practices, and, so, if we set aside terms derivative of the metalanguage of literacy like “ideas,” “beliefs,” “opinions” and “arguments,” and think of speaking, writing, listening and reading as practices, we can speak of media practices that might be converted into or made interoperable with other media practices. A practice is something that one or some do, that can be done again and be the same thing. A practice is a doing in the middle of things that are happening. Part of the practice, then, is marking the difference between what you are doing and what is happening. So, if your saying or doing (your saying as doing) can be iterated by others in such a way that others can say it’s the same thing, well, you can’t guarantee specific results, but you can distinguish the ordering of your practices from a world of events that, as far as anyone can tell, are just happening.

The most elementary understanding of knowing is that it is being able to say that two things are, or the same thing at different times, or to different participants, is, the same; insofar as things are parts of other things, this means that knowledge is being able to say that the proportions of the ingredients comprising the parts of one part are the same as the ingredients comprising the whole. In other words, that a sample is the same (in some respect) as the population it is selected from. Selecting a sample by doing something is a practice, that may or may not be the same as a system of practices it self-selects from. Nothing is lost if we say that a sample is a translation of the population, or the whole—the whole being nothing more than all of the actual and possible translations of it (in collections, new arrangements, measurements, etc.). A translation produces something in one medium that is the same as some original in another medium. So, all social practices are translations of all the other translations, with the question always being, what makes it a translation, or the same, in this new medium as all the others. When people gather into a disciplinary space, it is to answer this question.

This now returns us to the “transfer translation” Marcel Jousse found at the basis of the “oral style”—while Jousse is not completely clear about this, the transfer translation seems to be the written residue of the most repeated and most broadly applicable, the most embedded in rituals and other practices, of the oral traditions of a community—the parts of the oral tradition that must be preserved and therefore cannot be allowed to dissipate with the loss of or diminishing intelligibility of the language in which they have been articulated. Since these central discourses have been transferred into a new medium, with different idioms, much of the original is lost, so ascertaining the identity of the translation is the most important of social practices. Let’s say that in the original God “breathes” life into humans, but Gods don’t “breath” in the target language—maybe God “gives birth” to humans in that language. Now we have two origin narratives, the difference is noticeable and problematic, and therefore must be reconciled. All our ideas, beliefs, opinions and arguments are the effluvia of these efforts at reconciliation.

We begin with the assumption of sameness and commensurability because doing so is a precondition of the maintenance of linguistic presence and then we create original cultural forms by showing that the new form is the same as the old. This happens because showing it’s the same requires that we generate the idiom within which the repeated form will indeed be a repetition of the form previously embedded within another idiom. This is a way of saying we always assume order, continuity and centeredness. It is also the case that translation is a form of language learning, insofar as we learn a new idiom, or how to use a new word, by treating it as synonymous with ones we are familiar with while also guessing at its proper use in each new context until the responses of other tell us we’ve got it right. Keep in mind the way Google learned to translate—at first, word for word synonymous translations produced laughably bad results; then, drawing upon previous translations of the same words, phrases and sentences produced seamless results. That search process, for humans, involves trial and error, as we have to find idioms that fit an entire field of discourse in the target language.

I have mentioned on occasion that discourses on racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., are really just “superstructures” erected over anti-discrimination law, which makes it ridiculous to argue over what these words “really mean,” and I’ll return to that now because it’s a good example of translation as a fundamental cultural practice. Liberalism declares all members of a polity to be “equal”—equal in relation to the state, but in relation to the state as form of centralizing power directed at demolishing formal differences, one after another. To align yourself with the state is to point to a difference to be demolished. This is what counts as being a good person. That this is really not about equality in any possible sense is clear from the fact, intrinsic to such a demand, that you or others like you be given power over those now benefiting from the difference under attack. One form of hierarchy is being replaced by another. So far, this is all familiar enough. But in applying liberal law, or anti-discrimination law, all kinds of distinctions and decisions need to be made: what actually counts as a violation of the law? We need model events, narratives, to make sense of this, like those involving fat Southern sheriffs harassing innocent black people. These stories are translations of the practices involved in enforcing the law, and they are reproduced, refined, and modified as necessary by legal institutions, journalists, politicians, schools, and so on. Broader sociological, anthropological and political concepts are generated to supplement these stories, to make the accounts of differences and attempts to eliminate them as consistent as possible. You can’t argue about these concepts and stories without participating in the practice of translation that produced them—which is why, again, it’s pointless to argue about them.

Now, we can propose, “logically,” the abolition of liberalism, thereby getting directly to the heart of the problem. But this can’t work without a network of practices generating the translative practices that would plug such an argument into narratives and supplementary concepts. And such practices are excluded by the ones already in place. The system of practices and the translations they generate needs to be exposed; but whose “need” is this, what imperative demands it, and from within what set of practices can this exposure be effected? If we want to think in the long term, this becomes a question of which disciplines to infiltrate and how. I would suggest that transdisciplinary practices of meta-translation can be summed up on the problem of design, which is a way of constraining translative practices. To engage in design, of a block, a neighborhood, a city, an institution, a network of institutions, is to think in terms of how the work of all the different disciplines would be translated into each other and into the design as a whole.

We can think very productively about design in terms of mimesis and deferral. If we know that a certain social arrangement regularly leads to certain rivalries, and those rivalries lead to conflicts which disrupt the ends for which participants engage in that activity, then, rather than talk to the individuals (or “types” of individuals) commonly led into those rivalries, and “explaining” to them why they are really wrong to distrust each other, that it would be better if they worked together, and so on, we would simply redesign the social arrangement so as to avoid the emergence of those rivalries. Of course, another arrangement might lead to other rivalries—we’re talking about a complex business here, in which various disciplinary spaces would need to participate. But framing, from the start, every problem as, in essence, a design problem, directs attention towards media, technology, and capital (the power to command the disciplines), rather than ephemera like opinions, beliefs, principles, opinions, policies and so on. The question we pose is, what deployment of media, technology and capital might render a particular conflict irrelevant? We don’t want to resolve the conflict itself, we don’t want to reconcile the parties, we don’t want to hear them out, we don’t want dialogue, we don’t want to take sides, etc.—we want to render the conflict unintelligible, like an argument over the proper way to arrange the sacrificial animal on an altar in some archaic community would be unintelligible to us now. All conflicts, actual and potential, are to be transformed into means of providing informed feedback to duly appointed authorities.

All practices, then, are to be translated into design practices. The media, technology, capital and power that have gone into producing a certain practice (of, say, conducting an ongoing debate) are included in the practice as part of its idiom. This is not a question of pacification—mimetic practices and practices of deferral are represented all along the line. New forms of mimesis, of modeling our behavior on others, must be proposed for each element of the design. You can imitate someone in such a way as to shrink the object you learn from him to notice and desire, so that there is only enough for one of you; or you can imitate another so as to enlarge the object so it can be shared. The latter is easier if we openly acknowledge that we are modeling our behavior on others, which we all know but will all reject for those practices we take to be most distinctive to us. It may be easier to openly acknowledge our unpayable mimetic debts to others if we learn to treat our own practices as design problems, which would naturally involve studying models and distinguishing what is usable and what is not, including what we are already using and misusing. Our transfer translations of design hypotheses would generate stories and supplementary concepts, like any transfer translation, but they would be stories of anthropomorphized beings engaged in translating the “human” into a current set of practices.

Engaging in full scale design requires power and capital, which excludes those who are not privileged actors within the liberal order. But every institution within the liberal order has a non-liberal purpose (liberalism has no purposes that is not parasitic on non-liberal institutions and practices) and insofar as public discourse is part of a post-liberal political practice, rather than offering up our opinions, beliefs, principles, and so on in pointless back and forths with those of others, we can present designs in the form of thought experiments that would eliminate the problem caused by liberalism by making liberalism impossible or irrelevant. There may not be any need to be explicitly anti-liberal—one could be ingenious enough to even propose voting systems that make voting irrelevant. These would be thought experiments that would re-formalize the differences and hierarchies that have been demolished, and would displace statements with practices (would insist every statement generate a practice to be part of the game). Whatever organizational form post-liberal politics eventually takes, it will be predicated upon presenting hypothetical designs, large and small, as demonstrations of the capacity to embark upon transformative design practices.

December 30, 2019

As Who Does One Speak?

Filed under: GA — adam @ 7:26 pm

When I listen to Michael Bloomberg, I hear a very wealthy and powerful man who, whether out of a lack of self-awareness or indifference to the effect of his attitude on others, sounds very much like a man speaking directly from his wealth and power. He has no hesitations in dictating to subordinates, prescribing behavior to poor people and other presumed inferiors, casually discussing various legal arrangements to channel behaviors in ways approved by social elites, and, perhaps most “shockingly,” seemingly spontaneously identifying with China’s “authoritarian” rulers in discussing ways of influencing China’s environmental policies (has he had anything to say recently about Hong Kong?). I am assuming that Bloomberg’s casual rhetoric of power will not win him the presidency, but it’s worth asking the apparently obvious question of why that’s the case, and of noting Bloomberg’s singularity here. Other extremely prominent and powerful billionaires don’t speak like that—Donald Trump, for example, doesn’t. In other words, billionaires very rarely “own” their power—they much prefer to speak as ordinary citizens who have risen from among us in a way any of us could, and as people who want to use their good fortune and the lessons they’ve learned to show us the way. Or, of course, to speak for the “powerless,” or the “environment” (of course, Bloomberg does this as well) It’s unfortunate, but probably to be expected, that Bloomberg’s fantasies (which he has been able to partially realize as mayor of New York) are petty and schoolmarmy—that interview on China, where he took his outraged interviewer through the various considerations the “dictator” Jinping must enter into his decision-making process was undoubtedly his most interesting moment. Maybe that’s the arena he views himself as best suited for.

So, Bloomberg himself may not be very interesting, but the complete absence of a serious rhetoric of power from the modern world is. Wouldn’t detailed, honest, accounts of everything that goes into their decision-making by the most powerful people in the world be the most informative disclosures we could imagine? Wouldn’t you want to see how the world looks to them? (Maybe they themselves don’t really know!) Think of how irresistible it seems for reporters, pundits and various left and right dissidents alike to pretend to be inside Donald Trump’s head: he’s worried now, he’s being played by his advisors, he’s too lazy to see that things are out of his control, how can he be so lacking in self-control, etc., etc. All of these (often hysterical) speculations are certainly wrong in important ways, and for reasons that should be obvious—from his perch, Trump knows lots of things none of us do. It’s not very often that one sees this pointed out—or that Trump has known many things very few people do for decades. And yet it’s easy to see why Trump can’t speak explicitly from within that perch, that is, drawing upon is vast array of sources and inside knowledge of those he must work with and those he must undermine. Insofar as Trump has ambitious plans for the use of power (unlike the anemic Bloomberg—but, then again, do I know what he knows?), such openness would diminish rather than enhance its exercise. The less others know about the precise sources of his power, the better—except for when he wants to bring a very precise quantum of power to bear in a particular instance. In any plural, and therefore unstable, order, power is exercised through leverage, and if others know your points of leverage they might be able to target those points with some kind of counter-leverage.

But I think there’s more to it than that. Were Trump, or any powerful figure, to speak so explicitly about the sources and purposes of his power, he would be presenting an image of the world most of us would be incapable of reproducing or picturing for ourselves. It would sound crazy. For one thing, we wouldn’t be in it, and there would be no “characters” for us to “identify” with. Any medieval peasant would have easily understood that his own understanding can’t begin to encompass that of the king’s, but such a realization is almost impossible now—to suggest it is to sound insulting, and as if you are describing massive “abuses” of power rather than the basic conditions of its use. I can’t think of a single work of art or entertainment set in the present that takes the perspective of the powerful, or the social center—which would be very different from the very common representation of the persecuted individual trying to evade or overthrow the center. This represents a very serious intellectual deficiency—a crippling one, really—and one we should start remedying.

We can’t remedy this defect by pretending to speak from power ourselves—that would be mere fantasizing. We have to read power off of the effects it produces down the line. And we can only do this as those who have themselves been produced by power. We have no choice but to make sense of power because power is disordered and disordering, and disorder can only be made sense of, indeed, recognized as such, against a residual, possible or implicit model of order. The most basic indication of order is things remaining the same. Which things? By what measure of sameness? We’d have to select a sample of things, and establish a disciplinary space that ascertains its identity over time—this amounts to showing that you can point to what others have named. There are always such spaces underway, and it’s a question of joining one, and then improving it. Ascertaining sameness over time is a problem because everything changes, and there are two ways of solving this problem. First, you can ignore all changes and differences and keep repeating those markers of sameness most evident to one’s fellow learners. Second, you identify the sameness in the midst of differences; this involves an oscillation between noted differences and retrieved or re-affirmed markers of sameness. In the process new markers of sameness will replace the old, which means what counts as a marker of sameness will be markers of continuity and transition, or repetition with a difference—an originary logic of iteration, according to which our “sample” is a marker of the origin of our inquiry into it, and the origin of that inquiry is in the production of that sample, in which our inquiry is a, furthermore, participation.

Committing to the origin and history of the sample involves some form of impersonation—not in the sense of taking on another’s identity but of taking on a persona. Conducting an inquiry means being shaped by the inquiry; the more engrossing the inquiry, the more deeply shaped by it the inquirer; so the sample itself, as constructed by the learners, provides the names that provide the materials for impersonation. A good persona, or mask (or costume), is one that can exist on both the scene of inquiry and the scene inquired into, or the sample. Charles Sanders Peirce said that all knowledge is knowledge of the relation between a sample and the whole—more precisely, whether the “proportions” of whatever “ingredients” you are interested in are the same in the sample as in the whole. Of course, the whole is changing as you extract each sample, and you could never extract enough samples to equal the whole, so we’re always approximating. There are measures we can take to ensure that the sample will be as close a simulation of the whole as possible, and we learn what these measures are through the process of sampling itself.

If it is knowledge about power that we seek, then the “ingredients” we want to discern the “proportions” of are those of power that generates order relative to power that generates disorder. That’s really a question of whether the practices of the center remain the same over time. The practices each of us participates in, and those we are made aware of via the more or less reliable media we have access to, provide us with our sample, which is always at some distance from the center. We are interested in the inquiry because we want more order, and we want more intelligent order, which is really saying the same thing. It’s possible to want more disorder, but only because you see the possibility of a more orderly setting for your own quest, at this moment, within a broader increase in disorder—but, even then, you’d have to try to stabilize the conditions enabling the continuation of that quest, or the preservation of its results. In that case, the fundamental disagreement we wish to isolate is between those seeking more direct and those seeking more indirect paths to order. Within the sample we help to comprise, we distinguish between more and less direct paths to order, and in doing so try to pave more direct ones. The smaller, more infinitesimal differences we can mark between more and less indirect paths, the more effectively we can leverage that distinction. The identity you take on, then, in the ongoing iteration of your inquiry, is one that represents the ordering subject marking the distinction for another insofar as that other is marginally less ordering. If the difference between the two is reduced to the infinitesimal, the two will be changing positions, so your identity is simultaneously that of a learner as well as teacher. Identities will take on names, but more fundamentally the notion refers here to style, figuration, and idiom.

Your maintenance of an identity, given to as much as taken by you, is the way you know things and make things known to others. The “flaneur” of 19thcentury Paris communicated knowledge of the street as a series of passing scenes. Philosophers like Kierkegaard and Nietzsche did much of their thinking through impersonations—everyone does, but they were just more explicit and knowing about it than others. Epistemologically, such positions are superior to those occupied, discursively, by those in the seats of power—Bloomberg’s remarks on China startle because he says what is forbidden within democratic discourse, and doesn’t seem to care, or, perhaps, realize, that he is doing so—but he gets pretty banal pretty quickly. From a position of power, it’s easier to make disorder than to create order—the direct advantages to be gained from the former are much more obvious. It’s hard to see how anyone with proximity to the center would choose sustainable order over the marginal utility of disorder without knowledge of its possibility, along with knowledge of the futility of exploitable disorders, being transmitted upwards to those in power through displays of discipline from below. This means having names, styles, idioms—an aesthetic.

Here’s a good way to think about aesthetics. There’s some object, or person, or type of practice, that draws dangerous, i.e., mimetically convergent attention. It’s the kind of thing you’d want to render sacred, so as to defer the violent attraction—you want to put it beyond bounds, so it can remain safe, and so can we. But you can’t render it sacred, because only a shared event can do so, as you realize in the course of your efforts. So, your representation of the object is now a representation of the impossibility of sacralizing it, and since this does not diminish the need to protect it, the aesthetic representation makes a case for a different mode of deferral, one to which the spectator/participant’s contribution is more explicit. The aesthetic takes up space ceded by the sacred, and aesthetic representations are representations of the unsacralizable and of a world needing new powers of deferral. This is a world requiring more explicit knowledge of mimesis, and its historical articulation in power, media and technology.

Aesthetics, then, also refuses degraded and decadent forms of sacrality, like the bizarre Christian heresies that have devolved into liberalism. Aesthetics seeks out a more direct representation of sociality, of both desires and resentments, stripped of their justifications, and of the institutional forms for naming, pre-empting and countering those desires and resentments—also with no more “elaboration” than that needed to make imperatives issued from within those institutions known. Of course, doing this might involve displaying and exposing lots of justifications and elaborations. The work needs to exhaust the attempts to sacralize as well as the attempts to pretend it’s unnecessary to try. Aesthetics itself should ultimately be dissolved into more knowing and thinking modes of authority, designed so as to eliminate the imperative exchanges in which resentments are bound up (resentments themselves would, then, be directly converted into reasonable and helpful criticisms of the exercise of authority). To put forth an aesthetic, then, is to embody, or impersonate, a form of authority—authority, we could say, is power retracted completely into the ostensive, so presence itself models the proper ordering. So, we want to create identities that tacitly call forth an ordering, that add one more increment of sameness amongst a broader field of difference than existing positions have so far identified.

December 2, 2019

Conditions for an Enduring Technostructural Civilization

Filed under: GA — adam @ 9:26 am

The most destructive thing about liberalism is the systematic falsification it imposes on all of reality. One could say that this has gotten worse—that, for example, mid-20thcentury liberalism didn’t so adamantly demand fealty to obvious lies—but this only means that our social orders were less liberal then. At this point, there are very few things one can tell the truth, or seek the truth, about, even in private life, without some kind of “backlash.” The reason for this is that liberalism is founded on the oxymoronic practice of imposing equality from above (which is the only way of imposing “equality”). The purpose of imposing equality from above—from a centralizing power position—is to demolish intermediate layers of authority. You need to demolish intermediate layers of authority when you can find no way of integrating them into the power dynamic you need to set in motion in order to undermine some other power center’s dynamic. The consequence is that you destroy reality, because reality can only be comprehended and apprehended from within positions of power and authority, where you need to make decisions whose results are visible and important to others who have to make decisions. And then you have to redouble your attacks on anyone who gestures towards a reality outside of your egalitarian imperative. This process has already significantly corroded the sciences and engineering, and can only continue to do so.

The creation of a new order would have to involve more reality. That is, people would have to be rewarded, not punished, for speaking and seeking the truth; or, more precisely, for putting forward disputable hypotheses within recognizable intellectual traditions. There will always be borderline hypotheses, where one or more of those traditions are radically called into question, thereby raising questions of institutional authority, but even there a wait and see approach can be maintained, while that sphere of inquiry is “quarantined” without being squashed. Truth (or reality) friendly regimes have so far only been possible within protected spheres deemed essential to central authority. To extend such regimes further requires further increments in solving the fundamental human problem of mimesis. If I am to look at what someone else says—something unfamiliar, something troubling, something potentially harmful to my status—and ask questions that allow that statement to be further fleshed out rather than denounce it as heresy, then I must have constructed a model of behavior for myself modeled on central authority rather than on some rampaging power agency solicited to advance my rivalry with some resented other. And there must be a sufficient number of others doing this as well, so that I don’t have to denounce before I am denounced. This means that for a sufficient number of people discourse is sufficiently abstracted from mimetically driven rivalries so that statements can be commented on outside of a “who, whom” frame.

The most radical form of traditionalism is one that sees mimesis, mimetic rivalry, communal expulsion (what I call “violent centralization), and mimetic crisis, along with the myriad ways mimetic relations are reconfigured through the deferral of actual and potential crises, as the problem with which all of human culture, which is to say all of human language, is occupied with. Every myth, every ritual, every political order, every work of art, is above all concerned with this problem, and represents an attempt to resolve it in a form that accounts for the particulars of a given case or scene, while still being enduring. A denial of mimesis might be the purpose of the self-generated individual posited by liberalism. In moral and anthropological terms, the “individual” is created as a form of deferral—the individual is the one protected from violent centralization, or scapegoating. In this case, who the individual is doesn’t matter—it’s precisely the individual who “triggers” certain forms of rivalry within the community who must be protected, precisely in the name of controlling the escalation of rivalries. The individual, in that case, as one created in the image of God, is a cause for reflection upon our own “sinful” nature, with “sinful” meaning “mimetic”: driven by lust, envy, and hatred—by a relation of “reciprocal usurpation” with some other. But if the individual is self-creating, and is the foundation rather than product of a social order, on what grounds can mimetic desires be criticized? Indeed, to criticize them is to attack the “individual,” to be “authoritarian.” In that case all of inherited culture represents arbitrary impositions on freedom.

Liberalism makes much harder what is in any case very difficult: realizing that we are thoroughly mimetic and mediated beings. It’s almost impossible to desire something while simultaneously thinking that you desire it because you imagine someone else desiring it—it’s “cognitively” difficult, and we’d rather not do it, because it saps desire. The satisfaction of desire becomes much less satisfying if such considerations are kept in mind. But where else do you imagine desires coming from? Yes, outside of any human order one would want food, drink, sex, shelter—animals want those things, and work on obtaining them. Some food would taste better than others, some potential mates be preferable to others, etc. But, absent mimesis, we wouldn’t want a particular “object of desire” more because we have been denied it, or because we imagine someone else enjoying it. And this also means that without mimesis we wouldn’t think in “non-pragmatic” ways about things, because what we think about are what we desire, what or who we fear will abscond with what we desire, those who interfere with our desires, and the ways in which this entire configuration is characterized by ongoing fluctuations: an object seems irresistibly desirable, but, then, not; someone seems unattainably admirable, but then maybe a bit contemptible; a particular struggle seems existential, but then rather silly. All of these events happen through language, which is what first of all allowed us to desire something while still deferring appropriation of it but while still desiring it, etc. And it is through language that all of this can become “interesting,” which is to say worthy of sustained and self-reflective attention.

Now, think about how difficult civilization is. Civilization requires hierarchies and divisions of labor. This means accepting that there will always be others who have better things than you, and can order you around, and being able to consider yourself unworthy for dwelling on this fact. And why, exactly? Maybe those with more than you are “better” in some relevant way, but maybe not—such claims can be neither verified nor falsified, so you can tell yourself what you like. More subject to proof is how the power of your superiors is used: we can tell, at least to some extent, whether an enterprise or community is well run, whether problems are solved or allowed to fester, how this particular authority measures up to others we are familiar with. Still, it’s precisely when things are being run well that we might imagine ourselves most capable of running them—it seems so easy, and therefore all the more “unfair” that this guy gets to do it rather than me. And when we have the “right” to complain about things being run poorly, how much of that arrogated right depends upon us not knowing all kinds of things that are involved in “running things”—and, then, how can we tell how “justified” our complaint really is? (A simple example: I recently saw some figure, respected or at least more respected on the “nationalist” or “dissident” American right than “Conservatism Inc.” say something like, “it’s time to focus on our rivalry with China rather than getting bogged down in endless wars [in the Middle East, etc.],” with this sentiment being met with approval, as rejecting “endless war” has been a password providing entry to the new right. But: will not China seek to extend its influence where it can, including those areas from which the US withdraws its influence? And will not getting serious and directing our attention to our rivalry with China therefore not involve countering such attempts by extending our own influence? In other words, is not rivalry every bit as “endless” as our recent wars, and in fact the cause of them? Unless, of course, “international relations” can be reset in new, cooperative, terms. Why not?—but doing so will involve controlling rather than exhibiting resentments.)

A properly civilized attitude, then, requires one to be inquisitive regarding the exercise of authority, including over oneself, while ensuring that this inquisitiveness leaves permanently open the question of what one does not and cannot know as an inquirer without access to the very power one is questioning. You have to be aware of your place within a system while being simultaneously aware that you don’t know the system. And the system itself would have to encourage this level of maturity. As a mimetic being, you must imitate your model as closely as possible while still maintaining an inviolate distance from him. Now, in the tradition of advanced civilizations, sustaining this equipoise becomes difficult because the system drifts further and further from its founding principles and becomes more reliant on exploiting the hierarchies that were creating under other conditions, in accord with another principle of merit, but that are now primarily sources of self-enrichment available to those most skilled in intrigue and flattery. Here is where the constant revolutions introduced by a technological social order may improve the prospects for the civilized attitude, and provide a means of exiting the seemingly permanent “cycle” of rise and fall. The proper technological attitude is rather similar to the properly civilized one: one must recognize oneself first of all to be a means of much larger, impersonal systems, i.e., to de-personalize and fragment oneself, in order to imagine the ways one might be an end of such systems.

The first, ancient, technologies were predicated upon the power to move around masses of people who didn’t need to be considered as people, i.e., as named within some sacral order. (We can distinguish this from crafts and techniques, which can always be contained within a relation to some cult, transmitted through pedagogical apprenticeship relations.) It was the ancient empires, with millions of slaves gathered from conquered peoples, which had such power, and used it for various construction and destruction projects. All the parts became homogeneous because all the people who were the parts could be made so. The availability of the masses of nameless slaves was equiprimordial with the imperial vision which could imagine god-like projects, i.e., projects of world destruction and creation. This is the origin of the technological world view, which is therefore mimetic to the core: the ancient emperors modeled projects on the power of Gods and technologists today model this imperial vision. The technological vision excludes consideration of human ends irreducible to the project itself, even when enacted for the purpose of improving the human condition, and even when it does, in fact, improve the human condition. But there are good reasons why the technological vision didn’t, for the most part, engage in the transformation of materials rather than the movement of masses of people until starting from about half a millennium ago.

If you are to advance the technological vision beyond the imperial one, you need to expand the range of practices that might become models for technological transformation. Rather than abstracting mass organization from social interaction, the observation of social interaction itself would have to become the source of models for technological transformation. The development of machinery out of the very careful examination of the cooperation, often indirect, of workers, as noted by Adam Smith and then Karl Marx, might be “dehumanizing,” but it first of all required attention to minute human practices and “sub-practices.” Modern technological development is predicated upon explicitly posing questions that have already been implicitly posed by collective practices, and then further sub-dividing so as to replace machinically the practices that posed the question in the first place. So, it becomes evident that more rapid communication across great distances would facilitate practices already in place; so, “communication” must be analyzed and disassembled into its elements (signals, vibrations, spread out temporally, “codes” and decoding processes, etc.), which can then be simulated and transmitted through wires, and so on. And, as a result, even “face to face” communication becomes “distanced” in new ways.

This process looks a bit like the “high-low vs. middle” power “mechanism”—it’s as if the “high,” the technologist, organizes the “low,” the particulate, “unconscious,” elements of signification “against” the actual speakers of a language. And we could further see how disciplines like linguistics, communications, and information are marshalled in this “campaign.” This might be because the conditions for a “breakthrough” of the HLvM process are the same for the technological breakthrough: a social order that is simultaneously desacralizing and resacralizing. Desacralizing, because the old sacrificial cults have been torn down (and who knows how long the war against their remnants continued even after the cults were officially overthrown), by Christianity in the West, but by the Axial Age more broadly across the board. Resacralizing, because what replaces the cult is not ‘secularism,” not even for philosophy, but the cult of the innocent victim targeted by cultic and imperial power. It is this latter cult that is responsible for the inviolate “individual” discussed above, and that led to new and very intense forms of attention being paid to human individuals. But this is unsustainable as a cult claiming to be outside of, or above, power. For Christianity to find a way to govern the West again, it would have to be a Christianity that makes explicit the entire set of power relations it in fact presupposes: the sovereignty Christianity projects onto God would have to be mapped onto the kind of human sovereignty being projected, with all of the political and economic categories of Christianity (“redemption,” “hostage exchange,” “shepherd,” etc.) spelled out.

So, we cannot and will not make humans masses of nameless slaves again; but we will continue to detect in the practices other humans perform the elements of new practices inclusive of but unimaginable within the older ones. In the process, technologists mobilize us all to do (including to ourselves) what we “cannot and will not,” even if we disavow doing so all the more vociferously. It may be that a lot of contemporary resentment can be mapped onto such disavowals—it may even be that this is part of the reason it seems to be becoming easier to see each other (and to act?) as enemy “bots,” i.e., cogs in political machines, indistinguishable from pre-programmed responses to utterly predictable “provocations.”  The kind of governing authority that could guide a post-sacrificial technological order is one that accepts the absolute responsibility to name everything, established and emergent, within the human order; while knowing that naming does not close but rather opens the order to new possibilities. Naming things, persons, practices, institutions, entails placing them at the center, and the creation of a new center in turn creates new peripheries.

If you take responsibility for naming, you reject—and name—the position that pretends that reality names itself, that wishes to have the names without the resentable namer. In that case, you want the names to last, because you want your name, as you have tried to inhabit it, to last. So you want the names to be able to stand on their own, with you, or a proxy, providing the most minimal backing possible. That means they must encourage a stance of deferral over resentment: those most capable of deferring their resentment and therefore looking carefully at those named objects most likely to incite their resentment must be those who find the most use in the name. This is what will make the names honest and truthful. And these are also the names that will most evoke expansive tacit realities. Stable, ordered, named institutions will create individuals who know their names mark events, and that these events can be replicated through the naming of others and self-re-namings. We could come to see our practices, individually and collectively, as the sources of new technological processes we would participate in sovereignty over. First of all, soliciting and enabling such participation would be made intelligible, and become a practice. As a practice more available to some than to others, it would generate resentments, all the more so because the practice has become available—why should the other be a more fully technological subject than me? So, then, the practice is replicated and extended to meet that resentment. The most basic precondition for an enduring technostructural civilization, then, is the generalized practice of responding to others’ resentments by extending to them a practice; and, of course, a general preparedness to accept such pedagogical gestures as an answer to one’s own resentments, resentments such answers will have explicitly formulated (because to be a subject of resentment is to be at least partly blinded to the mimetic investments generating those resentments). So, in response to a complaint: here’s something you can do—and, even if it had on the face of it nothing to do with your complaint, you do it, and find that it did, and so you can then replicate the practice for others.

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