For the Love of Capitalism

I advocate for a political concept of love—planetary love—drawing on a Deleuzian political philosophy of love (via Hardt and Negri) as well as the concept of love developed by the postcolonial theorist Gayatri Spivak and elaborated on by the theologian Catherine Keller. It’s an ecological and feminist sense of love, not a sentimental or romantic  or Platonic love. It’s allied with poststructuralism, postcolonialism, and posthumanism, but it does not go postal and dwell in critique and negativity. It is a love that dwells in non-coercive, mutually transformative contact, which differentiates while it entangles.

Affirming the inseparable differences entangling the multifarious inhabitants and habitats of the planet, planetary love is non-exclusive. It’s for everybody, even for the enemies of planetary coexistence. The most agreed upon enemy of environmentalists is corporate capitalism. Planetary love includes love for capitalism, love for corporations. That idea is not agreeable to many people.

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Philosophy as Resistance: Commons for All

Thinking of philosophy as resistance, one might think first of the philosophical activities of Marxists, feminists, and environmentalists.  I would add process philosophers to that list.  For Bergson, for instance, philosophizing is a violent inversion of the status quo.

The mind has to do violence to itself, has to reverse the direction of the operation by which it habitually thinks, has perpetually to revise, or rather recast, all its categories.  But in this way it will attain to fluid concepts, capable of following reality in all its sinuosities and of adopting the very movement of the inward life of things.  Only thus will a progressive philosophy be built up, freed from the disputes which arise between the various schools, and able to solve its problems naturally, because it will be released from the artificial expression in terms of which such problems are posited.  To philosophize, therefore, is to invert the habitual direction of the work of thought. (Bergson, An Introduction to Metaphysics [trans. T. E. Hulme. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1912], p. 51).

That’s not very different from Whitehead’s claim that philosophy “reverses the slow descent of accepted thought towards the inactive commonplace” (Modes of Thought, p. 174).  The question I’m left with is to what extent Bergson and Whitehead can facilitate resistance to a particularly obstinate habit that pervades late modernity: the enclosure of the commons (the becoming-inactive of the commonplace).  For Bergson, resistance to enclosures might have something to do with love, reminiscent of his famous saying, “The motive power of democracy is love.”  In Whitehead, maybe the notion of conformation provides a sense of the commons.  Consider a few quotes from Process and Reality:

The philosophy of organism holds that, in order to understand “power,” we must have a correct notion of how each individual actual entity contributes to the datum from which its successors arise and to which they must conform. (p. 56)

The pragmatic use of the actual entity, constituting its static life, lies in the future. The creature perishes and is immortal. The actual entities beyond it can say, “It is mine.” But the possession imposes conformation. (p. 82)

..and from Symbolism: Its Meaning and Effect, “Time in the concrete is the conformation of state to state” (35).

Some discussion of the DeleuzoGuattarian concepts of Hardt/Negri would help elaborate on the role of process thought in resisting enclosures and recuperating the commons, as would a discussion of Anne Pomeroy’s work on Marx and Whitehead and the anthology Bergson, Politics, and Religion, edited by Alexandre Lefebvre and Melanie White.  I’ll have more to say about this later.  In the meantime, I’m enjoying the essays in The Wealth of the Commons, edited by two wonderful defenders of the commons, David Bollier and Silke Helfrich.

The Dynamics of Fame

In the recent edition of my column at Nomos Journal, I consider the theologico-political dynamics of fame by looking at depictions of Jesus Christ in a couple musicals, including Jesus Christ Superstar and a musical currently in development, Spears: The Gospel According to Britney.

If faith is a matter of ultimate concern (Paul Tillich’s well-known definition), fame is a matter of repeated concern, which is to say, reputation and renown, where reputation is a matter of being subject to repeated considering (re-putare).  An ultimate concern (faith) is not the same as a popularly celebrated or highly frequented concern (fame), however their difference is supplementary and not simply antagonistic.  Fame without faith is empty, and faith without fame is blind, out of touch.

Looking out of my window, between the blinds, I’m left wondering about the quasi-transcendental function of blindness in faith (blind faith; faith sans voir), justice (blindfolded Lady Justice), and love (blindfolded Cupid; Theocritus, Shakespeare, and others saying that love is blind).

Making Love with Lingis…Again.

To find oneself in love is to find oneself not free but captivated.

 Eroticism is suspect to the ethical mind.  Orgasm is pleasure in the breakdown of laws, action, responsibility, conscientiousness, and consciousness.  Sensuality is transgressive.  In the bodies denuded, sexual excitement surges in the meltdown of built-up structures.  As our bodies become orgasmic, the posture collapses, the manipulative diagrams of the limbs soften, legs and thighs roll about, fingers and hands move in aimless, unendingly repetitive caresses, allowing themselves to be stroked and crushed.  Our lips loosen, soften, glisten with saliva, lose the train of sentences; our throats issue babble, giggling, moans, and sighs.  Our sense of ourselves, our self-respect shaped in fulfilling a function in the machinic and social environment, our dignity maintained in multiple confrontations, collaborations, and demands dissolve; the ego loses its focus as center of evaluations, decisions, and initiatives.  The psychic structures with which we screen, filter out, and channel the superabundance of outside stimuli that flood our senses at all times are shattered and the stimuli flood us pell-mell.  The structures by which we fix an inner ego identity and censor out a whole underworld of unconscious drives and cravings buckle and crack; in sexual excitement the gates of the lower dungeons are opened and feral drives and cravings bound up and overwhelm our conscious intentions and purposes.  Our impulses, our passions, are returned to animal irresponsibility.  The pleasure and torment in contact with the nonprehensile surfaces of our bodies, our cheeks, our bellies, our thighs, irradiate across the substance of our sensitive and vulnerable nakedness.      

Alphonso Lingis, “The Immoralist,” in The Ethical, ed. Edith Wyschogrod and Gerald P. McKenny (Blackwell Publishing, 2003), pp. 205, 211-212.

Making Love with Lingis

When we, in our so pregnant expression, make love with someone of our own species, we also make love with the horse and the dolphin, the kitten and the macaw, the powdery moths and the lustful crickets.

A thinker who comprehends with the hands, hands made for blessing, sees swallows and owls, wetlands and tundra pullulate with grace.  Blessing is the beginning and the end of all ecological awareness.  […] Laughter and tears, blessing and cursing break through the packaging and labeling of things that make our environment something only scanned and skimmed over.  They are forces with which we impact on nature, which we had perused only as the text of the world.  They are forces that seek out and engage reality.

Lust in not content with respectful and considerate caresses and release of tension; it wants another, wilder orgasm, it wants orgasms on jet airplanes and in tropical swamps, it wants bondage and whips.

Alphonso Lingis, Dangerous Emotions (University of California Press, 2000), pp. 37, 71, 78, 79.

…and more to come…


Joyous Cosmology: Chemistry of Consciousness

I spent the day re-reading a classic Alan Watts book, The Joyous Cosmology: Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness (Vintage Books, 1965).  Basically, the book is a retrospective summary account of his experiences with psychedelic drugs (e.g., LSD, mescaline, psilocybin).  It could be described as his version of Aldous Huxley’s Doors of Perception.  Indeed, Watts justifies writing his book by referring to Huxley: “since Huxley and others had already let the secret out […]” (20). 

LSD is currently only 73 years old.  Psychedelic chemicals are still a newcomer on the world’s stage (or at least the “Western” world’s stage, as many of those chemicals come from plants or fungi that were already known and used by ancient and indigenous societies).  Huxley and Watts were among the first to respond to the new discovery/invention of psychedelic chemicals, and they did so by bringing honest and thoughtful attention to the matter from two perspectives, that of a literary artist (Huxley) and a scholar of theology and religion (Watts).

What is cosmological about Watts’ joyous cosmology?  He aligns his vision with a “new image” of the human, what I would call an anthropocosmic image, where the human is viewed “not as a spirit imprisoned in incompatible flesh, but as an organism inseparable from his [sic] social and natural environment” (100).  The complex unity of human and cosmos is not only an interesting or astounding fact, it is also an existentially fulfilling realization, such that this cosmology is “not only unfied but also joyous” (ibid).  That’s not unlike Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s description of “the most astounding fact.” 

What is an experiment with psychedelics like?  Well…for Watts, it is “a sort of cycle in which one’s personality is taken apart and then put back together again, in what one hopes is a more intelligent fashion” (89).  Here are a few more quotes that reflect Watts’ thoughts on his experiments with psychedelics: 

It is even now being recognized in the United States that the real danger of psychedelics is not so much neurological as political—that “turned on” people are not interested in serving the power games of the present rulers. (25)

I wish to repeat that drugs of this kind are in no sense bottled and predigested wisdom. (89)

The sure foundation upon which I had sought to stand has turned out to be the center from which I seek.  The elusive substance beneath all the forms of the universe is discovered as the immediate gesture of my hand. […]  Everything gestures.  Tables are tabling, pots are potting, walls are walling, fixtures are fixturing—a world of events instead of things. (75) [Note: later on in the text, Watts rejects the thing-event dualism and contasts it to his vision of a “unified cosmology” (100)] 

This unoccupied gulf between spiritual or brotherly love and sexual love corresponds to the cleft between spirit and matter, mind and body, so divided that our affections or our activities are assigned either to one or to the other.  […] Thus the subtle and wonderful gradations that lie between the two are almost entirely lost.  In other words, the greater part of love is a relationship that we hardly allow, for love experienced only in its extreme forms is like buying a loaf of bread and being given only the two heels. (99)

[E]ach one of you is quite perfect as you are, even if you don’t know it.  Life is basically a gesture, but no on, no thing, is making it.  There is no necessity for it  to happen, and none for it to go on happening. […] There is simply no problem of life; it is completely purposeless play—exuberance which is its own end.  Basically there is the gesture.  Time, space, and multiplicity are complications of it. (77-78) 

It is by no means impossible to set up […] sensible contexts in which nonsense may have its ways. […]  The function of such intervals of nonsense is not merely to be an outlet for pent-up emotion or unused psychic energy, but to set in motion a mode of spontaneous action which, thought at first appearing as nonsense, can eventually express itself in intelligible forms. (94)

One can but hope that in the years to come our defenses will crack spontaneously, like eggshells when the birds are ready to hatch.  (99)