[-empyre-] a book, dna and code

Jasper Bernes bernes at berkeley.edu
Mon Oct 22 04:40:08 EST 2007

Hi Brian,

The Lukacs I'm referring to is his great chapter "Reification and the
Consciousnes of the Proletariat" from History and Class Consciousness. He
sort of dips in and out of a critique of empiricism throughout, but section
3 is a good one for that. Page 103 in my MIT edition.

----- Original Message -----
From: <brian.holmes at wanadoo.fr>
To: <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
Sent: Saturday, October 20, 2007 1:09 AM
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] a book, dna and code

Steve wrote to Jasper:

"I agree entirely with
the marxist sentiments expressed, but given that science, the scientific
method remains the best means developed to explain things and explain
the previously unexplainable. Extreme care needs to taken when
establishing relations between science and capital because whilst all of
the below is true isn't it rather wonderful that science makes it provable

Great conversation here, very informative and thought-provoking. But I
think you are getting a little generalist with the above! The disciplined
empiricism formulated as the scientific method is certainly not THE best
way to explain everything. A very different kind of explanation has been
indicated with the reference to Lukacs' understanding of the  class
division that made possible the productivist technoscience of the 20th
century. And that understanding is not a "sentiment," it's a deliberate
form of reasoning and argumentation that has taken care to mark its
distances from other forms. I would appreciate more detailed explanation of
Lukacs' thoughts on this subject, and references to the texts where he
develops these ideas; and I am convinced we would NOT find they are based
on the current scientific methods of hypothesis, laboratory
experimentation, insertion of the results into statistical series,
smoothing of the series, etc.

If there were only one way of explaining everything, such as science, well,
then, of course you could ultimately only argue about the epistemological
details (questions about "method"). But that old beast, ontology, or
assertions about being, comes back consistently among humans wondering why
they are here and how to guide their course through mortal time; and
indeed, my view is that the very poor and willfully ignorant ontologies of
fundamentalist religion are now so strong, precisely because the
disciplined and self-interested empiricists of a capitalist and
technoscientific society refuse to ask questions about being and
destination. For instance, why was the European Union made? For
knowledge-driven economic growth, competitive international trade and
increasing consumption! Those are now the classic answers that are given,
perfectly value-free (except for the dominant values they refuse to name as
such), and very much in line with the unquestioned asumptions of
technoscience. Most scientists who speak publicly have pretty lousy
explanations about being and destiny, almost as bad as the technocratic
state capitalists - and the biologists are really not proving any
exception. Those explanations will only get better if we distinguish
between different ontological departure points, and the different modes of
reasoning and argumentation that flow from them. Only in that way can some
debate take place. A monospecies mental ecology populated only by
contemporary science makes for a stultifying and potentially dangerous

best, Brian

Jasper Bernes wrote:

> Steve, Judith et al,
> As I see it, the very isolation of "genes" and "genomes," and the
> tendencies to fetishize these as miraculous actors, so well demonstrated
> by Judith's book, is consonant with the logic of the commodity that
> undergirds capitalism. I think that, for instance, people like Lukacs
> are pretty convincing about the ways in which some of the basic
> philosophical positions of scientists are, actually, class
> positions--bourgeois, reified, passive, brimming with antinomies. That's
> not to say that science isn't productive of knowledge or technics, or
> can't work against capitalism (which capitalism itself always does).
> It's only that science presupposes and depends upon an enormous division
> of labor, one that often gets projected onto its material.
> I'd like to hear more about this ontological equivalence between genes.
> I don't at all understand it.  But I'd like to! There's a rather
> frightening version of genetically-engineered ontological equality at
> the end of Houllebecq's The Elementary Particles. It would be
> interesting to distinguish the neo-fascist brand from the communist one.
> Do you know the book?
> Jasper
> ----- Original Message ----- From: <sdv at krokodile.co.uk>
> To: "soft_skinned_space" <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> Sent: Friday, October 19, 2007 5:51 AM
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] a book, dna and code
>> Jasper/Judith/all
>> Yes it is. nicely put.
>> both: "genomics  represents a general tendency in late capitalism for
>> the sphere of  representation/culture to collapse into and become
>> co-extensive with  the social or economic." and the larger Badiou
>> quote is exceptionally interesting  because it displays some of the
>> profound limitations in Badiou's work. The use of the word
>> 'apolitical' implies a concept of the political which is to limited.
>> And yet the centrality of emancipation precisely mirrors my/our
>> ontological work, philosophy is always ontological and as such
>> precedes ethics and cultural work. One of my reasons for my interest
>> in this specific topic is the convergance between the ontological work
>> focused on difference, equivalence, and equality. One of the events
>> that began the current trajectory was a meeting with a particularly
>> anti-humanist, communist, geneticist from India who made the rather
>> important proposition that there is an absolute equality, an
>> equivalence between all genes, genes as singularities.
>> It's this which requires that we are cautious in the adoption of
>> meaningful phrases like 'late capitalism' which in its reference to
>> Mandel's rather lovely book, runs into my scientist who demands that
>> we think rather differently and recognize that science is not capital.
>> best
>> steve
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