[-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 53, Issue 15

Nicholas Ruiz III editor at intertheory.org
Sat Apr 25 02:56:42 EST 2009

With regard to the debt or credit we cannot be rid of, there is a wonderful thought from Baudrillard:

"All current strategies boil down to this:
passing around the debt, the credit, the unreal, unnameable thing you cannot
get rid of.  Nietzsche analyzed the
strategem of God in these terms: in redeeming man’s debt by the sacrifice of
His son, God, the great Creditor, created a situation where the debt could
never be redeemed by the debtor, since it has already been redeemed by the creditor.  In this way, He created the possibility of an
endless circulation of that debt, which man will bear as his perpetual
sin.  This is the ruse of God.  But it is also the ruse of capital, which, at
the same time as it plunges the world into ever greater debt, works
simultaneously to redeem that debt, thus creating a situation in which it will
never be able to be cancelled or exchanged for anything."

Still, I believe our relationship with the ruse of capital is far less theological, then it is biomolecular...

 Nicholas Ruiz III, Ph.D
Editor, Kritikos

From: Cinzia Cremona <cinziacremona at googlemail.com>
To: empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
Sent: Saturday, April 18, 2009 6:44:29 AM
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 53, Issue 15

Oh I do admire the qualities of certain systems ... absorbing, reappropriating, exploiting happen on all sides of an argument.

I would like to question some assumptions ... 

1. We are so used to thinking about 'capital' as 'money'. There are other capitals, values, systems of exchange. I do like the way you highlight the thread of friendship in the Madoff affair. Were his social skills, his capacity to befriend, his first resource? Now that this narrative has come to a dramatic denouement, it is harder to think how else those resources could have been invested, and what returns they could have matured. Friendship produces other values, which sometimes translate into money and sometimes translate into less quantifiable values. Some of the resources that can be accessed because of friendship need not be bought! And this goes on all around us, but it is not part of the big capitalist narrative - it does not translate into money - which makes it harder to include it into the equation. I wonder if the critique of capitalism is not always struggling to catch up when it is too late. In commenting on the commercialisation of
 everything 'green', we should also comment on those who invested in the environment when there was no hope of monetary return. Some will have generated money on top of other things. Does this mean that capitalism has appropriated environmentalim completely?

2. If capitalism was not so over encompassing, would we want to find alternatives? Personally, I think one is never 'outside' anything. I also think that 'pre-' (add to your taste: -capitalist, -linguistic, -subjective, etc) ways of being are lovely philosophical fables. Let's ask ourselves the ultimate naive question: WHY do we want to be free from capitalism? What do we mean? What do we think we would be like if we were? 

3. Questions of value ... Good point, what if my gift is refused? I might get it wrong ... I might be offering you something that is of great value to me, but means nothing to you. Isn't this the foundation of the wastefulness of Potlach generosity? Reciprocity (competition too?) can be based on quantity or on shared values. That's where capitalism's quantifiable and interchangeable currencies make things easier. Investing in difference might mean taking the trouble to evaluate what is of value to you specifically. And taking responsibility for offering the wrong gift ... Do we really all value the same things? Are you really exploiting me if I want your friendship instead of your money in exchange for a service or a commodity? 

4. I wonder how you would translate the phallic function into female terms: an orgasm that doesn't even produce seed? Isn't shedding an egg a month a life of dissemination without harvest? (dis-egg-ation ...) Investment in sheer desire for living?

5. Your very beautiful point about credit says a lot about interwoven systems of value, singularity and multiplicity. Without friendships, Madoff would have not accumulated money. Does this mean his friendship was not true? Or was it also counterfeit? Does necessarily one exclude the other? Deleuze and Guattari open 'A Thousand Plateaus' with "... since each of us was several, there was already quite a crowd." I also wonder if betrayal is not part of friendship from the very beginning, at least in Derrida. He seems to depict a set of obligations that will inevitably be disappointed. He also delves in Nietzsche's parallel invocation: 'oh my enemy ...'.

By the way I am living, do I create more debt or credit? In what proportion? "What is do be done?"

I'll have to leave the conversation here, as I'll be away from computers for a week. I look forward to reading you reply(ies) on my return. It has been very nurturing. Thank you.


Visions in the Nunnery
22 to 31 May 2009

Message: 2
Date: Thu, 16 Apr 2009 01:37:39 -0700
From: "Michael Angelo Tata, PhD" <mtata at ipublishingllc.com>
Subject: [-empyre-] The Temporality of Friendship
To: Soft Skinned Space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
Message-ID: <BLU143-W17F35C5E42F68541041F86A27A0 at phx.gbl>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="windows-1252"


You are lovely to respond so directly and poetically to our lively
t?te-?-t?te about giftliness and its conditions of
possibility/impossibility.  I am especially happy you have pulled The
Politics of Friendship into the action: from a ludic perspective, it is
the ideal move, since it supplements the general discussion of gifts
and gifting in The Gift of Death and Given Time with an account of what
provides the ground or occasion for the non-exchange exchange of the
gift: le m?nage.  For when we examine the very concrete problem of the
recent Wall Street misappropriation of funds, the ethics of
friendship?Derrida?s famous n+2?comes immediately into play.  For
example, so many describe Bernie Madoff as ?a friend,? and his
infidelity to the rich and famous he courted before his fall infuses
the debate surrounding his financial dishonesty with an anger not
entirely rooted in money, capital, investment, or return.

The dissymetry of a Contretemps is particularly incisive, and for me
calls to mind the radical ontological disproportion between an
individual and an Other without which there would be no possibility of
either a gift, a Gift-gift (the gift that discloses its poisonous
content beneath the beautiful sensuous form), or, paramountly, that
most extreme form of the cadeau, the gift of death.  Via Dissemination,
the true gift does not return, as the giver does not expect
remuneration, compensation or adequation, and the recipient immediately
forgets that any gift was ever given, it never dawning on him or her to
return anything: like meaning, the gift dissipates, physically as well
as mnemonically, and the phallic function finds itself surprisingly
dissipative, spreading its seeds without being able to harvest any
growth, shoot or sprig that might result.  Is amiti? similarly
dissipative, since clearly it must depart from the simple exchangism
that at best produces an economy, at wo
 rst a chrematistics (system of commerce)?  If friendship, or the
relation between an autre and an autre, exists as historical liaison,
it must transcend the simple quid-pro-quo of commercial enterprise.  As
for le contretemps proper, to which time or ?temps? does it run
counter?  What exactly is the time of friendship?  How do we measure
it, endure it, make use of it?

Since ultimately the Gift manifests itself as waste and prodigality,
paradigms of reception for that waste become imperative.  How do we
receive this excrescence, this too-much-ness, this excess that is of a
piece with the sublime: does it overwhelm us, do we feel the need to
reciprocate, at the same time that we realize reciprocation is
impossible and, in effect, undesirable?  What happens if, like God in
the famous Abraham/Isaac fable central to Kierkegaard?s thought and
Derrida?s appropriation of that thought, our gift-beyond-all-gifts is
(shock!) refused?  Can the Gift, with all its metaphysical
overindulgence, be accepted, or must it always fold back upon
(rapporter) the giver through the magnanimous of refusal?  At some
level, investment and the gift connect up, if we think of the capital
which gets stored in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and hedge funds as
some sort of gift-object: but are these gifts?  Or are they pre-gifts,
the real gift being the unreal returns these
 investments are able, under ideal circumstances, to produce?  Or
perhaps Wall Street is the antithesis of giftliness, since it is the
gift which both sets economy in motion at the same time that it
interrupts the circularity of exchangism, and hence cannot be something
Wall Street produces.

You also make me wonder about examples of contemporary potlatch.  Is a
show like My Super Sweet Sixteen an exhibition of a potlatch economy?
 Perhaps the US war in Iraq and Afghanistan is potlatch-y.  Clearly,
American and, to some degree, European societies are wasteful, but does
this waste involve that critical dimension of the potlatch, nobility?
 Is the Green Revolution, with all its advertising machinery?everything
from green bottles of Windex-like substances which in theory will not
poison that new fetish, ?the environment,? to Oprah-endorsed burlap
grocery sacks which, although inconvenient from a cosmopolitan
standpoint, keep plastic bags from accumulating in New Jersey
landfills?an attempt to manage an ecological potlatch?  In and through
the potlatch, we destroy the precious for many reasons: to demonstrate
the fact that these objects are ours and ours alone to destroy, to lord
our ownership of these objects over our peers, who presumably own
comparable objects, and
 , finally, to specularize generosity.  I think of all those cathode
ray beams shooting re-runs of I Love Lucy and Bullwinkle into space,
where alien SETI cultures intercept our junk, presumably to marvel at
our commitment to the trivial.

If friendship is an investment, it must involve all that Derrida means
by a term like ?credit.?  For Derrida, even literature is credit-based,
in terms of our faith in the veracity of the narrator, the fidelity of
the narrator?s narration with respect to the particular memory which
both substantiates and supports it, and in terms of our own credence
with respect to the ability of a porous and aporetic language to grab
hold of the world and its multifarious objects with some degree of
accuracy, one clear enough to ensure a praxis of living.  As for the
credit without which there would be no friendship or acquaintanceship,
and especially not a literature, a contemporary mutation within the
sphere of human relations arises: how are we to invest in that new
tabloid creature, the Frenemy (for example, Paris Hilton/Nicole
Ritchie)?  In Baudelaire?s prose poem Counterfeit Money from the
collection Paris Spleen, friendship borders many things: dissimulation,
philanthropic display, so
 cial obligation and, most critically, the truthfulness of truth, which
at all moments in time might slip into the masquerade of the
counterfeit.  Here, the n+2, or, as Derrida terms it, the
l??tre-deux-?-parler, experiences the crisis of the simulacrum: in a
sense, the two comprising the friendship pair in Baudelaire?s poem are
frenemies from the get-go, their amity cemented by competition and
conflict revealed through the politeness of sublimated pleasantries and
the luxurious expenditure of tobacco (for anthropologists, a highly
symbolic and meaningful gift not so much exchanged as exhausted through

Generally speaking, aren?t we all ?Captives of Capitalism??  The
problem of capital is that it expertly absorbs the critique of capital:
in some sense, it even orchestrates that critique, setting up a false
dichotomy so that we might feel some pleasure at resolving the
pseudo-antinomy.  Unlike totalitarianism, which persecutes its
opponents, capitalism invites antagonism, if only because the general
agonistics at its core generates more capital; even in the wake of the
current housing calamity, there is money to be made with the ?Loan Mod?
racket, for example.  For me, the vital question is: is there an
exterior to capital?  True, there are parasitic responses to capital,
like Freeganism, Voluntary Simplicitism, or squatting, but none of
these achieve freedom from capital, their motivating force, express
cause and raison d??tre.  It seems like the only way to break through
capital is via terror, but even this insidious tactic gives capital new
terrain to dominate after the de
 ad are counted, collected and interred: for example, the rebuilding of
Baghdad after the US bombs it as a response to 9/11, or the capital
invested in the new World Trade Center monument.

Investing in difference, as you so elegantly phrase it, is a key
strategy to the operation of capital, which astutely realizes that even
similarity must be marketed as dissimilarity.  Truth be told, neither
?difference? nor ?diff?rance? are inimical to capital: they are
essential to its functioning, which is based almost entirely on
variation, variegation and novelty.  To resurrect Debord: the essence
of contemporary capital is diffusion, as opposed to that of
totalitarianism, which is concentration (think: Warhol?s Mao series,
versus the ?official? images of Mao decorating Communist China).  Life
may very well be a Benetton commercial.  I mean, look at us: a fab
British New Media artist conversing with an equally fab American poet
about the nature of difference and its role in sustaining and
accumulating capital.  I think of the ad campaign for design house
Moschino: ?Consenting member of the fashion system.?  Becoming aware of
our complicities and capitalizing upon them may
 be the highest form of rebellion: I say this without irony, sarcasm, or regret.

Ciao for now!
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