Brian Holmes on Tue, 13 Jan 2015 03:28:28 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Crisis 2.0 - the political turn

On 01/11/2015 10:55 AM, wrote:

A Bayesian would probably bet against the future of Democracy in Europe
by now. Especially given the fact there is such a strong prior.

But what's to be done as a Marxist, in the broadest possible sense?
Critique, for sure (the "full recognition of the quagmire"). But a
revolution in Europe (or at least a "real political turn")? Not
everything that is hard to imagine can be ruled out, especially if you're
able to influence the outcome yourself. But my feeling is that our era's
reasoning has long become Bayesian, and that it has become harder to
insist on demanding the impossible.

Sebastian, your post is thoughtful and bitterly incisive. I think we kind of understand each other. I would like to up the ante a little.

"Demanding the impossible," "storming heaven" and that kind of rhetoric is, in my view, exactly what has produced the Joschka Fischers of the world, who fall from the heights of utopia into total identification with the eternal and untouchable status quo. In fact they have moved from one form of denialism to another.

You're right, present-day normative establishment thinking is thoroughly probabilistic. It's based on regression analysis, which means establishing the trajectory of some dependent variable within previous statistical records, then extrapolating forward into the future. Like any real event (9-11 for instance), the financial crash of 2008 represents a breakdown of this system. It's a particularly significant breakdown because contemporary computerized finance, which has become the leading technology of global governance, is founded entirely on regression analysis.

To "demand the impossible" is to ask, rightly, for a break in the predictable. It's the strategy of the critical utopia. What I'm saying is that the break is already here. You don't have to ask for it but just struggle to perceive it against the grain. It is the triple crisis of the present, which has been produced by thirty years of neoliberal informationalism:

- First, democratic citizenship in the former first world countries has broken under the pressure of inequality, resulting (among others) in the political fracture of the EU between north and south. - Second, the Trilateral world order has split apart into a chaotically evolving multipolar complex (which at this point, and not only because of phenomena like ISIS, cannot even be called a "system"). - Third, the planetary ecology has entered a process of rapid metamorphosis due to the tremendous new injection of atmospheric carbon that followed the 1990s boom.

All of us who became globally conscious through the use of the Internet demanded the impossible. We demanded to consume the world in a flash of electricity. Or rather we responded, each with our own forms of resistance, to an injunction far more powerful than ourselves, and we participated in this world-consuming process.

In my post I wanted to say two things. First, there is now a real threat of full-scale war in the chaotic multipolar power complex (a threat that is being lived out as a kind of anticipatory simulacrum in France right now, with thousands of soldiers patrolling the streets). Second, this dramatic rehearsal for war risks entirely diverting our collective political attention from the accelerating process of climate change that now constitutes our human horizon, in every sense of that last word.

Meanwhile, on the ground, very close to us, the rupture in continuity that explodes every norm of the neoliberal world has already happened. It's the breakdown of egalitarian citizenship. This is the third thing, the absence of democracy, the gaping hole. Undoubtedly, for those of us who restlessly consume the world, it is the fundamental locus of our own situated blindness. In the EU, this largely silent drama has been given a face by the egalitarian mobilizations of Greece and of Spain, where, as Eric rightly points out, political experiments are underway and are struggling to reach a European stage.

In my view, the issue is not about demanding the impossible. It's about finding ways to participate in the massive ruptures of probablity that define the present as the tangibly uncertain, the open horizon. To participate, for an intellectual, is to analyze and express the current situation, not on the basis of predictions, but on the basis of changes that are already underway. And that's not apocalyptic thinking, to respond to some objections that David Garcia has thoughtfully made. Disaster, as Blanchot once tried to point out, is when the stars ("les astres") fall down to earth, and you can actually touch your own destiny.

Unfortunately, the figures of an ancient religious conflict or clash of civilizations have been effective at closing this human horizon, and transforming or restranscendentalizing the experience of our mortality into something eternal and untouchable that can be securitized by the army. I guess that in your terms, Sebastian, this would be the last stand of the Bayesians. I don't think it's going to last very long, actually.

thanks for your post, Brian

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