sebastian on Thu, 15 Jan 2015 15:58:35 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Crisis 2.0 - the political turn

(Apologies for forking the thread by replying to a previous message,
when even more would have to be said its more recent branch...)

Dear Brian, of course I have to concede. When I wrote "demanding the
impossible", that was just a cheap Bayesian pun. And lets forget about
Joschka Fischer too, he's just an opportunistic asshole. Whenever the
wind of history changes, it blows right through him. Not interesting.

Instead of mobilizing Bayes, I could have simply stated that I have less
and less hope for Europe, given the political bankruptcy of its
institutions and representatives, and the fact that the Far Right is
becoming the dominant anti-establishment faction in (non-micro)
politics. I can't even tell you when exactly my hope eroded (as a
German, I'd have to say in 1990), but I agree with you that latest with
the 2008 "crisis", the facade of European democracy completely fell
apart. The management of the breakdown comes with an obscene new
vocabulary, the language of politics financializes, one outrageous lie
quantitatively eases another. I don't watch much television, but the
most prominent European politician I've seen deliver a three minute
summary of the economic crisis that wasn't mind-numbing newspeak was
Marine Le Pen. For the Bayesian in me, that was one of the tipping

As an aside, to me the scandal of 2008 appears to be the very opposite
of what you're hinting at, it's that the logic of finance is precisely
not based on Bayes or regression analysis or cybernetics, even though
one should expect it to be, but on something just as bad as religion:
one whose followers shove ficticious credit and houses and pensions down
each other's throats until the next bailout. Capitalism for the poor and
socialism for the rich, but pure anarchy for finance: exchange value
running amok.

But I agree, even (or rather: in particular) a Bayesian has to account
for ruptures. Paris 2005, Cairo and London 2011, Istanbul 2013, many
more. Minor causes, major effects. It is widely claimed that all these
movements were defeated, but that misses their point, since at least to
me, they already seemed like articulations of irreversible victories.
And everyone who has ever been in a riot or a revolution knows that it
provides sudden, unfiltered access to reality, which can be a
life-altering experience of material political value. So yes, if we lack
theory, then that includes a better understanding of such

But while there is an urgent need to create and celebrate these islands
of autonomy, the pit we're in seems to ask for more than partial or
temporary secession. Such a split is already present in many of our
individual or collective lifes, but the rupture will have to be deeper,
more general and somewhat permanent. It is also by no means a European
question, since what ultimately bankrupts Europe is not debt, but tens
of thousands of dead bodies in the Mediterranean Sea.

A few years ago I found myself on a terrace on the 30th floor of a
luxury highrise in Bombay, looking down the immense flank of glass and
steel onto the sparsely lit grid of the city, endless plains of shacks
and swamps and sewage, with billionaire skyscraper homes coming up in
their midst. It's a place that helps you see into the future, simply
because it's so obvious that none of it can last. Everything that will
have to be broken was within view: family, slavery, separation,
corruption, speculation, pollution, bottomless stupidity. And I'm under
the illusion that for a moment I was actually able to see this panorama
as utopian - against the grain that would suggest, say, a burnt-out
skyline that dwarfs Manhattan, with fascist mobs patrolling the ruins,
fighting over broken shrines and idols. Instead I thought I caught a
glimpse of an actual political imagination, a faint outline of the
coming rupture. I wasn't drunk, I'm not claiming I had an epiphany, I
didn't learn anything new, and it wasn't the overwhelming experience of
an exotic place (just by time spent, this is one of the least exotic
cities in the world to me). But I do remember that what I felt, perched
atop that forest of steel and dirt, wasn't just fear or vertigo, but the
silent shock when one begins to physically sense how massive this
revolution, for lack of a better word, will have to be.

> On Jan 12, 2015, at 7:58 PM, Brian Holmes <> wrote:
> 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.

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