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"The revolution is the movement, but the movement is not the revolution"

Paul Virilio, Speed and Politics, 1977

 

"In a world of regulated scenarios,

minutely pre-calculated programs,

impeccable music scores,

well-placed choices and acts,

what puts up any obstacles, what

hangs back, what wobbles?

Wobbliness indicates the body. 

Of the body.

This limping/wobbling indicates a weak-heeled man.

A God held onto him there.  He was God by the heel.  The Gods limp whenever they aren't hunchbacked.

The dysfunction is the body.  What wobbles, hurts, holds up poorly, the exhaustion of breath, the miracle of balance.  And music holds up no more than man. 

Bodies have still not been properly regulated by the law of commodities.

They don't work.  They suffer.  They get worn out.  They get it wrong.  They escape. 

Too hot, too cold, too near, too far, too fast, too slow."

Philippe Carles, Jean-Louis Comolli, "Free Jazz: Out of Program, Out of Subject, in Out Field", 2000

 

 

People have often insisted - T.E. Lawrence is no exception - on the kinetic dimensions of politics and war as a strategic counterpoint to a quantitative concept of relations of force.  That's the typical guerrilla perspective as opposed to the traditional perspective.  It's been said that if it can't be massive, a movement should be fast, faster than domination.  That was how the Situationist International formulated their program in 1957: "it should be understood that we are going to be seeing and participating in a race between free artists and the police to experiment with and develop the new techniques of conditioning. The police already have a considerable head start. The outcome depends on the appearance of passionate and liberating environments, or the reinforcement — scientifically controllable and smooth — of the environment of the old world of oppression and horror... If control over these new means is not totally revolutionary, we could be led towards the police-state ideal of a society organized like a beehive."  In light of this lattermost image, an explicit but static vision of cybernetics perfected as the Empire is fleshing it out, the revolution should consist in a reappropriation of the most modern technological tools, a reappropriation that should permit contestation of the police on their own turf, by creating a counter-world with the same means that it uses.  Speed here is understood as one of the important qualities of the revolutionary political arts.  But this strategy implies attacking sedentary forces.  In the Empire, such forces tend to fade as the impersonal power of devices becomes nomadic and moves around, gradually imploding all institutions. 

 

 

Conversely, slowness has been at the core of another section/level of struggles against Capital.  Luddite sabotage should not be interpreted from a traditional marxist perspective as a simple, primitive rebellion by the organized proletariat, a protest action by the reactionary artisans against the progressive expropriation of the means of production given rise to by industrialization.  It is a deliberate slow down of the flux of commodities and persons, anticipating the central characteristic of cybernetic capitalism insofar as it is movement towards movement, a will to potential, generalized acceleration.  Taylor conceived the Scientific Organization of Labor as a technique for fighting "soldiering/go-slow" phenomena among laborers which represented an effective obstacle to production.  On the physical level, mutations of the system also depend on a certain slowness, as Prigogine and Stengers point out: "The faster communications within the system are, the bigger is the proportion of insignificant fluctuations incapable of transforming the state of the system: therefore, that state will be all the more stable."  Slowdown tactics thus have a supplementary potential in struggles against cybernetic capitalism because they don't just attack it in its being but in its process itself.   But there's more: slowness is also necessary to putting lifestyles/forms-of-life that are irreducible to simple information exchanges into relation with each other.  It expresses resistance of relations to interaction.

 

Above and beyond speed and slowness in communications, there is the space of encounters which allow one to trace out an absolute limit to the analogy between the social world and the physical world.  This is basically because two particles never encounter one another except where their rupture phenomena can be deduced from laboratory observations.  The encounter is that durable instant where intensities manifest between the forms-of-life present in each individual.  It is, even above the social and communications, the territory that actualizes the potentials of bodies and actualizes itself in the differences of intensity that they give off and comprise.  Encounters are above language, outside of words, in the virgin lands of the unspoken, in suspended animation, a potential of the world which is also its negation, its "power to not be."  What is other people?  "Another possible world," responds Deleuze.  The Other incarnates the possibility that the world has of not being, of being otherwise.  This is why in the so-called "primitive" societies war takes on the primordial importance of annihilating any other possible world.  It is pointless, however, to think about conflict without also thinking about enjoyment, to think about war without thinking about love.  In each tumultuous birth of love, the fundamental desire to transform oneself by transforming the world is reborn.  The hate and suspicion that lovers excite around them is an automatic defensive response to the war they wage, merely by loving each other, against a world where all passion must misunderstand itself and die off.

 

Violence is the first rule of the game of encounters.  And it polarizes the various wanderings of desire that Lyotard invokes the sovereign freedom of in his book Libidinal Economy.  But because he refuses to admit that enjoyments agree together on a particular territory to precede them and where forms-of-life can mix and move together; because he refuses to understand that the neutralization of all intensities is itself a kind of intensification - that of the Empire, no less - because he can't deduce from this that while they are inseparable, life impulses and death impulses are not neutral relative to a singular Other, Lyotard in the end cannot go beyond the most cybernetization-compatible hedonism: relax, let yourself go, let out your desires!  Enjoy, enjoy; there'll always be something left!  There's no doubt that conduction, abandon, and mobility in general can heighten the amplification of deviations from the norm as long as they acknowledge what interrupts flows within the very heart of circulation itself.  In light of the acceleration that cybernetics gives rise to, speed and nomadism can only be secondary developments beside the primary slow-down policies. 

 

Speed upholds institutions.  Slowness cuts off flows.  The kinetic problem, properly speaking, in politics, thus isn't about choosing between two kinds of revolt but about abandoning oneself to a pulsation, of exploring other intensifications besides those that are commanded by the temporality of urgency.  The cyberneticians' power has been their ability to give rhythm to the social body, which tends to prevent all respiration.  Canetti proposes that rhythm's anthropological genesis is associated with racing: "Rhythm is at its origin a rhythm of feet; it produces, intentionally or not, a rhythmic noise."  But this racing is not predictable as a robot's would be; "the two feet never land with the same force.  The difference between them might be more or less vast, depending on personal dispositions and moods.  But you can also go faster or more slowly, run, suddenly stop, jump..."  This means that rhythm is the opposite of a program, that it depends on forms-of-life, and that speed problems can be dealt with by looking at rhythm issues.  All bodies, insofar as they are wobbly, have a certain rhythm that shows that it is in their nature to hold untenable/unholdable positions.  This rhythm, which comes from the limping/wobble of bodies, the movement of feet, Canetti adds, is - furthermore - at the origins of writing, in the sense that it started with the tracks left by animals in motion, that is, of History in motion.  Events are the appearance of such traces and making History means improvising in search of a rhythm.  Whatever credit we give to Canetti's demonstrations, they do indicate - as true fictions do - that political kinetics can be better understood as the politics of rhythm.  This means, a minima, that the binary techno-rhythm imposed by cybernetics must be opposed by other rhythms.

 

But it also means that these other rhythms, as manifestations of ontological wobbliness, have always had a creative political function.  Canetti himself also discusses how on the one hand "the rapid repetition by which steps are added onto steps gives the illusion that there's a larger number of beings present.  They do not move from place to place, they carry on their dance always in the same location.  The noise made by their steps does not die, it is repeated and echoes out for a long time, always with the same resonance and the same vivacity.  They make up for their small size in number by their intensity."  On the other hand, "when their trampling is reinforced, it is as if they had called for backup.  They exercise a force of attraction on everybody in the area, a force that doesn't stop as long as they continue their dance."  Searching for good rhythm, then, opens things up for an intensification of experience as well as for numerical increase.  It is an instrument of aggregation as well as an exemplary action to be imitated.  On the individual scale as well as on the social scale, bodies themselves lose their sense of unity in order to grow as potential weapons: "the equivalence of the participants ramifies out into the equivalency of their members.  Everything mobile about a human body takes on a life of its own, each leg, each arm lives as if for itself alone."  The politics of rhythm is thus the search for a reverberation, another state, comparable to trance on the part of the social body, through the ramification of each body.  Because there are indeed two possible regimes of rhythm in the cybernetized Empire.  The first, which Simondon refers to, is that of the technician-man, who "ensure the integrative function and prolong self-regulation outside of each monad of automatism," technicians whose "lives are made up of the rhythm of the machines surrounding them, and that connect them to each other."  The second rhythm aims to undermine this interconnective function: it is profoundly dis-integrating, rather than merely noisy.  It is a rhythm of disconnection.  The collective conquest of this accurate dissonant tempo must come from a prior abandon to improvisation.

 

"Lifting the curtain of words, improvisation becomes gesture,

an act still unspoken,

a form still unnamed, un-normed, un-honored.

To abandon oneself to improvisation

to liberate oneself already - however beautiful they may be -

from the world's already-present musical narratives.

Already present, already beautiful, already narratives, already a world.

To undo, o Penelope, the musical bandaging that forms

our cocoon of sound,

which is not the world, but is the ritual habit of the world.

 

Abandoned, it offers itself up to what floats outside and around meaning,

around words,

around the codes;

it offers itself up to the intensities,

to reserve, to enthusiasm, to energy,

in sum, to the nearly-unnamable.

...Improvisation welcomes threats and transcends them,

it dispossesses them of themselves and records their potential and risk."

 

 


changed April 27, 2010