A Dialysis of Life and Death

Brief outline, for navigation:

  1. One cannot speak of the future, as it is dimmer than the present, about which one is already in the dark (¶1)
  2. We are guided by the pretention to truth; at this moment, I am guided by the thought of death (¶2-¶3)
  3. Capitalism seeks to change the world by changing its material through labor-time (¶4)
  4. the capitalist-seller’s changing the world is always his changing of himself (¶8)
  5. pressure is the use of all figurative death with an upper limit of literal death (¶11)

¶1. To attempt to enunciate the principles of the future is a task doomed to failure. Very few can say what is; even fewer, if any at all, can say what will be. The most that can be said with any certainty, a certainty which happens to be absolute, is that what-will-be will not be what-now-is. For, the existential predicate (∃x) is at once a temporally-localized ascription, and one which is subjectively so. It is in this most fundamental of statements, the affirmation that something exists, that we enter into the secret underground, the catacombs, beneath which lie the much-debated disciplines of epistemology and politics. For, in this crypt, we see death merge with life, and all things come together in ways unforeseeable. Here lies buried that which is other from all consciousness, which is immanent to it and yet is its transcendental condition. I mean, namely, experience, or that which one is already doing before he even makes the attempt. One could merely wake up in the morning and already he will traverse the entirety of the crypt, he among its many keepers. He will at every moment traverse it again, forever, repeatedly, and he will continue to do so without his ever having known he has made the journey. Hereby little hobgoblins will begin to trail him and, as he emerges into the light of opinion, he will find himself shining and outshining those around him, others outshining him thereby. Each is helped by his own army of goblins, each peering out into the light from the darkness of immanent otherness. The goblins carry the torch of truth, he its object, his ideas the discordance between himself, the torch, and that of which he speaks. About this circus spins endless discussion, for the locality of these 4 entities (5 if one counts the goblins) is never set in stone. For this reason, no one quite knows what they are doing, for each is at every moment traversing underground tunnels with an infinite following, he a blind shepherd and the goblins his sheep. For this reason, all debate over words is a breath of air, a momentary shining whose showy reflection is but a display of things. How little we know of all that there is in light of this! How less we know of what will be!

¶2. And yet, despite this infinite gap between us and our objects, we speak always as though we had the things themselves gripped in our hands. How foolish! How more foolish for us to attempt to predict what follows from these grips! How little we can do this!

¶3. No matter. If we want to speak of the future, our goblins will guide us somehow and, though we know not how, they will show us something anywise. What is it that they give me now? What is it that they want me to see? These my passions now incline towards death, and it is this of which I shall write!

¶4. The only means to change the world is to control the lives of those who create it. The capitalist knows this all too well, for he believes that he can accrue his capital on condition of the difference between labor-power or any value-quanta he places into a product and that which he gains from its sale. It is in this difference alone that all profit exists, and it is in such profit that all capitalists are produced, if only in the most lightly bourgeois sense. For, we can distinguish between multiple methods of accrual, some of which are personal and depend on no other labor than that of the isolated individual. This solo entrepreneur retains a bourgeois character, albeit in a more medieval-Jacobin sense – he is an artisan become incorporated. This is to say that he is still a capitalist, albeit one far closer to a human potential that has been actualized in and by capitalist modes of labor organization. Therefore, the motive-explanation of what the capitalist “is” is somewhat insufficient, for it cannot explain this artisanal individual in himself. I rely on Marx’s account: namely, that the capitalist is he who behaves as one, and that this behavior (indifferent to motive), is rather the sale of products over and above the quantity of labor it took to produce them. Now, on Marx’s terms, such a quantity can never arise from the artisan, for he could only ever sell according exactly to his own labor-time. If he sold any differently and attempted thereby to turn a profit, he would not be “exploiting” himself, for the surplus labor time would redound to him alone. He is, on Marx’s terms, therefore, no capitalist.

¶5. It is the organizational distinction between laborer-as-creator and seller-as-owner which, socio-ontologically, engenders the latter’s position as a member of the bourgeoisie. Such a social behaviorist account is, therefore, indifferent to the motive of the seller-as-owner. Now, when this capitalist wants to “change the world,” he offers capital to some laborer as a consequence of his labor. Hereby, he objectively alters the socio-ontic conditions about him, for he has taken others under his monetary wing. From this change follows a market change, that is, the presence of the product for sale. From this follows the possibility and then actuality of sale, from which follows the accrual of capital. Such a triangle of change is real in every sense, for in all three moments ((1) seller-worker (2) seller-product (3) seller-sold)) the seller is at each moment the socio-agential actuator. That is, it is he and his intentions which “mind” men like himself. In (1), the laborer is only a material causality; in (2), the product a formal causality; in (3), the buyer/sold-state a final causality. In each case and in the scheme considered as a whole, the efficient cause is the seller. Hereby, all the world changes as it revolves around this seller, for he is its point of departure and return, its exitus and reditus, its alpha and omega. The capitalist is thus the agent of change par excellence, and he does so by subordinating all other kinds of causation beneath him.

¶6. Now, the capitalist does this essentially through a dialectics of life and death. For, no product-consumption is ever anything but a furthering of life in avoidance of death. The dead man wants nothing, for he has nothing to further. I mean this literally and figuratively; for this means the melancholic is dead – he wills nothing, for he is nothing. Life-living, or willing according to desire, thereby lies behind all motivation. This analytic truth is known a priori to the capitalist, who uses it to his advantage. He orients this truth towards his efficiency and, as an agent of change, thereby alters the whole world in magnetizing it. His intention, like electric, magnetizes inert steel and makes it gravitate towards him. The laborer wants the capitalist to employ him. The idea wants the capitalist to bear him through the laborer’s craft as a product. The market wants its niches filled, just as much as all space “wants” to be filled by being. Hereby, like the artist, the seller is a creator in imago Dei, in the image of God.

¶7. About the seller thereby circulates 3 changes. (1) A change among men, laborers and buyers. (2) A change in objective reality, or the presence of a product or service otherwise non-existent. (3) A change in subjective reality, or culture, as mediated through (1) and (2). This final change recurs both to (1) and to a fourth implicit change in the seller himself who, like a mythic hero, creates himself off the backs of those he has subordinated. He is nowise “good” in any of this. He merely plays a certain role, one which need neither be nor not be, but which has been constructed through a series of objective and subjective realities over the course of many centuries. The seller, now, is, therefore, a deposit of change, and he relies on this change for his action.

¶8. Now, because these changes are mediated through a life-death dialectic, the seller can only sell so much. In fact, he is simultaneously limited and determined by this dialectic, so that his selling at all is at once identical in its premises with what could not otherwise have been sold. His “this I have sold” is always an implicit “and that I have not,” but so it is for all intentional action. But this fact limits and determines the seller in another way. Namely, the seller can only conceive of himself in and by his sale; he is the thing that does the selling. What, then, can he be otherwise? Anything else he becomes is super-added to this function, for his world-changing and thereby self-creating capacity flows immanently from it. He is that and nothing else. He lives as that thing.

¶9. A life-death dialectic of sale is thus a life-death dialectic of the seller – of himself. In this self-creation the seller makes of himself a certain kind of man, namely, a man who can and does command other men, products, and a market of desires ready to be satisfied. The capitalist perceives himself on the side of life in all this but, a contrariis, he is simultaneously killing alternate possibilities. His life is thereby always a form of death. (This is not even to mention the market constrictions which warrant real, material death – of the planet, of animals, of men).

¶10. Now, if one foresees a future in death, he might mean it figuratively or literally. Literally, most clearly, he might mean the death of this man killing the world. Through a verbal sleight of hand, one might justify literal death on grounds of their figurative death. I intend to do nothing of this sort. Rather, I want only to put these affairs in the same category. For, if one puts men in a position where they might “do” in every action they take, then the intention-towards-death is only a matter of degree, and never of kind. That is, the intention that death result from an action is only the farthest extreme of a gradation of thoughts which begin “I want to do x,” whatever x might be. Now, I intend to avoid the explicit intention-towards-death altogether. Rather, I want only to keep it in place as a limit, a that-which-I-must-never-reach, so I can explore all options beneath it which, even if approaching it, never do so.

¶11. Now, when I consider the thought, what first comes to mind is a threat, which is too simple. Threats are mere words, and all the world has built itself up around the movement of words. Through some words, armies might be sent and directed, through others millions of dollars might be moved. Threats, then, are a low tier in the hierarchy I am intending. What imaginatively comes next are direct assaults, though these are too overt and easily outdone by official, ministerial words.

¶12. What one needs between the threat and the overt assault is a covert assault or, rather, something which poisons without life-ending, which harms without damaging. Something which, upon a point of no return, will irreparably damage but which, if demands are complied with, will produce desired results. This is pressure, and it is the essential tool of all effective protest and counter-power. What are the methods of pressure, and how might they be practiced intentionally?

¶13. As said at the outset, this is a meditation on death and, thereby, I can consider pressure nothing but a squeezing out of life, an exhaustion. This, therefore, is something like a theory of kinematic activism, or activism with a kinesis, or inner motility, whose force impresses on that of another. To will that others perish is too strong, too inhuman. To speak of these (if only figuratively) is, however, to warrant change. Is this not life-making in its own way? Yes, but not through selling. Rather, through politicking, albeit in a vulgar-activistic sense. (Isn’t even saying this striking to the reader? Doesn’t he or she recoil at the blithe discussion of such topics? If he or she does, then this very reaction has proved my point, for he feels the force of life inside him. At least, I do as I read this.)

Complete outline:

  1. One cannot speak of the future, as it is dimmer than the present, about which one is already in the dark (¶1)
  2. We are guided by the pretention to truth; at this moment, I am guided by the thought of death (¶2-¶3)
  3. Capitalism seeks to change the world by changing its material through labor-time (¶4)
    1. through an efficient causation which controls all other modes of causation (¶5)
    2. which is a sublimation of desire into efficiency, ie. as market-agency (¶6)
    3. material causality changes men, materials, and culture (¶7)
    4. this creates a mythic valorization in the seller (¶7)
  4. the capitalist-seller’s changing the world is always his changing of himself (¶8)
    1. this is a killing of other possibilities of the capitalist’s self (¶9)
    2. thus figurative and literal death can be considered in the same category, the latter a limit of the former (¶10)
  5. pressure is the use of all figurative death with an upper limit of literal death (¶11)
    1. and this can be considered hierarchically (¶12)
    2. with a view toward change, or life-making (¶13)

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