THE LIMITS OF THE ‘INTENSIVE’ AND SOME PROPOSALS FOR A RESOLUTION
Author: Eric Reilly (Ras)
“…[politics] is about making claims and judgments—and having the courage to do so—in the absence of the objective criteria or rules that could provide certain knowledge and the guarantee that speaking in women’s name will be accepted or taken up by others” – Linda Zerilli
“Feminism begins with body sovereignty, the recognition of the female’s body not only as Her territory, but who she is.”
This essay will deal with the problematic of the intensive as it applies to trans and queer inclusive feminist politics and machinic paradigms denying or refusing a fixed or naturalized gender category for ‘woman’ under patriarchal genderizing pressures and exclusionary practices. In particular, it is influenced by the movement Xenofeminism, authored by technofeminist collective Laboria Kubonics. To avoid confusion, I will stress that while the manifesto’s concepts may have influenced this essay to an extent, it in no way necessarily represents their orientation. It is my modest goal to represent it as I understood it.
Intensiveness is a concept popular in academic scholarship in feminism, psychoanalysis, economics, urban planning, ecology and elsewhere, however, the concept has led many to raise the question of its redundancy. While the concept is useful in describing an accelerating rate of variable production cycles in a constant and unchanging temporal period – ‘increasing the relative surplus labor time’ – the concept only describes this one side of a process that has another aspect often alluded to or hinted at, but usually with a less disciplined and rigorous analysis than that of its unique corollary, antithetical development, acting as an independent phase of the first, intensive phase which together form the total process of consuming, producing, and reproducing value in self-expanding, auto-poietic valorization.
Marxian theories of market crises locate the disturbance of production in sudden fluctuations in the values of commodities produced which differ at the moment their sale must occur from its value during production. Thus, the separation of these two phases – purchase and sale – is extended to the separation of the intensive phase of production from what I term the ‘retentive’ phase. When temporary barriers to the intensive phase of neoliberalism’s deregulated capital flow are put up, not to ‘block’ the circulation of commodities to outside markets, but rather, to ‘store’ or ‘retain’ an excess of value-substance, until the market’s technical ensemble of economic control and regulation of the bodies of its subjects – the body’s position, distribution, operations, market preferences, credit rating, and all other gathered information for classifying bodies for their analysis and market management – neutralize the disequilibrium. Thus, there are dual telos operating coextensively in the set of the differing procedures and policies of ‘neoliberalism,’ which is destabilized by this binary contradiction, at the same time that these unstable tensions within this discursive formation’s twin parallel conveyor belts, running in opposite directions, go into nourishing its renewed existence and vitality. These are the telos of ‘the good life’ and the telos of ‘working hard and making sound financial choices’, a cognitively dissonant set of contradictory values. Marx, in his Theories of Surplus Value, separates the arguments of the bourgeois economists in favor of luxury consumption (Say, Ricardo) and those who embrace thrift in achieving market equilibrium (Malthus, Sismondi). These are both one-sided arguments, and each develops from different phases in the development of capitalist exchange: one from phases of productive growth, and the other from slowdowns, falling wages, layoffs, and credit droughts. Their self-contradictory apologies enforce the same dualisms in the ‘family household’. There may be no ‘necessity’ – in Marxian terms of the level of the development of the productive forces – for any separation of the classes or the sexes, but what perpetuates it is the market’s resistance to abrupt changes in expected human behavior. It’s dual telos enforced on its subjects, is the economic cathexis of this same duality in early patrilineal households later extended – through the extension in production and trade to new territories – patriarchal societies protected by an ideology of religious traditions, filial loyalty, and private ownership of the female’s body by the male patriarch ‘for the good of the family as a whole’. Whether or not this is a model of reductivist economic determinism, it is arguable that in its early stages – though certainly not today – the transition of egalitarian societies to often matrilineal communities, and later to patriarchal villages and civilizations, such an analytical model is adequate. Today, a much more dynamic and cross-disciplinary model of technology, sexuality, economics, and ontology are needed to address these complex and often divergent lines of critical thought which crisscross at multiple points. It is at these vector points that the networked path connecting the local to the global spaces is traced and constituted, and this must be done through the deconstruction of linear paths that fail to touch upon all the other factors and the sum total of their self-reflexive conditional determinants. This ‘whole’ cannot be modelled at once, and so we must content ourselves with Althusser’s reading of Marx as a ‘departure’ and ‘return’ from the local to the global, and then back. To see the totality means the processes would not be seen, and through inserting ourselves in this psychotextual space, we may invent new means from it, and escape the authority of the absolute.
The radical notion of the flows of capital and the libidinal flows of desire travelling on the same plane of political economy helped fuse the economic and psychosexual processes that had previously been conceived as a dichotomy from which to choose the one best suited to the scale, scope, or layer of ‘material laws’ under investigation (in de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, economic-historic forces are the driving force behind women’s alienation, in Firestone’s Dialectic of Sex, the psychosexual is the logic of the division of the sexes). This radical immanence of undifferentiated substance producing a multiplicity of subjectivities and identities, capable of assuming both sameness and difference in their self-replicated and self-replicating constituent bodies, though it attempts to hide from binary formations, does not eradicate the textual contradictions of Derrida’s attacks, if we take Derrida’s transgressive method out of the ‘written text’ and set it free in the province of corporeal object-ontology, where the text is still spoken/written, but within and through the economic/social/political processes narrated on the body through a process of coded inscription, we disrupt the ontological contradictions Derrida himself disavowed as the goal of his text, Grammatology. I afford myself this transfer from literary text to ontology owing to the nature of techno- capital’s hyper-imperial production: through interactive and immersive media, the ‘hypertextual’ interface, we program and inhabit dual ontological structures, bringing the experiences in each to the other via I/O data flows. The undefined, incomplete body must ‘write’ and ‘read’ its code as the body ‘speaks’ to its subject. This is, in simplest form, an immaterial text of sensation, perception, memory, and reflection. These operations encode the body with two concepts I introduce for the first time as the ‘psychotextual’ and the ‘textualsomatic’. these neologistic portmanteaus reflect two key features of the body as a deconstructible literary text:
- Textual meaning is unstable. Thus, the psychotextual, which binds the code to the body’s awareness and recall of its process in ‘reading’ through it in memory, is unstable because the memories of the psychic faculties of expression, desire, and language (for articulating desires and enunciating requests) are themselves fluid, changing and unstable sites of the body’s relation to itself as it narrates a ‘self’ or ‘selves’ in memory, the mediator of the self’s self-relation. The ‘mirroring stage’ of self-recognition, which Lacan argues is the stage of self-objectification, a sort of ‘Hegelian’ alienation in the pre-verbal phase of expression, through the body’s identification of sexual and erogenous sites of stimulation. This identification and circumscription of these pleasure sites of gratification/desire fulfillment, signifies the closing of the bodies open and inclusive phenomenological relation, marking the separating off a part of itself, in thought, as an object of its own ‘love’. This narcissist love of a part of the self as an independent object has both liberating and repressive significance, which will be addressed later.
- To find these different meanings, we will refer again to the deconstruction of the body as ‘textualsomatic’. Where ‘psychomatic’ processes are engendered in the mind and felt in the body, the ‘textualsomatic’ is written in the body and read in the ‘mind’, reactivating the percept site’s endogenous sensory stimulations – visual, auditory, tactile, etc. – in memory, until this self-replicated process of memory leads the self to both rewrite and re-read its body’s relation to the objects of sensation it authors, reads, and critiques simultaneously, through perpetually redefining its relation to the Other through its psychosomatic and sensorimotor performances of individualization.
I propose these concepts as a contribution to a growing body of techno-feminist politics of the ‘cyborg’ or ‘alien’, the central subject of its investigations, analysis, and critique of patriarchal logics of essentialized identity and binary gender constructions. This synthesis of the social system of language and speech on the one hand, with the political economy of sexual desires, imaginary desires and wealth/power on the other, is an analytical methodology in which I hope will be adequate to the non-cis-male today, whether or not the newly adopted ‘neutral’ prefixes of ‘queer’ or ‘trans’ are attached to the only partly constituted, partly imagined ‘female’ subject, in their attempts to form relationships with technological devices and systems about which I will remain descriptive, so as to clarify how existing techno-robotic production processes might be modified or overhauled to function in the service of monitoring and enhancing this constituent female subject’s life, well-being, and most ambitiously its universal release from alienation. Here, alienation is the mutually reciprocal separation of body from body, self from other selves (identity A from not A and not A from A) and self from the world of its objective production. Since these separations open up vulnerable spaces of expropriation by power – particularly the heteropatriarchy of the market regime -questions of ownership immediately arise, and the category of property and labor under the neoliberal (or what I also designate as ‘market fascism’ and ‘hyper-imperial sovereignty’ to unite the economic formations with the political logics necessary to reproduce it). If the market regime is sovereign, than it follows that, over its territorial space it has sovereign authority. But this sovereign is neither a formal state or ruler. It is an axiomatic principle (recall that the Axiom was the last category along my ontological spectrum above). And this axiom remains the ‘general law of capitalist production.’ Before we can highlight the problematic of the body and property ownership, I must first address two related political factors: one, the qualitatively different composition of a ‘hyper-imperial’ paradigm of capital; and two, the specific permutation the general law of capitalist production has undergone in this new global network of neoliberal social formations. To begin with, the ‘sovereign’ authority of an axiom or rule, is the negation of the beliefs, agency, will and actions of the individuals in the ruling classes of early bourgeois society in governing the twin phases of production and consumption via circulation. Nature has become completely alienated from itself: even the capitalist is subordinated to an ‘alien’ will of capital’s chaotic and unpredictable laws of seeming necessity, when in earlier capitalist formations these laws were enforced through violence, confiscation, that is, by the ideas of the rulers, which today are hypostatized by the very conditions of production this ideas expression created through practice. This is not to apologetically deny these violent interventions by neoliberalism, but to suggest that these events, today, occur under the will of the market in terms of the limits of its productive powers.
Likewise, patriarchy, or the privileged identity relation, ‘Man’, becomes increasingly aware of the limits of its potency, and its loosening grip on autonomous action independent of the needs of the market in absorbing the composite particles which, in their circulation into the bodies that consume them, produce the greater magnitude of the exensively recombined quanta of its monopoly ownership privileges on violence, compulsory sale (i.e. dowry, prostitution, rape), sexual reproduction, and market exclusivity. We may model patriarchy as a private monopoly because one dimension of its power is to provide for some of the needs and wants of the non-male subjects, but at rates and under conditions which all who do not own patriarchal privilege must accept to survive. This monopoly has a household, local, national and global dimension. Because a globalized capitalist universal totality has subsumed labor, not only formally within the enclosed space of the workplace, but actually, by setting the massive proportions of capital’s organic composition today off to bring all human activities, behaviors, and interactions into its logic of market surveillance and data collection on its individual actors, whose future actions are calculated in advance based on past patterns and frequential models simulating all possible market outcomes before assigning an upper and lower limit to what its profit rates in its future state.
But what surveilles civil society can also communicate with through the mediating networks within which data is exchanged with data – a precursor for BitCoin currency rate fluctuations when its decentralized networks of digital distribution transfer these digital units from one overburdened circuit of exchange to one performing at only half its speed and capacity. The volatility of its price stems from having no retentive process to limit the intensive production of its fictitious value. Material capital flows across networked pathways, through valorizing points attracting high volumes of abstract wealth, attaching part of the value it passes to the innumerable other value-components it sheds and attracts as it completes its phases of exchange. Capital flows as a dominant male in search of its ‘mate’ in a material commodity to inseminate with its impotent flows of useless immaterial substance. Though we cannot model the whole system of global production, both because there is no external space to perceive the global space from neutrally, and because it changes and restructures to retentively neutralize all of its localized crisis and sites of anomic capital flight through the same techno-coordinated instant market feedback-response mechanisms and computerized execution of wealth transfers predicted to yield the highest rate of profit where it goes, when it goes there. As it travels across this imaginary distance through a web of non-linear pathways, the abstract value of the financial and service markets will detach some of their total value and bind to the circulating commodity, if:
a) there has been an excess of fictitious capital and excess credit for which some abstract value no labor activitiy has even produced yet, must find some existing product of labor to bind to, or
b)if the aggregate value-substance on the market has risen unexpectedly, and each currency unit must miniaturize itself into micro-units to maintain a proportion ratio of value-units to the value-magnitude of the social product. If intensive production yields wealth in excess of what the market can absorb, the market’s retensive processes take over, storing wealth instead of investing it, sheltering assets in overseas tax havens where they are not taxed but do not grow. The retensive counterbalances the ‘overproduction’ of intensive exploitation. If an enterprise intensifies its exploitation by 50%, its value-magnitude will grow that much. But if, with this added value to spend, it can fire 50% of its laborers but reorganize the division of the rest in production that is 50% more efficient, it will return the same value at half the labor-cost, to retain two things that are really the same: retain the costs that did not go to variable capital, and retain the labor of society, which it has the most control over when it is put out of work, used as a threat leveraged against those still employed. And in the textual discourse it inscribes n the bodies of subjects, it intensively constructs accepted rules of speech and belief while the rest are retained, kept from the reader. The radical overthrow of this dominant paradigm of global capital is both a practical deconstruction of the material relations and social formation, and a creative deconstruction of exploring and inventing new worlds from the material offered by the old.
“Alienation is the state of labor struggling for freedom.”
In a world dominated by the superstitious power of abstract production, new truths, new ideas, must be invented, and the suppression of the imagination is deliberately exercised against its liberating possibilities. Gendering processes are the first textualsomatic experiences that power imposes its universal meaning on, because virtualized capital needs one concrete object to ensure its circulation will eventually find an object of production to bind to the body, the laboring body, and its powers and passions.
If rationalism is not strictly male, then a feminized rationalism must liberate itself universally by liberating bodies from nonexistence, releasing them into the world of ‘things-in-themselves,’ where our connection with objects outside ourselves both gives us truth and gives truth to it. The performative feminist, in relation to truth, plays the role of the Parrhessiatic: the figure in ancient Greece designated the right and obligation to ‘speak truth to power.’ Free to express those forms of language excluded to others, statesmen would consult him for honest advice. Today, the feminist must stand between civil society and the state, the literary text and philosophy, but always between boundaries, outside of which the body of the feminist can narrate a story through the liberated space for encounters, communication, performative speech and gesture, and play. The body’s awareness of itself is first glimpsed through self-pleasure, and in the sublation of this into feminism, through its ‘intimacy access’ to shared knowledge, ideas, and potentials for self-determination and for technology’s instrumentalism in transform living relations in community’s unburdened by needless work.
These tireless conditions of deferred production and sale, in a global marketplace dominated by abstraction, which, as Feuerbach said in the opening of his critique of Christianity, ‘prefers the sign to the thing signified, the representation to the object itself’, turns historical science back into its theological form, and turns labor into a market investment, wages into ‘indvidual capital’, and savings into ‘dividends.’ Labor transforms into a business in this immaterial space, and the laborer becomes the ‘idea’ and the ‘imagined’ of the subject without any objects outside of it to have or be had by that Marx invokes to illustrate Hegel’s objectification of Thought in his general outlook. However, this critique of Hegel’s phenomenology may be read as a prescient anticipation of capitalist production which, if it has not mobilized the workers against the conditions of destruction embedded in capitalism’s productivist logic, will still be submitted to the positive aspect of the dialectic as it transforms the global form of social production into its negative. If this transformation of the working class into the negation of private property, and therefore itself as a class, is not achieved, the positive aspect of the dialectic will instead transform the material form of production into its negation in immaterial conditions of production. Hegel’s idealism thus becomes the negation of materialism as the substance of historical motion, which the reign of Mind appropriates in contemplation of itself, into an object of thought, without existence, frozen in eternity, and signifying history’s disappearance, and the vanishing of “the people” in it. No longer is alienation that from the means of production, but from the onto-genetic conditions to which their development must be traced, but which can be traced there no longer, because it has been replaced by this repetition of sameness. Difference – which Derrida pairs with ‘deference’ to show that the latent nihilism of his non-explanatory method’s refusal of absolute meaning, can find an existential answer within the irriuptions of the text as it is stretched to its limits. The polyvocal interpretations of a line of text are the literary-philosophical equivalent of the polyvalence of series of commodity exchanges in the ontology of flexible, global markets. But the commodity is but the mere image of the living body’s interaction with the material world in production, and soon the living being experiences a reified self-relation in which it recognizes its whole life and existence in its accumulated objects. They are set to be consumed, and so is the body of the laborer who produced them, for the body is a commodity itself, with a price tag attached to its surface after passing through its many determinant phases in production. None of these phases are what the body ‘is’, but separate phases of realized states of its possible manifestations. Commodities must obey laws, however, and those possible manifestations of the body that have no use to capital are excluded from thought, limited by the ‘productive forces’, whose size and capacity too appear unchangeable – retained as a stored surplus – under alien laws of accumulation that repress other possible configurations for it and the body’s relation to these possible configurations.
Marx rejected all utopianism, but at a time when capital had not become the sovereign of the ma imperial market, the contemporary model of the ancien’ regime, a self-immanent in imperium. The sovereign axiom had from the beginning burrowed into the capitalist order, in the commodity itself, whose sovereignty of abstract value would dominate its exchange, over and above the material needs of society. It was the arbitrary ruler over all human relations, changing them each time it reproduced them through a process of sameness, of repetition of an event, that the most sensitive oscillations of the contingencies of the market can turn into difference, as the repeated process sets out on a new trajectory. The genderless, propertyless (and the first form of human property is the body), monetized prisoners of universal alienation must adopt the critical and creative epistemological style of deconstruction, which poses different interpretations to all partial truths offered by a society governed by a fictitious demiurge. All received truths should be dismissed as fanciful delusions of idealism, or the intervention of the evil designs of the demiurge of commodity production, whose will masquerades as the universal will, forging all concrete existence into a mirage of itself, a world without any objective, sensual substance not yet wastefully consumed, but whose abstract forms, their empty possibilities haunt us from the past in the future, when the rule of ‘bourgeois reason’ has reduced time to exchangeable, identical units of currency. It is no difference whether value creates a material object at the regressive termination of this sequence of signs deferring to each successive sign. All that is produced is the body and its determinate desires, and all production becomes is infiite circulation, of desiring bodies, bodies producing desires, producing more bodies, producing the same deferred desires indefinitely (for what is speculative investment that is without a material object of productive activity, but this psychic cathexis in wealth, power, and value?) These sequences of signs forbid other interpretations of their ordering and syntax from emerging at the corners of the market, and here the techno-feminist project of emancipation and abolition of the rigid gendered and genderizing meanings could begin to reveal new interpretations. The feminist must be interposed not between literature and philosophy, as Derrida was situated, but between sexualitiy and politics, where the body and the state find their relation to each other in the relation of civil society to political society, the state. The selves that have not yet become, that have not yet realized – to play with Marx’s ‘species-being’ – their ‘sexual-being’ create a space at this interstice to actualize it in all its possible determinations.
Though rationalism is embraced by the victims of patriarchy’s ‘rational’ reproduction, it must embrace those other faculties – ‘universalize rationalism’ – of the embodied mind suppressed by patriarchal hierarchies subordinating all other cogno-affective experiences to the sovereignty of reason: it must use its faculties of creativity and contemplation, imagination and reflection, to find its own myths and fables of its experience, transforming the material it apprehends into allegories, metaphors, and fantasies into which reason may go to find something concrete to imagine and associate with its concepts. The aesthetic is the mediator of reason and morality, while capital had duped subjects and rulers alike that the reasoning principle, the ‘axiom’ of the commodity, was the highest form of thought. But thought only fulfills its potential faculties in all directions when it has an instant output of its choices on technological interfaces, to which the user can trace the decision to the initial beliefs, desires, and intentions, then modelling these modalities as separate categories of propositions on a computational logic tree. Though reflecting on itself, or contemplating its own existence, is the closed, circular logic Marx insisted on avoiding in his historical-analytical method, but new technologies open this circle and widen its circumference at exponential scales of growth. A liberated society is one whose members cooperate in mutual self-determination and collective sharing of all technical procedures, who share access to technological systems of enhancement. This access must build protocols and safeguards into technologies of human-machine interactions which simplify and open the pathways to the digital feedback the end user requests from its input signals in network application protocol interfaces. The term ‘access intimicay’ coined by Mia Mingus refers to this client side adaptations sensitive to the specific needs of menal illness, speech pathologies, and mood disorders, and thinking about ways these technologies can be an instrument of user-controlled treatment and identity deconstructions.
Intensive development, free from the authority of the rational principle, takes rational pleasure in intensive growth and growing into its gender, its relation to social reproduction, to self, and to its interpretive performance’s uncovered meanings. Thus, the truism that one is not born a woman, but becomes one, is better rephrased as ‘one struggles to become free to become one’, or become any other limitless gendered bodies on the sexual spectrum.
Xenofeminism: A Politics for Alienation, Laboria Kubonics
The Narcissistic Ego, Freud
Grammatology, Jacques Derrida
Academically Literate/Queerly Literate, Lucy K. Nichols
States of Injury: Power and Freedom in Modernity, Wendy Brown
Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Karl Marx
The Embodied Mind, Thompson
Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Gilles Delueze and Felix Guitarri
Discipline and Punish & The History of Sexuality, Foucault
Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism, Grotz
Queer Post-Gender Ethics: The Shapes of Selves to Come
The Science of Logic, G.W. Hegel
Capital, vol. 1, Karl Marx
Theories of Surplus Value, Karl Marx
The New Dialectic and Marx’s Capital, Christopher Arthur
The Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State, Engels