Readers
Desire
8 essays
Compiled by Rita Aktay

If desire is a two-faced machine—at once capable of producing a different world and perpetuating current forms of violence—we must aim to grasp it as clearly as possible. Indeed, the disentanglement of desire from capitalism and oppression remains the one master-key perpetually out of reach. Now, in lockdown, some desires are forced to remain unfulfilled, like consumption or contact, whilst others are amplified, like the demand for a basic income. Cognitive activity has been temporarily rid of its immediate valorization, and this gifts us that adolescent time needed to be truly honest and think collectively. In this recalibrated awareness, we should rigorously scrutinise our desires, making sure we never desire a return to normal.

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Franco “Bifo” Berardi
Desire, Pleasure, Senility, and Evolution
Originally published in February 2020

Forty years ago, I remember shouting, “No future! No future!” with some young British musicians. I thought it was the provocation of an unlikely avant-garde. Now, everybody thinks that the future is over; now, the sentiment aligns with a conformist position held by most of humankind. “No future” has become common sense, and this is why cynicism is expanding in contemporary culture, in contemporary political behavior. Futurism was the expression of a society that expected something from the future, and of a society that truly felt the warmth of community, whether encapsulated in the nation, the family, or social ties to working communities. All the above was the reality of lived experience a hundred years ago. No more! Today, the nation is a nonexistent thing. The dissolution of the nation is an effect of the pervasive digitalization of information and of power based on information. Do you think that Google belongs to the United States? Not at all. The United States belongs to the territory of Google. So does Italy, and France, and so on.

Mark Fisher
“A social and psychic revolution of almost inconceivable magnitude”: Popular Culture’s Interrupted Accelerationist Dreams
Originally published in June 2013

We live in a moment of profound cultural deceleration. The first two decades of the current century have so far been marked by an extraordinary sense of inertia, repetition, and retrospection, uncannily in keeping with the prophetic analyses of postmodern culture that Fredric Jameson began to develop in the 1980s. Tune the radio to the station playing the most contemporary music, and you will not encounter anything that you couldn’t have heard in the 1990s. Jameson’s claim that postmodernism was the cultural logic of late capitalism now stands as an ominous portent of the (non)future of capitalist cultural production: both politically and aesthetically, it seems that we can now only expect more of the same, forever.

Antonio Negri
Reflections on the “Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics”
Originally published in March 2014

The “Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics” (MAP) opens with a broad acknowledgment of the dramatic scenario of the current crisis: Cataclysm. The denial of the future. An imminent apocalypse. But don’t be afraid! There is nothing politico-theological here. Anyone attracted by that should not read this manifesto. There are also none of the shibboleths of contemporary discourse, or rather, only one: the collapse of the planet’s climate system. But while this is important, here it is completely subordinated to industrial policies, and approachable only on the basis of a criticism of those. What is at the center of the Manifesto is “the increasing automation in production processes,” including the automation of “intellectual labor,” which would explain the secular crisis of capitalism. Catastrophism? A misinterpretation of Marx’s notion of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall? I wouldn’t say that.

Martha Rosler
Culture Class: Art, Creativity, Urbanism, Part II
Originally published in March 2011
Brian Kuan Wood
Is it Love?
Originally published in March 2014

And pairs that cannot absorb one another in meaning effects
Go backward and forward and there is no place

Ana Teixeira Pinto
Male Fantasies: The Sequel(s)
Originally published in October 2016

“How could the masses be made to desire their own repression?” was the question Wilhelm Reich famously asked in the wake of the Reichstagsbrandverordnung (Reichstag Fire Decree, February 28, 1933), which suspended the civil rights protections afforded by the Weimar Republic’s democratic constitution. Hitler had been appointed chancellor on January 30, 1933 and Reich was trying to grapple with the fact that the German people had apparently chosen the authoritarian politics promoted by National Socialism against their own political interests. Ever since, the question of fascism, or rather the question of why might people vote for their own oppression, has never ceased to haunt political philosophy. With Trump openly campaigning for less democracy in America—and with the continued electoral success of far-right antiliberal movements across Europe—this question has again become a pressing one.

Keti Chukhrov
In the Nebulous Zone between Class Antagonism and Violence
Originally published in October 2016

Brexit, US elections, Russian elections, Georgian elections: after so many political disasters, the limits and goals of emancipation seem to be blurred. Yet they have to be reinstituted again in the midst of a most dispiriting situation—when the Left has fallen into the trap of populism, when liberals resort to conservative moralism, when neoliberals claim avant-garde subjectivity, and when a reversion to tribalism is mistaken for anticapitalism. Reactions to the Brexit vote from the cultural and enlightened Left have demonstrated a paradox: not only have many grassroots emancipatory movements collapsed into reactionary beliefs, but the agents of politically progressive thought—the cognitive Left—have in their turn also demonstrated an amazing lack of concrete knowledge, support, or understanding of the living conditions and social motivations of underprivileged social groups. The poor find more recognition of and affinities for their hardships and habitus among nationalist and conservative elites than among the transnational cognitive Left. It is in light of this situation that new forms of inequality, class antagonism, and violence are at stake.

Raqs Media Collective
Is the World Sleeping, Sleepless, or Awake or Dreaming?
Originally published in June 2014

Another conversation threw up a fascinating image: “During our regular night shifts, the general manager used to be abrasive with any worker he saw dozing. He used to take punitive action against them. One night, one hundred and eight of us went to sleep, all together, on the shop floor. Managers, one after the other, who came to check on us, saw us all sleeping in one place, and returned quietly. We carried on like this for three nights. They didn’t misbehave with us, didn’t take any action against us. Workers in other sections of the factory followed suit. It became a tradition of sorts.”
Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar (Faridabad Workers’ News), May 2014

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