Friday, April 23, 2010

Silly season

Seeing as we're all in full essay/procrastination mode, I thought we might enjoy a bit of distraction that combines both:

The one about angel dust is my fave.

Good luck with the essays, comrades!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

As part of the Capitalism, Culture and Critique series, the Centre for the Study of Global Media and Democracy, Goldsmiths, University of London invites you to a debate and open conversation with Luc Boltanski (l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris), co-author of 'The New Spirit of Capitalism' (Verso 2005), and author of 'Distant Suffering' (Cambridge 1999), and Nancy Fraser (New School for Social Research, New York), whose most recent work is 'Scales of Justice' (Columbia 2009).

The event will take place on Thursday April 29th in RHB309 5-7, Goldsmiths, University of London and it will be followed by a drinks reception in the Senior Common room.

All are welcome so please feel free to circulate this information.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Education without Frontiers

Education without Frontiers: Workshop, Music Food, at Goldsmiths 18 March 5pm 2010;
March 15, 2010
Education without Frontiers: Has the UK Border Agency Overstayed its Welcome?

Speakers, Workshops, Music, Food
Date: 18 March, 5pm – late
Location: Goldsmiths, University of London

We stand united, as students and staff, in opposition to the new points-based immigration rules. They frame students as suspects and turn staff into border agents. Join us, meet others, and help spread the campaign!

With Les Back (Sociology Department, Goldsmiths) Phil Booth (NO2ID), Valerie Hartwich (Manifesto Club), Sandy Nicoll (SOAS Living Wage Campaign/Justice for Cleaners), Frances Webber (Human Rights Lawyer), speakers from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, No Borders, and more.

Organised by the Students Not Suspects campaign and hosted by Goldsmiths Students’ Union and Goldsmiths UCU.

Speakers and workshops in RHB 142 (Main Building) from 5PM to 8:15PM; food/social in the Stretch 8:15-10PM, music 10pm-late.

Location: Main building, Goldsmiths, Lewisham Way, New Cross, SE14 6NW
Closest train stations: New Cross, New Cross Gate
Buses: 21, 36, 53, 136, 171, 172, 177, 225, 321, 343, 436, 453.

The event is free; register at

More details about the Students Not Suspects campaign at:
Facebook: Students Not Suspects
Download a poster:

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Arcane of Reproduction - Fortunati

A few notes and questions/ideas on the Fortunati text in the reader.

1. The capitalist male/female relationship is an exchange between women and capital, mediated by men. This relationship operates through a juxtaposing of its formal appearance and its real functioning.
Again we see capital and the social relations around capital are prone to mystification - there is a dual character to the relationship, and a sense that the real functioning is somehow hidden from view. Exchange between the male worker's wage and the female worker's housework or prostitution work appears as such, but in reality there is an exchange between variable capital and housework, ie capital and the female worker, mediated by the male worker.
This reproduction work must appear to be a 'natural force of social labour'.

2. Female labour-power is posited as use-value, not exchange value. Fortunati says the exchange must not appear to be organised in a capitalist way. The houseworker's labour-power has no price. In what appears to be an exchange of equivalents - money/housework - the housework has no limit and no price. Therefore her exploitation is without limit. Whereas the male worker sells his labour to the capitalist for a set period of time, she sells her housework with no limit of time - till death do us part. Her chance to 'change contract' is limited.

3. Fortunati says capitalism is built upon the inequalities of power between and within classes. Why is this the case? Is gender equality impossible in a capitalist society? I think she means that women's work - housework and prostitution work - is always a capitalist exchange mediated by men, and that because women's labour-power has only use-value, not exchange-value, women face inevitable inequality. Fortunati says the only way capital can organise the production of 'labour-power' as a commodity is to define a specific process of production and its related exchanges.

4. Fortunati says the woman has two choices - sell her labour-power on the market, like the male worker, or sell it to the male worker as housework or prostitution work. Housework is a safer market. The male worker is obliged to buy housework in order to satisfy his needs (use-value) and replenish his ability to work etc. I think there's a very obvious question to be asked here. Fortunati almost seems to suggest an essentialist attitude to gender roles - the man is 'obliged' to buy housework rather than cook his own bolognese/wash his own pants etc. I appreciate that this is a fact of life for most women in the UK, let alone the rest of the world, but I don't think it is inevitable. But perhaps Fortunati is arguing that this unfair division of labour down gender lines is in fact an inevitable inequity in a capitalist society? Maybe this is explored more in the rest of her book.

5. Finally, a summary of Fortunati's concise but astute look at prostitution.
Prostitution work appears, at the formal level, to be a commodity, an exchange-value. But in reality the male worker has not received prostitution work but female-labour power. His aim is not appropriation of the value created by her labour but the satisfaction of his needs. The exchange is not an exchange of equivalents. Neither party is equal nor equally 'free' in the exchange. The prostitute cannot sell her labour-power legitimately - she is criminalised. This liberty to sell negates her personal freedom. The money is legitimate; the labour is illegitimate. But at least she sells it for a determinate time only, so she has slightly more 'choice' than the houseworker.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Deleuze, Marx and Politics

Following on from the discussion on Thursday afternoon about Marx and Deleuze:

Deleuze, Marx and Politics by Nicholas Thoburn

"A critical and provocative exploration of the political, conceptual and cultural points of resonance between Deleuze's minor politics and Marx's critique of capitalist dynamics, 'Deleuze, Marx and Politics' is the first book to engage with Deleuze's missing work, The Grandeur of Marx.

Following Deleuze's call for an interpretation that draws new relations and connections, this book explores the core categories of communism and capital in conjunction with a wealth of contemporary and historical political concepts and movements "” from the lumpenproletariat and anarchism to Italian autonomia and Antonio Negri, immaterial labour and the refusal of work. Drawing on literary figures such as Kafka and Beckett, Deleuze, Marx and Politics develops a politics that breaks with the dominant frameworks of post-Marxism and one-dimensional models of resistance towards a concern with the inventions, styles and knowledges that emerge through minority engagement with social flows and networks. This book is also an intervention in contemporary debates about new forms of identity and community, information technology and the intensification of work."

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Form and content

Completely forgot to mention this when writing the previous post. Those of you interested in Marx's style of writing - and in issues relating to writing in general - might want to consider the extent to which his occasionally peculiar style (a mix of equations, Dante, factory reports, ancient Greek, etc.) corresponds to issues of form and content. The relation of form to content is obviously a very broad issue with lots of possible applications, but what I'm referring to here is the extent to which what you say might determine how you say it; i.e. the notion that certain forms of expression might be more or less adequate to the content that they articulate.

You don't need Hegel for this problem, and you certainly don't need him to talk about it, but he might help illustrate it. Hegel wants unity with the Absolute, and yet he has to talk about the Absolute, thus remaining separated from it in a sense. He tries to solve the problem by saying that we become one with the Absolute through the process of learning and expressing our unity with it (see also Hegel's early, oddly mystical attempts to express his system in diagrammatic form, later abandoned for being too representational, and compare this to the consequently flawed but interesting interactive Hegel found here)

Marx obviously doesn't have to worry about such problems (or at least he doesn't have the same problems; you could perhaps go from form and content in Marx to theory and practice), but he does seem to touch on issues of form and content at least once of twice. See for example p.442-3:

"...The latter aspect will not be considered until the first section of Volume 3 of this work. In order that we may treat them in their proper context, many other points relevant here have also been relegated to the third volume. The particular course taken by our analysis forces this tearing apart of the object under investigation; this corresponds also to the spirit of capitalist production."

...might be interesting to relate this to the great lists that Marx reels out in this chapter (see pages 461-2, perhaps 478 and perhaps also the summary on 447)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Cut up machine

This is a website that features some discussion of the cut up techniques used by Burroughs, Gysin and others, as well as a few cut up generators that you can use yourself:

There's a better cut up machine here:
Type in a text and see what you come up with. I've put some of my own stuff into it, and have just produced two little statements that seem pretty apt here: "the writer is being example of a vaster construction" and "play on Marx's own famous opening words in words". However, as I was cheating a little by using an essay on writing techniques. So, in the interests of fair play, I used another text relating to my thesis as a whole; this produced "one speaks little of a little trite. Nonetheless, it's worth noting into an academia enthralled by postmodernism". ...Not quite sure what to make of that