Originally published on Through Europe, January 2015
What follows are various fragments that emerged from the efforts to explore what a radically negative anthropology might be. They were written a number of years ago now and are revived to assist in a rethinking of what the project of a radically negative anthropology might entail, that is if it is not to be abandoned. Pride and egoism had kept them from previously being made public as they are written with the naivety and arrogance that I’m sure I will always find in the writings of my younger selves. Further, I had previously sought a level of coherence that was unrealistic, and in fact undesirable. I have now made additions, corrections and further considerations in the footnotes rather than updating the original text as I considered it useful to be able to identify what has changed since they were written and what has not. A very few have been removed entirely as they did little to assist rethinking the project or simply regurgitated tired old motifs. As such there are times when the roman numerals for each section skip forward in the series. I have left the original numbers in order that the removals and absences remain identifiable and are not effaced. Finally, I would ask the reader to approach them with a critical compassion in as much as we may seek out what is useful within these pages, rather than focusing upon their obvious insufficiency and incoherence. To use Deleuze’s words, “Every time someone puts an objection to me, I want to say: ‘OK, OK, let’s go on to something else.’ Objections have never contributed anything.”[i] Let us try and locate points of departure for creative lines of flight rather than obstructive blockages. Let us enter the spaces of and… and… and…, whilst overcoming the not… not… not… Let us not succumb to the pits of nihilistic despair, but read these fragments as active and affirmative free spirits.
Anthropology must no longer determine what humanity is. It must no longer attribute qualities and characteristics to humanity. It must escape it obsession with positivity. This is the primary sense of a radically negative anthropology.
Anthropology must work harder to remove the mask of science[ii], under the mask of Enlightenment. The very notion of a radically negative anthropology requires operating without masks, further without faciality; in the eternal return to chaos, a radically negative anthropology must operate not only without a mask but also without a face, not simply in iconoclasm, in an eternal twilight of the idols, but through processes and becomings which do not even enter into the question of idols, icons, masks or faces, processes which never become differentiated enough to not be considered undifferentiated[iii].
Potential is what radically negative anthropology favours. Its purpose, if we may use the word purpose, is in readdressing assumptions, not reinforcing them.
The radically negative anthropologist must seek out zones of opacity where bodies become indistinct.
We must not concern ourselves with species, races, cultures, societies, people, humans, in short with delimited categories. All we need concern ourselves with is forms-of-life[iv]: virtual and actual, potential and reified.
The traditional field site must be abandoned.
A radically negative anthropology is not a pessimistic anthropology, as with that of Hobbes or Bacon.
A radically negative anthropology does not concern itself with human beings but with forms-of-life. Such forms-of-life never only concern human beings but are involved in becomings-animal, becomings-environmental, becomings-cosmic and assemblages which always include material and immaterial elements, signifying and asignified representations, virtual and actual flows, subjective and objective intersections, modes of production and reproduction, or modes of re/production.
The hollowness of being, of space and time, of the possibilities of experience and of representation, are embraced by a radically negative anthropology; not in an existential[v] sense, which makes use of the transient and contingent nature of the boundaries of subject and object and representation in order to ascribe a self-important, ego stroking, interiority-exteriority divide. Rather we take the hollowness of being, the ø that is a member of every set, as the very chaos, the inconsistent multiplicity, that allows radical difference; it is the basis from which we can draw territories and weapons, it is that which allows the many-faceted and varied shades of forms-of-life, it is the plane of immanence from which delimited existence springs and shall invariably return.
So, after all this, what does negative mean, what would a radically negative anthropology do? Of course we shall not define it, to do so would be to enter positivity and the domain of delimitation. Negativity is axiomatic[vi], not legislative.
What we can say is this: a radically negative anthropology is not a dichotomous opposite to the positive. Indeed, at times methodologies which appear entirely positive may be harnessed by the radically negative anthropologist. What is of vital importance to negativity is the flux between de- and re- territorialisations, de- and re- stratification, the endless movement between consistency and inconsistency, perhaps quite simply – the eternal return.
It was Schopenhauer who clearly laid out how each science, each consistent and coherent system, operates by the application of general universal knowledge to particular cases; and it was Nietzsche who showed us that the will to a system demonstrates a lack of honesty. This is one reason why a radically negative anthropology is not a science, nor a system. A radically negative anthropology must start with each case, not with universal knowledge, not with the consistent system of a positive anthropology; and further it must examine, disentangle and assess the universal knowledge which made each case a case in the first place.
In the sense of the last thesis, a radically negative anthropology is the most absolute radical empiricism[vii]: each case is examined anew, and the systems that gave it the delimited consistency that allowed it to be recognised as a case are challenged and reduced to inconsistency so that each form-of-life and each plane is uncovered with its own metaphysics, its own becoming.
We are certain the radically negative anthropologist will be accused of nihilism; what the accuser must be show is that the path to nihilism is laid by positivity, not negativity. The category of truth, of the judgement of god, and divine morality, leads us to nihilism for it shall fall back upon itself realising its own emptiness.[viii]
Radical: from Old English rædic, radish, root – a change from the root, an escaping of the root, uprooting the comfortable in favour of potential. The embracement of the rhizome.
Negative: from negativus, that which negates, denies, that which says no – a refusal to settle for a supposed reality, a continual questioning, a reassessment of assumption, a rejection of the comfort of positivity
Escaping from the comfortable is vital to the survival of forms-of-life.
β) Magic and Enlightenment[ix]
Enlightenment is an overcoding of magical planes. It is the system in which magic becomes science, the shaman becomes scientist,
The annihilation of animism is not its annihilation, but its stratification, its overcoding, to the point that it is no longer perceptible. Animism remains within the logic of Enlightenment but as a qualitas occulta. Causal relations, as a foundational element of scientific thought, show a tendency towards the one, towards the reduction of multiplicity to systems of general equivalency.
This tendency towards equivalency reveals the will to power[x] in Enlightenment. The one is a vital element in the control of power through enlightenment. The count-as-one, as contingent, transient process which is at its root multiple, is hidden and that the one is not is concealed.
The overcoding of magic is not a matter of evolution, it is not a matter of progress towards utopia, although it hides itself under the mask of evolution; it is a matter of overcoding, not recoding.
Magical planes are more honest than enlightened planes. The shaman or sorcerer, whilst imitating the demon, never conceives of themselves as the demon, they never conceive of themselves as the ground of reality whereas the enlightened being, the modernist, the scientist, grants themselves the judgment of god that the sorcerer would never dare of giving themselves for they know they are incapable of explaining reality; further, they would not even accept such a concept as reality, as one reality, a correct reality. They, the sorcerers, are never masters[xi] of the world as the enlightened beings are.
Magic retains singularity. The sorcerer, shaman or magician by maintaining the milieu-bound specificity of their practice and action, and an indexical mimetic relation to deus sive natura, does not enforce separations of objects and subjects, facts and falsehoods, upon their reality. In such away, the representations of magic are not subordinated to a totalised Idea, do not grant utter sovereignty to the Idea, the relatedness between ideas and substance is not lost. Enlightened thought, on the other hand, through elevating the Idea resulting in a univocal matter, produces the fabricated separations the result in the ultimate taxonomical categories of the one.
Magic indeed makes use of equivalency, but a singular indexical equivalency of mimetic relatedness. Enlightenment on the other hand takes equivalency as its foundation in its most general form. The equivalency of Enlightenment dissolves all content and becomes obsessed with form, but form devoid of any applicability other than general equivalency[xii].
The autonomy of ideas is necessary to enlightenment. To separate the plane of ideas from the plane of matter is a precursor to systematically totalised representation. In this sense, the Greeks began Enlightenment, for economics, the state and politics too require the autonomy of ideas and most of all the Idea.
As such, the patriarchal god is a form of representation shared with enlightenment, a subordination of multiplicity to the one. The hierarchisation of gods under god, the apparent illumination that follows the twilight of the idols, sees the subsumption of the many by the one, sees representation conforming to the rules of the one.
Abstraction is the enlightenment’s favoured tool; indexication, magic’s….[xiii]
Magic knows nothing of subjects and objects….[xiv]
The point is not the magic achieves a greater understanding of the world, or reality, or nature; quite to the contrary, it has no need for such categories as nature or reality.
It is precisely the twilight of the idols that we must aim to explore. Not the night, and not the day.
γ) Subjects and Subjectivities
The theory of the subject’s primary role is that of the continuation of state of domination.
A radically negative anthropology must do away with the theory of the subject. There is no room in the exploration of potentiality and possibility for a delimited entity such as the subject.
Subjectivity, includes connexion in its most immanent characteristics. There can be no subjectivity without connexion. Affection is vital to the existence of subjectivity and this can only be achieved through connexion be it conjunctive, disjunctive, subsumptive, intergratory, or any other of the widely varied modes of connexion.[xv]
The integral connexion of subjectivity shows the subject as little more than a hegemonic weapon of discursive domination.
Existentialism, the existential crisis, arises from the impossibility of maintaining the gap between subjective and objective schemas.[xvi]
The slowness of the world is transformed to the speed of our subjective shared space and political economy now produces an absolutely unbearable, cruel, velocity.
The principle of functional reality is now embedded deep within the vectors of subjectivity, it is hard to see anything that does not have function or use.
Forces and processes of delimitation are pervasive, they are hard to locate, to witness, without favouring deteritorializing movements. Indeed, often forces of delimitation are only visible in the wake of deteritorialization, as a trace, an imprint, a shadow; and many a time does the recognition of one force or process of delimitation from a deteritorialized plane of immanence simply result in reteritorializations that sees the repetition with difference of delimitation in the emergent affect of the lines of flight.[xvii]
The question is then: what weapons do not lead to the repetition of delimitation? What magic, what anthropology, what refrain, can we compose for ourselves that will not just fall back into the comfortable planes of delimited entities? What lines of flight are immanently resistant to delimitation?
Economics and the state require delimitation, their logic is inextricably caught up in logics of delimitation.
The subject is delimitation’s exemplar, its proudest achievement, indeed one that is not easily decomposed. Often, the money commodity has been pointed to…[xviii]
Every system of general equivalency too requires delimitation in order to operate, in order to develop its form of equivalency, in order to dissolve content according to that form, and in order to interface differential segments under one code.
Delimitation need not be concrete, only limiting. The most abstract judgements, the most virtual systems, the most general comparisons, can be the most damaging to spaces of possibility.[xix]
Delimitation is essential to enlightened planes, deus, sive natura could not be categorised and managed without processes of delimitation.
Delimitation is totalising, that is not to say totalised. With each movement of delimitation, spaces of possibility become smaller, retract, become more enclosed, but it is doubtful that they ever become entirely closed, totalised.
Neither economics nor the state precede one another, they must appear simultaneously for one is always predicable to the other. In their constitution as subjective shared space, neither comes first, they are symbiotic.
Privatisation and désétatsation, the extension of the market and the neo-liberal ideology, is not the deconstruction of the state, but its effusion to all parts of life, its progressive totalising. The double removal and extension of the state by economics extends both state and economics under a mask of freedom beneath which lies the faces of subjection and subjectification.
We have already made clear that anthropology is not a science[xx]. But what also must be accepted, and even actively uncovered, is that the sciences of the state too are not sciences. Economic science, political science, psychoanalysis, the sciences put to the service of biopower, should not be considered sciences but apparatuses, assemblages of capture and control, discursive webs for the intensive and extensive application of domination.
Bureaucracy is vital to the administration of state power and apparatuses of capture. The overcoding of bureaucracy grants it emergent consciousness by which it may continue the movements of economics and the state apparatus with minimal supervision or engagement from any form-of-life, indeed it becomes its own form-of-life.[xxi]
We must remember that overcoding does not equate to apparent complexity, the claim to simplify bureaucracy for the good of the state and for the good of economics is the logical progression of a bureaucratic overcoding, its terminal velocity, for at this point the consciousness of bureaucracy has reach the point where its visibility, its active administration, is no longer necessary; the assemblage becomes so stable, so developed, so grounded in its territory, that all segment’s movements beyond its boundaries are strictly limited, maintained within closed spaces.
Commoditisation, integration to the commoditised schema of general equivalency, requires not only stratification, but also staticification. Process cannot be valorised as commodity if it is not static.
Speed is now one of the most powerful tools of political economy, it has become more powerful, more pervasive, than utility ever could have been for it is not itself a simulacrum but a relation between simulacrums.
Debt brings about the death[xxii] of exchange.
Capital has become Dionysian, no longer is it outside of its disciples, its producer-consumers, no longer is it an externalization, a reification, or merely and objectification; now it rest within and around, across and throughout, penetrating and rupturing every intensive locus of subjectivity to the extent that each form-of-life becomes folded in upon itself, finds itself in entanglements that leave its differentiated existence upon its own plane unbearable, an eternal and cruel anguish.
The deterritorialized face of capital is diffuse and pervasive, this face is that where the producer-consumer is inseparable from the produced-consumed.
Even Proust bore witness to the elevation of speed – his anguish at the slowness of the telephone.
The annihilation of space through time has almost, if not already, reached terminal velocity.
The delimitation of politics within the binary structure of left and right has been a highly effective means of lobotomizing the general intellect.[xxiii]
Creative practice is one of the few processes, if not the only one although we would never make such a judgement, which unites differential forms-of-life. It is hard to locate a movement, a flow, a process, which is not creative. Perhaps this is what has been struggled with under the mask of universality, the face of spirit.
The greatest trick that capital has pulled is convincing the world the creative practice is productive.
Creativity can demonstrate itself through destruction, the life-force and death-force are indissociable. The war machine has done exceptionally well at manifesting creativity as destruction.
The will to creation is associated to the will to life, to the will to becoming; it is that element that resists the hollowness of ontology, of being.[xxiv]
On the difference between production and creation – production only emerges from stratified systems, structures of distinction and differential definition preceded by identity; creativity works on, through and with bodies without organs, deterritorialized planes of pure potential.
Production may only produce this or that whereas creativity may very well create nothing, indeed it may annihilate this or that.[xxv]
[i] Deleuze, Gilles (1987) Dialouges, New York: Columbia University Press
[ii] Here we refer to the populist conception of science as Enlightened Morality. It must be made clear that we do not oppose science in the slightest. What we oppose is the conception of science as absolute morality.
[iii] Addition: it must be acknowledged that there are tendencies developing within anthropology that run along similar lines to the kind of radically negative anthropology first called for by Tiqqun. In particular we should note Eduardo Viverios de Castro’s work and his call for a “permanent decolonization of thought”; likewise Eduardo Kohn’s ‘anthropology beyond the human’ makes promising advances towards the kind of territory a radically negative anthropology might navigate. In addition, we should also point to Bruno Latour’s approach. There are of course others who are making significant contributions within and beyond the discipline itself but listing them here would be too lengthy a process. However, many of these approaches, particularly Latour’s, are not very well able to account for power and political economy.
[iv] Correction: We should perhaps instead be talking of forms-of-life-and-death rather than unproblematically assuming Wittgenstien’s terminology for we cannot privilege life at the expense of death or death at the expense of life—they are tendential. However, further work must be done in clarifying this.
[v] Here we refer to a conception of existentialism that ignores the work done by Heidegger in dismantling the subject-object split and falls back on comfortable metaphysical understandings—such as parts of Sartre’s existentialism
[vi] Correction: No. it is not axiomatic, but creative—a mode of creative destruction far removed from the reductive Schumpeterian ideal. A clearing of discourse and Being that gives space to potentiality.
[vii] Correction: perhaps we would be better to consider it, with Deleuze, Bergson and Proust: transcendental empiricism
[viii] Addition: Instead, it must be shown that a radically negative anthropology is as far from nihilism as can be: it is a creative movement which refuses to settle for the pre-ordained.
[ix] Addition: this section appears full of many generalisations: it is important to acknowledge the limits of such an approach, but also to accept that there may be elements of use in them: the primary function of this section is a questioning of the universality of Enlightened modes of thought and this is perhaps well achieved by applying the method they themselves use: abstraction and generalisation.
[x] Correction: No! Not a vulgarised understanding of the will to power as the will to take power, perhaps better: the desire to dominate or the tendency towards fascism
[xi] And as Deleuze, through Nietzsche, has shown us— “Our masters are slaves that have triumphed in a universal becoming-slave” (Deleuze—Nietzsche and Philosophy)
[xii] Addition: and symbolism in the Piercian sense
[xiii] Originally unfinished. Perhaps we should also add that as Eduardo Kohn has suggested, we might try to understand the enlightened separatism as an obsession with symbolic semiotics that leaves us blind to the extensive nature of semiosis
[xiv] Originally unfinished
[xv] Addition: and a connexion that is not exclusively human.
[xvi] Again, we here refer to a certain conception of existentialism (see note iv)
[xvii] It must be made clear here that we do not see deterritorialization as the intrinsically ‘good’ side of de/reterritorializations, but rather that point from which densely knotted discursive and material entanglements can be loosened.
[xviii] Originally unfinished. Perhaps this was to suggest that in fact it is the subject, rather than the money commodity, that is the highest form of general equivalency
[xix] Addition: Metaphysics, for example
[xx] See note i
[xxi] Perhaps ‘consciousness’ is in appropriate, bureaucracy certainly enters into ‘thought’ however. One only need to look at Kafka’s dizzying bureaucracy to see this.
[xxii] Correction: perhaps ‘death’ is not appropriate, perhaps we mean ‘end’ instead—what is key here, and will be explore further in a forthcoming article, is that with debt exchange becomes entirely balanced and reciprocity is cancelled out. As such, we should perhaps distinguish between an equalising, or capitalistic (although it was in existence before the start of ‘capitalism proper’), mode of debt whereby two sides of an equation are always balanced, and a more primordial form of which creates constant imbalance and so too reciprocity—this latter form of debt has as its great theorists Mauss and Nietzsche. All too often we confound these two forms of debt which actually have very little in common—the first is a constant imbalance and so a constant hetergonisation—it is a basic principle of the socius, whereas the latter seeks to continually equalise, make equivalent, and so efface difference. One ensures the equation is always imbalance, and so always changing, whereas the other seeks to ensure the equation is always balanced, and so static.
[xxiii] This is also to be a topic of a forthcoming article concerning the relationship between anarchism and the individual, a relationship which is of tantamount importance in moving beyond Morality.
[xxiv] Perhaps here we mean, in the vain of the early Nietzsche, is an adaptation of “we have art so as not to perish from the truth” (The Birth of Tragedy)
[xxv] What do we mean by this? Perhaps it is that creativity so often shatters the old as it brings about the new.