Tolga has written a beautiful and thoughtful response to Foucault Is Dead’s recent post on communities and my recent post asking what will we have been. There Tolga writes,

OK. I am probably repeating a well-known cliche.

It seems to me, being in positions like “drug cultures, blogsphere” (though I have not been in the former and only reader of your ‘communitiy’) cannot hide the class conflict between the members. On the contrary, you realize it more, exactly because they are attempts to repress it.

Yesterday, I watched the longest mevie I have seen (it was 5.5 hours!), 1900 of Bertolucci. This post reminded me that movie, it just rang a bell. Its entire content was nearly about that conflict occuring between two main characters, the peasant (Depardieu) and patrone (De Niro).

In one scene they “try” to have sexual affair with a whore. In another, they dance with their couples in the same hall. When they are kids, wealthy De Niro desperately makes an effort to mimic the poor kid’s ugly habits: like screwing the earth, touching the face to mud etc. But it cannot be resolved. All these attempts are failures, which made the movie so wonderful to me.

In specific to Sinthome’s remarks about the multitude like continental philosophy blogosphere, as a reader of that community I can basically see those “real” contradictions and as Badiou said in one of his recent interviews:

“Negri remains inside this classical opposition, while using other names: Empire for state, multitude for movement. But new names are not new things.”

Shortly, as an outsider I think the differences are too much to make them that dream like multitude. Since new names are not new things.

Why do some of them prefer linkin Lenin’s Tomb for instance, while some are more intereted in their academic positions? Please, do not misunderstand, I am not judging anyone, just saying that they are rather different in the sense of real.
Sorry, if I got outside of the road. This was a quick light occured to me when I read your post.

First, I am in agreement with Tolga regarding the issue of antagonism. Nothing in my original post, nor, if I can be so bold, in, I think, FiD’s post, was meant to suggest that blogging or counter-cultural communities are somehow a solution to antagonism. Nonetheless, I think Tolga is right to draw attention back to the centrality of antagonism in the formation of these communities. When I evoked the word “multitudes”, Negri and Hardt didn’t even occur to me as, perhaps embarrassingly, they really aren’t central theoretical reference points for me. Perhaps this will change next year when I teach a learning community on empire with one of the anthropologists here at my college, where I plan to torture the students with Empire. Rather, in evoking the term “multitudes” I was instead trying to be polite, and to emphasize that those of us in this little blogosphere come from very different theoretical orientations, backgrounds, forms of employment, and lifestyles, thus underlining that we are not homegeneous, yet still find some way to discourse or engage one another. In fact, I think these differences are a productive principle as they tend to function as a curative to theoretical myopia that, for me at least, sometimes becomes an occupational hazard. If I am to discourse with, for instance, Kenneth Rufo who I very much appreciate, I must take into account our very different reference points. Such an encounter then becomes a creative moment where I’m drawn out of my own theoretical assumptions and become something other than what I was.

When I write a post such as “What Will We Have Been” or my various reflections on the Enlightenment, my aim is almost invariably to make the rather banal point that communication is not just about something, rather communication is something. That is, I want to emphasize that communication, discourses, interactions, leave a material trace that then proceeds throughout communities of speakers in much the same way that a message is transmitted from radio tower to radio tower. What fascinates me about the Enlightenment is not so much any determinate philosophical or theoretical claims, but rather how a small community of thinkers was formed across Europe and the Americas that, through their communication with one another, formed a “paradigm” (a very heterogeneous and contentious one, filled with fierce internal polemics and debates) that had the effect of changing the broader social field as a whole. I admire Diderot, Rousseau, Hume, and so-on, precisely because there was so much standing against them, because they were so small, yet nonetheless their tiny voices somehow managed to make the world tremble over time. FiD posts something on such and such a topic. Others respond on his blog. Perhaps even without mentioning it, I pick up on some variant of that theme and develop it in a different way. I Cite or Blah-Feme or The Kugelmass Episode or Valve or the Weblog then picks it up in another way and develops it in yet another direction. High, Low & in between traced such an occurance beautifully in his series on the “apocalypse discussions”. A discourse was formed around a particular theme that led to the production of a proliferation of ideas going in very different directions, and that produced a particular object of discourse (apocalyptic narratives), various ways of thinking this object and its significance, and a community of often opposed individuals engaging that object. Something became “real” that might not have been at all through this interaction. This is a minor thing in the case of apocalyptic narratives, but what of much larger things such as the political field? At any rate, I don’t begin with the premise that movements or communities are formed around shared assumptions and values, but rather that they are formed around shared fields of contestation and conflict. I am united with my enemy by a common point of identification in a ground that we contest.

The reason I’ve been focusing on this phenomenon so much since around September is because I’ve become increasingly interested in how movements and groups come to be formed, shifting the terms of debate within a given situation. Jodi Dean has recently written a very nice post on what I also have in mind by shifts in the terms of debate, whereas I’ve been focusing more on the material mechanisms, the communicative networks, that proliferate these shifts. My interest in this was initially spurred by a certain despair I experienced with regard to politics in the United States. Between 2001 and 2006 I felt that conservatives had so effectively dominated the channels of communication that there was no possible ways to pierce the collective doxa that they had formed through decades of repeating certain false commonplaces. Yet between 2005 and 2006 I followed the emergence of political blogs and saw the way they had a genuine impact on how news was reported through mainstream media outlets and how public opinion began to gradually change. This was made possible through the materiality of communications, through the fact of these communication having taken place, and through vast networks being formed that repeated and varied certain themes and points, also conveying information. While I’m certainly not happy with the state of American politics– the two parties really amount to a choice between two poisons, both of which will ultimately kill you but one a little less painfully –I nonetheless find these mechanisms of material communication of great significance… Just as I find the manner in which the conservative religious right formed groups and identities through mass mailings, the purchase of radio and television stations, large organization of churches, and people walking from door to door to spread their message of great significance.

Tolga is absolutely right– The formation of groups and movements, of multitudes, does not itself address the real of antagonism. However, without the formation of multitudes the real of antagonism has no fighting chance of being engaged at all. In this regard, I think there is an ethics of communication that isn’t simply an ethics of how we communicate with others. It is an ethics that treats it as imperative that we do speak and write because if we do not that speech will not have taken place and will leave no trace. It is an ethics in which one occupies the place of a radio tower, linking to those things which you have found of interest, and repeating what others have said that you find to be of importance. It is an ethics that we have the courage to think that perhaps others have not heard, that perhaps what seems so obvious to you isn’t known or obvious to others and therefore is worth inscribing, so that someone else might pick it up and put it to work. And finally it is an ethics that engages the themes of others, varying those themes, so they might continue to be vital and alive, creating other possibilities for others to vary them yet more. In this way I believe that communities of sentiment might be born, which might, through some improbable miracle, have a genuine impact at the level of practice, how institutions are organized, how problems are solved, and how power is organized. This ethics is my secret link to Lars or Spurious, as he finds the will to write every day, to trudge back into the work of writing like Joseph K. going back out into the snow and slush once again in The Castle, thereby embodying the ethic of saying the same thing again, even if you don’t know what that thing is or if you are perpetually unable to say the sense of what you say. So this is how I live with myself, rationalizing why I repeat so much what others who actually have the power to think have said, and kidding myself that there’s some value in what I write.

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