Radical media, politics and culture.

specific intellectual

I'm going to use this space partly just to toss up things from other sources, email discussions and whatnot, to try and keep from losing things. This is from a conversation with a friend about various Italian political philosophers, and the idea of the specific intellectual.

My friend wrote to me about the idea of "understanding how these people can be "specific" intellectuals as intellectuals--they can work with the powers they have, to recompose, at least on the level of theory, a political discourse, in a partisan fashion". This is important. One of the areas where I'm pointing toward now in my (vague, half-formed) questions about this stuff/these writers, is precisely here, on the connection between various recompositions. The questions for me then are:

*What is the relationship between recomposition at the the level of theory and recomposition of other discources (vocabularies, key terms, narratives, etc that enter into the formation of subversive/antagonistic/multitudinous subjectivities both individual and collective, -- we've seen the beginnings of an analysis of this in material on immaterial labor - subjectivity for capital/as resource or productive force - but less so as something against capital)?

*What is the relationship between recomposition at the level of theory (and other discourses) and others forms of recomposition? In some ways this is a recasting of the old 'theory and practice' question. Of course, taking these various writers seriously, it's not a matter of theory vs practice, or of intellect vs action. Rather it's a question of the links between the practice/action of theorizing and other forms of practice/action, and (perhaps not the same question after all) the role of intellect in various actions/practices.

This question breaks down into the following areas of inquiry, among others:

- What are the the links between practices of theoretical knowledge production (questions of multitude, sovereignty, singularity -- philosophy as the crafting of tools to take a Deleuzian [and Rortian!] metaphor) and other forms of knowledge prodcution that I personally tend to call for and valorize, without actually investigating much or actually conducting (workers inquiry, class composition analysis), as well as practices of immaterial labor/knowledge production that fall under the category of "other discourses" that I used above (narratives, etc, I'm thinking here largely of Wu Ming/Luther Blissett)?

- What are the links between practices of knowledge production (theoretical or otherwise) and other practices that are part of recomposition in the operaist sense of "political (re)composition of the class" (you know, strikes, sabotage, refusal of work in various forms, all the various things that fall under the very broad headings of 'struggle' and 'resistance')?

- Are there 'intellectual' aspects to certain practices that are not practices of knowledge production (acting as a street medic at a demo, leftist lawyers and their various activities, affective components to workplace and other organizing, designing leaflets and websites, setting up email lists etc) in addition to activities -- teaching/training -- that are not knowledge production in the sense of producing a work like a book or an idea, though they are knowledge production in another sense (teaching computer skills at hacklabs, training street medics and legal observers for demos, training people organizing skills, facilitating discussions in workshops etc)? How do we understand these intellectual aspects, and the link between these practices/skills and the various other components here discussed (production of theory, narrative, etc and the other aspects of struggle and antagonism here mentioned)? (This is sort of a question about the various types of specific intellectual, and of a possible continuum -- rather than absolute break -- between universal and specific intellectuals.)

- And finally how does all of this relate to the present arrangement of production (and is [how does] the act of producing such an understanding of this relation an act that matters for other acts [again the theory/practice question]?)

Each of these questions seem to me that, well, in each case as much as they are questions they are also nexuses of flow (ugh, sorry!), points of interchange -- theory/practice, discourse/action (to use vulgar old fashioned terms). That is, I don't think there are definitive answers ("This is the relationship between theory and practice, knowledge and action") nor do I think that one side of the relation is determining and the other determined Rather, the questions point out areas for further inquiry into relationships that are multiple, heterogeneous, they mutually determine, and take many forms. (I do think though that perhaps at some points in history theory may well determine practice, or the converse, but that this is a condition with a history, part of a set of power relations.)

Of course, implicit is also a question of "what could these relationships be" and perhaps "what should they be", for political purposes, linked to struggles, to political recomposition. I think for me it's important at the level of theory to be clear that everything flows in every direction and innovation can occur at all points - theory doesn't follow from practice nor the reverse, nor should they. This doesn't rule out the need/utility (in my opinion, at least) to have these line up, though. "Line up" is poor wording, rather I mean for it all to hang together, for there to be a unity and resonance across these various relationships.

One thing I keep coming back to in my thinking about this resonance or whatever its called (unity of theory and practice is what it was called in the bad old days, "praxis"?) is the issue of organization: the role of organization(s) as contexts for mapping out these questions/relations, and the possibility for the "being-in-line" or "being resonant" outside of some organization context (and I don't mean a party, or a union necessarily, but rather simply some - formal or informal - context of collective composition/construction/constitution, across/among the various relationships here named (theory/practice etc.)

Argh. This is terribly obtuse and obscure, but it's what's been rattling around in my head , fermenting a good long while (so if it stinks that's why!). Good to get it out into words. I'm not sure what, if anything, I mean for you to reply to. I would like to hear what you think about the issue of how recomposition of/in theory relates to other aspects of recomposition, in the various thinkers under discussion. (And this could be both an extrapolation from texts of what Negri, Virno, Agamben say/imply an intellectual should be, and a question of what type of intellectual each of them seems to be, to embody, to practice.)