Radical media, politics and culture.

terminological stuff

In Brett Neilson's paper "Potenza Nuda? Sovereignty, Biopolitics, Capitalism" (online at www.usyd.edu.au/contretemps/5december2004/neilson.pdf )he writes

"Marx defines labour-power as “the aggregate of all those mental and physical capabilities existing in a human being.” And in this sense, labour-power is the common name of all potentials—the key that joins the ontological question of potential/act to an analysis of the capitalist relations of production. By conducting his philosophical investigations between these poles,Virno pushes beyond Agambenʼs Aristotelian view of potential as ʻpreferring not toʼ—a disposition that, as Negri point outs, sounds like nothing so much as a declination to act politically."

Brett's paper is great. A few things though - it's important to note that "the aggregate of all those mental and physical capabilities existing in a human being" can be made into labor power, this aggregate is not necessarily labor power. Rather, this aggregate is potentially labor power, is subject to being made into labor power.

Similarly, Stevphen Shukaitis recently posted on aut-op-sy (2/27/05) "laclau/moufee would tend to seeradical democracy in a institutionalized form as not losing the characteristics that negri identifies within the concept of constituent power - while negri's move to conceptualize such as then being constituted power implies a sort of constant & necessary cycle between constituent and constituted power"

I haven't read Insurgencies yet, so I'm not totally clear on this constituent power stuff, but it strikes me that there are two ways to read this: on the on hand, if movements and struggles, the multitude or whatever we call, is identified as 'constituent power',there's the question 'constitutive of what?' Negri says somewhere, I have to chase up the reference, that the multitude always expresses a juridical aspiration. This seems to say that constituent power will constitute, a positive sense of the term.

Another reading would be to say that constituent power is that which constitutes, now, but is not necessarily bound to constitute. That is, constituent power is something to subtract from constituted power (the operation that the Colectivo Situaciones call "de-stitution").

To make a parallel with value production, one can read labor power similarly in two ways: labor power, (as the aggregate of human potentialities), will produce value, a conception that makes it hard to think about refusal of work, about escaping the capital relation. On other hand, one could that labor power is that which produces value, now, but the goal is to subtract from value production (an exodus?), to stop producing value. For instance, Tronti (among others) identifies the working class as the animating force behind the historical changes and innovations in capitalist production and that as long as capital exists it exists only as animated by labor. This is important, but it's also important that the working class, at least potentially, can stop being the animating force of capital, by stopping being variable capital, ie, by escaping (ending) the capital relation.

Actually, to my mind, the term labor power is synonymous with life-put-to-work, life that produces value. But labor power is not synonymous with people, with movements and struggles. The goal or aspiration is to stop being labor power. Perhaps in parallel fashion the goal is to stop being constituent power? That seems different from Negri.

Agamben,Homo Sacer p43 "The problem of the difference between constituting power and sovereign power is, certainly essential. Yet the fact that constituting power neither derives from the constituted order nor limits itself to instituting it - being, rather, free praxis - still says nothing as to constituting power's alterity with respect to sovereign power."

Agamben then turns to ontology, in passages I have trouble following, and ends up with the problem of "thinking ontology and politics beyond every figure of relation" (p47). Perhaps this is part of the question of how to think (and practice) rupture? Brett cites Negri that Agamben's refusal may be just the refusal to act politically, and Virno says that Agamben has no political vocation. The question to respond with might be, what does one mean by politics (and by vocation)? Does 'politics' mean representation, decision on exception, the act of constitution? If so, then I think the Agambenian response is precisely to say "yes, let's quit acting politically" and in related to work, to call for the 'absence of opera' ("Movement"), which I take to be a return to the refusal of work.

Must read further...