Radical media, politics and culture.


Agent provocateur: Michel Onfray

Brad Spurgeon

From The Toronto Star

CAEN, France— He is a self-described hedonist, atheist, libertarian, and left-wing anarchist. He is also France's best-selling philosopher.

At a time when a French high school teacher was forced into hiding after death threats for writing an article in Le Figaro in September calling Islam a violent, hateful religion and Christianity and Judaism non-violent, loving religions, Michel Onfray has already gone a step further: in Atheist Manifesto he dismantles and condemns as dangerous and archaic not only Islam, but Christianity and Judaism as well.
And after more than 30 books, he is finally seeing his ideas spread far beyond his native Normandy. His 2005 book, Traité d'athéologie, became a best-seller not only in France, where it has sold 230,000 copies, but also in Italy and Spain, and has sold well in other Latin countries, and even in Germany and Asia.

In the new year, it will become the first of his books to be translated into English. Published under the title Atheist Manifesto, it will arrive in Canada from Penguin in February.
Onfray has also received death threats, but far from going into hiding, he not only conducts lectures but also appears regularly on French television and radio and makes frequent appearances at philosophical forums around France and Europe.

Although he says that believing in religion's "children's stories for comfort" deflects from the real problems of existence and thus exacerbates them, he does not despise the believers. As a rebel against all manner of authority, he aims his ire at those who impose and organize religion and its ethics, morals and customs.

Reflections on Tronti

Massimo De Angelis

From the commoner

It has been suggested to me, in the corridors of the Historical Materialism conference held over the week end, that what distinguishes what we may call, broadly speaking, autonomist marxism with other marxist approaches is the argument that the “working class” is the agent of transformation that pushes capital on the defence and forces its “economic” development rather then, on the contrary, being capital that “overdetermines” the rest by means of its agency. This suggestion furthermore is accompanied by the claim that this view is false, since capital has “more power.” In my view, the insight of 1960s operaismo with respect to working class agency were not falsified in light of 1980s capital’s agency, they were simply temporally bounded. Class struggle, in a process-like manner, have at least two broad actors, not one, and their tragic-comic struggle develop through highs and lows for both sides, “scoring points” for both sides. The process of this historical development of struggle, this very process of “point scoring” for one or the other, is the stuff of capitalist development. The problem is that acknowledging this does not give us any hint of how to go beyond capital and the very specific form of struggle shaping its development.

And I think it is at this point that it is important to underline that what distinguishes “autonomist marxism” in its operaiste roots to other forms of marxism, is a specific theoretical attitude, one that takes the processes that traditionally we understand as “political” and “economic.” as one. Its unique political methodology is one that allows to ask research questions as part of a heretic research program, heretic because it sees the world from one side, that which is constituted within, against and beyond capital’s own value program, and thus its broad horizon is the end of capitalism and the begining of history. It is therefore a stand from where to ask questions as articulated to walks of struggle, rather than reading the processes making up our world as something that have already been explained away by some form of marxist theory.

Copyright, Copyleft and the Creative Anti-Commons

Anna Nimus

A Genealogy of Authors’ Property Rights

The author has not always existed. The image of the author as a wellspring of originality, a genius guided by some secret compulsion to create works of art out of a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings, is an 18th century invention.

This image continues to influence how people speak about the “great artists” of history, and it also trickles down to the more modest claims of the intellectual property regime that authors have original ideas that express their unique personality, and therefore have a natural right to own their works — or to sell their rights, if they should choose.

Although these ideas appear self-evident today, they were an anomaly during their own time. The different pre-Enlightenment traditions did not consider ideas to be original inventions that could be owned because knowledge was held in common. Art and philosophy were products of the accumulated wisdom of the past. There were no authors — in the sense of original creators and final authorities — but only masters of various crafts (sculpture, painting, poetry, philosophy) whose task was to appropriate existing knowledge, re-organize it, make it specific to their age, and transmit it further. Artists and sages were messengers, and their ability to make knowledge manifest was considered a gift from the gods. Art was governed by a gift economy: aristocratic patronage was a gift in return for the symbolic gift of the work. Even the neoclassical worldview that immediately preceded Romanticism viewed art as imitation of nature and the artist as a craftsman who transmitted ideas that belonged to a common culture.

Solve et Coagula writes:

"Islamic Banking:
Banking Without Usury or Interest"

Institute of Islamic Banking

Islamic banks appeared on the world scene as active players over two decades ago. But "many of the principles upon which Islamic banking is based have been commonly accepted all over the world, for centuries rather than decades".

The basic principle of Islamic banking is the prohibition of riba (usury — or interest):

"While a basic tenant of Islamic banking — the outlawing of riba, a term that encompasses not only the concept of usury, but also that of interest — has seldom been recognised as applicable beyond the Islamic world, many of its guiding principles have. The majority of these principles are based on simple morality and common sense, which form the bases of many religions, including Islam.

"The universal nature of these principles is immediately apparent even at a cursory glance of non-Muslim literature. Usury was prohibited in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, while Shakespeare and many other writers, particularly those writing in the 19th century, have attacked the barbarity of the practice. Much of the morality championed by Victorian writers such as Dickens — ranging from the equitable distribution of wealth through to man's fundamental right to work — is clearly present in modern Islamic society.

"Although the western media frequently suggest that Islamic banking in its present form is a recent phenomenon, in fact, the basic practices and principles date back to the early part of the seventh century." (Islamic Finance: A Euromoney Publication, 1997)

It is evident that Islamic finance was practiced predominantly in the Muslim world throughout the Middle Ages, fostering trade and business activities. In Spain and the Mediterranean and Baltic States, Islamic merchants became indispensable middlemen for trading activities. It is claimed that many concepts, techniques, and instruments of Islamic finance were later adopted by European financiers and businessmen.

Nothing is what democracy looks like: Openness, horizontality and the movement of movements

Rodrigo Nunes

Networked, horizontal forms have been at the centre of many of the political debates of the last ten years, and often been treated alternatively as the limit (by its enemies) and the solution (by its proponents) to the problems of organisation of resistance to global capitalism. This has unfortunately meant that critiques carried out ‘from the inside’ – i.e., by those who have experienced and share a general belief in them – have been much rarer than those carried out by partisans of other forms of organisation, resulting in much back-patting and triumphalism, but few discussions of anxieties and frustrations that seem widely shared; a problem that is only enhanced by the fact that so often it is felt that horizontality must be ‘defended’ from its detractors.(1)

It is this kind of internal critique that this paper attempts to do. In order to do that, it envisages a demystification of openness and horizontality, showing how it is often presented in complete absence of context and pointing to its inherent contradictions and dead-ends. The point of doing this is not to engage another debate along the lines of ‘less’ or ‘more’ horizontality, or horizontality versus verticality; the idea is rather to render these very notions problematic, and by affirming their problematic nature, to argue for a democratic practice that tackles this nature head on.

auskadi writes:

"Before The Law"

Language, Property, Community, Law — A Workshop

International Institute of Sociology of Law
Oñati, Gipuzcoa, Euskadi, Europe
28 and 29 June 2007. (30 June optional — Basque Country Tour)

Brief Outline
Before The Law will be a two day workshop trying to pick up various threads of interest concerning the interface of communities, whether social, linguistic communities and the forms of mediation effected upon them, or the ways they are put to service by instruments various forms of law and governance, including logics such as intellectual property or sovereignty.

og writes

Presenting Toni Negri's Goodbye Mr. Socialism Milano, Nov. 16, 2006

Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Foundation has announced that there will be a presentation of Antonio Negri's new book, Goodbye Mr. Socialism, which was just published by Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore. Christian Marazzi and Raf Valvola Scelsi will discuss the book along with its author. Date and venue details, and information on the book are below.

Thursday, 16 November at 5:30 p.m. in Via Romagnosi, 3 - 20121 Milano, Italy

Goodbye Mr. Socialism

"Immaterial Civil War

Prototypes of Conflict within Cognitive Capitalism"

Matteo Pasquinelli

We are implicit, here, all of us, in a vast
physical construct of artificially linked
nervous systems. Invisible. We cannot touch it.
— William Gibson, "In the visegrips of Dr. Satan"

Conflict is not a commodity. On the contrary,
commodity is above all conflict.
— guerrigliamarketing.it

1. A revival of the Creative Industries

In early 2006 the term Creative Industries (CI) pops up in the
mailboxes and mailing lists of many cultural workers, artists,
activists and researchers across Europe, as well as in the calls for
seminars and events. An old question spins back: curiously, for the
first time, a term is picked up from institutional jargon and brought
unchanged into alt culture, used so far to debate other keywords
(that may deserve an acronym as well!) and other post-structures like
network culture (NC), knowledge economy (KE), immaterial labour (IL),
general intellect (GI) and of course Free Software (FS), Creative
Commons (CC) etc. The original 1998 definition adopted by the
Creative Industries Task Force set up by Tony Blair stated: "Those
industries that have their origin in individual creativity, skill and
talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through
the generation and exploitation of intellectual property".1 As you
can see, social creativity remains largely left out of that
definition: after many years Tony Blair is still stealing your ideas.
Let's try to do another backstory.

Erdogan_Mayayo writes:

"The Saturated Generic Identity of the Working Class"

An Interview with Alain Badiou

[Alain Badiou gave this interview on the occasion of a conference titled "Is a History of the Cultural Revolution Possible?" The conference was held at the University of Washington in February, 2006. Most of the following questions were prepared by Nicolas Veroli, who could not be present. Diana George conducted the interview.]

Q: I'd like to ask you about your political and intellectual trajectory from the mid 60s until today. How have your views about revolutionary politics, Marxism, and Maoism changed since then?

Badiou: During the first years of my political activity, there were two fundamental events. The first was the fight against the colonial war in Algeria at the end of the 50s and the beginning of the 60s. I learned during this fight that political conviction is not a question of numbers, of majority. Because at the beginning of the Algerian war, we were really very few against the war. It was a lesson for me; you have to do something when you think it's a necessity, when it's right, without caring about the numbers.

The second event was May 68. During May 68, I learned that we have to organize direct relations between intellectuals and workers. We cannot do that only by the mediation of parties, associations, and so on. We have to directly experience the relation with the political. My interest in Maoism and the Cultural Revolution during the end of 60s and the beginning of the 70s, was this: a political conviction that organizes something like direct relations between intellectuals and workers.

I'll recapitulate, if you like. There were two great lessons: It's my conviction today that political action has to be a process which is a process of principles, convictions, and not of a majority. So there is a practical dimension. And secondly, there is the necessity of direct relations between intellectuals and workers.

Continental Drift II

Articulating the Cracks in the Worlds of Power

Brian Holmes, New York City, Nov. 3–5, 2006

Is there such a thing as a national Skid Row? What happens when the hegemonic country goes on a multibillion-dollar binge, drinks itself blind on the fictions of power, loses control, collapses in public, hits bottom with a groan?

After its first anniversary, the slow-motion blowback of Hurricane Katrina seems finally to have carried the war all the way home to the USA, water-slogged and banal, drenched in the flow of time, choking on the stupid truths that the blazing spectacle of the Twin Towers pushed outward for years, beyond unreal borders. Yes, the levees broke. Yes, the New Economy was a fitful dream. Yes, there were no WMD. Yes, the invasion of Iraq was a terrible mistake. Yes, it's not over. Yes, it takes some kind of care for others to make a world livable.

In September and October of 2005, at 16 Beaver Street in New York's financial district, the first sessions of Continental Drift tried to put together a set of lenses to examine the present condition of Empire, with its Anglo-American foundations stretching back to WWII and its normative models projected across the planet, beneath the guise of neoliberalism. We wanted to have a collective try at mapping out the world that our divided labor helps to build. But at the same time as we carried out this cartographic project, all of us struggled to see how the imperial condition inexorably cracks, along the great continental fault lines that increasingly separate the earth's major regions, but also at the heart of the very ties of belief, habit, complicity and sheer affective numbness that keep the silent majorities convinced that somewhere there is still something "normal."

That was before the last war in Lebanon.


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