Eco-egoist Presentism and Involutionary Politics

The contemporary Left, be it in the liberal “progressive” faction or the Marxist-Socialist wing, has allowed itself to be caged in a psycho-symbolic prison of second-order-signs, surmounting to pure simulacra and simulation; rendering its discussion and action devoid of anything of actual relevance to overcoming the conditions of the immediate-present-present. If we are to overcome any of the challenges that we face in our immediate-present-present, such as those of racism, patriarchy and ecological collapse, we must abandon, or at the very least see beyond, this caged-consciousness. I shall attempt to address what of this I can over the following, but this meagre analysis will not nearly surmount to the required intensity of iconoclastic spirit this endeavour requires/deserves. I intend for it to, perhaps, serve as something to aid some in their fire-craft work, to burn away this iconography that keeps us psychically chained.

This prison can be seen particularly through Marx(ism) and his continuation of a line of thought that he borrowed from Hegel, which can be traced back to Plato. While Marx attempted to reify the Hegelian concept of dialectics for his own ideologies arguments, this concept and ideological trend in leftism has functioned as an idealised apparition of constant re-alienation. The reason for this can be identified within Plato’s arguments on ontology. While the pre-Socratic philosophers like Anaximander and Heraclitus had argued materialist-physicalist conception of ontology, drawing from the classical elements; Plato saw the material Real as fundamentally defective, in-error and illusionary, and argued instead for an idealised “true” plane of existence – the world of permanence outside the world of appearances [1]. From this line of thinking, only a priori abstraction, such as mathematics and geometry, is considered Real and of value.

From Diogenes to Nietzsche (and many more), this line of thought has been relentlessly critiqued within western philosophy. In his Tractatus, Wittgenstein argued that mathematical propositions are non-referential and as such not Real; the same following throughout his positions regarding all a priori forms of argument [2]. Sartre also argues for a physicalist ontology within his work Being and Nothingness – “The body is the totality of meaningful relations to the world. In this sense it is defined also by reference to the air which it breaths, to the water which it drinks, to the food which is eats. The body in fact could not appear without sustaining meaningful relations with the totality of what is” [3]. While what I have referenced here does not surmount to definitive refutation of idealism in-and-of-itself, no more is needed for the purposes of this work – this is particularly to the undeniability of physicalism being intuitively apparent through authentic being-in-the-world.

Regarding a further critique of Hegelianism specifically, Deleuze’s materialist-empiricist arguments arrive at a presentist conception of time [4]. To quote – “Dialectic is the art of problems and questions, the combinatory or calculus of problems as such. However, dialectic loses its peculiar power when it remains content to trace problems from propositions: thus begins the history of the long perversion which places it under the power of the negative…. This long perversion begins with the dialectic itself, and attains its extreme form in Hegelianism. If it is true, however, that it is problems which are dialectical in principal, and their solutions which are scientific, we must distinguish completely between the following: the problem as transcendental instance; the symbolic field in which the immanent movement of the problem expresses its conditions; the field of scientific solvability in which the problem is incarnated, and in terms of which the preceding symbolism is defined.” Hegelianism surmounts to pure Symbolic phantasm, like that of Plato’s, non-referential to meaningful relations to the life as being-in-the-world.

While Marx attempts to materialise Hegelianism, he maintains many of the same flaws. Marx’s dualistic conception, which draws from the same dualisms found in dialectic-based arguments, is one such flaw. Deleuze’s assemblage model of social-ontology presents a far better description of how social bodies function. Social organisation does not function as oppositional forces, but as a non-linear multiplicity, which cannot be encapsulated by either macro or micro reductionists, with relations of exteriority constantly undergoing flux, recoding, sharpening of spatial boundaries, destabilisation of spatial boundaries, points of convergence and divergence; as a univocal monism.

Authoritarian social regimes, such as Marxism, love the Hegelian model, as identified by De Beauvoir – “This is one of the aspects of the doctrine of Hegel which the dictorial regimes readily make use of. And it is a point at which fascist ideology and Marxist ideology converge. A doctrine which aims at the liberation of man evidently can not rest on a contempt for the individual; but it can propose to him no other salvation than his subordination to the collective. The finite is nothing if it is not its transition to the infinite; the death of an individual is not a failure if it is integrated into a project which surpasses the limits of life, the substance of this life being outside himself, in the class, in the socialist state; if the individual is taught to consent to his sacrifice, the latter is abolished as such, and the soldier who has renounced himself in favour of his cause will die joyfully; in fact, that is how many young Hitlerians died [6]. De Beauvoir’s criticism of Marxist-Hegelianism goes further in her arguments again the conception of individuals and social bodies as passive entities within history – requiring a revolutionary force to propel them into action – expounding an argument that identifies individuals as free agents, creating the conditions of their existence through actions within a multiplicity.

If we accept De Beauvoir’s criticisms and Deleuze’s arguments, then we face the major issue within leftism and liberalism; the issues regarding foundational presuppositions of living beings being essentially passive historicised entities, within an idealised conception of history. This is not to say that situated context places no part in social organisation/conditions, as will become more apparent as we continue.

To see the issues in practice we need not look further than Marxism in practice. Recently deceased Fidel Castro said this regarding revolutions – “A revolution is a struggle between the future and the past” [7]. Here Castro forgets that life actualises in the present. Psychoanalyst Zizek identifies that the idealisation and introjection of the revolutionary narrative within Cuban culture has surmounted to an act of Symbolic castration, that romanticises the true horrors of the socialist state into a perceived sense of heroism [8]. This same type of Symbolic castration can be seen throughout leftist and liberal ideology and has been one of the greatest barriers to effectively challenging the very apparatus they seek to resist.

So if not the revolution of Symbolic castration, what should we turn to? Post-leftists and nihilists are not strangers to egoist philosophies, such as that expounded by Stirner, and have often utilised them within our critiques. If egoism pertains to a refusal of castration and revolutionary politics being castrating – with reactionary politics idealising history and the future to arguably even greater degrees than the revolutionary wing – it becomes apparent that egoistic arguments lend themselves to an involutionary approach to political action, within the multiplicity that the individual is immersed within.

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If we are to base our conceptions of what radical practice means in neither the past or the future, then it holds that a conception of egoism based in the present, presentism, is what involutionary politics requires. Fiocco argues for a presentist ontology, based in metaphysical transience, which lends it-self to nihilist stances on many topics [9]. But, even if we do not embrace a nihilist conception of the Real, presentism is justified by special relativity, as argued by Hinchliff. Presentism surmounts to the actualisation of what is through motion within physicality, with the past and the future existing purely as transcendental phenomenon within consciousness. Within his arguments on presentism, Deleuze draws from Nietzsche’s concept of the eternal return, as the return to motion, transience, the dissimilar. In involutionary politics this amounts to actions based within the natural conditions of motion and impermanence.

This type of critique lends itself to prior anti-civ thought, such as that argued by Quinn in his arguments regarding the origins of history. But even more so than this, it follows from the very functionality of civilisation itself. Civilisation functions as a mega-technic that performs the basic task of all technology as identified by Heidegger; it mediates consciousness from awareness of death(/impermanence/transience) into inauthentic being [11]. This is identified by Ernest Becker in his arguments regarding civilisation as a Symbolic self-defence mechanism to repress and sublimate anxiety regarding death; repression into symbolic castration [12]. The state, religious dogmatism, agriculture, sedentarism and other features of civilisation all pertain to this technological attempt at permanence within the retention of past to future.

Some liberal-leftists might feel that over the course of this I have been unfair in tying together the Hegelianism within Marxism to other leftist factions. And while it is true that social democrats such as Bernstein, within his Evolutionary Socialism, have critiqued and diverted from aspects of the Hegelian model, they retain the theoretical aspects identified within the previous paragraph and practical issues identified within the Marxist-Hegelian ideological model [13].

Some Marxists might deny appeals to permanence within Marxist ideology. But the idealised transcendental object of desire, the future communist state, retains an alienated teleos within the ideology; a state of permanence to be attained where the human race can delve into the future technic. This is particularly apparent within the techno-determinist arguments of analytic-Marxists [14].

What does this surmount to as far as anarchist and radical environmentalist action is concerned? It surmounts to iconoclasm, psychic and in action, towards the aforementioned technological-iconography of the past and future. It surmounts to involutionary, not revolutionary, resistance and revolt. It surmounts to an egoist-presentist focus based in the natural present, which is not to be indifferent to the memory of what has happened and not to strive for what is desirable, but, in a nihilistic Dionysian pessimist sense, to embrace the sorrow in a lived present and embrace the will to attain that desired actuality in a direct non-transcendental sense. This is eco-egoist, as it places the self directly within the univocal, monism of natural living systems; untied to the technological-mutation of civilisation. This is an embrace of the wild chaosmos that the civilised attempt to domesticate, oppress, repress and sublimate. This is anarchy.

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The arguments I have presented here, as stated in the introduction, are not designed to do anymore than act as a potential catalytic agent for the fire of involutionary iconoclasm in whoever reads this essay. Hopefully this will reach out to some people and serve its purpose. While I draw from several thinkers within this blog post and introduce a couple terms that I don’t do in the work, I have written a book, that is due for release in early 2017 through Little Black Cart, that presents a fuller account of most of this (and more). I have since completing the book been studying and expanding my references for argument, such as those found in this piece. Like this blog post, I hope the work will serve as a potential catalytic agent for any reader.

Notes

[1] https://philosophynow.org/issues/90/Plato_A_Theory_of_Forms

[2] Wittgenstein, L. (1974) Tractatus Logicos Philosophicus, Routledge Classics, New York

[3] Sartre, Jean-Paul. 1966. Being and nothingness; an essay on phenomenological ontology. New York: Washington Square Press.

[4] Deleuze, Gilles, and Paul Patton. 2001. Difference and repetition. London: Continuum.

[5] Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 2004. A thousand plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia. London: Continuum.

[6] Beauvoir, Simone de. 1948. The ethics of ambiguity. New York, N.Y.: Philosophical Library.

[7] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/fidel-castro-dies-dead-cuba-quotes-leader-communism-che-guevara-a7440476.html

[8] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRkNDHW3nog

[9] Fiocco, M. (2007) A Defence of Transient Presentism. American Philosophical Quarterly. pp 191-212

[10] Hinchliff, M. (1998) A Defence of Presentism in a Relativistic Setting. Philsophy of Science, Vol. 67, pp. 575-586

[11] Heidegger, Martin. 1977. The question concerning technology, and other essays. New York: Harper & Row.

[12] Becker, Ernest. 1973. The denial of death. New York: Free Press.

[13] https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/bernstein/works/1899/evsoc/

[14] http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/~wright/Published%20writing/IE-C8.pdf

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