If I had to place a sign of my own at the entrance to this trilogy, it would be this: let no one enter who is unwilling to praise transference and to refute loneliness.
An epic project in both size and purview, Peter Sloterdijk’s three-volume, 2,500-page Spheres is the late-twentieth-century bookend to Heidegger’s Being and Time. Rejecting the century's predominant philosophical focus on temporality, Sloterdijk, a self-described "student of the air," reinterprets the history of Western metaphysics as an inherently spatial and immunological project, from the discovery of self (bubble) to the exploration of world (globe) to the poetics of plurality (foam). Exploring macro- and micro-space from the Greek agora to the contemporary urban apartment, Sloterdijk is able to synthesize, with immense erudition, the spatial theories of Aristotle, René Descartes, Gaston Bachelard, Walter Benjamin, and Georges Bataille into a morphology of shared, or multipolar, dwelling--identifying the question of being as one bound up with the aerial technology of architectonics and anthropogenesis.
Sloterdijk describes Bubbles, the first volume of Spheres, as a general theory of the structures that allow couplings--or as the book’s original intended subtitle put it, an "archeology of the intimate." Bubbles includes a wide array of images, not to illustrate Sloterdijk’s discourse, but to offer a spatial and visual "parallel narrative" to his exploration of bubbles.
Written over the course of a decade, the Spheres trilogy has waited another decade for its much-anticipated English translation from Semiotext(e). Volumes II, Globes, and III, Foam, will be published in the coming seasons.
Ours is a century of fear. Governments and mass media bombard us with words and images: desert radicals, "rogue states," jihadists, WMDs, existential enemies of freedom. We labor beneath myths that neither address nor describe the present situation, monstrous deceptions produced by a sound bite society. There is no reckoning of actuality, no understanding of the individual lives that inaugurated this echo chamber.
In the summer of 1999, Mohamed Atta defended a master’s thesis that critiqued the introduction of Western-style skyscrapers in the Middle East and called for the return of the "Islamic-Oriental city." Using this as a departure point, Jarett Kobek's novel ATTA offers a fictionalized psychedelic biography of Mohamed Atta that circles around a simple question: what if 9/11 was as much a matter of architectural criticism as religious terrorism? Following the development of a socially awkward boy into one of history's great villains, Kobek demonstrates the need for a new understanding of global terrorism. Joined in this volume by a second work, "The Whitman of Tikrit"--a radical reimagining of Saddam Hussein's last day before capture--ATTA is a brutal, relentless, and ultimately fearless corrective to ten years of propaganda and pandering.
We do little more than state the obvious when, trying to come to terms with the politico-institutional earthquakes traversing our times, we say that language is the key to politics.
--from Capital and Affects
Communication as work: we have recently experienced a profound transformation in the processes of production. While the assembly line (invented by Henry Ford at the beginning of the last century) excluded any form of linguistic productivity, today, there is no production without communication. The new technologies are linguistic machines. This revolution has produced a new kind of worker who is not a specialist but is versatile and infinitely adaptable. If standardized mass production was dominant in the past, today we produce an array of different goods corresponding to specific consumer niches. This is the post-Fordist model described by Christian Marazzi in Capital and Affects (first published in 1994 as Il posto dei calzini [The place for the socks]). Tracing the development of this new model of labor from Toyota plants in Japan to the most recent innovations, Marazzi’s critique goes beyond political economy to encompass issues related to social life, political engagement, democratic institutions, interpersonal relations, and the role of language in liberal democracies.
This translation at long last makes Marazzi’s first book available to English readers. Capital and Affects stands not only as the foundation to Marazzi's subsequent work, but as foundational work in post-Fordist literature, with an analysis startlingly relevant to today’s troubled economic times.
This Semiotext(e) edition includes the afterword Marazzi wrote for the 1999 Italian edition.
The short-lived grouping of architects, sociologists, and urbanists known as Utopie, active in Paris from 1967 to 1978, was the product of several factors: the student protests for the reform of architectural education, the unprecedented expansion and replanning of the Parisian urban fabric carried out by the government of Charles de Gaulle, and the domestication of military and industrial technologies by an emerging consumer society. The group’s collaborative publications included the work of Jean Aubert, Isabelle Auricoste, Jean Baudrillard, Catherine Cot, Charles Goldblum, Jean-Paul Jungmann, Henri Lefebvre, Rene Lourau, Antoine Stinco, and Hubert Tonka. Offering a militant alternative to professional urban planning journals, these writers not only formulated a critique of the technocratic and administrative rule over a disabled and alienated urban society but also projected an ephemeral urban poetics.
With ties to the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (ENSBA) in central Paris and to the sociology department established by Henri Lefebvre at the suburban campus of Nanterre, the group challenged postwar modernization and urban planning and questioned the roles into which architects, sociologists, and urban planners had been cast. Utopie makes the group’s diverse body of theoretical work accessible in English for the first time, offering translations of more than twenty key texts. Designed in a facsimile format that follows the innovative graphic layouts of the journals, pamphlets, posters, and articles produced by Utopie, the volume not only provides the first thorough overview of the group’s activities but also seeks to capture Utopie’s linkage of architectural and urban theory to radical publication strategies.
Historical conflict no longer opposes two massive molar heaps, two classes—;the exploited and the exploiters, the dominant and dominated, managers and workers—between which, in each individual case, it would be possible to differentiate. The front line no longer cuts through the middle of society; it now runs through each one of us. . . "
—from This Is Not a Program
Traditional lines of revolutionary struggle no longer hold. Rather, it is ubiquitous cybernetics, surveillance, and terror that create the illusion of difference within hegemony. Configurations of dissent and the rhetoric of revolution are merely the other face of capital, conforming identities to empty predicates, ensuring that even "thieves," "saboteurs," and "terrorists" no longer exceed the totalizing space of Empire. This Is Not a Program offers two texts, both originally published in French by Tiqqun with Introduction to Civil War in 2001. In "This Is Not a Program," Tiqqun outlines a new path for resistance and struggle in the age of Empire, one that eschews the worn-out example of France’s May ‘68 in favor of what they consider to be the still fruitful and contemporary insurrectionary movements in Italy of the 1970s. "As a Science of Apparatuses" examines the way Empire has enforced on the subject a veritable metaphysics of isolation and pacification, "apparatuses" that include chairs, desks, computers; surveillance (security guards, cameras); disease (depression); crutch (cell phone, lover, sedative); and authority.
Tiqqun’s critique of the biopolitical subject and omnipresent Empire is all the more urgent as we become inured to the permanent state of exception that is the War on Terror and to other, no less intimate forms of pacification. But all is not lost. In its unrelenting production of the Same, Empire itself creates the conditions necessary for the insurrection to come.
The idea of the Jewish nation was conceived before the organization of the Zionist movement in the nineteenth century and continued long after the creation of the state of Israel. In The Words and the Land, post-Zionist Israeli historian Shlomo Sand examines how both Jewish and Israeli intellectuals contributed to this process. One by one, he identifies and calls into question the foundation myths of the Israeli state, beginning with the myth of a people forcibly uprooted, a people-race that began to wander the world in search of a land of asylum. This was a people that would define itself on a biological and "mythological-religious" basis, embodied in words that today feed Israeli political, literary, and historical writing: "exile," "return," and “ascent” (Alyah) to the land of its origins.
Since 1948, most intellectuals in Israel have continued to accept this ethno-national image and embrace an exclusive state identity to which only Jewish people can belong. The first challenges to this dominant idea didn’t appear in Israel until the 1980s, in the innovative work of the "post-Zionist" historians, who were bent on dismantling the nationalist historical myth and arguing for a state that would belong equally to all its citizens. Analyzing how Israeli intellectuals positioned themselves during the Gulf War and in the new era of communication technologies, Sand extends his analysis globally, looking at the status of intellectuals in all societies.
We shouldn't forget that ancient philosophy used to be a mental workout in which logical forms were used like machines in a gym. . . . Philosophy today is a super-workout for communicative energies capable of finding points of contact throughout the entire world.
—from Neither Sun nor Death
Peter Sloterdijk first became known in this country for his late 1980s Critique of Cynical Reason, which confronted headlong the "enlightened false consciousness" of Habermasian critical theory. Two decades later, after spending seven years in India studying Eastern philosophy, he is now attracting renewed interest for his writings on politics and globalization and for his magnum opus Spheres, a three-volume archaeology of the human attempt to dwell within spaces, from womb to globe: Bubbles, 1998; Globes, 1999; Foam, 2004, all forthcoming from Semiotext(e).
In Neither Sun nor Death, Sloterdijk answers questions posed by German writer Hans-Jürgen Heinrichs, commenting on such issues as technological mutation, development media, communication technologies, and his own intellectual itinerary.
Iconoclastic and provocative, alternatively sparkling and bombastic, a child of '68 and a libertarian, Sloterdijk is the most exciting and controversial German philosopher to appear on the world scene since Nietzsche and Heidegger. Like Nietzsche, Sloterdijk remains convinced that contemporary philosophers have to think dangerously and let themselves be "kidnapped" by contemporary "hypercomplexities"; they must forsake our present humanist and nationalist world for a wider horizon at once ecological and global.
Neither Sun nor Death is the best introduction available to Sloterdijk's philosophical theory of globalization. It reveals a philosophe extraordinaire, encyclopedic and provocative, as much at ease with current French Theory (Gilles Deleuze, Paul Virilio, Gabriel Tarde) as with Heidegger and Indian mystic Osho Rajneesh.
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In Where Art Belongs, Chris Kraus examines artistic enterprises of the past decade that reclaim the use of lived time as a material in the creation of visual art. In four interlinked essays, Kraus expands the argument begun in her earlier book Video Green that “the art world is interesting only insofar as it reflects the larger world outside it.” Moving from New York to Berlin to Los Angeles to the Pueblo Nuevo barrio of Mexicali, Kraus addresses such subjects as the ubiquity of video, the legacy of the 1960s Amsterdam underground newspaper Suck, and the activities of the New York art collective Bernadette Corporation. She examines the uses of boredom, poetry, privatized prisons, community art, corporate philanthropy, vertically integrated manufacturing, and discarded utopias, revealing the surprising persistence of microcultures within the matrix.
Chronicling the sometimes doomed but persistently heroic efforts of small groups of artists to reclaim public space and time, Where Art Belongs describes the trend towards collectivity manifested in the visual art world during the past decade, and the small forms of resistance to digital disembodiment and the hegemony of the entertainment/media/culture industry. For all its faults, Kraus argues, the art world remains the last frontier for the desire to live differently.
The 2010 English-language edition of Christian Marazzi’s The Violence of Financial Capitalism made a groundbreaking work on the global financial crisis available to an expanded readership. This new edition has been updated to reflect recent events, up to and including the G20 summit in July 2010 and the broad consensus to reduce government spending that emerged from it. Marazzi, a leading figure in the European postfordist movement, argues that the processes of financialization are not simply irregularities between the traditional categories of wages, rent, and profit, but rather a new type of accumulation adapted to the processes of social and cognitive production today. The financial crisis, he contends, is a fundamental component of contemporary accumulation and not a classic lack of economic growth.
Marazzi shows that individual debt and the management of financial markets are actually techniques for governing the transformations of immaterial labor, general intellect, and social cooperation. The financial crisis has radically undermined the very concept of unilateral and multilateral economico-political hegemony, and Marazzi discusses efforts toward a new geomonetary order that have emerged around the globe in response. Offering a radically new understanding of the current stage of international economics as well as crucial post-Marxist guidance for confronting capitalism in its newest form, The Violence of Financial Capitalism is a valuable addition to the contemporary arsenal of postfordist thought. This edition includes the glossary of the esoteric neolanguage of financial capitalism—"Words in Crisis," from "AAA" to "toxic asset"—written for the first English-language edition, and offers a new afterword by Marazzi.
We certainly have the unconscious that we deserve, an unconscious for specialists, ready-made for an institutionalized discourse. I would rather see it as something that wraps itself around us in everyday objects, something that is involved with day-to-day problems, with the world outside. It would be the possible itself, open to the socius, to the cosmos . . .
—from The Machinic Unconscious: Essays in Schizoanalysis
In his seminal solo-authored work The Machinic Unconscious (originally published in French in 1979), Félix Guattari lays the groundwork for a general pragmatics capable of resisting the semiotic enslavement of subjectivity. Concluding that psychoanalytic theory had become part and parcel of a repressive, capitalist social order, Guattari here outlines a schizoanalytic theory to undo its capitalist structure and set the discipline back on its feet. Combining theoretical research from fields as diverse as cybernetics, semiotics, ethnology, and ethology, Guattari reintroduces into psychoanalysis a "polemical" dimension, at once transhuman, transsexual, and transcosmic, that brings out the social and political—the "machinic"—potential of the unconscious.
To illustrate his theory, Guattari turns to literature and analyzes the various modes of subjectivization and semiotization at work in Proust's In Search of Lost Time, examining the novel as if he were undertaking a scientific exploration in the style of Freud or Newton. Casting Proust's figures as abstract ("hyper-deterritorialized") mental objects, Guattari maps the separation between literature and science, elaborating along the way such major Deleuze-Guattarian concepts as "faciality" and "refrain," which would be unpacked in their subsequent A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia.
Never before available in English, The Machinic Unconscious has for too long been the missing chapter from Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus project: the most important political extension of May 1968 and one of the most important philosophical contributions of the twentieth century.
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History that repeats itself turns to farce. But a farce that repeats itself ends up making a history.
—from The Agony of Power
In these previously unpublished manuscripts written just before his death in 2007, Jean Baudrillard takes a last crack at the bewildering situation currently facing us as we exit the system of "domination" (based on alienation, revolt, revolution) and enter a world of generalized "hegemony" in which everyone becomes both hostage and accomplice of the global market. But in the free-form market of political and sexual liberation, as the possibility of revolution (and our understanding of it) dissipates, Baudrillard sees the hegemonic process as only beginning. Once expelled, negativity returns from within ourselves as an antagonistic force—most vividly in the phenomenon of terrorism, but also as irony, mockery, and the symbolic liquidation of all human values. This is the dimension of hegemony marked by an unbridled circulation—of capital, goods, information, or manufactured history—that is bringing the very concept of exchange to an end and pushing capital beyond its limits: to the point at which it destroys the conditions of its own existence. In the system of hegemony, the alienated, the oppressed, and the colonized find themselves on the side of the system that holds them hostage. In this paradoxical moment in which history has turned to farce, domination itself may appear to have been a lesser evil.
This book gathers together two essays—"The Agony of Power" and "From Domination to Hegemony"—and a related interview with Baudrillard from 2005, "The Roots of Evil." Semiotext(e) launched Baudrillard into English back in the early 1980s; now, as our media and information infested "ultra-reality" finally catches up with his theory, Semiotext(e) offers The Agony of Power, Baudrillard's unsettling coda.
Before publishing his celebrated first novel, Horse Crazy, in 1987, Gary Indiana wrote and directed twelve plays for an informal company whose performers included the painter Bill Rice, composer Evan Lurie, the poet George-Therese Dickenson, writer and film actress Cookie Mueller, Warhol superstar and painter Viva, writer Victoria Pedersen, singer/actress Sharon Niesp, photographer Allen Frame, the legendary Taylor Mead, novelist Larry Mitchell, and others. Performed at the Mudd Club, Club 57, The Performing Garage, and Bill Rice's E. 3rd Street studio, Indiana's plays offered a kind of community theater for New York's underground.
This volume presents highlights of that repertoire, including Alligator Girls Go to College, The Roman Polanski Story, and Indiana's script for Michel Auder's videofilm A Coupla White Faggots Sitting Around Talking, accompanied by archival performance photographs and selections from Indiana's contemporaneous journals and poems. These hilarious, incisive writings and scripts evoke a vivid and accurate portrait of writers and artists in the lower Manhattan of the 1980s—arguably America's last avant-garde—and anticipates Indiana's impressive subsequent literary career.
The war machine is the motor of the social machine; the primitive social being relies entirely on war, primitive society cannot survive without war. The more war there is, the less unification there is, and the best enemy of the State is war. Primitive society is society against the State in that it is society-for-war.
—from The Archeology of Violence
Anthropologist and ethnographer Pierre Clastres was a major influence on Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's Anti-Oedipus, and his writings formed an essential chapter in the discipline of political anthropology. The posthumous publication in French of Archeology of Violence in 1980 gathered together Clastres's final groundbreaking essays and the opening chapters of the book he had begun before his death in 1977 at the age of 43. Elaborating upon the conclusions of such earlier works as Society Against the State, in these essays Clastres critiques his former mentor, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and devastatingly rejects the orthodoxy of Marxist anthropology and other Western interpretive models of "primitive societies." Discarding the traditional anthropological understanding of war among South American Indians as arising from a scarcity of resources, Clastres instead identifies violence among these peoples as a deliberate means to territorial segmentation and the avoidance of a State formation. In their refusal to separate the political from the social, and in their careful control of their tribal chiefs—who are rendered weak so as to remain dependent on the communities they represent—the "savages" Clastres presents prove to be shrewd political minds who resist in advance any attempt at "globalization."
The essays in this, Clastres's final book, cover subjects ranging from ethnocide and shamanism to "primitive" power and economy, and are as vibrant and engaging as they were thirty years ago. This new edition—which includes an introduction by Eduardo Viverios de Castro—holds even more relevance for readers in today's an era of malaise and globalization.
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I'd find it amusing if, in a few centuries, the only thing that our descendents condescend to retain of our artistic production, the only thing in which they'll see worlds to admire, to penetrate, the only thing that they'll show off as precious in immense museums after having flushed down the toilet all our acknowledged masterpieces, the only thing that will give them nostalgia and love for us will be our porn.
—from Diary of an Innocent
Exiled from the prestigious French literary circles that had adored him in the 1970s, novelist Tony Duvert's life ended in anonymity. In 2008, nineteen years after his last book was published, Duvert's lifeless body was discovered in the small village of Thoré-la-Rochette, where he had been living a life of total seclusion.
Now for the first time, Duvert's most highly crafted novel is available in English. Poetic, brutally frank, and outright shocking, Diary of an Innocent recounts the risky experiences of a sexual adventurer among a tribe of adolescent boys in an imaginary setting that suggests North Africa. More reverie than narrative, Duvert's Diary presents a cascading series of portraits of the narrator's adolescent sexual partners and their culture, and ends with a fanciful yet rigorous construction of a reverse world in which marginal sexualities have become the norm.
Written with gusto and infused with a luminous bitterness, this novel is more unsettling to readers today than it was to its first audience when published in French in 1976. In his openly declared war on society, Duvert presents a worldview that offers no easy moral code and no false narrative solution of redemption. And yet no reader will remain untouched by the book's dazzling language, stinging wit, devotion to matters of the heart, and terse condemnation of today's society.
Long ago, in childhood, when Summer reverberates and feels and throbs all over, it begins to circumscribe my body along with my self, and my body gives it shape in turn: the "joy" of living, of experiencing, of already foreseeing dismembers it, this entire body explodes, neurons rush toward what attracts them, zones of sensation break off almost in blocks that come to rest at the four corners of the landscape, at the four corners of Creation.
The novelist and playwright Pierre Guyotat has been called the last great avant-garde visionary of the twentieth century, and the near-cult status of his work—because of its extreme linguistic innovation and its provocative violence—has made him one of the most influential of French writers today. He has been hailed as the true literary heir to Lautréamont and Arthur Rimbaud, and his "inhuman" works have been mentioned in the same breath as those by Georges Bataille and Antonin Artaud.
Winner of the 2006 prix Décembre, Coma is the deeply moving, vivid portrayal of the artistic and spiritual crisis that wracked Guyotat in the 1980s when he reached the physical limits of his search for a new language, entered a mental clinic, and fell into a coma brought on by self-imposed starvation. A poetic, cruelly lucid account, Coma links Guyotat's illness and loss of subjectivity to a broader concern for the slow, progressive regeneration of humanity. Written in what the author himself has called a "normalized writing," this book visits a lifetime of moments that have in common the force of amazement, brilliance, and a flash of life. Grounded in experiences from the author's childhood and his family's role in the French Resistance, Coma is a tale of initiation that provides an invaluable key to interpreting Guyotat's work, past and future.
"Society no longer exists, at least in the sense of a differentiated whole. There is only a tangle of norms and mechanisms through which THEY hold together the scattered tatters of the global biopolitical fabric, through which THEY prevent its violent disintegration. Empire is the administrator of this desolation, the supreme manager of a process of listless implosion."
—from Introduction to Civil War
Society is not in crisis, society is at an end. The things we used to take for granted have all been vaporized. Politics was one of these things, a Greek invention that condenses around an equation: to hold a position means to take sides, and to take sides means to unleash civil war. Civil war, position, sides—these were all one word in the Greek: stasis. If the history of the modern state in all its forms—absolute, liberal, welfare—has been the continuous attempt to ward off this stasis, the great novelty of contemporary imperial power is its embrace of civil war as a technique of governance and disorder as a means of maintaining control. Where the modern state was founded on the institution of the law and its constellation of divisions, exclusions, and repressions, imperial power has replaced them with a network of norms and apparatuses that conspire in the production of the biopolitical citizens of Empire.
In their first book available in English, Tiqqun explores the possibility of a new practice of communism, finding a foundation for an ontology of the common in the politics of friendship and the free play of forms-of-life. They see the ruins of society as the ideal setting for the construction of the community to come. In other words: the situation is excellent. Now is not the time to lose courage.
In this "concise philosophy of the machine," Gerald Raunig provides a historical and critical backdrop to a concept proposed forty years ago by the French philosophers Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze: the machine, not as a technical device and apparatus, but as a social composition and concatenation. This conception of the machine as an arrangement of technical, bodily, intellectual, and social components subverts the opposition between man and machine, organism and mechanism, individual and community. Drawing from an unusual range of films, literature, and performance—from the role of bicycles in Flann O'Brien's fiction to Vittorio de Sica's Neorealist film The Bicycle Thieves, and from Karl Marx's "Fragment on Machines" to the deus ex machina of Greek drama—Raunig arrives at an enhanced conception of the machine as a social movement, finding its most apt and concrete manifestation in the Euromayday movement, which since 2001 has become a transnational activist and discursive practice focused upon the precarious nature of labor and lives.
Crisis in the Global Economy is the latest and most innovative collective reflection on the state of global capitalism, developed in the mobile "multiversity" of the UniNomade network of international researchers and activists during the months immediately following the first signals of the current financial and economic crisis. It constitutes the first organic and interdisciplinary attempt to analyze a crisis that is not merely financial in nature but implicates globalization and neoliberal capitalism.
Crisis in the Global Economy begins with the recognition that the current financial crisis is a systemic crisis of the entire capitalistic system as it has been developing since the 1890s. Taking as its premise that today's financial markets are the pulsing heart of cognitive capitalism, financing the activity of accumulation, Crisis in the Global Economy shows how the flow of capital rewards production that exploits knowledge and controls spaces beyond traditional business. The ineffectiveness of the extraordinary economic measures taken by single nation-states over the past few months demonstrates that this crisis is of a completely different order. A financial crisis that affects the "real economy" shows that financialization is one of the most recent and perverse articulations of capitalism.
The contributions to Crisis in the Global Economy invite us to consider exit strategies from the current crisis—strategies that may lead us toward a new horizon of constructing the common.
A runaway at thirteen, a reform-school graduate at sixteen, a performer in the legendary New York City Playhouse of the Ridiculous at seventeen, and an escapee from Andy Warhol's Factory scene at nineteen, Penny Arcade (born Susana Ventura) emerged in the 1980s as a primal force on the New York art scene and an originator of what came to be called performance art. Arcade's brand of high camp and street-smart, punk-rock cabaret showmanship has been winning over international audiences ever since. This autobiographical trilogy of plays represents her at her best.
Bitch!Dyke!Faghag!Whore! is Penny Arcade's raucous, cutting-edge sex and censorship show (which continues to be a commercial hit around the world), featuring the daily life of a receptionist in a brothel, the upbringing and rearing of a "faghag," the evolution of the New York gay scene in the 1990s, and a participatory "audience dance break." The funny and heart-rending title work, Bad Reputation, portrays a young teen runaway's coming of age in a Catholic reform school (run by nuns who are former fashion models) and her subsequent life on the streets of 1960s New York. La Miseria, a rare depiction of working-class Italian-Americans from a woman's point of view that portrays the clash between working-class morals and compassion during the 1980s AIDS epidemic, rounds out the trilogy.
Bad Reputation is the first book by and on Penny Arcade. The complete scripts are accompanied by a new interview with Penny Arcade by Chris Kraus, a range of archival photographs of the East Village scene and Arcade's performances, an introduction by playwright Ken Bernard, and contributions by Sarah Schulman, Steve Zehentner, and Stephen Bottoms.
We can reach every point in the world but, more importantly, we can be reached from any point in the world. Privacy and its possibilities are abolished. Attention is under siege everywhere. Not silence but uninterrupted noise, not the red desert, but a cognitive space overcharged with nervous incentives to act: this is the alienation of our times....
—from The Soul at Work
Capital has managed to overcome the dualism of body and soul by establishing a workforce in which everything we mean by the Soul—language, creativity, affects—is mobilized for its own benefit. Industrial production put to work bodies, muscles, and arms. Now, in the sphere of digital technology and cyberculture, exploitation involves the mind, language, and emotions in order to generate value—while our bodies disappear in front of our computer screens.
In this, his newest book, Franco "Bifo" Berardi—key member of the Italian Autonomist movement and a close associate of Félix Guattari—addresses these new forms of estrangement. In the philosophical landscape of the 1960s and 1970s, the Hegelian concept of alienation was used to define the harnessing of subjectivity. The estrangement of workers from their labor, the feeling of alienation they experienced, and their refusal to submit to it became the bases for a human community that remained autonomous from capital. But today a new condition of alienation has taken root in which workers commonly and voluntarily work overtime, the population is tethered to cell phones and Blackberries, debt has become a postmodern form of slavery, and antidepressants are commonly used to meet the unending pressure of production. As a result, the conditions for community have run aground and new philosophical categories are needed. The Soul at Work is a clarion call for a new collective effort to reclaim happiness.
The Soul at Work is Bifo's long overdue introduction to English-speaking readers. This Semiotext(e) edition is also the book's first appearance in any language.
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They have to come back to us, because we know every detail of their orgasms, their little caprices, their little weaknesses and strengths. We know all of them. I mean, where do you expect them to go? They'll be disappointed anywhere else. Except for with us, because we know them like the back of our hand. As soon as they get in the door, it's like we'd made them ourselves. We know all the right things to say, all the gestures, there're no surprises.
—from The Little Black Book of Grisélidis Réal
The Little Black Book of Grisélidis Réal is the portrait of a true humanist who made a career out of compassion. Hailed as a virtuoso writer and a "revolutionary whore," Grisélidis Réal (1929–2005) chanced into prostitution at thirty-one after an upper-class upbringing in Switzerland. Serving clients from all walks of life, Réal applied the anarcho-Marxist dictum "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs" to her profession, charging sliding-scale fees determined by her client's incomes and complexity of their sexual tastes. Réal went on to become a militant champion of sexual freedom and prostitutes' rights. She has described prostitution as "an art, and a humanist science," noting that "the only authentic prostitution is that mastered by great technical artists ... who practice this form of native craft with intelligence, respect, imagination, heart..."
This volume includes lengthy dialogues from 1979–1981 with Réal conducted by journalist and author Jean-Luc Hennig, in which she eloquently discusses the theoretical implications of sex-positive whoring and relates her experiences both inside and outside the profession: from her lengthy love affair with the "Berber" to such "psychological" and "special" clients as the "moldy rhinoceros." The "Little Black Book" that rounds out this book is drawn from the logs in which Réal kept track of her many clients, from "Pedro, hilarious fat Spaniard, devoted, simple, honest, fat peasant face, 70F" to "Pierre 8 (from Basel), blue eyes, fifties, slightly balding, cultivated, sweet-violent ... licks my finger after I remove it from his anus ... 100–400F." It is a journal that not only chronicles Réal's working life, but offers a clinically direct, investigative sociological analysis of the sexual subcultures of her time.
"Alone in his forest dwelling, an ogre had spent years building machines to force his visitors to make love to one another: machines with pulleys, chains, clocks, collars, leather leggings, metal breastplates, oscillatory, pendular, or rotating dildos. One day, some adolescents who had lost their way, seven or eight brothers, entered the ogre's house..."
—From The Screwball Asses
"Our asshole is revolutionary."
"Workers of the world, masturbate!"
—Front Homosexuel d'Action Revolutionnaire slogan
First published anonymously in Félix Guattari's Recherches in the notorious 1973 issue on homosexuality (seized and destroyed by the French government), The Screwball Asses remains a dramatic treatise on erotic desire. In this classic underground text, queer theorist and post-'68 provocateur Guy Hocquenghem takes on the militant delusions of the gay liberation movement. Hocquenghem, founder and leader of the Front Homosexuel d'Action Revolutionnaire, vivisects not only the stifled mores of bourgeois capitalism but the phallocratic concessions of so-called homophiles, and, ultimately, the very act of speaking desire (and non-desire). Rejecting any "pure theory" of homosexuality that claims its "otherness" as a morphology of revolution, he contends that the ruling classes have invented homosexuality as a sexual ghetto, splitting and mutilating desire in the process. It is only when non-desire and the desire of desire are enacted simultaneously through speech and body that homosexuality can finally be sublimated under the true act of "making love." There are thousands of sexes on earth, according to Hocquenghem, but only one sexual desire.
Available in English for the first time, The Screwball Asses is a revelatory disquisition, earning Hocquenghem his rightful place among the minoritarian elite of Gilles Deleuze, Jean Genet, and Tony Duvert.
I like to stand with one leg on each side of the wall. Maybe this is a schizophrenic position, but none other seems to me real enough.
—Heiner Mueller, The German Issue
The German Issue (1982) was originally conceived as a follow-up to Semiotext(e)'s Autonomia/Italy issue, published two years earlier. Although ideological terrorism was still a major issue in Germany, what ultimately emerged from these pages was an investigation of two outlaw cities, Berlin and New York, which embodied all the tensions and contradictions of the world at the time. The German Issue is the Tale of Two Cities, then, with each city separated from its own country by an invisible wall of suspicion or even hatred. It is also the complex evocation of the rebelling youth—squatters, punks, artists and radicals, theorists and ex-terrorists—who gathered all their energy and creativity in order to outlive a hostile environment.
Like a time capsule, The German Issue brings together all the major "issues" that were being debated on both sides of the Atlantic—which eventually found their abrupt resolution in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall. It involved the most important voices of the period—from writers and filmmakers to anthropologists, activists and poets, terrorists and philosophers: Joseph Beuys, Michel Foucault, Christo, Christa Wolf, Walter Abish, Alexander Kluge, Paul Virilio, Ulrilke Meinhof, William Burroughs, Jean Baudrillard, Hans Magnus Enzenberger, Maurice Blanchot, Hans Jürgen Syberberg, Heidegger, André Gorz, Helke Sander. Opening with Christo's "Wrapping Up of Germany" and the celebrated dialogue between East German dramaturge Heiner Müller and Sylvère Lotringer on the Wall ("Mauer"), since published in many languages, The German Issue offers a first-hand account of the Western world on the threshold of a major global mutation. It also embodies at its best Semiotext(e)'s tenacious effort to establish a creative bridge between art and intellect, culture and politics, Europe and America.
Foreign Agents series Distributed for Semiotext(e)
"I gazed out my window on the sea of dark clouds as my shaking seat jiggled the image into double vision; and I pictured the flat, geometrically divided western landscapes below, wondering why anyone still bothered to travel in this cookie-cutter country. What was the use of visiting identical reproductions of the same Wal-Mart or adding new encounters of equally streamlined mentality to the roster? As far as I was concerned, everything had been shorn from the same cloth, woven for years in the drab bungalows of suburban North America."
—from Pacific Agony
Depressed, cynical, and subversive, East Coaster Reginald Fortiphton has been brought to Seattle by a West Coast publishing company that wants him to write a guide to the American Northwest. His job is to travel, on their dime, from Eugene, Oregon, to Vancouver, shining an admiring light on the region—which the publishers feel has been neglected by the New York publishing monopoly. Pacific Agony is his ironic attempt to fufill his assignment. To ensure that the project goes as planned, the very respectable Narcissa Whitman Applegate—notable member of the Willamette-Columbia Historical Legion and the Daughters of the Oregon Trail Historical Committee (and named after a nineteenth century missionary who was famously killed by Oregon's Nez Percé Indians)—is asked to annotate the manuscript. Her notes at the bottom of the page become progressively more outraged as the alienated Reginald's mock travel narrative skewers the region with merciless political observations—while he spirals into a depressive mania.
This acidic, satirical novel hilariously eviscerates contemporary American culture at the same time that it exposes some of the darker motivations of American middle-class liberalism.
Poet and post-punk hero Eileen Myles has always operated in the art, writing, and queer performance scenes as a kind of observant flaneur. Myles travels the city—wandering on garbage-strewn New York streets in the heat of summer, drifting though the antiseptic malls of La Jolla, and riding in the van with Sister Spit—seeing it with a poet's eye for detail and with the consciousness that writing about art and culture has always been a social gesture. Culled by the poet from twenty years of art writing, the essays in The Importance of Being Iceland make a lush document of her—and our—lives in these contemporary crowds.
Framed by Myles's account of her travels in Iceland, these essays posit inbetweenness as the most vital position from which to perceive culture as a whole, and a fluidity in national identity as the best model for writing and thinking about art and culture. The essays include fresh takes on Thoreau's Cape Cod walk, working class speech, James Schuyler and Björk, queer Russia and Robert Smithson; how-tos on writing an avant-garde poem and driving a battered Japanese car that resembles a menopausal body; and opinions on such widely ranging subjects as filmmaker Sadie Benning, actor Daniel Day-Lewis, Ted Berrigan's Sonnets, and flossing.