Issue 130, October 2015

Noosphere Rising: Disordering Modernities




Michael A Peters and James Reveley

Abstract: Our article relocates the debate about creative labour to the terrain of peer-to-peer interneting as the paradigmatic form of nonmarket – social – production. From Yann Moulier Boutang we take the point that creative labour is immaterial; it is expressed through people connected by the internet. Drawing on two social systems thinkers, Francis Heylighen and Wolfgang Hofkirchner, we transpose this connectedness up to a conception of creative labour as a supra-individual collective intelligence. This intelligence, we argue, is one of the internet’s emergent properties. We then present a model of internet development that flags the potential of digitally-evoked collective intelligence to facilitate what the Marxist philosopher George Caffentzis calls ‘postcapitalist commoning’. Yoking together systems theorizing about the internet and socialist envisioning of social transformation, we identify two sets of internet tools for coordination that can assist with the convivial reconstruction of society along the lines of peer-based production.

Multiple modernities, modern subjectivities and social order: Unity and difference in the rise of Islamic modernities

Dietrich Jung and Kirstine Sinclair

Abstract: Taking its point of departure in the conceptual debate about modernities in the plural, this article presents a heuristic framework based on an interpretative approach to modernity. The article draws on theories of multiple modernities, successive modernities and poststructuralist approaches to modern subjectivity formation. In combining conceptual tools from these strands of social theory, we argue that the emergence of multiple modernities should be understood as a historical result of idiosyncratic social constructions combining global social imaginaries with religious and other cultural traditions. In the second part of the article we illustrate this argument with three short excursions into the history of Islamic reform in the 19th and 20th centuries. In this way we interpret the modern history of Muslim societies as based on cultural conflicts between different forms of social order and individual identities similar to those present in European history. Contrary to the European experience, however, religious traditions gradually assumed an important role in defining ‘authentic’ Muslim modernities, leading to a relatively hegemonic role of so-called Islamic modernities toward the end of the 20th century.

The body of imagination and the technology of imagery in the Renaissance and in Modernity

Axel Fliethmann

Abstract: Throughout history, the concepts of phantasia (Greek) or imaginatio (Latin) have been linked to the concept of the human body and in particular to our sensory perceptions. But phantasia/imaginatio have also always been linked to the mind and how the operations of the mind are connected with bodily sensations. Functioning as interface between the senses and the mind, phantasia has predominantly been exemplified with the notion of the visual image, rather than a tactile or oral depiction. But as emphatic as discussion of the image has been, in particular throughout the Renaissance period and again in modernity, it has hardly been linked to the contemporaneous technology of imagery that accompanied the theoretical discourses on imagination. The article will flesh out central historical and systematic aspects of the concept of imagination (I), but instead of submitting them to a history of ideas it will turn to a comparative study of the first monograph on imagination by the Renaissance philosopher Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola from 1501 and Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams from 1900 (II) to investigate their respective understandings of imagination and inner images in the light of the technology of imagery (III).

Habermas: Testing the political

Estelle Ferrarese

Abstract: In this paper, I show how the notion of the political as an emerging reality, characterized by a fundamental indeterminacy and a propensity to produce its own borders, features in Habermas’s work. The motif of the public sphere is bound with topics that all seem to attach the political to principles or authorities that precede or surpass it: the validity attributed to political statements, the weight of morality in the public sphere, and the concern to preserve science and complexity. I examine each of them in turn, in order to demonstrate how, precisely, the responses provided enable us to identify a place for the political in Jürgen Habermas’s philosophy. This place could be called an interstice; nevertheless, it is located at the normative level of his theory, and it is a recurring aspect of Habermas’s work.

Elusive revolt: The contradictory rise of middle-class politics

Cihan Tuğal

Abstract: What lies behind the amalgam of liberalism, elitism, anti-capitalism, and fascistic elements in today’s street politics? This essay analyzes this mixture in light of the shifting class locations of middle strata. Intensified business dominance has not only proletarianized some middle strata but has led to a dry life for even the privileged ones. Middle classes are now taking to the streets to reclaim their specialness. Their exact agendas might not be identical throughout the globe, but a kindred spirit of creativity and aestheticized occupation unites disparate geographies of revolt. Liberal and radical analyses of the wave of revolt miss its most significant characteristics, which only a re-theorization of the new petty bourgeoisie can capture. The essay outlines a research agenda that would explore the multiple dimensions of middle-class formation, as well as the post-capitalist trajectories that might (or might not) result from further politicization.

On the suspension of law and the total transformation of labour: Reflections on the philosophy of history in Walter Benjamin’s ‘Critique of Violence’  

Duy Lap Nguyen

Abstract: This paper argues for the contemporary significance of the ‘Critique of Violence’ by proposing a Benjaminian reading of two important analyses of the relationship between history, politics and the Rights of Man: Hegel’s account of the French Revolution and the concept of dissensus proposed by Jacques Rancière. For both Hegel and Rancière, the gap between right and reality – between the ideal of equality, for example, and the existence of concrete inequality – does not warrant a rejection of the Rights of Man. Rather, the gap is a constitutive condition of law and political rights. From the perspective of Benjamin’s ‘Critique of Violence’, however, these analyses serve to perpetuate a bourgeois legality, one that both Hegel and Rancière acknowledge can never be realized due to the constitutive discrepancy between right and reality. In preserving the promise of legal equality, these analyses preclude the possibility of a suspension or ‘absolution’ from law. This suspension of law is a task that Benjamin identified with the proletarian general strike, a strategy whose pure violence is supposed to secure what Benjamin described, enigmatically, as a ‘wholly transformed work’. Remarkably, however, the relationship between the suspension of law in a general strike and a total transformation of labour is never clearly defined in the ‘Critique’. This paper will develop an account of this relationship by pursuing the references to Marx’s critical theory of capitalism in Benjamin’s writings.

Book reviews

Oliver Kozlarek reviews Violence: Thinking without Banisters

Ira Raja reviews Ashis Nandy and the Cultural Politics of Selfhood

Filippo Del Lucchese reviews Sovereignty and Its Other: Toward the Dejustification of Violence


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