In the course of the industrial use of electricity, the emergence of new communication and transport technologies and routes (including their partial nationalization), the creeping process of dissolving the classical machinery of the industrial age or at least its integration into new contexts began towards the end of the 19th century. An expansion of traffic and transport routes takes place due to the emergence of new complexes of energy production and distribution; the driving machines increasingly operate as independent power stations, and finally the individual factory falls back to the status of a machine tool. Production processes are controlled internally and externally by the use of measuring instruments from the field of low current technology, by the mechanization of language and semiotics and their diagrams.
Bahr ascribes to the chemical-technical industry (in Germany) at the beginning of the 20th century the function of enabling and finally realizing a first integrative combination of machinery and scientific apparatus, whereby new measuring instruments and new materialized rules control the production process, which is held together by “conduit, container and other structuring systems, by chemical substance conversion reactions and mechanical transport forms of the resulting goods thing. (Bahr 1973: 54) In the chemical industry, in which not only given substances are treated but also qualitatively new substances are generated (metals and cloth goods are now produced synthetically), there is also an increasingly strong co-development between a field of engineering, which is still based on experience, and a laboratory-oriented scientific dispositive. Bahr describes the scientificization of production as idealized socialization.1 Even the scientific inventions and theories of Faraday and Maxwell indicate a development that is increasingly moving from science to industry. Finally, it must be borne in mind that the replacement of human energy by the utilization of fossil fuels was one of the decisive factors in how capital developed in the 20th century. From the 1950s onwards, qualitatively new internal relations of machinery are emerging, i.e. their integration into electronic-digital networks, which are today regulated and controlled by polystructural algorithms, operating in symbolic, real structures in order to perpetuate and stage the relative added value of capital, a differential added value that can no longer be easily located at a specific point in the machine complex itself or in its relations (differences of intensification, of productivity).
In general, it can be assumed that the data of the natural sciences – their measured values – are the result of a practice mediated by measuring instruments/apparatuses. These material-discursive practices, in turn, incorporate the functional norms of measuring instruments, which are based on the expectability and reproducibility of measured values. (Cf. Schlaudt 2014a: 69) The exactness of the experiment depends on the precision of the measuring instruments, which in turn include mathematical, hypothetical and theoretical moments, in order to finally arrive at the analysis of the measured material or machine activity by carrying out the experiment. It is possible to start from heterogeneous measuring instruments which, in specific historical situations, lead to different concepts of magnitude in so far as they relate to very specific phenomena. The use of measuring machines leads to a kind of reversal of machine tools, because here no longer an external material is processed by the machine, but an external instrument now measures the machines (and their processes), i.e. records their respective states as data. (Bahr 1983: 224) Mechanization in this context means to present any type of machine as the precision of a mechanical process that turns out to be a measurement. From now on a label, a measure, sticks to the machines. (Here reference is to be made to instruments for measuring lengths and areas, to measures of weight, to the telescope and the compass, to the number and finally to the measure of all measures, money). There is, however, no general matrix for all concepts of size, such as a pure quantity or “quantity in abstracto” – a term that can be found in Sohn-Rethel (Sohn-Rethel 1970: 55f.) – at best it can be said that with regard to quantification under capitalism money dominates as the ideal external measure. (Ibid.: 97) The innovations concerning a new way of seeing and knowing promise from the outset a new quantitativism, whose motto is: reduce reality to what can be counted and count the quanta. This quantitative
Reductionism is closely related to a transformed space that can be viewed from outside.
The relationship between the constant capital, which has already been defined in monetary terms, and the objective structure of the machine, which Bahr calls the “inner value form” of the machine, is not based on any direct illustrative context or a direct causal relationship; rather, this relationship must first be “mediated” through the technical-experimental production of the machines’ sensory measurements.2
Bahr thus makes an analytical distinction between machinery as constant capital, which is already defined in monetary terms (bought in order to be used in production processes), and machinery as the mode of existence that is materially adequate to capital. This requires a specific structuring/formation, which does not remain alien to Marx when he considers the structuring aspect of the utility value in addition to the first aspect of machinery, for example when he writes: “But it is only since the introduction of machinery that the worker has been fighting the means of labor itself, the material mode of existence of capital. (MEW 23: 451) It is exactly this second aspect that Bahr also focuses on in his early studies of capital machinery. It implies that the capitalist machinery is by no means a neutral means of dominating nature, as if perhaps after a revolution the only thing that matters is the correct use of the machinery in order to further technical progress towards socialism.3
In his essay Die Klassenstruktur der Maschinerie, Bahr distinguishes Note on the value form from 1973, first between the term “expediency”, which denotes the receptivity of natural substances, and the term “expediency”, which emphasizes technology as a means to ends (of capital). This difference is not immediately visible. Thus, on the one hand, machinery is purposeful, it is material raw material or form for other things, and on the other hand it is functional, i.e. its construction is immanently social form, which Bahr calls “utility form” or “natural form of capital”. This, in turn, has a double form: firstly, as constant capital, the machinery as purely formal indicates expediency in terms of the appropriateness of pure functioning or uninterrupted movement, and this appropriateness remains related to the efficacy of economic purposes. (Bahr 1973: 58) As a means of labor it has ever been a means of producing relative surplus value. The capital form is sui generis attached to its form, and thus its state of rest can only be an expression of the economic crisis or its natural or moral wear and tear. Secondly, in addition to its form as constant capital, machinery has a specific form of utility value, whose function is to be able to produce utility values as goods at any time, if the purposes of capital so require. Thus, a double-folded doubling of the machine can be assumed. First, the doubling in natural form and social form and secondly its doubling in value form (constant capital) and utility value form. Bahr calls exactly this folding the class structure of the machinery. (Ibid.: 62f.) Later, Bahr replaced the term “utility value form” with “natural form of capital” and distinguished from the latter in turn the ideal forms of thought. As a kind of intermediate instance, technology/machinery is by no means to be understood as the result of the purpose-rational action or thinking of subjects, just as on the other hand it is not a mode of nature that could then be thought of as the prosthesis of a physical body, rather the machinery incorporates the objectified purpose of capital, whereby it cannot be a purely neutral instrument. The relative surplus value production of capital is constitutive for this kind of objectification, with which the tendency is to accelerate the replacement of variable capital by constant capital.
For the utilization of capital, both the ideal forms of thought and the machine-like natural forms are absolutely necessary. In his above-mentioned essay, Bahr attempts to determine the ideal forms of thought in a quite functionalist manner as constitutive parts of the economic functional areas of production and circulation, and this means asking about the rules of their distribution, communicability and materialization. For Bahr, issues such as pricing, natural sciences, accounting and, to some extent, the value form/natural form of the machinery can be subsumed under the forms of thought. Theoretical categories, the mathematics of economics and even the sensual dimensions of the machinery can also be regarded as parts of the ideal forms of thought. These forms of thought accelerate the unification of the production processes of the
of the capital, which definitely requires theoretical operations such as calculation, planning and computation to inscribe linear time, continuity and uniform movement in the production processes. With this inscription of the sensual measures into the machinery, the ideal form of thought is transformed into an objective form or the material mode of existence of capital. Thus the value form enters directly into production, i.e. the machinery takes on an inner value form.
However, the inner form of value or the sensual measures arise first of all from the form determinations of circulation and exchange (measures of weight and numbers are constitutive for exchange, even if they are second only to money; ibid.: 64). Weighing scales and metal weights were part of a never-ending development of weight money, because after all not all exchangeable things could be related to each other by weight. However, the objects maintained their standardizations in terms of units of measurement, and this was sufficient for these units of measurement to function as a secondary condition for the exchange value, which always remained tied to money. With regard to the products as quantified quantities, Bahr essentially speaks of four units of measurement, which are to be regarded as special equivalent forms, but which, due to their attachment to the bodies of the products, could not from the outset serve as a central measure like disembodied money: Measurements of space, time, weight and numbers (primeval meters, primeval times, primeval kilograms and the number system) – the latter may be regarded as a pure determination of size, as the most “abstract” measure, with which, among other things, universally valid communicability becomes possible. (Bahr 1983: 390) Dimensions are divisible, i.e. their units of measurement allow certain measures, and these are intelligent in that they can be treated as signs. In exchange mediated by money, the central measure is ever already present, i.e. money compares the products neutralized in this way, which at the same time have sensual measures in themselves. (Value measures actually only exist at the level of total capital).
As potential goods, specific measures are assigned to the products, i.e. as exchange values, goods are already compared with each other in specific quantities: 20 cubits of canvas are worth 1 skirt. Here, a certain quantity of the length of the canvas is equated with a certain number of skirts. From this point of view, Marx actually regarded the exchange value form “x commodity A = y commodity B” as follows: “x shares of measure x’ (commodity A) = y shares of measure y’ (commodity B).” Even with the simple value form, therefore, two different sensory measures are equated; they are to be understood as a specific parergonal structure that is related to the exchange value quantified by money, which per se is articulated in the price relations of two commodities (the quantity of another commodity against which a given commodity can be exchanged).4 Bahr comes to the conclusion that, at the latest with the setting of the general value form, two “social” relations must exist, the sensory measures of the commodities and money.
According to Bahr, the concrete determination of the various sensual measures is therefore first made in the circulation. Capitalist companies, after they have established certain economic relations, produce specific quantities of products for the market, and this is what Bahr calls the form of determinability of quantities. Based on their previous market experience, companies always produce calculated, i.e. relatively exact quantities of products, and thus the sensual measures inevitably migrate into production. (Cf. Bahr 1973: 66) This continues to be the case in that goods which have already had sensory measurements are returned to production through their sale or realisation in circulation. Once this circulation has established itself, then the sensual measurements must necessarily also enter into the determination of the machinery – their units of measurement or measures are signs that adhere to such machines, which “mediate” themselves, the raw materials and the workers with each other through uniform movement, technical control and time measurement. Under certain circumstances, a company may produce only that part of a product which, as a calculated unit, requires sensory measurements in order to be assembled into a whole product in further production processes, whereby repeatable assembly or modulation into a single product must be guaranteed by certain measurements. (Ibid.: 63) The determination of the quantity of goods by sensual measures is thus already co-produced in production.
In the early 1970s, Bahr was probably the first author in the Marxist context to speak of the “inner value form of machinery” or the “natural form of capital”.
He then asks how the inner value form of the machinery could become constitutive for production and how the forms of thought helped to shape this development process. For its material production processes, capital requires specifically formed means of production that are carriers of constant capital, while the produced labor force remains a carrier of variable capital. According to Bahr, what is decisive for the question is that the machinery in its objective and structural moments takes on an inner form of value, i.e. the machinery objectively incarnates capital in its logic and class structure. From a certain stage on, the machinery that has ever already been capital-infected enables the further determination of forms of thought. In this way, experiment and the theoretical natural sciences are also related to each other via machinery or apparatuses, and this type of mediation between science and machinery finally asserts itself with the second wave of industrialization at the beginning of the 20th century (chemical industry and electrical industry). Woesler criticizes Bahr at this point because he assumes that on the one hand forms of thinking were directly incorporated into the machinery, but on the other hand that these forms of thinking arose precisely in the discontinuation of industrial production processes and that Bahr is unable to mediate precisely this problem. (Cf. Woesler 1978: 187)
Certain measurements are now recognised as basic measurements in research and its laboratories, and electrical and chemical engineering is constantly generating new, artificial units of measurement. These measurements and units of measurement are the condition for the possibility of uniform industrial standards, which are directly attached to the internal value form of machinery. (Cf. Bahr 1973: 64) The uniformity of the production processes absolutely requires this standardization in order to guarantee the homogenizing technical constructions of the products and the linear process sequences of the machines. This type of production continues into modular construction, the assembly of standardized and recombinable parts on the basis of a prefabricated material. Bahr defines the industrial standard of the machine component as the appropriated and objectified form of the general interchangeability of products, and here too, mediality is immediately apparent. In today’s world of barcodes and RFID tags, we can see that it is not only about classifying, measuring and selling products, but also about finding out where they are at any given moment within the global just-in-time management regime. This applies to goods as well as to people. We are all commodified, packaged in digital packages, transported through certain time regimes of control and management.
It is necessary to set off the structure of utility value in terms of dimensions – weight, length, hour or the intelligible form of the number – against the immediate utility value which satisfies a need, and it is the number in particular – in addition to money – which enables us to speak of the general communication capacity of machines. If we assume that the properties of machines require dimensions for their communicability, then it is inevitable that other machines must be produced which coordinate and measure speeds, design, process and material properties, wear, consumption etc. (Bahr 1983: 407) Measurements today require certain digital measuring devices and corresponding axiomatic systems, diagrams, algorithms etc. Uniform dimensions are used as industrial standards in the manufacture of machines. And to these sensual measures are in turn coupled with the procedures of the money calculating machines, or, to put it differently, if machines today produce the conditions of their social communicability themselves (above all qua a-significant semiotics), then the price and money calculating machines can connect to them as abstract communication machines, whose performance is in turn quantitatively determined (Mathem of Economics). Bahr describes the price as a “war machine” sui generis in his book Über den Umgang mit Maschinen. (ibid.: 407)
One can summarize with Bahr at this point: Under capital conditions, the natural material of commodity bodies must not only take on purposeful form for use, but also purposeful form for exchange, which in turn functions as the function co-produced by capital, whereby primarily in production the constitution of adequate forms of utility value of the products takes place. (Ibid.: 64) From this we can conclude: the uniform movement in the machine production of products is not only the result of the
the structural utility value form or the natural form of capital. One should therefore speak of an entity “machinery”, which possesses a specific form and temporal form of movement and is at the same time a means of exploitation, constant capital. In his essay Die Klassenstruktur der Maschinerie. Note on the value form, Bahr pointed out that under capitalist conditions, the machinery is also permeated in its “material structure” by the mode of capital relations, whereby the ground is removed from the outset from any ontology of work (of which Bahr also discovered numerous traces in Marx). It is Christine Woesler again who, in one of the few theoretical debates on Bahr’s theses, points out that he overestimated the importance of the sensory measures for determining the machinery, whose real determining moments are rather the uniform movement and the measurement of time. (Woesler 1978: 317)
The aim is to present the connection between machinery, capital and natural science in Bahr’s context in a very brief way: Bahr speaks of the original formal principle underlying theoretical mechanics and the division of labour (geometric, uniform, self-sustaining movement), but emphasises the non-simultaneous development between theoretical mechanics and the various production practices. Interference between the two fields can only occur when a machinery that has become discursive has completely detached itself from the function that lies in the reinforcement of organ activity and, as a representational technique, translates mathematical-logical knowledge into production. It should be noted that mathematics does not translate itself one-to-one into production, since it has no direct relation to the object as an object of analysis.
In his later work Über den Umgang mit Maschinen, which we will come to in a moment, Bahr clearly distances himself from Sohn-Rethels attempt (Sohn Rethel 1970) to derive forms of thought from the exchange of goods mediated by money and the real abstraction allegedly invested in it, since such a procedure always presupposes what is actually to be derived. To briefly describe this problem: The thought forms result from the exchange mediated by money, with which real abstraction is indicated, but the problem of mediation between exchange and thought form is only named, so that in order to arrive at thought abstraction, Sohn-Rethel must switch on an act of identification, reflection and reversal between commodity form and thought form. With regard to the derivation of the concepts of understanding (as a replacement for Kant’s transcendental deductions), Sohn Rethel notes a kind of identification of the agents with the abstract, quantitative nature of money, which even the Greeks were aware of. With regard to the concept of reflection, it must be said that the reflection of a form in another medium, however, already presupposes the mind, which compares the reflected forms with each other in order to arrive at the judgment of the adequacy of form. (Bahr 1973: 65) Concerning the concept of reversal, it must be said that a theoretical practice that gains its object of knowledge through the representation of the inverted conceptual manifestations of the forms of goods, money and capital (whereby it is irrelevant whether reality determines the concepts or the concepts determine reality) and through this representation wants to be at the same time an immanent critique, that precisely this theoretical practice must be able to reveal the inverted reality as the inverted one, and this step obviously requires an extraordinary or enormous consciousness, which succeeds in deciphering in theory the inversion and the value forms on which it is based, in order to describe/decode the real inversion as such, whereby basically the theoretical operation of deciphering can only be the correct reproduction of the inversion in reality.
In this context Christine Woesler has accused Bahr of ignoring the qualitative difference between the form of money and the form of thinking or theoretical knowledge of nature. Woesler, on the other hand, assumes that at least the difference between real abstraction and thought abstraction, as Sohn-Rethel states, even if he has not explained it, is inescapable, since it is impossible for the natural sciences to realize themselves completely in machinery or technical objects, since reality always contains inert matter that resists the natural sciences. (Cf. Woesler 1978: 222) The laws of mathematics, which do not have to call a representational object their own, are related in natural science to real phenomena (light, motion, energy etc.), and this is done through experiment, in which, with the help of apparatuses and material-discursive practices, the laws of mathematics can be applied to real objects.
Christine Woesler mentions the measuring experiment, which in her opinion was first developed by Newton, as a departure from the qualitative, craft-oriented experiment for further clarification. Nevertheless, there is no causal derivation relationship between natural science and technology/engineering, if only because technology, too, remains dependent on “inert” matter, from which the natural sciences, which work with the a priori of mathematics, can also abstract in a certain way (without being able to eliminate the abstract completely). For this reason, according to Woesler, the natural sciences could historically have been created before the machinery. (Ibid.: 214) Woesler himself runs the risk, however, of failing to mention that with quantum theory “matter” is always also constructed and produced, in that mathematics materializes through the use of experimental apparatus. The natural scientist has no absolute power of action over allegedly passive matter, since on the one hand not every intended result is possible by experiment, and on the other hand socio-economic processes constantly intervene in the experimental sciences. Conversely, however, the object does not automatically show the path to be followed that leads to knowledge. Knowledge and matter are then to be understood as interacting “moments” of social practices that produce materializable phenomena, insofar as the material itself becomes part of the discursive manifestation of meaning. (Cf. Barad 2015: 61) The social practices, which consist in the “intraactions” (Barad) between the material and the discursive, are reified in certain technologies that entail real material consequences and can therefore claim objectivity. In general, it can be said that an interweaving of matter and science, as conceived by Karen Barad, for example, seeks to turn away from both naive realistic and purely social constructivist positions by showing that natural sciences do not represent and modulate independent reality, but rather, in the context of economic-semiotic-discursive, material processes qua machine apparatuses, make interventions and folds that entail real consequences in the world of capital. However, Woesler points out that with the experiment and as a result of the schematism embodied in it, a nature that has ever been constituted is changed. This fact complements the natural sciences and their theoretical-mathematical foundations, whose genesis Sohn-Rethel tried to explore solely through money-mediated exchange. Moreover, as Woesler’s thesis adds, it must be assumed today that real abstraction and thought abstraction can actually merge in the algorithm.
When Bahr speaks of specific forms of thought and knowledge as moments and results of the movement of capital, he is referring to a stage of the development of capital in which mental labor or the “general intellect” has long since become a constitutive part of the production process and has itself already been subjected to mechanization. One must now indeed proceed from the real subsumption of the (industrial) machinery and all labour under monetary capital. Nevertheless, for Bahr, reason remains both a result of economic processes and a subjectivating and active factor within them. Without the activity of the mind, which produces specific means of cognition, neither the structural utility value form nor technology could come into being. However, understanding itself and its means of cognition were in turn constituted by socio-economic practices. Henryk Grossmann was perhaps a little too hasty in pointing out that deductive forms of thought always referred to the mechanical-dynamic relations of the “machine”, in so far as these – as given by nature-analytics – provided the content for formal thinking in a sensual way. (Borkenau follows Grossmann and explains the genesis of theoretical mechanics from the division of labour in the manufactory). In a sense, for Grossmann, practical mechanical synthesis (as evidence) remains a prerequisite for deductive thought forms. Even Bahr in his early phase still speaks of the fact that deductive forms of thought are preceded by practical mechanical synthesis (cf. Bahr 1973: 68), and this must be regarded as a postulate that should lead to the pure contradiction-free functioning of capitalist production processes. Grossmann negates, however, that even in classical mechanics, which only developed in the 17th century, the direct connection between forms of knowledge and mechanical, uniform production did not exist at all.
Schlaudt has shown the connection between deductive thought form and mechanics
(basic form of the machine) in his book What is empirical truth? as parallelism of real genesis and ideal genesis. Real genesis provides the conditions of validity for deductive forms of thought or scientific knowledge, i.e. the latter remains related to material-symbolic means/machines, and at the same time validity must be established through performative explanation within a specific field of technically instructed applications. The scientific theories establish validity in a constructive and anticipatory way by referring performatively to the world/machinery. The deductive form of thinking is intended to construct the scientific construction of the proper functioning of the machinic, and this in turn must entail the transformation of the deductive form of thinking into a practical analytics that must deal with both the disturbances of complex machines and the invention of new sustainable models of machines. Deduction and practical-empirical analytics always remain interrelated, insofar as both areas have to comply with the postulate of the smooth functioning of machinery, and this refers on the one hand to the factor regularity, and on the other hand to the practice of certain causality mechanisms, whereby, as Bahr at least writes, formal logic anticipated techno-logy at this point. (Bahr 1973: 69) Nevertheless, the technical artifact is definitely not a logical argument. (Cf. Schlaudt 2014a:188) And it should be added that the cognition of objects cannot be reduced in a clumsy materialistic way to a co-determination of socio-economic conditions and objects/world, rather the socio-economic conditions determine the (technical) objects and relations in the last instance, because every causality of the relations must be validated by social perception and by socio-economic practices (in laboratories, factories, etc.).1 (Ibid.: 59)
The systematic connection between natural science and technology only came about at the beginning of the 20th century, with the electronics and chemical industries. When at the beginning of the 20th century the scientificization of production finally takes effect, the relationship between knowledge/truth and economy changes. For Marxist theory, the convergence of the two areas is demonstrated by the premise that here, too, the connection between genesis and validity must be understood, i.e. the sciences and their findings must ever already refer back to socio-economic facts (ever already constructed facts) and to the relevance of technical means. (Ibid: 26) This is understandable because all “productions” sui generis are inherent in technological mediation processes that belong to the second nature (the culturally appropriated nature, ibid: 104). It is precisely the natural sciences and their processes of cognition, if one leaves aside the question of empirical truth, which naturalize the economy in order to set itself up as an ahistorical, objectively universally valid and neutral measure and regulator, whereby its unquestioned premises include abstraction, quantification, absurdity, etc. (Cf. Woesler 1978: 218)
According to Woesler, in the 17th century the legal concept of the natural sciences was developed as mathematical rationality and arithmetic, while at the same time the measuring experiment was introduced into the natural sciences as an empirical basis and with it the theory of scientific progress and its usefulness was formulated. (Ibid.: 240) The enforcement of the a priori concept of law led to a relativization of Hume’s concept of law, according to which laws revealed nothing more than empirically ascertainable regularities. In a certain contrast to the theses of Christine Woesler, Schlaudt referred to the works of Edgar Zilsel, according to whose statements the scholastic tradition and its symbolizations in its creative connection with the craftsman artist had already been responsible for the emergence of the modern natural sciences in the 14th century. (Schlaudt 2014a: 125f.) According to the studies of the Austrian Marxist Zilsel, even experimental science can be related to this early stage of modern natural sciences, which arose from the synthesis of affirmation of a (divine) natural law qua symbolic means of representation and the practical, quantitative knowledge of the craftsmen and their experimenters. Here, laws of nature possess not only a descriptive but explicitly a prescriptive dimension; they contain the summary of empirically established regularities. (Ibid.) This, according to Schlaudt, says something about the real genesis of the modern natural sciences, to which, however
a theory of ideal genesis had to be added, which in turn could serve to reconstruct real genesis. (Ibid.: 295) The a priori character of modern natural sciences is at least relativized here. The craftsmen of the Renaissance mentioned by Zilsel (Da Vinci, Cellini, Martini etc.) are, however, without exception “artist-engineers”, whose mathematics has a static form (characterized by the absence of the concept of time) and, moreover, remains related to craftsmanship and therefore cannot provide a reference point for the emergence of industrial production. The attempt to derive the experimental methods of natural science from the combination of scholastic science and craft must therefore fail.2
Woesler, on the other hand, assumes that it was only Newton with his description of the measuring experiment – albeit with a number of ambivalences – that the integration of mathematics (algebra and arithmetic) and empiricism was halfway successful. With the measuring experiment, the mechanical-geometric image of nature is implemented in reality, whereby, if successful, there are deep cuts whose results are scientific phenomena. It should be noted that for Newton it was still the empirical phenomena rather than the mathematical a priori from which the laws of motion were deduced. With regard to Newton’s presentation of the mathematical laws as facts in the experiment, Woesler assumes three steps: 1) The isolation of the phenomena by determining the modes of variation. 2) Deduction of the laws of phenomena by mathematically constructing the modes of variation. 3) The use of induction to enable the applicability of mathematical deduction to other phenomena and to introduce further quantifications for more complex phenomena. Finally, one must be able to transform the mathematical deduction itself. (Cf. Woesler 1978: 277)
Newton used the inertial system to establish the exact measurement of absolute motion as a condition for the real measurement of motion at any time and in any place, assuming space as a homogeneous geometric system. And time is a purely mathematical time, which Netwon calculated via the continuity of number. In absolute space and absolute time, bodies move in their relationships and relations to each other. This transparency of the measurement process itself is considered a criterion of objectivity. It includes the quantification of the force, in that the bodies/masses take on the energetic properties of inertia and attraction and thus receive energy. In order to mathematically extrapolate Galileo’s law of inertia (there is no force quantity behind the movement, but it is in it as inertia), Newton did not start from velocity, but from acceleration. In the measuring experiment, therefore, in contrast to the qualitative experiment, which remains related to handicraft production, a calculating calculus is used for the modulation of a second nature, which is related to artificial artifacts or means, i.e. measuring apparatuses which have ever been removed from sensuality and sensory data (which, however, as Sellars says, are themselves already theoretical entities). The measuring experiment cannot do without the a priori of practical mechanics and that of geometry, which is what makes it possible to set constancy. The refinement of quantification and measuring methods always remains related to innovations in mathematics and mechanics. And this includes the predominance of a syntax of forces measured in mechanics via the instrument of the dynamometer, so that one can arrive at the condensation of a quantitative unit in an articulated structure. Quantification is itself the syntactic moment by which elements, results and traces are removed from their concrete time rhythms and translated into pure temporality and spatiality. (Cf. Bahr 1983: 171) A real, continuously divisible and joinable homogeneous space is defined as mathematical space, through which mathematics and physics meet. It is the Euclidean geometry that serves the analysis of motion and space, whereby, due to the law of number, there are fixed relations between dynamic quantities. (The exact measurement of motion at any moment is possible with the infinitesimal system of Leibniz and the inertial system of Newton) And motion is defined by the (measurable) quantities of space and time, whereby the establishment of equilibrium remains the anchor and goal of the measurement. It is not the motion of machines that constitutes the mechanical, but rather it is here Euclidean geometry as a form of motion that is the immovable par excellence, the law. And Bahr sums up: “Mathematical mechanics
“is a cold dream of a paradise of order and stability. (ibid.)
In order that the substitution of the primary, practical-sensual natural relationship, which is essential for modern natural science, by a second natural relationship, produced by qua measuring and experimental methods, can fully assert itself in the social field of capital, a specific constellation of production and circulation is needed, according to Woesler, which can only be that of capital itself. In abstracting from the material (without eliminating the material), Woesler suspected early on a structural similarity between Newton’s inertial system and exchange. The uniform movement of monetary capital through all its metamorphoses (including production) would indicate a further analogy between the natural sciences and economics. (Woesler 1978: 275). With the emergence of merchant capital in northern Italy, the 15th century saw the emergence of double-entry bookkeeping, which can still be considered the notational system of the principle of capitalization today. With double-entry bookkeeping, the movement of the monetary capital on the capital account can be clearly fixed as a plus or minus. This leads to the installation of a purely numerical notation system that not only registers the profits and losses of the individual capitals but can also record them in a temporal format. And Sombart notes: “Double-entry bookkeeping is born of the same spirit as Galileo’s and Newton’s systems, as the teachings of modern physics and chemistry”. (quoted after Woesler 1978: 312) Double-entry bookkeeping and Newton’s law of inertia, both of which are characterized by the abstraction of the utility value. Against positions such as those of Edgar Zilsel, Woesler insists that the measurement-experimental method cannot be derived from the craft, from the division of labour in the manufactory or directly from the condition of the means of production, but rather from the halfway developed circulation of merchant capital and the related calculation calculations. (Ibid.: 241) In addition, the absolutist state apparatus had played a certain role in the constitution of the scientific experiment, which provides for a specific way of arranging elements and apparatuses that must be constitutive and repeatable for the material-discursive practices. This presupposes observations or prescriptive rules for manipulating objects for practical purposes.
For Woesler, the constellation of the measuring experiment in the 17th century, as presented by Newton as an intellectual exception par excellence, represents in some respects an anticipation of the capitalist production structure, i.e. the development of machinery. (Ibid.: 299) In the 17th century, scientific forms of knowledge or theoretical experimental knowledge of nature could not yet be directly related to the capitalist production process and the structure of the machinery, since one was still dealing with the artisanal or manual production method, which was supplemented by long-distance trade, rural publishing and state production facilities. The forms of knowledge were thus related more to the circulation of merchant capital than to the manual production method, a circulation which, however, already required calculation as an economic principle of action. Woesler also cites various technical utopias as factors in the assertion of the natural sciences, which were to be found in the context of state war technologies, architecture and arts and crafts. And the absolutist state should not be forgotten as an organizing factor of scientific research. Thus, in the 17th century, the ways of thinking and methods of calculation were still mainly related to circulation, while in the 18th century, the expansion of knowledge was related to the differentiation of trade, the expansion of production for markets and the expansion of money trade and its institutions (stock exchange and banks), and this still under the dominance of circulation over industrial production. Finally, the circulation must have generalized (including the commodity labor), the merchant capital or agricultural capital must have transformed into productive capital, that is, both production and circulation must be regulated by the abstract principle of the calculative-quantitative determination of monetary capitalization in order to speak of industrial capital at all. The measurement of the homogeneous movement of monetary capital and its changes correspond to the measurement of the movement and its change (in experiment), which is determined by means of fluxion calculation or
or infinitesimal calculus is performed. Industrialization was the result and not the condition of capital, and it was initiated by agrarian or proto-capital. Ellen Meiksins Wood writes in her book The Origin of Capitalism that in England in the 16th century it was the triad of landlords, capitalist tenants and wage-earning workers that set in motion the laws of movement as specific to capitalism: competitive production for exchange value and profit, competitive market dependence, capital accumulation and the compulsion to increase labour productivity (increase in yield per unit of labour). (Meiksins Wood 2015: 150f.) Meiksins Wood cites the transformation of property relations, the specific logic of production, the size and function of the domestic market, the composition of the population and the dimension of international imperial-driven British trade as the enabling conditions of capital that were more essential than the advancing technologization. (Ibid.:164)
In his essay Die Klassenstruktur der Maschinerie. Recognition as a form of value, Bahr points out that in the 20th century, natural science has adopted the operative pattern of capitalist production processes with regard to the conduct of its experiments: Under identical technical test arrangements and apparatus and by means of a specific composition of the respective elements, identical results should necessarily be achieved in the measurement procedures to be repeated. The empirical truth of a measurement result thus depends on the correctness and repeatability of the measurement procedure and thus on the objectivity of the material discursive practice or production. (Cf. Schlaudt 2014a: 80) It will now also be decisive that it is often the technical apparatus itself and no longer the people who measure things. Thus, an object-object relationship will be installed, which will be technically produced and reconstructed, so that the scientific experiment itself will become an object through its own method. (Cf. Bahr 1970: 37) According to Bahr, the experiment implies the comparison of a nature that has ever been empirically experienced, i.e. structured, with a technically rational structure of the experiment, and if this comparison shows itself as identity, then the subject can be removed from the arrangement of the experiment, from the apparatus and from the knowledge. Bahr’s remark that the subject only approaches the experimental experimental arrangement from the outside, while at the same time nature is to be explained by the subject, remains inaccurate. Indeed, the subject cannot be completely faded out of what Oliver Schlaudt calls the production of empirical truth, but the notion of experimental practice as the result of an omniscient epistemic subject must be replaced by the investigation of the historical-material-discursive practices and actions of collectives. Thus, the theorem of physics does not refer directly to nature, but to nature mediated by technology and material-discursive practices, i.e. to the materialized phenomenon of a nature reduced to form. (cf. Schlaudt 2014a: 221) And also entities (waves or particles) are not inherently determined, but are perforated in experiments as phenomena in a variety of ways by differently given conditions. (Barad 2015: 101) If Bahr insists at this point that the experiment must be repeated invariably for each person and situation, whereby the respective technical-experimental experimental arrangement determines the course of the experiment, the subjective moment still plays a certain role, insofar as a certain course of the experiment is expected or predicted by a research team on the basis of given empirical knowledge. Thus the object of knowledge also remains the result of a collective construction process, which, however, is not bound to a totalitarian subject of knowledge, but rather to collective language and semiotics, to the socio-economic rules of scientific operation and its apparatuses and instruments. In this context, Marx’s talk of “objective thought forms” then means that the categories of the natural sciences and the reproduction of scientific phenomena under the conditions of experimental (material-discursive) apparatuses, whose place is the laboratory, always attain their validity in relation to specific socio-economic practices of capital. (Cf. Schlaudt 2014a: 192) The measurements are mediated by specific apparatuses, whereby the respective measurement result can be traced back to a regulated use of the respective measuring apparatuses. At the same time, the measurement result can also be used as a
,interpret a prognosis about the future behaviour of experimental measurements. And the measured value that Schlaudt calls “empirem” (ibid.:115) by no means includes the numerical determination of the properties of things, but rather indicates the information about the behavior of an object in relation to a measuring apparatus and the observer, or, as Schlaudt says, in relation to a stable network of different techniques. Under given means or apparatuses a certain effect is to be achieved, and this already includes a rest of subjective purposefulness qua observation. With regard to the stable network, the interaction between object and apparatus, Niels Bohr speaks of the phenomenon. He writes: “Accordingly, the unambiguous description of actual quantum phenomena must in principle include the specification of all relevant features of the experimental arrangement. (Quoted after Barad 2015: 26)
At first glance, Hans-Dieter Bahr’s heteronomous concept of machines, which he sketched out in his typeface Umgang mit Maschinen, does not appear to be so far removed from Laruelles conception of techno-fiction. On the one hand a (broken) discourse on the genealogy/archaeology of machines and technical objects, from the trap to baroque slot machines and industrial robots. On the other hand, a likewise shifted genealogy of the concepts of technology and machines and their statements, which in the context of the hegemonic history of science was mostly categorized in philosophical, mechanical, instrumental or anthropological terms and schemes. Bahr, on the other hand, wants to write a non-linear genealogy and archaeology of machines (concepts), one for which, as he says, the decomposition of the concepts of time “now” and “sequence” is necessary to escape any meta-historical position, i.e. the widespread view that everything is in time and that the problem of absence does not exist at all. (Bahr 1983: 19). What Bahr finds disturbing about the concept of genealogy is the all too rigid conception of a law of development that smoothly suppresses the wastes, distortions, twists and turns and indeterminations in the a-linear progressions of machine discourses. (ibid.: 270)
To think the machine in its opacity means to understand that discourses and statements about the machine and the “object” machine are not interchangeable, that the reversibility of reality and ideality, which is always planned by philosophy, need not take place. Reversibility here remains an effect in the imaginary (cf. Laruelle 2014: 105), while Bahr wants to be guided in the symbolic by a search for and reading of traces, which leads him to an “archaeography of machines” (Bahr 1983: 18), in which the machines and the statements about the machines, if one produces both superimposed or superposed without reciprocity, can not only be read or deciphered in their rhythm, but can be intensified or exaggerated in their evidence to such an extent that the dominant discourses on technology simply have to bend and curve. This in fact opens up the space for a new labor-power thinking that refuses the linear writing of technological events, in which it shows that the phylogeny of the machine never ran in a straight line, thus raising the question of when and how certain theorems on technology appear in history; thus, the discourse on the machine, according to which technical objects are projections of bodily, social and cognitive organs and functions, was only possible at the end of the 19th century. Thus the discourse on the machine, according to which technical objects are projections of bodily, social and cognitive organs and functions, did not appear as a common form of discourse until the end of the 19th century, although it was already present in the history of philosophy and technology much earlier, in many insinuations.
These problems with Bahr thus have certain affinities with the concept of generic science with Laruelle, who in his book Non-Photography/Photo-Fiction criticizes the photographic representation with which philosophy has (negotiated) the world to this day by establishing a structural connection between the photographic appearance – objects and the world – and the objects appearing in the photograph plus their discourses, which shows itself in particular as illustration, reflection or representation in the mirror labyrinths of discourses. (Cf. Laruelle 2014: 24) Bahr, for his part, traces this monstrous peculiarity of philosophy to sit down as a mirroring a priori back to the generators of light, which in the course of the methods of the Enlightenment – lighting, seeing through and shining through – would have created a reflexive projection machine in order to repeatedly produce the image or the correspondence between thing and imagination, reality and ideality. (Cf. Bahr 1983: 21) In these discourses, the machine often appears as an intermediate part, whose three-dimensional materiality is used in favour of a (two-dimensional) projection of the human image.
At the same time, the machines should continue to appear as three-dimensional physical projections. (Ibid.: 21) This in turn refers to analyses that have remained virulent to this day, which attempt to link technology to the drive history of the organism or the human will, in so far as one imagines technical objects, machines and tools as depicting and/or extended projections of the body and its biological, psychological and cognitive functions (will), functions that can reinforce the body’s spheres of action in certain external technical milieus, while paradoxically the body itself is metaphorically described as a mechanical, instrumental machine. (ibid.: 81) The technical objects are kept available as means in the context of the body’s spheres of action, whereby they can also disappear as prostheses in their availability, so that then the technical objects are no longer granted any power to seduce, to change and to put pressure on the body, and thus man, according to the requirements of anthropology, only ever encounters his own knowledge in the technical. 3 (ibid.: 94)
However, the discourse on projection soon had to be broadened, because the first asymmetries between body and technical objects quickly appeared in it. The almost serially constructed representational relationships, be they similarities in shape (forceps, teeth, etc.), structure (heart/pump) or function (computer/brain), and, set apart from this, the objectification of the drive (aggressiveness/war machine) or the rational will (rationality/technical systems), led again and again to the question of the appropriateness of technology (to the body and mind/will). (Ibid.: 82) Technical objects, however, continued to be assumed to have a similarity to the body or the will, which was understood as the projection or as the process of creating and producing tools. It is easy to see, however, that even simple tools, such as the cup, do not duplicate the original function – here the drawing of water with the hands – but virtually dissolve it (the cup is held differently). By and large, the theorem of shape resemblance would degrade the tool to a statue depicting man and his abilities, and in order to avoid this, projection theory had to attribute to the tool at least the potency to lengthen, increase and strengthen bodily organs. At the same time, abstraction continues to be made from the newly created contexts of use of the machines; one thinks, for example, of the machines in mining, whose existence would be inexplicable simply by reference to manual labor. (Ibid.: 96) Finally, in order for the body to be considered an imaging projection center at all, it must at least be described as a driving center. As a result, it becomes impossible to continue to imagine the technical objects as form-like images or quantitative extensions of the body; rather, one must see in them the result of generative projections, of the drive or the will, and ultimately of the human brain, whereby it then depends solely on functional similarities between the machine and the brain, on the projection of brain activities onto the sensory organs and from these onto the external nature. If productivity only exists as the transformation of energies and is not the result of a bodily excess of drive (influence of bodily organs and their functions on the external nature), then one can finally presuppose the meta-physical energy of the mind, which has the ability to recreate duplications, axiomatics and complications of the machines. Only in this way can philosophy fully enter into the discourse of technology! In the end, this discourse condensed in the phantasm of the machine as a projection of constructive human intelligence – machine, as opposed to the statuary of the tool, as a construction of forms of movement.4 (Ibid.:108)
If one does not imagine the labor force, as Marx did, as an ecstatic labor force that generates added value, then due to its physical limitations, the labor force can only redirect the energies present in complex systems, mainly by virtue of its intelligence, whereby the labor force appears less as a productive force, but primarily as a reproductive force. (Ibid.: 106) The labour force is per se integrated into a network of machines, whereby the machines are thought of as parts of a communicating, work-divided body. With this, a socio-economic body is presented that completely overrides the theory of projection, precisely by short-circuiting the organism with inorganic mechanics and finally with the machinery as a system, whereby it is only possible to conceive of work as a pure communicability on a scientific level.
For Bahr, therefore, the first thing to show is that projection theory very soon had to rely on the notion of a non-bodily projection, be it that of instinct or will (as a theory of reflexive knowledge it is two-dimensional and as that of bodily projection it is three-dimensional). If one now imagines the machine as a social body based on the division of labour or as mediality, then the machine must inevitably be integrated into the structure of the ahuman drive or transmission, whereby the drive experiences its final desubjectivation. It is important to emphasize that in such a history of technology, which despite all its breaks is still imagined as linear, there was often an eminent regrouping of concepts, even when the collective subject representing the social or capital as an automatic subject subordinating technology was spoken of, whereby, and this is important to point out, where the subjugating unity is desired, the god of violence always speaks. (Ibid.: 15) It is precisely when these discourses are pushed to their limits or to the margins of their evidence that the genealogical orientation seems to break down. Often then only anthropological morality remains, with which a makeshift attempt is made to neutralize technology in relation to man, whereby morality itself produces indifferent objects, but which decompose precisely those objects as a Manichaean morality, because it is not apparent to the machines who they serve.
Following the philosophical discourse of projection, Bahr brings into play as the next philosophical avatar the discourse of imitation, according to which the machines are the image of an original, namely nature and later the social body. These discourses show themselves either as regression to the origin or as progression, the genesis of the origin. And there is a further differentiation: although the imitation is more original than the origin, the original image is also more original in the creation of the image. (Ibid.:145) The discrepancy closes with the assumption that anticipation is memory and memory is anticipation. Technical objects, according to Cues, do not imitate sensual nature, but are representations of the archetypes initiated by the mind. Bahr points out that ultimately most of these representations, which wander in the mirror labyrinths of the discursivities of the machine-like, grant the derivative greater originality than the original. (Ibid.: 22) This leads to the distinction of imago and simulacra used by Lucretius, whereby in the genealogical chain the common structure of primal image and representation breaks up step by step, and the illusions/simulacra begin to take on a life of their own, so that each mirror image is already a reflection of another mirror image.
The discourse of imitation is shattered at the latest when what is to be depicted as labyrinthine competition including the strategies and motivations within the social, mechanical body that proliferate within it, is itself no longer a fixable structure, that is, when the referent or the archetype becomes blurred. Whether imitation or projection, a social body, to which the game of heterogeneous, controversial and conflicting interests is deeply inscribed, is only partially revealed in the machines. On the one hand, this can lead to the objectification of energetic, temporal, spatial and informative forms of transport (networking), on the other hand to the representation of integrative connections between machine functions and labour. For Bahr, the newly emerging discourses are the birth of a cheerful or theatrical positivism that takes the machines for granted and frees them from their reference to their origin. A theatrical positivism of the machines, however, must prove itself not to be conservative, but rather an experimental (dis)order, a laboratory, even if it is not autonomous in relation to its “cause”, the real, i.e. it is quasi forced to the identity of thinking in one and to the power of thinking according to the real. (Laruelle 2014: 101) Bahr constantly speaks here of the textual regrouping of statements with regard to the technical, which inherent the structure of a specific own temporality. If one now no longer speaks of the machine in the sense of a “machina ex deo”, but rather of “deus ex machina”, only then can the mechane reappear as cunning, trickery and ambush. Bahr writes: “The paradox of causality, however, is that, if it wants to identify all causes that are supposed to represent the whole of the thing ‘machine’, it would have to allow itself to be understood in the machine also its production and use, but just as much as the possible
…the whole thing becomes indeterminate. The machine as things are neither finite nor infinite, but indefinite and thus their orders are only discursive. (Bahr 1983: 23) With Laruelle one can add that the discursive orders point to the indefinite of a techno-fiction, a conceptual non-technology.
Bahr often shows a certain similarity to the machine conception of Deleuze/Guattari. If one wants to identify all the causes of the machines, one has to consider questions about their manufacture/production and their multiple uses, i.e. the chaosmotic universe of the machinic, which in turn keeps every possible whole of the machines indefinite. And thus implicitly already the concept of the machine as transmission is introduced (transitions and mediations), which for Bahr shows itself as a discursive strategy, blasting and orientation and later and even more consistently as a stratagem. The capacity for transformation is inherent in the machine as an intermediate link that mediates input and output, and this less in terms of the transformation of energies through the production of voltage gradients than in the sense that a technical matrix and mathematical construction is implemented to ensure precise functioning, but this does not exclude the effectiveness of the transformation or disruption. (Ibid.: 138) At this point, reference should be made to digital sampling machines, to new technologies for accessing and processing media material. Here it is no longer a matter of the representation or reproduction of the material, its contexts of meaning and its meanings, but rather of its transformation and modulation, and this by means of a technical-methodical principle that allows direct access to the signal of the transmission media, a third aspect of transformation, besides transmitter and receiver, with which the signal contained in the technical channel is cloned and made accessible for transformation. Sampling as a method undermines the targeted transmission from the source to the target address, as shown in the Shannon model. At this point, the problem of appropriateness or measure reappears, as well as the problem of the disruptive cut in the historical development of technologies, or even the quantum leap, where the aim is to determine when and how a cut in the infinite dynamics of indeterminacy and thus the production of a new phenomenon has occurred. The example of quantum physics clearly shows: Planck or Bohr really could not have predicted that smartphones would one day result from the empirically proven uncertainty in the measurement procedures and the associated theoretical discoveries (which, among other things, eliminate the separability of object and observation instance). Heiner Mühlmann points out that the steps and cuts necessary for this, such as the invention of the semiconductor, the computer, the Arapanet and the Internet, the miniaturization of computers and the mobile application of the Internet, took place discontinuously and largely unpredictably. (Cf. Mühlmann 2013: 26)
So this is what Bahr is interested in above all else: To describe the machines in their differential neutrality or non-neutral indifference, inasmuch as they function as non-causal detonating and jumping machines, in order to process them as the epitome of a new art of disguise beyond the old familiar means-purpose schemes. The coming concept of the machine radically subtracts the philosophical interpretation centred around concepts such as isomorphism, objectification according to the law of nature or the projection of bodily and social organs. The machines are to be questioned not only in terms of their syntax and pragmatics, but also in terms of their semantics. By looking at the semantics, Bahr suggests an archaeological search for traces, which reads from the machine that it can be based not only on an axiomatic theory but also on an axiology, a decision of the manufacturer, who wants to realize an objective norm by building the machine. (Bahr 1983: 189) Finally, it can be the machine itself that (prescribes) the standards, especially when it is coupled with other machines (telephone, filter, radio, etc.) to form installations or networks of devices/apparatuses. In this way, both the technocrats and the critics of technology would have to see the question of the machines’ possibilities of choice in a new light (actions beyond the yes/no decision; ibid: 192).
Bahr marks several levels here: First of all, it is a matter of designating the sensual appearances of technical objects until these appearances finally become the carriers of signs, i.e. receive witness status. In order to maintain immanence here, the semantics and pragmatics of the technical objects must in turn be examined by means of the specifics of the object.
Thus, for the first time, methodological principles such as deduction, regulation, and regulatory procedures are more important in the discourses on machinery. (Ibid: 218) The description of technical objects aims (in theoretical mechanics) at the production and guarantee of structural order. And thus, according to Bahr, the effect of the machines and their theoretical representation have reached a congruence. Theoretical mechanics prefers the absolute presence of the uniform machine movement, which is presented in the concept of time as an infinite presence. Uniform motion, which Netwon understood as the product of two compensating changes in speed, refers to the geometry of pure change of location. Here, on the one hand, the machine is given movement, but on the other hand it cannot get beyond the transformation of this movement, i.e. it cannot transform the transformation itself. (Ibid.: 35) The question of causality is replaced by the description of the machine as a purely functional order. Now, in the production of the machine, it is a matter of designing its (mathematical) construction in such a way that it necessarily functions in this way and not otherwise, i.e. the possible is always the ultimately real, entirely in the sense of Hegel, for whom the real ever already contains its own possibilities and potentialities and also realizes them. (Ibid.:138,103)
In the discourses of mechanics, the writing of the syntax of machines in terms of their smooth functioning still remains entirely bound to the binary pattern (static-dynamics, barrier drives, etc.). It is about the axiomatization of rest and movement, which is stabilized in favor of rest by capturing the unsettling aspects of movement (explosion, flight). (Ibid.: 218) Movement – imagined as detonation, flight etc. – must be captured, the trap must be set, and this is the task of theoretical mechanics. If the wheel on the shaft is outwitted, so that the imbalance that always occurs serves to establish a new equilibrium, then the problem of chewing can be transformed into the two-dimensional picture of pure functioning. Corresponding to this image is the presence of an absolute presence of all movement or the idea of time as an infinite presence. The description of functional ordering procedures replaces those machine discourses that still raised the problem of causality, the processes of production and use. A pure functionality of machines assumed in this way must also necessarily exclude the relationship of machines to economy and to external nature. And this leads to the final axiomatization of the machine, which now dominates most theoretical discourses on the machine within the framework of deductive and constructive mechanical engineering. And thus the various theories about the machine disintegrate into an axiomatic functionalism on the one hand, and into the discourses of philosophers, anthropologists, economists, etc. on the other, who now celebrate the appearance of the possibility of the reversibility of discourse and technology under their own steam. As can easily be understood, the discourses on the machine have shifted quite dramatically, especially when the object “machine” is no longer being asked about, but in the technological sense exclusively about the functions of machine transmissions. Deductive and axiomatized descriptions of machines, in which the machines as transformers of energy and information endure, aim at the classification and taxonomies of the machine elements in order to describe the integral of the communicability of the machines among themselves through their recalibration and recomposition. On the basis of exclusively communicative criteria, a general concept of the machine is to be developed, whereby it quickly becomes clear that the general communicability of the machines themselves is only one of their elements (and others are thus excluded). Scientific mechanical engineering defines communicability as the sole criterion regulating and regulating the machines. And it seems that the difference between the machine and the economy, the social and the political also disappears, because the machine now proves to be purely neutral or purely a transmission, without having to refer to external points of contact at all.
At this point, Hans-Dieter Bahr notes that cybernetics does not differ significantly from the mechanical discourse of the machine in terms of its capacity for control and order, whether internal or external. The construction of a control loop, in which every change in a controlled variable that is considered a deviation is compensated by a variable that counteracts it, is based on the Newtonian formulation of the equality of effect and
Counteraction ahead. If we speak of cybernetic systems in terms of the fact that as far as possible no (disturbing) human element is switched on in their processing, and the controlling, which in contrast to an action appears here only as “behaviour”, is essentially reduced to the switching on or off of the machine systems by the human agent, then the anthropological scheme is by no means turned its back on the human agent. For one continues to speak of controlling interventions in a control loop, which are perfect interventions precisely when there is no malfunction or accident, whereby the control is in turn reduced in tendency to the maintenance of a linear disturbance-free sequence, which is to correspond to a steady state, which in each of its moments is the respective distance of binary states, up to the limit value of their collapse. (Ibid:: 194) Bahr assumes that, precisely because cybernetics adheres to the term equilibrium, it is essentially a mechanical theory extended to include the processing of order: effects produce counter-actions that are presented as causes. Cybernetic feedback is about whether the disturbances are compensated by the machine complexes automatically or externally by human input. At least in the case of input of set values, even if it is a one-time programming, the human switching element is still present, the instrumental organon that prevents the automaton from becoming pure perpetuum mobile. In cybernetic discourse, the self-regulating automaton thus still remains bound to the coupling of machines and humans, whereby the human decision and control follows a logical structure of either/or, the yes/no decision, and therefore excludes the admission of the infinitesimal difference.
When the machine finally mutates into an information machine, i.e. when it has already informed other machines, then the machines are definitely located in technical environments, in contexts with other machines, in networks, in machine associations and the corresponding procedures and rules, as Simondon, for example, suggested with the concept of the filiation of technical objects. With the cybernetic or system-theoretical discourses on the machine, a theoretical scope is opened up that goes beyond what has been said above, making it possible to describe the machine as a discursive formation (and not just as a purely internal network or, for example, just as a functionality or object). Of course, the discursivity of the machines includes their communicability (initially through mathematical, technical instructions and procedures), whereby the machines today must increasingly have the capacity for procedural plurality, i.e. they must enter a field of possible communications whose procedures appear less as caused and more as strategically motivated by capital. The more economically complex the financing of the machines becomes, the more the plurality of machine processes is required. And therein insists the question of how labour sans phrase can be transposed into possible labour, to which Marx responded with technique and technology that jump into the intervals of the insufficiency of labour (cf. Lenger 2003: 157), which is quite obviously about the transposition and replacement of labour itself. With increasing economic costs incurred in the production of machines, there is thus a growing need to take into account factors such as process plurality and speed, whereby machines are now formulated more in the context of their potentiations. Complex new machine environments are emerging in which the machine processes not only process information of a technical, but also of an economic and, beyond that, social, biological and political nature, and at the same time endure or endure through factors such as accidents, breaks, shifts, shifts and surprises. Information, which expresses the potential of the possible, transforms, when subjected to capitalization, into power-related communication, which today includes the filtering and industrialization of data and information. Technology is thus inevitably related to machine chains, their systems and networks, to operations, functions and procedures, to axiomatics and rules, and even to the totality of machine conjunctions. This means that the concept of “thing” has been definitively dissolved, and even the fixation of the machine on a single process or speed is being given less and less consideration. Thus the empiricism of machines is finally integrated into the field of communicative potentialities, and this leads Bahr to the concept of
strategy, i.e. the option or choice of a certain ‘mechanical procedure. All discourses on machines, be it production, information, transport, energy or human technologies, now refer to the ecology of machines or their networks, which are presented as parts of specific environments. In this process, the information is always accompanied by processes of absorption and filtering, in which data and information are selected and redistributed by economic power-oriented processes.
It is obvious that the machine can only be described as a discursive formation. (Cf. Bahr 1983: 277) The characteristics of the machines and their constructive form determinations are, however, still characterized beyond the ability to communicate according to rules, by a certain differential diversity and by a certain susceptibility to disturbances. (Ibid.: 230f.) With regard to the finality of the machines (middle purpose), it is still necessary to consider the difference, for example the difference between technical feasibility and economic profitability with regard to the manufacture and use of machines. The unification of effects, which follows the system necessary production of efficiency, cannot completely eliminate the coincidence, which is involved in the concatenation of the machine, but can only offer orientations for its taming or avoidance. Nevertheless, the maxim is somehow meant to persist that everything ontic consists of coming into being and passing away, while only the object itself, i.e. the logos, exists. (Ibid.: 33) Finally, the content must correspond with the form of the statement, because otherwise the ontic as a coming into being and passing would lose itself in bad infinity instead of being held together by the cause that is existence. But if machines are defined primarily in terms of the functioning of their functions, then they do, after all, constantly produce new conjunctions, and so inevitably a variety of functions emerge, which can be identified as disturbances or side effects, among other things. Here, machine function does not in any case refer to an isolated empirical structure “machine”, because the functions produce further multiplication and radiation of the functions, new conjunctions, for example the integration of the automobile machine into the more comprehensive transport system. The primary machine function, the functional efficiency of the automobile machine, is here clearly dominated by the apparently secondary functionality of the transport system, which in turn requires complex machine systems to control and monitor it.5
In order to arrive at an even deeper insight into the multiplication of machine functions, Bahr now asks what could disturb the functions of the machine systems, indeed what could actually cause the machines to break down. It has already been mentioned several times that a machine can become obsolete without having to disintegrate as a material if its use is no longer profitable for individual capital for economic reasons, that is, if its contribution to individual capital is no longer sufficient to realize at least an average profit in differential accumulation or to beat other individual capitals. Factors such as idle time, strikes, change of ownership or mergers also influence the regulated functioning of the machines.
System theory conceives the machine-functioning system as the sum of its inputs and outputs. Money, algorithms, programs, statistics, knowledge, control, industrial standards, maintenance, energy, various substances, locations, interlinking with other technical systems, wear and climate are its inputs, and changed substances, products, orders, money, times and spatial changes are its outputs. In order to simplify these complexities, the discourse of technology reduces the inputs to human control and work, to software programs and means of production, and the outputs to material products or new machine states. Assuming these reductions, all other inputs and outputs can be determined as inappropriate functions, from labour failures and programming errors to adversities such as climatic disasters and economic crises. However, in so far as the machine systems are also supposed to absorb these factors as inputs, their functioning must at the same time produce specific information about the outputs, which in turn not only contain utility values and stable products, but also dysfunctions or waste. If economic function times, losses and wastes are among the inputs and outputs of the machines, it is immediately apparent that in an ordered feedback mechanism it is primarily the inputs that are selected, sorted,
In order to avoid “bad” information of the outputs, which then do not appear as utility values but as dysfunctionalities, especially when the outputs should again be inputs into the system; in order to ensure the smooth functioning of the machinery, the outputs must be fed back to the inputs in such a way that disturbing inputs are eliminated as far as possible. Thus, cybernetics is not to be understood primarily as automation, but primarily as a mechanism for input selection.
In his essay Black Box, Schwarzer Block, Alexander Galloway pointed out that the Black Box has undergone a drastic change of meaning in the course of the hegemonicization of cybernetics, namely from a cipher that has to be decoded or uncovered to a function that is defined exclusively by its inputs and outputs. (Galloway 2011: 273) With this, Marx’s critique of fetishism, which seeks to discover the rational core under the mystical shell, has been settled, we are now dealing with a rational/rational surface of machines (interfaces, keyboards, windows, tabs etc.) and a largely invisible black box. These new black boxes are purely functional (the computers, codes, protocols, data objects, etc.) in so far as they are supposed to provide the smooth circulation of inputs and outputs through programming. As techniques of obscuration, the black boxes provide a flawless syntax of surfaces, but leave the inside of the machines largely invisible. Galloway summarizes: “These black boxes have a purely functional existence without essence or transcendental core”. (Ibid.: 274) Teleological attributions dissolve completely in this context, because there is neither a collective subject called society nor can capital be assigned subject status.
Inputs and outputs, defined as poles, and the machine, defined as the mediation or transmission of the poles, all of this indicates for Bahr that the machine relations must ultimately disintegrate into a plurality of transmissions, whereby the poles at the end at best still indicate orientations, incisions and intersections, which Bahr summarizes under the term “strategems”. With this radical reorientation of the discourse, however, the previous machine discourses are not completely eliminated, but, similar to Laruelle, reduced to pure material. In general, Bahr calls for a different approach to machines when he speaks of the strategems as effects of “the experimental per se, as attempt and becoming attempt” (Bahr 1983: 297), and this neither in an infinite nor in a finite field, but in an indefinite field, a “campus indefinitum”. At this point, Bahr also calls for an “archaeography” that confronts the problem of “the overly clear, the ambiguous, the intimated and over-interpreted” (ibid.: 301) in order to escape the philosophical circle of mapping, reflection and representation between reality and discourse. Bahr’s labyrinth of monuments, the multiplicity of temporal functions, can also here be brought into a certain theoretical proximity to Laruelles fractal indeterminacy force, which, by itself, makes the given irregular at once, in the campus indefinitium according to the real. (Laruelle 2014: 115) This force, however, must not sink into complete indetermination, but must remain immanently related to the One, i.e. it remains dependent on the Real, which is its immanent cause. This force must identify itself with the Real, while the Real neither mixes with it nor disappears or merges into it. In this way, the ideal of the smooth functioning of the machines is destroyed in a certain sense, so that machinic precision can at best still be understood as a problematic complementation, insofar as the machines have to include further functions, factors, parameters and variables of their field. The machine as a model of precision must definitely evaporate or at least transform itself into a stratagem of degrees of precision, making the machine at least a machine of probability. And mechanical engineering has to face this challenge in order to define the machine not only by its regulated and as smooth as possible functioning, but also by its radiations and distortions in specific economic, social and political spaces of use. Thus the affirmative discourse, which continues to openly propagate linear technical progress, is finally reaching its limits.
Foto: Stefan Paulus
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