For a New Leftist Policy of Subtraction – Adorno – Dark Deleuze – Laruelle (1)

The hegemonically important discourses are currently taking place between neoliberal positions propagating the national market as a location in international competition and thus free trade, mobility for capital and a limited immigration of labour, and between the racist New Right, which fears for the sovereignty of the state and propagates the pure popular body. In times when capital is coming ever closer to the concept of the world market, i.e. when it is staging the globe as a single space of production and circulation, the new Right is pursuing a policy of wait-and-see and see and is putting its faith in rigid demarcations and agitating against the alienation of the popular body, against globalization and against international financial capital. The common point of reference between neoliberalism and the New Right is the affirmation of the capitalist mode of production, within which the indigenous capital and the indigenous state are to successfully exist in world competition as a capital location.

In the course of a concept of hegemony that constructs an empty space of the social, which can be occupied either by the left or by the right, by arguing and fighting over common themes, a national-social wing of the left develops again, which groups itself around persons like Sahra Wagenknecht. One fabulises of „financial feudalism“ (accelerationists) or „economic feudalism“ (Wagenknecht). The alternative is called the third way (between capitalism and communism) and goes back to folk anti-Semitism, which in turn goes back to the empire; in the 1960s, however, the term was also used by reform socialists of eastern provinces and social democrats to initiate a new reform policy. The financial industry is generally denounced as a vampire that mercilessly sucks out the social body.

Marxists, on the other hand, see modern finance as a process inherent in capital that secures capitalist power relations. Valuation, which takes place via the financial markets, has important consequences for the organization of capitalist power relations and strengthens the implementation of the capital tendencies prevailing in each business cycle. This Marxist position is opposed by an interpretation reaching back to Ricardo, which continues via Veblen, Hilferding and Keynes to the positions of Post-Keynesianism, Accelerationism, Post-Marxism (Negri/Hardt, Zizek, Lapavitsas etc.) and such positions as those of Bichler/Nitzan, which are heterodox today: The power of capital is here derived from the property relations, the profit of capital appears as an absolute pension (see the speech of financial feudalism), the finance appears as a sabotage of the industrial relations, mainly shaped by technicians and workers, and is based on a system of observation of second order. The rise of finance is understood mainly as unrealistic, hypertrophic and dysfunctional, as the mere distortion of an ideal capitalism. Post-Keynesians such as Joseph Stieglitz, Paul Krugman or Thomas Piketty somehow follow such a position, demanding a new reform policy with banking supervision, stimulus programs and higher taxes for the elites.

All this happens in times of the precarious lifestyles of the younger generations, the terrible catastrophes of refugees drowning helplessly in the Mediterranean, the brutal policy of austerity imposed on impoverished countries, and the restructuring of social security systems even in rich countries like Germany and the existence of job centres, i.e. institutions that manage the pressure to work and poverty.

Retraining programs and a gigantic action industry organize the state-subsidized humiliations. As arbitrarily usable material, as persons for whom every need has been expelled, the poor today are exposed to constant harassment, coercion and coercion by the state. The customers of the labour institutions are fitted into team-based networks of so-called measures, with which they are tormented in loose order with senseless courses and coaching, or the customers are optionally forced to accept any dirty work, and if they do not parry, they are sanctioned, i.e. driven to hunger. Temporary employment agencies have the right to force customers to do almost any kind of work. A tremendous apparatus of stultification, brutalization and threat has emerged, a new panic industry has developed, which is congenially complemented by the staging of paranoia by the new rights. Hartz IV initiated a development that not only resulted in the nationalization of the labor force, but also in the appropriation of the labor force.than biomass by the state, by the political sovereignty of total capital. Hartz IV and Agenda 2010 are the laboratories of panic.

At the same time, the middle classes, some of whom are already voting to the right and threatened by social decline, are insisting on their affirmative lifestyle and consumption programme. They advocate a „neoliberal capitalism“ characterized by the affirmation of innovation, creativity, mobility, fluidity and possibility. Everything is possible, everything is fascinating. The paradigm is that of exuberant positivity, of which there is not too much, but still far too little. The leitmotifs and imperatives are clear: „If you have nothing friendly to say, say nothing at all“, „if constructive thoughts are spread, this will have positive consequences“, or simply, „be constructive, not destructive“. (Cf. Culp, Dark Deleuze.)

The motto of positivity, of undisturbed enjoyment, is constantly scanned. The wellness and fitness industry is releasing a new „biomorality“ (Zizek) and new happiness movements that invite us to keep on having fun, while for many, fear lurks naked in their backs. Wellness becomes a moral obligation for individuals who are willing and able to perform, who behave like casting participants in labour markets and other markets, like individuals who pacify everyone on and with their smartphones.

So the discursive mouthpieces of the new middle class sound that today one can freely choose between these or those strategies and things under all circumstances, although all decisions practically always amount to the same thing, namely that they are ultimately executed by the market. In order to imagine oneself as an individual, one must therefore permanently inject difference into one’s own performance. The trick of neoliberalism is simply to sell this kind of freedom program, namely the possibility of choosing from thousands of risks and goods, as a strategy and position against encrusted and ossified systems. If, however, one perceives the compulsion to which one is subjected as freedom, then nothing more than the end of freedom is called for.

In this situation, which is only very briefly outlined here, a small mob of leftists must ask themselves whether and to what extent it is not necessary to reconsider a politics of negativity, imperceptibility and critique whose practice refers to theoretical conceptions for which names such as Adorno, Dark Deleuze and, to a lesser extent, Laruelle stand. For such a political practice, it seems necessary to march through the various approaches in rapid succession in order to tear out tools that could be useful for such a practice.

We start with Adorno, whose important statements in the „negative dialectic“ we present here only in buzzword form. We essentially stick to the recently published book „Constitutive Negativity“ by Sangwon Han. For Adorno, „Negative Dialectic“ is about denouncing the positive as an affirmative lie. Dialectic thrives on the divisiveness of thinking an object in relation to something else. The defining force of the term is always a practice of discernment. Within the divorced identity, Adorno, in contrast to Hegel, must insist on the non-identical, which itself is ever a necessary condition for the constitution of identity. For Adorno, conceiving the divisiveness of a thing as social critique means thinking about whether the existing is not given to us from the outset as the negative. For Adorno, social reality is not given as an integral organism, but as an antagonistic totality. Adorno demands the connection of epistemology to social theory as the practical interest of theory, to which as negatively qualified order (for it the suffering of the individual is constitutive) „no“ to say. Adorno understands theory as a practice or as a changing productive force. He agrees with Althusser and Laruelle. Laruelle in particular has recently pointed to a subject that incorporates the „force of thought“ or the practice of labor as the „reality-in-the-last instance“. (Labour power not as the expression of a political or rational individual or optionally as a subject-object defined by socio-economic categories, but as the radically lived thing of resistance). For Adorno, the productive or speculative power of theory consists in negation, which constantly reinforces the practical impulse (mimesis of suffering) to make changes in the given fields of forces and power relations. In that this negative activity produces the antithesis to the world (equal to capital), it is in this sense

a philosophy of no-saying.

The concept of negativity has a constitutive character in Adorno’s thinking, which Sangwon Han logically calls „constitutive negativity“. First of all, the negative and negativity must be distinguished from each other. Adorno writes: „Negative dialectic, on the other hand, thinks of the power of the whole, acting in every single determination, not only as a negation of the individual determination, but also as the negative itself – namely as the untrue, as that which drives reconciliation behind. Negation means opposition, division or antithesis to a determination, something that is negating, while the negative refers to the untrue, the dreadful, that which is to be negated and destroyed. Negation is the negating critical effect of thinking, which „society“ understands as a totality of suffering. It implies a critical and resisting attitude against the social reality understood and experienced as negative and at the same time the impetus to abolish the negative object. In contrast to Hegel, no synthesis is to emerge from the negation of negation, because in this case the negation would not be negative enough, rather the negation insists as a negating activity or criticism of the negative state. The figure of the negation of negation thus does not lead to synthesis, but is to be understood as the negation of the existing negative. In Adorno, the negation of the negative does not end in the positive, as in Hegel, but remains sui generis negative, but also has positive effects, i.e. the positive is only constituted by the consequent negation of the negative. Or, to put it another way, Adorno proceeds from the negation of repressive and antagonistic reality; the positive is produced by the consequent process of negation itself, by the negation of the negative, not by the negation of negation. But this does not have to mean a relapse into bad infinity, which Hegel counters in such a way that he elevates the deficiency to potency. In Adorno, the outer state is suffered and experienced as outer suffering, whereby the non-identical happens to thinking at the same time and is not merely thought of by it. This results in Adorno’s negative inconclusiveness. This thinking would only be badly infinite if it were to turn away from the suffering of the something that happens to it and enter into a redundant circle around itself. Such a true infinity would then be quite Hegelian the coincidence of concept and thing.

The really positive is not directly predetermined, but can only be constituted subsequently by the activity of negation. Therefore, what constitutes the positive is the negation. By working on the given object, conceptual thought reconstructs it in a network of relationships that Adorno calls the problem in reference to Benjamin Constellation and Deleuze. Benjamin calls a constellation a constellation-like dominationless network. Concepts are determined here by their manifold relationships to other concepts. Negative dialectic wants to move away from the static system and dissolve the positivity itself. Antagonistic totality, on the other hand, is thought of as a network of relations, thus including a critique of a position that attempts to determine totality as the last and absolute. In this way, theory works productively through negation and produces new consequences instead of directly imagining the new. Totality is not an affirmative, but a critical category. Adorno writes: „But the positive that one has is the given in its wickedness, beyond which knowledge goes with nothing else but that it determines wickedness through the immanent contradiction of the given. The positive is the negative, and only the negative, the certain negation, is actually positive“. For Adorno, negativity is another name for critical reason, which immanently criticizes the present state of power relations and force fields in capitalism through the discovery of antagonism, and only in this way makes transcendence possible.

The theoretical practice as constitutive negativity means, following on from and against Hegel, a) to hold the non-identical in identity and not to synthesize it, b) to pursue negation as critical activity or theoretical practice, and c) to define the negative of social reality.1 Central for Adorno, following Hegel’s appointment, is the concept of a certain negativity, i.e. everything that exists can only be determined in relation to its non-being, in negation of the other.2 The enormous power of negation as a critical thought movement manifests itself as the negation of an immediate, direct activity or theoretical practice.

The reference to Marx’s concept of critique would then be the following: For Marx, critique is a descriptive one insofar as it systematically reveals the inner structure of economic categories. But the relations in the capitalist mode of production are not only systematically presented, but at the same time the antagonism is named in it and thus the inner and outer limits of capital are shown. The critical representation method of capital is therefore negative. Adorno thus differs both from dialectic as a purely subjective definition of thought and from contemplative real dialectic in that he identifies dialectic as a reflexive and critical activity. Dialectic is neither method nor real, but an activity of thinking, and is therefore related to the real structure as a method of thinking, whereby the concept and reality of capital do not coincide. Negation as an activity of thinking is a theoretical practice that has a practical impetus, a critical intervention in reality. Negative dialectic is a conceptual framework for the justification of the politics of negativity. For politics this means to recognize social antagonism, to think negation in the course of the subversive force of negativity without abolition in order to aim at a new horizon of alterity, an alternative associative force between concept and reality, between which there is no identity, no simple exchange or a reciprocal analogy. Adorno’s negative dialectic is not absorbed in totality, but criticizes it, it is anti-totalitarian. Totality is not perceived as continuous, but as discontinuous. At the same time, the antisystem must become aware of exactly what the existing system is, which in turn requires an analysis of the system. It requires systemic investigation and representation of the system in order to subject it to critique. The descriptive criticism must not imitate the system, but must blow it up. For this the critique itself has to become systematic again, because only a systematic analysis of the system can critically overcome it. A systematic theory for the deconstruction of the existing system. Thinking without a concept is not thinking, but the critical impetus must not be forgotten: the claim of knowledge does not lie in mere perception, classification and calculation, that would then be understood perception, but precisely in the certain negation of the ever-immediate, according to Adorno. The understanding of conceptual categories of a certain system is at the same time a criterion for its critique, insofar as the system is identified as an antagonistic one.

Dimensions of the concept of identity: a) unity of personal consciousness, b) thinking as a logical generality, c) self-equality of the object of thought (a=a), coincidence of the subject with the object. I think is the guarantor of identity. Adorno shows that the constitutive subject is always mediated by the objective reality that lies outside itself. Adorno on the one hand points to the outside of the subject’s identity, on the other hand the supraindividual moment of the subject’s self-identity must be illuminated.

Immanent critique makes use of the specific negation as productive negativity. Determination of the object in relation to an external negative as well as an internal negative in relation to itself. Determining negation determines an object through negation and at the same time negates it through its determination, in that negation and determination cannot be separated from each other, critique and solution cannot be separated from each other. In Adorno’s work, the capitalist logic of identity is derived from the principle of exchange, which is quantifiably identified. Interchangeability, commensurability and quantitative calculation are decisive here. The exchange requires equality, which at the same time it negates. The totality of equivalents is the negative totality insofar as they are referred to by the inequality and non-equivalent exchange of value added production. Through the back door, Sangwon Han reintroduces the concept of capital, which Adorno largely lacks. But this also means that the immanent critique developed via the principle of exchange fails, insofar as circulation is to be understood as an integral part of the sliding movement of capital, and not as the true garden of Eden of human rights, which one could put on as a measure of bourgeois society in order to show that it does not keep its promises.3 So it becomes problematic when one sticks to an immanent critique, a la the principles of equality and freedom that bourgeois society propagates, cannot be realized in it. Here, the existing is supposed to open up its impossibility through itself, in that the failure of identification via the non–identical not only indicates the measure of critique, but the non-identical stands for something that refers to an object that cannot be liquidated. But it would now be too easy to identify this object with its utility value, the manifold transformations of which Adorno has not escaped.

The non-identical is not an antithesis of identity, but its necessary element. Identity cannot exist without it; non-identity is not the first, but is to be understood as the constitutive alterity of identity. An immediacy mediated by mediation opposes the primacy of mediation by mediating the mediation itself. (Han) Non-identity is the limit of the concept, while at the same time it refers to something real. But the non-identical cannot be turned around positively, it is not a positive difference, rather it points to the negative being, insofar as it is experienced as negative in the compulsion to identity. The non-identical is the certain negation of identity and a negative force that goes beyond the principle of identification; it is suitable for the foreign, heterogeneous; it is divergent, dissonant, negative. The non-identical is thus not an affirmative difference to the identical, but the constitutive other of identity qua critique. Critique refers to the cards that do not yet exist. However, this would then have to be seen more from the problems than from the solutions, in order not to fall into the trap of having to solve only that which was once messed up in capitalism. We would have to design new problems that per se hold on to the moment of criticism. (The principle of identification does not make identity disappear, rather it shows that true identity is only possible by overcoming the principle of identity. The principle of identification is criticized on the scale of identity itself).

The normative idea of bourgeois society does not already contain an association of free individuals, even if freedom and equality are not an eternal yardstick, but must be changed by social changes themselves. The critical scale is changed by the critical activity, but no scale beyond the existing one can be a priori fixed, here Adorno is subject to the prohibition of images. The positive does not exist in advance, but is subsequently constituted in the negation of something false negative. The positive is not a transcendence separated from reality and directly attainable, nor is it produced by the abolition of negation. Only in the process of negating the negative is it constituted as a non-negative. However, Adorno adheres to the prohibition of images, i.e. communism for him as well as for Marx is the real movement itself.

In this context, in view of the political, it is necessary to think about the constitution of counter-sovereignty, which is to be understood as a collective subjectivity. For Adorno, the concept of mimesis is central here. Suffering and the non-identical are constitutive concepts for the political in Adorno’s work, the mimetic impulse to perceive the suffering of the other as that of oneself, and this amounts to the practice of resistance as well as methexis as the constellation that enables the realization of the sovereign freedom of the individual in their common participation. (Han) Perceiving phenomena of suffering only brings to light the perspective that the cause of suffering is based on antagonisms originating in the structural dimension of capital relations. The consequence that can be deduced from this perspective is that social totality is to be seen as the negative, antagonistic reality that indicates that it is not a complete and self-contained reality, but a reality that cannot be merged.

All efforts, as far as I understand Negative Dialectic in Adorno, are directed against Hegel’s pre-decided dialectic. The non-identical is the real critique of a real non-state. Adorno does not defend himself against identity per se, but against the principle of identification. Zizekmäßig spoken then the non-identical would be the gap of identity in the principle of identification, something that escapes identity. The non-identical as a concept is at the same time a symptom of suffering. It thus always has a real relation to the excluded. One can of course easily get rid of Adorno’s critical impulse as a political impulse if one reads the identical only in terms of reconciliation, longing, etc. In this area Bloch was the more agile and windy one anyway. On the one hand, the postulate of the non-identical refers to the pathos of denunciation, which according to Marx is essential for critique. On the other hand, this pathos leads to a regulative idea that at night all those who resist look the same – in order to secure their imperceptibility, they have no reason whatsoever to liken themselves to Facebook or, in other words, say something, but that something implies the moment of interruption. Dialectic at a standstill. Or, to put it another way, dialectic in standstill means escaping the contrast between total transparency and the Hegelian night in which all cows look the same.

Adorno had long anticipated the process of the left’s self-disarmament that had begun in the 1980s. In a letter to Thomas Mann he writes: „But I always have the feeling that if you don’t endure it in the negative or go too early into the positive, you are working into the hands of the untrue. Without ever having understood the left’s self-disarmament in just one point, Badiou and Zizek repeat prayerfully on every occasion that the big problem of the left is not being able to offer an alternative. And the majority of the leftists are blithely chattering. But because most of these leftists, who have long been pondering the positive, have not read a single line about the socialist planned economy or at best repeat the phrase about the association of free producers, such people as the accelerationists can then jump into the breach and proclaim the manna of a future that keeps you in the positive with demands such as an unconditional basic income, shorter working hours and automation. This again meets perfectly with Zizek’s dressed up advise to the left, hey, its political economy. The punch line that the subtitle of capital was called critique of the political economy, that is, that it was also criticized, so to speak, that the classical economy was too political or did not understand the economic laws, disappears in the nirvana of a politicism attached to Ricardo, which has to insure itself of the above alternative proposals, but which capital has long since caught up with. With the overreading of Marx’s punch line, Marx’s criticism of the economy also disappears. Marx not only depicts the laws of movement of capital, but also shows its antagonistic character.

1) In Hegel’s work, the critique of the abstract identity system (Seinslogik – logic of being) develops into a definition as containing differences in itself (Wesenslogik – logic of essence) and as the other of the other (Begriffslogik – logic of concepts). What is given is divided, that is Hegel’s true principle.Hegel in some way uses both the digital (The One, divided into Two) and the analog (Two, which synthesize themselves in the One) as the elements of his dialectic: the moment of analysis, in which the One is divided into Two, and the moment of synthesis, in which the Two is combined as One. With synthesis, Hegel wants to overcome alienation. There are contradictions, but they must be reintegrated into the great whole, the absolute spirit.

The dialectical method is regarded as a means of thinking that has to be preserved and modified in use. Hegel’s conception links totality and contradiction thinking by conceiving certainty as negation, and this as negation of every other to this certainty, which is excluded by precisely this certainty, whereby the other in turn negates the certainty, and this relation and thus the negation not only of the other but also of itself by the other is an essential moment of certainty itself. It is about relationships (totality) as a network of relations, which for Hegel is of a conceptual nature and culminates in the self-consciousness of an accomplished concept, which ultimately defines itself as a dialectical method.the science of logic increases into the absolute idea as an absolute method, whereby method is to be understood as „consciousness of the form of the inner self-movement of its content“. After all, the method is nothing other than the thing itself, and not an instrument for grasping the thing in the first place. On the other hand, it has to be shown that the thing or object with which the method is supposed to be one is already a theoretical object or a cognitive object (Althusser), whereby the method has to assume a very specific, not identical relation to this object.

3) Added product/added value of money added value. (Cf. Schwengel 1978: 293) From the beginning, the added value is to be described as a multi-product without a product, it merely has to satisfy the determination of a quantitative surplus, which, however, is always scarce and always remains scarce. Following on from the French linguistic analyses, Schwengel determines the signifier of the added value of money as that of another signifier; here we are dealing with games of the signifiers whose concatenations determine the signification of the added value of a law that defines that every valuation must take place in relation to a ratio of more, a more that is lacking per se. (ibid.: 294f.) The respective presupposed signifier is treated like a signified, which in turn only appears in further signifiers, and in it the producing activity is „ever released without fulfilling itself“, in order to disappear at the same time constantly with its results on the market, i.e., all the mediating movements of production disappear, according to Marx, for a moment in the result and leave no traces behind. We have seen, however, that work can only be grasped at all as a differential trace, so that Marx considers a further shift necessary, a transmission or translation, which is precisely that of the transformation of labour into work. In it, the difference between labor and labor becomes the object of possible exploitation, the actual differentiator of which, however, is the value that differentiates a sui generis inconclusive movement, the beginning and end of which is money in its shiftedness, i.e., money capital that implies more. Contrary to a foundation of added value solely in the differentiation of labor and labor, however, it must be insisted that the significat contained in the chain of signifiers of money added value manifests itself in ever more representative signifiers that represent nothing more than the significat of more (as money capital), which itself does not become visible as a constituent. On the one hand, money surplus value implies differential repetition as quantitative variation, on the other hand it implies self-referential setting, which, however, does not lead to a fixed result and can only have a definitory effect by permanently pushing the multiplication forward. As such a restricted setting, it is compatible with repetition. Added value now becomes the (absent) instance that at once resolves the instruction for future exploitation, whereby from the beginning the occupation of the future, which coincides with borrowing, production and assault on itself, is set. Consequently, the capitalist economy must constantly hope for a gain in time, which, however, can never be caught up with, and this is expressed in money capital as difference, insofar as it is dependent on the project of a future which, as the not-yet-successful, is always lacking, and this at the same time means the more that is to be multiplied incessantly. Here the presence of added value must be understood as absence, as a result of which it cannot be measured. These processes of the utilization of money capital simultaneously imply a release of social practices in which difference, setting and repetition mutually condition each other, whereby setting means the destruction of every fixed result qua potentially circulating structure (virtualization), which in turn implies a form of repetition qua potentially fixable circulation (actualization), and this virtualization-update-connection per se remains tied to the achievement of more. (ibid.: 294) A strange kind of inequality that here takes place beyond a mere bourgeois distribution of the multiple product, for contrary to the equivalence of exchange, which appears to be instituted by capital itself, the abstract more (of money – capital, i. e. ever money capital) is to be understood as that decisive instance of capital, as that shifted signified, which always only shows itself in the representing signifiers of money. „The signified is a law that says that only something can be valued that can be placed in a ratio of more.“ (ibid.: 295) The term „money surplus value“ is here sui generis the basis of the concept of surplus value, insofar as it has completely emancipated itself from the content and this fact implies in and with its purely formal sliding process a systemic lack, the lack of surplus or the famous excess of capital – and the bourgeois economy and neoclassic reflects this to some extent without concept in the term of scarcity. (ibid.: 191) With the introduction of the concept of added value of money, the loss of everything substantial is thus shown, whereby quantifications serve, among other things, to integrate the innumerable qualitative processes and to distil them with regard to the universal dimensions of capitalization. We will still see that exactly at this point the moment of pure calculation worked out by Deleuze has to resonate in the representation, insofar as in the processes of capitalization the non-quantitative problem of pure difference is not solved, but insists further and further, and this can then at best be written by means of non-linear differential equations, which one really cannot solve, however, insofar as their series diverge further and further.If industrial capital generates profit by processing differences between different value systems, then it should be possible to determine these differences taking into account specific parameters: a) capitalization, b) financing of individual capital by individual capital (credit), c) technological innovation and/or power within the binding framework of total capital, d) movement of the profit rate and interest rate in their relationship to each other, wages, etc., etc. It is precisely at this point that capitalism is based on an inexorable opacity, which is prolonged and differentiated by the temporalization of the differential accumulation of total capital through competition and its correction mechanisms. And this also indicates that capital as plural capital immediately comes to a standstill in its overall complexity if it cannot permanently exploit, process and create differences. Only under the condition that the parameters of the heterogeneous value systems and of differential accumulation are considered in spatial and temporal terms as forms of actualization/virtualization of total capital can the transformation from money to capital ultimately be understood. Terms such as added value, capitalization and profit therefore only give meaning in the context of the quasi-transcendental overall context of capital (synchronicity), which in turn is updated via specific temporal and spacial

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