And by a prudent flight and cunning save A life which valour could not, from the grave. A better buckler I can soon regain, But who can get another life again? Archilochus

Friday, December 1, 2023

Nomad Thoughts...

Nomad Thought (video transcript)
Probably most of us fixed the dawn of our modern culture in the trinity of Nietzsche, Freud, Marx. And it is of little consequence that the world was unprepared for them in advance. Now Marx and Freud perhaps do represent the dawn of the Culture, but Nietzsche is something entirely different, the dawn of counterculture. Modern society clearly does not function on the basis of codes. Yet if we consider the evolution of Marxism or Freudianism, rather than taking Marx and Freud literally, we see that they are paradoxically launched in an attempt at re-codification. Recodification by the State, in the case of Marxism. "You have been made ill by the State and you will be cured by the State, but not the same State". And re-codification by the family, in the case of Freudianism. "You have been made ill by the family and you will be cured by the family, but not the same family." 
Marxism and psychoanalysis in a real sense constitute the fundamental bureaucracies, one public, the other private, whose aim is somehow or other to re-codify everything that ceaselessly seeks to becomes de-codified at the Horizon of our culture. Nietzsche's concern, on the contrary, is not this at all. His task lies elsewhere, beyond all the codes of past, present, and future, to transmit something that does not, and will not allow itself to be codified. To transmit it to a new body. To invent a new body that can receive it, and spill it forth. A body that would be our own, the Earth's, or even something written. 
We are all familiar with the great instruments of codification. Societies do not vary much, after all, and they do not have so very many means of codification. The three principal ones are law, (2:00) contracts, and institutions. And they are easily to be found, for example, in the relations we have, or have had, with books. 
With certain books of law, specifically, called codes, or even sacred texts. The reader's relation is itself governed by law. Another sort of book reflects the Bourgeois contractual relationship which is at the basis of secular literature. In its commercial aspects, I buy from you, you give me something to read. This contractual relationship involves everyone; author, publisher, reader. There is also the political book, revolutionary in inclination, presented as a book of extant or future institutions. All sorts of mixtures among these types take place. Contractual or institutional books may be treated as sacred texts, for example. For the various kinds of codification are so pervasive, so frequently overlapping, that one is found embedded in the other. 
Let us take another very different kind of example: the codification of Madness. First of all, there were the legal forms: the hospital the asylum. This is repressive codification: incarceration. The old-fashioned committal that will be invoked in the future as the final hope of Health. When the insane will say, "those were the good times when they locked us up, even worse things happen today." And then came the incredible event, "psychoanalysis". It had been understood that there were people who escaped the Bourgeois contractual relation, as it appeared in medicine. These people were judged insane because they could not be contracting parties, they were held legally incapable. Freud's stroke of Genius was to bring one sort of insanity, "Neurosis" in the broadest sense of the term under the contractual relationship, explaining that (4:00) in THIS case one could make a special contract. One that permitted hypnotic abandon. 
The novelty of Freudian psychoanalysis consisted then in the introduction of the Bourgeois contractual relationship into Psychiatry, an element that had until then been excluded.  More recent solutions, solutions often with political implications and revolutionary ambitions we may call "institutional."  Here again is the triple means of codification: if not the legal, the contractual relation, if not the contractual then the institutional. Upon these codes, all our forms of bureaucratic organization thrive. 
Confronted with the ways in which our societies become progressively decodified and unregulated, in which our codes break down at every point, Nietzsche is the only thinker who makes no attempt at re-codification. He says the process still has not gone far enough. We are still only children. The emancipation of European man is the great irreversible process of the present day, and the tendency should even be accelerated. In his own writing and thought, Nietzsche assists in the attempt at decodification, not in the relative sense, by deciphering former present or future codes, but in an absolute sense, by expressing something that cannot be codified, confounding all codes. But to confound all codes is not easy, even on the simplest level of writing and thought. The only parallel I can find here is with Kafka, in what he does to German. Working within the language of Prague Jewry, he constructs a battering ram out of German and turns it against itself. By the end of a certain indeterminacy and sobriety, he expresses something within the codified limits of German language that it never before been conveyed. Similarly Nietzsche maintained, or supposed himself, to be Polish in his use (6:01) of German. His masterful Siege of the language permits him to transmit something uncodifiable, the notion of style as politics. In more general terms, what is the purpose of such thought that pretends to express its dynamism within the compass of laws while rejecting them, of contractual relations while denying them, and of Institutions while ridiculing them.

Let us go back briefly to the example of psychoanalysis and ask why such an original thinker is Melanie Klein remains within the psychoanalytic system. She explains it clearly enough herself: the part object she discusses with their outbursts, their flow, are fantasies. The patients bring in their lived intense experiences, and Melanie Klein translates them into fantasies. Thus a contract, a specific contract, is established, "Give me your states of experience, and I'll give you back fantasies". The contract implies an exchange of money, and of words.

Now a psychoanalyst like Winikut works at the limits of psychoanalysis, because he feels at a certain point, this contractual procedure is no longer appropriate. There comes a time when translating fantasies, interpreting signifier or signified, is no longer the point. There comes a moment that has to be shared. You must put yourself in the patient situation. You must enter into it. Is this sharing a kind of sympathy, or empathy, or identification? Surely it is more complicated than this. What we sense is the implied necessity for a relationship that is neither legal, nor contractual, nor institutional. And it is the same with Nietzsche. We read an aphorism, or a poem by Zarathustra, but materially and formally, texts like these cannot be understood in terms of the creation or application of the law, or the offer of a contractual relation, or the establishment of an institution. The only conceivable key, perhaps, would (8:00) be in the concept of embarkation. Here there is something Pasqualian that controverts Pascal. We Embark then in a kind of raft of the Medusa. Bombs fall all around the raft as it drifts toward icy subterranean streams, or toward Torrid Rivers the Orinoco, the Amazon. The passengers row together. They are not supposed to like one another. They fight with one another, they eat one another. To row together is to share. To share something beyond law, contract, or Institution. It is a period of drifting, of de-territorialization. I say this in a very loose and confused way, since it is a hypothesis, a vague impression concerning the originality of Nietzsche's texts. A new kind of book.

What are the characteristics of Nietzsche's aphorisms then, that give this impression? Maurice Blanchard has illuminated one in his work Don Cretian Infini, the relation with the outside, the exterior. Opening one of Nietzsche's books at random, you have the almost novel experience of not continuing on by way of an interiority. Whether this be called the Inner Soul of Consciousness, or the Inner Essence, or concept that is what has always served as the guiding principle of philosophy, it is characteristic of philosophical writings that relations within exteriors are always mediated and dissolved by an interior, and this process always takes place within some given interiority. Nietzsche, on the contrary, grounds his thought, his writing, on an immediate relation with the outside, the exterior. Like any handsome painting or drawing, an aphorism is framed. But at what point does it become handsome? From the moment one knows, and feels, that the movement, the framed line, comes from without. That it does not begin within the limits of the frame, it began beneath, or beside the frame, and traverses the frame. As in Godard's film, one Paints the painting (10:01) with the wall. Far from being the delimitation of a pictorial surface, the frame immediately relates the surface to an outside.

Now to hang thought on the outside is what philosophers have literally never done. Even when they spoke about, for example, politics. Even when they treated such subjects as walking, or fresh air. It is not sufficient to talk about fresh air, or the outdoors, in order to suspend thought directly, and immediately, upon the outside. They come like fate, without reason, consideration, or pretext. They appear as Lightning appears, too terrible, too sudden, too convincing, too different, even to be hated. So runs Nietzsche's celebrated text on the founders of the State, those artists with the look of bronze.
One is irresistibly reminded of Kafka's "Great Wall of China". It is impossible to understand how they have gotten through all the way to the capital, which is so far from the border, however they are here. And each morning their number seems to grow. To talk with them impossible, they don't know our language even their horses are carnivorous. In any case, we can say that such texts are traversed by a movement that comes from without, that does not begin on the page nor on the preceding pages, that is not bounded by the frame of the book, It is entirely different from the imaginary movement of representation, or the abstract movement of concepts that habitually takes place among words, and within the mind of the reader. Something leaps up from the book and enters a region completely exterior to it. And this, I believe, is the warrant for legitimately misunderstanding the whole of Nietzsche's work. An aphorism is an amalgam of forces that are always held apart from one another. An aphorism means nothing, signifies nothing, and is no more a signifier than a signified. Were it not so the interiority of the text would remain undisturbed. An aphorism is a play of forces, the most recent of which, the latest, the newest, (12:00) and provisionally the final force, is always the most exterior.

Nietzsche puts this very clearly, "If you want to know what I mean, then find the force that gives a new sense to what I say, and hang the text upon it." Following this approach there is no problem of interpreting Nietzsche, there are only mechanical problems of plotting out his text, of trying to establish which exterior Force actually enables the text to transmit say a current of energy.
At this point we encounter the problems posed by those texts of Nietzsche that have a fascist, or anti-semitic resonance. We should first recognize here that Nietzsche nourished, and still nourishes, a great many young fascists. There was a time when it was important to show that Nietzsche had been misappropriated and completely deformed by the fascists. Sean Val Batai, and Kosovsky did this in the review As if Al. But today, this is no longer necessary. We need not argue Nietzsche at the level of textual analysis. Not because we cannot dispute at that level, but because dispute is no longer worthwhile. Instead, the problem takes the shape of finding, assessing, and assembling the exterior forces that give a sense of Liberation, a sense of exteriority, to each various phrase. 
The Revolutionary character of Nietzsche's thought becomes apparent at the level of method. It is his method that makes Nietzsche's text into something "not to be characterized in itself as fascists, the Bourgeois, or revolutionary, but to be regarded as an exterior field where fascist, Bourgeois, and revolutionary forces meet head on. If we pose the problem this way, the response conforming to Nietzsche's method would be, find the Revolutionary Force. The problem is always to detect the new forces that come from without, that Traverse and cut across the Nietzschean text within the framework of the aphorism. The legitimate misunderstanding, here then, would be to treat the aphorism as a phenomenon. One that waits for new forces to come and subdue it, or to make it work, or even to make it explode. (14:01) In addition to its relation to the exterior, the aphorism has an intensive relation. Yet as Kosovsky and Leotard have shown, the two characteristics are identical.

Let Us return, for a moment, to those states of experience that, at a certain point must not be translated into representations or fantasies, must not be transmitted by legal, contractual, or institutional codes, must not be exchanged or bartered away, but on the contrary, must be seen as a dynamic flux that carries us away even further outside. This is precisely a process of intensity of intensities. The state of experience is not subjective in origin, at least not inevitably, so moreover it is not individual it is a continuous flux. And the disruption of flux, and each pulsional intensity, necessarily bears a relation to another intensity, a point of contact and transmission. This is what underlies all codes, what escapes all code, and it is what the codes themselves seek to translate, convert, and mint anew.
In his own personal form of writing, Nietzsche tells us not to barter away intensity for mere representations. Intensity refers neither to the signifier, the represented word, nor to the signified, the represented thing. Finally then, how can we even conceive of it if it serves both as the agent, and object, of decodification? This is perhaps the most impenetrable mystery posed in Nietzsche's thought. 
Proper names also play a role here, but they are not intended to be representations of things, or persons, or words: Pre-Socratics, Romans, Jews, Christ, Antichrist, Julius Caesar, Borgia, Zarathustra. Collective or individual, these proper names that come and go in Nietzsche's texts. And neither signifiers, nor signified rather, they are designations of intensity, inscribed upon a body that could be the Earth, or a book, but could also be the suffering body of Nietzsche himself. (16:00) "I am all the names of History". There is a kind of nomadism, a perpetual displacement of the intensities designated by proper names. Intensities that interpenetrate one another at the same time that they are lived, experienced, by a single body. Intensity can be experienced then, only in connection with its mobile inscription in a body, and under the shifting exterior of a proper name. And therefore the proper name is always a mask, a mask that masks its agent. 
The aphorism has yet a third significant relation in this case, to humor and irony. Those who read Nietzsche without laughing, without laughing often, richly, even hilariously, have in a sense not read Nietzsche at all.  This is not only true for Nietzsche, but for all the other authors who belong to the same Horizon of our counterculture. One of the things that reflect our decadence, our degeneration, is the manner in which people feel the need to express their anguish, solitude, guilt, to dramatize encounters. In short, the whole tragedy of interiority. Max Broad recounts that the audience went wild with laughter when Kafka read "The Trial." In fact it is hard to read even Beckett without laughing, without going from one moment of delight to the next. Laughter, and not meaning, schizophrenic laughter or revolutionary joy, this is what emerged from the great books, not the anguish of petty narcissism, the dread of guilt. We could call it a superhuman comedy, a Divine jest. An indescribable delight always brings forth from the great books, even when they present things that are ugly, desperate, or terrifying. As it is all great books bring about a transmutation. They give tomorrow's health. One cannot help but laugh when the codes are confounded. 
If you put thought into contact with the exterior, it assumes an air of Freedom. It gives birth to Dionysian laughter. When as often happens, Nietzsche finds himself (18:00) confronted with something he feels is nauseating, ignoble, wretched, he laughs, and he wants to intensify it, if at all possible. He says, "a bit more effort, it's not disgusting enough, or on the other hand, it's astounding because it is disgusting. It's a Marvel, a masterpiece, a poisonous flower. Finally man begins to become interesting." This is how Nietzsche considers how he deals with what he calls "bad conscience", for example.

But the Hegelian commentators, the ever-present commentators of interiority who don't even have the wit to laugh, tell us, "You see, Nietzsche takes bad conscience seriously. He makes it a moment in the evolution of spirit." Of course, they quickly pass over what Nietzsche makes out of the spirituality because they sense the danger. If Nietzsche does admit to the legitimate misinterpretation, there are also completely illegitimate misinterpretations. All those that spring from the spirit of seriousness, the spirit of gravity, Zarathustra's ape. That is the cult of interiority. For Nietzsche, laughter always refers to an exterior movement, of irony and humor, a movement of intensities, of intensive qualities. As Kosovsky and Leotard have pointed out, there is free play between the low and high intensities. A low intensity can undermine the highest, even become as high as the highest. Not only does this play on scales of intensity affect the ebb and flow of irony and humor in Nietzsche, but it also constitutes or qualifies experience from without. An aphorism is a matter of laughter and joy. If we have not discovered what it is in the aphorism that makes us laugh, what the distribution of humor and irony is, what the division of intensities is, then we have not found anything.

One final Point remains to be made. Let us go back to that grand passage in the "Genealogy of Morals" about the founders of Empires. There we encounter men of Asiatic production, so to speak. On a base of (20:00) primitive rural communities, these despots construct their Imperial machines that codify everything to excess. With an administrative bureaucracy that organizes huge projects, they feed off over abundance of Labor. Wherever they appear, something new soon arises: a ruling structure that lives. In which parts, and functions that are delimited and coordinated, in which nothing whatever finds a place that has not first been assigned, and coordinated. In which nothing, whatever, finds a place that has not first been assigned a meaning in relation to the whole. It is questionable, however, whether this text does not tie together two forces that, in other respects, would be held apart. Two forces that Kafka distinguished, even opposed, in "The Great Wall of China". For when one tries to discover how primitive, segmented communities, give rise to other forms of sovereignty. A question Nietzsche raises in the second part of the "Genealogy (of Morals)". One sees that two entirely different, yet strictly related, phenomena occur. It is true that at the center, the rural communities are absorbed by the despot's bureaucratic machine, which includes its scribes, its priests, its functionaries. But on the periphery, these communities commence a sort of adventure. They enter into another kind of unit, this time, a nomadic Association, a nomadic War Machine, and they begin to decodify instead of allowing themselves to become over codified. Whole groups depart, they become nomads. Archaeologists have led us to conceive of this nomadism not as a primary state, but as an adventure suddenly embarked upon by sedentary groups impelled by the attraction of movement, of what lies outside. The Nomad and his War Machine oppose the despot, with his administrative machine. An extrinsic nomadic unit, as opposed to an intrinsic despotic unit. And yet the society is a correlative, interrelated. The despot's purpose will be to integrate, to internalize the nomadic War (22:00) Machine, while that of The Nomad will be to invent an Administration for the newly conquered Empire. They ceaselessly oppose one another to the point where they become confused with one another.

Philosophic discourse is born out of the Imperial State. And it passes through innumerable Metamorphoses, the same Metamorphoses that lead us from the foundations of Empire, to the Greek City. Even within the Greek city-state, philosophic discourse remained in a strict relation with the despot, or at least within the shadow of despotism. With imperialism, with the administration of things and people. Leo Strauss and Koyev give a variety of proofs of this in their work on tyranny. Philosophic discourse has always been essentially related to law, institutions, and contracts, which, taken together constitute the subject matter of sovereignty, and have been part of the history of sedentary peoples from the earliest despotic States to Modern democracies. The signifier is really the last philosophical metamorphosis of the despot.

But if Nietzsche does not belong to philosophy, it is perhaps because he was the first to conceive of another kind of discourse as counter philosophy. This discourse is above all nomadic. Its statements can be conceived as the products of a mobile War Machine, and not the utterances of a rational administrative Machinery whose philosophers would be bureaucrats of pure reason. It is perhaps in the sense that Nietzsche announces the Advent of a New Politics that begins with him, which Kosovsky calls a plot against his own class.

It is common knowledge that Nomads fare miserably under our kinds of regime. We will go to any lengths in order to settle them, and they barely have enough to subsist on. Nietzsche lived like such a nomad, reduced to a shadow, moving from furnished room to furnished room. But the Nomad is not necessarily one who moves. Some voyages take place in situ, are trips in intensity. Even historically, (24:01) Nomads are not necessarily those who move about like migrants. On the contrary, they do not move. Nomads, they nevertheless stay in the same place and continually evade the codes of settled people. We also know that the problem for revolutionaries today is to unite within the purpose of the particular struggle, without falling into the despotic and bureaucratic organization of the party, or State apparatus. We seek a kind of war machine that will not recreate the State apparatus, a pneumatic unit related to the outside, that will not revive an internal despotic Unity. Perhaps this is what is most profound in Nietzsche's thought and marks the extent of his break with philosophy. At least so far as it is manifested in the aphorism, he made thought into a machine of War, a battering ram, into a nomadic Force. And even if the journey is a motionless one, even if it occurs on the spot, imperceptible, unexpected, and Subterranean, we must ask ourselves, "Who are our Nomads today, our real Nietzscheans?"

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