“Production or Enslavement?” will examine the persistence of slavery within and surrounding the so-called productive economy. The first meeting will begin with a summary of the arguments of the first seminar, “Debt as Original Sin.” In subsequent meetings we will look at critiques of capitalism from the point of view of its libidinal economy (how arrangements of production and consumption are invested by desires for satisfactions that are not themselves economic). We will focus especially on the centrality of anti-blackness for the capitalist political order, reading it with Afro-pessimism as the social death that is both visited upon black life in particular, and is the structuring condition of the libidinal economies of capitalism, as a whole. The argument will become, following the work of black radical feminists such as Sylvia Wynter and Hortense Spillers, that the desire to enslave (i.e., anti-blackness) is at the heart of desires for extraction and extractability in general (i.e., the oppression and murder of all other non-human life forms on the planet, and indeed the destruction of the earth itself).
Since each of the three seminars is meant to stand alone, and participants are welcome to join at any time, at any level of support at www.patreon.com/joshuaramey. All participants gain access to the complete video archive of the course. The first seminar, “Debt as Original Sin,” was completed in May-June of 2020. The third and final seminar, “Becoming Soil,” will be offered in April-May of 2021. An open-access book-length version of the seminar will appear in the Fall of 2021.
Seminar II: Production or Enslavement?
Tuesday evenings, 6-9pm EST via Zoom through Incite Seminars
*Texts listed below are for reference only, I will not presume participants have read them in advance of the lectures*
10/6: Debt, Sovereignty, & Enslavability
Recapitulation of the first seminar, “Debt as Original Sin.” Over and above its uses as exchange or store of value, money is a sovereign power to indebt and effectively enslave. Outline of the argument of this seminar, that the productive economy and the demands of work under capitalism both extend and obscure intertwined processes of enslavement (anti-blackness) and extraction (anti-earthiness).
10/13 Libidinal Economy I: Production and Desire
Beginning with both Wilhelm Reich and the Frankfurt School, a series of (mainly French) theorists within the Marxist tradition attempted to understand the failure of worker-centered rebellions against capitalist order from the point of view not of the overt, weaponized ability of the owning classes to keep the masses at bay, but from the point of view of common, reactionary desires—in a word, fascist desire—that both kept the proletariat bound to its place in the social order and animated the ruling classes’ irrational (economically unproductive) taste for war, planetary destruction, and domination. Here we examine two exemplary studies of the “libidinal economy” of capitalism.
10/20 Libidinal Economy II: Excess & Sovereignty
Another take on the non-rational basis of the capitalist social order, Georges Bataille’s work focuses on the problem of the surplus or excess that all human societies (including capitalist ones) generate, and situates capitalism’s destructiveness in an impasse not of desire but of sovereignty.
10/27 Libidinal Economy III: Blackness & Enslavability
The European tradition of Marxist critical theory largely failed to sufficiently consider the essentially anti-black, racialized basis of capitalism itself. Arguably it is the libidinal economy of anti-blackness (enslavability) that is the very center of not just capitalism but the modern “humanist” world order, and it is perhaps only by fully confronting anti-blackness that the libidinal economy of the modern/capitalist world order comes into focus, or may be undone.
11/3 NO MEETING, ELECTION NIGHT
11/10 Black as Earth I: From Man to the Unsovereign
The Black Radical Tradition offers insights into what human life might be like beyond the racialized project of modern humanism upon which production as enslavement has been based and by which it has been justified. The Afropessimist current, in particular, alerts us to deep conceptual contradictions—with catastrophic political consequences—in both theological and secular modern concepts of freedom, redemption, and humanity itself.
11/17 Black as Earth II: From Racial Ecology to the Non-Extractive Human
Addressing the catastrophe of planetary collapse is impossible without confronting the anti-black racist basis of extractivism and speciesism. This week’s seminar will anticipate the arguments of Seminar III: Becoming-Soil, which will draw on the insights of animist and perspectivist cosmologies, as well as queer feminist critiques of work and the family, to engage in speculation on what a non-extractive, post-speciesist humanism might become, after the “end of the world.”
Facilitator: Joshua Ramey, PhD is a writer, educator, and shamanic practitioner based in Philadelphia. He is the author of The Hermetic Deleuze: Philosophy and Spiritual Ordeal and Politics of Divination: Neoliberal Endgame and the Religion of Contingency. Since earning his Doctorate in Philosophy from Villanova University in 2006, he has held positions at Grinnell College, Haverford College, and Rowan University. He is currently devoting his time and energy to writing in and teaching for counter-institutional initiatives like Incite Seminars. Support his work at www.patreon.com/joshuaramey. Learn more about his shamanic work at www.becoming-fluid.com.
Dates: Tuesdays, October 6- November 17, 6-9pm EST
Cost: To pay for this seminar, please sign up to support Joshua Ramey via his Patreon at any level of contribution. This seminar series is designed to enable the writing and publication of Dr. Ramey’s book For The Remains: Undoing Economic Sovereignty over the course of the next 18 months. By becoming a Patreon supporter, you will gain access to all the live and archived seminars related to this project, as well as receive advance chapters of the book incrementally and the finished manuscript upon completion. We are experimenting with creating a different model of collective knowledge production and distribution, rather than “selling” you and “educational product.” Please join us in this experiment!
Readings: A Seminar Reader will be sent on registration.
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