Production, Circulation, and Consumption of Alienation; or: Some Notes on Debord’s Society of the Spectacle

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First, I think it’s appropriate to begin w/ a quote from Hegel, as Debord himself does, albeit a different selection, one from Hegel’s Jena lectures 1805-6:

The human being is this Night, this empty nothing which contains everything in its simplicity–a wealth of infinitely many representations, images, none of which occur to it directly and none of which are not present…We see this Night when we look a human being in the eye, looking into a Night which turns terrifying. [For from his eyes] the night of the world hangs out toward us.


Why begin this way?  What does Hegel’s anthropological metaphysics have to do with Debord’s punchy book?  I think in large part it is Hegel’s treatment of identity and non-identity that Debord finds useful, and how they play into processes of identity-formation.  For Hegel, the human being (nor the “Spirit” which encompasses humans individually and collectively)…

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Decomposition as Life Politics: Soils, Selva, and Small Farmers under the Gun of the U.S.–Colombia War on Drugs 

However, rather than concentrate on realized things or achieved political events, which has been the focus of much of the twentieth century’s and, especially, the international left’s political thinking, I build on scholarship that emphasizes everyday transformations in the ways people produce, reproduce, consume, and hence compost their material worlds. In particular, I focus on what these processes of decomposition and renewal may tell us about the everyday practices through which not only people but entire ecologies—trees, soils, plants, seeds, insects, chickens, microbes, and farmers—strive to collectively change the conditions of their lives. They do so not by transcending these conditions, but rather by sinking into them, slowly turning them over, aerating, and breathing in new life that also potentiates different possibilities for and relations to death.

Source: Decomposition as Life Politics: Soils, Selva, and Small Farmers under the Gun of the U.S.–Colombia War on Drugs — Cultural Anthropology

The Cult of Individualism 

With discoveries in neuroscience that expose us as primarily social beings, the ecological crisis which demands global cooperation in spite of differences, and amidst the peril of capitalism, which reveals the limits of a “survival of the fittest” social philosophy – the fabric of who-we-thought-we-were is being unravelled. It is like waking up from a long hallucination… disorienting, frightening, yet epiphanic… for what we are facing is nothing other than an identity crisis, one that forces us to create a new account of what it is to be human.

It’s uncomfortable to go against the grain of a totalizing and pervasive culture that reinforces a dog-eat-dog conception of human nature. It’s frightening to reconsider who you are in the midst of realizing that what you were taught all along was a lie – a myth exposed as a myth. But this is just what Buddhists have been saying for thousands of years, that the notion of a “separate self” is an illusion, and a dangerous one against which we must constantly exercise vigilance in order to correct this misperception and not forfeit our potential as beings capable of empathy and conscience.

Our concept of the individual self was born in the context of the 18th Century, and it is reaching the end of its course. What is the new paradigm of human nature that is emerging in response to the world we live in today?

Source: The Cult of Individualism – Adbusters | Journal of the mental environment

Artificial Intelligence Could Replace Half World’s Workforce In Next 30 Years

Artificial-intelligence (AI) machines could put one-half of the human workforce out of their jobs within three decades, a computer scientist told colleagues at an American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington.

Echoing physicist Stephen Hawking’s and technology titan Bill Gates’ warnings last year, Moshe Vardi said AI could mean the end of the human race as we know it, the Guardian reported Saturday. “We are approaching a time when machines will be able to outperform humans at almost any task,” said Vardi, a professor of computational engineering and the director of the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology at Rice University. “I believe that society needs to confront this question before it is upon us: If machines are capable of doing almost any work humans can do, what will humans do?”

Source: Computer Science Expert: Artificial Intelligence Could Replace Half World’s Workforce In Next 30 Years

 Will artificial intelligence spell the end of humanity? 

In a recent book, nearly 200 scientists, scholars, artists and public intellectuals debate the future of man in the age of AI. Will they serve us? Will we serve them? Or, will we somehow merge? Brian Eno, Antony Garret Lisi, Pamela McCorduck and Frank Tipler offer their best guesses.

Source: Book excerpt: Will artificial intelligence spell the end of humanity? | Dallas Morning News

Andrew Bacevich and America’s Long Misguided War to Control the Greater Middle East

This tour de force of a book covers the modern history of American warfare with sharp criticism of political decisions and rigorous analysis of battlefield strategy and tactics. As such, it should be required reading at the author’s alma mater. It would not hurt for those aspiring to succeed Barack Obama as commander-in-chief to dip into it as well. None of them, with the possible exception of Bernie Sanders, is likely to reject the worldview that led to so many deaths around the world. Watch for more military missions. Be prepared for more assassination by drone, of which even former Afghanistan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal said, “They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.” McChrystal pointed out that drone strikes are great recruiters, not for the U.S. military, but for the Taliban, al Qaeda, and ISIS.

Source: Andrew Bacevich and America’s Long Misguided War to Control the Greater Middle East