The Two Meanings of Reaction

I pre-ordered Justin Murphy’s Based Deleuze book and have received an email with this excerpt, “The Two Meanings of Reaction.” I’ve written previously on the subject in my blog posts “The Sublime Justin of Ideology” and “Murphyist Micro-fascism”, although those critiques are intended to be somewhat whimsical, which I think one needs to be to properly engage Justin’s project and much of the contemporary internet’s “salon culture”. Make no mistake: Justin’s Deleuze project is entirely unserious and absurd. Anyone who turns to this for any legitimate understanding of the subject matter—either of Deleuze or of reactionary thought—is woefully mistaken.

But Based Deleuze is obviously not meant to be a serious, rigorous academic undertaking. Justin’s “line of flight to the outside” takes him from the precarious drudgery of the academic Cathedral to the equally precarious but perhaps slightly more romantic life of an internet content creator. This I respect in principle, “in theory” so to speak, but don’t think that excuses just how thoroughly unrigorous Based Deleuze is.

In short, Based Deleuze is an attempt to use Deleuze’s philosophy to retroactively justify various right-wing opinions, inclinations, and prejudices that Justin and his online audience happen to hold. Deleuze’s difficult prose is a tool to justify lazy thinking to an audience of lazy thinkers that just want something, anything, with which they can own The Left, and Justin can show you how with this one easy trick for the low price of $4.99!

Let’s turn to this excerpt:

The Two Meanings of Reaction

Discussing the ideological valence of great thinkers is difficult because they have little use for the crutches of ideology. The difficulty is particularly acute today, when ideological labels are used so loosely, and often with ulterior motives. I should therefore clarify, at the outset, what I mean by “reactionary” in the subtitle of this book.

The crux of Justin’s project. “Yes, you call me a reactionary, and yes you are probably correct. However, in accusing me of being a reactionary it is revealed that you are the true reactionary, and so on and so on…” Although I think it is good that he is at least trying to be clear on this, lest we inadvertently confuse Justin for being the true “original Occupy Leftist” he sometimes purports to be. Terms need to be defined before they can be picked apart.

In some sense, Deleuze was explicitly anti-reactionary. He was anti-reactionary in the sense that he was anti-reactive, in the spirit of Spinoza and Nietzsche. To be a reactionary, in this pejorative sense, means to be always responding to active, superior forces, instead of becoming an active force; to be captured by sad affects, to be resentful, and to think and act with these as one’s motive forces.

Fair enough so far. This summarizes Spinoza’s Ethics and Nietzsche’s post-moralism that follows Spinoza’s lead. “Beyond Good and Evil.” Good is a modal determination, instead of an eternal truth. “Good” is what something is called inasmuch as it facilitates these modes of infinite substance to persevere and thrive in their being; “Bad” is what something is called inasmuch as it acts upon these modes to break them down, to hinder their coherence. At the end of the day what these modes are is starstuff, ashes to ashes, mere finite instances of subjectivity in the endless ocean of nature unfolding upon itself.

This common sense understanding of reactionism partially maps onto the modern political-ideological sense of the word. The data show that conservatives are more reactive to disgusting stimuli, for instance. (Inbar et al. 2009) Experiments have shown that even just the presence of foul odors can make people slightly, but measurably, more conservative (Schnall et al 2008). Conservatives are more likely to see threats and reactively demand “law and order.” Edmund Burke watched the French Revolution with horror, and famously wrote about his reactions. Henceforth, we’ll refer to this aspect of reactionary or conservative politics as reactivism. I prefer reactivism to reactionism because it will remind us that left-wing progressive activism is much closer to this sense of “reactionary” than we are accustomed to thinking. Reactionary politics in this sense, reactivism, can be a failure mode of left-wing politics no less than right-wing politics.

In defining the vulgar conservative-reactionary that the Spinoza–Nietzsche–Deleuze line opposes, Justin swaps in the “left-wing progressive activism”. He must never stray too far from this objective. The progressives are the real reactionaries, this is the Justin Murphy brand, after all, and it is the labor of Deleuze to justify this determination at every opportunity. Justin is still superficially right—it is indeed possible for the left activist SJWs to display these sorts of reactionary tendencies, in the manner that Deleuze understands it. We are still at the level of believability, but we also are beginning to see the sleight of hand that will no doubt be driven home throughout the rest of his book.

Things get confusing because modern society also calls reactionary whatever transgresses left-wing or progressive norms. Nietzsche, for instance, is seen by many as a reactionary, even though one pillar of his whole life’s philosophy is a contempt for reactive tendencies. Since World War II, any sufficiently disagreeable and strong-willed individual eager to avoid reactivism — who wishes to constitute an authentic, healthy, and autonomous existence — will generally be coded as reactionary. Even if their political beliefs are ideologically ambiguous or ambivalent. Strong and uncompromisingly active drives get coded as “reactionary” if the individual is not plausibly linked to the larger collective liberation struggle of some officially marginalized group. It is only in this sense of the term that we will find a “reactionary” component in the philosophy of Deleuze.

His particular critics and opponents, a small but perhaps vocal set of people, is conflated with “Modern Society”. His own obscure feud with online people over the definitions of terms, at however many degrees of “meta-“ removed from “Politics” itself, is reframed as a sweeping world-historical antagonism characteristic of “Modern Society” at large. But what does he even mean by modernity, other than as something that “calls reactionary whatever transgresses left-wing or progressive norms”?

We possibly get a better sense of what he means by modern society: “Since World War II…” Here he lets slip his intent to provide cover for the vulgar right-wing (distinctly American) prejudices. “Modernity” began after World War II, which was the apex of a golden age of noble and heroic deeds. Before and during World War II, the vulgar American rightist imaginary goes, people “were traditional.” Postwar prosperity and lifestyle-altering technological changes made America “modern”, which is to say that it made it lose its heroic, traditional origins, the things that were “based.” Modernity made America “cringe”.

So what has happened since World War II? Justin says it is that “… any sufficiently disagreeable and strong-willed individual eager to avoid reactivism — who wishes to constitute an authentic, healthy, and autonomous existence — will generally be coded as reactionary.” This is none other than the vulgar rightist American “Boomer” worldview recast as his personal grievance. Justin’s Deleuze justifying this outlook is ideology at its purest; it comes in to justify retroactively what had already been determined. It is entirely non-falsifiable. For example, let’s say that the hippies constitute an effort (whether misguided or not is another question entirely) to attempt “an authentic, healthy, and autonomous existence” against or outside the prevailing social norm. Either they will be recast as Justin’s reactionary heroes (“the hippies WERE reactionary all along!”) or they will be recast as Justin’s tormentors, the prevailing society that cannot tolerate any dissent (“the hippies WERE the Cathedral all along!”). But whatever the answer—which I don’t yet know because I haven’t read the rest of the book—it will tell us nothing that cannot already be deduced from what we know. There’s no synthetic reasoning in Justin’s entire project: it’s just obscurantist word games to reassure his racist followers of the validity of their feelings the whole way down.

This latter sense of “reaction” is a recurring, subterranean tendency that can arise from the Left as well as the Right. It is most likely to emerge from the Right, but in periods when “the Left” becomes especially, excessively decadent — the responsibility to transgress “The Left” occasionally falls to an otherwise proper leftist.

This is how we will understand Deleuze’s reactionary leftism.

Here his dance takes him back to the beginning, back to “both sides” platitudes. It separates him from what was implied in the previous paragraph. “Forget what you read before, this is what I mean, and I’m not saying much now, am I? That other paragraph was just for the paying subscribers…”

Based Deleuze will be released on September 20th.

Talking Badiou, Borders, and Bernie

I’ve been getting more interested in Badiou lately—I bought and have been reading “Theory of the Subject,” casually, or at least as casually as one can read such a book. What is good about Badiou is that he offers a real revolutionary lucidity; he doesn’t get led astray in the sense that the so-called “crypto-fascist” leftists do, the leftists who always happen to find themselves on the Right whenever it counts (there is, of course, often still something of value in those “crypto-fascists” like Zizek). Badiou always tries to stay faithful to the Event, the instance of collective liberation that establishes the Truth of radical egalitarian politics. If Badiou is “bad” it is because he is too committed to this, the “unrepentant Maoist.” Whatever my thoughts on the Cultural Revolution, I think this is refreshing.

Badiou’s history of work with migrant workers and marginalized populations is particularly relevant today. In the Verso Blog (as always):

Faced with the refugee problem, the left is deeply divided between NPA-style internationalism and the protectionism defended by Chantal Mouffe or La France Insoumise. What is your position?

Today, it is impossible to consider any major political problem except on the world scale. The consequences to be drawn from an organizational point of view are another matter… If you do not focus on this level, you cannot understand the situation. It is not completely wrong to say that there are no more manual workers in France. At the world level, on the other hand, there have never been so many workers as there are now. Simply that they are all in China, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Brazil or Romania. We seriously misinterpret the political and social situation, in the broadest sense, by seeing it only through the French keyhole. Forty years ago, in this country, there was a complete social fabric, with peasants and workers in large factories. The changes of globalized capitalism force us to change our thinking accordingly. If you don’t have the same measure as your opponent, you’re bound to fail! Today’s proletariat is a vast nomadic proletariat seen as immigration or migrants. In reality, this is a question of class relations at the planetary level. This implies, at a minimum, prioritizing international relations and having a position on this nomadic proletariat that arrives in our country or wants to settle there. I like these divisive questions! Those on which there’s a consensus are rarely the right ones. This is the major political issue that divides, in a confusing way. Positions on the left are unclear. After all, what would an organization of the nomadic proletariat mean? We are far from having solved this problem. But you have to raise it. The strategic political stage is global. On this point, capitalism is a good step ahead because it is comfortably established on this stage.

I’ve written before about how socialist electoral politics faces an impasse with the issue of this nomadic proletariat. For the democratic socialists taking power in a country such as the United States requires, at the very least, winning over the existing “settler” working classes—the working classes that were long satisfied with the post-WW2 semblance of endless plenty, the classes who were invited into a way of life that resembled the rich and bourgeois classes but forced back out once their labor was no longer the most cost-effective option, the classes on the internal periphery of the core of capital, the dispossessed white blue-collar Trump voters archetype we have heard so much about. Carrying the torch of American social democratic politics, Bernie Sanders must speak for these people if he wishes to be elected president; he must, per Zizek, consider the jouissance that obstructs the “coming-together” of the dispossessed Rust Belt worker with the Other of the undocumented nomadic proletarian of Central America, the outsider from the external periphery, beyond the polis. The insistence that there is no impasse or tension whatsoever between these different groups is false.  This is not to say that Sanders must be racist, in the crass or vulgar sense, but it almost certainly means that he must leave some racist institutional structures unquestioned.

Let me put this another way: the total abolition of borders, the unconditional affirmation of the principle of absolute freedom of movement, and so on, is not a promising electoral strategy because it offers little to the people who will vote. (I will not specify the abolition of ICE in particular because that refers to the inhumane practices of the agency and not necessarily the theoretical stance of “no borders” overall.) Even if the nomadic proletarians do not steal the jobs and enjoyment of the dispossessed citizen-settlers as much as the nativist reactionaries claim, the impression, the popular mood, is what counts. The people Sanders must win over will not vote for him if the electoral socialist left’s messaging is that they (the citizen-settlers) are seen simply as white devil petit bourgeois class enemies—even if they really are.

(I am speaking of collectives, of myths, essentially. The “Trump voter” identity is the silliest myth of all. But we must use these broad strokes because we don’t have a discrete subject we can talk to, as in psychoanalysis. Instead, we have a sort of necessarily-inadequate aggregate nebula of moods.)

The woke-PC democratic socialists are right to say that these dispossessed Trump voters aren’t really the “proletariat” in the grand scheme of things. And to turn back to Badiou, “it is impossible to consider any major political problem except on the world scale.” But the very next sentence: “The consequences to be drawn from an organizational point of view are another matter…”

The abolition of borders is impossible in the context of a democratic electoral program that maintains continuity with the existing order. If we want to organize the nomadic proletariat we need to think outside of electoral politics, outside the nation-state—we must think in terms of international relations.

This impasse is something that polite democratic socialists do not want to accept exists. Either they must identify with democracy, the nation-state, the parliamentary status quo, and work with the settler classes or they must reject electoral politics entirely and side with the nomadic proletariat, taking the path of revolutionary politics and effectively ceasing to be American (“Amerikkkan”). The latter option is the real rejection of identity politics since its goal is the end of identity, full stop.

What this ultimately comes back to is a question of what the Left should be trying to achieve, the organizational question. A Sanders presidency—a best-case scenario for the DSA faction—would by definition maintain continuity with the status quo, sanctioned by authority of the Constitution written by all those slave owners, and whatever. It would not be Communist. But that isn’t to say that it wouldn’t be better than what things are now. I will leave this question hanging here. The DSA faction will only trip over itself if it thinks it can legislate its way to revolutionary politics and abolishing the nation-state. If we just want some of the “nice things” that social democratic Europeans get to have, then we can skip the revolution—but we have to beat the imperialist bourgeoisie at their own electoral game. Is it worth it?

Letter from a French Incel, PhD: Response to “The Aeneid for Incels”

The following is an email I received in response to my Jacobite article “The Aeneid for Incels” back in May.


Hello Mike,

I have just read your “Aeneid for Incels” piece.

Although it seemed all too “mild-mannered” to me, i.e. you need to spread a lot of academic drivel to arrive at a key point and do barely tell it right, but by the same way you make it palatable to bourgeois bohemian types who fancy themselves to have a higher human value, it was also one of the most interesting reads I’ve seen on the infamous Elliot Rodger affair.

Allow me to introduce myself. I am French, born and raised in Paris, but have fled this city—where a disenfranchised middle-class son cannot have roots unless he sucks the right dicks—to get a try elsewhere. This was a good choice. I managed to pull from a master degree in philosophy to a PhD program. Now I can write my name with the famous three digits put after. However, although this allowed me to develop my intellectual abilities and master many social cues, hard analytical paradigms and rhetorical tropes, this is not the most interesting part.

No: the most interesting part is that I have been an incel. My first fuck happened just before I turned 20. Although I was a rather athletic guy who knew the secret entrances to the much-fantasized unofficial Paris Catacombs, my notch was a 4/10 (and I’m gentle) fat black girl whom I didn’t even intend to fuck before we became inebriated. She later resented me (I think I was a honest 6/10) for having allegedly “abused” her in her inebriated state, although both of us were inebriated. Later on, I paid 150 € to fuck an escort who was tired from “work” and merely waited for the hour to pass. This was cruel. She was below average, too, yet she had a value, and a high one, on the sexual marketplace. I, on the other hand, was worth nothing on the market, so much nothing that I had to pay a pricey sum to get a non–seduction-processed notch, and even then, I was just another customer to someone who would barely remember each customer at the end of her day.

Only much later, in the course of my doctoral studies, did I meet a girl who actually desired me. This led me to start treading down the PUA way. It was difficult, yet less than I had imagined it to be. Then I stopped being an incel, I almost went overnight from “shitty worthless little white guy” to “fucking shitlord hooking with and fucking 3 girls at the same time.”

Now one of these girls became the only one. We have married, and she’s pregnant with our second child. Doesn’t look very much “incel,” does it? Yet I was. And I know for sure I will never throw off this aspect of my past, just as no sane individual accepts having part of his dearest, closest-to-the-chest personal history mocked, stigmatized, spat upon and treated as if below the mud.

I also wrote for several Alt-Right websites, then for Return of Kings. (It is fun that you mentioned ROK on the article, as no one on ROK ever approved of Elliot Rodger or the “PUA hate” movement. Why is Elliot Rodger supposed to “represent” ROK better than thousands of expatriated men who strive to pick up girls? Just a nasty Leftist caricature. If, say, ten per cent Muslims kill but 0.001% so-called masculinists do, they will defend Islam against “intolerance” yet make unfair generalizations and show the worst intolerance towards people who never claimed to be “masculinists.” But I’m straying from the point.)

Let me get it straight. You reached the heart of the issue when you wrote: “It’s not just about literal sexual intercourse, it’s about sexuality in its deepest, most fundamental sense. It’s about Eros.

Of course it is. And of course is there something social here. But what is it? The incel issue is exactly the same as the prole, or proletarized issue. You were born a middle class white guy, and you grow up to find out that no one wants you. Recruiters do not think of you as “interesting” even when you accept getting paid like shit. Girls do not think of you as a potential sexual partner, you’re a forever orbiting beta male at best. You’re supposed to have experience to work, but you never had experience, so how do you start? Likewise, it seems like you are supposed to be already sought after to get sought after—but you’re not.

The crux of the point is, you’re disenfranchised. You are a legitimate son, a rightful heir, employee, partner, citizen—and you are not acknowledged as such. To the contrary, you are at best ignored, at worst supposed guilty of whatever “oppression” or “ism” or “phobia” the almighty Left will throw at you. You are of no value, no one wants you. To be “of value” it seems like you have to play an inauthentic role, accept shit tests and humiliations, be treated like dirt and get scraps. You are socially dis-integrated. Isn’t that what being an incel is on the seduction/sexual plane? An incel is just like someone without a job. (Incidentally, I got a job. I even have so much work it becomes stressful at times. But, once again, I refuse to despise and throw mud at what I was, at what many deserving, legitimate men are.)

Being socially disintegrated is even more cruel when criminals, liars, thieves, and invaders receive positive attention and you don’t. And then, when you finally succeed, you are expect to bury your origins and pretend you are part of the Cathedral’s chosen as if the other ones (you know, the ones just like you were before) were nothing, or monsters.

Even my own father, who tries hard to be a good bourgeois bohemian (and, of course, a Leftist), does not have a clue when I try to tell him that Alt-Righters are courageous, fair, honest, decent, hard-working, not to say virtuous or meritorious. He doesn’t even understand that people who never get acknowledged unless they are inauthentic crave recognition for their true deeds. And such is Eros—sexual recognition.

There is a French writer called Yann Moix who said that, when he became famous and acclaimed from his writings, he saw women’s way of looking at him change. When he was “nothing,” he was nothing in their eyes. Certainly not someone they would open their legs to, much less desire. Then, when he gained fame, he saw these women notice how cool and interesting and intelligent and spiritual he was. He then pretended to seduce some of them, just to break their hearts later. Revenge is best served cold. He also fucked some of them to “next” them, that is, replace them right after.

The top tastes even better when you come from the bottom!

What matters is not to fuck. What matters is being desired. Being desired is being integrated into sociability. This is what matters. Or, at least, having these girls do their best to fake desire, which means that you matter, that you’re integrated—and who knows, perhaps their faking will lead to a spark of true desire.

Abolish the sexual oligarchy and the deregulated marketplace. Perform some justice. Kick the invaders out and punish those who abused from their position, whether they are douchey chads, politicians, or privileged boomers. Then, perhaps you will solve the incel issue.

Things are not that simple because the bourgeois bohemian class and world became autistic and showed itself unable to listen and talk on an equal foot with non-liberals. They need to make elaborate, and ultimately worthless, theories on why people elected Trump. Why don’t they simply ask said people? Perhaps because they can’t even stand the answers. They can’t consider these without putting a distorting filter, accusing, slandering, caricaturing and reproducing a heap of double standards and intelligent-yet-idiotic norms such as forbidding their own to go to the point without academic drivel.

BTW, if a bit of “let’s deconstruct liberals” seems interesting to you, I can provide some ROK pieces, most of these written from my desk.

IMO people such as Jack Donovan, Paul Waggener or even many ROK writers are much closer to reality than bourgeois bohemian autists who need to put a filter between said reality and their closeted world. Want the heart of the problem? They’ve stolen the West, and they want every other Westerner to make it to bobolandia or disappear in silence as his name is covered with filth. Then they do not understand. LOL. Incels are no more absurd than the Dark Knight‘s League of Shadows. But here am I wandering off the point again.

Please, keep up with the good work. Thank you for having read my non-native, although highly alt-polished English, up to this point. I just wish Jacobite Mag leaned closer to Social Matter.

Take care,


(and yes, I’m a white man named [Redacted], if this needed to be mentioned)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Massive House

Like Zarathustra coming down from the mountain, Sam Kriss tells me he is done with politics. He welcomes me into his massive house, where I see a group of preening aristocrats sipping tea iconoclastically. Anna Khachiyan is among them: “Mother!” I call out. She grimaces.

Sam is becoming an idiot. He is becoming Dostoevsky’s Prince Myshkin, who “sees the world from the vantage-point of infinity.” Sub specie aeternitatis. Before, Sam was merely an interested vector of desire, a squirming, pulsating mode of substance, but now he has transcended that. His ideas are now perfect and adequate. He sees from the perspective of reason itself, the endless stupidity of politics reveals its grotesque naked form in a full kaleidoscopic spectrum of impossible colors. Reason tells him to become a poet. The Thames is his Ister. I admire the impressive view of the Canary Wharf skyline. I suspect that I am an idiot, too.

“Do you mind if I smoke in here?” I ask. I think about my mom back home, who would forbid it. “Yes, please don’t.” he says. Sam is now castrated, which is a good thing. The place looks like Barry Lyndon. I imagine Sam terrorizing girls at the Verso Loft with the inspired tyrannical madness of Stanley Kubrick. He bought them $10 Frida Kahl-adas, and they have the audacity not to drink them. That was then. We’re both tired of politics.

I notice that the aristocrats seem to be drinking something peculiar, something other than tea. “What are you drinking?” I ask. “Hemlock and sewage,” they reply, “ironically.” Stav from “CumTown” raises his pinky ever so daintily as the glass approaches his lips. “Damn neoliberalism,” I say, “depriving the working classes of this luxury.”

“As Marxists,” Sam begins, gesturing vaguely, the words slow and the “r” lazy and British. I hear it drawn and stretched out like it goes on forever: “Aaaassss Mmmmaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhkkkksssiiiissssttttssss…” I hear it from the psychedelic perspective of infinity. It’s the voice of Reason, the voice of God. It’s the implicit assumption that underlies all knowledge. “As Marxists, we…” We. Recognition. Class solidarity. He knows I’m here and for once I feel welcome in the massive house.

On the massive walls, in Barbara Kruger font: “TODAY, TO ABANDON THE WORLD OF POLITICS IS THE LAST, THE ONLY, AND THE TRUEST POLITICAL ACT.” I am astonished. Between the Earth and the Sky, between Gods and Mortals—Poetry. Could this be the most radical communism of all? Could Sam have completed what Benjamin promised in his unfinished Passagenwerk? Is this the foundation of the proposed materialist dialectic of intoxication, lost forever to Benjamin’s untimely death? Has Sam completed the system? What secrets are hidden within the walls of the massive house?

Sam is packing up his bags and everyone else is gone. He’s going to stay in the Côte d’Azur for several months at least, and has no idea when he’s coming back. He tells me he hates France now, though. Theory is over. They’re naming a street after that bastard Owen Jones in Paris’ 4th arrondisement. “Rue Owen Jones.” They’re naming it after him because he fucked the fathers of all his haters, just like he said he would on Twitter, and now Corbyn is the Prime Minister. Europe is saved. But Sam doesn’t care. Politics is over.

I am alone in Sam’s massive house. I realize that I am Prince Myshkin, that I am Nick Carraway at the end of “The Great Gatsby,” that I am Judge Schreber with sunrays coming out of his anus, that I am Stephen Dedalus, that I am the Starship Pequod in the “Moby Dick” anime. I understand with an idea most perfect, adequate, and eternal. They’re just like me. But most of all, I realize that I’m a big idiot.

Murphyist Microfascism

Justin Murphy is a fascist. He’s not a proper racist, or a proper misogynist, or a proper anti-Semite. He’s not a Nazi or even a bigot. He’s not a screeching demagogue or a violent terrorist or a crass, acidic ironist. But what he is, simply, is just a proper structural fascist. He’s polite and fluent in the manners of the academic Left, which makes him difficult to pin down. His fascism is chic-Deleuzian. Beneath his ostensibly post-political attachment to “nomadic,” “barbarian” online movements lies a younger, more nuanced iteration of the “Intellectual Dark Web” brand of politics. Petersonian, anti-SJW, postmodern, authoritarian performance art.

And thus, Justin should be cancelled. Not cancelled violently, spectacularly—not in the chaotic, unproductive “punch nazis” sense. His person is no immediate threat to public safety. He shouldn’t be #cancelled so much as his superpersonal essential characteristics cancelled, in the Hegelian meaning, aufgehoben—sublimated, negated in the process of reason coming into awareness of itself—cancelled in that the internal, underlying contradictions come to a resolution and produce some kind of higher knowledge. In other words, his art project should be cancelled, and it should be cancelled in the form of art.

Justin’s official, self-professed political ideology is apparently “Catholic libertarian communist.” But what is this, other than a fanciful collection of paradoxical terms? How are we supposed to interpret this? Is he any of these things? How much does he talk about Catholicism proper, libertarianism proper, communism proper? There is no intended value to these labels other than to negate each other and establish an implicit, tactical ironic distance from each of them. This heterodox political label is a stylistic allusion to the online communities whose energies he seeks to tap and a mask to conceal his true politics, whatever those true politics, if they exist, happen to be.

Justin calls himself a communist precisely to say that he is not a communist. It is always to separate him from “those” communists, the intolerant ones, the difficult ones, the joyless, preposterous, angry, absurd ones. He has transcended the stupidity of the campus Marx study group. He never is a communist in the present tense, but always was one. Someone who was something always has more to say than someone who never was in the first place. (Leftists wonder why the New York Times will always be more interested in the opinions of now-woke former Bush administration officials than theirs.)

Justin isn’t really a Marxist, not even in the sense that one could be a “Deconstructionist” Marxist. His suggestion for a feudal communism (“Make Communism Elite Again”), ridiculous and nonsensical on the surface, creates an obvious ironic distance that conceals the phantom kernel of seriousness—a proposal for technocratic authoritarianism, which is all that can possibly remain after feudalism and communism are totally abstracted from their historical conditions and put side-by-side. This distancing effect is also at play in the political-scientific analysis of Kekistan, which uses his academic discipline’s ordering methodology to come to a conclusion exonerating (rather than a more nuanced recognizing-and-overcoming) the iconography of Kekistan of its fascist-ironic—which is to say, contemporary fascist—overtones.

This technocratic-authoritarian kernel of seriousness attaches itself to the nomadic-barbarian tendencies of contemporary internet avant-gardes and hides among an amorphous, ever-shifting array of absurd virtual surfaces. It seeks to take advantage of the de-centered rhizomatic nature of these networks—it will seize anything and everything: feudal communism, Kekistan, Deleuzo-Petersonianism, and so on—using these non-contradictory names to stand in for the nameless absolute darkness at the unspeakable center: hierarchy, order, fascism.

Murphy is a true Petersonian at the core in that he deploys a series of symbolic-mythological masks to conceal what is fundamentally an unspectacular retreat into assumed hierarchies that undercuts radical opposition (in other words, the SJWs) to those hierarchies. For Murphy especially, these hierarchies are distinctly fascist, rather than simply conservative, in that rather than referring to an organic body of tradition, the political project unscrupulously attaches to any viral movement without any attention to internal logical coherence. There is no interiority to the signs it takes up, other than that unspeakable tyrannical center, which is not so much an interior as it is a void, an absence.

The question that remains is how to find an adequate ground for a critique of the ideology that saturates this authoritarian rhizomatic assemblage. How does one contradict a system of seemingly total non-contradiction?

Mike’s Spinoza Reading List

Original Spinoza content:

Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (Theologico-Political Treatise, or the TTP)

The Ethics

People who are unfamiliar with Spinoza should read the TTP first, and then move on to the Ethics. If they start reading the Ethics and find its “geometric form” impenetrable, then they should move on to some of the secondary literature. Balibar’s Spinoza and Politics is the best for this. It situates Spinoza’s works in their sociopolitical context in the United Provinces during his lifetime and provides a clear, readable analysis of key concepts such as the unity of metaphysics and politics, political anthropology, and Spinoza’s theory of the state and democracy. In contrast to Balibar’s more “Marxist” introduction to Spinoza, Deleuze’s “Spinoza: Practical Philosophy” situates Spinoza as a predecessor of Nietzsche and gives an accessible overview to the core ideas of his influential reading of Spinoza. But beware: Deleuze has an agenda!

Tractatus Politicus (Political Treatise)

Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione (Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect)

Principia philosophiae cartesianae (Principles of Cartesian Philosophy)

The Political Treatise, Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, and Principles of Cartesian Philosophy should be read after the TTP and Ethics, pretty much in whatever order that interests the reader. Their subjects should be pretty clear from their titles…

Core contemporary applications of Spinoza:

Etienne Balibar, Spinoza and Politics.

Gilles Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy.

Antonio Negri, The Savage Anomaly.

Pierre Macherey, Hegel or Spinoza.

The first two are the most accessible, but all four are essential. Negri’s take on Spinoza is the most “savagely” radical communist one, but it is a very difficult text. Macherey’s book is a powerful response to Hegel’s influential misreading of Spinoza (a misreading I see repeated very often).

Overview of scholarship:

Duffy, Simon (2009), “Spinoza Today: The Current State of Spinoza Scholarship.” Intellectual History Review 19 (1): 111-132.

Wiep van Bunge (2012), Spinoza Past and Present: Essays on Spinoza, Spinozism, and Spinoza Scholarship.


(In addition to the Balibar and Negri books.)

Warren Montag, Bodies, Masses, Power: Spinoza and His Contemporaries.

Frederic Lordon, Willing Slaves Of Capital: Spinoza And Marx On Desire.

Ruddick, Susan (2010), “Politics of Affect: Spinoza in the work of Negri and Deleuze.” Theory, Culture, Society 27 (4): 21-45.


Kiarina Kordela (2007), $urplus: Spinoza, Lacan.  Argues against the Deleuze/Israel/Negri/Hardt conception of Spinoza (the “Neo-Spinozists”) as well as Zizek’s lazy dismissal of Spinoza as the “philosopher of late capitalism.”

Jacques Lacan (1932), De la psychose paranoïaque dans ses rapports avec la personnalité (Paranoid psychosis and its relationship to personality). This was Lacan’s doctoral thesis, very early work.

Spinoza’s life:

Theun de Vries, Spinoza in Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten. (Hamburg: Rowohlt Taschenbuch, 1970). Only available in German.

Steven Nadler, Spinoza: A Life. (Cambridge University Press, 2001).

Spinoza’s reception

Jonathan Israel, Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750

Other assorted suggested reading:

Gilles Deleuze, Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza. 1968 (Trans. 1990).

My “to read” list:

Jon Miller, Spinoza and the Stoics. 2015.

Gregor Moder, Hegel and Spinoza: Substance and Negativity. 2017.

Knox Peden, Spinoza Contra Phenomenology. 2014.