Author: Pogrebnyak Alexander
Associate Professor at Department of Problems of Interdisciplinary Synthesis in the Field of Social Sciences and Humanities, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences (Smolny College), firstname.lastname@example.org. St. Petersburg State University (SPbU), 58–60 Galernaya str., St. Petersburg 190000, Russia.
Licentia Poetica: The Mystery of Economics and the Power of Inversion / Logos. 2019. № 6 (133). P. 171-198
annotation: The article compares the views of Giorgio Agamben and Karl Marx on what both interpret as a mystery inherent in the nature of economic relations. While Marx connects this feature with the formation of capitalism, Agamben traces its source to early Christian thought. Both however regard the mystery as a historically determined particular form of an economy (in a broad sense), and both see it as the result of a process of inversion. Although Agamben rejects Marx’s interpretation of labor as a “generic essence” of mankind that is understood as mostly biological, and a constantly active volitional impulse, the author shows that their concepts have a number of important correspondences. This pertains primarily to the heterogeneity in the very phenomena of work and life. Although that heterogeneity has a biological and asocial character, it is less the result of natural processes than it is a product of the economic structure itself (a dispositif in Agamben’s terminology). Marx ironically remarked that the term “labor-commodity” is merely licentia poetica, which in fact refers to a terrible reality in which the exploitation of labor takes on the appearance of a fair exchange between its seller and buyer; and this can be read as an indication of an inverted form of that dream of happiness, which according to Agamben supports the dispositifs that man-age people’s lives for the sake of what is called their salvation.
Keywords: economy; inversion; form of life; commodity; labor; labor force; value.
Defetishizing Free Time: From Akrasia to Profanation / Logos. 2019. № 1 (128). P. 159-188
annotation: Images of free time are used today to give the impression that alienation from work is being alleviated. As a result, exploitation of the workers who are constantly occupied with “self-realization” becomes even more effective. Free time becomes a fetish - a means of productively engaging people’s energy through various scenarios in which they are (supposedly) enjoying their leisure time pursuits. Is it even possible to undo the fetishization of free time? And if so, how else might we conceptualize it? In seeking an answer to these questions the author continues the discussion of akrasia launched by Michail Maiatsky in his article “Liberation from Work, Unconditional Income and Foolish Will” (Logos, 2015, 25) in which Maiatsky expressed a well-founded fear that a contemporary “post-Nietzschean” person might respond to the “gift of unconditional freedom” with an irrational desire to test the boundaries of that boon and end up as Dostoyevsky said “living by his own foolish will.” A hypothesis to address that fear argues that the intentions behind such an “akratic rebellion” are inherently rooted in the fetishistic logic that dominates both current perceptions of free time and also the debate about providing a basic income. The akratic reaction is a form of phantasmatic acting out of the painful suspicion that efforts to reach liberation could turn into another form of bondage. The roots of this bind can be found in the historically embedded form of economic organization, which is based on a sense of dire emergency. We owe this understanding of the “economic dispositive” to the work of Giorgio Agamben, but it is already discernible in Xenophon. We can find an indication of its dominant position in modern economic thinking in Nikolay Sieber’s (1844-1888) criticism of the postulates of the “subjective school” of economics. Because the economy acquires a sacred aspect within this dispositive, akrasia may be compared with a sacrilegious trespass of its boundaries. However, Agamben proposes that challenging any form of the solemn ceremonies of capitalism’s priesthood in a way that is not merely imaginary must necessarily be a kind of profanation.
Keywords: free time; fetishism; akrasia; economy; dispositive; profanation.
The Wrinkles and Toys of Walter Benjamin: “The Moscow Dairy” as a Method Appraisal / Logos. 2018. № 1 (122). P. 59-86
annotation: This paper considers Walter Benjamin’s The Moscow Diary as a unique testament to the particular historical and biographical context for the development of the methodology of socially critical research that made Benjamin one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century. This methodology allows us to draw analogies between the most diverse spheres of experience—from erotica to politics, from science to poetry—because only in abstraction do they exist in isolation. The task of the thinker is to fix them in the unity of the “dialectical image,” which makes it not only possible to see the ambiguity of the phenomenon or situation, but also reveals the real possibility of resisting the tendencies to homogenize the experience of existence. The life of post-revolutionary Moscow contributed, in no small way, to the formation of Benjamin’s unique way of seeing the world, with its special attention to the fundamental “stops” of thought, no less important than thought’s movements. It is hard not to see the similarity between the wrinkles on the face of a beloved woman, frost on the windows of Moscow’s trams, the disappearance of handmade toys in Moscow stores and, for example, barricades and trenches on the boulevards of Paris in the era of the Commune. Together they form that constellation (or collection) of material moments that enable the living to counter the deadly forces of History and Progress with the messianic hope for happiness. Benjamin’s stay in Moscow, which initially pursued “big” goals (love, work, politics), is increasingly confronted with the “dampening” of these initial intentions as it delves deeper into the material. But due to this, the material itself “crystallizes into a monad,” and is experienced in its radical historicity.
Keywords: Walter Benjamin; methodology; dialectics; phenomenology; Marxism; city; intentionality; collection; revolution