[iDC] work, play, praxis

Nicholas Ruiz III editor at intertheory.org
Sun Jul 5 13:53:30 UTC 2009

Greetings davin/all...many thanks for your great thoughts on this...i'm
not really sure we can substantiate such an ethereal desire, to  'carve
out a relationship between subjects that IS outside of this
materiality'...as the desiring pulse is a capitalist pulse to begin
with - desire 'wants' something and generally seeks it, from the
environment or from itself -resulting in the phenomena of
capitalization....and p2p is the ultimate in capitalistic circumvention
and exchange all while it is 'free,' (which it isn't for myriad
reasons) in the sense that the sharing pod exists, to share the
livelihood of the 'other'...who may or may not benefit from the sharing
and is likely, in many cases, forced to adapt to the increased
'sharing' of one's 'labor' -ala the music artists which now know they
must tour (more than ever before) to make a living.

The question of
motivation - 'that many desperately want to live in a world where it is
possible to
imagine that people might be motivated by something other than the zero
sum game' - i think this is an interesting question...but as a
hypothesis, perhaps it might be better to say that the rules of the
game we must maintain in a more 'fair' manner? We might even speak of
Justice? Yes, a striving toward something unrealizable, yet
'approachable' as a limit in calculus. We must be careful with love
however, as it excludes that which it does not love and hence renders
the 'unloved' with many possible, or even probable, consequences -
solidarity seems more compelling, for its own sake - and for the sake
of a very specific, 'desiring-capital' you describe.


 Nicholas Ruiz III, Ph.D
NRIII for Congress 2010
Editor, Kritikos

From: davin heckman <davinheckman at gmail.com>
To: Ken Wark <warkk at newschool.edu>
Cc: idc at mailman.thing.net
Sent: Friday, July 3, 2009 1:12:09 PM
Subject: Re: [iDC] work, play, praxis

This is very useful to think about, Ken.

I wouldn't call myself a "Lacanian," but I think this is where Lacan can be helpful in understanding very practical interactions.  Circulating through the practical aspects of "the gift" is the desire that motivates the whole process.  In particular, when the gift is juxtaposed to the financial exchange, it expresses this restlessness with the very terms of the "trade" while being yoked to materiality.  At once, in giving gifts one yearns to escape from an economy of financial transactions, but at the end of the day, cannot escape from it.  It is the thing we want, but we can never quite have.

I do bristle a bit at the use of "strategies" and "tactics" here, because it implies in a certain sense that the gift, in the face of its materiality, must be folded back into the material.  To view it in light of Clausewitz's popular quotation, "War is merely the continuation of politics," there is a tendency here to see "the gift" as simply a special corner of a financialized everyday life (and, in many cases, it is!).  But the reason that the gift can exist in a liminal state is precisely because those who give gifts desire it to be otherwise.  (Here, even the most pathological, sociopathic "giver" attests to the potency of this desire...  because it is the very power of the gift to suggest an alternative that makes fake gifts so potent).  So, while we might not escape the materiality of the object, the desire to carve out a relationship between subjects that IS outside of this materiality is what makes it promising.

This ties back to an ongoing exchange on this list involving Michel Bauwens and the question of the "utopian" potential of p2p.  And, again, the very question of utopia is perhaps the collective expression of this desire.  That many desperately want to live in a world where it is possible to imagine that people might be motivated by something other than the zero sum game of exchange attests not to the likelihood of utopia or even the rational possibility of such a completeness...  but rather it attests to the impossibility of such a completeness, that desire exceeds finite equations of human worth, purpose, utility, etc.  What matters more than anything here is the desire that motivates us to strive for a utopia that will likely never be realized.  It is the collective exerience of "the gift."  And though we should not kid ourselves into imagining that this collective gift is going to be known in an "infinite" way, at the same time it can yield practical
 good for many people.  And, at a subjective level, it is an act of love, which, for those of us who find ourselves moved by giving and recieving gifts, it is an act which is important for the very fact that it desires an alternative.  And, because a gift can always be doubted, its affirmation both by the giver and reciever is a remarkable occasion for solidarity, its reaffirmation the occasion for fidelity.

(From a very personal perspective, it's what I want more than basic material sustenance.  I want to work for a world where tomorrow's children will be valued in themselves and treated accordingly.  I want to see human needs met, not as an end in itself, but as a consequence of care for the person.)  

But what all of this requires is desire.  And desire lives and breathes in many corners of human consciousness, but the gift is one of these special instances of desire precisely because it is in constant tension with materiality in a direct way.  [I really need to thank Nick Knouf, here, for an exchange we've had on "the University" in which he insisted I meditate on the critical importance of desire in education.]

To bring it back to your question of how "global relations of praxis (game, gift, work, and yes, still also slavery)" are interconnected...  I would say that they all spin on "desire" as the differential between the material and what it cannot strictly account for.  At least I hope that desire is the common denominator.

Davin Heckman
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