Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Tim's Holiday Guide to Commodity Fetishism

I just wrote this on a very gifted undergrad student's final paper and thought, hey, this is news we can use, so, here we go...and because it's Xmas haha and because Santa is a big old Coca Cola bottle or whatever, here is my paradoxical Yuletide gift to you! I think it's quite nice.

This is a really great essay that says a lot of important things in a good way. The only quibble is with the very commonly held assumption that commodity fetishism is somehow a block on knowing that human workers make stuff. If that were true, how could one even know, if the fetishism were effective? But we all know humans make stuff. And knowing that doesn’t dissolve capitalism. So what is it? I teach Marx a lot.

Capitalist economic theory rests on a labor theory of value! The whole idea is that we all know very well that humans make stuff. It's kind of amazing that people keep snapping back to this assumption about Marx, and one could write a whole book on that topic alone.

The key point is that fetishism in this case isn’t a belief. It’s a state of affairs in which commodities seem to behave as if they are agents, really powerful godlike ones, that determine the value of human labour. Sorry man, but the price of oil today means we have to fire you…that sort of thing.
Why do commodities have this power? Because there’s one commodity that has to under-sell itself all the time and that has to make more of itself all the time for the whole thing to work, and that’s the human being. What is being extracted by the system is the value of surplus labor time. I own a factory and I ask you to work an extra five seconds for the same pay. Or you do a tiny extra bit of a job in the same time as you do your regular job. You may not even notice and the factory owner might be a very committed socialist, doesn’t matter. Millions of their employees doing this will make the owner a huge lot of money.

Leisure time is a big old waste of money, so social media fixed that by making us watch ads all the time and more important allow corporations to harvest our data to hone those ads more and more—literally like Capital says, extracting value while we aren’t conscious of that, as if capitalism were a vampire.

Commodity fetishism isn’t a belief that commodities appear out of nowhere. It’s the fact that in capitalism, unlike in feudalism, it doesn’t matter one tiny bit what you believe at all.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

I Watch the World Go Round and Round

My first breakup song. So sorry cool kids I can’t help it, it’s etched. I was in the bus back from the night shift at Tesco at 5:30am and this came on the radio.

Isn’t it just so lovely that Phil sings “cayure” (“Need I say I care?”) like it’s in a working class accent?

Amazingly that “ahhhh” sound after the last chorus is not a sample. Listen really hard. It’s a cymbal. Phil went in a store and listened to every crash cymbal till he got one that sounded like that 80s (careless?) whisper of jouissance, in his vocal range and roughly in tune for something with a lot of white noise.

The opening fill after the first chorus is so simple and brilliant, if you know drums. And that’s literally one keyboard line there. Two tops.

You think this is plastic but really it’s the best kind of craft, the rubber meeting the road. Anyone can do vague angst. “I Don’t Remember” is Gabriel’s very best. It’s mostly just about that phrase. The point is to make it also be about a guy jerking off in front of the TV (“Turn It On Again”).

This is why my new book is going to have examples only from Phil Collins and Ariana Grande.

I recently spent an hour explaining to cool architects why Phil was better than Peter Gabriel; even I  was horrified by how effective my argument was, more than I had expected. Graham Harman made me do it lolol nice one Graham. Penguin seem to like the idea of me publishing it thanks Tom!

Need I say I love you,
Need I say I care?
Need I say that emotions
Are something we don't share?
I don't want to be sitting here,
Trying to deceive you,
Cos you know I know baby
That I don't wanna go.

We cannot live together
We cannot live apart
And that's the situation
I've known it from the start.
Every time that I look at you
—Well I can see the future,
Cos you know I know baby
TI don't wanna go.

Just throwing it all away
Throwing it all away
Is there nothing that I can say
To make you change your mind...

I watch the world go round and round—
And see mine turning upside down.

(Throwing it all away)

Now who will light up the darkness,
And who will hold your hand?
Who will find you the answers
When you don't understand?

Why should I have to be the one
Who has to convince you,
Cos you know I know baby
That I don't wanna go.

Some day you'll be sorry
Some day when you're free—
Memories will remind you
That our love was meant to be,
But late at night when you call my name
The only sound you'll hear
Is the sound of your voice calling
Calling out to me.

Just throwing it all away
Throwing it all away
And here's nothing I can say
Ahhhh.... 



Monday, November 25, 2019

Destruction in Art

Fascinating film sent to me by a future partner in BBC crime...


Saturday, November 23, 2019

Hyperobjects versus The Ecological Thought

...it's a momentous day. Hyperobjects has now overtaken The Ecological Thought for scholarly citations. Hyperobjects has 1700 while The Ecological Thought has 1690. Ecology without Nature is still at the top with 2100. Fourth is Dark Ecology with 410. Realist Magic has 310. The next highest is an essay, "Queer Ecology," with 230.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Check This Out

One of my very favorite novels, used by one of my very favorite thinkers, in the greatest paragraph. I'm writing an essay for the book that this appears in, and it just blew me away. Correct, beautiful and disturbing all at once:

In this regard, the earth, in its physical reality, has been transformed through thought and the practice that accompanies thought, becoming an embodied reflection of human thought.  However, what a strange reflection this is!  Unlike a faithful reflection in a mirror or picture in a photograph, the earth is akin to the painting in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, where it endlessly ages and reflects the ravages of how he has lived his life, while Mr. Gray remains eternally young.  The correlate of our thought, the earth, increasingly presents itself as a ruined wasteland transformed by our thought and practice, while humanity still regards itself through the distorted lens of the bloom of innocent youth.  In this regard, humanity does not recognize itself in its own painting.   (Levi Bryant)

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Olafur Eliasson on the Iceland Glacier

Hi everyone. Olafur asked me to spread the word so here we go: 

On Sunday, we are mourning the passing of a glacier in a ceremony of commemoration unlike any in human history. The glacier, situated north-east of Reykjavik, was known as OK, and it has melted away and is no more. This is a tragic event, not just for my fellow Icelanders, but for the entire world. Something that seemed eternal has vanished for ever – as a result of human activity and inaction.  

A plaque at the site will mark this point in time. It sounds a warning, and is a call to arms, to every human being on this planet. Andri Snær Magnason, the Icelandic writer, conceived the inscription around a question to future generations: “We know what is happening and what needs to be done,” he wrote. “Only you know if we did it.”

The poignancy of this moment must not go to waste. On Monday, the prime ministers of the Nordic countries will gather in Iceland for their annual meeting, with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel as their guest. Climate change is on the agenda. There could hardly be a more appropriate moment to take the words on the plaque to heart. To show their recognition of the gravity of the situation, the Nordic countries must jointly declare a climate emergency.

The Nordic countries have powerful shared traditions and values – of democracy, social welfare, and culture. They are all striving to shape a strong environmental profile that combines not only giving up some goods and services that we have come to take for granted, but also enacting progressive policies that encourage investment in the green innovations that will contribute to our continued prosperity.

On this sad occasion, I call on the Nordic prime ministers – Mette Frederiksen (DK), Stefan Löfven (SE), Erna Solberg (NO), Katrín Jakobsdóttir (IS), Antti Rinne (FI), Aksel V. Johannesen (Faroe Islands), Kim Kielsen (Greenland), and Katrin Sjögren (Åland) – to act. They have a moral responsibility towards the future generations of the countries they represent. They also have an opportunity to forge a coalition that will show the leadership on climate change so badly needed in the world today.

Every glacier lost reflects our inaction. Every glacier saved will be a testament to the moral courage and sense of purpose that we can muster in the face of this emergency. One day, instead of mourning the loss of more glaciers, we must be able to stand tall in celebration of their survival.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Thursday, July 4, 2019

We Are The Asteroid III in Houston

Do you know I've made this artwork with Justin Guariglia? And would you like it in your town/country? Let's do it! It was so prominent at the Extinction Rebellion in London and it's in the USA in Alaska Oklahoma New York Chicago and now in Houston, right in oil town...

It's a huge road sign that among other things says

WE ARE THE ASTEROID

Look at this lovely essay about it from the local press. Pictures!

My Verso Editor on Brexit

Well, not him directly, but my genius Verso editor Federico Campagna and I see totally eye to I on this: labour movements are planetary and international, and do not involve huddling into smaller and smaller insular fascist enclaves (duh). So he just posted this so here am I posting it. I commented: 

Who was it out of Corbyn Milne and I forget who said "we don't give a toss about Brexit" or something like that recently? And where in the manual aka the Communist Manifesto does it say "always listen to thugs to tell you what to do like it's an ersatz focus group like the ones you hated Blair for creating"? And I could've sworn that in the textbook aka Capital the sequence goes globalization--international unions--the next bit or something...

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Hypothesis: There Is Only One Graviton

What do I know, I just read Nature Physics and quantum theory textbooks, but I so don't have a physics degree (unlike my grandfather).

But here's an idea. And it does have the merit of extreme simplicity and not needing to invent shit we can't observe because they're too tiny or multidimensional.

We can't find gravitons or make them work, not because of anything mysterious about dimensions, but because there's only one graviton. The singularity like "point" that expanded and became our universe is just a graviton and it has a really really really low frequency called the spacetime continuum.

Dark energy that is sucking the universe somewhere, and all those galaxies appearing to accelerate and maybe disappear in one sector of the sky: that's the one antigraviton, which by definition is what the universe isn't (and it thus "outside" of it). Our graviton is just being attracted towards the antigraviton somehow, hence the acceleration.

When they touch, a universe destroying-creating energy will be released and there will be another graviton–antigraviton pair.

Black holes are like the fractal nature of radio waves observed in Bell Labs: there are little versions of the wave inside the wave, so  your cell phone aerial needs to be crinkly, like maybe a Sierpinski carpet. The universe makes little versions of itself because that's the shape and activity of a graviton.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

1500 Citations for The Ecological Thought

I'm very pleased to announce that my second big old ecology book has now been cited 1500 times in scholarly publications. That's getting close to Ecology without Nature, which was kind of the icebreaker (as it were--what a bad noun in ways). The Ecological Thought is definitely my most integrated book--it says two things really really smoothly. I originally wrote the whole thing in 3 pages then over the course of 8 weeks I added more and more sentences to those pages, until I had a book.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Spencer Glendon with We Are the Asteroid Pin

...laying down some intense stuff about ice and warming (if you don't know about the pin, it's based on the work I made with Justin Brice Guariglia, which featured big in the Extinction Rebellion):


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Correct

On Monday evening, Trump held a campaign rally in Pennsylvania at which he ranted that his campaign had been spied on and that the federal investigators who had probed Russiagate had committed “treason.” In response, the crowd chanted, “Lock them up!” This was both absurd and dangerous. Yet it showed once again that Trump has a simple, if false, story to peddle: He’s the victim of a wide-ranging fraud orchestrated by a cabal of nefarious connivers who despise him and the country. Those who give a damn about protecting democracy, though, also have a simple story: Putin attacked an election to help Trump, and Trump actively went along with it—and lied to cover up the attack. Yet Trump’s political opposition—up against a bombardment of spin and deception—has not continuously presented this case clearly. It’s not too late to do so. They need to fight false spin with truthful drama—and, whatever happens on the obstruction and impeachment fronts, they ought to do it soon.   (Mother Jones)