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155

Chapter 7: The Dialectic of Indebtedness

4
terms
4
notes

Dienst, R. (2017). Chapter 7: The Dialectic of Indebtedness. In Dienst, R. The Bonds of Debt. Verso, pp. 155-170

155

Nothing obligates us to reckon with history, except history. There would be no need to think about history if it always flowed like a river or rolled back and forth like a tide, indifferent to whatever we might have to say about it. And so when we say that history opens possibilities or sets limits, expands horizons or shrinks them, bears promises or poses dangers, delivers surprises or disappoints expectations, we are not simply describing a particular state of things or recording a series of events, but expressing that we are implicated in something much more dynamic and complex. Whether or not it ever takes shape as something else—a story, a structure, a project, or a destiny—history always makes its presence known by drawing us in its movements, even and especially when we come to realize that we were already there. [...]

pretty

—p.155 by Richard Dienst 4 years, 5 months ago

Nothing obligates us to reckon with history, except history. There would be no need to think about history if it always flowed like a river or rolled back and forth like a tide, indifferent to whatever we might have to say about it. And so when we say that history opens possibilities or sets limits, expands horizons or shrinks them, bears promises or poses dangers, delivers surprises or disappoints expectations, we are not simply describing a particular state of things or recording a series of events, but expressing that we are implicated in something much more dynamic and complex. Whether or not it ever takes shape as something else—a story, a structure, a project, or a destiny—history always makes its presence known by drawing us in its movements, even and especially when we come to realize that we were already there. [...]

pretty

—p.155 by Richard Dienst 4 years, 5 months ago
156

So we live between two debts. On one hand, there is the ineradicable debt described by Agamben that comes from having or being a potentiality that we can never really possess, exhaust, or fulfill, which prompts us to live as if we were always in pursuit of something else, like happiness, which can never be ours alone. On the other hand, there is the full array of as yet unreckoned debts that constitute the complex historical situation in which we live, ranging from unresolved family romances and the duties of identity to the very persistent obligations imposed by the dominant forms of political and economic power. A practical orientation toward the overdetermined complexity of history demands that we learn both to bind and to break our debts, coupling a willful effort to preserve and augment our common powers with a determined refusal to capitulate to the regime of the always already there.

also pretty on the surface but I'll have to think about this one more to see if it holds up

—p.156 by Richard Dienst 4 years, 5 months ago

So we live between two debts. On one hand, there is the ineradicable debt described by Agamben that comes from having or being a potentiality that we can never really possess, exhaust, or fulfill, which prompts us to live as if we were always in pursuit of something else, like happiness, which can never be ours alone. On the other hand, there is the full array of as yet unreckoned debts that constitute the complex historical situation in which we live, ranging from unresolved family romances and the duties of identity to the very persistent obligations imposed by the dominant forms of political and economic power. A practical orientation toward the overdetermined complexity of history demands that we learn both to bind and to break our debts, coupling a willful effort to preserve and augment our common powers with a determined refusal to capitulate to the regime of the always already there.

also pretty on the surface but I'll have to think about this one more to see if it holds up

—p.156 by Richard Dienst 4 years, 5 months ago
157

Th e very idea that we live in history as a kind of immediate and infinite indebtedness can be understood as a defining attitude of modernity. On one hand, as Nietzsche described, human societies undergo a ruthlessly inward reorganization as soon as each person internalizes the drama of obligation within himself. Subjectivity twists itself into a perpetually bad conscience, deferring its sovereign powers to a higher order that, in default of anything else, is none other than “value” itself, raised to a moral eminence. The structural and rhetorical permutations of that defaulted or deferred sovereignty thus constitute so many different apparatuses of indebtedness. On the other hand, as Polanyi describes it, by generalizing value relations throughout the social order, human societies turn inside out, held together by nothing but exchange and the enforcement of exchange. Capitalism is that apparatus of indebtedness in which all debts, public and private, pass through the cash nexus. Postmodernity, as Jameson describes it, would be the moment when this process has run its course, so that the only common element animating the global historical situation is the virtually universal obligation to participate in the world of markets, which have staked a claim upon everything once produced and protected within the framework of more restricted and protective social arrangements. [...]

—p.157 by Richard Dienst 4 years, 5 months ago

Th e very idea that we live in history as a kind of immediate and infinite indebtedness can be understood as a defining attitude of modernity. On one hand, as Nietzsche described, human societies undergo a ruthlessly inward reorganization as soon as each person internalizes the drama of obligation within himself. Subjectivity twists itself into a perpetually bad conscience, deferring its sovereign powers to a higher order that, in default of anything else, is none other than “value” itself, raised to a moral eminence. The structural and rhetorical permutations of that defaulted or deferred sovereignty thus constitute so many different apparatuses of indebtedness. On the other hand, as Polanyi describes it, by generalizing value relations throughout the social order, human societies turn inside out, held together by nothing but exchange and the enforcement of exchange. Capitalism is that apparatus of indebtedness in which all debts, public and private, pass through the cash nexus. Postmodernity, as Jameson describes it, would be the moment when this process has run its course, so that the only common element animating the global historical situation is the virtually universal obligation to participate in the world of markets, which have staked a claim upon everything once produced and protected within the framework of more restricted and protective social arrangements. [...]

—p.157 by Richard Dienst 4 years, 5 months ago

(adjective) requiring immediate aid or action / (adjective) requiring or calling for much; demanding

159

In the meantime people deal with history as a compound mixture of exigencies, obligations, and potentialities that have to be worked through in practice, on their own terms, collectively and immanently.

—p.159 by Richard Dienst
notable
4 years, 5 months ago

In the meantime people deal with history as a compound mixture of exigencies, obligations, and potentialities that have to be worked through in practice, on their own terms, collectively and immanently.

—p.159 by Richard Dienst
notable
4 years, 5 months ago

skeptical, tending to doubt

165

In his notes on the philosophy of history, Benjamin repeatedly opposes the spectacle of progress and catastrophe to the aporetic thought that the history of the oppressed is marked by discontinuity.

—p.165 by Richard Dienst
notable
4 years, 5 months ago

In his notes on the philosophy of history, Benjamin repeatedly opposes the spectacle of progress and catastrophe to the aporetic thought that the history of the oppressed is marked by discontinuity.

—p.165 by Richard Dienst
notable
4 years, 5 months ago

present time (compound of jetzt "now" + Zeit "time"); a term coined by Walter Benjamin

166

Th ere is something positively schizo about the Jetztzeit: it could happen at any time, but it doesn’t happen until it happens, and even then it doesn’t just happen.

—p.166 by Richard Dienst
confirm
4 years, 5 months ago

Th ere is something positively schizo about the Jetztzeit: it could happen at any time, but it doesn’t happen until it happens, and even then it doesn’t just happen.

—p.166 by Richard Dienst
confirm
4 years, 5 months ago

a radical socialist and revolutionary government that ruled Paris from 18 March to 28 May 1871. Following the defeat of Emperor Napoleon III in September 1870, the French Second Empire collapsed, and the French Third Republic rose up in its place (initially intended as a provisional government but it ended up lasting until 1940) to continue the war with Prussia, which resulted in a 4-month-long siege of Paris (ending Jan 28), which laid the groundwork for the Commune

166

As the first moments of the Paris Commune showed, redemption might arrive not when the revolutionary messiah appears but when the pawn shops are closed and the back rents are cancelled.

—p.166 by Richard Dienst
notable
4 years, 5 months ago

As the first moments of the Paris Commune showed, redemption might arrive not when the revolutionary messiah appears but when the pawn shops are closed and the back rents are cancelled.

—p.166 by Richard Dienst
notable
4 years, 5 months ago
167

it becomes startlingly clear that the longest-lasting strands of Marxist discourse are those grounded in defeat, hinging on the experience of one reversal aft er another. [...]

That is how we can approach, on one hand, the statement made by Perry Anderson when he relaunched the New Left Review in January 2000:

The only starting-point for a realistic Left today is a lucid registration of historical defeat . . . No collective agency able to match the power of capital is yet on the horizon . . . But if the human energies for a change of system are ever released again, it will be from within the metabolism of capital itself. We cannot turn away from it. Only in the evolution of this order could lie the secrets of another one.

And alongside it, this remark by Fredric Jameson:

The vocation of Utopia lies in failure . . . its epistemological value lies in the walls it allows us to feel around our minds, the invisible limits it gives us to detect by sheerest induction, the miring of our imaginations in the mode of production itself, the mud of the present age in which the winged Utopian shoes stick, imagining that to be the force of gravity itself.

incidentally, if you're going to randomly sample articles from the New Left Review, Perry Anderson and Fredric Jameson are probably the most likely pair to show up

—p.167 by Richard Dienst 4 years, 5 months ago

it becomes startlingly clear that the longest-lasting strands of Marxist discourse are those grounded in defeat, hinging on the experience of one reversal aft er another. [...]

That is how we can approach, on one hand, the statement made by Perry Anderson when he relaunched the New Left Review in January 2000:

The only starting-point for a realistic Left today is a lucid registration of historical defeat . . . No collective agency able to match the power of capital is yet on the horizon . . . But if the human energies for a change of system are ever released again, it will be from within the metabolism of capital itself. We cannot turn away from it. Only in the evolution of this order could lie the secrets of another one.

And alongside it, this remark by Fredric Jameson:

The vocation of Utopia lies in failure . . . its epistemological value lies in the walls it allows us to feel around our minds, the invisible limits it gives us to detect by sheerest induction, the miring of our imaginations in the mode of production itself, the mud of the present age in which the winged Utopian shoes stick, imagining that to be the force of gravity itself.

incidentally, if you're going to randomly sample articles from the New Left Review, Perry Anderson and Fredric Jameson are probably the most likely pair to show up

—p.167 by Richard Dienst 4 years, 5 months ago