Production or Enslavement?
With Joshua Ramey, PhD
Tuesdays, October 6-November 17, 6-9pm EST
Part II of the “For The Remains: Undoing Economic Sovereignty” seminar series
Over the next year Joshua Ramey will be completing the manuscript of a new book, For the Remains: Undoing Economic Sovereignty. In collaboration with Incite Seminars, he will offer three 6-week public seminars on its key sources, themes, and concepts. The book will be written over the course of this three-part public seminar, and will be published in a free and open-access format.
For the Remains is the culmination of ten years of research in political economy and political theology, a follow-up to Ramey’s 2016 book Politics of Divination: Neoliberal Endgame and the Religion of Contingency. The demands of economic growth—of production and consumption, and above all of debt servicing—are destroying planetary life. And yet the powers that be relinquish neither their murderously extractive practices of financial speculation nor their obsessive devotion to the illusion of endless economic growth. As many others have argued before, the willingness of human beings to sacrifice and to suffer for the accumulation of capital is a religious commitment to a ritual practice of a violence. As the theology justifying this violence, the discourse of economics is sacred, and to question it, anathema. To displace its religious power, For The Remains will argue that the discourse and practice economics as we know it must be abolished.
For The Remains Seminar Series
Part I, “Debt as Original Sin,” (May 5 – June 9, 2020) traces the origin of the neoliberal society of permanent indebtedness to its roots in religion, in particular in the enduring legacy of Christian theology and its afterlife in so-called secular modernity.
Part II, “Production or Enslavement” (October-November 2020) reads modern industrial (and “post-industrial” life) as an after-life of disavowed racialization and ongoing slavery at one with anti-blackness, sexism, and ableism.
Part III, “Becoming Soil,” (April-May 2021) is a speculative attempt to construct a non-economic concept of social life that draws from Edouard Glissant’s notion of individuality as opacity, Donna Haraway’s transhumanist concept of “compost people,” and sources heavily from both animist cosmologies and ancestor-reverent traditions of ritual practice.
“Production or Enslavement?” – Tuesdays, October 6– November 17th, 6-9pm EST
“Production or Enslavement?” will examine the persistence of slavery within and surrounding the so-called productive economy. The first meeting will begin with a summary of the arguments of the first seminar, “Debt as Original Sin.” In subsequent meetings we will look at critiques of capitalism from the point of view of its libidinal economy (how arrangements of production and consumption are invested by desires for satisfactions that are not themselves economic). We will focus especially on the centrality of anti-blackness for the capitalist political order, reading it with Afro-pessimism as the social death that is both visited upon black life in particular, and is the structuring condition of the libidinal economies of capitalism, as a whole. The argument will become, following the work of black radical feminists such as Sylvia Wynter and Hortense Spillers, that the desire to enslave (i.e., anti-blackness) is at the heart of desires for extraction and extractability in general (i.e., the oppression and murder of all other non-human life forms on the planet, and indeed the destruction of the earth itself).
Since each of the three seminars is meant to stand alone, and participants are welcome to join at any time, at any level of support at www.patreon.com/joshuaramey. All participants gain access to the complete video archive of the course. The first seminar, “Debt as Original Sin,” was completed in May-June of 2020. The third and final seminar, “Becoming Soil,” will be offered in April-May of 2021. An open-access book-length version of the seminar will appear in the Fall of 2021.
Seminar II: Production or Enslavement?
Tuesday evenings, 6-9pm EST via Zoom through Incite Seminars
*Texts listed below are for reference only, I will not presume participants have read them in advance of the lectures*
10/6: Debt, Sovereignty, & Enslavability
Recapitulation of the first seminar, “Debt as Original Sin.” Over and above its uses as exchange or store of value, money is a sovereign power to indebt and effectively enslave. Outline of the argument of this seminar, that the productive economy and the demands of work under capitalism both extend and obscure intertwined processes of enslavement (anti-blackness) and extraction (anti-earthiness).
- David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years, Ch. 6 & 7
- Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death
10/13 Libidinal Economy I: Production and Desire
Beginning with both Wilhelm Reich and the Frankfurt School, a series of (mainly French) theorists within the Marxist tradition attempted to understand the failure of worker-centered rebellions against capitalist order from the point of view not of the overt, weaponized ability of the owning classes to keep the masses at bay, but from the point of view of common, reactionary desires—in a word, fascist desire—that both kept the proletariat bound to its place in the social order and animated the ruling classes’ irrational (economically unproductive) taste for war, planetary destruction, and domination. Here we examine two exemplary studies of the “libidinal economy” of capitalism.
- Pierre Klossowski, Living Currency
- Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus
10/20 Libidinal Economy II: Excess & Sovereignty
Another take on the non-rational basis of the capitalist social order, Georges Bataille’s work focuses on the problem of the surplus or excess that all human societies (including capitalist ones) generate, and situates capitalism’s destructiveness in an impasse not of desire but of sovereignty.
- Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share, Vol. I
- David Graeber and Marshal Sahlins, On Kings
10/27 Libidinal Economy III: Blackness & Enslavability
The European tradition of Marxist critical theory largely failed to sufficiently consider the essentially anti-black, racialized basis of capitalism itself. Arguably it is the libidinal economy of anti-blackness (enslavability) that is the very center of not just capitalism but the modern “humanist” world order, and it is perhaps only by fully confronting anti-blackness that the libidinal economy of the modern/capitalist world order comes into focus, or may be undone.
- Cedric Robinson, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition
- Achille Mbembe, Critique of Black Reason
- Frank Wilderson, Afropessimism
- Nahum Chandler, X: The Problem of the Negro as a Problem for Thought
11/3 NO MEETING, ELECTION NIGHT
11/10 Black as Earth I: From Man to the Unsovereign
The Black Radical Tradition offers insights into what human life might be like beyond the racialized project of modern humanism upon which production as enslavement has been based and by which it has been justified. The Afropessimist current, in particular, alerts us to deep conceptual contradictions—with catastrophic political consequences—in both theological and secular modern concepts of freedom, redemption, and humanity itself.
- Sylvia Wynter, “Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom”
- Jared Sexton, “The Vel of Slavery,” and “People-of-Color-Blindness: Notes on the Afterlife of Slavery”
- Fred Moten, “Blackness and Nothingness (Mysticism in the Flesh)”
11/17 Black as Earth II: From Racial Ecology to the Non-Extractive Human
Addressing the catastrophe of planetary collapse is impossible without confronting the anti-black racist basis of extractivism and speciesism. This week’s seminar will anticipate the arguments of Seminar III: Becoming-Soil, which will draw on the insights of animist and perspectivist cosmologies, as well as queer feminist critiques of work and the family, to engage in speculation on what a non-extractive, post-speciesist humanism might become, after the “end of the world.”
- Kathryn Yousef, A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None
- Edouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation
- Donna Haraway, Staying With the Trouble
- Alison McDowell, www.wrenchinthegears.com
Facilitator: Joshua Ramey, PhD is a writer, educator, and shamanic practitioner based in Philadelphia. He is the author of The Hermetic Deleuze: Philosophy and Spiritual Ordeal and Politics of Divination: Neoliberal Endgame and the Religion of Contingency. Since earning his Doctorate in Philosophy from Villanova University in 2006, he has held positions at Grinnell College, Haverford College, and Rowan University. He is currently devoting his time and energy to writing in and teaching for counter-institutional initiatives like Incite Seminars. Support his work at www.patreon.com/joshuaramey. Learn more about his shamanic work at www.becoming-fluid.com.
Dates: Tuesdays, October 6- November 17, 6-9pm EST
Cost: To pay for this seminar, please sign up to support Joshua Ramey via his Patreon at any level of contribution. This seminar series is designed to enable the writing and publication of Dr. Ramey’s book For The Remains: Undoing Economic Sovereignty over the course of the next 18 months. By becoming a Patreon supporter, you will gain access to all the live and archived seminars related to this project, as well as receive advance chapters of the book incrementally and the finished manuscript upon completion. We are experimenting with creating a different model of collective knowledge production and distribution, rather than “selling” you and “educational product.” Please join us in this experiment!
Readings: A Seminar Reader will be sent on registration.
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