4.03.2011

OK, More on Resistance: On Corporate Activism

One of Foucault's great insights is that reform is constitutive of the founding institution — prison reform is part of prison discourse, not against it; medical reform is part of medicine, not against it. And so I continue this logic: Greenpeace, Amnesty International, etc are part of the reigning discourse of power. They are constitutive of a system that I, for one, would like to alter.

(When I say "system," I mean system: a complex network of forces and institutions working together. A system is not something we can replace — we can't swap socialism for capitalism. It doesn't work that way. I use system to get us into "system thinking," to not isolate this or that — the Brazilian rain forest! the spotted owl! campaign finance! — but the way everything works together.)

In some sense, Greenpeace is a wing of corporate America taxed with dealing with one of the more obvious corporate externalities: pollution and planet pillaging. Nestle, Chevron, Exxon/Mobil: they should be charged with cleaning shit up, with not raping the forests. But instead it's Greenpeace funded by.....you and me (well, not me). Without Greenpeace protecting our forests and air, Nestle would probably deforest the planet and then where would it be: no more forest and no more people. The dead make poor long-term consumers.

Just as espionage is built into the peace process, charities in the US are built into the capitalist, corporate process: they clean up the mess made by the corporations. Which, in turn, allow the corporations to keep doing what they're doing.

Notice that none of these organizations go after corporations directly. Why doesn't Greenpeace et al put their lobbyists to work to take away personhood from corporations? Why don't they advocate for less work hours which, in turn, would slow consumption and hence the pillaging of the planet? Because they are constitutive of the corporate structure. Because they get their funding from the corporate structure. They are the counterpoint to corporate pillaging that lets the whole system keep running.

So I'm not saying do away with Greenpeace. I'm saying do away with the whole kit and kaboodle, including Greenpeace.

9 comments:

Nghiem said...

For me personally, what differs Greenpeace from the rest of the group is their implementation of a protector-destroyer discourse. Greenpeace is an organisation that functions basically on the protector side, so it is useful for us to address it as such. However, those who participate in this so-called green movement fail to see that the green movement is just another step towards the affirmation of consumerism and industrialisation—the green movement and, say, the transformation to automated machinery are of the same nature because these advancements do not elevate a process outside of the technological achievements by the Industrial Revolution but strengthen it. If we just assess the “sustainability” rhetoric as part of a larger strategy to get us to work more, to buy more, and to ultimately become consumption machines, then it is also possible that the protectors are viewed as part of the destroyer (or, shall I say, there is no difference at all?)

I am currently a full-time student and I get tired of hearing this shit—there are some young, energetic idiots out there who want the best of both worlds: we can at the same time protect and extract; at the same time consume and be sustainable; all and all, they fail to address the problem in front of them: they are themselves submissive, obedient individuals who find their identities associated with this green movement. They are denying that only one structure is made to survive at a time. This is just pure life-denying.

But speaking about systems, it is worth noting that there are some Zen/Buddhism philosophy out there that are naturally attached to this green movement, and this is driving me crazy. While I am uncertain that the practice of Zen/Buddhism that promotes personal health and an internal hygiene is a good exercise, maybe it is what one needs to do. But instead of opening up the suppressive and abusing nature of the superimposition by the system upon individual beings, these teachings/philosophies have shifted the status of the states of affairs: a swipe of the reformation of affective states from all the possible stimuli to an internal equilibrium of consciousness; a shift of focus rather on the reaction to things to the maintaining of spiritual hygiene. This makes it normal for people to be abused—it even makes it desirable for them to be suppressed because they have a whole philosophy of the physiology of the spirit to go against the suppression passively. To me, this widespread of peace-making ideologies combined with the abusive nature of the corporate world have to be one of the most life-threatening fusions ever—it goes to a higher extreme when this fusion promotes a new version of reality, ignoring the world completely in its abusive form, and just take it as the reality to live in. Thus this is the enablement of seeing: suffering is no longer suffering, pain is no longer pain, suppression is just the nature of life, or collectively, a hardcore compatibilism of ideas and reality. This is why revolutions (in the sense that you mentioned, a restructuring of the structure of behaviours) have a thinner chance to happen because everybody is happy, everybody knows the nature of suffering and accepts it as such, everybody is too fucking satisfied with what they have and fails to have a critical assessment on how the bodies are deprived of energy, having the joy to life eliminated and crushed. How can a revolution of the structure of behaviour begin to happen?

I speculate, obviously, that sometimes the suppression of deep psychological processes might not be the sufficient trigger for revolutions. Man has an incredible incline to have himself deceived, and sometimes he finds pleasure in being so. Flipping through the pages of history, I am not claiming that revolutions are not possible, but I am saying that revolutions are less likely to happen when everybody is taught to be satisfied with what they have.
Any thoughts?

Jeff M. said...

@Coffeen.

But "resistance" goes both ways, doesn't it?

And, if so, don't the corporations have a few things that a bunch of ragtag "radicals" living in liberal enclaves don't? Like: tanks, WMDs, the means of production, TV stations.

Do you really believe that "jamming the signals" and "subverting the spectacle" is going to usurp corporate power?

Come on now!

I think you're trying to think yourself out of a situation that is not primarily a mental problem.

It's partly a political problem: how do we devise the rules of the system so that common people aren't exploited by their society and/or alienated from it?

And it partly ecological: how do we make industrial production sustainable for the future?

We don't need to frame the problems any more cleverly than that. It's the solutions that require all of our brain power and commitment.

I would submit that when intellectuals get too wrapped up in problems of ideology they do their part in keeping the "system" in place.

Daniel Coffeen said...

@ Nghiem and Jeff M: I agree with everything both of you say, more or less. Buddhism does have a dangerous underbelly when paired with global capitalism.

And, yes, when people feel sated, they tend to do nothing.

But I don't think people feel sated. I think people are literally impotent — Viagra ads run in prime time, for god's sake — stressed, depressed, insomniacal, etc. But they think there is nothing to be done; this is just the way it is. Thanks to Jeff M, I'm reading Mark Fisher's book, "Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative?"

So I'm not sure what revolution is. I come to this discussion from my life, not from the perspective of academia. When I was a grad student, I studied Deleuze and joy and left capitalism to my peers. I came to this because I realized my own life is unsustainable. Which is to say, my politics move from my body outwards towards systems thinking rather than the other way around.

Do I think jamming the circuits of the Spectacle will undo corporate power? No, probably not. But it may a) make my life, day to day, more tolerable; and b)foment change of mind.

Because in order to enact the practical political/ecological change you suggest, we need to change the terms of the conversation. The green movement is a corporate movement. The very terms of the politicization of these matters have always already been co-opted by capitalist/corporate media.

So by jamming circuits, perhaps we introduce new frames of conversation that can enable political change. As long as people think giving $50 to Greenpeace matters, real change cannot happen.

Chad Lott said...

Real change happens every single day in a thousand small acts. The shit is working, people.

If you are giving up now you're a fucking pussy.

I like academic study and philosophy quite a bit, too but if you really want to do some shit, start a business that is similar to a shitty one, run it ethically and watch the money roll in. It works.

If you have some weak ass excuse about how you're poor or no one will help you I'm going to suggest you just off yourself right now.

If you want to let it all go to hell keep jerking off on to your keyboards.

dustygravel said...

@ Nghiem: " This makes it normal for people to be abused—it even makes it desirable for them to be suppressed because they have a whole philosophy of the physiology of the spirit to go against the suppression passively. " Man thats potent!


@ Coffeen: What do you imagine the world to be with out "the whole kit and kaboodle"?
Is there an outside 'the system in general?
You did say a system cant be replaced.
I mean how can we hold British petroleum
accountable for their 'malpractice'.
(their the ones highered to clean up, not green peace. from what I hear their doing a pretty good job, I don't believe that though.)

I'm trying to work out these issues in terms of net work subjectivity. In a thousand plateaus Felix
talks about something he calls haecceite.
"a season, a winter, a summer, an hour, a date have a perfect individuality lacking nothing, even though this individuality is different from that of a thing or a subject. They are haecceties in the sense that they consist entirely of relations of movements and transports of affect...haecceities that are not simply emplacements, but concrete individuations that have a status of their own and direct metamorphosis of things and subjects." latter he calls haecceitiy a complex individual, a near synonym for the corporate person. Personality ebbing and flowing through everything, personhood melding into collective atmosphere, This is a beautiful idea to me.

So naturally this puts me at a dilemma when trying to condemn corporate personhood, what seems obverse, that corporations are not people, just doesn't seem that obverse to me.

and when you think about intercorporeality it starts
to seem like all persons are corporate. What can we do with this?

Jeff M. said...

@Chad,

What?

@Coffeen,

I read k-punk's blog, too. I'm glad I drove you to his book. And I'll admit there's is no way I could ever hope to achieve Fisher's level of discourse, but the world is not discourse! The intellectual Left's obsession with discourse, structures of language, ideology and appeals to authority (Deleuze, Foucault, anyone else French and Marxist) is a sign of decadence. Talk is for the weak. The forces of capitalism and militarism don't talk; they command. The Left can and does command. But wielding power takes technique and a commitment to dealing with the world as it is.

And don't agree with me! I'm opposing your entire worldview! Agree to disagree, ignore me or show me what an ignorant tool I am.

Damn, Coffeen, you've got me all riled up. I've got to leave off for a while.

Daniel Coffeen said...

@ Chad: Go go go! I love when people get riles — in text. In person, it's less becoming. Which is why I blog rather than actually speak to people.

@ Dusty: Just because people are corporate doesn't mean corporations are people. We are haecceities, and complex ones at that: little networks. But corporations are tax status. BP is cleaning up that shite but what of the everyday externalities — oil wars (make BP fight the Libyans for oil; why do we have to fund that?), rampant air pollution, the price we pay for rampant fatigue, depression, impotence, etc....

@ Jeff: As I said to Chad, go go go! Get riled. Only arguing is not my thing; it's, well, banal. But I will say that your easy dismissal of words is, well, easy and not quite right. What is legislation if it's not language? Which language will it use? If we don't put forward the words, the discourse, the words in those laws will be the words that exist today. And those words stink.

As for decadence, yes, please: I wish the world were more decadent. Capitalism is breeding decadence out of is in the name of productivity. But I like events that produce nothing else than themselves: that are joy.

Chad Lott said...

No disrespect is intended. I've just reached full wonk saturation tolerance. I spend my whole week working with bad ass people who are actually doing shit that matters and the second I look on an enviro-news site or something it complaintsterbation time.

Shit, if I had a Euro for every time I've heard someone say some shit like "according to my undergraduate experience with Marx nothing anyone can do will work as long as money is involved and the government refuses to recognize my genius".

The most frustrating part is these people are clearly thoughtful and intelligent, they are just paralyzed.

dg said...

Wow Daniel, we're from different planets and have come to the same conclusion. I've been in Unions for 30 years, and they've devolved to HR dep't sub-contractors. Managers don't bother with employees;the Union does it for them.

The men I work with are impotent and utterly defeated. They are overwhelmed and unable to comprehend never mind respond to consumer culture: Stockholm Syndrome.

I don't know what Chad's on about. I've never been to university, wouldn't know an intellectual if he kicked me in the nuts, and struggle to read this blog. The working class I've known wouldn't know the difference between Marx and Charlie Sheen. Wonkism has nothing to do with it.

What's to be done. The best that I've read is the Canadian writer JR Saul who notes that when a culture can't even imagine something else it's surely done.