What is Politics?

I was a history major in college. Mostly, this was because my high school history teachers were smart, Marxist revisionists so we read insane books. (It turned out I was actually interested in interpretation, not history, but it took me a few years to figure that out.) I entered college with all these AP credits in history so, well, I continued with it as a major.

But I was immediately disappointed. Every class seemed to talk about wars, treaties, governments, presidents, great thinkers, great books. It all felt so, well, wrong to me. I kept telling my advisor that I wanted a different kind of history — what people thought, felt, how they lived, dreamed, conceived of the world. The History of Great Men and Great Moments was so full of shit, so out of touch. Who the fuck cared what these rich motherfuckers were up to? And that was when I read Foucault and everything changed.

I've had the same frustration with the assumed model of the political. We imagine that governments do things that matter, that dictate how things go. They 'choose' a system such as capitalism, socialism, communism. And we live within this system. We might try to change it but this change focuses on them — on legislators and senators, on public policy and elections.

But I can't but think that this is just not how things work. I see a people — some population stipulated by place — as a networked engine, a system of production. What does it produce? Itself.

I am looking for a model of the political that sees the world in terms of thermodynamic flows of energy, distributions of desire, will, capital. Governments and laws and police and corporations: these are constitutive and constituent of this great social engine. But they do not determine it.

To focus on politicians as the source of power is, as Burroughs says, to be the bull charging the red flag only to meet air. It is a distraction, a diversion from the flows of power and desire and capital that actually define the everyday, that define and create the social body.

I'd like to see these thermodynamic maps of behavior around the world, map how these flows are distributed, what kinds of circuits and feedback loops there are, what kinds of temperatures and valves exist to make this or that social-body-engine.

We don't choose a system. We are a system.

This has enormous implications for those interested in changing the terms of this life we lead.


Daniel Schealler said...

I always switch off when politics comes up in conversation with my friends.

K leans left, and B leans right.

K and B occasionally get into a discussion about something political. The two nearly always head straight for the left/right party line. I usually have no opinion to start out with, so winning me over becomes the aim of the game.

One week I'll side with K.

The next I'll side with B.

The week after I might side with B again.

Then following that, maybe K. Or maybe B.

Then B and K both get angry with me for not picking a side.

Not picking a side?

Yes, they say. You're not picking a side.

Look, I'm going with the good ideas I find. I don't care about what 'side' they come from. Take the good bits from everything and leave the rest. Why not?

B and K together: Because you can't get a majority party that way.

So you have to take lots of ideas you think are bad just to get a small sub-set of the ideas you think are good enacted?

B and K together: Yes, of course. (confused) Isn't that obvious?

No! That's insane!

Hey, that's politics.


Daniel Coffeen said...

These conversations are unbearable. What's so egregious is the self-righteousness of those who think thinking about elections or big issues makes them somehow connected and active, somehow political. When in fact, they are the fucking problem, recapitulating the system in their righteous fervor.

The worst are those who condemn me with bile when I dismiss voting as a complete irrelevancy. Voting, they imagine, is some secret source of power. While, to me, it is an act of enormous shame and humiliation, an elimination of my personhood, a dehumanizing act.

dustygravel said...

Yes yes, I always feel ashamed when ever I vote, its like being cot doing something dirty by your mom.

The only times I've ever felt clean after voting is when I voted for a loser. By the way voting for the loser is strangely empowering — I highly recommend it.

green, workers, libertarian, socialist what ever the hell you want
it will always mean more then voting for the damn dichotomy, because the dichotomy is king.

now for a "political that sees the world in terms of thermodynamic flows of energy"
have you considered permaculture.
Permaculture is literally the design of thermodynamic energy flow, usually in the form of a forest gardening and ecological housing but it can be applied to anything else. The mapping of energy is truly the key component.

here are some sites.




by the way dose any one know how to imbed video?
it used to be easy with youtube.

dustygravel said...

Yes yes, I alway feel dirty after voting.

In fact the only times I've ever felt clean after
doing the deed I voted for a loser—turns out voting for a loser can be quit empowering, I strongly recommend it.

@Schealler: Im with you on the picking sides thing.
vote: green, worker, libertarian, socialist, whatever the hell you want it will always be more democratic then the damn dichotomy because the dichotomy is king.

@coffeen: concerning "political that sees the world in terms of thermodynamic flows of energy" I assume you've heard of permaculture.
permaculture is quite literally the design of thermodynamic energy flows. Usually applied to housing and gardening it can be applied to any thing that flows, any system of movement.
The main point is to maximize benefit connections, so no one component has to carry all the wait.
Damn that sounds like communism but really its not its more like libertarianism lots of tax evasion and shit, only with out all that pick your self up by your boot straps bullshit. one permaculture Masanobu Fukuoka made a style of gardening could No-Dig.
How can you beat that?

I see a lot of parallel between what permaculture calls organism and delueze calls bwo. What Delueze might call organism permaculture calls monoculture.

here are some links:




By the way dose any one know how to imbed video?
It used to be so easy with youtube...

Chad Lott said...

Big ups to the Perm Cult.

My first exposure to permaculture was from a bunch of sweet girls in Manson family era dresses that taught a DeCal organic gardening class at UC Berkeley.

There was something about a bunch of neo-hippy Rhetoric majors smoking grass amongst kale and rogue asparagus that made the idea seem magnificent.

Daniel Coffeen said...

Thanks for the permaculture, dusty. Now if I can only find those co-eds smoking grass amidst the kale, all would be right in the world....