The road to true anarchism


Agamben: The archeology of religion, art, politics and capitalism is not a search for any kind of origin - but a search for a foundation that raises past notions with the root.

Carnera is a freelance writer living in Copenhagen.
Email: ac.mpp@cbs.dk
Published: 2020-03-02
Creation and Anarchy. The work of Art and the Religion of Capitalism
Author: Giorgio Agamben
Stanford University Press, USA

Religion, art og politik have all day shared a search for a foundation or origin for the power of faith, artistic creation and the founding of society, respectively. In the Christian faith it is the Father, in the art of creative genius, in liberal democracy, the freedom of the individual. Our desire to search for an origin never seems to end. In the beginning, the word, the Bible says, was a phrase that commands us to relate to a beginning. Likewise, philosophy is tempted to regard our history as a conveyance of a hidden beginning. Economists also tell us that capitalism begins with the innovative idea.

But as Agamben notes, so is Arkæologi on religion, art, politics and capitalism not a search for any kind of origin. It is, on the other hand, a search for a foundation that raises past notions with the root. Archeology stops at things, examines their connections and creates a confrontation with the anarchy of the material world. And in this context, let us not forget Walter Benjamin's words: "There is nothing more anarchic than civil society."

The Anarchy of Capitalism

With the termination of the US dollar convertible gold standard (Bretton Wood, 1971), a situation created capitalism as a system without external reference to any higher body. As Agamben notes, capitalism from then on was elevated to a new religion in which credit replaced God. But unlike the religious belief, the beliefs of capitalism are without an object (forgiveness of sins), without atonement and without salvation. There is only the belief in the pure credit, that is, money. The bank is the church. A parody of faith. An empty anarchism that has to govern and guide through the theological nature of credit through the use of financial instruments, derivatives and debt securities. It "saves" itself by referring to a new beginning, new innovation, new sanctification of the work shrouded in a glory of religious terms such as creativity and self-realization. If people stopped believing in the religion of capitalism, stopped living a life on credit, capitalism would collapse. It becomes clear that economics and neoliberal politics do not have their basis in being, but in the management and management of an empty abyss.

Heidegger's idea of ​​enlightenment as an anarchic place.
Heidegger's idea of ​​enlightenment as an anarchic place.

Anarchism of Art

To our notion of artistic creation, the idea of ​​a special author, a vocation (God), a creative genius (romance), something hidden, an origin (Arch) which is separate from the executive activity (Ergon). Agamben notes the result that artistic practice is elevated to aesthetic mysticism without a truly transformative power to change our lives. What is lost is the energy that radiates from the work of a material or the work itself. Agamben cites the liturgy as a central example of an artistic practice that does not bind creation to neither God nor man, but to pure practice. leitourgia means "a common work or performance" connected to the people and the practice. From this practice emerges a mystery, not in the sense a secret religious confession (Christianity), but as a specific practice that works healing for the participants. It creates its own event that later inspires poetry, performance, dance and painting.

The credit replaced God.

Admittedly, technological reproduction removes us from the more ritual practice of art. But why should the new material conditions with technology not also create new possibilities for perception and thinking? With his ready-made (piss basin) of 1916, Duchamps sought to shift attention from the work and the author to the arts as a pursuit. Agamben: "By art we understand nothing but precisely the way in which different people, called artists, take a special practice and make it their way of life." But the question is how this way of life connects with resistance, criticism and transformation.

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Martin Heidegger
Martin Heidegger

At the heart of the creative act is opposition to something outside (Deleuze). But for Agamben this is to advance too quickly: "To resist" is called in Latin sistowhich means "to stop", "to hold down". Resistance is not first a reaction to something outside, but an awakening of an internal force in the action: the strength of the creative activity, the ability to "see" reality, depends on a restrained operation. Between our action potentials and our realizations, we find the more invisible acts such as hesitation, trembling, wonder, laziness, boredom and play. These are not negative areas outside the active activity, but are deeply connected with it.

Invisible acts such as hesitation, trembling, wonder, laziness and play.

For example, laziness should not be seen as a negation driven by idleness and unemployment (Lafargue: The right to laziness), but as a practice with a potential in itself. From here, an awareness springs, a waking morning. To consider (contemplate) his own activity is not reserved for the free time outside work, but must accompany it, give it life, open it for opportunities. Also, boredom is a practice in itself, an alert wait that hatches the eggs of experience.

Abandonment: Other ways of living

It has become almost impossible to determine our time as anything but identical with money and wealth. But how do we see poverty not as the opposite of prosperity, but as the way of life that holds the potential of change?

An early example is the Franciscan monks' relinquishment of property; today it is the Athos monks in northern Greece who unite painting (icon), liturgy, work and prayer. In poetry (# Hölderlin) and philosophy (#Heidegger), attempts have been made to think of poverty not as a renunciation of wealth and consumption, but as a spiritual wealth. But more is needed to create this detachment from the economy's idea of ​​prosperity. Heidegger is on the right track when he emphasizes poverty as an experience in itself and not a renunciation of prosperity, not least if we are to change our spending habits during the climate crisis, but his grip remains passive. What is required is one practice of active relinquishment of owning and possessing.

Georgio Agamben
Georgio Agamben

Abandonment is not to be understood as a cessation of activity, but as an attentive activity that seeks to detach the work, works of art and goods from simple consumption to open them to a new opportunity for free use. IN politik the resignation is seen as a moral appeal whose goal is not the introduction of new principles or institutions, but the dispensing of power concentrations as such and the initiation of a new political experience (protesters in Hong Kong). IN literature the relinquishment is a weakening of the communicative language and its informative functions to open up a new use, for example a new experience with gender, intimacy and climate. And in performance: What is dance if not the body's liberation from its utility movements, its relation to feasts and rituals (liturgy)? There is a link between way of life, relinquishment of possessions (poverty), creative activity and political transformation. An exploration of our experience of a common abyss. The road to rich anarchism.

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