Political Feminist Positioning in Neoliberal Global Capitalism

Marina Gržinić, ‘Political Feminist Positioning in Neoliberal Global Capitalism’, pp.201-223, in:

Behar, K. (Ed.), 2016. Object-oriented feminism. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

p.201

The human as a term is central to feminism and its socialist aspirations, as well as to the technological revolutions provided by new media technology, computer devices, and the enhanced development of science and technology that are sped up via the computer and cybernetic developments.

Brooks Smith accurately states that Haraway is not against technology and that she tries to propose a possibility for the future based on the appropriation of cyber technologies.

pp.201-202

Further drawing schematically, but not any less politically, on the history of the (post)socialist trans/feminism context and the changes that it proposes in relations between capitalism, capital, labor, and technology, I can suggest several different paths about what follows after Haraway in the conjuncture between the human(ity)/humanization/posthuman(ities).

[Grzinic identifies three key lines of development through a reading of Lucian Gomoll]

p.202

The first is the one outlined in 1999 by N. Katherine Hayles in her pioneering work How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Gomoll states that “for Hayles and other writers in the 1990s, the posthuman’s ontology included a dispersal of information and consciousness through cybernetics in addition to an expanded notion of embodiment.”

The second line brought to light in Gomoll’s text from 2011 comprises “discourses in posthumanities (that) contribute to the decentering of classical notions of the human, offering a renewed emphasis on the relational or coevolutionary. While the terms posthuman and posthumanities might at first seem harmoniously related, their discursive histories are divergent and sometimes frictional.”

p.204

[The third line is Cary Wolfe’s framework]

Labare, as Gomoll summarizes, “critiques Wolfe’s framework, calling his book humanist-posthumanism, and recognizes that it is ‘a grave oversight on Wolfe’s part to ignore the ways that feminist theory, critical race theory, and queer theory have already unsettled and re-configured the subject.”

[…] I ask here, following in the vein of differentiation within the post/human / post/humanities, what should we do with the human and its class, race, and gender lines of division?

p.205

In brief, new materialism presents a set of theoretical approaches that at the moment comes after what is called the post-structuralist linguistic turn or cultural turn (developed in the last decades under the spell of the fluidity of language). By using what is said to be affirmation over criticism, new materialism tries to give a new perspective on signification and methodologies of knowledge and history. It is specifically orientated toward things in the world and what we know about them.

pp.208-209

With this in mind, I would like to emphasize two main points that are crucial for the understanding of what new materialism actually does. First, in one way or another, it repudiates the human. This connects new materialism to the critique of posthumanism recounted above with reference to Gomoll and Ferrando.

p.209

Second, again, in one way or another, it repudiates history, practices, and ideas in order to isolate ideas and practices from the material relations of history. As DeFazio states, new materialism does this by highlighting “the cellular, molecular, subatomic, and cosmic levels” of matter.

New materialism emphasizes, at any rate, the lack of capacities of “the human” to perform any consistent politics and, somehow, the impossibility of the human to be capable of political agency based on history. Furthermore, I argue that this repudiation of the human, and of its political capacities and agencies, is in fact supporting (paradoxically, it must be said) precisely what is at the core of the present-day NGC agenda.

This agenda consists of introducing a systematic process of specific humanization into the “boring” reality: the logic of the humanization of capital.

To be even more precise, my thesis is not that new materialism is responsible for the humanization of capital (I am not interested in any crusade against new materialism, as the advent of the posthuman/ities is rapidly proliferating and, as we can see, impossible to stop anyway), but it is precisely the opposite at work here—the logic of the humanization of capital, on one side, and an almost completely derogatory perception of history, on the other, are needed in order for the new (mostly white feminist) posthumanist materialism to proceed undisturbed.

While the theoretical and philosophical Western thought proclaims to be too fatigued to address humans and their political agency and history, capital develops its “humanity” through brutal and systematic exploitation, as well as the reorganization of power and institutional structures and a systematic depoliticization of the social, political, and economic structures.

p.210

Tatlić has developed my analysis of neoliberal global capitalism into a dual scenario of relations of exploitation and dispossession: (1) the logic of the humanization of capital; and (2) the flexibilization of power relations between the oppressor and the oppressed.

At the present moment, NGC offers a paradoxical process of humanization, and it is the logic of the humanization of capital itself. It could be said that this logic is at the core of NGC; it allows, simply put, for the posthuman to thrive in the situation when the NGC is pervaded by the logic of the humanization of capital. Consequently, all those differentiations that were based on class, race, and sex are also taken back.

p.211

Because of new media technology (computerization and virtualization of the world that brought about a possibility for research in biotechnology, brain sciences, physics, and technology at large), the human is becoming an obsolete matter, its perception reduced, along with its possibility of cognition and understanding.

The second process, which works hand in hand with this logic of the humanization of capital, is the obsolete position of history in NGC, as a result of the flexibilization of power relations between the oppressor and the oppressed in the system of exploitation that serves the capitalist relations of re/production.

Each power/economic structure, undeniably including capitalism, needs to use and implement power to facilitate its brutal relations of exploitation while hiding its means of exploitation. It does so by exposing that in the last instance the system tries to provide the best human relations possible and, at all times, insists on humanist premises.

However, under the logic of the humanization of capital in neoliberal global capitalism, the emphasis is not on the humanization of capitalism but on the logic of the humanization of capital itself.

p.212

Hence, Tatlić believes that capital is not only a result of the logic of the maximization of surplus value and private property of the means of production (and consequently of all the other strata of society, such as social structures, institutions, knowledge, people, bodies and their lives), but it is also the final goal of capitalism, as capital interests organize the society in capitalism. Thus, the only interests at stake here are in the last instance the interests of capital itself. NGC is a deadly circular format of power and exploitation; it departs from capital only to return to capital’s interests.

As a result, the logic of the humanization of capital presents a form of depoliticization of the relations of capitalist exploitation.

As shown above, this means that we insist on the historical point of view when it comes to capitalism and, even more, on the fact that the logic behind the humanization of capital, which is at the core of NGC, is perhaps the final stage of capitalism’s modernist narratives of progress developed over several centuries as a form of capitalism “theology.” This means that capitalism presents itself as being a supposedly universal project that represents the most optimal organization of society and the relations of power and production.

The humanist rhetoric, or the rhetoric of becoming human as a capitalist anthropological machine of humanization, is today the dominant liberal capitalist narrative defined by the modernist logic of progress.

Capitalism, despite its efforts to present itself as nonhegemonic, nondiscriminatory, and postideological, and therefore as a universal format of the organization of production and social relations—in other words, of modernity— is, as firmly argued by Tatlić, the relation of pure domination.

In fact, the result is that the society is more and more desubjectivized and presented only as human resource, while capital is more and more acquiring the contours of subjectivization.

p.214

Another key point that we have to recognize is that capitalism, as a Eurocentric and Christian project of the first capitalist world, is thus only a form of progression in the intensification of the processes of “humanization” under the logic of capital.

In Tatlić’s elaborations, secularism presents an even more excessive depoliticized, ideological constructed system of political/social and economical relations in the West. With its allegedly humanist universal applicability and the forms of liberalization, it processes capital as a methodological and ideological discourse that hides exploitation behind the universalization of a particular vision of modernity in almost “pure” form.

In the late twentieth century, in the era of neoliberal capitalism as the dominant model of the organization of exploitation, we are witnessing a complete distortion of the protagonists/agencies and subjectivities (“humans”) within NGC. The relationship between the oppressor and the oppressed is pacified and instead defined as a partnership.

p.216

It is important to expose as well that the outcome of these described processes is, as I try to show continually in my writings, racialized labor divisions, on the one side, and naturalized histories of colonialism and contemporary forms of coloniality (colonialism without colonies), on the other.

Essentially, the power of coloniality, as a structure of control, is in speaking so forcefully that we see no alternative but to accept it, effectively dispensing with human life.

One of the most tangible passages in this drawing of NGC genealogy, and therefore in the genealogy of the new materialism, that will influence the new materialist basic premises is precisely the shift from biopolitics to necropolitics.

p.217

One of the most tangible passages in this drawing of NGC genealogy, and therefore in the genealogy of the new materialism, that will influence the new materialist basic premises is precisely the shift from biopolitics to necropolitics.

p.218

A case in point is that the thinkers engaged in the new materialism, speculative realism, nonrepresentational theory, constructivist philosophy, and posthumanism, when engaging critically with race and gender, rethink race as material ontology and as assemblage theory. The assemblage theory is used to challenge and extend the concept of intersectionality. Consequently, here also lie the possibilities and potentialities.

pp.218-219

Therefore, although I have already drawn attention to the fact that object-oriented ontology and the new materialism give legitimacy to a specific kind of politics that is nonanthropocentric and works hand in hand with dangerous de/historicization and de/politicization, what I want to emphasize is not just OOO’s objectification and commodification of humans but also a process that is essentially that of the humanization of capital itself.

p.219

Consequently, this presents an important shift from the traditional feminist critique based on the commodity and reification toward capital itself. Capital supports and allows—in other words, incites—the topic of the nonhuman.

Today, coloniality, with the imposition of Western epistemology and its model of social differentiation implemented under the broader humanistic narrative of democracy, is presenting the human, as emphasized by Tatlić, purely as biological material.

By analyzing the genealogy of these processes in such a situation, it becomes clear that NGC has to insist on the posthuman as the human, since history and agency are completely co-opted, regulated, and reproduced under the order of capitalist reproduction of exploitation, expropriation, and dispossession. Shifting the discourse elsewhere, away from historical and political analysis and instead toward the posthuman, masks the frightening possibility that today the human is transformed through the logic of the humanization of capital into something that is purely biological matter—and as such without political subjectivity.

p.221

Moreover, the human is as well an ideological category. Therefore a proposition of this chapter is not to recuperate the human and humanity (as this has often served to escape deeper interrogations of power) but to emphasize precisely the humanization of capital as a third link between the human and posthuman. Without taking into account the logic of the humanization of capital, we are incapable of understanding discrimination and exploitation in relation to mechanisms of power in neoliberal global capitalism.

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