I was talking with someone the other day about differences in types of conversations and books. From what I’ve read there are some books that are swimming in footnotes, or worse, endnotes. Depending on disposition, these can be offputting, boring, or comforting, or all of the above. For some people footnotes help create a sort ring of truth, an aura of authority.

I recently remembered I never wrote a post I wanted to write about Nietzsche, in a comment on a note about that Tzuchien urged a “distinction between truth as a value of a proposition which is then governed by formal conditions and “truth” as a word used in a certain sense by institutions or persons at various times.” There is a sort of feeling that goes with truth, with being convinced. Probably more than one feeling, actually.

This page defines the term “structure of feeling” as elaborated by Raymond Williams as “a common set of perceptions and values shared by a particular generation, and is most clearly articulated in particular and artistic forms and conventions. The industrial novel of the 1840s would be one example of the structure of feeling which emerged in middle-class consciousness out of the development of industrial capitalism. Each generation lives and produces it own “structure of feeling,” and while particular groups might express this most forcibly, it extends unevenly through the culture as a whole.” This page includes a quote from Williams’ Marxism and Literature, describing a structure of feeling as “a social experience which is still in progress, often indeed not yet recognized as social but taken to be private, idiosyncratic, and even isolation, but which in analysis (though rarely otherwise) has its emergent, connecting, and dominant characteristics, indeed its specific hierarchies. These are often more recognizable at a later stage, when they have been (as often happens) formalized, classified, and in many cases built into institutions and formations. By that time the case is different; a new structure of feeling will usually already have begun to form, in the true social present” (132).

I don’t mean to suggest that truth or convincing is *just* a matter of feeling. Rather, when we become convinced we often feel certain things – a feeling of satisfaction or of soundness of the argument. There are often affective accompaniments to being convinced. To put it another way, in conversation my friend Erik D has made a distinction between social and theoretical objections and comfort and so on. This means among other things that one can be theoretically (un)convinced – (dis)agreeing with someone’s propositions advanced – and one can feel a sort of (dis)affinity – (not) feeling resonance with their presentation etc. These are related but not identical. To put it another way, we might distinguish between propositional contents and communication norms. They’re relatively autonomous.

Incidentally, these sorts of issues are part of why I so much like the Lewis Carroll dialog “What the Tortoise Said to Achilles”, which I’ve posted about a few times before. (It’s a shell of a dialog… ha.) Though that dialog is not exactly or not solely about conviction feeling, I think that conviction feeling is an answer to the Tortoise. In the dialog the Tortoise continues to make Achilles expand on a logical syllogism, something like this:

A: All R are H. (Say, readers are human)
B: All H are M. (Say, all humans are mortal)
Z: All R are M. (All readers are mortal.)

The Tortoise says basically “I accept A and B but don’t accept Z.” Achilles says “If you accept A and B you must accept Z.” The Tortoise says “Represent that formally, call it C.”

A: All R are H. (Say, readers are human)
B: All H are M. (Say, all humans are mortal)
C: If A is true and B is true then Z is true.
Z: All R are M. (All readers are mortal.)

The Tortoise repeats the same move: I accept A, B, and C, but don’t accept Z. Achilles says “You must!” The Tortoise says “Then call that D, “If A is true and B is true and C is true then Z is true.”

And so on, forever.

There are many things one could say about this. Among other things, a move like the Tortoise move could be reflective of a lack of conviction feeling. One way around the Tortoise (other than stopping conversing, which is the better way around the Tortoise) might be to try to get at conviction feeling.

Sometimes we can be convinced in one way but not get conviction feelings or enough of them. This is what happens when one is convinced but has a sort of nagging “I can’t put my finger on it, but…” sort of doubt, which leads one to keep wondering and posing questions (acting like the Tortoise).

Tortoise aside, certain things can induce feelings that approximate to these affective accompaniments of being convinced. That is, sometimes we can be made to feel the things we feel when convinced without being convinced. Or rather, we can be made to feel conviction feelings without other aspects of being convinced. Footnotes do this for some people, in some settings, as I mentioned above. Proper names, especially the last names of writers, do this for other people in other settings – “as Marx wrote” and so forth.

This came back to my mind as I read the first part of this article about some Tiqqun and/or Invisible Committee texts. I’ve not read further but I plan to. Among other things the piece comments on (mis)translations that don’t make grammatical sense. That speaks to me, I remember producing such translations sometimes back when I used to do a fair bit of translation. My wife has commented that based on her work with small children that many children often go around not really expecting to understand things, that that expectation often has to be acquired rather than simply developing on its own. When I first was reading or trying to read a lot of philosophy I had the same experience – in order to read it I had to bracket my want for the material to make sense. I remember trying to read Hegel for the first time and I simply couldn’t do it until I realized I had to read it differently; in order to get through passages of Hegel I had to first skim them or not even skim them – look at the all the words first, then re-read quickly to try parse out the grammar, and THEN begin to deal with the content. That got (a little) easier as I learned a bit more Hegelese. That sort of habit of reading can sometimes lead to a willingness – or a want – to feel convinced when one is not yet convinced, which can feed into doing translations that don’t make sense. Because one can get used to reading things and being excited about them without fully getting them. There’s actually a lot of good to this, and I think it’s somewhat close to literary reading, to the way we read when we read for aesthetics.

The article goes on, saying that the Invisible Committee often

communicate through resonance, rather than through argument. This is to say, they present a description of reality as self-evident, confident that some readers will immediately identify with their words, seeing in them possibilities they find attractive, or an apt description of their own experience they might not have been able to formulate for themselves.
“In our time of utter decadence, the only thing imposing about temples is the dismal truth that they are already in ruins.” [TCI, p.112]
This “truth” will ring true to some readers, thus any concrete proposition logically based on this truth will seem valid, but to other people, with other experiences, the temples—the institutions that manufacture power and meaning—may justifiably seem robust. This latter group are not presented with any convincing arguments, any evidence, to change their perception or question their experience. If the text does not resonate with them, it simply moves on without them.

The advantage of resonance is that it communicates, more than an idea, a certainty, an inspired strength, that reasoned argument cannot

One can stand on resonance, so to speak, one can have confidence in resonance. I think that the article overstates the point when it says that resonance can create certainty more than reasoned argument. I think that’s true for some people some of the time but not for all people all the time. I think resonance is a nicer term than what I’ve been calling “conviction feeling,” I’d want to say that argument often includes resonance — resonance is what happens when one feels convinced by argument — though as I said sometimes one can in a sense be convinced by an argument without having sufficient conviction feelings — an argument convinces but doesn’t resonant enough. And as I tried to say, some things can produce conviction feelings without argument; as this piece says better, sometimes one can operate at the level of resonance. I think this may part of what’s going on in that Nietzsche piece, Nietzsche is in part trying to get a change in how people operate, toward a sort of resonance rather than a sort of argument.

The article also notes that proceeding by resonance often “creates an in-group and an out-group, based on who is predisposed to receive those words.” Conviction feelings, resonance, or perhaps conditions of individuals’ disposition to resonance, are part of structures of feeling and these vary a lot – some people, some of the time…

It strikes me that this point about resonance … umm … resonates with my repeated complaints about Negri and others in the post-operaismo milieu. The narratives about epochal change etc form a sort of communication by resonance, though one that can look like an argument. Or rather, the argument and the propositional content is not the most important part or key aspect, it’s what those arguments with their narratives do. It struck me a while back that while I was incredibly excited by Hardt and Negri’s book Empire, the actual thesis about empire meant and did basically nothing for me. It was the conceptual framework that was so compelling, not so much their claims about geopolitics etc. And yet, those claims were, I think, crucial as a vehicle for the framework.
This ties to issues that have popped up around Wu Ming stuff, about narrative and myth and their uses.

It also just struck me … I have very mixed feelings about a mix of resonance and argument, and about resonance in lieu of argument when, in my view, argument is better or at least also necessary. (And yet this is all partly also a matter of a structure of a feeling of sorts, I think — I don’t really have *arguments* for all this, I just feel it strongly…!) At the same time, I’m into this quite a bit with art, particularly music. A lot of my favorite music is lyrically quite dark or despairing but is experientially/aesthetically energizing and even hopeful. There are some connections here beyond music as I’ve puzzled about a bit before, and there’s a link here as well to confidence, a matter in part of what we are standing on and what we could stand on and how to make it. I’m not really clear on any of this (as is apparent). I think there’s an analogous thing going on with the nihcoms, I think that’s what’s going on with CM in the comments on the Dupont-on-Tiqqun stuff. CM holds to a position whose propositional contents should bar the expression of that position. That position has/is also an aesthetic or stylistic content – a type of literature or a literary quality, so to speak – which is tied to it pointing beyond itself in a way, analogous to the difference between or the combination of hopeless lyrics that are part of music which nonetheless adds up to an over all sense of hope. Hope despite hopelessness, or rather a feeling of hope even in the face of lack of intellectual reasons for it. “Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will,” so to speak, with aesthetic components part of training and maintaining the optimism and the will (and the will to maintain the optimism).

There’s also something related here to IA and PNAB, the importance of aesthetics and the unstated and yet very present element of discipline and training in all of that. The review article about the Invisible Committee gets at this, I’ll have to remember to come back to all that. I think the aesthetic components, the style, help keep together or form the structure of feeling. (Note to self: look up the Wu Ming “Style as Martial Art” piece.)


I had another thought just now, wondering from what I hear about the influence of Agamben on the TCI stuff and from this review, if there’s a Carl Schmitt moment here – the social/civil war stuff is partly forging a friend/enemy distinction. That coupled with the “fight the left too” kind of impulse makes it a pretty stark distinction and one that makes me uneasy. This bit quoted in the review —
“the Imaginary Party is the political party, or more exactly the party of the political”; Schmitt’s Political Theology argues I think pretty convincingly that definition of what is political and what is not is often a pretty strong political move and way to forge distinctions. I wonder if the use of the term “partisans” is also a Schmitt allusion.

Other bits from the TCI review —

“neologism: it’s a great way to lose the same fight twice”

“To talk of becoming anonymous or existing only in presence, avoiding recognition, on a practical level, means very little if this is not simply a strategy of boycotting the media and not adopting any identity category other than member of the Imaginary Party. The thing about “opaque zones” [How?, p.11] is that they are only opaque to the state, its media, its academy. Within these zones there is a great deal of recognition, of differentiation, and a flourishing of predicates. If the banlieue or Kabylia seem opaque to the Invisible Committee, this is only because they stand outside and above them.

The fact of the matter is, invisibility is only an option for the state agents spying on us, and the guerrilla who is willing to sacrifice her life to an existence of clandestinity. For the rest of us, it’s a question of appearance and disappearance: constantly learning to appear in the lives of others, and disappear from the traps”

“They fail to answer or even ask what in my mind is the most important question regarding the defeat of this strategy: how to build the communes and the material basis for self-sufficiency—thus creating something to lose—while continuing to act like you have nothing to lose, which is to say, without falling into a defensive posture that facilitates recuperation or at the very least stagnation, seeking some uneasy truce with the dominant order. What they offer instead is a confidence that they will never sell out, which mirrors the confidence of the autonomen in the ’70s, although the IC has found more poetic language for it.”

“the Invisible Committee admonishes us that: “Our appearance as a force must be reserved for the right moment” [TCI, p.114] Wait for the right moment??”

“Precarias a la Deriva of Madrid give a more meaningful explanation of the human strike (see “A Very Careful Strike”)”


“they do just as the Marxists in adopting capitalist logics in their challenges of capitalist relations, in this case by seeing care in instrumental terms, as another form of production. What I want to know is, how can we liberate something we insist on viewing in mechanical terms? After all, care can only be plugged into capitalism in the first place when it ceases to be nurturing and comes to be reproductive. ”

That seems wrong to me on at least three counts. First, not all instrumental reasoning is pro-capitalist. Second, not all production is or must be capitalist production. Third, nurturing vs reproduction is a false dichotomy at least some of the time. For some people sometimes capitalism works well enough – that’s part of what sustains capitalism, the division of people in various ways including differential status and well being. Some people get genuine nurturing. I’d argue that most people in their reproduction of life under capitalism get a lot of actual nurturing. This is schematic, but I think this fits with Marx’s point that commodities involve both exchange value and use value. Nurturing is (or, practices of nurturing are) a sort of use value. It’s uses are not reducible and it is much more important than its use in reproducing capitalism. But the statement here could be read as saying that capitalism is incompatible with genuine nurturing. In a strong interpretation of that claim, it’s false. Capitalism is compatible with a lot of types of nurturing. Surely communism will expand human possibilities here as in so many other parts of human life, but that’s another matter.

“”A certain distance leads to a certain obscurity.” This little turn of phrase, like a sewing needle, pops the overinflated balloon of a good part of what the Invisible Committee says, of what the Imaginary Party itself stands for.

First of all, isn’t obscurity exactly what they were going for? Or is their a functional difference between obscurity and opacity? (…) Once you penetrate their opacity, it seems, all the little chapters of the Imaginary Party blow away in a puff of smoke. (…)

Most whatevers aren’t good enough for them. Only what is farthest away is valued. They sling denunciations of activists, of leftists, of anarchists, of other ways of doing things, and their only suggestions are exotic. The analysis in the first parts of The Coming Insurrection brilliantly show how the civil war is all around us, but when talking about how it is to be fought, all they can do is make struggle even more distant, by creating a pressure, a higher standard, to fight effectively by being unrecognizable, by being anonymous, by being spontaneous, higher standards that only exotic examples can meet because they are unknown to the authors.

The whatever is just an ignorance of details.

And the ignorance is above all a philosopher’s preference for easy answers, an ideologue’s refusal to engage with complexity. In the theorizing of the Invisible Committee, there is a certain streamlining of resistance. Beneath the poetry exists an economy of thought that demands the excision of all but the most sleek movements towards insurrection. Everything that is not judged to be perfect on the plane of ideas is denounced as recuperation. (…)

the idea that only the most economic of motions in a struggle should be preserved ignores the messy reality of how people begin to desert and to fight, and it misses the opportunity for strength that is presented by an attitude of picking fights (…)

The Invisible Committee presents us with a totalizing theory (…) for the creation of a new identity, a new milieu.”

Great points on gender.

“everything is new, freshly discovered and named (by them). Their favorite phrase is, “From now on…” (…)

Much of the antisocial violence in public space, violence which is romanticized in several Tiqqun texts, is not so much a rebellion as an autonomous attempt to impose hierarchies in miniature.”

I find the stuff on parties and vanguards and clandestine armed groups uncompelling. Likewise the point about hipsters as an elite doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe some, but I’d like to know in what sense of “elite.” The point about the appeal of TCI to hipsterdom makes sense to my experience, though at the same time “hipster” is sort of like “cultist” — almost always something said of someone else and rarely of one’s self.

“the IC-as-thought have helped rejuvenate theorizing as a collective activity among US anarchists to an extent that far outweighs their disastrous effect, -as-style, on the plethora of hyperbolic communiques that announced various broken windows and occupied buildings with a mood of poetic rapture.

And on the other hand, the IC shouldn’t be taken too seriously. After all, let’s cut the crap: they’re basically CrimethInc. with a better vocabulary. Replace “deserting” with “dropping out” and there’s no denying it. They blatantly lack the humility that at times has allowed CrimethInc. to be such a positive thing; furthermore, they carry out a couple operations that would make me hesitate before starting a commune with them, much less a milieu or a Party. As I mentioned earlier, this Party is not just an ironic linguistic device but a group that has its inner circle and its mechanisms for exclusion.

It works like this: if you disagree with them, you’re out. “One would have to be a militant element of the planetary-petty-bourgeoisie, a citizen really, not to see that society no longer exists.” [How?, p.3]. They never define society, mind you, though I would guess they know, they’re so well read after all, that it is a central element of the praxis of other anti-capitalists that society in fact does exist, beneath all the chains and IV tubes of Biopower, and that this is a good thing. But I guess their ideological competitors are nothing but representatives of the petty bourgeoisie (say, haven’t we heard that one before?).

I predict the Party leaders might chide me for missing the irony of their words, but with such ideological absolutism, though they may not hand out membership cards they have still fallen for their own joke.

Curious thing: sometimes the Imaginary Party is an unconscious umbrella that includes everyone who chafes at their forced assimilation, and at other times it is a conscious group employing a singular strategy. (…)

There are moments when one needs to argue against an idea, and moments when one need only present it clearly. Here it is: the Imaginary Party. We are told we all belong to it, insofar as we are alienated. It is the Party of our class. And it is a Party that has its partisans and conscious fractions, who will say we are the enemy if we disagree with them, or even, perhaps, use different words. The Imaginary Party: take it or leave it.”

A comment here adds a quote from The Call “”This is a call. That is to say it aims at those who can hear it. The question is not to demonstrate, to argue, to convince. We will go directly to the obvious. This is not primarily a matter of logic or reasoning. What is obvious is what is perceptible, the realm of reality.

There is a clarity to every reality. What is held in common or what sets apart. After this is recognized, communication becomes possible again; communication which is no longer presupposed, but which is to be built.””

Great quote, makes the point I think about resonance and in-group/out group, and the rest of that comment then goes on to do the class “you say you disagree but really you just misunderstand” move.

Some overlap with this old post by k-punk.