Bifo’s “The Uprising,” Glossary

December 16, 2012

Below are terms as elaborated in Bifo’s new book The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance


Abstraction – When Marx talks about abstract labor, he is referring to the separation of a worker’s activity from concrete usefulness, which is what happens under capitalism. The use-value of the worker’s product is only a step toward the real thing which is value, which is surplus value…The capitalist cares only about how much value his work can produce in a given unit of time. This is the beginning process of capitalist abstraction.

In the late-modern phase of capitalism, digital abstraction adds a second layer to capitalist abstraction: transformation and production no longer happen in the field of bodies, and material manipulation, but in the field of interoperativity between informational machines. Information takes the place of things, and the body is canceled from the field of communication.

We then have a third level of abstraction, which is financial abstraction. Finance means that the process of valorization no longer passes through the stage of use value, or even the production of goods (physical or semiotic.) (104)

Aesthetic perception – the realm of sensibility and aesthesia, directly involved in the technological transformation of communication and work: in its attempt to efficiently interface with the connective environment, the conscious organism appears to increasingly inhabit what we call sensibility. (144) […] Aesthetics is the science dedicated to the study of the contact between the derma (the skin, the sensitive surface of our body-mind) and different chemical, physical, electromagnetic, electronic, and informational flows. Therefore aesthetics has much to do with the modern psychopathology of contact, with the pathological effects of acceleration o the info-flow and the precarization of social existence. (145) See also sensibility.

Art – “a composition of chaos that yields the vision of sensation, so that it constitutes a chaosmos” (D &; G, What is Philosophy). Art is recording and detecting this dissonance, as it simultaneously creates the aesthetic condition for the perception and expression of new modes of becoming. Art represents a diagnostic of the infosphereic pollution of the psychosphere, but also a therapy treating the disturbed organism. (150)

Attention – the activation of physical reactions in the brain, and also the emotional, affective reactions. Attention cannot be infinitely accelerated. (97)

Chaosmosis – via Guattari, the process of going beyond the limits of the world, going beyond resemiotization: i.e. a redefinition of the semiotic limit, which is also the limit of the experimentability of the world. (156)

Competition – the concealment of a war machine in every niche of daily life: the kingdom of competition is fascism perfected. (95)

Composition – a form of shared respiration: cospiration, conspiracy, growing together, conjoined expectation, coalescing lifestyles. (127) See also recombination.

Conjunction – becoming-other, living, and the unpredictable concatenation of bodies. (123) Entails a semantic criterion of interpretation. The other, who enters in conjunction with you, sends signs whose meanings you must interpret, by tracing if necessary the intention, the context, the shade, the unsaid. (125) See also connection.

Connection – the functional interoperability of organisms previously reduced to compatible linguistic units. (123) Requires a prior process whereby the elements that need to connect are made compatible. (124) Requires a criterion of interpretation that is purely syntactic. The interpreter must recognize a sequence and be able to carry out the operation foreseen by a “general” syntax” (or operating system). (126) See also conjunction.

Cynic / Cynicism / Irony – Someone who routinely lies to everyone, especially to him or herself. An intimate lie, the contradiction between speech and belief. (159)

Bifo traces two philosophical lineages of cynics, kynismus and zynismus. Zynismus are expressions of awareness that truth can never be spoken because the social game is based on the power of lies. For zynicists, if you don’t accept the language of deceit, no one will listen to you. Kynicists, related to ancient cynics who practiced parrhesia — telling the truth (See Foucault’s The Courage of Truth) — were ascetic individualists rejecting the acquiescence to the law of the powerful, while the modern zynicists are the conformist majority, fully aware that the law of the powerful is bad, but bending to it because there’s nothing else to do. Zynismus is not disruptive, it is an internalization of the impotence of truth; contemporary mass cynicism, brought on by the failure of twentieth-century utopian ideologies, and the perception that the exploitation of labor, competition, and war are inevitable and irreversible. Mass cynicism results from the dissolution of social solidarity. (159-162)

Cynicism is the philosophy of exaggeration, a deceived moralism, a judgment of behavior that depends on a fixed system of (moral) values. (165) Irony implies the infinite process of interpretation, where as cynicism results from a (lost) faith. The cynic has lost his or her faith; the ironist never had a faith to begin. Irony is the ethical form of the excessive power of language, is the infinite game that words play to create and to skip and to shuffle meaning. (158) Ironic discourse never presupposes the existence of a truth that will be fulfilled or realized. (165-6) The cynical person bends to the law while mocking its false and pretentious values, while the ironic person escapes the laws altogether, creating a linguistic space where law has no effectiveness. The cynic wants to be on the side of power, even though he doesn’t believe in its righteousness. The ironist simply refuses the game. Whereas mass cynicism has to do with aggression, irony is based upon sympathy. Irony cannot be conflated with lying.(166) Irony suspends the semantic value of the signifier to freely choose among a thousand possible interpretations. (167) Irony is an opening of a game of infinite possibilities; cynicism is a dissociation of ethics and possibility. (169)

Debt – an act of language, a promise. (31) A future time — a promise about the future. (84)

Deregulation – liberation from the constraints generated by conscious will, but simultaneously submission to techno-linguistic automatisms. (29)

Economy – see ideology

Economists – Should not be considered scientists — they are much more similar to priests, denouncing society’s bad behaviors, asking you to repent for your debts, threatening inflation and misery for your sins, and worshiping the dogmas of growth and competition. (71) It is a technology whose aim is the transformation of time into labor, of labor-time into value, and the transformation of our relation with nature into one of scarcity, need, and consumption. (95)

Fascism – when a war machine is hidden in every niche, when in every nook and in every cranny of daily life a war machine is hidden. … So neoliberalism is the most perfect forms of fascism, in terms of Deleuze and Guattari’s definition. (95) See also competition.

Finance – An effect of the virtualization of reality, acting on the psycho-cognitive sphere of the economy. An effect of the deterritorialization of wealth. An effect of language. The transversal function of immaterialization, and the performative action of indexicality. Statistics, figures, indexes, fears, and expectations are not linguistic representations of some economic referent that can be found somewhere in the physical world, signifiers referring to a signified. They are performing indexicals, acts of speech that produce immediate effects in the very instant of their enunciation. (79)

Financial capitalism is essentially based on the loss of relation between time and value. (86)
See also abstraction.

fortunavia Machiavelli, (chance, the chaotic flow of events), the female side of history… fortuna is embodied in the chaotic flows of the overcrowded infosphere and in the chaotic lows of financial microtrading” (10)

Futurity – Understood through Marinetti’s “Futurist Manifesto,” time as acceleration, and views acceleration as the process of increasing potency. (89) […] Velocity and acceleration are the modern tools of potency; industrial, political, and military potency are based on the velocity on the late-modern age. Masculine potency is essentially perceived by the Italian futurists as a problem of acceleration and we must not forget that Italian modernity was very concerned with the problem of the masculinization of perception: of time, of politics, of power.

Governance – a keyword in the process of financialization of the world. Pure functionality without meaning. Automation of thought and will. The embedding of abstract connection in the relation between living organisms. (28) The automation of thought, the automation of social existence. Governance is information without meaning, a dominance of the unavoidable. In governance praxis, economic dogma is transformed into techno-linguistic automatism. (41)

Ideology – a theoretical technology aimed at supporting special political and social goals. And economics is an ideology, like all technologies, is not self-reflexive…

Insolvency – not only a refusal to pay the costs of the economic crisis provoked by the financial class, but it is also a rejection of the symbolic debt embodied in the cultural and psychic normalization of daily live. […] From a linguistic and affective point of view, insolvency is the line of escape from the reduction of language to exchange. (16)

Insurrection – a refrain helping to withdraw the psychic energies of society from the standardized rhythm of compulsory competition-consumerism, and helping to create an autonomous collective sphere. (151)

Irony – see cynicism.

Love – the ability to enjoy myself thanks to your presence, to your eyes. This is solidarity. Because solidarity is based on the territorial proximity of social bodies, you cannot build solidarity between fragments of time. (55) See also solidarity.

Poetry – is the voice of language, in this sense: it is the reemergence of the dietic function (from the deixis, self-identification) of enunciation. Poetry is the here and now of the voice, of the body, and of the word, sensously giving birth to meaning. (21) Poetry is the language of nonexchangeability, the return of infinite hermeneutics, and the return of the sensuous body of language. I’m talking about poetry here as an excess of language, a hidden resource which enables us to shift from one paradigm to another. (139-140) Poetry is language’s excess: poetry is what in language cannot be reduced to information, and is not exchangeable, but gives way to a new common ground of understanding, of shared meaning: the creation of a new world. Poetry is the singular vibration of the voice. This vibration can create resonances, and resonances may produce common space. (147) Poetry is the semiotic concatenation that creates new pathways of signification and opens the way to reactivation of the relation between sensibility and time… (149) The language of the movement as it tries to deploy a new refrain. (150) The reopening of the indefinite, the ironic act of exceeding the established meaning of words. (156)

Poetic language – the insolvency in the field of enunciation: it refuses the exaction of a semiotic debt…Poetic language is the occupation of the space of communication by words which escape the order of exchangeability… (22)

Recombination – compatibility and functional operativity. (127) See also composition.

Refrain – An obsessive ritual that allows the individual — the conscious organism in continuous variation — to find identification points, and to territorialize herself and to represent herself in relation to the surrounding world. The refrain is the modality of semiotization that allows an individual (a group, a people, a nation, a subculture, a movement) to receive a project the world according to reproducible and communicable formats. (130) The sensitive niche where we can create cosmos elaborating chaos. (150) See also rhythm.

Rhythm – The essential feature of refrain. A special configuration of the relation between singular refrain and universal chaos. The relation of a subjective flow of signs (musical, poetic, gestural signs) with the environment: the cosmic environment, earthly environment, social environment. … At a chaosmotic level, rhythm is the concatenation between breathing and the surrounding universe. At a social level, rhythm is the relation between body and the social concatenation of language. (130-1) Rhythm is the common substance of signs (word, music, vision, and the brain. The mind hooks onto the other (the other mind, nature, artificial, or social world) thanks to the rhythmic concatenation. (145) See also refrain.

Science – a form of knowledge which is free of dogma, which is able to extrapolate general laws from the observation of empirical phenomena (and consequently able to predict something about what will happen next), and finally which is able to understand paradigm shifts. (72)

Semio-inflation – when you need more signs, more words, and information to buy less meaning. It is a problem of acceleration. It is a kind of hyperfuturism when the old accelerative conception of the future is the crucial tool for the capitalist goat. (96)

Sensibility – the ability of the human being to communicate what cannot be said with words. Being available to conjunction, the social organism is open is open to affections, sensuous comprehension, and social solidarity. … Sensibility is the faculty that allows us to enter into relation with entities not composed of our matter, not speaking our language, and not reducible to the communication of discreet, verbal or digital signs. Sensibility is the ability to harmonize with the rhizome. (121) Sensibility is the ability to understand what cannot be verbalized, and it has been a victim of the precaritization and factalization of time. In order to reactivate sensibility, art and therapy and political action have to all be gathered. (143) See also aesthetic perception, art.

Solidarity – Social solidarity is not an ethical or ideological value: it depends on the continuousness of the relation between individuals in time and in space. The material foundation of solidarity is the perception of the continuity of the body in the body, and the immediate understanding of the consistency of my interest and your interest. (128) See also Love.

Swarm – When the social body is wired by techno-linguistic automatism, it acts as a swarm: a collective organism whose behavior is automatically directed by connective interfaces. (14) […] Swarm is a plurality of living beings whose behavior follows (or seems to follow) rules embedded in their neutral system. Biologists call a swarm a multitude of animals of similar size and bodily orientation, moving together in the same direction and performing actions in a coordinated way, like bees building a hive or moving toward a plant where they find resources for making honey. (15)

Voice – via Agamben, the point of conjuction between meaning and flesh. The voice is the bodily singularity of the signifying process, and cannot e reduced to the operational function of language, notwithstanding the research in protocols and procedures for vocal recognition. (20)

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