Ray Brassier | Posthuman Pragmatism: Selecting Power / The Human: From Subversion to Compulsion

Updated: 6 days ago

Study Group_3 with Ray Brassier:

Schedule for informal meetings:

Informal Meeting_1 with Ray Brassier

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Informal Meeting_2 with Ray Brassier- The main discussion will be in relation to the readings for the Session 2: The Human: From Subversion to Compulsion

Time: Nov 28, 2020 10:00 AM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Meeting ID: 816 2486 8599

Schedule for Main Sessions :

Session 1: Posthuman Pragmatism: Selecting Power

Time: Dec 5, 2020 10:00 AM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Meeting ID: 883 7884 1530

Session 2: The Human: From Subversion to Compulsion

Time: Dec 12, 2020 10:00 AM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Meeting ID: 891 3093 0630

Link to Google drive folder with the readings:

Study Sessions

Session 1: Posthuman Pragmatism: Selecting Power

Saturday, December 5

For all its paeans to the primacy of exteriority, A Thousand Plateaus is ultimately a self-enclosed, self-sufficient construction; but one rooted in a gesture of negation that it cannot avow or integrate within itself. What it rejects is representation, together with its ‘arborescent’ dichotomies between inside and outside, subjectivity and objectivity, truth and falsity. It tries to purify this rejection of negation by construing rejection as selection and negation as a quality of power. Thus the rejection of representation (together with all its dichotomies, oppositions, and negations) is not supposed to be a denial but a mere effect or consequence of the book’s selection of affirmation over negation. Rather than seeking to justify itself, this is a book that insists on affirming its own power, which is precisely the power of affirmation. But the attempt to reduce negation to affirmation and denial to selection rests upon the affirmation of a difference between affirmative and negative power which turns out to be all but essential. Differences in the quality of power (affirmative or negative) turn out to be fundamental differences in being. By the same token, making the difference between affirmation and negation turns out to be indiscernible from accepting it as something that is already given; which is to say, representing it. This indistinction testifies to a fundamental inconsistency, which might also be called a contradiction, between what the book says and what it does. Despite its extraordinary ingenuity, A Thousand Plateaus cannot give a wholly positive account of the limit between the relative and the absolute, the finite and the infinite. This is to say that its systematic disavowal of dialectics, negativity, interiority, and transcendence leads it to hypostatize the difference between negative and positive, inside and outside, immanence and transcendence, into a brute given, an ultimately transcendent datum: stratification. Everything in the book relies on giving a positive sense to the de- in destratification, or delimitation, but this positive sense is merely the inversion of the limitation of absolute movement that it cannot but presuppose as its starting point: stratification. Thus the book absolutizes limitation in a forlorn attempt not to define the absolute limitatively. Circumventing negation and mediation, which is to say, the constraints of justification, it seeks to install itself immediately (or immanently) in between the relative and the absolute, but in doing so ends up absolutizing in-between-ness. But can this absolute in-between-ness be so confidently contrasted with the utilitarian compromise which is the fabric of the everyday?


Ray Brassier ‘Concrete Rules and Abstract Machines: Form and Function in A Thousand Plateaus’ in A Thousand Plateaus and Philosophy, Ed. by Henry Somers-Hall, Jeffrey A. Bell, James Williams (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017), pp. 260-279.

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari 'Concrete Rules and Abstract Machines' in A Thousand Plateaus, Tr. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), pp. 501-516

Link to Google drive folder with the readings:

Session 2: The Human: From Subversion to Compulsion

Saturday, December 12

In the contemporary ‘critical’ humanities, the privileging of the human has become as suspect as every other sort of privilege. Far from being the uncircumventable horizon for emancipatory politics, humanism is denounced as integral to a logic of domination that proceeds from the subjugation of nature to the enslavement of all those deemed less than human. It is easy to retort that this indictment of humanism follows from conflating the restrictive specification of the human (as white, male, heterosexual, European etc.) with its generic de-specification – the human as what Alain Badiou calls ‘the voided animal’, an exception that includes the unspecified part of everything: neither white nor black, neither male nor female, neither heterosexual nor homosexual, etc. But the suggestion that universalization proceeds not by generalizing specific predicates but by subtracting them tends to fall on deaf ears in a theoretical context where the Nietzschean equation of universalization with domination continues to hold sway. Once the inference from exception to exclusion is made, an all-inclusive post-humanism supplants exclusionary humanism as the politically ‘progressive’ optic consonant with the liberal ideal of inclusiveness that has become the humanities’ critical lodestone. This ideal stipulates a formal equivalence of human and non-human that is the ontological ratification of capitalism’s personification of things and reification of people. But it is not enough to expose the conservative kernel underlying post-humanism’s radical veneer, or to abstractly oppose the generic de-specification of the human to its restrictive specification. What must be grasped rather is how both this specification and de-specification are conjoined in capitalism as a historically specific mode of social production. Doing so reveals that the human is neither a metaphysical subject nor an anthropological attribute. It is the name for a mutability that is sui generis but no longer synonymous with self-consciousness; a displacement compelled by the twin pulses of social reproduction and libidinal repetition.


Ray Brassier 'The Human' [unpublished text]

Rosi Braidotti, ‘A Theoretical Framework for the Critical Posthumanities’ in Theory Culture & Society 2019 36(6): 31-61

Jacques Derrida 'The Ends of Man' in Margins of Philosophy, Translated by Alan Bass (Brighton: The Harvester Press Ltd., 1982), pp. 109-136

Link to Google drive folder with the readings:

About the Author:

Ray Brassier : Ray Brassier obtained his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Warwick in 2001. From 2002 to 2008 he was a Research Fellow at Middlesex University’s Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy. Since 2008, he has been a member of the philosophy faculty at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. He is the author of Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction (Palgrave Macmillan 2007). He is currently writing about Marx, freedom, and fate.