I was thrilled to talk with Jacqueline Luqman on @TheRealNews about my ongoing research on fascism, which has appeared in Liberation School, Black Agenda Report & CounterPunch (click here for the list of articles). The interview is entitled “The History of Postwar Fascism Needs to Be Retold,” and here’s the abstract (click here to listen):
“Popular understandings of what fascism is, where it came from, and how it was ‘defeated’ have hindered our collective ability to identify and fight fascist threats beyond those that existed in Western Europe a century ago. In the latest installment of her ongoing series investigating the contours of fascism in the past and present, Jacqueline Luqman speaks with philosopher, cultural critic, and political theorist Gabriel Rockhill about the need to understand how the political and economic systems that produced European fascism did not disappear after World War II. Rockhill is Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University, founder and director of the Critical Theory Workshop/Atelier de Théorie Critique, former Directeur de programme at the Collège International de Philosophie, and the author/editor of numerous scholarly books in English and French.”
Excerpt: “The widespread promotion of identity politics and French theory within the dominant apparatus of knowledge under global capitalism should serve as a clear indication to anyone who’s paying even scant attention that they are not a threat to the system. On the contrary, they are some of the primary intellectual forces driving what I’ve referred to as radical recuperation. By this I mean the tactic of producing the appearance of radicality—including symbolic systems of signification that are so inordinately intricate that many have trouble seeing how unmoored they are from actual socioeconomic struggles—in order to better recuperate insurgent forces within the extant system. ‘All symbol, no substance’ is their mantra, and they have made an enormous contribution to the intellectual world war against the very idea of communism.”
“El imaginario dominante dentro de la coyuntura neoliberal es reductivista, determinista, teleológico y trata de convencernos de que la historia es inevitable y que lo único que podemos hacer es seguir las consecuencias… La contra-historia es un intento de transformar metodológicamente nuestras herramientas de comprensión histórica para tener una aprehensión diferente del orden mundial contemporáneo”, dice el filósofo, crítico cultural y activista Gabriel Rockhill (FRA/USA), con quien BIENALSUR inaugura un ciclo de conversaciones íntimas, de puesta en foco de ideas y pensamientos. Rockhill estudió con algunas de las voces más sobresalientes de la filosofía francesa, incluyendo a Derrida, Irigaray, Balibar y Badiou. Es profesor de filosofía en la Universidad de Villanova y director fundador del Critical Theory Workshop y conocido por sus revolucionarios trabajos sobre historia, estética y política publicados en nueve libros y numerosos artículos, una obra cuya primera compilación en español será publicada por la Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero en 2021 a través de un número especial de la revista Estudios Curatoriales.
“The dominant imaginary within the neoliberal conjuncture is reductivist, deterministic, teleological and tries to convince us that history is inevitable and that the only thing we can do is to follow the consequences… Counter-history is an attempt to methodologically transform our tools of historical understanding to have a different apprehension of the contemporary world order”, says philosopher, cultural critic and activist Gabriel Rockhill (FRA/USA), with whom BIENALSUR inaugurates a cycle of intimate conversations and focused debatesRockhill studied with some of the leading luminaries of French theory, including Derrida, Irigaray, Balibar and Badiou. He is Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University and Founding Director of the Critical Theory Workshop being known for his revolutionary works on history, aesthetics and politics published in nine books and numerous articles, a work whose first compilation in Spanish will be published by UNTREF in 2021 through a special issue of the journal Estudios Curatoriales.
Description: “Fascism seems to have risen up zombie-like from the past, but philosopher and political theorist Gabriel Rockhill argues that it’s been with us all along.
Today on the show, Allen traces a counter-history of fascism—including its relationships to liberalism, capitalism, and colonialism and how we understand/misunderstand its role in the U.S.—with Gabriel Rockhill.”
The article I co-authored with Jennifer Ponce de León, “Toward a Compositional Model of Ideology: Materialism, Aesthetics, and Cultural Revolution,” was just published here in Philosophy Today. If you do not have access and would like to read it, a pdf is available here.
Abstract: This article sets forth a compositional model of ideology by drawing on the tradition of historical materialism and further developing its insights into the aesthetic composition of reality. It demonstrates how ideology is not simply a set of false beliefs but is rather the process by which social agents are composed over time in every dimension of their existence, including their thoughts, practices, perceptions, representations, values, affects, desires, and unconscious drives. By working through a number of diverse debates and authors—ranging from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels to Louis Althusser, Eduardo Galeano, Rosaura Sánchez, and Paulo Freire—it thereby elucidates how ideology is best understood as an aesthetic process that includes every aspect of sense and sense-making, and that therefore requires a collective, cultural revolution as its antidote.
My latest article, “Temporal Economies and the Prison of the Present: From the Crisis of the Now to Liberation Time,” was just published here in Diacritics (click here for a pdf).
The intellectual world is by no means immune to this logic [of the cult of novelty]. A preoccupation with the latest trends drives the global theory industry, which packages and sells what it proclaims to be cutting-edge contributions to thinking. Knowledge that is scientifically anchored in deep, collective traditions—such as the materialist heritage of Marxism and anarchism—is often considered to be vulgar and passé, unless it is spiced up with modish vocabulary, references to the established brands of the star system, and deferential homage to the totems of trendiness. Although these structures and tendencies are more difficult for some to see in the products of high culture than in their low culture equivalents, it is important to recognize that this is due to the very social logic of “high” culture, which brands itself as free from vulgar determinants like class and consumerism. However, aside from this marketing exception—or, rather, this marketing of exceptionalism—the patterns are largely the same.
This pressing and frenetic temporality of consumerism—which in the case of intellectual production consistently peddles “the latest” rather than “the truest”—complements the capitalist urgency of short-term gains. Long-term consequences, like ecocide or the destruction of human life, are of no importance to the imperative of making as much as possible, as quickly as possible. “In every stock-jobbing swindle,” Karl Marx presciently wrote, “everyone knows that some time or other the crash must come, but everyone hopes that it may fall on the head of his neighbor, after he himself has caught the shower of gold and placed it in secure hands. Après moi le déluge! is the watchword of every capitalist and of every capitalist nation. Capital therefore takes no account of the health and the length of life of the worker, unless society forces it to do so.” Continue reading →
My latest article, “Foucault, Genealogy, Counter-History,” was just published here in Theory & Event (click here for a pdf). It is the result of long years of wrestling with genealogy in Foucault and Nietzsche, discovering its enormous limitations, and attempting to elaborate a materialist counter-history that both overcomes them and allows for a more politically trenchant form of historical critique.
Abstract This article examines the force and limitations of genealogy in order to develop a practice of counter-history that is capable of both overcoming its inherent problems and providing a more trenchant mode of critico-historical engagement. Using Foucault’s well-known essay on Nietzsche as its methodological centerpiece, it begins by elucidating the latter’s powerful contribution to the historical analysis of values, while also foregrounding the quasi-naturalized morality of genealogy that structures it. Against this backdrop, it examines Foucault’s symptomatological distinction between two opposed and normativized conceptions of origin in Nietzsche—Herkunft and Ursprung—in order to both explicate Foucault’s unique appropriation of Nietzschean genealogy and demonstrate its limits through the striking fact that this originary textual symptom of “properly Nietzschean” genealogy does not actually exist in the text. The remainder of the article draws on certain genealogical resources while challenging the historical order undergirding them in order to propose an alternative logic of history that takes into account its constitutive multidimensionality and the multiplicity of agencies at work in any conjuncture. It dismantles, in this way, the very framework that renders historical origins possible, as well as streamlined moral narratives of genealogical inversion, thereby parting ways with the moralities of genealogy in favor of the politicization of values.
Excerpt “Given the individualist, libertarian tenor of Foucault’s work, his genealogical anti-morality tales are more keyed to personal, local and partial modifications than to systemic political changes, particularly those that are revolutionary and anti-capitalist. Care of self, we might say, generally superseded care of society, at the risk of developing parasitic practices that could only work within given systems rather than radically reconfigure them. Indeed, he preferred the interstitial work of the ‘specific intellectual’ who intermittently drew on his particular areas of expertise to intercede in public debate (rather than being consistently dedicated to collective political organizing). In this sense, he follows Nietzsche in understanding genealogy as a moral project of historical introspection. Although it might, and often does, contain certain political elements in its diagnoses, it is generally opposed to—and normatively codes as ‘bad’—the systemic remedy of collective social action.”