ON STUDY

Lecture by STEFANO HARNEY

22nd of March, 2013, Node Gallery

What is notable in this moment in the history of our real subsumption is the rise of the capitalist science of logistics. An easy example of the rise of logistical populations may be found in today’s ‘global’ university.  We often hear the complaint in contemporary universities that education is becoming too instrumental, that universities are merely training students for employment rather than educating them.  But this is not the case.  Education is not instrumental today.  Just the opposite. It trains students to become what Michael Hardt calls the subjects of whatever at the best universities, and  what we might call the objects of whatever at the rest.  Students must be able to plug into any situation with complete compliance.  There is no instrumental object to their education because they are the objects of their educaiton.

the foundations of capitalism and the modern science of logistics share a common origin in the first great and terrible logistics operation, the Atlantic slave trade.  Logistics produced in this bloody history what might be called the subject of no standpoint, and every standpoint, in the African slave.  Denied subjectivity, and existing in and through the perspective of every circuit of capital, this commodity who could speak as Fred Moten reminds us, developed in this object-oriented system what Edouard Glissant called ‘the consent not be a single being.’  In the subsequent, and somehow antecedent, black radical tradition, the denial of subjectivity before that subjectivity was denied became the basis an informal form of social life, rich, varied, global, an inheritance of all those who live in logistics today.

In today’s algorithmic institutions, and not just the university, the possibility of what Valeria Graziano might call a sociability otherwise is subject to the severe externalisation of all thought, all study, pushing social life out of the shelter of institutional resources and into the imperatives of interoperability in the social factory at large.  Such algorithmic institutions operate through constant  invocation of credit, the activation of objects by capital.  But the black radical tradition operates through unpayable debt, the debt that comes from collective social life led other than through the subject, a kind of study together, I might say, that has as its goal the accumulation of such debt.  The forms of such study are always to be determined together and are always already under way.   This study is what we do when we plan to cook together, when we read Fanon or Derrida together, when we feel ourselves in the music of the club together.  This study insists on time and space not filtered through subjects, individuals, or citizens, but is lived instead in the proximity of bodies, in the debt of bodies, amongst the shipped.

– Stefano Harney