A Review of Capitalist Sorcery: Breaking the Spell
by Adam Robbert
HERE. My favorite quote from the review:
For Pignarre and Stengers, at its most basic, capitalism is a social system which depoliticises decision-making practices or, as they state eloquently: “a politics that kills politics.” (15) Such depoliticisation, frequently disguised as a set of technocratic processes, tends to proceed through the production of “infernal alternatives,” or, “that set of situations that seem to leave no other choice than resignation or a slightly hollow sounding denunciation.” (24) The alternatives are infernal as they are the product of no centralised apparatus or coordinated logic, but rather of the convergence of the work of “many thousands of minions.” While incapable of and unwilling to question the system of capitalism itself (“being dumbstruck by a prohibition on thinking”), those minions (agents, institutions) are at the same time infernally creative, ever set on expanding the powers of capital.
Another way of saying this is that rather than being the realm of instrumental rationality and bureaucratic Reason, capitalism is in fact a “system of sorcery without sorcerers (thinking of themselves as such), a system operating in a world in which judges that sorcery is only a simple ‘belief’, a superstition that therefore doesn’t necessitate any adequate means of protection.” (40) The argument, which presumably draws on Deleuze and especially Guattari’s work on “machinic enslavement” and “apparatuses of capture,” claims that capitalism does not reproduce itself thanks to the powers of ideology/illusion or alienation. Ideology/illusion separates a theater of appearances from an objective and truthful reality, as if by a screen (43), while alienation implies the existence of non-alienated intellectuals who are going to allow the masses to “become conscious” of the forces oppressing them. (106) By contrast, capitalist sorcery operates by “capture,” through a culture of “spells” that immobilise thinking and paralyse collective action. What anti-capitalist politics needs then is not so much demystification or dis-alienation, but a counter-magic capable of protecting its practitioners and breaking the spell.
Now if we could only get the publisher to drop the sticker price of this otherwise essential looking text…