Supermodern Technologies, Acceleration and Enhancement

The 150th anniversary of Marx’s Capital

Ordinary session of the Institute for Critical Theories of Supermodernity was held in Sofia on the 26th February 2017, its title was Supermodern Technologies, Acceleration and Enhancement.



10:00 – 10:10. Official opening Deyan Deyanov, Director of the Institute

Plenary 1: The critical history of technology facing the challenges of the 21st century chair: Darin Tenev

10:10 – 10:50. Svetlana Sabeva – ‘The organicity of the body’


In the classical Aristotelian paradigm, the labourtechnologynature correlation is thought, as is known, through the problem of the tool and respectively the organicity of the body. A good image of that is thebody of the smith’: ‘In their clash, the hammer and the anvil broke his arms and legs at the height of elbows and knees which he hadn’t had so far. Thus he acquired the joints specific to the new human form that was going to spread across the earth and whose fate was to work […]. In order to enable him to work, his hand started to clench’ (Deleuze, Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus). In analyzing the invariant structures of the labour process, Marx largely follows the evidences of this classical paradigm. Husserl, in his turn, turns these evidences into transcendental determinations of the lived body (Leib) as an ‘organ of the self’ in which the self rules through the idealization of ‘I can’. Andrey raychev introduces the problem of the socialization of the natural process which keeps the process’s ‘sovereignty’ of through the tool-ness.

How is the multiplication of forces restructured in this classical labour-technological paradigm when it acquires a capitalist form? This is the form that, according to Marx, has its differentia specifica in the double character of labour, i.e. in the existence of abstract labour which is liberated from the quality of useful work and becomes labour, to turn into a measurable magnitude, one measurable by the time of spending simple labour force (which, as Marx says, ‘every human has as an average in his living organism, without special development’, Das Kapital). It is enough to contrast this ‘abstract work’ with the Protestant spiritualization of labour as God’s task and vocation to become aware of the naturalist-immanentist turn that is done here. Under the sign of this turn, I try to read Marx’s theories of labour and technology also as an ontology of the body, respectively of its tool-organ transformation in the capitalist world.

Can the capitalist alienation of labour also be thought as an alienation from the living organicity of the body (Leib) which, however, increases the illusion of the possible reverse appropriation of the body (Koerper) as ‘my projcet’ and ‘my property’? If today the organ of ‘work’ is primarily attention (cf. A. Raychev; cf. the mental disorders of attention in hyperactivity, in burnout etc.), which involves us increasingly into the neurophysiological technologies of labour and life, are we not facing the perspective of that ‘destratificaion’ of the body that turns it, to use Deleuze’s favourite image, into ‘a body without organs’?

10:50 – 11:30. Tanya Orbova – ‘Acceleration: from modern to supermodern technologies’


In this presentation I will try to think the technologies of modern and of supermodern capitalism with regard to Marxs critical attitude, i.e. to view them as material metiators that have reified both our relation to nature and our social relations. This relates to the question what actually is accelerated, if we give up thinking acceperation as something specific to time itself.

On the one hand, we can think of the acceleration natural processes, since theirprocessingis socialized, whence the dephasement of the unsocialised natural processes, and hence the problematic of the ecollapse (cf. Raychev, Deyanov). But on the other hand our social relations are accelerated, as far as our activity (through the machine) and our communication (through the computer) are mediated by technologies isomorphic to the quantitative expansion of capital.

11:30 – 12:10. Konstantin Kabourov – ‘From dystopias to reality: enhancements here and now’


In my presentation, I will depart from the dystopian narratives of a future that is totally subject to the technologies that surround us in everyday lifefilms, music, booksin order to emphasize the rebith, possibilitated by technological progress, of the idea of human improvement and enhancement as one of the problematics of supermodern capitalism.I will view critically two approaches to this problematic: on the one hand, the approach directly linked to the worrying visions of the near and distant future, and on the other, the approach of the supporters of the idea of human enhancements who see the possibilities of supermodern technologies as the only possible way. My aim is to show that turning the perspective of the problematic from its future to its actuality makes possible the critical approach to the idea of a technocratic society where rationality, knowledge and possibilities of man are entirely determined by technological advances. For this purpose, despite the temporal distance, I will stress such chances to the critical history of technologies through wchich one could think some of the most actual possibilities of reified modern science – supersensitive and functional prosthetics, technological restoration of bones etc. Against this background, proceeding to the problem of the mutual link and the changes between the structures of mediation that retain quality and the quantitatively expanding structures of mediation, I will view the relation between technological progress ad the structures of sociality as well as the changes that take place with the introduction or invention of a new tool or appliance. Finally I will try to show, on the one hand, that the mutual mirroring of the possible dystopian future and the actual possibilities for enhancing the human reveal the future not as the not-yet-happening but as an already-happening, and on the other hand, that there is an analogous process also in the changes of everyday structures of sociality.

Plenary 2: Nature as a nonclassical ontological problem chair: Deyan Deyanov

12:20 – 13:00. Darin Tenev – ‘Nonclassical transcendentalism and the modal ontology of nature’


The presentation will consider nonclassical transcendentalism as methogologically possibilitating the conceptualization of a modal ontology of nature.

Nonclasical transcendentalism is to be conceived in the direction inspired by D. Deyanov, as permitting the work with incommensurable worlds; while modal ontology, most generally, will be undertood here along the line of J.-L. Nancy and B. Manchev in which modalities are not subjected to a substance. If nature can change essene, then natural forces are to be rethought from the perspective of a modal ontology where modalities are not subjected to a pregiven essence or form.

The rpesentation’s starting point is the followint statement. The nature’s becoming non-nature takes place by natural laws. The pressure on nature does not come from outside the nature because nature is the outside itself. Hence some important conclusions follow of which just a part will be outlined in the presentation. Among them will be:

  • The question of irreversibility. Irreversibilty is related to assertion but, contrary to trandtional notions, it can be thought as restricting possibility only as far as it is conceived through the given and not in principle. Therefore here, conversely, irreversibility will be thought as orienting unprgiven possibilities into local orders – in which these local orders are themselves constructed as such. It will be shown why every time such an orientation is related to ethical problems and deontic modalities (which are not pregiven themselves).

  • The question of calculability and the relation of contemporary science to Galileo’s postulates. Calculability is not just one thing; but if Newton, Gauss, A. von Humboldt, Kolmogorov, N. Bohr, J. Moreau, R. Tom etc. do not speak of calculability in the same sense, then we must re-question our (of the humanities) base evidences of vailidity in the contemporary scientific discourse of the Galilean conception. A rethinking will be outlined of incommensurable paradigms of calculability through model theory, and, through model theory again, the question will be discussed of the incalculable as irreducible to ‘calculable otherwise’ in any of the existing local orders. Here the theory of structures of mediation is to play a key role, with the specification that this theory itself is no more than a special theory in the general theory of models (i.e. a model among others). I will try toshow in what sense one is to distinguish model theory and the theory of structures of mediation, and why nonclassical transcendentalism stands on the side of model theory. And also, in what way this concerns calculability.

  • The relation between repetition and regularity. In the traditional notions of the philosophy of science, repetition and regularity are closely connected but I will claim that repetition can both introduce and repel regularity as well as modalize the form in which regularity takes place (ontologically, not epistemologically). This means a modal rethinking of repetition. The hypothesis will be presented of repetition of modalities constructed as such in this process itself, modalities which, in local orders, acquire a super-order function, creating transcendental illusions. Modelling the repetition of modalities (an epistemological problem) shows the poiont in which ontology and epistemology cannot be distinguished, the epistemic consequence being that int is the absence of super-order position htat would show how, in the change in modalizations, we have the only bapproach to what surpasses a local order..

  • The question of the internal unlayering of natural processes and layers as thresholds of reversibility. Finally, if I have some time left, the local-global opposition will be rethought, insisting on the untenability of the concept of global there where one should talk of contingency and chaos (it is unclear for both whether they are or are not modal categories, but I will propose reasons to think them as modalities in accordance to the expanded understanding of modality). The problem will be addressed of the existence of parallel incompatible natural processes, resolved by contemporary physics (incorrectly) as a problem of scale, and the conclusion will be drawn on the modal-ontological rethinking of nature.

Plenary 3: The historical fate of Marxs critical history of technologychair: Konstantin Kabourov

14:00 – 14:40. Andrey Raychev – ‘Socialized natural processes and machines’


No abstract, A. Raychev’s presentation is going to be a surprise.

14:40 – 15:20. Deyan Deyanov – ‘The critical history of technology as a problem to the theory of structures of mediation’


The critical history of technology as sketched out in Capital is, rather, a problem, not a solution (ano not just for us who live in a non-Marxian time but also for Marx himself). A problem bearing the traces of modernist dogmas in Marxs theory of labour as it is in the critique of political economy after he a) forgets his insight of the Grundrisse on labour as ‘formation by the object by the living time’; and b) thinks, irnoging history, the form of the labour of the modern homo faber as a form common for all societies. To avoid those dogmas, I will problematise in my presentation labour and technology, thinking them through Andrey Raychev’s discovery of socialized natural processes (as ‘the alpha and omega of human history’, he adds). This discovery has decisive consequences for the labour theory of value and the theory of surplus valie, which in its turn has an impact on the critical history of technology. But what did Raychev discover? Marx, still, was obviously aware that the fire or the horse are socialized natural processes; what he missed, however, was that they can have the functions also of objects of labour – he made no difference between the horse in and the horse of draught; ad by that, he missed that the labour that reproduces the socialized natural processes has no way of being the labour of the modern homo faber. I must add that the problematization I propose would not have been possible without Mamardashvili who generalized Marx’s critical history of technology so as to make it valid also for symbols as ‘technoses’, ‘opera operans’, ‘noogenic machines’.1

In Grundrisse, Marx makes a careful distinctionI pass to technology hereof the machine in statu nascendi, i.e. what Raychev calls the machine asformer manufacture’, from the machine as atechnological application of science’, i.e. as aformer natural process’. But Marx is not aware of how fateful is this meeting between modern capitalism and what Husserl calls Galilean science, in modern technology. Obviously in manufacture and in the machine as ‘former manufacture’ what formally is rationalized ans hence accelerated is the labour process; but obviously what is rationalized formally and accelerated in the ‘technological application of science’, when the machine is a ‘former natural process’, are the natural processes themselves. This means that the ‘processing’ itself of these processes is socialized (so as they lose even their residual sovereignty and therefore come out to be technological simulacra). In such a socialization of the ‘processing’ of natural processes – contrary to what Marx thinks – the ‘time of production’ not only does not expand the ‘time of labour’ but even makes it shorter. If we think about it, the consequences of the meeting of modern capitalism with the Galilean science are obvious to Marx’s theory of surplus value: in the socialization of the processing of natural processes, natural processes are de-temporized that are not socialized but are a condition for the processing of the socialized ones (and hence for capitalist economy as a structure of mediation); i.e. behind the back of capitalist producers, capital is devaluated, z rises exponentially and, at z>m, causes an ecollapse; this makes us face also the problem of the ‘historical fate of modern capitalism’, i.e. to face the obligation of the critical theoretician to think it through historical limits.

Closing my presentation, I will not propose conclusions but just an idea that may deserve critical dialogue. Besides the labour of the capitalist homo faber, the labour of reproduction of socialized natural processes etc. there is also one more form of labour which seems to me to follow fro Raychev’s discovery of socialized natural processes; he pays no attention to it, however: the labour of their socialization itself. Amazingly, this labour is quite different from the labour that inserts machines into nature (‘socialized natural processes in the reverse’, in Raychev) a labour introducing into nature such natural processes that did not exist there before; conmtrary to the labour inserting machines into nature, this labour is predictable but not calculable, and its product is not pregiven. The Dutch ‘conquest of the low land’ by levies, windmills pumping water for the polders etc., if we think them in epoché from any c apitalist motivation, offers noteworthy empirical data on such a form of labour (and would give a strong impetus to a post-Marxian critical theory of technology emphasizing the problem of innovation). It also hints at the possibilities to resolve the problem of the ‘conquering the living earth’ back from the impending ecollapse caused by supermodern capitalism; possibilities that would be actual only in an economy where capital is again not in a free form while labour is free from modern capitalism’s ‘orientation toward profitability’, i.e. toward ‘a constantly renewing profit’ as Weber says (cf. the trade in dirty gas emissions and the ideologies of what Naomi Klein calls ecobillionnaires). This means that innovations as such are only possible with a labour that is not in a capitalist form, i.e. is not alienated from itself in itself. It is maybe then that the labour of socializing natural proessses will be the ‘omega of human history’.

1 A methodological digression is mandatory here. In Capital, both labour and technologies are for Marx objects through which, rather about which, to theorize; it will be the opposite in my presentation – the theoretical objects of the critique of political economy will be only objects through which I theorize, organs of thought. Marx, aware or not, thonks both the labour process and the technological process as structures of mediation; this allows me ‘to put them under the logical microscope’ of his own syllogistics (as I have formalized it quite some time ago). Very laconically: in e.g. the labour process as a structure of mediation, the object of labour is thought as P, the tool of labour as U, and the product of labour as I, so if we think the labour process with regard to its logical form, we will have the syllogism P-U-I. My motive for this ‘putting under the microscope’ is not just to criticize Marx for deviating from the methodological imperative of his own logic and not thinking the labour process ‘on the object’ (but adds ‘and the labour itself’), but to offer a chance to put this process as a problem to the temporal ontology of Raychev and Stoychev in which the ontological double of the syllogism P-U-I is F =>Pa =>Pr.

15:30 – 17:00. Round table: The living Earth: reflections on a postGalilean objectchair: Svetlana Sabeva; participants: Georgi Medarov, Darin Tenev, Deyan Deyanov, Konstantin Kabourov, Todor Hristov

(annotation by the chair Svetlana Sabeva)

The round table takes up Deyan Deyanovs idea of the living earththe living earth as the stake of a nonclassical critical theory problematizing ‘the fateful meeting of capitalist economy and what Husserl calls Galilean science, in supermodern technologies’, in an attempt to conceptualise it together with other critical perspectives. These could be e.g. Bruno Latour’s reflections rediscovering Gaia as an ‘active and reacting’ planet freed from the modern notion of Nature’, or the ecolocical encyclic Laudato Si of Pope Francis that pleads for a new ‘nomos of the Planet’ rejecting contemporary anthropocentrism in which the subject acts ‘as if facing something completely formless that waits to be manipulated’. Can we think such critical appeals as regressive movements, reactions to the (super-)modern alienation from the Earth which is due to the cosmic universal science and technmologies and which, according to Hannah Arendt, is more radical than the alienation from whe world, the result of capitalist expropriation and the practical mastery of the terrestrial surface? The regressive hypothesis allows us to proceed, on the one hand, to the geophilosophical discourses, returning to such classical 20st c. thinkers as Husserl, Heidegger, Arendt, Deleuze, but also to their predecessors Nietzsche, Marx, Hegel…; and on the other hand, to the field of geo-futurology and the new metanarrative of the ‘anthropocene’ – the geological era when the ‘human factor’ became predetermining for natual evoluition, to the degree of its own self-destruction and ecollapse.

17:00 – 17:10. Official closing Georgi Medarov, scientific secretary of the Institute

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