Is There a Substitute for the Proletariat?

Is there today, when there is no longer any genuine proletariat, some segment of society that has the realistic possibility of uniting, and in uniting, throwing off the chains that have for so many centuries bound us all?Unfortunately, ever since that question first posed itself to me, which was in the 1960s, I have myself been bound to answer that there is not.

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Recycling Reality

All the sham things and dummy life that constitute our ever-recycling reality today, where the drug of Disneyland garbage has gone global thanks to the U.S. having done such a great job as a pusher, don’t just keep us from saying the truth. They keep us from even seeing it any longer. We’re all so drugged we don’t even know we’re on drugs any more.

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Entering the Promised Land--or, Retrieving Archaic Modernity

The system cannot propose a place for novelty, So we must create something outside the system as it is.

                                                                                    --Alain Badiou

In our contemporary, modern modernity everything is already obsolete before it is even born. While still gestating in the womb, it has already lost its currency and, like a worn-out coin, is ready to be withdrawn from circulation. 

That fits what an acquaintance of mine who worked in computer development for a high-tech firm with a branch near my home once said. He was part of a diverse group of us who got together at a local restaurant every so often to have breakfast. One morning he was talking a bit about his work. At one point he remarked in passing that he and the other developers he worked with knew that what they were presently designing would already be obsolete--that was the very word he used himself--by the time their programs were complete and actually available for marketing.

That is what's modern in the modern sense: what is always already obsolete. What's modern in the modern sense, what's up to date, the current "thing," the cutting edge of the new, is in truth what is already fit for the trash-can even before it has been brought forth. In that sense, we might say that the new in modernity is never new enough. It is always old before its time, ready for the grave--not merely from infancy, but from the moment of conception. Even before it is first delivered, the news in modernity is always already yesterday's news.

As Alain Badiou's remark above suggests, in modern modernity there really is no room at all for genuine novelty--for anything truly new and, therefore, capable of renewing. 

In modern modernity what's truly new is never here now, today. It's always at most on the way, just over the horizon into a perpetual tomorrow that has not ever even been imagined yet. Whatever already "is" in modern modernity, is always already old, retreating before the ever-heralded new-yet-to-come, tomorrow's very newest new. What's modern in modern modernity is always already being run over by an ever yet newer new, a new, not yet current new heading straight for the old, current new like a runaway locomotive--to use a metaphor that lost all its currency long ago, when it first starting making its rounds, in common with all modern-day metaphors.  

The day of modern-day modernity leaves no room at all for what's truly novel. All it permits is the perpetual updating of what's already obsolete from the very moment it's conceived--what's never good for anything but the trash dump.


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In contrast, in archaic modernity that which is now, today, never loses its currency. In archaic modernity, what is new always lasts. 

Archaic modernity is not only ever new, it is also always ever renewing. One need only be given the eyes to see it a-new, to "retrieve" it--which, heard with an ear tuned to the etymology of words, means "to find it again." Since what is archaically modern, archaically "new," never loses its newness, whenever we find it again, it is always brand new yet again: We find it again for the very first time, in what Kierkegaard give us to understand as a genuine repetition. And in finding it again anew, we are always re-newed ourselves 

In its ever-newness, archaic modernity is always here already. Yet as ever new and ever renewing, it is always still coming, still on the way toward us--never just lying around waiting for us to put it in the trash can, as is everything new in modern modernity.  

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The sun is new every day.

                        --Heraclitus 

Since the beginning of the 19th century, modern has had the meaning of "not antiquated or obsolete, in harmony with present ways, with present usage'." The word ultimately derives, by way of Latin modo ("just now, in the current manner"), from the Presumed Indo-European root *med-, which meant "take appropriate measure." 

The "modern" is thus what is appropriate to the day, what takes each day's proper measure.

In its daily circulation, its daily coming and going, the sun takes the measure of each day anew. It is always fitting to the day, "appropriate" to it. It is thus always new each day, renewing itself and whatever it touches each time it comes again. The sun was yesterday, is today, and will be tomorrow, ever new. It is always "fitting," always "to the measure."



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The time is beginning already in which having the courage to be old and human is going to be the most modern thing of all.

                                                                                    --Karl Rahner

In its ever recurrent, ever renewing newness, archaic modernity is not just always modern, but also always archaic.  That is, it is always of the nature of a true "beginning"--the meaning of the Greek arkhe. It is always of a "beginning," not in the sense of a mere starting or setting underway, and then vanishing, as turning the key starts an automobile engine. What is a beginning in the sense of an arkhe is not just what comes first, to set a process of events underway, and then vanishes into the past as that process of event continues thereafter to unfold. It is, rather, a beginning in the sense of a wellspring, such as the spring from which the water of a mountain brook springs forth. 

The mountain wellspring from which the brook springs forth is indeed the beginning of that brook. But it is not a beginning that passes away once the brook starts flowing. Instead, it is a beginning that is always continuing to begin the brook that flows forth from it, beginning that brook again and again moment by moment, feeding it with its constant flow. If the wellspring stops springing forth water, then the brook itself dries up. The wellspring is always still springing water forth, so long as the brook keeps flowing at all. The brook itself is ever renewed from that wellspring.

What is not already there from and as the very beginning cannot ever be truly new and renewing, current and recurrent, in its constant circulation. Only what is as old as the beginning can truly be new every day, like Heraclitus's sun.

What is truly new and renewing must, like the wellspring of the mountain brook, have the courage to be old--as old as the very beginning itself.

To go back to such a source is to share in that courage, and in so sharing to keep springing forth as the truly new, with a modernity that never becomes obsolete.

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Autonomous Anarchies

Anarchy is not the lack of order. It is the lack of any ruler. That is the original, which is to say the archaic, sense of the term anarchy, from the ancient Greek prefix an-, "without," plus arkhon, "ruler." We need to reclaim that archaic sense of anarchy: to bring it back to the original, fecundating well of meaning from which the word itself first sprang. Such verbal reclamation would serve all of us. It would serve us all both distributively and compositely, as itself befits anarchy.

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