The Transfer Idiom
Doctrine, theory, philosophy, principles, belief, ideology, etc.—my extraction of anthropomorphics out of GA as a more total reading of the originary hypothesis has been aimed rejecting or, better, deferring all these guides to maintaining shared direction and resisting the distractions that interfere with sustained and mobile joint attention. All of these terms open spaces for disciplinary disputes and bureaucratic manipulation that can never be articulated in any way with the results of your practice—rather, attempts at such an articulation will always generate more indeterminate disputes and manipulation. You cannot have a doctrine, theory, philosophy, principles, belief or ideology that is not mortgaged to the metalanguage of literacy, those scene-fillers that make us forget that inscription generates scenes even while taking place on one. If we don’t have writing, and you report another’s speech, you say exactly what they said, and in the way that they said it, and therein lies an implicit commentary on what they have said, ultimately indicating some degree and conditions of reliability. When speech is reported in writing, the way they said it must be indicated in words—so and so claimed, stated, suggested, assumed, indicated, and so on, creating a rich metalanguage that fills in the scene that is now represented upon the scene of writing. And these verbs get nominalized and we find ourselves in a world of claims, statements, suggestions, assumptions, indications, and this is the world of, first of all, philosophical discourse and, then, all the human sciences that flow from it. In part, I can now add, because these terms are all essential to juridical scenes, where testimony is “assessed” and “relevance” is determined, and it might be more precise to say that the human sciences are philosophy applied to juridical scenes. All of this David Olson 101, as I laid it out in Anthropomorphics and elsewhere without, admittedly, coming back to it recently. But now I am, as you can see. Even “belief,” so fundamental, so deeply felt, so worth sacrificing yourself for is, as Olson also points out, merely a placeholder for some formalized affirmation of something you have said. You will not have a doctrine, etc., that is anything other than another iteration of the metalanguage of literacy and, therefore, nothing more than a mode of asserting power by lining up pre-populated positions within some bureaucracy.
So, what, then? Well, for starters, something closer to an oath, a prayer, an incantation, an initiation ritual—something directly performative and transformative, something invoking and testing trust, instituting centered ordinality, requiring a signature. But it needs to be in a declarative form, with a simultaneous and time-limited ecumenical outreach, a public key that allows entrance without guaranteeing investiture, that possesses its users and makes them carriers even while they acquire fluency. We need a higher degree of declarative functionality than any of the metalanguages. I also want to come back to this now to follow up on my recent discussions of “idiomatic intelligence,” of which the transfer idiom is essentially a translation, and the reason for that is that all the theories/metalanguages are essentially political phlogiston serving to provide hypotheses for the intensification of centralized power conjoined with the increasing turnover of occupancy at the center. It’s increasingly evident that the real action is going on on some scene behind the scene, and one needs a hypothesis to construct that scene and make it visible and, hopefully, open to intervention. Idiomatic intelligence, the transfer idiom, is better suited to flow into those spaces between visible agency and invisible strings so as to generate actionable hypotheses. The available scenic hypotheses are inevitably arbitrary, based either on some pre-political “anarchist” scene of equality or some concrete historical and therefore unrestorable model. Anthropomorphics is historical—we’re always facing some center—but originary—we’re always facing some center. The transfer idiom is always already inside the scene—it doesn’t try to re-design the scene from upon some other scene.
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Idiomatic intelligence involves placing yourself at some center that attracts resentment while deferring that resentment; even more, turning the resentment into new sources of deferral. So, it’s not for everyone, all the time, but it could be for anyone, any time, and it’s something one could practice and can only learn by practicing—there are all kinds of ways in which placing oneself at the center of a vortex of resentment in order to verticalize it can go wrong. You might just be annoying or obnoxious. I want to use the term “transfer idiom” because if we extract all the metalanguage from our exchanges, even the minimal metalanguage of the originary hypothesis, all we have are translations across idioms and transpositions across media. You treat everyone else’s idiom as a transfer idiom which can be broken down into a hypothetical populated field to whom we are sending communications across temporal and spatial barriers. Who will do the things you say or imply people “should do,” and who will do the things that will create and distribute the people who do them? Most declarative orders want to rest upon authorities without taking responsibility for them—if you want to call someone evil for doing something, then you must want someone empowered to stop them from doing it but it’s usually much more pleasant to leave that part unmentioned. The transfer idiom has a kind of faith in language; “faith,” I’m certain, can be shown to have its genealogies in various metalanguages, implicated, I would guess, in ancient idioms of debt, but I can translate it into saying that as long as you’re using language you’re in language and you’re deferring something and initiating some centered ordinality even if you don’t know the anthropomorphic currents you’re swimming against. Your declarative statements are answering some question trailing an imperative thread and as answers only mean something if a new imperative thread issuing in an ostensive can be tracked in successive inscriptions. Being in language replaces, or, better, translates all other faiths—whatever you’re willing to swear or donate to, the Cross, the Koran, the Shema, your ancestors, the Constitution, whatever, issues in something that is and something that will be seen, heard, felt and said and that therefore requires an idiom to register all that and that idiom can be broken down into a succession of scenes and infrastructural designs. The temporalizing and spatializing resources of language far exceed any we could attribute to a particular “vision,” “imaginary,” or “faith.” There is a radical demystification of everything reduced to exchange, but exchange is always with the center so the demystifications or breakdowns are only releasing the energy of the center into new hypotheses that at the same time could only revise these existing idioms, to whose continued transcription you can remain utterly devoted. Can you not see that no other discourse comes anywhere near doing anything like this?
To speak or even think is to posit and sit on a scene, and to (po)sit a scene is assemble an arraying of enabling and hypothetically consequent scenes and that in turn minimally populates various mediating, distributory and adjudicating scenes to which one provide data and whose decisions one anticipates and seeks to shape. The mediating, distributory and adjudicating scenes go all the way to the top, because they themselves will enter into rivalries over boundaries and jurisdictions and while there may not ever be a single world government with a single ruler as soon as nations are large enough to form empires and compete with each other there will be the hypothesis of something like that. There is always the feeling of a possible “appeal.” This too is in language: any utterance waits upon a possible judgment. The “economy” is just everyone’s place, and everyone’s seeking to (re)place, in the order of having distributed to one and that one distributing to others. The “economy” is the tributary order and, since distribution can’t be spontaneous, i.e., generated by some pre-social invariant, it will be some kind of centered ordinality—the occupant of the center will allocate to others the power to allocate to others who will… Money marks the various layers of distancing from the center and ways centralizing power and disrupting central occupancy are modulated. But allocation sometimes is and always or eventually could be, saturated by naming. This is the wildly hypothetical component of the transfer idiom: its destiny to become currency.
We can start with the minimal hypothesis of an emulative economy, which seems to me reasonable and decidedly non-utopian, unless you want to insist on the possibility of the entire social order lapsing into apathy and torpor without the whip of, well, some whip, including the wage relation. There will be those inclined toward apathy and torpor, but those motivated by admiration towards those who have taught them to become beings in language will figure out how to deal with that. If you don’t want to be on anyone’s team, and no one wants you on their team, I’m sure some provision can be made—but you’d be missing out on a lot. What money as investment in assets valued in accord with expected future earnings does is coordinate the tributary order in accord with who is best able to ensure a predictable rate of future earnings, which also means ensuring that others will not be able to procure that rate. This, I am going to say here, involves speculating on the correlation between the centralization of the means of power, on the one hand, and the fluctuations in who controls what part of that power. If you have the advantage of the largest store of capital, you would want power to be increasingly centralized, which makes it easy to cut out potential competitors and pummel the subjects into obedience, while at the same time wanting to be able to pull the particular string that elevates one and degrades another in the power structure whenever desired. So, the power to set in place overarching legal measures is always in place, while you can determine exactly when and how that power is deployed. This is “value.” Moreover, this, as I suggested in my previous post, inclines us to a certain kind of subjectivity or agency, one that can deploy centralizing political mechanisms to test out various possible valuations—the woke entrepreneur, which can be scaled up or down and produced through various educational and media institutions. What is especially important to me here is that, while this correlation between centralized power and fluctuations in occupancy in power gets measured in money—it is what gets measured in money—it can be effectively translated into discourse. And if it can be translated into discourse that discourse can be translated back into currency as the ongoing effort to create commensuration between power and occupancy at the center.
We can carry out what is in effect a currency conversion by treating technology as, itself, a transfer idiom. Technology is scenic design and the design of the scene is part of governance and hence part of the tributary order—technology situates everyone within some centered ordinality and creates the pedagogical platforms necessary for succession. We can introduce a little dose of what some might consider “technocracy” here insofar as distribution from the center can’t exhaustively anticipate what new inventions and discoveries might emerge and what effects they might have, because such inventions and discoveries result, as I’ve been insisting the last couple of posts, in treating some part of the scene as the infrastructure for a new scene—the entire sensory, recording and internally communicating infrastructure provides ample opportunities for such conversions—for example, you can always find some pattern in “noise” and then turn it into a “signal.” Capital is interested in such inventions because they can provide a stream of income, and they are interested in controlling and limiting their uses to ensure the maximization of their income relative to that of some other capital. So, technologies are always inscribed with this tension between the way they are jump-started and then constrained and crippled by capital, on the one hand, and all the conversions they are given to, on the other hand.
This inscription is made legible by erecting the pedagogical platforms inherent in all scenic articulations—you can always stop and direct the audience’s attention to where you are standing, as an actor on the scene, and thereby bring the audience up onto the scene as well. This is also a breakdown, not into atomic but into mimetic, gestural, elements. You make the thresholds explicit—the theatrical metaphor of the scene itself commemorates the conversion of ritual into theater, and that theater and the arts more generally continue this work in superstructuring over juridical and disciplinary infrastructures—infrastructures, I will hasten to add, that would be inoperative without a constitutive scenic and therefore aesthetic component—the superstructure/infrastructure distinction here is certainly deconstructable, within the historical limits of acknowledging the conversion of ritual into juridical and disciplinary orders (as suggested above, the disciplinary is also a “superstructure” infiltrating the juridical “infrastructure”). The problem is to erect pedagogical platforms displaying the thresholds differentiating and articulating commemorative, juridical and disciplinary and thereby insinuate the emulative economy within the capitalist one. You can only do this work from within the algorithm, by turning the algorithm toward that correlation between centralization and fluctuation in occupancy: to put it simply, the transfer idiom decenters as more consistent forms of centering. Decenter relentlessly—this is a kind of breakdown—but don’t imagine you’re reducing things to some prior state of unmolested rights or autonomy; on the contrary, you’re creating posts from which to direct attention to the center in a way to elicit more actionable imperatives. The transfer idiom translates all of our scenic exchanges into proposals which are invocations which are enactments of this breakdown into idiomatic intelligences. There’s a kind of leap of faith insofar as you are then willing to donate your resentments in the form of data to the center, to become an ostensive center yourself from which imperatives can be derived.
The metalanguage of literacy is the most basic source of reified concepts, concepts of “mind” (itself a reified concept) and human exchanges more generally—the most basic, along with money, so there must be a convergence between the two. The disciplines—whether economics, psychiatry, management or sociology—all rely upon nominalized concepts traceable to the metalanguage of literacy, creating their own disciplinary metalanguages which are assetized as the professions operationalize the human parts who will speculate and provide intelligence on fluctuations in power occupancy. The transfer idiom engages in the work of translating those concepts into modes of literacy that allow data to cross scenes and take on its distinctive idiomatic form in each. Idioms, like currency, can be designed so as facilitate exchanges across distances or more rapidly in localized settings; it can be advanced on credit or paid in cash; it can be spent anonymously or in named and repeated encounters, and any combination of all of these. When we circulate idioms, similarly, we make them to last or to trend; to be repeated authorlessly or to refer back to a single point; to make pledges or call in debts. Always in the name of another increment of deferral, even if in the form of what Philip Rieff called “remissions,” the relaxation of some rigor in the name of affirming it.
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