08 July 2009

The "Juice"

One of the insights that is the real beginning of wisdom is that rewards do not go to the deserving, in this world at least. The Hollywood megastar is quite possibly a shit actor, and of course the big bands are probably not nearly as good as, say, your own band. Once you realise that the universe does not work that way, you can stop gnashing your teeth about it.

But more pertinently, why do certain creatives get swept along on the path to fame and fortune? Marxist economics is superior to bourgeois economics because the former treats value as a real, tangible thing, intimately related to labour, rather than a totally subjective phenomenon which you can track with superstitious nonsense like "marginal utility functions". One of the basics of Chaos Marxism is that we want a real Marxist cultural/psychological/memetic science, not the obscurantism of po-mo cultural studies or the black alchemy of PR/advertising. So we need to discuss - is artistic value a real thing, like use-value and exchange value are?

Let's toss that "eye of the beholder" stuff out the window immediately. Of course, G. I. Gurdjieff also talked about the concept of "objective art", so that's a clue that we're onto something here. T. S. Eliot - whose stuff I love even though he was an awful reactionary - said that "all great art is impersonal". Let us put it into the language of Chaos Marxism this - "objective art", for us, is art which enables a real psychosocial/memetic current to reveal itself in the Real World of Horrible Jobs. This is totally distinct from "self-expression". Who the hell cares about whatever your emotions are? Unless your emotions are shared by everyone and you've just found a way to put it into words, sounds, images, whatever. Then you're cooking with gas, as they say.

That's not as mystical as it sounds. It's a commonplace that great art and great social movements go together. Beethoven's Fifth and Ninth sum up everything that was grand about the world in which the French Revolution could happen. Similarly, why do you think rock music reached perfection in 1975 (or 1969 if you're an awful hippie?) Because after the mid-70's the social current which it embodied - the radicalised middle-class youth of North America and Europe - ran out of steam, or got bought out. Same with US hip-hop in the early 90's.

It's time we got serious and precise about what we mean by "current". This isn't some kind of metaphor we're working with. It is essential to Chaos Marxism that a "current" in the Crowleyan sense corresponds to real social forces in the real world. And one current (at least) is the version which, if we grab hold on it, leads to the better world to come in which humanity fulfils its destiny and brings itself to an end properly, rather than killing everyone or just bumbling along doing the same crap forever. Humanity is a process that can either finish (when something is lost), conclude (in which nothing will be lost or won), or complete (which will mean a new beginning). Chaos Marxism wants to surf that last mentioned wave.

That triad of terms up there is, like a lot of stuff on this blog, swiped from Robert Fripp and Guitar Craft (aka the Fourth Way applied to the acoustic guitar). Fripp brought about GC because he felt it necessary to combine the Greater Work of evolving the individual personality with a Lesser Work of bringing music into the world. He has made the point repeatedly that, when a huge heavy Current like we've been talking about above hits the world, it will find people to express itself through, and if those people aren't ready for it, tough. They will get burnt the fuck out. Why did all those rock stars die or go massively crazy 1966-71? Fripp says, because their human personalities just couldn't handle it when something big started speaking through them. It is up to the reader to decide whether this is what happened to Aleister Crowley. (Something similar has of course always happened to poets and artists through history - especially the really good ones.)

So - Chaos Marxism's pretensions to a cultural science will be fulfilled when we learn to predict exactly where and when the Current of the Next Era will hit, in not only political but cultural, artistic and even sexual forms. Our Lesser Work is to be able to express it in this world and to help others to express it - our Greater Work is to prepare ourselves so it won't fuck us totally up. This is not idealism. "Currents" do not exist separately from actual physical human consciousness expressed in actions, words and cultural activity. But Marxists who talk about "reformism" (for example) as if it were an actual real thing that needs to have battle done against it should have no problem, in theory, with the concept that the post-capitalist future begins to reveal itself in embryo every time a crack in the system appears, and that we can begin to predict how it will take shape in not only political and economic but cultural form.

The big problem we have to fight against, sadly, is Marxist philistinism - the idea that art and music only matter when making agitprop for whatever the revolutionary cause of the day is. By those standards, Beethoven's Ninth sucked because you couldn't chant it while marching in the Napoleonic Wars.


  1. The "impersonal" stance in regards to great art seems to be an all or nothing (or Objectivist) approach. There is room for great art which may not be the same emotions shared by EVERYONE but maybe by a niche. Art becomes personal at this level and can assist in personal revolution or personal alchemy.

  2. This is of course where the separation between the personal and political comes in. Chaos Marxism has absolutely no opinion on anything you do in your private life, just for the lulz, as psychotherapy, to impress your girlfriend, whatever. What I'm discussing here is the kind of art which changes the world as we know it. And that might not necessarily be "art" in any meaningful sense - eg., the works of Marcel Duchamp or the Sex Pistols.

  3. But just changing one person can bring about global changes.

  4. Interesting idea. Certainly if you infect just one person with the Ebola virus in the middle of a large city you could possibly wreck the whole planet. The question is whether the virus will spread. And that's an objective question.

  5. In a monoculture, given the vector's contact with said monoculture, it should spread like wildfire.