August 2008


Here are the notes to the first chapter of Wendy Brown’s Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire. Because of its similarity with Lefebvre, I am tempted to argue that Brown’s critique of the ubiquitous and vacuous term, tolerance, is a fitting example of a critique of everyday life. These notes outline her argument. In the next few days, I will work on comparing her with Lefebvre, by discussing how the factors Brown attributes to depolicization mirror Lefebvre’s categories outlined in the earlier post of what should be critiqued. I will also try to draw both out into the concrete contemporary examples. I post these notes in hope that they will provide a general framework for discussing important matters and in hope they will encourage people to use these theories to construct their own critiques. Chapter 1 Tolerance as a Discourse of Depoliticization. Brown begins by posing the question “how did tolerance become a beacon of multicultural justice and civic peace at the turn of the twenty-first century?” Following a discussion of how historically anomalous this is, ( ex. The civil rights movement was not concerned with tolerance ) and how tolerance is widely hyped and ambiguously used, Brown introduces her jargon laden hypothesis; “that the semiotically polyvalent, politically promiscuous, and sometimes incoherent use of tolerance in contemporary American life, closely considered and theorized, can be made to reveal important features of our political time and condition” Thus, the central question of the study is…”what kind of political discourse, with what social and political effects, is contemporary tolerance talk in the United States? What readings of the discourses of liberalism, colonialism, and imperialism circulating thru Western democracies can analytical scrutiny of this talk provide? The following chapters aim to track the social and political work of tolerance discourse by comprehending how this discourse constructs and positions liberal and non-liberal subjects, cultures, and regimes; how it figures conflict, stratification, and difference; how it operates normatively; and how its normativity is rendered oblique almost to the point of invisibility.” Brown then introduces her theoretical methodology. She will use Foucault’s political and historical notion of governmentality, which argues that governmentality “organizes the conduct of conduct at a variety of sites and through rationalities not limited to those formally countenanced as political.” This is followed by a discussion of the history of the writing of the book. Originally Brown intended to focus on the domestic discourse of tolerance. But 9/11 and the “War on Terror” led her to expand it to examine the international discourse of tolerance. Her investigation led her to discover affinities between domestic and international forms of tolerance; “Tolerance as a mode of late modern government that iterates that normalcy of the powerful and the deviance of the marginal responds to, links and tames both unruly domestic identities to affinities and non-liberal transnational forces that tacitly or explicitly challenge the universal standing of liberal precepts. Tolerance regulates the presence of the Other both inside and outside the liberal democratic nation-state, and often it forms a circuit between them that legitimates the most illiberal actions of the state by means of a term consummately associated with liberalism. “ 8 Brown then shifts to the next section where she lays out Tolerance as a discourse of power and a practice of governmentality The utilization of her critical and theoretical framework “ aims to comprehend political deployments of tolerance as historically and culturally specific discourses of power with strong rhetorical functions. Above all, it seeks to track the complex involvement of tolerance with power. As a moral-political practice of governmentality, tolerance has signifigant cultural, social, and political effects that exceed it surface operations of reducing conflict or of protecting the weak or the minoritized, and that exceed its formal goals and self-representation. These include contributions to political and civic subject formation and to the articulation of the political, the social, citizenship, justice, the nation and civilization. Tolerance can function as a substitute for or as a supplement to formal liberal equality or liberty; it can also overtly block the pursuit of substinative equality and freedom. At times, tolerance shores up troubled orders of power, repairs state legitimacy, glosses troubled universalisms, and provides cover for imperialism. There are mobilizations of tolerance that do not simply alleviate but rather circulate racism, homophobia, and ethnic hatreds; likewise, there are mobilizations that legitimate racist state violence. Not all deployments of tolerance do all of these things all the time. But the concern of this study is to consider how, when, and why these effects occur as part of the operation of tolerance, rather than to ignore them or treat them as ‘ externalities’ vis-avis tolerance’s main project. 10 With this definition of how the discourse of tolerance stated, Brown moves to discussing Tolerance and/as depoliticization; For her “Depoliticization involves construing inequality, subordination, marginalization, and social conflict, which all require political analysis and political solutions, as a personal and individual on one hand, or as natural, religious, or cultural on the other. Tolerance works along both vectors of depoliticization- it personalizes and it naturalizes or culturalizes- and sometimes it intertwines them. Tolerance as it is commonly used today tends to cast instances of inequality or social injury as matters of individual or group prejudice. And it tends to cast group conflict as rooted in ontologically natural hostility toward essentialized religious, ethnic, or cultural difference. That is, tolerance discourse reduces conflict to an inherent friction among identities and makes religious, ethnic and cultural difference itself an inherent site of conflict, one that calls for and it attenuated by the practice of tolerance. “ further “Depoliticization involves removing a political phenomenon from comprehension of its historical emergence and from a recognition of the powers that produce and contour it. No matter its particular form and mechanics, depoliticization always eschews power and history in the representation of its subject.” Not realizing this leads to essentiaism. Another linked definition of depoliticization is; “that which substitutes emotional and personal vocabularies for political ones in formulating solutions to political problems.” 16 ex when a “justice project is replaced with a therapeutic or behavioural one. However, tolerance is not the only discourse of depoliticization. Here are the others. Please note they are remarkably similar to the catergories Lefebvre outlines as the target for his Critique of Everyday Life! Liberalism: “ The legal and political formailism of liberalism, in which most of what transpires in the spaces designated as cultural, social, economic and private is considered natural or personal ( in any even independent of power and political life), is a profound achievement of depoliticization. Liberalism’s excessive freightining of the individual subject with self-making, agency, and a relentless responsibility for itself also contributes to the personalization of politically contoured conficts and inequalities. These tendencies eliminate from view various norms and social relation- especially those pertaining to capital, race, gender, and sexuality- that construct and position subjects in liberal democracies. In addition, the reduction of freedom to rights, and of equality to equal standing before the law, eliminates from view many sources of subordination, marginalization, and inequality that organize liberal democratic societies and fashion their subjects. Liberal ideology at its most generic, then, always, eshews power and history in its articulation and comprehension of the social and the subject. 17-18 Individualism; “The American cultural emphasis on the importance of individual belief and behaviour, and of individual heroism and failure, is also relentlessly depoliticizing. An identification of belief, attitude, moral fiber, and individual will with the capacity to make world history is the calling cared of the biographical back stories and anecdotes that so often substitute for political analyses and and considerations of power in American political culture ( her ex are demonized welfare mothers, Jessica lynch etc. but we should also include mccain and obama. Just watch the democratic convention and the perpetuation of obama’s biographical narrative) we are awash in the conceits that right attitudes produce justice, that will power and tenacity produce success, and that everything else is, at most, background, context, luck, or accidents of history 18 Market Rationality “The saturization of every feature of social and political life with entrepreneurial and consumer discourse…When every aspect of human relations, human endevour, and human need is is framed in terms of the rational entrepreneur or consumer, then the powers constituve of these relations, endevours and needs vanish from view. As the political rationality of neoliberalism becomes increasingly dominant, its depoliticizing effects combine with those of political liberalism and cultural narratives of the individual to make nearly everything seem a matter of individual agency or will, on the one hand, or fortune or contingency on the other. “ 18 Thus “Tolerance as depoliticizing discourse gains acceptance and legitimacy by being nestled among those other discourses of depoliticization, and it draws on their techniques of analytically disappearing the political and historical constitution of conflicts and subjects….like above factors….tolerance masks its own operation as a discourse of power and a technology of governmentality. Popularly defined as respect for human difference there is no acknowledgement of the norms…no avowal of the means by which certain peoples, nations, practices or utterances get marked as beyond the pale of tolerance, or of the politics of line drawing between the tolerable and the intolerable, the tolerant and the intolerant. 18“ Contemporary culturalization of politics reduces non-liberal political life (including radical identity claims within liberal regimes) to something called culture at the same time that it divests liberal democratic institutions of any association with culture. Within this logic, tolerance is invoked as a liberal democratic principle but for what is named the cultural domain, a domain that comprises all essentialized identities, from sexuality to ethnicity, that produces the problem of difference within contemporary liberalism. Thus, tolerance is invoked as a tool for managing what are construed as (non-liberal because ‘different’ and non-political because ‘essential’) culturalized identity claims or identity clashes. As such, tolerance reiterates the depoliticization of those claims and clashes, at the same time depicting itself as a norm-free tool of liberal governance, a mere means for securing freedom of conscience or (perhaps more apt today) freedom of identity. 24. Culturalization of Politics. “more then being merely ambiguous, tolerance today is often invoked in a manner that equates or conflates non commensurable subjects and practices, including religion, culture, ethnicity, race, and sexual norms. In toleranc talk, ethnicity, race, religion, and culture are especially interchangeable.” 19 ex. A film on terror at the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance conflates religion, ethnicity and race by moving from “islamists” to “racial and ethnic profiling” “Fundamentalism as one name for the post-cold war enemy of the “free world” is assigned a shifting site of emanation that floats across culture, religion state, region and regime.” 19 Brown argues this is a result of the “culturalization of politics” which is “the assumption that every culture has a tangible essence that defines it and then explains politics as a consequences of that essence.” For “This reduction of political motivations and causes to essentialized culture ( where culture refers to an amorphous polyglot of ethnically marked religious and nonreligious beliefs and practices) is mobilized to explain everything from Palestinian suicide bombers to Osama Bin Laden’s world designs, mass death in Rwanda and Sudan, and the failure of democracy to take hold in the immediate aftermath of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq….the culturization of politics analytically vanquishes political economy, sates, history, and international and transnational relations. It eliminates colonialism, capital, caste or class stratification, and external political domination from accounts of political conflict or instability. Instead their culture is summoned up to explain the motives and aspirations leading to certain conflicts (living by the sword, religious fundamentalism, cultures of violence) as well as techniques of weapons deployed (suicide bombing, decapitation)… the West’s cold war reduction of political conflict to ideology has been replaced by its post-cold war reduction of political conflict to culture. But crucially Brown sees an orientalist facet to the culturalization of politics’ “culture is understood to drive Them politically and to lead them to attack our culture, which We are not driven by but which we do cherish and defend.” 20 Thus ironically; “This division into those who are said to be ruled by culture and those who are said to rule themselves but enjoy culture renders culture not simply a dividing line between various peoples or regimes or civilizations, and not simply the explanation of political conflict, but itself the problem for which liberalism is the solution.” 21 This works because of the uniqueness of liberalism. “Liberalism…presumes culture and politics to be fused unless culture is conquered- politically neutered- by the universal, hence noncultural, principles of liberalism” Without liberalism, culture is conceived by liberals as oppressive and dangerous not only because of its disregard for individual rights and liberties and for the rule of law, but also because the inextricability of cultural principles from power, combined with the nonuniversal nature of these principles, renders it devoid of judicial and political accountability. Hence culture must be contained by liberalism, forced into a position in which it makes no political claim and is established as optional for individuals. Rather then a universe of organizing ideas, values, and modes of being together, culture must be shrunk to the status of a house that individuals may enter and exit. Liberalism represents itself as the sole mode of governance that can do this.” 21-22 Ex. Liberal governance imagined to be free of capital and cultural values. Thus human rights is free from stigma of cultural imperialism allowing them to be evoked to protect culture But Liberalism is cultural …..”the theoretical claim here is that both the constructive and repressive powers we call those of culture- the powers that produce and reproduce subjects relations and practices, beliefs and rationalities, and that do so without their express choice or consent- are neither conquered by liberalism nor absent from liberalism. Liberalism is not only itself a cultural form, it also is striated with nonliberal culture wherever it is institutionalized and practiced…it is impure, hybridized, and fused to values, assumptions and practices, unaccounted by it and unaccountable within it. Liberalism involves a contingent, malleable, and protean set of beliefs and practices about being human and being together; about relating to self, others, and world; about doing and not doing; about valuing and not valuing select things. And liberalism is always institutionalized, constitutionalized, and governmentalized in articulation with other cultural norms- those of kinship, race, gender, sexuality, work, politics, leisure and more. This is one reason why liberalism, a protean cultural form, is not analytically synonymous with democracy, a protean political practice of sharing power and governance. The double ruse on which liberalism relies to distinguish itself from culture- on the one hand, casting liberal principles as universal; on the other, juridically privatizing culture- ideologically figures liberalism as untouched by culture and thus as incapable of cultural imperialism. In its self-representation as the sole political doctrine that can harbor culture and religion without being conquered by them, liberalism casts itself as uniquely tolerant of culture from its position above culture. But liberalism is no more above or outside culture than is any other political form, and culture is not always elsewhere from liberalism. Both autonomy and the the universality of liberal principles are myths, crucial to liberalism’s reduction of questions about imperial ambitions or practices to questions about whether forcing others to be free is consonant with liberal principles. “ In sum; “The contemporary culturalization of politics” reduces nonliberal political life (including radical identity claims within liberal regimes) to something called culture at the same time that it divests liberal democratic institutions of any associations with culture. Within this logic, tolerance is invoked as a liberal democratic principle but for what is named the cultural domain, a domain that comprises all essentialized identities, from sexuality to ethnicity, that produce the problem of difference within contemporary liberalism. Thus tolerance is invoked as a tool for managing what are constituted as (non-liberal because “different” and “non-political” because “essential”) culturalized identity claims or identity clashes. As such, tolerance reiterates the depoliticization of those claims and clashes, at the same time depicting itself as a norm-free tool of libral governance, a mere means for securing freedom of conscience or (perhaps more apt today) freedom of identity. “ 24 Brown then unveils the standpoint of her critique; “This book seeks to lay bare this political landscape. It contests the culturalization of politics that tolerance discourse draws from and promulgates, and contests as well the putatively a-cultural nature of liberalism. The normative premise animating this contestation is that a more democratic future involves affirm rather then denying and disavowing liberalism’s cultural facets and its imprint by particular cultures. Sucn an affirmation would undermine liberalism’s claims to unversalism and liberalism’s status as culturally neutral in brokering the tolerable. This erosion, in turn, would challenge the standing of liberal regimes as uniquely, let alone absolutely, tolerant revealing them instead to be self-affirming and Other-rejecting as many other regimes. It would also reveal liberalism’s proximity to and bouts of forthright engagement with fundamentalism. ….this…..makes explicit the inherent hybridity or impurity of every instantiation of liberalism, it underscores the impossibility of any liberalism ever being ‘only liberalism’ and the exent to which both form and content are potted, historical, local, lived. It reveals liberalism as always already being the issue of miscegenation with its fundamentalist Other, as containing the Other within, and thus as having a certain potential for recognizing and connecting with this Other with out. In this possibility may be contained liberalism’s prospects for renewal, even for redemption, or at the very least for more modest and peaceful practices.” 24

Historically speaking, Henri Lefebvre’s three-volume The Critique of Everyday Life was a great influence on the New Left, ’68 and all that. Lefebvre also continues to be an influence on the work of David Harvey, Fredric Jameson etc. Rather then discussing Lefebvre’s historical importance, this summary will outline Lefebvre’s argument and emphasizing The Critique of Everyday Life’s contemporary relevance.
Lefebvre’s premise is that “the only real critique was and remains the Critique of the Left…Because it alone is based on knowledge.” Lefebvre acts on this premise by arguing for a Marxian endevour at odds with the vacuous formalism of the official Stalinist Marxism of his time. Emphasizing the sociological basis of Marx’s thought and the central importance of Marx’s concepts of alienation, fetishism and mystification, Lefebvre’s argues these categories should by used to critique everyday life.
These extended quotations demonstrate how Lefebvre conceptualizes and formulates the critique of everyday life.

“We need to think about what is happening around us, within us, each and everyday. We live on familiar terms with people in our own family, our own milieu, our own class. This constant impression of familiarity makes us think that we know them, that their outlines are defined for us, and that they see themselves as having those same outlines. We define them. and we judge them. We can identify with them or exclude them from our world. But the familiar is not the necessarily known. “ 14-15

“For us, in our society, with the forms of exchange and the division of labour which govern it, there is no social relation- relation with the other-without a certain alienation. And each individual exists socially only by and within his alienation, just as he can only be for himself within and by his deprivation (his private consciousness.) 15-16

“To sum up, work, leisure, family life and private life make up a whole which we can call a ‘global structure’ or ‘totality’ on condition that we emphasize its historical, shifting, transitory nature. If we consider the critique of everyday life as an aspect of a concrete sociology we can envisage a vast enquiry which will look at professional life and leisure activities in terms of their many-sided interactions. Our particular concern will be to extract what is living, new, positive—the worthwhile needs and fulfilments- from the negative elements; the alienations.” 42

“so to reach reality we must indeed tear away the veil, that veil which is forever being born and reborn of everyday life, and which masks everyday life along with its deepest and loftiest ambitions” 57

“The true critique of everyday life will have as its prime objective the separation between the human (real and possible) and bourgeois decadence, and will imply a rehabilitation of everyday life. 127

To undertake this Critique of everyday life, Lefebvre articulates how the critical knowledge contained in six Marxian categories can be utilized as a “beacon” in the critique of everyday life. These six categories are still issues of utmost importance in contemporary theory. They are of contemporary relevance and share striking affinities with Wendy Brown’s contemporary work Tolerating Aversion. Following my posting of notes on Brown’s work, I will compare Lefebvre and Brown and discuss why they are remarkably relevant and important.

A) Critique of Individuality.  (Central theme; the ‘private’ consciousness’)
“And nowadays we are still struggling with this deep- in other words everyday-contradiction: what makes each of us a human being also turns that human being into something inhuman. More biological than truly human, this organization  ( i.e. capitalism ) smothers the individual, dividing him and stunting his development at the very moment it is striving to create him as a human individual….How can this organization be superseded? By practical and theoretical participation in work and in the knowledge of work, in the social and human totality. If the world is to be transformed, this is one of the fundamental problems…we must supersede the “private consciousness.” 150

B) Critique of Mystifications (central theme: the ‘mystified consciousness)

“the private consciousness and the mystified consciousness go hand in hand, reinforcing each other and becoming increasingly  entrenched as a result of instabilities which have their origins in real life and not in pure ideas” 153

C) Critique of Money ( central theme: fetishism and economic alienation)

“Although deprivation and alienation are different for the proletarian and the non-proletarian, one thing unites them; money, the human being’s alienated essence. This alienation is constant, i.e. practical and everyday.” 161

D) Critique of Needs (Central theme; psychological and moral alienation)

Consumpton does not satisfy a need.  Nor do the needs the culture industry creates.

E) Critique of Work ( Central theme: the alienation of the worker and of man)

“Analysis must therefore distinguish between the real ‘human world’ on the one hand, the totality of human works and their reciprocal action upon man, and, on the other, the unreality of alienation.

But this unreality appears to be infinitely more real then anything authentically human. And this appearance contributes to alienation; its becomes real, and as a result a great abstract ‘idea’ or a certain form of the State seems infinitely more important than a humble, everyday feeling or a work born of man’s hands. “ 169

F) Critique of Freedom (Central theme; man’s power over nature and over his own nature)

The Marxist definition of freedom is concrete and dialectical. The realm of freedom is established progressively by ‘The development of human powers as an end in itself)…it is won progressively by social man. For Power, or, more exactly, the sum total of powers which constitute freedom belong to human beings grouped together in society, and not to the isolated individual….in the realm of necessity, human needs become degraded…they just keep on working, and their lives are spent just staying alive. This, in a nutshell, has been the philosophy of everyday life—and still is.
Freedom needs;

(a)    “the associated producers must…govern the human metabolism with nature in a rational way, bringing it under their collective control instead of being dominated by it as a blind power.”
(b)    The material and moral parameters of practical (everyday) life, which are determined by private property, must be transformed.
(c)     Through activities devoted to satisfying and controlling immediate necessities, there must be a growth in the sphere of  ‘the true realm of freedom, the development of human powers, as an end in itself, [which] begins beyond it, though it can only flourish with this realm of necessity as its basis.’ This sphere, this ‘spiritual’ domain of man, consists in the first place in a social and rational organization of free leisure. As Marx asserts in Capital; ‘ the reduction of the working day is the basic requisite.’

This utilization of Marx results in Lefebvre’s programmatic sketch for a critique of everyday life;

(A)    It will involve a methodological confrontation of so-called ‘modern’ life on the one hand, with the past, and on the other- and above all- with the possible, so that points or sectors where a ‘ decadence’ or a withdrawal from life have occurred- the points of backwardness in terms of what is possible- the points where new forms are appearing, rich in possibilities can be determined.
(B)    Studied from this point of view, human reality appears as an opposition and ‘contrast’ between a certain number of terms; everyday life and festival- mass movements and exceptional movements- triviality and splendour- seriousness and play- reality and dreams, etc.
The critique of everyday life involves and investigation of the exact relations between these terms. It implies criticism of the trivial by the exceptional- but at the same time criticism of the exceptional by the trivial, of the ‘elite’ by the mass- of festival, dreams, art and poetry, by reality.

©   Equally, the critique of everyday life implies a confrontation of effective human reality with its ‘expressions’; moral doctrines, psychology, philosophy, religion, literature.
From this point of view, religion is nothing but a direct, immediate, negative, destructive, incessant and skilful criticism of life- skilful enough even to give itself the appearance of not being what it really is.
Philosophy was an indirect criticism of everyday life by an external (metaphysical) ‘truth.’ It is now appropriate to examine the philosophy of the past from this perspective—and that is the task facing ‘today’s’ philosopher. To study philosophy as an indirect crticism of life is to perceive (everyday) life as I direct critique of philosophy

(d)    The relations between groups and individuals in everyday life interact in a manner which in part escapes the specialized sciences. By a process of abstraction these sciences infer certain relations, certain essential aspects, from the extraordinary complexities of human reality. But have they completed this task? It seems that once the relations identitifed by history, political economy or biology have been extracted from human reality, a kind of enormous, shapeless, ill-defined mass remains. This is the murky background from which known relations and superior activities (scientific, political, aesthetic) are picked out.
It is this ‘human raw material’ that the study of everyday life takes as its proper object. It studies it both in itself and in its relation with the differentiated superior form that it underpins. In this way it will help to grasp the ‘total content’ of consciousness; this will be its contribution towards the attempt to achieve unity, totality—the realization of total man.
Going beyond the emotional attempt by philanthropists and sentimental (petty-bourgeois) humanists to ‘magnify’ humble gestures, and beyond that allegedly superior irony which has systematically devalued life, seeing it merely as back-stage activity or comic relief in a tragedy, the critique of everyday life- critical and positive- must clear the way for a genuine humanism, for a humanism which believes in the human because it knows it.” 251-252

The great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish has passed.  Edward Said argued that the predicament of the Palestinian people is a universal crime, which Darwish’s great poetry captures, making us all witnesses.

From Today’s Guardian;

None of us really thought he’d die. Our loss is great, we tell each other. In our minds we think of
Edward Said, of Haider Abdel-Shafi, of Faisal Husseini, and even – yes – of Yasser Arafat. The “big men” of Palestine. And now, Mahmoud Darwish.

I Come From There by Mahmoud Darwish
I come from there and I have memories
Born as mortals are, I have a mother
And a house with many windows,
I have brothers, friends,
And a prison cell with a cold window.
Mine is the wave, snatched by sea-gulls,
I have my own view,
And an extra blade of grass.
Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words,
And the bounty of birds,
And the immortal olive tree.
I walked this land before the swords
Turned its living body into a laden table.

I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother
When the sky weeps for her mother.
And I weep to make myself known
To a returning cloud.
I learnt all the words worthy of the court of blood
So that I could break the rule.
I learnt all the words and broke them up
To make a single word: Homeland…..

Unbelievable,

“There’s an NPR report on the situation in Georgia
and it tells us, among other things, that tonight
the cell phone network of Georgia is virtually out
and that Georgian television is playing that nasty
1984 John Milius movie called RED DAWN”

but fitting, if you read about the USa’s involvement in the escalating war between Russia and Georgia aka what might be the new cold war;

For more info i recommend Lenin.

New Group blog I post on. Like Long Sunday, but also Punk.

What fascinates me about the latest news in evolutionary biology, is not that scientists have discounted one theory that explains the Neanderthal’s extinction, but one of the remaining leading hypotheses.

What The Guardian explains; ” Theories of what drove the Neanderthals to extinction range from an inability to adapt to a quickly changing environment, to genocide by early humans. ”

The Independent elaborates;

“Professor Chris Stringer, head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London, believes that the long period of separation – and genetic isolation – between the Neanderthals and early modern humans meant that profound physical and mental differences had evolved between them.”The question then is whether, when the populations met, they regarded each other as simply people, enemies, aliens or even prey,” he said. “We simply don’t know the answer, and the answer may have varied from one time and place to another, especially given the vagaries of human behaviour.”

We may never know what happened when modern humans came to live in the same space inhabited by the Neanderthals. They may simply have avoided one another, with Neanderthals retreating to their last stronghold in Europe – a cave system in Gibraltar where the most recent Neanderthal bones have been found.

Or the two species might have engaged in the sort of brutal conflict that has been the hallmark of human history throughout time.

What Interests me here is the assumptions that mediate the “genocide” hypothesis. Stringer implies that there is not enough empirical evidence to answer the extinction question. This allows the assumptions that frame the empiricism to stand on their own. While Stringer is tentative to make any general assertions, the unnamed advocates of the “genocide hypothesis” are not. For them human nature, from its origin in primordial history,  must be seen as inherently murderous. Human history then, rather then culminating in the genocidal 20th century, is a continuous eruption of genocide.

Critical theory would move against the genocidal hypothesis by attacking the mediating assumptions. Scanty evidence, or any empirical evidence for the matter, is framed by our immanent discourse. The genocidal hypothesis, then, is not historical. Instead it reveals the genocidal impulse that is immanent to our culture. An impulse enacted by our society, and the encounter with “the other” is reflected in “human nature” as self-preservation.

While the later is certainly true, should the “genocidal hypothesis” be proven, it will have enormous philosophical repercussions. It will also serve as yet another reminder that the time to leave what Marx calls the realm of necessity, is long overdue;

The realm of freedom actually begins only where labour which is determined by necessity and mundane considerations ceases; thus in the very nature of things it lies beyond the sphere of actual material production. Just as the savage must wrestle with Nature to satisfy his wants, to maintain and reproduce life, so must civilized man, and he must do so in all social formations and under all possible modes of production. With his development this realm of physical necessity expands as a result of his wants; but, at the same time, the forces of production which satisfy these wants also increase. Freedom in this field can only consist in socialized man, the associated producers, rationally regulating their interchange with Nature, bringing it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by the blind forces of Nature; and achieving this with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most favourable to, and worthy of, their human nature. But it nonetheless still remains a realm of necessity. Beyond it begins that development of human energy which is an end in itself, the true realm of freedom, which, however, can blossom forth only with the realm of necessity as its basis. The shortening of the working day is its basic prerequisite. (Marx Capital Vol III, 820)