We need a Unique Selling Point – the management consultants’ favourite thing. We need to offer something the world needs and cannot get elsewhere, if we are to succeed in the modern world. The USP is the quality and integrity of our professional services.
I have spent several months of the last years in court, and want to think through the qualitative strangeness of judges qua capital. They are indeed a strange capital; in each judge the state invests for decades nurturing the latest technological developments in class hatred. This process has natural-historical consequences – traces are left in the extremes of bodily excess and mental poverty. I notice, for example, that judges don’t have lips. I can’t tell how they were removed; more likely they are curled inwards, as the sides of their mouths strain outwards. That effort attempts to provide support for the cheeks – to maintain a semblance of plumpness through taut skin pulled over hard muscle. There is little softness – certainly no passion – only its appearance at a distance, an illusion perpetuated by strain. The foreheads seem to stretch backward while eyebrows furrow in contrary motion. Beneath, eyes are used for pointing. All this straining changes the appearance of aging: skin lacks depth, with the texture of sandpaper but more friable, as if it would disintegrate under your teeth. The skin is always stretched, with a reddish hue: a sign of unjustified, unreasonable health. It is unusual to see health in the old today, particularly amongst those attending court with the misfortune not to be judges. Even where judges are fat, the skin is taut, clinging to them – their faux frais of production are diets and personal trainers. Lips are not required for healthy eating and jogging.
Counterposing this image of health, Walter Benjamin wrote a physiognomy of the Lumpenproletariat in Marseille:
In that little harbour bar, the hashish began to exert its canonical magic […]. It made me into a physiognomist, or at least a contemplator of physiognomies […]. I positively fixed my gaze on the faces that I had around me, some of which were of remarkable coarseness or ugliness. Faces that I would normally have avoided for a twofold reason: I would neither have wished to attract their gaze nor have endured their brutality. […] I now suddenly understood how, to a painter […] ugliness could appear as the true reservoir of beauty – or better, as its treasure chest: a jagged mountain with all the inner gold of beauty gleaming from the wrinkles, glances, features.
The traces of illness give them away: their skin seems covered by a rash printed in regular patterns, like a camouflage of the inorganic. These very people who burst with proofs of exuberant vitality could easily be taken for prepared corpses, […] Underlying the prevalent health is death.
One of the most beautiful passages in Adorno’s book, Mahler: A Musical Physiognomy describes Mahler as a vagrant:
The power of naming is often better protected in kitsch and vulgar music than in a high music that even before the age of radical construction had sacrificed all that to the principle of stylisation. This power is mobilised by Mahler. Free as only one can be who has not himself been entirely swallowed up by culture, in his musical vagrancy he picks up the broken glass by the roadside and holds it up to the sun so that all the colours are refracted.
Perhaps this is all caprice. But a militant poetry of the unnamed, uncounted multitude can never be satisfied with monolithic conceptual accounts of the law and capital, but arises in the objectivity of both law and capital at precisely the moment when that objectivity becomes autonomous of its function – in the traces and spaces, natural-historical textures and refuse it leaves behind, as material, out of which this poetry will compose itself.