The system must be oriented to openness de novo.

Peter Sloterdijk

We fence our encounters in with gates.

Erving Goffman

Form, in the narrow sense, is nothing more than the boundary against another form.

Wassily Kandinsky

It's the side-effects that save us.

Graceless, The National

Photograph from the Teshima Art Museum on Seto Sea depicts an oval opening in a concrete ceiling, revealing a cloudy sky and a hint of forest
Teshima Museum, Seto Sea

House Pets

I have in my recent work taken up the contours of "the official world" the shape of a world that comes to itself by shaping, staging, and reporting its own conditions.1 Certainly, the institution of the visiting lecture circuit (the origin of this piece) is part of that self-reporting and self-persuasive mode of life. So too the rotating repetition of courses, in turn, cycling from term to term; and the professional cycles of exchange: conferences, special issues like this one, ego-technic media ("social" media), etc. that, in turn, encompass that. These practices form part of what the American microsociologist of our modern interaction rituals, Erving Goffman, called "our indoor social life." No doubt we are a species that does well with indoor and intramural (enwalled) conditions: a self-domesticated and a self-enclosing species. Even "if you want to travel in outer space," as the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk observes, "you must bring your own environment." And this applies both to the spaceship and to spaceship earth and its encradling atmosphere. In short, the "king of the house pets" is the human being.2

There is, of course, a very long history of these processes of self-domestication: the ascetic training principles that is, the ascesis, or system of ongoing, repeating practices by which "human beings are to be formed into human beings."3 Exercise machines: systemic forms of circuit training. One might almost say that this very long history of asceticism is in effect history: the pursuit of "natural principles of production in artificial contexts."4 It enters into, for example, the drive of what early twentieth-century Soviet experimenters, in remaking or reforming or redesigning human beings, called "anthropotechnics": an art with humans. That in turn opens to view the great achievement of the bourgeois half-millennium as "the consolidation of the world into a great artificial system" what has been called "the world interior of capital."

Yet, one might speak, more exactly, of the emergence, from the early eighteenth century on, of the epoch of social systems: not one great system, but a multiplicity of practice zones, zoned micro-worlds; not a world system but a world of systems adjacent, rival, and discrete. These are zones at once synonymous similar in form, yet autonomous relative to each other. (Paradigmatic zones and precincts that I've elsewhere described as isotopias.) Recall that autonomy is self-legislation: a law onto itself. This is a matter now of "Affinity in Autonomy" to borrow Sony's recent branding of a "robotics envisioning a life with us."5 In short, it will be seen, side by side but discrete mechanisms of self-amplification. (Consider, for example, the adjacent but distinct zones of the department store, or departmentalized university.) Or, "synonyms of civilization," to borrow the description that Henry James presciently, and with an "ache of envy," in The American Scene (1907) proposed to denote these self-denoting spheres of life.6

Distinct yet synonymous, these self-conditioned and autogenic operations make up in concert, for James, the staging arenas of the emergent "American rotary system" of production. The proliferating systems-form was instanced, for James, above all, in "the amazing hotel world": its reenacted and choreographed routines and incorporated discretion, via what James presents as the master-spirits of management. Intimate, rotating, and demarcated operating systems. In short, synced forms, it will emerge, of a generalized and ecumenical circuit training.

Discrete but self-similar, these isotopias are epitomized in the branching installation of franchised and theme-park micro-worlds.7 Hence, "We have branches everywhere." As the novelist Ling Ma puts it in Severance, the effect is "a collision of brand worlds."8 Or, to borrow on Sayaka Murata's recent novel Convenience Store Woman, the "world of the convenience store" is an archipelago of "pristine aquariums . . . operating like clockwork. . . . Although each is different, taken all together I sometimes have the feeling they are but one single creature."9

Love in the Time of Systems

I begin with enclosure acts not to sponsor indoor over what might then, inversely if not perversely, be called an outdoor social life. (Not least in these quarantined times.) I do so, in part, to intimate the limitations of nominalizations such as "the outside" or "the open." In part, to begin reworking the character of such antinomies or ambivalences: to clarify how such two-sided forms (e.g., indoor/outdoor, closed/open) operate and continue to do so, ongoingly lifting action from action. The structural fate, or achievement, of modern societies is functional, or, increasingly, segmental differentiation. The consequences of modernity, as Niklas Luhmann traces, make for, in the systems epoch, a way of living in and with complexity and contingency, and so with an endemic expectation of expectations. In consequence, a modern society is unremittingly delivered up to itself, and to a wall-to-wall self-conditioning: to a self-realization via an incessant staging of, and reporting on, its own conditions. That includes the doubling of everyday reality with rise of the realist novel, and its aftermath. It includes, that is, art forms (here, novels and movies) that make the world appear in the world, and so constitutes itself (and, it will be seen, reconstitutes art and intimacy as social systems).

What this looks like will be filled in step by step in what follows, across a range of scenes, literary and visual arts, and epochal cultural techniques. My focus is on the situation of the artwork, in particular the art of the novel and (briefly) the motion picture on the art system among other competing, yet comparable, social systems. More precisely, I will be concerned with the strange liaison between the segmental differention of the social field in the systems epoch and its side-effects. These side-effects include the encoding, and critique, of narrative reason.

My focus here is not primarily with the advent of this liaison, and its coupled plotlines the love story and the story of self-improvement. (Ambivalent bedfellows from the start: at the starting line, for example, Pamela and its "apology," Shamela.) The focus instead will be on its aftermath: the critique of narrative reason, of story itself, and a decoupling of the success media framing love and improvement stories. But it may be useful to briefly set it out how the emergent systems epoch and love story solicited each other, and so meet and fuse.

The theorist of social systems, Niklas Luhmann, has mapped this newly-zoned terrain in detail. Luhmann retraces the early-eighteenth century "codification of intimacy" in the form of "love as passion," and, centrally, how "the impassioning of love goes hand in hand with increasing societal complexity," and with zoning of the social field into adjacent but discrete precincts:

In the literary tradition this reflexivity of loving is not registered or legitimated until modern times and in its fullest sense not until after the start of the eighteenth century. Its emergence rests on the nascent stirrings of that structural change involving differentiation, specification and mobilization. It becomes possible only after these preconditions have been established, if not in the institutional sphere, then at least in notions of love. . . .Given the considerable complexity of its environment, love can no longer give consideration to other functions, which themselves have to become more specifically, more abstractly, more efficiently institutionalized.The traditional congruence between love and society, indeed love and humanity, and the functional-diffuse merging of love with law and love with utility as found in and passed down from the world of Greek ideas - has to be stopped in its tracks. In this way love is disemburdened of all the external functions it carried with it especially functions related to propping up morality and law, political domination and the balancing of economic needs.10

In response to "an excessively complex and contingent world," the need is to secure meaning, in a novel and cross-purposed situation that makes apparent that things could be, or will become, different. The response in part consists in a turn to fictions that may serve as manuals of self-stylization, and so guide the way to life-style subjects. In this way, one finds oneself expected in a world of competing expectations, and can place oneself in the view of the other as the person one endeavors to be in a proximate world "specifically personalized."11

That unburdening of the contingencies of societal diversions means that communicative intimacy is secured in an already-understoodness. In sum, the codification of intimacy in the form of love as passion and the form of the novel as conjugal love plot encounter and sponsor each other. Hence love, like art, achieves a successful overestimation of its autonomy and self-distinction, in response to social complexity. Enisled from the clamor of competing communciations, an exchange of sweet nothings will do.

The love story and its aftermath then. The novels and essays of the contemporary novelist Rachel Cusk will provide something of a throughput here. I focus on Cusk, and, particularly, on the three novels that make up the Outline Trilogy, for several interlaced reasons. Cusk's acerbic novels outline and stage a critique of narrative reason. That's premised on the undoing of the "codification of intimacy" as the love-marriage story that anchored the rise of the novel. Or, as she simply puts in the nonfiction work Aftermath (about the aftermath of her marriage), "lately I have come to hate stories."12 That hatred of stories is a disowning too of what she calls "the story of improvement" (that is, Bildung) and its success media. That is, the self-realization story that is the apparent counter, but in fact, counterpart, or other side, of the love story. Third, and finally, there's what we might describe as Cusk's aesthetics of the aftermath  the aftermath of narrative reason and its codified love and improvement plots.

That aftermath story consists in tracing, descriptively and formally, what Cusk calls the "systems and strategies" that cluster in the wake of narrative reason and its disassemblage. It takes form in the variant modes of outlinetransit, and kudos (the titles of the trilogy). The modes that make up, hidden or exposed, the infrastructure of the novel. These consist in a a series of circular detours and reversals; a recurrent running in circles; cycling courses that include writing courses; and a chronic repeated repeating. These transits without improvement predicate not a story of improvement, or of intimate relation, but sketches of diurnal rounds. That encompasses turnstile motions; stairways real and imaginary; revolving doors; and so on: the array of latent or visible operations that systemically repeat and return on themselves.

These are, it will be seen, shifting and two-sided forms: the contingent systems and strategies that enter into the novels that form Cusk's trilogy, and index a world that outlines and depicts itself as it goes and so goes on. Hence that self-reference and self-staging, in the novel, model the self-distinction or autonomy of the novel. Yet, in a world in which reflexivity is the simple produce of the common day, self-reflection is not self-exemption. This leads thinking in a circle, by leading art back to the expression, and staging, of its own conditions, If the artwork makes the world appear in the world, this is the form game of art as a social system, in a world of systems.

It may be useful, then, to trace the contours of those elusive and dubious entities called systems (not least in that the systems-concept has a bad reputation implying or conjuring coercion, closure, or violence). It may be useful to set out the ironic manner in which the artwork provides the very model and paradigm of social systems. And, centrally, to outline (as Cusk does) the ways in which the critique of narrative reason makes for an array of micro-systems. It opens to view what might be called exercise machines: work and work-out exercises, mechanical and spiritual, that have strayed from the factory floor to the gym floor; anthropotechnics, in the new spirit of the world interior of capitalism, criss-crossing social precincts of work and play. Its model, I mean to suggest, is the self-reflexive autonomy of the art system itself.

But first, a sidebar precaution, about the term that nominally centers this cluster, ambivalence. It's tempting to place "ambivalence," alongside other fill-in-the-blank terms like "form," "openness' "the outside," or even "ambiguity," and so among the nearly one-word arguments that have proliferated in the current so-called "method wars" disciplinary self-reviews that model "how to brand and re-brand themselves" in order "to elaborate and frame regenerative strategies."13 In effect, a convenience-store model of Bildung.

The choice today seems to be between "our indoor social life" (Goffman) or the call of the outside, "the Great Outdoors" (Meillassoux).14 A turn inside or outside, indoor or outdoor. Yet, these are two sided forms, each contingent on bounded and defined by the other. As Erving Goffman expresses it, "We fence our encounters in with gates."15This is a poetics of form as the boundary against another form. It is at once an enclosure and an encounter: a fencing in, but with gates. And gates, it may be necessary to add, both open and close. That is to understand ambivalence as a practical aspect of contingency, and to acknowledge-- borrowing S. Pearl Brilmyer's adept way of putting it the "ontology of the incident."16 It is, too, to understand the contingent and structural disposition of systems as usual: "Structures exist only when they are used," and so realize themselves.17

"One Side is Not a Side": Giving Openness a Makeover

One of the paradoxes that mark the autonomy zones I've sketched is that zones are spaces of transit. Social systems are scored and animated by the stimulating allure, or slack, of the not-yet completed. In real nature, as Michel Serres puts it, "no system is ever closed."18 A word on systems may then be useful here, in order to interdict a misapprehension about the form of the social system, and to indicate the intrinsically paradoxical character of "open systems."

The point not to be missed is that systems are necessarily "oriented to openness de novo."19 Systems accord with themselves in order to operate, and, so, to recur; and systems only exist in the present of their real operations, ongoingly blueprinting and reinstating themselves as they go on. The first rule of systems is, "Make a distinction!" (George Spencer-Brown). The second, "First of all, repeat." (Niklas Luhmann).20 The possibility of unoccurence, to borrow China Miéville's way of putting it, is unremitting and intrinsic to these operations. Reenactment, and operational closure, depend paradoxically on the orientation to the exterior: to its specific environment, ceaselessly, from moment to moment. The contingency, even fragility, of the system means that it depends on what depends on it. Hence, this is not an opposition open and closed, but a two-sided form that presupposes and depends on the other side.21

Here is David Wellbery's concise exposition:

Systems, in fact, arise when they draw a distinction, a boundary between themselves and their environment: when their operations establish a limit that distinguishes between what is proper to the system itself from the milieu within which the system operates. Systems emerge as autonomous operative concatenations that extend themselves by continuously redrawing the distinction between internal operations and external events. Moreover, just as systems are relative to a particular environment, so environments are relative to systems. There is no single, all-inclusive environment, and no single, all-embracing viewpoint from which such a total environment might be described. The environment is a different one according to the system-reference with respect to which it is observed.22

A matter then, as Niklas Luhmann expresses it, of paying attention to distinctions; and, so, "paying attention to forms." Paying attention to forms is a matter of distinctions: "the concept of form . . . indicates a two-sided distinction. . . . One must get used to this concept. Being two-sided, a form presupposes the simultaneous presence of both sides. One side, taken by itself, is not a side."23 As Rachel Cusk notes tracing the systemic practices that shape how persons shape themselves this is a "reminder" that "division is also an aspect of unification."24 That means getting used to the unity of the distinction.

It has been argued that contingency is the Midas touch of modernity. The condition, or spectre, of otherwise. Modern societies consist in the paradoxical reality of "open systems": systems that meet and interpret surprises, and in which imbalance and novelty may then function as a condition of stability, and, crucially, innovation. Relative autonomy (that is, autonomy in relation) and formal contingency are thus arranged like the two sides of a horseshoe opposed on part of their surface but joined on another. On this account, "one must formulate the closure and openness of systems not as an opposition but as a relationship of conditioning . . . closure functions as the basis of openness." Hence the "theory of operationally closed systems does not . . . revoke the concept of openness": it gives openness, and so ambivalence, a makeover.25

The Artwork as Paradigm of Modern Society

The art of the novel acts as a sort of tracer of the installation, on countless platforms, of the systems epoch. There is something of a return to narrative and narrative reason today, as an antidote to critique. This occurs at the same time that, as Diedrich Diederichsen concisely puts it, "No one really trusts narrative anymore."26 Or, as Cusk has it, she wants not more of "the willful, self-constructing logic of narrative." A return to story, on one side, and, on the other, a critique of narrative reason: hence co-sponsoring what amounts to a generalized "living in the loop."27

This brings us, albeit by a circuitous route, to the situation of the artwork in the systems epoch, and exposes the ironic nature of that situation. Reconsider our indoor social life, its self-conditioned zones precincts of a zone-forming world. Consider how that begins to make visible a torsion in the recent turn, or return, to "form," and its autonomous character. You no doubt passed through many of these form zones on your curriculum vitae (course of life) today or, at least, when such things were daily. Driving and parking, or encased in the transit system, perhaps stopping at one of the archipelagos of standardized caffeination zones, entering the university campus, its ensemble of parking-garages, the division, the department, the office, the lecture room. Precincts of outlined and sheltered life, and a repeatable movement through a series of distinct, but communicative installations; transit lines and training islands, and their correlative boundaries.

The second nature of this zoned or intramural life becomes visible in the mutation, and rebranding, of form and genre in self-reporting disciplines today. Take, for example, the adjudicatory, if often unformed, appeal to form in literary studies. Here we might recall, as the artist Wassily Kandinsky succinctly put it, that "form, in the narrowest sense, is nothing more than the boundary against another form."28 There is, along much the same lines, a return to genre. Yet genre, or genre-tagging, function today less as revivals of deep literary time (recall Bakhtin's sense of that) than as meme parks of a functionally differentiated, or segmented, and self-staging world. That makes for the sensation, and sense, of moving through an installation, or, better, moving through a series of installations: reenactment zones, revolving episodes, a repeatedly repeating world and impelled by its rebranding imperatives. These sites are generic, then, conditioned by the marketing sense of the term. Or, as the novelist Kazuo Ishiguro asks: "Is it possible that what we think of as genre boundaries are things that have been invented fairly recently by the publishing industry?"29 Form and genre, boundary-dependent, cellular, and autonymic, today reinstate themselves as they go and so epitomize, and overtly reenact, the self-insistent enclaves of the systems epoch.30 As David Shields concisely puts it, in Reality Hunger: "Genre is a minimum security prison."31

This opens to view the interestingly paradoxical situation of the work of art in the epoch of social systems. It installs the artwork among the multiple self-referential, self-conditioned, and self-framed zones of the world interior of capital: our indoor social life and its threshold logics. It's not hard to see that the emancipation of form and the predicate of autonomy have emerged today as marking the distinction, and self-distinction, of the artwork. But here the paradox emerges: the paradox of art as one among manifold self-framed and self-reflexive social systems.

How are we to understand the form and autonomy of the artwork amidst the self-conditioned form zones of modern society? Not least, alongside the relative autonomies that affinity in autonomy which distinguish modern conditions of complexity, contingency, and attention to form? On this account, the form and autonomy of the artwork appear not as self-exception, or self-exemption, but, rather, as prototypical. The artwork appears as paradigm in the root sense of the term: to display side by side.

On a systems-theoretical view, this is to describe art as a distinct social system that is, collaterally, paradigmatic of modern social systems. "The art system," as Luhmann delineates in detail, "realizes society in its own realm as an exemplary case. It shows things as they are. It demonstrates what society entered into when it began to differentiate individual functional systems and abandoned these systems to autonomous self-regulation."32 Hence the work of art in the epoch of social systems epitomizes the self-framed social forms it frames. Crucially, this self-persuasive, and paradigmatic, form leaves it to the art system itself "to determine its own boundaries . . . In self-description, the system becomes its own theme; it claims its own identity."33 That dependence on self-description marks the art system, albeit via the form of a question mark: from Tolstoy's What is Art? to Danto's What Art Is. The crisis-identity of modern art is then bound to the transitional reality of social systems as at once uncommonly self-reflexive and utterly commonplace.

It's necessary to fill in these abstractions without leaving them behind: to indicate some of the aesthetic consequences of this systems-irony and hence some ways to understand the structural fate of art as the model of modern society it may critique. Hence it's necessary to proceed in filling in these matters one step at a time. At times, literarily step by step. Step-machines, escalators, enclosed stairways, doorways, thresholds, and related ego-technic media and social techniques of the human in training, real and imaginary. These are, in concert, working models of our transit zones. They appear as icon and operation opening and closing operations. Their continuous reassemblage provides and outlines the conditions for the continuous rotation of the elements of an self-induced world: the world interior of capital.

Yet here again it's necessary to understand division as an aspect of unification and to read a distinction as a connection. Or, to adopt Sloterdijk's way of expressing it, to recognize that "We are in an outside that carries inner worlds."34 That the "world interior of capital" is an "artificial continent in the ocean of poverty."35 Or, to adopt Cusk's, "a kind of linked separateness."36 A transitional syndrome.

Transitional Syndromes

A world where falling in love requires marrying is a world where novels require reading from beginning to end.

Sōseki Natsume, Kusamakura [Grass Pillow] 1906

I struggle to suspend my disbelief, but in what? What is there left to disbelieve in?

Rachel Cusk, Coventry

In an outside. Rachel Cusk's recent writings novels and essays posit, I've suggested, an unremitting dissociation of narrative reason, and of story-seduction as a sort of "shared trance." More exactly, that work occupies the aftermath of that self-entrancement. These plotless stories of separation and recurrence explicitly tie the aftermath of story to the suspension of the marriage plot. The novels retrace, that is, the stenciled afterlife of love-as-passion, and of the codification of intimacy as a social system, as they are encoded, and circulated, in the rise of the novel.37 Collaterally, it suspends the plot of self-improvement: the novel of Bildung and world-realization via self-realization.38 Yet these codes occupy a sort of narrative afterlife and persist after the prerequisites and conditions that gave rise to them have lapsed. This persistence resembles the suspended period of "injury time" that prolongs the soccer game after the time on the clock has officially expired.

For the moment, my focus is on the schema of the three novels that make up the Outline Trilogy: Outline, Transit, Kudos. That is, on the self-exposition of the "systems and strategies"39 and the self-enterprises40 that outline, or silhouette-in-person, states of transition and division. Tracking shots of abrupted life, private and professional, they continuously recycle its opening and closing acts. To the extent that there is a plot, sequence, or notional continuity, in the Outline series, it is carried by the rotary circuit of the novelist on perpetual book tour. Work-ethical and self-promotional book-tourism is the motor of these transits, and the occasion of its virtuous and vicious circles. "It was good to see me here on the circuit [the writer said] at least I was keeping in the game. He ought to go and circulate" (Kudos 122).

Cusk's work, in short, localizes and outlines the working and training zones, professional stations, the transits and diurnal rounds; the self-turned enterprises of the systems epoch; and their cyclical reinstatement. These locales and transits are here ordinary but estranged. They are estranged not via the exoticisms of alien and distant futures. They are the disenchanted linkages to familiar, but divorced, presents.41 If we know that narrative reason and the story of marriage are fused from the start of the novel form, we know that they break up together too. In its wake, the divorce novels that delineate precincts of systemic reenactment. The novels posit a generalized serialism: "it is like a circuit which exchanges, corrects, selects, and sends us off again": a bare outline of a first-person narrator who "records rather than reacts...a method of report."42This is a seriality silhouetted in person (Outline). A ceaseless and systemic transition, running along a circular track (Transit). A circuit training that shapes, and keeps in shape, self-persuasive and work-ethical practices: writing courses, book-tours, lecture-circuits, roundtables: staged and framed episodes of self-recognition, and referred self-congratulation (Kudos).43

The serial recording of domestic and professional states takes on the form of a disinhibition training, and a severe reprogramming of moods. Suspended in isolation between possibilities, these are first-person novels without a first-person: a profile in recession, and a subject discredited as a subject, defined by an external clamor of self-regard; by the "corrosion of truth by point of view"; and aversion to what Roland Barthes described as "the density of our narcissism."44 The design is to suspend what Cusk presents as "the willful, self-constructing logic of narrative." Or, as Cusk observes of the remarkable fiction of Natalia Ginzburg, the intent is "to show something happened but not to someone."45 To show, at times, what China Miéville describes as the "dispassionate observer from some austere alternative."46

The departure from the logic of the Bildungsroman (and its shotgun marriage of love and self-improvement plots) could not be clearer. But the irony of the critique of narrative reason is a stalling, or indefinite suspension, in afterwardnessThe novel stages, as it were, the cancelled or reprogrammed Bildungsroman of a social world that has discovered the secret of its own construction, and discovered at the same time the ineffectual character of any attempt to deconstruct it.47 This is the afterward syndrome of the character who is as the novelist Osamu Dazai traces in The Setting Sun  "the victim of a transition."48

In Cusk's work, indoor/outdoor states are repeatedly staged, but staged as transitional or gateway forms: operations that often explicitly turn on the opening and closing or revolving of doors. A look at these doorway operations may provide a way to reconsider openness-allure a romance of the outside and the open road in the systems epoch.49 It may clarify too the attention to two-sided, bilateral, forms I've outlined. Doorway and gateway operations realize the self-persuasive form of a generalized circuit training, exercise machines, and ego-technic media today. This consists in the exercises and misexercises of a world that, again, continuously reports on and works out its self-conditioned, and self-perpetuating disposition. There are countless examples of such ascetic and personal training routines and their everyday adaptations: work and work-out practices; elliptical and step machines; staircases, real and (it will be seen) imaginary; book and lecture tours; and other revolving doors including revolving doors, premised on and making visible an architecture of ambivalence.

Gateway Logics

So, notes on doors. For one thing, "doors and door sills are not only formal attributes of Western architecture, they are also architectural media that function as cultural techniques because they operate the primordial difference of architecture that between inside and outside. At the same time they reflect this difference and thereby establish a system comprised of opening and closing operations."50

Consider these passages from the second installment, Transit, in Cusk's Outline Trilogy. The latent infrastructure of these passages involves doors: inside or outside, open or closed, sliding or revolving. These objects become media in the turn-over of these distinctions: intimate systems that, in process, install the operations they enact. The first stage, or staging area, is an ordinary hair salon: but, in this context, an anthropotechnic art-with-humans shop and showcase:

"The thing is," he said, that kind of life [endless partying] is basically repetitive. It doesn't get you anywhere, and it isn't meant to, because what it represents is freedom...." I said I wasn't sure: when people freed themselves they usually forced change on everyone else . . . Next door to us Sammy was running her fingers through the boy's dark, unruly hair. . . . "it's a bit like a revolving door," Dale said. "You're not inside and you're not outside. You can stay in it for as long as you like, and as long as you're doing that you can call yourself free."51

Freedom, transit, repetition; getting somewhere and going nowhere: this is a running free that appears as a freedom to run in circles, or along a circular track. Here the elements of repetition and freedom are "next door" to each other, and "a bit like a revolving door."

A little later, this door logic, and the metaphor of the revolving door, is reenacted, as symbolic machine one that intervenes as a presence, in the real, or diegetic, world of the novel:

With strange, lunging movements, the boy strode away from the chair towards the big glass door. His mother got to her feet, the book still in her hand, and watched as he yanked the door open and the black rainy street with its hissing traffic was revealed. He had pulled the handle so forcefully that the door continued to revolve all the way around on its hinges after he had let it go. It travelled further and further, until finally it collided heavily with the tiers of glass shelving. . . . The boy stood frozen in the open doorway, his face lit up, his cropped hair as if standing on end, and watched as the bank of shelves disgorged a landslide of bottles and jars which fell and rolled with a great thundering sound out across the salon floor, and then collapsed in a tremendous cascade of breaking glass. (Transit, 81)

In the background, then, a little boy getting a haircut in a salon, as his mother reads a novel. That, in effect, collates two versions of self-shaping arts, as a barely-noted back story (even if you at the moment have a book in hand. And, if you've ever submitted a small child to a first haircut, you'll recall the sheer panic at this abruptly civilizing process felt on the body. Hence the thoughtfulness of first-haircut parties.) In the foreground the door: the glass door, the open door; and the "open doorway"; and the big glass door revolving and traveling on its own. An unmoving, frozen person in the mobile doorway, such that the live property of movement is transferred, traumatically, from person to apparatus. It is as if a figure of speech ("like a revolving door") enacts itself in the world, before our very eyes, in the form of a cascading kinetic expressionism.

Yet, this a familiar scenario, one performed on innumerable stages from the mid-19th century on: stilled person and self-moving machine, in a glass-walled, or windowed, crystal world. That scene routinely appears as a "complex of rotating movements that maintain themselves on their own power," one that serves as a self-supporting argument for the process itself.52 A microworld turned disastrous, as acceleration overtakes intention, and systemic side-effects overtake effects. The disaster is upscaled and naturalized to enfold landslides and cascades, thundering and crashing: it is scaled up to a worldview. Operative and representational functions meet and fuse, via a surplus mobility, multiplying the effects of effects.

A theater of side-effects, this is a nearly autotropic world: one that displays the peculiar self-propagating properties, and self-generative sequels, of the system it realizes. Here, a door continues to travel and to rotate, and so to lift action from action on its own. The glassed salon scene is a scale and working model then: a sort of objectified thought experiment. It is one of the ubiquitous crystal worlds, and self-design studios, distributed across contemporary indoor social life, sites that make over nature and culture as indoor affairs. This self-staging micro-world is of necessity always patrolling the dikes of made culture, and, in doing so, managing the catastrophes their construction itself sets in motion.

It is a world of glass cells, stationary carousels, revolving actions. These are common places that install a little diorama of the systems epoch a self-turned, if unhinged, world. In short, an autotropic system, enacting, with cybernetic irony, its self-undoing. One might see, too, in this hyperbolic upscaling of the body shop and its shattered crystal world its storms and landslides the contemporary irony of an accelerant process: one setting in motion self-reflexive natural catastrophes, and a planned world beset by unplanned ecologies of ignorance. Blindly self-intended, the scenario is a thought experiment as thinking catastrophe.53

The revolving door realizes a kinetic reality.54 It is one of the emergent cultural techniques of the epoch of social systems, and its mobilization drives, taking-off from the mid-nineteenth century on. It is an invention that captures the spirit of the times and sets it in glass, metal, and cylindrical motion round trips and circuit training. An invention that may be worth defamiliarizing then.

Image of several revolving doors with indistinct human figures passing through

The revolving door and here I rely on Bernhard Siegert's incisive account was invented in 1888: four panes of glass within a revolving cylinder. This rotating capsule and the sliding door newly-popularized (in the West) at the same time appear in transit zones: department stores, luxury hotels, express trains, ocean liners. It functions in an architecture which is, as Georg Simmel observed, "subject to the dictates of transit rather than the rules of dwelling."

"In contrast to the 'mute' closedness of the nonarticulated wall . . . the closed door is both closed and the sign of this closedness." The door emphasizes the unity of the division between inside and outside, closed and open, since "it shapes the possibility of closure against the backdrop of the possibility of opening and keeps virtually present both possibilities."55 This is the shaped possibility that Cusk outlines instancing another mobile, and autonymic, metal and glass enclosure on "the open road," the automobile as, again, "a kind of linked separateness."56

The revolving door, then, undoes the functional status of the door as a board set in a wall. There, one is either inside or outside: the door either open or closed. The closed conventional door is, when closed, simply more wall. The glass revolving door, see-through and self-enclosing at once, is a mobile zone, in a world that more and more consists of gated, transparent, and transitory microworlds. The glassed-in revolving door is a moving installation in a crystalizing world one marked by an astonishing and proliferating array of transit systems, and what Sloterdijk calls "infinite mobilization."

It instances the cybernetic logic of the circuit-switch, open to communication only when it is closed. Here, one is not on one side of the door or the other: one is in the door, and "walks through a door that is permanently closed." "Always closed" was the advertising slogan for the first revolving door.57 A theoretical machine, the revolving door instances a systems logic. Neither open nor closed, it enacts the oscillating distinction between system and environment; open and closed are regional states of a recursive cycle. ("We are in an outside that carries inner worlds" akin to the irony of the self-designated "open-plan" office: the open planned.) In short, the revolving door is a comprehension of the systems epoch in thought and act. It stages and solicits a universalizing circuit training.58

The Story of Improvement: Or, How to "Make the Fact of Oneself Too Important"59

I used to think life was like a book: you turn the first page, and there's the next, and as you go on turning page after page, eventually you reach the last one. But life is nothing like a story in a book. There may be words, and the pages may be numbered, but there is no plot. There may be an ending, but there is no end.

Yu Miri, Tokyo Ueno Station

It stages too the pedagogical situation of the novel in the systems epoch. It restages, for example, how circuit training and the novel-form, in Cusk's trilogy, each indicate the other. In doing so, the novel scans the semantic vocation of the Bildungsroman, after its plot of improvement and self-escalation its gateway and pathway functions has been officially abandoned.60 Recall, for a moment, the latent details, in the scene of the crashing revolving door, "the book still in her hand"; or, just previously, the book that, like a child, "lay open across her knees." Recall too that the core genre of the novel as Bildung is the entrancing story of self-realization as world realization. For Cusk, we have seen, this is a "shared trance" that confers the triumphant title of "the subject." (The "self-constructing logic" of narrative reason.) Or, as Cusk puts it in her essay, "Coventry," her critique is not exactly directed at "the failure of narrative but its surpassing, not silence but peace." The intent, in part, is to surpass the "corrosive" rhetoric of fiction that allocates narrative to point of view, and point of view to the grammatical "person" first, second, or, alleged, third. (That something happened, but not to someone.) To sever narrative from self-improvement. To retract the presumption that it's "as if living were merely an act of reading to find out what happens next" (Transit, 197).61

A good deal more might be said about such a retraction. The self-constructing logic of narrative sponsors self-enterprise (a neon autogenesis what Hegel called a "rage of self-conceit"). Or, ironically, its self-cancellation: the irony of being a subject discredited as a subject flickers in and out of self-reflection today. On one side, in literary studies, a "virtuosic" self-absorption a "too close" reading, and a turning, as in ego-technic media, from presentation to self-presentation and auto-innovation (as auto-criticism imitates auto-fiction in the mode of professional disinhibition exercises). On the other, there's a turn to its austere alternative  ontology and object envy. This makes for a shuttling between self-inflation and self-elimination (between the pole of reflection and the pole of the thing). A bit like a revolving door.

Here the logic of circuit training and its structural ambivalence come into view. Consider, again, what this circuit looks like in the Outline Trilogy. Less trilogy than series, Outline lifts episode out of episode.This is an indifferent transit without the planned openness to self-curved growth, the Bildung or self-actualization (narrative reason).62 The core novelistic concept of the person is, put simply, "a tool whose power lies in its insistence on using its own understanding to change itself."63 The round character keeps coming round to herself, reinstating the self-grounding and self-propelling conception of Bildung. On this view, the novelistic subject is that over-burdened tool given to world-derivation via self-insistence. It is the mill of itself. The novel of the open road and the self-curved future inhabits the logic of progression and improvement  self-improvement in the complex sense given to the term in later eighteenth-century fiction and political economy. Cusk, in Outline, makes this as explicit as possible albeit in the process of its annulment:

That improvement itself is perhaps a mere personal fantasy . . . We are all addicted to it, he said, removing a single mussel from its shell with his trembling fingers and putting it in his mouth, the story of improvement, to the extent that it has commandeered our deepest sense of reality. It has even infected the novel, though perhaps now the novel is infecting us back again, so that we expect of our lives what we've come to expect of our books; but this sense of life as a progression is something I want no more of. (Outline 99).

"Infecting us back again." This is a looping effect that draws effects from effects, and, as they say, repurposes them, in a transit without progression. The great expectations expected of the novel the expectation of expectations that we expect, above all, from its core genre, the love story are evoked to be revoked. If the pathos of the systems theoretician is repetition, the pathos of the serial novel is a repeated repeating, incrementalism without progress.64 Hence this little overly-graphic vignette of a trembling shelling and feeding: removing a single mussel from its shell with his trembling fingers and putting it in his mouth (as if literalizing feedback: how autogenic systems burn themselves to fuel themselves). Here progression as work-ethic explicitly runs along a circular track: "I've been on tour with my book" (103).

Running Around in Circles

That's by now familiar enough. But we can take it a step further. In Cusk's work, the annulment of novel-as-love-plot is, correlatively, a suspension of the corrosion of truth by point of view: "She looks out of the window of her apartment at the women running in the park, always running, and she asks herself whether they are running towards something or away from it. If she looks long enough she sees that they are simply running around in circles" (Outline 114). Such a look out the window in her apartment is not a point of view, "if she looks long enough." This is not merely a prolonged look. It marks a shifting to another and second-order way of seeing. The observation of repetition or self-persuasive forms makes visible how "systems and strategies" retrace their own outline just as the rotations of a planetary system become observable in the delineation of motions that recur and return upon themselves. The turn to a second order of vision makes it possible for these discrete motions to take perceptible form as a social medium. In this case, circuit training as success media, and its self-enterprise zones.

Here is a rapid sampling of what that looks like in the novel. I sample them with a basic hesitation. Repetitions, and differences in repetition, mark Cusk's aftermath-narrative at every step, and step by step. Hence any instance understates generality as exception. It is, system and strategy, a matter of something that happens and happens again, but not to someone. That models the simplest interaction, and its contingent, two-sided character. As Erving Goffman expresses it: "What minimal model of the actor is needed if we are to wind him up, stick him in amongst his fellows, and have an orderly traffic of behavior emerge? . . . Not, then, men [persons] and their moments. Rather, moments and their men [persons]."65 The actor emerges from the incident, such that the ambivalences of interaction are primary.

Here are some moments, in Outline, of departicularized recurrence, and Cusk's outline of laws of form. There is "no particular story attached to them . . . no sequence of events . . . because it was leading to the next thing and the next" (123). "I reminded him of the directions in reverse that he was to follow afterwards" (151). "The same principle could work in reverse" (159)."He approached the project with a reverse kind of fatalism" (161). The outline concept too is a "reverse kind of exposition" (239), the detail filled in around it, while the shape itself emerged and at the same time remained blank. "You could spend your whole life, she said, trying to trace events back to your own mistakes" (187). And so on, and on.

Retracing here is a matter of rotation or reversing, indoor and outdoor, opening and closing operation, phases of transitionCusk makes this as explicit as possible, reminding us that systemic repetition is the most basic comic device. In this case, making a distinction is staged as low comedy. Here is the description of the meeting of the visiting author/narrator's creative writing class: "The students were discussing whether the windows should be open or shut. There was also the question whether the door should be open or closed . . . lights on or off . . . or closed down . . . It was decided that windows should be opened but the door shut" (131).

The same discussion recurs, it seems, at the opening of every session of the itinerant workshop, as if it were an expository precondition of the creative writing seminar on tour. It dress-rehearses literary-professional and personal training exercises, and misexercises. We are here in the orbit of what is restaged in innumerable, seemingly harmless, theory survey courses; spin classes; and other fitness regimens. The final volume of the trilogy names authorial success media in its title  Kudos: professional self-congratulation, and celebrity in one's prestige zone. It stages its victory laps, pyrrhic as they are. (The revolving door is, among other things, the dark side of a career.) So, now I ask you to turn more directly to these personal training regimens, and exercise machines. To self-stressing as self-escalation, and circuit training as a step program.

The Imaginary Staircase [1]

I have of late, taken to taking exercise. To those who may sneer at me saying, "What sauce, a mere cat taking exercise indeed!" I would like to address you with the few following words. It was not until recently that human beings, previously content to regard eating and sleeping as their only purposes in life, began to grasp the point of taking exercise. (Sōseki Natsume, I am a Cat)

The defining motivation of the modern era, he said, whether consciously or not, is the pursuit of freedom from strictures or hardships of any kind. "What is history other than memory without pain?" he said, smiling pleasantly and folding his small white hands together on the table in front of him. "If people want to recapture some of those hardships, these days they go to the gym." (Cusk, Kudos)

Consider another symbolic machine of the systems epoch. This one involves not the lateral turn of the revolving door, but a vertical rotation. It enacts self-disemburdenment as upward mobility via the kinesthetics of the escalator. In this case, the climbing apparatus called the step machine; or, what Cusk renames, in Outline, "the imaginary staircase":

On his first visit to the gym he saw a beautiful girl exercising on a machine while at the same time reading from a large book of philosophy that lay open on a stand in front of her, and he could hardly believe his own eyes. He discovered that all the machines in that gym had bookstands. This machine was called a step machine. And it simulated the action of walking upstairs: from then on he always used it, and always with a book in front of him. . . . Over the course of the year he must have ascended miles' worth of stairs while remaining in one place, and that was the image he had internalised, not just of the girl but of the imaginary staircase itself, and of himself forever climbing it with a book dangling just in front of him like a carrot in front of a donkey. Climbing that staircase was the work he had to do to separate himself from the place from which he had come . . . I just want that feeling of being in sync again, body and mind, do you know what I mean? As he spoke I saw the imaginary staircase rising in front of him once more, stretching out of sight; and him climbing it, with a book suspended tantalisingly ahead of him.(38)

The coupling of the book to a self-shaping disposition. The book of philosophy braces self-escalation, recast as social climbing.66 With the ironic discovery, Cusk observes that "the imaginary staircase went down, it seemed, as well as up" (41). One might add to that, as Cusk does, in the final volume of the trilogy, another training device that fuses philosophy to self-stress, and aligns self-emburdening to its self-reporting: the smart-watch. The narrator assessing another touring celebrity novelist, and avid exerciser calls it "the Nietzschean gimmick on his wrist." The device, the narrator continues, taking no prisoners, was a sort of pseudonym: "it made a part of himself the part that always seemed fated to the repetition of certain patterns invisible." The writer is a self-made man, the sort that "lived in a prison of his own making" (119). That is to say, Bildung as gimmick.

"Were 'In the Penal Colony' to be written today," Mark Greif notes in passing, "Kafka could only be speaking of an exercise machine. . . . modern exercise makes you acknowledge the machine operating inside yourself." 67 But there's more to it than that. The coupling of the exercise practices and the philosophy book has, of course, a very long history, as does the body-machine complex, and its read-outs. The story of improvement collates Bildung and exercise machines: the human in training is recalibrated to the rise of the planet of the professionals.68 This makes for a reprogramming of disciplinary moods. It makes for a reformatting of social desires and symbolic techniques of self-actualization. That's re-reflected in the logic of the writing program and the reform of the novel. Generalizing a self-emburdening, hypnotized by repetition, this is a work-out routine designed to lift oneself from oneself for oneself.

Soul Cycling

Selfless Self-Devotion

No doubt this is routine enough. But familiarity in these cases breeds not contempt but repetition. That's not least as the work ethics of California capitalism and its mirrored stages: what has been described as a Buddhism for self-boosters and other decidedly nonmeditative types.69

One might say, then, that the imaginary staircase on the gym floor is a realized abstraction, installed and in motion: the Weberian work ethic in pure form, redesigned for self-designers. Weber, we recall, in his lecture, Wissenschaft als Beruf (roughly, Knowledge as Vocation) described the academic-professional vocation in terms of a systemic blindness to all that is outside its zone of activity. In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Weber traced the general and ultimate outcome of blindly internalized work routines: its ultimate refinement, purely and simply, and whatever its particular ends, in "the irrational sense of having one's job well."70 Hence there is a programmatic transfer of spiritualism into professionalism and back again: a transformation of vertical mobility to upward mobility. My own fitness center (the Equinox chain) has as its current motto  Commit to Something.71 That is, an open-ended commitment to a closed circuit: Commit to Self-Commitment. It posits training as embodied tautology: a stationary carousel, a running around in circles, revenues in the root sense. In doing so, "it lends the capitalist interior its flair for openness to anything that money can buy."72

The Imaginary Staircase [2]

There is, however, another side to this world interior and its interrogation. (Or, in Luhmannese, there is the other side of the other side.). In closing, please consider an alternative, and captivating, version of the imaginary staircase. This staircase stages a self-disemburdening to other ends, renovating, perhaps, the exercise of a lifting of one's own weight as a way of lifting a weight, or a hardship, off oneself. Here I ask you first to view the official trailer from the South Korean independent director Hong Sang-soo's recent film, Grass.

Still from Hong Sang-soo's film Grass, shows a person sitting on a porch, shot from inside and up a flight of stairs.

Now return, for a moment, to the passage in Cusk in which the narrator looks out the window of the apartment at the women running outside in the open air, inside the park. Reconsider how, in this interchange of interior and exterior states, the outline of these movements, the form of the circuit, emerges "if she looks long enough." She sees that they are "simply running around in circles." The self-instating circuit, the running of systems, becomes visible and legible, such that a turnabout takes place. It is a turn to how we live in and with circular networks (and the recurring habits of our lives), ambiently recasting them. It show how circuits may operate and reenact, as a mode and model of self-amplification, to rival ends.

The trailer stages the reworking, or conversion, of an ordinary staircase into an imaginary one. It realizes a recalibration of moods, and habits of renewal, in repetition. This is not a repeated repeating (say, minding the machine or workout machines: the self-enclosing nautilus cocoons, on the gym floor that, by design, resembles an older, industrial factory floor). Nor is it a program or project of self-escalation: the stairway goes down as well as up.

The metanoia, or conversion, has a distinct architecture. It issues tentatively from behind the closed, but transparent glass wall; through the opened glass door; at the foot of the indoor stairs. Via a transitioning of inside and outside views, interior states are seen and communicate meaning. That takes form in a repeating that changes each time: a repeating practice that discloses intention, or becomes intentional, as it goes on. In this way, in the film, an action is transformed, for just a moment or for a series of moments, into its own experience.

The character thus becomes a kind of viewer. She does not act without seeing herself act, and we see that. In short, one views a repeating that, in its oscillation, step by step, moment to moment, stabilizes oneself in oneself. That disemburdens an indifference in time, and opens to view what practice merits repetition, or what is unworthy of it. This is a difference in repetitions that emerges as it is reenacted and merges with it, recast by the existence of alternatives. The distinction is realized by the step into a second step, in real time. It shows the ongoing, incremental conversion ofindecisiveness to decision, albeit a decision to repeat. It stages, in effect, a critique of what Bourdieu called "the habitus," and Foucault the "little tactics of the habitat." It enacts the conversion of a sheer habit a socialized compulsion to repetition to a possibility of a transformation, or turning around, via repetition.73

Metanoia, or conversion, is, of course, the decision to turn around. Such exercise practices mean "repeating a pattern in such a way that its execution improves being's disposition toward the next repetition."74 A renovated sense of "improves," in a disposition to repeat: that suspends narrative reason as progress, and the sense of life as a story. In doing so it expands the radius of an action. Hence the critique of repetition: the possibility that the human being, divesting stories of improvement and neopersonalist narratives of self-enterprise, may, in practice, realize a "point of difference between repetitions."75

This version of the imaginary staircase makes visible a contingency in the comportment of systems, and a transition premised on seeing and acting out one side and the other. Not the endless treadmill of "the pursuit of happiness" "a carrot in front of a donkey," but, instead, a momentary happiness in the paradoxical form of what Alexander Kluge calls a "self-regulating inventiveness."76 If the first is bound to what Thorstein Veblen called "chronic dissatisfaction," the second, via enacted ambivalence, invents and shows in the step and on the face, a vivid happiness for the time being. And, as we know, in films we don't take faces at face value. So I want to end by saying a bit more about this paradoxical state and its implications.

To this point I have all but omitted the most obvious fact about the imaginary staircase in the Grass trailer: that it involves a repeating movement staged for, and viewed in, a motion picture. That the conversion of states takes place in the medium of motion pictures makes it possible to reconsider how that artwork sculpts matters.77 It provides its own commentary on the relays between the human-in-training and its observation, in a world that ceaselessly comes to itself by framing and reviewing its changing condition, a conditions as insistent and fleeting as the frames of a film on the screen.

Here, you might rewind, and look and see, first, the window, or glass wall, and the woman seen seated outside, and turned away from view; then, the opened door; the indoor stairway, shot from above; and the viewed human face. These shifting viewpoints, outdoor/indoor transfers, interact as presences, and manifest a linked separateness. The film shows and reports "everything that can be looked at by a look that creates it. What the movies show is the creation of a world by gazing at it. This look at the world is, of course, included in the world it creates."78

The circuit of looking and looks, this alternation of outer and inner states, is, above all, captured in what Georg Simmel, writing at the advent of the movies, called "the aesthetic significance of the face."79 That significance shows, as Dirk Baecker traces, "how important the human face is when the shot switches back and forth from staging action to staging experience. The human face acts like the report of the previous scene and the command of the next one, never quite understanding what it reports or knowing what it commands. There is no better way to turn a situation into its experience than to shoot a face experiencing it . . . the registration and revelation of reality make a difference to reality. It becomes a different reality consisting of itself plus its registration and revelation."80 The oscillation between act and of experience, registered on and revealed by the face, installs the self-persuasive, yet transient, reality of motion pictures.

The film Grass stages a viewed, denoted, and reviewed world. The premise: A listening woman, seated at the window of a cafe, in front of the computer screen. She is typing on the keyboard, seeming to record what she overhears and oversees and so, to borrow Erving Goffman's way of putting it, "informing on reception" while it is occurring.81 Conversely, she is projecting out there, into the interactive and talkative world, what she writes and scripts. The drama of its own composition becomes real in its observation.

The film title, Grass, refers to Whitman's Leaves of Grass (the shorter title that of a popular Korean translation of Whitman's text). Hong's film On the Beach at Night Alone borrows another of Whitman's titles. It may then be that the appeal to Grass is a tacit summons of the commonplace, and the commons. That it may invite the question that serves as the refrain of a song in On the Beach at Night Alone: "Do you live happily?"

An allusion is not an argument but it may imply one. The trailer appears in the film Grass as something of a cut-scene, a scene without ostensible narrative context and distinct in form from the episodic series of encounters, or misencounters, that make up the film. It therefore intimates its status as commentary. The viewer of the filmed scene of the imaginary staircase sees a procession of moods, via a transit of looks. The repeated decision to repeat makes an alterity in repeating: it turns habit toward a dictate to change, and, here, the exercise circuit to a turn for the better. This is not the serial repeating, the blind running in circles, or on stairmasters, that solicit Cusk's or Hong's critiques of narrative reason, and the situation of lifestyle subjects.82 These are the subjects shaped by self-enhancement industries (not least, the actors who play actors, writers, and artists who populate these scenes, in Cusk's novels or Hong's films). This second imaginary staircase, in Grass, departs from that. The viewer of the filmed scene of the imaginary staircase sees, shaped step by step, a transfer of moods. ("Do you live happily?")

That's realized in shared observation and self-observation, and that solicits a common reality.

In short, art makes the world appear in the world. In doing so, art makes perception available to communication.83 Film, as medium, installs that as its ostensible premise. Perception and communication, registration and revelation, indicate each other, via a circuit of looks.

We can take this another step further. The scene of the imaginary staircase involves an altered and self-altering state. Instancing film, and its transient, shifting realities, Alexander Kluge proposes the notion of a "precision of rough ideas." One advantage of the precision of rough ideas is that it solicits working paradoxes in this case, the aesthetic paradox of inventive self-regulation.84 It may be clear by now how this may instance a systems as usual: and even what Sloterdijk channeling Luhmann quasi-ironically describes as "the fundamental innocentism" of those suspicious entities called systems.85 The theoretical reality of systems, to adapt Marx's terms, "achieves practical truth as an abstraction only as a category of the most modern society."86

That's to suggest the intrinsically paradoxical form of the epoch of social systems, its suspended states, its syndromes, and its aftermaths the bearers, or victims, of a transition. It suggests too a subtler language than a presumption of better living through ambiguity or a standoff between form and critique (twin postures of recent literary studies). It requires an attentiveness to distinctions that turns the heat of such polarities down to room temperature. It requires an attention to division as an aspect of unification, and to distinction as a connection. This scene of the imaginary staircase shows and frames a self-curved world: a world realized, step by step, in the inflections of its habitual practices. It thus shows a reality in suspense. The actor, anchored to ambivalence, communicates, from moment to moment, the intimation of a transition. The film does not resolve this ambivalence. It stages it. In this way, a common world of observers becomes observable, actual, and alterable, and enters into the tally of reality.

A set of stone stairs at a shrine
Hiroshi Sugimoto Shrine (reinvented) [Naoshima, Seto Sea]

Mark Seltzer is Evan Frankel Professor of Literature and Distinguished Professor of English at UCLA.  His most recent book is The Official World  (Duke University Press, 2016). The current piece is part of a larger, comparative study of the situation of the work of art in the epoch of social systems. 


  1. My subtitle, "the critique of narrative reason," in part invokes the work of Peter Sloterdijk, and its critique of mimetic machines. The ironic manner in which narrative-sans-critique has returned in a range of recent post-critical postures is also part of the story about story that I take up here, and in the larger study from which this piece is drawn. Crucial here, for me, it will be seen here and there, the (counter) example of the very belated emergence, in Japan, of the novel as literature; that provides an extraordinary exposition of the critique of narrative reason (and exorcism of "the rhetoric of fiction" in terms of "person.") The writing, poetic, fictional and theoretical, of Natsume Sōseki, is here exemplary. See my "Transit Zones: The Novel in the Epoch of Social Systems," in The Journal of Keio American Studies, 2020 Inaugural Issue; and "The Extinction of Genre" (forthcoming), which outlines how the extinction of genre (in Bakhtin's sense) is the emergence of the genre-system. Channeling Sayaka Murata, this is the emergence of the literary convenience store. I briefly touch on such stress-tests of "the novel" in what follows. Finally: in the long gestation of this cluster, second thoughts have been seconded (or, superceded). My large gratitude to Michael Dango and Tina Post, who gathered this cluster, during these scattered times, with a sustained acuity and patience, incisiveness and kindness.[]
  2. Peter Sloterdijk, What Happened in the 20th Century (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2018), 26. []
  3. Peter Sloterdijk In the World Interior of Capital (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013), 1-20. []
  4. Sloterdijk, What Happened in the 20th Century, 20. []
  5. Sony, "Affinity in Autonomy." It may be useful to recall that the Althusserian concept of relative autonomy does not mean "relatively autonomous." It refers to zones autonomous relative to each other, autonomy in relation. If this feels abstract or foreign, think of the division of courses, fields, departments, and divisions, schools administrative zones in the most open place in the world, the sheltering climate, and official world, of the university: an indoors universe. []
  6. Henry James, The American Scene (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1968), 104. []
  7. The notion of "synonyms of civilization" reads then backwards and forwards. What James calls "hotel-civilization" is a civilization premised on the synonymy it generates: a world that comes to itself in enacting its own premises. This achieved form is the "positively an aesthetic ideal" that elicits James's envy: a realized aesthetic ideal, installed in the world, in the pristine culture of capitalism and so (it will be seen) puts in crisis the artwork that serves as its paradigm. []
  8. Ling Ma, Severance (New York: Picador, 2018)focuses on a world of offices, and on what Jane Hu calls "the office at the end of the world." Hu, "The Office at the End of the World," The New Republic, October 12, 2018. []
  9. As Murata puts it, in Convenience Store Woman (New York: Grove Press, 2018), this is an "artificial scene of paper models": the convenience-store world of consists of "brightly lit boxes," such that model and reality alternately indicate each other. One might think here too, for example, of the artist Thomas Demand's paper model worlds On isotopias, and on James's account of the hotel world as expressive of a "complete scheme of life" and "aesthetic ideal," and on Demand's model dioramas and their implications, see my The Official World (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2016), 17-19, 86-87. []
  10. Niklas Luhmann, Love: A Sketch (Cambridge: Polity, 2010), 28. []
  11. See Ibid., 4, 14, 54. []
  12. Rachel Cusk, Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), 3. []
  13. See McCarthy's Satin Island (New York: Knopf, 2015), 15. It may then be useful to demilitarize the self-promotional rhetoric of method wars often a war of names; and so to demobilize the playground of conflicts, or pseudo-conflicts, that sponsor it. A side-effect, it has been suggested, of innumerable literary theory survey courses. Such routines, irreducible to the charisma of routinization, sponsor the multiple choice outlook of a point-of-view culture. []
  14. Meillassoux's le Grand Dehors. For Meillassoux, of course, the appeal is not to openness, but to "the open," outside everything. After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency (Continuum, 2010) []
  15. Goffman, Encounters: Two Studies in the Sociology of Interactions (Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill, 1961), 77-78.[]
  16. See Brilmyer, The Science of CharacterHuman Objecthood and the Ends of Victorian Realism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2022). Speaking a bit loosely, one might even say the attempt isto disambiguate the better living through ambiguity that continues to allure literary studies. The recent entry of the term disambiguation, from philosophy and computer science into literary studies, may signal a new attentiveness to the systemic function of two-sided operations, and the probative force of distinctions. See, on this, Nan Z. Da's incisive "Disambiguation, a Tragedy," n+1 38 (2020). []
  17. Luhmann, Introduction to Systems Theory, trans. Peter Gilgen(Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012), 244. Structures are, of course, a matter of expectations: systemic expectations of possible actions, and repeatable repertoires. []
  18. See See Vera Bühlmann, Mathematics and Information in the Philosophy of Michel Serres (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020), xvi. []
  19. Sloterdijk, What Happened in the Twentieth Century? (Polity Press, 2018), 103. []
  20. George Spencer-Brown, Laws of Form (New York: E. P. Dutton, [1969] 1979); Luhmann, Introduction to Systems Theory, 74. []
  21. This is what systems theorists take up as "the paradox of form" or "the form game." See Dirk Baecker, ed., Problems of Form, trans. Michael Irmscher, with Leah Edwards (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999). See particularly the essays by Niklas Luhmann, "The Paradox of Form," and Baecker, "The Form Game." See also Luhmann's Theories of Distinction: Redescribing the Descriptions of Modernity, ed. William Rasch (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002). A core text for systems theory is the mathematician George Spencer-Brown's Laws of Form (1969). []
  22. David Wellbery, "Systems," in Critical Terms for Media Studies, ed. W.J.T. Mitchell and Mark B.N. Hansen. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 298. Luhmann sets out the paradoxical interrelationship of system and environment in these terms: "Now one can say: a system is the difference between system and environment. You will see that this formulation, which sounds paradoxical and perhaps even is paradoxical, needs some explanations. I thus begin with the claim that a system is difference the difference between system and environment. In this formulation the term 'system' occurs twice." Luhmann, Introduction to Systems Theory, 44. []
  23. Luhmann, Art as a Social System, trans. Eva Knodt (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000), 65. Luhmann's account indicates how distinction solicits attention: attention not merely to the other side, but to "the other side of the other side." That's where "bleon encounters a contingency that was invisible." For an astute, and playful, presentation of what this looks like and how it works, see Jay Jin, "Playing Between Systems Theory, Affect, and Imitation in the Reality TV Show Terrace House.ASAP/Journal 5, no.2 (2020): 375-400. []
  24. Cusk, AftermathOn Marriage and Separation (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019), Kindle loc. 58. A reminder even to ask, as Dirk Baecker does: "What do we do when we read 'and.'" Baecker, "Working the Form: George Spencer-Brown and the Mark of Distinction," Mousse Magazine, Supplement Settimana Basileia, June 14, 2015.. []
  25. Luhmann, Social Systems, trans. John Bednarz Jr. (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1995), 219; and Introduction to Systems Theory, 27-29 []
  26. Diedrich Diederichsen, "Living in the Loop," Filip 14 (Summer 2011).  []
  27. In Cusk's case, I will be suggesting, this is the aftermath of narrative reason and of the marriage plot both: divorced states that replay in reverse the rise the novel as Bildung and Romance. []
  28. Kandinsky, cited in Luhmann, Art as a Social System, 27. []
  29. "Let's talk about genre: Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro in conversation," New Statesman, June 4, 2015. []
  30. See my "The Novel in the Epoch of Social Systems: Or, 'Maps of the World in Its Becoming,.'" European Journal of American Studies. 12, no. 3 (2017). []
  31. David Shields, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto (New York, Vintage, 2011), 70. Or, think, for example, of Colson Whitehead's zombie-genre novel Zone One, and its straggler repeaters, enclosed, for example, in copy-machine offices; or Gillian Flynn's crime-genre reenactor novel Gone Girl. Genre reenactments are outlined zones of a repeated repeating. Such feedback loops are literalized in zombie stories (and, for example, Ling Ma's story of the zoned office world, Severance.) After all, cannibalism is, in these stories, simply feedback feedback with a human, or nearly human, face. Or, as Tom McCarthy put it, in an interview: "Zombiedom is just reenactment without content." Clodagh Kinsella, "The Radical Ambiguity of Tom McCarthy," Dossier, July 25, 2009. []
  32. Luhmann, Art as a Social System, 309. That account does not define the form and autonomy of the artwork; it indicates why "form" and "autonomy" are not adequate as self-definition--or state of exception of the work of art. []
  33. Ibid., 244, 248. []
  34. Sloterdijk, Bubbles: Spheres I, trans. Wieland Hoban (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2011), 27 []
  35. Sloterdijk, In the World Interior of Capital, 196. []
  36. Cusk, "Driving as Metaphor," Coventry: Essays (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019), 15. []
  37. The pertinent references here, on this account, are to Niklas Luhmann's Love as PassionThe Codification of Intimacy (Cambridge: Polity, 2014), and his Love: A Sketch (Cambridge: Polity, 2010). []
  38. Cusk's autobiographical account of her divorced life is called Aftermath []
  39. Cusk, Coventry, 13.) []
  40. Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism (London: Verso, 2018). []
  41. But it's not hard to see that space stories for example, films such as InterstellarGravity, or Arrival (and the wonderful Ted Chiang story "Story of Your Life" on which it is based) are at once outer space plots and intra-domestic melodramas: reparations of a damaged, but unrepentant, familialism. (For an astute account of these outer space domesticities, see Seo Hee Im, "Fathers and Daughters; or, Social Reproduction in the Anthropocene," forthcoming Boundary 2.) []
  42. Deleuze, Cinema 2, trans. Hugh Tomlinson (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 8-9. Deleuze's apprehension of seriality and circuit is pertinent here. But it also displays a trivialization of "information" and the circuit. For Deleuze, in concluding Cinema 2, the point is to declare the "very nullity" of information: "information itself is a debasement...nothing...the modern world is that in which information replaces nature" (269-70). Such gestures distort matters in the direction of what David Wellbery, taking up a similar lapse in Foucault's account, calls a "pseudopolitical romanticism." There is, in effect here, an ironic embrace of cybernetic-systems as a dynamic alternative to them: an anodyne embrace of dynamics that one is tempted to call anodynamics. (Hence, e.g., the current recycling of Latourian rhapsodies, in "post-critical" circles and circuits.) Wellbery, "The General Enters the Library: A Note on Disciplines and Complexity," Critical Inquiry 35, no.4 (January 1, 2009), 986. []
  43. Work-ethics, and the caesura or cut between the two terms--at once a joining and a severance--is part of the story here. That enters into, of course, self-enterprise exercises of professional circulation, and a keeping in the game. This is perhaps clearest in what Giancarlo Corsi has called "the dark side of a career." That is, the problem of managing one's life; of a continuously forced self-attribution; of the digitizing of the continuum of an individual biography. The circuit relays, in the world interior of capital, between the individual and society "seems to have taken on a new form, and the career is this form." See Corsi, in Baecker, Problems of Form, pp., 171-79. []
  44. Cusk, Coventry, 9; Barthes, Empire of Signs (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1982), 4. []
  45. Cusk, Coventry, 244. []
  46. Miéville, This Census-Taker (London: Penguin, 2016), 79. []
  47. See Luc Boltanski, Mysteries and Conspiracies: Detective Stories, Spy Novels, and the Making of Modern Societies (Cambridge: Polity, 2014). []
  48. Osamu Dazai, The Setting Sun (Shayō), (New York: New Directions, 1973), 171. The cost, as Sōseki indelibly expressed it, of "incurring" a culture from outside. The delayed rise of the novel in Japan provides an essential anatomy of narrative reason in a disassembly of its predicates. And so, as Michael Bourdaghs traces in detail, an outline of the "properties" of the modern novel. See Bourdaghs, A Fictional Commons: Natsume Soseki and the Properties of Modern Literature (Durham: Duke University Press, 2021). On this nexus, see my "Transit Zones," Journal of Keio American Studies (Summer 2020). []
  49. The song, or swan song, of the open road is assayed in Cusk's remarkable piece, "Driving as Metaphor," included in Coventry. []
  50. Bernhard Siegert, Cultural Techniques: Grids, Filters, Doors, and Other Articulations of the Real, trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young (New York: Fordham University Press, 2015), 193.Such an assertion of a "primordial difference of architecture" is, of course, restrictive and local. Contrast, for example, pre-modern Western art, or non-Western architecture and art sliding doors, moveable walls, interior screens, framed exteriorities. Consider how an abruptly modernizing literature and art stages and frames these distinctions, and conversion syndromes. For example, consider how these altered states are framed in the fiction of Natsume Sōseki as in the novel Mon [The Gate, 1910], or staged in Yasujirō Ozu's post-war films. For a playful account of framing in Japanese art, see Roland Barthes, Empire of Signs. []
  51. Rachel Cusk, Transit (New York: Picador, 2016), 69. []
  52. Sloterdijk, In the World, 139. An imperative of auto-mobility intervenes into events, setting by-products in motion. See also Sloterdijk's recent Infinite Mobilization (London: Polity, 2020). []
  53. Luhmann and Sloterdijk have traced such ecologies of ignorance and thinking catastrophes in detail. See e.g., Luhmann's Risk: A Sociological Theory (London: Routledge, 2002); Sloterdijk's Not Saved: Essays After Heidegger (Cambridge: Polity, 2017). In its slapstick comedy of scale and cascading effects, Cusk's scene stages the cybernetic irony of the so-called Anthropocene and an upstaging of the thrill of self-acceleration, and the hyper-progress narrative that term carries. The term, as Isabelle Stengers acutely observes, marks a "trendy race for the most radical manner of moving away from a human-centred view. The trend puts theorists into a very agreeable position . . . hunting down shades of anthropocentrism in other theoreticians' writing a beautiful prospect for generations of doctoral students." Isabelle Stengers, "Matters of Cosmopolitics: On the Provocations of Gaïa," Architecture in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Design, Deep Time, Science and Philosophy, ed. Etienne Turpin (Ann Arbor: Open Humanities Press, 2013).. []
  54. This problem of kinetic modernism is not resolved by the current embrace of vibrant reassemblages, postcritical effusions, or form-immersions. As Diedrich Diederichsen traces in detail, "The cyberneticization of the world [in the 1960s] also becomes its re-animation, a project of undoing alienation, a desire for immersion and enchantment. The once fixed, objectified, reified world begins to be dynamic, talkative, and transformative again but at the price of immersive adaptation to systemic conditions. This results from transporting cybernetics from the fields of mathematics and computing into social theory, and after cybernetics was made credible via psychedelic experience into the world at large. This leads to such things as the immanent mind and a conception of nature as an animated information system. The counterculture also becomes depoliticized to the degree that it embraces visions of spontaneous harmony and neo-animistic conceptions of the whole." Ana Teixeira Pinto, "The Whole Earth: In Conversation with Diedrich Diederichsen and Anselm Franke," e-flux 45, May 2013. []
  55. Siegert, Cultural Techniques, 195-97. []
  56. Cusk, "Driving as Metaphor," Coventry, 15. []
  57. The "always open, always closed" principle of a revolving door has many analogues, and the paradoxicality of open/closed systems is now routine. (As Lacanwho, along with Gregory Bateson, collated a "cybernetics of the self" describes the circuit gate: "once the door is open, it closes. When it is closed, it opens." See especially Bateson's extraordinary essay, "The Cybernetics of 'Self': A Theory of Alcoholism," Psychiatry 43 (1971): 1-18. []
  58. See Sloterdijk, You Must Change Your Life, 404-435. []
  59. The phrase in quotation marks is from Cusk's, "What Driving Can Teach Us About Living," New York Times, January 3, 2019. []
  60. A reminder that vocation and development are synced to circuit in the form of vicious or virtuous circles. The epoch of social systems takes form in its presumption. There is an extraordinary observation early on in Dreiser's novel Sister Carrie  a novel about nothing less than the zoning and delineation of the systems epoch. (See Seltzer, The Official World, 86.) We read that Chicago's "population was not so much thriving upon established commerce as upon industries which prepared for the arrival of others." This is the creditist temporality that produces from itself the conditions that reproduce it. (Revenues, we recall, means returns.) It is what, a decade or so after Dreiser, the political economist Joseph Schumpeter describes as the self-begetting property of capitalism: "Every process of development creates the prerequisites for the following [process of development]." Schumpeter, The Theory of Economic Development (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1934), 61. A self-supporting argument for the process itself, this is a mechanism of self-amplification. A self-begetting operation models too the shape of the career (Wissenschaft als Beruf), and its success media: a treadmill, or, a self-grinding mill. []
  61. Cusk's most recent novel, Second Place, severs the union of grammatical person and realist narration. It undoes the past-perfect perspective by which, as Roland Barthes put it, "reality becomes slighter, and more familiar, it fits within a style, it does not outrun language . . . it has a reassuring effect . . . it escapes the terror of an expression without laws." Barthes, Writing Degree Zero (New York: Hill and Wang, 1967), 32. Cusk's Kudos, the final volume of the Outline Trilogy, shreds the literary-professional circuits of self-regard it inhabits (ironizing autofiction and the unembarrassable first-person of ego-technic media). Or, as Karatani puts it, "A system and what it conceals are mutually related" the relation sometimes a "vehement" one. Karatani Kōjin, Origins of Modern Japanese Literature, ed. Brett de Bary (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993), 104. []
  62. At this point one of my readers requested that I summarize the plot of the trilogy. If it had one, I would. []
  63. Clifford Siskin, System: The Shaping of Modern Knowledge (MIT Press, 2017). 63. []
  64. Sloterdijk, "Devil's Advocate," Not Saved, 87. []
  65. Goffman, Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior (New York: Pantheon, 1967), 3. []
  66. Step-systems and real or imaginary staircases recur in modernizing fiction, registering the syndrome of perpetual transition in the systems epoch. Here on one might instance Poe's "philosophy of composition," an early blueprint of a latticed world that repetitivelyand, literally, step by step--submits to its own conditions (On Poe's step system, see my "The Crime System," in True Crime: Observations on Violence and Modernity (London: Routledge, 2007).) Or, one might consider Natsume Sōseki's 1908 Kōfu (The Miner): a novel that playfully undoes the itineraries of narrative reason. It does so via serial scenes of chutes and ladders the step-systems and ladder-effects of the Bildungsroman. And then, casually, denudes and abandons them. The main character has entered the laddered mines as an exit from social expectations; and, as Haruki Murakami remarked, the protagonist-narrator, at the end, "leaves the mountain as nonchalantly as he first entered it." Haruki Murakami, introduction to Kōfu (The Miner) by Natsume Sōseki, trans. Jay Rubin (London: Aardvark Bureau, 2015), xxi. Sōseki signals Poe's work throughout the novel, written at the time of the "Poe Vogue" in Japan, and witnessing the rapid adoption of Western (particularly German) university Bildung-systems in Japan. Sōseki was briefly on, as they say, the ladder faculty, as professor of English at Tokyo University. (My own university, in the UC system, has, it might be added, an elaborately articulated "step system" a scaled system of perpetual review and self-promotion. That provides, among other things, not merely meetingness, but a wonderful dress-rehearsal for Purgatory.[]
  67. Greif, Against EverythingEssays (New York: Pantheon, 2016), 3. []
  68. See Sloterdijk, You Must Change Your Life, e.g., 115. []
  69. For a more extended discussion of this convergence of practice cultures, see my The Official World. On some of the analogues to non-Western versions of this literature, see my "The Specter of California Capitalism: The View from Silicon Beach," in Ute Holl, Claus Pias, Burkhardt Wolf, eds., Gespenster des Wissens (Zürich/Berlin: Diaphanes, 2017), 329-334. On such practice cultures more generally, I'm indebted to Sloterdijk's You Must Change Your Life. []
  70. Weber, "Knowledge as Profession" ["Science as a Vocation"], Daedalus 87, no. 1 (1958): 111-134. []
  71. The Equinox chain's co-founder, it may be noted, has ties to Landmark Forum, a "training and development" company that absorbed and superseded EST. EST itself had ties to Scientology and its self-escalation step programs. Landmark forums include courses on "Miracles about Money." One of Equinox's self-innovation classes is called "Yoga and Finance" a yoga session followed by investment counseling, albeit in a state of elevated awareness. []
  72. Sloterdijk, In the World Interior of Capital, 196. I'm indebted to Sujin Youn for returning me to this account, and clarifying its significance, in her renovative study of managerialism and the aesthetics of "novels that enact." []
  73. I am here drawing on Sloterdijk's extended discrimination of repetitions a repeating repeating in You Must Change Your Life, esp. Ch. 12, "The Critique of Repetition." See also, Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time Image, 6-8. For a fuller discussion, cf. The Official World, esp. Ch. 10.[]
  74. Sloterdijk, Ibid., 404-409. []
  75. Ibid., 415. []
  76. Alexander Kluge, "Deutsches Kino," in Bestandaufnahme Utopie Film: Zwanzig Jahre neuer deutscher Film/Mitte (Frankfurt am Main: Zweitausendeins, 1983), 141-194. []
  77. My thanks to Erika Kobayashi for showing me, in her artwork and in her fiction, what this may look like. []
  78. Dirk Baecker, "The Reality of Motion Pictures." MLN 111, no. 3 (1996): 560-77. As Baecker remarks, if persons did not have faces the movies would have of necessity invented them. And, as Tina Post has suggested to me, there is more to be said along these lines about such recodifications of intimacy, not least via the closeness of the close-up, and what Goffman called "face-work." []
  79. Georg Simmel, "The Aesthetic Significance of the Face [1901]," Essays on Sociology, Philosophy and Aesthetics, trans. Lore Ferguson, ed. Kurt H. Wolff, 278-279. No doubt the emergence of motion pictures, and the discovery of the close-up, enter into this theorization of the human face outlining what Deleuze and Guattari called "the face-system." A system of frames and stages: an incidental, step-by-step, conversion of inner and outer states, steps toward an ecology of self-competence. []
  80. Baecker, "The Reality of Motion Pictures." []
  81. Erving Goffman. Forms of Talk (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981), 14. []
  82. Its icon may be the mirrored stages of the contemporary gym floor and its micro-dramas of competitive neopersonalism, dramas bound to a regimen of self-reflexive glances. []
  83. Luhmann, Art as a Social System, 48 (and, more generally, 5-53). []
  84. Alexander Kluge, Ibid., 145. []
  85. Sloterdijk, Not Saved, 72-73. This innocence does not mean, of course, that there are not violent systems or systemic violence. It means that systemic violence is not the violence of systems. On these matters see, e.g., my "The Crime System," Critical Inquiry 30 (Spring 2004), 557-583; and, Serial Killers: Death and Life in America's Wound Culture (New York and London: Routledge, 1998). []
  86. Marx, Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy, trans. Marcus Nicolous (London: Penguin, 1993), 23.See also, Jean-Paul Sartre, Critique of Dialectical Reason, vol 1: Theory of Practical Ensembles (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1960). []