Copyright ' 2014 Qui Parle

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course of a few “rotten apples” in the state security apparatus who might be deemed responsible ...... AnneleriI/events and https://twitter.com/CmrtesiAnneleri. 4. ...... about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, 'Eli, Eli la'ma sabach- tha'ni ...
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volume 23, number 1, fall/winter 2014

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critical humanities and social sciences

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Editors Jordan Lev Greenwald and Emily O’Rourke, University of California, Berkeley

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Published by The University of Nebraska Press

Subscriptions Qui Parle (issn 1041-8385) is an interdisciplinary journal that publishes works across the humanities and social sciences. Qui Parle is edited by graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley, and sponsored by the Townsend Center for the Humanities.

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Qui Parle is published twice a year by the University of Nebraska Press. For current subscription rates please see our website: www.nebraskapress.unl.edu.

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The University of Nebraska Press 1111 Lincoln Mall Lincoln ne 68588-0630 Telephone: 402-472-8536

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If ordering by mail, please make checks payable to the University of Nebraska Press and send to

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All inquiries on subscription, change of address, advertising, and other business communications should be sent to the University of Nebraska Press.

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Submissions

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Qui Parle invites submissions from a range of fields, including but not limited to History Literary and Cultural Studies Gender and Sexuality Studies Critical Theory Critical Race Studies Aesthetics Anthropology Religion Philosophy Political Theory Submissions of essays and book reviews may be sent directly to the editors at

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Qui Parle The Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities 220 Stephens Hall, #2340 University of California, Berkeley Berkeley ca 94720-2340 Phone: 510-643-0737 Fax: 510-643-5284 E-mail: [email protected] Website: http://quiparle.berkeley.edu

Submissions should not exceed 36 double-spaced pages and should be typed in a standard font. All submissions will be considered under blind review by the editorial board. Include your name only on the cover page. Copyright © 2014 Qui Parle All rights reserved Manufactured in the United States of America

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Articles appearing in this journal are abstracted and indexed in mla Bibliography and the Bibliography of the History of Art.

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If you would like to reprint material from Qui Parle, please query for permission using our online form, which is located under the Journals menu heading on our website: www.nebraskapress.unl.edu. Qui Parle is available online through Project Muse at http://muse.jhu.edu and through jstor at http://www.jstor.org.

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Qui Parle is grateful to Teresa Stojkov and Anthony Cascardi at the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities at The University of California, Berkeley, whose continued generosity and support have made publication of the journal possible.

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Cover Image: Christina Barrera, Candidate Universes (blue and red).

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Cover and Interior Design: Shirley Thornton

Editors

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Jordan Lev Greenwald Emily O’Rourke

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Special Issue Editor

William Callison

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Managing Editors

Matt Langione Zachary Manfredi

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Adrian Acu Brittany Birberick Jason de Stefano Evyn Le Espiritu Richard Grijalva Adam Hutz Sarah Jessica Johnson Kelie Montalvo Liana Ogden Michelle Potts Shokoofeh Rajabzadeh

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Editorial Board

Founding Editors

Avital Ronell Peter Connor

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Contents

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Special Dossier: Rethinking Sovereignty and Capitalism 3 Sovereign Anxieties and Neoliberal Transformations: An Introduction william callison Sovereignty as Erasure: Rethinking Enforced Disappearances banu bargu

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Sovereignty, Norms, and Exception in Neoliberalism thomas biebricher

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Is Marx (Capital) Secular? wendy brown

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The Sovereignty Effect: Markets and Power in the Economic Regime joseph vogl

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Translated by William Callison

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Articles 157 Our Things: Thoreau on Objects, Relics, and Archives branka arsiĆ 183

Paradisical Pessimism: On the Crucifixion Darkness and the Cosmic Materiality of Sorrow nicola masciandaro

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Cartographies of Style: Asignifying, Intensive, Impersonal anne sauvagnargues Translated by Suzanne Verderber

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The Aesthetic Possibility of the Work of Art christoph menke Translated by Seth Thorn

Review Essays 257 Meditations in Midair emina mušanoviĆ Cruising Dystopia: The Messy Optimism of Digital Connection in Shaka McGlotten’s Virtual Intimacies bonnie ruberg

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Contributors

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Books Received

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special dossier

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Rethinking Sovereignty and Capitalism

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Sovereign Anxieties and Neoliberal Transformations

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An Introduction

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william callison

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The financial and banking systems are at the center of a politics of destruction/creation in which economics and politics have become inextricable. If we want to understand how powers are reconfigured by the debt economy, we must first of all establish the links between economics and politics.

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—Maurizio Lazzarato, The Making of Indebted Man

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During the 2008 financial collapse, the concomitance of financial capital and state power belied the seemingly autonomous political “decision” on the bailout. Here sovereignty appeared entangled in politico-economic structures, in tight networks of state and nonstate actors that emerged alongside the liberalization and financialization of the 1970s and that made this very crisis possible. Under these conditions, the sites and operations of sovereignty proved far more elusive and perplexing than traditional theories of sovereignty’s absolute and indivisible character would allow us to understand. On the one hand, the state was “forced” to become “the lender of last resort,” using public funds to support the fallen financial giants while letting others suffer from the initial volatility and the austere landscape that resulted from it.1 On the other

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hand, the ongoing politics of “crisis”—from the European Stability and Growth Pact to the more general phenomenon of sovereign debt—have engendered new modes of economic governance that reach beyond the explicit realm of the state. Varieties of neoliberalism often spurn centralized state power in the name of market mechanisms and metrics, while the effects of globalization and the reach of international law also appear as signs of nation-state sovereignty’s reduced strength. Yet, as seen in the crisis, the problematic of sovereignty refuses to be buried, emerging in new forms and unforeseen entanglements. As governance becomes increasingly intertwined with market dynamics, state sovereignty presents us with challenging questions of both a theoretical and a practical nature. How do shifts in contemporary sites and features of sovereignty contrast with its more traditional formulations and the anxieties that impel them? In particular, what do neoliberal transformations—which take place not only at the level of states and markets but also at the social and individual level—imply for even the most minimal conceptions and practices of popular sovereignty? How do such transformations reconfigure “the political” and “the economic” as distinct yet mutually constitutive spheres within which sovereignty operates? This Qui Parle special dossier offers a venue for four theorists— Banu Bargu, Thomas Biebricher, Wendy Brown, and Joseph Vogl— to rethink various aspects of sovereignty and neoliberal capitalism in the contemporary moment. Their interventions range from an examination of the intellectual underpinnings of neoliberalism, to an exploration of the “sovereignty effects” its financial regime induces, to a reconsideration of the sacralizing force of capital with and beyond Marx, to a critique of a form of state sovereignty predicated on the erasure of subjects deemed “threats” to the social body. Situating these pieces within the broader context of relevant approaches in the field of political theory, my introduction reconsiders the mutually constitutive roles of “the political” and “the economic” in contemporary configurations of sovereignty. This essay begins with some queries about the difficulty of defining sovereignty before briefly delineating two of its more traditional formulations: first, the decisionist formulation exemplified by

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Carl Schmitt and critically elaborated by Giorgio Agamben;2 and second, liberal formulations of democratic, “popular” sovereignty, as well as some critical theoretical engagements with their foundational problems and anxieties. I then turn to Foucault’s alternative accounts of liberalism and neoliberalism as political rationalities that reconfigure the practices and limits of sovereignty in relation to the objects and spheres it manages. Schmitt and Foucault are of particular importance here, both because they serve as backdrops for several articles in this dossier and because they occupy central places in the argument I would like to make concerning the economization of the political and the shifting sites of sovereignty amid neoliberal transformations. Curiously, much of critical thought and political struggle today shares with Schmitt a deep anxiety about the economization of the political. To say that Schmitt’s fears are our fears—namely, that economic forces and rationalities are reaching every corner and crevice of political life—is not to say that his solution is also ours. Rather, it is a reminder that in theorizing political sovereignty in the present, we must at once recognize this overlap with Schmitt’s formulation, perhaps by tarrying with it from a distance, and learn from it, above all because of the perils we find within it. Turning to Foucault’s account of the “governmentalization” of the state will allow us to apprehend more dispersed forms of politico-economic power and governance, revealing how Schmitt’s emphasis on the unity and autonomy of political sovereignty is not only problematic because of the (economic, social, cultural) forces and realms that are pitted against it, per definitionem subordinated to it, and yet said to contaminate it. Further still, this turn undoes Schmitt’s formulation by also highlighting the ways in which politico-economic transformations and their effects, such as financial crises, scatter and disperse “the decision” across an array of processes and actors. In relation to “the political,” then, “the economic” is not simply a conditioned, secondary or contaminating force, but at the heart of how (neoliberal) political sovereignty articulates and sustains itself today.

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Sovereign Anxieties The certainty of the decision is . . . of particular interest in an age of intense commercial activity because in numerous cases commerce is less concerned with a particular content than with a calculable certainty. . . . The legal interest in the decision as such should not be mixed up with this kind of calculability.

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—Carl Schmitt, Political Theology

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The question of “sovereignty,” one of the oldest and most slippery of political signifiers, revolves around the attempt to determine the locus of political power and to subordinate other forces to this locus. Yet, in response to this foundational question—whence political authority?—political theorists have provided a range of fundamentally conflicting answers. In adjectival form, political sovereignty has been attributed finality, decisiveness, unity, absoluteness, permanence, nontransferability, and exceptionality, to name but a few of its modifiers.3 It is thus a question of who exercises political power over whom and over what—for example, what enclosed (real or imagined) realm or territory, what processes and fields of activity, what kind of natural, artificial, or human resources. In other words, while sovereignty may be understood as “the highest authority” at both the political and legal register, this definition does not yet say anything about its character or its conditions. Is sovereignty necessarily unified, absolute, and underived, or can it be disunified, shared, and suspendible? Is it above and thus ultimately outside the law, or can it be constrained by law (whether positive law, rule of law, or natural law)? Does sovereignty possess an essentially theological character and structure? Must sovereignty be understood as emanating only from “the people” (with the implication that the only legitimate form of sovereignty is “democratic” or “popular”)? From Bodin and Hobbes to contemporary liberal democrats, theorists of sovereignty have written—in response to a variety of forces, threats, and transformations—with great anxiety about its absoluteness and absolute necessity. While such arguments span from the concern about the legitimacy of state power to the need for se-

Callison: Sovereign Anxieties

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curing the peace and integrity of the political body, the theorization of sovereignty has always been driven by worries about the forces that threaten political sovereignty or, relatedly, what might happen if it ceased to exist. Some of the most pertinent anxieties haunting discourses of sovereignty are located, at least for our purposes here, somewhere between the decisionist conception of sovereignty and contractual accounts of democratic, “popular” sovereignty, although such a division is by no means as neat or stable as it may seem.4 Insisting on sovereignty’s legally independent and underived power, Schmitt characterizes the former conception by famously declaring that “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception.”5 The question of the exception and its relation to sovereignty, abstract as it might be, at once emerges and is resolved in its “concrete application”—namely, who, in a situation of conflict, decides on “what constitutes the public interest or interest of the state, public safety and order, le salut public, and so on.” In Schmitt’s account, the exception is thus the a priori condition of the political and legal system, though it is “not codified in the existing legal order [and] can at best be characterized as a case of extreme peril, a danger to the existence of the state, or the like. But it cannot be circumscribed factually and made to conform to a preformed law” (pt, 6). For this reason, Schmitt suggests, sovereignty is best understood not by looking at the smooth functioning of a given political order or nation-state but by observing what happens in moments of crisis, when sovereignty suddenly appears in the form of the decision, in the suspension of law, “revealing” itself in concrete judgment. Crucially, Schmitt’s conception of sovereignty is tied to his argument concerning the autonomy of “the political,” which he isolates from other realms (such as “the economic”) and which continuously structures the persistence of sovereign power. As Schmitt argues (and as Bargu illustrates through recourse to Hobbes), the very structure of modern political sovereignty generates various forms of the friend-enemy distinction, and vice versa: the sovereign decision on who belongs to the “we” at once constitutes and mobilizes the political body (as in wartime scenarios) and entails a spatial closure and a conceptual distinction concerning “them,” the “other,” the “enemy,” or even “the insurgent.”6

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Liberal formulations of sovereignty, by contrast, often overlap with or rely on theories of “the social contract,” though always with an eye toward establishing and legitimizing the state. These theorizations most often arise in the context of perceived threats to political sovereignty, whether economic, religious, or conflictual in nature—even, as Biebricher notes, in the more recent cases of neoliberal political thought.7 Aiming to make sovereignty fully “popular” and democratic, the social contract represents a critical tool for liberal democratic theory’s attempt to disperse the location and exercise of sovereign power while still locating its true expression in the state. In political liberalism, while power may or may not be shared between different branches of government and delimited by a written constitution, “the people” is said to be the ultimate source of sovereignty. However, as we will see, these moves are driven by an array of foundational tensions and anxieties. Lying at the heart of liberalism, for example, is a worry about whether and how sovereignty can be “popular” at all. One way in which contemporary democratic theory interrogates (rather than attempting to ignore or completely resolve) these tensions and anxieties is through “the paradox of founding,” which is to say, the problem of establishing “a people” in the first place, or the act through which a people constitutes itself as a people. While Derrida treated this question as one of a series of performatives and signatures underwritten by forms of “supplementarity,”8 contemporary democratic theorists such as William Connolly and Bonnie Honig have drawn on Rousseau to render “the paradox of sovereignty” into “the paradox of politics” writ large.9 In the Social Contract, Rousseau famously elaborates on the complex, paradoxical problem of founding a “people,” one united by the general will: good laws must already be in place to make good citizens, who will in turn make good laws.10 Otherwise, so the story goes, we are bound to fall prey to the blinding influences of private interest and self-love that plague modern societies. Thus even in Rousseau’s formulation of the social contract and the general will—aspirationally the most direct and republican form of sovereignty—the figure of “the Lawgiver” is a necessary supplement to even begin to address the sovereign paradox. For Rous-

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seau, the Lawgiver emerges as a figure who disinterestedly guides the people in making good laws at the moment of their sovereign constitution. In doing so, Honig suggests, this figure simultaneously supplements and reveals the people’s as-yet nature, that is, their lack of full autonomy and self-rule. From this and other necessary supplements, we must conclude that “popular sovereignty is always haunted by heteronomy . . . the people are always undecidably also a ‘multitude,’” which is also to say: “the ‘people’ are always undecidably present and absent from the scene of democracy” (ep, 19–20). Sovereignty constitutes the people’s autonomy and independence but, in order to be felicitously established, relies on various performative paradoxes, theological and otherwise. Put a different way, if the demos is to be sovereign, it must not only be legitimately formed and united, but it must act and ultimately decide over its collective fate. This requires, however, conditions that are nearly impossible to attain, much less to sustain. In a similar vein, for Jacques Rancière, democracy is not “just a word” but a rather “a disposition of the name and appearance of the people, a way of keeping the people present in their absence.”11 Relatedly, Sheldon Wolin argues that, if sovereignty is to be understood as democratic in any substantive sense of the word, it must be a discontinuous or “fugitive” practice, one that emerges momentarily (e.g., in protest, resistance, or collective action) before vanishing once again as pure potential, as a concealed remainder hidden beneath a normalized political order.12 These democratic interventions at once dispute the purity of “the political” while recognizing its significance in the operation and the very constitution of a political body. They reveal not only the paradoxes and anxieties inherent to the liberal state sovereignty but also a deeper tension between sovereignty and democracy. As Brown puts it, “Sovereignty is inherently antidemocratic insofar as it must overcome the dispersed quality of power in a democracy, but democracy, to be politically viable, to be a (political) contender, appears to require the supplement of sovereignty” (ws, 51–52). The articulation of sovereignty in the (final, perhaps exceptional) decision cannot be wished away even in the most ideal, aspirational moments of democracy. Though the fragility of its current

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conditions cannot be overstated, popular sovereignty represents the aspirational outcome of the informed, communicative action of a people exercising self-rule by sharing in power. What some liberal democratic theorists overlook (and what Schmitt acknowledges through his critique), however, is the mutual significance of the political and the economic in the constitution of sovereignty— both of which run through and overflow the political process that is supposed to yield liberal state legitimacy, at once stifling its success yet allowing for the exercise of sovereign power nonetheless. Let us slowly wade into the messy waters of the neoliberal present, then, but let us do so by addressing some of Schmitt’s most pertinent concerns about the question at hand. The above epigraph of Schmitt betrays a certain anxiety, which, it might be said, remains more or less latent and repressed throughout his writings on sovereignty and law. The nature and exercise of sovereignty in “the decision,” he says, is utterly foreign to and “should not be mixed up with” the calculability of commerce and finance, that is, with the interests and forces of “the economic.” Strangely enough, this anxiety echoes some of our own: the anxiety, for example, that economic interests and technical calculations have intensified and permeated the whole political sphere. But Schmitt’s worry is of a different character than that of contemporary political discourse, for it lies at the heart of his formulation of the “purity” and “autonomy” of the political. Put more strongly, the contamination of the political by the economic and other forces comprises more of a paranoia in Schmitt, one that traverses his attacks on liberalism, socialism, strands of Marxism, and anarchism, as well as other thinkers with whom he is in dialogue. Listen to his anxiety that, though largely contained throughout Political Theology, rises to the surface on the final pages:

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Today nothing is more modern than the onslaught against the political. American financiers, industrial technicians, Marxist socialists, and anarchic-syndicalist revolutionaries unite in demanding that the biased rule of politics over unbiased economic management be done away with. There must no longer be political problems, only organizational-technical and economic-

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sociological tasks. The kind of economic-technical thinking that prevails today is no longer capable of perceiving a political idea. The modern state seems to have actually become what Max Weber envisioned: a huge industrial firm [ein großer Betrieb]. Political ideas are generally recognized only when groups can be identified that have a plausible economic interest in turning them to their advantage. Whereas, on the one hand, the political vanishes into the economic or technical-organizational, on the other hand, the political dissolves into the everlasting discussion of cultural and philosophical-historical commonplaces. . . . The core of the political idea, the exacting moral decision, is evaded in both (pt, 65; emphasis and altered translation mine, wac).

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Here Schmitt’s critique of liberalism expands to encompass nearly every political and theoretical discourse of his time. He assails them for mixing the economic and the political, the economic and the legal (the political and the legal being connected in state law and in the possibility of its sovereign suspension), or, put differently, for attempting to transform homo politicus into homo oeconomicus.13 Both in his attack on contemporary strands of thought and in his historical narrative—spanning from the age of the theological through the metaphysical and the moral up to the economic14—Schmitt posits the realm of the political as pure and timeless against the contaminating forces of others, which attempt to usurp its absolute primacy and authority.15 How do neoliberal currents further unsettle this “purity” of the political, and how might we account for the imbrication of the political and the economic without equating or collapsing the two? For Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, the answer partially resides in the historical relationship between sovereignty and capital. While modern sovereignty rests on the claim of transcendence, as embodied by Hobbes’s overarching Leviathan, capital operates on a plane of immanence, meaning that it works through mechanisms of control and networks of domination that do not rely on a power external to them. Although “capital has relied on sovereignty and the support of its structures of right and force,” historically the “transcendence of modern sovereignty . . . conflicts with the im-

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manence of capital.”16 In the historical mediation between the two, however, the trajectory has followed a continuous path from sovereignty’s transcendence to capital’s immanence. Additionally, contrary to a long-established consensus in social theory, this movement is no longer mediated by civil society, due to the breakdown of institutions and, more specifically, the decline of labor and collective bargaining. Hardt and Negri thus speak of “a new and more complete compatibility between sovereignty and capital” (e, 331). Hardt and Negri’s account of the “synthesis” of sovereignty and capital—or, as I have called it, the entanglement of the political and the economic—pushes us to rethink the sovereign anxieties discussed above as they are transformed and rearticulated under new conditions. If political nation-state sovereignty (whether manifested in autonomous directives or in the exceptional decision) is receding, other potentially sovereign forces emerge, forces outside of and precluded by Schmitt’s formulation.17 Such forces might include financial markets, as Vogl suggests;18 global capital, as Brown argues;19 the (exceptional) rules themselves, as Biebricher finds in the recent neoliberal policy measures of the European Council;20 or the perceived “threat” of certain living bodies to which sovereign violence responds, as Bargu illustrates.21 Put somewhat differently, if nation-states become subject to or manipulable by other forces, this displaces their sovereignty and undercuts the autonomous status of the purely political decision, as the political and the economic become thoroughly entangled. Thus we find that (financial) capital is generative of new anxieties, as it frustrates any form of nation-state sovereignty, any form of political self-determination (whether quasi-democratic or not) that refuses or contradicts market imperatives and rationalities. Pointing to one of the most profound implications of the ascendance of financial capitalism, Vogl explains: “sovereign no longer simply means he who decides on the exception (Carl Schmitt), but rather he who or that which—as occurred in recent years—succeeds at directly transforming their own risks into the dangers of all others.” This confronts us with a new theoretical and practical challenge: “[T]he question of sovereignty, the negotiation and the status of sovereignty must be unhinged from the frame of older forms of political theory and politi-

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cal theology. The question of sovereignty must be reformulated on politico-economic terrain” (“tse,” 153). Neoliberal Transformations

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The state is not a universal nor in itself an autonomous source of power. The state is nothing else but the effect, the profile, the mobile shape of a perpetual stratification (étatisation) or statifications, in the sense of incessant transactions which modify, or move, or drastically change, or insidiously shift sources of finance, modes of investment, decision-making centers, forms and types of control, relationships between local powers, the central authority, and so on. In short, the state has no heart . . . in the sense that it has no interior. The state is nothing else but the mobile effect of a regime of multiple governmentalities.

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—Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics (emphasis mine)

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Unlike Schmitt’s worry that the political in political sovereignty is threatened by the rise of the economic, Foucault locates configurations of each in the most primary sites and modes of exercising power. On the one hand, Foucault reminds us of the historicity of the concept and image of sovereignty—that is, its connection to a monarchical political and legal system that succeeded Roman law and its operation through a mode of power he calls “juridical” or “juridico-discursive.” By this Foucault means that the juridical system of the law became the form and representation by which power was generally acceptable and justified, and that sovereignty indeed functioned as an exemplary figure of power in the Middle Ages and early modern Europe. On the other hand, in order to capture the actual emergence and transformation of capitalism— not to mention the relationship between economic processes and state governance—Foucault argues that we must account for a form of power that became intertwined with and effectively superseded sovereignty in the eighteenth century, namely, “biopower.”22 This account undercuts conceptions of power as essentially repressive and prohibitive and displaces the notion of sovereignty as a timeless, a priori condition of the state form as such. In doing so,

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it orients us to the ways in which power is productive, the ways it “endeavors to administer, optimize, and multiply [life], subjecting it to precise controls and comprehensive regulations” (hs, 137). At question is no longer simply the juridical structure of sovereignty, based on the symbol and sword of the sovereign or his right to take life and let live. Rather, says Foucault, we must “cut off the head of the king” in political thought and analysis in order to track the more local or micro-level relations of power and to chart the manipulation of the population’s conduct at both the individual and collective level (omnes et singulatim). Related to this argument and representative of a larger turn in Foucault’s thought in the 1970s, the term “governmentality” has become widespread today from the literature on state governance and ngos to an array of institutions and practices treated by the so-called governmentality studies and other scholars.23 The term comprises the now commonplace idea of “decentering the state” as well as the techniques and practices used in what Foucault called “the conduct of conduct” or “governing at a distance.” Less well known is the analytical schema Foucault deployed to capture its historical development and its characteristic features, one based on a division between “government” and “sovereignty” as two distinct but overlapping modes of exercising power. Sovereignty rules over a territory, works through law, and commands a people properly subject to it. Its end is “the common good,” which is singular and secured by obedience. Government, conversely, is not strictly related to territory but to “a sort of complex of men and things” (stp, 96). It does not direct things by command or toward the “common” good but rather guides their movement and conduct by employing tactics toward “a plurality of specific ends.” Foucault thus analytically distinguishes between their techniques and general modes of operation: “Whereas the end of sovereignty is internal to itself and gets its instruments from itself in the form of law, the end of government is internal to the things it directs; it is to be sought in the perfection, maximization, or intensification of the processes it directs” (stp, 99). Historically, sovereignty and government are distinct yet intertwined. While the former is slowly taken over by the latter as po-

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litical power’s primary mode of operation, “sovereignty is absolutely not eliminated by the emergence of a new art of government that has crossed the threshold of political science. The problem of sovereignty is not eliminated; on the contrary, it is made more acute than ever” (stp, 107). Foucault’s most pertinent thesis here concerns the “birth” of the population and of the science of political economy, as well as an “art of government” that uses the knowledge of the latter to govern the former. This newly discovered object of the population, which functions both as a collective living subject and as the object of governmental technique and intervention, is importantly different from the traditional conception of “the people” in political and legal thought. While “the people” as a collection of juridical subjects corresponds to sovereignty, the population corresponds to the emergence of government and governmentality. “Population, then, appears as the end and instrument of government rather than as the sovereign’s strength: it is the subject of needs and aspirations, but also the object of government manipulation; vis-à-vis government, [population] is both aware of what it wants and unaware of what is being done to it” (stp, 105). In other words, sovereign or juridical power recedes as political economy, government, and their respective objects emerge. In the historical shift away from forms of political reason in Polizeiwissenschaft and raison d’État—that is, away from the ultimate objective of the state’s enrichment and strength—political economy ensured that governmental practice would check itself in relation to economic activity, that it would establish a de facto limitation of the exercise of government power internally. This internal selflimitation of governmental practice is what Foucault calls “liberalism” and is perhaps best captured by an eighteenth-century phrase that has become a sort of mantra, repeated endlessly still today: the best government is the government that governs least. Beyond this principle, this ethos, this form of “common sense,” liberalism is, according to Foucault, a governmental or political rationality deeply informed by but independent of the discourse of political economy.24 Even if Foucault’s account has its limitations for apprehending certain practices of sovereign power, as Bargu rightly argues, his

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study of (economic) liberalism and the seeds of neoliberalism nonetheless allows us to better track the historical and epistemological elements of a shift in modern state sovereignty. Since the rationality of governance is generally linked to the rationality of subjective modes of conduct, this shift corresponds to the emergence of a particular form of subjectivity called homo oeconomicus, the economic man of interest. As Foucault illustrates through Condorcet and Smith, among others, this figure represents something new for the problem of sovereign power. The economic man of interest in Condorcet, for example, is linked to a general system of society that makes “interest” dependent on accidents he cannot foresee and factors he cannot control; at the same time, homo oeconomicus is situated in an “indefinite field of immanence” linking his advantage “in the form of production” to the advantage of others. Along these lines, homo oeconomicus can be described as “doubly involuntary” with regard to “the accidents which happen to him and with regard to the benefit he unintentionally produces for others” (bp, 277). This overlaps with Smith’s conception of the invisible hand, which makes (and prescribes) homo oeconomicus to function as an individual subject of interest within a system that cannot be known and controlled, but which constitutes and guides the rationality of possible choices and behaviors. In other words, when the principle of invisibility in classical political economy disqualifies sovereign knowledge of the economic totality, individual and collective gain is possible precisely because the collective good is not made an objective of individual or governmental strategy: “Homo oeconomicus strips the sovereign of power inasmuch as he reveals an essential, fundamental, and major incapacity of the sovereign, that is to say, an inability to master the totality of the economic field” (bp, 292). Not only must government not obstruct the interplay of individual interests, but the sovereign is prohibited from particular forms of intervention. In this way, Foucault explains, “Economics steals away from the juridical form of the sovereign exercising sovereignty within a state precisely that which is emerging as the essential element of a society’s life, namely economic processes” (bp, 282). Foucault’s study of governmentality does not anxiously pit “the

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political” in political sovereignty against forces of “the economic”; rather, contra Schmitt, it looks at the deeper forms of power that precede and make possible the sovereign power of the state. In this account, sovereignty is neither pure nor timeless, but a historical form of power whose nature and exercise is related to and potentially contingent upon other forces and powers. At the most general, epistemological level, then, the shift in governmental rationality reflected in the metaphor of the invisible hand effectively undercuts the traditional sites and features of political sovereignty: “All the returns and revivals of nineteenth and twentieth century liberal and neo-liberal thought are still a way of posing the problem of the impossibility of the existence of an economic sovereign” (bp, 283– 84). Although Foucault could not yet see how they are transformative in practice, he makes it clear that neoliberalism pushes these principles to their limit: as a political rationality, not only does it completely dispense with the “unitary form” of the state, but, pace Schmitt, it also shifts sites and features of sovereignty as the entire social field is transformed. Turning to the contemporary landscape, we find that the (neo) liberal economic agents being governed are not, or are at least not primarily, democratic citizens engaging in deliberative willformation or collective decision making; they are economic subjects of interest, homo oeconomicus, human capital, responsibilized units of economic production (through their [un]employment, [self]investment, risk, credit, debt, etc.) who drive the economy yet are increasingly anchored to its volatility, instability, and fate.25 Not only does the state increasingly understand and model itself on the structure and practices of a firm (Schmitt’s fears, our fears, realized), but it evaluates and calculates its practices in terms of their market effects, with its ultimate aims being essentially economic, from maximizing competition to spurring economic growth. One could explain this, with Foucault, in at least two ways: the form and the end of sovereignty (“the common good,” salus populi, etc.) has been displaced by the ends of government and the techniques of governmentality, which are always plural, particular and nontotal; or, the “common good” has been so thoroughly economized and privatized that the economic now forms the central criterion

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of state legitimacy. The latter, and perhaps also the former, would signify a kind of inversion of the social contract. The transformation of the social contract—the model and metaphor for popular sovereignty with a long history in both political theory and political discourse—while briefly noted by Foucault (bp, 202), brings with it consequences that contemporary critical theorists have begun to treat in far greater depth. Within a neoliberal paradigm of “sacrificial citizenship,” Brown argues, the social contract itself is “turning inside out.” This occurs when “the subject that is both entrepreneur of itself and human capital for the state is at persistent risk of redundancy and abandonment through no doing of its own . . . [and thus] a potentially dispensable element of the whole.”26 The older, republican articulation of the social contract, Vogl adds, is at once “tacitly rewritten” and transformed by the future-oriented and future-making powers of financial markets: “there’s suddenly a social contract in its stead that’s defined by an economy of credit and finance in which the structural insolvency of the system is perpetually compensated for by an ongoing ‘futurization’ of debt. Societies are held together by debts that no one can pay, by credits that can’t be redeemed.”27 In his dossier article, Vogl thus declares the beginning of “the era of a new social contract: from education and training to pension schemes, health care, and public infrastructure—these all should be even more perfectly managed and financed by the cheerful bustling of financial markets” (“tse,” 129). In similar terms, yet located in different sources, Brown accounts for this inversion in the dissemination of neoliberal rationality through governance, political discourse, “best practices,” university privatization, and court decisions, to name but a few of the driving mechanisms.28 This offers yet another way to make new use of Foucault—who himself draws on Weber via the Frankfurt School’s attempt to do the same—by tracking larger developments that coincide with or result from the expansion of new forms of market rationality, or rather of an economic rationality that has gained steam and transformed into a political rationality. As the actualization of an economic rationality, neoliberal political rationality governs subjects through a process that extends market principles across the social

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field. This involves techniques that Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval characterize as “the manufacturing of the neo-liberal subject”29 and that Lazzarato describes as “the making of indebted man” (mim). Alternatively, we could say, drawing on Çalışkan and Callon, that this rationality remakes the social field through embedded practices and processes of “economization.”30 As a comprehensive political rationality, neoliberalism thus works through various practices, discourses, and modes of subjective conduct, just as it understands “the market” itself as the exemplary model for nearly every social and political arrangement. This finally intimates what Foucault calls the emergence of the “truth” or “veridiction” of the market;31 it also reminds us of what Vogl calls “oikodicy” or the “idyll” of the market,32 what Brown calls the “perverse theology” of the market,33 or what Harcourt calls the “illusion”34 and Connolly the “fantasy” of self-regulating “free” markets.35 Following these and other diagnoses, we can identify some of the most basic ways in which neoliberal rationality has transformed sovereignty, at once economizing the political and entangling political sovereignty with forces and processes described above as “the economic.” Many of sovereignty’s central terms and operations, for example, are transposed to the level of economic principles, formal rules, and market dynamics. And here we need not look to the more extreme cases (whether the countries subjected to the imf’s “structural adjustments” in South America or the recent fate of Greece, Ireland, and Portugal in the EU) to understand the impact of neoliberal rationality and market imperatives on political sovereignty, even though the dramatic state responses to the 2008 finance capital meltdown are quite informative in this respect. We rather find, on the one hand and pace Schmitt, that moments of political “crisis” are not (or perhaps are no longer primarily) best understood as events that necessitate the pure, autonomous sovereign decision; nor, pace Habermas, do they reveal a latent “legitimation crisis,” finally revealing the state to be a capitalist state at its very core, and thus undercutting its (liberal) status of impartiality and neutrality vis-à-vis the governed in general and competing financial and economic interests in particular.36 Indeed, as most 1970s social theorists who engaged with this question would likely concede

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(and as Nikos Poulantzas already had by the end of the decade),37 such concerns now seem distant and outmoded, for they presented as a problem something that no longer even appears as a question, much less as a potential legitimation “deficit”—namely, that the state is deeply implicated in and works to the benefit of particular economic interests in a particular economic order, that of (financial) state capitalism, or what some have called neoliberal market democracy. And if, in this way, nation-states now take on “a complex double role as actors within, facilitators of, and stabilizers for economic globalization,” then, following Brown, we must be vigilant of the consequences: “the people are reduced to passive stockholders in governmentalized states operating as firms within and as weak managers of a global order of capital without, an order that has partly taken over the mantle of sovereignty from states.”38 We must also observe, on the other hand, how new actors and new perturbations of political discourse respond to such developments. At various (political, social, economic) levels, new players have stepped onto the field. Banks, hedge funds, and corporations wield an expansive form of power that is no longer captured by the anxiety—one that goes back to Robert Dahl and the pluralist theories of liberal democracy of the 1950s and 1960s—about unbalanced “lobbying” or unfair access of “special interests.” As Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United and McCutcheon have undercut the foundational assumptions of much of liberal democratic theory (if not also the reality to which such theories sought to roughly correspond), these new relations and actors have reconfigured a variety of fields (law, business, university, finance). Corporate personhood, to name but one example, has a long history in liberalism; while its most recent articulation by the Supreme Court does mark a subtle transformation, it is neither “new” to democratic politics nor necessarily a constitutive part of the neo in neoliberalism.39 But Mitt Romney’s glib response to a chanting citizen on the campaign trail—“Corporations are people, my friend”— was not simply a failed attempt to be “folksy” while identifying with his real base . . . even if it was that. As an expression of a political rationality that has infiltrated “common sense,” his quip was

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rather symptomatic of a new (real, yet for Romney also aspirational) landscape—a landscape characterized by “neoliberalization.” Neoliberalization can signify processes described above such as economization, but it can also denote a displacement of previous sources and sites of sovereignty as state and market become intermeshed. Jamie Peck thus employs the term to denote a “form of state/economy relations, not a linear path towards a purely freemarket state.”40 Dardot and Laval similarly designate an overall readjustment of the state/market apparatus (nww), and Vogl describes the functioning of a “bipolar machine” that produces “sovereignty effects,” “the effects of a quasi-sovereign power, which . . . binds the political body to the instability or the dangerous situation of financial markets” (“tse,” 153). This transformative, neoliberalizing process is, as we will see below, neither without theoretical underpinning nor without severe consequences for the conditions and operations of sovereignty and capitalism today. Turning to the dossier, it is precisely these conditions and operations that the following critical theoretical interventions attempt to illuminate.

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How can we account for the operations and erasures of sovereign power today, and what is their connection to the more traditional formulations and anxieties discussed above? What is the relationship between capitalism, state sovereignty, and the conceits of Western liberal secularism? And finally, as queried above, what happens to sovereignty at the hour of neoliberalism’s ascendance? Looming behind these questions and their various iterations in the dossier is the problem of the status of the state. For two of the dossier’s articles, we could pose this as a double question: how is the function of the state reconfigured under neoliberalism, and how is the role of the state reconceived by neoliberals themselves? Joseph Vogl’s contribution to the dossier bridges his two most recent major projects, his 2010 best-seller Das Gespenst des Kapitals (The Specter of Capital)41 and his forthcoming book, Der Souveränitätseffekt (The sovereignty effect). Originally presented as a two-part lecture series, the article retains this structure in my

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translation. While part 1 provides a compressed version of the arguments and insights contained in the former book, part 2 offers a preview of his current work in progress. Both parts begin with a micro-narrative of the financial collapse of 2008, detailing dramatic moments and movements which, taken together, formed a series of actions and reactions, of decisions and non-decisions, resulting in catastrophic effects around the globe. As “preconditions” for the crisis, Vogl points to the end of the Bretton Woods system, the politics of neoliberalism (the austerity and liberalization that began with Reagan and Thatcher and ushered in “a new social contract”), and the role of new technologies (computerized stock exchanges, high-frequency trading). Marking these developments as well as the many financial crises since the 1980s, Vogl tracks the formation of a “dangerous knowledge” in financial-economic doctrines and considers the 2008 global collapse not simply as that which the field of economics failed to predict, not simply that which it then failed to comprehend, but also that which it likely coproduced through its foundational assumptions and models. Because theories of the market are not just theories but have become practical and “programmed” our reality, Vogl focuses on the development of a few central theorems and models in the knowledge of financial markets, most of which are captured by “the efficient market hypothesis.” This well-known thesis claims that the “beauty” of financial markets consists in their ideal conditions for pricing mechanisms and perfect competition, which absorb unpredictabilities in such a way that the whole system tends toward balance and equilibrium. Going back to the eighteenth century and Adam Smith’s invisible hand metaphor, Vogl explains that this is an essential feature of the modern theory of the market: not only is the market supposed to transform “the flurry of selfish actions into the common good,” but the idea of balance and equilibrium aims at approximating natural laws like those in physics. Such aims and assumptions are connected to what Vogl coins “oikodicy,” also captured by the title of part 1: “The Strange Survival of Theodicy in the Economy.” At the core of the liberal theory of the market lies the conviction that, despite all breakdowns, crashes, bankruptcies and evils, “today’s financial economy is the best of all possible eco-

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nomic worlds” (“tse,” 135). If economic theory generally holds that “market affairs are an exemplary stage of order, balance, and social reason, and that the market reigns like a sort of profane providence” (“tse,” 134), Vogl contests this “figure of hope” by discerning elements of its development, its effects, and finally its most fundamental assumptions. In part 2, Vogl focuses on the relations of power and the roles of state and non-state actors that have emerged with today’s financial economy. He advances several theses about the practical and theoretical challenges presented by new forms of entwinement between state and market, and more specifically, by the informalization of political decisions, the maxims of economic governance, and the shift in sovereignty reserves. Tracking formations of politicoeconomic agency during the 2008 financial crisis, Vogl argues that “the ominous decision regarding the Lehman bankruptcy was not really a decision at all” (“tse,” 142). Rather, from the fall of 2008 to the more recent crisis politics in Europe, we find a new “logic of decision processes in the financial-economic regime.” Through movements that evade parliamentary participation and betray democratic conventions, governmental praxis sets new standards for exceptional measures as power shifts in ways that most often reinforce the interests of the financial industry. Since the 1970s, this transformation in the organization of power has increased the interdependence between global market systems and nation-states, producing in turn what Vogl calls “sovereignty effects.” Primarily driven by the deregulation and liberalization of markets, and of financial markets in particular, this “created not only new conditions and possibilities for capital accumulation, but . . . a new ordering of governance, a realization of new structures in the coordination of economy and state power” (“tse,” draft). While central, national, or reserve banks have taken on essential roles in the system, a powerful oligarchy accumulates and defends its wealth and power through formally democratic means. Finally, not the state but “the market itself takes over the post of the last instance: The market and its actors have become a kind of creditor-god who decides in the last instance on the fate of currencies, economies, social systems, public infrastructures, private savings, and so forth”

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(“tse,” 152). And it is precisely here that Vogl locates the “sovereignty shift” in the neoliberal framework, revealing how “the people,” far from having control over their collective fate, are increasingly bound to the instability of the market as well as the complex politico-economic “decisional power” of market actors. This constitutes new formations of politico-economic sovereignty that bring with them profound and unforeseen dangers. While Thomas Biebricher offers a similar thesis concerning the transformation of crisis politics and emergency measures in the EU, his article turns to neoliberal thought itself, with the intent of capturing an underlying “political theory” of neoliberalism as articulated by its intellectual initiators. Running parallel to elements of Vogl’s and Peck’s analyses of neoliberalization, Biebricher rightly observes that “neoliberal thought in most of its currents and varieties relies upon the state to fulfill crucial functions for the establishment and reproduction [of] a society according to neoliberal design” (“sne,” 78). To capture the variety and breadth of ordoliberal and neoliberal intellectual currents, Biebricher looks to some of its central figures, such as Friedrich August von Hayek, Wilhelm Röpke, Milton Friedman, and James Buchanan. In deciphering their theories, Biebricher makes an analytical distinction between three varieties of sovereignty in neoliberal thought: the sovereign as umpire, the sovereign as Odysseus, and the sovereign as oscillating between rules and exception. In Biebricher’s reading, Röpke conforms most closely to the umpire metaphor, fusing technocratic authoritarianism or “enlightened despotism” with minimal democratic elements at the local level, for democracy can only work when “certain supreme norms and principles of public life and economic order” remain foundational and unquestioned (Röpke quoted in “sne,” 90). While Buchanan ties himself to the Odysseus metaphor, underscoring the importance of certain selfbinding rules, Hayek becomes especially interesting because of his fraught relation to Schmitt. Hayek’s version of neoliberal theory oscillates between two elements of the Schmittian heritage—that is, between “enthroning” the rules themselves as sovereign and “flirting” with a form of exceptionalist authoritarianism. Reflecting on neoliberal sovereignty in Europe, Biebricher argues

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that these ideas link up with contemporary transformations in the structures of economic governance. To elucidate this transformation, he engages Wendy Brown’s account of neoliberalization and de-democratization in the American context, which features the desacralization of law used for neoliberal political expediency, on the one hand, and waning state sovereignty, on the other, leading to new forms of the state of exception. Biebricher alters and supplements this diagnosis by suggesting that the situation is paradoxically different in Europe due to a “resacralization of law or juridical norms more generally in the form of sacrosanct Fiscal Pacts . . . [and] what could be called an emergency constitution.” This loops back to his larger thesis, namely, that all three varieties of neoliberal sovereignty outlined above can be found in contemporary Europe “as it tries to mitigate, contain past and present crises, and preempt future ones” (“sne,” 100). At minimum, then, Biebricher provides two essential insights into the relationship between neoliberalism and sovereignty. Against those who would dismiss neoliberalism as lacking a developed or coherent political theory, he takes seriously its various traditions and attempts to reconstruct their formulations of sovereignty, allowing us to subject them to critical and comparative scrutiny. In turn, his article provides a lens through which to capture aspects of contemporary political developments of law and economic governance, relating their place in neoliberal sovereignty back to their intellectual legacies. Wendy Brown’s dossier article both advances a series of reflections found in her previous writings and represents a slice of her current work in progress on the topic of Marx and religion.42 Like her treatment of the question Is Critique Secular?, this piece begins by undoing “the secular prejudice”—not, however, by simply refuting it, but by problematizing the historical assumptions and conceits that animate it in the present.43 Such presumptions, both long-standing and well known, treat secularization as “an inexorable and progressive tendency in capitalist orders generally, and liberal democracy in particular”; they likewise “implicitly forecast a combination of reason, science, liberal democracy and the market as dethroning religious political authority and energies.”44 Against such predictions, Brown observes, religion and religiously

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animated politics are neither waning nor on their way out, but are rebounding. This presents an occasion to rethink Western secularism (with Asad, Connolly, Mahmood, Taylor, and others) as something beyond an a-religious order of thought, something beyond a distinction between private and public, between church and state. Secularism, itself generative of practices and meanings, is not the opposite of religion but “a particular way of stipulating, organizing and producing it” (“mc,” 111). This requires a further distinction between secularization and desacralization, a distinction that entails a crucial rejoinder for rethinking capitalism today: the operation of desacralizing forces does not vanquish sacralization from history, for “commodities, money, status, cultures, nations, states and even civilization may be sacralized” (“mc,” 112). The imperative to rethink Western, liberal secularism as well as the religiosity and sacralizing effects of contemporary capitalism compels Brown to return to Marx and, more specifically, to read him against the grain of centuries of interpretation on the question of religion. Brown contests readings that give religion the status of ideology and that link capitalism to progressive secularization. Her reading conversely places far more weight on the formative influence of Hegel, the Young Hegelians, and Feuerbach on Marx’s thought, underscoring the way in which he both embraced and expanded Feuerbach’s argument that “religion is an inherent emanation of all alienated and unfree social conditions”—not just in his early writings, but across his later work as well (“mc,” 114). This account of human powers projected onto nonhuman entities under conditions of unfreedom goes beyond religion and results in an extensive analysis of two “inherently religious elements” in capitalism: commodity fetishism and the secular state. The former, Brown argues, both parallels religion and is itself a form of religious mystification in that it operates through the same processes of inversion and projection. It is in this way that the commodity form becomes “transcendent in status and active in the way that religious deities are—capable of idea-generation and world-making” (“mc,” 116). The second inherently religious element of capitalism, interrogated in Marx’s essay “On the Jewish Question,” concerns the secular state and its retention of a Christian theological structure. The state

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expresses a specific form of unfreedom in its abstraction from the distinct and concrete practices of human freedom. In both of these analyses, Marx works with Feuerbachian inspiration while appreciating more than Feuerbach himself “how religion can take secular social and political forms.” It is in this way, Brown concludes, that Marx contributes to one of our most central political-intellectual tasks today: “to fathom how desacralization and religion coexist, how religion thrives amid capitalism, and how its revival is possibly even a response to a desacralizing force” (“mc,” 121). Banu Bargu’s dossier article pushes us to rethink the theoretical and practical implications of sovereign power as manifested in enforced disappearance, a prevalent practice by states across the globe that has received increasing attention by international organizations like the United Nations. Her reflections here continue a line of research that focuses both on the relationship between the political and the theological (in and beyond Schmitt) and on the biopolitics of sacrifice, that is, the demands made on sovereignty by the sacrificial insurgent and by human weapons more generally.45 Against the background of the pressing problem of enforced disappearance in Turkey, among other countries, Bargu observes that—despite its intimate connection to the theory of modern state sovereignty and related questions of violence, the body, and history—disappearance remains underexplored in the domain of political theory. She carries out this intervention through readings of Hobbes and Foucault, as well as an engagement with Foucault’s own reading of Hobbes, all toward the end of reconsidering how the category of the insurgent functions as a target of sovereignty’s violence and self-reproduction. Hobbes’s Leviathan represents a crucial point of departure for understanding the re-signification of the citizen to an insurgent subject that threatens the political body, as this discursive operation forms the very ground of enforced disappearance as a possible practice. Hobbes’s justification of absolute sovereignty gives the sovereign the right to kill on the basis of potential, not actual harm done to the commonwealth, which in turn allows for a slippage between subject and enemy, between crime and war, due to the threat of rebellion. While sovereignty is defined as a juridical form of power, this remains partial and re-

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stricted only to lawful and unlawful subjects. Through the categories of the enemy and the rebel or traitor, Bargu explains, “we can now observe how the juridical discourse of sovereignty is always already penetrated by the logic of war” (“se,” 55). The use of sovereign violence against this figure (the “insurgent-rebel-traitor”) is thus not an aberration of sovereign power, but inscribed into the conceptual edifice of modern state sovereignty. Turning to Foucault’s “panoptic moment,” Bargu argues that his examination of the de-corporealization of punishment with the invention of the modern prison helps us understand what transformed “the criminal qua the personal adversary of the sovereign into a ‘social enemy’ or the ‘common enemy’ of society” (“se,” 45). At the same time, Bargu suggests that Foucault’s account of sovereignty as a discourse of rights and prohibitions falls short; he makes sovereignty epiphenomenal and essentially juridical and separates too sharply sovereign power from the body. Even in Foucault’s reading of Hobbes, Bargu notes, we can find the confluence between war and crime, which reinforces the reduction of sovereignty to a juridical form. On the one hand, Foucault’s suggestive reading accurately tracks three erasures in Hobbes: the body, the conflictual actuality of the political, and history. On the other hand, Foucault ignores the ambiguous category of “rebelinsurgent-traitor” in Hobbes, and he misses the performative nature of these erasures, which Bargu describes as “invisibilization”: “Hobbes shows that sovereignty is not the absence of violence, discipline, or domination but the ability to assert their erasability as the ultimate proof of power” (“se,” 61). It is along these lines, Bargu suggests, that we must rethink enforced disappearance in the contemporary operation of sovereignty, as sovereign power acts both by disappearing the body of the “insurgent” subject and by erasing its own foundations through this very gesture. The politics of erasure is therefore not an aberration of sovereignty but is inscribed into modern state sovereignty itself, and is thus also internal to the potential forms of resistance to it. By merging various avenues of critical study, this special dossier of Qui Parle hopes to initiate new lines of reflection on sovereignty and neoliberal capitalism, treating both in their historical particu-

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larity and their theoretical complexity. Such lines of reflection reorient the project of critique to new entanglements of the political and the economic—entanglements found in the “sovereignty effects” produced by new politico-economic formations and in the undemocratic, market-driven models that undergird neoliberal intellectual currents themselves. In turn, these modes of inquiry call our attention to the sovereignty of capital itself, a globalized, world-making force with heretofore underexplored sacralizing effects. At the same time, they force us to remain vigilant of (and thus not simply wish away) the forms of power and violence that underwrite modern state sovereignty, such as the erasures performed by enforced disappearance. Less autonomous and independent in relation to other spheres of life, state sovereignty now appears impelled by its very dependence on and anxiety about the forces over which it purportedly reigns supreme. Taken together, the dossier contributes to the wider effort of rethinking sovereignty’s anxious, shifting features amid the neoliberal transformations that continue to remake the world today.

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Notes

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1. On the state as “the lender of last resort,” see Joseph Vogl, “The Sovereignty Effect: Markets and Power in the Economic Regime” (in this issue), hereafter cited as “tse”; see also Maurizio Lazzarato, The Making of Indebted Man: An Essay on the Neoliberal Condition, trans. Joshua David Jordan (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2012), hereafter cited as mim. 2. Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception, trans. Kevin Attell (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005). For recent work that draws on the structure of Agamben’s and Benjamin’s accounts to theorize law, see Christoph Menke, Recht und Gewalt (Berlin: August Verlag, 2012), and Andreas Fischer-Lescano, Rechtskraft (Berlin: August Verlag, 2013); English translations of each are forthcoming. 3. For an examination of the attributes of sovereignty in political theoretical and theological discourses, see Wendy Brown, Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (Brooklyn: Zone, 2010), 51–52, hereafter cited as ws. For probing studies of theories of political sovereignty, see Jens Bartelson, A Genealogy of Sovereignty (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) and Sovereignty as Symbolic Form (New York:

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Routledge, 2014); Daniel Loick, Kritik der Souveränität (Frankfurt am Main: Campus Verlag, 2012). On the tension between democracy and sovereignty within liberalism, see ws, 47–52. Carl Schmitt, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 5. Hereafter cited as pt. See Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1996), hereafter cited as cp. See also Banu Bargu, “Sovereignty as Erasure: Rethinking Enforced Disappearance” (in this issue), hereafter cited as “se.” For her discussion of the figure of the insurgent in Schmitt, see Banu Bargu, “Stasiology: Political Theology and the Figure of the Sacrificial Enemy,” in After Secular Law, ed. Winifred Fallers Sullivan, Robert A. Yelle, and Mateo TaussigRubbo (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011): 140–59, hereafter cited as “spt.” Thomas Biebricher, “Sovereignty, Norms, and Exception in Neoliberalism” (in this issue). Hereafter cited as “sne.” See Jacques Derrida, “Declarations of Independence,” New Political Science 7, no. 1 (1986): 7–15; and Bonnie Honig’s reading of this essay, “Declarations of Independence: Arendt and Derrida on the Problem of Founding a Republic,” American Political Science Review 85 (1991): 97–113. See William Connolly, The Ethos of Pluralization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995); and Bonnie Honig, Emergency Politics: Paradox, Law and Democracy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), hereafter cited as ep. Or, in Rousseau’s words, “men would have to have already become before the advent of law that which they become as a result of the law.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, trans. Maurice Cranston (New York: Penguin Books, 1968), 87. Jacques Rancière, On the Shores of Politics (New York: Verso, 2007), 93. See Sheldon Wolin, “Fugitive Democracy,” in Democracy and Difference: Contesting the Boundaries of the Political, ed. Seyla Benhabib (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 31–45. For an examination of homo oeconomicus and homo politicus that engages this problematic by tracking the ascendency of the former over the latter, see chapter 3 in Wendy Brown, Undoing the Demos: The Stealth Revolution of Neoliberalism (forthcoming with Zone, January 2015), hereafter cited as ud.

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11. 12.

13.

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14. Carl Schmitt, “The Age of Neutralizations and Depoliticizations (1929),” in cp, 89. 15. In his later work, Schmitt makes similar moves while treating the relationship between the economic and the political with greater historical rigor, making it central to his analysis of World War II and its aftermath. See Carl Schmitt, The Nomos of the Earth, trans. G. L. Ulmen (New York: Telos Press, 2003), 256–58. 16. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000), 327. Hereafter cited as e. 17. This might not yet be the undoing of Schmitt’s account, but these configurations of power between the political and the economic either escape or overflow Schmitt’s framework. Schmitt says, e.g., “The real friend-enemy grouping is existentially so strong and decisive that the nonpolitical antithesis, as precisely the moment at which it becomes political, pushes aside and subordinates hitherto purely religious, purely economic, purely cultural criteria and motives to the conditions and conclusions of the political situation at hand. . . . If such [a political] entity exists at all, it is always the decisive entity, and it is sovereign. . . . Otherwise the political entity is nonexistent” (cp, 38–39). 18. See “tse”; and Joseph Vogl, Das Gespenst des Kapitals (Zurich: Diaphanes Verlag, 2010). Hereafter cited as dgk. 19. Concurring with one aspect of Hardt and Negri’s account, Brown argues that capital itself is what increasingly lays claim to the status of global sovereign (ws, 64). 20. See the discussion in “sne”; and Thomas Biebricher, “Europe and the Political Philosophy of Neoliberalism,” Contemporary Political Theory 12 (2013): 338–75. 21. See “se”; and Banu Bargu, “Human Shields,” Contemporary Political Theory 12 (2013): 277–95, hereafter cited as “hs.” 22. “This bio-power was without question an indispensible element in the development of capitalism; the latter would not have been possible without the controlled insertion of bodies into the machinery of production and the adjustment of the phenomena of population to economic processes.” Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality (New York: Vintage Books, 1990), 140–41. Hereafter cited as hs. A few years later Foucault offers a concise definition at the opening of his lectures: “the set of mechanisms through which the basic biological features of the human species became the object of a political strategy, of a general strategy of power.” Security, Territory, Popula-

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23.

24.

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tion: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978–79 (New York: Picador, 2007), 1. Hereafter cited as stp. See, e.g., Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller, eds., The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991); Nikolas Rose and Peter Miller, Governing the Present: Administering Economic, Social and Personal Life (Cambridge: Polity, 2008); and Mitchell Dean, Governmentality: Power and Rule in Modern Society (London: Sage, 2009). Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978–79 (New York: Picador, 2008). Hereafter cited as bp. See Wendy Brown, “Neoliberalism and the End of Liberal Democracy,” in Edgework: Critical Essays on Knowledge and Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), 37–59; also, for a provocative take on the phenomenon of human capital under these conditions, see Michel Feher, “Self-Appreciation; or, The Aspirations of Human Capital,” Public Culture 21, no. 1 (2009): 21–41. Wendy Brown, chapter 3 in UD. Joseph Vogl, “In the Pull of Time: A Conversation between Joseph Vogl and Philipp Ekardt on Speculation,” in issue on “Speculation,” Texte zur Kultur 93 (March 2014): 108–25. On this point, Lazzarato concurs: “The asymmetry of power constitutive of debt rids us of the ‘dream’ according to which the State and society begin with a contract (or, in the updated version, a convention)” (mim, 43–44). See also Joseph Vogl, “Taming Time: Media of Financialization,” Grey Room 46 (2012): 72–83. See chapters 4, 5, and 6 in ud. Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval, chapter 9 in The New Way of the World: On Neoliberal Society, trans. Gregory Elliott (Brooklyn: Verso, 2013). Hereafter cited as nww. Koray ÇalıŞkan and Michel Callon, “Economization, Part 1: Shifting Attention from the Economy towards Processes of Economization,” Economy and Society 38, no. 3 (2009): 369–98. See Foucault’s second lecture (January 17, 1979) in bp. See Vogl’s dgk and “tse.” See chapter 7 in ud. See Bernard Harcourt, The Illusion of Free Markets (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012). See William Connolly, The Fragility of Things: Self-Organizing Processes, Neoliberal Fantasies, and Democratic Activism (Durham: Duke University Press, 2013).

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36. Jürgen Habermas, Legitimation Crisis, trans. Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1975). This earlier analysis of state legitimacy of course contrasts with Habermas’s later attempt to offer a normative grounding thereof. See Jürgen Habermas, Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy, trans. William Rehg (Cambridge ma: Polity Press, 1996). 37. Written in 1978, the same year Foucault began his lecture series on neoliberalism, Nikos Poulantzas’s State, Power, Socialism comprises a strange mixture of Althusserian and Foucauldian insights, as Stuart Hall notes in his introduction. Here Poulantzas argues against orthodox conceptions of the base-superstructure model and for a new, modified Marxist account of the interpenetration of the political and the economic. He puts the emergent neoliberal transformation this way: “The totality of operations of the State are currently being reorganized in relation to its economic role . . . . Through its expansion, the State does not become more powerful, but on the contrary more dependent, with regard to the economy; for such expansion corresponds to a development whereby the totality of socio-economic fields is subordinated to the capital accumulation process. Every attempt to make state activity as a whole depend exclusively on the deliberate choices and tactics of ‘politicians’ involves ‘overpoliticization’ of the actions of the State.” Nikos Poulantzas, State, Power, Socialism, trans. Patrick Camiller (Brooklyn: Verso, 2014), 168–69. 38. Wendy Brown, “We Are All Democrats Now . . . ,” in Democracy in What State? ed. Agamben et al. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 50. 39. See, e.g., chapter 3 in Joshua Barkan, Corporate Sovereignty: Law and Government under Capitalism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013). 40. Jamie Peck, Constructions of Neoliberal Reason (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 10. 41. Joseph Vogl, The Specter of Capital (Stanford: Stanford University Press, forthcoming September 2014). 42. Wendy Brown, “The Sacred, the Secular, the Profane: Charles Taylor and Karl Marx,” in Varieties of Secularism in a Secular Age, ed. Michael Warner, Jonathan Vanantwerpen, and Craig Calhoun (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010), 83–104. 43. Wendy Brown, introduction to Is Critique Secular? ed. Talal Asad, Wendy Brown, Judith Butler, and Saba Mahmood (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013), 1–13.

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44. Wendy Brown, “Is Marx (Capital) Secular?” (in this issue), 109, 124. Hereafter cited as “mc.” 45. See, e.g., “spt”; “hs”; and Banu Bargu, “Unleashing the Acheron: Sacrificial Partisanship, Sovereignty, and History,” theory & event 13, no. 1 (Spring 2010), http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/tae/ v013/13.1.bargu.html.

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Sovereignty as Erasure Rethinking Enforced Disappearances

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Every Saturday precisely at noon, a crowd of mothers gathers in front of the gates of Lycée de Galatasaray, a prominent francophone high school situated at the center of Istanbul’s bustling downtown district in close proximity to Taksim Square. These mothers, with pictures of their sons and daughters, stand in silence, with resolve but no resolution to their demand for justice. These are the mothers of the disappeared in Turkey, mothers of bodies that have vanished, or more accurately, bodies that have been made to vanish. These mothers do not know whether their sons and daughters are dead or live; their fates are uncertain. They remain unaccounted for, except on the rare occasion when their remains are found in some unmarked pit, anonymous or mass grave. These mothers, accompanied by men and children who are the relatives of the disappeared, as well as a handful of activist lawyers and human-rights defenders, hold red carnations and often wear white headscarves that have become symbolic of their relentless search for their children. Some of them have been searching for over thirty years, since the 1980 military coup. Others joined the struggle in the mid-1990s, when the number of disappearances surged, especially in the southeast of Turkey, in the midst of the conflict between the Turkish armed forces and the Kurdistan

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Workers’ Party (pkk). The Saturday Mothers, as they have come to be known, began to convene in their current location in 1995 as part of the struggle to find the disappeared and to bring the perpetrators of enforced disappearance to justice. The weekly protests were called off in 1999 due to the intensity of police repression, after many occasions of “ridicule and insults, ill-treatment, or even detention and imprisonment.”1 But they recommenced a decade later, gaining impetus with several high-profile public trials, such as “Ergenekon,” “Temizöz and Others,” and the “September 12” trial of the surviving generals who organized the 1980 military coup. That some of the alleged perpetrators in the Ergenekon and related cases were among those accused of conspiring to create a criminal network within the state apparatus and plotting a coup raised hopes that decades of impunity for the perpetrators of serious human-rights violations against civilians since the early 1980s might finally come to an end. The prosecution of Temizöz—a former colonel in gendarmerie who was accused of conspiring with informants and local paramilitary forces for the extrajudicial killing and enforced disappearance of twenty civilians in Turkey’s southeast province of Şırnak between 1993 and 1995—was a watershed moment for families, however inconclusive and insufficient, rekindling the hope for justice.2 The reenergized campaign of the Saturday Mothers, after having recurrently occupied the small square in front of the high school to hold vigil, thereby transforming it into a silent space of resistance (for 474 weeks at the time of writing), now involves issuing a different call each week that highlights a different person’s story.3 This is a tactic that serves to counteract the erasing effect of enforced disappearance, which renders individuals not only invisible but also anonymous. The Saturday Mothers’ call tries to remind the public that the disappeared are not just numbers but singular individuals who were subjected to a particularly heinous form of violence. It also draws attention to the fact that although each disappearance is singular, the script of disappearances is strikingly uniform. Take, for example, the story of Nurettin Yedigöl, known for his leftist politics, who was taken into custody by the police in Istanbul on April 21, 1981. Despite multiple witness testimonies that

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place him at the police headquarters, with visible signs that he was subjected to severe torture, he never returned home and the police denied that he was ever taken into custody. His remains have not been found, and those responsible for his disappearance have not been prosecuted. Another example is the relatively better known case of Hasan Ocak, who was recently commemorated on the anniversary of his disappearance. Ocak, a teacher by training and a leftist, was last seen leaving work to go home on March 21, 1995. On his way, he was intercepted by the police and taken into custody. Despite witness testimonies that place Ocak at the Istanbul headquarters of the antiterrorism police, his custody was never officially acknowledged. After a two-month search for his body, he was found in an anonymous grave with marks of torture all over his body. Those responsible for his death were not found.4 More than a decade separates these disappearances; one occurred under military rule, the other long after the democratic regime was reestablished (after three years of military rule, the first elections took place in November 1983, transferring the government to civilian hands).5 Despite this difference, the leftist political identity of the individuals who were targeted for the practice of enforced disappearance and the official denial and concealment of their fate were remarkably alike. The fact that both these disappearances took place in Istanbul should not be taken as representative of the geographical distribution of enforced disappearances in Turkey. The areas where most enforced disappearances have been recorded are the eastern and southeastern regions where the Kurdish population is concentrated, especially in those provinces that have been ruled by a regional “state of emergency.”6 This legislation, which basically enabled the continuation of martial law under a democratic regime during the two decades of armed conflict with the pkk, gave governing officials extraordinary provisions to override constitutional rights and liberties and enabled them to enjoy discretionary powers with impunity.7 The script of the disappearances in this region is, once again, similar. Take the cases of Kemal Birlik and Zeki Alabalık, who were recently commemorated by the Saturday Mothers. These individuals were imprisoned for “aiding and abetting terrorism”

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for three years and nine months. On March 29, 1995—the date of their discharge—their relatives Abdulbaki Birlik and Zübeyir Birlik went to Mardin Prison to pick them up. Neither the prisoners nor the relatives were ever seen again. The prison authorities declared that the prisoners had already been discharged, thus washing their hands of any responsibility. The remains of these individuals were not found until June 13, 2013, eighteen years after their disappearance, when an official excavation into an unused well was conducted after the long-standing struggle of the Human Rights Association (ihd). Similarly, a recent discovery in another well in Mardin revealed the remains of Abdurrahman Coşkun, who was taken into custody by the gendarmerie from his home in Mardin on October 29, 1995. His family did not hear from him again. Neither were the six others taken into custody with him ever found. When asked, the gendarmerie informed the family that Coşkun had been released and that he probably joined the guerrillas. His remains were identified and properly buried only on March 14, 2014. These examples, which come from the same province under “state of emergency” rule, suggest that the recurrent targets of enforced disappearance in this region were marked by their Kurdish identity and often suspected of having ties to the pkk. Unfortunately, there are plenty of other stories that are in dire need of dissemination, discussion, and remembrance so that more bodies can be retrieved, the search of distraught families can be put to rest, and the perpetrators of enforced disappearance can be brought to justice. The recent report by the Truth, Justice, Memory Center in Istanbul, as one of the pioneering efforts to analyze disappearances in Turkey, cites at least 1,353 cases of enforced disappearance that have occurred in the last three decades of Turkey’s turbulent history (ut, 25).8 The authors of the report note that the figure is far from definitive; indeed, the actual numbers may be much higher.9 However, even a provisional analysis reveals certain distinguishable patterns regarding the distribution of disappearances over time and space, namely, that while enforced disappearances were utilized as a tactic since the 1980 military coup, they became most intense in the mid-1990s, and that they occurred mostly in the provinces ruled by the “state of emergency,” but also

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in big cities such as Istanbul and Adana. Diyarbakır—the city that is also notorious for the brutal practices of torture perpetrated in the military prison that bore its name—ranks first in the number of disappearances (followed by Şırnak and Mardin).10 The report also calls attention to the most frequent targets of enforced disappearance, “the politicians, notables and local leaders of the Kurdish community,” and, especially in the areas outside the emergency region, “university students with links to leftwing politics, militants in connection with diverse leftwing politics, various figures that formed local democratic public opinion, or to summarize, people from all dimensions of political opposition were forcibly disappeared throughout the 90s” (ut, 25). The authors conclude that “enforced disappearance is a strategy that was systematically implemented throughout the 90s” (ut, 24–25, emphasis added). They suggest that enforced disappearance should therefore be understood as part of “state terrorism” and placed in close kinship with similar experiences in South American countries (ut, 81). Indeed, disappearances in Turkey, though relatively little known, reveal many similarities with the disappearances that have occurred in Latin America since the mid-1960s, in relation to which the term “disappearance” was originally coined.11 However, even though enforced disappearances are most commonly associated with countries such as Guatemala, Chile, and Argentina, recent political and legal activism and scholarship have begun to show just how widespread this practice has been. According to the 2012 Report of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (wgeid), the number of cases that remain “under active consideration” is 42,889, in a total of eighty-four states (out of 53,986 cases transmitted to different governments since the founding of the wgeid in 1980).12 Such figures do not include mass disappearances attributed to the first half of the twentieth century, associated with the Spanish Civil War and the Nazi practices during World War II. The 1941 German Night and Fog (Nacht und Nebel) Decree, which ordered the secret transportation of thousands suspected for endangering German security, is often cited as one of the first official documents that inscribes disappearance as a state tactic. If one could compile a worldwide archive of

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the disappeared in the twentieth century—which would undoubtedly be an immensely difficult task, if only because the absence of the record inheres in the violence of enforced disappearance—the overall figure would be in the hundreds of thousands. If we were to focus solely on the present, the figures are still alarming. According to the International Coalition against Enforced Disappearances (icaed)—a network of organizations of the families of the disappeared and nongovernmental organizations— countries where widespread disappearances are currently taking place include Bangladesh, India, Mali, Pakistan, Mexico, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria.13 Furthermore, if the practice of “extraordinary rendition” is considered to be a form of enforced disappearance, the United States and its allies in the “war on terror” will have to be included in the list of countries implicated in this practice.14 icaed argues that the reluctance to resolve many cases of enforced disappearance emanating from the Philippines, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Nepal, El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru, Algeria, Egypt, and Morocco continues to be of grave concern. Russia has already been convicted at the European Court of Human Rights for the enforced disappearances that it has perpetrated in Chechnya since 1999, whose numbers are estimated to be as high as five thousand by Amnesty International.15 According to the report of the Independent People’s Tribunal of India (organized by the Human Rights Law Network), the number of people who have been forcibly disappeared by the Indian armed forces in Kashmir is around ten thousand, but no court case has yet been able to pierce the shield of impunity of the perpetrators.16 In the face of mounting evidence that enforced disappearance is a prevalent practice that states across the globe resort to (or have resorted to), it is difficult to sustain the argument that enforced disappearance is an exceptional phenomenon. Rather, it appears as one among the many tactics that are deployed by state apparatuses and their paramilitary affiliates against civilians, especially those considered to be in the political opposition. These tactics, generally studied under the controversial concept of “state terrorism,”17 are utilized in order to create a general climate of fear and intimidation to ensure the submission of the population at large.18 This ensemble of violent practices tends to involve one or more of

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the following: stop and search, beatings, arbitrary and indefinite detainment, torture under custody, sham trials, systematic deprivations (of food, drinking water, housing, health care), house demolitions, forced displacement, and extrajudicial executions, among others. Enforced disappearance, though it may not be as widespread as torture, for example, is far from a rarity. However, enforced disappearance can be interpreted as an “exceptional” phenomenon if this term is taken to indicate the conditions in which emergency legislation is utilized to suspend constitutional protections or the rule of law is temporarily or altogether abrogated while sovereign violence is unleashed in the service of securing the existing order or pursuing related security objectives.19 In a “state of exception,” either declared or assumed, the state uses extralegal sovereign violence against its own people (but not only), justifying this practice in reference to the dictates of necessity in order to combat an emergent threat—a threat that must be eliminated without abiding by the constraints that a system of rights imposes on power. It will be remembered that for theorists of modern sovereignty such as Carl Schmitt, for example, the ability to decide on the exception was hailed as the very hallmark of sovereignty, even as it remained a transgression (if a necessary transgression) from the norms of government.20 By contrast, theorists of contemporary sovereignty, such as Giorgio Agamben, go even further and diagnose our present in a more harrowing way. Accordingly, in the state of exception—where neither law and fact nor the juridical and the political can be distinguished from one another— anomie reigns and violence is boundless.21 Agamben’s description of this state as a topological “no-man’s land” uncannily resonates with the image of a terrain defined by the practice of enforced disappearance. Agamben argues that the state of exception, which should be understood not as a special kind of law (i.e., emergency legislation, martial law, etc.) but the suspension of the juridical order itself, or the purposeful production of a juridical void, has become the “dominant paradigm of government” (se, 2). In other words, in the hegemonic governmental paradigm of security, instances of extralegal sovereign violence have become as routinized as the prominence of executive government.22 Following this thread, many political theorists have persuasively

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shown that the state of exception should be understood not as simply an aberration and abuse of sovereign power but rather as a constitutive and structural feature of modern state sovereignty. In contemplating enforced disappearance, the growing body of scholarship on the “exception” helps steer us away from the public discourse of a few “rotten apples” in the state security apparatus who might be deemed responsible for the violent excesses of states (if anyone is blamed at all). It directs us instead toward a more theoretical register, that of sovereign power, in its relation to violence and law, the body and history. It is on this register that I would also like to proceed. While I begin from the premise that enforced disappearance is a form of violence most commonly observed in situations that correspond to “states of exception,” I would eventually like to problematize this exceptionality, which, as I hope to show, is intimately connected with a predominantly juridical conception of sovereignty. My main goal, however, is to examine the specificity of enforced disappearance in the arsenal of terror tactics utilized by state apparatuses in order to delineate its role as an invisible form of violent punishment, and, further, to interpret its invisibility as a sign in itself—one that leads us to look for the theoretical conditions of possibility of sovereignty’s relationship with those subjects it selectively designates as the targets of its violence.

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What distinguishes enforced disappearance from other forms of sovereign violence utilized as tactics of terror? The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons against Enforced Disappearance provides a legal definition. Accordingly, enforced disappearance is the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.23

Bargu: Sovereignty as Erasure

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Building upon this definition, I would like to highlight several important characteristics of enforced disappearance. First, enforced disappearance is not a simple but an agglutinative human-rights violation; it violates different rights both simultaneously and serially. According to Amnesty International, among the rights that enforced disappearance violates are the right to security and dignity of person; the right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; the right to humane conditions of detention; the right to a legal personality; the right to a fair trial; the right to a family life; and, when the disappeared person is killed, the right to life.24 Second, enforced disappearance can also be envisioned as a concentric human-rights violation; in other words, it targets not only the disappeared but also others, beginning most intensely with the immediate family members of the disappeared and pervading the public at large in concentric circles of effectivity. It intimidates, demobilizes, depoliticizes, and ultimately reduces individuals to passivity with the threat of disappearance. Third, although enforced disappearance may, and often does, involve arbitrary and indefinite detainment, torture, and killing, it is not reducible to any of these violations. As Avery Gordon has stated, “while torture always accompanies disappearance, and death almost always is its consequence, disappearance is not just a euphemism for torture and death”; it is a “thing in itself.”25 Its distinguishing features are the individual’s forcible and often secret removal, clandestine detention, and the subsequent uncertainty associated with the fate of the individual. Given the secrecy and uncertainty, enforced disappearance works as a violation that has no temporal end, except for the production of a body, dead or alive. The fourth characteristic of enforced disappearance is the specific form of violence it deploys. This is a kind of violence that seeks not only to eradicate the person who is the target of enforced disappearance but also to erase the fact that the person ever existed. In that sense, it is not only about the destruction of the individual but also the elimination of the individual’s prior presence. Writing on the mothers of Plaza del Mayo, Margarite Bouvard argues that the “terrible intent of disappearances [is] to annihilate the memory

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as well as the person.”26 As Gordon aptly put it, “a key aspect of state-sponsored disappearance is precisely the elaborate suppression and elimination of what conventionally constitutes the proof of someone’s whereabouts. The disappeared have lost all social and political identity: no bureaucratic records, no funerals, no memorials, no bodies, nobody” (gm, 80). As such, enforced disappearance involves an erasing violence. Finally, the terrorizing effect of enforced disappearance is thus generated through a dialectic of visibility and invisibility, of public knowledge and unknowability (gm, 116, 70, 74–75). That people are being “disappeared” is common knowledge, yet no one knows exactly when, how, or how many (gm, 110). If the secrecy of detainment provides the grounds for manufacturing this invisibility, the lack of information, the absence of proof, the official denials, and disinformation contribute to and compound this quality. Perhaps it is possible to understand the invisibility surrounding this violent practice as a symptom of the transformation of power relations, a new modulation of the tendency that Michel Foucault had identified in the transition from punishment as a corporeal public spectacle to punishment as confinement in a prison, hidden away from sight. Let us recall the contrast that Foucault theoretically develops when he juxtaposes the gruesome torture and execution of Damiens the regicide with Fauscher’s timetable for prisoners in the modern prison. In the painful, bloody, brutal death of Damiens, orchestrated by the French king, sovereign violence produces a terrifying spectacle that is supposed not only to dissuade the people from repeating the regicide but also to affirm, by performing itself upon the body of its enemy, its own power.27 The body of the condemned thus becomes a surface upon which sovereignty is inscribed through a ceremonial performance. As Foucault argues, this is the restoration of a wounded sovereignty—wounded because a personal assault on the sovereign is, at the same time, a breach of sovereignty at large. Such an offense invites the sovereign to avenge the crime as an “affront to his very person” in grandeur and visibility, publicity and excess (dp, 48). The personalistic, absolutist nature of power enacts punishment as the “sovereign’s personal vendetta,” in an intimately and extremely individuated form,

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but through dissymmetry and vengeance.28 The spectacular torture entails the re-production of sovereignty through the visible and visceral elimination of its adversaries. The body of the condemned becomes a visible target as well as a canvas of sovereignty. By contrast, the subsequent de-corporealization of punishment and its disappearance from view through the invention of the modern prison are both results of the transformation of the “criminal” qua the personal adversary of the sovereign into a “social enemy,” or the “common enemy” of society, constituted through the advent of popular sovereignty (dp, 90, 101, 129). This transformation enables the totality of the social body to punish, but it also imposes restraint and “humanization” through the institutionalization of the power to punish (dp, 129–30). The convicted body, instead of being publicly and brutally executed, is either executed in increasingly “humane” ways—far away from public sight—or locked up in a prison cell—where it is mastered, utilized, and dominated, compelled to conform to norms, and, ultimately, pushed to interiorize its own subjection (dp, 26–27, 138, 170, 203). Today we need to follow through the transformation in forms of punishment and plot out how the corporeal and public form of sovereign violence is being further displaced and reconfigured. Building on Foucault’s observations, we must ask how the wounded sovereignty that the French king sought to heal by wounding the body of the condemned through a public spectacle is now being supplanted, not (only) by the high-security prison, which hides its inhabitants away from the public gaze, but, as importantly, by the prison that is itself hidden from sight. We must attend not only to the secret prison but also to the more informal and flexible, even temporary and mobile detention centers and captivity sites that are impervious to public knowledge, whose surreptitious existence is officially denied, and whose inhabitants, often covertly abducted into indefinite captivity, are also undisclosed. They constitute what Derek Gregory has evocatively called “vanishing points.”29 Together they present us with the invisible penal architecture of the present. This tendency of invisibilization, characteristic of enforced disappearance as a state tactic, has been particularly accentuated with the war on terror. The secret network of “black sites,” as they have

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come to be known, operated by security agencies and connected with one another through transport networks that help transfer detainees from one country to another, render enforced disappearance even more difficult to detect due to the transborder nature of this network. The dialectic between public knowledge and unknowability that Gordon has suggested continues through those “ghost” prisoners caught in this network. We can only surmise what is happening to them, but never know for sure. As Gordon has insightfully remarked, “everyone must know just enough to be terrified, but not enough either to have a clear sense of what is going on or to acquire the proof that is usually required by legal tribunals or other governments for sanction” (gm, 110). The contradiction between the invisibility of the new penal landscape and the increased visibility of subjects of government is all the more glaring in light of modern surveillance technologies that are put in place to govern uncertainty. On the one hand, the panoptic restructuration of everyday life continues apace, increasing the legibility of society to the governing eye; on the other hand, the invisibility of punitive practices is compounded with the emergence of the secret prison. These seemingly contradictory tendencies are united by a “new dispositif of risk that has a precautionary rationality at its core.”30 Whereas Foucault had drawn attention to the role of probabilistic thinking in modern governmentality and the development of insurance, today the management of contingency has led to the proliferation of a plethora of “risk technologies” that “do not calculate probability on the basis of past evidence, but rather on the horizon of what may happen in the future.”31 Central to the new modulation of governmentality is the desire to tame uncertainty into a manageable risk. In the face of radical uncertainty, the management of risk transmogrifies into preemptive intervention into reality in order to enact, if not the elimination, then at least the controlled structuration of contingency. In the war on terror, Claudia Aradau and Rens van Munster have argued, we see the manifestation of this kind of risk management in the proliferation of preemptive strikes, practices of extraordinary rendition, indefinite detention, and a host of everyday technologies based on extensive surveillance and profiling (“gtr,” 102–7).

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But whereas with the modern prison the public invisibility of disciplinary punishment was counteracted by the publicity of the trial through which individuals were convicted, what we see today is the increasing disappearance of the trial itself. Next to individuals publicly convicted and destined as suitable objects of the invisible torture of solitary confinement—deemed more “humane” and certainly more efficient than visible, corporeal torture—we now have individuals whose destiny to become the objects of extralegal sovereign violence is decided by administrative fiat. Intelligence information is substituted for the legal process, which recedes and gives way to decisions made by those responsible for security enforcement, leading to a new prominence of violent punishment and secret confinement, without the public ascertainment of its necessity and measure. Further, as Oliver Kessler and Wouter Werner have suggested, where a semblance of legality is sought, the language being utilized to justify measures such as targeted killings of those deemed “unlawful combatants” on the basis of alleged guilt or future threat incorporates legal categories that have already been permeated and transfigured by the logic of risk management.32 Finally, these processes work in tandem to manufacture a new conception of the enemy as the justified target of violence. In the context of enforced disappearance, the most frequent targets are those individuals considered by those in power to be political opponents, insurgents, subversives, and rebels.33 As the relatively well-studied case of desaparecidos in Latin America has made clear, most of those who have been subject to the practice of enforced disappearance have been politically active individuals, dissidents, journalists, writers, and community leaders—in short, those who are deemed “subversives” and thus singled out for the terrorizing violence of the state.34 The record on disappearances in Turkey, Peru, India, and many other countries attests to a similar situation. The markers of the identity that qualify individuals as targets change; sometimes it is simply about belonging to a minority group—whether ethnic, racial, or religious—while at other times it is about having attachments to or playing a role in an ongoing political struggle that is threatening to the state, for a variety of causes. Despite these differences, the commonality is the subsump-

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tion of these individuals into the category of the enemy. Whether it is called the “subversive,” the “insurgent,” the “terrorist,” or the “unlawful combatant,” this category is invoked as the grounding principle of the decision to deploy violence, which in turn reaffirms both the status of the target as the enemy and the necessity of vigilant punishment. Insofar as the circularity of securitized decisionism, buttressed by the preventive/preemptive model of risk management, attempts to render the enemy a legal category, it injects the juridical discourse of rights with the logic of vengeance that once again targets the body in a highly individuated form with an excess of violence. How, then, should we interpret this invisibilization of punishment? If we learn from Foucault, the emergence of the secret prison, though it is not currently the dominant form of punishment, may still very well be a telling symptom of an underlying transformation of the dominant power regime. Foucault’s interpretation of the movement from torture to the prison points to a three-fold transformation in power relations. First, there is the shift internal to sovereignty: a transition from monarchy to popular modality as the predominant form, which entails sovereignty’s democratization and the ascendance of rule of law. Second, there is sovereignty’s decline relative to emergent forms of disciplinary power that emerge out of and penetrate into the domains where the sovereignty of the state is unable to reach as a juridical form of power.35 Third, weakening sovereignty is also transformed by its interaction and conjunction with disciplinary power, resulting in a coexistence in which one affirms, co-opts, and utilizes the other, and vice versa. With “the old power of death that symbolized sovereign power . . . now carefully supplanted by the administration of bodies and the calculated management of life,” Foucault contends, the violation of the criminal’s body loses its significance as the object of raw extraction—as a public site for the production of sovereignty— and becomes the vehicle of its disciplinary reproduction, by being deprived of its liberty under surveillance and tamed more as a soul than as a body (hs, 138–39). The “humble modalities, minor procedures” of disciplinary power (such as surveillance, normalizing judgment, and examination) penetrate and colonize law from

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within, transforming it and rendering imprisonment the general modality of punishment (dp, 170, 232). This is not to say that the prison, whose disciplinary function works in tandem with the secrecy of punishment, completely eliminates physical violence (dp, 129–31). Torture, insofar as it remains, is the recalcitrant trace of archaic, absolutist sovereignty and gets “enveloped, increasingly, by the non-corporeal nature of the penal system” (dp, 16). However, it does mark a tendency in which the substitution of imprisonment for corporeal torture points to a qualitative transformation in the nature of power relations writ large. What are the theoretical consequences of this compelling account? Foucault puts forth a stark contrast between disciplinary power and sovereignty.36 Sovereignty, with its prohibitive character, becomes a predominantly juridical form of power for Foucault, characterized almost as if it were an epiphenomenon. In terms suggestive of the base-superstructure model in Marxist theory of social formations, Foucault argues that disciplinary power functions within society through norms upon which the laws of sovereign power are “superimposed,” where the pervasiveness of discipline exists as “the other, dark side” of sovereign power, rendered invisible by its egalitarian formalism, and finally, where the legal subject of sovereignty, with rights and liberties, becomes an ideological representation of the embodied subjectivity of the individual produced as an effect of disciplinary power (dp, 194, 222; hs, 144; smd, 37, 56; pp, 64). Consequently, Foucault insists, we must look “outside, below, and alongside the State apparatuses” for social mechanisms of domination in order to understand the workings of power in modern societies.37 In other words, we must move from the epiphenomenon to the phenomenon itself, from the juridical to the social, to locate the “hidden abode” of power. However, the widespread problem of enforced disappearance and the development of the secret punitive complex in which torture, among other forms of sovereign violence, has gained a new prominence suggest that perhaps Foucault was too hasty to relegate sovereignty to a shadow play, even as he revolutionized the way we analyze power. Powerful as his account of the emergence of the modern prison may be, in order to continue this line of inter-

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pretation and bring it to bear on the present we must pay attention to how its theoretical consequences might counterpoise its insights. From a Foucauldian perspective, the explanation for these practices as a recalcitrant remnant of old times or as something that has been reactivated (especially via the deployment of racism) within what has evolved into a primarily biopolitical power regime remains perfunctory and inadequate.38 In fact, Foucault’s statement that the coexistence of the machinery of death and the political concern for life constitutes “one of the central antinomies of our political reason” is indicative, in my view, of the way in which he himself admits the inadequacy of his own theoretical position concerning sovereignty.39 The problem is not Foucault’s prioritization of those biopolitical forms of power whose emergence and operation he so effectively chronicles at the expense of sovereignty (a move that is understandable as both a rhetorical strategy and a political-theoretical imperative that guides his work), but rather his misreading of sovereignty as a purely juridical discourse of rights and prohibitions and his elision of the specific relationship that sovereign power establishes with bodies that it especially deems a threat. On one hand, the equivalence between sovereignty and the juridical leads Foucault to endorse a strict separation between the legal realm of the state and the corporeal realm of society. On the other hand, the loss of distinction among individuals subjected to power relations implies that Foucault is unable to specify the differential techniques that are regularly deployed by the state toward different categories of individuals, classified according to how they threaten sovereignty. Theorizing enforced disappearances requires us to insist on the significance of both the state and those bodies that are swallowed into the arcana of the state, never to resurface again. In order to account for the secret prison as well as practices of torture and extrajudicial killing, it is clear that we need a more complex understanding of sovereignty than that available in Foucault’s thought. As a modest step toward this goal, we must question the purely juridical conception of sovereignty that tends to diminish its actual complexity and trace the theoretical sources of its differential relationship with those subjects it selectively designates as targets of its

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legally bound punishment as well as those it chooses for unbounded violence. We must also consider how sovereignty comes to be presented as a juridical discourse that erases its own violence from view. Pursuing this path, I argue, will bring us closer to recognizing the conceptual grounding for the erasing violence of enforced disappearance.

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Juridical Sovereignty

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As the first theorist of modern sovereignty, Hobbes is also the author who occasions the juridical interpretation of sovereignty that achieves dominance among competing forms.40 Hobbes’s move toward the depersonalization of sovereignty, accomplished by detaching the constitution and exercise of power from the personal qualities of the prince and by grafting supreme power upon a “seat,” paves the way for the construction of a legal public order. The sovereign’s command is transformed into law, which becomes not only the force that binds together the citizens to the sovereign as subjects to his will, which they have authorized, but also the bulwark against the threat of the condition of war, which always already presupposes and continues to haunt the commonwealth as the constant threat of dissolution. Hobbes lends credence to a legalistic interpretation also because he expresses the moment of foundation of the commonwealth in the form of a contractual, hence legal, relationship (though sovereignty by acquisition, he argues, is equally legitimate and based on consent). With the contractual form, obedience to the law becomes an advantageous transaction, which also allows the transcription of political conflict into a problem of rights—the rights of the sovereign versus the rights of the subjects. However, while Hobbes’s formulation constructs sovereignty as a juridical concept, the juridical sphere is in turn enabled and sustained by the nonjuridical—violence or the disciplining threat of violence upon the bodies of citizens—which constitutes its conditions of possibility and reproduction. Violence is necessary to sustain the legal order, but more importantly, this violence is differentially regulated and customized according to its targets. In fact, when we

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read Hobbes closely, we find clues of a two-tier power regime that is defined with reference to its targets rather than the legality of its operations. Through the classification of subjects, certain bodies are coded as appropriate targets of unbounded sovereign hostility and others as within the purview of limited, legal punishment. How is this possible? After all, it is Hobbes who, by recognizing the nontransferable, inalienable right to self-preservation, grants certain liberties to subjects under sovereign rule, thereby inaugurating the liberal tradition. These liberties involve “the liberty to buy, and sell, and otherwise contract with one another; to chose their own abode, their own diet, their own trade of life, and institute their children as they themselves think fit; and the like.”41 Hobbes also acknowledges that there are certain limitations to the obligation to obey, which stem from the right of self-preservation (e.g., self-defense in danger or captivity, not to execute any orders that involve hurting or killing oneself, not to self-incriminate, even to avoid fighting on the battlefield and killing others). Most importantly, the subject cannot be physically punished for a breach of the law, and his liberties cannot be rescinded without proving, in a court of law, that he is guilty. One must be “judged by public authority” in order to establish that he has committed a crime and that he not be subjected to harm “before his cause be heard, over and above that which is necessary to assure his custody” (l, 206, 209). Once the criminality of the subject is publicly established, the punishment that the sovereign deems commensurate to the crime can be delivered. Hobbes underlines the importance of the equivalence between the crime and the punishment so that the latter fulfills a disciplining function, “disposing men to obey the law” (l, 207). Just as he warns against light punishments that may encourage more crime, he also cautions against punishments more excessive than what is set forth in the law: “seeing the aim of punishment is not a revenge, but terror; and the terror of a great punishment unknown, is taken away by the declaration of a less, the unexpected addition is no part of the punishment” (l, 207, emphasis added). At the same time, however, Hobbes also goes to great lengths to show that the liberty of subjects is consistent with the unlimited power of the sovereign. Their liberty is not only defined by

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what the sovereign allows (or, at least does not prohibit), but it also has no bearing on sovereign power, especially as a limiting force.42 Logically, the sovereign right of punishment cannot be limited by subjects, because it does not originate from their act of covenant; rather, it derives from the right of war (the sovereign’s right of war is merely enhanced by the individuals’ renunciation of their own right).43 The essence of sovereignty lies in the sword; therefore, “it may, and doth often happen in commonwealths, that a subject may be put to death, by the command of the sovereign power; and yet neither do the other wrong” (l, 141–42). What is at stake for Hobbes is first that the sovereign has already been authorized by the subjects and thus reflects nothing other than their own will, and second that once the commonwealth is formed the object of protection is no longer particular subjects but always the liberty of the commonwealth, or the subjects in their totality. Even if Hobbes’s sovereign were to punish an innocent subject, it would not be wrong, only inequitable, even though it is against natural law (l, 141, 209–10). This is because the point of punishment, akin to the Athenian practice of banishing the illustrious citizens, is not necessarily “what crime he had done; but what hurt he would do” (l, 142). The sovereign right to kill is therefore predicated on the calculation of potential, not actual, hurt, which is directed at the commonwealth as a whole. The possibility of being subject to punishment is therefore ever present—certainly in the case that the subject disobeys or breaches the law, but also in the event that the sovereign considers the subject to present a potential harm to the commonwealth. Similarly, any room for disobedience that Hobbes seems to have granted based on the inalienable right of self-preservation is shown to have no effectivity in limiting the sovereign right to punish these acts of disobedience (whether or not they are injurious), on grounds that they may bring actual or potential hurt to the commonwealth and that such rights, where they do exist, may be rescinded if necessary: “When our refusal to obey, frustrates the end for which the sovereignty was ordained; then there is no liberty to refuse” (l, 145). Nonetheless, scholars have argued that Hobbes (and the ensuing liberal tradition) maintains a sharp distinction between crime and

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war, which is exemplified by the dramatic difference between the subject and the enemy.44 While the subject has some rights, albeit without any constraining power on the sovereign, the enemy has none (except for the natural right of self-preservation). The right of war does not need to be bound by any limit except that of reason. The sovereign acts according to the right of war when he fights a declared enemy. Hobbes maintains, “in declared hostility, all infliction of evil is lawful” (l, 207). This is the case even if the enemy is innocent, “if it be for the benefit of the Commonwealth” (l, 210). However, the neat contrast between war and crime, between unlimited and vengeful violence and lawful but terrorizing punishment, quickly breaks down. Not only does punishment on preventive grounds (potential harm) look a lot like the extralegal violence of “acts of hostility,” but the precarity of existing liberties, where the rights of the sovereign always trump the rights of the subjects, undermines the legal edifice. More important, Hobbes subsumes the liberty of subjects to the needs of sovereign power, whose end, defined as the survival of the commonwealth, becomes the justificatory grounds for its self-perpetuation. This leads him to distinguish “fundamental” laws from those that are not fundamental: the former are the laws “without which the commonwealth cannot stand,” whereas the latter are those “concerning controversies between subject and subject” (l, 191–92). In line with this distinction, he posits that not all crimes are “equally unjust” (l, 199). The crimes based on the infringement of fundamental laws require special treatment. The emblematic case that shows the continuity between the right of war and the right of punishment is the case of the rebel or the insurgent. Hobbes argues as follows: If a subject shall by fact, or word, wittingly, and deliberately deny the authority of the representative of the commonwealth, (whatsoever penalty hath been formerly ordained for treason,) he may lawfully be made to suffer whatsoever the representative will: for in denying subjection, he denies such punishment as by the law hath been ordained; and therefore suffers as an enemy of the commonwealth; that is according to the will of the representative. (l, 207–8)

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In other words, those who rebel against the authority of government are equivalent to the enemies of the commonwealth. Their “acts of hostility against the Commonwealth” are greater crimes than those infringements that might be directed against other subjects. Examples include the

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betraying of the strengths or revealing of the secrets of the Commonwealth to an enemy; also all attempts upon the representative of the Commonwealth, be it a monarch or an assembly; and all endeavours by word or deed to diminish the authority of the same, either in the present time or in succession: which crimes the Latins understand by crimina laesae majestatis, and consist in design, or act, contrary to a fundamental law. (l, 203)

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In the punishment of rebels qua enemies, sovereignty does not discriminate between the innocent and the guilty, and it knows no temporal limit. It punishes not with terror, but with vengeance; in fact, Hobbes contends, “the vengeance is lawfully extended, not only to the fathers, but also to the third and fourth generation not yet in being, and consequently innocent of the fact, for which they are afflicted” (l, 210). The judgment and violent treatment of the external enemy requires no due process, and neither does that of the rebel. Tarnishing the authority of government “by word or deed,” or worse, refusing submission, attracts the wrath of the sovereign, which recognizes no bounds. The implication we can draw from this discussion is not simply that the juridical sphere of rights and obligations is underwritten and sustained by violence. By examining sovereignty’s relationship to the enemy (entities that threaten the commonwealth from without) and the rebel (entities that threaten the commonwealth from within), we can now observe how the juridical discourse of sovereignty is always already penetrated by the logic of war, which endorses the destruction of those who threaten the commonwealth by sovereign violence lawfully, and yet, without due process, discrimination, or limit. The discursive category “insurgent-rebeltraitor”—which undermines the binaries between the criminal and the enemy, punishment and warfare, and hence the inside and outside of the commonwealth—informs the transformation of in-

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dividuals who are subjects of rights into threats to the commonwealth, threats that must be eliminated, preemptively if necessary. The confluence of the criminal and the enemy in the rebel works as a justification for the deployment of unregulated, indiscriminate, and boundless violence in the name of security. The juridical face of sovereignty seems to be reserved, then, for those law-abiding subjects (who are not deemed a potential threat) and delinquent subjects (whose breaches do not threaten fundamental laws). Here we have the conceptual foundations of a two-tier power regime, one punitive, the other vengeful, each defined with reference to its targets rather than the strict legality of its operations. Both are lawful, according to Hobbes, but insofar as the vengeful tier is not bound by any limits, it might be more appropriate to call it “extralegal” rather than “illegal.” Hobbes teaches us that extralegal violence, far from being an aberration, is a constitutive feature of modern state sovereignty, inscribed into its conceptual edifice. In his analysis of the sovereign spectacle of punishment, Foucault is astute to recognize the continuity between punishment and warfare; he argues, the “sword that punished the guilty was also the sword that destroyed the enemies” (dp, 48, 50). In terms highly reminiscent of Hobbes, Foucault interprets the sovereign’s spectacular, corporeal response to Damiens the regicide as similar to an act of war, since “disobedience was an act of hostility, the first sign of rebellion, which is not in principle different from civil war” (dp, 57). He thereby invites us to observe the convergence between the criminal and the enemy in the figure of the regicide. However, he fails to register this convergence with theoretical clarity. This is because he derives this unbounded violence from the similitude of the sword rather than the particular identity of its target: the status of the condemned as regicide (which squarely fits into the figure of the insurgent-rebel-traitor in Hobbes). Without paying attention to the political nature of Damiens’s crime, Foucault concludes that, in effect, there is an element of hostility in every punishment: “every crime constituted as it were a rebellion against the law and that the criminal was the enemy of the prince” (dp, 50). This conclusion leads him to neglect the internally differentiated power regime, especially the relationship of sovereign power

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to bodies that are considered to be fundamental threats. Because of this reading, Hobbes comes to represent the paradigmatic case of the theory of sovereignty for Foucault, one that he vehemently criticizes and sets his own work against. It is sufficient to recall here Foucault’s programmatic pronunciations such as the need to “eschew the model of Leviathan in the study of power” and to “cut off the King’s head” in political theory (pk, 102, 121). The reduction of sovereignty to a juridical form of power is reinforced when Foucault turns to the prison as the punitive site of popular sovereignty. In the prison, since the personalistic dimension of punishment is increasingly supplanted by the more anonymous stipulations of the laws and, of course, the diffuse mechanisms of disciplinary power, we move further away from registering the continuing relevance of the conflictual relationship between sovereignty and its contestants. Instead, we are left with a strict separation between the legal realm of the state and the corporeal realm of society, between political rule and domination, between contract and conflict.

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Politics of Erasure

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As other scholars have argued, Foucault’s reading of Hobbes is “too restricted,” if not “misleading,” as it makes the contract central to Hobbes’s thought without due attention to the logic of war that permeates his peaceful order.45 At the same time, while Foucault’s “genealogical method of historicizing the ahistorical forms of political theory and pluralizing ‘universal’ forms of history is devastating to those models,” it does not do away with the problem of sovereignty.46 In my opinion, while the limitations that color Foucault’s interpretation of sovereignty are valid, the main insights of Foucault’s reading of Hobbes lie elsewhere. In “Society Must Be Defended,” Foucault’s contention is to unsettle the dominant interpretation of Hobbes as one of the “theorists of the war in civil society” (the other is Machiavelli). Instead, he argues, Hobbes has “nothing to do with it” (smd, 18, 59). Stated differently, Hobbes is not the theorist of war, but instead the theorist that definitively severs domination from sovereignty, or the logic of conflict from that of law in the analysis of power. Fou-

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cault’s attempt to contend with Hobbesian sovereignty enables him to provide a highly suggestive reading that illuminates how Hobbes presents sovereignty as a juridical form of power, which is the panacea of conflict, and how he achieves this equivalence by concealing sovereign violence from view. This reading supplies important clues for grasping not only how violence is erased but also how the erasing violence of sovereignty, exemplified with great clarity in the practice of enforced disappearance, is discursively grounded. In his critical engagement with Hobbes’s Leviathan, Foucault makes three related arguments that comprise what I will call a politics of erasure. First is the argument that Hobbes, like other jurists, abstracts from the materiality of human bodies, transforming the relations of force between bodies into a formal discourse of rights and obligations. Rather than attend to the “material agency of subjugation insofar as it constitutes subjects,” Hobbes’s concern is to delineate how the multiplicity of individual bodies can be unified into one—a singular will and artificial body (smd, 28). Foucault writes:

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In this schema, the Leviathan, being an artificial man, is no more than the coagulation of a certain number of distinct individualities that find themselves united by a certain number of the State’s constituent elements. But at the heart, or rather the head, of the State, there is something that constitutes it as such, and that something is sovereignty, which Hobbes specifically describes as the soul of the Leviathan. (smd, 29)

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The disembodiment, or the move from bodies to legal persons, is accompanied by the constitution of a unified, public person, through the mechanism of authorization by which individuals enable the sovereign to bear their person. The construction of the sovereign political entity thus involves two moves, decorporealization and incorporation, through which the bodies of individuals are erased, and individuals are transcribed as abstract, right-bearing juridical subjects as they are included in the composite entity. Foucault’s second argument concerns Hobbes’s famous state of nature as a state of war. Foucault underlines how the state of nature not only enables the constitution of sovereignty but continues “even when the State has been constituted . . . as a threat that wells

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up in the State’s interstices, at its limits and on its frontiers” (smd, 90). However, he contends that the state of nature refers not to an actual war or confrontation but rather to a “theater” of representations, intimidations, and displays of a conflictual readiness, “a sort of unending diplomacy between rivals who are naturally equal” (smd, 92). Foucault maintains: “There are no battles in Hobbes’s primitive war, there is no blood and there are no corpses. There are presentations, manifestations, signs, emphatic expressions, wiles, and deceitful expressions; there are traps, intentions disguised as their opposite, and worries disguised as certainties” (smd, 92). Thus, in Foucault’s reading, Hobbes’s solution to the problem of avoiding war is the regulation of the potential of conflict by the juridical—more precisely, by way of the erasure of actual conflict that lies at the foundations of sovereignty. While this is transparent in the arguments Hobbes provides for the commonwealth by institution (i.e., the social covenant), Foucault argues that it is even the case for commonwealth by acquisition, whose really violent foundations Hobbes erases by locating consent in the submission of the vanquished to their victors due to “the will to prefer life to death” (smd, 95–96). Hence Foucault’s verdict on Hobbes: “it is as though, far from being the theorist of the relationship between war and political power, Hobbes wanted to eliminate the historical reality of war, as though he wanted to eliminate the genesis of sovereignty” (smd, 97). Third, Foucault contends that Hobbes renders invisible the actual bloody history of conquest and civil war, of the Norman Conquest and the rebellion of Puritan revolutionaries, which constitute the unspoken historical context that frames his theory. Even further than eliminating the memory of conflict, Hobbes’s point is to eradicate the very possibility of conflict. He therefore argues against the popular discourse of conflict, of “permanent civil war,” contemporaneous with him. This is a discourse that utilizes the memory of conquest and domination in order to assert and justify the necessity of struggle and rebellion.47 Pace Hobbes, this discourse approaches power as domination with the claim that

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be analyzed not in terms of natural right and the establishment of sovereignty, but in terms of the unending movement—which has no historical end—of the shifting relations that make some dominant over others. (smd, 109)

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If we follow Foucault’s reading, we observe in Hobbes three theoretical moves, three different erasures: of the body, of the conflictual actuality of the political, and of history. The body becomes the subject of rights, conflict becomes covenant, and the historical knowledge of conquest becomes an ahistorical peace secured by sovereignty. This reading allows Foucault not only to construe Hobbes as the advocate of the neutralization of the political by way of equating it with the juridical and by characterizing the juridical with the absence of violent conflict. It also gives ammunition to Foucault’s own interpretation of sovereignty as a juridical form of power. However, Foucault’s otherwise highly illuminating account remains inattentive to the implications of the politics of erasure he thereby identifies in Hobbes’s discourse. For, as we have already seen, it is precisely in the continuity that Hobbes establishes between the right of war and the right to punish, as he undermines the distinction between the enemy and the criminal through the category of the rebel-insurgent-traitor (which in turn Foucault ignores), that Hobbes recognizes the antagonistic reality of the political and counteracts the consequences of the erasures he undertakes. What Foucault overlooks is that conflictuality in the relation between the insurgent and the Hobbesian sovereign is preserved in the realm of civil society. This antagonism, far from being severed or neutralized by law, is rather inscribed as the core—the fundamental law—that requires continuous and vigilant enactment. Even as Hobbes speaks of the rights of subjects, seemingly dramatically separated from their corporeality by the power of abstraction, the bodies come to haunt the sovereign at every refusal to obey, every infringement of the law, every desertion from the battlefield, and, most certainly, every act of revolt. The precarity of the covenant is such that it must be preserved, not only with utmost force against actual transgressors but also with a proactive and preemptive calculation of potential harm. Finally, the memo-

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ry of past injuries, conquest, and domination—which shapes the judgment of men to decide for themselves what is good and what is evil—and the potential of historical knowledge to reactivate conflict are so hard to eradicate that the sovereign must constantly guard against “the poison of seditious doctrines” that can enflame disobedience (l, 214). Why, then, all the trouble with the discursive erasures which, even as they operate, produce effects that are incomplete, or at least, not without the presence of countervailing effects? The answer, I think, lies in the performative nature of these erasures, through which Hobbes shows that sovereignty is not the absence of violence, discipline, or domination but the ability to assert their erasability as the ultimate proof of power. The politics of erasure is not an obliteration, an “elimination,” which is the word Foucault uses; rather, it is an invisibilization. It renders bodies, violence, and history invisible; it conceals them behind the facade of law. The politics of erasure that is operative in Hobbes’s discourse does not imply that Hobbes bifurcates domination from sovereignty; to the contrary, it is proof that he equates sovereignty and domination precisely by erasing their difference. This elision allows Hobbes to conceal the bifurcation within sovereignty; the two-tier, differentially targeted power regime is presented as a unitary and noncontradictory whole. Sovereign power is not the equivalent of law just because it assumes and appropriates the language of law; rather, it appropriates that language insofar as it is powerful enough to render invisible, if not irrelevant, the constantly threatening reality of conflict through a legally sanctioned eradication of that conflict. Sovereignty performs the erasure of embodiment not because bodies no longer exist but because their representation in abstract legal form is an index of the consolidation of power over bodies. Finally, sovereignty’s construction of its own history vis-à-vis the memory of conflict is the reflection of its self-vindication, which requires the suppression of competing narratives. Hence, the profound conclusion that Foucault omits, in my opinion, is that the discourse of sovereignty involves the performative erasure of its own foundations, precisely in light of its accurate recognition of those foundations. If this erasure is constantly being undermined

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by those foundations, bringing into light the bodies, the violence, and the sedimented histories of conflict, it is also being reproduced by the reenactment of sovereignty on the body of the insurgent, which acts as a remainder and reminder of the imperfect juridicalization of sovereignty.

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Conclusion

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I want to draw two main conclusions from the above discussion. First, the politics of erasure that Foucault helps us locate in Hobbes as the neutralization of conflict, while broadly correct and insightful, does not reflect the countervailing tendencies in Hobbes’s thought, which come to the fore in the performativity of his discourse. Second, Foucault’s inattentiveness to the convergence between the enemy and the criminal in the figure of the insurgent in Hobbes leads Foucault to lose sight of both the ways in which disobedient subjects uphold the conflictuality of politics and how specific bodies become the primary targets of extralegal sovereign violence. These two strands converge in suggesting the necessity of a deeper reflection on the multifarious ways in which sovereignty and domination, law and war, contract and conflict are intertwined—a dimension that Foucault’s work and its legacy tend to sever. Thinking these two conclusions together helps us explore both Hobbesian sovereignty and Foucault’s conception of sovereignty in a new light. What are the theoretical ramifications of this reading? First, and most noticeably, it suggests that there is a politics of erasure at work in the discursive foundations of modern sovereignty. Sovereign power continues to reproduce and enact itself by subjugating, punishing, and eliminating bodies, while sustaining a juridical form in which these acts are legitimated by reference to the liberty of the commonwealth and rendered invisible by the discourse of rights and obligations. In addition to helping conceal the relations of force in civil society, this erasure makes it difficult to detect the differential relations that sovereignty establishes to the subjects that it categorizes and selects as targets of special treatment. Second, if we are to concede that erasure is a feature of

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sovereignty—as an objective, desire, and performance—we must consider its immanent repercussions for the insurgent’s body. To the violability, torture, and destruction of this body, we must now add its erasability from existence, as the ultimate practical proof (and fantasy) of power. As it constructs the category of the rebel as a subject without rights and worthy to be destroyed as an enemy, Hobbesian sovereignty arrogates to itself the power not just to torture and kill in the form of a terrifying public spectacle but also to abduct and arbitrarily detain bodies, to torture and kill them in secrecy, and to hide or get rid of the remains, thus practically erasing them out of existence. The specifically erasing form of violence involved in the practice of enforced disappearance can thus be better understood as an extension of the sovereign politics of erasure. Third, the problem of enforced disappearance, from the perspective that grants sovereignty a politics of erasure, appears not as an extreme form of “exception” but rather as the logical consequence of the theoretical parameters that sanction the deployment of violence as a right of war which knows no limit and which is indistinguishable from the right to punish. Insofar as sovereignty’s ability to erase its own foundations is a constitutive performative gesture crucial for its self-presentation as a juridical form of power, the phenomenon of enforced disappearance appears less as an aberration than as the integral dark side of the kind of power Hobbes so cogently envisioned. As a result, the insurgent’s body becomes the surface upon which sovereignty imprints its mark—a mark written with an ink that erases itself as well as the surface out of existence. The impunity with which sovereign power acts is inseparable from the performative and actual erasures through which it (recurrently) brings itself to being. If this discussion allows us to situate the problem of enforced disappearance within a problematic of sovereignty, it also directs our attention to the practices of sovereign violence that have their own historicity. Foucault has already persuasively shown us how punishment takes increasingly hidden forms, as manifest in the transition from the public spectacle of torture to the panoptic prison. Today we can interpret the emergence of the global war prison whose location is difficult to know, whose prisoners are ghosts, and

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whose practices of violence leave marks more difficult to observe as an intensified continuation of this tendency of invisibilization. However, what characterizes the present is also much more complicated than what a linear trajectory toward greater invisibility in punitive practices would tend to suggest. This is because the invisibility of punishment is now accompanied by a novel logic of preventive risk management whose arbitrariness is based less on the sovereign’s arbitrary decision than on the specialized judgment of those responsible for security enforcement. The resort to a “state of exception” and the claims to historical exceptionalism have thus reinforced the absolutism inherent to modern sovereignty— however democratic—whose roots can be sought in Hobbes. However, whereas the absolutism of Hobbesian sovereignty resorted to corporeal, individuated violence as the transparent function of a logic of war, the absolutism of contemporary governmentality, which entails a contradictory amalgamation of sovereignty and biopolitics, resorts to corporeal, individuated violence as the function of security. It utilizes the traditional prerogatives of sovereign power but fertilizes them with new technologies—the alterization of populations, their partitioning and hierarchization, their selective targeting and specialized management—which are grounded on predictions regarding a radically uncertain future that they thereby seek to bring under control. As a result, the invisibilization of traditional sovereignty, which could involve the selection of targets based on potential as well as actual hurt, is not only accentuated, but it is also transformed into a function of preemptive targeting based on algorithms of surveillance technologies, which now increasingly replace or permeate legal mechanisms. Here we have a biopoliticized sovereignty whose absolutism is based on the desire not to govern contingency but to eliminate risk proactively through technologically ever more sophisticated forms of erasure. Today the attempt to regulate the extralegal violence of sovereign power generally, and enforced disappearance specifically, by means of international law is a venerable effort; however, it faces a tough struggle. The contradiction is that this effort implies placing faith in the voluntary self-limitation of sovereignty; sovereignty is in effect asked to concede to a law that challenges the very un-

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boundedness and plenitude of power. While the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, adopted by the un General Assembly in 1992, has been helpful in defining enforced disappearance as a violation of basic human rights, its practical influence has been limited precisely due to its lack of enforcement power. Nonetheless, it has served the important goal of increasing public awareness as well as adding visibility and international legitimacy to the struggles of the families of the disappeared. By contrast, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance has entered into force in December 2010, upon the completion of twenty ratifications.48 However, with ninety-three signatories to date, the convention only has forty-two signatories that have ratified it and, still less, only seventeen signatories that have agreed to recognize the competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearance (ced), the international body stipulated by the convention to monitor states and receive individual and interstate complaints.49 Perhaps not surprisingly, states have shown no enthusiasm for this convention. Moreover, the reluctance to sign is exhibited not only by states that have a well-established and prominent record of human-rights violations but by those very states that define themselves as champions of liberty and human rights. For example, when asked about the government’s intention to sign in 2007, Under Secretary Lord Triesman remarked: “The UK did not sign the convention at the signing ceremony in Paris on 6 February [2007] because the UK does not sign international treaties unless it has a firm intention to ratify within a reasonable time frame.”50 When asked again in 2013, Under Secretary Merron gave an ambiguous answer, citing the complexity of legal issues involved in ratifying the convention and the government’s ongoing examination of these issues.51 Explaining why the US government had not signed the convention in 2007, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack remarked that the treaty “did not meet our expectations.”52 According to Human Rights Watch, “Prior to the adoption of the convention, the Bush administration actively sought to undermine its protective provisions, including those on the disclosure of detainees and by weakening the protection mechanisms en-

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shrined in the treaty.”53 Even though signing and ratifying the convention would not have had a retroactive impact on the practices of extraordinary rendition and the “ghost detainees” kept in secret prisons infamously affiliated with the Bush administration, the United States has continued to abstain from signing the convention (usr, 7–8). On the other hand, other European countries initially reluctant to sign, such as Italy, Germany, Spain, Finland, and the Netherlands, have since then changed their position and become signatories. The revelation of secret detention centers on European soil and evidence regarding extraordinary renditions, supported by the formal report of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, might have played an important role in eventually shifting the overarching sentiment.54 If the lack of enthusiasm among states for the convention points to the perennial difficulty of regulating sovereignty, especially its practices of violence, by means of international law, it also cautions against a naïve faith in the power of international law. While it is true that international law has some role in guiding the behavior of states by the establishment of norms and customary practices, it is far from an effective deterrent when it collides with sovereign will. The “war on terror”—and the sheer speed with which liberal states glided toward illiberalism, either by the promulgation of emergency laws or by the adoption of infra-legal and illegal practices of surveillance that undermine existing rights—has not only reinforced a culture of impunity but also further eroded the hard-won achievements of international law.55 Instead, a constant condition of insecurity has become a regular instrument of political rule. At the same time, however, it would be wrong to conclude from the ineffectiveness of international law or the strategic reluctance of states that sovereignty entails an unbounded plenitude of power. While the politics of erasure tends to give the impression of a selfreproducing plenitude, erasure is never complete; it leaves traces behind. The struggles of the families of the disappeared to make the disappeared visible, to keep alive the memory of those who have been subjected to the erasing violence of the state, are crucial in this regard.56 It is through their agency that the disappeared insistently establish their presence and point to the profound impossibility of sovereignty’s ultimate closure into a totality. The moth-

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ers, who stage protests in which they publicly reassert the bodies of the disappeared, at times by wearing the pictures of their disappeared children, put forth a “subject who refuses to die, a subject who has been reembodied and now cannot be killed.”57 Due to the mothers’ political refusal to forget, the bodies of the disappeared, the violence that was done to them, and their memory regain visibility, or at least resist being rendered completely invisible.58 The politics of erasure, which clashes with the incessant demand for justice voiced by the mothers of the disappeared, thus ricochets into a negation of the plenitude of sovereignty, if not also of sovereignty itself. The Saturday Mothers, who continue their weekly protest in Turkey, may not have yet been able to destroy the shield of impunity that protects those individuals responsible for ordering, carrying out, and covering up the enforced disappearance of thousands, nor to pressure Turkey into signing the international convention; however, they have cultivated a live public archive of erasing violence, a knowledge from below that counteracts the official denials. Their resolve in showing up week after week at the same location has kept the experience of the disappeared alive and prevented it from succumbing to the oblivion of time. Their struggle has helped rescue individuals back from the fold of power in which they have been transformed into embodiments of the enemy, who are therefore worthy of destruction. The Saturday Mothers have recuperated the disappeared into the collective memory of the peoples of Turkey and their ongoing struggle for democracy and justice. With other mothers around the world, they have shown us that it is possible to interrupt the politics of erasure, which is not only a practical tactic of sovereignty but also its discursive condition of possibility.

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Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Massimilano Tomba, Tarak Barkawi, George Lawson, Peter Thomas, and Filippo del Lucchese for their perceptive feedback on earlier versions of this essay. I am especially grateful for the insightful critique of Zachary Manfredi and the suggestions of Qui Parle’s editorial board.

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Notes

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1. Amnesty International, Turkey: Families of the “Disappeared” Subjected to Brutal Treatment, Report, eur 44/080/1995, August 31, 1995. 2. Human Rights Watch, Time for Justice: Ending Impunity for Killings and Disappearances in 1990s Turkey, Report, September 3, 2012, http://www.hrw.org. 3. See, e.g., the calls issued on social media by Saturday Mothers during March and April 2014, https://www.facebook.com/ICumartesi AnneleriI/events and https://twitter.com/CmrtesiAnneleri. 4. The European Court of Human Rights ordered Turkey to pay reparations to Ocak’s family for not conducting a proper investigation into the circumstances of his death. 5. The so-called Provisional Article 15 of the 1982 Constitution, which guaranteed the impunity of military commanders from any allegation of criminal, financial, or legal responsibility for their use of sovereign authority in this interim period, was finally rescinded with the referendum of September 12, 2010. 6. Özgür Sevgi Göral, Ayhan IŞık, and Özlem Kaya, The Unspoken Truth: Enforced Disappearance (Istanbul: Truth Justice Memory Center, 2013), 25, http://www.hakikatadalethafiza.org/kaynak. aspx?GResourceId=85&LngId=5. Hereafter cited as ut. See also Amnesty International, Turkey: More People “Disappear” Following Detention, Report, No: eur 44/015/1994, March 1, 1994. 7. The regional “state of emergency” was only gradually phased out throughout the 1990s, and it was lifted completely only at the end of 2002. Batman, Bingöl, Bitlis, Diyarbakır, Hakkari, Mardin, Siirt, Şırnak, Tunceli, and Van were the ten provinces kept longest under emergency rule. Hakkari and Tunceli were taken out on July 30, 2002. Diyarbakır and Şırnak were the last ones to return to normalcy, on November 30, 2002. 8. On Turkey’s enforced disappearances, see also Amnesty International, Turkey: Torture, Extrajudicial Executions, “Disappearances,” Report, No: eur 44/039/1992, April 30, 1992; Amnesty International, Turkey: A Time for Action, Report, No: eur 44/013/1994, February 1, 1994; and Gökçen Alpkaya, “‘Kayıp’lar Sorunu ve Türkiye” [The problem of disappearances and Turkey], Ankara Üniversitesi sbf Dergisi 50, nos. 3–4 (1995): 31–63.

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9. The overall difficulty of collecting reliable information on enforced disappearances based on consistent criteria is further compounded in the Turkish context by the dispersed nature of available data, lack of coordination among different civil society organizations, and the many interruptions and losses in the archives due to police raids and confiscations. 10. For accounts of the brutal torture and forced Turkification in Diyarbakır Military Prison, see Mehdi Zana, Prison No. 5: Eleven Years in Turkish Jails (Watertown ma: Blue Crane Books, 1997); and Welat Zeydanlıoğlu, “The Period of Barbarity: Turkification, State Violence and Torture in Modern Turkey,” in State Power and the Legal Regulation of Evil, ed. Francesca Dominello (Oxford: InterDisciplinary Press, 2010), 67–78. 11. The work of Amnesty International has been crucial in documenting and conceptualizing this tactic, as well as raising awareness about it in the rest of the world. See, especially, Amnesty International, “Disappearances”: A Workbook (New York: Amnesty International Publications, 1981). See also conadep, Nunca Más: The Report of the Argentine National Commission of the Disappeared (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1986). 12. wgeid, “Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances,” un General Assembly, A/hrc/22/45, January 28, 2013, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil /RegularSession/Session22/A.hrc.22.45_English.pdf. 13. icaed, “icaed Statement on the International Day of the Disappeared,” August 30, 2012, http://www.icaed.org/home. 14. On the relationship between “extraordinary renditions” and “enforced disappearances,” see Patricio Galella and Carlos Espósito, “Extraordinary Renditions in the Fight against Terrorism–Forced Disappearances?” sur: International Journal on Human Rights 9, no. 16 (2012): 7–31; and Nikolas Kyriakou, “The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and Its Contributions to International Human Rights Law, with Specific Reference to Extraordinary Rendition,” Melbourne Journal of International Law 13 (2012): 424–569. 15. Amnesty International, Russian Federation: What Justice for Chechnya’s Disappeared? ai Index eur 46/020/2007, May 2007, http:// www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR46/020/2007. 16. Grace Pelly, ed., State Terrorism: Torture, Extra-judicial Killings, and Forced Disappearances in India, Report of the Independent People’s

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Tribunal, February 9–10, 2008 (New Delhi: Socio Legal Information Centre, 2009), 132–44. See, e.g., Alexander George, ed., Western State Terrorism (New York: Routledge, 1991); Juan E. Corradi, Patricia Weiss Fagen, and Manuel Antonio Garreton, eds., Fear at the Edge: State Terror and Resistance in Latin America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992); Jeffrey A. Sluka, ed., Death Squad: The Anthropology of State Terror (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), hereafter cited as ds; Thomas C. Wright, State Terrorism in Latin America: Chile, Argentina, and International Human Rights (Lanham md: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007); and Richard Jackson, Eamon Murphy, and Scott Poynting, eds., Contemporary State Terrorism: Theory and Practice (Oxon: Routledge, 2010). According to Sluka, state terrorism is “the use or threat of violence by the state or its agents or supporters, particularly against civilian individuals and populations, as a means of political intimidation and control (i.e., as a means of repression).” Jeffrey A. Sluka, “Introduction: State Terror and Anthropology,” ds, 2. For the distinction between the exception, meaning a situation that is considered new or rare, and exceptionalism, implying those practices that are justified with reference to their divergence from the norm, see Andrew W. Neal, “Foucault in Guantanamo: Towards an Archaeology of the Exception,” Security Dialogue 37, no. 1 (2006): 31–46. Carl Schmitt, Political Theology: Four Concepts of the Concept of Sovereignty, trans. George Schwab, intro. Tracy B. Strong (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 5. Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception, trans. Kevin Attell (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 1, 23. Hereafter cited as se. On exceptionalism and the war on terror, see Rens van Munster, “The War on Terrorism: When the Exception Becomes the Rule,” International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 17 (2004): 141–53; and Jef Huysmans, “Minding Exceptions: Politics of Insecurity and Liberal Democracy,” Contemporary Political Theory 3, no. 3 (2004): 321–41. International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, New York, December 20, 2006, Article 2, https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=treaty&mtdsg _no=iv-16&chapter=4&lang=en. Amnesty International, “Enforced Disappearances,” http://www .amnesty.org/en/enforced-disappearances.

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25. Avery F. Gordon, “The Other Door, It’s Floods of Tears with Consolation Enclosed,” in Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination, new ed. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 80, 112. Hereafter cited as gm. 26. Margarite Guzmán Bouvard, Revolutionizing Motherhood: The Mothers of the Plaza De Mayo (Lanham md: Rowman and Littlefield, 1994), 12. Hereafter cited as rm. 27. Michel Foucault, Discipline and & Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage, 1977), 50, 58. Hereafter cited as dp. 28. Michel Foucault, Abnormal: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1974– 1975, ed. Valerio Marchetti and Antonella Salomoni, trans. Graham Burchell (New York: Picador, 2003), 82–83; dp, 3–6, 33–35, 47; Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality, vol. 1, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Vintage Books, 1990), 135–36, hereafter cited as hs. 29. Derek Gregory, “Vanishing Points,” in Violent Geographies: Fear, Terror and Political Violence, ed. Derek Gregory and Allan Pred (New York: Routledge, 2007), 205–36. 30. Claudia Aradau and Rens van Muster, “Governing Terrorism through Risk: Taking Precautions, (Un)Knowing the Future,” European Journal of International Relations 13, no. 1 (2007): 89–115. Hereafter cited as “gtr.” 31. Louise Amoore, “Risk before Justice: When the Law Contests Its Own Suspension,” Leiden Journal of International Law 21, no. 4 (2008): 850. 32. Oliver Kessler and Wouter Werner, “Extrajudicial Killing as Risk Management,” Security Dialogue 39, nos. 2–3 (2008): 289–308, esp. 300–305. 33. Jerome J. Shestack, “The Case of the Disappeared,” Human Rights 8, no. 4 (Winter 1980): 24–27, 51–53, 55. 34. There is a broad literature on disappearances in Latin America. See, e.g., Patricia Marchak, God’s Assassins: State Terrorism in Argentina in the 1970s (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999); Thomas C. Wright, State Terrorism in Latin America: Chile, Argentina, and International Human Rights (Lanham md: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007); and Diana Taylor, Disappearing Acts: Spectacles of Gender and Nationalism in Argentina’s “Dirty War” (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997). 35. Michel Foucault, Psychiatric Power: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1973–1974, ed. Jacques Lagrange, trans. Graham Burchell (Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 73–79. Hereafter cited as pp.

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36. For a cogent summary of the contrast between two models of power, see Michel Foucault, “Society Must Be Defended”: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975–1976, ed. Mauro Bertani and Alessandro Fontana, trans. David Macey (New York: Picador, 2003), 34–39. Hereafter cited as smd. 37. Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977, ed. Colin Gordon (New York: Pantheon, 1980), 60. Hereafter cited as pk. 38. Let us recall that racism for Foucault is the method of distinguishing between “what must live and what must die,” and it functions as the “basic mechanism of power, as it is exercised in modern States”— the mechanism that transforms the ability of states to produce death and destruction at hitherto unprecedented levels without letting go of their hold on life, both individually and at the aggregate level. Racism activates and rejuvenates sovereignty, as it were, directing its exercise toward the elimination of those considered to be a threat to the “species” in order to augment the improvement of one’s own race. Nonetheless, the reasons for this transformation are unclear, as is the generality of this claim as a theoretical solution to the question of the recalcitrance or resurgence of an otherwise receding sovereignty (smd, 254–58). 39. Michel Foucault, “The Political Technology of Individuals,” in Essential Works of Foucault (1954–1984), vol. 3, Power, ed. James D. Faubion, trans. Robert Hurley et al. (New York: The New Press, 2001), 405, emphasis added. 40. For a reconstruction of an alternative tradition of sovereignty as constituent power, see Andreas Kalyvas, “Popular Sovereignty, the Constituent Power, and Democracy,” Constellations 12, no. 2 (2005): 223–44. 41. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. J. C. A. Gaskin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 141. Hereafter cited as l. 42. Hobbes argues: “As for other liberties, they depend on the silence of the law” (L, 146). 43. Hobbes explains: “before the institution of the commonwealth, every man had a right to every thing, and to do whatsoever he thought necessary to his own preservation; subduing, hurting, or killing any man in order thereunto. And this is the foundation of that right of punishing which is exercised in every commonwealth. For the subjects did not give the sovereign that right; but only in laying down theirs, strengthened him to use his own, as he should think fit, for the pres-

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ervation of them all: so that it was not given, but left to him, and to him only: and (excepting the limits set him by natural law) as entire, as in the condition of mere nature, and of war of every one against his neighbor” (l, 206). See, e.g., Stephen Holmes, “Does Hobbes Have a Concept of the Enemy?” Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 13, nos. 2–3 (2010): 371–89. Despite his awareness of the nuanced status of the category of the rebel, Holmes interprets it in support of the presence of a sharp distinction between subject and enemy in Hobbes. Holmes fails to register how this distinction is thereby undermined with the exceptional status of the rebel. See, e.g., Leonie Ansems De Vries and Jorg Spieker, “Hobbes, War, Movement,” Global Society 23, no. 9 (2009): 453–74; and Jörg Spieker, “Foucault and Hobbes on Politics, Security, and War,” Alternatives: Global, Local, Political 36, no. 3 (2011): 187–99. Andrew W. Neal, “Cutting off the King’s Head: Foucault’s Society Must Be Defended and the Problem of Sovereignty,” Alternatives: Global, Local, Political 29, no. 4 (2004): 380. According to Stoler, “if any single theme informs the seminar [1976 Lectures], it is not a quest for political theory, but an appreciation of historiography as a political force, of history writing as a political act, of historical narrative as a tool of the state and as a subversive weapon against it.” Ann Laura Stoler, Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault’s History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995), 62. For a legal analysis, see Susan McCrory, “The International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance,” Human Rights Law Review 7, no. 3 (2007): 545–66; Lisa Ott, Enforced Disappearance in International Law (Cambridge: Intersentia, 2011); Brian Finucane, “Enforced Disappearance as a Crime under International Law: A Neglected Origin in the Laws of War,” Yale Journal of International Law 35 (2006): 171–97; and Marthe Lot Vermeulen, Enforced Disappearance: Determining State Responsibility under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (Cambridge: Intersentia, 2012). Committee on Enforced Disappearances, “Recent Signatures and Ratifications,” http://www.ohchr.org/en/HRBodies/ced/Pages/Recent SignaturesRatifications.aspx. For a list of signatories, see United Nations Human Rights, “Ratification Status for ced—Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance,”

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http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/TreatyBodyExternal/Treaty.aspx ?Treaty=ced&Lang=en. “Enforced Disappearance: Answer of The Parliamentary UnderSecretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman),” International Coalition against Enforced Disappearances: Background Information, June 26, 2007, http://www.icaed.org/the -campaign/united-kingdom. “Answer of Under Secretary Merron to Questions of mp Lidington and of Minister of State Lord Mallboch on Questions of Lord Avebury,” International Coalition against Enforced Disappearances: Background Information, March 23, 2013, http://www.icaed.org /fileadmin/user_upload/uk_answers_to_questions_mp_01.pdf. US Department of State, Daily Press Briefing, February 6, 2007, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb. Human Rights Watch, United States Ratification of International Human Rights Treaties, Report, July 7, 2009, http://www.hrw.org /sites/default/files/related_material/Treaty%20ratification%20 advocacy%20document%20-%20final%20-%20aug%202009.pdf. Hereafter cited as usr. According to Rapporteur Dick Marty, “it is clear that an unspecified number of persons, deemed to be members or accomplices of terrorist movements, were arbitrarily and unlawfully arrested and/ or detained and transported under the supervision of services acting in the name, or on behalf, of the American authorities. These incidents took place in airports and in European airspace, and were made possible either by seriously negligent monitoring or by the more or less active participation of one or more government departments of Council of Europe member states.” Dick Marty, “Alleged Secret Detentions and Unlawful Inter-state Transfers Involving Council of Europe Member States,” Draft Report—Part II (Explanatory Memorandum), June 7, 2006, http://assembly.coe.int/Main.asp?Link =/CommitteeDocs/2006/20060606_Ejdoc162006partII-final.htm. Didier Bigo and Anastassia Tsoukala, eds., Terror, Insecurity, and Liberty: Illiberal Practices of Liberal Regimes after 9/11 (London: Routledge, 2008). See, e.g., rm; and Jean Bethke Elshtain, “The Mothers of the Disappeared: Passion and Protest in Maternal Action,” in Representations of Motherhood, ed. Donna Bassin, Margaret Honey, and Meryle Mahrer Kaplan (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), 75–91; Sheila R. Tully, “A Painful Purgatory: Grief and the Nicara-

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guan Mothers of the Disappeared,” Social Science and Medicine 40, no. 12 (1995): 1597–1610; and Rita Arditti, Searching for Life: The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Disappeared Children of Argentina (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999). 57. Jennifer Schirmer, “The Claiming of Space and the Body Politic within National-Security States: The Plaza de Mayo Madres and the Greenham Common Women,” in Remapping Memory: The Politics of TimeSpace, ed. Jonathan Boyarin (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994), 198. 58. Diana Taylor, “Making a Spectacle: The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo,” Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering 3, no. 2 (2001): 97–109.

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Sovereignty, Norms, and Exception in Neoliberalism

Neoliberalism and Sovereignty: An Odd Couple?

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Neoliberalism is notorious not only because of the various effects attributed to its continued “ecological dominance”1 as a real-world phenomenon but also because of the difficulties in pinning it down conceptually. The meanings associated with the term vary between disciplines and subfields, supporters and critics, as well as political and scholarly contexts. As is well known, if the term neoliberalism is invoked at all in political debates, it is never used as a selfdescription but always refers to others, and as such it is usually intended to stigmatize them as egotistic market fundamentalists.2 That the term is easily instrumentalized for purely polemical purposes is in part due to the blurred, unfixed contours of the concept of neoliberalism. For those who think of neoliberalism broadly along such market fundamentalist lines, the aim of this article, namely, to inquire into the notion of sovereignty as a particular aspect of neoliberalism’s political theory, may seem all but nonsensical. If neoliberalism can in effect be summed up as a creed of market fundamentalism and a commitment to “turbo-capitalism” that sweeps away everything that stands in the way of a further extension of the market zone

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to every last corner of erstwhile non-economic spheres of society, then what use could its intellectual dimension have for a political theory? From a neoliberal perspective, what is there to be known about states other than how to run them like a business by using management techniques developed in the private sector, and how to subject them to pressures analogous to the competition that corporations face on economic markets to make them operate more efficiently? To be sure, there is a kernel of truth to this depiction of neoliberalism, but I would argue that, at the most, this is but one of its varieties, which is located right at the theoretical boundaries that separate neoliberalism from its intellectual cousin, libertarianism. Neoliberalism as I will define it in the next section is by no means exhaustively described as a theoretical commitment to “selfregulating markets,” implying that there is no real need for some kind of public regulating authority. To the contrary, upon closer inspection it becomes clear that neoliberal thought in most of its currents and varieties relies upon the state to fulfill crucial functions for the establishment and reproduction of a society according to neoliberal design. Furthermore, because of the indispensability of state functions of a certain kind, neoliberal thought also has to ponder other aspects of political theory that are state-related, such as the status of democracy and questions of sovereignty. True, neoliberals demonize certain aspects of the state, especially the welfare state, and harbor unwavering suspicions about governments considered to pose a permanent threat to their citizens. Yet this does not keep those thinkers from developing more or less coherent and elaborate arguments with regard to many aspects of political theory, notably the state and sovereignty. Admittedly, these arguments sometimes remain implicit and rudimentary, but the article proceeds from the starting assumption that there is a political theory contained in neoliberal thought that may be reconstructed, and then can be subjected to critical scrutiny. The article is structured as follows. The first step is to explain my own understanding of neoliberalism and, accordingly, to delineate who might legitimately be considered a contributor to the body of neoliberal thought. Based on this, I will survey, that is to some extent reconstruct, a number of neoliberal positions re-

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garding sovereignty. More precisely, I will introduce an analytical distinction3 between three “varieties” of neoliberal thought on sovereignty that might be described somewhat simplistically as the sovereign as umpire, the sovereign as Odysseus, and the sovereign as oscillating between rules and exception (for lack of a fitting metaphor). Aside from examining the way in which sovereignty is approached and discussed by neoliberal thinkers such as Friedrich August von Hayek, Wilhelm Röpke, Milton Friedman, and James Buchanan, I will also try to problematize these accounts in various ways, albeit far from exhaustively. In a final short and rather exploratory step I aim to bring some of the insights of this theoretical discussion to bear on an understanding of the present conjuncture in the European context. My thesis will be that we can find all three varieties of neoliberal sovereignty in contemporary Europe as it tries to mitigate and contain past and present crises as well as to preempt future ones.

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As mentioned at the beginning of this article, outlining the contours of neoliberalism both as an intellectual tradition and in its concrete and discrete practices has proved to be a challenging task. Aside from highly tendentious interpretations—both positive and negative—developed for polemical purposes that have led to significant confusion over the concept in public and to some degree also in academic debates, it is especially the variability of neoliberalism that poses such difficulties in defining it. Not only are there undeniable heterogeneities characterizing the approaches of even those thinkers who at some point explicitly referred to themselves as neoliberals, ranging from the German Alexander Rüstow to Chicago School beacon Milton Friedman; there are, in addition, obvious discrepancies between these theories and what are typically considered its real-world applications like Thatcherism or Reaganomics. Furthermore, these processes of neoliberalization exhibit very different traits in the various contexts in which they have supposedly been observed. Finally, there is a good case to be made that neoliberalization processes can undergo various phases.

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Thus, despite some unquestionable continuities, there are notable differences between the neoliberalism of Thatcher and Blair, just as there are between the neoliberalism of Reagan and Clinton.4 Whether it is possible to incorporate all of these facets into a single concept of neoliberalism, and, if so, how exactly such heterogeneities are accounted for best, is a matter of debate.5 In the interest of time and space I refrain from discussing the respective strengths and weaknesses of the various perspectives and instead sketch out my own approach, which emphasizes the context of the emergence of neoliberalism as an intellectual current during the 1930s.6 Reconstructing the context of its emergence and the meaning that those who actually—if only for a brief period—referred to themselves as neoliberals associated with the term is a plausible starting point for an endeavor to develop a working definition of neoliberalism, and it has the added benefit of debunking the myth that neoliberalism never existed except as a figment of the fevered imagination of its critics. The overall context of neoliberalism’s emergence is easily summed up as the crisis of what is often referred to as “classical liberalism,” which, incidentally, is just as protean and internally heterogeneous as neoliberalism itself.7 The first generation of neoliberals agreed on this diagnosis and even main elements of the underlying crisis narrative, although the emphasis on particular aspects is not necessarily the same for all those who participated in the so-called Colloquium Walter Lippmann that convened in Paris in 1938 to discuss Lippmann’s latest book, The Good Society. The colloquium marks the official birth of neoliberalism, since it is in the records of this meeting that the term is first used as signifying a shared intellectual and political agenda to which all participants subscribed.8 As far as the crisis narrative goes, there is widespread agreement that liberalism underwent a profound transformation for the worse in the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, both in theory and in its political practice. For some, the main problem was its impoverishment to the rallying cry of “laissez-faire,” the ensuing economic problems, and the political opening it provided for a surging socialist movement—the latter being a major crisis symptom in itself. Others emphasized what

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they considered a social democratic reorientation of liberalism in response to the socialist challenge in the form of the “New Liberalism” in Great Britain during the early twentieth century or the merging of liberal and progressive agendas in the United States during the same period, both of which led to a rebranding of liberalism in the Anglo-American world and thus add another layer to the general confusion about the meaning of (neo)liberalism. More immediately, the Great Depression and its manifold repercussions had put liberalism on the defense. The economic crisis had undermined popular and to some degree even elite support for laissezfaire capitalism, and the political response was a general gradual shift to Keynesianism in general and, in the American context, to the New Deal (which Roosevelt labeled “liberal”) in particular— the latter being the immediate pretext for Lippmann’s book. Finally, Europe witnessed the rise of illiberal forces from the communist Soviet Union to the fascist movements of Western Europe and German National Socialism. And although these totalitarianisms would not agree on much else, they were united in their enmity toward liberalism. The project of the participants of the colloquium in response to these ominous developments combines two elements. The first is obviously the aim of a revived liberalism against all odds of what they perceived as a deeply illiberal zeitgeist. Importantly, though, it is the second element that puts the “neo” into neoliberalism, as it were: the revival of liberalism only promises to be successful if premised upon a critical survey of its agenda. In other words, a mere restoration of liberalism and a return to the principles of Adam Smith would not suffice, because even the founding father of classical economics could not anticipate the challenges to a liberal market order that would arise from Keynesianism or socialist planning theories. This second element is nicely captured in Hayek’s opening remarks to the founding meeting of the Mont Pèlerin Society (mps) in 1947, which might be considered the second birth of neoliberalism:

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If the ideals which I believe united us, and for which, in spite of so much abuse of the term, there is still no better name than

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liberal, are to have any chance of revival, a great intellectual task must be performed. This task involves both purging traditional liberal theory of certain accidental accretions, which have become attached to it in the course of time, and also facing up to some real problems which an over-simplified liberalism has shirked or which have become apparent only since it has turned into a somewhat stationary and rigid creed.9

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Hence, Rachel Turner is correct when she writes that “the fundamental aim of the mps was not merely to revive liberalism as a credible creed, but also to reinvent it as a coherent philosophy for the twentieth century.”10 Still, it is worth noting that this reinvention implied a revision of classical liberalism, which ultimately meant that certain ideas and concepts might have to be abandoned altogether. Thus, in my interpretation, the neoliberal formula is a revival of liberalism based on a critical revision of its agenda. I recognize that this is a thin definition of neoliberalism, but I contend that more substantive definitions risk losing track of the range of positions even among those who called themselves neoliberal at one point or another. Conversely, one of the benefits of this definition is its ability to account for this diversity. After all, the neoliberals may agree on this general formula, but from the very beginnings at the colloquium and onward, fierce debates ensued over what elements of the liberal agenda could be built upon and which posed problems for a revival of liberalism. The same goes for the assessment of the gravity of these problems. Could certain notions just be revised and amended, or did they have to be abandoned altogether? Accordingly, neoliberalism is an intellectual current that emphatically is not one and never has been. But while the definition captures this heterogeneity and thus offers a broad understanding of neoliberalism’s varieties that may be mapped according to various patterns of revival and revisions, it still enables a differentiation of neoliberalism from its closest intellectual relatives such as conservatism and libertarianism, or what I would call retro-liberalism. In my view, then, the list of thinkers who can safely be considered neoliberals in this sense includes Hayek, the German ordoliberals Walter Eucken, Wilhelm Röpke, and Alexander

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Rüstow (the latter two also participated in the colloquium), as well as James Buchanan and Milton Friedman. Needless to say, there are gray areas, as it is both impossible and unnecessary to draw lines between intellectual currents with geometric precision. In my view, Gary Becker would be one of the limit cases; importantly, both Friedman and Buchanan tend toward what I have called retro-liberalism, especially in some of their late works, in that they have all but abandoned the second element of the neoliberal formula. Their approach combines elements of twentieth-century economics (monetarism, public choice, constitutional economics) with a restorative return to the principles of political economy developed in the late eighteenth century by Adam Smith and others. In a 1995 interview, Friedman retrospectively described his research agenda in the following way: “I thought I was going back to some fundamentals rather than creating anything new.”11 And in the collection of essays Buchanan published under the title Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative, he consistently refers to his own perspective as that of a classical liberal.12 Having clarified my understanding of neoliberalism as an intellectual current, I will now turn to how some of its proponents, such as Friedman, Buchanan, Hayek, and Röpke, approach the question of sovereignty.

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Sovereignty in Neoliberal Thought

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A number of caveats need to be introduced at the beginning of this analysis of sovereignty in neoliberal thought, not least because sovereignty is “a big idea”: “It defies academic attempts to pin it down and fit it into tidy analytical categories.”13 For the present context this means that only particular aspects of sovereignty will be covered, not only because a more exhaustive treatment lies beyond the scope of this article but also because neoliberal thinkers have little to contribute to other aspects, which are typically given pride of place by scholars in international relations when discussing the topic. To be more concrete, if one accepts the basic notion that sovereignty is “both an idea of supreme authority in the state, and an idea of political and legal independence of geographically separate

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states,” noting also that “these two facets of state sovereignty are not separate ideas [but] are different aspects of one overall idea” (s, x), then the limitations of the following discussion become clear at once: neoliberals are almost entirely concerned with the latter aspects. I will not be sidetracked into speculation over whether there is a systematic reason for the lack of an international theory in neoliberalism (obviously, the term neoliberalism in international relations theory has little to do with the neoliberalism in question here), but will simply note that neoliberal thought in most of its varieties subscribes to what is now often referred to as “methodological nationalism.”14 However, as will be seen in the last section of the article, this does not mean that it may not apply, mutatis mutandis, to supranational spaces like the European Union. But before we address neoliberal sovereignty in contemporary Europe, the following sections will discuss three varieties of neoliberal thought regarding sovereignty: a notion modeled on a Hobbesian umpire; Odysseus as a supposedly self-binding sovereign; and finally, sovereignty as oscillation between rule and exception as it is found in the thought of Hayek—and Carl Schmitt.

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Sovereignty of the Hobbesian Umpire While it does not hold for all theory production, there is a good case to be made that theorizing on a particular topic is often prompted by more or less dramatic external events and transformations, be they wars, civil unrest, or economic crises. This also goes for one of the most important figures in the intellectual history of modern sovereignty, Thomas Hobbes, whose thought was influenced not only by the rationalism of the scientific revolution but also by the instability, deprivation, and chaos of the English Civil War. The latter experience was one of the more important factors leading to Hobbes’s inquiry into the preconditions for a more stable and peaceful political realm, which is of course Leviathan. According to Hobbes, the condition for peace and prosperity is a sovereign, that is, a supreme authority, invested with the power to reign over the realm, be it through law or the sword. There is neither the space nor the need for a deeper exegesis of Hobbes’s argument here. The point is that the sovereign being, a “Mortall

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God,” is a supreme authority unrivaled by other domestic or transnational forces with their own claim to ultimate authority, such as the church in Hobbes’s time.15 This Hobbesian notion of sovereignty, which combines considerations of security and unity of a political community, provides a good starting point for an examination of the neoliberal theories under examination, because it can be seen as a partial template for some of them, that is, one variety of neoliberal thought concerning sovereignty. The parallels begin with the experience of chaos and turmoil. In the case of the German ordoliberals like Röpke or Eucken, these experiences come in the form of hyperinflation in the 1920s and, more generally and importantly, the collapse of the Weimar Republic into a totalitarian dictatorship. In the ordoliberal analysis, the Weimar crisis certainly includes an economic dimension, but it is also a crisis of (state) sovereignty, and it is partly in response to this economic political crisis that they begin to develop their ideas. While Hayek shares some of these experiences more or less firsthand (he emigrated from Austria to the UK in 1931), the conclusion he draws regarding sovereignty differs in some respects from that of the ordoliberals, as we will see below. Finally, there is Buchanan, who, in his autobiographical writings, retrospectively acknowledged a shift in perspective in his own writings toward the perennial “Hobbesian Question”: How can there be order instead of chaos? Buchanan is one of the founding fathers of public choice theory (the “Virginia School”), and his particular blend of neoliberal thought combines aspects of that approach with elements of constitutional economics and its interest in the economic effects of various frameworks of rules. He attributes this shift to a different kind of crisis he experienced while working briefly at ucla in 1968. The crisis in question stems from the student movement of those days and what Buchanan views as a general disruption of universities and of society in general by unruly individuals who fail to respect the unwritten laws of civility that are so crucial to a well-ordered society.16 In Buchanan’s view, the political response to this breakdown of essential norms of behavior comes in the form of law-and-order politics and of a sprawling welfare state, both introducing ever higher levels of discretionary state intervention

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that lead to a state of “constitutional anarchy” and thus to conditions reminiscent of Hobbes’s state of nature.17 Buchanan offers a diagnosis of this constitutional anarchy in Limits of Liberty, which confronts the Hobbesian question head-on, as the subtitle itself makes clear: Between Anarchy and Leviathan (ll, 5–7). How do neoliberals like Röpke and Buchanan conceive of sovereignty, and what is the specific problematic they associate with the concept? To some extent this is captured in one of the more pervasive metaphors used—especially by liberals and neoliberals— whenever the role of the state and state sovereignty is discussed. In Friedman, the state is likened to a referee or an umpire in a game: “The day-to-day activities [of people] are like the actions of the participants in a game when they are playing it; the [legal] framework, like the rules of the game they play. . . . But we cannot rely on custom or on this consensus alone to interpret and to enforce the rules; we need an umpire.”18 Similarly, Buchanan argues for “the protective state as outside referee,” since “both parties [to a transaction] will place a higher value on external institutions of enforcement than on adversely chosen internal ones. (It is bad baseball when the catcher is required to umpire.)” (ll, 95). Metaphors in political discourse supposedly simplify and illustrate more abstract and complex notions. Judging by the pervasiveness of this metaphor of the umpire, it seems we can infer that it does a good job of providing a shorthand description of at least some aspects of state sovereignty in a Hobbesian sense—although it should be noted that the sovereign’s function in Hobbes’s thought is by no means exhaustively described as being an umpire. The umpire is not affiliated with any team or player and, irrespective of these, will apply and enforce the rules even against the protest of teams, coaches, or players. Is this not a significant part of the function of the sovereign in Hobbes’s Leviathan, that is, an authority endowed with the powers to reign over a territory and its population, just as the famous cover suggests? Both Friedman and Buchanan build on this particular aspect of a Hobbesian sovereign, that is, its role as an impartial rule enforcer. The sovereign is not supposed to favor any particular group or individual, and neither is the umpire. Both, sovereign and umpire, are expected to enforce

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the rules even if there is a tragic dimension to it (leaving aside the right to pardon that representatives of state sovereignty are endowed with), because any lenience and aberration from the course of impersonal enforcement would undermine the authority of both umpire and sovereign, which is vital to their effectiveness (otherwise it would be based solely on the threat of sanctions). There is thus no doubt about the existing analogies between the umpire in a game and the role of a Hobbesian sovereign, which explains the attractiveness of the metaphor. However, as in any metaphor or analogy, there are aspects of the referent that are filtered out, and in this case, what is left out turns out to be highly instructive. After all, the concept of an umpire in a game implies that she applies the rules impartially and is confined to this role. She is not supposed to make up rules as the game progresses. Leaving aside the point that rule application is always also rule making, because the content of a norm to some extent is dependent on the situations to which it is applied, this prompts the question as to who has the power to make the rules of the game. In my reading, this question points us in the direction of the crucial problematic the neoliberals associate with sovereignty and that is inextricably bound up with democracy. Because the democratic answer is of course that the players make up the rules of the game, and while the umpire is endowed with the power to enforce the rules, the players are ultimately free to change them. But this response that invokes the notion of popular sovereignty is a cause of grave anxiety for most neoliberals, although their reasons for it as well as the proposed solutions vary to some degree.19 How can a game be played if players are allowed to appeal to the umpire to change the rules? Once this possibility is principally affirmed, on what grounds is it possible for the umpire to reject proposed changes in the interest of the game in general? What happens to the minority if rules are changed according to the demands of the majority of the players? And what if a minority can be so persuasive that the rules are changed according to their view? The game metaphor suggests that players unhappy with the rules can just leave the game, but this is an option that only exists in a far more circumscribed way in a political setting.

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While these thoughts and concerns are not per se implausible, one may still wonder if the neoliberals are not overstating the problem of players petitioning the referee to change the rules. However, they present a number of arguments that suggest these fears are justified. Ordoliberals like Röpke and Eucken are simply wary of the irrationality they attribute to the electorate of mass societies. Again, as Röpke notes, this points to the experience of Weimar Germany as well as the consecutive totalitarianisms and the apparent receptiveness of “the masses” to propaganda of whatever persuasion: “Advertising, propaganda, popular crazes meet no obstacles, since intellectual and moral enmassment have created a vacuum into which foul water can seep.”20 So even if there were no reason to believe that there is an inherent incentive for players to try to change the rules, it would be dangerous to leave open this possibility. They may just yield to the passions, possibly stirred up by some self-proclaimed team captain, and thus endanger the entire game through the changes introduced. However, both ordoliberals and other neoliberal varieties do put forward arguments that suggest that there is such an inherent incentive. The strategic calculus of any player, in their view, has to be the strict application of all rules to each player except for himself. This implies that he should do everything he can to be granted an exemption; he might even focus less on playing the game and instead concentrate on petitioning the referee. In the language of public choice, which was co-founded as an intellectual current by Buchanan, this activity is referred to as rent-seeking. And since each player or team has to assume that everybody else engages in it, rational choice suggests that they do it, too. The logical conclusion is a referee beleaguered by players asking for changed rules and, once a rule is changed, it becomes all the more difficult not to give in to all other requests for reforms. And how could we expect that the umpire reject such demands if it depends on the players whether she will serve as an umpire in the next game? I think this is a fairly good summary of concerns and arguments presented for the neoliberal case, and the shrill tone in which they are voiced is an indicator of the importance that sovereignty in the sense of a supreme and unassailable au-

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thority has for neoliberal political theory. Once again, consider the cases of Röpke and Buchanan. Röpke paints the more dramatic picture: “The immense danger of this unhealthy pluralism is that pressure groups covetously beset the state” (he, 144). Here he invokes the image of a state fallen prey to powerful interest groups, or what public choice scholars call regulatory capture. Buchanan is equally concerned about the rent-seeking of interest groups and, somewhat unsurprisingly, singles out the beneficiaries of the welfare state: “As the welfare umbrella has been extended, larger and larger shares of the citizenry have been brought into positions of dependency on the state’s largesse. At the same time, these dependents have been allowed to retain the voting franchise” (wit, 14). In both views, undermining state sovereignty ultimately results in the disintegration of the community itself and thus, once more, follows the Hobbesian lead. Buchanan continues: “Increasingly, the state’s dependents will come to view the state itself as an instrument through which other groups may be exploited, and members of these latter groups will, themselves, come to look on politics as little other than an arena for distributional conflict” (wit, 14), thus threatening to untie any communal bonds. Again, Röpke offers the more drastic verdict: “The monistic state of democratic doctrine has developed into the pluralistic state of democratic practice. . . . Any responsible government must examine carefully all the possible means of resisting this pluralistic disintegration of the state” (he, 142–43). At the risk of being redundant, let me spell out what this means with regard to the significance of state sovereignty (in a Hobbesian sense) for neoliberal thought. In a certain sense the fate of societies hinges on whether sovereignty is upheld or undermined. In the ordoliberal view it is the sovereign state that has to enforce the competitive order in order to keep markets functioning, even against powerful interest groups of capital or labor. More generally, to the extent that all of neoliberal thought subscribes to assumptions concerning rent-seeking, the search for (institutional) ways and means to immunize the enforcing agent against attempts to influence it becomes absolutely crucial—especially under democratic conditions: “Ideally, some wholly impersonal mechanism, a

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robot that could do nothing but follow automatized instructions, might be selected” (ll, 95; my emphasis). In my view this is the point where Röpke and Buchanan part ways not only with each other but also with a strictly Hobbesian view of sovereignty. Let us pursue Röpke’s argument first, because Buchanan’s will lead us to the second variety of neoliberal thought, which I will introduce and scrutinize in the following section. Röpke chooses a path that will ultimately lead him to a vision of society that combines remnants of (local) self-government with elements of communitarianism and, importantly, technocratic authoritarianism. At one point he poses the question: “What happens if governments . . . fail to take independent decisions based on objective assessment of all relevant facts and designed to serve the common interest?” (he, 141). We can infer ex negativo that the ideal of government would be one that decided independently, objectively, and in the common interest. Röpke’s arrangement to achieve this pays lip service to democracy and popular sovereignty, but a closer look reveals that sovereignty has shifted to a state largely insulated from popular input and run by an enlightened “natural” elite of guardians: “Mass society . . . must be counteracted by individual leadership. . . . [T]he important thing is that every society should have a small but influential group of leaders who feel themselves to be the whole community’s guardians of inviolable norms and values and who strictly live up to this guardianship. What we need is true nobilitas naturalis” (he , 130). It is difficult to describe this as something other than enlightened despotism with some minimal democratic elements. However, this natural nobility is not the sovereign of Hobbes’s legal positivism, and in this sense its authority is not supreme in the strict sense of the term—at least the nuances differ.21 The guardians are guardians of a higher order that is not subject to change by either them or the people, namely, “the unchallengeable commands of ethics and natural law” (he, 68) that are attuned to unchangeable human nature itself. Democracy is only feasible as long as it is agreed that “certain supreme norms and principles of public life and economic order” are not to be questioned (he, 68). This last remark draws our attention to the role of science and scientists. “The economist,

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in particular, should make it a rule to put his scientific work at the service of any precise commission, originating from the government.” He “has all the less right to evade the duty of bringing his authority to bear on the controversies of economic policy,” and he has “to defend the ‘dignity of truth’ in the rough-and-tumble of interests and passions” (he, 134–36). The precepts of natural law, including its economic dimension, have to be deciphered, and it is those who are invested with the symbolic capital as well as the power resources to provide the authoritative deciphering and the effective enforcement of these precepts, that is, a natural elite informed by scientific judgment, who reign supreme in Röpke’s arrangement. This is still consistent with the imagery of the umpire, because the impartial enforcement of rules presupposes knowledge of them and how they are to be applied. In this sense, the rule of the Röpkian umpire always requires expert rule.

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Odysseus and the Sovereignty of Rules Buchanan cannot follow Röpke down the road toward paternalistic authoritarianism, because he does not trust “the natural elite” to realize the common good, has stronger democratic commitments, and also has less faith in science. So despite basic commonalities, the emphasis in Buchanan’s solution to the predicament of sovereignty under democratic conditions is slightly different than the ordoliberal’s. While the metaphor for the Hobbesian sovereign was the umpire, this solution comes with its own metaphor: Odysseus’s idea to have himself bound to the mast so he could listen to the luring song of the sirens without succumbing to it, while he orders the rest of the crew to put wax in their ears.22 In a very similar way, Buchanan hopes to have Leviathan (a term that has much more negative connotations in his usage than in Hobbes’s) rein itself in through rules it gives itself and is obliged to obey. The instrument of self-binding rules is one that enjoys a lot of appreciation across the varieties of neoliberalism—after all, the ordoliberals repeatedly underscore the importance of a stable framework of rules for markets. But to be more concise here I will only touch on two examples and then focus the rest of the discussion on Buchanan and the neoliberalism-cum-constitutional economics he repre-

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sents. The almost foundational status of the Odysseus metaphor for constitutional economics is indicated by the cover of its central scholarly outlet, the journal Constitutional Political Economy, cofounded by Buchanan himself: a man bound to a ship mast. As a first example consider Friedman, whose core demand in monetarist policy is a self-binding rule for whoever controls the monetary order to the effect of a steady expansion of the supply of money (cf, 51). As a second example consider Hayek, who tries to have the hands of the state tied by a rule of law centered on the latter’s generality and abstractness, which is supposed to prevent the abuse of state authority and legal means in the discriminatory treatment of individuals or groups: “Only if applied universally, without regard for particular effects, will they [abstract rules] serve the permanent preservation of the abstract order, a timeless purpose.”23 I will return to Hayek and the ambiguities built into his concept of the rule of law in the following section. For now, let us focus on Buchanan and his version of the self-binding rule argument. As is well known, the main thrust of Buchanan’s theorizing since the 1970s concerns an analysis of state failures and the pathologies of democratic governance under conditions of welfare-state Keynesianism. The result of this constellation derives from some basic premises that include, importantly, the application of the behavioral model of homo oeconomicus to the political realm, which is linked to growing deficits and growing debt. Buchanan’s key demand to rein in this constitutional anarchy is therefore a constitutional balanced-budget amendment. This demand is common enough these days so as to not raise any eyebrows, but Buchanan is well aware that there are some vexing questions involved. A brief look back at the Odysseus metaphor suffices to highlight the problem. After all, the point is that Odysseus does not bind himself to the mast; his sailors do.24 And, speaking from a practical point of view, unless you are a virtual anti-Houdini, it is remarkably difficult to tie yourself in such a way that you cannot untie yourself. In other words, the metaphor actually suggests that “tying oneself” is a far less self-evident notion than it may appear. Furthermore, the more interesting question is how and why the

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sailors do not succumb to the temptation to remove the wax from their ears, which they could but do not do; this of course contrasts with Odysseus, who simply cannot free himself. It is actually their situation that captures the problematic of a self-binding sovereign far better than that of Odysseus.25 Let us return, then, to Buchanan’s elaborations on self-binding rules. While the Odysseus metaphor is indicative of the thrust of constitutional economics in general, Buchanan typically deploys another literary metaphor more familiar to economists in order to clarify the rationale of such measures.26 It is Robinson Crusoe, who—even before the arrival of Friday—adopts self-binding rules in the form of an alarm bell to wake himself in time to get enough work done. Buchanan explains:

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Crusoe imposes rules on his own behavior because he recognizes his own imperfection in the face of possible temptation. . . . The rational rule-maker makes the trade-off between liberty and planned efficiency and includes an enforcement instrument in the contract. (ll, 93–94)

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There are a number of questions to be raised at this point. In my view, Crusoe clearly has the sovereign power not to set the alarm bell, and in this sense the question is the same as with the sailors: How and why does he resist temptation? Or is he only truly sovereign if he sets the alarm bell, that is, in subduing a part of his personality that does not allow him to be free if left unchecked? Furthermore, if the alarm bell were set without any control by Crusoe, would he not cease to be sovereign? Still, if the conclusion from this last question is that Crusoe must never set up an alarm bell that rings without his ability to control it, would that not also mean that he would cease to be sovereign? Of course, these are just variations of the well-known paradox of sovereignty, which was first discussed in theological discourses with reference to the sovereignty of an almighty god. The objection against neoliberal theorizations of sovereignty can neither be that they are entirely unaware of it (at least in the case of Buchanan) nor that they do not resolve it—the latter being unlikely in the case of any paradox. The point, as will become clear shortly, is rather that neoliberals do

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not pursue its implications far enough to make their policy suggestions more plausible, as the example of Buchanan shows. If Crusoe is such an unruly character that he requires the disciplining of an alarm bell, why would we ever assume that he can get himself to set it in the evening? Moreover, given these character flaws, is it not to be expected that he will simply ignore the alarm bell in the morning? To return to the political realm: If the problem lies with rationally maximizing politicians making use of their spending possibilities to ensure their reelection, then it is hard to imagine them passing a balanced-budget amendment or complying with its rules if it were passed, thus shooting themselves in the foot. This poses a problem for Buchanan, because his envisaged “constitutional revolution” (ll, 168) seems to lack a revolutionary subject—a well-known problem all around. As far as I can see, Buchanan offers two responses. The first is to place his hopes on referenda to introduce balanced-budget amendments.27 If the argument is that politicians secure their reelection through ultimately wasteful spending of tax money, it would then be in the interest of tax-paying citizens to have such an amendment passed. The second is the introduction of a Kantian form of homo oeconomicus that incorporates norms of reciprocity and fairness into its actions and is thus capable of adopting a perspective beyond narrowly defined self-interest: “I can scarcely imagine an interaction setting in which persons refrain from cheating, stealing and keeping promises only because of some fear of punishment. . . . If this model seems descriptive of the economists’ elevation of homo oeconomicus to normative significance, so much the worse for economists” (wit, 15–16). Still, both of these moves merely shift the problem to a different level. In the first case the question becomes whether we can expect average citizens to support such a balanced-budget initiative. Neoliberals might say that their self-interest extends beyond the next election, and in the midst of all this theory we should not forget that referenda to adopt balanced-budget amendments have been held successfully in the past. However, if this is true, why could politicians not simply run on fiscal discipline, as they do fairly regularly? Public choice neoliberals such as Buchanan would argue that this is not a winning ticket in a “rent-seeking society,” but then they cannot explain why

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referenda on fiscal prudence should be successful. Similarly, in the second case, if we allow for a broader conception of self-interest for politicians, why do the hands of the representatives of the sovereign need to be bound? Rather than hoping that they would be so future-oriented in their perspective to pass a binding amendment, we might as well just hope that they pursue fiscally prudent policy without binding rules on deficits and debt.28 The response to this point comes from Friedman in discussing rules for monetary policy: “If the legislature is willing to adopt the rule, it is said, surely it will also be willing to legislate the ‘right’ policy in each specific case” (cf, 51). Friedman argues against this: “If each case is considered on its merits, the wrong decision is likely to be made in a large fraction of cases because the decision-makers are examining only a limited area and not taking into account the cumulative consequences of the policy as a whole” (cf, 53). More generally, then, one is better off with rule-following than with caseto-case decision making.29 One oft-invoked example in this context is the rule to obey traffic lights. Running a red light in the middle of the night at an empty intersection might maximize utility, but if one misjudges just one single case, the outcome can be catastrophic. Therefore, it might be smarter to forgo some extra utility and stick to the rules in the long run. Yet it seems that this argument could be turned into the complete opposite direction as well, because rigorous rule-following can be just as dangerous as case-to-case utility maximizing. Assume Crusoe has fallen ill and is in desperate need of rest; still he gets up early to the sound of the bell, possibly afraid that otherwise this will commence a pattern of sleeping in. As a result, his health deteriorates. Surely, in this case the smart thing to do—even and especially in the long term—is to break the rule. This brings us to the last point I would like to scrutinize in this section, namely, who or what is sovereign in such a setting. To stay in Buchanan’s framework, it is fairly plausible to consider a (successful) referendum on a constitutional amendment as an expression of popular sovereignty. But what happens once this constitutional rule is in place? Let us assume, for the sake of argument that a crucial study recommending austerity and fiscal discipline that

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many of those voting in favor of the amendment found convincing turns out to be deeply flawed because the researchers misread some Excel tables. Can the amendment be amended or even repealed? Both popular sovereignty and common sense suggest that it could and should, but in my reading of the neoliberal argument this is exactly what is to be avoided. The logic of this argument suggests that once the rule is broken or amended for whatever reason, it is as if the rule had never existed; once a hole is poked into it, others are sure to follow. If one subscribes to the rent-seeking theorem this is an almost necessary conclusion. It seems, then, as if there is a “window of sovereignty” while the constitution-amending body is in action, but once the rules are adopted they are “locked in” and the window closes irreversibly—to the detriment of any future citizenry or their representatives who might want to change them. At one point Hayek comes close to the same conclusion: “If it be asked where under such an arrangement ‘sovereignty’ rests, the answer is nowhere—unless it temporally resides in the hands of the constitution-making or constitution-amending body” (lll, 3:123). Still, rather than drawing the conclusion that sovereignty is nowhere, I would argue that it has shifted to the very rules themselves. But as we will see in the next section, it is Hayek himself— the same Hayek just quoted above—who enlists the intellectual resources of one of the most ardent opponents of such a position, Carl Schmitt, to arrive at a slightly different conclusion regarding sovereignty in a neoliberal framework.

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Hayek and Schmitt: Sovereignty between Rule and Exception Carl Schmitt’s Political Theology is best known for two theses, the first of which we have already implicitly encountered. According to Schmitt, all the concepts of modern state theory are but secularized versions of what originally were theological concepts. There is room for debate as to whether this is really true for all of those concepts, but sovereignty would be by far the most obvious case in point. The second thesis is the one for which Schmitt is arguably best known; it states that “sovereign is he who decides on the exception.”30

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Obviously, it is impossible to do justice to the complexities and ambiguities of Schmitt’s controversial oeuvre, but given the renewed interest in his thought over the last decade leading to what could be called left-Schmittian theorizing—in response to rightSchmittian politics, some would probably add31—I will assume that readers will be familiar with at least the broad outlines of his thought. What interests me in the following is the influence of Schmitt’s decisionist notion of sovereignty with its various implications for neoliberal thought, that of Hayek in particular. To be sure, the echoes of Schmitt’s critique of parliamentarism in the Weimar Republic are also easily discernible in ordoliberal views. Röpke’s misgivings about the pluralist disintegration of the state discussed above are irritatingly close to Schmitt’s critique, and the same goes for his authoritarian solution to the problem. But although we find some decisionist elements in Eucken’s seminal Foundation of Economics, in which it takes a decision by the sovereign to choose between the two basic stable modes of economy, collectivist or individualist, the ordoliberals are too influenced by natural law ideas and too enamored with science as a generator of objective truth to go down the decisionist road.32 Eucken may write that a decision must be made, but the hidden agenda of the entire book is to show that a science of economics can provide unshakable grounds for the sovereign to make the right decision—which could not be further from a truly decisionist notion of politics.33 What, then, are the links between Schmitt and Hayek? In order to elucidate this relation I will draw on an argument by Bill Scheuerman, who speaks of an “unholy alliance” between the two.34 Scheuerman highlights the parallels between both thinkers as well as dynamics that introduce some profound ambiguities, and the latter are of particular interest here. In his writings up to the early 1930s, Schmitt centers his critique of the Weimar democratic welfare state on the fusion of state and society in a total state (in the negative sense) premised upon the confusion between general laws and particular measures/decrees. However, according to Scheuerman, this is ultimately a defense of propertied classes against the redistributive policies of the Weimar welfare state. Schmitt’s position changes as soon as the political balance of forces is tipped toward

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National Socialism. Now he bases his theorizing on the diagnosis that the trend toward state interventionism has become irreversible and concludes that it is necessary to find the appropriate forms of political rule for such an interventionism, thus arriving at a plebiscitary dictatorship. This could also be called a permanent state of exception, which serves as the political framework of interventionism. If interventionism is indeed necessarily arbitrary, then this should be reflected in the form of political rule. It is uncontroversial that Hayek shares with Schmitt the stark contrast between general law and particular measures/decrees. Not only in his apocalyptic Road to Serfdom but also in the more measured Constitution of Liberty, Schmitt might be reprimanded for his role under the Nazi regime, but he is nevertheless cited as an astute observer of the pathologies of Weimar pluralism rooted in the confusion over the generality of law.35 Scheuerman argues that the Schmittian heritage ends up causing some major tensions and ambiguities in Hayek’s later work not only because Hayek ultimately has to concede that, as of yet, it has not been possible to spell out the meaning of the generality of law in a satisfying way, but also because Hayek wants to cling to Schmitt’s thesis that interventionism is per se arbitrary and decisionist but still hopes to rein it in through the framework of proper laws. Scheuerman recapitulates Hayek’s dilemma: “either interventionist activities are genuinely decisionist and thus cannot be effectively subjected to ‘normativistic’ general rules, or they may not be all that decisionistic after all—and thus need not imply that the welfare state has already taken significant strides down the ‘road to serfdom’” (“ua,” 182). Even more importantly, if Hayek is willing to accept Schmitt’s diagnosis of the pathologies of the democratic pluralist welfare state, why would he shy away from the solution Schmitt presents? We must be careful not to conflate Hayek and Schmitt, because the former would hardly have concurred with a plebiscitary dictatorship, but Scheuerman is right in stressing the undemocratic and semi-authoritarian traits of some of Hayek’s own institutional reforms and suggests that it might take extraordinary action to implement them: “How else might the state be effectively ‘cleansed’ of the influence of groups . . . potentially hostile to a belligerent bourgeois economic agenda? Indeed, if

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Neoliberal Sovereignty in Europe

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the current situation is as apocalyptic as Schmitt and Hayek claim, dramatic action would seem absolutely imperative today” (“ua,” 183). In other words, it may take an exceptionalist form of rule to cut through the Gordian knot of welfare-state beneficiary interest groups and democratic politicians readily responding to their demands. In the Hayekian variety of neoliberal political theory, we would thus have an oscillation between an “enthronement of rules” as truly sovereign, which we encountered in the section above, and at least a flirt with exceptionalist authoritarianism—both of which, if we follow Scheuerman’s argument, are attributable to the Schmittian heritage in Hayek’s thought.

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In the following section I will try to develop some preliminary thoughts on whether and how these ideas about sovereignty can be linked to current transformations in structures of economic governance in Europe. Still, let me begin with a brief detour to provide an account of one of the few examples in which sovereignty has explicitly been addressed in the context of neoliberalism,36 because this will provide a helpful background of American neoliberalism and sovereignty in the mid-2000s against which to situate my own sketch of European neoliberalism and sovereignty in the mid-2010s. In “American Nightmare: Neoliberalism, Neoconservatism, and De-Democratization,” Wendy Brown begins with a survey of the complex relation between neoliberalism and neoconservatism and shows that the two are almost indistinguishable in some respects yet are different and even at odds with one another in others. In a nutshell, she argues that there is an inadvertent alliance between the two. The depoliticization of the social world in the name of markets and individual responsibility promoted by neoliberalism prepares the ground for a more authoritarian and more or less explicitly religious understanding of politics espoused by neoconservatives. The overall effect of this is a thorough de-democratization of the polity. The issue of sovereignty comes up twice. Depicting US politics at the beginning of the new century and after 9/11,

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Brown writes: “And, as law is tacticalized or instrumentalized, it is radically desacralized, producing the conditions of its routine suspension or abrogation, and paving the ground for what Agamben, drawing on Schmitt, has formulated as sovereignty in the form of a permanent state of exception.”37 Later, when she discusses the supplemental role of religion in the configuration between neoconservatism and neoliberalism, she argues that neoconservatives model “state authority on church authority,” prioritizing unity over checks and balances. “This model acquires purchase in a political culture shaped by the late modern decontainment of religion consequent to waning nation-state sovereignty, a sovereignty originally designed in part precisely to contain and subtend both economic and religious power” (“an,” 708).38 So the present, it seems, is characterized by countervailing or at least heterogeneous tendencies: While the law becomes desacralized in the neoliberal attempt to use it for tactical purposes of political expediency, there is also a decontainment of religion. This in turn is premised upon the alleged waning of nation-state sovereignty, which, on the other hand, manifests itself increasingly in the form of a permanent state of exception. With this diagnosis in mind let us turn to present-day Europe. My thesis is that we can find all three varieties of neoliberal sovereignty, as described in the sections above, in contemporary Europe as it tries to mitigate and contain past and present crises and to preempt future ones. While the banking and financial crisis that caused all subsequent economic calamities prompted fairly modest reform efforts in the financial sector, the sovereign debt crisis has given rise to rather dramatic and far-reaching reforms. Not only was the European Stability Mechanism (esm) established to provide credit lines for countries threatened with bankruptcy, but the “Six-Pack” Accord and the Fiscal Compact were passed as well. I will argue that these reforms—and there are more—embody all the approaches to sovereignty discussed here and also therefore raise a series of critical questions. The most obvious aspect concerns the focus on rules in these reforms. The strategy of “binding the hands” of the sovereign and its representatives through rules is on full display here, not least

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because it coincides with German ordoliberal ideas about the importance of rules and sanctions. These enjoy a kind of renaissance in today’s Europe, of course, not least due to Germany’s political and economic ascent in the course of the crises.39 The Fiscal Compact is essentially a constitutional balanced-budget amendment along the lines of Buchanan’s ideal, as it constitutionally requires all European states that ratified it to cap both deficits and debt. The “Six Pack” points in a similar direction, but in some of its provisions and the monitoring/enforcement mechanisms we can also discern remnants of a more technocratic and somewhat authoritarian understanding of sovereignty—not on the national, but on the supranational level. In the so-called Excessive Deficit and the Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure (mip), the European Commission plays this role. The commission routinely monitors national budgetary proposals and can make recommendations, but it also monitors national economic indicators that range from private and public debt quota to current account balances and real estate prices. If these indicators rise or fall beyond certain thresholds the commission can initiate the mip with the approval of the European Council, and this means that it makes policy recommendations how to rectify the imbalance, recommendations that become binding unless there is a majority in the council against it. Thus in this supranational setting the sovereign function of an external umpire insulated from the input of community members—in this case populations and states—falls to the commission that issues its recommendations on how to address policy questions, which are themselves controversial (How do you reduce private debt? How do you increase competitiveness?), based on the authority of the science of economics. But the mip also contains aspects of the third variety of neoliberal sovereignty that incorporates Schmittian exceptionalism and decisionism. A number of commentators have pointed out that the recommendations by the European Commission can contain calls for reforms in a range of policy areas, social policy among them, but also many others. The point is that these policy domains lie outside of the competences of the EU as stated in European law and the various treaties.40 Or take the example of the European

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Central Bank and its Outright Monetary Transactions program, in which state bonds would be bought off of secondary capital markets, or the functioning of the European Stability Mechanism, which provides credit lines to countries in exchange for what are euphemistically referred to as “structural reforms.” Both have received approval by national courts—possibly more on political than on strictly legal grounds—but even those who, like myself, support both as well as the rescue packages to Greece in principle, should acknowledge that there is a tension between these measures and the “no bailout clause” of the Maastricht Treaty.41 Finally, take the Banking Union, which is painstakingly slow in the making these days. There is a good case to be made that it would require a treaty change—even if it is the German Bundesbank that makes this argument most vehemently—but the European Commission is afraid this will postpone the Banking Union for years, and some national governments have their own reservations; at this point it thus seems to proceed without a treaty change. What I am suggesting here is that the EU, through the Council of the European Union, the European Council, and the European Commission, is in the course of establishing what might be called with only mild hyperbole an extralegal emergency constitution with its various reforms, thus incorporating the Schmittian/Hayekian variety of sovereignty. What does this finally mean for the differences between the United States around 2004 and Europe around 2014 with regard to neoliberalism and sovereignty? With regard to the United States, Brown notes a desacralization and tacticalization of law leading to permanent states of exception. In Europe the situation is different and almost paradoxical. On the one hand, there is a massive resacralization of law or juridical norms more generally in the form of sacrosanct Fiscal Pacts, Six-Packs, and so forth. They may not be charged with outright religious connotations but certainly with moral ones that come close to the former.42 At the same time, Europe exhibits an ongoing state of exception in the sense of institutional reforms that seem to be in violation of European law, thus establishing what could be called an emergency constitution. Brown links these developments to the waning sovereignty of the

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nation-state. But while this may have caused a decontainment of religion in the American context, in the European context, which has seen an even more dramatic erosion of nation-state sovereignty, we do not see the same effects with regard to religion but rather the reemergence of the various forms of sovereignty on the supranational level along the lines of the brief illustrations offered in this section. Critical research on the current forms and transformations of neoliberalism must not only focus on its alleged market fundamentalism but also take into account the genuinely political aspects of neoliberal theory and practice, such as sovereignty. This will not only provide for more apt critical diagnoses; it will, one hopes, also serve to develop alternatives.

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Notes

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1. Bob Jessop, “The Continuing Ecological Dominance of Neoliberalism in the Crisis,” in Economic Transitions to Neoliberalism in Middle-Income Countries: Policy Dilemmas, Economic Crises, Forms of Resistance, ed. Alfredo Saad-Filho and Galip Yalman (London: Routledge, 2009), 24–38. 2. Jamie Peck, Constructions of Neoliberal Reason (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010). Hereafter cited as cnr. 3. While I believe that this analytical distinction is possible and helpful, it should still be noted that there is some overlap between the three “varieties.” 4. Jamie Peck and Adam Tickell, “Neoliberalizing Space,” Antipode 34, no. 3 (2002): 380–404. 5. See, e.g., Wendy Larner, “Neo-liberalism: Policy, Ideology, Governmentality,” Studies in Political Economy 63 (2000): 5–21, who distinguishes between neoliberalism as policy, ideology, and governmentality. 6. For a discussion of some of these approaches see Thomas Biebricher, Neoliberalismus zur Einführung (Hamburg: Junius, 2012). 7. For the following, see also Thomas Biebricher, “Neoliberalism and Democracy,” Constellations (forthcoming). 8. For a recent account of the colloquium see Angus Burgin, The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets since the Depression (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012), 55–86. Hereafter cited as gp.

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9. Friedrich August von Hayek, “Opening Address to a Conference at Mont Pèlerin,” in Collected Works (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 4:237–48. 10. Rachel Turner, “The ‘Rebirth of Liberalism’: The Origins of Neoliberal Ideology,” Journal of Political Ideologies 12, no. 1 (2007): 78. For similar views see cnr and gp. 11. Brian Doherty, “Best of Both Worlds,” interview with Milton Friedman, Reason 27, no. 2, http://reason.com/archives/1995/06/01/best-of -both-worlds. 12. However, the emphasis on classical liberalism also has to do with mentioned shift in meaning of liberalism around the turn of the century. See James Buchanan, Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative: The Normative Vision of Classical Liberalism (Cheltenham UK: Edward Elgar, 2005). Hereafter cited as wit. 13. Robert Jackson, Sovereignty: Evolution of an Idea (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007), xii. Hereafter cited as s. The literature on sovereignty is virtually limitless. Jackson provides a good introduction, but for a comprehensive analysis of state sovereignty see Ersun Kurtulus, State Sovereignty: Concept, Phenomenon and Ramifications (New York: Palgrave, 2005); for democratic/popular sovereignty, see Matthew Weinert, Democratic Sovereignty: Authority, Legitimacy, and State in a Globalizing Age (New York: University College London Press, 2007). The seminal genealogical account can be found in Jens Bartelson, A Genealogy of Sovereignty (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995). For a succinct summary see Jens Bartelson, “Sovereignty,” in Encyclopedia of Political Theory, ed. Mark Bevir (Thousand Oaks ca: Sage, 2010), 3:2009–12. 14. Still, this is not entirely accurate, because especially Hayek and Röpke show a certain degree of interest in European integration and thus venture beyond a strict methodological nationalism when discussing the merits and problems of regional (economic) integration. See Friedrich August von Hayek, “The Economic Conditions of Interstate Federalism,” in Individualism and Economic Order (1939; reprint, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 250–72; and Wilhelm Röpke, “European Economic Integration and its Problems,” Modern Age: A Quarterly Review 8 (Summer 1964): 231–44. 15. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (London: Penguin, 1985), 227. 16. James Buchanan, Economics from the Outside In (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2007), 11–12. 17. James Buchanan, The Limits of Liberty: Between Anarchy and Le-

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viathan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975), 5–7. Hereafter cited as ll. Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962), 25. Hereafter cited as cf. “The crucial conception of the doctrinaire democrat is that of popular sovereignty.” Friedrich August von Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (London: Routledge, 2009), 93. Hereafter cited as cl. The neoliberal views regarding democracy that mirror the respective positions on sovereignty in certain respects are scrutinized in Biebricher, “Neoliberalism and Democracy” (forthcoming). Wilhelm Röpke, A Humane Economy: The Social Framework of the Free Market (Chicago: Henry Regner, 1960), 56. Hereafter cited as he. For an exploration of the technocratic aspects of the rule of a Hobbesian sovereign see Sheldon Wolin, “Hobbes and the Culture of Despotism,” in Thomas Hobbes and Political Theory, ed. Mary Dietz (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1990), 9–36. The contemporary locus classicus of the analysis of “precommitment” with reference to the Odysseus metaphor are Jon Elster, Ulysses and the Sirens: Studies in Rationality and Irrationality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979) and Ulysses Unbound: Studies in Rationality, Precommitment, and Constraints (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), where a very elaborate discussion of the problem can be found. Interestingly, Elster’s second book is a self-critique of his first to the extent that the latter extrapolated from the individual level (Odysseus) to the societal level. This serves as a good reminder of the potential pitfalls of metaphors. Friedrich August von Hayek, Law, Legislation, and Liberty: A New Statement of the Liberal Principles of Justice and Political Economy, 3 vols. (London: Routledge, 2003), 3:17. Hereafter cited as lll. “So bind ye me in a hard bond, that I may abide unmoved in my place, upright in the mast-stead, and from the mast let rope-ends be tied, and if I beseech and bid you to set me free, then do ye straiten me with yet more bonds.” Homer, The Odyssey, trans. S. H. Butcher and A. Lang (New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1909–14; Bartleby.com, 2001), www.bartleby.com/22. Buchanan and Brennan only mention temptation with reference to Odysseus: “He recognizes his weakness of will; he does not trust his ability to resist temptation, and he knows that if he succumbs, the larger purpose of the voyage will be undermined.” James Buchanan and Geoffrey Brennan, The Reason of Rules: Constitutional Political

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Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 82. Hereafter cited as rr. However, since these figures are referred to in the same context and without an attempt to introduce any differentiation, they seemingly serve to illustrate the same problematic of “precommitment,” and there is no systematic reason why Buchanan refers to Crusoe more frequently. See rr, 82. See James Buchanan, “The Potential of Taxpayer Revolt in American Democracy,” Social Science Quarterly 59 (1979): 691–96. In my view, the most promising solution to this neoliberal dilemma is the delayed implementation of the amendment. Current lawmakers will find it easier to adopt an amendment if it is only enacted two terms later. See Viktor Vanberg, “Rational-Choice vs. Adaptive Rule-Following: On the Behavioral Foundations of the Social Sciences,” in Rules and Choice in Economics: Essays in Constitutional Economics (New York: Routledge, 1994), 25–40. Carl Schmitt, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty (Cambridge: mit Press, 1985), 5. See, e.g., Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005). “By an ‘economic constitution’ we mean the decision as to the general ordering of the economic life of a community.” Walter Eucken, Foundations of Economics: History and Theory in the Analysis of Economic Reality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951), 88. See Dieter Haselbach, Autoritärer Liberalismus und Soziale Marktwirtschaft (Baden Baden: Nomos, 1991). William Scheuerman, “The Unholy Alliance of Carl Schmitt and Friedrich A. Hayek,” Constellations 4, no. 2 (1997): 172–88. Hereafter cited as “ua.” See also Renato Christi, Carl Schmitt and Authoritarian Liberalism (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1998). “The conduct of Carl Schmitt under the Hitler regime does not alter the fact that, of the modern German writings on the subject, his are still among the most learned and perceptive” (cl, 423). As a matter of fact, Schmitt is referenced even more approvingly in the Constitution of Liberty than in the Road to Serfdom. Another important example is Aihwa Ong, Neoliberalism as Exception: Mutations in Citizenship and Sovereignty (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006). Wendy Brown, “American Nightmare: Neoliberalism, Neoconser-

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vatism, and De-Democratization,” Political Theory 34 (2006): 696. Hereafter cited as “an.” For a more elaborate treatment of the implications of waning state sovereignty, see Wendy Brown, Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (New York: Zone Books, 2010). See Thomas Biebricher, “Europe and the Political Philosophy of Neoliberalism,” Contemporary Political Theory 12, no. 4 (2013): 338– 75; and Thomas Biebricher, “The Return of Ordoliberalism in Europe: Notes on a Research Agenda,” i-lex 9 (2014), http://www.i-lex .it/articles/volume9/issue21/biebricher.pdf. See Martin Höpner and Florian Rödl, “Illegitim und rechtswidrig: Das neue makroökonomische Regime im Euroraum,” Wirtschaftsdienst 92, no. 4 (2012): 219–22. Siegfried Franke, “Eurokrise, Vertragsbrüche und Rechtsstaatlichkeit,” Wirtschaftsdienst 93, no. 12 (2013): 802–3. “We have turned the politics of debt into a morality play, one that has shifted the blame from the banks to the state.” Mark Blyth, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 13.

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Is Marx (Capital) Secular?

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wendy brown

Money is the alienated ability of mankind.

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—Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844

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Religion is only the illusory sun about which man revolves so long as he does not revolve about himself. . . . The immediate task of philosophy . . . is to unmask human self-alienation in its secular form now that it has been unmasked in its sacred form.

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—Marx, Introduction to the Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

Secular Predicaments

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Three contemporary predicaments have wreaked havoc with the modernist and especially twentieth-century Western expectation that secularism would be the future for ever more parts of the world and would remain a permanent feature of the West. There is, first, the phenomenon of enormous planetary slums where, to paraphrase Mike Davis, the politics of proletarian revolution have been replaced by the politics of the holy ghost. Huge enclaves of poor people find sanctuary in religion today—evangelical Christianity in Latin America, North America, and southern Africa; populist Islam in Asia and North Africa; and a range of local

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religions in regions around the globe. “If God died in the cities of the industrial revolution,” Davis writes, “he has risen again in the postindustrial cities of the developing world.”1 In addition to the vitality of religion among the world’s most destitute, there is, second, a broad transnational renaissance for religion today, one accompanying if not generated by the intensification of capitalism’s global reach in recent decades. Rather than inciting secular revolutions and consciousness, globalization appears to have produced something of its opposite, in which the legitimacy and energy of states as well as national and transnational political movements (and conflicts) are often bound expressly to religion. As market rationality penetrates every fiber and crevice of the planet, religion—and the politics animated by it—is far from waning. It is rebounding. Third, and related, our times feature a sometimes subtle and sometimes forthright “de-secularization” in liberal democratic as well as non-Western states. Against the presumption that secularization is an inexorable and progressive tendency in capitalist orders generally, and liberal democracies in particular, proudly secular Euro-Atlantic societies are “outing” their own religious predicates as they defend their expressly Christian nature and give the lie to the notion that secularism entails religious neutrality. Striking too are the many postcolonial nations rebuffing half a century or more of secular governments for forthrightly theological or hybrid forms of authority and law. Each of these predicaments bears detailed historically and geopolitically specific explanations. Together, however, they wreak havoc with the crude presumptions about secularism and religion organizing the past century of Western political and historical understanding, presumptions that implicitly forecast a combination of reason, science, liberal democracy, and the market as dethroning religious political authority and energies.

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Secular Prejudice in Thought Nietzsche wrote that accurately apprehending the origin and development of morality in the West was inhibited by what he called

Brown: Is Marx (Capital) Secular?

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the “democratic prejudice” of moderns.2 When we refract the past through the egalitarian and progressive historiographical conceits of the present, Nietzsche believed, we fail to understand other tables of values and forgo the chance to understand and reflect on ourselves through them. “Democratic prejudice” makes us bad readers of the past and sacrifices the potential of genealogy to illuminate the workings of power in (and the contingent nature of) our own moral order of things. Much Western thought today suffers from a variation on Nietzsche’s charge, namely, a “secular prejudice” compromising our efforts to apprehend the play of religion in thought and the world, in present and past. Operating from a nest of assumptions about the religious and the secular, starting with a belief in their putative opposition, we misapprehend how they were otherwise conceived even in modernity and thus miss an opportunity for insight into contemporary predicaments of secularism, religion, and globalization. The good news is that in some corners of Western intellectual life this “secular prejudice” is breaking up under scrutiny by a range of scholars, including, among others, Talal Asad, William Connolly, Saba Mahmood, Charles Taylor, Winnifred Sullivan, Peter Danchin, Tomoko Masuzawa, and Hent de Vries.3 These thinkers have taught us that modern Western secularism entails more than a church-state distinction or an a-religious public sphere and order of thinking. Rather, it takes shape as a form of governmentality and subject production from which several implications follow. First, secularism never merely contains religion and is not, cannot be, religiously neutral in organizing society. Rather, secularism generates a specific model and meaning of religion and generates particular kinds of religious subjects and practices—for example, in the Protestant Reformation–shaped West, private believers whose beliefs and worship are hived off from daily economic and public life. Far from merely sequestering religion, secularism is a particular way of stipulating, organizing, and producing it. Put another way, more than merely separating church and state, religion and politics, public and private, secularism generates meanings and practices on both sides of these divides as well as their relation.

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Second, and related, rather than merely banishing religion from the public sphere, secularism converts and disseminates religious imaginaries and modalities of consciousness across the society it governs. This dissemination reaches from the character of modern sovereignty (Schmitt),4 to the nature of the state–civil society relation (Marx),5 to the normative orientation and ethos of the subject (Weber and Foucault).6 Third, many ostensibly secular concepts and formulations, along with many secular thinkers, are suffused with religious temporalities, narratives, and ordinances. If, for example, Nietzsche revealed the conceit of a god’s-eye view in all aspirations to objectivity, he was also captive to Christianity in range of ways, from his direct rejections and reversals of Christian precepts to his own self-appointment as the Antichrist. Or consider Schmitt, who, while underscoring the theological origin of political sovereignty, repeats this religious ordination in formulating sovereignty as inherently timeless, eternal, absolute, impersonal, above the law, capable of making and deciding truth. Or there is Marx’s materialist historiography, which, while intended to finally render history human, frames a narrative that begins with an original fall from grace and ends with redemption and heaven on earth. There are countless other examples, but the point is simply that religious consciousness does not fade or die with a secular commitment to its formal expungement from spheres or practices, including and above all thinking. Fourth, desacralization is far from an even or progressive process and is also not equivalent to secularization. Just as forces of disenchantment may be cross-cut by events of reenchantment, and just as democratic orders may suffer de-democratization, sacralization is not vanquished from history by the operation of desacralizing forces.7 Moreover, secular displacements or containments of religion do not inhibit the informal sacralization of processes or entities. That is, in societies that may understand themselves as relentlessly secular, commodities, money, status, cultures, nations, states, and even civilization may be sacralized. Each of these claims, for which I have offered only the pith, has a backstory involving a great deal of theoretical and historical

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detail. There are also many more insights emerging from recent rethinking of the secular and the sacred, ranging from Asad’s pluralization of “formations of the secular,” to Masuzawa’s brilliant genealogy of the nineteenth century orientalist production of “world religions,” to Mahmood’s insistence that discourses of secularism do not simply stipulate religion’s proper location but its definition and meanings.8 But the four critiques I have identified here open a reengagement with Marx’s thinking about the religiosity of capitalism, a reengagement undertaken in order to draw out Marx’s thought in consideration of the predicaments with which I began: Why has a resurgence of religion become coextensive with the unprecedented intensification of globalized capitalism? What is the religiosity inherent in capitalism itself? What sacralizations, and not only desacralizations, does capitalism elicit and perform, and what religious impulses does it incite?

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Marx

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A secular prejudice is prevalent in readings of Marx that cast him either as relentlessly secular—a hater of religion, a social scientist bent on replacing all mystery with science, a theorist of capital’s secularizing power—or as a messianic thinker whose Messiah was communism. Such accounts gloss over Marx’s profound intellectual formation through his engagement with critiques of religion. They also eschew the extent to which his early rethinking of Hegel, Feuerbach, and the Young Hegelians on the relation of religion to sensuous experience, consciousness, history, and the state produces heuristics and frames that persist across his work, sometimes in shadowy and sometimes more overt form. Another way of putting this: While Marx was no scholar of religion, thought religion was bunk, and was convinced by his studies of the English working class that urbanization might be the death knell of formal religious adherence, he did not believe that religion is automatically displaced by reason and science, or that capitalism inherently destroys religious belief. Rather, Marx famously develops the Feuerbachian insight that religion is an expression of human alienation, a projection of human capacities onto an imagi-

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nary Other, a projection that itself signals our unfreedom yet also limns our inchoate or unconscious awareness of its resolution.9 Marx goes further, of course, combining Feuerbach’s insight into religion’s generic wellspring with a Hegelian appreciation of the developmental historical logic of religions, thus seeking to specify the relation between human life form and religious form. Already this means that, for Marx, the desacralizing force of capital (the force he depicts magnificently in the early pages of the Manifesto) could neither bring an end to religious modalities of consciousness nor eradicate the conditions for religion itself. This is the idea we must hold: forces and events of desacralization are not equivalent to secularism or the end of religion, and desacralization itself is not a linear or unidirectional historical process. Rather, the desacralization of one set of relations or processes in a particular time and place may be rejoined or cross-cut by sacralization of something else. Thus does Marx speak of money as a “visible divinity” (not originating with capitalism but ascending in power during its reign), a sacralization Jesus also worried about when, in Matthew, he personified money as Mammon and set it up as a rival worship object to God.10 Or consider Michael Taussig’s account of the emergent devil theology arising in response to the proletarianization of Columbian peasants.11 Or anthropologist Alan Klima’s tracking of numerology cults that sprang up in Bangkok after neoliberalization devastated the agrarian economy in the late 1980s and the Asian monetary crisis destroyed the urban one in the 1990s.12 Phillip Goodchild, more broadly, theorizes a range of “secular pieties” that take shape under capitalism, from “price” to “freedom.”13 If desacralization is not a one-way process for Marx and is not equivalent to vanquishing religion, there is no reason for religion and religious consciousness to disappear in capitalist societies. Moreover, Marx’s Feuerbachian understanding of the basis of religion is at war with the idea that its staying power depends on a trick of the exploiters or rests in consolation of the poor. Again, Marx embraced Feuerbach’s fundamental conviction that religion is an inherent emanation of all alienated and unfree social conditions. This emanation differs in its source and sustenance from

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ideology, which is a cloak for power generated by power itself. By contrast, religious consciousness expresses the separation of humans from the effects of their own generative capacities and the subordination of humans by powers (whether in nature or modes of production) larger than their aggregated selves. Now it is commonplace to see this Marx—the Marx revising Feuerbach on species being and religious consciousness, the Marx of the Early Manuscripts and the Introduction to the Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right—as abandoned or repudiated by the more sophisticated political economist.14 This is the view of Marx I am contesting. That this Marx hardly vanishes from the pages of Das Kapital is nowhere more obvious than in the discussion of commodity fetishism, to which we now turn.

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Commodity Fetishism

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Let us remember how Marx makes his turn to the problem of fetishism in Capital: “A commodity appears, at first sight, a very trivial thing . . . easily understood. Its analysis shows that it is, in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties” (m, 319). The ironic grimace through which it is proffered makes it easy to lose sight of the surprising content of this claim. Commodities appear straightforward enough— empirical, secular as it were—but their real nature is metaphysical, religious. This is already an inversion of critical theory’s usual appearance/reality formula: Rather than lifting a religious veil in search of a material substratum, we must seek out the religious predicates of a seemingly material object. How does this go? By his industry, Marx continues, man transforms nature into things useful to him—thus “the form of wood . . . is altered by making a table out of it” (m, 320). An idea plus labor yields something useful—from wood, a table. But, says Marx, usefulness is utterly beside the point of commodities. Rather, as soon as it steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent. It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, in relation to all other commodities, it stands on its head,

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and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more wonderful than “table-turning” ever was. (m, 320)

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The commodity form is thus both transcendent in status and active in the way that religious deities are—capable of idea-generation and world-making. Marx is here drawing directly on Feuerbach’s formula for religion: man makes God, who then makes man. Similarly, although fashioned by man from wood, the table as a commodity becomes transcendent, evolves ideas from its wooden brain, stands on its head, and stands reality on its head. Commodities, in this respect, are wholly religious in nature. But what generates this religion? A commodity, Marx tells us, is the issue of a specific division of labor generative of relations among producers and between producers and owners. A commodity comprises the social form of labor at any particular moment and place. Its value is determined by the socially necessary labortime required to produce it within that particular social form. But the operation of commodities in the market inherently buries this relation in favor of a different one, namely, the relative exchange value among commodities themselves. So it is in departing from the realm of production to the realm of exchange that the religious “conversion” occurs. Marx continues:

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[A] commodity is therefore a mysterious thing, simply because in it the social character of men’s labour appears to them as an objective character stamped upon the product of that labor; because the relation of the producers to . . . their own labour is presented to them as a social relation, existing not between themselves, but between the products of their labour. (m, 320)

Crucially, Marx is not arguing that commodities in the market merely undergo an ideological cover-up. “The enigmatic character of the product of labour, so soon as it assumes the form of commodities, arises from this form itself. . . . [A] definite social relation between men assumes . . . the fantastic form of a relation between things” (m, 320–21). The nature of capitalist production of commodities and the disjunction between the realm of production and the realm of exchange together distort their origin, and also make

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them capable of idea-generation, world-making, table-turning. Again, such inversion and projection is the essence of religion for Feuerbach and Marx. Marx drives this point home with one of his favorite analogies from the natural world, that between the neurology and physics of seeing and the relation of the actual to the imagined in the social world:

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[T]he products of labour become commodities, social things whose qualities are at the same time perceptible and imperceptible by the senses. . . . In the same way the light from an object is perceived by us not as the subjective excitation of our optic nerve, but as the objective form of something outside the eye itself. But in the act of seeing, there is at all events, an actual passage of light from one thing to another, from the external object to the eye. There is a physical relation between physical things. It is different with commodities. There, the existence of the things qua commodities, and the value-relation between the products of labour which stamps them as commodities, have absolutely no connection with their physical properties and with the material relations therefrom. (m, 321)

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This analogy, and Marx’s love of it (he deploys it in the German Ideology and the Manuscripts as well as in Capital) is already fascinating for being about two different kinds of “seeing”—physical and theoretical, or scopic and analytic. In this case, Marx is deploying it to help fathom why we can (physically) see a commodity without really (analytically) seeing what it is. But a further complication is introduced. Even in physical sight, we fail to perceive vision’s complex subjective and mediated dimensions: the eye’s own stimulation (the excitement of the optic nerve); the eye’s involvement with the brain; the brain’s tendency to self-deception about what it is seeing; the brain’s investment of the object-world with what are actually internal physiological and cerebral processes. In short, we don’t understand what we are seeing, and we don’t readily “see” the very impossibility of unmediated or transparent “seeing,” even of ordinary things. This problem is intensified when we try to apprehend the political economy of commodity production

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in the market, where, as Marx puts it, “the value-relation between the products of labour which stamps them as commodities have absolutely no connexion with their physical properties. . . . [A] definite social relation between men assumes the fantastic form of a relation between things” (m, 321). So with commodities, we cannot see the object we’re staring at, let alone understand it or grasp the subjective and mediated dimensions of our apprehension. Together, these problems raise the broad question of whether we ever really see what we think we see, indeed, whether “objects in the world” are ever what they seem, whether we can ever avoid mistaking the “subjective excitation of our optic nerve” for an “objective form of something outside the eye.” For Marx, it raises the more specific question of how to understand “a social relation between men which assumes the fantastic form of a relation between things.” But again, Marx’s answer to this question is genuinely shocking: For this understanding, “we must have recourse to the mist-enveloped regions of the religious world,” that is, the world where “the productions of the human brain appear as independent beings endowed with life, and entering into relation both with one another and the human race” (m, 321). What just happened here? Marx is not saying that commodity fetishism is analogous to religion because both are false. Rather, he is saying that capitalist commodity production inherently generates a specifically religious mystification of powers, objects, things, and relations, a religious projection of human powers onto nonhuman entities, a religious disavowal of the origin of power and of the social nature of human production. Moreover, commodities are neither contingently nor accidentally but necessarily fetishized; a religious presentation of capitalist social relations is inherent in capitalist production and intrinsic to capitalist exchange. Put the other way around, what Marx calls this “mystical veil” over “the life process of society” cannot be shed until there is “production by freely associated men, consciously regulated by them in accordance with a settled plan” (m, 327). The claim that commodity fetishism requires recourse to the “mist-enveloped regions of the religious world” is not strictly a move to metaphor or analogy. Rather, the commodity is one of the

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two modern forms in which the systematic separation of humans from their powers occurs, making commodity fetishism a fundamentally religious element of capitalist society. The commodity cannot be explained without recourse to religion, it has no nonreligious existence. An essential effect of capitalism, as well as essential to its workings, in commodity fetishism our alienated power comes to life in deistic form, a coming to life that Marx literalizes in his account of what commodities “conceal” and “disclose,” as well as his experiments in this section of capital with making commodities “speak” (m, 324).15

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If the commodity is one inherently religious element in capitalism, what is the other? In “On the Jewish Question,” Marx famously argues that the secular state retains a Christian theological structure, spirit, and content, and does so along several lines. First, it is Christian insofar as it represents itself as the site of freedom, a religious representation insofar as it attributes a distinctly human experience and practice—freedom—to a distant and sovereign power, the state. Similarly, the sovereignty of man is derived from the sovereignty of the state, and at the same time, a distinctly human thing—sovereignty—is imputed to an imaginary being—God. Borrowing directly from Feuerbach’s critique of religion, Marx elaborates:

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Religion is simply the recognition of man in a roundabout fashion; that is, through an intermediary. Just as Christ is the intermediary to whom man attributes all his own divinity and all his religious bonds, so the state is the intermediary to which man confides all his non-divinity and all his human freedom. (m, 32)

Marx is not arguing that attributions (of divinity to God and of freedom to the state) are ideological, hence false, but that these attributions (“projections” in Feuerbach’s analysis) are an expression of a specific form of our unfreedom. This form comports with secularized Christianity, Christianity disavowed and yet absorbed into political authority and structuring political life.

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In this essay, Marx also discerns the Christianity of the bourgeois state in its division of human existence and representation into two orders, state and economy, which Marx identifies respectively with “heaven” and “earth,” celestial and terrestrial life. The state is otherworldly insofar as it regards all its subjects as free and equal, but this regard requires abstracting them from real earthly life, just as the Christian image of souls in heaven does. “The political state, in relation to civil society, is just as spiritual as is heaven in relation to earth. . . . [H]ere man is the imaginary member of an imaginary sovereignty, divested of his real, individual life, and infused with an unreal universality” (m, 34). For Marx, these points taken together reveal the political state as Christian, and political consciousness as religious, even when both are thoroughly secularized. The state is composed of man’s alienated powers, and it figures a Christian political imaginary that abstracts from our everyday lives. The state iterates a Christian theology of consciousness and legitimates itself through a belief structure that depends upon constituting itself as the source of sovereignty and making “every man an imaginary sovereign.” Thus does Marx identify both state and individual sovereignty as resting on a religious emanation and distortion; political democracy is founded in a Christian theological stance in which freedom and sovereignty are posited in an ideal way against their material negation. Conclusion

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It is thus important to underscore the difference between ideology and religion in Marx’s thought, a difference between, on the one hand, reflection of the world from the perspective of the ruling class where subordination and stratification are naturalized or erased, and, on the other, alienation and unfreedom across the board where man’s alienated powers are attributed to and conferred upon sovereign Others. If Marx provided less elaboration of each and less calibration of their relation than we might wish, the distinction itself remains indispensable for understanding his work and perhaps for understanding the relation of religion and capital today. Marx never surrenders the Feuerbachian notion that

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religion issues from and expresses our alienation, that it is a lived form of this alienation in unfree societies. He takes this insight everywhere and makes it do work Feuerbach never dreamed of. This is in part because Marx more than Feuerbach appreciated how religion can take secular social and political forms, whether in dissemination of its structure and spirit across state and civil society, in providing the hinge between capitalist production and exchange in commodity fetishism, or in its sacralization of money, which is identified in the Manuscripts as “the alienated ability of mankind.” At the same time, Marx differentiates between forces of desacralization and the vanquishing of religion and religiosity: for Marx, capitalism does the former but not the latter. In this, he contributes to one of our crucial political-intellectual tasks today, namely, to fathom how desacralization and religion coexist, how religion thrives amid capitalism and how its revival is possibly even a response to its desacralizing force. But do the state and the commodity remain primary locations of estranged human powers and attributed divinity in the twenty-first century? The answer to this must vary across global positions and culture. Certainly neither has vanished—anxiety about the waning sovereignty of the state amid forces of globalization appears in a range of theological political formations, and the magic of the commodity is hardly diminishing in the era of the I-Everything, even as finance capital has clearly spun its own spectacular religious order, multiplying hidden hands and other invisible deities as derivatives. Moreover, neoliberal rationality deifies the market itself in unprecedented ways and for unprecedented domains of human existence. That said, clearly there are other ways today in which religion responds to the super-saturation of the planet with capitalist social relations and values, providing both horizon and meaning in an ever more unhorizoned and meaning-eviscerated human habitat. Thinkers across the political spectrum today promulgate religion’s provision of depth, purpose, and moral compass in a soulless landscape.16 From the Freudians we are also reminded that religion offers a protective imaginary—whether in the form of absolute authority or apocalyptic end times. For Freud himself, the persistence of religion amid science and reason—he did not

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theorize the desacralizing power of capital—pertained to its roots in affect rather than belief: figures of divine power emerge from the unconscious memory of infantile helplessness—absolute dependence on a parent experienced as at once protective and terrifyingly powerful.17 How we must crave such figures today, when a range of earthly forces appear too big and too wild for anyone or anything to capture or direct. Mahmood and kindred critics of Western secular prejudice would say that the problem with all these accounts of contemporary religiosity is that they founder on the ultimate secular conceit that religion is a wholly human concoction, that it is not True, that there is only earthly life, not God or gods. It is testimony to how ensnared in the secular prejudice I remain that I part ways with these critics here. With Marx, Feuerbach, Freud, and Nietzsche, I can only conceive human worlds of meaning as human-made, of religion as a symptom of our earthly experiences of finitude and of our yearning for a future we despair of bringing into being.

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Acknowledgments

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This article is the original English version of “Wie säkular ist Marx’ ‘Kapital’?” in Nach Marx: Philosophie, Kritik, Praxis, ed. Daniel Loick and Rahel Jaeggi (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2013).

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1. Mike Davis, “Planet of Slums,” New Left Review 26 (March–April 2004): 94. 2. Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, trans. Walter Kaufman (New York: Vintage, 1967), 28. 3. See Talal Asad, Formations of the Secular (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), hereafter cited as fs; William Connolly, Why I Am Not a Secularist (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999); Peter Danchin (with Saba Mahmood), The Politics of Religious Freedom: Contested Genealogies, special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly 113, no. 1 (forthcoming, 2014); Hent de Vries and Lawrence E. Sullivan, eds., Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World (New York: Fordham University Press, 2006); Hent de Vries, ed., Religion: Beyond a Concept (New York: Fordham

Brown: Is Marx (Capital) Secular?

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University Press, 2008); Tomoko Masuzawa, The Invention of World Religions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), hereafter cited as iwr; Saba Mahmood, Politics of Piety (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), hereafter cited as pp; Saba Mahmood, “Secularism, Hermeneutics, and Empire: The Politics of Islamic Reformation,” Public Culture 18, no. 2 (2006), hereafter cited as “she”; Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, The Impossibility of Religious Freedom (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005); and Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007), hereafter cited as sa. See Carl Schmitt, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty, trans George Schwab (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2005); and Carl Schmitt, Concept of the Political, trans. George Schwab (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2007). Robert Tucker, ed., The Marx-Engels Reader, 2nd ed. (New York: Norton, 1976), 319. Hereafter cited as m. Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Talcott Parsons (Mineola ny: Dover, 2003); and Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the College de France 1978– 1979, ed. Michel Senellart, trans. Graham Burchell (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008). Jane Bennett, The Enchantment of Modern Life (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001). See fs, iwr, pp, and “she.” Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Religion, trans. A. Loose (Amherst ny: Prometheus Books, 2004); and Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity, trans. G. Eliot (Amherst ny: Prometheus Books, 1989). Matthew 6:19–24. Michael Taussig, The Devil and Commodity Fetishism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980). Alan Klima, “Ghosts and Numbers,” American Anthropologist 113 (2011): 658–59. Phillip Goodchild, Capitalism and Religion (New York: Routledge, 2002). If Althusser’s critique of the early humanist Marx emblematizes the strongest version of this reading, it is recapitulated by many nonAlthusserian readers of Marx. Taylor’s account of Marx on secularism in sa is but one example. See Louis Althusser, For Marx (New York: Penguin, 1969).

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15. At a certain point in this discussion, Marx turns from consideration of this informal religiosity of the commodity to the specific fit of capitalism with Christianity, a fit already adumbrated in “On the Jewish Question.” Here, in a paragraph that opens with a Feuerbachian reminder that “the religious world is but the reflex of the real world,” Marx argues that capital comports perfectly with Christianity’s “cultus of abstract man”—this in contrast to earlier and more primitive religions, from Judaism to Greek panthiesm to paganism, which express a more direct subjugation of man by God and Nature (m, 326–27). Spying the humanism, that is, the literal elevation of man, in Christianity, Marx joins Feuerbach in appreciating its religious reflection of a human-centered universe of production and exchange. Religious humanism, of course, is both abstract and otherworldly in its celebration of man, a formulation that allows us to segue into brief consideration of other religious dimension of capitalist societies, namely, their organization of sovereignty through the state. 16. See sa; Stephen H. Shiffrin, The Religious Left and Church-State Relations (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2009); Irving Kristol, Two Cheers for Capitalism (New York: Penguin, 1978); Michael Lerner, The Politics of Meaning: Restoring Hope and Possibility in an Age of Cynicism (New York: Perseus Books, 1997); and Michael Lerner, The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right (New York: Harper Collins, 2006). 17. Sigmund Freud, Future of an Illusion, trans. James Strachey (New York: Norton, 1989).

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Markets and Power in the Economic Regime

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The Sovereignty Effect

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Translated by William Callison

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The two parts of this essay revolve around a few dramas in the contemporary economy of finance. Part 1 will raise the question of the extent to which knowledge of the financial economy is a dangerous kind of knowledge, as it not only failed to predict the last crisis but, if anything, co-produced it. Part 2 will look more precisely at the organization of power in the financial-economic regime. At issue here will be the figure of an emergency politics that takes hold in the gray area between political structures and economic dynamics. Part 1: The Strange Survival of Theodicy in the Economy

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For six years now we’ve been good inhabitants of crisis [Krisenbewohner], and good inhabitants of crisis we shall continue to be. And so thoroughly have we habituated ourselves to the so-called financial and economic crisis that it is perhaps worth recalling what has happened in the last six years, which phases this crisis has passed through, and which movements of escalation were connected to it. So let’s recall. It all began with a private debt crisis—that is,

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with the collapse of the 2007 and 2008 American mortgage market that constituted the first phase of the larger crisis. This then rapidly transformed itself into a global drama of liquidity, due in no small part to the structure of financial markets, the interdependence of the major players and their respective business practices, and of derivative trading in particular; this formed the second phase. In the third phase, this liquidity crisis transformed itself into a crisis of public households, or a sovereign debt crisis, impelled by bailout packages, different forms and methods of bank rescue, and the allocation of cheap or free money. And finally, the fourth phase— the latest intensification—is that the whole thing was arrived at by what I’d like to call a sclerosis of political decision processes, by a crisis of governance, if you will, connected to a difficult or uncomfortable or unclear distribution of competence and agency [Handlungskompetenzen] between political agencies, economic actors, and democratic procedures. One could say this reveals a crisis of the whole capitalist system, including its political institutions and legal conditions, as has become dramatically visible, especially in Europe. Europe presents an ideal stage for this drama, with its tensions between elected governments, national sovereignties, European jurisdictions, expert committees, and transnational networks. Europe presents an ideal stage for this sclerosis of political decision processes, this crisis of governance. But already today we can probably discern a fifth and final phase of this crisis. However the whole drama ends up, whatever way this European or global drama turns out, I think the crisis (or whatever we might call it) will one day reveal itself to have paved a path toward the fixation of the exact system which led to this crisis. This is already foreseeable today. In the aggressive restoration of the economic order of 2007, we have already seen the intensive work of state guarantees, cheap money, debt brakes—in short, an even stronger concentration of the corporate enterprises concerned and of financial actors on the whole. The year 2009 was already one of the best years ever for Wall Street; indeed, the employees of Goldman Sachs have never earned as much as they did in 2009. And in 2010 there were more millionaires worldwide and more assets in their hands than in 2007, while approximately 60

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million more people have fallen below the absolute poverty line, as determined by the consulting agency Cap Gemini. At any rate, since 2008 enormous sums of state assets have been successfully privatized—that is, redistributed. What is remarkable about what has happened since 2008? Are there any peculiarities that we naive spectators can recognize? A first peculiarity lies in the fact that 2008 witnessed not only a global financial crash but also an intellectual catastrophe. In 2007 the International Monetary Fund still attested to the financial system’s great stability, its robust health, and the most promising of prospects, and in 2007 the EU lifted the last restrictions on international financial markets. Then, when the fully unexpected happened with the September 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers, the socalled experts were massively perplexed. The economic sciences— with only a few exceptions—did not see the meltdown coming; they could not make heads or tails of the collapse. As a surrogate for all market liberals, Alan Greenspan, longtime head of the US Federal Reserve, put it this way: suddenly his “view of the world,” his “ideology,” and his long-lived, putatively valid belief system no longer functioned; the “whole intellectual edifice” of the financial economy broke down.1 The economic sciences thus could no longer understand the world. According to their calculations, such incredible incidents could only occur once every billion or so years, and thus could not actually occur at all. And it is all the more noteworthy (second peculiarity) that, since the 1980s, such worldwide crises and crashes have in fact occurred continuously: the stock market crash of 1987, the Japanese crisis of 1990, the bond market debacle of 1994, the Russian crisis of 1998, the technology and dot-com bubble of 2000. Apparently, such accidents have not been exceptions but rather the rule of financial markets. Considering such dramas, we may suspect that in markets, as in the economic sciences, a double “dangerous knowledge” was formed: on the one hand, because economic reality was so badly misjudged, because the opposite of what was prophesied indeed happened; and on the other hand, because this knowledge itself perhaps contributed to that crisis which produced devastation and anger around the globe. Thus, a double blind spot: the

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very thing that was fabricated in recent decades could no longer be comprehended. Since then truckloads of literature have been written on how we could have arrived at the instabilities of our economic system, yet my goal here is not to enter into competition with genuine economic historians. Let me at least name a few rough elements and pieces of information, though, before I come to my actual theme— namely, the question of the dangerous format of financial-economic intellectual doctrines. A first precondition for our economic present surely lies at the beginning of the 1970s. I refer to the end of the Bretton Woods arrangement, that postwar order which responded to the Great Depression by equipping the world economic system with a security mechanism: when all important currencies are bound in a fixed relation to the dollar, while the dollar is in turn bound in a fixed exchange relation to gold, the international trade of commodities and capital should remain crisis-free. For whatever reasons this system failed (an essential reason being the United States’ gigantic foreign debts), in 1971 President Nixon brought the so-called gold window to a close, and, in 1973, the Bretton Woods agreement was formally laid to rest. Then arose so-called floating currencies and currency exchange rates, and in turn began what still bears on us today: the trade of foreign currency derivatives and financial derivatives, or the so-called practice of hedging. In order to protect against the faltering exchange rates in international trade, it seemed reasonable to insure the present with bets on future business cycles, that is, to force futures trading into currency markets. In other words, faltering currency exchange rates are insured (hedged) by currency futures contracts, and possible price differentials are hedged by bets on possible price differentials. The trade of financial derivatives grew rapidly, becoming the largest market overall; at the turn of the century it amounted to $100 billion, triple the worldwide value of sales on consumer goods. A second precondition, which takes us back to the 1980s, has received the title of “neoliberalism” and been tied to the names of Reagan and Thatcher. Their politics consisted not only of the power to break up trade unions, to privatize state-owned enter-

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prises, and to perform radical redistributions with tax reforms. Far beyond these markers, they also began the great politics of deregulation and of the liberalization of financial markets—through repealing the antitrust laws, removing the separation between commercial banks and investment banks, and reducing controls on financial markets. Subsequently, the trade of financial products broke loose from the controlled stock exchange centers, and in over-the-counter trade speculative financial operations became the norm for banks, investment companies, hedge funds, and private equity firms. And so began the great era of a new social contract: from education and training to pension schemes, health care, and public infrastructure—these all should be even more perfectly managed and financed by the cheerful bustling of financial markets. A third precondition is of a technical or technological nature. The dynamics of today’s financial markets would not be possible without new electronic and digital technologies. Such technologies range from the first ideas about the institution of electronic financial markets in the 1960s, through the opening of computerized stock exchanges and the provision of electronic stock exchange platforms up until the release of the World Wide Web for financial operations in 1993, and finally up to today’s high-frequency trading. With these technologies the financial economy has become a worldwide information machine. The end of Bretton Woods, the deregulation of markets, the deployment of new technologies through a global information machine—all of this would not have led to the formation of a modern financial economy if its elements had not been held together by a few basic theoretical assumptions and models. The hour of liberal economic theories arrived in the 1970s, and their significance lies not only in the fact that their very specific interpretation of world and social relationships successfully established itself. Further still, these theories have at once become practical and—from the political interventions of the 1980s to the algorithms used in the computers of financial markets—have programmed our reality. Put differently, we are dealing with a special case of world interpretation that has itself realized its own interpretations. Constricting our view to only those few theorems that have be-

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come dominant or hegemonic in the knowledge of financial markets, we soon encounter the hypothesis about markets and their efficiency that the economists have named “the efficient market hypothesis.” These theories—which were first developed in the 1970s and still serve as a foundation for the calculation of buying decisions in electronic trade—hold (to put it very briefly) that financial markets depict market activity in its most beautiful purity. Unburdened by transaction costs, unencumbered by transport, and untouched by the tribulations of production, they are the ideal stage for pricing mechanisms and perfect competition. This means, first, that ideal conditions for competition reign in these markets and that all information (about companies, stocks, economic development, etc.) is equally accessible to all players; second, that all prices (for stocks, options, derivatives, etc.) in these markets exhaustively contain or reflect all available information; third, that in these prices (and in the buying decisions connected to them) rational and fully plausible expectations are expressed (i.e., there should be relative agreement about the profit expectations connected to this or that piece of paper); and finally—and this is the most important point—that new (and previously unknown) information is at once used and integrated under these conditions. That is, according to the efficient market hypothesis, all unpredictablities are immediately absorbed by the market, and the whole system always tends toward balance and equilibrium. This is indeed the most prominent theory for the functioning of modern financial markets, and economists have continuously raved about the “beauty” of these theories, the beauty of market equilibrium. For this theory also contains a perfect justification: the more players with more funds who participate in these markets, the more financial markets expand, thereby producing more stability. At the center of financial-economic knowledge lies a promise of order of a very special kind. What is the peculiarity of this theoretical figure? How can we assess its status, its range, and its consequences? It is worth noting that, at its core, this theory is as old as the science of economics itself. And its first systematic characteristic was formulated with the concept—or better, with the image or

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metaphor—that everyone knows and whose career began in the eighteenth century. I mean, of course, the image or concept of the “invisible hand,” which Adam Smith employed on several occasions and defined more precisely in 1776 with his The Wealth of Nations. Let me quote the relevant passage:

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He [the economic agent] generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. . . . By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.2

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Elsewhere, in Smith’s 1759 Theory of Moral Sentiments, this recalls the “proud and unfeeling landlord” who lets his view wander over vast fields and who, in his fantasies, ate up the crop, all without even wasting a thought on the “wants of his brethren.” The “capacity of his stomach,” however, “bears no proportion to the immensity of his desires.” So it came that he needed to share the rest of the crop and, with his urge for more “luxury,” more “baubles and trinkets,” he quenched the needs of others. Due to their “natural selfishness and rapacity,” the rich shared their wealth with the poor, and so it continues: They are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life, which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants, and thus without intending it, without knowing it, advance the interest of the society, and afford means to the multiplication of the species.3

In this passage we find a strikingly simple solution in the field of social theory, and indeed in several respects. Ever since Smith, one could claim, the market and the laws of the market provide for

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an elementary order in civil society. However confusing the social field might appear to be, all its intransparencies will be clarified in the market. But this takes place not through a strong hand that encroaches here or there; rather, the “invisible hand” implies a divine place from which the mechanism presents itself as fully transparent. The mechanism itself, however, functions only so that this place may not be owned by anyone—not by a player, not by a state, not by a ruler. Finally—and this is the magic of this system— all market participants collectively advance a purpose they do not know, intend, or follow. And that is to say: the more they follow their own interests and advantages, the more selfishly and egoistically they behave, the more they unknowingly produce, behind their own backs, the good of the whole. The market functions as a transformer: it transforms the flurry of selfish actions into the common good. Whatever else citizens do in their activities, in the markets they follow a Mephistophelian program: they bring about the Good, so long as they always do Evil. Until today, economic theory—more or less—holds tightly onto this simple solution, onto this social theorem: the sole social responsibility of the entrepreneur, as Milton Friedman wrote, consists of not assuming any social responsibility. This could therefore serve as an essential feature of the modern theory of the market, one connected to the hypothesis of the efficiency of markets: in the market, disparate and competing actions are coordinated in a completely unforced fashion and are brought into a harmonious order. Looking at market mechanisms in this way allows one to formulate a strange and particular kind of wish fulfillment. Even if the current state of world affairs is confusing, even if the being of those living in the world is inaccessible, and even if the fate of these living beings is unfathomable, the market has, apparently, nevertheless founded a solid reserve in the civil order. Since the eighteenth century the theory of free markets has been preoccupied with the task of attesting to market activity’s exemplary achievement of order, and thus with creating a standard that provides a better measure for a harmonious social order than any other model. Thus the ideas of balance and equilibrium must be seen as the most important contribution of economic knowl-

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edge to an understanding of social processes; hypotheses of balance are essential preconditions for constituting societies as market societies. Connected to this are three other features. First, the effects of invisible hands and general tendencies toward equilibrium lead to what one must call the physicalism of market theories. This implies not only the hope that political economy could establish itself as a positive science on the model of physics and thus ground itself as a value-free scientific institution; indeed, the history of political economy could be characterized using the example of distinctive crossing points where economically functional ideas were modeled along the lines of natural regularities. In the eighteenth century the gears of different interests were imagined according to the laws of Newtonian gravitational physics; in the twentieth century the probable movements of the market were calculated according to the procedures of statistical mechanics and stochastics. At question in all of these cases is not merely an analogy between physics and economy. Instead, such correspondences constitute an essential motif for the increasing mathematization of economic knowledge since the nineteenth century. The recourse to mathematical models in political economy is inspired by natural-scientific resonances, which are themselves determined by the search for a formulation of rules of equilibrium. Both in the problem of how a balance of various sizes, quantities, and actions can be represented and in the question of how balance and stability are at all possible in complex economic relations of exchange, politico-economic discourse has exceeded the threshold of its formalization and performed its approximation to mathematical physics. The notion of balancing forces of the market is thus not merely a helpful simplification of an all-too-complex world. Rather, it guarantees the systematicity of economic knowledge. Finally, the proof that a perfect equilibrium prevails in an “idealized decentered economy” is what justifies the scientific consistency of the modern economy. A “theory” of pure disequilibrium would be just as nonsensical as the idea of a system without any coherence. With the various physicalisms and the transformation of economic science into a branch of applied mathematics, an affirmation of

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counterbalancing laws of the market occurs, as does a durable selfassertion of economic theory as theory. Two additional aspects enter into this equation. On the one hand, the physicalism of economic theory means that its concepts and criteria are sufficiently able to describe a given state of the system at a particular point in time and to derive from that description reliable predictions about the system’s future conditions. This aspiration, this theoretical profile, also explains the astounding durability of a Newtonian semantics in economic theory: Newton’s mechanics could remain exemplary for so long precisely because it attempts to represent all future spatial relations, dynamics, and systemic conditions by knowing the present positions and momentums of bodies. In other words, the liberal market presents itself as the sole stage of modern societies, governed by not only the law of nature but, even today, the godly hand of providence. Alternatively, the market also affords a moral-philosophical advantage; and it should be recalled here that Smith’s Wealth of Nations was published as the second volume of a course on moral philosophy. Just as the market executes a natural law, as it were, all further good laws and institutions must compete with it; and in this way they can ensure obedience to this natural law, to these spontaneous mechanisms of the economy. In this regard the market has become a stage for the actualization of practical reason, and the so-called freedoms of the market consist in combining the duty to unleash the egoistic drives of subjects with the obligation to submit oneself to the natural laws of the market. From Smith’s “invisible hand” through the hypothesis of the efficiency of financial markets, we thus observe a resilient liberal conviction, namely, that market affairs are an exemplary stage of order, balance, and social reason and that the market reigns like a sort of profane providence. We may, therefore, rightly detect something like a legacy of older doctrines of theodicy in the modern conception of the market. Just as, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, theodicy attempted to justify the rational and providential workings of God in a world full of plagues and disasters, so the liberal theory of the market similarly claims that, despite all breakdowns, bankruptcies, and crashes, today’s financial economy

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is the best of all possible economic worlds. At the center of modern economic dogmatism thus lies something that I would like to call “oikodicy” [“Oikodizee”]—a doctrine for all the evil and all the catastrophes that appear reconcilable with the wise establishment of the system. This raises the question of whether the last financial crisis couldn’t have a similar effect today as the Lisbon Earthquake did in 1755. At that time this event left all attempts at theodicy fundamentally shaken, surviving only in satirical forms. It is not astonishing, therefore, that the idol of an efficient market society, the theorem of equilibrium and its variants, is continuously addressed as “fertile error,” pure “illusion,” or “scientific riddle,” as “the greatest mistake in the history of economic theory,” as laughable and inadequate, or simply as a “decerebrationmachine.”4 For quite some time already, doubt has emerged about whether the evolutionary fable of the market, which drives from the act of exchange to equilibrium, is at all capable of grasping the elementary processes of modern or contemporary economic events, thus throwing into further doubt whether a theoretical science of economic dynamics is possible within the terms of classical or neoclassical accounts. And here we can observe a discursive disturbance pertaining to an essential element of capitalist economy and to the very logic of an economy based on capital and credit. Time and again there were advocates of the devil who doubted that markets—and financial markets in particular—tend toward balance, that figures of social order actualize themselves in markets, that markets are determined by beautiful regularities, or that markets promote societal welfare at all. It is not surprising, then, that at the perimeter of the last crisis an American economist who attempted to develop a completely divergent theory of financial markets, and whose voice had been ignored in the economic doctrines of the last forty years, was rediscovered. In his hypothesis about financial instability, Hyman P. Minksy, a disciple of Keynes, followed the intuition that the tumult of financial markets cannot simply be assimilated by the balancing interaction of rational actors and systemic reason or by the delightful mechanisms of equilibrium. Crises and crashes, according to Minsky, are not the exception but the rule in the financial-capitalist system.

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Thus one must (first) determine that financial markets do not function like normal commodity markets, that they follow completely different pricing mechanisms. The financial market works as an institution for the creation of liquidity. The prices of financial goods of all kinds (credit, stocks, securities) are inspired by yield or risk forecasts and determined by payments, which happen not now, but in the future—thus prices constitute themselves through expectations of future prices. The processes that form financial markets are critically time-bound; buying decisions are always made under conditions of uncertain futures. On this terrain, current price horizons are fed back through future price horizons. One does not operate with known quantities but rather attempts to evaluate an uncertain future through the market’s present assessment of its future. The financial market functions as a system of anticipations which obligates and orients economic behavior toward guesses about itself—toward what the market itself might think of the future.5 Second, positive feedback, the tendency of trends to reinforce themselves, is not a catastrophic exception to, but rather the normal functioning of, the system. Increasing values reflect the general estimation of worth and trigger increasing evaluations, while, conversely, falling prices make the rapid anticipation of falling prices appear fully reasonable. Perversely, the balancing game of supply and demand presents the paradoxical appearance that cheap capital prices prove themselves expensive—expensive yet also a bargain. Higher prices thus raise demand; they do not reduce it. The Princeton economist Huyn Song Shin found a very illuminating image for interactions of this kind, comparing them to the feedback-catastrophe that haunted the London Millennium Bridge at its opening in 2000. The natural horizontal frequency of the bridge induced hundreds of pedestrians to balance this motion, lightly and laterally, with their random steps. While it seemed highly improbable that the mass of uncoordinated single movements would grow into a uniform directional movement (even soldiers don’t march on bridges), the minute and accidental oscillations of the bridge’s construction caused the various civilian feet to assimi-

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late, and then to assimilate to their assimilations. As diffuse ways of moving forward were imperceptibly synchronized, an order of movement was manufactured and reinforced. And the randomness of various movement profiles generated a self-reinforcing pattern that the engineers called “synchronous lateral excitation”: above a critical threshold of 156 pairs of feet, the bridge was thrown into a dangerous oscillation. Due to this excitation, the bridge was closed; its elegant construction was equipped with shock absorbers. Price fluctuations similarly drive financial markets to reasonable adaptation reactions, which themselves lead to coherent figures of order which then run through positive feedback toward a “perfect storm.” Just like jittery bridges, financial markets are an aggregate in which small variations provoke reasonable adaptations, which lead to further adaptations and eventually to irrational effects.6 Third, and finally, against this background Minsky demonstrated how, in financial markets, stability phases lead to instability, how attempts at balance lead to disturbances, and how beautiful momentums lead to imbalances in financial events. Even promising economic conditions can activate a diabolical cycle of financing. Thus in periods of robust growth with positive long-term expectations, there is no good reason not to extend the range for investments over the ceiling of secured financing. Rather, it seems plausible to align the justified hope of future returns on capital employed with further investments and to further intensify the demand for financing. On the one hand, this leads to the employment of revenues from investments no longer toward credit repayment, but rather toward reinvestment; it leads to trusting in a “speculative” capitalization process and thus to refinance payable credit with credit. On the other hand, the increasing need for financing on behalf of bottom-line financial institutions motivates the invention of “new” types of money and financial instruments in the form of money substitutes, such as derivatives. In this process, in which every practice of financing raises the volume of financing, higher investments are reinforced by increasing profits, as are profits by increasing prices for assets (like stocks), and these are in turn

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reinforced by higher prices for investments. Put differently, under favorable economic conditions the acquisition of credit is eased and the volume of investments is increased. The effective money supply grows, and in turn rising prices for return on capital raise the demand for credit along with the willingness to finance it. In this climate of expectations, as investments increase, the collateral security margin is reduced, liquidity preferences are reduced, the money supply is raised, the circulation of debt is expanded, and the expansion of financing pulls toward itself the reciprocal increase of assets and prices for capital goods. Out of this inevitably grows, according to Minsky, a pyramidal structure in which outstanding debts are balanced through further and more risky investments. This yields a self-accelerating system, which is “euphoricized” by positive feedback on its own horizon of expectations.7 The precarious situation originates where the fulfillment of financial contracts requires either new bonds or the sale of assets. This can lead to costlier financing, on the one hand, or to sinking capital prices on secondary markets, on the other. This systemic process has reached its own periphery at which events become completely uncertain, assuming a turbulent character and causing a continuation of the dynamic to appear just as possible as its collapse. Minsky’s thesis of financial instability implies that crises and collapses are not simply spawned by outer convulsions, by fiscal or political plot twists, but rather by motions proper to the financial economy itself. Unlike a self-regulating system, the financial market destabilizes itself through its stability, grows restless in its resting state, making even its efficient function completely dysfunctional. Every stable phase is transitory, and in a world of capitalist finance, Minsky tells us, “it is simply not true that the pursuit by each unit of its own self-interest will lead an economy to equilibrium.” An analysis of supply and demand—with the prospect of balance and equilibrium—does not explain the behavior of a capitalist economy, whose financial processes instead operate to develop its own “destabilizing forces.” All of which is to say that the financial institutions of capitalism are “inherently disruptive. Thus, while admiring the properties of free markets we must accept that the domain of effective and desirable free markets is restricted” (se, 6).

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Let me break off here to arrive at a conclusion. In broad strokes I have attempted to show how, since the 1970s, our contemporary financial system was made possible not only by certain circumstances (the end of Bretton Woods), political decisions (liberalization under Reagan and Thatcher), and technical innovations (electronic trade), but also by theoretical models (like the theory of efficient markets) in which Smith’s “invisible hand” continues to prove effective. The success of this theory, as I have suggested, lies not only in the fact that complex social processes are reduced to quite simple operations, such as acts of exchange. This theory’s success is also bolstered by a fundamental figure of hope, which today still remains connected to liberal markets: that the market is the privileged location of social order; that it is distinguished as the exponent of practical reason; that, in the figure of the market, the old divine providence is taken over by the regularities of the system. Economic theory is not vaguely realistic here, but rather deeply moralistic, metaphysical, theological. In a second step I wanted to show how even financial markets have some occasion to doubt such figures of order and mechanisms of balance. It is certainly possible that a particular market might exhibit a beautiful tendency toward equilibrium, toward a kind of distributive justice—in financial markets, however, this tendency is highly doubtful. Minsky’s hypothesis of the structural instability of the financial economy has indeed already been vindicated by the last crisis: the robust phase of growth in the 1990s (e.g., in real estate markets) led to structures of financing in which minor variations (like a collapse of real estate prices in the United States) could lead to a systemic crash. I would thus like to bring my résumé to a point: mainstream economics must be conceived of as a “dangerous knowledge,” because its models (such as the idea of efficient markets) offer no explanation for the regularity of crises and crashes in financial markets, and because these models were also used to implement and justify these very markets. It is likely that we are here dealing with one of the greatest and most fatal of errors in the recent history of science.

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Part 2: The Sovereignty Effect

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In the first part of this article I attempted to show, inter alia, two things: first, how classical, neoclassical, and also liberal economic theory could break through and gain prevalence as a unity of theoretical illusion, social utopianism, and bourgeois moralism; how they could prevail even in the theory of efficient markets, in every doctrinal tenet about how markets (and especially financial markets) are distinguished by equal players who have equal access to information and who, in their operations, are guaranteed the best possible distribution of chances and the best possible allocation of goods; and second, how the negotiated models in these economic theories (primarily the equilibrium model) could not grasp what has happened on financial markets in the last thirty years; or, still further, how the models themselves have likely also contributed to the production of these particular instabilities. These various mainstream economic theories have shown themselves to be baffled, ignorant, blind, or simply insensitive to the dynamics or stages of the last thirty years, decades in which financial crises were not the exception but the rule. I would now like to venture a different, modified perspective, bringing two things into view: the distinctiveness of power or of power relations in the economic regime and, connected to this, a faulting in politico-economic decision processes, which loomed large and became manifestly more dramatic during the last socalled crisis. And here, in slight anticipation, I would like to present my thesis or hypothesis, namely, that the contemporary economic regime—democratic capitalism—produces uncontrolled and uncontrollable “sovereignty effects,” which directly determine the fate of our societies. Let us return once more to the fall of 2008, or more precisely to those few days from September 12 to September 15 that decided the fate of Lehman Brothers. What happened at this time? How did this most forceful and effective event come to pass? It went roughly something like this: On Friday morning, September 12, the New York investment bank Lehman Brothers stood at the precipice of bankruptcy, pro-

Vogl: The Sovereignty Effect

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voking a crisis meeting between American and British governmental authorities, Federal Reserve chairmen, major international banks, and private investors. Already in March 2008 the investment bank Bear Stearns was compelled by state guarantees of $29 billion to agree to a takeover by JP Morgan Chase & Co.; and after the mortgage bank Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was rescued by $140 billion in the summer of 2008, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson ruled out any additional tax dollars for Lehman. On Friday evening it became clear to the representatives of American and European banking establishments that a private economic solution was a necessity. Different investors must be involved; risks must be spread. Both Bank of America and the London-based Barclays were interested. Meanwhile, the bond group American International Group was also reporting cash-flow problems. By Saturday morning, September 13, it was apparent that the “welfare of the global financial system” was at risk, as one of the bank managers involved remarked. Simultaneously, the then-crippled investment bank Merrill Lynch—knowing that after a rescue of Lehman the crisis could spread to the next weak spot in the system—sought additional equity investments. After a short round of secret negotiations, Merrill Lynch was taken over by Bank of America, which hoped to gain access to the international investment business. Bank of America was no longer available to rescue Lehman Brothers. As Saturday progressed, it became impossible to deny that Lehman’s losses were more drastic than previously assumed. Moreover, no progress had been made by Barclays in their efforts to take over Lehman. The British bank could submit a plausible financial plan, but British law required the agreement of its shareholders for financial guarantees of up to $60 billion, which no private investor wanted to provide. As business opened on Monday, time was running out. In numerous phone calls made between the US Treasury, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Barclays, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the British Financial Services Authority on Sunday, September 14, it emerged that London would not reach an agreement with the firm without full financial guarantees. While those in London pressed for a clear approval by the Americans, a solid and unambiguous offer was missing in the

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States. Around noon the Barclays option foundered. The provision of further resources by the US government and the Federal Reserve remained out of the question; and, accompanying the hope that financial markets would be prepared when faced with the suddenly critical situation, on Monday night, September 15, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt.8 Banks are always rescued on the weekend; or perhaps not. Even if the last financial crisis began with the collapse of the American real estate market and with the squeeze in interbank trading since 2007, it could escalate to a global systemic collapse only after the “Lehman weekend.” What happened then, as I suggested above, is sufficiently well known, and it leads us into the realm of the kinds of solutions that exacerbate problems. The Lehman bankruptcy involved eighty insolvency proceedings in eighteen different countries outside the United States. By the end of 2008, fifty-three banks had disappeared or had become nationalized. Subsequently, international money market funds crashed, trade with short-dated money-market papers and capital and credit markets cracked, interest on credit and risk premiums rose, and from the United States unfurled a spiral of liquidity gaps, credit crunches, insolvencies, rescue packages, and state guarantees to Asia, Europe, and Latin America. The collapse of the financial markets entailed fiscal crises and then a notorious worldwide crisis, which saw declining international trade, shrinking national outputs, recessions, tax losses, national defaults, and increasing unemployment. Right up to the complications in the Eurozone, one potent autumn weekend in 2008 continued and dictated—through debt brakes, austerity programs, privatizations, social and labor market politics—the most acute actions of governance.9 What appears remarkable here is that the ominous decision regarding the Lehman bankruptcy was not really a decision at all. Much more than this, a law of unintended consequences prevailed and, between September 12 and September 15, supplied the stuff of a finance novella whose dynamics acquired a Kleistian character. Earnest intentions, deceptive hopes, misjudgments, adverse conditions, a conglomerate of business interests, public and political considerations, misunderstandings, and petty bullheadedness—all

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of these gave rise to an event format that made the participatory actors appear just as responsible as one could possibly impute. The incredible incident of 2008 determined the course of the global economy so extensively, yet it remains so difficult to find its reasons even when reconstructing the event. Like at the end of Karl Kraus’s The Last Days of Mankind, the voice of a baffled God remarked, regarding the disaster of the First World War, “I didn’t want it to happen,” one of the protagonists of September 2008 concluded, “I don’t know how this happened.”10 Nevertheless, I believe, the events of September 2008 must be seen as a pregnant moment in the course of recent economic activity; it must be considered as a critical constellation assembling all the essential determinants of such activity. Everything encompassed by these effective processes, procedures, and agencies belong to such components, which are directly involved in the formation of politico-economic agency. What took place in September 2008 must be conceived of as an exemplary deciding match, as a diagram for the manufacture, the flow, and the logic of decision processes in the financial-economic regime. A consortium of public and private actors, improvised meetings, secret arrangements, and time pressures directed by the movements of financial markets—since 2008 at the latest, all of this has become exemplary and has determined both the practice of governance and the fate of contemporary economy and society. Only a few years afterward—from the hectic negotiations over the rescue of Lehman Brothers up until recent European crisis politics—one can record an informalization of decisions in the gray area between economy and politics, an informalization of their procedures and their instances. Expert committees, governmental bodies, boards, or “troikas” took over governmental affairs de facto and were exclusively legitimated by unusual situations, extraordinary events, dilemmas, and exceptional cases. To delineate this action and decision profile more precisely, one would likely need to adhere to the following model. Since 2008, or perhaps even earlier, and under the banner of the last financial and economic crisis, the program for a crisis politics has been formed, the peculiarity of which is characterized by the following features: by exceptional circumstances that demand extraordinary instru-

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ments and measures; by processes of reconciliation which take place behind closed doors, which are determined by the rhythms of financial markets, and which collide with the tediousness of procedural paths; by an emergency of decision, which forces the spirited evaluation of various interests in favor of a common good; and finally by the informal character of deciding authorities, which with their agency earn the title of quickly convened “welfare committees” or “financial Soviets.” One would like to recognize a crisis of governance in this style of politics, which is distinguished by its unclear distribution of competence and agency between state entities and economic actors and which erodes the firm format of institutions and procedures. This profile for action is anything but new. It initially refers to the older subject of state reason and thus to the tradition of a political reason, which since the early modern period devoted itself to the question of the best means for the self-assertion of the existing political order; necessary interventions are legitimated by the protection of the public welfare. A more precise formulation retains this mode of procedure through a concept that since the beginning of the seventeenth century delineated the technique of effective crisis management and the transgression of compliant operations in acute situations of danger. This concept and this format for action were first comprehensively depicted in 1639 by a cardinal’s secretary and librarian named Gabriel Naudé. In his Considérations politiques sur les coups d’états, Naudé surveyed different political emergencies and collected various components under the concept of coups d’état, components that also characterize the dramas of the latest regime of crisis: a situation of political distress; casus extremis necessitate; an immediate, extraordinary, one-time intervention of the rulers; the disregarding of legal considerations; the necessary sacrifice of particular interests; the criteria of salvaging the common good; and above all, essentially connected to these, the preservation (and precisely not the overthrow) of the given political order. Contrary to the modern version of the concept, this early modern notion of the coup d’état was in no way defined by the violent appropriation of the state, by revolt, or by the disposal of existing political authority. Its precarious status resides in the fact

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that it encompasses actions of the public good, which, however, cannot be justified by general principles or maxims of government. It demands a situative, effective, case-by-case assessment of concrete circumstances, which fall under the sign of excess. It forms itself in the hidden and concealed, operates extemporaneously, and interrupts reliable rules of all kinds; it breaks away from procedural, legal, or institutional expressions and manifests itself in pure informality. It condenses an unusual knowledge about incredible actions for extraordinary situations; it comprises the application of suitable means in concrete cases for a concrete success.11 Across all the historical distances that separate them, the correspondences between baroque power theory and the latest governmental praxis give a few hints about how objects, procedures, and instances of decision processes are situated within an actual financial-economic regime. This brings me to my first thesis. These decision processes have formed themselves within a general mentality of emergency and crisis. Informal bodies, secret decisions, the suspension of formal procedural paths, the bracketing of legal considerations, the concern for the preservation of the existing systems of order, the dictate of unusual measures in the name of political urgency—all of these are shaped by a style of political decision making that orbits alongside its own effects and its own dynamics in a circuit of continual “coups d’état.” Here arises not only the question of how, under the pressure of financial-economic predicaments, one evades inconvenient parliamentary participation, how one avoids referendums, how one betrays democratic conventions, and how one can retain the existing market order by the “dictatorship of the accidental majority.”12 Rather, what matters most is how new paths of power are used as a matter of course. The effective praxis of government thus claims within it an international scope and sets new standards for the execution of the extraordinary and for the suspension of legal rules. This applies especially to Europe. From the struggle against legal and political barriers in the passage of the first rescue packages, through the suspension of national powers of the purse, to the special executive powers of different EU bodies, figures of exceptional political power have found their expression over state borders. The

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window of opportunity of the last crisis was used to open up new scopes of action, to set political priorities, to secure the interests of the financial industry, and to newly sort decision power despite all constitutional objections. But there’s more: the powers of exception connected to these were readily perpetuated—by the European Stability Mechanism, those conduits of Luxemburg law whose organs enjoy full immunity in decisions over emergency credit and whose directives stand outside of any parliamentary but also any juridical control; or by the European Fiscal Compact and by the reform of the Stability and Growth Pact of 2011, which empower the EU Commission and the European Council in exceptional situations for direct access to the budgetary policy of individual states. Under the pressure of time and for the purpose of an “unwritten crisis constitution,” European legislative procedures were completely and decidedly circumvented.13 Here follows a second thesis. In recent years, we have been able to gain a few insights into the arcana imperii, the secrets of power found in the financial economy. This is precisely the intellectual advantage of crises and states of emergency: a kind of pressure and urgency arises in them, which normally works subtly, secretly, and silently, but which steps onto the stage with some intensity. Thus in the contemporary crisis we can perceive that these powers’ mode of functioning does not correspond to a strict allocation of political and economic jurisdictions; rather, their efficacy is characterized by the fact that national, supranational, and financial agencies produce a high organizational density, mutually complementing and permeating each other’s activities. This intensity of entanglement pertains to all possible levels: at the systematic level, it is a matter of adjustment of the praxis of governance and of economic governance; at the technical level, the binding of fiscal politics and financial markets is reinforced by debt brakes and structural reforms; at the personal level, it is conditioned by a rotation of the usual organizational staff between big banking houses, commercial enterprises, governmental posts, and central banks. On this side of the division of labor, the mode of a politico-economic figure of power follows on the maneuvers of the most recent crisis management, which is not conceptually representable by the idea of functional differentiation.

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That also applies to origins of the current financial system. Thus I would like to recall once more the severe political interventions with which an upgraded state authority under Thatcher and Reagan laid the foundation for the financialization of modern economies and for the emergence of a so-called ownership society. And the first test case for this constellation came on September 11, 1973, when the military coup in Chile made possible the double figure of radical market liberalism and an authoritarian regime. Already on September 12, a five-hundred-page economic program was submitted, which was dictated by the Chicago School and which contained a sufficiently well-known list of orders: privatization of state-owned enterprises, privatization of education, of health care, and especially of financial markets, the abolition of price controls, and the breakup of labor unions.14 On the one hand, we recognize here the variety of authoritarian capitalism that also germinated in the liberal economists’ notion that the “good things—like democracy and market-oriented economic policy—don’t always fit together.”15 On the other hand, this raises the more fundamental question of whether the opposition of economy and politics is at all adequate to capture the functioning of the financial-economic regime. The crisis politics of recent years has indeed drawn attention to the potential for an escalation of power structures in the seams between the form of government and the economic process, and the financial industry appears to represent an essential relay point in the mediation of political and economic world-organization. This has to do with a gray area in which the state and market do not confront one another as closed or isolated entities; rather, politicoeconomic decision-power forms itself in a series of continual transitions, alliances, fluctuations, and mutual reinforcements between both poles. Our economic system and our financial system thus appear to require a stereoscopic perspective that pursues the coevolution of states and markets, of political structures and economic dynamics. For quite some time already, economic historians like Fernand Braudel and Immanuel Wallerstein have pointed out that the essential knots of development in modern capitalism are only explainable as synergies of political institutions and economic forces. This was documented especially well in the case of

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the first major capitalist power, the Netherlands of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: a fantastic accumulation of wealth was made possible by financial networks, public banking, monopolistic structures, and state guarantees, by the central bank, the stock exchange, joint-stock companies, and the oligarchy acting in concert. Broadly speaking, the East India Company was set up both as a consolidation of Dutch tradesmen and as one of the first jointstock companies, at once with rights of sovereignty (e.g., the right of warfare) in East India—making it one of the first great capitalist corporations. And this connection, let me add, already holds true for the doctrine of so-called liberalism itself, for its history and its actuality. What is called liberalism, what is called economic liberalism, never in its history sought to nurture mere market mechanisms. Quite the contrary. Since the eighteenth century, liberalism has aimed to govern the entire social field with the help of economic principles. Since the emergence of European territorial states, good governance has meant economic governance. And this was not least a matter of the transformation of control and command structures. Since the eighteenth century, liberalism cannot be separated from an art of government directed toward the optimization of governmental practice through the establishment of market structures. It thus is a matter of maxims of indirect governance. The market should complement and perfect the practice of government. This is only shown more clearly, I believe, in the contemporary programs or practices of what is now called neoliberalism. Since the 1980s, an “economic imperialism” is spoken of in rather positive terms (e.g., by Nobel Prize winner Gary S. Becker, for whom it is perhaps still an operative concept), and this is indeed connected to the question of how all realms of social life can be submitted to the “economic approach”: education, health, family, procreation, sexuality, friendship, relationships, criminality, in short, everything that can be called human capital. Accounting or shadow prices are thus set for the educational system, for child care, or for altruism, in order to also create incentives in these areas. Also since the 1980s, micro-markets, business principles, and competition were spread throughout the social body. And not only—to give one

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last example—did “New Public Management” attempt to operate with political institutions and administrative structures so that they could be adapted to the idol of the market. The vocabulary of “governance” means nothing other than this: the consistent fusion of bureaucratic structures with economic dynamics. As Janine Wedel noted in her book Shadow Elite, a more shadowy governmental apparatus has become not smaller, but larger.16 My second thesis, which may be more or less expected at this point, follows from there. The opposition of state and market, of political structures and economic dynamics, is at best a liberalistic legend—a legend that likely originated in the battle, the fully justified battle, of liberalism against feudal and absolutist dependencies, and which functioned as a polemical narrative in the struggle for individual freedoms and civil emancipation. This opposition misplaces the view of concrete power relations in “democratic capitalism,” however, and in contrast I would rather like to focus on the functioning of a bipolar governance machine, in which politics and economy consistently act on and interact with one another. The practice of governance can today only be grasped as a politico-economic complex. I would like to propose this as a (still unfinished) challenge for a realistic political theory: the question of how the organization of power is entangled with the absorption of values. To conclude, I offer a third and final thesis. Given these entanglements, given these linkages that have been rather crudely indicated thus far, I think that since the 1970s a change, perhaps even a drastic new organization, of political power relations can be detected. We recognize this, of course, in the increasing power of transnational organizations such as the wto, the imf, the World Bank, the oecd, organizations with which the austerity politics and the “Structural Adjustment Programmes” began: the political implementation of economic and even educational reforms across nation-state borders. But above all, the liberalization of financial markets—and this is my essential point—increased the interdependence between global market systems and nation-states. The socalled deregulation of markets, especially financial markets, not only created new conditions and possibilities for capital accumula-

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tion, but it must be understood as a new ordering of governance, as a realization of new structures in the coordination of economy and state power. We stumble into a situation completely shaped by the financialization of state structures and institutions. In order to register these transformations of power structures, I believe, it is above all necessary to bring into view the role, the function, and the status of central, national, or reserve banks, which represent an essential factor in this system. I do not want to proceed further into the history of these institutions here, but I would like to underscore that these establishments—that is, central and reserve banks—were mostly founded as private enterprises beginning in the seventeenth century, and then obtained a monopoly, the state monopoly, on issuing bank notes, and thus the monopoly on money creation. This was the case in 1694 with the Bank of England and, much later and after much debate, it also became the case in 1913 with the Federal Reserve of the United States. Already in their format, their institutional format, these central banks were private-public hybrids, private-public interfaces or, if you wish, converters between private and public interests. Here an essential state-finance nexus was created. The public credit, that is, state debt, was not only connected to the establishment of strong territorial states, the dependable Steuerstaat, standing armies, and police power. The function of national banks and of public credit inhered much more in their capacity to offer state guarantees for private enterprises. As is well known, if nothing else, they acted as “lenders of last resort,” meaning they regulated the circulation of debt and credit; but they also constituted the conditions for the establishment of stabile financial structures. And I believe we can recognize in them the installation of a new social contract: the installation of economic and social relations of liability that are constituted through circulating credit, by circulating credit money. In any case, central banks are essential factors in the organization of political and economic power. Looming in the background here is a power shift from the political institutions to central banks. Already in 1702, Daniel Defoe (author of Robinson Crusoe) detected this in the example of the Bank of England: as administrator of public credit, it tamed and bound the

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sovereign power of the king and itself became an unbound, quasisovereign power. Put differently: it is now the private investors and creditors who directly participate in the power of government and who can claim the character of a “fourth power.” And here, I believe, we can recognize a significant change since the 1970s—that is, since the end of the Bretton Woods agreement. We should recall again a few essential elements connected to the termination of this agreement: floating foreign exchange prices, the deregulation of financial markets, the so-called derivative revolution, the resolution of financial markets on the stage of the stock exchange, the fusion of stock exchanges and financial markets (1986), the lifting of the Glass-Steagall Act (1999), and the multiplication of trade volume versus markets for goods and services. A brief example: In 2007 the volume of financial markets was seventy-three times greater than the worldwide gross national product. Gradually emerging in the 1970s and breaking through in the 1990s, new dynamics were set free in these markets, which directly integrated with the political and public function of the central bank. Let me conclude by observing a few implications of these dynamics. New financial instruments, like the derivative, emerged, and these have a wonderful, artistic ability—and this is essential— namely, the ability to transform potential capital into money, that is, the ability to make liquid. These derivatives have the function of money surrogates; as potential money, they replace and supersede money. Financial markets themselves now possess the capability to create money and procure liquidity. In turn, this reveals—and this is no incidental drama—an exodus of the monopoly on liquidity from central banks to financial markets. One could thus say, with profound consequences for economies, that now the value of currency is newly founded; indeed, it is newly founded on private trade with private financial products. Three consequences follow, which I would like to hint at, again in a thesis-like fashion (drawing on a few recent studies). First, with the procurement of liquidity, that is, with the dissolution of the border between money and finance capital, the money supply breaks off from the barrier of existing money. The orienta-

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tion of a determinable money supply becomes difficult or illusory. And the money politics of central banks, which abide by stochastic models of equilibrium, are virtually pushed to their limits. Or put more simply: this is a matter of the uncontrollability of the circulating money supply. The second consequence involves the changing role of central banks. As became visible in the last crisis, central banks are now changing from lenders of last resort (as a safety net for capital markets) to investors or borrowers of last resort. Central banks and states have monetized the liabilities of capital markets and have become participants in markets, which is to say: the debts of private banks are financed by making debt in private banks. This has to do with opposing but related processes. The nationalization of private debts corresponds to the privatization of sovereign debts. Financial markets are directly integrated into the administration of public debts. Finally, the third consequence—the last and, I believe, the most dramatic consequence for us—is found in the increasing interdependency between market dynamics and state structures. Or, even more precisely, here we find a shift in sovereign reserves. The financialization of recent years led not only to tremendous capital accumulation in a few private hands and to a powerful oligarchy that practices a politics of the radical defense of their wealth through formally democratic means. Beyond these developments, the market itself now takes over the post of the last instance: the market and its actors have become a kind of creditor-god who decides in the last instance on the fate of currencies, economies, social systems, public infrastructures, private savings, and so forth. This would be my last thesis. It pertains to a shift in the essential components of political sovereignty; it also applies to the related decision-potentials, to the dynamics, the operations, the agents, and the decision-power of the financial market. Let me give a brief summary as I come to a close. I wanted to throw some light on the power relations in our economic regime through three rather cursory theses that follow the functioning of a bipolar machine, a machine characterized by the interdependency

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and entanglement—one could even say interpenetration—of state and market. As we saw, this is connected (first) to the informalization of political consortia and decision processes; (second) to the imperatives of economic governance, meaning the synergy and collaboration of political and economic actors (particularly so in liberal doctrines); and (third) to the exodus of sovereign reserves into the dynamics of the market. One could thus speak of sovereignty effects in many respects—the effects of a quasi-sovereign power, which was dissolved by its political, formal, legal and institutional coding and which binds the political body to the instability or the dangerous situation of financial markets. When all of these are taken together—the informalization of political decisions, the maxims of economic governance, and the shift of sovereignty reserves—it must be grasped as both a practical and a theoretical challenge. On the one hand, only those political interventions that reduce the dependence of state institutions on markets, and especially on financial markets, can open up a perspective that brings decision processes back into the horizon of democratic procedures. And all contemporary plans and projects (like “debt brakes” or the “fiscal pact” in Europe), every “austerity regime” has a fatal side effect: the programming of a direct connection and self-commitment of economies and societies not just to the decision-power, but also to the instability of financial markets. On the other hand—and this would be a theoretical consequence—the question of sovereignty, the negotiation and the status of sovereignty must be unhinged from the frame of older forms of political theory and political theology. The question of sovereignty must be reformulated on a new politico-economic terrain. Thus sovereignty has not simply become placeless; we should rather speak of a wandering or a vagrant sovereignty reserve, of a floating arcanum. And here “sovereign” no longer simply means he who decides on the state of exception (Carl Schmitt), but rather he who or that which—as occurred in recent years—succeeds at directly transforming its own risks into the dangers of all others. One last aspect of this dangerous situation: the actors of financial markets have succeeded at transforming their risks into the immediate dangers of our society.

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Translator’s Note

For parallel and overlapping arguments to those made in part 1, see Joseph Vogl, Das Gespenst des Kapitals (Zurich: Diaphanes Verlag, 2010), an English translation of which (The Specter of Capital) is forthcoming from Stanford University Press.

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Notes

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1. Justin Fox, The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street (New York: Harper Business, 2009), xi–xii. Hereafter cited as mrm. 2. Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, ed. Edwin Cannan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), 477–78. 3. Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, ed. Knud Haakonssen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 215–16. 4. George Soros, The Crisis of Global Capitalism: Open Society Endangered (New York: Open Affairs, 1998); Robert Shiller quoted in mrm, 232; János Korani, Anti-Equilibrium: On Economic Systems Theory and the Tasks of Research (Amsterdam: North-Holland, 1971), xv– xvi; Jacques Sapir, Les trous noirs de la science économique: Essay sur l’impossibilité de penser le temps et l’argent (Paris: Albin Michel, 2000), 45ff. 5. Hyman P. Minsky, Stabilizing an Unstable Economy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986), 119. Hereafter cited as se. 6. Hyun Song Shin, Risk and Liquidity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 1–6. 7. See se, 171–220; and Hyman P. Minsky, “The Financial Instability Hypothesis: Capitalist Process and the Behaviour of the Economy,” in Financial Crises: Theory, History, and Policy, ed. Charles P. Kindleberger and Jean-Pierre Lafargue (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 13–39. 8. On the history and assessment of the unsuccessful rescue of Lehman Brothers, see James B. Stewart, “Eight Days: The Battle to Save the American Financial System,” New Yorker, September 21, 2009, 58– 81, hereafter cited as “ed”; Alan S. Blinder, After the Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead (New York: Penguin, 2013), 100–173, hereafter cited as am; Gary B. Gorton, Misunderstanding Financial Crisis: Why We Don’t See Them Com-

Vogl: The Sovereignty Effect

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ing (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 147–50; Neil Irwin, The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and a World on Fire (New York: Penguin, 2013), 126–65; Marc Roche, La Banque: Comment Goldman Sachs dirige le monde (Paris: Albin Michel, 2010), 160– 65; Nouriel Roubini and Stephen Mihm, Crisis Economics: A Crash Course in the Future of Finance (New York: Penguin, 2011), hereafter cited as ce. am, 409–28; ce, chapter 5 on “Global Pandemics”; Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff, This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Follies (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), 223–47; Hans-Werner Sinn, Kasino-Kapitalismus: Wie es zur Finanzkrise kam und was jetzt zu tun ist (Berlin: Ullstein Taschenbuch, 2009), 61–81; Joseph Stieglitz, Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy (New York: Norton, 2010), chapter 1. The words of Richard Fuld, ceo of Lehman Brothers. “ed,” 68. Gabriel Naudé, Considérations politiques sur les coups d’états (Paris: Les éditions de Paris, 1988), 101, 108–9. Rainer Hank, referencing Knut Wicksell. See Hank, Die Pleiterepublik: Wie der Schuldenstaat uns entmündigt und wie wir uns befreien können (München: Karl Blessing Verlag, 2012), 20. Florian Rödl, “EU im Notstandsmodus,” Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik 5 (2012): 5. Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (New York: Picador, 2007), hereafter cited as sd; Abram Chayes, The New Sovereignty: Compliance with International Regulatory Agreements (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995), 254ff; Juan Gabriel Valdès, Pinochet’s Economists: The Chicago School of Economics in Chile (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995). Stephan Haggard as quoted in sd, x. On Slavoij Žižek’s concept of “authoritarian capitalism,” see Steffen Vogel, Europas Revolution von oben: Sparpolitik und Demokratieabbau in der Eurokrise (Hamburg: Laika Verlag, 2013), 109. Janine Wedel, Shadow Elite: How the World’s New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market (New York: Basic Books, 2009).

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Our Things Thoreau on Objects, Relics, and Archives

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Distantly related things are strangely near.

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—Thoreau, Journal, May 23, 1851

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Thoreau is as much obsessed with things as he is with oak trees. Things play a central role everywhere in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. Most obviously, the Thoreau brothers make a boat and then turn it into a central character of the narrative, so that the boat, which is supposed to transport them leisurely from the Concord’s stream of death into the Merrimack’s waters of life, is elevated into a sort of amphibious ontological phenomenon. Promoted as both capable of flying like a bird and drifting on water like a fish, it is a creature capable of drifting flights, which Thoreau imagines as an excellent mode of existence. But there are other objects also: arrowheads just under the surface of the earth, churches spoiling the beauty of a Sunday landscape, houses, monuments indiscernible among the stones, and cemeteries grown into moss. In A Week, material culture is always immersed within animated processes, history turning into forests, archaeology into geology, objects into creatures. Similarly in Walden: from Concord houses to pyramids and coffins; from Indian baskets to oversized English suitcases; from the pots and pans Thoreau uses for cook-

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ing to chairs, lamps, and pencils; from trains to the Kouroo artist’s equipment—objects are always either juxtaposed to or intertwined with natural things (landscapes, apple trees, leaves, flowers, birds, or flows of wet sand), and material culture is reproached when it distinguishes itself from corporeal life. Not all things are the same for Thoreau, and in fact, when he talks about things he excludes many things. For instance, what counts as a thing for Thoreau is not an isolated, inert entity that we can confront, use, and possess. A thing does not reduce to the obsessive focus of a collector’s desires, being thereby imbued with qualities it doesn’t have but which the mind of its owner infuses into it, turning a commodity into a fetish, as Marx would put it. Moreover, a thing is not a commodity at all; it is not something that can be reified and exchanged for money, as capitalists desire. No flows of capital circulate through it. But neither is a thing a pile of formed matter that the human invests with sentiments, nor is it matter from which affects emanate in some remarkable way; a thing is neither a souvenir nor an archaic totem. Things in Thoreau are not inert relays linking a present perception to a past experience, as they will become in the modernist experience formulated by Proust. But nor are they bodies hosting images that render them corporeal, as they will become in the modernist experience formulated otherwise than in Proust, according to William Carlos Williams’s famous dictum “no ideas but in things.” Above all, what counts as a thing in Thoreau is not a thing in the sense that Heidegger famously gave it: it is not a shrine full of meaning transcending human existence, which even when withdrawn from humans, lets them inhabit the world by assuring them that the world is here to stay. For assurance of “staying” is the thing’s central ontological operation in Heidegger; made of the earth and the air, of clay and heavens, and thus, by extension, of mortals and immortals—at the very intersection of Gods, humans, and animals—the “thing” mixes in mutual belonging the corruptible and the eternal, the material and the divine. The thing is what preserves this mixture through its own immobility or staying, which assures mortals of their own “staying” in immortality. In Heidegger, that is the main, most generous gift of a thing:

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through its own staying it gives staying: “it stays earth and sky, divinities and mortals,” in their mutual belonging. Thanks to clay, mortals belong to gods, and as long as the jug is not broken the gods remain with humans.1 In the first part of this essay I will proceed, positively, to offer an account of what counts as a thing in Thoreau. I will argue that a thing for Thoreau is organized less by its form or usage, by its solidity or impenetrability, than by the intense relations in which it dwells and through which it moves, relations capable not just of reshaping past into future but also of enacting marvelous exchanges between what is and what isn’t human. And while the second part of the essay suggests that what a thing is in Thoreau can be decided on the basis of the way it ends—on the basis of what happens to a thing when it stops belonging, meaning, serving, or pleasing—the final section argues that a thing is something incorporated into life in such a way that the network of relations that traverse it changes its meaning while allowing it simultaneously to change what surrounds it. Through such transformations it brings the past about in a concrete, corporeal way. My claim is therefore that a thing is what allows us to understand a central, albeit at first sight enigmatic, premise of Thoreau’s thought: that life constantly commemorates itself, and that by only becoming, as opposed to conserving, it is able to archive. A thing in Thoreau can do just that: vitally commemorate, and conserve by transformations.

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Swirls of Matter

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A crucial passage from Walden that discusses good uses for furniture amounts to nothing less than a short philosophical treatise on the nature of objects. This passage suggests that what Thoreau calls a thing is lively by virtue of entering a lively assemblage with other things; it is caught in shifting relations with other bodies that alter it and which, in turn, it affects. Here is how he describes it: My furniture, part of which I made myself . . . consisted of a bed, a table, a desk, three chairs, a looking-glass, three inches in diameter, a pair of tongs and andirons, a kettle, a skillet, and a

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frying-pan, a dipper, a wash-bowl, two knives and forks, three plates, one cup, one spoon, a jug for oil, a jug for molasses, and a jappaned lamp. None is so poor that he need sit on a pumpkin. That is shiftlessness. There is a plenty of such chairs as I like best in the village garrets to be had for taking them away.2

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If sitting on a pumpkin is shiftlessness, it is because shiftless is what things shouldn’t be. All the things Thoreau lists here are thus related within a mobile assemblage composing the cabin as the network within which they respond to each other: three chairs are for a small society of friends to sit and talk; one talks with three friends but doesn’t eat with them, for the two knives and forks suggest that one never eats in trios but in couples; in so doing one looks for truth in the eyes of the other for whom the food is prepared, instead of in self-reflection, which explains why the only mirror Thoreau has is tiny, three inches wide, as if unfit for the purpose of self-mirroring. Things in Thoreau’s house thus become lively agents, responding to and acting on the presence of other persons in the house, enabling their actions, while being altered by those action’s meanings. For it is through those shifting relations that things receive their temporary meanings. Thoreau’s things are full of meaning, but that meaning is not entrusted to them, allowing them to possess it essentially in their depths, regardless of the passage of time, irrespective of the spatial logic of the site they inhabit or the positions they occupy among other things and persons. This is to say that Thoreau’s things don’t receive their meaning from him, for the human subject is not the possessor and generator of meaning for otherwise meaningless things. However, to say that humans in Thoreau don’t bestow meaning on things is not to say that things are meaningless piles of matter. Instead, it suggests that things in Thoreau receive their meaning from the constellation of beings and objects in which they are located, at a certain site at a certain time. The change of position or site transforms the meaning of a thing, which is therefore never sacred but always volatile. Because of that, when Thoreau walks through a space populated by his things he is walking through meanings, which affect those things just as his walk also

Arsić: Thoreau on Objects

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changes them. His things and rooms are therefore comparable to the landscapes and creatures that he so often describes in his Journal: there is no meaning in a pine tree, but a pine starts meaning something to a human, a toad, or another pine when looked at or sensed in certain weather conditions, at a particular time of the day, against a certain landscape, against a swamp or flowers. It is never more than a site for a temporary collage of many beings. Thoreau’s things are thus never stable objects; they exist in their thinghood only when caught in a process that makes them toss and turn, rendering them volatile. That is what Thoreau suggests when he describes how things in his house, as well as the house itself, relate to what lies outside the house. For his house is nothing other than a site of intense relations between animate and inanimate, human, vegetal, and artificial. Unplastered, with “a large window on each side” and “one door at the end” (w, 48), which Thoreau tries to keep open most of the year, the house could hardly be said to have a “frame”—a confining boundary—but is instead “airy,” only “slightly clad,” “suggestive somewhat as a picture in outlines,” making it difficult to tell the difference between its interiority and its exteriority. Walking into the house is equivalent to walking outside it: “I did not need to go out doors to take the air, for the atmosphere within had lost none of its freshness. It was not so much within doors as behind a door where I sat, even in the rainiest weather” (w, 85). Through this open dwelling the “wilder” birds often fly, the field sparrow or the scarlet tanager resting for a while on Thoreau’s things, turning them for a moment into a branch, generating a relation that transformed a thing into a tree (w, 85). When Thoreau patiently describes the wind blowing through his dwelling or birds flying through it, he is not evoking pastoral scenes of harmony between humans and the natural world but instead describing the precise ways in which humans, animals, trees, and things intersect, forming a swirl of relations that distribute new meanings to them. And when he depicts how his things receive new meanings from birds, he is affirming what Jane Bennett calls the “vitality or creative power of bodies and forces at all ranges or scales” to generate relations that “cut against the hubris of human exceptionalism.”3

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But the things in Thoreau’s house are not just involved in unstable relations with the animals or humans that enter it; they are also centrally related to phenomena that are external to the house. For while there is a frying pan and a jug of oil in the cabin, there is no stove to confirm that the food is indeed cooked inside the house. That is because Thoreau’s stove is not inside the house at all but is located outdoors, made of stones in front of the cabin. As Walter Harding explains, Thoreau’s “cooking apparatus was primitive and consisted of a hole made in the earth and inlaid with stones, upon which the fire was made, as at a clambake.”4 On Thoreau’s own testimony, he was “doing [his] cooking . . . out of doors on the ground, early in the morning,” just as he would bake his bread on the fire he would light in front of the house, so that “when it stormed before [his] bread was baked [he] fixed a few boards over the fire, and sat under them to watch [his] loaf” (w, 45). From table to stones and the grass-ground, the frying pan and jug of oil located inside the cabin shift places, journeying among objects and elements (earth, fire, rain); their shifting positions register how their meaning—or their purpose—alters as their body is materially affected by the weather or heat changes, by their encounters with the earth. Not only the presence but also the absence of things that typically organize an interior of a house can make things in it relate in a certain way. That is what Thoreau’s decision not to put curtains on the cabin’s large window did for his things: “I would observe, by the way, that it costs me nothing for curtains, for I have no gazers to shut out but the sun and moon, and I am willing that they should look in. The moon will not sour milk nor taint meat of mine, nor will the sun injure my furniture or face my carpet” (w, 67). By making things in the cabin visible from the outside, the absence of curtains allowed passersby to see things in it against the background of the landscape, as if they were part and parcel of it. However, the cabin’s transparency doesn’t only blur the ontological distinction between artificial and natural by making things relate to the landscape; it also fundamentally complicates the political distinction between private and public space. Far from embodying the withdrawal into political resignation

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that supposedly marked the transcendentalists, and far removed again from representing the isolationist desire for privacy (as Thoreau’s decision to live at Walden Pond has been often interpreted), his cabin radically subverts the very idea of privacy. Unlike Poe, whose “Philosophy of Furniture” judged a house to be a privileged place for the subject’s non-transparency, and who accordingly recognized privacy as both embodied and protected by curtains that generate a dynamic of secrecy and non-visibility, Thoreau insists on curtainless windows, belying the idea of a house as a site where the individual relaxes into its little secrets away from the gaze of the public.5 For if whoever happens to pass by can see what is going on inside the house, then its interior can hardly be understood as private. Instead, Thoreau’s domestic interiority is designed as a space open to witnessing by others. This is not to say that in making the life of the inhabitant visible to the outside world Thoreau proposed a type of exhibitionism, and still less to say that he desires some kind of public control—the disciplining eye of surveillance—that would guide and regulate the life of the inhabitant, fashioning the dweller into obedience to mainstream values. Rather, in insisting that the interior of the house be visible, Thoreau is applying ethical pressure to its inhabitant, asking him to live in such a way that his acts—even if they contradict public morality or resist state politics—don’t beg secrecy, but instead can be accounted for on the basis of a deliberately chosen position. In other words, Thoreau can say that he “has no gazers to shut out”; he can say that everything in his house constitutes a flow with what is outside the house precisely because everything he does in the house—from reading the Odyssey to organizing the transport of fugitive slaves via the Underground Railroad, or throwing a party for the civil rights movement6—is predicated on a politics of which he can “render an account,” a politics he lives for and for which he is, by extension, ready to die. If the interiority of his cabin participates in its exteriority and so allows the actions of its indweller to be witnessed from the outside, it is because obedience to the ethics of the “higher laws” of micro-politics, as Thoreau imagines them, is not a way for beautiful souls to indulge only in talk of radical engagement while remaining at a safe distance from the dan-

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ger of reality. Conversely, Thoreau’s injunction not to hide one’s acts reinforces agency in the face of danger and requires readiness on the part of the agent to expose himself to the consequences of such a danger. Because life in a transparent house both faces and provokes danger, Walter Benjamin (commenting on André Breton’s idea of a life in a house with constantly open doors) calls it revolutionary: “To live in a glass house is a revolutionary virtue par excellence.”7 And to those who fail to recognize its revolutionary force but instead object—as many did to Thoreau—that such a life amounts to moral exhibitionism, Benjamin replies that even so, it is nevertheless “a moral exhibitionism that we badly need. Discretion concerning one’s own existence, once an aristocratic virtue, has become more and more an affair of petty-bourgeois parvenus” (sw, 209). Transparency, which at first functioned as either an aesthetic (no curtains at all allows the interiority to be illuminated by a natural source of light) or an ontological statement (artificial things are continuous with natural bodies, as the pan belongs to the stone, the fire to the jug, or moonlight to the desk), in fact unsettles petit bourgeois values while embodying a radical political and ethical injunction. “No curtains at all” says: live in such a way that there is nothing you do that wouldn’t withstand your harshest criticism and couldn’t be witnessed by others. As Thoreau explicitly formulates it: “every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour” (w, 90).

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Deathways of Things If Thoreau can say that when it comes to things shiftlessness is bad, it is because a shiftless thing has fallen out of the flow of both natural and communal life, which generates its meaning and makes it a thing in the first place. Having exhausted its concrete engagement in that life, a thing turns into a non-thing—a mute, inert object— which is nonetheless another condition that a thing is capable of assuming. On Thoreau’s understanding, then, there are either living things—objects having meaning through their vital relations— or dead things, passive objects excluded from the circulation of life,

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neither affecting it nor being affected by it. Walden discusses two different responses to the phenomenon of dead things, that of the Mucclasse Indians and Mexicans, and that of the New Englanders. Although Thoreau prefers the former, he does not side with either. Thoreau predicated his theory of the Mucclasse Indian understanding of a thing on William Bartram’s Travels through North and South Carolina. In the short discourse on things he included in Walden, Thoreau quotes approvingly and at length from Bartram’s description of the Mucclasse Indians’ “busk” ritual dedicated to the cremation of dead things:

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“When a town celebrates the busk,” says he, “having previously provided themselves with new clothes, new pots, pans, and other household utensils and furniture, they collect all their worn out clothes and other despicable things, sweep and cleanse their houses, squares, and the whole town, of their filth, which with all the remaining grain and other old provisions they cast together into one common heap, and consume it with fire. After having taken medicine, and fasted for three days, all the fire in the town is extinguished.” (w, 68)

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“The Mexicans,” Thoreau adds, “also practiced a similar purification at the end of every fifty-two years” (w, 68). What is so appealing to Thoreau about the understanding of things described by Bartram is that it appears to be guided by the Mucclasse Indians’ non-dualistic understanding of the world. According to them, a meaning of an object or a body cannot be abstracted into a pure idea separated from its materiality. Meaning must be embedded in the material, but not as something simply hosted by matter while preserving its substantial difference from that matter; rather, it must be as something that is itself concrete and indistinguishable from what is material. And conversely, what is material is never simply mute, but always considered as the concretization of meaning in a body. When the thing falls out of or withdraws from the relations that incorporate it into tribal life, it loses its meaning and, concomitantly, its body; it becomes a lifeless thing-corpse. Thoreau compares matter that remains visible in the place of what used to be a meaningful thing to a “slough,” suggesting that what does not cir-

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culate through a tribal life, as in pathology or zoology, is like a mass of dead tissue that needs to be separated from the life surrounding it. Since the material body of a thing can’t function as a crypt or an archive of its past and its exhausted meanings—since the body of a thing can’t be reified into a shrine of the past even if it doesn’t affect the present—the meaningless thing-corpse can be burned. This non-dualistic ontology of the thing signals a certain understanding of history and its relation to the present. For in suggesting that the past meanings of the thing can’t be salvaged in some ideated way, despite the fact that it doesn’t participate in present life, the Mucclasse Indian holds that something can be rendered historical only if it still participates in the current circulation of communal life in a concrete and material way. It holds, as Peter Nabokov puts it, that there is no history unless history keeps “taking place,” occupying space, inhabiting a thing so as to enable its past meaning to centrally affect present conditions.8 Such an ontology testifies to the fact that the past is not simply what precedes the present in some narrative or chronological way but is instead contemporaneous with the present and constitutive of it. The past can’t preserve its status as history if it is something archived or remembered as previously generative but no longer operative. And since past meanings function only unto the extent that they are also vitally present, the thing in Mucclasse Indian ontology can’t be relegated to the status of a souvenir, monument, or archive—or to something hosting old and forgotten worlds that, even if they might not speak to contemporaries, can nevertheless be deciphered, as is the case with archaeological finds, oracles, or ancient monuments. Instead, the withdrawal of the thing’s meaning from the current senses of tribal life also amounts to the death of the archive, the extinction of monuments. So things burn. Walden patiently delineates how things die in an opposite way for New Englanders, closer to the Christian denigration of matter and belief in purely spiritual resurrections. In New England a thing dies into the world on the basis of a dualistic ontology, where matter serves spirit while never being confused with it. In New England a thing that has long stopped affecting other things or persons (whether because the assemblage in which it was participating

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has dissolved or because the persons it was affecting are dead)—a thing whose body has long been severed from its meaning—is given an afterlife. It continues to function as a repository of the memory of the dead and gone long after those alive remember them. In New England, then, a thing is afforded a strange capacity to gather worldless and impersonal affects and memories—worldless and impersonal because they no longer belong to anybody—thus constituting something like a surplus of the present. Assuming the function of the shrine, the body of a thing hosts the obscure spirit of the past world, whose obscurity (that is at least what New Englanders hoped for, on Thoreau’s understanding) could be rendered transparent by some future archivist or archaeologist. Walden is full of stories about people who can’t leave dead things, but not because of their love for possessions. The New Englanders Thoreau talks about are not the stylish collectors Benjamin identifies as rescuers of things, bestowing on them a love expressed through appropriation and belonging. In fact, things that New Englanders can’t leave are removed from the economy of belonging, for as Thoreau remarks, even the mere idea of storing them burdens the owners. They would even go as far as to move out of their houses just so they can leave their things behind: “pray, for what do we move ever but to get rid of our furniture, our exuviae” (w, 66). If New Englanders have difficulty casting off the dead skin their things have become, it is because they trust them to be memorials, repositories of times past, something like the chattering clutter of bygone ordinary lives. Not “hav[ing] the courage to burn them,” they pile them up into “a great deal of baggage, trumpery which has accumulated from long housekeeping,” which they then store. On Thoreau’s estimate, everybody in New England has things and furniture stored somewhere—a garret, a shanty, a barn or “other dust holes” (w, 67)—and “even those who seem for a long while not to have any, if you inquire more narrowly you will find have some stored in somebody’s barn” (w, 66). If things are still there, persisting in storage—despite the fact that they are withdrawn from all relations—it is precisely because they are imagined as an archive whose meaning still lurks in the darkness of a garret, waiting to be deciphered, should anybody want to excavate it.

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This, then, is the premise of the Concordian ontology of things: garrets and barns, like contemporary garages, are imagined as archives of the quotidian, an ordinary life version of annals and museum basements hosting mute objects. Thoreau believed something was deeply erroneous about this ordinary archival imagination predicated on the belief that pure meanings can be salvaged so long as the coffins harboring them— the matter of things—remain. That is his impression after visiting the “deacon’s effects” estate sale:

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As usual, a great proportion was trumpery which had begun to accumulate in his father’s day. Among the rest was a dried tapeworm. And now, after lying half a century in his garret and other dust holes, these things were not burned; instead of a bonfire, or purifying destruction of them, there was an auction, or increasing of them. The neighbors eagerly collected to view them, bought them all, and carefully transported them to their garrets and dust holes, to lie there till their estates are settled, when they will start again. When a man dies he kicks the dust. (w, 67–68)

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What Thoreau understood while observing the estate sale was much closer to the ontology of Mucclasse Indians. What his neighbors imagined as an archival site was for him simply an accumulation of things from one generation to another; far from turning the deacon’s garret into an archaeological site, such an accumulation had turned it into a geological one, where glasses and plates, armchairs and clothes started to host dried tapeworms, as if things were on the verge of becoming limestone, hosts for fossils or herbariums for vegetal corpses. In enabling Thoreau’s neighbors to move the deacon’s things into their own garrets, the estate sale reversed the process of geologization by turning the geological back into an archaeological site: the things the neighbors carefully transported to their garrets were temporarily rescued from becoming fossils, their worms removed and the dust cleaned. But despite being reposited into yet another “dust hole,” they were not for all that restored to their lively thingness. Instead, they were merely restored as mute archaeological objects, for rather than revealing their meaning, the estate sale simply enabled them to prolong their archival silence.

Arsić: Thoreau on Objects

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As Thoreau moves among the deacon’s dead things he therefore realizes that the garret-archive contains only junk covered in dust, and to move it around from one garret to another is only to “kick the dust”; it is a matter of relocating things from one landscape of oblivion to another. Objects in garrets or in archives, exhibits in museums, are therefore mute stuff with no lingering meanings, which is what Thoreau had already remarked in a short discourse on museums recorded first in his Journal on September 24, 1843, and subsequently revised on several occasions throughout 1844. In this text, which anticipates in many ways Walden’s thing-ontology, he writes that archived things are not like dormant creatures waiting to be awakened. For unlike dormant creatures, “who have such a superfluity of life . . . enveloped in thick folds of life,” stored and archived things have fallen out of their vital folds so that no meaning attaches them to life; they are mute “preserved death,”9 testifying nothing: “I hate museums-there is nothing so weighs upon my spirits. They are the catacombs of nature. . . . They are dead nature collected by dead men. I know not whether I muse most— at the bodies stuffed with cotton and saw-dust—or those stuffed with bowels and fleshy fibre outside the cases” (j, 2:77).10 Later he will suggest that such “dead nature collected by dead men” is lethal even for those who observe them: “men have a strange taste for death who prefer to go to museums to behold the cast off garments of life-rather than handle the life itself” (j, 2:472). What Thoreau realizes, observing the objects at the estate sale, is what Carolyn Steedman identified as the void and forgetting essential to the archive:

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It is a common desire—it has been so since at least the end of the nineteenth century—to use the Archive as metaphor or analogy, when memory is discussed. . . . But in actual Archives, though the bundles may be mountainous, there isn’t in fact, very much there. The Archive is not potentially made up of everything, as is human memory; and it is not the fathomless and timeless place in which nothing goes away that is the unconscious. . . . The Archive is made from . . . mad fragmentations . . . that just ended up there. . . . And nothing happens to this stuff, in the Archive.11

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Rather than being the site of power, the archive reveals itself as a site of weakness, for it hosts not memory but forgetting, and contains only unrelated fragments. The story or meaning that would relate them into a whole is precisely what is missing; the archive, then, is a story-less void hollowed out by what is no more. But Thoreau’s critique of New England ways with things amounts to more than a critique of archives and museums. For what Thoreau realizes by looking in his neighbors’ garrets is that there are no pure meanings, for no recollected image or idea can endure unless it is concretized in what is material; he realizes the fallacy of idealism. The idea that pure spirit is good for nothing might be quite an intuitive, sane insight, yet its radicality lies in its contradicting much of the Western metaphysical belief in the existence of the purely ideal, from Plato’s world of ideal essences to Hegel’s grandiose claims about labor of pure spirit or the Christian axiom that presumes purely spiritual renewals. When Thoreau criticizes his neighbors for endeavoring to keep the meaning of a thing alive in a disembodied way by accumulating things in storage, he isn’t accusing them of materialism from some idealistic point of view, as is too often presumed; rather, he is accusing them of idealism while himself speaking as a radical materialist. For he is saying that his neighbors accumulate things not because they are preoccupied with material possessions but because they are obsessed with ideal essences. And he is telling them that their garrets are just like museums, or in Miguel Tamen’s phrase, “places where bits of matter are reduced . . . to meaning,” where the corporeal is imagined to be miraculously transubstantiated into the persevering mental.12 Thoreau formulates for them the central paradox of museums and archives: in storing material objects they nevertheless function as sites not of material, but immaterial culture. That is also what the Mucclasse Indians knew when they burned their dead things; they cremated them not because they were idealists careless about the destruction of the material, but, conversely, because of their commitment to embodied meanings—because they realized that just as there are no pure meanings, so matter severed from its meanings is already de-materialized, already gone and dead.

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Ragged Fragments

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But the choice Thoreau makes in Walden between Concordian and Mucclasse Indian ontologies of things is conditional. That is to say, Thoreau would prefer the Indian ontology to the Concordian if those were the only two options he had. However, his description of furnishing the Walden cabin shows that things might be more complex, since he says there that whereas he built some of the furniture in the cabin, other things were taken precisely from village garrets that hide “plenty of such chairs as I like best” (w, 65). In fact, Thoreau often frequented estate sales and visited his neighbors’ storage, long before and after his experiment at Walden Pond. What are we then to make of this habit, which distinctly contradicts both the customs of the Mucclasse Indians (for Thoreau doesn’t burn the old things he gets from garrets) and those of the Concordians (for the things salvaged from their garrets are not relocated in another storage place)? While neither Walden nor the Journal offers a theoretical statement explaining Thoreau’s habit of frequenting storage places and acquiring archived things, his detailed description of things recovered not just through sales but in various (often disconcerting) ways, shows that he was experimenting with a third type of thing-ontology, one whose vitalist orientation defied the idea that things need die at all. By “vitalist orientation” I do not mean to suggest that Thoreau worked toward developing a version of animism, and still less that he believed in some sort of religious “souling” of matter whereby inert matter would be animated purposively toward a desired end by a guiding soul. Nor do I mean by “vitalist orientation” that Thoreau works to revitalize dead things by simply reusing them in the present while being oblivious of their past, or by aestheticizing them in displaying them. Rather, I use this phrase in a sense signaled by Thoreau in a somewhat enigmatic thought from A Week: “Of what moment are facts that can be lost,—which need to be commemorated? The monument of death will outlast the memory of the dead. The pyramids do not tell the tale which was confided to them; the living fact commemorates itself.”13 Insisting once again that dead things only cancel memory of the life they are supposed to monumentalize, and so truly generate

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the loss of the fact that needs to be remembered, Thoreau advances another hypothesis: only life—that which is commonly presumed to be oblivious of the past, for it is always absorbed in the motion of the now—is what remembers. Commemoration is possible not only through, but as the vital motion of beings and things. As Thoreau alternatively puts it in the Journal entry in which he declared his hatred for the “preserved death” of museums: “the life that is in a single green weed is of more worth than all this death. They are very much like the written history of the world” (j, 1:465). In what way is a weed more historical than the archive, and what kind of traces does a leaf chart so that its surface can become much like the written history of the world? A single green weed writes history because the shapes preceding and generating its leaves— the seed, the stem—are not distant or severed from it but instead generate their life, which the leaves then vitalize. This is not a metaphor pointing to organicism. Thoreau doesn’t want to say that one form smoothly becomes another, following the neat narrative order of organic development. Rather, the metaphor of the weed functions counter to organicism to suggest a radical disturbance of the narrative ordering of phenomena, for what it accentuates is that the transition whereby one organic form vanishes in the arrival of another in fact doesn’t happen to what lives at all. The weed tells the story not of linearity, but of simultaneity: through the living link of the stem, the seed nourishes the life of the leaves that nourish it; the leaves feed the life of what preceded them. This is less trivial that it might seem, for it in fact says that causes neither simply generate consequences nor continue to inhabit them; instead, less intuitively, they are regenerated by what they produce. The weed thus tells a different ontological story—one that reveals the logic of life—according to which consequences come to cause what caused them. If only life has the capacity to commemorate, as Thoreau says, it is because, in this non-linear way, it can make what comes after keep causing, gathering anew, recollecting what preceded it. When I therefore suggest that what counts as a thing in Thoreau is related to his “vitalist ontology,” I am proposing that his understanding of things is decided by his belief that life is what is capable of such recollecting. I am arguing that Thoreau desires to recover the things that died for New Englanders by turning them

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into animated relics or living monuments: neither purely antiquarian nor geological sites, things in Thoreau thus appear as the corporeal assent of living memory. What Thoreau will come to call a thing or a relic will, however, violate everything that common sense identifies as a thing. He will confuse things with animated bodies, with water, earth, and words, while disturbingly calling living human beings relics or memorials. To outline the ontology and ethics that motivated his practice of recovery of things, I will discuss three examples from his early to his later years: the obituary he published in 1837; his Journal description of things recovered after The Elizabeth was wrecked off Fire Island, killing Margaret Fuller and her family; and his description of the things he obtained from the estate sale. Together the examples testify to Thoreau’s commitment to materialized meaning, his commitment to the past and his effort to embody it in a vital present.

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1. Obituary for Anna Jones On November 25, 1837, Thoreau published his first text. It was an obituary to Anna Jones, an eighty-six-year-old woman who died in the Concord poorhouse. Thoreau didn’t know her, but nevertheless he went to interview her there. “She was already on her deathbed” when he came, and “too ill to tell him much” (dt, 70). So, even if he saw her, Thoreau did not in the end come to know her. Yet he decided to write an obituary for her, which appeared anonymously in the Yeoman’s Gazette on November 25, 1837, and which I quote here only partially:

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In this town, on the 12th inst. Miss Anna Jones, aged 86. We are happy to state, upon the testimony of those who knew her best, that the subject of this notice was an upright and exemplary woman, . . . that during a long life, she was never known to speak ill of any one. After a youth passed amid scenes of turmoil and war, she has lingered thus long amongst us a bright sample of the Revolutionary woman. She was as it were, a connecting link between the past and the present—a precious relic of days which the man and patriot would not willingly forget.14

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The obituary departs from those typically published in the Yeoman’s Gazette or Concord Freeman between 1835 and 1845. Sometimes simple death notices (“Died: in this town,” such as that which announced the death of Thoreau’s brother John in the Concord Freeman), obituaries were composed by relatives of the deceased and increasingly registered the middle-class sentimentalization of grief and, wherever possible, the social status of the deceased. None of that characterizes Thoreau’s obituary for Anna Jones. It is unequivocally anonymous, not written by a relative or a friend, and not marked by personal grief. In fact, the writer admits that all he knows about the deceased is based “upon the testimony of others.” Moreover, what others tell him, and what is ultimately related in the obituary, is common to the point of being impersonal, as if Thoreau were at a loss to know what to say about Miss Jones. The only thing that seems to be memorialized by this obituary is the ontological possibility of a living relic. For nothing about Miss Jones is remembered except the fact that her living yet ancient body fused the archive with the present. The fact that such a fusion was worthy of Thoreau’s memorialization suggests that the idea of a “living link” was, as early as 1837, constitutive of his understanding of the past. It signals that for him past events and meanings can be connected to the present only corporeally, as if, much like for the Mucclasse Indians, the past couldn’t be transmitted in idealized ways—through images, dreams, or legends—but only by bodies rendering it materially contemporaneous with the present.

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2. The Wreck of the Elizabeth In July 1850 the Elizabeth, “bearing Margaret Fuller . . . her husband and young son . . . had been wrecked on Fire Island just off Long Island” (dt, 277). At first Emerson thought he might go to the island himself, but then he decided that Thoreau should do it. What remains of the Journal that Thoreau kept while on the island and immediately upon returning to Concord—the surviving Journal entries he wrote in the fall of 1850,15 and a fragment of manuscript probably written while on the Island, which Steve Grice has recently recovered—suggests that what Thoreau experienced while “recovering property” of the dead, as well as their bodies, allowed him a glimpse into a vitalist ontology of things.

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In a manuscript leaf recovered by Grice, Thoreau lists the belongings of the dead he found on Fire Island beach:

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I found the engravings at Oakes’. They said that they were left out of the trunk. The gown and one article of the child’s dress at Daniel Jones’, Patchogue—and the other arti cle of the child’s dress-at John Heinners in the same village. They said that they picked them up 1 1/2 or 2 miles east of the wreck. There were more things there and elsewhere which were either not worth taking—or not worth waiting to see.

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I saw a calico dress like the pattern which I bought at Skinners It had silk fringes & was much torn also some drawers and a night gown all torn & without mark.

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At Carman Rowlands Patchogue I saw a gentleman’s shirt. At Wm Gregory’s in the same village a cart load of rags & remains of a childs petticoat. He said that his brother had much more. At Wm Smiths, near Patchogue a childs striped apron & a lady’s skirt fringed. Geo Curtis of Sayville—the skirt of a silk dress–“lilac ground, middling dark stripe” which I could not wait to get.16

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Thoreau was never certain about what ontological status to attribute to the clothes of the dead. Were they part of the living persons who wore them, and if so, could it be said that a person dies fully only when his clothes decay completely? “My friend died long ago—why follow a body to the grave yard? . . . There still remain his clothes: shall we have a third service when they are decayed?” (j, 3:48). But the Fire Island experience recorded on this leaf signals more confusing taxonomical dislocations, since Thoreau’s language, as if in a tropological mise en abyme, represents a concentrated attempt to connect the ragged remnants—the “mad fragmentation” each archive is composed of—to things that he can only imagine or remember. For example, the materiality of the fringed skirt is mixed in his report with the imagined silk dress with “lilac ground,” and the much-torn “calico” dress merges with the memory of patterns on clothes that Thoreau bought at Skinners. Thoreau’s list crosses boundaries between what is formed and disseminated, destroyed and restored, actual and imagined, reassembling ragged reality into new compounds that are now irrecoverably attached to his life by virtue of being recorded on his list of losses. Back home, after July 29, 1850, Thoreau writes a long entry regarding how this encounter with bones and ragged belongings of the dead affected him:

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I have in my pocket a button which I ripped off the coat of the marquis of Ossoli on the sea shore the other day—held up it intercepts the light & casts a shadow, an actual button so called— This stream of events which we consent to call actual & that other mightier stream which alone carries us with it—what makes the difference. . . . We are ever dying to one world & being born into another—and probably no man knows whether he is dead in the sense in which he affirms that phenomenon of another— or not. (j, 3:95)

The material and ideal entities are in this experience so mixed that it is difficult for Thoreau to determine any differences among them.17 Even the dead matter of Ossoli’s button is endowed with the light and translucence one typically relates to what is spiritual and animated, as if to suggest that all matter is living. What we call

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“actual” and what we call “ideal,” or else what we call “material” and what we call “mental,” is differentiated as such only because of our “consent” to do so. Without our classification, things called material or ideal, dead or living, are intermingled so that the difference between them can’t be stated. Moreover, the mixtures of life and death are incessant, making it hard for any one man to determine with confidence in which existential condition he finds himself (“and probably no man knows whether he is dead in the sense in which he affirms that phenomenon of another—or not”). A long Journal entry written about three months later—after October 31, 1850—revisits the Fire Island experience and formulates more explicitly the strange idea of mental and corporeal mixtures that enable a movement from life to death and back again:

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I once went in search of the relics of a human body—a week after a wreck—which had been cast up the day before onto the beach—though the sharks had stript off the flesh. . . . I expected that I should have to look very narrowly at the sand to find so small an object-but so completely smooth & bare was the beach . . . that when I was half a mile distant the insignificant stick or sliver for which marked the spot—looked like a broken mast in the sand—As if where there was no other object, this trifling sliver—had puffed itself up to the vision to fill the void—& there lay the relics in a certain state—rendered perfectly inoffensive to both bodily & spiritual eye by the surrounding scenery— . . . Alone with the sea & the beach-attending to the sea—whose hollow roar seemed addressed to the ears of the departed—articulate speech to them. (j, 3:127)

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The inoffensive mixture of things of different orders—flesh, bones, things, shells, stones, sand, beach grass, and water—affords the spectator the “vision” of an ontological order. For the perceiver comes to understand how decaying relics merge into other elements as if they have been picked up by the flow of life. Thus, Thoreau’s earlier statement that it was difficult to differentiate between corporeal and mental, dead and living, is now translated into the insight that what is called death is less the cessation of being than its transformation into a different manner of existence. For when

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he comes to the beach to attend to the dead, he finds them attending to the ocean, developing different senses, assembling new ears, learning a new language, relics still living.

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3. The Estate Sale Thoreau’s Journal is a gigantic ontological admixture echoing what he witnessed on Fire Island. It constantly confuses what is with what isn’t, and functions itself as a vital relic, as a memorializing collage of things, moments and words re-collected from diverse unnamed persons, some dead, some still living. The Journal often speaks about the dead and often describes abandoned things: “A lone Indian woman without children-accompanied by her dog” (j, 3:93); “A woman who wished to go to Nashua was left behind at Groton Junction” (j, 5:336); “An old man who used to frequent Walden 55 years ago when it was dark with surrounding forests tells me that in those days he sometimes saw it all alive” (j, 6:209); “I can just remember an old brown-coated man who was the Walton of this steam . . . his old experienced coat hanging long and straight and brown as the yellow pine bark, glittering with so much smothered sunlight” (w, 24–25). Hundreds of commemorating sentences similar to those will be mixed into the Journal with detailed descriptions of landscapes, plants, or animals, as well as man-made tools or objects that Thoreau recovers while searching through estate sales. In 1854, for instance, while at the deacon’s estate sale described in Walden, he looks closely at “a pair of old snow shoes . . . almost regularly sold on these occasions,” but decides to acquire instead “Ephraim Jones’s decaying ‘Waste Book’ from 1742, found in Brown’s garret since his death” (j, 7:251). Pages of the Journal written after the auction are filled with extracts from Jones’s waste book, as if Thoreau wanted to mix obituaries to things with the living text he is writing and to transform the waste book into a vital relic: “The articles most commonly bought were mohair . . . rum, molasses, shalloon, fish, calicoe, some sugar a castor hat, almanac, psalter, & sometimes primer & testament, paper, knee-buckles & shoe-buckles-garters & spurs by the pair Deer skins-a fan-a cartwhip-various kinds of cloth . . . gloves-a spring knife-an ink horn” (j, 7:250; fig. 4). By mixing phenomena

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of different orders—food and ink, deer skin and testament, sugar and primer—Thoreau reassembles wasted things into his living perception. His Journal thus comes to function as a force that saves things from going to waste, working to reanimate waste through the gathering of ragged memories into compounds of new life. Notes

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1. Martin Heidegger, “The Thing,” in Poetry, Language, Thought, trans. Albert Hofstadter (New York: Harper Collins, 2001), 170. 2. Henry David Thoreau, Walden: The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau, ed. J. Lyndon Shanley (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971), 65. Hereafter cited as w. 3. Jane Bennett, “Systems and Things: A Response to Graham Harman and Timothy Morton,” New Literary History 43, no. 2 (2012): 230. 4. Walter Harding, The Days of Henry Thoreau (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 183. Hereafter cited as dt. 5. For Poe the importance of non-transparency afforded by curtains to subjectivity is so fundamental that he insists on measuring not just the aesthetic but also the philosophical and ethical capacity of individual subjects, and indeed whole nations, by the way they generate interior space by distributing curtains: the English, according to his ranking, develop the art to its supreme level, unlike the Dutch, who “have, perhaps, an indeterminate idea that a curtain is not a cabbage,” or the Spanish, who are “all curtains—a nation of hangmen.” Edgar Allan Poe, “The Philosophy of Furniture,” in Poetry, Tales, and Selected Essays, ed. Patrick F. Quinn and G. R. Thompson (New York: The Library of America, 1984), 382. 6. Harding describes it as follows: “occasionally whole groups of Thoreau’s friends came out together to the pond and swarmed into his little cabin. . . . He had as many as twenty-five or thirty people inside the tiny cabin at one time. On August 1, 1846, the anti-slavery women of Concord held their annual commemoration of the freeing of the West Indian slaves on his doorstep and Emerson, W. H. Channing, and Rev. Caleb Stetson spoke to the assembled group. . . . Although Thoreau was devoted to the abolitionist cause and was a frequent conductor on the Underground Railroad, the Walden cabin, despite tradition, was rarely used as a station. Mrs. Edwin Bigelow, the leader of the Concord unit, has testified that slaves were occa-

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sionally brought there, but since there was no place for concealment, Thoreau always smuggled them into town to his mother’s house . . . and from there helped them along their way to Canada, often giving them money from his limited funds” (dt, 195–96). Walter Benjamin, “Surrealism,” trans. Edmund Jephcott, in Selected Writings, vol. 2, ed. Michael W. Jennings, Howard Eiland, and Gary Smith (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), 209. Hereafter cited as sw. Peter Nabokov, A Forest of Time: American Indian Ways of History (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 42. Henry David Thoreau, Journal, The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau, ed. Elizabeth Hall Witherell, William L. Howarth, Robert Sattelmeyer, and Thomas Blanding, 8 vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981–2002), 1:465. Hereafter cited as j and followed by volume number and page reference. I quote from the revised version. The first version of this meditation is recorded on Sunday, September 24, 1843 (j, 1:465). Carolyn Steedman, Dust: The Archive and Cultural History (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2002), 68. Miguel Tamen, Friends of Interpretable Objects (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001), 59. Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau, ed. Carl F. Hovde, William L. Howarth, and Elizabeth Hall Witherell (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), 154. For the surviving drafts of the obituary, their condition, and differences among them, see the editorial note to Henry David Thoreau, “Early Essays and Miscellanies,” in The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau, ed. Joseph J. Moldenhauer and Edwin Moser, with Alexander C. Kern (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975), 378. As the editors note, from the first manuscript (May 12–September 19, 1850), “thirty-two leaves were removed, none of which has been located,” whereas from manuscript IV (September 25–December 2, 1850), “forty-six leaves were removed, none of which has been located” (j, 3:502, 503). Steve Grice, “A Leaf from Thoreau’s Fire Island Manuscript,” Thoreau Society Bulletin, no. 258 (Spring 2007): 1. Grice combined the fragment he recovered, which is in his possession, with another from the Pierpont Morgan Library. “This fragment [the one in his possession] is the top half of another two-sided, half page manuscript

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fragment which in 1938 was removed from Manuscript Edition set 518 to become page 18 of ma 920 in the Pierpont Morgan Library collection. Both fragments are on very thin, lined paper with a greenish hue, and the widths match as does the color of the ink. Brought together they become a leaf from an obviously longer, unpublished description by Thoreau of his July 1850 trip to Fire Island, New York” (3). 17. Thoreau had had a similar experience of observing the dead off the coast of Cape Cod the previous year. In 1849 he walked with Channing the Cape Cod beach after the wreck of the St. John. As in the Fire Island experience, he saw clothes and bones mixed—a mixture made, as he put it, of “shattered fragments,” and described new mixtures with a disturbing accuracy, wondering how it is—through which force—that water shatters forms: “A little further along the shore we saw a man’s clothes on a rock; further, a woman’s scarf, a gown, a straw bonnet, the brig’s caboose. . . . I was even more surprised at the power of the waves, exhibited on this shattered fragment. . . . I saw many marble feet and matted heads as the cloths were raised, and one livid, swollen and mangled body of a drowned girl . . . to which some rags still adhered, with a string, held concealed by the flesh, about its swollen neck; the coiled up wreck of a human hulk, gashed by the rocks or fishes, so that the bone and muscle were exposed, but quite bloodless—merely red and white— with wide-open staring eyes.” Henry David Thoreau, “Cape Cod,” in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, ed. Joseph J. Moldenhauer (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), 5–7, 14.

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On the Crucifixion Darkness and the Cosmic Materiality of Sorrow

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—Virgil, Aeneid 1.462

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All men have matter of sorrow; but most specially he feels matter of sorrow that knows and feels that he is.

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—The Cloud of Unknowing

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“The contours of cosmic pessimism,” writes Eugene Thacker, “are a drastic scaling-up or scaling-down of the human point of view . . . shadowed by an impasse, a primordial insignificance, the impossibility of ever adequately accounting for one’s relationship to thought.”1 By intellectually elevating the worst to universal magnitudes, cosmic pessimism forces the question of the relation between what ultimately is and how one feels about things. More specifically, it necessarily entertains—with utmost due skepticism— the problem of whether human sorrow, our volitional and affective sensor for what is wrong, has any universal validity. This essay finds in cosmic pessimism the conceptual starting point for a mystical reinterpretation of the most radical representation of cosmic sorrow in the Christian tradition: the crucifixion

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darkness. As an ultimate figural conjunction of the pessimal and the optimal, this event provides the grounds for a paradisical inversion of pessimism around the axis of sorrow. Far from being an impasse, pessimism’s constitutive shadow is now seen to be an index of sorrow’s meta-subjective universality and thus the best means of overcoming sorrow itself.

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The Bitter Taste of Thought— “How Distant I Am from Everything”

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Cosmic pessimism inhabits an essential paradox. On the one hand, it asserts that the ultimate truth of things, insofar as any such truth exists, lies within a profoundly negative factuality: meaninglessness, suffering, nothingness, contingency, and so on. On the other hand, it necessarily denies, under penalty of not being properly cosmic, any ultimate significance to this truth, consigning the knowing of it to the abyss of an unmasterable exteriority. The cosmic pessimist’s thought hovers, like a lost astronaut, inside a non-locatable intersection between absolute and absolutely hopeless knowledge, passively exploring the subessential space of a kind of ontologically collapsed apophatic, or negative, mysticism. Whereas mystical contemplation, according to the sixth-century theologian PseudoDionysius, “knows beyond [super] the mind by knowing nothing,”2 cosmic pessimism reversely knows nothing by not knowing beyond the mind. It understands the nothingness of things through a properly improper form of thinking, a paradoxically intellectual pushing of thought outside of itself from within the parameters of rational reflection and self-immanence. This is exemplified in the philosophical posture of Schopenhauer, who, “content to comprehend the true nature of the world according to its inner connexion with itself,”3 discloses at once the universality of will and the nothingness of the material cosmos—a truth paradoxically fulfilled and realized in the will’s negation: “to those in whom the will has turned and denied itself, this very real world of ours with all its suns and galaxies is—nothing” (ww, 1:412). Crucially, the nothingness to which cosmic pessimism restores the world, as distinguished from the nothingness of base nihilism, is neither subjec-

Masciandaro: Paradisical Pessimism

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tive nor objective. Rather, it is the nothingness of world itself, a nothingness illuminated by the desire—one endured in pessimism’s negative fidelity to the good—for thought’s liberation from relation to the world, from having to be about it. The affective dimension of cosmic pessimism is correlatively inversed vis-à-vis apophatic mysticism. In keeping with the Augustinian prioritization of faith over reason, which is recorded in Anselm’s maxim, credo ut intelligam, apophatic mysticism insists on the priority of feeling over understanding, that is, feeling in the sense of the real movement of will necessary for directing the intellect beyond itself and into divine reality. Mystical apophasis is not only unknowing but also the active and restless affective drive beyond knowing, which is the ground of unknowing itself. The affective difficulty of this Pseudo-Dionysian encouragement to “strive upward” by laying understanding aside is expressed in the qualification that it be enacted with “a mightly struggle” (forti contritione, συντόνῳ διατριβῇ), an expression that evokes the idea of consuming auto-frictional pain, a grinding and rubbing of the self against itself in a struggle toward what is beyond it.4 In the more explicitly affective Dionysian tradition, such striving is understood more expansively in terms of love (amor, dilectio, affectio).5 For example, Hugh of Balma writes, “the Psalmist says, Taste and see. ‘Taste’ refers to the affectus of love; ‘See’ refers to the intellect’s cogitation and mediation.”6 The cosmic pessimist experiences an opposite but similarly mystical and analogical reversal of the Aristotelian hierarchy of sense, one that echoes and reinvents the negative side of apophatic striving. This is evidenced, for example, by the will’s blindness in Schopenhauer, by Cioran’s bitterness (Syllogismes de l’amertume), and by the trope of touching the mirror in Lovecraft’s The Outsider.7 It is a reversal wherein feeling, rather than forming the advancing horizon of thought, is torturously bound to its interior: “my tears have always turned into thoughts. And my thoughts are as bitter as tears.”8 The affect of cosmic pessimism is a bitterness internal to the negativity of intellection, a hypersubjective touch of thought as it hits up against what it cannot contact. The structure of this feeling is beautifully synthesized in Cioran’s hopelessly apophatic

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essay “I Do Not Know,” in which he confesses: “At times I feel as if I had total knowledge, exhausting the content of this world; at other times the world around me does not make any sense. Everything then has a bitter taste, there is in me a devilish, monstrous bitterness that renders even death insipid. I realize now for the first time how hard it is to define this bitterness” (oh, 49). This indefinable bitterness, which Cioran suspiciously calls “pretheoretical,” is a palpable negativity co-substantial with the impossibility of a relation between thought and being. Whereas mysticism represents a positive intensification of the spiritual via its signification by something sub/non-spiritual, cosmic pessimism represents a reverse intensification of the intellectual. Cosmic pessimism is a negative intensification that discloses the inferior reality and non-identity of the intellectual via a feeling that forces consciousness outside of thought by means of contradiction with the inexplicable affective materiality of intellection. The cosmic pessimist thinks beyond and against thought by intensifying thought’s affect as its substance. It is in such terms that Thacker explicates cosmic pessimism as a sorrow-filled intensification of human perspective so that “all that remains of pessimism is the desiderata of affects—agonistic, impassive, defiant, reclusive, filled with sorrow and flailing at that architectonic chess match called philosophy, a flailing that pessimism tries to raise to the level of an art form” (“cp,” 68). The incommensurability of thought and being, the impossibility of their proper relation, is the sorrow-filled space of cosmic pessimism. It is the domain where the philosopher, no longer a philosopher, falls and flies like Satan “flutt’ring his pennons vain,” barely crossing Chaos “by ill chance” (Paradise Lost 2.933–35).9 Yet what if one recognizes this space of irreparable distance between oneself and the greater universe as itself a cosmic substance and the medium wherein thought touches the real? What if the no-man’s land delimiting knowledge, which the human seems at best to fill only virtually with his own negativity, is actually sorrow itself as a universal aspect of existence? Such recognition is perforce the unutterable, semi-conscious “hope” of cosmic pessimism, not a hope for anything, nor a hope of any value, but a hope in the immanent truth of its own situation. The reality of sorrow is

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the substantial hook on which the inverted optimism of the antiphilosopher hangs, the actuality of his truth. The supremely positive philosophical discovery of cosmic pessimism is its disclosure of a sorrow one can no longer call one’s own, a sorrow at once neither about a given object (sadness) nor about oneself (melancholy), a negative feeling whose paradoxical authenticity (auto-entes) resides in one’s not being the agent of it. From this perspective, the truth of cosmic pessimism lies not in doctrine but in the conscious disowning of the comprehensiveness of knowledge, in the name of an ineradicable gap between science and its event, between knowing and the capacity to know. Cosmic pessimism perforce fails itself wherever it becomes prescriptive (e.g., anti-natalism)—as if the worst-ness of the cosmos could ever be delimited by its contents, as if anything in particular could ever make one happy or unhappy, for that matter! Cosmic pessimism is not properly an -ism, but an act of showing, outside the parameters of formal proof, the non-philosophizability of the universe. It is a demonstration of the fact that the human, by virtue of its own event, is constitutively incapable of intellectually navigating the negativity binding thought and being, of definitively illuminating the darkness of one’s relation to the real. Modulating between the impersonal obscurity of the cosmos and the all-too-personal impossibility of individuated existence, the dispersonally passionate voice of the cosmic pessimist gives objective and generalized expression to the affective un-ground of modern philosophy. This is a voice that inversely expands the virtual, skeptical blackening of knowledge wherein Descartes’s cogito is discovered into the very blackness of the universe, the neither-subjective-nor-objective fact of its uchromic expanse. Such inversion is perfectly traced in the opening and seemingly incidental “I think” of Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu”:

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The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little;

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but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.10

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Things Cannot Be Better—“Either the World Is Now at an End, Or . . .”

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This familiar impasse, the destining of human consciousness to either ignorance or madness, is a fundamental projection of the constitutive paradox of cosmic pessimism. The way beyond it, a way off the “island,” consists in understanding the felt impasse itself— the epistemic sorrow of the cosmic pessimist—as a true perception of things, as a feature of the universe as such.

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To see the universal materiality of sorrow, to understand it as an extra-human and general condition of things, constitutes a speculative solution of cosmic pessimism’s constitutive paradox and a creative resolution of its self-preserving predicament. Just as the interruption of the “see-sawing between metaphysics and fideism” requires for Quentin Meillassoux that we “transform our perspective on unreason, . . . project unreason into things themselves, and discover in our grasp of facticity the veritable intellectual intuition of the absolute,” so the materialization of the unreason of sorrow, its liberation from the logics of reaction and melancholic selfreference, is a portal opening the other side of the ultimacy of the worst, the place where the cosmically pessimal is not only actually but optimally true.11 To properly think through cosmic pessimism, as opposed to dwelling in it, will require a new concept and experience of hopelessness, a truer hopelessness that is at once more hopeless, because it is more real, and less hopeless, because it is less concerned with human identity. Such a hopelessness is unveiled when we peer through the precise blind spot or auto-eclipse of cosmic pessimism, its attachment to the total futility of its drama, famously professed by Lovecraft as “the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large.”12 On the other side of

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this arbitrary limit lurks the more terrifying prospect that one’s (human) emotion does indeed have validity and significance in the cosmos-at-large, that it holds truths which infinitely exceed you, that subjective identity already wholly lost to the universe, despite its most precious and self-defining pretenses. This is the still greater horror that cosmic horror perforce precludes and flirts with in the form of madness, namely, the fact that one’s pathetically finite human being is so abysmally in the universe that there is neither anywhere to hide nor any reason to, because the life on whose behalf one trembles was itself never one’s own. Here we touch upon the higher form of cosmic horror, a horror-without-us that may be understood as the post-subjective affect proper to a “non-Euclidean” and anagogic cosmic pessimism, in the sense of that which inverts the axiom of its irrelevance and thus discloses the universal curvature of its own affect. Like the contemplative who finds himself raised up by what he seeks or the divinely bewildered who finds his own being inseparable from the multiplicative movement of the One, this cosmic pessimist plunges into a new order of the pessimal, one that is far worse than whatever is worst for him, a more perfect worst that could not be better. In light of Lovecraft’s “fundamental premise,” the universal reality of sorrow offers itself as a live medium for leaping through and resolving the apparently exclusive options of madness or neomedieval retreat. It is a portal out of which spring the chiastic twins of a new revelation of darkness and a new ground for the “medievalization” of science. Where the former signals a reappreciation of the intellectual unmasterability of the universe, the latter signals a reinvention of the cosmocentric subject. The work of this sorrow is to pierce the bubble of subjectivity and expose consciousness to complicity with the spheres. The trajectory of finding sorrow’s extra-subjectivity is one of fundamental topological reorientation, a somersaulting inversion of identity wherein the self reverses itself vis-à-vis the world and is no longer a self-hallucinatory interior of being. The promise of real sorrow thus accords with contemporary elucidations of the present age of human history as one in which traditional mystical truth is rediscovered in profoundly exteriorized forms, where the inward, putatively subjective sublimity of

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premodern contemplation, is relocated to the “inhuman” outside as an event.13 For example, while reading Heidegger in intimate contrast to John of Damascus, Peter Sloterdijk concludes his bubbleology with the claim that Dasein’s conundrum to itself “calls . . . us to become involved with the monstrousness of the external.”14 Likewise, reflecting on philosophy as horror, Thacker feels the present future of mysticism to be fundamentally “climatological,” to be about “that which in shadows withdraws from any possible experience, and yet makes its presence felt, through the periodic upheavals of weather, land, and matter.”15 Given the symmetry between these current visions of cosmic affect and the archaic figuration of extreme sorrow (both as tempest and as body capable of swallowing one whole), there is visible here the old intuition that the selfinverting way to freedom, as in Dante’s exit from Inferno, perforce passes via the form of a weeping monstrous body. The way into such a mystically transformed perspective on sorrow, one that finds at once sorrow’s dark materiality and its meta-pessimistic optimality, is shadowed forth in the spectacle of the crucifixion darkness, wherein cosmic sorrow marks the coincidence of the best: “‘Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’ It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed” (Luke 23:43–4), and the worst: “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli la’ma sabach-tha’ni?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?’” (Matt. 27:45–46). Filling this three-hour interim, the darkness, like a universal veil over the very heart of the divine passion, occurs in the position of a mysterious non-mediating medium between the truths of these antipodal statements. As Coelius Sedulius would write in his elaborative versification of the Gospels, “there were mystic secrets / In that space of time.”16 The visible darkness of the crucifixion event, via the paradox of a negative light, gives hidden witness to a zone of mysterious identity between the immanent summit of perfection and the kenotic abyss of God’s selfdereliction. While the synoptic Gospels do not explicitly connect the darkness (skotos) with sorrow, the link is implicit through the

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general association of darkness with grief and death, and more specifically, in light of “the outer darkness . . . [where] men will weep and gnash their teeth” (Matt. 25:30). On the basis of this connection, the crucifixion darkness appears as the durational moment when the cosmos becomes wholly exterior, a universal outside. During this excruciating phase, the world itself assumes the dimensions of a real spectacle or material revelation whose sense is both gnostic and apocalyptic, a self-showing of the cosmos in its inevitable ending and extreme distancing from the divine Light. Yet, by virtue of this very exteriorization, the universe is now simultaneously revealed as the most profound interior, a domain where nothing is without inherent and immediate contact with the ineffable source of everything. Like the purest form of luminous trembling or flash, an infinitesimal yet thoroughly extended light showing nothing other than that there is something one does not see, the crucifixion darkness exposes the cosmos to be a meta-topological coincidence of the pessimal and the optimal. It becomes a strange place where the only way to discern where you are with certainty is to see that you are hopelessly lost. Medieval interpretation of the crucifixion as an event of universal sorrow magnifies the interior and affective aspect of this darkness. While commenting on her vision of Christ’s passion, for example, Julian of Norwich explains the darkening of the world as a sorrowful failing or collapse of created nature that testifies to its essential link with divinity:

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Here I saw a gret oning [oneness] betwene Crist and us, to my understonding. For when he was in paine, we ware in paine, and all creatures that God hath made to oure servys, the firmamente and erth, failed for sorow in their kind [nature] in the time of Cristes dying. For it longeth kindly [naturally] to ther properte [order] to know him for ther lorde, in whom all ther vertuse [powers] stondeth. And when he failed, then behoved nedes [it was necessary] to them for kindnes [because of their nature] to faile with him, in as moch as they might, for sorow of his paines. And thus tho [those] that were his frendes suffered paine for love, and generally alle: that is to sey, they that knew him not sufferde for failinge of all manner comfort, save the mighty

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prive keeping [powerful secret sustaining] of God. I mene of two maner people that knew him not, as it may be understond by two persons. That one was Pilate, that other person was Saint Dionisy of France, which was that time a paynim. For whan he saw wonders and merveyles, sorowse and dredes, that befelle in that time, he saide: “Either the worlde is now at an ende, or elles he that is maker of kindes [nature] suffereth.” Wherfore he did write on an awter: “This is an awter to the unknowen God.” God of his goodnes, that maketh planettes and the elementes to worke in ther kinde to the blessed man and to the cursede, in that time it was withdraw fro both. Wherfor it was that they that knew him not were in sorow that time. Thus was oure lord Jhesu noughted for us, and we stonde alle in this maner noughted with him, and shalle do tille that we come to his blisse.17

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This account dramatically synthesizes the constellation of ideas that were exegetically attached to the crucifixion darkness in her time: (1) that the darkness is a kind of material sorrow, a substantial affective participation in divine suffering; (2) that the darkness occurs by means of a supernatural withdrawal of natural powers, in concert with God’s kenosis (self-emptying); and (3) that witnessing the darkness, as figured in the person of Dionysius, is an index of apophatic mystical vision, the revelation of the divine via unknowing. In keeping with the mystical intimacy of separation from the Omnipresent, these harmonized principles communicate the immanence of a positively negative affective pole of experience that marvelously converts privation into surplus and dereliction into home. How does sorrow, as the very substance of this darkness, overcome the opposition between the pessimal and the optimal? How does sorrow’s uncanny materiality or weird whatness touch the superlative thatness of divinity? What’s the Matter?—“All Creation Groaned” Identification of the crucifixion darkness with sorrow, which dates to at least the early third century, extends preceding antique and Jewish tropes, namely, the personification of the darkening or

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eclipsed sun as an evil or tragic omen and the figuration of the “Day of the Lord” in Amos 8:9–10 and Jeremiah 11:28. Chief among the prodigies appearing around the assassination of Julius Caesar in Virgil’s Georgics is the sun who “felt for [miseratus] Rome that time that Caesar fell / and veiled [texit] his gleaming head in gloom / so dark the infidels began to fear that night would last for ever” (I.467–68).18 Ovid continues the conceit and accentuates the sense of a fearful spectacle of mourning: “solis . . . tristis imago / lurida sollicitis praebebat lumina terris” (the sorrowful image of the sun shone with lurid light upon the troubled earth).19 The motif compares to the legend of Romulus’s apotheosis during an eclipse, which was also inseparable from the question of its own truth. For Augustine, the Roman legend, in connection to its aspect of sorrow, provided figurative precedent and pretext for apologetic affirmation of the supernatural darkness of the crucifixion. The “eclipse of the sun, which the simple-minded populace.. attributed to the power of Romulus . . . did in truth occur [revera factum est] when our Lord was crucified by the cruelty and impiety of the Jews.”20 The affiliation of darkness with sorrow serves as the implicit term whereby the crucifixion darkness signifies the eclipse of pagan ignorance by the supernatural light of Christian truth. Although Augustine does not literally identify the crucifixion darkness with solar sorrow, their significant association intimates how sorrow comes to be seen not only as an important figural or aesthetic attribute of the crucifixion event but also as the actuality of its cosmicity and thus a logically necessary principle for the darkness’s simultaneous displacement of and differentiation from the antique exemplar, which is now reduced to naturalistic explanation. In these terms, late antique interpretation of the crucifixion darkness transmutes the pathetic fallacy of solar sorrow into cosmo-theological fact. Ephrem the Syrian, for instance, elegantly connects the event of universal compassion, the sun’s visionary self-darkening, and the principle of sorrowful withdrawal: “Created beings suffered with [him] in his suffering. The sun hid its face so as not to see him when he was crucified. It retracted its light back into itself so as to die with him.”21 The literal and material affirmation of cosmic sorrow at the cru-

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cifixion conforms with its spiritual truth via continuity with the general coincidence of repetition and compassion that marks Christianity: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). Giving witness to the divine passion demands the possibility of a mourning beyond mourning, a sorrow that is compassion in the fullest participatory sense, one that is never simply a feeling-sorry-for and is always in touch with the universality of the cross whose shadow was seen “super universam terram” (Matt. 27:45). The given reality of this felt contact is the ground of one’s own cross, the foundation of an affective spiritual authenticity that passes beyond relation into the passion of the God-Man. Furthermore the crucifixion darkness, as absolutely common sorrow, shows forth in negative form not only the eternal creative universality of the Christ, but also the temporal process of that creativity: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now” (Rom. 8:23). More specifically, the actuality of the sun’s sorrow, at once a real impossibility and a live allegory of the universally suffering Sol Iustitiae, both marks it as a singular hyper-portent, a sign above and beyond all similar signs, and indicates the absolute singular immanence of what it signifies: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men” (1 Tim. 2:5). As God’s suffering shows to man the way to “deny himself,” the way itself is inescapably followed in the dark spectacle of the whole cosmos which already has. The element of sorrow is thus a kind of essential commentarial supplement that simultaneously protects the event against reduction to portent or wonder, thus preserving the intrinsic, divine openness of its significance. In order to be saved from the metaphoricity of its legendary precedent and participate formally in its own truth, the crucifixion darkness must in a real yet strangely unspecifiable way be sorrow. Sorrow is the darkness of the universal darkness, amid its not being named as sorrow. Here we must posit, as a poetic inevitability of the tradition, that the non-reference to sorrow in the Gospel accounts is intrinsic and even intentional, both a rhetorical and apologetic necessity with respect to the narrative task of repeating without repetition the ancient motifs of cosmically portentous death (i.e., not making Jesus’s death sound

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like Julius Caesar’s) and a representational necessity with respect to capturing and rendering the darkness palpable, in the form of its own inscrutability or mystery. The representational point of the crucifixion darkness, at once lost on and proven by the ink expended in explanation of it, is that it is dark, that to witness or affirm it is to be in the selfsame darkness, to sense the failing of one’s own thought and feeling before it, and more intensively, to see the non-difference between that felt failing and the profoundly ongoing event of created being. Crucially, this affective paradox of the crucifixion darkness is cosmically scaled and thus expressible in the generalized form of a negatively hyper-literal anagogic sense: the present absence of sorrow in the originary representation of the cosmic darkness event is the universality of sorrow itself. Seen in these intensive terms, the crucifixion darkness bleeds into a universal auto-affective domain that is invisible, seemingly impossible, and properly free from the operation of efficient causes. Via this radically immanent hidden space, this visible temporal world is shown to be the shadow of that invisible eternal one. This happens, precisely by an opening of the palpable negativity wherein they touch, as described in Leo the Great’s sermon on the Passion:

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It has been shown that Jesus, when lifted up, did draw all to himself, not only by suffering in our substance, but even by a disturbance [commotione] of the whole world. While the Creator was hanging on the gallows, all creation [universa creatura] groaned [congemuit], and all the elements at the same time felt the nails of the cross. Nothing was free from that punishment [supplicio]. By this he drew both earth and heaven into communion with himself, by this he broke the rocks, opened the tombs, unlocked hell, and hid the sun’s rays with the horror of thick darkness. The world owed this witness to its own Creator, so that in the fall of its Maker all things should want to come to an end.22

Here the world is drawn into communion with God by means of a universal passivity that, while moving in different verbal forms (breaking, opening, unlocking, hiding), is yet one common feeling, a com-motion and co-mourning in a real affective sense. All at

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once the whole world is brought low, humiliated in a pain (supplicio) that, by virtue of being suffered by the world’s infinitely intimate Other, at once touches it beyond its capacity to feel and negatively fulfills its ownmost and elementally inconceivable volitional essence. Cut to the quick, the cosmos darkly bleeds a divinely occult will, demonstrating in a kind of blind yet self-opening seizure that everything indeed wants to be, firstly, because it does not. The crucifixion darkness is not only a revelation of the incredible fact of the incarnate God but also a revelation of the mystery of matter itself, a shadowing forth of its hidden, willful depths. The material lesson of this darkness is thus antipodal to contemporary theoretical discourse about “melancholy objects,” which seems inherently bound to both evoke and dismiss the idea of sorrowing matter, as exemplified in the opening caveat of Peter Schwenger’s The Tears of Things, which warns us that “there is a melancholy associated with physical objects” that “is generated by the act of perception, perception of the object by the subject” so that “it is we who are to be lamented, and not the objects that evoke this emotion in us without feeling it themselves.”23 Over and against such self-referentially human melancholy, a sorrow for and by us, stands the darker sorrow of things whose feeling deeply escapes, precedes, and exceeds my own.24 Inverting Schwenger’s terms, the sorrow within the crucifixion darkness is a sorrow found, not through the act of perceiving an object, but in the passion of notseeing. It is a melancholy not generated via relation, but paradoxically revealed without exposure in the ground of its own latency, re-veiled in the painful flash of feeling that glimpses it and at once knows—somewhere within the mute feeling of feeling itself—that it cannot. The sorrow of the crucifixion darkness, a sorrow whose genitivity is perforce elided, is a dark sorrow, a sorrow that is dark to itself, as if it were a sorrow that only sorrow itself feels. Such deep, real sorrow is not properly understood as expressed or even signified by the crucifixion darkness. It is rather, with pre-relational celerity, something that is actually photographed by the darknessevent, illuminated in the seemingly impossible light through which it takes a picture of everything. Thus, instead of thinking of the dark sorrow revealed in the crucifixion as something matter either

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feels or does not feel, one must think it on the level of a sorrow that matter obscurely is, of a dark matter that is sorrow. The universal darkness of the crucifixion is not an image of all matter being made to weep, as if for three miraculous hours in Christian history the world were temporarily a panpsychist one. Nor is it the base opposite of that, a merely material spectacle poetically marking the crux of the cosmic theo-drama, the truth of which is ultimately allegorical or otherwise than the darkness event itself. The darkness is an image of something harder to envision than either. For it is equally true that the crucifixion darkness is a true image of all matter being made to weep. Or rather, it is the image of a cosmos that cries, the image of tears that are materially at the heart of its being made. In sum, the universe itself, an entity that most certainly includes your being in it, and vice versa, is the true melancholy object, the dark realm of a literally authentic melancholy, that is, sorrow humorially proper to black earth. This black earth is not only the dust wherein life clings to itself but what Eriugena calls “that invisible mystical earth and dark intelligible abyss,” namely, the domain of the primordial causes of all visible things, which is “perceived by no intellect except that which formed it in the beginning.”25 From this properly cosmic perspective, the darkness sorrowfully surrounding the Creator’s death is invisibly identical with the gaze that brings the universe into being. This primordial passivity into which the crucifixion darkness opens is visible in the impersonal affects found both within and on the surface of its representations. Clarifying this demands that we consider the non-difference between surface or secondary aspects of the representation and the actual reality of a sorrow that is too vast and deep ever to be considered as only one’s own. Again, still, we are here in the domain of a hyper-literal anagogy, of a truth that presents itself too immediately, too terribly in advance of my capacity to recognize or acknowledge anything as true. So, paralleling the unrecognized appearance of God in the world, the crucifixion darkness bears the overall paradoxical sense of an unmistakable yet unrecognized event, of a radically novel and indeed obvious happening that yet happens without being known. Like an inverted analogue of the as not of messianic time, what Agamben

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calls “the simultaneous abolition and realization of the as if” according to which old identities remain only in a new space of autoeclipse or non-coincidence with themselves, the visibility of the darkness hides in its being visibly unseen, hardly noticed, as if the world were darkened not by darkness, but by darkness’s hidden invisibility.26 The cosmos is manifestly, literally darkened, and yet the event, in its happening, happens as if it does not, via an actuality that appears to erase itself by means of its own manifestness. This aspect is communicated not only in the general feeling of historical doubt that haunts the whole tradition, with its continual demand for extra-biblical and non-Christian confirmation, but also in the interpretive narration of the darkness as simultaneously an independent cosmic event and the mirroring sign of perversely exceptional human blindness to it, so that the spectacle of all creation sorrowing also only testifies to the fact that, on the island of human identity, it strangely does not. Whereas the eyeless elemental world, like an affective avant-garde, immediately feels or sorrows for the divine passion, the human world, in the inertia of its own inner darkness, remains unmoved. As interpreted by Melito of Sardis, one of the earliest commentators to link the crucifixion darkness with sorrow, the withdrawal of light from the exposed body of the God-Man is a veiling of human vision from what everything except it sees, a blinding manifestation of its own blindness “obscuring not the body of the Lord but human eyes.”27 Thus the crucifixion darkness takes on the dimension of an impersonal affect that is both subjective and objective, a substantial common something the seeing of which coincides with not seeing it, so that darkness, beyond being the object of sightless subjective vision—seeing that one does not see—phenomenally inverts into a kind of visionless objective seeing, the palpable presence of the invisible seeing wherein the visionless visible (matter) perceives the manifest Invisible (God). The unity of this double-sided darkness, binding together the mass, blind ignorance of humans who “know not what they do” (Luke 23:34) and the universal visibility of what is happening among the nonhuman, is sorrow in the real sense of a negative identity of thought and being, specifically, a doubly inversive darkness containing in one circle thinking’s incapacity to

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see what really is and the incapacity of what cannot think to not see it. The ambivalence of this darkness is captured by Ephrem the Syrian, who identifies the Son (of God) “nailed on the cross” as “the sun which illuminates the eyes” so that “when [the crucifiers’] eyes had been darkened, their mind became a little enlightened” as they recognized that “this was the Son of God!” (se, 308). Here we clearly find expressed the weird privative doubleness of the crucifixion darkness as sorrow, its being equally a sorrow in that it is not felt, a sorrow negatively in turn for itself. The cosmic sorrow communicated in the withdrawal of light from the world intersects with the withdrawal of sorrow from those who witness it, a withdrawal that is itself an object of sorrow. The universal sorrow of the crucifixion thus appears in the mode of an inverted, extrahuman sublimity. Where the sublime definitionally concerns the human subject’s experience of the limits and impossibility of experience when encountering objects of external nature, this cosmic sorrow concerns a movement of that nature as a liminal subject around the negation of God’s seemingly impossible humanity, an experiential movement of the cosmos itself out and through the limits of the human. The divine self-dereliction accomplished in the death of the God-Man whose soul “is very sorrowful, even to death” (Mark 14:34) thus exposes the even more unbelievable profane self-dereliction of the human, the empty abandonment of itself to itself. People, despite the sorrowfulness of life, somehow remain stupidly unmoved by the plenitude of the universe passing through their very being.

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The dark matter of sorrow that surrounds the crucifixion, in the willful secrecy of matter’s being otherwise than matter, is like a perfect inverse projection of the Neoplatonic and mystical principle that the “created world . . . is the vision of God—in both senses of the word.”28 It is a reflective shadowing of the hidden fact that everything is optimally enclosed by and ordered toward the loving, omnipresent, and uncircumscribable gaze of the Infinite. Therefore, there is every reason to identify the crucifixion darkness

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with the divine image, the hyper-generative analogy in which the human, out of nothing, comes to be as the special creature capable of seeing and becoming beyond being. As explicated by Eriugena, the divine image is constituted by an ontological auto-eclipse, the brilliant obscurity of being to itself, its self-visible occlusion of essence: “the Divine likeness in the human mind is most clearly discerned when it is only known that it is, and not known what it is . . . what it is is denied in it [negatur in ea quid esse], and only that it is is affirmed” (pd, IV.73). And this essential incomprehensibility is likewise seen in all creatures so that the divine image is, as if indistinguishably, at once something properly within the human specifically and the general visibility of the image to the human within all things, a living visibility or image-being that the human, in the immanent space of its own being to itself, actually is. Fulfilling the ontic role of an entity paradisically placed in the midst of a divinely improper world, the human is the unaccountable visibility of the divine darkness, the obscure comprehensibility of the Incomprehensible and discernible indiscretion according to which the world’s non-revelation of God is not simple privation but a strange plenitude that does not not reveal God. Such an apophatic and positively negative concept of the divine image is visible in the negative epistemic aspects of the crucifixion darkness: the spiritual blindness of “they [who] know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), the radical question of divine abandonment marking the darkness’s end (Matt. 27:46), and the fearful supernatural mystery of the visible darkness itself (Matt. 27:54). Along the universal continuum connecting the hidden superessential deity to the inscrutable essences of visible nature, these dark rays of the divine image, emanations of the whatless and whyless that intersect formally with the exegetical clarification of the darkness as sorrow, withdrawal, and mystical vision—intersections which themselves show the connection between unknowing and understanding, between obscurity and the light of commentary. That the exegetical elaboration of the crucifixion darkness moves in this three-fold direction is itself an instance of the divine image, a movement wherein the commenting mind sees the divine cosmicity of its own essential obscurity reflected in the crucifixion darkness,

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for that is exactly what the divine image is: a sorrow (or negative feeling of the fact of being, the negativity of being’s being a fact), a withdrawal (of the substance or what of being vis-à-vis its supervenient facticity), and a mystical vision (in the sense of a blind seeing of a hidden something that one cannot properly see). Here we see a new literal sense of the Cloud’s factical definition of perfect sorrow, whose specialness (“most specyaly he felith mater of sorow”) is special not only in the sense of intensity or particularity but also in the more substantial sense of being constituted by image or appearance (species). Accordingly, to follow or trace these intersections between what commentary sees in the crucifixion darkness (sorrow, withdrawal, mystical vision) and the negative epistemic elements inherent to its event (spiritual blindness, the question of divine dereliction, supernatural mystery) is precisely to touch upon the identity of feeling perfect sorrow and seeing the image of matter. In other words, the interpretation of the understanding of the crucifixion darkness will show, through the negativity of interpretation’s own will, that sorrow is the species of matter, that materiality itself is the “tears of things.” First, the identification of the darkness with mystical vision corresponds with its sublime, awful spectacle, a connection embodied in the figure of Dionysius as its neither-present-nor-absent observer and originary authority on mystical apophasis or “know[ing] beyond the mind by knowing nothing.” Within the indiscrete eye of this ideal witness, the miraculousness of the “ineffable and divine miracle of the solar eclipse [divino atque ineffabili miraculo solaris eclipseos]” lies not only in its scientific inexplicability but in its mysterious point of indistinguishability from “the ray of the divine shadow.”29 In other words, Dionysius’s witnessing of the darkness communicates the otherwise invisibility of all things, “if that ineffable ray [radios ille ineffabilis] were not diffused into all, in order that all might subsist and be made one in it,” and thus also speaks to the common sense of the mystical as not supernatural experience but the secret ground of experience itself.30 What gives access to this ground, what “explains” the poetic transposability of cosmic eclipse and mystical vision within the Dionysian figure, is precisely the element of a primordial affective negativity. It is specifi-

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cally the continuity of sorrow and apophasis as twin affective and intellective reflections of the vexed and indiscernible identity of thought and being. Rendering this explicit, Dionysius, as presented in Lucas Fernández’s Auto de la Pasión (1514), a work written during the period of controversy over the humanist deconstruction of Dionysius’s authority, introduces himself in words that effectively voice and personify the patristic exegesis of the darkness as compassionate elemental sorrow: “I am Dionysius of Athens / and, when Astronomy failed me [faltarme], / I was able to feel the pain, / overflowing with sorrow [fatigas], / that this God had suffered.”31 In this moment it is as if Dionysius, exactly when the integrity of his work was in turn failing and being eclipsed by new science, is at last freed into the divine indeterminacy of identity, and suddenly able to properly name himself in a mystical way via an exegetical fictive excess that couldn’t be more true, to say what he really is by speaking himself simply as an obscure body, a dark matter that feels beyond itself and painfully knows what it properly cannot. The seventeenth-century prayer card titled “Le deffiance de soimesme” (The defiance of oneself) nicely portrays this transformation (fig. 1). As the Dionysian corpus is being philologically reduced to historical materiality, a base on which rests the severed identity of their author, the figure of Dionysius is sublimated into the sorrowful mystery of matter itself, into an obscure something whose life is perfectly founded on feeling what “it” already has and never will. Authentically displaying the creative destruction of identity that his work demands, Dionysius is now unveiled to be, as the lines from Bernard of Clairvaux cited on the card indicate, the very opposite of a fraud: “He is truly faithful who neither believes in himself nor hopes in himself, holding himself as a broken vessel.” Such self-defiance is not properly a victory over matter, but rather the utmost fulfillment of matter’s very darkness as the real analogy of intellect’s darkness to itself: “You cannot do better than to place yourself in darkness and unknowing. . . . Just as matter never rests till it is filled with every possible form, so too intellect never rests till it is filled to capacity.”32 Second, identification of the crucifixion darkness with sorrow corresponds with the spiritual blindness of the crucifiers, a blind-

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Fig. 1. Early-seventeenth-century prayer card. Image provided by George Vahamikos and used with permission.

ness that is at once specific to the event (not knowing that one is killing the God-Man) and generic to humanity (simply not knowing what one is doing). The simultaneity of the specific and general senses of this blindness make it a figure for the negative spirituality of human stupidity, the substantial coincidence of spiritual sleep and materialism, as suggested in Paul’s discussion of spiritual

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blindness in Romans 11, in which the unintelligibility of spiritual insensibility is significantly figured in terms of the absence of material cause: “Stupefy yourselves and be in a stupor, blind yourselves and be blind! Be drunk, but not with wine; stagger, but not with strong drink! For the Lord has poured out upon you a spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes” (Isa. 29:9–10, cf. Rom. 11:8). Accordingly, the sorrowfulness of the crucifixion darkness, as a visible manifestation and general projection of mass human blindness, consists precisely in its immaterial materiality, which is the form of both spiritual blindness itself and its being an object of sorrow. Generic spiritual blindness is properly represented by the general sensible privation of the sensible, because such privation expresses at once the painful material unintelligibility of spiritual blindness and the paradoxical materiality of its inherent senselessness, the fact that spiritual blindness, far from being simply a blindness to the spiritual, is as much a failure to truly or authentically see the material, as shown in Campbell’s classic critique of the non-materialist nature of consumerist materialism and in Augustine’s confessional investigation into the phantasmatic and collective character of sin. So the spectacle of cosmic sorrow, in which the entire material universe darkly mourns and refuses the event of ignorant human action, is the very image of spiritual stupidity as the inane and banally self-centered whatless and whyless that whereby our reality is diurnally mystified. The crucifixion darkness as sorrow is an impossible seeing and being moved that reflects, through perfect inversion, the inexplicable unmoving sleepy blindness of the ordinary matter-bound human who, as Bonaventure says with respect to the sensible plenitude of the world, deserves that that world itself revolt against him. At the same time, the spiritual lesson of the sorrowful darkness is, by inescapable internal necessity, as much a lesson against spiritual blindness as a lesson for the pure, loving seeing of its fact: “Father, forgive them . . .” (Luke 23:34). This seeing is love, not in the sense of sympathy or some kind of irrational affective attachment but in the sense of the self-less, direct perception of the simple fact of the matter, a factical through-seeing that is nothing but love itself, on Agamben’s definition: “Seeing something simply

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in its being-thus—irreparable, but not for that reason necessary; thus, but not for that reason contingent—is love.”33 The binding spiritual lesson of the darkness is that one is not to sorrow over the spiritual blindness of which it is the image, as doing so is only another not-knowing-what-one-is-doing no different from the spiritual darkness that one is refusing. Like the Cloud’s definition of perfect sorrow as nothing other than the most simple knowing and feeling of being itself, the crucifixion darkness thus demands experience of an obscurely self-liberating and seemingly impossible sorrow that is and is not one’s own. That there is matter or grounds for sorrow cannot be denied. That one ever ought to sorrow is absolutely deniable. The question of the cross, of actually inhabiting the cosmic darkness surrounding it, is the question of sorrowing without sorrow, of refusing evil without refusing its fact, of withdrawing from blindness without entering into the worse delusions of worry. As per Plotinus’s understanding of the correlative nonbeing of matter and evil, according to which matter “is only evil when looked at in itself and seen to be that final term of the scale of Being which is totally impotent,”34 sorrow is a negatively willful gaze into the mirror of matter, a gaze that composes materiality around the inversive curvature and perverse apparency of its own coming-to-be, the primordial evil of individuated being whose being, joined to the cosmos by separation, is indistinguishable from sorrow itself: “the being of Da-sein is care [Sorge].”35 But this matter, the neithertranscendent-nor-immanent materiality of the impossible and inevitable fact that one is, is another order of matter, a stranger matter that, unlike the incorporeal and unreal materiality of the sensible, does not have “no reality” and is not “not capable of being affected.”36 There is sorrow in you because “you” are sorrow. Such is the superlative good news, a truth bigger than the fact of God and precisely one that you cannot accept, which the crucifixion darkness, if one shows the courage to see it in its simple identity with the actual silent expanse of cosmic darkness surrounding us all, instructs you in, pointing the way back beyond the suffering of law and before the trauma of beginning. In these terms, the crucifixion darkness, as the projection of the generic spiritual blindness

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in which people live, re-presents, or rather cinematically exposes in the too-real spectacle of a representation that sees, the ordinary cosmos as a universal vale/veil of mourning: “I clothe the heavens with blackness” (Isa. 50:3). Pressing itself upon and inwardly imposing itself within the dark blankness of the human gaze, the crucifixion darkness forces the fact that this black universe, inseparable from the obscurity of your being in it, is at once the place and hiding of the place where the false lights of the world must and most paradisically fail. To the one who grasps oneself in the world but not of it, who sees that one’s own appearing is the only sorrow ever known, sorrow itself is neither a fact of life nor a response to it, but the abiding sign and constant knowledge that everything is openly enclosed or unboundedly walled, para-dised, within the world beyond. The inseparability of sorrow and matter is the perfectly superficial surface of the durable fleshlessness of the world, the hypersolid deathlessness of what, never born, dies to it, no problem. Third, identification of the crucifixion darkness with withdrawal corresponds to the radical question of divine dereliction that marks the darkness’s ending: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). Hanging in a kind of infinite suspension between the withdrawal of God and the withdrawal of matter, between the divine darkness of mystical vision and the essential darkness of everything the eye lights upon, this question voices a universal affective abyss and eternally ancient negative will whose emergence as voice spontaneously shatters all darkness in the endless light of its own inexplicable origin. Before all hermeneutic rendering and probing of the question, over and against every answering and explanation of its why, there stands the absolutely free and independent truth of the question’s own actuality, a pure actuality silencing all questions about it. Whatever the theological truth of the abandonment signified, in the intensive reality of the question, a reality more real than the real it questions, there is no abandonment whatsoever. Such is the significance of the question as the end of the cosmic darkness, that the question’s emergence marks its perfective conclusion, at once completing it and destroying it in the paradox of finality captured in John’s version of Jesus’s last words: “It is finished [τετέλεσται]” (John 28:30). The darkness is total—

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there is no more darkness. On the one hand, this radical question, the question of divine dereliction, is an absolute darkness, a negative indication of an eternal negativity. The given ground of the question is something that could not be darker, a loss of Everything that swallows all lights, all the more so if any are left after the loss. On the other hand, the question’s negative indication of its ground, the infinitely ordinary yet equally miraculous capacity of the question not only to indicate this eternal negativity, but, in the non-difference of its own substantial negativity, to speak it, is a superessential positivity, an affirmation beyond affirmation and denial. The actuality of the radical question of divine dereliction, what makes it radical in the first place, lies in its fulfillment of the superessentiality of negation, the apophatic principle that “the negations are not simply the opposites of the affirmations” (cw, 1.2, 1000b). The abyssic profundity of this question goes far beyond the transcendent mystery of its unanswerability, the insolubility of its being the opposite of a hidden answer, for that mystery is both affirmed and denied in the immanence of the question, in the still greater mystery of the question’s real remaining, a remaining that “answers” the question precisely by not answering, by remaining silent. The question silently answers itself, not propositionally, but in its own being. In being voiced, the question resurrectively survives itself so to speak, dispelling the darkness of its substance or what with the brilliantly dark light of its own fact or that. The perfect absence of an answer, the presence of silence, in the actuality of the question is the best of all possible answers. In these terms, it is imperative to take seriously and matter-of-factly exactly what seems most impossible regarding the optimal and pessimal statements defining the beginning and ending of the cosmic darkness, namely, that the today of paradise and the why of divine abandonment are the same, the very place of being with God. Similarly, to extend the auto-destructive darkness of the question to the surrounding senses of the crucifixion darkness elaborated above, the universality of the darkness is the identity of the withdrawal of matter and the withdrawal of the divine, a unitary coincidence of the essential whatlessness of everything before the superessentiality of its that. The radical question of divine abandonment is, literally

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and figuratively, the cosmically silent sorrowful voice of matter itself, a saying of absolute abandonment showing the impossibility of being so. What saves this reading of the crucifixion darkness from being only an intellectually gratifying speculative conceptualization of mystical Christian truth is the reality of sorrow itself, a reality that is the very condition of truth, as per the obverse of Ecclesiastes 1:18: he who does not increase sorrow, does not increase knowledge. For it is only in sorrow that the coincidentia oppositorum of the crucifixion becomes more than a mystical conceit, only in the actuality of tears that cosmic darkness is more than an interesting image. Like the nigredo of the alchemists, the darkness of sorrow is the creatively self-destroying term that opens the corporeal to the substantial nothingness of matter and the infinity of its immanent beyond. So at the level of mind, “it is only in the starlight of sorrow that we become conscious of other worlds.”37 As the crucifixion darkness is seen externally as a medium of stupefying, supernatural transition, so sorrow itself, internally, is a kind of supernatural or magical problem, one whose problematicity, if actually understood, abolishes all problems and inverts today into paradise. According to the Cloud, the ground of such magical contemplative mutation of the pessimal into the optimal is the brute, inescapable fact that being simply is a sorrow to itself, a sorrow cosubstantial with its own unearthly material: “but most specially he feels matter of sorrow that knows and feels that he is.”38 Ultimately, the only thing the matter with anything is the mere/pure fact of one’s being, apart from anything about one’s being. The matter of sorrow is a literally essential negativity moving between being and the experience (knowing and feeling) of being. Paradoxically, this supreme and originary sorrow is both disclosed and overcome only by assuming and entering it. As the Cloud’s author explains in another work, this is the real crucifixion—your own: “It is then that you are yourself a cross to yourself. This is the authentic exercise [trewe worching] and the way to our Lord, as he says himself: ‘Let him carry his cross.’”39 Entering and assuming the sorrow that is oneself means making it actual and new, realizing it in the authenticity or self-doing of honest, true work. This working is neither

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an activity nor an inactivity, but something outside and between doing and being whereby being overcomes itself—becomes beyond being—by means of a contrition of being, a woeful crushing and crucifixion of itself under its own weight, within a gravity of sorrow that spontaneously converts into the freest paradisiacal flight. Where melancholy is, to borrow Cioran’s phrase, “the unconscious music of the soul,” a movement of being that stays within the circuit of the self-world correlation, mystical sorrow is the soul’s conscious music, a movement of being that escapes being’s correlativeness by crucifying it to itself, by ceasing to call oneself with the names of doing and desisting to flee the torture chamber of one’s own existence.40 Being the actual commotion of a sorrowful universal passivity, the crucifixion darkness is the real manifest image of this music. Mystical sorrow, letting oneself be swallowed by this cosmic darkness, is not really your feeling of this dark, universal music. The music is the hidden, sorrowful sound of the universe feeling you.41

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Notes

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1. Eugene Thacker, “Cosmic Pessimism,” Continent 2 (2012): 68. Hereafter cited as “cp.” 2. Pseudo-Dionysius, Complete Works, trans. Colm Luibheid (New York: Paulist Press, 1987), Mystical Theology, 1.3, 1001a. Hereafter cited as cw. 3. Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, trans. E. F. J. Payne, 2 vols. (New York: Dover, 1969), 2:640. Hereafter cited as ww. 4. Mystical Theology: The Glosses by Thomas Gallus and the Commentary of Robert Grosseteste on De Mystica Theologica, ed. and trans. James McEvoy (Paris: Peeters, 2003), I.2, quoting the version of John Sarrazen; Greek quoted from Dionysius Areopagita, Opera, ed. G. Heil and A. M. Ritter (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1991). 5. See Boyd Taylor Coolman, “The Medieval Affective Dionysian Tradition,” Modern Theology 24 (2008): 615–32. 6. Hugh of Balma, Carthusian Spirituality: The Writings of Hugh of Balma and Guigo de Ponte, trans. Dennis D. Martin (New York: Paulist Press, 1997), 71.

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7. As Schopenhauer observes, touch and smell are the senses “most closely related to the will, and hence are always the most ignoble, and have been called by Kant the subjective senses” (ww, 1:200). 8. E. M. Cioran, On the Heights of Despair, trans. Illinca ZarifopolJohnston (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 34. Hereafter cited as oh. 9. John Milton, Complete Poems and Major Prose, ed. Merrit Y. Hughes (New York: Macmillan, 1957), emphasis added. 10. H. P. Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu,” in The Whisperer in Darkness (Ware UK: Wordsworth Editions, 2007), 34. 11. Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency, trans. Ray Brassier (London: Continuum, 2008), 82. 12. Lovecraft to Fransworth Wright, July 5, 1927, in H. P. Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness, intro. China Miéville (New York: Modern Library, 2005), xii. 13. On modernity’s experiential deobjectivization of mystical hermeneutics and restriction of mysticism to the “aesthetic or subjective,” see Niklaus Largier, “Mysticism, Modernity, and the Invention of Aesthetic Experience,” Representations 105 (2009): 37–60. 14. Peter Sloterdijk, Bubbles: Spheres I, trans. Wieland Hoban (Los Angeles: Semiotext[e], 2011), 629. 15. Eugene Thacker, In the Dust of This Planet (Winchester UK: Zero Books, 2011), 158. 16. Coelius Sedulius, Carmen Paschale, trans. Patrick McBrine (unpublished), V.241–42. 17. Julian of Norwich, A Revelation of Love, ch.18, lines 11–30, in The Writings of Julian of Norwich: A Vision Showed to a Devout Woman and A Revelation of Love, ed. Nicholas Watson and Jacqueline Jenkins (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), 187–88. 18. Virgil, Georgics, trans. Peter Fallon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006). 19. Ovid, Metamorphoses, Loeb Classical Library, trans. Frank Justus Miller (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968), 15.785–86. 20. Augustine, City of God, trans. Gerald G. Walsh and Grace Monahan (New York: Fathers of the Church, 1952), 3.15. 21. Saint Ephrem’s Commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron: An English Translation of Chester Beatty Syriac ms 709, trans. Carmel McCarthy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 319. Hereafter cited as se.

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22. Pope Leo I, Sermons, trans. Jane Patricia Freeland and Agnes Josephine Conway (Washington dc: Catholic University of America Press, 1996), sermon 57, Latin supplied from pl 54:330. 23. Peter Schwenger, The Tears of Things: Melancholy and Physical Objects (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006), 2. 24. Recent steps in this direction include Timothy Morton’s objectoriented melancholy (Timothy Morton, “Melancholy Objects,” audio lecture, http://archive.org/details/MelancholyObjects) and Drew Daniel’s concept of melancholy assemblage (Drew Daniel, The Melancholy Assemblage: Affect and Epistemology in the English Renaissance [New York: Fordham University Press, 2013], 12). 25. John Scotus Eriugena, Periphyseon (De Divisione Naturae), ed. I. P. Sheldon-Williams and Édouard A. Jeauneau, trans. John. J. O’Meara, 4 vols. (Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1999–2009), II.551a. Hereafter cited as pd. 26. Giorgio Agamben, The Time That Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans, trans. Patricia Dailey (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005), 42. 27. Melito of Sardis, On Pascha, trans. and intro. Alistair Stewart-Sykes (Yonkers ny: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2001), 64. 28. Thomas A. Carlson, The Indiscrete Image: Infinitude and Creation of the Human (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), 94. 29. Eriugena, Versio Operum Sancti Dionysii Aeropagitae pl 122:1032, and mt, 1.3, 1001a, respectively. 30. Paul Rorem, Eriugena’s Commentary on the Dionysian Celestial Hierarchy (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2005), 189; Latin supplied from pl 122:135. 31. Lucas Fernández, Auto de la Pasión, ed. María Josefa Canellada (Madrid: Castalia, 1976), 214, quoted in Luis M. Girón-Negrón, “Dionysian Thought in Sixteenth-Century Spanish Mystical Theology,” Modern Theology 24 (2008): 693. 32. Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, trans. Maurice O’Connell Walshe, intro. Bernard McGinn (Dayton md: Crossroad, 2009), Sermon 4, 57. 33. Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community, trans. Michael Hardt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 105. 34. John M. Rist, “Plotinus on Matter and Evil,” Phronesis 6 (1961): 162, emphasis added. 35. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. Joan Stambaugh (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996), 262.

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36. Plotinus, Enneads, III.6.7. 37. Ricard Le Gallienne, The Romance of Zion Chapel (New York: John Lane, 1898), 238. 38. Cloud of Unknowing, ed. Patrick J. Gallacher (Kalamazoo mi: Medieval Institute Publications, 1997), ch. 44. 39. A Letter of Private Direction, ch. 8, in The Pursuit of Wisdom and Other Works by the Author of the Cloud of Unknowing, trans. and ed. James Walsh (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), 237. Middle English supplied from English Mystics of the Middle Ages, ed. Barry Windeatt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 95. 40. E. M. Cioran, Tears and Saints, trans. Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 104. 41. “Music” is not used here metaphorically, but as a categorical term for the willful being-in-motion of being, its being always something beyond and in excess of being, an excess necessarily understood in the negative, as shown by the nature of indication and realized in self-denial.

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Cartographies of Style Asignifying, Intensive, Impersonal

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Translated by Suzanne Verderber

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Style sweeps away, infiltrates, and overturns the signifying components of language, producing new percepts, surprising and splendid individuations, at five in the afternoon, an afternoon in the steppe.1 Taking this position, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari counter the tendency in art and literature to turn style into an operator of identity. No longer treating style as the marker of a unitary signification, of a personal origin, or of a defined genre, they redefine it as asignifying, impersonal, and intensive. Nevertheless, there is nothing uncertain or reactive about these subtractive formulations, whose critical impact ignites a creative explosion. Indeed, of what does style consist? In literature or in art history, style usually exercises a personological, identifying, and signifying function, sorting exceptional works from unimpressive or minor ones. Style is the hallmark of a habit that refers to an average level of language use or of art production, and personifies the genius artist in possession of a unique, transcendental ego who, in the classic version, deploys the norm in an exceptional way, or, in the romantic version, creates the norm. Exemplarity or exception: the normative strategy of style reveals itself in this process of distinguishing major works from minor ones. Even if we ignore its ten-

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dency to establish hierarchies and we consider only its descriptive function, style establishes a repertoire of morphological forms and classifies by subsuming and identifying a plurality of objects under a common label. Any application of a label is part and parcel of this double movement of affiliation and exclusion; in this case as well, style serves to identify a difference, but a difference only as a form of identity. Style thus depends entirely upon a political epistemology of normativity: a principle of identification, it acts as a unifying form, molding creation, regulating the production of works and of their statuses in the genealogical and capitalist mode of appropriation, filiation, and inheritance, reproducing the logic of persons and goods. The history of style constitutes a veritable policing of attribution and authentication, one that functions vertically, through the ordering of a hierarchy of works, genres, and epochs, as well as horizontally, through the designation of a zone of spatiotemporal placement, of inclusion, and of material transmission. Style is thus caught up in a theory of individuation, politically and theoretically favoring the personal, the unitary, the stable norm, the established trait. Beyond its function of classification and attribution, it judges the quality of works in order to exclude or to condemn, to disqualify or to normatize: style is an archetype factory.2 Deleuze and Guattari completely transform the question of style by reexamining style from two points of view: the individuation of any enunciation whatsoever and individuation in creation. Style does indeed engage in a process of individuation, but it does not function according to the model of an author who is the original, proprietary owner of his or her traits, organically centered on his or her ego.3 Throughout his work, including that done in collaboration with Guattari, Deleuze favors a different model of individuation, one that is modal rather than substantial and that is defined not as a body, a subject, a form, or an organ but rather as an event, what he terms a “haecceity.” These modal individuations of the type at five in the afternoon are defined by their capacity to affect and to be affected, that is, as longitudes or compositions of relations of force, complex relations of variable speeds (speeding up and slowing down), but also as latitudes, variations in power, and affective vicissitudes.

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This new politics of individuation transforms stylistics and reverberates in linguistics, literature, and in all fields of art and explains why Deleuze often speaks of non-style in order to emphasize the polemical aspect of an “absence of style” that he defines as “the inspired power of a new literature”:4 “but you have to be careful with people who supposedly ‘have no style’; as Proust noted, they’re often the greatest stylists of all.”5 Of what, then, does this non-style consist? Didn’t the romantics already execute this pirouette by defining style as a variation of the genre, as a genius anomaly that simply reverses the formula of allegiance to the norm, at the cost of a symmetrical and shameful conformity? Deleuze’s affirmation of minor non-style does not prevent him (or Guattari, for that matter) from privileging Artaud or Beckett, Michaux or Kafka, or from multiplying arbitrary lists: Kleist but not Goethe, Artaud instead of Carroll. This is the paradox of the minor: to proclaim that great style entails the minorization of the norm immediately raises the minor to the status of the major. The challenge is thus to explain the atypical success without normalizing it. Style thereby opens the question of singularity, in art and in language, of creation as an event as well as of the mode of explanation appropriate to it.

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Of what, then, does style consist? First, it neither lies on a semantic plane nor depends upon a composition of signifieds, even if literature is situated on a discursive plane. Deleuze joins “authors referred to as ‘structuralists’ by recent practice” in acknowledging the mutation affecting all systems of signs, including linguistic ones: meaning does not emanate from a consciousness imprinting its signification, but rather from an impersonal production of asignifying elements.6 The linguistics of Jakobson, the anthropology of Lévi-Strauss, and the psychoanalysis of Lacan all effect a displacement from a theory of overarching signification to one of material production, in which signifiers and signifieds do not have meaning in themselves and only gain meaning by reacting to one another. Meaning no longer emerges from the depths of consciousness or

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from the heights of logical essences. Similarly, style operates on the plane of the textual machine, on the plane of syntax and not that of discursive significations: it is asignifying. Deleuze does not simply adopt the structuralist hypothesis, however; he specifies that style, like meaning, is a surface effect. He became interested in the structural analysis of literature, such as that associated with the Tel Quel group or exemplified in Jakobson’s and Lévi-Strauss’s reading of Baudelaire’s poem “Les chats,” which focuses exclusively on the text, not on the biography of the author or on the comparative history of literary ideas.7 But Deleuze and Guattari quickly broke with structural analyses through their conception of sense. As a secondary, machinic effect, sense is composed on a plane that is not punctured by any transcendent opening exterior to the system. The sign “chair” functions neither through resemblance nor through denotation: it does not derive its meaning from any exterior reality, but neither does it manifest the psychological state of the speaker’s soul or the logical essence of the concept (the “chair in itself,” aimed at by the mind). It functions in an immanent mode, being produced as a position on a surface in the system of language, through a combinatory play of terms that in themselves are asignifying, phonemes and syntagms that become actualized differentially (pronouncing “chair” instead of “chore”; specifying “chair” and not “couch”). Along with Guattari, Deleuze accepts this structural, epistemological transformation, but only by displacing it: between words and things, a new domain of idealities opens up, collective and unconscious, structured but not transcendent, constrained by empirical realities but not identical to them. In spite of this, this is not a symbolic plane and does not function as a closed system, even though it is immanent. These two specifications undermine structuralist positions, rendered all the more destabilizing by the Guattarian transition from structure to the machine, which marked the end of Deleuze’s interest in structural analysis. At the start of his collaboration with Guattari, Deleuze began to energetically reject any notion of structure as a given ideality, instead proposing that a structure must be produced and that its ideal relations must be explained in terms of diagrams, not structures. Style depends upon a

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plane of production of meaning endowed, as on a symbolic plane, with a power of internal organization capable of conferring a relational value to the asignifying elements that it distributes systematically. Nevertheless, it also entails a kind of signature, the singularity of the production of meaning, which can be ordinary or exceptional without affecting its definition. The baroque, the style of an epoch; Anglo-American literature as distinguished from the French novel; a line by Michaux: these are examples of styles on different scales, but they are no less singularized for that reason. Each style must be understood as the individuation of a virtual differentiation, completely shifting the terms of the debate. Guattari and Deleuze no longer make the cut between the Imaginary, Symbolic, and Real, concepts that follow an anthropomorphic logic centered on the psychological split between the Imaginary individual and the collective Symbolic, both in turn separated from the Real. They privilege a new division, one concerning modalities that are connected to but also disjointed from the Real: the present actual and the differential virtual, the two aspects of difference. The Symbolic is transformed into virtual differentiation, into distributions of singularities, and is no longer opposed to the Real, but only to the empirical enunciation that it determines. Style thus consists of a diagram, an operational set of singularities that can be mapped or for which a formula may be specified. Style evokes a signature, such as that of the painter Francis Bacon, who favored the technique of isolating figures on abstract backgrounds strewn with the inchoate perspectives and larval scenery.8 Nevertheless, there is nothing personal about this map, which depends neither on the artist’s fantasy or experience nor on any general property of his syntax. Style, simultaneously real and virtual, signs a work, but in an impersonal mode. In a second, equally distinct displacement, the system of signs thus diagrammed is no longer seen as a closed system. Of course, deprived of their referents (i.e., their extrinsic signification) and bereft of essence (i.e., their intrinsic signification), the value of the terms in question depends exclusively upon their position in the system. It is no longer a question of discerning relations of resemblance between real things, but of producing a system of differ-

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ential intervals between terms that have no signification in and of themselves, and which only acquire their sense through this play of positions. Like meaning, style is produced in this topological and relational mode. Because it is a function of the position elements occupy in a constrained, combinatory apparatus, style is always the effect of an immanent game, of a machinery, of a machination: of an unconscious, social, and collective machinic production. Nevertheless, adopting Mallarmé’s dictum that “all thought is a throw of the dice!,” Deleuze opens the system of signs to the aleatory pulsations of style. Any production of meaning proceeds by means of a distribution that shuffles and deals out thought as if in a chance encounter, a shock, a throw of the dice. In such a configuration, meaning is no longer taken as given but is actualized in a contingent emission of singularities—the dice that are thrown— and derives no longer from fixed and preestablished sedentary divisions or from an originary parceling out of sense into established meanings. Aleatory and only coming afterward, it is produced as a contingent actualization. While Deleuze had been open to the structuralist approach to literature in 1967, he emphatically rejected it after the beginning of his collaboration with Guattari. Deleuze and Guattari thereby dissociated themselves not only from structuralism and formalism (Jakobson, Ruwet, Ricardou), with hermeneutics and biographical interpretation whether inspired by psychoanalysis or not (Marthe Robert, Roman des origines et origines du roman), but also from philosophies of language still inspired by Heidegger, which they find in Blanchot, Foucault, and Derrida. No longer proceeding from an already-existent distribution of significations present in a closed system, sense becomes an event. It follows that any singular emission of meaning marks the signature of a style. This consequence, perfectly elaborated in The Logic of Sense, is reinforced with the transition from structure to the machine, theoretically elaborated by Guattari and worked out practically in that new collective assemblage, the Deleuze-and-Guattari-writingmachine that explodes any notion of a unitary author. Style opens onto a synthesis, to be sure, but a disjunctive synthesis. It creates differences and not identities, bearing no trace of a distinct for-

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mal structure; it is an assemblage, practical and no longer formal, impersonal and no longer identified with a sovereign individual. The authority of style becomes collective, bound up with its real individuation, assembling and plotting its imperfect gestures of formalization with a kind of joyous impertinence and ludic impropriety. As an assemblage, style no longer possesses the character of experience or of a defined grammaticality; now, it is an event, like meaning, cutting across words and things, composing unheard-of individuations through completely new syntactic usages. From this perspective, the only difference between artistic, literary, philosophical, and scientific creation concerns what these discourses produce: philosophy strives to create concepts, while literature more often proceeds through provoking the variability of perceptions and the contagiousness of affects. Nevertheless, it is important not to draw these lines too definitively since art, literature, philosophy, and science all possess the capacity to produce new individuations, with their personae and their respective modes of experimentation. Style in art and philosophy, and in science as well, lies in the creation of such individuations, completely differentiated and new, which consequently do not preexist their enunciation or their semiotic effectuation. This is the “transductive” function of style, to appropriate Simondon’s felicitous expression, for transduction is truly invention in that transduction provokes a system to enter a new state, an unpredictable change of phase, so that the terms “achieved by the operation do not preexist this operation.”9 Any style thereby actualizes the virtual potentialities of individuation. To briefly summarize the different stages of this conceptualization of style, and to mark the decisive importance of the collaboration with Guattari, in the 1964 version of Proust and Signs, Deleuze observed that “style is not the man; style is essence itself,” and defined this essence, in the 1970 version, as the “formal structure of the work” (ps, 48, 111). In the 1976 version, “style is never a matter of a man, it is always a matter of essence (nonstyle),” but this essence or “formal structure” is henceforth defined as “transversality,” Guattari’s signature concept, which marks a decisive break with centered forms of organization, with vertical hierarchies and

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their horizontal correspondences, and which torques structure on its machinic diagonals and anarchic connections (ps, 167). In defining style as transversality, Deleuze doesn’t merely acknowledge his collaborative writing practice with Guattari; rather, he is integrating this new definition, elaborated in 1975 in Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, into the erudite apparatus of his reading of Proust: “we believe only in one or more Kafka machines that are neither structure nor phantasm.”10 Deleuze does not hesitate to depart from a semantic formalism toward a definition of style as a political machine that propels language into a state of continuous variation. Once style is no longer founded on a personal Imaginary or a general Symbolic, it becomes an event, a protocol for experimentation freed from interpretation and meaning. Dispensing with any hermeneutics of meaning or experience, as well as any formal signifying system, Deleuze and Guattari no longer view style as the key to the encoding of the work. It no longer suffices to define the typical (or general) formula of a work; instead, it becomes necessary to extend its functioning outward to the network of social semiotics in order to understand the singularity of a style as an enunciation, as the individuation of a real assemblage of enunciation, and as a performance. Henceforth, style in language or in art may no longer be viewed as a closed system, while at the same time linguistics loses its position as the unique model of reference for explaining styles, including literary ones. Of course, this is not to claim that structural or semantic traits may no longer be located within literature, or to accuse linguistics of incompetence; instead, linguistics loses its position of dominance once the status of the sign has been transformed, when it ceases to be understood in terms of identity in order to be comprehended as difference. This opening of style to variation follows the logic of the rhizome: connection through heterogeneity, and thereby through multiplicity, and thus through asignifying rupture (without which, connections would homogenize difference). This is relevant for all signs, including linguistic signs, which cannot be isolated from the other signs with which they establish connections, those codings that are material, biological, social, and so forth. The mixed semiotics of the rhizome privileges no one type

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of sign, instead insisting upon their real interaction, which theory cannot neglect. What is relevant for literature is also relevant for the other arts, whether or not they are discursive. Style connects to its context: as a machine, a collective assemblage of enunciation, it becomes free indirect discourse.

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The Collective Assemblage of Enunciation and Free Indirect Discourse

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Deleuze and Guattari thus call for an elimination of the distinction between stylistics and linguistics, and between high and low uses of language. The disturbance produced by the work of art is not due to its superiority, its ineffable greatness, but to its power of indetermination; that which will be retrospectively considered “great style” is in reality produced “when the grammatical situation that will become common next does not exist,” as Pasolini so aptly puts it.11 Personological theories that define style in terms of exceptional genius, whose designation of “pure” genius is politically suspect, are theoretically supported by the hypothesis that a normal, average level of language exists, a dominant norm of spoken or literary language that functions as a correct standard in the midst of which the atypical style carves out its idiolect. Refuting this conception of an average, normal, major grammaticality, Deleuze and Guattari turn style into an experiment in minorization and elaborate their theory of creation as intensive variation.12 As opposed to Blanchot, Foucault, and Derrida, who, following Heidegger, focus their analyses of language on poetry, Guattari demonstrated a sustained interest in linguistics (The Machinic Unconscious, 1979), which is taken up in A Thousand Plateaus (in “Postulates of Linguistics”). Guattari, and Deleuze along with him, were spurred to take an interest in sociolinguistics and the productions of ordinary language through this radical rupture with a focus on poetry as the sole bearer of a metaphysical burden and as an exception to ordinary discourse (an elitist, Mallarmean position). Deleuze and Guattari’s break with the Heideggerian fascination shared by Blanchot, Foucault, and Derrida became total with the attention Deleuze always maintained in relation to Proust’s definition of lan-

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guage as foreign language, and to sociolinguistics, which in turn led them to focus on the poetics of ordinary language (Bakhtin, Pasolini) and postcolonial problematics (Fanon, Edouard Glissant). Deleuze and Guattari refute the hypothesis of a major norm of language in the “Postulates of Linguistics,” returning to their analyses from Kafka and extending them from literary style to linguistics and to the ethology of creation. With the refutation of the postulate that language is organized around a given grammatical standard, linguistics and stylistics can no longer be hierarchized as a theory of speaking and speaking well. The stylistic exception will no longer be considered refined usage, in accordance with the communitarian theory of free indirect discourse. In proposing that language is composed of minor variations, Deleuze and Guattari demonstrate that a real speaker who actualizes a dominant grammatical invariant does not exist, except in order to raise such a speaker to the level of a methodological principle in the form of figure of domination who is, above all, a marker of social power (in embodying the social standard of good usage). They thus refuse the Chomskyian premise that “language can be scientifically studied only under the conditions of a standard or major language,” because “constants or universals of language” do not exist that would permit it to be defined “as a homogeneous system.”13 In his studies of idiolects of black English in New York City, Labov demonstrates that the variations between and within them are so plural that they cannot be reduced to a unitary system; we thus must change the very concept of system and relinquish the fiction of language in itself as a closed system, condensed in its formal purity, crystallized in its generative structure. With the toppling of these two postulates, others fall: that of the internalist postulate of information or communication, whereby language transmits given significations between individualized speakers, as well as the structural postulate of a language that has no recourse to any extrinsic factor. Linguistics must not misrecognize its social and pragmatic conditions of existence to the point of representing itself as a homogeneous system, since all languages are continually worked over by a host of forces: political and social fractures; scientific developments; regional, archaic, and modernizing variations; and ap-

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propriations, idiolects, agglutinations, and other amalgams. Therefore, the very notion of system must change, taking variation as its constitutive dimension. In opening up the supposedly isolated, closed, and unified structure of language to the assemblages that work it over in reality, Deleuze and Guattari take up and extend speech act theory. They do not find it sufficient to say, along with Austin, that “saying is doing,” but instead develop this performative linguistics into a real pragmatics, one that no longer cuts language off from concrete collective assemblages of enunciation. For it is not possible to understand the functioning of language if language is artificially isolated from the other material, political, and theoretical systems with which it interacts. It is thus necessary to move toward a new theory of the system, as a system in variation. In refuting the four postulates of major linguistics, all founded on a notion of formal purity, Deleuze and Guattari delineate the semiotic conditions of minor style: every style is mixed and heterogeneous, because we no longer seek to reduce style to a constitutive matrix or a closed, unitary structure, or to reduce its singular signature to a formal encoding, whose generative formula we could determine once and for all. To do so would be to confuse style with a principle of repetition. No style is identical to itself or in any way homogeneous: discursive style is never purely about language (nothing in language is) and may not be separated from its context of enunciation and reception, its real assemblage. Style should not be represented as circulating or transmitting lofty meanings, specific information, or literal communications. Style “en-signs,” like language, constituting its repertoire of meaning with asignifying materials, violently imposing its order words on ordinary language, which it twists following its conception of good usage (first postulate). No more than a language, a style does not consist of a closed, structurally pure system of signs that would adhere to an isolationist and archaic conception of identity (second postulate). No identity may be defined in a purely internal mode. The language machine always extends outward to political actuality, and this is true of style as well. From this it follows that (third postulate) style cannot be reduced to a petrified axiomatic wherein constants of any kind allow for the extraction of a consistent core

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of generative rules. This observation does not amount to a call for a renunciation of science (fourth postulate), just of the weak and contested concept of formalization that identifies the logic of truth with a closed system and postulates that one can only know a given grammaticality as a homogeneous system. Such a conception of language or of style seeks a generative, structural invariant, and derives it, as does Chomsky, from the mental structure of the subject. Despite its imposing formal apparatus, this concept nevertheless boils down to a truism: the major is that which a dominant or authorized speaker deems major. Looked at this way, any attempt to isolate a style, even in the case of a Rimbaud, degenerates into the validation of a correct standard, which in turn imposes itself as the new dominant norm. Stylistic variation thus comes to be understood as creativity, an intensive placing-into-variation of the stratified forms of language. It no longer crystallizes around an internal axiomatic, but may be defined as an operation, a mixing, a hybridization at the border. Such variation is not the prerogative of great artists or stylists, but constantly affects the most ordinary uses of languages. Style must therefore be understood in its thickness and polytonality as free indirect discourse, discourse within discourse. The analysis of free indirect discourse, initiated by Bakhtin and taken up by Pasolini, inspired Deleuze and Guattari to define style as variation. Following Bakhtin, Pasolini privileged indirect expression because it allowed for the dynamic interaction of heterogeneous discursive dimensions. Free indirect discourse refers to a layered enunciation in which the discourse to be transmitted and that which serves as the means of transmission are simultaneously present and distinguished: it is a discourse within a discourse. Bakhtin considered it to be of exceptional methodological interest but also wrongly neglected, because it includes the sociological axis of speech in its enunciation, and through this fact demonstrates the collective character of speech.14 Free indirect discourse, which demonstrates the real sociological thickness of discourse in its polytonality, paves the way for Guattari’s concept of the collective assemblage of enunciation. This polytonality allows us to comprehend creativity within languages: “inventing words, break-

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ing up syntaxes, inflecting significations, producing new connotations,” these are not just the prerogative of the major poet, but also of any everyday speaker of the language.15 It is here that Deleuze and Guattari’s analyses rejoin those of Foucault, but in their own unique fashion: the “anonymous murmur” (“The Order of Discourse”) is not beyond prose (the Heideggerian Open), but is the zone of transformation of a collective assemblage of enunciation where stereotypy (production of existence) and creation coincide. Accordingly, style transcends the distinction between minor and major, between ordinary speech and extraordinary style, and therefore, between linguistics and stylistics; here, we seek to understand the ordinary and the exceptional in order to explain the passage between them without resorting to the argument of authority, which establishes poetic license as a new major norm. Indeed, what needs to be explained is minorization, the production of a singularity. Pasolini, the poet, proposes that the infinitive of narration, for example, is a humble epic form, one that is communitarian and sociological and that effects a linguistic lowering, bringing poetry closer to prose; in this way, he defines the conditions of an enunciation that precede its grammatical conditions (he, 79–80). There is nothing mysterious about this overtaking of the norm by style. Free indirect discourse allows those who do not yet speak to speak, sociologically assuming a revolutionary short circuit between allegedly elevated language and the ordinary vernacular. As Pasolini explains, Cantos XXV and XXVI of Dante’s Inferno vibrate with this invention of a language, soldering theological Latin to the Italian of the Florentine bourgeoisie to create a completely new mode of expression (he, 82–83). It is not only a question of varying the minor and major thresholds of a language to show how syntactic invention expresses the intolerable, the visionary pathos of existing social modes. It is also a question of insisting that creation occurs on the fringes of the minorization of the major. Deleuze, in Cinema II, echoes these analyses in calling for a people who are missing: to write or to create, not in order to represent a people to come or a hypothetical future in the style of the avant-gardes, not to speak in the place of but before and in favor of the aphasic minors, those who cannot be heard, the imperceptible people “to come,” the in-

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significant, the negligible, “before the animals who die”;16 to speak in the name of impersonal, asignifying becomings. If language in general is an exercise in minorization, it does not follow that every speaker is a poet: stylistic success broaches the ordinary habits of speech without appealing to any factor that transcends the linguistic fact. Here also Deleuze and Guattari merge with Pasolini’s exquisite linguistic analyses: through its function of depersonalization of the utterance, in conjunction with its diagnostic capacity, free indirect discourse becomes a syntactic mode of transformation initiated by literature. Current lexical or poetic creations do not depart from an average or correct language, but emerge from the collusion between different social levels of expression and through elision of the level assumed to be average. The epistemological fiction of grammaticality in Chomsky’s scheme reveals its status as a concrete operator of real domination, one that proscribes deviant uses by imposing a dominant norm, the norm of speaking well. This is why the analysis of style is so delicate: our admiration tends to elevate any minor variation to a dominant norm. By contrast, as soon as the average, grammatical level of a major language is elided, phenomena of minorization propagate within all linguistic usages and prevent us from isolating literary creation in its own separate sector, without at the same time confusing it with current usage. Style is thus constructed neither on a median nor on a superior level of linguistic usage, but rather shatters humble and refined, low and high, and good and bad usage, in all directions, according to the different mannerisms that are connected and co-present in every language. Whether these mannerisms function through sobriety and subtraction or by expressive proliferation, all variations are welcome and none is a priori preferable. To label a “poor” language as “poor” or “excessive” stems from a certain malevolence of linguists; in reality, to subtract, to cut out, to overload, or to place in variation are all aspects of one and the same operation: minorization. What is essential is neither in the minor language nor in the standard or major language, but “in language X which is nothing other than language A in the process of really becom-

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ing language B” (he, 98; tp, 106). This is the definition of style: all style operates through mannerism, that is, through variation. The theory of free indirect discourse and that of a sober mannerism leads us to reassess the distinction between minor style and major style, a distinction that remains pertinent but only relative, and which can be deceptive if it validates any major or minor state in itself. It is essential to avoid uselessly reifying these statuses as if they concern two styles, or even two usages of style. In reality, what is at issue is the coexistence of two epistemological regimes, two opposed politics of language, which do or do not hypostasize the capacity of the norm to be reified into a social marker, but which only a preference for maintaining the major/minor binary can concretize into a real opposition. No major style exists outside of these very real phenomena of domination, which elevate a minor style of whatever kind to the provisional status of a dominant norm, all the while impoverishing it through scholarly redundancy. Deleuze and Guattari can thus simultaneously hold, first, that all real becomings are becomings-minor, and second, that it is necessary to struggle against the very real phenomena of domination of the major. The dual couple major/minor might allow us to think that styles are either ordinary or exceptional, and in essence dominant or subaltern in themselves, but this is another trap. Instead, the concrete oscillation between minor and major demonstrates the necessity of acknowledging the continuous variation that produces both of them as adverse and variable poles, as tensors. Any empirical style can be considered remarkable or ordinary, major or minor, according to the circumstances, not because the appreciation of style is relative, but because, in matters of style, the “fluctuation of the norm replaces the permanence of a law.”17 Style becomes mannerist rather than essentialist: it is an event that effectuates its remarkable singularity in a minor mode, and becomes ordinary when it is imposed as a major norm. Carmelo Bene, in his Richard III, demonstrates the necessity, when rendering homage to a great author like Shakespeare, of setting the author’s formulae in variation, lest they be reduced to cultural ornaments, fetishes. Otherwise, “we pretend to recognize and admire, but in fact we normalize.”18 This is the paradox of style: it is impossible to love and admire

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works or authors without immediately reducing them to impaled figurines arranged on the patrimonial shelves of the cultural canon. It should not be surprising, then, if style violently lays claim to a theory of amputation, deformity, and creative anomie. All creation is subtractive.

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Intensive Variation and Impersonal Power

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Henceforth, style will be defined as placing language in intensive variation. This is why it is always defined as a line of flight implying intensive variation, an agrammatical, becoming-minor or becoming-animal of language, in other words, a creative transformation of syntactical materials and conditions of enunciation. Now style becomes a tension that puts language into relation with its intensive border: unformed matter, musical sound, or asignifying cry, in other words, the deterritorialization of sense that carries language to its limits. For Deleuze, the limit is never the place where language stops; rather, the limit is situated at the point of the disjunctive bifurcation from which an individuation proceeds: this is where one encounters the body without organs of language, where literature imposes its asignifying power and semiotic efficacity. The minor affects the intensive border of phonetics and the political boundary of accepted grammatical usage, as for instance when Kafka imposes a Yiddish mannerism upon Goethe’s German or a Czech idiom that torques German, not toward the superfluity of Meyrink’s baroque mannerism, but toward a poverty, an aridity, an intense sobriety. Creation is always subtractive: style culls from language its conventional conditions of equilibrium in order to try out a new assemblage, imposing a becoming-minor upon language. This becoming allows us to define style intensively, as agrammatical stuttering and as foreign language, and which strives to attain the limit of a becoming-minor, a becoming-animal, a body without organs with regard to the rhythms of speech, linguistic organization, and strangeness [l’étrangeté du style]. In all cases, language is transported to a plateau of variable intensity. Style is defined as a placing of language into variation at the very heart of speech, in accordance with the Proustian maxim, “Great works of

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literature are written in a kind of foreign language,” the formula to which Deleuze refers throughout his work, and which serves as a kind of epigraph to Essays Critical and Clinical, Deleuze’s final work devoted to literature. This asyntactic, agrammatical stuttering, this foreign language, should not be confused with an affectation of speech, as if what is at stake in style were the imitation of a disorganization of language or the abuse of a cliché in order to gain creative inspiration. It is not a question of imposing a rule of bad usage of speech, but of carving out within language a minor usage that extracts from language its elements of power and domination, and which reorganizes all of language according to a virtual tension, which must be traced on its asyntactical borders precisely because it does not already exist. If Kafka’s work is exceptional, it is because the newness of his style is one with its original investigation (and this investigation is not a “literary” one in the sense of a quest for conformity with the major codes of literature) into the real tissue of the social. Literature becomes a physics of affects, a social ethology. The writer is not defined by his or her predilections in modifying the arbitrary and subjective rules of the literary code, or even by his or her designation as minor in a linguistic or sociocultural sense. In this latter sense, it would suffice to adopt a minor pose in order to be guaranteed to produce a work of art, which would once again only transform the minor into a major prescription. Despite these caveats, style is not undefinable; it is rather unpredictable and immanent, irreversible and improbable, assuming the traits of the event.19 It may be characterized by its lack of affectation, its urgency, its affective power, and by the contagious virulence of its capacity to depict the way it is affected by social physics of time. The analysis of style thus offers a decisive confirmation of the critique of personal individuations. No primordial I, no substantial cogito possessing the power to initiate a discourse lurks beneath an enunciation. The subject-position is produced by the enunciation itself, and when the subject of the enunciation, he or she who speaks, is arbitrarily distinguished from the act of enunciation, when he or she is accorded the status of transcendent cause of the subject of the enunciation, of the pronoun that he or she utters,

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this occurs by means of a linguistic fiction in the service of a political strategy. In reality, the dissociation of the I that speaks from the psychological ego hinders the immanent analysis of discourse in terms of enunciations, and makes the comprehension of style as a fact of language impossible. In order to explain an effect of style without deriving it from an originary I, Deleuze insists upon the necessity of refusing Jakobson’s linguistic theory of shifters or Benveniste’s of auto-referentiality, demonstrating the complicity between these linguistic analyses and a kind of hermeneutical phenomenology, whether this be centered on the I or the You. It is not that the individuated human subject is an illusory form, but rather that, like any form, it is derivative. There are thus subjects, and even a variety of types of subjects, but they are not the origin of discourse, and are instead produced by discourse as a place within it. Subject positions thus do not appear as figures of an originary I that would be the source of the enunciation, but are the products of the enunciation in that they must be situated in the “thickness of the anonymous murmur” and transformed into an “it” or a “one,” an “it speaks” or a “one speaks,” impersonal instances of the productivity of language, modes of impersonal subjectivation.20 Benveniste’s personological linguistics, which derives language from an originary I, positioned as the initiator of discourse, in reality relies upon the linguistic fiction of the pronoun, which alone makes the subject, the person, the origin of discourse. But from 1963 on, Deleuze insists: “The question who? does not concern persons, but forces and desires.”21 Following a procedure that Deleuze deploys in all of his literary studies, stylistic analysis corrects false theoretical positions that in reality reinforce dogmatic subaltern positions: Proust, Sacher-Masoch, Artaud, Kafka, Beckett, and Blanchot each in his turn offers support to this theoretical thought. Rather than being a site of an autotelic redoubling, modern literature, Blanchot’s in particular, is marked by the dispersion of language, deploying language’s pure exteriority. Foucault expressed this perfectly in the precise analyses that he devoted to literature, and Deleuze carefully read his homage to Blanchot, “The Thought from Outside.” Literature is not an operation of “language rejoining itself to the point of its burning manifestation,” but instead

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of “language putting itself as far away as possible from itself,” a “banishment from itself,” which Blanchot both theorizes and practices: it is indeed literature that produces this surface of exteriority that exhibits thought from the outside, language deprived of its sovereign interiority (tp, 265).22 This allows us to grasp the importance of literature to Deleuze; for him, literature is a clinical exteriority that does not refer to any originary experience of a phenomenological subject. A neutral experiment, an exteriority in the third or even the “fourth person” to use Ferlinghetti’s wonderful phrase, literature substitutes itself for lived experience and definitively disavows any identification with the experience of a person, of the I-You of enunciation, in favor of an impersonal assemblage of enunciation. This impersonal assemblage indicates how style as signature (or proper name) is acquired only at the cost of a severe exercise of depersonalization, as Deleuze so often insists, in relying upon Blanchot’s superb analyses of Kafka. It was, Kafka said, the day he became capable of no longer writing I but He, that he became a writer:

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It is thus not enough for me to write: I am sad. When this is all I write, I am too close to myself, too close to my sadness, for this sadness to truly become mine in the mode of language: I am still not truly sad. It is only beginning at the moment when I happen upon this strange substitution: He is sad, that language begins to constitute itself into a sad language for me, to trace out and slowly project the world of sadness as it realizes it in itself. (pf, 29; my translation)

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This impersonal becoming in writing in no way implies a renunciation of the self; on the contrary, it creates the opportunity to infuse language with the real breath of the event. It does not constitute a mystical mortification or a deadly dispossession, but enables a violent and passionate construction that carries language to its limit, to a point of tension where defined individuations, modes of social subjectivation, form within it. For Kafka and Blanchot, as for Deleuze, the problem is not that of renouncing the I, but rather of showing how the I is produced by an indefinite neutral, a He which

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is no longer a person, but which constructs a virtual line of flight. This He carries language to the point of its disequilibrium, but also to the point of creativity, because it does not represent a substantial subject, but instead tries to map a new individuation. The “one and the he—one is dying, he is unhappy—in no way take the place of a subject, but instead do away with any subject in favor of an assemblage of the haecceity type,” as Deleuze and Guattari explain (tp, 265). That is a style: not to reterritorialize statements onto persons, centering language upon an alleged, abstract point of origin, a transcendental I given as a substantial subject, but, on the contrary, to elongate syntax in order to allow it to be traversed, to carry it to its exteriority, which is not an extension but an extreme point of transformation, a threshold of metamorphoses. Deleuze and Guattari thus propose a grammar of haecceity, an impersonal syntax that corresponds to this intensive individuation and that opposes Aristotelian logic characterized by its propositional model of judgment (a substantial subject + the copula “to be” + an accidental predicate [e.g., “Socrates is bald”]). A semiotics freed from these models of structural signification and personal subjectivations can take the form of an intensive proposition wherein the indefinite article and the proper name replace the substantial subject, and the infinitive form of the verb replaces the copula and its predicate. This is the semiotics that Deleuze and Guattari propose in A Thousand Plateaus: “indefinite article + proper name + infinitive verb” (tp, 263). The indefinite, the proper name, the infinitive, and the conjunction make up this telegraphic, intensive, and asyntactical style, which defines the polytonality of style and its capacity to capture heacceities, events, at five in the afternoon, an afternoon in the steppe. Haecceities carve out individuations that are unexpected but not at all imperfect, individuations composed of variations in speed (speeding up and slowing down) and variations in power, and which do not have a substantial I for an origin. Everything depends upon this philosophical decision: Will the statement individuate itself in the manner of an event or of a subject? For Deleuze as for Guattari, it is the definite article and the verb conjugated in the first person that suffer from indeterminability, because they do

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not pertain to real processes but exclusively to those that occur in name only. The indefinite article and the infinitive of the verb do not lack determination; rather, they reveal the impersonal power of individuation, which in turn reveals the ability to neutralize the indetermination of the socially fabricated person, to replace this dogmatic artifact with a creative individuation, which determines the singular.23 Such is the transductive function of art: to infuse syntax with intensity; to disturb and minorize stable, normative structures and strata; to reintroduce the aleatory into cultural codes by tracing a virtual line of flight that does not preexist its operation. Vaporizing already-constructed identities, the indefinite infuses language with the power of the event and bears witness to the fact that its purpose is not to represent socially defined persons, social redundancies, or the familiar cast from our preschool alphabet books, but instead to capture new existences in order to topple syntax, to expand its power to make us experience new affects. Just as the pronoun refers to an impersonal individuation, the infinitive form of the verb refers to the undivided time of becoming, accelerations and decelerations themselves independent of the chronological or chronometric modes that time adopts elsewhere, this very division corresponding to the Stoic distinction between Chronos and Aion. The infinitive is becoming, eluding the present of Chronos and flowing into the disjunctive time of Aion, a past-future that does not become stabilized in a subject. As Bréhier has demonstrated, the Stoics struggled against Aristotelian logic, understanding the attributes of beings not as epithets that marked their property but as verbs that indicate their becomings.24 As soon as we come to think of individuation as haecceity and not as a personal subject, the verb expresses itself in the infinitive, slides to the participle, and in a way includes its mode of individuation in its actualization.25 The mannerism of variation (And) replaces the essentialism of predicative logic (Is): the point is not to target the essence of Being but to unfold the variation of becomings. Language no longer states that the accident is a property of the subject, but rather heralds intensive variation as the impersonal production of subjectivity, as a perspective that produces together, in language,

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the positions of the object and subject that did not preexist their formulation. The grammar of the haecceity thus prefers the impersonal adjective to the personal pronoun, replaces the definite article by an indefinite power. This is the meaning of Deleuze’s enigmatic maxim, “Immanence? . . . a life . . . ,” which substitutes for the predicative copula “is” the iterative conjunction “and”: a life contains nothing but the singularities that it actualizes in this iterative mode. These paradoxical antidotes are required to infuse language with the capacity to capture new individuations and events. Here, the theory of the proper name receives its definitive articulation and allows us to come to a conclusion concerning the singularity of style as a signature: style-as-signature does not designate a personal subject, but the mode of individuation of a haecceity, a complex relation of variable speeds and variations of power. This theory of proper names was already implicit in the theory of minor style and the becoming-impersonal of the author. This is what signs style as intensive singularity, and consequently as individuation within language, not in the mode of a personal individual, but as an instance, an event. This is why the proper name is not a subject of a tense but the agent of an infinitive: it traces the new coordinates for a cartography of bodies. Far from functioning as a label for a preexisting entity, it invents a capture of force that produces a new individuation as a becoming or a process.26 The proper name designates this singular capacity of existence, a power that does not refer to an already-given human subject but to a bundle of forces (a symptom, as Deleuze will call it in the era of Sacher-Masoch), which refers neither to the permanence of a knowledge nor to the identity of a substance. It opens the generality of a word onto the singularity of its act of enunciation, revealing the singularity of any linguistic act. Singularity is not the individual, and the proper name is neither a generic term nor a symbolic articulation of an empirical reality, but is rather an effect, not in a causal sense, but in the sense of a perceptive effect: the proper name Roberte in Klossowski’s work first of all indicates a difference in intensity before referring to a person, marking the impersonal bundling of a singular haecceity, of a potential of singularity. These effects are designated by a proper name; they arrange a ty-

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pology of powers and turn the history of literature into a table of symptoms: “the Kafka effect”; the “Carroll effect” (ls, 70; n, 34). The proper name is thus a symptomological composite that refers to a typology of forces. It does not require a support in any personal identity, and implies a depersonalization that opens out onto the multiplicities that traverse it (latitude) and the intensities that wander across it (longitude). Agrammatical and telegraphic style must then be seen as positive means of saying haecceity, and not as a result of psychic disorganization or of a process of decomposition. By refusing to reduce style to a personal biographical composite, imaginary or symbolic, or to identify the author with personal experience, Deleuze does not thereby intend to abandon the concept of the author, but rather to transform it. The name of the author no longer refers to a personal interiority, an individuated ego, but is, as Deleuze repeats in formulas that he takes up again and again, the nexus of an effect, of a proper name, which itself entails a process of depersonalization. It is precisely this operation of depersonalization that I have sought to explain here, to demonstrate that its collective, impersonal, imperceptible, and intensive modes form a rigorous chain of connections. For Deleuze, the success of a style does not depend on the exceptional personality, but on the special power of attaining to the impersonal: a constructed, potential, and joyous impersonality that does not return us to the bloody procedure of abolishing our little egos, but rather introduces us to the experience of the vehement, augmentative power of its metamorphoses.

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Acknowledgments

This essay will be included in a forthcoming book, Artmachines, to be published by Edinburgh University Press. Versions have appeared in Brazilian and French: “Deleuze, cartografias do estilo: Assignificante, intensivo, impessoal,” Artephilosofia 9 (2010): 20–34; “Deleuze et les cartographies du style,” in Les styles de Deleuze, ed. Adnen Jdey (Brussels: Les impressions nouvelles, 2011), 157–82; and “Deleuze: Le style impersonnel,” Europe 996 (2012): 44–62.

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Notes

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1. “At five in the afternoon” is the iterative verse from Federico García Lorca’s poem “Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías”; “an afternoon in the steppe” evokes one of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s preferred settings. For Gilles Deleuze’s analysis of Masoch, see Coldness and Cruelty (New York: Zone, 1991). 2. Even today, this conception of literary history continues to norm discourses on literature and its history, as well as the way it is taught, organized into national or comparative divisions that imply a history of “great men,” “great works,” or “great authors” (usually men). Criticized in literature by Proust (Contre Saint-Beuve) and in the epistemology of history by the historians of the Annales School (Marc Bloch, Lucien Fèbvre, Fernand Braudel), it remains entrenched in literary studies (e.g., Erich Auerbach, Mimesis). In this sense, Deleuze and Guattari’s work may be read as a war against interpretation, hermeneutics, and allegory, implying a new definition of literature as experimentation, not as interpretation, as I argue in Deleuze and Art, trans. Samantha Bankston (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), hereafter cited as da. 3. Deleuze and Guattari rely on Foucault’s well-known presentation “Qu’est-ce qu’un auteur?,” which concerns the sociohistorical existence of the figure of the author in the culture industry, but they also displace it, shifting the focus toward a theory of individuation, pushing Foucault’s analysis toward a new theory of subjectivity and a theory of the book as an assemblage, which they present in Rhizome (1976). Foucault’s presentation was originally given at the French Society of Philosophy in 1969, published in the Bulletin de la Société française de philosophie 63, no. 3 (1969): 73–104, and reprinted in Dits et écrits, vol. 1, ed. Daniel Denfert and François Ewald (Paris: Gallimard, 1994), 817–49. The English translation, “What Is an Author?,” may be found in The Essential Foucault, ed. Paul Rabinow and Mark Seem (New York: New Press, 2003), 377–91, and in Michel Foucault, Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology, ed. James D. Faubion (New York: New Press, 1998), 205–22. 4. Gilles Deleuze, Proust and Signs: The Complete Text, trans. Richard Howard (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 165. Hereafter cited as ps. 5. Gilles Deleuze, Negotiations, 1972–1990, trans. Martin Joughin (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), 165. Hereafter cited as n.

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6. Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, trans. Mark Lester with Charles Stivale (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), 86. Hereafter cited as ls. 7. Roman Jakobson and Claude Lévi-Strauss, “‘Les chats’ de Charles Baudelaire,” L’homme 2, no. 1 (1962): 5–21. 8. See Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, trans. Daniel W. Smith (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003). 9. Gilbert Simondon, L’individuation à la lumière des notions de forme et d’information (Grenoble: Millon, 2005), 33. My translation. 10. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, trans. Dana Polan (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), 7. 11. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Heretical Empiricism, trans. Ben Lawton and Louise K. Barnett (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985), 83. Hereafter cited as he. 12. For a fuller development of this notion, see da, chapter 6, “Minor Art.” 13. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, vol. 2, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988), 100, 92. Hereafter cited as tp. 14. Mikhail Bakhtin, Le marxisme et la philosophie du langage: Essai d’application de la méthode sociologique en linguistique, trans. Marina Yaguello (Paris: Minuit, 1977), 159–66. 15. Félix Guattari, The Machinic Unconscious: Essays in Schizoanalysis, trans. Taylor Adkins (Los Angeles: Semiotext[e], 2011), 25. Translation slightly modified. 16. Gilles Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical, trans. Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 2. Hereafter cited as ec. A more complete development of becoming-animal as an intensive power may be found in Anne Sauvagnargues, “Deleuze: De l’animal à l’art,” in Anne Sauvagnargues, François Zourabichvili, and Paola Marrati-Guénoun, La philosophie de Deleuze (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2004), 117–223. 17. Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, trans. Tom Conley (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992), 19. 18. Carmelo Bene and Gilles Deleuze, Superpositions (Paris: Minuit, 1979), 97. My translation. 19. See the exquisite analysis of François Zourabichvili, Le vocabulaire de Deleuze (Paris: Ellipses, 2003), 40, and his excellent article, “La question de la littéralité,” in Deleuze et les écrivains: Littérature et

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25. 26.

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philosophie, ed. Bruno Gelas and Hervé Micolet (Nantes: Éditions Cécile Defaut, 2007), 531–44. Gilles Deleuze, Foucault, trans. Seán Hand (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988), 7; Foucault, L’ordre du discours (Paris: Gallimard, 1970); Maurice Blanchot, La part du feu (Paris: Gallimard, 1949), 29 (hereafter cited as pf). Gilles Deleuze, “‘Mystère d’Ariane’ (sur Nietzsche),” Bulletin de la Société française d’études nietzschéennes (March 1963): 12–15. The article was reedited in Philosophie 17 (1987): 67–72. It was taken up again after revision in Magazine littéraire 289 (1992): 21–24, and the revised version was published in ec, 99–106. Michel Foucault, Maurice Blanchot: The Thought from Outside, trans. Jeffrey Mehlman and Brian Massumi (New York: Zone, 1990); tp, 265. Gilles Deleuze, “L’immanence: une vie . . . ,” Philosophie 47 (1995): 3–7. The last text published by Deleuze, reedited in Gilles Deleuze, Two Regimes of Madness: Texts and Interviews, 1975–1995, ed. David Lapoujade, trans. Ames Hodges and Mike Taormina (New York: Semiotext[e], 2007), 388–93. Émile Brehier, La théorie des incorporels dans l’ancien stoïcisme (Paris: Vrin, 1982), 19. Gustave Guillaume, Temps et verbe (Paris: Champion, 1965). Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, Dialogues, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Haberjam (London: Continuum, 2002), 92; tp, 264.

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The Aesthetic Possibility of the Work of Art

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The Possibility and Actuality of Art

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A familiar way of starting to think about art is to submit it to the standard form of philosophical investigation defined by the sequence of an existential statement followed by a question. The existential statement concerns a particular class of things. The question concerns what makes these things possible. Let us say preliminarily: the question concerns the potential whose actualization is to be understood as a thing of that particular kind. The form of this investigation is well known, for it has defined philosophy since Socrates. What is essential to this form is that the being and mode-of-being of things are not simply taken for granted; rather, they are questioned or “problematized.” In the light of this questioning, things seem neither self-evidently given nor miraculous but, in Aristotelian terms, “problematic.” They become something, in other words, that we want to, and can, understand or explain. The form of this philosophical understanding is the explanation of the reality [Wirklichkeit] of these objects as the actualization [Verwirklichung] of a possibility. That is how Kant pro-

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ceeds in the first Critique: he begins by claiming that “there is pure mathematics and pure natural science” before asking, “how are they possible?” Or in the second Critique: “There are moral judgments (or rational self-determinations)—how are they possible?” So it seems that one could also start to think about art by saying: “There are works of art—how are they possible?” In a moment I will say something about the logic of this philosophical form of understanding. But I must first say something about how not to understand the sequence of the existential statement and the question of possibility. It should not be understood to imply that we can know for certain that these kinds of things exist before we have answered the question of their possibility. For if the question about the possibility of a particular kind of thing cannot be answered, then the existence of such things cannot be claimed. Possibility precedes actuality: if we do not understand how a kind of thing is possible, we cannot know if such things actually exist. The question of the possibility of a particular kind of thing is therefore at the same time the precondition of the question of its actuality. This is clear in the case of Kant’s questions in both the first and second Critiques. These questions, which ask about the conditions of possibility of scientific knowledge and moral self-determination, are at the same time really questions about their actual existence. The question of whether in fact there is knowledge of necessary connections between events according to a natural law (and not merely more or less probable hypotheses) and the question of whether in fact there is moral action based solely on respect for the law (and not merely more or less egotistical actions) can only be decided after the question of their possibility has been answered— and thus after it is known how and therefore if there is such a possibility. It seems, indeed, that the philosophical question of the possibility of knowledge of natural laws, as well as the possibility of moral actions, is merely the question of how to explain the actuality of something whose existence is indisputable. The philosophical question of possibility is really, however, a question of the actuality of knowledge and morality: if we do not understand their possibility, then they simply do not exist. This also holds true for

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art: if we do not succeed in understanding its possibility, and thus in developing a convincing conception of art, then we cannot know if works of art exist. For it is the concept [das Begreifen] that is the basis of what is actual, and not the reverse. The Impossibility of Art: Socrates

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How does philosophy (from Socrates to Kant and beyond) understand the question of possibility, and how, in answering this question, does it hope to understand a phenomenon? What are we asking about when we inquire into the conditions of possibility of a phenomenon? Philosophy understands this question as the question of the possibility of success, or more exactly, as the question of how we—who thereby become “subjects” of knowledge, morality and art—can bring about the success of something. This can be understood as follows: acts of knowledge or morality belong to the class of executions [Vollzügen] that can either succeed or fail. “Knowledge” and “morality” are expressions that concern success; they refer to the successful results of one’s efforts or performances (as opposed to error or egoism, which are forms of failure). The philosophical question of possibility is therefore the question of what must be presupposed and which conditions must be fulfilled in order for an execution to result in knowledge (and not in error) or in a moral action (and not in an egotistical one)—so that the execution succeeds. These conditions make possible—they en-able—success, and thus knowledge and morality. The concept of possibility here has not only a logical sense but also a practical one: to show the possibility of success means to discover those potentials through which it is possible for us to bring about or even guarantee the success of our practices. The question of the possibility of success thus leads to the faculties that make us able to have successful practices. Philosophy understands the question of the possibility of knowledge and morality as a question leading to the faculties that make us able to know and judge, faculties such as the synthesis of sensible impressions or the use of concepts for classifying objects, or the autonomous justification and application of the law in the case of moral judgment. Since being able, or having

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faculties, defines subjectivity, philosophy understands the question about the conditions of possibility as a question about the subject. This ostensibly Kantian way of understanding philosophy can be traced back to Socrates. But with Socrates there also originates a skepticism about the possibility of understanding or “explaining” art philosophically, as well as the doubt as to whether we can ask about the possibility of art (and can expect an answer) in the same manner in which Socrates believed he could inquire into the possibility of knowledge and morality. This doubt about the philosophical understandability of the possibility of art is the source of Socrates’ famous critique of the artists, whom he famously desired to expel from the city despite (or perhaps because of) the enjoyment they afford. Socrates’ critical objection is that the philosophical form of investigation cannot be applied to art. In contrast to the question of the possibility of knowledge and morality, the question of the possibility of art must remain unanswered. Art cannot be comprehended philosophically. Let us turn briefly to Socrates’ formulation:

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For all good poets, epic as well as lyric, compose their beautiful poems not by art, but because they are inspired and possessed. And as the Corybantian revellers when they dance are not in their right mind, so the lyric poets are not in their right mind when they are composing their beautiful strains: but when falling under the power of music and metre they are inspired and possessed; like Bacchic maidens who draw milk and honey from the rivers when they are under the influence of Dionysus but not when they are in their right mind. And the soul of the lyric poet does the same, as they themselves say; for they tell us that they bring songs from honeyed fountains, culling them out of the gardens and dells of the Muses; they, like the bees, winging their way from flower to flower. And this is true. For the poet is a light and winged and holy thing, and there is no invention in him until he has been inspired and is out of his senses, and the mind is no longer in him. (Ion 533e–534a)1

According to Socrates, poetizing [Dichten] is “divine madness and possession,” and thus “in any case . . . no knowledge or ability that would be capable of accounting for itself and its truth.”2 Poetry,

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and in general what we call “art,” is for Socrates no “art” at all: it is not the self-conscious and thus controlled exercise [Ausübung] of a practical faculty that has been acquired through practice; it is no techne. Poetizing occurs much more through divine possession and ecstasy. The poet is therefore not a “subject” in the sense of the word previously indicated: he is not “able to”—not someone who can succeed or make something possible by means of his faculties. Subjectivity is lost in the act of poetizing; poetizing succeeds only with the loss of subjectivity. The result is that poetizing does not allow itself to be comprehended: it is not philosophically comprehensible, for its possibility cannot be understood, since it is not achieved by means of subjective faculties. The statement that poetizing succeeds in a state of ecstasy is not another answer to the Socratic-philosophical question of how poetry is possible. This answer—that poetizing occurs through ecstasy—is no answer, a non-answer. The answer that Socrates provides to the question of the possibility of art is that the question cannot be answered. Art is, according to Socrates, impossible—and its actuality therefore also uncertain. This answer is correct. It need only be correctly understood. The first step consists in a positive reading of Socrates’ negative answer as stating a paradox: art is impossible; it is therefore (or thereby) possible. Art is only possible because it is impossible in the philosophical sense of “possibility” as ability.3 It is its impossibility that makes it possible. This thesis will be elucidated in what follows, first by showing, with Paul Valéry, what grounds this paradox, then by exploring, with Nietzsche, how this paradox, despite its irresolvability, can be affirmed and read in a non-tragic way.

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The Paradox of Making and Work: Valéry Valéry’s first lecture in his Cours de poétique (at the Collège de France, 1937)4 reveals an approach to poetry that appears—and not only at first glance—to head in a direction completely opposite of Socrates’ claim that it is impossible to understand poetry. Valéry defines the understanding of poetry as “Poïétique,” the theory of a “making” that is completed in a “work” (v, 300). This

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harkens back to how Aristotle countered Socrates’ critique of poetry: namely, through the very establishment of “poetics” as a field of theory whose task it is to investigate the means and techniques that allow poetry to succeed.5 But at the same time, Valéry shows that between poetic making and poetic success—the production of the work—there is a peculiar tension. This tension is already indicated by the fact that the “action that makes [l’action qui fait]” is frequently observed with “more delight, and even with more passion . . . than the made thing [la chose faite]” (v, 301). The “action that makes” thus hardly leads to the “made thing”—as poetics believes—but rather away from it. Between the making and the work there is a discrepancy, a distance, a chasm even, that cannot be bridged: one never gets from the making to the work. Making does not make the work; the work is not made through its making. Valéry articulates this insight in a series of climactic diagnoses. The first diagnosis is that the attention one gives to one’s making while trying to make something—the attention of the maker, in other words—torpedoes the making itself. Anyone who pays attention to how he makes something can no longer make anything. He loses the ability to en-able and make possible, to allow something to succeed:

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One understands, for example, that a poet can legitimately fear the spoiling of his original virtues, his immediate power of production, through the analysis to which he would subject them. He instinctively refuses to deepen them otherwise than through the exercise of his art, and to render them more fully master through rational reasoning. We can believe that our simplest acts, our most familiar gestures, could not be carried out, and that the least of our powers would become an obstacle for us if we had to make them present in the mind and know them at bottom in order to exercise them. Achilles cannot defeat the tortoise when he thinks in space and time. (v, 300–301)

To think (to analyze, to know) making means to destroy it as making. Making is unthinkable, for as soon as we know it, it is no longer successful making. Thus it can be claimed that out of the

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making emerges the work, but it cannot be understood how the work emerges from the making. In following and comprehending the making, the work retracts from us into the nonsensical and incomprehensible. From the perspective of the making, the work is a thing of impossibility—a non-thing [Un-ding]. Here are two examples from the series of non-words that Valéry uses to account for the work:

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(i.) the disproportionality of the work

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A glance will suffice to appreciate a considerable monument, to feel the shock of it. Within two hours, all the calculations of the tragic poet, all the toil he has expended in ordering his piece and forming each and every verse; or all the combinations of harmony and orchestration that the composer has constructed; or all the meditations of the philosopher and the years during which he delayed and held back his thoughts while waiting to apprehend and accept their final arrangement, all these acts of faith, all these acts of choice, all these mental transactions finally come to the state of finished works, striking, astonishing, dazzling or disconcerting the spirit of the Other who is suddenly exposed to the excitement of this enormous load of intellectual labor. It is the action of disproportionality [démesure]. (v, 306)

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The disproportionality of the work signifies a non-relation between the artist’s making and the effect that the result of this making has on others. The effective making and the effects of what it has made diverge; the effect of the work dissolves the work from its making, letting it stand apart on its own [für sich]. The work and its effects cannot be comprehended as being made. (ii.) the improbability of the work We sense, on the one hand, that the action of the work on us is so perfectly appropriate that we cannot conceive of it differently. But in certain cases of supreme contentment, we experience the transformation of ourselves in some profound manner, in order to become persons whose sensibility is capable of such fullness of delight and immediate comprehension. But we sense

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no less strongly, and as if through a completely different sense organ, that the phenomenon which grounds and develops this state and inflicts its power on us, would not have been, and even, should not have been, and belongs to the class of the improbable. (v, 311)

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The disproportionality between the making and the work means precisely that the work no longer appears to us as possible, but as improbable. It appears to us as unreal and not to be expected in reality nor belonging to the order of reality—an order that we can understand as the actualization of a possibility or as having been en-abled by us. The disproportionality or even incompatibility of making and work, which Valéry traces with these descriptions, finds its most acute formulation in the incompatibility of poetical making with itself. In poetical making, “the productive spirit . . . struggles against what it is obliged to permit, produce, or emit; and in sum, against its [own] nature” (v, 312–13). Poetical making is a struggle against and with itself; its self-identity consists in self-conflict. For, according to Valéry, poetical making must, on the one hand, open itself not only to dispersion, scattering, accidental steering, and fortuities but also to arbitrary choices and capricious moods—to which it owes its “treasury of possibilities,” without which it could do nothing. But, on the other hand, poetical making must also confront the dispersions that make it possible. For if it simply became lost in them by handing itself over to them, it would in any case make nothing. Valéry describes this double relation, this turning of poetical making against itself, in the following way: But here there is a quite astonishing circumstance: this dispersion, always immanent, contributes to the production of the work almost as much as the concentration itself. The mind, focused on the work, struggling against its own mobility, against its fundamental inquietude and its unique diversity, against the dissipation and natural degradation of every specialized attitude, finds, on the other hand, in this condition itself, incomparable resources. The instability, the incoherence, the inconsequence of which I speak, are indeed inhibitions and limitations for the

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mind in its constructive enterprises and compositions, but they are also just as much a treasury of possibilities for it, whose wealth nears in the same moment that it consults them. They are resources from which it can expect everything, and reasons for hoping that the solution, the sign, the image, the missing word are much closer to it than it sees. It can always have a premonition in its half-light of the truth or the decision that it seeks, for it knows that it is at the mercy of a Nothing, of the same insignificant disturbance which appeared to distract it and distance it from this. (v, 313–14)

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The (i.) disproportionality of making and work, which (ii.) lets us experience the work as improbable, has its ground in the discord immanent in poetical making itself. For it is this very discord within poetical making that makes its making, its leading to a work, enigmatic. If poetical making consists in struggling against that which makes it possible, then we can no longer understand how it can make something—namely, the work—possible. The paradox of poetical making that Valéry traces can be summarized as follows: 1. We must know the making from which the work emerges. In order for it to be a “work” it has to be understood as something made. A work that is not made and is not understood as something made is no work at all. 2. We are unable to know the making from which the work emerges, for the work does not emerge from a making that we can know. To know the making as poetical means to know its constitutive discord, but then we no longer understand how a work can emerge from it. To know the making in its poetical truth, as in a discord with itself, means not to know how it can make a work. Valéry’s considerations also show why the claim about the actuality of works of art remains uncertain until after the question of their possibility has been answered. If we cannot answer the question of how the making produces the work, then we also cannot know if the work is a work, and hence if there really are works at all. The work appears to be real: we experience its overwhelming

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The Conflict in Poetical Making

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power. But if we cannot understand the making of the work, then its “existence appears to us as the effect of an extraordinary coincidence, a sumptuous gift of fortune, and therein lies a peculiar analogy that we discover between this effect of a work of art and that of certain aspects of nature: accidental geological formations, or transient combinations of light and vapor in the evening heavens” (v, 311–12). The work, the making and therefore the possibility of which we do not understand, resembles a piece of nature. More precisely: we do not know if the “work,” the making and therefore the possibility of which we do not understand, is a work of art or (like) nature.

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In his novel Bartleby & Co., the Spanish author Enrique VilaMatas explores a series of depictions of the modern figure of the author who does not write, a figure of the author who has decided to be an author insofar as he does not write. Vila-Matas includes B. Traven in this series, despite the latter’s productivity, and reports his interpretation through Walter Rehmer: “Denying all past, he denied all present, meaning all presence. Traven never existed, not even for his contemporaries. He is a very peculiar writer of the No, and there is something very tragic in the force with which he rejected the invention of his identity.”6 Indeed, according to Rehmer, writes Vila-Matas, “The secretive writer . . . reflects in his absent identity all the tragic conscience of modern literature, the conscience of a writing that, once its insufficiency and impossibility have been exposed, turns this exposure into its fundamental question” (bc, 173). Vila-Matas comments on this interpretation of B. Traven by remarking, “In short I think Rehmer’s sentences are to the point, but, if Traven had read them, first of all he would have been amazed, and then he would have burst out laughing. In fact I am on the verge of reacting in the same way. Besides, I hate Rehmer’s essays for their solemnity” (bc, 173). What is funny about Rehmer’s7 interpretation is that the experience of the impossibility of poetic writing is understood tragically. For it is precisely the impossibility of poetic writing—that no “making”

Menke: Aesthetic Possibility

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has ever led out from itself to the “work” in a manner that could be comprehended—which makes poetic writing possible and even allows it to succeed. This is essentially the thesis underlying Nietzsche’s revaluation of Socrates’ insight into the philosophical incomprehensibility of art: it is only because poetizing does not have the form of a “making” that is understandable, and that it is not the exercise of a faculty that has been acquired through practice and allows successful executions, like acts of knowledge or moral judgment, that poetizing is possible and can effect a work of art. When looked at more closely, Nietzsche’s revaluation of Socrates’ insight presupposes a reformulation of its content in two steps. First, that poets do not speak out of their own knowledge or ability, that they do not speak “through art,” means, for Socrates, that they are driven “by divine powers.” “The poets are,” in his words, “only the interpreters of the gods” (Ion, 534e). This means that the poet is “enthusiastic,” possessed by a god: something external, some greater force, speaks through him so that the enthusiastic poet is “a telephone from the beyond.”8 Nietzsche, by contrast, understands the force that seizes the poet and allows him to lose his subjectivity as the poet’s own force. The force that seizes the poet does not come from the outside or through divine enthusiasm, but out of the poet himself through his aesthetic enlivenment. Nietzsche calls this condition “intoxication”: intoxication is “the collective release of all the symbolic powers.”9 Intoxication is not something like a passive daze, but a condition of intensified activity, of “increased strength and fullness”:

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In the Dionysian state . . . the whole affective system is excited and enhanced: so that it discharges all its means of expression at once and drives forth simultaneously the power of representation, imitation, transfiguration, transformation, and every kind of mimicking and acting.10

“Intoxication” has a double meaning for Nietzsche. On the one hand, “intoxication” indicates the unconscious, heightened form of activity that must be at work in all artistic “making.” On the other hand, “intoxication” indicates the kind of sensuous activity

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that was present in every human being before he became a “subject.” Intoxication is the primal condition of the human being. Artistic intoxication can therefore also be understood as a condition of regression, a relapse into the pre-subjective condition of sensuous activity. This can be somewhat more precisely formulated if we distinguish between “faculty” and “force”: to be a subject means to be able or in possession of a faculty [vermögend]. A subject is someone who can do something [ein Könner]. What the subject can do is make his executions succeed. The subject can perform something successfully. To be able to make an action succeed means, in turn, to be able to repeat, in every new and particular situation, a general form whose mastery has been acquired through practice and learning. Whoever is “able to speak” a language is able to make correct use of the same word in a new situation. The logical structure of the executions that a subject can perform is always the actualization of something general—a form or a concept—in something particular, in a particular case, or in particular circumstances, and so forth. Human beings are not subjects; they become subjects. They are made into subjects through processes of practice or discipline. What was the human being before he became a subject? Not nothing. He was a “sensual” being. More exactly: he was a being with sensual or “dark” forces: he was a being of imagination. And it is only because of this that the human being can become a subject. But to become a subject (to acquire faculties) also means to interrupt and take control of the operations of these sensual forces (namely, through an act of self-control). For “dark,” sensual forces operate much differently than rational, self-conscious faculties. Faculties are exercised through conscious actions and self-control. Sensual forces, by contrast, operate on their own; their operations are not guided by the subject and are for this reason not conscious. This is equivalent to saying that these forces are not for something: they cannot be measured in terms of “success.” Forces operate as or in play, the play of a permanent generation and transformation of what they have generated, without being oriented to a general form or norm that controls their generation.

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What, then, is artistic intoxication? Not, as Socrates thought, external influence or possession by a god, but a return to the condition of the human being before he became a subject, the condition in which his dark, sensual forces unfold in play. The human being of intoxication, in contrast to the self-conscious subject with faculties, is therefore defined by an essential inability: “the inability not to react (similar to certain hysterical types who also, upon any suggestion, enter into any role)” (“ti,” 519). The intoxicated and intoxicating return to the primal condition of playfully unfolding forces is the relinquishing of the practical faculties, whose loss is experienced as liberating. In the making of the work, inability becomes creative. To this end, however—and this is the second step in Nietzsche’s revision of Socrates’ theory of poetical enthusiasm—the intoxicated inability in poetical making must also be restricted and combated. Nietzsche writes: “If there is to be art, if there is to be any aesthetic doing and seeing, one physiological condition is indispensable: intoxication” (“ti,” 518). This corresponds to Nietzsche’s claim in The Birth of Tragedy that the artistic form (or work) emerges from the Dionysian condition through an act of “redemption” [Erlösung] or relieving [Ablösung]. Intoxication is a “precondition,” but not therefore the entirety, of artistic activity; the artist is not completely (or always) in a state of intoxication. He has a broken or even a distant relationship to intoxication. This distinguishes the Dionysian artists (or the Greeks) from the “Dionysian barbarians,” in whose unbridled festivals “the most savage natural instincts were unleashed, including even that horrible mixture of sensuality and cruelty, which has always seemed to me to be the real ‘witches’ brew” (“bt,” 39). Dionysian barbarism is a condition defined by the absence of ability and consciousness; it consists in a “reversion of man to the tiger and the ape.” In the artist, by contrast, the Dionysian has a “sentimental trait” and appears only from the perspective of a “loss” (“bt,” 40). In the artist there prevails a “curious blending and duality in the emotions.” Art is only to be found where this “blending and duality” operates within the Dionysian or intoxicated condition itself, since intoxication and consciousness, the play of forces and the construction of forms,

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operate together and against each another. Whereas Socrates, who portrays the poet as an “enthusiast,” cannot distinguish between the poets and the Dionysian barbarians, Nietzsche claims that “the continuous development of art is bound up with the Apollonian and Dionysian duality” (“bt,” 33). The artist is divided within himself, split into self-conscious faculties and unbridled intoxicated forces. More importantly still: according to Nietzsche the artist is not only faculty and force but also the place and process of the transfer from one to the other and back again. In Nietzsche’s description, the artist’s ability is therefore quite peculiar and paradoxical: the artist is able to be unable. Artists hold together force and faculty, intoxication and consciousness, as different and conflicting, or in discord. This separates the artists just as much from the Dionysian barbarians—(a) the artists are able to be unable—as from the rational, self-conscious subjects—(b) the artists are able to be unable. (a) The artists are able to be unable: for the Dionysian barbarians, the intoxicated unbridling of forces takes the place of the practical faculties, faculties that have been tediously acquired and are therefore experienced as a burden and treated with uncertainty. In artists, by contrast, these practical faculties are themselves transformed into forces: it is their highly developed “symbolic powers” (“bt,” 41) that are unleashed in the intoxication of the artists. This means that artists are able to be unable: they are not simply not-able. Rather, after having developed their faculties to the highest possible degree, the artists—whose condition Nietzsche therefore calls “sentimental”—return to what these faculties were at their very beginning: playfully unfolding sensual forces. (b) The artists are able to be unable. For rational, self-conscious subjects, to be able to do something means to exercise a faculty that has been developed through practice. To be able to do something means to be able to do it once again. Ability is repeatability: the ability to reproduce—as identical—the same general form under new and particular circumstances. We call this “success.” The artists, on the other hand, know that the exercise of a faculty alone cannot guarantee the suc-

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cess of an act. Between faculty and success there is a chasm. Therefore, because they have experienced and learned this, the artists surrender themselves to intoxication and the play of forces. They require what they experience and learn in this condition for the exercise of their faculties: “using and discerning accident: that is called genius.”11 It is true that the intoxicated play of forces can never be executed for the sake of a goal or plan, since these forces cannot be executed at all (but simply happen). But because it is the faculties of the artists themselves that are transformed into aesthetically playing forces, this intoxication has an effect on their actions. To be an artist means to know that there is no success in the mere exercise of faculties, that success is only possible when the mere exercising of faculties is aesthetically abandoned in the play of forces. The second step in Nietzsche’s revision of Socrates’ description of the artist leads, therefore, to the decisive revaluation of the very insight that Nietzsche shares with Socrates. Poetizing and the making of art in general, according to both Nietzsche and Socrates, cannot be understood as the exercise of subjective faculties. In poetizing there operates a non-ability, a non-faculty. We cannot understand the work as having been made possible by the exercise of faculties. For Socrates, this insight leaves us with only one option: expelling art from the human realm, which for him is the realm of rational-collective praxis. As an impossibility that cannot be understood, the work of art is monstrous: subhuman or superhuman, barbaric or godlike, unbearable, in any case. Nietzsche’s revaluation of the Socratic expulsion of art consists precisely in seeing the rupturing of the practical order of subject, faculty, and action that occurs in artistic “doing” (through the intoxicated play of sensual forces) as the enabling condition of the work of art. The work of art is possible because, and insofar as, we do not have a faculty for bringing it about. Earlier I remarked that the question of the possibility of the work of art could only be answered by means of a paradoxical formula: the possibility of the work of art is its impossibility. I then tried to show that this could be understood to mean that the

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work of art is only possible because, and insofar as, we do not have the faculty for making it. This suggests that that formula might not be a mere paradox, no foolish self-contradiction. It is no mere paradox insofar as it forces us to rethink the meaning of possibility, that is, to think the difference between possibility and faculty. The equation of possibility with faculty is, however, not just any philosophical thesis. It is the basic assumption underlying the philosophical investigation of conditions of possibility, and thus the very assumption on which the philosophical investigation of “problems” is based. To answer the question of the possibility of art in a non-paradoxical form therefore demands nothing less than the reexamination of the concept of philosophy itself. Acknowledgments

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This article was written in German. An earlier version appeared in the Journal of the Faculty of Letters, The University of Toyko, Aesthetics 35 (2010): 1–13. It has been substantially revised and translated for Qui Parle by permission of the author.

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Notes

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1. Plato, The Dialogues of Plato, vol. 1, translated into English with Analyses and Introductions by B. Jowett, M.A. in Five Volumes, 3rd edition revised and corrected (Oxford University Press, 1892). 2. Hans-Georg Gadamer, “Plato und die Dichter,” in Gesammelte Werke (Tübingen: Mohr, 1993), 5:189. 3. While art is “impossible” in the practical sense of “possibility,” it is “possible” in the mere logical sense of the term. 4. Paul Valéry, Variété V (Paris: Gallimard, 1944), 295–322. Hereafter cited as v. All translations of Valéry are my own. 5. The first sentence of On Poetry reads: “I propose to treat of Poetry in itself and of its various kinds, noting the essential quality of each, to inquire into the structure of the plot as requisite to a good poem . . .” There is no more articulate rebuttal of Socrates’ claim than this. Aristotle, Poetics, trans. S. H. Butcher (New York: Hill and Wang, 1961), 49. 6. Enrique Vila-Matas, Bartleby & Co., trans. Jonathan Dunne (New York: New Directions, 2004), 172. Hereafter cited as bc.

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7. Who in fact might be Walter Muschg. 8. Thus Nietzsche (although referring to Schopenhauer, not Plato) in On the Genealogy of Morals, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage, 1989), 103. 9. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, “The Birth of Tragedy,” Basic Writings of Nietzsche, ed. and trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Modern Library, 1968), 40–41. Hereafter cited as “bt.” 10. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, “Twilight of the Idols,” in The Portable Nietzsche, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Viking, 1968), 519. Hereafter cited as “ti.” 11. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Nietzsche Werke V.1: Nachgelassene Fragmente Anfang, 1880–1881, ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1971), 1[91]:26. Translation is mine.

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REVIEW ESSAYS

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Meditations in Midair

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emina mušanović

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A review of Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013). Cited in the text as ho.

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There is a moment in nearly all Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons wherein the coyote, having been tricked into succumbing to his own more or less elaborate trap, runs off the edge of a cliff. Though he eventually plummets down with gusto, he first runs out horizontally beyond the precipice and is briefly suspended there, unaware of the sudden loss of ground. Only when he looks down, realizing that he has bid farewell to the support of terra firma, is he seized by the vertiginous verticality. But until he catches up to the abrupt change in his gravitational predicament, he is virtually suspended, held up by an imagined, transcendent ground mapped onto the gaping abyss. In a short-lived moment of the mind’s triumph over the weight of matter, Coyote continues to run midair, mechanically enacting what Graham Harman calls “a procedure no longer flexibly adjusted to its surroundings.”1 Harman, whose object-oriented ontology (ooo) informs Timothy Morton’s work, argues that the kind of comedy that is cultivated in scenes like these rests precisely in “the way in which . . . transcendence and free decision-making power are undercut by . . . being delivered

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to the force of things, unable to master them” (gm, 131). In other words, we are amused by Coyote’s futile attempt to maintain ground in spite of groundlessness because it unwittingly exposes a “mechanism that ought not to be a mechanism” (gm, 136). Timothy Morton’s newest book is tasked with impressing upon us the fact that, much like Wile E. Coyote, we are already in midair, falling in the “fiery interior of a hyperobject” (ho, 160), but tragically oblivious to our predicament and desperately clinging to obsolete mechanisms beholden to a world that has ended. Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World is like the cartoon arrow lit up by semantic frenzy that points downward to the lack of transcendent bedrock below our feet. Thus written in mid-fall, this book is as hyper as its object. The relentless rush with which Morton proceeds is a symptom of his attempts to avoid effacing the very groundlessness of the contemporary age he is trying to articulate. The end of the world by hyperobject (e.g., global warming) does not bring about the rise of a new world, and in this it radically differs from various eschatological narratives, doomsday stories, and apocalyptic fantasies. There is no rapture, no redemption, no world rebooted or world 2.0 after version 1.0 has been devastated and put out of commission. In order to quell even the slightest impulse to make a world of the hyperobject, Morton must perform compositional and disciplinary acrobatics. He must wrestle with the question: how does one structure a text so profoundly invested with the project of ungrounding? After all, while defamiliarization is undoubtedly on order, the communication of a compelling message and the quest for consensus on the matter is as well: the reader must accept that she is falling. There are, of course, the explicit content signposts that divide the book into two parts—the first dealing with the question of what hyperobjects are, and the second dealing with the question of what it means to live in the ungrounded age of the hyperobject. However, there is also an implicit, subterranean composition that orients this text—an ungrounding predecessor, Heidegger’s 1938 essay “The Age of the World Picture.” Morton’s end of the world reads like a reworking and overcoming of Heidegger’s end of the world picture. This structural undercurrent buried in a ruthlessly

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cross-disciplinary surge elucidates some of the most crucial points of Morton’s work: the end of the world by hyperobject, the making of the hyperobject by modernity, and the nature of the hyperobject. Whether this configuration is deliberate or not, Hyperobjects cycles through Heidegger’s essay and works with the stages identified therein. Morton’s proclamation of the end of the world may subsume the image of an unfolding environmental apocalypse, but it does not terminate with it. The end of the world by hyperobject is instead aligned with the end of the world picture as prophesied by Heidegger. Heidegger identifies modernity as the period absorbed in the process of representing and conquering the world as picture. These ambitions, however, concurrently threaten to topple the very age they subtend by catalyzing the emergence of “the gigantic— . . . sheer quantity” (ho, 137), modes of production, consumption, communication, and transportation or objects that suddenly evade control and switch from being predictable to being incalculable and inoperable. These emerging, incalculable objects are, much like Morton’s hyperobject, “withdrawn from representation but nonetheless manifest in whatever is.”2 The time of the free fall in which Morton’s Hyperobjects unravels coincides with the point of the Heideggerian eclipse. Morton’s is, of course, only one proclamation of the end of the world—the end of finitude if we follow Heidegger’s definition of “worldview as end”3—of the many proliferated over the last four decades (at least). By nonetheless pronouncing the end of the world in the wake of the end of the world, Morton asserts the failure of past attempts to truly lay it to rest: “Poststructuralist thinking . . . didn’t complete the job” (ho, 2). When one takes these unabating attempts at liquidation into account, “world” starts to resemble Sir William in Gosford Park, the already dead character who keeps getting killed just a little bit more, again and again. This time the offender is Morton, or rather the hyperobject. What distinguishes Morton’s attempt from preceding deathblows is the vehement rejection of correlationism—“the notion that philosophy can only talk within a narrow bandwidth, restricted to the human-world correlate” (ho, 9). In Morton’s variation of whodunit, “world” is

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not terminated by human actors through purely symbolic acts. On the contrary, the objects he deems hyperobjects—“global warming, nuclear radiation, tectonic plates, biosphere, evolution”4—“have brought about the end of the world” (ho, 6). They have pushed us over the precipice and into the abyss. For Heidegger, as for Morton, the age of the world picture is toppled not by the human but by a nonhuman that has become unavailable to calculability, distressingly withdrawn from human access and manipulation. In other words, the nonhuman on whom we can no longer count is responsible for the end of the age of the world picture in both Heidegger’s and Morton’s works. The two also concur in the age that gives rise to the nonhuman with such potentiality—modernity. In this, Morton diverges from Latour, the ooo precursor, by insisting “that we have been modern, and that we are only just learning how not to be” (ho, 19). The agreement between Heidegger and Morton runs deeper than the condemnation of modernity. Characterized as an age of representation, this is the epoch in which, according to Heidegger, the world is conquered as image. European modernity, per Heidegger, was dominated by “representational thinking [that] delivered being as an object for a subject.”5 The world picture is nothing more than world represented to and by the human subject as a system that “serves to explain that which it represents. By means of such explanation the alien, uncanny, and seemingly incommensurable is reduced to the compass of the familiar and manageable; man establishes and orients himself in a world conceived as, in principle, the reach of his mastery.”6 To conquer the world as picture, to represent it as a system, means to “relate it to oneself, to the one representing it, and to force it back into this relationship to oneself as the normative realm. Wherever this happens, man ‘gets into picture’ in precedence over whatever is” (“aw,” 153). Modernity is thereby also the age that first gives birth to humanism (“aw,” 133), the age in which “man becomes subject” in the metaphysical sense of subjectum, “that being upon which all that is, is grounded” (“aw,” 128). In other words, the conquest of the world as picture becomes possible only with the rise of “man as the relational center of that

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which is as such” (“aw,” 128) and the interrelated transformation of man into the representative [der Räpresentant] of that which is, in the sense of that which has the character of object” (aw,” 132). This picture of world conquered as object is what enables humans “to ravish and devastate the planet with their machinisation” (cp, 324) and to treat it like “a single gigantic petrol station.”7 Representation doesn’t halt with the conquest of the nonhuman but also converts human subjects into objects, into mere resource, or worse yet, into standing-reserve; a resource that is “completely unautonomous.”8 However, the relentless drive to represent and thus master the world as essentially calculable—as “that for which man is prepared” (“aw,” 129)—is ultimately counterproductive and threatens the dissolution of the paradigm of calculability into incalculability. For Morton, global warming does just that. In his reworking of, or working with Heidegger’s text, in the age of hyperobjects, “the structures that hold the fragile fiction of world together have evaporated” (“pg,” 109). Lifeworld is finally revealed as

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just a story we were telling ourselves on the inside of a vast, massively distributed hyperobject called climate, a story about how different groups were partitioned according to different horizons—concepts now revealed as ontic prejudices smuggled into the realm of ontology. Global warming is a big problem, because along with melting glaciers it has melted our ideas of world and worlding. (ho, 103)

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The stages in Heidegger’s prognostication of the end of the world picture parallel the rise of the hyperobject and the end of the world in Morton’s text. This point of potential emergence and annihilation, however, is also the point at which Morton and ooo part ways with Heidegger. What we have deemed world has always depended on a “mere caricature of some real object” (ho, 102). Hyperobjects have “exposed as fiction” the idea that we are embedded in a phenomenological lifeworld, tucked up like little hobbits into the safety of our burrow. . . . The specialness we granted ourselves as unravelers of cosmic meaning, exemplified in the uniqueness of Heideggerian Dasein, falls

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apart since there is no meaningfulness possible in a world without a foreground-background distinction. Worlds need horizons and horizons need backgrounds, which need foregrounds. . . . We have no world because the objects that functioned as invisible scenery have dissolved. (ho, 104)

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The turning from calculability into incalculability, the suspension of representability, and the resulting end of the age of the world image bring about a radical groundlessness. But precisely here, “where danger is, grows the saving power also” (“qc,” 28). These verses by Heidegger, or rather Hölderlin, appear three times in Morton’s book. In all instances, they announce the concurrent potential of hyperobjects for saving power and/or annihilation. However, while the processes that potentiate the double-edged saving power in Morton’s and Heidegger’s texts largely coincide, they work within a very different range. We will return to this later in the review. If calculability is the condition of “injurious neglect”9 to things, a condition in which the “thing, as thing, [is] unsafeguarded, truthless,” and if in this state the “nearness of the world that nears in the thing” is covered up, “disguised” (“tt,” 46), then, in the turning into incalculability, rests the saving power. Things we cannot count on are broken things. “Entities such as chairs, floors, streets, bodily organs, and the grammatical rules of our native language,” says Harman, “are generally ignored as long as they function smoothly. Usually it is only their malfunction that allows us to notice them at all.”10 In other words, we can count on them as long as they work seamlessly, as long as they operate “in an inconspicuous usefulness, doing [their] work without our noticing it.”11 Incalculability marks the condition in which “individual objects erupt into view, compelling us to take stock of them, to settle our accounts with them, even if each should prove to be only a delusion or a mirage” (tb, 45). Morton’s hyperobjects belong to this order of incalculable objects that “force us to rethink what we mean by object” (ho, 24). The hyperobject usurps the place of Heidegger’s obscure “last god,” who is both the executor of the eclipse and a way out. Like the “last god,” the hyperobject potentiates a fundamental, para-

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digmatic shift. Hyperobjects “cause us to become aware of the rupture, which following Heidegger I call the Rift” (ho, 78). This Rift “exists at an ontological intersection, not a physical one. The intersection is between a thing and its appearance-for another thing, or things” (ho, 78), or in other words, “between its appearance and its essence” (ho, 168). However, Morton parts ways with Heidegger in the scope of the Rift. For Heidegger “the gap between Dasein and the world is the sole philosophically significant rift, the single chasm across which all of the problems of philosophy unfold” (gm, 74). Heidegger’s concern with Dasein, being-there, bottoms out with the human. Against this anthropocentric prejudice, Morton aligns himself with Harman, who insists that “the true chasm in ontology lies not between humans and the world, but between objects and relations. Moreover, this duality holds equally true for all entities in the cosmos, whether natural, artificial, organic, or fully human” (tb, 2). It remains unclear if the disagreement in the scope of the Rift between Morton and Heidegger manifests a concrete difference in the eclipse. In Morton’s book, the Rift obviated through the rise of the hyperobject does not seem to exceed Heidegger’s limitation in significance to the human. While the Rift affects all entities, the hyperobject is special in its uncanny, unrivaled ability to disclose the Rift to the human and to force it to reorient itself in a world in which it is no longer at the center or set against a backdrop of passive, calculable objects where the drama of its life unfolds. Nonetheless, the denunciation of correlationism is one of the most significant contributions of Morton’s end-of-the-world proclamation. It is also one of the basic features of ooo, which builds the theoretical framework of Hyperobjects and is an emerging philosophy pioneered by Harman. Beyond this foundational rejection of correlationalism, “object-oriented philosophy has a single basic tenet: the withdrawal of objects from all perceptual and causal relations” (gm, 20). For Morton “as an object-oriented ontologist” this means “that all entities (including “myself”) are shy, retiring octopuses that squirt out a dissembling ink as they withdraw into the ontological shadows” (ho, 3–4).12 To paraphrase: real objects withdraw from our access, leaving us bathed in their qualities,

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their sensual profiles. There is a “‘cryptic reserve’ within each object” that makes them inexhaustible through relations or use by the human.13 In the realm of ooo, objects are defined as “autonomous [units] of reality that [exist] independently of [their relations]” (“ff,” 218). They are recalcitrant and withdrawn into a subterranean reality toward which we can merely “point loosely” but with which we can never “reach full intimate union” (gm, 107). ooo objects, in a sense, “resist our gaze and exist in states of being that are impossible to fully document and categorize—whether scientist or philosopher” (“ff,” 218). Expressed as a fundamental inaccessibility of objects or as the unbridgeable gap between objects and their qualities, the subterranean autonomy of objects is neither cause for alarm, nor mourning, nor descent into romantic melancholy in the world of ooo. Quite to the contrary. The problem for ooo is not that objects are inaccessible, that they “are deep and hidden; the problem [rests] only in the assumption that they [can] somehow be delivered to us in person in order to serve as normative criteria” (tb, 172). ooo vehemently opposes any notion of objects as inert, wholly accessible “implements [that can be] taken for granted, a vast environmental backdrop supporting the thin and volatile layer of our explicit activities” (tb, 18). It is perhaps easy to see why work emerging out of ooo or in conversation with ooo would confront environmental issues. While Harman— the ooo trailblazer—remains firmly in the realm of philosophy, eschewing any explicit formulations of political theory or attempts at ecological writing, Morton and several other ooo associates (Eileen Joy, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Karl Steel, et al.) do not. For Morton “ontology . . . is a vital and contested political terrain” (ho, 20). Even more: “the birth of a fresh object is a ‘political’ interruption, a revolution that changes all the other objects, no matter how slightly” (ho, 120). In a sense, Morton’s hyperobjects differ from other objects only in scale. Like Benjamin’s weak Messiah, who will “not change the world by force but rather repair it just ever so slightly,” hyperobjects belong to the order of objects that, due to their incalculability or vast distribution in time and space, carry the potential to reorient us.14 They are the ultimate broken objects that will “outlast us all. There is a joke about wanting to be reborn as

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a Styrofoam cup—they last forever. Hyperobjects don’t just burn a hole in the world; they burn a hole in your mind.”15 Before we delve any further into the specific qualities of Morton’s hyperobjects, we must take into account that his Heidegger flits back and forth between his readings and Harman’s ooo appropriation of Heidegger. Though Morton has, in the past, resisted Heidegger, “hyperobjects, not some hobbit hole, not some national myth of the homeland, have finally forced me to see the truth in Heidegger” (ho, 28). Still, the Heidegger we encounter in Hyperobjects is an ooo-processed Heidegger, already stripped of the “specialness of Dasein, its unique applicability to the human” (ho, 16). And so, while the hyperobject is cloaked in language that gestures toward Heidegger, we must take into account that this is Harman’s Heidegger who has been rebooted through, to name but a few stations, Aristotle, Husserl, and Whitehead. Attempting to break with the modernism and humanism it charges with the creation of hyperobjects, Morton’s project yields a new kind of scholarship: dispatches from a state of radical groundlessness. Sent out after the end of the “possibility of transcendental leaps ‘outside’ physical reality” (ho, 2), Morton’s Hyperobjects is concurrently a lesson and an exercise in how not to be modern. There is no easing the reader into this overhaul. Immediately, the text unleashes a deluge of references ranging from philosophy and popular culture to physics, math, art, biology, and music. Morton brazenly snubs the institutionalized nature/culture divide and grants philosophical texts, poems, the weather, cartoons, and scientific data the same attention. Consequently, or at least as far as conventional academic wisdom is concerned, as a trained scholar of literature, Morton risks peddling pseudoscience. However, his transits through physics, math, biology, and so forth do not traffic data from one domain to validate another. They are rather attempts at cross-pollinating the disciplines with new questions in the absence of a totalizing world picture. Such irreverently interdisciplinary adventures are expressions of a quest for a new idiom with a replenished repertoire of metaphors that break with modernist regimes of knowledge. This maneuver is a basic requirement of a work which holds that “the tools that humanists have at their

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disposal for talking about the ecological emergency are now revealed, by global warming itself, to be as useless as the proverbial chocolate teapot. It is rather like the idea of using an antique (or better, antiqued) Christmas ornament as a weapon” (ho, 103). Morton’s book is an adventure in scholarship after the end of the world. It is scholarship in free fall that seeks to abandon the mechanisms that belong to an eclipsed system. One must consider this as the very condition of the text’s emergence. To read this text means to confront the question of what it means to read and write in the age of the hyperobject. It suddenly no longer suffices to merely examine the clarity of his prose, the finesse of style, or the relevancy and accuracy of information or data. If one wants to evaluate this text, one must answer the following three interrelated questions: (1) Does it resist creating a world after the end of the world? (2) Does it confront objects without reducing them to their accessibility for the human? (3) Does it undercut the linguistic turn by intervening on the workings of language as that which structures reality? These three concerns, all brought to foreground through the rise of the hyperobject, drive the style and the feel of the text. Harman proposes the use of the metaphor as a way to address the latter two concerns. The metaphor, namely, “offers the closest point of approach to objects” (gm, 98). It is imbued with allure, the special potential to—like Morton’s hyperobject, although perhaps less disturbingly at times—interfere with the usual relation between a thing and its qualities” by somehow “separating the agent from its specific qualities” (gm, 141–42). Morton’s writing seems to take Harman’s suggestion seriously. It swarms with vivid metaphors. His writing conducts the symptom of the end of the world, thoroughly conditioned by the hyperobject. The hyperobject is of Lovecraftian proportions; Cthulhu-like, “it cannot be exhausted by any sum total of specific experiences or linguistic propositions, but to some extent resists all perception and all analysis, which forever fail to exhaust it” (wr, 137). Following this comparison, the hyperobject “is like a metaphor with one of the terms deleted” (wr, 239). It is the perpetual X in an inexhaustible stream of paraphrases collected in Morton’s book. “By understanding hyperobjects, human thinking has summoned Cthulhu-like entities

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into social, psychic, and philosophical space. . . . beings that are not purely thinkable, whose being is not directly correlated with whatever thinking is” (ho, 64). In sum, Morton’s Hyperobjects is a survey of the fall sent out like a series of vague notes to humanists everywhere from a state of “utter groundlessness,” a state without a “firm foundation” or a “place of retreat on which we can safely count.”16 There is no world and there is no nature. Such totalizing concepts exist only as “[tools] of modernity” (ho, 199) and have to be put on trial due to, among other things, their contributions to the “Great Acceleration of 1945 in which the geological transformation of Earth by humans increased by vivid orders of magnitude” (ho, 5). Hyperobjects is not the first work in which Morton proposes the abandonment of worlding concepts like Nature. He does this already in the book Ecology without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics (2007). There, he commences the examination “of how nature has become a transcendental principle” and ultimately puts forth the claim that there is no such thing as nature.17 Hyperobjects, however, is the text that radically enacts the fall, or rather, lets the fall speak. More precisely, while the question of ecology without nature has dominated Morton’s work for quite some time, a noticeable, even radical shift in style distinguishes Hyperobjects from his earlier approaches. Though neither lacking in vivid language nor humor, he shows a restraint that has seemingly become untenable with Hyperobjects. It must, however be noted that Morton’s most recent approach is an escalation of writing that Jane Bennett affectionately described as “overfull,” dizziness inducing. “This was an alluring, slightly compulsive dizziness, like the kind you got when you were a kid doing dizzy circles. Or maybe the texts’ affectivity is better described as like that of a shadowy thicket whose fast-growing vines begin encircling your legs as soon as you enter, but instead of hightailing it out of there, you are drawn further in.”18 Hyperobjects is a text that, in midair, broadcasts that the fall from the precipice of the world has already occurred. In a way, Morton tells us that we cannot escape becoming aware of the fall, no matter how hard we try to suppress it. After all, our very “ego

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is a poem about strangers: the blow of a hand, an abandonment, the hardness of a bed, the warmth of a teddy bear” (ho, 51). Even more, we are “pockmarked with the traces of hyperobjects. . . . We are poems about the hyperobject Earth.” But such traces or poems can only be read if we abandon the culture/nature divide. And this, as Morton confesses, for the time being, can look rather awkward now and then. In attempts to develop a method from a blur of the divide, “this book sways somewhat sickeningly between phenomenological narrative and scientific reason. Yet just as I am hollowed out by the hyperobject, so by the very same token the language of science is deprived of its ideological status as cool impersonality” (ho, 51). According to Morton, the time after the end of the world is marked by hypocrisy, lameness, and weakness. These three conditions are the direct consequence of the hyperobject’s “five interrelated qualities” (ho, 23): nonlocality, viscosity, interobjectivity, temporal undulation, and phasing. Though the book is a dizzying assault by information, it at least nominally follows a clear structure. The first part is a necessarily failed survey of the hyperobject’s five qualities (each is a subchapter), while the second part busies itself with the end of the world. The time of the hyperobject is one of inescapable confrontation with something that is already true of all objects: they act beyond the human, there is more to them than we can grasp, or in other words, they are irreducible to their relationships. We never encounter entire, unified objects but only their adumbrations (Husserl) or specific perceptible profiles, “local manifestations,” because they “always lie beyond any possibility of total presence” (gm, 3). They “forever outrun us” (gm, 159), withdraw from access. Hyperobjects are “massively distributed in time and space relative to humans” (ho, 1). No “single witness experiences the entire” hyperobject global warming.

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When you feel raindrops, you are experiencing climate, in some sense. In particular you are experiencing the climate change known as global warming. But you are never directly experiencing global warming as such. Nowhere in the long list of catastrophic weather events—which will increase as global warming

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takes off—will you find global warming. But global warming is as real as this sentence. (ho, 48)

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This nonlocality of the hyperobject accounts for the fact that, at any given point in time and at any location, we only encounter some of its aspects. As local manifestations or appearances—“indexical signs” (ho, 90)—they belong to the past of the hyperobject; they are its projections, shadows, or “messages in bottles from the future” (ho, 138). They are communiqués that emanate backwards from fundamentally withdrawing essences of hyperobjects. A Rift opens up “between the future and past, essence and appearance” (ho, 92), delivering a blow to the now point—the present—and with it the metaphysics of presence. Nonlocality places into question the very notion of locatedness. Viscosity, on the other hand, tells us about the stickiness, nearness of objects. The modernist world picture, so Harman via Heidegger, reduces things “to a false nearness and availability” (tb, 187). Objects, however, are near insofar as we cannot escape them. We are they. “The slimy is myself” (Sartre qtd. in ho, 30). Despite the fact that all objects withdraw from one another, “we are glued to our phenomenological situation” (ho, 37). As Morton remarks: “On every right side mirror of every American car is engraved an ontological slogan that is highly appropriate for our time: OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR” (ho, 27). Interobjectivity is the next radical quality of objects brought into view through the rise of the hyperobject. It is an essential feature of Morton’s ooo that delivers a blow to the dominance of intersubjectivity. If Heidegger never fully abandoned the subject/ object divide, ooo does. “We humans are objects. The thing called a ‘subject’ is an object. Sentient beings are objects. Notice that ‘object’ here doesn’t mean something that is automatically apprehended by a subject. There are all kinds of objects that so-called subjects don’t apprehend” (ho, 150). As already noted, ooo “rejects any privilege of human access to the world, and puts the affairs of human consciousness on exactly the same footing as the duel between canaries, microbes, earthquakes, atoms, and tar.”19 But if, to reiterate the “single basic tenet” of ooo, objects withdraw

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“from all perceptual and causal relations” (gm, 20), how do we account for interaction at all? Morton’s notion of interobjectivity is one version of the account. While real objects withdraw, we encounter their shifting sensual profiles, sensual objects (Husserl’s intentional objects), “their appearance-for another object. . . . Sensual objects are wonderfully, disturbingly entangled in one another. This is where causality happens” (ho, 118). Interobjectivity is thus “a space that is ontologically ‘in front of’ objects” (ho, 85). It is comparable to Harman’s vicarious causation, the fact that “nothing is ever experienced directly, but only as mediated through other entities in some shared sensual space” (ho, 86). What we have here is a “universe made up of objects wrapped in objects wrapped in objects wrapped in objects” (gm, 85). Interobjectivity is aesthetic causation, or the translation of one object by another. Consequently, for Morton, “causality and the aesthetic, the realm of signs and significance and sensation, are one and the same” (ho, 88). Temporal undulation, the fourth quality disclosed by the force of hyperobjects, makes short work of Kant’s transcendental idealism. Although fiercely unruly, hyperobjects comply with the Einsteinian universe. Consequently, they overrule all theories that hold, in line with Kant, that “space and time . . . are not properties of things, but rather properties in our senses; they are not objective, but rather subjective properties. [One] can therefore imagine space and time a priori, for they precede all things; [they] are individual intuitions.”20 Still under the sway of this less Copernican than “Ptolemaic counterrevolution” (Meillassoux qtd. in ho, 63), we, the humanists, fail to grasp “the meaning of relativity” and remain regrettably “Newtonian” (ho, 63). To correct this grave omission, we must radically transform all venues of thinking that foreclose the notion of time and space as “[emerging] from objects, not from synthetic judgments that preunderstand being to be thus and thus” (ho, 63). “Spacetime isn’t an empty box, but rather an undulating force field that emanates from objects” (ho, 64), and “this relativity is hardwired into things themselves” (ho, 63). For the contemporary humanities scholar, the charge of persevering Newtonianism is particularly jarring, as it alleges an ongoing failure to develop rhetorical and methodological strategies that could

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adequately subsume and espouse a notion of time and space congruent with Einstein’s theory. In effect, Morton’s accusation seeks to mobilize an offensive against disciplinary estrangement and incite collaboration between the humanities and the sciences. In colluding with disciplines across the divide, the humanities should, however, not submit to science and remain content with merely describing, interpreting, or critiquing its achievements and faults from the outside. Instead, Morton demands that scholars in the humanities begin to ask “questions that science should address, questions that scientists may not have asked yet,” and that they assume the “responsibility to examine, participate in, support, and criticize scientific experiments” (et, 13). The final of the five qualities, phasing, explains why it is “impossible to see hyperobjects as a whole on a regular three-dimensional human-scale basis” (ho, 70). Here, Morton calls on math, meteorology, and music to emphasize the hyperobject’s transdimensionality. Morton defines phasing as “an indexical sign of an object that is massively distributed in a phase space that is higher dimensional than the equipment (our ears, the top of my head, a weather vane) used to detect it” (ho, 77). Our experience of objects is not only always mediated, throttled to their appearances or local manifestations; it is also dimensionally downgraded. Simply put, we experience hyperobjects in the manner that Edwin Abbott Abbott’s lines experience spheres and cubes in the two-dimensional world of Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (1884). “Human perception of a hyperobject is akin to the sectioning technique in architectural drawing,” but this slice we perceive, this indexical sign, “is a metonymy for the hyperobject” (ho, 74, 77). The second section of the book, “The Time of Hyperobjects,” diagnoses what the appearance of hyperobjects means for humans and, to an extent, nonhumans. This section, like one of the two robots from Wall·E, “holds open the sliding door of history just as they appear to be snapping shut, imprisoning us in modernity forever” (ho, 23). It is a meditation, however feverish it may be, on human attunements to the lack of world. If the term weakness, which “determines the capacity for tuning” (ho, 176), once again reminds us of Benjamin’s weak Messiah, we are not far off. The

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time after world is a time of attunement to the “strange stranger, the stranger whose strangeness is forever strange—it cannot be tamed or rationalized away” (ho, 124). Like Derrida’s l’arrivant, it calls

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into question . . . all the distinctive signs of a prior identity, beginning with the very border that delineated a legitimate home and assured lineage, names and language, nations, families and genealogies. The absolute arrivant does not yet have a name or an identity. It is not an invader or an occupier, nor is it a colonizer, even if it can also become one. This is why [it is called] the arrivant, and not someone or something that arrives, a subject, a person, an individual or a living thing. . . . It is not even a foreigner identified as a member of a foreign, determined community.21

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“The strange stranger is not only strange, but strangely so. They could be us. They are us.”22 Hyperobjects is a relentless torrent of commentary that presents challenges to most contemporary scholarship on both sides of the still upheld nature/culture divide. It demands an exorcism of the features that have participated in the creation of the hyperobject global warming on all fronts. Attempts at saving the world via preservation ensconced in contemporary environmentalisms merely work at shoring up the some version of world picture. They thus merely threaten to subtend the very forms of capitalism that have created the mess we are in. What Morton demands is scholarship without world, ecology without nature, without the present. The “saving power” he dares to hope for is not a rescuing of the human, or the preservation of Nature, or the abandonment of technology. It rests in the surrender to what he deems lameness: “the way in which all things, humans no exception, are hobbled from within by an ontological gap. Spirit now no longer floats in the zero gravity of inner space. Instead, humans find nonhumans pressing in on all sides . . . at the end of the world” (ho, 196). Lameness is the failure of objects to coincide with themselves. It is the failure of an object “to coincide with its appearance-for another object, no matter how accurate that appearance-for” (ho, 196). The saving power potentiated by the hyperobject, itself a broken object, is a

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surrender to failure. To engage with this text, the reader must be willing to practice reading as falling or—per Halberstam—failing. As Morton quips: “The Pixar movie Wall·E is the story of how broken tools save the Earth. So is this book.” Notes

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1. Graham Harman, Guerrilla Metaphysics: Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things (Chicago: Open Court Publishing, 2011), 131. Hereafter cited as gm. 2. Martin Heidegger, “The Age of the World Picture,” in The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays, trans. William Lovitt (New York: Garland, 1977), 131–32. Hereafter cited as “aw.” 3. Martin Heidegger, Contributions to Philosophy (of the Event) (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012), 31. Hereafter cited as cp. 4. Timothy Morton, “Poisoned Ground: Art and Philosophy in the Time of Hyperobjects,” Symploke 21, no. 1 (2013): 38. Hereafter cited as “pg.” 5. Friedrich Kittler, Optical Media: Berlin Lectures 1999, trans. Anthony Enns (Cambridge UK: Polity, n.d.), 75. 6. Véronique M. Fóti, “Representation and the Image: Between Heidegger, Derrida, and Plato,” Man and World 18, no. 1 (1985): 67. 7. Martin Heidegger, Discourse on Thinking (New York: HarperCollins, 1969), 50. 8. Martin Heidegger, “The Question Concerning Technology,” in The Question Concerning Technology (New York: HarperCollins, 1982), 18. Hereafter cited as “qc.” 9. Martin Heidegger, “The Turning,” in The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays, trans. William Lovitt (New York: Garland, 1977), 45. Hereafter cited as “tt.” 10. Graham Harman, Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy (Winchester, UK: Zero Books, 2012), 15. Hereafter cited as wr. 11. Graham Harman, Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects (Chicago: Open Court Publishing, 2002), 45. Hereafter cited as tb. 12. A jab at Edmund Wilson’s slight against the writing of H. P. Lovecraft—an object oriented ontology darling. As Harman writes, “Wilson cannot refute Lovecraft’s value with mocking phrases such as

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16. 17. 18. 19. 20.

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‘invisible whistling octopus,’ for there is no inherent reason why such a creature could not inhabit the greatest story of all time” (wr, 9). Ian G. R. Shaw and Katharine Meehan, “Force-Full: Power, Politics and Object-Oriented Philosophy,” Area 45, no. 2 (2013): 218, doi:10.1111/area.12023. Hereafter cited as “ff.” The original reads: “wenn der Messias kommt, von dem ein großer Rabbi gesagt hat, daß er nicht mit Gewalt die Welt verändern wolle, sondern nur um ein Geringes sie zurechtstellen werde.” Walter Benjamin, “Franz Kafka,” in Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 4 (Suhrkamp, 1990), 432. My translation. Timothy Morton, The Ecological Thought (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012), 130. Hereafter cited as et. Slavoj Žižek, “Nature and Its Discontents,” SubStance 37, no. 3 (2008): 39. Timothy Morton, Ecology without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007), 5. Jane Bennett, “Systems and Things: A Response to Graham Harman and Timothy Morton,” New Literary History 43, no. 2 (2012): 225. Graham Harman, “On Vicarious Causation,” Collapse 2 (2007): 173. Immanuel Kant, Lectures on Metaphysics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 331. Jacques Derrida, Aporias: Dying—Awaiting (One Another At) the “Limits of Truth” (mourir—S’attendre Aux “Limites de La Vérité”) (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), 34. Timothy Morton, “Thinking Ecology: The Mesh, the Strange Stranger, and the Beautiful Soul,” Collapse 6 (2010): 275.

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The Messy Optimism of Digital Connection in Shaka McGlotten’s Virtual Intimacies

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A review of Shaka McGlotten, Virtual Intimacies: Media, Affect, and Queer Sociality (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2013). Cited in the text as vi.

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Not a moment too soon, scholarly work on queer sexuality in digital cultures has begun bridging the gap between two vibrant contemporary fields that converse with surprising infrequency— sexuality studies and media studies. At a time when discussions of queerness have become so pervasive that scholars find themselves facing the question “Is everything queer?,” it can seem that queer theory has already succeeded in leaving no stone unturned.1 At the same time, when the digital humanities claim to be revolutionizing scholarship by replacing qualitative thinking with color-coded charts, it’s easy to fear that close readings of culture have become a thing of the pre-big-data past.2 With some notable exceptions, writing on high-tech media like video games has shied away from the controversial territory of sexuality. Meanwhile, queer theory, with some of its own notable exceptions, has taken pains to sidestep the “lower” arts and the hubbub of the Internet, too often dismissed as heteronormative distractions. However, a new wave

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of scholarship is revitalizing both visions of the queer and visions of the digital. Multiple academic conferences and collections are being newly dedicated to exploring, for example, queerness as a key element of video games. These intersections, still uneasy, need models to help scholars from disparate backgrounds envision what it might look like to understand technology through sexual practices and identities. Shaka McGlotten’s Virtual Intimacies: Media, Affect, and Queer Sociality offers just this: an introduction to thinking contemporary media queerly. McGlotten, a social anthropologist and an ambivalent participant in a variety of web-based sexual communities, admirably attempts to explicate and expose for his readers both the pitfalls and subversive potentials of searching for lust/love as mediated by a computer screen. Combining ethnographic interviews with personal anecdotes, Virtual Intimacies stretches to address a (sometimes too wide) range of erotic encounters with technology. Frustrated adventures in iPhone cruising are featured alongside hours spent browsing amateur porn sites. Naked video-game bodies are parsed for their ability to “emote” real-world desires. Dating profile photos are shown to simultaneously perform and obscure race. A seemingly fleeting sexual encounter, arranged over the Internet, proves surprisingly moving when one man discovers the other reading a book about mourning. These are the tableaux that animate McGlotten’s writing, and his project is ultimately less concerned with providing answers than with mapping constellations. In such scenes, which ground Virtual Intimacies in everyday experiences of technologically mediated erotics, readers too find themselves inducted into a kind of virtual intimacy, a steamy analytical space where theory melds with the desires of anthropological subjects and the author himself. Bound by mutual arousal, both intellectual and corporeal, we join McGlotten in the phenomenological project of discovering “what it feels like to connect, or fail to, in a technophilic and technophobic present in which intimacy has gone virtual, if it ever was real” (vi, 1). Thus, with his readers in tow, McGlotten seeks to untangle a contemporary web of technology, gay male sexuality, and that slippery feeling called “closeness.” Along

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the way he manages to both denounce and ultimately reaffirm the twenty-first-century fantasy of a high-tech sexual utopia. Virtual Intimacies begins from the premise that our contemporary technological lives have complicated our pre-digital conceptualizations of sex, sociality, and queerness. With the rise of seemingly ubiquitous Internet access comes a constant yet diffuse sense of social connection, whether through laptop computers or smartphones. When using these devices to access sensitive material in public (McGlotten tells us in one of his more poetic moments), we cradle them near our bodies like lovers. Along with these technological connections comes a wave of promises about sexual connections, especially for gay men. The Internet is supposed to be a utopia where discrimination against race and body type is a thing of the past, where partners can be found at all times for all types of play, whether on-screen or off. Suspicious of these utopian claims—and rightly so, as Lisa Nakamura’s work on online racial performance has long since taught us3—McGlotten began nearly a decade ago to explore for himself the erotic encounters afforded by popular technology. This meant trying out gay male cruising applications like Grindr. It meant immersing himself in massively multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft. And it meant getting intimately familiar with recent movements in do-it-yourself pornography. Lastly, it even meant playing the part of the cultural sleuth, sifting through the sensationalist media reporting that surrounds questions of sex and technology in order to piece together the cultural implications of this new form of sociality. The concept of “messiness” is McGlotten’s most important intervention into the debates around queer theory and technology. After so many adventures, McGlotten admits, he hasn’t settled on whether technologically mediated connections facilitate hegemony or subversion, discrimination or acceptance, a digital cruising utopia or a digital cruising dystopia. The truth about what the Internet offers queerness (and vice versa), he says, is “much messier and less optimistic” than any simple vision of a liberating free-for-all in ones and zeros (vi, 3). While conclusions like these sometimes read as rudimentary for those already accustomed to studying the complexities of online culture, where community members will often

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report feeling both liberated and disconnected, McGlotten’s emphasis on blurry boundaries offers both progressive and reactionary digital scholars a new model for making sense of the experience of technology. After all, “messiness” signifies that which cannot be properly categorized or contained, the slippery slop that escapes the pail, the overflow that one tries and fails to clean. Queer theory in Virtual Intimacies likewise slips and stumbles between the anti-sociality of Lee Edelman, the wary critique of Lauren Berlant, and the impossible daydream of José Munoz.4 While at times frustrating (is virtual intimacy supposed to be a good thing or a bad thing?), McGlotten’s book does make space for a kind of semisociality, a sociality that is at once charged with the erotics of failure and connection. And what exactly does McGlotten mean by “virtual intimacy” in the first place? Today, millions of Americans date online,5 and grandmothers are among the fastest-growing demographic of Facebook users.6 We may soon be able to expand the term “virtual intimacy” to include nearly any twenty-first-century interpersonal relationship. However, McGlotten has his reasons for narrowing his scope to the specific combination of queerness and tech-enabled sex. Invoking the specter of the neoliberal, he situates his subject matter within a wider system of contemporary discourse that figures both queerness and technology as threats to traditional intimacy, a privileged site of anxiety in the last decades of the culture wars. While gay marriage operates as a scapegoat for the failures of heterosexual marriage (we might say that, appalled and confused, Adam and Eve break up because of Adam and Steve), the Internet plays the lead role in an equal-opportunity moral panic around human connection. Fearmongering has become the status quo: online pornography will make disconnected sex addicts of once-loving husbands; predators posing as pussycats will make cyborg sex kittens of once-innocent children. Simultaneously, says McGlotten, our culture has figured both queerness and virtual intimacy as failures. The one fails to achieve the goals of heteronormativity; the other fails to find love without a download. Simultaneously, Virtual Intimacies positions itself within a longer history of gay male social spaces, such as urban parks and public restrooms,

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where cruising brought men together long before the days of the perfect Gindr profile pic. A tension arises in the narrative McGlotten wants to tell about the Internet’s place in gay cruising culture, however. While he would like to see the now bygone glory days of the glory-hole exchange as a lost “golden age” of inter-race and inter-class contact (à la Samuel R. Delaney),7 his interviewees insist that going digital beats their more adventurous yet risky years going into bushes. Though McGlotten doesn’t acknowledge it, this is one source of the “messiness” mentioned earlier: the nostalgic narrative of cultural decline and the teleological narrative of progress fail to cohere. Interrogating the meaning of “sex in public,” McGlotten begins by linking interviewee tales of public sex in Austin’s cruising grounds with media reports that render online sex both deviant and public: “the erotic or affective act that jumps into the public consciousness as perversion, scandal, hypocrisy” (vi, 17). These two forces, public sex and sex in public, merge in a series of 1996 news reports surrounding sting operations in Austin parks in which a reporter announces that school buses of children are being exposed to “perverts” in flagrante. McGlotten traces similar concerns of public-ness in recent technologically entangled political sex scandals, such as Republican congressman Mark Foley’s sexts sent to young, male congressional pages. Our fascination with these models of bad intimacy, McGlotten rightly insists, is made up of equal parts repulsion and desire: an overwhelming longing to get close to those subjects who got close in all the wrong ways. Similarly, McGlotten cites the popular television series To Catch a Predator (2004–7) as an example of sex in public that tantalizes with wrongdoing at the same time that it prescribes a formula for getting things romantically right. As per the show’s premise, host Chris Hansen and a team of Internet vigilantes entice men to suburban homes where underage girls or boys theoretically await; there they find a camera crew instead of a sex partner. McGotten aptly calls this “a testament to the pleasures of looking at the disasters that are other people’s intimate lives” (vi, 35). The show sends a clear message about what types of intimacy are and are not acceptable. Not acceptable: whispering sweet nothings to a teen

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in a chat room. Acceptable: sitting down in front of the television with your nuclear family to watch To Catch a Predator. Like many of McGlotten’s chapters, though, this one ends a few beats to soon, leaving us to wonder, along with the author, exactly how the public-ness of these sexual encounters might go hand in hand with their virtualness and their “failure.” In his discussion of World of Warcraft, a long-standing and internationally popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game, McGlotten turns to consider the intimate implications of solo versus group play. A vast virtual world filled with complicated quests, most of which cannot be completed alone, World of Warcraft exemplifies for McGlotten the contrast between popular stereotypes about lonely technology users and the highly social experience of actual online connections. He describes his own trials and tribulations as a new player of the game, seeking out others with whom to quest, getting “booted” from these temporary collectives in favor of more experienced players, joining an lgbt “guild” (a group of players who form a self-selected tribe), and finding a sense of virtual belonging. Yet, says McGlotten, this form of intimacy is still fundamentally “instrumental,” in that it serves the normative goal of advancing according to the logic of the game, and therefore remains problematic. Solo play, he suggests, might have more subversive potential, since playing alone, with all of its masturbatory and non-reproductive implications, is precisely the kind of play that most frequently terrifies media soap-boxers. Yet McGlotten is interested first and foremost in sociality, and so he tells us that intimate, in-game socializing that doesn’t serve instrumental ends is more subversive still. Using text chat, voice, and avatar movements, World of Warcraft players of all human and nonhuman races can engage in virtual sex—another “failed” form of erotic expression, since it fails to meet the criteria for “real,” corporeal intercourse. Consider the story of a dwarf who stumbled across two night elves in the act. “Artemsia groans softly, biting your neck softly, her breath hard against your neck,” their steamy exchange begins (vi, 58). This type of erotic interplay is itself, says McGlotten, a form of queerness, since it uproots sex from our normative expectations about the inextricable link between desire and

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the body. While his chapter on World of Warcraft may not offer extensive new material to scholars with existing knowledge of video games and virtual worlds, McGlotten’s insightful taxonomy of in-game sociality paves the way for future work in the field. Though not the first scholarly study to look at iPhone applications for cruising, McGlotten’s chapter on the widely used gay male hookup application Grindr stands out for its engagement with race. McGlotten is particularly interested in the act of profile creation. After all, bringing a profile to life forces a user to think both about what he desires and how to market himself as desirable. In this “hypercompetitive erotic marketplace,” where more than four million men vie for each other’s attention, whiteness apparently enjoys preeminence. A recent ucla study demonstrated the racial disparities on the gay cruising site Adam4Adam, where black and Asian men were found to receive significantly fewer responses than white men. Blatant racism also runs rampant in profiles themselves. Though Grindr offers limited space for writing self-descriptions, many use this space to articulate racial “preferences,” like “no blacks and asians, no offense” or “not into spice or rice”—examples from the community shaming site DouchebagsofGrindr. The black male Grindr users whom McGlotten interviewed reported feeling anxious, even paranoid about their self-presentation, pressured to fashion themselves into socially preset, racially prescribed roles, such as the “hypersexualized black male Buck” or the “homogenized gay clone.” McGlotten provides a screenshot of his own Grindr profile, where he lists his race as “mixed,” arguably sidestepping his offscreen black identity. For him, these experiences of prejudice and self-doubt definitively disprove the notion that technology takes us beyond concerns of the body. “Nearly all the men I’ve spoken with over the last ten years agree that race matters in real and virtual spaces,” he reports. “Yet black men tend to express a more vigilant and apprehensive attention to this relevance” (vi, 67). McGlotten tells us that this apprehensive vigilance isn’t specific to life on the Internet, yet it’s important to point to the ways in which these “real world” experiences continue to manifest online. In his final chapter, which explores amateur pornography pub-

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lished on YouTube-style websites, McGlotten makes a shift from nostalgia and ambivalence to unadulterated optimism. This is both the most uplifting and the most problematic section of Virtual Intimacies. McGlotten opens with a scene from his own media consumption: channel surfing between live broadcasts of webcam performers touching themselves or licking their partners. Soon he lands on a series of short films from a do-it-yourself (diy) porn film festival, shot by “everyday people” having fun and pushing the pornographic envelope. In one short, a male punk in a wedding dress enters a church and performs cunnilingus on a bearded woman suspended from a cross. In another, masked partygoers mix whipped cream with dildos. McGlotten doesn’t hesitate to claim that the diy genre undermines and overturns all that is wrong with the money-guzzling, imagination-stifling pornography industry. Instead, “it subverts pornographic expectations—no beefy bodies, no fake tits, or money shots here” (vi, 120). McGlotten becomes particularly enamored of an artist who goes by the name of The Black Spark. The Black Spark’s videos have even fewer marks of mainstream porn, gay or straight. Cryptic poetry scrolls across shots of a living room, then a bathtub eerily lit by the pulse of a glowstick, then that same glowstick inserted into the filmmaker’s anus. For McGlotten, this kind of “hacktivist” porn boldly tackles our expectations for arousal. And if the capitalist interest of pornography was weighing down your libido, don’t worry: diy does it for free. McGlotten marvels at the élan vital of a young webcam performer who dons college athletic clothes to shoot videos for his thousands of fans. In exchange for his gifts—the video he shoots of himself masturbating—his fans send their own gifts: sexy clothes and money. In McGlotten’s (momentarily) utopian view, exchanges like this reclaim sex from the clutches of greed, leveraging the gift economy to interrupt the commercial and aesthetic banality of industrial porn. “Rather than functioning only as dead or deadening representations of sex,” he concludes triumphantly, diy porn “operates as a creative and enlivening practice of life in the twenty-first century” (vi, 14). In such moments, McGlotten’s optimism blinds him to some key questions. For example, why is sex performed for free inherently “better” than sex performed for pay? Who decides

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whether sex onscreen is “dead” or alive? Like artists and writers, sex workers frequently suffer under the romantic notion that their labor is somehow inauthentic unless it goes uncompensated. A handful of caveats and doubts appear in McGlotten’s introduction: that the “new media” he is investigating will become “old” before his book hits the press; that his tone, at times more conversational than academic, will color his insights as insufficiently intellectual. While Virtual Intimacies has its weak moments, these are not among them. To the contrary, the material McGlotten presents still reads as fresh, and it will continue to mark a historical moment well after the technologies themselves have become outdated. The social practices he describes are still alive and well in the worlds of online games, cruising apps, and online porn, and although some of the platforms he discusses are not cutting-edge, they will ring as pleasantly familiar to those who use them, and as intriguingly new to readers who don’t already live their intimate lives on the Internet. More to the point, the stakes that he articulates around these practices—the complications of queer space, intimate connection, and self-fashioning—will remain salient for many future generations of interpersonal technology. As for his warning about tone, McGlotten’s writing loses little in moments when it sidesteps formality. Instead, it succeeds in its goal to “shrink the distance between the worlds the book describes and the one the reader finds herself in” (vi, 15). Most poignant are McGlotten’s inclusions, stated in the first person, of his own experiences with contemporary queer sociality and its discontents. Academic writing on sex often leaves little room for the body and desire of the academic himself. McGlotten breaks this silence, insisting on the relevance of his own place in his research. Sometimes that place is even the place of discomfort and confusion. In a particularly charming moment, he describes watching a parade of dancing, naked night elves on one of his first excursions into World of Warcraft. He wonders, with the polymorphously perverse pleasure of a playful child exploring new erotic boundaries: If those avatars can take their virtual clothes off, can I? Can my avatar have sex with theirs? What is the etiquette around being attracted to a digital body? Can I point, wave, laugh, purr, flirt, kiss? Can I

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penetrate? The answer, at least within the official boundaries of the game, is no. However, McGlotten’s colloquial, personal, and intimate style ensures that we readers also find ourselves teased and tantalized in moments of realization and infinite possibility. As a work of queer theory, Virtual Intimacies has both its important contributions and its blind spots. McGlotten’s appeals for understanding technologically mediated intimacies as key components of contemporary “queer sociality” are compelling. In making a case for the importance of the digital in contemporary queer life, he reminds us how many men around the world have downloaded Grindr. He writes: “It and programs like it have become part of the texture of gay life, part of the media ecologies that shape our daily practices and desires, that transform how we think of ourselves and how we move through the world.” Yet who exactly has a place in McGlotten’s vision of “queer sociality”? Who is this “we” moving through the world in brave new ways? McGlotten’s scope is limited almost entirely to the practices and experiences of gay men. Women’s voices, queer or otherwise, have little place in this text. Frequently, important works by female and transgendered theorists (e.g., Jack Halberstam) are quickly glossed and rarely mentioned by name, while writing by cis-male theorists (e.g., Lee Edelman) is more frequently explored in depth. Heterosexuality and motherhood are deployed as straw men or the objects of passing jabs. Those of us who are not gay men but who are nonetheless queer and connected, living our virtual lives both intimately and queerly, may find ourselves without a clear foothold here. Granted, McGlotten clearly states his focus on gay male communities in his very first pages, a focus he chooses in part because of his own experiences as a gay man who has “navigated this expansive and expanding field of virtually mediated intimacies, who [has gone] on the hunt for love or sex and who often find themselves entangled” (vi, 2). Certainly, the specificity of McGlotten’s research field is admirable, in that it does not try to cover the vast and complex web of all types of virtual intimacies experienced by all types of people. However, staking a broader claim on the implications of virtual intimacy for “queerness” means looking beyond the experiences of gay men to all of those exploring and enacting queer identities through their screens. Future scholarship will be tasked with ex-

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panding McGlotten’s understanding of the queer as it plays a crucial role in contemporary digital lives. Ultimately, it remains unclear whether McGlotten’s vision of virtual intimacy is brave and new (challenging popular fears around disconnection and the virtual) or whether it is just a dystopian “brave new world” (reinstating those fears by warning us about the frailty of online connections). McGlotten frequently challenges popular notions that digitally mediated connections are less “real” or less meaningful than encounters that begin and end in the flesh. In such moments, his tone is reclamatory and optimistic. Connecting through technology, he seems to believe, is a way of fighting back against normative modes of desire; it congeals the failed, carnal, and ambivalent, “reflecting the most irredeemable of queer intimacies, and ultimately forcing us to reconsider our very definition of intimacy” (vi, 11). At other times, however, the language McGlotten uses to discuss our onscreen connections—whether mediated through hookup apps, pornograpy tube sites, or virtual worlds—sounds more reminiscent of recent techno-culturally reactionary writing, like Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (2011). In this work, Turkle, previously a longtime proponent of digital sociality,8 uses the language of intimacy to urge us to turn off our twenty-first-century devices, which she claims have come to function as addictive “substitutions” for “real intimacies.” Feeling vulnerable and afraid, writes Turkle, “we depend on communications technologies to facilitate our lives and our interactions with others; we look to new media for succor from our loneliness.”9 McGlotten mirrors Turkle’s tech-wary sentiments in his coda, “On Not Hooking Up,” where he too warns of our connections to/via technology: “We lament our solitude and resist (and resent) the work that comes with being together” (vi, 125). While McGlotten does explicitly challenge the line between real and virtual, he seeks realness above all in his own narrative of online dating. “Open to all sorts of real connections,” his Grindr profile proclaims, in a moment of self-definition that McGlotten himself does not analyze. What, in McGlotten’s own formulation, would an “unreal” connection entail? In his introduction, McGlotten asks this very question, perhaps the most important question of all for Virtual

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Intimacies: “But what is the real thing, what is real intimacy?” As scholarship bridging sexuality studies and media studies continues to gain momentum, this question is sure to emerge as one of the most important for making sense of ourselves and our contemporary digital lives. That McGlotten cannot seem to shake the allure of “realness” shows us a crucial path for future study: exploring how the queer and the digital alike can move us beyond restrictive definitions of the “real.”

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Notes

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1. A panel titled “Is Everything Queer?” played to a packed house at the 2014 Modern Language Association Conference, demonstrating the importance of the question to contemporary scholars in the field. 2. For an overview of the charts-and-graphs approach of digital humanities, see Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner, and Jeffrey Schnapp, Digital_Humanities (Cambridge: mit Press, 2012). 3. Lisa Nakamura, Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet (New York: Routledge, 2002). 4. See Lee Edelman, No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004); Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011); and José Muñoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (New York: nyu Press, 2009). 5. Quantcast.com, a third-party web tracking site, reports that the dating site OkCupid alone logs more than one million unique visitors per day. 6. Online community management agency iStrategyLabs used Facebook’s advertising analytics in January 2014 to determine that the number of Facebook users over fifty-five years old has nearly doubled since 2011. 7. Samuel R. Delaney, Times Square Red, Times Square Blue: Sexual Cultures (New York: nyu Press, 1999). 8. See Turkle’s The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984) and Life on Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet (New York: Touchstone, 1995). 9. Sherry Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (New York: Basic Books, 2011), 1.

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Contributors

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branka arsić is professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. She is the author of On Leaving: A Reading in Emerson (2010), and a book on Melville titled Passive Constitutions or 7½ Times Bartleby (2007). She has coedited (with Cary Wolfe) a collection of essays on Emerson, titled The Other Emerson: New Approaches, Divergent Paths (2010). She is currently completing a book titled Bird Relics: Grief and Vitalism in Thoreau, which proposes a new understanding of the pathological and discusses the radical way in which Thoreau related mourning practices to biological life by articulating a complex theory of decay.

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banu bargu is assistant professor of political science at the New School for Social Research. Her main area of specialization is political theory, especially modern and contemporary political thought. Thematically, her work has focused on theories of biopolitics, sovereignty, and resistance. Her research interests are situated at the intersection of philosophy, politics, and anthropology, with a strong regional focus on the Middle East (and especially Turkish politics). Her current work analyzes how life is forged into a weapon through an in-depth study of the Death Fast Struggle of political prisoners in Turkey. Her book Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons was published in September 2014.

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thomas biebricher received his doctorate in political science at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg in 2003. His dissertation was published under the title Selbstkritik der Moderne: Habermas und Foucault im Vergleich in 2005. From 2003 to 2009 he was a daad visiting assistant professor at the political science department of the University of Florida in Gainesville. From 2009 to 2012 he was a junior research group director at the Department in the Formation of Normative Orders Excellence Cluster at the Goethe Universität in Frankfurt, where he has held temporary professorships for political theory since then. He spent the winter term of 2014 at the Institute for European Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver as a daad visiting assistant professor. He is currently working on a book-length project titled The Political Theory of Neoliberalism.

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wendy brown is Class of 1936 First Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is also affiliated with the department of rhetoric and the program in critical theory. Her most recent books are Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (2010); The Power of Tolerance, coauthored with Rainer Forst (2014); and Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution (forthcoming January 2015).

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william callison is a doctoral candidate in political science with a designated emphasis in critical theory at the University of California, Berkeley.

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nicola masciandaro is professor of English at Brooklyn College (cuny) and a specialist in medieval literature. Some principal themes of his work are mysticism, commentary, and decapitation. Recent publications include Dark Nights of the Universe, coauthored with Daniel Colucciello Barber, Alexander Galloway, and Eugene Thacker (2013); and And They Were Two in One and One in Two, coedited with Eugene Thacker (2014). Current and forthcoming projects include Sorrow of Being, a book on mystical sorrow, and Sufficient Unto the Day, a collection of essays against worry. He is the founding editor of the journal Glossator: Practice and Theory of the Commentary.

Contributors

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christoph menke is professor of philosophy at the Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main Department in the Formation of Normative Orders Excellence Cluster. His books in English include The Sovereignty of Art: Aesthetic Negativity after Adorno and Derrida (1998); Reflections of Equality (2006); Tragic Play: Tragedy. Irony and Theater from Sophocles to Beckett (2009); and Force: A Fundamental Concept of Aesthetic Anthropology (2012).

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emina mušanović is a doctoral candidate in the department of German at the University of California, Berkeley.

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bonnie ruberg is a doctoral candidate in the department of comparative literature with designated emphasis in new media and gender and women’s studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently writing her dissertation, “Pixel Whipped: Pain, Pleasure, and Media.” She is also the co-founder of the annual Queerness and Games Conference and the translator of a forthcoming collection of short stories by French surrealist author Gisèle Prassinos.

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anne sauvagnargues is professor of philosophy at the University of Paris, Nanterre, and specializes in the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. She co-directs the series “Lignes d’art” with Fabienne Brugère for Presses universitaires de France, and in 2008 she published a book on Deleuze’s philosophy titled Transcendental Empiricism.

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seth thorn is a doctoral candidate in computer music and multimedia at Brown University. suzanne verderber is associate professor of humanities and media studies at Pratt Institute. She is the author of The Medieval Fold: Power, Repression, and the Emergence of the Individual (2013) and the translator of Jean-Michel Rabate’s The Ethics of the Lie (2007).

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joseph vogl is professor of German literature, cultural and media studies, at the Humboldt University in Berlin and permanent visiting professor at Princeton University. He is the author of over a hundred articles and book chapters on German literature, literary and media theory, and the history of knowledge and political thought. His books include Ort der Gewalt: Kafkas literarische Ethik (1990); Kalkül und Leidenschaft: Poetik des ökonomischen Menschen (2002); Über das Zaudern (2007); On Tarrying (2011); Soll und Haben: Fernsehgespräche, coauthored with Alexander Kluge (2009); Das Gespenst des Kapitals (2010); and The Specter of Capital (forthcoming).

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Books Received

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Althusser, Louis. On the Reproduction of Capitalism: Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses. New York: Verso, 2014. Armstrong, Paul B. How Literature Plays with the Brain: The Neuroscience of Reading and Art. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013. Arsić, Branka, American Impersonal: Essays with Sharon Cameron. New York: Bloomsbury, 2014. Auerbach, Erich. Time, History, and Literature: Selected Essays of Erich Auerbach. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013. Auxier, Randolph E. Time, Will, and Purpose: Living Ideas from the Philosophy of Josiah Royce. Chicago: Open Court, 2013. Balibar, Étienne. Equaliberty: Political Essays. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014. Berger, David, and Paul Behle. Bohemians: A Graphic History. New York: Verso, 2014. Berlant, Lauren and Lee Edelman. Sex, or the Unbearable. Durham: Duke University Press, 2013. Biers, Katherine. Virtual Modernism: Writing and Technology in the Progressive Era. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013. Boone, Joseph Allen. The Homoerotics of Orientalism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014. Bosteels, Bruno. Marx and Freud in Latin America: Politics, Psychoanalysis, and Religion in Times of Terror. New York: Verso, 2012. Bowie, Andrew. Adorno and the Ends of Philosophy. Boston: Polity, 2013.

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Breckman, Warren. Adventures of the Symbolic: Post-Marxism and Radical Democracy. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. Brennan, Timothy. Borrowed Light: Vico, Hegel, and the Colonies. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2014. Bronfen, Elisabeth. Night Passages: Philosophy, Literature, and Film. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. Burt, John. Lincoln’s Tragic Pragmatism: Lincoln, Douglas, and Moral Conflict. Cambridge ma: Harvard University Press, 2013. Church, Jennifer. The Possibilities of Perception. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Debaene, Vincent. Far Afield: French Anthropology between Science and Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014. Derrida, Jacques. The Death Penalty. Vol. 1. Trans. Peggy Kamuf. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013. Duncan, Robert. Collected Essays and Other Prose. Ed. James Maynard. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014. Eiland, Howard, and Michael W. Jennings. Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014. Ernst, Wolfgang. Digital Memory and the Archive. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012. Fassin, Didier. Humanitarian Reason: A Moral History of the Present. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011. Foucault, Michel. Lectures on the Will to Know. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. Galloway, Andrew R., Eugene Thacker, and McKenzie Wark. Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013. Gregory, Dominic. Showing, Sensing, and Seeming: Distinctively Sensory Representations and their Contents. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Guenther, Lisa. Solitary Confinement: Social Death and Its Afterlives. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013. Harcourt, Bernard. The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012. Haritaworn, Jin. The Biopolitics of Mixing: Thai Multiracialities and Haunted Ascendancies. Burlington: Ashgate, 2012. Hayles, Katherine, and Jessica Pressman, eds. Comparative Textual Media. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013.

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Books Received

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Ingram, James D. Radical Cosmopolitics: The Ethics and Politics of Democratic Universalism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. Jackson, Virginia, and Yopie Prins. The Lyric Theory Reader: A Critical Anthology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014. Jameson, Fredric. The Antinomies of Realism. New York: Verso, 2013. Jay, Martin, and Sumathi Ramaswamy. Empires of Vision: A Reader. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014. Kohn, Eduardo. How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology beyond the Human. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013. Latour, Bruno. An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns. Cambridge ma: Harvard University Press, 2013. Lepore, Jill. The Story of America: Essays on Origins. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012. Levine, Michael G. A Weak Messianic Power: Figures of a Time to Come in Benjamin, Derrida, and Celan. New York: Fordham, 2013. Mackendrick, Karmen. Divine Enticements: Theological Seductions. New York: Fordham University Press, 2012. Malabou, Catherine. The Ontology of the Accident: An Essay on Destructive Plasticity. Boston: Polity, 2012. McGann, Jerome. A New Republic of Letters: Memory and Scholarship in the Age of Digital Reproduction. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014. Mitchell, Robert. Experimental Life: Vitalism in Romantic Science and Literature. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013. Mitchell, Timothy. Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil. New York: Verso, 2011. Moretti, Franco. Distant Reading. New York: Verso, 2013. Neff, Stephen C. Justice among Nations: A History of International Law. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014. Negri, Antonio. Spinoza for Our Time. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. Ngai, Sianne. Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014. Nguyen, Mimi Thi. The Gift of Freedom: War, Debt, and Other Refugee Passages. Durham: Duke University Press, 2012. Nixon, Rob. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013. Portela, Manuel. Scripting Reading Motions: The Codex and the Computer as Self-Reflexive Machines. Boston: mit Press, 2013.

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Rancière, Jacques. Aisthesis: Scenes from the Aesthetic Regime of Art. Trans. Zakir Paul. New York: Verso, 2013. Robcis, Camille. The Law of Kinship: Anthropology, Psychoanalysis, and the Family in France. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013. Rogers Hummel, Jeffrey. Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War. Chicago: Open Court, 2014. Rosanvallon, Pierre. The Society of Equals. Trans. Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013. Rothberg, Michael. Multidimensional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2009. Savage Brosman, Catherine. Louisiana Creole Literature: A Historical Study. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2013. Scarry, Elaine. Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing between Democracy and Doom. New York: Norton, 2014. Venit Shelton, Tamara. A Squatter’s Republic: Land and the Politics of Monopoly in California, 1850–1900. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013. Wazana Tompkins, Kyla. Racial Indigestion: Eating Bodies in the Nineteenth Century. New York: nyu Press, 2012. Weizman, Eyal. The Least of All Possible Evils: Humanitarian Violence from Arendt to Gaza. New York: Verso, 2011.

Edited by Paula J. Giddings

Published semiannually eISSN 1547-8424 pISSN 1536-6936

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Meridians provides a forum for the finest scholarship and creative work by and about women of color in U.S. and international contexts. The journal recognizes that feminism, race, transnationalism, and women of color are contested terms and engages in a dialogue across ethnic and national boundaries, as well as across traditional disciplinary boundaries in the academy.

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SUBSCRIBE http://www.jstor.org/r/iupress For more information on Indiana University Press http://www.iupress.indiana.edu

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a journal for the intermingling of literary, cultural and theoretical scholarship

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