Jazz Thoughts

Practical listening

6. Perspectives

The previous sections [1], already with some apology [2], revolved around conscious choice [3] mediating [4] technologies forging the self [5]: Subject position [6], indeed perceiving self [7], was therefore posited, if (partly [8]) disclaimed. In order to develop an enriched perspective on listening, particularly global listening [9], this addendum interrogates related [10] perspectives via subject-object equivocation.[11] (One might say that it depersonalizes listening, or rather seeks impersonal listening.[12]) Thus one seeks [13] other [14] "momentary possibilities" overcoming the familiar [15], i.e. unfamiliar perspectives.[16] (Are such perspectives themselves a technology?[17]) The openings to What is familiar? may be viewed [18] as questions [19] of perspective already, whether on narrative [20], escape [21], or difference [22] — or indeed on ecology [23] & family.[24] Such paths [25] of entry [26] are refigured more [27] impersonally via gesture [28], particularly through the equivocations of comedy [29] & work/play.[30] (Thus one decenters [31] not only knowledge [32] & diagram [33], but self [34] & sex [35] as well.) One in turn [36] finds [37] equivocating perspective always already in what is familiar [38], always moving [39] toward both opening [40] & closing [41]: Such motion traces [42] aesthetics.[43]

  1. So, yes, I am reprising this topic, after taking almost eight months away from theoretical writing — probably not enough time.[44] There will be at least one more section of Practical listening, perhaps others in time, or perhaps something else. (Or perhaps something actually practical.)

  2. As is obvious, although I'm on the fringes in some ways, I'm still a part of "the interior," and I've been bathed in concepts of the liberal subject for much of my life. Speaking for oneself is an important part of writing such as this [45], or at least not claiming to speak for others, so those origins continue to be significant, even as I explore moving beyond the liberal subject.[46]

  3. I have considered many ways in which what we hear is not consciously decided, but this "kernel" of conscious selection remains in the discussion. (I would need to reconsider written "voice" further, as another way of mitigating the issue.[47]) Some might call this a matter of engaging agency, but I don't want to dwell on agency per se. (Under scrutiny, the issue of voice becomes highly contradictory here, due to its multiple embeddedness.)

  4. Of course, not only does choice mediate technology, but technology — particularly social technology (imposed by hierarchy or otherwise) — mediates choice. (So there is already equivocation.)

  5. "Technologies of the self" are already perspectives [48]: Listening (as practice) has been figured as & by technology & morality, not only to forge the self, but in turn to be forged (by what?).

  6. Although concepts such as "the posthuman" seek to move beyond the liberal subject by means other than augmentation, the liberal subject remains at the core of much discussion, even when its universality is explicitly questioned. Indeed, one can still find it at the conceptual core of posthuman studies [49] via relations of refusal.

  7. Within this gesture (or mode), Deleuze observes that we need reasons to believe in the world. Haraway quotes Stengers as forcefully demanding "that we consent to participate in the ongoingness of the world." (In other words, these are the sorts of selves that have been or are required.[50]) Whereas many observations arise from perceiving self, Moten disclaims universality itself as solipsism [51]: Such assessments become highly contingent (on perspectives).

  8. Again, such a disclaimer can be only partial in writing such as this. (I suppose the reader perceives my own discomfort with an inability to escape oneself.)

  9. Global listening too easily becomes a particular perspective [52] — one that does not require subject position per se, but one whose reduction suffers from universality-solipsism. (Must one choose? Hence multiple perspectives.)

  10. More accurately, perspective is interrogated via relation. (Thus, while an unrelated perspective cannot be traced, and perhaps not even noticed, it should not be assumed not to exist.[53])

  11. Since I continue to employ a language (i.e. English) with subject-object rupture, such equivocation will be expressed only awkwardly. (The anthropological basis for equivocation will likely become increasingly apparent [54], though, particularly in the next section.)

  12. Such an impersonal perspective might be called generic in Laruellian terms.[55] (Rather, this is somewhat backward from his circumlocution of the man-in-person.)

  13. One need not seek other momentary possibilities in order for such possibilities to encounter one. (There is no statement of agency here, other than incidentally [56], according to language.)

  14. Othering continues here beyond (static) difference. Differing becomes a tendency. (This is a reprisal of the opening.)

  15. The familiar always pulls us in... or does it? (Queerness will be more of a topic in the next section.)

  16. An attempt to generate unfamiliar perspectives from only what one knows, or how one relates (some might say "is"), or what one does — which is the case here — is an act of both vanity & necessity. (Or perhaps the world does not impose itself sufficiently upon me?[57]) How else might one know the (social) world?

  17. Perhaps unfamiliarity is itself a forge — beyond [5]. (I will treat such relations rather differently in the next section.)

  18. Once again, I fall into ocularcentric language: Various perspectives could be segmented & interrogated according to sensory modality, as a means of generating yet more. (Likewise, perspectives could cross sensory modalities to generate more.) This is another limitation of my language, and I hope that the reader will stop to consider other sensory modalities whenever a particular mode is implied.

  19. Unlike many of my recent titles, the openings were not framed explicitly as questions. Yet, as impulses for investigation (tracing, interrogation), they each yield only limited answers — answers to their (implicit) question. (One certainly cannot claim that together they form a complete set, either, but hopefully they do at least provide some worthwhile perspectives, particularly in their crossings.)

  20. Narrative provides a "context of specific moral practices & outcomes" [58], which is another way of figuring history per se.[59] (Narrative is also constrained by grammar.[60])

  21. "The what" always escapes: What or where is the repressed of the modern, then?[61] One might escape into abstraction [62], i.e. the rationalizing babble of modernism.[63] Where does the real go?[64]

  22. Whereas difference can collapse easily into definition, here I seek to open difference to the other (and not only per [14]): We seek other values [65], even other selves [66], theory as travel, other relations.[67]

  23. I seem to be unable to leave my own early training in economy behind, so as to conceptualize more according to ecology, i.e. according to a domain of objects. (The opening discursus on attention economy indicates this disciplinary prejudice readily enough.) Yet these are domains of mutuality, of construction, agentic or otherwise.[68] Are these domains governed by science?[69] Might we lose control?[70]

  24. Perhaps within a family one can be open to other perspectives?[71] What then of queer perspectives?[72]

  25. The openings are, of course, ultimately arbitrary: They might be called ways to walk.... (I am generally disgusted by Aristotle, but I do do a lot of walking.)

  26. Entering the familiar is only the beginning: The familiar is never closed (pace [15]), and (per [21]) there is always escape. What are we actually entering? One must continue asking. ("What is being assembled in any particular situation, and what specific relations are involved?" That sounds familiar.)

  27. "The more" is once again escaping... fleeing, overflowing, but also rushing inward, not only away.... Here I am explicitly trying to forge more perspectives, more familiars — maybe even more technology, or at least more weapons.[73]

  28. Gesture has been interrogated from its center, from relation: Gesture produces objects.

  29. Does comedy produce an object?[74] Its theoretical interrogation (recently Lacanian [75] & otherwise [76]) seems more urgent now than ever.[77] Is comedy itself a basis for knowledge?[78]

  30. What is the distinction between work & play anyway? (It's more than merely effort or our own agency.) How do relaxing [79] & boredom [80] figure this dual? Moreover, how do we interrogate the comedy-sex-sports nexus of play?[81]

  31. Concepts of a residual center are also those of a residual liberal subject remaining after augmentation (per [6]): We must ultimately do more than merely decenter.[82] We need open crossings, and without a compass. (We are already lost, so becoming lost is not a big concern.)

  32. The modern was largely forged by a shift in European concepts of authority.[83] The contemporary situation [84] suggests another seismic shift in authority.[85] (In this, it becomes not about the what of knowledge, but the who or how.[86])

  33. Perspectives themselves can be taken as sorts of diagrams: The latter might let us ask (more impersonally), whose perspective? Whose attention?[87] With so much escaping, does anything align?[88] (These states over nature might be far more fragile than they have appeared to be.[89])

  34. Decentering self potentially raises the question (as Jameson recently did [90]) of whether we are afraid of no longer being ourselves. What not only of caring for ourselves, but of using ourselves?[91] What remains?[92]

  35. Forge & be forged (per [5])... does this not describe sexual relation? But what is sexual relation?[93] What is routine?[94]

  36. Indeed, a perspective is a kind of turn....

  37. Per [13], one might find without seeking. Perhaps one is found. (One must be found.[95])

  38. Invoking a "primal scene" was (always) already an attempt at figuring the always already familiar. (Note that such a primal scene can be identified, if only retroactively, as our "own" primal scene: It remains an equivocation involving individuality per se then, per [3], and so a further perspective beyond personal choice will require a different kind of narrative or interrogation.)

  39. Such motion is demanded by e.g. comedy, prior to any object (per [29]). The motion is the relation and produces the object (per [28]).[96]

  40. I emphasize openness, i.e. relation & perhaps resonance (per the next section): Openness basically means more (per [27],) possibilities without end.[97]

  41. Although we might not want "an end" in the sense of total finality (i.e. death), closure (or even consummation) are not to be dismissed: The object comes with a sense of finality (or event) via its own separation.[98]

  42. Whereas I have figured Kantian aesthetics as covering a gap [99], here I (continue to) traverse that gap — so as to relate severed outcome & intent. (Such an interrogation must be taken as inherently transverse, and a particular sort of traversal will thus be undertaken via resonance in the next section.)

  43. Even though (or likely, because) "enlightenment" aesthetics is less than worthless — what with all its obfuscation — aesthetic transversals remain more relevant than ever: The power of fascism, surging again in USA, is ultimately aesthetic power.

  44. I feel some urgency on these issues, for obvious political reasons, even if this sort of writing is not immediately practical (despite its title). This is not a new sense of urgency, however.

  45. Speaking for oneself also has the tangible benefit of being possible — or at least more possible than trying to do otherwise. (For whom is one really speaking when there is no consciousness on this point? Typically, for the existing hierarchy.)

  46. Of course, whereas there probably aren't many people anymore who have never encountered liberal ideas on subjecthood, there are surely still many who have never been immersed in them. (For this perspective, I rely too much on reading, which is only partly communicative.)

  47. Indeed, different genres — beyond narrative [100] — convey different kinds & degrees of authority. (This summary arose from Peter Euben, within the history discipline.[101])

  48. Technology of the self always relates the self (by definition), so its perspectives are both those of the self, and those impinging upon the self — as thus objectified. In other words, such a technological perspective on self-formation already involves subject-object equivocation. (One might say that the technological subject always already includes objects.)

  49. Per [46], such a core is not latent everywhere, although it does impinge. (Hence one seeks other perspectives on subjects.)

  50. Moving on (in Heideggerian fashion), Sloterdijk's series on Spheres explores what I've called "demands for participation" by observing a (self-contained) globe beyond the bubble of the self, and then exploring a/the foam of such bubbles interacting within.... (It thus remains hierarchical, but with nonlinear complexity via feedback.)

  51. Moten would thus seem to favor equivocation over Laruellian concepts: In other words, we seek neither the grand sum, nor the smallest kernel, but rather a particular mesh of messy human-sized relations — rhythms, perhaps.[102]

  52. It is only too easy to fall into "the global" as a transcendental position (i.e. as a, perhaps metaphorical, view of the Earth from space [103]). Even denying actual transcendence (pace [50]), globality readily yields to impulses toward hierarchy (as our world continues to demonstrate).[104]

  53. Perhaps another relation can be forged.... (Perhaps it will be forged from or via another's perspective, such that we will not or cannot know.)

  54. One might even propose anthropology as ontology....[105]

  55. Kolozova notes estrangement as the generic [106] mode of exploitation [107], in these terms. (This is a reworking of Marxist alienation.)

  56. Subjectification itself is, of course, sometimes posed as a problem of agency — in opposition to subject-object equivocation. Where is the control? Under what conditions might one endpoint of a relation have control of another?[108] (That's a particular sort of relation.)

  57. Producing theory requires something of a bubble, which means in particular for leftist theory, that it is always already suspect.[109] I cannot deny this.

  58. By pursuing other perspectives, I am therefore pursuing other contexts.[110] (One might thus suggest circumvention of aporia, although such an outcome is far from clear.[111])

  59. Historiography thus becomes an interrogation of narrative, temporal understanding itself. Such understanding is implicit in political rhetoric, and indeed one might equate such implication (rather than explication) with group identity per se.[112] (History is, of course, usually figured as master narrative.[113])

  60. Beyond subject-object equivocation, which might be denied by grammar, such elements as tense or case (or, farther afield, rasa etc.) further condition narrative response [114], and in turn temporal identity.

  61. (This should not be a question?) The modern impulse [115] comes of feeling oppressed by the real, such that chance (or fortune) itself must be repressed in turn. (One might consequently ask whether the West is actually any good at realism, or indeed empiricism. Its real gift seems to be for greed & violence, i.e. the repression of chance or play.)

  62. In terms of historical narrative, abstraction becomes a kind of folding: Ideas are folded into others. Moreover, abstraction can be considered a kind of speed, a modern accelerant. Thus Kolozova calls for feminist abolition of abstraction [116] — a call with which I concur.

  63. Such "rationalizing babble" is of course a significant component of the modern nexus of authority. (It's disinhibiting aspects have been widely noted: In short, we rationalize in order to justify, usually after the fact. So we can get away with anything?)

  64. One might rather ask who has "more reality" than someone else? (These are the sorts of questions that figure not only science, but joint construction, correlationism, etc.) Per [61], it's seeming increasingly "unreasonable" (per [63]) to say that "we" do.

  65. Our era seems to thirst for a single, unassailable measure of value. Then we might finally be able to prove ourselves, i.e. measure ourselves against it? (This is the religion of neoliberalism.[117]) Such yearning for mastery, together with the disinhibition remarked upon in [61] & [63], produces much violence.

  66. Can we continue to recognize ourselves? Is that necessary somehow? (What of the self "itself" as differing? Surely it can still be perceived.)

  67. As Haraway says, channeling Strathern [118], it matters what relations we use to think relation.

  68. One might pursue such mutuality [119] via perspectivism, synthesis, transcendental positions, correlation, etc. (That I've figured it in disciplinary terms is an artifact of my position while writing.) One might then think in terms of social roles, as is traditionally done in the West, whether via essentialism, reductionism, excess, or even subjectification itself. Here, though, I am pursuing an open perspective, and in particular eschewing essentializing, reducing, etc. (The latter are disciplinary gestures.[120])

  69. Channeling Latour, De la Cadena reiterates that the modern West views the representation of non-humans as belonging to a separate domain, i.e. science, and so as inherently nonpolitical. Such non-politics certainly needs to be challenged, and particularly its concomitant segregation of domains. (One might undertake such a challenge in part via stripping away abstraction, per [62], or perhaps via Latour's own critique of representation per se.)

  70. Regarding mechanisms of economic control, one might want to revisit the concepts of a gift economy.[121]

  71. Family structures, outside of queer theory, tend to open only in particular ways & in particular directions. (One might even say that they are based on their own exclusions, even as they tend to encompass more than biology.[122]) Indeed, as part of the critique called for in [62], one might note that family relations often generate concepts of abstraction (in the specific sense of early childhood development, if not beyond). In other words, children come to understand e.g. what a "mother" is in general, that other people have them, and that these people might be in different relations to others (pace [67]).[123]

  72. Queering family already suggests different relations, and continues to ask (along with [35]) what makes a relation sexual. Beyond these notions, family is also a place of wounded assemblages [124], not only for cultural refuge, but for those people — whom we might call disabled today [125] — who require something more or other than the (typically impoverished) world of modernity.

  73. These are open weapons, developed in the open. I am simply not constitutionally suited to being secretive, although that approach might sometimes be warranted. It's possible that developing these ideas in public is a mistake, in terms of tactics for change, but developing them in the open does make them more likely to be suitable for some future public circumstance.[126]

  74. One might figure the comic object via movement (or relation) itself: Perhaps this is a reframing of Bergson, with his emphasis on a mechanical quality for comic objects, into a contemporary world where machines might be more innovative (& move more) than people.[127] So what new comic objects emerge in such a world?

  75. For example, Zupancic suggests that comedy produces a feeling of distance, that it is impersonal, like the object a.[128] (I would call it, rather, trans-personal, penetrating the self & not at a distance — perhaps not so unlike the object a.) In this sense, channeling Hegel, comedy becomes (yet) another failure of representation, in comparison to the world-making of epic or tragedy.[129] (Or one might say that comedy reveals that the universal position is indeed empty.) Parvulescu writes of "civilizing" laughter into the smile [130], and notes the ambiguous subject-object position of someone laughing, someone participating in laughter.[131]

  76. Bataille remarked long ago that the community of laughers is infinitely open, perhaps even founded by failure [132], such that entrance can never be foreclosed. (Writing of even longer ago, Harman remarks that Dante portrays comedy only in hell. Apparently he thought it unsuited to higher realms, presumably in keeping with Aristotelian notions of genre.)

  77. As Ruda notes (in Jameson's American Utopia), comedy forges an imaginary of the impossible: It seeks to reopen, despite that we are regularly told that the world is closed.[133]

  78. Wagner views jokes as forms of explanation [134], and emphasizes the difference between the exaggerated over-familiarity of joking relations & the extreme seriousness of distance.[135] Where the joke cannot penetrate, there can be no understanding?

  79. "Relaxing at home" promptly became the gesture I most wanted to disclaim: It almost felt superfluous, and continues to prompt feelings of apology for my own interiority. Beyond the latter, though, why? Home (as private territory) remains the nexus of familiarity [136] — but my (familiar) workaholic tendencies devalue relaxing. What is the relation between relaxing & openness to experience?[137] What sort of experience? Is it even communicable?[138]

  80. I've also felt guilty for spending so much of my life, particularly as a young adult, feeling bored [139]: Boredom can have an intensity to it, yet somehow it isn't an intense feeling, just the opposite. It contrasts with rage against the world, for instance (and so is a kind of uncomfortable feeling of acceptance [140]). What is the boundary between boredom & anxiety or despair?[141] For whom is the world?[142] Boredom projects interiority, likely at a distance, but is its own kind of travel, nomadism....

  81. Treating work-play as a dual to interrogate rather immediately (or at least relative to my prior gestures) suggests a comedy-sex-sports nexus of play: These might be work.[143] They also convey status, and (particularly per [43]) trace a tangled aesthetic.[144] Virtuosity per se, feeling mastery [145], brings admiration beyond its tangible result, and this may be figured as aesthetic gratification.[146] (I.e., it's viewed as something beyond "mere" work, even when it is one's job.) Indeed, it becomes self-fulfilling (or self-perpetuating via disinhibition, as prior even to the remarks of [63]) as a feeling of superiority. So please continue to consider this nexus implicitly in what follows....

  82. For instance, how does one gain the perspective of an object?[147] (Simply being used is not enough.[148])

  83. Specifically, notions of authority moved away from (but not entirely away from, in many deep ways [149]) religious tradition, and toward empirical science.[150] (Such a move involved refiguring hierarchy, and eventually yielded the bourgeois revolution.)

  84. Arendt had already described the contemporary situation of modernity (in the twentieth century) as feeling a loss of authority, as well as losses of meaning & distinction.[151] These feelings of loss were followed by violence: Such feelings of loss continue to mount, so the urge to violence is building?

  85. There is such rampant dishonesty & so many attempts at manipulation that "truth" has become a fetish, as speculation itself becomes commoditized.[152] (One example on my mind is how purportedly "serious" websites are covered in ads for scams.) At some point, there is no reason to believe anything, and cynicism is regarded as a virtue.[153] Many people are already there.

  86. I've used Cialdini's "principles of influence" as a kind of frame or checklist for this writing on a handful of occasions already, and so I remind the reader that I've already observed that as reciprocity is hammered into dust [154], and consistency [155] dissolves into a sea of nonsense, the relatively amorphous "liking" will become paramount [156], if it isn't already. In this sense, liking & authority are collapsing into one principle.[157] (This is an altered perspective on "how" from that of traditional scientific empiricism.[158])

  87. This notion of "states over nature" is basically a diagram of Western imperialism, expressed via knowledge practices. (How does one know, particularly pace [67]? The latter is why I've written so many looping texts, constantly untangling... bootstrapping, perhaps, exploring different relations.)

  88. As I asked in section 5, for whom are sounds aligning? Moreover, what are the related perspectives of alignment & non-alignment?[159] In other words, how can an event be perceived as a non-event (amid general antagonism)?[160]

  89. How then might one feel at home once again?[161] (Does such a feeling impede others feeling analogously?[162]) What is fragility?[163]

  90. Beyond rhetorical concerns of [66], Jameson also suggests that envy would "explode" in his hypothetical utopia: I see this concern as based largely in thoughts of differential mastery. The obvious followup question, then, is what are we mastering? (That the West is anything resembling a meritocracy is, of course, one of its greatest lies.) Perhaps we most need to master ourselves.

  91. Agamben basically (or extravagantly) suggests use of the self as a variant (perhaps historical refinement) on Foucault's notion of care of the self. He thus re-embeds subject-object equivocation, the subject always already as its own object.[164] (This is, once again, a relational approach where any sort of "entity" emerges only in its application.) Agamben goes on to suggest "use" as the fundamental political relation [165]: This is how he reprises the major Franciscan argument of the fourteenth century.[166]

  92. One often seeks "the subject" in a residue of relation, but such an approach may be critiqued as e.g. correlationism. So whereas it is tempting to interrogate (the subject) according to a (negative) stripping away (and this is relevant to e.g. fighting abstraction per [62]), one must continue to trace positive production (e.g. desiring) [167] as well.

  93. Queer theory has made the question of what constitutes sexual relation much more visible.[168] I turn to more of these issues in the next section.

  94. As sexual creatures (in the strictly biological sense, in this case), sexual activity is a foundational aspect of the routine of (social) reproduction per se. Moreover, sex is a highly structured domain (i.e. routine), with many learned rules [169] extending well beyond biology.[170]

  95. I continue to treat the solitary human as unthinkable — or at least unthinkable beyond the moment.[171]

  96. Tangentially then, in politics, must one make demands? When are demands important? When is a non-demand more powerful?[172] (What are the relations, and what is the desired object?)

  97. One might characterize openness as awaiting an event. (Closedness would then figure a post-event world.[173])

  98. Such a notion is the dialectic of childbirth: The child's separation is outcome (or proof) of relation.

  99. In Agamben's terms, under the old regime, this gap was covered by glory. (Such a description likely still applies, and indeed most social contradiction — which is inherent to founding a discrete sociality — can be described as disguised, if perhaps only formerly, by glory. Today, such "glory" increasingly takes the form of e.g. celebrity gossip programming, but also includes the traditional patriotic displays, etc.)

  100. Per [97], "awaiting an event" has long figured a messianic context, a specific narrative not so much of history, but of prophecy. (Agamben suggests that now prophecy can only be interpretation.[174]) This is a kind of authority that we tend not to recognize today.[175]

  101. Again per [97], history (as narrative of the past) suggests a closedness regarding what has already occurred: In writing such as this, I frequently inquire about the prior, or genealogy, taking a backward look at how things came to be. To this, I explicitly want to contrast a sense of original, the sense of somehow standing at a point of origin & looking forward (not backward) in time. This perspective is often illusory, and conflating a prior with an original can be dangerous.[176]

  102. One might describe a rhythm as a sonic relation that plays out on a human scale — perhaps suitable for dancing, say. Prior yearnings for transcendence have apparently given Western science an impetus to seek an empirical essential at scales far different from the human (whether tiny or vast). This marks a major disconnect with sociality.

  103. The view from space, a view that was only hypothetical for the human during an era when the transcendental was openly hailed, suggests once again the equivocation between everything & nothing. Instead, let us emphasize embeddedness & the messiness of real relation. (Here we might find the messy rhythms of [102].)

  104. Jameson & others speak of spatial others being transformed into temporal others via globalization: Whereas once there were great spaces between populations, now distances are short, and differences are increasingly figured by time (i.e. via history), to forge an interlocking politics of time & space. (It is via the mechanisms of the economic stratification machine that this temporal involution is produced. One might say that as speed increases, and so as distance decreases, time itself becomes more granular, more manipulable.) Moreover, globality has an obvious physical circularity to it, whereas the presumptive linearity of time supports a "first" & thus hierarchy.[177]

  105. De la Cadena summarizes politics concisely as ontological disagreement: What do different peoples consider to be real or constructed, for instance? What is the entity & what is its interpretation? Is knowledge discovery or creation? Is the mind real? Is the body real? (These last two questions are, of course, especially stark in Western modernist terms.)

  106. Is the generic anything at all? (I have taken the generic as something of a basis for a moral view, inverting the universal. Even if there can be no generic perspective, pace a sense of impersonal perspective, there might yet be a kind of generic practice.) Maybe the generic is nothing at all.

  107. Kolozova thus sees personal struggle as primarily pre-subjective, about being at home with what Laruelle terms "the stranger." (Abolishing abstraction, per [62], thus becomes a weapon against estrangement. We become closer to ourselves.)

  108. One can consider a relation that totally encompasses one or more of its ends/objects.... (Might subjects then fear objects? Perhaps this becomes a situation of resonance.[178])

  109. One might consider "on the ground" practice to be improvised theory....

  110. One might seek, along with De la Cadena, to expand history per se, to expand the archive to include other voices. (Here we have another question of genre, as history is so often opposed to myth.[179])

  111. The aporia of morality arises (directly) from facing another, but there might yet be another path of relation (or instead, more aporia).

  112. Moreover, one might propose an anthropography in parallel with historiography (as opposed to a geography-based definition of the term), in keeping with [105]. How has study of humanity, by various parts of humanity, itself changed in time?

  113. History, or myth (per [110])? Both are narrative forms (and one has more history).

  114. A variety of grammars might be considered: There is basic cultural grammar (as it's sometimes described), the ways one learns to combine words & actions, the linguistic grammar already posited, and beyond that, the formal abstraction of subtracting "tone" from language, concomitant systems of emotional grammar according to tones (rasa), etc. Indeed, tone is a place where genre itself equivocates, as different elements become more prominent in poetry, music, etc. (What is the tone of this piece?)

  115. Agamben reminds that "modern" is a temporal form of mode, suggesting rhythm (per [102]), but also a coincidence of ethics & the ontology defined by mode itself (in a kind of resonance).

  116. In opposition to Kolozova, the postmodern seems only to have accelerated the pace of abstraction.[180] (I thus ask questions like what music or art is actually abstract, and indeed how one might strip abstraction from music.[181] In this, I consider Western tonality to have been a significant historical abstraction, not a point of origin.)

  117. Viveiros de Castro quips that comparing the commensurable is best left to accountants. Sloterdijk observes that there is no freedom in mechanical optimization. (So whereas such concerns might have become our religion, they are not our challenging problems. Indeed, such final steps of calculation come only after the conceptual framework has been established.) This is the sort of mechanical mastery that many contemporary subjects crave.[182]

  118. Strathern notes, moreover, that although positions might find themselves in some sort of opposition, particularly from the perspective of an external observer (pace [52]), they do not generally arise with respect to each other: They have their own internal concerns, and both dialog & translation can be awkward contrivances — requiring equivocation. (So assuming particular relations is often false.[183])

  119. Notions such as economy & ecology are, after all, means of untangling & interrogating various relations. (Sometimes an interrogation changes the relation.) I also want to pose ability — more often encountered via its dual, disability — in mutual terms.[184]

  120. Pace [67], disciplines do discipline: They install their own prejudices, as derived from their originary cuts or ruptures (i.e. what they have self-consciously deemed as separate about themselves). They essentialize & reduce — but sometimes this is helpful (depending on perspective).

  121. Building in part on Mauss, Strathern observes that in a gift economy, gifts are not like things, but like people, and that they enact relations. Gift exchange thus becomes "the circulation of objects in relations in order to make relations in which objects can circulate." (In other words, "control" becomes other than what is familiar to us in the West.)

  122. In other words, whereas people tend to have ways to e.g. acquire children via adoption, there are definitely people who are not in one's family. (Such exclusion does tend to be more rigid in theory than in practice, though.)

  123. Family structure will be an emphasis in the next section. However, I ask that the reader already ponder its general (& formative) role in our thinking.

  124. One might consider entire "cultures" to be wounded assemblages these days, starting with neoliberalism, and including its prey as well. However, as neoliberalism continues its politics of abandonment in the public arena, families are expected to accommodate the discarded. (Of course, this is easier said than done, and places more stress on families.)

  125. Per [119], let me start again with notions of ability: Abilities called for by the neoliberal "marketplace" leave many excluded for a variety of reasons. In the present terms, one might seek to assemble such a variety of perspectives (and indeed I do, arising from an early emphasis on queer-disability intersection, opposed to the dominant hierarchy): To what extent has "ability" become merely coping with the emotional (& various other) demands of neoliberalism? All of us who require something more might be taken to be disabled in these terms [185]: Disability encompasses more & more people, not through changes in themselves, but through increasing demands & consequent abandonment.

  126. The nexus between an idea & a trait such as secrecy cannot be dissolved suddenly by fiat. Such origins remain entangled with the idea.

  127. Channeling Bourdieu, Jones interrogates mechanical comedy as comedy of habit & class. So if machines are now extensions of the capitalist class, might the rest of us become funny in our humanity? (Does the human subject become the contemporary object of comedy? In other words, are our human movements funny? The continuing popularity of physical comedy suggests as much.)

  128. These psychoanalytic discussions sometimes even go on to equate the comic object with the phallus, such that its unveiling exposes it as trivial.[186] (One might cite explicit examples from physical comedy. Per [127], is sex funny?) This seems like a potentially misleading reduction to me.

  129. Such a gesture rehearses the general disdain that the discipline of philosophy has had for comedy. (And of course my own disdain for Hegel is well known....)

  130. The notion of a smile as civilized laughter invokes facialization per se & its relation to social assemblage (perhaps even per the opening to [124]): How does or might comedy segment & measure the body?[187]

  131. Laughing indicates a sense of mastery, perhaps, and maybe even involves latent violence (per [65]). (Or perhaps laughing indicates utter confusion & lack of mastery?) Meanwhile, what is the manufactured laughter of the culture industry? Is it indicative of mechanical mastery — and in turn, mechanical & systematic violence — as noted in [117]? In contrast to [127], can the mechanical actually still be funny today?

  132. Failure or mastery? It may be both at once, depending on perspective. This is an equivocation of comedy....

  133. Does a joke open or close the world? Jokes come with a feeling of closure, but what (else) might be assembled? (There may be new openings....)

  134. Wagner describes jokes as enacting figure-ground (or foreground-background, in musical terms) reversal, and goes on to remark that irony figures a reversal of cause & effect — both of which he regards as deeply explanatory. (In my terms, this is specifically equivocation of duality.) Moreover, he suggests that laughing modulates the folly of looking & thinking. (So, per the tangled web of [125], we might need to laugh in order to cope. Ability is laughter?[188])

  135. By maintaining distance, we... maintain distance?

  136. Work, humor, sex... all are mediated by (perhaps unconscious) thoughts of relaxing. And home remains an index of (family) relations, including affine relations (pace section 7).

  137. Consider, for instance, how a relaxed setting affects one's reaction to food: It becomes ordinary, routinized, somehow removed from the regime of death (which entangles all food in embedded relation). So is this openness? One might suggest opening differently, depending on perspective: One becomes both a more open or adventurous eater, in the near domain, and a more adventurous (implicit) killer in the farther (obscured) domain? Relaxing, like comedy & so much else, thus both assembles & obscures.

  138. Agamben (channeling Debord) asks about the political in private existence, suggests (apparently contra second wave feminists) that it is uncommunicable, and indeed posits that liberal "privacy" substitutes itself for the equivocation of (his concept of) use. In other words, intimacy (or private territory per se) becomes the stakes of contemporary (i.e. liberal) politics. (To reprise the opening discursus, marketing & propaganda take those stakes straight into our homes, according to much of the same "first strike" logic that leads e.g. USA imperialists to fight their wars on foreign soil.)

  139. I was always told that boredom was a personal failing, but that didn't provide a path out of the situation.... (One of the worst consequences of boredom, something that still afflicts me sometimes, since I tend to be bored now only when also feeling mentally exhausted, is inattention: It seems paradoxical, since one is seeking sensation, but one can easily find oneself not really listening, etc.[189]) I simply didn't know where my effort would be worthwhile, and likely still don't, even though I am far busier.

  140. Boredom can feel like fate itself....

  141. The boundary between boredom & despair is easy to observe: It is much like the boundary between having plenty to eat & being on the verge of starvation: It is marked by material circumstances.

  142. Bored people are told that the world is for them, yet they cannot find it. (Perhaps they are missing, to paraphrase Harman from a different context, love as sincerity.) Meanwhile, others are told that the world is not for them, yet they feel totally immersed in it, drowning even.

  143. Although it's frequently observed, including sometimes by me, that there is a postmodern labor surplus, such an observation neglects how much work we simply do not do, particularly emotional work, caregiving, maintaining public spaces, etc.[190] (Apparently, pace [99], we find no glory in such tasks, although I find that hard to believe.[191] Such feelings must be suppressed.) Perhaps these are issues of ownership: Who owns work? We are trained to believe that we derive rights from our own work (even as much of that labor is appropriated by others), so what of rights derived from our own play?[192] (Maybe we can do more via play....)

  144. The comedy-sex-sports nexus of play is critical to fascist aesthetics (pace [43]): The nexus itself might be viewed according to pharmacology, i.e. as both poison & cure.[193]

  145. Pace the mastery invoked by [131] & elsewhere, virtuosity in play can project another kind of hierarchy: Per [125], ability itself becomes a matter of perspective. (So hierarchy becomes a perspective.[194])

  146. Sex can thus be said to involve aesthetic gratification. (And certainly "aesthetics" figures sexual selection.[195])

  147. As the trendy object-oriented philosophy has been asking, how does one perceive the psychic reality of animals & objects? (I might suggest that objects perceive exactly insofar as they relate.) How does such a question continue to reflect states over nature (per [87])?

  148. We have all been treated like (or as) objects, some of us far more than others. Yet, do we really come to perceive as objects? (There has surely been some truth to that, as Moten observes — or as Wiegman observes differently.) How does being treated as an object relate to the equivocation of use (per [91])?

  149. Whatever is taught to small children, whatever the reason, is basically taught as religion: It is what someone will grow up believing. Later they might find other reasons to continue believing, to believe differently, or to become skeptical. Nonetheless, that core of training remains — likely including the liberal subject itself, pace this discussion. (The notion of "teaching someone to think" becomes highly contextual then: Think what? Whatever the answer, that's your religion, if I may put it reductively.)

  150. The empirical imperialist, first of all, experiments on other people. Such an experiment is world-making, and the development of science is then simultaneously the development of language (in part per [69]).[196]

  151. One might reframe loss of authority as (moral) aporia, and indeed via processes of saturation & non-compliance (as I did in Morality as aporia): Whereas saturation is imposed from above (such that loss of authority becomes a consequence of intentional noisiness & distraction), non-compliance arises from below. Such a theoretical distinction might become indiscernible.

  152. If Wall Street can commoditize a form of speculation, they will. So that remark was not merely rhetorical, although I did intend it in a broad sense to include the media, etc.

  153. Pace love as sincerity (per [142]), Harman views cynical distance as itself fraudulent, and considers using love as a mere strategy to be the worst of all sins. I know too many people who consider themselves to be "sophisticated" based on their cynical skepticism, i.e. their beliefs in nothing at all. (Such people are far more manipulable than they imagine.)

  154. The ultimate reduction to reciprocity is: You work for me, and in exchange, I don't kill you. (The next time it's said will certainly not be the first.) Reengaging reciprocity becomes a key factor for the so-called problem of transition, and indeed reengaging influence (including authority) per se. (I've been calling this mutuality.)

  155. For Cialdini, consistency is also commitment. (I might add that the logical principle of non-contradiction is basically an imperative principle of authority: You must do as I say. It preserves hierarchy versus equivocation.[197]) Becoming inconsistent might not be the worst thing for the West — or rather, realizing our own profound inconsistency... thus taking a less hierarchical view.

  156. Even "liking" trembles under a regime of cynicism per [153].

  157. Note that this is an interior perspective: Imperialists will not be equating their authority abroad with how well they are liked there. For that they will use violence.

  158. (Scientific empiricism likes to consider itself a how, i.e. a method, but it usually remains a what: Its methods cannot be isolated from its contexts. In other words, it uses particular methods, and rarely general inquiry. It would be lost without itself.)

  159. Jullien suggests that attention alone constitutes the present. (This notion parallels Bergson's notion of stretching duration, and suggests a mode of alignment in turn.) Where then, or when, is inattention as itself in relation? (That is a different perspective.)

  160. Simply put, whether something is an event or not is a matter of perspective.

  161. Interrogating vitalism, Jones traces & recapitulates the romantic notion that life judges culture: Vitalism itself was a rebellion against scientific mechanism, and its perceived analogs in bureaucracy. (Note that romanticism remains entirely within the modern mode, however, with its constituent man-nature/culture duals.) Are we experiencing neo-vitalism now, then?[198]

  162. A perspective can certainly disrupt another, perhaps without one or both parties being aware.

  163. Fragility is a matter of perspective. (Perhaps we must consider it to be more than merely derived from "nature." There is much fragility to consider, some of it — perhaps — the welcome fragility of the systems of oppression we seek to end.) The fragility of something might be or become the strength of something else.

  164. One might say that "use" thus covers (or indeed traverses) the same gap as glory (per [99]). Agamben himself (much like the remarks of [153]) views love (for self & others) as the (one might say, reciprocal) subject-object of use in turn. (So familiarity per se is established via use?)

  165. Such a politics continues to posit separable individuals [199] as both its actors & stakes — it seemingly rehearses "privacy," and so continues to enact the stakes of intimacy (per [138]) at its core. (Where is mutual use then? Agamben pursues it under the monastic rule, as form-of-life....)

  166. One might rightly wonder whether the fourteenth century retains any relevance today: Perhaps it's personal vanity, but I continue to value interrogating the modern according to the terms of the immediately pre-modern in Europe. (Such interrogation does not suggest the current imperial destiny as inevitable; indeed, it traces the outcome as contingent.)

  167. The subject of active desire becomes increasingly problematic under neoliberal hegemony, as populations are trained to behave as audiences, i.e. to be passive & further not to really see. How then might we engage mutuality as an audience? (Mutuality is what remains after an external stimulus is removed?)

  168. One might ask moreover, per [17], what of sexual unfamiliarity? Is it actually more potent? Queer sex is therefore more sexual? (Whatever one's sexual routine, whether nominally queer already or not, it can be queered.) What of collapsing "the" domains of sexual identity?[200]

  169. One might figure sexual exchange (or marriage exchange, as it's more often described in the anthropological literature) as an exchange of perspectives, and indeed of attention. (Of course, such an exchange need not be symmetric.)

  170. Of course, it can be argued that everything we do is ultimately biological, but such a disciplinary reduction (per [120]) clarifies little....

  171. Moments (per [13]) can certainly be solitary, and indeed significant on their own, but there is generally some return to sociality (or else death). Such a return, per [41], might bring a sense of closure or finality. (Thus e.g. Badiou urges faithfulness to the moment as event.[201])

  172. Is motion itself a demand? It does produce objects.... Or might demanding inhibit motion?

  173. For instance, the ultimate triumph of liberalism is often figured as a closure — indeed by both supporters & opponents alike. Such a stance is in sharp contrast to remaining open to events.

  174. Whereas considering prophecy to be a genre with respect to authority seems incongruous in the contemporary era, interpretation — including as hermeneutics — continues to function in that vein.[202] (The call of "mysteries" & their supposed authority remains.)

  175. Messianism is out of fashion, but prophecy does retain a hold on us: Sports gambling (pace [152]) is perhaps the most prominent of its many outlets. (Thus the repressed of modernity irrupts.)

  176. I want to emphasize the difference between prior & origin: Origins mark a sense of sovereignty, a source, an arche. (According to some, they are inherently creative: This can be taken to be a retroactive view.) Prior begins with what just happened, what we know just happened, and extends backward into murky depths: There is no source, unless it is ourselves.[203] (Such might only enhance a sense of mystery per [174].) Looking backward suggests an open history with its own mysterious prior.

  177. Per [176], abstracting from the linearity of time can suggest an origin, at least a direction, and (so) with it, hierarchy.

  178. The seemingly separate might yet act in concert, in resonance, overwhelming any single entity, no matter how well-placed. We are never really in control, not alone anyway.

  179. Contextualizing a history of thought, Skafish (introducing Cannibal Metaphysics) observes that philosophies are comparative myths. Latour observes that myths make or let reference circulate: Indeed, all myth is translation, narrative with no original — especially when it interrogates origins (per [176]).

  180. I already remarked upon abstraction as an accelerant (in [62]), and one should (further) note the issue of speed raised (hardly for the first time, or only by me) parenthetically in [104]: The postmodern world craves going faster & faster, filling even the tiniest slice of time with significance, or at least with something. (Accelerationism seems almost superfluous then.)

  181. My writing on the nature of abstraction — & indeed on banishing abstraction — in (or via) avant garde (Western) music is readily available, although not summarized in one easy reference.

  182. Is it funny (per [131]) that "mechanical" mastery makes us into machines? (It would surely be funnier if we could opt out of the whole ridiculous situation & view it at a distance.)

  183. Particularly from a perspective of external observation, e.g. of a conflict, we tend to assume relations between the different positions, but those relations are often only relative to us. (In other words, direct conversations across vastly different worlds can be impossible, and mediating such conversations makes them into something else.)

  184. Regarding mutuality, one might speak in more particular terms, of being economically disabled, or ecologically disabled, etc. (In other words, what is the context according to which "ability" is determined? Those examples are, of course, rather broad.)

  185. Continuing from [184], "disability" may be derived from or mediated by different perspectives: We continue to follow a "medicalization" model, for instance, where medical (sometimes specifically psychiatric) attention is required for those who have been discarded. (This becomes another form of "bare life" in Agamben's terms.) If medicalization produces insufficient scorn within its establishment, there is always the possibility of denial... to be declared non-disabled, and so beyond help.[204] (It remains a curiosity that neoliberal society is willing to support some kinds of disability.)

  186. Rather than the phallus, Jones remarks on e.g. Marx's animist humor, ideas such as money with agency. (Might money, the blood of neoliberalism, become funny?)

  187. Comedy becomes a kind of measurement: Not only is one's (appropriate?) response measured, but it suggests a kind of mastery (perhaps equivocating, per [132]) & closure (per [133]).[205] In the case of comedy, such measurement is written directly on the body.

  188. Perhaps laughter is indeed a kind of ability (or coping per [125])....

  189. It's a basic truism that one can only listen to an album for the first time once. (And one could substitute various other experiences for this example, of course.) Yet knowing, at some level, that one can hear it again can easily drive inattention — indeed to the point that one never really hears. (This is one danger of living in an over-saturated world of stimulus, cultivated in part by those who don't want us really to listen.)

  190. So much of the work we don't do, or rather, don't fund, is traditionally "women's work," of course.... (Moreover, so much of the "economic" surplus of labor is manufactured intentionally so as to drive down wages....)

  191. Protestants notoriously turned work into a form of joyless glory (cf. [99]).

  192. Indeed, we're regularly taught who owns work, but who owns play? (Is it pure use?)

  193. When interrogating a pharmacological response from the comedy-sex-sports nexus (of play), consider how that (contemporary aesthetic) nexus is traversed by any particular event or assemblage: Does it move from sports to sex, say? (A question such as that of [192] thus becomes an aesthetic question, to be traced across the nexus according to specific contexts.)

  194. Beyond the perspective of hierarchy per se, consider other perspectives on hierarchy: For instance, what if hierarchy remained intact (or was even intensified), but individual roles were chosen at random (rather than inherited, etc.)? (Such an arrangement would invoke an equivocation on performance: Where would any hypothetical "merit," pace [90], lie?)

  195. Indeed, a separate domain for aesthetics has been a pernicious abstraction. (Of course, I continue to figure much of my work as intersecting that domain....) What is aesthetics, if not sexual? One need only consider the classical nude.

  196. Sloterdijk asks whether "wonder" prompts science & philosophy or is suppressed by them. Again, this is contextual: What actually produces new language? (Language might be produced by wonder alone, as a sort of gasp.) What sort of language produces more language? (What of abstraction, pace [62], yet again? Language is abstract....) .... Pathways to Power (an archeology text) had asked, in a collision between religion (ideology) & "practical" concerns (materiality), both of which can be observed (retroactively in objects), which correlates more with broad change? In other words, which is actually more disinhibiting? Yet again, it varies by context. (So, what of the "other people" on whom one experiments? Who are they? What do such experiments assemble?)

  197. Paradoxically (in a move similar to that of [52]), hierarchy thus has a sort of flatness to it, an all or nothing character, a sense of exposing relations to very specific scrutiny, i.e. from a particular perspective. (Transcendence might thus leave one with nothing.) This situation can be characterized as the "dimension" of hierarchy, against which one might move in other dimensions.

  198. Opposed to any such neo-vitalism is the re-mechanization of molecular biology: E.g. television ads for genetic testing are quite reductive about stating that the results determine who one is. (Vitalism was, of course, already a response to a broad Darwinism. Today's neo-vitalism seems to be accompanied, perhaps paradoxically, by a retrenchment of social Darwinism, though.) Does any of this seem like home?

  199. Politics per se, since its Greek origin, has always posited separable individuals or entities (whether separable households, functions or souls).... So maybe we need a different field of inquiry.... (In the next section, and I should not promise too much, I will pursue resonance.)

  200. Collapsing domains (e.g. male & female, plus various others emerging from queer studies) becomes a matter of legibility (and per [197], collapsing into legibility facilitates hierarchy): The danger of queer theory is then to create a general equivalence out of proliferating difference. (For one thing, a general equivalence is not sexy! Sex is particular.) One might analogize it to collapsing economic embeddedness into reductive (and therefore "false") relations. Differences must remain in play.[206]

  201. Pace [160], faithfulness to an event is intended to preserve its moment (perhaps in keeping with [159]). One might say that faith expands or extends the moment. (Such momentary expansion presumably contrasts with the messianic anticipation of [100].)

  202. It can be amazing how much people in this society cling to their interpretations, not only to the point of resisting making actual inquiries, but in actively resisting conflicting information: In training as a public mediator, we often talked about this "ladder of assumptions" (a construct by Jack Hamilton) & the intermediate position of "interpretation" per se. In community mediation, we know that "parties" (as we call them) typically do not even agree on "the facts," while interpretation is yet more contingent. (But then, mediation practices also support taking a hermeneutic approach to what others are thinking....) Hermeneutics does continue to pose the question (tangentially to [105]) of whether knowledge is discovery or creation: This is another question of authority.[207]

  203. This remark shows the further vanity of my remarks of [166].

  204. In other words, the perspective of a medical establishment is "required" in order to validate one's disability — and its "solutions" must be followed: Failure to do so means that one is not properly disabled. (One might also note relative disability, and the logic by which some who qualify might want to defer to others, whether in their families or otherwise.)

  205. One can only truly measure what is closed? So openness is opposed to measurement....

  206. Capitalism mines & harvests differences, more aggressively under neoliberalism than ever before, and enforces legibility as an opening for capture: Queer theory thus equivocates on legibility.

  207. Of course, such authority moves beyond prophecy (& mediation) too: There are yet more perspectives.


Todd M. McComb
25 November 2016

To 7. Affine resonance....